I Wonder

 

A young, brown-skinned man, his wife and their newborn baby, fled their native country after learning it wasn’t safe for them to stay. They believed their sweet baby’s very life was in grave danger.

So, they sought asylum in a neighboring country.

Now, the people in this neighboring country had no idea who this man and woman were that sought entry.

Were they terrorists, or members of some bloodthirsty gang, intent on murdering everyone in their way?

Were they trying to smuggle something from where they had come?

Were they trying to enter the country illegally? Would they then steal jobs from some other, more deserving people, or expect to get a free ride in their new “home”, not paying their taxes or medical costs?

What possible consequences would there be for allowing this family asylum in their country?

Perhaps this can provide a clue:

The parents’ names were Joseph and Mary, and the baby’s name was Jesus.

You can read their story in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of Matthew, in the New Testament.

Egypt allowed them in. Would we have just closed our border and tear gassed them?

Remember, they were foreigners, they weren’t white, and nobody knew them.

 

Peace on Earth.

 

 

The Fab Four

 

Okay, show of hands: How many of you became an uncle or aunt before your eighth birthday?

My hand is up.

By virtue of my two brothers being so much older than me (so much older!), my first of three adorable nieces showed up in January of 1967. Yeah, I know, I’m old, too. The other girls showed up in 1970; one in March, the other in July. Last to arrive was the nephew, just before Christmas, 1971.

(Don’t tell any of the girls this, but by the time that boy came along, I was elated!)

I was taken with all of them from the start.

I’m not sharing any pictures here but, trust me, they all were cute.

And, I had fun with them. I guess it was good that I was close to their age, so I could match them in energy. Most of the time. We did plenty of running around, indoors and out. And, I always loved making them laugh, usually by being silly some way or other.

Of course, to hear them tell it, I did cruel and terrible things to them when they were little.

Believe all of it. I could be kind of a devil sometimes. Couldn’t help it. 😈

But, they were all sweet kids, and I enjoyed our time together. Naturally, it’s just in retrospect that I understand exactly how much they meant to me, then.

They still mean a lot to me, of course. They’re all adults now with their own families and obligations, so I almost never see them anymore, but I think of them, often.

And, I love them all very much.

You hear that, guys? Your old uncle loves you, like he always has.

I promise, I’ll try to do better at staying in touch, but always remember how special the four of you are to me. And always will be.

 

Oh, and that also goes for the two nieces and nephew on my wife’s side. Y’all are pretty darn special, too. I don’t know why the nephew’s always last to arrive, though; what is up with that?

Say, Your Ties Are Loose

 

But, last night, I thought, what is a family, anyway? They’re just people who make you feel less alone, and really loved.

Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”

 

So, when was the last time you spoke with certain members of your family? The ones you’ve been meaning to contact, but time just got away from you?

Yeah, it’s been awhile for me, too.

I have tried, in the past, to reconnect with some family members I haven’t spoken to or heard from in years, with very little success. It seems, at times, like I’m the only one trying to reach out. Nobody wants to reach me.

That’s how it feels, anyway.

Now, please understand me. I don’t blame anyone for this condition. I fully realize, we all have our own lives to lead, with our own schedules and activities and appointments and such. We’re all busy; I get it. And that’s good. We shouldn’t just be sitting around, watching weeds grow.

And I’m sure, in some cases, we simply don’t know how to get ahold of each other, or we surely would.

Besides, trust me, I let the time get away from me, as well.

But…I don’t know, I just wish we were all closer to each other. Maybe with age, there comes an undercurrent of urgency, a keener awareness of the sands of time running out, and a greater need to connect.

Plus, doggone it, I miss these folks. They’re blood, they’re family. I’m tied to them. Part of all of them is in me, and vice versa.

And, I’d prefer to not wait until someone’s funeral to catch up with them. That’s how it usually works, sadly.

Is it like this with your family?

If it isn’t, if you’re all in close contact with each other and the ties are strong, bless you; I admire you. (And envy you, a little)

If it is, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself, as I am, “What am I doing to get us closer together? Do I need to just quit waiting for someone else to take the lead? What if I keep waiting until it’s too late?”

