Friday, November 27, 2009

Words of Wisdom

A long time ago when I was in the seminary, I had a very wise, young priest as a religion teacher. He had only been a Franciscan priest for a few short years when our paths crossed but he always left me with a lasting impression.

Recently, he became pastor of St. Peter's Church in the Loop in Chicago. The Church is home to a community of Franciscans, man of whom I knew when I was in the seminary. Fr. Kurt Hartrich, my one time teacher and now the pastor, continues to teach. Recently he wrote of, as part of his weekly column in the parish bulletin, an interesting list composed by an elderly woman. I thought I would pass this along to you as food for thought as we head through this busy holiday season. Enjoy!


Regina Brett, age 90, wrote the following column in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. She indicated it was the 45 lessons life had taught her. I thought you might want to consider these as we begin a new liturgical year. They give us a great deal to think about and to act upon.

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
5. Pay off your credit cards every month.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be kept secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry. God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare and then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words, “In five years, will this matter?”
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive everyone for everything.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative—dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
42. The best is yet to come.
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
44. Yield.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


We now enter that time of year when the feast of the birth of Christ nears. It is a time of great excitement and anticipation. The world seems to buzz about in a frenzy preparing for the big day. Constant reports stream in through the news networks about how sales in retail stores are going in order to gauge the financial health of the retail world in specific and the nation in general. It is a time of stress for many, feeling pressured to do everything right and get that very special gift for that very special someone else. While the world buzzes about doing its business, most have seemed to have forgotten one of the real purposes for these few short weeks before Christmas: preparation.

We Americans love to prepare for things. We enjoy the anticipation of an upcoming event so much so that the anticipation is often nearly as fulfilling as the event we prepare for. Christmas is a prime example. Black Friday, a term signaling the importance of the day after Thanksgiving to retailers, kicks off the biggest season of preparation that we put ourselves through. Sales, sales, and more sales are the main topics of conversations as otherwise normally sane people head out into the cold of the early morning to stand in line awaiting the best price on this year's newest and hottest gadget. For many, it becomes a ritual, an annual event to be approached and undertaken much in the same way as an athlete might approach an upcoming event. The preparation, that is the shopping, the planning, the partying are almost as much fun as the event of Christmas turns out to be. But we must prepare ourselves for something much more profound.

Now I am not speaking solely of the preparation for the secular celebration of the season of which we are all familiar. No, what I am speaking of is the preparation for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The season, known by many as Advent, has, from its beginnings, been a time of awareness of the return of Christ. Just as we would prepare for the arrival of a dignitary to our homes, so we must also prepare our spiritual lives for the return of our King. How would we, for example, prepare our homes and ourselves for a visit to our home by the President of the United States? What would we do?

No matter how intricate our preparation for the visit of a president may be, our preparation for the coming of the Savior needs be much more involved. These days of Advent are a time of introspection. What could we do better? How can we more perfectly order our lives to align them with that of our Lord's? What have we done during the past year to improve our relationship with God? Where are we in our relationship with God?

These are questions that require us to travel deep into our inner souls. It is a journey fraught with peril because if we are to do it honestly, we will encounter things that we may not like. We will meet ourselves as we really are if we face our inner self with the aid of God in a way that we often do not have enough courage to do. Every day we need to encounter God through prayer. We need to set aside a few minutes out of our busy schedules to spend some time in humble conversation with God. We need to bring Him all of our needs, all of our wants, and all of our fears. We need to express our love for Him and our sorrow for our sinfulness. We need to take on a new humility, realizing that the days are drawing near when the Son of God will return to this world.

Advent is a time for family. We need to come together, forgive one another for offences that we may have committed against one another and help each other reach a new and more meaningful relationship with the Father. There is a tradition known as the Advent Wreath that gathers the family together for family prayer each day of Advent. The wreath consists of four candles, three purple and one pink. The purple candles signify our serious look ito ourselves. The pink stands for the joy we feel as we near Christmas and is lit on the Third Sunday of Advent and each night that week. Each night as the family gathers together a candle is lit and prayers are recited.
The types of prayers, however, are not what is really important. Any prayer, so long as it comes from the heart, will do. The main thing is that they are prayed within the participation of the family as a way of preparing to celebrate the Lord's birth and to prepare for His second coming. This has the great potential of drawing our families together as well as drawing us each individually closer to God.

