Thursday, May 31, 2007


I have been collecting my personal daily thoughts since I began sending them out to friends and co-workers three years ago. I began doing it when Chloe was born. She will be three years old on July 6th. I now have collected more than 250 pages of my thoughts and stories. Part of the reason I began to collect them is so I could someday give Chloe all the stories about her. Maybe when I am an old man and she is a young woman, she will be in the publishing business and through her efforts Pa Paw's book will see the light of day. Another reason I began to collect them is because many of you encouraged me to do so. I am grateful for that encouragement. I enjoy writing even though some days I feel like a newspaper columnist staring at a blank page with a deadline looming. However, the pressure to produce something everyday is a good discipline. Some days it comes easy to me and other days I struggle to say anything meaningful. I am not an expert on anything. What I write are just my opinions, random thoughts, or real life adventures and experiences. There have only been one or two occasions when anyone has taken issue with what I have written. I am still sometimes in awe that people like what I write. I suppose I will continue writing as long as there are people who want to read my thoughts. Even though I have only been doing this electronically via email and the internet for a few years, I actually began keeping journals when I entered the monastery in the summer of 1971. It was Thomas Merton, the famous spiritual writer and monk, who influenced me. For many people, including me, his journals are the favorites among all his written works. Another influence was Henry David Thoreau and his famous "Walden Pond". There is even an imaginary character that influenced me. Some of you are old enough to remember a television show called "The Walton's". For those that do, I am the John Boy Walton of my family. I encourage all of you to write down your stories. In ancient times, stories and history were passed from one generation to the next through storytelling. We all still do that to a certain degree. Someday, however, I hope that all my written thoughts will be treasured by Chloe and others because they contain memories that might otherwise have been lost over time. As I write these thoughts now I find myself remembering a recent film entitled "The Notebook". It starred James Garner and Gena Rowlands. In the movie they are an old married couple. The wife, however, has Alzheimer's and is in a nursing home. The husband visits her regularly and while there, he reads to her. Most of the movie you are under the impression that he is reading a fictional love story to her. Eventually you realize that the stories the husband is reading to the wife are his true stories of their life together. It was his way of helping her remember and to reconnect with her past. The written word is powerful and precious. Computers are great but books are better. Much of who I am today is a product of words and books.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Life And Spirituality

Life and spirituality cannot be separated. You can't have one without the other. We have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives and this is often based on the many roles most of us have in our day to day living. Stop and think for a moment about all the roles you fulfill in life. In my life I am a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend. I am also the daily thoughts guy, the run off to the monastery guy, the rock and roller, the employee, the son in law and the brother in law. Occasionally I am nothing and I enjoy this nothingness with its lack of expectations. All of these roles as well as all the nuances and flavors of my personality with my good qualities and sometimes annoying dysfunctions make up who I am. All of these roles combined are my reality. Spirituality is allowing the Spirit into your reality. The "Spirit" in a generic sense can be represented by your personal belief system whether it is Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim or whatever. It's not necessarily the one hour a week you might spend in a church, temple, or mosque. That can certainly be part of it but it is not enough on its own. If spirituality is allowing the Spirit into your reality, then you cannot separate the Spirit from your reality. Your reality is your life. When your reality changes, your life changes with it. The Spirit will adapt to your ever changing reality but it will never be separated from it. I think mature spirituality is when you are not even thinking about it anymore. It becomes like breathing. If I had to consciously think about every breath I took all day I would not have time for anything else. Thank God our brains take care of our breathing and other bodily functions that run 24 hours a day. In the spiritually mature, the "heart" is to our spirit what our brains are to our bodies. If your heart is full of the Spirit, it will guide you in your daily living.

Over the weekend we had to put my mother in law into a nursing home. The poor dear is so confused. She doesn't remember being in the hospital last week or the assisted living home for the last three years. Having a conversation with her is like listening to a tape loop that recycles every five minutes. There's little you can do except be patience. My father, on the other hand, doesn't seem as confused to me but he will occasionally just space out and stare. It may seem a little selfish but sometimes when I am around them I find myself wondering if I am looking at my future. I must remind myself that not all old people turn out like this. My mother is 77 and her mind seems clear as a bell. I have a friend who is in his late 80's and he still drives and plays golf. Occasionally I even see him pop up on my buddy list because he's on his PC. The thing that bothers me the most about my mother in law is her fear. Being confused is one thing. Living in fear is another. Confusion, like fear, is in the head and right now her mind is not her friend.

