One Day Away

Music is something I love.  Just like Books.  Dogs.  Bourbon.  My Family…in no particular order.

Not sure why, but music often just seems to resonate with me.  Strike a cord.  Leave me thinking or feeling a little different…often better.

One of my favorite types, or genres, is the blues.  I get that from Al, my pops.  He was a “blues man”.   And I suppose I followed in his footsteps.  If I am honest, and I try to be, perhaps I like the blues because my dad did.  I wanted to like the blues…just like him.

But for whatever the reason, I like them too.

Last summer, legendary blues player Buddy Guy release a new CD…I almost said album.   Good stuff.  One of the cuts features one of the “new gun slingers” in the guitar world, Keith Urban…another favorite of mine.  The song they did together, “One Day Away” hit me the first time I heard it.

Every moment has a meaning, and time is a precious thing.
When we wake up in the morning, who knows what it’s gonna bring?

It addresses our mortality…kind of.

Life rearranges, all of our best laid plans.
Better say what’s in your heart, you might not get another chance.

And the mortality of those around us.  Those we love and know.  We share a lot of experiences, joys, life, loves with each other.  But how often do we tell those around us about what it means to us?  What they mean to us?  Answer: Not often enough…perhaps never.

Okay, raise your hand if you have had a friend suddenly die, and you said, wow, I wish I had told them “…….”

Or how about a relative? Someone important in your life?  Someone you loved?

Of all the things we left undone, of the words we’re meant to say.
What if we could all have just one more day?

We take things for granted…I am guilty as charged.  We take each other for granted…again, as much as it hurts, guilty your honor.

So take a step.  A stand today.  Do it differently.

So tell them you love them, and do it today.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wish one day away.

If there is something to say.  Say it.  Don’t wait…don’t procrastinate.  Tomorrow may be too late.  Tomorrow may not come.

I was lucky…kind of.  I had the time to tell my dad things I needed to tell him.  We knew what was ahead and I didn’t like it, but I used it.  Not everyone is that lucky, or blessed in a twisted way.  But we don’t need to wait. We can do it today.

Tell someone how much you appreciated their friendship.  Something they did…said.  Let  them know how you enjoyed their friendship.  Their advice.  Their care or just them.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  As the once coach of the Washington Redskins, George Allen, said, “The future is now!!!!!”  So go ahead.

So, while I do not know all of you whom may read this, I want to thank you.  It is humbling to have so many of you take the time to read my ramblings that would not have earned much more than C- from my high school English teacher.

I hope you will excuse me for a minute, I have a few people I need to contact.

I think you may also…

So tell them you love them, and do it today.
Don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wait for tomorrow, don’t wish one day away.

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Published in: on May 17, 2014 at 9:12 pm  Comments (4)  
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What Does It Take…?

Throughout our lives we all have been exposed to expectations.  Qualifications.  Requirements.

Going to school, we know what it takes to get to the next grade, or level.  There may be prerequisite classes that need to be taken.  When we apply for a job, we are presented with similar types of “requirements”.  Experience in Word, Excel, Sales, Management might be a requirement.  Another one could be College degree or 5 years experience in the said field.  And for some other jobs it seems that if you can walk, talk and chew gum…well you are then qualified…not even in that order.

And once you have that job, you usually can figure out what it takes to get to the next level…a promotion.

So, expectations are often set.  Qualifications realized.  It makes it easier to navigate around so you may do your best.

But what about fatherhood?

What does it take to be a Father?

Of course I mean on a much grander scale than simply fathering a child.  That is simply being a sperm donor, and the world has way too many of those already.  What are the requirements of being a father?

I can only look at this having learned from three of the finest men I have known…My dad, Al Schaefering.  Diana’s dad, Adrian Stahl.  And my grandfather, Joe Jurczyk.  These are the examples from which I have learned and witnessed.  Far from perfect, each one flawed as we fathers can be, but each one has shown me, “What it takes to be a Father”.  And I thank them for it.

Responsibility.  Accept it.  You are responsible for providing for your family.  Embrace this and wear it like a proud badge of honor.  It is not like being responsible for a puppy dog.  Be responsible and act responsible.  Impossible to do all of the time, but know it, be aware of it and take on the challenge.  Show how to be responsible.  How to act.  What this truly means

Protection.  You are there to serve and protect in many ways.  24/7.  This is not shift work, but you can not be all places at all times.  You can only be ready when needed and be there as needed.  Do your best.  Plan ahead, be prepared.  Stuff happens, but be there when it does.

