Friday, December 30, 2011

A Wish For 2012.

I'm concluding two weeks of watching a business for a friend while he was on vacation. During this time period I assisted nine families with funeral arrangements. I realize the role of a funeral director is not a role that makes me dance all the way home. Still, one day in particular weighs very heavily on me. On this day I made two funeral arrangements, back to back.
Money Troubles.
In one arrangement the deceased had died suddenly, leaving a spouse that hadn't worked full time in 3 years and their adult daughter. Friends present at the arrangement clued me in to the depths of the financial challenges the family is facing. Without violating confidence, the family is in significant financial trouble. When I asked for payment (the policy is to be paid in full no later than the day of the service), the family asked for a payment plan. "I'm sorry, we don't offer payment plans" was all I could offer. I left with the family promising to bring payment in full at the funeral service in roughly 36 hours. They had no clue how they were going to pay, neither did I.
source: Useful Free Stuff
The other arrangement was a fully grown son and his wife son planning a funeral for his parent. When the arrangement was concluded, I asked for payment. The son shared that his wife was a teacher, unemployed for almost two years. His parent was in fact helping to provide the roof over his and his wife's head. Son and wife did not have the resources to pay and wait for the estate. Without death certificates (which don't get ordered until the funeral is paid) to access his parent's funds, he could not pay the bill. Until he pays the bill, he won't gain access to the estate. He told me he would figure things out and get back to me.
Me, Too.
The business is in a Chicago suburb. The suburb was once working middle class but is now a suburb of affluence. I know first hand that many people (even those in affluent suburbs) are hit by the Great Depression of the 21st Century. One of the reasons I am so troubled by these two families is that in many ways I share their story of  financial woe and parental support. I walk in their shoes and don't have any great ideas on what to do if I had to plan a funeral for my wife (My mother preplanned and paid for her funeral).

In the end, both families were able to pay in full during the appropriate time frame. I have no idea what exchanges were made to find the necessary resources. I was relieved for them an myself, as well. I can hand my friend the keys to his business with no outstanding balances.
The New Year.
My plans for 2012 are to do the things necessary to not be in the same position as 2012 becomes 2013. I wish the same for the families I served these past two weeks and to every reader as well.

More importantly, I wish for the U.S. populace to work together for the same goal; people working at a job that can pay their bills. No politics, no finger pointing. We can all blame ourselves. Everyone has a share in this economic national disaster and everyone has responsibility to clean up this mess. When I write my end of 2012 post, I hope to have a different wish for 2013. Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

ROL: In Review.

Given my professional history in funeral service I started "A Life Well Lived..." as my conception of a funeral home blog in April, 2011. The thought was "a life well lived" could help dilute the pain associated with a funeral for some families. The blog has taken a turn with my association with "Passionate Parents". "Passionate Parents" is a blogging tribe for parents, so I regularly include some parent themed posts. "Return On Life" is a signature topic that appears weekly on Thursday.  "Return On Life" offers for consideration incremental changes that can greatly increase quality of life hopefully, adding to "a life well lived". As 2011 comes to an end, I would like to offer 3 of my favorite "ROL" from the past year.
Thank you to everyone that has spent a moment or two with my little blog. Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy and successful New Year.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Done Something Right.

As Christmas Day became Boxing Day, Little Suzy wandered into the big bedroom. "Daddy, I lost a tooth." Even in my sleep induced stupor, I knew the Tooth Fairy was grounded as Christmas Eve morphed into Christmas Day . Santa Claus needs uncluttered airspace. I wasn't sure if the Tooth fairy worked on Dec. 26th when Christmas occured on Sunday; different unions have different contracts. I did know I didn't want to get out of bed. "Suzy, are you OK?". "I'm fine Daddy", Suzy answered. "Leave the tooth on your dresser. We'll take care of this in the morning."
As I was getting ready to leave in the morning, I ran into Little Suzy coming out of her bedroom.
     "Suzy, I'm sorry I didn't do anything with your tooth last night. I was very tired."
"That's okay Daddy. I left the Tooth Fairy a note. Do you want to know what I asked for?"
     "Only if you want to tell me Suzy."
"I asked for $200 for both you and Mommy. I know you could use the help."

Somewhere in this crazy and unsure thing called parenthood (friendship? life?) Mommy and I must have done something right.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Last Week Of The Year.

Chirstmas is in the rear view mirror (except for those enjoying a day off because Christmas occurred on a weekend), Chanukah is down to the last candles and the Winter Solstice has left us all with a little more daylight each day. It's time to write down the game plan for 2012. But wait, what about Kwanzaa?
source: The Official Kwanzaa Website

Kwanzaa begins today and runs through New Years Day. Anything I know about Kwanzaa, I learned from Wikipedia, so please see the link for a brief summary of Kwanzaa. As I read about Kwanzaa, I realized that Kwanzaa is the perfect holiday for the last week of the year.

The foundation of Kwanzaa are the Seven Principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, collective economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Kwanzaa was designed as a unique African-American holiday. For those of us that don't celebrate Kwanzaa, the Seven Principles are a perfect "check list" for meaningful New Year resolutions.

I'm an annual member of the eat less, eat better, exercise more resolutions club. The better fitness resolutions are great, but since I make them annually my success (lack of) at better fitness is obvious. This year, I'm going to look to Kwanzaa and try and make changes that will make 2012 a true watershed year.

