Friday, March 29, 2013

Contemplative Moments

This morning I was reading some selections from the writings of Thomas Merton. One entry described a walk in the woods and a moment of contemplation that he experienced. Contemplation is part of the human experience that is overlooked by many as they rush through life. We all need to have moments in our lives where we can breathe and sit in the wonder of life. This is not complicated or so esoteric that it is beyond the average person. We all have the ability to be contemplative. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to gaze at the full moon we have been experiencing this week. To be contemplative the only basic requirements are to be awake and aware. Many of us think winter is never going to end but for those who are aware spring is in the air. When I walk outside every morning to get my newspaper I always notice the weather and gaze at the stars in the sky. When my life is not too hectic or demanding I try to just be. Part of being contemplative is having a sense of wonder. It is also having a sense of gratitude for all that is good. It is the quiet moments of life that give us what we need to deal with all the other moments that may test us or make us crazy. Although many of us do not have the luxury of going on an extended retreat, or even having a weekend to ourselves, we all have moments in our day when we can take a few minutes for the pause that refreshes. I encourage all of you to be on lookout for such moments and to take advantage of them. If you do I believe you will begin to experience a sense of calm in your life that you may not have now. Since it is Easter, let me share a Christian prayer that may help you to find this calm.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Be still.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Many Paths

We are all on a journey. I know this sounds like a cliché but it is true nevertheless. Often in our lives we feel like we are standing still but we are not. Journeys and life involve movement. If we are not moving ourselves, life will move us. Movement is part of life and there are no journeys that allow you to stand still. The journey of life is hopefully a long journey with lots of interesting side trips. Our movement through life may not always be pleasant but if we are lucky it is interesting. All journeys give us experience and many journeys fill us with wisdom. The first time we go down a path we may be lost and not know our way. With each additional trip the path becomes more familiar and we may work the path multiple time just because we enjoy it. Other paths may be treacherous and if we survive them we make every effort to never go down that path again. Some paths are rocky or slippery and we must be careful with every step. Other paths are like a super highway where we can turn on the cruise control and enjoy the scenery. We often end up on many paths where we have no idea where they will end. Occasionally they are dead ends but sometimes they take us to the places of our dreams. The next movie I am going to see with my granddaughter is called “The Croods”. It the story of a prehistoric family who dwell in a cave. The father is always reminding the children of his cardinal rule. The rule is “Never leave the cave”. Of course, he has a daughter who wants to leave the cave more than anything. Circumstances finally force the entire family to leave the cave and by doing so, they discover a world full of wonder. So get out of your cave and begin your journey.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My Granddaughter and Peace

This past Saturday my wife and I took our granddaughter to see Oz…The Great and Powerful. Visually it was a beautiful movie. I think I visited the Land of Oz in 1969 or was it Wonderland? I can’t remember. It was a wild time in my life. As we were walking to the car after the movie my granddaughter said, “l don't like movies with war and people fighting”. I thought that was a profound reflection from an eight year old. I told her that I agreed and that I preferred happy movies. When we got home she wanted to watch a “My Little Pony” movie. I assumed that would be a pretty happy movie but even in this cartoon there was fighting and war because some evil witches were after the Little Ponies. It seems that war and fighting are everywhere. The battle between good and evil, right and wrong, or simple differences in opinion, seem to surround us. It’s in our families, our workplaces, our communities, and our world. Most of the world seems to be pursuing happiness and peace while a minority seem dedicated to destroying the happiness and peace of others. This morning I read from the Buddha that “You are what you think”. There is also a teaching from the Laws of Attraction” that says you experience what you think. If our minds are full of negativity or hatred, if we constantly expect the worst to happen, then we will be people who make others crazy and unhappy while also bringing negativity and discord into our own lives. I told a co-worker earlier this week that the secret to inner peace is controlling your emotions. We cannot control in most cases what happens around us but we can control our emotional reactions. If your spouse or your boss or your children do something that upsets you, don’t react in anger or some other negative way. Maintain your cool and simply respond. Controlling one’s emotions does help us maintain our inner peace and when we are living in peace, we will not want to make war with others.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Birthday Thoughts

