Keeping Your Peace & Joy…

While this subject is probably nothing new to a lot of folks, it’s interesting that as I go through my day, I find that there are SO many various influences, pressures, and personal interactions I experience that negatively affect my internal peace and joy. Now, sometimes how we react to these things can often help us create a more positive and optimistic life’s outlook, but it’s the ones that I don’t have control over that seem to annoy me the most. This annoyance I feel however isn’t at the provocation itself, it’s my reaction to them. That I’ve allowed some ridiculously inane thing to affect me or make me feel a certain negative way and permitting some extraneous, very often stupid stimulus to create in me a disruptive, or unsettling emotion. And permitting is a good word because “I” let it happen. At my age, I should know better…but sometimes it just gets the best of me. To be honest, I’ve gotten much better at my reactions over the years, but sometimes, I find my peace and joy disturbed and that to me is way worse than the actual thing that helped put me there in the first place.

In previous posts, I’ve written about negative societal influences and my general dislike of social media (and doomscrolling), TV, the news, politics, etc. and involving myself in any other unpleasant things that I have control over. It’s the things that come from completely out of nowhere that I find I must work on and keep from robbing and stealing my peace and joy. I’ve found that very often, something negative can happen and it’ll hit me and affect me to a place where I’ll have trouble concentrating on my work, correctly finishing a project, or even enjoying myself if I’m in a place of relaxation. I’ve found that it also affects my speech and critical thinking skills…and this is probably what upsets me the most. That I’ve allowed some negative external stimulus so weirdly benign to create in me some type of effect that produces the consequences I’ve described. I know that I’m not alone in this as I’ve seen it happen to other people and I think “Wow, that (insert issue here) really shook them to the core”. On any given day, these things could come at you in the form of unfriendly or dismissive co-workers, rude people or circumstances while commuting, work project disruptions, making mistakes that could have been avoided, or a myriad of other troublesome little annoyances. And, sometimes, they build up.

What occurs physically when the body experiences annoyance (or anger), is that our adrenal glands flood the body with stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Our brains send blood away from the gut and towards our muscles in preparation for physical exertion. It raises our blood pressure and respiration, causes the body temperature to rise and can increase the “fight or flight” syndrome. It’s known that external stressors that cause “annoyances” in folks who are easily affected by them can cause a constant flood of these stress chemicals that can create serious metabolic changes in the body. People who are constantly triggered could begin to experience chronic headaches, insomnia, increased anxiety and depression, high blood pressure, skin problems and when stress is constant, it can cause heart issues, heart attacks and stroke. Stress left unchecked can kill you.

As I continue to get older and (hopefully) much wiser, I’m beginning to find that external annoyances aren’t affecting me as much as they once did. I just don’t care anymore. At this age, my personal peace and joy are probably two of the most important things I possess, outside of my cherished loved ones. After all, remaining in a state of physical and mental disarray and stress is just not good for the mind, body, OR spirit.

So, what have I done to decrease and diminish these negative effects on my life? I’ve chosen to merely walk away. It’s as simple as that. I’ve found that walking away (either physically or mentally) gives me so much enjoyment. I know that might sound easy in practice, but believe me, it’s sometimes difficult to do. At one point in my life, I would love and very often welcome unfriendly or even hostile interactions during my day…I felt it kept me “on my toes”. Not anymore. I’ve found that it wears me out, and probably because of the physical effects previously described. But the more time that passes, allowing the external stimulus, whatever it might be, to wallow in its own misery gives me more pleasure than interacting with it in any way, shape, or form. I very often even find myself smiling as I take my walk.  It’s incredibly freeing and liberating. I’m not disturbed, I’m not annoyed, I’m not upset and I’m not angry. And, gloriously, my body isn’t in that state of tenseness and anxiety.

My personal peace and joy are just too important. I want to move through my day with relative ease, exuding kindness, and consideration to others when and where I can, navigating away from conflict and enjoying whatever I’m doing…just being present. This is one of the most mentally and physically important things I can do for myself.

