Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas Eve.  I would like to take a moment and wish Christmas joy to everyone who reads my blog on a regular basis, to those who occasionally stop by, and to those who find it by accident.  I appreciate all of you!  Wherever you are in this world, have a blessed Christmas!    

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Always Something!

As my wife is fond of saying, “It’s always something”.  I woke up Thursday morning like any other day, happy the work week was almost over, and happy that I am on vacation next week.  While in the shower washing my hair, I noticed that my lip was swollen.  Once before I had a similar experience that was an allergic reaction to one of my medications.  Yesterday history repeated itself.  I waited until I got to work to take a Benadryl tablet.  I knew it would make me sleepy and it is difficult enough to stay awake at work without taking medication that makes you sleepy.  I didn't feel sick but I looked I looked like Donald Duck or maybe a Hollywood starlet who took too much Botox.  Fortunately my untrimmed mustache hid most of the problem.  The last time this happened to me it took approximately 24 hours for my lip to get back to normal.  As the day went on, however, the swelling got worse and spread to my lower lip.  Fortunately my office has a clinic that is staffed by a doctor and several nurses.  I went downstairs, got examined by the doctor, and ended up receiving a shot of Benadryl.  I assumed that would take care of the problem and I went home with a sense of relief.  After I got home I took a nap and slept very deeply.  Much to my horror my lips were swollen even more when I woke up.  I was tempted to go to the ER because I felt like my lips might actually explode.  I took more Benadryl and watched a few episodes of "The Borgia's" to take my mind off my lips.  This morning my lips were still swollen but seemed better.  I stayed home from work and continued taking Benadryl every four hours or so.  I am happy to report that at this hour I am almost back to normal.  Life is often an experience of little irritations that seem to happen for no apparent reason except to annoy you or test your patience.  Of course, maybe this happened just so I could start my Christmas vacation one day early.  My lips and I actually had a very pleasant time being home alone today.

Traveling Through Time

One of my cousins sent me a cartoon depicting a grandfather talking with his grandchildren.  One of the boys says “Grandpa, tell us about the days when you had to buy the entire album even if you only wanted one song”.  As someone who grew up in the sixties I remember albums well.  Amazingly they are making a strong comeback as audiophiles debate the differences between analog and digital recordings.  In addition to giving me a laugh, the cartoon reminded me of all the changes I have lived through in my life.  Of course, these changes involved much more than technological advances.  There is a famous book by H.G. Wells called “The Time Machine”.  It has also been made into several movie versions.  In one scene the main character is sitting in the time machine advancing through time.  He and the time machine are not moving at all.  While he is sitting still time is changing all around him.  Sometimes this is how I feel in my life.  I don’t mean to sound arrogant when I say that I am the center of my universe.  My experience of life is based on who I am, what happens to me, who comes and goes, and what is going on around me.  Time is always moving on while I sit in my own time machine.  Sometimes I like the changes, sometimes I hate them, and occasionally they are scary.  Time and change doesn’t care.  Like most of you I have tried to adjust and adapt to all the changes in my life.  Sometimes I am resistance to change when it begins only to love it later when I have accepted it.  I used to have over a thousand albums, now I have thousands of CD’s and an iPod full of downloads.  Sometimes I take advantage of modern change and I only buy one song instead of the whole album.     

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Some Things Are Priceless

Last weekend was very busy.  I woke up on Saturday morning at 7:30 AM to see my granddaughter standing next to my bed.  “Are you ready to get up, Paw Paw”?  She never goes to my wife’s side of the bed because “only Paw Paw’s like to get up early”.  Later in the morning we went to the movies.  Here’s a breakdown of that experience.
·         Three tickets to see “The Hobbit” in 3D and High Definition: $35
·         Popcorn, candy, and drinks: $18
·         Dinner at the Mall Food Court: $25
·         Time with my granddaughter: Priceless
After a full day that included hanging out with Dwarves, killing Orcs, and looking for dragons, Chloe went home about 11:00 PM.  Her Dad picked her up after his office Christmas party.
Yesterday my wife and I drove to Elizabethtown to attend our son’s mass and to hear him preach.  When he is functioning as a priest it is the only time he can preach to my wife and me.  Most of his life we have been preaching to him.  After mass we went to his home and had lunch.  It was a wonderful time but I was very tired by the time I got back home.  It has taken me several days to recover from my fatigue and to catch up with my chores at home.

