Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life and Death--A Week of Rememberance

Last week was one of those really weird weeks--where some really sobering things happened that remind me of the transient nature of our life on this planet.

To start off, the husband of a coworker died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack over the weekend. They had just (within the past two weeks) taken possession of the dream house they had built! He officially died on Father's Day. His memorial service was attended by hundreds of stunned mourners who celebrated a full, yet shortened life. His youngest had just graduated from college and there was so much of life ahead of him as he and his wife headed into their new home to start another chapter of life--he was clearly a hero to his family and everyone who attended the memorial service.

That was followed by the father of one of our good friends with whom we spend many
Friday nights drinking wine dying somewhat unexpectedly as well--on Father's Day. His funeral was sparsely attended this man was a hero, too--decorated with two Bronze Stars during World War II and who had fought gallantly in the Battle of the Bulge. He was laid to rest with military honors and a mournful bugle playing Taps.

Two deaths--two memorial services (both on Saturday and scheduled far enough apart so I could attend both). And of course the shock and sadness at the suddenness. Two heroes in very different periods of their lives.

Wow--it was sobering.

We started a series on the Psalms at church--and the Psalm for this week was Psalm 51--which is really pretty applicable to this weeks activity. The first 11 verses speak to me.

51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your loyal love!
Because of your great compassion, wipe away my rebellious acts!
51:2 Wash away my wrongdoing!
Cleanse me of my sin!
51:3 For I am aware of my rebellious acts;
I am forever conscious of my sin.
51:4 Against you – you above all – I have sinned;
I have done what is evil in your sight.
So you are just when you confront me;
you are right when you condemn me.
51:5 Look, I was guilty of sin from birth,
a sinner the moment my mother conceived me.
51:6 Look, you desire integrity in the inner man;
you want me to possess wisdom.
51:7 Sprinkle me with water and I will be pure;
wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
51:8 Grant me the ultimate joy of being forgiven!
May the bones you crushed rejoice!
51:9 Hide your face from my sins!
Wipe away all my guilt!
51:10 Create for me a pure heart, O God!
Renew a resolute spirit within me!
51:11 Do not reject me!
Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!

Create in me a pure heart, O God
Renew a right spirit with in me
Cast me not away from your presence
And take not your Holy Spirit from me
A prayer that I have learned many years ago comes from this Psalm and it really hits home during a time like this.
Don't let the sun set without telling you loved ones that you love them. And say it out loud: "I love you!" When your candle is extinguished at the end of life on this earth, it will mean so much more to those who are left behind. It is something to hold onto!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Musings - June 29, 2009

1. Another week has whisked away into the places where we can never change it--I wonder what was so important about last week?

2. Not a recommended way to end a week: 1 viewing on Friday and 2 funerals on Saturday with just enough time in between to get from one to the other.

3. The pool is relaxing.

4. I love baseball, summer, and swimming

5. We all need to pause for a while and reevaluate where we're headed every so often.

6. Sunday afternoons are best reserved for family--I know why God rested on the seventh day.

7. Try not to be so concerned about where you are headed that you forget to enjoy where you are.

8. There are a lot of half truths out there--be sure to verify what people tell you before acting.

9. Despite my advice about not thinking too much about what's coming at the expense of what is happening now--I am real excited about my upcoming Florida vacation.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Musings - June 22, 2009

1. Rain is depressing when you have so many outdoor things to do and enjoy.

2. It is summer! Don't spend so much time wishing you were on vacation that you forget to enjoy each day. Labor Day will be here way too soon and I don't want to look back on the summer and say--where did it all go?

3. Sodas for the weekend: $20.
Heating the pool so we can be in it and not freeze: $600 (so far)
Having Ethan jump off the diving board into my arms for hours at a time: Priceless

4. Enjoy life while you can--it can be gone quickly.

5. Father's Day--family and fun. Sitting with everyone assembled in a local restaurant is a great way to celebrate the day. Thanks all.

6. Having my dog sleep at my feet reminds me how much I have missed having a dog. There is something really cool about being accepted as a member of the pack.

7. Seeing the first firefly of the year on the last night of springtime brings back memories of chasing them outside when I was a kid.

8. How crazy is it that one of the things I love most is to jump off a small boat in the middle of the ocean and then go below the surface. And now I have a camera to show everyone what I saw down there.

9. What if the burgers and fries weren't? But they were really cookies in disguise. How fun would that be? Ask Nicole.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tight Money and the 4th of July

One of the headlines in the Washington Post this morning was about towns canceling their annual fireworks celebrations due to lack of funding.