And, after reading this, I hope you can too…


Dumbing Down…

Other than for watching an occasional movie, the local weather and yes, the Philadelphia Eagles, I’ve pretty much turned my TV off. Between the most ridiculous and absurdly mindless shows, I find myself just shaking my head and wondering who watches this drivel that passes for entertainment. Shows like Lego Masters, The Masked Singer, Big Brother and the myriad of Kardashian and “Housewives” shows have created a cult-like society yearning for the next celebrity affair, divorce, overturned table, glass of wine in the face or fashion blunder by some intoxicated, Botox injected 50-something trying to look and act 30 years younger. If you’ve seen some of these celebrities who have endured multiple facial surgeries over the years, you might think the same thing I do… “what in the world were you thinking??” A blindly obedient and subservient following hangs on their every word or action as if their very lives depended on it and the ground they walk on is worshiped. Sure, acting is an art, but so is playing in a symphony, painting a picture, growing a garden or writing a book. America’s obsession with Hollywood celebrities astounds me and for the life of me, I just can’t intelligently grasp it.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed the “dumbing down” of America in so many ways, it could fill volumes. I’ve personally and professionally watched young people come into a corporate work force so sadly and woefully unprepared for the most rudimentary of responsibilities. I partially blame our failed school systems that teach subjects to our youth not to help them flourish and succeed in life, but to get them through the conveyer belt of high school just to make room for the next group of victims. I call them victims, because that is exactly what I believe our educational system has been doing to our young people for years. Learning institutions are mentally and emotionally abusing them with mostly inane, unusable subjects and “socially acceptable” material meant to push them to the next grade level, then get them the heck out of the system and into society. There is a part of me that understands the teachers are not fully at fault. They are simply acquiescing to an educational system that has bowed to and are dedicated solely to firmly established societal, political and other norms that force them to comply, or risk being branded intolerant or of not falling in line. Their hands are tied, and their jobs are at stake. The majority of these kids have been failed at so many levels and most are miserably and traumatically unprepared for adult life as they’ll soon discover. The tragedy is, they don’t even know it yet. They yearn to be social media influencers or celebrities themselves, yet they can’t balance a checkbook, create a resume, cook a meal for themselves or handle a conversation without being offended.

Case(s) in point…I recently came across a set of videos where a young man is “interviewing” random young 20-somethings in a shopping mall setting with questions so easy, a 1st grader could answer them correctly. The best part was the answers given, but that is another story. Some of the questions asked? “Where is the great wall of China located? “What country borders the U.S. to the north?”, “If you had 4 quarters and I took away one quarter away, how much money would you have?” “How many eggs are in a dozen?”, “Where is the Washington Monument located?”. These video reels were meant to be funny, but when watching them, I was just so incredibly saddened. These young people looked quizzically at the interviewer like they were gut-shot and couldn’t correctly answer the simplest and most elemental of questions. Even when the answer was in the question.

These kids are trying to find themselves. They live in a world of miscellaneous and hodgepodge pronouns they’ve attached to themselves in an attempt to find their senses of self-worth, self-awareness and just being. They hang on to their own identities through these labels trying to understand themselves and their existence. And, they are emboldened and encouraged by Hollywood to do so. Look, I don’t care one iota if you want your persona to be identified by some different name or pronoun. It just doesn’t matter to me. But know that if another person hasn’t the slightest inclination what that means or that is how you “identify”, you can’t be offended. You have to be just as tolerant and understanding of those who may be uniformed as they are of your right to be identified as some other entity. Just know that while it is your right to identify with whatever name you’d like, you don’t have the right to force your beliefs on others. Just because you believe it to be true doesn’t mean it’s true. That is the world. Get used to it or it will eat you up, spit you out and you’ll be forced to live a life of misery while desperately hanging on to your perceived identity for your feelings of acceptance. Unfortunately, this will not get you to a place of recognition and peace…by others, or more importantly, yourself.

The final problem is that our society and political circus encourages, accepts, and gives justification to these kids and tells them that their problems aren’t their fault. Someone else did this to you and it’s “their” fault. Displace the blame, point the finger, scream the injustice and hoist the protest sign high. Give credence to offense…it’s the flavor of the day.

And, Hollywood promotes this…

But, go against the celebrity established norms and you’ll quickly be cancelled. This is their superpower, and they know it. The truth? They care less about you or me than they do about squashing a bug on the sidewalk. But, darn it, you most certainly better pay that Netflix premium or AMC theater fee or risk seeing some Hollywood cretin crying and whining because their binky has been taken away.

