Monday, May 30, 2011


We have all heard the haunting song "Taps". It's the song that gives us that lump in our throats and usually creates tears in our eyes. But do you know the story behind the song?

If not, I think you will be pleased to find out about its humble beginnings. Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War, when the Union Army Captain Robert Elicombe was with his men near Harrison's Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land.

During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay in the middle of the battlefield. Without knowing if he was a Union or Confederate soldier, the Captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention.

Crawling on his stomach through the gunfire, the Captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment. When the Captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead.

The Captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his son. The boy had been studying music in the south when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate army.

The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status. His request was only partially granted. The Captain had asked if he could have a group of Army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was tunred down since the soldier was Confederate. But out of respect for the father, they did say they could give him one musician. The Captain chose a bugler. He asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth's uniform. The wish was granted. The haunting melody we now know as "Taps", used at military funerals, was born.

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky.
All is well,
Safely rest.
God is nigh.

Fading light
Dims the sight
And a star
Gems the sky,
Gleaming bright
From afar,
Drawing nigh,
Falls the night.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky.
As we go,
This we know.
God is nigh.

I too have felt the chills while listening to "Taps" but I have never seen all the words to the song until now. I didn't even know there was more than one verse. I also never knew the story behind the song and I didn't know if you had either, so I thought I'd pass it along.

* This was in our church bulletin this past Sunday. (Prepared by Pastor Dr. Art Haimerl) I hope you enjoyed it as much as I.


Sunday, May 22, 2011


A bit of fortune had found me as I arrived at my destination early. I was testing the boundaries of quantum physics at attempting to be at many places at one time. I sir or madam, am a sports parent.

After performing a perfect drop at a baseball game, then dashing to get my other to a soccer game to then meet up someplace else a few moments later, I unfolded my weathered nylon chair and assumed my position at the sidelines of the soccer field.

My daughter trotted off to meet her teammates off to the side as the other team was still engaged in their own game currently on the field. I was not aware that the typical protocol of conduct was to stand back and wait your turn to unfold your foldable chair along the sideline until the prior team has departed or at least until the game was concluded. I mean I was ealry for crying out loud. That should allow for something. I sat oblivious in the sunshine.

I did not know who was playing. I knew no one nor the team names, rankings, or favorites. I simply watched. Both teams were impressive for the young men were of approximate middle school age and played like champs. Since I was not attached to either team, I enjoyed every moment. I also noticed that my heart rate was stable as I simply enjoyed what I was in the presence of. I couldn’t label any play as “good or bad” as I was rooting for no one in particular. To me it was “X” versus “Y”.

I then pondered how I may be able to learn from this. I like my lessons obscure. I wondered how life may be a bit more tolerable if we were not so attached to a “side”, or an opinion, or an identity. I wondered, “Could I live without the 'versus' in my life?” I also wondered how I may be able to spend more time simply observing–living without attachment to the “score” that I may gain greater serenity and perhaps lowered stress and blood pressure–a tall order indeed.

I recalled then a glorious day from my past. I asked my then eighty three year-old grandmother to go play golf. My grandfather had passed away and she lived alone alongside a small town golf course. He was a one-time club champion that had a love-affair with the sport–she, a petite woman of small stature a competent golfer as well.

I remembered as his cancer was taking the final shreds of his memory; he was peering out his living room picture window that overlooked the town golf course. He stated longingly, “I wish I could get back out and play a round of...” He forgot what it was called. Cancer turned out the lights on the last of his favorite memories. The game was called “golf” dear sir.

My grandmother and I met on a sunny morning in the cart that belonged to my grandfather. My octogenarian grandmother, I called her Grandmama, slowly asserted her way to the tee. She methodically went through the motions like a champ preparing her shot. With smooth yet feeble grace she raised the club until it rested back on her shoulder. She yanked it down using her shoulder as a lever until the club connected with the ball propelling it a straight and smooth hundred yards or so. I tried to impress her and shanked it about two hundred yards into the woods off to the right. I took a drop by hers.

I offered that we tear up the score card and just chat. I learned she was an artist. I heard of her young life. We shared precious company. I listened as she spoke of Granddaddy. I miss him. I heard things that I may not have heard as well if I were so worried about the score–about how I would turn out at the end of the game. I miss her also. She passed as the nasty of nasties got her too. She left me with the gift of a memory I won’t soon forget.