Best wishes to all for a Joyous Kwanzaa.

Friday, December 23, 2011

3 Views On Commercialized Christmas

This one is humorous and very dated.

This one is acerbic and almost bitter.

This one is satiric and wistful.

All three are offered urging everyone to embrace the bounty of this season.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

ROL: Winter Solstice.

ROL (Return on Life) is a qualitative metric modeled on the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). The concept behind ROL is to make small incremental changes in habits that generate a disproportionately greater increase in QOL (Quality of Life). Today's ROI involves seeking the light.

Today is the Winter Solstice, a pagan winter festival. In simplest terms, the winter solstice is the day with the least amount of daylight and the most darkness. The Winter Solstice is the darkest day of the year and for the next six months each day has a smidge more daylight and a touch less darkness. Yeah!

If you pay attention to the news, way too many people have had a rotten 2011. According to the U.S. Census nearly 50% of the USA is poor or nearly poor. Since Congress is perfectly willing to go on "winter break" despite this poor national embarrassment, I too will give politics a break until Congress returns to work. For those happy to be rid of 2011 the Winter Solstice indicates that the tide could be turning. A little less darkness and a little more light.

For those that flourished in 2011 the Winter Solstice means that each following day offers a little more light to shine on and bask in the accomplishments of 2011. It's great to celebrate success, just be careful to build on success while enjoying the fruits of those successes. Too much celebration and not enough planning could turn these successes into mere memories.

Since I've written all "sweetness and light" about the Winter Solstice, how will I handle the 180 degree shift of the Summer Solstice?, I hear you think. I've got six months, I'm sure I'll think of something. How about you? How do you view the solstice or any other of this winter's festivals? How was your 2011 and how do you feel about 2012? Take a moment and share with the class.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Eight Days. Built In Mulligan.

Last night was the first night of Chanukah. My Facebook stream was awash with friends sharing the excitement and success of the first night. Highlights included a new Dad sharing a 1st Chanukah picture of his baby and a contemporary having emergency gall bladder surgery. The surgery was a success. Things didn't work out as I would have liked in my house.

Quality Family Time?
For the next two weeks, I'm watching a business for a friend. Being a funeral director the schedule for the next two weeks is very fluid. Yesterday I was called upon to meet with a family to plan a funeral.

I needed to meet the family in Highland Park, IL roughly 80 miles from my home. With Mommy working 6:30 AM-3 PM, Grandma and Grandpa are on call for childcare. I dropped the kids with Grandma and Grandpa in Huntley, IL which is 40 miles from home but on the route back and forth. I met the family and completed the necessary phone calls and paperwork for the funeral but it was close to dinner time. Grandma and Grandpa suggested I stay and have dinner with them and the kids. No Chanukah with G&G until the extended family Chanukah shindig Saturday night.

While I'm having dinner with the kids and in-laws, Mommy is at the treatment center. Fatigue+Dizziness=Sinus Infection. Mommy picks up her prescription and enjoy a sumptuous Chanukah dinner courtesy of the dashboard diner.

The kids are crazy on the way home and so mean to each other that presents are out of the question. As  I walk in the door, Mommy is laid out in her recliner with a washcloth on her forehead (Antibiotics don't work immediately). The kids are playing the creepy sibling game in  overdrive, so I rush them up to bed for my sake, Mommy's sake and probably for the kid's sake, too. No harm, no foul, but also no Chanukah.
Daddy Still Gets A Gift.
Before putting the kids to bed, they were mollified when I explained that no gift was taken away. Gifts were merely postponed. Still, I got my gift. My gift? Loving my kids with their imperfections. After all, simplest gifts are the best and I still have 7 more nights of hoopla to enjoy. As Adam Sandler says, there are Eight Crazy Nights.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 20th.

December 20th always makes me smile. December 20th is the birthday of my very first girlfriend ever, Juanita. December 20th is also the birthday of my very second girlfriend ever, Trude. All three of us were in the same youth organization. Yes, there were some awkward moments.
Trude and I had met on a fundraising project in October and said hi to each other at an event in November. Sometime in November Juanita and I had connected and were an item (very scandalous, I was a sophomore and she was in 8th grade). I gave Juanita a small necklace for her birthday and went home to pack for the annual Winter Break 5 Day Retreat. Since the retreat was open to high-schoolers, Juanita couldn't go on the retreat. Trude did go on the retreat. Yes, I went on the retreat dating Juanita and came back from the retreat dating Trude. Hey, I already admitted there were some awkward moments.
Trude and I continued to date for a year and a half. We took some time off, remained friends and dated for another year and half during college. We eventually ceased dating but remained friends until Trude got married. I consider Trude a friend even though we've crossed paths just once in the past 2 1/2 decades.
Juanita and I got past the awkward to become good friends. Once a decade or so we'd share a few dinners, drinks and movies when we were both unattached. Juanita and I lost touch when she moved from the Midwest to the Southeast about 20 years ago. Juanita needed a new start, the Midwest was stifling her. I think about Juanita often and hope she is happy.
Both Juanita and Trude were pretty as girls, prettier as women and more beautiful inside than out. I was lucky to have them in my life. From Juanita and Trude I learned:
  • How to break up with someone without being a jackass (OK, I didn't get it right the first time).
  • Relationships ebb and flow.
  • It's possible to heal from hurt. It's possible to heal so well you can be hurt again and heal again.
  • Good people stay with you forever.
Juanita and Trude were gone from my life before I met my wife. My wife is above and beyond compare but my wife is not the subject of this post.

