Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Two wrongs don't make anything right

September 30, 2014
Day 153

I don't know how many times I'm guilty of this myself, but I certainly notice it in others quite a bit.  Forgive me, but I really need to preach on this for just a few minutes here.

If someone's acting like a bitch to you, or doing something mean, being mean right back to them is only showing you're just as "bad".  No, you may not have been as mean or vicious as they were to you (though you might have), but either way, you've revealed yourself to be made of the same vindictive, mean stuff as them.

Why?  Why do you do this?  Why do I do this?  Why do any of us do this?!?!  Why do we clearly see when something is immoral or just wrong, and add even more immorality or wrong to the situation?

To feel better?  Really?  That's the answer I hear most often, and it makes zero sense.  You see something as being clearly, 100% immoral, mean, spiteful, or otherwise unjust, and instead of trying to right the situation, you decide to wrong the situation.  You add one more wrong to the big pile.

This is like a mother scolding her children for all the muddy fingerprints on the wall by adding some dirty shoe-prints there too, or like a waitress punishing the messy people she's serving by purposely spilling coffee all over the table as well.  It's stupid!  It's silly!  It's causing more mess, more anger, sometimes more pain, and it's a ridiculous, nonsensical exercise in poor judgment!

Because you feel better?  REALLY?!  You feel better causing pain or anger in another person?  You take delight in removing happiness from another person, simply because they showed an unkindness of some variety to you?  All you're doing here is showing your true, unimpressive colors, and bringing more darkness into a dark situation.

Am I some innocent that never does this?  No.  But I'm seeing this foolishness more and more lately, and I can't help but grab the soapbox today to shout about it a little.  Two wrongs don't make anything right.  They only make more wrong.  If we want a kinder world, a more peaceful world, we need to start by eradicating this stupid behavior from our lives once and for all. 

The next time someone does something to ruffle your feathers or purposely pisses you off, feel free to be angry.  Feel free to be pissed.  Feel free to be upset and defend yourself.  But please don't be so dumb as to think you can make anyone, least of all yourself, feel any better by purposely causing pain in someone else's life.  Yeah, they wronged you.  Yeah, that was pretty foul of them.  Yeah, they really, really need to be taught a lesson!  But teach them a lesson of goodness.  Teach them kindness.  Teach them by your actions that their actions are wrong.  Be the cure.  Be the medicine for a very sick situation that's just gone on now for far too long.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A day in progress

September 29, 2014
Day 152

I'm going to try a little experiment today, if you don't mind.  I'm going to write this blog entry as the day unfolds.


9:27 AM: Started blog.

10:30 AM: After spending some time catching up on e-mail and the like, I finally got some work to do.  Hello, Monday.  I guess you found me.

11:32 AM: Almost done with this first job of the day.  Thinking about how much I need another Atlantic City trip soon, and how happy I am to see my Borgata offers for a free room offer me the choice of booking for free at their new Water Club too.  Hmm...methinks I need to plan!

12:36 PM: This day is moving along at a comfortable pace, but doesn't seem to have much energy to it.  Probably shouldn't wish for much though, because no news is good news (Andy's uncle is still in very bad shape, and I just heard my Aunt Nancy is in end-of-life hospice care now too).  Once again, I'm reminded to stop complaining about the silly little things in life!

1:29 PM: Last night, Andy had to get up in the middle of the night to pee.  This has been happening to me fairly often for months now, but it was the first time for him.  He tells me it's the supplement he's taking (by choice, nothing wrong with him).  I wish I could say I felt badly for him, but instead, I just smiled and went back to sleep!

3:07 PM: Just booked a complimentary room at The Water Club, Borgata's newest hotel tower in Atlantic City.  Still a couple of weeks away, but already looking forward to the escape!

3:45 PM: We just had a fire alarm here at work.  Somehow even that felt boring to me on a Monday.

4:41 PM: I only had a few jobs today, which made the day both easier and slower overall.  Time to change for the gym in a few minutes.  Will update this entry once I'm home later.

6:58 PM: Had a good workout, the usual 40 minutes' worth of running on the elliptical and then 50 sit-ups when I got home.  Just had a delicious chicken sandwich, and now watching Season 1, Episode 1 of Once Upon A Time (again).

9:34 PM: We just got back from the hospital a few minutes ago.  Fai seems like he's doing better, but we keep hearing about infection and renal failure, so things aren't good.  Still, I only allow positivity when I'm near him, and I keep my negativity out of the ICU!

10:11 PM: Okay, heading toward bed now.  I've been reading two books lately.  The first is called Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh, and the other is Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.  Both are excellent, and I look forward to cuddling up and reading one or both each night.  So...bedtime now for me.  Sweet dreams!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Listen to the sadness

September 28, 2014
Day 151

I'm a big proponent of optimism and hope.  I have tremendous belief in both, and I honor the power of optimism and hope in all matters through and throughout my life.

That said, I've also learned over the past four decades how important it is to listen to the sadness.

Sadness is going to come in and out of your life all the time.  Sadness is likewise going to come in and out of your loved ones' lives.  If you're a teacher, a preacher, a manager, or just a caring human being in any other way, it's important to remember that sadness will come in and out of others' lives as well.  None of us can escape sadness, as much as we may try.

And so we honor all sadness everywhere by listening to it.  Not loving it, not hoping for more of it or cheering it on, but absolutely listening to it.

When I started this blog entry online, I searched for an appropriate picture to go with this reflection.  I searched in Google for "sadness", picked one out from a random site, and then just as I was about to close the page, I saw the phrase "searching for sadness".

We're not searching for sadness, but we can search in the sadness.  We can look for the message or the lesson worth taking from any sad moment or experience.  Some sad times are just awful, and they tell us nothing but sadness, but even then, even in the darkest moments, we ought to take the time to listen.  Listen to the sadness, and honor the moment.  Don't offer some trite phrase or hopeful comment, but rather just listen.

Paul Tillich told us, "The first duty of love is to listen," and in the saddest moments that we or our loved ones experience, it is the only thing we can do.  Listen.  Honor the pain by staying quiet.  Give the sadness its due by allowing the sadness to express itself naturally.  Listen to all the negativity, especially if the stream of it cannot be stopped.  Honor all the pain, give all the darkness its moment to breathe, and help your loved one, student, patient, colleague, parishioner, or even the stranger in your midst by just shutting your mouth and listening, listening to the sadness.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Our blurry vision

September 26, 2014
Day 150

I can still remember the way I felt that very first time I got eyeglasses.  My mother was driving me home from the mall, or wherever it was, and everything I saw out the car windows was astonishing.  It was like a whole new world was presenting itself to me, a clearer world I'd previously been missing.

When you've never worn eyeglasses, it can be hard to imagine.  You truly believe the world around you is clear enough, until one day someone tells you they can see something you can't.  "What do you mean you can't read that sign?" they ask, and you immediately feel inadequate.

I wonder if life isn't this way too sometimes.  We think we're seeing clearly, when actually, we're missing so much.  The signs are all around us, but our vision is just blurry, and worst of all, we think we're seeing everything with absolute clarity.  We think we're so great, we've got superhuman vision...when so often, the complete opposite is true!

