Black Friday or Bright Friday

It’s in our power to make another person’s day special.

        Holidays occasion a storm of gift giving. Expensive gifts, purchased at fashion marts of the world; cherished ones made by loving hands; and childish tokens to be treasured as long as life and memory last in the mind of the parent who received them. All are exchanged.

        But, humanly, we often overlook the most wonderful gift of all, the gift of words and acts of love. We shy away from words that come from within, the true coinage of the heart. Strangely, we will sacrifice and go without to save money for a gift, yet will withhold the precious gifts that costs not one cent. 

        For it doesn’t take money to give of yourself. We all can give of warmth, hope and courage. We can all offer a shoulder for someone to shed a few tears, and there is not one among us who hasn’t, at sometime, also needed that understanding shoulder for our own tears. 

        We can give comfort to someone who is ill, disturbed or in sorrow. This also should be easy, for everyone—even you and I—have been and probably will again, be in need of love and encouragement. 

        These gifts may be difficult the first times you give them, for often  we have allowed thosf dear words to become unfamiliar to our lips. It takes so little time to pat your husband on his shoulder as he leaves for work, to tell him you understand how hard the day sometimes must be but that you love him for doing it for you and your children. 

        It takes so little time for a husband to put his arm around his wife and speak words of love to her. To tell her how much he loves her, the home she makes for him, the time she gives to prepare the food and to care for the children. 

        It’s such a little effort to phone a friend and say “I’ve been thinking of you” or send an email, or write a note, “I haven’t heard of you for so long and wondered about you.”

        We even become so accustomed to our own children we forget to tell them that “No matter how much I scold you over little things, I really think you’re wonderful.” Or to a friend, “Thanks for the many hours I’ve shared with you. Your friendship is precious to me.” 

        I’m reminded of all this because recently the husband of a friend suddenly died during the day. That very morning however, as he was leaving for work he turned back and said “I think I’ll take time for another cup of coffee,” and they shared a few precious, unexpected moments of quiet. 

        It was so un-like him, so different from his usual morning rush, that when, in just hours, an accident took him and he never returned, she cherished these few moments like gold. “In his own way,” she said, “he told me that morning that even though we’d had rough times, he loved me and our children.” 

        Now, of course, most of us leave home in the morning and very routinely return that night. But sometimes some of us don’t. With such awareness we shouldn’t let our gift-giving be only for special occasions or limited to material things. It takes such a little time, and not one cent, to give the precious ones.  

        Words of love, friendship and understanding are, after all, the best both to give and to receive. Not as a formal ritual, but naturally, almost casually. So, during every one of the thirty-one days ahead, in word or in deed, tell someone you love them. 

         It’s in our power to make another person’s day special. Let’s do it and hope this special gift-giving will spur others to do the same. Worth a try.

Reflections On War And Men

 Now What Will We Do With Them?

         Today, we have no designated ‘foe’, yet we’re at war, and I don’t even know what General is planning the strategy. It wasn’t always so.

         In WW2, we knew our enemy and who our Generals were. We had MacArthur who achieved absolute surrender from the Japanese; Patton, who won The Battle of the Bulge, shortening the war by years; and Eisenhower of the European Theatre who later became our President.

         They were different, because their tasks were different. West Point develops more than one kind of military leadership, for in some battles one General is strong, while in other circumstances that same man would be weak.

         In WW2 there were two Generals that their Bosses, FDR and General Omar Bradley, did not know where and how to best use. Extremely talented, and perfect for their type of ‘fight’. but entirely wrong in others. Privately, they labeled them as “Loose Cannon”.

         One was Douglas MacArthur. who brilliantly won the fight in the Pacific. Outstanding even from his years at West Point, but his fellow cadets and co-workers either detested or loved him. Japan ended up loving him for he (along with Thomas Jefferson) gave them a Constitution they still live by, and equality for women.

         But he was a know-it-all tyrant and when the Korean troubles began he wanted to invade China and disobeyed by moving troops in that direction, forcing his  bosses, President Truman, and General Omar Bradley, to immediately Fire him.

         Another where-can-we-use-him was George Patton, Jr.

         He, a believer in reincarnation, said he had been Alexander the Great, and he just might have been, for at one time. in Tunisia, and his Advisors strongly suggesting he take a certain route. Patton said “No, I happen to know it’s that direction,” pointing the other way. “You see, I’ve been here before.  I fought right here, with the Carthaginians against the Romans  in 246 B.C.”   He was the boss, so they went his way and got to their destination quickly, and were able to surprise the Germans and win a battle. 

         He was far seeing, bold, and often acted independently. He knew his own talents and suffered because he was kept in obscure, small positions.

         But when Germany had the Allies ambushed in the Ardennes (Battle of the Bulge), Patton was immediately assigned to the task and he was in his element. He moved swiftly, pulling in troops from left and right, was always out front, not hidden in any 0ffice. He was bold, and in spite of everything against him, he pushed back the Germans and won the long battle.

