A stumbling block in our fulfillment as people can sometimes be failing to give a person a second chance. We all make mistakes from time to time… and when we do, it is our human frailty emerging. It’s usually not a lack of effort or intelligence… it’s just how things are. 

We can overlook our own flaws, inadequacies and shortcomings, but we are often too quick to recognize and top point out the mistakes to others.


I picture myself as an ordinary person who was born to and raised by a set of extraordinary parents. I learned most of life’s lessons through observation and first-hand example. I feel sadness for anyone who was raised in a house where love and respect was not present. 

Some call it being in the right place at the right time. Others call it fate. I call it opportunity management. It’s a simple theory that anyone who is on a mission knows exactly what I am talking about.

I recently spoke before a national conference of an organization made up of people whose job is to oversee the recreational activities for their fellow co-workers. One would think that this group was tuned in to personal time management and making sure that there was always a maintenance of balance between work and play, but I discovered that a number of convention attendees with whom I spoke after addressing the group, who told me that they needed to hear my message of life balance and priorities loudly and clearly.

They know very well that hard work pays off with the reward coming in the level of enjoyment in exactly how we use our personal time. I remember a wise man telling me about the difference between being rich and being wealthy. He explained that being rich means that you have money, while being wealthy is having the money and the time to enjoy it. 

It was a week to remember as the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs came back to Wrigley Field as a team for the first time since November when they broke the 108 year championship drought.

 

For the third Spring Training, under the tutelage of Joe Maddon, I have watched and listened as the boys in the blue pinstripes went through the drills, the workouts and the exhibition games before setting sail on a new campaign. Considering the first two seasons with Joe at the helm, we should certainly have reason to be optimistic. They are coming off a sensational World Series Championship that followed a trip to the NLCS, the previous year. The odds makers have placed them as the favorites to repeat again this year… a very odd feeling for a lifelong Cubs fan.

At a time when we are trying to discern whether to laugh or cry as we gaze upon the political horizon, tensions of following the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series and the simple wear and tear that life brings, we have a much bigger problem. It is our fascination and addiction to electronic devices of one kind or another. The flickering flame of life of the family conversation has all but been extinguished with iEverythings.

There is something rather incredible about preparing for a new season of baseball… much like the rehearsals of a play or a musical performance, which you hope will bring the intended result. In the theater, we hope for an evolution of character development as the opening night draws closer, with the interplay and the dialogue between the actors gradually solidifying and the natural flow of the plot emerging. In the musical circles, it is the strength of the individual musicians coming together in rhythm and harmony to create the single unified sound of one voice for the whole of the ensemble. As for baseball… and I would say… in all team sports, it is working toward that moment when the actions of leading and following at the same time become natural and unforced to create a beautiful thing called team that makes it all worth it.

The little conveniences that we have come to enjoy on a routine basis should not be overlooked so easily, especially when you consider traveling by air prior to the addition of wheels on our luggage. Can you imagine actually having to carry a suitcase? How 1950’s can you get? We cram as much of our “stuff” into a bag as if it were an all you can eat buffet on a cruise ship, stopping dangerously close to within ounces of the “now it’ll cost you zone…”  the scary world of more than 50 pounds. What prompted this thought was seeing a poor guy struggling at an airport recently. I could barely resist asking him how it was that he had what I labeled a Suitcase version 1.0 at the end of his arm that seemed to get longer with each step, but I held back. 

St Francis De Sales is quoted as saying… “When you get into the habit of looking for goodness and beauty, you get into the habit of finding it.” I could not agree more. Every day, around every new corner, we have the potential to stop, look and listen to what the world is saying to us. Living life with our eyes open is a recurrent theme to my presentations to groups and associations, where I frequently speak. 

