Monthly Archives: April, 2021

TGIF — The Jazz Man

I sent my friend the acronym, TGIF, meaning Thank God It’s Friday. Although I have been retired for over 10 years…I have not forgotten the significance of the blessed last day of the work week. I not only have not forgotten it, I vividly recall the lighter mood in the office and the workplace and […]

TGIF — The Jazz Man

Better Days Ahead

I was just admiring our gigantic tree that is just beyond the Writing Porch. I write without my glasses as I no doubt need bifocals. I noticed that the tree looked resplendent and it has gotten wider during the winter. Then I put my glasses on and observed the brilliant orange bags that the dreaded bag worm lives in. I then remembered living in our little church when I was 17 years old. The pastor exhorted me to listen for the toilets when I passed by the rest rooms to ensure that the flush mechanism had not stuck and thus the water was continually running in the vain endeavor to fill the tank. To this day I can hear a toilet running…from a long way off. I also have been trained by life to see the good things that are afar off or just rounding the distant corner. We are going to have a meeting at our church next week. My colleague asked me if I had received my shots…and I in turn asked another participant in the meeting if they had received their shots. We laughed both times as it reminded us of assuring others that we would meet while walking our dogs…that they had all of their shots.

Joan Didion is a fascinating author. I am listening to her book, The White Album, which is a compilation of her essays regarding the 1960’s and 70’s. At one point she mentioned her diagnosis with a serious illness and then being struck with the knowledge that what happened to others could happen to her…and that she had a new normal. I am impressed with our President’s efforts to create a government plan that has not happened since Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal. I voted for President Reagan…twice…and yet it is painfully obvious that trickle down economics has not worked. There is such an evil divide in our country between those who have…and those how have not. While some of us live in comfort and ease and wonder when it is safe to return to the theatre and to travel to Europe…others wonder where their next meal is coming from and if they can find a roof to cover their head…for the night…

Friends are sometimes difficult to find. When I began my life in the Christian Community I decided that I wanted everyone in the church to be my friend. Subsequently I carried that vision in to the work place. When I disagreed with what someone was saying, unless it was gossip about another, I simply listened politely and continued with my day. I worked hard…harder than what was expected of me…I did not want anyone to feel that I was the golden term of we Baby Boomers, a Goldbrick. In the workplace the boss and the manager and the administrator are, first, looking for one primary character trait. Leadership is seeking someone who will not cause them trouble… When I was meeting with Chancellor Walter Wendler on a monthly basis I told him that if I had a concern or a constructive criticism…I would always talk about it in private with just he and I privy to the conversation. I went on to say that if he did anything for the civil service community…I would shout it from the mountain top. Chancellor Wendler did more for civil service staff than any Campus leader during my career.

Florida is on the horizon for the Brooks clan. Life is returning to normal…as long as our ears are attuned to the toilet running…

Photo by Matilda Wormwood on

Conditional Friends And Situational Promises

Stormy weather is moving in to our neck of the woods. The temperature is a pleasant 72 degrees and wet. I sit reflecting on leadership, which I often do, and the meaning of consistency in what they say and subsequently do. When I left the University over 10 years ago…I feared that I should have remained for January and February of 2011 as I had attained 78.5% of my maximum retirement benefit and felt that I was being imprudent in leaving the other 1.5 % on the table. However since my departure I have earned significantly more than if I had stayed with my employer. There have been almost no raises in pay for SIUC since my departure 10 years and 4 months ago. The first significant thing that comes to mind is that the staff have lost money due to the cost of living. The second concern is that the civil service staff have been consistently asked to cover the work of more and more jobs that were left unfilled due to budgetary shortfalls. The third concern is that these wonderful and hardworking and dedicated people are being pushed to the breaking point by an apparent blindness to their condition.

