A hike in the Makawao Forest….

With each hairpin turn I made, the road got narrower and narrower. Up and up I climbed, and if it was cloudy that day, I surely would have been in one. Over 2600 feet elevation from my home in Pukalani. At 3820 feet, it’s near the tree line before the barren stretch to the top of Haleakala Crater. At times there was only room for one car, the trees and rocks protruding onto the roadway, and each switchback corner was a head-on disaster waiting to happen. Not only that, the sun was glaring off the windshield at times like a strobe light as I went under huge trees and canopied tunnels of living green.

The directions on the internet were vague. Turn right at four corners downtown Makawao onto Olinda Road. Go until you see the Bird Sanctuary on the left. A small parking lot will be on the right.  I had been on that road only a couple of times before, and only as far as a private school, Seabury Hall, which looks like something out of the Harry Potter movies. That was about a mile out of Makawao, still quite a rise in elevation for only a mile. Going past Seabury Hall, the road gets very narrow and curvy, and the surface of the road is poor. There were goat farms, unmanned fruit stands, shanties and mansions, and curves with stuffed monkeys hanging in trees to honor someone who died. I think I encountered only two cars coming down the volcano in that 25-minute drive, and both were hogging the center of the way too narrow road and I turned into the side vegetation to avoid a head-on.

Beautiful would be an understatement of the surrounding scenery, with occasional glimpses of the ocean and distant land. At times I would consider living in such an off the grid sort of place, and other times not. Today I wasn’t looking for a home, I was looking for a trail. Just when common sense told me that maybe I should consider turning around and heading to safety, there it was, the Bird Sanctuary. Almost unnoticeable was also a small highway sign denoting that it was also the end of the Maui County Department roadway. Onward I went.

I was only about another half mile when I came to the parking lot, really just a dirt pull off good for about 10 cars. I pulled next to the four that were already there, it was about 10AM. It was in the middle of a huge pine forest, and the trees were either very old, or they grow fast and big over here. The ground was covered with pine needles and pine cones, of which I brought home a few. A gate was closed at the start of the trail, but I could see where the wire fence was pushed down around it, and I assumed, rightly, that I was good to go. So in I went.

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The first thing that struck me was the quiet. You know that almost “hurt the eardrum” kind of quiet that you seldom get to experience these days. The silence between the sounds. This is one of the truly remarkable things you can get out of nature. Quiet. How often do you really get to experience that? I’m not talking sound machine when you are sleeping or having the radio off in your car. I mean the true absence of sound. It’s almost mystical.

I think about my kids and about the constant bombardment of noise in their lives. That can’t be healthy. Overstimulation in any one organ, especially one of the senses tips you out of balance. Just the base level noise that comes from living near humans, with their cars and mowers and TVs and music and chatter, and as I write this, firecrackers exploding in celebration of New Years. Add to that all the noises that fill in the rest of the space. They say that your subconscious records everything you see or hear in a lifetime. If that’s the case, I would think that people are just about running out of subconscious storage space, which I believe contributes to some of the ills that society has these days. If we could all just have a little less noise in our lives, we would all be much better off. But I also believe to get my kids off their noise addiction would be next to impossible.

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As I walk, the fallen pine needles make the sound of my walking barely perceptible. I hear an occasional bird singing, and in the distance, the sound of children talking.

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

In that silent forest, I pictured ancient islanders walking where I did, being one with nature. Nature is a patient mother. When you need her help, she will always welcome you back. It’s rare to get time with her. It felt good.

After about a half mile or so, there was a fork in the road which had signage telling you that you could either go around the loop trail, to end up back where you started or to a spring, about a mile away. I decided to go for the spring. In about ten minutes of walking, I came upon a couple, very silent, sitting on a fallen log. Near them was a sign and trail pointing towards the spring which looked to be almost a straight drop to the forest far below. I asked them if that was the trail, and they said it was. I then asked if it was hard, to which they also replied it was, and that was the reason they were sitting there. They were waiting for a companion who had gone on without them. I gave them a smile and headed for the edge.

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In my youth I spent an enormous time in the woods, climbing trees and rocks, fearlessly forging forward through all kinds of terrain. I have to admit, this looked a bit daunting. An experienced mountain climber, on the other hand, would have run down it. I carefully made my way, placing each foot far enough from the edge to keep the ground from caving in and tumbling over. It was a little damp, and the leaves were quite slippery. If it rained, it would be impossible to go. It would make a great ride at an amusement park in that condition though if wet. I would rest from time to time and admire the beauty and solitude of it all.

I have never really thought about the limitations of my body. Today I did. I wondered how I would get out of there if I fell and broke something. Would anyone find me if I tumbled over the edge? What in the world was I thinking coming down here, I still had to get back up. Maybe I will have a heart attack. You know, all those crazy old person thoughts. The sound of those children snapped me out of it. Their laughter was coming from the forest below, just out of sight.

Almost to the bottom, I could see who was there. There was a young couple with a dog, they had on hiking gear and looked like they did this a lot. Then there was another young couple with two kids no older than three, and a dog. And finally, the two children laughing with their Mom, the kids about 10 and 12, and a dog. The kids, the hiking couple, and a dog were going in and out of these small caves that were on the side of the towering cliff. Of course, the dogs were doing what we as humans struggle so hard all our lives with, enjoying the moment.  I mentioned to the kid’s Mom how I thought they were quite brave to make the trek, to which she replied they come here a lot, and no big deal. She was dressed like she was going to the store to get groceries. At that point, I guess I was feeling a little foolish for doubting my abilities. I felt better to know that there was someone around though.

I stayed and watched the action for about a half hour, then the couple with the youngest kids headed back up. The Mom called her dog because she wanted to go too, kids complaining not to leave. I figured that’s my chance. If I went behind the first couple, then knowing the Mom and kids would come behind, they would find me if something happened. Just being careful I thought.

The hike back out took a while, but I never did catch up to the first group until I reached the top. The log couple was gone by then, and I headed back up the trail towards my car alone. I was grateful to be in the silence again. It was only about ten minutes to my car, and I was torn internally on wanting to stay or leave. I wasn’t really prepared for the hike. I had no water or snacks and today was just to see what it was all about in case I wanted to bring my kids back. I found out that it was another half mile to a spring from the bottom of the cliff. I will save that for another time, good reason to come back.