Any way that you choose, do as John the Baptist did and prepare the way of the Lord for He is surely coming. Advent is an especially good time of the year for this preparation because we are already focused on preparation in our secular lives. Our souls cry out for the Lord. We must make way for Him in our hearts and minds so that we may draw nearer to Him and to one another!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thanksgiving. The gentle holiday. For many people I know, Thanksgiving Day ranks as one of the favorite, of not the favorite, of holidays. I concur.

This is a gentle holiday. It is as if we all pause, momentarily, before that frenzied season of Christmas is ushered in. It is a day of quiet peace and warmth. It seems to be truly one of the last holidays that is mostly reserved for families for most of us tend to spend the day in the warmth and friendship of family.

There is, of course, the great meal that too many of us tend to enjoy too much! There are the reacquaintances of relatives we haven't seen since last year at this time. There is a crackling fire in the hearth. The aroma of the meal lingers throughout our homes as a subtle and gentle reminder of the meaning of the family meal that for far too many of us is but a distant memory. There are the conversations of the state of the nation around the dinner table and passionate debates about what must and should be done about the state of the economy.

Then, of course, there are the roars of laughter as long-forgotten family stories surface of Thanksgivings past. "Remember when. . " becomes the opening line of each person as they recall some of the more humorous family times. Loved ones no longer with us are remembered in bittersweet stories tinged with a sense of happiness and sorrow even if their passing was many, many years ago. In this way they are with us even today.

In 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln announced the very first observance of a day of thanks, the nation was plunged deeply in the American Civil War. Things had not gone well for the North, but the tide had been turned during the summer with victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Still, public morale was low. Lincoln, a savvy observer of human nature, understood that the human spirit needed, from time to time, to uniformly give thanks for what they had. He knew that giving thanks not only entailed looking back and being grateful for what we have been given but it also led to looking forward with hope to an uncertain future.

No truer statement could be made for our times. The last several years have been rough times for the nation as well as individual families. Fortunes have been lost. Jobs have disappeared. Many families who were intact only a few months ago now find themselves torn apart by the turbulent times. We need to now pause, take stock in what we do have of real value, and look forward to the future with whatever renewed hope we can muster.

Priorities for many have changed. Material goods and possessions have disappeared with the fortunes of a crashing stock market. When we find ourselves in this position, we need to look around in an attempt to reprioritize our lives. What is important to us? One word comes to mind almost immediately: family.

Robert Frost once observed, "Family is where they have to take you in." Maybe, but family is so much more than that. Family is where our hopes, fears, disappointments, yearnings, and love reside with a sense of comfort and safety. This is sadly not true of all families, though. Many are torn apart by the forces of society, left with the scars of abandonment, disappointment, and failed dreams. Those of us who have experienced these things and emerged stronger for them have yet another thing to be thankful for. We need to embrace them and encourage them to move forward through life with integrity, courage, and a bright spirit that will lead to better days.

What am I most thankful for? My family, quite obviously. I have a loving wife with whom I share my life, my joys, my sorrows, my hopes, and, most importantly, my love. She is my rock and life's companion. Growing old without her simply seems unthinkable.

My mother, who is now in her 80's, still has her health even though she is not the icon of strength that she once was as I grew into adulthood. She is a model of courage and strength for all of us showing us the power of hope and positive attitude.

My son, Josh and his family have brought me great joy. He and his wife, Melissa, have shown me unconditional love that burns brightly in my heart. Their little ones, Aliyah and Keirah, light my future with the energy so unique to the young. I see in their eyes my past and my future all tied up in bows and ribbons with a can do attitude that gives me great pride and joy.

I am fortunate to have a great job even though the hours leave something to be desired! My home is comfortable and I want for nothing. God has blessed me with the ability to support the two of us and life is grand.

