Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day After

Black Friday.  Strikes fear in the hearts of many, while joy and jubilation in the hearts of others.  Frankly, I can take it or leave it.  Mostly leave it, I guess.

People racing and running to and through stores seeking and searching for the best bargain.  In the limited driving I did today, horns blared, drivers cut in and cut off other drivers and then they gave each other the single finger salute.

I read a report where shoppers fought each other with tasers.  There were other shoppers literally wrestling each other over something each had wanted.  A news report showed one prominent department store that had actually marked up items that were on sale for less on Veteran’s Day.  Another prominent store didn’t actually have a deal, but sold items for the same price that were for sale at any other time of year. 

Hmmm . . .  So much for “deals”.

I guess what bothers me is that somehow, we’ve lost the meaning of Christmas is about.  We lost what Christmas is about.

Yes, I know there is joy in giving gifts. My wife, Kim, and I take one day and spend it together going over our kids’ lists, and then shop here and there for each other.  We take another day and the four of us, Kim, Hannah, Emily and I go shopping.  It’s fun.  I love our Christmas, the time we spend together, the laughter and the joy.

Yet . . .

Is Christmas really about stress and strain?  Spending sometimes enormous amounts of money on . . . stuff? 

Or is Christmas about something else?

I don’t mean to sound like The Grinch.  Really.  I’m not against eggnog or Mistletoe.  I’m not against buying and giving presents.  I like wrapping them and surprising others with something they had always wanted.  I’m not against caroling.  I love Midnight Mass and candles.  I love the Christmas dinner and time spent with and on family.

I just think it’s gone too secular.  I think it’s somehow gotten a bit greedy.  Maybe a lot greedy.

I wonder if we’ve lost the innocence of it all.  I wonder if the purity is missing.  Sometimes I wonder if we can . . . if we ever will . . . get it back.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Once More Upon A Time

Once More Upon A Time

I’ve written in the past that Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday.  For me, it beats Christmas only because of the secular issues, not at all because of the religious mystique and belief surrounding it.  But Thanksgiving is really rather simple.

It’s giving thanks!  Really as simple as that.  Giving Thanks!

I don’t know that we do that enough.  We don’t do that to or for ourselves, and I believe we don’t do that enough to and for each other, especially our loved ones, those we work alongside of, those who greet us each day, or say goodbye to us each day.  We don’t say thank you nearly enough.

Those of you who know me and read me often know that I come from a rather poor and humble background.  We didn’t have a lot, but that didn’t stop us from being appreciative of what we did have.

Such as . . .

Love.  Support.  Caring.  Compassion.  Concern.  Laughter.  Each Other.

Food on the table and a place to sleep and clothes to wear.

Such as . . .

Parents and Teachers and Significant Others who took the time and had the patience to teach me right from wrong, good from bad.  Who showed me paths to take and gave me the freedom to let me choose which path to take, even if they knew in advance that it might be a circuitous and convoluted route and not at all easy . . . and that I might fail. 

Such as . . .

People in my life who were there to pick me up with I fell, who gave me strength when I stood, who helped me find hope when I was ready to give up, who helped me find faith when I didn’t have any- not in myself, not in others.

Such as . . .

People in my life who extended themselves and risked a relationship with me.  People who took the time to answer my questions, who sometimes, hopefully infrequently, took the brunt of my misplaced anger, my uncharitable actions or words.  People who were patient with me even though I might not have been patient with them . . . or with myself.

Such as . . .

People who took the time to teach me that I am as important as others around me, and that at times, that there are others who I am so unworthy of standing in their shadow.  People who took the time to show me that my actions, my words, my thoughts matter, have an impact great and small, known and unknown.

Such as . . .

Waking up to see a sunrise and know that I can do it all again . . . or even do it over.  That at night, I can crawl into bed and know that I had tried to do my best, my very best, and sleep peacefully, contentedly, and know with absolute certainty that the sun will rise and a new day will begin and that if I didn’t like the results from the previous day, I can (and must) course-correct and move on, do something differently, say something differently.

So, Once More Upon A Time . . .

With my heart full, with a smile and with all sincerity, I say, Thank You!  That is truly something for you, for each of us, to do.  And, as I always end my writings, something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sixty And Thankful

On Monday, I turn 60.  I can remember when I thought 60 was really old.  I mean, really, really old.  Now that I’m there, I don’t feel that way now.  Not at all.

Yes, what hair I have left is gray.  My wife, Kim, thinks I’m shrinking.  Not much, but a little.  My kids think so too.  I don’t see it, but perhaps I’m biased.  I’m a little stiffer.  I’m a little rounder.  But all in all, I can’t complain.  No major illnesses or injuries knock on wood.

I’ve had a nice life thus far, and I stress “thus far” because I feel I still have miles and years ahead of me.  I’ve lived in the wilds in Wyoming and experienced life on a ranch.  I’ve lived in Nebraska. 

