Monday, July 9, 2018

A Saint Among Us

The calendar indicates that it is July 9, 2018.  Ordinarily, the day would come and go for many of us like so many other days do, but today I am reminded of the man I called dad.

In the days following the fourth of July, my father's health seemed to take a sudden turn for the worst.  However, given the fact the he was 93, the decline was more likely due to the end of a life well lived and an inevitability, rather than an unexpected development.  He passed away in the confines of the family home surrounded by his loved ones, a blessing to him and a gift to those he loved.

Dad, everyday since has been a day that your presence has been missed, but indeed, you have certainly not been forgotten.  When I see the cardinals at the feeder in the morning and recall your words of wisdom echo in my mind while talking to family and friends,  I am reminded of your enduring influence.  Your legacy is alive and well, and that brings a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.  Love you!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What the Fourth means to me

Every July fourth, we as Americans gather to celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, as this marks the birth of our nation.  The founding fathers envisioned a country that was free from tyranny, allowed freedoms that weren't permitted under the rule of England, and above all, allowed us to live as free man and woman.

When all of the cookouts are over, the fireworks have dissipated into the night air, and I awaken tomorrow, I will count my blessings that I am an American.  That advanced citizenship carries advanced responsibilities too, and therein lies the goal set out by our founding fathers. 

Thus, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, as written in our declaration...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal... We are one people with backgrounds as diverse as our land.  Let's be reminded that as one nation under God we are many people, but one united family,  Happy Fourth of July!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Mother's Day Gift

Since it is Mother's Day, I thought I'd recall a memory from this day of maternal celebration many years ago.  What does a young child give to his mother when you are just a young shaver, perhaps maybe 5?  Let me tell you what we came up with on our limited budget.

When you are 5 and growing up in this family, the first thing you'd do is rummage through some of the old stuff in the basement or the garage. Then you'd repurpose it into that perfect, but more importantly, personal gift made from the heart for mom.  This case was no exception either.  So, with the clock ticking on the day, there was no time to waste.  With my younger brothers in toe, we took a quick survey of the available raw materials and put our creative minds into action.  There were plenty of odd sized boards, some nails, a hammer, and some old slotted screws needing a purpose.  So, what were we going to make for mom?  When my brother arrived at the construction zone with my youngest brother in our red, radio flyer wagon, it became immediately obvious just what mom would love.  We quickly assembled an airplane by nailing pieces of wood together and letting our imagination do the rest. However, to make the gift complete, we placed the airplane in the wagon and told my youngest brother to climb aboard which he did quite willingly.  I might add, it accurately predicted the future for my brother, as he later became a pilot.  What could be a better gift to a mother than a homemade airplane, complete with its own, life sized pilot, one of her sons?

So, on this Mother's Day, I am reminded of the gift that we gave to my mother many years ago, one that she no doubt "cherished".  In reality, she gave infinitely more to us than we ever did to her. Happy Mother's Day mom, we miss you, but you are always with us!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Not all squares are the same

Many people think of Costa Rica as a vacation destination, but for this mixed group of eager timber framers, Costa Rica has provided a crystal ball into the future for many of us.  My friend and I are in the final days of our adventure, but the fruits of our collective labor will be realized tomorrow as we prepare to raise the roof on this new structure.  That's when the design, calculations, selecting timbers, measuring and remeasuring, cutting timbers, and final assembly will all come together.  It's a process, but one that can only be realized through this cooperative effort.  In less than 2 weeks, this group has morphed into a team of collaborators, students, teachers, artisans, and friends who will all share the same exuberant smile when the final timbers are raised.

However, none of this would have been possible if not for our fearlessly gifted, and at times, tangential leader. He taught us about Sines and Cosines, about opposites and adjacents, about hypotenuses, and about those Tangents, but no matter how odd the angle, it all could be reduced to something we know...use what you know to figure out what you don't.  Isn't that what life is all about anyway?

To summarize my experience in Costa Rica, we were all here to learn something, and that something has been different for each one of us.  Speaking for myself, the experience has been greater than the sum of my expectations.  For now, if I take this as a sine of the future, and multiply that times our maestro's teachings, I think you would agree, that he has his heart right on the the center line, but remember, you have to use the perfect square.  Just do it but with perfection and grace; just Jean-Claude it man!

Monday, February 16, 2015

We must feed the birds

It has been quite the winter here in New England, what with only a few inches of snow through mid January and then just a few monster storms since then, leaving us buried in historic snowfalls.  Just another argument for that thing they call, climate change.  Although much attention has been given to the weather, we must not forget our fine feathered friends lurking in the woods.

When I was younger,  these winter storms meant snow days from school and earning a cup of hot chocolate with cookies from the elderly neighbors for shoveling them out.  Although the weather forecasting is far more sophisticated today, the birds always seemed to know when the storms were coming.  They'd be eating feverishly at the feeders in preparation beforehand, and  they would be the first to signal that the excitement was winding down by their reappearance.  That's when my mother would announce, " it's time to feed the birds".  Before we'd even get things plowed out for ourselves, we'd have to find the feeders and dig them out.  It was a ritual that these avian creatures had come to expect from us in those times of atmospheric upheaval.

