Friday, September 8, 2017

Happily Ever After

When I was a child my mom would read Anderson's and Grimm's fairy tales to me. They all seemed to end with the words: "And they all lived happily ever after."

"Happily ever after." I liked that. After the dragon was slain and the princess rescued, after the princess was awakened by loves's first kiss, or set free from the curse of a wicked witch, long after everything was set right and the prince and princess were wed "they all lived happily ever after."

Today, my high school sweetheart and I celebrate 51 years of living happily ever after. Since our wedding day we have learned that the best part of life is not what is desribed in the fairy tale, but everything lived ever after. The short time before pales when compared to the years after the wedding,

Over the past 51 years, my wife and I have learned that life events do not cooperate with a desire to live happily ever after.

  • Working one's spouse through college does not necessarily lead to living happily ever after.
  •  Being church mouse poor and adhering to a strict budget does not square well with the idea of "happily ever after".
  • Going to war and returning shot up does not sound like a great way to live happily ever after. 
  • Neither does bearing a first child while your mate is getting shot at halfway around the world.
  • Neither does a cancer diagnosis with subsequent treatment and recovery.
  • Neither do hip replacements or pulmonary fibrosis. 
  • And neither do the myriad other large and small bumps in the road and major and minor crises.

Face it. Life happens.

As I look back over the past 51 years, I realize how much we have been living happily ever after in spite of and through the events above. Living through them caused us to rely on each other. Living through them increased our trust of each other. Events that have torn others apart pushed us closer together. Events that could have pushed us away increased our love.

Living through each event was not always easy. It was not always fun, but it was always life and life lived to the full. And life lived to the full is incredibly rich and satisfying. Life lived to the full makes me happy. Living life to the full is the secret to living happily ever after.

What are your experiences?

I intend to keep living happily ever after.

How about you?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Since When is it Right?

I am shocked, apalled, and hurt by yesterday's act of domestic terrorism in Charlottesville, VA where a man deliberately drove his car into a crowd of people whose only crime was to disagee with his ideas. That such an act is conceivable saddens me. That someone would not only conceive but also plan and carry out such act for any reason makes me sick.

Since when did it become acceptable to commit senseless violence?

Since when did it become acceptable to maim and kill and destroy people whose only offense is to disagree with you?

Since when did it become acceptable to do evil?

Since when did it become acceptable to do the wrong thing, no matter how righteous the cause? It is never right. NEVER. Never. A thousand times never. Not one of us. Not ever.

It is never right to do the wrong thing.

Disagree if you will. That is your right.

Assemble and protest if you must. That is also your right.

But it is better to strive for understanding rather than dominance, to live and let live, think and let think.

Do what is good and right. That is your responsibility.

You have no right to do otherwise.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Man With a Mission

Sometime during the 1990s, I read Steven Covey's iconic "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". A key point was "you need to know where you're going if you ever want to go there." Dr. Covey recommended his readers define where they wanted to go in a personal mission statement.

In the military, the mission determines a unit's or person's priorities and activities. The mission defines what one must do to succeed. I wanted to succeed in life. I took Dr. Covey's advice and developed a personal mission statement. Since then, I have been a man with a mission.

This is my mission. The core elements have been in place since I first wrote them, adding grand children when my oldest grandchild was born and the one about maintaining my health after I was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis.

My Mission:

To love God with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength.

To worship God alone, and, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to grow into the likeness of Christ.

To live a life that exemplifies the values of Christ, a life of honesty and integrity before God and men.

To always do what is just and right.

To love my wife and children unconditionally and to demonstrate that love daily by my actions.

To assist my children’s and grand-children’s growth to become responsible and productive adult members of society.

To be a true friend to my friends.

To know and be worthy of the love and respect of family and friends alike.

To provide for my family by honest work; to know the joy of labor and to enjoy the fruits thereof.

To maintain and improve my health and physical condition to the maximum extent possible.

To delight in learning; to attain wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

To delight and give God thanks for the good life He has given me.

And finally, when it's all over and I rest again in the arms of my Heavenly Father, to do so secure in the knowledge that I used every gift and opportunity He gave me to its fullest.

That is my mission. What is yours?

Do you have one?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wake-up Call

"Everybody expects to get old.
Nobody expects it to happen all at once"

In early 2013, I experienced shortness of breath and a decrease in my ability to exercise. I realized I needed to get it checked out. After breathing tests, chest X-rays, poking, prodding, and listening I was diagnosed with Ideopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF).

