Tag Archives: enthusiasm

The Frozen Chosen


A brick building topped by a tall, slender steeple, the First Presbyterian Church was a bastion of mainstream Ocala.  In the mid-twentieth century, on Sundays the sanctuary would be crowded with people dressed in their  best: the men in gray suits, white shirts with muted ties, their fedora hat resting on the pew next to them; and veil-hatted, gloved-handed women draped in subdued dresses.

On hot days, a large and noisy, attic fan would draw a warm breeze through open windows.  Supplementing the artificial breeze, people would wave hand-held fans emblazoned with the name of a local funeral home.  The preacher’s sermon, the warm air and the rhythmic noise of the fan induced a weariness insuring late-morning naps for children and more than a few parents.

The preacher’s hobby was translating scripture from the original Greek and his sermons reflected this scholarly nature.  His monotone voice would drone on, until a loud snort from the church’s leading contributor signaled it was time to end.  Immediately completing his remarks, the preacher would send the somnolent congregation on their way.

The long, intellectual sermons and the uninspiring music didn’t faze the comfortable, well-dressed congregants.  Around town, they became known as the “Frozen Chosen.”

One Easter Sunday, my mother and I arrived at the church long before the beginning of the service.  She was excited that the choir would be performing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus so, foregoing her usual pew, she found us seats at the front of the church.  Seated next to us was a mentally challenged young man who had been “adopted” by the congregation.

With soaring music and the voices of angels, the choir’s rendition of Handel’s work was incredible.  As the last note ended, the congregation was stunned and frozen; you could hear a pin drop.  Suddenly, the childlike young man sitting next to us loudly exclaimed, “That was beautiful.”

Ignited by the impulsive sincerity of his statement, the congregation jumped to its feet, applauding, some crying out “hallelujah” and others “amen.”  It was a special moment, when ignited by a special person, the “Chosen” became no longer “Frozen.”

Like the gray-suited congregation I grew up in, often we are the “Frozen Chosen.”  Chosen because we enjoy so many blessings but frozen in our reluctance to express joy in them.  Relationships are enhanced and atmospheres altered when with a childlike innocence we show joy and appreciation.  Commenting on a blog I posted, Joyce Stover wrote, “Upon observation it can be proven that happiness increases exponentially when divided. Kind of like emotional fission.”  I couldn’t say it any better.

Happiness

Where one is wise two are happy.” – Proverb

Golfing In Gator Infested Waters


Lining up for drive, Terri asked, “Is that a large squirrel in the fairway?” I looked towards the golf ball I had launched down the fairway and responded, “If so, it is one heck of a squirrel. I think it’s an alligator”

It was an alligator: one that had crawled out of a pond that paralleled the fairway. When we got closer, we watched him saunter over to my ball, pick it up and carry it back to his watery sanctuary.

Realizing what had happened, I thought back to when I was playing golf in Prince Edward Island and a fox crossed the fairway, grabbed my ball and ran back to his lair. Observing what had taken place, a local told me the fox regularly hung out on that particular hole and if he stole your ball you got to drop and hit another one—he also advised to me do it fast before the fox had the opportunity to steal my second ball.

A similar event took place when I was playing golf in Miami. I was walking towards my ball when a crow picked it up, flew to a palm tree and dropped it into the palm fronds. What ensued was an argument whether I got a free drop, had to climb the palm and play the ball or take a one-stroke penalty for an unplayable lie. I took the free drop and spent the rest of the day watching out for the ball-thieving bird.

The weekend after the alligator had stolen my ball, Terri and I were playing the same hole and my ball laid near the pond where the gator hung out. Terri, driving the golf cart, dropped me off and turned the vehicle to go to her ball. Realizing that I had the wrong golf club, I yelled for her to come back.  Hearing my cry, she made too sharp of a turn and rather than being thrown out of the cart, jumped to safety.

The cart was pointing down the slope that led to the pond. In shock from her sudden exit, Terri was standing behind the cart when it started to roll towards the water. Observing from a distance what was taking place, I took it for granted that she would catch and stop the slow moving vehicle; then I realized it was moving faster. I yelled, “Terri, the cart! Stop the cart!” Roused from her stupor she started after the cart: too late as it rolled into the pond.