That would be a crying shame. Literally.

So, I’m just going to have to work harder at this. I can’t help but think it’ll be worth it. Whether they want to hear from me or not, if I can help it, they’re going to. And hopefully, I’ll hear back from them.

 

One other thing: Even when we don’t correspond as often as we probably should, I still know I’m extraordinarily lucky to be part of a family that I love, and that loves me. If you’re alone, and have no family, or you have the kind you’d just as soon never hear from, my heart goes out to you. I can’t even begin to imagine how that must feel. I can only hope that you can find a family somewhere, a group of loving, caring people you can be a part of.

The essence of why we’re all here, I believe, is to give and receive love. Don’t cheat yourself out of it.

 

It’s Here!

MEEEEEERRRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!

Whatever holiday you celebrate, wherever you are, I wish you the best one ever!!

Thank all of you so much for looking in on my blog this year. I hope you liked what you read. And even if you didn’t, thanks for visiting, anyway.

All best wishes for the year ahead. Blessings on all of you.

Later, y’all.

No Place Like It

 

Home.

Even the word sounds warm and cozy to me.

It’s the place I arrive at the end of the day, worn and frazzled from that cold, cruel world out there, to find refuge and safety and comfort. A place to rest, with a roof over my head, and walls all around to shield me from danger. Where my heart can find peace, and my mind blessed clarity.

My safe haven. Where I belong.

And, if that wasn’t enough, I find someone there who I love, and who loves me, who shares this home with me, this life with me. In my case, it’s a loving, devoted wife, and two precious kitty cats.

And home means even more to me.

This holiday season, when home plays such a central role, tell me: What does it mean to you?

Can’t wait to hear from you.

 

Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home

”Hungry Heart”, Bruce Springsteen

A Ray of Light, Part 4 (Yes, Cain, You Are)

 

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?

Genesis 4:9

 

For Cole

 

As I alluded to before, suicide has made its presence felt in my family, a few times.

One family member completed it.

Another attempted it. More than once.

Another decided, at the last second, to choose life. (Fortunately)

And I came really close once to attempting it. And have thought about it many times since.

So, that’s why this issue is rather close to my heart. When I discovered that this was National Suicide Prevention Month, I knew I needed to do what I could to raise awareness, and to erase some of the stigma attached to suicide. Most of us aren’t comfortable talking about it, so we don’t. Unfortunately, we may be paying much too high a price for our silence; too many precious lives lost.

Well, we need to start talking about it, folks. Especially, parents, to your kids. Suicide is occurring more and more among teenagers, as well as elementary school kids, some as young as five.

Think about that for a minute. Five. How heartbreaking is that?

The Bible verse I started with features Cain lying about Abel (who he had just murdered), then passing off any responsibility for him. The truth is, we are all our brothers’, and sisters’, keepers; one of the reasons we’re here is to look out for each other, showing care and compassion.

And that includes a health care system in this country that provides adequate care and support to anyone with a mental illness. Because, while most mentally ill people do not kill themselves, the majority of suicides are completed by people with some mental illness.

There are many homeless people who have a mental illness, but can’t get access to the treatment they need. There are many veterans who, because of snags in the system, are not getting the treatment they need, which is criminal. Who will fight for the ones who willingly fought for us?

Fortunately, there are several mental health advocates in Congress, including Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania, John Cornyn and Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who deserve our thanks for their efforts to effect positive change in mental health care in America.

I know, a lot of people won’t seek help for mental illness, because it’s so stigmatized that they won’t admit they might even have one. And that needs to stop.

If you have a mental illness, you’re not crazy, you’re not a nut job, you’re not cuckoo, or psycho, or looney, or any of the other derogatory terms commonly used.

You’re simply ill, and you need help. Please, don’t be ashamed to ask for it.

 

If you’re thinking about killing yourself, please read this first:

We may not know each other, but I love you. I care about you. I’m sorry you feel like that. I’ve felt like that. And I want you to know, you deserve to be alive.

