What I Learned from a Homeless Man and My Dog

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“I don’t get enough love”
– Jeremy (homeless man)

Last winter Salt Lake City had a huge snow storm. It was cold, wet and tough to get around. As I was traversing the “fender benders” and trying to get back home I noticed a man, a homeless man, slowly walking by my car. I rolled down my window and asked him if he was okay.  “Can you give me a ride?” He asked. “Now I had done it,” I thought to myself. “I should have never rolled down my window. What if he has a weapon?” More thoughts flooded my mind. “What if he wants money? I can’t afford to give him any.” Hesitantly I said, “Sure, get in.”

As the disheveled man got in, a horrible odor engulfed my car and it was clear this man had not seen a shower in a very long time. Again more thoughts came to my mind, “I may need to shower or at least wash my clothes when I get home.” Or worse, “will this odor stay in my car?” I’m embarrassed to say, but no thoughts of love or kindness were in my heart at that time, only feelings of inconvenience and a lack of compassion.

My dog Louie was with me. He is a five pound yorkie and when in the car must be on my lap. The homeless man introduced himself as Jeremy and reached out to pet Louie. Louie immediately greeted Jeremy just as he would anyone he meets, with tons of dog kisses. You could see this struggling, homeless man melt as my dog gave him love. For the next several minutes he pet Louie and enjoyed the love that my dog gave him, love that unfortunately I was unable to give. Louie didn’t see the filthy clothes. Louie didn’t notice the stench of body odor and alcohol. Louie just gave love. As we arrived at our destination, the downtown homeless shelter, Jeremy commented on how loving Louie was and then, almost in a whisper, he said, “I don’t get enough love.” Jeremy got out of the car into the blustering snow storm, and was gone. Continue reading

How I Got Here

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This web site as well as my book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity, is a look into my journey to find happiness. I grew up in a home with huge amounts of drug and alcohol abuse present, cared for my dear wife who suffered with lupus for many years, had a home burn down, was widowed at thirty-four years old, was a single parent with three daughters under eight, remarried four years later, had a baby pass away at birth, survived a devastating divorce, had a once successful company go out of business, suffered bankruptcy, and struggled with intense depression. Life simply had become too hard and I either needed to do something to find joy or I would be unable to continue.

I have written the steps that I personally have taken that has given me a joy that I didn’t know could exist. This happiness is with me despite the events that are going on in my life. I hope you can find the same peace through the things that I have learned. I welcome your thoughts and experiences as you take this journey with me.

It was November 26, 1996, two days before Thanksgiving. I came home early from work to see if I could help Kameo. We had spoken on the phone a couple hours earlier and she mentioned that she was feeling a little better, though it would quickly become apparent that was just her wishful thinking. I came home and saw all the symptoms I had seen many times before: very high fever, joint pain, and weakness. This was a serious lupus flare. I knew the plan of action. It was one we had taken many times before during our ten-year marriage. We would go to the hospital, get fluids into her, break her fever, spend a few days recovering, and then come home. She would really hate spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, I thought.

I asked Kameo’s Mother to take her to the hospital while I dropped our girls off at my parent’s home. As I helped her into her Mother’s car, she whispered into my ear, “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.” Little did I know those would be the last words spoken to me by my wife, and Thanksgiving would never be the same.

The doctor asked to sit with me privately for a moment. “We have tried but it is now

Kameo and the girls the year she died

Kameo and the girls the year she died

time to make a decision. We can continue to keep her alive but it is only a matter of time before she passes.” How could this be happening, I asked myself? Her health had been the best it had been in years. She is only thirty-five, we have three young daughters! There were all kinds of reasons why she shouldn’t die.

None of those reasons mattered.

I hugged her, whispered through my tears the love I felt for her…and said good-bye. The breathing tube was removed and she slowly slipped away. Continue reading

Is Happiness a Choice?

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We have all heard that happiness is a choice. In fact, it is almost assumed to be the truth. As you may know, I understand the principles of positive psychology well, am a self-help author, and life coach, and have some strong opinions on the topic of happiness. In fact, my book Bounce Back: Finding Joy During Times of Adversity focuses on the topic. I want to challenge the conventional wisdom that happiness is a choice and would love to know your thoughts on the issue. Is being happy simply a choice?

It has always frustrated me that self-development speakers or teachers say happiness is a choice. How does a person make that choice? You see, a choice implies a concrete answer and an outcome to that choice. If I choose to wear my red shirt, I put my red shirt on. If I choose to drive faster, I push the accelerator down and I go faster. Choice has a cause and effect. So what happens when you choose happiness? Are you suddenly happy? There have been times in my life that I tried to choose to be happy and it worked in the short term. Simply, I was choosing to ignore the things that made me unhappy. That worked briefly but soon the sheer weight of life’s challenges became too burdensome, and unhappiness returned. This has led me to ask, “Can you simply make the choice to be happy and…voila…you are happy?” If so, you are a better person than I.  I believe happiness is not a choice; it is a series of choices that inevitably result in happiness. Here are some of the choices I believe led to my nearly continuous state of happiness:

1.  Reduce negative thoughts as much as possible.  

Negativity is the lifeblood of ongoing unhappiness. Efforts to be positive through the use of positive affirmations, meditation, counseling, and spiritual practices can greatly help in controlling the flow of negativity. Separating yourself from those who foster negativity is also important. Beware though, some preach that this alone can bring you happiness. I believe that it is just the beginning of the choices that must be made for long-term happiness. Continue reading