Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Assembly Required!

We purchased a new bed for Parker, our Black Labrador!

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She needed it!  Her, former bed, had a big hole in the middle of it and her foot kept falling through the, massive hole!

Parker’s bed…had lasted for years!

Finally, what seemed like a simply procedure, I had accomplished it before, twice, turned into a two and one half hour ordeal!

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I read the instructions and re-read the instructions and then I knew that I needed assistance!  Sadly, I am not known as a, calm, follower of instructions.

Mary Jane helped me, for five minutes, and then announced that I should wait to put the bed together…when the boys could help me!

She understands my weakness!

Two and one half hours later…I had completed the project.

Parker will be sleeping on a new bed…and I will be grateful that I only have to put together her bed…every several years!

IMG_4169I wonder if the, assembly directions, are just difficult for e to understand…or are they, universally, hard?

Parker, slept on her torn and ragged, blue, bed…when she had to…but she did not enjoy the experience!  She often scratched, vehemently, at the, blue, canvas bottom of the bed!  But, at other times she seemed to sleep comfortably and soundly…the sleep of a, righteous, Lab!

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Though, Parker does not like the bed, as it is in her kennel, she is resigned to the fact that she must spend some time in it’s confines to ensure her continued membership of the Brooks’ household!

Mom and Dad leave from time to time…and they count on the security of the kennel and the enclosed bed…to serve as safety from the mischief of the canine family!

The Collector, And A Photo

We were in Dillard Department store, the other day, and what did Jonathon and I spy, with our little eye but, turntables and record players and turntable and cd combos…on a, dramatic, sale!

 

The, sale, items looked like the boxes had been in a fight and lost!

Now, this was a point of serious discussion for two, young men…yea…three young men, counting Aaron, as to the efficacy of owning, just one more vinyl record player…that also plays CD’s?

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I should say that one of the three of the Brooks Boys…is only young at heart…and perhaps more than the other two!

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Jonathon and I commiserated regarding the, extremely low price of the expensive items and considered that there must be a reason such as; returns or seconds or mistaken identity!

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So, we returned home…and I was much like Ralphie from the movie, A Christmas Story, when he thought of and dreamed of a Red Rider BB Gun!

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A full two weeks later, yesterday, Mary Jane and I were near the department store, and I mentioned dropping by Dillard’s to check on the, rouge, record players?

My, dear, wife assured me that I did not need another record player and she inquired as to why I would want one?

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I thought, she is right, and for a time, overcame my fever of obtaining, just, one more of my, childhood, fascination of record players and records!

But…today…I was alone!

As I strolled through the store that contained my passion…I did not see the land of, beat-up record player boxes, and I was relieved that I had, apparently, missed the opportunity to add a third record player…to my collection.

Suddenly, a young woman, about half my size, inquired if she could help me?  I asked if there were any of the sale record players left…that were in the scraggly boxes?

She, joyfully, said that there were some left and that they were left over from Christmas…and that was why the boxes were in such bad shape.

When we arrived at the, splendorous, display I noticed that they all appeared to be either turn tables or record players…with no CD player combinations.

I asked her about one that was on the floor and under another player and she, graciously, knelt down and read the capabilities of the machine to me.  It was a record player and CD player combo!

Now, you must consider that the only way that I could validate the purchase, albeit, a cheap purchase, of another record player was if it would also play CD’s…of which we have several!

When I, furtively, chose the bargain the lady carried it to the check out…and then offered to carry it to my car…but I assured her that I could manage!

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My April surprise has a 1950’s retro appearance!  But it does not shoot BB’s!

As I mentioned in an early blog, I have accepted an assignment on the Session of my local First Presbyterian Church.  It was requested that I send a photo of myself for the church website.  I though, fleetingly, about sending the photo of me enjoying a, once in awhile cigar, but then, thought better of it!

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After I took several selfies and Mary Jane took several more photos of my, old and heavy visage, I discovered that I look, a little, better, in black and white!

