Hope for your financial life and beyond

What Ritz Crackers ‘n Cheese Dip Taught Me About Breaking Routines

Hidden Nuggets Series #26 – “And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw.” – II Kings 6:17

Ritz 1I have a guilty snack pleasure confession to make. I love Kraft Handi-Snacks Ritz Crackers ‘n Cheese Dip.  Four crackers…compartment of processed cheese…sealed together in perfect harmony. Simply pull the plastic tab off the top and enjoy the yummy cheese ‘n cracker goodness. And only 100 calories to boot.

I’ve loved these all my life despite one annoying feature about the product…the little red stick. The 2” red stick has never worked for me. My irritation revolves around two things: cheese distribution and cracker stability.

First off, if you want the same amount of cheese on all the crackers you have to control how much cheese is spread onto each cracker. The stick makes this difficult. I usually end up putting too much cheese on the first cracker and then having none left for the last one.

The stick is also renowned for breaking the cracker in half, unless you hold it daintily with your pinky up like you are sipping a cup of tea. The cracker must be laid out on a completely flat surface or there is a greater than average chance the cracker splits when the stick spreads on the cheese glob. Don’t try to hold the cracker in the palm of your hand or between your thumb and index finger either. Neither of those methods solves the soft cracker vs. hard stick problem.

Clearly I have issues.

I’ve put up with that red stick for 25+ years, resigned to the fact I have to use it. That all changed recently, when I had a Handi-Snacks revelation.

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Burn the Obstacles: Getting Rid of the Junk That Holds You Back

Hidden Nuggets Series #6  – “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” – Acts 19:18-20

What’s standing in the way of you and an awesome life?

fireA few pounds?

A damaging relationship?

A pessimistic attitude?

An addiction?

A spiritual connection?

Sometimes it’s tough to see what’s holding us back. In general, we don’t have a great track record of diagnosing our own personal issues. Others are much more skilled at pointing out areas of our life that could use some improvement.

Even when we are able to pinpoint the issue, it’s not always easy to alter our course. We offer excuses, rationalize actions and justify our way out of change. We’d rather keep hurting our chances at an excellent life than face the harsh realities of what are our faults.

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Adjusting to Change

“Air ball…Air ball…Air ball!” I hadn’t heard that in a long time. I would have to do some adjusting to change the way I was playing.

adjusting to changeThe mocking chant rang from the guys lips on the sidelines who were waiting to get their turn in the pickup game. I turned and acknowledged the humorous jeering, nervously chuckling over what had just happened. “Did I just shoot an air ball?” Perplexed, I strolled back down the court to pick up my man on defense.

Granted, it had been awhile since I had laced up the sneakers and touched a basketball. Two years to be exact, since the last time I led a practice as varsity boy’s coach. My commitment to take up the reins at home for Mrs. Luke1428 as she pursued a new career had put an abrupt halt to my 10-year coaching run.

Several possessions later I found the ball in my hands again, wide open just beyond the three point arc. I launched the shot again, as any great shooter would do. Short again. What’s going on here? I felt like I couldn’t even get the ball to the basket.

I knew my shooting motion was sound. You don’t forget a motion that has been hardwired into your synapses since middle school and led you to average 30 points a game your senior year at a small town private high school. Thousands of shots through the years produced a perfect motion. Knees bent…elbow tucked…release…follow through. Yet something was missing. My mind continued to process.

It took me another half-dozen misses to understand the sad reality of my struggles. When the thought occurred to me, everything made perfect sense.  Resigned to my plight, I signaled for a sub to come in the game for me and walked off the court towards the bleachers muttering to myself,

“I can’t jump anymore.”

Adjusting to Change Diagnosis

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Want to Influence Others? Lead by Example

lead by example I mentioned in a recent post “Health, Wealth and Moments of Clarity” how I was inspired to begin my running program after meeting someone my age on a cruise that was an aspiring triathlete. At the time I was overweight, out of shape and low on energy.

Talking with him throughout the week ignited my mental toughness and helped me see crazy dreams could still be achieved even at my age.

But it was someone much closer to me that truly provided the inspiration for me to get in shape. That person was Mrs. Luke1428. No, she wasn’t going all drill sergeant on me, screaming through a megaphone for me to roll out of bed each morning. Instead, without goading or guilting me into doing the same, she had been religiously going to a health club each week for months, getting herself in shape.

And boy, could I see the results! “Surely” I thought, “if my wife can change her physique post-four children, then so can I.”  I wanted her to be as proud of me as I was of her.

I don’t think her efforts were premeditated – like some devious reverse-psychology attempt to give me a wake-up call. She really wanted to exercise for herself. But the fallout did affect me.

Lead By Example

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Thesis vs. Genesis – It’s All About the Cup Holders

2007 Chrysler SebringEvery car that I have ever shopped for has the same basic components. Four tires. Car body. Engine. Steering mechanisms. Those components help me get to where I want to go. Now the quality and configuration of those components varies greatly among manufacturers but the basic essence of the machine itself remains the same from model to model.

