The Walk

I didn’t go to the gym today, I walked.
It was cold, rainy, and gusty, I walked.
The umbrella snapped in the wind, I walked.
My ears were frozen, I walked.
I walked and I thought.
I thought about my day ahead and walked.
I thought about my close connections and walked.
I thought about my walk and walked.
How grateful I am to be able to walk.
How grateful I am to have wonderful people in my life.
How grateful I am to live in this beautiful city.
How grateful I am.

Walking downtown in the rain.

The Garage

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen last month or even last year. But, it happened. Slowly, like creeping urban decay, until it became overwhelming. I had lost the battle, I had lost my garage.

I have never been one of those spotless garage people. Those individuals with a gardening implement or two neatly hung on a wall. The ones with the epoxied floors, and painted rafters. That was never me.

But once I did have a functional garage, a usable space that could house cars. That was decades ago. Before marriage, before kids, before swimming noodles, before sleds, before junk.

I coped with the garage by no longer thinking of it as a place for cars, instead, it became a storage shed. A shed that would get organized about once a year. The organization was a paltry event, I pushed things around the floor, and swept the dead leaves out to the curb.

The lack of order bothered my friend Tom, who is a bit more OCD than I am. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could park a car in here?” He would say. Tom approached me on this topic with two irrefusable offers. The use of his personal dumpster, and the gift of his construction knowledge.

The project started a month ago by getting rid of two old and rotting dresser. They went from housing clothing to holding junk long ago. Into the traveling dumpster they went, so decayed that they fell apart on removal.

A week ago Tom had completed a demolition of a customer’s bathroom. His traveling dumpster revisited, as it had some extra dumpster room. More junk was thrown away.

Off to the curb went useful things for the garbage pickers. Old framed pictures, small electrics, a kerosene heater purchased in 1999 on the Y2K advice of a prominent engineer who was my patient at the time. But there was so much more stuff.

Tom offered to help build some shelves for me. Not the flimsy ones that I could probably assemble myself, but sturdy ones strong enough to hold a man standing on them (we actually tested this). Easter Saturday started with the buzz of power tools emerging from my garage.

Enter my wonderful teenage kids, who offered only a little resistance when I asked for their help. Will, overtired from late adventures with his friends. Grace, trying to finish up some homework so she could go to a party with hers. Despite their personal needs, they gave me their time.

I truthfully asked for only 40 minutes of effort. That effort actually stretched to over 2.5 hours.

Both kids questioned every item. “Dad, do you really need this? When was the last time you used it?”

Piles started to form. Items decayed by the garage’s unheated dampness. Useless parts that could no longer be paired with their mates. Outright garbage, saved for no apparent reason. These items went into the garbage pile.

There was also a lot of good, but useless stuff. An outdoor TV antenna, duplicate camping gear, a kerosene lamp, and so on. These items created a huge pile. That pile soon to be transported to the curb on Monday garbage night. Hopefully, to the garbage pickers delight.

Dirty and dusty work that caused my skin to itch, and my nose to run. My kids never complained, they just helped. I was proud of them.

We eventually reached a point where there was no more floor space. The piles had overtaken it. I said one last time, “I think we have done enough for today.” Gracie chimed in, “It will be easier to continue once all of this mess is taken out, and we have more floor space to work with.” My wise Gracie, who always seem to know the right thing to say.

At this moment the garage looks worse than ever. The below picture was carefully angled to only show the new shelving unit. Despite the mess, I know an order is near, perhaps in another weekend or two.

I am very happy with the idea of having a clean garage. However, I am happier with having kind and wonderful people in my life. Cleaning and organizing the garage seemed as impossible as climbing Mount Everest to me. It was easier to shuffle things around and sweep the floor than to really dig in, throw stuff out, and make the garage functional again.

The garage made me think of my life. How often do I allow business as usual, simply because I believe that it would take too much work for me to change? How often is my present life less functional because of old trash from the past? How often do I rely only on myself, when it would be so much easier if I shared my burden with someone else? I have people in my life who care about me, but their efforts only count if I let them in. My garage helpers are giving me a functional garage. A practical offering of help. An offering that I am most grateful to have.

