Friday, December 31, 2010

Random Thoughts Volume XII

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas. Before I left work on Christmas Eve it had begun snowing downtown. I am a snow lover and the prospect of a white Christmas did make me a little giddy. When I got home my wife let me chill for a bit before she cracked the whip and implemented Operation Christmas Eve. I am busier on Christmas Eve than I am on Christmas Day. It was an enjoyable evening and I was reminded what a great extended family I have. By the time I got home, after a drive through the heavy snowfall, it was 1:30 AM. Thank God I didn't have to wait for my 28 year old son to fall asleep before making the final preparations for Christmas morning. The tradition in my family is for dear old Dad to get up and make breakfast for everyone. I was busy in the kitchen doing that when my oldest son and granddaughter arrived. It's wonderful to have a child in the family who totally believes in all the Christmas magic. Unfortunately she is a very bright young lady and she's starting to question the logic of some traditional beliefs. When we were together on Christmas Eve at my sister in law's she noticed the house had two fireplaces. She asked, "Which fireplace will Santa use to get in this house"? I suggested that he would probably use the one closest to the Christmas tree. At the same time she has never questioned what happens at my house which has no fireplace. She has also made the connection that anything in a J.C. Penny's red box is probably clothes. All in all it was another good Christmas and I have new music to play, new books to read, and some heavy socks to wear when I am taking naps in my favorite chair.

The recent Christmas snow is gone but I am sure we haven't seen the last of snow. We have a lot of winter ahead of us. For now, let me share my favorite poem about snow.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know,
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
- Robert Frost.

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or we can rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
-Abraham Lincoln

It's all about attitude and humor. With the right attitude you can make the best of any situation. With a bad attitude even the best situation is unsatisfactory. When I was at work last Sunday I joked with a co-worker that one advantage to working on a Sunday is that you get a great parking spot. She responded, "I'm glad you have a sense of humor about being here". If working on a Sunday, when I would normally be home chilling out or taking a nap, is a thorn bush, the rose is that I am employed and have a job. This year is rapidly coming to an end. In 2011 I will be starting a new decade of living. There is a lot about getting older that is a thorn bush. Physically I am not the man I used to be. I am not as strong, I don't have near the energy I had in my youth, and I have a lot of aches and pains. I am also acutely aware that I have more years behind me than in front of me. However, there are also roses associated with getting older. I think I am a lot wiser than I was as a young person. I am certainly a lot calmer and I rarely get angry. I get to be my granddaughter's Paw Paw and that has brought me great joy. I also have a greater appreciation for all of life. For the most part I have my life together and I have passed and survived the challenges of my youth including raising my own children. I guess what it all boils down to is finding and appreciating balance in your life. There will always be some challenges but there are always blessings, too. When you move a little slower, like I do now, you notice a lot more. For example, this past Monday night I noticed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever witnessed. I bet most of the people speeding down the road didn't even notice it. All they saw was the thorn bush of rush hour traffic. They missed the rose of the sunset.

This morning, on my way through the park next to my office building, I saw a rabbit! That's a first for me in the downtown area. No, he wasn't wearing a suit, or holding a watch, and he wasn't yelling "I'm late! I'm late"! If that doesn't make an sense to you, read "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll.

It seems to me that people are divided on many different levels. People are divided by race, gender, economic level, sexual preference, culture, and religion to name a few. What I think divides people the most, however, is education. There are many intelligent people walking around but they are not educated and they are often unsophisticated. A lack of education can make an intelligent person ignorant and closed minded. A lack of education can make an intelligent person "rough around the edges". One of the great things about a good education is that it gives you a deeper understanding of the world and all of our differences. Differences are not the same thing as divisions. With understanding comes tolerance, acceptance, and a true appreciation of diversity. The purpose of a good education is not just to help you get a better job. A good education is it's own reward. Too much of what some people consider education is simply job training. A good education expands your mind and you become a thinking person with an enlightened consciousness, not just someone who knows how to do something. The truly educated person never stops learning. They realize that all of life is a learning experience. A truly educated person not only has knowledge but they also acquire wisdom. You acquire knowledge in the classroom or the library. You acquire wisdom by applying you knowledge in the classroom life. A good education can never be taken away from you. By the way, a lack of opportunity or resources to attend college does not doom you to a life of ignorance. When was the last time you read a book?

Today is the last day of 2010. Looking back this year has been a blur. Way back in 1969 I was a senior in high school. About this same time of year my best friend and I went to the Showcase Cinema's to see the movie called "2001 A Space Odyssey". In the hazy daze of the late sixties I thought we would be flying around in spaceships by now. OK, I admit that in the late sixties there were a few times my best friend and I thought we were flying around in spaceships. In 1969 the time we are in now seemed so far into the future. Just a few weeks ago they bulldozed the Showcase Cinema's where I spent so many nights with a variety of girls watching the hit movies of the day. Many conveniences exist now that we didn't have in 1969 but I am not sure our quality of life is better. Most of what my children take for granted didn't exist when my wife and I got married. We have more stuff that is supposed to make our lives more convenient, yet we all complain that we don't have enough time. There are many people, and they are not all old, who yearn for a simpler and much slower life. Even when I go on vacation I return home needing a vacation from my vacation. In parts of Europe there is actually a movement to slow life down. I thought my life would naturally slow down once my children were raised and were out of my house. It hasn't happened so I have been taking steps to slow it down myself. I say no a lot more than I used to do. I have stopped doing some things. Currently I have no commitments other than working. When I am not at work I am usually at home doing what I want to do. What I want to do is whatever makes me happy or gives me joy. Unless it is something really necessary, if I don't want to do it, I don't do it. In 2011 what I want more than anything is more leisure time to do what I want to do and for my life in general to move a little slower. I also want world peace and for no one to go to bed hungry.

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