Tuesday, December 31, 2013

LIVE YOUR DASH - DEDICATED TO RACHEL AND ALESIA

December thirty first.  A time of putting one year behind us and starting a new year ahead of us.

I was watching a documentary last night on a young man who was about to face his judgement from a gurney in Huntsville, Texas by means of lethal injection.  It was a film about the pros and cons of capital punishment, but that isn't what this entry is about.  Today is not a day to talk politics or even care what is going on in the world.  Today is a day to remember and a day to look forward.  That is what these entry is about more or less.  It is based on less than five minutes of that film.

Toward the end of the film, the filmmaker interviewed a former prison employee who was in charge of executions for the State of Texas.  Texas is by far the leader of executions in the United States and this man said that at one time they were executing two to three inmates a week.  He personally had carried out over 120 executions.  He did his job in a precise manner that became rote to him.  He said he got to the point where no emotions were involved, it was just his job until one day his mind broke and he suffered a breakdown.  It was two days after his last execution when he started having visions of those he had helped put to death.  His whole body began to shake and he decided he could not do his job any more.  He quit his job at Huntsville, sacrificing his pension and went into the private sector.  When he was asked what he had learned from the experience he said "Someone told me what I learned.  They said the big lesson was to "Live you dash"."  He went on to explain what that phrase meant.  He said that on a burial marker, a headstone if you will, there is the date that indicates when you came to be on this earth and a date on which your time on this earth came to an end.  In between those two dates is a dash.  That dash represents your life.  It represents the time time you spent on this earth.  Every day, every hour, every second of your time spent here is represented in that dash.  Included in that dash are all of the things you did, all the things you wish you hadn't done and unfulfilled wishes of things you feel you should have done.  That dash is your life.  Live your dash means to live your life to it's fullest, no matter how long or short it may be.  Live your dash in a manner that would glorify God and mankind.  Live it good, or as good as you can.  No one is perfect and we all have things in our lives that we regret doing or not doing.  Live your dash.  Live it as best as you can possibly can.  That is what this man who's job it was to carry out the laws of Texas learned and he now tries as hard as he can to live his dash in that manner.

I stopped this morning to look at my own dash.  As far as I know, my dash is still being drawn.  I have time to continue to live my dash.  The majority of us do have that time to continue to live our dash.  Others have finished their time on this earth and their dashes are kept in the minds of those who knew and loved them.  I can look at people I knew and loved who have finished their time here.  I look to my great grandmother, my grandfather, both of my grandmothers and Uncles Melvin, Duane, Buster, and Dan.  All of them lived their dashes.  Their dashes do not look the same, but each one of those dashes set an example for me as I live my own dash.  Friends I have know over the years have also left this earth leaving their own dashes to look at and to ponder over.

As I thought about living your dash and those I mentioned above I can honestly and sincerely say that I believe that everyone of them did their absolute best to achieve that goal.  Their lives are examples that I constantly look to as a point of reference as I live my dash.  There are however, two people who I did not know especially well but well enough to call them friends.

One of these people was Alesia Dawn.  I wrote an entry on Alesia Dawn a while back and I would urge you to read it so that you can get to know Alesia Dawn and her family.  Alesia Dawn lived her entire dash in fourteen short years.  Alesia was born with a major heart defect.  We never were sure how long Alesia had on this earth but as she grew older, her odds of living a normal life increased until one day her doctor told her father that Alesia was all right.  There was no reason to expect anything but a normal life for Alesia from now on.  All of us who knew Alesia welcomed the news with joy.  Two weeks later, while reading a book in her bed, Alesia's heart stopped and she quietly left this world.  She had lived her dash.  During her short life, even though she was restricted on what she could do because of her heart, she lived her life to it's fullest.  She enjoyed and embraced life.  Alesia Dawn was an example for everyone.

The second person was Rachel.  Like I had with Alesia, I kind of watched Rachel grow up.  When she was but a toddler, they discovered a tumor in her brain.  She had surgery and rehab and all of the things that come along with having cancer.  The tumor and surgery left her somewhat compromised but not that you would notice.  She never let anything stand in her way of doing the things she wanted to do.  Her parent's played a big role in that part of Rachel's personality by never discouraging her from trying to accomplish what she set out to do.  As she grew older she became more adept at figuring out how to do things.  She went to college after graduating high school and did her very best while she was there, which I must say wasn't too bad at all.  I began to really get to know Rachel at church after my wife's physical problems began to catch up with her.  Barb began to have trouble going up and down stairs and not long after that Rachel took it upon herself to see that when Miss Barbara was at church she would have Rachel not far behind to protect her from falling or any other difficulties that Barb may run into.  Rachel became Barb's "right hand man" in children's choir and help Barb keep the kids in order, helped her clean up after choir and generally made Barb's attempt at fulfilling her calling much easier.

At the Christmas service in 2012, Barb and Rachel's choir was going to sing in front of the church.  One of Barb's gifts is the ability to do sign language pretty fluently and every year at least once she would teach the kids to sign a song.  In 2012 Rachel decided she wanted to sign a song and Barb and her decided that Rachel would sign Silent Night while the kids sang it.  As was Rachel's way, she was determined to learn how to sign the song and do it in front of the whole church.  The Wednesday before the Sunday of Christmas, we had the final practice before the performance.  After the kids left, I asked Rachel if she wanted to go over the signing some extra.  She shyly said "If you don't mind" and so we did.  We went through the song four times, five times, it doesn't really matter.  We went through it until Rachel felt comfortable with herself and the signing.  The next Sunday Rachel stood up with the kids who were in the choir that she used to be in years earlier and signed Silent Night as the kids sang it.  She did a great job.  After the service I hunted her down and pointed at her and said, "YOU ... you were great up there."  I saw that Rachel smile that we have all come to know and love and recognize as a sincere smile, not just a smile for the sake of a smile but a REAL smile.

Shortly after that, Rachel, her parents, her siblings and all of us learned that the tumor had returned to her brain.  The doctors did not give much hope for Rachel.  This time the tumor would be here to stay.  Rachel and her parents decided to get as much living in as the could in the time that Rachel had left and they did a wonderful job.  I watched as pictures of the summer long adventure of Rachel came in over social media.  Rachel took advantage of every second that was given her.  She consoled her parents and friends as time continued to tick away.  Rachel completed living her dash early this morning after over twenty two years of doing her best to do it right.

Alesia and Rachel were not given as much time to live their dash as most of us are given.  What we learn from these two young ladies is that we never know when we will finish living our dash.  It could be in the next hour, the next week, or the upcoming year.  We all probably feel like we have many more years to live our dash.  The truth is, we just don't know how long we have.  Rachel and Alesia learned early in their lives that by the mercy of God they were given time to live and to set an example that we all can look up to as we live our lives.  I can look to God and thank him for letting Alesia and Rachel be a small part of my life.

There is not a doubt in my mind that when Rachel at last found herself in His presence that she heard Him say "Well done my good and faithful servant." just as Alesia had heard years ago.

As we head into this new year of 2014, my hope is that I will be able to look at how they lived their own dash and learn from them as I try to live my own.
Rachel

Alesia with her older sister Kristie

Thursday, December 12, 2013

BEING AWARE OF OCCASIONS AND SURROUNDINGS

I use to love going to see a movie on the big screen.  I love movies and like to find myself engaged in the one I am watching that I don't really notice my surroundings.  These days, the only way to watch a movie with undivided attention to get the most out of it is to sit and watch it at home.

It is the same thing when I go out to the theatre to see a play.  I want to be able to get involved in the play without distractions and enjoy it no matter if it is silly and frivolous or serious and deep trying to get a message across.  Unfortunately, I can not bring the play to my house to watch it, I have to endure rude patrons that distract me from the play or movie as the case may be and not get all that I could get from the play.

