Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Coming New Year

There is really nothing special about the change from December 31 of one year to January 1 of the next. The sun goes down, the sun comes up. However, we’ve used the change of calendars as a reason to try a little harder to do things better – hence New Year’s Resolutions.

It’s good to take time to examine how we’re doing and make adjustments. The hardest part is determining how we’re doing – we are all terrible at evaluating ourselves. We’re conveniently blind in some areas and overly harsh in others, but that’s okay. The important thing is to make the effort.

However, here’s a thought. This year, along with resolutions to eat less and exercise more, look at something you do reasonably well and try to do it better. If you’re a good listener, that’s important, give yourself credit and figure out a way you can be a better friend or a better parent through your listening. If you’re the patient soccer mom or dad who drives your kids everywhere, maybe use that time to get to know your kids and their friends better.

Build on your strengths next year as well as correcting your weaknesses.

And above all else, have a wonderful and blessed new year.

What a Drag It Is Getting Old

The Rolling Stones song came into my head today because I’ve been fighting a cold for the past 4 or 5 days. My daughter just got over the flu and she seemed as unhappy with missing much of the Christmas (excuse me, “Winter Holiday”) vacation as I am fighting this cold. I guess whichever age we are living seems to be the one that has the most intense experiences. Therefore, adults don’t understand what kids are going through and kids don’t understand the trials and tribulations of age.

Rolling Stones 1962

Rolling Stones 1962

Which brings me back to the Rolling Stones, of course.

When I was a freshman in high school among the popular music groups were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, The Mamas and the Papas and, of course, Paul Revere and the Raiders (“featuring Mark Lindsay”). Of all of these, who would have guessed that the Rolling Stones would still be touring?

I guess it shows that you just never know.

The Beatles played as a touring band in Europe and made their entrance into America amid screaming girls and stadium venues. They were idolized. They had movies. Stores sold “Beatle Wigs.” However, if you count their years liberally, the best you can say is that they existed as a band from about 1957 to 1970. Most of the other bands I listed are pretty much among the “Whatever Happened To…” crowd.

Such is life. We can make a big splash and fade away. We can initially be viewed as an “also ran” like the Stones, but keep on keeping on until everyone else has faded away.

I figure that whatever you think of the Stones, it’s not a bad model.

As a parent, I’ve tried. I didn’t always succeed, but I kept on trying. Given enough time, I eventually got better at it. I’m still far from ideal, but I’m just going to keep trying. I think that’s the best way to succeed.

So, although years ago, the Stones sang “What a drag it is getting old,” they actually have done pretty well. I like to think that I’ve learned and improved and done pretty well myself.

At least I don’t have to sing “Brown Sugar” and “Jumping Jack Flash” 150 times per year for fifty years. However, comments like “Do you have homework?” and “Is your room clean?” top the 150 mark every year.

Not Understanding God

I periodically get comments or notes from readers that point out how God, particularly in the Old Testament ordered the death and destruction of people. Everyone on Earth not on Noah’s ark. Lot’s wife. The Egyptians. Anyone in the way of the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. To them, this seems to be a most unfeeling and unloving God. I can understand their frustration. I can’t explain God. None of us can.

So what are the things that distract us, besides the Old Testament?

bible

 

We humans condemned, tortured and killed God’s only Son.

Early Christians were persecuted and martyred.

The human frailties of the Christian Church from its earliest days to the present.

Wars.

Sandy Hook Elementary.

It’s tough to understand from the human perspective why god permits these things to happen. If we had our way, we’d all be healthy, wealthy and wise – and live forever.

That is not the way that it is – at least not in this life.

So we toil and try in this life. We screw up. We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and try again.

I wish I had a good explanation that would be compelling for others, but unfortunately I do not.

The best I can do is to try to live an example that at least piques others’ curiosity.

Thoughts on the Day after Christmas

It’s December 26th – Boxing Day in Great Britain, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. In the US it’s a big day for returning unwanted gifts – mainly to recover the money to take advantage of the big sales. For the most part, among us guys, unless it’s tools or gadgets, we take a pass.

wrapped-presents

The Catholic Church celebrates today as the feast of St. Stephen the Martyr. In my case, St. Stephen is both my patron saint, and I happen to belong to St. Stephen Martyr parish.

