Friday, February 26, 2010

Awesome Things Volume VI

The beautiful spring like day we had last Sunday. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the temperature was warm, and the snow melted away. I turned off my furnace, opened my windows, and aired out the house. After all the cold and snowy days of late, it was a welcome change.

Scoring tickets to the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival to be held this summer in Chicago. Every few years Eric Clapton hosts an all day concert to benefit a rehab center that he founded. Most of the greatest guitar players alive participate. Besides Eric, I will be seeing the Allman Brothers Band, Steve Winwood, Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, ZZ Top, and many, many more that I can't remember at the moment. It's not official yet but I think Carlos Santana has also been added to the bill. This concert sold out in 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale last Saturday. As a true blue, card carrying rock and roller, getting these tickets is HUGE for me.

Employment. Some people where I work recently lost their jobs. Many people in our society would like to have any job. I am happy to have the job I am doing right now. Yes, it's never easy to get out of bed. Yes, some days and some people occasionally make me crazy. I don't like everything I have to so. However, I have a great boss and I'm not just saying this because it's performance review time. I have great co-workers. I have a great team. Most days I actually enjoy myself and I can honestly say I never really dread coming to the office. So, I am very grateful not just to have a job but to have this job. If I have to work, and I still do, I don't know how it could be much better.

Friends. It's a great thing to have friends. My best friend and I have been friends since we were 15 years old. We met in 6th period study hall in our sophomore year of high school. That was 44 years ago. My youngest friends are in the 20's. My oldest friends are in their mid 80's. I have many kinds of friends. I have work friends, music friends, spiritual friends, lunch friends, and a few friends that defy description. Friends are a gift and good friends get us through the rough patches of life. My best friends are truly dear to me. Always keep in mind, however, than if you want a friend, you must be a friend.

Gratitude. I have learned in my life that happiness is directly related to my gratefulness. The more grateful I am for the good things I have and the bad things I don't have, the happier I am. When my now college age nieces were teen age girls, they always seemed sad. I used to call them "The Princesses of Sadness". I think young people are often sad because they haven't yet learned to be grateful. Look around the world and then count your blessings. Be grateful and you will be happy.

That moment in the evening when you finally get to sit down. You've worked all day and met all those challenges. You picked up the kids at school or the daycare. You cooked dinner and cleaned up the mess. Maybe you've thrown a load of laundry into the washing machine. You squeezed in a shower or a bath and changed your clothes. Finally, you become one with your favorite chair. Maybe you have a fresh cup of coffee or tea and the morning paper. (Who has time to read the morning paper in the morning?) You can breathe. Life did not get the best of you this day. It is time to take your well earned rest. Chairs are great for napping, too. I am a world class napper.

Sons. I have two sons. One of them, Nick, is 28 years old today. He is a seminarian at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana. The school is run by Benedictine monks. My other son is Mike, Jr. He is married and the father of my granddaughter. I am happy because both of my sons have turned out well and seem happy with their lives. I am blessed to have a good family. We're pretty normal which means we sometimes drive one another crazy but overall we get along well and we take care of one another.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Contemplative Life

This week I had lunch with a friend who is a chaplain in the psychiatric ward of the local VA hospital. Every few months we get together for some engaging conversation about the spiritual life. This week we discussed the contemplative life and the experience of God. Both are weighty topics and there are many opinions about what each of them means. I do not pretend to have the definitive answer. I will share a few thoughts about what they mean to me. I believe the contemplative life is a life lived in awareness. It is a life lived in an awakened state. It is being present to the moment. Sometimes these moments sweep you away and you become lost in them. Those are the kinds of moments that I often refer to as "Zen Moments". You can't plan them and you can't make them happen. The contemplative life becomes a way of being and a way of seeing life. Too often in our lives we are unaware and asleep as we go through the motions of living our lives. Contemplative living is a spiritual wake up call.

