Time to Get Vaccinated

“When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless, and intelligence cannot be applied.” ― Herophilus

My vaccination categories arrived. I got myself on several lists. On Friday night an email arrived notifying me that I could go to my local parking lot and get in line for the first step toward immunity. This was going to be one of the two dose immunizations. I thought I’d better not look a gift horse in the mouth and jumped to it.

I got up Saturday, prepared myself for a long wait with the “herd” and drove out to the giant parking lot. There were hundreds and hundreds all lined up, coming from every direction. Everyone (almost) was minding their manners, taking turns and waiting patiently as we inched and inched along around and around our special events center.

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.” ― Paulo Coelho

Hours later I got to what looked like a check-in area. I had been sent a QR code the night before to use. I needed a picture ID and this code on my phone. The poor guy with his reams of paper looked and looked. He consulted others. Asked me to drive over there. Took my phone to double check. Came back and said, “you are not on the list, you will have to leave.” Hmm.  Like a good citizen I asked where the exit was and drove away.

Then the frustration set in. I had followed all the directions. I patiently waited in line, I met the criteria, why wasn’t I on the list? I ran a few errands on the way home. Once I stopped and parked, I figured out who to contact to express my frustrations. I decided it wasn’t the governor. I filled out the online contact “form” and resigned myself to having done all I could.

“Some third person decides your fate: this is the whole essence of bureaucracy.” ― Kollontai Alexandra

These magnificent bureaucracies of ours accomplish so much. Can you imagine what it’s like to identify, notify and then actually vaccinate thousands of citizens in a city, county and state? Our modern technology has made this possible – organization and people management unimagined in all of history. We could probably get a pyramid built next week.

This wasn’t really what I was thinking as I thought more about my wasted morning and decided to pick up a couple items at the store. How come on a Saturday there are no shopping carts at Target? And why does the Target lady standing there not seem very concerned? And why is the guy retrieving carts in the parking lot on his cell phone? Maybe building a pyramid is wishful thinking.

Of course, at the store those few items I wanted to get seem out of stock too often. I can’t figure this out. There are hundreds of cans of tuna and boxes and boxes of corn flakes. Why do I want what can’t be kept on the shelves at my store?

“Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some. We are less dissatisfied when we lack many things than when we seem to lack but one thing.” ― Eric Hoffer

I felt my phone in my pocket giving off consistent vibration. Someone was calling. Well, don’t answer it in the store, was my first thought. I pulled it out and looked. It was a number from the county seat. Hmm. I walked down an empty aisle and answered. Before me were rows and rows of canned chili. What’s happened to our society that has caused us to eat chili out of a can? I listened to a woman from the county health office who was responding to my “complaint” sent less than an hour ago.

Someone from the media had posted registration information for vaccination in my county. A terrible mistake. This caused thousands of ineligible people to sign in and show up. It royally messed up the entire system. They only had 800 doses to give out! This official who called me back was very apologetic and offered to get me back in that day through the employee entrance. I told her I didn’t need it right now, no emergency. She set me up for an appointment later in the week. I told her I was very thankful for her hard work as she apologized again. It wasn’t her fault or the county health departments’ but it was great to have her helping put out the hundreds of fires that must have been set.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale

What’s making you crazy with fear or frustration these days?

I stopped thinking about all those cans of chili. I’ll check back another day and locate those items I can’t find at the store. No big deal. I’m really not that worked up about getting my vaccination. It will happen. But there in the canned goods aisle as I felt thankfulness for someone working the phones in Fort Bend County I opened up my spiritual eyes and took another look.

Another reminder. They probably happen all day long and I’m too busy or full of cares to notice. God is always saying to his children, stop that worrying. Walk through your life with an unexpected calmness. If your bus is late, talk to that stranger next to you some more. Frustration doesn’t have to be the go-to response to every roadblock in your way. If life today seems to fall apart unexpectedly, imagine something new out of the pieces.

Think of all that “we” could have gotten accomplished in that long wait in the car this morning.

“So do not worry about tomorrow. Let tomorrow worry about itself. Living faithfully is a large enough task for today.”  – Jesus (Matthew 6:34)

After the Thaw

As I began to thaw out at the end of The Big Chill of ’21, I started thinking about the fact that this was one more hurdle that seems to be keeping me from getting on with my life. There is a next chapter awaiting me. Lines I need to start writing in the story that will go on.

“Have you noticed that only in time of illness or disaster or death are people real?” ― Walker Percy, The Moviegoer

I don’t think the hurdles in my way are really all that personal. My wife passed away to heaven after a four year battle with stage 4 breast cancer. It ultimately traveled to her brain. That’s what finally stopped her. People deal with struggle and loss every single day. This happened in the Fall – in the Spring, the COVID-19 virus arrived.

