Friday, December 25, 2009

To Play The Role

The daycare was filled with kids young and old
As Santa strode in from the snow and the cold
And all of their eyes beheld him in red
Lit up their faces, no words were yet said

With a “Ho ho ho” Santa was there!
At their little daycare with nary a care
He’d come just to see them to bring them a smile
Took time to stop in and chat for awhile

Their eyes were like saucers, so big and so round
They stood and they looked and gaped at the mound
Of red suit and hat, big beard and black belt
The love welled right up and he thought he might melt

And he became Santa, the jolly old elf
He loved each and every one little self
To see adoration and know it can be
A good thing or bad thing, it was all up to me

My best I put forth, to allow them to see
The beauty of Christmas and all it can be
For it is when we give with no thought of return
That love rushes forth and in one’s heart does burn

The clear and distilled message today
To love each and everyone passing our way
And as I waved goodbye and said my farewells
They called “Merry Christmas” and jingled some bells

As I walked along and went out to my sleigh
Santa stayed with me throughout all the day
e is a real person you know
He is in all of us if we just let him show.

Thank you Santa. Merry Chirstmas. ©

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Eight - Merry Christmas to all.

So closing this extended verse, I wonder how to do
The lessons in the prophecies, the Gospels are for you
And me to learn the truth of Christ, the reason that He came
Was more to know a giving God than just to know His name.

His mother Mary, bless her heart, gave Jesus human life
She nourished Him and brought Him forth and then became a wife.
And mother too, to Him, her Son, a most important job
For mothers love, that’s what they do, it’s why their hearts do throb.

Now Joseph gave his trust to God, that all would turn out right
He listened when he was spoken to and heard from God at night.
He set the tone for family life. He was a grateful man.
For all that he’d been given, he knew it was God’s plan.

For this is what it’s all about, the giving part I mean
If you’ll recall the animals around the manger scene
What could they give? An animal? Why, they provided heat.
It’s what they had, it’s what they could and did provide that’s sweet.

The shepherds came with nothing but their wonder and their awe
Which proved to be quite the gift when they realized what they saw
The Magi gave their earthly gifts with homage and respect
Two very important things to give to those whom we neglect.

Of all these words and all this talk, my point is overdue
The reason for the season is God’s gift to you
The gift He sent, the greatest prize, to you and me and all
That we may know and worship Him for that is our great call.

Merry Christmas.

And Happy Birthday to you, my dear Robin - December 23

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Seven

So off they went, the three of them, in search of Son of Man
And when they found the place He was, their gifts they gave began
The tradition we still do today. The tradition done with love
When we give gifts at Christmas time, we honor God above.

They gave Him frankincense, a spice from far and long away
And myrrh, a similar thing to use to freshen up the day
And gold they gave, in homage to the one they’d come to find
For wise they were and generous too as well as very kind.

The night they left, they had a dream, a kind of sleep alarm
That Herod, the Roman king was planning to do harm
To the newborn king and so they went and took another route
And headed home by a different road on which was no pursuit

Remember now, that Herod knew that Christ was borne a king
He knew the town and had to act to save his royal ring.
And when he found the wise men gone without honoring his rule
He was quite mad, very much upset that he had been so fooled

He gave an evil order to protect himself and Rome.
Kill all the boys under two years old who make Bethlehem their home
But before the act was carried out, before the deed was done
Joseph had another dream to take his wife and son

To leave for Egypt, get out now and stay until you’re free
To come this way again as you return to live in Galilee.
They left there fast, they had no choice, their lives were in the hands
Of God himself. They trusted Him to guide them through the lands

This story of salvation is 2000 plus years plus old.
It is only the beginning of a story so often told
The story of the Son of God, sent here by His own call.
For us to hear His voice, His name, Jesus, Savior of us all.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Six

From all of this and more, my friend, the Christ child does appear
With shepherds watching in their fields and angels singing clear
“We bring great joy to all today, for in King Davids town
A Savior borne in Bethlehem shall be in a manger found.”

They hurried off and found in peace the child asleep on straw
They knelt in awed amazement from what they’d heard and saw
And when they left they told their friends about the new borne child
And all who heard their holy tale took comfort for awhile.

For life was hard back then and there, it was uncertain what would be
The Romans ruled with iron fists from across the deep blue sea
Any talk of kings from other lands or references to change
Were dealt with quickly and with force and hence came this arrange.

Three wise men came into the land in answer to the call
To pay homage to the King of Kings, born in the manger stall
When they arrived they went to see King Herod. It was he
Who asked who they were looking for and what they knew, you see.

And when he heard they’d come to find the one whose star had shown
King of the Jews, the Christ child borne, he vowed to make it known
That nothing would become of this, he’d finish it today
Telling them to return with news he sent them on their way.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Five

With child was she as yet unwed, a shameful state to be
But God was with them and her betrothed a dream of faith had he
“Be not afraid to take the woman into your home as wife
For the child within is of the Spirit and through Him you will gain life.”

The holy texts predict this all, they reference these affairs
Not just once but many times down through the many years
How can it be, unless it’s true, these common parts and threads
Of age old books and long told lore from many hearts and heads.

