Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hello. The cutout cookies are gone. The meat and cheese trays are empty. The wrapping paper is but a wisp of smoke. Another Christmas has come and gone. It disappears as quickly as it shows up on Halloween. Thankfully, some memories will linger. The group of friends and family who gathered at the house on Christmas Day, the walk through the snowy field with our grandson and the looks on the kids faces.

One of the regulars in the bar said last week, "Christmas is for the little kids anyway." Sadly, she is right. The surprise and joy seem to be lost on the "big kids". Why do we grow out of such wonderful moments? Does society drain the child-like awe from our souls? It's sad that we are continually told to, "stop acting so childish!" Who ever thought that is a bad thing. I believe many of us could benefit from some childish behavior.

Did you notice how the "big kids" open their gifts. They carefully loosen the bright wrapping paper, take a quick look inside the box and set aside another pair of socks or the video game they asked for. No excitement, no face-splitting smile, just a look. It's too bad. I'm guilty of this myself. Last year I left a few gifts lay on the floor of my bedroom for months before I even acknowledged their existence. Our grandson tore open a package, pulled out the Spiderman sweatshirt inside and shouted with true joy, "Who got me this, thank you SO much for getting me this!" The simple fact that someone gave him a gift was good enough for him.

But as we get older the giving, the receiving and the reason all get taken for granted.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hello. Christmas is crashing down on us. In the blink of an eye, all of the flashy displays, retail attacks on our senses and the violent shopping will come to an end. All of this to celebrate the birth of a baby in the desert a couple of thousand years ago...or so the story goes. Last night as I browsed the meaningless channels sucked in by the dish hanging from our house, a description of an upcoming program read "...the fables of Jesus birth." By definition the word fable means, "a fabrication; a short moral story (often with animals); legend, a story about mythical or supernatural beings or events." Think about it, that makes some sense.

I dislike the idea of buying gifts for people just for the sake of buying gifts. Who decided that we "owe" each other gifts at Christmas? Shouldn't we always express our feelings to the people we love or respect. After I shipped out gifts to my clients, I thought, "What the hell am I doing?" I thank them on a regular basis for their business. Does a box of chocolates and mixed nuts really mean something? I'm sure that none of the "herd" stuffing their faces in the break room at our office, give a second thought to the birth of Christ while they fill their pie-holes with the goodies left by our vendors.

I think we need to choose another day of the year to say, "thanks for being my family, friend, boss, client, mailman, hairdresser, hooker, pimp, etc." All of this tends to distract us from looking into our hearts and souls, searching for the real meaning of Christmas...whatever that may be in your world.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Hello. Snow, snow and more snow. Is snow some kind of test for the folks foolish enough to live north of the Mason-Dixie line? Why do people choose to live in this crap? "I love the changing seasons." Bullshit! When you think about it, it's no wonder the Midwest is the least populated area of the country. Debilitating snowfall, freezing cold, torrential rains, devastating winds, scorching heat...then it starts over again. It makes us the "hearty souls" that we are. Or is it the grinning idiots that we are? Who wants mild temps year-round anyway?

When winter hits like this, I think back to the pioneers who trekked across the plains heading for the land of milk and honey. As a result of a bad travel agent, they happened to hit the Dakotas in January. They must have thought, "Great, the West is like the colonies only more desolate." What's even more surprising is that some of them stayed here. Come on, they did not have all-wheel drive conestogas. The Midwestern character was born.

Well, I'm going to go build my character, one shovel full of snow at a time.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Hello. I've been reading a book called "Leadership and Self-Deception... getting out of the box". The book reads more like a textbook than a novel, but it did make me think. The focus of the book is on improving your leadership skills, but it hits me differently. I think it is more of a "life survival" book. I think the author is simply saying, "don't blame others or your surroundings for the state your in." Look yourself in the face and admit that you are the problem. Initially, I was the only one in our study group that saw it this way, but after some discussion, several of the members were seeing it from my perspective. The others apparently can't be that honest with themselves.