And then it happens.  An eye doctor comes along and sets you straight.  A teacher points out your spelling is actually quite horrible.  A friend confides he actually hates your cooking.  A family member gently takes your hand and whispers that you really ought to use breath mints more often.

When you finally get your "vision" checked and you're fitted for corrective lenses at last, you can't believe how blurry your vision used to be.  You can't believe how much clearer you can now see.

But this isn't the end of the lesson.  That's because you still do have blurry vision.  You've just learned to see differently with new lenses.  The lenses aren't attached to your eyes, just as perfect understanding isn't a permanent fix for your personality or judgment.  Being a good person isn't going to be a constant any more than you'll end up wearing glasses 24 hours a day.  Reality is fluid, vision is ever changing, and the eye, just like your sight, is forever imperfect.

We're stuck with our blurry vision, but we can help ourselves see more clearly when we first admit we don't see clearly, when we second get help from someone who knows better, and third, when we simply choose to wear our glasses, remembering that so often in life, we just need the outside help.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Enneagram Connections

September 26, 2014
Day 149

This will be the last entry from me about The Enneagram, at least for now.  I may come back to it later, not sure, but I need to close the series now with just a few more important notes.  Once you've figured out what your number is, you need to understand how all these personalities interact. 

FORWARD/BACKWARD: As you can see from the Enneagram itself, this is no mere list of different types.  In fact, each number moves to the negative attributes of another number when they're at their weakest, and they move to a different number when they're at their strongest. 

WINGS: Besides our main personality type, and our forward and backward numbers, we all exhibit some attributes of the number to our left and right side too (sometimes both!), which we call our wings.  The wing isn't who you are, but you may share many of its traits.  

CENTER: The 2, 3, and 4 are in the Heart Center because they tend to operate from their emotions before anything else when a given situation presents itself.  The 5, 6, and 7 are in the Head Center, because they tend to operate from their thoughts first and foremost.  And the 8, 9, and 1 operate from a gut-instinct tendency before thoughts or emotions.  Alternatively, these three centers are often called the feelers, the thinkers, and the doers.

Use these notes below to get a better idea what I've been talking about lately, reference any of the individual types detailed in the past week, and consult the Enneagram Overview as well.  All are linked here.

1 - The perfectionist/reformer, forward 7, backward 4 (wings: 9 and/or 2)
     I appreciate order and cleanliness, and I'm known for being a perfectionist in all things.  At my strongest (7), I can get a job done well and have fun doing it, keeping everyone else involved in the process, but at my weakest (4), I sometimes get annoyed and moody, judging others too much for not reaching my high standards.

2 - The helper/giver, forward 4, backward 8 (wings: 1 and/or 3)
     I like to be liked, so I'm often seeking attention and love through service to others.  At my strongest (4), I am helpful, kind, and peaceful, happy to do things for others without thinking twice, but at my weakest (8), I sometimes become manipulative and greedy, seeking attention and love in an often aggressive way.

3 - The actor/motivator, forward 6, backward 9 (wings: 2 and/or 4)
     Life is a competition, and I like being center stage, and always on top of my game.  At my strongest (6), I can perform at the highest levels, managing a large company or running a huge event that benefits my community, but at my weakest (9), I sometimes get lazy and quiet, choosing to be too relaxed when there's much more I should be doing.

4 - The artist/romantic, forward 1, backward 2 (wings: 3 and/or 5)
     I appreciate the beauty in things.  Fine wine, amazing art, even visceral sadness.  At my strongest (1), I see things clearly and sympathetically, knowing right from wrong and doing what I can to use my intelligence and art to change the world, but at my weakest (2), I sometimes grow moody and annoyed, spending too much time focusing on all the negatives.

5 - The silent observer/thinker, forward 8, backward 7 (wings: 4 and/or 6)
     At a party, I always enjoy quietly watching others, and learning everything I can!  At my strongest (8), I am a strong leader, using my wisdom and perspective to bring control and order to a situation, but at my weakest (7), I sometimes give into silliness and pleasure, seeking personal enjoyment and my own superiority over calm thinking and an ordered mind.

6 - The loyalist/questioner, forward 9, backward 3 (wings: 5 and/or 7)
     What did they say we were doing next?  I'm a team player, and I'm happy to serve.  At my strongest (9), I'm your best worker or best volunteer, championing the cause and getting things done, but at my weakest (3), I sometimes question authority and grandstand for attention.  I know I should remember there's no i in team, but I can't help but see four of them in individuality.

7 - The enthusiast/stimulation seeker, forward 5, backward 1 (wings: 6 and/or 8)
     Let's have a party, and make it big!  I enjoy life, and resist over-thinking things too much.  At my strongest (5), I'm able to mellow down and observe what's happening, really understand the situation as a whole, but at my weakest (1), I sometimes run around too much and too quickly, doing everything possible to avoid looking seriously at what I'm feeling inside.

8 - The leader/controller, forward 2, backward 5 (wings: 7 and/or 9)
     Hear ye, hear ye, this meeting is now in session.  I'm the leader, and don't you forget it!  At my strongest (2), I'm able to lead, control, and bring about change in many wonderful ways, fully tapped into my emotional side, but at my weakest (5), I sometimes march forward with so much gusto that I step on others in the process, and get stuck in my own brooding thoughts.

9 - The peacemaker/mediator, forward 3, backward 6 (wings: 8 and/or 1)
     Let's just relax.  Why do you worry so much?  Hey, did someone say it's bedtime?  Yay!  At my strongest (3), I'm able to transform my easy-going nature into becoming a healthy leader or popular personality at a conference or party, but at my weakest (6), I sometimes grow fearful and feel threatened, allowing others to run roughshod while I stay too quiet and weak.

Enneagram Overview

So what number are you?  And what number do you think I am?  How about your parents, friends, and family?  Do they strike you as being one of these types?  We shouldn't tell a person what number they are if they haven't already decided/chosen, but we can help them figure it out with some of these methods and descriptions. 

There's a wealth of material online about this, so look around.  What I've typed here the past 11 days now are just my thoughts and my own understanding of The Enneagram.  If you feel I've written something incorrect about who you are, or any of the other numbers, please let me know!  I may have misspoken, misinterpreted, or been flat out mistaken in some ways, so I welcome your edits!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 9

September 25, 2014
Day 148

Why worry so much?  Just relax.  We can be a little late; it's not gonna kill us.  Let's just have a great time!

If you or someone you know sounds anything like this, there may be a Nine in your midst.  Congratulations.  Your blood pressure will be lowered a bit just by being around them (unless you're a 1, in which case you might just get pissed at your 9 friend).

The Enneagram Nine is, quite simply, the most relaxed personality type on the Enneagram.  They are the peacemakers, but I'd suggest they are more accurately the peacefinders.  They find peace, for themselves and others, as if it's as simple to find as their next breath. 

Of the Nines I've known, all have been easy to get along with.  There's a reason we say Nines are the nice guy/nice girl type.  They're friendly, calm, easy going, and don't rock the boat.  Though some may be labeled lazy, most are just supremely relaxed, and they are puzzled why the rest of us don't relax more too!