When I have a rough patch in my life I can feel unlovable and unworthy. Sometimes the help that I get from people who care about me doesn’t fix anything. That help simply lets me know that I’m worthy of love, concern, and attention. It lets me know that I am still valued despite my problems, flaws, and imperfections. For me, that is the most powerful and valued help of all. When I truly connect with others, the impossible becomes possible. Our combined strength is not additive, instead, it grows exponentially.

Today, gratitude is my goal.- Happy Easter from Dr. Mike

The shelves that Tom and I built. So strong that a man can stand on them.

The Home Show

“Do you want to do it, it will be fun,” Tom said. Without thinking I said, “Sure.” It was 5 AM on a Saturday morning, and I was sitting on the long bench that served as a chair for Tom’s massive office desk. It is not unusual for me to hang out with my friend Tom early in the morning. However, what I had agreed to was both unusual and unorthodox.

Without thinking, I had committed to helping man a booth at two home shows with my general contractor friend. Clearly, a new experience for a physician of 30 years. I thought my new role would be interesting, but my main reasons for doing the shows was to hang out with and be supportive of Tom.

As the shows approached there was planning to be done. Tom did most of it, but I contributed my ideas as well. A slide show had to be prepared, a banner made, and display ideas had to be pondered. Before we knew it the shows were upon us.

Tom had done most of the booth’s set up on the prior Fridays, but there was still some work to be completed. I spend a lot of time with Tom, and so I have gained a limited working knowledge of home products and remodeling procedures. Not enough to actually do anything, but at least enough to capture a potential customer, and then hand that customer off to Tom. “What will you say if one of your patients sees you here,” Tom asked pensively. The implication was that I was working below my station. “I’ll tell them I’m helping a friend,” I said, unconcerned.

Dear readers, by now you know that I’m an introvert. Where others gain energy from crowds and random social interactions, I become quiet and exhausted. However, successful introverts have a powerful secret weapon, we can temporarily don the persona of an extrovert when needed. The price we pay is post-event exhaustion, but after many years of execution, I’m pretty good at putting on the cloak of sociability.

I’m one of those people who enjoys learning for the sake of learning and experiencing new things for the sake of experiencing them. I learned a lot from my four days manning a home remodeling booth.

There were so many presenters. In some ways, we were in competition with each other. In some ways, we were allies with each other. We were we all in it together, but we all wanted the same business.

The lady across the way was running a booth for a different home remodeling company. She was having a great deal of difficulty getting a slideshow up and running. I offered my services, which were met with a little surprise. Ten minutes later her company’s remodels were flashing on her booths TV screen. “I owe you,” she said. “No, you don’t,” I replied.

There was the guy who drove up from St. Louis to sell his “miracle” pain relieving pads. He engaged Tom and me in an effortless pleasant conversation for about 5 minutes before he asked if he could use our AC connection to charge some of his devices. His conversational motives now clear, we let him use our AC anyway.

Next to us was a pleasant Hispanic family of three who were hawking timeshares. Home shows are their livelihood. They work 3 days a week procuring leads that can later be converted to sales by another team. They live in a neighborhood in Chicago with a high crime rate. “It is OK,” the daughter said. “I don’t leave the house much, and if we hear anything we turn on our police scanner.” A silent shudder ran through me.

There was the guy selling prefab bath enclosures. He had brought along “booth bait” in the form of three pretty girls dressed in plastic hardhats and open flannel shirts.

Down the way was the gutter leaf protection guy. He was decked out with a flag pin, a Christian cross, and a US Marine ball cap. If you were patriotic, a vet, or a Christian, he had an instant “in” with you.

Asking any of them about their products instantly turned them into sales mode, and a well-rehearsed pitch would effortlessly gush forth.

You may think that these folks were despicable, carnival style hawkers, but you would be wrong. They were mostly nice people, trying to make a living as best as they could. They were hard working and tried to do their job to the best of their ability. “We get $2 a lead, you can make good money,” one person told me. In my mind, I calculated how much I got paid for a single psychiatric evaluation and felt guilty.

Some of the exhibitors knew each other from previous shows. They would chat and mingle with each other in a way akin to family members reconnecting at a wedding or funeral.

I felt comfortable with them. They seemed to believe in their products. They seemed to feel that they were doing a service, which in turn gave their jobs meaning.

Then there were the attendees, and a wide and varied group were they. Old, young, lonely, angry, friendly. Straight couples, gay couples, families, random wandering kids.

