Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

February 11, 2011

Do you see anything in your children that reminds you of your spouse?

This is an interesting question I pulled from my "Journal in a Jar" this morning. The short answer is yes. Of course I question all of my views on life so I naturally expand this question to include humanity. I ask myself if people pass on to their offspring, not only genetic physical characteristics, but also dispositions. I do see in my daughter many of the same characteristics in her motherhood that my wife has as a mother. The way she handles and cares for the new baby, the way she is strong even when she doesn't feel like she is. I know my daughter will be a great mom just like my wife. Is that motherhood in general? Or is that a disposition that she inherited from her mother? I've seen many moms I could not compare with my wife in the care and love they use toward their children in daily practice. So I see that as something positive, whether my daughter learned by first-hand experience while growing up or whether the disposition was genetic, I'm really happy with my daughter and how she is handling being a new mom! And that reminds me of her mom, my wife.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:19 PM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

July 15, 2010

The secret for good health and long life

I don't think it's ever been a secret. I believe that health and longevity first starts with a healthy state of mind. Mental agitation, worry and stress ripple outward and create negative effects in our body.
So a positive, peaceful mental state creates good feelings and good effects in our bodies. It makes sense then that while we eat healthy foods, exercise and take care of our bodies, we should also take care of our minds and cultivate a healthy attitude.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:52 AM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar

Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

April 5, 2010

My Least Favorite Job

I don't have a least favorite job. I have least favorite moments within jobs. In general I like to work. I like working toward goals. I love challenges and problem solving. Hard physical work is rewarding to me also.
I've worked in the fields pulling the tassels off the tops of hybrid seed corn plants, in a shoe store selling shoes and accessories, in a shoe store warehouse stocking and sorting shipments, in a factory processing magnetic reel-to-reel computer tapes, washing windows, retail sales in a discount overstock store, computer programming, software technical support, drafting, web design, teaching technical skills, and more. What I have done in my jobs I have generally enjoyed.
I know many people that work in some crazy jobs that I might not want to do, if I were out looking for work. I don't think I'd want to slaughter animals for a living. I don't think I'd want to clean out sewer pipes. And I'm not very keen on handling garbage. But I do know people who do jobs like this and they don't complain. I'm sure if I was there, I'd work and I'd find out it's still work and it's productive and ok.
My favorite job to this point in my life was doing software technical support and training. It was a constant mental challenge that required teamwork and constant learning. And in my current position I get to use some of those skills too.
So my philosophy is that it is not the job that makes the human being. The human being makes the job. What I bring to work is my attitude toward work, creative energy, problem solving skills, motivation to do what it takes to get the job done and people skills.
My least favorite part of my job is when my attitude changes for whatever reason. Then I have to assess why. What makes me tick? And when I say I can't or won't do something I have to ask myself why not. Sometimes my negative attitudes happen in reaction to other people's attitudes and what they are bringing to their work. Then I have to ask why I am reacting like I am. And sometimes that will lead to a needed action or more self reflection. Sometimes that leads to a change of jobs or a change of attitude.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:05 AM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar

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March 30, 2010

My Least Enjoyed Chore as a Child

Dishes. That was our job. We hated it. We avoided it like the plague. I remember a few traumatic incidents when we didn't get the dishes done before bed and my parents came home late. We were pulled out of bed and forced to do them. It probably wasn't as late at night as it felt and it must have taken us hours to do those dishes while half asleep.
That did not make me like doing dishes any more. But eventually we got the hint that we would suffer more if we didn't do it. The lesson I learned was not to learn to like doing dishes, it was to lessen the pain by doing them before going to bed.
Now I don't mind doing dishes. Once I had to do it for myself, I learned the lesson of liking having clean dishes. And even as an adult there were times when I was lazy and didn't do dishes. But the older I get, the more I like having a clean kitchen. Especially the more I cook myself. When I cook, I can't stand leaving the dishes to the end of the meal. I like to clean up everything as I'm going. I found waiting until bedtime to do the dishes can be a very negative thing. Doing them as I go, and finishing immediately after I'm done cooking feels really positive.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:44 PM | Journal in a Jar

Category "Journal in a Jar"

What I love most about being a father

I have always said that I wouldn't have traded my life out for anything. The choice to have children might have been naive and an uneducated guess at what it would mean to my life. When we had our son, we did not think that far in advance. We had a strong sense of knowing that we could deal with whatever comes up, when it comes up.
So that attitude became a do-it-yourself guide when it came to raising kids. Sure, we read things, but it definitely was not a planned approach. Like in the movie Toy Story, Buzz Lightyear said, "It's falling with style!" I may not be able to actually fly with these toy wings, but look how far I can go!
So we did most of the parenting things expected by society. We enrolled our kids in music lessons, we had them in sports, we participated in the PTO, we had them in scouts, and became scout leaders. We also took them on vacations, helped them with homework and gave them money for the teeth they lost. I've played Santa, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. All of that was not just an experience for our children. It was a life-time of experiences for me and my wife. We participated, we learned and we saw life from the perspectives of our parents. That shift from child-view to parent-view is definitely one of the things I like about being a parent.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:18 AM | Journal in a Jar

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March 27, 2010

My best friend in High School

My best friend in High School was Dan. We did lose touch after high school, primarily because of the different life-tracks we followed and the nitty-gritty of what those choices meant. I went into the military, and Dan went to college. And there was the physical distance separating us. We each made new friends that were closer to our new work and school.
I also had an awesome girlfriend through tenth and eleventh grades. I was too young to understand what I was getting into or out of. But during high school we spent a lot of time together.
I recently re-connected with my friend Dan on facebook, after nearly 29 years. It's been great fun. And you know, us old people are taking over facebook.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:15 PM | Journal in a Jar

Category "Journal in a Jar"

March 26, 2010

The advantages and disadvantages of being second oldest

We were just sitting around dinner chatting with our daughter and telling stories about our lives when we were younger. I joked that I had an older brother to make all the mistakes so I didn't have to.
My older brother skipped school and was going through the woods, and got poison oak all over his face and it swelled up like a balloon. He got punished in two ways for that one. Once from my parents and once from the poison oak. I did not have to skip school after that.
My older brother rolled his car because he was playing with the radio. I learned a big lesson about paying attention while driving. And I wasn't even driving yet!
The disadvantages? Well, going all the way back to elementary school, my older brother and I were good friends with another pair of brothers. We were almost inseparable. Until the older two went to Junior High School. Everything changed. I lost my buddy to other more 'grown up' activities and other friends from other cities. It was a time of transition from playing in the neighborhood with all of our friends together, to going off into the greater world and making new friends. The disadvantage of being second oldest was really that I experienced his growth from a viewpoint of being left behind. I was jealous of the adventures he had and the new friends and the interesting school subjects and activities he did. Then a couple of years later I went too and forgot all about the wait for my turn. I met new friends and my world expanded beyond the neighborhood. I dissected frogs in science class, started learning a foreign language and joined the play and did wrestling. And met girls. This was a huge time of learning for me.
My daughter then told us stories about her and her older brother. She is the second oldest like me. I found it interesting that she talked about wanting so badly to be part of her older brothers group of friends. And she did play with them for the most part. I think this is one gift her older brother understood. They did a lot together. And as I recall, did not really fight more than a few times throughout their entire lives. My older brother and I fought a lot. But I wanted to hang out with him and his friends too.
Then finally my older brother went away to the Air Force and I had two more years of school. I watched his newest adventure with great interest and a little envy. At the same time I was looking for what I would do next. He showed me the advantages of going into the military.
I don't really think there were many disadvantages to being second. I think overall I benefited from my brother's foreshadowing. Good and bad, my older brother was enemy, friend, mentor, and example. He led the way by age and action. Sometimes I followed and sometimes I learned and forged my own way. But always, I had an older brother to look at and observe and see what was to come in life.
My older brother got married right before me. I went to his wedding. He got married in May, I got married in June. I was 20, he was 22. And believe me, when he went through a divorce five years later, I watched and learned from what he went through and it influenced my attitudes toward marriage and life.
Now, later in my life, I don't follow my brother. I don't look at him to see what is coming next. I'm sure that age has changed the dynamics of our relationship. I'm sure that the passage of time has leveled the age difference again, like when we were in elementary school, where age did not matter so much. Both of us are married and have grown up children who are married. We have both become empty nesters. Even though I don't see the age difference between us like I used to, I find I still respect and admire my older brother. And that's one advantage of being second oldest.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:22 PM | Journal in a Jar

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March 25, 2010

What I Enjoyed about this Last Winter

Spring of course! I enjoyed when winter was over. haha. Well, I'm just sayin' I was ready for the winter to be done. I was ready for some warmth.
But I did enjoy winter too. If I have to pick one thing, besides the beauty of winter, it has to be the good holidays with family, and the time off from work to explore new things and introduce some new technology into my life that is quite helpful. I have an e-book reader now, and I love it. I am reading more, I'm able to search text, and I'm able to take notes and carry it with me. Over the winter I also made myself mobile with an internet phone and email. I can stay connected a lot easier.
I have also read a lot this winter, and that was a nice luxury in a busy life. Maybe I liked it so much because I decided to slow down and take the time to enjoy reading again.
Maybe next year I'll take up cross country skiing again.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:29 PM | Journal in a Jar

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Category "Love your Neighbor"

March 24, 2010

Changes I have seen in my lifetime

The actual topic for today is, "Tell about the changes you have seen in your lifetime: Society in general, technology, fashion fads, morality, politics, etc."
Wow, that's a lot of things to write about. In a few minutes though, I'm going to bed, so this topic will have a short answer. Nothing. Even though we have built bigger and better machines, can move faster than sound and can compute just about anything, we have not fundamentally changed as people during my lifetime. I think we should all practice a little CBT on ourselves and see what changes in the world. We as egos still love to be the victim. And we love to control others. What we need in this world are some new responses. The old ones are worn out and tired. What has to change is not the wealth of nations, or the wealth of individuals. What has to change is the minds and hearts of people. The first thing we realize is that there is enough of everything on this planet so not a single person should have to suffer or go without the basics of food, shelter, and love. Fundamentally as a human race we have not figured out how to love our neighbors more than ourselves.
The next thing we realize is that many people don't want that to change. People have been acting like food aggressive dogs for centuries.
But that doesn't mean that as a human race we can't change. Because individuals can change their minds about what kind of a human being they are. Compassion is being aware there is a problem and having a desire to do something about it. I can see a more compassionate world in the future. One person at a time. That's fundamental change that will ripple into everything else, including the wealth and health of every single person on this planet. We can retrain our thoughts. After all our thoughts are learned, so they can be relearned. If I see a piece of paper on the ground, I can leave it on the ground or pick it up. If we all picked it up individually, it would change the world.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:04 PM | Journal in a Jar | Love your Neighbor

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March 23, 2010

Being close to my grandpa

When I was younger, after my grandmother died, I spent more time with my grandpa. He had arthritis pretty bad and his knuckles had all swollen and he had a hard time opening bottles, cans, and even picking up things. I remember helping my grandpa cook malt-o-meal for meals. He loved that stuff. I did too.
I just hung out with my grandpa. It was natural and fun. We played a lot of rummy and gin. He was pretty good too. I don't think I ever beat him at gin. Sometimes I'd get lucky with rummy. And sometimes I helped him type things on his typewriter. I'm not sure why he typed these little index cards but it was important work for a little guy like me.
And there was one special moment in my life, that I have never really talked about until now. It illustrates how much my grandpa loved me and how wise he really was. There was once I attempted to run away from home with a friend. I packed up a few things, but not too much since I had no idea what I was doing. I was supposed to meet my friend outside his house just after dark. I showed up and my friend could not believe it. Hanging out in the back of his house in the edge of the woods, my friend and I talked about and realized that we were too young to run away, and we'd better call it off.
So here it was getting pretty late and I was pretty far away from home. The best solution I could think of was to go to my grandpa's house, which was on the way home. I knocked on the door and my grandpa let me in. He asked me what I was doing there, and I stammered something stupid. "I just wanted to come and visit you grandpa." He did not press the issue. In fact he did not ask me another question about what I was doing out there at that time of night. He just took me in and gave me some hot cocoa, which I ended up making on the stove with milk and chocolate powder.
Eventually he let it out that my parents were looking for me and were worried. He suggested I call to let them know that I was there and ok. So, for this kind way of handling things, I am thankful to my grandpa. My parents came to get me and somehow everything worked out fine, and I'm sure that for whatever reason I ran away, it wasn't nearly as traumatic as I had built it up to be. Now I cannot even remember why I ran away, but I learned a deeper understanding of my grandpa's love for me.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:14 PM | Journal in a Jar

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March 22, 2010

Siblings

As I mentioned previously, I have three brothers and a sister. So when we were growing up, I remember a crowded house. And when we ate meals, the food disappeared fast. The four boys came first and we were really active, so I can imagine that our food bill was one of the biggest expenses my parents had. Although, my mom always had a garden, which I loved. That's how I learned to love my veggies.
Here is something I've seen in many families. Siblings always seem to have such varied tastes. One would think that they were not living in the same households, eating the same foods. But not so in my house. I will eat just about anything and love it. When I was really young I loved to try things. I ate lutefisk, pickled herring, fried liver and onions, corned beef and hash, spinach, whatever. If it mooed, clucked, oinked, swam, grew or otherwise was edible, I would eat it and love it. But one of my younger brothers could not stand onions. It's just one of those things.
Another thing about Siblings. It seems there is one connection and bond that we start when we are very young, and it sticks with us. Probably because we start out together, and develop through life at pretty much the same time. We are familiar faces to each other. And with many families, someone to lean on in need and help out when they need a hand.
I would do almost anything to help one of my siblings if at all possible. It's nice to have that kind of family, and hopefully I can grow old with them. In one way, I wish we could all live in that eternal family setting we feel when we are young together. But our lives all split up a little as we get older and have our own responsibilities, jobs and families.
Now it's awesome when we can all get together for a wedding, Thanksgiving or even for funerals. As sad as funerals are, It's a really good feeling being around and seeing so many family members together. It's wonderful catching up and hearing all of their stories.
My dad and his siblings just experienced the loss of one of their siblings. That has to hit hard. I loved how all of them came together and told stories and comforted each other. To me that is a shining example of what siblings do for each other. And they are good role models for me as I get older.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:33 PM | Journal in a Jar

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Category "Life"

