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.

BFFs For Real!

Best Friends Forever – or something like that. Regardless, the truth of the matter is the meaning of true friends.

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When I recently met with an old friend (of course we are both young at heart) I could not imagine the feelings I would have as we shared in conversation. We talked and laughed and both had a general appreciation for our friendship. Our conversations picked up just where we had left them almost two years ago since last seeing one another face to face. Having a connection such as ours is special especially in this microwave age in which we live.

Therefore, it made me think and appreciate those BFFs in my life. I can imagine we all have those “ride-or-die” types that will be there regardless of where we are in our life’s journey. Think about what makes that friend special; it can be the simplest of things or actions to the more complex.

  • As for me, those moments of understanding come into play. Having an understanding of one another and how we have gone through life and the journey we each faced.
  • Providing some level of support always makes a great friend. When you turn around and there is no one else to turn to there is that friend who is willing and capable to provide support when all else seems lost.
  • A friend is a person showing a genuine level of appreciation for who you are. While we all have our hang-ups and bizarre nuances it is a treasure when we can connect with another person that still appreciates our personality and quirks. It is not always the easiest thing to do thus we should cherish this effort when we recognize it.
  • Living life to the fullest can include having fun. When you connect with a good friend you have a ton of fun – however fun is defined for you – but usually you all share a similar definition of fun that is recognized and appreciated by both. It is a welcoming experience.
  • Our desire to connect is strong outweighing the highs and lulls of life. Whether we experience down time from friends as life’s activities dictate (family, career, schooling, etc.) we can always find our ways back to common ground as we reconnect. Reconnecting is the great part. This is what brings value to our lives.

Living in this age of social mediums and instant communications we have a tendency to take our friendships for granted. We don’t purposely do this we just develop a sense of instant response and gratification – but we don’t put as much value on the long term emotional connection created with our friends as we should. I for one recognize this with my friends and I routinely attempt to call myself out to show my appreciation and support. I may not be the most together person at times but I can honestly say my heart is genuine. And I am happy that my BFFs recognize this within me and continue to call me BFF.

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.

Rejuvenate

The serene lake glistened from the light of the morning sun. Barely a ripple was made from the fish as they lazily made their way to the surface in search of their morning meal. The smell of pine permeated the air as background sounds of the forest bounced around the tall trees which guarded the lakefront. The tiny splashes along the shores caught my ears as my eyes wandered across the lake looking for an area on the lake to settle. I exhaled, breathed in the fresh air, and appreciated the mist from the lake as I sipped my slightly sweetened coffee from an oversize mug. After a month of chaos and turmoil my mind, spirit, and body was in need of rejuvenation. And this was my moment.

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It isn’t often that we can pull ourselves away from life to enjoy the small pleasures presented before us. We find ourselves engrained in our daily experiences that will drain our energy and leave us with nothing to replenish the calming thirst our spirits require. Instead, we fill ourselves with various vices to help us get through our hectic days but not realizing the importance of slowing down. This was my moment to slow down and focus only on my breathing and the world of nature around me.

As I packed up my folding chair to head back into the cabin I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. A deer peered at me through the brush trying to decipher whether I was friend or foe. Our eyes locked briefly although it felt like an eternity. I appreciated the young doe in her habitat and I did not want to disrupt it. I thought about the days behind me and how I might relinquish my pain, frustration, and anxieties as I took in this moment. I proceeded to pack up my belongings in quiet reserve while assuring the deer I was a friend. Nature has a way of helping us to revitalize ourselves. This was my moment. I thought to myself “rejuvenate yourself.”

Every Life Does Matter

The list…

Iraq

South and West Sides of Chicago

Ferguson, Missouri

Sandy Hook

Cairo, Egypt

Ukraine

Sanford, Florida

Syria

Gaza

and it goes on and on and on…

The life of a child matters – especially one caught up in the middle of conflicts, stereotypes, hatred and life’s pressures. Why then must we look any differently at the conflicts that surround us and arbitrarily assign blame to the victim based on our own prejudices? How do the innocent become the villains in this strange world in which we live?

When I think about all the turmoil around us I think about how do I engage God in a very divided world and I am left with no good answers. Religious conflicts, spiritual conflicts, ethnic conflicts, class conflicts, environmental conflicts.

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Where are we replacing madness with human decency and kindness? What happened to putting our children first? Where is your practice of your religion that says to love thy enemy? Or help thy neighbor?

Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Pope John Paul II….we need you.

Our souls cry for compassionate leadership. We long for days of peace and tranquility. We are all lost in this world of chaos and every now and again we are reminded of just how lost we are. Most of us only desire a world in which we can laugh, play, and enjoy the companionship of family and friends. It is a beautiful thing.

But WE CAN stop the madness. Just…Stop. Simple. Just stop it. One person at a time. Let’s remember the love Christ had for the people and believe that we can overcome – anything.

Michael Jackson sang it best “Man in the Mirror.”

Go well and with love good peeps.

