Friday, December 30, 2011

Dreams For The New Year

Tomorrow is the last day of 2011. Looking back this year has been a blur. Way back in 1969 I was a senior in high school. About this same time of year my best friend and I went to the Showcase Cinema's to see the movie called "2001 A Space Odyssey". In the hazy daze of the late sixties I thought we would be flying around in spaceships by now. OK, I admit that in the late sixties there were a few times my best friend and I thought we were flying around in spaceships. In 1969 the time we are in now seemed so far into the future. Many conveniences exist now that we didn't have in 1969 but I am not sure our quality of life is better. Most of what my children take for granted didn't exist when my wife and I got married in the early 70’s. We have more stuff that is supposed to make our lives more convenient, yet we all complain that we don't have enough time. There are many people, and they are not all old, who yearn for a simpler and much slower life. Even when I go on vacation I return home needing a vacation from my vacation. In parts of Europe there is actually a movement to slow life down. I thought my life would naturally slow down once my children were raised and were out of my house. It hasn't happened so I have been taking steps to slow it down myself. I say no a lot more than I used to do. I have stopped doing some things. Currently I have no commitments other than working. When I am not at work I am usually at home doing what I want to do. What I want to do is whatever makes me happy or gives me joy. Unless it is something really necessary, if I don't want to do it, I don't do it. In 2012 what I want is more leisure time to do what I want to do and for my life in general to move a little slower. I also want world peace and an end to war and injustice. I want food, a home, good health, and equality for everyone. Perhaps more than anything I want a complete end to the insane and epidemic levels of child abuse in our society.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Teachable Moments

I think every experience in life is a teachable moment. These moments are not only an opportunity for me to teach others but also an opportunity for life to teach me. In the work environment we often use the term “coachable” moment. I don’t really like this term because it implies to me that the events of a particular moment always need to be corrected. Some experiences are what they are, and while some mistakes may need to be corrected, mistakes are not the only soil from which a learning opportunity sprouts. I also believe what a former teacher of mine, Richard Rohr, once said, “The moment is as perfect as it can be”. All of life is a never ending learning experience. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many degrees you hold, life will continue to teach you. Sometimes I think I know everything I need to know but life keeps enlightening me with even more knowledge and wisdom. As I’ve said before, in recent years my granddaughter has been my teacher. Like most children, she is a natural Zen Master. When I am with her I try to see life through her eyes and I try to let my inner child appear as her playmate. Sometimes, when I let go, I can be a seven year old child. When this happens I can see life with a renewed freshness and not through the eyes of a tired, slightly jaded, sixty year old.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Music And Memories

Yesterday, while I was taking my morning walk around the perimeter of the first floor of my building, the song “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band played on my iPod. This has got to be one of the most joyful songs in rock and roll. I have probably seen the Allman Brothers Band more than any other band. I once saw them three times in one week in three different states. I’ve heard them play this song many times. This song was written by Dickey Betts, a longtime member of the ABB and a guitarist. A few years ago I attended a solo concert by Dickey Betts in a very small amphitheater. At one point I was literally sitting at his feet as he played “Jessica” and some of my other favorite songs. I was in rock and roll heaven. It wasn’t on the level of a perfect moment in nature but it, too, was definitely a Zen moment. Music is more than entertainment to me. Music is part of who I am. I thought of this over the Christmas break as I watched a movie called “The Music Never Stopped”. It was about someone born the same year as me. As a young adult he developed a brain tumor that erased his memories. Like me, he was someone deeply moved by the music of his generation. A music therapist used songs by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and others, to help him remember his past. When certain songs were played he had instant recall from the time in his life when those songs were very important to him. I don’t have a brain tumor but music does the same for me. In addition, music makes me happy if I am sad, and happier if I am already happy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Cardinal In The Snow


Like many people I was moving a little slow today. Too much Christmas activity, I suppose. I was excited, however, because today we were forecasted to have our first measureable snowfall. It was only supposed to be an inch or less but that's enough to cover the ground. Unfortunately, as of this moment, the snow has not materialized. I love snow. A perfect moment for me would be to be at home on a snowy day. I love to sit in my room with a good book, a cup of coffee, and outside my window, falling snow. The day would be made even better if I had some chicken soup or chili simmering in my crock pot. At some point in my day I would venture into my back yard so I could load up my bird feeder, hoping for a cardinal or two to descend. A bright red cardinal against a snow covered landscape is a beautiful thing. Moments such as these are what I consider Zen moments. They are as perfect as life can be. You can’t really plan them. They just happen and one must enjoy them when they occur.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Christmas In December?



There’s a reason that we celebrate Christmas around the time of the Winter Solstice. No one really knows what day that Jesus Christ was born. It could have been in the middle of summer for all we know. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the “light of the world”. Early Christians decided that there was no better time to celebrate the birth of the “light of the world” than during the darkest time of the year. This time was also chosen as the Christian response to pagan celebrations that also occurred at this time of year.

The history of Santa Claus is a lot more complicated and I cannot explain it in a few sentences. Here’s a link for those interested in the fat man in the red suit> http://www.the-north-pole.com/history/

I wish all of you, and your families, a very Merry Christmas. May your lives be filled with blessings and every good thing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Waiting For Christmas

At my house everything that will be done for Christmas has been done. All the presents are bought, wrapped, and separated into piles based on who will get them and where they are supposed to go. Unless my wife is lying to me they are all paid for. On my kitchen table is a small bag full of “reindeer food” that a co-worker gave me for my granddaughter. I will give it to her on Christmas Eve so she can spread it outside her home before Santa arrives. I am so happy that once again this year Christmas Eve is on a weekend. It makes it all so much easier. I don’t like working all day on Christmas Eve and then having to go home and immediately launch into the madness of Christmas Eve. I don’t have as many stops as I used to in the past but I still go to my mother’s where all my brothers and sisters will be along with their spouses and children. All of my nieces and nephews are young adults now and some have their own spouses and children. My mother lives in a small house so it’s every man, woman, and child for themselves in terms of finding a seat or getting to the food. Since my father passed away a few years ago, I am the oldest man in the family now. Only my 82 year old mother is older than me. At some point my wife and I, along with our family, will slip away and head to her sister’s home where her side of the family now gathers for Christmas. When it’s all over I will load up the car with any gifts we’ve received and head home. Then I will get in my bed and, hopefully, fall asleep quickly and have “visions of sugar plums dancing in my head”. What the heck is a sugar plum, anyway?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

In A Quiet Cathedral

On Monday, following an afternoon Christmas lunch with some of my co-worker’s, I had some time on my hands before I needed to pick up my wife at her office. Since her office is right around the corner from the local Catholic cathedral, I decided to walk to the cathedral and pay my respects to Archbishop Kelly who passed away in his sleep on December 14th. His body was lying in state there. The cathedral is a beautiful place and all was quiet when I walked inside. As I walked up the stairs I couldn’t help but think about my youngest son. In the year 2013 he will be ordained a priest in this cathedral. As I walked up to the Archbishop’s coffin I saw a face in the crowd that I recognized. It was the Archbishop’s administrative assistant who I’ve known for many years. Archbishop Kelly and I were not really personal friends but I have been around him many times. In the early 2000’s I participated in a Ministry Formation Program in the Archdiocese. At the end of the two year program, I was commissioned as a lay minister by Archbishop Kelly on the same spot where he was now lying in repose. After paying my respects I decided to stay in the cathedral for a while and meditate in the silence. It was a silence that was in stark contrast to the loud and hectic atmosphere of the Cheesecake Factory where I had dined earlier in the afternoon. I think I had a small spiritual awakening while I sat there and a rare moment of clarity. It seemed to me that it was no accident that I just happened to have the time that allowed me to be in the cathedral at that moment. When I left there and walked through the cool evening air to my car, all in life seemed right, if only for a moment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Does Anyone Sleep Well Anymore?

In one of his early journals, the monk and writer Thomas Merton describes the experience of lying in his cell at night wide awake due to his insomnia. In those days monks did not have private rooms. They slept in dormitories where each monk had a “cell”. A cell was little more than a small bed with partitions around it. When I was a young man in the monastery one of the jobs I had was being part of the construction crew assigned to replacing these cells with actual private bedrooms. Merton goes on to describe the experience of lying in his cell listening to the snoring of all the monks around him while being able to calculate exactly how much sleep he was losing based on the ringing of the monastery bells. In today’s world individual monks have private rooms and the bells do not ring all night. They do ring at 3:00 AM to awaken the monks for night vigils in the church. Whenever I stay at the monastery I usually get up with the monks. The time after these night vigils is my favorite time in the monastic day. However, I digress. Sometimes I think I, too, suffer from insomnia. I actually hate going to bed because I know it will be a struggle to fall asleep. Sometimes I complicate the problem with evening naps and an overactive mind. When I go home after a day’s work I usually feel brain dead and exhausted. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a tough day or an easy one. The only way to not take a nap is to remain continuously busy with chores of some type. If my mind or body is not engaged it’s off to lala land. Does anyone else have a problem sleeping at night? When I do finally fall asleep it seems I am waking up all night long. What about you?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Emotions

I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that it’s the week before Christmas. The bad news is that it’s the week before Christmas. Christmas is a strange holiday. For some it’s “the most wonderful time of the year”. For others, it’s the saddest time of the year. Either way, most people have too much to do, too little time to do it, and the money is probably stretched pretty thin, too. We have office lunches to attend, maybe a party or two, many family obligations, and for many people going to church is part of the equation. On top of all the busyness and stress, there is the expectation to feel joyful. All of Christmas’s demands and expectations are a pretty tall order. I admit that I am someone who often struggles with all of this, especially the forced joyfulness. I have a thousand reasons to feel blessed but sometimes I just want Christmas to be over. The best part of Christmas for me is seeing the excitement on the face of my granddaughter. Most of the rest just seems like work. However you feel about it, be kind to yourself and others this week. If you are joyful, spread the joy. If you are sad, I can assure you that you are not alone. If you are stressed, breathe deeply and chill out. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. As we go through this work week, try to relax and enjoy whatever activities are around you. Be sensitive to the feelings of others. Lower your expectations and be present to the moment for whatever it is.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What is a Contemplative?