Yesterday being Tuesday, I picked up Chloe at the day care. When I got there she was dressed up as a Princess. I convinced her that she was a Princess even without the tiara, dress, and high heels. Reluctantly, she agreed to leave the costume at the day care. Later, when we were at McDonald's eating our Shrek Happy Meal, she told me that her mother looked like Princess Fiona. I'm not sure my daughter in law would consider it a compliment to be told she looks like an ogre. Of course, Chloe also thinks her father looks like Shrek. Actually, he looks more like the King of Queens.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Summer Of Love

This coming Friday will be June 1st. In my mind June is the beginning of summer. This summer is somewhat significant for aging hippies like me. It has been 40 years since the infamous "Summer of Love". In reality the summer of 1967 was the beginning of the end for the hippie ideal and dream. Those who were there will tell you the best years were 1965-66. 1967 was actually the year that the "secret" got out, thanks to the media, and every runaway in America and others with flowers in their hair found their way to San Francisco. Two years later the hippie dream peaked at Woodstock and four months later, in December of 1969, it can to a brutal end at a Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Motor Speedway when a Hells Angel stabbed a man to death right in front of the stage as Mick Jagger helplessly looked on. In 1967 I was 16 years old. I was too young to go to San Francisco, New York, or London, but my friends and I knew change was in the air. Revolutionary new music was appearing such as the Beatles "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?", and other new albums from bands like the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. It was an exciting time to be young. My friends and I started avoiding haircuts. I still believe in the best parts of the hippie dream and the Beatles were mostly right when they sang "All You Need Is Love". Of course, the passion of youth does not always possess common sense and you sometimes cling to your romantic ideals even when they begin to sour. Sooner or later you also realize that you must live life and not just talk about it. Growing up has forced some of us to make a few compromises but we have done so without selling out. My hippie idealism has blended with Christian contemplative spirituality and Zen Buddhism to create a personal vision where I can live with integrity and honesty. I have mostly escaped the lure of the world with it's temptations of power, prestige, and possessions and I have tried to live life simply and with meaning. Rock and roll will always be the soundtrack of my life and tie dye is still my color of choice. I still believe in peace and love but I am also happy to realize that the older I get, the more rebellious I feel. My long hair is long gone and I haven't worn bell bottoms in many, many years but the spirit of peace and love and freedom is alive and well within me. Let me end with a short, but funny, story. When I still had long hair, I wore a pony tail to work. Whenever I walked to the men's room I would hear these two women chuckle as I walked by. They referred to me as the "Flower Man". When I finally asked them why they called me the Flower Man, they replied, "Well, you're too old to be a Flower Child, so we call you the Flower Man"!

Last night I watched a film called " A Good Year". It starred Russell Crowe. It was about a not so nice business man who inherited his uncles winery. After watching it I feel I must learn French and move to Provence, France to become a winemaker as soon as possible. It may take me a while to pull this off so I am not quitting my job immediately. Although I have never been to Provence, many of the scenes in the film reminded me of the area I did visit in the Burgundy wine country a couple of years ago. If you are interested, there is a delightful little book called A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Random Friday Thoughts

Have you ever been awakened in the night by a charley horse? It happened to me sometime in the night. I jumped out of bed and hobbled around my bedroom looking like a character from Pirates of the Caribbean! It went away but now my leg is sore. The last couple of weeks have not been good for my body!

Yesterday was Thursday so I left work and drove to the day care to pick up Chloe. I was barely in the door when she spotted me from the distance. She came running to me from across the room like an Olympic sprinter. I love picking her up at the day care. She is excited to see me and I am excited to see her. I cannot imagine my life now without her in it. When we left the day care we headed for the five star culinary experience of the local Dairy Queen. While we were still eating her Mommy showed up on the scene and the look on Chloe's face indicated that she knew she had been tricked. Mommy had never shown up at Dairy Queen before. Why now? Does this mean I don't get to go home with you Pa Paw? When it was time to go, she parted in tears that I feel certain only lasted a short time. She and Mommy were on the way to the Mall to shop for a new bathing suit for Chloe. In less than a month we will all be going on a family vacation.

After leaving Chloe and her Mommy, my wife and I headed for the hospital to visit my mother in law. It was not such a joyful experience. My mother in law is sinking deeper into her dementia. When my wife and I got to her room, she begged us to help her escape from the "prison". In her confusion and paranoia she was convinced that she was being held hostage and the entire hospital staff was in on it. There was nothing my wife or I could say that convinced her otherwise. When I wasn't talking to her, trying to reassure her that everything was OK, I was praying that God will calm her spirit and give her peace. It is painful to see this once proud lady in such a state and to be so helpless in comforting her. As frustrating as it can be for family and caregivers, what must it be like for her to be so afraid?

When I got was restored as my son told me about his day shadowing the pastor at my parish. They spent the day together so Nick could see what an average day is like for a parish priest. Earlier in the week he spent time with another priest visiting a seminary in Indianapolis. The application process is tedious and slow but if all goes well, he will begin studies for the priesthood in the fall. I was in the seminary and I lived in a monastery. At the time it never occurred to me that I might someday have a son who might one day be a priest. Life is such a mystery.