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The return trip was fabulous on that curvy narrow road, with endless views and lush forests and fields. I could sense a feeling of stress as I came to the stop in town, with the tourists already streaming into the shops, and cars and trucks roaring up and down the streets.

For me, my little day trip reminded me of our need to be with nature. To let go of the hubbub of daily life, remove all the noise stimulation, and have some solitude. It also reminded me of my frailty, that when you take away all the crutches of society, the cars to get around, the stairs for climbing, the soft chairs, the phones, and TVs, and refrigerators, you are left with you. It made me more aware and in touch more with our ancestors and the struggles but also the simple peace they must have felt.

I have always been a bit of a loner, and comfortable that way. Today I saw my need not only for possible protection or help but that people have an innate sense to want to be in the company of others. I felt that comfort and connection in those grand woods, even though my contact with them was minimal at best. This is a shared experience we all have as humans. The true recipients of the experience were those kids, who just let themselves be in the moment, and not think about minute minutiae adults have swimming their heads at all times. Their honest laughter was a testament to that.

I’m going to bring my kids there. I can already hear the protests. Perhaps it will move them like it did me, perhaps not. I want them to know nature, and all the lessons she can teach. Someday, they may tell their kids of their hike in the Makawao Forest.

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When will I be there?

I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions. I think I am pretty good at keeping my goals in mind year round, and a date doesn’t really affect them all that much. I also know that if I make some, I probably won’t keep them. I’m more of a keep track sort of person when December 31st rolls around. It’s time to box up the bills and receipts from the year and get a fresh box for the new ones. In that box are also pictures and cards, and other odds and ends memory stuff I want to keep. It’s then I kind of sort things out in my mind about the year and where I made improvements and where I fell short. I was able to see the whole year in a few hours of organizing the box getting ready for doing my taxes.

When I was flat ass broke and finally got a career where I was saving money, it was fun to count up my net worth at the end of the year to see how much I improved over the previous year. Then through a couple of stock market crashes, job changes, bonehead investments, and having kids ended the fun in that. It’s no fun to watch going backward. Now I don’t do that anymore.

This was also a good time to assess my health. Money is important, but if you feel lousy it doesn’t matter if you have any or not at the time. I’m not one of those gung-ho types who join the gym on January 1st and work out until February, then move on to something else. I work out year-round, sort of a stress reliever for me. Assessing my health for me was making sure my pants fit the same, making sure my vitamin routine is up to date, getting a physical to check the other stuff, and thinking about what I could improve in the coming year.

OK, those two things are mostly in my control. Relationships, on the other hand, don’t seem to be. Seems that around Christmas has been the make or break for many of my relationships. Probably not much different than anyone else. It does make you a little gun shy of the Holiday approaching, and a little relief when you get through it still intact. That changing of the clock on December 31st always make me think about who I am with, how is it working for me or her, and what can I do to improve it. It also makes me think sometimes I can’t. And that’s sad.

This year with New Years approaching, I feel different. I have been thinking about it for a while now to try and find the words. Bear with me.

I will be turning 65 years old in the coming year. I already have my Social Security and Medicare lined up. I have officially retired, which has been a dream for a long time. Not to retire per se, but to have the freedom from working a 9 to 5 just to pay the bills. Financially, I am going to be ok. Not going to live like Donald Trump, but I have enough.

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I’m living in Maui, which has been my dream for over 25 years. I have broken away from dreadful Minnesota winters and muggy buggy summers. I know many of you are having a brutally cold winter. I feel your pain. If you think I go to the beach every day, sleep in till I want, and stay up as late as I can, you would be right about one of them. I do go to the beach every day, even in the rain, but I get up to take the kids to school and go to bed at ten, my choice.

Speaking of kids, I did it right, at least for me. Having them late in life has been a complete blessing that I get to enjoy and spend so much time with them now. I can’t imagine my life without them. I guess I can, it would be lonely and dreadful.

When I am not with the kids, right now I am not in a relationship so my time is mine to do what I want. That’s a bit hard for me to get used to, to be honest. I have committed so much time and effort taking care of others, I think I neglected to find out what I want out of life. Maybe I should get a dog.

And this brings me to where I am today, this year, going into next. I don’t have to work if I don’t want to, I’m living in my dream place, I have my kids and my time of my own. Then why do I feel like I’m not there yet?

Maybe because there is no “There”.  Life really is the journey your soul takes. “Life is what you make of it” isn’t just a cute little saying, it is really the most honest reality of you. You may learn from your mistakes, and get plenty of second chances, but there is no do-over. You get one shot. 

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Sometimes I lived life like a speeding freight train, my life going by like blurred telephone poles. I think back now and wish I would have taken the leisurely scenic route instead. I have no regrets though. I lived my life the best way I knew how.

Like a great book you can’t put down, I have been looking forward to the ending, kind of like the point I am at right now, but also like a great book, I never want it to end. That is the paradox of life. We are always waiting to be “There”, but when we get there, we want more. I guess I will just have to read the sequel.

I truly believe that I am not my body. I am the soul who inhabits it. My body is my experience with this wonderful time on Earth as life. My soul is the benefactor of all the pleasure and pain and wonder and feelings that my body goes through in a lifetime, and when it’s time is done, lives on. I haven’t always thought this way. I wish I would have.

You know that jaw-dropping feeling you get when you get away from the lights and the noise on a cloudless starry night. That feeling is your soul (the real you) connecting with the universe. You feel so small in its vastness, yet so connected that time stands still.

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2018. I think next year will be a year full of surprises, of many happy moments, and some sad ones. It will be a year of change and a year of stability. A year of peace and a year of conflict. There will be ups and there will be downs. It will be a year like all the rest. 

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I think I am qualified to offer life advice to my kids, no one else. So I would like to offer some to them as someone who has lived a great life, and hopefully have many more years to come, and want to share some wisdom picked up along the way. These are some of the things I wish I had known when I was young and would have been smart enough to listen to them.