I’ve said before in written form about the trip of birth
From Nazareth to Bethlehem the couple walked the earth
On sandaled feet, they trod the ground from one place to the next
Together walking, hand in hand, in fulfillment of the text

The birth to be in Bethlehem, they did not know the why
Only that the rulers there had made them all comply
To return to where they had been born for census, the decree
Of Caesar simply to be counted where their home was thought to be.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Four

There were fourteen generations with Abram at the start
To David and a kingly rule with God deep in his heart
And another twenty eight then came with various depths of love
For God’s divine countenance, His blessings from above

The anointed one was going to come and emulate a ram
With warlike and rebellious ways. He wouldn’t be a lamb.
A Messiah made of flesh and bone. Immanuel shall fight
And throw off the Roman yoke of rule. He would have the might.

God came to Zechariah and inspired him to seek
His dear old wife Elizabeth and with her not be meek
She became with child, the foretold John, the man to go before
And make way the path for the one called Christ, to open up the door.

Now, six months passed, an angel came to Mary making plans
To wed the good man Joseph, a worker with his hands
The angel said to her with love, Hail Mary full of grace
God favors you ,His child within, He smiles upon your face.

I am afraid was her reply to which the angel said
Worry not, my dear, dear one and rest your weary head
For you’ve been chosen as the one upon which your faith dwells
To be the mother of the Son Most High, the one Immanuel

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Three

The Christmas star shown near and far, a most surprising sight
For learned ones who knew the paths of nightly things of light
What’s this? They thought – what does it mean? Is this an omen dire?
Or is it just some foolish thing? A ball of skyward fire?

What’s that you say? A king is borne? Someone to rule the Jews?
That could be bad for us and them. What else is there of news?
Their holy texts foretell this thing? Is that what’s being said?
We’d better check, put out the word, this king is better dead.

Judea was, by all accounts, the land God gave, His ration
For they’d been freed, from slavery bound, to become a godly nation
His covenant, His promise made to provide them of their needs
With land to graze, good water, fruit and soil to sow their seeds.

So there they’d lived, for many years, through times of peace and strife
Many generations came and went and God stayed in their life
King David came, the good king ruled ‘til old age took its toll
Jerusalem he built to be God’s city made of gold

The temple there, so grand and rich, rose regal, high and white
And travelers came from far away to worship at its light
As time went on, God’s people there forgot from whence they’d come
The strife and hardship they’d endured became a silent hum.

This happens too, these days for us, it’s easy to be vain.
We think about the stuff we have, no longer are we sane.
The wants, not needs, the toys, the cars – as if it’s all expected.
We gain the world and lose our souls, God starts to be neglected.

Prophecies foretold the Christ, the child born on that day
They also had foretold the piece King David’s throne would play
Descendant of the great, good king the child would have a link
To rule divinely given, an important piece I think.


Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part Two

In testaments from long ago as we see time to measure
Shepherds tell of God’s own words come to them as treasure
The day will come, you shall not know but it will come, be sure
When God shall walk the earth as man, His wisdom shall be pure

Manger born in Bethlehem, even that part was foreseen
A census sent them to the inn, though borne a Nazarene
The town was full, the count afoot, no place to lay a head.
A stable stall, a mat of straw was Mary’s birthing bed.

As night fell cold and clear and bright, her ordeal was at hand
To culminate the tales long told, a Christ child to the land
Obediently, her husband there, did foster to her needs
The child, though theirs, was not of him, his trust in God exceeds

Our own, for were we called to bow and take his place
Not one of us would likely have his devotion, love – his grace.

The night wore on, the darkness deep, no moon that night was there
The livestock lowed and pawed the ground, instinctively aware
Their warmth they gave, it’s all they had to give the little child
Enough it was, though be it cold, the manger became mild.

Within His mothers arms they watched, a cause for glee and laughter
He squirmed and fed and went to sleep and so did they soon after
And others came, to mark the day as on their knees they fell.
For in the east, a star rose full, a sign Immanuel.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Christmas Anthology - Part One

There are eight parts to this anthology. It was written in December 2005 in five days. Each time I sat down to write, the words flew from my fingers. This is not of me. I was simply the conduit.
Around the first of Christmas, an angel came to say
A child will come to Bethlehem, a virgin birth this day
Be not afraid, O chosen one, through you our Lord is born
In fulfillment of the ancient words, His star will light the morn

In all the ancient Hebrew texts, a theme runs loud and clear
A Son will come to right the faith, a Son whom we will hear
God’s promise made whole in His own time. For who’s time is it at all?
Do we suppose to make it ours? Do we think God’s that small?

The maker of the earth and stars. Of atoms, quarks and space
The trees, the seas and mountaintops, each special in their place

Do you say, “No, it cannot be.”? It must be myth and fable.
A God that made both you and me would never take the label
Of human being, with faults galore. So glaringly apparent.
A servant born a bastard child? A virgin as a parent?

Wait and see, my doubtful friend, it’s a story told in tales
Of prophecy from early on – from birth to three large nails
And leading up to Christmas morn, this story will continue
It bears retelling every year. God in flesh and bone and sinew.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Anomaly?