Provider.  Provide the best life you are able to provide.  This does not mean the most toys, or the most expensive ones.  Nor does it have anything to do with the materialistic world we live in.  Food on the table.  Shelter.  Medical attention. Love.  Time.  Learning.  Make sure you provide these.  Children look to a father for this.

Teacher.  Coach.  This is not about a classroom.  The world is the classroom.  Nor is this about the athletic field.  It is about showing the way.  The right way.  The wrong way.  A new way.  Take the time to make sure you show what is “the right thing to do”.     Then you too,  must “Do the right thing”.  This is not a “do as I say, not as I do”,  type of situation.  Lead by example.

Faith.  We all need to have faith in our lives.  Some of us know this.  Some are still learning.  Others may take a while.  I have strong faith.  I received this from my “mentors”.  I know not all share the same faith that I have.  But we all need it…need to believe in something.  Someone.  Having God in my life makes a difference for me…and those around me.

Love.  And do not be afraid to show it.  Show it to your children.  Show it to their mother.  Make sure they hear it in your words and your actions.  Do not take this for granted. make sure the message of love is received.  Everyone expresses love differently.  Do not be obtuse about this.  This is not the time to be discreet.  Shout it out to them and to the world.

Patience…Patience…Patience.  Did I say to be patient.  Wait for it…because it will happen, just not always when we want it to happen.  I know first hand that getting frustrated and “blowing up” over something insignificant only leads to regrets.  Love is patient, and we need to be also.

Your Time.  Money can not buy this.  It is difficult to measure.  But impossible to do without.  You must be a giver of your time.  Quality time.  Time to talk, learn about each other.  Time to laugh and tell funny stories or recall those “remember when” moments you have shared.  Time to cry, grieve, reflect on your losses.  Moments to pick each other up off of the ground and tell one another,”it’ll be okay”.  Time you wish would standstill, frozen only in memories, but sometimes that is good enough.

I know that this is not an “all-inclusive” list of What it takes to be a Father.  Not a recipe or a secret list.  It is also not a complete list of what I have learned from the loving men I mentioned above, Al, Adrian and Joe. 

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It is only a few thoughts on this day that is set aside to recognize those Fathers in our lives and in our memories.  I hope a lot of people read this.  And I hope something I have said here resonates with something your Father has been able to do for you.

I hope you think of him.  Often.  If he is still with you, please thank him.  Thank him for me, because he has helped to make this place a better world.

One of may favorite quotes is “If you fail at raising your children, nothing else matters”.

Pay it forward. 

Being a Father is a journey worth sharing and enjoying.

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Timeless Thoughts: The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Inspiration can be everywhere.

The other day on the radio, KTRS 550, one of the hosts were talking about things that the current and next generation will miss out on.  We have all seen the email that circulates about how if you were born after 1990, you perhaps do not know what:

…an eight track cassette is…a regular cassette…a mimeograph machine (with the purple ink we all liked to smell)…a photo album…that there used to be an East and a West Germany…and Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and Adam Sandler used to be on SNL…perhaps you do not know that you had to take camera film to a place to have it “developed” so you could get your pictures–about 3-5 days later…television with only local channels…and little league baseball was played with wooden bats (oh heaven forbid)

Yeah things have, and are changing.  Pretty fast.

I am sure it was not a coincidence that I ran across my Grandmother’s Bible and thought about this.  (I am not saying that the Bible will cease to exist, I pray not, just in this context it may be different.) But I also wonder if families have a “Family Bible” these days.

My grandmother, NaNa, used to place things in her Bible.  Little remembrances.  Cards.  Newspaper articles and clippings.  Funeral notices and ho;y cards.  Things that might seem random at first glance.  This is an act that I believe is a bit of a “lost art”.  Not sure how many continue to do this type of thing.  And the reason I consider it an “art”, is because it can say volumes about the person involved.

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Here is a little example of what I found in her Bible…much is abbreviated because some of the items are lengthy…but you will still get the picture.

