Sunday, November 29, 2009

In all Things Pray, Rejoice and Give Thanks

You can hear the piccolo from Clint Eastwood’s westerns playing. My nemesis and I prepare to square off yet again. Today I shall own you. No more wimpy fifteen minutes. I shall go thirty. Ha! The treadmill’s motor kicks up in sync with Bruce Springsteen’s volume on the MP3. No clock watching today. The Springsteen album is my stop watch. There it is. THE song! I am almost there – a full thirty minutes! Let’s take it home God! The final refrain and key change vibrate between my ears and I jump off the treadmill. YES! Arching my back I pump my fist like a soccer player scoring the game winning goal in the World Cup. Take it home God? My backbone springs into a more appropriate it is Sunday and I just said ‘take it home God’ posture. Take it home God? I heard God laugh, “And we did.” GOAL!

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Oh God I am not sure this was a good idea. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Fifteen minutes on the treadmill. The long-ignored treadmill, converted into a clothes line for jeans and sweatshirts, creaks and moans as the dust shakes off and the engine picks up speed. My legs are equally uncooperative as they work to keep pace. Wow, I’m in worse shape than I thought. The IMAX in my mind flashes to the images of soldiers returning home without their legs; or legs no longer responding to their brains. And this is hard? Whoa, shake that off. The legs steady and I find my rhythm. I reach for the water bottle and gulp. I probably just drank more water than thousands of people get in an entire day. I just reached for the water and it was there. I have a case of bottled water upstairs. Their thirst is never quenched. And this is hard? Shaking my head I pick up the pace and shift into a slow run. How many people are running for their lives? How many are running from their abusers, from hate crimes or running to find answers? How many have chosen not to run? How many are taking a stand to make their world, this world, a better place? The faster pace kicks up the metabolism and I have one too many shirts. I toss my sweatshirt to the floor. How many people have no layers? How many sweatshirts do you have in your closet? No, not closet, it is closets – plural. And this is hard? Shaking my head again I glance at the clock to see if the promised fifteen minutes has been reached. I think of Anne, Donna, my mother and others as they watched the clock during their chemo treatments. I remember how the families watched the hospital clock waiting for diagnoses, for hope. And this is hard? Goal reached. The fifteen minutes is achieved. The treadmill stops. Kneeling on the canvassed base, my eyes look up and my head bows. Not in vain. Not in vain.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An "Important" Thanksgiving

       His knock on my office door frame was gentle; his request for a minute of my time was softly spoken. A coworker, not really a friend, entered my office with obvious heavy shoulders. My body readied for the blow-a production line must be down, shipments must be in jeopardy, a bad accident and all the other scenarios for the important things that could go wrong.
       “I’ve lost my house, the bank has sold it and I have to move. None of the rentals we’ve looked at will take dogs. I thought maybe you could help me.” He opened his wallet and next to his kid’s pictures was a picture of his dogs. His words, face and trembling hands rocked the very epicenter of my values, my heart and my labels of what is considered “important.” I nodded and smiled. Sometimes the heart speaks best in the silence of the eyes.
       I made one phone call. An email string flew into my inbox. A chain of human kindness was created including an offer to share a stranger’s house – dogs included. I do not have an ending to this story. The story is sort of like Thanksgiving. We gather with family, friends and strangers. We have no idea what the various casseroles, dishes and turkey will taste like. It doesn’t matter. That will not be what we remember. We remember the gathering. We remember the human contact. We remember our bonds. That is what is important.

A hope filled Thanksgiving to all, to my coworker, the thousands like him and to the animals.

Monday, November 23, 2009

KPIs, Metrics and Stumbling over Little Things

     In a world of balance scorecards, KPIs, BIs and all the other alphabet soup letters circling like sharks around measurements and performance, I was truly surprised when we tripped over a very simple question. The meeting was on visual display boards to be posted in the plant, departments and at the lines. The boards would display measurements of their performance. Emphatic and sincere concerns were expressed that the shop floor people were not given good communication about what was happening in the plant and how they were doing. They needed more information. I, the keeper of the corporate holy grail (aka metrics) listened and provided the information they requested. I was persistent in squeezing in one question among the answers – “What behaviors are we trying to create?” Each attempt was met with yet another metric.
     At last I went southern on them and allowed my natural drawl to possess my voice. One question was asked. One answer was given. Luckily I had not taken a sip of coffee or it may have gotten messy. I repeated the question – same answer. I looked at them and could feel tears in my eyes at their absolute innocence. “Ok. You’re telling me we have standard operating procedures for only thirty percent of our work and not everyone has been trained on the thirty percent.” Heads nodded. Sorry Captain Kirk, I couldn’t keep the ship together any longer and I had to laugh. “Well,” I managed to regain my composure, “I may not be a statistician like the Black Belts here but in the south our math would say if people do not know what they are supposed to do and you have high costs by gosh there must be some sort of correlation.” Epiphany!
     I left the meeting still giggling to myself. I was not laughing at them, ok I was chuckling I admit. My laughter was at me, us, the world. How easy it is to forget the little things. We get so busy looking for the big “IT” or “That” or “The” that we don’t even see the obvious right in front of us. We do not allow ourselves or give to others the patience to learn, grow and develop. We look for a return on our investment but forget to make the deposit. In the south we would say “that dog can’t hunt. "

