Memorial Day 2013. A Still Small Voice…through the ages

mem 2013

For Memorial Day- A still, small voice

 

         As the media drown us in allegations of malfeasance at Benghazi, IRS overzealousness in scrutinizing the tax deductibility of politically motivated contributions, sequestration, tornado devastated cities and the other traumas faced by so many, I thought today of Elijah the ancient sage who had hid from the king in a cave. The king, threatened by Elijah, would have him killed. Elijah questioned where God had gone, given all the torment the sage faced. Even in his cave refuge, a storm raged, holding him like a captive.

         After many days had passed, the storm died down and an ominous silence took its place. In this silence, the sage sensed the presence of God. In this moment of reflection, touched by God, the sage knew what he must do, so that he could continue in his work. Empowered, he went back to the city where he found strong allies.

Now this imagery of a sage communing with his god thousands of years ago may, admittedly be a tough act for us modern secular types to wrap our minds around. How does one experience this ‘ominous silence.’

         Yet this Memorial Day, another image comes to mind that also illustrates the set of mind I’m talking about. I wonder if this ‘ominous silence’ occurred again after Abraham Lincoln spoke at  Gettysburg.
The War Between the States still raged on when Lincoln had gone to help dedicate the cemetery for the war dead. In November, 1963, letting the south secede, dividing one nation into two, could have become a possibility. In the ultimate ‘political soundbite,’ in a speech a little over two minutes in length,  President Lincoln urged those in the North to press on for Union.

And so, the war continued on for many more months until Robert E Lee at Appomattox urged his troops to return home and accept the peace that was offered them.

         Even today, here and there, this ominous silence is present, touching people, helping pave the way for a commitment to the larger values, whether it is service to a belief or a nation; or both. Something to think about for Memorial Day.

Listen to the Gettysburg address and other documents that made democracy on ‘Those Self Evident Truths,’ a CD produced and presented by Ted Magnuson
400 years of democracy in the making in 72 minutes.

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The Bouchard Legacy, it’s 1979, the end of an era and a family remembers.

The Bouchard Legacy, it’s 1979, the end of an era and a family remembers.

The Cover of The Bouchard Legacy

My novel is set in 1979 when Vietnam Vet Paul Elser discovers all his hard work building up business up for the Sunny Day Beverage Company may be for nothing. Colonel Elijah Bouchard has made it clear; he wants to sell.
Paul. He’s earned the right for a chance at the business. Won’t his step-brother, brother he called him; Randy, profligate Randy, put in a good word for him?
Randy, recently divorced, financially strapped, and feeling the pressure from the white side of the family–to sell, sell, sell.
And who are those other family members?
There’s Colonel Elijah Bouchard-‘Grandpere,’a true relic of the lily-white Old South. He owns The Sunny Day Beverage Company. Hardly one to endorse his daughter Margaret’s marriage to a black man. That’s right. Daddy Bruce, Paul’s dad is black and so is Paul.
Randy is white.
It’s the Prince and the Pauper, It’s Dallas. It’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Then there’s Henry, Randy’s father, the womanizing divorce lawyer with a gambling problem…He’s the grease behind the sale.
Of course, Margaret, Randy’s mother, an entrepreneurial woman before her time, would stand against the sale but would Grandpere listen? Ha! The crusty old relic has raised her rent and ‘franchise fees’ too many times to swallow that one.

Oh sure, while in high school, Paul and Randy were great friends. They became brothers in a blended family when their parents married.  Paul, the strong silent son of a Tuskegee Airman and Randy—a newly minted doctor, accustomed to comfort and the pleasures that money can buy.
The Bouchard Legacy. A story of loyalty and greed, a story of prejudice and character; it’s the story of Randy and Paul coming of age in the tumultuous 1960’s and then, their arrival as men in the close of the 1970’s. Set in Mid-America, St Louis, MO, ‘The gateway to the West.’

The author speaks.
People ask me ‘is this story in anyway autobiographical?’

Yes, but only through a glass darkly. Growing up in that era, researching the events of the day proved very rewarding. I participated in a few of them myself. Did I inhale? Read the story and find out! Another way the story is ‘based on real life,’ is that in my college and early career days, I’d often been asked if I’d like to ‘take over from Dad.’ My father owned several businesses. Well, at the time, the answer was ‘no.’ Dad worked way too hard for my particular liking. Of course that was before I discovered everybody who’s anybody works hard. Now, at last through The Bouchard Legacy, I get to see a family succession plan that works. The next generation takes charge.
A third way the story is factual is that as an insurance agent, I had many clients who passed a business on to an heir, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Please do read The Bouchard Legacy and let me know what you think. Thank you. Ted Magnuson

 The Bouchard Legacy is available in paperback (207 pages) and on Kindle. I hope you enjoy it. For purchase go to http://www.tedmagnuson.com
Thank you!

