O Holy Night

Each time I passed one of the Gallo Christmas trees I had to smile. I remember a time when the world and I were very very young and Stan Freberg’s, “Green Christmas,” was included in the holiday programming of The Midnight Special, a weekly radio broadcast from the University of Chicago. Freberg was known for his topical satire and “Green Christmas” had one chorus that remains a mind-sticker half a century after it was written.

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And please buy our beer!

As it happens, Gallo is a beer that is widely sold in Guatemala and the company donates decorated trees to communities throughout the country. What makes them unusual is they are all topped with a rooster, the corporate logo, rather than an angel or star. Freberg, obviously, was a visionary satirist.

Today is Christmas Eve and we are heading to the Mayan village of Continue reading “O Holy Night”


Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.
― Tim Keller

I hope your Thanksgiving will be spent with family and friends creating memories that one day will be shared at tables in places that can’t even be imagined now. I also hope that in the course of that busy day, you’ll have momentary thoughts of absent friends who once occupied places at your table and in your heart. Memory is a strange master and we tend to magnify its weight as we get older. I’m of an age where remembrance glows with the brightness of a nova and I’ve learned to surrender to its light. I view memory as a scrapbook whose pages turn when fleeting thoughts trigger reflections of times and places that I’ve known. This year that scrapbook has taken me back to a celebration held in a basement when I was four years old.

My early years were spent in a planned community of townhouses
that were built around  central courtyards. Continue reading “Thanksgivings”


“Every society needs heroes. And every society has them. The reason we don’t often see them is because we don’t bother to look.

There are two kinds of heroes. Heroes who shine in the face of great adversity, who perform an amazing feat in a difficult situation. And heroes who live among us, who do their work unceremoniously, unnoticed by many of us, but who make a difference in the lives of others.

Heroes are selfless people who perform extraordinary acts. The mark of heroes is not necessarily the result of their action, but what they are willing to do for others and for their chosen cause. Even if they fail, their determination lives on for others to follow. The glory lies not in the achievement, but in the sacrifice.”

― Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Continue reading “Heroes”

Scarlet Robes and Sandra’s Crayons

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.

Will Rogers

Have you ever heard of The Diderot Effect? The principle is named after the French philosopher, Denis Diderot, who, until 1765, lived his life in poverty. In order to provide a dowry for his daughter Diderot sold his library for a significant sum to Catherine the Great of Russia. He used a small portion of
Continue reading “Scarlet Robes and Sandra’s Crayons”

Days of Our Lives

Our lives are but specks of dust falling through the fingers of time. Like sands of the hourglass, so are the days of our lives. — Socrates

While some may not realize it, the words of Socrates have, for the last half century century, been used as the introduction to a daytime soap opera. No disrespect intended, but the poor man must be rolling in his grave.  He’s been credited with articulating the fundamentals of Continue reading “Days of Our Lives”

Slack Tide

There’s a moment sailors call slack tide. When the tide is neither coming in nor going out, and the water is perfectly still. It’s a moment frozen in time, when all is calm and peaceful. The only downside to it is that it passes so quickly. As much as we might like things to be suspended in time, they never are.

Mariners and fishermen have more detailed and scientific explanations of slack tides, but the version I learned as child is the one I’ve internalized and refuse to release. I must admit the south side of Chicago and spring smelt runs are unlikely places to learn about tides and slack water, but that’s where I first heard of them. I thought of slack tides today while walking through Old Town, Florence. Like many others, I’m pulled like iron to a magnet by the strength and serenity of water and Continue reading “Slack Tide”

What If the Sky Was Falling?

Remember Chicken Little? “Help! Help! The sky is falling! We’re running for our lives!” While the sky isn’t falling, at least not yet, it’s been a banner year for natural disasters and the recent 7.1 earthquake in California was a reminder of the need for disaster readiness. Most of us pay credence to the need for a day after or day of plan, but, for whatever reason, not everyone has that plan in place. So, what exactly should we do in an emergency?

First things first. In any emergency, take a deep breath, calm yourself as best you can, then check for danger and assess the damage before moving on. If you’re the only one affected call 911, but if there appears to be widespread damage, it’s time to fall back on your emergency plans and the services that are available in your area. Your plan Continue reading “What If the Sky Was Falling?”

The Night the Sky Rained Stars

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. We remain a young nation, but …. the time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions – that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.” – Barack Obama Continue reading “The Night the Sky Rained Stars”

A Few (More) Good Men

The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit…. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.

– Peter Drucker

I’m not a hostage but these days I feel like one. My hands feel tied, bound by the twin leeches of belief and expectation. There was a time when the institutions created to serve us  actually did just that and the men who administered them were  admired. There was also a time, I’ll admit to being very young, when I thought lawyers were more Continue reading “A Few (More) Good Men”

The Sound of Wind and Water

Within each of us there is a silence—a silence as vast as a universe. We are afraid of it … and we long for it.

Gunilla Norris – In Inviting Silence

There are days when the sounds of civilization overwhelm us and our tired brains seek silence. Release comes easily to some, but for others the trinity of must, could and should floods their brains, constantly repeating, like a refrain caught in the groove of a damaged record. It is hard enough to block external noise, but inner silence is, for some, becoming an increasingly elusive commodity. While some find it through exercise or meditation, I was first able to achieve it in places where the gentle sound of wind and water lulled me to a state of Continue reading “The Sound of Wind and Water”

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