Monday, May 31, 2010

An excerpt from my book...

Okay, I can finally add "published author" to my resume', gravestone, business card, or whatever I am going to do with it. I do indeed need to thank all of you who have followed, read, or encouraged me along the writer's journey. Even though I have not even minutely touched upon the steep incline of the marketing path I now must venture upon if I want this to be more than a coaster on my mother's coffee table, I still feel like I have accomplished something - something that many were happy to tell me either I could not do it, or that it was too hard. Well I did it, so there!

My book is a series of essays in which I became able to be blessed to see the underlying lessons life was trying to show me, that were often shrouded by my ego, diminshed by my lack of "presence", or that I was simply not "awake" enough to see what was being presented.

I find that we do not need to always be in either a place of worship, watching Oprah or Dr. Phil, or being counseled by a guru to get extremely valuable, enduring, and enlightening life lessons. Often they are presented in very subtle, simple, and "normal" ways to where we must turn on our "receptors" to be best able to receive the message.Some messsages are powerful in and of themselves. Some are simply part of a greater curriculum we must completely sit through to better ourselves. Many we find in our daily mundane life situations.

Below is an excerpt from one of my essays from my book Artisan of the Human Spirit ~ Awakening to Life's Lessons called "The Fort."

In my book, I open each essay with a comment, present the essay, add a closing comment, then I post a page of reflections in which I hope the reader will take a peek at their own experiences and make the message their own.

The one example I present here is part of "my curriculm." I realized "class" is always in session. My professor is quite good. Care to join me?

The Fort

In life, not every classroom has a desk, nor every church a steeple!

Opening thought...
I loved this essay as I was capturing a special moment that happened to me. Although I cannot choose a favorite, due to the fact a message‘s impact will be different depending on where a person is at the time of reading, this essay is special due to the simple fact it was my first time putting pen to paper for my own benefit. Not only was I trying to create a vivid written recollection, but I wanted to share the impact it had upon me.

This essay captures, for me, a shift. As I wrote, I realized a shift in perception can create a shift in an experience. I saw where my perception of the situation and my ability to get outside of my own head, if even for a brief while, created a special and significant moment for me. The moments I described, now upon reflection, are much more magical to me. Regretfully, in my older ways of thinking, perhaps something like exploring with my son may have seemed trivial or cumbersome, or perhaps would not have occurred to this degree. However, by surrendering to living in the moment, I was able to have a special experience. A moment that I wish I were able to have had being a son myself, but now was blessed with a second chance.

_____________________ The essay________________________

I am blessed with two children. My daughter Alexa is ten years old; my son, Austin, is five. Alexa is athletic and active. She has played soccer for a handful of years and has developed it into a budding passion.

On many evenings and weekends, Austin and I are a captive audience on the sidelines of a soccer game or practice, as my wife often works during my "soccer mom" obligations. I felt badly for my
son, realizing he would rather be home playing video games—or pretty much anywhere else as opposed to waiting on Sissy. To no avail, Austin often found his desires trumped, and he accompanied me to frequent games and practices.

Spring season allowed the local parks to be the site of said activities, one in particular, Thompson Park, is the setting for many soccer practices and games in our community. It is a well-manicured, beautiful expanse of fields and play structures, with hills to aid in spectator comfort and tree lines that separated the playfields.

The trees are lush, full, and inviting to adventurous minds. They are the type a kid could easily hide, climb, and escape in, with all the wonder fueling an active imagination. The brush at the bottom of the trees is thick and full and creates a perfect division between the fields. Random manmade openings, and some created by the active imaginations of young explorers, allow foot traffic to pass through. Other trails were created over time by people awkwardly finding their way through the trees and underbrush. In the most yielding of pathways, through a mixture of young and mature trees, you can find bushes, stones, and patches of barren ground. It is littered with nature‘s compost of leaves and twigs and is punctuated by random branches that have fallen.

One warm, sunny evening my daughter was practicing on a field flanked by a tree line that sprawled right to left approximately one hundred yards, and was about as wide as half a football field with a tree height around sixty feet. A sidewalk went through the middle and, on the other side of the sidewalk; nature continued and repeated this majestic divider for another hundred yards.

