I attended a Open Forum with new SIU Chancellor, Carlo Montemagno, yesterday afternoon.
It was held in one of the large auditoriums, on campus, and it was packed…with standing room only.
Many of the attendees were curious about the chancellor’s plan to rebuild the academic structure of the University.
Others, were fearful of loosing their jobs in the process of reducing the number of colleges from eight to five.
Yet, others, were upset with the plans of changing of Departments to Schools and removing Chairs of Departments and replacing them with faculty elected Directors.
The chancellor answered questions patiently…and remarked that as regarding enrollment…we must do something now and that we could not afford to wait another year.
Dr. Montemagno, noted that the freshman class is half the size that it was, less than five years ago.
He noted, quite correctly, that what we are currently doing is not working.
I am on a diet. I have been on diets…before.
During the middle of the last decade…I lost 93 pounds. I changed my eating habits…I thought for life.
We humans do not like change!
Life is the inculcation of both bad habits and good habits.
The changing of a bad habit is painful and takes time.
For instance…we eat for a variety of reasons…most of which are not related to health or hunger. Perhaps we are bored and eating is entertainment. Perhaps we are stressed and eating is a temporary panacea.
Perhaps it a special occasion…and we want to celebrate…with what else…food!
Have you ever moved from one home to another home? It is traumatic. The last time we moved…it took us a couple of years to unpack…everything.
When I retired, almost seven years ago, it took at least a year to become accustomed to retirement.
And, so, I applauded the new chancellor for having the courage of implementing a forceful re-organization of the academic structure in search of a workable plan for our great University.
Former President Franklin Roosevelt called for New Deal for the American people and we are all the beneficiaries of the programs that this change brought about.
Former President John Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for your country.’ This clarion call produced a deluge of public service including the Peace Corps.
Former Southern Illinois University President Delyte Morris came to SIU-Normal in 1948. He made many changes…and we are all the better for it.
I had coffee with my friend of many years, Jim, this afternoon.
As we chatted, I was reminded of the many enjoyable times that we have had together.
We go back 20 years. But it seems like yesterday.
Several years ago, when my step-father passed away, I and my family were greeting visitors at his wake…when who do I see but Jim and Laura…who had driven over fifty miles…to pay their respects.
Friends are there for you…when the ‘chips are down.’
Jim and Laura and Jamie and Sarah and Leah and Greg…are one of the most loving and engaging families that it has been my pleasure to know.
The day that I retired…Jim invited Mary Jane and I to his house…and I could not think of a more wonderful place to enjoy what was a major event in my life.
Friends are those people that want to be with you…when you can do nothing for them…but enjoy their company and fellowship.
That is Jim and Laura!
I remember a holiday visit where Wally and his wife and daughter were with us at Jim and Laura’s and our son Aaron…and it was an extremely happy and joyful visit…with Wally and his daughter singing and Mary Jane and I enjoying the melody.
Some time back…Jim and I would enjoy a glass or two of Christmas Wine together…and it helped make the Season Special.
Jim and Laura’s home…for Christmas…is like a Norman Rockwell Painting. They do Christmas right!
I watched Jim take his Mother into his home when she became ill…and build a wing on his house for her…and love and care for her.
Jim asked me to be a pallbearer at his Mother’s funeral…and I was deeply honored.
I have witnessed Jim do so many things for the University…in a quiet and un-assuming manner.
He is a friend of Chancellors and Presidents…and I am proud to call him my friend.
Attitude is everything.
Many years ago, I told my mother that I had decided to be of a positive attitude about what life brought my way.
I had been left somewhat embittered by life’s vagaries..such as my mother and father’s divorce and a period of poverty…where I saved enough money to go the neighborhood restaurant and bought a glass of whole milk…when I had a dime.
I brought my lunch to school in a Gunsmoke Lunch Box. When my first grade classmates returned from lunch in the school cafeteria…one of them asked why I did not eat with them…to which I responded that my mom could not afford it. The questioner laughed and remarked that lunch was only 20 cents per day. I answered that I knew that.
It soon dawned on me…that I could either react to life in a negative manner…or choose to receive what came, to me, in a positive frame of mind.
A young man stopped me, on the streets of the village of Elkville, shortly after I had moved away from home…and proclaimed that ‘attitude is everything!’ I was a bit taken aback by his extreme exuberance…but what he said…stuck with me.
When I was hired at SIU as a Building Service Worker I…I determined that I would be a confident professional Building Service Worker.