I met my wife in California, where we adopted our son, Wil, and gave birth to our two daughters, Hannah and Emily.  Held them.  Cuddled them.  Read them stories.  Listened to their stories.  Laughed with them, and wiped their tears.  Tended to them when sick.  Encouraged them when they were down or frightened or felt that they just couldn’t do something, anything.  Sat through days and weeks of swim meets.  Watched weeks and months and years’ worth of soccer.  Still do.

Sixty And Thankful.

I really am.  I can’t complain about my life- beginning to end and all that was in the middle.  I’ve made mistakes along the way.  A lot of them.  I accept all the mistakes I’ve made and mostly, believe I’ve learned from them.   

When I coached basketball, I told my teams that basketball is a game of mistakes.  The team that makes the fewest, generally wins.  Maybe life is like that.  Not necessarily winning or losing, but living and just existing.  I’d rather live than exist. 

But life is making mistakes, learning from them and moving on.  Throw in a few successes along the way, and life is pretty good.  Can’t ask for more than that, can we?

Or . . .

Touching a life and making a difference along the way.  I’d like to think I’ve done that . . . am doing that.  I’d like to think that.  I hope I do that.  Not taking moments for granted, but living in them, using them, being useful in those moments.

Sixty And Thankful.

A lot to be thankful for.  Knowing that there is more out there for me to do.  Knowing that I have a few good miles to go and willing to go the distance.  Maybe a lot more.  Knowing that there will be more lives to touch, to effect.  Knowing that there is so much more for me to learn, so much more for me to grow.  Knowing that there is nothing to be taken for granted.  Knowing that there is so much more out there waiting for me.

You might not be sixty.  Maybe sixteen or twenty-six or . . . We’ll walk this together you and I, in our own ways, in our own time.  I’m thankful that you take the time to read these musings, my posts and hope they make a difference, cause you to consider, to ponder, to think a bit.  Thank you.  Something I think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Cry For Help

Bailey is our Golden Retriever.  I had written about her previously (Storms).  She is very shy, if not nervous and frightened.  When she came into our home, we didn’t realize she was a rescue dog.  Interesting concept: Rescue Dog.

Each evening . . . every evening . . . like clockwork, Bailey seeks out my wife, Kim.  Emily isn’t quite good enough, even though Bailey sleeps in her room each night.  I’m not quite good enough, even though I let her out and give her treats.  No, Kim is the favorite. 

Each night, at the very same time each night, Bailey comes into the family room and pesters Kim until she gives the attention Bailey demands.  Paw on Kim’s thigh.  The intent, nonstop stare.  The bouncing up and down.  Yes, really.  Bailey bounces.  Had we known that, we would have named her Tigger.  And each night, Kim relents and plays with Bailey, sometimes giving her a treat at the end of the play session.  However, the play session lasts a long, long time.

A Cry For Attention.

This past Saturday, Bailey pestered Kim, so Kim got down on the floor to play, but Bailey rolled over and just wanted Kim to pet her.  Bailey laid like that for a long, long time.  Kim laid down next to her, watched TV with us, but continued to pet Bailey.  Bailey didn’t move.  Bailey was content.  Peaceful.  Calm.

A Cry For Attention.

It seems to me that kids are sort of like that.  Maybe some adults are sort of like that, too.  I think there is such a thing . . . I think there is such a person, as a rescue kid.  I think there is such a thing . . . I think there is such a person, as a rescue adult.

The kid with the pout, who doesn’t know how to ask for attention, or a conversation, or a smile, or a pat on the back, or a hug.  He or she might not know how else to get you to notice.  An unexplained outburst.  An unexplained act that might cause us to say, “What were you thinking?”  And in the end, the kid doesn’t really know what he or she was thinking.  He or she just acted.  Maybe reacted.

A Cry For Attention.

I can’t count the number of times a simple “Hello” or a “Good morning” or a “Have a good day” causes a smile.  I can’t count the number of times a smile causes a smile.  It leads to others, kids and adults, to greet me the same way.  It becomes perpetual motion, if I can be allowed to use that concept successfully. 

A smile begets a smile.  A “Hello” begets a “Hello”.  The simple act of caring, showing concern, compassion, begets the same.  The simple act and willingness to listen causes someone to speak and not be afraid to do so.  And, perhaps more importantly, those simple acts get extended to others beyond our sight, beyond our ever knowing about it.  Perhaps.

Like pebbles thrown in a pond and the concentric circles forever flowing outward.  Simple acts of caring, concern, and compassion reaching out and beyond our own point of origin.  To others. To the . . . rescue kids and the rescue adults . . . out there in our world.  Like Bailey’s nightly Cry For Attention, simply met and accepted and acknowledged.  And without much cost.  Not much cost at all.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tattered And Torn

My wife, Kim, and I have moved many times in the twenty-one years we’ve been married.  From one city to another city, from one state to another state, even across the country.  We’ve even lugged the same boxes, unopened and still taped up, from one place to another only to be stored away “for another day and another time”.  Drives Kim crazy and I have to admit, I’m getting there too.  Although in my case, I don’t have far to go to be officially ‘crazy’, some might say.