This kind and gentle holiday is a celebration that is much needed placed at the time of year that it is. The year is nearly finished. We are, perhaps, a bit weary of the quick passage of time. It is so easy to lose sight of what we really do have instead of bemoaning what we do not have as we move through the seasons and months of the year. But this one kind and gentle day allows us to take stock of those things that mean the most to us and, thus, becomes God's blessing to us. For in the end, we must first and foremost give thanks to God for his goodness, compassion, and love and how all of that has been made manifest to us in the passing year. It is my wish for you on this Thanksgiving that you, too, may realize those things for which you are most thankful and that they take you into the upcoming year with a renewed spirit and heart to face the inevitable trials that life brings.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Great Debate

And so it begins. The United States Senate voted on Saturday night, November 21, 2009, to bring the health care reform bill to the floor of the senate for debate. The vote was strictly along party lines 60-39. Now the true colors of each Senator will be revealed.

One of the most contentious portions of the bill is that amendment called the Stupak amendment that bans federal funding for abortions. The president along with Democratic leaders will now get their debate. They will no longer be able to hide behind the language of a hundred lawyers. They will be forced into the open unable to hide their true will for the bill.

It is time! Time to see just what the leadership of the US Senate believes. It is time for plain speaking and plain dealing. There can be no deal where this issue is concerned because to deny the fundamental right to life is to minimize all other human rights. Without the right to life guaranteed, all other rights can be taken away in a moment's instance. And don't think they won't be!

Those who support the Stupak amendment must now stand tall and go toe-to-toe with those who would see the amendment defeated and dropped entirely from the legislation. They must insist that there will be no support for the bill without supporting the amendment. It is time for hardball (not Chris Matthews version either!). It is time for such august bodies as the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops to speak up loudly and clearly. They have done an admirable job at this thus far, especially Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. He has been joined by a chorus of fellow bishops and cardinals in his insistence that no federal funds be allotted for abortion. The chorus must grow more numerous and louder so that the voices of those who support life are not drowned out by the voices of those who have so much compassion in their hearts for the rights of women while denying the rights of the unborn. But, at the heart of this issue, this is a grass roots debate.

It is time for the constituency of each senator to make their voices heard. It is time to contact senatorial offices to let your senator know in no uncertain terms that you will not only not support him or her for re-election if they vote to dump the Stupak amendment but that you will work hard in unseating them. They must know the real concern and real demands of the every day people they pay lip service to every election cycle.

Most of all, we need to pray. Prayer is the most powerful weapon we have in this battle. Prayer is the only way that we can possibly begin to move the mountains of indifference that exist towards an unborn child. Prayer will also enlighten us, guide us and sustain us in this momentous fight. This is it! If federal funding for abortion is approved, there is no going back. Once the funding is in place, it will remain so for years and decades to come.

Those who lie peacefully in their mother's wombs count on us to protect them and watch over them. They are the most innocent of society and, as a result, are the most vulnerable as well. Without our voice they have no voice. Without our prayers they have no prayers. And without our loving concern they have no tomorrow. Pray for the conversion of hearts and minds in this debate so that every citizen of the United States of America does, in reality, have equal rights. Polls show that a majority of Americans now oppose abortion and an ever greater majority is opposed to public funding for abortion. It is time, then, for us to unite our many voices in a unified way so that the lawmakers in Washington have no doubt what the will of the people is in this matter!

Friday, November 20, 2009

My Wife

One of the most difficult things to do in this life is to try to describe someone who means so much to you that you simply cannot imagine a day without them. They are close to your thoughts all waking moments. They are the first one you want to tell something new to. They are, in fact, an integral part of who you are.

That is my wife Joan. When I met her my life was adrift. I had no direction and no idea even how to find one. I'll never forget the first time I saw her. There was no thunder, no lightning, just a sense of someone very special passing by. It wasn't anything she said because the first time we met we didn't even exchange any words! It was just that certain feeling, a sixth sense if you will, that this person is not just an ordinary human being momentarily passing through your life.

Today is Joan's birthday! I wish her a happy birthday but that seems so inadequate because of what she has done for me and how much she has come to mean to me. We have seen each other through amazingly hard times, times of sadness and disappointment. We have been afraid together and faced an unknown future arm-in-arm, thus becoming stronger both as a couple and as individual human beings. We have celebrated the joys of family, welcoming into the world very special grandchildren. We have hoped, planned, and rejoiced as we look to a future life together for many years to come.

