Monday, May 31, 2010

Eyes to the Soldiers

One never knows where a life may lead, where valor and honor and heart may be spent. Certainly no child dreams of a death at the hands of an enemy's gun. A brutal, unforgiving, harsh way to go. Some went willingly, some by force, but all went. Some died a hero's death with ribbons and pageantry. Others were left in a cold and lonely field, never to hear their loved one's goodbyes. Gone too soon, gone too soon. Thank you seems too simple and small, but it is all that I can offer. So, thank you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


The ancient chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once stated that the journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step. This is a principle that I have internalized many times in my life when I have started in on a daunting task that just seems too grand or too fantastic to tackle. Today I sit on the top of the mountain of 500 posts and look down on the path that I have taken. Hard to believe that what began so innocently, so humbly, so let's see where this goes back on October 21, 2008 has arrived at this point. Back then I had no real idea what I was going to be in for, how much work was involved, and how this would go. But I took that first shaky step. Today I am still marching along with a song in my heart and a mind still flooded with ideas that I want to explore, that I want to express, that I want to share.

My blog site is still a place mainly for me to explore and shout and cry and laugh and be serious and be silly. However, those who have taken time to stop by and say hello are much appreciated and acknowledged. Onward and upward, this is no time to rest. I have a long way still to go.

Friday, May 28, 2010

World Clock

Ticking away the moments
That make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours
In an off-hand way

The sun is the same
In a relative way
But you're older

The above words are snippets from the song Time by Pink Floyd. This song ran through my head the other afternoon when my daughter, who initially just wanted to spend a short time playing video games, kind of let her afternoon unintentionally slip away after sitting for several hours in front of the computer. Watching this take place, I tried to interest her in something else that would be more enriching or memorable or satisfying. Reading a story together, going for a walk, playing a board game, getting some exercise. However, she got totally absorbed and sucked into her own world. After a moment of reflection, I came to recognize the look on her face. It was the same absorbed, hypnotic mien that I wore as a kid when I was left to do my own thing. In the end, I let so much time slip away on activities that only I thought important or necessary or worthwhile or entertaining.

The issue at hand, that I am just now starting to recognize, is that most certainly the clocks in my daughter's world rotate at a much slower rate than those in my world. It's our own relativity, our own reality. To her, she has all the time in the world. There is always another tomorrow, another moment, another opportunity. She is really just beginning on the road of her life. A road that seems to her to be so infinite. To me, I sense the impending pressures of the limits and bounds that are just over the horizon. I just want to make the most of the journey. I just want to do things with intention and not just let time fritter away in an off-hand way.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Oily Conundrum

It's a conundrum. Plain and simple. The question is easy to ask. The answer, at first blush, seems quite obvious. There is either black or there is white. But if you ponder the issues only a little bit more deeply, you will see that what is at stake is really so much bigger. I have in mind the deceptive image of an iceberg. The part that you see above the water is only a small fraction of the total mass that lies lurking and hidden beneath the icy breakers.

The question centers on how the fourth largest company in the world should approach a major disaster for which they are responsible. Just over a month ago, a sudden, catastrophic explosion occurred on an oil rig called the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, only 40 miles from the Louisiana coastline. In the end, 11 men had lost their lives. The pump lines, damaged in the sinking of the superstructure, started to hemmorhage several million gallons of crude oil per day into the clear waters of the Gulf. The oil has the potential for destroying hundreds upon hundreds of miles of coastline, with the loss of income for ten of thousands of families, and resulting in the ruination of several ancient ecosystems with an impact that will be felt for the next 50 years.

Blame seems to be the first issue to establish. That big evil corporation of course. From their side, it seems the problem is directly connected with money. The oil company that owns the equipment is trying to find a way to stem the emergent oil while perserving the remaining oil at the sight and minimizing costs. It's also about saving corporate face, market share, stock holder's value. The global ramifications associated with such a market giant shuddering or crumbling or enduring can be nontrivial. In fact, if the executives don't play this "game" carefully, the global market impact can easily dwarf the losses incurred by the fishermen and the industries relying on tourism in the local area.

Over the past month, several very public, but seemingly tepid attempts have been made to limit the damage. All have failed. Since the first moments of the accident and catastrophe, the legal wranglings sprung up and the extremist finger pointing and blame volleys between the company, the U.S. government, and the general public have been non-stop. There is a lot at stake here on many different levels. What may be in the best interests of the local communities that are affected are not necessarily what is in the best interest of the company in the long run. How should this situation play out to minimize the overall damage and impact and loss and ruin? Quite a conundrum.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Broken Magic

Folks often lament the loss of innocence and wonder in our children as they grow older. Things that once amazed them and caused their little imaginations to run wild or to gape in awe seem to now go unnoticed, unappreciated. The magic is gone. Some of this is natural. As we grow older and more mature, we start to ask questions of the world around us. We start to figure things out. Tricks and fancies are seen in the light. Our mind develops more complex, thorough, and logical patterns of processing information. Things that once confounded us or were held in reverence because they were not understood, are now seen for what they are. Nevertheless, the magic is gone.

