September 30, 2012

If Only ...

Hindsight is 20/20

As we travel along the road of life, we all make mistakes, and wish we had done some things differently. All too often, we end up wishing we had made different choices, or spent our time doing something else. The simple truth is that being human, we will err ... and then we have a choice to make. We can either beat ourselves up with regret and sorrow, or we can learn from our experiences, and move on to become better people.

As I look back on my life, I realize that I have made some huge mistakes, and disappointed a lot of others along the way. But instead of feeling self-pity, I have always tried to choose the path of contrition, apology and acceptance. I usually try hard to learn from the bad things, and while I haven't always been successful, I generally avoid making the same mistake twice.

Ten Things You Will Never Regret

I have put together a list here of ten little things in life that you will never look back on with sorrow, anxiety or self-recrimination. Some of them may seem silly at first, but at the end of the day, you will never be sorry that you did any of them, or feel that they were a waste of your time.

  1. Smiling at everyone you see. Even if your day isn't the greatest, you can literally make it better by simply smiling. Attitudes are contagious, and if you express a positive outlook through your face, others will be uplifted as well.

  2. Reading to a child. There is no better way to build into children a love of reading than sharing a book with them. Whether it's at bedtime or in the afternoon, you can magically transport them to a world of imagination, and you get to go along for the ride for free.

  3. Helping a stranger. You may have given the girl in the parking lot a jump-start or held the door open for the old guy with the walker. Maybe you helped the young man who was lost by giving him directions, or the girl-scouts whose cookie display just fell and scattered across the sidewalk. In any event, the few minutes you spent coming to someone's assistance is always time well spent.

  4. Playing with children. It may be as simple as answering the toy phone when a 2 year old hands it to you ("Hello? .... I see .... It's for you"), pushing little ones on a swing-set ("More, more, more!"), or playing CandyLand, even though the board is broken and you are missing all the gumdrop cards. Playtime builds memories that last forever, and remembering how to play will keep you from getting old on the inside.

  5. Taking the time for courtesy. Remembering the basics of Please, Thank You and Your Welcome will go a long way towards better relationships with everyone in your life. Even if you are in a hurry, these simple words are always appropriate.

  6. Buying lemonade from the kids with the sidewalk stand. True, it is mostly just water, but you have given these young entrepreneurs a real sense of accomplishment, and have helped lay the groundwork for building in them a sense that hard work pays rewards.

  7. Hugging someone who is sad. We all have a basic human need to be held sometimes, and often, a simple hug will do wonders that words can't. Loneliness, grief and sorrow are natural emotions that can be eased by the comfort of a good hug from a loving friend.

  8. Sharing a funny joke. Not all funny stories are age appropriate, and some people's sense of humor leaves something to be desired, but a good joke, well told, will create laughter and smiles. There is nothing better than a good old fashioned belly laugh to make everyone feel better.

  9. Daily personal hygiene. We all feel better when we look good, and are clean and dressed. Not everyone can afford to wear expensive clothes or makeup, but even simply brushing your teeth and combing your hair creates within you a stronger sense of self-worth, and the few minutes it takes is time well spent.

  10. Saying "I Love You". I can promise that you will never regret telling your family and close friends that you care about them. Wouldn't it be nice if the last words that you said to everyone you care for were this simple three word expression? I sincerely hope that negative or bitter words are never anyone's last memories of me.

As The Sun Sets

Each of us gets 24 hours every day to live in. No one gets any extra, and no one gets short-changed. How we spend those hours determines who we are and where we are going. At the end of each day, we should all strive to be able to look back on the previous 24 hours and smile.

Making mistakes doesn't mean you are a bad person, and you can't go back and change what has already happened. Don't waste your time with regret and self-pity, but learn, grow and move on. If today wasn't what you wanted it to be, then try to make tomorrow better. One step at a time you can become who you want to be, if you listen to your heart and learn from your experiences.

A few thoughts directly,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 28, 2012

The Christmas Gift

And A Child Shall Lead Them

This story was told to me a while ago, and I think that it is worth a retelling. It has been around the internet for a while, but I decided that with a few modifications, the message behind the words will come through. 

This story touched me deeply, and I hope you all enjoy it. I will warn you though, you may need some tissues before we get to the end, but you'll be glad you came along for the ride ...

A Hug From A Child

It was a chilly night in December, and we were the only family with children in the entire restaurant. I sat my son in a high chair, and noticed that everyone was quietly sitting and talking. Suddenly, my boy squealed rather loudly. He pounded his fat little baby hands on the high chair tray with glee and loudly said "Hi!". His eyes were crinkled up in laughter and his mouth was bared in a toothless grin as he wriggled and giggled with merriment.

I looked around and saw the source of his amusement. Across the room from us, smiling and wiggling his fingers at the boy, sat an old man in a faded sweat jacket.
His jacket's zipper appeared to be broken, exposing a threadbare shirt. His pants were baggy, his toes were peeking out of would-be shoes and his hair was uncombed and unwashed. His whiskers were too short to be called a beard and his nose was so red and varicose it looked like a rose-colored road map. We were too far away from him to tell for sure, but I was pretty sure he smelled.

His hands waved and flapped on loose wrists, and he grinned with a less than full set of teeth. "Hi there, baby," the man said to my little boy. "Hi there, big boy. I see ya, buster!"

My husband and I exchanged looks, trying to figure out what to do, while our son continued to grin, laugh and say "Hi" in his charming infant way.

By now, everyone in the restaurant noticed and they all seemed to look first at us, and then at the scruffy man. The old guy was creating a nuisance with my beautiful child, and I could tell it was beginning to irritate the other diners. 

At last our meal came, and the man began calling from across the room, "Do ya do patty cake? Do you know peek-a-boo? ... Hey, look!  He knows peek- a-boo!"  Nobody thought the old man was cute, and my husband and I were embarrassed. 

We ate in silence; all except for the baby. The little guy was running through his entire charming repertoire for the admiring old bum, who in turn continued to reciprocate with his too-loud comments. 

We finally got through our meal, and got ready to head for the door. My husband went to pay the check, and told me to meet him in the parking lot. The old man sat at his single table, poised between me and the front door. "Lord, please, just let me out of here before he speaks to me," I prayed. As I drew closer to the man, I turned sideways, trying to avoid any air he might be breathing. 

Just as I thought we would reach the haven of the doorway and safety, my son leaned away from me, reaching out with both arms, in that almost instinctual baby-sign for 'pick me up'. Suddenly I tripped and the baby pushed away from me, propelling himself straight into the open and waiting arms of the man. 

Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby were embracing. The boy, in an act of total trust, love and submission, laid his tiny head on the man's ragged shoulder. The man's eyes closed, and as chubby arms wrapped around his neck, I saw tears hover beneath his old lashes. His wrinkled and aged hands, full of grime, pain, and a lifetime of hard labor, cradled my baby, and patted his back. 

No two beings have ever shared such pure love so deeply, for so short a time. 

I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and hugged the little boy for just a moment, then his eyes opened. He looked me straight in the eye and said in a firm commanding voice, "You take good care of this precious baby." Somehow I managed, 'I will,' from a throat that now contained a stone. He pried my son from his chest, lovingly and longingly, as though he were in great pain. 

I took the baby from him, and the old man said, "God bless you, ma'am. You've given me my Christmas gift." I said nothing more than a muttered thanks. With my son in my arms and tears streaming down my face, I ran for the car.
My husband was wondering why I was crying and holding the baby so tightly, and why I was saying, 'My God, my God, please forgive me.

