Saturday, December 28, 2013

2013: A Retrospective

Long ago, I concluded that New Year's Day is a useless holiday. After all, New Year's day really celebrates the national hangover after the festivities of New Year's Eve and a seemingly endless progression of bad football games and worse TV.

However, other than a day of miserable hangovers and football games, of marathon showings of "Dr. Who" other TV fare, the new year offers an opportunity to assess one's life and plan for one's future. David Allen would call it an "annual review". After all, "those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it." and "To continue to do the same thing and expect different results is lunacy."

So, how does 2013 look in retrospect?

My answer is "Pretty darn good!"

For me, 2013 was a year of new things, different things, and transitions.

My bionic bride celebrated her new hip by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I walked with her.

I retired after 31 years on the job and continue celebrate the incredible freedom that goes with it. The problem is not one of having too few but too many worthy and exciting options. There is not time to do them all, and prioritizing has never been my forte.

In 2013, I got serious about my health and developed the habit of walking two miles every day. I also visited a nutritionist and acted on her advice. As a result, I end 2013 fifteen pounds lighter than when I started. What I'm doing is working. I intend to keep doing it.

We traveled in 2013 -- locally to Washington, DC for my 50th High School Class Reunion, and Nationally to San Francisco for the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Reunion. We went to North Carolina to see our oldest Grandchild graduate from High School, to Key West to visit our son's family and to Holiday, Florida to visit Paula's mom and sister.

I indulged my inner farmer by growing a successful backyard garden, volunteering at a community garden and planting and harvesting potatoes for the hungry of western North Carolina. The process of planting a seed in the ground and getting food from it remains a miracle.

We had the exterior of the house painted, not a transition, but an improvement. We call our dwelling "Dunmoovin Manor". We intend to live here for a long time.

I was honored to deliver the Memorial Message at the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's Association Annual Reunion in July and a Veteran's Day Address to students at a local high school in November, both incredible experiences.

Not all transitions were positive. Paula's mom suffered a stroke and passed away in early November. Her passing leaves us diminished. We miss her. 

Some things didn't change.  We continue to buy an additional case of food every time we shop at Costco. We give it to the local food bank. We call it solving world hunger one meal at a time.

And some things didn't get done. I came nowhere near my objective of publishing a new post to this blog once a week. Neither did I do anything toward my objective of publishing a memoir of wartime experiences flying with the Pink Panthers. These will remain dreams, worthy objectives for the year to come.

That was my year, not a year without setbacks, but overall a good year and a successful year.

How was your 2013?

What went well for you?

What didn't turn out as you would have wished?

What do you plan to do about it?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Hail No!


Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath,
Fight for old DC!

I am a Redskins fan.

I have been a fan since Eddie LeBaron was quarterback.

I have been a fan since I first heard "Hail to the Redskins" while listening to a game with my Dad.

I have followed the Redskins through success and failure, victory and defeat, tragedy and triumph. Through the years, the Redskins have bumbled along to victory or defeat. 

Win or lose, I was proud to be a fan.

No more am I proud. The Redskins have quit. I have no other explanation for Sunday's debacle. They get no "Hail!" from me.

The coaches did not quit coaching. The offensive and defensive coordinators did not quit calling the plays. The quarterback did not quit throwing. The running back didn't quit running. Neither did at least two receivers quit receiving. There were even brief flashes of competence. But the line quit blocking, the linebackers and defensive backs quit pursuing, and the special teams just quit. Performance was less than lackluster. There was no hustle, no enthusiasm, no intensity. Were I a professional football player, I would be ashamed to accept my paycheck.

After the game, the head coach took full responsibility for his team's performance. It was a touch of class, but the coach can only direct. If players are unable or unwilling to respond or are half-assed in their response, the game is lost before it is played.

Football is a game of inches and seconds. One missed blocking assignment, one blown tackle, an inch too much or too little space, a microsecond too late to to see, turn, and react, a fraction less hustle than an opponent and the game lost.

Life is like football.

In life, as in football, you get no points for showing up. To succeed, you must execute.

In life, as in football, you need a game plan. Not having a plan is not a option. Not having a plan is not a good plan.