The other day my little one was very excited to share with me a math website/game page that she had been shown by her teacher in school. The game instructed you to take any number between 10 and 99, add the numbers in the tens and ones place together, and then subtract this from the original number (e.g. if my number was 49, I would take 49 - (4+9) = 36). The page then listed the numbers from 1 to 100 with a symbol next to them. No matter what number you chose, the program always guessed what the symbol next to your answer would be. My daughter was completed amazed and excited by playing this game. It confounded her and excited her to show me. She somehow felt that the computer was reading her mind.

After showing me the website, she asked me how the program knew the symbol next to her answer. Without thinking too hard, I quickly discerned the mathematical trick and explained it to her. She looked at me slightly deflated. "Oh, is that all it is?" was her response. Without realizing it, I had taken away a piece of that childhood innocence and wonder. Part of me felt a bit sick inside, like I had taken something from her that I had no right to take, but part of me felt like she should understand that a bit of thought and reasoned analysis can be used to make sense of the world around her. However, I regretted the loss and what I had unwittingly taken.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

He Chose the Nails

Do you ever wonder why Jesus allowed himself to be taken away like a criminal? Why he allowed the soldiers to nail him to a cross to die? With one word he could have avoided it all. He could have thrown off the limited and bounded human form and taken back his limitless and boundless spirit in an instant. However, he chose the nails. Why? Jesus knew the price of your sins was your death. However, he could not bear the thought of eternity without you. The only way for your salvation was for him to suffer the punishment that we deserved. You see, he chose the nails.

Such is the theme of the book He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado. This simple-themed book was such a delight to read from start to finish. In many places I was left laughing or crying or re-reading because I wanted the words and the truths to linger in my mind for a moment longer. I use the descriptor "simple-themed" not as an insult, such as one might hurl as a label at someone of deficient intelligence, judgement, or good sense. The term is chosen more because of the digestibility and approachability of the writing style. Nothing bulky, unnecessarily ornate, bland and banal, or made to be academically haughty. There can be remarkable beauty and depth in something approachable and straightforward. This book was a wonderful reminder of what Jesus Christ did for us and why we are so important to him. Better yet, it was a wonderful reminder of what Jesus did for me and why I am so important to him.

Long ago, even before he made the world,
God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy
and without fault in his eyes.
His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into
his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.
And this gave him great pleasure.
, Ephesians 1:4-5

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Demo Room

For the first part of my daughter's life, I worked as a University Professor. I regularly taught introductory physics lecture courses for freshmen and sophomores. One of the fun parts of preparing a lecture was working out what demonstrations I would integrate into my teaching. Next to the lecture hall, we had several rooms filled with various and assorted "demos" to pick and choose from. On weekends, I regularly used to take my little one with me to the Demo Room and let her explore. When something caught her attention, I would take it off the shelf and set it up for her to see up close. Usually she loved the show, but she didn't care so much to hear my "boring" explanations of the hows and whys. That was O.K., our time together still gave us opportunity for exploration and adventure. The many hours we spent in the Demo Room stirred my little one's imagination. The fact that we had the whole place to ourselves made her feel like we were in a secret place that nobody else knew about or had access to. She still brings up these visits from time to time when something sparks her memory.

Recently at work, we held an Open House for the public to come and visit the laboratory where I work. Thousands of folks take the opportunity to wander about the grounds looking, listening, touching, and trying to understand what we do and why it is important. One of the fun aspects of talking with folks at these sorts of events is to see the look in their eyes when I perform a demonstration of some of the equipment that we use. Every once in a while, I catch a twinkle in their eyes and an expression of wonder that brings me back to those times in the Demo Room with my little one.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


