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30th of April

What it Means to You.


Churchill_Downs_Kentucky_Derby_

The Kentucky Derby has always been enshrouded in mystery for me. Words like Churchill Downs and Garland of Roses and Mint Juleps all have sounded mystical and awe-inspiring since I was a boy.

Reading stories like Hunter S. Thompson’s “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” and seeing images of horse & rider standing in winner’s circle talking to the media was exciting to say the least.

There’s always been a warm sentiment in the air in Kentucky (and around the nation) on that first Saturday in May. Whether it be the ever-warming Springtime temperatures or the sunshine that escapes just a little earlier in the morning and lasts a tad bit later into dusk, the human spirit comes alive and escapes a cocoon of sorts, I believe.

I have lots of memories tied to the timing of this event each year. And all of it has to do with life and very little to do with the race itself. Case-in-point: I’ve never been to a Kentucky Derby.

There I said it.

I lived in Kentucky most of my life (even just an hour away from Louisville at one point), and I’ve never been to the Derby. Sad, but true.

But, it’s the events that have surrounded the horse race that have made my attachment to this time of year so strong!

Friends getting married and having Kentucky Derby-themed weddings–thank you Rebecca DeSensi Sivori!–to hearing My Old Kentucky Home played at Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, while THE RACE itself was happening just an hour away have had their lasting effects on me.

Seeing tall hats, seersucker suits, and smelling cigars permeating the air at Keeneland made me long to be at the race each Spring!

But the event that helped tie it all together was the 133rd Kentucky Derby – 2007. It stands alone in comparison to the others, says the guy who’s never been!

Why?

Simple.

It was the day Queen Elizabeth II visited Churchill Downs.

…And May 5th was also the day my wife-to-be and I were on a trail at Dale Hollow State Park.

(I remember the rain, mud, and asking her to marry me.)

She was patient that day (and, thankfully, she still is even in 2015). The Derby was in the background, at the northern part of the state. We were traversing the backwoods of southern Kentucky, as the rain continually fell.

But, this memory, like so many other Derby-time memories stands out vividly. They seem to all possess a life-altering aspect somehow.

Warmer weather. Re-birth. Life. Engagement.

Maybe one day I’ll own up to the tragedy that is –> never pit-stopping in Louisville on the first Saturday in May. I’ve been told it’s unthinkable to have lived almost 3 decades in dear Bluegrass country and never seen the race in-person…Witnessed Calvin Borel’s magic…Met Michael Jordan. Etc.

But to all this I say, it’s    still    been    magical  — just from afar.

God has blessed us. Besides, I might wear that top hat yet.

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28th of April

Acting Out.


f

The word riot (noun) is – a wild disturbance from a large crowd. But did you also know it can be a noun used to reference ‘unrestrained laughter’? To say someone is a riot is to reference their hilarity, their good qualities.

Riot – originating from Medieval Latin riota which means “quarrel, dispute, uproar” was first seen in 13th century times. But, of course, these actions were seen way before the 1200s. Because, we as people, have been messing up long before the USA even existed.

Another example of riot sometimes implies people creating havoc for ‘a common purpose‘ together. Think, Boston Tea Party – 12/16/1773. (2.5 years before Independence Day.)

Today, my thoughts are with the Baltimoreans.

Just because a word (or, phrase) is coined from a previous language and integrated into our current system of speak, doesn’t mean the actions weren’t present well before words were on-hand.

I know we have a range of readers, and I appreciate all of you each week. Today, I just wanted to discuss the inevitability of imperfections running rampant on our streets.

Whether they be U.S. streets or a small, dirt-packed trail worn by foot traffic in Zimbabwe, we all have an affinity for messing up. Again, I couldn’t help but admire the courage of those trying to regain order in the news footage.

The mom who literally whipped her kid in public did what a great mom should: love. Maybe a little bit late? Maybe in a less than ideal environment? But, hey, it’s there. It’s present in her eyes. She’s not letting him get away. Sure, he (and others) might go unnoticed by law enforcement and the public’s eye, but she’s a reminder that he knows what actionswhat riots can do when loved ones are hurt.