In life, as in football, You will need to adjust your game plan from time to time. And you need to have a "plan B" in your pocked for when "plan A" is not working.

In life, as in football, you must play every play until time runs out. You gain nothing by sitting on the sidelines. The final score depends on you. Success or failure depends on the final score. Unlike football, you will not see the scoreboard after the final gun.

In life, as in football, you must play every play with enthusiasm and intensity. The ancient proverb says "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your whole heart." As in a football game, your life results will show if you're "dogging it."

And finally, in life as in football, you are going to take some vicious hits. Sometimes, you will shake it off and continue. Sometimes, you may be forced to sit out a few plays. Sometimes, you may be put on the temporary disabled roster to heal and rehabilitate. But you must return to the game with all the enthusiasm and intensity you ever had. And you must return to the game ready and willing to take even more vicious hits.

Life, like football, isn't for WIMPs. If it were, it would not be life, and it would not be nearly as wonderful.

Where are you in the game of life?

Are you in the game or sitting on the sidelines?

How's your game plan working?

Are you shaking off the hits and getting back in the game?

Are you living every day with purpose, enthusiasm and intensity?

Your life depends on it.










Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let Us Give Thanks


On October 3, 1863, at the behest of Sarah J. Hale, the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, President of the United States Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation beginning with the words 
"The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God."
Written in the middle of a civil war of "unequaled magnitude and severity" Lincoln nonetheless wrote that "No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy."
Lincoln's proclamation ended with the words " I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union."
And so, we come to this, another year filled with the bounties of fruitful fields and beautiful skies, of bounties so consistently enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come.
Is it not fitting that we again join together as families and as a nation to observe the last Thursday of November as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the heavens?
We, the people, continue to survive in freedom in this great nation. Is it not fitting that we give thanks? 
We continue to enjoy the bounty of fruitful fields and fruitful skies. Should we not give thanks?
We bask in the company of friends and family. We should give thanks.
We may have survived adversity. We are beaten down, but not crushed. Should we not give thanks even for this?
In all things, give thanks!
What are you particularly thankful for on this day?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans' Day

Half a century ago, I sat in a veteran's day assembly at my high school and listened to a white-haired gentleman deliver a Veterans' Day message. Back then, I wondered "What does this mean to me?" and "Why is this important?"
This year I am the white haired gentleman addressing the assembly.
My classmates, many of whom had a parent, uncle, or cousin who served in World War 2, were well acquainted with veterans. Many of today's students are not. Not knowing, they do not understand what a veteran is, or why veterans are honored on November 11 every year.
By my definition, a veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check to the United States of America for an amount up to and including his or her life and then lived to tell about it.
I once wrote such a check.
Long ago, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over me.
Nothing has ever released me from that oath. Nothing ever can. Nothing ever will.   
When I took that oath I became a soldier. When I resumed civilian life, I became a veteran.
As a soldier, I fought the battles of this nation in a war in a country that no longer exists. Even as I fought, some of our national leaders and celebrities had declared the war lost and our sacrifice meaningless. Nevertheless, I went where my country sent me. There, to the best of my ability, I strove for victory in places called Tan Canh, Firebase Delta, Firebase Charlie, Ben Het, Polei Kleng, and Kontum.
During those times, I risked everything for my friends and for people I never knew and never will. They would have done the same for me. Most would do the same today. We are, and remain, a band of brothers.
I am a veteran.
With my fellow veterans, I share a heritage that begins in the earliest mists of the human experience and will continue until the last trumpet sounds, a heritage of personal loyalty and sacrifice, a heritage of desperate deeds done by desperate men in the face of great adversity.
I came home on a stretcher to a country that was largely indifferent to my sacrifice and that of my fellows. By the grace of God, I recovered.
My friend Tim died at a place called Ben Het thirty days after he arrived in country.
Fred, on his third combat tour, died in the Kontum Pass and now sleeps in Arlington.
Dusty sleeps in the land he died fighting for, the site of his resting place undiscovered until recently.
Bill spent nine months in captivity.
Mike lost both legs to a land mine. Tom lost his left arm, right leg, and the middle finger of his right hand.
Flame took a .50 cal through the chest and lives today to tell about it. Like Bill, he went on to serve until retirement.
All served honorably.
We left as sons and daughters, husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers. We returned as veterans. Some of us came back with bodies mangled by man's instruments of destruction, others with minds mangled by what they had seen, experienced, and survived.
As always, when the war ended, we as a nation buried our dead and hastened the return of those who survived to civilian life, not realizing how they were forever changed.
Ultimately, we took off our uniforms and assumed our places in civilian society, but we remain different.
It is written somewhere that "You have never lived until you have almost died. To those who have fought for it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know."
We, the veterans of the armed services know best the flavor of freedom and its cost. We fought for this nation and its freedom. We value this nation and that freedom above wealth, above property, and above life itself. 