As my stroll down memory lane was disturbed by the screams, taunts, and bellers from the parents flanking me yelling at or for one of the players in front of me, I became thankful for another moment I could live without the score card. I was reminded of the importance of the practice of being the observer.

By allowing and observing I find I am lesser of a victim of random circumstances as I once thought I was. People do not pull out in front of me in traffic to beat me to where I am going. I am not living without some things that I desire because others “beat” me to it. They were more adept, and it was simply not my turn yet. I am not always in the Super Bowl with me versus them. It is okay to watch without labels and opinions.

I love the thrill of a good competition as much as the next guy. I truly do. But I realize that I must try to remain aware of when there is no match, game, or competition. I must remain aware when it is okay to simply tear up the score card and try to enjoy the sport. I must try to seek out times to relax in a place where I can root for all the players playing. I will try to treat more people like my son’s baseball coach and look for the ways I can express “great job”, “nice play”, “good catch”, even when the out puts someone on the bench.

So if you see a guy sitting on the sidelines smiling, nodding in approval, or cheering on your efforts, and you have no clue at all who that could be, maybe it will be me. I could care less about your score. Just know that in the heart of competition though, it may not occur in the fall at the sideline of a Michigan and Ohio State Game. When it comes to that, it is Buckeyes all the way!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Perfectly Imperfect

Trying to be perfect is exhausting. Searching for perfection is exhausting. It is like swimming against an infinite current with no shore in sight. What leads people to feel the need to become “perfect”? Is it to feel better than? Is it to feel separate from? Is it to feel righteously enlightened to have or know that which others do not? I’m done swimming.
I have found through my defects and challenges that I find places for expansion. For growth. Perfect would be boring. I have a feeling it would be lonely. In my own reflection I assume that the desire for improvement would wane and then I would ripen on the vine eventually falling to the ground to rot and be forgotten.
In searching for perfection I must look beyond where I am. In casting my gaze outward, looking for that which is not here I miss the beauty that lies within the “almost-but-not-quiteness” that connects me to the present. It is the realization of a need to become aware of my shortcomings that keeps me mindful of my bond to others and that I share their space instead of a belief that I hover above them.
I have found that spirituality is not an evolutionary process of becoming more “divine” in my nature. To me it is a realization of what I am and that there is more to be unveiled. This perpetual revealing is where I find my desire for cultivation lies. It is a profound respect for my flaws and defects that become the catalyst for growth through an unending quest for understanding–an understanding that there is beauty in the flawed. There is character in the splintered. There is grace in the disheveled.
The Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi poetically represents this. It acknowledges that nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. It is through this somewhat melancholy realization that a spiritual journey begins. As the perfect is elusive, the goal of improvement is engaged. The spiritual is finding the beauty in the unfinished points of interest along the way. The lessons lie in the souvenirs we obtain through life experiences–the skinned knees often relinquishing more value than the slam-dunks.
If beauty, love or spiritual connection were perfect, there would be one uniform standard. Some would have it, others would not. But as we see in beauty, love, and spirit, we can connect on a variety of levels that can only be denoted of significant value by those experiencing it. Those on the sidelines of these experiences must gain a wisdom that imperfection can at times be simply relevant to our own narrow scope of perspective, and that we may need to expand that perspective to draw closer to our own divine center.
I no longer want to be perfect. It would make me lazy. Then would I still be perfect? It makes my head hurt. I do know that I do seek a spiritual improvement on being led to a greater appreciation for the imperfection that makes life abundant with possibility, expansion, and connection. I also enjoy finding that I am not alone. We all have our nicks, dings, and dents. It is this weathering and antiquing of my soul that I feel gives me character. My trips and stumbles, falls and recoveries are simply stamps in my life’s passport. I have stories to tell.

I am Wabi-sabi. I am perfectly imperfect.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Love is a Verb

Verb – A word that describes an action, occurence, or state-of-being.

I am a listener. Always have been. In my professional life I spent many, many years perched alongside many who would pour out their souls in the confident embrace that only a hairdresser could provide. I have heard everything from bang trims, to back pain–from menstrual cramps to murder.