         More lives were lost there than in any other battle, but it was a crucial one, that a less bold leader could not have handled, and the European War would have been extended for years.

         But with both Generals, the problem was what to do with them when their particular kind of crisis was over? ? ?

         Patton died within a year from a car accident and it was termed a blessing for he did not know how to be a peaceful civilian. MacArthur, fired, made a sad bid for the Presidency, and spent his days giving stirring speeches at universities around the world.

         FDR said of them; “Sadly, they are the kind of men we need in the Army, but are disasters when the fight is over”. General Omar Bradley, boss of both men, was quoted as saying, “WW2 would have lasted far longer without the two of them, but now the battle’s over, what can we do with them?”

         Eisenhower, their contemporary, was a different kind of General. He was a human being, let it show, and everyone liked Ike. He became president of a University, and later our President and responsible for the Nation’s wonderful Freeway system. He was a terrific General, but Eisenhower also knew how to be a civilian.

         People worshipped or hated both Patton and MacArthur. They viewed their troops of men as mere puppets for their personal use, and it showed. In war such men are needed, but pray God we never again let ourselves get in such a place where we need that kind of leadership.

         And . . .  it is interesting but sad to know that upon MacArthur’s death, his only son legally changed his name and disappeared into New York City’s World of Music. Yeah, for good or bad, war’s a different thing today.


Is There A Baby In The House?

Today’s words are for my sister, Bernice and her husband Wayne. They are the new great-grandparents of Cam, a Preemie boy, who is now doing well and out of an Incubator and into a crib in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

Because of the emergency of the birth, the Father, stationed in Afghanistan, was allowed a special Leave to come home, and it’s a wonderful time.

So, thinking of babies, I dug out a poem that Johnson Baby Products used in an advertisement in 1953. It’s done its work for lots of babies since then, and though some of the wording is dated . . . the heart of the poem is as true today as it was then.

And so, to Bernice and Wayne, Katherine, Cam and all others, my greetings.

Yes, there’s a baby in the house . . .

Look there,

there by the door, there where a shoe and a crumpled sock,

and a bright red block,

and a short fat elephant clutter the floor,

and the signs are clear . . .

A baby is near. 

Look there,

there by the stair,

by the cellar stair to the washing machine,

there’s a stack of diapers that ought to be clean,

and a clutter of strange looking things to wear,

and the signs are clear,

A baby lives here.


Look there,

there by the table,

there where the milk drips down in a puddle

and fruit and cereal mix in a muddle,

and a soiled bib swings from a silver cable,

all signs are clear

A baby eats here.

Look there,

there in the bed,

there where a red-faced cherub lies, thumb in his mouth,

and tight-shut eyes, and his bottom higher than his head.

Quiet, quiet, it’s perfectly clear

A baby sleeps here.


Look there,

look in the eyes,

and look in the hearts

of those who watch while a baby sleeps,

who will come at a call if he wakes and weeps,

who forget the diapers and broken toys,

who remember the tears and fears and joys

and the catch in the throat, and the clutch of the heart

when small hands fumble, and reach and touch.

Yes, look in their hearts, and the signs are clear

A baby lives here.

Congratulations to the new great-grandparents, joy to the Grandparents, happiness to the parents, and welcome to the baby, Cam.


From a good friend, to me and to you . . .

        The familiar song says: “That’s what friends are for”. but today, I’ve changed the words to; “This is what friends are for” and I mean it. Only the words of this intro are mine. All the rest came from that Friend. And I say ‘Thank You’.

– – – – – – – – – –

        The Holiday Season, when we’re sharing special time with loved ones and bringing the year to a close, is a Perfect time to recall the many things we have to be thankful for. This holiday season take time to lift your spirits and make the season more meaningful and joyful by giving thanks — individually and with family and friends — for the things that have made your lives better.

Here are Ten Ideas for Happy Holidays, and a life.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Each day of the holiday season write down at least three things you are grateful for. Anything counts, a promotion, your baby’s first steps, a walk outside on a beautiful day, hug from a loved one, or a long ago Teacher who spoke words that changed your life.

2. Make a Gratitude Jar. Create a family project where everyone writes things they are thankful for on slips of paper. Place those notes in a jar to be read when the family is gathered around the table or tree.

3. Create a Gratitude Tree. Draw a tree trunk and branches on a sheet of paper. Using colored paper (you can use colors that reflect the holidays that your family celebrates or seasonal colors) cut out leaves for the tree. Have each person write something he or she is grateful for on a leaf and glue it to the tree. Give it a place of honor for the holidays.

4. Gather and give thanks. When your family is gathered for the holiday meal, go around the table and have each person say a few things that he or she has been thankful for during the past year. End with a toast giving thanks for all those things and each other.