As an optimist, I have hope. But my hope most certainly lies not in man nor society. Man is miserably fallible, and it is man whose faults and shortcomings have created a generation built upon celebrity worship whose interests are more intimately concerned about who will win the next Academy or Emmy Award. You see, Hollywood loves to pat themselves on the back, tell themselves, and you, what a great job they’re doing, that they’re helping society (whatever that means) all the while getting you to bow at the altar. This is one of the many forms of manipulation and crowd control causing the dumbing down of America. Our children are so very impressionable, and it is sad to see how they are being brainwashed into submission by various entities absolutely bent on creating their mindless obedience.

I do hope and pray things will change, as the future of who we are as a nation and as a society depends on it. But I’m certainly not holding my breath.

We shall see…


My childhood memories are sketchy at best. Whether some are repressed, or my mind just doesn’t want to remember or accept them, my recollections are a bit all over the board. Both my parents were in the throes of alcoholism, and I suppose they did the best they could with what they had as a lower middle-class family. This isn’t to say I don’t have some fond memories, I do…I just know that there are some very unpleasant ones in the mix too. While a lot of this happened during the mid to late 1960’s and well into the 1970’s, I suffered the initial brunt of that dysfunction during those years, but my younger brother probably took the worst of it in the later years. I guess this is why two weeks after graduating high school, I went (do not pass go, do not collect $200), directly into the United States Marine Corps. It was the only thing I could think of to get me out of the craziness and into some place of normalcy. USMC boot camp…normal? A bit of an oxymoron I suppose and a better word could have been used, but it’s the only one that comes to mind. Anything and anyplace away from that life. To me, enlisting in the Marines was the normal thing to do and my next path in life.

I struggle with the word “normal” as I know there were those families who had it much better, and those who had it much worse…way worse. But I only learned from the example being set for me during those formative years. I drank, did the drugs and was promiscuous, probably as a result of sexual abuse. It was what I saw, what I experienced and what I learned. I thought it was normal. My mother was in the midst of an affair with my father’s “best” friend that started in the late 1960’s, and after leaving my father upon the affair being discovered in 1979, she lived with this man until her death in 1991. My father had a debilitating stroke in 1980 and was confined to a wheelchair with only the use of his left hand…the one he used in 1984 to pull the trigger of a handgun and commit suicide by a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the temple.

Yes, I know…a tragic story. But, in the midst of it, there is a silver lining. I survived those years, and so did my brother. Not much of a silver lining you might think, but I’m writing this aren’t I? (I kind of smiled as I wrote that last sentence). You see, people are resilient. They can suffer the most tragic and horrific childhoods or even adult circumstances and come out on the other side not only healed, but in a better place altogether. And that is where I am. I’m in a much better place and I believe my brother is too.

My initial intentions at the outset of this story was not going to be what I just wrote about, but it sort of morphed into something different. My father was not much for words and I intended to write about the one and only thing he ever, and I mean ever told me that he felt I needed to learn to grow into a productive adult.  And, that was to sacrifice. I guess I’ve thought about this over and over in the probably 60 plus years since he told me this, but I assume sacrifice is a part of life and I accept it as I move into each new day. Delay pleasure, sacrifice now and succeed. I guess I sacrificed a lot of my childhood as there are and were other issues too numerous to mention here. But when I wake up in the morning, I sit up and say a prayer of thanks and gratefulness that I’ve been given a new day. One of sacrifice (give to others), and one of gratitude.

I have a great life, and I’ve had several great careers that will sustain me through the rest of my years. And, as I continue to work, learn, love and express everlasting gratitude, I know that the sacrifices I’ve made are the ones meant to bring me to this place. And, for that, I am eternally, undyingly grateful.

Thanks Dad…

Less Is More…

Other than several ongoing Words with Friends games, I’m not an online game type person.  And, other than an Instagram account that I infrequently post on, I use no other forms of social media except this blog and a LinkedIn account that has long grown stagnant, I rarely log onto and am about ready to delete for the reasons below.

I find the more I’m on social media, the more I dislike it.  Someone very much knew what he or she was doing long ago when they created these platforms and also knew that people’s innate and natural desires for various forms of information would be wildly financially beneficial.  Not only that, they realized that people love knowing about each other’s personal lives.  This was the hook.  Whether its checking in on some well-known Hollywood celebrity and what they’re wearing that particular day, glancing at a new workout routine, or googling that interesting girl or guy living nearby, these people knew they had something.