I had just witnessed Christ's love, shown through the innocence of a tiny child who saw no sin and made no judgment; a child who saw a soul, with a mother who saw a suit of clothes. I was a Christian mother who was blind, holding a child who was not. I felt it was God asking, "Are you willing to share your son for a moment?" when He shared His for all eternity. 

The ragged old man, unwittingly, had reminded me, 'To enter the Kingdom of God , we must become as little children.'

Let Love Guide You

As you go through your days, try not to be blinded by what you see. Everyone you meet has a story, and inside, they are all worthy of respect, compassion and for those who truly profess to believe in the teachings of a carpenter from Galilee, love.

A story told with blurred eyes and joy,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 27, 2012

What's It Worth?

How You View Money

It's my firm belief that while money is a very useful tool, it does not make a very worthwhile goal.  We've all heard the old sayings, 'The Best Things In Life Are Free', and 'Money Can't Buy Happiness'. I think that both of these statements are true, but unfortunately, money is a necessary evil in our society. We need money to provide the basics of food, health and shelter for ourselves and those we love and are responsible for.

Maybe evil is too strong a word. Money isn't the root of all evil, but a love of money, and a desire for the power that money can provide, is probably behind more of the evil in our world than any other root cause. Of all our baser emotions, greed has to be one of the most destructive to the relationships that make life worth the daily struggle.

See, I grew up in a household that never saw much money. We ate lots of mac-n-cheese, hamburger helper and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches.  We wore second-hand clothes most of the time, and the only time we saw new toys was at Christmas and birthdays. But I never considered us poor, because we had something that some of my friends, who were financially much better off, didn't have ... We had love, laughter and each other.

In school I was, at times, envious of the 'stuff' that other kids had, but I understood even then, that having lots of cool stuff didn't mean that you were happy. I remember seeing one of my classmates come to school in brand new clothes, with bruises on her face, and feeling blessed and lucky. I had the best mom in the world. She worked hard, and while steak was only for special occasions, we never went to bed hungry, and I never had to hide my face, or my feelings, from the world. 

Wealth Is Not Success

Too many people equate success with wealth. Money can be used to make your life more comfortable, but simply having it does not guarantee happiness, love or success in building relationships with others. I'm not saying that having money is bad, but it shouldn't be the goal. Having the security that a savings account provides is wonderful, but being broke does not mean that you are a failure, it just means you have to keep working to provide the basics.

Maybe I'm not the best judge of money. I've never been wealthy, so I can't speak from experience about having lots of money. There were times in my life that I earned a lot of money, but I used it as a tool to provide the things my family wanted and needed. I made a lot of mistakes as well, and never saved  money or tried to accumulate wealth, but my wife and I always tried to give our kids the best gifts of all - positive self-images, love and a set of values that will help them to be the best people they can be.

True Value

If you find yourself feeling blue because you are struggling with the bills and pressures of life, or if you are so focused on accumulating money that your health or relationships suffer, keep in mind another great nugget of handed-down wisdom, 'You Can't Take It With You'. When you come to the clearing at the end of the path, and look back at your life, will you have regrets? Which will you regret more, not having all the fancy things you could have bought, or not spending more time with those you love and who love you?

Just think what a wonderful world we could all live in, if more people taught their children to think more about the value of things and people, and less about how much they cost. If everyone put the joy of a child's smile above the self-satisfaction of a wad of cash in their pocket, and the warmth that comes from helping others over the ego boost that a big check gives them, how much happier would we all be?

I may not be rich, but when I look at my children and grandchildren, I feel very successful indeed. When the time comes, I will stand before my maker, point to my memories of their smiles and their happiness and be very proud of the job I've done, and the life I've led.

This opinion is totally free of charge, and comes straight

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 25, 2012

Remembering My Dad

A Sad Day

On March 31, 2011, my dad, August W. ‘Bill’ Grein, passed over to the other side. That evening I sat and, through a series of Facebook posts and comments, created a letter about and to him. 

Many of my friends and family saw us through this difiicult time, and I feel so blessed to have them all in my life.

I have combined my notes and comments into a document that I’d like to share with you all (edited to read a little clearer):

To Everyone Who Supported Us

Thank you so much for your support, kindness and prayers on this difficult day. My father was a great man, and will be missed by many. He was a past Grand Master of his Masonic lodge, and is survived by 6 children, 14 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. (This number is larger now, but this as of the day he passed, and who knows … they may actually be more … he did love kids)

When my wife and I had some troubles 4 years ago and lost our home, he and my step-mother, Karen Grein, stepped in gave my two youngest children a warm, safe and stable place to live. My son Woody is still there, and is thriving. We owe Karen and Dad a debt that can never be repaid. In the end, he was my hero, someone who stepped up when no one else could or would.

To My Dad

I love you Dad. I miss you already, and I only hope that when we meet again in the clearing past the end of the road, that I can look back at my life and say that I was half the man you were.

We had our disagreements, and we let each other down once or twice, but in the end, you taught me so much about life. You got me my first REAL job, and together we built an awesome garage – (it's still there Dad, and is nicer than the home next to it). The gorgeous house you built in Sunrise Terrace is still there too, and is still as beautiful as the day you drove home that last nail.

Thank you for giving me my first thrilling love of computers. Together we rocked the ATARI user's group back in 1984, and we built our first IBM PC's not long after. You kept at it with the upgrades till the end, and I'll make sure that your last gift to Cricket, that PC you were upgrading again, gets finished.

You taught me so many things; how to zip my pants up the SAFE way, how to balance a framing hammer in my hand and how to thread a 3/4" copper pipe. You taught me how to change my oil, use a transit and shingle a roof. But most of all, you taught me that the older I got, the smarter you became.

For all the times I thought I was so much smarter than you, and for the times I was angry at you for the breakup of our family, I am truly sorry. I was too young to really understand what happened between you and Mom, and I took out my pain in anger.

We got to know each other again after I became an adult, and you never excluded me, or any of us kids, from being a part of your family; you showed me that love and family can survive breakups and distance, and that time, and maturity, heals old wounds and helps to strengthen the ties that bind us. Thank you for never repaying my anger in kind, and being ready to reach back out to me when I was ready.

I know that you finally learned NOT to try and sing when you were drunk (the tape recording of ANGEL OF THE MORNING that you made in 1971 or 1972 stuck around in my drawer until at least 1983, and used to bring tears of pain and hours of laughter to any who heard it).

It's not easy to sum up my 47 years of memories of my Dad. I'll finish by saying that the great man that my dad was never made me feel unloved, and was there when I needed him - and that I love him and miss him with all my heart.

Until we meet again, old man, I love you.

Don’t Wait To Tell Them

I was very lucky, in that I was able to visit with my dad, right before he passed, and tell him how much I loved him. He even made a joke about my belly looking pregnant, and giving him another grandchild (that was probably the morphine talking, ha ha) … but I was able to say goodbye.

Please don’t miss any chances you have to tell those you love how you feel. I now always try to say I Love You to all of my family whenever I can … It’s the one thing you’ll never regret saying, and should rightfully be our last words to each other when the time comes to say goodbye.

This heart-felt truth comes, as always,

From Grandpa’s Heart …

September 24, 2012

On Pets

My two current furry children: Kilo Marie, the vicious
pit-bull, and DoraBelle Kitti, the orphaned fly-killer

Born This Way

For most of my entire life, I have had at least one pet, and sometimes many, many more. There have been rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and mice.  We have even had fish, snakes, and at one time, a hedgehog, but this is pushing the boundaries of the word pet, since petting these animals is difficult, if not impossible. We have had birds, a pot-bellied pig, and many rabbits that called our house home, as well as countless cats and dogs, Sometimes there was a whole pack, and at others just a single non-human family member, but there has always been at least one pet around.