My son and I were milling about with about an hour to kill, so we went in search of some stimulation. During games we would show our sideline support, at least I would; Austin would play games on my iPhone. We cheered with the other parents if it happened to be a game. During practices, however, we often did our own thing to entertain ourselves, trying to appeal to the quick-to-bore mind of a five-year-old.

As we walked along the aforementioned sidewalk, I noticed to my left an opening in the tree line that was approximately six feet high and three feet wide definitely inviting us to enter. It was apparent others had ventured before, although the opening was not obvious unless you happened to look in that direction. Even though we were not dressed for the woods, both in cargo shorts, no socks, and me in a polo shirt and my son in a T-shirt, nature beckoned and we answered.

The growth was full, lush, and green allowing only sporadic rays of sunlight through. The branches allowed just enough sun to dance about the floor of the wooded area choreographed by the gentle evening wind. Austin quickly found a stick that became his walking companion. It was as crooked as a dog's hind leg, but I thought, "Are there really any written rules to walking sticks?" I noticed I was sinking into a long-lost appreciation for moments of my childhood—the innocence of a "who-cares, let's-explore" attitude. All that mattered was happening then and there. My son was "Lewis" and I was "Clark."

The symphony of birds chirping and the whisper of the wind rustling the leaves dominated our journey‘s soundtrack. Even though we were close to the cheers and guttural yells from the coaches, the acoustics in our new world made all the noises appear miles away. I can hear the crunch of the brush, the snap of small twigs, and the soft carefree humming of my son. How I could hear these soft sounds over the screams of kids yelling and whistles was magical, and yet had a special acoustic sensation I appreciated.

We came to a small clearing about halfway in surrounded by numerous trees with trunks the diameter of a car‘s hubcap. Dense brush and bushes flanked the path and opening. Many branches had fallen, sheared from the tops of the elder trees during recent storms and had created piles that reminded me of toppled bowling pins. My son was milling about picking up stones, branches, and other trinkets that dirtied his inquisitive fingers only to be cleansed with an innocent brush of the hand against his pant leg. He looked up at me with a grin and said, "We‘re buddies, aren't we Dad?" I replied, "You know it, pal!" I knew our simple walk was becoming a bonding experience, one that I do not recall having in my young life with my dad, but something I had always longed for. The meaningless stuff seems to mean the most.

A few sturdy branches, about three to five feet in length, rather straight and the diameter about the size of an orange, were strewn about. I decided to create a teepee. Actually it was three sticks in a pyramid, but to a five-year-old it was a testimony of my years of wisdom and a gift from the gods of architecture, validated with a "Coooooool!" Austin proceeded to adorn the foot of each branch of our pyramid with rocks he carefully selected, placing them with the precision of a young engineer. I continued gathering branches, filling in our creation to give it more substance and strength, more sticks, more stones. I was a kid again, gathering like a pilgrim building his log cabin, or a survivor on a desert island.

I had a strange determination to create something for my son, as if it was in our backyard, as if it was our woods, our creation, and our moment. My energy was abundant, and the job seemed effortless. Austin kept interjecting our task with an occasional, "We are buddies, aren't we Dad? And I replied with my standard response, "You know it, pal!" This was acknowledged with a quiet "hmm" of appreciation, a smile, and then it was back to work. After forty-five minutes or so we had built a lattice of branches, caverns, walls, and teepees that would make a tribal elder proud. We gathered, placed, evaluated, replaced, and built our "Fortress of Solitude" for a private membership of two—the "buddies."

I don't know what it is about young boys, but they retain liquid. My son is king at having to "go" at inopportune times. Nature called, he answered, christening the ground behind the original teepee, which from then on was designated "the bathroom." A few more additions and adjustments brought us to an awareness that Sissy was about done with soccer. Our journey was fading back to a reality I didn't want to enter. I sat for a moment in silent reflection of our adventure and was joined by my son. His arms struggled to reach the height of my shoulder as he exclaimed, "I love you, Dad!" "I love you too, pal," I responded.

The joy was overcome with the melancholy realization that we had to leave our fort behind. This masterpiece, this testimony to a father and son, it was ours yet we had to leave it behind. It was back to the car, back home, to homework, to baths, to our normal routine. The story was over.