At Spring Break ’20, college students across the country were sent home and learning was converted to a remote model. That took a lot of fancy footwork on the part of instructors and students, all the while trying to learn difficult subjects.  Undergraduate students struggle with online learning, period. We continue to work hard to try and figure out the best ways to make this work for everyone involved. It’s now a year later.

I spent the summer doing a lot of baby-sitting. My daughter was doing much of her work remotely from home. That’s tough with a two-year old on the loose. I was able to spend much more time with them, keeping him busy. Little did I know then how precious those days would become. They told me in July that careers were forcing a move to Dallas at the end of  that Summer.

Losing part of your support system can be a monumental obstacle that slows down the move forward. It will be done – but at a different speed.  Without people near, it’s hard to always know for certain which direction is the right one. Loved ones give us reinforcement and feedback, most of the time without even realizing it.

“Give feedforward not feedback.” ― Chris Dyer

Once this Fall of 2020 arrived, college life was following a full pandemic script. Everyone was learning their lines as best they could. It was still reasonably new territory for students, faculty and administrators alike. The delivery of instruction was still being reinvented, learning from mistakes and fixing as we plunged forward.  Helping students figure out all the pitfalls was a significant priority.

Spring arrived and we kept learning what works better and what doesn’t. The Christmas break had been spent making major adjustments to courses and getting new ones ready. And then the fifth week came and with it a brutal winter storm. We closed up shop for the whole week. Who would have thought the most advanced civilization in the history of the world couldn’t turn their heaters on when it got cold outside?

All of these twists and turns in the road have kept me busy. Notice I am using the word “busy.” I keep learning and try to help others stay ahead of the tidal waves. When I think about it all (and I’m not really doing that enough), what’s got me frustrated is not knowing how to start working on my next chapter – because there seems to be something new on fire to put out every time I turn around.

After each tumultuous event arrives and we all figure out a way to ride it out – something else seems to be arriving on the next flight. I don’t want to admit that this is my new normal.

“So it’s true, when all is said and done, grief is the price we pay for love.” ― E.A. Bucchianeri

I also wonder if I’ve spent enough time resting in a normal flow of life so that I could grieve. Then I think about the bigger picture and how people have always had to deal with death and disaster, mostly without the luxury of time to process it all. When the barbarians invade, there’s no time to see a counselor.

I Thought Growing Old Would Take Longer

Is this just impatience? Fear always scratching at my door about so many uncertainties, especially when I start doing the math and counting the number of arrows left in my quiver. I’m starting to fall apart. Will I really be able to make it into this next chapter, whatever that’s going to look like?

“And I realized that there’s a big difference between deciding to leave and knowing where to go.”  ― Robyn Schneider

To be perfectly honest, God has been carrying me along, it’s been clear to me, during all of this year (and even way back, as I reflect). It makes me think about my worries and how unfounded they really are. Maybe I need to think bigger about all of this?

I started to think about all of these obstacles to my moving forward a few weeks before the great freeze last week. As Texas thaws out from the great Valentine’s Day Ice Storm, I’m also experiencing some clearing in the weather between my ears. Right now, halfway through the writing of this post, I have changed my view and my frustration.

What if waiting for life to get back to normal isn’t realistic?

What’s normal supposed to be?

What if today is all that’s for certain?

Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise. – Psalm 90:12

Why Wait?

So, instead of focusing my attention (and frustration) on waiting for all of these obstacles to go away so I can start to figure out how I’m going to live my new normal life – the real life I should be trying to live is the one that’s right here in front of me. There is no tomorrow. There is just today. Sorry to sound like a hippie. But I can honestly report, I am missing out on too much here and now because I’m waiting for an imaginary bus to arrive.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Why I hate an empty bus stop - Chalkdust

I’m going to start turning the pages right now, instead of waiting. I’m going to invent my routines so that they lead me through the current semester. The main objective is to be as people focused as I can. The one thing I am more acutely aware of is that there is much more uncertainty, pain and struggle. I need to do what I can to help – just today, with who is in my path, as little or as much.