What is the experience of God? I don't think it can be talked about without the use of analogies. No one can say, "The experience of God is......". All one can say is "The experience of God is like....". Even with the use of analogies, there is no certainty the comparison is accurate. In terms of the experience of God, what is real and what is imagination? If I am asked what the experience of God is, I must say, "I don't know". If you believe that God is love, then perhaps every experience of unconditional love is the experience of God.

All I can do is not get hung up on all the different opinions, theology, the incidentals of religion and traditions, and try to be open to the experience of life. If there is a God, it is through my life that I will experience Him....or Her.

Monday, February 22, 2010

My Son The Seminarian

Twenty-two priesthood students from Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology received the ministry of lector on Tuesday, February 9, in the School’s St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, OSB, of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, installed the lectors.

The ministry of lector is conferred upon those who prepare and proclaim readings from Scripture at Mass and other liturgical celebrations. A lector also may recite psalms between the readings and present the intentions for the general intercessions.

My son can be seen above. He is the person to the far left.

Life Is Good

My life is very good right now. I am grateful for my continued employment. I have been with my company for 24 years and I hope to ride that wave all the way to the beach. Materially, my cup runneth over. This is due in part to the generosity of my wife's deceased parents. However, some credit must also be given to my wife and I for consistently working for 35+ years. We are at a point in our lives where we are reaping some rewards for all the labor of our lives. Although most of my life has always been good, much of it has also been a struggle. If I paid all my bills and had $100 left in my checking account, something would break that cost $110. I like it that my ship has come in. Most of them in the past have taken on water and sunk in the harbor before they could dock. Now that one finally docked, it relieves some of life's pressure. It enables me to do some things that have needed to be done for a long time. My house is old and is need of some updating and repair. Raising two sons from boys to men gave it quite a beating at times. My wife and I are able to spoil ourselves a little. For example, my favorite room in my house, where I spend most of my alone time, was mostly a collection of hand me downs, leftovers, and stuff no one wanted. Now, after completely emptying the room, re-painting it and having new carpet installed, I have been able to put it back together with some thought. At the same time I have tried to downsize, de-clutter, and simplify. The rest of the house is also getting a much needed makeover. You won't see it on television but it's amazing what a little paint, some new carpet, and a few new accessories can do to improve your living space. Less you think my wife and I are totally self absorbed, we are also in a better position to help our children with some of their needs and wants. I can't deny that I like when my own needs are met but there is also great happiness to be found meeting the needs of others and making their lives a little better. The ability to be generous is a gift to the giver. Speaking of givers, my thanks to two of the most generous people I ever knew, my father in law and mother in law. We are grateful for your generosity and we miss you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival

I'm heading down that rock and roll highway one more time. I just scored tickets for the Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival to be held in Chicago on June 26th, 2010. I am estatic!

Here's a news release with some details.

Eric Clapton has revealed both the plans and the players for his third Crossroads Guitar Festival. The single-day event will return to Toyota Park in Chicago on June 26. Not surprisingly, it boasts a lineup loaded with real-life guitar heroes including BB King, Buddy Guy, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood, Robert Randolph and Sheryl Crow. we really need to say that Clapton will headline? Duh.

"I do it because I want to hear these players," Clapton told Rolling Stone. "It comes from the heart of a musician. It's not a business deal and there is an enlightenment in that." True. And the event benefits the Crossroads Centre, an addiction-treatment facility that Clapton founded, therefore, we'll even forgive the big corporate sponsorship that has kinda taken over the official website.

In addition to guitar rockers like ZZ Top and the Allman Brothers, Clapton personally assembled a lineup that highlights many different shades of the guitar, not just shredders. Better brush up on your air guitar moves if you plan on attending -- you'll have an entire day to bust them out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Awesome Things Volume V

Not running off the road on my way to work this past Monday morning. I know I may be in the minority but I still love the snow even though we've had more this winter than in recent memory. My neighborhood was beautiful if treacherous. The trees and bushes were breathtaking in their beauty. The drive to work was slow. I don't think I ever went over 40 miles an hour. Yes, the snow can be challenging, and like most people I hate that I have to leave home on such a morning, but for me it's all worth it because it's all so lovely. This season we've had a real winter and I like that.

