New Renaissance of Ideation

It’s a phrase you hear in industry today “ideation” from “ideation to creation”

The idea the “the idea” is such a hot topic is a key indicator thinking independently is gaining influence again.

What I mean is the paradigm of hiring young people out of college so we ((more seasoned (fancy way to say older) professionals)) can mold them into carbon copies of ourselves – that way they can be “professionals” like us.

We thought of that as mentoring. We were altruistically helping young people be more professional. In a year or two they could help drive growth.

That model has some legitimacy and a place in a modern industry.

What changed for progressive companies is hiring younger people who have new skills who think differently to “teach the teachers” how to leverage tech like them.

It’s millennials who grew up in an age you could dream of a new thing in the morning, create it virtually on a computer in the afternoon and print it in 3D the same night. Not older generations.

Not too long ago prototypical examples would take months or years to develop and production could be two or three years on the horizon.

It’s conceivable now to take certain ideas from ideation to creation in weeks. If you want to win be prepared to learn something new!

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The Cancer Cronicles

Chapter 1

Cancer Visiting Family

My nephew came to my home for dinner. He was asked by his dinner companion “what does your Uncle do?”.  He said “that’s hard to say, my uncle does so many things, he can do a lot of different things well, I’m not sure how to answer that question”.

I loved his answer. It made me happy because it’s true, I developed a pretty wide range of skills and always try to learn new things, understand things I don’t understand and develop areas that interest me.

The thing I know the most about is losing people I love to cancer. I have longstanding experience with this subject. I studied real case studies with my own family and good friends. I loved and cared for people in my immediate and extended family with cancer almost half of my life.

Cancer is the popular club, no one wants to join. It’s a strange experience, watching someone with a terminal illness suffer and die and have no ability to do anything to stop the terrible progression.

My maternal grandmother, both grandfathers, my paternal uncles, my dear friend Dolly, my mother, then my mother-in-law. All had and eventually died from cancer. During my childhood my parents cared for my grandfather with throat cancer. He was a smoker and drinker in his day and it was not a huge surprise it effected his health over time.

Both my mother’s parents had several different kinds of cancer. They lived and died with us  in our house.  My siblings and I cared for my Mother as she suffered late stage cancer she eventually died in my parent’s condo. The first death from cancer in my family came before my fourth birthday, my grandfather on my father’s side of the family.

My grandfather, William”Wild Bill” Walker as he was affectionately called by my Grandmother was the first to invite the spector of cancer into our lives…

I can remember a handful of things about him. 1. He drank a double rock and rye whiskey drink before bed every night, until very near his death jacquins-rock-n-rye-182. He was a great tickler (I was three, so that was pretty important to me) 3. He wore pajamas a hell of lot of the time, so much in fact one day he dressed for some reason and I was so surprised I questioned him about why he was out of his pajamas (to the laughter of the whole family). 4. He coughed all the time, it was a dry repetitive cough, a signature of his presence.  He always coughed 5. He died in my parents’ downstairs bathroom while we sat down to dinner.

He didn’t want to disturb my family and be a bother to his son’s family

He probably didn’t realize he ruptured his throat in late stage cancer the subsequent hemorrhage would end his life.  Right there and then he died in that bathroom during our dinner. The strange thing about this event is despite being so young, (not yet four years old).  I remember many details from that night, vividly.  The details stayed with me for my whole life even now I can remember the tense moments and events.

I remember the incident from the start of that afternoon, my grandfather was especially under the weather and coughing even more than normal. When my Father called us to dinner, my grandfather had a hacking coughing fit. He was saying that he was fine, not to wait for him and start dinner without him.

He was in the bathroom for some time. Eventually the coughing stopped and my Mother looked concerned. She asked my father to check on him. Dad called out “Dad, are you OK? Open the door.” He didn’t answer, my dad was just outside the door. Dad ran up to the kitchen drawer and picked up the small screwdriver we used to trip the bathroom door lock. He opened the door, only to find his father, lying in a pool of blood, dead on the bathroom floor.

I still remember my father crying out “son of a bitch, son of a bitch” after he forced his way into the bathroom. Our grandfather had been standing at the sink, so when he fell his body partially blocked the door. Dad was already too late. The sound of my father punching the bathroom wall, rang out loudly. He came back to the dinner table in a few moments and told my Mother to take us over to our grandparent’s home. Our mother put on our coats ( over our pajamas) and whisked us off in her (1955 Chevy Belair).

The expression of concern and worry on my Mother and Father’s face, my dad’s plaintiff pleas for his father to answer, his muffled crying, the sound of his punch on the bathroom wall, his cursing. Even at that early age I instinctively knew something was wrong with my grandfather. I assumed my father needed to offer him some sort of help and we could not witness this, for reasons I did not understand (this was my suspicion).  

253_main_lMy siblings were older and had greater understanding of what was happening

We arrived in Abington, PA at the home of my grandmother (my suspicion was confirmed).  My Mother whispered something in my grandmother’s ear, she looked very surprised and gasped.

…It was in that moment I knew my suspicions were correct and something serious had happened to my grandfather…

Some time later I asked my father directly if my Grandfather died.  My father was flabbergasted because I was still so young. He assumed I didn’t understand the concept of death and immediately asked who told me. I replied, that no one had to tell me, I noticed because our grandfather lived with us and he was not there anymore.  It sounds simplistic, but even at that age, it’s not, there is a complex set of feelings that goes along with events like these, one day a  person is here, tickling the little ones, talking with their children and the next day they’re gone, having exited without so much as a word. It is a stark reminder of just how precious and fragile life can be.

Cancer can linger, without mercy, and sometimes it’s fast and you don’t even get a  goodbye. Either way you cannot prepare yourself for the eventual end really.

Forty years later my Dad told me the story of trying to open the door and revive his father, after we had left, calling an ambulance and taking him to the local hospital.  He could still recall the conversations and visual details of that night. He told me what the scene was like when he made this grim discovery. More than forty years later he still recalled those events in such vivid detail.  Just like I could remember the details from my own memory.

…Our grandfather died because he chose to stay in the bathroom, trying to help himself rather than disturbing our family dinner..

I was only three, but even at three, I still had such a vivid memory from that night. I knew intuitively something was wrong with my Grandfather. I knew we were hauled over there because of this strange illness, and this was what made my grandfather cough all the time. That was my first experience of death by cancer but it would not be my last.

Three years old, in my parent’s home.  This was where cancer came to call first. It was not that much of a shock, he had smoked cigarettes and a pipe was a drinker too.  

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It visited our family, three more times in my life. Coming into our happy home and changing our lives forever in ways which can be hard to understand.

My Grandfather died when he was 80. My father was 40 and his son (me) was three. When my own father died, he had just turned 82, I was 40, my own son was three and my younger son was just born. It gave me more insight into how hard that must have been for him. It was hard for me too. In my own father’s case, it wasn’t cancer that killed him, but a heart attack, suffered after a long battle with cardio pulmonary obstructive disorder (CPOD) and heart disease. He had wrecked his health from many years of smoking unfiltered lucky strike cigarettes.

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All things considered my dad was mostly pretty well for a lot of his life. He almost had a heart attack at 50, he quit smoking and took better care of himself. He ran, and went to the gym, quite smoking and tried to be more mindful of his health.  He managed his CPOD with medicine and breathing treatments. For most of the rest of his life he was in reasonably good health considering how rotten his health really was. I’m getting ahead of myself. Cancer was far from done with my family at this point in our families story.

Chapter 2

Our grandmother on mom’s side of the family was next…

My grandmother, Julia May Burns, contracted breast cancer. I was just a child about 10 years old.  I had a seven-year break from cancer’s last visit and the aftermath. My grandmother never smoked or drank, to speak of.  She lived a pretty healthy lifestyle too, often playing golf or bowling and eating well.  So it came as quite a surprise and caught us all off guard.

…the Doctor said something about the possibility second-hand smoke from my grandfather’s smoking, years before, may have had a causal effect. Who knows? All we knew for sure was we were in for it again…

It is impossible to say for sure why she got cancer. It can be hereditary, her Mother had died young from complications after surgery. My grandmother was remarkably resilient even in the face of cancer.  She had breast cancer and then bladder cancer, and finally leukemia. There were many treatments, surgical procedures, and she did pretty well for a long time, or so I thought.  As my grandparents got older chemotherapy apparently contributed to her contracting the leukemia.

They eventually sold their house and moved into my sister’s, then later into my parents’ home, so we could take care of them. After some time the progression of the disease, got faster, the complications and treatments became more severe and the damage got worse. Still she was remarkable, in her ability to be positive and supportive, cheerful and upbeat virtually all the time. She was a delight to be with and everyone who met her loved her. She had friends of all ages her whole life. She even stayed friends with an old girlfriend of mine after we broke up.

I would ask her how she felt and she would reply “good” or “not so bad”

In the beginning of this protracted nightmare doctors discovered a tumor(s) in her breast she decided to get a double mastectomy, in an effort to excise the cancer to stop the progression of the disease. She had the operation but still remained remarkably perky and positive about everything.  After the surgery the doctor was giving her post operative advice. She interjected and asked him about “bowling in her league” in two weeks.  The doctor was speechless, he didn’t know what to say. I don’t think he really understood what she was asking. He looked puzzled, bowling…?  After all, she was 80 at the time, and just had major surgery.

