Old Friends Are the Best Friends

There is a good friend of mine who lives about 700 miles away that I trade an email with just about every single day of the year.  The exchange is usually just a few lines.  Yet, it amazing how well we are able to keep up with each other with those short little but consistent emails.  

Lately we have been comparing notes on the weather in each of our locales and this morning I wrote him about the record 107 degree temp here yesterday.   While here in Oklahoma we are having record highs yesterday in Colorado just 700 miles away it was raining.  I only know that because he wrote and told me.    

My friend is semi-retired and has more small hand power tools than anyone else I have ever known.  A hobby of wood working takes a good deal of his time.  He seems to always be coming up with a new self assigned project and making something out of wood for a friend or family member.  From chests to clocks to display boxes he makes them all and more.  I frequently get photos of his latest effort whether it is a toy chest for his granddaughter or a pen storage box for his wife’s office. 

Through emails I am able to keep up with happenings in my friend’s family.  I knew about his oldest son buying a house recently and got to see photos of the house.  There are regular updates on the interesting things his very intelligent and observant 1st grade  granddaughter comes up with. 

When my buddy takes a trip, I know almost always where to, for how long and the general purpose of the travel.  He just wrote this morning about heading to a school reunion this upcoming weekend. 

One of my friend’s two sons is quite an artist.  While it is not something the son does for a living, he does sell a piece here and there.  I look forward to the holidays each year to see what this son has added to his outdoor Christmas display.  Each Christmas season my friend’s son makes additional characters for his home lawn exhibition that includes some of the most original depictions of elves I have ever seen.  I know because I get new images via email each year. 

He and I also have fun with each other with some good old fashioned kidding and goofing around from time to time.  Usually some sort of play on words or just having fun with something one of us has written is good fun and entertainment.  

I always know when it is a patriotic holiday my friend will out ridding his red, white and blue motorcycle wearing his flag jacket.  I look forward to hearing specifics about who waved, honked, saluted and appreciated his efforts.   Whether it’s Memorial Day, July 4th, Veteran’s Day, President’s Day, Flag Day or some lesser patriotic remembrance, somewhere on the streets of Colorado my friend can be found. 

He and I have known each other close to 30 years and we began as two people who worked for the same company.  Over the years we each went our separate professional ways, but have steadily become closer friends as time has passed.  Neither of us are people who make friendships easily or fast.  Old and un-fractured friendships are rare, yet that is what we share.  We have never had a cross word exchanged. 

I have written all that to say, today at the top of my gratitude list is my friend and the daily emails we share.  He is a unique, quirky and intelligent man with a twisted sort of humor that I appreciate a lot.  His novel view of things is a good match for mine.  We are completely different is so many ways, but yet at our core we are basically the same.  Today it is for my good friend that I feel much gratitude for.  I am honored to call him my friend.  

Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief.  Swedish Proverb

A Lazy Sunday = Good Mojo

“This is usually “good morning gratitude” but today’s volume is arriving in an evening edition.  Once in while I need one of these laze around and take it easy “Sunday’s”.  You know the type.  Sleeping in a little was a treat.  My body appreciated the extra rest.  I had dreams that left me in a good mood although I don’t remember details.  Morning found feeling well.  

I slept until I was ready to get up, and then woke up with a first cup of coffee in front of the computer checking email.  I suspect most can remember a time when un-hurried they got caught up on their email.  There’s even the luxury of going back and reading emails you just never got to.   Today that bit of catching up was satisfying in some way I can’t explain exactly except it just felt good.  

Breakfast tasted good and my body appreciated it.  Fresh strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and a banana cut up in a bowl to go along with a one-egg cheese omelet.   My body knows the different between the bad and the good stuff.  It rewards me as it did today when I feed it well.      

My best friend M. called about 11am “just checking in” as we call it.  We ended up making plans for him to come over later.   We talked for a while then watched a movie and ate popcorn.  Then we talked some more.  Simple and calm the afternoon passed quickly and was a good time.  

Bedtime will be on schedule tonight.  I suspect when I lay down sleep will come comfortably and quickly.  That will be the end of a plain, nothing special, ordinary kind of delightful Sunday.  It was one of those days that are an ad-lib from start to finish.  “Time to waste” and spending it as I chose was good medicine. 