Enjoy the extended holiday weekend. Remember in your thoughts and prayers all the men and women who have died in wars, especially those who have died in Iraq. There are few of us who haven't been touched by this senseless tragedy. Pray for peace and practice peace in your own life.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

What I Want To Be When I Grow Up

Yesterday I received the following email.

Do you do requests? Here's a topic that I think you might be able to speak about that I'm struggling with. What do I want to be when I grow up? I've been here 12 years and am realizing fully that this wasn't what I wanted to do when I grew up. I feel as though I'm continuously discovering things I don't want to do, but have no idea how to figure out what I want to make my life's work. I look at friends who seemed to have laser sharp focus on what they wanted to be when they were young, and are now happy and successful doing that. I'm still searching. Is that weird?

No, I do not think it is weird that you feel like you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. I am fifty six years old and I feel the same way. In all honesty, I think we are part of the majority rather than the minority. I find it interesting that your first question is "What do I want to BE when I grow up". This question is followed by the statement "this isn't what I wanted to DO when I grew up". I believe that our society places too much importance on what a person does to earn a living. In most social settings a person is more likely to be asked what they do rather than who they are. The reality is that most people are not doing what they love or dreamed about in their youth. Who of us hasn't had great dreams about how we would spend our lives before the babies came, we signed a 30 year mortgage, the water bill was due, or the car just stopped running? As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.". How many waiters in LA restaurants really want to be actors? I am not saying to give up your dreams. However, you are not the first to get side tracked in a career or job that has turned out to be unfulfilling. Everything I have just said is the obvious. Now that this realization is weighing heavy on your mind and heart, what do you do about it in practical terms? What are you passionate about? I had a book once called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow. Unfortunately I can't find the book so I can't give you the authors name. The title says it all. I think the mistake most of us make is that we work for money. Some of you are going, "Duh!" If money is the only thing that motivates you, you will never find happiness in work. You have to be passionate about more than money. Another thing I recommend is learning more about yourself in terms of your temperament and personality. Certain careers are more suited for some personalities than others. I know without a doubt that I am not suited to be a nuclear physicist. When the right person is matched with the right career and work, it is no longer work. A wise man once said, "Find work that you love and you will never work another day in your life." Have I followed all of my own advice? Am I perfectly fulfilled and happy in the work I do to earn my daily bread? Do you honestly think I stayed up all night in my youth dreaming of the day when I would be a claims supervisor in a large corporate setting? Are you kidding? In all honesty there are things I must do on a regular basis that give me little personal satisfaction. Am I doomed to a life of unhappiness? The answer is no. Sooner or later who we are will shine through. I find the greatest satisfaction in the things I do that are not part of my job. Do you think I get paid extra to write these daily thoughts? Am I on commission for the compassion I always try to practice with my co-workers? What about the counseling or spiritual direction I give those who seek it? None of these things are in my job description but doing them is part of who I am and what I bring to the workplace. Perhaps your work is only a background for you to be who you are as well. Make yourself your life's work wherever you are.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Well Do We Know One Another?

My current illness prompted me to once again visit the doctor yesterday. After further exam it seems I am now on day nine of a viral infection that has an approximate 14 day life span. If this is true I have passed the halfway point on this annoying journey. By the time I went to the doctor, the pharmacy and a side trip to visit my ailing 84 year old mother in law in the hospital, the morning was gone and the day seemed to lack any potential for productivity. Never one to waste an opportunity to be unproductive I decided to stay home for the rest of the day, take my new medicines and enjoy the fact that they "may cause drowsiness". The one good part of sickness is all the sleep you get.

In 1999 my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. This year will make 58 years! For their 50th, my brothers and sisters and I had a party for them. One of the things we did at the party was take a family photo of Mom and Dad, my five brothers and sisters, the spouses, and all of the grandchildren. I have this picture on my bookshelf at home. One day Chloe picked up the picture and asked what it was. I told her it was her family. Now every time she comes over to my house, she picks up this pictures and says, "This is my family"! Chloe is such a welcome addition to the clan.