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Simples

      My friends and I call it the simples. You know, those moments of laughter that make you grab your stomach and breath and then the tears run down your face. How do you explain the simples? The source of the hilarity is often tied to the moment and loses so much in translation. One simple leads to another and pretty soon EVERYTHING is funny. Hang it up, only time will heal and time will also, with very little provocation, remind the parties of simples of the past. A glance, a phrase and no matter how much time has passed, it is as if you are there at that same moment in the past and the peels and roars of laughter begin all over again. It’s that simple.
      I have run marathons and after crossing the finish line grabbed my knees and literally sucked wind trying to breathe. I’ve done strenuous aerobics, lost my breath to terror, and have had numerous colonoscopies but never do I feel so cleansed as when I laugh, as when the simples expel every impurity in my body and mind. How do you explain such laughter? How is it possible to capture the spontaneity and uncontrolled physical reaction of laughter in words? And why would we not choose to stay in these moments rather than the moods, situations and reactions that torment our bodies with stress, dismantle our self esteem and leave us less than we are? Does God laugh? I have to believe there is heavenly laughter. Don’t you know the heavens have to have angelic simples as they watch us try to figure it all out like a dog chasing its tail. If they say you actually stop breathing when you sneeze, a tiny little death, what then is laughter? Maybe it is death to all the seriousness and business of life and we have to suck and gasp for air. Hmmmm maybe it is God’s way of reminding us of the first breath we gasped in – His. Ah, maybe that’s where we learned to laugh, to be alive, to know it is good, it’s that simple.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Evening Choice

Today I shall see the world as it is. I shall have the clarity to see what lies before me and see it without judgment and in all its detail. Today I shall speak out of my vision and experience. Today I shall speak boldly for I will choose my words wisely. I shall speak with the clarity I see. Today I shall stand tall. Today I shall stand as one who listens, sees, and hears and as one who cares. Today I shall assume my place at the table and I will dine well. Today is my hot mug of coffee and I shall drink deep and long feeling its warmth move from my lips into my chest. It matters not what today looks like when today, like the sun, sets. The banquet that awaits me and the warmth of the coffee will be gone by then. Their absence does not deny their presence today nor their gift. Today I am not afraid. How can I be afraid of today when it is what I choose and I choose ‘I am.’ I choose this morning. I will choose again tonight.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Falling Star - Star of Hope

The dark fall clouds amassing to cover the brilliant white moon almost hide the surprise gift of a falling star. I cannot remember the last time I saw a falling star. Immediately my mind began to sing “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, never let it fade away! Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket save it for a rainy day.”[i] If I put it in my pocket how long do I have to make the wish? What happens if I forget it’s in my pocket and it gets washed – as have so many notes, pieces of paper and dollar bills? I know you’re not supposed to tell anyone your wish, but does the window for making that wish have an expiration date at which time you forfeit the wish? I stand watching the clouds overtake the moon and more stable stars. It is a great responsibility I have before me. Do I save it? Do I make a wish for the world? Do I make a wish for those I keep in my heart daily? Do I make a wish for myself? Is there a generic wish that would wrap all these wishes into one? Can I gather all the wishes like I used to do laundry before I had a washer – throw all the clothes on the bed grab the four corners of the sheets and like Santa carry my stash to the Laundromat? The possibilities are endless and I have only one fallen star. Pondering the good fortune the radio station in my head changes songs and I find myself singing “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are! … As your bright and tiny spark, Lights the traveler in the dark, Though I know not what you are, Twinkle, twinkle, little star.”[ii] We’ve lost a star! I say a prayer and go inside.


[i] Words and music by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance. Emily Music and Music Sales Corp. ASCAP.

[ii] “The Star” in Rhymes for the Nursery, Ann and Jane Taylor. London, 1806.

Cowboys and Heroes

My commute does not permit me to see the sunrise. The sun is asleep when I go to work. Sunrise is the gift of weekends and vacations. Sunrise to me stirs the symbolism of renewal, hope, the Promised Land awaiting just over there on the horizon where I belong. This morning I was running late and my panic was quieted by the gift of the sunrise as I turned down the street to my building, my workplace. My building was a dark silhouette amidst the pink and orange sky. I was heading into the sunrise. Slowing, to drink every drop of the moment, I caught myself wondering why heroes and cowboys always ride off into the sunset. Why does their calling, their destiny and hope always begin at sunset? Flipping the image, it seems as if the horrific battles in science fiction, war or intense psychological thrillers find the living crouched in their hiding places holding the wounded with the dead littered around them. The camera pulls back and you see their faces encrusted with the grit of battle. The whites of their eyes look like holes piercing the darkness-and they see the sunrise. The battle is over, the dark night has passed. Parking the car I begin my walk to the building’s door still mesmerized by the sky’s palette. Heroes and cowboys are people thrust into a situation where their courage and heart are strong enough to save the townspeople. Their own time for salvation has not yet come. Their new day has not awakened. Those who awake in the battlefield and fox holes of life have found their own courage and heart to save the townspeople and themselves. Their day has awakened. What about me, I pondered as I walked towards the sunrise.