Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Holiday Season and 2013 Preparations

As we all finalize our preparations for the Christmas traditions held true and dear for each family we belong to, let's all remember to reflect on the seasons past and prepare for the adventures moving forward. Looking throughout this past year, there are those whom Kristine, Jade, and I are still very close with and those whom we have drifted away from, to a certain degree. There are also those out there I haven't personally seen in years, and I'm sure the same is true for Kristine.

2012 brought with it many challenges, to say the least, for our family. I spent the majority of the year searching for an identity, career, and source of income with which to support the family. I explored almost every option imaginable...I explored insurance sales, several different franchising opportunities, and interviewed for multiple career opportunities. Yet none of them seemed to be right for me and the family. Through the graces of God, my financial situation allowed me to be choosy and find the right fit for me and the career I would embark upon. In February, I embarked upon a large project which had been laid upon my heart, to write a book. This became a full-time endeavor that took me well into June. Finally, "Bushels and Barrels - Redefining the American Dream" was published in June. In early September, I awoke to begin the day searching for work when I received an email stating my resume had been seen on a military recruiting website. I was then recruited, interviewed, and offered a position which I ultimately accepted. There is no looking back and my life, future, and career took off! I had learned a valuable lesson that I define my life, but the career helps me travel the journey I lay out for myself and my family. But this wasn't just a year of Lee in the household, oh no...Jade and Kristine also enjoyed a banner year.

Kristine spent most of 2012 being the primary bread winner, mother to Jade, and loving, supporting wife to me. She celebrated her 14th year of her career with ThinkTv and still loves what she achievement many of us can only aspire to! She continued to support Jade's athletic teams as an Assistant Coach to the St Helen volleyball team and spent her 5th year coaching cheerleading. Through these activities, Kristine and I have become the "parents" to many a young lady who are friends with Jade when they come over for sleepovers. One of her main highlights of the year was the celebration of our 2nd year anniversary. If you know her, you know she is a huge Ohio State Buckeye fan! We departed early in the morning for an early November game at the Buckeye stadium, affectionately known as the Shoe. We arrived at our hotel and took a cab into the Columbus, Ohio campus area for tailgating. Lots of fun and people celebrating the upcoming game. Then we got to experience a show from the band and I got to watch Kristine get excited as Coach Urban Meyer and the football team entered the indoor arena to rally the fans. Afterwards, we experienced a great game in an awesome stadium which can't be rivaled by many. After yet another victory on the way to 12-0, we returned to the hotel and found a great restaurant to finish the day out. Yes, this was a great escape and highlight of the year for us as a couple.

Jade can't be left out as she left childhood and entered her official teenage years. She is half way through her 7th grade and is highly successful thus far. The letter "A" and her report card are best friends this year...can we say proud? She also holds an incredible honor of being runner-up in her Geography Bee. She also elevated from elementary school in her athletic activities to cheer her first year in the Carroll High School 7th grade squad. Early in the new year, she'll also continue her volleyball career. As if her academic and athletic careers didn't keep her busy enough, she's also continued her hectic social schedule as well. Lots of friends, sleepovers, conversations, and new infatuations with British bands have dominated 2012 for her.

As a collective family, we deem 2012 as a ginormous success! Even the puppies, Duncan and Polar Bear, got into the swing of things by getting used to having dad around all day and then readjusting to greeting him happily at the door at the end of the day. Spoiled doesn't even begin to explain them.

I hope you and yours have also had a successful and blessed year! Struggles are a part of life and we all have to survive them to get to the next day. It is in finding blessings in every day, every week, and every month, do we see the bigger picture of a successful year. The Ray family holds each and every one of you as near and dear friends...and even family. We love you guys and can't wait to be part of your lives as you are a part of ours in 2013.

Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thankful? Yes, yes I am!

Happy Thanksgiving to all you bloggers out there and those reading our blogs!  This is the time of year when people begin to reflect on what they have instead of what they don't.  This is a unique shift from the normal in our society today, but a great example of what we should attempt to do every single day.  Even though my book tries to retrain the brain to look at the positives and to minimize and survive the negatives, it's good to see society take time out to do the exact same thing.

In my life, I am so thankful for my family...all of them.  From my sisters, dad, cousins, aunts, and uncles still residing in Virginia to my son living in California...we cover the coasts of this great nation.  Then there is my family I married into.  My amazingly special wife, such an incredible step-daughter (rarely is this term used with respect to her though), and the in-laws...each and every one of them are part of my blessings.

And this year, my first full year of civilian life after the military, I have to give thanks to all those friends who also kept me uplifted and encouraged while searching for work.  During that time, Bushels and Barrels was written reminding myself and others whom have read my book to focus on the positive and good things will happen.  This group of people have made an imprint into my life and I am thankful for all of them.  Whether they be in person or through social media, a bond is strengthened when you lift each other up and hold each other in high regard.

For the past two months, I have begun my new journey in my professional world.  I am creating an identity within the company and gaining confidence in my abilities each and every day.  There are still much to learn, but I've learned so much and come so far in such a short period of time.  Having time between careers allowed me to enter this opportunity with hunger, desire, and confidence.  To know each day that my decisions and actions affect the careers of the 20+ people whom directly report to me is such an honor and responsibility.  I take this responsibility seriously and feel good they have accepted me and we work well as a team.  With every team, there can be those challenging individuals, but even they deserve the best I have, whether that be to mold them, assist them in their jouney to another career where they are better suited, or just handling their challenges professionally.  Each day is an opportunity to be a reflection of my motto:  Positive Perspectives Produce Positive People.

As I look over this past year, I am thankful for every day of it.  Count your blessings on the good days.  Learn the lessons given in the bad days.  Both types of days build us into better people.  Learn, improve, strengthen, and most importantly, love.  Have a great day, ya'll!

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Tough Being the New Kid on the Block

Have you ever changed schools, job, or neighborhood?  If so, you know the feeling I speak of when I say you have to break into the inner circle.  Friendships are already formed and routines are established and you have to be quiet, patient, and observant to gain acceptance.

I continue to learn the nuances of my new career, the actions required of me every day, and the balance of being able to do it all simultaneously.  Or that's the way it seems to feel at times right now.  I know it will take time and to give myself patience, but it seems too daunting at times.  Give me about five years and I'll read this and fondly remember the struggles and chuckle.  That's what I know will happen.

The people have been nothing less than amazing and they are slowly becoming more than just teammates, they are becoming friends.  I can see myself with this company for the remainder of my working years.  Yet, it will be some time before I'm including in the "remember when" moments...yet, that is ok.  I'm enjoying the journey.

I'm enjoying the new relationships forming and the challenge that comes with learning each day.  I'm enjoying bringing a positive attitude and my military work ethic every day.  There was a reason they chose me for this position and God brought it to my doorstep.  I just need to keep reminding myself on those days when I feel lost that I can do this and I will do this...patience is something I've become best friends with this past year, so we can do this together.

So, if you're in the same situation or get into one in your future...enjoy the journey, we've all been there and the memories can't be made without living through the moments of life.  As I say with most really is this simple!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Life's Seasonal Shifts and God's Lessons

Good evening, my friends!  This entry carries with it many updates and thoughts to ponder.  I do believe the seasonal shift from summer to fall is but one major shift in my life this year.  As October rolls in and the temperatures start their decline and the leaves change to much brighter colors and descend to the ground, we savor life and the positives of the fall, sweaters, bonfires, chilly air, beautiful nature scenes, and the approach of the holiday season.  Man, does life get any better?  This year, I would have to, no life just can't get any better!