Anything worth believing in is worth fighting for. That is a motto that I carry around with me in my pocket. How about you? If you don’t already have it permanently emblazoned in your daily M.O., you should add it to the top of your list. It’s a simple, yet effective way to get a constant charge of energy. It forces you to ask yourself the important question… do I relay believe in what I am doing… or trying to do? And, if so, am I or am I not willing to fight for that belief?

Some cynics will say, “Don’t put off until tomorrow, what you can put off all together.” I try to not be one of those people. I find that when it’s time for something that needs to get done, you have to plan of action and go after it. Dream experts tell us that a dream only last about 20 minutes, but an unfulfilled dream last an entire lifetime… and that is the issue.

I like to operate under the philosophy that says, “Time wasted, is time lost.” We can change a lot of things in our lives, but we cannot turn back the clock, recapture our youth, or spend more time with loved ones, once time has passed… because then, it’s too late.

If you’re like me, you are finding yourself running from one meeting to the next. Pretty soon, one conference room starts to look like the other. Then, all of a sudden, one meeting jumps out at you as being memorable, and it does so because it followed a few simple rules.

In the world of personal motivation, failure must be understood in order that we can truly appreciate success. Fear of loss moves people to action. Fear of failure can cripple them. As we progress through our career paths, the idea is to get the success stories to outnumber the failures… and when that starts to occur on a regular basis, we very rapidly discover that success will simply not tolerate failures. And conversely, failure will not tolerate success.

On a recent afternoon, I spent some time sifting through a photo album and took the opportunity to look beyond the surface image of the snapshots to make some very lovely discoveries along the journey. As I glanced at each photo, it naturally brought back a memory of the event and the person or persons that were captured there, but as I studied each picture further, I found myself getting tugged into the moment of the who, what, where and when that was looking back at me. The images are far more than just smiling faces of family and friends who had come together at a birthday party or holiday gathering. It was far more than just people standing in pose in front of historic places, scenic mountain ranges or beaches. These are the suspended moments in our lives when we seemed to be smiling at or hugging each other for a reason.

In all lines of work, there are those who go through the motions and those who take the time to do their job right. No job is too small, no assignment too menial to the individual who takes pride in their work. And it is this attention to detail, the commitment to excellence that we should always make a point of recognizing. Call it “Old World” approach to craftsmanship… because that is precisely what it is… and not enough people possess this quality. When you notice that little extra personal touch that has been put into a job, it often stands out like brown shoes with a tux, or a diamond in the rough. 

 

When preparing for a business presentation, a speaking appearance or a sales call, some of the best advice that I ever received was to never assume and never underestimate the audience, of one or of thousands. A critical mistake is when we as presenters underestimate the knowledge and preparation of those with whom you are meeting or speaking to.

Rather than making the assumption that they have only prepared to listen to what you have to say, we always need to take the position that they are as intensely prepared as you are on the topic du jour.

Remember the words of Peter Pan as he sang to us? “I don’t want to grow up.” Hey, Pete… who does? Growing up means responsibilities, accountabilities, and liabilities. It can be pretty scary. But you know what? I have some good news for you.

As we gathered around the Thanksgiving table this year, we were faced with a valuable opportunity. In a time when the shrillness of the political rhetoric still rings in our ears, we can make a resolution to step back, take a deep breath and make a choice to simply, be nicer to each other. 

There is a wonderful phrase that comes from St Francis de Sales who said, “When you get into the habit of looking for goodness and beauty in your life, you get into the habit of finding it.”  It’s a simple, yet very profound statement that invites us to look through a different set of lenses as we march through life with our fellow man.

 

If you are lucky enough to have just one really good friend at any given moment in time… consider yourself very fortunate. A true friend is a treasure in life. It’s someone that cares about you, for who you are, with all of the flaws and frailties…

After growing up with the Chicago Cubs, the improbable would seem to prove to be nearly impossible year after year. The nonsensical reasons for the futility were dragged out each fall as other teams readied themselves to play into October… and even early November. It became expected that something would happen, or would go wrong along the way to toss a log across the tracks to halt our journey to Happy Town.

