Monday, February 23, 2009

Freedom & Responsibility

Viktor E. Frankl, an Austrian holocaust survivor, once said: "I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast." I've come to realize that with much freedom comes much responsibility. An environment in which one exists without equal parts of the other is not a wholesome environment, and is destined for failure.

Consider the stereotypical teenage rich girl whose parents lavish upon her every luxury. She has it all, wants for nothing, yet works for none of it. You know one of them, I'm sure (and maybe one of them was your sister growing up; not mine--because my sister reads this blog). They are generally wasteful, ungrateful and disrespectful. Responsibility doesn't enter into their vocabulary (remember Paris Hilton's DUI convinction--while driving her 3/4 million dollar Mercedes SLR McLaren--and subsequent citation for driving without a license?).

We see an excellent example of this in post-Katrina New Orleans. Thousands of homeowners who'd been unable to secure flood insurance on their property (with good reason; what insurance company would choose to insure a property situated on the coast, but below sea level?), were suddenly faces with demolished homes, and no means to rebuild. They chose to exercise their freedom--their right to own property--and purchased a home with no protection from what almost certain to be impending disaster. Yet, in steps the government, and absolves them of all responsibility. They've provided funding atop funding in the form of program after ineffective program to rebuild the homes of poor New Orleans homeowners. And what do we end up with? A bunch of rebuilt, un-insurable homes, in an area destined for disaster.

Innefficient by all accounts. Why? Because weve allowed freedom, but we've not required those with the freedom to take responsibility for how they exercise that freedom. We've allowed--in some cases even asked--the government to step in and be our insurance, often to protect us from our own stupidity. And in doing so, we have enabled further future stupid, and overwhelmingly irrational decisions--all of which detract from the overall value created in our economy.

Freedom without responsibility simply will not work.

Neither, though, will resposibility without freedom. Consider an environment in which you and are I forced to pay taxes, yet have no meaningful (and I mean meaningful) input into how those taxes are used. We bear the responsibility in that we pay, but we have no freedom (in that we have no say into the use of the funds).

Consider, then, the political climate today. It's widely acknowledged that we are in the midst of a severe economic decline. For all intents and purposes, we're in a recession. Some would indicate it has all the makings of a depression. We look around and see examples of individuals and businesses taking their personal freedoms to the extremes. Foreclosures due to borrowers buying beyond their means are rampant. Big businesses who lost sight of efficiency are in dire straights, and begging for help. Banks across the nation are broke--some literally going out of business.

Look across every front of this crisis, and a familiar face keeps popping up: personal freedoms used foolishly. In every case we can see someone who took advantage of their freedom without adequately weighing the cost in terms of their responsibilities. And when circumstances align, and the bottom drops out of so many different things at once, and responsibility rears it's ugly head calling for its due, what is our collective response?

In part, it's been an $800 billion bailout of big business and another nearly $800 billion in "economic stimulus" spending--including a great deal of money to help people who are losing their homes keep them.

And I read today that something like 60 percent of Americans favor this stimulus plan. It's proof positive that we Americans want all the freedom that comes with being American, but don't want to bear the responsibility that great freedom brings.

This, dear readers, is a dangerous place. The moment we ask to relinquish any measure of our great responsibility is the moment we are forced to hand over some of that precious freedom. It's appalling to me how short-sighted we Americans can be. Is our freedom really that valueless?

I, for one, am not content to relinquish any of my freedom. If that means that I'll have to bear the responsibility for each and every one of my decisions, so be it. Freedom is that precious, that important, and I'm ashamed that America is choosing time and again, the meager insurance that our pathetic government offers over the freedom that our forefathers envisioned as our birthright.

Yet we remain, as always, apathetic, sitting like the proverbial frog in the water as they ever so slowly turn up the heat.

It's time, I say, to leap. I leave you with this:

"...whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness."

-The United States Declaration of Independence

Monday, February 16, 2009

Quote of the Week

Among men and women, those in love do not always announce themselves with declarations and vows. But they are the ones who weep when you're gone. Who miss you every single night, especially when the sky is so deep and beautiful, and the ground so very cold.