Today is my birthday. I am 62 years old. I have lived through the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and now I am 13 years into a new century. When I was born, my 83 year old mother was a 21 year old girl, Harry Truman was president, and there was no television in most homes. I lived as a child through the cold war when Americans lived in fear of Russians, communism, and nuclear attacks.  I came of age by living through the many societal changes of the 60’s like the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the Vietnam war, and the hippie peace movement.  I am still a hippie at heart.  I got married in the 70’s, raised my children in the 80’s and 90’s, and became a grandfather in 2004. I have lived through much and survived much. Most of what people take for granted in today’s world didn’t exist for much of my life. If you want to make me mad, you can do so by telling me I don't adapt to change. Recently a co-worker asked me if I wanted to be young again. My answer was no. I admit that I wish I had some of my youthful energy and strength but the truth is that I really like who I am and who I have become. What I lack in physical strength I believe I now have in strength of character. I am a better person now even if I am moving a little slower. I am wiser and more tolerant. Like all older people I do often feel like a young person trapped in an old person’s body. I am 25 years old in my mind and I still love to rock and roll. However, I also love the fact that my life is slowing down. I like my quiet evenings and having few demands made on me. I am happy to have more time to be reflective about life and to spend less time chasing my tail. If I had wanted to forget my birthday today it would have been impossible at work. As soon as I turned the corner onto my floor I could see the balloons. My co-workers had also made me a wonderful breakfast which I throughly enjoyed.  Throughout the day I received many birthday greetings from co-workers, friends, and even strangers who only know me through my writing.  Life is good.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Doing Laundry

I know I will get some requests after I make the following statement. I love to do laundry. I spend most Sunday afternoons doing the family laundry. I love it because it is uncomplicated. Admittedly it is easier because my laundry room is just a few feet from my man cave and not in a dark corner of an unfinished basement. In today’s world this is not much left that is uncomplicated. Laundry is simple, the process is clear, and the results are obvious. Yesterday I had several baskets of dirty clothes. I sorted them by color and type, threw a load in the washing machine, added a little detergent, and I read a book while the washing machine did its thing. When it was done, I threw the clothes in the dryer and added another load to the washing machine. I may have dozed off in my chair at this point until the buzzer on the dryer awakened me. I took the dry clothes out, added another load to dry, and then began another load to wash. When all of that was going I folded and separated all the clean clothes. I did this all afternoon until all the clothes were clean and folded. When I was done I felt a great sense of accomplishment. There can be great joy in simple tasks.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Last night I was reading the local Catholic newspaper when I saw an announcement about “The Reverend Nicholas J. Brown”. I was like, “Wow! That’s my son”! The little boy that used to beat me up and jump on me, the little boy I took to wrestling matches, the teen-ager I took to rock concerts, the nervous young man I drove to the seminary six years ago has grown up. It is always a proud moment when your children turn out to be decent human beings. I am fortunate that both of my sons have turned out well. They could not be more different but each has become a good man. Sometimes the dreams and hopes of a parent find fruition in their children. Sometimes when we wonder about the purpose and meaning of our own lives we realize our purpose may be to be someone’s parent. Yesterday I talked a little about purpose. Although we all hope to find our gift, we may never completely understand our purpose. Purpose is sometimes a mystery that we never completely solve. We can live our lives and never fully see or understand how we touch and influence others. We may never know how the way we act, the things we say, or the actions we perform influence others. Hopefully, our lives make a positive difference. I don’t really know what impact I have had on my sons. I take no credit for anything but I hope I have been a positive influence. I am reminded of an article I read earlier in the week that was titled “Be The Kind of Leader That People Are Sad To See Go”. I would take this one step further and say “be the kind of person that people are sad to see go”. Wherever you are, leave it a better place.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Most Creative Award