Friday, December 13, 2013

You Are Not Inadequate

It sometimes seems there is always someone in our lives who makes us feel inadequate.  It can be a boss, a spouse, our children, our friends, or the world in general.  Just because I don’t meet another person’s every need does not make me inadequate.  I am at a point in my life where I am no longer apologizing for who I am.  If who I am is not your cup of tea, try another blend.  I am not saying that everyone has to like everything about me.  I know I am not everyone’s cup of tea.  I also know that some people think I am great just the way I am.  At my age I am probably not going to change much although I believe I am consistently trying to be the best version of who I am that I can be.  If I am not the perfect boss, employee, spouse, father, son, brother, co-worker, or wonder worker, that’s just the way it is.  In my mind I am more than all of these things anyway.  In fact, none of these things is who I am, they are merely what I am.  None of these things define me.  My being is more than what I am or what I do.  Don’t live your life based on what other people think.  Most of them won’t even be part of your life over the long haul.  Don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  I am not saying that we can all act anyway we want and other people just have to deal with us.  I am not encouraging anyone to be a jerk.  What I am saying is don’t let other people determine who you are.  Everyone else’s opinion is just a perception.  Look into your own heart and follow your own bliss.  Be the best person you know how to be and be grateful for who you are.  You will please some people and annoy others.  Some will love you and some will misunderstand you.  If you listen to your own inner voice your will know the path you should walk and along the way you will meet all kinds of people.  Some you will love, most you will accept, but some you will simply tolerate.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Does It Feel Like A Wonderful Life?

On the drive to work this morning I heard an excerpt on the radio from the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life”.  I think most people are familiar with this movie.  It’s basically the story of a man who wonders if his life has any real value to those around him.  I think most of us wonder this from time to time.  Sometimes I receive very nice emails from people who read my daily thoughts and they tell me how much something I wrote means to them.  These emails are usually very timely because they often arrive on a day when I wonder why I ever bother to write at all.  The affirmation I receive from these emails gives me a boost.  There are many days, however, where I feel like I make little difference in the lives of family, friends, and co-workers.  Like the lead character in the movie I sometimes wonder, “Would anyone even notice if I wasn’t here”?  In my heart I know I make a difference in other people’s lives but it is easy to feel taken for granted.  Although I never took him for granted, the death of my dear friend back in the summer made me realize how truly important he was to me.  His absence has created a huge hole in my life.  If someone has a noticeable and positive impact on your life I encourage you to occasionally tell them.  Don’t assume they know.  All of us need to be needed.  All of us want to be needed.  All of us want to make a difference in the lives of others.  Quite frankly, if I am not here I want to be missed.  I’m sure many other people feel the same way.   

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Typical Worknight During The Holidays

Last night was a typical evening during the holiday season.  After picking my wife up at her office I did the following:
  • Went to Best Buys and bought “Despicable Me II” for my granddaughter.   I also slipped in the new Neil Young CD since it was on sale.  Women aren’t the only ones that can’t resist a good deal.
  • Drove across the street to the Mall and ate Chinese food at the Food Court.
  • Observed Santa Claus buying a cheeseburger on his lunch break.
  • Sat in the food court and watched people while my wife went shopping for her Secret Santa.   No one thought I was some creepy old guy staring at them because I am invisible in large crowds.
  • Left the Mall and drove to the Shelbyville Road Plaza so my wife could buy whatever she puts on her hair.  Wives and women in general are high maintenance.
  • Secretly shed a tear for the empty building where Border’s Books used to be.  Border’s Books was my favorite store and now all of them are gone.
  • I finally got home, cleaned myself up, changed my clothes, and then fell asleep listening to my new Neil Young CD.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Moments Of Our Lives

As Christmas approaches and the mornings are dark and cold, I start my work days at home, sitting in silence, coffee mug in hand, looking at the twinkling lights on my Christmas tree, and focusing on my breathing.  Whether it’s a work day or a holiday, I love the early morning.  I schedule my time, especially on work days, so that I have approximately twenty minutes each morning that can be devoted to meditation.  It gets my day off to a positive start and it helps me stay centered throughout my day.  I am not one to get up at the last possible minute so that I have to rush getting ready, then drive like a maniac in order to get to work on time.  Over my working career I’ve witnessed many people virtually running into the office, stressed out and frazzled, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t get out of bed a little earlier.  I like to see the day coming and not be thrown into a day that started without me.  I not only love mornings, I love evenings as well.  I love the quietness of early morning and I like the feeling of crossing the threshold of my home after a good day at work.  Occasionally I struggle with the whole middle part of the day but I always try to enjoy every minute of my life.  There is no doubt that when one gets to the age I am you start to have a whole new appreciation for time.  I am not in a panic about time but I am realistic enough to understand that I have more time behind me than I do in front of me.  I urge you to make the effort to add quality to your time.  Savor the moments and avoid the mad rush of always being late for something.  Spend some time being with yourself and doing nothing.  When you get ready in the mornings, don’t gulp your coffee.  Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands.  Notice the aroma.  Enjoy the taste.  Life is made up of moments.  If you don’t pay attention, you will miss them and when you get to the end of your life, you’ll realize you missed your life too.    

