Monthly Archives: November, 2017

Shades of Gray

Jonathon and I were talking, over lunch, and I was reminded of what I told a former SIU Chancellor…twenty years ago.

I noted that although there were many ‘Black and White’ issues that confronted University life…the preponderance of the University runs in ‘Shades of Gray.’


It is rather easy to write about or think about or speak about difficult and complex issues and feel that your opinion is righteous and just and the only way to think about the subject.

It is much more difficult to experience, what you are so adamantly convinced of and certain in your rightness, only to discover that what you thought was patently a ‘cut and dry’ issue…is, indeed, complex.

Many are against abortion.  They would do almost anything to protect the unborn child and ensure that it is able to be born.  Many of these same people seem to have little concern for countless children who are born into poverty and no medical coverage and food deprivation.   They support the reduction or elimination of Food Stamp Programs and access to decent medical care and view those who are in poverty as lazy and shiftless and that they simply need to work harder if they want enough to eat.

We look on in consternation at the proliferation of the homeless in our communities.  We are saddened and curious as to how so many of our fellow citizens came to such a low estate.  Studies have proven that a majority of the homeless suffer from mental  illness.  Yet, our government continues to cut or eliminate mental health programs.


Across or country many football players and cheerleaders have chosen to take a knee during our national anthem.  These individuals are representing many in their community who have been marginalized and abused and made to feel that they are not a participant in the American Dream.


Many of the fans in the stands…have fought in wars and many have had loved ones and friends killed and maimed…and the flag means everything to them.


I have written regarding my support for peaceful protests.

Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon and I were caught in the middle of one last Friday.  I did not feel supportive nor empathetic nor did I want to join in the endeavor to close the individual businesses in the St. Louis Galleria…I was there to Christmas shop…and I felt the love and joy and enjoyment of the Season…until the shouting began.

‘Being taught to avoid talking about politics and religion has led to a lack of understanding of politics and religion.  What we should have been taught was how to have a civil conversation about a difficult topic.’      The Other 98%


Neither political party is all right or all wrong.

We, humans, seem to really bond with symbols?

I have visited many beautiful churches…especially in Europe.

The Vatican is breathtaking!

But, the Church is not the building…it is the people that fill the building.

I love Southern Illinois University…but SIU is not the multitude of wonderful structures that are found on the Campus…it is the wonderful people that comprise the Community.


Our beautiful…red…white…and blue flag…that men and women have died for in order to ensure that it stands over a free and democratic people…that comprise a ‘Melting Pot’ of immigrants from all over the world.

statue of liberty head

Let us all love and support and revere what the symbols of our land exhibit…

People seek refuge inside a bank building after the first to

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 11: People seek refuge inside a bank building after the first tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. (Photo by Corey Sipkin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)

‘Give me your tired your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’

‘The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.’

‘I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’

From the poem, New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty





Christmas…In The Midst of Life

Another Christmas is upon us.

While President Trump and the Republican leadership of Congress met over lunch to discuss their Tax Overhaul Plan…North Korea launched a ballistic missile.  It is believed that they may be able to launch a nuclear missile in 2018.


Today, we erected our 2017 Christmas Tree.

Human care and worry and strife and war…has always been a part of life on our planet.

‘ On a crisp, clear morning 100 years ago, thousands of British, Belgian and French soldiers put down their rifles, stepped out of their trenches and were seen, Christmas, mingling with their German enemies along the Western front.  In the hundred years since, the event has been seen as a kind of miracle, a rare moment of peace just a few months into a war that would eventually claim over 15 million lives.’

‘ Most accounts suggest the truce began with carol singing from the trenches on Christmas Eve, ‘a beautiful moonlit night, frost on the ground, white almost everywhere’, as Pvt. Albert Moren of the Second Queens Regiment recalled, in a document later rounded up by the New York Times.’       Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914   Time Magazine

As I reflect on our, last Friday, visit to St. Louis and the stark and jarring difference that occurred between the Holiday Shoppers…and large number of people who devoted their day…to disruption of the shopping…to focus attention on the manner in which they have been treated and their increasing marginalization.


We all see life through the prism of our own experiences.  If we have been treated fairly and equitably and with love and concern and if, as the Presbyterian Church says, ‘ have Voice’, then we wonder why everyone does not feel as we do?

Many in our country…are not treated well.

Many seek opportunity…but the doors are shut.

Many seek, ‘Voice’, but they are not heard…and, thus, the alternative that they seek…is loud and stark and jarring and unpleasant…and, indeed, it may not remotely address the real concerns that they have…but it is the outgrowth of a long history of nothing working and hopelessness and despair.