Americans love warning signs. They come in all shapes and colors (actually both the signs and the Americans). They are designed for folks whose intelligence ranges from genius to that of an onion ring. Some have said that the biggest players in the warning sign game are lawyers or folks who love watching reruns of the hit TV show Matlock. Ours is a very litigious society (and don't even get me started on a discussion of tort reform). Only in America could someone order a hot coffee, spill said hot coffee on their nether regions, sue the company for selling them the hot coffee, and make enough money off of their own mistake to make Donald "The Hair" Trump blush. This single lawsuit required every cup o' Joe sold in the U.S. of A. to carry a warning beacon that weighed roughly as much as a mature Schnauzer. The coffee was hot and they had to be sure to tell us, ..., or else! Of course the famed 1992 coffee burn suit gave rise to a number of follow-on, copy-cat-type law suits. As a result, the number and content of warning labels on our products has gotten totally out of hand. I include a few that I have come across below:
  • On coffee cups : warning - contents may be hot;
  • On windshield sun screen : do not drive motor vehicle with sun shield in place;
  • Plastic bags on toys: warning - this bag is not a toy;
  • Wetnap : tear open package and use;
  • Blow dryer : do not use while sleeping;
  • Household iron : Do not iron clothes while wearing them;
  • Mineral water : suitable for vegetarians;
  • Screw-top cap : twist to open;
  • Toilet plunger : do no use near power lines;
  • Aspirin : do not take if allergic to aspirin;
  • Sleep aid : may cause drowsiness;
  • Electronic road sign : ignore this sign;
  • Jigsaw puzzles : Some assembly required;
  • Lawnmower : do not place hands or feet under mower when it is running;
  • Chainsaw : do not attempt to stop chain with your hands;
  • Peanut butter : may contain nuts or nut products;
  • Portable stroller : remove infant before folding for storage.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Task at Hand

My friend Bill wrote a blog entry some time ago about the seemingly simple and ordinary task of changing the oil in his car. With just those few paragraphs, I learned a very important lesson about attitude that I still reflect on from time to time. As he finished his work, he stood back and was thankful that he could complete a job that he usually paid someone else to do. He found satisfaction and pride in working with his hands. He warmly remembered his father who had taught him how to have confidence in himself. A simple and ordinary task yes, but one that touched him on several different and meaningful levels. Bill helped me to see that if your attitude and spirit are open and receptive to the positive, you seem to take so much more out of every situation than if you approach everything in a grumbling and negative and let's-just-get-this-over-with manner.

The other day I was working in my yard on replacing the mulch in all of the landscaped areas. This is a very big job given the design and layout of my yard. The job took a lot out of me. Sweat, exertion, effort. Lots of grunting, groaning, grumbling. However, when I had finished the first half of the work, I took a few steps back to assess what I had done. It was precisely at that moment that Bill's words about attitude and spirit flooded back into my mind. As I surveyed my yard, I realized that I had done a pretty good job and things were turning out exactly as I had hoped. My negativity melted away in that moment and my spirit was uplifted. I went back to work and completed the job with a song on my lips and a great attitude. Thanks Bill for the lesson. (I miss you buddy.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In a Moment

I arrived at work, laptop and coffee travel mug in hand. I had just a few minutes before I had to start my 8-hour shift. I did not want to be late and was moving, head down, in quite some haste. As I silently moved down the sidewalk, my mind was filled with all kinds of thoughts about what I needed to take care of that day, stepping through my usual mental checklist. I fear that if there had been a deep chasm right there in my path, I would have been so lost in my own world of thought that I would have charged headlong to my doom. However, for some reason, I glanced up and immediately seemed to awaken. Just off to my right I passed by a family of Canadian geese. A mama and papa waddled along stretching and contorting their long necks. They were squawking and honking their arrival and their presence. Right behind them trailed four cute little baby geese. They were all fluff and no coordination. They stumbled and fumbled and bumped into one another. For a moment, the last gosling in line stopped and looked me in the eye and kind of tilted his head to the side. He seemed to be wondering what I was supposed to be. Figuring that I was just a passing curiosity that posed him no threat, he then let out a satisfied honk before moving on to catch up to his clan.

That scene made me smile to myself and paved the way for a calm and contented day. Lost in my own self-created fog, I almost missed out. I almost let this delicious morsel of joy and beauty escape. Maybe I need to be more attentive to the world around me. Who knows what else I might be missing in a moment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Box Cars

Henry Ford once said something akin to this, it costs as much to build an ugly vehicle as it does a good-looking one, so why not build good-looking vehicles? Given this statement from one of the most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs in the history of world, why have so many car companies not taken this sound and digestible nugget to heart? It seems, however, that automobile manufacturers have moved bovine-like in a tangential direction. One company decided to mass produce a joke vehicle. On a recently released company memo, one high-level executive stated that he wanted to make the most unappealing, most box-like piece of crap ever and see if the gullible fools on the outside would lap it up if they paired it with a modern, trendy, and hip advertising campaign. While going to the bathroom in the executive washroom, he bet the suit in the next stall over $100 semolians that his design would sell 100,000 units in the first year of production alone. The other executive, having seen the design, laughed so hard, he fell off the toilet. When he got back up, he took that bet. Today, he is $100 poorer. One of the ugliest vehicles in automotive history sold like hotcakes as bleeting consumers trampled over each other to take possession of this new, head-turning coupe-de-garbage.

