Monthly Archives: January, 2019

A Sense of Place

‘ The term sense of place has been used in many different ways.  It is a characteristic that some geographic places have and some do not, while to others it is a feeling or perception held by people (not by the place itself).  It is often used in relation to those characteristics that make a place special or unique, as well as to those that foster a sense of authentic human attachment and belonging.’    Wikipedia

I have felt a sense of place, on more than one occasion, and have not felt the same allegiance in geographical areas that I have spent some signifiant time in.

Southern Illinois University at Carbondale has afforded me a, significant, sense of place for over 40 years.  The opportunities that were extended to me and the challenges that I faced…along with the friendships that were formed…gave me a, solid, feeling of belonging to that organization and a love for the land that it occupies!

I have a feeling of place for our, country, home in Carbondale.  We have lived here for, almost, 18 years…and I never tire of it!

Strangely enough, I have felt a sense of place in two locations that we have visited, on vacations, in the United States…and three locations in Europe.

When we visited Paris, France…I felt like I was home!  I loved everything about the City of Lights!

photo of eiffel tower during foggy night

Photo by Huy Phan on

As I stood in the flat that we had rented for the three days that we were spending in Paris and looked out of the open window at the, brilliantly lit, Eiffel Tower…I felt like that I had enjoyed the same, beautiful, scene…many times before!

Whether it was shopping for our morning croissant or purchasing coffee or visiting the Muse de Orsay…I would have enjoyed being there for 3 months…rather than 3 days!

Oxford, England is another town that I had the, distinct, aura of…place.  As I sat in the university library I had the compelling feeling that I not only had been there before…but that I had studied at Oxford.

man in gray shirt walking on pathway

Photo by Ben Herbert on

Actually, throughout our, three week, excursion through the United Kingdom…I identified with the people of England and thought, how wonderful it would be to live there!

Edinburgh, Scotland was magical!  We were there during the arts fair called the Fringe, and the combination of the cool temperatures and, unlimited theatre…was intoxicating!

I met a, kind, gentleman on our first evening there…who made me feel so welcome…that all Edinburgh residents that I met…were my brothers and sisters.

We stayed in a flat that was located at the foot of the hill that the Edinburgh Castle is located on.  As we trekked up the hill to the city, in the morning, and returned, by foot, each evening…and some times twice per day, I began to feel a part of the cobblestones!

I began visiting Gatlinburg, Tennessee over 40 years ago.  I can think of no geographical location, in the U.S., that feels more like home to me…other than my Southern Illinois ranch!

We spent many Christmases in Gatlinburg, with our boys when they were young.

Mary Jane and I spent a recent anniversary in the eastern Tennessee mecca!

We recently had the most glorious visit, in Gatlinburg, with my brother Brock and his family…and we are planning another!

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Maine, is a place that I felt an immediate bond with.  We made two visits, last decade, and we are planning another…soon!  The lush scenery and the majesty of the ocean…along with the lobster…and lobster….and lobster!

On our first visits we stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in Southwest Harbor.  The couple that ran it were lovely and what delicious breakfasts!

There is a relaxed and peaceful feeling associated with Maine…it is a place where you can forget your troubles and cares and get out of your ‘head’ of worry and frustration.

Simply living in a place for a long time…may not provide you with a, pleasant, sense of place.

When my mom and dad and I moved to Eldorado, Illinois…when I was 5 years old…I did not feel an identity with the southeastern Illinois town.

I had loved our home in Sauk Village, a Chicago suburb, and we had left my friends and the surroundings that I was comfortable with…and my parents were on the road to a divorce.

I, did not identify with Eldorado…until after I moved away when I graduated from high school.

Now I think of Eldorado…with pleasant memories and enjoy seeing my high school classmates postings on Facebook!

It is possible to live in a place and feel that you do not belong!

It is possible to not live in a place and feel that you have lived there…

Could it be…that you have been mis-placed?


How To Make Something That Is Old…New Again!

New countries, and new organizations, and new churches, and new families…have an energy about them and an excitement!

There is an esprits de corps that fills the minds and hearts of the participants, in the new venture, that is dynamic!

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When I began working at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, over 40 years ago, there was a, palpable, excitement from within the University and surrounding it, in the community.

One of the, vital, components to  SIU’s  energy was the outreach to the international community.  There were students from over 70 nations attending university in Carbondale, Illinois.



As members of the, first housekeeping crew that I supervised, I had students from Malaysia and Africa and Turkey and Mexico.

I, quickly, received an education in international diplomacy!