I grabbed my phone and took a couple pictures of my son with his arms spread with pride and artistic triumph. We ventured onward to retrieve Sissy, back to the real world, wondering how long our fortress would remain before succumbing to vandals, nature, or both. It was heartbreaking leaving our creation behind as my son wanted to show the world, as did I, our creation. I thought it was the fort that mattered. I was wrong.

A couple days went by and soccer practice once again came into the rotation of our lives‘ schedule. Alexa asked me if I had been back to see our fort. In asking, she had a look, a concerned look, to tell me what I already knew upon her posing that simple question. It had only taken three days for vandals to destroy our fort.

I thought it would bother me, but all along I had a feeling the fort wouldn't last long. I guess the hopeless romantic in me pictured another father and son coming by to only improve upon our design; creating an eventual Robinson Crusoe structure for all to enjoy. I am a realist, a hopeless romantic, and not a pessimist, and although a bit saddened temporarily, I see it as a clean slate calling for another adventure; another reason to return to my childhood once again.

The lesson I learned was interesting: I have no control over what can happen. I need to savor each moment, and drink in as much of the present to leave an indelible stamp on my memory to where nothing has to fade or be lost. The better my presence is now, the better my recall is later. In the past, I tried to hold on to things for their sentimental value, but I realize the values I place upon the objects themselves are insignificant to the value they retain in my memory and the memory of others.

The images from that day are vividly stored in my mind, heart, and spirit. I have them forever, and in sacred condition, untouchable for eternity. In that memory, it is not the fort I cherish; it is the precious time I shared with my son. In that memory, Austin will always be five years old, I will be the brave explorer; we will be buddies, and the fort: enduring.

We are destined to have things come and go in our lives, and we often place too much identification of who we are in those things, and we sometimes feel if we lose those things, we lose the memories attached to them as well. Things are fleeting and their value diminishes, but the human experiences and our ability to remain vividly connected to those experiences through our memories does not have to leave us.

True, it is difficult to lose items in times of disaster, theft, or loss, but we do not have to lose the value of the experience they represent. Mementos and objects connect to the ego and not to the spiritual blessing that placed them in our lives in the first place. I have had and lost many things, money, and titles. To some that fort may have been a simple pile of dead or dying organic material, scattered, without value, and forgotten—but to two ―little boys‖ lost in a moment, it was priceless, even if only for short time. I realize there is no greater thing I acquired that day, or any day since, than the title of "buddy."

_______________________Closing Thoughts______________________

A few months after writing this, I revisited it for the first time. I was able to go back to that moment. It was emotional for me, as I experienced a state of gratitude for the ability not only to have had the experience and to be able to share it with my son, but also for the ability to feel and see the blessings therein. This experience showed me the importance of being present and to realize what is of true value in this world. When the simplest of moments are shared, they can become genuinely special.

I implore you to "be where you are when you are there," and to also realize that what may be tedious or boring to one, can be monumentally significant to another. Some things may seem unimportant now, but once put into spatial perspective with the passing of time, these experiences can become treasures.

(Note - *Pictures of the fort and other photos related to the subject matter can be found in the photo gallery on my website - (as well as ordering info!)

Friday, May 28, 2010

I want to be a kid again

There is no greater example of presence than in a young child. I walk my kids to school; fair weather of course. If not it is the SUV, and the trip much more abbreviated, and a lot less beneficial.

I find that many of the things I find myself coaching my kids to abstain from, are simply the examples of youth, innocence, exploration, and harmless expressions of being present in the moment. They often mention to me, “Daddy, I want to grow up right now!” I recoil in horror as many of us wish we could turn back the clocks. I say this not in the dream of having the svelte and slender frame I had as a youth, as somewhere my six-pack turned into a keg; but that the circumstances of our life were so different. It was all about the context.

We had fears, we had obstacles, we had dreams, and we had relationships as we do now, but man oh man, were the contexts much different.

I want to go back. I want to go back to appreciate when my “deformity” was that I was too short to reach the Choc-Ola at the bottom of the soda cooler. I remember my life’s goal was to be able to enter Bud’s Carry Out on Elm Street, through the flimsy screen door, across the creaking wood flooring, to proudly bend over the cooler, and reach a Choc-Ola drink without my mid section being the fulcrum between my dangling toes, and me taking a nose dive into the beverages. Those were goals–achievable and certain goals!

