A Little This & That ~ Life, Insights & Lessons Learned

A little background about me, Cheers! ☼ 🙂 Mark

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– I’m all about journeys, dreams and adventures, and encouraging others to live their hopes and dreams in life – if I can live all my hopes and dreams as a kid growing up in Flint, MI, then you can as well! 🙂

– I grew up in Flint, MI, before moving to Grand Blanc, MI, just before starting the 6th grade, and lived there until going out on my own at the age of 20 when I left on an adventure to travel and see the world.

– I worked for two years as a seasonal Marine Patrol Deputy Sheriff and Search & Rescue SCUBA Diving Team Member patrolling the lakes of Genesee County, MI

– When I didn’t make it into Veterinary School at Michigan State University and didn’t have a clue about what to do with my life, I finally realized the only thing I was passionate about was travel and adventure – so I quit school to undertake and complete an 8,003 mile bicycle adventure around the U.S. in 1976-1977 – traveling by bike, car and truck with my friend Bruce, from Flint, MI, to Myrtle Beach, SC, to Key West, FL, to Rockport, TX, to Albuquerque, NM, to Denver, CO, to Salt Lake City, UT, to Boise, ID, to Portland, OR, and finishing in Seattle, WA

– Bruce and I worked in a lumber mill in Seattle for a short time – and after Bruce returned to MI – I worked my way up from a warehouse position at Electricraft Stereo Centers, Inc. in Seattle, to become a Regional General Manager for their stores in WA, ID and MT – undertaking many personal adventures around the Western U.S. from 1977-1979 as well

– I wrote my first book titled, In Search of the Meaning of Life (A Book of Philosophy) in 1978, while trying to figure out what I would do with the rest of my life – it’s in 5 Parts so just scroll down: https://insearchofthemeaningoflife.com/category/16-the-early-years-the-start-of-a-dream-chapter-11/

– I took a vacation to visit my family in Michigan prior to resigning my company position in the spring of 1979, and completed a solo bicycle adventure around England, Scotland, Wales and France that summer; took three transcontinental trips by Greyhound Bus that year; drove new cars cross-country for a car dealership; and visited Puerto Rico with a friend to visit his family and go SCUBA diving that summer

– In late December 1979, I returned to Michigan State University to earn my B.A. in Business Administration/Marketing – graduating in the late summer of 1981

– During my time at Michigan State University, I took a yacht trip with a friend from Seattle in a chartered 42′ Grand Banks from Everett, WA, to Princess Louisa Inlet and Chatterbox Falls, B.C., Canada, and all points in-between during Fall Break of 1980

– During Spring Break 1981, I completed a solo bicycle adventure from Grand Blanc, MI, to Port Huron, MI, and through Ontario, Canada

– In the fall of 1981 I joined the United States Air Force to become a specialized navigator flying fighters called a WSO (Weapon Systems Officer) and later an ECO (Electronic Combat Officer) – over a 20 year career I flew the F-4D/E/G, F-16D, and F-111E/G and flew a desk as a Staff Officer, lived overseas in England and Germany for 16 years, and participated in both the Cold War and the Persian Gulf War

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– Since retiring, I now spend my time on various personal projects of mine: writing, posting, and sharing the 11 books I’ve either written or am finishing on my blogs; podcasting my books as audiobooks that you can listen to on Soundcloud (Mark Jones 104); painting and maintaining an Online Art Gallery; editing my photos into an Online Gallery; organizing and sharing some of the 250+ songs I’ve written, along with the demo recordings I made years ago; and occasionally making and sharing motivational videos about living your hopes and dreams in life

– Here are the links to my books online (scroll to the bottom of the page for most of the Category/Table of Contents sections):

Jonathan’s Amazing Adventures: Jonathan’s Dream, Jonathan’s Return and Jonathan’s Wish:  https://jonathansamazingadventures.com/

The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat: The Adventures of Sam the Tugboat; Sam the Tugboat and the Island Kingdom of Beauty, Dreams and Imagination; Sam the Tugboat and the Legend of Shipwreck Island:  https://samthetugboat.com/

In Search for the Meaning of Life (An Autobiography), In Search of the Meaning of Life (A Book of Philosophy), In Search of the Meaning of Life (The Air Force Years): https://insearchofthemeaningoflife.com/

Organizational Aerodynamics:  https://organizationalaerodynamics.com/category/c-preface-the-art-of-visualization/

