Category Archives: Love

Why I Give Blood

I participated in a blood drive recently. When I was done donating, I rested, as instructed, with a small can of cranberry juice and a small bag of raisins. The manager asked me why I give blood. This was my second donation, my first donation took place on 4/25/2014.

I would have started much earlier. I first entertained the idea of donating blood in late 2005. I was told that because I have a heart condition, I was not eligible to give. What prompted me to consider giving is that my father was a cancer patient and required occasional blood transfusions. I wanted to give back to the community and have a chance to help others, like my father. I was disappointed that I could not donate.

Then earlier this year, I read an article that pointed towards a study in Europe that showed that men who donated blood reduced their own risk of heart attack and stroke, and not by an insignificant amount. So, I think of this as a gift of life, not only for those who might receive my blood but for myself as well. And being a gift of life, it is also a gift of love. I will never know who might benefit from my donations. I am not looking for them to thank me personally. It does make me feel good to know that I have helped, and possibly saved someone’s life.

On April 25th, 2014, I decided to walk into a blood collection drive location. I read the literature there. I asked if I would be eligible. I had also read that the requirements are reviewed time and time again to protect the blood supply. The receptionist recommended that I go through the screening process and I would learn for sure if I was eligible or not. I followed her suggestion. Much to my surprise, I was eligible. There was some concern, but after checking their computers, they decided that my condition did not prevent my donation.

Now, why didn’t I consider it before 2005? I am not sure. I probably was: too busy; afraid of the needle; afraid of the process; not concerned with mortality. None of these were good reasons then or now. The procedure is safe. I don’t like needles, so I just don’t watch. I take a book with me and read during the donation process.

Each donation of a pint (you have 10), can help or even save up to three persons. Blood is constantly needed. The Red Cross Blood services began in 1940, and now supplies about 40% of the blood needed in the US. 41,000 blood donations are needed each day. 38% of the population in the US are eligible to donate blood but less than 10% actually do.

So think about giving the gift of life. You can visit RedCrossBlood.org to learn more. You never know, someone might be alive tomorrow because of your gift today. The need is constant. If you are eligible, it is a gift for them and for you.

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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.

Struggles and Triumphs

A son was born. Freshly arriving in this new world of ours. Eyes bright and in wonder of everything he saw. His mother held him close to her chest, beaming with pride at the incredible miracle she held. Young parents, inexperienced in the ways of these kinds of miracles, were happily concerned with the welfare and safety of this frail little human.

A little more than a year later, a second child was born to this couple. Again, seem as a blessing and gift, but it was a challenge to keep up with these two small boys.  As both boys grew, it seemed that the second son was progressing more quickly than the first. This observation and later concern was borne to be true. The oldest son was diagnosed with a developmental delay, learning disability and a turned leg that mildly affected his walking. This was not good news. What did it all mean? How would they cope? What did it mean for their son? What would his future be like? And where would they turn for help.

The parents found help through a local organization called the Happiness House. The staff at the Happiness House assured the parents and helped them with the necessary paperwork to petition family court to provide the necessary services for their son.

Later their son was diagnosed with ADD, OCD and suffered tics under the tourette’s umbrella. Braces were fashioned for his leg to straighten out his walk. Again the questions peppered the minds of the parents. Physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists and other professionals worked with their son.

When this young boy was old enough to enter the educational system, he received a new team of professionals. He had difficulty learning school basics. But with steadfast persistence by his team, patience by his parents and, at times begrudging cooperation by the young man, he did learn.

‘Leo the Late Bloomer’ by Robert Kraus was a favorite book used by his teachers. The book carried a powerful message of hope. This young man continued to struggle all through school. Eventually the most visible tics subsided. He had learned to read and write. He enjoyed video games, riding bikes and taking walks.

Unfortunately, before he graduated from high school, his mother decided that she needed a different life away from her family. This was an incredibly difficult adjustment for the boys and their father. But with patience and courage, they moved on.

His high school counselor helped his parents find continuing services after school. New York’s VESID (Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) provided referrals to the ARC of Ontario County. Their services placed him in a work program where he earned some money, learned to socialize with co-workers, and helped to develop his self-esteem. He blossomed there.

Along with his experiences in working, he wished to extend his life adventure by learning how to drive. After several years with a learning permit, he finally received his license. He continues to explore his growing independence.

It had been incredible to watch this young man push against these difficulties. Even though these conditions still exist, he still pushes gently against them. I am very proud of him. I am not sure of all the potential within this young man. But I hope that he knows that I will be in his life as long as I can to witness his further victories. This young man is my son, Brandon.

Brandon, if you are reading this, do not be angry about the challenges you face. Be proud of yourself, like I am proud of you, for all that you have accomplished. You are an incredible young man.

Love near and afar

For many of us, we are taught to love our neighbors, love each other and love ourselves. This is an excellent goal. It is a goal that requires mindfulness.