How well do we know one another? The reality is that most people do not intimately know the other people in their lives. I have sat at many family functions over the years thinking how little I know my own family and how little they know me. I could say the same thing about people I have worked with for many years. At the same time, people I don't even know write to me sometimes and say, "I feel like I know you.". It is true that many people know a lot about me because of my daily thoughts. Of course, even my daily thoughts do not reveal everything about me. I have always thought about the depth of the relationships in my life. I remember being challenged a few years ago when I was asked to write and deliver the eulogy at my father in laws funeral. How well did I know this man whose dinner table I sat at many times? Could I write and speak of this man and capture his essence with little time to prepare or to deliver? I am told I was able to do it but it would be a very difficult challenge to do it for many others. A lot of this "knowing" of other people requires listening and paying attention when you are around them. Too often our relationships are superficial and done on the run. Relationships take time and effort. Relationships are often difficult. Many people are exhausting. Sometimes when I am with people I am sincerely trying to listen to them while planning my escape at the same time. I don't doubt that sometimes people are also doing that with me. There are some people in my life that I am emotionally intimate with but they are few. I feel like I have many "friends" and acquaintances but few that I am really close with and with whom I feel comfortable sharing my deepest feelings. I am very grateful for the few that give me the luxury of truly being myself. I think my experience is pretty normal. You really can't have intimate friendships with fifty people. It's like the difference between a dinner party and a wedding reception. At the dinner party you can often open up and have deep conversations about life and your experiences. At a wedding reception it is all you can do to say hello to everyone. Admittedly I think it would be nice if my knowledge could expand and I knew a little more about the hopes, wishes, and dreams of those most important in my life. I do care about a lot of people even if I do not know everything about them. Maybe we can all make a little more effort to know others and allow them to know us.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sickness And Health/Finding Your Way

Last week was a difficult week for me. I spent most of the week on a journey searching for my health. I still have not found all of it. Last Monday I woke up in the wee hours of the morning with a sore throat. I came to work anyway but by late afternoon I was feeling poorly so I left. Tuesday I was down and out all day. Wednesday I attempted work again but late in the day I felt bad enough to head for the doctor. Thursday and Friday I had planned off in advance and was happy I did so. I did manage to squeeze in a previously planned trip to the monastery on Thursday. One of the monks made their solemn profession. Solemn Profession is when a monk promises to remain a monk for the rest of their life. By the time I got home I realized that I probably should not have gone at all. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I did virtually nothing but take it easy and rest. I am still not completely well and have never had such a difficult time getting back to "normal". Depending on how this day goes, I may head back to the doctor.

O God! What in your name do you expect from me? What is it you want? What is it that I should be doing if not what I am doing now? I think about these questions and more as I stumble down the spiritual path of my life. How do we know we are doing the right thing with our lives? How do we know if we are on the right path? Does the very fact that I feel like I am always stumbling down my path mean anything? Am I stumbling because its the wrong path or because it is the right path? Are the people and things that I sometimes consider obstacles in my life on my path through some divine intention? What about all the false starts and new beginnings? Are they indications of a confused or poorly planned journey? Am I a tourist, tour guide or an explorer on the spiritual journey? I do not think I am a tourist. If I am tour guide I should know the path well enough to lead others. If I am an explorer, I should be clearing a path for others to follow. If you are on a serious spiritual journey, I believe doubt is a healthy part of the spiritual journey. If you were certain of everything, you would not need faith. There is no map quest for the spiritual journey. There are no directions that say "Go 2.3 miles down this road and then turn left on another road for 4.7 miles until you see the light". Another thing that makes the spiritual journey challenging is that much of the time you are stumbling down an unknown path in the dark with blindfolds on. The best you can do is feel you way. Sometimes you will bump into things and lose all sense of direction. You can't read a compass in the dark when you are blindfolded. This doesn't sound like much fun, does it? What can you do? You can't stand still or you may always be lost and in the dark. All you can do is slowly move forward, inch by end, until you are out of the woods and in a clearing where you can see the sun and the stars. It is only then that you can know where you are, enabling you to see the road that will lead you where you should be. When you arrive you will know what to do.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Little Poetry by Hafiz

I was out of the office unexpectedly yesterday due to illness. I am still not completely well. Today would be a good day not to hug me if you are so inclined. I will also be out of the office tomorrow and possibly Friday. I had Thursday planned in advance and I may extend my time off to include Friday. I appreciate that whenever I am not here and my daily thoughts don't go out, some people actually worry about me and wonder if I am OK. I am fine. Its been happening with greater frequency lately and I'm not sure why. Normally it is a rare thing for me to be ill.

Let's start our day with some poetry from Hafiz. These poems are taken from the collection entitled I Heard God Laughing...Poems of Hope and Joy.

Keeping Watch
In the morning when I began to awake, it happened again.That feeling that you, beloved, had stood over me all night keeping watch.That feeling that as soon as I began to stir,You put your lips on my forehead and lit a holy lamp inside my heart.

Recently while waiting for an elevator, I ran into someone I have known for a long time but hadn't seen in a while. I knew she loved blues music so I had to share with her my then recent experience of seeing Eric Clapton. We exchanged some emails about music and I started to share with her some of my collection. Needless to say, she's thrilled to find a musical gold mine like me. In a recent email she said, quite simply, "Music makes me happy"! I couldn't agree more. I could probably write daily thoughts everyday about the joy of music. Last night I read a poem by Hafiz about music. Actually, its more about being joyful than about music.

I Took It As A Sign
Someone sent a band to my house and it started playing at five in the morning.I took this as a sign that God wanted me to sing!The the moon joined in and a few of the tenor voiced stars,and the earth offered its lovely belly as a drum.Before I knew it, I realized all human beings could be happy,if they just had a few music lessons from a sweet old maestro like Hafiz.