I am even cheating a little now and writing fewer words here than I usually hold myself to.  Even that little laziness is sweet.  I am grateful.

If you haven’t given yourself one of these lazy days I highly recommend you give yourself one soon. 

 Life passes very quickly.   

It is in his pleasure that a man really lives; it is from his leisure that he constructs the true fabric of self.  Agnes Repplier

 

Living a More Healthful Life

 Two weeks ago I had my annual checkup and the test results are all back.  I am pleased and grateful to know that I am a healthy man with a body younger than my years.  Each year after the initial examination I figuratively ‘hold my breath’ a bit while waiting for the reports.  That is interesting to me as only in the last 10 years has it become so.  Into my 40’s I just plowed ahead without much thought about longevity or mortality. 

While it is difficult to say I did it with full intention, I don’t have lots of bad eating habits.  For some reason I have never been a big fan of red meat which to some people, men especially, is almost un-American.  When on occasion I order a steak you should hear the grief I get when I say “well-done please”.  My response is something similar to “my grandfather raised beef cattle.  You don’t want to know what I know.  If you did you’d eat beef well-done too.”  That usually ends that topic of conversation right there.

In my growing up years I was exposed to alcoholics in the family, not the least of which was my Mother and Father.  Knowing my genetics lend a propensity to being one myself, I have actually never even been drunk.  Pure fear of being the way I have seen others behave is a strong antidote to any influence of my genes my makeup contains.   

My life is not without regrets in regard to my health.  I have one BIG one.  I smoked tobacco for several decades and quit only a few years ago.  I always knew this habit was completely contradictory to the remainder of my life.  It just did not fit and often when others who knew me found out I smoked they were surprised saying things like “you just don’t seem like you’d be a smoker”.    

In my 20’s and even 30’s at least as many smoked as did not.  As time passed that became less and less true.  The personal embarrassment became stronger and stronger as those of us who smoked were exorcised to practice their habit out back by the dumpsters or some other awful place.   I realize now as a non-smoker how badly I smelled to those without the habit.  I thought I fooled everyone better than I did.  The only person who was fooled as me!  I have supremely high gratitude the habit is no longer a part of my life.  I feel better than I ever have in my adult life.  

When the smoking habit departed two of my senses became more acute:  sense of smell and sense of taste.  I suppose it goes back to my young hippie days that I love incense and beautiful aromas.  As a non-smoker my ability to enjoy and sort out scents is heightened to be extremely keen today and a great joy.  Also, my sense of taste is much broader and more discerning.  Eating during most of my life was something I just had to do more so than something I truly enjoyed.  That is reversed now.  I love food.  The variety and texture and tastes are much broader and something I enjoy… a little too much! 

My current phase is to lose the extra 25 pounds I have accumulated over the last few years.  Age is a part of it and a lifestyle a bit too sedentary contributes.  Though overall it is my fairly newly acquired love of food that is the primary cause.  My reading recently has included a good deal about losing weight and eating healthfully at the same time.  My discoveries include my love of vegetables and fruit is a good thing.  Growing up on a farm meant those were always around either fresh, canned or put up in the freezer. 

I do however have to tone down my intake of some other foods such as my favorite salty snacks including all kinds of nuts.  In small dozes nuts are great for health, but high in calories.  That is proving to be a tough one for me.  The other little battle I am fighting is that against direct sugars like the granulated sort I put in my coffee and the indirect type I get through my love of carb’s, especially of the refined variety.  Moderating my intake of noodles, bread, rice, tortillas, pretzels, and such is a challenge, but one I am determined to meet! 

I read recently that around 63% of adults in the U.S.were either overweight or obese in 2009.  So far I fit into the overweight category of close to 40% of those in the USA.  Considering myself as out of the ordinary I find my extra weight to be quite ordinary considering these statistics.  Hence, my determination to move into what is classified” normal” which in this country is actually “abnormal” since just a little more than a third of people qualifies.   I have an email address that begins “uniquelyoriginal” and in the particular subject of weight I am determined to live up to that handle. 