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, Winnie The Pooh himself is the Nine.  He's everyone's friend, but you'd never mistake him for having the nervous energy of Piglet, the hardworking drive of Rabbit, the wise observation skills of Owl, or the bubbly, all-over-the-place excitement of Tigger.  One of the most interesting things I learned in the monastery about Nines is their tendency to focus on one thing so intently, it's hard to shake them from it.  Though it's true they are the most relaxed about almost anything, when they get an idea in their heads, they turn on their superpower tunnel vision until they get it.  Winnie The Pooh does this of course with honey!  He's everyone's friend, sweet, easy going, and relaxed, but when there's honey around?  Watch out!  He's got to go get it!

Famous Enneagram Nines include Tony Bennett, Yogi Berra, Matthew Broderick, Queen Elizabeth II, Rita Rudner, Barbara Hershey, Bill Clinton, Lisa Kudrow, Ray Romano, and Keith Richards.

Enneagram Overview

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 8

September 24, 2014
Day 147

Today belongs to the Eights.  They are in charge of this day.  They rule this day.  They are the masters and commanders of this day, and don't you forget it!!!

The Enneagram 8 is the LEADER, the director, and the boss.  He or she wields a powerful energy, and you better believe they enjoy wielding this powerful energy.  "Someone needs to be the leader," these Eights say, "So let it be me!  Let me show you the way, and let me decide how we'll get this project done!"

Of all the numbers on the Enneagram, 8s stand out from the herd, and don't like just being part of the herd.  On the rare occasions they are not the boss, they find ways of rising to the top anyway. 

But the 8 is not necessarily the leader in a bad way.  No, 8s are very often amazing leaders, protecting the herd and moving everyone forward.  They can be amazing when they speak out for the rights of others, the softer voices in their midst.  Healthy 8s know that with great power comes great responsibility, and they work very hard to help everyone they lead.

Of the 8s I've known, some have been loud and brash at times, but all of them have had hearts of...well, hearts of marshmallows.  An 8 is often hard and strong on the outside, carrying only a powerful demeanor when in public, but inside?  They can be a total mush!  They are in touch with their emotional side at their best, and only lost in brooding thoughts at their weakest.

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, there is no strong 8 lead, although Christopher Robin might be a very healthy 8.  Other suggestions I've heard are the gorilla and the Heffalump, although this latter example is better understood in Piglet's traditional worries about the Heffalump.  In recent years, the character is presented in a more friendly way.

Famous Enneagram Eights include Gloria Allred, Charles Barkley, Johnny Cash, Don Imus, Diane Lane, Mark McGwire, Suzanne Pleshette, Queen Latifah, Donald Trump, and Ann Richards.

Enneagram Overview

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 7

September 23, 2014
Day 146

Sevens are rarer than most other numbers, possibly in a tie with the Threes, and they're really fun to have around.  They're energetic pleasure seekers who love a good party, and avoid stress as much as possible. 

You know you're with a 7 when they seem to have a constant desire to stay active and keep finding new experiences.  You may have just spent the day at a beautiful restaurant followed by three wineries, and the 7 is looking to make plans at a club that night.

The Enneagram Seven is called The Enthusiast, because they're just bursting with energy all the time.

Of the Sevens I've known, most have been very balanced, and they do take life seriously when they have to, although it seems to be a struggle for them to delve into darker matters when necessary. 

In The Winnie The Pooh stories, Tigger is the Seven.  Happy go lucky, literally bouncing all over the place, he just wants to have fun.  Tigger can be serious if he absolutely has to, but mostly?  He just wants to have fun!  Sevens "bounce" back to full energy soon after they're temporarily slowed down.

Famous Enneagram Sevens include Mel Brooks, Alan Cumming, Cameron Diaz, Fran Dresher, Robert Downey, Jr., George W. Bush, Elton John, Eddie Murphy, and Britney Spears.

Enneagram Overview

Monday, September 22, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 6

September 22, 2014
Day 145

A LOT of people are Sixes. 

That doesn't mean you're one of them, but it does seem like we all know them quite well, sometimes better than they know themselves. 

The wordplay here is important.  Sixes say "us" and "them" a lot, and they think in terms of us and them quite frequently too.  Sixes are fear-based types, but they're also fiercely loyal people, loyal to friends, family, their country, their religion, and lots of other associations.  And as fear-based as they can be, they can likewise be dramatically courageous when the situation calls for it.

The Enneagram Six is known as the loyalist.  A Six is the type of man or woman who enjoys being a follower, not in some kind of subservient manner, but because they genuinely enjoy being one of the troops.  They relish being at the service of others as a working bee, and not the queen.

Of the Sixes I've known and know, almost all are easily identifiable.  When they're at their best, they're relaxed and easy going, working hard but not stressing about the work, or really anything.  When they're stressed though, they get a little sillier.  They jump into the spotlight more often, or otherwise out-stage others, possibly for fear of being trampled themselves.

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, Piglet is a 6.  He's sweet and lovable, but needs Pooh's leadership and advice.  He often feels as small as he is, and when he gets really stressed out, he becomes an absolute bundle of nerves. 

Famous Enneagram Sixes include Larry David, Meg Ryan, Dustin Hoffman, Tom Selleck, Penny Marshall, Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, Woody Allen, Rosie Perez, and Albert Brooks.

Enneagram Overview

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 5

September 21, 2014
Day 144

The silent observer.  Those three words are enough to help most Enneagram Fives identify themselves right off the bat.

The Enneagram 5 enjoys studying life and people as if he or she is a sponge on hire to an alien race, determined to note everything they can for a report they'll file later.

Fives listen very, very carefully at a social gathering, and they seem to be constantly thinking, thinking, thinking their way through every conversation, exchange, and experience.

Of the Fives I've known, all have been smart and clever in equal measure.  They know they're quieter than most others, but they're happy to be so, because the less they're called on to speak, the more they can listen to what others say.  Some Fives can use their knowledge and observation skills against others, but most are just happy to listen and learn without judgment or motive.

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, Owl is the Five.  He watches quietly, sometimes from a distance, but his silent observation skills help him share wisdom and thoughtful advice with others.

Famous Enneagram Fives include Tim Burton, Albert Einstein, Joyce Carol Oates, Agatha Christie, Ralph Fiennes, Anthony Hopkins, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and The Buddha.

Enneagram Overview

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 4

September 20, 2014
Day 143

Fours are one of my favorite types (but no, I'm not a Four).  They just exude something poetic and romantic that I find very attractive.

You can pick out the Fours in a crowd fairly easily, once you get the hang of The Enneagram, but beware: they're also the type who tend to hate The Enneagram.  Why?  Because they feel boxed, labeled, and worst of all, understood, something they prefer to believe is impossible.

The Enneagram Four is often called the poet or the romantic.  The Four wants to be different, and wants to be completely unclassifiable.  And really?  They are! 

Of the Fours I've known--and there have been many--the ones who start to learn about the Enneagram in depth either love it or hate it, there's no in between.  They either love being understood for their mysteriousness, or they hate being dissected and picked apart like some kind of lab rat.

Fours are often cultural experts, and are both blessed with the ability to see beauty in even the strangest of places and cursed with the sometimes-unwilling desire to pass judgment on those who treat life without the degree of sophistication they believe it deserves. 

