Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Patterns Of Our Lives

All is pattern, all life, but we can’t always see the pattern when we are part of it.
-Writer Belva Plain

I have always enjoined reading the biographies of famous people or watching documentaries about their lives. I find it fascinating to see what influences and experiences shaped them into the people they became. I have attempted more than once to identify and understand my own influences and experiences. How did I become the person I am today? You may occasionally ask yourself the same question. Much of the time when we are living our lives they do not appear to make sense. Even when we have a sense of where we want to be and what we want to do, it is never a simple path. Life is full of side roads and back alleys. Sometimes we explore and enjoy these side trips off the main path. Occasionally they turn into the path we walk for the rest of our lives. I had what most people would consider a stable and good upbringing. Life has given me a good education. I have been blessed with good teachers and mentors. I grew up in a tumultuous time of American and world history. I’ve lived in a monastery and I’ve spend more than more than half my life married. Despite my inadequacies as a parent I have two good sons. At different times in my life I wanted to be a priest, monk, rock star, social worker, psychologist, and writer. In some ways I have been all of these things. Looking backward, I can see how many of my life experiences have formed me into who I am. The individual threads of my life have woven themselves together into a tapestry that is who I am. My life often seems very ordinary to me but others think my life has been interesting. Your tapestry may have a different pattern than mine but you have one nevertheless. Take some time today to reflect on your life and see what patterns you can identify.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Quiet Courage

It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for the long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security.
-Writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh

If you haven’t already discovered it for yourself, let me be the one to tell you that life is hard. It is also not fair and it is harder for some people than it is for others. The challenges of life do not mean that life is terrible and not worth living. There are few people who will not do whatever it takes to keep on living. To paraphrase from the poet Dylan Thomas, few of us go gently into that good night. It’s not that we fear death, it’s that we love living. Most of our days are ordinary. We take care of ourselves and our families, we drop our children off at the daycare or school, we come to work, and then we go home. For some going home means rest. For others, going home is delayed because of second jobs. Still others go home to hungry mouths, piles of laundry, and homework assignments. Few of us have not had moments where we wanted to scream and yell “It’s too much”! However, in quieter moments of rest and reflection, our faith is renewed, we feel secure in our belief that we will receive what we need, and hope gives us a sense of security. Some men and women do heroic things that we hear about in the news. I always admire such people. However, I also admire the everyday heroes that are never in the news. These are the people who push themselves to do all they are called to do. They get up every day and come to work. The take care of their families. They are faithful to their commitments. Such people are the salt of the earth and they are full of quiet courage that is not usually noticed.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Life Is Always Changing

Life is always moving on and changing. This simple truth manifested itself to me yesterday while I stayed home suffering from allergies. I have lived in Louisville and the Ohio Valley most of my life and never had any problems. Now, almost every time I don’t feel good, it is diagnosed as allergies. I used to like staying up all night. Now I can’t wait to go to bed. I used to love loud rock and roll concerts but now the crowds get on my nerves. I used to be more outgoing and sociable but now I prefer to just be home living a quiet life. The world I was born into no longer exists. The world I live in now seems strange to me at times as though I am in a foreign country that I do not recognize. None of these things are bad things. It is just proof that life is always moving and changing. Nothing ever stays the same and in most cases, it shouldn’t. I have sometimes been accused of being resistant to change. I think we all are at times. There’s always a little panic in my workplace whenever people sense that change is coming. I don’t believe people fear change as much as they fear a loss of stability. People like to know what to expect and what can be depended on. To keep people happy I think we need reasonable stability with change that offers something, not only new, but good. It is not change that people fear, it is loss. If my allergies get worse, I fear the loss of my ability to breathe effectively. When change is in the air, and it is always out there somewhere, ask yourself what it is that you fear losing. At the same time, ask yourself how the change may benefit you. Maybe a change that pulls you out of your comfort zone is a good thing. Life is not static and we cannot be static either. Life will move on and change whether we like it or not.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I don’t care, frankly, what people think. I do what I like.
-Chef Julia Child

