Happy Thanksgiving

I hope that this Thanksgiving finds you wherever you wish to be. Around a table with friends and family eating a good meal, quietly enjoying a day to yourself, volunteering with the less fortunate. No matter how you spend the day however, I hope that you are thankful. Thankful to have the sun upon your face. Thankful to have food upon your table. Thankful to have people who love you and whom you love.

The following link is a brief video history of Thanksgiving here in the U.S. From its possible origins at Plymouth Rock to its declaration as a U.S. holiday by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It is the creation of the staff at the History channel, but I thought it was worth a little publicity.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. Eat well, laugh, and take a few minutes to reflect on everything you have. Despite highs and lows in our lives, we are lucky indeed.

A video history of Thanksgiving in the United States

Looking back…Looking ahead!

While I started writing the Senseless Rambling blog in 2014, I feel that 2015 was the year that it really started to come together. I don’t know why. So I want to summarize highlights (life highlights, not just blog) of the year past and my hopes for the year to come.

First and most importantly: Thank you to all the people who have stopped to read a post or look at a picture. I have appreciated your likes and follows. I appreciate the reach that my small little page has had. I have had readers from 15 different countries, including Canada, Russia, India, Japan, England, and of course here at home in the United States. I have enjoyed new friendships made, even if in cyberspace.

2015 was a huge year in my life and that of my family. Many things happened, both good and bad. So before I look ahead to 2016,

Let’s take a look back…

10941851_10204589365648553_6479912947926344891_n

2015 started with a trip to New York State. My youngest was accepted to the State University of New York at Albany and we drove over to look at the campus and talk to an adviser in her program. January is not really the prime time of year to drive 10 hours across Michigan, Ontario Canada, and upstate New York, but you go when you gotta go, especially when this is your child’s #1 college choice on the list. We really found Albany to be a pretty, active, and interesting town, but after touring the university, my daughter decided it wasn’t for her. I support my kids in whatever they decide, but the dad in me would be lying if he said he 16223_10204588372383722_2140344112163685114_nwasn’t a little relieved: 10 hours is a long way from home! The side trip to New York City was well worth the adventure however. My wife had never been and I hadn’t been in 20 years. We all had a great day traipsing around Manhattan seeing the sights.

 

A couple of years ago, my son, the oldest of our kids, relocated to Los Angeles, California. In February, my wife got an opportunity to travel to LA to visit him. She had a great time and gained the valuable experience (and stress) of driving on the SoCal freeways. Due to work, I was unable to go, but she had a great visit and got to see other family as well, as California is my home state and my family all live in the greater LA area.

She returned to Michigan just in time for me to hop aboard the train and take a quick trip to Chicago to see the Detroit Red Wings battle the Chicago Black 10984040_10205075883409208_8549791197190978495_nHawks at the United Center. With the changes to the conference boundaries the prior year, the Black Hawks are no longer in the same conference as the Wings, thus they only play a couple of times a year. This has always been an epic rivalry though, and my fellow Michiganders, many of whom live in Chicago and many who traveled from Michigan presented an impressive and united front. The Wings won, which is even better, and made the sub-zero temperatures bearable. Special thanks to my nephew who lives in Chicago with his wife for A) going to the game with me, and B) for giving me a place to stay the night.

In April, my youngest turned 18 – an adult. When did this happen? I still clearly remember my little girl who made faces and made us all laugh at her comedienne antics.

Right after we celebrated the birthday, my daughter and my wife were off! 21297_10205026276131042_6966113743023924834_nSpring break! Myrtle Beach, SC. Again, I was trapped in my work world, but they had a fantastic seven days in South Carolina soaking up the sun, lying on the beach, walking the pier, going to a comedy club. I was so happy that they had a very special week together.

On the down side for late March, April, and into May was that I got sick. What I thought was a minor head cold developed into an extreme bacterial sinus infection and bronchitis. I have never been so sick in my life. I missed more work than I ever have. I lost 20 pounds and it took two rounds of antibiotic and three trips to the doctor to get it resolved. I am sure that I spent far more time sleeping than awake, but it did eventually go away. Eventually (unfortunately), I did manage to find those misplaced 20 pounds.