“In magic – and in life – there is only the present moment, the now. You can’t measure time the way you measure the distance between two points. ‘Time’ doesn’t pass. We human beings have enormous difficulty in focusing on the present; we’re always thinking about what we did, about how we could have done it better, about the consequences of our actions, and about why we didn’t act as we should have. Or else we think about the future, about what we’re going to do tomorrow, what precautions we should take, what dangers await us around the next corner, how to avoid what we don’t want and how to get what we have always dreamed of.” ― Paulo Coelho

For Too Many, It’s Always A Cold Climate

“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.” ― Alice Hoffman

As I sit here to put these thoughts together, Texas is experiencing an epic arctic blast. Down here in Houston there’s snow, sleet, and temperatures in the single digits. The entire state is experiencing rolling power outages. Here in Houston, we sort of know how to manage when a hurricane hits, but this is a completely different animal. Sheer panic and chaos.

While all this disaster is happening, I remain connected to people through internet and cell service. All across the city and state we are keeping each other up to speed on our conditions, offering a warm bed, status reports on power outages and sharing photos of current conditions. These social connections keep the fires lit in our lives and remind us that the darkness of night will always have lights to show us a path home.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” ― A. A. Milne

This makes me think about people who remain in the cold, metaphorically speaking, because they lack those essential connections to others. I recently spoke with a dear friend about a family argument that kept members from speaking for decades. People grow older and lose their family and friends. Moving away for all sorts of reasons can cause disruptions in friendship networks, people lose touch. Daily habits like TV, work at home, and computer time steal our time.

Mostly, the mindless busyness of our daily lives is what prevents most of us from doing the little acts of maintenance that are necessary to keep our people connections alive. We don’t make the time to send a note, make a call or follow up. Others in your life need the warmth of your unexpected presence.

“Time is the longest distance between two places.” ― Tennessee Williams

Last week, a friend passed away with all the suddenness of a bolt of lightening. He was so many things, but he was surely a friend to hundreds. He worked at it every single day. As we remembered, people laughed at the shared experience of having him call and sing happy birthday. He would stop and leave post-it notes on your front door to encourage. Your story was important to him, he remembered. While he was home from work sick, not knowing it was his last day on earth, he sat in bed ordering meals for homeless people.

I’d like to work harder at trying to be a friend to others, trying to warm up the coldness in someone’s life, maybe chase away the loneliness for another day.

Apparently, the meteorologists are predicting that it will be in the 70’s next week down here in Houston. Welcome to Texas weather. But I think that there are people all around who will remain in the cold because there’s no one near enough to care.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” ― Henri Nouwen

(Always difficult for males who want to fix things)

Some Words to a Friend

“People do not die for us immediately, but remain bathed in a sort of aura of life which bears no relation to true immortality but through which they continue to occupy our thoughts in the same way as when they were alive. It is as though they were traveling abroad.” ― Marcel Proust

Death has been near over the past weeks. Friends and family have experienced loss, some expected, others very sudden. A dear friend from my past recently went through the slow decline and then death of her spouse. What in the world could I say or write down to offer as comfort? Friends have lost a parent, sibling, close friends. One friend is flying halfway around the world to bury his father. Some have colleagues at work who have become gravely ill and are fearful. My own loss was in 2019, but the pandemic has made it seem like a never ending misery.

“Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak knits up the o-er wrought heart and bids it break.” ― William Shakespeare

Image result for walking together on the beach sunset

What I did was sit and make a list describing my experiences, hoping something might help or encourage. Maybe something would be useful to others I know (and don’t) who are also traveling this kind of road.

“When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time—the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers. Gradually, you accumulate the parts of her that are gone. Just when the day comes—when there’s a particular missing part that overwhelms you with the feeling that she’s gone, forever—there comes another day, and another specifically missing part.” ― John Irving