During my early childhood, I had a small dog named Smokey, who was my constant companion, and many times my only true friend. Since then I have had many dogs, of all sizes and shapes, and kittens that have run the gamut from all-black to calico.  As I write this, the two critters in the picture above are both sprawled out asleep, Dora is on her back, paws extended in a full stretch, draped across the arm of the couch, and Kilo is twitching under the blanket on the bed, chasing something in her dreams and snoring like a buzz-saw.

Are they a pain in the butt?  Occasionally, yes.
Would I trade them for anything? Certainly not.

Not For Everyone

Some people are just not pet lovers. Unfortunately this is often true of pet owners as well. The difference, in my mind, is as simple as where your pets sleep. If you, like me, find yourself having to scoot the dog over so there's room for you on the bed, or trying to see TV over the cat that is sleeping on your chest, then you are a pet lover. If instead the dog drives you crazy barking outside at night then either you are merely a pet owner, or you live near one.

Don't get me wrong ... Some people have 'trained' their animals to sleep on the floor or have a special bed for them, and for them, that's fine, but for me, my animals are a part of my family, and they have always been welcome to sleep with me (although Miss Kilo is REALLY spoiled, since she has to be under the covers as well.)

Other people don't have pets, for one reason or another. I feel sorry for them. I mean, their houses are probably much cleaner than mine, they probably never have to change clothes because of the hair that is stuck to them, and they don't have the responsibility of making sure that their four-legged friends have food, water and medical care ... but they are also missing out. They will never know the unconditional love that your dog has for you when you come home tired and sore, or the warmth and joy that your cat gives you, kneading and purring like there's no better place in the world to be than in your lap.

Think Before You Bring It Home

Being a pet lover, and having children who also love pets, can be challenging. My kids brought to our door many animals that they just happened to 'find' on their way home, and more often than not we kept these strays. The problem is, dogs and cats are much worse than children; I mean, kids eventually learn to feed themselves, and once they are potty-trained, you don't have to worry too much about cleaning up their poop. Animals on the other hand, offer you the life-long responsibility of cycling food through them - both the input and the output are yours to be in charge of ... forever.

The one thing that everyone with pets should seriously consider, is spaying or neutering your buddies. I know that some people breed their animals intentionally, and purebred babies are worth a lot of money, but there are so many unwanted puppies and kittens out there, that for most people, preventing accidental litters should be a big priority. I know, I have had to find homes for a large number of these myself, and having my animals fixed is just one less thing to complicate their lives, and mine.

Hint: If you do have little ones to find homes for, please try your hardest to see that they will be loved and cared for. A small re-homing fee is a good way to help with this. People who pay for a new pet are much more likely to care for it than those who are just given one.

The Best Breeds

Everyone who has pets, or has ever had them, will have their own favorite breed. For me, I have never owned a smarter or gentler dog than a black lab (or lab/basset mix), but in the end, it doesn't really matter. Any dog, raised with affection, exercise and a good diet will shower you with love, and any cat who has stimulation, attention and good food, will still ignore you when it strikes their fancy, but either way, they will enrich your life.

So if you don't like animals, then maybe you should re-think plans to come to my place. My animals live here, and are part of my family. If you DO visit, make sure you check for pet hair before you sit down, and don't expect to escape without doggy and/or kitty kisses being bestowed upon you. 

You have been given this warning,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 20, 2012

The Water Beetles


A Beautiful Story 

I'd like to share with you all a story, based on a message that I read, attributed to an Unknown Author. The basic story was posted in one of the Facebook groups that I belong to, and it touched my heart. I have re-told it here in my own words, and I hope you enjoy it.

Once upon a time, there was a little pond. In this pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a happy community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in their pond, with few disturbances and interruptions. 

Once in a while, a great sadness would come to this community, when one of their fellow beetles would, without explanation, climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened that their friend was dead, gone forever. They grieved for these lost companions, and missed them terribly, as they continued their water beetle activities, living their water beetle lives. 

One day, a little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up one of the stems. He really loved his family, and was determined that he would climb to the other side of the lily pad, but he would not leave forever. He would look around, then come back and tell everyone what he had found at the top. 

The little beetle set out in curiosity and wonder, and even a little fear. When he reached the top, he climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad and found a whole new world of sunshine and blue skies. The trip had been a long one though. He was so tired, and the amazing warmth from the sun felt so good, that he decided he must take a nap, before heading back to his loved ones to tell them how wonderful it was up here. 

As he slept, his little body underwent a miraculous change. He woke to find that he was no longer a water beetle, but had turned into the most beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly, with glorious broad wings and a slender new body designed for flying. This was amazing! 

He flexed his new wings and was suddenly airborne. His world had always been one of happiness in his muddy little pond, but now as he soared into the clear blue sky, he found a completely new world. This new life was so much more wonderful than his old one, and he was so free! 

Then, he remembered his beetle friends, and how by now they must be thinking that he had died. He really needed to go back and tell them that he wasn't gone, only changed, and that he was more alive now than he had ever been before. His life hadn't ended, but had been fulfilled. 

Unfortunately, he discovered that his new body couldn't go back down under the water. He wouldn't be able to get back and tell them all the good news. Then he looked down as another water beetle fell asleep on a lily pad, and he understood that the time would come when all of his family and friends would join him in this new life, they would understand the things he did, and they would all be together again.

With joy in his heart he flew off into the clear sky, ready for the happiness, freedom and new adventures that awaited this fresh and glorious existence. 

A Powerful Analogy 

While this simple little story doesn't encompass the depth of emotion that losing our loved ones carries, it is a wonderful reminder that one day, we'll all get to enjoy a better place than this life of muddy water. May you keep hope and love alive inside you, even when one of your loved ones climbs that stem and disappears on the other side of the lily pads.

A simple wish,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 19, 2012

The Lighter Side (#1)

Smile - It Feels Good

Seems to me, I've gotten a bit serious with some of these posts, and just thought I'd share a couple of my favorite jokes.

While I've heard a lot of good jokes, I tend to forget them easily .. but here are some of the best ones that I do remember:

Grandma / Grandpa Jokes

  • A woman and an infant were waiting patiently in the examining room at the doctors office. The doctor came in and the woman explained that she was worried the baby wasn't gaining enough weight. "Is the baby breast-fed or bottle-fed?" the doctor asked her.

    She replied "Breast-fed."

    "Strip down to the waist," he ordered. The woman did, and the doctor proceeded to examine her breasts, kneading each one carefully, and gently squeezing each of her nipples. "Well, I see the problem," he told her. "You have no milk in your breasts."

    "I know," she replied. "I'm his grandma, but I'm SO glad my daughter had me bring the baby in today ..."

  • Grandma and Grandpa retired to their bedroom one night, and climbed into bed. Grandpa was tired and started to doze off, but Grandma was feeling a little amorous, and wanted to talk.

    "Honey," she said, "do you remember when we were young? You use to hold my hand in bed." Grandpa reached over and after a few fumbles found her hand and gave it a good squeeze, then relaxed once more.

    "And then you used to kiss me." Grandma said softly. The old man sighed, then sat up, leaned over on pecked her on the cheek. He then lay back and rolled over.