Each year prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are letters in the advice columns as well as comments from co-workers and friends about the dysfunction within their families and how they look forward to those holidays with dread. The memories of holiday celebrations past haunt them and they anticipate more bad memories to come.
What have I missed? I have good memories of holidays. Good memories of grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts – not specifics so much as attitudes – the over all sense of family and goodness together. Yes, there were a couple of specifics – Dad drinking too much – but that was not evident to me very often – maybe I just missed it – or was blind to it – but it never soured the day – or the memory.
On Thanksgiving, I am grateful and very thankful for the many years of wonderful celebrations together as family. My sisters and I were loved by all the old folks – and we knew it. It showed. I am grateful and very thankful for carrying those memories forward and allowing them to color my outlook on the present – and the future.
Yes, my blessings are manifest
Robin and I had a very nice Thanksgiving celebration on the day itself with two people we had never met before and may not meet again but for those few hours, they were a part of our lives – and we were a part of theirs – and it was good.
On Saturday, three of our combined five children came over and we celebrated again. How wonderful to see them as adults. They are good people and we would be honored to consider them friends were they not family. Yes, our blessings are plentiful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Did I miss a memo?

Yesterday, I stopped at McDonalds for a quick dinner after yoga class. The young man who waited on me was pleasant. I paid him and he handed me my change. I said, “Thank you” and he said, “Uh huh.” He handed me my burger and again, I said, “Thank you.” And again he said, “Uh huh.”
Were this an isolated incident, I wouldn’t have thought much of it other than he needed to be trained in how to close a transaction from a customer relations perspective. I think thanking customers is appropriate – don’t you?
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In fact, from my daily observations and experiences, it is the “new” normal. “Thank you” has left the vernacular in retail.
Why is that? Is it lack of proper training by management? Is it an insecurity that somehow keeps them from expressing gratitude? Is it self-absorbtion – they are unable to consider others as they would themselves?
I asked a young woman at the “quickie mart” the other day – she had simply said, “Yup” when I thanked her for my purchase – how, if she were the one making the purchase, she would want the clerk to respond. She said she’d like to hear “thank you.”
So, at least using her as an example, it is not for lack of knowledge of the importance of those two simple words.
I’ve been told I’m too picky – it is not a big deal. I say: BS!
I’ve been told the clerks are underpaid and overworked and shouldn’t have to fret about how they close a sale. I say: BS!
Come on! A simple thank you makes the world a little friendlier. A simple thank you makes both people feel good. A simple thank you is the right thing to do. Accept nothing less. Perhaps if a few of us stand at the counter and ask for it, the message will get across. Perhaps not but keep trying. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like a pilfered tree.

As we embrace the diversity of our nation, let us take a moment to consider the inclusiveness of everyone which is reflected in a stolen Holiday tree.
The meaninglessness of the “holiday season” must not exclude those who would take what is not theirs. Steal from a Salvation Army kettle? Fine by me. Take your neighbors lights and string them up in your basement? Good idea – a festive basement is always a delight. Shoplift a doll or a Ipod for the kids? Why not? It’s the Holidays.

Quoting a line in the movie, “As Good As It Gets,” as the character played by Jack Nicholson says to the character played by Helen Hunt, “You make me want to be a better man.” Christmas does that for us – women, men, children. Christmas makes us want to be better. Not because Santa is watching but because the image of a child being sent to Earth to serve as Savior is compelling. The image of a cold night in the desert, of animals at peace, of others there too – in recognition of an event occurring. Those images provide the impetus to be a better man, woman or child.

Without the Prince of Peace to impel this sense, the holidays are empty. Back to Druidism. The Solstice is here – all hail the Solstice. I’m off – to steal a Holiday tree. ©

Monday, November 16, 2009

Purity

Yesterday at church, as I was walking out, the fellow who raises money for homelessness was heading out to his tent. I thanked him for his efforts. He said, “It’s something I can do.” And I thought about how profound that simple statement was. There is something we all can do. What a world it would be if we all did it. Whatever it may be.
My mind is getting broader
I’m thinking quite apart
From how I used to think of things
I thought I was so smart

To see someone who is down and out
I used to think this way
Pick yourself up and buckle down
And it will be ok.

Somehow I’d feel better
Like I’d done something right
When in fact I had ignored them
Blindered to their plight

Is my conscience stretching?
To embrace a truth unseen?
To help ease suffering in a life?
Have I become less mean?

Whether events or age or other stuff
Has given me this start
I’m grateful for an open mind
And openness of heart. ©

Friday, November 13, 2009

I am praying for my niece. She is having a difficult time of late. Her mental health has been tough on her and her family for the last few years. I pray that she will be treated with the right combination of meds. I pray for her to have strength to slog through the depressions. I pray for her to see light beyond this moment, this hour, this day. I pray for her to be healthy and happy. Should you read this, please do likewise. Thank you.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Wrong Number

I am suprised at how little, inconsequential events can take us to places long dormant in our minds. This "wrong number" was one of them. Thank you, small child, whoever you are.

