Monthly Archives: August, 2018

Write What You Know

For the past few, retirement, years I have been actively involved in my life long passion of writing.

I was watching a Showtime network. long running television series, The Affair, and throughly enjoyed a particular exchange between the actor, Dominic West character, Noah…who is a writer, and his protege, and aspiring writer…Anton.

Through the twists and turns of the penultimate episode and the finale, for the season, last night, Noah Solloway and Anton are on their way to Princeton, where Noah, a popular author, has a friend who chairs the english department and who he has put in a good word for Anton…with.

When Noah’s friend asks the student in her writing class, where Anton is sitting in, to write a description of someone and take only fifteen minutes to do so, Anton writes one of Noah.

While the beginning of the description, that Anton reads aloud to the class, is complimentary and perhaps glowing regarding his mentor…his observations soon  become more real and at times unflattering and caustic.

When Noah chastises Anton, who is African American and the son of the Principle of the Charter School, in California, where Noah is a teacher, Anton replies that what he wrote was what he believed would be, readily accepted by the audience that he was writing for and that to write his real and candid observations was what he considered….the definition of a writer.

‘Writing is easy.  You just open a vein and bleed.’    Walter Wellesley ‘Red’ Smith

In order to connect with a reading audience and writer must have an authenticity and genuineness of spirit that is portrayed in the written word that is being placed upon the paper.

The writing that has moved me has been character driven and something that I could identify with in my life.

When a character, jumps out at you from the page, it is, most likely, a representation of a real person or a composite of people that the author knew.

‘And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.’    John 1:14   KJV

Often, a sentence or a phrase or a character…will captivate our mind and emotions.

Writing is a bit of a spiritual experience.  Often those stories and ideas that are part of your life and experience and subconsciousness…come to the surface in unique and interesting manners.

I have heard authors say that they could not wait to get back to writing a novel, that they were working on, or a short story, because they wanted to see what their characters were going to do next?

I have discovered that if I am, true, to myself as a, hobbyist, author…I must be honest about my perception of the subject that I am scribbling about.  At times…honesty has negative elements and constructive criticism.

Anyone that knows me, knows, that I would never intentionally hurt anyone.

I asked a member of my staff, several years ago, when she informed me that she did not completely trust me,…have I ever lied to you?  She replied that I had not.

I then asked her if I had ever failed to fulfill what I had told her that I was going to do or had failed to keep a assurance or promise to her…she answered that I had not.

And, so it is with life,…the more bona fide and veritable that we are with each other…the more we can walk down the road to understanding each other.

Writings that enthrall me…are narratives that I can see the, previously, unrevealed thoughts of the author…and hear their heartbeats offered as a gift to the lucky reader.

 

 

 

 

A New Beginning!

I know that it must get tiresome reading my continuing blogs posts regarding Southern Illinois University at Carbondale…but it is an institution that I love and have been involved with for 40 years.

IMG_1600 3.jpg

SIU is preparing, Monday, to begin the Fall Semester 2018, and they have rolled out the red carpet!

I often wonder if administration realizes the, buy-in and dedication of their civil service staff, into the ultimate success of SIUC?

I am thinking of, a husband and wife, who both work for SIU that work untold hours to ensure that SIU is in, top form, and ready to address any and all student needs!

My son, Jonathon, who is a civil service employee, takes the welfare of the students as th-13his personal responsibility and does everything in his power to ensure that their welfare if of paramount importance!

I was a member of the Building Service staff or over 32 years.  During that time our student worker staff grew from 120 to 250 and our students were extremely important to our mission.

Civil Service Staff…bleed Saluki Maroon!

 

We not only bonded with our students…we adopted them…I often told Alfie, my African American Muslim Son, that he ‘was my son…but he just would not call me…daddy!’  Alfie, responded, recently, that, ‘he would call me…daddy!’

Does administration understand…how many hours that we work for the betterment of our University?

Do they know the struggles…and the setbacks and the disappointments that we experience…to facilitate our mission of…being the answer to…SIUC’s enrollment problem?

IMG_1549 3

I love SIUC faculty!

Many of my close friends are SIUC faculty.

But, do  you realize that many of your civil service staff are over worked and underpaid and stressed…beyond belief…out of their, supreme, love for their Campus and their, demonstrated, desire to assist in its struggle?