The only ladder we had to climb was to get the Frisbee off the roof.

I want my Sunday school God back. When I was young, we would hear a lesson of love and of compassion, we would make a cross out of Popsicle sticks, and life was recharged. All I knew was God was great, He was everywhere, He loved me, He loved you, and He was in control and everything would eventually be okay. I lament that the innocence of the Divine concept has been changed. Too much of “my” God will kill those who follow “your” God is in the world. Too much of “how” I am supposed to praise, and in what way has taken away the ability to just connect and enjoy. It is like someone telling me how to hold my daughter’s hand.

War. War was a game we played with cards. We would get through the deck and yell, “Two out of three, okay?” The only blood we would experience would be from a skinned knee while climbing a tree. Miracle cures were mother’s kisses. Rebuilding devastated civilizations were what ants did if we stomped on the little mounds of dirt we found punctuating our play areas.

Fear? In short, the boogie man. Okay maybe strange noises coming from outside your window in the ink of the night. Fear could be erased with a crack in your bedroom door and a hall light, and not a monthly prescription.

You fell from social graces not by racial slurs but by yelling “poopie-butt” at your friend because it was the absolute worst thing you could ever dream up. “Wardrobe malfunctions” were mismatched socks and uncombed hair. The “style trends” were when your friends all planned to wear swimsuits under your clothes so after school you saved time getting to the pool party. Garanimals. “Nuff said.”

Snap back to reality...

I guess I find that it is spending time with my kids and their friends that allow me this stroll down memory lane. It happened to me yesterday as I encountered a stranger on the street outside my business. Casual pleasantries about the weather detoured into a string of minutes discussing moments from my small town that would make Norman Rockwell proud. I found he was a widower, a handful of years my senior, and after our brief chat, strolled onward with a smile he did not arrive with. Like my kids share their presence with me, I shared with him. That’s how it works.

I like being where I am I guess. I can now reach the cookies unassisted; once being another life goal. I can go as far as my car can take me as opposed to how far I can peddle. Maybe a little more freedom, but the interpretation of that statement leaves itself for another discussion.

Nothing is stopping me from stomping in puddles, running wildly, humming at the table, or making weird noises while I eat. I guess I could if I wanted to. Some days I still may not comb my hair. I am thankful to still be able to recall the joy of those moments. I hope those are the memories that are the last to fade.

As the presence and living in the moment is precious to a child, it is the ability to be present myself that allows me to recognize these things happening in my kids and around me. If I am in-tune, I can tune-in to what my kids are experiencing more so. Although presence of mind is a true gift, I find it is still healthy to occasionally take a little vacation.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Turn Dammit!

My day may start like many of yours–preparing for my day, rallying kids, transporting kids, personal duties, then off to my job.

I find in my “school bus” duties, with occupancy of two, (not including myself) I am often concerned with the scheduled departure to make sure the morning’s routine has a predictable flow that is not impeded by mishap. Once I drop off the kids, then my duties begin. Also, and most importantly, I have many obstacles that stand between me, and the safe transport of my precious cargo.

I live about 10 houses down from the street that flanks the school. I stop at the light, turn left, go about a hundred yards, another light; then turn right. We are at the “stop-drop-and-go.” However, my kids like to park and have their own personal escort (me) take them to class. I concede to their request. I am not alone.

The mornings are often a brief social gathering of parents of the young students, chatting idly as the kids run around the play areas and sidewalks. Many pleasantries are exchanged. It is a chaotic, yet inviting atmosphere that makes me feel blessed that my kids are getting their elementary education from this institution.

The downside–

If you choose not to do the “stop-drop-and-go”, you must turn right at the next light, and find one of the limited parking spaces on the street that run the length of the block. I do not ever park in the handicapped spots. I find it difficult to watch parents of healthy children, being healthy themselves as well; choose that they are exempt from not only public law, yet moral compass to allow them justification to do so. The redneck in me often has vigilante visions as I often watch others park “in the good spots,” while I explain to my six-year-old, in censored tongue, why some people choose to, and we do not. Karma people, just remember karma.