We will strive to protect that freedom until our dying breath.
Once, we offered our lives to the nation. Most of us would proudly do it again.
At the dedication of the military cemetery at Gettysburg, President Lincoln stated "The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. But it can never forget what they did here."
Since the days of Lincoln, the nation has engaged numerous wars, each more terrible than the last, each producing a new generation of veterans. Once young, the veterans of each war become old and pass from the scene, the memory of their service and sacrifice too quickly forgotten. Like the soldiers of the 1860s, the veterans living today have dared and accomplished much. One day, we too shall pass from the scene.
This Veterans' Day, it falls to us to dedicate ourselves to bringing this nation a new birth in the freedom so dearly purchased.
I ask you to do something.
The next time you step outdoors, breathe deeply. Take in the air. Savor it as you would a fine wine. Identify in it every smell you can. The air in this nation is unique. It is the air of freedom.
Breathe deeply and savor -- do it as often as you will. Learn what freedom tastes like. 
Exercise your freedom proudly with every choice you make.  

Learn that freedom is not a matter of rights and choices but also of responsibilities and consequences.  
And, once you have breathed the air of freedom, exercised you freedom and learned what it tastes like, stop and  thank a veteran.
We did it for you.

Can you handle it?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Ode to Conspicuous Consumerism

(to the tune of "Fly Me to the Moon"

Drive me to the mall,
And let me dance from store to store.
Let me satisfy my lust 
For more and more and more.
In other words, let me spend.
In other words, extend me credit!

Let me fill my arms 
With useless stuff I think I need.
Plastic works like money
To help assuage my greed.
In other words, let me play.
And let me not consider payment.

Make me feel like I am rich
When I am really very poor.
Let me forget about my debt 
As I walk out the door.
In other words, live for now,
Buy and spend like no tomorrow.

Soon the bills will come
And you're going to have to pay.
The minimum won't pay it off 
In ten years and a day.
To creditors, you're now a slave.
if you want stuff, you should save.


i visited our local mall this week. It was raining, and I needed a place to walk. Plus, my wife needed a new battery for her watch and the mall has a kiosk where they can replace watch batteries. We turned in the watch and walked our two miles, watching the people and looking in store windows.  

In contrast to the song, I saw nothing in any store that I thirsted to possess. After completing two miles, we picked up my wife's watch and drove home. Total cost: two-hundred fifty calories each and $20.07 for the watch battery.  

Shopping is not recreation. 

Spending money I don't have for stuff I don't need doesn't appeal to me.

How about you?

Why do you visit the mall?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Classmates





The day after labor day in 1950, my mother took me to a place called school and left me in a room full of strange kids. Although I didn't know it at the time, I had joined what would become Damascus High School Class of '63.  


There were over sixty of us, some of whom made it into the our initial class picture. Others would join later.  Over the years, some would move away. Some would move for a period only to return later. Others would join later and some very late. When a person joined didn't matter, once a member, always a member.  

Over the course of time we became like a family. We worked and learned together. We played together, laughed together and cried together as well.  As in most families, we also fought with one another and as part of the process learned to make up and forgive one another.  During those years, we formed bonds of friendship and mutual respect that continue to this day.

Then, on a warm June evening in 1963, we marched across a stage, received our diplomas and passed into history.  

It's hard to believe that evening was over fifty years ago.