It’s All About ‘Enough.’ Saying that Last Farewell

elderly people

As this is the season for often lengthy holiday trips and family visits, I’m posting this story:

At an airport I overheard a mother and daughter in their last moments together. They had announced her plane’s departure and standing near the door, she said to her daughter, “I love you, I wish you enough.” She said, “Mom, our life together has been more than enough. Your love is all I ever needed. I wish you enough, too, Mom.” They kissed good-bye and she left. She walked over toward the window where I was seated. Standing there I could see she wanted and needed to cry. I tried not to intrude on her privacy, but she welcomed me in by asking, “Did you ever say good-bye to someone knowing it would be forever?” “Yes, I have,” I replied. Saying that brought back memories I had of expressing my love and appreciation for all my Mom had done for me. Recognizing that her days were limited, I took the time to tell her face to face how much she meant to me. So I knew what this woman was experiencing. “Forgive me for asking, but why is this a forever good-bye?” I asked. “I am old and she lives much too far away. I have challenges ahead and the reality is, her next trip back will be for my funeral, ” she said. “When you were saying good-bye I heard you say, ‘I wish you enough.’ May I ask what that means?” She began to smile. “That’s a wish that has been handed down from other generations. My parents used to say it to everyone.” She paused for a moment and looking up as if trying to remember it in detail, she smiled even more. “When we said ‘I wish you enough,’ we were wanting the other person to have a life filled with enough good things to sustain them,” she continued, and then turning toward me she shared the following as if she were reciting it from memory. “I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. I wish enough “Hello’s” to get you through the final “Good-bye..”

A post from Amanda Morris, K-Love Radio Portland, Oregon.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Auld Lang Syne.

If you enjoyed this story, Ted Magnuson has written The Bouchard Legacy, about a fourth generation family business that changed with the times 1968-1979.

Link to the Bouchard Legacy

The Grand Staircase of Life

The Grand Staircase of Life

A friend of mine once explained it all to me. Life is like a giant staircase—something on the scale of the Grand Canyon. You go through periods of intense activity and growth, climbing up a step or two but then a year might go by, or two, where you consolidate stuff, don’t learn much, and just put life on autopilot. “It’s less hectic that way,” he explained.

His analogy may be very apt—depending on which plateau you happen to be on at the time. For the analogy does break down, doesn’t it? The ‘Staircase of Life’ aren’t necessarily navigated on autopilot.

The ‘prompts to climb,’ the times for growth, change, turmoil; call it what you will are many, are sudden, and can be trying.

The appearance of a ‘staircase’ could be as simple as boredom, or a new assignment at work. It could be as intense and tumultuous as the loss of a job, or of someone close to us. Whatever it is, crises/growth/the spur to change…happens. Can we choose to ignore change? Will it then go away?

Not in this life!

Change is inevitable. Our response to change is what makes all the difference.

In his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift,’ Tom Hallman describes how on Sept 11, his flight home to Portland from Chicago got grounded. He spent the next two days coming home on Amtrak. Conversations at dinner with fellow passengers prompted him to ask the larger questions; what did he want out of life, what direction was his life taking?

As a result of this train trip, Tom Hallman changed. He took a spiritual journey, which he generously laid out for us in his book ‘A Stranger’s Gift.’

Now, change is admittedly difficult. There is something in human nature isn’t there, that stubbornly insists “That’s the way it’s always been and always will be.”

But whether we see them or not, these facts, these prompts for change happen. We are the better for it, then; if we train ourselves to both recognize and act on these prompts for change.

How?

Mainly, I believe, by the people we meet, the books we read, the broadening of our experience that we do in times when we are ‘on the plateaus’ of life.

Then when it’s climb time, we are ready.

In my own life, this past month saw the release of my novel The Bouchard Legacy. I have been working on this change, this project, this book for the past 15 years! Several things prompted me to write this book. And I could easily have ignored them. But having acted on them, look what I’ve got: my very own book. You may have heard it said; “Everyone has a book inside them? Or as Paul of Tarsus said “We are all books written by God.”