I got a little gift today; don’t know from where it came
My cell phone rang and on the line a small voice, anxious to proclaim
“Dad?” he asked a bit surprised
To hear my sound, unrecognized

A small boy, I think, from just that word though I don’t know for sure
A little girl it could have been but “Dad” is what I heard.
The precious thing from one so small; to hear that name once more
In such an eager, love filled way; to cause my heart to soar

The instant swept the years aside. Just where am I? And when?
Am I yet there? A child this age? The years a dream have been?
The memories flashed all through my mind of Steve and Jill and Dan
Of playing catch and playing games and summers in the sand

They flooded back, as fast as light, these visions of my love
Their gap-toothed grins and small warm hands
True gifts lent from above

Then I returned to here and now to answer his small plea
To gently say the dad he’d called was someone else, not me

And then he knew, I wasn’t his but just some other dad
Before he went, he just said, “Bye” - and left me feeling glad
And grateful to that little one, mistaken though he’d been
For he gave to me the greatest gift of memories so long not seen. ©

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today is my daughter’s birthday
She turns 32 and has two little boys of her own
The circle of life.
When I talk to my mom about aging
She tells me she still thinks of herself
As if she were in her mid-30s

I still think of myself in roughly
That same age bracket – and I’m 58
The circle of life
And I think of all that have left
Been here and gone
Remembered and missed

For the people they were (are?)
For the love they gave and got
The circle of life
I look at those older than me
In a different light than in years past
Knowing we’ll all be gone someday

I look at those younger than me
Realizing they too have the same fate
It helps me to love; the circle of life
And so it goes. ©

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The natural world awes me. It supports my faith in the supernatural world. The way of things – liquids, solids, gases. Molecules, atoms and the smaller particles. The electrical charges each carry. The complex interactions and combinations that make stuff – from dirt to oils to plants and animals. The chemical balances that exist that permit such combinations. Awe is hardly an adequate word. Understanding the science that supports the mechanics of it does not diminish the wonder. It enhances it.

This morning I witnessed a hawk capturing a songbird for breakfast. A bit further on, two bright red-headed woodpeckers warily eyeing each other in a stand-off in a parking lot.

From the ultra-micro to the super-macro – awe and wonder. Affirmations of the supernatural. The spirit of it. The spirit of us. The spirit of all.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday, 2-November - Year After Year After ....

Moon setting at the same angle as mid-summer sun. Glimmering light across a still lake. To the East, sun just lightening the sky.

Full moon sets at dawn’s first light
Streaks yellow on the lake
Morning sun though not yet born
Glows orange in nighttime’s wake

And as the night with white light fades
The quiet is so deep
I listen and can almost feel
The heaviness of sleep

No birds are trilling, they still perch
With heads beneath a wing
Unwilling yet to test the air
Unwilling yet to sing

November morns portend what’s next
What debt will soon be due
And seasons come and seasons go
With life that’s old and new. ©

Friday, October 30, 2009

To Laugh At Ourselves

The "drama" that seems to pervade many of our lives can be handled in one of two ways. It can be internalized as a "woe" or it can be externalized as a "whee." IMHO 'tis better to "whee." Yes, my sky is very blue. Beautifully blue.

A milepost of emotional maturity
Denoting my inner security
Comes not from a sense of self worth
It comes from my finding the mirth

The things that I do or perhaps I may say
Are not always right or said the right way
To know that it matters not one little bit
To laugh at myself is always a hit

It relieves any sense of playing the fool
In fact, to the contrary, it is quite the tool
By disarming those who take life too serious
Who set themselves up as being imperious

The reason for this is easy to see
Because of the fun I can have being me
©

Monday, October 26, 2009

This was written in May of 2006. Newly alone and lonely, longing for intimacy. Reading it now in present circumstances, thet truth of it rings clearly to me.

A man’s fate is his own
But he longs it be shared
With someone he loves
And someone who cares

The days bringing nuance
The years passing bide
Real love is simply
To lie side by side

To feel the warmth
Of one you adore
To feel the heart beat
Nothing is more

Peaceful and loving
Than the gift we extend
To lie in the arms
Of a lover, a friend ©

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Man Wisdom - Each Day An Adventure

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, just returned from overseas.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to conclude this series. Not meaning to imply that I’ve written all my “Old Man Wisdom” – just a closing part for this bunch of stuff.
Met with my “men’s group” this morning and one of the fellows was lamenting getting back from vacation – and being back into the routine of daily life versus the sense of “adventure” that each day of vacation brought.

His lament sparked this within me: What attributes are necessary in order to make each day – regardless of whether they are “ordinary” or “extraordinary” – an adventure? Here is what came to me – in no particular order except for #1:

An open mind.
The willingness to explore.
The willingness to love – and to show it.
The willingness to listen – and hear.
The willingness to look below, above and beyond what is obvious.
The willingness to be at ease in all situations.
The willingness to laugh at ourselves.
The willingness to be tender – to be soft – to have heart.
The willingness to be open – and vulnerable.
The willingness to accept ourselves as imperfect.
The willingness to admire that which we find admirable in others
The willingness to emulate that which we find admirable.

As you’ve read these, many will seem to be redundant. It seems to me to be true that to be one, we must be all – to be all, we must be one but each statement brings its own “feeling” to my heart and mind. Therefore, they are listed separately.