People are rude at times.  This is the reason I don't go out to movies much anymore.  There are those people who chat amongst themselves during the whole of a movie or make comments on the movie as it is being shown.  It is rude.  I pay good money to see a movie and I should be able to sit and enjoy it, but most of the time I can't.

It isn't any different with a play although much more irritating.  To see a play at a local theatre is usually twice as expensive as seeing a movie and it is a one shot deal.  The play is performed, it is over and it will never be the same as it was on that one night.  Yet people all around sit and talk, often repeating lines that were just spoken on the stage causing the missing of the few lines coming from the stage after the line that was deemed so important it bore repeating it for the rest of those around these people.

Then there are occasions when people can be rude when the whole of the occasion calls for a decorum that is above what is required at a movie or a play.  The best example of this is a funeral or memorial service for a lost loved one who people have gathered together to remember and to celebrate the life that has passed.  As for myself, I can not remember any funeral or memorial service that I have attended where the people were not respectful of the occasion and the surroundings that brought them there.  I need to correct that last statement.  At my Uncle Melvin's funeral I had the feeling that a lot of people there attended because it was seen as an important event and was the place to be and weren't there because they necessarily knew my uncle and what he was like while he was living.  Sure, there is and should be some laughter at a funeral because everyone's life has it's moments that are remembered at such times.  But it is a short laughter and not a distraction from the reason why all of the people had gathered to remember the loved one.

A funeral or memorial service should be held with the highest respect of those attending.  The crowd that gathers are people who knew and loved the person being remembered.  They respect what the life that was had represented when the person was still walking the earth.  There is no constant chit chat during the service.  People gather at these events to remember a life.  The service is not a party and it shouldn't be.  It can be proper to have a party after the service to celebrate the life but during that time when the service is progressing and the life is being remembered in the minds of all those gathered, their thoughts should not be distracted by rude people who talk and act out and makes you wonder why they are even there.

Most of the more somber days of my life have been when I attended a service for someone who had passed.  I was at that service because the person had effected my life in a very real manner and I had great respect for them.  During these services if someone had been sitting and cracking up and making small talk during the service, it would have offended me, hurt me, and made me angry and that one time shot at being in one place with all the people that the service was paying respect to would have been ruined and not remembered as a day of celebration and remembrance.

And so now we come to the Nelson Mandela memorial service earlier this week.  I don't need to go into Mandela's life and who he was and what he accomplished.  Every one should have knowledge of that, and if you don't then educate yourself on the man.  He was a great man.  A man who stood by his beliefs and paid a heavy price for his beliefs.  He was a man who had some effect everywhere around the globe.  He was a man that shows up in history too seldom.  He was a man who deserved all the respect from all of the world.  He was a man that will never be forgotten.

If ever there was a memorial service where the mood should be somber, and reflection on a life and the changes it brought be thoughtfully considered, Mandela was the one.  Thinking over my short amount of history knowledge, I can think of few people that come close to having earned the respect that Mandela did.  Winston Churchill comes to my mind first.  I would feel like Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln along with possibly Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. would be about on that level.  Tolstoy, Orwell, Dickens, Faulkner and Steinbeck would come close to that level for the social changes that their writings brought about.

I have watched a few state funerals on television.  Funerals and memorial services of men that do not come close to the level that Nelson Mandela set.  Just taking funerals of President's lately here in the United States.  I watched, of course, President Nixon's funeral.  I saw Reagan's and Ford's.  Never have I seen the level of disrespect at any state funeral as was shown by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and, sadly, the President of the United States Barack Obama.

Photos were taken of the three joking around, laughing, taking photos of themselves at "The Event" during what should have been one of the most somber times in history.  It is, or should be, an embarrassment to all Americans.  I have already documented a few things that this President has done to embarrass the country and to cause us to lose respect and our place in the world.  His domestic policy is destroying the economy and his foreign policy has shifted the world's opinion of who is leading the world politically from the United States to President Putin of Russia, or at least the illusion that Putin is more of a leader than Obama.

There isn't a lot to say about what went on in South Africa.  Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush (42) were all there and apparently they behaved as world leaders should behave.  The current President however acted like a high school kid in an assembly late on a Friday afternoon in spring.  Instead of listening and being serious at a time where it was called for, horseplay became the agenda for the day.  The President should have shown respect to Mandela by showing respect to those who were commemorating his life.  Foreign leaders and dignitaries deserve to be listened to with respect at an event such as this.  Just like he does at home though, the President did not listen to those he should be listening to.

As a citizen of the United States, the President has embarrassed me once again, but more important than all of the other times he has embarrassed me, this time he embarrassed himself.  Well, he should feel embarrassed but I doubt that he does.

The photographer who took the pictures was surprised that they caused such a fuss.  That alone stuns me but he has now moved on to trying to defend the photos that he took as a moment in time that wasn't a bad as the pictures make it appear to be.  The Liberal press , and CNN, have jumped on this story now and no long print the offending photos nor talk about how inappropriate the President's actions were during the service.  Soon we will be expected to just forget this ever happened like so many other events that have happened in this administration.

The President has shown a new low in how the world views him and along with that, how they view the United States.

Mr. President, How many more times are you going to embarrass the country and myself?  How many more situations can we endure before losing all respect from the world?  Mr. President, please grow up, read a civics book and learn how to be the President of the United States, leader of the free world.  It would do every one good if you could do that for just three more years.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

THIRTY FOUR YEARS GO FAST

On December 3, 1979 I walked into the offices of Dit-MCO International to begin my first day at a new job.  Now today I look back over thirty four years sitting in this chair as I watched technology change at an ever faster pace and working hard to help keep the company up with the pace that technology has set.

I have been extremely fortunate in my professional career.  It really began when I was approximately ten years old on a Saturday morning.  My dad was doing some outside work at Rycom Instruments that morning and I had gone in to help in what little way I could.  I decided to take a tour of the old dance hall and stumbled into a room with big tables, high sitting chairs and blue prints taped or tacked to the walls.  It was the drafting department and it took me around two minutes to decide that I had found my place in the world.  This was what I wanted to do for a living.  I didn't know how I would but on that day in the darkened room my mind was made up.

It was a few short years later, when I was fifteen, that I was hired at Rycom as a janitor of sorts.  My job was to come in during the summer and empty all the trash cans in the building, clean the restrooms and then do some floor work, either sweeping or buffing until it was time to head home with dad.  I replaced light tubes and such and just generally worked all summer at minimum wage.

When I turned sixteen and had been given a drivers license from the State of Missouri, I began to work after school doing the same thing but making much less money.  As I would do my trash pickup rounds, I always made it a point to take extra time in the drafting department and make friends with the people who worked there.  It was a small department staffed by only three or four people but I began to work my way into making them realize that this room was where I really wanted to work.

It was the fall of my junior year in High School that the offer that would create my career was given to me.  Loretta. the head of the drafting department, offered me to work in the drafting department after school each day when my trash pick up duties were finished.  It didn't leave me much time to do much drawing everyday but it was the start of a great learning process that is still going on even now.  When I finished my first professional drawing, well I can not describe the pride I felt.  I made a copy of it and took it home and put it in a scrapbook.  Today it is in that scrapbook as a reminder of my beginning as an artist.

Artist.  I had always been interested in art and craved the talent to be able to draw.  The talent was not there though, so drafting became my art outlet.  With drafting I had tools to help me make straight lines and proper angles and when I finished a work of this "art" you could actually tell what it was.  I had found my niche.

During my time at Rycom I graduated high school, took myself a wife, bought a house and began my adult life with a career I was happy with and did not want to leave.  As I continued to work there on a full time basis my skill set started to widen.  Not only were my drawings becoming more professional looking, I was starting to design small printed circuit boards by hand taping them onto mylar.  I was learning to use the huge camera and darkroom to make the final artworks of my attempts.  I was settling into a job and career until one day a friend of mine came to me at church one Sunday and asked if I was interested in a job.

