Tag Archives: Living

The Randomness Of Life

“We all want to convince ourselves that it is about hard work and education and perseverance, but the truth is, life is much more about the fickle and the random. We don’t want to admit it, but we are controlled by luck, by timing, by fate.”
Harlan Coben

I don’t want to believe this. It goes against my faith, my Christian upbringing and what we try to relay to and teach our children. But sometimes…..

When I was a teenager, I used to have conversations with priests about predestination and free will. I went to Catholic grammar school, was an altar boy and attended Catholic high school and so I was “indoctrinated” into a certain set of beliefs. (Of course they didn’t include current lawsuits and settlements, but that’s another story)
I never logically understood how predestination and free will come together and quite honestly, no one ever had an answer for me. So the people I spoke with fell back on the only answer that ended all conversation.

Faith.

And I understand that. I accept that there are things that will never be clear to me and that faith is something I need to have as a Christian. But I’ve never been convinced that predestination and free will are a matter of faith. Other aspects of beliefs, yes but this one never settled in with me.
And as I was reading a Coben book and came across these words, the whole issue came back to  me again. Because I’ve also always believed that so much of life is controlled by place and time.

A woman is walking a child in a stroller on a perfectly calm and sunny day in the park when a tree limb falls on them and kills the child.

Five young people get into a car accident and three survive, telling me that the seat you chose determined if you lived.

You move when you were a teenager to the other side of the country and ten years later you find and marry the love of your life in the town you moved to. What if you didn’t move? Would you still find the one your love and live happily ever after?

You happen to run into someone you haven’t seen in years by chance in a random setting. You talk and the conversation changes the trajectory of your entire professional life.

You get my point. The list is endless. The randomness of life, the paths we choose, the decisions we make, the people we meet, the timing of conversations, is pretty crazy when you step back and think about the possibilities

There are good, well educated, God fearing people who are dealt a bad hand and bad people who live long, privileged lives. I often wonder, when traced back, what turned their lives around.
I’ve always believed in hard work and perseverance but there are many hard working people who have persevered their entire lives and continue to struggle. Conversely, the opposite is true. A chance meeting at the right time, a phone call, an introduction, a decision, an opportunity taken, may change not only your life, but those you love.

I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. At times, it makes life easier to deal with; easier to accept certain things that happen in your life. But I still struggle with whether or not God knew things were going to happen, and if He knew it was going to happen then I really had no choice but to follow His plan. And if that’s the case, then how can I have free will.

I know I’ll never understand it and though I’d like to find a way, I’ll never logically accept it. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe I should just accept and not try to find logic in the illogical. Maybe faith is the only answer when it comes to this particular topic.

Then again………

 

Deconstructing A Life

So it’s been a couple of days since I’ve last been here. What, you think it’s been more than a couple of days? Really? Maybe you’re right. I’ll have to count on my fingers to check. Sometimes life gets in the way or I get distracted.

My mother in law passed away this past fall at the age of 93 and so we spent the rest of the year going through her home and preparing it for sale. Not an easy task. My father in law passed away twenty-six years ago and so she’s lived in this home for the last sixty years. Up until recently she was able to take care of herself but the last year and a half required some help. Her home was always meticulous, even at the very end. The only problem was, she never threw anything away. I think that’s somewhat common for that generation, who came from a time when everything had value. Nothing was wasted or discarded needlessly. Nothing had a shelf life. It’s something I understand but it didn’t make the process any easier.

We sometimes didn’t know, going through her belongings, what had real value, sentimental or otherwise. Did it have special meaning to her, was it worth something, or was it an item that was given away for free at gas stations back in the day. Some things were obvious, some not so much. And what about the photos of people from so long ago that we didn’t recognize. Did the people in the photo hold special meaning to her? Did they remind her of a special time? What do we do with them now?

And here’s where deconstructing a life comes into the conversation. Here are the decisions we had to make, whether they seem logical or not. We kept quite a few things, as did our children, who wanted remembrances of their grandmother. We donated quite a bit to various charities. We sold a few things. And unfortunately, we ended up tossing some things. For some reason, the photos were sometimes the toughest decisions to make. It seems sacrilegious to throw them out but why keep photos of people we don’t know, and if we do keep them, you just leave it for the next person to deal with when we’re gone.

