Happy Ripple Day

I watch my grandkids and how they enjoy their fathers, and vice versa. Daddin’ is on full display. I feel like the pebble in the pond; perhaps, I am a ripple. Or both. To all dads and father figures, Happy Ripple Day.

No matter what dads do, their effects ripple out. My grandfather left a lot to be desired as a father, but my dad chose to not replicate that performance. My dad wasn’t perfect – his epitaph says, “He left for us a most noble pattern” – but I never felt unloved. He affected how I believe fathers should be. I am totally confident that my sons would say that I wasn’t perfect either, but I think they have picked up some things about being a dad that they chose to follow, and some they chose to leave behind. The ripples continue out and I hope to live long enough to see how my grandsons take on the role of fatherhood.

In my daddin’ workshops, I remind attendees that every man is a father figure, whether they are dads or not. Every man has boys and younger men looking at him and thinking “I want to be like him.” The man who is a ripple himself becomes the pebble, causing pulses of influence by the way he lives. The popular song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” comes to mind.

Our dads are that – the ripple (influenced by who came before them) and the pebble (influencing others by the way they live). Never perfect.

On this Father’s Day, I reflect on the blessings of having had a loving father who tried to be better than his own, and for having wonderful sons and grandkids who love well, too. Every day is Father’s Day for me. Pause this Father’s Day to thank your dad, whether you still have him or not, for what he did well, sometimes despite amazing odds and negative influences. It will please him to know you are part of the positive ripples he created.

I miss you every day, dad. Love you.

Wrong Number, Right Message

I don’t know the man who left a voice mail. It could have been God. The message said, “… you called me. It was good to hear from you. I’m trying to call.  I love you and am doing good. I’ll try again later.” I wasn’t able to understand what he said when he introduced himself, but it sounded like he said it was a pastor.  The number associates with Gainesville, but it is the kind of message that God tries to send His children.

I have replayed the message a few times, imagining the call being directly from God because it provides me a few insights and reminders. It also provides me comfort. As in the caller’s message, God…

  1. Acknowledges when we call out to our Father. “In those days when you pray, I will listen.”  Jeremiah 29:12  God listens to us when we pray. Many are the scriptural references and encouragements to pray, how to pray and how prayer is answered. His answers likely won’t be in a voicemail message, but we know and can trust that he is listening and His answers will come in His time, not ours. God, the creator of the incredible universe of a magnitude that is incomprehensible to us, knows our name. He knows the number of hairs on our head. He listens to us.
  2. Likes hearing from his children. “But he listened! He heard my prayer! He paid attention to it! Blessed be God who didn’t turn away when I was praying, and didn’t refuse me his kindness and love.”  Psalm 66:19-20  What greater gift to give in return for someone sharing with us?  Our love. We share with God by praying and he responds by listening and giving unceasingly his love and kindness.
  3. Always tries to reach us; the issue is whether we are listening.    “And after the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire, there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his scarf and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  And a voice said, “Why are you here, Elijah?”  1 Kings 19:12-13  God speaks to us in quiet times, with whispers. Whispers are a language of love, not overpowering or commanding, but calling us to closer relationship with God and in service to Him.
  4. Loves us and all is always well with and through our Father. He does good, and we are agents on Earth of that good. “If Timothy comes make him feel at home, for he is doing the Lord’s work just as I am.”  1 Corinthians 16:10  We are the body, each of us serving special roles in God’s work on Earth that no one else can do. We are all called to our Lord’s work, and that work is of love.
  5. Will never give up on reaching us.  “So Jesus used this illustration: “If you had a hundred sheep and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it? And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders. When you arrived you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found.”  Luke 15:4–6   Ultimately, we all are lost at some time or another. God never stops looking for us, reaching out to us. He reminds us daily, if we pay attention, that He is calling us back…to Him.

The Florida man’s message will forever remain on my phone. I will listen to the message of his inadvertent call from time to time when I need a reminder of the truths above.

Memorial Day Wish

tomb of unknown soldier guard

On Memorial Day, In Your Honor We Wish For…

 

 

Peace

For those we lost in battle

For those we lost in service

For those who came home to be lost to PTSD

Peace

 

Peace

From the fears, hunger, loneliness and aches you endured

From the grief of losing others

From circumstances the other 99% of us could never fully understand

Peace

 

Peace

Shared by us to others

Shared by families and friends in our magnificent country

Shared through freedoms that we have thanks to you

Peace

 

Peace

On earth, in our hearts, amongst those in the world who you protected

Peace

For you

Because of you

In honor of you.