The front row spots are precious real estate. Heaven forbid we have to walk 100 feet more from the “lesser” spots. Who wants to walk with our kids past a playground and friends a few feet longer? That must be torture!

In our mornings’ preparation for departure, I have developed a pretty good routine. Leaving at 7:50 every day allows us plenty of time to not only venture to school, but allow us high probability for securing good parking. Yes, one of the front row spots. Heaven help the person or circumstance that makes me park across the street! My kids know this. They escalate their routines into a final departure flurry that could only appear to the neighbors that we found a ticking bomb and must leave immediately to escape annihilation. We back out of the drive, quickly but not fast enough to spill the Sunny D.

Down the street, 10 houses–check! Light approaching, still green. Don’t you dare turn yellow – I know there can only be one spot left. I know someone is going to take it. I know we will be late! I know this friggin’ light will turn yellow or red before I get there. It doesn’t. We’re good.

We turn in time. Next light approaching. The traffic starts to become constipated with the people choosing the drop-and-go alternative. “C’mon people! Move up! You know the rules! Pull to the flippin’ front of the line then stop and let your kids out! Don’t stop short of the end simply because junior doesn’t want to walk a few extra feet! Tell the wuss to take it like a man! Don’t you know the universe is about to swallow my attempts at great parking?!” They move–we’re good.

Another light; the final barrier. People crossing the street...grrr! Uh, oh. The light is changing! THE LIGHT IS CHANGING! TURN DAMMIT! How will I survive not getting the perfect spot?! I KNOW that there will be no spots left. I know we are going to get totally screwed! (Sometimes it is the things we “know” that show our true ignorance.)They turn, so do we.

“See kids?” Because we were late, all the good spots are ta...

"There's a spot Daddy!"

A car pulls out.

We always get a spot. Always.

"Daddy, why do we have to leave so early?"

“Because your father is an idiot.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thanks for the nod!

Just when you think maybe nobody is paying any attention to you...Bam! A nice blog award comes your way! Guess it is better than somebody paying attention when you pick your nose!

I am not sure if I would consider my blogs "mind blowing" per se--although I do indeed appreciate the gesture. I like my blogs to wrap you in your blankie, and help you find the comfy spot on the couch to where you can settle in for a good movie...hopefully leaving you with a new idea, or lesson to chew on. If you arrive at mind blowing - kudos!

The awards are not only an extended gesture to where we say our thanks and move on, but we are also to give thanks to those who bestowed them upon us: The thanks going to Pranayama before breakfast!

Please pop in to see her blog! Yoga is her love, and she discusses how it mixes into her live as a mum.

I also have to share the blog love with a few of my faves, my followers, my friends. I have old favorites, new favorites, but this time I extend the nod to the following, and they are in no particular order: (Mind blowing, you decide---worthy of exploration, definitely!)

1. Writers Rising - a collaboration of writers both established and aspiring - their goal? To make the world a better place through the expressive written word... (This award is extended to the whole bowl of granola there!)

2. duane scott - Why? Because he is honest, entertaining, and real. His stories are warm, reflective and spiritual.

3. Journey to Joy - Bill just wants the world to be a better place, and the things he sees that are not - he chooses to see them brighter anyhow. Bill is a hug in print.

4.Belly Up - Although perpetually uplifting and smile worthy - you never know how Marcime will package her message! Like a box of chocolates - nope...better!

An I know she probably has this award - but she deserves the nod from me anyway...

5. Lessons from the Monk I Married - whether or not she needs the award, Katherine deserves to be read and experienced. I hope my readers read her work as well. Her stories are compassionate distillations of her observations with the sole purpose of sharing love.

Thanks for the award, but more so, thanks for allowing me the ability and platform to direct a momentary spotlight on other talented writers. Namaste' my friends, God bless, and God speed!

Until next time...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Go confidently...

Yeah, I wrote a book. You can see the nifty cover to the right of his post. Nice reflective cover representing the material. Paid a guy to that. A year’s worth of work went into that little project right there.

Now I am not here to sell it today. True, I would enjoy seeing a copy or two float off into other’s hands. But again, not why I am here.