  • Copies of birth certificates.  In my grandmother’s case, NaNa, it is interesting because she was born in rural Kentucky.  The birth certificate is marked “delayed” and there are many questions in the family about it…including the accompanied letter on a bank stationary.
  • Random birthday and anniversary cards from my grandfather, PaPa.  Always signed the same way, Love Always, and he did.
  • Funeral holy cards from the funeral home.
  • A handwritten note from someone who states “it has been a long time since we have seen you”…and…”tried to call but no answer”.  Now these would be rectified in today’s world with 1. Skype. 2. Answering machines (if they still are used) and 3. Cell phones. 4. Email.  (Handwritten notes?  Don’t be silly!)
  • An article from 1960 entitled “I’m Fine”.  Among other things, it states, “There is nothing whatever the matter with me. I’m as healthy as can be. I have arthritis in both knees, and when I talk I talk with a wheez. My memory is failing, my head’s in a spin. But I am awfully well for the shape I am in. The moral is, as this tale is told.  We are all growing old. “Tis better to say “I’m fine” with a grin, ‘Cause ’twill merely help the shape we are in”. (In other words, better to be positive than to complain)
  • Another clipping is entitled “Beatitudes For Friends Of The Aged”.  And this can be applied to ALL  AGES. Here is a sample:  “Blessed are they who understand, My faltering step and palsied hand. Blessed are they with a cheery smile, Who stop to chat for a while. Blessed are they who make it known, That I am loved, respected and not alone.  (Hit home to me and I suspect many others, too).  And it continues on…
  • There are engagement notices…these used to be placed free of charge…no longer free.
  • A little card “To Mom”, which is what my grandfather used to call my grandmother…entitled Because I Love You…and it has Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How Do I Love Thee” poem.
  • A Thank You card from Diana and I for the wedding gift we received.
  • Something that resembles dried flowers in a plastic baggie…these could be from any number of occasions…funerals…weddings…anniversaries.
  • A couple of hand-made book marks from her grandchildren.
  • A small note card that says, “Lord make me an instrument of Your peace”.  Along with a hand written note (NaNa’s writing) stating “Please help me to be like the above.  Thank you.”
  • Birth notices
  • Obituary articles…several.
  • A funeral statement from Stock Mortuary from my great-grandmother’s funeral in 1965.  $1,040.00.
  • A newspaper article about “Forgiveness”.  A sample of the article: Be the first to forgive; Do not wait for others; To forgive is the highest most beautiful form of love; In return you will receive untold peace and happiness.
  • And finally, a hand written note which I think deserves to be shared in its entirety:  1. Be thankful for what you have, Don’t complain because things aren’t better.  They could be worse.  2.  Be helpful, but never intrude on others.  3. Suggest do not boss.  4. Don’t be a critic, but take criticism without resentment.  5. Never say an unkind thing – even if it is true.  Be kind to every one.  6. Have a sense of humor and use it when things go wrong; Laughter helps to take the sting out of irritation.

You can tell a lot about a person by the things they save and think are important.

This is another of those things that I fear may be lost by the current generation.  Oh, sure we have many new ways of saving things to different hard drives and folders.  But what I saw were hand written items.  Very personal and things that seemed to be close to my grandmother.  Will these be saved?  Will they even be hand written?  Will anyone care or notice?  If saved, could you find out which file or hard drive?

Yes, some things are lost in time and yet other things do not change.

The concept of how things are saved may be lost.  They may change…some will say they have evolved, progressed.  That is up for debate and discussion….another time and place.

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But the message, hopefully, will be saved and never change.  This is the message I found in NaNa’s Bible:

  • Love Always
  • We miss you
  • Forgive
  • There is a beginning and an end
  • Don’t complain
  • Be positive
  • I’m fine
  • Thank you
  • Aging is not easy
  • Patience is good
  • Help, don’t criticize
  • Laugh

 

Nana Papa

I know you can’t tell right now, but I am smiling, with a little tear in the corner of my eye.  Because, while my grandmother may have had faults, the above really describes her well.  And it is a timeless lesson for us all.

Those who wrote the Bible did a pretty remarkable job.  It truly is an amazing book that is filled with many incredible lessons and ways to live your life.

And my grandmother added to that.  In a rather remarkable way.

I hope I can too…in the meantime, let us all enjoy life!

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Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 8:04 pm  Comments (5)  
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With Love and Life, From Oslo, Norway, To You

Oslo, Norway.

To most it probably seems very distant, in dreams, fantasies and in reality.  I would venture many would be challenged to point it out on the map.  And some of you might even wonder what language they speak…if they drive around in cars or sleighs…and live in a castle on a snow capped mountain…

Yes, to most of “us”, it is a rather exotic place.  One that Diana and I visited last May, and will be visiting many more times to be sure.