I also just began my civilian career after spending 365 days from the time I left the Air Force looking for my new job.  There are two parts of this which make it amazing.  The first reason why this is awesome news is that I didn't even find this career, it found me and I kept my options open and explored the opportunity being afforded me and now I feel I have my last career which should take me to retirement years from now.  The second part which is amazing is the number of opportunities presented to me within the past two weeks since I accepted the position.  One job offered was done after I pursued that position for about a year with no luck.  God really does put us where He wants us and He does it when He wants us there as well.  I was constantly reminded to keep the faith, some days were much easier than others though.  He again has taught me to have faith in Him and lift all my concerns to Him and He will soothe me, support me, and provide for me.  As I am the father of this household, He is my Father whom I should obey, trust, love, and honor.

The other event which reminds me of how completely blessed my life is comes with the arrival of my second anniversary with my beautiful and completely awesome bride/wife.  There will never be a day in my life from now on where I forget the feeling I had when she entered the room on her dad's arm in her wedding dress and I knew she was going to be joining me at the end of the aisle and in life.  Although unemployment isn't life threatening or any such thing, she was my rock this past year and defined the role of "for better or worse."  I know that no matter what happens in our future, as long as I honor and cherish her, my life will never be without her in it.

Finally, I can say I love everything about my life.  In the past, there was always a hole somewhere in there.  Something just seemed to be missing, but no longer.  I have God guiding my life and teaching me daily a lesson which makes me a better person, man, brother, father, husband, and employee...among other things.  My priorities are straight and my perspective has been realigned to remind me to enjoy life and all it has to offer.  For those struggling, it isn't always going to stay difficult...embrace those who love you and cling to those things which lift you when you need it.  I love my life the way it is right now.  If nothing ever changed, I could, would, and will be content.  However, should life require me to face another challenge, so be it.  I know I now have the tools, support, and knowledge to not only survive the adversity, but to thrive through it as well.

Thank you to everyone who has been with me through the highs and lows of the past several years.  My life is definitely enriched by having you in it.  I love you all!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 Remembering When...

9/11/2001...a day we all will never forget...EVER!  I was a young military officer back then, still honing the skills of leadership.  I had already been military for five years prior to that day, but it changed my service and my thoughts on what it meant to serve our country.  Every single one of us was hurt, pissed, and ready to do something about it!

For those of you whom are not military, if you have ever watched the show "Army Wives", it gives a good reflection on the daily lives and struggles of military families, albeit Hollywood style.  However, the issues are real and reflected quite well throughout the series.  Heck, there are times it makes me wish I still wore the uniform so I could volunteer for things and go back to making a difference.  The episode last year with the military funeral really rang out loud in my heart.  Then the season finale this past week hit me like it was happening for real, the storyline is done so well.

Perhaps it is the thought that my career ended with unfinished business or the fact I still struggle sometimes with the new identity of being a veteran instead of active duty.  Don't get me wrong, I love my life and where I am, but there is always the reflection where you wonder what you could have done differently.  I guess that is normal in everyone's life though.

Exactly one year after the attacks, I found myself in Uzbekistan, just mere miles from the Afghanistan border living in a tent and doing what I vowed to do that day, something about it!  A friend of mine was part of an aircrew that was flying a mission that day.  I gave him an American flag to take with him and he did.  That flag represents more to me that just about any of my medals or awards ever received in my 16 1/2 years of service.  It is properly displayed within my shadow box to remind me daily of what I have done and where I have been.  It reminds me to be grateful and to do something with my life each and every day.  I hope I keep that promise to myself, to those no longer able to do so, and to those within my life.

How do you remember and honor those lost?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Life vs Work Rewards

Well, within the past several weeks, I've been fortunate enough to finally land quality interviews with sensational opportunities.  One interview was via panel and was perhaps the most intense interview I've ever encountered.  The second one was well planned with numerous people in the process, yet it had a hint of fun in it.  I came away asking myself, if offered both positions, which would I want.  The money isn't a huge consideration because the starting salaries are fairly close, so what does one look at when making their decision...I don't know.  Here's my thoughts on weighing this hefty decision I hope is presented to me within the next few weeks.

Let's take a look at the first opportunity first, it is a senior executive position.  This is the type of position one works for throughout their professional career reflecting the years of leadership training, the time dedicated to pursuing the degrees required and recommended.  The hours may be long, but the prestige would be immediate and the impact on my professional life would be vast.  The hours and working environment are not really known yet, but I do know I would be responsible for much immediately.  This is definitely the easy choice for prestige.  Now, let's look at the other side, the personal side.  When I interviewed, I interviewed with the senior leaders in a room I was escorted to and then escorted right back out afterwards, no view of the working environment whatsoever.  There is a huge part of me wanting this position because the work is for the home community, very directly.  Yet, the job itself was a personal graitification with the job title.  Yet, I can also see the intense levels of stress which may come with the position and affect my life, my family, and my health.

Now, let's take a look at the interview I completed earlier today.  The interview and position were not unexpected, yet there was a surprise.  Part of the interview process was a tour of the facility, complete with the on-site health clinic and fitness center.  I also saw the employees in their natural work environment in addition to the interview room.  Yes, I was escorted, yet, I was not hidden from where I would spend my days.  Three words kept coming out during the interview:  professionalism, team, and fun.  Yes, I just said fun.  The leadership knows the work can be stressful for the employees at times, so they work hard to maintain morale and dedication to the work center.  In my research, I also found they were an extemely veteran friendly company, has won awards for its leadership development, and voted consistently high by its own employees.  Almost all employees had been there for over 15 years, that speaks volumes as well.  The job title isn't as prestigious, but the work is meaningful as well.

Having said all this, either position would be an honor to be invited to hold.  The first position is an individual position and the second one is held by several individuals.  So, there are pros and cons to both.  When the time comes and if the offers both come, these will all be factors I utilize within my decision making process, along with the benefits and long-term goals of the organization, my family, and myself.  Positive perspectives produce positive people, and this journey too shall be an adventure.  I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What Season Are You In?

Greetings all!  As the school buses start their engines and the hussle to get that last vacation or cookout in before the winter months arrives, it is evident the weather seasons are about to change.  Summertime will start to recede and fall will surround us with falling colorful leaves, jacket and sweater weather, and football season.  As we prepare to embrace this seasonal shift, one can also reflect onto their own lives and determine which season they are in and if they are about to undergo a personal season shift.

In my book, "Bushels and Barrels - Redefining the American Dream", we discuss what the four seasons are with respect to our lives.  Are we in crisis management or are we entering a shift in relationship status?  Regardless of what is going on in your life, you are either in a particular personal season or shifting into another one.  Just like the weather shifts, our lives will transition many times throughout the years, we must be ready for the ups and downs.

If you happen to be in a dark and cold season in your life, take heart, it will only last a certain amount of time, but the length can be determined by you as well.  If you recognize all the positive around you, regardless of the negative, you can pull yourself into a brighter, warmer place in both your heart and in your head.  When you're in the trees, it is very hard at times to see the edge of the forest and to know you are just about to exit into a field of green grass and sunshine!

