I am a fan of Eggnog. I love the taste, the texture, the aroma. I love everything about Eggnog. My favorite brand is actually the generic HEB brand. Light Eggnog is too thin, brand name Eggnog is too thick, and Soy Nog - just no. What is my problem with Eggnog then? I am lactose intolerant.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Sunday, December 23, 2012
The universe has thrown many distractions our way this year as Christmas approaches. The media latches onto every big story, pumping them for everything they have, blowing them up on our TV screens, on the radio, on our computers. Everywhere we look, there they are. For just a moment, disconnect, find some peace, and focus on what this season is really about.
Christmas is coming. Regardless of the manner in which you participate - be it religious or secular - the roots of the Christmas holiday still stem from the same source - love. For Christians, the Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus. As St. John the Devine teaches in the Gospel "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." This gift of love is seen as the first Christmas gift and is supposed to be the model for our gift giving.
Santa Claus is modeled off the legend of St. Nicholas, a fourth century Greek Bishop living in modern day Turkey. St. Nicholas was known for his giving heart. One story, the one most likely to be based on historical fact, has St. Nick giving a bag of gold to a family three times - each the night before their three daughters come of age. St. Nick even goes so far to avoid recognition he drops a bag of gold down the chimney, landing it in a stocking hung to dry.
Whether you celebrate Christmas because of Jesus or simply to follow the gift giving of a fourth century saint, the idea behind the gifting still holds. Our gifts are supposed to be acts of love.
With more information about the Newtown, Connecticut shootings arriving every day, we might tend to focus on the plight of man instead of the hope portrayed in the Christmas message. While I can understand our concern at the failings of our society and the need for discussion on how to prevent such events from occurring again, if viewed from an incorrect position, our view of this Christmas season will definitely be skewed. As I suggested in Following the Ripples, keep your heart and soul set on love.
The shootings give us an opportunity to give a Christmas sized gift as well. The country is expending so much energy right now in figuring out how to prevent future mass killings. Some say limit guns, some say give everyone guns. Some focus on mental health care, some on video games. Everyone knows something needs to be done, but there is no consensus on the next step. Christmas is the perfect message and offers the perfect solution. We must follow the examples of the Bible and St. Nicholas - give love freely. Root every action in love. Teach love to your children through every thought and action. Love yourself, your neighbor, your community, etc.
A gift of love can change the world more than we can know. With so much attention on the so-called Mayan apocalypse, all our thoughts were on whether or not the world would end. Perhaps the end of the age was so much more simple than we thought. Maybe the end of the calendar only signaled a change in the way humans deal with each other. Perhaps now, we will choose to act through love in everything.
This Christmas, remember what is important. As the bumper sticker proclaims - "remember the reason for the season." That reason, ultimately, is love.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
In a world where every violent tragedy is painted as a sign of humanity’s degradation and certain failure, I choose to withhold judgement - not of the killer, but of humanity. The act of murder is vile and disgusting; our reaction to this particular tragedy is heightened because of the innocence of the young victims and the heroism of the adults. Instead of allowing ourselves to become inundated with the hateful feeling engendered by this vicious act, I suggest we do something entirely opposite.
After a disturbance on water's surface, ripples travel until the energy is counteracted by an equal force, or until the energy has been absorbed by the lake itself.
A body of water whose surface is disturbed can never truly reflect that which is above it. Only by creating perfect stillness, absent of ripples, can a perfect reflection occur. The more we can help to buffer any ripples that do occur, the closer we as individuals, and we as a race, can get to perfect stillness. The way to find that stillness is to exist in a constant state of love, neutralizing the negative energy sent out from ripples such as the one we experienced recently.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
The spirit of the Christmas season engenders a vast range of emotions. Excitement blooms as trees claim their traditional places, anticipation for Christmas morning permeates the young and the old, anxiety festers at the state of the checkbook, melancholy lingers for those Christmases past. Odd as it is, just yesterday the Christmas season delivered a new, unfamiliar emotion to me - fear.