For as long as I have been alive, the Chicago Cubs have managed to fall short of the ring. In fact, as long as my father and grandfather before that were alive, the Cubs found one way or another to leave their fans with the feeling of emptiness at the end of the season as other cities would celebrate as their local team hoisted the trophy.

It seems like only a few years ago when my brother and I wore a hole in the grass in the back yard where we would play “Home Run Derby” for hours, day after day. The summers were longer then, or so it seemed. We would fill the hours with play-by-play of the batters as they came to the plate, always ending in the World Series.

 

The seasons have come and the years have long past since those carefree days of our youth, but the dream never died… one day, we always said, the Cubs will be in the Series. We said it, with hopes that if we continued to believe to “wait until next year,“ that the elusive next year would finally arrive. Enter 2016 and an entirely new breed making up the Chicago National League Ballclub, Inc. as they are officially known.

It is not just another October 14th, by any means. This is a significant date in my life. It was in 1994, marking 6 months and 5 days after being shot in the neck at point-blank with a 9mm pistol, when I came back to sing again. The momentous event occurred at the Rosemont Horizon, (now, the Allstate Arena) at the first-ever home game for the Chicago Wolves Professional Hockey Team.

Anniversaries of significant days where we have experienced great joy and triumph live alongside those memories that are sometimes painful and melancholy. I believe that we must learn to forgive in our lives, but we also need to realize the importance of not forgetting. For me, to walk out on the red carpet that night with Kathleen, my amazingly strong wife, hand-in-hand and in lock step in every way, is a moment of exhiliartion that beacame real as our Stadium Announcer Ed Vucinic said, “Six months ago, his voice was silenced… Tonight, he’s back.” The mere thought of that moment can bring a chill up my spine.

As most of America tunes in to see the Chicago Cubs face the San Francisco Giants in what is the first game of the postseason in the National League TONIGHT, there will be a ton of emotions and long-standing dreams coming to life. For a team that has not been in the World Series in 71 years (1945) and has not won the crown in 108 years (1908), futility has become a part of life to the legions and generations of what were known for far too long as the “lovable losers.”

 

It never fails. Just when you break in the old guy… he retires, quits, or gets the axe. Then, comes the often-painful task of dealing with the new boss… that awkward courting ritual of getting to know what he or she is all about and trying to put yourself in a positive light with the first of daily impressions.

Increasingly, we are becoming a world that is played out on the evening news entering our neighbors’ living room. We leave little, or nothing to the imagination. Cameras are shoved into people’s faces and not everyone is ready for “prime time.”

Not everyone is blessed with the gift of a good singing voice. Some people couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I say that, being one of the lucky one’s whose singing voice has taken me to exciting and fun places throughout the years. But, I also encourage everyone who has a voice… to use it in song. It really doesn’t matter if you are off key, or if you don’t know the words to a song, or if you have a lousy sense of rhythm… the point is… singing is just good for the soul.


Messmer Blog Photo - Zen
Have you spoken to someone recently who complained, “I just don’t have any fun anymore?” Maybe, you’re one of those folks yourself? Well, Bunky, if you haven’t laughed a little already today, you’re missing a whole new world out there.

The original family sitcom ran from 1954 to 1962… and if you don’t know it… you should. I’m not referring to I Love Lucy… another staple of the time… but… not the best of the best in my opinion.

The show that I still love features the Anderson’s… who lived a nice, clean life in the town of Springfield. Not sure exactly what state the Anderson’s Springfield was… but it really didn’t matter as far as the plot goes.

Let’s see if the character names ring a bell?

Married men seldom understand the responsibilities involved with being a so-called, “stay-at-home” mom. Here is a concept that would be hard-pressed to find willing   participants. I present this with love and respect for the hardest working people on earth… the mom’s of our families.

The Challenge goes something like this:

Six married men 
will be dropped on an island with one car and 3 kids each car for a period of six weeks. 