I like the direction its given me. It falls in line with many of the thoughts I've had over the past year. Look at yourself...closely. It's convenient to blame our habits on the actions of others. Convenient, but wrong! I like the idea of being in control of me. Why go on believing that you can't reach a goal because of outside influences? The author suggests that we justify our shortcomings by pointing out the shortcomings of others. This is such a downward spiral. Not only are you deceiving yourself, but you drag another person into the mire. Leave them out of it. Make positive choices of your own.

The change you make in yourself, will change those around you.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hello. Music makes a difference. We spent the weekend in Omaha soaking up the music like a biscuit on gravy. We saw eight bands in two days! Oh, to live in a city with a real music scene. It felt so good to be able to walk from venue to venue catching one original act after another. Saturday night in Benson was awash with music flowing from doorway to doorway. This quaint near-northside neighborhood is rich with venues. It was uplifting! Read more about the thriving Omaha scene in the July SPIN magazine, http://digital.spin.com/spin/200807/?pg=120.

A couple of the shows we enjoyed were benefits to raise money for toys for the children of the Pine Ridge Reservation in north central Nebraska. The rez is considered to be one of the most impoverished areas on the planet! Many of the families live in shacks with no electricity or other modern conveniences. Christmas can be very solemn for a child in these conditions. A young musician by the name of Lash LaRue organized the events. Prior to the show we watched on Sunday they had already raised over $3500 and "tons" of toys. Lash actually distributes the toys himself! It is so cool to see musicians and their fans coming together for a great cause.

The show we saw Sunday was hosted by the Blues Society of Omaha. All of the proceeds went to the children of Pine Ridge. We saw first hand how a group of music lovers can make a difference. The show was first class with a great lineup, including the Side Effects, a blues band of teenage musicians sponsored by the Society. The headliners, Mike Morgan and Jim Suhler were feeling the vibe as they filled the room with smokin' hot guitar licks. Everyone was loving the music, growing the music scene and making Christmas more special for some children worlds away. It felt cool to be part of it. Peace.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Hello. Over the last few days I have been involved in "group decisions". Now, we all know how difficult it is to reach a decision in a group environment. People change as the complexion of the group changes. Two people can have a conversation and agree on a topic. But, if another person, or several more people join the conversation, at least one of the original people might change their mind. Then, if one person leaves the room, everyone might have another change of heart. Some people must not have thoughts of their own.

Then there is the person who doesn't know what they want...except to disagree. They convince everyone that they are right, and then change their position on the matter. People like this remind me of a dog chasing his tail. They spin and spin in one direction until they nip their tail and then they start spinning the other direction. I don't get it! Some people don't resolve anything. I don't want to argue with myself, the stress would kill me!!!

Ultimately, most "group decisions" end with a decision being made by an individual who lets the others think that it was their idea. Someone is always unhappy with a group decision. So is it truly a group decision?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Hello. I'm back from four days with no real purpose...and I loved it! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It does not have the false pretenses associated with Christmas. Turkey Day beats out it's Summer competitors simply because it's in the Fall. If Fourth of July fell on a cool Fall day, it would give Thanksgiving a run for the top spot. A day to stop and give thanks. How pure is that? I did most of my giving thanks silently. Once again, a public profession of grace was left out of the festivities. Apparently our family members are not comfortable with each other. Have the elders forgotten how to say thanks? Next year, I'll be the one.

We all know about the folks who show up at the local food kitchens for their free meal and express their thanks. You don't have to be down and out to be thankful. Those of us who enjoy a warm home, regular meals and fine clothing should be the most thankful. The guy who waits in line for an assembly line turkey dinner, grimaces from the stench of the person sitting next to him and gets sent on his way before the football games begin has a whole lot less to be thankful for. Think about it.

Once again, I'm thankful for the people I call "friend". As long as I have this group of people to share life with, it will be good. I was watering down some Jim Beam on the third day of Thanksgiving with one of my more spiritual friends and we began discussing happiness. We both agree that people should do what makes them happy. I mean, why spend your life being pissed off? I questioned when does happiness cross the line to selfishness? My friend in all of his wisdom asked, "If what makes you happy, hurts someone else, does it truly make you happy?" Life is so simply complex.