Yesterday I became aware that I won the “Most Creative” Buzz Award for my daily thoughts. "Buzz" is the name of my company's internal social media site.This is the second year in a row that I have won this award and I am truly humbled. The timing is excellent since I’m not feeling all that creative these days. As much as I enjoy writing, it is work. Some days it comes easily to me and the words flow. Other days I have writer’s block and I struggle to find any words. It is affirming to receive any kind of recognition. Most of us go through our daily tasks and responsibilities with a great deal of effort. There are days we don’t feel appreciated. Some days we wonder why we do what we do and we question if anyone really cares. If we are lucky, and I am occasionally lucky, we get an award or some other form of recognition, and we suddenly have a sense that there’s wind in our sails. We feel renewed, refreshed, and affirmed. As I have said many times, I believe we all have a gift. It may take years to reveal itself but it is there. I was in my fifties before I published any of my writing for public consumption. When you find your muse, follow it. Do what you do and give what you have to give. For every gift and talent, there is an audience or person who needs what you have to give. I am not so arrogant to think that the whole world waits in great anticipation for every word I write but I know some people do. Besides the occasional public recognition I routinely receive emails from individuals who tell me that my words have touched their life in a meaningful way. When you find your gift, use it in a way that makes you and other people happy.  Hopefully, you will receive your own “Most Creative” Award.  None of us are here without a purpose.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Expectations Exceeded

Much in life disappoints so I am always happy when something exceeds my expectations. Such was the case on Sunday night when I attended a rock concert by one of my all-time favorite bands. The band is called Yes and I’ve been listening to them since the early 70’s.  If you think I am old you should check their birth certificates. For this particular concert they played three of their classic albums.  They played all songs in the original running order for The Yes Album, Close To The Edge, and Going For The One.  The music of Yes is almost classical and some of their songs are simply majestic.  I was blown away. Even from the cheap seats I had a great view of the stage and the guys in the band really nailed it. The venue was packed with an adoring audience.  They played songs that have been part of my personal soundtrack for much of my life. It was a completely enjoyable experience that I shared with my best friend from high school. The joy of Sunday night was quickly replaced by the total stress of having to get up at 4:00 AM on Monday morning to take my son to the airport ofr a trip to Cancun, Mexico.  If getting up at 4:00 AM on a vacation day isn’t bad enough, it was raining so hard I could barely see where I was driving.  By the time I picked him up at his home, dropped him off at the airport, took my wife to work, and got back home I was wasted. Like I do after most concert experiences, I spent much of the day listening to all the songs that I heard live the previous night. All in all, it was great to have a few days off.  Although nothing is really going wrong in my life I felt the need for a mini-vacation and I am happy I was able to take one. It’s wonderful that today, which feels like a Monday to me, is already Wednesday! In a few more days I will take another vacation to the land of Oz with my granddaughter.

Friday, March 15, 2013

My Wife's Birthday

Today is my wife’s birthday and it is a big one. She is 60 years young and not too happy about it. I reminded her that she shares a birthday with the bass player for the Grateful Dead who turns 73 years old today but that didn’t help much. I also reminded her that I am nearly 62 years old and I’m going to a rock concert on Sunday night. That didn’t help either. Today we had to get our driver’s licenses renewed. When I said “the next time we do this you will be 64 and I will be 66”, she didn’t think that was too funny. It is a milestone in life when you begin a new decade, whether you are beginning your 30’s or your 60’s. Starting a new decade is a time to look forward.  Throughout my entire life old people have told me that regardless of one’s physical age, you are always young on the inside. I believe this is true. On Sunday night I am going to a rock concert to see a favorite band called Yes with my best friend from high school. We have been friends since we were 15 years old. We’ve had many adventures most of which I cannot share.  Although both of us are moving slower, when we are together it is like we are still in high school or college. I told my wife that turning 60 is not all bad even if it does feel like a wakeup call. I love being in my 60’s especially when I can act like I am in my 30’s. It freaks out my children and younger co-workers. Tomorrow night we will celebrate this milestone in my wife’s life with some members of our family.  Maybe we will even stay up past 10:00 PM.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

