Overwhelmed With Joy/Stress!

This past Sunday I wrote a blog regarding Mary Jane and my 41st anniversary.  I was overwhelmed with joy at the response that we received!

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I was watching a documentary, last evening, regarding the stress that Americans are, yes…overwhelmed, with in the United States.

The program is, ‘One Nation Under Stress,’ and it examines the, ‘root causes of failing life expectancy in America.’    Av/TV CLUB

Dr. Gupta concluded that income inequality is causing  ‘deaths of despair,’ and that, ‘Americans are dying sooner, increasingly self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and committing suicide at alarming rates.  The unifying factor for all of these conditions?  Stress.’    Salon

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‘Suicides have gone up 30 percent in the last 20 years’…much of which, according to, Dr. Gupta, dashed expectations.    Salon

Jobs have been lost to automation and outsourcing and wages have dropped.

We have been raised to expect to do as well, or better than our parents, and have discovered that many of our expectations are not achievable.

The program went on to exam the income inequality in the United States and found that, although the United States, is the highest of wealthy nations it similar to the income inequality in Sudan, which has the very rich and the abject poor!

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It seems that we do not feel, particularly, stressed until we look at our neighbor and our colleagues and others…and discover that they have much more than we do…and that they do not appear to be working harder or accomplishing more than we are?

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The film went on to look at the health benefits of social cohesion.  It showed that communities that have a strong social culture have longer lives.

We need each other!

Today, there is such a, violent, division in people that, often, we socialize with a few member of our family and little more.  Do you know the names of the people that live on your street?

‘It’s the community and the social cohesion.  I mean people think of those as sort of euphemisms, nice things to add to an academic paper, but frankly you find societies all over the world have some of the same problems that we do, and yet because of their social cohesion, they appear to be fairly protected.  We don’t have that.  We don’t have systems in place to nurture and foster social cohesion.  If anything, it is becoming more fragmented, more individualistic, more siloed of than before, and were seeing the impact of that.’    Salon

Many of Mary Jane and my, happy anniversary, comments came from friendships that we had formed over thirty years ago!  In the little church that we were all members of…we spent a significant amount of time together.  We also, were a group of people that had something in common, modest means!

Throughout my career at SIUC’s Building Services…we often experienced a family atmosphere.

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When my friend, Barb, left our department she paid Building Services  a lovely compliment when she said that our office was the most family like atmosphere that she had ever worked in.

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When I hear from friends, many of whom I no longer see on a regular basis…and who’s, gracious, comments about Mary Jane and I are, primarily based on our association of over thirty years ago…I am overwhelmed and my stress level is reduced…dramatically!

My stress level was, appreciable, reduced during my years at the university, due to our department working for a common and noble goal…the recruitment and retention of our, precious, students!

When you are depressed…and have no one to talk to…you slide into despair!

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Capitalism kills many people through it’s inherent inequities as demonstrated in our country.

Often the person that has more than you do…may not be working as hard as you are…and you may be smarter than they are?

Many of the rich in our country are the beneficiaries of family and friends and connections that are not available to the society at large!

When we let wealth be the arbiter of wisdom, or success, or God’s blessings…we have created a toxic environment  for the majority of humanity!

What if when we die…and we look for the streets of gold and the mansions….instead….we find a cobblestone road and a rustic country cabin?

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Today is Mary Jane and my 41st anniversary!

Forty-one years ago, I was a lad of 20 that could not believe his good fortune in preparing to marry such a wonderful woman!

Mary Jane had a house trailer and we both had, old automobiles, with mine being the most questionable.

I was earning $70 per week and Mary Jane was donating her time, teaching in a parochial school.

On my first night back to work, after a 3 day honeymoon, I was excited to see that I had two cheese burgers in my lunch pail!  When I told my new bride how wonderful that they were…she admonished me that I should not get used to them…as our food budget would not allow for them on a regular basis.

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In 1981, a tremendous blessing came our way, Aaron David Brooks, and everything about him excited us!

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He did not sleep through the night…for the first year of his life!

But, he loved to be placed in his swing, that we would crank up, and he would fall asleep immediately!

Aaron also loved for me to hold him on my shoulder and walk with him…and he then would fall asleep…until I laid him in his cradle.

Aaron is a, natural artist, and a photographer, and a manager of a, bustling, warehouse facility!

He is much more intelligent than I ever was…and I am so proud of him!

Then came, Jonathon, in 1984!

Jonathon greeted the world with a smile and a giggle and climbing out of his cradle and jumping on to the floor!

