Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As the World turns ...

Been another interesting day. Let's see, American Airlines declares bankruptcy and nobody seemed to care.  Mr. Cain is probably pretty much head shot, they call it "reassessing" but head shot still the same and, well, nobody really seemed to care for there has been way too much smoke thus one can assume there is at least an ember of fire somewhere in all of the smoke; now being "reassessed."  Riots in Iran and, well, nobody seemed to care.  The political rancour continues to escalate and the Newtser is rising in the polls so no doubt he will be "reassessing" soon in his defense and the President, is off, well, campaigning and well, for one, me, I really don't care, really!

I had an interesting question posed to me yesterday by a former university dean in a doctor's waiting room. He was eighty-six years old, very distinguished, quiet as was his wife that engaged the conversation.  When the connection was made of my teaching and his tenure, he asked me this question, "you are still a very vibrant, energy filled young man (thank you sir, I thought) and you have seen and experienced much in your (young --- thanks again) life so as you look at the students in your classes today, what do you think about our future.?"  The really interesting context to that question is that the same basic question was posed to me the day before that at my church so both questioners got the same response.

My response was clear, unequivocal and well targeted .... I retorted quickly that I have never been more encouraged about our future if I adjudge it by the calibre of students I get to work with semester after semester.  I further stated that the almost absence of the "nuclear family" model of post WWII is blatant with the great majority of my students coming from single parent, blended, multi-partner relationships, etc.  I went on to say that now with three grand daughters, I realize in my own daughter that daugthers look to their fathers to be the model by which they will select a life partner and thus I realize how badly fathers are failing wives and family.  I went on to talk about the unbelievable addiction to student loan debt to pay for a lifestyle beyond their real means but that they have watched their home economy operated exactly the same way thus the model is set.  My new friend was pleased with my comments about the future and told me to "teach every day you can until you can't for the world needs teachers that so deeply care about their students and their future as you so obviously do .."  I felt a tear well up as he walked through the door with his bride of fifty-six years.

All day today those words have stimulated my mind.  A student this semester, she knows who she is, received a text from me today thanking her for her maturity, her always be prepared and contributivness to the discussiona in class.  She promptly texted me back a thank you with the caveat, "what prompted me to think of her in that light .."  now, with this blog, she knows for I believe she is a microcosm of our tomorrow, I hope. 

These students bring much good and not good into the class room.  What they "drag" around is very much different than what I dragged around.  Family deterioration, societal values shredded, corruption on every hand ... where are the role models or the supposed templates for tomorrow's leaders? That, my friends, is a HUGE question for each of us to ponder heavily for we the adults generally are failing in our role to provide those models and incentives.

One thing this almost eight years of university teaching at seven different campuses at three different universities, in now 110 classes to nearly 7,000 students has given me is a qualified and quantified position on students as a societal component much as the "Baby Boomers" were, I am one, when I began my collegiate endeavor in the late 1960s.  This generation is the 21st century "Baby Boomers" that will make or break the century and it is my bet that they will make it better than we have made it. I see frustration, a common drug culture, an "entitlement" mentality abounding in the macro environment and the recessed economy as the backdrop to mountains of debt. Who wouldn't be depressed and dismal, right?  But what I see are students in every class and in every semester rising above all of that to be better and I applaud and praise each one for that drive.

The relatively short time I have with these "makers of tomorrow" is the most fascinating contact point of my life.  There is a great metaphor about this man walking the seashore picking up star fish that are littering the beach and individually tossing them back into the sea.  A man walks up and asked the tosser why is he doing that for there are so many to which the tosser replies, yes, but for each one I toss back into the sea, it makes a difference. 

I consider the joy of my life in getting to be that tosser of my students / starfish into the waters of competitiveness with a future they will have fight every step of the way to achieve... but they will. They better for they have my touch on their lives and that touch is God-inspired I believe.  So why do I spend inordinate amounts of time in developing courses that stretch and challenge? Because as the "tall tosser," each of my starfish are worth it so how could I not do the best I can for them for it is them that are future.

Think about the starfish on your beach once in a while and see about leaning over, picking one or two or seven thousand up and tossing them, with your blessing, into the waters of the future.  Trust me, it will make you feel pretty good about life in general and yourself specifically.  And already have nearly fifty new starfish signed up for Spring semester, I can hardly wait!  In the "tossing" that means to me not destroying the connection with the professor / student but quite the contrary, to establish a lasting partnership that both parties commit to for the duration. It is a capital investment and both partners should seek for  and strive for a positive return on that investment.

And yes, I really, really care!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Photos as a reflection

This morning my wife is out doing what she loves to do which is shop and I decided to clear many old presentations out of my computer files.  In searching the files I came across some older family photos that had been kept in a picture folder in my computer.  As I opened the folder with dozens of digital photos staring at me, I became mesmerized with how quickly time does slide by, how vital family is to one's existence and how crucial it is to find every opportunity to make a memory in those gifts' lives. 

The Monopoly games with Logan, now nine years old, attending the Canton Charge basketball game last night with Logan and Noah, age eight and their parents, letting Isabella, age seven, apply shave cream, her "marshmallow," to my face as I nervously lay on my back as she so gently took my razor and shaved me, see the glee in Ms Hope, now two years old, when she came into the house yesterday and was immediately the center of our world and last but not least, see how truly beautiful God has made Ms Gracie, now five years old and her animation ways; simply amazing.