Each child will play at least two sports 
and take   either music or dance classes, or both. 

There is no fast food for dinner.

 Each man must take care of his 3 children; 
keep his assigned house clean, 
correct all   homework, 
complete science projects, 
cook, 
do laundry, 
and pay a list of 'pretend' bills 
with not enough money. 


One thing that you can always count on a couple of times a day in my hometown of Chicago is rush hour traffic. It seems that never have so many people been in such a hurry to get somewhere at the same time since the great Oklahoma land rush. And tens of thousands of urbanites and suburbanites routinely battle it… twice a day as part of their lives resulting in high blood pressure and record stress levels. They creep along in bumper-to-bumper traffic grumbling about the situation while ignoring the lost opportunity to capture what could be their most valuable personal time of the day. Welcome to “University on Wheels.”

As the summer vacation season starts its plans to make way for the changing of the leaves, I began wondering what typical families have in mind as their way of celebrating the great American tradition this year… the family vacation. Maybe you’re still in the process of planning this year’s getaway, but the memories of summer vacations past and present are always something special.

Festivals, ballgames, parties and picnics are swell… but let’s never forget what Memorial Day is really all about.

 

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two-dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. 

I have had an incredible experience year after year when it comes to the story I am about to tell. I always know, from the moment that I wake up on this special day that I was going to be a part of a uniquely Chicago event. Despite the fact that I have been a part of the celebration for over thirty years, I felt a sense of joy that made me anticipate what was going to happen.

 

Contrary to popular belief, Mother's Day was not conceived and fine-tuned in the boardroom of Hallmark. The earliest tributes to mothers date back to the annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to Rhea, the mother of many deities, and to the offerings ancient Romans made to their Great Mother of Gods, Cybele. Christians celebrated this festival on the fourth Sunday in Lent in honor of Mary, mother of Christ. In England this holiday was expanded to include all mothers and was called Mothering Sunday.

 

In the United States, Mother's Day started almost 150 years ago, when Anna Jarvis, an Appalachian homemaker, organized a day to raise awareness of poor health conditions in her community, a cause she believed would be best advocated by mothers. She called it "Mother's Work Day."

So… it seemed like a good idea at the time when I invited my 13 and 10 year-old granddaughters to take a canoe ride around the lake with their Grand Dude (that’s me) at our Wisconsin home. It sounds innocent enough, but I learned a valuable lesson along the way… that lesson is… choose your team wisely when you embark on a project. Your choices will dramatically affect the outcome. About ten minutes into the adventure, I realized that the wind was our worst enemy and that only an experienced canoe crew would be up the battle versus Mather Nature, but we forged on. Paddling like a man trying to avoid going over Niagara Falls, I tried repeatedly to find the strength to direct our little craft directly into the wind with hopes of keeping our “quality time” together… 

These are the statements that plant land mines in our back yard, If only I had… I wish I would have known that… and the classic, If, I knew then what I know now… Guess what? You made other choices at the time. The most important focus is directly ahead of you. No matter how much of an individual we may credit ourselves as being, I don’t believe that there is a person alive today who does not live without at least a small dose of regret for something they should have said or done, but didn’t. When in search of words, reach for the rich library of song lyrics to express what you are thinking. In the song My Way, we are told that as far as regrets go, “…I’ve had a few, but then again, too few to mention.

There is a common belief that it is not what you take from this world, but what you leave behind is the true test of a life well lived. Part of that philosophy comes in the area of philanthropy… as in… helping others.

The statistics will bear out the facts that the ultra rich give the most dollars to charitable causes… but not the highest percentage of their wealth. That distinction goes to the middle class and those of considerably less means. Yes it’s true… as the old Billie Holiday song God Bless the Child says, “them’s that got shall get… them’s that not shall lose. So the Bible says, and it still is news.” In other words… God Bless the child that’s got his own. No matter how you slice it… it has always been every man/woman for themself in this dog eat dog world.