In many of the books I've signed thus far, one saying I have adopted is "positive perspective produces positive people."  I believe this to be a true statement and will continue to try to live my life by this mantra, it has served me well the past few years and I believe it will continue to do so into the future.

What season are you in?  Are you ready for a change?  If so, work for the change.  If you are happy where you are, just remember, there will be passing clouds, but try your hardest to prevent them from becoming storms and seasonal shifts.  Pick your favorite season, move your life into it, and then enjoy the weather there!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Overcoming Challenges to Chase a Dream

Well readers, it is that time know, the Olympics!  Where else can we watch with such pride, anticipation, and patriotism?  To watch athletes compete after dedicating years and most of their lives to training is inspiring.  Sometimes they win.  Other times, they fall short of the top of the medal stand.  However, do they really fail if they don't reach the podium?  I would argue they don't, they just fail to meet the ultimate goal, but they are already winners!

To see such inspiring stories and nicknames such as the Blade Runner and Flying Squirrel shows an adoration and relation to these athletes.  Gabby Douglas, the Flying Squirrel, left all she knew and her family to train for these Olympics and has made history.  The Blade Runner, Oscar Pistorius, had to fight not only physical obstacles to train, but political and society acceptance as well.  He was a winner the second he walked into the stadium in his uniform and was announced as an Olympic athlete!  Sometimes chasing a dream comes at a cost, but the journey is well rewarded...medals or not.  Have you chosen your dream?  Are you still chasing it?

There will be setbacks, of course.  All one has to do is watch Jordyn Weiber's face when she failed to make the Women's All Around Gymnastic competition.  She was crushed beyond belief.  Her dream was in tathers.  Yet, two nights later, she had pulled herself together, readjusted her dream, and went after it for the chance to win the gold medal alongside her teammates.  She achieved it and they won!  Sometimes, we have to adjust the dream, or the path to the dream, to achieve it.  Yet, as Jordyn did, we must continue to strive for the dream.  If we give up when the obstacles reach us, then we are giving up on ourselves and our dreams.  We are better than that!

There is no greater illustration of what "Bushels and Barrels" tries to illustrate to my readers than the Olympics.  It is about facing the barrels, challenges, and reaping the blessings, bushels.  The Olympic Games and my book, "Bushels and Barrels - Redefining the American Dream", both are strong reminders that we can only achieve our dreams if we are willing to go for them and adjust our sights when needed.  Have you achieved your dream yet?  I'm still chasing mine!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Writing or Book Selling...My View on the Difference

Greetings blog followers!  After posting reviews of "Bushels and Barrels" lately, I thought it time to write a more personal post.  However, since the blog is a reflection of my personal life and thoughts, this post will tend to remain on the topic of books.  For those following me because they love this topic, you're welcome!

As a new author whose book is now released via multiple mediums, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iPad, Kindle, Nook, and personal sales, the time to market is now and the time to write has passed.  Oh how I miss those days!  The purpose of writing the book was to create a product to reach out and help those who needed it in a particular realm...those hurting in life and wanting to find a better way to approach the day and life itself!  The writing of the book was the meaningful part and the piece of the puzzle which kept me driven and focused.

Now is the marketing part.  Video trailers, book reviews, author spotlights, Facebook, blogging, and Twitter are now part of my day.  Heck, until now, I didn't Tweet and doubt I am doing it correctly now.  However, all of this is part of the mission to get the book into the hands of those in need of reading the message.  Yes, sales are important to help fund the cause, but readership and fulfilling the desire to aid others is much more important.

One particular cause I am focused on is K-Love Radio.  I began listening to this Christian station years ago when my world was upside down and the music and message coming out my speakers helped me not only survive the events, but to come out much stronger, happier, and content in my life.  Part of my efforts to pay them back is to dedicate 10% of all sales proceeds after recovering the initial cost of the book.  I'm hoping this endeavor takes off quickly!

So, from the days of sitting at the computer framing words, phrases, and sentences into a coherent message and story to creating 140 character tweets, I have evolved.  Where has your journey taken you?

If you want to join my journey, you can follow my public Facebook at or find me on Twitter, @LeeRayAuthor.  If you're interested in my book, feel free to see more on  Have a tremendous day!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Third Professional Review of Bushels and Barrels

In his book, Bushels and Barrels, author Lee Ray suggests that on occasion, people need to “adjust the roadmap” that they’re on.  By “revisiting and revising” goals, dreams and hopes, it becomes possible to recognize the blessings in life that may have been obscured by the struggle through hardships.

Addressing difficulties most people face, such as divorce, self-doubt, rocky childhoods, loss of loved ones, and career and financial hardships, Bushels and Barrels combats these troubles by highlighting the positive aspects that may come out of them.  In doing so, Lee Ray helps readers see the light at the end of the tunnel and recognize the wonderful things around them that they may be having trouble recognizing.

Lee also shares his own struggles and how he found his way through them, explaining to readers that sometimes, a different point of view is all they need to keep going.  Each examination of life’s challenges is followed by a chapter that highlights the brighter side of things people face, which serves to help readers alter their perceptions of the life they live.

Eloquently stating “We’re all living the dream, right?  Sometimes we just need to change exactly what that term actually means”, Lee Ray sets the tone for his thought-provoking and inspiring look at both the barrels and the bushels, and does an amazing job of helping readers do exactly that.  Gently handling each of the difficult and sensitive subjects in his book, Lee’s positive and cheerful outlook provides comfort and hope for anyone suffering through a struggle in their lives.

By writing the book the way he has, barrels followed by bushels, Lee encourages a change of viewpoint and the reassurance that somewhere, in all of the troubles people face, there is still something to be thankful for, if they only search it out.

Recommended for anyone who is having difficulty in their lives, no matter what it may be, Bushels and Barrels is a well-written guide to redefining and living your own “American Dream”.

The book is available via Nook, Kindle,, and

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Professional Review of "Bushels and Barrels"

In Bushels and Barrels, author Lee Ray takes a refreshingly positive approach to dealing with the struggles and adversities faced by Middle America today.  Of course we all grew up with an interpretation of the “American Dream” and we all thought we’d have exactly that by now, right?  But if we don’t, what do we do then?

It’s so easy to get bogged down and depressed under the weight of the world around us.  What people often forget is that it’s the struggles that make us stronger and the adversity that makes us better and more able to deal with things as they come our way.  It can be hard to see sometimes, but it is true.

The author writes “We’re all living the dream, right?  Sometimes we just need to change exactly what that term actually means.”  This is the tone and message of the book: to redefine our dreams and realize that maybe, just maybe, we’re already living them, and we just need to open our eyes and change the way we think to realize it.

All readers will be able to identify with the struggles presented in Bushels and Barrels.  The commonality of individual difficulties is widespread, even if the exact problems aren’t the same.  Lee Ray’s history and stories of his own life are easily relatable, and his choice to overcome them and move forward in his life and in his faith is inspiring.

Each chapter addressing struggle is immediately followed by another that highlights the blessings we each have, encouraging readers to alter the way they perceive the world they live in and the way they look at hardship.  From each complication we face in life, a blessing is sure to be there, too, we just have to look for it.

Bushels and Barrels is a thought-provoking read that helps to remind us that life is what we make of it, just as it always has been and always will be.

