Monthly Archives: September, 2019

Habits Are Habit Forming!

‘A settled or regular tendency to practice, especially one that is hard to give up.’    Dictionary

Yesterday, Pastor Kerry, spoke about habits and how hard they are to change.  He mentioned an intriguing concept that often when we engage in a habit, that might not be good for us or healthy for our bodies, we do so because there are pleasant memories associated with the activity.

I have battled my weight for all of my life.  There have been times where I have been thin and vowed…never again to become fat!  The practice of eating right and exercising, which is walking for me, and the experience of feeling much better seemed like a winning combination that I would never deviate from again!

Food and drink stir up pleasant memories of times gone by.  I can have a Dirty Martini and suddenly I am at my favorite St. Louis restaurant, Cunetto’s House of Pasta, enjoying their rendition of a Dirty Martini…which is the best that I have experienced!

So often food is celebration in our daily lives.  If we go out with friends..we go out for dinner.  If we go to the ballgame…we tailgate.  Birthdays call for a special meal and cake!

Change is hard!  It is easy and somewhat inspiring to talk about.  It hard work to implement!

Advertisers learned many years ago that if you want to sell something…you need to associate it with a pleasant feeling or memory.  There was a popular commercial in  1971 where a large choir of young people sang, beautifully, ‘I’d like to buy the world a coke..’     Morning Mix

‘In the commercial, a camera pans across faces of all shapes and ethnicities, as they sing from a hilltop in Manziana, Italy…’   Morning Mix

‘Bill Backer of McCann Ericsson was the creative director on the Coca-Cola account.’    As he sat in an airport cafe due to his plane had been grounded in Ireland while it was in route to London.  After spending the night in Shannon he noticed that the passengers seemed happier…

‘In that moment [I] saw a bottle of coke in a whole new light…[I] began to see a bottle of Coca Cola as more than a drink that refreshed a hundred million people a day in almost every corner of the globe.  So [I] began to see the familiar words, ‘Let’s have a Coke, as more than an invitation to pause for refreshment.  They were actually a subtle way of saying, ‘Let’s keep each other company for a little while.’  And [I] knew they were being said all over the world as [I] sat there in Ireland.  So that was the basic idea: to see Coke not as it was originally designed to be —– a liquid refresher ——but as a tiny bit of commonality all peoples, a universally liked formula that would help to keep them company for a few minutes.’    Bill Backer, Morning Mix

Upon watching the inspirational telecast…indeed you want to replicate the warm and fuzzy feeling that you experienced as you listened to the dulcet tones.

So, for us to be able to change our habits…we must wrestle with our feelings and emotions that are associated with those habits!

Each time that I have dinner at Cunetto’s I have fond memories of events associated with the ristorante from years gone by.  I recall being with my brother-in-law, Ron, and Mary Jane and I having dinner on a cold January, 2011 evening…just prior to flying out to Jamaica the next morning.  I was so excited, having retired at the conclusion of 2010.  Or, I remember the many birthday dinners I have enjoyed with Mary Jane and Aaron and Jonathon…and each year being amazed at how old I had become! Or the Black Friday Cunetto dinners that we have partaken of…as I waited in the cloak room due to the crush of customers…and the bartender brought me my Dirty Martini…30 minutes after I had ordered it!

I began a habit when I was 12 years old…and I have never broken it.  I have attended church and been involved in some type of church work for the past 50 years.  The peaceful assurance of attempting to walk my way back to Jerusalem has been all the more real to me…by having so many friends by my side.



Do You See Me?

Our pastor, Kerry Bean, preached this morning on a timely subject, Justice, but what I took away from the message was, ‘Do you see me?’

On many occasions I have noticed physical elements that I have failed to notice before.  As I walk the Campus of the beautiful Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, of which I have been doing for 41 years, I notice new things that I am quite certain were there on my previous excursions.

The tagging of trees as to what type of tree that they are…has been a joy to me.  I have often wondered what type of tree that I was admiring.


