My thoughts on the Civil War monuments and statues debate.

The recent news coverage of the controversy regarding monuments and statues has gotten me thinking. Before all of this, I never realized how many of these monuments and statues existed, nor did I know, until just a few years ago, that the flag of the Confederate States of America still flew over some statehouses in this country.

Regarding the more recent issue, here’s my “flow chart” of thoughts about the subject:

1. Slavery. A human institution for centuries, maybe longer. Accepted as a part of life by all, a “fact of human existence.”

2. Society progresses and evolves, yet, as recently as a couple of hundred years ago slaves were treated as a commodity right here in the United States, bought and sold as property at locations such as the yard surrounding the old courthouse in Lexington, Kentucky.

3. Let’s remember that these slaves (or their predecessors) had their homes invaded, they were captured, ripped from their homeland, their culture, their lives, families, etc. Forced to endure “shipping” to the “new world” under harsh conditions that caused many of them to die. And we (the USA, from its founding until slavery was “ended”), we were OK with that. Ponder that for a moment. Reread the very brief summary of the slave trade above. We were OK with that.

4. Civil war ensues. Slavery is ended. These facts are not disputable.

5. Reasons for the civil war abound. Read Lyon Tyler’s A Confederate Catechism for a viewpoint that’s different from the one many of us were taught in school. Lyon Tyler was a son of President John Tyler, a staunch defender of the Confederate Cause, and quite the critic of President Abraham Lincoln.

6. Think on this: even if all of Tyler’s points are valid (I do not believe that, but bear with me)… even if all of Tyler’s points are valid, the facts summarized in point number 3 above still happened. Again, this is not disputable.

7. Following the Civil War, successful efforts were made to segregate people of color, repress their right to vote, and treat them as second-class citizens. It’s my contention that this, also, is not disputable. Until 1965, a mere 51 years ago, segregation was still the common practice in many parts of the country. Read up on “Jim Crow” and you’ll see what I mean. Additionally, do a little research into “racist art and music” and I think you’ll be shocked at what you find.

8. During the period following the Civil War, efforts were put forth, such as Tyler’s “A Confederate Catechism,” to frame the narrative of the war in a particular light, justifying the conflict in such as way as to ennoble the struggle of the southern states, even comparing their struggle against the north to that of the original 13 colonies against Great Britain. The bravery and courage of southern soldiers, generals, and statesmen was highlighted, and groups such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy spearheaded a movement to erect monuments and statues in prominent public places, celebrating these luminaries of southern history.

We’ll come back to these points in a moment.

7. Growing up in the north, raised in a white home (not knowing my own ethnic heritage, I usually check the “other” box when asked to indicate ethnicity), I do not presume to know much about the experience of people of color in this country. Having said that, I can relate to you that questions about my complexion, country of origin, etc. have followed me, off and on, throughout my life. As recently as summer, 2013 or 2014, as I walked out of a local grocery story around 11:00 PM at night, someone yelled, clearly at me, “fu..ing ni..er!!) This occurred not a quarter mile from the center of my hometown, 700-800 feet from city hall and the local police station. I’m quite certain that my experience has been but a small taste of what the majority of members of the black community have experienced throughout their lives.

8. Back to the monuments and statues. Here now, is my opinion on the matter. These statues should never have been erected in the first place. It seems to me that they flow from a perspective on the history of the Civil War that is exemplified in Tyler’s document. Again, even if we accept everything that he writes (again, I do not), the facts mentioned above in points numbers 3 and 7 happened. They happened. If I’m successful at all in empathizing with African-Americans, whose ancestors went through the ordeal of slavery, I find that it’s reasonable to believe that these monuments and statues are offensive; that they celebrate a way of life that, again, allowed for points number 3 and 7 stated above to be part of American way of life.

9. Removing them does not erase history. If only it could. Better history may be learned in books, or visiting museums where these items could be better presented. Standing on public ground in prominent places is not appropriate, and never was.

Why now? many ask. Maybe because, as in the case with slavery itself, we as a society are evolving, becoming more inclusive, more moral, and more just. A better question would be, why not now?

Anyway, these are my thoughts on the issue. You are certainly entitled to yours, but let’s all please take a deep breath, turn off the news and social media sources of “information,” (remember, they’re mostly interested in generating revenue from viewers, clicks, likes, etc.) and give this issue the thoughtful reflection it deserves.

Great Attitude Means Great Workout, Right?

