Category Archives: Friendship

A Rose for a Butterfly

This Friday, February 7, 2014, I have a medical appointment that will put me near the grave of someone I love very much. Her name is Laura A. VerDow Santelli. She died on February 20, 2010. Like the previous years, I will put a single red rose at her grave.

I know that she is not there, not really, only the shell of her body that her soul left behind, but it is my way of remembering her. I do this for my parents as well. I buy a bouquet of flowers and spread them on their graves. I could not do it last year as I did not travel to the state of my birth. I will this year. My parents names are Virginia and William.

David Eagleman in his book, Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, wrote “There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.”

Mom, Dad and Laura, your third death has not come for I have not forgotten you and I promise to speak your names.

I look forward to placing a rose on Laura’s grave. She was my Butterfly. She loved life and was full spirited and fun loving. I do miss her and love her very much. Remember those that have passed on and say their names. Remember them for that is how they stay in our hearts. Because all of us, like my Butterfly, will have to fly off someday leaving our bodies behind.

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It’s Always Been That Way

As humans, we usually look for patterns. Even if we go out and look for the exotic, we still find comfort in the routine. We feel comfortable in knowing that things will be as we expect them to be. Life is challenging and ever changing. Events and relationships have a way of upsetting our comfortable setting.

Many times at work, I question why we do things a certain way. The answer I usually receive is that it is just the way it’s always been done. I might even hear, it works, so don’t change it. I like to try to streamline reporting and tasks to make it easier for everyone involved. It usually works, but sometimes what is easier for me, isn’t necessarily easier for someone else. What I change might make someone else very uncomfortable. I am sure that you have had this happen to  you as well. What makes perfect sense to me might befuddle someone else and vice versa.

This can happen in relationships too. We rely on our experiences from our childhood. Our family worked in a particular way, whether we liked it or not, that is the way it was. Sometimes we don’t think it could be different because it’s always been that way.

In a family relationship, especially in a blended family, bringing all these expectations and traditions together can result in a confusing mix of priorities. What is very important to one person may not be important at all to another. It isn’t right or wrong, it is just different. We bring with us our own understanding of what is normal and natural and how it should be done.

What might be very important to one might make another downright uncomfortable. Usually out of love, we genuinely try to respect and honor the differences. But it is difficult to always be mindful of what is important to someone else when it might not hold such gravity with us. It is part of being selfless, but our minds and bodies will remind us of our own needs.

I think the difference between work and home is that we expect work to dictate our actions and activities even when they don’t necessarily make sense to us. We usually do not practice that same flexibility at home, which is both good and bad. It is good that I can be myself at home but sometimes being myself might irritate others, just as they might irritate me. Any time you bring two or more people together for any reason; there is a possibility of conflict. It takes concerted effort to agree to goals and actions and move forward. It’s always been that way.

So we need to be mindful that everyone comes from their own series of experiences that colors their behavior and beliefs. In a work environment, it is to recognize the talents and strengths of those around us. We need to offer our own strengths and talents to lead to success.  In our family relationships we need to recognize that each of us have traditions ingrained in us by our childhood. It is up to us to decide which traditions to keep, which to discard, and which to meld into the tradition of others. In a sense, we need to make new traditions that not only work for us but for those around us.

Change is tough. Challenges are real. Opportunities to be better exist. It requires us to be mindful. It requires us to be present. But then again, it’s always been that way.

Does God Exist?

Almost every workday, there are two gentlemen where I work who discuss the existence of God. Some days are more passionate than others. They are constantly bringing up evidence or proof of their opposing beliefs. One believes that science proves God does exist by discovering: the delicate balance of nature; our unique circumstances that allows life on this planet; the incredible complexity of life itself and the programming of DNA. One believes that all these things are incredible but in no way proves the existence of God. I do believe in God. I have faith in God. But I am intrigued by the argument for and against.

I asked privately if they learn anything from their arguments. The believer said that he was learning a great deal about science. I agree. There is so much that we do not know. As soon as we think we figure something out, there is always something else beyond our reason.

