November 25, 2008

  • The Joy in Creating Music

    My oldest son is becoming very accomplished on the bass guitar.  Maybe this is a rite of passage for me, but is seems that a lot of the current music teenagers are listening to is really depressing. It seem like Grunge Part II.  I guess I am just getting old.  We have been playing some of the Beatles Anthology discs to get a sense of how they put the songs together.  Perhaps that proves I am getting old. 

    But there is real learning value in these Anthology releases for young musicians.  There are numerous selections where some of the famous songs are played from their raw inception to the eventual master.  It is remarkable how simple melodies strummed on a rhythm guitar or a few key strokes on a piano developed into incredible lasting music. What really comes out of those recordings is the joy, energy, great humor that went into those sessions.  There is one track, “And Your Bird Can Sing” where the bass work is outstanding.  But the real joy is listening to them mess up and then break down into uncontrollable laughter.  That’s what I wanted my son to hear. I think he gets it.  –BTB

     

November 12, 2008

  • We participated in Veteran’s Day ceremony today at a community nearby.  Lots of folks from all different walks of life were in attendance. The main speaker was a surprise to me, a man who was a Holocaust survivor and was part of Oskar Schindler’s list.  He is, as you can imagine, an older man now.  His voice was soft but resolute.  The message touched on sacrifice, evil, compassion, and love. Love of country and the ideals it holds.  Love of family and friends.  With all of the horrible things he has witnessed and the losses he has endured, this man is at peace.  You can feel it in his voice. 

    I had an opportunity to speak with him afterwards.  After coming to the United States as a boy, he became an educator and worked for 39 years in the school system.  As it turns out, we both studied at the same graduate school.  Most certainly in different years and academic programs!  His lose of most of of his family and friends, made me think of the people I have lost.  Some have past this earth and some still live somewhere on it.  Where, I do not know.  I do not even have a phone number. 

    It is interesting how people come into your heart. And how, under the most adverse circumstances, they remain with us.  I have come to experience this in new ways over the years. Some people are so special that they become part of you.  And I am happy for that, for in special situations that appears to be all one will ever have.  On one hand it is profoundly sad and even depressing.  But it is also a blessing and a gift.  For without that experience, what would one have?

    I think this is why I found the gentleman so fascinating.  Not only through respecting his tumultuous past, but understanding how time heals wounds and brings about peace. In the world and in one’s own mind.   

    Onward and Upward.  –BTB

     

     

October 21, 2008

  • On the Shore

    Took a fun little vacation with the kids.  More on that later.  Back in the game now.  I found this quote from Isaac Newton in one of my books.   While I dare not to profess to have a mind of  a Newton, I can appreciate the following lines about being at the ocean’s edge.

    PEBBLES ON THE SHORE – I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a prettier shell or a smoother pebble than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.  -Isaac Newton

     

October 3, 2008

  • And so it begins…

    And on a cheerier note….my son has his first date this weekend.  Off to an amusement park for the afternoon and evening.  At softball practice the other night, he filled me in on the details as he caught return throws in from second base.  I am coaching my daughter’s team as she begins her first winter league.  I guess mine too for that matter.  As I was hitting balls to left field, I was telling my son that we should talk with her Mother and Dad about the event.  “After all”, I said, “you are both just in ninth grade”.  He seems more nervous about that than the date itself!  But it stands to reason that the parents should talk, right?

    Kind of a big milestone in a young guy’s life. I certainly remember mine. 

    Hey, these young girls throw hard!  This being my daughter’s first season she is learning very fast.  She is quite an athlete and is doing very well in her first team sport.  While I coached her little brother this summer in baseball, my daughter picked up a glove and was throwing and catching with ease.  After three years of training and competing she is now a champion horserider.  I can’t get her to clean her room, but she will muck out a horse stall.  As a younger girl, she was a gymnast and is very strong.  I taught her to box and she has a powerful right cross.  Really!  Just part of my dating preparation for her!  After practice while cleaning up, the girls were kidding me about being slightly blue/green color blind.  Boy have times changed!