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There is only one person you have to live your life for. You. Without being the best you, what can you offer others? Love yourself first, and the love you give others will be sincere and with all your heart.

Love your family. They are your rock, who will always be there for you. When it’s time for you to have your own family, be their rock.

Plan for the future, let the past go, live for today.

Live in the moment. Every second is a gift. Even the small things will haunt you if you pass them by. Put yourself into life 100%, and you will have no regrets.

Ask someone to dance. I guarantee you will regret it if you didn’t.

Roll with the punches. Sometimes life doesn’t go the way you want and gets hard. That will end. If you think that something good will come from something bad, you will be right. It also works the other way, so always be positive.

Don’t judge. This is probably the most destructive thing you can do to yourself. Judging others doesn’t hurt them, it hurts you. You become cynical and mean. This will take a lot of fun out of your life.

Work hard, play hard, and know the difference. There is a time for both.

Take risks with money and love. Playing it safe all the time will give you a mediocre life to look back on. Taking risks will give you an extraordinary life. 

Don’t overthink everything. You will be paralyzed by indecision. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and hope for the best. 

Make a difference in someone’s life. Give more than you take. It doesn’t have to be money. Sometimes a kind word, some deserved praise, or a hug is all it takes.

True success is measured by the love, peace, contentment, and happiness you have in your life, regardless of how much money you have.

Make a difference in this world. Leave it a little or a lot better than you found it.

Take care of the Earth and all its inhabitants. We are all here for a reason, and we may not know what that is all the time. We all deserve to be here.

Take care of your body. Give it lots of rest, good food, regular exercise, and loving care. It’s got to last your soul a lifetime to live in.

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Stay away from drugs and alcohol. Besides ruining your health, wealth and relationships, it will cause you to miss out on the best that life can offer. I can tell you, any decision ever made under the influence has never been a good one. 

Be patient and kind. Two qualities above most others. If you have these two, others will be attracted to you and make your life easier.

Never stop learning. This universe is such a miracle. To grow as a person, keep an open mind to every possibility. 

Keep a daily journal. You will not regret it. I didn’t and wish I did. 

Finally, know there are no limits to what you can do or become. There is a whole big world out there just for you to enjoy. Follow your dream, and start by dreaming big.

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They say that writing your thoughts down is good therapy. I have to admit, this has helped me with some of the issues I have been facing. I now realize this isn’t about me. It took me 65 years to get to this place, at this keyboard, to write down some things my kids may someday read, and something just might strike a chord to help live a more fulfilling life.

When the new year is upon us, I am going to start over, again. Not as in a New Years resolution sort of way, but in that sequel to my “Book of life” kind of way. I feel that my life is on the right path, and have continuing hope for things to come. I feel blessed to be alive and in good health. I am lucky.

When will I be there? Who cares. Sit back and enjoy the ride…..

Happy New Years……and may your life be always blessed.

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A Broken Heart for Christmas…..

Christmas is a magical time of year for a ten-year-old boy. They pretty much have the Santa thing figured out, and they get two weeks out of school. Most kids that age have lots of things they want and can’t wait to get their presents. Life and relationships are pretty uncomplicated up to this point. Then it changes.

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At the little school my Son attends here in Maui, there was a classroom volunteer and helper since the beginning of the school year.  She is 18 and is also the sister of my Son’s best friend. I only just met her a week ago at my Son’s football game, and he never really talked about her at home.  Mentioned her name once in a while, thought nothing of it. I thought she seemed very nice. She is going off to college after Christmas and will no longer live here on the island.

My Son has stayed over at his friend’s house a couple of times this month, the last the night before he flew back to Minnesota for his two week Christmas break to spend with family there. He was very upset when I picked him up and had to say goodbye to her. She will be leaving for college before he gets back. She gave him a sweatshirt and took a few pictures. After that, let’s just say it was a rough night and next morning right up until the time he got on the plane. He talked about her being his friend, how she smelled so nice, how he was going to miss her and probably never see her again, how he didn’t want to go back to Minnesota and miss some more time with her. She is his first crush.

That night I spent about three hours with him just talking about friends and relationships and stuff. I told him a story that I had completely forgotten about up until that night.

I grew up on a mink farm. My Dad was very successful and had people come from all over the world to buy mink and also learn how to raise them. One of the people who came to learn was a girl from Italy named Maria. She was 18 and her Father sent her to stay the summer in a small apartment in the town near us and learn how to raise the mink. I was 10.

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Every day she would come to the farm, and I would spend a lot of time with her. She was very kind to me. I liked being around her. It made me feel good. Sometimes I would get dropped off and spend time with her in her little apartment, and we would play games or just talk. She had a heavy Italian accent, long dark hair, and dark brown eyes. I thought she was beautiful. I have no pictures of her, just memory.

The end of the summer quickly approached, like it always does for kids on summer break, and I had never really given much thought I guess about what would happen to Maria. I just thought she would always be there. Then I found out she was going back to Italy. That hit me pretty hard. I cried and cried. A few days before she was to leave, I wanted to go see her, but my Mom said no. I think she was trying to protect me from feeling so bad and felt it wasn’t a good idea to prolong it. She sent me to my room, but instead of staying there, I jumped out the window and ran to Maria’s house, which was 4 miles away. I still to this day remember running in the ditches towards town, tears streaming down my face, scared and confused. When I got to her apartment, luckily she was home, and she let me in. Knowing that my parents would be frantic, she called them to let them know I was safe. They let me stay a couple of hours before my Dad came and got me. I remember Maria holding me as I cried and said everything would be alright, and someday we would meet again. My parents never said a word about the incident. I never ran away again. I never saw Maria again.

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As I told the story to my Son, it made me realize how that crush I had on Maria that summer changed my whole life. How I think of holding on in relationships, afraid that they will leave and never be seen nor heard from again. How I felt so strongly, and that love was not given in return. How life could seem so unfair to a ten-year-old when they have no control in situations like this. I can now see that the many relationships I have had over the years have been affected to some extent by, I know it sounds silly at ten, my first love. Now I wonder whatever happened to her. She would be 72 now if she is still alive. Have our paths ever crossed somewhere along the way, like she said they would? I wonder if she has ever thought of me. To her, I was the bosses 10-year-old kid. To me, she was my world. I know she got my infatuation, and she handled it well. I miss her.

