January 1, 2020

Welcome to the 1st day of the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Seems like we were just partying like it was 1999. Do you remember where you were that New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1999? How can it be 2020 already?

As the Doodle and I begin this new year, I’m thinking back over the past 20 years. So many happy times with friends and family. So many sad times as well.

There are days the happy memories are strong. The good old days. Births, weddings, reunions, kitchen table laughs, parties, camping, vacations, holidays at the Lonsingers. These are the memories that put a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

Then there are days the sad memories are in control. Fights with friends, family conflict, children struggles, loss of a job, breakups, deaths of those I love. These are the memories that darken the day and open again the anguish in my heart.

But it’s with strength and sincerity I can say that I’m thankful for everything and everyone that have been a part of my life. The good and the bad. The yin and the yang.

The Ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang can be described as follows:

“yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

Man has this been true in my life! An endless cycle of good and bad times. Ups and downs. Hope and despair. I’ve tried my best to live in the good but the bad always seems to creep back in. The yin and the yang.

‘It is what it is’ was what my late wife said through her journey with cancer. She had accepted the truth of her illness, the bad, and had decided to live out her days in the good. She understood that human life is a constant cycle of yin and yang. And through her example I too now understand.

So, as I roll along in the 61st year of my life, I’m at peace with the past and the future. Both the good and bad that has been and is to come. I know the past and do not know the future but today and each day, I will do my best to live in both the yin and the yang. To the fullest. And with an assurance that both are okay and I will be too.

Exciting good and bad days are ahead in 2020. I’m ready to get going.

See you down the road….

Tell Me Christmas Are We Wise

 

Merry Christmas! Yes I know it’s the day after Christmas. It’s time to firm up our plans for New Year’s Eve and start putting away the Christmas decorations. Christmas 2019 was great but Father Time keeps moving on and so must we. In just a few nights we’ll be welcoming in the 3rd decade of the 21st century. Can you believe it? It seems like just last year we were all partying like it was 1999. Time does indeed move on. And quickly.

So what did you do this day after Christmas? Did you do some gift returning or exchanging? Did you stock up on sale items for Christmas 2020? Did you spend one more day with family before heading out tomorrow? Did you binge-watch the final day of Christmas movies on Hallmark, Ion, Lifetime, and Netflix? Or did you spend this day sitting at home, doing pretty much what you do every day, spending it alone?

This afternoon a friend and I went to see the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) performance of Christmas Eve and Other Stories. Let me tell you the rock and roll road show still exists and man was it fantastic! Awesome guitar licks. Glass shattering vocals. Music that really did rock my socks off. And a light and pyrotechnics show that was better than anything I saw in the 70s. The TSO musicians are true rockers and they made this 60-year-old guy feel like he was 20 again this afternoon. Yes, we went to the matinee performance – I am 60 you know.

You can google the history of TSO to see how Paul O’Neill and his collaborators brought great rock musicians together in the late 1990s to create an entertainment explosion of song and stage. I get goosebumps whenever I hear their music and think about how they took classical music compositions we pretty much all know and rocked them out to reach into another genre. If you haven’t heard them before you should give them a listen. And if you have never seen them on stage, you really need to. Get ready to see the longest hair you’ve seen since Cher in the 60s. And that’s just the guys in the group!

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the weaving of basically three stories. The original Christmas story of our Savior coming to the earth. The story of God sending an angel today to see if the spirit of Christmas still exists in the hearts of humankind. And the story of a run-away young girl trying to get home to her father who longs for her return. The music that brings all these stories together is beautiful. Each song tells a story within itself and when the songs are put together it’s very moving

There’s one song that always moves me. It’s called Old City Bar. That’s right, in the midst of a Christmas performance there is a song about a bar. Remember this is rock music.

This song tells the story of the run-away girl trying to find a way to get back home on Christmas Eve. It’s sad and inspiring at the same time. It’s a song about how we’re all connected, especially on Christmas Eve, and how we all share the same hope for love and belonging. I’ll include a link to the song at the end of this post. Maybe it will talk to you and maybe it won’t. Maybe this style of music isn’t for you. But the central message of Old City Bar, as well as the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories performance, is a message for all of us to think about not just on Christmas Eve but every day of the year.

That message is pretty much summarized by this one verse:
If you want to arrange it
This world, you can change it
If we could somehow
Make this Christmas thing last
By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger
To know who needs help,
You need only just ask.

Change the world. We all have ideas on how to change the world to make it better. But better for whom? For a neighbor? For a stranger? For ourselves? The story of Christmas is perhaps the greatest story about change that has ever been told. You can choose to believe it or not. That’s your right and privilege. But I suggest to you that no greater change for a better future has ever been given to humankind than that which occurred on that first Christmas. If we want to make this Christmas thing last, this spirit of Christmas, of peace and goodwill towards men, then perhaps it is as simple as just asking if someone needs help. Even if that someone is ourselves.

The other song that always moves me is called This Christmas Day. It’s the song the father sings once he learns his daughter is on her way home after receiving the help of the bartender of the Old City Bar. If you’ve ever had a child or other loved one that’s been struggling away from home, you will relate to the father’s words.