It was my privilege to hire a young woman, Jamie, who was deaf. Her extremely sunny disposition and can-do attitude…inspired me. She not only succeeded in the entry level position, that I initially hired her in, but soon received a promotion to a Crew Supervisor.
I heard new Chancellor Montemagno, say on television, while some bemoan the loss of students at SIU…he chooses to see the ‘glass as half full.’
It is easy to fall into the trap of considering yourself a…looser or not good enough…or not having the right connections.
It is easy to say, as Moses said to God, ‘And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto they servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.’ Exodus 4:10 KJV
My lifelong friend, Jeff, was homeless on the streets of Chicago…he was an orphan…when I met him he was living in a hippie commune off of the Elkville blacktop.
Jeff believed in himself…he believed that God would help him…and that he must work very hard to achieve his goals.
Today, Jeff owns his own business, in the United Kingdom, and is extremely successful.
I admire my former classmate, Dale, who lived down the street from me when we were growing up. Dale has a foundation that provides coats for kids…and I can not think of a more worthy accomplishment.
Recently, Dale, was elected to the State Senate…and I am proud to know him.
I met my friend, Brad, when he was a student worker. I always admired his friendly manner and his wonderful work ethic. Brad is a person that always believes that their is a light at the end of the tunnel and a solution to every problem.
Today, Brad is the Director of Plant and Service Operations at SIU.
Life presents all of us with dark days and sunny ones…it is our mission to combine both of the elements of life to create…a noteworthy and positive existence.
‘In July, 1996, one of the most complex and spectacular circles appeared in England, across a highway from the mysterious and world-famous Stonehenge monument in the Wiltshire countryside. It was astonishing fractal pattern called a Julia Set, and while some simple or rough circles might be explained away as the result of a strange weathers phenomenon, this one unmistakably demonstrated intelligence. The only question was wether that intelligence was terrestrial or extra-terrestrial.’ Live Science
On our way to Stonehenge, during our visit in England in 2012, we first stopped at Avebury.
‘Avebury is a Neolithic henge monument containing three stone circles, around the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, in southwest England. Unique amongst megalithic monuments, Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe, and is one of the best known prehistoric sites in Britain.’ HERITAGE DAILY
While in Avebury we happened upon a elaborate crop circle. We were told about the Circle by the person who we spoke with at the visitors’ center…and she noted that it had appeared overnight.
The magnificence of the ornate design was breathtaking. It appeared to be humanly impossible to create…and in a night?
Our friend, Margo, Mary Jane and Jonathon and I..were extremely impressed and mystified by what we were visually beholding.
I noticed a woman and man who were making a careful study of the otherworldly physical manifestation…and I truly think that I have seen the couple on a television show on the History Channel…that covers unexplained phenomena.
Before we left Europe, Margo asked me to send her any photos that I had taken of the crop circle…I was certain that I had taken several, as I was taking numerous photos throughout our visit.
When I arrived home and searched for the crop circle photos…I found none…I had left the camera in the car that day…due to a light rain that was falling.
‘Edgar Cayce was an American Christian mystic: who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while claiming to be in a trance. A biographer gave him the nickname, ‘The Sleeping Prophet.’ Wikipedia
My mother was…at one time…a devoted student of Edgar Cayce.
Mom read his books and attempted to follow the advice contained within them.
She spoke to me about her readings and opinions regarding Cayce…many times.
‘Cayce made over 14,000 otherworldly journeys in his life and the information he gained from these journeys has astounded people all over the world. In 1910 the New York Times carried two pages of headlines and pictures in which he was declared the ‘World’s Most Mysterious Man’ An national magazine ran an article titled, ‘Miracle Man of Virginia Beach’, and Cayce was swamped with an avalanche of 25,000 request for medical help. President Woodrow Wilson sought the services of Edgar Cayce for healing and guidance while he was President and conceiving the idea of the League of Nations. In 1954, the University of Chicago accepted a Ph.D. thesis based on a study of his life and work. Cayce is also considered to be the father of holistic medicine by JAMA, the prestigious medical journal. Cayce was a wonder to the medical community because of his ability to diagnose a treatment for gravely ill people often hundreds of miles away through his out-of-body journeys.’ Death Experiences and the Afterlife
I was enjoying a wonderful cigar…under a great tree…in the courtyard of the hotel that we were staying at in Stratford upon Avon…Shakespeare’s home.
I was waiting on my lifelong friend, Jeff, who was concluding a breakfast business meeting with a colleague, when what did I see…but a young woman…staring at me…from what appeared to be a loft room window…that was very separated from the rest of the hotel’s windows.
