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Labor Day…

The air is thick with humidity this morning and ragweed season has begun. I’ll spend as much time on the porch as my allergies will allow, but it tends to be somewhat shorter in duration this time of year. It’s a little frustrating because Fall is absolutely my favorite time of year, and a perfect chance to enjoy the quiet of the porch. Spring is nice, everything coming back to life and all, but Fall beckons me to introspection and reflection on the past year. It begins slowly and reaches a crescendo by the Christmas holidays, just in time to look forward to the New Year.

Fall in North Texas may be different from others’ experience of the changing seasons. Fall officially begins on the autumnal equinox and occurs around September 22nd each year, although it may not feel like it until late October or November. Even then, it may only last a couple of days or weeks until the cold of Winter moves in. Now that the average temperature for each year seems to be one for the record books, the seasons can’t be forecast accurately anyway…

Fall, or at least the timing of it, brings a sense of urgency to living fully and enjoying the blessings in life on an even deeper level. Looking backwards, I can see missed opportunities and instead of regrets, I learn to be more vigilant. It’s easy to fall prey to tunnel vision and miss the doors that God has unlocked along the way, especially when it comes to family and friends. Fall brings clarity and renewed purpose to live life well.

I turned sixty a couple of weeks ago. It’s probably not as big a milestone as I’ve made it out to be, but it feels like it to me. Last year, I decided to step away from the contracting business, go back to school, and re-start my writing career. The last year hasn’t been easy, at least financially. Although I’ve stayed busy, starting a business is never easy. It takes a lot of grit, determination, and perseverance, especially for introverts like me. Although I’m far better at being social when business is involved, I still have difficulties, especially cold-calling and networking. Fortunately, most of my work is from home.

Most of stem from internal issues like believing I’m worthy. I’ve struggled with that for a very long time. I typically don’t like the word ‘self’ in front of things like esteem or worth. Not that healthy self-esteem or valuing one’s self is a bad thing, mind you. It’s just that I tend toward an inflated sense of self if I’m not careful. Holding myself in high regard tends to add the words ‘ish’ and centeredness after the hyphenated ‘self’. I begin to think of my own abilities rather than the gifts I’ve received from God. I forget where ego and pride have taken me in the past.

My friend Edgar often tells me that “I’m not a slow learner, I’m a fast forgetter”. I’ve always known I was reasonably intelligent. Given that it took so long to learn how valuable I am to God, I’d he nailed me down well. It’s easy to forget my successes are the direct result of plugging in to a far greater power than myself.

I may have issues when it comes to self-esteem, but I know without a doubt, that God sees me differently. When I remember who’s I am and how much He treasures me, I begin to accept myself for who I am a bit more and everything becomes easier. I treat myself a little better, forgive my failures a little more, and experience far less fear of the outside world. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s sure gained speed as I progress further in life.

Remembering who I am makes me ‘right-sized’, as my dad used to say. I used to run from one extreme to the other: either I was the better than anyone else or I was a piece of crap. Today, I’m okay being human. I make mistakes, try to learn from them, and move on to the next thing in front of me. It also makes me far more capable of doing that both personally and professionally. I’m certainly not the best, but I do it well and perform in my own unique way.

When I was a child, my father used to tell me how special I was. I was adopted – a chosen baby. As I ventured out into the world I found out that no one else thought I was that special, and that proved to be a disappointment. I was well into my adult years before I knew what he meant. I was just like everyone else, but I was special to my father, whether it was my adopted father or my heavenly one…

So, as Fall approaches I have the opportunity for another season of introspection and reflection, not that it’s seasonal, mind you. My friend Jim (I really miss him…) always told me that’ “Self-examination, coupled with prayer and meditation, followed by vigorous action, produces favorable results”. I’ve learned just how right he was. I’m ready for Fall…

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The Pause Button

It’s going to be a hot one today, but the westerly breeze across the porch felt so good I stayed a little longer than I should. There’s much to do today. The farm project moved to the front of everything and events are travelling faster than I imagined. A shout-out to the Tarrant Regional Water District (which I wrote erroneously as ‘Trinity River’ Water District yesterday… please accept my apologies because you all are wonderful….) for jumping on this so quickly.