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Reminds me of the joke about a guy having surgery and asking the doctor, “will I be able to play violin, after surgery?” Doctor responds “you don’t have to worry about that, this is a state of the art hospital, I’m a specialist and I’ve done this operation many times. Have no fear, after surgery you will be able to play violin!” The man smiled and said “great, I always wanted to play violin!”

(Rimshot! Thank You, here until Thursday, tip your waiters and try the veal!)

The doctor didn’t understand, she was asking for his medical permission to go bowling a week or two after a double mastectomy  (which she did).  He laughed when she explained she “was in a league”. He reluctantly gave her tentative permission with caveats but asked her to be very cautious.  She went on from there and recovered quite well from that episode of breast cancer. Another condition later slowly destroyed her, bladder cancer first, then leukemia.  She was very plucky and proud, she almost never complained of being ill or sick, even just before her eventual death.

Just one of the rotten things about cancer, it makes everyone feel like hell.  When you have it, you’re so sick, you know you make your family sick with worry too, so you keep a brave face and say you’re fine.  But you’re not fine, you’re sick as hell and worried. The terrible side effect of terminal illness in my mind, besides the obvious health concerns, is guilt.

You feel guilty if you’re sick – because you know how hard it is on the family – your family feels guilty too – because they are well and can’t help but think – “what did this person ever do to deserve this fate?” So often times the sick and the well suffer in silence together when cancer comes to call

guilt kills the soul

I can remember that there were times that she was so weak that she was having trouble climbing up the six-inch step into the house, my Dad called out to me and I ran over to literally catch her as she collapsed back out through the door threshold. Luckily I was there to catch her when she fell and picked her up to help her inside. When I was older I started to notice the rigors of the illness taking a toll. She would pray the rosary every day. She’d pray for her sister who died when she 13 and my grandmother was 16, and pray for us, but never for herself.

My bedroom was above where she slept in our home in a hospital bed, and I would hear her quietly sob at night from pain she experienced.  In the morning I would pretend I had not heard her cry and would just casually ask if she needed coffee or breakfast.  She loved coffee and only drank percolated coffee, we had a small coffee pot we would make her coffee in on the stove top.  I would prepare her coffee and spend time talking to her. We had a very special bond of love and friendship.  She was a central figure in my life and a source of constant love and inspiration.

Shortly before she passed away I asked if she was afraid to die, she said, “a little”. She seemed a little relieved I asked so she could talk about it.  I tried to console her saying “don’t you think it will be nice to be reunited with your sister and your parent’s in heaven?” She said “oh who know’s if that’s all true?”  I was absolutely flabbergasted having seen her regularly pray the rosary and attend mass.

I said “grandma you say the rosary everyday, you’re telling me you don’t know if you believe in heaven?”  She said, I don’t know if there is a heaven, that’s why I say the rosary, just in case!  Thinking of it now I still laugh, it was hilarious, she was hedging her bets in case heaven existed by saying the rosary every day for over 80 years! Good old

Catholic Guilt! We love to hate that we love it so, then we feel guilty about that too!

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The day she died I was attending a night class in college.  A friend asked me to go out after class to a local bar with a group of kids from class.  Something told me I should go home.  At the time she had been sick and was under the weather not doing well.  She was very weak in late stage cancer.  We knew it would be a matter of time before the disease took her.  What I did not realize was that would be the night she would depart.

When I arrived at home the house was dark. I knew immediately something was wrong. I went in and seeing a note that read “Went to Hospital” I raced over to the hospital. It turned out, during that day her condition took a turn for the worse, and she waited all day for everyone in the family to arrive to see her off. She could not speak, was very weak, but she would pick up her head and look around the room and point at each person, then lay down again for a while.  She’d done this a number of times that evening.

I was the last to arrive.  I was also very close to her and had a very special bond with her, so we believe the pointing was a headcount of sorts she was doing to make sure we all had arrived.  She was making sure no one was left out of saying our goodbyes.

…She postponed her death to accommodate the family’s arrival.  We all loved her very much, I’m sure she knew we would all want to be there to say our goodbyes…

I sat down next to her and to talked to her.  I got down close to her ear and whispered “don’t be afraid grandma, I’m here, you don’t need to be afraid, it’s ok, you can go”. I was holding her hand. She looked at me one last time, then her breath became very shallow and in next moments, she was gone. I was holding her hand still. I dried my own tears with the back of her hand, kissed her hand and set it down next to her.

It was dramatic with her family crowded around her bed calling things loudly as she died “we love you. love you grandmom, love you Jule, love you Mom…” It was the most amazing moment.  

It was like a scene out of an opera. It was crazy. In the moments just after she died, her eyes remained open, her brother and I tried to close them, out of respect for her. It’s not like someone dying in a movie though. She was holding on to the very last moments of life and her eyes remained wide open even after her death.  Minutes after she died I got up and left. It was strange, I felt no connection to her dead body like when she was alive just moments before. I left the hospital while my family were all still talking about it and crying.

I was gutted emotionally. Later I told a good friend of mine, even though she was old and sick, I thought we would have just a little more time.  In the end, that’s what you always crave, just a little more time.  More time for those special moments that you are so accustomed to sharing together.  One more birthday, or anniversary, or promotion, or birth…just one more.  That nagging longing for more quality time. When you love someone, that’s how you feel.  If you have unresolved issues, then you wish for more time to have that last conversation to make it all “work out”.

Things never work themselves out. Have those difficult conversations and work things out. Say you’re sorry or you were wrong. Say I love you every day, hold hands, smile and enjoy every moment because they are precious and you won’t realize that until it is too late.  

I was watching a television program about Princess Diana, and her sons the Princes of Wales said essentially the same thing.  They said goodbye to their mother the day she died on the phone, very quickly dismissing her because they were running out the door to play or go somewhere.  They both said the same thing.  If they knew this would be the last goodbye I would have said so much more, I would have told her how much I loved her. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prince or a pauper feelings of loss remain the same.

Do not wait to say I love you, treat every day like it could be your last or theirs, because there are no guarantees of a “next time”. There are two certainties in life as the saying goes, death and taxes

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The pain of that loss was particularly deep and long-lasting for me. During college both my grandparents succumbed to cancer, one of my best friends died of a heart attack at age 31 we put our 17-year-old dog down.  That was a hell of a time in my life.  Although the pain of my grandmother’s passing was particularly difficult, because she and I were very close. This would be the first time as an adult I had a close family member get cancer and die. It was the first time I experienced all these complex feelings as an adult.  You would think I would report how I had learned a lesson or knew what it all meant now. Nope, it was just as confusing as when I was three.  It’s hard to understand death by illness at any age.

All things considered she lived a great life, died an old woman at 88. Despite her illness, she remained remarkably upbeat. Despite the fact she was old and sick for a long time her passing was still a terrible blow to my mother and me. She was our greatest supporter, very loving and understanding. She was full of goodness and not much else.  She rarely gossiped or said anything negative about anyone. She was the leader of the family in a lot of ways. Our emotional touchstone which anchored our family optimistically to look at the future as bright and full of possibility.

Her kind and gentle spirit animated conversations and she presided over many good times. Her loss, besides being sad, was a game changer in our family dynamics.  It changes the family relationships every time someone dies. Each person plays a role in the family and effects the others.  When she was gone those conversations were not as light, the tone not always as cheerful. She had a way of ending each conversation and exchange with some encouragement or a positive note, the silver lining. Now she was gone, her role of adding that positive note died too. Those difficult conversations were no longer punctuated with that silver lining anymore.

…Cancer changes family dynamics, it’s  hard to recognize and understand that when someone dies. It is hard to put the family back together because it is now a puzzle with a missing piece…

Chapter 3

My Other Grandfather, Charles Arthur Burns, was next

My grandfather, Jule’s (the grandmother who had died) husband, was next.  He lived a few years more, also dying at 88. We didn’t know he had throat cancer, until just before he died. He mostly lived a pretty remarkably healthy life all things considered.  I loved him very much too, but he was known for being a grumpy old crank.  When he was young he could be a bit negative and nasty. He was the mirror opposite of my sweet grandmother.

My father never liked him, particularly.  But I did. He and I were buddies. He was very kind to me. He was a retired pattern maker (a master carpenter), an amazingly talented guy.  Like my other grandfather (who died at the beginning of this story, who was a machinist). He could fix everything and repair things, making them better than new.  Very highly skilled, hands made rough by hard work and time.  He owned a non ferrous metal smelting foundry, a lumber yard, then a pattern making shop, during his life.

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I would include him on little adventures.  I dragged him into the backyard once to shoot bottle rockets at my brother-in-law who was outside cleaning his yard up. My sister and him had a house two doors down from my parents (where we cared for my grandfather) He had no idea where these explosions were originating from and was surprised as hell when he saw us both laughing and running inside.

I once sent my elderly grandfather to the corner store for some carrots, (to my mother’s horror) he was about 85. In the end it turned out fine, he could not quite manage the carrot buying mission, so we drove down later to buy them.  But he loved being asked to do things that were constructive and not just sit around and get waited on.