We Have A Pope

Sometime yesterday afternoon white smoke appeared in the Vatican indicating that a new Pope had been elected by the Cardinals gathered in their conclave. I know this is not a big deal to many people but to the estimated one billion Catholics in the world, it is a time of joy and for many a time of hope. When I first heard the news I was disappointed because the first things I heard about the new Pope were “arch-conservative” and “age 76”. I couldn’t help but think, “Why did they elect another old man when there are so many issues in the church that need to be addressed”? However, when I got home last night and watched the news I became increasingly impressed the more I heard about this new Pope. First of all, he choose the name Francis after the 12th century saint Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is my favorite saint and holy man. The new Pope is also a Jesuit. For those that don’t know, the Jesuits are a religious community who tend to be intellectuals and social activists. The new Pope is also the first non-European and the first Pope from the America’s. He is from Venezuela in South American. At this time in the history of the Church the most growth is in South America and Africa. The new Pope is also a man who up till now has lived a simple life in a small apartment and who took public transportation to work every day. By all accounts he  appears to be a good and holy man who should not be underestimated even though he is 76 years old.  Pope John XXIII was 77 years old at the time of his election and he turned the Catholic Church upside down with Vatican II.  Time will tell what impact this new Pope will have on the church and the world. As a somewhat disenchanted and wayward Catholic, I am hopeful this new Pope will make a positive mark during his time as leader of the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Embracing The New

Never have I enjoyed youth so thoroughly as I have in my old age.
-Writer George Santayana

I know some people must think I am obsessed with aging. I can’t deny that I do think about aging since I am further down the road of life than many of you. However, the reason so many of the quotes I use reference aging is that all of them are written by people who are older. I am getting them from a collection of quotes titled Age Doesn’t Matter Unless You’re A Cheese. If I am obsessed with anything I hope it is trying to live my life awake, in the moment, and with intention and meaning. I want a quality life that is lived well. I do not mean a life with many possessions. I mean a life with purpose, integrity, and which makes a difference. I am trying to avoid going through my life asleep, on total auto-pilot, and just getting by with no goals or meaning. All of these desires are partially met by trying to combine the wisdom of age with a youthful sense of wonder. Sometimes with age one gets comfortable with things the way they are. I can’t deny that I like the comfortable and the familiar. However, I also like new things especially when I overcome any fear or hesitancy I might have embracing them. Once I embrace something new I often love it. A recent example is my Kindle. I am a great lover of books. All of my life I have loved books and reading. I have packed and unpacked some books multiple times as I have moved over the years. I have bought hundreds of books and given away just as many. I love everything about books. I have been resistant to electronic books until my wife gave me a Kindle for Christmas. I must admit I love it. Admittedly it is more than just a new way to read books. I have a variety of apps, music, and books at my disposal. Unlike an iPod I can’t “burn” real books to my Kindle, the way I can “burn” CD’s to my iPod but any new books I purchase will never have to be packed in crates. An old dog can be taught new tricks and even in old age one can embrace and enjoy new ideas and youthful inventions.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Inner Alarms

Last Friday I shared how my wife and I give ourselves a bonus on the rare occasions when a ship full of money arrives in our port. Such a ship docked last Friday so there was a flurry of activity with our checking account over the weekend. Sometime on Saturday our bank called us at home to report “unusual activity” with our account and they wondered if it was us or someone who had stolen our identities. They said there were a lot of iTunes charges among other things. We were actually impressed and grateful the bank noticed and that they took the time to contact us about whether or not the activity was legitimate. I think it would be nice if there were other alarms in my life that would alert me whenever unusual activity or moods are detected, especially if the activity or moods are negative. I try to be self-aware enough to notice such activity with myself. Most of the time my mood doesn’t change much. In my inner world it usually stays 72 degrees all year long. Sometimes, however, I feel an usual lightness of being or a funk of unknown origin and I wonder why. This is when I try to step back and I check my inner thermostat to see if I can determine why. There are times, like this weekend when my bank called, that I have to call myself and ask, “Is this you or has your identity been stolen”? To be psychologically healthy I think we need to not only have feelings or moods but to recognize them and their origins. I know I sometimes overthink things but I like to understand my moods. Thankfully most days are 72 degrees with clear skies and life feels balanced.

What Time Is It?