I also found that my services were sometimes a by-product of the time spent with me. People crave connection. People want to be heard, they want an audience, and they want to feel valued if even only for a brief moment. I found that people sought and desired compassion. They want love.

Many people would sit in front of me seeking advice or thumbing through books looking for new “bait” to put upon the proverbial hook. They sought a magnetism that would attract the attention and affection of others. They would also seek to elevate how they perceived themselves.

This lonely quest for love is perpetuated by feelings of powerlessness. We are fooled to believe that this emotion, ethereal and elusive is beyond our grasp. I found that I was saddened by noticing the proliferation of those feeling separate–a state of bottomless wanting hoping that the void would become occupied with tangible evidence that one is “worthy” to have this “butterfly” land upon the shoulders of the deserving.

I too spent many hours feeling defeated, deprived, and depleted in my search for this state, this “rainbow” that was colorful and brilliant, yet no matter how fast I closed in on it, the faster it seemed to move away. This love not only in an affectionate sense from a mate, but from friends, family, and others–myself.
I felt that if others did not want me, I may be fractured. Maybe unable to contain the nourishing nectar love was able to provide to only the secure. How long would I have to wait? What must I do? Is there a manual? Is there criteria? Does love do a background check?

I would “numb” myself and saw others do the same, wallowing in a pool of shame watching my self-worth drop like stocks in a recession. I no longer took stock in myself. I grasped at love like a child trying to catch bubbles blown in a gust of wind. In my attempt to clutch them, they burst. It burst. I burst.

I turned to contempt. To loathing. To judgment. It was your fault as much as it was mine. I used to be good enough, or so I thought. If I suck, then you suck too!

I wanted the feeling of the warm and fuzzy, the connected and cozy, and it required an ingredient I could not get which another had to provide. I thought if I had that ingredient I could feel a certain way. Then and only then would all be well. I felt I had the lock but someone else had the key.

Then it dawned on me–Love is not an emotion as much as it is a verb. A shift in my perception, created a shift in my reality!

The seeds of love are steeped in action that I can activate upon my very choosing. When thinking of loving someone, I thought, “HOW do I love someone?”

Click to see video
 I show compassion to them. I find humor, and brilliance in who they are. I am accepting of them for their uniqueness. I offer them forgiveness, a lot of forgiveness. I desire to have them at my side. I try to connect with them on an intellectual level to better understand their world so I can seamlessly merge it with my own. I want to grow from them. I am myself with them. I do not try to control them unless I am attempting to try to elevate them. These are all actions.

I found that by engaging in the activities of love, I was planting that which I could harvest later. The more nurturing and pure the intention behind the gestures, the greater the harvest!

I also found to receive love; we must be “lovable.” Creating love through my loving actions created a source of love others gravitated towards. I no longer felt that I had to change the bait on the hook trying to "snare" someone or something with a continually changing facade. Love became gravitational and sought me out. I found myself abundantly surrounded by that which I always try to demand from others.

In practicing these loving gestures, I also found that I never had to manipulate my strategies. Since all people, even including the ones in a given relationship send, receive, and interpret love as an emotion differently, I found the actions were similar which created the desired emotional states personally tailored to the experience.

In showing acceptance, appreciation, tolerance, absence of judgment, support, nurturing, affection, and accommodation, I find most experience their desired interpretation of love. This was so much simpler than trying to go through a huge set of keys trying to see which one opened the vault.

The beauty of all this came to me when I realized I could start with myself. I could express these actions to myself! I could become my own catalyst of love and start to develop it in myself and my space. I found that it was almost like being able to print money but the value of the minted material I found was much more valuable and brilliant.

I now find an absence of the destructive thoughts and behaviors that once burdened me. These thoughts based upon a low self-worth due to the absence of something I felt I was not worthy of, or was tired of having pass me by. I no longer feel separate, ashamed, hollow, or lesser-than.

I encourage people to consider HOW they love, and HOW they like to be loved, and then do those things. I guarantee you; the emotions that once shifted in our lives like the weather seem to provide much more sunshine, and the storms become that much more bearable.

Take action! Something will occur! And we will receive the state-of being!