Monday, December 31, 2012

Last day of the year

I slept so hard and deep that when I woke up, I had no idea when it was or where I was! I would call that some great, much needed rest. As an end of the year post, I am sure this should be full of deep and profound realizations, some sundry list of lessons learned, a compilation of resolutions and other types of serious twatfodder, is not going to be. Sorry kiddos!

This morning has already been a whirl wind of activity. I was a bit under the weather yesterday and generally laid around the house, getting nothing much accomplished except sipping soup and reading a fantastic book. Those days are needed occasionally and I certainly enjoyed it after the craziness of all the holidays. As my brain booted up and the coffee brewed, I worked through all the mundane tasks of showering, shaving and generally making myself look presentable to greet the public, not that anyone is coming over, but I do like to look sharp when I am out and about.

Once the coffee started flowing through my system, I started working on my To Do list to close out this year in good fashion. First up was a complete house cleaning and squaring away of all the odds and ends that tend to find themselves in places they don't belong. I put new sheets and my down comforter on the bed and scrubbed my bathroom until all the chrome, glass and stainless was gleaming. That felt really good! I know, I get a kick out of cleaning. Sue me. I have to say, all the hard wood floors look fantastic! Everything smells fresh and clean. A great way to start a new year. :)

So here we go. I am going to try to beat this snow storm that is insisting on coming through today. I need to pop some letters and my property tax check in the mail. (I still have yet to understand how they can charge me a tax for the things I own, but such is life in America) Then it is to the library to drop off some books and movies and pay my late fee. Yes, I know I should be more cognizant of things like that, but I tend to read and watch things at my own leisure. I figure a few bucks here and there helps contribute to the organization and I cannot beat what they offer. Then I need to track down Jack to pick up the cheese he brought me from Wisconsin, hit the coffee shop to regroup and run my errands. It seems like all the little details can pile up all at once, but I want to get it all in so this next week of work will run smoothly. I will be working seven days in a row, so better get it all in now.

As far as this last years goes, it was sure an interesting one. I have had my own ups and downs. Dealt with personal loss, shared and wasted time with an wide variety of people and got a lot accomplished in my own right. Career is going well. Bills are paid. Money was saved for retirement. Caught up a lot with friends and family and made priorities of so many things that tend to get overlooked. I really can't say I have any type of resolutions except to keep doing what I am doing now. Work hard, play hard, take care of my responsibilities, look after and love my friends and family, make time for myself, do the things that I enjoy when there is time and continue being me, each and every single day. I don't have any huge and exciting plans for this next year, though I am kicking around the idea of a month long road trip this summer to see this country from coast to coast again. We will see what comes of that. All in all, it was a great year! Good things don't happen by accident. We have to work at them and that makes them all the more worth while.

If I had to pick a word that best described this year if would be "Refinement". Through out this year I have worked over each area of my life and kept the most valuable and beneficial parts and discarded in turn, the people, ideas, concepts, desires, activities and material things that did not contribute in positive ways to my flourishing, continued growth and positive existence. I will leave you with one thought that might help you with your New Year. It has served me well over the years and it is this.

Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.

If you don't like who you are, what you are doing or your life in general, do something about it. You are the only one who can.

Happy New Year!


PS: I didn't beat the snow storm. I looked up from writing this post and the entire neighborhood is blanketed in huge flakes of fluffy snow. Beautiful!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

1922: Why I Quit Being So Accommodating

A very odd essay from a 1922 issue of The American Magazine that seems to go against the general grain of most of the articles published then. There is also no name attached to it.

