My middle sister turns 50 tomorrow.  I remember when she was 8, and I was 6.  That's the span between us - a year and 10 months.  Too soon tomorrow is right. 

She called me last night.  I miss her, talking with her, and hearing her Dinah laugh.  She sort of throws back her head when she laughs, and though not near me geographically now, I can see it in my head when I hear her laughter spill through the phone.  She is a wonderful mix of absolute literalism, deep trenched care for her family and friends, hard work, stubbornness, caverns of loyalty and love, all tinged with big hearted tenderness.  You throw in the occasional funny swear word and she has stolen my heart my whole entire life.

Our conversation of course encompassed her fiftieth birthday this week - how she felt about turning half a century old. She decided that cake, cupcakes, pies, etc were the call to order for the entire week.  She declared it a sweets and no exercise birthday week!!  You can do that at 50 I told her - justifiable hiatus from being weight conscious and fighting aging.

We commiserated about time flying so fast you can't hold on to it now.  She tried to tell me I was turning 50 next year.  I told her NOI was turning 49 next yearDon't rush me Dinah, I said.  She laughed her Dinah laugh [I once again pictured her head in a quick back tilt.]  Then, she got contemplative.....

I could hear tears entering her voice.  Monumental landmarks in our time line make all of us a bit reflective.  I knew what she was going to say - I had both felt those same emotions and battled that same train of thought.....

What have I really done in life?  She continued on.... What have I really accomplished for fifty years of living?  I haven't done enough, or maybe I haven't even done the right things or enough of them or things of significance ......  I stopped her right there.

The eve of your birthday should not be wrought with self doubt, but focused on what you HAVE done, where you want to go from henceforth. It's a celebration of life!  I wanted her to know of a life that had great significance on me, her kids, Kent, her family, her work, her friends, her church, for God . . .

My sister Diane "Dinah" and Tess -
one of her twin daughters she impacts!
I spoke to her of what she had meant to me all my life; my comrade, my support system through every major life event and everyday things too.  She talked me off the edge, listened to my sobs, stayed in the hospital with me, took care of me after surgery, came to visit in every place I have ever lived.  She shared a bedroom with me all my growing up years, laid in the sun with me, listened to my dreams, my hurts, felt my losses, prayed over me, worried about me, fed me, loaned me money in my young married years, helped me move so many times I can't count them all, cleaned and organized houses for me, helped me find doctors, supported and loved my daughter, opened up her home for Hannah's wedding.  She walked through divorce with me.  She has laughed at most things I have said all my life.  She ate dog food as a kid merely because I gave her money to do so:) She has made my life richer, easier, lighter because she has been there.  She raised a set of twins with a husband who was gone overnight every two days for the past 20+ years and who ran a construction business as well.  She developed character into two girls who are smart, responsible, sensitive, feisty (ok one is), loving and motivated.  And, she is the best damn nurse there is!

I reminded her that when we slip into the next life those are the things that have made an impact as we move out of this world.  Those things hold greater significance than jobs, titles, adventure, or wealth can carry posthumously.  I reminded her that her presence is what has made her significant.  I gave her permission to throw in a hell and a damn, but to be proud that who she has been for fifty years is a big, big deal to those around her.



It is very interesting to me that much of communication is lost on the hearer.  I mean most of us communicate in our style.  The hearer though hears and interprets those words, thoughts and deliveries into his or her own style.  Something can be lost there.  Pieces drop off.
When I was growing up Thanksgiving was held at my grand parents house which was across the road from my parent's house.  There were two tables for that extended family meal; one in the kitchen -the kid table, and the dining room table - designed for adults.  I never minded that arrangement.  It was sort of freeing to be out of ear shot and eye balls from parents. 