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Note: A Christmas Story courtesy of Google.

 

Grudge!

‘A persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.’    Dictionary

‘A grudge is a bad feeling or hate you hold against another for something bad they did, or you think they did.’   Urban Dictionary

We humans love to hold, tightly, a grudge!

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When someone, wrongs us, or when we believe that we have been mistreated…we immortalize the moment and fix it in amber…in order to assure its continuing viability!

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I, like all of us, have been treated, somewhat unfairly, at times.

Also, I have imagined or perceived that I was being treated poorly or in a wrong manner, and found out at a later date that my imagination had been working over time!

All to often, we feel that there was a, hidden message, or an agenda, in what someone says, or does not say, to us…when in reality…we were the farthest from their mind.

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To believe that we are in the forefront of a person, for whom we hold a, sacred grudge, is to think very highly of ourselves and our place in others life story.

A grudge hurts and damages the person holding it, much more than the person that it is being held against.

I have witnessed grudges, consume the person that is suffering from it and subsequently dominate their waking hours as well as rob them of their sleep!

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‘I forgive you,’ Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion.  ‘You took something very precious from me.  I will never talk to her again.  I will never, hold her again.  But I forgive you.  And have mercy on your soul.’    Washington Post  ‘I forgive you.’  Relatives of Charleston church shooting victims address Dylan Roof

What a testament to the grace of God…and the message of Christ!

I discovered something, many years ago, that has helped me, immensely, during my walk through life.  I do not hold grudges.  Not because I am good…I am not.  But, God has been merciful to me and, thus far, I have not been, plagued, with the desire to capture grudges.

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I stopped when I was a child.  My mom and dad divorced when I was six years old and mom fell into a long depression.  I was a sad and sullen boy for sometime…until I found that she, seemed to feel better, if I was upbeat!  From that point, in my life, onward, I have attempted to forget the bad and magnify the good!

I was a manager/administrator at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, for over 25 years.  During those years, no matter how fair I attempted to be, I developed enemies or at least people who did not like me.

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My leadership goal at SIUC was to cause my enemies to like me and my friends to love me!

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Actually, I see those who seem to wrong me…as fellow human beings on this, very rocky road of life, and I forget their animosity and embrace their humanity!

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Now, do not get me wrong…I am hurt by hurtful words or mistreatment…but the pain subsides…quickly!

When I think of the, multitude, of kind and gracious and loving, people in my life…I do not have space for grudges!

 

‘Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity of registering wrongs.’ Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

‘To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it.’    Confucius

‘Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die.’    Ann Lamott

‘They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge.  I tend it like a little pet.’    Lane Moriarty, Big Little Lies

‘A life without forgiveness is a prison.’    William Arthur Ward

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Faith Should Be A Comfortable Cloak

If you are a, Baby Boomer, as I am, you will remember the cloak room in your first grade classroom?

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When I began first grade at Hillcrest Grade school, in Eldorado, Illinois, I took my seat the first morning and noticed a fellow classmate come in and sit down, still wearing his cap.

Our teacher said, ‘Jackie, take off your cap and place it in the cloak room.’

Now, I had never heard of a cloak room, being from Chicago, and I was intrigued with what was in the, mysterious, space?

When I examined the, special room, I observed a series of hooks attached to the walls and shelves over the hooks.  I was a room for, sundry, hats and coats and, in the winter months, rubber galoshes.

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So, yesterday we enjoyed a lovely, potluck, dinner with our church family.

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The purpose of the event was, following, a special program of the singing of Spirituals, and before the installation and ordination deacons and elders, that had been chosen by the Nominating committee that represents, both, our congregation and the two boards of the local Presbyterian church, the Session, made up of elders, and the Deacons.

As I sat and listened to the beautiful singing and enjoyed the delicious meal, with the entire Brooks family present, I was struck with the comfortable covering of being with a group of believers that are inclusive and loving to all members of the human family!

 

 

From my first association with Presbyterians, I noticed that they are doers rather than talkers!

