Thursday, November 9, 2017

Bernie

About ten years ago, I stumbled upon the work of a man who invested his life in play. I am not talking about someone who had fun as they lived their life. The is Bernie DeKoven I am talking about. The man is a monstrous force, benevolent of course, in the world of play. He rocks fun in a way both intuitive and academic.

Bernie and I hit it off. The miles between where our bodies resided did not get in the way.

At one point, I thought of a game he might enjoy, a game designed to be collaborative rather than competitive. He surprised me by asking if he could publish it on his website, deepFUN.com. It is my honor to be mentioned there. He named my game Drawing Together. It is the perfect name, operating on multiple levels. He compiled a list of on-line tools which make playing the game easy and fun for people on opposite ends of the earth. https://www.deepfun.com/loving-fun-on-the-virtual-playground/

Bernie and I have been in touch less often in recent years, even as we still bump into each other on the interwebz now and again.

Bernie is fun in the simplest ways. When I explained that Julia and I were moving to North Carolina, putting the kibosh on any plans for a BernieThon in Denver, he replied, "Raleigh? Really?"

I was stunned and saddened when Bernie announced six months ago in his typical playful way that his gig on this planet was drawing to a close. I had not managed to get our physical presences colocated, and when he made his announcement, I deeply regretted never getting together in the real world. When I touched base with Bernie after learning of his illness, we both knew that sadness and playfulness are not mutually exclusive. I vowed to play on.

Bernie taught me that the joy of life underlies it all. As is the nature of life lived in an earth suit, we each deal with plenty of trauma along the way. Once we recognize that Love (the source of joy) is not defeatable, that it, in fact, is the very river down which we float as our days flow one by one, we are able to return to that place where all is okay now. It is okay now because it always was and will be.

Most recently here, I wrote about my wife's stroke and how we are accommodating her recovery as we discover our new center, our place we return to after each event which seemed troublesome at the time. I think of Bernie a great deal now. Knowing that he is facing his terminal illness with exactly the same grace and humor as he has faced each day, always expecting to find fun around the next bend of the river, is a source of inspiration.

Here's the thing: a life is not defined by the events which transpire. Oh, no. I seek each day to define my life by the creative ways I find the fun, plan space for play, jubilate in the joy.

Bernie has decided to stop writing and focus his days going forward on those he touches and who touch him, family and dearest friends. He leaves behind a wonderfully rich resource for anyone seeking to add fun to their lives, their workplaces, their theses.

You may not meet Bernie. Spend some time at deepFUN.com, and you will know him anyway.

Bernie, thanks for your guidance. I doubt I made it clear in those moments we played with each other, as those moments were fully engaging, leaving little self to cogitate on the value of such times. Let me be clear now: I love you, Bernie. Thank you with every chortle in my body, every giggle in my gut, all the belly laughs I can stand.

Bless you on your way. I hope to catch your show at some point down the river, my friend.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Thriving? Sure!

Today is the 2,594th day since I last scribbled a message and posted it here.

Not surprisingly, much has happened in the intervening seven years, one month, and seven days. Back on September 14, 2010, I was delighted to be writing about my friend Patti Digh's little book of big wisdom. It had been nearly two years since I finally met Patti in person at a retreat she held in Asheville. The retreat was only a month before my wife and I moved from Denver to Raleigh.

It feels so long ago, those days in Denver. My employment situation was, well, not, so much of my time in those last Denver days as well as the first couple of years in Raleigh centered around the issue of how to pay for stuff. I was fortunate to have been given a reasonable severance when laid off after a 20-year career at a company which went from tiny to Standard and Poor's 500 in my days with them. But they decided that IT was something they could outsource, so they did.

My wife broke her hip within the first month of our arrival in Raleigh. Her recovery was slow but steady, and once she was again able to be mobile on her own, I renewed my job search more seriously.

Finally, in late 2012, I stumbled into an opportunity which has blossomed into gainful employment for well over four years now. So, there's that when I consider the big changes.

In 2015, Julia had both knees replaced, one in March, and one in October. In fact, the one in October was done on the 5th anniversary of our departure from Denver.

That hip I mentioned? After years of her rheumatoid arthritis working on that joint, the pain was no longer tolerable. On July 25th, I went with her as she signed into the hospital for her third joint replacement. Same surgeon, seemingly same great result.