Yes, more and better consistent exercise must also be a part of my new way of being, but I am up for the challenge.  With that focus and a change of eating habits I make a commitment here that I will lost around 25 pounds by this time next year, but am going to do the majority of that by the end of 2011!  I am grateful to have you as my witnesses!  Thank you.

More die in the United States of too much food than of too little?  John Kenneth Galbraith

Aging Gracefully in Middle Adulthood

My friends have heard me at one time or another make reference to the 20’s being the time of having a “learner’s permit for adulthood” and a period when we change and evolve possibly more than any other time of life.  Feedback from yesterday’s blog where I included that thought led me to go google’ing for what science had to say about the stages of life and human development. 

What I found was psychologists have seriously studied developmental life stages for close to a hundred years dating back to Freud. The first listing I came across was:

Infancy (birth to 2 years)
(Childhood (3-12 years)
Adolescence (13-19 years)
Young adulthood (20-29 years)
Adulthood (30-39 years)
Middle Age (40-54 years)
Old age (55+ years) 

Crap!  Immediately I did not like that list as it placed me in a category I do not see myself in.  Then I did what any red-blooded American does.  If I don’t like the answer I get, I go looking for a different answer!  Upon searching more the discovery was made (thankfully) that the initial life stages list found is considered out of date.  Advancement in longevity made it antiquated.  Whew!  Good! I was not ready to be in the “Old Age” category quite yet. 

The list of basic human development stages most widely accepted today was created by Erik Erikson (1902-1994) who also coined the phrase “identity crisis”.  His list of developmental stages most accepted today are: 

Infancy (birth to 18 months)
Early Childhood (2 to 3 years)
Preschool (3 to 5 years)
School Age (6 to 11 years)
Adolescence (12 to 18 years)
Young Adulthood (19 to 40 years)
Middle Adulthood (40 to 65 years)
Maturity (65 to death) 

Finding this list quenched my thirst for a different answer and I am relieved to know that I am now in “Middle Adulthood”.  Even the definition of this stage is pleasing to me:  Adults need to create or nurture things that will outlast them, often by having children or creating a positive change that benefits other people. Success leads to feelings of usefulness and accomplishment, while failure results in shallow involvement in the world.  “Middle Adulthood” is a much better description of where I currently am than the “Old Age” label. 

On Erikson’s scale “Middle Adulthood” is further described as a time of “Generativity vs. Stagnation”.   I had to look up “Generativity” and discovered it is a widely accepted term created by Erikson meaning the ability or power to generate or produce something.   So it makes sense that “Middle Adulthood” is considered to be a time of work and parenthood.  Those 40-65 years are described as a time of:  concern for establishing and guiding the next generation. It can be expressed in literally hundreds of ways, from raising a child to stopping a tradition of abuse, from writing a family history to restoring land. You try to “make a difference” with your life, to “give back,” to “take care” of your community and your planet. 

OK.  I like that.  I am in my “Middle Adulthood” which is about generating and producing at a time of wanting to give back, make a difference and work to right previous wrongs.  Cool!  Now I am grateful and excited to be in my 50’s. 

A footnote to my reference to younger years in the 20’s being a time of learning through trial and error is reinforced by Erikson’s developmental stages.  In his list the teen years into the 30’s is a time to learn about creating successful relationships through periods of “Identity vs. Role Confusion” and “Intimacy vs. Isolation”.  Ah Ha!  That explains a lot.  Now I understand I am just a late bloomer! 

How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?  Satchel Paige

Soulmates: Love that Lasts a Lifetime

“Live is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” wrote John Lennon in what he said was a favorite song he authored (Beautiful Boy).  That quote is part of my personal sayings reparatory and one that I use often as a reminder that my control over what happens in life is very far from a hundred percentage.  Chance, fate, divine providence, luck and destiny are all descriptions of how those other parts of my life just happen.