I am not normally a fearful person, regardless of the season. I work to keep an even keel, avoiding situations that might encourage a fear response, staying centered emotionally when presented with a fear inducing problem. Fear is such a negative emotion, I avoid inviting it into my life. In fact, I actively pursue the opposites of fear - calm certainty, joyful appreciation, loving anticipation of the uncertain. In my experience, these are much better approaches to living life.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
|- Pope John Paul II|
I am the kind of person who has the unfortunate habit of living for tomorrow instead of today. Occasionally, I enjoy rare bursts of inspiration when tomorrow and today merge, and instead of continuing to put off today’s work until tomorrow, I live for today and take care of my business. I have to admit, I would much rather live a life full of today’s than tomorrows.
The even more unfortunate truth is that I am certain I am not alone. Neither am I in a small minority, or even a large substrate of the population. The people who live for tomorrow instead of today permeate our existence, leaving those who choose today to enjoy the many fruits of this world. Those of us who sometimes overcome our silent pledge to procrastination occasionally taste the joy the world offers when we power through the resilient bonds we have placed around ourselves.
|- Latin for "seize the day"|
We begin to develop the terrible habit when we are young, fostering our addiction like a newfound pet. I will put my toys away later. I will brush my teeth in the morning. I will do my chores after this TV show is finished. Eventually, minor delays become major obstacles to moving forward in our lives. School work succumbs to the inevitable; we choose to sacrifice the quality of our work for some simple pleasure that ultimately, if examined further, will turn out to be trivial at best.
|- Robert Kiyosaki|
Turning the magnifying lens on ourselves is often quite hard because we have to admit our faults. But, I think it is an important step towards leading a happier existence. So, take some time today and look back at yourself. Or, maybe you can do that tomorrow?
Sunday, November 11, 2012
One of the strongest emotional tugs a good story delivers to my heartstrings centers on the idea of personal sacrifice. Frequently, at the end of a movie or during the climax of a novel, I find myself a blubbering mess as the hero gives up everything they are in order to save others. Even now, reflecting on some of the most powerful scenes, my eyes glisten slightly. Of course, nothing Hollywood or the publishing industry can do will ever be as powerful as real life sacrifice. Giving of yourself to save and protect others is one of the most honorable actions a person can take. There is no better example of an organization that exemplifies this idea as the United States Military. Thank you Veterans for the sacrifices you have made to keep us and our way of life safe.
While I said before Hollywood comes nowhere near close enough to the idea of real life sacrifice, at least they can offer the rest of us a guide on how to live our lives to honor that sacrifice. In the final scenes of the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hanks' character Captain Miller leaves Private Ryan with words the rest of us should live by - "Earn this."
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Autumn 2011 was one of the most memorable Autumns since the Houston area became my home. Everywhere the eye gazed, trees exploded with a cornucopia of color. Reds, oranges, yellows, and innumerable shades unfamiliar to our mediocre falls flashed among the evergreens. Every time I stepped from my home, my eyes immediately flew to the trees, eager to drink in the color. Why did we have such a splendid display? Because the trees almost died.
|What I wish mine would look like.|
Sunday, September 16, 2012
A commercial from my youth stuck with me through the years. It didn’t resonate with me through poignant humor, over indulgent sexuality, or even for the product it was selling. Instead, this particular commercial lodged itself in my memory through shock value and a message that is incredibly applicable to today’s society. The punch line of the commercial - “John didn’t like the song on the radio, so he killed a little girl.”
