The Struggles within Our Black Boxes

Recently a friend of mine relayed to others about the black box we all possess – our brains. And the fact that this black box does not see the day of light, does not smell or hear sounds, and is reliant on the rest of our bodies to maintain our entire being – it controls all we do. The brain receives information from all of our senses and helps to interpret the cold and cruel world around us. So what happens when our minds cannot function properly because it is mired in confusion, depression, and sadness? It can drive us to tragedy.

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Who knows what’s going on inside our black box – no one, unless we are willing to share what is occurring. We all know of the struggles that might occur and we continue to turn a blind eye for those in need. Children might cry out in pain and we are quick to dismiss their feelings by saying “toughen up.” We make excuses about bad decisions and expect others to absorb these decisions without hesitation – this creates a backlog of pent-up aggression or depression.

Our minds are so powerful yet so vulnerable. An idle mind is the Devil’s playground as believed by those within the Christian faith.

And maybe it is.

And maybe an active mind is also the Devil’s playground – instilling terrible thoughts that lead us to a path of destruction. The inputs of broken marriages, promises, dreams, etc., contribute to the challenges we all face. And some individuals are better equipped to deal with these challenges compared to others.

“So why does that matter to me” you might ask?

It should matter – as a member of this planet.

It should matter as a human being. We should all take some responsibility to help assist others in need. We should work to recognize the subtle signals people in need might be telegraphing. We should act on these impulses to ensure others are afforded the same care and guidance we can possibly provide.

We should care for one another. Period.

I for one strive to do better, be better, act better, and provide better. Not because it gives me a first place in line at the pearly gates of Heaven but because it is the right thing to do.

I challenge all of you to do that which is right. I challenge you to live a life caring for one another. And I challenge each of you to reach out to others in need. In the long run it can only make this planet a better place to live and you never know who you might help.

Go well and with love good peeps.

National Institute of Mental Health 

My 2014 Year in Review…

I survived.

That’s pretty much it. I made it through. I didn’t croak, end up on America’s Most Wanted or beaten down by a rogue cop.

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I survived.

As you become older and presumably wiser you actually look at longevity as the ultimate measure of success. No more of the foolish thoughts that I will live forever, take caution to the wind or let the chips fall as they may. Clearly life doesn’t care about my longevity or yours – death does not discriminate (although being rich has its perks in minimizing this risk I’m sure).

I survived.

As some of my brethren’s lives were snuffed out at the hands of evil individuals perpetrating as police officers I continued to live my life. As loved ones fell to disease and other ailments I found myself looking to make life changes, however, not timely enough to escape the constant hurdles of health life threw along my path. I was acutely aware of these challenges and I thought to myself, “I survived.”

I witnessed by way of CNN the peculiar disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, the capsizing of a South Korean ship claiming the lives of hundreds, the emergence of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and their terroristic ways, and the continued antics of North Korea. There was also the quiet killing of thousands along the Gaza strip as well as the collapse of the Ukrainian government.

However, I continued to survive.

I saw where we landed a probe on a comet with the joint efforts of the European Space Agency [ESA]. Meanwhile, while the country was in an uproar over domestic violence and child abuse Bill Cosby was about to be crucified for past indiscretions (rightfully so). The world kept an eye on America’s racial divide as an NBA [National Basketball Association] owner was booted out of that exclusive club. The Ebola virus was on the verge of kicking off a real live (or Walking Dead) Apocalyptic future – thank God it did not come to fruition.

Yet, I still managed to survive.

Germany was out winning the World Cup after a long absence and celebrations ensued across the globe. Sochi’s Winter Olympics proved climate changes are real as experts continued to warn of global warming albeit to pessimistic minds. The popularity of the 2014 Super Bowl continued to thrive as the world watched Bruno Mars croon his way across the stage. My thoughts drifted to an upcoming baseball season proving to be a farewell tour for DerekJeter.

And I was still surviving.