When your heart’s just not in it.

I’m a big believer in paying attention to your body—taking periodic days off from exercise and working out, adjusting food choices when you feel unsatisfied or low-energy, and, if you feel “off,” making informed decisions about whether or not you are actually sick, and need to see your doctor, or simply rest. Or, maybe, you just need to “push through” the funk you’re feeling, and stick to your commitment to healthy living. That last thing is what happened to me today. Not the first time it’s happened, and probably not the last.

My morning was spent in somewhat intense discussion with loved ones, about issues which are irrelevant to the point I’m making here, leaving me emotionally drained. (We are all fine, by the way, in case you were wondering.) Right before this unexpected family discussion, I’d prepared a big breakfast for myself, anticipating a weightlifting workout followed by some cardio.

So now, here I was, physically prepped and ready to go, but feeling emotionally drained, and not at all in the mood to go to the gym and work out. I found myself looking for excuses: “you know, feeling like this, you’ll never be able to lift with any strength, because you feel so drained,” for example. “A day off won’t hurt you, and it’ll give you a chance to emotionally replenish yourself and have a stronger workout tomorrow.” (That one is completely true, by the way.)

I decided to get myself together and go to the gym anyway.

Today’s agenda included wide-grip pullups, flat bench dumbbell presses, and post-lifting cardio. One of my favorite workouts, actually, that I’d anticipated for days, hoping to increase my results from the last time I did this one. I arrived at the gym, still feeling “down,” and went upstairs to the weight room. The apparatus I use for the pullups was being used by someone else. It occurred to me that maybe I could just do cardio today, and hit the weights tomorrow, but I decided to follow through with my original intent. Besides, I only had to wait a couple of minutes.

I approached the pullup station, took the wide-grip stance, and began. First one felt nice and strong, and I completed 9, which was equivalent to the last time I did these. After waiting several minutes, I started another set, thinking this time that if I just thought of them in groups of 3, it would be easier to complete another set of 9. Success. Meanwhile, my mood was not improving at all. I still felt “down.” So far, no real improvement over the last workout, either. After another rest interval of several minutes, I approached for my last set. Last time I did this exercise, I was only able to do 8 on the third set, so here was my final opportunity today to do better. And I did. The ninth one might not have been “regulation” regarding me getting high enough, but it was unquestionably better than the last time I did these. In its own way, that felt good… but my mood wasn’t any better than it was before.

Next exercise was the flat bench dumbbell press. Last time, I did this exercise with 60 lbs. dumbbells, which, for me, is getting very close to the maximum I’m capable of doing. Twice in recent years I’ve injured my shoulder using dumbbells greater than 50 lbs. so I knew that I had to be careful. Considering my mood, I thought for a moment that perhaps I should use a lighter weight, just to be safe. I decided to “go for it” and got the 65 lbs. dumbbells. First set was successful; 12 repetitions completed. With this exercise, it’s getting the dumbbells into position and completing the first rep that is the most dangerous, followed closely by the way you complete the last rep and “dismount” the exercise. Second set was also good for 12 reps. By now, you’d think I’d be thrilled, because these results were a personal best—but no. Still in a funk. At this point, I considered playing it safe, and backing down to a lower weight dumbbell for the last set, to minimize the potential for injury. Going to failure with dumbbells is dangerous, because if you lose control of them, that’s when injuries most likely occur. Dismissing that thought, I went ahead and attempted the third set with the 65s, and completed another 12 reps with no problem. This was a huge accomplishment! I’d never been able to perform this strongly on this exercise. But my mood remained the same. I’ve started workouts “in a funk” before, and not only ended up having good workouts in spite of that, but experiencing a lifted mood as well. (See my article here.) But this time was different—I was having a great workout, but not having a concomitant improvement in spirit.

I usually end a weightlifting session with 30 minutes moderately intense cardio, so I moved to a treadmill, set the time, speed, and incline, and began. After 10 minutes, I was ready to be done. “Just go ahead and stop at 15 minutes; you took about 23 minutes to lift weights, so 15 minutes cardio makes for a total workout time of nearly 40 minutes, which is fine.” I decided to keep going. Once I passed the 20 minute mark, I was in the phase of cardio that I refer to as “almost done, why stop now?” so I completed the 30 minutes and went home. Feeling just as emotionally drained as when I arrived.

Lesson for today: persistence and consistency do not require that you have a good attitude going in. You might get great results anyway. And now, several hours later, while I still feel rather depleted in spirit, I know that, overall, I feel better than I would if I had decided not to exercise today.