The anticipation of spring. Most people, even snow lovers like me, are looking forward to spring. It is approximately one month away. Even now, under all the snow, the regeneration process is in movement. Below ground and within all the trees and bushes, the perennials are preparing for the day when they will burst from the ground or bloom on the trees and bushes. In my nearly 59 years of life, this has happened right on schedule 58 times, and I have a high degree of confidence that it will happen again this year. Life and nature are always renewing themselves. We need to do the same.

Zen Moments. What is Zen? Zen is being where you are and doing what you are doing. "Zen moments" is a term I use to describe those unplanned, perfect moments that can appear in our day. These moments are never announced in advance and part of their joy is the surprise they bring into our life. A couple of summers ago I went to a concert and saw Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. At one point Tom Petty stopped singing and said to the audience, "Wouldn't it be great if life was alright just for a moment"? Well, these "alright" moments exist but you have to be able to recognize them. Life is full of pressures and demands. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of them. Sometimes you just have to pause, breathe, and be in the moment. Using a musical analogy, you have to learn to be in the space between notes.

Today I heard birds singing as I left my home. Can spring be far away?

An open mind. "If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, This is the best season of your life". This was said by someone named Wu-Men. Our minds are often full of unnecessary thoughts. According to Buddha, most of our suffering is a product of our own minds. The reality is that most of our fears....the ones that cause us suffering....never actually happen. If we keep an open mind, we will discover that most of life is good. Yet, we continuously focus on the little that is bad, or we live in fear of what will likely never happen to us. I have lived approximately 21,499 days so far in my life. My estimate is that less than 1% of these days has been really bad. That's only 215 days in 59 years. The chances of having a good day are overwhelmingly in my favor. I try to not cloud my mind with unnecessary things like worry. I keep my mind open and I live life as it unfolds each day. I am reminded of a humorous story of two monks. One was an older, senior monk. The other a younger, junior monk. Both were meditating side by side. The young monk kept peeking at the older monk. Finally, the older monk smiled at the younger monk and said, "This is it. Nothing else happens". Such is life. Open you mind, live life, stop worrying so much, and be happy.

Seeing the ground. Although I am a snow lover, it is good to once again see the ground. Starting with yesterday, we will have a string of 40+ degree days and maybe some rain. This will go a long way to melting the old snow that's been on the ground for a week or so. I think what I really like is falling snow. After it's been laying around on the ground for days, and it's getting dirty and unattractive, I'm ready for a meltdown.

Speaking of meltdowns....

Another awesome thing is watching the Ice Age movies with my granddaughter. She and I both like prehistoric mammals and dinosaurs. I have a collection of dinosaurs that has gotten progressively smaller. My guess is some of them were abducted by Chloe and if I went to her house I would find my T Rex next to one of her Barbie dolls in her toy box.

Friday lunches with my regular lunch buddy. For me the weekend begins with my workday lunch on Friday. Most of the time I go with the same person. She has been my regular lunch buddy for a number of years. We were co-workers in the past but now we are true friends. Friday lunches are different than any other workday lunch. You can see the finish line of another work week. Friday lunches are more relaxed and usually longer than on other days. My lunch buddy and I are very comfortable with one another. We sometimes talk about work but mostly about our families and our lives with the added enjoyment of much laughter because we make one another laugh and who doesn't need that by the end of the work week? Today was especially nice because we went to a new Irish pub we had never been to before and the walk back to the office was very nice because the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the snow is melting. Spring was in the air.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Snow Poems

Snow Falling on Snow by Robert J. Wicks

In a cozy little corner I sit and pray,
wrapped in a warm sweater with a candle
lit before a mysterious icon.