I was speaking with my wife yesterday on the “state of the union” of where my book stands. This nebulous project that kept me still, focused, and challenged since this time last year has been this odd, somewhat unspoken subject between us. Perhaps she wonders if I wrote of her. Maybe she wonders if it is a narcissistic memoir slamming those nemeses that challenged me which I victoriously slayed. Maybe she doesn’t get it, this whole writing gig. Maybe she doesn’t care. The only thing she mentioned was she hoped it brought in some bank.

Momentarily I reflected as she left the room how it would feel to become this mysterious, successful author who would sit in reflection in front of a window of an old home, sweater with the patches on the elbows adorning me, spewing words, randomly accepting and tossing appearances as my bank account grew. Ahhh...

Quickly that faded. Back to the present there turbo–don’t put the cart before the horse.

As I came to completion of this dream I have had for nearly two decades, I reflected on a few things. For one, I wrote a book dammit. I wanted to write a book, I wrote a book. Mission accomplished! I sat for hours. I wrote hundreds of pages longhand, then placed them on a laptop, and then to a desktop, adjusting, thinking, editing, manipulating text to become what I felt was my music. I was the only one listening, and I liked my song.

The satisfaction in doing this little endeavor was originally to simply journal thoughts I wish my kids would know, or know about me should I ever leave this world too early to tell them. I wanted my kids to have a personal slice of me they could sample at their whims at any point in the future where I was not able to tell them directly. Another mission accomplished. It was originally for them, not me. It just evolved organically.

I see that I had a void and I have now filled it. I had a gesture I wished to extend to my kids, and now not only do I have the original, but a printed book my kids can read and forever hear the voice of their daddy should God take me home tomorrow. I did something very challenging and time consuming I set out to do. Something that the little voice in me told me I probably could not do. Something many may have the desire to do, but let life get in the way. The same type of life I had to navigate to find the time to follow my dream. If I knew exactly when I may die, I may have waited to start this project, but I do not have that luxury. Go confidently...

What I found that whenever I placed any importance on how many copies I will sell, or how many people will read, or if Oprah will wave a copy at her flock, I am cheapening my dream by placing my accomplishments’ value in the opinion of others. True, who wouldn’t love for the Grande Dame herself to give your book a nod and then your heart’s desire no longer be in question. However I see that now I am extremely fulfilled I did what I set out to do; once being a character defect I often shrugged. I refuse to let what I have done thus far be diminished if my “numbers” are not strong.

Of course I would love to see my message shared by others in the context of how it has affected their lives. I would love to be a “finger pointing the way” so-to-speak. Making a buck or two would also be a nice perk no doubt. But this dream I consider accomplished, and I will simply revel in the fact I did something I love, am passionate about, and can share. My message here and now? To share the hope that others can do what I did. What is your dream left undone?

I like the fact that I realized the engaging of the dream, the pursuit of the dream, and the completion of the dream is where the reward is personally. To release it to others for adoration and capital gain is another venture. I consider it “marketing” of the dream–a by-product mind you. I do not place any validation of the success of the dream on the acceptance of it by others as much as the value of the fact that I am happy with my work, and that I did it when I thought I couldn’t. Therein lies the reward that will forever remain enduring and more valuable that monetary gain. Again I ask, “What is your dream left undone?”

I like the quote by Dr. Wayne Dyer where he states, “Don’t die with your music still in you.” (I will let that marinate in you for a moment.) With every tick of the clock passes a missed opportunity to set sail upon your life’s potential. Sing your song and unfurl your canvas my friends as those ticks are precious.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.
                                                                         ~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

* (Oprah, my contact info can be found to the right and scroll down a bit!)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What're yer intentions son?

The setup: I am a hairstylist by trade. I see many people from all walks of life. I hear many, many stories, and many become fodder for reflection and/or blog material. This one is one of those cases.

I have a dear friend, who is also a client who comes to see me in my salon every now and again. She is not as frequent as many for a variety of reasons. However when she calls, I accommodate. This I do not at all from a “take care of a client” perspective; although that is true to some degree. I do this as I know when she calls, she needs me, some friendship, and often hair is a by-product of our meeting.

My friend/client is an old soul. She is the type of person upon first handshake, you are now old friends. We have been close friends since the day we met. I get her, she gets me.