For some of us, watching a riot video “from home” might be as close as we ever come to this action. For others, just yesterday, you were on the front lines maybe tempted to pick up a rock and hurl it at someone. Loot CVS.

I hope not.

Either way, the choice remains yours at the end of each day.

To make your world, family, and loved ones better by being “the riot of the party” and uniting others in a greater purpose, the greatest cause–love,

or,

to threaten others with quarrels, disputes, and violence for violence’s sake.

Baltimore is just our current, 4/27/2015 example of hate winning out. Let’s turn the other cheek from here all the way to Zimbabwe today, 4/28/2015, and show others (no matter the cost of appearing weak) that love trumps evil every time.

Even if it doesn’t look that way from the television screen.

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27th of April

Battling Back.


-m

A good portion of our lifetime is spent in a season of battling back.

Whether it’s from injury

from a relationship

a career

or, maybe all of the above and then some…

We wrestle with the fatigue of “breaking even” during the course of our lives.

Case-in-point, for me:

I spend a good chunk of each calendar year trying to stave off the viciousness that is diabetes (Cue up Wilfred Brimley commercials about Liberty Medical and their testing supplies, you know the ones.).

But seriously, it consumes a large part of my life. I picked it up at age 20, and so, this summer will be 10 years with Type 1, or, what is commonly known as juvenile onset diabetes.

I say consumes, because it requires a ton of working out and meal balancing. The pancreas doesn’t function as it should (or, in Type 1’s case, at all). So, to compensate for this lack of digestion, I try to eat less of those evil carbohydrates. (Hopefully this didn’t put an image from Austin Powers in your head. But, what if I said, “Carbs are the enemy” with a Scottish accent, I’m sure the image is there now. You’re welcome!)

…Tons of workouts, a reduction of carbos, and we’re only getting started. Items such as fatigue, stress, and etc., all work in clever ways to reduce an already weakened immune system. So, it results in what feels like battling up an already steep hill (in life, work, play). I liken diabetes to now battling up that same steep hill, except there’s a steel wagon wheel attached to my back and the hill has Tremors below the surface. (Yes, just like the ones that came after our friends Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire in the 80s classic.)

Therefore, I wanted to share this very real life struggle with you, and say it, say all of this, to say: You aren’t alone.

Life throws curve balls, sliders, change-ups, knuckle balls, and splitters at all of us.

But sometimes…not all the time…and on good days there’s the occasional fastball. It comes right down the middle of the plate at a cool 92 mph, and you are able to connect and knock the laces off.

That’s what I want you to read (and hear) today. Take that truth with you wherever you go.

Sure, there are a slew of other analogies I could give that might connect with you more deeply than Wilford Brimley, Reba, and baseball, but it’s a start!

God can handle the awkward pitches and uncomfortable moments. Really. Truthfully.

But, just know that straight pitches are ahead as well. There are good days, and I say relish in those and enjoy them.

They (these moments of joy) make the darkness all the more bearable. When there’s a strong light that you can focus on, it’ll help you get through the caverns of life. So, whether you have to buy medical supplies today for a sick family member, or, you yourself are battling back from a tough start this year, just know that good times are coming.

Additionally, on a perfect health day, I relish:

Oldies music (60s motown) and good coffee (Rwandan, if you have it).

What about you? What brings up your spirits and makes a day the best it can be? Is it music, or, a great book? A hug from a dear friend?

Here’s to your health and discovering God’s love, as you battle back into the count. I pray you have a perfect pitch somewhere along today. And when you do, swing with all your might.