I’ve been so excited about this project that I dove in with both feet over the last three days. In all my excitement, it dawned on me that I’d failed to spend time thanking God for the blessings, of which this project is only a small part. If I believed prayer life required formal prayers and a pious stance I’d be seriously remiss. Prayer has become more of a conversational process with God. I’m sure people think I’m crazy since it looks like I’m talking to myself all the time, but that’s not the case. I converse regularly with the God of my understanding and I’ve even learned to listen better, which has been a major accomplishment given my tendencies toward self-obsession…

However, things have been moving quickly. Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t stopped to thank God for granting me the desire of my heart (of which this project is a part). I’d probably done it mentally (I’m not confused where the blessings originate), but I hadn’t done so verbally. So, I spent the extra time on the porch today making a mental gratitude list and thanking Him aloud for each of them, one by one. Before I knew it, my list had multiplied exponentially, and time had flown by. Hence, the late start to the day.

It’s easy to get caught up in the plethora of daily projects, both personally and professionally. In the process I often forget to thank the one who made it all possible. There are times busyness consumes me. I forget that the only reason I have so much to do is because a loving God extended His unbelievable (and undeserved) gift of grace: spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. That grace has transformed me. Today I like the face I see in the mirror, and believe me, that hasn’t always been the case. It relieves me of the oppressive thoughts and feelings of ‘never doing enough’ and never being enough.

I know all-too-well the danger in moving too fast, of forgetting the source from which all blessings flow. It doesn’t take long to become filled with a sense of self-accomplishment and the ungrateful spirit that comes with it. That’s shaky ground for those of us who suffer from an exaggerated, often unrealistic, sense of self. When it becomes all about me – what I did, and what I’ve accomplished – I’m not far from the inevitable self-sabotage that follows, especially when I finally realize my self-deception.

In the book of James, the brother of Jesus (called “Old Camel Knees” for his devotion to kneeling in prayer), says, “Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of Heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light” (James 1.16 from The Message). That’s been my experience as well. It is all grace. It’s not about me. God invites my cooperation in the grand scheme of things, but it’s His grace that enables me to live freely and joyously in a world that often tries to wear me down. Grace is what reminds me that God is especially fond of each of us. Grace leads me to treat others, and myself, better. Grace is so overwhelming that I must share it with others. Imagine that: me of all people living a life of grace, and grace leads to a life of gratitude and service.

I’m going to keep this brief. I have a lot (and I mean a lot) to do today, but I’m extremely grateful I pushed the ‘pause’ button this morning and talked to the giver of all “good and perfect gifts”. The funny thing about gratitude is how it increases and seems to overflow into everything in my day. I feel a deeper love for my wife, for my kids, and all the people in my life. I’m better able to see the ‘big picture’ and look to the bigger community of which I am a part. Most importantly, I’m able to tackle the difficulties life throws my way, be a part of that community, and walk in the light. That, my friends, is a pretty good way to live…

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Bridal Showers and Starbucks

Time and recovery has taught me to “stay where my feet are”. I’m not very good at it, but I’m better than I used to be. I’m having some difficulty with staying in the moment when I look ahead to the remainder of the day. Our son is getting married next month and today is the prerequisite wedding. His fiance is an only child and apparently this shower is a big deal for her and her mother, as well it should be. I’m told there will be around fifty people or so there. I feel , well, a huge sense of dread when I think of being part of such a large crowd, especially with people I don’t know.

If it were a recovery, church, or business meeting I wouldn’t have an issue. I know what to do, how to act, and what to talk about then, but being socially awkward and an introvert in a group of strangers is a whole different ballgame. The discomfort has already started, and the shower is still hours away.