Had you asked me when I was a fourteen what was ahead for me I would have responded assuredly there was an advanced degree in the sciences, one marriage based on true love that would last a lifetime, at least three children and comfortable retirement by the time I am fifty or at most fifty-five.  It is profoundly interesting that not a single one of those came to pass.  My profession is completely different and unrelated.  I am divorced and have been married twice.  I have one son and at fifty-seven am not retired.  A wiser perspective of today easily tells me I would not have been happy in the sciences, a try at retirement was boring and I am grateful for the son I do have.  However, I do lament the marriage thing.

In my youth I swallowed the fairy tale hook, line and sinker.  With an unstable home life the dream became even more accentuated.  There was Angela P. who I carried a flame for from the time I was in 4th grade all the way through high school.  I just knew somehow she was the one for me and “happily ever after” would come to pass as long as I did not give up.  Closest I ever got was one date to a junior high school dance where she spent most of the time with other people.  I should have taken that as an early sign that real life was not like the movies.  But being the hapless romantic I was even then did not allow clarity to see that.

KFC has a new video that is just over a minute long and appears to have been made for the Internet and not television.  First, let me say I am not pitching KFC in any shape or form as I do have an issue or two with that company and the food they serve.   What I ask is that you forget about the subtle sales pitch at the beginning and end and enjoy the one minute  in between.   Hopefully one of these links will work for you to watch.

http://youtu.be/8uK-mCxVl84

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uK-mCxVl84

The video is about young “like” between a boy and girl turning into love and lasting a life time.  It may be fantasy, but surely somewhere in real life this has actually happened.  Hasn’t it?  I hope so for my heart is touched by this story line.

My saga is quite different and even if  love of youth had flourished and moved into adulthood, I would have screwed it up.  At the age of twenty three I was married for the first time.  Looking back now it’s easy to see in many ways I was just a child marrying another child who was a year younger.  Of course in my early twenties I knew most everything about everything and was convinced I had life under my control and domination.  Looking back now I can see what foolish notions those were.  The perspective of today tells me that until around thirty years old or even a little older I was actually just an adult with a “learner’s permit”.  There is a certain realization now I was no where near a full fledged adult until I was at least out of my 20’s.  Being a student of life it is clear for me to see we change and grow as much, if not more, in our twenties that at any other time in our life.

Today I am much wiser but feel a tinge of sadness for those very old dreams and fantasies.  I know most were unrealistic for me and rare happenings for anyone else.  I have to ask myself why do I and so many others hold on so tightly to those youth-full hopes and dreams of “the one”, a “soulmate”, “happily ever after”, “twin flame” and our “other half”.

I am far from alone in my near mystical belief that goes back 2500 years when we have the first written record of it.  As a character in Plato’s “The Symposium“, Aristophanes presents a story about soulmates. It states that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces, but Zeus feared their power and split them all in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them.  Now at least 125 generations later such thoughts of rare love and soul-mates are stronger than ever.

Being discovered in a restaurant and becoming a movie star, discovering oil on your property, winning the lottery, having a successful career where you are admired by millions, discovering that one thing that makes you a billionaire, to be healthy for 110 years, to discover a rare talent within and be admired for it by the masses and such things are extraordinary occurrences.  Such things do happen though.  It does my soul good today to think of childhood love like in the KFC video and imagine it can grow and last a lifetime.   I think it is the rare nature of such an occurrence that makes it so sought after.  There is much gratitude within for my life in all the shapes it has come in, but I am also grateful for the dreams I carry that go far beyond my experience.  Just knowing something possibly exists somehow, somewhere for someone else enriches my days.

 Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and a richness to life that nothing else can bring.  Oscar Wilde

FOLLOW-UP:  A co-worker made me aware of another beautiful video similar to the KFC video I gave links for above.   It’s for John Lewis Department Stores in Great Britian.  Enjoy:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYOsWWKHZVw

True Friendship: Feels Good, Feels True

This two line email yesterday from a friend of many years:  My heart is wanting kind words and encouragement.  I bet you have some for me. thanks

My response was this note and the items that follow:  I just started writing… and in about 15 minutes I ended up with a baker’s dozen of 13 random things that came to mind along with one final thought.  This helped me just by seeing my words reminds me of what I believe in.  I hope in some way these words are able to reach you and touch that part inside that needs to be held, caressed and loved.  Peace and much love. 