To read more about and to purchase Bushels and Barrels, please click here

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Bushels and Barrels" Faith-based review

Most people who have a strong sense of faith have found that faith tested at times.  The world that we live in can bring us down, which can make us question our own beliefs and abandon our idea of the “American Dream”.  Sometimes, it can even seem that life was designed to be difficult, but Bushels and Barrels author Lee Ray sees things a little differently. 

Sharing and discussing his own difficult upbringing and hardships that he’s faced, Lee brings the reader into his world, and introduces them to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the difficulties we endure in our lives are there to make us stronger, better, and more able.  By terming the obstacles we face as “barrels” and the blessings we receive as “bushels”, Lee makes it clear that you can’t have one without the other.  He tells readers that they have to have the confidence to face the barrels and keep going, stating that “you can’t do this if all you see are barrels…once you start seeing the bushels, you will see the barrels as chapters in your life with lessons to learn to help you achieve your dream”. 

An inspiring and uplifting book for anyone who has ever begun to focus on the “barrels”, Bushels and Barrels encourages his readers to try and embrace the positive aspects of life and to try not to focus on the negative.  He suggests, “Revisit and revise life’s boundaries when necessary”, and make the changes you need to make to be a better, healthier and happier person.

Sometimes, redefining your version of the American Dream is all it takes to remind you that you are living the dream you envisioned when you were young, it just may not be recognizable yet.  Bushels and Barrels inspires readers to take another look at their life, and find the bushels that are just waiting to be noticed.

To read more about the book or purchase your copy today, go to

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Rating and Review by Darin Godby

Find below the review of "Bushels and Barrels" by Darin Godby, a Christian, fiction, and Self-Help reviewer.

With a bushel representing opportunities and a barrel representing the
obstacles we will face, author Lee Ray takes us into
a descriptive view of the American Dream.  When one tries to
understand what the American Dream is all about there must be a soul
searching of self-identification of who one truly is within society.

When we are young we seem to have great expectations and later in life
have changed our view and focus of what those dreams encompass.
Getting out of one's comfort zone and moving toward the barrels that
we face in life is necessary to move forward and achieve our goals.

Here are the Ten Barrels and Bushels that Lee discusses within his book:
#1 is the barrel of abuse and the bushel is to discover God's love in
the midst of the circumstance.
#2 is the barrel of strained relationships and the bushel is family.
#3 is the barrel of divorce and the bushel is falling in love.
#4 is the barrel of overcoming self-doubt and the bushel is gaining
confidence and acceptance.
#5 is the barrel of the loss of loved ones and the bushel is community
#6 is the barrel of the price of military deployments and the bushel
is the pride of military service.
#7 is the barrel of transitions in life and the bushel is morals and ethics.
#8 is the barrel of career changes and unemployment and the bushel is
the bond of friendship.
#9 is the barrel of financial landmines and the bushel is educational
#10 is the barrel of facing life's challenges and the bushel is
recognizing life's rewards.

Lee provides the reader with many of his personal stories and
insights.  There are topics such as: marriage, divorce, children,
stepchildren, money, determination, encouragement and so much more.
The reader will find themselves getting caught up within the story
that Lee is sharing and seeing how they can incorporate the positive
things within their lives and work on the areas that need improvement.

There is also a section on the military where Lee discusses his
involvement as well as how families must deal with deployment and the
pressures put upon them.  Many times Americans don't realize how
blessed we really are and how those in the military are standing in
the gap for our freedom.

Lee also shares:  "The bushels and barrels of an identity shift make
us who we are."   He also states:  "Life is not only wonderful at
times and painful at is fragile!"

So one may ask will we be able to fulfill the American Dream?  Well
let's allow Lee to give us his words of wisdom.  He said:  "The
American Dream is a way of life, not something we can achieve with a
single accomplishment."  So each of us has our own duty in fulfilling
our dreams and desires.  Let's all do our part and make America a
better place to live.

I enjoyed reading this book and encourage you to read and grow from it.
This book was provided by author Lee Ray for my honest review and opinion.
You can read more about the book and purchase it from

5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anticipation and Anxiety

As a young child, waiting for Christmas morning was always an exciting time.  You talked about it for weeks, months even.  When the morning finally arrived, you were so excited, yet scared the presents under the tree weren't going to be the ones you wanted.  The anticipation grew, the anxiety caused your heart to beat faster and harder.

With sporting events, when you have a particular team you root for and they are playing their rivals, you get the same sensation.  The game is about to end, the score is close, and it's your team's opportunity to score.  Or, if you watch racing, the laps are winding down and your driver is fighting for the lead and the win.  The closer to zero the clock ticks, the tighter the battle, the more engaged and involved you become.  The same heart racing and anticipation exist.  I've even seen it within my daughter as certain movies are about to be released.  The adrenaline rush!

The same anticipation and anxiety are existing within me these past few days as I await the delivery of my first batch of books.  Every time I see a delivery truck go down our street, I keep waiting for him to stop.  This is the day I've waited months for.  Actually, I've waited a lifetime for this.  The book has so much of my life within it, it's like it is least to me.  The urging of friends to write to a larger audience, the events in my life which are captured within the pages, and the honing of my writing over the years.  It all leads up to this moment in time.  It is a personal achievement, milestone even.  Just as I await the arrival, I also have the same anticipation and anxiety for people to actually be able to open the pages and read my story.

The anticipation, for me, comes from the desire to reach out and help readers rediscover the dreams that they once had and retrain them to pursue those very dreams.  The anxiety is from the not knowing.  Not knowing how the book will be perceived, if it will even be liked.  So much time went into the creation, how will it be accepted and judged?  My heart races, yet the anticipation is just as strong.  I can't wait!

What gets your heart racing?  When was the last time you felt that rush of blood and rapid-fire of your heartbeats?  If it's been a while, it's time you found a way to get the rush again.  Go get it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Free To Be Me!

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending my wife's family reunion and meet more members of my extended family.  Four generations were represented, two of which were also represented by our attendance.  Hearing the stories and seeing the relationships around me took me back to a time in my own youth.  A large portion of the family in attendance were from the area, but there was also those of us who traveled in.  The location was in a small, midwestern USA town with country values and small town appeal.  In my childhood, visiting my grandfather's land was a point of happy memories, so this put me at ease immediately.

There are times in all of our lives where we feel out of our element and uneasy.  We are constrained in how we feel and what we feel we are able to do in these situations.  On this day, in this place, this is absolutely not how I felt.  There was no uneasiness.  There was the comfort of conversation.  There was the ease of acceptance.  There were no excuses to not be myself and let them accept me that way and to for me to accept them in the same manner and fashion.

Even though I knew very few of these people, I felt as if I had been part of this group forever.  In the years to come when we attend, I will learn more about these individuals, their lives, hear their stories, and get a greater sense of closeness with my wife and where she came from.  We have had such an amazing relationship already, this is only going to bring me even closer to her and allow us to carry forward the traditions with the next generation.  What a great weekend!

When you enter a new group and instantly feel free to totally be yourself and are accepted as such, that is where you belong...this is where I belong!  I can't wait until next year to learn more and begin to share me with them as well.  Let's see what this next year holds!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Military Tribute and Retirement

Good afternoon!  This morning, I had the honor of attending the retirement ceremony of a great friend.  MSgt(ret) Bob Delloma worked with me closely over the past 5+ years and I knew him professionally and some personal things.