Moreover, the shower is in Dallas. I am from Fort Worth. For as long as I can remember, there has been a tension between Dallas And Fort Worth.  When I grew up and spent time in other parts of our state, I discovered that Fort Worth was not unique. Dallas seemed to be at odds with everywhere else in Texas. In fact, most folks will tell you that I might as well be crossing state lines when I enter Dallas county…

Later that day…

Okay. I admit it. I ‘chickened out’. My wife is at the bridal shower while I sit here in a Starbucks down the road with my trusty laptop. It takes a lot to get me to sit in a Starbucks. I would much rather patronize a small, local place, where the coffee doesn’t always taste burned, unless it’s free and then it’s tolerable. It’s just that when we rang the doorbell and I saw all those young ladies between the front door and the back patio where far fewer men were congregating, I lost all nerve. So here I sit, drinking a ridiculously overpriced, pseudo-coffee drink, with my head stuck deep in my computer screen lest someone I know sees me…

I’ve been writing this blog for almost a year now. One of the things I appreciate most is the sense of community that exists in the “blogosphere’. When I decided to leave my contracting business and return to professional ‘business’ writing full-time, my peers stressed the importance of reading and writing everyday, whether it was professionally or not. It was an easy instruction for me as I’ve always been a voracious reader and kept a journal of my thoughts and feelings; privately, of course. I always tell clients that successful marketing includes regular blog posts and customer contact, so maybe I should try some of my own advice. Hence, Thoughts from the Porch was born.

I guess I’m a relative latecomer to the whole blogging deal. I never spent time reading things from the screen. I prefer something tangible, a book or a magazine, that I can hold on to and read at my leisure. However, over the last few months, I’ve discovered a whole world of great writers and incredible thinkers that I’ve been missing for a good while. Today, I follow many other bloggers and enjoy the diversity of words and thought. One of my favorites (which I recommend) is Stephen Black and his Fractured Faith blog site. He tends to end when a question inviting engagement. For me, feeling self-conscious and inadequate, this invitation to engage is sorely appreciated.  I often feel that whatever I have to say just isn’t that big of a deal to anyone but me.

This morning, he asked, “Do you write truthfully?” and I’ve been thinking about it all day. I sincerely hope I do.

When I write, whether it be personally (like here) or professionally (my business and marketing), I strive to be honest. I hope that it has some intrinsic value and offers something new and refreshing. Then I feel as I have nothing to say that hasn’t been said. Like it or not, that’s true. I read and listen to a wide variety of writers and authors and I haven’t discovered something that hasn’t been said before. The thousands of years of human existence leave little room for new experiences. Nothing I can think of or say is new and original. In fact, I feel a little silly when I’m excited by the things I discovered so much later in life than most folks and feel a need to tell everyone. I always was late to the party…

So I’m simply not that special or unique. Yet, nothing I say has ever been said in my voice, from my perspective, and in the way that I feel ( nor has it in everyone else I read or listen to) so maybe that makes it worthwhile, at least to someone. The more I read and listen to others, the more I feel a part of something far bigger than me, the more I feel a sense of community, and the less isolated I feel by my shyness and introversion. If I feel that way, could someone else possibly feel that way as well? The only way to find out is to speak and write honestly…

The next morning…

The thought train was off and running yesterday when I received a text that everyone at the bridal shower was asking where I was, there were more men than expected, and maybe I should come. I thought about it a bit (and prayed!), and mustered up the courage to put the laptop away and head over there. I sheepishly rand the doorbell and was greeted by laughter, a bit of chaos, and welcomed inside. I met some new people, saw some I already knew, and eased my way into the festivities. Honestly, I had a good time despite my initial discomfort. Life’s like that. Every time I walk past the ‘fear’ curtain it turns out things aren’t as bad as I thought. I have a lot more in common with folks than I thought…

 

 

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I Don’t Know…

The rain started on Thursday. It was brief that first day, only thirty minutes or so, but enough to clean the air and drop the temperature. Then it rained for most of the day on Friday, off and on Saturday, and I have awaken to wet streets and dripping eaves each day since. Another day of wet, wonderful rain is predicted, and the heat won’t return until the end of the week.