I have another friend that also shares a December 20th birthday. I've known "the Chef" since junior high and he's always been available for me whenever I've needed his help. Please join me in wishing these 3 wonderful people a very Happy Birthday.  I'll cue Paul Simon.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

In My Opinion...

 I Got You Pajamas That Double As Underwear.
As we head toward shopping D-Day the local sports talker has a heavy rotation commercial from an e-tailer specializing in women's sleepwear. Pajamas thru the mail for your sweetie? It's cheaper and less work than department store jewelery, right guys? The pajama purveyor is offering a unique two-fer:
  • A snuggie with hood and feet (aka sweat suit burka) and
  • Silky pajamas designed not to wear too long due to lack of comfort and/or lack of material.
With the money saved, why not throw in a Chapstick? Guys, no jury would convict her.
source: morgueFile
 And 100,000 Pounds Of Doritos.
Former (as of yesterday) Chicago Bears wide receiver Sam Hurd was indicted on federal narcotic charges. At a meeting with a federal undercover agent Hurd took delivery on 1 kilo of cocaine. Hurd also tried to arrange weekly delivery of 5-10 kilos of cocaine and 1000 lbs. of marijuana. That's over 25 tons of marijuana annually. For comparison, two male and two female elephants combined would weigh an average of 23 tons. Holding in abeyance (for now) the discussion about legalizing marijuana: In the war on drugs, drugs are winning the battle and the war.
source: Wikipedia
 I Love My Kids. Really.
Today is the first day of seventeen consecutive days that my kids are out of school. The Rockford Public School system calls this winter break. The use of the word break asks the question, a break for who? Still, I'd rather have my kids to complain about, than not have my kids.

Only 4 full shopping days until the winter solstice. Enjoy the malls.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

ROL: Tie The Bow, Curl The Ribbon.

ROL (return on life) is a qualitative corollary to the quantitative metric, ROI (return on investment). Just as ROI strives for incremental investment driving disproportionately large returns, ROL strives for small incremental changes that greatly increase quality of life. This week's ROL is about packaging.


We are in a series of gift giving and gift getting. Receiving a gift is always exciting. Like the aroma of a home cooked meal or the sheeting of a glass of wine it is the same with a gift; the senses are aroused prior to experiencing the actual product.

Perhaps the greatest gift anyone can offer is their wisdom. Whether sharing a compliment or critique, remember that the wrapping effects the perception of the words. Plan accordingly.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Savor The Moment.

Last night was Little Suzy's Holiday Program at school. Given the season, most of the girls and some of the boys came dressed in their best. If you've been in the stores you've seen the way girls clothes appear to be categorized: infant, preschool, little girl, big girl, adult. Suzy is transitioning from little girl to big girl. Big girl runs from 8 yrs. old to early/mid teenager.  Suzy was still happy to wear a little girl "party" dress. That was a big relief for me and mommy. It seems the next dress we will be getting for Little Suzy is a strapless cocktail dress and I'm not ready for that.
We brought Little Suzy a rose for her performance. I wonder if the rose was actually for us, as a reminder to smell the roses.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Robbed At Church.

Those expecting a rambling anti-religion screed will be disappointed. Denizens of organized Christianity are not only heroes of this post; these fine people serve as a shining example of customer service to money hungry materialists everywhere. The title refers to the theft of Little Suzy's coat while we volunteered at a local church this past Saturday.
Why Was I At Church?
14 months ago a friend referred me to the NonWorking Networkers of Westminster Presbyterian Church.   The Networkers are an all-sectarian group, part of the church's outreach. The Networkers group has provided emotional and physical sustenance to me and my family. One of the Networkers activities is to join the church in packing food for Christmas for local needy. The packages are picked up and distributed by Rockford area social service agencies. This year I brought Little Suzy with me to help pack.
It's Good To Help.
Packing started at 8 AM, coffee and doughnuts at 7:30 AM.  We arrived at 7:40 AM. Little Suzy was excited about packing food for the needy and really, really excited to begin with a doughnut. Suzy is too young for coffee (and I'm a coffee snob/sissy) so we brought our own drinks, hot cocoa and a mocha.

At 8 AM the chairperson, Sadie, gave a brief overview of the packing procedure. Both hands are necessary for the assembly line so I ducked out and put the mugs Little Suzy and I had brought on the shelf over our coats. Pastor Pasteur offered an invocation and the packing began.
Daddy, Where Is My Coat?
Westminster has run this project for a number of years so the packing went quickly. In under an hour 300 packages were assembled and it was time to go home. Suzy and I went to get our coats, but Suzy's coat was gone. We both looked in all sections of the coat area, but the coat wasn't anywhere. While looking for Suzy's coat, I heard another woman describing her purse which was apparently stolen, too.

