Monday, August 13, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Embrace and Spread the Light

We all have times in our lives that feel like dark nights, shadows, even storms. Life doesn’t let us get by without experiencing such difficulties or challenges.

Once we accept that there will be storms in life--some severe, we can develop the tools to move through those difficult times with grace. We can learn effective ways to use our storms as opportunities for growth. 

Even in the depth of our shadows and storms, we can find light. That light comes when we become more patient, empathetic, and kind to others and to ourselves.

Today, this week: Look to the light, embrace it and spread it to others.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Be a Magnet

You are a magnet. You have the power to use your positive energy to attract positive energy back into your life. 

In other words, what you cast out into the world has a way of coming back to you.

Think about when you smile to someone. You often receive a smile back.

When you are kind, kindness is returned to you--often in unexpected and bountiful ways.

When you are grateful, the reasons to be grateful seem to multiply. 

Trust that the good, positive, sunny energy that you put forth will come back to you in even greater measure.

So today, this week: Be a magnet. Be sunshine. Use your positive energy to bring light to those around you. That light will surely shine back on you. 

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Your Happiest and Truest Self

In my post on July 1, 2018, I wrote about simplicity from the perspective of over-consumerism and over-commitment. This month, let’s explore simplicity from yet another perspective—listening to what gives you bliss and to where the path is calling you.
On August 1, 2012, I posted to this blog a post called "Sheer Bliss." In the post, I noted that I had just finished reading Timeless Simplicity: Creative Living in a Consumer Society by John Lane (2002; ISBN: 1 903998 00 X). 
The book had somehow ended up in my hand as I browsed the vast collections of our local public library. Its title spoke to me.
For many years, I've been fascinated by the voluntary simplicity movement. I like to live a simpler, leaner life with fewer possessions, fewer obligations, fewer things to distract me from my enjoyment of the moment. 
I also am a seeker in that I always keep my eye on whether I'm living my life's calling and purpose. When I am following the path that is right for me, everything feels simpler. Everything falls into place. 
When I am not following the right path for me, things quickly feel more complicated.
John Lane's book took the concept of simplicity beyond materialism to a focus on the fulfillment of our life's purpose. The author contends that we tend to know by the time we're adolescents what gives us bliss, who we are and what we must do in order for us to be our happiest and truest selves. 
Our lives might take us on paths away from that bliss due to distraction, procrastination, etc., but Mr. Lane urges the reader to "be sensitive to whatever your gift is, and never let it go." 
I've been a writer for years and years. When I write, I enter a blissful state. I feel tingly all over and become euphoric just at the thought of writing. And when I actually sit down to do so, time melts away and I don't want it to end.
Public speaking is also a natural and enjoyable endeavor for me. Perhaps that's why I chose a college degree in speech communications.
What comes naturally to you? What activities give you such joy that time stands still? Pay attention to those times when you feel bliss.  Be sensitive to them. Then, find ways to follow the path of your heart to your happiest and truest self. Now, that will be sheer bliss.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Affirming Words: I Seek and Find Ways to Serve

Consider adopting these Affirming Words for this month. Say them often to yourself -- whenever you see yourself in a mirror, when you get out of bed to start the day, whenever you need a little pick-me-up:

I listen to where I am being called to serve and I respond to that call. 

As I make myself available in service to others, my life becomes richer and more rewarding.

Monday, July 30, 2018

My Dad, the Snake Man - Part One

My dad, Chuck Naidl, and me in one of our earlier photos together. The facial expressions say it all.
My dad and I were very close for all of the 26 years that I got to be with him
until he passed away on July 30, 1984.

I periodically post photographs to Facebook of my late father, Roy Paul "Chuck" Naidl. Although small in stature (barely taller than 5'5"), he had a big mission. Dad was an intelligent and witty man, devoted husband and father, and passionate educator and lecturer who dedicated his professional life to helping people better understand reptiles and amphibians, and consequently, decrease their fear through education and understanding. He was often referred to fondly as "the snake man."

Life with Dad was such a joyful adventure that people have been urging me to write a book about him. Dad passed away 34 years ago, meaning that I have lived more of my life without my father's presence than with it. 