It seemed like some of the people who attended were there for no apparent reason. They didn’t want to interact or look, they just wandered around. Others seemed lonely and grateful to hear any pitch just for the sake of having a conversation with another human being.

I work with patients every day, and in many ways, I also sell. However, I sell a method to think differently, or perhaps a medication treatment. People come to me, and they pay a hefty price at that. Most patients are at least a little receptive to my ideas, otherwise they wouldn’t be sitting across from me.

The attendees at the show were different. Some were suspicious, some condescending, others more willing to listen. Initially, it felt very awkward to even consider approaching a person with a pitch, but after a couple of hours of booth time, I became more comfortable with the idea.

I was helping my friend, who I believe in. Tom did several remodeling jobs for me before we became friends, and I genuinely believe in his character, quality of workmanship, and high standards. Now, as very close friends, my high opinion of him has only grown.

Once I adopted the above mindset I moved from awkward salesman to someone who had something to offer. Just as I believe in the work that I do in my professional job, I believe in the quality of the work done by Tom and his company.

There was a price to pay for being “on” for two weekends in a row; I was pretty useless for any other activity during my off hours during those four days.

What was the outcome of our efforts? Pretty good for two “show newbies.” Tom and I work well together, and it was no different at the home shows. As I write this he already has gone on a number of show acquired business calls, and many of them look promising.

I am proud that I could help my friend, and I’m happy that I exposed myself to an experience that I would never have imagined having a few years ago. You can be a doctor and still push your comfort level envelope every now and then.

Today my goal is to embrace new experiences with the wonderment of a child, and the maturity of an old salty psychiatrist.

I crashed my car!

Dear Readers, we have had a mild winter in upper Illinois.  In fact, this is the first time in recorded history that there was no snow in January and February.  March started out similarly, and then there was last Tuesday. It didn’t snow a lot on Tuesday, but enough to create icy and slippery roads.  

As some of you know, I get up very early, 3:50 AM to be exact.  Because of this, I have my morning schedule down to a science.  I stumble out of bed, clean up, throw on my gym clothes, eat a simple breakfast, drink a cup of coffee (a must!), pack my car, and head off to the gym.  Not too exciting, but exacting.

Last Tuesday started like any other workday. With my wake-up routine completed I headed out the door and into my Ford Flex.  I really love my Ford, it is roomy and very comfortable.  However, the anti-lock braking system does not seem to work very well on snow.  

I drove the 15 minutes to the gym and pulled into the parking area.  The gym that I belong to is located in an office building with an attached parking tower that is accessed via a down ramp.  I turned onto the ramp and started to brake.  Instead of slowing down the brakes locked and I started to slide forward.  Moving ever faster, I had one of those “movie moments” where time seemed to advance in slow motion.  I could feel my panic rising as I realized that I was going to crash my new car, and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it.  

Crash! Jolt!… Silence.  My car crashed into a high curb on the side of the ramp. The computerized panel on my dash flashed to inform me that one of my tires had deflated.  I was in a perfect spot to be hit by another car coming down the ramp, and so I decided to back up and drive the 50 feet or so into the parking garage.  I put my car in reverse, but nothing happened.  I checked the front-end of the Flex and saw that the left-front tire was perpendicular to the fender.  The force of the impact had severed the connection between the tire and the axil.  A sick feel welled up inside of me.  My panic feeling amplified.

Dear reader, as a doctor for over 30 years I have learned how to compartmentalize my feelings.  In a crisis, I can usually push them aside and attend to the business at hand.  For some reason, I was having trouble doing this on Tuesday morning.  Thoughts rushed through my head. Do I need to call the police?  Where is my insurance card? Will State Farm call a tow for me?  It is cold!  I am cold!  I have a full day of patients, will I have to cancel the day?  Where will I put those patients, I’m already booked out for weeks?  Will my staff be upset with me for causing them all sorts of inconvenience? On went my thoughts, as my heart rate ramped up. I started to force myself to pull myself together.  For many reasons I have trained myself to be self-sufficient. It has always been hard for me to ask for help.  Dear readers, I have earnestly been trying to change that behavior.  I have been actively erasing childhood tapes.