But, before we head down the road of negativity, let’s stop along the way to recognize some of the luminaries that truly have “put their money where their mouth is” or in proper syntax… where their mouths… are.

Whenever and wherever possible, I am in constant search of opportunities to “create a moment.” Just such a moment presented itself this week while visiting the Valley of the Sun, aka the Greater Phoenix area. Arriving at Sloan Park, aka the spanking new Cubs Park in Mesa to participate in the ceremonies of the Randy Hundley Fantasy Camp, now in its impressive 34th year of bringing boyhood joy to broken down, middle-aged bodies.

The great Star Wars movies have remained popular for generations and have become a part of our culture as have some of the phrases, perhaps the most notable being "may the force be with you."

O sure, you may eventually end up throwing out the paper offering you a free vacation with no obligation… after reading it and realizing that the fine print tells us that free is not really free after all. 

January 26, 1999 marks the day when my hero, my Dad passed away and January 30, 2013, I lost the dearest person I ever knew when my Mom was called to heaven. The anniversary of my Dad’s passing coincided with a trip to the WW II Museum in New Orleans, where I saw the remnants of a time when my parents, as young adults faced a fearful future. I was inspired by the countless personal stories of individuals who put their country and liberty above themselves.

I’ve always said that anything worth believing in is worth fighting for. Not to say that we need to “put up our dukes” every time somebody else stands in the way of our goals, but rather, it means that we have to keep focused on what it is that stokes the fire in our bellies. What is it that you feel passionate about? When you dream your best dreams… the ones that you remember all the details of long after the next morning… what are they all about?

My friend, the former Cubs left fielder and Phillies broadcaster Gary Matthews used to have a saying in the clubhouse that carried onto the playing field… no high fives in the early innings. “The Sarge” refused to start the celebration too soon. You see, he was a veteran who had seen many a lead fall by the wayside in the late innings with two out in the 9th inning. We easily fall victim to the trap ourselves once in a while, accepting congratulations before we have actually won the prize. 

For a number of years, I have played the part of a priest from Belgium whose service to the exiled leper community on the Hawaiian Island of Molokai during the late 1800’s eventually led to his canonization to become Saint Damien in a Vatican Ceremony in 2011. To just pretend to be Father Damien for the hour-and-a-half duration of this one-man play, I emerge with a deeper sense of compassion and understanding of being willing to fight for what is right, particularly when you are the voice of those who are unable to do so by themselves. This character has become ingrained in me and I welcome him in my life. Each time I have the privilege 

As the summer vacation season starts its plans to make way for the changing of the leaves, I began wondering what typical families did as their way of celebrating the great American tradition this year. Maybe you’re in the process of planning this year’s fall getaway, but the memories of Summer vacations past and present are always something special.

 

 

One of the most impressive things that you can do to build a business relationship is to remember special dates such as anniversaries and birthdays of your associates and colleagues.

Each of us hold memories of the 4th of July from our childhood… or from another time in our lives… or another life… altogether.

It may be a double-header at the “Baseball Palace of the World” aka Comiskey Park at 35th and Shields to see Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, Elston Howard and the mighty Yankees come to town to take on the Go Go Sox with Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Jim Landis, Sherm Lollar and Early Wynn on the hill for the Senor, Al Lopez.

Each spring, the Earth and Mother Nature find it somehow necessary to disrupt the lives of otherwise peaceful people with the natural disasters of flooding and tornadoes. Each time another catastrophe strikes, I am reminded of the story of the resilience of the folks who lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota a few years back. Unfortunately, this scenario has been played and replayed in other towns and cities many times since then, and the courage shown by others is equally as inspiring, but I will always remember Grand Forks.

Messmer Blog Photo - Buildings
There are volumes of books on how to get ahead in the business world. They speak of theories and techniques, as well as tricks of the trade from those whom have successfully used them to inch up a few rungs of the corporate ladder.