When you work in law enforcement you tend to work in a more reactive mode than proactive. Sure we plan for ways to avoid bad things happening, but the reality is that the world is a wild place and we spend more time in this career field reacting to the idiocies of other humans than planning for how to keep those things from happening. In May, I and three of my partners were awarded a life-saving award for just such an incident from late in the previous year. A prisoner in our city detention center attempted to hang herself. Due to proactive training and procedure, we were able to react to the situation as it occurred, cut the woman down, and save her life. This was the second time in my career that I have received this award and both were for very similar situations. I am glad that this chapter of my career is behind me – more on that later. To my partners (as they are still there) stay strong, be vigilant, look out for each other, and remember the most fundamental goal of our career: everyone goes home at the end of the shift!

Diploma in handAt the very end of May, my youngest, my “baby-bird” as I have taken to calling her, graduated high school. What pride at such an accomplishment and the great college choice she had made. She was the last of my children to go. Bittersweet. No more sporting events or choir concerts. Life sets major changes upon our heads from time-to-time and this was one. Not a bad change, just one that needs adapting to. For my daughter, a life at college, away from home. For my wife and me, we’re empty nesters. The house is very quiet. Sometimes too quiet. Sometimes gloriously quiet. As I said bittersweet, but far, far more sweet than bitter. Those kids make me so proud every day, how could it be anything else.

In July my wife and I made our annual 4th of July pilgrimage to the Upper UP 4thPeninsula. We visited with family, watched the parade, and otherwise just hung out. We have done this every year since 1999 and it is a tradition that I can’t imagine not continuing. I love Michigan’s glorious UP. So rugged and beautiful. It is, as the bumper stickers say, “God’s Country.”

Now, if you remember, I didn’t get to go to Myrtle Beach for Spring Break due to work. Neither did my older daughter, as she is already in college and her schedule did not sync with her sisters high school schedule. So in July, she and I took our own “Spring Break,” to one of my absolute most favorite places in the world – Toronto, Canada.

11666139_10207350677512109_1078765563397942095_nToronto is my New York City. I love Toronto! My wife and I spent our honeymoon 25 years ago there; I took my son there 4 years ago, and I will take my younger daughter there in another year and a half.
Toronto has so much to do and is so multi-cultural. My daughter and I went to the Toronto Zoo (they had visiting exhibit of pandas, my daughters FAVORITE animal; and yes!, they are as cute in person as they are in YouTube videos), the CN Tower, the Royal Ontario Museum, Casa Loma, the Ontario Science Center. We rode Segway’s in the PandaDistillery District, and took a walking tour of downtown Toronto’s most haunted sites. We ate in an Irish Pub where everyone except us was literally from Ireland, and the cherry on the sundae (at least for me), we toured the Hockey Hall of Amelia TorontoFame.

Toronto was a good prelude to two big events that would happen the next month. Not bad events, but big. The first, we moved my youngest daughter into her college dorm. OMG…this is real! The house is really going to be empty! Number two: Two days after moving her in, I turned 50. You can read my blog post on turning 50 here.

September passed quietly and October found us traveling again. This time just a short few hour trip to the Indiana/Kentucky border for our nieces wedding. The wedding was absolutely beautiful, as was the bride. Both the ceremony and the reception were held at a 200-year-old plantation and the setting was perfect. My brother-in-law, a chef, prepared all the food which was delicious. It was also, quite frankly, amazing as he was also the father of the bride! How some people can squeeze 30 hours out of 24 I will never know, but he can.

A quick aside, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. During the reception, several hundred miles away, the Michigan State University Spartan football team had a miraculous and devastating football win over the University of Michigan Wolverines! As a Spartan fan, I was more than happy Crisp Pointwith this!

At the end of October our son came for a visit. This was the first I had seen him in a year and a half. It was a great visit and he and I enjoyed a special father/son trip up to our beloved Upper Peninsula. We mostly relaxed and enjoyed the peace and quiet, but the trip to the Crisp Point lighthouse on Lake Superior was a definite highlight. It was a perfect Fall day and the view was amazing.

Unfortunately, sad things happen too, and just a couple of days after returning to California my son called me to tell me that my older brother had passed away. I won’t go into any detail as my blog on that experience is here. To my sister-in-law, niece, and nephews, however; I hope that 2016 sees an ease to the pain of your loss and that you cherish the memories of your husband and father. The pain will lessen; the memories brighten, and rest knowing how proud he was of each and every one of you.

The rest of the year has passed pretty unremarkably. Holidays with family. Winter setting in. Girls home from college for few weeks. The highlight of the last month of the year: I retired from my job and accepted a new position with a new police agency. The new position however, won’t require me to wear a uniform, or work midnight shift. I will no longer work holidays or weekends. I will get to spend my evening and weekends at home with my beautiful and lovely wife. My interactions will be with police departments and no longer with arrestee’s. If I never have to stop a suicide again, it will be too soon.