    "And sometimes you would softly bite the side of my neck," his wife said with her sexiest voice. Exasperated, Grandpa threw back the covers, sat up and made his way toward the bathroom. "Where are you going?" she asked worriedly.

    "To find my damn teeth!"

  • As I was walking down the street, I noticed a little boy of about 6 sitting on the steps of a house , crying his young eyes out, and seated nearby was an elderly man in a wheelchair, also crying terribly. Concerned, I stopped and asked the old man if he was okay. He just continued streaming tears and pointed to the little boy. I leaned over to the youngster and asked him what was wrong.

    "That's the same thing Grandpa asked me," said the boy through his tears. "And I told him I really, really wish I could do what my 20 year-old brother could do. That's when he started crying!"

    I thought about for a minute, then sat down and cried too.

Heart Attack Jokes

  • A woman walked up to a little old man rocking in a chair on his porch. Gazing at his smiling wrinkled face, she said to him, "I couldn't help noticing just how happy you look. Please, what's your secret for a long happy life?"

    "I just survived a triple bypass heart surgery, my dear," he said, "and I have a few secrets. See, I smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, and drink a case of whiskey a week. I always eat fatty foods, never exercise, have sex with wild women and occasionally partake of heavy drugs."

    "That's amazing," the woman said. "And if I might ask, how old are you?"

    "Twenty-six," he said.

  • A 92 year-old man went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days later the doctor saw the man walking down the street with a gorgeous young lady on his arm. At his follow up visit the doctor talked to the man and said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?"

    The man replied, "Just doing what you told me Doc, remember? You said 'Get a hot mamma and be cheerful'."

    The doctor said, "I didn't say that ... I said you've got a heart murmur, and need to be careful!"

  • An elderly man and woman met at a retirement home, and started dating. Soon the old man plucked up his courage, and asked his new friend back to his room, where they could maybe get more comfortable. The woman grinned with a mischievous look in her eye, and agreed.

    Back in his room, she leaned in close to him and said softly "I really must warn you that we need to go slowly. You see, I have acute angina."

    He stepped back, looking concerned, then a smile spread across his wrinkled old face. He held her close and whispered in her ear, "Yeah, well your boobies are darn nice, too!"

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

The best doctors and nurses at the hospital are the ones who make you smile, and the best of these are the ones who know some really good jokes. My last visit to the the local Healing Hotel was made much easier by the attitude of two wonderful nurses, who tried to outdo the other's jokes each time they came in. I thank them for helping me to laugh, despite my discomfort.

Our time together is limited, and life is far too short not to spend as much time as possible laughing, smiling and being as happy as you can. Spread smiles and laughter to those around you every day, and you will always have friends who want you near.

Now, you'll have to excuse me, because I laughed so hard I think the tears are running down my leg ... (there's an image you probably DIDN'T want!) ..

Grins and giggles ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 18, 2012

Give A Little Bit

Making A Difference

I think that deep inside, we all have a basic need to feel that we have made a positive difference in the lives of others. For many people, especially those whose lives have been shaped in the 'ME' generation, this need to help others is not always easy to admit, even to ourselves. We search for a way to fill this empty hole in our souls, but often we're not even sure what is supposed to be there. Sadly, failure to fulfill this need in ourselves can lead to depression, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

I recently read a post from a friend who served our country as a medic in the Iraq war. He was confused by the fact that a part of him actually missed being over there in combat. He felt that he was missing purpose in his life. My comment on his post was that maybe it wasn't 'purpose' he was missing, but that feeling of being needed, and of making a positive difference in other people's lives. I'm sure that many soldiers feel this loss upon return to civilian life, none more than the medics who are there saving lives among the horrors of battle.

Fortunately, there are many ways that even the poorest, or busiest of us can be of benefit to, or can come to the assistance of others ... and in doing so, give to ourselves one of life's greatest gifts.

Volunteering Is The Key

When you hear the word volunteer, you probably think of a specific example that you have either witnessed or been a part of in your life. A basic definition of of the word, is to give freely of one's time and energy in the service of others. The beauty of selflessly giving to others, is that you actually get back so much more than you give.

Many people volunteer in our communities every day, and provide wonderful services to those in need, from the men and women who bravely assist in putting out fires when they strike, to those who help the sick and injured in our local health care facilities. From the teenagers who provide transportation and guidance so that neighborhood children can attend the youth group at their church, to the retired folks who prepare food at local community dinners and help feed the homeless and hungry, these people have all found a way to give back - and in doing so have not only made the world a better place, but have become better people themselves.

These are just some of the more common methods of giving to each other that we are familiar with, but there are other ways to give that you may not have considered.

Think Outside The Box

As an example of a way to give without actually giving up anything but time (and maybe a few unneeded calories), consider this ...

I use to take my grandkids to the local playground. Here I would see a number of parents, grandparents and guardians sitting on the benches as the children played. Instead of just watching, I chose to play too. I would become the 'motor' for the merry-go-round, the 'swing machine', the 'customer' at the sand-soup restaurant, and occasionally the 'monster' under the bridge.  Did it cost me anything? No. But it did provide endless entertainment for the whole playground ... and believe me, nothing makes kids smile more than seeing a fat old grandpa go down the slide headfirst. I spent some time, had some fun, and imparted not only lots of smiles and laughter to the children, but I taught them that they don't ever have to be too old to play, to make-believe and to have fun with one another.

Now you may not consider this to be volunteering, but I will have to disagree. It may not have been recordable on any charity's hourly report of service time, but it filled a spot inside me that really felt good not to have empty, and I had a blast (even if I did need a couple Ibuprofen afterward).

Use What You Have

We all have talents, abilities, skills and/or knowledge that we can use to make our communities better places. A lot of us spend a great many hours selling our services to our employers in order to provide for our families and ourselves, and far too few hours giving of ourselves in order to provide a better world to live in.

Why not use your passion or talents to see if maybe you can't make another person smile and feel better today? Myself, I'm not bad at creating images on my computer, and I now devote a large percentage of this skill to creating special 'Angel Images' for those who have lost loved ones. It's not much, and it won't change lives, but it does something special for those who are hurting, and maybe helps ease their suffering a tiny bit. This is done as a labor of love, and these special keepsake images are given to the families without any expectation of payment, a gift that I thank God I have, and freely give away.

At the end of the day, if you can look back and see that you were able to make someone's life better, even in the smallest way, then its been a day well spent. You will come away with something real and good and fulfilling, and not a hungry hole inside. Your gift doesn't need to be shouted out, because you know in your heart that it was given from your soul.

This is a firm belief that comes,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 15, 2012

Rhymes and Reasons

The Heart of a Poet

It seems my whole life, that I have been both fascinated by and in love with the written word, and even from a very young age, I enjoyed reading and writing poetry. There is something in the measured cadence and meter of a good poem, that carries us along on a journey, and if we allow the words to paint their pictures in our minds, we just might find ourselves better for the experience of having read them.

I wrote my first poem at about the age of 6, and I not only remember the poem, I actually had the paper I wrote it on saved for many, many years. Of course at 6, I also illustrated my poem, and though it was written with the inexperienced hand of youth, I think it's still alright. Here is that epic first step toward a lifetime of composing rhymes:

Apple Tree
Apple tree, Apple tree
How do you grow?
You start as a seed,
Then grow big as can be,
Then I can say,
Okay, Keats I wasn't ... but the meter is pretty good, and the word-picture is there, if a bit green.

Should Poems Rhyme?