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23rd of April

Fill_in_the_Blank.


kittens-in-a-pot

Here’s a Fill-in-the-Blank Story Game I play at home, in hopes of getting a new pet one day:

The Perfect Pet
If I could have any animal as a pet I would chose a
__cat________ (noun) because they are ___fat_______
(adjective) and ___lazy_______ (adjective) and can
__purr___ (verb). I wouldn’t want a __snake____ (noun)
for a pet because they are __sneaky_____ (adjective). If I had
a __cat___ (noun) I would name it__Pat_____ (name). I
would also teach it to __watch TV___ (verb), __play dead__
(verb) and other tricks. If I couldn’t have a ___cat___
(noun) I hope my (wife) would let me at least get a
___bat___ (noun). They are __loud____ (adjective) but
still __exciting___ (adjective) to play with.
Pet Poem which follows as a result of Fill-in-the-Blank Story Game:
Pat the Cat –
Pat the Cat
is quite fat
and lazy
and tries to purr
She isn’t like a snake
because snakes are sneaky
Pat watches TV
and plays dead most days
She’s better than a bat
She’s Pat my Cat
…And she’s fat
(I have the most patient wife in the world. Have I blogged this before?)
Image of future Pat
lazy-cat-
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22nd of April

Thoughts and Places.


keep

The wheels are turning…

I appreciate your thoughts and comments on state-of-mind and yesterday’s blog.

Similar to the concept of TIME are the thoughts a person will maintain throughout a pocket of time. It is controlled and inescapable. We think as time passes…

Yet, what resonates most soundly to me is that unlike the inevitability of time passing is the CHOICE we have in determining WHAT we will think about.

Past – Memory of a clown holding a balloon in the park. (Don’t ask me why Stephen King’s It was the first example given.)

Present – The knock on my office door to remind me that it is, in fact, 12:37pm, Lunch time.

Future – question marks (?) Beach? Great phone call from my wife? Dinner plans? Unpaid bills?

To reiterate some great feedback from yesterday’s blog, Past and Future thoughts hold some positives (and often, not a few negatives). The Past and Future can be triggers to painful memories and big Question marks that cause fear to lunge inside our stomachs.

Present state-of-mind thinkers are aware of the other two parties, but capable and aware also of knowing that it is indeed Lunch time. If a sandwich or something isn’t consumed, the memories and (?) marks ultimately stop. The present thinker knows to stand up, stretch, walk around the building. But…the point-of-view is TODAY. Here. Now!

 

I saw this quote and thought of our talks from yesterday:

“A backward glance is sometimes helpful to secure our present state of being and cause a swell of thankfulness in our otherwise ungrateful and complacent hearts, but to dwell long in the dimness of long ago is to rob ourselves of the gloriously bright future.”

 

It was at the bottom of a colleague’s email signature. I don’t know who said it, and I couldn’t find it online (Imagine that). But, I love the description in the quote: “backward” “dwell” “rob” are all words meant to explain effects of past-thinking. Similarly, words such as “glance” “helpful” “cause” are paired to this message to showcase how perspective (and memories) can assist the present thinker before stepping into that uncertain (?) future.

 

Here’s another great one from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“Look not mournfully into the past. It comes not back again. Wisely improve the present. It is thine. Go forth to meet the shadowy future, without fear, and with a manly heart.”

 

I love the description of a “shadowy” future. Where he states there isn’t “fear” but a “manly” heart.

Beautiful language to summarize outlooks and perspectives. Will our points-of-view always be flawed and often slanted towards imperfections while we live? Sure.

But…the TIME that controls us doesn’t control the CHOICE that we’ve been given to remain steadfastly present, learning from experience, and ever hopeful of tomorrow.

 

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21st of April

State-of-Mind: Thinking.


tm

The here and now can be pretty mundane for some of us. I’ll admit it. But…

What if we lived like it wasn’t?

Really. Truly. All the way.

What if we didn’t count down to New Years, but we relished each breath? Counted up from January 1?

(I’m not talking brainwashing here. Just rethinking our thought process. Does this scare you like it does me?

 

“Day 1 and 364 ahead!” versus “Day 1 and 364 more to go“:

(It’s our wording which reveals our outlook on things. On life.)

 

I was telling a friend recently about the 3 types of thinkerspast thinking, present thinking, and future thinking.

Most fall into the former (or, latter) categories, but those who are ‘present‘ are considered healthiest, and often live longer, according to scientists.