I found Sadie and told her about Suzy's missing coat. She apologized profusely and took my name and a description of the coat. Suzy and I returned to the packing area to wait, in case someone had accidentally put on Suzy's coat. While waiting, Pastor Pasteur found Suzy and me. Pastor Pasteur apologized and made sure the church knew how to reach me.  As more people left the church, it was obvious the coat would not reappear. Suzy and I looked through all the coat areas one more time but didn't find her coat. I put my coat on Suzy (tried for a picture but as a young clothes horse Suzy wasn't buying) and we drove home.
The Day Improves.
We got home, told Mario and I texted Mommy at work. Suzy kept it together at Westminster, but once home the tears flowed. Little Suzy was a bit overwhelmed by her coat getting stolen, from a church, while packing food for the needy. I explained that someone must have really needed that coat and Suzy accepted the explanation. Suzy and I settled in.  I figured we would be going for a winter coat when Mommy's work day concluded.

Within the hour the house phone rang. It was Sadie arranging to deliver a gift card to replace Suzy's coat. While talking to Sadie, the head of the Nonworking Networkers called my cell phone to tell me the church wants to replace Suzy's coat. In the ensuing conversation, it was obvious that at least two people from the church wanted to arrange for Suzy's coat. I made sure the church Deacons weren't duplicating effort and made arrangements to pick up the gift card from Sadie as our house was not receiving guests on Saturday. Before Suzy and I reach the car to go to Sadie,  the friend that had sent me to the Nonworking Networkers called for Little Suzy. Our friend wanted to apologize to Little Suzy for the theft of her coat and make sure Little Suzy wasn't overwhelmed by the experience. Suzy had made peace with the theft of her winter coat and how could she be overwhelmed with so many people working to make things right?
The Coat.
When we arrived at Sadie's, Sadie had the gift card and a pair of peace sign earrings. The earrings were the perfect size for Suzy's ears and Little Suzy loves peace signs. Mommy took Suzy to Kohls (biggest sale of the season) and was able to get her the exact same coat. Grandma and Grandpa told Mommy to get a backup coat, on them. Upon hearing the story of the stolen coat, the clerk at Old Navy took 10% off the purchase of the back up jacket Grandma and Grandpa bought. Back at home, Suzy modeled both coats and started talking about going back to Westminster next year to pack Christmas food packages.
If you have ever chaired a major project you understand the adrenaline rush to completion and the ensuing crash when finished. Once the project is over you either want to unplug or write the evaluation then unplug. Sadie on her own behalf and that of the church didn't do that. Once Sadie and Pastor Pasteur had overseen the distribution of the food packages to the various social service agencies, they checked the church once more for Suzy's winter coat. Then Sadie bought a gift card, found my phone number and put the rest of day on hold while waiting for me to pick up the card. Sadie also found the earrings, providing immediate gratification for Suzy.

Have you ever been on hold for 35 minutes reporting an outage to Comcast (or pick a company)? After you lose service for 3 1/2 hours ever had Comcast reduce your bill by $1.37 but only because you stayed on hold another 35 minutes the next day? Do you think Comcast (or pick a company) could learn a thing or fifty from Sadie and the hierarchy of Westminster Presbyterian Church?
Thank You.
I was reminded of a couple of lessons by Sadie's reaction to the theft of Suzy's coat.
  • For every creepy story that gets tagged to organized religion, there is at least one good story left untold. So I told this story.
  • When you think something is the right thing to do, the right time to do the right thing is right now. It may still be right to do the right thing tomorrow, but it's righter to do the right thing today.
Suzy is writing a thank you note to the church Deacons. I guess I just wrote a thank you note, too.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Lending A Hand.

Westminster Presbyterian Church
Rockford, IL
Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011
Assembly Line
A few of the finished packages.

Helping those with less have a little more for the holidays.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Triberr #BookburningChat Monday 9 PM EST

Triberr doesn't really have a book burning chat on Twitter, as far as I know. I don't participate in any book burning chats. But now I have your attention...
For those unfamiliar with Triberr, Triberr is a mutual tweeting collective designed to provide increased exposure for bloggers. Tribes are organized by loose (or stronger or looser) parameters. Tribal chiefs invite bloggers to join the tribe(s) based on fit. All tribe members agree to tweet links to blog posts by tribe members, thereby exposing the blog to many other potential readers. 
Meeting Standards.
My first week in Triberr (back in the good old days when Triberr had an autotweet option) I was taken aback when a tribe member referenced reviewing posts for suitability. I was invited and accepted into my tribe, Passionate Parents, based on parameters. The chief felt I met tribe requirements and by accepting the invite I had agreed to blog within the general parameters. Since blogs are about ideas there is an acknowledgment that posts could vary from tribe criteria. Common sense should direct bloggers to self-limit variations from tribal norms. I reject the notion my post requires review a priori. The concept that a tribal colleague should assume my post pass a litmus test is a bit offensive. As a new tribe member, I held my tongue. I'm glad I did. The tribe member I mentioned has since left the tribe having not enough time to review all tribe posts for fitness. My views are way up. Triberr is performing for me.
source: morgueFile
You Must Agree.
As chief of my own tribe, Renaissance Roundtable, I often troll the #Triberr hashtag looking for potential tribe members. I saw a tweet about reviewing posts  to tweet "what I agree with". I'm not sure what I find more troubling: the idea a Twitter following thinks with one mind; the idea a Twitter following is so fragile as to wilt should they encounter a contrary idea; or the idea that a Twitter following is hypercritical of a tweeted link.

The best way to approach the concept of "disagreeable posts" is to tweet the link, note your thoughts in the comments and let your Twitter following do the same. Protecting a following from a contrarian idea is to allow that opposing opinion to flourish. Revealing and then challenging a disagreeable thought allows that disagreeable concept to be debunked. So protecting your following in fact does the opposite.