‘ And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.  (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)  And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.’   Luke 2:1-7   KJV

IMG_7196We had a wonderful time at St. Charles on Saturday.

We visited the Artist who created my, ‘Trump Tie’, and he was showing us photos of his recent visit to Mar-Lago.


We had our traditional Reuben Sandwiches at Braddens’ Restaurant and Debbie was tending the Bar and she served me, once again, a tremendous Grand Marnier…more than I probably deserved!

I purchased another Lithuanian Candle House…which means that I now have three.

IMG_7118IMG_7014When we host our family and friends for Thanksgiving…we want everyone to be comfortable and happy and well served and at peace.

I think that, perhaps, our Heavenly Father wants happiness for all of his Human Family…and not just those of us who have, ‘Voice’, and were able to become good capitalist and achieve the American Dream?




Heritage or ‘Finding Your Roots’

Have you ever thought about your family tree?

My sister, Tammy, and I were talking about our father’s mother, who I had never met, and she found a picture of her on the internet, along with a few others.

b99c14c3-a1e1-4039-b90d-753d50f96c1dThe blond girl is our grandmother, Verna Smothers.

I am the oldest of our Dad’s children.  Although I am the only child of Willam Brooks and Neva June Askew, I have six brothers and sisters.  Two are from one union and four are from another.

I did not see our Dad after my sixth birthday and had never heard of his mom and our grandmother.

IMG_7132This is a photo of William Brooks and Verna Smothers, who are our father’s parents.

IMG_7133This is a photo of our grandmother and grandfather and our dad in the middle.

I can vividly remember our grandfather, Brooks, visiting our home, in Sauk Village outside Chicago, when I was probably three or four years old.

Accompanying grandpa Brooks was his mother and our great grandmother, who was a Cherokee Indian, and his sister, Lois, who my mom was very fond of.

They all lived in California…although our Dad was originally from the town of Ashley in Southern Illinois.

IMG_7134Here is Dad and his three sisters and father.  The girls seem very happy…but he does not?

Dad was a World War II Veteran and he worked as a mechanic on Semi-Trucks…the big rigs.

I remember Dad loving to ride his Harley Davidson motorcycle and wear his leather motorcycle jacket and his motorcycle hat.

My Mom told me that he often carried a gun…but did not have a concealed carry license or permit.

This was Dad's birthday. He was 57. Taken in Tennessee

This was Dad’s birthday. He was 57. Taken in Tennessee

I remember riding between Dad and Mom on the Harley and the wind blowing and we seemed to be riding very fast and I was a little scared.

IMG_7135A photo of Dad’s Dad.  I think that they may have been a little adventuresome?

I have communicated with my sisters, Tammy and Jolene and my brother Brock, and they all are excited about Tammy discovering these awesome pictures

We hope to find out more about the mystery…who was our father!

Springfield, Ohio "69"

Springfield, Ohio “69”

‘A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form.  Out of curiosity, they said: ‘We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable.’  So they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it.  In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said ‘This being is like a thick snake.’  For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan.  As for another person, whose hand was upon its’ leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk.  The blind man who placed his hand upon it’s side said, ‘elephant is a wall.’  Another who felt its’ tail, described it as a rope.  The last felt its’ tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.’   Blind Men and an Elephant, Wikipedia



Christmas Wonder

We switched it up this year!


On Friday, we shopped in St. Louis and on Saturday we journeyed to our favorite Christmas Spot…St. Charles, Missouri.

As we were in the St. Louis Galleria…enjoying our Holiday Revelry…there began a protest…and it was loud and disconcerting.

As I began texting Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon as to where they were and if they were alright…I noticed that the stores were shuttering their doors almost in sequence with my passing each of them.

A protest is frightening and loud and off-putting…and it comes from serious and long term civil and racial unrest.

A protest is not like watching it on television…when you are there and see and hear the protestors screaming in unison to ‘Shut it Down’…and you see the police in groups…trepidatious and cautious and armed and with many plastic handcuffs.

And, you witness the shoppers…both African American and White…fearful and moving towards the exits as you sit by one of the managers in Nordstrom’s who is on pins and needles as is his colleague, who is African American, and you wonder if this Action is going to solve the racial and civil and human unrest that exists in this Country?

Saturday, yesterday, was…Dickens and Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim and Carolers and Santa Claus’s from all over the world.


We stopped in Jansen’s Clocks…which seems like family…as we have been shopping there for almost 20 years.  The Barrett family is a wonderful family.


We visited Main-street Books which is an outstanding independent Bookstore.