Fifty years ago, our motto was "Hitch your wagon to a star", and we did. 

Fifty years ago, we had ambitions and dreams. Today, those ambitions and dreams have been tempered and changed by time and life.

Fifty years ago, like characters in a fairy tale, we set off to seek our fortunes. Today, our fortunes have been gained, lost, and regained.

Fifty years ago, we thought we knew exactly what success would look like. Today, we have learned success doesn't always look like what you expect. For the most part, that's okay.

Fifty years ago, we knew we were bullet proof and would go on forever.  Today, we know better. Of those who walked across that stage on that evening in June, 1963, thirteen are no longer with us. They are gone and we are diminished. 

From the outside, we probably looked typical. From inside we were unique. Fifty years later, we remain so.

One classmate was the subject of so many announcements calling him to the principal's office, vice principal's office, front office, or guidance counselor's office that we all waited for a request to have the principal, vice principal, and guidance counselor to report to his office instead.

Another classmate stormed out of English Class and sent himself to the principal's office after receiving a grade of B for a better score than had earned a classmate an A, probably the only student in history to ever do such a thing.

Yet another was the original "Joe Cool". He had the perfect flat top haircut a green sports car and an active vendetta against his Senior English Teacher. Somehow, he still managed to graduate with the rest of us.

Still another had a '50 Ford with 3/4 race cam, two deuces and overdrive and was too color blind to tell flashing yellow from flashing red lights. A ride with him was interesting indeed.

We were wild. We were crazy. We were free; legends in our own minds, seeking our unique place in the world. Somehow, we made it through. Somehow, we survived. Looking back with the perspective of fifty years, most of us realize how incredibly blessed we were and are. 

Today, in words reminiscent of the Statler Brothers,

"...We'll never feel bad 'bout the times that we had
Never look back in regret.
The heaven they gave, we will treasure and save
'Cause it might be as close as we get"


How about your class?

What made you unique?

What do you look back on with fondness?

Which friends do you remember?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Day of Remembrance, Day of Resolve


September 11, 2001 promised nothing special. The sun was out. The sky was brilliant blue, the temperature pleasant. The world was at peace when I boarded the 6:08 express bus to the Pentagon. I looked forward to a day of email, staff call, and work on the technical project and briefing of the moment.

Half-way through my email, I learned that someone had flown a plane into one of the World Trade Towers. For all I knew it was a light plane, an incident causing minor damage. I shrugged it off and went to staff call.

Midway through staff call, there was a shock like a blow to the entire body. The Colonel identified it as blast over-pressure. We opened the door and found the corridor outside filled with smoke. We stepped over debris as we moved out and away from the smoke and from the building.

Our world was no longer at peace.

In slightly over an hour and a quarter, nearly 3000 people who had gone to work in a world at peace had perished in an act of war. Like the 7th of December 1941, the 11th of September 2001 had become a day that will live forever in infamy. As the result of an act of unspeakable evil, our nation was at war. Twelve years later the nation remains at war.

Freshmen entering college this fall and many of the soldiers fighting today's battles were barely in grammar school on 9/11. Some of them cannot remember a time when the nation was not at war. Colonels and Generals directing today's forces were newly minted Lieutenants, Captains, and Majors when the war began.

Twelve years after 9/11, images of the towers falling, of the Pentagon on fire, of wreckage in a Pennsylvania field are scarcely to be found. Pictures of people casting themselves from the towers to avoid the inferno inside are unavailable. Those who control government and the media have determined such images are "too graphic and disturbing" to be displayed.

Yet those who sought to inflict pain and disrupt our way of life those twelve years ago still exist, are still intent on inflicting pain, intent on disrupting our life, intent on robbing us of our security. Their resolve remains strong to win a conflict of a hundred years or more.

It is good to remember 9/11 with deeds of service as has become the fashion. It would be better to remember them with stories and graphic images of the events themselves.

We, as a nation, need to recall the horror. We need to remember that on 9/11 nearly 3000 of our countrymen died needless horrible deaths. We need to be reminded that their deaths were the result of acts of surpassing evil.

We need to remember and mourn our dead.