As July 26th dawned, though, it was quickly apparent that something was not quite right. After a full day of wondering, a 10 pm MRI finally confirmed the stroke we knew, by then, had caused Julia to lose most function on her left side.

Four weeks at WakeMed Rehab Hospital followed by nearly four weeks at the Rex Hospital rehab facility concluded with Julia coming home on September 23rd. As of today, she has been home for four weeks. Monday will be the 90th day since her hip-replacement surgery.

In a way, it was a blessing that it took an entire day to get confirmation of what we instinctively knew: this was not going to be a quick recovery. It gave us a small window of time to come to grips with the situation. The hip surgery was to be two days in the hospital, a few weeks of rehab, and all good by the beginning of September.

The unmet expectation, that shock well after successful surgery that we were not going home soon, causes us to struggle at times. Julia should be virtually pain-free, living a better life than prior to her hip replacement. Instead, we are approaching the beginning of the fourth month of a recovery which may last years.

Grieving is an important part of the healing which we are working to facilitate. Noting the signs of progress is just as important.

Julia is now able to move around the house, sometimes with a walker, sometimes with a cane. She can take care of herself in the middle of the night, thanks to the portable commode in her bedroom. We will soon complete modifications in her bathroom which will make it easier for her.

Yet, there are so many things which are a little off. Her stroke took place in the corpus callosum, the area of the brain which connects left and right hemispheres. Initially, her left leg was paralyzed. Her left hand continues to be churlish and sometimes uncooperative. Ask Dr Google about Alien Hand Syndrome. I am not kidding.

For me, it is hard to see Julia struggle with physical challenges even as she works to get her executive brain function all the way back to 100%. She hates being dependent, she wants her life back, and she grieves that so much seems lost. That's one side of the emotional spectrum.

We both recognize and regularly speak about our gratitude that her recovery has been steady and began almost immediately. Her paralyzed left leg began to respond only days after her stroke. Compared to some of the people we saw in the rehab facilities, we know Julia is lucky. A great many have tougher journeys than the one we are on. So, grieving and gratefulness...we know both.

Stroke recovery is achingly slow. At the same time, it gives us hope to know that continued improvement is possible for several years. In six months, Julia's life--both of our lives--will be quite different from today. We can only imagine what that means. We both know that it is the energy and focus we bring to the recovery process today which will directly influence the life we share next Spring.

That's where we are, then: part of the way down a long road with no indication of its length or how fast we are moving. One step, then another, and another. One day, then the next. A month from now, we will be able to look back and describe the progress. A year from now, we will likely laugh about the exploits of Lefty (the minor Mob character that we envision is in control of Julia's left hand).

For today, though, our goals and expectations are simple and concrete. We will enjoy the lovely Fall weather, do some PT and maybe a little dexterity training, and watch some trash TV. We know that today is all we can control, so we will focus right here, right now.

I started this piece with a mention of Patti Digh's wonderful book, Four Word Self Help. For decades, my four words have remained the same: Start where you are.

"While it might seem otherwise in the aftermath of some human event we lived through recently and are still processing in our emotional bodies, the single-most critical few seconds we can invest are those needed to jerk ourselves out of our memories and into full presence.
Start. Where. You. Are. NOW."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Four Word Self Help

Patti Digh has taken an interesting idea and turned it into a delightfully rich little book.Four Word Self Help - Blog Tour 2010

The concept: compile self-help directives which are exactly four words long. How much insight can be delivered in so few words? When I first heard about her intention, I tried myself to concoct four-word sentences which carried valuable insights into living a life. It's not easy to do!

She has succeeded in not only delivering great, impactful statements of such brevity, she has also used those statements to invite a deeper level of reflection.

One of Patti's strengths is her ability to offer up new ways of considering our daily lives, to step back and feel the implications of the decisions we make each day and the cumulative effect not only on ourselves, but on those with whom we interact.

Her professional background in diversity training and consulting informs her more-personal work, what began as essays written for her daughters years ago, became a blog, then a book (Life is a Verb), and now is an ongoing and ever-enriching journey which she has offered to open to anyone wishing to walk along.

On a personal note, it was three years ago today that Patti and I began corresponding as a result of a comment I left on her blog, 37days. I had dived in for the first time a couple of days before and read many of the existing essays, works she was posting once a week. She responded to a comment I left, and we still are in contact to this day.