March 21, 2010

Eearliest Memories of Home

There is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home. In the 1939 film, Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants a place where there isn't any trouble. What she discovers in her state of unconsciousness, is that there are several key ingredients to happiness and fulfillment in life. At the core of the plot is having a brain, a heart and courage.
The brain is an amazing piece of equipment we have. Without a brain we have no calculations, reasoning, creative thinking or memories. Having a heart means love, caring, compassion. Without a heart, we might as well be mechanical machines carrying out our assigned tasks. And Courage is the ability to overcome our fears. It's a great asset that allows us to step beyond the doors of our safety zones.
Most of us think of home as a safe place. Dorothy was surrounded by family members that loved her and protected her. I know it's not that way for everyone, but maybe there is some place, like a neighborhood, or grandparents home where we do feel connected and safe.
My earliest memories of home are from my pre-elementary school years in a small farming community southern Minnesota, Dexter. It was much like Kansas in the Wizard of Oz. We had a little house there, with backyard and sidewalk in front. I remember playing with friends, our dog, and toys. It was a safe place. I remember laying in front of the garage on a spring day, my face pressed against the concrete to feel the warmth of the sun that had been absorbed into the material.
I remember rocking back and forth on the tongue of the utility trailer my dad used for hauling brush and other things around. I also remember that one of our friends slipped and got caught under the metal tongue of the trailer and broke his arm when it crashed down on him. That was the end with playing on the trailer-turned-seesaw. But even so, it was safe for us, because mom and dad calmly took care of the problem, and us.
During that period of my life I was unaware of the larger world outside of my home and neighborhood. Except for an occasional excursion with mom or dad into town, my life was at home with mom or my friends. It wasn't until I was almost ready to go to Kindergarten that we moved and my world expanded beyond my safe home.
And now looking back on my earliest memories of home I realize that home is a concept as much as it is a place. Home is a place that we try to get back to, where there isn't any trouble. It's a safe place where there are people we love and share memories with. Our courage may allow us to step outside our door, walk down the block, go off to college, visit foreign lands, but there is no place like home.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:23 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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March 18, 2010

The Religious Practice I grew up with

One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is to be able to choose whatever religions I wanted to. I went to Sunday school as a child. I've been Methodist, Luthern, Baptist, New Age, Buddhist, and Atheist.
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is freedom of choice. My life is full of exploration and learning. I am thankful that they did not force a religion on me. I am thankful that I did not force my children to follow one religion. As parents my wife and I did go to church and my kids attended Sunday school and confirmation. But they were always free to choose what to believe.
I've read the entire Q'uran, I've meditated and practiced Yoga. I have had visions and dreams and epiphanies. But none of that matters really. How fervently or precisely I practiced them, doesn't matter. How they transformed me to love others has significance. I am still choosing to believe what I believe, just like the billions of other people on this planet. The Dali Lama once said that there are as many religions on this planet as there are people.
But the bottom line is free will. Free will is the ability to choose for myself. To choose for myself, I have to learn what I believe, and fortunately I was allowed to explore and experience what I wanted to.
And the ultimate bottom line for me is that I choose. And my choices lead me to believe that religion is not salvation, it is an organization that supports a system of beliefs. There are many religions on this planet. I'm not saying religion is bad. A system of belief can be very helpful to many people. Religion can help many people by teaching lessons they need to learn.
Does this mean I have no religion? No. It means I have all religions. It means that I have My religion which moves me and motivates me. I do not reject other religions. My system is one of service and love for other people. So for that I am thankful to my parents.
Now I'll say something irreverent and truthful at the same time...
"Peace, Love and Kimchi." I have a T-shirt that says that. I love you. Peace out! Don't be mean to others, have compassion. Love your brother MORE than you love yourself. It's all good.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:02 PM | Journal in a Jar | Love your Neighbor

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March 17, 2010

My Relationship with my Father

By telling about my relationship with my father, I am telling about how we get along, if we see eye to eye, how often we see each other and other related topics. there is so much any one of us could say about our dads. We've had enough experience to know by now how our relationship with our dad is. I'm going to keep this real short and just say a few good words and pray that I can spend more time with my dad.
I love my dad. Tonight I was talking to him about genealogy and where our Carlson ancestors came from. I never knew that my great grandfather, John, also had a brother named Eric. I would have liked to have known Eric. (my dad's dad's name was Erick) He sounded like a fun great uncle. My dad told me his earliest memories of his great uncle Eric. He used to call my dad, "The Kid." when he came to visit, he would say, "Let's go see the kid."
This story about his great uncle Eric reminded me of what happens when families get spread out and physically separated from each other. And that reminds me of the song, "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. 'When you coming home son, I don't know when.' I've this job, the car and the kids. you know. A busy life. It's such a hassle to get away sometimes. My greatest wish in life sometimes is that I really could spend more time with my dad and mom. But it sure is great to chat with him on the phone and see him a few times a year.
I guess the only lesson in this story is one that I haven't learned yet. I have not learned how to slow down enough to see my father more. So right now, our relationship is like any distance relationship. We love it when we connect, but it's too long between. Thanks for calling tonight dad! I loved chatting with you. :-)

Posted by carl1236 at 9:24 PM | Journal in a Jar

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March 16, 2010

My First Job

My first real job was de-tasseling corn. It was hot, dirty work with long days, often in the hot sun or early morning cold and wet fields. Or both. Sometimes it poured down rain on us all day. But I actually enjoyed the hard work and sense of beating the clock to see how fast and efficient we could be.
The objective was to walk down isle after isle of corn stalks, reach up to each one, yank the tassel straight up, toss it on the ground and move on. As I remember it, the reason behind this job was to keep hybrid seed-corn from cross pollinating.
I did this for two years I think. The worst memory I have of this experience happened toward the middle of first season. I don't remember how it happened, but somehow our entire crew staged a mutiny and quit. I was not proud of that. I basically let myself be talked into something I did not feel was right. The crew leader talked to us. They brought in his supervisor to talk to us. All the while, we sat on the bus and stuck to our decision. Were we quitting all together or demanding more money? I don't even remember now. But I do remember that we all ended up quitting so they took us home. We rode home in silence and got off the bus and went home. That was the end of that part of it. The rest of the story is that there were no other jobs, and I still had no spending money. I learned a valuable lesson about work and life from that experience. Besides that one negative incident, it was hard, fun and a good first job.
I then moved on to selling shoes! ha ha.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:52 PM | Journal in a Jar

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March 15, 2010

John and Todd's big adventure to the City

When I was in elementary school my friend Todd and I decided we were going to ride bus from Newport into West Saint Paul to the Signal Hills Mall. That was when Signal Hills was a hoppin' place with movie theaters, and fun stores. That was close enough to the big City that it might as well have been. It's also in the neighborhood of the old Farel's Ice Cream place where birthday parties were incredible! That giant banana split and fire truck routine were amazing for kids.
Anyway, we decided, the two of us big boys, that we were old enough and smart enough to do this by ourselves. I think Todd was a little more advanced in the art of adventures than I was at this point, because he had it all planned out. I remember being surprised that we actually got away with it.
We paid our fare and rode the bus to Signal Hills. We watched a movie, hung out at the mall, and bought candy and stuff. Then we rode the bus home and our parents never knew. The bus driver put up only a small argument when we first tried to board the bus, but Todd had a good explanation. I forget what that was, but the driver said kind of gruffly, "Alright then, come on get on!" I think we were holding up his schedule.
I imagine myself now, as that bus driver, seeing two little kids getting on my bus.
"Does your mother know where you are?"
"Ye, yes. We are going to meet her at the mall."
"Like I'm supposed to believe any mom would let their kid go riding around on busses at your age!"
"Oh, but here's a note sir."
"Oh, no, I'm sorry, you cannot get on this bus. Go home and bring your mother with you."

That's not how it happened though. We did pay our fare, got on and spent a whole day at the mall and returned home safely. I don't really remember ever doing that again, but that first time stuck in my mind. That was our big adventure to the city.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:29 PM | Journal in a Jar

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Category "Life"

March 14, 2010

The Sibling Wish

I have four siblings; Three brothers and one sister. I'm the second oldest and my sister is the youngest. Each of us is approximately two years apart so there is quite an age difference between the first and the last.
When we were in elementary school, my older brother and I mostly played together. And at that period in our lives our best friends were also a pair of brothers the same ages as us. We were like the four musketeers, or more like Tom Sawyer-Huck Fin times two. We had some great adventures together.
When our next younger brother came along, not much changed with our set of friends, our play partners, or our routine of playing in the neighborhood. Our younger brother mostly stayed home with mom while we ran around the neighborhood getting into mischief.
But it was always the four of us friends. In a way they were like another set of brothers. But of course everything changes and we get older, move on to Junior high school, high school and life school. And so while we were in elementary school, with our other pair of brothers, we wished to have adventures together. We wished to learn about life together. We built tree-houses on islands, floated on rafts on the Mississippi, rode our bikes, hopped trains, swam in our friends pool, played kick the can, held parades in our neighborhood honoring the death of our pet turtle, walked on our hands down the street, built jumps for our bikes, and in the winter went sliding and ice-skating together. There were countless other amazing and wonderful adventures we had.
At that time in our lives, our Sibling Wish was simple. We wished to keep having fun with our brothers in adventure. The new additions to the family came along too much later to participate in our little band of hoodlums. Another wish we had was that we could have our own bedrooms. We lived in a tiny house with only three bedrooms. Four of us boys shared the large upstairs bedroom (which now I realize was really tiny) and our sister got the other bedroom downstairs by my mom and dad's room. She was the only girl, and a baby, so it made sense. Our Sibling Wish then was that we could have what she had. There might have been some jealousy involved in that wish. But she was just a baby, so it was ok. And by then things were already changing in our family. Not long after that, our older brothers moved on to Junior high school. That brought a new set of friends for them and a division of elementary school brothers and older brothers. Our Sibling Wish became more like, "I wish we could get back to doing our stuff." But their wish was probably becoming, "I wish those younger brothers would stop following us." And me and my friend wished that we could be doing what our older brothers were doing.
Then our family moved and I joined my brother in junior high school and I felt like I was growing up. I developed a whole new set of friends too, and I was immersed in much more real and diverse learning. I was amazed at the offerings. We had shop, science, math, and language classes. The expansion of our adventures went from the neighborhood to the world. The expansion of our friendships went from the neighborhood to the many neighborhoods.
With four boys there seemed to be a lot of sibling rivalry and jealousy. We were not always nice to each other. But there is something about being a brother or sister that is a bond that can't break. Or can it? On one hand we don't choose our siblings. When we are younger, we are stuck with them and had to live with it. Our parents decided that for us. But as we got older we competed for space, for growth, for friends, and for escape. Sometimes our Sibling Wish, was "I wish you were gone."
I believe a lot of this rivalry should have been checked earlier. It's a difficult thing for parents to sort out sibling relationships. We as parents tell our kids that they have to like their siblings. We've told them wisdom that when you get older, you will wish you were good friends with your sibling.
As we got older, we all felt the separation of our family. One by one, us siblings grew up and moved away. Our Sibling Wish became, "I wish I could do what you are doing."
And years pass, and we have our own kids, jobs, life challenges and our Sibling Wish becomes, "I wish we would see each other more often."
The Sibling Wish changes with age. And even though families can be dysfunctional at times, I recognize that there is an ageless connection in family. We did not choose who our siblings are. We were stuck with each other as blood relatives. When we are older we choose to stay connected and love our siblings as friends that will be there for us no matter what we do in life. In the future the Sibling Wish might end up being, "I wish you were still here."

Posted by carl1236 at 6:59 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Writing"

Category "motivation"

March 13, 2010

Thoughts on my Journal-in-a-Jar project

I wanted to record some of my thoughts on this writing project before I forget. In my typical organized, bullet-point style of thoughts, here is what I think about it:

Overall, This Journal-in-a-Jar project has jump-started my writing practice again, so it's a perfect gift to me. I've created a category for Journal In a Jar, so I can go back and re-read from the beginning. I think I'll do that at the end of my first year of this project.

Next topic: Did you wish you had more (or fewer) sisters and brothers? Why? Oooh, sister, are you reading this! ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 6:31 AM | Journal in a Jar | Writing | motivation

Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

March 12, 2010

Show me the money!

