Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Simple Beauty

When I first retired at the end of 2010, I wondered how difficult it would be to fill my  new found days of freedom from the daily grind of work.  Work was all that I had known from the age of 17 when I moved out of my parents home the day after I graduated High School.

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We set out to travel…and have visited several wonderful locales.  It is something that I love doing, and in fact we have a trip planned to New Mexico next month.

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Two things have emerged as primary retirement pleasures of mine…and perhaps three things.

I truly love nature and SIU Campus walks…and photographing those adventures.  By this one enjoyable enterprise I am able to combine three exciting vocations!

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First the Campus of Southern Illinois University…is my home away from home.  I spent thirty-two enjoyable years, of my life, traversing it’s abundant beauty…both inside and outside of it’s classical, distinguished, buildings.  This is enjoyable exercise!

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Second, I love photography…and my daily walks reveal to me a constantly changing tapestry of color, and plants, clouds, and wildlife…that I never tire of.

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Third, I am able to stay engaged with my Alma Mater and even exchange the occasional, enjoyable, email with both the Chancellor and the President of our great University.

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I also, have since a child, enjoyed writing.  For most of my life I felt that I was to busy to engage in this passion…but now I have the time.

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I am writing a Post for this Blog almost every other day…and sometimes daily.  This is a fulfillment of a life long dream of mine…and it is keenly satisfying.  I have received mostly positive input and have nearly 800 followers.  I am humbled that anyone takes the time to read my scribblings.

So, I would say that life is what you make of it.  Or as the Talmud states, ‘We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.’

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I have been blessed to travel to Europe on numerous occasions as well as many lovely locations in the United States…however…beauty and contentment and happiness and the ever elusive Peace…comes from within our own hearts.

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Communication is Difficult!

A little over a week ago, a very nice person asked if she could include one of my Blog Posts on a Writers Website that she manages.  I told her that I would be honored for her to do so.  The Piece was written on June 14 and was titled, ‘A Tragedy with a Possible Promise of Hope,’ and it was regarding the shooting, at the ball field in Virginia, that Republican Congressmen, and others, were practicing at in preparation for their annual Charity Congressional Ballgame with the Democrats.

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I cited in my Post that perhaps this senseless act of violence might bring our political leaders together.  I noted the Speech that Speaker Ryan gave after the horrific event, as well as the dinner that the manager of the Democrat Team had invited the Republican Team to attend.

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I was excited when I received an email notification that someone had commented on  the Post, or what I would call a fairly straightforward hope that our politicians might work together…at least a little.

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The first comment was, ‘The issue I see is that within 2 weeks this will be forgotten and Washington D.C. will be back to its dysfunctional normal.  We are a dying empire.’

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Another comment said, ‘The Speaker said, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.’  ‘NOT REALLY YOU FORGOT THAT “US” ARE MURDERED EVERY DAY.’

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Another commenter stated, ‘Bradley Brooks implores: sincere desire to understand and empathize with the person that you are listening to, point of view. – Oh, so now I’M SUPOSE to believe others have a right to woman’s body and a right to impose someone else’ morality, think LGBQ should be killed, and “those people” in inner cities left to starve, sicken and die as a matter of empathy or ‘understanding?’  Huh?’

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I responded to the above person with, “It is clear to me that, words, can be taken totally out of context.  I am neither a Republican nor a Trump supporter.  I do however believe that the tremendous animosity and anger that is expressed from both political parties…is caustic and corrosive.  That does not mean a compromise of our principles of human and moral decency and advocacy for the many needy among us, or for individual right of freedom to live as we choose.  However, certainly, the cavalier shooting of those we disagree with is a journey into a hopeless abyss…that is being illustrated weekly, and at times daily, by the horrendous acts of terrorism around our Globe…in the name of one group being ‘right’ and the other being ‘targets of hate’.”

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I did not include the commenter who said that, there was a vast liberal conspiracy to kill Republicans or the response to this, by another person, labeling the first person a fascist.

My experience with the comments above has illustrated to me how difficult it is to communicate with others in our society, that has become increasingly divided and housed in “Silos” of our own creation.

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President Lincoln was a Republican.

President Eisenhower was a Republican.

Indeed our Political Party elected leaders have gravitated to the extreme of their membership.

All Republicans are not far right.

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All Democrats are not far left.