One thing that was apparent to me over Black Friday and Small Business Saturday is that there is a chasm of racial and political and human family divide…splitting the residents of our Country…and it is painful and it should be unnecessary  and it is uncomfortable for Black and White Americans…and it was uncomfortable for me.


We all want to sing Christmas Carols and feel a part of this great country and rejoice in the gift of Christ to the Human Family…but there is a great and loud voice of discontent and loneliness and sadness and a history of abuse and shame and being excluded and marginalized and not being heard….that suggests we need to reassess and renew our dedication to ‘All Men are Created Equal’…and not just some of us!


‘For unto us a child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the Increase of His government and peace There will be no end.  Upon the throne of David and over his kingdom.  To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.   Isaiah 9:6-7   NKJV



IMG_6923As I was taking my daily walk, on Campus, I was struck with the quiet of the normally bustling surroundings.

I encountered almost no one…and could even hear the sound of my foot falls on the walkways.

IMG_6928When I was still working, at SIU, I enjoyed the day before Thanksgiving and the day before the Christmas and New Year Holiday.

These days were ideal for reflecting on the past year and looking toward the future.

They were also days, for me, to appreciate the opportunity that I had been afforded to be a member of the Southern Illinois University Community.

IMG_6918Shadows, were part of my walk today…and they are a part of our lives as well.

IMG_6900IMG_6935In the midst of the quiet and peace and beauty of nature…an ambulance siren peeled it’s purposely loud warning.

Such is life…where we are enjoying the peace and the quiet and the joy of living…suddenly trauma and suffering and the loud warning of a siren…causes us to stop and focus on our needs or those of of our family and friends.

IMG_6931Let us pause and thank God for our many blessings on Thanksgiving…and reach out to someone who have a, Siren, in their life.


Thanksgiving Or It’s a Wonderful Life

2017 has flown by much to quickly!

I was thinking back on our year…that is passing us like a ‘freight train passes a bum,’ and I was surprised to discover that I have been able to accomplish two things that I love to do, almost daily.

Since January, I have walked for health most days.  This has become such a habit that I miss my Campus Explorations when I am unable to indulge in them.


Of course, I combine my daily walks with my love of photography and the event is many times more enjoyable.

When I am on the Campus, that I love, and where I spent over thirty-two years as an employee, I reflect on the rich past and hope for a great future for our wonderful SIU.

Our University is preparing to undergo a Great Experiment…in that the entire academic structure is going to be changed to facilitate a more nimble and hearty institution.

I can not help but think of former SIU President, Delyte Morris, as I pass his statue on  Old Campus each day.


According to first hand witnesses, who recounted Dr. Morris’s greatness, to me, when I first began at the University in 1978…he had an ability to make everyone feel that they were a part of the success of the Campus.

The people that spoke to me about, their President, extolled the time that he took to meet each member of the University Community…individually, and the interest that he displayed in their contributions to the School.

I was in Morris Library today and saw a large photo of Delyte and Dorothy riding their bicycles across Campus.  I am told that they did this on a regular basis and that they would stop and talk with the janitors and the grounds workers and the professors.


My friend and former chancellor, Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger, was very similar to the description of Delyte Morris, in that she projected a bonding and a collegiality and a friendship with, professors and grounds workers and janitors…and the excitement surrounding her, less than a year leadership, was palpable.

When Jo Ann was terminated there was an outcry from faculty and staff and students…that perhaps will never be forgotten.


It was my great honor and distinct privilege to experience, firsthand, what it was like to have  Campus Leaders project to me their genuine confidence in me and to seek my counsel on matters.

When a leader demonstrates real confidence in you and your ideas…it is an unmistakable call to rise to your very best.


And, so, I wish new chancellor Montemagno nothing but success.  He has been given the Wheel of a massive ship of opportunity…that is filled with people that not only love the University but who have decades of institutional knowledge and passion and zeal… to be called into the service of turning the ship around and heading it into calm waters.



I have also been able to write on most days in 2017.  This was a goal of mine when I retired at the conclusion of 2010 and I have throughly enjoyed my daily writing experience.


I write…for myself…and I hope that others enjoy my scribblings.


I find writing a peaceful enterprise.  I have enjoyed the exercise of writing since I was very young and it give this 60 year old a feeling of accomplishment.

My friend, Margo, tells me that I might want to combine my blog posts into a book…I think she is on to something!


I am thankful on so many levels.

My buddies, Ron and Ira Kaye, will be joining us for Thanksgiving Dinner and they will be bringing Mrs. Moore…who in December will be 101 years old.