I sometimes refer to myself as a contemplative. What is a contemplative? I am not an expert on contemplation but here's my perspective. People who know me well know I am very introverted and introspective. I think you can learn to be contemplative but some personality types seem to be naturally contemplative. I hesitate to call it a skill but as a behavior and a way of being one can practice it even if it does seem to go against your nature. In all the major religions there are contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person or one who goes to church every Sunday. In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe. The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane. It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also be willing to stop and smell them. It's being present to life in all its details. Some call this mindfulness. For those who are spiritually inclined it can also be about awareness of God's presence in life. Perhaps you have read the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew Scriptures. He had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a duel. To make a long story short, Elijah’s God won so the guys that lost ran Elijah out of town. He hid in a cave on a mountain. There was thunder and lightning and earthquakes and all that kind of scary stuff but God was not present in them. Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze. Elijah hid his face for in the gentle breeze God was present. The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present. If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities. I don't think you can truly be a contemplative person if you are running through your life like your hair is on fire.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where Have They All Gone?

Do you ever wonder where people have gone and what has happened to them? Think of all the people who have gathered together at different times in history. Where have they gone? What are they doing now? Where are all the people who stood and attentively listened to Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963? Where are all the hippies that gathered on Max Yasgur's farm for the first Woodstock in 1969? Where will all the Occupy Wall Street people be in another year? What is it that gathers people together in unity only to allow them to float away from one another over time? On a much smaller level, where are all the people who have passed through our lives over the years? In the twenty six years I have worked for my employer, I have seen hundreds come and go. Where are all the friends that have been a part of our lives only to eventually drift away? Thinking of your life and history, what causes or events have stayed with you and continue to influence who you are? What were the life changing and life sustaining events in your life? Who are the people that have remained part of your life? Who hasn't drifted or floated away from your life? Life changes whether we like it or not but beneath the change are elements of stability that keep us grounded. What has kept you grounded during the changes in your life? Who or what can you rely on? What values do you hold dear?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Creature Of Habit

I am such a creature of habit. If I change my routines my universe is thrown into chaos. Normally my wife and I ride to work together. Since I needed to accompany my son to the oral surgeon yesterday my wife and I drove to work in separate cars. I got into my car which my youngest son has used for the last several months. I immediately noticed that all my favorite satellite radio stations had been changed. OK, Michael, breathe and adapt. The commute to work was smooth until I got off at the 3rd Street exit. Normally I go to the 9th Street exit so I can drop my wife off at her office. After I got off at the 3rd Street exit I quickly realized I was in the wrong lane to turn left. Unfortunately there were traffic cones in the middle of the ramp keeping me from merging to the left. OK, Michael, breathe and adapt. I turned right, then turned left on 4th Street and headed south to Market Street so I could get to my office. About that time I realized that I had completely forgotten to drink my travel mug of freshly brewed Starbuck’s coffee. OK, Michael, breathe and just take the mug into the office with you. About mid-morning I was headed to a staff meeting when I realized that I didn’t have my cell phone. I went back to my desk and it was not there. There was some minor anxiety as I wondered if I had dropped my phone somewhere and lost it. OK, Michael, breathe and think. After a moment I remembered that I had laid my cell phone in the passenger seat of my car. During lunch I walked to my parking garage and sure enough, there was my phone exactly where I had left it. None of these little mishaps were life altering but they did remind me how much I go through life on auto pilot. Such trance like living is a hindrance to mindful and intentional living. Admittedly, much of my routine is a safety net for my aging mind which doesn’t always work as sharply as it once did. Still, I definitely wasn’t “in the moment” on my morning commute. Sometimes I remember leaving home and I remember arriving at work but have no memory of the actual commute. If you are not careful you can live your whole life like that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Education And Wisdom

Education gives you knowledge but life gives you wisdom. Many of the people I interview for jobs and some of the people who work with me now are better educated than I am. Their education, however, is just a starting point. It is the foundation on which their life experience will build. I am a strong advocate of education. I think it separates people more than anything, including race or gender. I wish now that I had given my education more attention when I was younger. The experience of life hopefully makes us wiser but that is not guaranteed. Not all older people are wise and not all younger people naive. Wisdom chooses its home. In the Rule of St Benedict, a 1500 year old guidebook for monasteries, the old are told to listen to the young for God often speaks through them. Likewise, the young are told to treat their elders with respect. Those of us who are a little older can learn from the young. It happens to me almost every day at work. Those who are younger should realize that their parents and other older people are not clueless. We've been down many roads in our lives and we have experienced many things that might prove helpful for those who have not yet had these experiences. The bottom line is that you should never should stop learning. To be a truly educated person, you must be open to everything that books and life teaches you and you must remember that education is also more than just having a skill. An educated person is a thinking person who can see the connectedness of life and knowledge.

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Nap Delayed

Yesterday was a quiet afternoon. My washing machine was going full tilt. The dryer was humming. My wife was baking cookies and the aroma filled my home. I decided I would take a nap until the dryer buzzer woke me up. As soon as I stretched out on my sofa the telephone rang. It was my oldest son who said, “Dad, would you like a visitor”? I can never say no to a visit from my granddaughter. Sometimes when I receive such a call my son and Chloe are already in my driveway. Soon enough everyone was in my house and my Sunday afternoon nap was a memory. Then my wife and both of my sons decided they had errands to run so I was home alone with Chloe. I spent the next two hours watching “The Santa Clause” and being a servant to the Queen of the Universe. I didn’t mind. It’s two weeks till Christmas and Chloe is full of excitement, anticipation, and questions like “Are all the presents under the tree from you and Meemo since Santa doesn’t bring me stuff until Christmas”? It wasn’t until after dinner that I finally finished the nap I started earlier in the day. It was a good nap, at least until that darn dryer buzzer went off.

Friday, December 09, 2011

What Is Real?

Yesterday I was riding up the elevator with a co-worker who told me she was having a rough morning. As soon as the words were out of her mouth she added, “No, this is not a bad day, it’s a good day”. I said, “So your original perception that this is a bad morning was all an illusion”? She laughed and I added, “I don’t really know if you are real or an illusion or if the true reality is that we are both still home sleeping in our beds and this conversation is just part of a dream”. I then asked, “Do you think everything you see is the same thing I see”? What is reality? We all know that our individual perceptions of reality can be very different. It is relatively easy to find two people at work doing the same job. One will love the job and the other will hate it. Why is one person’s perception of reality so different from another’s? Sometimes I wonder if my reality is like the movie “The Matrix”. Is everything around me nothing more than a program that is running through my brain? Am I really strapped in a chair with wires coming out of my brain somewhere in an abandoned warehouse on the Jersey shore? For a while after I saw the movie “The Sixth Sense” I wondered if I was dead because there have been times when I was interacting with what I perceived as my reality and it seemed as if no one was perceiving me as part of their reality. Anyway, these are the kind of thoughts I have as I toss and turn on sleepless nights. I don’t know if anyone reading these thoughts is real or if anything around me is real but in my reality tomorrow is the beginning of the weekend. Real or an illusion, I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Zen And Cow Dung

Once I attended a Zen mindfulness day with some friends. It was an early spring day and we were on a farm. The day consisted of meditation, writing, and Zen walks. When it was time to walk, the Zen Master would ring a bell and we would follow him in single file through the fields. From time to time, he would ring the bell and we would stop walking. During one of these pauses, I became aware of what a beautiful day it was. The sky was deep blue, the sun was shining bright, and there was a chill in the air. I was totally in the moment. In the midst of this moment, I looked down and realized I was standing in a pile of cow dung. The bell rang again and we started walking back to the farm house where we meditated and wrote in our journals. The Zen Master asked if we had any thoughts about our walk. I described my experience of being in the moment and then realizing I was standing in cow dung. He asked me what realization I had in that moment. My response was that “life could be wonderful and beautiful even when you are standing in a pile of cow dung”!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Modern Work

