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September 24, 2015

Thoughts as I turn the big 5-0

I came home from my early morning workout to news of the closing of one of my places of employment over illness concerns. This has given me an unexpected birthday gift--time to sit in quiet and reflect. As of right now, 50 isn't reallythat different from 49! Then again, I am not technically 50 until 11:17 AM today so I have a few hours :). At 11:17 my mother will call me, as she does every year, and leave a happy birthday message. Some years I can answer the phone; this year I will be in the midst of teaching a Piano Proficiency class at Mott Community College in Flint, MI. Mom has practiced this birthday tradition religiously for a number of years. Sometimes dad has joined her, so I get my birthday song in harmony. In all honesty, it was something I used to take for granted. Not anymore.

This decade is starting out a heckuva lot better than the last. As a result of life circumstances at the time, 40, frankly, sucked. My parents and my daughter, Janelle, celebrated with me at a Mexican restaurant in Davison. I still have the picture of me in a sombrero with my then-11-year-old daughter beside me as the wait staff sang "happy birthday"...and it wasn't even in Spanish :). Now I look at that with nostalgia. At the time I looked at it as a reminder that life as you know it can derail on you in an instant. In hindsight, I know it wasn't an "instant"; there were many years of factors leading up to it, but that really isn't the direction I want these thoughts to go in right now.

The receding and graying hair on my head may indicate that I am 50, but the rest of my body and mind don't really feel 50....whatever 50 is supposed to "feel" like.  Somewhere around 45, a shift in my thinking occurred. I realized that it was entirely possible that I had more years behind me than I might ahead of me. I found this sobering. Right now my thinking centers around "what am I going to do with my next 50 years"? Here's a few thoughts:

1) I am going to be more health conscious. This started about a year ago for both my wife, Kristi, and I. We are not thinking "diet"--both a figurative and a literal 4-letter word--we are focused on gradual lifestyle change. This change includes religiously getting my butt, and the rest of me, to the gym. If I'm gonna live to be 100, I want to feel good and be active. We are taking those steps now to help insure this possibility.

2) I am going to work on my mind as well as my body. More and more I am discovering that the preconceived limitations I have placed on my abilities, my life direction, my ambitions, and my goals have been self-limiting. I have listened to and believed the negative voices in my head that have told me "you can't," "you will never be like _____," "you're not good enough," etc. It's high time to bust down some of those barriers.

3) Hand in hand with number two, I am going to be more open to non-conventional ways of thinking, doing, and being. The "norm" at this point in my life, given that I took the route of a college education and have earned multiple degrees, would be that I had a full-time job that I could expect to hold until I retire with a company that truly cares about my well-being and security. If they ever truly existed, those days are gone for many, if not most, of us. I now hold down five part-time jobs every week to make ends meet. What was once non-conventional is, at least for now, a norm. The blessing in it is doing what I love and interacting with a wide variety of people in multiple settings. My mind is open to new approaches, new methods, and out-of-the-box thinking because "the box", as I knew it, is no longer there.

4) I am going to re-prioritize what matters. For me, it means to stop worrying so much about what "could" happen and take some chances that are worth taking. So I'm learning to ride a motorcycle and enjoying it tremendously. I'm focusing more on the gift of family. I'm appreciating the beauty of nature, the beauty of people, the wonder of being able to do what I do. I'm looking to grow and discover. I'm excited to be alive and embrace all of the changes that are in store, recognizing that we are in a constant state of flow and nothing stays the same. I am removing a six word toxic phrase from my thinking: "we've always done it that way." What matters, and all that we can count on this side of heaven, is this life here and now. What was is done; what will be is shaped by how we live now but is not under our control.

Regrets? I've had a few. Mistakes? I've made some. These do not define me, nor will they deter me as I move forward. In the next 50 years I hope to show more love, more grace, more compassion, but also more resolve to speak out for what I believe to be right, regardless of whether this wins me a popularity contest. I want my time on this spinning orb to count for something, and, when it is time to go, I want to feel like I've gone m.a.d (made a difference).

This is what 50 "feels" like :). Blessings on your day.


August 14, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to reunite with two music colleagues that I performed with several years ago, one a guitar player and the other a saxophonist. We were joined by a drummer and bass player. We dubbed ourselvesThe Doctors, since all of us have a doctorate in our field, except for the bass player whom we christened The Doctor of Love. It seems appropriate to have at least one of those in a rock group! We covered some classic rock hits from the late 60's and 70's at Back to the Bricks--a popular car show in Flint, Michigan and surrounding communities.

One of the songs we covered was "Stairway to Heaven" by Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, a Led Zeppelin hit that has long been one of my favorite songs. As I was singing it in the midst of the gathered community, certain lines stood out to me in terms of our life journey:

1. "Sometimes all our our thoughts are misgiven." I am the only thing holding me back and I can be my own worst enemy.

2. "A new day will dawn for those who stand long." Action and persistence are keys for learning. Motivational speaker and network marketing giant, Jim Rohn, shared the Parable of the Sower from Matthew 13: 3-9. He spoke of the the Sower's ambition and perseverence, even when the seed was eaten by birds or fell on rocky and thorny ground. The Sower was able to discipline his disappointment and that discipline paid off in a bountiful harvest. A new day dawned!

3. "There's still time to change the road you're on." Dream. Imagine. Believe. Act!

I have faith in God. I have faith in my wife and myself. I have faith in our family and friends. I have faith in the Church and its ministry of transformation. I have faith in communities that will work toward the notion that what unites us as a human family will outweigh what divides us. Where will it all lead? To a future that is better and better! "Oo, it makes me wonder!" Blessings.