-Alice Hoffman

I'm traveling again; can you tell? I'm in Santa Fe, where the sky is, indeed, deep and beautiful, and the ground is, without question, very cold, and everywhere you look the beauty and complexity of nature is so breathtaking it almost makes you cry.

And in all of it, I think of Shawna. When I look into the sky, across the valley, to the snow-capped mountains, my thought is, always, how the full beauty can only truly be experienced when it's experienced with all the depth of your emotions. But I can't do that because there's this enormous piece of my heart that's back in California with my wife and children.

So I've decided that I'm going to bring Shawna back! Maybe a move here (it's an absolutely lovely place), but certainly a weekend away.

Until then, though, I miss her and the kids terribly!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lesson's Learned

Let it never be said that you can't teach an early bird new tricks...or attention to detail makes one healthy, wealthy and wise...that doesn't sound right.

I dunno. At any rate, I learned something new this week--about giving, love and Valentine's day.

I learned that the greatest giving is multi-dimensional. I've always been a gift giver; I love giving gifts. This year, though, I wanted Valentine's day to be over the top. So I (as you, by now, know) began "wooing" Shawna on Monday. And I, of course, bought her a few small gifts. I took the kids shopping and they found some picture frames that I helped them paint (one evening while Mom was out). And I spent yesterday afternoon (while she was working) making a special dinner for her (it took me 5 hours, but she said it was good). And she and I spent the evening together tonight; it was a date (been a long time sinced we've dated! It made me feel almost young again).

And I realized that my giving, in as many ways as I could imagine, made me love her that much more! I'm passionate about her!

The greatest takeaway from this whole week, I think, was the idea behind Valentine's day. It's always been a day when you're obliged to buy a gift for the one you love. I realized this week that it CAN be an attitude. That deep seated love that is always in the forefront of your mind, that causes you to always be looking for ways to give of yourself as an expression of your love.

So today, at the end of Valentine's Day, 2009, I express my deep-seated, undying love to my wife and friend, Shawna. And I pledge to live each and every day in the spirit of Valentine's Day!

I love you, Shawna--with every thought and with all of my energy, I love you!

In all of my hopes, dreams and desires for my life, you're there. I look forward to a lifetime full of Valentine's with you.

Love always, Your Husband:


Friday, February 13, 2009

Ma Doulce Valentinee...

Je suis desja d'amour tanné
Ma tres doulce ValentinĂ©e…

Charles, Duke of Orleans, is said to have written these words (a declaration of love) to his wife, while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt.

I thought they were appropriate words; I feel much as he must have felt when he wrote to his Valentine that he was sick in love with his sweetheart, soft Valentine. 'Cuz I've missed my Valentine today. She's been working all day, and I feel like I've been locked away in the Tower (although, for much of the afternoon, I did have Alexis and Gentry for company; makes it a bit easier).

But she's home now. And we just enjoyed the meal that I spent HOURS (literally) making. I've missed her...glad she's here now.

Want her to know that I, like Charles, feel, painfully, each moment that she's away.

And I love her.

Happy almost Valentine's Day Shawna!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

That Song!

I searched YouTube and found the song that Shawna used to play when we were dating! I'm reminiscent this week, aren't I?

Well enjoy it...

Shawna: I couldn't make it without you...

I love you with all my heart. Happy Valentines Day (#4)!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentines Day 3

The other day we pulled up and parked in front of a store. I put the car in park, turned it off and sat there while Shawna pawed through her purse looking for something. Lex and Gentry unbuckled their seatbelts and began bouncing around waiting to get out. Then Lex stood up on that little hump that runs down the center of the floorboard, and leaned up into the front seat to ask us something.

I didn't hear a word of it.

I smelled this scent--a scent that caused my breath to catch in my throat, my stomach to relax, and my mind to float away to nearly twelve years ago.