But, Pastor Kerry explained to us this morning that we may not be seeing the needs that are before our faces and our eyes and our ears and our understanding.

It is easy and comfortable to become ensconced in a mind set and a mission that is clearly laid out in a mission statement and yet to not see the forest for the trees!

Who is hurting;…that you could help?

It is possible to believe that although you are a member of a faith community…that no one sees you. I think that the real work of christianity and faith outreach is difficult and dirty and uncomfortable and distressing…before it is comforting!

Christ came to disturb the comfortable and to afflict the complacent!  If you feel that everything is going as planned and the mission of Christ is being accomplished, are you in tune with the radical

gospel of Jesus?

Do I see the opioid addict?

Have I  reached

out to the church member that has been hurt?  Have I understood why people leave the church and how to get them back?

Does he church have relevance to todays society?

Do I see the homeless and the hungry and the destitute and the immigrant and the stranger and the foreigner and the member of a church or faith community…that no one sees?

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Do I hear the call to faith and works…and not feel the the call is for me?

Do I hunger to understand that Jesus call has never been convient or socially or politically popular?  Do I really understand that Jesus call was to a radical discipleship that does not mesh well with modern society?

Has Christ revealed what his discipleship entails…and why there are not many takers?

Do I see and understand the lack of connection of my fellow pew mates on Sunday morning?  Do I understand how they do not feel seen by the faith community that they are a part of?  Do I really want to get involved in the intricate minutiae of assuring my broken sister or brother  that they are a part of the Body of Christ and that they matter…and that they are seen?

Who are we to imagine that we are called to be representative of Christ in a upper middle class life style and with little downside to the real work of christianity and the calling to be his disciple?  Why would we think that Jesus does not want to disturb us….but rather wants us to continue in our comfortable lifestyle and to be oblivious to the countless members of his creation that are suffering and hungry and dieing….and searching for someone who sees them?

Michael Meyers…Deflated

A tale of a Deflated Michael Meyers!

The Jazz Man

twomIt was a dark and forbidding Saturday morning.  The clouds covered the sky like a quilt that grandma Askew had made for Billy Bump many years ago.  It was the last Saturday in September and it was ninety degrees in the shade!  Billy met his sons, David and Daniel, and they proceeded to the Student Center for Comic Con, which had been renamed Saluki Con.  This was volume #3 of the event…and Billy had attended all of them.

One of the most enjoyable elements of Saluki Con is watching all of the people, young and old alike, dressed in their various costumes of Star Trek characters and Star Wars names of renown, as well as famous horror figures such as; Freddy Kruger and Michael Meyers.


As Daniel and Billy waited for David they observed Cat Woman, who had aged gracefully, as well as Super Girl and Batman.  There was the…

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‘Complete disorder and confusion.’

‘Snow caused chaos in the region.’

‘Behavior so unpredictable as to appear random, owing to great sensitivity to small changes in conditions.’    Dictionary


‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’    Genesis 1: 1-2    KJV

Each of us enjoy the freedom that the United States of America affords us.  We are the. Land of the free and the home of the brave!’

I do know that none of us likes or seeks chaos.  On the contrary, we seek order and system and procedure and goals that can be achieved through hard work and discipline.

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The American people seek and hunger for common sense politicians and leaders that are not pandering to fringe groups.

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Have you ever listened to a leader who promises you a plethora of good things that he or she is going to do for you…only to later discover that the leader was lying to you…while they looked you directly in the eye and did not blink?

Many proclaim, ‘America First.’…until the day that we are attacked and on the verge of defeat…and then we will want to call on our global allies for assistance!

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Some of us are members of faith communities that teach us that we are the chosen and the called and thus…if you do not see it our way….there is the highway.  Do you really believe that God created the Earth and the human family, out of chaos, and decided that he was only interested in a select few…and the rest would make a fine barbecue?  What if you are one of the barbecue candidates?

