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!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

For Others, Beyond Self

Aaron Rodgers is a star quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.  He’s also the goat of jokes on State Farm commercials.  He’s a Super Bowl winner and a league MVP.  But Aaron Rodgers is more than that.  He has a little program titled “It’s Aaron” which is a Web series that has Rodgers surprising individuals who have been helped by nonprofit organizations.

I watched a six minute clip that had Rodgers meeting Kelly.  She is 13-years-old and a Packers fan.  She also suffers from spina bifida.  Rodgers, who plays a little guitar, joins Kelly, who loves to sing, and they recorded a song.

If you care to watch it, you can view this six minute clip. It’s worth it.  Really.  Click the link at:

Isaac Theil is a 65-year-old who, as he does most every day, took the train to Brooklyn.  On this particular trip, he allowed a boy to use his shoulder as a pillow.   Theil didn’t move.  He didn’t complain.  He didn’t try to wake the boy.  He didn’t get up and move to a different seat.  No, he just sat there and allowed the boy to sleep.  When asked by another rider if Theil wanted him to wake the boy, Theil responded, “He must have had a long day, let him sleep. We've all been there, right?”

Two men.  Different from each other.  One famous for his prowess on the football field.  One famous for . . .  well, I really don’t know, other than this particular story.

Not necessarily anything in common.

Well, not much in common, except one thing:  they care.  They care about someone other than themselves.  They care about others.

For Others, Beyond Self

Rodgers sets aside his status, his stardom, to show kindness to others, especially kids.  Theil, well, he was just being himself.

We’ve heard stories about cars going through a Starbucks drive-through and one car purchases the coffee for the car behind, starting a pay-it-forward chain.  We’ve heard about customers paying for meals of other customers without their knowing it.  We’ve heard about clothing drives and canned food drives and collections of money for others.  There are stories of kids in need for Christmas and strangers purchasing a gift to give.  There are Toys For Tots Campaigns.  Soon, we’ll hear the ringing of bells outside department and grocery stores as folks throw coins or dollar bills into red buckets.

For Others, Beyond Self

It feels pretty good to give.  To give freely.  To give without the expectation of getting in return.  Of causing a smile.  Causing joy.  Causing a brief moment of happiness in someone’s life other than our own.  Selfless.  Honorable.  A real gift.  A gift of caring, of concern, of compassion.  A gift of love.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Final Applause

There is a story of an older gentleman, a carpenter and builder, who had a reputation for being a craftsman.  Honest.  Sincere.  Never cut corners.

He announced his retirement and the company owner persuaded him to build one more house, instructing him to do his very best work, to not cut corners, to make it his best house yet.

As the older gentleman planned and mapped the construction, it occurred to him that while many of the younger carpenters and builders padded expense accounts, used cheaper wood and brick, electrical and plumbing even though they charged for the more expensive types, he had never done so.  He had never done that.  The older gentleman decided that he, just this once, could do this too.  Pocket some extra money.  No one would know.  No one would suspect.

So he did.

Cheaper wood.  Less expensive brick.  Electrical and plumbing to code, but not even close to his standards.  The house, while it looked nice, was, well, cheap.

At the finish, the owner and several of the management met the older gentleman at the house for the final inspection.  Before they entered, the owner handed him the keys and said, “We appreciate all you’ve done.  You’ve helped built this company to where it is today, just because of your honesty, your integrity, and your craftsmanship and reputation.  So it is with honor, that I present you with this house as a thank you from us to you.  You deserve it.” And they applauded.  A Final Applause.

Hmmm . . .

Not sure what the older gentleman did.  Not sure how he felt.  Honesty.  Integrity.  Craftsmanship.  Reputation.

Several thoughts come to mind . . .

He cheated himself and no one else.  He had built himself, created for himself, a reputation built on honesty, integrity, and craftsmanship.  You could say that now, he had built his house and now he will live in it.

I attended the service for my deceased nephew, Jared.  It was a beautiful, meaningful, service.  A tribute to a life well-lived, even though he had barely twenty-one years on this earth, in the lives of those whom he loved and those who loved him. 

Several spoke about his honesty, his integrity.  They mentioned that if any of those whom he considered friends picked on or was critical of or was ‘lording it over’ any others, those friends simply weren’t his friends any longer.  He was unpretentious.  Easygoing.  Positive, looking for the good in everyone and, expecting good to be shown and extended to others.

He began each day, every day in the same way: playing “Play That Funky Music White Boy” because as he reasoned, “You can’t start the day with that song and have a bad day!”  Not a bad way to begin a day, any day, every day.

The pastor likened Jared’s life to a symphony, a concert, or a movie.  At the end of a symphony, a concert, or a well-done movie, people applaud.  They might stand up in an ovation.  That’s how Jared’s service ended: with an ovation and applause for a life well-lived.

A Final Applause.

The older gentleman who had lived his life and who had built his reputation with honesty, integrity, and craftsmanship, faltered at the end, living in the house he had built.  Jared lived his life with passion and kindness, with honesty and integrity.  For one, a house that was shabbily built.  Built not up to his standards.  Corners cut.  Cheaply made.  Jared, he built his house, his life, with honesty and integrity, with passion and concern for others.  He lived his life to the full.  For himself, for others.  A choice, I guess.  For each of us.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!