I remember, not too many years ago, when we were living north of Pittsburgh and were driving home along the Ohio River on the 4th after going to a local fireworks display. We actually stopped along side the river to watch the numerous fireworks displays which could be seen from our vantage point up and down the river. It was a beautiful sight and reminded us of our freedom and the way we Americans pride ourselves in celebrating our nation's birth.

What a sad point we have gotten to in the intervening years.

Is it apathy? Or is the mood in our country so grim that we dare not celebrate.

I love fireworks and the colors and the sounds they make.

We must not lose this piece of our heritage--it is one of those things that binds us together as Americans--that magical, hot summer day in July of 1776 when our founding fathers said no to taxes and repression.

It's almost like they said: "Bring it on!"

No matter how bad the economy gets--we must not let that spirit if independence fade away. It is what sets us, as Americans, apart form the rest of the world. It is one of the few unifying celebrations we have left in this world of political correctness.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pens WIN the Stanley Cup

Just to remember the feeling of cheering for an underdog champion--here are some quotes from the news:

As the final six seconds of game seven tick away and a desperate Red Wings team makes their final assault on tying the game:

• Jim Hughson, "Hockey Night in Canada": "Jordan Staal, Henrik Zetterberg again. Scramble, draw comes to the point. Rafalski shoots ... knocked down in a mad scramble! Lidstrom shoots and a tremendous save by Fleury! They've done it! The Penguins have done it! Sidney Crosby and the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup!"

• Doc Emrick, NBC: "Off the tie-up, it comes back to the point. Rafalski the shot ... knocked down in front! Scramble ... Lidstrom the shot and the save by Fleury! The horn sounds and the Penguins have won the Stanley Cup!"

And the comments about the game:

The torch has been passed. From Mario Lemieux, the heart and soul of this franchise, to a new generation of wondrous talent. Let the dynasty talk begin. And, yes, a dynasty is in the offing.
Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"But the core of their teams is remarkably intact and if you believe strength down the middle is a key to winning championships, both look set for years to come.
Ken Campbell, The Hockey News

On Monday afternoon:

Tens of thousands of Pittsburgh Penguins fans are lining downtown streets as the team and the cup make their way through the city in a victory parade. Team owner Mario Lemieux helped lead off the parade in a white convertible and players are following in trucks and convertibles waving to the cheering crowds.

People are standing 20-deep on some streets and throwing black and gold confetti from multi-level parking garages. Many are wearing team jerseys and holding homemade aluminum foil replicas of the prized cup.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Musings - June 15, 2009

1. Warm summery days, lounging in the pool, getting some sun, catching Ethan as he leaps off the diving board with reckless abandon are things to be remembered.

2. I love the heavy wet smell of the earth after a summer rain when the sun has increased the humidity level to about 100 percent.

3. The day after my team wins a championship is a real downer--because it means the season is over. Go Pens!

4. If find the difference between Pro Hockey and Basketball to be obvious during the fan celebrations after Championships are won. Riots after Basketball and cheering and parades after Hockey. I wonder if the players contribute to the thuggish nature of basketball even though it is in hockey where actually has fights break out between the players during the games?

5. Seems as if the President of Iran, Ahmadinejad, went to the Chicago school of winning elections. Keep the polls open until all of the dead people get a chance to vote.

6. To all of us who are wondering how the government is going to pay for all the bail outs--look no further than your pocketbook. Can you spell T-A-X?

7. How will a tax on health benefits work? If I'm unhealthy--do I escape the tax? But if we must all have health benefits--and I don't, I must get a government sponsored plan--so they can tax me? On my benefits that I didn't have? What's wrong with this picture?

8. Dogs are funny. They act just a badly as we let them or just as good as we expect. Hmmm--so dogs are kids?

9. I loved the opening line in the Washington Post on Saturday morning about the Penguins winning the Stanley Cup over the Red wings which read something like: the expected coronation turned into a passing of the torch.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Can Penguins Fly?

Hockey--Penguins--Red Wings

I must confess--I have not been this excited about a championship game since a very long time. Maybe it was when Maryland and then Syracuse won National championships in Basketball.
But I am excited now.
Game Seven of the Stanley Cup finals. 60 minutes from the Cup.
A young, hungry team versus an older experienced hockey machine and the youngsters need to win this on one the road.
It has the makings of a movie on the order of "Slap Shot" --- just kidding.
The names are beginning to become household words--"Sid the Kid", Geno, the Flower.
I write this before the game--just to document the level of excitement. I even swapped out my O's tickets for tonight to watch the game.
And yes--when the Pens play hockey, penguins do fly!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Racquetball and Life: Success and Failure

I love to play racquetball.