It was a different time back then. My parents never talked to me about my feelings I had and how to handle them, or at least acknowledge them and look for the positive. That stuff didn’t exist in the early sixties. I knew they loved me and wanted the best for me. The support was there, it just wasn’t talked about. In the silence was the message, get over it and move on. Move on I did, but not so sure I ever really got over it.

It’s funny that I had completely forgotten about the summer when I was 10 and fell in love with an 18-year-old girl from Italy named Maria until it happened to my Son. I want to be there for him and try to help him understand and appreciate the time he did have with her, and use that foundation to learn and become a better person. Trouble is, I don’t think I ever resolved it myself. Lifes lessons take time I guess.

How do you tell someone that life moves on? That pain and love sometimes are intertwined. That this is the first of a lifetime of relationships that will build you up or tear you apart. That this is the first of countless tears of joys and sadness, of the best of times and the worst of times. How do you tell someone of all the beautiful moments and heartbreaks ahead of them? That it breaks my heart to know his is breaking. Maybe it’s best to just let life happen.

This may then be the circle of life. Maybe it all happened to me so I could relate it to my Son in his time of need and sorrow. I lived and learned, and just knowing him, he will move on and be a better person for it, and maybe someday teach the lesson to his Son or Daughter. There is no beginning and no end.

I am going to offer him the same thing my parents gave to me. A loving home that will always be his to come back to. A smile to show I care and a Kleenex to wipe away tears. A warm bed and a hot meal. A hug and a hand to hold. An ear to listen and a comforting voice to give advise. An unconditional love that I someday hope he finds in a mate and a family of his own. I will always be there. That is my Christmas present to him.

Mele Kalikimaka……………..

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About Face………………

Drive into a neighborhood you have never been to. One that you know nothing about. Now pick a house. Doesn’t matter which one. Look at the size, and shape, and how it is kept up. Is the yard mowed or the grass long?  Is it orderly, or is there things left all over?  Does it look clean or dirty?

Based on your observations, now imagine who the people are that live in that house. I would guess that by the appearance of what kind of house it is, the neighborhood, whether it’s kept up or not, you have a pretty good idea of what they might look like.

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Now keep driving around until you see a couple of houses that are similar, but different colors. One might be a neutral beige, and the other a hot pink, or maybe many different colors. What do you think of the people who might be living in them? The houses are pretty much the same, but does the color make you think that the people are different?

Based on our past experiences, influences (such as parents, TV, friends), and observations, we all have opinions and visual expectations of who we might perceive coming out of those houses to greet us if we went up and rang the doorbell. And a lot of time, we might be pretty close. But in reality, we have absolutely no idea of who would come to the door. We don’t know one thing about them, their dreams, desires, their past, their future. Whether they are good people or bad. The only thing we will know for sure is our desire to justify our preconceived notions about them.

Why is this? Why do we want to place everything we see in a category? I think it might come from our past, when we had to decide instantly whether something is going to harm us, help us, or at the least, educate us for next time. I’m talking millions of years of trying to keep from getting eaten.

Moving to a completely unknown area has made me more observant. Of houses, the cars people drive, their yards, clothing, but mostly….faces.

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Our face is how the world sees us. Our face doesn’t change (except getting more wrinkles), but the perception of us does by who is looking at us. Every face is as unique as us, but for some reason, we want to pigeon-hole and categorize the person behind the face based on our lifelong study of faces. Just like houses, we base our opinions on the shape, the care, the detail and the color of the face. How we get that opinion is based on our never-ending bombardment of information about similar faces. And just like houses, we make our assumptions before we ever ring the doorbell.

And just like houses, we really don’t know one thing about the person behind that face just by looking at them.

Living in Hawaii, I see lots of unfamiliar faces. Just like in the old Doors song, “People are strange when you’re a stranger.” Because I was raised and lived mostly in a one race town, growing up I did not have a tremendous amount of contact with other cultures, other faces. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my opinions about them. It’s just that I realize they are mostly wrong. Even my decade’s long career in retail sales taught me little about the real person behind the face I was dealing with.

My kids make comments about faces. They categorize them by what they call their resting face. Like a resting sad face, or a resting happy face. Or mad face. It’s mostly about people we know, and it makes us laugh because usually, it’s nothing like the person we know behind the face. I know they are forming their own opinions about the faces they see. By the way, I supposedly have a resting happy face, according to them.

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Images of faces and the story behind them are everywhere. Every time someone is arrested, or act inappropriately, they get their face plastered all over the media. That face then becomes associated with that act. I’m glad I don’t look like Charles Manson or Donald Trump. Even people who look normal (whatever that may be) commit horrendous crimes or should be avoided.  Should everyone then become suspect? That would be a horrible way to live.

I saw the new movie, Wonder, and this is a perfect example of judging a face and not the person behind it. If you haven’t seen it yet, I encourage you to do so. It’s a great movie. Bring lots of tissue.

Our face is the front door to the home in which our soul resides. Once in awhile, I get an unbiased glimpse of my face. Before the delusion begins. Before I dismiss the wrinkles and sagging skin, the darkened circles, the graying hair. Before I mask my face the way I think the world should see me. But by doing that, I am depriving the world and myself of connection. The connection of the real me. Almost everyone does. That’s what faces do, protect those inside the house. Doors are meant to protect, I guess it’s the same with faces.

I get judged a lot. By the color of my skin, the age of my skin. My sex, my gray hair, my crooked bottom teeth. I understand it. That’s what humans do. When I was younger, I used to get looks from the opposite sex, checking me out I would assume. I did the same. Now I get looks from the opposite sex. I wonder what in the world they are thinking about.

I know that our skill of judging a person has to do with our past survival. And in many ways, it still serves us. Who hasn’t seen a scary person who should be avoided? Obviously, we must use our brains. But take away the shape and color of the face, and there is one thing that we all have that is pretty much the same, the eyes. Our pupils are all round, the sclera white, with the iris only changing with different colors. This then might be the person behind the face. The old saying you only get to know someone by looking in their eyes might be the truest way.