In the Winnie the Pooh stories, Eyeore is a Four.  "Thanks for noticing me," he might say softly as he wanders off to appreciate the sunset, or work on a painting.

Famous Enneagram Fours include Bjork, Cate Blanchett, Nicolas Cage, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Manson, Morrissey, Sylvia Plath, Meryl Streep, and Judy Collins.

Enneagram Overview

Friday, September 19, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 3

From Finding the Birthday Cake, by Elizabeth Wagele

September 19, 2014
Day 142

Threes are rare.  I'll just start with that statement.  I've only known a couple of them in my life (at least among my close friends and family).  But as rare as they are, they're also very, very much like all the characteristics of their type.  Threes know they are threes, and they love to be Threes! 

The Enneagram Three is known as the actor, or the performer.  He or she enjoys being the focus of attention, and enjoys guiding others forward to the success that they themselves have already found. 

Unlike most other numbers, the Three doesn't shift much throughout life.  Who they are is who they've always been, and who they always strive to be: someone who's worked hard to achieve what they have achieved, and who cannot help but constantly compete with others in every way possible.

Of the threes I've known, success is not just a goal, but THE goal.  They don't understand why others aren't also constantly striving for complete success, and if at all possible, world domination too!  Sometimes mistaken for the Enneagram 8, a Three operates from his or her heart in all stressful situations.  Though they enjoy leading and inspiring a team of friends or strangers, the Three never loses sight of their feelings, which are always wrapped up in, whether positively or negatively, the experience of the moment.

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, Gopher is the most obvious Three.  He's all about tight schedules, hard work, and no lollygagging. 

Famous Enneagram Threes include Halle Berry, Mark Harmon, Michael Jordan, Demi Moore, Diane Sawyer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathleen Turner, and Oprah Winfrey.

Enneagram Overview

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 2

September 18, 2014
Day 141

The Enneagram Personality Type 2 is a wild card.  They can be very obvious or they can blend in well.  The old standard by which you can guess if a person is a Two is if they seem really interested in how you're doing.  It's not that Twos are innately more caring, though some may think so.  It's just that if they find someone they like, they don't let them go.


The Enneagram Two is called the helper, and though they're excellent role models for service and attention, they also know very well how to help themselves too!

Of the Enneagram 2s I've known in life, some are wonderful, caring, happy and generous people, who have done a lot for others without seeking anything in return.  Others have made it very clear that they've done something, and expect a gift or reward for their good deed, even if just in the form of lots of attention.

The Enneagram Two enjoys serving others, being the go-to guy or girl for anything anyone needs, and generally just being the perfect person to have around when things go bad.  They want to be at your service, and they feel fulfilled when they can help others with whatever they might need.

In the Winnie The Pooh stories, Kanga (Roo's mother) exhibits the most 2-like attributes, although some have said Christopher Robin might be a Two as well.

Famous Enneagram Twos include Princess Diana, Whitney Houston, Bill Cosby, Richard Simmons, Mr. Rogers, Dolly Parton, Monica Lewinsky, Desmond Tutu, and Madonna.

Enneagram Overview

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Enneagram Personality Type 1

September 17, 2014
Day 140

The Enneagram's nine types are not ordered by best to worst, as no number is better than any other number (though some 8s I've known might disagree). 

So as I begin today with the One, please note I'm just going in numerical order, and nothing more!

The Enneagram One is often called the perfectionist.  He or she is best known for their desire to keep everything in order, their meticulous attention to detail, and their fastidious practices in almost all things. 

While some Ones might be slightly messy or make mistakes, most are not the type to ever leave a mess or not clean up.  If you leave a mess in front of a One, they won't just be annoyed; they'll think you have a personality flaw!  That's because for them, order is part and parcel of their DNA. 

My father was a One, and though he had his struggles in life, his ability to keep things generally neat and in order was not one of them.  Like most Ones I've known, my dad was very exact in his life.  He was very careful with his writing, his parking, and even his food purchasing. 

A master-level coupon collector, my dad was amazing when it came to grocery shopping, both in the planning of it and in the execution.  On a long yellow legal pad, he'd write down at least three or four grocery stores within a 5-mile radius, and keep track of which store sold which food item at the best price.  His coupons in hand, he'd then drive off to these stores like a soldier going into battle, only arriving back home once the war was over.  As he unpacked the car, he'd call us into the kitchen to boast of his success.  "Now take a look at all this here on the table," he'd say in his thick Irish brogue, "And tell me how much you think this would have cost."  We'd take our best guesses, and then with a building smile, he'd announce proudly, "They paid me 17 cents."

If you know Winnie The Pooh, the character of Rabbit is an Enneagram One.  Other famous Ones include Julie Andrews, Joan Baez, Noam Chomsky, Anderson Cooper, Gregory Peck, Bill Moyers, Tony Randall, Judge Judy, Jane Curtin, and Anne Coulter.

Enneagram Overview

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Anyone Enneagram?

September 16, 2014
Day 139

The Enneagram (pronounced any-a-gram) can be traced back to the ancient Sufis, but most of what we practice today is still only about 40 years old, so if you haven't heard of it yet, please allow me to teach you!

Enneagram literally means chart of nine, and it's a personality system based on nine different types of people.  I've been studying it for over 20 years now, and it's really helped me understand not just myself, but how others tick too.  Most importantly, the Enneagram reminds us we cannot judge others for simply being who they already are.

So today, I'm just going to give you a very quick run-through of each of the nine numbers.  Then in future blog entries, I'll guide you a bit more through each of the types, and go more into depth about each of them.  Sound good?  Okay, here you go:

1 - The perfectionist/reformer, forward 7, backward 4
     I appreciate order and cleanliness, and I'm known for being a perfectionist in all things.

2 - The helper/giver, forward 4, backward 8
     I like to be liked, so I'm often seeking attention and love through service to others.

3 - The actor/motivator, forward 6, backward 9
     Life is a competition, and I like being center stage, and always on top of my game.

4 - The artist/romantic, forward 1, backward 2
     I appreciate the beauty in things.  Fine wine, amazing art, even visceral sadness.

5 - The silent observer/thinker, forward 8, backward 7
     At a party, I always enjoy quietly watching others, and learning everything I can!

6 - The loyalist/questioner, forward 9, backward 3
     What did they say we were doing next?  I'm a team player, and I'm happy to serve.

7 - The enthusiast/stimulation seeker, forward 5, backward 1
     Let's have a party, and make it big!  I enjoy life, and resist over-thinking things too much.

8 - The leader/controller, forward 2, backward 5
     Hear ye, hear ye, this meeting is now in session.  I'm the leader, and don't you forget it!

9 - The peacemaker/mediator, forward 3, backward 6
     Let's just relax.  Why do you worry so much?  Hey, did someone say it's bedtime?  Yay!

That's it for now, just a starter! 

But wait!  What's all that about forward and backward?  Well, I'll get into more of what each number means and how they interact with other people of other types in future blog installments, but the short answer for now is, each of us exhibits positive attributes of one other number on the Enneagram when we're at our best (forward), and we also exhibit the attributes of one other number when we're at our most stressed (backward).  Much more on this later though!  Stay tuned! : )

Monday, September 15, 2014

My second Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol experience

September 15, 2014
Day 138

Picture it.  Sicily, 1920. 