At the game last night with 5,000 people there screaming wildly for their new team, I found myself watching families and how they interact with each other and again realized how precious my family is. To have my beautiful daughter sitting next to me with that smile that will light up a stadium warmed me all over.  Paul, her husband, blatantly loves her and she him and I was just enjoying warming by the fire of their love last night. Um um um!  Bless your heart my Southern friends like to say but you know, my heart was blessed!

Now that the Bird Day is behind and Santa time is on every one's mind, including the credit card companies especially, it is my hope that this Christmas will be a landmark for our family as each one is as I reflect.  Our home is all decorated which Alicia loves to do and, don't tell her, I love to watch the magic happen with the million tiny touches and adjustments to make it all just right.  Christmas is, after all, about the birth of our Lord and from that Gift we should celebrate the gift of love that can only come from within a family and especially if it is a family that all truly loves the Lord and seeks to do His Will.

See what old photos do to me; make me a big, babbling tear machine as I look at the smiles, the changes, the joy each have brought to our family culture; simply amazing!  Only a God that loves us could create something that keeps adding value for the short life we have on this earth but then when you realize what lies ahead just past life's horizon and knowing that is even better, we have it pretty good don't we? Yes we do!

Today, when you read this, regardless of what is going on in your world, look at your children, hold them, tell them you love them, let them beat you in Monopoly, show them you care!  I guess the more amazing phase of my life is that with each passing semester I do feel my family continues to grow as my students move down the road of their lives.  When I hear of a student that got their first job or a promotion, I am like a father that just gets overjoyed by that. I pray I never lose that joy!

Be blessed!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It is well, It is well, It is well with my soul ...

I awoke this morning from crazy dreams, which is normal it seems, fueled I believe with the chaos that seems to surround our world on every side.  The failed Super Committee made itself a microcosm of Man's inability to bring harmony to Man I realized as I went to bed. So with all the stock market ebbs and flows, mostly ebbs in the next few weeks, interest rates will no doubt head north, our nation's creditworthiness will be downgraded, the political rancor has poisoned any wellspring to calm and compromise, this song was on my lips so thank you God for words of songs that so soothe a tired, restless mind.

I advise leaders often when in the midst of the gunfire, they must develop the fortitude to lift their minds from the tracer and cordite to lift in a helicopter and hover about the field of battle to assess what is really happening to provide guidance for the combatants. I think that is why God gave me this old classic, wonderful song as a calming mechanism to this chaos in our world that will only increase in the near term. 

I personally, so you can know, think if our President and Pelosi, Boehner and the twelve Super Committee members truly loved our country, they would corporately stand before the cameras today, admit ineptitude and formally resign from their positions; seriously I do. I think the credit agencies and the markets and the MORAL FIBER of this nation would be strengthened with such a bold statement. But I will not hold my breath awaiting the lights to come up for that announcement but come 2012 there will be many lights come up in ballot boxes across this great land!  Me wishes it was 2012 now for this whole morass has cut deep and shown all the warts.  Wait, I am getting all angry again so am going to sing this great song once more this morning; you can as well for I believe we can all feel the strength and potency of the great lyrics as a warm shower flowing over us in that great assurance that, It is very well, with my soul! 









Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving Thanks

Have awakened early this Sunday morning for some reason.  It could very well be because I watched two hours back to back of VIETNAM IN HD before going to bed. I knew I should not have but, well, I did.  Earlier this week, for some reason, I recorded and later watched SAVING PRIVATE RYAN which I said I would never do again when I first saw in several years ago.  Alicia, my bride, went to bed early with the comment, "you know you should not be filling your mind with that junk for if you fill your mind with it you always dream about it!"  Well, as usual, she was right.

The entire night my mind was ablaze on Hill 937 in the A Shau Valley in 1969. No, I was not there but had many friends that some of which did not return. I vaguely remember Hamburger Hill but it was a distant noise to my 1969 mind so who cares, right?  The night after watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, I awoke about 0230 with my mind bursting with gratitude for people that were my age when I was a little boy like my father, uncles, a great friend Clarence Blasier who fought at the Battle of the Bulge, Kerwin Burgess who limped his entire life with a bullet wound at Normandy in his knee and on and on.  Why all this and especially this morning?  I have no clue other than that is how God has wired me.

There is this nagging, deeply rooted question or actually wish that has been inside me most of my adult life and simply stated, I wanted to and should have gone to Vietnam.  Yes, I served my country and was proud of that uniform, still am, but the training was never put to the ultimate test and as the years have flowed too swiftly that recurring reality still haunts me at times.  Alicia, my bride, has told me many times, not too nicely at times, that that is crazy, that knowing me, I would have been killed because I would have been the first one attacking a position, trying to help others, etc, but the fact remains that I will go to my grave feeling I did not do my part in not having been an operational element of my generation's war.

Having served seventeen years in the Army National Guard and served proudly, I was honored to command two tank companies and an armored cavalry troop.  In each command I had Vietnam veterans and oft I would feel this strange sense of emptiness inside as they would render me the hand salute, crisply refer to me as Yes Sir and No Sir and work harder than the others to learn the lessons and fully execute their training in action when called upon.  My admiration for each soared with each encounter trying to grasp and absorb how proud I was of each one.