If you have ever shopped day after day after day for a new vehicle you know that sometimes all the models begin to blend together and look the same.  So we look for ways, sometimes really silly ones, to differentiate between models to help us make our decision. I’ve seen this happen in my own life and I call it the “Cup Holder Syndrome.”

In essence the Cup Holder Syndrome says that it’s the ancillary things that sell the car. You slide in for a test drive, see 10 places in the vehicle to put a drink and think that’s cool. Or maybe you’re impressed by the lights on the dash, the color scheme, the power seats, or the way the stereo sounds. These things have little to do with the functioning of the car and are not the main reasons we purchase a car. But they do stick in our mind and can help sway our decision.

I found the same principle at work when trying to decide between the Thesis (by DIYThemes) and Genesis (by StudioPress) frameworks for my recent blog upgrade.

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The Secret Goal About My Blogging Only Two People Knew

sunriseWelcome to a new day at Luke1428!

Don’t fret…you are in the right place. After 11 months I’ve decide to take the plunge and upgrade this site with a new framework and theme. The creation you see here is just the beginning as I gradually tweak and enhance the site in the next couple of months. At least that’s the plan.

The theme I have chosen is the popular Eleven40 Theme developed by StudioPress. The theme is designed to work in conjunction with their Genesis framework, which I have also purchased. Total package deal for the Genesis framework and the Eleven40 theme, $79.95. I’ll be sharing Friday some of the unusual reasons why I chose this theme. Stay tuned.

For the foreseeable future this has what I need. I could have gone the route of having someone else design my site. That would probably have saved a lot of time and effort and maybe will be something I do in the future. But I love the challenge of learning new things and building something from the ground up. I think that is why I liked my construction job in college so much. Plus I have a couple of months now to devote to this task, as I will be free from my school responsibilities for the summer.

It’s taken me 11 months of blogging to get here. So why in the heck did it take so long to make the change from a cheap, free theme to something with A LOT more quality? Couldn’t I have upgraded back in February or last September? The answer to that question is of course “Yes”, but for a commitment and goal I made to only two people.

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Time to Punt This Goal Away

In the game of American football, the offensive team has four downs to move the football ten yards. If they accomplish that feat, they keep their offensive drive alive by receiving four more downs. The process repeats itself over and over until the team kicks a field goal, scores a touchdown or commits a turnover.

NFL PunterOn most possessions, the team only uses three downs to get the requisite yardage. This is because the fourth down is a risky one, in that if the team doesn’t reach the first down marker, they turn the ball over to the opposition, even if they miss it by an inch. This happens no matter where you are at on the field.

So if a team reaches fourth down and they are backed up in their own end or have a long way to go to get the first down, they evaluate the situation and usually choose another option. That option is the punt. On this play, the center snaps the ball to the punter who is standing 10-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He holds the ball in front of him, plants his non-kicking foot and swings his kicking leg forward as the ball drops out of his hands. The ball is launched into the air and down the field to be received by the other team.

It is very much a strategic maneuver designed to minimize risk and gain field position against one’s opponent. It’s recognizing that the team failed on the current drive and is voluntarily giving the ball up. The team hasn’t lost sight of the goal, which is to score and win the game.  But by punting, they have just admitted they will have to wait for future opportunities to score.

The same can be said about goals and I have one I need to punt away.

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What My First 50 Blog Posts Taught Me About Myself

shakespeare bloggingOn July 3, 2012 I started writing this blog. It’s taken six months of part time posting to reach this, my 50th blog article. So in honor of this personal milestone, I am writing a two-part series on what my experience has taught me thus far about myself and what it has taught me about blogging.

So, for part one – 50 blog posts have taught me these things about myself:

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Change Your Family Tree – Be a McFly

Each Christmas, the church I attend produces a musical comedy/drama to tell the story of how Jesus Christ came to be born into this world. These productions are written and directed by our worship leader who develops each year’s theme around a particular movie title or television show. Over the years, we’ve run the gamut, from “A Star Trek Christmas” to “Castaway” to “O Christmas, Where Art Thou?” Yes, I know, it’s interesting – you would just have to see it to understand. This year I am fortunate enough to play a supporting role as George McFly in “A Back to the Future Christmas.”

Of course, I go through a personal life transformation in the play where my character’s persona changes as the events of time are altered. My wife Lorraine accidentally sets off one of Doc Brown’s experimental time-vortex coffee machines he had left in the care of Marty and Jennifer. In our play, my change was no fault of my own. It was much different, however, in Back to the Future, Part I.

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A Simple Answer to Election Results (and Other Life Decisions)

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama won a second term in the White House by defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. President Obama prevailed despite a laundry list of national challenges that were present in his first four years in office. Here is a short recap:

– Rising unemployment

– Expansion of national debt

– Higher gas prices

– Lower household incomes

– Controversial health care reform

– Government takeover/bailout of an auto company

– Soon to be higher tax rates

– Tense foreign relations (especially with Israel)

Logic dictates these challenges would not bode well for a sitting President. How did he overcome these seemingly devastating national issues? How was he able to convince 60 million Americans he was still the man for the job? The answer lies in a simple word: pain.

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