1. You are enough.  Always have been.  Always will be. 

2. Everything you need to be happy is within and you need only see it. 

3. You are deeply loved and you love deeply.  Ultimately what matters most is the love you feel for others and the love others feel for you. 

4. You are admired and looked up to. 

5. Good or bad, positive or negative, each thing you do impacts someone else. 

6. Thoughts need attention to grow.  If you don’t like the thought you are having, remember you are the one choosing it and making the thought flourish. 

7. Gratitude is one of the key ingredients for a good life.  When you can’t find gratitude for what “is”, flip the coin and find gratitude in things you’re glad “aren’t”. 

8. The best life anyone ever had was a lot of happiness, with a great deal of heartache and tragedy mixed in. 

9. When you can’t believe in yourself, find something to believe in beyond yourself.  For example, believing the sun will rise just as it is coming up can be a profoundly renewing experience. 

10. A walk in nature won’t cure anything, but communing with nature always makes all things easier to deal with. 

11. As Plato said, remember all people are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince or princess.

12.  Courage is not the absence of fear.  It is being afraid and not wanting to go on, but doing it any way.  When courage is lacking, all you need to do is take one more little step.  And another.  And then another. 

13.  The quality of life depends not on what view of the past we may have, nor on our perceptions of how the future go.  How fully we are living each moment as it unfolds determines our quality of life, one moment at a time.     

     With even just a little effort it is possible to leave the world better for having been here, if only in small ways.  It does not matter whether you plant ideas or plant flowers, plant compassion or plant a smile on a child’s face, plant change or plant a thought in perpetuity.  In an immortal fashion we change the world without even meaning to simply by the example others see us to be.  What are you showing the world today?  (end of my email)

A few hours later I was touched when my friend sent a short but meaningful reply.  She wrote “Thanks my friend.  Feels good, feels true”.  I am very glad she trusted me enough to ask for support when she needed it.  I am thankful I was able to help her in some small way.  There is comfort within to know she will likewise assist me anytime I need her to.   We are true friends.

For the well from which the words to send my friend were drawn and the higher power that helped me shape them, I am deeply grateful. 

What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.  Aristotle

Employment Gratitude: Why I Work

Happy day after the 4th of July!  While the day is actually Tuesday, for millions of Americans back at work today will seem like Monday.  By the time everyone gets used to what day of the work week it is, Friday will be upon us.  Very cool! 

A few years ago I tried being “retired” for close to a year.  OK, more precisely I got fired from a job of 18 years, could have retired and took about a year to sort things out.  I always thought with time on my hands there were about a hundred different things I would finally get to do.  Certainly I had the time, but with the abundance of it I just never seemed to get things moving the way I had always thought I would.  There were a couple of trips that I x’ed off my bucket list.  There was time to read some of those books I never could get caught up on before.  My office finally got organized.  I even started a small business that could have been successful but since it gave me no real joy I didn’t stick with it.  So what did I do?  After about nine months, I gladly reentered the workforce in the profession I have been in most all of my adult life. 

Rejoining the workforce was a lot more exciting initially than it came to be after six months or so.  The early rush of “being back at it” was replaced in time with a more commonplace feeling of grateful acceptance.  One of the benefits I appreciate is having a regular schedule to keep.  I seem to get more done in all parts of my life when I have a routine.  In those months of “retirement” I often lost track of what day it was and with so much time on my hands it was very easy to put off till tomorrow most everything.  Why not!  I had plenty of time.  I came to understand how many who retire don’t last all that long.  Without meaning to, many become lazily complacent which hastens the grim reaper to call. 

So here I am on this Tuesday that feels like a Monday.  My alarm went off early to have time to write here, make breakfast and get ready for work.  I am grateful to have a job to go to.   These days around one in ten Americans would also be thankful to work, if they only had a job.  I count myself as blessed to not be one of them. 

Being a senior manager responsible for close to three dozen people, working in the current economy is a bit more of a challenge that it used to be.  We accomplish more with less than ever before.  Making good decisions and creating successful strategies has an all time importance.  If I screw up, many more than me suffer from my missteps.  This is truer now than any other time in my 30 years of management.  I accept the responsibility readily and understand clearly my role.  It is good to be needed!