So, my dear young son, there you have it. It has taken me almost two months since your birthday to finish your the gift. The writing of “Old Man Wisdom” has been a gift to me as well as to you. Thank you, Dan.
Love, Dad

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Casino Buffet Rap - Cop an Attitude !

Road trip to Cleveland with Robin - passed a casino along the way - sign out in front - it said:

"All You Can Eat – All theTime"
EntrĂ©e’s, sides and pie key lime
The casino buffet, I’m sure to win!
Park the car and waddle on in

Pay my money, pick up my tray
Ooh, the trough smells good today
Look to the left, look to the right
Food, food, food – I’m eating tonight!

Baby back ribs, looking mighty prime
All I can eat – all of the time
Mashed potatoes with butter and cream
Oo la la – a fat man’s dream

Broasted chicken with skin so brown
Grab two legs – gonna chow ‘em on down
Meat loaf’s coming and I can’t resist
Pick me a slab ‘bout the size of my fist

Baked beans, bacon and cheesy fries
They’ll go straight to my hairy fat thighs
Yellow jello with orange cookie crunch
Two big scoops won’t spoil this lunch

Mac and cheese, some corn on the side
Stick a brat on top for the ride

That’s all I can pile, no more will fit
‘Til my second trip, this is it
Amble on over and find me a seat
Set down the platter, all ready to eat

Wait! I need a cup in my hand
One more trip to the soda stand
Let’s see here, what’ll it be?
Yeah, pour that Diet Coke for me!

All I can eat – all the time
Waxing rhapsodic in syncopated rhyme
The words so sweet, gotta loosen my colla’
And stuff my face with my food dolla’ ©

Monday, October 19, 2009

The "Buddy Holly Story" - Minnesota History Theatre

Great cast, great music, great tempo, great show. The audience was into it. The cast fed off the energy and everyone had a wonderful time. This is a “MUST SEE”! The Minnesota History Theatre (www.historytheatre.com) has added two additional shows. Get tickets if you can. They will sell out fast. Don’t miss it!

Followed by Byerly's Tomato Basil Soup! As my grandma used to say, "Ooof da, good."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Road Trip

Robin and i took a road trip to Cleveland. We left on Monday night and returned on Thursday night. All told, almost 2000 miles with the running around to various places off of the interstates. Aside from the business at hand, we visited the Euclid Bluestone Quarry Park, the old Euclid Crane Co. building and Ed Nye, the town of Vermillion on Lake Erie, the small town of Wakemon. Ohio and the Morman family, Port Clinton, the Studebaker Mansion in South Bend, Indiana. Blains Fleet and Farm Store in Ottawa, Illinois and Castle Rock at Volk Field in Wisconsin. We searched for and found three geocaches enroute - great fun. We enjoyed one anothers company - Robin is a trooper. What a woman!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Old Man Wisdom - Living with Integrity

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

I define “integrity” as living by the standards to which I adhere.
For instance – if I consider myself to be honest and trustworthy, having integrity means that I behave honestly and with trustworthiness – with others – and with myself.

To have integrity we must ask ourselves:
What are my moral standards?
What are my spiritual standards?
What are my emotional standards?
What are my intellectual standards?

Integrity is living one’s life in line with those standards. Simple, yes? Partially so because some of the responses are easier than others but complex in the sense that to live as people of integrity, those standards must be defined in detail. It is difficult. It requires time, it requires deep reflection, thought and feeling. It requires self-awareness – and integrity does not come all at once – nor do the standards upon which it is built.

Having said that, living a life of integrity is a process because as our lives change, our experiences broaden, our standards can and do – must - change and evolve. As I have grown, my “Old Man Wisdom” has grown in complexity because of the broadening of life experiences but there is a paradox in that complexity. Living with integrity becomes simpler – because of that broadening. There are fewer instances where I have to ask myself whether there is conflict with my standards because – at my age – issues are simply variations of past experiences. That is a good thing.
Love, Dad

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Old Man Wisdom - The Attributes of Character - On Being Judgmental

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

Being judgmental of others is a hindrance to personal growth. That statement is selfish but less so than believing we have a “right’ to judge others. Over the course of my many years, I have had many “epiphanies” – realizations that previous conceptions were inaccurate if not downright wrong.

Having said that, my “need” to judge others based on my conceived set of criteria is also wrong. Purposely moving in an opposite direction from one’s comfort zone is hugely enriching. Purposely opening your heart and head up to the differences in us all provides opportunities to learn, to understand, to appreciate – and to embrace the diversity that God has created in us.

When we judge others with what we perceive is our own “rightness” we miss the chance to broaden ourselves – to broaden our definition of “rightness.” Keeping an open mind when we meet others – whether they be part of our extended peer group, a stranger on the street or someone in line at the grocery store who simply “looks” different – may provide us the opportunity to hear their story – and they to hear ours. That type of communications / sharing enriches both parties and never, ever leaves those who have shared the same. There is always growth that occurs.

Don’t like someone? What are you basing that on? Try again. Listen with your heart as well as your head. Seek first to understand.
Love, Dad

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Minnesota Twins Baseball

Tonight, after four months of “win a game / lose a game” but having had a good August and a marvelous September, the Minnesota Twins – in the 163rd game of the season – won the America League Central Division by beating the Detroit Tigers in 12 innings 6 to 5.