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I know when my kids are happy or sad. I know when a friend is glad to see me. I know when someone I love feels the same about me. It’s because I know who they are behind their face.

I look at everyone’s face, sometimes openly but usually try to be discreet. Sometimes I feel like I am the only one doing that. I can look at everyone around me, and they all seem to be oblivious or absorbed in what they are doing, they hardly notice anyone’s face. Maybe we all feel this way, or maybe it is just me. I bought a pair of those hard to see my eyes sunglasses so I can look more, but I might just be fooling myself because everyone thinks that whoever is wearing glasses like that is looking, so don’t look back at them.

My comfort zone says to keep to myself, my curiosity says to reach out. This new life in Maui has given me a great opportunity to expand myself. To expand myself, I need to connect with others who are not like me. I need to get to know more of others than just what I think their face is telling me. I need to get to know them.

I’m guessing the only way to get to know who someone is, is to ring the doorbell. 

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A Thanksgiving to Remember…………….

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and for the first time in my life, I will be spending it alone. I really don’t know anyone on Maui except for my kids and ex-wife, and they are spending the day with her. Needless to say, I didn’t go out and get a big turkey to cook.

But instead of feeling lonely, I feel it’s going to be one of my best Thanksgivings ever. Instead of getting caught up in all the cooking, visiting, drama, travel and endless TV watching with a bloated gut, I am going to spend the day remembering my family who are no longer here.  I am going to spend the day with my Mom and Dad, honoring and remembering them, and giving thanks for the absolutely wonderful life they have given me.

It was a rainy start to the spring of 1991. I stopped at my parent’s home on my way home from work to take care of their two cats.

My Mom was on a trip to Arizona visiting relatives with her sister, and my Dad was on a fishing trip with my sister’s husband. I used to be the one who went fishing all the time with him, but when I grew to adulthood, I lost interest in the sport and was too busy anyway. He surprised me when I opened the door to find him reading the paper in the recliner. He had just gotten back from his trip the hour before and just catching up on the news. I was happy to see him.  Not only was he my Dad, he was also my best friend. I stopped every morning for a cup of coffee on my way to work, my Mom would have it waiting since I got my job selling cars.  He was very interested in my job and very proud I could tell.

I went to my home after that, which was about 10 blocks from my parents. Within 2 hours, my Dad passed away. This was May of 1991. He was born in 1920. He was 71.

This took our family completely by surprise. We were an extremely close family. None of us had kids, and our lives had always been intertwined with my Dad as the glue. With the exception of my Grandparents who had passed many years before, most before I was born, death had never touched our immediate family unit. We were devastated, and it changed our dynamic. The funeral was a blur to me, and he was buried in a small cemetery close to where we grew up on the farm. All that we had been through, all that we thought was yet to come, was over. Camelot was gone. (That’s what we called our idyllic life growing up).

My Mom stayed in the little house my Dad had bought for her, but I no longer stopped for coffee on my way to work, it was too hard for me. I couldn’t even go in the house if she wasn’t home, didn’t feel right. They say time heals all wounds. Never really has. In fact, it took me over 10 years to visit my Dad’s grave. My soon to be wife finally convinced me I should go. She knew what I needed more than me. It helped the healing process.

Mom was 69 at the time, funny to think about now that I am getting close to that, and never wanted another man in her life. “I took care of one for almost 50 years, why would I want to do that again” she would say. I would come home late from work, drive by her house, and see her sitting in the recliner by the window reading, or sometimes sleeping, in the light of the table lamp. I would cry.

Now what I find interesting is that I feel the same way she did about getting together with someone else. If you have a big scale, and on one end was a caregiver, and the other caretaker, I would be off the scale on the caregiver side. I believe that a big reason why a lot of my relationships failed is that I was too smothering in all the things I wanted to do for them. I lost my identity trying to fit into the mold of what I thought the other person wanted. So I’m taking a break and will be much abler to have a balanced relationship when I am ready. I like taking care of my kids right now, it satisfies the need for caregiving, and they have come to expect this of their Dad. I will, however, have to adjust when they get older and strive for more independence.

We continued to have our holidays together, with the only change of people the person I was dating at the time.  We all knew it wasn’t the same without my dad, but we never talked about it. Eventually, I got married, opened up a gift shop, moved away from their neighborhood into a different part of town, and had my daughter. Mom worked in my sister’s shop and mine to stay busy, and I really think she enjoyed her alone time. I don’t think she was ever prepared to have the life she did. She was a college educated big city girl from Milwaukee, and never expected to end up a farm wife in the middle of nowhere. She did enjoy traveling and took me all over the US when I was young, just her and I, and I have a thousand wonderful memories because of it.

When my daughter was 9 months old, we moved 200 miles away to be closer to my wife’s parents. It was hard to visit from then on, I worked so much, had a son, and time was in short supply. We used to drive up for the day, 4 hours of driving each way and visit for a few hours every other month. She loved the kids, and always had big bags of presents for them whenever we came to visit. It was hard to see her getting older, which stands out more when you don’t see someone every day.

My Mom lived to be 87. She was born in 1922 and passed away in October of 2009.

At the funeral, I learned something about her that I never knew. She loved opera. In fact, My sister said she had a beautiful voice and she would catch my Mom singing opera by herself in her house. Unknown to me, or anyone else, my sister arranged for an opera singer to sing at my Mom’s service. It was beautiful of course. After everyone was gone, that’s when she told me about my Mom’s secret opera singing. I wish I had heard her. My Mom was also a big bowler, not professional or anything like that, but just loved the sport. She would travel around with the bowling league around the country and bowl. We even owned a small bowling alley in our town for a few years. Because of that, she came up with her own life philosophy. “It’s not about the  strikes you get in life, but about the spares.” Meaning it’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it afterward and pick up the pieces.  The name of her team was Black Diamond Fur Farm, the name of our mink ranch. They had these beautiful black bowling shirts made up. Many years after, she had saved a few shirts and had them framed into a picture for each one of us kids. Mine still proudly hangs in my house.