Eh, scrap that actually.  Picture this instead: Minnesota, May 2008.  A Prize Patrol Deputy named Sean Patrick Brennan is traveling across the great state of Minnesota, surprising people with big checks from the one and only Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol.

Along with my co-Deputy, Jack Quinn, our first prize surprise was in Moose Lake, Minnesota, which I told you about earlier in this blog.  That was another cool story, and I have a few more to come after this one too!

Moose Lake was near Duluth, in the eastern part of the state, but our next stop took us into Brainerd, Minnesota, smack-dab in the middle of the state.  Out there, life is quieter and folks live a bit further apart from each other, not because of any animosities or anything, but just because they have more room to spread out and stretch their legs.

It was beautiful, really.  Lots of long, open roads with plenty of open land on either side, and here and there the occasional shipping train would go by, carrying what seemed like a never-ending amount of train cars.  We even stopped by a cattle sale in the area, and save for maybe one or two executives, I'm fairly certain we were the only men there not dressed in jeans and a cowboy hat.

You may recall from my first story that we couldn't find our winner (despite reaching his home, asking the neighbors to call around, and driving to his job, too).  The award winner for this second prize though?  Well, he wasn't home either!  (And this time, we had the local PBS affiliate reporter with us too, a nice man who operated both the PBS camera and the microphone.)  We soon found out from our winner's wife that he was at a nearby hospital, having his hearing aid adjusted. 

85 years young and in a wheelchair, Robert wasn't too hard to catch up to at the hospital, but man, you should have seen us running that day!  How often do you get to run through a hospital with flowers, balloons, and a big check, with a cameraman following you as you go?! 

Spectators and staff alike were in awe as I kept yelling, "This is real!" with a big smile, and "This is not a commercial!"

We found Mr. Hall in his doctor's office that morning, and he sure was glad to see us!  The big check we presented him wasn't made out for millions of dollars, but he really appreciated it anyway!  "I can sure use it!  Any little extra money is very helpful!" he told us.

Once the opportunity presented itself, we asked him next, "So what will you do with the money?"  He thought for a long moment, and then looked up at us and said, "Well, I'm gonna give 10% to my church, put half in the bank, and then I'm gonna buy myself a new gun!"

Well rest assured, Mr. Hall had earned the right to do whatever the heck he wanted with this money!  At 85 years old, he was a proud veteran of World War II, serving with the United States Navy. 

After a brief Google search I just made on Mr. Hall, I was sad to find this obituary.  May he rest in peace!  God bless you, Mr. Hall, and thank you for your service to our great country.  I'm truly happy I was part of something this special for you so late in your life!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

God doesn't write books

September 14, 2014
Day 137

I'm not sure how the rumor ever got started, to be honest with you.  Omnipotent deity creates the universe and everything in it, fashions time and space and the laws that guide it, and then when he's all done, he says, "I think I'd like to write a book now."

Really?  I mean...really?

I grew up with the Bible (with so-called Old and New Testaments), just as I understand people in other places grew up with just the Torah, or the Hebrew Scriptures with the Torah, or the Koran, or the Tao Te Ching, or the Bhagavad Gita, or any of several other holy books.  I was told that the words written inside were quite literally written or dictated by God Himself (the capital H was apparently very important).

And then, as time went on, I slowly realized this was actually kind of ridiculous. 

God wrote a book?  And not those other books billions of people instead follow for their religion?  And God wanted these truths to be followed, and no others?  It just seemed a little too simple for me, the more I thought about it.  It all seemed a bit too limited for the creator of all to have written or inspired. 

God, I decided once and for all, was bigger than this, and smarter than this.  God could not be described and confined to just this one book, no matter how thick it was.

Maybe it's because I just watched the movie Philomena last night, in which some nasty nuns did some horrible things in the name of God.  Or maybe it was because an Orthodox Jewish friend of mine down in Florida is struggling with his burgeoning homosexuality right now, in a Yeshiva that simply would not tolerate him or his sickness if he dared to ever come out.  Or maybe it's just that both of these situations reminded me of the crap I had to go through as a monk, when I was told whistling was forbidden in the monastery, that I was wrong for voting for Al Gore, and that the Holy Spirit and not medicine would cure my serious illness.

The truth is, religion and its books are not infallible.  In fact, the only proof I see over history is that they are all very, very fallible!  Religion is about defining God, and telling human beings exactly what God believes, because unlike any of us, some religious folk seem to have just been given the gift of knowledge, and wanted to share it with us all out of the goodness of their hearts or something.

I hate to use the word bullshit, yet so much of it really is.  At the same time though, I do believe in God, and I do believe a lot of what people have written about God and spirituality in general is true.  I've just come to see over time how much work I have to do to find those diamonds amidst the coal, and to pull back all that tissue paper to find the gift inside.  As Dr. Rentaro Hashimoto, chair of the Philosophy department at Manhattan College once told me, "Usually what 'they' say is valuable, but what's valuable is usually surrounded by garbage."

I truly love God, and I care very much about the search for God and spirit in my lifetime.  But I'm done with any fixed belief system that thinks it's got the whole truth and nothing but the truth, especially if they think everyone else is just wrong. 

I'm not sure how the rumors ever got started that God was in the book-writing business, but man, can't we all just wake up already?  We can be Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, or any other religion, and we can do so with more open minds, appreciating and respecting a faith journey of any kind as one of several paths to the same destination. 

Most of all, can we please just stop stop loving any thing in this world (books, flags, and creeds inclusive) more than we love our fellow human beings?  God doesn't write books.  People do.  And that should have been our first clue that there was a pretty good chance some things would get lost in translation!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My (technologically) challenged life

September 13, 2014
Day 136

I've got to begin this with a sad confession.  When cell phones first started arriving, I knew right away that I was missing out, but I also knew I wasn't going to catch up to everyone else right away.  So what did I do?  I took an old remote control, and stuck it in the fancy side pouch in my bag, specifically designed to hold your cell phone.  No one could tell what I had in there, so I just went with it.

It wasn't that I didn't want to have a real cell phone, I just didn't know how to go about getting one, and I felt ashamed to admit even this fact. 

My technological unprowess has always been years behind everyone else I know, and cell phones?  They're just the most recent example of my ineptitude.

I've never owned an iPod, and the closest I ever came to anything better than a discman or walkman was what I called a fake-a-pod music player I owned briefly.  It was a no-name brand, and had extremely no-name-like features too.  I couldn't search for a song, or even see what song was about to play.  I could only click "next" a bunch of times if I wanted to reach the twentieth song available to me.  If I ever got up to 40 songs on that thing, I'd be amazed, but I doubt I ever listened to any of the songs past 30 anyway.  It was just too much work!

Phones and portable music-playing devices aside, the technological idiot I am is still years behind everyone else in other areas too.  DVR, Netflix, XM, iPad...hell, even surround sound!  You name it, and I don't got it!

But how much do these sad facts keep me up at night?  Not at all!

I've finally got a phone that lets me connect to the Internet, even if it's still not good enough to connect to places like Instagram.  ("But I've got a smart phone," I complained to a younger friend.  "It's not smart enough," he assured me sympathetically.)  I do have a huge 55" TV at home, and get this: a working GPS for my car.  Uh-huh.  Oh, you heard that right.  GPS, baby!

