Book Excerpts

THE ROAD AHEAD

Dear Grandchildren,

I write this to my darlings because life is a series of challenges. I am your Poppie, and with your first breath, I have lovingly prepared the road ahead for your journey of life. Over 20 years ago, when first grandchild Bobby was born in 1994, I began writing this book. Unfortunately, it took decades to finish.

As I enter the winter of my life, some 22 years later than my first letter, I begin the final chapter, my winter pilgrimage, and the last attempt to complete this life-long dream.

Fifty-plus years have gone by so quickly. My brain feels like a cement mixer. How could I forget the unexpected death of my dearest friend, business partner, and brother, Billy, at age 26? How could I forget the daily early-morning car rides and chats with my dad delivering newspapers, my first bicycle; or the early adolescent epiphany, sobbing in my basement consumed with self-pity? Receiving my first baseball trophy from Dizzy Dean, or the birth of  our first child, or the thrills of parenthood, or the pain and frustrations of my youngsters’ adolescent years—or the death of a parent, favorite aunt or uncle?

 

This is life.

May my messages carry you through the challenges of life.

May my words embrace you during your darkest moments and provide clarity through uncertain times.

I have only one request—that you absorb, assimilate, and save what is useful to you; reject what you find useless. This book is not a novel, but an intense and frank course on the love of life.

 

Your life, like mine, will be filled with sorrow, joy, mistakes, hellos and goodbyes, exhilaration, creativity, failures, tears of joy, and sincere happiness.

I cannot imagine anything different.

So, my darlings, this is your short course on life.

Be aware of the natural beauty that surrounds you. Your love of Mother Nature will serve you well, especially when the minor quakes of life strike. Worship Mother Nature, for she will indeed carry you amidst her vast beauty and never-ending serenity.

Recognize your senses. With your sense of vision, see beyond the immediate. Smell the sensuous scents of flowers, trees, spices, fruits, the morning dew, and the gentle evening breeze. Hear the vibrant sounds of sinuous streams, waterfalls, raging rivers, breaking waves, songs of birds, the breathing of a newborn, the falling raindrops, and soft snow billowing in the wind. Feel the eagerness of your pets snuggling next to you. Savor the friendly arm on your shoulder, the quiet kiss, the passionate hug, and the effects of a kind smile.

Minimize your fears. Don’t let fear detour you; most things in life need to be experienced. The most difficult journeys are often the most successful. Enjoy your successes and learn from your mistakes. Worrying, sulking, complaining, or bragging will only waste your time. Accept your consequences by taking responsibility for your actions. Move forward without unrealistic fear.

Time is very short. Time wasted today can result in a repetition of lost days. The sooner you value your time, the more you will appreciate that it is the most limited of all resources. It is impossible to control time, and worse yet, it is finite. It has a termination date...

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

 

PLANTING THE SEEDS

My intent in writing this book is to help facilitate your personal growth by providing you with the tools, knowledge, and wisdom on your travels. I want to plant the seeds of enlightenment that will provide a road map and expedite your journey. My goal is to allow you to enjoy your life to its fullest. The road signs are in the form of quotes, anecdotes, and personal glimpses of both ancient and modern worlds. Please feel free to share the thoughts and suggestions provided, especially those of the erudite minds of the past. My other objective is to help you find your path forward as I look back upon my life. So, as I’m looking through my rearview mirror, you can be looking through your front windshield, navigating each intersection along the way. It sounds a little confusing, but my rearview mirror is now much cleaner; my hindsight becomes 20/20! As a bonus, my guidance is free and comes with unconditional love and support.

 

“Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something—your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it made all the difference in my life.”

—Steve Jobs

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

BLISSFUL BLUNDERS

It seemed that during the first third of my life, I qualified as the master of mistakes. During those years, I was under the impression that missteps were bad and self-defeating. As time passed, I discovered them to be feedback. Now I’m convinced that they are often golden opportunities. So, I guess all that fuss was just part of the painful learning curve.

Mistakes and momentary failures are not only lessons that teach success but are the cornerstones of ultimate happiness.

So, what I initially thought of as defeats or major stumbling blocks are really feedback, new beginnings, and subsequent epiphanies. It was my genesis to eventual independence, freedom, and success. It’s your turn now!

If your journey is mistake-free, you will have a long and arduous trip to Nirvana. Make your miscues and failures early, then watch them work magic for you. Take responsibility for your failures because later; they will result in your triumphs and successes. Once you accept yourself as the responsible party for your behavior, you permit yourself to be imperfect. At that point, you will know that you are still okay. After each fall, you can pick yourself up, discard the old behavior, and attempt a new strategy. Remember the scientific method: Identify the problem and then try various alternative strategies. The scientific method's prime principle is not the generation of hypotheses, but rather the testing through trial and error. Also, remember that most scientific discoveries started with a mistake. Your creativity is limitless. The important thing is getting back up after falling. Don’t admit defeat but remember the immortal words of Edison searching for the very first light bulb, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

ADOLESCENCE

Adolescence is a topic that cannot be neglected because it is the most difficult and the most remembered. All adults have experienced it. Quite a number of years ago, while in graduate school, I remember a slightly off-color comment by Dr. Thomas Tutko, a friend and nationally recognized sports psychologist. He jokingly said, “Adolescence is a parent’s penance for having had sex.” At the time, it was funny. After three children, it was spot on! If you think that the childhood years were difficult, you will soon learn that adolescence is several quantum leaps more enlightening and painful.