My friend Tom comes to the club at the same time that I do.  A quick text message to him, and a return phone call to me, and he was parked behind me.  A minute later and I was sitting in his car calling State Farm.  In many friendships one person is the leader, and the other is the follower.  This is not the case with Tom and me.  We are equally comfortable leading and following.  Our roles determined by need.  On Tuesday Tom jumped into the leadership role… “Don’t forget to ask for a tow.  Make sure you get the operator’s name. Don’t worry, it can be fixed.  It is only a box on wheels.”  And so on.  I know I could have done it on my own, but it felt comforting to know that I didn’t have to.

After I had made the proper arrangements Tom drove me back home, as I still had to shower and change for work.  At that point my wife Julie took over.  She was able to drive me back to the crash site so I could wait for the tow truck.  In her warm car I was able to call my office and alert them to the fact that I may have to cancel out my morning (which I dreaded).  At my office Lynn, our accounts person,  picked up the phone and reassured me that she would do whatever was needed.  “I’m glad that you are OK,” she said. “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” Around that same time I got a call from my personal trainer.  He somehow heard about my incident.  “Are you safe?”  He texted.  

The tow truck arrived and the driver assured me that I would not have to go with him back to the dealership.  Julie checked her schedule and told me that she could drive me to work and pick me up at the end of the day.  The timing worked out so I didn’t have to cancel any patients, I arrived on time for my first patient, who ironically failed his appointment with me.

In my driveway sits a little Ford Focus, the rental paid for by my auto insurance.  Rosie, the Ford Flex, waits to be repaired. Life goes on.

I always try to learn from every life event.  This is what I learned from Tuesday:

  1. I have people in my life who genuinely care about me.  They will be there for me if I need them.
  2. It is OK for me to ask people to help me.
  3. Even though I can usually do things without help, it feels so much better to have help.  It is terrible to be alone during a crisis. A little bit of kindness and concern goes a long way in troubled times.
  4. I don’t need to turn an inconvenience into a personal disaster. With a little thought and a little time, most problems work themselves out.
  5. Material things can always be replaced.  Invest in people, not in “stuff.”

-Today my goal is to remember the above.

-Today my goal is to be grateful that this old and crusty introvert has some wonderful people in his life. We introverts don’t need a lot of people, but we do need people.

The Sawzall

You are never too old to grow.

Dear readers, I firmly believe that we are not predestined by our past, but I also believe that our past does have an impact on our present.

I was a late in life surprise for my parents, and my siblings were significantly older than me. They were in the phases of their lives of personal discovery, and the attention of a little brother had little charm. My always busy mother was always busy: cooking, ironing shirts and doing other 1960s mother tasks. I believe my father felt that his family had completed 7 years before my birth, with the birth of my sister Nancy. There simply wasn’t a lot of investment in shy, poorly coordinated, always thinking, fat me.

In such a setting it was difficult to find or even know my place, which would lead me to wishing that my place was elsewhere. Out of my 1920s bungalow in the city, and into an imaginary contemporary ranch home in the country… but that is for another post.

An imagination is great for a temporary escape, but reality deems it necessary to have a more practical life plan. I did not have the luxury of a mentor to show me the benefit of the crescent wrench, or the secret of the curveball. Yet, it was not uncommon for me to be given complicated tasks, like painting the garage, without training or instruction. When the inevitable poor outcome occurred I was painfully made aware of my inadequacies. This made me pull away from such activities and pursue interests that were unique, and therefore couldn’t be criticized.

I was, and am, fortunate to have an abundance of interests that range from the arts to STEM activities. Science held a particular interest for the 1960s me. In those days technology was in vogue, the space race was on, and it seemed like my talent in science could serve me many purposes.

Science was the path that I chose, and I am both happy and unapologetic that I did. With that said, the 10-year-old boy that still resided in me felt a bit cheated of the experiences that most 10-year-old boys would normally have.

Like most 10-year-old boys, I loved handtools, power tools, and building stuff. We had a supply of various tools in the house, but they were locked up in a giant oak workbench that sat at the far end of our unfinished basement. They were mostly off limits. There were no offers to show me the proper way to use them.

As a homeowner, I have acquired some simple tools, and with the benefit of the Reader’s Digest Complete Home Repair Guide and YouTube videos, I have done a variety of small home projects. They typically turn out OK, but only with much trial and error. The satisfaction of a completed project marred by the agony of uncertainty.