Stay motivated, my friends—the long-term results are worth the effort.

Returning After A Break

When “life” gets in the way.

The title of this post expresses a reality that we all occasionally face: that our best intentions, plans, preparations, and regular routines, are disrupted from time-to-time by issues related to work, relationships, health, or other unforeseen circumstances. In regard to healthy living (defined as maintaining a balance of good eating, regular exercise, and stress management/rest/sleep), these disruptions can often result in a “forced” hiatus from some aspect(s) of our regimen. As I wrote about here, these hiatuses do not mean that we have failed, that we are a failure, and that we will always fail. (Don’t become a prisoner of your own plan and expectations.) Instead, use breaks to focus your energy, resources, and attention where it’s needed, and return to your regimen when you are able.

Speaking personally, I made it through April, and the end of the academic year! This is always a good feeling! Even though April (and November/December, for that matter) are expected times of extra work-related stress, this past April seemed more “compressed” than usual, undoubtedly the result of more-than-usual musical events held on campus (which is, in itself, a very good thing). There were days that I didn’t get away from work until nearly 9:30 PM, and, at least once, had to be back at work by 8:00 the next morning. Time constraints caused me to scale back some of my “extra-curricular” activities like reading for fun, and posting here, but I was able to maintain my eating habits and exercise routine: eating a high-calorie breakfast, and then frequent small meals throughout the day, 30-45 minutes moderate to high intensity cardiovascular workouts 5-6 times per week, and a 15-25 minute weightlifting workout once every 4-5 days. For me, the big disruption was my newest activity—writing and posting here. I just realized that my last post was on March 20, and today is May 13! I’m reminded of a Christmas when I was about 13 years old. My parents gave me a paperback journal, decorated throughout with Peanuts cartoon characters. I immediately resolved to write in it every day, and, after 3 or 4 days of faithful commitment, missed one day, and subsequently dropped the activity completely. It doesn’t have to be like this. Rather than allow guilt over a small “failure” to kill your motivation, if the activity has value for you, jump right back in and resume where you left things. This works with eating habits/food choices, exercise, managing discretionary time, etc.

May (once the last of the academic year stuff is done) is usually a season of creative productivity for me. I’ve found, over the years, that I do more practicing of the piano (for the sheer pleasure of it; repertoire that I get to choose, as opposed to that which I’m being paid to learn), and more inner reflection and journaling, than at other times of the year. In the area of healthy living (exercise, eating habits, sleep and rest, etc.), May and the following summer months affords me with opportunities for trying new exercises, routines, foods, and activities, which are not available during most of the school year. Ironically, summer is also a season during which I have to be careful with my food choices and quantities, because, while it’s easy to remain consistent in workouts, it’s also easy to simply relax during the rest of the day! During the school year, I’m constantly getting up and down from my desk, getting up and down from the piano, and walking up and down hallways and stairs, all day long, and burning lots of calories in the process.

How about for you? I know that many of you work the same job, all year long. You folks are challenged to find eating habits and exercise routines that complement that kind of work schedule. But I know that some of you who read my posts are in a situation similar to my own—busy (sometimes insanely so) during the school year, but relatively free during the summer months. How do your eating habits and exercise choices change, if they do?

Spirit and Soul

What’s the difference?

Both may be defined as “the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character” and are often used interchangeably. But over the years, I’ve come to regard these words as distinct from each other, although they do share the feature of being “the nonphysical part of a person.”

Before proceeding, I must state that I owe much of my thinking about this subject to the author, Thomas Moore, who, in his excellent book Care of the Soul, explores the differences in great detail. I first read this book nearly twenty-five years ago, and have recently returned to it, along with one of its sequels, Soul Mates. Moore is a fascinating person, with a background that includes music, seminary, religious life, and Jungian psychology. Other authors whose works have contributed to my thoughts about spirit and soul include Erik RoutleyMary McDermott Shideler, and Madeleine L’Engle. I encourage you to explore their work.

I’m not attempting an academic, historical research project on these words, but rather, an essay on facets of our inner being, born from my own contemplation over the years. Whether my thoughts fit with traditional, philosophical, or theological doctrines isn’t really important (though I write from within Christian tradition and experience); that’s not my purpose here. I believe that we all, to greater or lesser degree, spend at least some of our time in reflection and introspection, and what follows is my attempt to offer some perspective on this activity.