When I started writing this blog piece, it was going to be about the online word game called “Wordle”.  For those of us who like the written word and all it encompasses (often called wordsmiths), Wordle is a fun, short and addicting game.  You can only play it once a day, and then you have to wait until the next day to play it again.  But, more on that later…

Social media is what our lives have become all about.  We divulge our personal lives on Facebook and Instagram (and, sometimes our secrets), our work history and professional backgrounds to LinkedIn and we scream at each other on that fetid cesspool called Twitter.  We have allowed the world to see who and what we are as we reveal the minutia of our lives on websites and private messaging services with people whom we most often know absolutely nothing about.  Thirty years ago, would we have picked up our phones, called some random number and told the unknown person answering on the other end that we’re having homemade chicken parm for dinner or that we’re getting ready to vacation at the Jersey shore?  Sounds funny, but that’s exactly what we’re doing when we post online.  We haven’t the slightest idea who may be reading our posts and the dangers it poses, not only to us, but also to our young people.  These are horror stories we read about almost every day.

While there is some inane fun looking at other folk’s comical photos, videos and musings, exercise videos or reading the sad stories of those who have lost a loved one or pet, a few minutes on social media can turn into hours and it can suck our lives away from us moment by moment. Do people really need to know where we’ve vacationed, or visited, where we went for a walk or a hike or the photos we took, what we had for dinner or how and where we bathed in some romantic backwoods cabin?  In the world of social media, it’s the absolute norm.  See a post, click “like” and scroll on…in seconds.  And, oftentimes, this online view into others lives seems very voyeuristic, but it’s been fomenting and cultivated since the beginnings of the Internet well over 35 years ago.

I recently googled myself (yeah, we’ve all done it…interesting to say the least, isn’t it?) and found more online information about myself that I’d actually forgotten or hadn’t thought of in years.  It was quite sobering and at first shocking to see my life’s history written plastered on some random Internet website that I’d never heard of or even visited before.  When I saw my formal work resume, posted online for everyone to see, it floored me.  Here was information that only very few people have or should have access to being broadcast worldwide.  Almost all my worldly personal information was right there to be seen and had.  All my former addresses listed neatly in chronological order (along with former neighbors names) including prior phone numbers long since abandoned.  And, if you cough up a few bucks, you’re promised access to much more “intimate” personal information.  I’ve seen these sites before, but the one I happened onto the other day had personal and professional information contained in it about me that I had no idea was public information.  I really struggle trying to understand how they get it.  There is nothing I have to hide about my life, but it’s just very weird (to say the least) seeing your life’s personal and professional history plastered all over some random website.

With regards to social media, I also struggle with the desire to “keep in touch” with people in the online world and often ask myself, “is this a person with whom I’d share a meal or a drink with or am I just satisfied being online friends?”  In the end, does it really matter?  Most would never attend your funeral and would think about your passing away as just that…a passing thought.  That said, I’ve recently hit the “unfollow” button quite a few times and to be honest, it feels very freeing.  And, I plan to continue.

Please don’t get me wrong, social media has its place.  People with upstart or even thriving businesses can find a whole new arena of prospective clients on the ‘net and I certainly wish them all the best.  Their personal income and business models can be based solely on social media and I’ve seen some incredible people, websites, services and products that are pretty awesome.  Done correctly, it can be a goldmine and social media can be an interesting place, but it can also be a bit sinister.

I was recently reminded that less is more, and any websites I’ve found that has my personal information contained on them, I’ve contacted to have it removed.  The less I say, talk about (maybe other than here), have an opinion about or post on social media, the better I’ve found I like it.  The older I get, the more I’ve realized that I value and appreciate my privacy.  No one needs to know that I just went to the gym, picked up my dry cleaning or the way I arrange my underwear and socks drawer.

Anyway, back to Wordle…it’s a cool game, give it a try!  And, you don’t have to divulge any personal information to play it.