If I suddenly received $100.00, $1,000.00 or even $1,000,000.00, what would I do with it? It really does not matter. I would not hold onto it. I would not save it for a future day. I would not do what most people consider 'responsible.' But I am not advocating not to save for specific goals like retirement, a car, a motorcycle, a house, etc, because without saving money, a lifestyle can easily become unsustainable. I am stating only that my investment in life is in people, not getting more money so I can live more comfortably and buy more things.
Many people in America are in over their heads in debt. A person goes out and buys a new car at $30,000.00, and a house at 300,00.00, and pretty soon, wham, that person needs to be earning at least a few thousand dollars just to pay for those things. In an effort to stay on top of the debt load, many people then take jobs or positions that pay more money, even if it doesn't make them happy.
Ideally we should all go out there and choose only the career that we are excited about, that we are engaged in, that helps us have purpose and meaning in life. But how many people do you know that actually achieve all of that? And even if a person does, it changes. Anything can happen.
One of my most engaging jobs ever was doing software technical support and training. It was meaningful work to me. I was helping people solve problems and making their work-life a little easier and less stressful. In many ways, I had a calming effect on people because they knew I would not stop until their problem was resolved or they found a work-around. And when people call technical support they are usually already stressed out when they reach for the phone.
Doing software training was also really rewarding. I had knowledge and I could share that knowledge. I loved coming up with creative ways to get people to that 'ah-ha!' point when they understand and can put the principles to work. Teaching is meaningful to me and has tangible and intangible rewards for more than just me.
The third attribute of my most engaging job, that tied it all together and made it even more fun and positive, was being part of a high-performance team. Being part of a real team our job functions didn't always matter. The focus was on getting the job done right for the customer and helping each other do that. There was a lot of cross-training going on, a lot of discussion in the hallways, a lot of late nights working out solutions and solving problems together. We all had a shared vision and goals. And we cared about each other. It was amazing. High-fives were frequently passed between us. In situations like that, it did not matter how much I was getting paid or how many hours I 'donated' to the company.
After five years of doing a job I loved, and advancing my skills, It came crashing down on us. In a really bad April Fools Joke, the owner of the company called us all into the conference room, and introduced us to the new owners. He had sold the company without most of us knowing. We had never met the new owners before this meeting. And worse yet, they knew nothing about our business. And it got worse. The very first month they took over they could not make payroll. The reality of that situation was that they paid too much for a company they knew too little about.
The death of that company came a couple years later after a lawsuit against the previous owners and bankruptcy. One by one, as people jumped ship, our high-performance team was dismantled . I was one of the last remaining employees before the doors were closed. Luckily I found another job that paid enough money to feed my family and pay for my car, rent, utilities, etc. The real tragedy with this change was that not much could compare with the excitement and happiness I had experienced in my work.
I've used this analogy before, and I think it fits pretty well. Sometimes we do things out of necessity versus what will excite us and engage us. One domino falls because another one before it fell. My favorite job fell and I had to find another one as soon as possible or risk losing my car and not being able to buy baby formula. The new job wasn't bad, but it definitely lacked many of the key ingredients I see that make work meaningful and engaging.
I think on some level, I knew and understand that the pursuit of money was not my objective at all. My objective was to have purpose and meaning in my life. It was to make a difference in other people's lives. For me, the drive for money alone cannot satisfy that inner need for meaning and purpose. It's an April Fools Joke that turns into reality.
Now we look around at our economy and wonder how it all got into such a mess. Immediately we start to point fingers. Someone is to blame for this recession. Some of the statements I've read are, "It's because the banks are too lenient on who they give loans to." "People who borrow more than they can afford are to blame."
I think it's a deeper-rooted problem in our society. The drive for profit and a focus on making money shifts the focus from doing meaningful, engaging work that is rewarding to us and other people. Instead of dominoes falling one way, they get lined up to fall based on income and profit, not people.
Our companies of all sizes suffer because of the loss of meaning and purpose, other than the bottom line. I observe people in my current job. The owners and investors are clueless that one of their most respected workers spends an hour to two hours at a time talking on the phone almost daily about personal things. I see it in the zealous nature of a young person that is highly critical of others and lacks compassion and whose drive is the bottom line. And that is rewarded in our society and companies. I see it in the decisions companies make regarding not spending money on tools or equipment their employees need to do their jobs. I see it in people who no longer have each other's backs, who do not see work as a team effort. I see power and control, territorial behavior, versus collaboration, teamwork and a focus on the shared vision and mission. We end up with companies full of disengaged employees, mainly because there is no soul in focusing on making money. The end result is something we spend. And the cycle of spend-earn-spend-earn doesn't have the same meaning as meaningful work that stimulates us, engages our skills and talents, and pushes the limits of our potential.
If I were to receive an unexpected sum of money, whatever the dollar amount, I'm sure I'd find a way to use it with meaning and purpose. Just like I try to use my time. I would probably buy a laptop to write more, I would donate some money to programs I believe are helping people. I'd invest it in people, giving them opportunities to discover what engages them. These are things I do now, regardless of how much money I have. The focus in my life is not about striving for more things that will decay, rot, break, become lost, stolen or earn more. It's about striving for meaning and purpose in life. It doesn't matter how much money I have for that to happen. And in the end, my investments will pay off larger, in ways that I could ever realize if my focus was on the bottom line.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:22 AM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

March 11, 2010

Marriage Fears, Expectations, Anticipations!

Ever thought about getting married? Are you married? I am 20 and I don't worry. I know everything works out. Actually I'm a basket case for other reasons. Saying I love you was the easy part, now I have to go and face my father-in-law and do the right thing. I have to ask permission to take his daughter back to Texas with me. It's not going to be easy standing there and looking him in the eye and talking. But my only saving grace is that I can stand there and honestly say I will take care of his daughter and won't let anything bad happen to her.
I can not promise that I know what I am doing. But I do not have to be afraid of going back on my word to not hurt her. In actuality, the gravity of this one moment might solidify my resolve to not let her or him down. I wish every parent would have these talks with future son-in-laws.
This is how I feel. Scared of standing up for myself and for what me and my girlfriend decided together. Scared that somehow I won't measure up to this successful business man that has a mind as sharp as a tack. Scared of being just a punk that will use her and hurt her whole family. They would tell her, "I told you to listen to me!." Well, ok, maybe that's just my fear talking. I think they are all wonderful people. I love her mom already. She's so nice to me every time I talk to her. I think about my girlfriend's future when I look at her mom. Seriously. If my wife turns out with a heart like hers, my life could not turn out better.
What do I expect out of this? I don't know. I don't really. I really am not thinking like that right now. I'm thinking that this feels right and we talked about it and we both like the idea of being together. I don't want to kill the mood by being practical either. And no she is not pregnant! But let's think about that statement.
I asked myself, If she were pregnant, would I marry her? Yes, I answered. I would. I have too much pride and honor to walk out on that responsibility. Then I asked myself. If I love her enough to marry her if she were pregnant, do I love her enough to marry her even if she were not? I answered yes again. Commitment by logic! That's me. That's why I'm going to speak to her father. That's why I asked her to come back to Texas with me. I made a commitment in my own mind and heart. I follow through.
It's not just that I follow through, It's also that I'm really comfortable with my girlfriend. I know that she adores me, and that she is thrilled by getting my letters in the mail, and that she has so deeply fallen for me. I fear that also. I fear that when I wrote all those letters, somehow my inner feelings I so freely shared in letters could not be lived up to. I feel like I could betray my words by admitting that I'm still a young 20-year-old explorer on an adventure.
But then I come back to my original feeling, that when I know I feel comfortable with her, I feel her good heart, know that she adores me, has fallen in love with me, and that I could do no better, I have courage enough to stand in that room with her dad...
"Sir, I would like to bring your daughter back to Texas with me." Oh, God this is hard! I'm sweating. I am a soldier. I am old enough to die for my country! I am an adult! I should not be afraid, but I am.

Thoughts from 1983

Posted by carl1236 at 9:16 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

March 10, 2010

Is it more difficult to be a parent now, when I was raising children or when my parents raised me?

That's 3 Generations I guess. Although I am not currently raising children, since mine are grown up and now raising their selves, I have an answer. I'm going to say 'none of the above.'
1. My parents had a difficult time raising four boys and a girl. We were hooligans! Sometimes angels but often fighting and getting into mischief. We could easily have fallen into drugs or anything else, if we had been in that neighborhood. We certainly knew as kids where those circles were and who those kids were.
2. You can teach a kid values and being able to make good choices. It's a lot of hard work on a parents part, and a certain amount of awareness. A lot of parents are not prepared for this, so it's difficult no matter what generation. And this has to start at an early age, especially before the pre-teen years.
3. It depends on the kids and the parents mental, emotional and physical health in any generation.

What's really difficult in raising children, whether of yesteryear, today's day and age, or tomorrow's hope, is that we have to be engaged in the process of raising our children, and be willing to do what it takes to help our children make good choices on their own. I don't think that is easy at any time. It can be fun and meaningful though.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:06 PM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Love your Neighbor"

March 9, 2010

When the Walls came tumblin down, when the walls...

Came tumblin, tumblin...down. It was November of 1989. I was beginning a new career as I watched my old career crumble into history. As I sat at work listening to the radio, I could not concentrate. I sat mezmorised, almost shaking. It was a Thursday. When I got home from work I turned on the news and spent the rest of the evening watching in awe. People were crying and hugging each other and talking and piece by piece, dismantling the Berlin Wall.
My connection to this history is probably in my blood. Historically, I am part German. My ancestors on my mom's-father's side of the family came from Germany. My great grandfather's name was Rudolph Donnerstag. If you know any German at all, you know that Donnerstag means Thursday in German. Or Thunder Day, Thor's Day. But it wasn't the sound of thunder that shook the earth. It was the silence as the East German Guards stood there at the ready, but not shooting as one person after another began tentatively walking forward, climbing, and then picking at the wall.
That Thursday in November as I watched the tv, I thought of my Grandpa, when East and West Germans were allowed to crawl all over the wall. I remember the feeling of exileration when I saw the sillouette of a man standing up on the wall for the first time, looking out over the crowd that was quickly gathering. It was surreal.
Shortly before I was born, the wall went up to prevent more East Germans from escaping through Berlin. By 1961 millions had already done so, many of them young people. It had been fairly easy for them to escape through the city. The East German government wanted to stop the bleeding.
When I was In Junior high school I began studying the german language. I was even more connected my ancestors. When I graduated from high school I decided to make a career of using the german language, in hopes of going to germany. I did go once. I was enthralled with the beauty of the country. I read it's books, I listened to it's music. So, when the Berlin Wall fell, it meant a little more to me than it might have, had I not had these connections to Germany. In more than relation, Germany was in my blood. I was emotionally connected to Germany.
So, now I sit here looking at this little piece of wall in my hand, a gift from a friend who was there when it happened, a remnant of a artificial political division that separated families, and I think about the values those millions of East German people believed in when they decided to leave their homes to escape to the West. I remember the emotions I felt when the Wall came down. I believe in that same value of freedom to choose my destiny, just like my ancestors did when they came to this country.
TheWall.jpg

Posted by carl1236 at 9:05 PM | Journal in a Jar | Love your Neighbor

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

March 8, 2010

What I know about my parents wedding

I don't know if I never heard the details of my parents wedding or if I did and forgot, but I don't remember anything about it. Over the last few years we've been having more discussions in general about our family trees, especially since my brother and my parents and my aunts are digging into old information and hunting down leads. One common idea I hear is that it would be nice if previous generations left us a little more information!
At some point in a family tree, future generations might become curious about who you were and what your life was like. Maybe your family tree will die out and there will nobody curious enough to dig, but then again, maybe someone will be researching you for historical purposes in a town or region.
When my brother did some digging, he found out that our great grandfather on my mom's side was also being researched by the Wisconsin historical society because of his colorful past in Wisconsin. That was kind of a surprise, but convenient and helpful to my brother's research.
One of the purposes of this new writing project, my "journal in a jar" is so that I write down some of my family history, my experiences, my memories and my thoughts about things. Overall, I think there might be much more information available about people in our generation than there ever was in previous generations, so maybe research of family trees will not be as difficult as in the past.
But for my mom and dad's wedding? I know very little about it. Now I have to begin the process of finding out before they eventually take their memories, their ideas and dreams away with them. And I think in light these kind of thoughts, I had better record more about me and my wife to make it easier on future genealogy hunters. Also, because of our families efforts to find out about previous generations, It might even be my duty to leave more information for my future generations.

Posted by carl1236 at 11:11 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Attitude"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Love your Neighbor"

March 5, 2010

My Greatest Accomplishment

What I consider my greatest accomplishment may be so totally foreign to most people. An accomplishment like this is hard to match until the right moment comes along. Then it's like the heavens open up and love starts to pour down on us.
Quite a while ago, I was riding the bus home from work and a lady that appeared to be homeless, with really ragged and dirty clothes, who was also drunk or stoned or something, got on the bus. She asked the bus driver several times which bus she needed to take to get to the East Side. She was on the wrong bus. The driver attempted to tell her several times too, that she had to get off this bus and walk over another block. She was so confused, and I was moved by her genuine plea for help.
I stood up and went to help her. She could hardly stand, so I helped her off the bus. She could hardly walk so I motioned the bus on and began to walk with her. She asked me to hold her hand. So I did and we walked safely to the correct bus stop. While we were walking I asked her what her name was. Then I said I was happy to meet her. She got a look of surprise on her face and smiled. She asked my name and I told her. Then I looked up her correct bus on the schedule and told her which bus it was and how long it would take. She turned to me, thanked me and said, "I love you John." And I replied, "I love you too." A warmth ran through me as I said that. I was so far out of my comfort zone on this that I felt amazed by it all. Then I told her to be careful and slowly walked back to my stop to wait for the next bus.
The author of the Red Suit Diaries said that no one really chooses to become Santa. It starts with a desire to make others happy and to give them hope. His transformation of the heart started one day when he changed a light bulb for a man in a wheelchair. It felt very good to him to do something that was so easy for himself to do, yet nearly impossible for this man in the wheelchair to do. It was a simple task that made a huge difference in another person's life. He discovered that the real gift was not a present or something we buy in a store, but the gift of our self. This is one of many experiences that have profoundly changed my life.
So I consider my greatest accomplishment in life has been learning to give my self to others and developing a desire to make others happy and give them hope. How can I ever weigh a personal accomplishment or achievement against giving another human being a friend for a block? In another lifetime I might not have done that. This time I got out of my comfort zone and connected with another human being and I changed.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:05 PM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Love your Neighbor

Category "Journal in a Jar"

March 4, 2010

One pet that I never had, but always wanted

Remember the Friends episodes when Ross had a pet monkey? And remember that song 'If I had a million dollars...' I'd get a pet monkey. What I really wanted was a pet chimp. A really smart one.
We have to keep things in perspective. I grew up with Disney showing monkeys as heroes in space and on earth. I grew up with the Planet of the Apes movies and cartoons. I learned to read with Curious George books. I also grew up with our human fascination with teaching monkeys to talk and communicate with us humans. I was fascinated by the monkey who learned how to use sign language, proving that they were capable of communication with us.
Would I have ever really wanted to take care of a real monkey? Probably not. Evidently I wasn't alone in wishing for a monkey when I was a child. But I have heard that they are a lot of work. I might have been up to it, but who knows. I never went as far as getting one.
I did however have all sorts of other pets, some of which were a huge amount of work. I had pet toads, frogs, snakes, dogs, cats, rabbit, bugs, hamsters and fish. And for a short time as a child we even had a pony. I think pets are generally a good addition to my life. I like the good nature of our pets, regardless of our moods. Speaking just about our dogs, they always seem really happy to see me and never hold a grudge. Our cat's however...
The rabbit was very affectionate and cuddly. But he left little pellets everywhere he hopped. And he chewed on things, like electric cables. And my snake tolerated me and had very little emotion.
Maybe someday I'll get a monkey, but probably not. It's a nice thought though. Maybe I'd spend my days trying to teach it to talk to me and to ride a bicycle.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:23 AM | Journal in a Jar

Category "Journal in a Jar"

March 3, 2010

Remembering numbers from childhood

I remember my addresses and phone numbers of every place that I lived from 1st grade until High School. It's easy to remember, since I only lived in two places. I lived in Newport when I was in elementary school at 1520 fifth Avenue. The house is no longer there. It was a little house tucked back behind an industrial complex. After we moved, the company behind us moved our little house off the property and used our lot for expansion of their operations. Poof, gone. I remember the phone number too even though I no longer needed it.
Then we moved to Cottage Grove when I was in 8th Grade. I lived at 7848 Harkness Avenue, S. That house is also gone. It was torn down for commercial expansion. I remember our phone number too. But this number I called more to talk to my parents after I left home. And I graduated from High School, I moved around in the Army, not remembering a single phone number from that period in my life, until I moved back to MN to raise my family. Then I started with my own places. It was pretty interesting. We moved five times in five years.
But none of that surprises me that I can remember some numbers so well from childhood, and others not so much. The other number I clearly remember is my grandma and grandpas number. I must have called them a lot to say hello. So I guess the important numbers I remembered and the not-so important, I didn't.
More significant than the numbers I think, is that the two main houses I grew up in were torn down in the name of progress. That doesn't really bother me, because I was gone, but It is interesting to me. If I went back to look around either of those addresses, they would no longer be there. And when I lose my memories of the houses I grew up in, then I suspect the numbers will go too, because the numbers are linked to the memories of the people and places.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:16 PM | Journal in a Jar

Category "Journal in a Jar"

March 2, 2010

The One Food I would Never Want to Live Without

Those are very final sounding words: "The One," "Never," "Live" without. Do I have to choose? I don't have a favorite food that I can't live without and I will pretty much eat anything and enjoy it. So to answer this question I'm going to rephrase the question as, "If I was snowed in for a weekend in a remote cabin, what food would I most like to have with me?
Bananas, Apples, other fruit.
Banana Cream Pie, French Silk Pie
Hot cocoa
Coffee
Cashews
raisins
bread
rice
milk
real butter
lunch meat, lettuce, tomoatoes, onions, salt and pepper,
Bacon, eggs, green and red peppers
garlic
olive oil
spinach
asparagus
kimchi...
Ok, that's enough. good eats. I won't starve.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:33 PM | Journal in a Jar

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

March 1, 2010

My Boy Scout Experiences

I wrote about Scouts in a previous entry when I was talking about living with death. But you don't have to read that entry because I'm going to copy and paste the contents into this current entry dealing with just my scouting experiences. Of course you can still read that one if you are curious how scouting relates to living with death.

