Decisions

I watched a movie a few nights ago about the writer Ernest Hemingway, probably the most influential writer of his time. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature. In 1964 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But despite all his success and fame he was a troubled man. He made some awful decisions. His final one was to end his life with a shotgun.

In poker, decisions really matter. A big part of the game is inducing your opponents to make mistakes. Good and bad decisions can make the difference between sudden death or sitting behind a commanding stack of chips. It’s said, poker is a microcosim of life itself. It’s true and part of the reason I love the game so much. Still to be determined though, is whether my investment in it has been a good… or a bad decision.

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Uncharted Territory and the Road Ahead

Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down you can choose your response…. How you live your life is totally up to you.  It’s not dependent on your circumstances, it’s dependent on your choices. ~~ Joel Osteen

I have a young, teenaged friend “CJ” who over the last eight months I’ve come to know. He was far from his home, family and friends and looking for a new life. I like him. He’s tall, 6’4″ personable and outgoing. An all-American kidCJ002a  from a small town in south-central Texas (population 857). He’s been referred to as an “18-year old man.” The reality is he’s just a kid and, like a lot of 18-year olds, restless, self-assured, a little cocky, but naïve nevertheless. CJ has no lack of confidence. The last few times I’ve seen him (most recently earlier this week), as we said goodbye, I would routinely say to him — somewhat tongue-in-cheek — “Stay out of trouble CJ!” He’d reply with something like “All is good” and be on his way. Little did we realize how much trouble he would soon find himself in. Life has a way of changing dramatically with the passage of a few brief moments and seemingly unrelated, foolish choices.

Yesterday my young friend was charged with Murder in the First Degree accused with a 20-year old companion, whom he’d just met, in the brutal bludgeoning death of a man in a nearby community. This is new, uncharted territory for me, something I was unprepared for. I find myself uncertain how to react and even a bit lost for the right words. How I wish I could have seen the road ahead! I feel bad that I didn’t do more. I should have contacted CJ’s parents as I watched his downward spiral. No… things aren’t always as they appear. But instead I chose to think, “He’s a good kid, he’ll grow up. It’s a stage. He can take care of himself.”

CJ and I sat together and talked a lot, many times while I worked on previous blogs. I enjoyed his company. It was an education to learn from him the distractions, challenges and temptations he and his peers live with. I already knew about most of them but, with CJ we talked specifics.

While I honestly worried about his welfare, I had faith in his abilities to conquer his youthful impulses and to find for himself the right path. From his narrow perspective and among his crowd, he was “normal … things are cool.” I understood his thinking but I knew it wasn’t true and I told him so. In CJ I saw potential — rays of hope — and a better life ahead, but ultimately I knew he was in control, as he liked it, as he wanted it. Besides, is it really any of my business? I have my own problems, my own children and who am I? Especially when CJ and I really have so little in common? But then again, No Man is an Island and CJ will remain my friend.

One thing in all of this is certain… no one should forget the victim, Rich Bergeson, whose life was brutally and so needlessly taken and to whom the video at the link below pays tribute. The reality is, there are many other victims as well. Along with all the affected families and friends whose lives would intersect in such a tragic meeting, I am but one of them, and together we cry, knowing our lives will never again be the same.

Another day of work, another paycheck. The future is looking bright.
Christopher John “CJ” Shade, 20 August 2014

Click on this link for more about this story

Young Love: War Interrupted

Stories of young love are often remembered as the folly of our youth. They are the stuff that is part of growing up. A few sometimes strike our youthful, tender spirits with the sting of heartbreak, just as it can in adulthood. Such is puppy love and the price we pay for being teenagers. But few young romances are enveloped in the drama of war, surrounded by a devastated world. This is the story of Anne and Peter Schiff and of a missing image that took more than 60 years to be discovered. Continue reading

Favorite Quotes Friday – 5/09/2014

As I’ve mentioned before I love the movie It’s a Wonderful Life with my favorite actor Jimmy Stewart. I’ve written about both subjects here. There are a number of memorable lines from the film, one of which I share today.

Kids think they’re so darn smart! They think they know everything and can cure the country’s ills with the youthful common sense only they have. I know this for a fact, because I used to be one of them. Then we grow old (another subject I’ve written about) and only then do we truly come to realize and appreciate (just as surely as they will) …

Youth is wasted on the wrong people!

A Letter to the Younger Me

Hear these words, hear the rhyme
Heed the hope within my mind
Send me back to where I’ll find
What I wish in place and time
~~~~

Dear Rick,

In your time it’s December 13, 1971.  I know it’s hard to believe and will come as a great surprise but I’m you!  Yep you, but exactly 40 years in your future.

I’ll help you here.  Remember that ghostly woman who would repeatedly terrorize you in nightmares as a five-year old?  We never knew her intentions, but we knew she was evil.  Then there’s that dream of a lakeside home and a boat parked in the back.  The huge antenna atop that sprawling ranch style home.  How about that last kiss and the words Dani said to you just five nights ago when you last saw her?  All those doubts and the terrible, nagging, lingering ache in your heart?  Who else but you could know these things?  Young love is always tough.  Give it time, your feelings will pass as they will for the others that will surely come.  Heart breakers, every one of them!  Prepare yourself… adult love can be even worse. Continue reading

Age Has a Way

The Aging Process

I never thought I would live to be this old.
Billy Graham – Nearing Home

I was thumbing through a brand new book by the celebrated Evangelist Billy Graham just the other night.  I remember Graham from the time I was a little boy and watching him on television.  Charismatic and a powerful speaker he’s lived an amazing life and has preached to more people than any other in history, an estimated audience of more than 2.2 billion!  Early in his career he was offered a lucrative network television contract that would have made him a millionaire several times over, but turned it down to continue his ministry.  Billy Graham is hugely popular and ranked 7th on Gallup’s list of most admired people for the 20th century.

Graham celebrated his 93rd birthday yesterday and his latest book Nearing Home shares his personal experience of growing old and teaches valuable lessons on how to view our time here on Earth.  It got me to thinking…. Continue reading

Living Without Regret

Like many women my age, I am 28 years old. ~~ Mary Schmich

Mary Schmich is a lot smarter than me.  She was born in Savannah, Georgia and went to high school in Phoenix, Arizona.  She would go on to get her B.A. from California’s Pomona College.  Then, after three years working in college admissions, and more than a year in France, she attended journalism school at Stanford.  She worked as a newspaper reporter afterwards and in 1985 went to the Chicago Tribune.  Later she became their national correspondent in Atlanta.

In 1992 she started writing a column for the Tribune but after a year took time off to attend Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists.  Like I said, Mary’s a lot smarter than me.  From 1985 until January of this year she authored a comic strip Brenda Starr.  She’s also a ragtime piano player.  Multi-talented I’d say.

Schmich who is still writing her columns for the Tribune wrote her most famous in 1997.  She started with a simple admonition and continued with advice for living without regret.  In time that advice would be spread around the Internet and, as often happens, has been falsely identified as a commencement address given at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by author Kurt Vonnegut.  The author was once quoted by the New York Times as saying, I would have been proud had the words been mine.

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