The Many Portraits of Life (A Novel):  https://themanyportraitsoflife.com/

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Life Lessons I’m Still Trying to Master

1.  Try to see everything in life as an adventure and an experience – both positive and negative – but not one that defines or limits you, because tomorrow is a new day and a new challenge

2.  It’s your life, so you decide how you want your story to unfold, not someone else – live it your way, blaze your own trails, follow your heart, live your hopes and dreams, life isn’t a dress rehearsal as there are no second takes, never settle for less than your heart tells you you want, you’ll never know or do if you don’t try – and always maintain the perspective of looking back on your life from a rocking chair on the front porch when you’re old and gray, having stayed true to who you are over the course of your life

3.  Find your passion and follow it relentlessly – do what you love and love what you do – otherwise you’re wasting your time, unless you’re planning your jumping off point into something that will be true to who you are

4.  Never stop learning and read everything you can, as many people give up learning and doing over time, so don’t be a spectator of life, get in the game – there’s everything to learn, both offline and online, to keep your mind sharp, and body healthy and fit – so use your time online constructively, and try to learn something about everything you can

5.  Life is hard, so deal with it.  No one owes you anything, and don’t expect anything to be handed to you on a silver platter – embrace failure as a learning experience, pick yourself up, try again and keep going, for sometimes life’s biggest opportunities follow failure – it’s never the end until it is

6.  Life’s a marathon, not a sprint, so go for endurance, not speed – persistence, perseverance and patience win the race – many years and decades are required to accomplish your hopes and dreams

7.  No one cares about your hopes and dreams until they do, and it will oftentimes take most of your life before anyone else pays any attention to many of the things you’re trying to do – so motivate yourself from within, and never give up on your hopes and dreams

8.  Everyone has an opinion, and many of the loudest opinions don’t have any justification behind them, so at the end of the day the only opinion that counts is yours – unless someone speaks truth to you, and your heart will know

9.  Take the high road in life, and make your life count for something larger than yourself with what you’re passionate about and trying to do – make it about others, not yourself, and use a lifelong perspective when doing it – you’ll make plenty of mistakes anyway when seeking to travel the high road, but so many less than you would have, had you decided to travel through the valleys of life

10. Never lose hope in even the darkest of hours, and always keep your faith and trust that God will guide you and show you the way – listen to your heart for that quiet voice of wisdom within you

11. Prioritize health and fitness your entire life, as you only have one body, and life is so very short and fragile – your body will break down on its own over time anyway – so help it to complete the marathon you’re running called life, by taking care of it, and avoiding unnecessary and foolish risks

12. Don’t take yourself out of the gene pool at a young age or at any age – pay attention, don’t walk around with ear buds to tune out your surroundings and ruin your hearing, drive responsibly, don’t use alcohol in excess, don’t smoke or do drugs, avoid risky behavior, and don’t put yourself in situations where the odds are stacked against you – like dark alleys, and bars late at night, etc. – life’s fragile and precious

13. Work hard to maintain and improve the relationships you have with your friends and family that you want to keep over the years, as the more you move from place to place over the course of your life, the harder it is to maintain solid relationships over the years

14. Avoid manipulative and toxic people at all costs, and be aware of the methods and behaviors they use and employ – distance, knowledge and your gut reaction are your best protection from them – you can and should forgive anything, but your forgiveness is not a door back into your life for anyone to automatically use

15. Happiness is an inside job and your responsibility alone, and not dependent on any situation, possession or person – you can choose your reaction to any circumstance, just know the situation doesn’t define you – life is what happens to you, and you decide how to react to it

16. Never lose your childlike heart, and try to see everything in life through ‘new’ eyes like a child – read J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan and study his quotes concerning life

17. Money is simply a tool, and just one of many tools in life’s workshop, so use it wisely – live beneath your means, save as much as you can in general and for retirement while still pursuing your dreams, stay out of debt as much as possible, be a good steward of your possessions so you can give them away in good shape once you’re finished with them, donate to charity, and give freely to friends, family and others in times of need

18. Live simply and love deeply – the less you have, the less you leave behind, for you can’t take it with you – gather moments and experiences, not things

19. Time is your most precious resource, so use it wisely and don’t waste it on trivial pursuits (unless you’re playing a game) – start your day before dawn to gain productivity, and retire early for the night, for sleep is critical to your health, and time is critical to accomplishing your hopes and dreams in life