It was my great pleasure to be an attendee at the first Life is a Verb retreat in September of 2008 and to meet Patti in person and play with her Circle Project partner, David Robinson. I wrote about that experience here and here.

Four Word Self Help is a little book packed with a great deal of the Digh magic, a wonderful adjunct and a complementary eddy to the main flow which started with Life is a Verb and continues next month with Creative is a Verb. While it is a delight to read on its own merit, I do heartily recommend reading it as a companion to Patti's other books, as they set a philosophical framework within which this little book carries even more weight.

Besides, Life is a Verb contains within its pages the only published illustration I have ever created. That, alone, is reason enough to get a copy and become a fan of the work of Patti Digh!

Friday, September 3, 2010

About a month to go

Julia and I are moving to Raleigh, North Carolina in about a month.

Of course, when you have a month to get ready to move from a house you have lived in for nearly 11 years, a house with a full basement and a family with a slight tendency toward accumulation of stuff, you need to stay busy with sorting (this goes with us, this is trash, this is...oh, look! What is this? I better spend an hour paging through this material which has had no importance to me at all for the last ten years!) and boxing for shipment or tossing into the trash/recycle/giveaway piles.

And, if you are the Hamricks, you take a two-week break right in the middle and drive 1350 miles to the cottage on the lake.

We have a perfectly reasonable explanation: there is work to be done in the house to make it ready for renting to some loving family who will take care of our home by making it their home for as long as they want. The work can happen more efficiently if we aren't in the way.

Any reasonable explanation for heading to the lake (Lake Michigan, really an inland sea) is one we accept and dutifully act to align with.

It means we need to be really productive between now and head-for-the-lake day, and we will need to be really productive when we get back, but we both know that the break will do us a world of good.

We invested a tremendous amount of energy in launching Choosing Easy World, Julia's new book which was released a month ago today and is doing very well (thanks for asking!), and to go straight from that project to the moving-prep project was looking a bit too much like not-easy to us.

So, we will do all we can do until it is time to leave for Michigan, take our break and enjoy it just as if every day there is one which offers us all that is nurturing, fulfilling, and refilling of the reservoirs of energy, then come home and pick up stakes.

It is an exciting time. Julia is going home, as she has lived the majority of her life in North Carolina, and I'm going to my ancestral home--I was born in Chapel Hill, but have lived 95% of my life elsewhere, most of it in Denver--where both my dad and mom's families of origin put down roots.

I've been a Denverite since I was junior-high age, and giving up the familiarity and comfortable feeling of a place I have called home for more than 40 years is worth it, but it is also scary. It is sad to be moving so far from my mom, too, but that's why God made Skype. My kids are already gallivanting the globe, so us living in NC is just another stop for them as they travel all over.

We are very lucky to have found the ideal place in Raleigh for us, and that's what prompted the move to take place now. Julia found the house, I said no--too much money--and she called the number anyway.

After instantly bonding during that phone call, she and the owner's son started working to figure out how to make it possible for us to rent his mom's home. They got it figured out well enough that I was able to get on board, so now we have a signed lease and a home in Raleigh! (as you can see from the not-great photo grabbed from the Google street-view images, we are in a grade A location [groaning and rolling of eyes okay])

The house is in a beautiful, tree-filled area which has no through traffic--the enclave has one way in, and you exit right back that same way--rural-feeling streets with no curb and gutter, just asphalt and grass, and a pretty little lake only a block from our place.

The house is bigger than our Denver place, although without a basement we won't be able to stash nearly as much stuff. This is a good thing, if adding to our current challenge a little.

This new chapter is one we have been anticipating for a long time, and now we are turning the page to see how the chapter starts. I know it will be filled with adventure, joy, thrills, and satisfaction in all ways possible. There will be opportunities to grow and chances to learn more of our own courage and determination. All in all, it will be one more chapter in the book we started writing about the middle of last century. Julia and I each wrote many chapters, and only since 1998 have we cowritten them. This means our shared chapters have an interesting flavor of new mixed with experienced, still learning about each other mixed with the "here I go again...how many times does this lesson need to revisit my life?" feelings which come with the stuff we find to be our companions. Maybe this chapter, we learn some of those life lessons and move on to the next level!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Battle

The battle is joined
forces aligned in opposition

The horn sounds
and peace breaks out, unbidden

Monday, August 16, 2010

Julia hits the big time

We are now almost two weeks into the life of Choosing Easy World, Julia's book which details her own journey into the magical realm where we are designed to thrive.

