A Chicago Christmas

Although I only spent 5 years in the city of my birth…I remember it well!  There was a snow on the ground and more in the air, as mom announced that she had retrieved Laughing Santa…and that I must come to see him!

Before me was the little, stuffed, Chief Elf…with his brightly painted face and the crank on his back.  The more that mom turned the crank…the more heartily Old St. Nick laughed.  I watched his antics and reveled in his laughter and wondered how he was able to be so human and yet…seemed not to be so?

There were many, uniquely wrapped, gifts under the 8 foot aluminum Christmas Tree.   Pointing at the shiny artificial  Tannenbaum was a rotating light with a cover of multi-colors that diffused the spectrum of color of the subsequent glow of the beam.

We had returned from our excursion into the city where we saw the new release of Walt Disney’s movie, Lady and the Tramp.  And, the information overload for me, at 3 years old, was tremendous…and ‘visions of sugarplums danced in my head!’

Soon dad and me and mom sat under the Tree as a, mysterious visitor, took our photo…’and that is the rest of the story.’

It was after dark and our outside Christmas lights were lit…and we heard a terrible commotion on the roof of our house in Sauk Village.  It sounded like someone had been on the roof and fell off.  As dad answered the door, I heard him proclaim…’Why come right in!’  There before us…was Santa Claus in all of his red suited, and white bearded, and pipe smoking glory!

Santa laughed, a lesser laugh, than what I had expected…and he wondered if he could use our phone to call Mrs. Claus?  He went on to say that he and the Missus had been involved in a spat when he left and he needed to ensure that there was a home for him to return to…when the Christmas Eve work was completed.  Dad showed him our one phone in the hall…and he began to dial.  We gave him his privacy…he looked like that he needed it.  We heard him say, ‘but…but…but,’ on several occasions, and then he joined us in the living room.  Santa said that he had patched things up and inquired was there anything that he could do for us…before he resumed his journey.  Mom responded that she would like for him to snap a family photo of us under the Christmas Tree.  Santa took her camera and took two pictures…in case the first one did not come out right.

Dad poured the, ‘spritely old elf,’ some eggnog and asked if he wanted something stronger in it…and he smiled with the rosiest of cheeks and said, ‘absolutely!’

As Santa left, on our carport were the reindeer and a bright red glow…from Rudolph’s nose.  Donner and Vixen called out to Santa and asked, ‘where’s ours?’ referring to the spiked eggnog.

So, that is how the Brooks Family Photo…was taken.

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‘Waiting For Godot’

‘Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett.’    Wikipedia

”The play is a typical example of the Theatre of the Absurd, and people use the phrase ‘waiting for Godot’ to describe a situation where they are waiting for something to happen, but it probably never will…’    Wikipedia

So, I often say that I am, ‘waiting for Godot!’

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Aren’t we all waiting for many things in our lives…that have not exhibited themselves ever…or at least not on a semi-regular basis We wait for Godot when we seek justice and fair treatment for all peoples…not just the majority or those who are favored by the political class.  We wait patiently for our elected leaders to care more about their constituents than their own interests.  What a treat it would be to witness a concerted focus to address global warming!

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We live in a country that, by all available measurable criteria, live in multiple realities.  There was a famous book, many years ago, that was entitled, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus.  This book demonstrated the difficulty in men and women communicating with each other and understanding and empathizing with each others point of view.  Today points of view are dictated by the television news network that you receive your news from.

When I was a teenager, men simply understood that they were going to be drafted and be sent to Vietnam.  My cousin, Billy, was drafted.  The only reason that I was not drafted was due to President Carter abolishing the draft before I became of age to go!

We all watched Walter Cronkite on CBS or Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and we basically received the same news.

We wept when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm, central standard time.  Somehow, we understood that we would never be the same…and we have not!

We are told by our parents and our elders to work hard and ‘pay-our-dues’ and seek to excel in our careers!  We are assured that if we will apply ourselves…we will climb the ladder of success…and we will be another example of the American Dream!  We are told that anyone can be President of the United States and anyone can be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company…the Horatio Alger story of rags to riches…is ours for the taking….

But, what if the person who is doing the hiring…does not play by the rules?  What if it is not…what you know…but who you know….?

Institutions agonize regarding their low morale.  They engage is studies….and consultants….and large committees…too investigate and conduct in depth research into the quandary of ebbing excitement about the work-place!

The answer is simple….we all wait….much as our Jewish friends wait for the Messiah…or justice and equity and fairness…and recognition of consistent hard work and a passion for the job….and someone who has placed their heart and soul into their career….being recognized for their efforts…rather than being passed over for a friend of the boss!

We are still, ‘Waiting for Godot!’

 

 

An Aficionado of Life

Another great Jonathon Brooks blog!