One of the things that I love to do is to talk with people, especially children. When I see them at hockey games or baseball games and in my visits to schools and gatherings, I enjoy looking them in the eye, shaking their hand and asking them, “Are you happy today?” Invariably, I’ll get a big toothy grin, (although there is often a missing front tooth in the picture), and I’ll get the response that warms my heart when they say, “Yeah!” And I often wonder exactly what this little person’s perspective of happiness actually is...

The next time you are shopping, take an extra minute to notice who is the Employee of the Month. There is always a picture...

The airline industry needs to take a good look at itself. We are all well aware that the cost of fuel has risen dramatically and the TSA shadow looms over us as we are herded through the body x ray machines and are humiliated as we are selected to be singled out for a random pat down while standing shoeless and beltless as equally frustrated and irritated onlookers gape at us, secretly smirking with delight that they not only have moved a whole two spaces ahead of us, but silently rejoicing that they were not the one selected to step out of line. As we feel the electronic wand brush against our personal body parts, the urge to scream, "enough already!" is almost too much to suppress. Once past the iron gate, the fun is nowhere close to being over. The sheep herder with the microphone behind the desk at the gate barks out the commands to the privileged platinum, gold, silver, copper, tin level flyers as everyone else waits patiently for groups 1, 2, and 3, or heaven forbid, group 4 to be allowed to walk into the loading tube, only then to then, stand in yet the same line re-shuffled and once again put in our place. (Side Note before I forget): Never ask the person next to you what they paid for their ticket. One of you will end up feeling ripped off.)

 

The shuffling continues as 

Even the greatest player to ever take to the hardwood court had to come to the realization that winning consistently only started when the other four guys on the floor were included in the show. No doubt that Michael Jordan (sorry, LeBron) could, and often did carry the weight of the entire team on his back and ultimately, to victory, but in the long haul, it’s the great teams that will be remembered.

OK, who’s the wise guy that put all of these candles on my cake?

It’s the steady cry that calls out from the mouths of Boomers every day.

For those of us American “post war” babies who were born between 1946 to 1964 into what was to forever more be known as the Baby Boomer generation… The numbers are alarming. 78 million of us, qualifying for Social Security in record numbers.

Get this… 10,000 Boomers a day are turning 65!

As a veteran of musical theatre and concert productions myself, I am constantly welcoming the opportunity to see and hear creativity come to life in all shapes, forms, sizes, colors, tempo and means of delivery. It seems as though it happens once in every several years when something grabs me by the collar and leaves an impact that cannot be denied, something that I have to call both stunning and memorable. The latest “Wow!” for me, is happening with the current ongoing production of Ragtime the Musical as performed by the Big Noise Theatre Company, directed by Stacey Flaster. Technically, this production is classified as community theatre, yet it begs

Spring is one of the four temperate seasons, the transition period between winter and summer. Spring and "springtime" refer to the season, and broadly to ideas of rebirth, renewal and regrowth. The specific definition of the exact timing of "spring" varies according to local climate, cultures and customs. At the spring equinox, days are close to 12 hours long with day length increasing as the season progresses.

That’s all great… but where the heck did Spring disappear to this year?

One of the great American traditions throughout this great land of ours is the local breakfast spot. From the urban grind of the cold pavement to the open fields in the heartland, there is a place that serves up more than what is on the menu. As a frequent traveler, I am always on the lookout for just such a place no matter where I might find myself. One of the first questions I often ask upon arrival in a new town is, “where can I find the best place to have breakfast?”

Having been touched deeply by a recent visit to the D Day and WW II Museum in New Orleans, I learned on Thursday of the passing of the last Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach in France in June 1944 and I could not let that fact go unnoticed. It was a day that changed the World and in many ways, saved it as well. Heroes like Walter Ehlers pass quietly to their eternal reward without fanfare or bravado, but each one of these giants from The Greatest Generation deserves proper recognition for their service to freedom and for each one of us who enjoy the benefits of their sacrifice.