Today, I learned more about the man and what drove him to be such a great comrade-in-arms, husband, father, and son.  To hear his accomplishments for his 21 years of honorable service was not surprising.  However, when it was his turn to speak, this is where I learned more about a good friend.

He was presented with his father's flag, his father had passed early on in Bob's military career and had been a military man himself.  He had made Bob promise to make a career out of serving his country.  Today, Bob fulfilled that promise and presented the flag ceremonially to his father while Taps played.  Just talking about it and reflecting on what that meant still brings chills to my spine.

Bob also has three young sons as well.  He presented each of them with articles of his uniform from the time period each was born.  This was a special presentation to each young man.  However, the significance of this momento will not be realized by them for some years, I suspect.

MSgt friend...thank you for honoring, protecting, and serving our great country.  It is my distinct honor to welcome you to the ranks of veteran!  Today was your farewell to arms and your introduction to your future.  God Bless you and your family!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Life's Reality Checks

Sometimes it takes the smallest of things to remind us that life is a series of gives and takes.  If things get out of balance, relationships get strained and friendships can crumble.  However, true relationships are the ones where someone says something before it gets too late.

In an era where we are "trained" by society to share our lives with social media, we sometimes forget the art of listening to others.  We have good things to share, we are struggling with our newest challenge, or we simply have an update on our lives.  All of these things are worthy of communication.  Yet, we also need to remember to stop and listen to those who care.  What is going on in their lives?

When friendships date back for years, it is easy to fall into this trap.  I know I have.  My best bud lives in VA and works in the DC area.  For years, he has personified this strong individual with great advice and an understanding ear whenever I've needed him.  Whenever we were younger, we shared in the troubles we got into equally.  With all that's been going on within my own life recently, I forgot to take the time to return the gesture and really listen to what was happening in his life.

Being really great friends, this is easily remedied by returning to the roots of our friendship.  Taking the time to call when I have no news, but a genuine concern for how his life is going is all that is needed.  We've spent hours around bonfires discussing life and its many issues.  It's been too long since that has occurred, but that doesn't mean we can't still have those discussions.

The traps of life are so easy to fall into and our lives can become so consuming we become blinded to the events happening in the lives of those we care about.  Remember to hit pause on your own life from time to time and reach out to those who are there for you.  They may not reach out when they need you, after all, we are all different in how we communicate.  All it may take is a simple phone call to reconnect, but it requires an open ear and a shut mouth.  My friends have always been there for me and I would do anything for any of them.  Listening is perhaps the easiest and most forgotten "thing" we can do.  The effort is so worth it and it really takes nothing but a few minutes and dedication to those we care about.

Whom shall you call today with an open ear?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Snowball Effect Gotten You?

Have you ever started off your day or week on a really positive high and then the world starts falling down around you?  When the first thing happened, did it just seem to continue non-stop?  This has seemed to be my week.

The first half of the week went great and then a single event started the avalanche.  Why were all these things happening when things were lined up and going so well?  They say to only control what you can and let go of the rest, but it's just not that easy at times.  I understand and am living that this week.  Yet, we must and I shall too.

Sometimes a hard day or week can be overcome by perspective and attitude.  Human nature is a tough beast to alter, but the effort lifts not only you, but those around you as well.  If you drag them down, they can't lift you up.  This is my lesson for the week.
When you take the snowballs and break them down, they are only snowflakes and easily melted.  I've started doing that this afternoon.  There are parts of this week outside my control and I let them affect who I am and that is not a good thing.  That drags you down and that is not where we want to be.

So, when the snowballs start to launch in your direction, duck and cover!  Each storm has an ending and a new day comes along for the recovery.  I'm not saying I'm ready to get back into the fight, but when I do, I'll have plenty of snowballs piled up to arm myself with.

Let the games begin!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

What Motivates You?

It is a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon and I am loving life.  There are some really major things going right in my life now and a large part of this fact is due to attitude.  I have been down and out before and, to be honest, it stunk!  Life is so much better when you enjoy it, it really is.  So, my friend, what motivates you to get out of bed every morning?

I am listening to the wind chimes sing in the breeze and holding a cup of coffee on our quiet neighborhood street and simply soaking up the tranquility.  This is a word I have come to love over the past several years and hope it never leaves my vocabulary again.  It is who I have become and I will not be ashamed to admit it.  My life motivates me to rise each day.  There simply are too many things to mention, list, or acknowledge here, because they are all part of the positive.  Even the negative isn't so bad these days.  Why?  Because I choose them to be minimal!

The job search has taken so much longer than anticipated, yet that too has been ok.  If I had left the Air Force and jumped right back into the employment pool, my realization of life might not have been as clear.  My ability to recognize the good when bad is around me would not be so honed.  It takes practice to understand the beauty of life.  The more I practice, the more brilliant life seems to be.

So, what motivates you this beautiful June day?  Friends and family?  Memories of years past?  Thoughts of what is to come?  That project you have put off and you can't wait to see the outcome?  Perhaps the look in your child's eyes and the future you know the can have if you teach them the beauties of life?  Tell me, what motivates you?

Without motivation, we are stagnant and complacent.  When the world has us down, motivation seems to have disappeared.  Yet, if we can just find the corner of the motivational blanket and yank it out from under the bed and wrap ourselves in its protective fibers, we can emerge and soar again.  Find your motivation, embrace your life, and get is the day you can see more beauty than yesterday, and tomorrow, you shall see more than today.  Yet, in order to do this, you must step out, open your eyes, fill your lungs, and smile.

Today is beautiful.  Tomorrow is beautiful.  Life is beautiful.  You are beautiful.  I am beautiful.  God's work is an amazing masterpiece.  I don't want it on my wall, I want my life to be the canvas so all can see.  How about you?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring Fever's Oxymoron

We have finally made it!  The cold, windy months of November through parts of April are now behind us.  The weather is increasingly sneaking towards the summer swimming temperatures we all long for through the chills of winter.

As the sun entices us to open the windows and come outside, we struggle to remain productive.  Those with jobs indoors lose focus on the work and start to stare out the windows at the beautiful, plush greenery seducing them to slack and take a break outside, if only for a few moments.  The winter months have kept us prisoners inside for too long!  Because it was easier to stay inside than to venture out, we cooked, cleaned, and worked our proverbial behinds off.  Spring is our payday for such's our time to slack.

So, with the flowers blooming, lawnmowers buzzing, and tanning efforts underway, why is it called Spring Fever?  Typically, fevers are higher than normal internal temperatures caused by our bodies fighting infections which are making us sick and weak.  Springtime does no such thing to us.  Spring brings life back into our souls as we flock to the ballfields and parks.  There is no illness here, there is no medication needed to rid us of this most welcome of things.

Perhaps, instead of Spring Fever, we alter the phenomenon's name to Productivity Fever.  Yes, that is more like it.  Productivity suffers during spring as our bodies do during sickness.  Even though we remain productive in the projects of revitalizing our lawns, we tend to lose focus on other inside chores.  Dinners still get created, yet more meats get grilled than broiled, fried, or baked.  Work still gets accomplished, simply because it has to, not because we are dedicated to remaining focused to it.  We simply want to be outside, folks!  Admit it.

