This isn’t the Sixties, is it?

I know, I know, I’ve been away far too long. I didn’t exactly plan on my absence from this portal being this duration. Life and a few other mishaps got in the way since the end of last year. Countless times I’ve thought about doing a blog post and then . . . poof; the urge and/or interest vaporized. I’ve been through a lot and am still going through some of life’s potholes. But now, I’ve touched on some feelings that I really do feel need to be shared. It’s amazing to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately.

Storms notwithstanding, the heinous acts of violence and evil-doing that have cursed our globe these past few years always seem to end the same way:  Deadly. These attacks/events never seem to stop. Lawmakers attempt, sometimes, to pass laws to end this nonsense but the laws never seem to be enough.

Something I saw on TV recently reminded me of a speech decades ago from a memorial service. As I re-read the eulogy, I learned a few things I didn’t previously know and I realized that what was said and felt back in the sixties is, alas, still true today; at least that for which we strive is. I’d like to share some of this with you.

The following is an excerpt from the eulogy for Robert Kennedy given by his brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy at the public memorial service held on June 8, 1968, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. 

A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father which expresses [sic] the way we in his family felt about him. He said of what his father meant to him, and I quote: “What it really all adds up to is love — not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order and encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.”

And he continued, “Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.”

That is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves to us is what he said, what he did, and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best (excerpt of what I feel is still pertinent today):

Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged, and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that event.

The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

That is the way he lived. That is what he leaves us.

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

 

Politics aside, these words ring true for me today just as they did in yesteryear. We should always “see wrong and try to right it, see suffering and try to heal it, see war and try to stop it.”

This must be true whether it be in our own backyard, in our neighborhood, across our cities and states, and, yes, even across the globe. This includes social injustices, human rights, religious intolerance. We’ve got to stand up for one another and not be afraid of the consequences.

Alas, there will always be some moron who thinks he/she knows best and will attempt to shut one down. That has gone on in society for eons. So has our determination.

Change is never easy; change for the better is always difficult because someone is always asking “how do we define ‘better’ “? One definition I offer would be “one step up from the status quo.”

I guess I haven’t realized it until I re-read Teddy’s eulogy for Bobby, but his last words referencing Bobby’s belief still resonates with me: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

I try to live this everyday. Won’t you join me?

 

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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Birthday, Happy Kwanzaa . . .

 

Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a while. However, I still intend on continuing this blog, even amidst the trials and tribulations of daily existence.

Certain days, like today, compell me to post something meaningful, if not interesting as well. I don’t know that today’s post falls into those categories, so bear with me as I’m not in nearly the Christmas spirit of past seasons.

Today is Christmas in the US of A. It celebrates the birth of the Christ child even though the day, and weeks preceding it, intermingles with commercialism.

It’s a celebratory day.

Today also marks my father’s birthday. That’s right, Joseph Gilbert “Sonny” Fournet was born on the same day as Jesus, though a few generations apart. I know of at least one other friend of mine who also celebrates his birthday today. Happy Birthday, Daddy and Steve!

I read various posts on FaceBook earlier today and noticed most, if not all, were happy and had photos of family and friends gathered around. That’s the way it should be. These photos brought back memories of my past, of Christmases long ago. I miss those times. I miss my family. Some have gone on to Heaven, some are still here; we just don’t talk or see one another anymore, and I’m somewhat at a loss as to know why.

Aside from my “extended family” on FaceBook, in the American Advertising Federation-Houston, and special friends/family in various cities and towns scattered across the country, Pam and I have no family. We both miss that, especially today.

Don’t get me wrong; we are both grateful that we have each other. Our health is alright, though Pam is still struggling through rehabilitation from her stroke and she needs daily help. My CLL cancer is in remission, thank God, but the mental and physical strain Pam’s care has taken on me, especially this month, is taking its toll.

When Pam asked me recently what I wanted for Christmas, I quickly and simply replied, “Peace of mind.” And it doesn’t even have to be wrapped!