Such things don’t usually happen in North Texas in August. It’s a welcome relief to the brutal heat of summer, especially this year. Drought, with all its attendant problems, has left us with falling, dry leaves and the almost winter-like brown of the grass. Finding relief in the middle of summer is a gift from God. I’ve never been so grateful for having to mop the floors because of the dogs’ muddy feet.

The biggest blessing of the week came Friday night though. I drove to our friends’ house in Oklahoma and returned with my lovely wife. She remarked that she was thankful I didn’t get upset by her week-long absence. How could I be upset? I’m simply happy she was able to get out and about, especially with her physical limitations and dealing with chronic pain. Getting out for the day is a little victory. Getting out for a week is a miracle. I missed Margaret, yet the solitude was nice, even though it was interrupted by the kids coming and going. I had a lot of time to work, write, and do projects I’ve been putting off. Still, it’s definitely true that “absence makes the heart grow fonder…”

Our life together is overflowing with blessings I often wonder why I, of all people have received so much grace. I certainly don’t deserve it. Much of my life has been an example of what not to do, and yet, here I sit basking in the glow and freedom of God’s grace. I’ve come to believe that everything in life is about grace, still I have moments of doubt, both in God and myself…

I, like so many others, was taught to accept articles of my faith tradition without question. That may work for those that need easy, simplistic answers, but it can foster judgement, self-righteousness, and false piety. The fragility of faith without doubt and question was a contributing factor to my long trek away from the God I know today. God invites questioning and doubt. Faith grows in the crucible of doubt. Despite my questions, doubt, and periodic low self-esteem my faith has grown, matured, and transformed into an intimate relationship with the Creator.

I finally accepted questioning and doubt as part of the human condition, especially in these times, and life experience has transformed my belief into faith and faith into trust. God has my best interests at heart even when I doubt and question his course for my life.

God really is control. He cares for me deeply, even when it feels like he’s absent. I’m not immune to grief, sorrow, and disappointment. While there’s no easy answer to these feelings, I find myself guilty of offering trite and somewhat cliché answers to others going through their own periods of such feelings. I don’t intend to, but that still doesn’t mitigate the damage they cause to the one asking the questions. I’m beginning to learn the admonition of Jesus’ saying, “Let your no be no, and your yes be yes”. My dad used to tell me to “say what you mean and mean what you say”. When in doubt the honest answer is always “I don’t know”.

Three little words free me. I’m able to listen, really listen, to others’ views and understandings and even the “still, small voice” of God himself. Moreover, they provide much fodder for further conversation with God. He seems to actually enjoy our conversations. I know I do…

It takes a lot of courage to say, “I don’t know”. It requires putting aside my false pride, false self, and ego. It requires a certain vulnerability not to know the answer, to be judged by others as lacking in some way. Ironically, the more I say, “I don’t know”, the more assured I am of the things I am certain of, the more I become the man I was meant to be. I’m not the best, the smartest, or the wisest, but I am uniquely loved and equipped to be part of the human family.

I don’t know why bad things happen. That’s just how life is. I know when my dad passed away in 2002, and when last year my mom died, I didn’t want to hear how “they’re in a better place”. I wanted them here and now. I didn’t want the clichés and yet, when the shoe was on the other foot, I often responded the same way. I do believe in the “new heavens and new Earth” that God promised, but it does little to comfort me in my grief. I’m sure others feel the same.

Today, I’ll quit offering trivial sentiments to people who are going through hurt, pain, and disappointment. I’ll let them question God just as I often do, and trust that they are in the same process I am. Rather than offer trite slogans and clichés, I’ll simply answer, “I don’t know” and offer my presence and empathy, because we all share the same emotions, the same struggles, and the same questions. Today, I’m okay with “I don’t know…’

Communication, Emotional Health, Faith, Grace, Gratitude, Persistence, Positive Thinking, Practice, Simplicity, Spirituality, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

Fake it ’til you make it…

Not only is rain predicted for Monday, but the weather gurus say we’ll actually have below normal temperatures for a few days. I’m so ready. The oppressive heat has worn me down: physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually. I normally strive to be positive in my writing. There’s enough negativity and complaining in the world. I’ll be the first to tell you how blessed and grateful I am, but it’s become increasingly difficult to write over the last couple of weeks. I keep visualizing the old “Drug-Free America’ commercial with the eggs in the frying pan – “this is your brain on drugs”. I haven’t partaken of any mood-altering substances, but my brain is definitely fried…