MJ often tells me that my feelings regarding the University are not held by all who have retired from there. I had some wonderful experiences with Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale during my 32 years and 2 months and 3 weeks. However I have witnessed wrongs that should have been righted and the buddy system for promotion and job assignment…in some areas of the Campus. I have watched, with some sadness, as people work their fingers to the bone…and only received…’Bony Fingers.’ I also have been the recipient of promises that were never kept and friendships by administrators that were conditional on what I could do for them. Most of the time I was able to take these things in my stride as I had enjoyed some success at advocacy for those who had no voice. Sadly…all too often…the people who keep the train running…are the nameless and the faceless…the unseen…and the forgotten.

I was encouraged to hear that Chancellor Lane is developing a training program for staff that will enable them to increase their skills and make them elegible for additional steps on the Career Ladder. The recognition by the Chancellor of the value that his civil service staff bring to the success of SIUC is of vital importance. There is an abundance and a plethora of hidden skills in the civil service community that could so benefit Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…and until Chancellor Lane’s insightful innovative…the value of this community has heard the words off their value…but not seen the substance…

The Gift Of A Smiling Face — The Jazz Man

The weather has warmed in our part of the globe. But then again it is almost May. Our lonely goose has a friend with him today. I wonder if Mrs. Goose came back to find her lost husband and show him the way home? He appears to be extremely content and subsequently followed her into […]

The Gift Of A Smiling Face — The Jazz Man

An O. Henry…Fan

The sun is shinning brightly and the temperature is a pleasant 63 degrees. Two, happy, fishermen are on the pond with a little oar. They are laughing uproariously and I think that is because of the little oar. I have not seen a boat on our pond since my neighbors, Larry and Vickie, got in their paddle boat and paddled around the body of water over ten years ago. We had a lovely church service this morning and many of my fellow congregants reflected on what Earth Day meant to them. One of the members had a great slide show of some beautiful places on our third rock from the sun.

Often may readers response to my scribbles reminds me of the Literature Analysis class that I was enrolled in during the 1980’s. Of course the class involves the students reading a piece of writing and then breaking it down to explain what the author meant. I found that it was not an exact science. My first paper was applauded by the professor and read to the class, anonymously, to illustrate good analysis. I received an A grade and felt pretty good about my analytical abilities… That was the first and last A grade that I received in the class…and instead I progressively declined in grades on my papers. What I had seen so clearly on the first analysis…evaded me on all of the rest of the course study. At the conclusion of the semester the professor told me that he had never experienced a student who demonstrated in the first paper of the class that he understood all that the class was designed to teach…but that I had. He went on to say that although it seemed somewhat unorthodox to give me an A for the semester, it was the right grade due to my first attempt…and that he was perplexed as to my slow decline for the rest of the study.

O. Henry was known for his surprise endings. His works include the Gift of the Magi and Ransom for Red Chief. Many of my writings are patterned after Mr. Henry in that I strive for the surprise ending. Also, the theme of many of my blogs may not be evident until the latter portion of the document. I enjoy writing from personal experience but endeavor to correlate the experience with larger global themes.

I often speak of nature, which is a subject that I could write all day regarding, and yet my critical point is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A person can live in the most lovely natural surroundings and yet be bitter and afraid and depressed. Happiness comes from within. I am amazed at how much beauty that I see…when I am in the mood to receive it. I am equally amazed at how much awe inspiring Earth events that I miss when my heart is not right… I was watching a Danish film last night that is in contention for an Academy Award, entitled, Another Round, where a group of teachers decide that they are going to follow the advise of a study that illustrates that 0.5 alcohol blood alcohol content is the natural state of humans that should be striven to achieve for maximum career and social success. The insidious results seem, at first to be working, until the group ups their drinking…with comical results. I reflected that our society teaches us that perhaps we need that extra supplement of drug or drink to excel in our profession or social interactions.