Outside, the snow is swirling and the
wind whooshing and the tree branches
scratching against the house wanting to come in.

Then in the spaces in between, when the
wind is forgotten and all is quiet…
I open my heart to listen.

And as I hear the peaceful sound of snow
falling on snow, my soul slowly softens…
and my worries retreat to the edge of the room.
Finally I realize with joy that no matter
how uncertain life may become,
I will always be safe and warm
when I am at home with You.

First Snow by Mary Oliver

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
are the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain - not a single
answer has been found -
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.

The Simplicity Of Joy And Solitude

I have spent much of my Sunday afternoon sitting alone in a mostly empty room with no blinds and little heat, while the washing machine and dryer hummed in the background. The only warmth was my own inner fire, the smoking hot jams and occasionally jazzy improvisations of the Grateful Dead, and the mug of hot chocolate in my hand. I sat in my chair, covered with a blanket, and watched the first wave of snowflakes falling from the sky. They were a preview of what's coming later tonight. By morning we are supposed to have an additional 4-6 inches of snow. Most of last week's snow is still on the ground. The temperatures have remained mostly below freezing so little of the snow has melted. I welcome the new snow but am not happy that it is falling on a Sunday night and tomorrow I will have to face the morning commute and a new work week.

I must admit that I love my solitude. I am often praised for being a people person but if I am honest, I must admit to preferring being alone. Usually when I am alone I am in perfect peace and never am I lonely. I occasionally enjoy the company of others but I quickly overcome this. The company of people is often exhausting to me. There are a number of reasons for this. The people may be demanding or annoying. The relationship may be strained. In some cases I may desire a relationship that cannot happen. Being an introvert I often feel that people suck the life out of me. When I am with people I sometimes feel like Superman in a room with kryptonite. I suppose if you love solitude, and if you are an introvert, there is an element of loneliness to your life. I don't dislike people. I am part of a large family and I have many friends. Like most people I want love, I want intimacy, and I want happiness, but they all seem difficult to find, and my solace is solitude where I at least find peace.

So, today, in the solitude of a cold and mostly empty room, I found simple joy in falling snow and the frigid landscape outside my window. Tomorrow I must re-enter the world of men and women and be about my daily tasks. I would rather sit in my chair, look out my window, and drink hot chocolate.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Awesome Things Volume IV

Driving through a snow covered countryside at dawn. I went to the monastery last Sunday morning. When I left home it was still dark. Along the way dawn broke and all the trees, bushes, and evergreens were still draped with last Friday night's snowfall. It was very beautiful. Once I got off the Interstate I was the only car on the road and I enjoyed my solitude and the Christmas card beauty of the countryside.

Winter sunrises. We had a beautiful sunrise earlier this week with pinkish, orange hues filling the eastern sky. I think winter sunrises are some of the most beautiful. Too often, however, I am in an autopilot daze on my way to work plus I am driving west so the sunrise is behind me. After I drop my wife at her office, however, I am going east on Market Street and often I am greeted with a beautiful morning sky.

Chinese Philosophy. In a past life I must have been Chinese. I love philosophers like Deng Ming-Dao and the collection of thoughts some call "The Tao". I have a book with daily readings. Sometimes they are like brain teasers. Today's thought is "Heaven and hell: Our subconscious". Tomorrow's thought is "Footsteps in the sand quickly washed away: The seashore mind". Sometimes when you see me in the breakroom or sitting at my desk at work and I appear to be in a daze, I am deep in thought about one of these daily sayings. Other days I am in a real daze.

On a lighter note....

There's a fast food restaurant in my city called Taco Bueno. They have these desserts that should never touch my diabetic lips. They're like an egg roll filled with cheesecake, deep fat fried, and then rolled in cinnamon sugar. They're to die for and if I keep eating them, I will.

Stuff my granddaughter says. Here's some examples.

"Pa Paw, I don't want you to use a walker like the old Pa Paw. You need to be able to pick me up and hug me".