Our “daughter” is from there…Blake’s wife, Yvonne…and for now they live there.   I could fill page upon page of ramblings about our two week journey to Norway last May.  It was more than we ever imagined it would be.  Many surprises, often at every turn.

One of the surprises that I encountered was the affect that a sculpture park had on me.  Even though I admired the Louvre, and have some cherished art pieces, most of which are from the able hands of Blake, Drew and Tyler, I was caught off guard at this “art”.

Gustav Vigeland.  Vigeland Sculpture Park.  Oslo, Norway.  Google it.

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Without getting into too many details, this sculpture park is in a public area on 80 acres with over 214 sculptures and 758 figures.  And it simply took my breath away.  Left me slack jawed.  Knocked me to my knees.

Gustav Vigeland designed the entire park with a theme in mind…although not a theme park like most of us know.  This park, with all of it’s sculptures and figures embodies the theme of  the relationship between man and woman, adult and child, life’s evolving stages.  It embodies our struggles…the relationships we encounter…drama throughout our life…the laws of nature with men and women…old and wise and sometimes weak with the young and virile and sometimes foolish.

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And this just scratches the surface of the feelings which I had rushing through my being.  The importance of family…of learning…growing and sharing.  A zest for living and for supporting each  other as we address life’s burdens…while we enjoy the fertility of our life…the cycle of life as we have experienced it, will experience it and are experiencing it now.

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Now, I am not saying that everyone sees the park the way I did.  It is full of art.  And we each interpret art in our own way…often drawing from our personal feelings and relationships.  And that is why it affected me the way that it did.

I saw a sculpture of a man and a woman…and felt the meaning of love.

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A sculpture of a man lifting up a younger man reminded me of my own struggles and those who helped me…and of the times when I would try to help others.

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It reminded me of the comfort we need to give one another…the support.

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Life’s emotions rang true in my head…

Joys.  Tragedies.  Love.  Dance.  Legacies.  Being.

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My father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, wife, sons, daughter and all of you in my life…were all represented.  I saw your faces too!

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All of the sculptures in the park are without clothes…Vigeland did this in order to make his work Timeless…and I think it worked amazingly beautiful.  Just like our life.

The message I received while enjoying this park with Diana, Yvonne and Blake was that there is a beginning and an end to our lives.  But we continue on through others.  It displays the cycle of our lives and our experiences with each other.  Reminds us of our virility and fragility and the importance of each and how they come into our lives.

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In my humble opinion, one must view this magnificent park as a struggle and a celebration of all phases of our lives.  Good, Bad and Ugly.

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While I am writing this, music is playing in the background.  “Someone to Watch Over Me”  just finished and I am now listening to Chris Botti and “What A Wonderful World”.

And it is.  Thank you for being in mine.

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“Once bitten by the snake of love, there is no cure…”

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Why I Pray

At different times in my life, and maybe you have too, I have found myself praying more often than others.  Usually there had always been a “reason”, or a trigger that brought it about.  But the older I get, it seems like the more I pray…without an agenda.

Just pray.

Remember the song, “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”?  Of course you do and you are probably wondering what this has to do with praying…

The artists, Big and Rich, recently recorded a song that got me thinking about “why I pray”.  Really thinking about it.

Have you ever given it much thought?  Yeah, neither had I.  Until recently.  I heard the song and it made me wonder about “Why I Pray”.

I guess my “prayer” trigger has changed.  I recall there was a time when I would pray for help on a test…or to win the next game…get a hit…score a goal…land a job…

Notice a trend?  Wanting something…for me???

Well, some things haven’t changed that much.  But here is what I find myself praying for lately…

  • I pray for us…we need help, all of us.
  • I pray because I can.  And I pray for those who served our country so that I can pray…to my God.
  • I pray for others… strangers…those who need it…I see them on the street, TV, newspapers

 

  • I pray we treat each other better…and we that treat our pets and animals better.
  • I pray to give thanks.  For nourishment, for shelter, for safety, for health.
  • I pray for help because I can’t always help myself.
  • And I pray because I can’t help myself…but to pray.
  • For humility, I pray.