I want to add one more thing here, and I am getting on my soap box a little. Since it’s my blog, I can do that! Please continue to support and respect your local police. We have received so much negative press in the past couple of years. The media is quick to point the finger of blame and make spontaneous accusations. They are equally slow to retract these accusations when they are proven wrong. This is sad because the media has immense power to reach out into people’s lives, and to do so without any moral or ethical compass is a disservice to the society they serve. I fear that the scrutiny of the media of late will cause an officer to hesitate when they shouldn’t and get killed. Simply because while the officer actions might be justified, they will hesitate at the thought of “how will the media portray this?” Police officers, corrections officers, fire fighters, and military are all a unique breed of people who put their lives on the line to protect others. 99.999% of those are hard-working, honest individuals. No career should be viewed through the prism of the “bad seed.” There will always be those, but they are such an insubstantial portion, and they pervade all fields of endeavor.

Let’s take a look ahead…

For 2016, I wish each and every one of you happiness and joy. I wish you time with family and friends. I wish you much love and laughter. I hope that your times of sadness will be few and short. I hope that you have people in your life that can lift you up and comfort you when needed.

I wish these same things for myself and my family. I look forward to 2016 and all it holds.

For my son who is going back to college after some time away: may you find success, happiness, and continued growth. I love you and am so very, very proud of you. Be proud of yourself and keep inspiring those around you.

For my older daughter I wish continued success at school. You are such a committed, focused, and on-target young lady. Rarely does one find a person who has such a map of their life in mind at such a young age. I love you and look forward to great things to come.

To my “baby-bird.” Wow! Have you ever excelled in your new life away at school. I know that you’re still not sure what your future holds, but it will come and you have time, so lay that worry elsewhere. I am so proud of you, of the young lady you continue to become, and of the new challenges you undertake. I love you and love watching you write new “chapters” every day.

To my most lovely! It is just you and I again, my dear. Just like in the beginning. Gregg-AnnTwenty-five years and I love you more than the day I first met you. I look forward to all that our future holds for us. New adventures and new things to see, learn, and do. I’m a crotchety old crap, but I’m your crotchety old crap!

Happy New Year, everyone. Blessings.

Rambler

Happy Holidays

To everyone who reads my blog or otherwise see my posts on various social media, I want to wish you all a very, very happy holiday season.  Regardless of your faith or beliefs, I hope that you have a wonderful season and that the new year greets you warmly and offers hopes for a fulfilling New Year.

See you again in 2016!

Merry_Christmas

To all my friends around the world!

Burying My Brother

I am sitting aboard an American Airlines flight. At 34,000 feet, suspended over a dark America, I don’t know where I am, only that in 2 hours I will land in Detroit. I will be home. It has been a long 9 days.

Nine days ago I was sitting in my office planning out my work schedule. When I heard my cell phone ringing and saw that my son was calling, I assumed that he was calling to tell me that he was all moved into his new apartment in Los Angeles and things were good. He had only just returned to California from a visit to see our family in Michigan. His call, unfortunately, was not a happy one.

“Hey pops,” I heard Nick’s voice say, “what’s going on?”

“Oh, not much, at work, you?”

“Have you talked to anyone?”

“No, what’s up?”

“I think you better call grandma and grandpa.”

“Why?,” I asked, anxiety just starting to creep up my neck.

“Just call them, okay?”

I did. I got no answer. I shot a text to my brother Eric saying I got a confusing call from Nick and did he know anything. I then called Nick back.

“Grandma and grandpa didn’t answer buddy and your call is freaking me out. Tell me what’s going on!”

A long pause. The he says, “Uncle Steve died.”

“What…when….how…?”

“I don’t know. I just found out. I didn’t want to be the one to tell you.”

Just then my brother Eric text back. “You got a minute? Call.”

I did. Eric didn’t know much more. I heard “massive heart attack.” I heard “about an hour ago.” I don’t remember much more.

I am from a large family. Including me, there are 9 kids, and my parents, though in their 80’s, are still healthy and mobile. Though the youngest of us is 47, we had never lost a sibling. Steve was the first. He was only 56. I’m 50. 56 is very close to 50.

As I said, we are a large family. With the exception of me in Michigan, none of my siblings live further from California than Arizona. I felt like I was stranded on an island. I was 2,000 miles away. I might as well have been on the other side off the world for how I felt at that moment.