As I savored my fine English cigar…I noticed that the young woman did not move and seemed to be transfixed on something just beyond me.
I looked up at the young woman in the window…several times…when Jeff joined me…she was gone.
Two times…I have witnessed prayer healing people that I personally knew.
Many years ago I was a member of a church that our pianist had been diagnosed with a life threatening cancer.
We prayed for this lovely person…and all hope seemed to be lost…I distinctly was impressed to say that I saw the hand of God touch her…I believe that I did…when she returned to the doctor…there was no sign of cancer…that was forty years ago…she is alive and well today.
Years later and at a different church…we had a pastor named John. When Dean and I visited him…his appearance was shocking…he had lost a tremendous amount of weight…his facial color was like nothing that I had ever witnessed…he looked like that he was already dead. His appearance was, skeletal, due to tremendous weight loss…caused by his illness.
John had cirrhosis of the liver.
We all prayed for God to heal, John…soon thereafter he began to gain weight and strength and was able to receive a liver transplant…and lived for several years thereafter.
John, delivered a sermon…and believed that the day he and Dean and I prayed…was the day that he was healed.
Jonathon and I enjoyed some beer at the local Pub…this afternoon.
This activity, is something that I enjoy, very much.
I was reared in a conservative faith…that frowned on drinking alcohol of any kind.
Although, I truly believe that there were fellow church members…that were indulging in secret.
For may years…I have found that the occasional drink at a bar…is not only relaxing…but refreshing.
There is an unbinding of conversation and thought and feeling… that acts as an oil for human interaction.
Often, Aaron joins us…and from time to time…Mary Jane.
Plans are made…and problem solved…in the relaxed and non-judgmental atmosphere of a friendly Pub.
As the famous television show, Cheers, noted:
‘Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
All those nights when you’ve got no lights, the check is in the mail.
And your little angel hung the cat up by it’s tail.
And your third fiancée didn’t show!
Sometimes you wanna go.
Where everybody knows your name.
And they’re glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see.
The troubles are all the same.
You wanna be where everybody knows your name.
You roll out of bed, Mr. Coffee is dead, the morning’s looking bright
And your shrink ran off to Europe, and didn’t even write.
And your husband wants to be a girl!
Be glad there’s one place in the world
Where everybody knows your name
And there always glad your came.
You wanna go where people know,
People are all the same.
Yo wanna go where everybody knows your name.’
The United States was founded as a Puritanical Society.
We often ask so much of our family and friends…that we cause them to develop phobias and emotionally traumatic issues…that haunt them throughout their lives.
Of course, alcoholism is dangerous…but the realization that there are many lovely experiences…during our walk to eternity…that are natural and helpful and beneficial…is the key to a well balanced and healthy life.
‘And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:
And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.
And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith uno him, They have no wine.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.
His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
And there were set there six water pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.
Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.
And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bear it.
When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,
And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thous hast kept the good wine until now.’ John 2: 1-10 KJV
‘And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.’ Luke 16:18 KJV
‘Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer! Martin Luther
It is Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Homecoming.
Jonathon and I just happened upon a Pep Rally, on Old Campus, this morning.
The Saluki Dogs were there.
The Saluki Mascots, were in attendance.
There was free pizza.
There was ‘snappy’ music, as we old folks refer to it, and happy students and an air of expectancy and exuberance…that I have not seen on Campus…for some time.
NBA superstar, Walt Frazier, will be the Grand Marshall of the Homecoming parade, in the morning.
‘He learned Basketball on a rutted and dirt playground, the only facility available at his all black school in the racially segregated South of the 1950’s. After Howard, Frazier attended Southern Illinois University. Although he was offered other scholarships for his football skills, Frazier accepted a basketball offer from Southern Illinois University, saying that ‘there were no black quarterbacks, so I played basketball.’ Wikipedia
‘SIU moved up from Division II to Division I in 1967, and Frazier and SIU won the National Invitation Tournament, beating Marquette University 71-56 in the final, in the last college basketball game played at the old Madison Square Garden in New York. Frazier was named Most Valuable Player of the 1967 tournament.’ Wikipedia
‘A Brooks Tale’
It was a lovely day to play croquet.
I had enjoyed the old English game since I was a child.
Mary Jane’s mom and dad, had an old set that I was sure must have been purchased many years ago.
We enjoyed the game and the out of doors and sipped both dry and dirty martinis…and did not have a care in the world.
‘Dad, do you want another Dirty,’ Jonathon called to me.