I believe that God does exist. He is not only all around me but in me as well. But I can understand that some need hard evidence, and maybe even then would not be convinced. I appreciate both these people. They are thoughtful and passionate. They are friends, even though they disagree. So, even if you do not believe that God exists, I wish you well and hope that you will be well blessed.

Another Round of Layoffs

Yesterday, I hugged some co-workers  as they were processed out. It was their last day. They were victims of the latest cost saving measures and right-sizing of my employer. A year ago my position was deemed no longer necessary, but fortunately, I was able to move from a management to a non-management position. Although I was not overjoyed at first, it actually has been a blessing. I now have more time to dedicate to projects and get overtime pay for over 40 hours.

I certainly hope that those let go yesterday will find something that they can be passionate about. The transition of our economy to whatever lies ahead is going to be tough. Our parents, grandparents and maybe even great grandparents went through a transition out of the Great Depression. Even though I do not think we will experience the Great Depression as our ancestors did, I still think it will be tough. We have been accustomed to much more than our ancestors had. This will probably lead us to be impacted more as we have to do with less.

These are uncertain times. Everyone knows that there will have to be cuts, now or eventually, but at the same time, no one wants to feel the pain. That is understandable, that is human nature.  I believe that industry and jobs will come back. Will they look like they did before?  I don’t think so. We are a resilient people. We have, and always will have, talented entrepreneurs whose passions will shine. It can be hard to keep positive in our current environment, but keeping alert for opportunities, even from the most unlikely sources, is vitally important. Necessity is the mother of invention, and we definitely need the creativity. My very best wishes go out to those who must start a new chapter.

Contentment

Contentment is sometimes confused with happiness, although they can be connected, they are not the same. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that is usually a reaction to outside influences. We seek happiness and sometimes seek it to sooth our discontent.  Being content, to me, means appreciating what you have on a continual basis. Remember that many of the great things you have now you did not have before. And if you don’t have things, take a personal inventory of your strengths; self-respect, stamina, endurance, surviving, the will to press on, the striving to be better.

By nature, we are discontented. Marketers make full use of this fact and it is easy for them to create want and need in us. But being contented does not mean that you don’t want more or better. It means that you appreciate what you have and who you are. That better things might exist but you do not disregard what you have or neglect those you love because of your desire for something better.

In Philippians 4:11, Paul wrote: “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Paul wrote this while he was imprisoned for ministering. He goes on to say in verses 12 -13, “ I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (NIV) Paul’s contentment was not based on his situation or circumstance but on his reliance and relationship with Christ.

Notice, that Paul says that he “learned” to be content. It is not an easy thing. We all yearn for more. We might say, “if I only had a bigger house, I would be happy.” A realtor can sell you a house, but a realtor cannot sell you a home. You might say, “if I only made more money or had a better job, I would be happy.” You might be happier but you may not be content. There are so many stories of the rich and famous who die bitter and lonely, for their money did not buy them what is truly important.

Contentment is an attitude, a mindset. Happiness is a choice. Contentment comes from within. Even during trials, one can be content and not happy. Contented people are more positive, more confident in themselves because they know who they are. They might not be happy with certain aspects of their selves or their situation but are content in knowing that they are improving themselves and accepting of those things they cannot change.

A contented person’s positive attitude can improve things at their jobs or open opportunities for other work. Their mindset can improve their relationships. Their positive attitude can be infectious and help others see the blessings that abound.

So how does one learn to be content? It definitely takes practice. I believe that one key to contentment is to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful to God for all the blessings that He provides. Thank others for their good deeds towards you, no matter how small, and remember to appreciate those around you. Let your loved ones know that you love them.

Examine what you have and appreciate that you have those things. What if you didn’t have them? Who are you? What do you want your living example to say about you? Accept the things you cannot change and move forward to improve the things you can.  It is not wrong to want better, just realize where you are, appreciate what you have and move forward from there.

We come into this world with nothing, and we leave with nothing. (1 Timothy 6:6-7) We leave behind all the possessions that we accumulated and all the money we made. But you also leave behind your relationships. You will dwell for a while in the hearts and minds of those lives you touched. These relationships are to be built now and everyday. When you see the strength of these relationships grow, contentment will grow as well.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher, saw the value of contentedness saying, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”  Paul found his strength in his beliefs. He had faith that God would not fail him. His relationship with God is the core of his contentment. We can have that too. Although we have to practice and learn to have this mindset, it certainly is possible.

