Friday, January 31, 2014


I recently upgraded my home computer to Windows 8 and tonight I am getting a new cell phone.  I am completely traumatized by these events.  Although I like what new technology can do, I am not a technical person and technology scares me.  I grew up with a black and white television with two channels and it was in the family living room.  We had one telephone on the wall in my mother’s kitchen and it was a “party” line.  That means that sometimes when you wanted to use the telephone you had to wait because one of your neighbors was on the phone.  It also meant that the nosy old lady that lived nearby sometimes listened in to your personal telephone calls.  I survived my teen-age and young adult years without so much as a beeper.  The first twelve years I worked for my current employer we did not have PC’s, internet, or Microsoft Office.  I guess I haven’t done too bad for an old guy when it comes to adapting to modern technology.  I have become a master of my iPod, I love my Kindle Fire HD, and I manage well enough with my smart phone.  However, I have a television that is smarter than me and I cannot watch it unless my wife is there or one of my children.  The technological advances I have experienced in my life were unimaginable in my youth.  When I got married in the 70’s there still wasn’t microwaves or VCR’s.  Forget about CD’s, DVD’s, and Netflix streaming.  The term “Blu Ray” didn’t exist yet.  I actually love what technology can do but I am generally happy with whatever level of technology I am currently using.  The word “upgrade” terrifies me.  I am hoping I am retired before the next time my employer upgrades my computer.  Tonight I will be stressed because I don’t know how to use my new phone.  Don’t ask me what kind of phone I am getting.  I don’t know.  It will be whatever my wife and children think I should have.    

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why I Write

Yesterday, after sharing my struggles with writer’s block and life in general, I received some very nice notes from co-worker’s and strangers.  I truly appreciated them.  Sometimes people ask me if my wife and children read my daily thoughts.  To be honest I think they delete them more often than they read them.  They don’t see me as a wise man or a Zen Master.  At home I am just Dad and Paw Paw.  I like to joke that the reason I am not held in high esteem at home is that “a prophet is never accepted in his own country”.  This may also be true with some of my co-workers since they see my weaknesses and occasional hissy fits.  It seems that what people like best about my daily thoughts is my relationship with my granddaughter and my overall honesty about how I feel.  I want to inspire people and I hope that people will read my thoughts and think deeply about their own lives.  There is way too much superficiality in the world, too many people playing too many games, and too many people obsessed with power, prestige, and the accumulation of stuff.  I am not into power or controlling others.  I don’t really care about prestige although I do want to be seen as a person of character and integrity.  I try not to be materialistic but I am sometimes obsessed with collecting music and books and I admit I have a very comfortable life.  I am a contemplative person.  This does not mean I am holy.  It means that I am a person who is naturally reflective and introspective.  It is part of my DNA.  I cannot live without meaning and purpose.  I cannot easily do anything that has no obvious meaning or purpose.  This can be very challenging in the workplace.  I strive to live life on a level deeper than the obvious reality around me.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  Some days I wish I could just chill out and simply live.  I sometimes envy people that don’t think so much.  All of this is why I am compelled to write.  In a sense it’s how I relieve stress.  I need to express myself and writing seems to be the best way I can do it.  If my ability to write and my honesty about my feelings and struggles is helpful for you, then I am a happy man.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Writer's Block

I have become frustrated with writing daily thoughts.  More and more I have writer’s block where I simply can’t think of anything to write about that I haven’t already written about multiple times.  Since 2006 I have posted over 1,400 daily thoughts.  If they occasionally give you a feeling of Déjà vu, you are not imagining it.  I do sometimes re-cycle writings from my archives.  Even though I have some devoted followers who occasionally write to me and tell me how great I am, most days I get no acknowledgement, feedback, or comments on anything I write.  As a result it is difficult to judge if my writing has any real value or it’s simply one more thing for people to delete.  More and more it feels like a burden to write and sometimes it stresses me out.  Part of me is not surprised by these feelings.  I am going through a time where I feel a little disconnected from life.  Sometimes I feel like I have lost my way and sense of purpose.  As one gets older it is common to let things go.  Some call this de-construction and it is a normal part of the second half of life.  Occasionally, however, I feel like I may have let too much go too soon.  Perhaps I have over-simplified my life.  It has been reduced to working, going home, and returning to work.  On a good weekend I get to be in my Paw Paw role.  Most of the good things I have written in the past were inspired by real life experiences in which I found meaning.  These days, however, there seems to be fewer and fewer things in my daily life that I find meaningful.  Even for me it is a stretch to make every trip to the grocery store or pharmacy a spiritual experience.  In spite of these mixed feelings about life and writing, I will continue to be on the lookout for moments that have meaning, even if they are not obvious, and I will continue striving to articulate them with the written word.  This will make some of you happy and other will think, “Darn, I was hoping we would be rid of this guy”!   