I don’t believe this quote means that we should have no concern whatsoever about other people and that we should just do whatever we want, regardless of the impact on those around us. Unless you’re a hermit, and you have little contact with the rest of the human race, we do have to live our lives with some degree of cooperation and tolerance of others. I think what this quote tells us is that you can’t live your whole life trying to please other people, trying to impress them, or comparing yourself to them. Each of us has been given one life and we have to live it the best way we can. We will go through different stages of growth, immaturity, pain, and awareness until we hopefully have achieved some level of self-actualization. What is self-actualization? I believe it is that point in our lives, usually when we are past our middle age, when we become who we really are and we begin to realize our true potential and personal power. Self-actualization is at the top of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”. You will never be who you are meant to be if you spend your entire live trying to please others or meet their expectations. I think Julia Child is saying that pleasing yourself is not inappropriate, or selfish, and that each of us must walk down the path that calls us. In her case, it was the call to learn French cooking that anyone could cook like a chef with a little effort. Each of us is more than someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s mother or father, or someone’s husband or wife. We may be one or more of all these things but self-actualization is when we discover our true essence and our true self. Do not confuse identity with roles. Doing what you like may be selfish but it can also be the path to your self awareness.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dalai Lama Memory

Yesterday I was overjoyed to secure some tickets to see the Dalai Lama. He will be making several appearances in Louisville this coming May. For many people, including me, the Dalai Lama is a rock star. By anyone’s standards he is the most well-known and influential Buddhist in the world and he has been a major influence in my personal life. I consider it a great honor to see him and hear him speak. This is actually the second time I will be seeing the Dalai Lama. I saw him back in the 1990’s at Berea College in southern Kentucky. He was there because there was a large contingent of Tibetan students attending the college. The Dalai Lama is certainly the most famous holy man I have seen in my life. However, I have also been in the company of lesser known but still deeply spiritual men and women. One trait I thought they all had in common was a deep sense of humor. I believe people who are truly holy and deeply spiritual are also very humorous people. Such people, including the Dalai Lama, do not take themselves too seriously. You can’t be holy and pompous at the same time. The first time I saw the Dalai Lama he came out on the stage all serious like. He began to speak in Tibetan. After a few minutes he started laughing out loud. I feel certain he knew that everyone in the audience was having the same basic thought which was “Are you kidding? I came here to listen to the Dalai Lama and he’s going to give his talk in Tibetan”? The audience realized he was putting them on and the joke was on them. He then gave the rest of his talk in English. The week of the Dalai Lama’s visit I will be bridging the gap between East and West. I will see the Dalai Lama on a Sunday and the following Saturday my son will be ordained a Catholic priest.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Constructive Feedback

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.

Inauguration Day

I had a nice day off on Monday.  My wife and I took the day off to watch all of the inauguration festivities. I love pageantry, pomp, and circumstance, whether it be a presidential inauguration, a royal wedding, or a papal funeral. I remember my wife and I getting up in the middle of the night to watch the funeral of Princess Diana. With modern communications one can easily feel a part of such events. On Monday, after sleeping in a bit, my wife and I got out of bed, made some breakfast, and then planted ourselves in front of the television and we watched everything that happened in Washington. I would have watched it no matter who won the election but it’s always better when it’s your guy standing there. I am an emotional person and I found myself a little teary eyed at times. I felt proud to be an American and I felt one with all the diversity found in the crowd of nearly one million people standing on the Mall in front of the capital building. I also enjoyed the fact that Monday's inauguration took place on Martin Luther King Day. He is a very real person to me because I grew up in the civil rights era and I remember his famous speeches and untimely death. There are still many problems in our country but we have also come very far from the kind of society and culture we had in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Days Bring New Hope

The present is the ever moving shadow that divides yesterday from tomorrow. In that lies hope”.
-Architect Frank Lloyd Wright

There’s a somewhat corny saying that goes, “Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present”. The reality is that each new day is a gift that not everyone receives. Each new day is a new beginning and every new beginning is a time of hope that we will be better people, that life will be better for us, and that we can forget yesterday’s troubles. Often by the end of a workday I am tired and frazzled after dealing with whatever came up that day. Sometimes when I finally get into my car and I am putting my key into the ignition, I close my eyes and think “Thank you, God”! I’m not always sure if I am thanking God for giving me the strength to get through another day of work or if I am thanking him for finally getting me out of the office! By the next morning, however, I am usually refreshed, renewed, and ready for whatever the new day brings. Anything that feels overwhelming at the end of a day, or in the night, seems considerably less so at the beginning of a new day. In the early morning I feel like I can do anything. In the late afternoon I am often out of gas and little things can seem like a huge chore. This is why I love early morning. Anything seems possible in the morning. It is generally a peaceful time. I also like evenings because they are also peaceful even if they don’t seem as full of possibility as the morning. If I could just find a way to avoid the whole middle part of the day. Maybe I will start working 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM, go home and take a long nap, then come back to the office and work 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM. How does that sound?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our Lives Make A Difference