When I was a young person living in Denver, we used to have these unbelievably strong winds that blew down off the Rockies and across the front range every Spring. They were such a force that Denver named its then minor league baseball team, the Zephyrs, after them. I recall a story about the effects of continual strong wind on people and the resulting depression. I guess our heat wave has the same results, for me at least. Perhaps there’s a government grant to conduct multimillion dollar research on my hypothesis…

I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “fake it, ‘til you make it”. I don’t want to be a fake person. God knows I’ve been there. Sometimes I just need to act as if it’s okay until it is. I guess this is one of those times. I must do the right thing, whatever it may be, whether I want to or not, until everything is okay (or the heat wave breaks).

My friend Edgar always tells me that ‘I can’t think my way into right acting, but I can act my way into right thinking’. I used to have that backwards and it didn’t work out so well. No matter how many positive thinking books I read or speakers I listened to, I never became a regular ‘Norman Vincent Peale’ kind of guy. It wasn’t until I changed my actions that my thought processes, and likewise, my attitude, began to change.

One of the blogs I follow asked the question, “What does it take to be a good writer?”. ‘Timing is everything’, as that was the same question I was asking myself on the porch this morning. I’ve thought about it a lot over the last couple of weeks. Work has been slow, and I’ve been frustrated. I question myself constantly.

When I started my blog, it followed my return to writing professionally as a copywriter. As with anything one seeks to perform well in, whether it be sports or the arts, one needs to practice. “Practice makes perfect”, as my Dad would say. The only way to practice is to, as the Nike ad says, “Just do it”. My blog seemed like a good way to develop the proper muscles to excel in my chosen craft…

That being said… I’m often filled with self-doubt as to my writing abilities, especially professionally. Although I have extensive experience in ‘business’ writing, I still question if I can create anything worthwhile for my clients. However, I generally ignore the committee inside my head and produce good work (and on time I might add).

In many ways this blog, which helps me immensely to grow on a personal level, has probably been professional suicide. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less willing to deny who I am and the experiences that made me who I am today. Honesty has its drawbacks in the work arena, even though the life experience of someone ‘saved’ by grace is of immeasurable value. That, however, is another story…

I remember my freshman English professor telling a story about Ernest Hemingway (and that’s about all I remember…) and writer’s block. He was asked what he does when that happens. His reply was, “I tell the truth”. I don’t claim to have any corner on “the” truth, but I know what’s true for me. I can’t be something I’m not. Like my father used to say, “If it walks like a duck…”

So, the answer to the question, “What makes a good writer?” is one of honesty and practice. It doesn’t matter if it’s personally or professionally. Writing and honesty both take practice and sometimes practice is hard work.  I need to push through the periods of constant rewrites, frustration, and self-doubt that inevitably come around, whatever the reason. I don’t know if others will think of me as a ‘good’ writer, but I pray they’ll at least deem me honest, despite my shortcomings.

I’m a writer. That’s what I do. I trust I’ll get better with practice. Practice I will. One of my favorite suggestions is from Jack Kerouac’s, On the Road. He says something like, “you have to write with the energy of a Benzedrine addict”. I can get with that. I’ll leave the substances to others better fit to handle them and keep on writing…

 

Christianity, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Gratitude, Growing Up, Health, Hope, Letting Go, Neighbors, Prayer, Recovery, Relationships, Simplicity, Spirituality, Trust, Work, Writing

Looking at sixty…

I know everyone is getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July but my Independence Day began at 9:15 this morning. My doctor pulled my PICC line and I’m free from my little IV buddy. You all are probably relieved as well. No more having to read about me being under house arrest. I still need to keep the dressing dry for another eight hours. Then, I can officially sweat again. That should be easy as the weather folks are saying it’ll be another 100-plus degree day. I stand in defiance and yell, “Bring it on”. “Free at last”…