To explain better why I chose to go back to work I found some insight in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from his 1954 book Motivation and Personality.  The list includes four items Maslow considered essential and necessary before the fifth item on the list is possible to be achieved.

Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc. 
Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
Belongingness and Love needs – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
 – Esteem needs – mastery, independence, status, confidence, prestige, etc.
Self-Actualization needs – fulfillment, morality, personal growth, creativity, etc.

When retired I was able to provide the first two items (Biological/Physiological and Safety needs) from my savings and the life it provided.   Further, I was able to get most, if not all of the third group (Belongingness and Love needs) from friends, spouse and family.  However, I do find today I get a portion of that group of needs from those I work with.

I believe the latter two items, Esteem and Self-Actualization needs, explain well why I chose to reenter the workforce.  I know both areas are healthier within when working at a regular job (at least for now).  I have no doubt that many people can retire and move into doing the things they have always dreamed of to fulfill themselves of the last two needs.  I am just not ready…. Yet!

Finally, I end up with the thought that the reason I had difficulty fulfilling the needs of Esteem and Self-Actualization was simply because I had so many choices.  Literally I could have done most anything, lived just about anywhere and done just about .  Humbly I discovered the blessing of having so many options put me in a position where I simply could not decide on the course I wanted to take.  To me that meant I was not ready to be retired.  In time I believe that will change, but for now I am grateful, content and happy to be working for a living.

When I work I relax; doing nothing makes me tired.  Pablo Picasso

~ 235th Anniversary of Our Declaration of Independence ~ 4th of July, 2011

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them…

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled… solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown…

Ever wondered what happened to the fifty-six men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Here are examples of the price some of them paid:

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships resulting from the Revolutionary War.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Perhaps one of the more inspiring examples of “undaunted resolution” was at the Battle of Yorktown. Thomas Nelson, Jr. returning from Philadelphia noted that British General Cornwallis had taken over his home, but that the patriots were directing their artillery fire all over the town except for the vicinity of his beautiful home. Nelson asked why they were not firing in that direction and the soldiers replied, “Out of respect to you, Sir.” Nelson quietly urged General Washington to open fire, and stepped forward to the nearest cannon, aimed at his own house and fired. The other guns joined in, and the Nelson home was destroyed. Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis’s Long Island home was looted and gutted, his home and properties destroyed. His wife was thrown into a damp dark prison cell without a bed. Health ruined, Mrs. Lewis soon died from the effects of the confinement. The Lewis’s son would later die in British captivity, also.

“Honest John” Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she lay dying, when British and Hessian troops invaded New Jersey just months after he signed the Declaration. Their thirteen children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid to waste. All winter, and for more than a year, Hart lived in forests and caves, finally returning home to find his wife dead, his children vanished and his farm destroyed. A few weeks later, John Hart was dead from exhaustion and a broken heart.  Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

New Jersey’s Richard Stockton, after rescuing his wife and children from advancing British troops, was betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, beaten and nearly starved. He returned an invalid to find his home gutted, and his library and papers burned. He, too, never recovered, dying a broken man.

William Ellery of Rhode Island, who marveled that he had seen only “undaunted resolution” in the faces of his co-signers, also had his home burned.

Only days after Lewis Morris of New York signed the Declaration, British troops ravaged his 2,000-acre estate, butchered his cattle and drove his family off the land. Three of Morris’ sons fought the British.

When the British seized the the York house of the wealthy Philip Livingston, he sold off everything else, and gave the money to the Revolution. He died in 1778.

Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward Jr. went home to South Carolina. In the British invasion of the South, Heyward was wounded and all three were captured. As he rotted on a prison ship inSt. Augustine, Heyward’s plantation was raided, buildings burned, and his wife, who witnessed it all, died. Other Southern signers suffered the same general fate.

These were men who believed in a cause far beyond themselves.  These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing straight and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this Declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”  

My entire way of life and the freedom to live it I owe to those 56 men. I am deeply grateful for their courage, fortitude and sacrifice.