Why do so many working people in our society find so little satisfaction in their daily work? Sometimes when I look at the faces of people leaving my building at the end of the day or strangers driving home during the evening commute, they look absolutely exhausted and dazed. Other times when I am riding up and down the elevators in my office building I listen to people complaining about their jobs. Many people in our society work in the same type of corporate, information driven environment that I work in. Almost everyone I know does "something with a computer". Some days it is easy to feel like the focus of your job is to read and write emails. We live in an information driven, electronic age. Most of us spend a great deal of time gathering and sharing data. I think that is part of the problem. Perhaps satisfaction goes down as sensory overload goes up. The work we do is mostly intangible. Unlike past generations, most of us cannot drive down the road, look at a bridge or building, and say, "I helped build that!” When you work with information, you have no lasting monuments to what you have accomplished. Instead of bridges, buildings, or works of art, we create spreadsheets and databases. It’s impossible to take a picture of these things and hang them on the wall. Our accomplishments and successes are fleeting. The flow of data and information never stops. Today's success of managing data is a moment in time. That success and moment are short lived. I really don't know the answer to the problem of finding satisfaction in doing this type of modern work. I try to remind myself that the information and numbers represent real people but that doesn't always work. The most satisfaction I find in the workplace comes from the people around me. I try to build relationships. If I can have a positive influence on another person, it is satisfying. Relationships involve something that is much more tangible than data and numbers. Looking at numbers and other data reminds me of a famous Zen saying. "The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon". The data and numbers are not what we serve. They are a finger pointing at the moon. In most cases the "moon" is people and they are what it's all about.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Just Breathe

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are. It sounds simple but in reality is quite challenging. Zen is also about balance. This is also very challenging. Keeping the different parts of our lives in balance is like spinning five or six plates on the end of long sticks all at the same time. Getting enough rest, doing enough but not too much work, being with others and being with self, being active and being still, enjoying life and being present to the sacred, knowing when to go and when to stop, when to speak and when to be silent, is a daily challenge. If your life feels out of balance, it probably is. Life moves fast. Sometimes you must slow down to keep it all from spinning out of control. You can't be present to the moment if you meeting yourself coming and going. Stop now, close your eyes and simply breathe for a moment. Refresh yourself. Do this throughout your day. Go home at the end of this work day (if you are not already there) and practice slowing down. Pay attention to your own breath and remember it is the source of your life. Be where you are....

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Simple Things

Last night, as the rain poured down outside, I was sitting in a comfortable chair, in my warm house, drinking a cup of decaf coffee, while watching some favorite television shows. I was reminded once again how much the simple things in life make me happy. At this stage of my life I have everything I need and everything I want. When someone asks me what I want for Christmas I struggle to think of anything. Anything I do receive as a gift will just be more of something I already have. I have read that life is divided into two parts. In the first half of life we are raising families, building careers, and accumulating material goods. In the second half of life we are slowing down, letting go, and turning more inward. I am more interested these days in the quality of my life than in the quantity of my life. The simple things, and the simple life, are what’s attractive to me now.

Friday, December 02, 2011

The Two Sides Of Criticism

All of us are sometimes criticized. It is often referred to as constructive feedback to give it a more positive spin but it still usually feels like good old criticism. I have been criticized many times in my life and I admit that I didn't always take it very well. It's not because I think I am perfect. It's more because I really strive to do things well and to always do the right thing. When someone tells me I am not meeting an expectation, it hurts. I don't know if there is a painless way to receive and accept constructive feedback. I do believe, however, there are painless and positive ways to give constructive feedback. First of all you must always respect the dignity and feelings of the person on the receiving end. Constructive feedback can be presented in a gentle, even loving, way. Constructive feedback doesn't have to be presented with negative terminology. The reality of a situation can be presented in a non-threatening way balanced with positive examples of how the situation could have been handled or how it might be handled in the future. I don't believe any decent human being comes to work or does anything with the intention of making mistakes or doing poorly. In today's complex and highly technical work environments the use of computers often makes the possibility of errors more likely than not. Some management gurus, like W. Edwards Deming, believe that mistakes in the workplace are usually the blame of a system or a process rather than people. When was the last time a "system" or a "process" was put on a work improvement program? People seem like the only option for criticism so they are usually given the blame. None of us are perfect, we do sometimes make mistakes, and sometimes our mistakes may be carelessness. Sometimes we may need encouragement or some deserved criticism. If we deserve it, we need to be humble and accept that we have made a mistake or need to get our heads on straight. If we are the leader, the parent, or the friend, do it in a caring, non- threatening way so the person walks away with some dignity and resolve to try harder. Encourage them. Don't break their spirit.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Wasted Energy

Reflect on this teaching about transformation today: "We are given more than enough energy to transform ourselves every day, but we waste 98 percent of it on tensions, on emotional reactions unrelated to what is actually occurring, and on daydreaming and mental chatter."
From “The Wisdom of the Enneagram”

Isn’t this the truth! I like to believe that I try to be a good person. I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. The reality is that most days I feel some kind of tension, my emotions are all over the place, reality is skewed by my illusions, and my mind is full of daydreams and endless chatter. I want to be centered, balanced, and present to the moment but many days I feel totally dysfunctional. I always laugh to myself when people think I have it all together. It is difficult to be an emotionally healthy person. We all have many life experiences, some of which may have been traumatic. Most of us suppress uncomfortable feelings. All of us have hidden wounds that we may not even be aware exist. I’m of the opinion that everyone could use some therapy. I certainly don’t have all the answers. What can really be helpful, that doesn’t include a copay, is learning to let go of the many hurts and slights that all of us experience in our lives. Whenever I feel slighted, hurt, or misunderstood I try to imagine what the other person is going through in their life. I assume that like myself, everyone around me is doing the best they can. As I get older I think I am getting more tolerant, not only of my own weaknesses, but also the weaknesses of others. I forgive myself and others more. I try to be positive and grateful for everything. I appreciate the small joys of life and I try not to allow myself to be overwhelmed with my own struggles.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Voices Around Us

We hear many voices in our daily lives. Hopefully, most of the voices we hear are positive, affirming, encouraging, and loving and the voices that are negative, critical, and life draining are few and far between. Unfortunately for some people this may be reversed. Sadly, the critical and negative voices can seem like a shout while the more positive voices often seem like a whisper. The voice of God and the voice of love are gentle sounds. Most of the time we may not even hear them because the negative and critical voices can seem so loud that they drown out everything else. This is why it is important to be centered and awake so that the ear of our heart can hear and listen to the gentle voices that remind us that we are loved and that we are good and that we are appreciated. Turn away from the critical and negative voices in your life. Turn your ear and your heart to the voices of those who love you and who build up your life.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Elf On The Shelf

My wife and I have attended many office Christmas parties over the years. One of her previous employers always had a very nice, dress up affair at one of the better hotels in town. It would start with an open bar, followed by a sit down dinner and dancing. My wife was often the life of the party. One year the open bar lasted too long and she had one too many glasses of wine. We were seated at our table waiting to be served dinner. I wasn't paying attention to her because I was conversing with the person on my left. Denise leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Mike, this is the worst soup I have ever had!" I looked her in the eye and said, "Denise, you're eating the salad dressing!" It was oil and vinegar which can be great on salad but it makes a terrible soup. Our entire table almost fell out of their chairs laughing.

Once again my wife and I have an “Elf on the Shelf” in our home. This is a tradition that we started with our granddaughter last Christmas season. The belief is that the elf has been sent from the North Pole. You can talk to the elf but not touch it. The really fun part is moving the elf around your home when your child or grandchild is not around. This past weekend the elf appeared in my home while my granddaughter was here to spend the night. Before we went to bed she made a small bed for the elf and left it some food. When we went to bed the elf was sitting on a shelf. The next morning, prior to actual daylight, I was awakened by Chloe who immediately said, “Paw Paw, let’s go downstairs and see if the elf is in his bed”. I suggested staying in our bed a little longer but there was going to be none of that. Of course, every time my granddaughter wakes me up at the crack of dawn my wife is hugging the sheets and playing possum. When we finally got downstairs, the elf was sitting on his bed reading a small book. Chloe was freaking out. This is a fun tradition that I highly recommend if you have children in your family. As a sometimes jaded adult it’s great to observe a child who still believes in magic.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Blur Of The Holidaze

This is the time of year that often becomes a blur. Once Thanksgiving is over life becomes very hectic and often very stressful for many people. On the way to work this morning my wife and I were discussing how our personal family Christmas is already almost out of control. We’ve got too many decorations and we’ve already spent too much money. If you’re not careful Christmas becomes a job or a project instead of a time when you simply enjoy the holiday spirit. Too much is, well, too much. If Christmas is running you ragged and empting your bank account, you’re over doing it. Slow down, breathe, and remind yourself that the value of Christmas is not determined by the quantity of things you do. Having said this, my home looks beautiful. My wife is a female version of Clark Griswold although I am more like Clark's wife who finally said to their daughter, "It's Christmas, Audrey, we're all miserable. My wife puts a lot of effort into making everything beautiful. Christmas preparations at my house have gone fairly well with the exception of an outdoor mechanical Santa and a snowman. In spite of wires and rocks to hold them down, they keep flying off the porch whenever the wind blows. I’m pretty sure they will be going back to the Hobby Lobby sometime this week. Let me close this Christmas rant with one of my favorite Christmas stories about my granddaughter. When she was three or four years old she grabbed one of the Three Wise Men from my Nativity set, looked at me and asked, “Paw Paw, is this the Burger King”? How could that not make you smile?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Breaking Bread

One of the simple joys of my life is going home at the end of the work day, preparing a simple meal, sitting with my wife, eating dinner, and watching the evening news on television. In 37+ years of marriage I estimate that my wife and I have shared approximately 13,500 evening meals in our life together. This doesn’t count all the workday mornings where we each sit in our chairs with our coffee and toast. During these meals together we talk about our family, children, friends, work, world events, and many other things. Sharing a meal together is really not about the food. I know this is true because when our children were still young and living with us we had entire meals that were cooked in a Fry Daddy. Trust me, those meals weren't worth talking about. Whether a meal is shared with family or close friends, it's not usually about the food. It's about being present to one another.