Time to Face the Change, Cha-Cha-Changes…

This is a significant week for me in terms of my transitions. My life is about to take another turn, albeit a welcomed turn, but a turn nonetheless. It’s MOVING DAY! Yah!

I hate moving. It’s annoying, tiring, and never seems to be worth the effort.

I can’t end my procrastination (hence my writing and avoidance) when it comes to preparing for this inglorious day. However, I have moved so many times in my lifetime you’d think I was cool with this (at least 30, but hey, who’s counting). But I’m not.

I remember my college days when my roommate and I moved when I got off work – at 10 PM! Yes, we went until about 4 AM. Let’s just say a lot of beer was consumed during the time.

Then there was the time I moved into my first house some years ago. My friend and I had to move an old, heavy 10ft couch and decided the best spot for the couch was the trash. Unfortunately, the small access areas throughout the old Chicago apartment complexes caused us some difficulties in throwing it off the back stairway. The couch got entangled on the back fence after we tossed it from the 3rd floor. This forced us to do acrobatic tricks in untangling the mess we created. It rained cat hair and loose change for an hour.

There was the moment of clarity when I felt “I’m getting too old for this shit” when I literally had two full 18ft U-Haul truck loads to complete. My small army of volunteers was exhausted from the full day battle. However, I did provide libations at the end of the day and we even had one for our fallen homie who had to “cut out early because of family.” Grrrr.

I finally reached moving nirvana when my employers moved me (multiple times – sweet!). I sat back and watched the magic occur. However, I did have to supervise as they would have packed my sleeping cats if I hadn’t stated “those aren’t statues.” I remember unpacking one of the boxes and it was my kitchen garbage can full to the brim with trash. Talk about being thorough.

So here are my pointers to consider for your DIY move:

  1. Plan as much as you can ahead of time. This is easier said than done but it will prevent you from stressing.
  2. Take a moment and pack a box here and there throughout your hectic week.
  3. Make lots of friends; and then enlist them when the time comes. It’s not manipulation but it is investment for your future.
  4. Get rid of shi…stuff. I know it’s not easy but we are all guilty of holding onto stuff. Like you I’m always hoping there’s that six-figure check I misplaced and happen to find during the move.
  5. Stock up on your favorite beverage to keep you motivated. This includes beer, wine, whiskey, Diet Mountain Dew, or whatever your heart’s desire to help you make it through the event.
  6. Make sure your beloved pets stay clear of packing hands.

Have fun! Regardless of the pain of moving, both physical and mental make it an outing to cherish. It not only gets you through the time but it will become a cherished memory itself.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Always Savannah Liebster’d Me!

Savannah’s When Nothing Goes Write questions for me:

1. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?  Why?  I’m aware this is two questions.

The egg clearly came first. There was this big bang and…well never mind!

2. What is the favorite blog post you have written and why?

My Day of Positivity Starts…Now!”  Any time I write with the backdrop of my kid’s images it makes me feel great. They are my most important muses and they are what keep me strong during my times of weakness. It may sound cliché but it’s true. I love my little meeces to pieces!

3. What is your favorite blog post of mine and why?

The Struggle is Real – I enjoy almost all of Savannah’s posts and they seem to put a smile on my face. I often envision having conversations about our blogs in some coffee shop in some college town. The blogs remind me of how awesome life was when I was younger and how it still can be as I have matured. Besides, that’s one helluva title!

4. What celebrity would you most like to bang?

Uh, lot’s of ’em. Am I a pig for saying that? For sure Halle Berry and Salma Hayek top my list – although Halley would be a handful in a long-term deal. But we’re only talking banging, right?

5. What is your favorite sad song?

One of my favorite sad song’s is Amarillo Sky by Jason Aldean. Yeah, I’m a black man who can appreciate a little C&W but his song really speaks to me about the struggles one goes through in life and how we continue to persevere. My life has been full of challenges thus the song speaks to me.

6. What is your job, career, or hobby?

My job is in IT – a geek of sorts, although I am a project manager. I manage projects. I make sure people do what they’re supposed to do. And then I report it. To someone. Anyone that cares.

7. If you could be anyone besides yourself, who would it be and why?

Colin Powell. Without the Republican affiliation. He is a very respectable man, seems to be very smart, and he’s even debonaire. If not Colin Powell I’d be James Bond. He gets all the chicks.

8. What is your biggest regret?

Not having kids when I was younger. I have enjoyed my offspring so much I am somewhat sad that I messed around and didn’t have them 15 years earlier. However, I am more than grateful for my kids.

9. If you could go back and change #8, how would you do it?

Nope, never, it was meant to be. If I can’t guarantee that God would provide me the two same Angels into my life at 28 I would wait till I received the same 2 Angels in my life.

10. If you could have one super power, what would it be?

Mind control. I’m not really sure why it just seems like it’d be cool. I’d pull that Jedi-mind-trick often.

11 Random Facts About Myself:

I was born in a foreign country but I’m still an American.

I am a military brat.

I had an article published in the Chicago Sun Times back in the day.

I have a third nipple. It’s very small, like a wart, but confirmed by docs. Maybe I should get it pierced.