I know that around our globe there are thousands, perhaps millions of people who are living in dire straits, much worse off than we. The slums, nursing homes, hospitals, the homeless, the broken, the disheartened and disenchanted, the hopeless; I feel your pain though I can’t imagine that which some of you are undergoing.

I can’t do much about or for them because I’m having difficulty taking care of myself and Pam. Sometimes, hell, most times, all I can do is pray and hope, and pray that hope doesn’t run out. Lessee, where’s that mustard seed? Jesus said it was here, somewhere.

Sigh!

It is my sincere hope and prayer for all of us that the coming year is healthier, prosperous, fun and fruitful, much more so than 2016 has been. Personally, I’m hopeful that work rebounds and I can get some consistent revenue generated. I hope and pray that Pam can become more independent and is able to walk and move around without much assistance.

I hope to laugh more in the new year. I hope to make new friends and rejoice with some old (existing/familiar) ones. I hope to continue with my disturbed, warped and dry sense of humor, which most of you have enjoyed over the years, or at least endured!

Speaking of that, I have included a special photo of some of our family. The “kids” decided they wanted a Christmas photo taken together and expressed their desire for me to include in this Christmas blog posting.

So, here it ’tis . . . Merry Christmas and Joyous Spirits throughout the coming year.

Joe, Pam, and the Gang.

A Family Photo featuring Snoopy & Woodstock

Some of our “kids” wanted a Christmas photo together.

Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate; Just Ask LSU’s Mike VI.

Diseases rarely cooperate. They’re not racist; they don’t discriminate. They’re destructive by nature, but, occasionally, are defeated. Cancer is one of those diseases.

As many of you know, I was diagnosed a couple years ago with Leukemia, a form of blood cancer. After undergoing various treatments since, including the clinical trial drug, Venetoclax, I currently take, I’ve finally attained the status of CR, complete remission. I just need to stay that way.

During these years, I’ve been touched by the many difficult situations involving others who have been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer. Some are surviving, some not.

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Cancer hits everyone, all ages. It doesn’t care. It doesn’t even care if you’re not human; at least, not the two-legged variety. Animals are not immune. Not even the mighty, majestic tiger.

mike-vi-wcaptionIn Baton Rouge, LA Wednesday morning, LSU announced that their tiger mascot, Mike VI, has seen a return of cancer, and it has spread. Mike has only 1-2 months of life left. Unlike most humans, Mike doesn’t know how sick he is. Maybe he’s fortunate.

I’m an LSU alum and native of Louisiana. In fact when I attended LSU, we were celebrating Mike III (seventies). So I join the LSU Community with a heavy heart.

This coming Saturday night at the University of Houston main campus, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is hosting their annual Light The Night Walk. We’re raising funds to not only battle, but defeat cancer. All cancer. We’d love to see you out there.

It is not too late to become involved and join us at our Light The Night Walks. Patients/survivors who attend will receive a white illuminated lantern to carry, a t-shirt and food; those who have lost loved ones to cancer can join us for a brief Remembrance Ceremony and remember their loved one by carrying a gold lantern; supporters will carry a red lantern and be surrounded by others who share their passion to find a cure!

You’ve read about our fundraising requests before and will likely see them again. Please, go to my fundraising page and donate now. The dollars you give today may save a life tomorrow.

Thank you in advance for your help and support.

Oh, by the way, this is what I looked and felt like after last year’s Walk . . . 

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Attaining “CR” and the Death of a Childhood Hero

** A Special Saturday Edition of Joe’s Journey **

I am finally approaching the weekend. It’s beautiful outside while it has been turmoil inside. This has not been a good week for me, save and except for one thing.

I have now attained the status of being in full “CR”, complete remission from CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. I just need to stay that way. I learned the news on Monday.

Yet, I was pretty much numb from the evening before through all day Monday. You see, I learned late Sunday night that I had lost a special friend, a childhood hero, a person I looked up to and respected, just like my Dad.