The cart, with the water almost to the top of its seat, sat  in the middle of the pond.  With no one to help us, Terri set off to find help and I dejectedly stared at the half submerged golf cart.

Thinking about how embarrassed we were going to be, I yelled, “Stop. I’m going to push the #$*&@ thing out of the water.” Terri responded, “You’re going to do what?” As I took off my socks, I yelled “You heard me, I’m going to push the #$*&@ thing out of the water.” When I started towards the pond, she placed her hands on her hips and exclaimed, “I forbid it!” That did it. I was headed into the water.

Surprisingly, the bottom of the pond was firm sand and I was able to push the cart. After I got started, I heard splashing and looked and saw Terri headed into the water. Worried about the alligator and other creatures that called the pond home, she was running towards me with her golf shoes on and lifting her feet so high that her knees were near her chin. She joined in pushing the cart until it got stuck and then as I pushed, she placed it in reverse and backed it out of the water.

For a couple of minutes we stood still; then, without saying a word, I put my socks and shoes on, got out my eight iron and prepared to hit my second shot. Likewise, Terri grabbed a club and started to her ball. The next couple of holes we didn’t play well but we completed the round and without saying a word about what happened, returned the golf cart to the cart shed.

Our watery experience reminded me of a valuable lesson: before seeking help make an effort to solve a problem. Who knows? You may be able to push the cart out of the pond.

Self Help

Self-help must precede help from others. Even for making certain of help from heaven, one has to help oneself.” – Moraji R. Desai

It’s Not Real—It’s Theater


My friend Diane was an unrepentant practitioner of practical jokes: her favorite was staging a “performance” in a public place.

The first time she picked me up at the Dayton airport, I was staring at the luggage carousel when suddenly she said, “Does your wife know you are here?”  Not married, I turned to see whom she was talking to; when I didn’t reply, she grabbed me by the shoulders and shouted, “You haven’t told your wife about me!”  About this time, everyone around us were silent and looking in our direction.  I was perplexed and embarrassed until I realized it was a performance and then I joined in with, “No, you know her temper and that she is deadly with a pistol.”  At that point, I retrieved my bag and we left a muttering group of strangers behind as we exited the terminal.

Diane had other routines. In one, she would whisper loudly, “Make sure you get the right suitcase. I put the money in it” and in another, “That’s an undercover cop over there and I think he has spotted us.”  I saw little harm in playing along with her, enjoying the theatrics, until I was the victim of her ultimate performance.

Flying in from Toronto, I was looking forward to taking my future wife, Terri, to dinner.  As I exited the jet way, suddenly a 6’ 7” gorilla of a man grabbed me by the lapels of my coat and flung me against the airport wall.  Holding me off the floor, with his face close to mine, he loudly exclaimed, “This time I’m going to make sure you are not going to get out of here without marrying my sister.”  He stepped aside and standing there, appearing to be pregnant and wearing a wedding gown and veil, was Terri.

Scared and in shock, I couldn’t comprehend what was going on until I saw—standing next to Terri wearing a bridesmaid’s dress, corsage and carrying a bouquet of flowers—Diane and knew it was a performance.   In front of us appeared a minister and—wearing a suit complete with a boutonniere—my close friend Frank, as he declared that he was the best man, stepped to my side.

I could hear the comments of the crowd that had gathered around us: “It’s a wedding, right here in the airport;” “She’s going to have a baby, that’s why they’re making her marry him” and my favorite, “Her brother may need a shotgun to get her to marry him!”  The crowd grew silent as the preacher—it turned out he really was a minister, who from then on was stuck with the nickname: the “not so right” reverend Kreps—began the ceremony and when he pronounced us man and wife, they erupted in cheers.

We didn’t tell the onlookers that the wedding they “attended” was theater and over 25 years later, I’m sure there are people who still tell the story of the “shotgun” wedding.

Part of the human makeup, people engage in theatrics beginning at an early age.  I remember at three-years old, my son interrupting a tantrum to make sure people were looking.  It’s true that the lessons learned early are often used later.

The members of a board of directors of an association I was managing were having a spirited discussion when suddenly one stood, gathered his papers, announced his resignation and stomped from the room leaving a stunned and silent group of colleagues.  Concerned, I followed and found him outside the door laughing about his performance.