Same sex marriages prevailed across the land. Pot smokers rejoiced as prohibitions for recreational uses were lifted in two states. People came and went in and out of my life. I endured challenges of health and wellness while the Affordable Care Act and the State Exchanges became operational. I had the pleasure of watching my kids grow another year and I laughed and cried with family and friends. I sat back and reflected on 2014 and through this I thought…

I made it. I survived yet again and for that I am thankful.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Check out CNN’s Year End Review for further information.

The 2003 Cubs Collapse as a Microcosm of Life

I was thinking, as I always do and it usually lands me in hot water, about the 2003 Cubs and how the resulting Steve Bartman interference caused the impending doom of the team to reach the World Series. Everything unraveled in such a way that it was like watching a train wreck – you couldn’t take your eyes off of it and you knew the ending was not going to be pretty. And today is that infamous anniversary of this train wreck.

Steve Bartman

However, the biggest issue surrounding this collapse was blaming Bartman for starting the butterfly effect. We’ll never know whether it was Bartman or not but humans are notorious for blaming (me included). And it is a very difficult task to overcome. To refresh your memory; Bartman reaches out for a foul ball as most baseball fans would’ve done – this causes fan interference – runs score and the Cubs lose the game – the next game the Cubs lose again – no World Series. This was further complicated as the Cubs were up 3 games to 2. So close and yet…

So what about life? If an action I take sets some mystical aura in motion that then has an impact on your life am I truly the conduit for the change / impact to your life or am I merely a part of the process? If we were predestined to follow the paths we do in life (unbeknownst to us) then is it really my fault for setting in motion those events that change your life? Or is it just life and your ability to deal with the changes?

Many of us will say it’s our inability to accept the changes that we are dealt and we should be stronger in doing so. Yet, we don’t truly believe this for ourselves because we continue to assert blame in various ways.

We blame the President for a bad economy although the motions for a bad economy were ever looming. Wives blame husbands for their discontent when it might be more to the matter. Children blame parents for the way in which they behave. Nations blame nations for tragic and unfortunate circumstances impacting their individual citizens.

In some cases the responsibility clearly lies with the firestarter – such as Hitler where we can all agree he was the culprit. Yet, life is full of choices. The choice to follow someone like a Hitler. Or another example is slavery. Many blacks were forced to come over on slave ships. And we all agree there is some blame for the African-American’s plight to overcome. Yet, many people feel that by now blacks should’ve already overcome. Take responsibility. Yet, there were so many other elements to add into the history and mix that make this almost an impossible scenario to accept the singularly responsible trigger.

So we stay hypocritical in aspects of life in which we can relate and we stand resolute on our beliefs in other circumstances where we do not comprehend. We are complex individuals no doubt, but ultimately it comes down to choice. And the choices we make can be deadly (to ourselves or families), might be wrong (Sarah Palin as a running mate), or cause more madness about us. But we do have to accept that our responsibility in all this does matter and has unseen consequences.

Are you willing to totally accept your own responsibility and the butterfly effect you have on life or are you still prone to think other individual’s actions are the reason you are where you are in life with mountaining barriers to overcome? The choice is yours, but choose you must. Good luck with that.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Greatness Abounds in All of Us

Derek Jeter’s recent act towards retirement ended in his game winning walk-off homerun. This was an amazing act almost to the script of his career. He will go down as one of the best shortstops in the history of Major League Baseball (MLB). All the while I thought to myself – that’s nice, but each of us has some greatness or great moment within us. Yes we do!

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Whether you had your great moment when you were a teen or you are 80 greatness must be available for everyone. God wouldn’t have it any other way.

I can’t imagine there is no one on this Earth that presumes they don’t have it in them. I would challenge each and every one of us whether this to be true.

I don’t write this just to instill positivity in your day, which is easy to do when you are pumping up individuals concerning greatness, but it is the truth. I want my kids to understand their ability to be great. I want my nieces and nephews to know that they are great. I want my cousins and friends to realize the greatness in them.

Greatness is not reserved just for the likes of Derek Jeter. It is available and recognized for all.