20. Life is short and precious, even if you’re fortunate enough to live a long life – live each day as your last, be grateful for all you’ve been given, little things in life are the big things in the end, love is the key to everything you do, and life is a gift and a blessing given to you by God

21. Only in retrospect looking back, will you be able to connect many of the dots of your life to explain what really happened and why – even then, it may never be possible to explain in this life why things happened the way they did, so be at peace with your past – live in the moment, look forward to the future, and learn from the past

22. If you don’t know yet what your passion and hopes and dreams are in life, think back to the moments, events and experiences from your earliest years, about what made you feel free and alive – what you would spend your whole life doing for free if you could, something that you can do that the world truly needs, something that makes your heart race, and your soul sing – do that! 🙂

A Little This & That ~ Organizing 2017

With 2017 now just days away, it’s time to turn my attention towards the New Year, and do my best to make it the best year ever.  My technique is to continue my daily panning around my to-do list into the New Year, which keeps me on track and focused on what needs to be done.

My system is based on using a daily planner and calendar to write down the top five or so things I need to accomplish each day, along with a check box to check it off once the task is completed.  This year I’m using the ‘FOUR SEASONS 2017 Engagement Planner and Wall Calendar’ by LANG to keep myself organized.  This is a technique that has worked well for me for years now, as it focuses on accomplishing what’s important to me each day.  If I don’t get around to completing a specific task one day, I’ll just slip it to the next day until it’s completed.  What’s done is done, and that’s the main point.

This year I started podcasting, and so far I’m on track to complete 213 ‘Simply Mark’ podcasts in 2016 which amazes me, but in reality it’s simply focusing one day at a time on the tasks at hand.  I was also able to also make 20 videos in 2016, for a total of 101 videos since Dec 9, 2014 ~ along with 13 music videos of my original songs before that ~ something I’d never done before.

I also completed seven acrylic on canvas paintings in 2016, after completing six new paintings in 2015.  I hadn’t painted in decades, and while I always wanted to paint again one day, it took a very long time for me to get motivated to do it.  Only after retiring in late 2013, was I positioned to have the time and focus available to rededicate myself to my artwork.

My long-term goal is to finally complete and wrap up all the individual projects and stories I’ve started over the past years and decades, and then move on towards focusing on all my remaining goals and interests ~ which is only made possible by focusing on my top five priorities each day.

I wish you and yours all the very best for 2017, and hope that you, too, will find a way to keep yourself organized, motivated and productive throughout 2017!  Cheers! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ Breaking in Cowboy Boots

My leather cowboy boots are close to a year old, and I wanted to find a way to break them in to achieve a well worn, comfortable, and aged look ~ like they’d been through a few rodeos and cattle drives by now! 🙂 Unfortunately, as I don’t live on a ranch, haven’t ridden in a rodeo, or participated in even one cattle drive from Montana to Texas, my boots haven’t naturally shown any wear and tear from ridin’ the range.

I’ve worked the leather uppers by hand a number of times to soften the leather, but wasn’t able to achieve much in the way of progress. Knowing that traditional leather horse tack is oiled, I decided to oil my boots with coconut oil in the liquid state (room temperature in the summer).  Coconut oil is a solid when cold, and liquid at room temperature ~ as well as reportedly anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-viral ~ and never goes rancid in the jar.

First, I used a half-inch wide paintbrush to paint the coconut oil on with shoe stretchers inserted into the boots.  Then after the coconut oil soaked in and dried overnight, I worked the leather shafts (uppers) in every possible way until both the leather and my hands were tired ~ and then after a few days repeated the entire process from the beginning with the paint brush.

The result is that the leather is now soft and supple, and absorbed the coconut oil well.  The leather’s dry to the touch and not greasy, and I’ve decided to not buff them, and leave them in a well-worn looking condition.  They may not have seen a rodeo before, but they are considerably softer and more supple now, then when I began the process.