I’m not a scientist, but I can attest to the value of being at peace. Being okay with whatever life throws at us.

I’m a future (or, forward) thinker, and it almost drives me crazy sometimes. I can’t enjoy the here-and-now, because the “what-and the what-and then whatwhatwhat” always pushes me. For writing, this mindset is okay, but, for appreciating God’s plan, and each breath given–it can be a challenge.

Mom calls me a “restless spirit.”

The verse “Be still and know that I am God” from Psalms 46:10 comes to mind.

There’s so much to be learned from those who don’t fret over June when it’s still April. Those who don’t question a divine plan every step along the way. (Some questioning is okay, IMO.)

I wrote about a high school classmate of mine, Jason Rose, in the last blog. He was a present state-of-mind thinker. He loved Tuesday, because it was Tuesday. Wednesday when it got here. Thursday led to Friday. Friday meant more time with family. But, he was very much interested in what the current day offered.

I find myself needing that mentality, that mindset. To be okay with Tuesday, April 21st and not desiring for it to be some other time, some other place.

Today is today. It holds what it holds. God is still good. Therefore, it is enough. [Might be what I need to start reciting. Or, something similar.]

Because…it is today, it has events (good or bad), God is good, and it’s more than enough to keep us grounded.

I pray your April 21st is enough, and I appreciate you reading this.

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19th of April

Remembering Jason.


jason rose

Jason Rose – (Class of 03, MHS)

I was informed of his departure from this world on Friday.

As friends told me, and I tried to digest this information, it took some time to wrap my mind around what the world loses and Heaven gains when someone of Jason’s caliber departs.

I want to pause and reflect on a classmate who was truly kind each and every day I knew him. Truly.

Jason was a soft-spoken, mild-mannered guy who tried his best at everything our school offered.

While we didn’t have a lot of resources or the mobility to travel the globe during our 4 years in southern Kentucky, we all learned to grow as close as classmates could in a high school setting.

Suddenly, you realize your classmates are more than just that label. For us, it even went beyond the term ‘friend’ to some other label that might not ring true, but I’ll try to describe it.

At Monticello, we were involved in every academic and extra-curricular club, because that’s what there was to do. (We were too small to field a football team, but we took the talents available and had baseball, basketball, golf, etc.) We were almost like extended siblings to one another rather than classmates, because we spent so much time together.

Jason played pick-up games of basketball in the gym with me from 6th grade to graduation. We took part in after-school “open gym” games, and he even made a point to play “Bump!” or, as most of the rest of the world calls it, “Knockout!”

But, it wasn’t that he always played (or, joined these activities) that sticks in my mind. It was his demeanor in all of it. Again, Jason was even-tempered, reflective, and I guess the best description would be a “Southern gentleman.”

He didn’t get caught up in the shenanigans of high school or lose control when tempers flared. I vividly remember a moment when I was losing my cool in a game of 3-on-3 (as I often did), and Jason collided with me, and it was my fault.

Did I apologize? of course not. But, his reaction was terrific. Later, when I’d calmed down, I asked him how he could be so together, even when I was breathing down his neck like a bull.

He smiled like only Jason could, said, “Philippians 4:13. I can do all things…through Christ who strengthens me. I tell myself that and it calms me down. Plus, I just know you.”

I tried reminding myself of this verse, Jason’s actions, in future games/future conflicts, but I forgot a lot of the time. What I didn’t forget was how consistent he was, at a time when we were all kind of like loose cannons.

Hearing of Jason’s departure this week, I can only remember him from these instances. Through and through a classy guy. He loved the Colts and has a beautiful young daughter. My prayers go to his family during this tough time, and I won’t soon forget the demeanor he possessed, even in our youth.

He’s a great testament to our hometown, and Jason is someone I want to continue to be more like. He did what so few of us have done and that’s exemplify the phrase: “actions speak louder than words” Glad he’s seeing that strength up close now. Forever.

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17th of April

Great Vacations 101.


m

That same year, 2003, provided another surprise. In addition to graduating Monticello High School, embarrassing myself in NYC, witnessing miracles in Brazil, and transferring colleges, there was another pit-stop along the way.