 

  • Sometimes I pray just to give thanks…in general.
  • Being thankful for my life, my love, my family is why I pray.
  • I pray because I am loved.
  • I pray for those who don’t and those who won’t.
  • I pray for a cure for disease, hatred, hunger, inequality, fear, abuse and sadness.
  • I pray that I can help someone, make a difference in someone’s life…make them smile or laugh…take away their sadness…fry a few tears.
  • When I need strength.  I pray.  When I need direction.  I pray.  When I need protection…I pray a lot.
  • If there is inclement weather…I pray…just not for myself.  But for the relief of heat, cold and rain for those effected.

 

  • I pray for those who live in fear.  Some know it, others fail to realize it…so I pray for them.
  • When I hear of tragedies…I pray for the families and I pray for us…all of us.
  • I pray for hope.
  • I pray for courage to do the right thing.  To stand up.

 

  • Victims, of all kinds, receive my prayers.
  • I pray for Diana and Blake and Yvonne and Drew and Tyler.  For my mother and my brothers Tom, Pete, Dan and Craig and their families.  For my friends and their families.  Team mates, co-workers and I pray for you.
  • I pray because it feels like the right thing to do…it feels good.

So…”That’s Why I Pray”.

How about You?

Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 11:04 am  Comments (4)  
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What Does Love Smell Like?

Bacon….yummm.  The yummy-ness of it’s taste is often eclipsed by it’s smell while cooking.  The aroma.  Add coffee to that and stand back, it can almost create a cosmic shift.  Yes, for me it is that good.  Orgasmic in nature.

Chocolate covered bacon.  Bacon in pasta.  Bacon infused Manhattan.  BLT (with avocado)  Bacon and Eggs.

That was this morning.  Blake and Yvonne are in town and they got up early (everyone got up earlier than me) and made breakfast.  Bacon and eggs and coffee…yummm, yes.  Imagine pushing yourself out of bed, trudging across the room and into the hallway, then suddenly you are greeted with the hint of a fragrance that can turn my morning around and wake me up in a hurry…bacon…eggs…coffee…oh my!

So I put forth a simple question.  What does love smell like?

I am sure everyone will have a different answer, a personal answer.  One that is meaningful for them.  Individual.  Even quirky, maybe?

This morning love smelled like, yep, you guessed it…Bacon and Eggs and Coffee.

But for me, love smells like many things.  Love doesn’t always smell like Bacon and Eggs and Coffee…and Bacon and Eggs and Coffee doesn’t always smell like love.  Sometimes it just smells good…like breakfast.

I can remember another time, specifically, when love did smell like that.  However, I didn’t realize it at the time.  I just thought it smelled like breakfast…and cigarettes.   Before we were married, I would spend the night at Diana’s parents house.   The couch was always available for me to use.  And whenever I did, each morning, I would be awaken by breakfast being prepared, about twenty-five feet or so, from where I lay my head.  Breakfast usually consisted of bacon, eggs, coffee and cigarettes.  Yes, cigarettes.  While the smell of bacon was undeniably wafting into the room from the kitchen, it was getting one hell of a fight from the blue cloud of cigarette smoke that was hovering over everyone’s head and quickly making its way towards me and my sleepy head.  Cough.  Gag. Choke.  But looking back, that is what love smelled like…bacon, eggs, coffee and cigs.

Speaking of smoke, my grandfather smoked a pipe.  He was a ferocious pipe smoker.  Always lighting, re-lighting, tamping, puffing, emptying, and starting all over again.  If there had been a World Series of pipe smoking, he’d be in the competition.  He was kind of like that Peanuts comic strip character, Pigpen, who had the cloud of dust following him around.  While Papa was anything but a pigpen…he did have a cloud of smoke that seemed to follow him from room to room.  Pipe smoke and Old Spice.  Love smelled like pipe smoke and Old Spice.

My dad was a blue-collar, hard-working construction worker.  Very blue and very hard.  Often working 12-18 hour shifts to get the overtime and extra pay needed to give his family everything he could.  Cigarettes…Sweat…and Inexpensive beer.  When I was young and living at home, love often smelled of cigarette smoke…sweat…inexpensive beer.

As I said, it is very personal.  And, for me anyway, it can often change.  If I smelled cigarettes, sweat and cheap beer now, I am not sure it would have the same effect.