On the way to this, the 13th day since publication, we are having media adventures!

Early on the morning of the 11th, Julia was on TV.


Later that same day, Julia gave a talk and signed copies of Choosing Easy World at the venerable and much-loved independent book store, the Tattered Cover. It is the single-most-famous indie between Chicago and San Francisco. If you are an author and want to sign in the best book store in Denver, you seek to sign there.

Here's the exterior of this, the third edition of Tattered Cover, located south of town.

Julia, holding a copy of Choosing Easy World, awaiting the appointed hour at which she will give her talk.

And, the line forms for folks who want her to sign their pristine new copies of Choosing Easy World.

As you can imagine, since we were at the TV studio before 7 a.m. and did not leave Tattered Cover until close to 9 p.m., followed by a small celebration at Indulge Wine Bar, it was a day we enjoyed to the hilt and one we were ready to close so we could move on to a good night's sleep.

First, though, we had one more impromptu Easy World adventure to experience.

As we drove home on a route different than the one I intended--the freeway on-ramp was closed, so we chose to drive up a city street instead of looking for another place to get on the fast track home--Julia noticed that there was a patrolman partly hidden by foliage on the side of the road. I noticed I was going faster than the posted 35 mph limit. As we passed him, we saw his lights come on, so I immediately pulled over.

He was from the county sheriff's office and was very polite and patient as we searched in the dark for our insurance card in the glove compartment. I'm good at getting those important documents into the little place, but not so good at removing old ones. So, we kept pulling out more and more pieces of paper, all expired.

The officer finally said, "Let's just go with this one which expired last year." He went back to his patrol car and did whatever it was he did. In the six or eight minutes he was in his car, Julia and I sat. She was invoking Easy World, and I was simply resigned to whatever was to come. In a way, it is Easy World, too, just without any rainbow. Allowing is a huge part of moving into Easy World.

When he came back to my side of the van, he said, "I'm going to let you off with a warning. All you need to do is take your proof of insurance to the county office, and they will dismiss this citation for not having it available for me. There is no fine, and there will be no points once you prove you have insurance."

We drove home with big grins on our faces.

At some point in a couple of weeks--the deputy mentioned that it might take that long for the citation to be available on their computer system--I will need to drive ten miles to the office and get the ticket dismissed, but that's small potatoes compared to the impact my mistake of going too fast could have had. I'm happy to run the errand when the time comes!

Oh...and I have cleaned out the glove box. Only current documents are stored there now!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Helping by staying out of the way (My Sacred Life, Sunday)

It has been a long time since I have written a formally acknowledged Sacred Life Sunday post.

This morning, I reached a tipping point which inspired this.

The world is a big mess. All those folks on the other side of the political chasm are jerks and worse. We are ruining the planet with uncaring and irresponsible actions, best illustrated lately in the Gulf of Mexico. Needless killing continues all over the globe, and we in the United States are providing both cannon fire, and cannon fodder.

What can I possibly do about it all?

My own path to peace--a path so short I can traverse it even as I type, and the keyboard will never be out of reach--is my way of helping.

Becoming a beacon, a human Klieg light intensely lighting the way from where I am to where I am peace, is my own salvation from despair. It is far more than that, though.

By making that journey of a single breath and shining my light, I grant others implicit permission to do the same in their lives, lighting their own lamps.

The very lighting of the lamps provides just what is needed to heal the wounds we have inflicted on each other and on Mother Earth.

The level at which all of the perceived troubles of our existence will be solved is the level we reach when we pause, accept our divinity, and create ourselves as peace, as Love, as accepting beings who know all is well.

The beauty of it is that no knowledge of deep-water drilling or insurgent engagement or dietary requirements for the starving is required.

We help by getting out of the way. It is by allowing all that is, to be, that we come to the aid of our fellow beings. Stepping away from the anguish allows infinite compassion. Radiating Love allows endless capacity for healing.

Breathe.

Relax.

Allow.

Enjoy.

In gratefulness, I remain your good and faithful servant in the Great Game we call life. See you next time around the game board.