I had the perfect childhood. I guess when it was time for me to come back and have another human experience, I must have earned this spot. (My ex-wife says I must have been a slave in a previous life because I work so damn hard). I think I was an oop-see kid, coming 5 years after my sisters, but I was certainly never treated like that. There has never been a day my whole life that I felt my parents didn’t love or support me 100%. My Dad gave me everything I wanted, and if he was displeased about something, never said a word but just gave you one of those looks. My Mom was loving, and being Greek showed lots of attention.  We spent countless hours in the evenings playing Smear or Yahtzee. I think it really helped me develop a math brain. Every night at 5:00 sharp, dinner would be on the table, and we ate together as a family. She loved to cook, and had ton’s more food than what we could eat, which came in handy if you wanted a friend to have dinner with us.  I really don’t ever remember being disciplined, certainly not physically, and they raised me in the belief I could be, or do anything I wanted in my life. They instilled in me confidence, imagination, respect, and a hard work ethic.

My Mom and I traveled and did a lot of stuff together. My sisters were almost or were teenagers, and you know they don’t want to be with their parents. I loved to be. One year we took a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, Mom and I, and went to one of these tourist traps that had all the weird stuff set up. One of the things was a cave you could go in. We went into the dark cave, and about 50 feet in was a stuffed bear. My Mom thought it was real and knocked me over running out of the cave. Only when she got outside that she realized she had left me inside to be eaten. We laughed about that story for years.

My dad loved to hunt and fish. My Mom loved to travel. They never entertained much or had close adult friends, so my two Sisters and I were it. I did everything with them. As I grew up and was out finding an identity of my own, I always knew they were there for me at any time.  When I rebelled and went through my party days, they gave me my freedom to do what I wanted, relying on the hope that they taught me to do the right things, and knowing that I would get it out of my system someday. Must have taught me right, I never landed in jail, hurt anyone, stole anything, or did anything I would really regret. Eventually, I came back down to Earth, they were right, and when I did, it would be to go into business with my Dad until he retired.

To be honest, I took them for granted. They were always my safety net, my rock, my safe place. I always knew that I could always depend on their help no matter what. Of course that all changed when they died. Your solid ground was gone, and now you had to make your own way on the shifting sand.

Of course, there comes a time when the parent/child relationship changes. When they finally see you as a person. Mine wasn’t one of those ah-ha moments but changed slowly over time. From our being partners to my going out and getting a very well paying career. By the time my Dad passed, he knew that I could take care of myself in the world. I imagine he felt some comfort and pride in that. And after he died, my Mom looked at me for all her big decisions. I was now the man of the family.

Until you have children of your own, I don’t think you can fathom how many sacrifices your parents made for you. I know I didn’t. Having kids now puts them in an entirely new light. I wish I would have known this sooner, I would have liked to thank them for all that they did for me. I think I am a pretty good Dad, that my parents would be proud of the person I have become, and the parent I am. I like to think that somehow they know that.

I was lucky as a kid, before the days of divorces and mixed families, where the lines of parenting get stretched thin.  My parents lived their lives with dignity, and that’s how they left this world.

When I look at some of their old faded photographs, which I left behind in storage in Minnesota, I see my Mom and Dad. But I know they are more, much more than that. They were people with dreams and hopes and lives. I can’t even begin to fathom all that they did, and saw, and felt, nor should I. The thing that makes all of us unique is our experiences, and in that, they were the richest people. Their lives were filled with love, and kindness, and giving, and sharing, and most importantly, they enjoyed their lives. They lived incredible lives. The biggest thing I can do to honor them is to enjoy the life I have. That would be their legacy to me.

My kids don’t remember my parents very well. And I don’t remember my parent’s parents and their parents before them very well, if at all. That’s the circle of life. I will pass on my memories of them the best I can to my kids, but they have their own lives to live, and someday they will remember me. They don’t need another big meal to remember their Dad. I hope they remember the unconditional love I give to them.

So tomorrow when I sit down for my Thanksgiving meal, I will be eating it for three. I will remember my life with them, and give thanks that I was so fortunate to have them for my parents, my best friends, my mentors, my teachers, my protectors, and oh so much more.  I think it will be a great day.

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

“ I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.”         Maya Angelou

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My Defining Decade: The 70’s

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”      Helen Keller

Time is uniquely human. Animals don’t care, don’t know. They eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired. The Earth, time means nothing. The Universe, same. But as humans, we are counting the clock since the day we are born until we die. And even though every microsecond on the clock is exactly the same for everyone, what happens to each of us in time is as different as our DNA.

We all have a Time Machine in our mind. We can travel back to any time in our life, and imagine the future going forward. Unfortunately, the Time Machine keeps many of locked in the past, or worried about the future, instead of being mindful, which is living and enjoying the present. I am as guilty, if not more so than anyone. But there is one time in the past I enjoy going to in my Time Machine, the 70’s. (That’s the 1970’s).

January 1st, 1970. The beginning of the Seventies. I was a junior in high school, wire-rim glasses and hair almost to my waist, a hot girlfriend who had moved to my hometown from California, and driving what is now and has been my favorite car, a 1970 bright blue Plymouth Road Runner with a Hearst shifter, huge rims, a racing stripe down the hood, and a horn that went beep-beep. The Seventies were starting pretty good for a small town farm boy in Northern Minnesota.

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The Vietnam War was on everyone’s mind, especially those of us boys turning 18. Yes, there was the draft, and I was the last of it. I remember listening to the radio when they drew and read the numbers for your Birthday. The lower the number, the more likely you had to go into the military, which wasn’t revered and respected like it is now. My number was 250 something, which meant I probably wouldn’t have to go, and I didn’t. The draft ended that year.

Music was everything. Even though we had to listen to it on eight tracks, bands like Fleetwood Mac, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Quicksilver,  Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and a hundred other popular bands and songs filled the air. We were our music. Disco came along in the mid 70’s, and I loved it. I was living on a sailboat with a girl I met in Key West, Florida when it started. It followed me back to Minnesota, and the clubs were alive with dancing under mirrored balls and lighted floors. I wore platform shoes and flared plaid pants and even taught Disco dancing with a girl I was dating for a while.