When I was young, I was in Cub Scouts. I remember it was a lot of fun. I remember it was difficult for our family to afford the book, the dues and the uniform, but somehow I got them. I loved the activities we did and the snacks and the great leaders. We had fun doing the activities and playing games. I also remember doing and making our pinewood derby cars with my dad. Of course my dad got totally into it and helped us strategically place the weights and polish the axles so our cars would fly down the track. We even tried liquid weight so it would shift as the car went over the hill, giving it an extra boost. I think that's illegal now, but I don't think they had a rule against it back then. Our car didn't win anyway, but it was fun trying to come up with some new strategy to make it faster. We also used graphite on the axles so the wheels would spin faster. We actually won some races and made it to the finals I think once or twice. So it was cool, and fun. I think Pinewood Derby is a good experience for kids if they get to work with their dads or moms or another relative and if the boys get to do the work on the car, with a little help.
When It came time to move on to the next level, Webelos, (WE'll BE LOyal Scouts), The meeting location was different, we had a different leader and I only went for a little while before dropping out. I think I just mostly was having more fun playing with my other friends then and wasn't getting anything out of my new group. And that was the end of my childhood scouting experience.
Then when my son was old enough, he came home from school with a slip advertising a scout recruiting meeting coming up at his school. So I went with my son to check it out. I think it was my son's idea and he wanted to do it. I'm not sure though. I had good experiences with cub scouts so I wasn't opposed to it. But I do remember I was really busy with work then. I was working for a software consultant doing training and technical support and programming. That was a challenging job that devoured my free time.
The first night of cubscouts was an organizational meeting, where we were supposed meet our son's new leader. That first meeting should have have been a warning sign of what was to come. The Cubmaster forgot her key to the church. So all of the parents and their boys sat on the little strip of grass between the church and the street and organized into groups by age: Tiger Cubs, Wolves, Bears, Webelos, in that order. So there we were sitting in our group with other boys the same age as my son, but we didn't see a leader with us. We waited. The Cubmaster finally came over and said, "Well, your group doesn't have a leader yet, so one of you will have to be the leader."
We all looked each other and asked her a couple of questions. Then she said, "It's easy, we'll show you what to do. Just pick a leader and it'll be fun." Then she walked away. The problem was that none of the people in our group wanted to be the leader. I did not have time for this for sure, so I did not volunteer that first night. I did what a lot of parents do. I had an expectation of scouts that did not include me working on lesson plans and teaching boys. I wanted to be able to just drop my kid off and let him have a great experience with someone else leading it. That's how I thought it ran. In reality I found out that Scouts is an all volunteer organization and the leaders are there because they care. And they put a lot of energy into the program.
So, two ladies reluctantly volunteered to co-lead the group, but they did not want to put much work into it or get uniforms or get training. After a couple of meetings, I was lying awake at night worrying that my son was going to have a bad experience in Scouts and quit. So I decided that if it's worth doing, it's worth doing right and putting some effort into. At the next meeting I volunteered to be the leader. I think those mom's were really happy to be relieved of the duty. And I do believe we all gave those boys some good experiences. And we did some cool things together.
That was the beginning of my seven years as a Scout Leader. During that time I held most of the positions in Scouting, such as Denleader, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Trainer, etc. I went to all of the leader roundtables and training opportunities. I came back with some great ideas.
I put my heart and soul and resources into running the program and working with the boys and their parents. This was a great experience, but also overwhelming. We took boys camping almost every month, made realistic dogsleds for their klondike derby and of course, did pinewood derby. We also taught them how to carve and tie knots and start fires. I even taught the boys how to start a fire with wet wood. I learned an incredible amount as an adult and had a lot of fun helping to raise a lot of boys.
Some of my favorite things about scouting? I learned to love one my favorite life-long hobbies; woodcarving. Bob Plant taught me how to do and teach woodcarving. I loved that man. He was so good with teaching and was a nice guy to be around. He was always encouraging the boys and getting them to try doing things on their own.
I also learned a lot about dedication and determination in the face of unbelievable odds. We did fundraising together, we recycled aluminum cans together, we did state fair cleanups together, we built stilts and sleds and cars, and of course went camping. We also did archery, rappelling, horseback riding, bb-gun shooting, canoeing and swimming. I taught a dozen or more boys how to swim for the first time.
I remember Ku was so scared of the water the first time we took him to the pool that he would not leave the edge. I mean he would not even go into the pool from the edge. Eventually he learned how to swim. That was glorious. That was amazing. I am so glad I was there to be part of that.
Everything changes though and scouts was no different. I kept leading even after my son moved on to other activities, mainly because I knew there were a lot of boys that needed a good leader and role model. And I was having fun.
Eventually though, I got stretched too thin. Work was really demanding and I transitioned into another job and I had to keep the rest of my life afloat at the same time as spending nearly every day keeping a big scout program floating. Even with the few others that were true hard-chargers, we couldn't maintain a quality program without sacrificing something. We kept trying to get the parents involved, but it was difficult. As a result all of us leaders put in heroic efforts to keep it going. By the time I stopped doing it, I was dedicating 3 or 4 nights per week working on something Scouting related, plus monthly campouts and a weeklong summer camp every summer.
When I finally stopped doing it I wasn't relieved. I was sad. I was worried what would happen to these boys, and I was feeling guilty for stopping. When I told the few dedicated leaders that I was going to stop leading this unit, they were also devastated, but realizing the short-staffed situation we were in, no-one wanted to take over my position. The whole unit folded with about 40 boys losing out. But I couldn't continue working the way I was, and I saw the deterioration of the quality of our program so I did what I had to do. It was very sad. I was so involved, then it came to a stop. All of it. I mourned the loss for a while, then moved on to other volunteer work.
It happened in the same way. I happened to be where things were falling apart, where they needed help. It was like looking at a car accident or a train wreck. I cannot just stand by while someone needs help. And that's exactly when my engine gets into motion. I'm not moved into volunteer work by bigger causes like saving the environment or saving the world, but I am moved into action when someone needs help.
I have so many more good scout stories to tell, so maybe for future entries I'll tell some stories. Like when I challenged the boys, "I bet you that I can start this fire with one match and wet wood." I proceeded to fill a large bucket up with water and throw my sticks into it, soaking them and challenging the boys again. They all took the bet. I won. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 9:43 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 28, 2010

Our Family Traditions

Traditions are like comfort food. We keep going back to them because we like them and we know them. It's comfortable and good. The unknown can be frightening. Going without traditions can be frightening to some people too.
When a son or daughter goes off to the military or into college in another state, they are so busy handling their own affairs and figuring how to survive in their new system, that sometimes it's not possible to follow family traditions. At least not without a lot of trouble. For example, when I went into the Army, I couldn't come home for Thanksgiving the first year. I was in training and my new career had taken me a couple thousand miles away.
But that doesn't mean I didn't celebrate Thanksgiving. It means I did not spend Thanksgiving with my family, as it had been for the entire time I was growing up. So I spent my first Thanksgiving away from home with an Army family I hardly knew. It was good, but not the same.
I also remember the first Christmas that I did not come home. That is another family tradition I never would have missed as I was growing up. But again, I was very far away. I know families understand, but for me it was a little disconcerting that there was no snow and no family to share and celebrate with.
I think we have family traditions because it's a coming together of family to celebrate something, or share with each other some meaningful ritual. And I think it's an important part of the cohesiveness of the family. When we celebrate our family birthday's together we are saying to each other, 'you are important to me.' Thanksgiving is like that too. We are sharing a feast together. We are laughing and spending time with each other, and we even cook a special type of food for this tradition.
At some point our family traditions shift from our parents traditions to our own in-house traditions with our friends and our own kids. It's part of the growing up process it seems. In our house now, our family traditions have kind of dissolved or evolved into something different. Both of our children have moved out. So for birthday's we no longer throw a party for our children and their friends, complete with clown or other entertainment and decorations. But we do something else, like send a card, take them out for dinner or something like that. And sometimes the loss of traditions can be a little uncomfortable, like not being able to make spaghetti for dinner because we have no noodles or sauce in our house.
This year we are having a traditional family holiday party in August. To me it doesn't matter whether it's in August or December. At first the idea was uncomfortable to me, a kind of strange idea, because it wasn't going to be around the Christmas season. But the more I thought about it, the more I got the point of family tradition. It's not necessarily about the activity, it's about bringing family together. And to me that's just as good in August as it is in December.
I might wear a Hawaiian shirt, straw hat and flip-flops though. ;-)

Posted by carl1236 at 8:01 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 27, 2010

Who would you most like to sit next to on a long plane ride, dead or alive? A Short Story