In 1978, SIU was just 7 years from the, paramount, leadership of former university president, Delyte Morris.  My custodial colleagues loved president Morris!  They spoke of him as if he was a member of their family!


In 1978, we were still several years away from the zenith of enrollment in the early 1990’s.

University President, Hiram Lesar, invited me to the Stone Center, for a Christmas brunch…along with all of my colleagues.

There was a, universal, belief that ‘our university’ was a jewel that must be protected…at any cost!

I am old enough to remember when, almost everyone, was a member of a church.  Church attendance was important on a multitude of levels…and among them was the Golden Rule…to treat our neighbor as ourselves!

I was a member of a little church in Elkville, Illinois, many years ago, where we participated in building a new church building.  This was an exciting time that demanded some serious dedication from the congregation.  We did a lot of the building ourselves and at one point the upper floor, suddenly, collapsed, and we must have had a guardian angel…as there were over 20 people that fell, hard, to the basement and were uninjured!

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Our country, the United States, was built on the, unique, concept of being a sanctuary for the, tempest tost, and a nation, formed from the, mixture of peoples from all over the world…a melting pot!

‘The New Colossus’

‘Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

MOTHER OF EXILES.  From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’  cries she

With silent lips. ‘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-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’


The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus

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Nothing is more exciting and interesting; than being a member of a family!

From the time that we are babies…until we pass from this life, we identify with and love and care about the members of our family.  When a member of our family is sick, we rally to their side and care for them until they are well!

When a member of our family is threatened or hurt…we protect them and stand as a bulwark against their foes.



Caring for each other…helping each other…working as an, integral, member of a team…community…is what transforms old organizations and churches and countries…and even families…. making them new again!

We watch, daily, our government engage in the bloodsport of blaming the other, political party, for gridlock and the morbid stupification, of our political system.

When barnacles begin to form on our university we begin to identify with a general malaise of self defeatism.

When our church membership falls from over 700 members to under 200 members…we tell ourselves that this is the way that it is…now…and that there little that can be done about it…after all there are a lot of competing interests for people on Sunday mornings.



A country can say that we are just going to take care of ourselves…from here on in!  We will close our borders…we will limit our immigration…we will slam the door in the face of…who we were…just a few short years ago!

Or…we can work together?







A Ticket for One or Tickets for Two

Please enjoy a great Jonathon Brooks Blog!


Singleness can be a great blessing. In American culture we get it wrong a lot with dating and relationships. I’ve no doubt similar stories are abundant in other cultures as well. I enjoy my life to the fullest and I am a single thirty-four (almost thirty-five) year old. Many seem to believe that if they could only find that perfect someone then they would be complete and their life would be so much richer. Well, my life is already rich. And there are no perfect someones.

If I ever do meet the right lady I know a few things we would have to have in common. Happiness, Christian faith and her being her own unique soul would be necessary. I am convinced that I cannot complete a woman and a woman cannot complete me. If I’m not complete on my own before entering into a relationship then I will weigh…

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The Sopranos…And 20 Years

I can remember thinking that the new HBO series, The Sopranos, could be about a singing mafia family, or similar to the, recent, movie, Analyze This, with Robert DeNiro and Billy Crystal, that had premiered shortly before the, groundbreaking series, 20 years ago.


I have been an avid television watcher, since my youth, and the Sopranos is one of my two favorite shows!

The Sopranos was so well written, that I found myself rooting for the bad guys!


We were still living in Elkville, Illinois…in a four room house…and I had been the superintendent of Building Services…for about one year.

My friend, Jo Ann Argersinger, was chancellor of the university…and I was worried, regarding, how she was being accepted by the president of the system.

Aaron was 17 and Jonathon was 14…and I was 41.  I thought that I as old…

I was pondering the challenges of my new, work, position, and the raising of our teenagers!

My stepfather, seemed relatively happy, and from time to time would tell us that he had to lock the doors to he and my mother’s, country home, at night…to ensure that she would not go outside.

If we could not visit mom and Earl, weekly, we telephoned and for many years she would talk at length about what she had been doing.  In 1999…she would laugh and ask how we were doing and then, quickly, put Earl on the line.

We had been attending, First Presbyterian Church in Carbondale…and we liked it very much!

The chancellor, had been very complimentary of my work in Building Services and had expressed, to me, that she wanted to advance me into a more responsible position and one where I could advise her regarding the, physical services, on campus.

I was both humbled and intrigued by her confidence in me…and concerned by her popularity with the campus community…causing her boss, the president, to be jealous of her!

Enrollment was down at SIUC…but it was still well over 20,000.