     

September 16, 2008

  • Goodbye to an Old Friend

    I had an older sister who married young.  Her husband became like an older brother for me.  He was good natured, athletic, and had a can do attitude.  They often included me in their outings when I was a small boy and we developed a tight bond.  My brother in law taught me how to fish, play chess, and would take me to the movies.  Mostly scary ones.  He introduced me to the game of golf.  Self taught, I developed myself into a pretty good player.  I developed a passion for the game and it’s history.  As a kid, I saw the final game of a World Series because he wanted to take me.  He could have taken a friend or a client.  But he didn’t. 

    One summer, along time ago, our family spent a few weeks at the seashore.  Beach activities during the day, dinner, cards, and amusement rides at night.  I took along a friend from the neighborhood once and we had a great time.  A few weeks later, his family reciprocated and took me along on their beach trip.  What a perfect way for this boy to spend a good part of his summer.  Well, until girls came onto the scene.  Which wasn’t that far off looking back!  Somewhere into this vacation my friend and I had a quarrel.  I don’t recall over what.  I do remember at dusk climbing up the life guard stand and feeling out of sorts.  After a while, my brother in law climbed up to join me.  I suspect at the prodding of my sister.  We talked things over and he reassured me that I was probably right, and that everything would work out.  He was right.  And it did.  Good friends do that kind of thing by making an effort.  Simple acts sometimes leave lifelong memories.

    To be sure, he had his faults and those clearly had  a negative impact on his own family over time.  And yet, he loved my sister and was devoted to her.  He took outstandingly good care of her day and night while she was dying.  One of her last requests was that he and I would stay friends, regardless of what the future held, and that we would treat each other as brothers.  She knew without hesitation that I would remain loyal and would always be available to him day or night.  Her deep concern was for the well being of her husband and his stability as he would soon be left alone.

    After she passed, there was a quiet period where he needed to heal up.  We kept in close contact.  But it was never the same again.  The changes were very subtle at first. I was listening hard to determine his state of mind.  But my instinct told me something wasn’t right.  I was intuitively looking for something to explain the long time between communications.  I got all kinds of explanations about phones not working properly, or other things that seemed odd.  During my travels, I would periodically visit him, often unannounced.  Just like a did when I was a kid.  All of the signs ran contrary to how I was feeling.  The house was well kept, he was dressed rather nicely and was well groomed.  I let it go thinking I was just being over protective or just paranoid.  But that intuition….

    Over time my nephew began to tell me stories about his father’s detachment and lack of interest in things that he onced enjoyed.  I though that he was clinically depressed and tried to help.  I was politely rebuffed and with good humor to boot.  I knew I heard something in his voice.  But he would never ask for help.  Perhaps he was too proud.  Or, maybe his ego wouldn’t allow the “kid” inside his heart and mind.  But there were those certain activities wherein he would make simple mistakes.  Areas in which I knew he had a great command.  And then the long periods of no contact.  Sometimes he would come to work with his son, and then just drop out for a few weeks.

    This summer things began to spiral out of control for my brother in law. I will spare the reader the details but he was robbed and beaten in his own home.  Within days it was clear that he was losing his mental capacity.  At age sixty-two, he has been diagnosed with early onset of dementia at a rapidly advancing stage.  The right side of his brain is shutting down.  He walks like a man in his nineties and cannot speak complete sentences.  There is no evidence of a stroke or trauma to the head.  It is nature’s cruel way sometimes of painfully pulling the life from someone.  At this point, there is no reason to think he will ever leave a facility that does not offer 24 hour care.  I spoke with him recently and we shared a few good sentences.  I told him that I loved him and he told me that he loved me too.  Those are the little windows that you get to look through with such patients. 

    I heard the voice, the sound of this tragedy approaching, unable to prevent it in the least.  And unable to completely fulfill my pledge to my sister.  Having experience in this area, I was able to guide my nephew through the painful process of finding the proper care for his father.  It takes an incredible toll on the caregivers and can have a devastating affect on family members.  It changes people, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.  But for the children of such patients, there duty is clear regardless of the cost or impact to their relationships and their very lives. 

    I do not miss opportunities to tell loved ones what they mean to me.  Waiting to say the simplest and kindest things has become quite easy.  Not to do so seems selfish at this point.  And it never costs as much as you think it might. 