This day’s appointment revolved around the quarterly beauty overhaul we do: cut, foils, condition, style, a handful of hugs, and lots of conversation. We had the time to speak. It had been a while since we had seen each other. The weather in the Midwest a hindrance as well as her day-to-day life is more challenging than many people experience. Trips to the hair salon, although a necessary trip for you and I, are a most treasured luxury for her, and I am glad to oblige.

We were speaking this day of challenges she felt in not being able to do some things that she used to do; not only socially, but other obligations she did for others that also brought her joy. She mentioned the guilt she felt as if she were letting others down. Sometimes people did not understand her perspective, and her guilt worsened. Why was she able to do these things before, and now they were more cumbersome? “Why” still lingers even though she knows it is what it is.

I concurred with her as I too have encountered recent issues from finance to health, to simply not having the manpower or time to do what I once treasured. Life simply got in the way of what I wanted to do. It is not that I had less of a desire to do some things, and the same with my friend; it is just that in the game of life, the hands we are dealt change from time to time. Sometimes we have to fold, sometimes we call, and sometimes we are too short to place a bet.

In speaking with her I realized that our ability has nothing to do with our intention. There are many things I desire to do. I would love to be rich so I could give most of it away. I wish I were a famous chef, so I could inspire people to feed others (Thanks Jamie Oliver). I would offer rides, clothing, shelter, and most of all healing were it in my abilities. I want to be a successful author. Sadly, on the scale I wish it were, it is not. However, this does not have to hinder my intention behind it. My intention is my leverage forward. I hope even if my resources are diminished, I hope the intentions I have ever increase.

Intentions can be things. Like thoughts, prayers, and other gestures of compassion, if I try to see them as stepping stones; to be able to see the hurdles lesser of “no’s” as opposed to “not now’s.” I will not let go of the intention I have, to do what I can, to the best of my ability.

That led me to reflect on doing my “best.” No one bats a thousand. However we can do our best every time at bat. What I see is that from time to time, our best may fluctuate. Our best efforts are a culmination of a variety of factors. In trying to pursue even a familiar endeavor, we may have circumstances that do not align as well as the last time we attempted something. Things like, health, logistics, timing, rest, environment, people involved, finances, emotion, weather, a total cornucopia of ingredients come together to determine an outcome. Our outcomes are all affected by these. We are often judged by our last “at bat” though.

So it leads us to believe, that even though we do our “best”, at the time we apply it, many things determine what transpires. If we do our best with what we have, it is all we have. We seek leverage from our good intentions, inspiration from above, and apply our best abilities using the components the universe deals us. We should not burden ourselves with the guilt by comparing what our results are now, with what they once were.

She and I reflected on this and were a bit relieved knowing that because our situations have evolved, who we are inside has not. What we would do if we were in control of our cosmic resources would surely produce different results and perhaps sway the way others feel about what we are able to achieve.

My friend is fighting a battle for her life. She has more on her plate than many will ever juggle in a lifetime, yet she feels she is letting others down. Confined to a wheelchair, she puts in more “miles” to help others and bring hope to her fellow man than her able-bodied brethren. To me that is testimony to the depth of one’s soul and character that cannot be judged by tangible benchmarks. Her intention is genuine. Her “best” is always given. Many should follow her lead and be so lucky. Her wheels are simply metal wings.

Once again I reflect that I cannot control my circumstances, but my intentions can flourish in spite of my current resources. I can apply myself, and ask if I am indeed giving my best, applying my sincerest efforts given the circumstances that surround me at any given present. I also realize that the hand dealt to me will vary. I still must play it. But after I play the hand in victory or defeat, another set of cards will come my way allowing me another chance at redemption. Don’t forget to tip the dealer!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Are your friends for real?

This past weekend has been busy for me. Since the weather has let up, and with the celebration of my wife’s “Birth-fortnight” (when a birthday stretches out for two weeks) my social appearances beyond the local grocery have increased.

Friday, Saturday, and today all included time with friends. Last night in particular, I was blessed to be able to hang out for an evening with my old posse. We all sought and secured babysitters, met at our house, and then proceeded to a quaint area of our city called the Short North.

The Short North is known for its’ eclectic mix of galleries, bistros, and chic businesses that make evening strolling in the area a fun adventure. Since it was the beginning of the month, the area hosts the city to join them for what is called the “Gallery Hop.” Aside from the usual goings on, there are other artists, vendors, musicians, and other people sharing odds and ends and other what-not’s on random tables aligning the streets.