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What are you passionate about? What are your loves and hobbies? What in the world gets you out of bed in the morning and gives pleasant dreams at night? I’ve found that everyone falls in love. We fall in love with our hobbies or our interests or our chosen careers. Or we fall in love with negativity or alcoholism or a pessimistic attitude. I aim to be passionate about the best that life has to offer.

A secret to enjoying life thoroughly is to live in the moment without regret for yesterday or apprehension for tomorrow. Did I do the best I could with today? Did I treat others with kindness and respect? Did I have the same respect and kindness for myself? In every moment was I the best I could be?

I fell in love with book reading at the age of around 19; I’ve been flipping the…

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Mask — The Jazz Man

We have had several cool days in August in Little Egypt. I am inspired! MJ has been ordering us face masks from a shop named, Art Travel Love, and I now am the proud owner of two Starry Night masks and two, The Scream of Nature, by Edvard Munch. Much has been made about our […]

via Mask — The Jazz Man

I Hope I Don’t Forget My Lines

An inspirational blog from Jonathon Brooks!

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Enthusiasm is contagious! All of humanity is capable of doing tremendous good or deadly harm. A smile from one often leads to a smile from the smiled upon. A mean spirited word can lead to retaliation. If we build others up, instead of tearing them down, then we feel good inside about ourselves as well as them. Although if you look for the ugly in this world and in other people, and in yourself, you’ll assuredly find it. I’ve spent the last 18 years trying to be a better man than I was yesterday.

Faultfinding is an incredible waste of time. We are so often prone to looking down on others in a foolish attempt to make ourselves feel good, or better, about our faults. Pride can take a one way ticket away from my soul. An attitude of humility is why I’ve made it this far. If we judge…

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A Quiet Life

We are enjoying another day of fall like temperatures.  Cooler weather and the promise of fall bring out the best in me!  I am of the Baby Boomer generation.  We were all told that we could be the president of the United States…and we have witnessed that promise fulfilled.  We B. Boomers set out early in life to seek our fortune and fill our days with something to occupy our time…24/7.  Do you recall when there was a push by educators to enroll their children into nursery school and then Pre-K…and then Kindergarten.  We were admonished that if we did not seek to enrich our kids almost from the womb…that they would be woefully behind.  I not only worked a full-time position….But regularly worked 20 or more additional hours per week…for free…  While I was working all those hours I was taking university classes as well.  The hectic manic pursuit of being busy…leaves you exhausted and out of touch with you family…and yourself!  

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Have you ever taken a holiday and subsequently packed so many activities into the two weeks that you are not only not refreshed but left wondering was it really worth it?  We spent a month in Europe in 2014.  For the first two weeks we stayed strong.  The third week…we were tired…and the fourth week…we were struggling to climb all of the steps in Florence, Italy.  Holidays are like fine red wine…they are meant to be sipped slowly and savored…  

The older I become the more I understand the intricacies of the quiet life.  Certainly 2020 has afforded ample opportunity for a walk on the quiet side.  We humans need down time.  We require long periods of reflection and meditation on the beauty of just being here…  We are consumed with social media and 24/7 satellite or cable news.  When you expose yourself to news that makes you anxious and depressed…on a daily basis…you are missing the forest for the trees.  Media can warp your opinions on many issues if you do not take a healthy break from it.  Often we are exposed to politicians and pundits who are performing for what they perceive as their voters.  You are not witnessing the real person…but the cardboard cut-out theatre version.  Our views and passions are set by actors and jokers.  and court jesters…and clowns… that you would not want to have a cup of coffee with…

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We enjoy pastoral paintings.  Many of us enjoy being renewed by nature.  A happy life does not have to be a life filled with busy work and stress and sour stomach!  As I sit on the writing porch enjoying the cool breeze and the peaceful setting…I am grateful for the quiet life.

The Struggle — The Jazz Man

I was in Morris Library today and was once again inspired by the large brass bust of our former president, Abraham Lincoln, with his Saluki face mask adoring his countenance. I was heartened to see all of the Grounds workers manicuring our lovely campus and preparing it for the beginning of the fall semester. Indeed this is the beginning […]

via The Struggle — The Jazz Man

Pumpkin Spice Thoughts

I am on the writing porch enjoying a new experience…writing after dark.  The temperature today has  been ‘to die for,’ as my buddy Ron often says!  Ron and Ira Kaye visited us yesterday and we had a wonderful time visiting Von Jakob Winery with our masks affixed and not only socially distanced but one of the few groups on their large patio with the majestic view.  

IMG_8698 2Before our friends arrived MJ asked me what table runner she should put on our dining room table, and I chose one with fall colors.  You see, fall begins for me on August 1st!  You may retort that I am a month and 3 weeks early…and I would not disagree.  But then again…I love fall and anything that I love I stretch out for as long as is humanly allowed!  