You absolutely deserve it.

It’s something I have to remind myself of, often. My depression puts me through round after round, fighting the feeling of complete worthlessness, the feeling that all I ever do is screw up, so maybe, I should just put a stop to it, for good.

But no; I deserve to live. And so do you.

I know, sometimes, life just SUCKS. It’s confusing, frustrating, unfair, tragic and cruel, offering no explanation whatsoever as to why.

But, fortunately for us all, it’s also full of beauty. And wonder. And laughter. And love.

I promise you, it’s there.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, at 1-800-273-8255, if you need to talk to someone. Please.

And let me recommend one more amazing website to you: http://livethroughthis.org/

Here, you’ll find stories from 95 different people about attempting suicide – and surviving. People who were molested. People who were bullied. People who were body shamed. People with depression. People with addiction.

I’m willing to bet, one of their stories matches up pretty closely with yours. Because, you’re probably sitting there thinking that nobody has ever been through what you’re going through, but I’m pretty sure you’re wrong about that.

So, let’s live, okay? Let’s live, and see what happens.

I wish you healing, peace, love and life.

The Speed of Light

 

Summer’s going fast
Nights growing colder
Children growing up
Old friends growing older
Freeze this moment
A little bit longer
Make each sensation
A little bit stronger

“Time Stand Still”, Rush

Songwriters
ALEX ZIVOJINOVICH, GARY LEE WEINRIB, NEIL ELWOOD PEART

Published By
Lyrics © OLE MEDIA MANAGEMENT

 

One of my favorite bloggers recently wrote about the unrelenting forward movement of time. He had run into an old acquaintance, who told him about her now fully grown children. This froze him in his tracks, as he remembered them as little tykes; how did they turn into adults so suddenly?

Well, we all know how, don’t we?

There’s that pesky thing known as time, which just keeps right on going, totally impervious to circumstance or human endeavor. In a world of constant change and chaos, there is one thing you can depend on: that clock is just gonna keep ticking, one precious second at a time, unstoppable, irreversible, unmerciful.

We’d all like to have some of it back, wouldn’t we? We can all add up the time we’ve wasted, and like to think, if we could get that time back, we would spend it more productively. We would be with our families more, we would be better friends, we would do more to help others in need, we would take in more of the beautiful nature that surrounds us.

But, as you and I both know, we ain’t ever getting it back. It’s gone. Forever.

 

The good news is, we haven’t run out of it, yet.

We still have time to do those things, the things that add meaning to our lives, and the lives of others. We still have the chance to tell people in our family we love them. We can still reconnect with friends we haven’t spoken to in a while, and be shocked by how old their kids are now.

Now, I know, there are many things in our lives that keep us busy, so we feel we hardly have any time even for ourselves. We all have different circumstances that put huge constraints on our available time; I get it.

But, I also know what a shame it would be to lose contact with people to whom we’re connected by blood (family) or shared experience (friends).

Because, unfortunately, that clock will run out on all of us, and any chance we may have had to use our time wisely is over. Just like that.

There are people in your life who mean something to you. When did you last get in touch with them?

Time’s a-wastin’.

Looking With a Different Eye

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Okay, kids, here’s a fun little experiment for you to do:

Look at some object in the distance. Focus on it. Then, close one eye, hold up your thumb and position it so that it blocks your view of that object.

Got it? Great! Now, without moving the thumb, close that eye and open the other one.

Holy smokes! What just happened??

The object didn’t move, the thumb didn’t move, everything stayed the same. Only now, that object is right out there in plain view. Cool!

Yeah, I know, it’s nothing you didn’t already know, what else ya got, this was lame, yada, yada, yada…

But, really, how much of your time did that just take up, a few seconds?

And it’s a good reminder of how different the same picture can appear when viewed from a different eye.

 

One of the toughest things in the world to change is…an attitude. Especially the longer you cling to it, and the more comfortable you get with it. To change the way you look at something is risky, but oftentimes necessary.