When the past collides with the present, it can be gut-wrenching.

My life these past few months has been up and down, very uncertain and nervous about the future. My health seems to be returning and, apparently, I appear to be defeating that bastard known as cancer.

Still, I’m worried about the prospects of my wife, Pamela, walking again. She’s continuing to undergo rehab but progress seems to be minimal, and it’s been almost two years since her stroke. This is another sore spot with me as it pertains to the inconsistent care she has received.

I’ll not bore those who read my blog posts (THANK YOU) with details, but suffice it to say, I have had a few thousand things on my mind and it feels like very few of them are being solved. One main reason I try and contribute something in these blogs is to keep my creative juices flowing and to comment and offer constructive observations on life’s goings-on.

This week has had many twists and turns, thanks to Mr. Murphy (infamously of Murphy’s Law) who must have taken up residence on our front lawn. Seems every time I settle in to do something constructive in order to generate some income, I always get interrupted by something not always minor. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve started to write this blog post before something would distract me. That’s what those blasted emotions do.

Adding insult to injury, our air conditioning unit (relatively new) decided it didn’t want to work yesterday, and as I write this, is “in the process of being fixed.” Thank God for ceiling fans and cooler (slightly) weather.

It’s Friday, the last day of September, the first day of the 2016 Ryder Cup, golf’s international showdown between the USA and Europe every four years. I’m a fan, a golfer who as a young lad practically grew up on the golf course. I haven’t played in years, though.

The whole event, however, is bittersweet for me, and for millions the world over who follow golf and who are fans of one man in particular.

umbrella-logoYou see, my special friend and childhood hero I lost this past Sunday was Arnold Palmer, known the world over simply as Arnie. An icon, a legend, a multimillionaire, a friend to millions everywhere, an everyman.

Sitting on my couch this past Sunday night trying to relax, I was not looking forward to Monday’s visit to Houston’s Methodist Hospital. I’ve been fighting with insurance and billing for months, and to little avail.

Then suddenly, I get notice that “golfing icon Arnold Palmer has died at the age of 87.” I sat there, stunned, thinking I had misread my phone. Then the notice reappeared, and from additional sources.

I just blurted out “No, No, No, No, No . . .” I couldn’t think of anything else to do but run into the bedroom and tell Pam, “Arnie’s gone. He died.”

Then, I just broke down. Like a little child, I sobbed and could not stop.

Another one of my heroes had fallen.

“He sat with kings and queens and presidents, and he was just as happy as sitting with a bunch of guys from the mills or coal mines. He wasn’t pretentious. He’s what everybody calls a good egg,” said Gabe Monzo, executive director of the Westmoreland County Airport Authority, which is responsible for the operation of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, PA.

Arnold PalmerAs I’ve made it through to this weekend, I fondly remember watching Arnie on television. I’m a child of the 50’s and 60’s, so I got to see Mr. Palmer during his glory years. I even got to, briefly, meet him when he was playing in the Administaff Small Business Classic in Houston in 2005. That’s when the Golfing Gods must’ve been shining on me because I was lucky enough to capture his autograph on my special Administaff hat.

Arnold Palmer signing cap at Houston golf tourneyI remember following Arnie (along with Tom Kite and Larry Nelson) around the course that Friday. Several times during the day, in walking from one green to the next tee box, I came within arm’s reach of Palmer. Like some little embarrassed kid, I couldn’t muster up the courage to blurt out “Hello, Arnie. Welcome back to Houston.” I also couldn’t find a nearby 5-year old to blurt it out for me!

I was in awe of this man. As was everyone else on the course.

Larry Nelson, a superb gentleman whom I met later in getting his autograph, was the defending champion of this tournament. He and Tom Kite, also a class act, were no match for Palmer’s celebrity and megawatt charm.