So okay, yeah, I still have a 2005-model PC at home, no CD player in my car, and I've yet to really look into this new blue-tooth technology I keep hearing about, but I'm okay with all that.  I'll live.  I may be slightly technologically challenged, but me and my Nintendo Entertainment System?  We're doing just fine, thank you very much.

Friday, September 12, 2014


My home from 1993-1997
(Filters just added for effect)
September 12, 2014
Day 135

It sounds like some kind of awful movie from the fifties, yet for me, this is all too real.  My years as a monk were a mixed bag for the most part, but I think you could probably say that about any four years in a life.  I had lots of happy days and happy experiences in the monastery, and I'll take the lessons I learned from my four-plus years as Brother Sean with me wherever I go in life, but some of the time?  Well, some of the time, things really weren't too great.

The brothers were proud counter-culturists at a time in my life when I was just beginning to understand and appreciate culture, in all its forms and variations.  You can take the boy out of the world, but you can't take the world out of the boy, despite how much I tried to let them. 

Then one day, very unexpectedly, they told me to leave.

They showed me the door so fast, it was like they were quietly ending a contract.  I had no time to say goodbye, and hardly any time to even think about what was happening.  It was just, "Go back to your room now and pack," and even the packing was expedited.  I didn't feel I'd have enough room to bring everything, so I had to leave an awful lot behind, too. 

My life was never a contract though, and you can't just sweep a soul under the carpet like that.  I deserved better, and I continue to pray my superiors will one day see that.  No one in my situation should have ever been just thrown away, dropped off at his parents' door with the equivalent of a proof-of-delivery notice.  It was sick and heartless, and they should have known it was sick and heartless.  I wrote dozens of letters to people there over the years, but got little to no response.

Seventeen years later, I still have nightmares, but strangely, my nightmares are never about events that took place inside the monastery walls.  Instead, they always take me inside as if I'm back again, and once again needing to leave.  That's all they seem to really be about: me needing to get out. 

Some people have nightmares of being chased, or being late for school or work, or about falling from a great height.  I've had those at times, but the most consistent nightmare I have for these past 17 years is this one: the one where I'm in the monastery, and need to find my own way out.

I believe my nightmare returns because I was never given the opportunity and time to leave the religious life calmly and naturally, and I seem doomed to repeat the depression of that day over and over as a loop in my head.  Unfinished business of this magnitude can literally haunt you forever.

I don't even hate my brothers there who still live the religious life as part of that community.  I love them!  And I miss them!  But to my superiors at least, I was treated like a contract they decided to terminate, and a soul they swept under the carpet.  No one is worth treating this way, least of all someone who attended their schools as a student, loved God and tried his best to serve the church in the religious life, and who was suffering at the time with clinical depression. 

So do I still harbor sadness and resentment?  Yes. 

I continue to try my best to forgive my religious superiors, and I dream of the possibility of healing.  I also still believe firmly, that whether here or in Heaven, we will all attain that ultimate healing we very much need.  In the meantime, these nightmares from the monastery will keep haunting me, until I finally find the peace that only time and healing can bring. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I ran like a dirty rat

The view from my company's building was very similar to this one.
Photo taken in 2000 from The Empire State Building.
© All Rights Reserved by chid1528

September 11, 2014
Day 134

Every year on this day, we tell our stories, and each of us has one.  We share where we were that day, what we saw, and what we did.

My 9/11 story has many parts, but the element I'd like to reflect on today is the one where I ceased to be a human being, and instead took on all the characteristics of a dirty rat in the street.

When the first plane hit the twin towers, it seemed like an awful accident of some sort.  When the second plane hit as I watched out my window at work, people immediately started saying this was terrorism.  I balked.  "Don't say that!" I chided.  I was so upset that my coworkers were jumping to such conclusions.  "Maybe a news helicopter got too close, and that's the explosion we saw," I said.  But then we heard about the other planes.  Washington D.C. was under attack too, and at least one other plane was still out there.

Soon afterward, we were told our building, because it was connected to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, was a potential target.  Evacuation was not ordered outright, because no one seemed to know what we should do, but I decided to leave right away. 

I ran down 29 flights of stairs.

I ran toward the river, and away from midtown.

I ran uptown from 42nd Street to the 70s or 80s. 

I needed to get as far away from danger as I possibly could, and I needed to do so as quickly as my legs would take me.

MEANWHILE, all over the tri-state area, many others were doing the complete opposite.  They were running toward the towers, and toward the danger.  They were making every possible effort to get as close to the areas in danger as possible, to save lives, and prevent more lives from being lost.

The heroes that day were many.  They showed a spirit and an energy I can only admire from a distance.  Because me?  I was a rat.  I ran like a dirty rat as far away as I could, because I was so scared my life was in danger from just a possible threat I didn't even know existed.

Do I forgive myself?  Yes, just as I understand all others who did the same thing or similar that day.  But I live with the knowledge of my reaction, and I live with the direction in which I chose to run.

For all the heroes who gave their lives that day, or who ran down there to help as many people as they could, I will praise and thank you all until the day I die.  And on the day I die, I hope to meet those heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.  I want to thank them, and hug them, and give them all my appreciation for their choices that day. 

They ran and they ran, and then they ran some more.

They ran from all over the tri-state area, on foot and by car, by boat and by train. 

They ran toward the danger, into peril, and into the flames and debris.

They saw the threat, but they ran toward it anyway. 

And so we all pause today to thank them once again, as we will next year on this day, and every year after, and every day in between too.  We thank them for the choices they made, and the sacrifice they knew they were making...for complete strangers.  We thank them for running forward for all of us.

In memory of Andrea Della Bella and Officer Paul Talty

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

That Was My Youth

September 10, 2014
Day 133

Last night I went to see the new play This Is Our Youth on Broadway.  What follows here is not a review, just some reflections I've got spinning around in my head, reflections on my own life and youth after seeing this show.

The show never, as I could tell, used the phrase, "This is our youth", despite the fact that I'd hoped to hear it by the end of the second act.  Instead, it showed us a trio of early-20-somethings stuck in a life they didn't expect, musing about what their lives might one day be, and reminiscing about the innocence of their past. 

When I think of my own life, I often get lost in all the years between birth and now.  My mind doesn't immediately turn to memories of my youth or teenage years, or even to my 20s or 30s.  These four decades now mostly behind me in the rear-view mirror are all there, colliding as one big image.  I keep one hand on the steering wheel as I adjust the mirror, and see them all just together, waving at me from the road behind.

Like the play, my youth included some illicit activities, underage drinking, drugs, and even running from the authorities and jumping over fences to escape.  How did that happen?  How did I go from Catholic school kid with thoughts of the priesthood to bong-sucking 11th grader trying to fit in?  Where was the jump from making altar boy of the month at St. Agnes Cathedral to being 17 and passing a fake ID to a bartender in Far Rockaway?

My life, like my youth, has been filled with these moments of discovery and experimentation.  Sometimes I made conscious, adult decisions to reach a certain experience, but more often than not, I just went with the flow, and tried my best not to worry too much.  I cursed, drank, and inhaled my way through hangouts with friends and strangers, and hoped to God no one would ever find out I was just a scared gay kid who felt completely lost in an unfriendly world.