 

Peace

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

On this Memorial Day and every day, would there be any better way to honor those who sacrificed with their lives than by living in ways of peace and understanding in each moment of our lives?

Unconditional…a Mother’s Day Message

Dorothy Ann Sobieski McInnis’ gravestone reads, “Tender mother and faithful friend.” Yep, that was my mom. She passed away a quarter century ago but not a day goes by that I don’t tap into her wisdom and all that earned her epitaph. I also try to emulate her cornerstone:  unconditional love. All else was built around it.

There was never a single day in my life that I didn’t feel loved, which frankly made the real world a bit shocking to me to learn that not everyone loves me for who I am. The shock and disappointments are but a small price to pay for the blessing to have been loved unconditionally, which I am quite sure was not always an easy assignment for mom. There were times when I was a handful.

Unconditional. Without condition. No strings or bait-and-switch, no caveats or disclaimers came with mom’s love. I grew up with permission to be me, knowing that my mom’s and dad’s love for me would not waver based on how I met or did not meet their expectations or ideals. The times of tough love were not exceptions to the reality of unconditional love.

For all the roses and cards, breakfasts in bed and special dinners, family get-togethers and special messages, perhaps the greatest thing we can give and get in honor of mothers and Mother’s Day is unconditional love for all, and the courage to be tender and faithful in our relationships.

More than 40 years ago, I drew a tombstone with an epitaph that I hoped to earn in life. It read, “People knew he loved them.”  I hope mom smiles when I try to discipline my thoughts and actions by remembering that drawing and says “That’s my son. I’m proud of him and love him.”

Happy Mother’s Day, all, to the moms, to those who have moms, to those who had moms, to those who serve as moms to others…to everyone.  We are all shaped by mothers and their greatest influence:  love.

Rise Again

What with conditions in the virus response world of today, this Easter brings extra-ordinary lessons for everyone, whether they are Christians or not. Listening to life is as important now, if not more so, when life leaves its familiarity of normalcy.

Much of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society team that I am now part of operates virtually and a common frustration for many is the sense of confinement, limitation and lack of community due to the variety of quarantine conditions they are experiencing around the country. The supervisor of our team encourages everyone to get outside when they can, take in fresh air, move around and take in the views. What would normally just be a walk to the corner is now thought of as therapeutic, mentally, emotionally and physically. The same walk but totally different perspectives of it.

My wife and I enjoy sitting on the front porch late in the day and watch the world go by. The same people who walked by previously and shared waves and friendly greetings, now walk by with waves and greetings, but there is a different look on their faces. There are new messages in the greetings. People are trying to come alive again. In their own way, they are resurrecting from their homes in search of life, living and spirit, if only on a walk on which they hope to encounter others on the road.

I can’t help but be reminded of the power and importance of resurrection this Easter weekend. The word “resurrection” has its roots in the Latin word resurgere which means to “rise again.” In conversations with team members, neighbors, family and friends, there is the oft-expressed need, desire and hunger to rise again. It is innate. We are called to it. We know there is life in that act, no matter how small or grand the “rising again” happens to be. Never stay down; rise again in each moment.

 

Happy, blessed Easter to you all.

Now is a good time to…

Remember as a kid when it was rainy or snowy or hot outside and you felt trapped inside and couldn’t have your normal fun? Then your mom would say, “Why don’t you read a book?” Mom was onto something.

Over the past several months I have read a lot of books. The job I held was eliminated in early August and the job search (and increased reading) began. I was blessed with a new job with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (a nearly impossible to believe, truly exceptional organization) a month ago, and with the current Wuhan Virus situation I have returned to books in the evenings. Mom was definitely onto something.

I have re-engaged my relationship with three wise men: Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale and Og Mandino. Consider the trying times in which these authors learned the lessons in life and business that they then shared as authors and speakers. They listened to life. We can, too.

Just their book titles suggest important, timeless wisdom that is certainly appropriate to the challenges and changes we face today.  How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Power of Positive Thinking, The Positive Principle Today, The World’s Greatest Salesman, and more.  I leave it up to you to track down which title applies to which author.