The majority of both Political Parties are somewhere in the middle.

The Herculean Task of communication with others that are different than us or that have different views than us…is hard work!

Benjamin Franklin said, ‘We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.’

Ben Franklin, sculpted by a young Madame Tussaud

 

 

Subtle Changes

 

Everything seemed fine…until the flower store. I had entered it on

numerous occasions and been waited upon expeditiously. The store was a

ten foot by ten foot room, that was filled with lovely live flower

arrangements and commemorative statues and Grave Plaques that had

beautiful life sentiments inscribed on them.

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There were two people ahead of me and they were engaged in serious conversation regarding their upcoming wedding. I not only was enjoying their conversation with the shop proprietor but also the ambiance of the little, locally owned, emporium.
As I read the various inscriptions on the Commemorative Graveside Markers and enjoyed the pleasant aroma of the fleshly cut flowers…I speculated on what it must feel like to die?

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You know, I am not a maudlin person…but I have observed that everyone seems to ‘pass away’ as we like to say.

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Perhaps, there is no appreciable change in atmosphere or location or perception when the great and dreaded event of our life…finally happens?
More people entered the store..I made eye contact with the owner while he waited on the original wedding decoration customers…and now he proceeded to wait on the people that had entered after me. Could it be that I had ‘passed away’…and no one had told me?
Was I invisible?

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How many people, in our world,…feel just the way that I did in that little flower store.

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People that are in front of our politicians and power brokers and movers and shakers eyes…and yet are not seen or considered or their needs met?
Earlier, a terrible tragedy occurred in north London, where a man drove his white van into a crowd of Muslim people as they exited a Mosque after evening prayers. This individual has caused the death of one man and injury of ten people. The driver is said to have been heard screaming, ‘I am going to kill all Muslims.’
A devastating fire occurred in London, last week, at the Grenfell Tower. Seventy nine Tower Occupants are presumed dead. The towering inferno was built in the 1970’s and never fitted with a sprinkler system.

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In the United States our President proposes slashing Medicaid and the Meals on Wheels Program…both which serve the poor of our land.
We were in Cape Girardeau, Missouri this past Saturday for an early Father’s Day Dinner. As we browsed through the many Antique Shops near the river…I observed a man enter more than one of the stores, that we were in, to inquire if the owner was interested in buying a used tricycle for $3.00. All answered no.

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As Jonathon and I were taking some items, that we had purchased, back to our car, a man asked us if we could give him a quarter…and then apologized for asking…saying that he and his wife were so poor that they had been brought to virtually begging.

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‘For I was hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw thee naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer unto them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.’ Matthew 25: 42 – 45 KJV

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Monday Madness

My friend, Ritu, describes perfectly our United Plea for Peace and a stop to the madness.

But I Smile Anyway...

I had a different thought for this morning’s post initially.

Something light and fluffy, you know, the typical Ritu-style…

But I woke to news that really affected me.

Another incident.

Another attack.

Another, possibly-terrorist, attack in London.

And no, Isis won’t be claiming this one.

This time it was a white van ploughing into worshippers leaving the Finnsbury Mosque in East London, as they had finished their prayers to signal the end of their fast that day.

One dead and eight injured.

Senseless.

Revenge.

More innocents killed or injured, for what?

Most of those affected were probably law-abiding Muslim citizens, who don’t condone all the previous attacks. True Muslims, who follow their religion with respect.

Yet Islamophobia and misinformation has led to someone thinking tit for tat, an eye for an eye, is the answer.

The driver of the van was detained by the public until the Police arrived.

When…

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Father’s Day

In the blink of an eye…another Father’s Day has rolled around.

I reflect, each year at this time, about my Father, who I did not see again after the age of six.

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I remember, fondly, Dad carrying me on his shoulders and laughing and I felt I was the whole world to him.

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Springfield, Ohio “69”

The above photo is of Dad and my sister Tammy…after he and my mother divorced.  I have spoken with Tammy several times.  She is a lovely and sweet person…and I hope to meet her soon.

Early in 2012 I received a great gift by discovering my long lost brothers and sisters.  Tammy emailed me and said that she was looking for her brother, Bradley Jay Brooks.  She had a picture on the email, but it did not print.  Later that day I received a hard copy, through the mail, of the same letter with my childhood picture on it.  I was ecstatic to not only discover that I had brothers and sisters…but that they wanted to meet me!