Nothing in life is permanent. Nothing. Not life itself, not family, not friends, not possessions, not health and certainly not our sanity (sorry, that was a little humor to lighten up the harshness of these first few sentences). The knowledge of this impermanence is something we all know deep down inside our hearts and minds, but may not fully realize and think about until age begins its trek northwards. I may have mentioned this in other blog musings, but I am somewhat of a minimalist. Over the years, I’ve found that extraneous “stuff” just didn’t have the meaning it once had for me in my youth or even in my middle age. Stuff really just does and didn’t matter, (plus, I kind of like order too which is most likely from my military and law enforcement backgrounds). So, over these past 10 or 15 years, I’ve been in a constant state of purging…only keeping things that have and had any real significance or importance to me. But, of course, I’ve always known that these things too are impermanent. Some of my favorite books, my climbing, mountaineering and backpacking gear, photos, and other small extraneous odds and ends are all neatly tucked away in a small spare bedroom in my apartment.  Interestingly enough, as much as I’ve moved around the country in the last 15 years, I’ve had about half-dozen yard sales which has netted me a nice little bit of cash in the process.  So, I guess it seemed my unneeded stuff went to other peoples need FOR stuff.  Oh well, to each their own.

The point for all this is now that the New Year is only several hours away, I’ve decided to make a mental paradigm shift. Not a severe or an about face shift, just a moving to or a progression towards things of importance. I’m not a “New Years” resolution type person and never really have been, but the past few years for me has seen quite a few changes (some good and some not so good) and I just want to start out with some firm goals and changes in mindset and attitude.

I’ve decided to begin asking myself several questions…the first being, “is this thing really important to me and will it serve the greater good in my life”. Now, I’m not being selfish here, just realistic. Not to use the age old cliché, but life is just too darned short to worry about all the extraneous bull crap that always attempts to enter into it. The second question is, “do I have control over this?” and if I do, I’ll deal with it.  If I don’t have any control over it, then it’s all in God’s Hands anyway.  For me, it’s as easy as that.  I have way too much to deal with in my own life than to be worrying about or being concerned with politics, junk news, the newest fashions or social media trends or what some celebrity’s view on the life may be.  Honestly, I really just don’t flippin’ care as the mental act of worrying about things like these, or worrying in general is an absolute life killer.  What I do care about is what my impact will be on my life and other’s lives and how I can add value to them.  Again, to me, it’s just that simple…how can I truly add value and goodness to mine and other’s lives?

So, around the mountain and back to permanence….

These so called “twilight years” issues are another load of garbage being fed to us to lull us into inaction and inactivity.  Don’t buy it, not for one second. Sure, our health can somewhat wane over time and we have to deal with that, but no one, and I mean NO ONE, has ever laid on their deathbed and said, “I wish I could have spent one more day at the office”.  The knowledge of our life’s impermanence should fire our butts up to live positively for ourselves and for others. Get out…do things, travel, write that blog or book, spend time with your loved ones, volunteer if you can, go on that hike or climb that mountain, cook something new or try out a new restaurant, sleep on the beach, love others and leave a positive impact on them and their lives. Do it now, for tomorrow is not guaranteed.

So, yes…get out and live folks.  Permanently remove all the extraneous and unimportant “things” from your lives and live for the greater good.

Remember, life is a one shot deal. A. One. Shot. Deal.

So, think about it…what are YOU going to live for?


I recently had the displeasure of being on the receiving end of an act of personal rudeness and disrespect that ranks pretty high in my entire life’s experiences.  This was an episode of the most extreme act of ignorance that caught me so off guard, I almost let my tongue and actions lash out in an unbridled reaction.

While I will forego the intimate details of the encounter, it was my understanding that this particular man was extremely wealthy and very well known in the world of finance and business.  However to me, he is and was just simply a man and nothing more, but as is with all people, worthy of my respect and kindness.

After confirming his identity, not half a sentence left my mouth before he looked at me, his eyes meeting mine, and I could see and palpably “feel” his disdain and contempt for me and the utter audacity he felt toward me that I speak to him and actually give a man of his stature a directive, ANY directive.  Believe me, after being a police officer for 25 years, I knew exactly what that facial expression looks like and meant.  Then, without saying a word, while I was in mid sentence, he simply turned his head and walked away from me, dismissing and brushing me off like I was no more than a common housefly that was buzzing around his face.  I looked over at another person sitting beside me, his eyes as wide as saucers and mouth hanging open.  He saw it too.  I asked him if he truly witnessed what just happened and he replied, “yes, I did, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a display as rude and disrespectful as that”.