The kids invariably ended up playing telephone at the kid table.  It consisted of someone whispering a sentence [completely ridiculous normally so as to confuse the listener] to the person to their left.  There were seven of us first cousins with an age span of about 6 years at its greatest.  The eighth cousin was born later - much!  She was not yet present at the kid table.
By the time the sentence was whispered 6 times and ended up in the ear of the 7th cousin, he or she had to say it out loud.  We would normally bust out in laughter as that whispered sentenced had morphed into something that was usually only a mere portion of correctness from its original spoken word.  It's similar to the process of gossip - evolves into usually not much original truth.
That is still a resounding picture to me of how communication breaks down between the speaker and the listener.  It happens daily, on some varying degrees, in probably most interactions we have with others.  Though not a game at the Thanksgiving kid table any more, we all struggle to communicate in a powerful and effective way to not only express what we think and feel, but to allow the listener to totally get we are thinking, feeling and saying.  Challenging.
I've wondered what the key is over the years.  Partly it has to do with learning to communicate in a way that more closely matches the listener's style of communication.  That though is hard to do - to operate out of your innate style.  It takes purpose and, in the heat of expression, lessening emotions that find their way into our words. 
The next part is out of the speaker's control really [other than what I stated above].  It's  hard to control anything past ourselves.  So, controlling the listener's emotions is not totally possible.  It's far too easy as a listener [I am one too!] to insert your own take, your own interpretation, your own emotions into what you are hearing.  At that point sometimes is where communication is lost.
I truly hate that.  Expression is good.  It's healthy and vital to processing and moving forward - to acknowledging a fact or a feeling and figuring out how to let it go or change our perspective on it. 
I often think back to the kid table at my grandparent's Thanksgiving.  After the words left the speaker's mouth where did the breakdown of what was said take place?  At the second person is my best guess.  And then, with each passing whisper, each individual listener listened and interpreted according to their style.  That's why at the end there was no real integrity to what was originally spoken.

I want to work on that in my own life.  I want to communicate so clearly
that the hearers of what I say are more able to listen and interpret what
was said so that the integrity of the message is heard. 



Yesterday morning found my body feeling a bit beat up.  It's a place I find myself in from time when I've pushed the exercise envelope too hard.  I like to be right at the prepuce but just a hair short of exercise exhaustion.  Occasionally I miss the line and over shoot it.  That's where I found myself yesterday morning as I rolled out of bed at 5:30 a.m.  It frustrated me some as certain routines bring peace and a center to my soul.  This was one of them.

There would be no run through the ghetto or through the downtown streets and out to the YMCA river trail.  My legs were needing a hiatus, at least until after work.  I mused in my head wondering if the handful of homeless people who were familiar with my early morning running presence would wonder where I was.  Several always have a greeting or comment for me.  My heart is drawn to the outdoors.  And since the outdoors seemed to be their place of abode, I had a soft spot for them. 

Our newspaper gets stolen every morning.  Someone must really need it more than me.  Whoever is stealing it does not know that Doug is the marketing director at the newspaper.  It makes me giggle every morning I leave the building to run at 5:45 a.m. and find it missing.  I've thought a time or two about getting up at 4:30 a.m., when it's delivered, to watch who's taking it.  I have my theories, but they aren't worth missing that last hour of sleep over!

Changing into my running clothes after work, I drove to the river walk to run my miles I hadn't logged from morning.  Running at 5 p.m. isn't my favorite time of the day - the trail is people populated, the air is too warm, my body is tired from eight and a half hours of fast paced work.  I tried to convince myself that the outdoors was my real love not running so to motivate myself to follow through with the miles ahead. 

On the back side of the run, finally coming into a groove that was hard to find, I picked up a bit of speed.  I passed a spandexed woman with a fanny pack who was an overly exaggerated pear body.  She was working it, but very slow.  Ahead of her was a young woman with a bit faster pace.  I passed her too.  Not far from her was a blond haired woman in her 20's.  I passed her as well.  Looking ahead to a woman who appeared to be a few years younger than me, I decided I needed to pass number four.  She was the quicker of the women I had already passed.  It was a bit of motivation to conquer another - to king my checker so to speak.  I overtook her as well.

I decided right then that though passing other runners is a bit fun, I get much greater enjoyment alone in the early morning hours when the night is turning to day.  I get richer soul fulfillment in running in quietness without throngs.  That is, except for the handful of regulars I see before most even think about the great outdoors or going out into it.