If you have read other posts in this blog you understand that I’m on a journey, and part of that journey is to rediscovery myself. Remember that 10-year-old boy in me? Now imagine that he had a friend who was a general contractor and that contractor was in possession of all of the coolest tools and building gadgets. Power tools of all types, neat rows of various drivers, laser powered gadgets… even a real Bobcat!… and so enters my friend Tom into today’s post.

I see or talk to Tom almost every day, and so you will see his name mentioned in my posts now and again. Tom not only has all of the best building toys, but he also knows how to use them.

I often ask Tom if I can help him on projects, as I not only get to spend time with my good buddy, but I also get to learn a thing or two. I understand my limitations, and I have no problem taking off my “doctor hat” and offering my services as a gopher grunt.

Recently, I was helping Tom on a project in his basement. During one session I managed to get adhesive on my shoe and then onto his area rug. Bad.

The next time around things got worse. Tom showed me how to use a handheld cutting saw called a Sawzall. An amazing gadget, I must say. He had a board that had to be removed from his basement ceiling and I would have the honor of cutting it out. Tom is a little OCD (like me) and he actually did a little pre-cutting to make sure that I cut it at the exact right spot.

With focus and determination, I climbed the ladder, powered up the Sawzall and pushed it into the board. Zip!, went the Sawzall through the wood, and clank went the Sawzall when it chewed into a copper water pipe behind the wood! I didn’t cut through the pipe, but I nicked it. The nick was bad enough to require replacement.

Tom was kind about my misadventure, but I see Tom almost every day and can read his body language pretty well. The best way that I could describe his posture was one of sadness and weary reflection. “What’s going on Tom?” I asked. “You cut through about ½ of the tubing wall. I’ll need to replace that portion of the pipe, and I’ll need to drain the water from the entire house to do it. It will be at least 2 hours of work.”

My head sank to my chest. It was the sinking of both the adult me and the 10-year-old me. I can tolerate not being good at everything I do, but messing up two for two made me feel terrible. I really wanted to help my friend, and even doing simple gopher tasks would take some burden off of his job. However, any benefit that I could have possibly given was wiped out by my unintentional and foolish actions.

The 10-year-old in me was also devastated. I resisted the initial panic that I felt. It was the panic that took me back to all of the times that I didn’t do things right growing up. I flashed back to the looks of disgust, the name calling, and the humiliation from my past failings. A terrible and sickening feeling.

I sincerely made my amends to Tom, but inwardly I felt bad. I have spent much of my life being good at things. Here was something that I wanted to be good at, but I simply wasn’t. No one was yelling at me, no one was calling me names, no one was humiliating me… I was doing all of that to myself. An old and forgotten tape was playing in my head, and frankly, I hated it.

There are some benefits of being a psychiatrist. The same understanding and techniques that I use to help patients can also be applied to myself. Cognitively, I knew that Tom wasn’t angry with me. He showed me that by his actions. Mentioning my misadventure would instantly have Tom holding up an imaginary Sawzall while making a loud buzzing sound. “You didn’t need to Rambo it Mike.” He would laugh. I also knew that I was inexperienced. I may not have it in me to became a master builder, but I certainly would improve with practice, and making mistakes is part of that process.

In the past I would have retreated and returned to my comfort zone, doing things that I’m good at. However, I am in the present and not in the past. That 10-year-old boy needs to be heard. I need to be heard.

I also realize that as an adult I am not limited in the ways I was limited as a child. Not only could I try again, it was also OK for me to ask for help from Tom again. My past doesn’t have to be my present. I don’t need to be perfect for others to like me. I can be imperfect and still have worth and value.

Tom is good natured, and he has agreed to have me help him with the next phase of his project. I am excited about the prospect of sweeping a floor, and perhaps doing a real tasks or two. I can’t guarantee that I won’t screw up again. I will honestly try to do my best, and I will continue to strive and learn with each task that I do.

I don’t have to listen to the tapes of my past, I can create my own new MP3 of who I am. There is a certain joy and there is a certain freedom that I feel by not having to be perfect at everything. I can’t wait until I get my hands on a power tool again. Why? Because I love that 10-year-old in me, and I want to nurture and take care of him. As he grows, so do I.

Today my goals are to face my fears, move forward, accept my imperfections, and allow myself to be helped by others.

20 Characteristics Of A Good Relationship: Forgiveness

Most mistakes are trivial.

As a human, I am guaranteed to mess things up now and again. I am an imperfect creature.  I miscalculate.  I misjudged.  I plan poorly.