You make what seems to be a simple choice: Choose a man or a job or a neighborhood…and what you have chosen is not a man or a job or a neighborhood, but a life.
-Writer Jessamyn West

This quote reminds me of another quote attributed to John Lennon that goes, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”. I have written before about dreams not realized, lives that seem more accidental than planned, and how many of our days are simply ordinary. Some would say these points of view represent a negative attitude about life. Let’s look at life from a different point of view and one that I truly believe is true. Let’s accept that our lives have turned out exactly the way they should and that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. I truly believe this is true even when it doesn’t seem logical. Many of you know that as a young man I lived in a monastery and I thought I would be a monk for the rest of my life. It was a romantic ideal for me that I would live in a beautiful place, that I would walk on air, and that I would be in a blissful aura of sanctity for all eternity. Obviously that didn’t happen. If I had stayed in the monastery, blissful or not, none of you would be reading these thoughts because I would not be here to write them. In addition, my wife would be married to another man, my children would not exist, my beloved granddaughter, Chloe, would also not exist and who knows what great things they may do in their futures. It is easy to think our lives do not make a difference but they do. Your life has more value than you probably realize. You affect the lives of others in ways you may never realize. The lives we have now are where we are supposed to be today and today is all we have right now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Now Is The Time

There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us. But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try. These reasons seem to protect us but in truth they imprison us. They hold life at a distance. Life will be over sooner than we think. If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time.
-Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

For those who may not be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, she is most famous for her groundbreaking work with the dying. It seems appropriate and good that someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the end of life would also be someone who encourages us to not waste a minute of life and to live it to the fullest. I have often grown weary of my own maturity, responsibility, and dependability. There are times I get so tired of being the guy who always does the right thing in sacrifice of love, life and adventure. However, I am also aware that some people actually admire me for these rather boring traits. Since most of my life has not been spent sailing the high seas, flying around the world in a hot air balloon, or climbing the highest mountains, I have tried to get the most out of a quieter life that seems more ordinary than extraordinary. Still, even those of us who live ordinary lives, doing mostly ordinary things, can have an attitude of yes to life’s possibilities. If you are young, and even if you are old, I encourage you to say yes more than no. If there’s an opportunity to do something, then do it. If there’s an opportunity to be something, then be it. When something new is knocking at the door, do not turn off the lights and pretend that you are not at home. More importantly, don’t assume you will have time to do something in the future. The time to do something is now. This is why I am really going to try hard to get my book published this year. To be honest, it’s hard. I am lazy, I have little drive, I often lack confidence, and my wife says that procrastination would be a step forward for me. I am also tired all the time. Fortunately, I have some friends and supporters who believe in me. They are the wind in my sails. Writing a book may not seem as adventurous as going on a long journey but there was a time in my life I never thought I could do such a thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Seasons Of Life

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-Last Words of Blackfoot Warrior Crowfoot

The images in this quote speak to me of mindfulness and paying attention. When I was a child catching fireflies was one of the things children did. As a young boy I actually played outside, especially on summer days and nights. At that time of my life a summer day seemed eternal. Admittedly, the lack of air conditioning in my parent’s home and the fact that my family only had one black and white television with two channels, motivated me to go outside and be creative with my time. My wife and I were on vacation this past Thanksgiving. We decided to have lunch at Huber’s Restaurant, a place usually so crowded that you normally cannot get in. We took some back roads to get there when I suddenly saw a field full of buffalo. I am talking about real buffalo like you see in movies about the frontier days. It wasn’t cold enough to see their breath but unusual enough to get lost in a moment of wonder. Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter, I usually notice the differences in the light and shadows of the day. I have lived most of my life in the same places but they never look the same. As I travel up and down the same road to work each day I see the new growth and colors of spring, the green fullness of summer bounty, the multi-colored tapestry of fall colors, and the starkness of winter. Each season has its own beauty. Our lives are like the seasons. Each stage of life corresponds with a season of nature. Some of you are in the springtime of your lives. Some are experiencing the fullness of summer by being at the peak of your powers. Many, like me, are in the autumn of our lives when we know we have more summers behind us than in front of us. Eventually, if you are lucky enough to have a long life, you will experience the winter of life when the cycle is complete. I think Crowfoot is encouraging us to enjoy the moments and the seasons of our lives for life is made up of such moments. Maybe a deeper question than “What is life?” might be “What is your life”?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend Adventures