As more and more of my student population are returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, many scarred in an array of ways physically and emotionally, those same feelings of having missed my war lurk just under the surface all the time.  When they refer to me as Yes Sir and No Sir,  I am simply humbled by what they have experienced and I have not but to this moment yearn to have experienced and yes, led, in Vietnam.

I guess for some of you reading this it sound sick and twisted by I feel, at times, almost tortured by the void in my life.  I did not have to go so why am I concerned about it now?  The short answer is, I have no answer to that but with each movie based on facts, with each interface with a true combat seasoned veteran, with each Fourth of July, with each hand salute when I see an American flag with each time I teach my grand kids how to come to attention and render the hand salute and cut it away sharply, there is this shadow that comes over me.

Those that know me would never have a clue of any of this but I guess, in this early morning and early awakening, I felt putting my thoughts to words was, perhaps, therapeutic.  I lost so many friends in Vietnam and some that came back are no doubt living with the demons to this day.  When I lock into the combat scenes in movies and documentaries, my mind is transcends to the smell of cordite, the zing of bullets, the glistening of tracer rounds in the night, the unmistakable sound of a Claymore doing its damage, the thud of incoming mortar, that eight second delay of a grenade before explosion, the smells, the sounds .... yes, at nearly sixty-four years old I wish I had experienced it live fire but it is highly likely I would not be sitting here in my home putting these deep thoughts to a computer screen but still real, deep and yearning. Crazy?  Probably!

My brother-in-law and my sister and their daughter will be visiting us from Alabama in a few days. He and I have never really discussed his valorous experience in Vietnam that made its way to the pages of LIFE magazine. Perhaps this will be the time in our history to have that open discussion finally!  So to your soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen serving today,  please know how much and how deeply I love you for what you have given this country can never repay.  I guess that is why when I see the videos of the Occupy Whatevers, being nice here, I get so emotionally angered for they do not represent me or the fabric of this great nation but, for the most part, Occupy the 20% of society that feel the world owes them something!  The world owes them nothing.  If they want a job, contact your local recruiter; they can help you!

I will close by being glad I have put these words from my heart to  this screen. Most of my students' fathers served in Vietnam and I can tell many of them are, well, scarred in so many ways in listening to their off spring tell of a war they never knew and could really care less about. It was my war. I lost friends there. I should have gone. I did not shirk my responsiblity to serve and served well I believe.

I should have gone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are you mad yet?

I found the article pasted below of special interest to me this morning.  Have you realized, yet, that  the natives our global village are angry?  From Johannesburg to Copehagen, from Beijing to Boston people are mad. The Occupy Thing (cannot find a better descriptor) is the tip of a festering sore for it is indicative of an angry people.  Too much government, too much debt, too much intrusiveness of regulations, too much everything ...!  So what is resulting in the "too much" litany is the crowding out of that which has made this country so great which is will, entrepreneurship and a WILL NOT BE BEATEN approach to everything as pioneers.

When I see my country sink into the same mire as countries I saw first hand in Europe with far too much entitlment programs meaning, for the most part, the government insuring that a person will be cared for from cradle to grave regardless of their real contribution to the economy and to society, it irks me greatly. For example, I was watching a TV commercial yesterday of this stupid little cartoon character telling us that even if you have $20,000 in back taxes due, they can magically get that figure down to $1,600.  My mind processed that as that is $18,400 of more taxes or borrowing to pay for some idiot that chose to not pay his or her taxes. We whine and moan about the tax structure, and each is worthy of each whine and moan no doubt, but I have this nagging sense that if people would do what they know they are supposed to do, the current tax code would probably still produce the revenues needed to fund government. The issue, then, I believe, is TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT. 

I watch the commercials about the poor Postal workers paid for by the poor Postal workers Union, telling us the problem is not theirs but the government so the government is challenged to entitle them to pay unearned and jobs protected that do not need protected.  When now over 80% of mail is junk mail, why should it be delivered on Saturday? Explain that to me, please!  The fact is that the mail system which has been around for two hundred years is refusing to accept that the internet has changed their playing field.  The game changed .... so find a new game! It really is that simple.

I have a great friend that is actively involved in the teacher union in my home state of Alabama so I have been tapping that fervor to get the union perspective of how to fix the issue. The basic response has been, well, more money is needed from the State / taxpayers.  Not a process to assess what is really needed for our future to be learning, not a systemic approach to teacher effectiveness and thus teacher removal if deemed a poor performer but more money is the fix, man!  No, it is not for like the tax issue, I am more convinced than ever that, even flawed, if enforcement of what we have in place now was reestablished, the right things would happen.  Instead, we are beckoned to throw it all out, throw more money at the problem and wish for the best. The best cannot be wished for for the best must be earned and thus deserved. 

So am I mad? I must admit Yes, I am!  Hope you are also for the train is acceleratng down the track of destruction fueled by more and more mountains of other people's money. Whomever owns your debt OWN YOU AND YOUR FUTURE. NEVER forget that! 

Technocrats and democracy

Have PhD, will govern

Nov 16th 2011, 11:20 by J.L.P. and S.C.