That being so, now I know that at least in my book, there are pages with stuff written on them!   Hoo Haa!

How about your book? Are there pages with good stuff written on them? I hope so, for all our sakes.

If my own case rings true, I know there won’t be much good stuff on the page if I haven’t gone to the trouble of putting it there. Good doesn’t’ happen on autopilot.

How then does it take place?

Lately there’s been some talk about ‘hope.’

But what is hope?

A cure-all panoply?

Some kind of sleight of hand, woo-woo hocus pocus?

How can we nail hope down?

What if we reframe the concept of hope as believing?

Once we believe there is a solution.

We believe that we can tackle the job before us.

Then achievement is possible.

In my own situation, I’d always enjoyed reading, the idea of writing a book had always appealed to me, but it wasn’t until I decided I would believe, that I took steps towards writing my book. Suddenly, opportunities began to appear.

A writer’s conference is announced in the news; I will go.

A cheap computer/word processor appears at a garage sale; I buy.

I plug it in; it works!

And so day by day, change took place and now I have a book to my name. Hoo Haa!

Whatever the stimulus for change may be for you; an uneasy feeling, ominous undertones at work, a pink slip, a personal tragedy or even an unconscionable streak of good fortune, first keep your head.

Believe.

Next: Be alert to your opportunities, your resources and your direction.

Finally; the last step is much the same as the first: Keep believing.

Again, to my own example. My novel, The Bouchard Legacy is about a family whose wealth is about to be passed on, possibly to a fourth generation.  It’s about coming of age in the mid America of the 1970’s.

It’s about the journey from child to adult, boy to man, girl to woman, perhaps one of the most phenomenal changes of them all.

I offer this book to you as a proof, a product of what happens when we accept the challenge change presents to us.

What changes would you like to see in your life?

What changes in the world around you?

Can you can be that change?

About that staircase in your life? Is that a wall you see before you now…or a step?

[https://www.createspace.com/3833507]

Is Marriage Dead?

While the craven hearts of men and women have long been lamented in popular song and story, shall we now dismiss marriage as outdated and irrelevant? With the divorce rate gyrating around 50% of all marriages, it would seem there is more ‘promise’ than ‘delivery’ to the archaic institution.
Perhaps marriage should go the way of slavery and transport by horse and carriage.
But wait, all respect to those cloven by divorce, as divorce does work on individuals and couples in all walks of life, under all manner of circumstances, on those with varying degrees of ‘wherewithal’ ($$$) and smarts (IQ), are we hearing the full story when statistics cite a 50% divorce rate?
When it comes to large numbers, like the entire adult population of America, can’t we also conclude that 50% of the people are below average? Note: I am not inferring these are necessarily the same people.
Are we hearing the full story when we hear that ‘freedom’ and focus on ‘income generating activity’ to the exclusion of a private life are more important priorities? Have people truly become so sophisticated these days that the simple pleasures of exchanging kind words, keeping house, candles at dinner, and grocery shopping have all become passé?
It is a sad world indeed, I should think, once people begin to say to one another such things as:
“I don’t lift a finger for nobody unless I am paid for it.”
“I don’t have time for intimacy. It is too labor intensive. The results don’t match the efforts.”
“I don’t have time for exclusive intimacy. I always find myself falling into the trap of giving to my partner more than I get in return.”
Surely, with over population such as it is, it is good there are those who would prefer to forgo marriage. It is good there are worker bees uninterested in childrearing. Would that more people take up that lifestyle, especially in the failed states and least techno savvy countries.
However, I should also ask those who pursue such freedom and such dedication to their profession; ‘what of the children? What of those who come after us? If taking time for conversation, over candles (or not) has become droll, if every transaction must have a dollar sign attached to it, what does that say about our commitment to being human? Vending machines are very good at giving value for the dollar, though I would be hard-pressed to find a vending machine that can cook a fresh caught rainbow trout or even a tasty bowl of Hungarian goulash, much less a hug or even a smile.
Perhaps dinner over candlelight with sparkling eyes, sweet bouquets and sobriquets aren’t meant to last forever, but infatuation isn’t marriage. Couples golf, tandem bikes and ballroom dancing count as together time, too.
If any case, when it comes to delving into the craven heart of men and women are concerned, when it comes to saying “Marriage is dead, 50% of marriages fail, I would also point out that 99.9% of the people can’t be president of the United States or the Sovereign Head of England.
Should those institutions be discarded, too?