Feel free to do as you wish, but I think blogging is about ideas. The only fear of differing opinions is that your opinion might not hold up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

ROL: Remember Tomorrow.

ROL (Return On Life) is about engaging in small incremental changes that can have a large positive impact on living life. It is a non-quantitative adaptation of the financial measure ROI (return on investment). This week's ROL is about patience and perspective.

I had two posts that I've written this week that I really like and Friday's topic is chosen. Thursday is "Return On Life", my longest standing feature topic and as of bedtime Wednesday I was void of topic. Which brings me to today's topic, Tomorrow.

There are tasks that need to get done, tasks that should get done and tasks that would be nice to get done. It's important to classify daily tasks in the right category. The efficiency experts can opine about prioritizing tasks, that's not my strength. I don't like to see energy burnt on personal agenda items that shouldn't burn energy.
Need To Get Done.
Today, the kids need to be sent off to school with breakfast and I need to make dinner. The consequences for failing these tasks are obvious.
Should Get Done.
Today, I should obtain information about my wife's high school transcript, talk to the devil my bank about my mortgage modification, donate plasma and post the weekly ROL. The consequences of not completing one of these tasks wouldn't be wonderful but also not drastic. Not completing any of these tasks wouldn't make for a nice dinner.
Nice To Get Done.
Today, it would be nice to knock out a couple of loads of laundry, fix my iTunes, menu plan next week and get a head start on Friday's post. But if I fail to make headway with any of these tasks, the tasks wind up on tomorrow's should or need to get done list.
Perspective And Patience.
My blog has been one of the few things I have regularly delivered at a high level the last couple of months. So after the kids were fed and ready for school, I'm putting the post together. I still have plenty of time before dinner. This post isn't the great American Blog Post, but it's on topic and pertinent about patience and perspective (as well as alliterative). I will have plenty time to call my wife's high school for the transcript and Lucifer the loan officer about the modification before I donate plasma.

Instead of beating myself up and staring at a blank screen I knew that not being able to write wouldn't be the end of the world or even the end of my blogging. I took a breath, gave myself a break an here's a post. No angst and everything else on the list will be accomplished. Some days it really is that simple.

Is it that simple for you?  Do you prioritize and achieve or do you find your wheels spinning and nothing getting done? Do you have a plan for forging ahead?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Holiday Hullaballoo.

I really enjoy this time of year, except for the snow and cold which I merely endure. Aside from that aside it's really great as the holidays approach. Everyone seems to be ready to smile. The lights and decorations are uplifting. The days off work are nice, too. It may be the most wonderful time of the year.
And The Same To You. I Mean...
When I joined the professional world the winter holidays provided additional ongoing moments of glee. As a Jewish Funeral Director serving a primarily Jewish clientele it was obvious to most that my winter holiday of choice (and of birth) is Channukah. I knew most of my vendors were Christian and celebrated Christmas. As December hit the 20's and it was clear I wouldn't be talking to the vendors again before Christmas I would end my call with "Merry Christmas". As most people do, my vendors would reply "and the same to you" and their mind would flash and they would stammer "I mean, uh, Happy Channukah." For some reason, my dark side found that awkward moment for my vendors quite funny, especially as it happened over and over again.
The Mitzvah Is In The Intent.
Before I paint myself as a jerk that revels in the awkwardness of others I would quickly add "Don't worry, I know what you meant. Peace on earth, goodwill to all is a universal message that all support." That's what I believe. A Rabbi friend of mine would often say "The mitzvah (loosely translated as good deed) is in the intent". The wish of a "Merry Christmas" was heartfelt and well intentioned. No one was suggesting I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It behooved me to accept the wishes as intended even if the terminology wasn't completely correct.

I have seen the bumper sticker "We Say Merry Christmas." I heard somebody on the radio say "Merry Christmas because I don't go for that Happy Holiday stuff." I believe I'm sensitive and supportive of those commemorating and rejoicing in the birth of their Lord and Savior. As for myself, I could always use "well wishes" and don't want to throw any "well wishes" away.

What do you think? Am I supporting the homogenizing of a significant religious holiday? Are some folks hypersensitive about receiving wishes for good? Is there a single best way approach to this time of year?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life's Small Moments.

I saw this in my Twitterstream from @Chapmanooka 
3 Dec
why should we settle for a few moments, when a lifetime of struggle and passion are dismissed as trivial?
It took me a bit to try and place the tweet in context. I finally decided the tweet was based on my blog description "It is life's small moments...". Since the tweet was a reference to my blog, I decided to respond via my blog.
Yes, moments. The best example I can offer is my wedding. It was a great day. Sure, the out-door ceremony was moved (wisely) indoors due to an oncoming thunderstorm. Yes, my mother's choice to not attend the wedding is still disturbing. But when I think of my wedding, the first memory I recall is the first dance with my new bride. A friend had brought small containers of bubbles and my wife and I danced ("One Hand, One Heart" for those keeping score at home) our first dance encircled by friends blowing bubbles. Despite the significance and grandeur of the day, it's the bubbles and the love they represent that signify the day. And so it goes with a lifetime. In the midst of both the grand and mundane are small defining moments that carry forward.
Dismissed As Trivial.
By who? The only entity with the power to define or dismiss your "moments" is you. No one can take your "moments" from you unless you empower the taker. I don't allow others to minimize my moments because I don't really care what anybody else thinks. I realize this lack of concern for the opinion of others may be extreme. A more modified approach is simple self-belief. Believing in yourself makes it hard for others to take away things you value. So don't let anyone dismiss your lifetime of struggle and passion and it won't happen. It's about you, no one else.