Why I Quit Being So Accommodating
Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of my retirement from the business of being a Good Fellow. I use the word “business” advisedly. Until five years ago, if the city directory had told the truth, it would have listed after my name, as my real occupation, something like, “General Attender to Things,” or “Pinch Hitter,” or “Fine Old Scout.” I hope I am entitled in some measure to these designations even to-day. But I have quit being an accommodator and nothing else.
Five years ago yesterday it was, at two o’clock in the morning; I am not likely to forget the place or the hour. From four-thirty, when the president of our company and I faced each other across his desk, until eleven-thirty, when I left him at his door, we fought the thing back and forth. From eleven-thirty until two o’clock I spent in a bitter ordeal of self-examination.
“You are thirty-five years old,” I said to myself. “More than half of your life has already been spent. Who is living your life, anyway? Is it actually yours? Or is it a kind of public storehouse of odd jobs? A pile of days and hours put on the counter of the world with a sign inviting every Tom, Dick, and Harry to take one?”
It was in that solemn morning hour, as I have said, that I formally retired from the business of being Everybody’s Friend. For weeks I had to school myself in the hard business of saying “No.” But five years have made the cure almost complete.
Surely, if life means anything at all, it means that each of us is entrusted with a certain irreplaceable fund of hours and weeks and years. To let anybody and everybody fritter that fund away is as if the trustee of an estate were to deposit the estate’s funds in a bank and issue check books to whoever applied.
Some of us are born good-natured, some acquire good-nature, and some have good-nature thrust upon us. I belong to the third class. My father ran a small-town drug store. A bald, worried little man, perpetually tired but perpetually smiling — nodding his head and murmuring, “Right away, Mrs. Jones; we’ll have it up right away!’ And, “No trouble! not the slightest trouble in the world!”
Why is it that everybody imposes upon the hapless proprietor of a drug store? No one ever runs into a butcher shop, and asks, “Would you mind watching Willie until I come back?” No one, expects a hardware merchant to carry two-cent stamps, or grumbles at him, because he happens to be out of postal cards on Sunday afternoons. No one rings excitedly at the front door of the feed merchant and pulls him out of bed at two o’clock for some trivial purchase that might just as easily have been made before the store closed in the evening.
But there is absolutely nothing that people will not ask and expect a druggist to do. My father had a competitor across the street and one block down. Our whole lives were passed in fear of what that competitor was doing or might do. Lest heshould gain some advantage, it was impressed upon us that we must go the limit in being accommodating.
It goes without saying that Father belonged to every lodge and society in town. His name was on every subscription list. With all his twelve or fifteen hours of work a day, our family finances were never a nickel ahead. And yet, in all the years, I can remember my mother protesting only once.
It was a warm June evening when I was about nine years old. We were waiting for Father to come home from the store, and Mother had been thrilling us with plans for the journey we were going to take to my grandmother’s farm in Iowa — the only vacation trip we had ever dared to plan. For months she had been saving up for it, slipping an odd bit of change into the little bank in her bureau drawer. We were to start the following Monday — and it was Thursday night that Father came home, a little more nervous and apologetic than usual.
I was too young to understand the conversation, which had to do with a note he had endorsed for some “friend.” In jerky, disconnected sentences he poured out his confession, while my mother listened in silence. When he finished she rose, and walking into her room lifted the little bank, carried it out, and fairly flung it into Father’s lap. Then, turning swiftly, she locked herself in her room and we heard her sobbing as if her heart would break.
It was, as I have said, her only protest. Generally speaking, we were a contented family. But always there hung over us the heavy hand of the community’s unreasonable demands; and the fear of the advantage that might accrue to the rival drug store down the street if we failed, in any way, to meet the requests that came to us. We did everything for everybody, and were always in debt. Our rival, gruff old “Doc” Meadows, did nothing except to keep a clean store, fill prescriptions accurately, and charge fair prices and insist on prompt payments. Yet he managed to own a house and have all the other comforts that we yearned for but never enjoyed.
It was not until long afterward that I understood the whole truth of the matter.People never trust an accommodating man with important things. That may sound harsh and cynical, but check it up in your own experience. If you have a severe illness, for example, you turn to the busiest, most exacting doctor in town. The fact that he is busy and can’t be bothered by little things gives you confidence in his ability and judgment.
But this big truth I did not learn until many years afterward. Meanwhile, growing up in such a household, it was inevitable that the habit of being accommodating should have become almost a religion with me. I was the boy who carried the heavy bag of bats home after the ball game. I was the official chaser of foul balls. I brought water from the spring in the meadow, down below the ball field, carrying it up the hill under the burning sun. When any one of the five churches was to have a special celebration, I was invariably one of the boys who stayed up most of Saturday night getting the decorations in place. I think I must have sold a hundred thousand tickets to everything — from an oyster supper at the First Methodist Church to an Elks Carnival at the picnic grounds.
At eighteen I went away to college. Father could contribute nothing to the enterprise, but I had saved enough from a summer’s work to pay the fees of the first term, and I expected somehow to find work by which to pull myself through. I might claim to have been fairly popular in my class. At least, my classmates seemed to like to have me around, and I was especially in demand at dances. Not because I was a perfect dancer — I never had the chance to dance at all — but because I played the piano while the other fellows danced!
Except for one or two good friendships and a little social polish, which I needed badly, I doubt whether my college experience added much to my equipment for success. There was not time to do any real college work, when I had finished making a living and tending to everybody’s odd jobs. The truth is, while they liked me, neither my professors nor my fellow students took me seriously. I was just “Good old Bert.”
Joe, my roommate, was a happy-go-lucky sort of youngster who had an idea that he might become a great artist if only his father would let him spend two or three years in Paris. But his father insisted that the place for him to spend the next two or three years was in the family hardware business. After two years in college, the old man sent for him to come home, and I was taken along in the hope that the parental wrath might be averted by the presence of a third party.
What went on between father and son that evening in the old man’s study I never knew in detail. But Joe came out at the end of an hour and announced:
“I start to work Monday in the darned old store, .Bert. And you’re going to start with me.”
“I start with you?” I protested.
“Now, don’t argue!” he exclaimed. “You don’t suppose I could stand it to be in that dirty old warehouse all alone, do you? There’s no use in your going back to college, anyway; and you’ve got to start in business somewhere. Be a good fellow; come on!”
Whatever vague plans I had for my life had centered around the bank in a Middle-Western city of which my mother’s brother was president. It had been generally understood that as soon as I was through college Uncle Frank would have a job for me. However, my roommate was insistent. And so, to be a good fellow, I drifted into a business to which twenty-four hours before I had never given a thought.
It was a wholesale hardware business. Joe and I began together in the shipping room and were promoted step by step until, within a few months of each other, we were sent out on the road. Both of us were well liked by the merchants with whom we dealt, were reasonably satisfactory from the standpoint of the house, and my six years on the road were on the whole the happiest I had known up to that time. I visited my customers in their homes, played with their youngsters, and I don’t know how their wives had managed to keep house at all before I began my visits.
“When you’re in New York, would you mind matching this piece of goods for me?” one of them would say.
Of course I wouldn’t mind! Anything to oblige the wife of a customer.
Such shopping commissions represented only a small part of the troubles my good nature brought onto my shoulders, however. I arranged reservations on ocean liners; I purchased new books for customers who read; and secured front-row theatre tickets for those who were going to be in New York. I attempted to collect — for friends — bad debts in towns on my route. I trimmed show windows at night for merchants who were up at the club playing poker when they ought to have been down at the store trimming their own show windows.
In short, I was to the people who did business with me what my father had been to the people who traded with him — a good-natured drudge who might be imposed upon without limit.
With it all I seemed to be making progress, for when Joe was appointed general manager, I was brought into the home office as assistant general manager of sales. The promotion was a surprise to me; and with the other good things that followed in the next eighteen months my life seemed to lack for no blessing. I met the loveliest girl in the world; we were engaged, and married, and began the happy process of paying for our own home.