Read the full Declaration of Independence at:  http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence.  It is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.  George Washington

July 4th Weekend: Whatever Can Go Wrong…

A good while back I sent a card to the dentist who took care of me to wish him a happy birthday and to say thank you.  Inside was written I’d be “gumming my food instead of chewing it” if not for him.  That statement was not an exaggeration! 

Good genetics blessed me with straight and well-formed teeth to the point I was asked more than once when young if my teeth were actually real.  That’s the good news.  The reverse info about my teeth is thin enamel at the gum line which means as I have aged the vast majority of the teeth ended up with unavoidable cavities that made crowning necessary.  Many things were prescribed to slow down the deterioration such as a solution I could use after brushing that highlighted any place I could brush more thoroughly.  Then there were fluoride rinses, added brushing and extra cleaning tools.  All decelerated the process of decline, but could not prevent it. 

Within the last few years I have lost two teeth to fracture causing them to be unsalvagable.  Now to replace them I face my first two implants to go along with the 15 or so crowns I already have.  Oh, boy.  New dental adventures!  The only teeth I have that are not “capped” are some front ones.  So the majority of chewing is done these days with man-made teeth and I am grateful for them. 

 My experience has also taught me all dentists are not of equal ability.  In my 20’s I was the patient of a dentist that I always enjoyed being around.  He had a great chair-side manner, interesting personality and told great jokes.  However, I discovered in time his work was not very good.  A number of dentists later remarked about his work being substandard.  It was then it hit me that for every dentist who finished school at the top of his class, there was one at the bottom.  

I have been blessed to have been in the care of several great dentists and have become skilled at finding them.  Asking around is a good start, but asking the correct questions of a dentist can be even more telling.  Having to find a new dentist a number of times necessitated by relocation, I have no issue “interviewing” one before I allow him or her to work in my mouth.  To them initially I am mostly just another patient.  But for me, I will live everyday with the work they do in my mouth!  

Beginning this past Friday a dull ache started above an upper molar which has gotten steadily worse since.  Now two days later eating is a painful chore and I chose this morning to make an emergency call to my dentist’s office.  The timing is less than great since it is the 4th of July weekend and I know Dr. C. is in Florida with his family for a week.  However, I was able to contact another dentist who works in the same practice that is handling emergencies while my guy is away.  She called in a prescription for antibiotics for the infection causing the discomfort and some pain pills to numb the aching.  Whew… I am thankful for the help!

While the distress from the tooth is not yet the throbbing and debilitating kind, I know better than to not let it get to that point before contacting a dentist.  I remember clearly being newly relocated in Philadelphia and not having a local dentist yet when a tooth went bad.  Clear in my memory is sitting on the kitchen floor close to midnight on a Sunday evening trying to drink enough wine to pass out.  The pain was that bad!  I made it through to Monday morning, found a dentist who referred me to an oral surgeon who saved the tooth with a root canal.  

From time to time I hear people complain about root canals but not me.  Several times having one done has been the remedy I sorely needed.  It takes a good bit of time for one to be done, but the procedure has never been that uncomfortable really.  Maybe it is because of all the dental work I’ve experienced which makes it seem like no big deal.  But it is more than that.  I have come to be really thankful for what can be done with modern dentistry by a capable dentist.  All I have to do is be patient, handle a little discomfort here and there and sit still while the work is being done.  

My gratitude today is sizeable for all the good dentists who have done work for me.  Yes, the work is expensive but has been worth every penny when the work was well done.  When I smile I am so glad there are teeth to be seen.  Sure many of them are man-made, but I have always had them replaced with teeth shaped like and of the same color as my original teeth.  Having them not look fake has always been important to me. 

So Dr. C., Dr. W. and Dr. P. thank you!  For the last 25 years you three gentlemen have kept my smile intact and my teeth working.  I know you were paid for your effort, but the quality of your work is valued beyond what you received for it.  And further, you all are likeable people who really care about your work and your patients.  I am blessed to have been in your care.  Thank you!