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Jonathon inspected all of the figurines and chochkies that we had…and subsequently broke them all!

Jonathon has grown to be a writer and a reader and a man who cares about people that he meets!

He is loved and respected by his university colleagues and friends and holds a responsible position at Key Control…which appreciates his dedication to them and the university’s mission!

Aaron and Jonathon are the light of their mom and my life!

There have been constants in our 41 years.

We have, always, sought to follow Christ!

The seeking of God’s will has entailed 3 separate changes in churches…with the last change being, almost, 21, years.

The Bible says that, ‘when a man findeth a wife, he findeth a good thing, and obtains favor of the Lord.’

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Certainly, having the counsel of Mary Jane has been the key to our families success!

In our beginnings…she counseled me to take the Building Service Worker exam at Southern Illinois University…and I was offended and I balked…and then I took the test…and the rest is history!

When I became a BSWI…Mary Jane told me that she believed that, one day, I would lead the department…and I laughed in my heart…as did Sarah of the Old Testament, when she was told by the angel that she would bear a child in her aged years!

I was the Superintendent of Building Services for the last 13 years of my 32 year career at SIUC!

Challenges of health have hit us…but God has helped us.

Our sons still want to be around us…and we are planning a family vacation to Maine later this year!

Now I eat a hamburger when I desire one…and I weep for those who can not.

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I Went To Hear The Leader Speak

I went to hear the leader speak

The excitement was so heavy that you could feel it surrounding you.

I went to hear the leader speak

And I listened for something good.

I went to hear the leader speak

And the beauty of the surroundings mesmerized me.

I went to hear the leader speak

To find a mentor for my life!

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The leader said for us to beware of Mexicans

‘They are rapist and murders…and some good people!’

I went to hear the leader speak

And everyone cheered!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

And those who cheered him

He loved!

‘Take them out on a stretcher!’

The leader commanded regarding those who disagreed with him.

 

I went to hear the leader speak

There were thousands of red hats

Make America Great Again

Sounded wonderful to me!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And he mimicked and mocked a disabled reporter

The red hats cheered

With a lusty cry of, ‘lock her up!’

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I went to hear the leader speak

And the FBI director was fired

The leader told Lester that the firing was because of the Russia investigation

And the leader laughed with the Russians in the Oval Office

And the Russians brought their photographers to document the jovial occasion!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

He said that he did not want immigrants from, ‘shit-hole countries’

The countries that he was referring to were countries containing black and brown human beings!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And a protestor against white nationalist was killed

The leader said that there were good people on both sides

And we wept!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

And he stood next to Russia’s leader

And he said that he believed him

And he said that he did not believe us

Russia’s leader smiled, and gave the leader a volleyball!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And he belittled a war hero

The war hero had spent years in captivity

The war hero was tortured so brutally that he could not raise his arms above his shoulders

The leader missed the war

He had bone spurs!

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I went to hear the leader speak

Many friends hear a different voice

I pray that they will not incur the wrath of

The leader!

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The Joy Of Living!

As Jonathon and I were walking campus, today, I could not help but revel in the 60 degree temperatures

After the, extreme, cold of this past winter; the warming weather brings a lightness of step and and brightness of attitude regarding our future!

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We saw Southern Illinois University president, Dr. Kevin Dorsey, as we sat at the fountain, discussing our weekend plans.  Dr. Dorsey is a fine man and a respected professional.  I called out to him and he waved and smiled the smile of a leader that is secure in his life and the works thereof!

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Jonathon asked me if I had read the, breaking news, that Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker had replaced five of the seven members of the university’s board of trustees?  I told him that I had not…but I was saddened to hear the Joel Sambursky had been replaced.  During the, recent, controversy, of the removal of university president, Randy Dunn, Mr. Sambursky exhibited great courage and a dedication to ethical and fiduciary certitude!

That being said, I do admire and respect three of the five new board of members, who I have witnessed in action many times, in the last decade.

One thing is certain…Southern Illinois University is under the oversight of new leadership.

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As I walk the, beautiful, campus of SIUC…I am constantly looking for signs of spring!

The red bud trees, that are native to our region, are outstanding in their supine spring splendor!

We seek renewal!  We need rejuvenation and jolt of life’s nectar to enliven us and charge us with the joy of living the wonderful life that we have been given!

Often the tasks that we are given…just to survive in life seem overwhelming!

Many times we work for others who seem to not appreciate our efforts.  In these situations I take comfort in my conviction that the work that I am performing is the…right thing to do!