Here are a couple of photos of my well-worn looking boots, and now I’ll wear them for the next year and revisit the issue whether coconut oil did the job I expected it to do, or not.  In the meantime, I’ll hope to sign on to a cattle drive or two! 🙂

Update #1 ~ It’s now October 5, 2016, and I’ve since worn my broken-in cowboy boots (Cody James@ Men’s Distressed Round Toe Western Boots) that I love a few times now, as the summer shorts season is coming to a close and it’s time for wearing my Wrangler jeans and cowboy boots! 🙂 The two coconut oil treatments while breaking-in the leather by hand, has worked wonderfully, leaving the leather butter soft and supple, with no negative effects.  Each time I wear them now, it feels like I could easily sleep in them, as they’re that comfortable.  My only additional update is that I inserted a comfort insole into my boots for walking, and otherwise I’m sold on using coconut oil to treat my boots once a year from now on to keep the leather soft and supple! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ A Standing Desk

I have lots of different interests that I enjoy pursuing, like my post about ‘Buttermilk Pancakes & Growing Saplings’ the other day, and landscaping in general.  Today’s post is about my love of working with natural wood ~ and solid-wood furniture in particular.  This category of ‘A Little This & That’ is a place for me to discuss some of my other pastimes, ones that I may not have the opportunity to often blog about.

The other day in my ‘Baking’ category (listed down a bit on the left side of this blog), I mentioned that we loved Crema Marfil Marble, and had acquired a 2′ x 4′ section for a pastry board on our kitchen island.  We didn’t want to discard the other marble remnant section, and chose to polish the edges and see if we might create a counter-height free-standing pastry island for it, or put together a counter-height standing desk ~ and we chose to do the latter.

I love working with solid wood furniture ~ whether antiques, well-used furniture, or new and unfinished pieces.  We acquired much of our furniture over the years during our 16 years overseas in England and Germany, always preferring solid wood and never modern press-board.  My favorite option is simply finishing furniture in the ‘Old World’ hand paste wax tradition, and buffing it to a nice sheen.  Most of our furniture is hand waxed in this way, and many of the pieces have slowly darkened in color naturally over the years and decades we’ve owned them.

One of my long-term goals is to set up a workshop for working on and refinishing furniture, most likely a purpose-built shed that I can detail inside to suit my needs.  Of course, if I could shoot for the moon, I’d have a 10 acre farmstead with a little stream and lake in a northern tier state, set up my workshop in an idyllic picture-perfect barn, raise a few horses, a couple of donkeys, a handful of goats and sheep, a farmyard of free-range chickens, and create a couple of natural meadows of wildflowers beside the stream for the bees, butterflies and wildlife to enjoy! 🙂 Oh well, I suppose the largest shed our HOA will allow will have to do ~ the rest remains the fabric of my dreams…

We ordered a solid wood unfinished table from ‘Wayfair’ dot com, as they had the farmhouse style table we like in multiple sizes and heights.  We selected a rectangular, counter-height hardwood table 30″ x 42″ in size, just larger than our remnant piece of crema marfil marble used to top it with.  The Wayfair hardwood desk was very well manufactured and professionally packed, included high-quality hardware, and assembled easily.  We hand-waxed the table twice, covering every inch of the unfinished wood, and buffed it to a nice sheen.

So now my study has a standing desk in the corner beside my regular desk under the window, with the TV/DVR, a small lamp, and my daily planner, tucked under some of my earlier paintings.  It’s a perfect set-up for me ~ and perhaps you, too, may be thinking of adding a standing desk in your own home ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂

A Little This & That ~ Buttermilk Pancakes & Growing Saplings

This morning I made buttermilk pancakes ~ but it was too early for photos ~ so I wanted to pass along the recipe that we very much enjoyed.  The recipe’s called ‘BA’s Best Buttermilk Pancakes’ found at ‘Bon Appétit’ dot com.  I was tired of making pancakes from mixes, and wanted to find a simple recipe from scratch that was easy to make, and this is the one for me!  It was easy to reduce the amount of ingredients required in the recipe by half, and the batch made 8 delicious, regular sized pancakes about 4″ across.  I’ve bookmarked the page for all future pancake weekends, and my searching for the ‘perfect’ recipe is over! 🙂

On another subject, and the reason for adding the ‘A Little This & That’ category, is to mention our growing saplings of the ‘Yellow Mexican Bird of Paradise’ shrub ~ which can actually be pruned into small trees.  We purchased enough shrubs from a nursery this summer to start two different hedges in our backyard, but wanted to grow new saplings ourselves to extend both hedges.

As the shrubs put out seed pods, I collect the seeds by opening the pods and plant them in starter buckets, before transplanting them into our flower pots.  The key here is wash my hands well after handling the seeds, as they’re reported to be poisonous.  Our annual flowers had run their course, so we’re making good use of the planters for growing saplings and as an herb garden.  Saplings also sprout underneath the shrubs, which I then transplant to new containers.  I took photos of the planters tonight, and thought I’d share this adventure in gardening with you ~ enjoy! ☼ 🙂