One of the symptoms of depression, which I’ve had for years, is the tendency to get easily irritated by everyone and everything. All the time. Little things can just drive you nuts.

I’m around certain people, on a regular basis, who say things and do things that aggravate me to no end. Sometimes, I dread even being around them, for that very reason; I know I’m gonna get annoyed. 😠

Which is sad, considering they’re family.

I realize, I need to look at them with a different eye. They simply are what they are. The picture will not change; my view has to. Instead of resenting their idiosyncrasies, I need to accept them, to embrace them. I need to remember, these are people I love, that I’m glad I have them in my life, that it’s important to cherish the time we spend together, as long as we have it.

Besides, I know I’m definitely no day at the beach, either.

So, to whom it may concern:

Just a reminder, I love you all dearly. I’m glad you’re here. I will work on getting annoyed by you less and appreciating you more, because you are family, and family is priceless.

I’ll try to be less of a pain, too. Thanks for tolerating me, in the meantime.

Now, to the rest of you:

If you find yourself around some family members over the holidays who stir up the same emotions, try your best at looking through a different eye at them. I know, it’ll be tough. Remember, they didn’t get to pick you, either. Family is, or at least, should be, a refuge in the turbulent storms of life. We need each other, now more than ever.

Then maybe, we can summon up the courage to train that different eye on the rest of the world, and see something we never did before.

Who knows what can happen, then?

Oh, yeah…you can put your thumb down, now. 😏

 

Pass the Antacids

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Thanksgiving Day is approaching, America. 🦃  The time of year to reflect on things and people in your life to be thankful for; chief among them, elastic waistbands.

Because, no doubt, you’re gonna be shoveling in a lot of tasty food. If your family is like mine, they make absolutely certain there is no possibility whatsoever of running out of vittles. Even if a hundred guests come over.

I’m reasonably sure Thanksgiving is a holiday that was created by the makers of Rolaids.

Anyways, as you gather this year with the ones you love, (or the ones you don’t, but were forced to be with, anyway) here are a few things on which to ponder:

Exactly who and what am I thankful for?

If they’re people, do I ever tell them I’m thankful for them?

Am I thankful all the time, or just one day a year?

Do I ever give anyone reason to be thankful for me?

Am I sure I’ve got no room for one more slice of pie?

Where has Dak Prescott been all my life? (Go, Cowboys!!)

Seriously, though, I hope all of you get to spend some quality time with people who are special to you, and truly enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company. (Might want to avoid the political discussions this year, though. 😬) If you’re driving somewhere, be careful on the road. If you’re flying somewhere, I sincerely hope you have no baggage to claim. If everybody’s coming to your place, stock up on Charmin.

 

One thing you should NOT be thankful for: retail stores that start their Black Friday on Thanksgiving Day.

All those workers deserve a day home with their families, and to deny them that is to demonstrate just how greedy and heartless these retailers are. I’m not giving any of them my business on Thursday, and I hope you don’t, either.

In fact, why don’t we just eliminate Black Friday, altogether? I mean, nearly every one of them begins with some poor shopper getting trampled to death by a mob in front of a store when it opens its doors. It’s just insane. Honestly, stores, if you’re that dependent on one really big sales day, your prices are obviously too freakin’ high the rest of the year.

Put that on your register and scan it!

 

Well, enough about that, friends. I’d like to wish y’all a Happy (urp) Thanksgiving. 🙂

Don’t let the grandkids club each other with the turkey legs.🍗

And if liquor is part of your celebration, please designate a driver so everyone stays safe.

Bless you all. I’m putting on my stretch pants.

 

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Those Words

Hot summer evening in Texas.

I’m about nine years old, I think, outside in the front yard with Mom and Dad. They’re probably finishing up yard work, and I’m just playing, like nine-year-old boys do on summer evenings.

Dad loved working in the yard. Loved it. He took great pride in having a terrific-looking landscape, and he busted his butt for hours to achieve that goal.

This great love for yard work was a gene that definitely did not duplicate to any of his sons, I assure you. Just sayin’.