There are two songs that come to mine this morning. One is “Rainy Days and Mondays Always Get Me Down” by the Carpenters and “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” by Chicago.  I have survived this morning’s rainy commute. Driving in the rain always makes me nervous because I once had a very serious car accident on a rainy day on the very road I drive on each day to work. Then there’s the whole subject of time. Time is like a river. Twice a year we get to manipulate the flow of time with something called daylight savings time. During these times we get to go around our homes and reset all our clocks. It is probably in my mind but when we do this in the spring it takes me a week or two to adjust to the reality that I am getting up an hour earlier. It seems like a small thing but I believe it upsets my inner clock. I do like the extra daylight at the end of the day. By the end of winter I always feel like I am suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Even though winters are generally mild in Kentucky the dreary, overcast days sometimes get to me. I don’t mind the cold as much as the dreariness. I had a busy weekend with little downtime so I am not quite ready for a new week. The time change and the pouring rain do not help. I am sure many of you are feeling the same way. To make the transition a little easier, let’s declare today a crisis free day. This applies to all real and imaginary crisis’s. Let’s consider today a transitional day where we all adjust to the new flow of time. By the end of the week we will forget that the time “changed”.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Sometimes Life Is Just Good

Life is often a struggle on many different levels. However, sometimes life is just good. On a rare occasion a ship docks in my port and its cargo is money. It is becoming a rare occurrence when I receive a tax return. This year is one of the rare occurrences. Whenever my wife and I come into money that we don’t normally expect, we give each of ourselves a bonus that we can spend any way that we want. My wife usually spends her money on clothes or jewelry or both. My personal spending usually involves music or books or both. Yesterday I received an email from my wife telling me the ship, loaded with our tax return, had docked in our checking account. Immediately the wheels began stirring in my mind. On the way home I stopped at the Palace Theater and bought two tickets for a friend and me to see one of our favorite rock bands next week. I think he still owes me for our last rock and roll adventure but that’s another daily thought. We’ve been friends for almost fifty years so who cares. He would do the same for me. When I got home I downloaded some music on my iPod and some books on my Kindle. I was jamming and reading till bed time. I am a very wild and crazy guy. Now it’s the weekend. My son will be home from the seminary tonight and Chloe will be visiting tomorrow so we can go see “Jack the Giant Slayer” at the movies. It’s going to be a beautiful day so I think we might also eat dinner at the Kingfish on River Road where we can also play on the playground next to the river. Yes, life is sometimes difficult but some days are just good. Enjoy them when you can.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

All Things Must Pass

All Things Must Pass.
-A song and album by George Harrison

Back in 1970, George Harrison, one of the Beatles, released a major album called “All Things Must Pass” after years of being overshadowed by his Beatle band mates, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It is a very spiritual album influenced by Hinduism, George’s religion of choice. The most famous song on the album was “My Sweet Lord”. It has been my experience in life that all things truly do pass. In the time I have been on this planet many people, places, and things have passed through and from my life. The idea that all things pass is bittersweet. Although many bad things pass, good things are also transitory. Life is always in flux even though it’s movement is not always discernible in the moments of our lives. We often feel like nothing ever changes and then we wake up and ten years has passed. It is a comfort to know that the storms of our lives won’t last forever but the impermanence of life should also remind us to enjoy life when it is sweet. Life is like the weather. Some days are stormy and overcast. Other days are sunny with blue skies and cool breezes. Sometimes the weather slows us down and other days it energizes us. If you don’t like the weather of the day or the moment, just hold on and it will change. We must also remember that we, too, will pass. As we go through our lives what impact are we having? Are we doing good and positive things with our lives in a way that makes us a sunny day for others or are we a storm that others hope will quickly pass?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Your Strengths Can Be Your Weaknesses