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Do What You Like

I don’t care, frankly, what people think.  I do what I like.
-Chef Julia Child
I don’t believe this quote means that we should have no concern whatsoever about other people and that we should just do whatever we want regardless of the impact on those around us.  Unless you’re a hermit, and you have little contact with the rest of the human race, we do have to live our lives with some degree of cooperation and tolerance of others.  I think what this quote tells us is that you can’t live your whole life trying to please other people, trying to impress them, or comparing yourself to them.  Each of us has been given one life and we have to live it the best way we can.  We will go through different stages of growth, immaturity, pain, and awareness until we have achieved some level of self-actualization.  What is self-actualization?  I believe it is that point in our lives, usually when we are past our middle age, when we become who we really are and we begin to realize our true potential and personal power.  Self-actualization is at the top of Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs”.  You will never be who you are meant to be if you spend your entire live trying to please others or meet their expectations.  I think Julia Child is saying that pleasing yourself is not inappropriate, or selfish, and that each of us must walk down the path that calls us.  In her case, it was the call to learn French cooking so  that anyone could cook like a chef with a little effort.  Each of us is more than someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s mother or father, or someone’s husband or wife.  We may be one or more of all these things but self-actualization is when we discover our true essence and our true self.  Do not confuse identity with roles.  Doing what you like may be selfish but it can also be the path to your self-awareness.       

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Taste Of Spring

It was wonderful to wake up on Saturday morning to several inches of new fallen snow and be able to stay home and enjoy it from the comfort of my house.  Being home with no where you have to be is the optimal way to enjoy snow.  Yesterday, of course, it was 50 degrees with bright sunshine.  In the afternoon my wife and I ran some errands.  The warmth and the sunlight were like a B-12 shot for my soul.  I could literally feel my mood improve.  It was a taste of spring and it renewed my hope and expectation that spring will be here in a couple of months.  Today, however, is the beginning of polar vortex #3.  More artic air has descended upon us and it will be colder this afternoon than it is this morning.  I am now used to it so it is not a shock.  The good news is that yesterday’s warm temperatures melted most of the snow and that makes it a lot easier to deal with the bitter cold.  Like everyone else I will continue to bundle up when I go outdoors on frigid days and I will joyfully embrace any spring like days that come my way.  In life you just have to take it as it comes.  You endure or suffer through the challenges, you embrace the good things, and you be grateful for the strength you have when you need it and for the blessings you receive whether you deserve them or not.     

Friday, January 24, 2014

Our Original Face

Sometimes I find myself asking the question "How do you know when you have become who you are"?   The spiritual journey of life is basically a journey of returning to your original essence in order to be who you really are.  We are born pure and innocent.  Along the road of life we acquire our personalities and other defense mechanisms that we use to shield and protect ourselves from life.  One way or another most of us overcompensate in the ways we react and respond to life.  Our experiences, good and bad, mold us into the people that other’s see.  The second half of our life journey, if we are on the path to enlightenment, is spent attempting to take off our masks and to remove the armor that we have acquired in order to rediscover our purity and innocence.  The Buddhists call this "discovering the face we had before we were born".   When I look in the mirror, and during moments of introspection, I wonder how far along I am on this journey of uncovering who I really am.  What is my true essence?  What is my original nature?  It is nearly impossible to know these things when you are young.  In our youth it is far more important for us to fit in, to be like others, and find acceptance from others.  We are also too busy building our lives to worry too much about who we are.  These concerns and tasks are considerably less important when you get older.  I am still struggling to get from behind the masks I wear and to break through the armor I have created.  When I do I look forward to meeting the real me.   