The Christian community is so fragmented that some groups are satisfied that members of the other groups are not, really, Christians.

When we decide to yield our brains and logical thinking processes to an autocratic leader…and subsequently if our understanding of world events does not come out of that leaders mouth they are wrong…we are participating in chaos.

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Have you ever had a member of your family or a church leader or a political leader…or a boss…that if you did not agree with them in all areas…they sought to punish you?  It happens!  I have witnessed it.

I have witnessed colleagues who, conveniently, looked the other way, when wrong doing occurred…out of a fear for their job and a trepidation of becoming a whistle blower.

I have always had the ability to empathize with others misfortunes and plights, although I was not experiencing the same thing.  We may say, ‘Whistle blowers are akin to traitors…and should be punished as we did in the old days…shooting, hanging, death!’  What if you are trapped in an environment that you see with your eyes and hear with your ears and understand with your heart is…wrong…and illegal…and dangerous and threatening for you and your colleagues and your family and your loved ones….would you appreciate your safety being threatened and your family being placed in danger, if you were a whistle blower?

‘I believe in full LBTQ rights.

That we should protect the planet.

That the world is bigger than America.

That everyone deserves healthcare.

That all religions are beautiful.

That people and places are made better by diversity.

I don’t think that’s radical.

I think humanity feels radical to inhumane people.’





Purpose + Passion = Peace

When I first began working at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, it was not long before I realized that I had found my career!  I saw that the working conditions were good my colleagues were great and that the University was something special to be attached to.  My purpose was clear, and that was to provide a clean and inviting environment for the department of General Accounting in Thalman Hall.  I had an important mission that was inspiring and motivational!

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I had many friends who were involved in numerous fields of work, such as insurance sales, carpet installation, accountancy, factory work and coal mining, which was a job to be desired in Southern Illinois, when I was a young man.  I seemed to be one of the last of the friendship circle to secure a job whereby I could make a living.   Mind you…I was not old when I was hired at SIUC…I was 20.

I truly believed that if I applied myself and worked hard…I could succeed.  This was in the civil service ranks where it was widely know that you, ‘had to know somebody,’ to even, ‘get your foot in the door!’  Well I did not know anyone and no one knew me…but I had both feet all the way in the house!

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The University was exciting to me and I wanted my work to be seen as accomplished by a consummate professional.  I desired for my custodial efforts to be so above what the Accounting staff were accustomed to that they would say that they had a good cleaning person.

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I understood that Building Services was as important to the success of SIUC as any department on campus and that it was vital to the recruitment and retention of our most precious citizens…our students!

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Life at Southern Illinois University went by very rapidly because I was always immersed in the betterment and mission of the institution.  Years melted away and it seemed but a month or so from one Christmas until the next…as I was involved in something that I loved!

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Life is but a short succession of days…do not spend them without a mission and purpose that inspires you each morning and that you ponder when you lay your head on your pillow at night!

Now, you may ask, how could you become passionate about cleaning other people’s mess?  You see, cleaning opened so many doors of opportunity to help others…that I was often overwhelmed with the purpose of accomplishing my mission!


Every time that Building Services was able to offer a part time position to one of our wonderful students…I understood that being a member of our family was enabling that student to stay in school and complete their education!

When I had the opportunity to hire a full time employee….I knew that I had played a bit part…in changing their life and the lives of their family!

Each occasion that I was blessed to be involved in the hiring of an intellectually or physically challenged individual….and to see the excitement in their eyes and the glow of joy on their face…when they realized that the door of career opportunity had opened for them….I can think of no greater feeling of peace!

As I was privileged to become involved in University governance and to be able to witness concrete positive changes for civil service staff….I was humbled and thought about the opportunity that I had been afforded.

I heard the President’s personal lawyer refer to himself as, ‘just a country lawyer.’  Indeed, although I was born in Chicago…I am a country…old man….and I began as a country boy!

‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, wither thou goest.    Ecclesiastes 9:10   KJV



And Then Came…Fall

As I sitting on my porch writing this, the temperature feels like that it has dropped 20 degrees.  Autumn is my favorite season of the year…and has been since I was a child.  The, soon to be, bite of chill in the air, and the Halloween decorations going up and the luxury of all of the classic horror and monster movies on Turner Classic Movies…is almost to much bear….and it is only the first day!

Being born in the Fall, as is my son, Aaron, I have a particular fondness for the peaceful solemnity and quiet of the short days and long nights.  Its arrival signals the  holiday season and all of the happiness and joy that it brings.


I do not care for hot weather…I dislike it very much!  As a kid in Eldorado, Illinois we had no air conditioner until the last couple of years that I was home, and that was a window unit, in what we called the new room, and I was not allowed to turn it on without permission.  My step-father would explain to me that if I would open my bedroom window about three or four inches, during the sweltering nights of summer, and he would subsequently put the window fan that was located in the kitchen window, on exhaust, that I would feel the coolest of air waft through the small opening of my window and sleep like I was sleeping under air conditioning…which he noted was unhealthy!  It felt like I was sleeping in a sauna!  I could hope for only two remedies.  One was the occurrence of a thunderstorm by which the air following would be much cooler…for a short time.  The other was the welcome of some cooler air…just before dawn…of which I knew the time of…as I was often awake to welcome it…from my sauna!

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Thus developed my affection for the cool air of autumn.  Autumn is a primary time to re-focus the mind and regenerate the spirit.  It still posses the majesty of the summer sunshine united with the halcyon days of pumpkins and apple cider and scarecrows and pilgrims and and Indians…and turkeys.

Sometimes we need the comfort of a bonfire and a star filled night sky.  We need the slower pace that cooler and then cold weather provides for us.  We need to ponder our place in the world…where we have been….where are we going?

Fall is a settling of the year.  As the leaves change color and fall to the ground and the animal kingdom prepares their dens and homes in the trees and the earth…and the birds fly south…so the human family settles in their homes and prepares for winter.

Thanksgiving is a big deal in the Brooks home…Mary Jane would have it no other way!  I did not realize how fun Thanksgiving could be until we were married over 41 years ago!  We have been decorating for the holiday for many years and in the early days, when the boys were small, we put out a group of porcelain animals, a skunk and a rabbit and a fox and more…dressed as Thanksgiving characters.  When Jonathon’s first grade teacher asked the class if anyone knew what the pilgrims were…Jonathon quickly raised his hand…..

IMG_3923I am convinced that we come into this world in a happy state of bliss and wonder.  We begin without prejudice because we do not understand the concept…until someone teaches it to us.  Thanksgiving and Christmas brings us back…if only a little…to our original inclination to care about each other.  For a couple of months, as the promise of winter intrudes upon us, we take stock of our blessings and care more about our neighbor’s suffering and needs.

We may have a bit of Ebenezer Scrooge about us….and a ghostly friend of Jacob Marley…where we reflect upon what we have done for others…and what we could have done had we not been so enthralled with ourselves.

A Green Hoodie and Pumpkin Ale

Another great Jonathon Brooks Blog!


The seasons change at midnight. Tomorrow is the first day of fall. I enjoy the temperatures of spring and fall more than the bitter cold of winter and the scorching heat of summer. I like my weather to be on the less extreme side. I am excited about this fall season!

With fall my hoodies are brought out from their closet once again. Also pumpkin ales are in the grocery and liquor stores. Then there’s the fancy pumpkin coffee beverages at the coffeehouses. And, of course, my father’s birthday lands in the late October country each year. Later arrives Thanksgiving break. The falling of the leaves from the trees in fall I also enjoy. Yes, fall is my kind of season.

In my life story I hope to be living in the season of summer. I turned 35 back in April. Summer seemed to begin around age 18 when I…

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Christmas @ Poor Boys

A Billy Bump Christmas!