A weird side effects of him moving in was his being asked to not do anything anymore out of fear of his frailty.  My mother was not too keen on him doing anything physical but he had been a very active person his whole life. He hated sitting around like a piece of furniture. He resigned himself to this fate and did what he was asked. Our care for him was like putting a wild animal in a zoo. He was used to having total autonomy and free-range of his territory. He died in 1992 also at 88 years old.

The same year I took my first overseas trip to Spain (Madrid, Zaragoza, Toledo and Barcelona).  I couldn’t hardly wait to see him and tell him about the things I saw there. Show him photos from Spanish architecture and churches. I knew he would really love to see this because he had made so many things himself during his career. While I was on the Spain trip I’d think of things to tell my grandfather when I got back. I was cataloging the stories in my mind, so I could recount them accurately when I got back.

I was going to tell him about the ancient cities I visited, things I’d seen and done.  Then develop the photos and show him the wooden pattern work and carving in churches and palaces I visited. That moment was not meant to be however. Cancer came to call again while I was away in Europe.

My Father intercepted me in the front yard of his house to tell me.  He didn’t want me to find my grandfather’s empty hospital bed in the middle of the living room. He broke the bad-news right there on the front lawn of my childhood home. It felt like a punch in the gut. Instead of celebrating and enjoying the trip together we planned grandpop’s funeral. We pressed a suit, and brought his best clothes and dress shoes to the undertaker, to bury him. That’s another tragic side effect of cancer on the family, it upstaged the other good things that happen. It’s hard to enjoy the good times because cancer is so serious it has the tendency to overshadow other good events happening at the same time.

Almost no mention of that trip was made, we just put it on a shelf to be talked about later. His death took the place of that celebration. It came in my senior year of college. Money was tight, I had a small business and worked full-time, but managing my expenses and mounting college bills was virtually impossible. I needed to regroup my finances and take a break. I decided to take six months off school my senior year to regroup my finances and save some money before returning.

I needed a break at the time so I decided to work for the season at a local golf course as a bartender and waiter. I played golf once a week for free and went about my business. Though a club member I got a job catering motion pictures on location in NYC and worked in the city for several years. A fire in my apartment building forced me to me move out and left me without a lot of good options. So I took a job with a cruise line in Florida with the intention of working one season, then returning home, moving back into my repaired apartment, and going back to college.

…I did not return home however, I stayed on that cruise line for several more years and didn’t finish my college degree for 21 more years. My Mother made me promise her, on her death-bed, I would finish my degree, so eventually I did…

I had some great years after college working at a motion picture caterer and then going down to Florida and working for a cruise line.  It was a grand time.  No one was sick for a change. It felt like this terrible vail of sadness had finally been lifted. I met my future wife, we started dating.  We traveled all over Europe. My family and I became more close than ever. It finally seemed like we were all catching a break after these years of suffering. I was doing well with the cruise line, had been promoted to Acting Cruise Director, then Cruise Director.

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The line was building a new ship at that time so it would be a short time until I had a permanent Cruise Director assignment. Things felt like they were looking up and coming together, life was great in every way.

Chapter 4

Rose “Dolly” Petti, a goog friend’s mother and my sweet and wonderful friend was next on this terrible list

In the intervening years before my Mother herself would die from this terrible disease I would know other’s cancer would visit. Before it came back to our home again.  One of my good friends Mother’s, “Dolly” would die after my uncle from the west coast and before the two uncles from the east coast (I think).

Dolly was a lot like my grandmother, very kind, sweet and caring, motherly, in a word.  I would eat over their home all the time.  She was a joy, so pleasant, charming, dignified and kind.  I still miss her like I miss my own Mother.  Later when I got married I went to her grave to put an invitation on her grave.  I visit her grave every now and then. She was laid to rest just a few hundred feet from my parents final resting place.

…Dolly’s cancer was in many ways similar to my grandmother’s. She had the illness, got treatments, had a period of restored health, only to get sick again and succumb to the disease…  

Like my grandmother Dolly rarely complained and was remarkably upbeat.  At her wake her husband, my friend Lou, came over to me (I was a little emotional). Lou put his hand around my shoulder and said “we lost a good friend today.” Even now when I think of that moment, it makes me emotional.  Lou was at his own wife’s wake, his childhood sweetheart, and he was taking the time to console me.  It cemented my love for him and his family even more. It was really helpful too at that moment, because I really did feel that loss.

…As deaths from cancer increase you feel each one a little more than the last, when another occurs.  It becomes collective sadness, not just a painful singular event…

Chapter’s 5, 6 & 7

Three uncles were next: Al, Don and Bob.

My father’s brothers all died during this period

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….I have trouble remembering the type of cancer and years each one died. I know they all had cancer…If my Mother were here, she could tell me – but she isn’t here to supply these answers because cancer took her too…For my Dad, it must have been devastating to lose the other pieces of his families puzzle, all in a short time.

My Uncle Al, who lived on the West Coast, was the next to get cancer. It was many years ago, (I believe he had brain cancer). I remember my Father said he was talking to him one minute and he seemed good and he died a few minutes later.  I could see the look on my Father’s face of shock and loss.  It must be especially hard to lose a sibling.  I have a brother and two sisters and the idea of loosing them had not even occurred to me by that time in my life.

My Uncle Al’s death was sad but mostly because it made my Father so sad.  I never knew him very well, he moved out west before my birth and lived out there my whole life. He died after a relatively short illness that took his health. Life went back to normal fairly quickly, Al was not a young man when he died. He was 80 years old, so the sadness was tempered by his age.  He lived out a full life and we were sad to see him go.

My other uncle, Don, who was my fathers youngest brother was next to die.  I know at the end of his life he had cancer in more than one place.  I think it started in his lung, then went to his brain. He was a heavy smoker for a long time. A funny guy and a very interesting person. A private pilot and business owner he had a number of family folklore stories associated with him. He was always pretty cheerful and happy-go-lucky when I would see him. Again, he was not very close to my family, living in Florida.  It was sad to see my Dad suffer through another one of his siblings deaths so soon.

Especially his younger brother, it was hard on him, but my dad was fairly closed off emotionally and didn’t really talk about his feelings that much. He used to recount funny stories about my Uncle Don.  It was sad, but it was not that surprising because of his lifestyle. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer (I think) the disease was already fairly advanced.  By the time he knew he was sick it was already too late. He had late stage cancer that was found to late to treat effectively.  It spread, he went into hospice and he died with his children and my parent’s by his side.

He was cremated, his ashes were spread in an acrobatic maneuver a “Cuban Eight” from the Steerman bi-wing airplane a friend of his owned. He was a private pilot he used to do acrobatic flying, with friends. He also owned his own Beechcraft Bonanza. He was a great character and he went out like he lived, flamboyantly.

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The last brother to die was our Uncle Bob, he lived fairly close to us. For unknown reasons my father had not stayed close with him.  I saw the remorse on his face when he came from the hospice where his brother had died.  I think he felt sadness for not having taking the time to remain more close over the years. He wanted just a little more time to clear things up and iron the wrinkles out, to make things “right”.  But you don’t get that with cancer, it comes when it wants, it does what it does, and takes the people you love when it choses, not when it is convenient for you.

That’s the funny thing about cancer it hurts everyone, it is an equal opportunity offender. It’s amazing to recount this family history all at once.  I forget sometimes how much loss my family experienced during these years. We had seen death in the family many times by now.  After every terrible incident there was a period of calm.

It was like a shark attack in an ink black sea during the night.  The pain of the strike arrived without warning, it could come back whenever it liked and inflict more pain and possibly kill you, then it could disappear into the darkness. After a few more years of relative calm and some really good times, cancer came knocking at our door again.

….I was working in the Caribbean on a cruise ship, having a great time with my future wife (then girlfriend) when I received the bad news. My mother had the same cancer which killed my grandmother all those years before – this time however it was worse, the cancer was discovered later in this case…

Chapter 8 & 9

My Mother Mildred Burns Walker was next…

Six months later… like a terrible replay of the worst days of my life – my mother-in-law also died of breast cancer Anna Pozsonyi

Everything changed when my Mother was diagnosed with cancer, it had come back to our home again, calling for my Mother this time.  It was like a black pall was pulled over our home again. Like her Mother, she had bladder cancer. Ironically she had asked her doctor about examining her three times before she was finally diagnosed, all tests came back negative for cancer.  It turned out my Mother’s intuition was correct however and she did have bladder cancer. By the time the test could confirm it she had stage three cancer with a formed tumor on the wall of her bladder.

If you know anything about cancer this is not good.  Having a solid tumor attached to your body is a very hard thing to get rid of at that stage. Generally stage 3 is an illness that you can be treated for but that usually leads to stage 4 cancer, terminal cancer. This was the beginning of my adult experience with cancer with: pain, suffering, the healthcare system, care taking, suffering, and aftermath of this rotten illness.

I will close this chapter here – the story of my Mother’s illness is very long and the suffering was deep and lasting for my poor Mother and for our family.

Her experience with this disease it too terrible to document and too painful to recount in detail. Suffice it to say, she was a fighter.  Who despite long odds against her and an aggressive illness, lived for 8 years with cancer.  Her oncologist came to her funeral and told us she was her longest living patient with stage 4 cancer ever in her practice.