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Feeling A Little Grumpy

Yesterday during a team meeting I felt a little grumpy.  I was a little frazzled because I was feeling rushed and I didn’t quite feel myself.  Although many people would nominate me for the “Most Patient Man” award, I found myself feeling impatient with some of the conversation.  As soon as the meeting was over I had to rush home to meet some friends who have been helping me get my new computer up and running.  Although is it no one’s fault, what should be simple has not gone well.  It might be my fault for having way too much music on my computer.  Anyway, eventually I tested my blood sugar and it was way too high.  This may have been part of the reason for my grumpiness.  I was frustrated about this because I had eaten very little all day.  Lately it has been a struggle to maintain acceptable blood sugar levels.  It seems that it is either too low, which makes me feel like I am going to pass out, or it “spikes” which just makes me feel weird.  On top of these health frustrations, I am really tired of winter.  This weekend it is supposed to be sunny and 40 degrees.  I am thinking of having a family cookout to celebrate the heat wave.  My life is generally good and I have no major problems.  However, even with all my composure and attempts to live with a Zen attitude, sometimes life just is annoying.  It seems petty to complain but occasionally I want to scream.  I guess this just means I am a human being and I am allowed to have my share of frustration.  I know I will be fine.  All things are impermanent and all things pass.   

A Person Of Moderation

Although I am a snow lover, I must admit that I am over winter.  I am eager for a spring day.  Snow is a wonderful thing if you are at home and you can watch it from the comfort of your chair while drinking a mug of hot chocolate.  The cold weather that we have been experiencing in recent days is too much for me.  When the temperature is as low as it has been recently my man cave is virtually uninhabitable.  The truth is that I am a person of moderation.  I don’t like it too cold or too hot.  I prefer a calm, harmonious environment over one that is fast paced and chaotic.  I like routine and some structure more than I like the unexpected and constant change.  Perhaps it is my age or maybe I am just boring.  I tend to seek out calm, harmony, routine, and structure.  No matter how much I find these things or how much I create them in my life, at best it only balances out the stresses and challenges of life, the dis-harmony that sometimes surrounds me, the unexpected that is always, well, unexpected, and the constant change that happens around me and to which I must always adjust.  Life is like the weather.  You never quite know exactly what will happen despite the best radar that money can buy and by having a whole team of people to forecast it.  The only way I can cope is to find moments in my day where I can step aside or go within to find a moment of inner peace and to center myself.  This keeps me from being tossed to and fro like a discarded pop bottle in the ocean of life.    

An Unexpected Day With My Granddaughter

As always when we have wintry weather my neighborhood looks worse than the rest of the world.  My drive to work was trouble free.  The roads were wet and traffic was slow but otherwise it was a normal commute.  However, as I walked into the office I experienced a polar vortex of wind and snow.  The closer I got to the building the harder the wind was blowing.  At one point I thought it might knock me down.  The icy snow stung my face.  As they sometimes say in the movies, “I didn’t see that coming”!
Yesterday as I was dropping my wife off at her office, and I was nearly at work, my son called in a panic because it was a school holiday because of Martin Luther King Day and he had nowhere to leave my granddaughter.  When he called she was with him where he works.  It was Paw Paw to the rescue.  I drove to where my son worked and picked her up.  We spent the day together playing games and watching the Disney channel.  During one of our conversations I asked Chloe why she liked me so much.  She replied, “Because you’re awesome”!  This was the best performance review that I have ever received and, to be honest, the most meaningful.  When the day was nearly over we drove downtown to pick up Granny and then I gave her back to Dad.  Soon after returning home. It was nap time for Paw Paw.  I love my granddaughter and she is one of the best things that ever happened to me.  If you are a struggling parent hang in there.  Someday when you are a grandparent it will all be worth it.   

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Lives We Have

You make what seems to be a simple choice:  Choose a man or a job or a neighborhood…and what you have chosen is not a man or a job or a neighborhood, but a life.
-Writer Jessamyn West
This quote reminds me of another quote attributed to John Lennon that goes, “Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”.  I have written before about dreams not realized, lives that seem more accidental than planned, and how many of our days are simply ordinary.  Some would say these points of view represent a negative attitude about life.  Let’s look at life from a different point of view and one that I truly believe is true.  Let’s accept that our lives have turned out exactly the way they should and that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.  I truly believe this is true even when it doesn’t seem logical.  Many of you know that as a young man I lived in a monastery and I thought I would be a monk for the rest of my life.  It was a romantic ideal for me that I would live in a beautiful place, that I would walk on air, and that I would be in a blissful aura of sanctity for all eternity.  Obviously that didn’t happen.  If I had stayed in the monastery, blissful or not, none of you would be reading these thoughts because I would not be here to write them.  In addition, my wife would be married to another man, my children would not exist, my much loved granddaughter would also not exist and who knows what great things my children and granddaughter may do in their futures.  It is easy to think our lives do not make a difference but they do.  Your life has more value than you probably realize.  You affect the lives of others in ways you may never know.  The lives we have now are where we are supposed to be today and today is all we have.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Now Is The Time