The Jazz Man

Billy B.’s mother was insistent that she was not going to make a Christmas dinner that year…1969!  She proclaimed that she worked like a dog each Christmas to bring off a luxurious dinner and that this year…they were going out to eat!  Now, Demetrius, Billy’s step-father knew that there were no restaurant open on Christmas day, especially in the 1960’s!  He attempted to reason with Jane and assure her that they would be without dinner…if they did not make a dinner or if they were not invited to a Holiday feast.

Billy’s mom was dedicated to the proposition that she could not be bothered or troubled from Thanksgiving Day until Christmas Day…as there was simply to much work to be done in preparation for the yuletide revelers!  She hosted the annual Santa Claus extravaganza each year and her sisters, Vema and Guelda and Wanda attended…but not her brother Gene, who…

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My Pal, Bill V.

Have you ever met someone that you admired from the first time that you encountered them?  That would be the case with my first meeting of my friend, Bill Vanmetre!  I was the assistant superintendent of Building Service at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale and I was working late on the third shift to tour the buildings on that shift and meet the staff in each.

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Ken, the third shift foreman, was accompanying me though Morris Library when he introduced me to Bill Vanmetre.  I was immediately struck with Bill’s collegiality and wit!  When he spoke he exhibited a keen mind and a through understanding of the university and his mission in it.

Bill had a genuineness about him and I liked him and thought that he should be a candidate for promotion in the future.  He had a concern about people that impressed me and was very much along the lines of what I thought supervision and management should be about!

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Bill V. had grown-up in Carbondale and he understood the culture of SIUC in a manner that few others did.  He had known former SIU President, Delete Morris!

When times became rough at Building Services and a change in leadership was to soon occur in our department…Bill encouraged me that I was up to the challenge and that he had told the director of Plant and Service Operations that I was the right person for the job.

During my years as superintendent of Building Services, Bill was my sounding board for many difficult problems and dilemmas that I encountered.

Bill was dedicated to former SIUC chancellor, Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger!  No one was closer by my side than he…when the chancellor was unjustly terminated.  Bill was there for Jo Ann with encouraging words and support…and she loved him for his friendship and dedication!

When a HOPE Dinner, which was a support group for the fallen chancellor,  was being held a Lick Creek Restaurant and I did not have the funds for the tickets, which were $100.00 per person…Bill bought Mary Jane and my ticket because he wanted us to attend.

During his many years on campus…Bill V. was a leader that loved people…and without fanfare or acclaim….quietly helped countless members of the campus community.

For several years Bill V. would purchase an ornate flower arrangement for President Poshard and his lovely wife, Jo, for their holiday table…when they hosted the Board of Trustees of the University.  Bill insisted on placing my name alongside his on the card….although I never contributed a dime.

Bill V. not only never sought praise for his many contributions to the betterment of others on campus…but he insisted that I not reveal his good works, either!

Bill V. is such a kind professional that if he disagreed with you… would have to ponder for some time a to whether or not  he had indicated a differing of opinion?

Bill V., who was one of my closest advisors, and my continuing friend…was responsible for much of the success of Building Services during my years there.

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Friends Are Special

Friendship is special!

The Jazz Man

Billy Bump was thinking about his friend since first grade, Carl.  He had first noticed Carl when he entered the first grade classroom on the first day of class and proceeded to sit down at his desk, when the teacher had told him, ‘Carl take your hat off in the house…and hang it in the cloak room.’

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Soon, Billy discovered that he and Carl had the same last name, Bump.  Now, Bump was not a common name and Billy marveled that he had the same name as another of his classmates.  Billy determined, at that point, that he was going to get to know Carl, better.

Carl was a quiet boy.  He was was a bit heavy in body…in a day that most American children were not, and he wore thick, what were called in the early 1960’s, coke rimmed lenses!  Carl welcomed Billy…

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