OK, @Chapmanooka it's your turn. Agree or disagree and tell me why. The conversation is open to anyone.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Magazine: Snow On The Roof.

December 2, 2011.
Snowfall sticks to the roof.
You know what's great about winter? NOTHING.
Only 15 weeks until spring.

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Worlds, Revisited.

It's time to check in on some previous posts:
It's A Small World.
The last day of November I posted about my 2 year anniversary on Twitter. I mentioned tribes I joined and tribes into which I was adopted. The first tribe that adopted me was Hollis Thomases #HTArmy (I've never seen the reference without the hashtag) and being new to Twitter at the time, I have a special fondness for the first group to include me. So, I'm reading Gary Vaynerchuk's "The Thank You Economy" (my plans for 2012 include reading and reviewing a book a month and this is my first selection) last night and on page 96 Vaynerchuk gives an example of social media influencing business, involving Rachel Levy, a Boston marketing and social media professional. I know Rachel as @bostonmarketer from the #HTArmy (yup, the hashtag is a must). I haven't connected with Rachel since last Movember when she was sporting a great Movember 'stache. I thought it was cool to see Rachel in the book. It also gave my a reminder to put her blog in my reader and say, Hi Rachel.
It's A Sick World.
I have posted twice about the morass of amorality that is the Penn State football program with a third post being drafted. That third post was questioning the lack of criticism from athletic officials of other universities because Penn State was enabling child rape. I understand "Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones", but what is going on in a university glass house that stops officials from throwing stones at enablers of child rape? Sadly, I have my answer. Syracuse Univeristy has the same problem as Penn State. ESPN is also equally comfortable with abusers of children. ESPN sat on a phone call confession tape from the child abuser's wife for 9 years. As brought up by Chicago sports talkers Boers and Bernstein, ESPN is owned by Disney. My moral outrage amplifier is so far beyond eleven I can barely hear myself think.
It's A Wonderful World.
I posted in early November about social media go-getter Margie Clayman taking some time away from social media. Some really bad things had happened in Margie's SM world and the joy of SM had gone away for Margie. I haven't asked Margie, so what follows is merely conjecture: Margie appears to have found her response to the bad. Margie's posts on her blog and at 12 Most all center on the good that can be accomplished through social media. Margie seeks out the good in the world anyway, so that makes her recent series of posts double good. Take some time to read Margie's latest posts. It's time well spent.

Finally, thanks for spending a few minutes reading my little blog. Feel free to use the comment section as your personal podium. We're heading towards the winter holidays. Enjoy the beauty of the season.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

ROL: Find Your Passion.

ROL is an abbreviation for Return on Life. Return on Life is all about making small incremental changes that yield large returns on life enjoyment. This week's ROL is about the importance of finding your passion.

Scott Dinsmore (Live Your Legend) offered a wonderful guest post last week on the must read Zen Habits. The post offered 3 steps to making money from your passion. A central element of the post's premise is that each of us has a skill that we do better than anybody else in the world.

I'm all with Scott about making money and (hopefully) earning a living from our individual passion. I'm on that path but that is another post  for another day. Life's too short to spend bundles of time doing something that's merely tolerable or worse. But that's Scott's portfolio. I want to make this one step simpler.
source: morgueFile

It's simply not enough for family to be a personal passion. Dedication to family is not only a key to a well lived life, dedication to family is central to a well lived life. There has to be more. You see it plainly in amateur singers, painters and gardeners. These committed enthusiasts spend time visibly pursuing their passion. Their life is imbued with the energy they have for their passion and all their other activities and obligations benefit from the energy that radiates from their passion.

Scott said it best: "If you've been on this earth for at least a couple of decades, I guarantee you're an expert at something." Identify it, pursue it and do it. Scott's right, you should do it for money but at the very least, do it FOR YOU.  You'll have more energy for your family, your friends and even for the boss of the job you detest/survive/endure. Find something you love and do it.

Do you agree? How would you start? What obvious visible passions have I neglected to mention?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Twitterversary To Me.

I joined Twitter on November 30, 2009. My primary reason for joining Twitter was to test my belief that Twitter was an ideal tool to drive demand during off-peak hours in a B2C environment. That test has long since ended. My hypothesis was proven wrong, but that was due to lack of participation from the business owners not a Twitter deficiency. By the time the great experiment was over, I was hooked on Twitter.
source: Wikipedia
The first three Twitter accounts I followed were Ana Marie Cox, Rachel Maddow and Zach Zaidman. Zach answered a tweet I sent about the Chicago Bears the first week I followed him. I'm still following Rachel. I had to whack Ana Marie after a year due to a following/follower imbalance with the Twitter API, but I just refollowed Ana Marie while getting the link for this post.

My first follower was Sima Dahl and if you're not following Sima, what are you waiting for? Sima returns each and every one of my tweets, FB posts and email. I'm both proud and grateful of building a friendship with someone I have yet to meet face to face.  Enough about Sima, I'm sending her a thank you email today.