There are dreams of love, life, and adventure in all of us.  But we are also sadly filled with reasons why we shouldn’t try.  These reasons seem to protect us but in truth they imprison us.  They hold life at a distance.  Life will be over sooner than we think.  If we have bikes to ride and people to love, now is the time. 
-Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
For those who may not be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, she is most famous for her groundbreaking work with the dying.  It seems appropriate and good that someone who has spent a great deal of time studying the end of life would also be someone who encourages us to not waste a minute of life and to live it to the fullest.  I have often grown weary of my own maturity, responsibility, and dependability.  There are times I get so tired of being the guy who always does the right thing in sacrifice of love, life and adventure.  However, I am also aware that some people actually admire me for these rather boring traits.  Since most of my life has not been spent sailing the high seas, flying around the world in a hot air balloon, or climbing the highest mountains, I have tried to get the most out of a quieter life that seems more ordinary than extraordinary.  Still, even those of us who live ordinary lives, doing mostly ordinary things, can have an attitude of yes to life’s possibilities.  If you are young, and even if you are old, I encourage you to say yes more than no.  If there’s an opportunity to do something, then do it.  If there’s an opportunity to be something, then be it.  When something new is knocking at the door, do not turn off the lights and pretend that you are not at home.  More importantly, don’t assume you will have time to do something in the future.  The time to do something is now.  This is why I really need to work harder to get my book published this year.  To be honest, it’s hard.  I am lazy, I have little drive, I often lack confidence, and my wife says that procrastination would be a step forward for me.  I am feel weary much of the time.  Fortunately, I have friends and supporters who believe in me.  They are the wind in my sails.  Publishing a book may not seem as adventurous as going on a long journey but there was a time in my life I never thought I could do such a thing.             

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What Is Life?

What is life?  It is the flash of a firefly in the night.  It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
-Last Words of Blackfoot Warrior Crowfoot
The images in this quote speak to me of mindfulness and paying attention.  When I was a child catching fireflies was one of the things children did.  As a young boy I actually played outside, especially on summer days and nights.  At that time of my life a summer day seemed eternal.  Admittedly, the lack of air conditioning in my parent’s home and the fact that my family only had one black and white television with two channels, motivated me to go outside and be creative with my time.  My wife and I once decided to have lunch at Huber’s Restaurant, a place often so crowded that you cannot get in.  We took some back roads to get there when I suddenly saw a field full of buffalo.  I am talking about real buffalo like you see in movies about the frontier days.  It wasn’t cold enough to see their breath but unusual enough to get lost in a moment of wonder.  Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter, I usually notice the differences in the light and shadows of the day.  I have lived most of my life in the same places but they never look the same.  As I travel up and down the same road to work each day I see the new growth and colors of spring, the green fullness of summer bounty, the multi-colored tapestry of fall colors, and the starkness of winter.  Each season has its own beauty.  Our lives are like the seasons.  Each stage of life corresponds with a season of nature.  Some of you are in the springtime of your lives.  Some are experiencing the fullness of summer by being at the peak of your powers.  Many, like me, are in the autumn of our lives when we know we have more summers behind us than in front of us.  Eventually, if you are lucky enough to have a long life, you will experience the winter of life when the cycle is complete.  I think Crowfoot is encouraging us to enjoy the moments and the seasons of our lives for life is made up of such moments.  Maybe a deeper question than “What is life?” might be “What is your life”?              