The last book I read before I died was, The five people you meet in heaven, by Mitch Albom. I could really relate to the amusement park maintenance guy. I did not feel like I had accomplished anything in my life and did not value what I had done.
Now it was my time to go, and I guessed that I would soon find out from the five people I would meet in heaven, the meaning of my life. Unlike Eddie in the book, my death wasn't a horrific accident while saving a little girl. My death was quite ordinary for a middle-aged man, fallen out of shape and out of energy. It's a familiar story to many people these days. And with high cholesterol and blood pressure it didn't surprise me that I died of a heart attack while lying on the couch reading this little book.
The pain was incredible. But even so, I've been through incredible pain before and had developed a coping mechanism and acceptance of pain. Like when I had a hernia, that was painful, and I could not walk. But I managed and pulled through. This time I guess I did not pull through the pain. But then again, it's not the pain that killed me was it? I'll blame my death on the lack of exercise and poor eating habits over the years.
This is where my journey begins. I'm not going to talk about the people I left behind, and how my death affected them, because that's like looking at a train wreck, and standing there stunned. I'm still speechless, because I feel sorry for those that have to deal with grief and loss, while still living. They have this kind of a dull aching feeling that makes a person question the meaning of their own existence. I would say that I'm still alive though, because I certainly still feel alive.
Anyway, I don't really remember watching my death from the ceiling or witnessing my own funeral like we've all seen in the movies. I just remember being somewhere else. After I died I found myself standing in the airport waiting to board a plane. I seemed to be late. Evidently the other passengers were already on board, because I was standing there alone waiting for my turn.
I did not have any bags to check. When flying I always travel lightly anyway, knowing that whatever I absolutely need at the other end, I could get there. Metaphorically speaking, even though I have a lot of stuff in my life, I don't think I would be devastated by losing it all in a fire. I'm more upset that my poor wife is burdened with disposing of all of the books in my library and the bicycles I rode and my motorcycle, and art supplies. I hope she just hires the used-book store to come and make her an offer on the whole lot of books. She's definitely not going to read my copy of the Qur'an or the Kabbalah or even the dozens of science-fiction fantasy books I have read.
"John, John," the voice interrupted my thoughts. "It's your time to board," she said.
"Ok," I said, feeling kind of silly for wanting to ask where this plane was headed. I am not one to shy away from adventure anyway, and love the process of discovery, so I guess it didn't really matter if I knew for sure. Besides, I was dead, so I could guess where it was going, although I questioned the mode of transportation. I stepped confidently forward and walked down the tunnel to board the plane. I was curious if the five people I'd meet in heaven would be on this plane. It seemed logical to me. I was also curious who they would be.
The first person I met was the Captain. The captain was definitely an angel. There was a radiation of love and energy coming out of him, engulfing me as I came close. I was not worried about the safety of this plane. Once, I was flying back from California on a work-related trip and was reading the novel Airframe by Michael Crichton. That was a bad choice. I was worried about my safety on that trip! But now I knew beyond all imagination and fear, that this flight was in good hands and that the plane must be held together with more than a few rivets.
By the number on my boarding pass, I would be somewhere in the middle of the plane. There were dozens of people already seated, some I recognized and some I did not. The plane was nearly full! I did not expect this; Probably because the last thing impressed on my mind was the number five. I walked down the aisle, nodding and smiling at the people making themselves comfortable, settling in with pillows and blankets as if going on a long flight from the Middle East to the Midwest.
In one of the seats I saw my grandma. She looked just like I remember her and I wanted to stop and give her a big hug and talk to her. But I felt compelled to go find my seat before the plane took off. She smiled and nodded at me, "Go ahead Johnny, we'll have plenty of time to catch up." Her voice instantly brought back a flood of memories.
And right behind her there was my Aunt Jan, grinning at me. "Hey freckles! Welcome aboard!" I laughed. I haven't heard that nickname in a long time!
Boarding this plane was a very surreal experience. It's a very strange thing to be seeing these people again and conversing with them. I pinched myself and felt the slight twinge of pain. No, I am definitely still aware of myself here, and have not disappeared into nothingness.
Walking past all of these people that I knew and loved throughout my life, made me wonder who I'd actually be sitting next to. My seat was just ahead.
I looked at my boarding pass and the number above the seat. It was an aisle seat. I prefer window seats when I fly because I love to watch the plane take off and seeing the tiny specs of our civilization far below. But evidently I was not here to witness what I was leaving behind. I was here to talk to some important people in my life. With all of these people on the plane, it was going to be a very long flight, I thought.
I looked at my boarding pass and the number above the seat to make sure again that I was in the right place. The number was right. Sitting in the seat next to mine was a Native American man with a wizened, darkly tanned face. He was dressed in full regalia, with feathers sticking straight up from his head and bells wrapped about his knees. They made a slight jingling noise as he shifted in his seat to face me. He just looked at me until I was seated. I sat sat down, intimidated by his deep stare. I glanced out the window and saw the darkening skies and the rain beginning to fall. The wind was blowing a piece of paper across the ground, whipping it up and down.
"Have courage," he said to me in a low, soft voice. "Your grandfathers have all gathered together to have a council. They have called you here to teach you."
"Thank you," was all I could think of to say. He was obviously the oldest and wisest looking person on this plane. His deep penetrating and knowing eyes were pools of wisdom beyond my years of experience. His was the power of the world that I did not understand.
"All of the gifts of earth you drew strength from. Now from the same great spirit you will find another strength."
As I sat contemplating that, the fasten-your-seat-belts light flashed on and the chime interrupted us.
"Please fasten your seat belts," came the voice. "We are preparing for take off."
We both fell silent as we buckled up and waited for our safety briefing. Somehow in my mind I knew the wise man sitting next to me. His words echoed over time to me from a different century, telling me of the division of people, it's food and the earth. Without speaking he showed me how the lust for possession and wealth had swarmed over the planet and severed the chords of human and earth connection. I was powerless to stop it. I was watching as people lost their partnership with the earth and each other. It was a very depressing series of scenes that brought tears to my eyes.
"Have courage," he told me. "for you have the power of the cleansing wind." He pointed out the window.
Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux visionary, holy man and healer who's words I greatly respected in life, shared the silence with me as the plane took off, pressing us back into our seats. It gave me a definite feeling of moving on, with no return. Although we had never met in real life, I was suddenly overwhelmed by the opportunity to sit next to him on this flight. I trembled in spite of his comforting words. Maybe I trembled with respect, or with fear that I would not measure up to those words.
Soon the plane leveled off and the fasten-your-seat-belt light turned off again. He nodded to me with a warm smile and motioned me to get up and find another seat. I had so many questions for Black Elk and wanted to sit and talk with him much longer. But he looked around the plane at all the people and motioned again without speaking. I did as he wished and got up, looking around.
The only empty seat I could see was back about five or six rows. I started to walk, but the plane was now buckling under the turbulence. At first I could not see anyone in the seat next to the empty one. The plane lurched again and I fell, stumbling toward my new seat. The fasten-your-seat-belt light came on with a ding and in the distance I heard the voice announcing the turbulence.
"Tell me something I don't know," I muttered as I grabbed the seat arm before hitting the floor with a thud.
I crawled into my seat and buckled up. Sitting next to me was a diminutive, exceedingly old-looking woman with wrinkles as deep as the ridges. She was praying and thumbing the long string of beads in her hands. There was radiant glow of warmth and comfort all around her and I felt it deep in my bones. I could not interrupt her prayers so I sat patiently waiting. But somehow I did not mind. I liked her intensity of concentration and calmness during this turbulence. It seemed like nothing would bother her.
Then, just as I was thinking that, she laughed and patted my hand.
"John. You have done some important work. See these beads in my hand? These are the people who's lives you have touched. Each one of these, a person you gave dignity to. Each one of these people you helped to stand, even when you stumbled and fell!"
"Mother Teresa?" I asked sheepishly.
"Yes, dear child. Now pay attention."
Mother Teresa began to tell me passionately about my responsibilities. Our responsibilities as human beings.
"Including you, every person on this planet is responsible for the welfare of your brothers and sisters, all men and women on this planet. That has always been God's message to you. And you know, because you have experienced in these," she paused, thumbing the beads that represented those whose lives I have touched.
"That there are two kinds of poverty. The poverty of material, which is easy to cure. And the poverty of spirit, which is not so easy to cure. The problem is being able to see the difference. Open your eyes and see."
These words rang in my ears like a command. I sat back and closed my eyes visualizing the people she was talking about. Each one paraded before my eyes. I remembered.
"Now, go back and see these others." She was thumbing a long line of beads in her right hand. Her warmth radiated through me again and I felt her compassion and understanding.
She patted me on the hand and repeated, "Go. There will be another flight. You were just on standby." Then she laughed again.
I laughed too. She really had a good sense of humor. I was going to thank her, but when I began to speak again, she was praying the beads in her right hand, one after another. I heard her call their names one by one. Some I had met and some I had not. I sat in silence listening as attentively as I could.
The loud speaker came alive again and startled me out of my thoughts.
"Please return your seats to the upright position and fasten your seat belts. We will be landing shortly."
I braced myself and popped my ears as I felt the rapid descent. After we landed, there was a slow taxi to the terminal so I sat there, half listening to Mother Teresa, still listing off names in prayer, one bead at a time. Another part of me was anticipating the other part of this journey. What was to happen to me once I got off this plane? Where did we land? What about all of these other people on the plane? I did not get a chance to talk to any of them.
Slowly my eyes opened and the pain subsided. I don't know what happened, but I was not feeling the same. My whole body was trembling and I was disoriented. I heard the captain's voice in my mind.
"Thank you for flying with us. Come again."
Then I remembered the flight and the two people I sat next to. My mind and body were filled with love and a strength I have not felt in a long time. Their words remained in my heart. I have the power and the responsibility to make a difference. I am alive.

Posted by carl1236 at 10:47 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life | Love your Neighbor

Category "Journal in a Jar"

February 25, 2010

My First Car

I reached into the jar and grabbed the next slip of paper. Ugh. Another car topic. But in the spirit of writing whatever comes up, here is very short tale of my first car, the one my dad traded a freezer for. My first car, a tank in it's own right, was a faded-powder blue1968 Buick LeSabre. (Very similar in appearance to this 1969 LeSabre sitting in a parts yard)
69LeSabre.jpg
The 1968 LeSabre had slightly different grilles and taillights from previous years, and like this picture, had concealed windshield wipers. It had a square speedometer and big bench seats inside. When I got the car in 1979 or 1980, I don't really remember the exact year either, it was already old and almost ready for the junk yard. But I remember how proud I was to drive it to school for the first time. I got to park it in the west lot with all the other students and drive my friends. But like all old cars, it had it's issues and driving it to school was short lived. One of the first few times I drove it, the battery died while I was at school. I came out and it wouldn't start. I had to ask someone for a jump. Sucky. Yes, sucky is a real word when you are 17.
I don't even remember how or when I abandoned that car either. It meant nothing to me except that I had to have a car and this was the easiest one for me to obtain. But I did abandon my first car. Because I got another car after I left high school. And that is pretty much it. I did what most American teenage kids dream about when they get their license. A set of wheels meant freedom and mobility. It meant arriving at adulthood. I chuckle.
And that was my first ever car, and the end of my car blogging. If I draw another car slip from that jar, I'm turning it into a motorcycle story!

Tomorrow should be much more interesting (to me). Who would I most like to sit next to on a long plane ride, dead or alive? Hmmm. I see dead people.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:15 PM | Journal in a Jar

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February 24, 2010

My first child

Before I start telling about my son, I'm prefacing it with the idea that there is no experience like raising children. It's a wonderful, amazing process that takes at least twenty years, and some say a lifetime. And sometimes it gets interesting because children develop a mind of their own. And frankly it has to be that way. Our objective as a parent is to have our children grow up safely and make it on their own. It doesn't always happen that way though.
When I was a scout leader I experienced many broken families and parents who didn't really get what it means to nourish or help a child grow and develop. Some of those kids had some serious issues and not much help. One boy threatened to commit suicide the night before we were supposed to be going home after camp. I, along with others, stayed with that boy all night long, not sleeping a wink. When we delivered the boy back to his parents, his mom informed us, "Oh he always says that, just ignore him."
For the rest of my life I will never forget the impact we have on our children's hearts and minds and mental health. I tried to get help for that boy, and I hope he made it. I was thankful that our son was not in that position, and thankful that he had a lot of family members that cared about him. It does make a difference.
It always amazes me how easy it is to become a parent. There are no tests or training, and in many cases it just happens. Then you figure it out or you don't. In most cases the child grows up and moves on.
Back at the beginning when we realized we were going to have a baby, my wife and I were really excited. And yet, we did not have a clue what we were getting into. I was 20 and my wife was 18 when we got married and two years later our son was born. What we knew then was that we knew we would somehow figure it out. What we didn't know was what that meant for our lives. So we began a journey that we knew nothing about.
Our son was born prematurely in an Army hospital, 1300 miles away from our home-town and our families. He had jaundice and had to wear a heart monitor and stayed in the hospital until he regained 5 pounds. He was the size of a football. I'm serious. So tiny and fragile. And I'm still thankful that he was born where he was. It turns out that Ft. Hood had one of the top two premie intensive care units in the country at the time. He was in pretty good hands.
It was hard for both of us to leave him in the hospital before he was able to come home. But we soon found the real challenge came after they let us take him home. He developed colic. If you don't know what that is, imagine his miniature intestine tied up into a knot allowing gas buildup until it's unbearable. The poor baby cried and screamed almost non-stop day and night. None of us could sleep for weeks. But we all lived through it.
Then we left the Army about five months later and began a different kind of life. I went to college, worked a part-time job and my wife also worked. We were hardly prepared for life. But we had most of our family around us so that helped. And it made it better for us because growing up, our son was nearly a perfect child. He was so happy and full of love. And he still has a great sense of humor.
I have to tell this story, because it's funny. One day he came home from school and informed us that his teacher told his class that until they were thirty they were not adults. My wife and I looked at each other and laughed. We were both under thirty with a child in elementary school.
So where does the bad stuff come in? As I remember it, there were not really bad times with our son. There were growing pains, mostly in his late teens. There was a rough period before he left for college, but luckily we survived it. And I'm happy with the way he figured out how to move forward after college. All in all, my pride is not so much in being able to tell some miraculous success story, or brag about what he has done with his life, but it's really that he's a good man able to live life on his terms and able to figure things out.
Now our son is married, and who knows, they may have children, and I hope I get to be around to enjoy their first child. I do believe that he'll make a great father, just because I know my son's nature and what he's capable of.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:27 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 23, 2010

How my parents dressed compared to how I dressed as a parent

I know fashions change like the wind changes directions. And there are some fashions that are peculiar to one generation, like powder blue, polyester, bell bottom tuxedos with ruffled shirts, or zoot suits. Sometimes those fashions make brief comebacks in following generations. But thankfully my dad did not wear clothes like that when I was a kid. I might have been mortified in front of my friends.
I don't knock anyone's fashion choices, but when I was a kid I might have. My dad wore jeans and t-shirts, or button down shirts. He went through a period wearing western shirts, boots, and hat, but a lot of people did that. And it wasn't over the top. I even had boots, large belt buckle. The western style has been around for a while, I guess since it came into fashion in the old west. Even so that style is not for everyone, but to me it was ok and I never felt embarrassed. And of course when not wearing the dress cowboy hat, most people I knew wore baseball caps. It kept the sun out of our eyes, in a casual way.
Since I had an office job most of my career while my children were growing up, my attire was khaki pants (like the docker brand) and button shirts. I also wore jeans and t-shirts when not at work. As part of my recent clean-out of my clothing heap, I got rid of thirty t-shirts that I no longer wanted to wear. Or put it this way, I used to by event t-shirts, like scout shirts, running shirts, triathlon shirts, etc, and then wear them and never get rid of them when I bought new ones. Oh, don't worry, I still have one box of shirts I like.
I think that with the trend toward casual wear in our country also standardized men's clothing fashion here, to a general casual look. Ties pretty much went away in the workplace, and people seem to have siimilar clothing styles. Maybe it's related to the mass-produced clothing marketplace. Maybe it's that most men were never really very fashion-minded. At least not the common man like me.
Recently we went to the Science Museum to see the Titanic exhibit and there was one photo in there of thousands of workers going to work on the huge ship and almost every one of them had a flat-cap-style hat on. I remember also my grandfather's generation, almost everyone wore a hat. But the styles changed to derbys and fedora's and other taller, formed hats. I remember my great grandfather and grandfather never leaving the house without their hat.
So, because I liked that look and it brought back good memories, I'm now sporting a nice, casual fedora-style hat. And I kind of like it. Should I bring back my bell-bottom jeans and tie-died t-shirts to go with that?

Posted by carl1236 at 8:01 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 22, 2010

The most exciting place I have ever been?

I guess this is relative to the experience I've had in each place. I've been to the east coast, west coast, Florida, Texas, Canada, Germany, and to multiple states visiting attractions and working.
I really enjoyed biking, kayaking and swimming in Lake Superior. I also really enjoyed hiking at 9000 feet in the mountains of New Mexico. I also really enjoyed running on the beach in California. And when I went to Germany I really enjoyed the thrill of speaking in German and seeing centuries-old castles.
What makes all of this interesting to me is not necessarily the place, but the experience. I've also traveled for work and found some of those places less than exciting because I was too busy working and had no time to enjoy the beauty of life in that location.
One time last summer, however, I was working in Sioux Falls, a city I don't remember ever visited before. There was a delay in work and I ended up staying over a weekend with no work to do. So I looked up events and attractions in the city. I found out there was an art fair going on and a German Octoberfest celebration. So I made my way downtown, found a parking place and spent the whole day talking to artists, eating german food and listening to german folk music. It was awesome and stimulating. That experience, though it may not sound like much, ranks right up there with doing back-flips off the rocks into the icy cold water of Lake Superior and having my breath taken away. And I got to know a little more about a place that I've never seen up close. If you are from Sioux Falls, I love your city! nice downtown area.
Another experience that ranks high on my list is taking in an orchestra concert on Harriet Island in St. Paul, laying on a blanket with a sea of people just hanging out and chillin' to classical music. And it was free!
So, my next question I ask myself is, what is the most exciting place I will go to and what will make it interesting? It could appear anywhere, depending on the experience.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:39 PM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 21, 2010

What do books mean to me?