  1. There’s a hard part every day. Sometimes it’s a simple little routine, like coming out of Starbucks (her favorite haunt). Other times, like today, it’s a letter from my niece telling me about her upcoming wedding. I’m not writing about all the fond remembrances. What I mean here is a punch in the gut, a difficult swerve in the road that can take my breath away. Hard parts are not to be avoided. They are an important piece of the journey. It is what it is.
  2. This isn’t something that one day you will “get over” or “put behind you” – despite all of the best sentiments of your loved ones and even casual acquaintances. I think living with loss is a permanent part of life.
  3. Memory is a living, breathing presence.
  4. For others, even family, a segment of their life has gone, someone who filled an important part. But the rest of their lives goes on, day by day. For you, your ENTIRE life has now been scattered to the four winds and what’s left will need to be reordered, from the ground up. The rest of your circle does not share the same experience.
  5. Some parts of life and living will need to be changed as you walk into your next chapter. But other parts should remain as healthy anchors to what mean so much (see #3)
  6. There are probably other people that will need some of your attention and love – because of their own loss and grief. You are the closest person they have who remains.
  7. Re-establishing a new routine is vital. It’s little things that will matter. The current circumstances are making this nearly impossible.
  8. I had to gently tell people to stop asking me if there was anything I needed. Instead I said, if you feel like there’s something you should do, it’s probably God’s Spirit nudging you to action. Don’t let me get in the way!
  9. Spending so much time alone has turned me into a real chatterbox when I’m with others. At times I stand beside myself and look over and don’t even recognize who I’ve become. It tells me how much I need social interaction – this pandemic is unhealthy for all of us – even without catching COVID.
  10. Eating meals alone has become a problem:
    • I’ve stopped cooking
    • There are too many leftovers when I do
    • I am too often poisoning myself with past its due date food
    • Then there’s always the danger of developing scurvy
    • I’m eating pre-made salads with kale now, yuck!
  11. I’m having to learn how to play two roles at once. Activities I could ignore and take for granted because she was managing all of that (keeping up with details about family members for example) now need my full attention. Things now happen – or don’t because I’m not asking questions or expressing wishes. I’ve got to be more aware as I’m 100% of this now non-existent couple.
  12. Because of the social isolation caused by the pandemic, I’m having a hard time figuring out the cause of the drift I experience in my life. Will it pass once the global virus is gone? Or is this my new norm that I need to become more hands-on about?
  13. I have experienced WONDERFUL connections to family and friends who hang on to me and keep my head above the waters – gifts from God every single day.

“Don’t go through life; grow through life.” ― Eric Butterworth

It’s All Routine

The Seed Sower – Jeremy Sams Art

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

― Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)

Four days before the Spring semester was to start – the university announced, to be safe, that we would do classes completely remote for the first two weeks. Well, that sent me into a scramble, launching a new plan. What it also did was delay the normal routine of life that keeps me sane and safe, something I take for granted but that’s essential for living a life that’s moving in the right direction. That’s what I want to do, keep moving toward future chapters.

“It’s amazing how a little tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.” ― John Guare

As I think about it, routines in my life do three things:

They keep me moving in the right direction. This past year has been a mess for me. A series of starts and stops. It’s not just the dramatic changes in my work and social routines – but my basic life rhythms are off balance as I adjust to living alone. They don’t give names to tidal waves do they?

UPHILL BATTLE | LOVE YOUR SPOUSE


I need to be thinking about where I want to go and the steps necessary to get there and so order my days in that direction. I teach college students to think about their learning like a 9-5 job (that metaphor is quickly going out the door!). Work on class assignments, reading, projects, etc. each and every day. Take specific steps as you plan your day that are carrying you toward your goal. Let’s see if anyone is listening.

While I’m sitting at home, on the couch – not going to my office, interacting with students one-on-one via messages, I try to keep a daily routine running. I write a list of tasks that need to be accomplished each day/week. Big and little, each must be done. There are also routines related to larger ongoing projects that I nibble on most days, like building an online course, painting a picture or writing those books.

These routines hold my focus on what’s important. It’s been too easy to lose whole days (even a week here and there) during solitary confinement. I always thought getting old would take longer (I stole that line). Time really is moving faster. I don’t want to lose days that had something essential in them that needed to be done.

It’s easy to wander off the trail and get confused about what I’m supposed to be doing. This prolonged time of separation and isolation can make anyone wonder about larger purposes. It seems as if there’s so much more time to fill. When I’m asking myself big questions related to mission and purpose, keeping the daily routine helps me to trudge on. You wouldn’t believe how much out loud talking to myself I’m doing!

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” ― Paulo Coelho

Doing work, reaching out to students, devotional/reflection, contacting friends and family, putting ideas on paper – all of these practices have been important and are still. It doesn’t matter how I feel or what the plans are for next week. Shaping each day around these sign posts help to show me what’s important. One day after another.

Routines can replace inspiration. I’m too often looking for burning bushes. Most of life is buttering the toast and putting the washing into the dryer. God’s presence in my daily life is very evident, but that doesn’t mean I don’t often feel trapped in the backwaters of sitting here.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

Let’s be honest, these days motivation and encouragement can be hard to find. Isolation is one cause, fewer social interactions can be another. Inspiration is something that’s often taken for granted. When it’s run dry, we notice, usually too late. I don’t always feel like it, but getting up at the same time, working on my list, getting online and running all the errands – most of the time the inner drive is very half-hearted, but routines keep the ship (me) afloat for another day.

When you put into action each day what you believe and know to be true – it becomes a lived out kind of inspiration. Waiting to be inspired is a death sentence. The trick is to keep walking in the spirit of what’s buried deep within you.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” ― J.M. Barrie

Brick Projects | DoItYourself.com

What’s in Your Rear Seat?