I don't think there is much in my life that wasn't made better when music was added to the mix. It could be a great day or a bad day. I can be with friends or sitting alone in my room. Have you ever been driving down the road on a beautiful day with your favorite music playing? It can be such a happy moment that you feel as though your heart might leap out of your chest. Its total joy, pure and simple. Of course, I must also agree with something said by Fr. Matthew at the monastery. Even Beethoven played all day is noise. This statement comes from a man who loves jazz but values silence. Even the contemporary artist Sting has said "Silence is the perfect note". I am a person who is something of a fanatic about music but I, too, value silence. I recommend a nice balance of both.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day

Since this past weekend was Mother's Day, most of my weekend was centered around family. My son and daughter in law invited my family to their home for a cookout on Saturday night. We had a great time and a lovely dinner. I did miss Chloe who was not there because she was spending the weekend with her other grandmother. Let me take this opportunity to offer a word of encouragement to those of you who are raising teenagers and may feel like you are losing your mind. My oldest son, Chloe's father, was an extremely difficult teenager. I thought one of us wasn't going to survive it. I wasn't sure if I would end up in my grave or a mental institution. I could tell you stories that you wouldn't believe. Today, however, he is a new man. He is married to a woman that my wife and I both like, he's just bought his first home in a very nice neighborhood, he makes more money than I do, he's the father of Chloe, and he's turned out to be a pretty decent guy. I am proud of his success. So, if you are currently going through a difficult time with your teenager, hang in there. Sometimes all you can do is the tough love and lots of prayer. There were days my only goal was to keep him from imploding. At the time I thought those days would never end but they did and now he's become a good man, husband, and father. O yeah! He loves his Momma!

Sunday was a gorgeous day here in Kentucky. We visited my wife's mother in the retirement home where she lives. Since it was such a beautiful day, we sat outside and talked. She is 82 years old and a little forgetful so sometimes you feel like you are having the same conversation every ten minutes. She is a sweet little old lady and she has been very good to me over the years. Afterwards we visited my 77 year old mother. She is the healthiest of our parents and much of her life is centered around taking care of my 82 year old father. There's usually a crowd at my parents home on holidays. Yesterday was no exception. Two of my brothers and one of my sisters were there along with an assortment of spouses, nieces and nephews. Most of the "children" are college students or young parents

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bubbles In The Workplace/Doing Vs Being

Yesterday I was at work sitting at my computer intently reading an email. I kept noticing little flashes of light and color. I wasn't sure if it was sunlight reflecting off the window blinds or possibly a kind of eye condition that ophthalmologists call "floaters". I also considered the possibility of a flashback from the sixties. Eventually, I snapped out of the deeply meditative state that I was in and realized that two of my co-workers were standing behind me blowing bubbles on my head. The good news is that they were very impressed with my deep focus and powers of concentration. This experience reminded me of the concept of "Flow". Flow is a term used by some psychologists to describe a state of being where one is so intently in the moment that all sense of time and space is gone. You literally become lost in the moment totally absorbed in whatever you are doing. Apparently I was having a flow moment when the attack of the bubble people began. Of course, I thought it was all very funny and they did as well. I don't mind when I am the cause of laughter.

My musical hero Jerry Garcia once sang a song with a lyric that went "I'm thinking more and more about less and less". As I get older this lyric makes more and more sense to me. When I was younger I was a voracious reader. I am not talking about reading romance novels while sitting on the beach. I read biographies, theology, philosophy, psychology, and spirituality books. The "lightest" material I read was probably about music or a musician. I was often consumed with trying to understand the meaning of everything that I thought was important. Is there a God? Why am I alive? What is the meaning of my life? Do I have a purpose? Is there more to life than the daily tasks and routines that all of us get locked into? What's the point of anything? Do you want to know the answers to these questions? The truth is that I don't know the answers. I do, however, have beliefs and speculations about all these things. At one time this "unknowing" bothered me. I wanted to know and understand. These days I "think more and more about less and less". I am more focused now on simply trying to live my life. I have given up trying to understand life in general and my own life in particular. I have learned that life is not always fair, it doesn't always make sense, and often doesn't go my way. There are things I do because I have to and there are things I do because I want to. Weaved in, around, and through all these tasks of living, I try to be open to all opportunities for happiness, laughter, love, joy, and the transcendent. You can never factor these things into your day so one must be open for the sneak attack they often make on us. For example, I rarely look forward to getting out of bed and coming to work. Does anyone? However, it is often in the workplace that I laugh the most. My friends and co-workers, and not just the one's that blow bubbles on company time, often bring a smile to my face. There's a lot of "doing " in the world and most "doing" requires thinking. I am thinking less, and perhaps doing less, but I am "being" more. By the way, did you notice the sunrise this morning or were you already thinking about what you had to do when you got to the office? For those of you who may wonder, I am not naive enough to think that everyone can stop doing and simply be. I have spent much of my life doing all kinds of things. What I am saying is that there is a time for doing and a time for being. Some of us are called to more "being" so we can remind all of you consumed with "doing" that you need to stop once in a while and notice a sunrise.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Exploring The Universe With Chloe