I thought about all things that make my spirit hum, my heart soar, my mind whirl, my senses sharp, my emotions full, my creativity buzz, and my intuition operate in full drive.  What takes me to that place or keeps me there? 

You gotta have passion for that thing
or you won't have the perseverance
 to see it through.
That was most definitely a true statement if there ever was one.  It was passion that drove the men and women on the pages of history.  The result of passion, of crazy won't let it go perseverance is why we have medical breakthroughs, pieces of art, music, discoveries in space and manufacturing, inventions that grace our lives, technology, the performing arts, literature, cinema, scientific research, professional sports and paid athletes, desegregation, architectural wonders, civil rights, and religious freedoms.  It's why we aren't an English colony and why we have a democratic way of life in general. 
Across every platform passion changed something, not just for the person who had the passion, but for everyone who came after them.  For us. Some were big sweeping across the board societal changes, others were subtle and became building blocks for others to expand on.  Some were not realized in that person's life fully but later, posthumously, they gained full recognition for what their passion had accomplished.
We are not all Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln, Emily Dickinson, Jonas Salk, Mahatma Gandhi, William Shakespeare, Hudson Taylor, George Bernard Shaw, Sigmund Freud, Margaret Sanger, Ayn Rand, Ella Baker, Arthur Fry, or the Apostle Paul.  Their legacy, their brush strokes on the world are the external results of inward passion and a drive that would not let those passions out of their view.
Passion is what drives God.  Passion for all He created - world and humanity.  He never lets that out of his vision.  Ever.
I had to look at myself.  If what I am passionate about creates in me all that I stated in paragraph one, then life has to be ordered after all those things.  Life cannot come in front of them.  Because when it does, I am out of sync.  I can feel the slant, the catch in my cog, the friction inside.  
Those above accomplished their passions because they did not step out of them.  They ordered their lives and worlds around them.  Not the other way around.



My office sits next to a fitness center.  I would say a gym, but really it's not.  We use the word gym in our culture as a colloquialism for what most categorize technically as a fitness center.  Gym is short for gymnasium.  Gymnasiums are associated with schools and basketball, volleyball, dodge ball, wrestling and gymnastics meets or the hated square dancing required in freshmen physical education class.  A "fitness center" holds none of those events.

My view has been altered greatly since my move back to the Midwest from Arizona.  There I viewed a mountain outside my window.  The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful - day in and day out.  Here in the Midwest, next to the fitness center, my office window view is of the bowling alley across the street.  My view though is frequently and regularly interrupted with spandex.

I have a philosophy, a stance, an entrenched to the soul ideology on spandex; just because spandex stretches doesn't mean you should wear it.  We are all designed different, like hand crafted Amish furniture [a reference that my friend Big D, former Amish, then Mennonite, then free can relate to].  I mean that in the best sense of the phraseology both in regards to Amish furniture and Big D.  God made us all. And because we are created by the Creator of the universe, we are all awesome and unique and well made!  But, that does NOT mean we are designed for the likes of spandex.

Spandex is a catch twenty-two of sorts.  It shows everything.  And, I mean everything - every little sag, bulge, lack and abundance. On men you don't want to look, but are compelled to - like an eclipse that might possibly burn your eyes out! It magnifies both extremes and everything in between.  If there ever were a fabric whose only purpose was to NOT make anyone look good and yet everyone feel the compelling need to wear to the gym (or anywhere else for that matter), then Spandex nailed its demographic!

Spandex's conundrum though is no matter how bad you look in it, its power to encapsulate whatever is stuffed inside of its material is magical.  It is very definitely though quite a few strengths less than a girdle - which would not be acceptable to wear on the outside of our clothes.  Yet spandex as an outer garment is acceptable to be worn just about anywhere you can think of.  And it appears, according to the holes now burned into my retinas from viewing it instead of my tranquil mountain, THE ONLY choice of gym wear acceptable for "working out".

I really don't know whether to shake my head at those I see daily traipsing in and out of that fitness center, thank them for entertaining me all day long or congratulate them on saying who the hell cares what I look like. 

I say save the spandex for super heroes.