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!’

 

 

A Servant Leader

Leadership has intrigued me all of my life. Although I have worked with many leaders…it is as rare as hen’s teeth to find a servant leader. I mentioned to our Pastor, Kerry, that he was a servant leader. Many times a person who gets the opportunity to lead a group of people…seems to need a larger hat due the expansion of their head. We in the United States see servant leaders so seldom that we have almost forgotten what they look like.

Often the qualities of leadership and fidelity to truth are fungible to the grifters who hold leadership positions. Truth is treated as a situational commodity. As long as the truth does not affect the leaders bottom line…they attest to it…they cry…’Me Too!’ But, as soon as the factual truth does not comport with the popular lie…it is no longer worth protecting or standing with…if it affects the paycheck. We proclaim that if we had been in Nazi Germany we would have stood up to Hitler and placed our life on the line for the protection of our fellow human beings. When in the sunshine of our current time we see people who tell the truth…expunged…to make room for a leader who will lie…not for the sake of democracy or political party…but for political expediency.

‘The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.’ ‘Diogenes replied: ‘Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’ -370 BC

‘We rise by lifting others.’ Robert Ingersoll

Embrace Who You Are — The Jazz Man

Cool and rainy today. MJ and I made a sojourn to Aldi’s this morning…to obtain some magnificent low prices. Our lost Gander was greeted today by a couple of his compatriots and they bawled at each other as if they had not seen each other in a month of Sundays. Our goose has become a […]

Embrace Who You Are — The Jazz Man

Motivation Monday

How is you motivation today? Are you excited to be alive and in the land of the living with all of the hopes and dreams that are ahead. It is sunny and warm in Southern Illinois with storms in the forecast. Much as our daily lives are…first sunny and then stormy and with snow and ice on occasion. I was thinking how important tradition is for our daily lives. It is the framework that we hang our life upon.

Our Pandemic has disrupted our traditions and in turn it has over turned the tables of our lives and chased out the money changers from our temple. Regular life in the Pandemic has been anything but regular…it has in fact been irregular. I cannot think of another world wide halting of traditional life for over a year…and the end is not yet upon us. Indeed our return to normal…will be a return to a new normal.

Holidays are in our future again…both the established ones and the vacation ones. Our ephemeral mortality has always been a concrete reality…now we understand that fact more than ever before. Each day is as if you are at the Louvre Museum, admiring the Mona Lisa, or the Musee d’ Orsay admiring the magnificent works of Vincent Van Gogh. Often we are eating the finest steak and searching of some cheap hamburger.

Joan Didion is an insightful author. She wrote of interviewing a pastor who told her that he was going to move his church from California…although they had just arrived there…to Murfreesboro, Tennessee…because God had told him that their California location was in danger of an earthquake. When Joan asked one of the congregants if she was aware that seismologist had said that their location was overdo an earthquake…she answered that they knew about earthquakes because the Bible spoke of earthquakes. Didion goes on to observe that this denomination seemed to rely on what their pastor told them that the Bible said for them to do, and that they relied little if any on science or the news or academic facts.

‘Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.’ Anonymous

‘It takes the exact same amount of Time and Energy to imagine Wonderful things as it does to Worry, and the results are incredibly different.’ Zen to Zany

Learn To Lead A Small Life

Drizzle is the watchword of the day in Little Egypt. Jonathon and I traveled about engaged in the exercise of taking care of errands and to purchase Mother’s Day Cards…and a large Godzilla figure with an wonderfully articulated tail. In other words an eclectic day with Electric Larry. A Beagle dog just bawled as if he had discovered his prey and our lone Gander began to answer in a mournful goose cry… In my younger years I was determined to achieve all I could in my career and t traveled to every local that was within my budget…and to own every book that I could procure. I was always in a race with the clock and my means and my strength. I could not work enough hours nor travel sufficiently to ensure that MJ and Aaron and Jonathon had a good life and a well rounded experience. My University experience at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale caused me to be like the little kitten who was blind…until his eyes were opened.

As the years have ticked by I have learned that contentment is often found in a small life. The trek to discover a few things that you love being involved in is an epiphany. Doing a multitude of things as a Juggler at the Circus is a stressful calling. Focusing on a handful of adventures and being immersed in them…is delightful. Jesus taught the magnificence of the small life. The religious scholars of his day were amazed at the simplicity of his message. ‘This is my commandment, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you. John 15:12. KJV.

Confusion is the watchword for our world. Millions of voices cry for low or no taxes… in order that their riches can grow into mega-riches. Millions of others cry for bread and a roof over their head. We in the United States feel that the Pandemic is as good as over and are planing our spring and summer and fall holidays. Three hundred thousand people a day are dying of Covid 19 in India.