I’m not really sick, I just don’t feel good.
-George Carlin

This past Friday I felt wiped out most of the day. I thought the day would never end. When I left work I then had the chore of going to the grocery store. On the best of days I dislike going to the grocery. I am one of only two or three husbands in the world who actually accompaniment their wives to the grocery.  My job is to push the cart, get things my wife can’t reach, and pick up heavy stuff like cases of Diet Coke. When I eventually got home I crashed on my couch. I knew I had to get rested because it was going to be a Chloe weekend. Fortunately I wasn’t really sick. I think what I had, and what I still have this morning, is allergies. If I had been truly sick I would have had to disappoint a sweet little girl. We spent Saturday afternoon at the movies watching “Parental Guidance”, a funny film about two grandparents trying to connect with three grandchildren they rarely saw. Afterwards, Chloe wanted to go to Build A Bear. This is a store where parents and grandparents can quickly become separated from their life savings. Fortunately I had a $25 gift card which lessoned the pain. While standing in the store I saw a well-dressed black man that looked very, very familiar. He finally walked over to me and said, “Does anyone ever tell you how much you look like Santa Claus”? I laughed and replied, “All the time”. After he introduced himself I knew why he looked so familiar. He was Muhammad Ali’s brother. He was a very congenial and humorous man. He made my time in Bear A Bear much more pleasant since there seemed to be thousands of children in the store who had eater way too much sugar. When Chloe went home on Sunday I once again collapsed on my couch and quickly fell into a deep sleep. I wish I was still there right now.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Everything Is A Miracle

There are only two ways to live your life. One is though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
-Physicist Albert Einstein

If the world is divided into two camps, then I am a person who thinks everything is a miracle. I strive to take nothing for granted and to see everything as a miracle and a gift. Have you ever really stopped and reflected on the wonder of life? The natural world alone fills me with awe. The checks and balances of nature, when left unaltered by mankind, are a work of art. When I speak of being one with the universe…what I also refer to as a Zen moment…I am speaking of being in harmony with the miracle of life. You are living a Zen life and a contemplative life when you find yourself increasingly being lost in such moments. The act of listening to music can be an analogy for such moments. For most people music is something in the background. Sometimes, however, when I have music in the background while I am doing something else, the music will take control and I cannot continue what I am doing. I become lost in the musical performance and I am no longer conscious of the moment or what I am doing. There’s an excellent book called The Mystery of the Ordinary by Charles Cummins that reinforces what I am saying. Most of us go through life asleep. We fail to notice many things in our daily lives. We take most things for granted and fail to appreciate the mystery of the ordinary or the miracles of life that surround us. Take a few minutes today and pay attention to life. Let your senses run wild. Look around and actually see things. Smell the bread baking. Taste your food. Feel the wind and the warmth of the sun upon your face. Listen to some music for no other reason than to enjoy the melodies. Don’t pass through your life with no memory of the journey. Slow down. Be present. Breathe. Laugh. Don’t take your yourself so seriously. Be happy. Be a miracle.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


I have thousands of opinions still, but that is down from millions and, as always, I know nothing.
-Writer Harold Brodkey

Since I began writing daily thoughts I have published over 1200 of them. Some friends, who are two of my biggest fans and supporters, are currently reading and editing all these thoughts and trying to determine which ones are good enough to be in the book we hope to publish this year. One of the challenges of doing this is that I have written about so many different things over the years. I have written about my granddaughter, family life, Zen, rock and roll, trips to the monastery, the struggles of living a meaningful life, aging, and many other things. Of course, I think this variety of topics is also my appeal to many people. One of my editors described some of my writing as “things everyone thinks about”. I am a kind of “everyman” with fairly good communication skills who can communicate feelings that many people have but perhaps can’t articulate. Much of my writing is nothing more than me thinking out loud on paper. Intellection is one of my five strengths so I tend to be a thinking type person. I also have a very introspective personality. This doesn’t mean I am smarter than everyone else or that I have all the answers to the mysteries of the universe. To be honest, I still don’t know the meaning of life and I have few answers. I can identify with the author of the above quote when he says, “I know nothing”. In fact, the older I get the less I know for certain. I have questions and doubts about almost everything. I have been struggling lately to even think of things to write about since there is nothing new under the sun. The new book of quotes that I received as a Christmas gift has been very helpful in this regard. Writing keeps me from imploding. Some people work out at the gym or do needlepoint to relax. I write and I will continue to do so even if no one else ever reads what I write.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Finding Your Purpose