My hope for you is to have much happiness and lasting contentment.

Good doggie

First let me apologize for being away from the blog. I took an 8 day vacation on the road to visit family and have been tremendously busy with work since.

While I traveled, my sister took care of my dog, Soda. Soda is a Bichon Frise. He was my father’s dog and I promised to look after him after my father passed on.

Pets, in general, are very beneficial. There are those that do not have pets because of allergies, see pets as unwanted responsibilities or as destructive and messy. But, pets can provide companionship, hours of entertainment, act as a sounding board and be a focus for our love, attention and caring. Pets can also serve as protection, or at least as alarms to alert the owner of an outside presence, danger or alert others to the need of help.

Certain health benefits have been discovered by the presence of a pet or pet animal. In general, owners have lower blood pressure which puts them at a reduced risk for heart disease. Pets can safeguard against loneliness and depression. Pets, cuddly ones, can be excellent snugglers. This is one reason nursing homes encourage pet visits to lift the spirits of the residents. Pets can also provide exercise, especially if they need to be walked or require play. Pets can increase social contact because a person walking a dog can seem more approachable by giving people a reason to stop and talk.

Even though you may not be a pet person, realize the importance they can have in many lives by providing unconditional love as well as health benefits. Yes, my dog can be a pain sometimes, excessive barking or if I have to clean up after him, but I love him still. When he sits beside me on the couch inviting me to pet him, it is easy to scratch his head and say “Good doggie.”

Missing My Butterfly

Laura enjoying the splendor of Corning Glass Works

It has been a year since Laura A. Verdow Santelli had passed away (February 20, 2010). On this anniversary of her death, I began thinking of the attributes that I missed most about her.

What I miss most is her smile, so wide, when she saw me. I miss how easily she laughed, even at the corniest jokes. I miss her playfulness and her free spirit and sincere affection.

I also miss how she cried into my shoulder when she expressed her frustration and fears about her finances and health. I miss that because she trusted me enough to make herself vulnerable in that way. It made me feel needed, respected, and loved.

Laura had a very loving heart. She adored her children. Her needs were simple and she thought more about what other people needed and less about herself. She was not perfect, of course, but her positive attributes far outweighed any negative traits she might have had.

Of course, Laura is in a better place now. She is in the presence of God. I know that she is looking over her children. I know that she is at peace and pain free. I look forward to seeing her when I pass on.

I miss you, my butterfly. The time we had together was a precious gift. Take care and know that I will always love you.

Other postings related to Laura A. VerDow Santelli:

My Butterfly Became an Angel
A Glimpse of a Butterfly

Happy Valentine’s Day

This day was established  by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It was named after a priest, Valentine of Rome who married young men and women in defiance of an order decreed by Emporer Claudius II that young men not be married as he figured that they would be better soldiers. Valentine performed the marriages secretly until he was caught and subsequently martyred in 269 AD.

This is another of those holidays that I think should come every day. Although, I believe there are certainly those who need to be “reminded” to show appreciation to their loved ones, it really should be an every day practice.

Just think about all the things that your spouse or love one does for you every day that you might take for granted. Does she make breakfast? Does he brush the snow off the car? Does he do the dishes? Does she record his favorite programs? All these seemingly little things, and many more, are little ways that say “I love you, you are important to me and I am glad that you are in my life.” I try to think about all the things that my girlfriend and sons do for me in this way.

It is too easy to take these things for granted. Sometimes, we just assume that what has gone on will always go on. We “expect” our loved ones to do things for us, to think about us, to care about us. Even if we do expect them too, they should be told that their efforts are appreciated. Take your loved one in your arms, look them in the eyes and say, “I love you. I am so glad that you are part of my life. You are truly a blessing to me, a wonderful gift from God.”  When was the last time you said something like that? If it hasn’t been lately, then say it soon.