The whole thing was just so surreal. I’ve known my wife since third grade and have been going to that house for over fifty years. I spent more time there over the years than in the home I grew up in. I knew every corner and almost every story. To take it apart seemed like a violation of her life. Every day another piece was gone, until nothing remained but the shell. Until the home became a house. A property to be sold.

But it seemed even more than that and I’m not sure it’s easily explained. It’s like someone who existed a short time ago, no longer does. Her “stuff” is gone. I understand about the memories we”ll have to hold onto and the items we have to remind us of her life, but there is a big difference between the body and the soul of a person. In certain homes, filled with years of love and memories, I believe the same holds true. Strip away what made it special, and the deconstruction is complete. Emptying that home was like emptying a life. It’s a strange feeling and I’m sure many of you have gone through similar moments over time.

When we were done, I joked with my wife about what our children may think or say when their time comes to do the same thing. What questions they’ll have that may remain unanswered. What photos they’ll find and wonder who those people were. What decisions they’ll have to make and if sentimentality or practicality will be the deciding factor. Probably a little of both.

I just know that a few days after we finished up we started going through our own home. If we can make it a bit easier for our children when the time comes, all the better. I just don’t want to make it too easy. After all, what fun is life without leaving  some mystery and unanswered questions about your parents. I might even plant a few things around just to keep the conversation interesting. I wouldn’t want them to forget us easily.

It’s nice to be back.

 

Norway’s Answer To Youth Sports

I recently watched a show on HBO that explored Norway’s approach to youth sports. It was eyeopening. Anyone who has participated or been associated with youth sports in this country during the past thirty or so years will tell you, if they’re being objective, that the model is out of control. We train, pressure and attempt to develop eight year olds as if they’re pro athletes, so it should surprise no one that a study performed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports found that 70% of American children quit sports by the age of thirteen. One of the main reasons given for dropping out is that sports in no longer fun.

Enter Norway.

They basically take the approach that the United States is using, and do the opposite. Back in 1987, Norway adopted a statement called Children’s Rights In Sports. It governs how kids participate in athletics and all national sports federations are obligated to abide by the rules. The basic premise centers on making sports available for all kids with the goal of having fun. Instead of the pressure for kids to participate in one sport year round at an early age, like we do in the United States, Norway wants kids to play sports because its fun and they enjoy it.
By the way, 93 percent of children grow up playing organized sports in Norway, where there are no economic barriers, travel teams aren’t formed until teenage years and adults don’t begin separating weak from strong until children have grown into their bodies and interests. Leagues don’t keep scores until the age of 13, there are no national championships for teams younger than 13 and no regionals until 11. Once a child reaches thirteen, has begun to grow into their bodies and expressed specific interests, Norway’s sports federation make top coaches available to athletes skilled in those sports, but until then, it’s only about participation and letting kids be kids and have fun. Their belief is that it’s impossible to say at 8 or 10 who is going to be talented in school or sport. All children develop, physically and athletically, at very different ages.

What a concept!! Letting a child have fun, living their lives and playing sports for the pure enjoyment of it.

One would think that a system like this would come up short compared to our system of national championships for seven year olds, parents hiring coaches for nine year olds and families traveling across the country for tournaments. But Norwegian athletes get just as much physical exercise without having to play the same sports day after day, year after year, while they’re young. Their development is all encompassing and they are able to enjoy friendships and family without the stresses and commitments we see in this country.

Their goal is not to develop the best college or professional athlete, but the best well rounded person.

Oh, and if anyone thinks this approach doesn’t breed success, take a look at the last Winter Olympics in 2018. With a population of only 5.3 million people, Norway took home 39 medals, more than any country in the history of the Winter Games. And yes, they also have the best female soccer player in the world.

Is it any wonder that Norway always ranks as one of the happiest countries in the world?

Youth sports in this country is a 16 billion dollar industry bankrolled by parents who just don’t understand the long term impact on their children.

In a country where money speaks first, parents dictate direction and children have become a secondary priority, there is little chance that we will ever see the type of youth sports revolution Norway adopted.

And once again, children lose.

 

 

When A Couple Of Days Becomes A Couple Of Months

Sooooo…..how’s it going out there?

Been a while for me. Not that anyone is counting days but my last post was two months ago. That’s a long time without a sound in the blogosphere, especially when there is no justifiable reason. I’m fine, family is fine, (thankfully), weather is getting warmer, another Idol has been crowned, it’s lighter longer, politics is still an embarrassment and Thrones has finished.

And I’ve been gone.

Some people I know were celebrating that fact. Sorry to disappoint you.