It seems easier to love those far away. We are filled with compassion when we hear of disasters across the world. We send money, prayers and those that can, send themselves. Yet, it seems that we sometimes find it more difficult to find compassion for those close to us. The more we know someone, the more we witness their habits, their attitudes, their demeanor. We might find these things irritating to us because of our expectations. It is easy to forget that everyone thinks and feels differently than we do. We can become disappointed that someone close to us is not doing the things we think they should do.

Being very close to people also allows us to determine what that person really needs from us. They might just want someone to listen. They could just need help with a particular problem. They might, like you, want to be heard. We all want to be accepted.

It is up to us to listen, to watch, to pay attention, so that we can do our best to be a positive influence on those around us. And if they did that too, what a wonderful place it would be. The challenges and troubles would still exist, but we could support each other through them.

As for loved ones far away, it is good just to simply keep in tough. An email, a phone call, or even a text message lets them know you are thinking about them. Charities and disaster organizations allows your support to touch others you may never meet, but the impact is real.

Never forget to love yourself. Take it easy on yourself. We are usually very hard on ourselves, but we must realize that we are not perfect. But, we do have value, we have talents, we have potential and we have faults. If we love and accept ourselves, it makes it easier to love and accept others.

Glad you are here. Hope that you are well.

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.

Remarriage Statistics

The US is the most remarried country of the western nations according to a study by Cherlin in 2009. In another study by Deal in 2005 found that one third of all weddings in America formed step-families.

I, myself, am in a remarriage. Being over 50, I am part of the statistic that 25% of people who remarry are over 50 years old.

Now, you would think that being married a second or third time, you would have the maturity and wisdom from your previous experiences. I would think that and do think that. However, even though I believe that a second marriage would be better, the Census Bureau in 2006 found that 60% of second marriages, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. But the challenges of remarriage are different. You deal with complex relationships made even more complex with differing backgrounds.

In most remarriages, I believe the main drivers of frustration are money and children. Expectations differ greatly, especially in the way children were raised.  What was totally acceptable and a non-issue in one household nearly commanded the death penalty in the other. This can definitely cause some tensions when you try to blend the two households. It is not that anyone is wrong, it is just different. This exists in first time marriages as well, but I believed it is amplified in further marriages.  It definitely take time, patience and trust to build newer, stronger relationships with the spouse’s children, remembering that it is a new dynamic for them as well. This is true for both minor and adult children, even grandchildren.

Both partners may have established careers and their own nest eggs.  This can be a concern of the children as well as the partners. Communication about goals and comfort levels can help alleviate money differences. It is also wise to determine in advance how monies are to be dispersed if one spouse passes away.

A 2002 study by Hetherington showed that on average, couples in step-families have three times the amount of stress of couples in first marriages during the first few years. But with time, stress levels for couples in step-families can fall to normal levels found in first marriages.

I said earlier that I believe that I can use the lessons from my first marriage in my first marriage to improve the happiness in my second marriage. I will admit, that I was not prepared for the some of the unique challenges that have arisen. I plan on working hard in my relationship and working though the challenges. Love and marriage takes lots of hard work and its worth it.

Are you in a step-family relationship? What kind of challenges did you experience that you did not expect. How did you overcome those challenges. It may be true that 60% of second marriages fail. That means that 40% make it.

I know that the statistics are scary, but couples do make remarriage work. Marriage always has challenges and it is overcoming those challenges as couples and families that make relationships stronger.

Take care, stay well and be safe.

I am not worthy

Even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. These words continually bring me great comfort. I am not perfect and won’t be. It is not in my nature to be perfect. Now knowing this does not give me an excuse to be unloving to people. It is still my responsibility to always try to do what is good and loving.

For several years, I had a young man work for me that was often disappointed in himself because he wasn’t doing everything perfectly.  I appreciated his efforts and stressed to him over a long period of time that what I wanted was his best.  I believe that when he was extremely overwhelmed, he finally figured it out. He could not always be perfect at everything he did. I am not sure where he learned this insecurity because I never explored that with him.

We tend to beat ourselves up when things don’t go as well as planned. Maybe we made mistakes or didn’t try hard enough. But it is up to us to examine the events and learn from them. Then again, it could be that we just might not be capable or talented for that particular task. I will never be a Russian ballerina. I am not Russian nor am I female and I am not particularly graceful. So I don’t beat myself up for not being a Russian ballerina. I know that is extreme, but the point is, there are just some things that others are better at.

I am not worthy but I try my best. I know that God is patient. I look at the men and women that God used throughout the Bible. These were not the top of the class, spotlight of the world people. They were everyday people. They often balked at the mission God gave them, giving God reasons why they were not worthy of such an assignment.

It didn’t seem to matter to God. He basically communicated that He knew they were not worthy but He would give them the strength and tools to get it done. I am not worthy but God has shown over and over again that He works through people. People, just like you and me.

I am glad that I do not have to be perfect to be loved by God or anyone else. If we had to be perfect, none of us would be loved. So, it comforts me to know that even though I am not worthy, God still loves me. He expects me to be human, which is a good thing, because that is what and where I am.

So don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Try to be the best you can be knowing that you can never be perfect. Know that even though you can never be perfect, that God’s grace and mercy are already waiting for you.

Where’s Dad?