The ancient Hebrew and Greek words, “ruach” and “pneuma,” respectively, are both used for “spirit.” The same words are also used for “wind,” and “breath.” This suggests that “spirit” is associated with movement, vitality, and power. It is dynamic. In our experiences, spirit is associated with inspiration, with single-minded focus, and with feeling energized to accomplish a specific goal or task. Inspiration can result in the sudden production of literary or artistic works, or to the exceptional performance of a musician, dancer, or other performing artist. During the inspired phase, the individual is completely “taken up” with the task at hand, and other thoughts are eclipsed or submerged. Inspiration is sudden, focused, and has immediate, obvious, effect.

Soul, on the other hand, may be thought of as that part of our inner being where our conscious thought does not dwell; where we find the seat of emotional responses, “gut” feelings, and the like. The etymology of the word soul includes Germanic influence, and carries the meaning of “coming from the sea, or lake.” Borrowing a metaphor from Genesis, it is akin to “the Spirit of the LORD was brooding over the face of the waters.” Brooding describes the act of the mother hen, resting upon her eggs until they hatch. The verse from Genesis provides us with the idea that before God unleashes the life-giving energy of creation (“Let there be light”), there was a period of stillness, of waiting—this “brooding over the face of the waters.”  If “spirit” is likened to inspiration, with its sudden burst of creative energy and action, “soul” is more associated with depth of emotion, with sub or even unconscious rumination, and those parts of ourselves that find (often inexplicable) pleasure or satisfaction in things, places, relationships, and so on. Moore uses the word “attachment” to describe the longing of the soul—the desire for connection. In contrast, he describes the desire of the spirit to be unattached, free, and energized to pursue a lofty goal.

I like the word fermentation to describe some of what happens in the soul—a word we use to describe the process whereby pickles are made, beer and wine are produced, cheese is made, and yeast breads are leavened. All of these processes involve combining ingredients and allowing them to develop over time. It’s worth noting that most of these processes involve the anaerobic action of bacteria or yeast. They happen without air, “under the surface,” and often “in the dark.” While each of these processes requires being set in motion, after the initial “getting started,” there follows a period of simply waiting, while the microbes do their work. Sometimes, during the waiting period, brief acts of tending are needed to keep the process headed in the right direction—taking the lid off and stirring, adding more ingredients, pouring from one vessel to another, etc. This quiet and subsurface “percolating” often goes completely unnoticed by us until it has begun to manifest itself in emotional states we cannot explain, feelings of sadness with no apparent cause, or, conversely, experiences of sublime joy or satisfaction.

Fermentation, or “soul work” is probably always happening, to greater or lesser degree, deep inside all of us. Some of us never take the time to take the lid off the pot and tend it, or, to even see that anything is there at all. Sadly, I believe that a lot of people aren’t even self-aware enough to engage in this kind of self-reflection. I can’t help but wonder if this becomes the root (or at least a contributing factor) of issues such as addiction, depression, neuroses, etc.

Left alone, most fermenting substances will eventually spoil from lack of tending, or failing to properly preserve the resulting product at the end of the process. Take sourdough bread starter, for example. It needs to be fed every few days by stirring in additional flour, and the liquid “hooch” skimmed off the top. Properly tended in this way, it can be kept going indefinitely, with bread being made from it on a regular basis. It can also be left alone for longer periods, in a cool, dark location, and allowed to go almost dormant. Later, it can be revitalized by discarding a large portion of it, and adding the remnant to a new batch of flour, in effect, starting over.

What are the kinds of things that end up “in the pot,” hidden in the recesses of our souls? Here, undetected by others and sometimes even by ourselves, these powerful elements combine with the raw, primal pieces of our personality and identity, and form a lush, fecund “soil” where the various aspects of “who we are” take root, grow, and blossom. For me, relationships, treasured items, special places, music (both listening and performing), cooking, and special occasions, all belong on the short list of the things that I find “in the pot.”

Both of these facets of our being, spirit and soul, though they may be distinct from, cannot and must not be separated from the physical parts of our essence. Being human is being fully alive in our own bodies, along with these non-corporeal parts we’re discussing here. As we care for the body (or should), I believe we do ourselves a great service by also attending to the needs of the soul and spirit.

Thoughts? Feel free to comment, and begin a discussion!

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Get past the hard part.

Most of my recent posts have been about eating habits and food. In this post, I want to talk about exercising.