Remembering, let us solemnly resolve that this evil shall not triumph.

Let us resolve that we will oppose this evil at home and oppose it abroad, that we will oppose it on land, in the air, and on the sea, that we will oppose it individually, as a nation, and through the Community of Nations.

Let us further resolve that though it take a thousand years, we will endure to triumph over evil or perish in the attempt.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

How will you be commemorating the events of 9/11?

What service will you perform? What commemorative events will you attend?

By what actions will you demonstrate your resolve?

Will you do nothing?

What will you do to ensure evil will not triumph?
















Saturday, September 7, 2013

Together



In the fall of my senior year of high school, I met a girl in a green dress and ended up totally smitten. Two months later, we had our first date, followed by four years of subsequent dates, of movies and prom nights and football games and Sunday afternoons when our chief joy was being with each other.

Four years later that same girl, dressed in white this time, walked down the aisle and joined her hand and life to mine. We were two kids with huge dreams and absolutely no idea what we were getting into, but none of that really mattered. We wanted nothing more than to be together and for better or worse, we were.

That was forty-seven years, one war, four kids, one bout with cancer, nineteen addresses, several careers, a couple of new body parts, a lot of memories ago. A lot of things I no longer remember. Remembered or not, we did all of it together. 

Being together remains our highest joy. 

Together is important.

Forever.









Monday, September 2, 2013

Life's Blueprint

In my most recent post, I quoted from a speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered to the students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia in October 1967. I have since had the pleasure of reading the entire speech. The advice is contains is universally applicable and should be required reading in middle and high schools across the nation. 

I take great pleasure in presenting Dr. King's speech, "What is Your Life's Blueprint?" without further editorial content. 

Enjoy the read. 

What Is Your Life's Blueprint?

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life's blueprint. Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you fell that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life's blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You're going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life's work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you--doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, "If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door."

This hasn't always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don't drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you're forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

— From the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Work and the Habit of Excellence.

This is the gospel of labour,
Peal forth, ye bells of the kirk,
For the Lord of Love
Came Down from above
To live with men who work.

And this is the seed He planted,
Here, in this thorn-cursed soil;
Heaven is blessed with eternal rest,
But the blessing of earth is toil.
       -- Anon.

This weekend, we celebrate labor day. Originally a celebration of workers' rights won by the labor movement and labor unions, it is today mostly a celebration of the end of summer and a line of demarcation between the vacation part of the year and work.

Work is what we do to support our vacations. Vacations are an upper. Work is a downer. We endure our work. We live for our vacations. We concentrate on the quality of our time off rather than the quality of our work products.

It was not always so.

Benjamin Franklin valued his work so much he regarded time spent in the print shop as money. In Poor Richard's Almanac, he opined that "Early to bed an early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise," and he lived it  Work and the work ethic were important to him.

Arriving in Philadelphia with a loaf of bread and not a penny in his pocket, Franklin rose by his own effort to become one of the most successful men in Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, and in the nascent United States. From the standpoint of history, we forget he had to serve an apprenticeship to become a printer. We forget the efforts he expended to open and establish his own print shop and bookstore an make them prosper. We forget the effort it took him to become well-read and educated. We remember the success and forget the efforts it took to achieve it.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on a similar theme on October 26, 1967 when he addressed the students at Barrett Junior High School in Philadelphia with the following words:

"What I'm saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures! 

Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. 

Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. 

Sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, "Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well!"  

If you can't be a pine on the top of a hill, be a scrub in the valley, but be the best little scrub on the side of the rill.  
Be a bush if you can't be a tree.  
If you can't be a highway, just be a trail.  
If you can't be a sun, be a star.  
It isn't by size that you win or you fail; be the best at whatever that you are!"

Ben Franklin would have heartily approved. 

In my life, my mother's urged me to "Be the best you possible."

The Army challenged me to "Be all that you can be!"

My church preaches "Whatever you do in word and deed, do it with a whole heart, as to The Lord."

The message is pervasive. We are to seek excellence, to over deliver, to do above and beyond the minimum.

Aristotle is quoted as saying "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

We are urged in whatever we do to be excellent.

Are you being the best you can be?