I left work and headed home. I had to make plans. I had to book a flight, get a car, hotel, etc. Then, when I got home, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing. I couldn’t make plans. Maybe I should just fly out first thing in the morning. They usually bury people within three days don’t they? I was in limbo. Limbo is a bad place.

I waited. I kept checking airfare. It kept getting more and more expensive. I needed to make a decision. On Thursday night my sister Shelley called. She said the best she could offer was that something might happen as early as Monday or as late as Friday. Friday morning I couldn’t wait any longer. I booked a flight that got me into southern California on Sunday and put me out late on the next Friday. I let family know I was on my way.

By the time I arrived at my parents home in California’s inland empire on Sunday the plans were finalized. Viewing and memorial on Thursday, burial on Friday. More limbo.

The unexpected death of a family member is a terrible thing. While my brother and I were not close, he was my brother and I have hundreds of memories of our growing up. Some funny. Some sad. Some angry. Some weird. What was more difficult was not my own grief at the loss of my brother, but the grief I felt for his wife and three children. The grief I felt for my parents, having to bury a child. The funeral is such a necessary step in being able to move on, to acknowledge that we all have to go forward. The limbo of having to wait over a week to complete this hard, sad, but necessary ritual was a limbo that was a hell.

One area of my family life that I am always proud of is our ability to come together in difficult times. Sometimes years pass in which I don’t see any of my brothers and sisters, but when adversity strikes we all flock back home, like moths to a lamp.

It is very necessary to note that the title of this blog – Burying My Brother – has dual meaning.  The first is the obvious, funerals must happen. I have covered that part already.  The second is more of a figurative and emotional perspective. The need to bury the baggage of the past.

As I said, my brother and I were not close.  In the past 35 years I had only seen Steve a handful of times. It wasn’t just distance that kept us apart. We were very different people. I, for the most part am fairly low key. Steve was a very “in-your-face” sort of guy.  He was a braggart. He told  grand tales that held not a shred of truth, but I think he told them so many times he believed them to be fact. He was loud, often a bully, and opinionated. I simply had lost a desire to spend time with him or being talked at by him. Also, over the years, Steve’s antics and behavior has caused a great deal of pain and heartache to my parents, two people who dedicated their lives to their family and truly deserved better treatment than they often received.

As a result of all this, I missed a part of Steve’s life that was growing and developing out of view from me.  Through his sons, my brother had become very involved in coaching and supporting soccer. First through my nephews, and as they grew up, through various soccer clubs, and ultimately as the coach of a high school team. He spent time with each and every player. He got to know them. He helped motivate them to go to college. He helped them with college applications and gave them letters of recommendation.  These kids he coached and influenced? They saw a Steve I never had, and they loved him.

On Thursday, November 12, after the visitation and viewing at the funeral home, a memorial service had been organized at the high school where Steve coached. Hundreds of people were present. The soccer kids he had coached over the years were there. Some of his former players, now in college, actually flew home just to be there. They wore their jerseys and on each sleeve was affixed a patch – In Memory of Coach Steve.  The service was supposed to go from 6:30 until 7:30 or 8:00, but the line of past and current players who wanted to speak was so long that I didn’t get back to my hotel until after 11:00.

The service was nothing short of amazing.  All these players and parents who spoke introduced me to a side of my brother that I had no idea existed. There are no words. Amazing is an inadedquate and weak description.  The service and the speeches and the outpounring of love allowed me to accomplish the other “burial.” To bury my long held perceptions of the man I knew, and replace them with pride and love for how he had touched the lives of so many.  Those kids, for whom my brother meant so much, helped me that day more than they will ever know.  Steve left a legacy in his community and it was a good legacy.  He is missed. He was appreciated. He was loved. I know that my entire family was equally touched.

At the burial, as I filed past my brothers casket, I leaned down and whispered a final message to my brother. I will close with that message.

“Rest well, brother. I hope that you find peace.”

The Pirates Treasure

Poetry is not my thing, yet I felt compelled tonight to write, so here is new twist to my “Senseless Ramblings.”