Next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I’ll be honest. I’m really not all that crazy about turkey and dressing. I do, however, like the fact that there is a traditional meal associated with this holiday. More importantly for me is the idea behind the holiday. Two important values in my life are gratefulness and being thankful. My life is not perfect but I have been very blessed in my life. Some of this is on a material level. Although I am not rich, I am a long way from poor. The greatest riches in my life, however, have nothing to do with wealth or possessions. I am blessed by having people in my life who love me and care about me. These people are not limited to family. My personal family and my extended family are all great even though they can sometimes make me crazy. In addition to family, though, I am also blessed with good friends, some of whom have been part of my life for most of my life. Everyday life is often a challenge and I occasionally get down in the dumps over all the stupid or mundane activities I must perform. Every day is not a walk in the park. However, I still feel blessed and besides the obvious blessings, I have also been given a sense of wonder, an appreciation for beauty, an awareness of the transcendent, and the ability to enjoy the simple things in life. I am grateful and thankful for my family, my friends, the kind of person I have turned out to be, and for all the other small and simple joys of life.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Getting Older

I saw an interesting thought on Facebook the other night…

“Children, remember that as you are growing up your parents are growing older”.

I was 27 years old when my oldest son was born. He is now 33 years old. When I was 33 years old I would get on the floor and let him jump on me and beat me up. Now I am 60 years old and I get on the floor with my granddaughter. She doesn’t want to beat me up. She wants me to have tea parties and to play with stuffed animals. When I was 33 years old I would jump up from the floor. Now I must get on all fours, crawl to the sofa, and use it for balance as I slowly get up. I usually do this with some discomfort. I think it is a little disconcerting for children to realize that their parents are getting up in years. My children can’t always accept that I am not the man I used to be. I am slower, weaker, and forgetful. I tire more quickly and my energy level is much lower. Of course, it’s not all bad. I am also kinder, more patient, more tolerant, more compassionate, more understanding, and more relaxed. I have survived much and let much go. I worry less, live more in the moment, and I’m more contemplative. I take nothing for granted, enjoy life as much as possible, and I sometimes get lost in beauty. I also notice that as I am getting older, so are my children. My 82 year old mother has a sixty year old son! The poet, Robert Frost, described life in three words. He wrote that “it goes on”. Yes, it does go forward for all of us at the same pace but we didn’t all start the journey at the same time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Life Is Like A River

I am loving these windy, blustery days when millions of falling leaves are swirling in the air. I find it interesting and enjoyable anytime the seasons change. I believe our lives also have seasons. With the right attitude the changes in our lives can be just as enjoyable.

Life is like a river. When the river is calm, I float in my inner tube, unaware of the river itself, and I just enjoy all the scenery along the way. When I hit the white water rapids of life I hang on for dear life and hope I survive until the river of life calms down once again. Whether the river is calm or chaotic, it's all the same river. The irony is that it's not even about the river. It's about the journey.

A young fish was swimming along in the water one day. When he came upon an older, wiser, fish he asked, "Where is the ocean?” The older fish responded, "Are you kidding? You're in the ocean! It's all around you!" So it is with God. We are swimming in God's presence. He is all around us. Like the fish in the ocean, in God we live and breathe and have our being.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas On The Horizon

I am not necessarily wild about it but Christmas started appearing at my house over the weekend. My wife is a Christmas nut and there’s no stopping her at this time of the year. We’re not decorated yet, and our fake trees are still in their boxes, but everything is out of the storage shed and laying in whatever room it will finally appear. It was all hands on deck this past weekend, including my granddaughter, so now my house looks like Santa’s workshop after a rare North Pole tornado. Fortunately for me I was excused from the heavy lifting because of my back issues. By the time my wife is done my home will look like a small version of Disneyland at Christmas. Every room on the first floor will have some kind of decoration. We will have three Christmas trees, some seasonal prints hanging on the wall, towels you can’t use in the bathroom, snowman mugs for coffee and hot chocolate, lights on the bushes, and candles in the windows. It’s all quite beautiful but unfortunately we don’t have a special crew of people like Disneyworld or the White House. I’ve learned not to fight it because I will lose. It reminds me of something my granddaughter once said to me. She said, “Paw Paw, your whole house is magic. That’s why I never get tired when I am here”.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Acedia And The True Self

Acedia is a monastic term that describes a certain kind of weariness or fatigue associated with the routine and monotony of daily living. In my life this is usually associated with the discipline of work, faithfulness to a spiritual practice, the demands of healthy living, exercising my brain, and being faithful to the demands and commitments of my life. When this feeling occurs, one needs to be creative and look for ways to renew your spirit and zest for living. It may require changing jobs, creating new routines, driving home by a different route, praying in a new way, starting a new book, doing something that you've never done before, or reflecting on why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made in your life. We all feel like this sometimes. It is part of the human condition. The important thing is to recognize it and not allow it to overwhelm you.

We are not our personalities. Whatever personality we have, whatever Enneagram number or Myers-Briggs type we are, these are masks covering up our true selves. Our personalities are part of the false self so eloquently written about by the Christian monk, Thomas Merton. The personality that each of us has is a shell we have created since early childhood to protect ourselves from the world around us. We appear different because we have created different false selves depending on our personal experiences of life. The purpose of the spiritual journey is not only to find God but to find ourselves as well. It is the inward journey to our own essence. Merton calls this the True Self. Buddhists call it "Finding the face you had before you were born". Each of us is like an onion and our many false selves must be peeled away one layer at a time until the true self is revealed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Challenge Of Mindfulness, Middle Age, and Speaking

Multi-tasking does not lend itself to mindfulness. Multi-tasking implies doing more than one thing at a time and thus having a divided mind. Mindfulness is having one mind, focused on one task, absorbed in the moment, a mind fully present to what it is doing. The fact that we need to multi-task is a curse of our age and culture for it promotes a disunity of the mind and spirit.

I think the difference between youth and middle age is this. When you are young, your body seems to be in charge and your mind simply follows along. When you are middle aged, you mind must drag your body along where it does not want to go. When you are young, your body wants to go everywhere. When you are middle aged, your body doesn't want to go anywhere.

Many of the mistakes I have made in my life have been due to things I've said or failed to say. Words and speech are powerful things. Choose them wisely. Learn when to speak and when to remain silent. Do not speak unless your words are an improvement on the silence.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Zen And Detachment

You cannot be happy unless you are grateful. Count your blessings. Live with a grateful heart.

Zen is simply doing whatever you are doing. If you are walking, walk. If you are eating, eat. If you are working, work. If you are playing, play. Be where you are and do what you are doing. It's that simple and it's that hard.

Sometimes I get angry or upset about things that happen. There are occasions when this is a good thing. There are situations in our world that should generate more anger in people. Many times, however, it is just an unnecessary emotional reaction. When I realize this, I am reminded how far I still have to go to be a truly detached person. Detachment is a Buddhist philosophy where one learns to not judge events and to see things as neither good nor bad. They simply are. Our opinions are not necessarily reality. Our opinions are simply our opinions. When we are asked to do something new, or to change the way we do something, we often react negatively because we have made a judgment based on our personal bias. When we are detached, we remove our bias and see things more clearly. This is what it means to practice Zen. By becoming more aware of our own emotional reactions to things, we begin to see more clearly, and to be more present to reality and not to our own illusions.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Life Is Not That Complicated

Life is not that complicated. People only want three things. They want to be loved, to be appreciated, and to be happy. Love those around you. If you can't love them, at least care about them as human beings. Let people know that you appreciate who they are and what they do for you. Choose to be happy and work to bring happiness to those around you. Our unhappiness usually centers on the misdirected pursuit of power, prestige, and possessions. It's really all about people.

Young people are often sad because they have not yet learned to be grateful.

Everyone you meet and everything you do is either life giving or life taking. Look at your relationships, the things you do, and how you spend your time. Do these people and activities build up your life, give it energy and meaning, or do they tear down your life and leave you depleted of any zest for living? Choose wisely!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Appreciating Wellness

I got up early on Saturday morning and was enjoying the peace and quiet of my early morning solitude. At some point I stood up and decided to refill my coffee mug. In an instant I felt a very severe pain and it seemed like the top half of my body had dis-connected from the bottom half. I nearly went to my knees and it actually kind of scared me. The rest of the weekend I was down and out, moving around as little as possible. Today I went to work but I was moving very slow. One of those wrap around themo heating pads, along with lots of aspirins, got me through the day. Now I am home and very happy to be here. Last week it was a cold. This week it's a severly strained back. My everyday medical conditions are enough of a trial without these added burdens. I try not to complain and it has made me more mindful of those who suffer through everyday with chronic health conditions. As soon as I feel my "normal" self, I will certainly have a new appreciation for wellness.