Are you making excellence a habit?

Are you the best at whatever you are?

How are you doing with that?




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Practicing Patience

A survey recently confirmed something that we who live in Washington DC area have known for years: Washington DC and its nearby communities have the worst traffic in the nation. 

Morning rush hour begins shortly before six in the morning and lasts until after ten. Afternoon rush begins at three in the afternoon and doesn't dissipate until after seven. In between, from eleven until one thirty, there is a mid day rush as wage slaves dash from their offices to various commercial establishments to do personal business or meet friends for lunch. Rain, snow, or a single accident can easily snarl things until mid night. 

Traffic is constant; delays never cease. 

Even where I live, twenty-five miles west of the city, delays are a fact of life.

A friend recently posted  "God bless all of you who have to drive Route 7 West every day during rush hour. I do not have the patience for this traffic."

Actually, there is no choice but to have patience.  

Where you're stuck in traffic, where you find yourself is pretty much where you are and where you're going to be until things move. If you're stuck, you will remain stuck. 

When "stuck" happens, you are forced to be patient. But just because you're stuck doesn't mean there are no options. You're not able to change the traffic, but you can change how you react to the traffic.

When you're stuck, you have an opportunity to practice patience. You can practice patience either by sitting stewing in your own juices or you can accept the delay with grace, understanding, an a bit of resignation. You can practice developing anger and resentment, or you can practice developing calm.

Choose the first option and you will probably arrive at your destination late. You will also arrive feeling harassed, bothered, and bedeviled, frayed, and frazzled.

Or choose the second option, relax and go with the flow. You will be developing the habit of patience. You will still probably arrive late, but your frame of mind will be calmer, more relaxed and pleasant, more ready for whatever else your day holds in store. 

I've done it both ways, and I know. 

The choice is yours.

The next time you find yourself stuck in traffic or elsewhere, how will you choose to practice patience?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer of New Horizons

 

Beyond the blue horizon
Waits a beautiful day.
Goodbye to things that bore me --
Joy is waiting for me.
I see a new horizon --
My life has only begun!
Beyond the blue horizon
Lies a rising sun.
-- "Beyond the Blue Horizon" (Robin, Harling and Whiting)
 
Shortly after starting this blog, I wrote about "Working on the Lay Away Plan" stating my intention to "work until they lay me away." Last year, I wrote that I was "Not Ready for the Rocking Chair." Both essays lead to the conclusion that there are too many interesting and wonderful things to see and do to sit passively on the sidelines and let life happen. 
 
My attitude has not changed. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. I still want to explore new ideas and places and experience new things. Now, circumstances have changed to allow me to do just that.
 
Earlier this summer, I left my job and joined the army of retired Americans.
 
It's like right after I graduated from high school and saw nothing but opportunity ahead. Since I retired I have visited San Francisco and walked across the Golden Gate Bridge with my bionic bride. We rode the streetcar to Fisherman's Wharf. We feasted on at least five varieties of clam chowder -- each different, and all excellent. And we renewed friendships and swapped stories with my Vietnam flying buds from the Pink Panthers.
 
I have grown a respectable garden and feasted on home grown zucchini, green beans and tomatoes. as the song said, "I forget all about the sweatin' and diggin' each time I go out and pick me a big un." 
 
I have pitched in to a community garden growing food for the hungry. Who would have thought of gardening as a community social activity?
 
I bought a new grill and have been grilling a lot of new and different things. (I have also seen a nutritionist and embarked on a healthy eating program.)
 
When offered an opportunity to do something, I find myself asking "Why not?" rather than "Why?"
 
I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up, but I can't wait to find out.
 
"Beyond the blue horizon lies a rising sun!"
 
It's time to go exploring.
 
What new horizons are facing you?
 
How will you find the rising sun?
 
 
Nowo

Saturday, May 25, 2013

In Silent Witness

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row...




The stones stand in silent witness.

"Dress Right, Dress!" 

"Cover Down."

"Report."

"All present and accounted for, Sir."

Soldiers in eternal formation, far from home, awaiting orders from the Commander.

They came here from factories and fields, from small town, large city, and every place in between. But they came.