Mary Jane, who loves Thanksgiving, has been hosting the event for 30 years…and she is as excited to be doing so… as the first time that she did.



We have invited my brother Brock and Sister-in-law Marcy and my nephew Jeb and my niece Jamie for next Thanksgiving…and I hope they can come as they are our new found family and we love them!



I think when the time arrives for us to leave this wonderful life…we will not be thinking that we wished we had worked longer hours or that we had obtained another promotion…but rather we will be thinking about the people that we loved…and those that loved us.


‘We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’   G.K. Chesterton


Christmas Through Child’s Eyes

For many years our church has participated in the Interfaith Council Spirit of Christmas Project.

Each year, our church members buy gifts, that have been requested by children who are anonymous to us and we to them.

Each Christmas Season that I have been privileged to be a part of this wonderful program…I have been blessed.


As we shop for the little toys and books and other requested items…I am transported to my childhood…where one or two gifts, that I had been hoping for, meant the world to me and made Christmas shine with a special brilliance.



Legend has it that Santa visits every house on Christmas Eve and that he slides down the chimney with a sack full of colorfully wrapped presents and candy and fruit and joyful surprises.

The truth is…many children do not receive a visit from the Jolly Old Elf…and the world takes on a coldness and a grayness and a harsh edge.

I did not receive a lot of Christmas gifts when I was a child…at times…there just was not the money for them.

The gifts that I did receive were precious and I remember each and every one.

Christmas, is a bit of a reset of life…don’t you think?


Whether it has been a harsh year or a year of poor health or failed relationships or loss of a job and financial worry and care… or a a time of grief and the loss of a loved one…Christmas gives us a time to pause and reflect and renew our spirits for the road of life that is ahead.

There is no better way to have your faith in God renewed or reset…than to have someone care about you and reach out to you…and give you a gift…with no desire of a gift in return.

A Holiday Reset

‘A Brooks Tale


‘Well, are we going to get up as early as we did last year to shop on Black Friday,’ Mary Jane asked?

‘I think that we should try something different, this year, do you remember how crowded the the Galleria was…and we had to search for a parking place for over an hour,’ I retorted.

‘I remember how impatient that you were and that you swore that you would never go shopping the day after Thanksgiving again, Mary Jane said.

‘Why don’t we visit St. Charles, this year, I have heard that they have a tremendous Christmas Celebration complete with Dickens characters and Period Santa Claus’s, I responded.

‘That sounds great to me,’ Aaron said.

‘Last year, I could not find a place to sit down…and there was almost no standing room either,’ Jonathon chimed in.

And, so, the decision was made, by mutual consent, that we would spend our historic shopping day for Christmas at the historic city of St. Charles, Missouri.

Upon arriving at St. Charles I almost immediately encountered Carolers singing the most beautiful rendition of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’…with the most luxurious smell of chestnuts roasting on a, real, open fire.


St. Nicholas wished me a ‘Joyous Noel’ and subsequently gave me a card with his picture on it and an explanation of his origins in history.


Soon, a band came marching down the street that included; elf’s and fairies and Santa Clauses from all over the world and Mr. Scrooge and Bob Cratchit and his beloved son…Tiny Tim.

We stopped for lunch and the bartender, a most precious woman of good demeanor and judgment, poured me a fulsome portion of Grand Marnier.

As I lustily drank the first draft…she immediately poured me the second…and I felt the Christmas Spirit.

At lunch’s, long completion, we returned to our revelry upon the cobblestones.

Several years ago, we visited Madison, Wisconsin, where I purchased two, historically authentic, Dickens Period Hats.

One hat is a, Carriage Man’s hat, while the other is a Bowler or Derby hat.



As I travel the candle lit streets of St. Charles…I am often mistaken for one of the actors depicting the Dickens Characters.

As a woman exited one of the stores that we were in she exclaimed to her partner, ‘There is the man who drives the carriage!’



As the, late fall, sun begins to set and the candles glow more brightly…there occurs an otherworldly air…or an experience of time travel.

The candle lit shadows of St. Nick and his elf’s and Scrooge…and the Ghost of Christmas Past…who I did not remember from earlier?


And, there was my Dad and Mom and I setting under a massive Christmas Tree…in Chicago, Illinois.

We were laughing and opening gifts…and it seemed that all of the gifts…were mine.

We did not have a care in the world…and we were safe and warm…and we loved each other…and I was four years old…holding Laughing Santa…and every time I turned the crank, that protruded from his back, he laughed an uproarious and unapologetic laugh of zeal and gusto and Christmas Joy.