We all have access to good books. Your list may be quite different than mine, though I heartily recommend the cited authors. (Want more ideas?  Send me an e-mail!)  Personally, I prefer paper so I can mark up key phrases and thoughts which helps me remember and apply the wisdom shared in ink. This sight can also be very helpful:  www.GoodReads.com.

No matter what is going on, others, including your relatives, lived through worse. Much worse. Remember, all the joy, courage, strength, happiness and success you desire is available to you because of the live you’ve lived, not despite it.

Time is Short: Be active, not passive

I’ve known Luke since September 1964, the beginning of third grade. We were busy in our youth, building models — planes, tanks and battleships, primarily – toying around with chemistry sets and playing ball. During attended high school, though on very different academic paths, we still had some hang time during the regular meetings of our “lunch bunch,” a group of five of us who ate lunch together. During college, our paths parted a bit and the gap grew more over time what with careers, families and the other diversions of adulthood. I’ve always appreciated his take on life and the world, and in a recent email he did it again. It pays to listen to people for their golden wisdom, whether it comes in streams or nuggets.

The remainder of the “lunch bunch” – there are now four of us since John died many years too soon – has had a rejuvenation of communications as of late via email on the topic of music. The string of conversation took a bit of a detour on the topic of playing music.

My attention was piqued; I have always wanted to play a musical instrument, and the conversation energized my interest and with more discipline and wisdom than I had when I was 16, my last attempt to learn to play the piano. Luke began teaching himself how to play the bass guitar decades ago. In the group chat about music, he commented on his friends’ critiques from the perspective of the discussed songs’ bass lines and whether he has learned them. Amidst his sharing, the nugget.

“Playing bass has made me like so much more music than ever before. Not enough time left to listen to it.”

We lunch bunch members are not spring chickens. There is definitely much more (life) time behind us than in front of us. Luke’s comment touches on many important lessons about life, but particularly when you realize that time is short.

 

Learn

There is no end to learning. Whether it is learning to play music or how it the instruments are made; whether it is fishing or cooking fish; whether it is the practice of or the theory of…anything. Never stop learning. My dad would often say, “You ain’t gonna learn any younger” as a response to my comments about trying something new. That expression has carried me into many adventures, successes and “failures,” all of which taught me something to prepare me for my next adventure.  One never gets too old to learn.  “You ain’t gonna learn any younger.”

 

Expand horizons

Luke’s musical preferences were clear “back in the day.” He likes more now. Now is also a good time to knock down boundaries to see the expansiveness of the horizon, even if you remain in your current vantage point. Expand your view into various types of music (or cooking, traveling, reading, etc.), or step over to something you’ve never considered trying before. I’ve been convinced all my life that I can’t dance. My wife disagrees. We occasionally dance and we will take country dancing lessons in a few months. It is never too late to expand your horizons; likewise, reveal horizons to young folks, too. The legendary actress Betty White first found her affection for animals in remote backpacking trips with her mom and dad when she was young; Ansel Adams was a teen when he first photographed nature on a family vacation with a camera that his dad gave him. Not that new horizons must turn into legendary careers; expand your view and adventure because you can. Climb the mountain because it is there.

 

Understand time

People spend incredible amounts of time stressed about the future while staring intently in the rear-view mirror. The only time that matters is the moment you are in. Try to eliminate the “I’ll get to that later” mindset, as well as the tendency to keep looking over your shoulder about past actions, decisions and choices. You cannot walk forward straight when your head is turned to look to the past.  Use the wisdom learned through the experiences and choices of the past to provide you most courageous, joy-filled future possible. (To learn more about how to do that, check my book, LIFElines:  Empowering All Aspects of Your Life.)

 

Be active, not passive

Instead of just listening to music, Luke chose to learn to play it. A passive life robs us of much. Learn, create, immerse yourself. There is a time for observation and contemplation, but we spend too much time watching, being entertained, being mesmerized and numbed by media and other influences. Be active in life; engage your brain and creative potential; life is to be lived, not merely observed.

Wise gifts and giving

Gift giving was once sacrificial. As Christmas approaches, we are reminded of that truth.

It was no easy feat for the three wise men to journey to the stable where Jesus was born. Travel was not easy, nor was it easy to face the pressure of the king who wanted a report on the birth. They also presented items of great value to the baby. They sacrificed time, treasure and effort, and gave with respect and courage.