Yesterday my wife was ill and stayed home from work. Since it was Tuesday Chloe needed to be picked up at the daycare. When I got there, she was the only child in the daycare wearing a Jerry Garcia tee shirt. That is what happens when you have a hippie grandfather. She gave me a big hug like she always does and off we went. Since Granny was at home in bed, dinner would be a solo venture for Chloe and me. We went to her favorite place...Dairy Queen....and had a wonderful time. Talking with Chloe is like talking to an adult, only better. We discussed just about everything under the sun including her recent trip to the zoo. Whenever I asked about a particular animal she would imitate the sound they make. The highlight of the zoo exchange was when she stood on one leg and told me she was a flamingo! We shared our food and fed one another ice cream. When we were finished we drove to her house to wait for Mommy to get home from work. Since we were a few minutes early, we sat on the front porch and looked at bugs. One way to renew your sense of wonder is to spend time with a small child. A sense of wonder is mandatory for a contemplative spirit. Chloe renews my sense of wonder and I hope to always keep hers alive. I enjoy being her guide as we explore the universe. I think I am better at this as a grandfather than I was as a young father with my own children. She was not happy when I left her but I promised that I would see her again in a few days. It's nice to be loved. Hopefully all of us are loved by others. Sometimes, however, the love is not apparent to us. Small children, like Chloe, don't hold back. She hugs me and kisses me and tells me she loves me. We adults are often not so open with our love. Perhaps we have loved another and not felt love in return. It's a rare person who has not had their heart broken. Some people believe it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Others get hurt by love and never recover. Love is not easy and it can be scary. Love does not always pay off. Sometimes it is disappointing. In spite of all this, I continue to believe in love. My whole life I have been led more by my heart than by my head. I hope that my head never takes over and demands that my love be logical or practical. Don't be afraid of love whether you are giving it or receiving it.

One of my friends is making a trip to the country of Bhutan. Do you know where that is? Admittedly I needed to look at a map. Bhutan is a small, somewhat isolated country sandwiched between China and India. It is a country where Buddhism flavors all aspects of living. Though a small country, there are approximately 1000 Buddhist monasteries throughout the land. Many young men spend some or all of their lives in these monasteries. It is considered a great honor for a family to have a son in the monastery. What a nice alternative to going in the army! I've asked my friend one small favor. I asked that she carry me in her pocket as she backpacks through the hills and mountains. Maybe she will go in a monastery, burn some incense, and think of me. Knowing her as I do, I know this will happen. It is very comforting to know that a friend, in a holy place thousands of miles away, will stop for a moment and think of me in prayer. She and I are kindred souls and I will be walking with her in spirit.

The best part of waking up is just WAKING UP!!!
-From an old Folger's coffee commercial

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ordinary And Average

I read in a recent business article that today's young people require a lot of praise from their bosses. Why? The article states that they need it because their mothers and fathers have been telling them their entire lives how special they are and they believe it. They need the affirmation of their parents to be continued by their bosses. Certainly we can all hope that we are special in someone's eyes. However, in the eyes of the world, most of us are average and ordinary. In spite of the fact that 90% of all people think they are in the top 10%, it is not only mathematically impossible, it's just not true. This exaggerated sense of ourselves is brought home to me even more at this time of year when many people in my company are getting their annual performance reviews. Based on most of the self evaluations that I have seen in recent years, few people think they are average. What is so bad about being average and ordinary? There's a term for such people. They are called the "salt of the earth". One should be proud to be such a person. Someone who is considered salt of the earth is solid and dependable. You know exactly what to expect from such people and you will always get it. I like to consider myself such a person. I have never been a superstar and that has made my life much less stressful. I don't have to live up to any image. Like most people I am just an ordinary man who does his part to help keep the world running. If life could be compared to a sport like baseball, most of us do not hit home runs everyday. However, we usually get a hit or knock in an RBI. We rarely strike out. Yes, we aren't in the headlines as home run kings but everyday we show up for the game. If you are a superstar and you hit a lot of home runs in your life, that is not a bad thing but being humble about your gifts is a greater thing. By the way, if you read these daily thoughts, I think you are special. Pass the salt, please!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Life Isn't A Race!

The Queen of England was in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby but the Princess of the Universe was at my house. My son and his wife went to the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, also known as the Derby for the locals, so Princess stayed with the grandparents. Friday nights, after the always long work week, and a three year old are usually not a great combination. By Friday night I am usually dragging but three year olds bop till they drop. Chloe’s little game of running away and making me catch her is getting less funny. For the second time she got away from me in a restaurant and ran into the kitchen! She was laughing of course but all I could imagine was someone’s dinner flying through the air!