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Classic movies like Star Wars, Jaws, Grease, The Exorcist, Superman, Saturday Night Fever, Rocky and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest made us dream and imagine. We played Pac Man in the bars, drank 50 cent drinks, gas was 25 cents a gallon (at least until the oil crisis) and a pack of smokes was also a quarter. I worked part-time in a Men’s clothing store, so of course, I had a couple of Leisure Suits too. Johnny Carson was the King of Late Night Television.

My parents were still alive. What I wouldn’t give to be able to drive up to our home and see my Mom smiling out the kitchen window. She loved to cook. Or walking next door to the farm and seeing my Dad doing what he loved. He loved being a farmer.

Eventually, I married a hometown girl after numerous girlfriends and dozens of cross-country trips. I settled into a working married life, driving truck and working with my parents on their farm. I also bought a 400-acre farm and had tractors and all that fun stuff. As the decade wore on, the economy sucked, gas got expensive, and jobs were hard to find and interest rates soared, but it taught me that none of that stuff matters. You make your own way in life.

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The 70’s either defined me, or I defined the 70’s, I’m not sure. It was a decade of change for a boy of 18 to a man of 28. Those ten years probably created more memories than the other 50 for me. It was a time of discovery and change. We often say if we could go back and do it again, this would be the time for me. Would have I changed anything, of course. I made a lot of mistakes like everyone else. Saying you have no regrets is a whole lot easier than meaning it. I think a lot about the choices I made, and how my life would have different had I chosen differently. I hope to impart some of that wisdom to my kids, not that they will listen to any of it. And in a way I agree, you learn by doing. I just hope the lesson they learn is that everything you do today, is tomorrow’s memory.

December 31st, 1979. The Seventies have ended. So has my marriage. The next decade brought a lot of change too, from moving and selling my farm, and eventually getting the occupation which I stayed with for 30 years. Nothing ever came close to the experiences I had in those carefree years of the 70’s. Well, they weren’t all carefree I agree. I had plenty of tough emotional, physical, and financial times too. They were a huge deal then, but looking back I have tempered them over the years.

Now when I hear an old song, one with a strong emotional attachment, or happen upon an old photograph of an instant frozen forever in time or talk to an old friend, I get in my Time Machine and travel back. I have had a wonderfully full life, and feel grateful for every minute of it. I feel I have lived two lifetimes, one lifetime in those ten years of the 70’s, and another the rest of the time. Sometimes I think about all that happened to me at that time and am amazed how much there was. Now ten years go by in the blink of an eye.  Maybe the best is yet to come, but I will always be connected to the 70’s.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Mark Twain

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The Perfect Ten Minute Meditation……….

I don’t like to meditate. I know it’s good for me.

I love sunsets. To me, they are very relaxing. I know you aren’t supposed to look directly at the Sun. I do it anyway.

They say (whoever they are) that at least 10 minutes of meditation a day will lower your stress. I believe that. But to tell you the truth, I get more stressed trying to meditate. I try it at home, but then my computer or phone beeps and I have to check. If I go outside, then a car drives by or someone starts their weed wacker. I have seen a lot of people meditate on the beach. Seems like the perfect place. But not for me.

I figured it out. I don’t like to have my eyes closed unless I’m tucked safely in bed. It’s kind of like being in a shower, I feel vulnerable.  Lately, I have tried to meditate for a few minutes after my beach walk, I close my eyes, concentrate on the sound of the waves, then someone with a dog walks by and the dog runs over and sniffs me. That will make you jump with your eyes closed. There are also a lot of tiny crabs that come out of holes all over the beach. They are very timid and will scurry back if you walk by, but when you sit quietly, they jump out and run around you. That’s a bit unnerving too. Finally, and I know it’s because I’m a guy, some hot gal in a very skimpy bikini walks by. That changes my entire meditation thought. (I may be old but not dead).

Last night my Daughter and I drove up the volcano instead of down to the beach to watch the sunset, the first time for me. It was gorgeous and I filmed ten minutes of it. When I got home and watched, it was extremely relaxing but lacked sound. I found some music, combined them and I now have the perfect solution for my meditation quandary.

I hope you enjoy watching this Maui sunset from a two thousand foot elevation and perfect 75 degrees.

 

 

 

 

Guaranteed two step method for using the internet to make money. Part II.

First, let’s recap what the two ways are to make money off the internet.

  • Find jobs posted by Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, etc. in your area that you are qualified for.
  • Go get that job. You have now used the internet to find a job that will make you money.

In the last blog, we talked about one of the only legit ways to make money selling services or products on the internet, which is Amazon, or it could be another large retailer with an affiliate program. You are actually selling something of value, and getting paid a commission for that service. Unfortunately, you also have to compete with that company. Google something you want to buy, and Amazon or Walmart will probably always pop out on top of the search, followed by a huge host of others selling the same or similar products. It’s these retailers that are your competition. I want to also mention that you may have something of yours that you want to sell or are already selling. That’s great. Good luck with that.

When I first signed up with Amazon, I had visions of huge profits coming my way from the enormous amount of products I could offer on my websites. After a couple of weeks of adding links, I wasn’t getting any sales and went to Amazon’s Affiliate blog, where other Affiliates offer help and opinions. I posted that perhaps I was putting the wrong products on my site, and that may be the reason for my failure so far. One insightful person answered back. Why would I want to compete with Amazon with their own products? Didn’t really sink in for several days. In the end, he was right.

I mentioned on my last blog that advertising was the only way to really get the numbers of eyes to look at your website, and thus have a chance of selling them something. Basic numbers game, which plays out in every business. The question then becomes where do you advertise, and at what cost?  I have found out.

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Facebook:  A stock price will typically follow what a company earns. Shortly after it went public, Facebook’s stock was selling for under $20. That was only five years ago, in 2012. Today it closed at 50 cents short of $180. That’s nine times what it was selling for five years ago. You might be thinking, but how do they make any money? All they are is a social network, aren’t they? And Facebook is probably one of the most cost-effective (which means cheapest) ways to get your ad out there.

Haven’t you ever wondered why all those sponsored ads keep popping up? Or the chain of likes for something? Or how about searching for something on the internet, and how strange it is that an ad for it shows up on Facebook? Fate? I fear not. It’s advertising, and Facebook sells a lot of it. By the way, Facebook also owns Instagram, so all those ads show up there too.