Monday, December 09, 2013

Snowy Weekend

When I left the office on Friday the sleet and freezing rain were coming down heavily.  As I walked to the parking garage I stayed off the sidewalks as much as possible to avoid an Olympic level triple back flip.  I picked up my wife at her office and drove home through the Highlands.  As the rock band Foghat once sang, it was a “Slow Ride”.  We made one pit stop at Kroger for some medicine and fried chicken.  My total drive time from office to home was approximately ninety minutes.  I know that many people didn’t get home for hours.  Once I got home I did not leave it all weekend.  All in all it was a perfect weekend for me.  I loved the feeling of being snowed in.  My wife wrapped lots of presents while watching her favorite holiday movies.  I cooked all our meals, did the laundry, cleaned off the cars, and shoveled the sidewalk.  I took my time and worked slowly on the snow shoveling to avoid a heart attack.  Between my chores I read a little, jammed a little, and occasionally stepped outside my back door to feed the birds and squirrels.  I love these kinds of weekends.  It’s nice to stay home and not fight the madness of Malls, restaurants, and traffic.  I’m sure many people had a renewed sense of how important their home is after Friday’s difficult and long commute.  Crossing the threshold of one’s home can be one of life’s most comforting feelings.    

Friday, December 06, 2013

Four Stages Of Life For Men

 Four Stages of Life for a Man
1.       You believe in Santa
2.       You don’t believe in Santa.
3.       You are Santa.
4.       You look like Santa.
I am at the 4th stage of life for a man.  Little children think I am Santa.  I once wore a red coat and hat when picking up my granddaughter at the daycare center.  She was four or five years old at the time.  I was mobbed by all the children.  It upset Chloe.  She told everyone, “He’s my Paw Paw”!  The other children thought Chloe was a very lucky girl to have Santa for a Paw Paw.  I once played Santa, using a fake beard at the time, when Chloe’s Dad was a young child.  He sat on my lap and looked at me intensely.  His gaze said, “You look like Santa but you sound like my Dad”.  I think I could probably hire myself out for the rest of the month.  For those of you who may want to hire me I have one small caveat for you.  I am not always jolly even though my stomach does bounce around like a bowl full of Jell-O when I laugh.  I love it that children think I am Santa.  I enjoy them checking me out when they see me in Target.  I silently smile wondering if they are curious as to why Santa shops at Target.  Before I became Santa, during my Grateful Dead days and when I had shoulder length hair, people thought I was Jerry Garcia.  It is not a bad thing to be mistaken for Santa or Jerry Garcia since both people have been a source of joy for many people.       

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Winter Storm Is Coming!

I am aware that we have a winter storm watch for Friday and much of the weekend.  I eagerly await it since I am a snow lover.  Hopefully those of us who work in the office will get home on Friday before the worst of it hits.  This morning, however, I was not mentally prepared for the monsoon that I had to drive through to get to the office today.  I must have dozed off during that part of the weather report.  By the way, Weather Report is an awesome jazz fusion band but I digress.  The number one chore at my home this weekend is wrapping Christmas presents.  Admittedly this is something done primarily by my wife.  My job will be to move boxes and do whatever else she tells me to do.  Because of the sensitive nature of this undertaking, there will be no granddaughter over for the weekend.  The Elf on the shelf will get a break and probably won’t move from wherever he is currently sitting or hanging.  My wife has a personal tradition when wrapping presents.  While doing it she watches the classic Christmas movies “Holiday Inn” and “White Christmas”.  With a little luck there will be snow on the ground this Saturday as my wife goes through her annual ritual.  I will be happy just to be home during a winter storm.  It’s my idea of a perfect weekend.  Hopefully, it will be a beautiful storm and not one that cause people a lot of problems.