I have heard that tramps have a private code by which they designate the character of households with chalk marks on the front gate posts. One symbol means, “Bad dog here.” Another means the house is inhabited by an old maid from whom no kindness may be expected. Then there is a shining mark of some sort which indicates that the home owner is just that — a shining mark.
Some such code, written or understood, must prevail among folks who want to unload their petty difficulties onto someone else. I have had men, whose names I never had heard, call me up and say: “I am a cousin of John Mifflin. John told me how you fixed him up with a couple of theatre tickets when he was in town last summer. He said he knew you would be glad to take care of me if I would give you a ring. John certainly thinks a lot of you; says you’re the most accommodating fellow in the world.” I have had women, whose husbands were merely casual acquaintances telephone my home at midnight to say that these same husbands had been arrested for speeding, and wouldn’t I please get hold of my friend, Judge Ingersoll, and see what I could do. I have had men who were distant relatives of men whom I had met only once or twice in my life ask me for letters of introduction to business executives whom I hardly knew at all.
Little by little, my office became a kind of rendezvous for people of all sorts who had odd jobs to be attended to or favors to be secured. I never realized to what extent the demands were increasing; it never occurred to me that, in being over-kind to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who applied to me, I was being unkind to the boss who paid my salary and to the wife who waited dinner until the dinner was spoiled.
Such a situation could have but one outcome. Sooner or later there was bound to be a decided crash. It came suddenly, and in a way which I could not possibly have anticipated. Joe’s father, the president, and chief stockholder in the business, died, and Joe became president in his place. That I would succeed him as vice president and general manager seemed a natural expectation. We had been room mates at college. Entering the business together we had come up through the different departments side by side. There was a general assumption that Joe would want me at his right hand.
Just after the funeral, while Joe was still away from the office, I was called West on a trip that was partly business and partly a personal favor to one of my friends. I was delayed for more than two weeks, and when I returned to the office it was evident at once that something had happened. The greeting of the girls at the reception desk, the quizzical glances of one or two men whom I passed in the hall — all these were straws indicating that things were not right. As soon as I reached my own office my secretary told me. The Western manager had been called into headquarters and made vice president and general manager. Joe, my own college mate and friend, had betrayed me while I was away!
She had hardly finished speaking when my telephone rang and Joe’s voice asked if I would see him in his own office. I went down the corridor hurt, angry, and reproachful. As I opened the door Joe stepped forward and took me by the hand, calling me by the old college nickname. I recoiled; the show of affection seemed merely an added blow. Yet his obvious sincerity softened my mood in spite of myself.:. A moment later we sat facing each other across the desk that had been his father’s and now was his.
For the first time in my life, I realized how much he resembled his father — in build, in the lines of his face, and in the swift, sure action of his mind. The discovery startled me. Joe had grown up! He had become a business executive, facing things in a mature business way. While I, carried along on the easy tide of routine and pleasantries, had remained, in a sense, a boy.
He drove straight at the heart of the matter in a way that reminded me of his father even more.
“I have made Daugherty general manager, Bert,” he began. “I wanted to tell you about it before it happened, but you were away and I couldn’t wait. I know you had many reasons to suppose that you would have the place. Until a few weeks ago I never had thought of anyone else for it. But my father thought otherwise. I appointed Daugherty in deference to his wish.”
I straightened up in amazement. His father had been almost like a father to me as well. I had done a thousand personal kindnesses for him. . . .
“Six weeks ago, Father knew from his physicians that there was no hope,” Joe continued quietly. “He sent for me, and we had a frank talk about the business. If I live to be a hundred I shall never forget the calm courage with which he faced the thing. We talked about you, Bert, and I told Father that I had always hoped you could come up to the top of the business with me. When I said that, the old man shook his head.
“‘I love him, Joe,’ he said to me. ‘I love him almost as if he were my own boy. But he’s got something to learn before he is fit for a responsibility such as that. He’s the nicest fellow in the world, and when you have said that you have praised him and condemned him in the same breath. He is everybody’s friend to such an extent that he is a very poor friend to himself. It was written a long time ago that no man can serve two masters. Bert, in his good-natured way, is trying to serve a thousand.’”
I need not report the conversation in detail. It began in Joe’s office, continued over the dinner table at the club, and ended at his front door, after we had walked together for hours up one street and down another, talking with a frankness such as few men ever achieve in their lives. And when at last he gripped my hand and left me, I continued the walk alone until in the cold gray morning I reached my decision to retire from the business of being a Good Fellow. That, as I said at the beginning, was five years ago.
I am afraid some reader may imagine that from being a good-natured friend of humanity I became all at once an unobliging and purely self-centered individual. That, I am sure, is not the case. I am giving away more money to-day in various sorts of charities than at any previous period of my life. I have helped more young men to find positions in the past year than in any previous year. I have added two invalids to my permanent roll of pensioners, and taken on a nephew whose college expenses I am helping to defray. I am not a dried-up, inhuman wretch. But I have made the big important shift in my life, just the same. Icontrol my charities now; they do not control me. I am master of my time; it is not wasted wantonly among a thousand thoughtless folks. And while I find ways to do more than ever for those who really deserve help — the young, the sick, and the bereaved — I no longer allow myself to be sacrificed by the selfish demands of those who are perfectly able to take care of themselves.
Three things were very clear to me in that night of self-examination five years ago. First: A man’s chief loyalty must be to the woman who has joined her life to his; to the children who call him father; and to the business which feeds and clothes and houses them all. In my easy-going willingness to befriend the world at large, I was sacrificing my wife, my children, and my employer far more than I was sacrificing myself. As I look back, I marvel that my wife and the children should have borne with me as uncomplainingly as they did.
What was true of my family was true of the business as well. I thought I was being friendly to the customers of the house. As a matter of fact, I was too often being friendly to the customers at the expense of the house. It is a common fault in salesmen. They let a thousand trivial demands on the part of the men to whom they sell take their time and energy from the business of the men for whom they sell.
Second: I am convinced that indiscriminate charity, whether one gives money or time — which is life itself — merely pauperizes the recipients. The business and social world are full of respectable panhandlers, who will take and take and take, just as long as they can find anyone to give. I gave to them for years, at the expense of those who had a far better claim upon my generosity. I am still willing to help any man who honestly needs help. But as for the strong, perfectly well, and perfectly capable human beings who have chosen to ride through the world on someone else’s back, they will have to look for another beast of burden. They can buy their own theatre tickets, write their own letters of introduction, make their own hotel reservations, use somebody else’s office instead of mine for their engagements, and borrow money from the banks which are in business to lend.
And, finally, I am persuaded that no one ever achieves anything worth-while in this world unless he has so great a respect for his work that he compels all other men to respect it. Unless, in a word, he commands his time. Read the life of a great scientist like Agassiz. Was he forever at the world’s beck and call? Not for a single day. To letters inviting him to write, or to lecture for money, he replied that he had no time for those things. He was the custodian of a certain number of days — a number far too small for the great task he had laid out for himself — and he would not be diverted even for an instant.
I was explaining this point of view to a good old aunt of mine one afternoon and she exclaimed: “But, Joe, it is so selfish for a man to put his work ahead of everything! It’s unchristian.”
“On the contrary, it is Christian in the very finest sense,” I replied. “What was it that Jesus said when his parents rebuked him for his failure to keep his engagement with them on that first journey down from Jerusalem? ‘Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?’ He demanded. He had work to do — great work and little time in which to do it. Even He was no exception to the eternal rule that achievement comes only through the subordination of every power to a great ideal; and that no man is really obliging who does not first discharge in full his obligations to his work.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012