So, I challenge you to think about it.  What does Love smell like?  For me, it has also smelled like:

  • Apple Pie baking in the oven
  • Roast Turkey
  • A dog
  • A baby’s sweet breath (not the puke kind)
  • Christmas cookies baking
  • Potting soil and dirt from planting in the garden
  • Freshly cut flowers, especially as they are given to someone
  • Hot buttered popcorn
  • A scraped knee, elbow or finger
  • Eggplant Parmigiano
  • A certain perfume, cologne, shampoo or conditioner
  • Polish Sausage cooking on the stove
  • The pillow lying on my bed next to me

Love.  It smells like nothing.  And yet it smells like everything.

Kind of magical.  And that makes perfect sense, because it is magical.  And it is also Patient, Kind, without Envy and doesn’t Boast.  Not Proud or Rude and rejoices in Truth.  It Protects…Trusts…Hopes…and Perseveres

…And it smells great.  Sometimes as good as bacon!

Published in: on March 14, 2012 at 5:34 pm  Comments (1)  
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Who Let the Dogs Out?

Things get in the way of LIFE.  Really they do.

Work has been rough.  (That is putting it mildly)  Issues with Mom aren’t easy.  It seems like there is always sumpin’ ya gotta deal with.  And as Ol’ Blues Eyes (Frank Sinatra for the younger crowd) would say…”That’s Life, that’s what they say…you’re riding high in April, shot down in May”!

So, when I need a “pick-me-up”…I just go out to the mailbox.  Uh?  No, I am not expecting a letter from Ed McMahon saying I won the sweepstakes.  (Yes, I know he is dead)

It is because when I come back in the house, I am treated like a Rock Star.  Oh, yeah, my groupies are all over me.  If they could talk, I am sure they would call me “Rock God”.  But they can’t talk…not exactly.  You see, when I come back in the house, no matter how long I have been gone, I have one of the best welcoming committees greeting me around.  It doesn’t matter if I went to the grocery store, out of town for a few days, grabbed the paper out of the driveway…whatever…I have 12 legs jumping around, up on me, who are happy to see me.  Yes, 12.  And they belong to 3 individual…dogs.

Hint…ya want an ego-boost…and who doesn’t every now and then…get a dog.

Oh, of course, if Diana is home (Diana is my wife for those who may not know…) she treats me like a Rock Star also…yeah, right.  But most of the time, she is happy to see me come through the front door.  (I am too old to be sneakin’ through the back door any more!)  But if I just go out to the car, she might not notice…however, and there is always a however, Kodi and Weezie and Addikus all notice…and they are not bashful in showing their gratitude that I came back in the house.

Addikus goes and gets a toy to show me.  Kodi is at the door to protect me.  And Weezie, well he just yipes and finally makes his way, as he wobbles, to greet me.

And it feels wonderful.  Brings a smile  to my face.  Makes me realize that no matter how crappy things may seem, or are, this feels good at the moment.

There is a special link between humans and animals…dogs in my case.  There are books written about this. (check out Amazon, or just respond to me and ask…I have read some very amazing ones) There was even a series on TV about it.  Animal Planet had a series called “Saved” about this bond.  Stories about bonds created with our soldiers and pups they “adopted”.  People with life threatening illness who experienced “miracles” through their pets.  Guard dogs.  Family animals who saved their family from a fire in their home….and more…

Often times, we are the ones initially saving the dogs…but they save us, protect us…in so many ways we can not even fathom. If we “people” were as smart as we think we are…we could learn a lot from our dogs…our pets.

Actually, if they taught us, we would learn…

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them. 
  • Take naps. 
  • Run, jump, and play daily. 
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass. 
  • Life is simple…enjoy it …don’t complicate it.
  • Offer no opinion…no criticism.
  • Be attentive…yet silent.
  • When it is hot, drink more water.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body. 
  • Be loyal.
  • Enjoy a simple ride in the car, hell, be excited.
  • Don’t repress emotion…wag your tail!
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not. 
  • Listen, no need to talk about yourself.
  • No agenda needed.
  • If someone you love is having a bad day, sit by them, love them, be there…words are not needed.
  • Don’t try to change someone, just accept them as they are.
  • If you are happy, wag your tail!

A simple life.  No negotiating.  No self consciousness.  Few disappointments.  Let’s play and run around and lick…sniff…relieve ourselves and on occasion even hump!  Oh, and if ya got a treat, I would like one.  No pretension needed.

We touch them…dogs…they touch our lives forever.

They seldom try to be something they are not…and seldom are something other than what they are…unconditional love…gratitude…acceptance.