I'm following over 3500 and have approximately the same number of followers. The following has been built one at a time, no 'bots. I have fallen in with a bunch of Social Media denizens: novices, enthusiasts and experts (real experts, not self proclaimed experts). I have met and connected with numerous activists/advocates. I have been adopted into and joined multiple tribes. I have also developed relationships with a ton of fine fun people. I am not listing names for fear of accidentally excluding someone.

So to everyone I treasure on Twitter (you know who you are): Thanks for the support, exchanges and RT's. I look forward to another great 12 months and thanks for being in my life.

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Time To Meet The Muppets, But Not In This Movie.

The lyrics conclude: On the most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppet-ational, This is what we call the Muppet Show.  Alas, it wasn't three of the aforementioned adjectives. It did have the Muppets.

For our monthly family outing we took Mario and Little Suzy to see "The Muppets" the day before Thanksgiving. I didn't hate the movie. I had hopes for more than I got. In the sake of full disclosure our December family outing is to see "Chipwrecked". I don't have the same expectations for "Chipwrecked" as I did for "The Muppets".
The Cast:
Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Jack Black, The Muppets
The Plot:
Gary's (Jason Segel) brother, Walter (a Muppet) overhears Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) an evil oil magnate plotting to claim and implode The Muppet Theater for the oil underneath the theater. Walter, Gary and Gary's girlfriend of a decade, Mary (Amy Adams) team to help Kermit reunite the Muppets and foil the oil magnate's plan.
  • Can Gary negotiate his love and dedication for his brother Walter and his love and dedication to his longtime girlfriend Mary?
  • Can Kermit and Miss Piggy either rekindle their relationship which has fallen into disrepair due to decades of inertia  or alternatively put old wounds on hold and reunite with the gang to save the Muppet Theater.
The Great:
  • Chris Cooper gives an outstanding over the top performance as the scenery chewing, embodiment of evil Tex Richman. Cooper goes to the top of the Muppet villain list.
  • Amy Adams channeling Judy Garland as the loving but growing impatient Mary, wondering if her good-hearted schlub of a boyfriend Gary is ever going to figure it out.
  • The writers'/director's/producers take on what passes for entertainment in the form of current reality TV.
As for everything else in the movie, nothing was bad, merely a compilation of requisite components. There was the plethora of celebrity cameos, the road trip, the "show", Miss Piggy's petulance and Kermit's huge heart. All these movie pieces had their moments but the Muppet gestalt was absent.

Jason Segel as writer/producer/star was a large part of the drive to bring the Muppets back to the big screen after a decade+ hiatus. Segel clearly has love and reverence for the Muppets (he even brought back Mahna Mahna) and therein lies my disappointment with "The Muppets". At their core the Muppets are chaotic and irreverent. I found the chaos scenes (where is Sam the Eagle's requisite diatribe at the kidnapping of Jack Black?) in "The Muppets" a bit flat. Jack Black, the king of irreverence, chaos and any combination of both, is under utilized. Sure the reprise of "The Rainbow Connection" tugs at the heart, but is this generation going to get stuck with a Muppet reunion tour and nothing more?

If you're going to get stuck seeing a kids movie, there is a whole lot worse than "The Muppets". Did I mention I'm going to see "Chipwrecked" in December? Still, the Muppets are capable of much more than "The Muppets".

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Perspective, A Fairy Tale.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago a whole bunch of businesses owners and managers reviewed office productivity for the day following Thanksgiving. The productivity review showed that between scheduled days off, "sick calls", out of town visitors and overstuffed employees, the day after Thanksgiving wasn't very productive at work. So the wise businesses owners closed the businesses the day after Thanksgiving. The employees received an extra holiday, although not every employee got a paid holiday.

With an extra day off work and gift giving holidays just around the corner, many of the employees spent the new holiday shopping. Wise retailers started to offer "extra-special specials", encouraging shoppers to come into the "we have specials" stores. It seemed the stores were busier in the afternoon, so the better specials were in the morning. Some specials were limited to the first few hours the stores were open. Some stores even started opening early on this extra holiday, some as early as 6 A.M.

source: morgueFile
As more and more stores started opening early with "extra special quantity limited" specials, the extra holiday was named Black Friday. Some wise store owners and managers realized that shoppers have a limited amount of money to spend. These wise store owners and managers began to offer "really extra special specials with extremely limited quantities" and opened their stores at 4 A.M.  The "really extra special specials prices with extremely limited quantities" were dubbed "Door Busters". Many shoppers started lining up at 2 A.M. or earlier to buy these "Door Busters." It began to seem that Black Friday was becoming more important than Thanksgiving.

source: Wikipedia
After a while Black Friday shoppers and store owners became more obsessed with Door Busters and profits. Stores started opening earlier (2 A.M., midnight, 10 P.M. on Thanksgiving) and some shoppers were trampled to death trying to but the Door Busters. Employees at the stores really didn't have much of a Thanksgiving and some people started to plan their Thanksgiving around their Black Friday. It seemed that what was once a wonderful extra holiday had lost it's luster.

The moral is yet to be determined except that I shouldn't write any more fairy tales. Enjoy your post Thanksgiving turkey salad, turkey sandwiches, turkey croquettes, turkey soup and turkey omelettes.

Any thoughts about Black Friday?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Every Day.