 I gaze upon the starry night

My eyes they fill with wonder

The sky is like a placid sea

The stars a pirates plunder

In the nighttime that so many fear

I only hear the silence

I think of moonlit lakeside walks

Of creating time for romance

Sometimes the sun of bright lit days

Exposes ugly features

But the shadows and the dark of night

Hide more gentle creatures

Owls, mice, raccoons, and fox

Stroll these darkened fields

The only note of their presence here

Is the sound their footsteps yield

I take a breath of the clean night air

A smile on my face

I return to my human life

Take stock by the fireplace

To know the world moves on unheeded

Fills my heart with heart with pleasure

I take one long last look upward

And eye my pirates treasure

Ghoulies and Ghosties and Long-leggedy Beasties and Things that go Bump in the Night

When I decided to sit down and write, I had no topic in mind. What I decided to do was to venture out to www.pixabay.com, a site that has license free pictures that can  be utilized on blogs and websites (hint, hint).  I wanted to peruse the pictures until one “spoke” to me. One that evoked a feeling or an emotion that made my mind click and whir and say to itself, “there is something there, dig for it.”  I looked over dozens, maybe even a hundred photos. This is the one that grabbed me.

When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween. ~Author Unknown

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author Unknown

Two weeks ago, my blog post discussed my love for the Fall, or Autumn.  One of the things that I love about Autumn is Halloween.

Halloween is a child’s holiday, but it is for the child that still lives in all of us; for this holiday defies age. The children in their costumes evoke our own memories of being those children, of the experience of walking house-to-house on a dark, cool night, ringing doorbells and crying out, “Trick or Treat!” Of being rewarded, and the pleasure of dumping the haul on the family room floor after returning home. The memories I have to share here are my memories – memories from my childhood, and memories of Halloween with my children. The are my nostalgia. I miss these times with my kids in particular, but the memories of the joy will last me forever.

My earliest memories from my hometown of Orange, California are of being dressed as a tiger. I did the tiger thing for a couple of years and after Halloween the costume became my pajamas.  A few years later it was a cowboy: hat, chaps, and silver six shooters (loaded with a full roll of caps). My dad would take my younger brother and me out around our block. We would stop at every house, knock or ring and yell the magical, candy-producing chant. It always seemed so late when we got home. In reality, it was probably 7:30pm.

As I got older the thrill became twofold.  First was the actual making of the costume. No more store bought costumes. In the back of my parents closet was an old dresser full of “dress-up” clothes. These were the makings of great Halloween goblins.  My favorite was to go as a hobo. Old ripped jeans and a too large flannel shirt were topped off with a crumpled plastic pork-pie hat and a huge rubber cigar.  45 seconds with a charcoal briquette and my 10- or 11-year-old self had a respectable 5 o’clock shadow. Also, we had reached an age, in what was the more accepting 1970’s, that my dad no longer tagged along. We were ghouls on the loose.

Once properly adorned, and with the dark almost completely settled in (for my northern climes friends, it gets dark in SoCal much earlier than in Michigan) we set off with a goal: to reach the fire station on Shaffer St. This was the second part of the

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

Orange, CA Fire Station #3

thrill. Why?  Because they always gave out full-sized sugar daddy bars! It was several blocks of walking (or seemed like it anyway) but you got to hit up every house getting there, and as many as you wanted on the way back until either A) you were too tired; B) your candy bag was full or weighed too much; or, C) any combination of the above.

As a child you view Halloween from the child’s perspective – the costumes, the candy, the mischief.  Then I became a parent.

I have three children and each has given me the joy of seeing Halloween through their eyes. Costumes as unique to each child as they are unique to other kids. Vampire, pirate, executioner, dalmation, princess, clown, an elf, and on and on.

Pixie, kobold, elf, and sprite, All are on their rounds tonight; In the wan moon’s silver ray, Thrives their helter-skelter play. ~Joel Benton

When they were little, like my father before me, I escorted them around the neighborhood, taking them to doors, reminding them to say “Thank you.”  When they reached the point where dad providing escort was “no longer cool” (and dad deemed them old enough) they were off in large groups of friends. I am sure their memories will be much like mine, and very different too. Perhaps the basis for their own story one day.

October and Halloween hold other cherished memories for me , also. Memories that I have no doubt are shared by my wife and kids through the lenses of their perception; but all good.

Hocus-Pocus

The Sanderson sisters have come back from colonial-era Salem and have plans for the towns’ children

Our family loves the movie Hocus Pocus.  I haven’t seen it now in a few years, but when the kids were younger, we loved to watch it together every year, particularly the girls.

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack overlooking Halloweentown in A Nightmare Before Christmas

]For my son it was A Nightmare Before ChristmasThe Jack Skellington mug in my office at work attests to my love of that movie also. I have always been especially taken with the musical score.