Alice Shepard and her husband Noel were two of my best mentors as I fought my way through my teenage years.  Alice worked as a purchasing agent and the engineering department where she worked were looking to hire a draftsman or two.  I decided it wouldn't hurt to ask and so I went to an interview at Labconco that Alice had set up for me.  During the interview I asked for a modest amount of money but still a big raise from what Rycom was paying me.  They hired me almost on the spot.  A few days later I told Loretta I was moving on.  She cried and vowed to try to get Rycom to match the salary that Labconco was offering.  She couldn't accomplish it until my last day at Rycom, which was too late.  I was leaving the nest in a sort of way.  Leaving my dad, Loretta, and the Rycom family behind as I truly set out in the world on my own.  It was November of 1978 when I began the grueling work schedule that Labconco expected of us.

I stayed at Labconco for thirteen months.  There was a company that was growing like wild fire over by my grandparent's house and they were stealing people from Labconco right and left.  As soon as one person would leave, in a few weeks someone would get a call from that person asking them to switch jobs.  It was just a matter of time before the call came for me.  I was asked to come work for Dit-MCO and was told how good of a company it was, how it was growing, how things were more laid back and how the pay was a lot better.

When I went to Dit-MCO in mid November of 1979, I was expecting a real interview.  It didn't happen.  They had decided to hire me before I got there.  They were in desperate need for mechanical draftsmen and engineers.  They were taking whatever came through the door, and that week it was me.

And so on December 3, 1979 I began a job that back then, I wouldn't dream of still being at thirty four years later.  But here I sit.  My time at Dit-MCO has been good.  They are a good company that has always tried to do what was best for their workforce.  Their philosophy is to keep as many people as you can for as long as you can so that time isn't wasted on training new hires over and over again.  They have done a good job of it.  Even though the economy has effected the company pretty harshly at times, they still try to do what they can to keep people here.  There have been times of layoffs, massive layoffs at one point in time but only when they had to.

Today the company is growing again.  I am no longer a draftsman but a design engineer.  Over the years i have had to trade in my drafting board for a computer.  I no longer draw by hand and the new "art" that I created is all digital.  I design the printed circuit boards on the computer as well as doing 3-D modeling.  It is a whole new type of work that I had not forseen back in 1979.

There have been adventures working here.  There has been a lot of horseplay working here and there have been a lot of pressure working here.  It is rare these days to find a company that actually strives to take care of their employees.  That is one thing that the company does do.. It takes care of us as best as it can.  It gets us the best benefits package they can.  They paid my way through college.  I have always had a good insurance plan.

Thirty four years ago, I had figured maybe five to ten years sitting in this chair.  I have seen a lot of people come and go.  I have seen old friends retire.  I have seen friends die from cancer and other sicknesses.  I have seen a father turn the company over to his eldest son who carried on his dad's desire to take care of the people.

Not many people can say they work at a company like mine is.  Not many people can say that they enjoy working for the company that they do.  I may not get as much pay as I could somewhere else, but to me, not waking up in the morning dreading the coming day as another day at the office is worth a lot of money.  I wake up and am anxious to get here.  There is something about a company like Dit-MCO that a lot of other companies could learn from.  Keep your people.  Keep them satisfied.  Make their time at the office rewarding instead of monotonous.

As for me, I have been extremely lucky and looked over.  I have never really been on an interview for a job.  My resume is extremely small.  But I continue to learn something new each day I come to this place.  Somehow I landed here.  Divine intervention?  Pure luck?  Destiny?  I don't know.  What I do know is that it doesn't feel like I have been here for thirty four years.  It has been an experience that allows time to fly by and for thirty four years to creep up on you without you realizing it.  I am here for the duration of my career I think and I am good with that.  Looking back over thrity four years that feels like five, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I am still an artist.  I still work my brain everyday.  I still feel good with what I accomplish while I am here.

Visit ditmco.com for a look at what the company does and more information.  You may find it interesting.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

GETTYSBURG THEN AND NOW

Today it can be looked back upon as three days of hell.  On July first through July third in 1863 chances are that many of the thousands of men who were caught on the battlefield outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania thought that they were in hell.  Three days of battle that left approximately fifty thousand dead Americans defined the American Civil War.  There will be those readers who say that there weren't fifty thousand Americans because half of the battle was waged by members of the Confederate States of America.  To me, even the Confederates were still Americans who had beliefs that conflicted with the United States establishment.  These beliefs were strong, so strong that they felt they had to fight for the rights they believed in.  On November 19, 1863 President Lincoln visited the battlefield at Gettysburg, stood before a small crowd that had gathered to dedicate the battlefield and spoke seven words that every American would recognize as he said, "Four score and seven years ago....".  He spoke but ten sentences that day.  Ten sentences that every American should revisit and find out what truth that short speech holds for each of us.
After the battle - Gettysburg Pennsylvania July 1963
It seems like every nation goes through what the United States went through during those four years that marked the bloodiest war in the history of our country.  Most countries go through this type of upheaval more than once.  Thinking back on my history lessons in school, the American Revolution comes to mind as well as the Russian revolution, the French revolution, the Spanish Civil War and so on up through today's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Syria and many others that are being waged around the globe as I write this.  It seems to be a necessary step that a country must go through to obtain some kind of civility and stability for it's people.  The civility and stabilization seldom lasts though and we, as humans, tend to go through these wars over and over never learning the lessons we thought we had been taught.

I look at my country and see that battles are still being waged.  We have been in many armed conflicts such as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and others, but we are also still fighting among ourselves here in our country.  It's as if the Civil War ended for a short period of time, but then continued on other fronts.  True we have never had a bloody conflict between our shores to rival that of the 1860's but the battles being waged in our country carry just as much passion and belief as those that brought about the fifty thousand casualties in Pennsylvania 150 years ago.

We now fight several wars among ourselves.  The battle between the people of different races in this country still rage on.  We can look back and see how much progress has been made, but the progress has not gotten to the point of where all people feel themselves equal.  Like the Civil War, there are soldiers on each front waging this war.  There are Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and Middle Eastern people looking for what this country showed promise of, that being that all men are created equal.  The battle lines are blurred at times as there are people of each race who do come together in agreement but still have to fight for what they have come to believe.  There are people of different races who try to enter the country illegally to take part in the American Dream causing a chain reaction that results in limiting those who can enter and become Americans in their own right.  I am proud to say that my Grandfather was a soldier in the war of the races, and he was on the right side I think.  He did not believe himself to be better than anyone else based on race or a number of other qualifiers and he stood up to be counted for what he believed in.  His legacy has been one that has seen those that follow him in life carry on his thoughts and beliefs.

There is a war raging among the economic classes in this country.  This war has been raging for many years as well and still continues to be fought on a daily basis.  This land was once known as a sort of promised land where people from all over the world would immigrate to and try to partake of what became known as the American Dream.  Some say the dream is dead, or at least dying.  No man, woman or child should go hungry in this country that supplies so much of the food for the world and actually pays our farmers not to grow too many crops.  It is a complicated war though with many different ideas clashing on what is the proper way to keep the American Dream alive.  I do not have an answer to that.  I do have my own ideas and beliefs that every person who is lucky enough to be a part of this great country should also contribute to the greatness of this land.  The great battle seems to be between the overly rich and the overly poor and it is up to the middle class to take most of the casualties in this war.  There is an answer to this situation and perhaps we will stumble across it one day, it doesn't appear to be close at hand.