My mother had a kidney removed, it came back into her lung, her lung was removed it came back into her brain.  Later in her life, she was bedridden because the tumors had put pressure on an area of the brain that controlled her motor skills. My Mother endured two major surgeries, had 69 chemo therapy treatments and 12 radiation treatments before she succumbed to the disease and after she died we received a red hat in the mail.

Ever the optimist she ordered a red hat to be worn by cancer survivors in the red hat society. Where they traveled around taking photos of themselves with red hats on. My Mother in law was similarly a terrible and awful story of aggressive cancer taking her life after a very gallant and lengthy struggle. There was no way around the inevitable for her either.  She died and changed her family dynamic too.  Everything changed my mother in law animated the house with life they had four pets the house was full of light, and talking, and laughing, and cooking and eating and more laughing.  It was grand and wonderful – until it wasn’t anymore.  There was a hole there.  That can not be easily filled. A hole forms in the fabric of the tapestry of your family, your family DNA is broken and not matter how you try you will not put it back the way it was before.  It’s changed.

Dna Puzzle Piece 3d Research Genetic Healthcare

I recounted this story to talk about some of my experiences. To offer fellow caretakers who suffered the pain and guilt that comes along with these terrible illness. I wrote it to let people know who suffer now, and for those whom have long suffered like our family to let them know that they are not alone in these terrible mixed emotions. It was cathartic to recount it really because I do not usually tell it as one continuous narrative. Cancer is awful, I hope for my son’s sake that some day they cure this disease.

…I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy.  F$@# CANCER. This is what I have taken away from these experiences…

My 20 Cancer Experience Take Aways

  1. Cancer – Is hard to come to grips with
  2. It will become your families central focus – ever-present in everyone’s mind
  3. Cancer suffers, in many cases, have to endure painful and invasive treatments
  4. Cancer will scare the shit out of you and everyone else
  5. It should become a topic you talk about and is often swept under the table
  6. Platitudes like “we’re going to beat this so we don’t need to talk about it” are nonsense
  7. Even if you do “beat” cancer, you should talk about it, a lot
  8. Cancer is going to break everyone’s heart – know this
  9. You will say things like his/her death was “a blessing” that ended his/her suffering
  10. You probably will not feel very blessed – you should get help dealing with your feelings
  11. Care takers of the terminally ill must make sure they take care of themselves too
  12. Cancer is a family disease, you will all suffer along with the one you love
  13. The Cancer club is very large – there are people available who understand and can help
  14. Grief comes in stages – when you love someone it may take a while to get over
  15. It’s OK if you get over it fast or slow, everyone is different
  16. Talking about pain, suffering, and your feelings, is a salve that can heal emotionally
  17. If you are troubled go get help, look in the phone book call the cancer society, call your church, call your best friend – call someone and tell them that this is taking an emotional toll – people want to help you.
  18. Being sick, or feeling sad is not a crime, you should never feel guilty to “burden others” if you are really suffering. Many times I would talk about illness with my Mother or Grandmother, most others would not bring it up. I could see the relief on their faces just to have a short chat about the feelings or fears.
  19. I know what it’s like to suffer through this – if you need someone to reach out to
  20. It will get better, really, it will.  Until it does, you have my sympathy I assure you.

Chapter 10

Cancer’s Aftermath

…Next Chapter Summary Below…

I plan to tell my own story and hopefully interview some of my friends who similarly experienced these kind of events. I would like this to be a post people can read and add their own story in the comments section as a living document. If you are experiencing this disease now as a sufferer or as someone who is trying to ease the pain and suffering of a loved one.  I wanted to write this down so you could see these feelings are similar. Anyone that experienced cancer knows what it’s like. All members of a terrible club that no one wants to join, all the members know how one another feel.

Do you have your own cancer story of a loved one or family member? If you feel it could be cathartic to leave your feelings in the comments section, please do.  Get them off your chest feel and free yourself of this burden in comments section below. Hopefully this was of some service to someone and someone can relate to this and hopefully benefit in some small way.

Next Chapter’s Content…

  • The feelings which accompany terminal illness for the sick and the well.
  • The silent suffering of the healthy, and the mixed emotions of long-term care giving
  • The anger, guilt and shame that can accompany this rotten awful disease….

This next section could be many chapters long … for now … it is to be continued later… in the cancer chronicles…

Embrace Disruptive Change

10 Disruptive Change Agents – Thriving in Chaos

Remember Get Smart the popular comedy television show in the 60’s? I do. It centered on the life of Maxwell Smart, hapless secret agent. The thing that sticks out in my mind is the overall theme, the forces for good working in a shadow spy organization to maintain order. The villainous spy organization known as “Kaos” working to destroy that order and everything we hold dear. We are programed from an early age to learn this lesson, disruption is bad! When I was watching Maxwell Smart the idea of being a disruptive change agent was met with a sound cracking with a yardstick over my knuckles by a frustrated Catholic nun. Sister, you were wrong! Disruption as it turns out is very good.

10 Notable Disruptors of the Status Quo (In no particular order) 

1.    Women in Industry

I have been lucky over my career to have worked with very interesting people. One of the things I did during the early stages in my career was work on a Cruise Line. Working on the Cruise Staff of a super-liner as a young single guy you notice one thing that stands out. Women, lots of them from all over the world. The industry employs a lot of women and the infrastructure that supports the industry supports a lot more.

I worked on the cruise ships in the late 90’s when the industry was really starting to grow and thrive. The management staff from a gender equity standpoint however was pretty status quo. At the time I never considered how the industry would evolve and change and what would happen next.

I recently wrote an article about Carnival Cruise Lines and reconnected with some folks I used to work with and interestingly I connected with some new senior leaders in the industry. I could not help notice that many women who worked in supportive roles in related industry who were managers or department heads while I was working there were now senior leadership.

Gender Equality and Industry

At first it did not strike me as odd I met a lot of very capable women during my career and of course a number of these women would get ahead in industry. I looked across the industry and noticed that some of the women I knew as directors were in very senior positions and some of the women who were leaders in related industries had moved into the industry as President, CEO, SVP.

It struck me as interesting because I noted several at first. I wondered as I dug a little deeper how many women were in the pipeline in positions coming up the corporate latter. Something stuck out to me, not only the number of women increasing, but the roles they these up and coming women were filling.

One such female is Edie Rodriquez, CEO of Crystal Cruise Lines, who I admire. She has come to power in an industry formerly dominated by men, despite the odds and her determination, and grit stand out in my mind as key factors in her success. She not only runs a Cruise Line she runs Crystal Cruise Lines, rated number one in quality for many years. Setting the benchmark for quality as a frontrunner.

edie_bornstein_rodriguezcrop.jpg

http://fortune.com/2015/12/31/woman-ceo-crystal-cruises/

What stood out in my mind was the dynamics of human nature. You may think you are the most impartial and just decent executive in the world who is not swayed at all by any bias. Then it happens, someone who comes into your organization went to your college, vacationed in the same beach town, played the same sport and without realizing it your comfort level lends itself to bring that young exec up the corporate latter to the C-Suite. We even coined a name for the “Old Boys Club”.

Dynamics of Change – Gender Equality in the C-Suite

Women in the cruise industry who have entered into the senior leadership have statistically overwhelmingly worked for men during their career. According to statistics 94% the last I checked of Fortune 500 CEO’s were men. But, and here in lies the rub, some are women who figured out how to thrive in industry. One I was very lucky to work for Kathy Mazzarella.

 

mazzarellakathleen-750xx1200-1600-0-100

(EXCERPT FROM BLOOMBERG NEWS)

Executive Profile

Kathleen M. Mazzarella

Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President,

Graybar Electric Company, Inc.

See Board Relationships

$3,576,370 (Estimated Income)

As of Fiscal Year 2016

Background

Ms. Kathleen M. Mazzarella, also known as Kathy, has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Graybar Canada Limited since June 1, 2012. Ms. Mazzarella has been the President and Chief Executive Officer of Graybar Electric Company, Inc. since June 01, 2012. She served as the Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President at Graybar Electric Company, Inc. from December 2010 to May 2012. She served as a Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Graybar…

___________________________________________________________________________________

GB

If I continued to list her credentials it would fill the page. Kathy suffice it to say is very successful. She has thrived and succeeded in a male dominated industry and has bucked the status quo. Women in industry have a unique advantage when judging other executives, they are more likely to more seriously consider all candidates equally

These women have worked in a male dominated world of very intelligent and powerful men, have had mentors that were males along the way but also were shaped by their own passion and desire to be great and cultivated female role models. Hell now they are female role models themselves.

Female Industry Leaders Cultivating a New Generation of Leadership

This change will keep happening with every successive wave of leadership change powerful women will begin to bring more women into the workforce into leadership over time. In my humble opinion this will be a force that changes the dynamics of business conversations and changes the tone in engagement.

Every man I know who daughters told me having daughters made them better men. They were more careful about how they spoke and acted around their daughters than their sons because they were a bit more protective of their little girls. But the interesting thing that struck me was them being more attentive, more sympathetic, more understanding made them better listeners, and hearing more of what was needed most were able to provide in a more compassionate and engaged way.

Cut to women working in industry, if this totally unscientific sampling of men I know is indicative of an overall larger trend of men interacting with women. Women in industry will change the “tone” of the conversations, they will shift the perspectives of leadership and improve the quality of interaction in business.