Even with the best intentions, things can go awry.  Sometimes my errors are trivial, and sometimes they are near catastrophic.  Sometimes my mistakes impact me, sometimes my mistakes impact my relationship, sometimes my mistakes impact the connection between me and my relationship.

If a pattern of problems occur I need be willing to admit that pattern and do my best to correct it.  If my mistakes are due to carelessness, I need to be more careful.  If my mistakes are due to errors in judgment, I need to slow down and think before I act.  I am imperfect, but I should still strive to be the best that I can be.

Some mistakes can be so significant that they overpower my connection, and end it.  

Most mistakes are trivial.  They are like an annoying swarm of gnats that distract from the true connection that I have with my relationship.

It is easy for my relationship to focus on my trivial mistakes, and to turn something small into something large.  It is easy for me to focus on my big mistakes, and turn something large into something small.  Either polarity can strain a connection to the point of breaking.

How much better it is to acknowledge my error and to genuinely ask for forgiveness.  How much better it is for my relationship to forgive.  By doing so we join together instead of pull apart.  Our connection becomes stronger, not weaker. We grow wiser.

As important it is to forgive, it is equally important to allow myself to be forgiven. As I allow myself to be forgiven, I also learn how to forgive.  Connections are dynamic,  today I may need to be forgiven, tomorrow I may need to forgive.

My goal today is to genuinely ask for forgiveness when I make a mistake.

My goal today is to try to correct my mistakes honestly and fearlessly.

My goal today is to forgive with compassion and kindness.

The Quiet Of A Cold Day

An empty path

The temperatures have been erratic in the midwest.  Last Saturday the high was in the upper 60s, today the temperature was 21 degrees.  There was joy to be found in both temperatures.

Last weekend was full of the excitement of a false spring.  Families, couples, and kids were everywhere.  The air filled with the noise of happy excitement.

With a 40 degree drop in temperature the outside is quiet again. People are indoors, protected by brick and mortar. A perfect time for me to explore the world.

Julie agreed to go on a walk and we both bundled up as if we were going on an arctic expedition.  Down jackets, stocking hats, gloves, and good strong shoes.

We drove the short distance to the Blackwell Forest Preserve and parked next to a lone vehicle in an empty parking lot.  Initially, the cold air bit at my face and I zipped my jacket up as far as it would go.  However, as we entered the woods the winds died down and the air became brisk instead of painful.

It was as if we had the woods to ourselves.  The trails almost empty.  The former muddy paths now frozen into a comfortable hardness.  Past trees, past fields, past ponds, we marched forward.  At our feet were the frozen impressions of dog’s paws, horse’s hooves and human’s feet.  Artifacts from those who went before us on a warmer, muddier day.

The clearness that only cold air can bring sharpened our vision.  Our ears greeted with the silence of isolation.

After walking for about an hour we climbed back into our car welcomed by the warmth that electrically heated seats can give.  Then home to the rest of the day.

Today my goal is to remember that warm and cold day can both bring new adventure and excitement to my life.  How my day is perceived depends on how I choose to view it.

 

 

What Thursday Brought

A cup of coffee, heavy on the kindness.

It strikes me as ironic that what I sometimes think makes me happy, is not what truly makes me happy.

Like most, I find that a new special purchase, or a novel experience, is exciting. Like most, I sometimes equate excitement with happiness. However, they are two different things. I may have fun playing around with a new camera, but it is hardly the key to my happiness.

I am happy when I engage in activities that stimulate my core interests, like being creative. However, last Thursday brought me an equally potent dose of happiness. That happiness arrived via small connections.

These types of connections are often short, unplanned, and random. Last Thursday was filled with them, and they carried me on a happiness high for several days.

If you have been reading my blog you know that I’m an introvert. I’m very happy in solitude, I like being in my head. I am definitely not a person who needs to have 100 “best friends.” With that said, I do need some connections, and the connections that I make tend to be deep and long lasting. I invest myself into those connections, but until recently I have been much more comfortable giving, rather than receiving. Dear reader, it is with this backdrop that Thursday happened.

You may be wondering if Thursday was a special day. It was just a workday. A typical workday seeing over twenty patients. My work was not what made Thursday special.