No – I didn’t get any gifts due either to Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day.

In some areas of the country today they’re getting snow. Where I live, we’ve gotten a lot of rain; the backyard looks like a lake. With snow you have grey skies, but the newly fallen snow looks white and pristine and makes things look brighter. With rain it’s all grey. However, you don’t have to shovel rain.

Yesterday our daughter came down with the flu, truncating the celbratory activities and necessiatating a trip to the local “Doc in the Box” for a diagnosis and Tamaflu. Merry Christmas! Don’t come over to our house unless you want to get sick!

Today I had to run to the store for various miscellaneous and sundry of which we had run out. I always try to be extra nice to the clerks this time of year because I worked retail many years ago and still remember how some customers can share their frustrations with the retail staff. This year it seems like most of the retail people outdid my efforts. They were very customer service oriented – both before Christmas and after. This was true of the discount stores, specialty stores and even the convenience stores. Over the past few years I would have thought that those with jobs would have been grateful, and now that things are improving, that attitude would have tapered off. Instead, I think that people are more optimistic and that moves them to a positive attitude.

Hope wins out over gratitude. Given that Hope is a divine gift, that really shouldn’t be a surprise.

As for me, I hope everyone had a great Christmas and is enjoying Kwanzaa, preparing for the New Year, Festivus or the Holiday season in general.

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and most of us are lucky enough to be anticipating tomorrow. Christmas should be a time of anticipation, after all it started as the answer to centuries of prayer. In some ways, it’s okay to anticipate Christmas for any reason, it’s like the first step on an important journey.

So, as we anticipate Christmas here, we just returned from visiting friends and are sitting as a family watching “The Santa Clause.” Last night was “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Heavenly Father, thank you for Christmas and a great family to enjoy it with. I know family is important to you because you shared your Son with us.

Almost Christmas

To belabor the obvious – it’s almost Christmas, or as kids everywhere like to remind us, it’s Christmas Eve-eve.

001164_48

Chevy Chase
National Lampoon’s
Christmas Vacation

We’re making the last minute preparations – the things that parents look at one another and realize, “I didn’t think about that either!” At least it’s better than, “I thought you were going to take care of it!”

So for the next few days, the blog will be short and sweet – or short in any case.

Now, don’t just stand there – try to remember where you hid that very-very special gift you bought in October then stashed it in a place, “that you’ll remember…”

The World Didn’t End

Of course, it would be kind of difficult to have a headline telling everyone, “The World Ended!” I can see the story, “Just as predicted by the ancient Mayans, the world ended on December 21st, right on schedule. Efforts to interview Mayans were unsuccessful due to the fact that pureblooded Mayans have either died out or intermarried with people of other tribal or national groups. Several individuals claiming to be descended from the ancient Mayans expressed a common theme, translated more or less into, “We told you so!”

maya

But since it DIDN’T end, what are the real implications?

  • The news media’s relevance continues to decline for reporting one more inconsequential and irrelevant story.
  • The malls and shopping centers are crammed with people who expected the world to end, but now have to get the Christmas shopping done in a hurry. (If you get a strange gift from Aunt Bertha, it’s probably because she was expecting the world to end. When she got to the mall, the choices for gifts were pretty small, so just be glad she remembered you at all.)
  • Sales of Mayan calendars have plummeted. It doesn’t matter anyways – it’s now as useful as a paper calendar from 2005.
  • People are scouring the Internet to find something else to worry about.
  • I am pleased to report that our two cats were totally untroubled by the situation, and have maintained their daily quota of naps.

So the world continues on.

I’d write more, but the kids just came down and told me they’re out of clean clothes. It seems that “just in case” they didn’t see the need to take their dirty clothes to the laundry room.