One of my favorite quotes, attributed to Woody Allen, goes something like this: “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” It seems like a stretch to give that much importance to “just showing up,” but, I’ve been a teacher for too long, and been at this “fitness thing” for too long, not to realize that there’s a lot of truth here.

Just show up. Go to class, keep your appointments, go to work, go to the gym. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve made plans to go to the gym the next morning, for weightlifting, for cardio, for swimming, etc., only to get out of bed and feel that I just didn’t want to do it. And, to be honest, sometimes I decided to change my plans and not go. But more often than not, I’d go about my morning routine, and, an hour or so after rising, though my “heart may not have been in it,” I’d get myself and my stuff together, and GO. While traveling to the gym, I’d often still feel that I didn’t really want to exercise.

But then a strange thing would happen. I’d park, get out of the car, get my bag, and enter the building. At some point in the doing of that, something would happen inside of me, and the “just do it” reflex would take over. I’d go in, get changed, and lift, do cardio, or swim.

It took getting there to “get me in gear” to do the workout. And often, these workouts would be ones that I felt really good about afterward!

Backing up a bit, it’s important to distinguish between your body sending you a message that you need to take an unscheduled day off for rest, and a mere “blah” morning, where you’re just slow getting started for the day. In fact, it’s very important that you pay attention to how you’re feeling physically, and to take an unscheduled day off now and then. Your body needs time to rest, repair, and build itself, and its schedule doesn’t necessarily align with whatever plan you may be following (and that’s one reason why I like to keep a lot of flexibility in my routine).

Getting back to the point of today’s post—sometimes the hardest part of getting your workout done is simply getting yourself to the place where you’re going to do it.

From time to time I’m asked about exercise equipment for the home. Treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, weightlifting apparatuses, etc. are all available for home use. My response to such inquiries? Exercise equipment for the home often becomes a clothes rack. I’m sure this isn’t true for everybody, but in my experience, home exercise equipment is just not used very much. Because the exercises can be done at any time, they’re never done. The convenience of owning the equipment, which we think will help us to exercise more regularly, ends up enabling our tendency to procrastinate. Furthermore, you have to find space somewhere in your home to house the equipment, and you have to maintain it (which means paying for repairs if and when that’s necessary).

For me, weighing the costs/benefits of a gym membership versus having equipment at home, leads me to the conclusion that the gym membership is worth every penny. The gym maintains the equipment, there is a greater variety of exercises available, I don’t have to find space in my home for equipment, and I have to get to the gym if I’m going to work out. If you’re paying for a gym membership, you’re more likely to use it. If you drive yourself to the gym, you’re more likely to work out. If you’re the type of person that enjoys exercising in a group, or even with just one workout partner, the gym provides ample space for that, as well.

Just show up; that might just be the hardest part of the workout.

Babies, Love, and Life. Thoughts from last summer.

First written on June 14, 2015.

I think June is my favorite month of the year. Far enough removed from the end-of-academic-year maelstrom that is April, with its recitals, concerts, final exams, and meetings (oh, the meetings), and buffered by the transitional month of May, it has become, for me, the most “vacation” time of the year. The new academic year still seems far off, and the days stretch longer into the evening, with that wonderful twilight full of mauves and pinks. It’s often in June that I find myself in a season of reflection; when parts of my inner being wake up after long periods of dormancy, and that’s how I come to be writing down these thoughts.

My newest grandson was just born, on June 2. My second grandchild, this one is the first child of Myles and Elizabeth (my daughter), he’s the first grandchild whom I must learn to “share” with another family (Aidan’s paternal family is barely involved with him, while my son-in-law Myles has a large, involved, extended family), and he’s named after me! Ron Stringer. I feel blessed.

Babies are wonderful. Ponder those words for a moment. Wonderful. Tiny, totally dependent on others, yet capturing your heart and soul in an instant of time. I was privileged to be be present when he first entered the world, drawing his first breath and uttering his first sounds (loudly, at that), before even fully leaving his mother’s body! What a moment. One could feel the rest of reality receding from that scene, pulling back to the perimeter of awareness and fading into a blur, as the events of those few minutes came sharply into focus. It was as if a nuclear bomb of emotion had exploded in our midst! Overwhelming joy. If you’re familiar with the final act trio of Richard Strauss’s opera, Der Rosenkavalier, you may be able to relate to this: it was that kind of emotional experience, exponentially greater, and compacted into the span of a few minutes. Breath-taking, awe-inspiring, and immense. Life-changing, to say the least.