Perhaps the biggest war that is pushing this country against itself is the war of political philosophy.  We casually pigeonhole everyone in to one of two categories.  Liberal or conservative.  Democrat or Republican.  In reality, Americans fill a broad spectrum of philosophies that lie between those two extremes.  Lately though the extremes have seem to have taken over the battle cry for each side.  This did not start with the current administration or the one before it.  I am not sure when it started.  My thinking is that this battle has been raging ever since the days of John Adams vs Thomas Jefferson.  Never before has it been as loud of a conflict or as dividing a conflict as it has grown to be in the current age of politics.  New weapons have come out that heighten the level of this war for the minds of people.  Radio, television, cable television and now the internet all contribute to information being fed world around in a split second taking away the time needed to do some thinking, and digesting of ideas and news before reacting to them.  This is, I believe, why the extremes of conservatism and liberalism have come to the forefront so fast.  We react to news or ideas as soon as we hear of them instead of having the time to think things through and figure out what the proper reaction would or should be.  The President is expected to react almost immediately when something happens on the other side of the world.  Gone are the days when our leaders, our thinkers, our writers and our philosophers could take time to think, to look at different sides, to listen to different ideas before setting up a policy to deal with whatever the event is.  This, I believe is the most dangerous war we, as citizens, are involved in.  This is the kind of war that can once again tear our country apart and replay those four terrible years of 150 years ago.  We need to back off, sit and think.  All of us need to do this, not just the leaders of our country.  As Americans, we are still seen as leaders of not only the free world, but of the world in general.  I see our grasp on that claim slowly slipping.  cool heads and thoughtful minds are call for in these turbulent fast moving times.  We all, the whole world, needs to put on the brakes just a little bit.

There are many other wars being fought in The United States today.  Too many for me to write about.  We need to find a way to deal with these situations that all of us face every day.  What President Lincoln said in Pennsylvania is a good start I think.

As Americans, we should never forget those ten sentences that President Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg on that November day in 1863.  We should read them.  We should consider them.  We should make those words come alive as we live in this great country along side of each other.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Read it.  Consider it.  Think about the words and what they mean to all of us today, because these words do have meaning to us today.  These words sum up the history of The United States and the future of The United States.  No matter what philosophy each of us subscribe to, these words have a message for all of us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RICHARD NIXON TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE

This is a portion of President Richard Nixon's statement to the American people concerning his feelings about letting the country down through the Watergate scandal during the David Frost interview sessions.  I believe this tells more about the man, the honesty and sincerity of a man who was broken by outside forces beyond his control.  A man who cared for his friends and for people in general.  History has come around to being just a little bit more lenient to the Nixon Administration and I fell as time goes on, it will continue to do so.  He was a statesman.  He was an expert on foreign policy, which as most of you know I think that should be the President's main concern.  After what we have been through with President Clinton, who did commit perjury to a Federal Grand Jury, who did suborn perjury of witnesses, who did point his finger at the American people and lied to them as boldly as any man has ever done, who did think himself above the law and went through a Senate trial that partisanship allowed him to indeed be above the law, Richard Nixon, in this brief quote ending the Watergate section of the interviews, proves how much greater of a President he was then those that followed him, with the possible exception of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.  Read with an open mind, and you will see a small window into Richard Nixon's soul, that he very seldom let people see.


In one of those moments that you're not thinking, sometimes you say the things that are really in your heart.
When you're thinking in advance and you say things that, you know, are tailored to the audience.
I had a lot of difficult meetings those last days before I resigned.
And the most difficult one, and the only one where I broke into tears.
Frankly, except for that very brief session with Ehrlichman up at Camp David, it was the first time I cried since Eisenhower died.
I met with all of my key supporters just a half hour before going on television.
For 25 minutes we all sat around the oval office: Men that I had come to congress with, democrats and republicans, about half and half, wonderful men.
And at the very end, after saying, "well, "thank you for all your support "during these tough years.
"Thank you particularly for what you have done "to help us end the draft, "bring home the P.O.W.s, "And have a chance for building a generation of peace"-- which I could see, the dream that I had possibly being shattered-- "and thank you for your friendship, little acts of friendship " you know, you sort of remember with a birthday card and the rest.
Then suddenly you haven't got much more to say, and half the people around the table were crying.
Les Aarons, Illinois, bless him.
He was just shaking, sobbing.
And I just can't stand seeing somebody else cry.
And that ended it for me.
And I just--well, I must say I sort of cracked up.
I started to cry, pushed my chair back.
And then I blurted it out.
And I said, "I'm sorry.
I just hope " well, when I said: "I just hope I haven't let you down," that said it all.
I had.
I let down my friends.
..
The country.
I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government but will think it's all too corrupt and the rest.
Most of all, I let down an opportunity that I would have had for 2 1/2 more years to proceed on great projects and programs for building a lasting peace, which has been my dream, as you know from our first interview in 1968 before I had any-- thought I might even win that year.
I didn't tell you I didn't think I might win, but I wasn't sure.
Yep, I let the American people down, and I have to carry that burden with me for the rest of my life.
My political life is over.
I will never yet, and never again, have an opportunity to serve in any official position.
Maybe I can give a little advice from time to time.
And so I can only say that in answer to your question that while technically I did not commit a crime, an impeachable offense-- these are legalisms-- as far as the handling of this matter is concerned, it was so botched up; I made so many bad judgments.
The worst ones, mistakes of the heart rather than the head, as I pointed out.
But let me say, a man in that top job, he's got to have a heart, but his head must always rule his heart.  - President Richard M. Nixon

Sunday, November 10, 2013

EXPLANATION OF "RETIREMENT"

Just before I began writing this piece, I re-posted an entry from October of 2010 titled "Retirement".  The message of "Retirement" is one that takes us into the thinking of a person who feels they have lived their life to where it is supposed to end.  It takes us into the mind of a person who feels that there is nothing left for them to do in life and so life is without purpose and they retire from life.

The reason I posted "Retirement" again was to give me a point to start from in explaining to those of you who are interested who I see myself as being.  When I wrote "Retirement" I was not suicidal and had no plans in actually retiring from life myself.  The thought of being able to retire from life though visited my brain and my mind on almost a daily basis.  sometimes I am able to shake the feeling off while at other times that feeling of retiring from life sits and simmers in my mind changing form and direction and taking me away from what I would normally be thinking about.  There are times when I am watching a good baseball game or a historical documentary and suddenly I discover that I have missed the show and my mind had traveled to darker places than National Geographic could ever take it.  I miss out on a lot of life in this manner.  One of the reasons this blog exists  is to record events that I do remember once in a while because I know they won't be in my mind forever.  Another reason for writing here is to let people know me now and in the future after I am gone.

There are a few things I need to make clear before you read any further.  It is important to know that I do not expect anyone to have a clear understanding of what goes on in my mind.  I cannot understand what a couple of my friends have felt because they lost a child nor can I understand the pain they continue to carry inside of them years after losing that child.  I have never been in that situation and I hope I never am.  The pain must be unbearable to them.  I know the pain they feel is unbearable because they have told me.  they have tried to explain it to me, but there is absolutely no way I can begin to understand the pain they feel.  It is much the same with the feelings that go on in my mind.  I can try to explain it but will come up short and if you have not been where I am, there is no way you can understand what my mind feels like as it moves in and out of those dark places it wanders into almost on a daily basis.  I don't expect you to understand and it would be best if you didn't try.  you won't get there and if you did, you would wish you hadn't.

I am not looking for anything from anybody.  I am not looking for people to feel sorry for me or to pity me or to try to make changes in the way they relate to me.  What I am writing is just a part of me so that if I do appear strange to you or appear to be quiet and standoffish, you might take a second thought and not pass judgement on me too quickly.  I am not looking or asking for anything.  I am just putting down a record of who I am and how I feel as I work my way through life.

I think I must have been this way since I was born, but out of the natural feeling of surviving I ignored it and went on with life as I saw it around me.  I watched how people related to each other and I believe I tried to mimic that action.  I learned not to be the real me but rather put up a front that society would accept.  Walls went up around me and I only let people see the part of me that I thought they wanted to see.  I developed a fairly good wit and learned how to smile on the outside while on the inside I was feeling anything but the way people were seeing me.