And so as I keep looking back at the road and roads behind me through the rear-view mirror, I can't help but see all my youth now relocated to the past, and not the future.  I don't expect only 100% maturity and sound decisions in my future, but I know I can no longer blame my youth for the mistakes I sometimes make. 

I tilt the mirror up slightly, and then grab hold of the wheel with both hands.  My gaze returns to the road ahead of me.  And though I'll take the occasional glance backward to see what might be following me into the future, I'll mostly keep looking forward.  Who knows how far my car will take me, but I've come so far already, and I plan to enjoy whatever awaits me up ahead.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sneak peek from my third book

September 9, 2014
Day 132

Today I thought I'd just use this space to post an update on my book-writing progress.

There are just three books in this series I'm writing, so this third one I'm working on now is the third and final installment.  It's been a fun trip for me writing these, so I hope if you haven't given them a chance yet, you'll pick them up soon.

In Book 1, I laid out some of my major characters, and presented a new revelation that would shake the Earth.  Heaven was about to reveal itself to Earth once and for all, and nothing would ever be the same.

In Book 2, Heaven reveals itself, Lucifer jumps in the game too, and despite all the best efforts of the angels, all Hell breaks loose on Planet Earth.  A LOT happens, and we begin to see how interconnected angels and demons really can be with humanity.

In Book 3, we find out how this will all end.  How can a series about Heaven revealing itself to humanity close out without the end of the world coming into play too?  Well rest assured, I have no such ending planned for humanity, but that doesn't mean I don't still have a very special ending--and beginning--up my sleeve anyway!

Without further adieu, here's a sneak-peek excerpt from my third book:

In a large theatre on Long Island, over a thousand people were gathered for a private reading from a famous Long Island medium.  Once he arrived on stage, and the applause and cheering quieted, he told everyone there how the reading would go, and asked people to remain patient and kind if the readings turned to people other than them.  People nodded their heads vigorously, showing their full support, even though most of them still secretly prayed for the medium’s undivided attention.  They clinched their bags and crossed their legs, all of them hoping to hear from their loved ones who had crossed over.

The medium suddenly had an astonished, happy look on his face.  He looked all around the room now with a whimsical, curious gaze.  “Someone here is connected to William the angel?”  The audience let out one of those collective gasps you only get at a major theatrical event, the kind reserved for a character’s death, a rope slipping in a circus act, or a performer beginning to fly high above the stage.

“I mean it,” he said, “I’m seeing William.”  Silence met him as he looked around the room.  “I’m not, like, seeing him here in the room, but I’m being shown him, so someone must be connected to him somehow.”  No one was volunteering any information, or admitting they had any connection whatsoever to William.  The medium started moving toward the back of the orchestra section, scanning a collection of seats that maybe included 50 people at the most.  “I think I’m over here,” he said.  “Who’s got the male TB connection?”  People looked more confused than ever, and began wondering if the angel William had some connection to tuberculosis, but the medium quickly clarified.  “I don’t think it’s TB like the disease, I’m getting TB like a person’s name.  Tobias, Tibby, Tabby?”

“My son’s name is Toby,” a woman nearby called out.  The medium went over to her as someone passed her a microphone.  “My little boy is Toby, but neither of us have any connection to William.”  She tensed up at the connection, and suddenly felt very uneasy.  The medium then added, “I’m sorry to ask, but did someone you know recently pass from a gunshot to the head?”  She couldn’t believe he’d just said this, and began crying painfully.  “Yes,” she managed to tell him, “Just last week.  My husband’s older brother.”

“I’m sorry,” the medium said, but quickly went on, “I just feel like it was very unexpected.  Like he was really happy one minute, and the next he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Does that make sense to you?”  She nodded, and said, “We don’t know what it was.  He was up in Vermont, and someone called 911 to report a shooting.  The call wasn’t traced, and they haven’t figured out what happened or who did it.  It’s just been very strange because—”  She looked at the medium now with dawning recognition, then over to her sister who had come with her, “He’d been telling the family at his mother’s funeral that he went to Hell, that he had met angels and gone to Hell.  We all mocked him, we told him to stop it, but he kept going on about it like it really happened.  He was a smart guy, not crazy at all, so it really upset us.

The medium began nodding and said, “Well, I think a lot of people have said a lot of crazy stuff since the angels began appearing, but I must confess, I haven’t heard anyone say they went to Hell.”  People laughed at this, and it relaxed everyone a bit, but the woman was staring at the medium in a strange way.  “He said this before William even appeared though for the first time.”  The medium looked perplexed, but smiled.  “I hate to say this and be wrong,” the medium said, “But I think I have Stephen here, and he’s telling me it’s true.  He’s showing me a drawer in his house, I think it’s a file cabinet, and somewhere near the top is a piece of paper he printed out.  I feel like it must be very important for you, maybe to bring closure.”

She nodded in affirmation, and wiped away the tears left over around her eyes.  “Okay, I’ll have to do that.” 

He looked seriously at her for a long moment.  “Is there any way you can get it right now, or call someone...

Monday, September 8, 2014

The hospital songs

NUMC (Nassau University Medical Center) on Long Island.

September 8, 2014
Day 131

Andy and I were at the hospital on Saturday night to visit with his uncle in the ICU, and things were once again depressing.  Even though he's been healing and holding on for almost a month now, he's still connected to lots of tubes and machines, and still struggling for his life.

One of the nurses had to come in while we were there to replace one of his medication IVs, something that happens very often.  While she was there, a tune played over the hospital speaker system. 

We'd been going there to visit Uncle Fai since August 12th or so, but I'd never heard this particular tune played before, so it took me by surprise.  It was Brahms' Lullaby.  The nurse said something to Andy, but I didn't hear her, so I asked again.  "They play it whenever a baby is born," she told me.

I was floored.  How wonderful!  Here we were, sitting by the bed of someone with a very serious medical situation, where other patients have come and gone, and even died, from their own serious medical situations, and we're listening to a beautiful lullaby announcement of a new child's birth.

It was, for me at least, one of those hugely emotional moments when you realize how amazing this circle of life really is, and how many lives begin and end in hospitals everywhere.

A few moments later, she added, "I think they let the father press the button to play the song, too."  Wow!  So touching and sweet!

Then my mind went to another place briefly.  I wondered what song they'd play if someone had just died.  Some grim reaper theme?  Darth Vader's theme music?  Maybe the Hallelujah Chorus?  I guess they decided correctly that no song should be played in those cases, because music of any kind would be inappropriate.  I can't imagine them guiding a weeping family member over to a musical console to press the button of their choice. 

The birth announcement music though?  That's pretty damn cool! 

Just before we left, I was surprised and delighted as once again the sound of Brahms' Lullaby was played throughout the hospital, for all the staff, visitors, and patients to hear...and remember.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

A collection of thoughts

Ostia Antica, outside Rome, Italy, 1996.

September 7, 2014
Day 130

Today I'm just going to share a random collection of thoughts on my life as it is right now. 

- I broke my Mr. Coffee glass pot while in Vermont, and the replacement pot is still on order from Amazon.  I'm feeling extremely under-caffeinated right now, and I don't like it.