Since I went to the doctor, I didn’t get to spend much time on the porch this morning. It’s probably just as well. The heat’s already difficult to deal with and the air seems very still and humid. It didn’t keep me from making another pot of coffee and perusing the newsfeed though. Through the dissonance of all the Monday morning news I found one article worthy of attention. The headline was something like “The One Thing People Over Fifty Regret Most”. I emailed it to myself for later and then the link didn’t work. I truly regret that I didn’t read the whole thing first…

Anyway, I did some research and found another list of the fifty things people over fifty regret the most. I’ll be fifty-nine for another month, so I guess I still qualify. As I read I began to feel better about my emotional and mental health. Of course, it could also be sociopathic behavior, but I prefer to think positively.

According to the MSN Lifestyle section, the number one regret among people my age is “ending a relationship with someone you loved”. I was a little surprised, but I can see that. There’s something about ‘the one that got away’ that seems to stay with us a long time. That hasn’t been my experience though. My first marriage didn’t work out so well. It was mostly my fault, but there’s no regret there. I stayed single for many years afterward. I dated and had a couple of long-term relationships that bring fond memories, but I can’t think of any regrets. I did for a long time but five-and-a-half years ago, I found out that God had something (or more accurately, someone) in mind for me all along. I married my best friend and the love of my life. Scratch off resentment number one…

The number two resentment listed was “not being more adventurous”. If I have any regret about this one, it has more to do with being too adventurous in my younger years. Then again, I could easily substitute ‘being adventurous’ with acting stupid. That’s far more accurate. I did a lot of stupid, and often insane things, now that I look back. In case my look backwards becomes cloudy, I have aches and pains (and the medical bills) to remind me of the foolishness of my youth. Boring is much easier on the body. Every now and then I get a wild hair and think I’m twenty-something again, and I’m quickly reminded I’m not…

As I went down the list, I realized that recovery, a relationship with the God of my understanding, and the love of friends and family has helped me come to terms with what were once regrets. I won’t lie and say I have none. I don’t think anyone can be totally free of regrets, but they’ve become manageable as I grow older.

What really surprised me about the Top Fifty Regrets was that kids and parents were way down on the list. Even though a lot of healing went into my relationships with my parents and children, I wish the damage had never occurred in the first place. My father passed in 2002 and my mother just last year. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of them and I often wish I had been a better son. I’m a hardhead and I know I was a handful. So, I try to live each day in a manner that makes them proud. I’m not sure if it constitutes a regret. I’m sure they smile on me today.

I know most parents wish they had done things differently. I sure do. Unfortunately, kids don’t come with instruction manuals and sometimes they pay dearly for our struggles as parents. I know mine did. I’m not confused about that today. I’m truly grateful when my boys go out of their way to show their love for me as their often imperfect father. My oldest came by the other night with a belated Father’s Day gift, a picture of Roger Staubach and Tom Landry on the sidelines back in 1969. If you know how I felt about the old Dallas Cowboys, you’d know how much it meant to me. Grace is such a wonderful thing…

Thankfully, my regrets list is small, although I could really understand number thirty-four on the list, “being ungrateful”. It took a long, long time to find gratitude in my life. I wish I had been more grateful for the life God gave me. An old friend used to always say “you lead such a charmed life”. I was in my late forties before I understood what she meant. I do lead a charmed life, despite a lengthy list of bad decisions and deplorable actions. That’s why, for me, everything is about grace and gratitude.

I think that the deeper one experiences the grace of a loving God, family, and friends, the easier it is to be grateful. That’s been my experience and observation anyway. When I’m honest enough to admit my failures and find forgiveness anyway, I can’t help but be grateful, and that gratitude leaves me with very little regret. Go figure…

Christianity, Emotional Health, Faith, Freelancing, Gratitude, Marriage, Service Organizations, Simplicity, Uncategorized, Work, Writing

Passion…

I had an early morning doctor appointment this morning, so my time on the porch was brief. By the time I got home the porch was getting a bit warm. According to the meteorologist on last night’s news, it looks like the upper nineties and triple digit heat will be here for a while. That leaves a smaller window for enjoying the porch (in comfort, at least).