Car manufacturers begin implementing back seat reminder technology

“A number of years ago I had some experience with being alone. For two succeeding years I was alone each winter for eight months at a stretch in the Sierra Nevada mountains on Lake Tahoe. I was the caretaker on a summer estate during the winter months when it was snowed in. And I made some observations then. As time went on I found that my reactions thickened. Ordinarily I am a whistler. I stopped whistling. I stopped conversing with my dogs, and I believe that the subtleties of feeling began to disappear until finally I was on a pleasure-pain basis. Then it occurred to me that the delicate shades of feeling, of reaction, are the result of communication, and without such communication they tend to disappear. A man with nothing to say has no words. Can its reverse be true- a man who has no one to say anything to has no words as he has no need for words? … Only through imitation do we develop toward originality.” ― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

I’ve got one of those rear seat reminders in my vehicle. Each time the back door is opened it triggers a warning when I stop the vehicle to check the back seat. For me, it’s usually stuff from the grocery store or my school case. I don’t have any quiet children in my life who might be forgotten in the backseat. But this safety precaution is a great idea!

This has got me thinking about other reminders in my life – or lack of reminders. I used to have someone living with me who would remind me how to drive. Have you got one of those? You don’t know how important this feature is until it’s gone. One of my favorite comedians said the other day that when the music was too loud in her car (kids playing it in the back) she couldn’t see well. Maybe I need to turn the music down.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ― George Bernard Shaw

My daily routine has been sent spiraling out of control – like it has for many people. It was filled with dozens of subtle reminders about how to order my steps. Seeing people on a regular basis never fails to remind me about how important they are in my life – even people I don’t really know. It helps me to realize, again and again, that I’m not the center of the universe. Keeps the pity party clown away from the front door.

Reminders help me to do the right thing. When I keep a list of names going, it helps me to stay on track and to prioritize my thinking. Being around other people, even if it’s a phone call or text, nudges me to think about the cares and worries that my friends and family are shouldering. Maybe there’s something I can do to help? Even a kind word might be just right. I’ve started keeping visual lists (post-it notes) around me so that I can remember the people that need care and prayer.

There is so much of life and living that is out of order right now. Taken-for-granted reminders can seem lost in the fog. So many routines are gone, new or changing:

  1. Going to work or staying home?
  2. Wearing pants or not?
  3. Familiar people missing from your life?
  4. Church services on or off?
  5. Not much in the way of casual entertainment – dining out, movies, events?
  6. Live sporting events are just weird now, right?

That rear seat reminder got me thinking about all of the ways I am having to be more intentional with my social connections – speak to each person in your day; the grocery sacker, the girl in the fast food window, the neighbor passing across the street, wave a lot more to strangers, anyone who delivers to your door.

If you could have a warning light go off to remind you to think about or do the most important things in your life these days, what would the indicator read?

Take a minute and make a list of your life right now. Chart your progress. Pinpoint where you are on the map. What’s getting done and what’s not? Who are you becoming each day? Who are you supposed to be everyday? Who do the people in your life need you to be? I hope this time of isolation will one day be known (among other accomplishments and bitter failures) as a golden age of reflection.

  1. Be sure to listen to what your spouse is saying (and not saying).
  2. Go back and look at your pre-COVID goals, the big ones. What can you adjust and tackle?
  3. Spend extra time with your children (after asking them to put down their phones) in their rooms, doing what they want to do. You might have to get on the floor.
  4. Establish new routines while working from home. A time to yourself, writing and reflecting before you jump into your day. Can you walk “around the block” and get a cup of coffee? Schedule regular times to get out of your cave. Meals around the table instead of the TV?
  5. Weather permitting, go sit in the backyard and watch that evening screen up in the sky while talking to the real people in your life.
  6. Doesn’t sound like much fun, but I’m cleaning out cabinets and closets, Feels better once it’s done. Who really needs a 6-year old can Raid? There may be some spiritual cubby holes that need dusting as well!

As Steinbeck noticed in the quote at the start, human beings need to be around other human beings on a regular basis – to remind us how to keep being human. We learn how to be human from our parents, teachers and friends. We keep learning from others how to stay human the rest of our lives.

“Isolation has carved me in its image and likeness.” ― Fernando Pessoa

Remember when God created the world, each time he made something, he declared each was good. When he made man, he said, “It’s not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).

209 Tie A Ribbon Around Your Finger Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free  Images - iStock

Look for reminders in your life to stay connected and help others to keep connected. Post some in any way that you can. Otherwise we may all lose something that keeps us human, keeps us civilized.

Entering 2021 as a Three-Year-Old

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Over the recent holiday season I have been blessed to be able to spend time with my soon to be three-year-old grandson. As I reflect on the experiences it becomes clear to me that he has taught me some valuable lessons that I should take into this next year.

