Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Gentle Change of Seasons

I love this time of year when one season slowly transforms into another. The days grow shorter and the sun sinks a little closer to the horizon with each passing day. The heat and humidity of summer begins to back off and tantalizingly cool breezes begin to make their presence known as quiet reminders that change is in the air.

Nature senses the changes, too. Birds begin gathering in flocks on power lines near sunset. Deer become more visible grazing everywhere there is an open field or a bird feeder with some seed still remaining.

Skies begin to change as well. Deep blue replaces the milky hue that summer often brings. Somehow the air seems clearer at this time of the year. Perhaps it is because after several months of searing temperatures and those milky skies we have forgotten the deep blue nature of the space above us. Sunsets seem more brilliant and are often punctuated with fair weather clouds floating on the horizon.

As night falls, the temperature falls with it. Windows that welcomed the fresh air into the house during the day quickly come down as the cool, damp air of the evening flows through the screens. Somehow, at this time of year, the nights seem a little darker, a little more mysterious. The nighttime sky becomes awash in stars. Constellations dot the firmament with a brilliance that was lost in summertime humidity. The winter blanket of stars begin to make their appearance led by the king of them all Orion.

Leaves begin to tumble from their summer homes as trees prepare for the coming cold of winter. Vibrant colors, there all along, although covered by the green of chlorophyll in the summer, are spectacularly revealed. As the breeze blows, they dance upon their branches as if to bring the world's attention to them in their last days of existence. Once freed from their lofty perches, they float innocently to the ground where squirrels and birds forage for seeds more hurriedly because the chill of Autumn is in the air.

Oh, there still are warm days ahead, but those days are fewer and farther in between. The warmth comes as a reminder that the seasons do not depart easily. But time moves on and so does human existence. The seasons present a rhythm to our lives that we barely notice. Our patterns of living change according to the season. As the year grows more into fall, we move indoors against the lower temperatures and deepening nights. Our diets change. We become reacquainted with more indoor activities as the world outside continues to evolve toward winter.

But, for now, the glory that is the season of Autumn, is on display. There is a sense of peace in this and a sense of comfort in knowing of the consistency of the seasonal changes. It is a time of year to celebrate the bounty of summer and the beauty of nature seen in momentary displays of spectacular colors that mankind could never reproduce.

Autumn. A season of change. A season of delight!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Eight years ago today, the world changed. As America was awakening on that September morning, no one could have known that an historic act of epic proportion was about to take place and change all of us forever. The photo of firemen raising the flag ((c) 2001 The Record, (Bergen County, NJ) in the midst of the rubble of the World Trade Center is burned into the memories of most Americans who witnessed the terrible events of that day unfold on television.

Thousands died on this day in New York, Washington, and on a lonely farm field in Pennsylvania. All were innocent of any crime. They were going about their business just as we all were without a thought of death in their minds.

I can remember the stunned silence when we first heard that an airliner had slammed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. I thought it was rather odd that a plane of such size had crashed into the WTC because I had visited the towers on a couple of occasions and knew precisely where they were. No aircraft ever fly that low over that part of Manhattan. I found myself thinking that this was probably a terrorist act but as soon as that thought popped into my head, it left. I don't think I wanted to even entertain the possibility of such a thing happening. Yet, it did.

On September 10, 2001, the world was different in so many ways. We were not afraid in the same way we are now in light of the disaster. Our concerns seem so trivial from this vantage point. If you remember that day and were anywhere where others were such as grocery stores or buses or restaurants you will remember that almost blank look on nearly everyones face. We were all in shock. The images of those towers first being attacked by the hijacked airliners and then tumbling to the New York streets below were sered into our minds. It was hard to get the images out as you played them over and over in an attempt to make sense of the insensible.

Churches filled that night with the faithful praying, seeking Divine guidance in coming to grips with this national tragedy. People were kinder to one another as strangers struck up conversations everywhere. All airline traffic was grounded and as the skies above emptied, an eerie silence crept over the land. Flags appeared everywhere, in yards, on porches, in cars, and on subways. As the shock wore off, the demand for revenge began to grow not just in Washington but throughout the country. It was clear we were about to embark on a misguided war. The thirst for blood was palpable.

Muslims everywhere feared for their very lives. The public looked upon every member of that faith suspiciously. I remember one very educated man at worked demanded that we drop the nuclear bomb on Iraq and Iran and turn it into a "parking lot." He was not alone.

In order to cope with the underlying fear that most people felt to one degree or another. we turned to comfort foods. Remember? Stews, meat loaves, home cooked meals and family potlucks became the fashion of the time. People needed a firm foundation from which to operate so as to feel a sense of security and familiarity. It provided us with an anchor of sorts and we felt a little better about things. But it was not a permanent thing.

Now, eight years later, thousands dead both Americans and citizens of the Middle East, we are mired in a war of a different sort. It is an internal conflict but not a Civil War. It is, rather, a conflict of trying to determine just who we are as a nation and a people. It is a conflict of realizing that a vast majority of the Muslim faith are peace loving, law abiding citizens, while, at the same time, harboring an uneasy sense of suspicion against anyone who professes that faith. We seem to have lost our moral compass.