Early adolescence is the beginning of cataclysmic collisions of physical, emotional, intellectual, social, and spiritual events! It’s a time for the appearance of zits, over-development or under-development, awkwardness, and hours of bathroom recreation fixing or finishing things. Most teens are unhappy with the recent changes in their physical looks. Adolescence is the onset of increased putdowns by oneself and others. Mood swings become the standard rather than the exception. Raging hormones and peer pressure contribute to emotional shifts. It is a period of passionate feelings and mixed emotions. Words are equivocal or dotted with excess emotion. In addition, there are many hyperboles such as “always,” “never,” and, “everybody,” but they are also laced with challenges like “All the other kids can . . .” followed by a plethora of “Whys?” The term teen comes from the old Anglo-Saxon word “teona,” meaning vexations or bewilderment. Not only is it painful and bewildering to parents, but it is also frustrating, vexing, and perhaps more stressful to the teen. As a result, parents can sometimes feel the tightening tendrils of a python slowly cinching their body like a vice. On the other hand, teens also feel they are in the dark vortex of a menacing maelstrom.

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

NOSTALGIC REFLECTIONS

My brother and I rotated either setting or clearing the table. At the table, my mom frequently reminded me that the children in other countries were starving. I was told that whatever I took and put on my plate, I should eat and not waste. Before I was allowed to get up from the table, I asked to be excused. We would bring our dishes and silverware to the sink. Sometimes we were denied permission because mom or dad wanted to discuss something with us before retiring to either homework or a rare television program. Every evening represented a very similar routine.

As a young boy, I was fascinated by our only major means of entertainment—the radio. A neighborhood friend had told me about a “crystal radio” that he had assembled from a kit. Somehow, I earned enough money to visit the local hobby store and promptly purchased my very own radio kit. I raced home, strung copper wires around the bed’s metal frame, which made their way to my headphones hanging on the side of my bed. Within a few hours, I was listening to my homemade radio. While others slept, I enjoyed many hours listening to radio shows like Inner Sanctum, Perry Mason, The Shadow, Sam Spade, The Thin Man, Amos’n Andy, Crime Doesn’t Pay, Dick Tracy, and The Fat Man. That was great fun, and many nostalgic memories remain.

I was also asked about television, and my grandchildren were surprised that there were only a few channels and very limited programs available. Cable TV was nonexistent. They were shocked to hear that my first television didn’t find its way into our home until I was about eight years old. Our first TV was no more than nine inches in diameter, and the screen was only black and white. Our sole TV channel usually had programs until evening and then signed off until the next morning. I still remember that repetitive sound and the strange black and white test pattern that remained until morning.

Of course, as time passed, there were many follow-up questions, and each time we shared our childhood experiences. I distinctly remember our grandchildren’s faces, filled with astonishment and dismay when we told them that times were very different than what they have experienced. For instance, we usually had to earn almost everything special, except for our clothing. My wife said she was expected to make some of her clothes or wait for hand-me-downs from her cousin Rosanne. They were shocked to hear that I started working at age eleven. I shared my 60-hour work week and that at age eleven, I received a total of five dollars for an entire week’s work. I also shared my experience in delivering newspapers at 5 a.m. My Friday nights were filled with collecting 25 cents from each newspaper customer. Often in the winter, it was dark and near or below zero degrees. It cost approximately five cents a paper, and I was able to keep about one cent. I was thrilled when a customer gave me a quarter tip. Fortunately, I was able to pay 100% of my high school tuition. By age sixteen, I was working at the American Can Company in San Jose. It was my first truly meaningful job, and it was my very last menial job.

Well, life was quite different in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. Over the years, my wife and I have shared many nostalgic memories about growing up during that era. My childhood was indeed very strange to our children and grandchildren. Our house was substantially smaller than what they have experienced as children. We had a one-car garage with only a single car. We didn’t have credit cards, except perhaps a metal embossed card issued by Sears, Roebuck and Company, only to be used at their store and no other. Besides my feet, my bicycle was my primary means of transportation. My Schwinn Black Phantom bike was the most exhilarating of all the presents I had ever received. I cried and was utterly speechless when my dad presented it to me. Never in a million years did I expect such a phenomenal gift. For weeks I was in the clouds, savoring and basking in delightful jubilation of my prized possession. My bike got me to baseball practice and games, to the store, to my friends’ houses, fishing at the Bay, going downtown, delivering newspapers, visits to the recreation hall, and any other place within a five- to seven-mile radius. As a child of eight or nine years, I was free to leave the house early in the day and did not need to return until dark. The streetlights were our signal that we were late and in big trouble. We weren’t afraid of being kidnapped, molested, or injured. We felt invulnerable and quite capable of acting independently. We all knew how to change a tire on our bikes. I always had a patch-kit with me. After removing the tire, it allowed me to rough up the inner tube, grab a rubber patch, and with pressure, glue it over the puncture. I still remain aghast about riding my bike at night without light with no identified bike lane. I recall frantically peddling home in the dark, heavy rain falling, hearing and feeling cars within inches of me, and periodically tires splashing water from pothole puddles. I would come home late, shivering and wet from top to bottom—soon to be scolded for being late and having made poor choices!

 

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

I AM THE CHILD

“I am the child. All the world waits for my coming. All of earth watches with interest to see what I shall become. Civilization hangs in the balance. For what I am the world of tomorrow will be.

 

I am the child. I have come into your world about which I knew nothing. When I came, I know not. Why I came, I know not.

I am the child. You hold in your hands my destiny. You determine largely whether I shall succeed or fail. Give me, I pray you, those things that make for happiness. Train me, I beg you, that I may be a blessing to this world.”

 

—Author Mamie Cole

...(Continued in The Classroom of Life. (Purchase on Amazon)

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