IMG_1598 2

When I was working for SIUC I typically spent 60 – 80 hours per week.  I wanted SIUC to succeed, with every fiber of my being, and there was not enough hours in the day to facilitate my desire to enable us to return to our former excellence!

I, call on, all administrators, to look upon your cilvil service staff and take note of their unparalleled

dedication.

IMG_1666 4

Southern Illinois University will return to its former glory…but the civil service staff…will be instrumental in that return!

IMG_1162

 

 

When a Minister Preaches…or a Singer…Sings…Do You Feel It?

I have been listening, a lot, to Aretha Franklin, lately.

th-3

Seldom, have I heard a more, emotionally resonate and spirit filled singer, than the dearly departed Ms. Franklin.

th-2

Have you ever listened to 100 songs and enjoyed the beauty of the voice and the lyrics and the melody…and yet felt unmoved by the performance?

When Aretha sings there is a a loneliness and a feeling of, the church, that can not be mimicked.

th

I, vividly recall, Raul Martin and his accompanist Nancy Summers, singing, ‘I don’t know why I have to cry sometimes’, and moving me to tears…each time I heard it.

I listened to Aretha sing Amazing Grace, yesterday, and it is one of my favorite sacred songs, and, personally felt, the power of God’s amazing grace!

I remember, so enjoying, the scripture reading of our associate pastor, many years ago, Judy Beyler.  When she read the text…I experienced the living word of God.

When someone who is, genuine, speaks to you…you feel the truth in your soul.

light sky space abstract

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, there are a lot of fakes…out there.  And, there are people who endeavor to imitate the, ‘still quiet voice of God, but you know it when you hear it.

I, have experienced, many time in my life, either in a group or individually, and known that God was speaking to me through them.

We are all simply vessels made of clay…but our heavenly father can use us….to touch another who is in distress or despondent or who needs a friend…even…if we do not realize the mission.

adult band cap close up

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Compassionate Leadership

For many years I was charged with the duty of leading and managing a large housekeeping department.

IMG_1549 3

When I first became the Assistant Superintendent of Building Services our full time staff was 150 and our student staff was 120.

I had experienced, for many years prior to entering management, the power that a boss or manager or administrator had over my life and my outlook and peace and happiness.

IMG_1666 4

Much of our waking hours are spent in the necessary endeavor of making a living.  To actively engage in this activity we have, at least, one boss and perhaps two or three.  A supervisor who lays out clear and easily understood work instructions is important.

IMG_1598 2

A boss must be a clear communicator that says exactly what they mean and does not deviate from their verbal instructions.

A leader must not personalize work related duties but rather see everyone as equal and to be without favorites or enemies.  We have all worked in an organization where the favorites of the boss received the good and easy assignments…while the, perceived, enemies of the leader…were meted out their daily ration of punishment.

Have you ever worked for an organization that 8 hours was not enough…and 9 hours was not enough…and 10 hours of work was not enough…and every time that you were able to make a touchdown at the supervisors goal post…they moved the goal post?

Have you ever had your manager change a large component of your operational procedure and replace it with a silly solution that made your job much more difficult?  And, to add insult to injury…they did not, even, ask your opinion?

I sat in a literature class in high school.  The teacher was in her first year of teaching after college and, many of the students loved her.  She spoke to them as her equal and they talked about dates that they had been on and she announced, jubilantly, that her boyfriend was visiting over the weekend and that, ‘if the van was a rocking…don’t come a knock-in!’

I raised my hand on a regular basis…and she never called on me for the entire semester…and I loved literature?

Have you ever felt like that you just were not the bosses cup of tea?  Although you did not know each other…you would remain Sisyphus and would continue to roll the stone up the hill…only for it to roll back down again…and the procedure would be yours to repeat throughout your career?

IMG_1645 2

Of late, we see in our political arena…critics of the president being punished.  This, actually…is the wrong action from a leader.

Disagreements and criticism of a supervisor or manager of administrator should have nothing to do with the successful work-life of a member of the leader’s staff.

IMG_0116

Rather, on the contrary, a leader will provide good evaluations and positive feedback and promotional opportunities to those who disagree with him or her and will not consider constructive criticism that has been leveled against them.

IMG_1600 3

A benevolent leader…will often turn a critic to a supporter…simply by their unbiased attitude and actions towards the critical employee.