‘Weeping may endure for a night…but joy cometh in the morning!’   Psalm 30:5

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Most Of Us…Just Want To Be Treated Fair!

A great mystery, to me, was that many of the leaders that I encountered during my career, did not realize that those who worked for them had functioning eyes and ears and, all five senses, as well as brains that were in good working order!

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It seems that there is a disconnect, at times, in both employment leaders and political leaders, that causes them to believe that have, suddenly, become endowed with special powers and a revamped lung structure…that allows them to breath a, rarified air, that we commoners are not equipped to enjoy?

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During my, work years, I asked, one, supervisor to please decide which story that he was going to consistently tell, as his truth, before I repeated his position to the staff.

On another occasion I felt compelled to admonish a chancellor that if he insulted my intelligence, again, that I was going to conclude my meeting with him!

Now, my management abilities were far less than what I strove for…but I, set my course…from the beginning of my career, to be fair.

If you are a successful leader…you owe everything to the dedicated colleagues that are diligently working to make you look good!

Fairness is not something that you talk about…it is something that you do.

Some vital principles of fairness are:

  1. When you tell a member of your staff that you are going to do something for them, you should move heaven and earth to make your vow come to pass.
  2. Listen to each member of your team with the purpose of learning from them.
  3. If the last member of the department is being mis-treated by a senior member of the staff…listen to them and rectify the situation.
  4. Never engage in political speech or feel good anecdotes when interacting with your colleagues; if you are not intent on backing the words that came out of our mouth.
  5. Never lie to anyone!

‘The management by wandering around, (MBWA), also management by walking around, refers to a style of business management which involves managers wandering around, in an unstructured manner, through the workplace(s), at random to check with employees, equipment, or on the status of ongoing work.  The emphasis is on the word wandering as an unplanned movement within a workplace, rather than a plan where employees expect a visit from managers at a more systematic, pre-approved or scheduled times.’    Management by wandering around, Wikipedia

 

‘The expected benefit is that a manager, by random sampling of events of employee discussions, is more likely to facilitate improvements to the morale, sense of organizational purpose, productivity and total quality management of the organization, as compared to remaining in a specific office area and waiting for employees, or the delivery of status reports, to arrive there, as events warrant in the workplace.’    Management by wandering around, Wikipedia

Focusing on staff and interacting with them on a regular basis, in a positive manner, is empowering to them and a generator of excellence!

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When I talked with a Building Service Worker…I remembered that I had been a Building Service Worker.  I recalled bow proud that I was of the, professional, housekeeper position that it had been my good fortune to obtain.

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When I spoke with a Building Custodian, later entitled Sub-foreman, I remembered the challenges and stresses that that were involved in the crew supervisor position.

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When I spoke with Building Service Worker III’s, later referred to as Foreman, I understood that I was speaking with managers, and that they were essential in ensuring quality control and high morale in our department.

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When I spoke with our student custodial staff…I knew that I was speaking with people that had a wealth of ability and, without them, we could not accomplish our cleaning goals, and that they were the, entire, reason that we existed!

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‘This is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life!’

At times, we are a bit place-bound by our past.

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We look at our success and our failures…and we, compartmentalize, our future according to our past!

You may be a senior citizen, as I am, and think that your best days are behind you, and that your greatest accomplishments have already been wrought.

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Many years ago, the popular author, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, wrote a, bestseller called, the Power of Positive Thinking.

It can be said that what we visualize ourselves achieving, is obtainable with the, desire to do so!

The biggest battle of a happy and productive life…is first the battle of the mind!

There are a thousand excuses for not doing something…there is no reason for you not to…do it!

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I think that we look at others, around us, and believe that they are endowed with some type of special abilities…when in fact they are human beings, just like, us and they have, simply decided to work toward a goal that they can see in their mind!

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I decided, during the last decade, that I was going to loose weight.  Six months later I had lost 95 pounds!

I have wanted to write since I was a child, but it seemed that I could never get started.  Now I write, virtually, every day, and enjoy it immensely!

Loosing weight or weighing less is not magic…it is the concerted dedication to following a plan that will allow you to achieve your goal!

When I began working for Southern Illinois University at Carbondale as a Building Service Worker I…Mary Jane told me that, God, had told her that one day I would be the leader of the organization!  I was like Sara, in the Old Testament, when the angel to told her that she would bear a son, although she was elderly…and she laughed!