Good writing makes the reader think. It should not be easily decipherable. It should not be in the network television shows practice of scene changes every minute or less. It should not be in the mindless approach of reality TV. Not so long ago the purpose of education and higher education was to make a better member of the human family. The goal was not to tell the student what to think but to teach them how to think. Einstein did not come from the conventional classroom. Dr. Martin Luther King showed us the way of nonviolent protest…he demonstrated to us a new and better way. Good writing enriches the mind with questions that do not have easy answers. Good writing brings peace to the troubled…and trouble to the complacent.

The Bible is an outstanding piece of literature. It speaks to us in allegory and inference and parable and the most heightened form of writing…story. Story has caused us to go to war…and story had brought us peace. President John F. Kennedy told us a story of going to the moon…and we did. Martin Luther nailed 95 thesis to the door of the church and thus began the Protestant reformation. We read the story of the baby Jesus…wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger…because there was no room for him in the Inn…and millions and billions of people have followed him until this day…

Subtle Change — The Jazz Man

Jonathon and I were just talking about money orders. It occurred to me that I have not thought of money orders for several years and that the era of the Debit card and on-line purchasing had somewhat supplanted what was the go-to method of payment a generation ago. Now I realize that money orders are […]

Subtle Change — The Jazz Man

Earth Is Our Home

Earth is an enjoyable place to live. I have lived all of my 63 + years here…and have every anticipation that I will live the remainder of my days on our brilliant blue globe. I love nature. I take a nature walk every day. I am enthralled by water. When I travel to Destin, Florida I can literally sit and watch the Gulf for hours. Around our house is an abundance of nature’s sounds. Among the sounds are birds singing and frogs croaking. We currently have a lost goose in our yard and a great blue heron who is eyeing him suspiciously. We have a busy beaver in our pond who travels back and forth across our lane to forage for dam building materials.

We are constructed from the earth. There is a reason that we feel one with nature…we are nature. On a few rare occasions I have been in fellowship with deer in our Campus woods. I have been close enough to touch them. I did not feel like the supreme mammal in the mix…but rather I felt humbled that they allowed me to visit with them in their home.

Pounds Hollow was my sanctuary when I was a boy. Mom loved to swim and so did I. She drove me and often my cousin Brenda to the happy place…three or four times a week in the summer. At times my buddy Jackie Brooks would accompany us. Mom always cautioned me that water moccasin snakes were in the water and therefore not to swim out beyond the ropes that illustrated where the shallow water ended and the deep water began. I was not a strong swimmer…but I could float like a beach ball. Soon I was floating into the deep and all the way to the other shore. It was exciting and exhilarating and I felt like an explorer. There is a peaceful tranquility to floating…with your ears under the water and drifting out beyond all other human life. Life’s problems seem so small when you are surrounded by the vastness of earth’s abundant water.

Nature is there for us when all of the accolades of career accomplishments have faded. The earth welcomes us when it seems like our friends have forsaken us. When I was looking at the deer in his big brown eyes…he seemed to be saying, ‘How are you,’ and I replied, ‘I am fine…here with you…’

Heaven is the dream of many faith communities. Heaven is a beautiful concept but as of yet I have not spoken with anyone who has personally seen it. I do know many people who have witnessed heaven on earth. From the majesty of spring blossoms and new life…to the beauty of new fallen snow and a winter’s landscape. We humans came from the earth and to the earth we will return. Our home has incomprehensible mesmerizing beauty. I walk the campus of Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale on a daily basis. I know that my friends must think why does Jay take the same photographs over and over again? I see something different in nature…every time that I look at it. It is a gift that keeps on giving.

Nature is a cup that I can not stop drinking of…and I never get my fill…

I still love floating into the deep water…

Show Up Happy

A great Jonathon Brooks blog!


An old saying wisely states, “Showing up is half of life.” I try to show up when and where I’m wanted and needed. To be reliable is a good thing to be. Reliability matters in our work lives and our relationships with friends. If I fail to first show up where I’m needed then obviously I cannot complete the other half of that journey or day’s work.