Train your will to concentrate on a limited objective. When young, your spread your effort over too many things. If your try fails, what does it matter? All life is a failure in the end. The thing is to get sport out of trying.
-Sir Francis Chichester (after sailing around the world at age 71)

I must admit that most of the dreams of my youth have never come to fruition. Much of my life has seemed like an accident. How did a 60’s hippie who once lived in a monastery end up in corporate America?  This doesn’t mean that everything has turned out badly. It just means that my life hasn’t exactly been a well-executed project plan. Many lives are like mine in the sense that people often end up in places they never planned to go. Did I want too many things when I was young and did I spread my efforts too thinly? Perhaps. Much of my life I didn’t know what I really wanted or what I might be good at doing. I was the person at age fifty who wondered, “What do I want to be when I grow up”? Are all the unfulfilled dreams failures? I think not. I’ve had some grand adventures along the journey of life and I think I will have more. In many ways I believe I am on the brink of realizing my own true purpose and I feel I am on the verge of some kind of personal break through. My fifties and now my sixties have been a time of great personal enlightenment. Although I still get annoyed with some of my behavior, I am no longer a mystery to myself. I know who I am and my reason for being is becoming clearer to me. We don’t always get to be what we want to be but we usually end up being who we are meant to be. I am not sure I will be sailing around the world when I am 71 years old like Sir Francis but I will leave my mark in some way. None of us are here just to take up space.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Being A Hobbit

Security is mostly superstition. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.
-Helen Keller

Keep in mind that the above quote is from a woman who was deaf, blind, and unable to speak. When I think of that I must wonder what excuse the rest of us have for not living more daring lives. I am not as adventurous as I would like to be. It is not in my nature to be daring or a risk taker. I am way too cautious in my life. It is an ingrained part of my personality to take the path of least resistance. After seeing “The Hobbit” last week with my granddaughter, Chloe, I realized that I have many of the characteristics of a Hobbit. I prefer to sit in my Hobbit house, next to a fire, with a good book, hot coffee, and all my other creature comforts. Life in the Shire suits me fine. Age may turn many of us into Hobbits. If I do take risks it is most likely in my thinking instead of my actions. If Gandalf and a band of Dwarfs showed up at my door urging me to join them on “An Unexpected Journey”, I would most likely be as resistant as Bilbo Baggins. I have a co-worker with the same basic personality as me. We sometimes lament certain parts of our personalities that make us who we are. However, I try not to use who I am as an excuse for not being who I could be. I probably do not challenge myself enough and I doubt that I am alone. Although there is nothing wrong with being a Hobbit, it is not always a good thing to take the path of least resistance and to always avoid danger or risk. A passionate life, whether it be a deeply intellectual life, or one with the daring of Dwarfs and Wizards on a great adventure to Middle Earth, cannot be lived in total safety and comfort.

Monday, January 07, 2013

I Can Breathe Again

In the busyness of the holidays I sometimes forgot to breathe. Today life truly gets back to normal and I can breathe again. For better or worse I am a creature of habit and routine. I try to be conscious in my routines but admittedly I sometimes do them on auto-pilot. Paying attention to my breathing helps me to be mindful  of my activities. I look forward to the coming weeks of nothingness so I can slow down and once again remember to breathe. Some of you are thinking, “What’s his deal with breathing”? Breath is life. When was the last time you actually noticed you were breathing? My guess is that most of you only think about breathing when you can’t do it. Think about the last time you had a cold or your allergies were bothering you. I bet you thought, “I wish I could breathe”! Not only is your breathing a sign that you are alive, it is also a metaphor for being spiritually awake and one with life. Do not take breathing for granted. Sometime today, when you have a quiet moment, stop what you are doing and simply be present to your breathing. Breathe in through your nose and think, “I am one with all of life”. Exhale through your mouth and think, “All of life is one with me”. People have often asked me how to meditate. This is a very simple way. If you want it to be more spiritual, simply change the words to something that is spiritually meaningful to you. Paying attention to your breathing is also an excellent way to become calm if you are feeling a little frazzled as well as a way to enhance your well-being.