Another great Halloween movie memory is The Halloween Tree. Written and narrated by Ray Bradbury this animated film from the Cartoon Network tells unique stories of Halloween from the perspectives of different times and cultures throughout the world. It is done in such an enjoyable and charming way that it’s not until the movie ends that you realize that you just might have gotten a little education, too. Like Hocus Pocus, I would say that The Halloween Tree is one of those films that families refer to as “cozy” and can watch over and over again.

Witch & MoonNow remember this picture? Yes, it spurred me to write about Halloween, but it still says more to me, and I think that is why I chose it.  Often when I see a photo, I “feel” things from the picture. Black and white pictures in particular pull this sensation from me,

While still Autumn related, looking at this picture  makes me think of walks I used to take as a teenager, late at night, around the home we lived in out in the country.  I could take the dogs with me and let them off their leashes and listen to them as they ran through the undergrowth. It evokes for me the end of the growing season and the Harvest Moon.  I smell leaves burning and feel crisp air on my face. I see children bobbing for apples, and I hear the breeze rustling the red and gold dying leaves. I imagine the frost that will soon start to greet me in the morning.pumpkin-201077_1280

Pictures all tell a story, and sometimes our story is not the same as that of the photographer. But the beauty of art is that it is for any interpretation we want to give it.

All the best.

Autumn

As I write this, I am gazing out my back door. The sky is an absolutely clear, beautiful blue. The maple tree in my back yard is still fully crowned in green. It is currently 69 degrees. Other than the cooler temperature, it might almost appear a perfect Summer day. But the signs are there. The signs that we are heading into Autumn.

I love the change of seasons. I can’t really answer why, nor is the reason

Autumn is: quiet country roads

Autumn is: quiet country roads

important. I simply do. It is just something I feel. Each new season brings its joys and wonders. Each new season brings its headaches and annoyances. The combination of all these keep each day, week, month, and year fresh.

Autumn is by far my favorite season, though.

It starts with the light. There is just something different about the light in the fall. I’m not talking the scientific aspects of light relative the positioning of the earth to sun. This light defies science. It defies explanation. It is completely sensory. The light shines, shimmers, and glistens; and I’m not talking reflections, but the light itself, suspended before my eyes.

Then there is the air. Winter air can be cold and harsh. Spring air can be overly flowery and sometimes musty. Summer air can be humid, heavy, thick. Autumn air is as different as Autumn light. It’s thin, fluid, crisp, and clean. It is so refreshing that you want to take the deepest breaths you can. It is like breathing fresh, spring water but never feeling suffocated or drowned.

What of Autumn colors? They, too, are splendidly different than any other

Autumn is: maple leaves, syrup, and cider mills

Autumn is: maple leaves, syrup, and cider mills

season. The deep ruby reds of the changing maple leaf are not the same as the red of a rose. The vivid golds are not the same tarnished tones of the wheat and hay in the fields. The luminescent oranges make the most vivid sunset seem dull. Somehow all the colors of Autumn evoke the sense of earth for me. I never feel as one with our planet as I do in Autumn. How can they be so different? They are just colors after all. But different they are.

Even the word Autumn is special. I will be the first to tell you that more often than not, I use the word Fall at this time of year. Most I know do. The word Autumn has a very special place in language for me though. For some unknown reason, Autumn looks better to me in print. It has a fine shape and tenor to it. It is the best word to evoke all I feel that I can not otherwise adequately explain.

Then there are all the human aspects of Autumn that I find so agreeable. Cider mills with their smells of pressed apples and fresh hot fried donuts

Autumn is: the Jack 'O Lantern and the joy of Halloween

Autumn is: the Jack ‘O Lantern and the joy of Halloween

coated in cinnamon and sugar. Caramel Apples. High school and college football. The start of a new hockey season. Halloween, pumpkin carving, children trick-or-treating, and the prelude to the holidays.

For me, Autumn is also about peace. I find that I like long hikes in the woods in Autumn much more than any other time of year. The animals are on the move and to see the deer moving, the squirrels gathering, and the geese flying is a special treat. For all the sounds of nature, Autumn is strangely quiet. Leaves rustle and creeks trickle. Footsteps crackle on dry leaves. Combined, however, it all seems to create a great, white noise that envelopes me, lulls me, and brings me a solitude I need after the busy, active days of Summer.