And I can usually hold my own on the court. But Tuesday night was something to remember. A racquetball catastrophe. A train wreck, so to speak.

I was the number 1 seed in the league playoffs facing the number 4 seed in the semi-finals. It was an 8:30 PM game--and of course I get up about 5AM--so I'm fried anyway.

I warmed up and didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary--until my opponent (Kirk) served the first ball of the game. Yeah--5 points later I was able to break his serve and get my first serve. Seems my game was at home watching the Penguins in the Stanley Cup and not with me on the court. And to make it worse, Kirk brought his "A" game.

Suffice it to say, it was a mercifully short match with Kirk dominating and winning in two games. Kirk was excited--I don't think he had even won a game against me before, let alone a match. And we have played a lot. But he is really getting better and was in total control.

Life, is like that. Some days even the things we know how to do seem hard. Like getting out of bed.

No, really. We know we have the ability and have proven it on many occasions--but there are those days designed to keep us humble and to marvel at the skills that God has given us and let's us use for the benefit of others.

I like to sing. Sometimes, I can't even utter a sound--and that makes me remember how I used to sing and how I can sing and therefore makes me appreciate singing even more when I am actually creating music.

I have heard, and believe, the phrase that says we learn more from failure than from success. Failures provide an opportunity to improve. Unfortunately, I perseverate on failures because I really do want to improve. I tear the failure apart in my mind looking for places where I could have done things differently.

But I am better for them--even though they are hard to accept.

And that is the lesson of life as found in the sporting world--you can't win every game, but the measure of a winner is not in winning, but in getting back up after you have been knocked down. Likewise in life outside of sports--when things don't go your way, don't give up--try again.

Remember the Colonel Sander's experience:

When Colonel Sanders was 65 years old, he received his first social security check of US $99. He was broke. His only asset was a secret chicken recipe.

He left his home in Kentucky and traveled to the many states in the US to sell this recipe. He offered his secret chicken recipe to many restaurants for free.

All he wanted in return was a small percentage of the sales. However, he was shown the door by many restaurants.” Get out of here. Who wants a recipe from a white Santa Claus?” the restaurant owners shouted, referring to the dress code Sanders adopted: a white shirt and white trousers.Over 1,000 restaurants rejected his offer. How many of you would have quit after making one or two unsuccessful sales calls?

On his 1,009th sales visit, one restaurant finally accepted his offer.

Today, Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets and fatherly Colonel Sanders’ statures are found all over the world.

He has changed the way the world ate chicken- finger-lickin’ good

I do like a quote by Winston Churchill:

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

So--I'll keep on playing racquetball, because I love it and it reminds me that every day is a new day and wrapped in every failure (or loss) is a chance to learn and grow. And then--I can apply the same enthusiasm to the rest of my life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Underwater Extravaganza

So what do you get when you add an inexpensive underwater camera to a family pool party?

Not that it takes that much to have fun.

And the camera will always be good for snorkeling in Florida (in about a month!!!!!)

But at the end of the day, you get some pretty funny shots.

Like Jeremy's toes.

Ethan--or part of Ethan.

And Patrick standing around.

It is a different perspective, anyway. And fun to use.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Melting Pot vs Salad Bowl

And then it hit me.

Chris and I were having a discussion about what had changed in America since we were young. Why have we become so fractured? Why have special interests become more important than the good of the nation? Why do my rights no matter when compared with others?

It is all in the characterization of the American Experience.

When I was in school we were taught about the great Melting Pot. Where those people who left their homes and countries came and strove to become Americans. They longed to be identified as Americans and not the Irish, or the Poles, or the Germans. Our ancestors learned the language. They learned the economy. They paid their dues working menial jobs. And they taught their kids: you are an American first and Polish (or whatever) second. There was a reason we left our homes and came to the land of the Statue of Liberty. But at the end of the day, and even after a civil rights struggle that spanned centuries--we became Americans!

We memorized the Preamble to the Constitution, the opening phrases of the Declaration of Independence, and I, on two separate occasions memorized the Gettysburg Address. We stood and said the Pledge of Allegiance--every morning. And we were proud of it. We studied the United States as if there were no equal on Earth. We looked back at the Roman Empire determined not to duplicate their errors. And we celebrated our national holidays--even the minor ones that people today forget: Lincoln's Birthday, Washington's Birthday, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Flag Day (I used to march in a parade on Flag Day in my hometown), V-E Day, and V-J Day.