The picture above was taken at work today.  There's a reason small children think I am Santa Claus.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Don't Miss The Simple Joys

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season is the lights.  Each morning as I sit at home drinking my coffee and eating my toast I bask in the warm glow of my Christmas tree lights.  When I pull off the Interstate I can see many of the downtown Christmas decorations.  As I walk into my office building there is a large, brightly lit, Christmas tree.  Last night as I was unloading groceries from my car a neighbor who was walking their dog complimented me on my home decorations.  Sooner or later my wife will suggest that we drive my granddaughter through some of the “rich” neighborhoods to see all of their Christmas lights.  Different people like different kinds of lights.  Some people like white lights while other people like blue lights.  I prefer the traditional multi-color lights.  In the hustle and bustle of the crazier side of Christmas, it can be a simple joy to just enjoy looking at all the lights.  A few blocks from my office is a Christmas tree lot.  I hope to go on at least one adventure during my lunch break to walk through the trees and take in the invigorating aroma of live evergreen trees.  I have some pleasant memories of working the Boy Scout Christmas tree sales at my church when my children were boys.  We often froze our butts off but it was a lot of fun.  Much of Christmas is crazy and out of control.  If you watched any of the news coverage of the shoppers on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday, you know what I mean.  Sometimes lost in the madness are the simpler joys of such things as sparkling Christmas lights.      

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Another Year Is Nearly Over

The year 2013 is rapidly coming to an end.  Like most years it has had some joys and some sadness.  One of the best things about 2013 is that I am still alive and in reasonably good health.  This year I became eligible for social security benefits.  My youngest son was ordained a Roman Catholic priest and my oldest son got married.  I was able to attend a session with the Dalai Lama as well as re-connect with some old friends.  On a sad note my best friend died and I am still grieving his passing.  In a few months I will begin my 63rd year of living.  I am not everything I want to be and I don’t think I am everything I ought to be.  I'm certainly not everything I could be.  This morning fog covers much of the city in which I live.  This fog is a good metaphor for how I feel at this time of my life.  I feel like I am wandering in circles.  I am not completely sure where I am or where I am headed.  I can identify with the words of explorer Daniel Boone when he said, “I have never been lost.  I will, however, admit to being confused once for about two weeks”.  My life is like everyone else’s life in the sense that it has never been a straight path.  It has weaved along and gone in many directions.  It has not been a walk in a perfectly manicured park.  There is a reason this blog is called “Stumbling along the Spiritual Path”.  As I have walked the path of my life it has felt like I am stumbling most of the time.  The nice thing about not knowing where you are is that the possibilities for where you might end up are limitless.  As we go down the path of our lives we never know what’s around the bend.  It might be something scary but there’s at least an equal chance that it will be something wonderful.  As this year draws to a close, and a new year awaits us, may we all live with a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm.  I'm tired of being tired and I am tired of stumbling along.         

Monday, December 02, 2013

Holiday Expectations

After Brown Thursday, Black Friday, Buy Local Saturday, and today’s Cyber Monday, the holiday season is in full swing for the next three weeks.  Let me come out of the closet.  I am no Clark Griswold but I am no Ebenezer Scrooge either.  What I am is a person who often find the holidays difficult.  More often than not, I find the holidays a little depressing.  I have no identifiable reason for this since I have never had a bad holiday experience.  I think what is difficult for me and many other people is what I consider the unreasonable expectations for the holidays.  On a very basic level, most people struggle financially all year long.  The pressure of gift buying only adds to this challenge.  Another pressure is the mandatory happiness and joy we are all expected to feel.  On top of this is the busyness of decorating, trips to the Mall, and family activities.  Whenever my granddaughter comes over my wife and I stress ourselves out moving the “Elf on a Shelf” around our house.  I am also a little sad because my granddaughter is growing up and I am not sure how much longer she will believe in Santa and little elves.  I think this year she is on the fence.  She does seem to get excited when the Elf moves from the shelf to the Christmas tree to riding bareback with one of the three Wise men.  Through all of this I try to put on a happy face and to be appreciative and grateful for everyone and everything in my life.  If you are also a person who struggles with the holiday expectations, know that you are not alone.  My advice is to do what I try to do all year long.  Be in the moment and be grateful.  The holidays are well intentioned even if the demands and expectations are usually unrealistic.  I read a holiday mantra recently that said, “Slow down.  Be in the moment.  Lower your expectations”.  Sounds like good advice to me.