The anger rose in me and I walked to find this man and explain to him the finer points of kindness and respect without any thoughts of the personal ramifications.  After finding him a few minutes later, I got about 10 feet away from him when that little Voice inside my spirit said, “Don’t do it, you’re better than that”.  I knew exactly Who was speaking to me.

As I stood there looking at him, I immediately felt sorry for this man and the life he must live.  I also felt sorry for his family, those who work for and with him and any others who come in contact with him in his daily life.  I later thought (while this incident occurred during the Christmas season), that this man’s ultimate funeral ceremony might look like Ebenezer Scrooge’s, with only the cemetery caretakers in attendance.

The simple act of kindness is one of the most powerful things we as human beings can do for another person.  It costs nothing, depletes nothing, can take almost no time to do, but can often dramatically change the lives of others for the better.  It feels good to the person giving it and to the person(s) receiving it, feels just as wonderful.  It is one of the ways we as a civilized society interact with one another that creates a bond.  This is true whether or not you’ll ever see that person again or if it is a loved one with whom you are intimately connected.

Kindness can be manifested in the simplest of ways…holding a door open for someone, smiling and saying hello to a stranger, lending a helping hand to an elder trying to carry packages in a parking lot, letting someone in line in a store or while driving on a highway, giving money or clothing to a homeless person, volunteering or even stooping down to say a kind word to a small child.  These actions can make an immense difference in someone’s life. 

Kindness can also take the form of our capacity to listen.  To truly stop and actively listen to someone who is speaking about their life’s condition and our ability to hear it, understand it, empathize with it and offer comfort in our attention to them as a humble and reverent reaction.

Author and professor Leo Buscaglia once said, “too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”.

I wonder what happened to this man in his life that made him behave like this and who may have “taught” him to treat others with such disrespect and disdain.  This was learned behavior, maybe passed down to him from parents or others who had an impact on his life and who may have helped create this man’s character as it is and which made him act in this horrendous and repulsive manner.  I guess I’ll never know.

What I do know is that the personal interaction with this man, while repugnant, did to and for me was to further cement my desire to be a much more kind and benevolent person.  One who will hopefully be remembered as someone who lived his life simply as a nice, kind and giving man.  I love it when life’s lessons like these come along.  They are ones that may not happen too often, but when they do, are etched in one’s spirit and soul.

And, for this, I sincerely thank this man.

Stop and Smell the Flowers…

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend Jackie and I were having breakfast at a tiny “down home” diner in a small Lake Winnipesaukee town in New Hampshire.  The fare was simple, good and the place had a great folksy, backcountry feel.  As we talked, I noticed an elderly couple, maybe in their late 70’s or early 80’s sitting in a booth a few feet away from us.  The woman was very attentive to her husband who appeared to be listening to her intently as she spoke.  I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she kept reaching across the table, touching his hand and arm.  It wasn’t until they were finished, when she got up to put her coat on and he sat there unmoving that I realized he was most likely suffering from some type of cognitive decline.  He looked up at her and she moved over to him, reached under the table and pulled both of his legs out into the aisle to get him to stand up. He could not. It was also then that I noticed this was a very large man.  Not heavy set large, but he looked like he could once have been a professional wrestler.  Even sitting down, his size was deceiving.  He had very broad shoulders, big arms, and a powerful looking build, but the look on his face was like that of a child, simple and unassuming. He had white hair, a close-cropped white beard and was dressed like a lumberjack.  She grabbed him under his arm to get him to stand up and he still could not do so.  I watched her and she again pulled very hard a second and third time as he just sat there. 

I told Jackie I was going to try to help her, got up from my seat, walked over and asked if she needed any help.  She looked up at me, smiled and in a very low voice said “please”.  I reached under his other arm and we both pulled until we finally got him to stand up from the tight breakfast booth.  When he stood, he towered over me by what appeared to be about a foot.  He looked down at me with piercing blue eyes and smiled warmly like he knew me all his life and it took me totally off guard.  I asked him his name and he just looked at me…his wife said “Frank”.  I said, “Hi Frank, do you mind if I help you walk outside?”  He just continued looking at me, smiling and reached toward me.  We locked arms, side by side, the same way a father would walk his daughter down the aisle.  His hand was huge as he grasped mine, and I could feel his strength as he gripped my arm.  He continued smiling, and I could do nothing else but smile back at him…it was infectious.  As we walked toward the door, he took small, measured 6-inch steps.  Finally outside and down the small set of stairs, we started walking toward their car about thirty feet away, Frank still taking 6-inch steps.

