Teach Me, Yoda

If you like Star Wars, you know Yoda, the tiny green Jedi master who was the mentor for multiple Jedi warriors, including his most famous pupil, Luke Skywalker. I believe most of us experience hardship in our lives at one time or another, and likely we all have had at least one mentor who  gave us guidance. If you are like me, however, you may not have heeded all the advice given, like young Luke, who wanted to follow his own path and was reluctant to follow all the instructions of his greatest teacher.

A mentor is a gift we typically don’t recognize until after their input has benefitted us somehow. Many times people neglect to thank their mentors properly for the skills they help us develop and refine. I wish to use my next few posts to pay tribute to some of my mentors over the years, though to be honest, I don’t quite know where to begin since I have been blessed to have several people who have helped me in various aspects of my life. I guess the easiest way would be to start at the beginning.

I have learned how fortunate I am to have 2 loving parents who raised me and who, despite some hard times of their own, did whatever it took to stick it out and try to set a good example for me and my brother. Like most children, they were my first mentors. My mom and dad did their best to raise me right and teach me good ethics and morals. While I went my own way and have certainly made my share of mistakes, some of them very major ones, I have learned lots of lessons and have turned my life around 180 degrees in the past few years.

It is no reflection on my parents that I made a lot of mistakes. Remember Yoda and Luke? Luke screwed up despite Yoda’s strong advice and teaching. So did I and so do a lot of us. I think we all try to be the best parents and teachers we can be, but we are all human and all make mistakes. All we can hope for as parents is that our kids remember and value the good things we teach them, and have enough grace to forgive us for the mistakes we make and the bad things we teach them. My folks did the best they could and although I ignored some of their advice and had to learn things the hard way on my own sometimes, I have come back around, and I credit them with a lot of my ability to get back up, dust  myself off and try it again. It’s amazing how smart our parents become as we get older ourselves.

It says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it”. Well I believe that. I am now getting old (just turned 49) and while I am stubborn and certainly have a long way to go, I know I have benefitted from the teachings and the example of my parents, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer! 

Thanks Mom and Dad.

I love you very much.

Some things are really not important in the big picture

Some things hit you right in the face and make you think about what is important in life.

I was at work late tonight in the world’s best cancer center, as I am too many nights. I went to eat dinner in the cafeteria and saw a large family connecting for the first time in a while. It was obvious by the way they all hugged and kissed each other, holding hands, touching each other. Showing comfort and support to each other. Undoubtedly, someone in the family was ill and in the hospital. I imagine they may not be doing very well, prompting the reunion.

My Dad’s side of the family was always that way. If someone was in the hospital, 20 of the Smith bunch were up there in the waiting area in no time. Soon the laughter was enough to have us all run out of the waiting area. That is a nice memory for me, despite being intermingled with sad times. It has been too long since we were all together outside of a hospital or a funeral. My great Uncle is 94 and has had a birthday party that serves as a family reunion of sorts for the past few years, but it hasn’t been complete. We are all too busy and tied up with our own stuff. I went when I was having chemotherapy and was bald in 2011, but haven’t been back since. I need to go again. I have hair now and won’t freak so many people out. 

“Family”. The mere word conjures a multitude of images, memories, thoughts, smells, and feelings. Some good, some not so good,  but as much as we all wish there were no “difficult” situations in our families, they exist. We need to look past them and be family anyway.

We get so stressed out about our lives and the minutia that clouds our heart and minds and we waste so much of our time with anger and frustration, fighting and resentment, hurts and offenses, revenge, guilt, and sadness. “I can’t believe he said that. I just am so OFFENDED.” “Who did what to whom and how does it affect me, because after all, I am the one that counts in all this mess anyway, right?” I am tired of hearing people complain and whine about things that really don’t matter in the big picture. 

We need to get some perspective.

In the past two weeks, a friend from college died suddenly and I also attended the funeral of the son of another college friend. Another friend is dealing with the anniversaries of both parents’ deaths. In Kenya, a group of friends have been on a mission trip for 2 weeks.  After spending all week with the pastor of the church they were helping, he was killed Saturday night in a car wreck, on the way home from the church dedication service. Tragic. People died and were injured in an airplane landing on a runway in San Francisco. This week in Houston, a father and teenage son were killed by intruders in their own home. And you have problems?

If you have children, stop what you are doing and hug them right now. If they are teens text them a hug. They’ll like it even if they think you are weird.  

Sitting in the funeral service for my friend’s son two weekends ago, I could not help but think of my boys. I did not know his son but he was close to my oldest boy’s age. My eyes would not stay dry. What were the last words they shared?  What were mine with my boys? Were they kind or harsh? How about mine? I know he told him he loved him? Did I?

It was obvious by the outpouring of support this family received that they are a special group, close to each other and those around them. I think about the pain my friend endures daily now, not having the chance to tell his son how much he loves him, how proud he is of him. What is keeping me from doing that right now?

It gave me some fresh perspective on what is important from day to day. It isn’t work and it isn’t money, and it isn’t status. It is family and time spent with them while you have it to spend. It may be a bit late to be learning that lesson, but I never did claim to be the early bird and this late bloomer is trying to start over in all aspects of his life.

I am still alive and so are my boys. I don’t see them as much as I want to but I try every time we speak (or more often these days, text) to tell them I love them. I try not to stress out about the details of what is going on that I used to get upset about. I try to look at the big picture as much as possible. It keeps me less angry and frustrated and I hope, makes me a nicer Dad to be around. By the way, guys, I love you both very much.

My parents and several aunts and uncles and cousins are still alive. I need to see them more and even if I don’t see them, talk with them more because I miss them. I love them and want to let them know that. I got to see my brother and father earlier this year when they came to see my great Uncle and made a special trip down to see me because I couldn’t drive up. It was the first time I had seen my Dad since last spring and the first time I had actually been with my brother in at least 2-3 years. Regardless of the reasons, all valid, that is too long. 

I am travelling next week and will get to see my parents together for the first time since last March. when they came down and spent a month to help me after my cancer surgery. I am SOOOOO looking forward to it. I cannot wait to hug my mom and dad and spend some time just being with them.

Do you get my point? Spend time with your loved ones when you can. Tell those in your life how you feel about them. If your family is gone, love on a friend or neighbor. Everyone needs someone to care for and we all need someone to care for us, whether we think we do or not. Even if you can’t bring yourself to utter the phrase, show them you love them however you think is best. Give em a hug, sit and visit, mow their grass, or even bake them a pie (buttermilk is my favorite, by the way).

So, repeat after me. “To those in my life who I cannot be with right now, you know who you are. I love you and I miss you and I want to visit with you, whether in person, over the phone, or even email. Let’s make that happen soon. Deal?”

Now don’t let it hang there. Do something to make it happen. And by the way, if you think this is a good idea, share it with your friends and let’s see how big a difference it makes in all our lives.

HalloThanksMas or Whatever Happened to the Holidays?


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Wanna Come Over and Listen to Records?


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Have you tried to find a record player lately? I don’t mean the new phonograph to CD recording devices that make CDs from your old albums and I don’t even mean phonographs for stereo systems. I mean self-contained record players. … Continue reading

Board Games & The Grand Master


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Does anyone still play board games? Do you even remember board games? No, not video games or the video version of board games. Don’t you remember? Close your eyes and think……….way back….further…….further. There! In the cabinet under the TV or in … Continue reading