Kim and I have a favorite photograph of the two of us.  It was taken in Baja, Mexico on the steps of a building where the bus would drop us off and then pick us up after our shopping and site-seeing.  We were younger then.  We were engaged, not married.  I even had hair then, all brown.  Kim, well, she looked then as she looks now.  Not much changed.

It’s our favorite photograph.  It sits in a frame in my office and as I write this, I peek over and look at it, causing me to smile.  I notice that it is creased.  I notice that it has a mark, a blemish.  It no longer looks as it once did.  Perhaps in one of the moves.  Packed, not quite as securely, as safely as it should have been.  While it still evokes fond memories, it isn’t quite as pleasing to look at as it once was.

Tattered And Torn.

And the thing about the photo, it will never really be the same.  We can try to fix the tear.  We can try to mend the crease.  But the photo will never be quite the same.  The photo, changed.  Damaged.  No, never quite the same.

Sometimes, this happens to kids . . . to us.  We can become Tattered And Torn.

Remember the first day of school?  Not talking about the first day of school as a tenth grader, or as a junior in high school, or as a fourth grader.  I’m talking about the first-first day of school, the first day ever!

Kids are so excited.  New backpacks.  A new pair of shoes.  Maybe a new outfit, slacks or a sweater or a jacket.  A new lunch box.  The brand new, unused Crayons with the really, really sharp points.  The Number 2 Pencils that had yet to be sharpened.  Kids so excited that they can’t necessarily sleep the night before.  So very excited.

And as time goes on, the newness wears off.  No more excitement.  Just another, well, school year.

Sad when kids become Tattered And Torn.

An unkind word from a kid in the hallway.  A kid eating lunch by himself.  Even three kids sitting at the same table, yet eating lunch by themselves.  An unkind word from a teacher, perhaps an unknowing word.  Perhaps a sarcastic comment meant to be funny, yet for one reason or another, hurts, stings, especially if other kids laugh, not so much at the comment but at the kid it was directed to. 

Kids become Tattered And Torn.  Happened, and happens, to me more than once.  More than once in a while.

And like the photograph that sits in my office, that kid is never quite the same.  There are creases.  There are blemishes.  Holes.  Edges ripped off.  There are tears. 

(Interesting how the same spelling of Tear has two separate, different meanings).

Happens to us too, no matter how old we are.  Some gossip heard and spread here or there.  Perhaps partial truths, even lies, told about us behind backs or worse, in front of us.  Excluded and uninvited.  A mistake made and then held against us for a time . . . forever.  Never given a chance again.  Never allowed to make up for it. 

Perhaps if we think first, judge . . . never?  Ever?  Perhaps if we accept, if we give, if we care, if we love, maybe then there will be no more Tatters And Tears.  We won’t have to worry about kids . . . about us . . . ever being Tattered And Torn.  Ever.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

, but

In high school, I was involved in forensics and debate.  Pretty good at it, but I don’t like it anymore because while the arguments from both sides are interesting and well-thought out, there is generally a winner and a loser.  I’d rather discuss, talk, converse.  Mostly, listen.  Observe.

Something, for a long time, never felt right about the word ‘but’.  Couldn’t put my finger on it. 

It wasn’t until I had a very wise professor, a mentor, in one of my counseling graduate classes explained what I intuitively knew or at least suspected: the word ‘but’ negates everything that was previously stated in that sentence.

Hmmm . . .

Yes, really.  If you think about it, ‘but’ is the great minimizer, the great detractor, the great put-you-in-your-place word.  It smacks of insincerity.

, but . . .

How about the following:
“I really like what you said, but . . .”
“Great song, but . . .”
“I really loved your manuscript, but . . .”
“You’ve done a really wonderful, fabulous job, but . . .”
“You’re a really good-looking person, but . . .”
“Great interview, but . . .”
“Great smile, nice hair, wonderful personality, but . . .”

, but . . .

No matter what precedes ‘but’, it is immediately diminished.  It is lessened.  Minimized.  And in the words of my former professor, negated.

What follows ‘but’ is generally a put-down, or at the very least a let-down, even if the speaker or writer softens it as much as possible.  Every inch of my . . . of your . . . being prepares for the ultimate.

I suppose not every ‘but’ can be avoided. That one great qualifier is ingrained, embedded in our speech patterns, our writing.  We use it a lot.  Notice who uses it, how it’s used, when it’s used.

I think it is human nature to look for any and all negatives that come our way.  We become so attuned to it that we might receive ten compliments, without the ‘but’ that when we do receive a negative or one ‘but’, that’s all we focus on.  Sad.  Really sad.

Perhaps we can do better, you and me.  We can, I think, be more aware of using that one, tiny little word.  We can be more thoughtful with our use, our approach, to words.  Especially that word.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!