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Expect The Unexpected

I was sitting in my chair this morning doing my meditation when the temple bell on my phone signaled it was time to leave home.  I gathered my things and headed out the door only to discover that my car was covered in ice.  I remembered that I had a miracle cure de-icer that I concocted several weeks ago with vinegar .  I sprayed it all over my windows.  I’m not sure how well it worked on the ice but I can tell you that I now have a really clean windshield.  The whole situation with the ice caught me off guard.  It wasn’t even freezing out outside and my weather app said nothing about ice.  I try to live my life expecting the unexpected but this morning I was caught off guard.  I did not expect a frozen car.  No matter how vigilant or prepared you think you are about life, sometimes you will be caught off guard.  When this happens to me I must try very hard not freak out.  I try to be calm and simply deal with whatever has happened.  I admit that I do sometimes freak out and occasionally I have a momentary panic attack.  Most of the time, however, I can deal with life’s little challenges in a calm manner.  I think the secret to being prepared for the unexpected is to be a centered person who generally has a calm demeanor and who responds to life rather than reacts to it.  Most of life’s little tests are little more than little tests.  On a rare occasional we have a real crisis but I have noticed that some people can’t tell the difference between a crisis and an inconvenience.  Expect the unexpected and you’ll never be caught off guard by anything.          

A Sense Of Accomplishment

Life can often seem like an endless routine of filling up what is empty and emptying what is full.  In the workplace, we have a similar experience.  Some numbers are too high and other numbers are too low so we are constantly adjusting.  I like it anytime I feel a sense of accomplishment.  A simple task that I enjoy is doing the laundry.  After sorting the laundry, washing it, drying it, and folding it, you have a nice laundry basket of clean clothes.  Eventually they will be dirty again but for a short time you can so the results of your efforts and enjoy the reward.  At my house Christmas is a big production.  After the new year began my wife gathered together all the decorations and packed them back in the Christmas storage tubs.  Until yesterday they have been sitting around my house.  Yesterday was a beautiful day and my oldest son helped me get all the decoration stored away one more time in my outdoor shed.  When the task was completed I felt a great sense of accomplishment and relief.  It is wonderful to get my home back to normal.  Whatever the task, it is a good feeling to complete it.  It even felt good to do the manual labor involved with carrying all the tubs out to my shed.  All of this was also a reminder about the cycle of life.  The seasons come and go and the holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries do as well.  It life is about filling up what is empty, and emptying what is full, it is also about celebrating and remembering.  We are now at the start of a new year.  There will likely be new things to empty and new things to fill.  Hopefully there will also be new things to celebrate and to remember.  As the poet Robert Frost famously said, “Life goes on”.  By the way, so does laundry….     

Friday, January 10, 2014

Workday Milestones

Am I the only person who has created milestones and routines in their work day to facilitate a sense of movement from the beginning of the day to the end of the day?  I am not talking about anything as lofty as the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.  I don’t have seven good habits and I am not sure I am highly effective.  I’m talking about small stages in the day that help me realize that the hands of the wall clock are moving and time is not frozen in the eternal now.  I like my job and I enjoy my co-workers.  I do not mind coming to work every day.  However, I also do not mind leaving work every day.  I am a creature of habit.  When I arrive at work each morning I immediately launch into my daily routines.  The first milestone is about 9:00 AM when I have a Diet Coke and some peanut butter crackers at my desk.  My second milestone is about 10:00 AM when I walk a few laps around the perimeter of the floor on which I work.  The next milestone is lunch.  It may be a solitary bowl of soup at my desk or lunch with a friend at a nearby restaurant.  The last milestone of the day is in the mid afternoon when I try to once again walk some laps around the office.  Although I am literally going in circles when I walk, it energizes me and I am more motivated when I return to my desk.  Walking also prevents me from feeling too much like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz after he’s been caught in a summer rain and his oil can is out of reach.  None of this is complicated or deep but it does help me to alleviate occasional boredom, fatigue, and general restlessness.  It also helps my occasional ADD.  Sometimes you need to step away in order to re-focus your energy and attention. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Bad Moods

Yesterday seemed like a trying day.  I was grumpy and much seemed to annoy me.  Nothing terrible happened but it might have been a day when the world would have been better off if I had stayed in bed.  On the way home it seemed appropriate to stop at a restaurant for some beer and pizza.  There’s a lot going on in the background of my life right now and concern over these things might have contributed to my bad mood.  I think I am being honest when I say that most days, regardless of how I feel physically, I am in a good mood.  Most things don’t bother me much and when something does I get over it quickly.  I am not one to hold onto things.  I may throw a little tantrum but then I get on with my life.  It is difficult to remember this in the heat of the moment but moods are like the weather.  They can change from day to day and usually the best plan is just to wait them out.  In calmer moments I also remember that we are not our moods.  As individuals we are more like a mountain.  On a day to day basis the mountain will experience a variety of weather.  There are calm, sunny, and beautiful days and there are sometimes stormy, cloudy, and dreary days.  In retrospect yesterday seemed a little dreary.  When I finally get settled in at home last night my wife and I watched the “People’s Choice Awards”.  It was a reminder that I am totally out of touch with current pop culture.  I did not recognize most of the award winners and most of the ones I did recognize I do not like.  The highlight of my day was going to bed.  Today I feel better but it is going to be a long day.  Tomorrow is the end of the work week so that makes me happy.  I am ready for the weekend.       