"Pa Paw, your whole house is magic. That's why I never get sleepy when I am here".

"Pa Paw, please don't go to Heaven like the old Grandma".

"Only Pa Paw's like to get up early".

"Mommy, do you know what my favorite toy is? No, Chloe, what's your favorite toy? It's my Pa Paw".

Quotes. I love motivational or inspirational quotes. As I have mentioned before, I love books. However, I have noticed that as I get older I can't handle massive amounts of information or deep topics, as well as I used to, especially on a work night. Therefore I like the "soundbite" of a good quote. Here's one that a friend sent to me yesterday.

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind and compassionate. The second is to be kind and compassionate. The third is to be kind and compassionate".
-Henry James

Memories. My Dad died one year ago yesterday. I have missed him more than I thought I would. I am not sad, though, because I have many good memories. I read once that "memories are the cushion we sit upon in our old age". I've got a few years to go before I am as old as my Dad was...84 years....but it does sometimes seem that as you get older your memories begin to out number your dreams. I guess this is part of life's journey. The life you have today creates the memories you will have in the future. Live well and prepare a soft cushion for yourself.

I don't watch a lot of television but I do like a few shows. One of them is Survivor. The 20th season started last night with people who had been on previous seasons. They were divided into two groups called "Heroes and Villains". One of the heroes and most popular players in the game is a tie-dyed hippie guy named Rupert. I've actually met Rupert. I ran into him at a Grateful Dead concert. He was a very nice guy and I hope he wins this season's contest.

A weekend where I don't have a thousand things to do, a weekend where I have no commitments, and a weekend where I have no where I have to be. I really thought at my current age life would be much slower. It isn't. Anytime I can have a Saturday or a Sunday that is free and I can do as much or as little as I choose, it is a good day. This weekend has suddenly freed up and it is now full of nothing. Thank you, God.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I woke up this morning to 4-5 inches of snow and it continued to snow for several more hours after I got up. When it was all over we had a total of about six inches on the ground. It was a slow morning at work. The office seemed like a ghost town. I had no trouble getting to work once I got on the main roads. As usual, my neighborhood street wasn't plowed and looking out my window I could have been in Siberia. Pictured above is a typical scene in Kentucky today. In the afternoon I ventured outside for a walk around the park behind my office building. It was considerably colder than earlier in the morning. There was also a gusty wind that increased the wind chill. We were definitely having a winter day. This season has been a real winter with colder temperatures and more frequent snow. Most years Kentucky winters are generally mild and rarely brutal. Lots of people hate winter and long for spring and summer days. My least favorite time is summer with it's high humidity and, at times, oppressive heat. Sometimes winter can be dreary and seem little more than endless overcast days and cold rain. On a day like today, however, the landscape is full of beauty and I find the cold refreshing and invigorating. All in all, I am happy to live in a part of the world where I can experience all four seasons. Last week the ground hog didn't see his shadow so we still have six weeks or so with the potential for more snow. I think snow is magical and I love when it silently falls from the sky, slows life down, and covers the trees, bushes, evergreens, and ground. A really special treat is to see a bright red Cardinal sitting on a branch. The deep red feathers are a striking contrast to the all white background of nature. Each season has it's beauty and winter beauty is one of my favorites. I will enjoy it while I can until the spring flowers begin to bloom.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