To me, that's like asking if stories should have happy endings. Most do, some don't, but that isn't what makes them good or bad ... the true test is if they move you emotionally in some way. Most of the poetry I have written in my life is of the standard a-b-a-b format, but not all of it. More often than not my poems are a bit humorous. I blame this on the first author whose poems I remember reading and becoming enchanted with - the one and only Lewis Carrol. I mean,

'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe,
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

has got to be one of the greatest opening verses ever recorded on paper.  Does it make sense? No, but it rhymes, it is metered, and it just makes you want to know more. I wanted to see those toves, and find out why they were slithy, and if they only gimbled when it was brillig, and what made those poor mome raths do their outgrabing ... Needless to say I have read The Jabberwock many, many times, and I still enjoy it as much as I did as a child.

Painting Pictures With Words

That is, for me, the whole purpose of poetry. I learned to read very young, and like all avid readers, I find the best stories are those that stop becoming words on paper, and become mental movies. The same is true of poems - my favorites are those that create a rich image or emotional flavor within your mind.

I'd like to share some of my poetry with you, but I am well aware that some people just don't care for poems, so rather than clog up this post with them, I have created links to them. If you see one that you think you might like to check out, just click the image, and it will open in a new tab or page.

The first is a poem called A Grandpa's Love, and is dedicated to my grandpa, Audy McDaniel. He has been gone for many years, but his memory and lessons live on in me, and this poem, written shortly after my grandson passed, is part of the reason I started this blog.

A Grandpa's Love

Here are a couple of Haiku poems that I created ... Haiku, for those who do not know, has a rigid 5-7-5 syllable structure, without rhyme ... it's all about the meter and the image, and in these cases, the story:

Eternal Love
Far From Home

Here are a pair of more traditional poems. The both were written to commemorate special events in my life; one to celebrate our 20th anniversary (or 10th, depending on how you look at it), and the other to share my joy at finding out that we had a fifth baby on the way.

A New Life

10 Years Ago ...

Finally, this last poem is one that I wrote just for my wife. It is a bit longer than the others and is more of an ode to my special princess ... the woman I love and my best friend. I truly am a romantic old fart, and this dramatic and slightly racy bit of poetic story-telling is one of my favorites.


It Runs In The Family

All of my kids are also poets at heart, and I'll share some of their work with you all in another post. For now, I hope that you have enjoyed this brief journey into the fantasy land that lives in my soul, and is brought to you all the way,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 14, 2012

On Leadership

What Is Leadership?

Leadership is a special quality that instills in others the desire and confidence to follow someone - in business, in battle or in life. It is a personality trait that can be developed, if those who would lead others truly care about their purpose, and those who follow them.

We've all known people who we trust to show us the way through the obstacles and dangers of life, and most of us also know those who we wouldn't trust to show us how to take a nap. Leadership is not automatic, and being in charge of others may technically make someone a 'leader', but it does not magically grant them leadership abilities or skills.

But I'm The Boss!

Too often, people who are placed in a position of authority confuse this position with leadership. Many times these people become power hungry, or obsessed with their feelings of superiority over the 'peons' that they are in charge of. They tend to become tyrannical dictators who try to rule with an iron fist and threats of punishment .. and never really master the art of leadership. They become villains and end up being despised by those they should be inspiring.

People may obey out of fear, but loyalty is earned through respect and trust. I would rather have one loyal follower willing to stand by me, than a hundred obedient servants ready to run the minute I let go of the chains. Once someone in charge of others learns this simple lesson, they are on their way to becoming true leaders.

In our lives, we are always going to answer to someone. Parents, teachers, bosses ... and if we are fortunate we will get to follow, and look up to, true leaders who will guide us and give us knowledge, support and a road-map toward success.  In my life, I have had the honor of being a leader in many things, and I have also had the pleasure of working for and following some wonderful people.

The thing that I think makes most of them so great in my mind, is that they all truly cared about not only what they were doing, but about those they were leading. From the teacher who recognized and encouraged my love of mathematics, to the boss who showed me how to thread a steel pipe the right way, these leaders were supportive, if demanding, and imparting their knowledge on how to do something correctly was as vital to them as making sure it just got done.

In my latest employment adventure, I work as a graveyard cashier/gas attendant/janitor for a local convenience store. During this time, I have gotten to work for both one of the best young managers I've ever met, and one of the worst assistant managers imaginable, when it comes to embodying this ideal of leadership. As an example, here are two typical messages that might have been left for the employees. See if you can tell which one was written by someone who is a true leader:

"Anyone caught giving away free coffee refills will be wrote up!" (actual spelling!)

"Attention all: We really need to make sure we card everyone. The Liquor Control people are performing stings, and failing one could cost you your job, a big fine, and possible prosecution. Make sure you are checking everyone's ID's. Thanks!"

As you can see, one of these people gets it, and the other one just doesn't.

Leadership Can Be Learned

When I was a very young man, I was hired by a great husband and wife team to be an assistant manager in their restaurant. I was only 17 years old, and was still serving part time in the Army Resrve, but they took a chance on me.

Part of the training that I received was of course the hands-on part of running a restaurant, but for me the part that made the biggest difference was a series of lectures and classes on how to manage others successfully. These were given by a man that at first glance didn't appear very much like a leader. He was large, had bad acne, a facial tic, and a nasally voice - yet he was the most popular manager in the entire corporate structure, and was wise beyond his years. Sadly, Phillip passed away not long after I learned these life lessons from him.

It has been a long time now, since I was that fresh-faced teenager, trying so desperately to make my new employers proud of me, but I still remember the titles of some of those classes - and I still use those lessons in my life today. Here is a short list of some of them ... and the lessons they contained:

Doctors Don't Do What Nurses Can, or How To Delegate.  Leading doesn't mean doing the work for the other person, but knowing how and when to let them do their job, so you can spend your time doing yours.  A doctor's time should be spent in diagnosing, treating and healing as many people as possible, not in applying bandages or emptying bedpans.

When Good People Do Bad Things. When reprimanding a subordinate, always correct the behavior or attitude, never the person. You cannot disciple someone for being who they are, only for doing what they did, or they way they did it.

The Carrot and The Stick, or Why Dog Trainers Carry Treats. People who are bullied and threatened into doing something will resent it every step of the way, as they are pushed along. Those who are lead with incentive will follow the path willingly, if they can see their goal, and if they are rewarded for a job well done.

I'm not attempting here to teach anyone all of the lessons that I learned during my time as a young manager, but you can see that a lot of the messages that were handed out had important uses in more than just the restaurant business.

Phil, you grinning sweet monster, thank you for the
wisdom you gave me, and the belief you had in me.

Follow Me!

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that the best leaders are those who lead by example, those who teach by experience and those who care enough to actually jump up, say 'Take my hand, let me show you the way,' and then become our guides. They don't have to try and scare us into submission, but instead they expect us to be the best we can be, and in doing so, they make us expect nothing less from ourselves.

The spirit of true leadership comes from within, a belief that comes to you

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 13, 2012

Over Vs. Under

Which Way Should It Go On?

Grandma and I have never seen eye to eye on this fundamental question of bathroom etiquette. I'm an over-the-top kinda guy (the RIGHT way) ... and she's always preferred to pull-from-underneath (the WRONG way, lol). Her argument about kids not being able to spin the roll onto the floor just doesn't cut it when there are no kids around, and anyone who's ever seen printed rolls must realize the printing is designed to be viewed as the roll feeds over the top .... We actually use to make it a point to change it every time we went into the bathroom ... and you could always tell who was in there last.