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Never Give Up

This morning it is 19 degrees outside.  It is downright balmy after the temperatures we’ve had the last few days.  Earlier in the week, when the wind chill was -19 degrees, I was in my bathroom getting ready for work and I saw a bug crawling on the wall.  A closer look revealed that it was a lightening bug.  When I was a boy my friends and I would catch lightening bugs on summer nights.  Now, however, it is a long way from summer.  Where has this lightening bug been and how has he survived the frigid weather?  On a warmer day I would have captured him and let him go outside.  I didn’t do that this time because it would have meant a quick and merciless death.  I left him alone and he’s probably sitting in my chair right now reading a book.  However he has done it, this lightening bug is a survivor.  In our individual ways all of us are survivors.  I doubt if anyone who is reading these thoughts is problem free and or has no challenges in life.  Some say the purpose of life is to be happy.  Even if happiness is not the primary goal of life, it is a safe bet that all of us want to be happy.  Unfortunately this happiness often seems elusive.  We work hard to keep our lives in order, to do what we need to do, and to balance all the balls each of us must juggle.  Sometimes we do this successfully and life seems good.  Inevitably though something will happen that challenges our peacefulness and our pursuit of happiness.  Life is full of challenges, disappointments, and setbacks.  Like the lightening bug crawling on the wall in my bathroom in the middle of winter we keep going.  The sun sets and a new day begins the following morning.  Each new day is a fresh beginning.  The problems and challenges of the night usually seem less so when the morning comes.  We survive, we push forward, and often, when we least expect it, happiness arrives at our door.  As the Dalai Lama once said, “Never give up”.      

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Being Grateful

The artic weather we have been experiencing makes me realize how fragile and vulnerable we all are.  One doesn’t need to be outside very long to realize how quickly the cold could do you in.  The extreme temperatures and the harshness of the outdoor environment makes me feel very grateful.  I am grateful for my home, for electricity, and for heat.  I am grateful my car has been starting with no problem and that it protects me from the elements on my commute to work.  I am grateful for my warm coat and the hat that protects my bald head.  Today we will warm up to 13 degrees and each day for the remainder of the work week it will get warmer.  I am very grateful for the sun and I eagerly await the warmer days.  Sometimes I think there are people who don’t understand the idea of gratitude.  Of all the good qualities one might practice and have I find gratitude the easiest.  If you simply take a few minutes to reflect you should be able to come up with a long list of things for which to be grateful.  Some people think you must experience something big like winning the lottery to be grateful.  I try to recognize all the small everyday things in my life that give me comfort or joy.  A Chinese philosopher named Lin-Chi once said, “What, at this moment, is lacking”?  As I type these thought the only thing missing is a cup of fresh coffee.  Coffee is another thing for which I am grateful.  As you go through your day think of all the good things in your life, take a moment, and be grateful.          

Monday, January 06, 2014

Polar Vortex

When I woke up this morning the temperature outside was 0 and the wind chill was approximately 20 below zero.  We were experiencing what one local weather person called a polar vortex.  Most of the time our local weather forecasters overhype winter storm advisories and warnings.  This time they did not overhype the cold.  By the end of the workday the wind chill was nearly 25 below zero.  When I went to bed last night I did all the recommended things like opening the cabinet doors under my sink so my kitchen pipes wouldn’t freeze.  I left the faucet running at a trickle as well.  I must admit that I was a little nervous about leaving it on all day while I was at work.  When I went to bed last night, with my electric blanket turned on, I could not help but think of the homeless people in my city and all the squirrels, rabbits, birds, and outdoor cats that live in my neighborhood.  I said a prayer for all of them.  This morning, although I was dressed warmly, the five minutes or less that I stood outside my car pumping gas was brutal.  The walk from my parking garage to my office  seemed like a journey of a thousand miles.  I thought of the scientists and other passengers trapped on the research ship in Antarctica as the biting wind stung my face.  I enjoy the change of seasons, and I normally enjoy winter too but today’s cold is off the charts.  I stayed in my warm office building all day until it was time to go home.  After I picked up my wife at her office we headed straight home.  We have one more day of this cold before returning to more normal weather.  It is hard to believe that yesterday I was outside in my yard wearing shorts and taking down Christmas decorations and by the coming weekend it will once again be 50 degrees.       