Have you ever been encountered by an individual who, actively and authoritatively, shoves their brand of Christianity…down your throat?

Are you a member of a church that is determined that you follow a, heavy, book of rules that are centered around a charismatic leader?

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We live in a lonely world.  Are we looking for someone to tell us that they love us…or are we seeking for fellow humans that, demonstrate, the love of Christ?

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As I listened to the various elders speak about their ministry, during the congregational meeting, I saw the beauty of being a member of a faith family that does not judge…but accepts and loves all of God’s children that he brings to them.

We all carry a monkey on our back!

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Over 20 years ago when our family joined the First Presbyterian Church, I wondered if I would be accepted since I had not been born into the denomination?

I had to overcome the pre-conceived ideas that I had about the group and ignore the myths…that I had been taught.

What I discovered was a welcoming and friendly church family!

I enjoy being in the background…and, virtually, invisible…as I am a bit of an introvert.

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I served as a Trustee, soon after we became church members.  About ten years later, I was asked to serve on the Session.

I told myself, after the last three year term…I had done my part.

But, Presbyterians…are such workers!

I must offer my, meager, services…one more time…God has been too good to my family…for me to not try to help…a little.

Faith is a cloak that is meant to wear for a lifetime…and eternity!

I do not think of how I can impress those who I meet…that I am a Christian.

More often than not…I do not think about the commitment….I endeavor to treat those who I meet…as I want to be treated.

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‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them, which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’    Matthew 5:44   KJV

‘Love Thy Neighbor’

‘Thy Homeless Neighbor’

‘Thy Muslim Neighbor’

‘Thy Black Neighbor’

‘Thy Gay Neighbor’

‘Thy White Neighbor’

‘Thy Jewish Neighbor’

‘Thy Transgender Neighbor’

‘Thy Christian Neighbor’

‘Thy Atheist Neighbor’

‘Thy Racist Neighbor’

‘Thy Addicted Neighbor’

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People Do Care About You!

Have you ever felt alone?

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Has it ever seemed to you that no one seemed to understand what you are going through and that no one cared?

Of, if you friends and family and acquaintances did address your concerns…they did it with, their, religious dogma, or their…pull yourself up by your bootstraps, philosophy?

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When someone is hurting, we want to present them with a neatly wrapped gift box of solutions for their problems!

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We offer, what we think is, constructive criticism; or tough love!

Some respond to this type of, hard, care…but many are devastated by it!

We are looking for a friend…who cares…and will take the time to listen to our concerns.  Studies have shown that the best friends are the best listeners.  Many times a person will be referred to as wise…when all they did was be empathetic for their friend.

So many people care…but often do not voice their love or demonstrate it due to not wanting to be intrusive.  So many of us seek a simple invitation to be a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on…and a friend to call in the darkness of the night.

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I have been a member of the community of faith for the majority of my life.  I pray for my friends, often.  I weep when my friends suffer loss and I rejoice when they rejoice!

Strict religious dogma does not, adequately, cover the vagaries of the human condition.

If you have a mental illness or a disorder…prayers for the alleviation of evil spirits…will not solve the problem!

 

If someone tells you that they have the gift of healing…they should pray for you in private…and when you are healed…the glory should be the, healer’s, God!

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All of us have challenges and all of us have, extremely, dark days.

 

I am available to speak with anyone at anytime and my email is; bradleybrooks@yahoo.com.

All to often, people live and die, at times by suicide, without knowing how many of their friends have wept and longed to help them…if they only felt an invitation.

Our world is not a neat and clearly delineated script from birth to death.  All along the, rocky and hilly and dangerous, path of life are pitfalls and Grand Canyons that we can fall into!

 

We need a sherpa…we need a guide…we need someone to listen and hold our hand and care about us!

In our modern technological society we live, most of our waking hours, in our head!

We seek a succor and a love and a compassion in alcohol and drugs

 

We feel that we do not fit in to the expectations that our parents have outlined for us.