There And Back Again

It's been a non stop day. I spent most of my morning going to the monastery. I crept out of my house in the dark, trying not to wake my granddaughter. I found out later she woke up as soon as I shut the front door of my house. It was a cold morning. The drive down I-65 and the country roads to the monastery was beautiful. The starkness of the winter landscape was enhanced by a light covering of snow. Though not deep, it was lovely. Every branch, every bush, every evergreen tree was draped in snow. Soon after leaving home it began to get light so I quickly found myself lost in the beauty of it all. The back roads were mostly empty of cars so I felt like I was all alone. I had a good meeting at the monastery but could not stay long due to other obligations at home. Did I get to rest when I arrived home? No, because my wife had to go get her haircut and I had to watch Chloe. Did I get to rest after she returned? No, because then Chloe's parents showed up. Along with my wife, they left to go pick up a new television whose delivery has been cancelled three times due to the overwhelming demand of people who wanted their new televisions delivered in time for tonight's Super Bowl. I could care less about the Super Bowl. I just wanted the television delivered this weekend so I wouldn't have to take time off from work this week. While they were gone I stayed with Chloe again and watched a SpongeBob Squarepants marathon. Now I sit upstairs in my office while my sons hook up the new television downstairs. When that is done I have a family dinner to get through before I can have some real peace and relaxation. Family is wonderful but they can wear you out sometimes. It would have been nice to stay at the monastery for a longer period of time and get lost in the winter beauty of their solitary grounds and woods. O well, at least I had a taste of silence and solitude while I was there. Once again the weekend has been a blur.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Man Without A Room

I'm feeling a little lost. The room in my house where I normally spent most of my time is completely uninhabitable. The room is empty of all my books and CD's and the furniture is huddled together in the middle of the room covered by a drop cloth to protect it from any airborne paint. Right now all the walls are covered with primer and that makes the whole house stink. Worst of all I feel like I have no place to run or hide. I find myself wandering around the rest of the house trying to find a place to hang out. The living room is my wife's domain and whenever I am in there, I feel like a guest. I have my upstairs office but it is not really a place to hang out for very long. I can only spend so much time checking my email or Facebook page. My desk chair is not suitable for napping. I'm always afraid it will flip over and I'll be on the floor. So, like the ancient Israelites who wandered forty years in the desert in search of the Promised Land, I wander around my house feeling like a homeless person. I'm like a Hobbit. All I really need is my little Hobbit room in my version of the Shire. This week the painting will be completed and next Saturday the carpet will be installed. Hopefully my new CD and book shelves will be completed and mounted soon and my new computer workstation will also be ready. When all that is done I can move all my stuff back in the room and I will be happy as a pig in mud.

I think my granddaughter is coming over tonight so she can entertain and babysit me. Tomorrow I need to go to the monastery so I will spend my Sunday morning doing that. I had considered not going but the last thing that Br. Frederic said to me after lunch this past Thursday was "See you on Sunday, Michael"! I'm pretty sure that was a message from God. I actually enjoy my trips to the monastery, especially the solitary drive there and back. With today's snowfall, it should be a beautiful drive.

It's time to stop writing now and drink my coffee as I stare out of the window.

Another Snowy Saturday

It's another snowy Saturday morning. We only got a few inches but it is a wet, heavy snow so it has not only covered the ground, it hangs on all the tree limbs, telephone wires, etc. Though not deep, it is quite lovely. My friends to the north are getting buried in record setting snowfall accumulations. It is peaceful to sit here and look out my window at the white, winter landscape. Snow is one of the highlights of the winter season. Rarely does my part of the world get so much that life shuts down. Today, for example, it's enough to be beautiful but not enough to stop you from doing anything....unless you are the Best Buys Delivery Team who called earlier and informed me that my new television would not be delivered today.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Awesome Things Volume III

Using your time well. No, I am not talking about being more productive. I am talking about creating balance in your day. Work is important and it takes up a big chunk of your day. However, you are not what you do. It's also important to find time for play, leisure, rest, and reflection. If possible, on these cold winter days, one should find time for looking out of windows and drinking hot chocolate. Break the cycle of running, running, and more running. Take time to do nothing. Take time to enjoy something or someone you love. Life is short. You don't want to look back on your life and wonder what you did because it's all a blur. As Gandhi once said, "There's more to life than increasing it's speed". Michael Brown once said, "Balance is found in the tension of opposites". Spend some time trying to figure out what I am talking about. 8-)

Books! I love books. I have been a lover of books since my childhood. I'm a little old fashioned so I have not yet bought into the new electronic books. I prefer the smell and feel of a real book in my hands. The love of books is a big part of who I am today. My favorite author is Thomas Merton. If you have liked my daily thoughts in the past, these "Awesome Things", or my online blog, you can thank Thomas Merton. He was my inspiration for writing my own thoughts. There's a book inside of me somewhere that hasn't been written yet. Books have taken my mind and imagination to places my body will never go. As Robert Fripp once said, "Me and a book is a party. Me and a book and a cup of coffee is an orgy". If you don't read, you will never be truly educated.