There came a time several years ago when I was not able to hold it all in anymore.  Sitting at my desk eating lunch one day the main event happened.  I refer to it as the day my mind broke.  It was a major panic/anxiety attack that ripped my thinking apart from that day forward.  Never again would I feel like I really knew myself and I damn sure knew that nobody else knew me even if they thought they did since the day they met me or all the way back to 1956 when I entered this world.

From the day that my mind broke up to today  I became aware of the walls that I had built around me.  No one had been inside these walls my entire life.  There was a Bill that ventured outside the walls and the Bill that stayed hidden within the walls.  As each day goes by, I feel more uncomfortable every time I venture outside the walls.  I find myself trying to put on that facade that family and friends have come to know over the years with more difficulty as each day passes.  Perhaps it is because I am getting older and it is easier for me to tire of trying to keep that facade up.

Very few people recognize the fact that I am a fake when outside those tall dark moss covered walls.  I am aware that at times I feel myself slipping back behind the walls when out but quickly gather strength to put the fake Bill up again.  Nobody notices when I slip back inside.  It happens and I go back out again before they notice.  When I get home though, I am exhausted from being outside the walls and am grateful to get off by myself and crawl back into the darkness of the room that walls surround.

So what is it like inside the walls?  It is dark and it is lonely.  It is quiet and sometimes calm.  At the same time it can be a horrible scary place.  Thoughts of my past wash over me and remind me of all the mistakes I have made in life.  Mistakes in dealing with people.  Mistakes in acting proper in society.  Mistakes of losing my temper when I could not hold myself in check while outside the walls.  I had and still do have a terrible temper.  Sometimes when I lose track of keeping myself in check in public, it lashes out.  I have not only surprised but have also hurt a lot of people with my temper.  When I hurt someone when I lose my temper, there is no making it right.  There is no way to explain why I did whatever I did to hurt them.  After losing my temper and hurting myself during the day, I crawl back behind my walls at night and beat myself up for letting it happen.  I feel like I deserve to be hurt as payment for hurting them and I do my best to inflict pain on my mind within the walls that trap me.

Inside these walls my mind feels like it is under attack.  Thoughts that I do not want to have seem to always find their way to me.  Under what seems and feels like a constant hitting in my mind, I have found a few ways to try to control it.  Music is a huge tool that I use to quiet the noise in my head.  Music is magic almost.  Music can take some of my feelings and put a different spin on how I feel.  Some of the most depressing songs that I know are the songs that are able to bring quiet inside the walls.  I feel like these songs written by people such as John Lennon, Paul Simon, Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan fight back my own thoughts with their thoughts and things seem to balance out sometimes.

And so we come to "Retirement".  I am getting old.  I am getting tired.  I have been venturing outside my walls far too long putting that mask on so people will see the Bill they expect to see.  I focus on everything that is said so I don't get lost in what is going on in a situation with people where they might notice something is wrong.  I am just too tired at times.

There comes a time in life when it is time to lay down your tools, stop your labor and go into retirement.  That is what that piece is about.  Recognizing that the time has come and it is time to simply retire.  We retire when our labors are done.  We are retired when we have done what has been expected of us over the years and now it is done.  We retire when we finally finish the job that we have set out to do.

The man in "Retirement" has come to this realization.  He has done everything that he can do in life.  His life is no longer moving forward, but rather has leveled out.  He has nothing left to do in life and so he decides to retire.

As I sit inside my musky damp walls alone with my thoughts in the dark, my mind goes over my life.  It recalls to me what has been accomplished and what hasn't.  It tries to balance things that have been my life over the last 57 years in a meaningful way.  My mind has a dark spin to all of the events over all the years, especially the years since that day that my mind broke.

It tries to talk me into retirement.  Sometimes I feel like my dark mind is right in what it is telling me.  Sometimes it feels like it is time to retire even though deep down in my soul, I know it isn't.


Monday, October 28, 2013

LOU REED - ANOTHER FALLEN ICON

Lou Reed is dead.  As my age progresses it seems like a lot of the people I looked up to either in the arts, sports, or public figures and politicians  see to be passing on at an increasing rate.  Just earlier this year Ray Manzarek, the true genius behind Jim Morrison and the doors passed away.  Stan Musial passed away shortly before the start of the 2013 Baseball season.  Every time one of my old icons passes I think, there is no way but there is a way.  They are getting older too and time just keeps ticking away.  Every time one of these icons dies, I wonder who will be the next one or will it be me.

Lou Reed was special though.  Like many kids my age, my first introduction to Lou Reed was in 1972 when he released his classic "Walk on the Wild Side".  It was a song that was instantly likable.  It had a soft smooth rock beat to it that slowly built then faded away again.  The words were edgy and pushed the song right up to the limit of being to edgy for air play.  It would be the only time that Lou Reed saw the top 40 in his career.

As my peers and myself fell in love with that song, we began to wonder who this Lou Reed was and we searched out his older material.  I remember the first song I heard of Lou Reed's other than "Walk on the Wild Side" was a song called "I'm Waiting for My Man".  This song was more what, I would come to realize, the style of Lou Reed.  It was raw electric rock.  It had a heavy fast beat and was meant to be played a little on the high side of the volume knob.  The lyrics to it were very edgy as it told the story about a boy going into the black part of New York City and waiting for his drug dealer to show up and make a delivery.  This is what Lou Reed was about for the majority of his career.

Lou Reed was New York personified.  New York ran through his veins and everything that seemed tied to Reed and his music was also tied to New York.  He started out as a youngster writing pop songs for others to sing.  They were not very good pop songs and for the most part, none of us have probably heard them very often if at all.  There something magic about to happen to Lou Reed though as he worked his way through New York looking for a way to express himself.  When he turned that corner another icon would discover Reed.

That other icon was Andy Warhol.  Andy Warhol was just breaking out into the pop art world.  HE was becoming famous with his modern art that looked like no one else's.  Warhol was an original and he liked to keep himself in the company of other originals..Warhol had a loft in New York called "The Factory" and it was here where he did most of his painting and his film works.  He invited Reed up to the factory, made one of his famous screen tests of Reed, as he did with almost everyone who visited the loft, and began a friendship with Reed.  When Andy found out that Lou Reed and John Cale were musicians he encouraged them to make a house band for the factory.  The two men did get a band together and began writing songs that appealed to them, not the pop songs that Reed had been writing.

Warhol listened to a few songs and encouraged the band to get rougher, edgier, push the limits and that is just what they did.  Andy came to love the music and the band, which became known as the Velvet Underground was born.  Warhol continued to encourage the band and introduced them to a tall blonde model named Nico.  The sound was raw and edgy and sounded like no other band at the time.  It created it's own unique New York sound.  When the Velvet Underground finally recorded it's first album, Warhol did the artwork for the cover.  It was a simple white cover with a plastic banana that could be peeled off and placed anywhere on the album that the owner wanted it to be.  After the initial release of the album with the original Warhol artwork, the banana would simply be printed on the album cover.

Things started to spin around the band and the factory.  Drugs of all types were encouraged there and were available.  Nico eventually died as did many other factory residents, like Edie Sedgewick. Then came the crash that would change eveything.  Warhol died.  The factory stumbled a long a little while but without Warhol, there was no glue to keep things humming along the way it use to.  It wasn't long until Reed and Cale to the Velvet Underground out on it's own and recorded an album or two that did not get any notice at all.

It was then that Lou Reed and John Cale split and Lou Reed cut his first solo recording and "Walk on the Wild Side" was born.  People began buying the album and soon discovered that the Lou Reed sound was a mixture of different styles.  The west coast did not embrace Reed but the East coast, especially the New York/New Jersey areas fell in love with him.  He became a regular at New York night clubs preferring not to actually tour but to stay in New York and simply play his music, the music he loved so much.