I recently read an article where a very senior executive was asked what his management style was, he replied it was empathy, he was surprised at the question and had never been asked. The reply he got was, why not compassion? Have you tried compassion? 

In a modern world of connected executives from around the world a greater degree of sensitivity and finesse is required to succeed. It is no longer enough to be understanding, you have to be understanding and care about outcomes so you synthesize your solution sets around engaged and satisfied employees rather than mandating change as you see fit. As the demands on workers increase and productivity gets higher and higher people want to know that their concerns are not only discussed but brought into the larger conversation of company policy and culture. This will be a powerful disruptor of the status quo and a change for good in industry. In Kathy’s recent article she speaks about the quality of life and work life balance.

http://fortune.com/2015/07/28/kathleen-mazzarella-success-quality/

2. Technology as Disruptor

spacex-falcon-9-bulgariasat-ksc-elon-musk-reusable-rocket

 

We all know the names of amazing companies that have and continue to spearhead disruptive change, Apple, Tesla, Space X to name a few.

Tesla-3-Mask_1300x863

 

 

In a new digital age technology will play a leading role in the frequency of change and the dynamics of change and it has already increased the rate and severity so much now we commonly use the term “Disruptive” change.

 

3. Internet of Things (IoT) or Internet of Everything

why-lot

There are few technologies that I know of today that are more interesting than an automated custom made world. A “smart” building and “smart” technology. The idea that someday I will walk into a building and it might know who I am and could even tailor an experience designed for my person comfort is amazing.

You already seeing this in homes and business’ but it will continue to change in ways I cannot predict or imagine.

My parents both worked in the defense industry for their whole career. They worked for a sub-contract organization that was at that time on the leading edge of innovation, technology and change. They would have “family day” and one of the things that would fascinate the kids would be a computer programmer making a giant Snoopy the Dog poster from 1’s and 0’s by programing a computer to print the image on green and while lined paper. At that time there was a very large “computer room” where IBM computers were working 24 hours a day. A giant interconnected web of computational power unlike any the world had seen before. Running digital information onto reel to reel tape to change the way the world was working at the time.

Now the telephone in my pocket has more computational power than that whole room probably. Before my Mother passed away Apple announced it had crossed the threshold of supercomputing in portable form. They now had a machine that could make 1,000,000 computations in one second.

This computer was so powerful it was banned from sale in certain countries. I asked my Mom if I told her that I would have a computer in my brief case that would be more powerful than that whole room of computer at work, what would she have said in the 70’s. She said without any hesitation I would not have believed that was even possible at that time. I probably would have laughed.

4. Energy as Disruptor

Yes we of course thing of solar power as a technology of tomorrow but now with the advent of better more powerful battery systems the concept of solar power being stored and viable for consumer use on a much larger scale is not only possible but happening right now with Elon Musk in Australia.

1499415878495_financial times

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-07-07/sa-to-get-worlds-biggest-lithium-ion-battery/8687268

5. Microgrids

Microgrid

This battery technology combined with technology like a microgrid have tantalizing possibilities for things changing in another entrenched old school business energy. What will happen with solar and battery storage in the future is far from certain but my point is we live in a time of interesting and increasingly relevant changes that will have a greater and greater impact on the quality of our lives. Below I will post an article about what microgrids are for anyone who would be interested.

https://energy.gov/articles/how-microgrids-work

6. Emerging Technologies

As we look to tomorrow the companies that are best at embracing changes are going to be the ones that thrive. The companies that harness the dynamic nature of change as a force of good will be the ones who lead not follow in a modern age.

Schneider-Electric-Microgrid-Website

7. Controls and Devices

There are companies like www.GraybarElectric.com www.schneider-electric.com/ www.legrand.com that will lead the way in connected devices and controls that will shape the future and it is an exciting time to live. I cannot predict the number of changes and the nature of changes but the one thing I know is things are going to change. Changing for the better is up to those companies in leadership positions that embrace change and harness the power of chaos and disruption for the betterment of our lives

Legrand

8. Transportation

I could write all day if I include every major disruptive technology but another major entrenched and old school industry is being disrupted by Hyperloop technology. High speed trains, once the most modern thing in transportation and reserved for just a few countries with the technology and money to carry the idea out is not old news. I am not a conspiracy theorist but Elon Musk must be one of the reptile people human alien hybrid, otherwise my life in comparison is an abysmal failure. Slow down Musk, you’re making us ordinary puny humans look bad!

https://hyperloop-one.com/

808_large_Hyperloop

This makes the idea of Uber look at lot less sexy and interesting but if you told me my neighbor would drive me to work in his car for money like a cab a few years ago I would have laughed in your face. It is amazing how many things are changing the rate they are changing and the way that they change.

9. Banking (Seriously Banking)

disruptionThe idea of digital currency is still something I cannot quite get my mind around and I am seeing it every day in the news, Block chain. This idea would have been the ramblings of a science fiction buff years ago, a futuristic world were currency and legal tender were no longer valid and we paid with our galactic universal I.D.

Well tomorrow is today people it’s happening for better or for worse and it will stand things on their ear. In ways that are not even known yet.

10. Bank of England (BOE) and Fintech

transaction-banking-trends-2A

Huh? I get a connection request on LinkedIn I see the person works for a company FIN TECH. I’m not a banker and I don’t think much about banking but finacial technology in the age of bid data and a connected world, and bitcoin is becoming increasingly relevant and important to the long term plans of major banks. I come to find out, this person is on the leading of a change, that is considered so fundamental that officials from the bank of England are giving speeches about it.

The idea that a mainstream institution that has been in existence for so many years’ regulating currency and market rates would embrace changes like this is indicative of just how fast and how dramatically things are changing. It is an amazing time we live in.

https://www.forbes.com/forbes/welcome/?toURL=https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/02/10/a-complete-beginners-guide-to-fintech-in-2017/&refURL=https://www.google.com/&referrer=https://www.google.com/

Conclusion

I am increasingly more and more fascinated with radical change makers and inspirational leaders today. More than ever before things are changing and not incrementally, monumentally and quickly.

Weather all the changes will be for the better will be for our robot overlords to decide I suppose, as they light their robotic cigars, burning this digital money to light them laughing and saying oh those humans are priceless. (Just kidding—I hope!).

I have decided the nuns were entirely wrong – the change makers, and disruptors of the world are really the leaders. They are waving their hands and trying to get people to pay attention to an oncoming virtual tsunami of sweeping radical changes and the change makers will be the ones who are the early adopters of disruptive constructive, radical change.

Written by

Andrew J Walker

The Passing of the Torch

In honor of  Dad, John F. Walker Sr. A humble and distinguished man who lived his life honestly, demonstrating integrity, character and love – He showed us the way through life with his torch light. He’s passed his torch, I try to follow his example in my life – Love and miss you everyday.

 

I recently read a post of a eulogy for a man who recently lost his father. My own father passed away a number of years ago but it is still an emotional touch stone. An old friend just lost his Dad, we spoke about it the other night.

We spoke of course of his Dad and memories of days gone by, his general manner, style. We spoke of the nature of this particular loss, the loss felt over a parent, especially the loss a son feels when his father passes.

There are seminal moments in every man’s life that etch themselves indelibly into your memory. You can see this clearly in any person with Alzheimer’s Disease. People with this disease will recount days past as clearly as if they’re happening that very moment, they perceive people who left a mark on their consciousness so vividly.

My own aunt had this terrible disease and often asked her long time spouse when her Dad and brother would arrive. They had both died many years earlier but she could still recall the memory so vividly that she would tell stories about them and laugh as if it happened days before. She was confused, why had they chosen not to come? During her life interaction with her beloved family etched itself so deeply into her mind, even this awful illness could not erase.

The special relationship shared with parents is different than others, their passing is acute, the burden of this grief can be very difficult

This terrible event (A parent’s passing) is ushered in with doctors and lawyers usually, signing paperwork and putting things in order you never even knew existed to certify the next steps. There are legal papers needed to be filed to prove, without any question, your loved one has indeed died. Then every single person, your beloved owes so much as a nickle, quickly forms a line to get it.

After such time the appointed person or agency presiding over this matter decides all the debts are paid you get what your parent or parents worked for their whole lives. Not so fast says Uncle Sam, you owe me your inheritance tax, surprised you comply and pay Uncle Sam. Thinking now your troubles are over and you can get on with your mourning. Not so fast, Uncle Sam exclaims again, you have to pay tax on the income you received from that money I just took the other tax from, last time we talked.

You agree (again) and pay more taxes. Your now free to grieve, and mourn or are you? Not so fast says a realtor, you need the sell your childhood home or keep paying the mortgage, to do that, you need to go through all the boxes full of cards and letters, family vacations, gifts you made in grade school and get rid of what’s not important. Then take away what’s valuable, you make decisions – who gets what – if you have siblings. Then you grieve right? Not so fast says, some family member, Dad said he would give me that or I’m attached to that, etc…

During times like these the world conspires against you, as if no one wants to give you space to breath, take in the enormity of the tasks at hand and make the mental adjustments.

you’re now the standard bearer for your family, you’ve been handed the torch – now “Man of the House” – you’re the parent now not the child. You feel a sense of dread in this moment, knowing someday your children will have to go through this too, when you pass the torch.