Excuse me, I think I need to go get the mail…need an ego boost if you know what I mean! 

And I think you do.

Cherie, Under the Cherry Moon is a Nice Place to Be For Valentine’s

Once again, the time to test the mettle of all of us men is upon us.

Valentine’s Day.  Much scarier than Halloween for some.  More costly than Christmas for others…especially if you do not remember.  So here I am to help out…just a little bit.

However, first a bit of a history lesson.  Sort of.

I actually find this “holiday” a little bit ironic, or even creepy.  Stop and think about it for a moment.   Here is a “holiday” ( I use quotes because it really is not a holiday.  None of us get off of work or anything.  It is just another day…yeah, sure it is!) that was originally named after a martyr, who was promptly canonized as a saint, (hence St Valentine’s Day for some), only later, in 1969 to have the Catholic Church remove the day of his feast from the Calendar of Saints because “not much was known about him” (really?  how did he become a Saint?).  And yet the day may have become most famous by the act of a “few of the boys” on the south side of Chicago…St. Valentines Day massacre.  (I bet they were those rowdy Cubs fans!)

So since the martyrdom, canonization and all did not really provide enough romance, a little creative licensing was added to the lore somewhere along the lines by our glorious card companies.  Woven into the legend, supposedly Valentine of Rome was interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II to convert to paganism.   Claudius, who ordered all young men of certain a stature to remain single, so he could build his army to be even stronger and more dedicated to Rome, discovered that Valentine, while imprisoned, was secretly performing wedding ceremonies for the young soldiers, who desired to be married.  Thus, martyrdom.

However all is not lost for love.  Geoffrey Chaucer, the English poet/author from the 14th Century, did record a bit of romance associated with Valentines Day.  ( I guess by this time the Saint thing had worn a little thin.)  In his poem, The Parliament of Birds, he recorded  “For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”  This was written for, and to mark the engagement of King Richard of England and Anne of Bohemia.  (they were 15 years old)

There is a lot more “legend to this holiday”, but we need to get to a little more serious things.  Last year I introduced a cocktail for you guys to prepare as a treat on Valentines Day for your love, along with a Chocolate Souffle’ recipe.  The Chocolate Souffle’ recipe was not that difficult and it tasted great, so I am going to do something entirely unprecedented and repeat that recipe.  However, I do have a couple of new cocktail recipes to add for this day of romance.  Here is the Souffle’ recipe.  I got it out of a local St Louis magazine, Feast.  It is by Chef Cassandra Vires…and I hope I don’t botch it up, or we may have to have some more cocktails!!!

Chocolate Souffle’

  1. 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  2. 4 Tbsp sugar, divided
  3. 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  4. 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  5. 2 eggs separated ( that does not mean to keep them apart from one another…important to keep the yolk away from the white)
  6. 1 pinch fine sea salt
  7. 1 pinch cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease two 4 oz ramekins with 1 Tbsp butter. (Hey guys, a ramekin is a small bowl usually used for deserts…and often not real big.  A quick trip to Pier One or World Market can probably help you locate them, if not William Sonoma)  Coat the ramekins with 2 Tbsp sugar and place in freezer.  (it is important to do this because heat with this is a bad thing.  Freezing will keep the sugar on the outside and help the egg whites.)

Using a double boiler, I know I am stretching it here, melt the chocolate and remaining 2 Tbsp butter.  Whisk together until smooth.  Remove this from the heat, and whisk in the vanilla and the egg yolks.  In a large bowl, combine the egg whites, salt, tartar and remaining 2 Tbsp sugar.  using a mixer, whip on medium-high until the “peaks” are stiff.  (okay just a minute…I know this is more than most of us guys do, but I think it is worth it.  If I need to explain “stiff peaks” to you, just pour yourself another drink!)

Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture until no white can be seen. (If making this ahead, cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge)  Spoon evenly into the ramekins.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the souffle’ has risen and is a little crusty(like your Uncle that always makes family functions worth attending). If you are going to bake directly from taking out of the fridge, add 5-7 minutes to cooking time.

Really, this was not as difficult as it sounds and it is well worth repeating!