We spent the evening as if time had never passed and kids were not a daily part of our lives. We laughed, enjoyed food, beverage, and fellowship, and also ran into old friends we have not seen in years. Some people in our lives will always hold special chunks of real estate in our heart regardless of how often we see them. This is the sign of quality friends.

This morning my wife had asked me a couple times if I had a good time the night before. She was apparently taking the temperature of my mood last night. Loud and crowded is not always my “thing”, but in this instance, I was perfectly content. I was surrounded by some of the best friends I have and what was not to enjoy? She also asked me a couple times last night but I think “Vodka-nesia” had set in then.

She then mentioned she was asking as since they were all drinking, and I was not, was I still having fun. Although my vocal volume perhaps did not increase as the evening progressed, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time spent.

I do not drink anymore. I abstain from all intoxicants God willing, and now enjoy sobriety as much as I enjoy the air in my lungs. I guess I reached my quota early in my life, and for the greater good of all, I am nowadays the designated driver in many situations. I am completely okay with that.

What I did notice and appreciate is that I do not need to alter my reality to enjoy where I am any longer. I really and truly love my friends, all of them, just simply for being themselves, unique, and just great people. I also am not at all judgmental of how my friends have fun. I have my boundaries as that is all I can control, but being the sober guy, my chances of arriving home safely, with dignity intact are better now, and if I have to help a fallen comrade, I am in a better position to do so.

Today’s world is funny as many people I encounter through my week are not only in human form, but digital as well. Through social media and blogging, I am able to speak to, and connect with, scores of people with the click of a mouse. I can send my voice across the globe in milliseconds, and really have become quite fond of the new, yet digital friends I have come to communicate with on a regular basis.

I also notice there are many people who this becomes the only forum of communication with others in their lives. I often have to remind my young daughter that I refuse to “talk to her part” as she will be looking down at a text as I speak to the top of her head. I also notice some people collect “friends,” as boasting the accumulated numbers on their Facebook page takes precedence over a small quality handful of true human relationships in person. Do you know everyone on your friend list?

I often do find solace in the fact that I can write with an honesty in blogging that often may become difficult face-to-face. I do enjoy the solitude as I bask in the warm glow of my monitor and the soothing sounds of Pandora radio as I write. I don’t mind being alone at times. However, I must be careful to not totally invest myself in this mindset. I am only one electro-magnetic pulse away from social Armageddon.

What Facebook, blogging, tweeting, and texting will not do is allow you to enjoy the contagious sounds of laugher. The ability to run a joke into the ground to where it actually becomes a nickname or fodder for laughter in years to come is priceless. It is context, atmosphere, and the ability to drink in a human beings presence that makes us human ourselves.

The emotional ups, down, twists and turns that occur in a social setting among friends is what nurtures the soul. Groups of people are a “recipe” to where every person’s unique flavor, no matter how odd or pungent, still combines in harmony to create a wonderful dish.

It is when I find myself dreading going out or not wanting to meet up with others, I must snap to the reality that I could be drifting from one of the greatest gifts I can receive, and that is the presence and laughter of my greatest treasured friends. I have always believed wealth should be measured by the quality of one’s relationships and if that were true, I am most indeed a blessed wealthy man.

I must make sure that I stay connected and invested in those who were here in my life long before Facebook. I must recognize and acknowledge those who would take a bullet for me, and me for them. The ones who would bail me out of jail, sit by my side in failed health, attend my funeral, and protect my loved ones as if they were their own; only because they know I would do it for them as well are the friends to prioritize.

I must make sure that the plants I have in my backyard are more important tenfold over than any one that has ever appeared in Farmville–that the animals that eat real food, and drink real water are the most important to care for. If you have the time to tweet about your iced vanilla latte, don’t forget to smile at those you encounter in the streets.

Although I truly love the sentiments and love I get in the virtual world, I would rather get a smile, hug, or “status update” in person. For those who are not close enough or able for that to happen, I am still very thankful for your virtual presence and pray that no EMP or virus ever comes between us.

Namaste’ my friends both near and far!