This morning I woke up at five, like clockwork. So much for my plans of sleeping in a bit today. I got around, made some coffee, cut my hair and took a long hot shower. After a mug of joe and a clean close shave, I decided to make a big breakfast and go to church this morning. This year, a Sunday off of work is incredibly rare and so I ate, threw on a pair of comfy jeans, a lambswool sweater, grabbed my well worn, favorite leather jacket and a silk scarf and took off into the city, just as the sun was starting to peek up over the tall oaks.

The drive in was quiet and the roads were dry of snow melt. I hummed along to some quiet classical guitar music and enjoyed the open road without much on my mind. After a while, the Downtown skyline came in view to the west and I proceeded into Midtown and through familiar streets towards the church I have called home for the past six years. As I neared the 39th Street corridor, I saw I still had a bit of time on my hands and drove past to the south. A morning drive down Ward Parkway and through the Country Club Plaza has been a Sunday morning ritual in years past and so I eased my way through familiar sights, enjoying the Christmas lights and decorations. It is a pleasant and beautiful drive past stately homes, wide boulevards, sparkling fountains and I found my mind wandering. So many times I have driven this way to friends homes, different social events, to work, to Michael's home, gatherings at Bruce and Mark's house and all the myriad of circumstances that have shaped my life in this city over many years. Figuratively and literally, it was a trip down memory lane.

I turned around at the circular on Meyer Boulevard, rounded the fountain a few times, just for the fun of it and headed north again, intent on making the early service at church. As I passed the Plaza and headed into Midtown I realized that I really did not want to go to church at all. My thoughts flashed briefly over the different friends I had not seen for quite some time, this summer actually, but being in their presence, talking to them and then sitting inside in a building while Tim or Isaac talked for long while did not seem attractive at all. I always enjoy the music and mingling before the service but I could not bring myself to make the turn. I did not want to see anyone really. Sitting inside during such a beautiful morning was certainly something I was not looking forward to and I realized something that gave me pause, but also a strangely settled and comforting feeling at the same time.

There was nobody I needed to see. No conversations or familiar faces are lacking in my life. There was nothing any person could talk about for an hour that I needed or wanted to listen to. For those of you who have not followed my writing here for a while, I do not believe much of anything anymore. While this could have been disturbing or upsetting at some other point in my life, in the place and space I inhabit now, it brought me a sense of great peace.

I am no longer searching, looking, questioning, grasping, wrestling and in a constant state of tension with all the familiar stories, ideas and concepts which were thrust upon me growing up, sought out by myself at other times in my life and slowly discarded as they no longer made sense to me, held any reason for being, existed as a catalyst for growth or offered authentic comfort. I do not need anything at all from them anymore. The friendships and relationships I have made will last. They are not based on nor depend upon a shared common framework of faith or meetings at a building to charge them with integrity or make them genuine. They exist where hearts touch and minds are share.

The smile on my face as I drove back home content, in the warm and brilliant sunshine, is the very best gift I have received this Christmas. Time changes us all. One chapter has ended and another one has begun. 


Saturday, December 22, 2012

So this is Christmas

Ah...a moment to relax and put my feet up. Listening to Sarah McLachlan sing "So this is Christmas" Cue Music with a multitude of children and I am taking a much needed, short break. My presents are all wrapped, be-ribboned and nestled under the tree. The fireplace is crackling with a great warming fire. My home and tree look like Christmas  projectile vomited tastefully all over the place and I have a few moments to reflect and jot down a few thoughts.

I had a rough time getting into the Christmas spirit this holiday season, but with the fantastic snow storm that came through the city two days ago, I can say that I am finally ready to celebrate. I have been working frantically at my job to keep up with the multitude of corporate parties, lunches, banquets and breakfasts as well as feed the hotel guests each morning. I have tomorrow off of work, thankfully, and will be celebrating my Christmas with my Dad and Mom, brother and his family, my little sister and parent's neighbors. By noon, their big house will be full of friends and family and I have to say I am excited to see everyone! I baked twelve dozen Cranberry and White Chocolate Chunk cookies, made batches of  Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate and Walnut fudge, and am now cooking vats of Chili and Nacho Cheese and Potato Soup to help feed the hungry hordes of well wishers tomorrow. Once those have finished simmering, I can finally catch some rest. I have been moving nonstop since three this morning and my coffee is no longer working for me. I did pull a few double shots of espresso from the beans my sister brought to me from Antigua, Guatemala and they were fantastic, but caffeine can only take me so far.