IMG_1412 2

My management philosophy was to take care of my people…first…and the work will take care of itself…and it worked for 25 years.

IMG_1625 3

The scripture tells us, ‘that a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’    Proverbs 25:11    KJV

Managers…administrators…bosses…uplift your employees!

The popular motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, said, ‘I really do not care how much you know…until I know how much you care…about me.’

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

 

 

 

A Hall of Mirrors

CNN host of the program, Reliable Sources, Brian Stelter, wrote an article, recently, ‘Trump and his media boosters live in a hall of mirrors.’

‘If you’ve ever been in a Mirror Maze attraction at an amusement park, you’ll know that it’s disorienting and repetitive.  You’re seeing the same thing over and over again, but some of the reflections are distorted and confusing, making it difficult to fine your way out.’

‘That’s what it’s like to step inside President Trump’s hall of mirrors.’

‘See, Trump’s media cheerleaders repeat what he says, and he relays the message back to them, and the mirror effect continues.  You might start to feel dizzy.’    CNN Media

I agree with Mr. Stelter’s hypothesis and would add that each of us…to an extant…live in our own hall of mirrors.

We surround ourselves with people that tend to agree with our way of thinking.

We consume news broadcasts that fulfill our political and societal beliefs.

The clubs that we belong to  and the churches that we attend and social events that we frequent…are often in line with our, narrow,view of the world and our place in it.

The frightening element of our, individual, hall of mirrors is that there is becoming an lack of agreement on what we, until recently, agreed were fundamental facts.

We are now being subjected to, daily, a barrage of guttural language where the leader of our country refers to private citizens as; dogs, the stupidest man on television, the press is the enemy of the people, low IQ, dummy, dumbest, dumb as a rock, sleazy drunk/drugged up loser, slime ball…and the list goes on and on.

The New York Times, last month, documented, ‘487 People, Places and Things Donald Trump Has Insulted on Twitter:.’

‘On August 3 Katy Tur, a news anchor on MSNBC,  revealed that she had received a threatening message from a Trump supporter, saying, ‘I hope you get raped and killed.’    RawStory

A caller to Cspan has threatened to, ‘shoot Don Lemon and Brian Stelter, if he sees them.’  Mr. Lemon and Mr. Stelter work for CNN.

‘Not the enemy of the people; 70 news organizations will blast Trump’s attack on the media.’    Washington Post

‘For the past 19 months, President Trump’s war of words with American news organizations has been more of a one-sided barrage-at least according to the Boston Globe’s editorial board.’

‘Trump labeled the news media ‘the enemy of the American people’ a month after taking the oath of office.  In the year that followed, a CNN analysis concluded, he used the word ‘fake’-as in ‘fake news’, ‘fake stories’, ‘fake media’, or ‘fake polls’,-more than 400 times. He once fumed, the New York Times reported, because a TV on Air Force One was tuned to CNN.’    The Washington Post

When I was a child we had often recited the saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones…but words will never hurt me.’

Obviously, the saying was incorrect!

I have found that any, closed, environment that I have been a part of…has the danger of becoming a hall of mirrors.,

You can become a member of a church and so immerse yourself in the teachings and activities of the organization and the personalities of the leaders of the group…that the reflected images that you see have become distorted.

It is easy to become so much an integral component of your employment and the organization that you are part of…that the, once, clear lines of delineation of right and wrong and ethical and unethical…can become blurred and distorted and grotesque.

It is so much easier to listen to what our politicians promise us and assure us of their love and care for us and their concern for us…but it takes effort to examine to ensure that the rhetoric matches their works.

We are told that tariffs are good for the country and are returning jobs to the United States.

But, if we are gaining one job…and loosing five…how is the miracle working?

When it is, now alright and smart and the prerogative of our leader, to punish and demean and chastise anyone who criticizes him…and we set back and feel confident and satisfied that those who criticized the great leader…should have known better…who will come to our aid…when the ordained…turns his ire…towards us?

 

 

 

 

Soaring!

Jonathon and I were on our daily, campus, walk when I saw the first, of two, inspiring images.

IMG_0885 3

The first inspiration was seeing the chancellor and Matt on their way to the Student Center.  They both waved, and smiled broadly, as they passed us.

I thought to myself…there is a man that will beat, the cancer that he told us about in his blog, and will lead SIUC out of it’s present distress…’a happy warrior!’