Andy Rooney died over the weekend at the age of 92. He was my favorite part of the “60 Minutes” news show. I loved his commentaries. I could be the Andy Rooney of my generation. There is much to complain about, the world is full of absurdity, and I have a warehouse of sarcasm that I have never expressed. However, in all the things I have written, I have avoided complaining. There are enough people complaining about almost everything. What people need most is hope and encouragement. That’s why I have always tried to put a positive spin on everything I write. I have agreed with most of Andy’s diatribes, and, in his defense, he also wrote and presented many thoughtful and sensitive pieces. More often than not he hit the nail on the head. I like to give people hope and encouragement instead of constantly reminding them how crazy and stupid life can be. In addition I hope I can remind people how wonderful life can be and how much there is to be grateful for in spite of colds and strained backs.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Coming Out Of The Haze

I take some pride in the fact that I rarely call in sick to my employer. Many years I have perfect attendance. However, almost every time I say, “I can’t remember the last time I called in sick”, I get sick. A little over a week ago I had that moment of awareness when I knew it was coming. You know what I am talking about. It's that moment when you know you are getting sick. I went to work last Friday because it was a going to be a short day for me. It was a short day for me because I had to spent two hours in my dentist’s chair having a tooth drilled and a cavity filled. I spent all day on Saturday with my family on a planned trip to visit my youngest son at the seminary where he attends school. My granddaughter came home with me and spent the night. On Sunday she kept me very busy while her Dad painted my outdoor shed. In other words I got no rest at all last weekend. By Monday morning I was shot and had to take a sick day. The next day I was no better so I stayed home again. When I did return to work on Wednesday I was little improved and did not function at full capacity. Full capacity for me means functioning at 100% of my normal 85% ability. While I was home I slept most of the time and now I probably need to enter a rehab facility for a Nyquil addiction. I’m not sure that Nyquil does anything for a cold but it works wonders on insomnia. After I returned to work I did take advantage of my employer's generosity and I got a free flu shot to avoid other potential illnesses. Winter is coming in my part of the world. Take care of yourselves.

As a married man I spend much of my time waiting for my wife. I have spent many happy hours waiting in my car or sitting on a bench at the Mall while she worked on her never ending list of things to do. While I am waiting for her I usually spend my time watching other people. Last evening I was sitting in my car outside of Kroger. I saw an elderly man and a middle aged woman, who I assumed was the man’s daughter, pushing a grocery cart together. It was obvious the man needed assistance and the woman had the look of a caring daughter. Whenever I see an elderly person I have a number of thoughts. One thought is that in another 10-20 years I will be that elderly man. Since I don’t have a daughter, maybe my granddaughter will be helping me to push my grocery car. Another thought I have is wondering what kind of life the elderly person has had. Although they may look helpless and needy they may have been a powerful person in their younger years. Maybe they were the CEO of a company or a leader in their church or community. Maybe they weren't a powerful person and their whole life has been a struggle. Maybe they are just one of the countless millions of ordinary people to trying to survive in a hostile world. Although they may look compliant now, maybe they were a rebellious social activist, reformer, or someone who always fought against injustice. If we are lucky we will all grow old. When people see us they may wonder about what kind of lives we had when we were young. When I am 90 will people remember that I was once one heck of a rock and roller? Will people find this blog and wonder about the author long after I have stopped writing? Will all the people who have known me remember me in positive ways? When they think of me, assuming they do, how will they describe me? Have I made a difference or am I just one more ordinary person who struggles to survive in a hostile world?

I can’t say that I am unhappy that it’s the end of the work week. Last weekend I began getting sick and then I missed two days of work. The days I worked were very busy. Now my wife is sick and she blames me. Although she essentially has the same illness as me her experience will be totally different from mine. I took Nyquil and slept a lot. With her we had to go to the Walgreen’s clinic for an exam and prescription. This weekend our home will take on the feel of an ICU. The good news is that it will be a very low key weekend. My granddaughter will not be visiting or staying the night. There’s nothing that must be done and nowhere to go. It’s the kind of weekend we both need. There is a good side to routine illnesses. They kind of bring life to a halt if only for a few days. Most of us spend much of our life running from one task to another. There’s never enough time to do everything we think we should be doing. Sooner or later our bodies will take control by breaking down a little and forcing us to rest.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Road Trip

I love road trips when the purpose is to have a good time. Tomorrow my family and I are driving to St. Meinrad Archabbey and School of Theology in Indiana. This is where my youngest son goes to school. It is where the Archdiocese of Louisville sends most of the men who are studying to be priests. Typically a Catholic priest ends up with a B.A degree in philosophy and a Master’s degree in theology. Some priests go on for further education depending on their particular ministry. Some men are already well educated in other areas before they decide to become priests. My son will be ordained a Deacon in the spring of 2012 and will be ordained a priest approximately one year later. During that year he will also be assigned to a parish in the Louisville area. In January he gets to go to Rome, Italy for ten days. That’s where the “Big Boss” lives. The big boss is also known as the Pope Benedict XVI. He saw the Pope a couple of years ago at Yankee Stadium in New York. At this time of year the trip to the Archabbey will be a beautiful drive. We will walk the grounds and enjoy the peacefulness of it all. We will have a nice lunch somewhere and I will have to pick up the check. That’s what Dad’s do. My granddaughter will be all excited and she will ask a thousand questions. My wife and I are proud parents. We’ve been lucky. We have two sons and they have both turned out pretty good. What more could a parent want? OK, I do wish I had some more grandchildren although the one I have keeps me hopping pretty good.

Reminding Myself To Be Grateful

Yesterday was one of those days where I would have loved to just stay home. I was tired and in the early stages of catching a cold. This afternoon I spent two hours in a dentist's while he drilled my teeth and fixed a cavity. Even as I write these notes the left side of my face is completely numb. I have a full weekend ahead of me so there will be no rest for the wicked. It has not been a good time to listen to the blues on my iPod. Whenever I have days where I feel like this I must remind myself that I am not my feelings. By the end of the work week it’s normal to feel tired. Maybe a cold is God’s way of telling me to take a break. Whenever I have the blahs I try to remind myself to be grateful. Gratefulness cures many ills. I know that no matter how I might feel I have a great life. This is true for most of us do and we need to remind ourselves of this periodically. Life is hard. Some days are very challenging. The reality, however, is that most days are generally good. Most of the things we worry about and are afraid of never happen. I read somewhere that our brains are hard wired to be negative unless we intentionally think positive thoughts. Today I am going to try to be upbeat and positive despite the fact that I would like to go home and sleep on my couch for the rest of the day. I will listen to upbeat music. I will laugh with my co-workers and I will be grateful for my life.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Being Centered

I schedule my morning so that I have approximately 20 minutes to just sit before I leave for work. I spend about 10 minutes reading followed by 10 minutes of thinking or meditating. While I am thinking or meditating I drink my first cup of coffee for the day. This 20 minutes is often the best part of my day. A close second is when I finally get home, return to my chair, and I breathe after all the day's activity. The benefit of this early morning sitting is that it centers me so I can deal with the demands of the day. The activities of an average day often pull me from my center. From time to time throughout the day I must regain my focus and return to my center. This is how I maintain the calm and patience people think I have. When I am frazzled and impatient it is generally because I lost my focus and centeredness. We all have to do what we need to do to maintain our individual centeredness. As an off the chart introvert, I prefer life on the inside rather than the outside. The demands of most days that pull me out of myself are exhausting to me. If I do not start my day with calm and being, it is difficult for me to deal with all the “doing” that life requires. Each of you must also find your own path to the balance and centeredness that you require for your own well-being.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Staying On The Path

The journey of life is a long commute. At this stage of my journey I find myself looking for a rest stop more often. I believe the commute of life is basically a spiritual journey. Everything we do and everything that happens to us either awakens us or puts us to sleep. Every relationship either gives us life or can feel like it takes life from us. Life is hard and we will often feel weary. I know I want to be an awakened one but too often I feel like I am just hitting the snooze alarm. Even when I am conscious I often feel like I am stumbling along the path or wandering in the desert. Other times I wonder if I am doing anything right. Still, even if I have hit the snooze alarm a time or two, I get up as best I can and I continue the journey. I try to stay on the path. I try to live a good life and to do good things. I try to be kind to others and myself. I try to not only practice compassion but to actually show it. I try to be a good person. I try to maintain a sense of wonder and joy about life. I try to be present to the moment. I try to be happy and not to be sad. I try to remember that the journey of one thousand miles begins with a single step. Finally, I try to remember that the journey is the destination.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Circle Of Life

It was a busy weekend. It began once again with my granddaughter jumping in my bed at 7:30 AM on Saturday morning. Her Dad works every other Saturday so she spends the day with my wife and me. The question of the day was, “Paw Paw, can you stick your hand threw a rainbow”? After I explained rainbows as best I could her follow up question was, “How does a rainbow hold a pot of gold”? I love her questions even when I cannot answer them. When Granny finally got out of bed we went out to breakfast and then went to see “A Dolphin’s Tale” at the cinema. It’s very good movie that children and adults can enjoy. Saturday night I attended the 60th birthday party of the Class of 1969. If you are a young person, fast forward your life 40 years or so and imagine how you and all your friends will look after life has beat you up a little. The amazing thing is that despite the older looking bodies the personalities don’t change much at all. The party was over by 10:00 PM because we’re all old and most don’t even go out after dark anymore. My best friend from high school came over to my house afterwards and we talked until 1:00 AM. While I was at the wild and crazy gathering of future Medicare recipients, my wife and son took Chloe to the zoo for a Halloween party. Needless to say I spent most of Sunday in my chair falling in and out of consciousness. Spending most of my day with my granddaughter, and most of my night with aging classmates from high school, reminded me once again about the journey of life. We start off young, full of questions and wonder, at some point we think we have all the answers, and finally we realize that we don't have any answers at all and it really doesn't matter. When we start getting old we start becoming more childlike again. We lose most of the certitude we thought we had acquired and once again we become full of questions and wonder. It's the circle of life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finding Silence In A Noisy World