Let me take you to the start of my day. I was up at 3:50 AM.  As I had a few minutes before I would need to leave I was sitting in my study mindlessly looking at Facebook. At around 4:30 AM there was a light knock on my window. It was my friend Tom, holding up two cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee. He told me that he woke up early and so he decided to surprise me. I invited him in for a few minutes to chat and we then drove off to meet again at the healthclub. It felt good.

I returned home to find my wife, Julie, at the kitchen table reading the newspaper. She put down the paper and we were able to chat a bit about the week ahead and a possible summer vacation. It felt good.

After my workday I contacted my nephew Themi. He is a physical therapist and I wanted his opinion on a shoulder injury that I sustained in September. He was gracious and helpful. He said that he wanted to see me in person to evaluate me. We were to meet the following Saturday at my sister Carol’s house, which was midway between our respective homes. It felt good.

I called sister Carol to secure the date. She was the person who suggested that I contact Themi in the first place. She was more than happy to accommodate my request. It felt good.

On Thursdays Julie works late and I make dinner with my two youngest kids. We are getting good at our tasks, and it was clear that we were having a lot of fun making Bisquick oven-fried chicken, Pillsbury crescent rolls, fresh broccoli and a tossed green salad. As we were eating our creation Gracie commented that making dinner together was one of her favorite parts of the day. It felt good.

Later that night I talked to my oldest daughter Anne on the phone. She was excited because she was coming up for my birthday weekend. She knows that I love to walk, and she specifically said she wanted to go on a walk with me. It felt good.

I went to bed that night with a light, almost giddy, feeling of happiness. I love all of these people and on that Thursday, they showed me that they loved me. It has always been hard for me to accept the kindness of others, but I am getting better at it. I am actively working on accepting love and concern from the people around me. I know that their actions not only benefit me, but they also benefit them.

How greatful I am to have people in my life that I truly care about. How thankful I am that I can now accept their love and concern for me. Most days are not like last Thursday, but getting one once in awhile makes them all the sweeter.

Today my goal is to freely love the special people in my life, and allow them to love me in return.

The Last Sunrise

The sun rising above the Kroehler furniture factory.

I am one of those people who personifies things. On an intellectual level I understand that inanimate objects are just that. However, on an emotional level I form attachments.

I have an attachment to an old camera, My Nikon D300. Born in 2008, it is ancient in digital terms. My mind connects all of the photos that I have taken with my D300, and it transcends from lens and circuit board to  loyal and trusted servant. Ever faithful, at the ready to immortalize a person or memory. I use other cameras, but my D300 has a special place of honor. It has been loyal to me, I am loyal to it.

Which brings me to the subject of the last sunrise, and how something that was not important to me became important to me. That something is the Boeker building on 5th Avenue in my hometown of Naperville.

I had passed by the Boeker building hundreds of times without a thought. Built in 1966 it stood next to the old Kroehler furniture factory. Once the largest furniture factory in the world, now a home for trendy lofts and mediocre restaurants (IMHO).

The Boeker building stood square, two stories high, and constructed of the yellow brick so common in its era. The building’s standout features were her windows and stair railings. Both constructed of aluminum with a modern look in 1966, now retro in 2017.

The Boeker building and I became acquainted through a mutual friend, Tom. He had an office in the building for his company. His space was on the second floor, in the northeast corner. Two of his office walls were mostly jalousie windows, rectangular panes of glass separated by aluminum strips. I was especially fond of the window that faced eastward, because it welcomed me with the gift of dawn.

As I have mentioned in another blog post, Tom and I tend to meet very early, usually before sunrise, as this is the least disruptive time to our families. Sometimes we meet at the gym, sometimes we travel to a destination, but often we meet at the office on 5th Avenue. We were there today to edit some photos, write some blog post, and explore some potential video ideas. In addition, we drank coffee, ate bagels, solved the problems of the world… and watched the sun make its ascent. Cresting above the Kroehler factory, turning the black sky orange, then yellow, then a brilliant blue. Today was the last day that the Boeker building would give me the gift of a sunrise. Its land has been sold, and its future bleak.

She resides on land adjacent to our commuter train station. Land that can be subdivided into parking spaces that will command high payment from busy executives commuting from tranquil Naperville to the glass and steel canyons of downtown Chicago. Her days numbered in double digits. Her time on this earth almost gone. Fifty years, tragically young for a building.