Yet, at the years at SIUC flew by…I began to visualize myself leading the department…and for 25 years of my career…I did!

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‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’    Theodore Roosevelt, delivered in the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910

One of the greatest value added exercise that I have done, on several occasions, in my life…is to step outside of my comfort zone!

I find public speaking..frightening!  Yet, some of the most rewarding experience that I have had…have come from public speaking.

One of the primary hangups that I had regarding writing…was to have other people read what I had written!  I have been able to, successfully, overcome that fear, by writing daily!

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A challenge can be an opportunity…that is wearing different clothes!

I am convinced that most of us realize about 10% of our innate natural ability.

Most of the successful people that I know and am friends with…have achieved their success through a mental image of what they want to achieve and the willingness to do the hard work and make the, plethora, of mistakes, that happen on the road to their goal!

 

The Gold Standard

A great Jonathon Brooks Blog!

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It often seems that people are experts on solving the problems of others. Yet when we try to solve our own problems we struggle as amateurs. How well do we really comprehend the problems of our fellow man? Perhaps we are not really experts on others flaws or shortcomings; we only perceive ourselves to be so.

I aspire to be an expert on knowing myself. I’ve worked on and am continuing to work on all of the problems I’ve had throughout my lifetime. Some sins and shortcomings die slower than others and some don’t die at all. Concerning the problems of others all I want to be is an amateur. It isn’t my job to judge anyone. Christ knows I’ve judged myself harshly in the past. Humanity in general looks so beautiful when we pass out love rather than judgment. I’ve no time to judge my neighbor ’cause I’m too…

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Unrealized Ability…An Asset?

So often, we pigeonhole people into artificial constructs that we quickly assign to them…as an easy method of understanding our surroundings.

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Former president, Barrack Obama, was the African American state senator, with the funny name, that was running in the democratic primary in Illinois, to be chosen as the candidate for the United States Senate.

President Donald Trump…was written off as a clown or a, bad, joke…when he began running for the presidency of the United States, in 2016, and it was commonly believed that he would fall, by the wayside, very quickly!

Dr. Billy Graham was an itinerant  preacher from North Carolina…that preached to millions for people, around the world, and served as an advisor to several presidents !

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I began my career at Southern Illinois University as a janitor.  My, official, title was Building Service Worker I….and i was proud of it!

As the years progressed, I had the opportunity to speak with both chancellors and presidents of the university…and my message to them never wavered…that there was, hidden talent in the civil service ranks…and that the leaders need to avail themselves of this, wealth, of ability, that was at the fingertips!

On more than one occasion chancellor Wendler referred to me as his janitor…and I was honored!  I had a great relationship with Dr. Wendler and through that bond…much was accomplished for civil service staff.

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Chancellor Wendler would speak to me, in an unvarnished manner, and I would do the same with him, but I, instinctively, understood that he had a compassionate heart!

The chancellor was a man of faith and he had worked as a carpenter.

The chancellor was a fundamentalist christian…but then again…I had been proud to be a member of that group…at one time

After chancellor Wendler…I worked with interim chancellor, John Dunn, throughout the time that he led the campus.  What a nice and considerate leader, chancellor Dunn was!

Chancellor John Dunn is a breathe of fresh air at SIUC! He is from Pickneyville, Illinois and he is great leader of SIUC!  Why search for another….when you have the leader that can turn the great ship of SIUC….around?

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‘John M. Dunn was the eighth present of Western Michigan University.  Dunn earned his bachelor and master’s degree from Northern Illinois University, and he earned an Ed.D. physical education from Brigham Young University.  He began his career in higher education at the University of Connecticut in 1972.’    Wikipedia

I pleaded with the, then president of Southern Illinois University, to make, interim chancellor Dunn, the permanent chancellor of SIUC…when he replaced chancellor Wendler…in the last decade!

The chancellor’s executive assistant, and my friend, Susan, told me the she had discovered the secret of my success in dealing with university administrators.  She said that I appeared, initially, to be of little ability or understanding…but that I seemed to obtain the goal that I was seeking?

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I remarked that, perhaps, she understood my entire secret?

So often it seems that the disagreements or problems of our society…can be summed up as a conflict between the…red and blue team….when in reality….we are all on the same team….but we do not realize it!

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has been following the academic template of conducting national searches for vacant chancellor and president position…for many years…as our enrollment has, subsequently, diminished…by thousands of students…annually!

A smart  move was to bring Dr. John M. Dunn back to SIUC!

Dr. Dunn has a heart for our university and a, magnificent, understanding of the Southern Illinois region!