‘Yes I do…and make it extra dirty…if you know what I mean,’ I replied.
I had enjoyed dirty martinis since the days of our friends, Peter and Jo Ann, and could she ever make a delicious and strong drink.
Peter and Jo Ann and Mary Jane and I, took an overnight trip to St. Louis, once, and had the best time. We stayed at the Hilton and the following morning we enjoyed a champagne breakfast.
Jo Ann’s martini glasses…were unusually large.
It was a rather warm day for October, 95 degrees, and climbing. Not so long ago…outdoor games were relegated to summer…but recently…we played them year round.
‘I am looking forward to our cruise in the spring,’ Mary Jane said.
‘It will be an epic anniversary gift,’ I announced.
‘Where, in Alaska, are you going to visit,’ Aaron asked?
‘I think that it is pretty well open for business and tourism… across the state,’ I replied.
‘Dear, you took my turn,’ noted Mary Jane.
‘I am so sorry, my dear, I was just day dreaming about change,’ I said.
‘Change, can be a positive thing,’ Aaron extolled.
‘Yes, that is true…but sometimes…I miss how it was,’ I said sadly.
‘Did you lock the iron gate, Jonathon, I asked?
‘Yes, I did that several hours ago…, he responded.
‘Was there anyone outside the gate,’ I inquired?
‘Oh, hundreds, Dad, perhaps thousands…the guards appeared to have put on extra staff,’ Jonathon said.
‘Did you hear about SIU,’ Aaron asked?
‘No, I have not been able to walk there for a long time…and there is little to no news that is worth reading or listening to lately,’ I said.
‘Some of the University buildings are being used as homeless shelters…primarily Puerto Ricans and Southern Refugees, Aaron explained.
‘Classes are still being held on the Old Campus…though,’ he went on to say.
Mary Jane asked us to change the subject and focus on the croquet game and consider our blessings.
I agreed…to think that were going to celebrate our 60th anniversary…and tour Alaska…and visit my brother, Brock, and my lovely sister in law, Marcy, and they were still only in their 60’s.
‘What time is it, Dad,’ Jonathon asked?
‘My watch says that it is 7pm…but I swear…I have not been able to tell if it is night or day…since the Blast…
‘The MS St. Louis was a ship [holding] primarily Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939. So this is after Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when some folks saw the writing on the wall and thought: ‘I have to get out of here to be safe.’ These were folks who booked tickets; they had applied for visas to the United States, and the ship was going to go from Germany via Cuba to the United States, thereafter. The Cuban government held their documents on the way from Germany to Cuba, which basically stranded everyone on the ship. Even though these people had applied for visas, the United States would not grant them entry. The ship afterward went from port to port in Europe [dropping off the passengers].’
‘Approximately half of these refugees [among the 620 who were returned to continental Europe] ended up being murdered by the Nazi death machine over the course of the war.’ Russel Neiss The Atlantic
‘The Vietnam War saw the highest proportion of blacks ever to serve in an American war. During the height of U.S. involvement, 1965-69, blacks, who formed 11 percent of the American population, made up 12.6 percent of the soldiers in Vietnam. The majority of these were in the infantry, and although authorities differ on the figures, the percentage of black combat fatalities in that period was a staggering 14.9 percent..’ John Sibley Butler Modern American Poetry
I watched the Nightly News with Walter Cronkite…nightly…when I was in grammar school and high school There was a running death toll…every night…and it was surreal.
9/11, devastated our Nation.
We went to war in Afghanistan…and sought Osama bin Laden…he was the mastermind of the attack…and our best intelligence told us that he was hiding in there.
After that…we went to war…to finish the job…that was not finished by President Bush…senior.
As President Bush…junior…said…’Saddam Hussein tried to kill my father.’
We found Saddam…we did not find Osama.
I worked with several young men…who suffered with PTSD…from the War in Iraq.
Now, we face an imminent threat…that if the wrong decision is made…could yield the most terrible carnage and death…in modern history.
The concern…is world wide…if a rash decision…or a petulant or uninformed or unstable decision is made.
‘During the final stage of World War II, the United States dropped nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The United States had dropped the bombs with the consent of he United Kingdom as outlined in the Quebec Agreement. The two bombings, which killed at least 129,000 people, remain the only use of nuclear weapons for warfare in history.’ Wikipedia
‘President Donald Trump said he wanted what amounted to a nearly tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal during a gathering this past summer of the nation’s highest-ranking national security leaders, according to three officials who are in the room.’ NBC News
‘The July 20 meeting was described as a lengthy and sometimes tense review of worldwide U.S. forces and operations. it was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a ‘moron.’ NBC News
Republican Sen. Bob Corker runs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is widely seen as a moderate and sober voice on national security issues, and has won the respect of both Democrats and Republicans for his handling of thorny issues like Iran and Russia.’