I found myself coughing through the night on Friday and by the time I woke up on Saturday I was congested. Either my cold from a week or so ago was flaring up again or a new cold was staking its claim on me. After taking Chloe home around midday on Saturday, I took it easy for the rest of the day. I did make a quick trip to the music store where I purchased some excellent DVD’s of Carlos Santana and some jazz notables performing at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

I went to bed on Saturday night feeling rather congested so I missed my monthly trip to the monastery on Sunday. I had also planned to meet my friend, Fr. Dennis, for lunch. These monthly trips are an oasis in my life and I was very sorry to miss them. It was especially difficult to stay home on such a beautiful day. After yesterday’s rainy and overcast weather, it was mood lifting to have such a beautiful day on Sunday.

Now it is time to get pumped up for another week of work. Like many people it takes me a while to get out of first gear on a Monday. I once described myself as a crock pot in a world of pressure cookers. It is a fairly accurate description. In the race of life….by the way, it really isn’t a race….I am a tortoise and not a hare. However, if I remember the story correctly, the tortoise won. So what if it’s Monday? Monday is just another 24 hour period of time. Try to love of every minute of the day. Don’t live it like it’s a race. Live your life like it’s a joy just to be alive. Over the weekend I read in the newspaper that an old high school friend had died. He was a few months younger than me. He doesn’t have today. We do so appreciate it. Life is not a race. Don’t run like it is. Slow down. Smell the flowers. Its spring! Celebrate life!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Looking Back And Beyond The Horizon

Every morning when the alarm clock goes off I feel like the man in those old Dunkin Donut commercials. As he gets out of bed and stumbles down the hallway to the bathroom, he repeats his mantra, "Time to make the donuts, time to make the donuts".

I hesitated to send out yesterday's daily thoughts because I was concerned people would just think I was having a bad day. I guess in a small way I do take some risks by sending out thoughts that may be too revealing or possibly misunderstood. My daily thoughts are either what is on my mind or what is happening in my life right now. They are only rarely memoirs of the past. My Zen approach to living is to be in the NOW. Certainly there are private thoughts I would never share in such a public forum. However, I always try to be as honest as possible and as open as I can be. I do not think that what I say is especially brilliant. I believe the popularity of my thoughts is because I often express thoughts that many others think but who rarely express them because they wonder if they are the only ones having such thoughts. I am not the sun providing light to everyone. I am more of a mirror that reflects the joys and occasionally the fears that all of us share as human beings. Whenever I am somewhat fearful or hesitant about what I am sending out, I seem to get the best responses. Yesterday I received some of the kindest and thoughtful emails I have ever received. I was greatly affirmed and now feel even more encouraged to continue my efforts to express my thoughts about life and living.

One of the things said about one of my favorite people....Thomas that he was always looking for the further shore. That didn't mean he was always trying to escape where he was. Admittedly, he did a little of that, too. One can be where they are, and have some degree of happiness or contentment, and still look beyond the horizon. It's OK to wonder what's "out there". I don't necessarily look to the future as an escape from the present. I look to the future and dream of the possibilities for my life. When you have been faithful to situations in your life for a long time it is easy to think that life will never change. When there is no change, even if life is good, boredom will set in eventually. Boredom can be an enemy of the spiritual life. It can be boredom that causes us to run to the shore and look beyond the horizon for new possibilities. It can be boredom that calls us into daydreams but it is those dreams that call us to action. It is action that brings about change. Of course, today's change can becomes tomorrow's boredom and the cycle of boredom to dreaming to action to change begins again. Can you move on every time you are bored? Not always. Sometimes you must face the boredom and deal with the message it is giving you. Why are you bored? Why do you feel empty? What would relieve the boredom or fill the emptiness?

I must take a short walk down memory lane....When I was walking from my office to my parking garage yesterday I could hear music from the park across the street. It was mainly the drums that I heard. It brought back memories of all the Grateful Dead concerts that I have seen. Grateful Dead concerts were very unique. As soon as you got out of your car you would hear drumming. Many Deadheads had drums and there were often drum circles playing together in wild abandon. As you followed the beat you would soon find yourself in the "parking lot" scene. The parking lot at a Grateful Dead concert was the closest I have ever been to a Renaissance Fair. There were thousands of tie-dyed Deadheads. I was one of them. It contained the worlds largest collection of antique Volkswagen vans. The smell of cooking food and the availability of veggie burritos was everywhere. Vendors of clothes and jewelry would be all over the place. Many people never made it to the actual concert. They came for the parking lot scene. I miss those days.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Am I Just Standing Still?