Here is the first verse:
“So tell me Christmas are we wise
To believe in things we never see
Are Prayers just wishes in disguise
And are these wishes being granted me
For now I see the answering
To every prayer I’ve prayed
She’s coming home this Christmas Day”

Just as this father saw his wish, his prayer, being granted, I think we too will see the answering to our prayers for those we love. To believe in things we never see. I believe we are wise to place our hope in Christmas and to live out that hope every day of our lives. Think of the joy that would give our Father and the peace we will experience.

Here’s wishing you a Happy New Year friends! I hope you give a look and listen to the Old City Bar link below. Check out the entire Christmas Eve and Other Stories if you can. It will rock your socks off and more than likely bring you the peace of Christmas in a light show pyro-technic sort of way.

I’ll see you down the road in 2020….

Merry Christmas Eve Eve

December 23rd.

The night before the night before Christmas. Not the most significant day of the holiday season is it. Maybe you spent it doing some last minute gift shopping or purchasing all the food for your Christmas meal. Perhaps it was spent traveling home or getting the house ready for friends and family to arrive. Or maybe you’ve been alone all day, just like you will be tomorrow, and on Christmas.

It could be a day that’s different each year. Perhaps last year things were going well in your life and you were happy but this year it’s been one problem after another and there just isn’t much to be happy about. The tree is decorated and presents surround it but there’s still an empty feeling. There’s someone you miss or you are concerned about. Or maybe you’re waiting on a lab report to come back after the holidays.

At Christmas we all like to have the holiday spirit but some years it just doesn’t come that easily. We try to be merry, cheerful, and glad but underneath our smiles, we’re hurting. And if we were honest we would say that the Christmas season really isn’t always the most wonderful time of the year.

The past four December 23rds for me have been just about as diverse as they come. A holiday rollercoaster ride if you will with tremendous ups and downs.

Dec. 23, 2015 – it was just 4 months before that my wife Barb was diagnosed with brain cancer. She had undergone surgery to remove as much of the cancer as possible and had recovered pretty well from that but in early December a follow up MRI indicated another surgery was needed. So the Christmas of 2015 was spent by our family being thankful for the support many were giving us and also preparing for another unknown outcome. We would spend New Year’s Eve in the hospital with Barb celebrating with her as she recovered from what we hoped was her last surgery.

Dec 23, 2016 – the past year had seen Barb not require any further surgery for which we were very thankful. She had completed her radiation treatment and had been receiving chemo treatments for a number of months and was surprisingly strong and doing well. It had been 16 months since her diagnosis. It was our first Christmas with our granddaughter and even in the midst of uncertainty, we celebrated the season and thanked God for His love and gift.

Dec. 23, 2017 – this was our first Christmas without Barb. In January of 2017, the cancer began to grow again and Barb made the decision to not try any other treatments as there were none that were viable and would give her a good quality of life. She declined quickly and went to her heavenly home on March 7. It was the lowest of times for me. I had never felt more lost in my life. But as the year went on, I came to understand that even in the midst of my grieve I could still celebrate the Christmas season and be thankful for all the years I shared with Barb and the way God walked with us through both the good and tough times.

Dec. 23rd, 2018 – today. The present. Another Christmas just two days away. This holiday season I’ve been missing Barb, again. The kids and I are continuing our traditions of putting up the tree, baking sugar cookies, and having our family Christmas eve dinner but each of these still have a feeling of incompleteness. Not really sad but just not the same as before. That will probably always be the case. And that’s okay because our traditions were made with Barb. So I will celebrate and honor those memories as I thank God for where He has brought me and how He continues to love me. And for who He is bringing into my life.

I don’t know where Christmas Eve Eve finds you this year but let me encourage you, if you are down, to not give up but to look up. And if 2018 has been good to you, I encourage you to lift up those around you that are feeling down.

In good times and bad, God’s love for us and His gift to us does not change. He is always there. No matter where we go or what we endure, He is with us. Look for Him. You will find Him. Emmanuel is right beside you this day and every day. And He loves you.

I pray that this Christmas you may experience the glad tidings of the good news that the season is really all about. Look beyond where you are now to where God can take you. Where He will go with you.

Merry Christmas my friends and see you down the road….

The Fun In Puns

A Pun: the usually humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest two or more of its meanings or the meaning of another word similar in sound.

If you’ve seen my posts on Facebook then you know I enjoy a good or maybe not so good pun from time to time. I think a little laughter is always good in our lives considering all the shouting and arguing going on these days. If we can’t laugh at ourselves then I’m not sure we’re living in reality. Humor is good. After all, we’re all born with a humerus bone. 😉

The origin of punnery has long been debated. Some feel it began with Old English in or around the fifth century. A recent article from the New York Post sites the first recorded pickup line, “I asked, it must have rightly hurt when such an angel as thee fell from heaven?“. Guess that line wasn’t first used in the seventies after all. You know who you are.

Thankfully Shakespeare improved the art of pun by the sixteenth century when he wrote these words spoken by Mercutio; “Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man.” A little morbid perhaps but still a good ‘play’ on words. Get it. A play.