Joan will not like these accolades because she is one of the most humble people I have ever known. She has special qualities and talents that so many people do not know. She is a great cook. She loves to put together special meals for the two of us to share because it is one way of showing the love she has for me and I am humbled (and well-fed!). She has a compassion for the down-trodden and underdogs of the world that I do not think most people would ever know. Every time there is a sad story on the news about someone or some thing, Joan shakes her head in disbelief and utters an unheard prayer from her heart. There is a tenderness about her that is reflected in her love of plants. She tends to a garden like a devoted mother tends to her offspring. And they respond in kind by flourishing under her watchful eye.

Her pride unmistakeably shows when she talks about the two loves of her life, her sons Mike and Steve. She loves them with complete abandon and their love for her fuels her life. She tries to make each passing birthday special for them, never forgetting their big day. And in them you can see the qualities that had their origins in Joan. They are fine men and are very deserving of their mother's deep and lasting pride.

Most of all, I want to wish my dearest wife the happiest of birthdays. We will spend this day mostly apart because of the demands of the my job. But that does not mean that we will be apart from each other. I will be thinking of her all day knowing that I will return soon to the home she has made so comfortable and cozy to live in, but would never be the same without her. Life marches on as time inexorably passes. But there is great comfort for me in the thought that I will walk down the path of life with my best friend and wife at my side. May I always be worthy of her love and learn from her courage, compassion, and great capacity to embrace life. Happy Birthday Joan!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mammograms and the $

For years, the American Cancer Society, the AMA, and health care professionals have all agreed that once a woman reached her 40th birthday, it was wise for her to have an annual mammogram. With the invention of the mammogram, detection of breast cancer in its earlier stages became a reality and countless women's lives were saved as a result.

Now, a government task force directed by the Obama administration has proclaimed that this is no longer a good idea. In fact, the task force stated that a woman really doesn't need to have an annual mammogram until age 50. Citing the number of false positives that mammograms have produced and the related expenses in treating what was thought to have been cancer, this would be a good move not only from a health standpoint but from an economic stance as well.

Doctors and other health professionals throughout the country have uniformly risen up and condemned this suggestion. They say the whole notion for a woman to postpone an annual mammogram until age 50 is preposterous. Too many women while in their 40's have had the dreaded disease detected by the test and would simply not be around these days had these guidelines been accepted as the conventional wisdom of the day. The outcry against this notion was so deafening that Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius declared that Medicare would continue to pay for mammograms and she was certain that private insurers would continue to do so as well. Many of those insurance companies have affirmed that there will be no policy changes in regards to the coverage provided for mammograms.

We have witnessed several issues in this discussion started by the task force's declaration. One of the most obvious is that this is just the beginning of government sponsored health care. This idea has been roundly shouted down across the board and the panel who made this suggestion has little, if any, credibility left. This event, I believe, has served as a sort of trial balloon by the administration who is now on the brink of bringing state sponsored health care to the American people. The task force did not have the authority to make their suggestion law. It is merely a recommendation. However, in the future, similar government panels will be put in place to control costs. It will be subtle and barely noticed at first. But it will happen. This leads to another, even more important issue.

Life, now more than ever, has a price on its head. We are beginning to no longer consider certain medical treatments only on the basis of their ability to heal and sustain life but as to how much they will cost and will the efforts extended by such treatments be productive. This is more frightening than any other prospect. No price tags have been affixed to an individual life and it is doubtful that this would ever take place. However, it is conceivable to think that medical decisions will be made within a bureaucratic setting where economy may override health. This diminishes the value of life. How would it ever be possible to formulate guidelines that would set standards for when care should be provided or withheld? Who would determine this?

Health care by government bureaucracy is not an improvement over the current system. There are those who claim that the private insurers already practice a form of bureaucratic administration of health care benefits. While this may be true to a certain extent, it is nowhere near how a governmental bureaucracy would run things. There would be more regulations than anyone could ever possibly keep track of. Look at the tax code for an example. Who really understands that and how smoothly is it administered?