I read a brief article this morning about how finding one’s passion isn’t always the best advice when it comes to employment. It seems it tends to create a certain degree of tunnel vision that may not allow one to see other possibilities and limit human growth. I’m not sure why, but that’s been bothering me all morning.

My wife and I have this conversation from time to time. One of my sons is an artist. He comes complete with all the personality one might expect when one thinks of an artist. He’s incredibly bright and, has what he calls, an extreme case of Adult ADD. He started drawing on the walls when he was a toddler and hasn’t stopped since. Many of his personal and collaborative murals can be found throughout Fort Worth

Jeremy is one of the ‘up and comers’ in the art scene. He’s curated several shows and exhibited in other cities. His gallery opening at Fort Works Art was a huge success. Last week he made the cover of Fort Worth Weekly, our weekly magazine and the headline said, “Inside Jeremy Joel’s Brain”. I must admit that the idea scared me a bit. After all, I’m his father and anyone with kids knows, eccentricities aren’t always pleasant to deal with. Still, I’m unbelievably proud of him, though I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not very objective.

I’m proud of all our kids and I don’t want any of them to think I’m singling out Jeremy for praise. I never wanted to stifle any of my children’s passion. They are all very different, with unique talents, interests, and careers. I mention Jeremy because he struggled with the question of art versus work and passion versus making a living. I haven’t always liked his decisions along the journey, but it appears he’s on track with the thing he loves to do.

I’m always a little jealous of those that seem to find a way to make their passion their living. It wasn’t that way for me. It took me almost fifty years to become passionate in my work.  Today, I ‘get to’ get out of bed, put the coffee on, and spend some time on the porch getting centered in my day. I step into my office where I often share some thoughts with all of you and spend the rest of the day working on writing projects and events that I’m extremely passionate about. I work mostly with non-profit and faith-based organizations. I feel like I make a difference in the world. I wish I’d done it a long time ago.

I’ll be sixty years old in a couple of months. I’ve worked since I was eleven years old. I started as a paper boy and went on to become a gas station attendant (do any of you remember them?), a cook, and a construction worker by the time I was ready to start my ‘career’. I won’t bore you with all the details, except to say that when I got to college (I went on the ten-year plan), all I wanted to become was a college professor or teacher. I tell you this because that was my passion, and that’s not what I followed…

I decided that pleasing my father was more important than doing what I loved. You see, my parents lived through the Great Depression. That experience shaped the way they viewed work. My Dad was fortunate enough to land a job with the railroad when he was seventeen. A railroad job was coveted employment back in the forties. Except for the months he was drafted, he worked his way up through the ranks and continued there until he took early retirement at fifty-seven, with forty years of service. That my friends, was the job he wanted for me.

That wasn’t the case for me. My parents lived back here in Fort Worth and would call me in Colorado every week (we still used landlines and got charged for long distance calls – I know! Crazy, right?). My Dad would ask about school and then ask me if “I was still going to teach or was I going to get a job”. He would often remind me that “those who do, work and those who can’t, teach”. I certainly didn’t agree with him, but I chose to please him rather than continue with teaching. It wasn’t long before I found myself a single father and had felt like I had no choice but to follow my father’s advice. I went on to work for various companies and, while I was good at my work, always regretted not pursuing my passion for teaching.

I guess that’s why I’m a little bit jealous of Jeremy. I wish I had followed my passion. I’ve heard it said that “do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I’ve found that to be true over the last few years. So, when Margaret and I have these conversations I tend to lean on the side of passion. She tends to lean towards the ‘do whatever you have to for your family’. I’d like to think that maybe there’s a balance, but maybe balance is often just ‘the beam I trip on while running between extremes’.

One thing I know for sure is that ‘making a difference’, no matter what I’m doing, has become a core value in my life today. I’m inclined to think that maybe work, no matter what it is, should be a way of ‘making a difference’. Maybe if that’s the passion, we can all find jobs we love. Just a thought…