And everyone celebrated these days. Was it a better time? I'm not sure. But "We the People" were "A People!"

And then came political correctness.

And the Melting Pot became a "Salad Bowl."

A Salad Bowl is where many peoples are jumbled-up, living together, but each retains their own language, traditions, and beliefs. There no longer is a shared common vision.

And so the nation of "We the People" became a nation of "We the Many Peoples." Keeping the traditions and languages of the homeland alive is not a bad thing--but maybe we have lost something that made us uniquely American! We now celebrate a lot of traditions and have a lot of special interests which seem to overshadow what President Obama echoed from President Kennedy's 1961 Inaugural Address:

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." - J.F. Kennedy, Jan 20, 1961

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task."
- B.H. Obama, Jan 20, 2009

And so we see the results of the Salad Bowl. We have moved from a nation of Americans to a nation of individuals living in America. There is no longer a corporate American--nor, do I believe is there "an" American Dream. There are many American dreams.

It has become a jungle where everyone from corporate America's leaders to the people living next door are looking for a government handout, or some way to get rich at someone else's expense. Why? Because we owe it to them. Or so they think. Let's all play--"Beat the System!" Only no one really wins in the end.

Revisionist history would suggest that the Melting Pot was bad. But, it won two world wars and helped develop the greatest nation for peace that the world has ever seen. A nation where we routinely sacrifice our best and brightest military personnel for ideals and for the protection of others who are less fortunate without thought of annexing territory to add to the Republic.

We are idealistic. Hence we are still in Korea, we were in Vietnam and Haiti, we took action in Nicaragua, we are Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is the result of the Melting Pot mentality we believed in.

Where will be be in 50 more years?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Monday Musings - June 8, 2009

1. The pace of life is directly proportional to the number of unaccomplished tasks which remain to be done.

2. I continue to cheer on sports teams which have trouble putting digits in the win column. Let's Go O's.

3. Frustration is a good reason to do a small project--especially if it is replacing the handle on the rear door of the truck in the heat on a Sunday.

4. Puppies can be funny. She had a target rich environment for play on Sunday afternoon, but preferred to remain in the house away from everyone.

5. Cake pops. Who knew?

6. Is it time for my Florida vacation yet?

7. You get what you pay for. My new $9 underwater camera is marginal at best. But it will be good for snorkeling.

8. I'm not sure which day of the week is harder to get out of bed. Monday or Saturday. Monday because I really don't want to go to work. Saturday because I can stay in bed--especially if Chris got up with the puppy.

9. Do you know what I look forward to on Tuesdays? Answer--going to bed when the day is over.

10. If I could do most things over again, I wouldn't.

11. Underwater camera: $9. Steaks for dinner: $60. Having everyone in the pool on a sunny, warm Sunday afternoon: Priceless.

12. Hearing Ethan say: "again!" makes me smile as I pull him backwards across the pool.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Musings - 1 June 2009

1. I can't believe I blinked and missed two whole weeks of fun. Time really does fly--or is it that you don't worry so much about it when you begin to get older? It's kinda like the end of a ballgame as the clock is winding down--the more you worry about how much time is left the less you can do something about it.

2. Having two keeshonden in the house for the past week was fun. Lots of hair and fur, but fun.

3. The pool is nice when it's warm. But when the water is warmer than the air--look out when you get out!

4. We survived the second rainiest May on record for the Baltimore area. Hopefully, the sun will begin to shine and the daily temperatures will climb. But it sure is nice not to pay BGE to help keep the house cool.

5. Grass grows really, really fast in this weather.

6. Graduation season is a good reason to throw a party and get together. And many parties are even better.

7. I attended my first house concert Saturday night--I didn't even know what that was, but being that close to the performers and being able to chat with them over munchies is really fun.

8. Why does it seem that then umber of things that need to be done is so much greater than the time available to do them?

9. When you read on the side of a plant that it is 72 days for mature fruit--is that from when the flower sets or when the plant germinated?

10. I can't believe it's June already--it seems like just yesterday that the leaves were bursting out on the trees. And I even remember celebrating the first lawn mowing of the season. Now it has already become a weekly chore.

11. My favorite teams went 0-4 for the weekend. Really put a dampener on my spirits after a great week before which saw the O's sweep Toronto and the Pens sweep Carolina. Still--it is pretty good for the week with the O's going 5-2 on the home stand and the Pens in the Stanley Cup--I guess there is an upside.
My Zimbio
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