Southern Illinois University is resplendent in its’ natural and physical beauty!

IMG_1568

I recall, so vividly, my touring each campus buildings at this time of year in order to ensure that they were immaculate.  Building Services, truly believed, that the enrollment and retention of our wonderful students…was on us…and was our responsibility…and I am confident that they still do!

IMG_1552 2

I see my friends, the Grounds staff, working feverishly to create a garden of eden and an oasis in the desert and a refuge from the storm of confrontation and strife that seems to surround our society…of late.

The second of my inspirations was the finding of a soaring bird…flying over campus lake.  I did not see the flying fowl when I was snapping the photo…but only, after, when I viewed the image on my phone.

IMG_1571

Both inspirational images remind me that Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale is bigger than any of its adversaries and stronger than any of its road blocks!

My friend, Jo Ann, spoke of immersion in a discipline or a goal, in order to be totally focused on what you are working to achieve.

IMG_9905

Whether you are the janitor…be the best janitor that anyone has ever witnessed!

If you are the grounds worker…be unparalleled in your horticultural ability and dedication!

IMG_1549 3

If you are the chancellor…be the ‘happy warrior.’

IMG_9849

If you desire students at SIUC…be the magnet that draws them.

Fall semester is coming…and we have spring cleaned and re-tooled and examined our mission and searched our hearts…and now join hands together to joined  to create success and opportunity…and family…for our most important citizens…our precious students.

Let us all see how many students that we can connect with?

How many students can each of us, cause to feel, like they are home?

How many students can each of us make feel at ease and calm and happy that they have chosen Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale?

th-13

How many students can each of us welcome and by our demonstrated concern for them…they will no longer be afraid of, what appears, to be scary and causes them to have butterflies in their stomach and instead….SIUC feels like their school?

 

 

 

Humans are Analog

‘As humans, we perceive the world in analog.  Everything we see and hear is a continuous transmission of information to our senses.  This continuous stream is what defines analog data.  Digital information, on the other hand, estimates analog data using only ones and zeros. ‘

‘For example, a turntable (or record player) is an analog device, while a CD player is digital.  This is because a turntable reads bumps and grooves form a record as a continuous signal, while a CD player only reads a series of ones and zeros.  Likewise, a VCR is an analog device, while a DVD player is digital.  A VCR reads audio and video  from a tape as a continuous stream of information, while a DVD player just reads ones and zeros from a disc.’

 

‘Since digital devices read only ones and zeros, they can only approximate an audio or video signal.  This means analog data is actually more accurate than digital data…’       Tech Terms

The other evening I watched the movie, ‘California Typewriter’, directed by Doug Nichol.

This fascinating movie documented the near extinction of the typewriter and the struggles of one of the last typewriter repair shops.

The film covered many collectors of typewriters, including the actor, Tom Hanks, and their love for the tactile process and, human process, of pushing a typewriter key and the subsequent letter striking a piece of paper and leaving the ink printed equivalent.

 

The singer and songwriter, John Mayer, spoke of his pleasure in being able to see all of the derivations and mistakes on his typewritten page of a new song that he was writing.

He went on to discuss computer’s word-processing habit of constant, automatic editing, that masks and loses the human history of the composition of the lyrics.

The author, David McCullough, a two time Pulitzer Prize winner, who is 85 years old, has written all of his books on a Royal manual typewriter.

Jonathon has been telling me for some time that vinyl records have a better sound than CD’s.  Now I know why.

 

In our frantic rush to become faster and digitally savvy and to have not only all office and bank and school and business records and office processes on-line…we have lost quite a lot from our cursive hand written thank you notes and our, physical, paper and card files.

Think, for a moment, we are currently worried, with good reason, regarding our up-coming mid-term elections.  We know that Russia successfully hacked the DNC’s computers, in the last election, and evidence shows that they have already begun in preparation for the November vote.  If we still had paper ballots, through out the country, there would be little to worry about.

When I began at SIU in Building Services, I noticed the card files that each full time employee and student employee were on.  Each staff member had their own card and on that card was kept; the date that you began at Building Services and each promotion that you received as well as transfers that you made to different departments on campus.  The cards were even re-filed into a former employee file, when you retired or resigned or died.  Many of them were yellow with age and contained the hand writing of several different foreman and custodial supervisors and superintendents.