And when you build on that great moment as Jeter has his entire career you come away with greatness beyond measure. A beautiful thing when you are paving your own road of life. But you don’t stop at one moment of greatness, although it is nice to reflect, but you catapult yourself to the next. Then to the next moment, and so on and so on until you look back and you smile at all of the great things you have accomplished. There is nothing wrong with admiring the road you traveled. It was YOUR road and YOU deserve to reflect on how you made. Some might even say, “Glory to God!” for the path they took.

Do not sell yourself short of your greatness. Do not boast about your ability to be great. Do not expect greatness to just appear in your life. You…just do it. (Sorry Nike, the phrase fit well.)

Greatness will follow the hard work you put in. It will show up at your doorsteps when you least expect it. It will follow you in life if you dedicate yourself to doing what is right.

And now, as I prepare my kids for school and life I am reminded of their opportunities for greatness. I am only here to clear the paths and allow them to be. They have already done some great things at their young ages, thus, we can all look back and tie these moments together creating a collective string of greatness. In the end they will appreciate their accomplishments and will hopefully continue to build on them.

Therefore, take this as encouragement for yourself – even if you don’t need it – but go out and be great.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Happiness is From Within

Yes it is – at least the starting point is from within.

We all hear this phrase. We all know this phrase. Presumably we all believe this statement. But the real challenge is creating that fire to ignite happiness so that it fills your soul and begins to burn brightly from within. Once it is burning it emanates on your outside for the entire world to see.

Then you don’t fret about hearing the phrase – happiness is from within – because you have obtained it.

There is no greater feeling than to be on top of the world. You will be looking down on your fellow human beings as you float among the clouds or stars. You look at them from your floating station wishing they could float with you. You breathe the clean air, you feel the warm sun, with a fresh gentle breeze whisking against your face as you glide through the pillows that were once clouds.

I remember this feeling from various moments in my life.

There was the day when I became a father. I had a son. I was on top of the world. Prayerfully I thought my legacy would live on and take this world by storm. This was a moment in time forever frozen in memory.

Then the day I became a father for the second time – but now I had a princess – a cute, wonderful, joyous baby girl. We would give her a name that accentuated who she was before we ever met her. Her name would have meaning just as my son’s; her name stands for “beautiful work of art.”

Or I would conjure up memories of my childhood when I ran the neighborhood with my childhood best friend. We would have innocent fun but careful not to bring out the wrath of our parents.

And there were my high school days with my BFF. He and I would talk for hours about life, all of life’s mysteries, and where we fit into the big picture while we lay on our backs looking up at the silvery stars.

These are those moments when I distinctly remember floating in air. I had achieved happiness. I wanted to bottle these moments and the emotions that came with them so I might retain them for future needs. Hide them in a safe haven awaiting their use for myself or others in need.

Therefore, my effort to regain my inner smile must then start from memories. If I can remember these times while facing storms I begin to have a sense of overcoming anything.

  • I can picture the faces of my children’s smiles as they run toward me when it is my turn to pick them up.
  • I almost feel my children’s little arms around me as they hug me tight before bedtime.
  • Periodically I will grab my phone and dial a friend – sometimes randomly – just to hear their voice on the other end.
  • Other moments I open up a book or read a blog [like this one] about a great story, one that connects with me at the right moment.

And then I share my thoughts with others hoping that I touch another soul searching for their own bit of happiness. And in the world in which I live we are all searching for it. And searching for it is not bad at all as long as you know the recipe on how to ignite the fire.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Do You Still Give Pause to 9-11?

A day that will remain embedded in our minds until we die. A day when you remember exactly what you were doing, who you were with, and how you felt as life changed forever. Those of us old enough to remember what it meant to never have been attacked on American soil prior to 9-11 can distinctly remember how our minds changed after the attack. We remember how we understood that life would never be the same and that we should not take our safety for granted.

Thus, on this day I always give pause – 13 years later. And even when I don’t want to acknowledge the day because of the horrible act bestowed upon us I can’t help but recognize the frozen moment of time in my heart and mind.