If you are a Dad and you are involved, or at least try to be involved with your children, then Happy Father’s Day. But many children don’t have a Dad in their lives. About a third of American children are being raised without a father. There are many articles and pages on the internet concerning fatherless children and the effects that it has on the children.  Kirsten Andersen wrote an article outlining some of the latest statistics concerning children in single parent homes. It can be found here: The number of US children living in single parent homes has nearly doubled in 50 years.

In this article and others, Vincent DiCaro, the vice president of the National Fatherhood Initiative blames this growing tend on many of the problems that we have in society. I agree. If fathers are in the picture, responsible and supportive, many of the problems will be lessened.

On the National Fatherhood Initiative website, some of the consequences of a fatherless household are astounding. Here is just a few of the findings:

  • Children in father absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor.
  • Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers.
  • High quality interaction by any type of father predicts better infant health.
  • Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.

At first glance, this does not speak well of single mother homes. I know that single mothers struggle to provide the best homes for their children. It takes incredible strength to work, care for a home and care for children. I respect that effort. But, I do think that the love of a father and the love of a mother differ greatly. Of course, it depends on the background and personality of each parent, a mother is more nurturing, protective and safety aware whereas a father is more adventurous, measured risk taking and independence. Neither love is wrong, it is just different. Men and women are different. Children need that balance from both parents to feel secure in the challenges that life has for them.

As I have said before, any man can be a father, but a child needs a Dad. A child needs a Mom too. There are homes without mothers as well, about 5 million children live in homes without Moms. Unfortunately, my children experienced the divorce of their parents. In my situation, I had custody of my children as my ex-wife left the country. I certainly would have preferred that we stayed together. My relationships with other women did not replace a “mother” figure in their lives as I would have hoped. They have grown up well despite the divorce, but I know that they are and will always be affected by the divorce. I love them dearly. Their mother loves them too. She says she misses them and I am sure she does.

I believe that America would greatly benefit from whole families, loving families, and strong families to provide the core and stability that our children need.

Spring Forward

It is that time when we move our clocks ahead one hour. These events allow me to stop and consider time. It is very subjective. There are days at work when I arrive at work in the morning, look up at the clock and read 11:30 and swear that only 20 minutes went by, and other instances when the same time feels like a week long. Of course this has happened to you. As I grow older, time seems to slip by faster and faster. I actually wish it would slow down. Time passed so slow when I was very young and at times, I wish I had that again.

There are different calendars around the world. Even though the world at large recognizes the Gregorian calendar, native calendars are often used for religious and national holidays. In the Thai Buddhist calendar, the year is 2556.  It is the Chinese Year of the Snake (Gui Si Year).  It is year 1419 in the Bengali calendar. The current year of the Jewish calendar is 5773. So your concept of where we are in time depends on which calendar is on your wall.

As humans, we want to measure things, what’s bigger, what’s smaller, what’s better, what’s more valuable. Time measures when, how long and in what order. Time is fleeting. Another way we can measure time is the amount we spend with the ones we love. I read today a post of a boy who offered his father an hour’s pay so that he could spend more time with him, as his father worked all the time. I thought that was sad. But, I’m afraid that I could relate. I did the same thing when my sons were young. As the sole earner in the family, I dedicated much of my time working to support my family. Even though this is quite laudable, I believe I missed some valuable time with my sons. I needed to work but I do miss the time that could have been.

Fast forward to now. I try to make sure that I take the time to spend with my loved ones. I have dinner with my son and his wife at least once a month. They live over an hour away. My son works two jobs but still finds the time to have dinner. We meet him at a restaurant that is half way between us. I really appreciate that he understands how important it is to gather together.  It is important that we work and provide. It is important that we let the ones we love know that we love them and spend quality time with them. Your employer can replace you readily but your loved ones can miss out on you for the rest of their lives.

Time slips by quietly and quickly. Don’t let the opportunities to spend quality time with your loved ones slip by as well. Spring forward to new opportunities. The future is made by the choices we make today.

Valentines of the Heart

The time around Valentine’s Day is a bittersweet time of year. Theresa lost her father around this time last year. I lost a loved one as well around this time. I am glad that there is a reminder during the year to recognize our loved ones and let them know that we love and care for them. I certainly believe that it needs to be a daily occurrence. Even those people who have difficulty saying those three words…I love you…I need you…I want you.

I celebrated with my loved ones, but I also remembered very fondly those who are no longer here.  Both of my parents, my Butterfly, and other loved ones have passed away. But I carry a valentine for them in my heart. I love them and miss them. I appreciate the time they spent in my life.

Each year, around Valentine’s day, I place a rose on the grave of my Butterfly. I tried to do that this year, but we have had lots of snow and the drive lanes of the cemetery were not plowed. I did not dare drive back into the cemetery. I will just have to try later when the weather is better.

My family has been suffering from the flu for the last three weeks, but I hope that you are well. I hope that you enjoyed your Valentine’s Day giving and receiving love. Remember that you carry the Valentines for all those that you love throughout the year. Any day or time you wish to let those you care about know you love them, you will never be without a valentine.

Take care, stay well and be blessed.