THE markets first welcomed, then worried about the appointment of academic economists as prime ministers of Greece and Italy. Much political commentary traced the same trajectory. But the technocratic response to the euro’s problems is only part of a wider reaction to the financial and economic crisis: in many countries, the crisis has paralysed significant parts of the political system, leading to innovations and improvisations that try to short-circuit or patch up the normal working of democracy.

Perhaps the best example of this is the so-called “super committee” in the United States. Normally, all fiscal decisions are made by Congress, with the approval of the president. But by November 23rd, a special committee made up of three Democrats and three Republicans from each house of Congress, has to slice a mammoth $1.5 trillion off the budget deficit over ten years. Congress must then vote on whatever the super committee proposes—but may only accept or reject the plan as a whole. It may not amend the plan or vote on individual items, as is usual. And if Congress rejects the package, or the super-committee fails to come up with one, then the $1.5 trillion of cuts will be imposed automatically. American politicians, despairing of their inability to reduce the deficit in normal ways, have put a gun to their own heads. There have been partial precedents in American history but nothing quite like this.

In Europe, meanwhile, technocratic prime ministers are only the highest-ranking experts being recruited to help balance budgets and reform economies. Italy not only has an economics professor as prime minister (Mario Monti), it has also agreed that the IMF should scrutinise its reform programme. Greece has accepted that a troika of the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission (the European Union’s glorified civil service) should supervise its austerity measures. So have Ireland and Portugal. Spain is an especially revealing case. On the face of it, its democracy is working as usual.

The country is due to hold an election on November 20th and, if the polls are correct, the conservative Popular Party will unseat the ruling Socialists. Yet at the same time, the current government has agreed upon a series of economic targets with the European Commission, and in practice the PP’s leader, Mariano Rajoy, will have to take these targets as a guide to policy, even if he dislikes them (which, admittedly, he doesn’t).

Ordinarily, democracies seek public support for the policies they pursue and have various ways of mobilising that support, of which elections are the most important. But there are special reasons why the ordinary processes of mobilising the public should be strained at the moment. In euro-zone countries, the currency itself is unpopular. According to a recent poll by the German Marshall Fund, a think tank, 53% of people in countries that use the euro think the single currency has been bad for their national economy, against only 40% who think it has been a net plus. It is hard to rally the public behind austerity programmes at the best of times; even harder to solicit their support for measures to bolster a currency they do not like.

Unsurprisingly, politicians have sent for outsiders to stiffen their resolve—and now have someone else to blame for the austerity measures they are imposing.

The special factor in America is the dysfunctionality of the political system. The past decade or so has seen a growing use of delaying tactics in Congress—such as the filibuster and so-called “hold” on appointments, so that decisions that were once largely formal or administrative have become mired in politicised controversy. This is the opposite of the problem in Europe, where the emergence of technocrats is supposed to make decision-making less partisan. But it is still a problem, as was seen in the disastrous wrangle over raising the national debt ceiling—an argument which ended in the downgrade of American sovereign debt. House Republicans have said they will not compromise with the president. But since the American political system requires a measure of compromise to work (and since the Republicans have a majority in the House of Representatives), parts of the legislative processes have almost seized up. This is likely to get worse during election year.

America and Europe share a common problem: the economic and financial crisis has discredited mainstream politicians. The right is popularly seen as the party of the rich, too close to unpopular bankers, and responsible for the financial deregulation of the 1980s which, on some accounts, was the source of all the trouble. But the left, which might have expected to have benefited from a capitalist meltdown, is no better off. Centre-left governments, at least in Britain and America, are also compromised by their earlier friendliness to finance and the left is seen as having been profligate, running up the debts that austerity is now needed to rein in. The result is that whereas in the early years of the crisis, the left was doing better in America and the right better in Europe (an echo of the 1930s), now there seems no pattern, except growing opposition to incumbents.

The Democrats won in America in 2008, while conservatives won in Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands in 2010. But America’s forthcoming elections are anyone’s guess. By most opinion polls, the favourability ratings for both big American parties, as well as for Congress, have reached record lows while opposition to congressional incumbents are at all-time highs (and rising). In Europe this year, the left won the Danish election and the French Socialists are ahead of the incumbent president, but the Spanish right is ahead of the ruling Socialists.

Exhaustion with the normal process of party politics explains why technocrats are being brought in. Usually, democracies are better at dealing with financial crises than autocracies because they are seen as fair. Elected politicians can distribute the pain of austerity without losing legitimacy because people (it is hoped) will accept tough reforms that are seen as legitimate. But if all the main parties are complicit in causing a crisis, the public may not accept solutions from any of them. Then, the system needs to find alternatives unblemished by the disastrous decisions of the past-and technocrats fit the bill.

But therein lies a danger. Almost by definition, technocrats command respect rather than popularity: they tend especially to drive the far left and right further to the extremes. And at the moment, the only politicians who are unquestionably thriving are those outside the mainstream already. Gerd Wilders’s populist Freedom party leapt to third in the Dutch election in 2010 and is now running second in the polls. Its Austrian equivalent, also called the Freedom party, is running neck and neck with the ruling party, while France’s National Front stands to do well in next year’s elections. As always, America is different. But the rise of the Tea Party Movement and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations suggests that frustration with established parties is a growing force there, too. The rise of the “occupy” crowd, evicted from their Zucotti park site in New York in the early hours of November 15th, is especially important because its members are motivated by concern about social and income inequalities.