Therefore I do give pause – and thanks – and I appreciate that our nation came together under the circumstances.

As for me, I was in Aruba on vacation and it was starting out to be a lovely day. I was there with my fiance and another couple. We had just walked into the room as we saw in real time the second plane. It was surreal. Sadness and anger fell upon us as we knew we would be at war.

What followed afterwards was how the Americans in Aruba came together to provide support for one another. We were from different parts of the country, some with family members directly impacted and some not. But we came together. And that feeling alone was worth a 1000 memories. To be one.

Take a moment and pause if you will for the lives lost since that day. Take a moment and reflect on what we gave up that day in pursuit of peace. Take a moment and give thanks for every day that we can remember and are able to still live our lives. Take a moment and recognize how we are one as a community – a community of humans.

Go well and with love good peeps.

A Future Conversation under Mended Hearts

Hello there.

Hey, how ya’ been?

Not sure, I have had a lot on my mind. I’ve been thinking lately about our years gone by and of the pain and misery we have suffered. It’s been confusing.

Yeah, I understand; me, too. It’s like the pain never subsided but merely took a back seat to life. Not so much that it was gone it just…or rather we just…became numb; perhaps?

That’s probably it. I just want you to know –

Wait, I already know. You don’t need to say anything. I know you. I know us. And I finally get it. Maybe I didn’t at first but I do now. Yes, it took a while and life continued to go on but I do. I only wonder what would have been had we, you know, stuck it out. I just wonder. I’m not regretting because I understand, but I sometimes envision what that life must have looked like in an alternate universe. It looked…promising and pleasant.

Well, sure, but it was a really hard time; a most difficult time to overcome. I had darkness surrounding me from all sides. I didn’t even know which way to turn. It was scary at times and I wanted to just disappear.

You said that before. Move away and get as far away as possible, to another country or island. Yeah, I remember that. At the time it sounded somewhat enticing but it wasn’t realistic or practical. But hey, we all have thoughts that take us out of our current situations. Even to this day we have thoughts.

What about you? How’s life been?

It’s been good. I feel good. I am in pretty good shape considering I still have poor drinking habits but I exercise regularly and it keeps me going. Health wise, I’m doing okay.

You look good I must say.

You ain’t too bad yourself.

(Laughter)

(Then a period of silence)

Life is an interesting thing. People come and go. Some people go forever and ascend or descend into the afterlife. Others…remain. I’m always curious how those that can remain in our lives over the years do so. It’s like they are just there. When you turn around and look up they are there. When you get angry with them and after a while they are just there. It’s a beautiful thing; dedicated friendship of sorts.

Yes, it goes beyond family. It is like the people put in our lives are angels guiding us to be better, do better, and want better.

Yes, I feel ya’. Except the people put in our lives can range from positive to negative depending on your level of spirituality. I suppose any interaction should be weighed accordingly.

What were you listening to when I walked up?

Alicia Keyes. Old school slow jams.

Look at you! A renaissance man, finally, huh?

I suppose.

(Laughter)

Listen, I have to run. My wife is expecting me to pick her up in about an hour.

Yes, I understand. She’s a lucky woman.

No, I’m a lucky man. Well, maybe we’re both lucky.

Love is an interesting thing.

That it is. It was nice to catch up with you. Give my love to the kids. And take care of yourself. It was nice to see you. Your smile is always a nice smile. Keep that look – it looks good on you.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Life’s Not so Black and White Moments

Over the course of the last number of months our society has seen its share of tense conversations. These conversations should not be taken lightly but many times we find ourselves on opposite ends as we discuss our thoughts and beliefs. Beliefs that may be contradictory to your own. And I don’t presume to judge what belief is right or wrong but merely point out our very diverse thinking. Our thinking is made up of our experiences, our upbringing, where we live, where we play, our character and other influences. At some point we all merely want to be understood. Not necessarily right, just understood. Because with understanding comes acceptance.

I sometimes try to recollect those events and polarizing stories that challenge us in ways beyond comprehension. Then I try to lay them out in a way determining the significance they have on society.