The Building Services cards…were history.

 

I enjoyed perusing library cards in books that I checked out.  Many contained notations of the book being checked out in the 1940’s and earlier.

 

We kept files, prior to computers, in our office, on members of our staff that included evaluations and letters of commendation and they were a written history of their career.

Cursive is no longer taught in school.  Did you know that?  I was shocked when I first found out!

When a millennial person is given a letter or a document that is written in cursive…they can not read it.

How do they sign their name…perhaps in block print?

From the cuneiform of ancient Mesopotamia, and Persia…to recent times…the history of a tribe….a culture…a people…was available in a physical…a analog form…to study and learn from.

President Trump understands the power of the presidential, cursive, signature…he displays it each time he signs a presidential executive order.

Autographs or cursive signatures of famous individuals…are valuable and have the power of the realization that the admired person signed their name…with their own flesh and bone and blood hand!

Time has a way of erasing so many valuable memories.

Was there an Atlantis?

 

If so…were the records of their people and their culture and their, magnificent human accomplishments, obliterated due to their technology being destroyed?

Let us say that the Earth sustains a atmospheric event that knocks out electricity on our planet…

Everything from your paycheck, and mine, to all of your, what used to be physical records kept in a file cabinet, to the records of your marriage and your mortgage and your insurance and your due date for your book that you checked out of the library and your education….is inaccessible and thus for practical purposes…did not happen.

David McCullough said in the movie, ‘American Typewriter’, that it seems that our culture wants to continue to move at a faster pace and that writing with a manual Royal typewriter…was to slow.  He said that if anything was true, for him, he wanted to slow down more.

Perhaps through our manic race to be continually faster…and accurate…and our obsession in educating our children, from the womb, and yet not valuing teaching them how to write cursive, is a sign of a declining civilization and devaluing of the human experience?

I have been contributing to my blog for several years.  I hope that it can be accessed by my boys…after I am gone?

I think that I will look for a typewriter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…A Land of Opportunity!

 

This is an exciting time of year for me!

SIU’s new and returning students have already started coming back to Carbondale and move in will be next week, in preparation for the first day of fall semester classes that begin on Monday, August 20th.

IMG_0152 3

I have been experiencing the first day of fall semester for 40 years.

When I was employed in Building Services, which is the housekeeping division of the Physical Plant, our department made every effort, including nightly overtime for the two weeks prior to opening day, to ensure that the over 200 campus buildings that we maintained were sparkling and immaculate…as a reflection of the elite academic offerings of our great school.

I recall, so fondly, the years that our custodial staff was integrated in and vital to the Saturday before the Monday opening of fall semester.

We had our staff in every major building and they were trained in assisting new students and their parents in finding where their classes were being held.

We understood how important that we were to the new and returning students SIU experience.  We knew that if our students felt that we cared about them…they would understand that SIU…cared about them.

During the last 13 years of my career, I was the Superintendent of the department.  Often we had in excess of 200 student staff working with us.  When a chancellor told me that he must cut our department by half a million dollars…I pleaded with him, a good man, regarding the permanent damage that would be done to our student staff, who would loose their jobs…and often be subsequently forced to leave SIU…due to  lack of finances.

The wonderful chancellor, that I was talking with, restored 100 thousand dollars to assist in retaining student custodial staff.

The pastoral beauty of SIUC is unparalleled in the State of Illinois…and through much of the nation.

Some famous entertainers, who are alumni of SIUC are: James Belushi, Hannibal Buress, Dennis Franz, Dick Gregory, Jenny McArthy, Melissa McCarthy, Bob Odenkirk,  Richard Roundtree, Robert K. Weiss.

Here is what our new Interim president says:

‘To the SIU Family and Community

It is hard to believe, but just over three weeks ago, the thought of being the president of Southern Illinois University had never crossed my mind.  But we all know things change – and sometimes rapidly.  As many of you have heard me say, I never aspired to or sought the position of SIU president.  After my fourteen years as dean and provost of the SIU School of Medicine, I was very happy to return to my first love: teaching medical students.  However, when I was asked to serve, I knew it was important for me to step up and respond to our university’s need.  I am proud and humbled to serve a university to which I have devoted most of my adult life.  Each campus has been important to me, to my family and friends, and to our communities.’