It’s one thing to take a planned hiatus, understanding that you need to step away for any number of reasons. But I never planned to take a break. Two days suddenly became two months and I feel like I’ve missed a lot. So why the disappearing act? ( I’ll explain, in case you’re interested, of course.)

Well, March through July is usually a pretty busy time for our immediate family. We celebrate ten birthdays in a very short period of time, all of which have some sort of party. Throw in Mother’s Day, Easter, Fathers’ Day and our wedding anniversary and the days and weekends are pretty full. But then this year came along and we added two communions, two dance recitals, a kickboxing tournament and a college graduation to the mix.

But I’m just getting started.

In March decided to begin two projects around the house, both of which involves contacting contractors, waiting for them to possibly show up, getting quotes and scheduling the work. Two major projects. Call seven people and you’re lucky if three show up. For each project.
Oh, then there was that separate problem with water in the basement around the sump pump and contacting a half dozen people, each of whom had their own ideas and cost on how to fix it. Yeah, that was fun. This last ten months of constant rain has been a blast. Noah’s never around when you need him most

There’s more but I don’t want to wear out my dubious welcome.

Now, I don’t know about you but for me to write anything or string two sentences together, the stars pretty much have to align, and by that I mean, it has to be quiet, not only in the room I’m in, but in my head as well. Crowded mind, cluttered mind.  I’m not from the Stephen King school of writing.
You know those times when you’re moving through the day and you come up with an idea or two for a blog and you write it down so you won’t forget? I was never able to get to a pencil or paper or phone fast enough. And at my age, if I don’t record it at that moment it becomes like the leaves of an oak tree during a nor’easter in the fall.

Now I’m not complaining at all. I know I’m blessed. All the things I’ve mentioned are good things, except the water/weather problem, of course, but the Man upstairs seems to have a different opinion of that than I do. We’ve differed before. That’s okay. We always seem to make up.

We’re only halfway through the party/celebration season but at least the projects are now completed so I feel theres been a little more quiet in my head. A little more focus. Or at least as much focus as I’m capable of. Don’t expect too much.

So, that’s my explanation/excuse. It’s not much but it’s all I have. I know I’ve missed a lot and I’m sorry about that. If you want to break up, it’s understandable, You can even keep the ring. We’ll call it even.

 

Is This Our Reality?

I never realized how much our general population enjoys a good train wreck. As much as we say we turn away and try to shield our eyes, many still enjoy the drama. How else to explain the popularity of some reality shows?

I try to imagine someone sitting around their office or at home playing with their kids and thinking, I’m going to create a show where I place a man and a women in a dangerous, isolated jungle somewhere without any food or water for 21 days and see if they can survive the elements. Oh, and I’m going to make sure they’re completely naked during their time together. Then, I’ll get really creative with the title and call the show, Naked and Afraid.
Nine seasons running with Emmy nominations.

Then there was that person who thought, I’m going to ask a guy who is not married if he wants to meet twenty or thirty women, get to know them, romance them, share intimate moments with them and God knows what else, all while being filmed, in the hopes of meeting his future wife. I’m going to call this show, The Bachelor. It’ll be easy to find these guys and apparently easier to find a large pool of women who are willing to be jilted each week, participate in catfights, compromise themselves, all on camera,  with the hope of finding a husband. And fame, of course. This show is so successful it’s been on for twenty-three seasons and had several spinoffs including The Bachelorette, (of course), Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, After Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games. (Really)

Or maybe I’ll find some rich women who are apparently bored with their money and families and ask them if they want to document their lives with other rich and bored housewives  in front of television cameras. I’ll tell them that it’s okay to be as bitchy and selfish as they want, expose their impressionable children to this type of environment and their lives to scandal and scrutiny because really, at the end of the day they have more money than they need and it really doesn’t matter what anyone watching thinks. They can care less. They’re only interested in showing off their wealth and “good side.” Just show me the money because I can never have enough of that. Let’s see, this show will start  in Orange County, (because why not), then go to New York City, New Jersey, D.C., Beverly Hills, Miami, Potomac and Dallas.
Since train wrecks are not just popular in this country Housewives was also created for Athens, Vancouver, Melbourne, Los Angeles (in French), Cheshire, Auckland, Sydney Toronto, Hungary and South Africa.

Of course there’s also Jersey Shore, Temptation Island, Love Island, Here comes Honey Boo Boo, The Kardashians, and a host of others including your favorite and mine, The Apprentice, where careers go to die.