So this is Christmas...

My favorite holiday, since I was a child, has always been Christmas. The bright lights, festive  and sentimental music, mouth watering smells, gleaming white snow and anticipatory excitement that electrifies the air is intoxicating! When I was younger, we always traveled North to my Grandparents farm and celebrated with my Mom's side of the family. All of her prolific siblings and a huge host of cousins made for a crazy and exciting time. We had enough guys (and a few daring girls) to field three football teams to play against each other in the snow on the back forty. There were horses to ride, four wheelers to race across the land, woods to tromp through and ice skating on the frozen pond. Grandma's kitchen was always full of relatives and neighbors, scrumptious food, uncontained laughter,  loud talking, copious pots of steaming hot chocolate and strong dark coffee. Despite the many grandchildren and great grandchildren she had, (I lost count after forty five or so) she always made each of us feel so very special, important, needed and loved. I could spend pages here recounting happy memories spent on the farm during holidays and summers, but I will let those keep with me for now. Grandma and Grandpa have now since passed, but those Christmas' still live on as my Uncle Terry now has the farm and I am sure this week it will be littered with all of his kids and theirs. Family is forever and for that I am thankful.

On Christmas Day, Dad and Mom and my little sister will get together again to celebrate our own little "real" Christmas. There will be more presents, Mom's fantastic food and then, as a long standing tradition since I left for the Navy, I will take my little sister to the movies downtown in the city. It is something we have been doing for years and I always look forward to our special time. With her business and international traveling, we so rarely get to see each other, much less catch up on our lives. I wonder what movie she will pick out this year? I will just have to be surprised I guess! We may not always understand each other. We have our separate lives and different choices, but I can guarantee you, we love each other fiercely.

None of this is coming out the way I hoped to describe it all, and I keep having to hit replay on my music, but I guess what I want to say is Merry Christmas to you all, wherever you may be and whomever you may or may not spend the holiday with. I am thankful and grateful for each and everyone of you that have taken a moment to read the words and pieces of life I share here. A few of you, I have got to know as friends over the last few years and you have enriched my life greatly. Whether I know you by name, have visited you in your respective cities, chatted briefly, exchanged thoughts through comments, or you remain a quiet and faceless passerby, please know that your interest, curiosity, questions and ideas help shape and fashion my own life in your own unique and appreciated ways. You all are a part of the ever widening circle that is my life and I hope that you know that you matter to me. May this season bring you the knowledge that hope is ever and always present, defeat and despair are  but fleeting and that we all have so very much to be thankful for, no matter what our respective lives may look like.

Thank you all very much and a Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Itzhak Perlman is playing. My mind is wandering. I wish there was another one in the next room, right around the corner, but close enough to call to. Nights like these, as winter slowly creeps up, have a way of inducing a wistful melancholy in me, even on the best of my days. I can say I do not mind the evening's chill and embrace of a warm blanket, though a poor substitute for arms it is. I will sit and listen.

Music moves me. It always has. I wonder what strange magic sound creates in our brains that can so effect our hearts and feelings. Instead of processing words and information, content and message, I am simply becoming lost in the essence of the melody and all the other intricate harmonies and rhythms that surrounds that one lone plaintive and majestic voice of his violin. It takes me places.

I remember when I first heard this piece played by him. I sat between Joel and Andy, hushed and in the dark, breathless with awed reverie at the evocation of life, sorrow and ethos that this man wrung fluidly from his instrument. We ached together, wept and watched. All for sound. Each of us lost in our own thoughts as it took us to our own places.

Sentimental, I realize, but tonight is a night for such things. Maybe it is the music talking, but I feel warmer already, though wistful. I will wait.

And listen.



If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

By: Rudyard Kipling

Monday, December 17, 2012

Destination and Success

Life is not tidy. All the loose strings and little bits of it never quite fit into our pockets to be carried about as we would wish. As much as we try to contain and force it to conform to our own imagined carefully laid plans, it always has a way of spilling over, both onto ourselves and those we share it with each day. That is both the beauty and bane of it all.

I like it when my body wakes me up when it has rested enough. Such is the case this morning on Monday, my day off from work. I went to bed a bit later than usual after an evening indulging myself watching an amazing series that I discovered lately. I am not one prone to sit and watch things, be they movies or television shows, but once in a great while a story and its characters can capture my attention, in the manner that books always have, and hold me enthralled and still, even if but for a while. I awoke after a restful sleep, though filled with unusual dreams of friends from school and growing up, and set about to make my day.

With the simple, pleasurable, soothing task of coffee brewing started my mind formulated a picture answer to a word problem I had been pondering on for quite some time, even though I had not quite articulated it to myself. Isn't that strange how some loose ends tie themselves up, on their own, when we least expect it. I at least now have a mental picture to help me carry about something I had been puzzling over.

I tend to prefer order over chaos. Even as a small child, I have always occupied myself with putting things in patterns that appeal to me and help set my mind at ease. This may possibly be some latent OCD traits that I exhibit, or a compulsion to control the things I can while life whirls madly around me, but for me, I find a great measure of satisfaction in arranging anything into a structure, organization and pattern that helps me understand and visually perceive what is there. It is not some rigid habit that forces me to delay or avoid other important things, but rather a "setting right" the objects, ideas, thoughts, emotions and words that make up the inventory of my life. When I step back from a bout of work, I can see myself imprinted there and for whatever reason, I feel better. Such is the case with this.