    Oh, and about that boyhood friend.  When I got married he was my best man.  Though we live far apart, we have stayed close over the years.  A few summers ago we met again at that same seashore with kids in tow for a brief visit.  And he taught my children how to jet ski.  We discuss business and politics now.  Mostly politics.  He called me recently to remind me of a way too big high school reunion. We are all looking forward to it.

    And I will have one last chance to say goodbye to my old friend.  Though he may not understand,  I will tell that things did work out just fine with that old boyhood friend of mine.  And that he was right after all.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

July 12, 2008

  • I have learned to trust my intuition over the years.  I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t follow my first instinct and soon thereafter, came to the realization that I made the wrong decision. The accumulation of life experiences will, over time, begin to yield some measure of wisdom that one can apply. I certainly understood these words when I was younger but couldn’t truly appreciate how to apply that in real life. It is also become evident that this intuition is about 80% right. The 20% balance of that time can be very tricky!  
     
    Recently I have been working through a team issue regarding a very large national client. There are two parts of this group who have decidedly differing points of view regarding the strategy and performance of two key figures.  As time has progressed, I have realized my assumptions were wrong on at least two of the parties involved.    In a similar way, I had a more personal experience in recent times with someone who has been an important part of my life.  I thought that I had heard this person’s voice but I clearly was mistaken.  Must have been that instinct thing. Being willing and able to listen is so important.  I did begin to learn early on how important this can be given the following story. 


    Very early on in my career I worked with a older man who was brilliant in his profession.  A tour de force in moving senior executives to consensus in making important decisions.  At times, he was so good it was as if he were leading a classroom full of young minds waiting to be told what to do.  And our audience was typically self-made people who were not accustomed to being led anywhere by anyone. I loved those experiences and learned so much.  It was high theater at times and I recall driving back to the office often laughing in hysterics.  As a younger guy, I asked this mentor once how long it would take before I could be to perform at that level.  After thinking for a few minutes as we drove back to the office, he said that with continued work and study, I would “be there” after about one thousand exposures.  I shook my head in acknowledgement and rested back into the seat thinking to myself, “Christ, I will be an old man by then”.  I eventually calculated that those exposures at a given rate would take me about four years to complete.  I did it in three…but that’s another story!

    The very act of crafting this entry has allowed me to rediscover a whole new approach!  Well it’s not so new for me, but is has been while since I thought this way.  And I was so sure I thoroughly understood the business situation.  In the past few days I have changed tactics and have come to understand other’s motivations a little better.  I spent more time listening and actually heard their voices this time around.  On the personal side, my hope was to show that I am in no way judgemental and willing to listen.  And that I am still here.  I didn’t take my ball and go home.  I must be one of the Libra types who likes the scales balanced!

    You know, I might like this blogging thing after all.  At least, that is what my intuition is telling me!

     

     

     

July 8, 2008

  • Speaking of Coyotes

    Perhaps I spoke prematurely of coyotes.  Last night just past dusk, a wiley old coyote snagged my kitten.  I needn’t share the details but he will not be coming back.  There was a scuffle right outside my bedroom windows which developed and unfortunately ended quickly.  Such that it was, I was rather indisposed shall we say, ensconced on the throne! Thus, temporarily, unable to make any difference.  We searched in vain and no sign of the kitty.  A tough lesson in the laws of nature for the kids.  And a big caution to me for my newly founded coyote problem.  One I know how to remedy.  When not ensconced.

     Although, there is no question who lost the most sleep over this cat. It was this author who has always been slightly resistant to cats and yet succumbed to a little girl’s puppy dog eyes.  I think I mentioned I can be a pushover.  Well after agreeing to housing a veritable Noah’s ark of critters, I finally had  a cat. A kitten.  A really cute kitten.  And one that was litter box trained too!  You know the old cliche, “It was curiosity that killed the cat”.  True here as well.  As he grew larger, he became more bold moving deeper into the orchards and further into the night.  Not a good thing in my neck of the woods.