As we approached the car, I could see a United States Air Force sticker on the bumper of the white sedan, and I turned and asked him if he was once in the Air Force.  He just looked at me and his wife answered, “Yes, he was”.  Still on the sidewalk, Frank suddenly stopped walking.  I was on his left, on the street side and I looked over at him to see why he stopped.  We had been walking past a very small, quaint looking New England house, which had a well-kept front lawn and a short one-foot concrete barrier angling straight up from the sidewalk. With his right hand he pointed straight down at the lawn. I looked to see what he was pointing at and it was a singular, small yellow flower growing all by itself.  He glanced at it, turned to me, looked me straight in the eyes, still smiling and said “dandelion”.  That one simple word struck me like a thunderbolt.  Here was a man, probably nearing the end of his life, in the absolute throes of dementia, who had stopped to gaze at a simple flower.

Even on our best days, none of us would do that.  Every day, we let our surroundings fly by and miss the most beautiful things, our eyes glued to our cell phone screens, ear buds in or talking with someone or thinking about mindless things as we let life pass us by.  This man didn’t even know how to say his own name, but he took the time to “stop and smell the flowers”. The ironic dichotomy between those of us who are perfectly present and lucid and this man who dwells in an unknown world hit me hard.

I opened the door, helped Frank sit down in his car and lifted his legs inside.  He looked up at me, still smiling with his large, loving eyes and reached his hand out.  I took it and didn’t want to let go.  I wanted what he had. Not his illness, but his simple love of life and the spark of what once was.  I thanked him for his service, shut the door and turned to his wife.  She had her own pleasant, beautiful smile and said, “Thank you so much”.

To have been allowed to be a part of something like this, something that permanently shakes one’s foundation for the good, was an absolute privilege and gift.  I thanked God for granting me this honor.

I will never, ever forget Frank.  And for those of you who read this story, I hope you won’t either.

Folks, take the time to “stop and smell the flowers”.

Our lives are like the flicker of a match, once lit and then extinguished…and we may not get a second chance.

A Constant Reminder…

Wherever I travel, especially in nature, I love the way God accompanies me.  He reminds me, in so many ways, that He is always with me.  No matter where I am.  I am a visual person and when something catches my eye, whether above me, below me or peripherally, my mind immediately thinks, “Thank You for that…it is absolutely beautiful!”.

There have been so many various situations where this has happened, whether I’m alone or with friends, that are too numerous to count. And, I love when they catch me off guard and just happen to appear.

These are just a few…

A strong windswept tree on a remote west coast beach…

A rugged stonecrop plant nestled along the top of a stone wall…

Distant and remote Colorado mountains…just beckoning to be climbed.

A beautiful Hibiscus flower in the morning dew…

A small, singular Maple tree sapling growing in the snow from the wood and moss of a long since downed tree…I love this photo.

A good friend ice climbing…and, me anxiously waiting for my turn.

A wooden fence buried in the sand along a lonely stretch of beach…

Standing below the majestic Mt. Rainier in Washington State…

A heart-shaped piece of driftwood along a Delaware River, NJ nature preserve…this is one of my favorites.

I’ve realized that our lives fly by so quickly, and there is SO much more that I want to see!

And, I hope in your own travels you get to see the beauty and wonderment of all that has been given to us!

Is It Necessary…

Is what you’re about to say kind, caring and compassionate? Yeah, me too…I’m not quite sure I always use this barometer. Marcus Aurelius had it right when he said, “Is this necessary?”. When we’re wronged, we immediately want to lash out, get our pound of flesh and make things right. The Bible speaks of holding the tongue throughout scripture, and rightly so. Our words can have lasting effects and once out of the mouth, they can’t be pulled back in. Simply put, it robs us of our joy. Next time you’re tempted to exact your measure of verbal vengeance, ask yourself first…”Is what I’m about to say REALLY necessary?”.

Warm thoughts…

I took these photos a few years ago during warmer weather. It’s just a reminder of the cycle of the seasons and what they each bring. Each season has its own purpose and everyone has their favorite. Mine happens to be the Fall…all the colors, the lack of oppressive humidity and the morning chill in the air. Anyway, here are a few reminders of things to come…enjoy!