  1. When he gets up in the morning, sometimes as early as 5:30am, he is raring to go. He has a smile on his face, is eager to jump into action and starts his constant conversation that will take him and everyone else through the day and into the evening. He has always gotten a good night’s sleep. This prepares him for a good day ahead. A happier day ahead. He starts his day on the right foot. Mind over matter. He doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s developing a wonderful habit. I can’t tell you how he changes my whole outlook, now that he can get out of his own bed, comes around the corner with that giant happy face and yells, “I’m awake!”
    Maybe I should be more intentional about the way I start each day?

    “Children see magic because they look for it.” ― Christopher Moore
  2. Of course, being at my house is a somewhat new adventure. He is getting used to things and routines. But he remains a constant engine of curious energy. Questions are flying out right and left. He is reaching and touching and grabbing and opening and searching. He is living in each moment. He is learning and questioning. Each experience is a growth opportunity. He cherishes routines and at the same time is always eager for something new; to see, to eat, to drink, to read, to feel, to play.
    Maybe I should live in the moment, one day at a time, refusing to miss what’s right in front of me?
Two children talking to each other by Lindsay Crandall - Child, Talking -  Stocksy United
  1. My neighbor came to the door late Christmas Day to bring over some green enchiladas she had made for her family. Who can celebrate without some Tex-Mex? Her two little grandsons came with her. I’m passing out packages of my “crummy Christmas cookies” to everyone that comes to the door. I gave each little boy a bag and as they were heading to the curb, my grandson came tearing out of the house with his brown bear house shoes on. He ran right up to both boys, who almost made it to the street, and started talking (I think, I can’t figure out what he’s saying two-thirds of the time). He had escaped the land of everyone is bigger than he is and found some kindred souls. Everyone is a potential new friend. Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone needs a friend eventually.
    There are people everywhere I go who need a kind word and to know I’m interested in how their life is going these days.

As adults we are responsible to socialize our offspring into adult roles – to make them successful members of the world. There are so many traits, skills and values that they must internalize. Mostly this happens by being around their parents and watching, imitating and practicing.

I am struck at the end of this year by two great realizations. Number one, after having taught three classes in one semester about American families, the grim facts have never been more stark. Most children in our country grow up in broken homes and most without their biological father. This sets most of our children at a disadvantage more emotionally and socially disastrous than any economic or educational deprivation could ever bring about in their current or future lives. Number two, there are deep lessons about how to live life being played out right in front of me if I will just watch the innocent and eager leaps of my own grandson.

All the talk today is about how to jettison 2020 and find new hope around the bend. I think hope-filled ideas for how to face tomorrow might have been right here with us the whole time. Even while we were all locked up.

Hawaii State Public Library SystemGO! READ with Ohana100 Volunteers

Try to be around kids as often as you can in 2021.

“The soul is healed by being with children.” ― Fyodor Dostoevsky

Buried Treasure

This is a time of year that’s full of memories. As I get older, they become more important. Hanging on seems critical. Memories are like handles to help open all of the drawers and cupboards to find what I need. What I need to make it. Everyone needs to find something to help them make it through days that can be hard, lonely or full of worry.

“Poverty is apt to strike suddenly like influenza, it is well to have a few memories of extravagance in store for bad times.” ― Graham Greene

Memory is like a buried treasure.

Christmas was like magic when I was a child, mostly because of my grandparents. They did a thankless job helping to raise me. Theirs was a homemade world. Christmas was very much a season of lights, smells and anticipation. My grandfather erected in his front yard a wooden, cut-out, life-size Santa in his sleigh – like a billboard – with all the colors of children’s fantasies. It was lit up with spotlights each night. We couldn’t wait to see it and knew that the days were counting down until the presents could be opened.

How Did the Tradition of Christmas Trees Start? | Britannica

There were hand-made decorations everywhere – even the potty seat had a peek-a-boo Santa! There was an artificial Christmas tree eventually. I remember making fun of it, asking what animal had been sleeping on it during the year. It seemed to be flattened out on one side. At home we had a fancy silver tree with gold decorations. It sat in the front window with a rotating multicolored light shining on it. Children weren’t allowed in the living room much. This was the 70’s. Dark wood, gold and avocado green reigned supreme.

Cookies, queso, tamales and a twenty pound block of cheddar cheese were always a part of the Christmas Eve festivities. I think a business client must have given the cheese each year. It became an annual race, to consume it before the mold started to grow. When we gathered to eat or “appetize” before the Christmas presents, it was always a race. I don’t remember what anyone else received. I don’t really remember giving much. It wasn’t until much later in life, as an adult, that I started playing the game from both sides. It became so much bigger and better when I did.