In O. Henry’s famous short story, The Gift of the Magi, a young couple of very limited means sacrifice to purchase meaningful gifts for each other, unbeknownst to the other. Published in 1905, before overnight shipping and free delivery and Black Friday and Cyber Monday and “no interest for 12 months” and customer loyalty discounts and credit cards, this story of gift giving speaks of love, wisdom and spirit. There was no shame in meagerness; there was humbleness in loving.

Today, the giving of gifts seems to take less true sacrifice. A few clicks, a bit more debt, and boxes appear at our doorstep. I do not think of the crazed crowds of Black Friday when I read Henry’s description of the woman character of the story searching for a gift for her husband: “She was ransacking the stores for Jim’s present. She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out.” She, Della, sacrificed more than time as she toured the stores in search of a gift, “that something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim (her husband).”  So, too, the three wise men sacrificed more than the time it took to travel to pay homage to the baby Jesus with gifts.

Henry concludes the story with, “The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.”

If you have not read Henry’s iconic story of love and irony, take a few moments to read it now. I wonder if the story is used in classrooms today, reinforcing the message of love, unselfishness and sacrifice. Sadly, I doubt it is.

With meaningful giving comes sacrifice, as was put into motion on the first Christmas. The greatest wrapping for that gift was love, as it is for the gifts of all types that we share with each other to this day.

Merry Christmas.  Much love to you and yours.

Christmas 2019

Never Too Late for Thanks or Giving

I chose to not send my Thanksgiving message to you at the time your email box was filled with Thanksgiving notes, memes and sales offers. Part of the reason was to avoid the crowd. Then I realized there was another component to the logic of the timing. In this season of “seasons” (giving, holiday, sales, caring, etc.), limited-time offers and sales deadlines, it is good to remember that it is never too late for thanks or for giving.

Thanks

  • For life and living
  • For loving and sharing
  • For friendships, acquaintanceships and random encounters with strangers
  • For sunny days, dramatic storms, snow, rain and fog; for clouds, lightning and clear skies
  • For walking, hiking, cycling, wheelchairing…getting out there
  • For companionship and solitude
  • For rivers and oceans, deserts and plains, mountains and valleys
  • For stories—lived, shared and heard
  • For opportunities, another day, another breath
  • For abilities, talents, gifts and assets
  • For your past, present and future: What/who you are, how you came to be that way, and what you can do with that

 

Giving

  • Your happiness, joy, sadness and sorrow
  • Your authentic self
  • Your creativity, voice and expression
  • Your ideas
  • Your skills, talents and gifts
  • Your time, energy and attention
  • Your humor, patience, knowledge and wisdom
  • Your love

 

There is always much to be thankful for and much to share every moment of every day.

Thank you for being you.

 

“You can’t make your life longer, but you can make it…”

Wonderful revelations and wisdom come by merely listening to what others share. In a recent session of my Memories to Memoirs™ workshop, one of the participants shared with the group one of her key philosophies. She is Chinese, married to a man who teaches at the local university. Her perspective was truly global but can be implemented at the place where you currently stand.

Wenhan said, “I know that we can’t make our life longer, but I believe we can make it wider.”  I was immediately intrigued. She continued, explaining how she believed she could expand her horizons in life by travelling, by listening and by learning. I paused the discussion to compliment the great wisdom in the simple clarity, “…we believe we can make it wider.” I don’t think she realized how brilliant and understated her wisdom was when she said it; such is how wisdom passes from one person to another.

Whether it is taking a trip to the other side of the world, or going to a nearby town with a great local history; whether it is reading one of the great works, or the story your child or grandchild wrote in school; whether it is attending a lecture on a topic about which you are not well-versed, or listening to the story of the stranger sharing tidbits while standing in the grocery checkout line … we can, and should, expand the width of our knowledge, perspectives and connections. Listen to life; there is wisdom in its stories.

My first time to ever travel outside the United States was 2010 when I had the privilege of teaching photography at University of West Bohemia in a week-long summer program in Pilsen, Czech Republic. I was able to repeat that experience the following two summers, too. The experiences and interactions with the students were incredibly eye-opening.

It comes as no surprise that so many surveys reveal that one of the most common regrets of older people is that they did not travel. But then again, there is beauty, new perspectives and much to appreciate within 20 feet of where you stand now. There is something to see differently, something to appreciate or someone to talk to. It is a beauty-full life (see my ongoing project, A Beauty-full Life 2019), and there are many ways to make your life wider by what you hear, see, taste, touch and feel.