- The second floor of my house is like the big bang before it banged.  I've got so much stuff up here, much of it covered in dust, and I really need to just turn this into a master bedroom suite once and for all!

- Last year, I published my first book.  This year, I published my second book.  Next year, I plan to publish my third book, the last of the series I've been working on.  It's hard to do because I spend so much time on this blog right now too, but the first 6-7 chapters are done, and I think I'm finding a really good groove right now.  I like where it's going!

- I took an allergy pill just now, and then checked in on golf.  God, I really want a cup of coffee.

- Okay, just went down the block to get a cup of coffee now.  I'm good.

- My neighbor's bushes were overtaking our garage, so we asked him to take care of it.  He did, but in the process, he also took down some beautiful shrubbery (shrubbery!) along our property line, and now it looks quite sparse.

- Our washing machine has been acting up.  It seems the sensor telling it the lid is down isn't working well, so I've had my 20-pound weight on top of the machine, and even then I still have to press down hard to get the washer to work.

- This coffee really is delicious.

- Looking forward to a barbecue we're going to this afternoon.  It's September 7th, but the nice weather's still here, and a bunch of us are going to enjoy the beautiful day together.

- I could say a million more things, but I get less reads on these blog entries on the weekends anyway.  To those of you who did read this, and for all those who read so many or all of my blog entries, thank you!!!  Any likes, comments, or shares you give me on these are all very much appreciated!  But the stats telling me people are out there reading these at all are great too! :)

- Good coffee is the nectar of the gods.

- Have a great day!!!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Last 4 Months of the Year

September 6, 2014
Day 129

This is it!  We're now faced with the last four months of the year!  We coast along through July and August, not looking too hard at the calendar... trying not to, actually.

And then, quite suddenly, it's September.  In the United States, we still have quite a heat wave all over, so the temperatures and facts of summer are still very much with us, but there's no reversing the machine that has now started up.  There's no emergency stop button, no glass to break and ax to grab, no call center waiting to help us through this.

(The Butterball Hotline doesn't count.)

What we're faced with now is an unstoppable train ride to the year 2015.  It'll move along at the regular speed, of course, but because of the change of seasons, the motives of marketers, and the big holidays we do actually look forward to, 2014 will seem to be moving at close to light speed.

So what can you do?

You can make a conscious choice to enjoy the many little moments of every day of the next four months.  New Year's Eve, Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween are still off in the future.  As much as Kmart, Hallmark, and even Coca-Cola will try to convince you that you have just hours left now to buy your costume, prepare your meals, and wrap your presents, it's all a crock of shiitake.  It's a lie!

September has only just begun.  Enjoy it!  Even when October arrives, it's still another month before Halloween shows up.  Enjoy October too.  And so on.  Just because several major events on the calendar all fall within the same few months does not mean there's not still lots and lots of other days waiting for you to appreciate as well.

So make a conscious choice right here and right now.

these last four months of the year.  Don't just live for these last four holidays!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Mashed potatoes with barbecue sauce

September 5, 2014
Day 128

Some time after my father died, he visited me in a dream.  It was just him, my mom, my sister Marilyn, and me, and we were sitting in the smallest bedroom of my parents' house.

I've already told you the story of the day my dad appeared to me on a Long Island Rail Road train, so I want to be clear right from the start: I do not assign anywhere near the same amount of gravitas to this dream as I do to that experience.  What happened that day on the train ride to Rockville Centre ranks way up there in the highest stratosphere of true, spiritual experiences I have had.  This one here?  No.  Not so much.

Still, I believe it was real, because it felt much more real than most other dreams I've had.

In this dream, my mother, my sister, and I, all of us very much alive, were talking with my dad about how he was enjoying Heaven so far.  Strangely, the only thing about the dream I now remember (though I may one day find I wrote down more in one of my old journals at the time), is that my dad told us to try barbecue sauce in our mashed potatoes.


He could have told us about what it's like to be in Heaven, or what God is like, or what famous people he's now met.  He didn't.  He could have told us any number of things about how time and space really work.  He didn't.  Instead, he chose to tell us to try mashed potatoes with frickin' barbecue sauce.  We looked at him like he was crazy, and he assured us he was speaking the truth.

Thanks, Dad! 

My expectations for this small family reunion were much higher than the culinary revelation my father's ghost revealed to me that night.  I have to admit though, he was actually right. 

A few weeks after I had this dream, I was having mashed potatoes with my dinner.  And I had some barbecue sauce available too, so I figured I'd try it.  I still think hearing about Heaven and God, or any of the many mysteries of life would have been much cooler, but the mashed potatoes with barbecue sauce?  They were absolutely divine!

Thursday, September 4, 2014


September 4, 2014 
Day 127

There's a funny thing that happens soon after you come back from a nice, relaxing vacation in the mountains. 

You've got a big, goofy grin on your face, you're looking around and appreciating the great life you're blessed to be living, and then you feel a tap on your shoulder.  You turn around with a big smile, only to be faced with a towering figure wearing a neon-green t-shirt that says: REALITY.

"Oh...you," you say.  "I wasn't expecting you so soon.  I mean, I guess I knew you'd be back sooner or later, but I honestly thought I'd have more time."

Reality smiles a big, goofy grin of his own, and then takes your arm to lead you away from your temporary bliss of forgetfulness.  He brings you back over to your aching knees, the work waiting on your desk, your bills, your dramas, your struggles, and your stresses of every shape and size.

Now for me, my stresses are many, but none of them are really that big.  I do handle things well for the most part, but certain people and events do of course make my blood pressure spike quickly.  And these past few weeks, if there's one stress in particular, it's that surrounding Andy's Uncle Fai.

Fai's been in horrible shape in the ICU for over three weeks now.  Patients have come and gone from various bed locations in this time, and besides the nursing staff we've gotten to know, only Fai in Bed letter "I" has been in the same place there each evening when we visit.  The elevator dings as we reach the second floor, we enter the quieter ICU area, we walk past the first hallway for beds A-E, and we find Fai, unconscious, waiting for us in Bed "I".

It's always the same, as are all the uncomfortable noises (and smells) in the area.  Someone's blood pressure starts rising rapidly, and an alarm goes off...an alarm with two apparent purposes: 1) To alert the nurses to make sure a given patient is okay, and 2) To successfully raise the blood pressure of everyone else nearby.  And all of this, once again, forces me to put things in perspective.

I gripe, moan, and even bitch my way through moments of annoyance all the time, and then I come back to see Fai, and I remember.  I remember to just shut up.

Venting is good.  It's healthy.  But when you see someone going through something horrible like this, tubes going in and out all over his body, machines and bags of medication hooked up all around him, beeps and blips and a bevvy of boisterous bells and whistles sounding all the time?  It really puts things in perspective!  Life's too short for us to be bitching and moaning about the most insane little trifles all the time, and life's too sweet to be chewing on so much of the sour.

There but for the grace of God go "I".  And "I" needs all our prayers right now.  I on the other hand?  I'm doing just fine.  Venting is healthy, but perspective is vital.  And my perspective tells me clearly in times like this to just shut the hell up, and appreciate all the good days, while I have them.