‘I have been asked to become president at a time when our university system is suffering from wounds that need immediate attention.  As you know, I am a physician by training , so my natural inclination is to heal.  To begin our road to recovery this physician is prescribing that we all take a step back and rededicate ourselves to our great institution.  We need time to walk in each other’s shoes.  We all need to realize that some changes are required to ensure the continued success of our campuses and our university as a whole.  Most importantly, we need to make a greater effort to reach beyond our own campus to get to know our fellow faculty and staff across the system.  I firmly believe that we have the ability to be stronger together through cooperation and collaboration.  If we are to heal SIU and serve our students and communities, we must do so by coming together.’    J. Kevin Dorsey, MD PhD.  Interim President, Southern Illinois University

When I first came to SIU I had little frame of reference, other than my upbringing in, virtually, all white schools, and fundamentalist christian doctrine.

SIU enabled me to see the extreme beauty of diversity and thought that is supported by facts and not fiction or fable.

I was humbled and inspired when students, from around the globe, thought of me as their friend.

I saw that the human family is a kaleidoscope of color and rich with traditions, that not only were unique and ancient…but replete with all the validity…and more…of my, closeted knowledge of God’s creation.

I have written, on more than one occasion, that Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale has a large sign that is posted over every entrance to the campus…the sign says…Opportunity…but you must visualize it with your heart!

I have many friends that are members of the faculty at SIU.  They are among the most passionate and caring professionals that I have ever met.  They not only love our students…but they give of themselves in a tireless manner…to see their proteges progress and flourish.

Having been a member of the staff, for over 32 years, I can speak with some knowledge regarding the affection and fondness that they have for our precious students.

Southern Illinois University is not the brick and mortar buildings or the lovely fountains or the Student Center or the Recreation Center…it is the members of the university community.

IMG_9905

Our wonderful staff, in Building Services, adopted their student custodial coworkers.

From bringing them food, on a nightly basis, to enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner with them, we laughed with them…when they laughed….we rejoiced with them…when they rejoiced…and we wept with them…when they wept.

IMG_9756

The miracle of the oasis of harmony and inclusivity and love and free thought in the dessert of Little Egypt…is, truly, something that you must feel and see…to believe.

IMG_1412 2

Solomon, from Ghana, told me that international students wanted to work with me, when I was a custodial crew supervisor in 1980.  When I asked him why…he said…because you have no prejudice.

Unknown-5

I hope to be worthy of such a commendation…someday.  But his words were what I experienced each day that I was a member of the SIUC community.

th-13

It is really a special place to receive an education and to become a citizen of our, majestic, Earth!

IMG_1151 2

 

 

 

Good Times

Have you ever reflected on, the often, short and quick moments in you life that are golden memories, many years after?

I remember the line that the actor, Charles Durning, said to, Holly Hunter as they portrayed their roles of father and daughter reminiscing over a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving.   The movie was one of my favorite movies about Thanksgiving, Home for the Holidays.   He was recalling having his two daughters and son, along with their mother, on the flight line of an airport, where he worked his career,  and their excitement as they watched the big jets take off and land.  He told his daughter that those few moments were some of the happiest of his life.

I recall, fondly, Aaron and Jonathon, standing by the side of my bed and commiserating as to whether I was awake of not.  They were so small that they could barely look over the top of the mattress.

Or, Aaron’s joy at his perusal of a hotel room that we stayed in when we were on a vacation Disney world in Florida…where he opened a drawer and found a Gideon’s Bible and announced that he was going to read the entire book while we were there!

We have visited Gatlinburg, Tennessee, many times, but one period of a few minutes stays with me when I stepped out on to the balcony of the condo that we had rented, with my lifelong friend Steve, and looked at the Smoky Mountains under the Christmas moonlight.

Another, wonderful Gatlinburg moment was with my brother, Brock, when he tried on a Steampunk hat!

I think, that all to often we are looking to begin life after we work real hard in order to get ready to have fun and relaxation.

The mystery and beauty of life is happening right now.

I recall standing with my friend, Jeff, on his kitchen balcony at his apartment in Nice, France and our each smoking a small cigar and reflecting our our mutual past and our future and mortality.

Jeff and I, also enjoyed a lovely walk around the condo, in Paris, that we had leased and our reflections on the rapidity of our lives and the miracle that we were walking about in Paris and how we had never thought, when we were young, that this moment would happen.