The lead see-sawed throughout all 12 innings – the Tigers going up early, Twins tying and going ahead, Tigers tying and going ahead, Twins tying – until, at last, the 52,000 people attending the game and the millions more in Minnesota and the world, witnessed the conclusion with a run scoring single in the bottom of the 12th inning.

Baseball is sublime. The beauty of the field with green grass, the symmetry of the base lines, foul lines, batters boxes, et al. The rainbow of colors, skin and clothing, in the stands cheering on their teams. All ages – infants to elderly. Families, couples, singles, friends – all there for the love of the game.

The speed with which the game is played – agonizingly slow at times, faster than the eye can see at others and much in the middle – can alternately lull or thrill. No other sport quite like it. I love it. How ‘bout them Twins !

Old Man Wisdom - The Attributes of Character

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

Confronting Abuse:
There are many people in the world who use meanness, abuse and intimidation as their way of dealing with others. Quite often, the ones the abusers abuse the most are those they would say they “love.”
As my son, you know most of my story. You know my father did not know his father and had no good male role model upon which to build his parental skill set. He exhibited abusiveness – especially when he drank – toward his wife and children.
You’ve seen me sober during your entire time on the planet – I quit drinking four years before you were born – but had you known me before that, you would have likely said that those same patterns which I successfully broke, were in evidence.
So why do I bring this up now? Because it is an issue with many, many people. Drinking may contribute to it – or any substance abuse for that matter – but the patterns of abuse stem not from the substance but from the individual. A person can be stone cold sober and be abusive to others.
I bring this up now because when we are faced with evidence of this type of behavior we have two choices. We can choose to ignore it as “none of our business” or we can choose to attempt to instigate change. There are risks involved with either choice but I contend that to ignore it is the weaker of the two choices. Allowing abuse is tantamount to condoning abuse – and I cannot / will not condone it. I expect the same from you.
Most people are intelligent enough to realize that if they are challenged from outside of their “family unit” their secret is no longer a secret – their behavior / abusiveness has been made public and perhaps they should – at the very least – minimize it, and at the very best – stop it and seek help.
People can change – but only if they choose to change. It cannot be brought about without their consent and often their consent is not forthcoming when confronted with the abuse by the abused. It is only when confronted by “outsiders” that they may consider change as an alternative.
This is another one of those “choices” in life to be made prior to the situation presenting itself. Another decision on “how you will choose to live your life.”
Love, Dad

Monday, October 5, 2009

Old Man Wisdom - The Attributes of Character - Emotional Intelligence

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

We are possessed of different intelligences. An IQ test provides us insight into our mathematical, analytical, associative and cognitive abilities. We have physical intelligences in our abilities to run, jump, play sports, coordinate hand and eye, etc.

An area of intelligence which is seldom measured and seldom discussed is emotional intelligence. Our ability to discern what we are feeling at any given time and whether those feelings accurately reflect the significance of a situation along with our ability to have empathy for others constitutes our emotional intelligence.

The “OMW” for today, my dear son, regards anger and my contention / belief that it is a secondary – or reactionary – emotion. When you or someone says “I got angry” it is important to think (or ask) “What did I feel before the anger?” If you stop to think about the last time(s) you got angry at someone or something, you will realize that a more primal emotion occurred first. Perhaps it was frustration or guilt, fear, shame or hurt or embarrassment or something else.

Whichever it was, it is important to realize that the anger that followed – and that may have been acted on – was a reaction to the first emotion. Would you have handled the situation differently had you realized that you were hurt? Or shamed? Would the recipient of your anger been treated – talked to – differently? How would the result have changed?

Now turn that around. Remember the last time someone got angry with you? What feeling were they having that morphed into anger? Did you do or say something to bring hurt or shame or guilt or frustration into their hearts / heads? Further, I would bet that you thought they had reacted wrongly with their anger.

Anger quickly clouds how we perceive our feelings. Anger quickly clouds our ability to understand another person – or situation. It is only with practice that you – and I – can take a step back from the brink of anger and think about what we truly are feeling and address the person or situation from a more accurate viewpoint.

Anger is not an “attribute of character.” The “attribute” is the ability to identify (and feel) the emotion that is leading to anger. Anger is a liability and a false response whereas the ability to discern “root” emotion is an asset and leads to a response from which growth can occur.
Love, Dad

Sunday, October 4, 2009

OMW - The Attributes of Character – Sidebar 2 – Pre-Decisions for Times of Crisis

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

How often have you seen or heard a report of someone in distress – whether it be from an accident or a purposeful act of rage or crime – and the report includes the following: “Passers-by stood and watched as ….” Or “People turned away while the assault took place ….”

I use those examples to make my point strongly. Decisions to act are seldom made at a moment of crisis. Crisis creates a moment / minute of indecision in us all. We’re not sure what to do – where to go – how to act – and that moment / minute passes and we’ve done nothing.

My challenge to you, my son, as a man is for you to decide now – today – what you will do when presented with such a crisis. Will you act on behalf of those being hurt? Will you act on behalf of those in danger? Will you act on behalf of those injured? Or will you turn away and go about your business – paralyzed by the moment of indecision?