Christmas Mysteries

Almost all the stories about Christmas are full of magic and wonder. While most of us try to maintain an adult demeanor most of the time, Christmas does tend to bring out the child in each of us. Every child has wondered about these things.

nativity1

  • Did the star show up at the time of Jesus’ birth or did it show up far enough in advance to give the Wise Men a head start?
  • What was the star? Just a new star? A supernova? Was it Halley’s Comet? (Admit it – you’ve wondered that.)
  • When the Magi packed up and headed toward Bethlehem, did one of them really think, “Myrrh – an embalming ointment. That’s what a newborn king would want!”
  • On the other hand, incense is nice, and gold always comes in handy.
  • Aren’t you glad that for the U.S. census you don’t have to pack up the family and travel to the city from which your family came?
  • I’m a city kid – I don’t even like walking through a barn, much less sleeping in one.
  • At least we know that it was Kosher – so it wasn’t a pig barn (yuck!)
  • Imagine the shepherd boys returning home and telling their Jewish mother what they saw. They likely got checked for a fever, a serving of the equivalent of chicken soup and sent to bed until the illness passed.

Of course, there is modern magic and wonder.

  • Toys for Tots
  • Money in the Salvation Army kettle
  • Jesse trees
  • Food drives
  • Families getting together
  • Enjoying our children’s excitement.

Christmas is getting closer. Share the magic and the wonder.

Honked Off!

traffic

I admit it! I get honked off at people!

The guy who drove in the right lane and then made the illegal left turn right in front of me.

The person who opened up the package of lunch meat, ate half of it, then put it back in the cooler at Wal-Mart so I could buy it (yuk!)

The clown coming out of the theater who was loudly talking about the surprise conclusion of the movie I was waiting in line to see.

Every boss I’ve ever had (at one time or another – even the best ones [with the possible exception of Ron]).

I get honked off!

We all do!

However, (you knew there would be a “however”) let’s put things in perspective.

After the illegal left turn, if I wasn’t involved in an accident, it’s over. Forever. Period. Done.

If that person was hungry, I wish I would have known. I’d have given him the rest of the lunch meat, some bread, some chips, and a few other things to go with it.

The movie spoiler? Was anything in my entire existence impacted by knowing the ending of the movie? Remember “When Harry Met Sally” when Harry said he always read the end of the book “in case he died.” I wasn’t impressed then (as Nora Ephron intended) nor am I now.

Honked off at bosses? I’ve been a boss – many times. I’m sure every one of my employees had at least one day (and only one day – if I’m lucky) in which they got honked off at me.

So, why am I bringing this up?

“Peace on earth and to men (and women and children) of good will”

Let’s take the next few days to be people of good will. For one another, but also for ourselves.

Smile at the harried clerk at the checkout and wish him or her a Merry Christmas. They may be happy to have a job, but it’s a demanding job, nevertheless. (Been there, done that.)

You know you’ve got a dollar somewhere – put it into the Salvation Army kettle – even if you did so yesterday. It’s a DOLLAR, for crying out loud! (Okay, the economy sucks. If you can do a quarter – even that will help. If you can’t – that’s quite a bit different from “you won’t.” When you can – you know…)

Call a friend – better yet the friend who honked you off so long ago you can’t even remember how or why.

Give your kids a hug and tell them how special they are.

If you have a spouse or special someone, tell them that Mistletoe is optional.

After all that, kick your shoes off, make yourself comfortable and relax. You’ve earned it.

It’s a great time of year, isn’t it?

Hey! Wasn’t I honked off at the beginning of this blog?

Perspective

Dr Seuss(Theodor Seuss Geisel)We Miss You!

Dr. Seuss
(Theodor Seuss Geisel)
We Miss You!

 

For the Christmas season in 2005 I was bouncing around Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. The Sailors I was responsible for worked hard unloading and reloading ships, acting as Customs Inspectors and training Iraqi and Afghani forces. When the holidays approached, they looked forward to some well-deserved downtime.

Alas, it was not to be.

When the holidays come, so do FOGOs – Flag Officers (Admirals) and General Officers (Generals). Instead of a day to catch up on some shuteye, read a book, relax or whatever, the Sailors (as well as their Army, Marine, Air Force and Coast Guard compatriots) had to put on a clean, pressed uniform and spend half a day at the DFAC (Dining Facility) while a FOGO they’d never met carved the turkey or dished up mashed potatoes on the food line and then sat and “chatted” with the service members.

All well-intentioned, but not exactly a bull’s-eye.

This Christmas, may I suggest that whatever you’re planning on doing to entertain or support others, please – keep your audience in mind. If you give them what they want, it’s so much better than if you give them what you want to give.

Just a thought.