My father, Chuck Naidl, and me circa 1970.
As an only child, I had the pleasure of enjoying a delightful, mutually respectful relationship
with both of my parents.

As I become reacquainted with the memories of my growing-up years by putting them on paper (digitally), I thought I would first write a series of monthly blog posts, titled My Dad, the Snake Man, in tribute to him. (Many thanks to my friend, Charlene, for affirming the title.). Then, we'll see if there's a book in me for all of this storytelling.

I begin the five-part monthly series of posts with this one on July 30, the anniversary of my father's passing. The subsequent posts will be published at 9:00 a.m. central time on August 21, September 13, October 2 and November 21. That final post in the series will be published on Dad's 100th birthday.

Each of these posts will move backward through my father's life, beginning with his death and ending with his birth.

My dad with a tarantula, one of the many beings who he respectfully cared for
and included in his educational presentations in schools across the United States.

I will make every effort to be accurate with any factual details, but admittedly, this series of posts will be a loving tribute to my father more than anything -- a rambling of reminiscences, much of it through the filters of my childhood memory and perspective. 

While known across the United States as "the snake man," Chuck Naidl was first and foremost for me, simply Dad.

An early business card of Dad's on the left, as well as
a complimentary ticket to our family's reptile farm, at right.

This chapter of the story begins in May of 1976. I had graduated a semester early from high school to begin my college experience. As I was getting ready to begin my final exams on campus, my mother received a telephone call that Dad had collapsed while entering a school in Winneconne, Wisconsin where he was to present his program about the value and virtues of reptiles and amphibians in the ecosystem. Mom and I dropped everything, drove to the Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh, only to find him in the Intensive Care Unit. Dad had suffered a serious heart attack. 

Thankfully, he would recover, but only after being hospitalized for about a month and then suffering a relapse shortly after he was discharged home to Baraboo, Wisconsin. 

Dad eventually spent time at home healing and growing stronger again. He was even able to resume his school lecture tours with time, but only on a limited basis and primarily with my mother accompanying him. Mom, a registered nurse, took time off from her work as an in-service education director at a skilled nursing facility and instructor of certified nursing assistants in order to accompany Dad on short lecture tours. They traveled by automobile together. Mom and Dad would continue the abridged lecture circuit for only a couple more years. Dad, then, divested himself of many of the reptiles, leaving only a few of his prized snakes and turtles to remain under his care at our home.

Dad's interests weren't restricted to snakes. Here he is with a mature snapping turtle.

We celebrated Dad's recovery from his devastating health event, but the road wasn't entirely easy. After an additional hospitalization for congestive heart failure a few years later, Dad began to not feel well early in the summer of 1984. On July 30th of that year, my mother and I arrived home to find that Dad had collapsed and died of another cardiac event. He was 65 years old.

The newspaper notice at the time of Dad's passing on July 30, 1984.

Just a few weeks earlier, Dad had conveyed a premonition to me that he wouldn't live much longer. While waiting together in the local pharmacy to pick up a prescription one day, Dad mentioned out of the blue that he was glad there were videotapes of him so that his potential grandchildren would know what he looked and sounded like. I was taken aback at the time, but I came to have the same premonition myself, an overwhelming sadness that engulfed me during the 4th of July festivities that year. I somehow knew that they would be our last together.

Fortunately, Dad and I had the opportunity to enjoy one final father-daughter date about a month before he passed away. Whenever my mom would travel out of town to spend time with her parents, Dad and I would schedule a father-daughter date where we would go out to eat, listen to live music, select topics for philosophical discussion and simply enjoy each other's company. Dad was a voracious reader and a great conversationalist on a variety of topics, always making our conversations fun and interesting.

Dad made me this table for my second birthday and offered to share my birthday cake with me.

Although our final father-daughter date was able to take place, I didn't, however, get to treat Dad and Mom to breakfast one more time. The day before he died, Dad, Mom and I enjoyed an after-church breakfast together at one of our favorite local restaurants. As usual, he and I tugged at the bill when the server delivered it to our table. As Dad made the final and decisive grab for it, I offered that the next time, breakfast would be on me. Sadly, it wasn't to be.

This is how Dad always signed notes and cards to me.  Loved that little rattlesnake cartoon.