As children we sought approval of our parents. Once we entered school we wanted to please our peers. In the workplace, what our colleagues think about us is essential to our feeling of self worth. For the boss or the person in power to notice us and approve of our efforts is paramount to our assimilation into our colleague group. Yet, so often we are living our lives for the tacit approval of others. When we do not receive that approval we are discouraged and depressed.

In the event that you are meek and mild and do not want to offend your peers…they will outline your life for you…they may tell you what recreational activities that you like and where you want to go on holiday. When you set out on your journey of higher education…you may have a major that is not near what you wanted to study…but you were persuaded to do so by your parents and others.

Small life is a happy life. Someone once said that you should keep your accounts on your thumbnail. March to the beat of your own drummer…it is the sweetest music that you will ever hear…

TGIF — The Jazz Man

I sent my friend the acronym, TGIF, meaning Thank God It’s Friday. Although I have been retired for over 10 years…I have not forgotten the significance of the blessed last day of the work week. I not only have not forgotten it, I vividly recall the lighter mood in the office and the workplace and […]

TGIF — The Jazz Man

Better Days Ahead

I was just admiring our gigantic tree that is just beyond the Writing Porch. I write without my glasses as I no doubt need bifocals. I noticed that the tree looked resplendent and it has gotten wider during the winter. Then I put my glasses on and observed the brilliant orange bags that the dreaded bag worm lives in. I then remembered living in our little church when I was 17 years old. The pastor exhorted me to listen for the toilets when I passed by the rest rooms to ensure that the flush mechanism had not stuck and thus the water was continually running in the vain endeavor to fill the tank. To this day I can hear a toilet running…from a long way off. I also have been trained by life to see the good things that are afar off or just rounding the distant corner. We are going to have a meeting at our church next week. My colleague asked me if I had received my shots…and I in turn asked another participant in the meeting if they had received their shots. We laughed both times as it reminded us of assuring others that we would meet while walking our dogs…that they had all of their shots.

Joan Didion is a fascinating author. I am listening to her book, The White Album, which is a compilation of her essays regarding the 1960’s and 70’s. At one point she mentioned her diagnosis with a serious illness and then being struck with the knowledge that what happened to others could happen to her…and that she had a new normal. I am impressed with our President’s efforts to create a government plan that has not happened since Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal. I voted for President Reagan…twice…and yet it is painfully obvious that trickle down economics has not worked. There is such an evil divide in our country between those who have…and those how have not. While some of us live in comfort and ease and wonder when it is safe to return to the theatre and to travel to Europe…others wonder where their next meal is coming from and if they can find a roof to cover their head…for the night…

Friends are sometimes difficult to find. When I began my life in the Christian Community I decided that I wanted everyone in the church to be my friend. Subsequently I carried that vision in to the work place. When I disagreed with what someone was saying, unless it was gossip about another, I simply listened politely and continued with my day. I worked hard…harder than what was expected of me…I did not want anyone to feel that I was the golden term of we Baby Boomers, a Goldbrick. In the workplace the boss and the manager and the administrator are, first, looking for one primary character trait. Leadership is seeking someone who will not cause them trouble… When I was meeting with Chancellor Walter Wendler on a monthly basis I told him that if I had a concern or a constructive criticism…I would always talk about it in private with just he and I privy to the conversation. I went on to say that if he did anything for the civil service community…I would shout it from the mountain top. Chancellor Wendler did more for civil service staff than any Campus leader during my career.

Florida is on the horizon for the Brooks clan. Life is returning to normal…as long as our ears are attuned to the toilet running…

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Conditional Friends And Situational Promises

Stormy weather is moving in to our neck of the woods. The temperature is a pleasant 72 degrees and wet. I sit reflecting on leadership, which I often do, and the meaning of consistency in what they say and subsequently do. When I left the University over 10 years ago…I feared that I should have remained for January and February of 2011 as I had attained 78.5% of my maximum retirement benefit and felt that I was being imprudent in leaving the other 1.5 % on the table. However since my departure I have earned significantly more than if I had stayed with my employer. There have been almost no raises in pay for SIUC since my departure 10 years and 4 months ago. The first significant thing that comes to mind is that the staff have lost money due to the cost of living. The second concern is that the civil service staff have been consistently asked to cover the work of more and more jobs that were left unfilled due to budgetary shortfalls. The third concern is that these wonderful and hardworking and dedicated people are being pushed to the breaking point by an apparent blindness to their condition.

MJ often tells me that my feelings regarding the University are not held by all who have retired from there. I had some wonderful experiences with Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale during my 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks. However I have witnessed wrongs that should have been righted and the buddy system for promotion and job assignment…in some areas of the Campus. I have watched, with some sadness, as people work their fingers to the bone…and only received…’Bony Fingers.’ I also have been the recipient of promises that were never kept and friendships by administrators that were conditional on what I could do for them. Most of the time I was able to take these things in my stride as I had enjoyed some success at advocacy for those who had no voice. Sadly…all too often…the people who keep the train running…are the nameless and the faceless…the unseen…and the forgotten.