Already, positive movements of momentum are turning the academic ship of SIUC around!

Do we, really, require a earth shattering academic plans of restructuring and shake-up…or do we, desperately, need a steady hand on the steering wheel of the educational and economic…ship of state…for Southern Illinois?

How many times must we face the, leadership needs of SIUC, armed with the formula that is contained in the academic model….that is so irrelevant to our needs?

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Maine…Again!

I read, the other day, that residents of Maine live longer than any state in our nation.

On our, previous, two journeys to Maine we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast located in Southwest Harbor which is located on Mount Desert Isle.

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Southwest Harbor is the town that the Steven King movie, ‘The Storm of the Century’, was filmed!

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Southwest Harbor is just a few mile from Bar Harbor.

‘Champlain visited Mount Desert Island in 1604.  The first permanent English settlement took place in 1763.  Originally known as Eden, the name was changed to Bar Harbor in 1918.  That name was derived from a sand bar, which connects Mount Desert Island with another island nearby.’    History of Bar Harbor Maine

‘Bar Harbor a Long-Time Haven for the Rich, Famous and Powerful.  Bar Harbor from Great Hill, Mount Desert Island, Maine. …But on the visit to Maine, where he landed Isles des Mount Deserts (Mount Desert Island) for the bare rock peaks of Cadillac Mountain and its neighbors.’        History of Bar Harbor Maine

This year we have charted a destination to Booth Bay Harbor!

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‘Just an hour’s drive north of Portland lies the village of BoothBay Harbor, Maine-a seaside getaway embodying the quintessential midcoast.  Its shoreline, fringed, with evergreen forests and rocky outcroppings, is an idyllic setting for any weekend escape, and its downtown, filled with a variety of attractive shops and restaurants, ensure the the whole family will enjoy the trip.’    New England Today Travel

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We took two Maine vacations, in 2009 and 2010.

I remember thinking that I would enjoy living in Maine!  The atmosphere was peaceful and serene and inviting for reflection.

The conclusion of my career at Southern Illinois University was on my mind during both Maine sojourns!  Although I, throughly, enjoyed my service to SIUC…I was ready for other challenges.

I could read the handwriting on the wall of the university and I had concluded that the housekeeping division of the campus…no longer had the importance to the mission of recruitment and retention of our precious students…that I had, heralded, for 25 years!

Now, please do not misunderstanding me…the cleanliness of our campus was and is of, paramount, importance to the recruitment and retention of our student body…but, the, fog, of financial distress had hidden that fact from university leadership!

Later, the president of the university told me that my concerns regarding leadership, that I had expressed to him, just prior to my retirement, were correct…and that he regretted not listening to me.

I recall thinking, while we were in Southwest Harbor…on the front porch of the Bed and Breakfast, that we stayed in both years that we were there, and while we were enjoying some, wonderful, complimentary red wine,  that I would love to take a European Cruise as a celebration of my retirement!

In 2011 we took a Mediterranean cruise that included; Genoa, Italy, Tunis, Tunisia, Barcelona, Spain, and Nice France…where we visited with our lifelong friend, Margo, and…there were more visits to Europe…yet to come!

Maine has a feeling of beginnings!  It has a solid feeling of life…as it should be lived!

We visited a, quaint, bookstore where I purchased an antique set of the Pentateuch.  Also I bought the finest umbrella that I have ever seen!

The rocky coastline of Arcadia National forest provides a majestic vista to consider the, ancient, permanence of nature and the fragility of mankind!

We have wanted to return for, over, eight years…and this year we shall do so!

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Photos: Courtesy of Getty Images and Google Search.

 

A Peaceful Drive in the Countryside on a Pleasant Summer’s Day

A great Blog by Jonathon Brooks! 🌞

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A journey down memory lane can be a peaceful drive in the countryside on a pleasant summer’s day. I live in the present, but I recollect the quality stuff from my past often. I have movie stubs that date back to 1998 when I was a boy of fourteen. Then there’s stamp book collections from 1984 (my mother bought these for me) through 1991. Of course there’s also photographs from the last thirty-five years. In addition I have also collected friends throughout my lifetime that I’ve worked hard to hold on to. Yes, I enjoy driving in the present and I take joy in the long drive home of reminiscing about the past.

Life is what we have the courage or cowardice to make of it. Optimism or pessimism. Love or hate. Kindness or meanness. Hope or despair. Beauty or ugliness. Overcoming or giving up. As I wrote in a…

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