Who knows how long America's young men and women will have to stay and fight in far off places like Iraq and Afghanistan? Who knows how many American lives will be lost right along with the lives of the innocent citizens of both countries. Who knows what will become of our culture which was thrown into a chaos on that September day which still reverberates today.

The only moral compass we have is that of God. He is present in our families. He is present in the workplace in the form of others. He is present in our churches, synagogues, and mosques. He is in nature. He is in us. He is the answer. Because we have lost our way, it is important for us to remember what Christ said so long ago. "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (Jn 14:6) We must find our way back to Him before we can find our way back to a society grounded in confidence and freedom that 9/11 took away from us.

On this day we pause to remember those who died in the rubble of planes and buildings. We remember them with a firm resolution to restore the dignity to our society through peaceful means, with an eye to defending ourselves when justified and treating each other as our brothers and sisters. I can hear some of you moaning at this last statement, but if you think back to 9/12 and after you will realize that for one sparkling moment in the ashes of disaster, we did see each other as brothers and sisters, sharing a common destiny and hope for the future of our country and our children.

Rest in Peace all those victims who perished just eight years ago this morning. And may we never forget to treat each other with the dignity and integrity that all deserve.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Birthday to Remember!

One of the biggest days of a young person's life is their birthday. This was no exception on Sunday, September 6, as the family gathered together to celebrate Keirah's 3rd birthday.

It was a great day filled with fun, laughter, energy, and a reminder of what is really important in life. When I look at the pictures taken and the memories stored, I find an amazing thing. In attendance were several generations of family. Keirah had two great grandmas, one great grandpa, two grandmas, and two grandpas helping her to celebrate her big day. The first picture above shows three of the four generations present with Aliyah and Keirah in front of her great-grandparents and grand parents on her mom's side. What a remarkable picture it is showing life as it naturally occurs. And, of course, the birthday girl's picture is right below.

The energy that Keirah and Aliyah displayed could be enough to run a large city for a week I think. As usual, wrapping paper went flying. Bows were quickly tossed aside. And cupcakes, fruit and other snacks eagerly consumed. Before you knew it, the afternoon had passed.

We had the great pleasure, however, of going to dinner with Keirah, Aliyah, and her mom and dad. After consuming yet another copious amount of food, we headed for some deliciously rich and creamy ice cream! By this time, I could barely waddle! Next on the agenda, although it was a surprise, was a round of miniature golf. I had not played the game in years and years but it was great fun. Watching the girls play was enough fun all by itself. Each has her own style, brimming over with enormous amounts of energy!

With the conclusion of the 18th hole, the day came to an end. It was time to bid farewell to the birthday girl and her family with a long three hour ride ahead of us. We were both very tired but filled with fond memories of a day with family. Nothing is more important than family, a lesson that is not necessarily always appreciated in our younger years. But it is in the heart of the family where we find love and acceptance unlike anywhere else. We use birthdays and holidays as excuses to get together. Maybe its time we gather together just because we want to!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Very Special Little Girl On Her Birthday

Three years ago as the warm, moist summer breezes began to usher in the cooler, drier zephyrs of autumn, a little girl was born into our family adding more treasure to our lives than can ever be imagined.

Keirah came into a family with a loving mom and dad and eager loving sister. She could not have known in those early moments of life how much she was already loved. Now, fresh into the world, the love would grow and grow with each passing day of her young life.

Keirah, that little ball of love, has graced us all with that winsome look of hers that draws you in and invites you to take her into your arms and hug her for the rest of time. She is a wisp of smoke, a breath of air moving effortlessly from one place to another gathering her thoughts along the way.

She is all girl. Purses, necklaces, bracelets, anything feminine spells Keirah. She wouldn't be caught dead in anything but the appropriate attire for a young lady of her standing! And while bedecked in all her finery, her piercing blue eyes gaze upon a world hungering for just the sort of love this little one holds in her heart.

She loves her mommy and daddy and adores her big sister Aliyah, although from time to time, she does mother Aliyah. But Aliyah takes it in her stride because these two are not only sisters but the best of friends. They always look out for one another in a protective and embracing sort of way. No one dare step in the middle of these two!

Look into the eyes of this special birthday girl and see the love of family deeply reflected and exhibited. Here is a young lady with a wonderful start on life who is well-grounded because of a mom and dad who have their priorities firmly in place. She is being taught that the love of God for us all is shown best in the midst of family, imperfect though it may be from time to time. She is a loving child who shares the love that family has taught her. And she has been instructed well for, as those wonderful eyes bespeak, life is good when in the loving arms of the family that loves her so much.

As the years go by, I will get to know my special little granddaughter more and more. This is where the important things are. Not in jobs. Not in money. Not in possessions. But rather in the soul of our very special Keirah! Happy 3rd birthday, Keirah. We love you very much.