We see that our faith expectation is not consistent with the faith community that we have been reared in.

At times, we see that our sexual orientation or our gender identification is, apparently different, than our peers.

We discover that God created a diverse human family!

 

The pain that we feel can be ameliorated by expressing it to another human that cares about us.

The movie, ‘Its a Wonderful Life,’ with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed…illustrated the impact and value that each of our lives have on so many that are connected to us!

You really do not know how may people love and care about you!

Never feel alone!

Never feel that no one cares!

Always reach out to others!

You do not realize how valuable that you are!

 

 

Spring Transformation @ Southern Illinois University…And Wallace Too!

It had bee a few days since I had taken the opportunity to walk the campus of SIUC.

I was amazed at the Spring transformation that had occurred!

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The renewal and rebirth of life is, continually, something to behold!

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I was reading some wonderful writings from my, lifelong friend, Jeff..and I was transported back to the days that he and I were teenagers…with our life before us!

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I marveled at how rapidly the past 45+ years have gone by.

We humans see history from our limited time on the planet.  What seems long to us is no more than a passing shadow to the universe…and a cool breeze to God!

IMG_4118 2We took Mr. Wallace back to the Veterinarian today!  He had eight teeth removed two weeks ago tomorrow!

IMG_3933 2IMG_3938 2Wallace is setting on him mommies lap.  Wallace loves him mommy!IMG_3939 2After Wallace’s, multiple, tooth extraction…he was able to indulge in special, soft, food!

IMG_3945 2He seemed to warm-up to his new diet…quickly!

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All of us want to leave our mark!

We hope to be, fondly, remembered…once we leave this mortal life!

I think that there is no more certain assurance that we will be remembered than to help our fellow human beings who travel on the road of life with us!

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As I think of my, United Kingdom friend, Jeff Lestz, and all that he has done to assist and make easier the lives of his; friends and colleagues and strangers that he meets…I am proud that I have known him, from early in his journey!

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Each of us are born into circumstances that we neither asked for or chose.  A happy and successful life it the navigating of those circumstances in order to produce a satisfying existence.

IMG_4114 3Spring reminds me that life is continuous!  What seems to wither and die, in the fall and winter…comes back in all of its glory in the spring!

IMG_4132What a, magical, mystical, mystery, life is!

Have you ever experienced Deja vu?  Perhaps there is a reason?

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Wallace knows when someone is good to him…and he appreciates the love…and the perks!

IMG_3935 2SIUC is not on the down hill of its history or the diminishment of its outreach!

Oh no!  Southern Illinois University is poised to experience a renaissance!

It is spring…and life has been renewed!

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Overwhelmed With Joy/Stress!

This past Sunday I wrote a blog regarding Mary Jane and my 41st anniversary.  I was overwhelmed with joy at the response that we received!

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I was watching a documentary, last evening, regarding the stress that Americans are, yes…overwhelmed, with in the United States.

The program is, ‘One Nation Under Stress,’ and it examines the, ‘root causes of failing life expectancy in America.’    Av/TV CLUB

Dr. Gupta concluded that income inequality is causing  ‘deaths of despair,’ and that, ‘Americans are dying sooner, increasingly self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and committing suicide at alarming rates.  The unifying factor for all of these conditions?  Stress.’    Salon

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‘Suicides have gone up 30 percent in the last 20 years’…much of which, according to, Dr. Gupta, dashed expectations.    Salon

Jobs have been lost to automation and outsourcing and wages have dropped.

We have been raised to expect to do as well, or better than our parents, and have discovered that many of our expectations are not achievable.

The program went on to exam the income inequality in the United States and found that, although the United States, is the highest of wealthy nations it is similar to the income inequality in Sudan, which has the very rich and the abject poor!

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It seems that we do not feel, particularly, stressed until we look at our neighbor and our colleagues and others…and discover that they have much more than we do…and that they do not appear to be working harder or accomplishing more than we are?

