Be Bright-Eyed And Bushy-Tailed–A Light Hearted Carpe Diem!

Be Bright-Eyed and Bushy-Tailed–A Lighthearted Carpe Diem!

Like most children, when I was younger, I hit the floor running early each morning with a boundless reservoir of energy.  What I didn’t fully appreciate at the time, was that my parents were usually up and dressed as well, preparing breakfast and making plans for the day.  I’d skip down the hallway after waking up, and as I rounded the doorway to the kitchen. my dad would spy me as he glanced over the rim of his glasses.  He would then clap his hands and shuffle his feet back and forth in a little two-step dance while saying, “You’re looking especially bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning!”  Sometimes he’d even take my mom by the waist and have her join in his jig.  As a child I never seemed to tire of that greeting and the silly giggles and hugs that followed!  It was also very influential in helping the creative juices of my youthful imagination flow more freely throughout the rest of my day!

As you can guess, this type of greeting wasn’t as endearing during my teenage years.  In fact, during that time I was a bit hesitant to ever let on that my parents could inspire any great productive ambition.  Still, my dad prevailed with his glad tidings most mornings!  Both my dad and mom were usually quite generous with other forms of support and encouragement during a typical day too.  My father’s antics weren’t necessarily ones that paid homage to the proverbial message of “Seize the Day”!  However, they did nurture the attitude that at the very least, I should embrace each day, accomplish a few meaningful things and even have some measure of fun while doing it!  

I may not amble out of bed nearly so spryly as in my youth, and the routine of my days can feel a little boggy at times.  However, the example my dad and mom set, combined with the unconditional love they extended to me through the years, continues to remind me that I truly do have some say as to how my day unfolds!  Looking back now, I realize more than ever before, that my parents seemed to make everyday life look really, really good!

As a young adult in college, I can remember coming home late some evenings after long days at school or work feeling somewhat forlorn.  My dad would often be sitting in his favorite wingback chair.  When I came through the door, he’d look up from reading the newspaper or a lesson manual he was reviewing in preparation for the university classes he taught.  He always offered a warm smile accompanied by a little wink and would ask why I wasn’t looking so “chipper”.  That kind of response could have sent me over the edge into full blown woefulness, but my dad always drew me in to share with him a highlight from my day, as well as any concerns.  If time allowed, we’d discuss the most pressing tasks at hand and the best ways to set about accomplishing them.  My dad was good to never downplay my worries, rather he’d try and help shed a different light on them, which in turn helped me put them in better perspective.  Sometimes at the end of our visits, he’d share with me what other family members were doing as well.

As much as my parents seemed to have an uncanny knack of knowing how to help their children navigate the concerns and worries of various aspects of their lives, they also seemed equally intuitive in knowing how to help all of us as family members be informed about each other’s responsibilities.  By so doing, we were made aware of their pressing concerns and could offer our help and support.  It’s a good rule of thumb, and indeed wise counsel, to learn to be more aware of others, then we can shift our focus from being fully centered on ourselves; that in and of itself, seems to make any day go better!

The inspiring words from my father’s history are again a kind reminder for me to appreciate all the “typical” and “everyday” things life has to offer!

“I have noticed that some people seem always to be looking for some spectacular job or opportunity–lucky number or whatnot–which will bring them great wealth or an exciting adventure; then they can relax on easy street for the rest of their lives–only concerned each day with what they can do that will be exciting and fun!  This attitude has had little appeal for me.  It seems so much of life’s pleasure comes from caring for the small and even mundane tasks.  Unless a person can learn to enjoy these, much of what life has to offer is lost.”