Suddenly, I was transported to Christmas Eve and my buddy Steve and I were driving to Eldorado, Illinois to spend Christmas with my Mom and Stepfather.

Steve had a 1950’s automobile and it was ideal for a Christmas journey.

On the radio was playing, A Country Christmas.

No sooner was I enjoying the vintage car ride with my pal, Steve, than I was shopping with Mary Jane for our first Christmas Tree at Wal-Mart.

We purchased a six foot tall artificial tree and victorian ornaments to decorate it.

There, was Aaron and Jonathon, three and five years old and full of wonder, as we decorated the tree and placed the, wonderful and mysterious gifts, under the massive yule-tide symbol.

Christmas Morning…the looks of delight and wonder and surprise on the faces of my boys…was the most special of Christmas’s…and one I seek to replicate…each year!

Tiny Tim asked, ‘Have you seen my father?’

I rubbed my eyes and wondered just how much of the wonderful Grand Marnier that I had consumed?

I mentioned to Tim that I thought that I had seen his Dad on the next corner.

He gratefully replied, God bless us…everyone!’




The Absence of “No” is Not Enough

Please read this, insightful, post.

Wine and Cheese (Doodles)

For the last week I’ve been watching the #MeToo movement rise and fall in the media. Women are sharing, in great detail, personal experiences in order to highlight just how pervasive the problem of sexual harassment and assault really is.

What I’m also noticing is that men, on the whole, have been largely silent.

Now, I hope–sincerely–the relative silence is about allowing a safe space for women to talk about their experiences without trying to interrupt or explain why those experiences are wrong or mistaken or taken out of context. Sincerely.

My worry, however, is the silence is due to many men not hearing what women are shouting over the chasm. The chasm which exists between the way women define and view sexual assault, harassment, and consent, and the way that men do. That chasm is so wide and deep when you shout across it no one on the other…

View original post 1,061 more words


A great Drama is playing out before our eyes and it is hight time that it did.


Democratic Senator, Al Franken, has been accused of forcibly kissing and groping a woman with whom he was performing in a USO Show in Afghanistan.

Franken has apologized and said that he will cooperate with a a Senate Ethics Committee investigation of his behavior.

It has been reported that nearly seventeen millions dollars has been paid in settlement of law suits regarding sexual harassment and discrimination between 1997 – 2017.  The money was paid to settle 268 cases.

This was taxpayer money.

Republican Senatorial Candidate, Roy Moore of Alabama, now has eight women accusing him of sexual harassment.

The accusations include:

Leigh Coffman – ‘Corfman told the paper that she met Moore outside a courthouse in 1979 where here mother was attending a child custody hearing.  Moore, was then 32-year-old assistant district attorney, volunteered to wait with the teen while her mother went inside for the hearing.’

‘When they were alone together, Corfman told the paper that Moore asked for her phone number.  Coffman said he later picked her up for a drive around the corner from her house and drove her to his house, where Moore kissed her.  She alleges that Moore removed his clothes during a second visit and touched Corfman over her underwear and also guided her hand to touch him.’    Washington Post

Kay Ivey, the Governor of Alabama, said that she plans on voting for Judge Moore and that she has no reason not to believe his accusers.

In defense of his actions, Judge Moore said, that he, as a rule, asked the parents permission before taking a woman on a date.

Former President Bill Clinton was guilty of an affair with a young White House intern, Monica Lewinsky, during his time as President and he was impeached for two counts, one of perjury and one for obstruction of justice, arrising from the Paula Jones Case.

President Donald Trump, tweeted, ‘The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words.  Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?’

The President has been accused of sexual assault by sixteen women.

He was heard on tape, just prior to his election as President, that he could do anything to women that he wanted…including ‘grabbing them by the p—-,’ due to his being a celebrity.

This is not a time for Tribalism.


This is not a time to circle the wagons around your ‘Party’s Guy’….in order to facilitate your political agenda…and the suffering of harassed and abused women…be damed.


Indeed, someone is going to be damed…if we continue to take the attitude that humanity and dignity of over half of the Planet’s population…is not real important…or customs are different…in certain sections of the country.


Roy Moore’s lawyer said to Newscaster, Ali Velshi, the other morning…that he had read Mr. Velshi’s background and insinuated that Velshi would understand that age and dating were different in different parts of the United States and in Mr. Velshi’s experience.

Stephanie Ruhle, Mr. Velshi’s co-host and news anchor, was enraged and demanded what the lawyer for Moore was referring to…as Mr. Velshi was from Canada.

The cloying and sickening, supposedly,  hidden. …in plain sight… prejudice and bias…of some…is disgusting.