Although my parents are no longer here to care for the birds, the birds are constantly looking for them. They come and go with nary a "peep", but we know they are out there somewhere, hidden in the understory created by this "wicked" winter.  Now that this most recent storm has passed, it's time to feed the birds!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Calling Rita

First and foremost, I would like to wholeheartedly congratulate Tom Brady and the rest of the New England Patriots on their successful season, capped off by that truly nerve racking but story book ending to the Super Bowl.  It is an instant classic and one for the ages!

Being a lifelong New Englander, I have grown up cheering for the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots, and Bruins.  Bostonians and partisan New Englanders have enjoyed a number of professional, sports championships, much to the delight of the fan base.  However, we are equally all too familiar with the disappointments that have afflicted our home town teams.  Having endured the emotional swings of both winning and losing, we have been prepared for the best of times and conversely, for the worst of times.  Honestly, these have been good lessons for what life has to offer.

As the season progressed, it was clear to me that Tom Brady was on a mission, and it was apparent that anything less than a trip to the Super Bowl coupled with a victory would have been a major disappointment.  Admittedly, for die hard followers, it would have defeated us too.  However, Tom Brady and his teammates, coaches, and Patriots Nation will be able to relish the thrill of this victory for years to come.

I recognize, even entering the playoffs with the home field advantage, a Super Bowl appearance wasn't guaranteed.  However, I reminded myself that Brady's demeanor spoke volumes to me that this was his year, and provided the superbly crafted game plans were executed and the team remained healthy, a trip to Arizona could be achieved.

After the victory over the Ravens, which had all the excitement of the big game itself,  I sensed the next test wouldn't be quite as dramatic, and after the AFC Championship game, my instincts were confirmed.  Then came the post game controversy.  Quickly, my excitement transformed into disbelief and uncertainty.  However, as the events unfolded, my faith in TB's integrity and the entire Patriot's organization was re-solidified.  Success oftentimes breeds jealousy, and I am absolutely convinced that the success of the Patriots is directly related to the supreme commitment within the organization to strive for perfection.  That is an admirable quality, and an attribute that most often angers those that don't possess it.  I can appreciate Tom Brady's personal desire for such lofty expectations.

Without a doubt, appearing in the Super Bowl must have enough distractions, let alone trying to prepare for it.  However, with the added scrutiny created by the football controversy, I marvel at how mentally focused the team must have been to face this particular challenge.  Again, I believe it speaks volumes to the collective level of desire to succeed.

Of course, the game far exceeded all the pregame hype, and its outcome still has the pundits reeling while dissecting every element, as if they could impact what actually transpired.  Personally, I think it all came down to Brady's audibles which he sometimes signal with the name, "Rita".  When I heard him call out this audible during the Super Bowl, I knew he wasn't invoking my late mother, but for my family and me, we knew the momentum was going change.  Personally, I could sense it.  My mother believed you can achieve almost anything, if you put your mind to it.  That was her legacy, and she imparted it to her children.  I believe he has that same passion for success.

As I wrote earlier, I felt that Tom Brady, in particular, was on a mission this year, and it was realized with the Super Bowl win.  The outcome certainly was in doubt until the final seconds of the game, but unlike the 2 prior losses in the big game, this was his time.  The Patriots collectively gave Patriot Nation plenty of reasons to be proud this season, and Rita would have agreed.  He did his job; mission accomplished!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Remembering D-day

It's impossible to remember anything which happened before our entry into this world.  It can only be appreciated if we take the time to research and imagine ourselves in that moment of time and going forward from there.  D-day is one of those historical events.  I have read about it, seen movies depicting the horror of that epic invasion, and even pretended to be aboard those landing crafts while "playing" army as a child.

However, it wasn't until I walked through the local cemetery on Memorial Day, placing flags on the graves of our veterans, that its impact truly hit me.  I saw a bronze marker with the inscription saying, "died on Omaha Beach June 6, 1944", and I am sure, there are thousands of similar plaques around this country and in the National cemeteries both here and abroad, which tell a similar story.

My father was involved in the Pacific conflict, and whenever we'd talk of his service experience, it would bring him to tears, so we'd quickly change the subject to honor both him and his fallen comrades.  It was something few WWII veterans could or would talk about.  Even as he aged, it never got any easier for him to talk about the horror of war.

He passed away this last year, but not at the hands of the enemy, but at the hand of a different enemy, time.  He was 93.  As he would have said, "he lived a good life".

It's up to all of us to keep the memory of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice alive, because if it wasn't for them, we wouldn't have the prospects of a good life ourselves.   I pray for peace, and for the fallen who were so brave indeed!