Time and Eternity

hourglass

Time is such a strange entity. It doesn’t take Einstein and his Theory of Relativity to explain how time is relative, although even he’s reputed to compare how time with a “pretty girl” passes much faster than the same amount of time sitting on a hot stove.

We speak of having a good time, or experiencing bad times. We measure ourselves by the amount of time we’ve been converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. To us, time is pretty significant.

It may not be important, though.

I always figured that time was one of those things that God made for our convenience like mass or gravity. Without mass we’d just pass other matter; without gravity, we’d just float. Absence of mass or gravity would make life far more complicated – the same with the absence of time.

On the other hand, we tend to think of being non-physical and untethered by gravity as things we’ll find in Heaven. We’ll float around as happy-go-lucky spirits until the end of time when we and our bodies will be reunited. Then, we’ll have the best of both worlds – enjoying our corporeal existence but able to simultaneously move about freely as spirits do.

Time, on the other hand, is a little trickier. As I’ve mentioned before eternity as in always having a tomorrow is a kind of comforting thought. On the other hand, eternity as in infinity going backward is significantly disconcerting. An unlimited number of tomorrows is inspiring. An unlimited number of yesterdays is confusing.

That’s one of the many reasons that He is God and we are not.

God referred to Himself as “I am.” Not “I was and I will be.” Just simply, “I am.”

So I figure that God is unfettered by time. I’ve never seen a drawing of God wearing a wristwatch, so I guess we all sort of imagine the same thing. He is – in all places at all times all at once all the time.

When I am having a good time, I try to tell Him, “Thanks.” When I’m having a bad time, I take comfort in the fact that while time may have a hold on me, it’s meaningless to Him.

It helps keep things in perspective.

Advent

advent
(ˈædvɛnt, -vənt) an arrival or coming, esp one which is awaited [C12: from Latin adventus,  from advenīre , from ad-  to + venīre  to come]   –   World English Dictionary

Thanks to St. Paul's Episcopal ChurchChestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA

Thanks to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church
Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA

Advent is celebrated by many Christians as the time before Christmas, including the four Sundays preceding the holiday. In the Catholic Church not only is an Advent wreath used, which has 3 purple candles and one rose colored but also the priest’s vestments are of the same colors. The purple signifies preparation by prayer and fasting, and focuses on the fact that Jesus’ coming is a gift – not something for which we are worthy.

The third Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “Rejoice” in Latin and was the first word of the entrance prayer which was formerly sung or read in Latin. For Gaudete Sunday, the priest’s vestments are rose*.

While Advent is encouraged as a time of reflection, prayer and good works, it is also a time of joy. These days, in a secular world, we’ve got the joy down pat, but sometimes seem to forget that we should prepare spiritually for Christmas as well.

Mankind looked forward to the arrival of a Savior for thousands of years. Of course, we expected a great leader in the political sense who would out-Moses Moses and out-David King David.

Jesus instead came as a common man. A common man with an important message. You don’t even have to be a believer to see the importance of His words, their wisdom and their goodness.

But those of us who are believers also know that the most important gift was that He renewed the full relationship between us and God. This was more important than any military victory.

So as you’re listening to Christmas music on the radio, trimming the tree or wrapping gifts, let it be your very soul that is feeling the joy.

* And invariably the priest points out at the beginning of Mass that “This color is ‘rose’ not ‘pink’.”


Sandy Hook Elementary School

I believe that some people either may be purely evil or are influenced by evil to the point of control. I don’t believe that tragedies of this type are caused by misunderstood people who had a tough childhood. There’s more to it than that.

Philosophically, evil may be a force of its own, or may merely be a void where goodness has been denied a place.

When we see people doing “good” we see them helping others. We see that they don’t place their own wants, fears, needs and beliefs ahead of everyone else. They place others at least on par with, if not above themselves.

The ultimate example, of course, was Jesus.

There is a quote, often attributed to Edmund Burke, which says, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for enough good men to do nothing.”

After each senseless tragedy we take measures to improve security, change the tactics that first responders use and provide training for key people such as teachers.

Most of us, though, are left to stand by and watch in disbelief and grief, wishing we could do something.

I propose one more measure. Each of us blessed with Faith says that he or she places their future in God‘s hands. We also believe that He listens to our prayers.