My kids and I almost appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live – we were 1 of 4 finalists.

I had very good English teachers that pushed me to write well and express myself.

Although I seem to be an extrovert I am an introvert at heart.

I believed I would be living the American Dream at this time in my life – however, dreams are not always meant to be realized.

One night back in college I saved someone’s life. The woman didn’t realize she was about to get hit by a train as she stood too close to the tracks. I grabbed her at the last-minute, pulled her off the end of the railroad tie, she turned to me and started crying, and then I calmly walked away as the train sped by. I hope this experience left meaningful impression on her life.

I purposely gave my daughter a name that began with the initial of one of my best friends. Therefore, her initials match mine and my best friend’s last names.

I own the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series on DVDs. I really dig Sarah Michelle Gellar. Is this weird?

I No Longer Value Your Opinion

I’m sure we have all been there at some point in our lives. We all have had to deal with a person in whom we once thought highly of and later they mean nothing to us. A friend, a coworker, an ex, your parents, or maybe even your own children have fallen into this category. And something happened along the way and your mind began a slow transformation in where you no longer valued their opinion. I get it.

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A number of thought factors help influence this paradigm shift:

  1. Our minds might become clouded with animosity and resentment. We always hear the phrase “do not let resentment settle into your heart” but it is easier stated than practiced. Hatred and resentment do not go well with living a healthy life.
  2. Stupidity as a measure. It really bothers me, especially in discussing politics and religion where people are unable to have decent conversations about tough subjects. These subjects are very emotional and pull at the heartstrings of who we are, thus, making it difficult to see any other side of an argument. The word that comes to mind is closed-minded. Therefore, we are quickly apt to label folks as stupid. And trust me, I believe as you believe there are some stupid people in this world.
  3. Indifference is that kick-in-the-ass word that really hurts. It says, “I don’t give two-shits about you enough to even think about your well-being let alone your opinion.” It is the idea that the person you project this feeling upon is less than human and does not deserve to be valued, whatsoever. Kind of like an amoeba – you don’t recognize it is there.
  4. Hurt, pain, unforgiving all lead into this scary hole in which we feel less and less inclined to be thoughtful of another human being. If you hurt me, cause me pain, I might find myself in a situation where I am unable to forgive you. If this occurs you no longer have any value to me in my life.
  5. Distrust – too many times people might find themselves on the verge of being distrusted by others. You can lose your job because of your inability to follow through; your marriage might crumble because of broken promises or infidelity; or you may have no substance in your words therefore creating an empty shell of a human being. Whatever the case might be these things lead to broken trust and open the door to devaluing any words that might come out of your mouth (or the mouth of the person you distrust).

Is there nothing we can do about these things? To the contrary we have the power, truly, to overcome anything!

I’m not saying we can change stupid people or we can continue to trust untrustworthy people, I am only admitting the fact that we can look at how we view these individuals through our own lens. It is in the power of our minds to shift our thinking. It is a practice we should all employ. It is helpful in the long run to try to think about individuals we put into these categories in a different way. It won’t be the easiest task to accomplish but it will make sense in the end. And who knows, it might even encourage a positive transformation in others.

Go well and with love good peeps.

Just When My Positivity Was Peaking Along Came a Spider

Let me take a moment to compose myself because I love myself and I don’t want to find myself in a situation that diminishes myself to uncharacteristic actions that will define myself.

People can be very narrow-minded.

I am tired of how baby daddies are continuing to get beat up as a whole based on the actions of a few. When a father desires to see his kids and takes it upon himself to remove his child from a situation he considers dangerous or unhealthy why is he deemed the monster? Or when another father takes his kids from the mother because he is being held back from seeing his kids the father is a kidnapper? However, some mothers will do the same thing but without the titles. We all believe fair is fair and we all desire equality.

In a recent discussion there was an article about a police “manhunt” in search of a father that left his home city with his child; a manhunt mind you, expending who knows how much money to apprehend a man with his unharmed child. Yet, there was another news item where the woman did the same thing but was painted very different (the article stated: “…mother and baby were found healthy…”). There was no mention of a manhunt nor did there seem to be equal sentiment toward the perpetrators. Yet it is considered illegal as well.

What gives?

I do not condone illegal activities. I do not like when bad acting people do bad things. But I also don’t appreciate how we so easily lump individuals into categories to fit our own perception of people. Not all men are dead beats and not all women are Mother Teresa. Therefore, we should be careful to look at each situation individually as best we can before passing judgment.

Scenario: Man takes his own child away from mother and a manhunt ensues. Woman takes child away from the father and questions come up, “what did the man do to provoke her?”

Let’s either treat the cases equally or look at them individually before we move to how we think about the individuals at hand.

It is an unfortunate situation we have put our children in – broken homes and separated families – therefore, it will take more for us to move pass the emotional baggage that hold us back from giving our children the benefit of being in the lives of both parents equally. Get with it folks.

There are always two sides to the story so let’s see both sides as objectively as we can before we pass judgment, especially when it is continuously against the man. I’m just saying…