To a night after church when I walked up to the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen--a gorgeous blonde who wouldn't give me the time of day. I made it a point to shake her hand at least six times a night, everytime for as long as she'd let me hold on, all the while jabbering about inconsequential stuff, hoping beyond hope for a laugh, or even a grin.

Nothing. Except for a vague, "what a weirdo" look toward her friends.

I kept coming back, though. Eventually I softened her reserve and got a smile. And then a laugh. And then a reply. And a year and a half later, a wife.

But that scent was always the same. It was intoxicating, that perfume she wore. I swooned when I smelled it. I sprayed it on my sweatshirts when she wasn't looking. It was beautiful.

The perfume (I still know the name; I can name it by scent from 20' away), has since disappeared from the fancy cases at Macy's and now graces the "perfume-in-a-clear-plastic-case" shelf at Walgreens. And somebody bought it for Alexis.

I think I hugged Lex like 30 times that day.

Shawna still wears wonderful perfume, but theres something almost Pavlovian about the memories that first scent still unleashes. It reminds me of the day I realized I was in love with her. And I begin to go back through all the reasons I fell in love with her in the first place, and all the reasons I still love her today.

Most importantly though, it reminds me of that first love--the love that doesn't demand perfection, but rather creates an environment that cultivates growth. Most of our personal development happens when we're nurtured in a loving environment, and very little growth happens in harsh, critical environment. We've all loved in that way from time to time; you remember when you first fell in love? But often the pressure of everyday life causes us to get lazy in our love, and we let that loving environment begin to degenerate. And growth stops.

It's one of Shawna's greatest strengths--nurturing that loving environment that allows weakness to be strengthened and flaws to be worked out.

I hope I can be that type of husband and friend--one who manifests a nurturing environment of true love that enables those I love to be better people.

Thank you Shawna.

I love you still!

Your husband, PJ.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Complete Me

There's this notion in business (called complexity theory) that basically says, in a functioning group of two or more people, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

It's true. I'm better--in all aspects of my life--for having Shawna as my partner. She enhances the parts of me that are good, supplements the parts that are weak, and takes up the slack for the parts that are nonexistent.

There was this song that Shawna used to listen to when we were dating (she had the CD on perpetual repeat, I think). It was a country song that says, "I'm everything I am because you loved me." I know they're lyrics to a song, and to a degree, kinda sappy, but as Day 2 of the week long Valentine, I wanted to express to Shawna that she's that partner for me. She's the one who takes me from what I am on my own to realizing my full potential.

Do you know how amazing it is to have someone like that in your life?

Think about it. Ask yourself this question: does the one I'm with ADD something to what I am, or do they DETRACT from what I am? There's an adage that's sometimes used in expressions of love: you complete me. There's also a polar opposite, though: you DEPLETE me. Does the one you love complete you, or do they leave you even less of a person than when you started?

It's a measure of true love, I think. I can honestly say, with all my heart, that Shawna completes me. I look forward to being with her, because I'm full when I'm with her. And it inspires me to more actively work toward being the one who completes her.

And for you few faithful readers: one final question. Do you complete the one you are with, or do you deplete them? Sometimes we're frustrated that the one we love isn't quite what they should be. Could it be that they can only be that with you actively working to complete them? That the part that's missing is directly linked to what you detract from the relationship? It happens; I promise you. I've been that one who was depleting in the relationship. Take this as an encouragement: examine your relationship; ask yourself do I complete my mate, or deplete them? And if I am depleting, is it causing the one I love to pull back?

And if you find you're depleting, then just work to change it. It's not that hard--I promise. Love is not very hard when it's active. When you are looking, actively, to express your love, it's very easy to add to the relationship--to complete the one you love. Passivity in love is the enemy of healthy relationships.

And so, I say all that to say this: I love you Shawna. You really do complete me. I can only be what I should be with you there, adding yourself to the mix.

Thank you for being my partner.



Monday, February 9, 2009

A Week's Worth of Valentine's

I don't usually get too personal here; it has just never seemed the right venue to spout off too much about my life. The way I see it, if you're important to me, you know what's going on in my life. If you have to visit my blog to find out about it, you're probably not important to me.