If you don’t often pray, take time, right now, to pray. You don’t have to ask for anything in particular, just reach out to God.

Maybe if enough good people do something evil will not be so successful.


Too Close

One of the problems with living in the real world is that we spend our time too close with the people who are important to us – spouses, children, and friends. As such, we’re so close that we sometimes don’t notice things or if we do, we don’t realize how important they are.

My older son grew to over six foot tall in high school. I was buying his clothes – “Extra Extra Large”, “Tall” and very, very large shoes (size 14 and 15 – just slightly smaller than “Bozo”.)

However, even with all that, he was still my little boy It wasn’t until one Sunday at Mass when I turned to him and realized that my eyes were at the same level as his armpit that it actually registered that my child had grown up.

My younger kids hit different phases in which they suddenly make major progress in one area or another. Sometimes, I don’t notice. Hey, you’re talking to the dad who can buy size 15 shoes for his son and not realize that he’s grown.

My wife is the one that notices all these things and nudges me – “Have you noticed that Adam is doing so well at such and such?” “Isn’t Katie getting good at (fill in the blank)?”

Now, I like to think of myself as intelligent, and I’m actually not oblivious to the world around me. However, having said that, I know that I view the world differently than my wife does. I notice the funny noise when I drive her car and know it needs attention. I realize that the toilet is making an odd sound and needs a new flapper valve and fill mechanism. I do my part. Nevertheless, I miss a lot of important things that she points out to me.

The wonderful thing is that I can’t do her part and she doesn’t do mine. However, between the two of us we get pretty much all of it figured out.

It’s actually a great system.

Seeking Unindicted Co-conspirators

Now that I have your attention…

time_printingpress

If you study ancient history and old texts, you may have heard of a novel written in 1969 that was deliberately written to be as awful as possible. Each chapter was written by a different author.

It was awful.

Any good writing was edited out to make it even more awful.

It contained a lot of sex.

It became a best seller.

The authors disclosed the hoax.

It sold many more copies because the hoax made it even more intriguing.

Now I have no desire to write something awful, but I thought it might be fun for me to start a story, introducing the characters and the general scene, then pass that on to another author to write the next chapter, etc.

Each chapter would be published on this blog, although any authors who agree to participate could either link to this blog and/or publish the entire work on their own blog. I figure each “chapter” would be about 300 – 1000 words, just to make it easy.

If you’re interested, let me know either by comment or by e-mail (steve@sfnowak.com). I’d like to line up who’s interested first so we’d know how many chapters we’d be writing.

If you’re a regular reader but not interested in personally contributing, you could cheer others on and convince them to volunteer.

On the other hand, if you’re a regular reader and have no interest in this whatsoever, not even in the slightest, here’s the thought for the day…

You get up in the morning and stop at Starbucks for a coffee and see the inevitable tip jar. You catch the subway to work and pass a street musician playing, his guitar case open in front of him to collect tips. Maybe you’re in the service or retired military, so you shop at the Commissary; there are signs that remind you that the people who bag the groceries work only for tips. At dinner you tip the waitperson. Since you had a few adult beverages, you take a cab home, and tip to cab driver. You stay at a hotel and you tip the chambermaid.

Given the current state of affairs would it surprise you to find a tip jar at your doctor’s or lawyer’s office?

How much of a tip would you leave?

Now, comparatively speaking, don’t you wish you had been more interested in contributing a chapter to the story?

Modern Advances

Technology! It brings us so many things, yet does it truly make things better?

Handwritten letters in the mail had a personality of their own, but all e-mails look alike.

#As_do_tweets

texting-each-ther

I used to like to fill the bathtub with warm water and luxuriate in it with a book or magazine. Now I get my books and magazines on my Kindle.

Can’t read a Kindle or a Nook much less an iPad in a bathtub.

I used to love to go for a Sunday drive with my parents and see parts of the area that I normally didn’t see. Now I rely on my GPS, and if something catches my interest I hear,

“When possible make a legal U-Turn…”

Of course, when my kids reach my age, they’ll be telling their grandchildren, “We used to stay in touch with our best friends by smartphone, all day and half the night…”

Learning

We all learn differently – that much is generally accepted. Some of us learn best by doing, some by being told, others by seeing how it’s done.