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The film went on to look at the health benefits of social cohesion.  It showed that communities that have a strong social culture have longer lives.

We need each other!

Today, there is such a, violent, division in people that, often, we socialize with a few member of our family and little more.  Do you know the names of the people that live on your street?

‘It’s the community and the social cohesion.  I mean people think of those as sort of euphemisms, nice things to add to an academic paper, but frankly you find societies all over the world have some of the same problems that we do, and yet because of their social cohesion, they appear to be fairly protected.  We don’t have that.  We don’t have systems in place to nurture and foster social cohesion.  If anything, it is becoming more fragmented, more individualistic, more siloed of than before, and were seeing the impact of that.’    Salon

Many of Mary Jane and my, happy anniversary, comments came from friendships that we had formed over thirty years ago!  In the little church that we were all members of…we spent a significant amount of time together.  We also, were a group of people that had something in common, modest means!

Throughout my career at SIUC’s Building Services…we often experienced a family atmosphere.

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When my friend, Barb, left our department she paid Building Services  a lovely compliment when she said that our office was the most family like atmosphere that she had ever worked in.

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When I hear from friends, many of whom I no longer see on a regular basis…and who’s, gracious, comments about Mary Jane and I are, primarily based on our association of over thirty years ago…I am overwhelmed and my stress level is reduced…dramatically!

My stress level was, appreciable, reduced during my years at the university, due to our department working for a common and noble goal…the recruitment and retention of our, precious, students!

When you are depressed…and have no one to talk to…you slide into despair!

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Capitalism kills many people through it’s inherent inequities as demonstrated in our country.

Often the person that has more than you do…may not be working as hard as you are…and you may be smarter than they are?

Many of the rich in our country are the beneficiaries of family and friends and connections that are not available to the society at large!

When we let wealth be the arbiter of wisdom, or success, or God’s blessings…we have created a toxic environment  for the majority of humanity!

What if when we die…and we look for the streets of gold and the mansions….instead….we find a cobblestone road and a rustic country cabin?

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41

Today is Mary Jane and my 41st anniversary!

Forty-one years ago, I was a lad of 20 that could not believe his good fortune in preparing to marry such a wonderful woman!

Mary Jane had a house trailer and we both had, old automobiles, with mine being the most questionable.

I was earning $70 per week and Mary Jane was donating her time, teaching in a parochial school.

On my first night back to work, after a 3 day honeymoon, I was excited to see that I had two cheese burgers in my lunch pail!  When I told my new bride how wonderful that they were…she admonished me that I should not get used to them…as our food budget would not allow for them on a regular basis.

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In 1981, a tremendous blessing came our way, Aaron David Brooks, and everything about him excited us!

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He did not sleep through the night…for the first year of his life!

But, he loved to be placed in his swing, that we would crank up, and he would fall asleep immediately!

Aaron also loved for me to hold him on my shoulder and walk with him…and he then would fall asleep…until I laid him in his cradle.

Aaron is a, natural artist, and a photographer, and a manager of a, bustling, warehouse facility!

He is much more intelligent than I ever was…and I am so proud of him!

Then came, Jonathon, in 1984!

Jonathon greeted the world with a smile and a giggle and climbing out of his cradle and jumping on to the floor!

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Jonathon inspected all of the figurines and chochkies that we had…and subsequently broke them all!

Jonathon has grown to be a writer and a reader and a man who cares about people that he meets!

He is loved and respected by his university colleagues and friends and holds a responsible position at Key Control…which appreciates his dedication to them and the university’s mission!

Aaron and Jonathon are the light of their mom and my life!

There have been constants in our 41 years.

We have, always, sought to follow Christ!

The seeking of God’s will has entailed 3 separate changes in churches…with the last change being, almost, 21, years.

The Bible says that, ‘when a man findeth a wife, he findeth a good thing, and obtains favor of the Lord.’

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Certainly, having the counsel of Mary Jane has been the key to our families success!