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Joy Of Being Home

When I left the office last night it was snowing, the wind was blowing, and it was considerably colder than when I had arrived in the morning.  I gingerly made my way along the sidewalk to the parking garage.  After picking my wife up at her office we made the slow commute home.  Although we only had about an inch of snow the roads were slick.  Tired and hungry we stopped along the way for a quick meal.  It was still snowing and the wind was still blowing when we finally arrived home.  As I walked in my house I prayed a silent prayer of gratitude that I had a home and that it was warm.  Whether it is day or night I love to be home on cold and wintry days.  I know I have said it a thousand times but as one gets older there is a deeper appreciation for the comforts of home.  Once I got settled in I noticed something I had received from a friend.  It was a picture of a blazing fire in what appeared to be a cabin.  Across the picture it said, “This weekend I think I will read books, drink coffee, play music, and bolt the door”.  My friend told me the picture and the words reminded them of me.  The picture and words certainly paint a portrait of what I would consider a perfect scenario.  If you are an introvert like me, or perhaps a very weary extrovert, such a scene is Heaven.  My weekend won’t be quite this perfect.  I expect to spend a lot of time with my granddaughter and tomorrow night I am going to a graduation party for one of my nieces who just received her PhD.  Whenever I can, however, I will spend time reading a new book, drinking some coffee, playing some music, and bolting the door.  Sometimes my granddaughter and I will spend time in the same room, each doing their own thing, being alone together.  I have taught her well.   

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Some 2014 Goals

Here are a few things I would like to accomplish in 2014.  They are in no particular order.
·         Re-discover joy in my life.
·         Be more enthusiastic about daily life.
·         Quit saying “I’m over it”!
·         Renew my spiritual life by being more contemplative.
·         Listen to less music and spend more time in silence.
·         Move more, sit less.
·         Initiate intellectual pursuits and spend less time staring into space.
·         Work harder to get my book published.
·         Write better stuff or take a break from daily thoughts for a while.  
·         Allow myself to be happier.
This is a lot to accomplish.  It will require some radical change within myself.  At this stage of my life I often feel lost and out of gas.  I need to renew myself and acquire a new zest for living.  At times I need to get over myself and not focus so much of my time and attention on how I feel.  It wouldn’t hurt to spend less time alone and more time with people even though this is challenging for me.  I believe I am a grateful person but I need to believe it more deeply.  I am not all I can be and there is much room for improvement.    

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Day Reflections

Today is New Year's Day.  I am having a quiet day at home after a very quiet New Year's Eve.  One could think of today as an oasis in the desert of the work week.  On Monday I was shocked into the reality of returning to work after a week of Christmas vacation.  I had system issues with my computer, brain issues with myself, and the day seemed full of problems.  Despite all of this I needed to return to work.  Although I enjoyed my time off I came dangerously close to turning into a cauliflower.  During my vacation I did not think one single deep thought.  By the end of my time off I was barely able to maintain life support systems.  On a material level I had a great Christmas and I received more gifts than my behavior deserved.  When I returned to work this past Monday everything I was wearing was brand new.  Once a year my wife, with Santa's help, provides me with new clothes.  If she didn't do this all my clothes would be threadbare and I would wear them until they literally fell apart.  As a family we had to juggle our usual routines because my oldest son has a new wife and family and my youngest son, who is a priest, had Christmas masses at his parish.  Today is the end of the holiday season for most people.  This coming weekend I am sure my wife will draft me into service so all the Christmas decorations can be once again packed away.  Although many people feel some sense of relief that another Christmas is behind them, there is also some sadness that the positive vibes and feelings of goodwill that fill the air seem to quickly go away.  Even though I love most of what goes on during the holidays, I also look forward to the peace, quiet, and nothingness of January.  It’s nice to slow down, hunker in, and wait for spring.  None of us could live all year with the intensity of the holidays.  The remaining months of winter are a time of retreat and introspection.  The remaining hours of today are a time to finish the laundry.  Life goes on.