Since then I have communicated often with my sister Jolene, who is simply wonderful.

Also my brother Bill, who sounds on the telephone, just like I remember Dad sounding.

And, I have had the good fortune to meet and spend time with my brother Brock.  When I sit and listen to him speak…or look at him…or watch his actions…it is like looking in a mirror.  Brock has a wonderful family.  His lovely wife, Marcy, and his two outstanding children, Jeb and Jamie.

We spent time together in Gatlinburg, Tennessee this past April.  I am ready to go again!

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I have also communicated with my sisters Amber and Billie.  We were able to enjoy a dinner with Billie at Cunetto’s House of Pasta earlier this year.  What a lovely lady…and we have the same nose!

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My sons, Aaron and Jonathon, are the light of my life!  With them and their tremendous mother, Mary Jane, I have had nothing but blue sky and infinite horizons!

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And, so we return to the same restaurant that we had Father’s Day Dinner last year…when something is perfect…why not repeat it!

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Who Shall be Our Next Chancellor?

So, today the Board of Trustees for Southern Illinois University is meeting, this afternoon, regarding the Search for a permanent Leader for SIU Carbondale.

Since 1999 we have had nine individuals hold this position.  Indeed a significant part of our great Campus current difficulties can be traced to the constant turnover in leadership and their bringing different goals, and a New Vision, with each of them.  We have been undergoing an identity crisis.

It is instructive to examine what qualities, in a prospective Chancellor, that were successful in the past.

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Former President Delyte Morris was loved and respected by all segments of the University Community.  He was a Scholar among his peers…an adroit lobbyist for resources from the State Government…and a leader who welcomed the janitors on Campus into his home.

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Dr. Donald Beggs was appointed to the Chancellor’s position, for a two year term, and immediately the morale on Campus rose!  This was a man who took an interest in all members of SIU.  He was the Dean of the College of Education for fifteen years. During these years many members of our custodial staff sang the praises of Dr. Beggs; concern, and interest, and value, of them and the job that they performed.

One of the custodial staff working in Wham, which is the home of the College of Education, told me that Dr. Beggs came to hear him preach, as he was a minister.

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Dr. Jo Ann Argersinger regularly told members of the SIU Community to ‘call me Jo Ann.’

She was known to walk out into a yard, where a Grounds Worker was mowing, and shake their hand and tell them how important that they were to the mission of the University.

Chancellor Argersinger so inspired, not only the members of our Campus, but also the entire Southern Illinois Region…that people would inquire about her and remark how they missed her…for ten years after her untimely termination.

I was in her history class and I could not help but be amazed that out of several hundred in attendance…she knew, virtually all of their names…and would call on them by name.

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Chancellor Wendler had a big heart for all members of the University…and revealed as much in our numerous conversations over a period of years.

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Let us endeavor to choose a Chancellor who wants and needs us as badly as we want and need them.

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We need a leader with that little spark of magic!

We need inspiration and hope and to dream of the infinite possibilities of Southern Illinois University…again!

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We need someone that is in it for the long haul…and who values and believes that every member of the University Community is integral to it’s success.

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A Tragedy with a Possible Promise of Hope

This morning, a senseless act of violence occurred at a baseball practice in Virginia.

House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, was shot in the hip, along with gun shot wounds suffered by:

Zachary Barth, a member of Rep. Roger Williams staff.

Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Foods.

David Bailey, U.S. Capitol Police.

Special Agent Crystal Griner, U.S. Capitol Police.

The gunman was from Bellville, Illinois.

The gunman inquired, of a Congressman who left the Charity Ballgame Practice early, if the players on the field were Democrats or Republicans.

Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, gave an impassioned and heartfelt speech to the House of Representatives.  The Speaker said, ‘An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.’

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The Speaker also said, ‘There are many memories from this day we will want to forget, and many images we will not want to see again.  But there is one image in particular that this House should keep.  And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.’

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‘Rep. Mike Doyle, the manager for the Democratic baseball team, said he invited the Republican team for dinner at the Democratic Club as a first step towards changing the heated political climate’, according to the Washington Times.

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Can we meet in the middle…after all of the animosity and rancor and vitriolic rhetoric?

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One supreme truth, that we hide from ourselves, is that we are one breath away from eternity.

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We have more that unites us than divides us.