This same sentiment is uniquely echoed in the book, I Knew Their Hearts, another wonderful book I just read by Jeff Olsen.  In his book, the author shares the grueling process of recovering from a horrific car accident that took the lives of his wife and youngest son.  He describes how enduring multiple medical procedures and surgeries often proved to be almost too overwhelming at times.  He tells how he was once encouraged by one of his insightful caretakers, to go to a “peaceful place” during tests and blood draws.  This is how he describes one such scenerio:

“I immediately went home…it was a Saturday evening several years earlier when Spencer was only three or four years old.  He and I were sitting out on the deck enjoying lemonade and licorice whips.  I remember watching the sprinklers water the grass and listening to Tamara inside the house…I breathed deeply and forgot about the woman poking at my hands to find a good vein.  My thoughts remained on my deck at home.  Time stood still for me in that instant.  My heart was filled with the clear certainty that being on the deck there with my son was as good as life gets.  Tears welled up in my eyes.  I could not hold back the warm feelings of joy and gratitude.  This perfect, happy place was nothing special.  It was found in the simple, everyday pleasure of being a husband and dad.”   If you are interested in learning more about Jeff Olsen and his new book, check out this interview of him online:

In the final chapter of my father’s history entitled, “Life Goes On  dad states:

“As I look into the faces of my grandchildren, each one healthy in body and mind, and note their enthusiasm for life, my sincere hope for each of them is that their lives can turn out for them as well as mine has for me.”

I’m so grateful that my children had the neat example of their grandparents, who seemed to make the choice so readily to really enjoy and learn from all of life’s experiences!

What I’m learning now is… 

I was fortunate to be blessed with parents who took a keen interest in my life, and yet they thoroughly enjoyed their own lives as well.  As parents it’s easy to feign disinterest in our children’s lives when they do not respond in the ways we think they should when we are so willing to expound on our “vast” knowledge of how to handle all of life’s experiences.  What I’m learning now is that regardless of the response, consistency in showing interest and concern for our children is the key to strong relationships and good bonds with them, hopefully making both our everyday lives all the more richer!

What “everyday” things make you excited to greet a new day?  










Here’s to hoping we can be happier with the usual routine of our lives!


A Patriotic Heart Amid Political Rhetoric…And An Anecdote To Live By!

A Patriotic Hear Amid Political Rhetoric…And An Anecdote To Live By!

A vivid memory I have of my youth is that my parents often expressed feelings of gratitude for being blessed with citizenship in this great land of America!  Perhaps because my dad and mom were just one generation removed from grandparents who had made the hard choice to leave the countries of their birth and seek better opportunities and freedoms in the United States, they always felt inspired to be good citizens.  I can recall overhearing bits and pieces of conversations between my parents, friends and relatives on occasion, when they wondered together if they would have had the courage to make the same decisions under similar circumstances.  To be sure, some spirited political discussions were enjoyed once in a while, my dad would often play the devil’s advocate to the passionate views expressed by one of my aunt’s about government leaders.  Their banter was done in good jest and never ended in anything but good-humored laughter!

My dad also related stories about how his feelings of being a good citizen and showing loyalty and patriotism for our nation started as early as grade school.   He said that much of what he knew about the founding of our country, our colonial forefather, the struggles of 1776, and the westward movement, all went back to that impressionable stage of his life.

He wrote these thoughts in his life history:

“…my patriotism was also strengthened by the positive expressions of my parents concerning our nation.  Our state and national leaders were spoken of far more frequently with respect and appreciation than with criticism and rejection.”

Another powerful influence in my dad and mom’s lives that perhaps seemed to have had the most impact on their allegiance to being discreet and loyal citizens, was the decision on the part of some of their family members to devote their efforts to giving service to our country in an official capacity.  These brave, young souls fought in far off lands to defend and preserve the rights and traditions we’re all privileged to enjoy as American citizens.

My father’s two brothers were both pilots in World War II.  His brother, Lloyd, was killed near the end of the war at age twenty two, when his plane apparently crashed into the side of a mountain during a rainstorm as occupation military personnel were being transported into Germany.  My mother’s two oldest brothers had lifetime careers serving in the United States Air Force.