Technocrats may be good at saying how much pain a country must endure, how to make its debt level sustainable or how to solve a financial crisis. But they are not so good at working out how pain is to be distributed, whether to raise taxes or cut spending on this or that group, and what the income-distribution effects of their policies are. Those are political questions, not technocratic ones. And they will not go away just because a technocrat has been made prime minister.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dreams ...

The whole concept of dreams has always left me in awe. When I read of how many times God would speak to people through dreams, I cannot escape wondering if that is still not the case today for us at times.  It is just after 0400 on a Sunday morning and so very bright outside with the full moon.  I awoke from a most interesting dream that has so affected me but not in a bad way.

In this mental movie, I am in a cramped airplane seat next to the window and the ride is very bumpy with lights dimming and then back to bright with this sense of doom on the filled flight.  However, my mind is not at all caught up in that worry for there is this man and his wife, older than I, sitting near me.  She is wearing a bright red dress and both are smiling longingly at each other. It is, well, sweet and poignant in the midst of the impending doom the others while I and the couple are allowed on this island of joy for a few fleeting moments.  I did not know them but knew they were the parents of a student I had had recently or perhaps the parents of a dear friend killed in Vietnam that I have often wondered how life has gone for them since their son, my best friend, was taken from us all at eighteen years old.

Cramped in my seat and clutched in my hands due to the shaking aircraft, I am taking plastic collar stays out of a small hard plastic container they usually are sold in.  These strips are white but with statements or sayings laser printed on them.  One of sayings I am looking at reads, "the best two things that ever happened to me was you (the wife) and my Chevrolet.  I look up and see the man and realize he is dead yet sort of like a mist with the brightest smile.  I am taken with the warmth and sincerity of his smile for he is speaking to his wife through his words on the plastic strips and through me as the reader of these strips to his wife. 

I can tell they are so in love and she is so sad, now, but with this glowing smile as the departed husband has returned to tell her special little things he had failed to express while he was alive and together.  Their smile at each other was breathtaking, so warm and so intent for I knew that was the only remnant of a long time together; the smile! Then I realized I was crying one of those very hard, deep cries yet constrained to be the best I could be for this couple as the plane apparently angles toward destruction in this storm.  There are dozens of the white strips in the plastic case. My tears woke me!

Now Freud would probably have a field day with that scenario and that dream could well be ash heaped like the thousands of dreams I have had in my life.  I dream a great deal and always have but this one was, well, unique in some many ways. The fact I remember so vividly is what is most significant.  Just now as I write this, a train is passing close by, fitting I guess, and the lonesome sound of the quieted whistle seems appropriate to my mood right now.

Why the plane, the plastic strips, the detachment from the rest of the passengers were feeling in their panic while I and these two people I did not even really know were somehow extracted from that chaos to have a few shared last moments with each other via me reading sayings from the departed husband to his long time bride?  Guess that will be unanswerable but what is has done is pushed me into the mental nature and assessment of my own life that departed man was feeling as his time with his bride was apparently fleeting. 

I saw only warmth, joy, love and fulfillment with two people in the midst of a crashing world. Wow! And I was allowed to be part of it, Double Wow!  And the tears that were flowing were tears of joy that they were given those last few moments together for him to share, through me in those strips, words he wanted to have expressed to her during their life together.

The application ... I have no clue professionally what it might mean and perhaps nothing is one answer.  Yet as my wife and I race toward forty-one years together and we are both busy with our lives, our work, our church, our family, the dream has alerted me that none of that qualifies as a valid excuse for hours and days of busied silence between two people God joined four decades ago.   There are, I realize sitting here this morning, a million things (strips) of dialog that have grown dusty or rusty from non-use or buried in the recesses of the, I Should Have Told Her This bin before it is too late.  I sit here realizing that to most people in my world, I am pretty open about my thoughts and opinions and ideas but within my own family and with my wife I am not as open and free flowing in my expressions (the strips) so the question, what are you doing with your strips or are you writing them onto a piece of plastic, storing them for "one day" before that plane does crash and somebody like me in the dream is taking out each strip to read to Alicia for me?

This weekend, and it is only early  Sunday morning,  I have learned of a divorce of two dear friends my wife and I went through our early lives together with in junior high and high school.  This week we have learned of a young man that has come forth to openly explain a life of sexual abuse by a "friend" that has scarred him for life.  This week I have found myself dealing with a problem student in striving to give this young man one possibly last chance to learn to work with others and to enhance his own self image all of this in an environment of anger and frustration with those around him. I had to try once more before his "plane" crashed. This morning at church will be three students of mine attend from discussions God has provided that has opened up a gateway to the importance of having good people around you in a spiritual environment; I could not be more happy about this this morning in a few hours. I got to spend a full day with two of my grandchildren Friday going to a really stupid movie, eating way too much popcorn but loving every moment with these nine year old and six year old precious gifts God has presented me. So my life is rich and so taken for granted I realized with my dream.