Dad passed away on a Monday. By Friday of that same week, we were holding his memorial service. On the morning of the service, Mom and I took a walk. We soon found ourselves accompanied by a butterfly that was insistent upon swirling and sweeping gently around us. Mom said that she felt the butterfly was a sign from Dad that all was well and that he would always be with us. To this day, when I see a butterfly flitting around me, I think of that morning walk decades ago, the wisdom of my mother during a time of such profound grief, and the reassurance that Dad is with me always.

That fall, we cast Dad's ashes in some of his favorite places for snake hunting throughout his beloved Baraboo Hills. It just seemed right that a part of him return to those breathtaking places that had drawn him to Baraboo so long ago.

Dad's ashes were scattered in some of his favorite snake-hunting spots throughout the Baraboo Hills.

After Dad's passing, Mom and I contacted a friend from a Chicago-based herpetological society who took the few reptiles Dad had left and sold them for us. Mom and I then prepared our home and reptile farm property for sale and listed it. By October, the sale was complete. 

Mom wasn't able to say goodbye to the place that had been called home for 35 years, that place that had been known simply as "the snake farm" to local residents. Mom was in the hospital, recovering from a second cancer surgery, when I walked through the house for the last time, wandered outdoors to look out over the Baraboo Hills, reminisced about the many remarkable experiences that had happened in my 26 years on those five acres, and locked the front door for the final time. Gone was the era of Chuck Naidl's Reptile Farm, but the memories would live on in our hearts.

Dad and me, enjoying the new swing he made for me in our backyard in 1962.
In the cement base, Dad had engraved my name and the year.

When Dad died, I lost my primary male role model, the man who was always there to make little tables and swing sets and draw cartoons for me; the man with whom I could discuss intellectual matters, solve problems, and spend time in quiet conversation. Dad wasn't one to toss advice around haphazardly. Rather, he quietly considered whatever issue I brought to him and thoughtfully provided me with his response, often engaging me to help solve my own dilemmas. 

My dad, Chuck Naidl, in a professional portrait taken by local photographer Ron Rich circa 1963.
It's not surprising that Dad would be holding his signature pipe.

Although Dad's years were cut short, the 65 years he did live were lived richly, passionately and in his own way. He was an educator at heart: patient, thorough, encouraging and inclusive. He traveled extensively, touching one life after another with his positive, affirming ecological message. 

A parade of journalists, photographers, college professors and students were constantly visiting our home and the reptile farm that Dad and Mom operated as an educational center for 35 years. With Dad's passing, those days were now over. I would like to believe that the knowledge he imparted continues to be passed along to others who, in turn, will continue to share that important message about reptiles with generations to come.

Dad, holding a Tegu lizard at our family's reptile farm.
My father's knowledge and wisdom on the subject of reptiles were sought regularly by
journalists, professors, authors, college students and more.

My father enjoyed an extraordinary career doing exactly what he loved to do -- being "the snake man." And I was lucky enough to be part of that amazing life.

One of my favorite pictures of Dad, always with a pipe and a smile.
A tattoo of a snake that he got while stationed with the US Army in the Mojave Desert during WWII
is peeking out of his shirtsleeve.

In next month's installment, posting on August 21 at 9:00 a.m. central time, I'll explore what it was like to grow up on a reptile farm. See you then.

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: See the Unique Beauty

The experiences of our lives have a tendency to set the lens through which we see others and view future experiences.

What if we shed those preset lenses for just today and chose to see everything and everyone from a new perspective?

Today, try this experiment: See the unique beauty in everyone you meet and everything you encounter. Come from a place of openness. Come from a place of kindness. Come from a place of patience. Come from a place of compassion. Come from a place of respect.

At the end of the day, consider what you learned from your experiment. Then, give it a try again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Fresh Thoughts for Your Monday: Let Love Guide You

Every day, we have the opportunity to witness kindness and goodness and to learn from what we witness.

Every day, we have the opportunity to frame our thoughts, words and actions so that they build up, not tear down.

When we focus on what’s kind and good, we find it in others and in ourselves. When we use our words and deeds to display kindness, we come from a place of love.

Today, this week: Direct your attention to all that is good. Fill your own well of kindness. Then, let love guide your every thought, word and deed.