That's not intended to be rude. Frankly, the way I see it, most folks in the universe really couldn't care less about what's going on in my life, and for me to post it on the random chance that someone who really cares might stumble upon it is a waste of my time, and a waste of cyber-real estate.

Nevertheless, if you ARE important to me, and you DO care about what's going on in my life, I'm glad to chat with you about it--I'll get you all up-to-date; just give me a call!

...boy, that was starting to turn into a ramble wasn't it?

BUT, this week, as you know, is Valentine's Day--a day set aside for us to show that special someone--the one we love--how much they mean. And I thought, what better way to show The One in my life how much I adore her than by writing about her! I'll spend my time doing something I love, writing about someone I love!


At any rate, I know it's not Valentine's Day yet, but I started thinking: this May will be TEN YEARS of marriage for Shawna and me! Yep! Ten years!

Can you believe it?

But I realized something recently: after ten years of being with someone, the thought of being WITHOUT them is as scary as the thought of losing a limb. That whole, "...two become one...what God hath joined together" thing; it's really accurate. I had this realization that she is a part of me. Time without her is not quite complete.

It's always been like that though; business travel just depresses me to death (you know that, though; I've written about it here) because it feels like only half of me is there. But time really has a way of cementing that bond.

That's not really what I wanted to say, though. I was thinking: I'd like to make this Valentine's Day memorable for her. It'll be our ninth as man and wife; our eleventh as two people in love with each other. It's OK if I wax a little sappy, though, isn't it?

No matter. If you don't like sappy, come back next week when I'm writing about boring inconsequential stuff again (like Obama and the ridiculous stimulus package).

Today though, and the rest of the week, I'm just gonna let it all hang out--straight up sappy!

And tell Shawna, in front of the whole world (or, at least the tiny fraction of the world that happens to stumble upon MyndFood) that she's still "That One" for me. I can honestly say that she's shown me what true, unending love is. It's something deeper than (sorry Mother and Dad) a parent's love; even deeper than Lex and Gentry's unwavering love.

It's a love that says, "I choose you. Even when it's not rosy and fun, I still choose you. And I love you--until it hurts; I love you."

See, Mother and Dad didn't choose me; I landed on their doorstep, and so they love me. I'm glad for it, but there's a bond there that's not really a choice; it's built into their nature. And Lex and Gentry landed on MY doorstep; they had no choice in the matter. The love that they express is undying, but it's the result of a paternal bond that is virtually impossible to break.

But Shawna: she chose me. Which means that she can un-choose me anytime. But she doesn't. In fact, she re-affirms that choice every single day.

So, here's Day 1 of my public written Valentine to my wife:


Thank you for loving me. I don't deserve you. And I'm amazed every day that you choose to love me. Your love completes me--it's what keeps me alive. I love you deeply--with every ounce of my being.

Thank you for nearly 10 years of marriage, and 11 years of unending love.

With All My Love, Your Husband, Partner and Friend,


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Me In The News

It's not a review of something I wrote, but it's news nonetheless. I'm quoted today in a news story published on the Drexel University website. I'm one of 28 students selected to be a part of their inaugural MBA cohort at their new Sacramento graduate campus.

Which I haven't told you about, have I?

I decided, last November, to pursue an MBA. It's something I've thought about for awhile, but was always worried I was under qualified; I'm that guy who's afraid of rejection--sometimes to the point where I won't even bother trying something for fear of failure.

But I decided to give it a shot. I registered for the GMAT (the standardized admissions exam that all MBA candidates must take), and actually scored well. I applied--and when it was all said and done, I was accepted with a very sizable scholarship!

As it turns out, I'm going to have an MBA from the number 10 part-time MBA program IN THE NATION for about what it would cost me to get the degree from a public school (like Sac State).

I'm excited, but truth is, the program is part of the reason I've been so sporadic here.

But then you all survived! Guess it's not that bad, huh?

Miss you all...