Friday, January 04, 2013

It's A Wonderful Life

“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I had realized it sooner”.

When I first read this quote I immediately thought about gratitude and the importance of appreciating the moments of our lives. If you live a grateful life and are present to the moment, you will realize how wonderful your life is most of the time. Of course, we all have challenges and setbacks but that doesn’t necessarily diminish the quality of our lives. Yesterday my wife, who is the Chief Financial Officer of the Brown Corporation, sent me an email with her estimate of the financial impact of the new tax rates on our paychecks. As with many of her “business” emails to me it sounded dire and foreboding. There will be a noticeable bite into our paychecks. It will require some adjustment. I may have to cut back on some of my workday lunches at overpriced restaurants along Main Street. However, the point I want to make is this. The new tax rates, as well as many other things in life, are an inconvenience not a crisis. As I told my wife on our drive home last night a crisis would be losing our jobs. I don’t like paying taxes any more than anyone else. However, I am grateful that I have a paycheck that can be taxed. My paycheck is not all that impressive and the money that flows into my checking account has fluctuated up and down over the years. However, it has provided me with reasonable security and it has contributed to many wonderful things in my life. It is so easy to complain and complaining seems such a part of being human, but if we are honest most of us have far more for which to be grateful. Sometimes you need to just sit down and count your blessings. We tend to take the good things in our lives for granted and to blow the bad things in our lives out of proportion. My experience of life’s challenges is that their size is a matter of perspective. Today’s problems seem huge. Most of yesterday’s problems seem like a bump in the road. Start today to realize what a wonderful life you probably have.

Growing Younger

A new friend, with whom I felt a deep connection almost immediately, gave me a book for Christmas called “Age Doesn’t Matter Unless You’re A Cheese”. It is a collection of sayings that were all written by people over sixty years old. The book is right up my alley. I told my friend the book would very likely inspire many of my own daily thoughts. Her response was, “Why do you think I bought you the book”! I love it whenever people think of me and especially when they give me things that have some thought behind them.
Here is today’s thought from my new book.

“I suppose real old age begins when one looks backward rather than forward”.
-May Sarton

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions this year although I do have one big goal. However, there is one thing I really want to avoid and that is acting old. When one’s chronological age is in the range that I am now it is easy to slip into an old age mentality. This year I really want to be resistant to that. Coming to work every day helps because I am surrounded by many younger people. It is also helpful to be a body in motion rather than a body at rest. Everyone is familiar with the basic law of physics that says “ a body in motion tends to stay in motion while a body at rest tends to stay at rest”. This is challenging for me because I have a sedentary job that often drains my brain and causes me to dream of my couch. One way or another I need to be a body in motion. Another thing for me to avoid is day dreaming and spacing out. I know I have written a lot about mindfulness and being in the moment but it is still no easier for me than it is for many other people. Multi-tasking and being over stimulated with various forms of media contribute to my fatigue and dissipation. I need to live more intentionally and purposefully. I hope my desire and goal to publish a book this year gives me more focus. Looking forward, I hope to be younger in my thinking, more active if only by walking more, and more purpose driven and less spaced out in my day dreaming.

I did crank up “Jumpin' Jack Flash” by the Rolling Stones on the radio this morning as soon as my wife got out of the car so I guess there’s still hope for me.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013


January is a hibernation month for me. After the busyness and the buildup of the holiday season it is a welcome relief. Some of the hibernation is financially driven. My wife informed me this morning that we are on our own personal fiscal cliff. It’s not because we spent too much during the holidays. It’s more about what’s looming ahead. Can you spell T-A-X-E-S? Financially, emotionally, and spiritually, January is a good time to let the dust settle in our lives before the new life and activity of spring arrives. When the holidays are over it can be a bit depressing, especially during these days when all of the decorations have not yet been packed away. I will complete that task this coming weekend. Once that last Christmas tub is stored away and the shed is locked, there will be a sense of relief. When everything is packed away and the house is once again clean and orderly, I can begin in my psychological hibernation. My days of course will still be filled with work responsibilities but my evenings will be quiet time at home where I am protected from the dark and the cold of winter. Books, hot beverages, and good movies will comfort me. Slowly the days will grow longer, spring will challenge winter, the sun will shine more, and like an old bear I will re-emerge from my cave.