As a kid playing golf with Dad, one major thing I learned from both Mr. Palmer and Daddy was the not-so-simple trait of the handshake, and its significance. A handshake is how Palmer sealed the deal with Mark McCormack on becoming his business manager/agent. A handshake and giving one’s word seemed to work wonders for both Arnie and Dad over the years. They both put more emphasis on it than a signed piece of paper.

I think we’ve lost that aspect of society, and, clearly, it’s not nearly seen as the big deal that it was in Palmer and Dad’s day. That’s sad.

A memorial service is planned for Tuesday, October 4, at 10AM CST. It most likely will be televised by Golf Channel, which Mr. Palmer co-founded.

I suggest to those who are fans of the man or the sport or both that a donation be made by joining Arnie’s Army and the Arnie’s Army Charitable Foundation. I have.

I’d also like to ask your support of me by donating to my fundraising for the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society’s Light the Night Walk. The Houston Walk is just one week away – next Saturday, October 8 at the University of Houston.

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Forgive me for this long post. It’s been a long week.

I can’t help but wonder, though, how long it will take Arnie and Dad to arrange to play a round “up there.” I’d love to be the caddy, provided, of course, I have a return ticket.

This Doesn’t Impact You, Except It Does!

Count yourself among the lucky ones if you’re not afflicted. In time, however, you still may be. I bet you even know someone who is. The disease does not discriminate; it doesn’t care who you are or how young or old you happen to be.

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Cancer will strike. Period. It struck me, and I’m in my early sixties.

No worries, though; this doesn’t impact you. Except it does!

Every month showcases something special in the battle against cancer. This month is no different; September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month.

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A fundraising campaign has been underway these past few months to generate much-needed dollars to fight Leukemia. In Houston, we are only three weeks away from the annual Light The Night Walk to be held at the University of Houston on October 8.

As of this writing, I plan on walking in that event to continue awareness for our fight against blood cancer and to express my support for the men and women who are fighting and surviving this dreaded disease.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk is all about finding better treatments and cures for blood cancers so patients can live better, longer lives.

I’d very much appreciate your help.

Just click on the colorful image below and you’ll be transported to my personal fundraising page where you may donate online quickly & securely. I’ve already put my money where my mouth is. Won’t you please join with me to help? BTW, You should receive an email confirmation of your donation as soon as it is made.

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You can also join in the cause and the fun of this year’s Walk by going to the LLS Walk website and signing up. The Walks are all over the country. Here in Houston it will be October 8 at the University of Houston beginning at 5:30PM.

Thank you for your generosity by making this tax-deductible contribution!!! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them on the fundraising page.

Onward!

Help Me. End Cancer!!

Well, how about it?

We all know that Cancer is a bad dude. So, let’s put a contract out on him.

When I was young, my Mom joined in the Mothers March for March of Dimes. I always admired her for that. Today, I have a vested interest in this mission. I was diagnosed with CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, in 2014, and am currently in the second year of a three year clinical trial. Thank God (and chemo meds), I’m almost in Complete Remission (CR). But I’m not quite there yet. I intend to be, however!!

Others are not as fortunate as I have been (so far). That’s heart-wrenching.

That’s why I’m raising money for this very important cause, through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light The Night Walk: Finding better treatments and cures for blood cancers so patients can live better, longer lives.

Just click on the colorful image below and you’ll be transported to my personal fundraising page where you may donate online quickly & securely. I’ve already put my money where my mouth is. Won’t you please join with me to help? BTW, You should receive an email confirmation of your donation as soon as it is made.

Helping End Cancer

You can also join in the cause and the fun of this year’s Walk by going to the LLS Walk website and signing up. The Walks are all over the country. Here in Houston it will be October 8 at the University of Houston beginning at 5:30PM.

I really do appreciate your generosity by making this tax-deductible contribution!!! You’ll be hearing more from me on this in the weeks ahead. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them on the fundraising page.

Please do what you can, friends. Together, we can end cancer.

Thank you very much.