I can say without hesitation, in my case, I did not have a difficult time with regrets or angry siblings fighting over a chair or table. Oddly we separated all the material things without any disagreement at all very quickly and sold my parent’s house in two weeks. The hard part was the letting go. Every scrap of paper I threw away felt like a betrayal against my parent’s. It must have been important to them because they saved it for some reason in this box or on that shelf.

Every Christmas card and letter felt like a sacred text that came down from the mountain, etched in stone by the hand of the divine maker himself. For me it was so daunting, I just could not deal with it and rented a large storage unit, literally put it off for three years. Up until the time of this article writing there are still boxes in my basement I could not empty.

Stages of grief in psych 101, turn out to be very real

After you get through many difficult tasks and copious paperwork and administration, you’re allowed to celebrate the life of this person and honor them. Usually in the majority of my friends this happens with some ceremony or funeral rights.

Now you’re really in for it, this is when it all becomes real. All those photos you so treasured, from those boxes you emptied, your life on display. These are going on display for your fiends and family, maybe in a multi-media slide show or apple movie! This fills your heart with a lot of those emotions from the moments you cherished and shared and the certain knowledge that you will not share any more. For me these days were like a symphony with every member playing in his own key. The feelings and mixed emotions come in waves. The strange thing is you fear this day and dread it’s coming but when it arrives it is the best part of this process.  There are usually many people you know and love to offer consolation and most importantly to show just how valid this feeling of loss and longing is.  How beloved and missed your family member will be to them.  Its a testament to the life they lived and it really makes you feel better. You feel that love and take it in and it washes over you and soothes your soul.

If you have a father that was a veteran, the roller coaster of emotions you feel during military honors is indescribably heart rendering. Your heart melts with pride, and as the coronet player sounds taps with that horn the loss hits your heart like a hammer ringing a bell.

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Navy and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

When these words are spoken they have a profound, lasting effect on you. A military funeral, as ceremonies go, is about as simple and direct an affair as you could ask for. But every movement has been perfected by the unfortunate practice having been repeated so many times in our history. Every moment of the ceremony is poignant. It’s an honor that fills you with pride and a remarkable spectacle – impossible to capture with words.

You recognize at once the solemnity of this ritual and the profound nature of every word and deed. The sounding of taps is haunting, even today, many years after my dad’s passing I’m transported back in time to the sailor who stood at the door of the chapel to play taps for my Dad. When I look at his warriors heart contained in the folded flag, on display in my home, I think of him – proud of his selfless service.

Getting back to the roller coaster of feelings, the heart swell of this ceremony and heartfelt love you feel at the wake and funeral passes away, in short order. You’re left sorting and sifting through your lives in the form of possessions and memories and when you’re alone you feel the loss most. At least, in my case, I did. It was the moments no one was around, when I would break down. This loss felt exceptional, unlike anything else I had ever experienced, it would creep in when least expected.

In my case my father died when my children were both very young. I felt like my wife was so busy raising our kids, she had a full-plate, my kids were too young to understand what was wrong. I would push down these feelings. I would go out to my car to drive to work, I would make it around the corner and sometimes, stop, just out of sight of my family, to dry tears that would momentarily make it impossible to drive the car. The feelings would flood in waves, torrents all at once that could not be controlled, like water from a broken water main. It was not a drip, drip, drip it was a gusher.

During this stage, the  “depression stage” was deeply rooted and heart felt grief and a sense of loss was so profound it felt like any time I allowed myself the luxury of a joyful memory from good days gone by, the well-spring of emotions would surly follow – it would take me away. in my mind, like a tornado picking up Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz.

I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto!

What should I do now? Was a frequent inside voice question asked

Strangely in a similar way to the events in that movie the day does come when the sky clears and somehow life some makes sense again – you figure out how to go on and move forward. Now the joyful stories come forth and you smile and laugh. You feel the loss but experience joy at the same time.

You pull back the curtain … to receive insights into courage 

Somehow the madness and tears, confusion and depression clear away and the clouds part and you begin again. Your the parent now, the torch bearer, the family standard holder. If feels strange at first. It does not feel correct, its like new shoes. You were measured, you know they fit in your mind but they take some breaking in to feel like you own them. This new found courage feels about the same, you know you own it and you paid for it but it takes a bit of breaking in.

You have the courage and move ahead, but sadly there’s no medal

Take my word for this, when and if this day comes. You will find a way, you will have the courage, there’s no place like home. There is no man behind any curtain, coming with medals but you will see the rainbow and ride the damn thing to the other side of grief and there will be joy in your heart again. This day will comes, and you feel the earth shift under your feet when you realize it has. You’re the man of the house now and that is OK. You are the parent now and you hold the standard for the family instead of your dad and you earned this honor. I personally like to think, somewhere, there is a divine creator an architect of the universe who knows my heart and planned my life, for better or worse. I needed to take heart, move forward, and become the torch bearer and light for myself and my family.

It’s hard to do but the rainbow is coming – I promise you, when you find the courage in your heart that moves you forward, the rainbow will be there waiting.

While you tell all the stories to your family and friends of wonderful days gone by you once shared with the previous lamp of wisdom in your life. You will laugh again at these stories and they will laugh with you and under a clearing sky – you will again see the rainbow.

Genesis 35:3

***…let us arise and go up to Bethel, I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”

There is one thing I know for certain, none of us get out of here alive. Savor the days you get to share with your family. Time conquers all and will conquer you too.

There is no substitute for saying “I love you, I missed you, I’m proud of you, I’m sorry, I’m glad you’re here”. Don’t wait to say these things, don’t think some thing of value or delight replaces the words and deeds that show you care. Tomorrow is not the best time to say it, today is, right now!

A cynic will promise two things, death and taxes. Have courage because the architect of the universe is waiting to pin that invisible medal for courage on your heart, when he does you will be free to enjoy what ever is over the rainbow. Death if final, but your memories last forever, at least for you they do. Don’t wait to work things out with the ones you love. Things won’t “work themselves out” if you leave well enough alone.

If you want rainbows, you need courage, invisible courage medals are pinned on for merit by universal architects, not for showing up. Show-up, suit-up, shut-up and be brave.

Get through the messy parts of accepting the torch. Grief is as messy process, not a simple one happening on your schedule. It’s a process, with a beginning, middle and end and one that offers beauty and joy over the metaphorical rainbow and what’s better than that?

My friend, I promise, there is a rainbow! Until you get there, remember the heaviest burdens are drawn by teams for a reason. Each member of your team wears their yoke and pulls some of your load, the team is arranged in a determined order – the course is charted to avoid pitfalls and perils. Have faith in the power of your team to pull you through in times of greatest need – that’s what your team is there for. Don’t be downcast the hoop you need to jump through is larger than you think.

Somewhere over the rainbow… this will all make sense. Have faith – it will all work according to plan. All my love to friends and foes alike – we’re in this life together, I don’t want to wait for tomorrow to say I love you and appreciate you all, today.

***POST SCRIPT: The Bethel mentioned in the above bible passage has no relationship to my old buddy, Col. David Bethel – I had to put this disclaimer in or he might think God wrote him into the bible to illustrate the greatness of the Marine Corps. God Blessed the USMC with Col. Bethel who selflessly serves our nation and the Marine Corps – I appreciate your service buddy.

By Andrew Walker – If you liked this article please “like and share” it.

#Andrew-Walker-Co #AndrewJWalker #AndrewWalker #Passingthetorch #MilitaryFuneralRight #Veterans #JohnFWalkerSr

A Weird Dog Saga: My Devious Plan Gone Horribly Wrong

972I guess we were lucky growing up. Every dog my family owned was just plain good. Obedient, listening well, came when called, laid down when asked, house trained, never escaped from yard. Just plain old good. In fact, I secretly used to think people with bad dogs had somehow corrupted their essential good nature and somehow tarnished their spotless character through some terrible family behavior. 

Similarly, I also owned a few cats, same story. Came when called, happy to see me, sat on my lap, generally cats who demonstrated traits you want to make you want to own a cat – well behaved virtually every minute of every day.
…Having owned three dogs and two cats growing up I couldn’t wait to have my own faithful companions first chance I got with my own family…

The rub was, I married a woman who was allergic to cats and dogs. Completely dashing my hopes on the rocks of broken dreams. I went along with this arrangement, resigning myself to my fate of dogless adulthood. Dutifully going about my lonely days and empty lapped evenings without one pant, bark, meow or purr for some time. 

When we first got married we lived in a condo so the lack of a pet did not particularly bother me. We had not had our kids yet, I traveled more, we had movie nights, date nights! Hey, who needs a furry friend under these circumstances right?

Fast forward a few years, we have our first son, then our second, we move to a larger home, then a home larger still. I am starting to notice my wonderful date nights and world travel supplanted with trips to-day care and endless sporting events. Now the absence of man’s best friend started to pull at my heart-strings. However I am still the dutiful husband, honoring his wife’s “condition” she cannot be around any animal. 

Then it happened…my wife decides to get, not one but two cats, she’s on the “Pet Finder” website at a fevered pitch and will not stop looking until she finds the purrfect (see what I did there?…still got it) 

Long story short, she looks until she finds two healthy young Abyssinian cats, brother and sister, “King George” and “Queen Sophia” – they apparently have a custom of naming pure breed cats with unusual names. 