 

The cynic will tell you that Saint Valentine’s Day… or just Valentines’ Day as it has now been shortened, is bunch of hooey… a made-up celebration designed to sell flowers and candy. Actually, there is quite a history to the day… and it’s worth knowing more about how it all came about, before you think a box of chocolates and cheesy card are the true meaning.

First of all… who is Valentine? Not WHAT is a valentine. Trying to determine who is Valentine is not as easy as it might seem… you see while the history of Valentine's Day is sometimes debated, it clearly links back to a Catholic saint named St. Valentine.

The problem is there are actually three St. Valentine's -- one a priest, one a bishop, and little is known about the third. All were martyrs. No matter what story you believe, all three of these guys paid a big price to still be mentioned today. The legends are fascinating.

We spend much of our lives trying to find its meaning. I have discovered that song lyrics are where I have found some of the most expressive and touching verses of poetry that exist in our language. For me, this particular song written by James Taylor, which, by the way, is the closing song on this Sunday’s Radio Show (at our new time Sundays at 7:00).


I have to laugh at the folks complaining about the winter weather that we are experiencing in Chicago. As a native of the Windy City, I have come to accept the reality that cold temperatures and snow is just a part of the picture. “Is it cold enough for you?” or “I can’t believe this weather!” are just goofy statements. My question back is, “Are you new here?” This too shall pass… of course this is coming from the guy who just tripped to New Orleans, LA and San Diego, with a plane ticket to Arizona, but who’s counting?

On my recent trip to New Orleans this week I made sure to find the time to visit the National WW II Museum and the D Day Museum that clearly showed the story of why we can never forget the sacrifices of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line, or gave their lives in the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy the freedom that we have today. The staggering cost of the war on a global basis numbered 65-million lives, a figure that is incomprehensible by any method of calculation.

 This week is particularly nostalgic for me. January 26, 1999 marked the day when my hero, my Dad passed away and on January 30, 2013, I lost the dearest person I ever knew when my Mom was called to heaven. The anniversary of my Dad’s passing coincided with a trip to the WW II Museum in New Orleans, where I saw the remnants of a time when my parents, as young adults faced a fearful future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this, the 20th season of the Chicago Wolves, I am as elated with the upcoming weekend games as I was back on October 14, 1994 because of what will be happening before the game even begins. We (as in me too) will be wearing the First Responders jerseys, (sweaters for the hockey purists) for the games this weekend and then again on January 17th. The significance of getting my own jersey is an honor to be sure, but the real event for me is the company that I will be keeping on the red carpet before and during the National Anthem on tonight.

There was a musical play written about him that told of his love for the people of New York and their mutual love affair with him. Fiorello LaGuardia to many people represents the name of an airport, but there were countless recollections of who this man really was… this being one such story as told by author James McCutcheon in the book More Stories For The Heart.

Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of World War II. He was called by adoring New Yorkers, “the Little Flower” because he was only five-foot-four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and when the New York newspapers went on strike, he would go on the radio and ready the Sunday funnies to the kids.

One bitterly cold night in January of 1935...

This beautiful verse was included in a Christmas card from my dear friend Clare Ridderoth and it was inscribed “In loving memory of Beth Baker from above.” I did not know Beth, but the warmth of the message is universal, especially when it hits home.

It was particularly touching and meaningful to me since this will be the first Christmas that I have ever spent without my dear Mom who passed away in January. I imagine her joy in spending Christmas in heaven with my Dad and all the others who have gone before us. I pray that these words bring a ray of joy and comfort to all of you who may have lost a loved one this year.

 

I once read a story about an entrepreneur who orchestrated the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. It talked about a businesswoman who used her head and her available resources to make the best moves for her fledgling peanut brittle company. First, she tapped into a valuable resource, namely, business students at a nearby university and challenged them to write a business plan for her as a part of their classroom work. She then, made a donation of some of her product to a local charity that used it as a part of their fundraising auction.