Your strengths are your weaknesses.
-From a teaching on the Enneagram (

We have all taken tests that show our personalities, our preferences, our comfort zones, our strengths, and our weaknesses. It would seem logical that we would exploit our strengths and the best parts of who we are. In general this is true. However, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I am a nice person but sometimes I am too nice. There are times when I need to be less accommodating and to assert my own will by not always giving in to what other people want. I am an analytical person but sometimes I over analyze things. I am a perfectionist but sometimes this is taken to extreme and is little more than anal retention. I am usually calm, laid back, and centered but sometimes I need to be more assertive and pro-active with a greater sense of urgency. We need to look at our strengths to see how we may overuse them. One thing that helps me is a daily thought I receive for my particular personality. Some days this thought tells me I need to remember my strengths and to use them. Other days the daily thought warns me about some of my dysfunctional tendencies and encourages me to do the opposite of what I usually do. I believe all of us need to be more self-aware and to understand our behavior. I know myself well enough to usually see when I am at my best, when I am at my worst, and when I am feeling stressed. We all have patterns of behavior for better or worse that are closely tied to our personalities. Most people believe their personalities are who they are. This is not true. Your personality is actually a defense mechanism that you created early in your life as a way to protect yourself from the world around you and to help you get what you thought you needed in life which is primarily love. I am nice, accommodating, and calm most of the time because sometime in my childhood I received the message that I needed to be this way in order to be loved. Each of you received your own message and much of who you are today and how you act is the result of those messages

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Early Morning Decisions

Yesterday was a quiet day. I made some homemade soup, did the laundry, and stared out the window until the buzzer on the dryer brought me back to reality. By the time I went to bed last night I wasn’t feeling very well and as a result I was awake much of the night. When my alarm went off at 6:00 AM I just wanted to pull my blanket up over my head so I could hide from the world and let the planet spin for a day without me. However, one of my rules of life kicked in. My rule is “Never make a decision about the day during the first thirty minutes you are awake”. Following my rule I got out of bed, took my shower, got dressed, and headed downstairs. Throughout all of this I had one hand on my telephone debating whether or not to call in. Since I am now typing these thoughts you all know that I overcame the temptation to stay home and I have made it to work even if I am in a bit of a daze. I do not expect to be enthusiastically spreading sunshine throughout my office today but I will do the best I can to do whatever I need to do. My rule about the first thirty minutes of my day was created many years ago. I never feel great when I am forced out of bed on a workday, especially in the winter months when it is dark and cold outside. It is much easier in the spring and summer. I have learned, however, that once I get out of bed and start moving around I usually feel better in a short period of time, especially after I begin to consume caffeine. I’m not going to lie. I hope this day does not drag and that it passes quickly in the perception of my mind. I know that all days are made of seconds, minutes, and hours and that despite my perception they all pass at the same rate every day. Today would be a good day to experience the Latin phrase “Tempus Fugit”.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Is Your Group Too Small?

If you’re the smartest person in your group, your group is too small. Find people who will challenge you to stretch to the next level and become everything you can be.

In my working career I have attended many meetings. Sometimes in these meetings I thought I was either the smartest person in the room or the dumbest. There have been other groups and situations that I was involved in where I eventually felt the need to leave. In some cases I felt like I no longer fit in or the group no longer met my needs. There have also been situations where I just felt that I had no more to give. Most of us like our comfort zones and to be honest I hate when people tell me I need to get out of my comfort zone. Yeah, I know that if you are not being challenged you are probably not growing but I prefer to live and grow on my own schedule and not based on other people’s expectations, desires, and timetables. Life is always pushing you into new territory whether you like it or not. There is a saying that goes “when the fruit is ripe it will fall to the ground”. Another saying that I like is “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”. I think I am self-aware enough to know when the fruit of my own life is ripe or when I am ready for a new teacher. One must always look for signs…and warnings…that it is time to move on. Good self- awareness also alerts us to our own stagnations and this also prompts us to move on. Life tends to unfold at its own pace and in ways that are appropriate for us as individuals. I see my whole life as a journey. There have been milestones and accomplishments and times where I just stayed put for a while. Marriage and family life have given me an outer stability in my life but internally I have always been on the move and in search of my ultimate destiny. I believe my greatest successes are still in front of me. As I’ve said to many co-workers over the years, when I leave here no one will remember any of the work I did. What they will remember the most are the written thoughts I have shared. I hope they also remember how I treated them and that I could be very funny. If I was a betting man I would put my money on writing as my ultimate destiny. If anything is pushing me to my next level it is writing and my goal of publishing a book.