When I imagine my life, that long line of successive days, what feels correct or right to me, is a long, smooth arc, carefully penned and unmarred, stretching out and up to the eventual pinnacle of success and completion. That is how it is "supposed" to be in my mind's eye. I think this has always been the case. Decisions, choices and effort linked together into a successive brush stroke that ends perfectly when my time on this earth is done.

Life, at least for me, has not been lived so.

Our lives are not a set of beautifully laid, gleaming steel tracks that carry us smoothly in one direction, from one origin to our final destination. When looking at others success and story, at times it may seem if they have found this elusive self measure of success in one long fell swoop. If it does to my eyes, it means I am not looking closely enough.

There is no one set direction for us to embark upon to find our way. The points on a compass are infinite, especially seeing as we operate and live in so many dimensions beyond what a simple map may show us with its flat and linear topography. This is what makes life so amazing and rich. There are literally no end to the choices and actions we can take. We are and become what me make of ourselves. That thought is liberating and magnificent while standing on the side of contentment and happiness and can also be so cruel and harsh when confronted after pain, hurt and disappointment. We are the navigators and plotters of our destinies, writ and lived out on the pages of our lives. There will be no one other to blame or cast fault with when we arrive at our current or final destination.

So...the picture answer my mind brought to me over the word puzzle of destiny, choice and fate?

My life is not a train.

My life is a Roomba.*

I move slowly and deliberately in my own way. I only get one day, or room at a time. I am usually tasked with simple things each day, though when added together, the prospects can seem daunting. The goal is basic. Cover the territory allocated in the prescribed amount of time before moving on to the next space or chapter in my journey.

I move erratically through space and time. The pattern I leave behind at times is a complete mystery to others, as well as myself, upon reflection and introspection. I bump into things a lot; people, places, things, ideas, lessons and emotions. Sometimes the first bump does not send me in another direction. At times I stay and keep encountering the same obstacle for a long while. Other days find me returning to explore the same ground again, wondering if I, or it, had changed. Most often, I find it has not, but not all things we bump into in life are static and stationary. Everything and everyone else is moving as well. I have a simple task to do and I have no reason to worry about any others till this one is done to completion. I follow my own internal compass and heart and continually strike out in many directions. That elusive, long clean arc to success is not meant to be mine and never will be. It is not what I was made for.

In the end, all the ground in my life that needs to be covered will be. Everything else can be left to the others. They have their own tasks as well.


*iRobot Roomba Demonstration

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Maybe this should not be written. On second thought, perhaps it is time to put thoughts down. Either way, my mind keeps coming back to it all and I find myself sitting here doing so any way. If I let my mind wander too far down this path, as it often does and more so as of late, I find myself berating myself for sentimentality, or for mourning over what once was and now is not. At other times, the thought of what other might think has held my mind firmly in check, cutting off those little trips down memory lane we, as humans, are so oft to take. In any case, here it is, for what it is worth.

When I close my eyes, I can still see the flickering flames of all the burning braziers, brightly illuminating the corridor along the water that cold fall evening. Throngs of people milled about entranced by the fire, the smoke and spectacle of it all. Haunting beautiful music filled the air and everywhere you looked you saw smiling faces, eyes brightly gleaming with life and dancing golden flames. The gondolas glided past in the dark waters, the figures in them shrouded and caped against the chill, pausing frequently to throw more wooden logs and fanciful mixtures onto the caged fires that then threw up plumes of sparks, colored embers and delicious spiced fragrance in the air.

We were dressed for the cold, or at least I was. You decided on a long sleeved t-shirt over your usual crisp polo and conceded to the cold by throwing on a soft light blue cashmere sweater topped by a simple gray hoodie. I remember how that sweater always matched your eyes so truly. Everywhere we wandered that night, it was mysterious, enchanting, magical and exciting, all over at once, at the same time. Fall was being ushered in and there seemed to be a breathless anticipation and expectation of wonders that awaited us around each turned corner, unexpected performance and step along our walk that night.

I never will forget your smaller special hand that tightly clasped mine as the crowds became thicker. It was warm and strong, like it always had been, since the very first night we met. After a while, as we walked along the water, taking in all the sight and spectacle, I felt you let go of my hand and firmly clasp the crook of my arm, stepping more closely and in sync with my longer legs, and I helpyour hand there tight against my leather jacket with my other hand.

Others saw us walking so and watched. The mixture of  their reactions; interest, affirmation, smiles and curiosity made my heart swell with love, pride and contentment. You were mine and I was yours and as a man, I wanted the whole world to know. This is who I love! This is who chose me! This is who I gave my heart to! All was right with my world.

I think of all those times I held your hand. Times that when love, happiness or even fear made you reach out to clasp mine. Someone may have made you felt scared and you needed my protection and reassurance. Words may have been yelled from a passing car or from a stranger that did not understand. All of those times, a simple hand in mine, holding my arm or simply resting on my leg told me all the things I already understood. You needed me. You wanted me. You loved me. You were there for me.

Looking back a year, you know I was there for you. I saved your life.
I believe that in many ways, you also saved mine.

The import and emotional literal load to those words boggles my mind. I think I am finally letting go of your hand. I love you and a part of me always will. The days that go by where I do not think of you are becoming more frequent and I know in my heart that I am healing. You are alive, happy, safe and well and for that I am ever thankful.

Our paths crossed for a while and then diverged...and that has made all the difference.

Thank you, Michael.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dear Parents at Sandy Hook: We are with you.

The image speaks for itself.
The world mourns with you all.
As a parent of a kindergartner, I, like many have been stricken with grief over this weeks tragedy. My sketch was a response that I couldn't keep inside.
~Jeremy Collins

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Aunt Chippy

 A friend of mine sent this to me and it cracked me up. This lady so reminds me of my Aunt Skip back in Boston. Hope you enjoy her Christmas present wrapping tips!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Up and at 'em

This morning I slept in for a bit. Today is my day off this week and I woke up refreshed and feeling much more of my usual self, however that is measured in my head. I feel good I guess is what I am trying to say. I made my coffee, hopped in the shower and am ready to tackle the things on my to-do list today.