The health of our nation is threatened by this new form of health insurance. Thankfully, the medical community and insurance community have come together in the great mammogram debacle and have stood squarely against the task force's recommendations. But if, and when, national health insurance becomes a reality, who will stand then for common sense approaches to medicine and medical care? The action taken by the task force is but a foreshadowing of how things might be in the near future where decisions about medical procedures that will directly effect your families and friends will be determined by a governmental official.

The Feminists, The Media, and Sarah

At the outset, I must say that I am not a big Sarah Palin fan. I agree with some of what she says but am not convinced that she is presidential timber. Time will tell, of course, and a lot can happen between now and the campaign season of 2012. However, I do know that she does have a huge impact on the American public.

Today her book, "Going Rogue," is being released nationally. Long lines have formed at bookstores around the country waiting to purchase their copy. Some think the reason for this turn out is because she was on Oprah and is popular. Some think it is because she is "hot." Still others are in line out of pure curiosity. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Sarah Palin is center stage in the political world at this time.

The ex-governor of Alaska has endured a barrage of criticism mainly from the liberal, mainstream media. They have attacked her intelligence. They have assaulted her family. They have written her off as a dunce. They have demeaned her by putting a photo of her in shorts on the cover of the once respected magazine "Newsweek," a photo that she posed for to highlight running in fitness publication. Had all of this happened to a liberal woman, there would have been howls of protest from the media led by the feminist movement. Instead of protests of the exploitation of women and degrading of a woman who is a national figure, there has been the sound of deafening silence from these groups, especially the feminist community.

Where is the outrage? Where is the indignation that one of the feminine persuasion is being unfairly branded as an unintelligent, out-of-touch idiot? Where is the demand for apologies from those who have dragged her family into the fray? In short, where is the fairness from the feminist wing of liberal thinking America?

I think we all know the answer to this question. You can be a feminist only if you agree with the feminist agenda. Sarah Palin is from Alaska, a long way away from the supposed intellectually rich northeast. She seems to be one of the people for whom the media has disdain. She connects with people, speaking their language and about things that truly concern most Americans, such as jobs and security. She does not hold back and speaks her peace in plain English. She does not pretend to be something that she is not.

Let's face it. The mainstream media looks upon the ordinary American as less than intelligent. They are condescending in their demeanor towards us. They constantly dismiss our opinions as uninformed and unimportant. They think that all problems can and should be solved by big government and bigger government rather than hard work done in the trenches of daily life in the real world. They sit at their computers and criticize the ordinary American for not going along with such liberal ideas such as abortion and gay marriage. According to them, we out here in Ordinaryville are either too stupid to truly understand these issues or we're just plain bigoted and mean spirited. They certainly don't think that we can see through their high-minded words and thoughts for what they really are. And they certainly cannot understand how in the world Sarah Palin can connect with so many people in the way she does.

Word of warning to the liberal media as well as the feminist movement: Do NOT underestimate Sarah Palin. She may not have the grace of speech that the current president has. She may have a little accent when she speaks that does not sound anything like a northeastern accent. In underestimating Sarah Palin the liberal media underestimates the American public. Contrary to what they think, we do have intelligence and something extra that they do not have: common sense!

Regardless of whether or not you like Sarah Palin, let's celebrate her spirit. She's not afraid to express herself. She is willing to fight for those things she believes in and she is certainly not afraid to get involved in order to change things for the better. So let us enjoy the success of Sarah Palin as she tours the country selling her book. Let her be a reminder to us all that the ordinary American is what this country is all about and without the people who go to work daily, pay taxes, raise kids, get involved in their schools and communities this country would be a mere shadow of what it has become. Without us, it would be a very small community of liberal thinkers producing very little beyond their own opinions and empty promises.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

Today used to be known as Armistice Day. It was on this day at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918 that the armistice (peace treaty) was signed to end the war to end all wars, also known as World War I. There were great hopes at the end of this brutal war that this would truly be the last great conflict between nations.

Little is really known of this war today. Sadly, the brutal facts of the bloodshed of this war has been eclipsed by the even greater brutality of World War II that followed only a few years later. But World War I was brutal. Few people today, I am sure, do not realize that the United States sat on the sidelines as Europe plunged deeper and deeper into war from 1914 on. America was only too happy to remain isolated from the ravages of the violence in Europe. However, as time went on, it was clear that the US would have no choice but to join the fight. And we did so in 1917.