I love my music. Listening to it gives me a lot of joy. However, I know that I listen to music too much. My addiction has only gotten worse since I acquired an iPod. As one of the monks said once, “Even Beethoven, if played all day, is noise”. Yesterday afternoon I was taking my daily walk. My walks begin with walking down the stairs from the 12th floor of my office building where I live in my little cubicle. As I was walking down the stairs listening to music on my iPod, I was distracted by what sounded like a roar. I took off my headphones to make sure the building wasn’t collapsing around me. It turned out to be the music that is pumped into the stairwell. For reasons I don’t understand someone also feels the need to pump music into the restrooms. I went down to the first floor and walked my daily laps around the perimeter. When I was done I went outside to grab the latest copy of LEO, a local free magazine. When I got outside there was an even louder roar of noise. It was a truck from the local company that shreds all our sensitive documents. It sounded like it was shredding nails. All of this reminded me how noisy and loud our world can be. It can be very challenging to find a quiet spot. If the world isn’t noisy enough our minds are also filled with the noise of endless chatter. It seems nearly impossible to be quiet and still within ourselves and equally challenging to find quiet and stillness anywhere. The monastery that I visit is a very quiet place. The attitude is that silence is preferred so only the most necessary talking is encouraged. Over and above that is something the monks call “The Grand Silence”. It is the hours after their night prayer that lasts until the morning work period. During this time only the most urgent need to talk is acceptable and all monks attempt to be as quiet as possible in whatever they are doing. We should all strive to have a time of “Grand Silence” in our day. We need times of quiet and stillness for our well-being. Sometimes even Beethoven needs to be given a break.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Zen Day In The Country

I took a day off from work yesterday and had a Zen day. This does not mean that I sat around all day in the lotus position thinking deep thoughts. I have a friend that is a retired priest who lives as a hermit near the monastery. We get together about once a month for breakfast and deep conversation. We also have some conversation that is not so deep. My friend is one of the funniest people I have ever known and any time I spend with him will involve a lot of laughing. Yesterday was a Zen day because I spent the day enjoying each moment as it unfolded. It began with taking my wife to work, jumping into the morning commute as I escaped the downtown area, and eventually settling into a serene early morning drive through the countryside. When I got to my friend’s house we decided to have breakfast at the new Cracker Barrel in Bardstown. Yesterday was a cold and wet day so it was wonderful to enjoy a breakfast feast in front of a roaring fire. Afterwards we visited an ailing monk in the local hospital. Later we returned to his home where we warmed up from the cold and rain and settled into some engaging conversation. I need days like this where I can step away from my normal routine to re-calibrate my life a little. Father Dennis is not only my friend, he is a mentor, spiritual advisor, and a surrogate big brother. I feel fortunate to have such a person in my life.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Making Each Day New

Many times when my alarm goes off in the morning I feel like the Bill Murray character in the movie “Groundhog Day”. For those unfamiliar with the movie it’s about a guy who keeps living the same day over and over. After many such days he finally realizes that he can make changes that will affect the outcome of his day. Anyone who is faithful to their commitments and obligations over a long period of time can sometimes feel like they are living the same day over and over. Admittedly, as a creature of habit, I take some comfort in my daily routines and rituals. Joy can be found in the familiar. I probably don’t seek out change enough in my life. Part of the reason is that I have a personality that actually thrives on boredom. However, I do make attempts to enlarge the circle of my life and to not always do things the same way. I am not as adventurous as some people think I am but I do like to experience new things and new ways of doing things. Of course, I am not as boring as I may appear on the surface. As an introvert I mostly live in my inner world. There is a lot of thinking and intellectual activity going on within me. My inner life is probably more exciting than my outer life. I am a dreamer and a thinker. Of course, sometimes I need to do simple things like get off a familiar path and change the way I drive home. Sometimes I need to try a new restaurant instead of eating at the same old places. Sometimes I need to take a leap of faith and not just look over the edge.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Visiting The Pumpkin Fields

This past Saturday was a spectacular picture perfect autumn day. My family and I went to a local farm that is famous for it's pumpkin fields and winery. It's an annual tradition for many families to go to the farm, ride on a farm wagon out to the fields, wander among the pumpkins, and select the perfect one for their Halloween Jack O' Lantern. Of course, I love this time of year when pumpkins are enjoyed in many forms. Friday night I had a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, Saturday I wandered around the pumpkin fields with my family, and Sunday morning I ate pumpkin bread with my morning coffee. My granddaughter gets so excited when we go to get our annual pumpkin and I get excited every time I get to be with her. Let me be honest for a moment. Although I am only sixty years old, I sometimes feel old and tired, and occasionally I feel like a grumpy old man. The fast acting cure for all of this is my granddaughter’s smile. My wife and I met the rest of the family at the farm and winery. I was standing around waiting for everyone when I saw my granddaughter in the distance. As soon as she saw me she started waving with excitement and began running towards me. Running towards me and jumping in my arms is something she’s been doing as long as she has been able to run. Now that she is bigger, she almost knocks me down sometimes. It’s impossible not to feel loved when she’s around. Grandchildren are one of life's great gifts and joys.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Finding Happiness In A Balanced Life

Why are some people happy and others not? First of all, it is a choice. Some people choose to be happy despite what goes on around them and to them. Others think they can't be happy until everything is perfect in their lives. Many more always see the glass as half empty instead of half full. It's all a matter of choice and perspective. I do think it helps to have a balanced life. Here are the things I think are important. Every individual must work out how to have and balance these things in their life. For me, they represent the essentials of a happy, balanced, and fulfilling life.

The Six Essentials of a Balanced and Happy Life

Mind. Develop your intellect. Read a book. Learn a new skill. Be open to new things. If you don't use it, you lose it. Rediscover the enthusiasm and curiosity you had as child to learn and discover new things.

Body. Practice wellness. Begin to live a healthy life now. Take care of your body. It is your vehicle through life. Some people take better care of their cars than their own bodies. Don't wait till the damage is done.

Spirit. Be in touch with something bigger than yourself. Have a belief system and a personal code of ethics. Church is great for some but for others it's not. You can still explore the teachings of the great spiritual masters. Check out Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Shiva, and others. If nothing else, the golden rule works for everyone. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Practice the religion of kindness and compassion. Learn to be tolerance.

Work. Give work what it needs and requires. Being a workaholic and working hard are not the same things. Look for work that is satisfying, not only to your bank account, but to your spirit. Work is one of the ways we can share in the creative process of life. Elevate it, in whatever way you can, to something more than just a mundane routine.

Family. Being part of a family who loves you is one of life's greatest gifts. Appreciate it. Strive to make those in your families feel appreciated and loved. Celebrate your family bonds! There's an old saying that goes, "Home is where they have to take you in." Be the kind of person that someone wants to take in.

Self. Take time for yourself. Balance time with others with silence and solitude. Be your own best friend. Enjoy your own company. Look in the mirror and know who you see.

Give all of these things time in your life. Too much or too little of any of them creates an imbalance which can be a source of stress for many people. When our life is in balance, we are at ease with living and happiness finds us.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Influences

A few weeks ago when I had lunch with two of my monastic friends I told them how valuable my personal monastic experience had been and that it had a great influence on the type of person I am today. I was also thanking them for being part of my experience and also affirming them for being faithful to their calling. Even long time monks occasionally wonder if their life has any meaning. All of us are who we are because of our previous life experiences and the influence of the many people near and far who have touched our lives. Certainly there have been many ordinary people who have touched my life in ways they never realized. As far as more well-known figures I could list Jesus, Buddha, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Merton, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, and my granddaughter, Chloe. Even though I have a reputation as an aging hippie rock and roller, the primary influences in my life have been spiritual masters, rebels, contemplatives, artists, lovers of nature, peacemakers, and a seven year old Zen Master. I try to be like all of them as I live my daily life. Many young people would barely recognize some of the people I’ve listed. In today’s world too many people choose celebrities from the world of entertainment and sports to be their role models. Most of these people, including many of the rock stars whose music I love, are unfit as people to model your life on. Our role models are usually based on our personal values. What are your values and who are your role models?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't Miss The Joy

Recently a co-worker said to me, “Michael, you’ve had an interesting life”. I have to admit that it hasn’t always felt interesting but I have had some interesting experiences in my life. A deeper reality, however, is that if you added up all the interesting experiences in my life it would be a small percentage of the sixty years I have lived so far. Most of my life has been very ordinary. A big chunk of time has been taken up by the business of living day to day to meet my obligations, make a living, be faithful to my commitments, and survive in a hostile world. This is not to say that ordinary is bad. Interesting experiences might be thought of like weekends. We all live for them but they make up a small portion of our lives. If I could put my entire life on an Excel spreadsheet and sort it, I am confident that I’ve had some pretty great Wednesdays which by most people's standards would be considered a very ordinary day of the week. Most of life is ordinary and much of it can seem boring. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the moment, be awake, and be aware of the potential and grace of the moment. I truly believe there is much that is extraordinary hidden within the ordinary. Enjoy the ordinary days. Enjoy that first cup of coffee in the morning. Notice the sunrise. Laugh with your friends. Listen to lots of your favorite music. Eat a piece of the cake that your co-worker brought into the office. Spend some time in your favorite chair with a good book. Look out your window and enjoy the scenery. Don’t let the joy of ordinary days pass you by while you are waiting for something interesting to happen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Forgetting What We Know