We got a call from Mario's pediatric neurologist in November, 2004. Mario's head CT didn't look right (Mario was still having a terrible time potty training at 5 1/2, so everything was being reviewed).  We were referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon, Dr. Standish, at Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
It's All In His Head.
source: morgueFile
Dr. Standish is kind and soft-spoken. Dr. Standish doesn't own a TV. If you have to see a pediatric neurosurgeon it's comforting to know he's not staying up late, hooked on "Survivor". Dr. Standish pulled up the CT and showed us a blob in Mario's frontal lobe. Dr. Standish believed the blob to be an arteriovenous malformation (AVM). Mario was asymptomatic and with the neurosurgery suite at Children's being upgraded, Mario would not be scheduled until renovations of the suite were finished. Dr. Standish expected to call us with a late January, early February date. As it turned out, Mario didn't get scheduled until April, 2005.
The Day Finally Arrives.
Dr. Standish wasn't sure if surgery was required or even possible. CT scans are a big improvement over 2 dimensional X-Rays, but CT scans don't show everything. So we took young Little Suzy to Grandma and Grandpa, packed a weeks worth of stuff (Dr. Standish told us normal recovery time from brain surgery was about a week as a inpatient) into the Caravan and headed to Children's Memorial Hospital.
Good News.
We arrived at the hospital and went through the normal check-in procedure. After a while, the staff carted Mario to the neurosurgery suite and Mommy and I went to the cafeteria for a little sustenance. Mommy and I checked in at the OR waiting room after a short breakfast and settled in for what we expected to be a long day. I hadn't read more than two pages when the radiologist struts in all gowned up, looking for us. "Good news", he says. "It's not an AVM. Dr. Standish will explain in detail, but what Mario has doesn't require surgery. There is a small chance the artery could rupture so we will have to monitor the artery annually (now biennially). Mario will have to lay on his back for six hours and spend the night here, but you can all go home tomorrow morning." Mommy and I exhaled, got Mario through the six hour lay down, spent the night at Children's and we all went home the next morning.
Post Script Surprise.
I hadn't told many people about Mario's pending surgery, but there will still a few phone calls of joy to make. Mommy and I each called our sides of the family. I called our Rabbi and then I called Godfrey, the best man at my wedding. "Godfrey", I said, "Good news. No surgery for Mario."  "Hey Barry", Godfrey interjected, "I can't stay on the phone long. I'm at Evanston Hospital. Hortense (Godfrey's wife) is in surgery. Seems she has necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria). The doctors were able to stop the spread and now they are removing a small amount of dead tissue from Hortense's hip. Can we talk tomorrow?" Necrotizing fasciitis is so rare that it is often diagnosed too late to save a patient's life. So on that day in April, 2005 I could have left the hospital (after Mario's surgery) to arrange a funeral for my best man's wife. Instead I took my son home the next day and after getting Mario home, called Godfrey to talk about the Cubs.
It Can Always Be Worse.
Since that day in April, 2005, I've had good days, crazy days, quiet days, happy days, sad days and tough days. But since that April day, I've never had a bad day. That's why I'm thankful every day.

From me and mine I want to wish you and yours

Monday, November 21, 2011

It Only Hurts When I Laugh.

The title of the post is the punch line of an old joke and the title of a not-as-old autobiography. The author and subject of the autobiography is one of the funniest people in America: 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's radio, comedy, cartoon and advertising legend, Stan Freberg.

Freberg is the son of a Baptist minister. He generates his laughs with no profanity, using satire like a rubber mallet to make his point. Freberg's description of the depth of the relationship between Columbus and Queen Isabella is truly masterful.  As an ad man, his campaigns for Chun King Chow Mein, Jeno's Pizza Rolls and Sunsweet Prunes are legendary. So why Freberg today? This week?

As I posted Friday, the holidays bring joy but often stress accompanies that joy. Laughter is the best medicine. So take a moment and enjoy this great Freberg Thanksgiving nugget, Pilgrim's Progress/Double Turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Seasonal Stress.

Home for the holidays. The sentence invokes images of Norman Rockwell prints or Currier and Ives plates. These idyllic portraits are great but holiday time isn’t perfect for everyone.  The holidays can be stressful even in the strongest families, especially when dealing with a recent death. With this in mind, here are some practical guidelines for loss/death related holiday stress:
source: Wikipedia
  • If this is the 1st set of holidays after a death: You may notice the new absence when your loved one’s “specialty” occurs: (ex: making the stuffing, carving the turkey, putting up the tree, serving home-made pies or just sitting in a recliner watching TV all day).  You might cry, or not. The holiday may feel the same as last year. It’s also possible you’ll feel nothing, like Novocain without the tingling. Don’t expect a schedule for experiencing new emotions.  Give yourself a break, you’re human. Don’t apologize, no one expects an apology.
  • If you’re beyond the first full year cycle, you are not immune to sadness induced stress. Pain related to death does not have a schedule and does not fight fair. There is no announcement of an impending crying jag; no time to protect yourself. This manifestation of grief will hide around the corner and kick you in the face when you least expect it. Don’t fear this pain, embrace it. It comes with the territory.
  • Note: If the pain is so great you can’t leave bed for days, you may require professional help. Do not try and solve this problem alone.
  • Finally, rely on friends and family. That’s why they are there. 
Over time you will come to understand the source of this stress and though still saddened by the loss, you will smile at the memories.