Those reports I cited earlier of the passers-by and the by-standers – they are people who have not taken the time to ponder how they will behave in those situations. I am not implying that they are bad people – only that they haven’t considered their actions and the moment passes. After which they likely wish they’d done something.

The situations I refer to are not always extreme. They are not always physical in nature. They may be emotional dangers. They may be someone who threatens someone else. The bullies of the world. They may be very loud – or very quiet. They may be very obvious – or very subtle.

There are times when you must consider whether actions are necessary. Words will often be a better way of diffusing a crisis.

So again, my challenge to you is for you to spend time in contemplation of future actions. Ask yourself how you want to be. Run some scenarios in your mind. From the most frightening and life threatening to the most benign - and decide where your limits are.
Love, Dad

Saturday, October 3, 2009

OMW - The Attributes of Character - Sidebar 1 - Informing Your Heart

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

It is my humble opinion that many of the helpful articles / books being written today are being done a disservice. They are being read with the eyes only.
Why is this a disservice you ask? Because when we read with our eyes, what we read goes only into our head. The brain sees it and understands, interprets and uses it in its fashion – which in itself is not a bad thing – it’s better than nothing – but the disservice comes insofar as our hearts don’t hear the words.
I find that my head doesn’t always communicate well with my heart. My head uses past experiences, logic and analysis to discern how I interpret and retain what I’ve read..
It is necessary – if I want to truly understand – for me to read out loud. This lets my heart get involved.
Therefore, if I am reading an article, letter or book from which I desire a positive effect, I must choose to make the effort to read aloud – slowly and deliberately so that my heart and my head hear.
So please, my dear son, as you read my “Old Man Wisdom,” do so aloud. I want your head to hear me surely but I want your heart to hear as well.
Love, Dad

Friday, October 2, 2009

Old Man Wisdom #3 - The Attributes of Character

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

Nurturing:
When you were born, your mom and I held you in our arms. We looked into your eyes and smiled. We spoke to you in soft, loving sounds. We were attentive to your needs – whether it was food, water, diaper changes or attention.
You are now a man but those acts we did with love when you were small are still with you. Those acts are still performed in their fashion when we see you. Translating the nurturing that takes place with a small child to the nurturing we do with each other; regardless of circumstance, is pretty simple.
Nurturing others is our call as people. Aside from the providing of sustenance, it is defined in my “dead tree dictionary” as: The act of promoting development and growth.
It matters not whether we are with family, at work, at play – we are nurturing to those around us in some fashion. Positively or negatively. Being aware of our words, our tones and inflections, our touches, our facial expressions and demeanor are all part and parcel of nurturing.
To promote development and growth in those around us is to allow them to be themselves. It is to acknowledge – in words and actions, aloud or tacitly – their importance to us as people.
To nurture means to give a little piece of ourselves to others – not in expectation of receiving back – but in acceptance of others as themselves.
It can be scary – there are times when the nurturer risks rejection – but to accept the risk knowing that it is the way to closeness with others is powerful. To put ourselves out there is freeing. It is the choice of those we come in contact with to accept or reject -but I assure you – like the stick of butter fresh from the refrigerator and left on the counter – those we nurture will soften over time.
As men, nurturing seems to come with more difficulty to us. Provide and protect – the man’s mantra – but remember, if we parse those words, to “provide” for promotes growth and development. To “protect” means to teach self sufficiency – a synonym in my book for growth and development. So get past the idea that men don’t nurture. Real men do.
Love, Dad

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Old Man Wisdom #2 - The Attributes of Character

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

Honesty:
Remember when, as a small boy, you admitted that you had hidden Nick’s billfold? At the time you did it, I don’t think you had thought about getting caught. I think you thought you could get away with it – and with whatever money was in it. I think it was only after a while that you knew in your heart that what you did was wrong so when confronted with the question, you admitted your guilt to me.

We all have lapses of honesty. Many times have I walked through a store and thought, “I could just take this.” Many times I have made an error on something at work and thought, “I could blame it on …” Those are examples of lapses and do not indicate dishonesty in and of themselves. They are just lapses – it is part of human nature to question ourselves about different perspectives of our being.

But there are additional “Old Man Wisdom” factors at work here. Honesty, yes. Also integrity and morality – and there is also the “guilt factor.” Guilt weighs a person down. Like a man with an empty wheat sack stopping at each field to bag some kernels, guilt builds slowly and inexorably becoming a full sack over time – hard to carry, hard to handle, hard to unload and if you are lucky enough to unload it, the muscle memory takes awhile to dissipate.

Better to not have the sack to begin with – back to honesty. Honesty is living life without that sack – and the temptation to fill it.

Honesty is being able to be trusted. By anyone – with anything. Honesty means more than “not lying” although that is a crucial piece. Honesty means a man or woman is real – to themselves and others – without pretense or affectations. It means a man or woman does not take advantage of a situation or others. It means you are genuine – what and who I see is what and who you are.

What honesty is not: It is not being “brutally honest.” Usually, you may notice, when that phrase is used, the words that precede or follow it are hurtful to another. There is tact in honesty. There is kindness in honesty. There is caring in honesty. There is love in honesty.