Also little known and realized is the fact that the United States used poison gas as a weapon on the battlefield. This was a common practice in those days. And this is where the War gets personal for me.

My grandmother had a brother (my great-uncle) who fought in the war. He was at the front on this day in 1918. When the armistice was signed on the morning of November 11, he was in the trenches in the Black Forrest in France. Because communications were not then what they are now, his unit had no idea of the cease fire that had been declared the moment the peace treaty was signed. In the middle of the afternoon, orders were issued for his unit to launch a gas attack on the German entrenchments across the way. The wind was favorable and the battle would be quick. Or so they thought.

As the noxious mustard gas drifted over the field toward the Germans, the wind suddenly and without warning, began to change directions. Before they knew it, the cloud enveloped the Americans. Some of the troops managed to don their protective gas masks but most did not. One of those was my grandmother's brother. He died there on the battlefield at the age of 23.

Back in Pekin, Illinois, where my grandmother, her father, mother, and sister lived, plans were being made that very day for their beloved son and brother's return. He had plans to enter the seminary and become a Catholic priest upon his return home. He was due back shortly before Christmas. He would, indeed, be back before Christmas, but not in the way hoped for.

One can only imagine the grief of the family and many friends that Lawrence had. From all accounts, he was a popular young man, always willing to lend a hand to any who may need one. Now he was dead, a casualty of a war that had officially ended only a few short hours before he died. He is buried in a small Catholic cemetery in Pekin and every Veterans Day his grave is marked with a fresh American flag.

Since that fateful day 91 years ago, millions of families from all over the world have experienced the pain that my grandmother's family felt upon hearing word of Lawrence's death. The twenty-first century was the bloodiest century in human history. The War to End All Wars obviously did not end warfare! World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the First Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan are only a small, incomplete list of wars that have been fought since WWI. Countless smaller wars between third world countries have raged killing millions more either through the violence of war or the tragic consequences of such armed conflict.

Today, we must pause and pay tribute to those who voluntarily put themselves in harms way to protect the freedoms that have been won for us over the years. Those who serve in the military do so with the knowledge that some day they may be called upon to give their "last full measure of devotion." They leave homes with wives and children and husbands counting the days till their return. These sacrifices effect us all whether we know a soldier who has gone to war or not. We are free because of their sacrifices. We have become strong through their efforts. We have become a nation that serves as a beacon of freedom and hope to an oppressed world. Without their service, we would never have been able to enjoy the kind of life we now have.

Yes, this nation has many ills. However, one of the most noble elements of this country is the United States Veteran. Through them we have become free and strong and have improved the lot of the world. Much revisionist history has been written over the years to distort many people's views of the American Veteran. Yet, one truth cannot be changed. Veterans of all generations have been heroes of freedom and sentinels overseeing our freedom. Thank you to all who have served this country in the military. Without you we could not have freedom!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Evenings

Sunday evening is a special time of the week virtually unlike any other. It is a time when the family settles in, quietly going about its business with a thought to the upcoming week. Yet, there is still time to relax without plunging into the responsibilities of day-to-day life.

We look forward to what the week might bring, what work might hold or what new adventures school might bring. Those searching for work in this troubled economy have time to take a breath and revitalize a sense of hope that this new week will be the week that changes everything. We look back to the week that was and wonder what might be different over the next seven days. At this time of the year we begin to look to the weeks that lie ahead and formulate plans for the holiday season that is nearly upon us.

Sunday night is a time of preparation as well. We begin to prepare mentally for the week ahead. But for the moment, things are quiet. Sunday night is also a time to make sure the kids have their homework finished. It is a time to straighten up the house so that when the burden that is Monday rolls around, one less chore will remain to cause aggravation.

Sunday night seems to be a night set aside for family. Any visitors we have entertained over the weekend have long since retreated to the comforts of their own homes. Our doors close to the outside world and we feel safe and secure. It is a time when the world seems to slow down a little and we can actually relax for a few minutes.