So you are probably thinking I have finally lost my mind or he is just tired or whatever your diagnosis of the dream, the fact is that I have been convicted by the strips of how much I do not say to the person I have been with since we were twelve years old.  Never did I deserve her, never was I good enough for her, so many times I have taken her for granted, disappointed her and not been as transparent with my life with her as I should have been been.   I have far too many "strips" in my plastic case that need to be said earnestly and tenderly before we are that airborne husband, now departed I realize, and his bride swelled with love and glowing with the words he always wanted to tell her but could now through me as I read the strips.

So I guess my blog today qualifies as a love letter to my Bride.  So her Groom via this message to my friends is a commitment or a recommitment to throw the strips away and just say to her what I want to say and realize she longs to hear from me as she is blissfully sleeping now that it is almost 0500.  So many people in my life and I realize each of them has brush stroked their unique color on my painting, my life.  Combat veterans scarred physically and emotionally, abused men and women by spouses and boy friends / girl friends,  students from dysfunctional families that feel nobody cares for or about them that flow into my life and roll around like sand in the ocean of my life. With each of those grains of sand I realize I give more time and energy to others in seeking to help, to ease, to lift than I do the woman of my youth! 

I need to end this but what is the essence of my thoughts still so vivid this morning from that dream?  I suppose the real nugget is to assess what is really important in your life through the lens of those placed around you that truly love you and care for you and want the very best for you. And then  go about finding ways to express your love, your appreciation in colors or hues of realness and not assumptions or smoke signals.  Commit when you read this to finding three people in your life that mean more to your life, that real you, than any other and in words, not strips, why they qualify as one of those three, please! 

Change begins with that first step so make that first step in your own aircraft banging through life on a crash trajectory worthy of the people most impacting on your life.  Today that will be my wife, my daughter and my son.  Tomorrow will be three more and then the next tomorrow.  In other words, throw the strips away and use the words with the person before your plane takes its death rattle.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sex! Do I have your attention? Yup, believe I do

I have been dazzled, overwhelmed, sickened and amazed about that always controversial topic that has been splashed on every TV screen around the world, has chewed up mountains of blogosphere missives but in the midst of it all, it has caused me to take pause to, yet again, reflect.  Berlusconi, Cain,  Sandusky, Paterno, Lohan, Moe, Larry and Curly (those are the Three Stooges for my younger readers) are part of the recipe of a world seemingly gone sexually and scandalously mad.  So you must but ask yourself about how can something given by a loving God as a gift to His creation be made so cheap and sickening?

I have, as many of you, watched the two accusers of Mr. Cain and then watched his lawyer-led defense and found myself at first angry, then accepting his premise of non-guilt but then rationalizing that the numbers of those adding kindling to this fire, the four, at least, have to surely be the source of a real fire somewhere in this man's past!  I felt he did an admirable job before the cameras but then the pundits were already disassembling what he really said and did not say before the camera lights cooled so a whole new set of thoughts were unleashed. 

As I sit here still in the morning yet unlit with the sun, true or not true, how true or not true the matter is, there has to be some shred of truth to it, the sexual whatever you wish to call it for there has some root structure of truth.  So I guess the question is begged, do we expect too much of our politicians when it comes to morality, perseverance, honor?  My very quick answer is absolutely not! I do not think we hold them to a high enough standard.

Every man, if normal, has found himself doing self examination of his own life when these TV lights splash on the shores of questioning a man's integrity and I think that a good thing, really!  Sex, like technology, is both a gift and a burden much like pushing that rock of the hill.  You learn early that three things sell; sex, kids, and animals.  Think about that in your commercial review of your favorites and realize that most commercial marketing use one or more of those three to get the message of creating the perception of need planted into your brains, right?

Never will I forget being in Europe during most of the Bill Clinton / Monica Lewinsky debacle the impeachment hearings I watched on black and white, small screen TV in a hotel room in Slovenia and being both intrigued by the process but sickened by my national image being demeaned.  But was further amazed to realize the nationals I was dealing with were actually more angry at Congress for going after the US President for that behavior is so normal in their cultures. Was amazed and baffled at the same time; still am!

So my mind, this morning, has come to rest on the banks of the river of boundaries.  Life without boundaries is life in chaos.  A prima dona I claim not to be nor should any of us. As a professor working with men and women every day,  I am still awed by the vital nature of establishing boundaries in behaviors, expectations and demands for performance.  There will always be someone that will seek to infringe across a boundary that once crossed can never been returned to its original standing. Can I get a witness?  So establishing boundary markers in life and then holding to them regardless of motivation, perceived need, etc are vital to the order of life in a society.

So the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, while a commodity in today's hyper-connected, sex-driven, celebrity-inspired world is now more "normal", the fact is that we are bound by a common code and DNA and that is the Adamic sin nature from Eden.  We know it, it is there, it must be controlled at all cost for the collateral damage to friends, family, reputations and lives is immeasurable when that boundary marker is forsaken.  Please know that I am certainly not preaching down to anyone for we all wrestle and struggle with this matter daily but in the struggle, strength is gained or lost with the choice isn't it?

I will close by stating from the depths of my heart that I have felt and feel daily the gravity of respect that is so vital as a professor, a singer, a follower of Christ,  a husband, a father, a grandfather to know the boundaries, live within those boundaries and guard against encroachment across those boundaries by outside forces.  Mind you this is easy to write about but not always easy to maintain. 