I feel a sadness for the building, its promise lost. I think of the businesses that have thrived and those that have failed within its walls. A proud space soon to be rubble. Its tenets scattered to the winds.

Goodbye Boeker building. Rest a peaceful rest. Your job soon done.

My goal today is to be appreciative of the gifts of sunrises and mid-century office buildings with big aluminum jalousie windows.

Cooking With Dad Thursday

[gallery_bank type=”images” format=”masonry” title=”true” desc=”false” responsive=”true” display=”all” sort_by=”random” animation_effect=”” album_title=”true” album_id=”2″]

My mother was an effortless cook. Without the use of a cookbook recipe she could create the most delicious foods. Her skill developed from the making of thousands of meals. Her confidence born from the confidence that intelligent and creative people sometimes have. But she didn’t teach me how to cook, Julia Child did.

Despite her avocation my mother loved to watch cooking shows, and as a small child I would watch them with her. I was captivated by Julia Child. Enormously tall, she had a high falsetto voice and a higher level of enthusiasm… I watched transfixed, as she blended, rolled, diced and folded. She did things with a dedicated purpose that showed me the skill and science of cooking. Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, Beef Wellington, Mousse au Chocolat… the creations went on.

I cooked a little when I was younger, not much. Then, as a divorced young resident physician, I returned to the kitchen. With little to no money, cooking provided me a way to stretch a dollar. Additionally, it served as a creative outlet.

Gradually the time demands of my career pulled me away from cooking, and I had virtually stopped by the time that I remarried and Julie took over the role as house chef.

And then Julie returned to work. The time that was spent making meals was now being devoted to other activities. Homemade meals transitioned to simpler fare, and the percentage of carry out and drive thru meals grew exponentially. Our kids were used to meals that came to the table in serving bowls, not paper wrappers… they protested strongly.

I have to admit that I too grew tired of double cheeseburgers and frozen pizza. Julie’s stress continued to increase as she transitioned from a group practice to her own private practice. In contrast, I was purposefully reducing my stress level on many fronts.

My daughter Grace is an amazing and talented girl. She is one of those individuals who is good at many things. This can be a good thing, but sometimes too many career choices can be immobilizing. Yesterday morning I was sitting with her. She was eating a late breakfast, and I was munching on an orange. We got onto the topic of college and college majors. I told her that instead of focusing on a discrete career choice she should first think about her general areas of interests. If she choose a path that fulfilled her general interests, she would ultimately pick her right career path.

I know the things that interest me. I like to learn and teach. I like science and technology. I like comparing things. I like gadgets. I like doing creative things. I like feeling that I am contributing to society. I want the world to be a tiny bit better because I was in it, not a tiny bit worse. Both my personal life and my professional life are guided by the above tenets.

Dear reader, at this point you are likely wondering how the above paragraphs are related. I can assure you that they are. They intersect on Thursdays, specifically at the Cooking With Dad Thursday portion of the day.

As the kids complaints about the lack of homemade meals grew my initial solution was to simply take over the grocery shopping and cooking. Although within the range of my capability, the prospect was not appealing. Despite my efforts to reduce my personal stress I was still working two high demand jobs. In addition, I had already taken over a variety of other household tasks.

Dear reader, I believe in turning problems into solutions and flaws into strengths. Making homemade food for my kids didn’t have to be a burden, it could be a blessing with a little thought;  and so it was.

Every week the kids and I pow-wow on what we want to make for Thursday dinner. At 5 PM on Thursday we work together preparing the food, setting the table and (subsequently) cleaning up the mess. Our meals are not the elaborate concoctions that Julia Child created, but they involve a lot of basic cooking techniques, which I get to teach my kids. I often research recipes, and in the process I learn and compare. We talk about the science of cooking as we create our meal. Naturally, I employ gadgets, from pressure cookers to toaster ovens. A chore becomes a new tradition. My kids learn how to cook, I spend time with my kids, we work as a team. Our activity culminates with good food and good conversation.

Now that Julie has settled into her work life she is cooking more, but Cooking With Dad Thursday remains. At dinner time we will usually go around the table and tell each other our rose and thorn (good and bad) of the day. On Thursdays it not uncommon for all of us to say that one of our roses was preparing and eating a meal together. A potential burden has transcended.

Today my goal is to appreciate that life’s daily activities are not burdens, but they are potential gifts.

Bon appetit!

Random thoughts and my philosophy of life.