We have to back up between Brazil and going away to college. It was a family cruise. My family wanted to visit the Caribbean. I know. You are probably starting to wonder how one year could provide so much excitement. I was too. But, as those in baseball say, “the hits kept coming” again and again.

This one is unfortunate and less humorous than the NYC bus blunder.

It begins with a robbery.

I thought copying it down verbatim would work best. A robbery is never a fun exchange and believe it or not, I’ve been robbed 4 times already in my life. (only 2 forcefully)

(Don’t worry. It’s not contagious…I don’t think.)

But, we were on this Caribbean getaway. Mom said, “You boys be careful.” And my brother and I took off for what was known as the “flea markets” of Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

Now, this wasn’t smart. I admit it. The cruise director specifically told travelers to not venture off the main route and alerted everyone of the risks of crime. But, we were hard-headed, I guess.

Here’s my rant from Summer 2003–

“Ode to the Belligerent Jamaican man who robbed me! —

I think your country is exceptionally beautiful. Your tourism attractions are many! And the weather is always delightful. Yet, there is more than one thing I find disdainful about you. For starters, why must you rob those who visit you on holiday? I was always under the impression that tourists are welcome especially when they account for 90% of a country’s gross domestic income. Your Jamaica IS beautiful. Robbery is not. Rise above these nasty convictions and choose pleasure over greed please. Also, what is with all of the “It’s about respect, mon! Respect!” comments? Seriously, who needs confirmation that much about where respect comes from? Frankly, I’m a bit repulsed by your conduct. Jamaica was my vacation spot. Your were a native who I happened to encounter. Will you always be so outlandishly awful? If so, I do not think I will be able to visit you ever again. The conduct is so utterly despicable that I must admit my dislike for your entire island now. It is a classic case of one bad apple ruining the batch. My friend, I implore you to come to your senses. You have failed me in the past. Now, is your chance to represent your country in a NEW light. Lastly, I want to say that marijuana is not cool. You make it appear as if it is God’s gift to the world. Bob Marley was some dude who smoked it who happened to live next door to you and play music that had good grooves. Come off of your high horse, please. Drop the weed and drop my money. Embrace kindness and I might visit you in the coming years. But, you MUST realize the need for peace. And taking a poor kid’s money is just plain wrong!”

 

This piece followed our robbery. My brother and I were 2 regular Huck Finns unable to control our circumstances. Trouble knocked and we folded. I remember six guys circling around us and asking us what we wanted. My brother yelled “RUN!” (after our money was pried away), and we sprinted the whole way back to the ship.

Live and learn.

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10th of April

AWESOME MUSIC!!


Untitled

Discovered something last night…

I dig Mozart.

More specifically Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 20 performed by Qian Jiang.

I didn’t realize this until hearing (and seeing) it performed live last night by the Chattanooga Symphony and Qian.

Sure I appreciated Mozart before this. He’s one of my “fab 5” for classical music (Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart). But, this performance took it a step further.

I admired the blending of light and dark musical notes. The pianist, Jiang, took it to another level. A fun video of her below:

http://ow.ly/Lsoqf

Have you listened to symphony and seen a performer just skyrocket? Pianists play from memory. That’s right! No sheet music. No time for it, I guess.

Qian Jiang, of course, has played all over the world. But, my wife and I noticed how accomplishments (and accolades) went out the window when she sat down on the bench to play. She treated it like the first performance of her life. EPIC.

It was a performance like none I’d ever seen. What’s your favorite performance (band, concert, venue) of all-time?

 

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6th of April

1/3 year Progress Check.


It’s April of 2015. Already.

1/3 of the year check-marked. One third!

The day after Easter on your calendar.

It seems fitting to pause, reflect on those New Year’s Resolutions (or, anything that resembles the Win/Loss column you had planned). I’m afraid to look at mine.

How can it be this far along already? I don’t even remember the gap between several feet of snow and pollen and wasps in the car. Do you?

My calendar:

 

 

Untitled1

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