In our beginnings…she counseled me to take the Building Service Worker exam at Southern Illinois University…and I was offended and I balked…and then I took the test…and the rest is history!

When I became a BSWI…Mary Jane told me that she believed that, one day, I would lead the department…and I laughed in my heart…as did Sarah of the Old Testament, when she was told by the angel that she would bear a child in her aged years!

I was the Superintendent of Building Services for the last 13 years of my 32 year career at SIUC!

Challenges of health have hit us…but God has helped us.

Our sons still want to be around us…and we are planning a family vacation to Maine later this year!

Now I eat a hamburger when I desire one…and I weep for those who can not.

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I Went To Hear The Leader Speak

I went to hear the leader speak

The excitement was so heavy that you could feel it surrounding you.

I went to hear the leader speak

And I listened for something good.

I went to hear the leader speak

And the beauty of the surroundings mesmerized me.

I went to hear the leader speak

To find a mentor for my life!

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The leader said for us to beware of Mexicans

‘They are rapist and murders…and some good people!’

I went to hear the leader speak

And everyone cheered!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

And those who cheered him

He loved!

‘Take them out on a stretcher!’

The leader commanded regarding those who disagreed with him.

 

I went to hear the leader speak

There were thousands of red hats

Make America Great Again

Sounded wonderful to me!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And he mimicked and mocked a disabled reporter

The red hats cheered

With a lusty cry of, ‘lock her up!’

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I went to hear the leader speak

And the FBI director was fired

The leader told Lester that the firing was because of the Russia investigation

And the leader laughed with the Russians in the Oval Office

And the Russians brought their photographers to document the jovial occasion!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

He said that he did not want immigrants from, ‘shit-hole countries’

The countries that he was referring to were countries containing black and brown human beings!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And a protestor against white nationalist was killed

The leader said that there were good people on both sides

And we wept!

 

I went to hear the leader speak

And he stood next to Russia’s leader

And he said that he believed him

And he said that he did not believe us

Russia’s leader smiled, and gave the leader a volleyball!

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I went to hear the leader speak

And he belittled a war hero

The war hero had spent years in captivity

The war hero was tortured so brutally that he could not raise his arms above his shoulders

The leader missed the war

He had bone spurs!

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I went to hear the leader speak

Many friends hear a different voice

I pray that they will not incur the wrath of

The leader!

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The Joy Of Living!

As Jonathon and I were walking campus, today, I could not help but revel in the 60 degree temperatures

After the, extreme, cold of this past winter; the warming weather brings a lightness of step and and brightness of attitude regarding our future!

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We saw Southern Illinois University president, Dr. Kevin Dorsey, as we sat at the fountain, discussing our weekend plans.  Dr. Dorsey is a fine man and a respected professional.  I called out to him and he waved and smiled the smile of a leader that is secure in his life and the works thereof!

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Jonathon asked me if I had read the, breaking news, that Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker had replaced five of the seven members of the university’s board of trustees?  I told him that I had not…but I was saddened to hear the Joel Sambursky had been replaced.  During the, recent, controversy, of the removal of university president, Randy Dunn, Mr. Sambursky exhibited great courage and a dedication to ethical and fiduciary certitude!

That being said, I do admire and respect three of the five new board of members, who I have witnessed in action many times, in the last decade.

One thing is certain…Southern Illinois University is under the oversight of new leadership.

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As I walk the, beautiful, campus of SIUC…I am constantly looking for signs of spring!

The red bud trees, that are native to our region, are outstanding in their supine spring splendor!

We seek renewal!  We need rejuvenation and jolt of life’s nectar to enliven us and charge us with the joy of living the wonderful life that we have been given!

Often the tasks that we are given…just to survive in life seem overwhelming!

Many times we work for others who seem to not appreciate our efforts.  In these situations I take comfort in my conviction that the work that I am performing is the…right thing to do!

‘Weeping may endure for a night…but joy cometh in the morning!’   Psalm 30:5

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