Even though the name Spring Fever is among the most erroneously named oxymorons, the contagious effect is the same.  Like all the rest of you, I too suffer from Productivity Fever.  The only known cure is rainy afternoons and even they have their own ritual of family movie time and sleeping in.

Even though it makes it so much more difficult to get necessary tasks completed, I do not want to be cured of Spring Fever.  I shall suffer the consequences of Productivity Fever in joy and savor every scent produced by cut grass, freshly blooming flowers, charcoal grills, and suntan lotions.

If you need me, I'll be outside!  See you in the Fall.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

To Write or To Publish?

In my decision process for writing Bushels and Barrels, I asked myself if I had anything worthwhile to share in a creative and thought provoking way.  I believed I did and was encouraged by others to write larger than my weekly entries onto my Facebook notes page.  I made the decision to write.  I have seen some books and professional articles with many grammatical errors and blatant disregard for anything learned in the English classrooms dating back to elementary school.  I vowed to write, pay attention to the details, and share my musings with the world...or at least those willing to read my works.  It was a decision made with much soul searching as it would have a piece of me in every page.  What if my book was subpar?  I know I am never going to be a best selling author on the circuit and able to give up a day job, but I wanted to ensure my message was clear and my work was quality.  Why else would I do this?  I didn't want to be the guy who wrote a good intentioned book filled with as many spelling and tense errors as there were pages.  My message is for everyone and relates to everyday life, that's it.  It's really as simple as that.  Quality work from the heart and available to the masses.  Scary, to say the least!

The second part of the equation is the more difficult one.  How do you take a large Word document with lots of pages, hours of scripting, and days of editing and make it available to the public?  Publishing is not a world I knew anything about, and I don't profess now to know much more.  However, I chose to work through a Print-on-Demand company and self-publish my work.  What, how, and why?

Self-publishing allows me to work with a company that specializes in creating books, bringing them to market, and assisting the author with marketing.  However, the effort remains with the author to bring the work, the energy, and the vision to the book.  Big-time publishers can bring a credibility to a book, but the book must still speak for itself.  Having a large publisher accept your work brings with it a certain amount of additional risk to the author as well.  In order for the work to be accepted for print, the work must first be marketable, then what the author wants to say.  The publisher wants to make money, the author wants to get a story or message out.  Matching the two can sometimes be tricky and, it seems, the author must compromise somewhat to get published.

Sure, the marketing campaign may seem more robust with a larger company, but again, there are no guarantees the book will sell more than a few hundred copies...then what?  Keep in mind, a publisher is looking for manuscripts which fit a certain mold only because those are the ones their analysts say will sell.  It must be done their way, not the author's, in order to get their nod of approval.  A major publisher accepts thousands of works and provides concierge treatment as long as you are selling.  Once the interest ends, so does the red carpet.  After researching the large publishers and realizing there was an infinitely small chance they would accept my works and I would lose my rights should they offer a contract for publishing, it seemed a huge price with relatively minimal reward.

I am choosing to work with a self-publisher once I am completed with the writing portion.  I have complete control over how the inside is formatted, the the exterior of the book, the way the message is worded, the order of the material, and how it will be marketed.  I retain all control and rights to my intellectual property, not the publisher!  Is a self-published book still a real book?  Absolutely!  My book will have an ISBN number, bar coded for sale, registered through the Library of Congress, available through the mainstream mediums of Amazon and Barnes/Noble.  It will also be available via soft mediums as well:  iPad, Nook, Kindle, and eBook.  The more informal "indie" world will have unfethered access to marketing the book if they choose without limitations.  I will be a real, full-fledged author with all the rights and rewards of being such.  Yet, I will not have the higher risk of losing my rights and compromising my message.

So, with any large project or undertaking, I have done my homework.  I choose to write my own book with my own message, maintain control over the avenues of distribution, and take the risks of low sales upon myself.  I know the book will not travel the globe in large volumes, but those who will read it will know it is genuine and not made-for-tv writing.  I choose to write, not publish.  Even though my work will be published, it will be done my way.  I choose to write, not publish!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Thank God It's Friday?

It is Friday, break out the lawn chairs and the grills!  After all, it's been a long week full of challenges and long days at work.  Or has it?

Well, the answer to that particular question definitely depends on who you are.  For all the working stiffs out there, most definitely, Friday marks the last day of the week and the beginning of the recharge period known as the weekend.  For those of us still looking for work, it brings something totally different.

Since my last day of work months ago now, the weeks are filled with more duties typically left for nights, weekends, and other family members.  The grocery shopping, laundry, yard work, and errand running are now done during the week.  Once all that is done, there is the daily job searching and writing sessions when there is time left and the creative juices are flowing.  So, what significance does a weekend hold when there is no true week?  Plenty!

When Friday afternoon hits, I know my wife is coming home ready to relax.  I know she doesn't have to get out of bed early and can stay by my side those couple of hours longer should we decide to sleep late.  I know if we decide to, we can get up early, find someone to cook us breakfast and spend the day as husband, wife, and daughter.  I know that there is the high possibility of sleep overs, so more kids in the house is always a consideration.  I know that family time is weekend time!

Also, since my week is also spent busy, just on different things, it is important to recharge my batteries as well.  I turn the computer off and usually leave it that way.  If it does get turned on, it is for sports scores or to balance a job searching on the weekends!  After all, the jobs I am searching for are typically weekday jobs, so they won't post on the weekend anyway.  I usually take time off from the writing as well unless I feel I have an important idea I want included.

So, whether it be because of a long week at work or a long week looking for work, take time off.  Recharge those batteries.  Spend time with those important in your life.  Work is a means to an end, not the reason for living anyway.  Stay up late, sleep late, relax, and just take a look around at all the blessings in your life.  After all, Thank God It's Friday!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Life's Reminders

As I sit here on a Wednesday morning looking out the window at a rainy day, I ponder.  Life is the strangest of experiences sometimes.  Even though I am still in search of a new career, I don't feel the stress it should be causing most days.  I look around me at the blessings in my life.  My wife, my daughter, and interestingly enough, my life.

As part of my morning routine, I grabbed my coffee, logged onto the computer and started reading.  I read the local news, checked the job boards, and then perused the "reality internet" wall of Facebook.  What I saw there over the past several days was so sad.  Several days ago I learned a high school classmate died in his sleep after hitting his head earlier in the day.  A dear friend of ours is spending much time at the hospital with a family member.  Another friend of our miraculously survived a horrific accident back in November, but is still recovering.  And then several friends posted about the loss of a baby recently.  It makes one stop and wonder.

Why is life so cruel?  We spend our great days proclaiming how wonderful our lives are.  Yet, it can be stricken down in just a single second.  Life is not only wonderful at times, painful at is fragile!  We must constantly struggle to live each and every moment with respect for ourselves and others, love for our family and ourselves, and we must never take anything positive in our lives for granted.