Life isn’t all work and it isn’t all play. Although work can be fun and leisure time can feel like work at times. It’s fun to go on vacation, but it can seem like work to get to the destination. There’s work to be done at the office, but sometimes there’s donuts and fun joking around also. A secret to enjoying life to its utmost is to always seek to make the best of all situations with a smile added into the mix.

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Hope Bringers

Blue Skys and high spirits are billowing out of the happy inhabitants of Little Egypt. We are a bit like a bottle of Coca Cola…that has been shaken…prior to being opened. There is so much pent up exuberance that it is on display for all around us to see and be the beneficiary’s of. Campus was abuzz with laughter and music and happy talk as I walked its’ spring confines. Everyone was so demonstrably happy…that I became happy. I began to reflect on all of the good things that God has in store for us. I just finished a fascinating book entitled, ‘The Children’s Bible,’ by Lydia Millet. In the book, which is a cautionary tale regarding global warming, one of the characters likens the Bible to nature…I see the correlation. I visited our churches wonderful Administrative Professional, Barb Stewart, this morning. I presented a thank you card and gift from our churches governing board, the Session, and once again was made hopefull by her wonderful personality and servant/leadership. Have you ever known someone that just by being in their presence…you are encouraged?

The other night I was watching an old recording of The Hopeful Gospel Quartet. The show was from 1993 on the PBS program Austin City Limits. The Quartet began on the radio show from Minnesota, A Prarie Home Companion, which was a creation of the popular author of Lake Wobegon Days, Garrison Keillor. The show transported me back in time where I had a cassette tape for a tape player that I had in my car. The cassette tape experience seemed the epitome of modern technology and that alone with the pager that I wore on my belt assured me that I had reached the land of the old cartoon, The Jetsons. The Hopeful Gospet Quartet sang songs of hope and uplifting and promise of God’s love and a brighter future…I wore the tape out…

A mistake that I have made is to think that happiness is directly proportional to happenings. Not so…I have discovered. Happiness is a conviction that you are alight and that you can help others to feel alright. By sharing of yourself you can encourage and help others. The irony of happiness is that by focusing on your story…my story is written… The riddle of contentment is to make those with whom you have connection feel content and safe and secure…and loved…

My friend thanked me for bringing others hope…and I was gobsmacked…and humbled. That is what I am stumbling around trying to do…but I doubted if anyone noticed…

A Cold Front Is Coming

It is currently 46 degrees with a low of 28 degrees forecast for tonight. My favorite Campus fountain, Paul and Virginia, has just been filled with water…I wonder if it will freeze? As I took my daily walk at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale, I snapped several photos of blossoming trees that will look much different after the cold bites their leaves. As I was driving home I saw one of the staff at our Civic Center covering their flowering plants as a blanket from the cold. I noticed a squirrel who’s bushy tail was blowing in the chilly breeze as he furtively consumed an acorn.

Nature was dancing and singing and rejoicing in the freedom of the spring and all the bounty that it promises. Now, today, nature is wondering why it bloomed so early? The same surprises confront our human experience. We are so happy and relieved and feeling freedom from Covid 19 since the vaccinations have been offered to all adults. Yet the Pandemic is not over and it is rearing its ugly head…still…across the planet.

So we have a unique opportunity to participate in a new normal. We have a second chance to reassess our reality and remember that we are all in this together. We live together…we die together…we must survive together. It is a myth that we each live in our own Green Zone Compound… and are safe and secluded in the bubble that we have carefully created. We that are well and have no needs and enjoy fulfilling our wants, have been awakened by the Virus.

We must invite others into our circle. We must expand our circle. We have to understand that the divisions that we have erected to divide us…are false and fake and destructive. Jesus saw everyone. Jesus loved everyone. Jesus was often found in the company of the marginalized of his time. The scripture tells us that, ‘the common people heard him gladly.’ Things change… Covid 19 will ultimately be vanquished….but what about Covid 20? Do we want to die when our neighbor…who we have dismissed and who we have ignored and who we do not see…has the medicine that will heal us?