Irrelevant as some material may seem, it's still something to read. Why do I read anyway? Today I am writing about what books mean to me. I read because there is relevancy in the words we write as human beings. There is relevancy in the act of expressing ourselves because we are relevant. The book, the paper, the font, and the language used are not the relevant part of the story. Susan Weinstein wrote in an article, "We are English because English isn't about books; it's about us..." It's about our conversations, debates, stories, beliefs, criticisms, poems, loves, losses and joys. Our books reflect our human lives as we see them or can imagine them. Books are relevant to me because people are relevant.
Sometimes insolent is a better word to describe some of the books I read. The author's contempt is so thick it can be cut with a knife. But that comes from somewhere and that author may be coming from a position of fear, anger or a belief in something so strongly that it is expressed with insults and force. Do I have to read this kind of material? No, but sometimes I do and I find it relevant to the human experience. Maybe if I am too shocked or insulted by the writing it is my own insolence that is preventing me from seeing the source of it.
When books, irreverent or praising march before my eyes, they are useful to me. In the case of satire pieces, paying proper respect is not desirable and rather inhibits our sense of humor. I am a big fan of satire because I think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes. I love comic strips because of this. I love reading the Onion newspaper too because they don't hold any idea or person too high to laugh at. And I don't want to take my ideas so seriously that I cannot laugh about them.
Digging into my ideology is a key endeavor for me. Books are like mirrors on what I believe and don't believe. We all form our own ideas about human life around us. Sometimes our ideology is the same as what we are taught by our religions or teachers. But I own my own beliefs because I have systematically built them over my lifetime. When I read a book I get a chance to see what I believe about how things are and how I came to where I am at.
And digging leads to introspection about my life. I am a very reflective person and I meditate on the thoughts presented in books and on my own attitudes. Books are great for bringing attitudes to light so I can look at myself. I definitely feel a certain way and react a certain way to the things I read. I experience emotions like anger, sadness, joy and surprise. Books help me to see what I believe and think about and then examine my beliefs.
All that thinking can be insightful. It can lead to solutions to my perceived or real problems. Especially when I read something that changes my mind. For instance, when I'm struggling with how to approach a problem at work or with the people in my other activities, I find that reading helps me understand and solve my problems. I recently read a book about organizational structure and it helped me understand why the top-down hierarchical model was unsustainable in our type of non-profit organization. This was a change from my normal way of thinking about leadership and decision making. Seeing and understanding why something works the way it does is a key to solving problems.
And there can be such good information available to us in books, coming out of people's real experiences. It would be a shame if the flow of information is somehow turned off, inhibited, directed or restricted. That's one thing that happens in dystopian books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984. The internet also is a huge source of new and old information. More and more information is being put online with greater access by a broader range of people. And the format of information is changing as I type this. The time it takes new information to get to the masses is decreased to milliseconds instead of months. And this also leads to greater collaboration and better information.
As a result of reading books, my intelligence is greater than it was last year and certainly greater than it was as a child. I credit books with that. I learn a great deal from books. How could I not learn if I continuously read?
Whether a book proves good, bad, or ugly, inspiration can be sparked and I will be on fire. I wrote two novels using bits and pieces of things that I have read. And the material presented in arts and crafts books invariably weaves it's way into my creative new work. I don't believe most of the conspiracy theories I read, such as those in books like the DaVinci Code, by Dan Brown, but that doesn't stop me from being inspired by that book.
After all, my world reflects my vision and my imagination. What I create in life comes out of me. And in every paragraph and step in my life, my eyes give me meaning.That is what books mean to me.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul."
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Posted by carl1236 at 9:54 PM | Art | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Learning | Life | Writing

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February 20, 2010

If I could spend one day learning to do something I've never done before...

I would like to spend a whole day learning how to play games I've never played before. Tonight I was at a Korean New Years celebration and dinner and I learned about some games I have never heard about. I played Jegi-Chagi - like hacki-sack and Yut Nori, a traditional Korean family game. There was also Gong-gi Nori - a five marbles game. And I arranged to play a game of Paduk or Go with a teacher there. I am excited. That is an interesting game that is full of strategy and mental challenge.
I've always loved games and still like to play chess and other games. I'm not much of a fan of gambling games though, but like to play for fun. And I realized that there are a bunch of other cultural games I have never played before. It would be fun to just take a whole day to play and learn some new games.
When I was a scout leader we did something very cool and fun with the boys. We held an overnight sleepover at the church that hosted us. It was an all-night game night and pokemon tournament. We had plenty of cards there for everyone and even those boys that did not have their own cards learned how to play in little mini-workshops and practice rounds, taught by their peers before the tournament. Then we had the tournament and prizes. We also played risk, monopoly and Pogs! There was no sleeping going on at that sleepover!
Playing is essential in life. How easily we can forget how to play.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:33 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Bicycles"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Motorcycles"

February 19, 2010

Our Family Cars

Not every family owns a car. In the United States it has become a rite of passage for youth into adulthood. To own a car is to be independent and adult. Owning a car has been known as a sign of status and the nicer the car, the higher the recognition of having arrived at the big time.
But as I said, not everyone owns a car and some families own only one car for multiple drivers and they take turns. Now there are even car-share programs where you rent a car hourly. That's a cool idea if you primarily walk, ride bike, motorcycle or take public transportation. Sometimes you need to carry bigger stuff from point A to point B.
Before I go into talking about the cars my family had as I was growing up, and the meaning that had for me, I want to talk about the period in my life when I gave away my motorcycle and my car to ride a bike. In 2004 I started riding my bike everywhere and when winter came around I bought a 'winter bike' to ride all year. That showed me I could and did live without a car. Of course my wife still had her car, but my primary mode of transportation was bicycle. I realized I wasn't using my motorcycle and car so I gave them away. I felt wonderfully energized and much more fit.
I did that for a couple of years before switching jobs and facing the nightmares of a commute over an hour long and bus rides that were one and a half to two hours long with multiple transfers. And then the job was really demanding with a lot of late hours, so I decided I needed more sleep and I bought a motorcycle, then a car. Now I am right back where I was before 2004. And my health is much worse for it. It was a great experience that taught me to think about owning a car in much different ways.
But this kind of thinking is not at all what I experienced as I was growing up. There was great nostalgia around our cars. There was romance and drama and great adventure. We took long trips in cars, some of them I was too young to remember. And one of the greatest adventures in a car was the drive-in theater! There we watched such wonderful classics such as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! and the Love Bug. Cars had their own personalities. My dad was even part of the dirt-track race scene with a 1955 Chevy named 'Wiki-Wiki' number 99. "Wiki-wiki" means "hurry quick" in Hawaiian. It also refers to a type of fish native to the islands. Not to be confused with the short, very rapid back and forth movements of a record called affectionately 'wicky wicky'.
But back to the nostalgia of our cars. I remember getting into our jammies and heading out the drive-in theater and watching our cars dramatized in all their glory. They were the heroes of our stories. And later general Lee was born on the back roads as the dukes of hazards made it glorious to drive fast away from the law. I don't drive like that, thankfully. But we sure loved our cars and loved the thought of speed. One of my brother's first cars was even a Charger, which I drove only one time at 110 mph. The whole front end of that thing was a shakin' and that was the end of my desire to drive fast.
And we learned to drive in our parents cars. Then we drove our parents cars on dates and to our first jobs. My dad taught me how to drive in a pickup truck with a manual transmission. I remember the long rod in those trucks reaching down into the floor and the large plastic bulb on top. My first car was not a stick, but my second one was. The first car I had was a tank. My dad traded a freezer for it. It ran only so so and my dad had to fix it for me, which he was good at. I wasn't so much. In fact my dad has fixed a lot of cars in his life time. So there was more than nostalgia going on in our house. There were also project cars, like the 1963 corvair monza spider with rear engine. That was a cool car. I think that was even turbo charged.
When I graduated from high school, I went into the army, went through training and then was stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas. Then I needed a car. So what did I buy? A turbo charged ford mustang! Yes, I got a ticket driving that thing. And I wore out the turbo charge unit and my dad helped me take it out because I couldn't afford to fix it. Then the little engine just couldn't jump past other cars when passing.
Like every new parent that has to haul kids around, we quickly discovered that it was a real pain in the but to get a car seat in and out of the back seat of a two-door car. We had to buy a family car then. So we got a four door plymouth reliant k-car. And that brings me right back to the cars we had as a family when I was growing up. We had station wagons, four-door sedans and trucks. And we always had multiple vehicles around. Basically we were a family-car family. And most of those were Fords, because my dad found that working on those was easier and they were fairly reliable. There was a little bit of brand loyalty going on there too I think. I probably should not even joke about the meaning of the word F.O.R.D: "Found on the Road Dead." I tried that line on the last Ford dealer we went to and the salesman wasn't amused. He said something like, "Oh yeah, I've heard that before. People sure like that old joke."
Now I'm thinking about spring already and it's not my car I'm dreaming about. When it went above freezing the other day, all I could think about was, "If it wasn't for the ice on this road, I could be riding my motorcycle. When winter subsides, my car once again will sit in the driveway all summer, and I will be either on the motorcycle or on the bicycle. Last year I rode my bicycle to work only three times, but I'm thinking that I might enjoy the fresh air a little more this year and bicycle more and use it to help me get back into shape. See how I managed to turn this story about cars into one about bicycles? And fitness related to getting out my cars? I think I'll name my bicycle "Wiki-Wiki" after how fast my heart beats when riding it.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:43 PM | Bicycles | Journal in a Jar | Motorcycles

Category "Journal in a Jar"

February 18, 2010

My Dad is a big man

It's my turn to shine a spotlight on the kind of person my dad is. And I recognize where some of my attitudes came from.
A few years ago my dad was honored in his local paper as he retired from his job as a rural district bus driver. "Bus driver Bob gets a big goodbye," the headline reads. My dad drove bus for nine years and four months and the kids loved him. It's the only name they could spell the same forward and backward.
Now my dad stands at six feet-four and a half inches, so that might be where some of the respect from these elementary school children comes from, but their smiles when they saw my dad told the story that they were happy to see him.
And from the stories my dad told, he treated them with respect and held them accountable for their actions on his bus. Maybe that's another reason they respected my dad.
I've always known my dad had a good heart and would give a person the shirt off his back. He would not pay his own bills in order to give one of his kids some cash when in need. He would drive hundreds of miles for someone in need, even if it wasn't a relative. And my dad is down to earth, honest and would rather make peace than carry a grudge. There are more than a few lessons he taught me when I was in trouble over the years. And those lessons usually involved getting at the heart of what I truly wanted and needed at the time. And I don't think my dad ever had a lot of money, but somehow I feel to focus on that would be missing the meaning of my dad's life.
One of my dad's greatest talents has always been the use of common sense and easy going temperament to help someone else. I can't say anything negative about my dad, because that would be to admit that in myself. My dad is a big man to live up to.

Posted by carl1236 at 2:34 AM | Journal in a Jar

Category "CHANGE"

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

February 17, 2010

Our House, In the Middle of the Street...

I am a product of the eighties when This Talking Heads Song pops into my head when thinking about the house I grew up in...
Like the song, our house was in the middle of the block and it was a non-descriptive stick house just like all of the other houses on the block. We wanted to get away from home and my mom worked hard and needed a rest too. Maybe my house was white, or a tan color, or maybe something else. I remember helping to paint it and it took a couple of years. I also remember having to mow the two acres of grass with a push mower. It took one person about eight hours, including trimming around the trees. I remember the small bedrooms and how confining that felt before I graduated from high school, but I don't remember the color of the rooms. It was most likely white, or plain. We had a living room and family room too, but I don't remember the color of those either. There was paneling in the family room. And I think pretty much everyone's 1970's to 1980's ramblers could be described in similar fashion.
But I can say that I liked one feature of that house. It had the garage tucked up underneath the one end of the house with another garage door leading right into the basement. You could not even see the garage from the street. Above the garage was our family room where we spent most of our time watching TV and playing games.
Sometime after that era, houses were being built with the garage stuck way out front, so the garage became the focal point as you drove down the street. Our house was the focal point sitting way up on a hill of grass with flowering trees and shrubs. A half-painted rambler focal point on a beautiful lot with a park across the street that was later razed to the ground to make way for commercial progress. Our house was demolished sometime after we all moved away.
But select photos in my mind still remain. I close my eyes and I can see the rooms, the shapes, the same furniture we had, and the floors. The carpeting in the living room, the wool-like carpet tiles in the family room that we ripped up and replaced with a shag. I remember fighting with my brothers in our house. I remember getting ready to leave for the army after high school and being excited to go someplace else where the rooms were not so confining. And later, I remember helping to move my parents out of that house. I do not remember the color of our house, my bedroom or the living room. Curiously there is no color to those memories.


Posted by carl1236 at 12:01 AM | CHANGE | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

February 16, 2010

The Smell of Mummy Dust

The question for today is, "What was your grandparents' home like? Did it have a certain smell or look?
I'm happy that it didn't have the smell of mummy dust, as described in the book I'm currently reading. In Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Carol goes to visit one of the queens of the small midwestern town. Sinclair Lewis uses such vivid thought-words in his writing, that even if I don't know what the smell of mummy dust smells like, I know it's old and dusty and stale.
He writes, "The age of houses, like the age of men, has small relation to their years. The dull-green cottage of the good Widow Bogart was twenty years old, but it had the antiquity of Cheops, and the smell of mummy-dust. It's neatness rebuked the street....The hallway was dismayingly scrubbed; the kitchen was an exercise in mathematics, with problems worked out in equidistant chairs."
The only smell I can remember from any of my grandparents houses was the unique smell of mothballs which seemed to hang in the air, seeping out of the closets and the clothing it was meant to protect. But even so, that was not at all times. If we ever got to venture into the attic and snoop around with grandma or grandpa at all of their safely kept memories, the smell was stronger.
And then there was the neatness. My house as a child was never as clean and neat as my grandparents houses, even though my mom seemed to work at it constantly. Later when we had our own children, we discovered that there really were not a lot of hours in the day. When we visited our grandparents their houses were ready for drop-in guests.
I am not a grandparent yet, but I can almost guarantee that my home will not have the smell of mummy dust. No matter how old our house or we become it will have a gritty smell of earth ready to sprout new life in the corners where the dust rhinos gather to attack. There will most likely be incense smells lingering in the furniture and books, and pear-smelling candles burning in the kitchen. There might even be the lingering smell of the fresh, home-made italian spaghetti sauce from last nights dinner.
What I remember most about my grandparents houses though was not the smell, but the warmth and unconditional love that our grandparents lavished on us. For me that is a memory more vivid than a picture, orderliness or the smell of mummy dust. It's a memory of life being lived in a house of people that cared about each other.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:33 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