Anyway, our dog, a little toy fox terrier, is out there with us. Not a good thing; he’s supposed to be in the backyard with the gate shut, or else, he’s got the green light to take off down the street, with me in hot pursuit. So far, fortunately, he’s chosen to just stay close to us in the yard, so Dad tells me to grab him (the dog, not Dad) and return him to the backyard and close the gate. (which, by the way, yours truly probably left open, causing this situation in the first place. oh, well…)

One problem: Just as Dad’s telling me this, the dog decides he has to pee.

So I stand there and wait for him to finish. Rude to interrupt him, don’t you know; I certainly wouldn’t want anybody grabbing me when I’m right in the middle of taking a leak. Besides, some of it may get on me. Ewww.

Well, you know what comes next. Soon as he finishes, he takes off running, and my chance to just grab him is lost. Great. Now I gotta chase him again.

That’s when I hear Those Words. The words that have stayed with me from that day to this:

You idiot!!

Why are you such an idiot??

 

Ah, fathers and sons. A historically complicated relationship.

My father was a good man. He truly was.

He worked hard all his life to provide for his family. He was determined his sons would all get a college education, something he never got; he knew a degree would open a lot more doors of opportunity for us. He had a big heart for people (and animals), and would help anyone in need as much as he could. His faith was a huge part of his life; he loved God and did his best to be a loyal follower.

He also had a wonderful, wicked sense of humor, always making wisecracks and playing pranks. He couldn’t help being the naughty boy. He was the court jester, providing those around him with a good laugh.

He took me to ball games. He took me fishing and swimming at the lake. He played catch with me. He played board games with me. He patiently listened as I recited TV commercials and comedy routines I had memorized. And he laughed at the punchlines.

He told me he loved me. Often.

I feel genuinely sorry for all the people who had fathers who beat them, or molested them, or abandoned them, or neglected them, or always came home drunk, or in any other way put their families through complete hell. I know I’m one of the fortunate ones; I was raised in a stable, loving family environment, for which I’m so glad. And my father was one of the main reasons for that.

I loved him. I looked up to him. I wanted to be just like him. He was perfect in my eyes. So, what happens when such a person looks you in the eye and calls you an idiot?

When you’re nine years old, it totally crushes you.

I went into the house and fell on my bed, crying. I was certain I had just failed him beyond measure. I hated myself for being such an idiot.

Unfortunately, as I grew, it was hard to shake that feeling. See, Dad had this…tone sometimes when he talked to you. It was very condescending. You could ask him a question, and he would answer in a way that made you sorry you asked. You would end up believing he thought you really are an idiot, whether he actually said it or not.

So I resolutely held on to the belief that he thought his youngest son was the dummy of the family.

And no amount of “I love you”‘s and “I’m proud of you”‘s could totally wipe that away. I still could seldom times look at him without imagining him looking back at me and wondering how he could have been stuck with such a stupid son.

If he ever told me he thought I was smart, I don’t remember. Selective memory, I guess; it wouldn’t have fit my perception of what he actually thought of me.

And, see, I know he didn’t mean what he said that day; he was angry, and don’t we all know, we say things in anger we never really meant to say.

But that doesn’t make it hurt any less to hear.

Now, please understand, this isn’t a Dad-bashing. I really loved the man, and am forever grateful to him for all he did for me. I don’t hate him. I don’t resent him. I’m not blaming any failures or missteps in my life on him; I own all that. I’m not wallowing in self-pity over a “troubled childhood”.

I just wish he’d never said Those Words. Or, at least, had apologized for saying them.

So this is for all you dads out there, about to enjoy Your Day. Even though I’m not a father myself, I had one once, and I’m telling you…

Please, please choose your words carefully when you talk to your children, even in anger. Especially, in anger. If you say something you don’t mean, apologize, and reassure your child you love him or her. Those Words have a much greater impact on a child than you can ever imagine.

Oh, and all you sons (and daughters) out there: show some love to your dad this weekend, and the rest of the time, too.

Happy Fathers’ Day, Dad. Sixteen years after your passing, I still miss you.

And I still love you. Like always.