That was how he started and how he became known and grew into a national Rock and Roll star.  Lou Reed did not care what people thought of his music.  He did not care what people thought of his voice or his edgy words that made the songs what they were.  Interviewers were likely to get lectured from Lou Reed for asking stupid questions.  His reviewers in the New York Papers did not phase him if they gave his recording a bad review.  Lou Reed was being Lou Reed and this was his music, take it or leave it.  He was one of those magic poets who had a talent for using words to explain feelings and to tell the right from wrong.  He was in the class of Bob Dylan and Neil Young and would create his own following that never left Lou Reed.  The following grew as Reed grew and as he began to age a whole new generation began discovering Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground.  His songs never lost their meaning or their effect on society as a whole.

Lou Reed became a model for a lot of singers that would come later.  His influence on the world of music and rock in general will forever hold it's place.  There will always be a little of Lou Reed when a new band comes out with that rough edgy sound.  You can hear a little of Lou Reed in the work of Bruce Springsteen for example.

Yesterday, Lou Reed did not pass away at age 71.  Lou Reed died and he happened to be 71.   He died.
Lou Reed and Nico 1965
Lou Reed and Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol Album Artwork for the Velvet Underground
Lou Reed at the beginning of his elder statesman years
Lou Reed, age 71 2013
There was a loud "THUMP" in the world of music when Reed took his last breath.  It was not an easy slip into death, it was the sound of someone who had died.

For all of us music lovers out here, who have listened to Lou Reed's music all these many years, there is a hole left in the music world that doesn't occur often.  Every artist that dies leaves a hole of some size or other but there are those whose deaths leave gigantic holes that will never be replaced or forgotten.  Lou Reed left one of those hole, along with John Lennon, Hank Williams, Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Jimi Hendrix among others.

The Lou Reed hole will never be filled. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

OCTOBER TURNS PINK

It seems these days that we have an "awareness" month for almost everything under the sun.  We have "Black History" month, which I expect to change to "African American" month very soon depending on what is the political correct way to describe American citizens of that race at any given time.  Along with that there is "Women's History" month as well as "Latino Heritage" month.  There are little known awareness weeks or months that nobody knows about except those effected by these certain causes.  Two weeks ago, I believe, was "Mental Disease Awareness" week.  A whole week that was suppose to be designed to bring awareness to the problems of the mentally ill.  It failed miserably again this year as it does every year and the result of it was that people still do not understand depression, anxiety, bi-polar or schizophrenia.  After "Mental Disease" awareness week, the vast majority of people who do not suffer from depression still think that depression is just a bad day that when you get home from work you feel blue.  They have no idea how debilitating a disease real chronic depression is.

There is also "Lupus Awareness" week which is just as successful in making people aware of what lupus is and does as "Mental Awareness" week is.  It seems that there is a never ending list of special days, weeks or months designed to make people aware of one cause or another.  There are a few of these causes that overshadow the causes that don't seem to be as important.  HIV/AIDS awareness month is such a one, but not even it is at the top of the list.  There is a "Cancer Awareness" month which draws a lot of publicity through commercials on television from the American Cancer Society.   Some of these causes that we are made aware of become so large that they border on changing from an awareness cause to a downright event that almost borders on the impact that holidays have on our lives.

Apparently, breast cancer is much to large of an issue to be satisfied being included with all the other cancers during Cancer Awareness month.  It is so important and such a crisis in this country that it needs to have it's own month.

Breast Cancer Awareness month has crossed that line.  It isn't just an attempt to make people aware of breast cancer and how it affects a lot of people in the world but it has turned into a great event that the supporters of the cause plan year around for in order to flood the country during the month of October and about half of November.  In short, I think it has become such a big event, it is out of control.

Before I go any further, I want to emphasize that I do know that breast cancer is a deadly disease that if diagnosed early enough can be treated fairly successfully.  I get it and I am painfully aware of breast cancer and the dangers of it.  I am aware of it because every single day during the month of October I get told about it plenty.

During the month of October it seems you can't go five minutes without being exposed to something pink to make you aware of breast cancer.  It has gotten to the point of being pointless.  It has become a show and everyone wants to be in the act.

A long time ago there was a NASCAR driver named Patty Moise.  Her Tampax sponsored car was the only sign of pink on the track until she hit the wall every week.  Now during the month of October there are a minimum of four or five cars with some kind of pink paint scheme on them weekly.  Watching all that pink go around in circles can make a person a little nauseous.

Every weekend during the month of October, National Football league players don pink shoes and towels and gloves as the go out to play.  Just recently, they considered making the flags that the officials throw when a foul occurs Pink, but decided against it because pink was rather hard to pick out, against the background of all the other pink on the field compared to the standard bright yellow flags that officials have used for decades.

A few years ago when my great nephew was but six years old he was playing in a football league for the first time.  It was flag football and the kids were looking forward to a time when they would be playing tackle football like their older brothers.  They were having a great and fun season, then October arrived.  The coach made these six year old kids wear pink sock for breast cancer awareness week,  Let's go over that again because to me, it is more than a little ridiculous.  SIX YEAR OLD FLAG FOOTBALL PLAYERS WERE FORCED TO WEAR PINK SOCKS DURING THE GAME.  As if that wasn't bad enough, it was in tghe great state of Alabama,  football cradle of the country.

I got a phone call last weekend and when I answered it, the female voice on the phone started rattling off statistics concerning breast cancer and if they sent me a card would I pledge a certain amount to breast cancer research or whatever.  In my mind I was thinking, "Do you have any statistics on Prostate cancer or how deadly it is and how common it is?"  I kept the thought to myself and didn't ask her, instead telling her that I give to certain charities and wasn't interested before I rudely hung up the phone.

Look, I GET it as a friend of mine is fond of saying.  I know breast cancer is a terrible disease that takes far too many lives every year.  I AM aware and don't need a whole month every to remind me of my awareness.

The big question that I am left with is this.  How much money is spent on making people "aware" of breast cancer for a whole month that could instead be spent finding a cure or educating kids in high school or any other more productive things than pink race cars, pink shoes and gloves and for goodness sake making a six year old wear pink socks while playing football.,

Sunday, October 6, 2013

FRIENDS COME AND GO

I have never been much of an out going person.  Before the depression and anxiety hit, I was what they call an introvert.  Personally, I think being an introvert made the depression easier to attack me and take hold in my life.

When you are an introvert, friends are hard to come by and even harder to hold on to.  I have had friends as I grew up in life, mostly through school or from the neighborhood.  When I was in elementary school, they seemed to keep a group of kids in the same class all the way through sixth grade.  I came to know these kids that went through school with me and am still in contact with a few of them.  Doug lived down the street from me the whole time I was growing up.  We were pretty close.  I made a few friends during high school, but none that I would say were very close.  Well, there was Larry and Ronnie.

Something happens after high school though.  We all go our own different directions and we lose track of people.  I already had started on my career in engineering before I graduated and so I had a job that I went to putting off college for awhile.  When I first graduated high school I didn't think I really needed college.  Instead I got married the fall after I graduated and began my career.  It was only when I matured that I saw that I needed to go to college and I did.  I went nights and weekends spending a lot of my spare time studying.  While I was studying I lost track of people and they moved on while I stayed.

The only friends you can't get rid of, or lose track of it seems is family, and that is kind of a forced friendship.  I don't think much of my family, immediate or extended really know me that well, or who I really am.  They try I think to know me but I guard myself against anybody knowing me, even family.

So the few close friends I have had have moved on.  Moved to other parts of the country.  Ronnie is in Houston now and we only communicate through an occasional email.  I don't hear from Larry at all.

I had one close friend at the office and we were friends for a long time.  I have lost track of him now.  He moved to Jackson Mississippi and then retired a few months ago.  Since his retirement, I haven't heard a peep from Dennis.  Close friend?  may be at one time but as of now he is gone and I have no way to get a hold of him.