February 15, 2010

Games without frontiers

When I was a boy growing up in the late sixties and the 70's we played a lot of games. There were indoor games and outdoor games, and many of those games have been played by generations of people already.
You might recognize some of them...
Parchesi, checkers, chess, chinese checkers, yatze, risk, monopoly, life, sorry and various card games such as go fish, war and rummy.
These games had rules and boundaries that we had to learn in order to successfully play the game. I was in elementary school when I learned how to play chess from my older brother. I remember once getting so mad at him for so easily beating me that I tipped the board over. Even though the game had definite rules and boundaries, I obviously did not.
The outdoor games we played in our neighborhood were a little more free ranging and the boundaries not quite as defined, especially in the summer when we were off school. The image of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn come to my mind as I think about it fondly. We played all of the standard outdoor group games like kick the can, capture the flag and hide and seek. These games had rules that had to be constantly group enforced, because the whole neighborhood was our playground.
"You have to hide only in these four yards!" or "you can't stand that close to the can!" we'd yell. But other than that, we decided what to play and we ran all over the neighborhood. In other games without defined rules or boundaries, we scaled fences, crawled under fences, crept through hedges and hunted each other with toy guns and flashlights. And mimicking some of our favorite heroes that we read about in books, such as the hardy boys, we hunted all over the neighborhood for clues to a mystery we made up. We also built a raft and floated on the mighty Mississippi River and built a treehouse on an island. The only real rule we really worried about during those unbridled years of imagination and freedom was that we had to be home before dark. And on several occasions we discovered there were strict consequences for breaking that rule. Being grounded was a horrible limitation to our ever-expanding universe.
As I was thinking about how to write this journal entry, I thought of the lyrics to a song by one of my favorite artists, Peter Gabriel. Games without Frontiers...
"Hans plays with Lotte, Lotte plays with Jane. Jane plays with Willi, Willi is happy again. Suki plays with Leo, Sacha plays with Britt. Adolf builds a bonfire, Enrico plays with it..."
In our youth some of the games we played were about expanding our boundaries. That was true with how we played with our toys and how we began to play with girls. With our bicycles we built ramps and spread them further and further apart to see who could jump our bicycle the furthest, like Evil Knievel, another one of our childhood heroes. With girls, we wrestled with them and teased them, and found new excitement in teaching them our games.
"Jeux Sans Frontieres" Games without frontiers.
As life progressed, we found more and more that even the games that made us feel free and stretched our imagination, had their limits. Especially when caught doing something that adults didn't approve of. And when the girl we so seriously considered our girlfriend was mad at us for something we learned new rules. We did not understand all of the rules, but we were willing and ready to explore without frontiers.
"If looks could kill, they probably will, In games without frontiers - war without tears. Jeux sans Frontieres."
The older I got the more I also learned that even in games like chess and go with very strict boarders and rules, I've discovered that the limits are in our imagination and knowledge. The more I learn to play those games within the rules, the more I learn that the outcome is not guaranteed and it's often the creative, out of the square solution that wins the game. For instance once I played and beat an early computer chess game and discovered a glitch in the programming. It did not understand anything outside of it's pre-programmed strategies. When I moved my pawn all the way down on the right side of the board, it reacted very strangely and left it's defenses wide open.
It got me thinking, what games are there, that I can play as an adult that expand my mind and challenge the limits of my imagination? I can write, challenging my own thoughts and conceptions and arrange words and ideas on a page to convey a meaning. I can look at design problems with a 'what-if' attitude to find solutions that might not have occurred to me or others. When we were kids playing with our action figures, we were constantly making up the play we were having them act in. In games without frontiers, it's our imagination and known limits we are stretching. It's exploring and testing the waters of the unknown. Learning the unknown rules and how to apply them in unique and challenging situations.
"Jeux Sans Frontieres"

Now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head all day ;-) Thank you Peter Gabriel.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:32 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

Category "Purpose"

February 14, 2010

How did your father support your family?

This is an interesting question for me, since once again I have the hindsight of growing up with my father and of having been a father myself supporting a family. And the question for me really should read more like, "What did you do to survive while trying to pay your bills and still strive for some meaningful career and life?" One of my favorite quotes is from John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Without actually asking my father to recount his life story here, I may leave out some important endeavor in his life, but here is the general idea. Before I was born, my father was in the Air Force, stationed in Hawaii and worked as an Airplane mechanic. I believe that set the stage for future work. He's very mechanically inclined. After active duty in the Air-Force, he was a mechanic with a small airline company in southern MN. I also remember stories of operating an automobile service station with his brother in St. Paul. And when I was very young, before elementary school, he also drove milk truck in our rural farming community. At some point he joined the Air National Guard and became a sheet-metal mechanic, which is basically airplane bodywork. My dad successfully retired from the Guards after more than 20-some years. But that's not the whole story as I knew it while growing up.
My father also had an eclectic entrepreneurial spirit to try to get ahead and pay for his five children. He had a taxi-cab service, was an over-the road truck driver, was a household product salesman, a real estate agent, a volunteer fireman, policeman, and even a local politician. And my mom and dad even owned their own craft and hobby shop. Now I'm almost sure I'm leaving something out. My father was into a lot of things, and it is not surprising to me that I inherited some of that from him. Because basically my father believes in his own two hands and hard work and that he is capable of doing anything, given the opportunity. He's definately smart enough and mechanically inclined enough. And he's a problem solver; a fixer.
As I got older, moving through my school years I heard more of the discussions that took place behind the scenes, between him and my mom and others. My dad had dreams and goals, many of which panned out enough to make a life of it and have some fun along the way. A stock-car racer? He also took opportunities that came up, because that was all that was available for work. And that is how I answer this question when looking at how my father managed to survive a lifetime of paying for kids, mortgages, automobiles, insurance and all that food we consumed. "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
Looking back at my career, trying to raise a family I see a lot of similarities. Circumstances play a big part of a persons life and how it proceeds. I think a key for young people just starting out would be to set themselves up as soon as possible with a good education and the ability to learn. So then there are more possibilities open to them as life situations play their tricks.
I had big plans for my future, all of which detoured and morphed into something else, due to circumstances, availability of funds, or my ability to follow through with something at the time. I did have one key turning point in my life and career that took me down a path that has been very rewarding and challenging for me. It fully consumed and engaged my problem solving genes.
Like my father I also served on active duty military right after high school. Unlike my father, when I came off active duty I attended the U of M to study business. I also had a new-born son who was born on the military base that same year. I made it just about two years in college, as I saw my grades deteriorate and the pressures of earning income to support my family increased. My wife also had to work, as most people do now. After finally dropping out of college I had to find full-time work. And I did not have any marketable skills. Luckily for me, my wife's best friend and her husband worked for a manufacturing company that was hiring production workers. This actually helped in more ways than one. It gave me a year of steady work and income while I tried to figure out what I would do with my life. That production job also made me realize that I needed an education of some kind for more opportunities to open up in the future. More importantly, I needed to find an occupation that engaged my mind. Something that had meaning for me personally. I was busy making other plans.
I think I saw an ad on TV for a local technical school that focused on Architectural drafting and design. I had taken drafting in high school and remembered how much fun that was. That one idea became the spark. I could do that. When I started that school the next Fall, I was further stimulated by hand-drawing Frank Loyd Wright designs on paper. At that time in the mid 80's we had one class in computer-aided drafting. That was a spark that ignited a full-time career for me for the next twenty plus years. And I have found it continuously changing and growing with technology advances.
I've attended the U of M a couple of times, and part time while working full-time. The last time to study linguistics and the Korean language. Language is the other thread of passion woven through the fabric of my entire life. And this really has nothing to do with supporting a family, but has everything to do with being engaged in life and having a passion for something. I hope my father's life was as engaging and fulfilling as mine while raising children. It was certainly stressful at times and challenging. My father did some interesting things in life and is one of the most well-rounded, do-it-all problem solvers I know. And in my humble opinion, it's a good life to make plans while life happens.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:11 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life | Purpose

Category "Journal in a Jar"

Category "Life"

Category "Love your Neighbor"

February 13, 2010

On becoming engaged

This is about becoming engaged, which to me is the same as saying, 'We are going to commit to each other and get married.' This is not about the actual act of proposing. Who proposes or how is irrelevant in this story. What is relevant is the change in a relationship from testing the waters, learning who that person is, and why we spend so much time together, to saying, 'I want to spend the rest of my life with this person.'
In My generation and prior to that, becoming engaged meant committing for life. Now days it seems that becoming engaged, means, 'for now I'm saying I want to be with you, but I won't promise that I'm going to stick to a bad relationship just because. It's not worth living in hell.' And maybe that's a good thing.
The old man who used to live next door, before he passed away, was kind of a cranky old guy. Him and his wife slept in separate bedrooms and argued all the time. And they each had their own activities and lives. I wondered what the reasons were that they were still in that relationship. Convenience, obligation, familiarity, routine, fear of being alone, lack of resources to move on? Love? It didn't look like love to me, but as I have found, commitment is a form of love too and one part of the package of Love. I care enough to have an obligation to you.
When I became engaged, that was one of the things that ran through my mind. I asked myself, 'Do you care about this person enough to want to be obligated to her?' And I answered yes. Even today I feel a sense of commitment and responsibility that no matter what happens, I cannot abandon her. Over the past 26 years we've had our share of arguments, and had our relationship to the breaking point, but that commitment was there. We had become engaged with each other. The marriage then was a matter of making if formal and official. Luckily for us, both of us had the same ideals and engagement to each other. Sometimes in a marriage one person is engaged, while the other is not. A marriage can still fail when one person abandons the other, emotionally, mentally, physically. I guess that would be called disengagement.
We were both very young and thought we knew everything, but we did not.Here is what I remember the most about becoming engaged to my wife. I had graduated two years earlier than her from High School, and came home on leave from the Army to attend my brother's wedding and her graduation. That made me think a lot about the relationship I was building with my girlfriend. Before coming back to MN, I told a good friend that If my girlfriend accepted my proposal, we would get married. I had already made up my mind that I wanted to marry her. So to me the act of proposing was making that a formal agreement. I don't think a person should necessarily propose without first becoming committed to the other person.
So there I was, not knowing what I was really in for, but plunging in anyway. I did not think about the challenges of the future. I did not worry about if we would make it or not, or if that was even in question. But I knew this person was someone I could trust with my inner secrets and fears, and someone that I could count on to be as committed to me as I was becoming to her.
This topic is especially relevant to me as Valentines Day is tomorrow. Something to think about. I can honestly say that I am still engaged. And although it's not always easy working out that commitment to each other, it's totally worth it.

By the way, I dug deep into the center of the jar for today's topic, and this is what came up. Happy Valentines Day!

Posted by carl1236 at 8:30 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life | Love your Neighbor

Category "Journal in a Jar"

February 12, 2010

The best present I have ever received

Whenever I see the words, "best" or "most" I instinctively rebel against our cultural expectations. My best present ever was not a car, or a cruise to some far off desert island, sipping margaritas. There are occasional gifts that I like a lot, and I could rank them by how much I use them., but to rank them is irrelevant to me because it's still just stuff. Tomorrow I may be without that stuff. But I could consider the emotional connection and thoughtfulness of the giver. I wish that I was as thoughtful when selecting gifts for others as some people have been for me.
A year ago at Christmas I received an electric blanket from my wife as a gift. I was constantly piling more blankets on my side of the bed so I could sleep more soundly. It's not something that I would have asked for, and certainly did not expect it. This is a thoughtful gift! With my blanket I don't have to suffer a MN winter night in a chilly bed. It's like I'm sleeping in the Bahamas.
Oh I get plenty of gadgets and clothes and wiz-bang stuff for gifts sometimes and those are good too in their own ways, but that electric blanket warms up my side of the bed before I even crawl in. And on a cold, blustery Saturday morning, I can lay there and read in total comfort. Nothing compares to thoughtfulness when it comes to perfect gifts, be it a practical gift or whimsical.
And I appreciate the caring and the practicality. I am not one to balk at a practical gift. You've heard that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but it is also through practical, handy, useful, thoughtful, caring gifts. So while I lay in my toasty bed of roses, dreaming of electric-wool sheep, I can be thankful for such a thoughtful wife and the gift of something I use and appreciate every night! It warms my heart!

Posted by carl1236 at 7:31 AM | Journal in a Jar

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Category "Life"

February 11, 2010

The Most Significant World Event that has taken place in my Lifetime

I have been alive for 47 years and It's possible that I'll live another 47. Or maybe not. Regardless, 47 years is enough time for something significant to happen. But if I have to choose the MOST significant world event, I'd have to say it is...
Well, I'd have to think about it a little first. There are so many to choose from...
1963...I was born - only significant on the local scene
1963...John F. Kennedy was gunned down - Certainly that was broader than the local scene and was significant. And it had significant implications in our society for the rest of my life.
And not long after that came 1968, the "year that changed the world." The war in Viet Nam, multiple assassinations, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. There were riots in the schools and in the streets. The Soviet Union rolled over Czechoslovakia and Saddam Hussein took a position of power in Iraq after a coup. And of course the Beatles were in high form. Hey Jude, don't be afraid...1968 ended with hope that was out of this world. Images from Apollo 8 beamed to households throughout the world.
And since we are talking about space, during my lifetime, we went from orbiting in a fragile eggshell, to routine flights via shuttle, to robotic mars landings and space tourism. New technology enabled the exploration of black holes and supernovas. Space stations were built and telescopes launched into space to record the far reaches of the galaxy.
Stay with me here because I'm blurring the years and mixing them all up until I get to my favorite most significant event in my lifetime. In the late 1980's new ideas were exploding all the textbooks. The Chaos Theory made it all unpredictable. The more we learned, the more we discovered that some things just did not operate within normal parameters and were downright unpredictable. And who knows what the results are going to be when we are through manipulating the gene pool. I'd say those are significant world-changing events.
Ok, you choose. I've already made up my mind. Can you guess what I think is the most significant world event in my lifetime? I'll pause while you think about it. All right, that's enough.
In the blur of human activity, natural disasters, political upheaval, environmental and human rights and rise of technology during my lifetime, I might have skipped right over it. It doesn't really matter what I think is the MOST significant world event, because on so many levels, they are all significant. The idea that a butterfly flapping it's wings can cause a typhoon on the other side of the world is significant. I see this more as a huge network of significant events that all tie into the fabric of our lives and change the world for our children and their children.
Back in 1993 a little blinking-underlined phrase was about to change our world. It was about to make it smaller and bigger at the same time. Mosaic became Netscape and it was anyone's guess what carts in our world that would upturn. The internet was born alongside of the PC revolution, which started with 286's and dial-up modems. In the early 1990's we made the switch from engineering on paper to computers. And then there were 386's and Pentiums to fuel the revolution that would connect voices across the globe. The Internet, for whatever else it is, is a connection of human beings. Even before Windows came along, I relished in the bulletin boards that allowed me to write a story together with people I had never met, each taking a turn at writing a small part. The results were fun, creative and surprisingly exciting. Then I invented the Internet. No, that's not right. That's a bad joke. But the Internet Revolution did happen, and I was there. I still am here, and it is still revolutionizing the way we think about our world. And I've heard some people say the revolution is just beginning; that there is a correlation between the millions of butterflies flapping their wings throughout the world and the significant events that happen in our world today. The next 47 years is anyone's guess. Self-cloning robots? When you are 47 what story will you tell together?