On a Sunday such as the one that has just passed, we may reflect on our accomplishments over the last couple of days. Bits of paint on our hands may linger reminding us of that paint job we had been meaning to do all summer long but just never found the time to do until this unexpected summer-like November weekend arrived. Christmas lights may now decorate the outside of our house as we took the opportunity to string them up in the warm weather. They will not glow until at least Thanksgiving night, but we feel good for having gotten this chore out of the way without fingers turning blue or ears about to snap due to the cold. Plants that have long needed transplanting now reside in their new homes taking root in fresh soil.

Sunday night is a time for hope. We hope the week goes quickly. We hope the week passes without too much trouble. We hope that the kids do well in school. We hope that Friday gets here fast so we can enjoy another weekend in the warm sunshine even though we are aware that in November warm sunshine isn't exactly plentiful. We hope that the holidays don't come on us too quickly and that this year they don't pass so fast so that it seems that they were hardly here.

Yes, Sunday night is a special time of the week. The world slows down if only for a short while to afford us the opportunity of this kind of introspection that all of us need at one time or another. The bonus of Sunday night is that you don't even have to do anything special to make it that way! It just is. And maybe that is the lesson that is most important about this evening. Sunday night just is as it comes. maybe one of the things that we can hope for in the upcoming week is that we seek to be ourselves and nothing more. For that is the luxury that Sunday evening presents to us. On Sunday evening, we can be ourselves because there are no expectations for this first night of the week. We just settle in and enjoy. That is my wish for you this week, that you settle in and enjoy life for life is far too short and precious to experience in any other way but who you are!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


And now November. Nature's annual festival of color has peaked and now the stars of the show lay about on the ground awaiting their final pickup. In the spectacular side show's wake is November. November. The first month with consistently chilly temperatures. The month of transition. Time changes. Trees change, exchanging their blanket of leaves for a skeleton against the sky. The sun sets earlier and earlier with each passing day. Nature begins her long sleep through the cold months of the coming winter.

We humans change, too. Our thoughts turn to indoor activities. We think of visiting others more often. Menus change from the lighter fare of summer to the heartier offerings of chilled autumn evenings. We become indoor creatures once again. Jackets replace tank tops and t-shirts. And the world continues to move onward, ever changing yet, somehow, always the same.

With the passing of Halloween and the advent of the first day of the month, we begin to look toward the horizon of time and see that the holidays loom ever closer. Thanksgiving now becomes a reality as menus are laid out and provisions for the coming feast are procured. Guest lists are made as the annual visit of grandpa and grandma is anticipated. There is a warm feeling in these preparations as this special holiday of November brings a feeling of familial warmth that other holidays don't seem to quite match. It is the time of the year that many begin reflecting on the year that is now nearly passed. In a real sense, it is the beginning of the yearly renewal of our spirit.

The seasons are mystical benchmarks of our lives. They are some of the only consistencies we ever experience in life and November leads the way from autumn to winter with a particular grace and style. There are no more warm, humid breezes to soothe us after a long hot day. Chill winds and cold rain are often the dominant natural forces we encounter and yet there is an unquestionable warmth to the month. There is a coziness that no other month conveys in quite the same way.

The month also marks the passing of our loved ones who may have left this life over the last twelve months. We remember them with fondness and a sense of emptiness and sadness. On the second day of the month, we mark their passing with the observation of All Souls Day. Then, nine days later, we salute those who have lost their lives and who presently serve their country with Veterans Day. On this day we stand in humble thanks for those who "gave their last full measure of devotion."

November prepares us in a relaxed way for the upcoming frenzy that we know as December. We rest in November knowing that the busy season of the year is only days away. Thanksgiving afternoon could be seen as the afternoon for a national nap as many a Thanksgiving turkey has been consumed and now, in living rooms across America, sleep descends on the populace. At the crack of dawn the very next day, many otherwise completely intelligent citizens arise out of a warm bed in order to get a good place in line at the local Wal-Mart for this year's hot Christmas gifts.

November. A quiet month if ever there was one. A time to pause between two seasons to look back and ahead. A time to adjust our daily lives once again as the patterns of our daily routine change to meet the decreasing amounts of sunlight. A time for contemplation and enjoyment of friends and family. A time of slowing down. And a time for all of us to be thankful!