If all of these developments were not bad enough, every other automobile manufacturer jumped on board this gravy train. Each in turn churned out their own identical replicas of this doofus-hipster piece of crap. Ford, Nissan, Chevrolet, Lamborghini. Nobody could keep up with the demand from a ravenous public. Even when that infamous memo became public information, sales continued to skyrocket. Nobody wanted to be left behind the raging fad. Well, the joke will sooner or later be on them, for, you see, another aspect of this corporate joke is that the cars are so cheaply made that they are designed to crumble into a heap of compost within two years of purchase. My guess is that nobody will complain about this "feature", as the brochure touted the new vehicles as Earth friendly and fully recyclable.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Satisfied Mind

His quest began a very long time ago. I noticed that he was looking for something with some dispatch, searching in earnest. I once asked him about it, but he lacked certainty of what he was after. He just seemed to know that he wanted something, needed something that was missing. With each big change in his life, I really do believe that he thought his search was over. In fact, I would say that he appeared content for a time, but eventually, that old restlessness returned and he was at it again.

It seems to me that an earnest search for something that is never found could eventually lead to bitterness or regret. Under certain conditions one would not be surprised to see signs of dementia creeping in under the shadows. But this is just rampant speculation. Each person carries their burdens differently. Some with grace and a positive attitude. Others are done in by them.

The other day I spoke with him. A conversation so deep, and at once so organic, that I realized we had not spoken like this in some time. It was striking how much everything on his outside was exactly the same as I remembered, but something within was noticeably altered. Call it an attitude. Call it a radiance. As I walked away from him after our time together, I was struck with a thought that made me smile. I believe that he finally found what he was looking for. His quest, a search for self acceptance, a search for inner peace, had finally come to fruition. I hastily turned back to look for him, when I looked into that same smile. I recognized a calm not felt before and, yes, a satisfied mind.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Finish Line

I have this image in my head of a wise old man who has much to share with the younger generation. When he speaks, all within the sound of his voice stop what they are doing. Quickly and quietly they gather around to listen and absorb the knowledge and experience. They savor the stories and the time. They are patient and attentive at the foot of the old master. They listen with reverence and speak with respect. ... So much for a stock character in an old, late-night movie.

In reality you are likely to find folks well past their primes who still try to command an audience with bags of wind. With little else to do now, they saunter in and plop down in the middle of the action and cause interruption, delay, and disruption. With no regard for what other people are doing or what might already be afoot, they attempt to regale the room with anecdotes that nobody cares about, desires to listen to, or even has the time for. They start their random, superfluous ramblings with "I remember the time ...". It seems their stories have no point and are not meant to share wisdom or knowledge, but to puff themselves up, to make themselves appear relevant, to try once again to take control of the bridge of the ship they guided so long ago. However, that old ship that sailed was a very different mistress from the one here today, and the young folks have no taste of those days from long ago.

It seems a noticeably awkward stage has been approached. A point between irrelevance and retirement. Between then and now. Between burning bright and fading away. It happens to all who complete the cycle. Not all handle it with grace and dignity and strength. I wonder how I will approach the finish line, looking forward or looking back.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

About Me

Sometimes, in just the right lighting, if you catch just a momentary glimpse of me from across a large room, I can almost seem normal. An average Joe. A regular dude. But before you get too giddy with such thoughts, I must warn you, beware. Mark my words. You should be wary before letting me join in any of your reindeer games. Today I wanted to share just a few pieces of insight about myself that you might not know.
  • I am extremely jumpy. If you surprise me from behind, it can send me into sensory overload. I have been known in such situations to make some kooky and zany yipping noise and then wet myself.
  • I get totally freaked out by bugs and critters. I have been known to abandon my home if I even hear rumors of nearby roaches or mice. Yuck, ewww, and gag.
  • I have the musical tastes of a 14-year-old girl. Those boy bands make me go weak in the knees.
  • I have never been in a car accident or gotten a speeding ticket. Hopefully this admission is not like the Sports Illustrated cover curse that will doom me on the way home today.
  • I did not get my driver's license until I was 30 years old.
  • I did not have any girlfriends when I was in high school or college.
  • I am a pretty good cook and regularly watched Julia Child's The French Chef as a boy.
  • Although I am a supposed intellectual type, for many years I did not like reading.
  • I am crazy shy.
  • I am an elitist, but I don't like myself. Well, at least I don't play favorites.
  • I am one of the funniest people I know. My specialty is observational humor, not telling jokes.
Do things make more sense now? Does anything on this list surprise you? Shock you? Cause you to laugh and point? Let me know.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Only I could inexplicably link together the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's baby and the gun battle that resulted in the arrest of the Black Panther founder at the height of the tense civil rights movement. It's scary what can happen when a fertile imagination and a pooly understood sets of pseudo-facts are allowed into a single brain at the same time. The result is typically GIGO (garbage in = garbage out).