I had my wake up call. All at once I was old.

"Pulmonary" means "of the lungs". "Fibrosis" means "scarring". Pulmonary Fibrosis is a scarring and thickening of the lungs. "Ideopathic" means the cause cannot be determined.

IPF progressively reduces both lung capacity and the ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. The lungs are able to take in less air. At the same time, they become less able to extract oxygen and vent carbon dioxide from that air. Once lost, lung capacity is not regained. IPF is progressively fatal. There are drugs and treatments that may slow the progression but there is no cure.

So, I'm suddenly old and getting older a lot faster than I thought. I am also doing everything in my power to slow progression and preserve the capacity I have left. I take medication, breathe full time oxygen, exercise within capacity, and learn everything I can about how to deal with this disease.

Bottom line:    

I am moving slowly, but I am still moving. I plan to keep moving as long as I possibly can. 

I am doing less than I used to but I am still doing.

Some dreams are no longer within my capacity but I plan to keep chasing those that are.

IPF is what I have, not what I am. I plan to keep on keeping on as long as I can.

And that's about all one fellow can do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

We Band of Brothers

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen now at home a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap while any speaks
That fought with us.

Many years ago, I found myself flying helicopters with a group of exceptional  men in a place called Vietnam. We were of different backgrounds. We came from all over. We were thrown together by the mysterious workings of the Army Assignments System and we were all probably a little bit crazy. We translated that craziness into mission success. We grew into and shared a spirit and swagger unique to our unit. 

We became a band of brothers; we remain so today. At one point in the history of this planet we were the best in the world at what we did.

No one needs to tell us we were winning when they sent us home; we know it. 

We are brothers. Brothers we shall remain.

To my brothers, before, during, and after, I salute you. 

Welcome home.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

We Are One

To my wife, on our 50th wedding anniversary.

We are one. 

This is a profound mystery, but after fifty years, we are one.

We were not always one. We began as two. You were one and I was one. Each of us was looking, seeking "the one." Even after we met, we remained two.

Through Saturday night dates and Sunday afternoons together, I learned that you were a special one. Back then, my greatest fear was that I would say or do something that would make you think less of me or drive you away. I still do, and remain pleasantly surprised that I did not.

When we married, we joined hands, said vows, exchanged rings, and were pronounced one in the presence of God, our families and our friends. We were not yet the one we are now, but we were one nevertheless. Back then, we were like two trees planted closely together, each with its our own separate roots and branches. Over time, we grew together our roots and branches growing entwined to the point we can no longer be separated. It is difficult to tell where one stops and the other begins. We remain distinct, but we are one.

I am more authentically me when I am with you. I sense it's much the same with you. Our one is greater than the two we were could ever be.

Being one does not mean that we see eye-to-eye on everything. That would be boring. But we are aligned on what's important and that's more than enough. 

We've been working on it for fifty years. 

Now, we are one.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

What Makes an American?

What makes an American?

We Americans are different. We are different than the British who colonized our east coast and the Spaniards who colonized our West. We are different from the Canadians to our north and the large hispanic popuations to our south. Our attitudes are not those of the waves of German, Scots/Irish, and Eastern European immigrants who flocked to our shores seeking opportunity and remained to become the backbone of the nation. Neither are they the same as those of the indigenous peoples or the slaves transported here against their will.

Together, we are all Americans, different from the peoples of all other nations of the earth. We are different from one another depending on our region or background, but alike in more ways than we are different.

We are Americans. We are united by a spirit of independence, a spirit that says "we can or will do it or die trying," a spirit that says "we will survive and survive on our own terms." It is the spirit expressed by President John F. Kennedy when he announced "I have decided that we will put a man on the moon and safely return him to earth again." Based on those words, the nation buckled down and did just that.

Nowhere have I found this spirit better expressed than in the following piece by Dean Alfang first published in "This Week Magazine" in 1952:

An American's Creed
By Dean Alfange

"I do not choose to be a common man. 
It is my right to be uncommon—if I can. 

I seek opportunity—not security. 
I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. 

I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. 

I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. 

I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; 
the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. 

I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. 

I will never cower before any master nor bend to any threat. 

It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; 
to think and act for myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations, 
and to face the world boldly and say, this I have done. 

All this is what it means to be an American."

What makes you uniquely American?

What spirit is in you?