In short, I find Autumn amazing, and beyond this poor attempt to place into writing why, it defies my ability to explain. Is there a need to explain however?

Autumn is: clear light that sparkles on water

Autumn is: clear light that sparkles on water

I don’t think so. It is for me what it is for me. It is for you what it is for you. The beauty of Autumn, of all the seasons in fact, is that we get to witness a change in the world around us. We do not live in a world where we enjoy the same day 365 day a year. In fact, I know that I wouldn’t enjoy that.

Here’s to Autumn.

Earn Respect, Receive Respect

Emblazoned on the wall of one of the training rooms at the local county sheriff’s office where I live are the words,

Respect is earned, not demanded.”

I cannot agree with this statement more, yet across my professional life, and still to this day, I meet people who demand respect not on the basis of their actions but on the basis of their title or position within their respective professional organization. Sadly, the very act of demanding respect causes them to not only fail to earn respect, but to lose it as well.

I envision respect as a line graph.  The x axis represents time. The y axis represents the level of respect, with the higher the reach upward on the y axis representing greater respect, and the lower the reach representing a loss of or lower respect.

All human beings are initially deserving of respect. In my mental graph, when I first meet someone, I envision that we are at the intersection of Respect Sidebarthe beginning of the timeline and the baseline for respect. I have respect for them as a human being, but I have yet to experience enough interaction and observation to add to or detract from that baseline respect. As we move along the x axis of time, my perceptions will change and the respect line will fluctuate based on my observations and interpretations of the persons actions.

So what can us as employers, employees, customers, family members, friends, and even strangers do to keep our perceived respect above the baseline? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Show respect. The fastest way to increase your own respect is to show respect.  Every human being wants to know that they have value and that others recognize it. Be respectful of others and they’ll respect you.
  2. Communicate cordially. Do you agree with every thought and opinion that the people you encounter in your life have? Of course not! We are all unique individuals and that is actually what makes our world such a rich and vibrant place to live. We can always remain cordial in our dealing with each other however, even when we don’t necessarily agree. If you have “hot topics” that you feel are better left untouched, then do so, and respect that others may also have their areas they would rather not talk about.
  3. Feel, don’t “see.” Appreciate the warmth, the kindness, the intelligence, the generosity, and the “heart” of those you interact with. If you do that, you will never face issues related to race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and so much more. If you take the time to feel, you will see – the real person, the human.
  4. There is no license to superiority. Being the CEO of a company doesn’t make you better than or give you a license to deserve more respect than that of the lowest paid employee in your company.  Likewise, don’t immediately assume that the President or CEO of your company is a cold, untouchable autocrat when you have never taken the time to meet them or speak with them.  I do hold great respect for people who have worked hard and been very successful, but I also hold them to a higher standard that requires them to more diligently work to not jeopardize that respect.  I equally respect the laborer who reports for work day-in and day-out so that he can provide for his family and offer them perhaps a more stable life than he felt he had.
  5. Show understanding. Sometimes things are just out of people’s hands. When I was in college I worked for a hotel that insisted that its employees abide by the motto, “Yes I Can.”  The answer to any question asked by a guest was, “Yes I Can.”  But here was the reality:  the honest answer to some questions was, “I’m sorry, but No I Can’t.”  We all understand that we simply have some situations in our lives that are out of our hands. Understand that applies to everyone. Don’t make unreasonable demands upon people and then become angry when they cannot possible fulfill what it is you want. You will lose status in their eyes.
  6. Live by the Golden Rule. If that sounds overly simple, it’s because some of the best advice is overly simple.  The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. You can’t really go wrong with that mindset.

Respect is one of the greatest things we can earn. It is also one of the highest compliments we can give.  Like a college GPA, if you have a high respect quotient, it takes a bit more effort to bring it down quickly, whereas if you start off with a low respect quotient, it is a much more difficult climb out of the hole. It can be done, but it’s a lot more work.

The bottom line is this: regardless of our status in life, we earn the respect we receive through the actions we show others, the good deeds we perform, and the overall way in which we conduct ourselves. It cannot be demanded. Those demands will fall on deaf ears.

All the best to you.

Find Peace & Joy Within

At some point in all of our lives we deal with depression. Now I am not a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist. I am just a guy. A guy more than half way through his life who believes this from his own experiences. I have been a child, a teen, a single young adult, college student, husband, father, leader, minion, employee, and the list goes on and on. I have never been homeless, hungry (and I mean truly hungry – not having eaten and not knowing where my next meal was coming from), suicidal, addicted, unloved, imprisoned, and this list also goes on and on. So, like all, I can only speak from my experiences and not for everyone.