Tony Soprano had his family at home…and his family at work…and he was dedicated to taking care of both families.  I, identified with Tony’s challenges, in that I was working 16 – 20 hours per day…endeavoring to have a successful family at home and at work…with my new responsibility of being the leader of the organization.


Jo Ann, was fired in the spring of 1999…and I refused to not be her friend or to acknowledge my respect for her.  This resulted in challenges and threats from university leaders…who appeared to be afraid of me…a member of the Building Services staff!

Not long after the premier of the Sopranos…my stepfather died…suddenly.  As we stayed with my mother during the wake and the funeral…we discovered that she suffered from Alzheimers disease…much more than we had realized.  Mary Jane said that we should take her to live with us…and so we did.

I spent a lot of time, when Mom was with us for over three years, watching the Sopranos and enjoying Stolie Vodka.

The Sopranos was an escape and a salve for me and my, extremely, stressful life…at that time.

I became angry with a, filthy, university building that I inspected with a group of my foreman…during the time of the Sopranos!

I was so upset, by the dirt and debris that I found, I told the foreman that if they could not get the building cleaned up…that they should fill out their resignations!

Now the foreman were wonderful and key members of my leadership staff!  I would not have amounted to a hill of beans without them!

When I told Jonathon what I had said to my foreman…that he knew that I loved…he told me that I had gone, ‘Tony Soprano’, on them!

During the, several seasons of the Sopranos, I was, often, told that I looked like Tony Soprano.


I have, often, been told that I looked like a mafia figure!

Before the Sopranos, mid 1990’s I showed Tom Smith, a Building Services student employee, a photo of the infamous gangster, Al Capone…and told him that it was a photo of my father.  He remarked that he could see the likeness!



Note: Sopranos photos are courtesy of Google search.



Twists and Turns!

I think that I was born…old!


As a child I, regularly, related to adults, better, than my peers.

My pastor told me that I had an old soul…I was seventeen at the time.

When I was young…I felt much older…and now that I am old…I feel the same.

Each year, during the early years of our marriage, I said that we should do our best to enjoy it…as it may be the best year of our lives!

If we could see the end…from the beginning…we might not take the ride!

Life brings us a sublime mixture of joy and sorrow….and we can not, always, see which is coming our way…next.

So many of life’s occurrences are beyond our control.  With our best efforts health challenges will, ultimately, come our way.

Sometimes, life partners…do not remain…until, ‘death do you part.’

Fortunes are won…and fortunes are lost.

The inherent and mysterious and majestic beauty of life…is the uniqueness and fragility of it…much like a snowflake!

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We are born into a world without any life skills and helpless!  It is a miracle that, with God’s help, we become adults and husbands and wives and mothers and fathers!

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Never allow someone to tell you that you can not do something!  Anything that you can conceive…you can achieve!

I admire those who have known great suffering…and yet do not allow that suffering to define who they are.

I admire the lonely…who reach out to make others feel included!

I admire the sick and the frail…who, continue, to put one foot in front of the other to provide for their families.

I admire the servant leader…who seeks the betterment of everyone that they lead…and who prefers to remain in the background and remain nameless.

On the road of life there are, beautiful mountains…much like my beloved Smoky Mountains…and there are, very dim and dark, valleys.

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

When we are on the mountain top…we can see so far, and in all directions.  We laugh , heartily, and we cry tears of joy!  The excitement of the moment and the brightness of the sun…blocks the clouds of despair and suffering and rejection.

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However, the nice part about being in the valley…is the sight of the mountain top…when we look up!  Worry…can cloud our mind and capture our heart…until we once again…begin climbing the mountain!

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Photo by Vishwajeet Singh Rajput on





Read Your Life Away

Please enjoy a wonderful blog by Jonathon Brooks!


A new year has arrived. With all new Januarys I set my reading goal for the year on my goodreads page. In 2019 I am aspiring to read 30 books. I’m a fortunate fellow with a home full of books because of my father’s love of them along with my love as well. In 2018 my book goal was 30 and I finished at 41.

What is it I like to read? Honestly, I’m a fan of all sorts of different stories. Young adult literature is some of the finest writing I’ve discovered. These stories tackle the tough stuff of growing up. I enjoy inspirational books from theology to overcoming mental health issues. I like graphic novels. A good kids book can make me smile and lighten my heart. Love stories that end happily ever after give me hope. What I enjoy reading is as eclectic as life itself.


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Living on the Margins

Have you ever found yourself waiting on pay day?

Along with waiting on pay day; you notice that the cub-bard is bare and the car needs gas and an oil change…and the rent/mortgage is due!