So the cocktails I have to share this Valentines Day are almost as “stiff as those peaks” in the recipe.  The first one will take you…

Under the Cherry Moon

  1. You first need to infuse some bourbon with dried cherries.  Take a small package of the dried cherries and add it to a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon.  Let it sit for a few days and then strain the cherries out, refrigerating them for later use as garnish. (the longer the cherries are in the bourbon, the sweeter the bourbon becomes.)
  2. Then you add 1.5 ounces of the cherry infused bourbon
  3. 1 ounce Lillet Blanc (Although I also made this with Cocchi Americano. A little different outcome, but very good none the less.)
  4. 1 ounce Aperol (One of my favorite “take-aways” from our Italy trip)
  5. A few dashes of cherry bitters.
  6. Mix in a shaker with cracked ice, serve with one of the cherries from the bourbon (or two).
  7. Lately I have been serving these in an older/vintage-looking coup glass

The next drink ties in the Valentine’s Day theme a little tighter…chocolate and cherries.  Cherie D’Amour (Sweetheart for you non-Francophiles)

Cherie D’Amour

  1. We start with 2 ounces of Buffalo Trace bourbon in a mixing glass with cracked ice.
  2. Add .75 ounce of Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth (or the best available)
  3. .5 ounces of Creme de Cacao
  4. .25 ounces Luxardo Maraschino
  5. A few dashes of bitters, I found orange works well.
  6. Mix well and pour into the cocktail glass of choice.  I like to make sure that some of the cracked ice finds its way into the glass…nice on the palate.

Voila’ mes amis.

Once again, I have tried to help my fellow-man by providing a few timely cocktails and even a desert to an important day in “our” lives…Valentines Day.

So, whether you are a Saint (Valentine…at least he kind of is/was) or a Sinner (sorry Roman Emperor Claudius II) or just a poet (a deserving nod to Chaucer), I hope you have someone special in your life to share your life with…and this “day”.  I do.

I love my family.  My sons are my world.  But my wife holds my world together, is the cornerstone and has blessed me with my sons.  I learned long ago that no matter how much I want to give my sons, no matter how much I love them, I can not give them anything more important than the gift of love…to their Mother…who deserves it and to whom I do give that gift.

Happy Valentines Day to all….especially Diana, my love.

Life is Fragile, Enjoy it…NOW

I travel a bit for my job.  Probably more than most people.  Less than others.   Hop on a plane…hop off.  Different city…rental car, hotel, customer, repeat.

Kind of a no-brainer.  Sometimes it seems I am just programmed to do it, not really stopping to give it much thought.  Just doing what I need to do…another day, another Southwest Airlines flight, another hotel and another dollar.

Then repeat.

Many people do this.  Many do it much more than I.  Professional athletes come to mind.  Road games galore.  Football probably has the fewest.  Baseball…seemingly endless.  Basketball…uh, well this year is the exception.  Hockey.  Wow, another long season, half on the road.  And I am sure the process of getting on a plane is just “going through the motions” of doing what you do.

Until…

A while back there was a hockey team who was doing this very thing.  Boarding a plane.  Going to the next game…preparing mentally for their opponent…

But they didn’t make it.

A Russian hockey team, Lokomotiv, was traveling to play Dynamo Minsk.  Two former St Louis Blues players were a part of that Lokomotiv team.  Pavol Demitra (age 36) and Igor Korolev (just turned 41) were on that plane that caught fire, broke in two and crashed.

I am sure they were planning on playing another hockey game.

Fragile.

The other day I got word about a close friend of mine.  Her husband passed away suddenly.  She had gone to bed early.  Something we all do…go to bed.  And I am sure many of us have gone to bed while our spouse or significant other has stayed up a while longer reading, watching a movie or finishing a project for work or home.

Just routine.  Nothing to think about.  Maybe we tell our spouse we love them and give them a kiss.  Or perhaps we yell in from the other room,“hey, going to bed, g’night”.  They might follow to bed shortly…or finish their task at hand…or…

My friends husband never made it to bed.

Fragile.

Our lives really are.  So live.  Live well.  Be thankful for this moment in time…your time.

Each of us is given a gift of life.  We can share it.  Expand on it.  Glorify it.  Ignore it.

We are able to make it truly unique and put “our signature” on it.  We spend our lives, developing and creating our life.

Who we are.  What we are. What we do and with whom.

Don’t waste it…this beautifully unique gift.  Live.  Fully.  Sing.  Cry.  Dance.  Share.  Help.  Shout.  Love.

The greatest of these is love.

Love your life and those in it.  Don’t take it or others for granted. 

I won’t.  I promise.

Fragile.

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 10:44 am  Comments (3)  
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