So We Don’t Forget

Like Thread Through a Needle
(First posted one year ago on December 16, 2012)Father-Shadow

Even just the thought of what I am about to write makes my eyes well up. Last evening watching a performance of “The “Nutcracker” there was a point I was unexpectedly moved and that feeling has grown since.

Tulsa is blessed to have had a wonderful ballet and symphony and last night’s presentation filled me with the spirit of Christmas. Seeing the young children who played the parts of the mice and clowns especially warmed me with a sense of the season.

My feelings became deeply melancholy (here come the tears) at curtain call when the kids who played the mice were lined up in front due to their small size. For some reason I counted how many in the line and came up with twenty. Instantly I was hit with the realization that was the number of children who were killed in Connecticut two days ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It is not within my grasp to imagine how painful it is to lose a young child and in the circumstances of a few days ago is unfathomable to my heart and mind. The sorrow has to be unspeakable and indescribable. For strangers I will never meet my heart is laden with grief for your pain. I can do nothing but pray for you and let you know here that I care; that millions care. In no way will it make it any easier to bear the anguish and woe, but maybe someday realizing an entire country cries with you will bring some comfort.

My Mom, she tells a lot of lies,
She never did before.
But from now until she dies,
She’ll tell a whole lot more.
Ask my Mom how she is
And because she can’t explain,
She will tell a little lie
Because she can’t describe the pain.
Ask my Mom how she is,
She’ll say “I’m alright.”
If that’s the truth, then tell me,
why does she cry each night?
Ask my Mom how she is,
She seems to cope so well.
She didn’t have a choice you see,
Nor the strength to yell.
Ask my Mom how she is,
“I’m fine, I’m well, I’m coping.”
For God’s sake Mom, just tell the truth,
Just say your heart is broken.
She’ll love me all her life,
I loved her all of mine.
But if you ask her how she is,
She’ll lie and say she’s fine.
I am Here in Heaven.
I cannot hug from here.
If she lies to you don’t listen,
Hug her and hold her near.
Taken from ” Ask My Mom How She Is” – Author Unknown

I am grateful to be touched and able to shoulder a tiny, tiny bit of the pain and grief of the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers and families who will not see a child open presents on Christmas morning. I cry for you.

Your absence has gone through me
like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
W.S. Merwin

Always Worth Another Try


A family member posted found this story and posted it
on Facebook a few days ago (Thanks Ann).
It touched my heart.

She married him today. At the end of the wedding party, her mother gave her a newly opened bank savings passbook, with $1000 deposited in it. She told her, “My dear daughter, take this passbook. Keep it as a record of your married life. Whenever something happy and memorable happens in your new life, put some money in. Write down what it’s about next to the amount. The more memorable the event is, the more money you can put in. I’ve done the first one for you today. Do the others with your husband. When you look back after years, you will know how much happiness you’ve both shared.’

She shared this with him after getting home. Both of them thought it was a great idea and couldn’t wait to make the next deposit! This is what the passbook looked like after a while: – 7 Feb: $100, his first birthday celebration after marriage – 1 Mar: $300, she gets a salary raise – 20 Mar: $200, vacation to Bali – 15 Apr: $2000, She’s pregnant! – 1 Jun: $1000, He gets the big promotion and so on… However, as the years went by, they began fighting and arguing over trivial things. They didn’t talk much. They regretted that they had married the most nasty person in the world…There was no more love.

One day she talked to her Mother. ‘Mom, we can’t stand it anymore. We have decided to divorce. I can’t imagine how I decided to marry this guy!’ Her mother replied, ‘Sure, that’s no big deal. Just do whatever you want, if you really can’t stand it. But before that, do one thing. Remember the savings passbook I gave you on your wedding day? Take out all money and spend it first. You shouldn’t keep any record of such a poor marriage.’ She agreed with her. So she went to the bank, and was waiting in the queue to cancel the account. While she was waiting, she took a look at the passbook record. She looked, and looked, and looked. Then the memory of all the previous joyful moments came back to her. Her eyes were filled with tears. She left and went home.

When she got home, she handed the passbook to him and asked him to spend the money before getting divorced. So the next day, he went to the bank, and was waiting in the queue to cancel the account. While he was waiting, he took a look at the passbook record. He looked, and looked, and looked. Then the memory of all the previous joyful moments came back to him. His eyes were filled with tears. He left and went home. He gave the passbook back to her. She found a new deposit of $5000. And a line next to the record: ‘This is the day I realized how much I’ve loved you throughout all these years. How much happiness you’ve brought me.’ They hugged and cried, putting the passbook back into the safe.

Whether the story is based on fact or not is meaningless. What matters is its essence. True love can be messed up, lost in chaos and left behind far too easily. I am grateful for the message the story left me with: “love is almost always worth another try”.

We come to love
not by finding a perfect person,
but by learning to see
an imperfect person perfectly.
Sam Keen

All That Really Matters


My “2013 Fall Farewell Tour” is finally over. Much of the last few months has been spent traveling for business before my retirement at year’s end. Whew! Being in and out of airports the better part of the last five weeks wore me to being almost numb. Time for rest, holidays and loved ones! However, there was an incident last week that bored straight through my fatigue.