I have recently received emails from two former co-workers who no longer work for my company. My last memory of being together with both of them was sharing lunch during a past Derby week. Thinking of them makes me wonder about all the people who have been part of my life and then quietly moved on. Thinking of them sometimes makes me feel like I have spent my whole life standing still while everything and everybody moves around me. I have been a married family man for many years and have also worked for the same company a very long time. I believe I have always been dependable and reliable. I am a creature of habit and routine. When my alarm clock goes off in the morning, my mind and body go on automatic pilot and I sometimes robotically go through my day doing all the things I think I am supposed to do. Some days I am not sure I am even awake when I do them. I believe I have always been there for whoever needed me. I am sure many of you could say the same things. Do you have days when you wish you weren't so mature? Do you have days when you wish you could be more carefree and have less responsibility? Do you have days when you wish you were more adventurous and perhaps a little less cautious? Another one of my more annoying least to taking the path of least resistance. I wish I would take a direction more often that has no path and on which you can only make progress by hacking your way with a machete. I wish I took more risks. We are sometimes overly concerned with our security and this often causes us to play it safe. Safe is not always best. Of course, in my defense, and the defense of others like me, I have done many things and continue to do many things because people depend on me. Most of us do not totally own our own lives but I am not sure at what point taking back your own life is nothing more than selfishness. None of us are out of chances yet to be more adventurous or to take more risks but the clock is ticking. Are you standing still?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Celebrate Life

Yesterday was Tuesday so that meant I picked up Chloe at the daycare. When we are together I am a three year old like her. Some of you may ask, "So how is that different from the way you act any other day"? What I mean is that I try to put myself on her level. I try to encourage and join in with her sense of wonder. I let her be the leader. I really have no choice. She demands to be the leader. The only time I act like an adult is when she might hurt herself. Last night we jumped and danced and ate Frosted Flakes out of the box. We danced because she said, "Pa Paw, let's have a concert"! I introduced her to Bob Dylan. Guess what? Chloe ain't gonna work on Maggie's Farm no more! You Bob Dylan fans know what I am talking about.

It is Derby week in Louisville. What's that like? Around here it is kind of like the week before Christmas. I can tell that most of the office is not in the mood to work. Are they ever? Across the street in Waterfront Park is an all day party. People wander over there during their lunch. They are less enthusiastic about returning to the office and they wander back slowly. It is a good thing to have holy days and holidays and special times like the Kentucky Derby. I concur with the Dalai Lama when he says that all people were born to be happy. It is a good thing to celebrate life. I can't remember who said it but someone put forth the idea that God will be just as upset with those who failed to enjoy all the good things that life has to offer as much as He might be with the bad things done by people. I have lived 56 years so far. When I look back it is all the good things I remember most. Most of the bad things that have ever happened to me seem like bumps in the road now. The good memories are always fresh and on a boring day where I might get lost in the occasional daydream, they visit me like a cool breeze on a hot summer day

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Balance and Joy

Remember all my grumbling about Building Maintenance taking my coffee pot? I'm still not over it completely but the weekly support group meetings I have been attending have helped. Just kidding! I have, however, finally gotten a French Press coffee pot. It was a gift from Chloe's parents. It took me a little while to get the hang of it. It seems simple. You put coffee in it, add hot water, and let it brew. After a few less than perfect cups of coffee, I think I am achieving the delicate balance of the appropriate amount of coffee and the right amount of timing. Soon I will be a brew master in my own cubicle.

What does it mean to have balance in your life? Simply put, I think it means to have just enough of everything. I don't mean the absolute minimum requirement of what you need to be happy and content. It means working enough to appreciate play. It means sleeping enough to appreciate wakefulness. It means feeling a little hunger once in a while so you appreciate food. It means experiencing a little loneliness so you appreciate the love of another. It means sometimes feeling sad so you value laughter and joy. It means spending some time by yourself so you appreciate the company of others. The singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie once said, "You can't really appreciate a light unless you have a dark place to put it in". Of course, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Have you ever tried to go to bed at night when all the lights are still on? Have you ever eaten or drank so much that you made yourself sick? Balance is found in the tension of opposites. Balance is not found in extremes. Balance is your companion when you walk the middle path of life.

Everytime I write about some concert I have seen, inevitably some one will write me and say "How do you know about all these musical events"? It's very simple. The Internet provides most of my information. I go to the websites of my favorite artists as well as my favorite venues and I get on their email mailing lists. I know about most things weeks or even months in advance. Of course, when all else fails I have good friends....and they know who they are...that stand at the mouth of the cave where I often hide They stand outside and shout "Mikey! Come out and play"! It is rare that I ignore them. Like many jobs there is some travel required. Seeing live music is worth all the effort it may require. Sitting outside on a summer night with friends and co-conspirators, enjoying the sounds of good music, is one of life's great joys. Add a few beers and a late night breakfast, and you have achieved Nirvana.