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Most of us plan a budget to successfully navigate the financial pitfalls that come our way.  Often there is not enough money for the month!

How must the 800,000 federal employees feel… that are currently, either on furlough or working without pay, due to the over two week, partial, government shutdown?

TSA staff are calling in sick, in mass, in several large airports…for a variety of reasons.  Many are seeking, cash jobs, on the side, to put food on the table.

TSA are the folks that keep us safe in airports!  Our president would have us in a panic regarding our southern border…while he fails to pay the, federal professionals, that are commissioned in the profound profession of ensuring that terrorist do not board our airlines…which is where it all began on 9/11!

The president, said today, that he was willing to keep the government shut-down for months or a year…if necessary!

Perhaps we are failing to ‘see the forest for the trees?’

When I was still working at the university, a chancellor announced that she was going to furlough, faculty and staff, for seven days during the fiscal year.  This was to protect, junior, employees in all positions from either being laid off or dismissed.

Now, the university had, real and significant, financial challenges..and I supported the furloughs…but a statement that she made, illustrated to me that she had little understanding or empathy for the civil service staff that would be furloughed, the bulk of which being scheduled for the Christmas Season, when she made the statement that she had done the same money saving measure at a previous university; that she had served as provost at…and, ‘that no one died, because of the furlough.’

I served on the chancellor’s planning and budget committee, that she chaired, and felt, compelled, to remind the, esteemed group, that many civil service staff lived on the margins and that some qualified for food stamps and that they would have difficulty purchasing food and or heat for their homes…and that, certainly, there would be little or no Christmas for their children and grandchildren!

After I made, my statement of truth to power, you could have heard a pin drop!  The chancellor stared at me with an icy glare…for upwards of a minute…before continuing!

Executive decisions have real life consequences for regular people!

‘If you earn 32 thousand, after tax a year you are inside the global 1% in terms of income.’    Quora

It is a myth that there are, so many people making fabulous money!

Vice President Pence and several top government officials are scheduled to receive $10,000.00 pay raises next week.


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I read, the other day, that we are all terminal…we just do not realize it!

Another year has begun, and the, predominate idea in my mind is, do not sweat the small stuff!

I believe that if someone gave you a million dollars on January the 1st…you would be ecstatic with the joy of what you could accomplish in 2019!

The gift of life, has value that can not be measured.  We have before us a year to make those we meet, feel loved and cared for and an important part of the world!

My, good friend, mentioned to me that she was so impressed with openness and friendliness of, SIU, chancellor John Dunn.

I reflected on what she told me and considered that the most successful university leaders that I have met…had the ability to project to me that I was important to them and to the success of SIUC.

It seems that we have substituted being, busy, for living a meaningful life?

We just left the, maximum overdrive, holiday of the year; Christmas!  There are parties to attend and gifts to purchase and decorations to place…and then to take down…and there is a hollowness at the back of our eyes…in our exhaustion…as we return to, regular order, and wonder where the spirit of Christmas hid…this year?

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So much of the human family are lonely.  We look, desperately, for another person to connect with…a friend…a fellow human being who cares enough about us to…listen…without advice or judgment.

It has been said that, ‘happiness is a warm puppy!’  Indeed, we love our dogs because of their, unfailing, dedication and love for us…often when we are unlovable!

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For many years, I shopped at Famous and Barr department store..both in St. Louis and, later, in Carbondale.  Many of the attendants in the store, knew me by name and welcomed me each time that I walked through the store.  Famous may have been more expensive, at times, but I felt like that it was my store…and I was comfortable there…and I shopped there often.

The author, Robert A. Caro, wrote a, little book entitled, On Power, regarding what he had learned regarding how power is obtained and how it is used…often for good.

Mr. Caro noted that, former president Lyndon Johnson, was referred to as the person who brought the light to Johnston City, Texas…during his time as a United States Congressman.

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Johnson was able to bring electricity to his home town, of slightly over 300 residents, of Johnston City by ingratiating himself to president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who liked Johnson, and subsequently ordered the fiscally irresponsible order of running electrical lines through the many miles of Texas hill country, to Johnston City.

Now, after the ‘light’ came to Johnston City…his fellow, hometown residents, loved him!

I wonder if we could bring some, ‘light’, to our neighbors who are; depressed, or sick, or who have lost a loved one, or who have had a life reversal?

I have been to several countries and continents…yet I remember the people that I interacted with…much more than the beautiful architecture and landscape.

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Many people that commit suicide…would have not done so…if there had been someone to listen and care!