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Today it was time for Wal-Mart once again.  MJ and I were pleasantly surprised that we saw no one who did not have a face mask on!  When we rolled into the coffee aisle…there was Pumpkin Spice coffee…and now I know that there is someone who agrees with me on the beginning of fall.  

IMG_6215 2I enjoy the popular holiday song from the Broadway musical Mame entitled, ‘We Need a Little Christmas.’  ‘The song is performed after Mame has lost her fortune during the Wall Street crash of 1929.’   I think that we need a little fall now with all of its rich colors and cool climate and the hope of halloween fun and Thanksgiving fellowship…and Christmas delights!

Nothing is forever.  When I was a child I recall waiting for Christmas to arrive…and a year seemed like 10!  When I began my career at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I was disillusioned when I was passed over for the position of foreman…twice.  I thought that I would never advance in the organization…I was 28 years old…  

I wonder if we do not make  many decisions in the heat of the moment and at the height of our emotions… at the time?  Having almost arrived at the ripe old age of 63…I have experienced disappointments and reversals and felt that I must take my stand and have my say and ‘Damn the Torpedos’…unleash the lifeboats…and as that great sage of my favorite Christmas movie, Christmas Vacation,  hath said, ‘We are going to have the merriest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny F…… Kaye!’  There is nothing wrong with a quiet life.  What seemed earth shattering at one stage of my life…is nothing but a memory now.  I have never been sorry for remaining silent and listening and reflecting…but I have regretted on many occasions…speaking…

IMG_4180Ron and Ira Kaye and MJ and Aaron and Jonathon and I reminisced about past adventures on Friday.  The temperatures were comfortable, as fall should be, and we planned future sojourns.  Our current distress will end…a vaccine will be found…and we will be wiser…and perhaps a little more quiet…as we contemplate the richness of life…and the goodness of God…

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Bipolar Happens

Please enjoy a wonderful blog by Jonathon Brooks!

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Originality isn’t easily attained. It’s easier to follow the crowd than to think for one’s self and sing a unique song. In the story of my life I have followed the crowd and I’ve followed Christ. Following Jesus led me out of my misery and saved me in a way that none of my peers or seniors ever could’ve done. I fought like heaven to become one-of-a-kind.

I’ve heard before that every case of bipolar disorder is different. I’ve heard that no two cases are ever alike. I have bipolar; it does not have me. With confidence I know that I was born with this devastating mental illness. I rejoice in my savior and in who I’ve fought to become.

Whatever unfairness or sorrow that comes our way we always have a choice to make. We can wallow in despair or we can sing praise songs. We can stay in…

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‘Man of Steel and Velvet’

Unknown-32‘Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe, ‘Lewis wrote.  ‘In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the most excellent way.  Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.’    Rep Lewis wrote this shortly before his death and requested that it be posted by the New York Times after his death.

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‘Lewis was one of the ‘Big Six’ leaders of groups who organized the 1963 March on Washington and he fulfilled many key roles in the civil rights movement and its actions to end legalized racial segregation in the United States.  In 1965, Lewis led the first of three Selma to Montgomery marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.  In an incident which became known as Bloody Sunday State troopers and police then attacked the marchers, including Lewis.’    Wikipedia

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‘In an interview with CNN during the 40th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, Lewis recounted what he and the original Freedom Riders endured.  In Birmingham, the riders were beaten with baseball bats, chains, lead pipes, and stones.  They were arrested by police who led them across the border into Tennessee and let them go. They reorganized and rode to Montgomery where they were met with more violence, and Lewis was hit in the head with a wooden crate.  ‘It was very violent.  I thought I was going to die.  I was left lying at the Greyhound bus station in Montgomery unconscious,’ said Lewis remembering the incident.’    Wikipedia

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‘Representative Lewis was admired throughout Congress and the United States and the world!  There was a book written many years ago entitled, Man of Steel and Velvet, and Mr. Lewis exemplified that title.  ‘The poet Carl Sandburg wrote, ‘Not often in the story of mankind does a man arrive on earth who is both steel and velvet, who is as hard as a rock and soft as drifting fog, who holds in his heart and mind the paradox of terrible storm and peace unspeakable and perfect.’  

We live in a time of racial strife that I have not witnessed…and I grew up in the 1960s   Never has there been a more herculean need for many to take up the cause of racial understanding the equal treatment of all races in our beloved country.  