I think I push these friends that have entered and left my life away from me.   I am not sure why I do that or even how it happens.  It just does.

So this is what life has come down to.  I have succeeded in putting up huge walls around me and the payoff is that I am supposed to live without a friend.  There is a Paul Simon song that I have posted before but I really relate to.  I feel it describes me SO very well.  It is almost like I have patterned my life after this song.

"I Am A Rock"

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries. 


Friday, October 4, 2013

SAVING MEMORIES

I am a pack rat.  A hoarder of sorts if you will.  There, I said it.  It is out.  Everyone knows that I have a problem throwing things away.  However, before you pass judgement on me for holding on to things from my past give me a chance to argue my case.  I save, or hoard for you purists, only special things.  They are things that revive my memory that would otherwise fade.

It started many years ago.  Actually I think it started with books.  I have the hardest time letting go of a book from my grasp.  I have no idea how many books I currently have in my house but there are a lot of them.  The first book I remember getting and reading was a Christmas present from my mom and dad.  It was a children's novel that told the story of a kid trying to get on a basketball team only he isn't quite good enough.  It tells of one summer when he worked non stop on basketball, practicing everyday targeting in on his jump shot until it was as smooth as glass.  When he returned to school the next fall, the coaches and the other players that had made fun of him for even trying out for the team the previous year were astounded at the change in his game.  He made the team, wins the big game with a last second shot ... la-de-da la-de-da .. typical feel good ending as too many books tag on at the end.

Another book I held onto for years was one that was kept in my grandmother's house.  It was an old copy of the original story of Pinocchio.  On the inside of that book was a little very basic rough writing that said simply "Danny Hill".  It was my uncles book when he was little.  I have always assumed it was a book from when he was sick and quarantined within the house.  That book traveled with me as I grew up and got married and moved to an apartment and onto the house.  That was one book I was able to let go of, though it wasn't easy.  My uncle was in town one time and I decided to return the book back to it's proper owner.  I gave it to my uncle and he was absolutely thrilled.  He gave it back to me eventually when he moved back to Kansas City and it was placed back into my collection.

Over the years the collection of books continued to grow.  Most of them were paperback and the majority of them dealt with history.  The collection also grew as Christmas brought books to me once in a while.  The collection has finally reached a point where it has to stop and I have stopped collecting books for the most part.  When my uncle died, he left me his entire book collection which has moved into my house.  No more room for books.  Maxed out.

After the book collection was well established, I began collecting music.  It started innocently enough with cheap 45 RPM records but soon I was shelling it out for full albums.  The record collection grew faster than the book collection had.  I was discovering new music by the week and was immersing myself in the sounds that would become the soundtrack of my life.  Every record that I bought marks a place in time for me and brings back a memory from my past that otherwise would be forgotten.  Led Zeppelin's fourth album brings the memory of a party at one of my girlfriend's friends house.  The Rare Earth In Concert Album brings back the memory of laying down a back patio at Scott's house.  Three Dog Night's Naturally album is marked by one song.  The album is full of great songs but this album contained Three Dog Night's biggest hit, "JOY TO THE WORLD".   That song for some reason pushed a button inside of my mothers head and would send her into spin that was reminiscent of the cartoon Tasmanian Devil going in any undefined direction, or so it seemed.  One thing was for sure and that was that the song did get a reaction from mom, and so I played it often if only for the show.  Later I learned how to play that song on the piano which gave me another avenue to get a reaction from her.  Like my books, I was able to let go of one album and like the book, it wasn't easy to get rid of but it was the right thing to do.  When my niece Kelly was a little girl she was up in my bedroom with me and The Best Of Bread was on my stereo.  She took the tone arm and laid down a scratch on the record that was visible and popped everytime I played the record after that.  I finally let go of that album and gave it to Kelly so the memory would stay with her from that day.  There is no way I am going to forget it after all these years now so it is the right thing that Kelly has it.

The album collection continued to grow and has now turned into a CD collection and moving into an MP3 collection.  Each one of them holds a memory from my life that lives inside the music.

The book and music collections are important and are a big part of my life, but they do not qualify as the most sacred of my collections.  In my basement tucked away against the wall close to the corner is a large cardboard box.  In this box is a collection of various items that truly do define the first thirty years of my life.  I haven't added anything to the box for a very long time as it is close to getting full, but what is in there is a treasure.

There are school projects in that box ranging all the way from probably third grade to graduation.  I can look at those projects and remember the time when it was done and the teacher's reaction to it as well as the letter grade that it received.  There are magazines from numerous historical times.  There is a little plastic record in that box that holds the recording of Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon.  There are newspapers dealing with President Nixon and Watergate on through to the day President Ford was sworn into office.  The newspaper that came out the day after the Kansas City Chiefs won the fourth Super Bowl resides in that box.
Every historical thing that happened while i was growing up went into that box.  The walks on the moon, the space shuttle, a collection of Big Eight Basketball history in the form of game programs from the holiday tourneys are all in there.  It has been with me for years and hasn't worn out.

I do not get into the box very often.  It sits in the basement waiting to be discovered by some generation in the future.  When I pass on, there will be some people going through my stuff.  I know this.  As they are going through my stuff, someone is going to stumble on this old box that seems mysterious.  There are no markings on the box to give a clue as to what is inside.  It is just a simple plain box sitting off by itself not bringing attention to itself.  As they are going through stuff and finding things that make them ask "WHY??" one of their eyes will fall on the unassuming box and their hands will reach out to it and pull it towards them.  Then slowly the flaps on top of the box will slowly open and then eyes will widen and a smile will come across a face as an expression of surprise emits from the mouth of the one lucky enough to have opened it.

They will all sit around on the floor together slowly and carefully pulling one thing after another out of the box and discuss it among themselves.  It will be a gold mine and that box will eventually go home with somebody and my memories, my most important memories will be passed on to a new generation and they will cherish the collection.

The collection will not only be a memory of history passed down, but a history of myself passed down as well.

Friday, September 27, 2013

NOISE

I face lots of situations that can make me uncomfortable and among these are noise.  When I say uncomfortable, I mean that it makes me want to get away from it.  It causes my breathing to increase and heart to palpitate and I feel like my body is shutting down.  Noise sometimes triggers a small panic attack that feels like I am surrounded and crowded and everything is closing in on me.  I don't like the feeling noise sometimes brings upon me.

Noise is everywhere though and it seems like there is no escape from it.  Noise has become a part of life for all of us. It wasn't always that way.  There were spaces of time when noise was replaced by sound.  Late at night for example, the busy noise of day to day life can be replaced by sound if you are in the right place and lucky enough.  Sounds of nature.  Crickets and frogs, a soft breeze rustling the trees, and water gently lapping at the shore.  Sound is much better than noise.  I suppose that it is still possible to somehow get away from noise and listen to sound but it is difficult.

There are lots of different kinds of noise.  A crowded noisy sports bar is one of the worst for me.  Televisions going, people talking over each other and as the talking continues to go it seems to get louder as some people need to make themselves heard.  Soon it doesn't even sound like talk but just a wall of noise in which as hard as people try, they can't hear one other.  Along with this is the constant sound of those cell phones ringing, playing songs at a volume that can be heard over the crowd instead of vibrating quietly to let the desired party know that someone is calling.

Cell phones.  While we are here let's talk about these wonders of technology.  We can not go anywhere without a cell phone.  Have to be in constant touch with everyone.  Heaven forbid if a cell phone rings and isn't answered.  Do we really need to be in constant contact all the time?  There was a time when you weren't home, people who wanted to just chat would have to wait until you did get home where you could talk to them without half the city hearing your private conversation.  Cell phones add another level to the noise of life.