Joe (that’s me)

 

Editor’s Note: I recently read on FaceBook about a marketing colleague who fell victim to ovarian cancer earlier this week. Below is part of a posting my friend Maggie Seeliger shared.

Maggie wrote: “Houston marketing friends please share this post. My dear friend Penny Todd with whom I served on the AMA Houston board for many years, has been fighting ovarian cancer for a few years now. Penny did amazing things as president, including founding our charitable arm, AMA Houston Gives Back, which helps non-profit organizations with their own marketing needs. The chapter has since added an annual scholarship to this program, which we are renaming as the AMA Houston Chapter Penny Todd Scholarship. We’ll be announcing this renaming at the September 14 chapter luncheon at the Junior League, and we hope you can join us to help honor Penny.”

Visit AMA Houston for more info.

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Elvis, Dad and Me . . . 38 years ago this week.

This weeks marks the last week of freedom for some school kids here in the US.

In Memphis, TN, Elvis fans the world over have convened to commemorate the 39th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, August 16, 1977.

August 20, this coming Saturday, I commemorate the 38th anniversary of the passing of my dad, J.Gilbert “Sonny” Fournet.

In 1978, I was in Memphis paying my respects to the King of Rock-n-Roll when I heard that my dad had been admitted to the hospital. The next few days I lived my own version of The Twilight Zone.

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Vester Presley (L.) and me

While in Memphis, I visited Elvis’ gravesite, toured Sun Studios and met and interviewed Sam Phillips’s son, Knox. I would eventually meet and pay my respects to several members of Elvis’ family, including his uncle, Vester. I even got to meet and chat with Elvis’ sidekick, Charlie Hodge and Dick Grob, Elvis’ head of security.

I phoned home, Lake Charles, LA. Mom said Dad was resting comfortably but he was far from being out of the woods. How soon could I get back? I couldn’t get out of Memphis.

Honestly, some of the trip is a blur in my memory. I don’t even recall leaving Memphis. I do recall arriving back home and heading straight to the hospital.

That was on a Saturday. Even though several members of my family said I stayed with Dad overnight, I recall waking up at home early Sunday morning, with Mom saying we had to leave because they had just put Dad into ICU.

Sunday was torture but I still had hope. I couldn’t conceive of the possibility that I would lose him.

By four o’clock that afternoon, my worst fears became reality. I was stunned. Numb.

Memphis seemed continents apart. What I had just experienced seemed like it had been in a parallel universe.

Each year since, I take time at precisely 4PM and settle back for an hour. I visit with Dad. Two glasses are part of my conversation; one filled with Jack Daniels Bourbon (for me), the other with Jim Beam Bourbon (for Dad).

We chat. We sip. I cry. We chat. We sip. I cry some more. We chat. He sips, I gulp a bit. I cry. Damn it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never in my or my Dad’s wildest dreams did we ever think that he and Elvis would be eternally connected.

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Dad (L.) and friend of mine, circa early 70’s

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However . . . Back in 1975, Dad answered my phone call to bring cash to the Lake Charles Civic Center to pay for tickets to the upcoming Elvis concert. I had just heard about it moments before I called him. I was already at the Center for an unrelated meeting.

Funny thing was that ticket sales were basically a raffle. They’d mail you the tickets after they had been drawn. I didn’t know where I was sitting until I got the tickets. When they arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I went to the Center and asked the ticket people for a map of the floor and showed them my tickets to see what they’d say as to where I would be seated. They confirmed what I had thought.

Front row, center, right up in front of the stage. I damn near fainted.

(Note: I did get to meet Elvis and shake his hand while he was on stage. My photog friends were so caught up in the moment, they forgot to take the photo!)

Later, in August, 1978, one week to the day after Dad died, Mom and I were sitting at home writing Thank You cards. When I heard this odd sound, I looked up and it was pouring down raining. Rain wasn’t in the forecast, I recalled. I looked down at my watch for some reason and, I took a double-take; it was exactly 4PM, the precise time Dad had passed away.