Now remember from my hypothetical sales, I wanted to make $200 a day, and to do that I need 10,000 impressions on my website that will be seen by prospective buyers. That is not going to happen with my 95 subscribers. So I started advertising on Facebook.

Here are the amounts that I spent on each blog, starting in September. Remember also that I got almost 1100 impressions and 93 clicks to Amazon, and $0 sales. But I was optimistic that I would have gotten $20 from those impressions. And to get $200, I needed to have 10,000.

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I actually got 8,718 impressions from my advertising. I spent $149.77 to get those impressions. I had 336 people click on the ad, which is posted in the timeline on Facebook, which leads them to that particular blog. The results:

  1. Sales:  $0
  2. Subscribers: 0

The idea for an ad campaign is to not only try to sell them something on the spot but also get their email address so you can market to them in the future. I got neither, not one.But it did boost my daily number of blog views, which I guess made me feel pretty good. But just as fast as the numbers came in, they dropped.

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Although I sold nothing, I feel optimistically that I could have made close to $200 with the advertising I did, had the moon and stars all aligned. I spent $150. That’ a profit of $50. Do you know how many hours I spent writing blogs, and ads, and researching products and techniques? Countless to say the least.

Because of the huge numbers of traffic you need to generate, and only get from 1 to 10 percent commissions by selling real products, the only alternative is to look for something with a higher profit margin. And they are out there, like a bad virus waiting for you on the water fountain. In my next blog, I will talk about my venture into the high-profit world of eproducts.

See you in the next blog: Guaranteed two-step method for using the internet to make money. Part II.

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Guaranteed two step method for using the internet to make money. Nothing to buy.

For the last 10 months, I have been researching, buying courses and products, setting up 4 websites, signing up with Amazon to sell their products, signing up and selling products from Clickbank, signing up with Google for paid click advertising, and signing up with Peerfly, another product company that pays you for sending them leads.

I will go into each one of these in more depth, but you are reading this primarily to learn the guaranteed two-step method for using the internet to make money. Here it is.

  1. Find jobs posted by Monster, Indeed, CareerBuilder, etc. in your area that you are qualified for.
  2. Go get that job. You have now used the internet to find a job that will make you money.

There it is. If you think you can make a living off the internet, then I am going to save you some time. You can’t. At least not if you don’t want to lie, cheat, bug people to death, lose all your friends, and invest thousands of dollars in websites and email systems that will fail. The only people making money on the internet besides the legitimate retailers (think Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, and small boutique websites) are con artists who are selling you courses on how to make money off the internet. I know, I have looked into them all.

Let me go into more detail about each money-making opportunity.

AMAZON:  I will start with Amazon’s Affiliate Program because I think of all the programs out there, this one is actually legit, although making a lot of money from it is not possible. When you sign up for this program, Amazon will allow you to place links to their products on your webpages or blog posts. You have seen them on mine. If you were to click on a link, it will take you to Amazon where you can purchase the product from them. I would make a commission if you purchase the product within 24 hours of first linking it, and in fact, I would make a commission off anything you would buy within that 24 hour period from Amazon. Here is what I would earn on those purchases. It doesn’t cost the buyer of the product any more to buy this way.

Product Category Fixed Standard Program Fee Rates
Amazon Gift Cards, Wine 0.00%
Video Games & Video Game Consoles 1.00%
Televisions 2.00%
PC, PC Components, DVD & Blu-Ray 2.50%
Toys 3.00%
Physical Books, Health & Personal Care, Sports, Kitchen, Automotive, Baby Products 4.50%
Digital Music, Grocery, Physical Music, Handmade, Digital Videos 5.00%
Outdoors, Tools 5.50%
Headphones, Beauty, Musical Instruments, Business & Industrial Supplies 6.00%
Apparel, Amazon Element Smart TV (with Fire TV), Amazon Fire TV Devices, Jewelry, Luggage, Shoes, Handbags & Accessories, Watches 7.00%
Amazon Echo Devices, Amazon Fire Tablet Devices, Dash Buttons, Amazon Kindle Devices, Furniture, Home, Home Improvement, Lawn & Garden, Pets Products, Pantry 8.00%
Amazon Fashion Women, Men & Kids Private Label, Digital Video Games, Luxury Beauty, Amazon Coins 10.00%
All Other Categories

As you can see, it pays 1% to 10% on products purchased from a customer you send them. You may be thinking, that’s pretty good. If you average 5%, let’s say, for every $100 someone spends that you sent them through your website, you would earn 5 bucks. Let me show you how I fared.

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Since September 1st through yesterday, November 7th, I had 1,096 impressions (that means how many times a product with a link was displayed on my web pages). Of those 1,096 times, my link was clicked 93 times, linking that person with Amazon. I sold 0 products for $0 dollars. You may have clicked on one, I have no way of seeing who clicked and who did not. I do know that not one person bought anything, however. That translates into a click-through rate of .73, which means that for every thousand impressions on my pages, I will get on average 73 actual clicks from the product to Amazon. Now if I had actually made a sale, which I didn’t, I would have had another percentage that would have told me how much each click is worth.

Let’s do a hypothetical situation. Let’s imagine that for every 73 people that clicked on one of my Amazon links, 4 people actually purchased something. This is actually double the rate at which leads are converted to sales. Now, most of the stuff you would click on is stuff on sale or pertaining to something I was talking about, so the price probably wouldn’t be that much. But let’s get real imaginative and let’s say each of those 4 people spent $100. At my average commission rate of 5%, I would make $5 per person or a total of $20. In theory then, for every thousand impressions (where my product link is shown) I would make $20. Using this example, if I wanted to start making a living selling Amazon products, I would need 10,000 impressions per day on my blogs or web pages to make $200.

All of this might sound unimportant, but unless you have a website with tons of free traffic, in order to get the number of clicks to have a chance of someone buying something, you have to advertise. Advertising costs money, which I have also done, and that is something I will cover on my next blog, as about now you are probably getting as tired of reading this as I am in writing it.

See you in the next blog: Guaranteed two-step method for using the internet to make money. Part II.

Here are some links to show you how it works:

 

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