I know if I ever chose to get into a discussion with anyone about these train wrecks I would hear about the social understanding they derive from watching, how it helps them understand what makes people and relationships tick and survive. Yeah. To that I say, blah, blah, blah.

I’d stay longer, give you more examples and try to explain the strangeness of the public’s fascination with these shows but I’ve only been writing for a short period of time and I feel like I need to take a shower and take out the garbage.

I know I probably offended some people who enjoy these shows and I know you’re probably waiting for me to say I’m sorry but there is something caught in my throat.

 

 

Living With Dreams

 

“Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” 
James 4:14

Thirty-nine years ago today my father passed away suddenly, less than a day after we buried my thirty-two year old brother-in-law who died of cancer. When you spend a week and half sitting in a funeral home making final arrangements for two people of your immediate family, life has a way of changing you. Not immediately, and sometimes not even in ways you can understand or explain. But it does change you.

It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by and even more difficult to think about everything they missed and everything we missed sharing with them. We lost a part of our future and past in a matter of days. I don’t know if we ever really recover from loss or just throw a blanket over it to allow us to function each day. We carry on, we laugh, we welcome new family members, we enjoy life because there is no other choice. We live for the living and for ourselves. Still, there’s always a hole, always moment in days where we stop and maybe smile at a memory or what they might have done or said about a family situation. Or the way life has changed so much over the years.

Here’s the strange part of the story…

A couple of weeks before my Dad died, I had a dream. In my dream, I saw him in a coffin at the funeral home, exactly as he appeared after he passed away.
Ten years earlier, my grandfather, (my father’s father), died unexpectedly. A couple of weeks before he died, I had a dream. In that dream, I saw him as he appeared in the coffin. My grandfather lived in Brooklyn so I had never been to that funeral parlor. And yet, when I walked in, everything was as I had seen it. In detail. I remember it very clearly.

A couple of days after my father was buried, I told my mother about both dreams. For obvious reasons, I had never told anyone about them before. She wanted to know why I didn’t tell her. She wondered if there might have been something we could have done if she had known. But as soon as she said the words, she understood.

You can’t alter your life chasing those types of dreams, just like you can’t alter your life chasing what might have been. There’s no time for that, no secret recipe for the secrets of life.

So hold the ones you love close. Those that are here and those who are not. And if the ones who are here don’t understand, hold them closer.

 

 

 

 

Scattering Love

                   It’s not what you gather but what you scatter that tells what kind of life you’ve lived.
Helen Walton

I was thinking about my childhood the other day and trying to remember how far back my memories went. I settled on somewhere between four and five years old but there were only a handful that were clear to me. That bothered me, especially when I took what was then and applied it to now.

Making memories with the people you love or care about is one of life’s greatest gifts. Some of the times we’ve laughed most were with our children and grandchildren, especially during their early years, when everything is on the table, learning is a daily adventure, innocent words  are a sound byte and your sense of wonder sometimes equals theirs. Those are memories that we’ll keep with us forever. Unfortunately, it’s all one-sided. Because in those early years it’s not anything they’ll remember. Influenced, yes. But all the things that were said or laughed about until there were tears in our eyes will not be a definitive memory for them.

That shouldn’t bother me because it’s just another cycle of life, but it does. I remember things that we did with our children and now our grandchildren that were special moments, and though we can relay the stories, it’s not the same as being there in our mutual minds. I sit and have conversations now with our grandchildren, play games, tell stories, laugh at the silliest things, hold them if they cry and sit back and wonder if they’ll remember any of it.

I’ve always understood this but I suppose as I’ve gotten older, Helen Walton’s quote has taken on a different meaning. You want those you love to remember every last laugh and cuddle and hand holding because you know that time of innocence, like life, is so short. Eight or nine comes too quick and soon they’re moving on. Parents will always be more invested in the lives of their children/grandchildren than the other way around. That’s just the way it is. It’s not a matter of loving or caring, it’s just the emotional investment that begins long before they open their eyes and never goes away.

So selfishly you want them to remember it all. Every amazing moment. Big and small. Hoping that you’ve scattered enough love and joy into their lives that one day they may laugh at something silly for no reason at all. You may not know it or even be there. But if it brought them happiness, then maybe something in their two year old lives stuck, and you’ve scattered enough.

And maybe, just maybe, the shade of a memory will not only be yours.