‘He is now warning that President Donald Trump is setting the US on a potential ‘path to World War III.’ Vox
‘First they came for the Communist
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the Trade Unionist
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Trade Unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me,
First They Came – Pastor Martin Niemoller
Is the only news…that is true…the news that our President tells us?
‘The 39 Steps is a 1935 British thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll. Very loosely based on the 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, the film is about an everyman civilian in London, Richard Hannay, who becomes caught up in preventing an organization of spies called the 39 Steps form stealing British military secrets. After being mistakenly accused of the murder of a counter-espionage agent, Hannay goes on the run to Scotland with an attractive woman in the hopes of stopping the spy ring and clearing his name.’ Wikipedia
Thirty-nine years ago today I was hired as a Building Service Worker I at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Prior to my SIU hiring…I had worked in a factory and in a furniture store and selling World Book Encyclopedias, door to door, and in a janitorial service, and laying carpet.
Carpet laying was probably my favorite, as I was working with my good friend, Brent.
I had only been married, for a few months, when I lost my job with the janitorial service.
Mary Jane admonished me to go to Personnel Services, which is what it was called at the time, and take a civil service exam for Building Services.
I asked her, angrily…and somewhat hurt, if that is all that she thought that I was capable of…being a janitor?
She responded, very calmly and confidently, that I may not understand what a good job Housekeeping was.
And, so, I went…reluctantly.
I met with an African American Counselor at Personnel…that asked me if I really needed a job and if I would feel that custodial services was beneath me?
I responded that I desperately needed a job and that I was newly married and that I had a house payment.
She stared out of her window…for what seemed to me several minutes…and then looked at me again and told me that I should answer each essay question, of which the entire exam was comprised of, completely and note at the bottom of the question to write, ‘see back’, and continue my answer on the back of the page.
I did what my Counselor suggested.
Personnel, also told me that there were over 700 persons competing for the position of BSWI.
I took the exam and thought little more about it…there were over 700 on the list.
Two weeks later I received a note, in the mail from SIU Personnel, that informed me that due to my test score of 100, I was eligible for an interview for the position of Building Service Worker I.
I called George O’Hara, the Superintendent of Building Services, and set up an interview for the next day.
The interview…was going well…Mr. O’Hara was very nice to me and I had the distinct impression…that he might hire me.
Toward the conclusion of the interview, Mr. O’Hara, said that he had several 5 to 1 work shifts, that needed to be filled , and one 11 to 7 shift, that was vacant.
I, immediately thought that I would say that I was interested in the 5-1 shifts…as I was sure that no one would want a 5am starting time.
When I announced my brilliant answer of 5am to 1pm…Mr. O’Hara’s face fell…and he closed up his interview notebook…and he said that only the most senior staff were eligible for the most desirable work shifts…on days.
I coughed and sputtered and extolled… that there was only one thing that I enjoyed more than getting up early to go to work…and that was working in the evening.
George laughed…a month later…I was hired.
So, what about the 39 Steps?
Each year, since my fortuitous hiring…39 years ago…I have made Steps…that have changed who I am.
I watched my wonderful boys…be born…and grow…into men that I am extremely proud of.
I have had my wonderful wife…stand by me…through the difficult times…and the joys of our life together.
My opinions and my beliefs…have been vastly broadened and my acceptance of all people…has never been greater.
I have been, blessed, to be a part of, many members of the disabled community hired into a career position…that changed their lives.
I have witnessed so many of my colleagues rise up thorough the ranks of the University, my friend, Elizabeth…being a great example.
I have seen those, hired…and promoted…, that perhaps would not have been…because they were evaluated on their ability…and not their skin color.
I have had great leaders…as my friend.
I have been a recipient of the opportunity that SIU affords.
I was 20…when I was hired…I will be 60…in two weeks.
I would like to do another 40!
It has been enlightening…it has been fun!
I was able to shoot several close-ups of Deer…right on the SIU Campus…behind the Student Center.
I often ponder…what a privilege it is to be so close to deer and other wildlife…and their seeming acceptance of me as part of their ecosystem?
I think that the happiness of human life is in direct proportion to the happiness of wildlife and nature.
‘Ashes to ashes…dust to dust.’