As stated above, sex, like technology, has a good purpose and utilization as does technology.  So when we are bombarded by the media hype of accusers, defenders, lawyers, etc, integrate and assess your own principles and boundary markers that keep your own personal life moving forward. So today when that big Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil jumps up in front of you, admire its beauty, marvel at its creation but step beyond it for many are watching.  Who would have thought the sparkle of Joe Paterno would be tarnished in his mid-eighties but tarnished it is.

Seek daily to live a life before God and before Man that is blameless, clean and holy.  Writes easy but not always lived out as easily is it?  But, as has been said many times, life is a choice so choose well! Why, because those that are of most importance to your life and to your testimony are vigilant in their observance of your actions much more than mere words.   I am reminded of an old Christianism

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sabre rattling!

Friday morning my daughter calls with this pained tone to her voice asking, "Pops, is it true that Israel is going to bomb Iran? ..."  To say that that statement was a bit rattling to me coming from my daughter would be an understatement.  However, if you have been around me much in the last three years, you have probably heard me speak to this very subject for it has cataclysmic implication.

As the Arab Spring turned into Arab Summer and now into Arab Autumn, I thought that has never been too far from my mind is a simple question ... why has Israel remained so low profile and seemingly disassociated with the Arab whatevers?  It certainly is out of the norm for Israel to remain "dormant" militarily on any opportunity as we have witnessed even in Biblical days but as recently as the three Arab wars of 1967, 1970 and 1973.  In this context,  I have made the further assertion that I would bet my teeth America has "mortgaged the farm" in a host of ways to keep Israel in the low profile, non aggressive mode with so much opportunity abounding around her.  I still think that to be the case!

Iran is, well, the force in the region with huge oil reserves, nuclear power with belief that that power is being turned into bomb grade plutonium (I agree) but with a faltering economy, a firebrand president and dominated by a theocratic cleric that seems to serve as the saucer of coolness to keep the Iranian president somewhat at bay. Somewhat! But it is that same president that has publicly touted the strategy to have Israel removed from the map so that makes him and thus Iran a powerful ignition cap to a regional and probably a multi-regional military intervention.  The potential of such an aggressive posture is immeasurable.  Iran must, at some point, be dealt with either, and hopefully through, diplomatic channels or or and / or military force.

So here is my concern at this juncture .... the US military is stretched, exhausted and costing too much to maintain for the economic engines to feed that need are running on very few cylinders which is our GDP growth; tepid is an understatement.  So should military intervention be the hammer for the Iranian nail, we would end up borrowing billions additional of dollars from China to fight in a regional war. Hum, really makes you sick, doesn't it?

Now then there is NATO that has fought a valiant (tongue in cheek) air campaign in Libya which is much like the 82nd Airborne taking on Dover, OH and now that the NATO stand down, declaration of victory, has begun, NATO has now formed a circular firing squad and are firing away at each other for glory, spoils, etc. NATO --- for me is the post WWII joke of the 21st century. So I doubt, therefore, NATO a viable intervention force should hostilities unleash on / in Iran.

So, America is a weak sister, NATO is sick ugly cousin, so what does that leave the world to calm this intervention with global implication?  Also, as I have spoken about many times because of my many times in Turkey and feel a sense of knowing the Turkish culture to some degree, I believe Turkey can become an Islamic force. But wait, let us not forget they ONLY major economy on earth now with actual cash assets which is China as a major economic, political and, I believe, military player on the world's map boards!  China is showing projection, force forward, tremendous naval buildup with air assets so one cannot ignore China as a player in our new century. So from my chair as the sun hides on the horizon of a beautiful day, I have this sense that we will see Turkey and China work more energetically in the entire Arab region.  Why? They both have money and political capital and large military force structures. 

So to my daughter, I told her I did not see anything in the near term with Israel having to fly over much territory and unfriendly airspace to lash out at Iran even though there is no doubt that there are many scenarios on the walls of Israel's war machine to accomplish just that.  Think about this.  Go get a map of the Middle Eastern region and see what Israel would have to do, geographically, to assault with air asset Iran meaning an eastern thrust.  First, there is no friendly air space for Israel to use for refueling, Command & Control, etc.  BUT, if you look North, you see Eastern Turkey up there with Incirlik air base with already existing US military infrastructure that could possibly be the C&C point for a southward assault into Iran from the North. Just sayin!

So Turkey is a player, major player with a free market economy, a democratic government, strong alliances in the Middle East and Europe and with the US. Turkey is a player. China, cash rich, colonial minded is, well a player.  Turkey and China have very good relations. So Turkey and China are players; players now with the clout to create kinetic force forward or calming. They are players as America and the EU are, well,  lesser players in our new century.

Interesting world isn't it?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Remember that messenger, you know, the one that got shot?

As the day brightens this November day, I just turned the TV on to CNN since I awoke at 0500 and all I hear is about Herman Cain, leaking, baseless charges, unraveling, etc, etc, etc.  The supposed "leaker" has now denied any knowledge so As the World Turn or like sands through the hour glass, so are the Days of Our Lives ... Are you feeling the love this morning?