First and foremost is putting up my Christmas tree, decorating the house and starting on my Christmas shopping for my family and the few friends I do exchange gifts with each year. With the cold snap that hit us here in the Midwest last night and today, it finally feels like the holiday season is here. I am not one of those people who can just snap from Thanksgiving to Christmas in a few short days so I tend to wait each year until the spirit and mood hits me. I am happy to report that it is now here. :)

It is cold and quiet outside. Jesse's dog barked his usual hello to me when I went out to retrieve my papers. I am not yet ready to cook some breakfast so I grabbed a few moments to sit and write my thoughts as they pop into my head.

Even with all that is on my heart with recent events, I am not and have never been a person to stay down or upset about events and circumstances in my life. It could be some fundamental flaw in the way that I process emotion possibly, but as my friend Liberty would say, "Shit just don't stick to me." I know that may sound rather crude, but it sums it up rather nicely. No matter my lot in life at the moment or incidents that may occur, in the end, I usually regain my composure and find my happy back sooner rather than later.

It is not that I do not grieve or mourn. I feel things incredibly deeply, sometimes so much so that I refrain from sharing my own emotions and thoughts with others for fear of being thought as childish or emotionally immature. I am learning this reservation is all for naught as a listening ear and comforting words from others do help me and those who truly care for me don't mind the fact that many times I can be an overgrown kid at heart. Maybe it is this very mindset, as a child, that helps restore balance and peace to me internally much sooner than I observe in my own family and peers. There is too much amazing life, beauty and happiness in this world for me to sit around down in the dumps and bemoaning the less than cheerful or enjoyable parts of life.  Returning to a balanced state does not make light or pass over the real loss we all experience and feel. The bitter makes the sweet.

So today, the smile on my face is not forced. The joy and thankfulness for the many people, things and opportunities I have each day is not feigned. Life really is fantastic, come what may. I have done far more and enjoyed other times in my life with so much less. I am truly blessed and am grateful for each and every day and person I get to share it with. Thanks for caring enough to read here. I hope today you find the start or even more of your own Christmas spirit and begin to share it and give to others in your own way. We are all in this together.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

I cried, I smiled and I laughed through the tears

I watched this film today after  I came home from work. I had been unable to watch if for almost a week due to a DVD player who would not recognize the disc for some maddening reason or another. After the events of these past few days I almost feel as if it had been waiting for me to be ready for it.

While it was not what I expected it was so much better than I ever could have imagined. I explored life, love, loss, death and what time inevitably brings to us all. For a few short hours I was whisked away from all that weighs heavily on my shoulders and was reminded of what truly matters in this life, if we choose to let it. These are a few of the amazing quotes I carry away with me from this gem. Somehow, someway, the universe knew this is exactly what I needed, when I needed it. Thank you.

"There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws. "

"Is it our friend we are grieving for, whose life we knew so little? Or is it our own loss that we are mourning? Have we traveled far enough that we can allow our tears to fall?

"Everything will be all right in the end... if it's not all right then it's not yet the end."



There is certainly not enough time in three minutes to place here what I am feeling but a small update is in order, even for myself. Friday was an incredibly hard day. In the short span of twenty four hours, I said goodbye to my ex-boyfriend and close friend Nicky who was moving to Colorado. I had processed through this while helping him pack and move over the last month, but it was still so very hard to know he won't be just a phone call or short drive away.

It was also the one year anniversary of Michael's attempted suicide and the aftermath and fall out of all those events. He has weighed heavily on my mind the last few months.

I went to hang out with friends and learned that my friend, David, passed away suddenly. Young, beautiful, intelligent, full of life and love. His boyfriend found him on the floor of the kitchen in their new home. He was simply gone.

To top it off, while we were all spending time together, Brian showed up. I was not prepared to see his face or talk to him, especially given the day's events. I put a brave smile on and soldiered through and then left for home early.

It has been a quiet few days. I am off to work and hope to lose myself in the business of it all. The fake smile and cheerful tone I force hurts my face and my heart, but I never give up. I never quit. Life goes on and I will not succumb to the pain I carry and feel in my heart about so many things.

Life is amazing. We are all connected and tied to the people we build our lives around. I believe that is what makes saying goodbye so very, very hard. I am off for now. Think of me. Love those around you. Never take one moment for granted.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chasing a thread

I just woke up. There is a lot that could be read into that simple statement but I want to try to retain the thoughts that the dream I had, so I will refrain from digressing. It was fascinatingly intricate, enough to defy simple description, but the gist that I came away with can be expressed in a few parts.

People, and by that I mean each of us humans on this earth, are incredibly complex beings. In the course of our internal and exterior lives, we effect and influence each and every other person we come in contact with. This is not coming out of my mind as beautifully or easily as I can still glimpse it in the pictures and words left from the story my mind told itself. Even with each passing moment it seems to fade a bit more. I will not let that worry me.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and the day you find out why.”  ~Mark Twain

Lately, when my mind turns in on itself, I have been searching for meaning in all of this clutter and busyness that life becomes as age finds each one of us. I peruse my past, looking for some hidden clues to the path that some call to order seems to insist that I find there. I examine choices made, decisions cast and all the myriad details that make up the amount of life I have lived so far. What in the world am I possibly here for?

I look at the exterior lives of others, their shining pictures of success and happiness that they deem acceptable to share with others, and then compare and contrast them to my own life. I wonder what placed them where they are at, in their own families and positions that led them to the place of being the person they are expressed as now. Sometimes I feel like I have failed to live up to my own preconceived idea of success, even though that has been so amorphously defined in my own mind and soul.