Pseudo-fact #1: In a tragic story, the 1-year-old baby boy of intrepid explorer and bon vivant Charles Lindbergh is kidnapped right out of his room in the family estate.

Pseudo-fact #2: There was some pop-culture slogan that I remember seeing somewhere with throngs of people shouting "Free Huey".

In my mind I full entwined these two bits and had myself convinced, given the cleverness of my arguments, that I had successfully put together the complete picture. I, in fact, though, could not have been more wrong. Those who have the slightest bit of awareness of world events will remember that the infant son of Charles Lindberg (of the Spirit of St. Louis fame) was kidnapped and brutally murdered in the 1930s. The infant's name was Charles. The free Huey slogan referred to the jailing and treatment of Black Panther leader Huey Newton after a gun battle that resulted in the death of a police officer and the subsequent circus in the charged Bay Area civil right morass of the late 1960s. While both tragic events and major news stories, I had somehow figured that the "free Huey" chants were the public's uprising and response to the kidnapping of baby Huey Lindbergh.

My mind had somehow taken a few snippets of information and sewn together a story out of thin air. What is even more comic, in a you-really-need-help-man sort of way, was that I tried to convince a friend of mine of the veracity of my invention. He looked at me, shook his head, and walked away muttering to himself. It was then that I made the informed proclamation that I tend to take every premise to its most absurd conclusion. GIGO, pure GIGO.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Life Stock

I think a lot of people take stock of their lives from time to time. Some, like me, are continually seeking to improve themselves based on these self-assessments. At least for me, a big and necessary first step is to actually understand that something is not the way that I want it to be. In some cases, I may be the last person to realize that I need to work on some aspect of myself, so being able to recognize that something needs work and attention is important.

The ideal scenario, of course, would be to recognize that some aspect of your being needs to be attended to, you devise a plan of attack, and poof, everything is in the rear-view mirror of your life and everyone lives happily ever after. Obviously, this rarely, if ever, happens. In my case I fight and struggle and wrestle with the same issues time and again, day to day, week to week, and sadly, year to year. On of my greatest frustrations is to apparently make progress in some area, only to have all of the old ways come back in full force in a moment of weakness. This causes me to beat myself up with negative, defeatist thoughts. It is equally frustrating too when your to-do list keeps getting longer and longer. My list of areas that require significant work and attention include:
  • Lust
  • Anger
  • Worry
  • Bad self-image
  • Apathy
Do I have any sound advice to those similarly struggling? Perhaps the most important thing is to acknowledge and accept that you are human and that you are not perfect. Realize too that you didn't develop the items on this list overnight. Improvement will take time and attention and active effort. Finally, realize that most of us can only expect improvement in some of our problem areas. We rarely are "cured" entirely. Practice patience with yourself. Get up when you fall, and attempt to understand why you fell, lest you trip on the same obstacle repeatedly.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grind My Gears 16

I was sitting in an important meeting the other afternoon at work, but I was distracted by a major frustration that took place earlier that same day. I had 3 pages of notes written on standard lined paper. To keep them together in a neat and tidy fashion, I figured that I would drive a staple through the upper-left corner of the stack. What do you guess happened? That's right, the staple crumbled on impact with the top sheet, utterly marring the corner. I angrily extracted the metal shrapnel and tried again. Four attempts, four total and complete failures. When I was done, my notes looked like a small vampire had gotten a bad case of the munchies on my work. What gives? Now you understand why I was so frustrated several hours later when I was sitting in my meeting. My frustration then gave me the fuel to do some reading on the history of the stapler on my laptop-type computer, no sense actually participating in the meeting given my state of mind. Did you know that the first known stapler was made in the 18th century for King Louis XV? Did you know that the very next day after he was presented with the device he ordered his official palace gadgeteer beheaded? Can you guess why? It was noted that old Lou walked away from a stack of royal parchment cursing and grumbling something about un petit vampire. Staplers, they really grind my gears.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ray of Light

It's been a long day at work. I woke up in complete darkness and am driving home in more of the same. I heard it was a nice day today, but this one completely slipped past me. I got done what I had to get done. Always some new pressing deadline to meet. Always too little time. I worked not out of joy, but out of duty. I have had more than enough. I am bone weary and every muscle in my body is overcome with fatigue. My mind is completely fried. I have given all that I had within me. I have a nagging headache and an extreme case of the grumbles.