We chat. We sip. I cry. We chat. We sip. I cry some more. We chat. He sips, I gulp a bit. I cry. Damn it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Soon afterwards, the “mini-storm” stopped. When I glanced down at my watch, I saw that only a minute had passed. I felt, again, stunned and more than a bit unnerved. It was as if Heaven had simply announced, “We didn’t forget.”

I will never forget that moment.

I will never forget Dad.

I will never forget Elvis.

I will never forget how I felt that August week in 1978.

I will always remember and commemorate my August 20, 4PM Dad Time.

I often wonder what the two men have said to one another when visiting with our respective families, especially during this time each year. Man, wouldn’t that be an interview!

Maybe one day I’ll find out.

I have not made the trek back to Memphis since that fateful week in August 1978. I have thought about returning, though. I read that millions of dollars have been invested in new commercial development along Elvis Presley Boulevard, across from Graceland (Elvis’ mansion). It should be one helluva Elvis Week next year as they commemorate the 40th anniversary.

Meanwhile, here’s to you both! I miss you.

Cheers!

This Week! “Light The Night”Kickoff Luncheons for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Tomorrow and Thursday. The annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk kickoff luncheons for Houston and Montgomery County are coming up this week:

Houston, August 9, Royal Sonesta

2222 W Loop South, Houston
11:30 a.m. Registration and Fundraising Fair
12:00 p.m. Program

Montgomery County, August 11, Woodlands Waterway Marriott

1601 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands
11:30 a.m. – Registration and Fundraising Fair
12:00 p.m. – Program

Your extraordinary efforts help fund lifesaving cancer research and provide hope to thousands of patients – young and not so young – and their families. Thus far, I’m a cancer (CLL) survivor. Won’t you join me this year?

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The annual Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk for Houston will take place this year at the University of Houston, October 8, 2016 and for Montgomery County at Market Street in The Woodlands, October 16, 2016.

Information and registration are available at:

lightthenight.org/txg

832-463-3636 

Your moral and financial support of Joe’s participation in this year’s Walk would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for whatever you can do!!

Life in a Sandbox

Ever play in the sand? Sure you have, admit it! We all have, even if we won’t admit it.

Unlike Seth Godin who posts his blog entries every day, I don’t. Today, however, I felt compelled to do something special.

My journey has taken me in various directions these past few years and, frankly, I’m still not sure where the hell I’ll end up. Life is painful and hope is elusive. My wife Pam and I have had many conversation about our collective travails. I’ve shared some of those times here in these blog posts and I’ll try and share more.

I know I want more out of life than just wondering what comes next. There’s got to be some joy in there somewhere. We need it to survive . . . and live . . . and prosper.

Recently, I attended a weekend conference on imagination at The Jung Center in Houston. You can read about my experience in the ideasnmoreblog post, my other blog for creative endeavors.

One of the exercises we did that weekend involved playing in the sand. We were exploring what hidden treasures await us that can be accessed through our imagination. Led by Michele Lees, this Playing in the Imagination session involved using a sandtray and symbolic figures (I called them toys).

This was one of those workshops that you could not be in a hurry or on a tight schedule; you’d do yourself a disservice.

After all, it’s “become one-with-the-sand time.”

But, it’s more than just playing in the sand. Sure, we spent some time running our fingers through the sand and spreading it all over the sandtrap, er, sandtray (I’m a golfer; I know traps!).

We even discovered the bottom of the tray was a light blue (think water as in the Atlantic, not the Gulf of Mexico). This would come in handy when we eventually made lakes and streams on our soon-to-become-imagination (fantasy?)-island.

Once we selected out toys, er, symbols as Michele calls them, we began the process of placing them in and around the sand. This was an odd feeling because it felt more often than not, like the toys knew exactly where they wanted me to place them – just like they seemed to call out to me to select them.

Once I completed my newly landscaped island, I took some photos and then wrote what I was feeling at the time.