The rich came in spite of their riches, the poor because of their poverty.

Some eagerly volunteered. Others were drafted. A few enlisted to avoid nasty consequences involving the law. But, by whatever means and circumstances, they came.

They learned the trade of soldier, of sailor, of airman, and marine. Those who came seeking adventure learned of boredom; those who sought action, the frustration of "Hurry up and wait". Those who sought glory, the horror of battle.

There were gung-ho and gold bricks, good soldiers and goof-offs, leaders and followers alike. As in life, there were those who made things happen, those watched things happen and those who stood around asking "What happened?" And there were always ten percent who never got the word.

Whether or not they ever knew one another, they are now brothers, forever bound together by circumstances and events not of their own making.

In far off places, in Arlington, Virginia, in military cemeteries, in church yards across the nation and in sites forgotten by all except God, their stones stand in silent witness.

To them, we owe a debt of gratitude.

To them, we owe our lives and the life of this nation.

To them, we owe our present days and our children's future years.

Of the entire year, this weekend is set aside to remember and honor those to whom the stones stand in silent witness.

How can we remember, how honor, how repay their sacrifice?

How can we try?

How will you this weekend?

(Originally Published in May 2013)








Friday, May 10, 2013

What Difference Does It Make?

In testimony before the Senate committee investigating the attack on the US installation and annex in Benghazi in Libya that resulted in the death of US Ambassador Stephens and three other Americans, then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton responded to a question with the following statement:

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because some guys out for a walk one night decided to kill some Americans?

What difference at this point does it make?

It is our job at this point to figure out and do everything we can to prevent it from happening again."

Secretary Clinton is correct in her statement that it our job to figure out and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.

Her statement that the cause of the "protest", now known to be a terrorist attack, makes no difference is despicable. Her implication that the death of four Americans "at this point" makes no difference is deeply offensive. And emerging facts showing Americans in harm's way denied possible aid is a national outrage.

I am sorry, Madam Secretary, but even at this point it makes a considerable difference to me, to the families of the four dead, and to the citizens of the nation.

It's a matter of national character.

Americans do not abandon Americans in harm's way fighting for their lives. Americans instinctively run to the sound of the guns.

Americans do not deny support to their comrades in arms even if such support may prove to little or too late.

Neither do Americans do less than all possible to secure vulnerable positions. The life of even one American official in a foreign country is more important than the approbation of ten thousand locals.

It is more in the American nature to attempt big things against seemingly insurmountable odds and to triumph than to give up the attempt without trying.

Madam Secretary, you are wrong. You severely misjudge the Nation you were representing.

We have four dead Americans and that makes all the difference in the world.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Response to Evil

A spirit of evil has been loosed in the world; a spirit of rage, of anger, of vengeance; a spirit that delights in the infliction of severe undeserved pain; a spirit so convinced of the rightness of its cause that any means is justified in reaching its objectives; a spirit of cowardice that delights in the slaughter of innocent men, women, and children in its own name.

Evil was active in the 1940s when Jews, gypsies, and the feeble minded were marched off to Nazi death camps. It was present in the gulags of Soviet Russia when more millions were purged, never to be seen again. It was present in China during the great cultural revolution an again in the killing fields of Cambodia, all of which happened far from our shores.

Evil touched us on 9/11 when airliners full of passengers were used to attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Only courageous passengers  prevented a fourth aircraft from reaching its target.

Evil touched us today when two explosive devices were detonated close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, injuring, maiming, and killing innocent runners and fans who came to see the race.

Evil is shocking. Evil is senseless. Evil is non-selective. And evil strikes fear into normally independent people through the infliction of undeserved punishment and severe pain. Experiencing evil and wishing to avoid more undeserved pain leads to compliance, even when such compliance is an abomination.

But evil need not always lead to compliance.  Rather, it can lead to righteous anger and a clear resolve evil shall not triumph. And this resolve causes the strong to rise up and oppose evil.

Today, we have looked into the eye of evil.

Each of us must now choose how we will respond.

Will we respond with fear and compliance lest evil visit us again?

Or will we go forth with resolve to purge evil from among us?