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Nother. I honestly have no idea to spell this “word.” Is it nuther? Or would it be nother, as its origins would suggest. Maybe knother with a silent k? For the longest time, I regarded this word with contempt, annoyed at what I considered an unnecessary mutation of our perfect English. Wow. How arrogant and pretentious was I?
|Hopefully the Brits discovered camouflage.|
Sunday, September 2, 2012
As the road to November 6 stretches on and on and on . . . and on, we find ourselves under constant bombardment by both sides. Hate and negativity proliferate the airwaves, striving to direct a campaign weary populace towards one candidate or another. Somehow, through the deluge of spun facts, slight distortions, and outright untruths, our voting population is supposed to pick the party that will lead us down a path to a better America. Best of luck to us all.
- Energize the base with fiery rhetoric designed to enflame their emotional attachment to the party brand.
- Paint opposing pictures of the two parties/candidates using an unequal mixture of fact and emotion to generate a gut reaction in the independent population
Sunday, August 26, 2012
It is the time of year when the familiar chug of yellow buses rumbles down the streets of our neighborhoods again. It is the time when school zone hours can earn you speeding tickets again (and make sure you aren’t on your cell phone!). It is the time when young people grow nervous and their parents excited. It is time for school to begin.
|Staring at this all day long. I am surprised I am not crazy.|
Or maybe I am?
Sunday, July 1, 2012
Recently, tightrope daredevil Nik Wallenda bridged the void between the United States and Canada by walking over Niagra Falls on a taut wire (read about it here). Millions of people watched the televised feat, caught up in the suspense of one man battling the dark misty night over the roaring falls. After a thirty minute walk, Wallenda was welcomed to the Canadian side by a crowd of 100,000 cheering fans, accomplishing what no man had done in 118 years.
While Wallenda’s stunt garnered the attention of so many people, every single day each of us struggles to balance, often alone, on our own tight rope stretched over a similar void - unhappiness. Where the Niagra stunt took thirty minutes to accomplish, our own balancing act takes our entire adult life.
For the last year, I have been adjusting to my newly chosen life as a private lesson teacher. For the past five years, as a band director, I had certain challenges to my balance - where Wallenda had the dark blinding him, the mist condensing on his rope, and the roaring current pouring over the cliffs, I was challenged by the stress of performance expectation, the day to day business of running a high school band, parents, and the time required to feel accomplished in my efforts. Part of the reason I stepped off the band directing tight rope was to have more control over the last - my time. In my new life, this has truly been the hardest challenge.
Band directing, or teaching in general, has a tendency breed workaholics. Though the work day finishes, many teachers choose to stay beyond regular hours. As a band director, I had planning meetings, rehearsals, booster meetings, after-hours school commitments, lesson planning, etc. My associates taught sectionals, ran jazz band and percussion rehearsals, and attended weekend competitions for various band related activites. The list goes on.
Stepping out of this life, only having to work the hours I chose to work, I assumed my work-life would balance itself against my personal life on its own. What I didn’t figure is that I wouldn’t know how to not work. I worried that if I wasn’t careful, I would succumb to the same routine I experienced as a band director.
This summer, I pledged to make sure to give myself days off. During the school year, while the hours I worked per week were less, I was working seven days a week. It has been weird, waking in the morning and knowing I don’t have to do do anything for my job. Instead, I am able to fill my time with ME.
Finding time for me has settled down the currents battering my own wire. I am learning how to be “off,” and that every waking minute doesn’t have to be filled with work. I can still be productive - building personal relationships, working around the house, pursuing individual projects, training for a triathlon - but it doesn’t have to be work. I also give myself permission to relax, catching up on reading or TV shows I have missed. Having time for yourself builds the balance we all strive to achieve.
We frequently chain ourselves to our situations, crying about their permanence, but every situation is mutable. Create the right conditions to traverse the void in your life and ease the buffeting forces threatening to knock you from your happiness. Balance is possible.
Not to take anything away from Nik Wallenda’s accomplishment, but due to ABC’s insurance concerns, had his balance abandoned him, a safety harness would have caught his falling body before it plunged into the dangerous falls. We do not have the same luxury. Find your own balance before life forces you to take the plunge into the unhappiness that waits the unbalanced life.