Their puzzle pieces don't fit into my own life and for far too long, that has been frustrating me. I am working on my own solution set over here and the answers that I seek about myself are not to be found in another's box of tools or experience. That is a clumsy word picture, I realize, but I am trying to get a thought out in some coherent fashion, so find myself rushing against time before it eludes me.

We all touch each others lives. We each have our own sphere of influence. What we are doing today is the most important thing we have done in our lives to date. It may not seem to hold the weight and import that other monumental decisions and choices seem to hold in our memories. Some days and events carry with them their own loaded charge, as we analyze them from the present looking back. We can see how they greatly altered or effected our own or others lives. The thing is, while each day is occurring, in the present, we have no way of knowing which event or incident will become one of those which we will eventually impart such weighty investment to.

I wish to be present, not in a random and haphazard manner, but in an intentional and thought filled way. What I do each day matters. What you choose each day also matters. They seem like simple days. We rest, eat, work and go about our lives. But this is what memories are made of. All of it. My life and what I do effects every single one of the people I come in contact with. Due to our own inability to see into that persons map or puzzle, possibly a result of poor communication or empathy, it is impossible to calculate how much we are altering their life but I do know this. I am either adding to their life in a positive way or detracting from it in a negative way. I am either making their journey better or worse.

What we do matters. Who we are is important. Each little contact and new or familiar face each day is a part of this tapestry we call life. All too often, I am lost in my own thoughts and world to give more than a second thought to how my life impacts others. I am too selfish or self absorbed in my own puzzle pieces on my own table to give much effort into helping and aiding others with theirs. My ears have not been listening. My eyes have not been seeing. My focus has been skewed heavily in my own direction. I would like this to change. I think by becoming aware of this, at this very moment, I have discovered a simple truth that will help me live more presently, intentionally and precisely.

We all can and do make a difference, in good or poor ways, wherever and whoever we may be. Living is a great responsibility and can be a fantastic reward in itself. My meaning and satisfaction is not somewhere out there in the void of what I do not know, but lays here in these pieces on my table in front of me. I need to start looking up. A fresh set of eyes can do wonders when I am lost. Maybe in my own small way, I can be that for others. Until I let them see what is on my table, they cannot help me. If I can take my eyes away from myself, even for moments at time until it becomes habit, then I will be able to aid them as well.


PS: I refuse to go back and read all that. It may be rubbish, but at least I tried to express it. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome to my boring life

Words, words, words...something creative here "________". This morning it is just not coming to me, so I will just share what is on my mind. I have just been thinking about social media this morning. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all the other electronic interconnectivity we now have with the world at large that was basically unknown while I was growing up. I don't have any massive, deep, profound thoughts about it. I do participate with it, obviously, in my own way and was pondering this morning about why I do so, and what my life must look like to others.

I would have to say, at this point in time, my life would appear boring and quiet to others. In comparison to other chapters in my life, I would say that might very well be true. I have no drama to speak of. Nothing in current events or social circles really has me engaged, elated or upset and I am going about my own life without the benefit or need or some commenting and admiring audience. I do use Facebook to keep in touch with my circle of friends who are actually involved in my life. A basic rule I have kept there is, if I cannot physically touch you, I cannot add you as a friend (except for a few amazing people, such as Joe Conrad). I don't need some huge number of random acquaintances, past or present, to bolster my self esteem or proclaim my thoughts and daily activities to. I don't belittle people who do seem to connect with every random person who comes across their reality, but in the end, those aren't your friends. If people don't have the time to engage with me and participate in my life on a weekly basis, then they really have no business knowing what I am up to. (the reality is, not all that much) It all seems like some kind of attention seeking, voyeuristic plea for attention, validation and approval. I like what a fellow blogger called those long lists of names who have no idea who you really are; "friendshits". That made me laugh, but I have to admit the humor is rooted in reality.

There have been other times in my life where things have been tumultuous, uncertain, incredibly busy and possibly more interesting to those who come across my blog or other forms of contact. Many of them have even been documented here, much to my chagrin while perusing back through past posts. I leave them intact though, as I do my journals, as they do capture who I was at the time and the struggles, challenges and life circumstances I was facing at the time. We all change and sometimes it is best to not forget where we have come from, who we have been and how we are becoming who we are now.

People, especially strangers or those not emotionally connected to oneself, seem to thrive on the vicarious thrill of peeping into other's lives. The comparison, contrasting, self evaluation and judging ourselves by others seems to be a natural byproduct of society and social groups, at least here in this media and consumer driven country. I only know this, because I have found myself guilty of the same. In fact, most often the flaws I find in others are only apparent because I know them intimately and personally myself.

Maybe that is what I have been trying to say all along this morning. I only know others as well as I know myself. We all have many things in common in this human journey but there also is a huge and amazing amount of diversity, perspective and experience that we are all discovering and living out each day. I can't say that how we share this, in our own way with others, is a bad thing at all. I know that how we do so and the things we decide to share can help us as well as the others we choose to come in contact with.

So my life is "boring" now? I can certainly say it is peaceful. I work hard almost every single day of the week. I spend my little free time with family and friends. I don't yearn or long for things I once had or strive each day to fill some inner void I know has existed in the past. I know who I am and find contentment and satisfaction in my simple life. I know it will not always remain so, as everything changes with time. For now ,I will enjoy it. I think seasons like this rarely come about the older that we get. I find myself spending more time with myself and less time peering in at the lives of others, especially those who are shouting loudly about it. I care less and less each day about what others think or imagine to be important, singularly or collectively. Religion, politics, sports, is all just a distraction to me. How people lose their entire lives and personalities into exterior spaces certainly baffles me. I guess it distracts them from themselves and allows them to connect to other people without ever having to actually get to know those people or feel anything.

Maybe the things we find so intriguing about others reveal more about ourselves than those we are watching?