    Now, periodically I have been called lots of names over the years, some I even deserved.  Kind of like Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Carib.”.  Kind of.  Without actually being whacked about!  But I digress….And yet, never would one assume that I was a cat guy.  ‘Til now.   er…..yesterday.  He was a blast around the house entertaining us all, including the dog.  She would let the cat climb all over her biting her tail and ears with a good nature.  Until it really hurt and she would lift her big gentle headand let out a warning growl to chill…which was always obeyed. And we will miss him. 

    I have been informed by shorter authorities that we will be getting a new cat as soon as one can be found.  So long as he/she is litter box trained!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

July 2, 2008

  • What a Pushover

    What do you call a little boy who has been playing at the beach for 6 hours, swimming in the pool for one, and worked on his short game and putting at our golf course for two hours?  Like most people, I would presume to think…tired.  But, no, not my little guy.   He was just hitting forth gear.  While driving home from the course at 9:30PM, he asked, “Hey Dad let’s go biking when we get home”.  Trying hard not to have a stroke, I said, “How are we going to do that from your bed?”  He just laughed and continued to work the old guy.

    With boundless energy and a joyful outlook, this child lives life as an adventure.  Every step and each activity is lived to fullest.  Sometimes its true…The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  He is just like I was at that age.  I recall working my dad silly to get him to what I wanted.  And he would use humor, seriousness, and redirection in an effort to alter my drive.  Sometimes it would even work!

    So the bike ride wasn’t so bad.  It began to end when I said this was about the time the coyotes came out. I probably have another year or so before he wants to wrestle them too.  I want to encourage his spirit and let him know you can accomplish a lot in a day if you set your mind to it.  And when he did hit the sack, he let me know that he thought this was the coolest day of his life so far.  At the ripe old age of six. I have learned what a nice thing it is to be able to give.  I have also learned to take two Ibuprofen before I go to bed too!

     

     

May 23, 2008

  • And so begins a new journey.  One that I thought I would never take. I have been blessed with many wonderful friends over my years, some stretching back into my childhood.  Over distance and time, with deep appreciation and affection, all of my friends are very important to me.  And yet, I have been poor in my communications.  Like most folks in this day, I am so busy.  Professional duties and children’s schedules often predominate mine, and their busy voices sometimes drown out my own.  And even my thoughts!  Acceptance of this makes for a happy home, but one does need time to reflect and think. That often happens for me late at night when things are quiet. 

    When thoughts are my own I begin to think creatively.  I tend to favor writing and music.  I was reminiscing the other day about the lost art of letter writing.  Since a healthy mind works much faster than the pen, handwritten letters can be so flowing and provide the writer the opportunity to delve into detail with flourish.  Alas, my hands will not allow me to engage in this anymore, and it is so old school!  Many of my contemporaries have blogs and have encouraged me try my hand at it, as it were.  Through one old friend, I learned of the depth and passion some Xangans have for their written works.  And so, over time, I began to consider joining simply for the exercise of creative writing.  I periodically give speeches during the day (work!) and have lots of stories to tell.  But perhaps more will develop here.  I love this little poem below and it makes me think of my children and the paths they must eventually follow.  Building bridges has begun to take a new meaning for me.  For them, for friends -old & new, I will begin.  Sometimes all it takes is a simple effort. 

     

    THE BRIDGE BUILDER

    An old man traveling a lone highway,

    Came at the evening cold and gray,

    To a chasm vast and deep and wide,

    Through which was flowing a sullen tide,

    The old man crossed to the twilight dim,

    The sullen stream had no fears for him,

    But he turned when safe on the other side,

    And builded a bridge to span the tide.

     

    “Old man,” cried a fellow pilgrim near,

    “You’re wasting your time in building here.

    Your journey will end with the closing day;

    You never again will pass this way.

    You have crossed the chasm deep and wide,

    Why build you this bridge at even-tide?”

     

    The builder lifted his old gray head;

    “Good friend, in the path I have come,”

    he said.

    “There followeth after me today,

    A youth whose feet must pass this way.

    This stream which has been as naught to me,

    To that fair-haired youth may pitfall be;

    He, too, must cross in the twilight dim–

    Good friend, I am building this bridge for him”

    Will Allen Dromgoole

     

  • Hi everyone! I’m just getting started on Xanga… Drop me a comment if you’ve got some ideas on what to do first – or just to say, “Hi!” :-)