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” ― Erma Bombeck

When I remember the events and experiences from my childhood, the ghosts of Christmas past, I realize that these were built by real people who worked to keep traditions and practices up and running. My memories were productions – the meals, the staging of decorations, rituals associated with gifts, and all the other actors deeply involved (even the uncle asleep in the chair).

I regret not doing a better job as a young adult on the work of building memories with and for others. It was always too much trouble. I wasn’t mature and couldn’t see the value of extra time, more effort and paying attention to all the time that was being invested. Right now, I’m living off that treasure. I only wish I had been awake long ago to gather more coins in my war chest.

Large Pirate Treasure Chest

What sort of treasures are you burying right now in the lives of those around you? You too will reap a reward in days to come. No matter how much trouble it takes – especially these days – it’s always going to be worth it. Someone will one day need those precious memories that right now seem so common and trivial. I’ve been spending days and days around here setting up Christmas. No one will see it but me – save for two days when family visits. But I now know it’s worth all the trouble. I’m rehearsing memories from my own recent past and arranging others for the future. It’s worth all the extra time and trouble (even though my tree and cookies just don’t really meet the standard).

“As with marathon runs and lengths of toilet paper, there had to be standards to measure up to.” ― Haruki Murakami

I put a small white Christmas tree on the front table today. It can be seen from the window as the lights come on at dusk. The tree has been a part of our Christmas memory since 2016. It’s a recent addition. My wife decided one year that she wanted to have a big white Christmas tree. I think she had a tree in every room of the house. Christmas was her season. The year we got the big white tree, she had brain surgery during the semester break. Recovery in the hospital took longer than planned and she missed Christmas and her tree that year. Her best friend, wanting to make a memory, sent her that small tree we now have in the front window. It lit up her room in the ICU that year and now, each Christmas, helps us to remember so much more.

Is it Too Late to Say Thank You?

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” ― William Blake

Thank you for sharing your dinner.
Thank you for the phone calls, even the one’s I didn’t return.
Thank you for coming over to visit.
Thank you for sharing nachos even when I know you wanted something else.
Thank you for not saying a word when you knew I needed to stew some more.
Thank you for being nice even when I wasn’t very nice to be with.
Thank you for making my sister feel good about her decision.
Thank you for loving the people that I love so much.
Thank you for buying my lunch that day.
Thank you for sending me that song.
Thank you for picking up my mess and never saying a word to scold me.
Thank you for laughing along with my stupid stories you’ve heard too many times before.
Thank you for having the guts to tell me the truth.
Thank you for praying for me, again and again.
Thank you for hanging out with my friends even when it’s not a very fun evening.
Thank you for putting up with my family.
Thank you for keeping secrets.
Thank you for going with me to all those rock concerts (that weren’t that much fun for you).
Thank you for telling me the truth about that shirt.
Thank you for not telling my mother the truth about that dress.
Thank you for spending extra time with the kids so I could have a break, even when you deserved one too.
Thank you for sharing your weakness with me.
Thank you for letting me apologize, too many times.
Thank you for not making be feel guilty.
Thank you for sitting with me and not saying a word.
Thank you for sitting with me in the hospital.
Thank you for waiting until we’re alone to let me know…
Thank you for remembering to contact me – just when I needed it.
Thank you for that note and not an email or text.
Thank you for being persistent – and for knowing when to back off.
Thank you for cleaning up another one of my messes – again.
Thank you for sitting and listening with such patience while I talked too much.
Thank you for helping me figure out my phone.
Thank you for letting me remember what really matters.
Thank you for helping me when I didn’t even know I needed help.
Thank you for being such a good example for me and my family.
Thank you for asking for forgiveness.
Thank you for that gift, it means so much to me.
Thank you for not having to be asked.
Thank you for giving me a ride that day and telling me your story.
Thank you for holding my hand.
Thank you for bringing those meals over when I didn’t realize how much I needed.
Thank you for being a good example.
Thank you for telling me how important I am, even when we both know you’re really just being nice.
Thank you for helping me solve that problem, and making me think I did it on my own.
Thank you for listening to me when I don’t really know how to say it.
Thank you for making me feel more important than is true.
Thank you for going to a lot of trouble to help others I care about.
Thank you for sitting next to me when it seemed like others didn’t want to.
Thank you for those lemons.
Thank you for making sacrifices for the benefit of others.
Thank you for sharing a wonderful adventure I never would have done on my own.
Thank you for waiting patiently for me.
Thank you for walking across the hot parking lot to just say hello.
Thank you for remembering me.
Thank you for helping to tie my shoe.
Thank you for that book, it meant so much.
Thank you for reminding me what really matters.