The three-year old and the member of the board of directors both understood—as do many others—by utilizing theatrics they could manipulate the behavior of others.  I am suspicious when people are unexpectedly emotional and I have learned to not respond to melodramatic outbursts.

The Theatre

The world’s a theatre, the earth a stage,

Which God and nature do with actors fill.” – John Heywood

The Best Christmas Present


Conjuring up dreams of longed-for toys, the presents lay under the Christmas tree. When the big day finally arrived, it took just a few minutes before I carpeted the room with wrapping paper and the already opened presents were forgotten, as I tore the wrapping from the next gift.

I remember those Christmas mornings and although I have forgotten most, there are presents I will always remember.

I was four-years old and could hardly wait to open the present from my rich Aunt Susan. It had to be special; my goodness, it came all the way from Atlanta. A beautifully wrapped, small, square box, it sat on the top of the pile of presents under the Christmas tree: when shaken it didn’t rattle or make a sound; I couldn’t figure out what it could be.

On Christmas morning it was the first present I opened. I tore off the paper, opened the box and lifted out—a hamburger. A hamburger! My rich aunt had sent me a hamburger? It had to be a great sandwich, so I sunk my teeth into it, only to bite off a hunk of soap. “Soap on a Rope,” my hamburger was soap—sending soap to a kid! That’s worse than getting underwear. Gee!

A couple of years later, I found out that even presents you want can have unexpected consequences.

It was 5:00 a.m. Christmas morning and without awakening my parents, I crept down the stairs to see what Santa had brought me. Lying in front of the fireplace was the airplane I had asked for. The plane was connected by a flexible cord to what looked like a flashlight and by pressing a button on the “flashlight,” its engine would start. As I spun in circles the plane would soar around my head. So, like a top, I whirled and flew the plane until dizziness and nausea overtook me. When my parents came down the stairs, they found a mess to clean up and a sick, miserable little boy. It was certainly not the way they, nor I, had planned to spend Christmas morning.

I was eight years old when Santa delivered my first bicycle: a beautiful red, Schwinn. Tired from having to assemble it and confident of my ability to master riding a bike, my father hadn’t installed the training wheels, so it was up to me to learn, and my father to teach me, how to ride it.

Christmas morning we went for miles, my dad running behind, gripping the seat, while,I, pedaling frantically, tried to maintain my balance. Time and again, he would let go, only to see me fall to the ground. Exhausted, after hours of trying, my father gave up; and defeated, I angrily kicked that stupid bike. The day would have been ruined, but for my older brother, who with patience and endurance greater than my father, finally taught me how to ride.

My dad had a hard and fast rule that only one gift could be opened before Christmas and then only on Christmas Eve.

I was ten-years old and one present lying under the tree entranced me. A small square box that was so heavy I couldn’t even shake it. What could it be? Perhaps…? I had no idea and I couldn’t wait to open it.

On Christmas Eve, my father gave my mother—she was part of the deal when it came to only opening only one present—and me permission to open the present of our choice. I pulled the heavy box from under the tree and tore off the wrapping paper only to find it to be full of gravel along with the following note: “The most obvious is not always the best pick. Love Dad.”

I have received many memorable Christmas gifts. Over the past few years my most unforgettable gift is that which my wife, Terri and I exchange: our time together. Whether sitting in front of the fireplace, listening to music while sipping a glass of wine; a quiet dinner in a small restaurant or an afternoon of golf, we know that our time with each other is a blessed and priceless gift.

Memories are the gifts that keep on giving. Long after the bicycle is outgrown, the soap dissolved, the airplane broken and the rocks tossed away, the memories of the moments spent with those we care for will endure. Because time cannot be purchased and is limited, it is our most precious possession and sharing it with the ones we love is a gift that helps to make Christmas special.

Merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous and happy New Year to all.

Quote

The only gift is a portion of thyself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Passionate Rug Salesman


After receiving a promise that I could spend the rest of the afternoon watching football on television, I agreed to go to a furniture store with Terri. Wandering the store, we found the rug we had been looking for on sale and made the decision to purchase it. As we were talking with the salesman, I thought back about a previous purchase of carpeting for our home.