You may remember that a few years back, one of the toilet paper manufacturers actually did a survey on this issue ... and the verdict was that 78% of people, an overwhelmingly large majority (pun definitely intended), prefer the paper to be loaded coming over the top. Of course this justified my position, but Grandma just says 'that means most people are wrong.'

We all have our beliefs and opinions, and we all feel that we are 'right' about them. I think we need to learn that we are all different, we don't always have to agree, and as long as we get to use it when we're done, it really doesn't matter which direction the paper faces ....

But I Need To Be Right!

The next time you find yourself in a situation where you just know you're right and someone else is wrong, stop and ask yourself why it's important.

If your stand will prevent someone from being hurt, then stick to your guns. You should NEVER let your friends drive drunk, even if they SWEAR they are fine, and it really IS a bad idea to check for a gas leak with your lighter.

On the other hand, if your getting ready to argue about something that really doesn't matter ... maybe you need to think first. If you know you are right, and it's not going to hurt anyone for the other person to be wrong, then just let them think they're right, smile and move on. I think that those who tend to argue the strongest about little things either aren't really sure they are right (and are trying to convince themselves as much as the other guy), or their self-image is so poor that they just can't handle being thought wrong by anybody else.

Far too often, we let our egos, and our need to be seen as bigger, smarter, faster or better cloud our judgements, and then we wonder just why so-and-so doesn't like us and why we drifted away from someone we loved.

Know When To Admit Defeat

One of the hardest things for people to say, is "I was wrong."  A little less difficult is "You were right," and "I'm sorry" is many times said, but only as words, instead of a regret for our words or actions. If a disagreement is one of opinions, then the possibility exists that you are right - but that doesn't mean the other person is wrong! It just means you have different opinions.

I have friends (and some relatives) who love to argue ... I'm sure you do too. And heaven forbid you should actually prove that one of their beliefs is wrong. I've actually seen long-term friendships torn apart, because one of them just HAD to be right, and the other just COULDN'T admit they were wrong.

If you do find yourself in a dispute, and you discover that you were wrong, don't be afraid to admit it. None of us are perfect, and if you truly value your relationship with someone, then don't just let them be right, but tell them when they are. I truly think that a heartfelt apology to someone whose beliefs and ideals we have doubted or disparaged, may just be the most important ingredient in maintaining healthy and long-lasting friendships.

The Litmus Test

Keep in mind that you are going to have disputes in your life. You are not going to agree with everyone all the time, and there will be times that you should stand firm in your beliefs, your ideals and your opinions. You can successfully persuade others to agree with you sometimes, and sometimes you will be persuaded to agree with them, but an argument, as opposed to a discussion, rarely provides the intended results for either party.

If you are unsure about whether or not to firmly and actively defend your thoughts, again provided that no one will be hurt, you can use this simple test. Ask yourself the following question:

Five years down the road, will this opinion really matter, and is my being right worth the very real possibility of losing the other person as a friend?

If not, then either agree to disagree, consider that you might just be wrong, or at the very least allow the other person the dignity of maintaining their belief that they are right.

Even though I know that I'm right about the over-the-top toilet paper, I don't actually argue with Grandma about it, because she knows she's right too ... and in the end, it just doesn't matter ... she matters to me, so I smile and let it go.

(Besides, you can always just turn the roll around before you sit down.)

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 12, 2012

On Angel Kisses

Blessings From Beyond


August 8, 2012 -
As I parked my bike this morning, a little yellow
butterfly, just like this one, alit on my
handlebars, slowly fanned its wings three times,
then fluttered away ... Thank you Trip! ...
Grandpa loves you forever!

The term Angel Kisses, is one that came to me from my infant grandson. 

Four weeks after his passing he visited both his Mommy and me as we slept, and he gave us both a little inspiration. When I woke up, I sat down and recorded the most awesome dream I could ever remember having. Here is what I wrote that day:
The dream …

Our whole family had gathered for a reception after I delivered Eddy’s memorial eulogy. For some reason, we were holding it at a house that my father built with his own two hands, even though he hadn’t owned it for many years before he passed away. I remember the greatest feeling of warmth and pride coming from the house itself, and for some reason everyone thought this was a generations-old family home.

As I was working my way toward the kitchen (and the food, lol) I noticed that Bill, the funeral director from Mountain View, where the service had been held, was also there. This man is very tall, and somehow seemed almost elegant as he cut his way through the crowd toward me. I was surprised and pleased that he would be there to join us to celebrate Eddy’s wonderful shooting-star life.  He smiled and said he couldn’t stay, but I dropped this at the funeral home – and he handed me a letter.

I looked down at the papers now in my hand, and saw the most beautiful handwriting, and while I don’t remember everything it said, I remember just enough …  Here are the pieces I do remember, and I can see these lines so clearly, that I KNOW  they were a message for us all:

Dear Mommy and Daddy,

   Don’t cry all the time, okay? I’m still happy, and I do miss you so, so much, but it’s really nice here …
   Grandpa Bill and Granny were here to meet me when I woke up, and I get to take turns sitting in their laps when I miss you and need a hug. Granny said to tell you they wouldn’t let her bring her wooden spoon here, and she winked, but I don’t get it …
   I found out that I have more grandmas and grandpas than I could believe, but they all love me …
   Tell my sisters and my big brother that I love them, and I get to spend a little time watching over them every day

   Jesus is here, and I get to sing and play with all the other angels every day –and when we fall down here, our knees don’t get scabs, so it’s okay for me to be Trip, hahaha.

   When I got here, I asked why everyone back there was so sad, when I got to spend time with them, and then come here … It’s so wonderful and fun here that they should be happy – but Jesus told me they were sad for themselves, since they don’t get to be here with me yet.
   I told him that I didn’t want my Mommy and Daddy to be so sad, and he said that their sadness would be a little less each day, and that I could send a special angel-kiss to them when they were asleep to make it easier. I hope you feel my angel-kisses, I send them each night as you sleep …

   I’ll be right here, watching over you each day, waiting with Jesus and Grandpa and Granny until you get here  –

Your bug,
P.S.    My real name is ...

I had started crying and the last word was smeared and blotted out with a tear-drop (I think I wasn’t supposed to know that last word) … In fact, the letter was actually a couple pages long, but I only wrote down the parts I could remember reading … I think he accidentally told me some secrets that I wasn’t supposed to know yet, so God only let me remember parts of his letter – but it felt so real, and was so comforting …
To this day, this dream, unlike most, remains vivid and clear in my memory ...


That same morning, after a cup of coffee and some cereal, I fired up Facebook, and Heather, my daughter and Eddy's mommy, had found and posted the following on her wall:

Mommy, please don't cry...  A beautiful Angel carried me here!
I met Jesus today mommy! He cradled me in his arms. He made me feel so happy inside.
Mommy, please don't cry... Heaven is wonderful!
Did you know the streets are made of gold? Real gold!
I have lots of friends, mommy. We run and we play, we giggle and laugh.
I can't wait to show you my secret hideouts!
Mommy, please don't cry... When I fall it doesn't hurt!
There are no tears in heaven.
I've met a man named Noah. He told me about his big boat.
All the animals, and the very first rainbow. Have you heard of Noah, mommy?
Mommy, please don't cry... We have lots of parties here;
With streamers and hats, and the best chocolate cake ever!
When it's time to rest angels tuck us in, I never get scared mommy.
There is no darkness here! Jesus is the light of heaven.
Mommy, please don't cry... The angels are always singing. I love to sing with the angels! You'd be proud of me. I have a pretty good voice. I must have gotten it from you.
There is a river, mommy, in the most beautiful garden you could ever imagine...
And a huge tree with yummy fruit. The angels call it the tree of life.
Mommy, it's so wonderful to be alive in heaven!
Mommy, please don't cry... sometimes I just like to be by myself.
That's when I think of you.
Someday mommy, we will hold each other tight! Then you will cradle me in your arms. And stroke my hair... And once again, our hearts will beat together.
Mommy, please don't cry...
I'll wait right here for you.