So as Athens burns down, as Greece will no doubt exit or be kicked out of the European Union which will bring global reverberation negatively in the markets, will rattle the very foundation of what we know as the EU, we hear only about leaks, baseless, blah, blah, blah.  So where am I going with this today?

If one chooses to run for POTUS (President of the United States) then one chooses to have his or her life opened even for generations before their birth.  All the hoopla is about a leak, outing, but the fact is, admittedly, Cain did have issues with real life, real time women in his past as the head of a major organization, lawyers involved, money passed, confidentiality or gage orders established SOOOO the issue, then, is not the leak but the fact, right? 

My students hear me time and time again speak to what they do with their lives, their bodies, their hopes are all based on choices; right ones and wrong ones and with each bad choice are bad consequences.  We ALL can wax poetic of bad choices and bad consequences in our own lives. So the issue, really, is less about it coming out some time in the future but in not making bad choices to begin with, right?

So right or wrong, politically or not, Mr. Cain is reaping the harvest he sowed; we all have sowed seeds we hope never to come to harvest but if you sow, you will reap, right?  If it sounds like I am preaching, well, I am preaching for I see the scars of bad choices every day of my life as you do also if you are honest with yourself. Please, be honest with yourself!

With all the craziness of our world which has always been filled with craziness, it really comes down to one thing, one person, YOU as to the decisions you make, the choices you choose and the impending result of those decisions and choices, doesn't it? So as we watch the skewering of a POTUS candidate under the hot lights of the cameras, that is all part of the dance. This will blow over soon but there will be a next and a next and a next; c'est la vie (that is life).  But the root question is what do you want your life to be, to reflect, to project, to be spoken about after this life is over for you and  I think all of those questions form the boundary markers of this thing called life.  They, therefore, frame one's values and it is your values that will anchor or project a person I have learned and learned many times at the infamous University of Hard Knocks; have a PhD in those knocks.

But I will close my thought for this day with this reality in my own learning journey.  Wisdom is a matter of the heart. Knowledge is a matter of the brain or the hard wiring of your God-created computer.  Wisdom comes when Knowledge is applied to a situation, bad or wrong things happen as a result and you learn, with the heart, Wisdom, NOT to repeat that Knowledge-driven action a second time.  Does that seem simple yet logical?  It does to me!

Today, make some really RIGHT CHOICES for we the villagers of the global region are really in need of some really right choices by you and the other seven billion inhabitants. But it all starts with one; that is YOU!  Be blessed this day!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

As the sun goes down ....!

Simply amazed all over again at the beauty of God's creation! As the sun starts its movement to the other hemisphere, the golden leaves and bright reds of a fading Fall seem to explode through my windows.   Have not felt too good last few days but that is getting better, thank you antibiotics, and I am not hurting, my family loves me, I am blessed so I am probably the richest man I know right now.

Have chosen to not watch much television today but have meandered through many magazines and newspapers from around the world via my laptop.  I have had teachers who would no doubt be turning over in their graves if they knew I would glean great joy from those meanderings.   When I realize in a mental flash during a lecture I will hear myself say something to my classes and in that wink of time will recall having heard Mrs. Baker or Mrs. Warren or Mrs Braswell  or Ms Tatum and the list elongates quickly say something that locked into my hardware, it amazes me all over again at  the impact teachers have on people for generations.

We live in a world that is bombarded with messages from an array of sources that can lift, drop, create fear and havoc, change a day in a breath thus the reality of a globalized, hyper-connectivity universe in which we now reside.  Yesterday, a true communications professional and great friend, Sue Grabowski, spoke to my class as she does to all classes I teach for her input is vital and her example sterling to those young minds.  She has crafted her presentation to facilitate transitioning into a time at the end of the class to talk to the students about life, Facebook, social networking, resumes and what employers are seeking.  It is a treasure to me to watch how the classes engage in that discussion. 

It is always fun for me, knowing it is coming, when she unloads both barrels on the stupidity and negative implication of some of the junk people post to FB. I say, AMEN!  It is further interesting when a student or two will challenge her unloading with the tepid defense of it is "their right" to post whatever they want with no consequence.  How dumb!

As semesters flow by like a cascading fountain, students face many things both good and bad and I can share myriad stories of each category.  But here is the reality check for today's blog ... shooting oneself in the foot to be cute today that will impact a tomorrow ranks right up there with stupid. I trust you agree.  I have found FB to be a tremendous media platform in so many ways with encouragement being very near the top of the list.  FB also gives me insight into issues in my students' lives when you get to know the student personally.  I believe FB is a great tool but like any tool or technology, it can be and is misused. 

FB is an indelible mark on your future so being cute or rebellious today can have dire circumstances when wanting an employer to reach out to you.  You can know that when a position is to be filled that FB is one of the initial filters employers use to begin the screening process.  Use the technology, any technology, to your advantage.  Marketing is creating the perception of need!  So FB  can be a great marketing tool ... or not so choose wisely, please!

So I close as the brilliance of the sunset is astoundingly beautiful by saying that life is good so seek to enjoy it for can so quickly change or go away.  If you are a student I have had or have now, please know that every word of this is intended for your betterment for you are part of my ever expanding family so I want only the very best for my family.  In other words, do not choose to be stupid!