I pull into the driveway to a cold, dark, unwelcoming house. To add insult to injury, the smell of a neighbor's grilling dinner wraps around my head. I am more than a bit jealous. I am way too tired to even consider more than grabbing something quick to eat and chowing it down in front of the television. After fumbling with the keys trying to find the lock on the door, I fall into the front entryway and hit the first light switch my desperate hand can find. I grab the remote and hit the power button. At least I will have some company. Nope, spoke too soon, cable's out. Dang. I stumble into the kitchen and open the fridge. Not a bit of food to be found. I am way too tired to head back out. I start to consider just throwing in the towel and going to bed. I know the evening's young, but nothing is going my way. Michael told me that withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy.

I walk into the bathroom to rinse my face when I meet the stare of my glassy-eyed, gaunt reflection. He has no comfort to provide, no answers. Just then my phone rings. ... Hello? ... Angel face! How was your day? .... Yeah? Tell me about it ... I can't wait to see you tomorrow .... That ray of light pierced me and I came back to the world. Beaming, laughing, excited for more. Yeah from time to time I let the blahs take root in my mind, take control of me, and take me away. A gentle reminder of my blessings is the perfect remedy to bring me back.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Walk on by

I read the news each morning to keep up with what is going on in the world around me. Usually this is a slog through the standard depressing, oppressive, hackneyed fare. Military conflicts, troubled celebrities, national disasters, politics, economy issues. Maybe if you look around hard enough you can find a story or two that is interesting, uplifting, funny, or informative. Oftentimes, however, I run across stories that make me shudder as I realize the cruelty and savagery that is man at times. They usually involve the wanton killing or abuse of children or innocents, people who are in our society that act in such animalistic ways that they negatively impact all who come into contact with them, stories of premature or unexpected death of special people, or the state of humanity and what we seem all too often capable of doing (or not doing). After these encounters, I just wish that I could erase the haunting images from my mind.

A story ran the other day about a good samaritan who ran to the aid of a woman being mugged. In the scuffle with the attacker, he was stabbed multiple times in the chest. His wounds were too much for him to bear and he fell to the ground bleeding. As he laid there dying, more than 20 people walked past him on the sidewalk. Many were so self-absorbed they did not even notice him. Several purposefully glanced at the man on the ground only for a moment before they went back to their own worlds. My guess is that nearly every one of those who passed by the man on the ground had a cell phone in their possession. Why didn't anyone call for assistance? Could it be they just did not want to get involved? They did not want to be late for work or their meeting at the coffee shop? Is this kind of violent scene so commonplace that we have become immune to noticing it and taking action? The whole story sickened me. I then had a sudden flashback to a related incident that happened to me.

On a Saturday many years ago in my college days, I was walking from my apartment to the grocery store. It was bitter cold outside, well below freezing. There was no snow on the ground, but everything was frosted and frozen. On my journey, I cut through the parking lot of a neighboring apartment complex and traversed a small embankment. There, I came suddenly upon a still, topless figure in a miniskirt laying face down on the ground. The scene was so unexpected that I panicked a bit and gave the person a wide berth. Avoiding prolonged eye contact, I hastily continued upon my journey. After finishing my shopping, I headed home. When I returned past that same spot, the person was on the ground in the same position. There was no other soul in sight. I headed home and called 911. A short while later, the police called back to thank me for the report. The person, turned out to be a stupid college kid who had gotten himself drunk and passed out on the ground at some point during the night. He would survive. However, I did not immediately rush home and call for help. I completed my errand first. My behavior was not because I didn't care, but because I was afraid and more than a little bit shocked. Not that it makes any difference now, but I can only hope that this was the reaction and excuse for those who let the good samaritan bleed to death on that sidewalk.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Meal

Here's a conversation heard time and again in many homes across the world:

What do you want for supper tonight? .... I don't care, whatever.

I think most home cooks find this exchange so frustrating and so hurtful. Preparing and organizing meals is something that requires a non-trivial effort. It involves time, money, energy, patience, creativity, and love. When those who we try to prepare meals for don't make any effort to share the burden, it is clear that they take us for granted and have little to no appreciation for our efforts.

Another utterance that is also heard across the globe as dinner is being served is:

Awww, not that again! .... Sigh.