The Chicago airport was crowded especially downstairs where the United commuter gates are. Sitting to my right a few seats away a man in his seventies was doing business. From what was spoken on several calls he apparently worked for a grocery supply company.

The last call the gentleman made started with “Hi this is ______ and I am calling to get the results of my tests from last week. Yes, sure I can hold.” He sat quietly and until he spoke I did not know someone else had picked up on the other end.

“Oh, that bad, huh. That’s not the news I had hoped for” was what I heard in a much more deadpan voice than the up-tempo salesman I had been listening to previously. In an even softer voice came, “Yes, I can come see the doctor next week. How soon does he want me to begin chemo again? I’m hoping I won’t have to start until after Christmas.” There was a pause as he listened followed by “I understand you’re just the nurse and can’t tell me. It’s just not the news I was hoping for.” Then came another pause before he said, “Wednesday at 2pm? Yes, I will be there. Thank you.”

He hung up the phone and just sat there staring down at the floor for what seemed like five minutes. As he raised his head up, he made eye contact with me and his moist eyes met mine. Without a single word, I smiled and he smiled a half-smile back. There was nothing else I could do for this perfect stranger who I imagine had just been told his cancer was back.

I won’t forget this experience. I will remember how good my life is and how blessed I am to have good health. My momentary airport friend will go through the weeks to come facing the specter of ill-health and the possibility of impending death. I hope for the very best for him and owe a debt of gratitude for being accidentally included in his life for a few minutes. I have so much to be thankful for!

You know,
all that really matters
is that the people you love
are happy and healthy.
Everything else is
just sprinkles on the sundae.
Paul Walker

No Help In Worrying

shadowhands_1 copy

I know that worrying is a waste of time.Regardless I find myself doing too much of it. I am grateful for a reminder to loosen my grip on worry. It is nothing more than a bad habit.

If a problem is fixable,
if a situation is such that
you can do something about it,
then there is no need to worry.
If it’s not fixable, then there is
no help in worrying.
There is no benefit
in worrying whatsoever.
Dalai Lama XIV

Just Another Monday


While this slice of a week seems like just another Monday, it is not. This day, already half over, will be unique in my life and in all time. The differences from other Monday’s may be slight or great, but the variance makes today a cherished moment in time.

This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good. Unknown

Once upon a time I used to dislike Monday’s, much like I used to have a distaste for mornings. For the latter I discovered not being a morning person was only a habit. And I have come to cherish each Monday as a fresh start; a small new beginning.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return. Mary Jean Iron

To myself and everyone else I wish a “good Monday”. May it goes as well as it can with the stuff of smiles and happiness long remembered and the material of frowns and sadness dissipating like fog under the morning sun. I am grateful for this day and all the possibilities it brings.

There is no such thing
in anyone’s life
as an unimportant day.
Alexander Woollcott

Lots and Lots of Practice

Where would the world be without second chances?  Few things are ever accomplished as well as they could be done on the first attempt.  Painting beautiful art, sculpting a striking statue, creating a melodic song, proficiency at a profession, learning how to build a loving relationship, recovering from difficulty, living a good life….all these things take lots and lots of practice to do them well!

It is the imperfection of the world that creates the myriad of beauty within it.  The unique differences work together to create a beautiful quilt of varied color, texture, behavior and expression.  We live in a far from perfect world and without second chances you and I would not exist.  The power beyond me or Nature if you prefer to call it did not get everything just right on the first try.  It is out of failure and imperfection that fruitful creation is made.

With trial and error I have concluded the main difference between an obstacle and an opportunity is my attitude.  If I think I can’t or don’t want to, I create an obstacle.  If I think I can and want to, I create an opportunity.  As the saying goes “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right”.

Here are a few thoughts about second, third, fourth and additional chances:

1 – Put what is behind me, behind me.  The past never goes away completely, but how much space it takes in my present is my choice. A good start to a second chance is getting past the past.  I tell myself things like “no, I am not going to think about that” or “stop it, you can’t change any of that” or “it will never make sense, so stop trying to figure it out”.  Does it work every time?  No!  But it does work better and better the more I practice it.

2 – Learn the life lesson and move on.  Repeating the same behavior and expecting different results is said to be a form of insanity.  One way I stopped some of the craziness in my life was to stop and learn what life was trying to teach me.  What good are second, third and more chances if I screw them up the same way as I did before?  If nothing else pain in great enough amounts can become a good teacher if the student is paying attention to life.  One only fails when they stop trying.

3 – Be responsible for myself.  I had to stop blaming others. When I realized that no one made me do anything, it was an eye opener.  Long I had said things like “she made me mad” or “he made me feel bad”.  In reality I choose what goes on inside me or at the very least how long a particular feeling or thought lasts is my choice.  No matter how much someone hurt me in the past, if I am still being hurt by something that happened long ago I am the culprit hurting me now.  The haze of applying responsibility to others for what I am responsible for wastes every additional chance as if it never existed.