I was encouraged to hear that Chancellor Lane is developing a training program for staff that will enable them to increase their skills and make them elegible for additional steps on the Career Ladder. The recognition by the Chancellor of the value that his civil service staff bring to the success of SIUC is of vital importance. There is an abundance and a plethora of hidden skills in the civil service community that could so benefit Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…and until Chancellor Lane’s insightful innovative…the value of this community has heard the words off their value…but not seen the substance…

The Gift Of A Smiling Face — The Jazz Man

The weather has warmed in our part of the globe. But then again it is almost May. Our lonely goose has a friend with him today. I wonder if Mrs. Goose came back to find her lost husband and show him the way home? He appears to be extremely content and subsequently followed her into […]

The Gift Of A Smiling Face — The Jazz Man

An O. Henry…Fan

The sun is shinning brightly and the temperature is a pleasant 63 degrees. Two, happy, fishermen are on the pond with a little oar. They are laughing uproariously and I think that is because of the little oar. I have not seen a boat on our pond since my neighbors, Larry and Vickie, got in their paddle boat and paddled around the body of water over ten years ago. We had a lovely church service this morning and many of my fellow congregants reflected on what Earth Day meant to them. One of the members had a great slide show of some beautiful places on our third rock from the sun.

Often may readers response to my scribbles reminds me of the Literature Analysis class that I was enrolled in during the 1980’s. Of course the class involves the students reading a piece of writing and then breaking it down to explain what the author meant. I found that it was not an exact science. My first paper was applauded by the professor and read to the class, anonymously, to illustrate good analysis. I received an A grade and felt pretty good about my analytical abilities… That was the first and last A grade that I received in the class…and instead I progressively declined in grades on my papers. What I had seen so clearly on the first analysis…evaded me on all of the rest of the course study. At the conclusion of the semester the professor told me that he had never experienced a student who demonstrated in the first paper of the class that he understood all that the class was designed to teach…but that I had. He went on to say that although it seemed somewhat unorthodox to give me an A for the semester, it was the right grade due to my first attempt…and that he was perplexed as to my slow decline for the rest of the study.

O. Henry was known for his surprise endings. His works include the Gift of the Magi and Ransom for Red Chief. Many of my writings are patterned after Mr. Henry in that I strive for the surprise ending. Also, the theme of many of my blogs may not be evident until the latter portion of the document. I enjoy writing from personal experience but endeavor to correlate the experience with larger global themes.

I often speak of nature, which is a subject that I could write all day regarding, and yet my critical point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A person can live in the most lovely natural surroundings and yet be bitter and afraid and depressed. Happiness comes from within. I am amazed at how much beauty that I see…when I am in the mood to receive it. I am equally amazed at how much awe inspiring Earth events that I miss when my heart is not right… I was watching a Danish film last night that is in contention for an Academy Award, entitled, Another Round, where a group of teachers decide that they are going to follow the advise of a study that illustrates that 0.5 alcohol blood alcohol content is the natural state of humans that should be striven to achieve for maximum career and social success. The insidious results seem, at first to be working, until the group ups their drinking…with comical results. I reflected that our society teaches us that perhaps we need that extra supplement of drug or drink to excel in our profession or social interactions.

Good writing makes the reader think. It should not be easily decipherable. It should not be in the network television shows practice of scene changes every minute or less. It should not be in the mindless approach of reality TV. Not so long ago the purpose of education and higher education was to make a better member of the human family. The goal was not to tell the student what to think but to teach them how to think. Einstein did not come from the conventional classroom. Dr. Martin Luther King showed us the way of nonviolent protest…he demonstrated to us a new and better way. Good writing enriches the mind with questions that do not have easy answers. Good writing brings peace to the troubled…and trouble to the complacent.

The Bible is an outstanding piece of literature. It speaks to us in allegory and inference and parable and the most heightened form of writing…story. Story has caused us to go to war…and story had brought us peace. President John F. Kennedy told us a story of going to the moon…and we did. Martin Luther nailed 95 thesis to the door of the church and thus began the Protestant reformation. We read the story of the baby Jesus…wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger…because there was no room for him in the Inn…and millions and billions of people have followed him until this day…

Subtle Change — The Jazz Man

Jonathon and I were just talking about money orders. It occurred to me that I have not thought of money orders for several years and that the era of the Debit card and on-line purchasing had somewhat supplanted what was the go-to method of payment a generation ago. Now I realize that money orders are […]

Subtle Change — The Jazz Man