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We love our children.  We love our families.  Indeed we are one Human Family.

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As the author G.K. Chesterton said, ‘We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’

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We really have no choice.

 

Comey Testimony Brings to Mind King Trump

Please enjoy this insightful Comic by Henry Chamberlain.

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The Donald. cartoon by Henry Chamberlain

“Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?”
–Henry II

There is an artful moment during the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey. Sen. Angus King (I) Maine, asked if Trump saying he hoped the Flynn investigation would go away was a direction. And Comey quotes the famous line attributed to Henry II, and which floats within Shakespeare’s Richard II: “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” The senator said he was thinking of the same quote. King Henry II wishes that a priest would go away. The next day, that priest is murdered, honoring the king’s wish. King Trump “hopes” for something and it is an inappropriate suggestion, even for royalty.

That quote speaks volumes.

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‘You Can ‘Accomplish Much As Long As You Do not Care Who Get’s The Credit’

I am continually fascinated by good Leaders.  Many people tell us that they are outstanding leaders…and then either proceed to demean and lambast others or point towards their own accomplishments…which are often little more than political rhetoric.

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Many years ago, I was involved with the Civil Service Council and our working with then Chancellor Wendler, in the successful implementation of several policies and procedures and pay raises…that benefited Civil Service Staff.

When I mentioned these humble accomplishments to a new Union President…she replied that,’ I would have to get in line,’ to claim credit for a particular positive outcome that enhanced her Union’s Membership.  I replied that she could have all of the credit…as I did not care if anyone knew that I was involved in the process.

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When watching the numerous Congressional Hearings that are currently on television, I cannot help but notice the desire of many of our political leaders to posture and preen for the cameras…and yet little to nothing gets accomplished.

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Often we are attracted by the ability to make a lot of money…and equate that skill with leadership.

Often we are attracted by the person who speaks the loudest and has the most caustic command of hurtful and damaging words…and equate that with leadership.

Often we are attracted by celebrity or fame or position…and equate that with leadership.

‘And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount of the Lord.  And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.  And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out and stood in the entering in of the cave.  And behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here Elijah?’   KJV I Kings 19: 11 – 13

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As I spoke with my colleagues, the other day, I was impressed with how nice the Campus buildings look…and how they are accomplishing this with the lowest staffing that I have ever known of in Building Services.

Indeed, the dedicated members of the Custodial Staff are performing Herculean efforts to keep their Campus as clean as possible.  These people are Salukis…in every sense of the word!

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As I often said when working with former Chancellor Wendler and several other Chancellors, through the years, please thank the Chancellor…don’t thank me…I only have the ability to request…the Chancellor has the power to grant the request.

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And, so, to my friends; the Chancellor and the President, please continue to search for other methodologies and means to reduce cost at our beloved Campus.  Civil Service cannot continually bear the ‘Lions’ Share’ of the cuts.

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Old Colleagues

I was walking Campus today…as I often do…when I happened upon two of my colleagues from years gone by.  I was pleased that they spoke to me…as often they seem not to recognize me when I wave or call out to them.

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We enjoyed a lovely chat.  Both of these women…I hired into the department that I headed for twenty-five years.  I also promoted them through the ranks…and indeed I am responsible for the management jobs that they have held since I retired at the conclusion of 2010.

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We talked about the fact that Building Services had not received any lay-offs in the group of eighty people, last week.  One of them told me that she had been instrumental in this protection of jobs.  I commended her for it.

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I do know that many people have been consumed with the lessening of lay-offs across Campus and the Tabling of plans to outsource.

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Elizabeth Cheek, my friend and colleague for many years…and the Vice President of the Civil Service Council has worked tirelessly on behalf of all Civil Service Staff as has Tony Travelstead, the President of the Council.

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I grieve for the loss of jobs in the Physical Plant Crafts…they need their jobs as much as any Civil Service Employee.

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Brad Dillard, the Director of Plant and Service Operations, is as compassionate and caring Director as I have ever know…and I have known all of them since 1978.

I can say that when people that you called your friends…and that you admired and that you wanted the best for…it hurts…a little…to hear of they’re disparaging remarks…but as my friend and colleague Jody said of me, many years ago, ‘we can not tell who is your friend and who is your enemy, Jay, by the way that you treat them…it seems that you  treat your enemies better than your friends…at times.’

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