Being at home. There is a Native American saying that "In old age nothing is better than a warm fire". As I age I understand this saying more and more. I love being at home even though my home is currently in chaos. At the end of each workday I love when I cross the threshold of my front door and I enter the warmth and familiarity of my home. My house is old and imperfect, much like my body, and, like my body, it is where I live. The older I get, the less I want to be "out there". I would rather be home than anywhere else. Enjoy your home. Make it a place of refuge and comfort.

Quiet moments. After I get out of bed, shower, get dressed, prepare breakfast, and make lunch each workday morning, I allow myself about 15 minutes to just sit in silence with a cup of coffee and usually some type of inspirational book. These are 15 of the best minutes of the day. Later in the day, if the weather is nice, I try to take a break outside, sit on a bench, and watch the water fountain. Most days, unless it is raining, I take a contemplative walk around the park. During lunch I often eat alone, not because I am anti-social, but because I need the solitude. These quiet moments throughout my day keep me centered so I am better able to deal with all the other demands of the day. I try to be in the eye of life's hurricanes.

Fridays! Do you ever pay attention to the elevator conversations on a Friday morning? To say that most people feel a sense of relief that it is Friday is something of an understatement. It's ok to feel like that. If you've put in a good week of work, you deserve your weekend and some rest and relaxation. I'm usually thanking God it's Friday, too.

Having lunch with friends. Yesterday I had lunch with two friends who happen to be monks. One was Fr. Michael, who is a little older than me, and the other was Br. Frederic, a monk for 56 years. He is 86 years old and has a mind sharp as a tack. Many, many years ago when I entered the monastery, he was one of the monks who interviewed me. The two of them were in town on business so they called me up and invited me to lunch. Anytime you can have lunch with a friend or friends, you should do it and remember, it's not about the food. It's about the friendship.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Brain Dead

I am sitting here in my home office trying not to fall asleep. My "music room" is uninhabitable at the moment because it is prepped to be painted. My wife is downstairs engrossed in the season premier of "Lost". I got "lost" during the first season and never found my way back. If you need to order a commentary from to understand a television show, it's too complicated to watch on a work night.

I am feeling quite brain dead right now and it is only an act of my will that causes me to even attempt to write something meaningful or coherent tonight.

Today was mostly a good day. I had a delightful lunch with a new friend that I was meeting for the first time. We work for the same company but in different buildings. He is also a reader of this blog. More than once I have met strangers for lunch who learn of me through my writing. It's interesting to learn of their images of me that are based solely on the things I write about. I'm always afraid that I will be a disappointment to them when they meet me in the flesh. The gentleman I met today told me he felt like he was going to meet the "Zen Master". Such statements make me laugh inside. It is not false humility on my part to say that I am quite ordinary. I don't think anyone who lives or works with me on a daily basis thinks I am a "Zen Master" or anything special. To be honest, when others do express a high opinion of me, I often feel like a fraud who will soon be exposed for the charlatan that I am. However, I am also humbled by other's kind thoughts about me and their often affectionate feelings toward me.

Today I was struck with another bout of foot in mouth disease. Someday I hope to really learn that when given the option of choosing, silence is almost always better than speaking. It was an innocent mistake on my part, and I thought I was being helpful. However, in the work enviroment I am way too open and way too honest.

Somehow I have actually filled up this page. I think I have used up what little brain I had left. What day is this?