My thoughts in a list:

  1. OJ – The surreal Bronco chase and then trials. Unbelievable how this segregated race to a level never before seen in my lifetime.
  2. Rodney King – Was he illegally speeding? Yes. Did the cops need to beat the crap out of him? Debatable. Did it lead to major uprisings? Unfortunately yes.
  3. The Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction – Really at some point we have to face a profound truth in our desire to do what is right. We have to be honest with ourselves to recognize our proper motives. However, not everyone has proper motives.
  4. Unrest in Ferguson, Missouri – An unarmed teenager killed by cop. Now, I could add black teenager but that should not be the focus – however, based on our own life experiences the color of his skin and treatment of individuals in the area becomes relevant to the story.
  5. Gun Control – I personally don’t have much more to say then to say “look out.” There are scary individuals that jump on a variety of bandwagons and this is one of them.
  6. Police Brutality – In general, America seems to be headed toward a very strict Police State. The police are losing the title of “To Serve and Protect” and replacing it with “Beatdown when Necessary.”
  7. Corporations as humans – Much power is given to corporations or a group of rich folk as they become more engaged with human rights. We may complain about the separation of government and religion but we allow corporations more rights, albeit under the cover, than we tend to give our own citizens.
  8. The Decline of the American Family – Divorce, people marrying later, unwed pregnancies, etc. There is a plethora of blame but not much action of fixing.

This is merely food for thought. No responses needed. No LIKEs desired. Just food for thought. Lost in all of this nonsense is our future generations. The well being of our children should be what drives us to do better.

I like to believe in humanity and that we all want what is best for the good of all of us, however, I am just a dreamer. And this dream that I dream may not come to fruition in my lifetime. But I do hold out hope.

Go well and with love good peeps.

 

Don’t Rain on my Parade

I admit I’m not the most positive guy in the world, yet I’m not the most cynical, either. However, I recently had a moment of clarity that hit me like a bolt of lightening. It took me by surprise. The conversation started out innocently enough but took a turn for the worse. It didn’t reach a level of animosity or tension just an uncomfortable inward acknowledgement (to myself) that I no longer wanted to be in the conversation. And what was unfolding before my very ears was negative rain on an innocent accomplishment by precious kids – the Little League World Series US team – Jackie Robinson West All-Stars.

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For those of you out of the loop – Chicago’s own JRW team won the right to represent the US in the title game against South Korea. JRW lost in the title game but the story spread for a couple of weeks as the team made an impact on the city of Chicago and presumably across the nation. It was uplifting to see these innocent 13 year olds compete. The city needed a feel-good story given all of the violence surrounding it and the JRW team was comprised of some kids from the same neighborhoods experiencing the violence. There were other positive stories that surfaced in the aftermath and kept the city buzzing. (JRW T-Shirt Sales by Dick’s Sporting Goods) Thus, the jubilation and attention given the story.

However, there were individuals that were not so excited to hear the story. Other individuals just grew tired of the attention. Whatever the case there were people out there that became annoyed with the limelight these kids were experiencing.

And this is when I thought, “Really? We can’t celebrate this great accomplishment from these kids and put a positive meaning behind it?” 

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world – the truly magnificent accomplishments get lost because of the commercialization process that takes place. And other not-so-magnificent stories rise to the top because of the sensationalism attached to them. It might be time to right the wrongs.

I for one was pretty happy to see the accomplishment – even as it took off to unprecedented levels here in my fair city. It was refreshing to hear news of this feat and how the kids became temporary celebrities. The smiles on their faces was priceless and the air across the city was captivating.

We should all have moments where we can latch onto the good. Take a look around and observe your surroundings. Eye a good story and cherish it. Focus on those positive situations and relish in their aura. Many of us don’t take the time to do this as much as we should. Some of us will even accentuate the negative before pointing out the positive. If you are one of those type of people do us all a favor and keep your negative thoughts to yourself. Let the rest of us enjoy our parades.