300px-Raphael_School_of_Athens

Isn’t it odd, though, that while we accept that we all learn differently, sometimes we expect others to all do things the same way after we learn them.

How odd.

And, how boring it would be if we all did everything the same way.

Nowhere Man (Part 5 – Conclusion)

“My life’s important!” I tried to shout. It felt like someone touched my forehead and I saw a rapid sequence of images of my life. Things I’d done to get to where I was today, some of which didn’t make me any too proud.

“That’s how I see you,” said the messenger. “And that’s how you see yourself when you’re being honest.” I didn’t like what I saw and tried to shrink away.

“You’re thirty-five years old – halfway to the proverbial three score and ten. No one lives forever and you need to do the best with whatever time is granted you.

“Now, here’s what we both could see.”

Another series of images passed before my eyes. The Porsche was replaced by a minivan. The luxury apartment was now a house littered with school backpacks and kids’ shoes. I saw myself in a suit, but instead of the carefully tailored designer label it was a functional off-the-rack version. But there was something else different – something different about me.

“What the hell was that?” I asked.

“One of the farthest things from hell. The life you were intended to live,” came the reply.

“I don’t understand any of this!”

“Ah, but you do and deep inside you know you do. All of this fits together.”

I tried to make sense of it, I actually did, but got nowhere.

“I’m a messenger. I’ve been with you all your life. I know everything about you.”

“Uhh,” I stammered, “you’re an angel?”

“I’m an angel. A guardian angel. Your guardian angel. I’ve watched over you.”

“And you don’t like what you see,” I offered lamely.

“Passing judgment is not my job. Amongst ourselves we guardian angels like to say ‘We nudge, not judge’.”

“Well, I don’t like what I see when I see it so plainly,” I replied. “I can do better.”

“Of course you can – you’re human. Humans can always do better. That’s the way you were made. All humans – the saints as well as the sinners, so you’re in good company. That’s why I brought you here, so we could talk and you could figure out what you need to do.”

“But I haven’t figured it!” I protested.

“Sure you have, it doesn’t have to be laid out step by step. This is not a business plan. You know in your heart what to do. Now it’s time to go and do it.”

“Meaning?”

“It’s time for you to go back and pick up where you left off, and if you’re smart, in a different direction. For what it’s worth, I think you’re smart.”

“Did anyone miss me? I’ve been gone for a couple of days.”

“Someone would have missed you if time here was the same as time there. As far as they can tell you were never gone. You left and will return within the blink of an eye.” The translucent world around me began to fade – but it began fading from translucent to solid.

“Wait!” I tried to shout. “Can I talk with you later?”

“I told you that you used to be able to communicate this way. I was referring to when you prayed. I’ll be there when you pray, and not only will I listen in, I’ll be praying with you. You pray directly to the boss, not me, but I’ll be there with you.”

The world continued to solidify around me until I found myself where I had been before, sitting in a restaurant across from my girlfriend.

“…blue, with a white trim,” she was saying. “Are you all right?”

“What?” I answered, with a hint of confusion.

“For a second there you seemed to zone out, like you were somewhere else.” The waiter came up with the check and I quickly stuffed some bills in the folder and stood up.

“We need to talk, Amanda,” I said helping her with her coat and almost dragging her outside. It was snowing lightly with a dusting on the ground. We walked for a long time as I explained the whole strange experience to her.

Photo by Daniel MasseyPosted on BBC Web Page

Photo by Daniel Massey
Posted on BBC Web Page

“So what are you going to do?” she asked.

“I’m not sure, but I know my habit of seeing myself as the center of things isn’t going to work anymore. I guess I’ll just have to take things as they come up and figure it out one at a time.” I stopped and looked at her.

“We’ve been together for what, two years?”

“Three,” she replied, “and a half.”

“You’re the only person in the world that I could share this with, yet I’ve never made any real commitment to you. At the least you deserve that.”

“It would be nice,” she replied. “I would like that very much.” We started walking again, at first hand in hand and then with my arm around her.