So much of this awesome poetic letter was so close to the letter I had received in my dream, that is gave me goosebumps, and I immediately created a Note on Facebook, where I could immortalize the gift I had been given, and I started keeping my senses aware for these kisses from heaven.

Angel Kisses Happen All The Time

I've since read a LOT of testimonials and personal stories about not only dream kisses, but other special signs and touching moments that are surely kisses from our loved ones who have passed. I now record as many of them as I can, like I did the visit from the butterfly at the top of the page.

Now, I know that butterflies abound in summer, and not everything is a 'sign' or an 'angel kiss' - but I had been thinking pretty hard about my little guy all night at work, and this is the very first time I've ever had a butterfly actually land on my bike, seem to say hello, then fly away... See, angel-kisses do happen all the time, if we just open our hearts...

The First One I Remember

As a young child, my lifelong companion was a little brown mixed breed dog named Smokey. She was the same age I was, and she adopted me before I could even walk. Smokey was my first best friend, and she slept with me every night. The day after my 8th birthday, she got hold of a raw salmon head, and ended up with salmon poisoning. We had to have her put to sleep ...  and it broke my heart.

When I was 13 years old,  my great-grandmother passed away. Her death and funeral was the first time I remember losing a human family member, and the night she died I had a dream ....

In this dream, I was following my family in a slow walking line of mourners, and we were heading for the cemetery.  Along the side of the road were a line of outhouses, and as we passed them, one of the doors opened and there stood Grandma Steiger! ... She smiled at me, then put her finger to her lips, as if to let me know that it was a secret she was there. I was confused... I mean we were going to HER funeral! .. Then she grinned the sweetest grin at me, and as she started to walk away, she pointed to the grass next to her feet. There, walking alongside her, was Smokey - and I felt so comforted and warm, knowing that she was now gonna take care of my dog for me ....

I think that Grandma knew I needed some reassurance about life and our place in God's plan after we pass on, so she sent me that angel-kiss in the best way that my 13 year-old mind could receive it - by associating her passing with the strongest symbol of loyalty, love and acceptance I had ever known ... Smokey, my sweet, silly old dog.

Look For Them

If you are missing a loved one who is no longer with you, let them know that you love them, and then keep yourself open ... we may not always get the signs we are hoping for ... but if they are allowed. they will send you a kiss. It could be a snowflake, a raindrop, a gentle breeze - or even a dream that you may or may not be able to remember when you wake up.

If you let yourself recognize when it happens, that warm glow of love inside will let you know that you too, have been kissed by your angel ... and you have that promise,

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 11, 2012

Remembering That Day

Days We All Remember

Its been my experience that few things in life have the power to unite as many people as tragedy on a national scale, especially when that tragedy strikes unexpectedly and/or causes the deaths and sorrow of innocent fellow human beings.  These horrific events leave indelible marks on the memories, hearts and souls of everyone.

In my lifetime there have been many, but there are a few days that stand out as truly sad ones for people everywhere, and most of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we heard the awful news. The day President Kennedy was taken from us (though I was still in diapers), the morning the Challenger fell from the sky in flames, the day Princess Diana was killed in that tunnel, and of course, that perfectly ordinary September morning in 2001, when so many innocent men and women, and so many American heroes lost their lives in New York City, Washington D.C. and that empty field in PA.

A Suckerpunch That Hit Us All

There are a lot of theories behind the events that morning, and we all know the results that followed this cold-blooded attack on American innocents. In the end, it doesn't really matter who you believe was behind the massacre of so many people that day, and whether or not you agree with the politics of the aftermath ... because when those buildings came down, we stepped up.  True American heroes gave their all, and many gave their lives, to help and save as many of the wounded and dying as they could, not for money or glory, or even because it was their job, but simply because it was the right thing to do.

Without the brave police, fire, health-care and emergency workers (not to mention the accountants, stockbrokers, hotdog vendors, janitors and those from many other professions), who ran toward the smoke and rubble that morning instead of away, the toll would have been much larger. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

We will also always remember and honor the patriotism and valor of all the brave fighting men and women who answered their country's call to arms, and joined in the battle to protect our way of life from those who would see us fall.  I salute each and every American soldier who put our national interest ahead of their own ... those who have fallen in war, those who have returned home to their families, and those who are still out there risking their lives to protect my family and loved ones here at home.

From the deepest part of me, I thank you all.

Powerful Memories Make For Powerful Words

My youngest son Woody was only 8 years old on that fateful day, but the memories remain strong for him as well. The two of us collaborated on, and published, a book of poetry last year ... He actually wrote all of the poems in the book, and for each one I created a large 20"x16" image, an accompanying visual poem, if you will.

One of the poems he wrote for the book was about that morning, and is called The Fallen Towers. The following is a small version of a much larger image that was inspired by, and created for, this poem. If you'd like to read this wonderful commemorative rhyme, dedicated to the soldiers and civilians who lost their lives that day, please click the image below ...

The Fallen Towers
One last thing, before you go - If you have the time and the ability this week, say thank you to someone you know who gives of themselves to help make your community, your neighborhood, your life, better .... and let the veterans in your life know how much you appreciate their service.

You never know, but one of these people might very well end up coming to your rescue, if the unthinkable happens and we suffer another day that we all end up remembering. A simple request that comes

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 10, 2012

On Happiness

Happiness ... A gift you give yourself

Happiness has always been one of the fundamental pursuits of mankind. Our founding fathers thought that this pursuit was as important as life and liberty, and was one of the tenets that we based our war of independence on.

The problem is, they got it wrong ....

I believe that happiness, like success, is not a goal to be pursued. It is not the prize at the end of the journey, but is rather to be found in the journey itself. You can set out on the road to adventure, to wealth, to fame ... and as you travel this path, you can be as happy or as miserable as you want to be.

Many people are so caught up in trying to get to a place where they will be happy, that they fail to see that happiness is available to all of us, at any time, if we truly want to be happy.

But don't we ALL want to be happy?

Hmmm ... That may just be the ultimate question. I sometimes think that a lot of people either feel guilty for being happy, or they are so busy looking for a magic formula that they forget this simple fact:  


I'm not the smartest guy I know, but I do know this -

The only thing in life that you have complete control over, is how you respond to what happens around you...

Read that again ... It's THAT important ...

How you respond defines you, and sets the foundations for everything else that follows each event in your life. You cannot control your spouse, your children, the stock market, the fall TV lineup or the weather, but you CAN control how you respond to any and all of these things.

Do I get upset when things don't go my way? Sure - but I don't let that emotion dictate my response.  After all, even though my team lost, next week there WILL be another game (and hopefully those blind ref's will make the calls RIGHT, lol), the food will wash out of the babies hair, and that bad lasagna I ate, well, like all the other bad things ... "This too shall pass" ....

Happiness is NOT a lack of sorrow

I've heard it said that courage is not a lack of fear, but how you react when you are afraid.

In much the same way, happiness does not mean that you do not have sorrow, grief, anguish and pain in your life. Life is not fair, and we all experience a lot of pain and heartache along the way - but again, we can choose how we respond to the negative events in our lives.