I see all the negative in my life that could pull me into despair.  Yet, I refuse to go there.  It would consume me if I let it, yet I feel content in my life.  I mourn for the losses I've just learned about, the pain they are going through currently.  Yet, to have those lost in our lives at all was a blessing.  It is sad when we lose someone, but we all will be lost at some point in this continuum called life.  Only our souls have the opportunity for eternal life.  Life to be a blessing, let others know they are your blessing, and count your blessings in abundance.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Prize Fight

Having sent out another batch of resumes and applications today, complete with tailored cover letters and transcripts, I reflect back on the path I've been on now since departing the Air Force.  It isn't where I thought I would be.  It's not necessarily where I want to be.  Yet, here I am, on the road to...I don't know.  In today's tough times and hardships, I'm hardly alone on this path, yet the course I travel is mine and mine alone.  We all have our paths to take and crosses to bear.

There are days of utter disappointment and despair.  I vow to never fill out another application, send another resume, or to make any more follow up emails or phone calls.  I am done with all of this.  So I say and proclaim!

Yet, each morning, the coffee is on and the computer is running.  This is my routine.  Until I find what I am looking new identity...this is my life.  I have stated to friends that I do this because there is no alternative.  I have no other choice but to keep pressing forward.  Yet, they tell me that this is strength carrying me forward.  Others have suffered similar defeats and remain defeated.  Their last battle lost the war for them.  For me, I simply don't see it the same way.  I have too much to live for, too much to be thankful for, too much pride.  I say pride, yet in all reality, it is probably more stubborness than anything else.  I refuse to be beaten.  I get back up, learn more about myself and the ways of the civilian world, and go at it again...and again.

Many times, when others are struggling, we remind them that if this doesn't kill them, it will make them stronger.  I jest in stating that if this statement was indeed a fact, I should be Hercules by now.  Judging from my absence from the gym since departing the military, this is definitely not a true statement in the physical realm.  However, spiritually and mentally, I have grown stronger.  I believe in the Lord and His plan for me on the toughest of days (after all, He's gotten me through worse!).  I also have learned I am valuable to those in my life more than just from my career.  I am wanted for me as the person, not the monetary values I can bring home.  I know that as long as I don't quit, the battle may be lost, but the war will be won.

A great friend (SWork) told me that your true strength is not known until the need to display it is gone.  She continued with the thought that we feel weak and battered during this storm.  She is so very correct, I have felt rejected, battered, unworthy, and a failure.  Yet, I keep coming back like a fighter in the ring that has more heart than brains.  His heart tells him he can win, even when his brain is throwing in the towel.  I want to be that guy!  This is the guy that will win, maybe not today or this week, but he will win.  Why?  Because he refuses to give up.

There are days when my strength is no more than getting out of bed.  Yet, after I have done that, my determination takes over, I move forward.  I know not where God will take me, but it isn't here, this is temporary.  As I keep my eyes open, my heart in the game, my eye on the prize, and my brain in check, the days continue to tick by.  The lickings keep coming, yet I am not down for the count.  I may fall, I may be bloodied, but I will win.  There is no other choice!

So, as with every one else whom has traveled this road before and left a trail, I will find the crossroads soon, and this too shall be one of the prize fights of life won.  Ding, time to go to my corner!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Strong Will and Cup of Coffee

As I hopefully reenter the ranks of the working stiffs later this week, I had to reflect back on what the past months since departing the Air Force have meant for me.  How does one survive eight months with no place to be during the week and a loss of identity?  So I thought.  I've discovered a whole new way to look at my life, myself, and my purpose here on Earth.

During the first few weeks, things were easy...a trip back home to Roanoke, then almost a week at Myrtle Beach with my family and "adopted" daughter, then home to repair wind storm damage for several weeks.  That got me through the month of July, what happened from August to March is where things got interesting.

As I settled in for the unknown world of job searching, it became apparent that there are many things I needed to learn.  I had a strong resume, confidence in myself, a belief that veteran status would help, and a general feeling that hard work from age 16 until now would mean something.  I've since learned that it is a cruel world out there and many, many people are suffering and vying for the same positions to either better their professional lives or kickstart a new career themselves.  I did not stand out as I thought I should and would.  Getting a job as a vet was supposed to be easy, that's what we are told coming through transition classes.  Here I thought it was only the recruiter that was supposed to lie to me.

I went through periods of time where I started feeling I wasn't worth anything; I would never get a job...much less a career, and a sense of complete failing started to overtake me.  I became pissed at the world, frustrated with myself for not doing more with my life, and generally lost on what to do next.  It was during those periods that I suffered the most stress and anxiety.  To top it off, since I received a severance from the military for my honorable service, I was denied unemployment benefits and cannot receive my rightfully earned disability payments for permanent damage to my back until I am 104 years old.  After all, it seems only fair to count the severance against me more than once...thank you for your service Captain Ray, right?

Here's where the strong will and cups (if not pots) of coffee came into play.

I refused to be down.  I refused to give up.  I refused to devalue myself and what I have to offer my family, my community, and ultimately myself.  I asked God for strength.  He provided me with love, family, friends, courage, persistence, and yes...even coffee.

Each morning, a pot of coffee was started and the computer was turned on.  Job boards were reviewed, resumes were sent.  Emails were written, phone calls were made.  There were even the occassional interviews and job offers.  I say job offers because they were not careers and the offers also undervalued my experience, my education, and my abilities.  There were so undervalued, they were insults!  They caused a wavering of my confidence, but made me even more determined to continue.

I believe that I may be about to win the career lottery and land with a highly sought after opportunity with a very stable, growing organization.  I shall join the ranks of the employed, those with a sense of purpose, and return to the tax-paying ways of life.  Because of the lessons I've learned during this time, I will not return to the career identity shortcomings again.  I will define my career, not my career defining me.

I've learned that time with my family, being there for my friends, volunteering in the community, and giving my grievances and shortcomings to God define who I am.  I've become a much stronger, positive person from all my challenges and blessings over the past months.  When I left the Air Force, I saw myself as a military member first and then an individual second.  I've learned to define myself, not let my source of income do that for me.  For that, I will be forever grateful for this time to realign myself, my priorities, and my life.

Now, it's time for another cup of coffee...get back to work!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It Was Only a Kiss...

Have you ever had a first kiss that could tell you the future? One that changed who you were? Heard the cliche that the first kiss would tell you everything?

I have on all three counts and all in one single moment in time that is frozen in my mind. It was in the snow, cold, dark, and in Olive Garden's side parking lot between rows 3 and 4. It was about 8:05pm. We had just had dinner for the first time and this was our first contact other than the cursory hello hug before the meal.

I was waiting for her in the lobby when she arrived. She walked in and my knees buckled slightly. I knew who she was, but hadn't expected this. The meal went well, but stayed on the realm of safe subjects, but we learned a lot from the meal. I learned she likes seafood and doesn't mind veggies. She walks in heels despite wet, cold, ice, and snow...that shows confidence in herself and her abilities. She maintains eye contact while speaking, she's true in character and spirit. She spoke of her daughter with a shine in her eyes that shows where her heart resides.

Then at the end of the evening, there was the good bye. We walked to her car and were at the point of conclusion when she came closer, leaned into my arms, and time stopped. She leaned in for the kiss and it was slow, soft, gentle, intense, trembling...and I forgot the snow, the wind, the time, and for a few moments, I forgot to breathe.

So, now when someone says that they "just knew" with the first kiss...I can now say, "so did I!"

Identity Crisis

Have you had a significant life change lately? Were you a student and reached graduation? Are you a parent with your kid(s) moving off to college soon? Have you lost a loved one recently? Perhaps, like me, you are now in the throws of a career change? Welcome to the challenge of an identity crisis!