Being Good Citizens in Today’s Political Climate

In our society today, with the amount of political rhetoric we hear, especially during election time; and with the onslaught of news from media pundits, it is surprising to me that anyone has the stamina to withstand the character dissection that running for office entails.  It behooves us then, to know our responsibilities for being good citizens and not let the political arena become our scapegoat for justifying the hardships we might feel in our daily lives.  If this is our mindset, it should prove to help us to not be complacent about working hard and being productive, problem solving people!

   May our patriotic hearts beat strong and proud!

An Anecdote to Live By

 My father had his own epiphany on how to be a good citizen and live a happy life!

“One day I met a friend who had been a judge for many years–his name was Zachary Champlin.  He had unusually rich experiences in working with people who had been involved in serious and tragic situations.  I shook his hand and said to him, ‘Judge Champlin, tell me one thing a person should do to have a happy life.’  Without hesitation he answered, ‘Stay out of jail.’  This brief reply had many ramifications in my mind.  Basically it means to be a proud, loyal, and patriotic citizen; to appreciate the great blessings we have to be born citizens of the United States of America.”             pic 47_edit_v2    

–as told by LeRoy Jorgensen

What I’m learning now is…

It goes without saying, that we should never underestimate the influence our example of being good citizens will have on our children!  We can study and learn more about how we can serve and contribute to our communities, then share this knowledge with our children. What I’m learning now is we can also strive to really appreciate the political process, even when some outcomes don’t reflect our desires.  In so doing, we can help our children truly respect the blessings that their citizenship provides!   

Have a discussion around the dinner table about how “electoral votes” vs. “popular votes” determine how a president is chosen!  Then share how it goes.

In honoring our parents and grandparents and the fine traditions of their generations, what can we do to inspire some degree of the same respect from our children and grandchildren?  

As our patriotic hearts lead our actions, may political issues be seen in a more positive light!


I’d also like to give a personal tribute to my youngest daughter, Mandi and her neat husband, Cole Gibbons.  I will never forget the day three years ago, shortly after they were married, when they left in their rented Penske truck to travel across country to New York City.  Mandi is realizing her dream of attending NYU and is working hard towards her PhD.  Cole is in his third year at NYU’s medical school.  They have embraced the city with great passion!  We have visited them many times over the last few years and have truly become enchanted with the brillance of New York City!  Although there was so much havoc and turmoil rendered by mother nature on the east coast, Mandi and Cole have remained optimistic despite going without water and electricity for several days.  Amid the devastation, they have been good to find small ways to do their part to help restore a city they have come to love so much!

        We are in awe, Mandi and Cole!  We love you!          


The Perfect Parenting Coup After Trick Or Treating Sabotage!

This time of year, we like to share stories about Halloween!  As children, it seemed especially intriquing to huddle under blankets in the dark and tell exaggerated stories about Halloween, making sure to include haunting sound effects and raspy voice impressions!  I’d like to share my own, real life Halloween story…  

Long before the term “stranger danger”  became common vernacular, and an unlimited assortment of pre-made costumes on hangers could be found at your local drug store; and before climate controlled trick or treating was done at the mall, I remember rummaging around the house for the perfect mix of eclectic items to come up with my own festive, one-of-a-kind, Halloween attire.  (To be sure, each self-made garb was usually a funny Halloween story in and of itself!)  I often had to pile on extra layers underneath my costume to withstand the chill of the changing fall season that invariably saw a nose-dive in the thermometer right before Halloween night.

The specific story about Halloween that I’m recalling, took place when I was in second grade.  I was so excited to be going door to door with my older sister for the coveted bit-sized goodies.  After we attended our school fall festival, we met up with our friends at the back of the school play yard.  The dusky dark of the evening had just started to settle in.  We weren’t adorned with glow-in-the-dark accessories, nor did we carry blinking goblin flashlights, rather, we just dashed about the streets with our large group of costumed misfits!  We would stop under street lights on occasion and take a brief inventory of our loot.  If we spied a full sized candy bar amid the mini versions that typically dominated our treat bag, screams of delight were loudly proclaimed!  To be sure, the events of the previous evening’s ventures did incite the telling of stories about our successful Halloween conquests the next day.