Anyway, I negotiate the treaty with the Russian cat breeder who turns out to be very nice. We go to Brooklyn and we meet our new cats “George” and “Sophie”. My wife being from Europe immediately announces we are going to let these two, pure breed, cats run free outside, like we live on a farm. 

Her rational “we do this in Europe” my defense “Well in America We Don’t!” does not seem to have the same weight in terms of decision-making power.

I am happy to have a pet anyway. The cats turn out to be really great and we all love them. They are the best cats ever. These cats are weird though, in that they come like a dog when called. So they are God knows’ where out in the suburban wilderness, you call their names and they come running, literally running to our door.

…George and His Benefactor Gabi…

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Don’t get me wrong, I love the cats like everyone else in the house but after twice weekly visits to the allergists to have cats (by my wife) I am feeling a little slighted. 

I bring up the topic of dogs to test the proverbial waters. “Hey how about we get a dog,?” I say casually. 

My wife meets this comment with an incredulous look. Immediately firing back, you know I am allergic to animals! 

Because I’m so mature the fact my wife was willing to get shots, for three years, to grant her own cat owning wish, has virtually no effect on my mood or behavior what so ever. 

Just kidding, I like many men, am a man-child, who wants his own way too. I’m now holding on to my man’s best friend resentment daily. It is like a simmering pot, eventually this is going to boil over it is just a matter of time. I know this in the depths of my heart.

I wait a few months, with the disaplin of a monk. Then ask another way “Hey what if we got a dog and we have a dog house in the yard?” She quickly shots me down with the fact we live in the northeast. 

I persist, undaunted “we can keep the dog downstairs only…” again my wife looks at me with a look of disbelief and say’s you don’t think I am going to endure another three years of those painful shots just to get a dog, do you?” 

I say “of course not” because I am really mature and logical…Just kidding, I am in no way on-board with this logic and do, in fact expect her to do this.

I realize in this moment my more base childish nature will eventually win this battle. I will use my normal strategy of doing something I know, full well, my wife will hate, apologizing profusely and groveling for forgiveness” 

Now I know my wife, she is a hard-headed Hungarian with a memory like an elephant. She will never let me live this down if I take this leap. 

She can also sniff out my schemes, like no one I have ever known. I need to exercise the discipline of the Samurai and be stealthy as a ninja.

I decide to lay low, I have been talking dogs too much, she is starting to give me the Elliot Ness interrogation look. I can see her looking for the bare lightbulb and chair to tie me up in, to beat the truth out of me. 

So I am as disciplined as can be. I say nothing for months, then start to hatch my evil dog-buying plans. I should say, my evil dog(s) buying plan. 

I spitefully decided if she gets two cats, then by God, I get two dogs too. I am “all-in” with this insane plan now, I have gone 5150 dog buyer now, I just don’t give a shit.

I realize she is going to probably murder me in my sleep for this one. I already pulled this routine with a piano, table saw, 1949 GMC pickup truck. I’m seriously running out of the forgiveness with this particular Hungarian. 

I stealthfully acquire a secret list of hypoallergenic dogs off the internet to start to secretly interview my wife.  I say to my wife, “Gabi, do you like poodles?, I hear they are really smart, what do you think?” 

Immediately she says how much she hates poodles, then lists a dozen reasons poodles are no damn good.

…I lay low again, lying in wait with the next name on my potential dog buying list, next breed…

“Gabi, do you like Schnauzers? I think they’re really cute, what do you think about them?” Gabi immediately has a “Schnauzers are terrible” then recites a list of 12 reasons, adding a personal anecdote about her friend Judy, who had a Giant Schnauzer who literally leaped from the window of her moving car. 

Again, with the purity and disapline of a monk, I lay low again and meditate on this. I am waiting for the next name on my list, to spring my trap. If I go to fast with the questioning “Sherlock” is going to sniff my plan out. 

So I wait….finally getting down to literally the last breed on the list, Basenji’s “the barkless dog”. They do not bark, at all, they never bark in fact, they hardly make any noise at all, ever. They are just the right size and they are good looking.

I ask, “Gabi, do you like these dogs?” eureka, I hit pay dirt! “Yes I do (she says emphatically), they’re really pretty” 

Literally, five minutes later I’m in our spare room, frantically searching for basenji breeders. I’m on a mission from God, to get these damn dogs.  I am so ready!

I don’t want to take any chances, this operation is going to be found out, my palms are sweaty, thinking about my wife interrogating me. I will crack under pressure, I know this, name rank and serial number only. 

So it goes like this, I find a breeder who has great dogs. I make some excuse to go on a southern business trip down and I make the run to South Carolina. 

When I say this breeder was in the back woods, I am insulting the people who live in the back woods. This place in really in the boondocks. I go down an unpaved road for miles, met by stares that say “you’re not from around here are you boy?” to pick up the dogs.

 I realize I am truly in crazy town when the dog breeders husband starts telling me about how they opened the farmstead when they realized the Illuminati were going to take over America. I decided, maybe it was time for me to go. Before I ended up in a ditch somewhere as a suspected Illuminati sympathizer. 

So I get the dogs, they are cute as you like, they really do not bark, but they literally are the worst dogs ever.

My wife is as hot as a firecracker and really not happy with me. To compound matters, these dogs are digging out of the yard, literally every day, running the town. They never come when called, they listen if they want to and if they don’t like what you’re saying, forget it. They come in if they feel like it, when it is sunny. They hate getting their feet wet, so if it rains they hide in their dog house, then come inside to pee on the rug. 

When they are not peeing on the rug, they are eating the furniture. So far, one couch, two Ethan Allen arm chairs, the piano bench (yes that piano – the ask forgiveness piano is actually dog chewed, by the SDK forgiveness dogs) 

But we do love them, despite the fact my Dog’s act like cats and my cats act like they’re dogs.

…This is my little girlfriend Lily, my favorite of all…I tell myself she feels remorse for her misdeeds

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This photo was taken moments before the devil took my pencil or a sock, or some other damn thing she decided to eat.  No matter how many times I tell her, no matter whether I scream and yell or just try to appeal to her better nature, this dog is literally the worst pet I ever had.  

She has escaped from the yard so many times, I can’t count. Her brother is equally cute and equally bad.  They are now about 6 years old and they are now (mostly) house trained, they (kind of) don’t frantically chase the cats.

Charlie, Lily’s brother, is named after my Uncle Charlie, who ironically is a man that lived almost 100 years and I can think of nothing he did wrong his whole life

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 Progress report on these two…

They are mostly, sort of, not eating the woodwork anymore, and they eat (less) furniture and fewer pencils.  We’re on the 8th Sony play station remote. 

Lily has eaten so many pencils and so much paper, I swear she has a Russian novelist living in her stomach, working on his next great opus. But despite it all, we love them.

At the end of the day, bad dogs are better than 90% of most people I know and hell, they don’t bark, so I have to count my blessings – the funny thing is, even my wife now loves the dogs and they sit with her on the couch while she says how much she hates them and is still mad.  

But I am still asking for forgiveness – only this time I have dogs to ease my pain and suffering!

How can you stay mad at this face?

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My boy Charlie, the son who never gives me any lip, this guy is as silent as a monk on a sacred vow of silence!

 

Fear, Evolution and Human Nature

Reconnecting recently with an old friend by phone, we spoke about the subject of fear. The idea fear was actually hard-wired a leftover remnant of natural selection and evolution, the idea was in an article she IMG_2715 (Edited)read, fear was a natural part of human nature, natural selection had weeded out human beings long ago who did not have the right amount of fear.  The idea fear was passed down from generation to generation to preserve the fittest of us and to protect the species from extinction.

Personally, having a background in sales I frequently projected, and mapped out strategy, reviewing possibilities and responses to several most likely scenarios.

In business this is a great advantage during strategic planning.  Thinking of every eventuality, analyzing available data, market trends and mining conventional wisdom or other informed opinions to make predictions and plans for the future of your business.

This is exactly what you want in business, the ability to expand on these educated guesses, then properly prepare an appropriate response. The devil however is in the details, the problem with advanced strategic planning is it is hard to separate today and the present reality from tomorrow in your strategy, you don’t only think about the future of your company, you contemplate personal circumstances in light of the assumptions and think about consequences if the projections come true.

When you project success and anticipate a win, you may be brimming with confidence and optimism, full of good cheer. IMG_2714 (Edited)When you settle on a prediction one way or another, weather you like it or not, your mood sometimes begins to match your expectations. Feelings are not facts and your emotions can be deceiving. If you feel failure may be the logical outcome you might feel insecure or full of self doubt. I’m not a psychologist but I suspect this is pretty normal.

The problem with taking stock in your predictions when you’re engaged in an important relationship in business is that your fear may start to effect your feeling, and those feeling could cause you to broadcast these doubts to the rest of the world.  In a difficult negotiation or contract dispute you want to negotiate from a strong position. You can’t walk in the room with a long face and a look of dread or desperation.  Your competitors and customers will sense that weakness and take the upper hand.  You must demonstrate confidence to inspire others to follow you and for customers have faith that you can deliver on your promises. You should be cautiously optimistic in team development meetings and positively influence the sales process. Your marshaling your troops to support your effort and you need them to give it all they have.