However, every once in a while we get asked for seconds or thirds. We get back clean plates. We get back a satisfied look and a simple, sweet, hug. This is what re-energizes us to go back into the kitchen and continue. It gives me a reason to smile as I think about preparing my macaroni and cheese bake, my homemade pizza, my hotcakes with syrup, my special grilled cheese sandwiches, my flavor-rific scrambled eggs, my quesadillas with spicy taco sauce, and my spagetti and garlic bread. It allows me to prepare a dish that comes out so much better when I make it for someone else than it ever would if I just made it for myself. It takes the meal preparation drudergies away and warms me.

Recently, as I was dropping off my little one for school, I told her that I hoped she enjoyed the lunch that I had packed for her. I said that I would bet that it could be the best lunch ever. She told me that the best lunch ever is the one that we spend together. Maybe it's not the food, but the company.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Her Place

In many ways and on many levels, a child's bedroom is a wonderful place. To my daughter her room represents so many different and important things ...

It is a place where her imagination at once can bring her to the top of a magical castle to seek out unicorns and rainbows or immediately place her at the controls of an elaborate space cruiser or a silly, bouncy jalopy. Nothing in the entire universe is out of her reach or unobtainable.

It is a place where she can run when she has been hurt emotionally. An impenetrable fortress that is all hers. She can hide out from the world until she has dealt with her feelings or processed her jumbled thoughts.

It is a place where she can experience spectacular adventures in the pages of a book, all the while nestled in the arms of her daddy. A time to dream and live and let the day melt away into sweet kisses and goodnights. She knows that she is safe here. She knows that she is welcome here.

It is a place where she can grow up on her own terms without the pressures of her peers or her daddy. If she wants to be a child, she can be a child. If she wants to be a grown up, she can be a grown up. She controls this space. She decides what will hang up on the walls or how the bookshelves will be arranged or what goes into the different drawers of her dresser or nightstand. This space is one that she has allowed to grow from Winnie to Pooh, to Barbie, to more grown-up tastes and visions. It is a reflection of who she is and who she wants to be.

I like this place best when I can tuck her in at night after a day together, when I can say her prayers with her, read her a story, and kiss her goodnight. No matter when you come, I will always be here and always be ready with a hug and a story and a chance for a new adventure ...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Purpose Driven Life

I recently finished The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. For some reason, I was a bit apprehensive about reading this book. Perhaps because emblazoned across the front jacket, it proclaimed that this was the biggest selling non-fiction book in history (strange that it did not mention the Bible). More than 30 million copies have been sold around the world. For some strange reason I was concerned that if the book was that popular, it had to be that it had something impactful to teach me and impart to me. I just wondered if this book was all that it was jacked up to be. Would its words speak to me, empower me, lift me, embrace me, convict me, or teach me? The only way to find out was just to dive in.

I should say that in my five-star rating system, I rated this book only 3 out of 5 stars. In my opinion, this was a good, solid read with sound teaching and practical advice that was a totally accurate representation of scripture. However, there was nothing that elevated this book beyond any of a host of other Christian living/self-help books out on the market. One of the blurbs on the back of the book said "The epicenter of a spiritual shockwave taking root across America ... It's more than a book; it has become a movement." Hmmm, seems a bit much, but if this book brings folks to know God and live for him for the right reasons, wonderful.

The book is divided into 40 chapters, meant to be digested one at a time over a period of 40 days. Each chapter tackles one kernel of truth and helps us to understand why it is important in our lives. This 40-day journey through The Purpose Driven Life is designed to help each of us know God's purpose for our lives and how we fit into God's big picture. The goal is to help us understand who we are (our identity), why we matter (our importance), and what our place in life is supposed to be (our impact). The chapters are divided into major sections that include:
  • What on Earth am I Here For?
  • Purpose #1: You were planned for God's pleasure.
  • Purpose #2: You were formed for God's family.
  • Purpose #3: You were created to become like Christ.
  • Purpose #4: You were shaped for serving God.
  • Purpose #5: You were made for a mission.
The Purpose Driven Life because of its popularity and reach was something that drew me in to find out more about its message. However, it's style and digest-ability made it a very enjoyable read that allowed me to take it as far as my spirit and curiosity wanted.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


N.ever could I have imagined in a billion life times that our love would not survive until the end. We had such promise and passion and connection. We shared the common bond of a lifetime of hurt and pain and disappointment. We were both so ready to live. We had everything we could have needed, except in our rush, we left each other behind.