Did you notice the harvest moon in the sky this morning? It was quite beautiful and it guided me all the way to the office. As I was walking from my parking garage I had to walk past a number of semi-trucks that were loaded with all of Taylor Swift’s stage and sound equipment. My office is next down to the KFC Yum Center where she is playing tonight. I thought about all the people who are thrilled today because they are attending her concert tonight. I know how excited I get whenever I am going to see one of my favorite musical artists. Another thought I had on the way to work today is the idea that by the time you are my age you basically know everything you need to know about life. The problem is that you keep forgetting it. The journey of life is a constant re-awakening to the awareness of this knowledge. This is partially why I am so attracted to Buddha. The very name, Buddha, means “awakened one”. Most people, including me, are constantly falling asleep and forgetting what they know. I do not mean falling asleep physically. I mean falling asleep spiritually. So many of us go through life in a daze that is a kind of sleepwalking. I am always trying to wake up. In my rare moments of wakefulness I have clarity and understanding about life. I remember what I need to know. I am far from being a fully awake Buddha. Most of the time I feel like a man who is sitting on the side of his bed rubbing his eyes and trying to find the energy to stand up and walk to the bathroom where I can splash some cold water in my face.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Return To Normal

If I gave you a detailed description of how I spent last week, no one would call me “Mr. Excitement”. It was a very low key week and that is exactly what I wanted. Of course, the weekends that began and ended my time off were a little more hectic because of a munchkin that stayed at my house. This past Saturday my granddaughter, also known as “Miss 1000 Questions”, crawled in my bed at 7:30 AM after her Dad dropped her off on his way to work. The first thing she said to me was “Paw Paw, what is the tallest tree in the world”? I thought for a moment and then replied, “I think it would be the Redwood trees in California”. She replied, “I don’t mean what species is the tallest, I want to know what tree is the tallest in the world”! Unfortunately I could not identify a specific tree on the planet that would qualify as the world's tallest tree.

Most of the week I did very little. I slept eight hours a night and many afternoons I took a nap. I went to bed at my usual time and I got up early. After my morning rituals that are mostly taking my medicine and insulin shot for my diabetes, I would go downstairs and out the front door to the end of my driveway. There I would pick up my morning paper and head back into my house to make a pot of coffee. Being able to read the morning paper, in the morning, while leisuring drinking coffee and enjoying music is a simple joy that I truly love. After the morning paper I would read a few chapters from "The Land of Painted Caves" by Jean Auel. Sometimes later in the morning or afternoon I wandered around in my yard and talked to the birds and squirrels. Thoughts of work rarely broke through the force field I had constructed around my mind. I didn’t even leave my house for four days. It was exactly the kind of week that I had hoped for but rarely experience. I jokingly referred to the week as "Retirement Training". Besides enjoying the pleasure of doing very little, and only what I wanted to do, it was also a time to seriously ponder how I will really spend my time when I do retire from full time work.

Friday, September 30, 2011

On Holiday

I am taking next week off from work. When you tell people you are going on vacation the first thing they usually ask is “Where are you going”? Europeans don’t take vacations. They “go on holiday”. I like the idea of being on holiday. Here is what I am doing and where I am going. I am going to sleep in everyday until my body tells me to get up. I am going to drink my favorite coffees and read the morning newspaper in the morning instead of in the evening like I do on workdays. I am going to begin reading “The Land of Painted Caves” by Jean Auel. It is the sixth book in a series that I began reading about twenty years ago with a classic called “The Clan of the Cave Bear”. I am going to listen to lots of music. I am going to fill up my bird feeder, sit on my back porch, and watch the different species of birds that come in my back yard. I am going to take naps whenever I feel like it. I will do this in the spirit of a Spanish proverb that says “Isn’t it nice to do nothing and then to rest afterwards”? I am going to run from anything resembling a “Honeydew” list. My goal is to have nowhere to go and all day to get there. I may wear the same Grateful Dead tee shirt every day. I may watch all of David Letterman instead of just the opening monologue. Most of my “vacations” usually involve family trips that are enjoyable but exhausting. This week of vacation will be very low key and hopefully rejuvenating. I’ll be “on holiday” in my mind without ever leaving my home.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pessimists And Optimists

Let me share three quotes. One by a man named Guillaume Appollnaire, one by my granddaughter, and one by my wife.

Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.
-Guillaume Appollnaire

My wife likes to watch the Home Shopping Network and QVC, especially when they are featuring jewelry. Last weekend my granddaughter, Chloe, made the following comment to her.

Meemo (my wife), you can go watch jewelry. Paw Paw and I are going to play the game.

Another time, after discussing some family gossip, my wife made the following comment.

You know, the grass is not always greener on the other side. In fact, it’s actually brown everywhere.

Each of these quotes present teachable moments. Too often we are focused on the search for happiness and can’t see the forest for the trees. Many times in life what we are looking for is right in front of us. It’s what some Zen Masters refer to as “looking for the spectacles that are sitting upon our nose”. Every time my granddaughter stays at my home she teaches me in very real and practical ways how to be in the moment. Children are natural Zen Masters. Chloe reminds me how much I need to unlearn. My wife is a little more challenging than my granddaughter. She and I have opposing worldviews. I hope she was joking with her quote but the reality is that she is a self-proclaimed pessimist who sees the glass as half empty. I am an eternal optimist who sees the glass as half full. Pessimists think optimists are people who are in denial about reality. Optimists think pessimists have no appreciation for all the goodness in life. Pessimists almost always think in negative terms and optimists almost always think in positive terms. Optimists are not always happy. We know life is not perfect but we live in hope. Pessimists seem to never be happy and always seem to be in waiting for the next crisis. Whenever possible they will even turn a blessing into a problem. Personally, in today’s world, where it sometimes seems that all of society is falling apart, I think optimists should be given medals for bravery.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Thoughts Fill Your Head?

What thoughts fill your head? Many of our thoughts are related to our survival. We all think and worry about our jobs, paying the bills, putting food on the table, and taking care of our families. When you are not in survival mode and you have some moments when you can reflect, what do you think about? Sometimes, especially when I am awake, rested, and my awareness is more keen, I think deep thoughts. I think about the meaning of life, my purpose, the quality of my emotional life, where I am on my spiritual journey, and whether or not I am listening to that “inner voice” which guides my actions. When I am tired and feeling spent, my thoughts are usually not so deep. I may be striving to simply maintain basic life support functions or to stay awake until bed time. I may be obsessing about whether or not my CD’s are in alphabetical and chronological order. I usually stay away from heavy reading on work nights and may opt for lighter reading. During the work day I am usually absorbed with thoughts related to work but even in the busyness of the workplace I try to find quiet moments out in the park or while I am walking to think about my life. We must all think about those things that are basic to our needs and our survival. However, I think it is also important to think about the deeper meaning of life. The Dalai Lama thinks the purpose of life is to be happy. Of course, happiness does not generally come easy. In order to be happy and feel happy most people find it necessary to have a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Sometimes we need to stop and reflect on whether we have these things in our life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Roads Less Traveled

In the coarse of my life some people have strongly told me to “never look back”. I understand why they say that. The past is past and you can’t re-live it. However, I basically disagree with this point of view. I think it’s a good thing to sometimes look back, not with regret or longing, but in order to remember. Sometimes you have to look back to figure out how you got where you are and why you are there. Maybe there were times in our lives when we turned left and it took us down a particular path. If we had turned right we would have ended us in a different place. Depending on the paths we choose we encountered people who impacted our lives in positive and negative ways. The early experiences of our lives may have set us on paths that brought us where we are today. What were the experiences that guided your choices? Perhaps you are feeling a little burned out or unfulfilled in your present circumstances. Looking back may remind you why you made the choices you made, why you fell in love with a certain person or why you were passionate about a particular cause. I think it is inevitable that as you get older you may feel a little weary on the journey of life, especially if you’ve been faithful for many years to people, commitments, and your work. We all run out of gas sometimes. Looking back can remind us, and re-energize us, about why we made the choices we did, why we choose the people in our lives, and why we walk the path we do. The following poem by Robert Frost says a lot to me about all of this.