You don’t have to brush your teeth – just the ones you want to keep.  Author Unknown

A Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck

Here in the age of High Definition, black and white movies are getting quite rare on local television and cable outside of a speciality channel or two.  Please don’t misunderstand.  I’m not some fossil who is stuck back in the time when B&W was state of the art for movie making.  Color came of age in the movies and on television during the same period of time I did. 

I have loved movies for as long as I can remember.  Seeing them is a favorite pastime whether at a theatre several times per month, watching favorites again at home or discovering old ones that are new to me on DVD or at the local art theatre.  I am grateful for the hundreds of hours I have spent in interesting places and within fascinating stories from the comfort of my seat. 

Contemporary movies filmed and shown in the new 3-D are enjoyable.  “Avatar” in 3-D was so awesome I ended up seeing in on the big screen six times.  I was always glad to accompany another friend to the theatre who had not seen it but wanted to go (the movie was such a hit it was at the theatres for well over six months).  On the other hand I am glad many new movies like “Super 8” produced by Steven Spielberg was not shot or shown in 3-D.  A friend and I saw that film yesterday and enjoyed the sort of “Goonies” gone sci-fi movie. 

On my list of favorite motion pictures are films from almost all genres: action, drama, science fiction, epic, thriller, love story, family, western, adventure, fantasy, comedy and more.  This long weekend I discovered a great old love story movie that was new to me.  Over the years here and there I have caught a few scenes of “Roman Holiday” but never have seen the whole thing.  It has been on my “to see” list for a long time.  Friday after work I stopped by a favorite used movie store and found a pristine copy of  “Roman Holiday”.  Friday night it was my evening’s entertainment. 

“Roman Holiday” is a wonderful old “G” movie made in 1953.  Audrey Hepburn became a star with this film, in which she played a princess (Princess Ann).  In it she is anxious to have some fun before she is made numb for life by the monotony of “affairs of state.” On a diplomatic visit to Rome, the princess escapes her keepers and goes incognito out into the Eternal City. She happens to meet American journalist (Joe Bradley) played by Gregory Peck, who, recognizing a hot news story, pretends that he doesn’t recognize her and offers to give her a guided tour of Rome. Eddie Albert is Peck’s photographer side-kick in the movie.  Naturally, Peck and Hepburn’s characters fall in love.  In her first major motion picture the 24-year-old Hepburn won an Academy Award for “Roman Holiday” for best actress.  Several other Oscar’s were won by the film as well. 

In one of the more touching scenes in “Roman Holiday” is this dialogue: 

Princess Ann:  I have to leave you now. I’m going to that corner there and turn. You must stay in the car and drive away. Promise not to watch me go beyond the corner. Just drive away and leave me as I leave you.
Joe Bradley:  All right.
Princess Ann:  I don’t know how to say goodbye. I can’t think of any words.
Joe Bradley:  Don’t try. 

I will admit I have never been much of an Audrey Hepburn fan, at least not until now.  Seeing “Roman Holiday” helped me to realize what a good actress she was and one who was attractive in an unaffected way.  Already I have been on Amazon.com looking up her later movies like “Breakfast at Tiffanies” and sorting out which ones I want to see.  In discovering Ms. Hepburn it seems like I have discovered a little vein of gold that I get to mine.  

In the last two days, I have seen two movies.  One was brand new and another is almost 60 years old.  There is no certainty within why I will remember one more than the other.  Sitting here typing at this moment I know clearly it is “Roman Holiday” that will stick with me the strongest.  Why?  Because the movie made me feel good.  However implausible the story may be, its conclusion seemed perfectly fitting and realistic.  

Soon Ms. Hepburn will have been gone 20 years and Mr. Peck died nearly a decade ago.  While I can’t express my gratitude directly to them, I can write of it here with you as my witness.  I am glad I purchased a copy of “Roman Holiday” for I know it will be one I pull out every so often and watch again.  In my heart and mind the characters and the man and woman who played them are immortal.  

 You must know that in any moment a decision you make can change the course of your life forever: the very next person standing behind in line or sitting next to on an airplane, the very next phone call you make or receive, the very next movie you see or book you read or page you turn could be the one single thing that causes the floodgates to open, and all of the things that you’ve been waiting for to fall into place.   Anthony Robbins