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions, you are entering a new chapter in your life, either of your own making or as a natural progression of life and loss. The person you had become comfortable being and knowing is about to change. The people you’re used to having in your life are either no longer with us, moving off and the amount of exposure to them will change, or you yourself are moving on. Regardless of the circumstances, we are all in the same situation…we are losing who we are in order to become someone new! Are you scared yet? I sure as hell am!!

In my situation, I’m separating from the Air Force after 16 years, 5 months, and 25 days…talk about a culture shock! I’m going from a career that has dominated my entire adult life and provided me with a sense of being and security and entering…what? I’m totally not sure yet except that it is called the civilian world. Professionally, who I’ve come to be known as will cease to exist very soon. I mourn the loss of who I have been. I denied it for a while, I then accepted it, and…sometimes…I even embrace it. However, I am still just not totally to the point of celebrating it yet. Those of you around me more have seen me calm and collected about the changes in my life. In some ways, I am. I’ve known this day was coming. I’ve planned for all the external things (finances, location, possible career paths, etc) as much as any person possibly can. I feel comfortable with all of the worldly plans and what may be there for me professionally in the near future. What I fear the most is learning the new me…the civilian me.

This last paragraph is my story, you can write your own there and finish it with almost the exact same last sentence. Who are we now? What do we do with ourselves now? This is a time of retrospect to a limited scope. Knowing who we have been, what we are capable of doing, and what we’ve done that we don’t want to do again helps us. After reviewing these facts, stop looking back! Be proud of yourself for what you’ve done and where you are, now let’s look forward to where we are going. There is a saying that states the only thing certain in life is death and taxes…so, we might as well find what we want out of life, after all, we only get to do this once! Find your love and your passion in life and pursue it. Find time somehow to be the new you, learn to look forward to the new you, mourn the old you for a while, then create a new you that YOU love and can live with. Be strong, be brave, be adventurous, but most of all…be you!

For me, I know I love my new family and the community of friends around me. Without all of you, I honestly don’t know where I would be right now. I’m terrified of my new life, but excited at the prospects at the same time. I can find a job that allows me to be there for my family, support the community, challenges me with new opportunities, and gives me a new identity. I know I want a career that allows me to help others…it’s in my blood now and is part of who I am now that I want to keep. I know I want a career that doesn’t take away significantly from my time with my family…money cannot buy that time back. I want to provide a comfortable life for my family and myself, but not at the expense of my family and myself. I am ready to learn the new me…to have to decide what to wear each day…to have the freedom to spread my wings and fly or scale back and huddle with those I love the most.

Having an identity crisis is that we know who we are and who we have been, but not knowing who we are about to become. The challenge is taking advantage of that and becoming what we’ve always wanted to be and, for whatever reason, haven’t been able to until now.

My Farewell to Arms


-Originally written June 27, 2011
United States Air Force (USAF). Having spent the last 16+ years within the organization, I've come to gain a much greater appreciation of what those four words mean. As a child growing up, I was a citizen protected by this organization. As a young adult, I was aware of it, but not quite interested in what they had to is the road to success, right? As a college graduate with a baby on the way, the USAF all of a sudden looked like an opportunity. That opportunity turned into a way of life. First as a young enlisted troop, then later as an officer. Now, my time within this fine organization is almost over and I can now add combat veteran to the list of titles I can carry the rest of my life.

During my time at basic training, I tried to capture the experience in a poem I entitled, "Meaning of Blue". The transition into the Air Force seemed obvious: "We were all wondering just what should we do, lost and lonely was our definition of blue" to "You know what I'm talking about, Tears of pride for all we do; So as we go on to bigger things, Look at the Flag and be proud to be blue". That was written in 1995, a much simpler time in America...before 9/11.

As I transition out of the Air Force and return to the civilian world, I can't help but to look back. The unknowing young man who was about to gain a world of knowledge, experience, leadership, mentoring, developing, and guidance. I got to represent a world class organization and had the distinct advantage of getting to take advantage of the opportunities afforded me as well. Sure, there were sacrifices, but there was so much more most cases.

In twelve days, I take off the uniform for the last time. On 1 October, I'll officially wake up a civilian. I chose the profession of arms for most of my adult life...but now, it is my time to step aside. It is my time to lay down my arms. For those whom came before me, I salute you. For those whom still serve today, I salute you. For those whom shall come after me, I salute you. May God hold a special place in his kingdom for those whom gave the ultimate sacrifice and may we never forget that freedom does not come free. We've all seen the costs, let's continue in our lives to honor the memories of those lost, and live our lives embracing the rewards that came at such a high cost.

Captain James Lee Ray, USAF...proudly transitioning to just Lee...whatever and whomever that person is to become. I'll always remember the road traveled, but cherish the road ahead.

Thanks for the memories!

Bushels and Barrels namesake

Bushels and Barrels

Marriage Proposal to my now beautiful wife

A bushel is a measurement of food when being picked out of the fields by farmers. This is how they sell the food in the markets to make money for their families. This unit of measurement is also how they measure the food they will feed their families throughout the year. Each year, new crops are planted and new plants create new food supplies. The very same bushel baskets are used time and again. In essence, the same bushels are replenished each year.

I measure my love for you in the same manner. Some may say I will love you forever, but really can someone love forever? That is an empty measurement because forever can end in an instant. Others may say they will love you for eternity, but that is an empty measurement as well because no one can make a reliable statement as to how long that is. A heart pumps blood and volume is the measurement used to measure blood, a liquid. Therefore, it makes much more sense to love with something that can be measured in volume, in the bushel's case, a solid. Bushels are used to measure food for livelihood and substinence. My love for you brings me to life and feeds the happiness within me. A bushel is an appropriate measuring tool for my love for you. Time moves forward and our lives may get stale and boring, taking the fire of our love with it. But just like the crops, the bushel baskets come back out and replenish the cabinets and pantries, my heart is replenished and I love you all over again.

May the crops always grow and the baskets always overflow. I know my heart does.

A barrel is a storage mechanism for liquids or grains. Many times it is commonly used to store alcohol. As much as we all enjoy our drinks from time to time, we all know that too much of it can destroy our bodies and our abilities to function correctly. During the times of the Prohibition, there was an earnest effort to abolish alcohol, yet it still exists in earnest today. And people's lives are destroyed every day due to it. But if you look, it can also be used for times of celebrations and toasting. In moderation, there are few things in life that are harmful. A barrel is symbolic of those things which may be good in our lives unless we over indulge within them, then they are dangerous and volatile...alcohol and gun powder are excellent examples.

I measure my love for you in the same manner. God will present opportunites and challenges to us every day. Some are good, others are not. We will be tested throughout our life, we must make choices and traverse life in a righteous manner. The barrels represent the obstacles we will face, we must choose whether to go around them or jump over them and face them head on. How we traverse the arena of life and navigate the barrels in our life will define who we are and who we will become. The barrels also represent the opportunities that we will be faced with. Together, we must choose which barrels we want and we must ensure they glorify our God and fulfill our souls in a meaningful way. We must always be aware and prepared to pass a barrel by as some are dangerous and volatile. Our lives will always be full of challenges and opportunites, but our path we choose through the barrels will define who we are as individuals and as a couple.

Are you ready for the rodeo? I am.