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Let us do a thought experiment.  If you are white…imagine that you are a black man or woman or boy or girl.  Consider that you began your life’s journey loving white people.  You wanted to be like the white movie and television actors that you saw on  the screen, whereas if you grew up in my time that was about all that you saw on the large or small screen.  When you began to attend school…members of the dominate race in America began to call you the ‘N’ Word…  You soon received the ‘Talk’ from your parents on the restrictive personal performance you must adhere to if a police officer pulls you over.  Your parents had fear in their eyes as they were telling you how you must behave…  When you apply for a job…you understand the qualifications for the position and you know that you far exceed the written guidelines…but you do to get the job…one of the bosses white friends receives it…who has little to no qualifications…  You seek to rent an apartment and the landlord tells you that there are no vacancies…while an hour after you have left a white person is welcomed with open arms…because there a lot of vacancies!

In Michigan the Statehouse was filled with white men wearing Nazi swastikas and carrying semiautomatic weapons.  Some of them called for the death of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer or her beheading…  United States Attorney General, William Barr, when responding to a question at a Congressional hearing this week, said that he did not know about the incident.  This was after he had explained that he had to keep order in Portland, Oregon and at the recent incident in Lafayette Park in Washington DC where upon the firing of pepper spray and subsequent injury of many protestors…president Trump had a photo op, holding a Bible, in front of St. Johns Church…

We must engage in Representative John Lewis life long battle of non-violence…and sit down together at a long table…and break bread and fellowship..and learn of our shared humanity…  We must become men and women of steel and velvet!

Let us get into some ‘Good Trouble!’

 

‘What You Crying About…Man?’ — The Jazz Man

The rain is falling…again. I accomplished my house cleaning chores this morning as the lady who does our cleaning has not been able to do so for 3 months. It is comforting how easy it is for me to slip into my one time career of Building Services. I spotted a deer family earlier. They appeared to be as pleased to see […]

via ‘What You Crying About…Man?’ — The Jazz Man

‘It is Darkest Just Before the Dawn’

It is Tuesday in Little Egypt and hope is on the horizon.  MJ told me that there was a left over pork chop for my lunch and my thoughts strayed to the Oscar wining movie, ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ of a few decades back.  The marvelous actor, Morgan Freeman, who played the character, Hoak, who was employed by, Jessica Tandy’s, character, Miss Daisy, as her chauffeur.  At one point in the movie Miss Daisy thought that Hoak had stolen a can of salmon from her and proclaimed as much to her son, Boolie, played by former Saturday Night Live alum, Dan Aykroyd.  When Boolie protested that his mother was mistaken…she would hear nothing of it until Hoak arrived and pulled from his coat pocket a can of salmon to replace the one that he had consumed for lunch the day before.  He noted that the chop that she had left for him was a ‘bit stiff.’  My chop will be fine…

I read where Dr. Anthony Fauci said that we may have a vaccine for the coronavirus by October…now this is good news!  That will not be the end of Covid-19…but it could be the beginning of the end.  

So often or present life circumstances seem overwhelming and insurmountable…when if we could see the rainbow that is just behind the clouds…we would take courage!  I have been in employment situations that seemed to restrictive and where my opinion was not only not valued but ridiculed.  It is a terrible feeling and throughly demoralizing.  I have also experienced these ‘valley experiences’ changing in a seeming moment… and I was on top of the mountain!  

Have you ever been Gaslighted?  The 1944 psychological thriller, ‘Gaslight is a film adapted from Patrick Hamilton’s play Gas Light [1938] about a woman whose husband slowly manipulates her into believing that she is going insane.’    Wikipedia.   The film is a compelling study of mental manipulation of one person upon another.  I have witnessed ‘Gaslighting’ in both politics and religion.  I have also have witnessed it and been the recipient of the Machiavellian maneuver …both in religion and  the work place.  One of the oldest manipulation techniques of ministers or managers is to cause a person to begin to believe that their stand for right and wrong is out of step with the group think and the reality of the organization.  Women have been experiencing ‘Gaslighting’ by abusive men for centuries.  

 

When you are placed in a position where you are disfellowshipped or ostracized until you pledge allegiance to the company line…you have been gaslit…  If all your fellow lemmings are following each other off of a steep cliff…and you decide to remain behind…  If someone in authority creates an untenable situation for you…and then convinces you that your state of affairs is your fault…you are being gaslit.  When you are set up for failure…and then you fail…and are subsequently chastised and castigated for your failure…you have been gaslit!

Many people in some type of authority see their mantel of leadership as a license to use people for their own agenda.  This agenda does not include those who disagree with them.  I regularly hear politicians utter the clarion call that they are going to bring religion back to the classroom…but  which religion are they talking about.  

This life afforded us so many opportunities.  There are many more chances that the proverbial second chance!  In fact each morning is the golden opportunity to create yourself anew!  We are only as place bound as we are willing to relinquish  and to accept.  We humans are a bit like the moulding clay of the sculptor.  With a creative push here and a pull there…and the smoothing out of our rough edges…we can be a masterpiece!