We were shopping at a large store in which there were numerous carpet samples of different types and prices. We narrowed our selection down to two samples from the same manufacturer; one priced higher than the other. Wanting good quality but also being budget conscious, I asked the apathetic sales person about the difference between the two carpets. Observing the puzzled look on his face, I realized that he didn’t understand; so again I asked “What’s the difference between the two carpets?”  After taking a minute to think about it he responded with, “$10 per yard.”

The prior experience was brought to mind by the attitude and professionalism of the sales person from whom we purchased the rug. He could explain in detail the difference between varying rugs: how one’s fibers were tied and the number of knots per square inch; how another was “tufted” and the dye process on another. He explained how the rugs from one country differed from those from another; how they were designed and how to know good quality products.

When I asked how he had obtained his expertise, he explained that he had by chance stumbled into the business and had developed a passion for rugs.

After college I went to work for my father. Over the years, I became adept at running a medium size commercial subcontracting business, however, my passion lay elsewhere. Without a zeal for what I was doing, I lacked the desire to focus on growing and improving the business. Without a fire for what I was doing, success was illusive and I eventually sold the business.  My brother made the same decision about his profession.

After 30 years as a lawyer my brother gave up his law practice to be an entrepreneur. The projects he invested in never returned the money he earned as an attorney but he was happy. Unlike many people who spend a life of frustration and dissatisfaction, he was willing to make a change and his passion for business brought happiness.  Passion also makes a difference in other activities.

My brother-in-law Don was a union insulator spending 35 years on construction projects. Don didn’t have a background that would lead him to playing golf—his parents and siblings didn’t play and neither did most of his friends and acquaintances. I would lug my clubs and get in a couple of rounds when Terri and I would visit her sister. Curious, Don decided to try the game and fell in love with it. He developed a passion, which led him to practice and now he is an accomplished golfer: his passion led to his success.

As our children began to think about their future, drawing upon my experience, I would advise them to try and find a job where their vocation was the same as their avocation. I explained that the happiest, most successful people I knew were those who did on their jobs what they also loved to do on the weekend. Those people had discovered if your job and your hobby are the same, you are never working.

It is important to be passionate about something: if not your job, your family, a hobby or a sport. If you are in an occupation that you are not excited about, consider changing jobs; if you can’t change, find a part of your job that you can be enthusiastic about. Passion can be rediscovered: it’s never to late to rekindle your ardor for something or someone you love: it takes work—but it is worth it.

Life is too short to not have passion in it.

Quotes

One of the things that may get in the way of people being lifelong learners is that they’re not in touch with their passion. If you’re passionate about what it is you do, then you’re going to be looking for everything you can to get better at it.” – Jack Canfield

The kind of commitment I find among the best performers across virtually every field is a single-minded passion for what they do, an unwavering desire for excellence in the way they think and the way they work. Genuine confidence is what launches you out of bed in the morning, and through your day with a spring in your step.” – Jim Collins

Saying Goodbye


Terri and I had been attending the First Presbyterian Church in Winter Park for several months. As churchgoers do, we found a pew where we were comfortable and every Sunday that is where we sat. Sitting in front of us was an attractive couple and their pre-teen son. When the time to greet each other would arrive, they would turn, smile, shake our hand and proceed to greet others around them. One Sunday, the lady in front of us smiled as she shook my hand and said, “I’m Barbara Felkel, and my husband Bill and I would like to get to know you.”

After the service we talked over coffee and they introduced us to several other couples; among them, Ray and Jeanne Cook. Over the years, the circle of friends widened and our friendships deepened. Saturday nights we would get together, either at a restaurant or someone’s home and once a month we would all help out at the church night suppers. We noticed that our time together centered around food and that led to the idea that became the Dinner Club.

Once a month the Dinner Club would meet at one of the member’s home. The host would determine the theme, provide the entrée and the members would bring the other courses. Over the years we sampled the cuisines of Brazil, France, Italy and numerous other countries; it was always an epicurean adventure—sometimes good, sometimes bad but always fun: evenings we will remember; some more unforgettable than others.

During a meeting of the club at our house, I was in our home office showing Barbara Felkel something on the computer when we heard a roar from the dining room. I rushed into the room to find Bill Felkel holding his stomach as he rolled on the floor with laughter, other club members laughing, unable to speak, with tears running down their face and my 88 year-old mother, quietly and angelically, smiling. It was some minutes later, when my friends could again speak, that I learned the ruckus was occasioned by my sweet, Presbyterian mom telling a joke that I wouldn’t repeat in a men’s locker room.