One such brief stop however, soon found my sister and I, and a few other stragglers separated from the majority of our group.  Since the cold was starting to seep into the thermal layers under our costumes, we decided to finish up the final block of houses nearby that led up the street to our home.  In the abandon and excitement of wrapping up another Halloween excursion, I hadn’t really paid much attention to the figure walking nearby with his face huddled deep in the collar of his coat.  I chatted away with my sister as we rounderd the final corner into our neighborhood.  I even offered a greeting to the man as we walked past him.  My sister, feeling a bit less gregarious, nudged my ribs with her elbow.  When I turned to face her with a bit of exasperation, I suddenly felt a forceful hand grab my candy bag with such brute strength that the handles broke away immediately!  I watched in disbelief, as the shadowy configuration of the person who had just been beside us, ran off into an open field in the opposite direction of our home!   By now, my sister had grabbed my other arm and was literally dragging me home with the tips of my boots barely touching the ground.  I was still lamenting about the prized candy stash of delectable treats I had lost, when my sister recited the events of the incident to my parents.  If they were alarmed, they certainly curbed their reaction.  I remember them being only moderately disgruntled!  It was a school night, so they just encouraged us to get ready for bed.  In fact, it seemed they showed the most concern when they reminded us to brush our teeth!

It was a hard call to be my usual jovial self at school the next day, while stories about Halloween candy abundance were indeed shared with relish!  I also observed my friends sneaking mouthfuls of their treats during class.  At home after school, my siblings were discreet as they poured the mounds of goodies from their bags, enjoying the cherished ritual of dividing the candy into piles of the most favorite to least liked.  They were good to share with me once in a while, but as you can surmise–it was usually from the least liked pile!  I obviously went to bed a little despondent!  Although I didn’t know it yet, one of my fondest memories of Halloween was yet to unfold!SPOOKTACULAR VINTAGE-1     

The next morning was Saturday, and since I was an early riser, the house was quiet when I tiptoed to the family room to watch morning cartoons.  I wasn’t very far into my first show, when I thought I heard muffled voices coming from the bedrooms of my siblings.  I started to sneak stealth-like back down the hall, when suddenly my dad came out of his bedroom dressed in his work clothes.  He greeted me with a little too much cheer for someone ready to check off the chore list.  Then he pulled a brand new trick or treat bag from behind his back, and as I took it from his outstretched hand, I looked around and took note of the crayon artwork that decorated the doors down the hall.   As my mom coaxed me to knock on each door, they were opened with great decorum and bowls of candy were then presented for me to choose from and fill my bag.  To my delight, these wondrous antics went on for several rounds, until my bag held a generous supply of my favorite treats!

In the beginning paragraph of his autobiography, my dad shares one of his earliest childhood recollections.

“I was standing with my little, four-year-old right hand in my father’s big left hand as we stood looking at our new home.  The feelings I had were of contentment and security–two emotions which have followed me pretty much throughout my life.”  He goes on to say, “I think these feelings must have come from the inner realization that my parents were very happy and proud to have me as a member of their family.”

Looking back, I realize that these two emotions have also defined my life.  What I learned from my own Halloween story, on that fall weekend morning-long ago, is that Halloween wasn’t so much about the candy that year.  It was about my dad and mom showing me, in a way that I could appreciate at the age of seven, that they were grateful I was safe and still with them and our family!  I also remember still having to do Saturday chores!

What I’m Learning now…

Contentment is such a great word; my favorite, I think.  What I’m learning now is that amid all the many things we seek after in this life, being more content is perhaps what we need to strive for the most!      

How do you define contentment in your life? 

Happy Halloween!