4 – Attitude is everything.  If I go expecting bad things to happen, life will rain crap on me every day of my life.  It’s the law of attraction.  Absolutely life is difficult, but it always has been so that should be no surprise to anyone.  To the best of my ability I try to amplify the good and diminish the bad.  The more “good” I expect the more of it comes my way.

5 Know what I can change and what I can’t.  The serenity prayer says it all “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.   Applying a second chance to something I can’t change is akin to beating my head against the wall:  it gets me nowhere except to a headache.

6I have to know what I want.  Without knowing what I want and need in my life, my existence is like that of a ball in a pinball machine bouncing endless from bumper to bumper with no direction.  Deep down we all know what we need and want.  If I let fear of change stop me from accepting my needs, I will be destined to repeat unsatisfying behavior over and over and over.  I make lots of lists of what I think I need and want and the top stuff always emerges  given enough time.  What good are second chances if I don’t know what to do with them?

7 – Self control is critical.  If I can not get myself to do what I need to do, life can become hopeless.  I am a normal person (well, mostly) and no matter how much control I achieve, my life will always be lived in a somewhat of an out of control manner.  That is a big part of the human experience.  Yet, with trial and error, over and over, the self-control I need to make a good life has become possible.  Without the ability to direct myself a second chance withers without use.

8 – Pay little attention to what others think.  Yes, it’s hard to ignore that others have to say, especially those I care about.  However, until I learned to be true to myself and stop listening to others so much I usually wasted my additional chances in life.  There is only one way I know to change the world and that is to change me and by example inspire others to grow and change. Any new chance at something is my gift and belongs to no one but me.  I don’t give them away any more!

For all of the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth… hundredth, one thousandth chances life has given me I am very grateful.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning,
but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
Maria Robinson

First posted December 15, 2011

Those Who Are Friends


Twenty-three days and I will officially be retired. Friends say “you’re too young”, but I’m hanging it up while healthy with a lot of years left to enjoy being the full owner of each day.

The company I am leaving has provided me with meaningful employment for close to a decade. There have been lots of good times and some not so wonderful ones, but the overall experience will always be positively remembered; cherished actually. Not sure I will miss the work a great deal, but I will miss some of the people a lot.

The last two days were spent in Milwaukee doing some consulting work for one of the company properties and visiting my counterpart here. We became friends quickly eight years ago. Our count tonight was we have hung out together at 32 company meetings. Knowing each other well as we do I am confident contact will be maintained, but I will miss seeing him every three months.

As many American men, we have talked in the past about being good friends but never expressed emotions much deeper, but we long known our bond was that of “brothers”. Tonight after a wonderful dinner and great conversation, Bill took me back to my hotel. As he was pulling in he said.” Now here is how this is going to work. When we stop I’m going to get out of the car shake hands with you, hug you and tell you I love you. Nothing else. Okay?” And we did just that. We were two late-middle-aged men noticeably holding back tears, not saying goodbye, but uncertain when we’d see each other again. I waved as he pulled away. He waved back and was gone.

I love you Bill. You are a talented professional, a dear man and a perfect gentleman. I will miss you and am so very grateful that a thoughtful, caring and gentle soul as you came into my life. I’ll see you again before too long.

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes.
A farewell is necessary
before you can meet again.
And meeting again,
after moments or lifetime,
is certain for those who are friends.
Richard Bach

Twelve of Forty

tiny buddha

For close to three years has been a website I visit a few times each month. I never fail to find reading that causes me to think, be inspired or gain insight. Over a million other people visit on a regular basis.

A post from about a year ago titled “40 Ways To Feel More Alive” was the blog that caught my attention this morning. For sake of brevity, I when down the list until I had picked about a dozen ‘good ones’ to share.

* Tell someone how you really feel about them instead of waiting because you’re scared.

* Tell someone what you really want and need instead of building up resentment.

* Share your fears publicly, in a blog post for example, and ask the community to keep you accountable in overcoming them.

* Tell a friend your greatest dream, then ask them to hold you accountable in pursuing it.

* Admit to a friend how you really feel about how you spend your time—then brainstorm about ways to improve it.

* Introduce yourself to someone you’ve been dying to meet, even if you feel nervous.

* Tell yourself the truth instead of lying to yourself about the changes you want to
make in your life.

* Sign up for a class to learn a skill you’ve always thought would be fun.

* Ask a friend to teach you to do something you don’t know how to do—and offer to teach them something else in return.

* Buy a new or used instrument and look on for instructional videos on YouTube.

* Make a list of fun “staycation” ideas (for day trips in your area). Schedule at least two of them for the next month.

* Enlist a friend to help you face it fear, whether it’s quitting your job or skydiving.

To say I will do all twelve would be a certain example of over promise and under deliver. However, I do have four favorites I will put into practice by year’s end. My gratitude goes to the writer of the piece, Lori Deschene, for the insightful list of forty ways to feel more alive. Good stuff, Mam! I felt better just reading it! Full article at

I don’t believe people are
looking for the meaning of life
as much as they are looking
for the experience of being alive.
Joseph Campbell