The Road Less Traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Storms Of Life

There is an old saying of unknown origin that goes “When it rains, it pours”. It definitely rained last night in my part of the world and depending on where you live it may have really poured. The weatherman said we got anywhere from 3-5 inches. I had a difficult time falling asleep last night and it seemed like whenever I did a clap of thunder woke me up and lightening lit up my bedroom. I had at least one power surge during the night so clocks all over my house were flashing when my alarm clock went off. I had to reset them all when I got home tonight. The storms of life disrupt our sleep, throw our electronic devices into a frenzy, and in some cases, like with my computer, completely shut them down. Weather related storms are a part of life. Metaphorical storms, as evidenced by the challenges and disruptions of daily life, can also disrupt our sleep, throw us into a frenzy, and occasionally make us feel like we have no option but to shut down. These storms, too, are a part of life. Many of them we see coming and we can be prepared. Some of them, however, blow up unexpectedly and we are not always prepared. Like with natural weather related storms the best thing we can do while it is happening is to find a place of safety. Family and friends provide us with the best shelter. When the storm is over, come out of your shelter, take a deep breath, and survey the damage. Sometimes it looks worse than it is. I think this is the case most of the time. It’s all a matter of perspective. Some of the storms of my life, which seemed huge at the time, are mere bumps in the road in retrospect.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Friends You Choose

Earlier this week my telephone rang. I looked at my caller id and it said “Abbey of Gethsemani”. That doesn’t happen every day. I answered the phone and it was one of the monks. He told me that he and another monk would be in Louisville on business and they wondered if I would be available for lunch. Fortunately my calendar was open so I eagerly accepted the invitation. I’m sure some of you are wondering what it would be like to eat lunch with a couple of monks. One of them isn't too much older than me and we have similar personalities. The other one is in his late 80’s. Don’t let his age fool you. He uses a walker but his mind is sharp as a tack. I have to be on my toes to keep up with him. This aged monk actually interviewed me almost 40 years ago when I was a young, single, spiritual seeker who wanted to live in the monastery. Even though they have both been monks for a very long time, our lunch was not overly serious. We discussed some serious topics but we also laughed a lot. I love it that I have a diverse circle of friends. My mother used to say that “you are what you hang with.” Throughout my life I have always tried to hang with good people. I have tried to surround myself with intelligent, educated, sensitive, and artistic people. I have also tried to surround myself with positive thinkers, people who laugh a lot, music freaks, and a few party animals so I don’t stay too serious. I have been influenced by all of them in a variety of ways. Choose your friends wisely.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Who We Really Are

Most people are judged by what they do for a living. For example, society thinks you’re more successful if you are a doctor than if you are a plumber. However, if your toilet backs up the plumber out ranks the surgeon. If you go to a party and meet strangers the first questions you usually get are “What do you do for a living and where do you work?” In addition to what we do we are often identified as someone’s spouse, someone’s father, or someone’s son or daughter. The truth is that our work and our roles are not who we are. We have to get past a lot of assumptions, activities, and roles to find ourselves. I think a good way to get in touch with our true selves is to observe how we act and what we do when we are alone. When we are alone we don’t have to wear any masks, play any roles, or do anything to meet someone else’s expectations. We can relax and be who we are. If you have a day off from all your roles and responsibilities, and you can spend the day with yourself, what do you do with the time? Even in the busy times of your life when you are working and taking care of your families, are you who you are? If not, you may want to introduce yourself to yourself.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Making Yourself Crazy

Do you ever make yourself crazy? Sometimes I find it exhausting to be me. Do you ever feel that way about yourself? I wonder why I act the way I do. For example, why I am so passive? Why can’t I be more assertive about my needs and more ambitious about my life? My wife thinks I should be running my employer's company by now but I really don't want to do so. I'm told that I procrastinate. Do I really procrastinate all the time? Maybe I do but I always get everything done on time. Does my sometimes compulsive behavior indicate a touch of OCD? Is my over active mind nothing more than ADD? Why do I find most people exhausting but my granddaughter melts my heart? Why do I prefer solitude to parties? Why do I appear so calm on the surface and yet feel so much turmoil inside? Do I really care about other people’s feelings as much as they think I do? Why am I such a perfectionist? What’s up with that? Why do I often feel unloved and unhappy when I know for a fact that I have a good life and many people care deeply for me. Oddly enough, many of the things that drive me crazy about myself seem to be what many other people like about me. Many people think I am calm and centered and relaxed all the time. Many people think I am always full of wisdom and serenity. People seem to see things in me that I don't always see or feel within myself. I seem to make more sense to others than I do to myself. I guess many people have such thoughts about themselves. I don’t know why I am who I am or why I act like I do. I am all of the negative things I describe above and I hope I'm half the positive things many think I am. I guess I am who I am for a reason. If other people see something in me that I don’t see or feel myself, there must be a reason. I guess the challenge of our lives is to allow ourselves to be who we are, and to allow our individual goodness to do what it does even if we don’t comprehend or understand it ourselves. All of us are here for a reason and most of the time we are where we belong.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What We Believe

Yesterday afternoon I had a spirited conversation with some co-workers about our beliefs. Beliefs are a very personal thing. Some of us have absolute certitude about what we belief. Others, like me, have beliefs peppered with some doubt and lots of questions. Some of us believe because we “know”. Others of us know because we “believe”. I have been a spiritual seeker my entire life. I grew up in a strict religious tradition, I have attended the seminary, and I lived a year of my life in a Trappist monastery. I have studied theology and philosophy. I have read many books and I have sat in silence waiting for enlightenment. Still, I struggle with doubt and I am often unsure what I believe. I often wonder if any of us really knows anything for sure. What’s a pilgrim to do? I figure I’m safe and will have all the bases covered if I simply practice kindness and compassion to all living things. Both kindness and compassion imply love. If I find it difficult to love then I follow another of the Dalai Lama’s teachings where he says, “If you can’t love someone, at least don’t hurt them.” If I can do these simple but difficult practices I think I will be OK.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Flow

Psychologists use the term “flow” to describe the experience of being so totally into whatever you are doing that you lose all sense of time and space. This is mindfulness at its best. I have had this experience many times. It has happened to me while listening to music, when I am reading a very good book, when I have been standing on my back porch during a heavy rainfall, looking out my window watching snow fall while sipping a mug of hot chocolate, sitting on a bench in the early morning outside an ancient church in France, and in many quiet moments at the Abbey of Gethsemani. It has even happened to me at work when I am working on a project that is interesting to me. When you are “flowing” you are truly one with life and the universe. These moments in time provide us with a clarity that is often hidden from us in the more demanding or mundane tasks of life. You can’t plan such moments and may not even be full aware of them until you stop and take a breath. What are some moments in your life when you have had this experience?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Playing The Game

I am my granddaughter’s favorite toy. Whenever she comes over to my house she says, “Paw Paw, let’s play the game.” What is the “the game?” The game is both of us sitting on the floor surrounded by her stuffed animals, dolls, and other assorted creatures. Children never want an adult to be comfortable. I can never “play the game” while sitting in my Lazy Boy chair. I once complained to her that sitting on the floor hurt my butt. She immediately brought me a pillow. Let me assure all of my readers that sitting on the floor is easy if you are seven years old and a little more challenging if you are sixty. Once my granddaughter and I are established on the floor we begin “the game”. The game is basically Chloe’s stream of consciousness imagination going full blast. I am usually the voice of my Jerry Garcia doll. If I accidentally slip into my “Paw Paw” role she calls me out and tells me that I’m not in the game. It’s very important to stay in character. Playing with my granddaughter is like being in a movie and she is the Director. If I screw up she yells “Cut!” in so many words and I have to do the scene over. She is constantly re-writing the script and telling me what my new lines are. It’s exhausting for me to be a seven year old! Still, no matter how much my legs ache or my back hurts, I tell myself this is one of the best parts of my life. It won’t be too many more years before Paw Paw has to take a backseat to other boys who want her attention. That is, of course, assuming these other boys get past her Dad and me.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Weekend of Sadness

I must admit the weekend was full of sadness. I joined other members of my family in the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk on Saturday in memory of my father. As I walked around Waterfront Park and along the river I thought of my Dad and all the other people who lived with this disease. Most of Sunday was spent watching the memorials and documentaries about the events of September 11th, 2001. It was like re-living the entire experience. The morning of September 11, 2001 I was here at work like so many people that day. It was an eerie experience when all of us began to realize the magnitude of what was happening. Our senior leaders gave us the option of going home to be with our loved ones and most people took advantage of that. That morning felt like the Pearl Harbor of our generation. I know it sounds clich├ęd but nothing has ever been the same since then. My granddaughter attended the Memory Walk with me and I was with her much of the weekend. When I look at her I am reminded that our hope for the future is with our children and grandchildren. What kind of world will they inherit from us? I hope it is one where people do not lose their past and their memories from the disease pf Alzheimer's and where people of all faiths, countries, and ethnic backgrounds can live together in peace and harmony.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Alzheimer's Memory Walk

Workers love Fridays. It’s the end of the traditional work week for most people. I don’t know anyone who has an easy job. It doesn’t matter if you are making minimal wage at McDonald’s or $100,000 in a corporate position. If you have a job you are earning your money. Since everyone who is fortunate to have a job generally earns every penny of their salary, weekends and time off are highly valued commodities by the average worker. It’s OK to love your weekends and time off. Work is an important part of life but it’s not usually the most important part of life. I personally place a great deal of value on leisure and enjoying the people and things that make me happy.

My granddaughter is coming over this evening to spend the night. We will get up early on Saturday morning and drive downtown to join many other members of my extended family to participate in the annual Alzheimer’s Memory Walk. We do this in memory of my father who passed away in 2009. He had Alzheimer’s. Chloe and I, along with my 81 year old mother, my brothers and sisters, my nieces and nephews, and some in laws, outlaws, boyfiends and girlfriends, will walk around Waterfront Park and think of my Dad and others who have suffered from this disease. If you would like to donate to the cause you can do so at the following link. At the very least you can see a picture of my Mom and Dad if you click on it.

http://walktoendalz2011.kintera.org/faf/donorReg/donorPledge.asp?ievent=454687&lis=1&kntae454687=D36683E0178641CE91BDD91CEE33B9B1&supId=0&team=4280566