U.tter silence greets me most days when I get home. No excited pitter patter of racing feet across the floor to look out the window and wave. No warm embrace or how was your day. No snuggling on the couch in the evening, rubbing of feet or expectant conversation. No chatting with you while you get your shower or sharing secrets only the two of us would ever hear.

M.any is the night when I awake and reach out expecting to find you there. Reality then comes back to me and I remember that things are different now. As silly as it may seem, I sometimes still talk to you. I share an exciting or funny moment, I seek your advice. Only the echo of my own voice comes back to me.

B.lack is my life since that moment. Although it was a long time ago, I still feel like I just have to wake up from this nightmare and you will be there. You'll look deep into my eyes, smile the way you do, and ask me if I slept well. I will say no, and you will hug me the way you used to.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

End Times

Sometimes you witness a tragedy or a negative experience in the life of another from afar and it gets you thinking. You think about yourself or a cherished love one experiencing the same situation and you wonder.

Not long ago my friend Paul lost his father. A man he loved, admired, and respected. A man he could genuinely call friend. Paul wrote of his dad "I'm glad I listened to your stories over and over. I wish I could listen to them again." These words have had a powerful affect on me, both in a melancholy and an uplifting way.

Melancholy because I have reached the mid-life stage where I can see the sun starting to set. Whereas once I was invincible and virile and bursting with life and energy, I now break down more easily and am easily sapped of strength. Wrinkles are now apparent. Aches and pains and pills are a daily constant. I have reached the age of my mom and dad when I was a young teenager. Now I am that parent of that (nearly) teenage child. Time marches on toward the inevitable end times.

Uplifting because I would like to think I am and have been the type of father that would elicit similarly heart-felt and loving words from my child when I'm gone. I know I repeat myself to my little one time and again about the people and situations that have impacted my life. When I bring them up for the umpteenth time, my daughter will tend to finish the story for me. I hope that she will eventually understand the message behind my stories, and will gracefully learn how to humor me as I repeat myself yet again, but at the same time will wrap my stories around her like a warm and comforting blanket on a chilly night.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mind Games

Not long ago I was reading a kids magazine with my daughter. The article that had caught our attention consisted of an exercise, a cognitive test. My daughter was to read a sentence that contained an extra (repeated) word. The test was to find out if she would notice it. When she read the sentence, just as many people do, she skipped right over the extra word. Her mind never recognized the addition. It had an expectation of what was supposed to be there, and it caused her to see something different from the literal words printed on the page. We repeated the same exercise several more times, in between which I would caution her to read what was written more carefully. However, with each additional reading, she continued to skip over the repeated word. She knew from my promptings that she was missing something, but she never could figure it out.

I bet that this kind of mental blockage happens to all of us from time to time, and probably more often than we would like to imagine. We each have deeply preconceived notions of how things should be or how we would like them to be. Call it wishful thinking or blind spots or bias or mental programming. This calls to mind what happens when a video monitor gets burned in when the display continually shows the same thing. After the image is taken away, you can still see a ghost of it permanently engrained.

When we think we have everything all figured out, understood, or under control, beware! We are in danger of missing opportunties because we think we have already seen how the scenes in life's movie play out. We can miss what is actually going on. We can miss the promptings of the world around us that can clue us in to the fact that our view is actually inaccurate or distorted.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

AED Madness

A few years ago, some poor unfortunate had a heart attack and died. A person with a "medical" degree who was a witness to the whole scene (but curiously only took notes) stated that the poor schmuck would not have become non compos mentus if someone had just happened to be carrying one of those paddle shock devices you see on ER. These devices, officially called Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs), can now be seen littering the walls in most public venues. Code requirements are that they be placed every 3.5 ft apart. I don't know about you, but my first reaction upon hearing what led to the insane proliferation of AEDs in our airports, museums, and workplaces was that I was glad Joe Schmo did not die from rectal crampage, else we would have invasive butt monitors nailed to every wall.

Apart from the fact that those who own AED stock are now set for life, my question is, who the heck is using these devices? If someone fell to the floor clutching their chest and required this form of electro-shock therapy, would they want some stranger frying their innards in willy-nilly fashion? Each AED device comes with a booklet that makes War and Peace look like McDonald's dollar menu. Does the dieing man really have the time for us to sit down and casually read through this instructive tome? I think we all know the answer to this question. Given our litigious society, can you image the law suits that would emerge from improper usage of an AED? At the trial we would hear responses like: "I thought I was supposed to attach the paddles to my chest." or "I wasn't supposed to take their pants off? or "Err, what did 'ON' mean?". I think it's time to end the madness and take on the über-powerful AED congressional lobbyists. Let's leave the doctorin' to the doctors.