This holiday is a bittersweet one for me. It was exactly a year ago on Valentine’s day that I last saw my Butterfly alive. She passed away a few days later. My last memories of her that day involved smiles, hugs and kisses. It was a wonderful day.

As I learned last year, you just never know when a loved one might depart. They may depart physically, emotionally or even depart this life. Nothing is permanent. Take advantage of the time you have, because now is the only time you really have. Tell those you love that you love them, not just on Valentine’s Day, but every day.

Let every day be Valentine's Day!

Kitchen Project 2010

   I am currently working on a kitchen project. I first moved to this house in July. It is my opinion that that two most important rooms in the house are the kitchen and the bathroom. The kitchen was dull and I wanted to liven it up. This was not only to make it more beautiful for myself but also as an act of love for my new “family.”

   I think this project has done and is doing much to bring my wonderful lady, my son and I together as a family and making this house feel like a home. I believe anywhere can be home. Home is where you are loved and accepted. Home is where you feel safe and protected. But this creates a feeling of home because we have each shared in creating its beauty.

   Theresa, my girlfriend, has lived on her own for a long time. She is not accustomed to have other people in her house. My son and I are demonstrating that we want to contribute to making the house a comfortable and beautiful place to live.

    The kitchen is full of cabinets, which I really didn’t realize how many until I marked the doors. The cabinets were white and the walls tan. It was very subdued and drab. We painted the walls a sunny yellow and the cabinets a lime green There are 23 cabinet doors, all painted ultimate white in high gloss. 22 of those doors will display some type of painted art in the center, each door unique amongst the others.

    This is also my plan to create wonder and beauty in the kitchen. I am painting each door using stencils and some free hand strokes. You are most welcome to visit the growing photo album here:

   Kitchen Project 2010

    I hope that you take time to involve others in projects around your home. Do not view it as a chore but as an opportunity to connect with ones you love. It is a great way to learn about aspects of a project, build skills, build confidence and a great source of therapy. I know I am enjoying this project. I have a lot of painting left to do. Check the photo album for additional pictures. There are 22 doors and 3 panels to be painted to complete the project.

   Take care, stay well and be safe. With much love, Justin.

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Seasons In Life

As the days turn cooler and I detect the leaves beginning to turn to their natural but hidden colors, I realize that autumn approaches. Time moves ever forward through the seasons without much regard to its effect on those who experience them, it is up to them to adapt.

Just as the year has seasons, our lives have seasons as well. Those seasons can be broken up in many ways. Your life could be divided into infancy, youth, adulthood, and the golden years. Your seasons may involve times of struggle and times of success, times of despair and times of joy.

Another type of season is your relationships with those around you. A person in your life may be there or just a moment. Were they a cool breeze on a warm day that made you say “aaahhh” or were they a biting blast of cold air that made you say “uugghh?” Even in that tiny moment, they impacted your life, for better or worse. It really is up to you how you react to those breezes, cool or bitter.

Some people are in your life a little while, a few days, a month, or even a few years. That person might be a co-worker or a parent of a soccer player on your daughter’s team. These relationships can create strong bonds or maybe you might be glad they or you are moving on.

Then there are those that have relationships that last a lifetime. I wish I had more of those. I have people in my life that are so very precious to me. I hope that for some, the season they are with me is long lasting.

I have come to realize that there is nothing permanent in my life except God. God doesn’t change. God is a sturdy, dependable pillar. You can have relationships with persons that seem like pillars and I hope they are. Now that I have stated that there is nothing permanent, sometimes it sure feels like it has been or will be. I suffer from chronic pain and it certainly seems like a permanent situation, but I know that one day it will pass, even if I pass with it.

Let’s pay attention to the seasons in our lives. Pay attention to people who come and go. Realize that as much as they can impact your life, you impact theirs. Pay attention to those that love you and cherish them. I am simply amazed how quickly the first 50 years of my life flew by. It seems as though my children were born one day and two months later, they graduated from school. Any parent of adults will probably relate to that statement. Be thankful for all the blessings provided to you. I hope the season you are in is one of joy, but if it is one of despair, just remember, seasons change. Nothing is really permanent except for God and the eternal blessing that He offers. Peace be with you.

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