Posted by carl1236 at 12:45 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 10, 2010

How children were expected to behave

When I was a young boy there were certain expectations on how I behaved around other people and at home. Obviously it's different within each family, depending on circumstances and the parents own experiences. I think there are some generational influences on our expectations of our children also. For instance, me and my friends simultaneously were not allowed to interject ourselves into adult conversations without being addressed specifically. We also were not allowed to eat with our elbows on the table, or swear and had to take our hats off in the house. The consequences were a good scolding. And I recall several of my friends who experienced getting their mouths washed out with soap because of mis-behavin' language.
When I became a parent my expectations of how my children should behave grew out of what I knew and what I learned from other people. I can't say I was the best parent. I had a thing about my kids being disrespectful or cruel to other people. I came down harder on my children when they displayed negative attitudes towards others. I don't think I was always fair. But like all parents, we were never formally trained in parenting and we did our best with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and wisdom that we had at the time.
I read an article the other day about youth acting out or being rebellious, and it made me reflect on my own my childhood and on my children's childhood. Basically the article stated that when kids act out, there could be underlying causes that we should be aware of, like abuse, drug use, hormonal imbalances, stress or being bullied at school. And it could mean that they are really looking to belong.
When I was young and acted inappropriately, according to my parents, It was usually to get the attention of my parents or my friends. When my children were young, they might have experienced the same desire to belong. I can recommend to new parents to stay emotionally connected to their children. By connected I don't mean controlling their behavior, which never worked very well for me. Being aware of underlying causes of behavior would have been extremely useful to me. The other thing that I believe in now, is that a sense of purpose and meaning in life at a young age effects behavior in a positive way.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:53 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 9, 2010

Meet your mate and tales of dominos

Sometimes you know when something is right. Maybe not at first, but as you push over the first lined-up domino, they all start to fall in order. I'm going to tell my view of the first domino that I, or she pushed over. Maybe I can't tell who pushed it, but it fell anyway, and here we are married for 26 years.
My wife and I both attended the same High School. She was in tenth grade when I was in twelfth. But we never dated in High School. In fact we were both dating other people. But we did know each other. We were both in the Declamation Club, which was a public speaking/performance-type of club. Our meeting in High School wasn't the first domino. We did not experience our first spark through this club.
In my senior year of high school, I was going through a rough time myself, trying to decide what to do with my life after high school. I faced the situation of not having good enough grades for scholarships (A's and B's), and no money in our family to go to college. So in the Fall of my senior year, the US Army came recruiting for students. I had no plan for my future and they offered a good school, a steady job and an adventure, followed by money for college. So I enlisted in December of that year, to enter the military right after I graduated. For better or worse, I broke up with my girlfriend at the time. I did not even understand what I was doing, let alone be able to explain that to anyone. Like many people in the last year of High School, I was scared. And I was afraid I might ruin another person's life, so I pushed her away. The rest of my senior year I did not have any plans of marriage. I knew where I was going and what I'd be doing for at least the next four years.
When graduation rolled around, a lot of people I knew came to my graduation party. My wife and her friends were there also. She was not on my radar, and of course nobody was at that time. But this party was a key event to get things rolling. I got a dozen or more addresses from people who wanted to write to me while I was in the Army. And my wife was one of those people.
I graduated from High School and went to basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina in the heat of July. It was hot and miserable and I was busy getting my butt kicked in training. And I discovered the huge value in writing and receiving letters, so I wrote and received mail. It was really good to hear what was going on back home and tell people what I was going through. But I wasn't that great at keeping up with the writing so I lost a few pen-pals by not being responsive enough. A few survived and I continued corresponding. My wife kept writing and I got to know her better.
I did not know it at the time, but words in letters are very powerful when inner feelings are shared. Sometimes it's easier to be yourself when you are not face to face. And I liked the person I was reading about and writing to.
Those letters were the first domino. In those letters we created a comfort level with each other that led to the ability to make a commitment. Two years later we took that step when my wife graduated from High School, and I came home on leave. This time I went to her graduation party and I asked her to come back to Texas with me, where I was stationed. Obviously there are a lot of details left out, and I won't go into the rest. But I'm thankful that she kept writing to me. So, haha, with Valentines day coming up, get out your pens and paper and put it in the mail! It may start something you can't stop; Or won't want to stop.

Posted by carl1236 at 12:36 PM | Journal in a Jar | Life

Category "Attitude"

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Category "Love your Neighbor"

February 8, 2010

Something I'd like to do before I die, that nobody knows yet

There is not much that my closest friends and family don't know about me, and I'm not harboring any secret unfulfilled wish or desire that I will suddenly unveil when I'm sixty. I have no desire to jump out of airplanes or bungee jump or sail around the world.
I did have a dream once that I was standing in the mountains in Nepal, in the Mustang Kingdom, looking up at the sky. I had a long white beard and hair, blowing like sails in the wind. I heard the noise long before it reached me, and knew what it was. I know that sound because I used to be in the military. As I stood there like a statue watching hundreds and hundreds of Chinese helicopters flying over me toward India, tears flowed down my cheeks. The next world war was in motion.
Although I'd like to see these regions of the world, along with many other places where people I have met are from, I don't need to travel before I die. I won't have unfinished business and come and haunt you as a ghost because I didn't get to do it.
Many people may not know this about me, but I would like to see Tibet relieved of occupation and colonization before I die. I don't really want to be standing on a mountain with swarms of helicopters flying over my head in a deafening roar. I would like there to be no need for those helicopters. In that light, before I die, I'd like to make a difference in bringing peace to the world.

Posted by carl1236 at 7:44 AM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life | Love your Neighbor

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February 7, 2010

The personality traits I most admire

I'm going to start at the top, being this is a list of what I admire the most in people. I'm not saying I have all of these traits either, but think that I try, and that I value them highly. I also hate to omit things from the list, because I know that I like a lot of things about a lot of people and some of the personality traits I omit, are more important at different times. So here I go, My top five, what I admire the most in you:
Your compassion. When you are aware of others around you and aware when they have issues or problems, and then you actually have a desire to help, then you are probably already my best friend. I would call you a very warm person, interested in other people, enough so that you will make time for them.
And right along side this, I really admire friendly people. Last week I went to a meetup group, with people I have never met before. There was one person who came and sat next to me and started chatting and asking questions. She was open, comfortable to talk to and was happy. She was pleasant and memorable. She was genuine and friendly.
A cooperative Spirit also ranks highly with me. I really admire people who try to resolve conflicts, who treat others with respect and love to collaborate vs. compete.
I admire creativity. Creativity is problem solving. A creative person knows how things work and can imagine possibilities. You know how to daydream, you like art, you like poetry, you like to ask questions and see different points of view, and then put them together in a way that others might not have thought about. Creative people are constantly challenging my own perspective.
Openness, or being forthcoming. When you volunteer information you are earning trust. You are obviously not hiding anything or withholding anything and people know it and feel it. I naturally feel more at ease around you because I know your motives are good. I can see them. It's in the emotions you share and your willingness to disclose your inner thoughts.
I'm going to throw in Integrity and honesty also, because it makes you genuine and real. And I highly admire that in people. You are not trying to look for loopholes, you are not scheming, you don't do or say things at the expense of others, you are not lying to make yourself look better. You prefer to obey the laws, and value and respect truth. I know I can trust you because your actions match your words.
Oh, ok, One more...A little humility is good too. Some serious walls crumble between people with a little humility.
It's interesting and meaningful to me that when I asked my friends what personality traits they admire most, many of them answered with some of the same personality traits. I shouldn't be surprised, because I have great respect for my friends and like their attitudes.

Posted by carl1236 at 8:53 PM | Attitude | Journal in a Jar | Life | Love your Neighbor

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February 6, 2010

Sundays

Can I say that Sundays are different? Sundays are not really any different than they have always been as an arbitrary, moving time measurement. But what I do on my Sundays has changed. Of course I have the luxury of being able to look back on a lot of Sundays in my life and see in retrospect that there was a change; in activities.
Sunday is called the beginning of the week, on our calendar at least, but for most of my adult life Sunday was the end. Many people call it the day of rest after six days of labor. I used to labor every Sunday too, for many, many years getting up early and getting ready for church. I even taught Sunday School for a year, which was a lot of work. But eventually I stopped struggling over church, and at first even treated Sunday as a day of rest. I would sip coffee and read, or meditate. I've also spent Sunday's hanging out at the bookstore or studying at the local coffee shop.
Church can be wonderful though, and I do enjoy it when I go, especially the singing and thoughtful meditations. But I wonder how many Sundays I attended church and did not remember anything, was uninspired, tired and going through the motions. At some point I decided that I was no longer going to make myself do something just because I thought I had to do it. So I ended the routine by attrition.
Has that made my Sundays different? Yes. I found other inspiring and thought provoking activities to do on Sundays, trying to get one more thing in before having to go back to work. I have to finish this project, I tell myself. Or the lawn needs mowing, the house needs repairs, and oh, I have three chapters left to read in this book. Then 11:00pm rolls around and Sunday is over. It is the end of the week.
Last Sunday I went to the Weisman Art Museum to see the exhibit on 19th Century Korean furniture, met some new friends, and ate an early dinner at Hong Kong Noodles restaurant. This Sunday I will be studying, reading, joining a book discussion group and preparing a presentation for Monday. If I were standing still, I'd say many Sundays go by in a blur, especially when I look back on them. But I think Sunday is standing still and it is me that is moving through it. What was I doing on all of those Sundays? The day is the same, end of the week or beginning of the week. The change that I can only see over time, is in my willingness to commit to any one thing on Sunday. My Sundays are days of motion. Maybe at the end of my life I will rest, but perhaps Sunday I will discover something new to do.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:11 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 5, 2010

One of my favorite childhood vacations

I'm not content to just write about a fond memory it seems. Is it the period in my life, age, that makes me analyze my past and question why I have a fond memory of that experience? Maybe everyone does this at all ages, but when I stack up memories over so many years, I begin to see a pattern in what makes me happy. And that seems to be why I've unknowingly sought out similar experiences throughout my life.
One of the most fond memories I have as a child is attending summer camp at Camp J.I.M. (Jesus Is Mine) by Brainerd, MN. And yes, the wooden water slide was a thrill at that young age! It was like riding a long wooden roller coaster on a board with metal wheels down into the water. One objective was to see how far we could skip across the water on the board.
As a young boy in elementary school, this place had special meaning to me. After the first year, I wanted to go back again and again. Why? Because it was an adventure away from home. Because It was an experience of independence from my parents, and from the routine that had established itself at home; going to school, doing homework, playing in the already familiar settings. But familiarity wasn't bad, because I loved the familiarity of the place. After a couple of years attending the week-long camp, it became like a second home, and that made it more special.
Summer camp was also where I learned how to swim. Obviously at a summer camp on a lake in MN, swimming is a big part of the daily activities. The older kids were models of what rewards came with learning to swim. The swimmers who could swim well enough and pass a test, could also swim out to the diving tower, anchored not to far out, but far enough that you had to know how to swim. By the end of the first week, me and my friends all managed to get out to the tower. The motivation was to be one of the one's who met the requirements, passed the test, and seen as a swimmer, not a non-swimmer, confined to the shallow end.
I also learned about many other interesting things, like the value of working hard, no matter what the job. We all had to do kitchen duty, which meant scraping the plates into the slop bucket. Even almost 40 years ago, I was thrilled to know that our scraps were not going to waste, but being fed to the local farm pigs. Somehow that made the job more fun for me and gave it purpose. My history has shown me that I am way more motivated by things with purpose. When many kids tried to get out of their duties, I even volunteered.
At Camp JIM, I also had my first exposure to a blind person in a wheel chair. He was an amazing man who played guitar and sang and had the spirit of God in him like nobody I ever knew. His awareness and smile made me feel special and alive. I learned that physical handicaps did not have to be a barrier to happiness. One day I was playing shuffleboard by myself and he came rolling by. I'm sure he heard the whir of the little clay disk zipping across the concrete, because he stopped to talk to me, his head cocked, smile wide, as if he was seeing me with his ears. He didn't ask me if there was anyone else there. He asked me my name, and if I was having fun.
I also learned compassion for other people and the value of friendship. At summer camp the pranks were never ending it seemed. I learned did not want to participate in pranks that embarrassed other kids. I did such a prank exactly once and my best friend was so mortified he would not talk to me. I spent the rest of camp and my life remembering the trust that friendship requires. When we reveal our inner fears and dreams to others, we need to feel like we will not be betrayed to those that would take advantage of us or mock us. Real friendship implies a deeper level of trust than we have with people we work with, go to school with or meet in our daily lives. Perhaps more than anything it was the friends that made summer camp so special.
There are many more experiences at this camp that are good memories, like the campfires, the singing and the learning. Someday I should write down all of my memories of summer camp. Maybe I should revisit this camp some day, since it is still there, giving kids memorable lifetime experiences. I have a feeling many of my favorite memories will be felt by other kids in the same way.

Posted by carl1236 at 6:51 AM | Journal in a Jar | Life

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February 4, 2010

Journal in a Jar

My wife gave me a challenging gift; a journal in a jar. This is a large jar filled with hundreds of little slips of paper. Each slip has a topic to write about. To use this gift I have to accept the challenge of writing a journal entry every day by drawing a slip from the jar and writing about the topic. I started this blog when UThink Blogs first began at the U of M. My goal then was to challenge myself to write every single day for an entire year, and I did it. It was an awesome experience. Even now after so many years, It amazes me that I still have one of the highest entry counts on this system. Anyway, that's another curiosity, but now with this gift, here I go. Hundreds of random subjects on little slips of paper that will reveal who I am, one day at a time, until this jar is empty. When the jar is empty am I done? Knowing my wife, she will secretly replenish the jar with new ideas.

Posted by carl1236 at 9:51 PM | Blogging | Journal in a Jar