“It was so weird that he knew everything about me. I hadn’t thought about some of those things in years. I mean, who thinks about freshman statistics class. That was almost twenty years ago. I guess that’s one day I wanted to forget. I sat next to a girl I was hoping to ask out and instead had a full blown, meltdown anxiety attack.” We continued walking. “I wonder what ever happened to her.”

Amanda looked at me oddly.

“I’m right here. You didn’t know that I was the girl sitting next to you?”

Somewhere far off, or maybe in my head, I heard a very faint laugh.

(The End)

Nowhere Man (Part 4)

07_Porsche_911Turbo_12

“I didn’t quite catch your name,” I tried again.

“That’s because I never told you,” came the reply. “Besides, you couldn’t pronounce it if I did. Not even in your head.”

This last comment reminded me that we were communicating without actually talking. We were just thinking things at each other.

“Can you at least tell me what you are and how we’re able to communicate like this,” I asked.

“We can communicate like this because this is the way that I communicate and you’re with me. Actually you have communicated like this yourself, but you haven’t thought about it in a while. You haven’t forgotten, you just haven’t given it any attention lately.”

“And what are you,” I persisted. I sensed a smile in the response.

“You can think of me as a messenger.”

“Are you here to deliver a message?”

“Yes.”

“To me?”

“Yes.”

“Well, what is it?” I demanded.

“Always impatient,” came the reply. “The little boy who was almost apoplectic from Thanksgiving until Christmas morning. The teenager who woke his father well before dawn on his sixteenth birthday so he could finally get his driver’s license. Always impatient.”

“You seem to know a lot about me,” I replied impatiently.

“I told you, I was there.”

“You told me that you were there at my Statistics class.”

“I did. I was. But I’ve been with you all along.”

“As if being semi-disembodied wasn’t creepy enough,” I offered. “This is getting really, really creepy.”

I sensed the translucent ethereal equivalent of a sigh.

“Let’s see if I can put this in terms you’ll understand,” came the reply. “It’s my job to know what you’re doing – to look out for you. That’s why I’ve been permitted to bring a message to you.”

I waited.

“What do you have to show for your life?”

“That’s a question, not a message,” I replied, perhaps with a little bit too much smugness.

“Well?”

“I think I’ve done alright.”

“Don’t forget I was there – every step of the way. What do you really have to show?”

“If you know me as you claim to,” I replied, “then you know I graduated magna cum laud from Columbia. I have an MBA from Harvard Business School and a law degree from Yale.”

“You have a Bachelors and a Masters in business from the University of Akron.”

“With which I’ve done pretty well,” I retorted. “I’m making good money, top salesman at work, drive a Porsche…”

“And that’s what you feel is important? What did you do with the dreams that you had? Where are the ideals you believed in when you were younger? You now believe that money and a fancy car is what’s important?

“You drive a fancy European car with a racing engine so you can average 15 miles per hour during rush hour in stop and go traffic? Your money that sits in some brokerage account because it lost half its value when the economy tanked?”

“Not quite half,” I weakly replied.

“Don’t you think there are other things more important?”

(To be concluded)

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

{Nowhere Man will continue}

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt speech in which he asked Congress for a declaration of war with Japan.

pearl-harbor2a

It has been 71 years since that day. Cries of “Remember Pearl Harbor” have faded. No longer a day of infamy, it passed largely unnoticed by most Americans.

That is how healing happens.

Veterans know that there is a time for war and a time to lay down one’s arms. The enemy ceases to be a nameless, faceless monster and becomes a type of kindred spirit, fighting for different beliefs. Often, this is followed by alliances between once warring nations and a strange but special camaraderie between once bitter enemies.

During the war we viewed ourselves as divinely inspired and the Japanese as barely human. After the war we had to reconcile how we were not, in fact, perfect. We treated American citizens of Japanese descent horrendously we and we treated black American soldiers and sailors with outrageous disrespect.

Along with healing comes growth. With growth comes the opportunity for maturity.

I believe that humans have the extraordinary ability to grow and learn from whatever life throws at them. I see those who lived and served during the Second World War and understand why they are revered as “the greatest generation.” They pulled together for a common cause in the face of adversity. However, each following generation has the ability – and the responsibility – to continue to build on what they experienced, what they endured, and what they learned from it.

Today honor those who faced the challenge 71 years ago.

Tomorrow, continue the journey forward.