Monsters don’t sleep under your bed; monsters sleep inside your head.” -author unknown

On a macro scale, I believe human beings deal with two types of very separate yet intertwined forms of depression. The first is that deep-seated, unrelenting, crushing depression that locks people in their beds, their homes, their minds, and their own self-misery. I am going to refer to this as chronic depression. The second is what I call situational or acute depression. This depression is also painful, and sometimes feels without end, but is created by the influence of external forces on us.

This post is only going to touch briefly on the first type of depression, namely for two reasons; the first as I stated at the onset is that I am not in the mental health field and am in no way qualified to provide therapeutic assessment or advice. The second is that I have never suffered chronic depression myself and have no personal experiences to base any advice on.Depression1

For those who suffer from chronic depression, you have my deepest sympathy and regrets that I am not able to help you more. To feel powerless to help another is, in my opinion, an awful circumstance, but if you suffer chronic depression and get anything from my self-admittedly ignorant article, then I will find some joy in that. All the advice I can offer you is to know that people exist in your life who love you, who would do whatever is within their power to help you and to provide you support. I hope that you can find it within yourselves to seek the professional help that can guide you to getting whatever it takes to fight to move ahead and reach the place where you can find your peace and joy within.

Situational depression is something that most people are much more familiar with. This acute depression can happen to anyone and can be brought on by difficult or stressful events in our lives. Perhaps you feel trapped in a dead-end job, you recently lost a loved one, relocated, had a a child go away to college; many things can trigger one to feel this kind of depression. Finding a way to fight through this, however, is right there, within yourself.

Because situational depression can be tied back to specific “environmental” causes, the key to finding peace and joy within is to redirect our mindset. This is not going to necessarily erase the negative influence causing the depression, but it can act as a “pain-killer,” if you will, taking our mind off the pain, even if in the short term. So how do you do this?

What do you enjoy? What provides you satisfaction? Are you a reader? Find a great book and lose yourself in it. Sports fan? With cable and satellite television there is no lack of things to watch. Perhaps you might even start playing a sport that you previously used to only enjoy watching. Hobbies are a great long term help. Maybe you’re a woodworker or a gardener, or like me, you like to senselessly ramble on a blog. Who cares? If you enjoy it and it can occupy your mind, get to it!

As an Organizational Communication major in college, we learned a theory called the “Spiral of Silence.” For the sake of this article I’m going to “massage” this theory to work here, but essentially the “Spiral of Silence” states that if you remain silent and fail to address wants and needs, you will slowly spiral deeper down into a whirlpool and climbing out can become harder and harder. This is why the occupied mind will help you find that peace and joy within.

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

What do you feel when you see this picture? Is is peace and harmony, or isolation and loneliness?

I touched on two types of depression: the chronic, or long-term depression, and the acute, or situational depression. I think most people agree that given their choice, situational depression is better to deal with, as relief can be found when the negative experience is remedied. A problem with situational depression, however, is that if you allow yourself to be pulled deeper and deeper into the spiral, it can eventually go from being acute depression to chronic depression. There is an old saying, “the idle mind is the devils playground.” The idle mind is the unoccupied mind. There lies no peace and joy in the mind that swirls, spins, and folds onto itself over and over again.

“I ride by night, and I travel in fear, that in this darkness, I will disappear.”  -Bruce Springsteen, Stolen Car

Consider an episode of situational depression as an opportunity for self-discovery. Look inside yourself for that new hobby or renew an old one. As I said early on, I am not a therapist, but I have experienced situational depression. My youngest child recently left for college. My wife and I are “empty nesters.” The house is very quiet and at night feels very empty. As a parent you worry that your kids are doing alright, are happy, and are safe. These are things that created a “situation” that has lead to my own depression. Yet despite the sense of loss I feel for my kids being gone, I am enjoying new found time to spend exclusively with my wife. If we want to ride our bikes or go for a walk we can. If we want to just sit around and watch TV, that’s OK too. That is the redirection. “Every cloud has a silver lining.”hobbies

Look within. It lies with each and every one of us exclusively. No one can “undepress” us. We have to do that ourselves. It can be hard. It can be accomplished. I close with this suggestion: stand up, take a deep breath, look out the window at the sky, the trees, the grass, or children playing, smile, and say to yourself, “it’s a great day.” Then go live it.