And now in the twenty-first century we have raised the pun bar to new heights with memes. Here’s one that made me chuckle:

And another:

It doesn’t really matter if you get a laugh or eye roll from a pun. The joy is in the sharing and I’ve been pretty joyful these past few months.

Our lives are full of serious things and tough times. This world is not always kind. But life is meant to be a balance of joy and sorrow, good and bad, happy and sad. We need to find ways to even the scale. The sharing of laughter is one of those ways.

So let me encourage you to jump on the pun wagon. Share a favorite on social media to help our world smile a little. Dads, keep those jokes coming. Moms, continue to silently laugh at those dad jokes. And kids, remember one day you’ll be just like your parents.

As one light bulb said to the other, “Lighten up, watts your problem?”

See you down the road….

The Road Of Remembering

The past four weeks have been pretty hectic. Life can get that way at times you know. Too many things going on at the same time which cause us to stress out. I’ve been there before. The hectic nature of these past four weeks did give me some stress but it also gave me the opportunity to remember some pretty spectacular things in my life.

Four weeks ago I retired. After 37 years of working in the I.T. field, I decided I had had enough fun and needed to get serious about this ‘adulting’ thing. So, to have enough time to figure out what being an adult really means, I retired from work. So far I have no clue and I’m starting to think Peter Pan got it right. Bang-a-rang!

Along with retiring, I also sold my home of the past eighteen years, and have now moved into a new two bedroom, two bath apartment. Definitely, a downsizing move and I’ll be spending the rest of the summer going through a lifetime accumulation of stuff. The things we keep over the years. I’m not the only one with twelve copies of the same photo of the Oscar Meyer wiener mobile, am I? Be honest now.

And just two days after moving into the apartment, I drove to Missouri for a family reunion with all my crazy cousins on my mom’s side. Thank goodness I have a wonderful house/dog sitter that didn’t mind all the boxes and clutter left from the move. Perhaps the resort style pool at my apartment complex made it a little easier for her. I hope to get to the pool myself this week if the weather gets warmer and dryer. I prefer to get wet by being in the pool and not just from walking to it.

As I was driving westbound on I70 last week, I had the opportunity to relax a little and think back upon recent events in my life that have brought me to where I am now. The time on the road allowed me to remember many things and I can honestly say, the happy outnumbered the sad many times over.

Times I’ve spent working with some very talented and carrying people. Folks that were patient and understanding with the new guy and others that were gracious enough to allow me to lead them. Memories of rubber band wars in the cubicles. Of office Christmas party shenanigans. Of long days and nights with project implementations. The many sayings of hellos and goodbyes. Friendships created. Successes celebrated. Failures learned from. All memories that I will cherish through my retirement and will bring a smile to my face.

Selling and moving out of the house my family had called home for the past eighteen years was not easy. So much had happened in that home over the years. Celebrations and conflicts. Kids struggling through school and kids blossoming into adults. Birthday parties for family and friends. The planning of a daughter’s wedding. And the sadness of saying goodbye to the one I loved more than anything or anyone in this world. All memories I will never forget nor take for granted as each one from my time at Laura Lane has contributed to who I am and to whom I may become.

This past weekend with my cousins in Missouri brought back some wonderful memories as well. My earliest memory of going to old MO for my mom’s family reunion is when I was four years old. Mom and I took a passenger train from Coshocton, Ohio, (my hometown) to St. Louis. I don’t remember why but my dad drove to the reunion while mom and I rode the train. Dad picked us up in St. Louis and then we drove the last few hours to Marshfield to see all the family. The train ride was awesome watching out the windows as the world passed by. Probably what gave me my love for travel.

Our family reunions were no small affair when I was a child. My mom was one of thirteen siblings (3 brothers, 10 sisters) and many of my aunts and uncles had three kids or more. We were a large extended family and on my 16th birthday which coincided with our reunion that year, I counted close to sixty first cousins at the reunion. Many of us took over my aunt Mary’s home for a night, supervised by some of the older more ‘mature’ cousins, where we played cards, watched a Star Trek marathon on local TV and stayed up all night doing what cousins do. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

I did not grow up with any brothers or sisters so my cousins, back then and even more so today, are my siblings. Even with the miles and years between us. This past weekend was another installment of fun and love in my life with this crazy group. The hours we spent laughing while playing Liverpool Rummy for three nights reminded me of our aunts and uncles playing the same card game all those years ago while we kids could only watch. I’m sure they were all looking down this past weekend laughing right along with us as we continued the tradition. I’ll buy that (if you’ve played Liverpool you’ll understand)!

As the mile markers rolled past my car, it seemed each one brought to my mind milestones, memories of all the years I’ve been blessed to live in this world. What is life without our memories and experiences? So many good times and yes a number very sad but it’s a package deal in life. I’ve come to appreciate them all and cherish each one.

The road of life is a journey just like the drive to a family reunion. On that journey, I’ve learned to take my time and enjoy each exit, detour, and stay over for what it is and what it brings to me. And I’m thankful for what lies ahead and the new remembering the road will bring.

See you down the road…