Big deal isn’t it? Remember, an honest man can be made up of all the positive aspects to follow in my “Old Man Wisdom.” A dishonest man will be made of none of them.
Love, Dad

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Man Wisdom #1 - The Attributes Of Character

For my beloved son, Daniel, a United States Marine, currently in Iraq.

Optimism:
Abraham Lincoln said, “A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be.” To choose to be an optimist makes you one over time. Like wrinkles in your brow (my brow), they don’t get there permanently overnight. It takes time for them to set. It is the same with optimism. Some people are more readily optimistic than others, it’s true, but it is a decision. We have only this day, this hour, this moment to live. The choice to live it with enthusiasm and love, energy and caring, happiness and thankfulness is magical. It brightens ourselves and the light from us shines on others and they reflect it back towards us and others. It is wondrously contagious.
As your dad, if I have influenced you to have optimism, to foster it and embrace it, I am happy. And optimistic.
Love, Dad

Belated Birthday Rumination

One week past another anniversary of escaping the womb. One week past another completion of solar circumnavigation. Already 11,285,000 miles past the way point. The miles fly by without the awareness of traveling. The years fly by without the awareness of aging.
But a look into any reflective surface and the evidence is there. Like a river bed beginning with a trickle of water, the etching of the land growing deeper with each rain, the body shows the storms of the years, the showers of the seasons, the freezing and thawing of the decades.
Thankful for the shreds of wisdom that accumulate along with the years. Thankful for the ability to recognize blessings in everyone and everything. Thankful for still having awe and wonder for life and love.
Another birthday? So what? They are mile posts only. They are not meant to guide the trip – only to mark how far one has come. The destination is unimportant. It is the joy of the journey that matters. Happy belated birthday to me? So it is. ©

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

And Now - the News from Chicago

Another young man was killed today
Four animals were charged
They hit him with clubs in the head
Knocked him down and killed him as he lay

Sixteen years old, going to be seventeen
A good kid by the reports, honor student
Used to being picked on by his peers
Another young man was killed today

Four animals were charged
Another young man was killed today
Another young man was killed today
Another young man was killed today
Another young man was killed to….
Another young man was kill…
Another young man wa…..
Another young man ….,
Another young m….
Another youn…..
Another…..
Anoth…
An….


Can there be any explanation? Any rationale? Any lesson learned? Any hope?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

UFO Lands on Orono Estate?

26-Sep-2009; Orono, MN, USA

Two people reported today that an alien craft had landed last night sometime after dark. Unknown at this time whether the depressions were due to four landing pads plus a support stanchion of one craft or multiple craft, an Orono spokeperson, requesting anonymity, stated,”It is obviously an anomaly, not a normal event – at least for this town.”
The depressions were discovered this morning when the two residents – unnamed within this report out of concern for publicity – awoke and looked out at the lawn towards Lake Minnetonka. One of them offered this, “It was a cool morning and we thought the lake was fogged over but perhaps it wasn’t fog as much as the residue from the UFO’s lifting off the lawn. We detected no odor but it’s widely known that alien technology is far ahead of ours – they don’t even need catalytic converters.”

-------- Men Friends --------

Ah, men and their sports---------- The ardor with which I
That sense in their shorts-----------Hear these men talk
That seems to support--- -----------Is quite disconcerting
Their need to report----------------- I ponder, I balk
---------\/-------------------------------------\/----------------
Did you see that punk?--------------And I raise my awareness
That run or that dunk?---------------Of the only true game
The shot that was took?--------------The one where life matters
The kick with the hook?--------------From whence all else came
---------\/-------------------------------------\/----------------
Oh jeez did he miss?------------------There is no kicked ball
You boo and I’ll hiss!-----------------No hot shot on goal
Another bad call----------------------- No lay-up or tip-in
The worst of them all!-----------------No “Put-It-In-Da-Hole”
---------\/-------------------------------------\/----------------
Is that all there is to------------------- Just beauty and angles
These guys and their lives?-----------And rhythm and pace
Is this stuff more sacred---------------And fans lolling eating
Than children and wives?-------------With mustard on face ©

---------------------------Go Twins!

Friday, September 25, 2009

May-2006 – Sitting at Caribou, watching people float in and out, sit and talk, sip and taste the goodness of companionship and friends – and the couples who – being quietly observed from my “distant” sight – inspired the last line of the first stanza……

For you are a true love, a wonder to me
Someone who wakened a longing you see
To walk down a beach basking in sun
Enjoying each other, one with the one

We’ve both seen the pairs who cherish their time
Together as people, each separate, combined
They challenge, cajole, discuss and talk through
Ideas and feelings and things they must do.

They’re honest and open and want to grow far
Each with the other, entranced by the bar
That gets raised every day, a little, a lot
But raised nonetheless, more intimate, more hot

Not in the sexual sense though that’s there
But into each other, a part unaware
A personal nuance, a piece re-revealed
May give rise to an aspect as yet still sealed

The key to this dream is deciding to be
Oneself at the outset, oneself, just me
True to my values, my sense of what’s right
Unfettered by fear of rejection or slight

Strong in my own sense of value and worth
Strong in my own self, God given from birth ©