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The phrase “two sides to every story” was uttered and, thusly, entered my mind. I then thought, “there are most likely more than two sides.” A different perspective, I thought, was also on display. Soooooo, . . . I snapped another photo from a different angle.

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Then as I gazed onto my island, the sandtray began to convey what I was feeling. I know, I know, that just sounds weird. Well, hells bells, we are exploring imagination, ya know. It can get weird.

This is what I began to write before time expired and we moved on.

I’m a reflection of your mind and memories, feelings, opinions expressed. These items called out to you, kind of like Snoopy falling into your arms (that’s another story). The Christmas Tree is a center of a preferred peaceful universe – you want that again – treasures under the tree, but near water. And my boat, half-beached, may be symbolic of your not having had a boat for a long time now. Crayons are still part of your landscape, even a fallen crayon at the foot of the Eiffel Tower (leaning, sad, in mourning). “Voodoo” doll nears a Halloween-like tree but is also next to Eiffel Tower (terror/evil still lurks). The owl seems pensive in his “looking up”at tree. Lighthouse, ever faithful, keeps watch over the landscape. Court jester is at rest and is comfy with his Kaluha bottle and crayon – he doesn’t need lantern at present so it rests by his side. The sleigh resting in Christmas Tree branches is just like what you did in your front yard holiday display.

Upon further reflection, I thought “I’m missing a small golf club, sand wedge, no doubt, and, maybe, a regular size golf ball. This is a sand trap, after all.”

What does all this mean? I’m not sure. I felt several emotions run through me during “construction” of my island and afterwards. I felt relaxed, sorrowful, sad, wishful, expectant, curious, somewhat satisfied – glad I had done it, and captured it on “film.” Other participants in my group got very emotional (angry) about some of their “toys.”

Perhaps some of you will want to try out this exercise if you have not already played with it before. It’s worth it. Contact the Jung Center for more info.

As for me, writing this blog post is a form of therapy. Among other things, I’m a writer, this is what I do. I also like to help people, to share experiences that may also impact their lives. Amidst all my questions about my life and its challenges and frustrations, sometimes the only nurturing outlet, aside from prayer, is my writing. And participating in weekend conferences like this one.

Lemme know what you think of this exercise and any experiences you’ve had.

Now, back to the sandtrap, er, sandtray. Sheesch!

The “little ones” actually mean it. Why can’t we?

This photo captured my heart. I can’t stop looking at it. And wondering . . .

Little white boy offering a flower to little black girlPhoto: Maggie Andresen/NOLA.com  The Times Picayune via AP

Lucien Novak, 2, shares his flowers with La’Nae Hartford, 5, at Lee Circle in Center City during a protest last week in New Orleans. Many protests were held nationwide after police killed two more black men in Louisiana and Minnesota.

Oh, the wonders of children. Their innocence is, perhaps, a blessing.

Sometimes I wish I had it more than I feel I do. I miss my age of innocence.

Each one of us grown-ups has a “little kid” in all of us even if we don’t want to admit it.

Shame on us for stomping it down into submission.

Shame on us for pretending it’s no longer apart of us. Inside us.

Shame on us for ignoring our “little kid.”

We need to tap into him and her more often.

We need to pick some flowers and extend them in an innocent gesture of friendship.

We need to say “Here, my friend. You matter.”

Regardless of where hatred and racism occur and regardless of from whom utter stupidity erupts, we the people are better than that. The nut jobs, I’m afraid, will still be hanging around some corner or some parking lot or some high-rise regardless of what we, as civilized people, do.

We can not let it get the best of us. Our “little kid” inside really doesn’t want that.

If picking flowers and offering them to a total stranger sounds weird, a bit naive and even uncomfortable to you, then try this: How about simply extending your hand in a gesture of friendship and, maybe, just smile.

It’s not that hard! It won’t hurt. Trust me. Try it.

The racist bigot next to you may not care. But you will, as will the person smiling back.