Does being happy mean that I don't hurt and cry?

No ... It means that even though I hurt, I choose to focus on the good ... and as I cry the tears of sorrow, I try my best to smile - because the only people who don't feel pain, are those who feel nothing at all.

When my grief for loved ones lost or my sorrow over bad decisions I've made is heavy on my mind and heart, I let myself cry (for there is no better pain reliever known to man than tears), and once my tears have washed away a little of the harder edges of my pain, I choose to smile ... because life is too short to live it unhappy. We all have a finite and limited number of minutes here with our loved ones... and I choose to keep the percentage of my time spent negative as small as possible.

I may not be pleased with some of the things that have happened in my life, nor with all of the choices I've made, but I prefer to respond to these negatives with a positive outlook.  Far too many people walk around in a gloomy mood, wearing either sad 'feel-sorry-for-me' expressions, or with anger boiling just beneath the surface of their faces.

A Challenge

The next time you are upset, or angry, or scared, or sad, I challenge you to try this little experiment.  Find someplace private, and look into a mirror. Now make yourself smile. As hard as it may be, really make yourself smile into a mirror ... I will guarantee that you cannot remain negative while smiling at yourself for more than about 5 minutes.

Once you've realized that your happiness is truly a gift that only you can give yourself, you will be on your way to living a much happier life. The next step towards fulfillment comes when you learn that smiles are as infectious as yawns, and that you're happiness can go a long way towards helping others allow themselves to be happy too.

Smiling at others feeds one the three basic emotional hungers that we all have ... but more on this in another post.  In the meantime, please make a conscious choice to live as happy a life as you can, and spread your happiness with as many smiles as you can.

In the end, the amount of love, laughter and happiness that you have in your life, is only determined by the amount you let yourself experience ...

Just a few thoughts ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...

September 8, 2012

Eulogy for a Shooting Star

Last year we suffered, as a family, the devastating loss of Eddy Maurice Smith III, my first-born grandson and my little Trip, after only 13 weeks of an amazing shooting star life.

SIDS is every parent's, and grandparent's, worst nightmare, and strikes without warning - creating a permanent pain in everyone's life.

When little Trip passed, Heather and Eddy, asked me to perform his memorial service. Never in my life have I felt so honored, and so humbled as I was that day. I wrote his eulogy as I worked a graveyard shift at the gas station, on a series of post-it notes. I don't really remember writing it, so much as letting it be written through me .... I also created a set of 3 video memorials that I used during the service.

To honor his memory, I'm posting here a permanent link to a copy of the eulogy that I delivered, along with the embedded video slideshows.

If you'd like to share this painful, but inspiring message, please click the picture below:
Eulogy delivered on 6/29/11

Many of you have seen this, as I posted it on Facebook at the time, but this seems to be a more permanent way to immortalize this tribute to my shooting-star angel baby.

While this terrible tragedy has changed us all, I hope that we can all remember the awesome way that Trip touched our lives, and thank God for allowing us to spend time with an angel, even though we wish it had been much, much longer ...

Grandpa loves you Trip, Forever - and as always, this comes straight ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...

On Heroes

What is a Hero?

The dictionary defines a hero as someone who is 'distinguished by exceptional courage and nobility and strength' ... For me, I think that our heroes are those men and women that inspire us to be better people.

When we are very young, our heroes tend to be more fantasy than reality. From superheros who can fly and are stronger than the bad guys, to those real people we idolize and who, in our young minds, have superhuman abilities. These heroes, especially the real-life ones, often assume gigantic proportions in our earliest memories, and if we are fortunate, give us a role model to follow as we develop our own unique personalities.

As a child, some of my favorite stories were about the heroic adventures of the Knights-Of-Old, rescuing fair damsels and saving the down-trodden from the evil dragons of the world. I learned to read at 4, and my world was, from a very young age, one of books and ideas.  My very first real-life hero was a figure that seemed ripped from the pages of a medieval story, and set down in 'modern day' America.

Uncle Bub to the rescue!

My father was gone a lot when I was little, and while I always loved him, he was somewhat of a mystery to me ... but my Uncle Bub was always there; not just for me, but all of us 'kids' ... To this day, I'm not sure why he went by Bub (His real name is Eldon E. McDaniel), but I think it had to do with being a brother or 'bubby'.

As a teenager, Bub was never too busy to host an impromptu game of 'gang-tackle' or show us 'little guys' how he held his razor when he shaved. Once my cousin and I, we must have been 5 or 6 years old, got in trouble for playing fireman in the exhaust of the car as it warmed up ... (yes, cars USED to smoke a lot, especially when they were cold). Grandma and grandpa read us the riot act and we had to sit in time out while the other kids had lunch ... Uncle Bub was the one who sat down and explained to us that the smoke was actually dangerous (we could get FIXIATED, which was bad, or even DIE, which was worse), but then he snuck us each a sandwich anyway ....

As a young man, Bub joined the Marines and became 'Mac' ... and the first time I saw him in his uniform I was thunderstruck. He really WAS a Knight-In-Shining-Armor! Then he even rescued, and married, a fairy-tale princess .... My new Aunt Kathy was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen (and I swore to myself that if Mac was ever lost, as he was out there slaying dragons, that I would step up and marry her myself

Needless to say, Mac probably doesn't remember being a super-knight in my mind, but he was, and the little lessons I learned from watching him have helped me to be the man I am today. His examples, even if I did make them bigger-than-life in my own mind, made me want to be a better person and one that he would be proud of ... and the day that I got a letter from him that said he WAS proud of who I was becoming, did more to influence my self-esteem than all the spelling-bee championships and participation trophies in the world.

Are you someone's Hero?

Don't underestimate the power of love in the life of a young person. If you try to live a life that you can be proud of, there may just be a young person who looks up to you.  They won't see the pimples, and they won't care about the trouble you once got into ... You will be, to them, the epitome of virtue, valor and goodness - in short, a hero. Please don't treat this lightly, but try to set for them the finest example you can of what it means to be a good person ... the world needs all the good people it can get.

I guess if I can leave you with just one message, it would be this: Idols and stars, whether they are on the stage, the radio, the field or the big screen are wonderful, but they aren't heroes. Fame is not a precious commodity, but true heroism is ....

Heroes, in the end, are those who, by their examples, create within us the need to be better people, the desire to be more like them, and the sense that with honesty, honor and dignity, anything is possible ....

This one's for you, Uncle Bub ... But I gotta say that I should have stopped emulating your example BEFORE I ended up with this stent in my heart ... lol. I hope you won't be offended if I stop at 1 heart attack, and I don't try to break your record ...

   From Grandpa's Heart ....

September 7, 2012


What? ... Another Blog?

 While I'm new at this blogging thing, I've been around for a little while, and want to share some thoughts with you ... so sit back, relax and let's chat a bit, shall we?

This blog is intended primarily for my kids and grandkids, but others may find some humor, maybe some inspiration, and hopefully a little wisdom buried here as well ...

Just who are you?

For those who don't know me, My name is Dusty Grein, and I'm a 48 year-old husband, father and grandfather. I have been through a lot of ups and downs in my life, made many bad decisions, and more than a few good ones ... and along the way I have learned some lessons that I really want to share.

This blog will be filled with my ramblings ... some poetry, some prose, some images and some jokes, but most of all I want to fill it with the love I feel for my family and friends ... so I hope you don't mind if I laugh and cry along the way as I make this journey with you through the messages ...

From Grandpa's Heart ...