5. Give to others. As a family, learn about different charitable organizations and efforts. Together choose one that is meaningful to you and volunteer your time and efforts, make a donation or participate in some other way during the holidays.

6. Give Thanks daily. Dedicate 10 minutes each day during the holiday season to talking about gratitude and things you are grateful for.

7. Perform random acts of kindness. Agree that for a set time period, like a week or month, when each person will perform one act of kindness each day. Anything counts, whether large or small, random or planned. When your family is together at the end of the day (at dinner, before bedtime, or designate a special time), discuss what each of you did, what the response was and how it made you feel.

8. “Ring and Run” — Holiday style. Leave an anonymous holiday surprise at someone’s door, ring the bell and run away before the recipient opens the door and sees you. (Kids will really love this one!) Spread the cheer by adding a note asking them to pass it on and do the same for someone else.

9. Write a Thank You letter to someone who did something during the past year for which you are grateful. Mail or hand-deliver the thank you in person.

10. Make Gratitude your New Year’s resolution. Resolve to make Giving Thanks a regular part of your lives in the New Year.

        Giving thanks encourages you to live “in the moment” and be more open to the people and times in your life that give you joy not only during the holidays — but all year long.

– – – – – – – – – –

        I, with my son, William, (aka ‘Bill’), who does the brain work of this Blog, and my friend who sent it to me, wish you and your loved ones a happy Holiday season, Yes, yes, yes, but also for all of 2014, and while we’re at it, the wish is that the days of the rest of your lives be full of gratitude, peace and joy!

Life’s a Puzzle

Puzzle or Enigma ?

        Life’s a puzzle, and to show what I mean, sit back and fold your arms. That’s right. Just fold your arms.

        It’s comfy. You’ve done it often, but now, look at your arms. One is on top, with the hand folded  under the other arm. Nice, but now try to do it the other way. See, I said try putting the other arm on top.

        Ho, ho, ho. That’s a different story. And it is a puzzle. Oh, we can do it with a bit of effort, but it doesn’t feel ‘right’. Or natural. It’s awkward and your arms get tangled up in a mess.

        Okay, after you’ve given up on the that, fold your hands. Yeah, the same way your Grade School Teacher told you to do and you’ve done it a million times since then. There’s one thumb comfortably on top, and the other tucked beneath. And now . . . and you know what I’m going to say . .. open them and fold then again with the other thumb on top. We’re all thumbs aren’t we?

        As you ask others to do these same two acts, you’ll think, as I did, that it must be connected with being ‘right or left’ handed, but it doesn’t. Or maybe we’re just creatures of habit or instinct, and who knows which is which.

        Stay with me and if you think I’m through, you just don’t know Ethel. Far Eastern people say that women always begin walking with their left foot first, and males start with the right. I dunno about   others, but yes, I begin with my left foot, and haven’t had the guts to ask others.  

        We all have our oddities. I’m right handed, but, I deal a deck of cards, put the silverware on the table, distribute napkins, or other hand-outs with my left hand, and have done so without a thought, BUT, when my first computer was installed and I sat down to use it, my first act was move the Mouse, which had been placed to the right of the keyboard, over to the left side.

        “I didn’t know you were left handed” was heard, and I quickly answered that I’m not, but that it just ‘works’ more easily and swiftly, if on the left.

        ‘They” say men dress by always starting with putting the same leg into their trouser legs and women the other. But yes, I do start with the same leg, pulling on panty hose, slipping my feet into shoes or tying shoe strings with the same pattern. And, I find I do many tasks with either the right or left, and also find the other way seems wrong when I try to switch.

        I don’t know if specialists have a name for such acts and they seem too randomly scattered to be put in one heap. But it’s real. A friend and I once traveled often together, and I soon learned that for both of us, it was better if I got up early, dressed and went downstairs to read the paper, enjoy a coffee and wait for her to meet me when she was ready.

        Otherwise, it was helly for both of us. It actually upset her to see the helter skelter way, to her, of what I did first, second or last. She had long hair, with a very unique hair style and would sometimes do and re-do it several times before every hair was in the right (same) place, and that drove me nuts.

        I sympathized, for it was something she could not change. She said that mowing the lawn was one of her chosen and well-liked tasks, but one ‘lawn day’ she was ill, and her husband good-heartedly mowed the lawn for her.

        He had no cut-and-dried map of How to Mow The Lawn, but just did it, and pleased that he had taken a hard chore from her, he left for work. And, now, believe me or not, she had to get up and re-mow that lawn in the ‘right’ way, so that the paths all lawnmowers leave were going in the ‘right’ way.

        For her, it was torture to see those pathways going ‘wrong’. That’s compulsive behavior in some form of another, and we all have them. No? Well go back to those first ideas of folding your arms. Your hands. Putting on your hosiery, your shoes, or using your computer Mouse. Ho, ho, ho. It’s a puzzle, and, well, if it’s not for you, it is for the rest of us.