“St. Augustine said, “The very pleasures of human life men acquire by difficulties.” There are times when the entire arrangement of our existence is disrupted and we long then for just one ordinary day – seeing our ordinary life as greatly desirable, even wonderful, in the light of the terrible disruption that has taken place. Difficulty opens our eyes to pleasures we had taken for granted.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

Crumbs on the Counter

I think the crumbs that keep appearing on my countertops are trying to teach me something…

One of my wife’s last big projects was to redo the kitchen and bathroom. This entailed black granite countertops. I think she got taken to the cleaners on these but that’s a different post. She got an updated look and that’s what she wanted. I’ve now got countertops that can’t be cleaned. Who invented this kind of product? Someone text me his number!

Keep Your Kitchen Countertops Sparkling with These Tips | Foodal

These days, a major part of my life is spent wiping up the crumbs that have collected on these jet black surfaces. My son has had tremendous success on one of those carnivore diets. I seem to have accidentally fallen into a Bulgarian grain only diet – most of it ending up on my counter tops. I was never told that when you start living by yourself – there’s no one else who’s going to pick that up. Secretly, I believe that someone else is sneaking in here behind my back leaving all this clutter scattered about. My haunted ice maker sure makes enough noise to convince me that I’m not really alone.

“Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps you know the silence when you haven’t the answer to a question you’ve been asked, or the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully.” ― Norton Juster

Sometimes the crumbs are what I need to sweep up, get done with and banish. Other times, I notice, there is a permanent residue about me. Things leftover that don’t go back in the refrigerator. For some reason, my wife and I filled our house with all sorts of clutter. This practice of ours never actually dawned on me until I began paying more attention to the homes of others, that I thought were more similar to Zen monasteries. But all this stuff does have it’s meaning. There are extended family memories and our own 35 years of marriage scattered all around.

I’m looking at all these wonderful photos of my grandson as he gets older and his personality develops. What a character, and I’m not biased at all. I look over almost simultaneously and see a photo of his grandmother holding him and I wish so much, so hard that it hurts.

“He was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

Most of my days I spend surrounded by people who are too young to know…I remember how long I spent being too young to know much.

Bread-toast-crumbs-kitchen-counter-countertop - Finding True Magic

What do the crumbs on your counter look like during this pandemic, this political civil war, this economic white water raft trip heading who knows where? People I know are still getting sick, getting engaged, having babies, fighting cancer, working even harder to get along, dying, trying to make another day count. The turmoil of life goes on even in the eye of a storm.

How many hurricanes til Christmas?

Lately I think about my grandmother who never had a dirty dish in her sink, ever. I would stay with her and before an article of clothing would hit the floor (lazy teenager) it would be in the washing machine. She never allowed any crumbs in her life or anyone else’s who was visiting. I’m still being inspired by her work ethic.

These days I notice I’m having some trouble getting busy with the crumbs that must be swept up around here. That work ethic needs a recharge! I’ll get the energy and then do a big wipe down all at once. A deadline at work will loom and come near like a big ship in the dark sea. Then I jump up and get it done. I think being accountable helps with keeping the counters in life swept up. Deadlines and the rare visitor can also get fires lit when necessary.

Sometimes there are just seasons of life when the rhythm section has taken a break.

For years now, someone comes to the house every other week to keep it clean. That always helps with knowing what the standard ought to be. It keeps the downfall of civilization at bay. Not having anyone else here to contribute to the crumbs, like animals or small children helps as well. But that comes with another cost. Messy counters can be lived with when there’s a little boy and his dog in the next room.

If you keep the lights off, it helps to perpetuate the feeling that there’s not really much of a mess at all. Living in a dim world has it’s benefits. My mother-in-law always liked to disturb the ambiance and turn on all the lights. Good for her. It’s easier to keep the crumbs picked up that way. It’s easier to keep from tripping over something in a strange house. It’s easier to see everyone. It’s easier to see that the cleaning lady has left that figure on the shelf turned around the wrong way. Who needs ambiance? I’m starting to leave some of the lights on around here. Those crumbs are still waiting.

There are still many lessons to be learned at this age and stage. One is that the crumbs are going to stay on the counter until I wipe them up. There’s still a lot of debris in my life. When I pay attention (turn on the light), I notice people, projects and adjustments that need some care. Maybe having black granite countertops isn’t such a bad thing after all?

“I don’t want to be a genius-I have enough problems just trying to be a man.” ― Albert Camus