There were many memorable evenings: the night, after outpatient surgery I inadvertently blew my nose in the tablecloth; the “Costco” evening when everyone brought an already prepared appetizer from Costco; at Jeanne’s insistence eating chili “five ways”—prepared the way they do in Ohio; the dinner at my brother’s hotel in Ocala. All of the times together, dining, worshipping, sharing happiness and heartache, united us into a closely-knit group of friends. However, the Dinner Club could not survive the changes in the lives of its members and eventually faded away.

Even without the club, we tried to remain close: when someone would visit from out of town or for a special occasion, we would again gather together. At the heart of striving to maintain the closeness of the group were Ray and Jeanne Cook.

Since I hadn’t spoken to him in a while, when Ray called, intuitively I knew something was wrong. He asked how I was doing and after inquiring about Terri and our children he said, “I have bad news, Jeanne has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”

A month before she passed away, I visited Jeanne at her home. She was weak, so my visit was short: we spoke of days past, children and friends and when I kissed her goodbye, I knew I would not see her again.

As I left Ray and Jeanne’s home I thought about how casually I say goodbye to the people in my life: how I take it for granted that each goodbye will be followed by a future reunion.  I couldn’t help contrasting the confidence in being together again with the grief of a final farewell.

You never can be sure when you part from those you care for, that fate won’t intervene and that your goodbye might be your last; so take care to say farewell to friends, relatives and colleagues in a way that shows them that you are looking forward to the time when you again say hello.

Quote

Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joys, and dividing our grief.” – Joseph Addison

Early In The Morning


Photo by Jenny Carrington

I would awaken before anyone else, quietly put on a bathing suit and go to the white beach that led to the lake in front of our house. I can still feel the morning air, cool, with the promise of a hot day and thunderstorms to come. In the solitude of the early morning I could be what I was, a preteen boy. There were tadpoles to catch, sand castles to build and an imagination to run wild. I loved those early mornings but then I became a teenager and the joy of early mornings was replaced by adolescent pleasure of sleeping in.

During college, my joy of staying in bed became an inability to get out of bed; however after marriage and graduation from college, the responsibility of supporting a family meant I had to be up and going. The days of not being able to get out of bed were replaced by a lifetime of getting to the office early.

To make sure our roofing crews were on the road in the still dark early mornings. I would arrive before 6:00 a.m., open the office and meet with the foremen. The first thirty minutes of the day, were hectic, then there was a lull; a quiet time before the phone started ringing. That is when I would wander outside, drink a cup of coffee and savor the cool morning air. It was a time to catch my breath and collect my thoughts for the coming day. Early mornings were a solitary time until Terri and I opened our inn.

Since we served our guests breakfast in their rooms, morning was our busiest time of the day. We would get up at 5:00 a.m. and go non-stop for the next three hours; then after everyone was served there was time to sit outside, drink a cup of coffee and visit with the guests. The visits were engaging, open and rewarding. I appreciated those encounters in the coolness and promise of the early morning; however, I had not truly experienced the beauty of morning until my first visit to Mt. Hood and the Timberline Lodge.

I was hosting a tour of western lumber mills and forests for a group of lumber dealers and their spouses. We arrived at the snowbound lodge late in the afternoon; to make sure everything was ready for the day’s tour, I was up early the following morning. The sun was rising in the East as I walked out of the lodge entrance. Worried about slipping on ice, my eyes were focused on the steps; when I looked up, I caught my breath at the sight. In the distance to the south, bathed in the early morning light, were the golden-hued, snow-covered peaks of three distant mountains. A vision that still lingers in my memory.

Some people find a quiet time in the midday, others in the evening and there are those people who are always busy: never stopping to catch their breath. Creativity, problem solving, sanity demands a break from the constant demands of the day. For me, that break takes place in the early morning, when with a cup of coffee, I take time to collect my thoughts, organize the day to come and reflect on the blessings afforded to me.

Quote

Every now and then go away and have a little relaxation. To remain constantly at work will diminish your judgment. Go some distance away, because work will be in perspective and a lack of harmony is more readily seen.”-Leonardo DaVinci