I remember what it was like to hold each of my own children when they were newly born. David, especially, since he was the first. Though only 22 myself, and quite “green” and naïve about entering adult life, that moment when he first opened his eyes and looked up into mine is with me to this day. The day, the time, down to the very minute, is embedded in my memory—that moment when I first held him in my arms. Unfortunately, I was unable to be present in the delivery room for the births of our three children, as they were all born by Caesarean section (in those days, the father wasn’t allowed to be present for those). While a woman goes through obvious physiological and psychological changes as she carries a baby to term and becomes a mother, I believe that a man (an involved man, at least) also experiences transformation as he becomes a father. Certainly psychological transformation, and who knows? Perhaps holding his newborn baby for the first time results in physiological changes as well.

In any case, I believe that something happened to me in those moments, and maybe the best way to describe it is “love at first sight.” In an instant of time a bond was created. I was adopted as an infant and have never known any biological relatives other than children (and now, grandchildren), so holding David for the first time was uniquely special. Now, at last, there was someone else on the planet that I knew, and he would know me, and we were related, in the biological sense of the word. This same moment was relived, with perhaps a little less intensity, with the births of Elizabeth and Becca, 8 and 9 years later. In 2009, I felt something similar with the birth of Aidan, my first grandchild.

In the years since David was born, as I’ve aged, lost loved ones, and experienced the inevitable trials and stresses of life, “man,” “daddy/father,” and now “grandpa/grandfather,” have all been terms that I’ve had to wrestle with. Maybe “wrestle” is too contentious a verb, but I can’t think of a better one. The words have intrinsic meaning that elude specific definition, and they deepen and become richer with the passing of time. For example, when younger, I’d somewhere picked up the idea that “real men” don’t express physical affection for each other, and keep their emotions in check, completely beneath the surface. Now, it’s much easier to share a hug with other men counted among my close friends, especially men in my family. I cannot say exactly how this developed in me, but I suspect it was a combination of a feeling of mortality that comes with being older, and also with the experience of having children and grandchildren of my own.

Now in my fifties, my body feels the effects of middle-age (and even old age, at times), and I cope with chronic arthritis pain and less mobility/flexibility than I had in my twenties and thirties. Aside from that, I am in otherwise excellent health, and maintain good eating habits and an exercise regimen consisting of both cardiovascular and strength training. Knowing from a young age that we’re all headed for an eventual end is one thing; feeling that mortality is another, and that comes with getting older. One realizes that one is closer to the end than to the beginning, and that there is, indeed, an ending. This realization (often coming as an unwanted epiphany brought about by one health crisis or another) leads one to ponder the meaning of life and to identify the things that are most important.

What has grown in me has been an appreciation for relationships, health, and music. These three things are the things I hold most dear. The young evangelical in me would add “and my relationship to God,” but my faith has taken me to a place where I simply say that everything is experienced in a context of faith in God who is Love, and is so matter-of-fact that I simply don’t think about it. The thoughts I share now are inspired by relationships, which brings me back to the present: one new grandchild and one more coming soon.

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This picture captures a lot of all this. It’s been my privilege to spend a few weeks with my daughter and son-in-law, and newest grandchild, Ron. I’ve been spending time with him in the morning, just after waking up, and holding him close as shown here. Much has been said in recent years about skin-on-skin experiences with newborns that is beneficial to them; I must say that I find it beneficial for the adult, as well. With the physical closeness comes a bond of love, a feeling of connectedness that goes beyond simple naming, or knowledge of family relationship. And this, combined with looking into the eyes of the beloved, brings with it a something that can only be described as “love.” And it’s not only looking; the other senses are involved as well—the sense of touch, as has already been mentioned, the hearing of the baby’s little sounds (ranging from little grunts of contentment, simple breathing, and, well, other bodily functions), and the scent that is unique to the head of a newly-born infant. I’ve heard it said that the eyes are the window to the soul. Looking into the eyes of a newborn one sees both nothing and everything. Nothing, in that the soul is new, fresh, and a blank slate not yet written upon by the experiences of life. Everything, in that a grandfather sees the potential of the new life, and senses the dreams and hopes of the new parents burning brightly within.

Update from February 2016:

Colton Maurey was born just three weeks later. Here is a picture of my three grandsons. From left to right: Colton Maurey, Aidan Maurey, and Ron Stringer. Love, indeed.

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