Loud talkers.  Some people simply have a loud voice.  It isn't their fault, it is just the way they are.  Still, when I am trying to talk to someone or, more my situation is when I am trying to work, and a loud voice comes walking through the room I cringe.  Those loud vocal chords send shivers down my spine and interfere with my thinking or my own conversation.  Sometimes at the office, it gets so noisy while I am trying to work that I have to get up and go outside. I get irritable and frustrated because I have work to do that is always under a hard deadline.  When I get outside there is sure to be a train coming down the tracks blowing his horn to warn anyone up ahead that it is coming.

Note:  Train rails and wheels and whistles are NOT noise.  They make a beautiful sound to my mind and tend to relax me.  Trains are GOOD.

Cars and motorcycles are noisy and a lot of times for no reason other than to be noisy.  I like to listen to music in my car and there are times when a car with this obnoxious booming bass pulls up beside me and even though my windows are all up, they rattle and the booming bass drowns out the music in my own car.  As far as Motorcycles go, put a muffler on those things.  PLEASE.

Kid noise can be good or it can be bad.  Lots of kids giggling is not noise.  That is something like the music of life.  One kid crying is not bad, but when one kid cries, if there are other kids around it spreads like chickenpox.  When you get multiple kids putting on fits of anger or unhappiness, it becomes one of the most unbearable noises to me.  More than anything, this type of noise is likely to force me outside to get away from it.

Music is not noise unless it is not really music.  Real music is music that I like.  Anything else is just noise.  Rap/hip hop is noise.  John Lennon is music.

Finding a quiet place to eat is next to impossible anymore although there are places that do exist.

I don't know where I expected this to head, I just wrote the thoughts as they popped into my head.  I hate noise and each day technology brings more noise into our lives or rather we let technology do that.  Do we have to have cell phones with obnoxious ring tones?  Do we have to yell into a cell phone when we use them?  Does television have to be turned up so loud you can't read while someone else is watching one?

The worst kind of noise are big talkers.  Not loud talkers but big talkers.  People who talk with authority about things they know nothing about.  People who talk and talk and you know deep inside you can't believe a word they are saying.  It is noise for noise sake.  People who like to hear themselves opine on anything and everything.  People who will say anything to make themselves look good instead of being honest not only with the ones they are talking to, but honest with themselves.  To me that is the worst kind of noise and the major one that I want to just walk away from and I do walk away from these big talkers at times.  I like to trust people, but over the years I have become more jaded in trusting people who are simply making themselves look as good as they can, mainly for themselves I think.

There are a lot times when I can't wait to arrive at the point in life where it is totally quiet forever.  That sounds so inviting at times.  Just pure quiet and silence.  We do get to a point in life where silence takes over.  We all do.

Well that is enough noise from me tonight.  going to shutup and go listen to some music as I try to sleep.

My hope is for all of you to be able to experience more sound and less noise in life.  More sound and less noise might just make it easier for all of us to get along.

Monday, September 16, 2013

GETTO LIVING - BACK DOWN TO EARTH

I had written and posted an entry on this blog that was a letter to my former classmates concerning the attitude and the belief that the old neighborhood that they graduated from was a dangerous place to live.  If you recall, one of my classmates had described it as a "ghetto" and the purpose of the entry was to demonstrate that it isn't a ghetto as a matter of fact not even close to a ghetto.

After swapping a few e-mails with the classmate who described the neighborhood as a ghetto, we both came to agree that each of us was rather over the top in our words concerning the neighborhood.

My classmate pointed out to me, correctly, that I over reacted somewhat and took it a little more than personal when I saw my neighborhood being described as a ghetto.  Looking back on the events, I can see where I possibly did over react.  To start with I posted a reply in the thread that was more or less combative and rather terse followed by un-friending all of my classmates on Facebook.  I followed that up with my blog entry which I mailed to the describer of the neighborhood as a ghetto.

While I stand by the over view that I was trying to get across the writing was a little acidic. I used the word "ignorant" and "foolish" many times in describing my former classmates, but was really targeting my friend who described the neighborhood as being a ghetto.  There was a day or two where I feel that he was irritated with me and my writing as well as the attack that I had leveled at him with the writing.  At the same time I was irritated and frustrated that he seemed to refuse to back off of the idea that Ruskin was in truth a ghetto.  It was two days of not feeling good about the whole situation.

I have been friends with the original poster since we were in grade school together.  We had a lot of classes together through the years and we finished by graduating High School together.  It was many years of a friendship that was on the line and looked like it would end under very bad circumstances.  I didn't feel good about that and I don't think he did either.

Let me tell you about this friend of mine and how I saw him through the years.  As long as I can remember he was a sort of leader in the class in his own quiet way.  He was never conceited or self promoting even though he had plenty of reasons that could have led him to be that way.  He always was and still is very intelligent.  He is thoughtful and a good thinker, who thinks things out before speaking.  He was and is an extremely charismatic personality, something that I have always envied.  He is well know in the class even after thirty nine years since graduation.  He is the kind of person that reaches out to others, not seeing himself as better than anyone else.  One thing that I really did envy about him was his talent as an artist.  I have mentioned numerous times how badly I wanted to be able to draw and be a natural artist but I never had that talent.  This was the thing that guided me toward engineering as a career because as an draftsman or engineer, I could draw and make the drawings would be nice and have an artistic look to them.  My friend was a true artist.  He could draw anything.

Over the weekend as we swapped a few emails between us, I think we both came to a couple of realizations.  One of the things was that my classmate was holding some well deserved bitterness over the last thirty years towards my neighborhood and the neighborhood that he grew up in.  I have said and continue to do so, that the Ruskin area did go through a rough period of about ten years from the mid eighties to mid nineties.  Lots of transient people living there was a main force in the communities struggles.  During this time he had run into some situations where his family was trying to deal with the community and things did not work out the way it should have.  During that period of time, in his eyes, Ruskin was not the place it was as he was growing up.  Add to that the fact that his boyhood home and suffered from a major fire and is literally destroyed and his bitterness grew somewhat.

From my point of view, I constantly read and hear things from former residents who are constantly putting down Ruskin as crime ridden and dangerous.  Usually I read these comments and  while they irritate me I am able to shrug it off.  This post last week was different though.  The post took the criticism of Ruskin to a totally new level.  When the word ghetto was used to describe where I live, I felt like it crossed a line.  I felt like it went too far.  Ruskin is growing and changing.  Houses are being kept up and lawns are manicured.  It is far from being a dangerous place to live.  I spent some time driving around the neighborhood this past weekend and affirmed my thinking that Ruskin has is a clean community oriented neighborhood.  I did not see any graffiti at all as I drove around and only one house that was boarded up.  I also went by my friends boyhood home that had suffered from a fire.  It was a bad fire that hit his house.  It is burned bad enough that the city put a sign on the front door specifying that it was dangerous to enter.  I felt like when that house burned, my friend had lost a part of his life and that was indeed a sad situation.

After swapping a few emails we came to a conclusion where each of us went wrong.  He said that he first off he wasn't aware that Ruskin was not what it was thirty years ago but he did know that it was not a ghetto.  He has been through ghettos in other cities and that Ruskin did not come close to being that kind of an area.  He explained to me that he thought I had over reacted with my writing and had taken it too personally.  He is right that I did over react and all my writing on his post was knee jerk at it's worst.  I should have taken time to calm down and write a better explanation of how the area really was now without the anger and irritation that filled what I did end up writing.  I still am proud of the area though and whenever someone goes over negative talking about the area, I do take it personal because it is where I live.  I know what Ruskin is like because I am there day in and day out and I can understand my initial reaction to seeing Ruskin described as a ghetto brought about the anger and frustration that drove my writing, as knee jerk as it was.

The good thing is that we were able to work it out as adults and as friends.  I think we both have a new insight into the the thinking of the other that led to the responses that each of us had toward the others writing and that is a good thing.

So in ending this writing and putting the issue to rest, I want to thank my friend for being patient and for listening and for sharing with me his experiences so that each of us could get past this unfortunate situation.

I feel much better now and hope he does as well.