I thought about this topic’s effects on relationship building and sales development and came to the conclusion I wanted to make sure that I was doing every thing possible  to maintain the proper perspective when engaged in strategy sessions. This negative side of projecting must be avoided. Undue worry and negative projections can create a self imposed limitation in a professional situation. The same holds true for personal relationships as well.  If I have some unrealistic fear that has me worried or concerned it may effect how much I am listening and engaged with the people around me.  Some of those people are very important. Like my wife and children, my colleagues at work or people in my community.

….this is the question that came to me as we discussed the topic. Am I negatively effected by feelings of worry or concern I may generate when I am planning something I suspect might not go as I plan it to? More importantly does this fear and worry cause me to give less than my full attention to my work, my colleagues, my friends or my family?

As we discussed this topic the necessity of realistic fear and healthy concern for dangerous or unsafe things was very clear.  You cannot live very long if you aren’t afraid of anything. We recognized it was important to maintain balance when thinking strategically to be rational and concerned and not emotional irrational and worried.

The reasoning is clear, to insulate your strategic advantages for planning an operating at your peak, but most importantly to avoid the sense of dread that can accompany fearing future negative events. I know the future is outside my control to accomplish my Strategic goal of avoiding undue projection and worries I needed a strategy. To force myself to activate my rational mind and my will to make a strategic plan for better performance, and for a happier more balanced life.

…this plan seemed so simple, frankly I didn’t think that irrational fears or worries had that much sway over my emotions…keep it simple, don’t worry about the future, you can’t control it…

The decision not to worry about uncertain outcomes and future events without cause turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it would. I was not the pull the covers up to my chin and cry the sky is falling, Chicken Little, type, I am the variety that might recognize statistical possibilities, trends or opinions and have doubt, those doubts may occupy my thinking too frequently. Which required making a deliberate and conscious decision, replace my emotional reaction, with more facts, better logic and less conjecture, and identify when the outcome is so uncertain that it is totally out of my control.

…It’s harder than I had suspected to assert your will over your emotion and force your mind to swim against the tide of evolution and human nature…

To stop myself from fearing uncertain events in the future strategies I needed to tell myself the same thing over and over and over again…“I can’t change the future, so I can’t waste time worrying about it.”

New element of my evolving plan:

…refuse to give permission to indulge in projection that wasted time, or made me miserable. I caught myself falling into my old habits sometimes. I would then apply this new part of the strategy and rescind my mental permission to stop the progression that lead to the bad aspects of unhealthy projections…

If I was going to be truly “present” and actively listening to colleagues, family and friends I needed to make this kind of change sustainable. If I failed in my strategy I needed to restart my day, then and there, and try again, being more authentic and more present for the people in my life. Paying full attention to them in the moment with my whole mind body and spirit. This attention translated to more enjoyment of these moments and that was the underlying  goal.

The more I thought about this idea, the more it made sense and the easier it became. If I noticed myself getting off track by projecting, I would restart my day, and reduce my strategy down to a few words and say this…

“No influence over outcome, no need to worry”

I realized even if I knew of some certain bad future outcome that I could rely on, worrying about that did not change that outcome or make things better.  In this instance I could ruin my day for nothing, then adding insult to injury, sometimes find myself holding the emotional bag. Not only did the stuff I worried about not happen, but to compound matters, sometimes something great and unexpected would happen. This would cause an emotional boomerang effect. First I would be happy with the unexpected good news, then invariably it caused reflection on the wasted time and regret would  replace the surprise and still rain on the parade of good news.

…as I realized the good effect of being worried less was positive so I decided to be more proactive, take more steps to change my thinking.

I developed another step, in the evolution of this new strategy, be more discriminating about information that was influencing my thinking and information I was using to make predictions in my life and in strategic plans… 

I needed to be “in the moment” and “present” more often to get greater enjoyment out of life, not necessarily overflowing with optimism every minute , but living in the hear-and-now, more authentic and true to myself and true to those around me. What I mean is actively listening, paying closer attention with my full mind in order to make a more valuable contributions to the relationships in my life – taking part in that present moment with authenticity, with my full attention and full mind and experience these moments with my colleagues, friends and family with more depth.

…The next step in the evolution of my planning was to think about how I would go about changing the data I willingly took into my thinking on a daily basis…

…try to create a better data set to draw from, to make better decisions, planning the future…

The next step was to clear away extraneous info that influenced my mood, interfered with my judgment, or generally wasted my time.  Cataloging things that occupied my time, Facebook, political discussion, arguments, TV, internet trolling to kill time, people who took more than they gave or who often made me frustrated.  I decided to apply this logic every place I could. I routinely applied this logic at work to do good strategic planning, clean data gives you better facts and analysis and helps you make better decisions, good data in – good data out.

This would be my new strategy for sustaining this new way of thinking. I don’t mean to sound like a Pollyanna.  I have normal concerns, and worry occasionally, but when I reduced the amount of negative information I allowed into my thinking, on purpose, I noticed less emotional and irrational info influencing my thinking. I had less to cloud the rational thinking and pull me off track.

I started to filter my own “data stream” more carefully, what I watched on TV, who my friends were on social media, who I followed on social media, or who I chose to speak to regularly, music I listened to, who I associated with at work and in my life and what conversations I chose to have. I cut free anyone and anything that I could I felt was not supporting my goals.

Some of those people have come back into my life again, some will not.  I limited the kind of news and editorials I read and other media I consume.  If I have a choice to read fiction or non fiction, I would choose the later –  avoiding more biased news on the left and the right. Limiting my speech on controversial subjects. I have found I am  enjoying my life more.

..I worry less and care more. I have better perspective and judgment, I am more calm in general, have more time to think, am frustrated less and make more informed decisions that I base assumptions on during planning. 

…The natural consequence of this new way of thinking is I am less jammed up about projecting about the future because I’m in the “present” more of my day…

Today a colleague from work looked concerned the first thing in the morning I contemplated saying something but decided it was none of my business. I went about my business, but the truth was it was fear, in that moment, I was afraid she would feel intruded upon, or worse, she would say “what the heck are you talking about, I’m fine” then I would really look foolish. I recognized this was the same kind of thing as the strategic fears ruining my day.

I saw her later the same day and decided to stop what I was doing and ask her “are you OK?” She immediately seemed relieved – told me she was a bit overwrought, she was  in need of encouragement. I put my arm on her shoulder and gave her a word of encouragement. I could sense her burden lifted in that moment, a little bit, she had a  listening ear and empathetic heart, reaching out authentically with a small gesture. Human nature recognizes sincerity and earnestness, she knew I was concerned for her and my concern was appreciated. It is human nature after all, when someone cares for us, we notice this.

The amazing thing about this small exchange was my own burden seemed to be lighter too.  The great paradox of living in the present more authentically and giving of yourself more was, the more I gave of myself with my full mind and intention, the more I got back. The more I shut out negativity, the more room in my mind and heart there was for positive things I want to focus on and would rather spend my time on.

…The more I give of myself to the people around me, the more the people around me reciprocate, weather I ask them to or not, which makes life more enjoyable, more full of joy, who doesn’t want that?…

The more you do for others in their time of need the more your own needs become relevant to those around you – this thought experiment offered much needed perspective, as a bonus, the world seems like a better place to live in – If I can remember to be more present and authentic – it’s better for me and everyone else I come into contact with.

If you like this short article and you would like me to do a series of pieces on fear… please be sure to “like” and “share” this blog post and please follow my blog at  

https://andrew-walker.co/  – I can use the support and encouragement.

Why Terrorism Always Fails 

In light of this latest terrible attack in Manchester UK, I wanted to make a short post to assert what all good people know is true.  Terrorism always fails.  England stood up against Nazi buzz bombs, the Blitz of WWII and good people always prevail.  A lunatic with a gun, a knife or a bomb may strike fear in our hearts but they also reveal the charter of good men and women who will not allow this type of madness to win.  You may win some small skirmish some insignificant battle but you will lose the war. These mindless terrible, cowardly acts will only focus our attention.  All eyes will be on the cities you hide in as they are razed – more people will needlessly perish who do not share this zeal.  Ultimately terrorist die in flattened cities accomplishing nothing, remembered only as tyrants and lunatics who came from cities erased from maps. For what? Good will prevail – period – God Bless Manchester UK – our hearts and minds are with you in America.

Interesting news facts 5/2/2017

  • Harvard reports they’re looking to include more minority business cases to study in Harvard Business School to help students develop a greater understanding and an appreciation for successful business’ in minority communities in America.
  • At the same time, business is reporting business school graduates are coming into industry unprepared, without a developed ability to reason and write effectively, necessary skills. Business schools are attempting to use integrated approaches to teaching the material with a greater emphasis on things you might concentrate on in the study of humanities, like a History or English Literature major.
  • My personal takeaway is and  has always been learning facts alone without any context from history or ability to fully express a rational argument to forward your interests in life and business leaves a person very one dimensional. Who needs or wants an employee who can only recite facts without the ability to interpret deeper meaning? If we can’t learn lessons from history we are damned to repeat it – now more than ever.
  • I would like your perspectives, what do you think?
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