I have made my choice.

Now, you must make yours.



Friday, March 22, 2013

First Day of Spring



Vernal equinox.
Comforting words to the ear.
First day of spring.

Time of renewal,
new life, new growth and new hope.
Vernal equinox.

Today, it is spring.
At least astronomically.
Vernal equinox.

Shortly after seven am on Wednesday, the sun, in its annual journey, crossed the equator and it became spring.  It happens every year.  We call it the vernal equinox and use it to mark the end of winter.

Unfortunately, this year spring denoted by the position of the sun on the horizon is not the same thing as spring experienced in the body. Given the weather around the nation, warmth seems weeks away.

Light has returned. Heat has not.

The groundhog who said winter was over six weeks ago lied.

Country comedienne Minnie Pearl probably said it best.  Cousin Minnie, with a big smile, is quoted as saying "My feller told me I look like the first breath of spring!"

"Really, Cousin Minnie?" the interviewer would ask. "Those were his exact words?"

"Well", says Cousin Minnie, looking down, "What he said was 'You look like the end of a hard winter." (pause, big smile) "But they mean the same thing!"

Today, I'm not so sure of Cousin Minnie's conclusion. Rather, I find myself at the end of a hard winter while continuing to anticipate the first breath of spring.

How about you?

Is today the end of a hard winter or the first breath of spring?

Only you can say.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

I Could be a Writer!

In a press conference marking the third anniversary of Obamacare’s passage, former House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the health care law "fulfills the promises of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" because it allows people to leave jobs that include health insurance as a benefit. "Just think", she stated "... you could be a photographer or writer, start your own business, be self-employed, as well as change jobs or start a business and not have to be constrained by whether you had affordable and accessible quality health care."
 
I can be a photographer or a writer, Ms. Pelosi? 

Really?

I’m already a writer, dammit! My decision to become one had nothing to do with health care.

I write because I like to write and am under the possibly misguided assumption that I have something to say -- something other people might actually like or otherwise profit from reading. 

Healthcare availability had nothing to do with it.

It probably never will.

I hate to rain on your parade, Ms. Congressperson, but very few people go to work for the purpose of obtaining health care. Most of us work to put food on the table and a roof overhead. Some lucky few of us actually work because we really like doing what we do, and when you like doing what you do and it's putting food on the table life is very fulfilling.

The availability of government sponsored health care has nothing to do with it.

How about you, dear reader. 

Why do you work at what you do?

Do you work for the health care?

Will government sponsored health care make your life that much better?


 
 

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Morning Choice

It has been pointed out there are two kinds of people in the world: those who wake up saying "Good morning, Lord!" and those who can only groan "Good Lord. Morning."

I freely admit that I am by nature and long practice an early riser. Were I a dinosaur, I would be a crack o' dawn. And I really do try to bound from the bed each morning saying "Good morning, Lord!"  Most days, I succeed.

However, some days, try as I might, I can only glare at the alarm an groan "Good Lord. Morning." Such mornings are most likely after the Redskins lose ugly and late on Monday or Thursday Night Football. They are few, but they happen.    

The strange thing is, the words with which I greet the day make a huge difference in the kind of day I have.

As a whole, "Good morning, Lord" days tend to be positive and energetic. On these days, I can't wait to be out and doing. The world is filled with possibilities to explore, adventures and experiences to live. For a few minutes at least, the world is my oyster, inside is a pearl of great price, and it's all mine for the finding. Once initiated, the energy, expectation, and excitement tend to carry through the whole day. Great things happen because great things are expected to happen.

"Good Lord. Morning" days, on the other hand, tend to be marked by low energy and even lower expectation and ambition. On these days getting started is hard. Keeping going is harder, and getting through is a long slog requiring great endurance. Low energy decreases to almost nothing taking expectation and ambition along with it. Little or nothing happens because there is little or no energy to make it happen or to receive it if it does.

Three words set the tone for the day.

These words establish one's attitude.

One's attitude establishes one's person and one's day.

Days following days establish the character of one's life

So, what kind of life will you have?

What kind of day will you have?

What words will establish your attitude?

How will you greet the day?