The next time you are shopping, take an extra minute to notice who is the Employee of the Month. There is always a picture of somebody posted on the wall in full view of the thousands of shoppers who hurriedly drive the cart past the sometimes awkwardly posed photograph.

Next time, stop and take a good look… examine the face… study the expression… try to affix a personality to the photo… and then, be sure to glance at the name… and most importantly, remember it.

 

I wanted to bring back my Messmer-izing Moment (42) It’s the Little Things That Count for this week because of the story that I am about to share with you. Back in the early Spring, the Cubs, (for whom I have just completed my 29th year of service as National Anthem singer and many seasons a the Public Address Announcer) invited me to participate in the training of the program for the Wrigley Field staff. I gave a few words of what it has meant to me to be involved all of these years. I met the front line employees who would be the faces and voices of the organization, and I liked what I saw. The new ownership and management of the Chicago National League Ballclub, (it’s official name), had brought in some folks from the Walt Disney Company to help them understand what customer service looks like from the Disney point of view.  

As the Summer vacation season rolled over to make way for the changing of the leaves, I began wondering what typical families did as their way of celebrating the great American tradition this year. Maybe you’re in the process of planning this year’s fall getaway, but the memories of Summer vacations past and present are always something special.

In the “olden days,” it would mean piling the kids in the back of the station wagon and heading to points otherwise unknown… or… it meant you get the gang in the car and it was off to the lake house, or maybe a few hours of motoring off to share some quality time at a campground.

These were the days of battling with your siblings for the window seat and not getting stuck straddling the hump in the middle. None of the journey involved a seat belt in those days. Or, maybe you were the one who called dibs on the “back-back”… or the “way back”… depending on whatever you labeled it. There… you could snuggle up among the suitcases and the bags of snacks while watching the oncoming cars… trying to get them to wave back at you. Remember how we would pretty much go wild as any strangers came even remotely close.

The date was September 27, 2001. It was a day that I will never forget for many reasons. The country was still in shock over the attack on the World Trade Center Twin Towers in NYC just over two weeks prior. Americans were trying to grasp the reality of what had happened and how we could begin to get back to normal, knowing what had happened to many of our countrymen.

I had been asked to sing the National Anthem at O’Hare Airport that morning as President George W. Bush flew into our city to address our fellow Americans. After being transported to a staging area, it was not long before Air Force One rolled up the tarmac and delivered the Commander in Chief. As the President of the United States joined the assembled crowd, I had the privilege of representing this great country by singing the Star-Spangled Banner. A feeling of patriotism swept through me with each new phrase of the Anthem. As the words from the President rang out on that sunny morning, we listened to hear the hope that life would continue without tears and the fear of further attack.

The emotional significance of making this album may be summed up in the story of a pair of shoes. In 1994, Wayne Messmer was shot in the throat in a random act of violence in his hometown of Chicago, an incident that nearly took his life as well as his voice, a powerful story that is told in his book, The Voice of Victory. During the long recovery, he drew strength from the dream was born during the darkest hours of doubt, that he would one day, walk into the studio and record a set of very personally chosen love songs… to life.

This is the week to gather the family with one very specific objective… to make memories. It occurred to me a few years ago on a New Year’s Eve that when you choose to live in the moment, (remember one of my previous Messmer-izing Moments, Life is for Living In the Moment?) you had better practice what you preach. Getting the whole crew together is already a challenge for any family, with softball, summer camp, ballet, gymnastics, soccer, etc., etc. it becomes a logistical nightmare of cross referencing everybody’s schedule well in advance and then hoping that a wrench doesn’t get tossed into the works.


So, the argument over who has the best cheese steak in the City of Philadelphia has been an ongoing debate for decades… at least since 1966 when Geno’s opened a cheese steak stand just across and up the street from Pat’s. You see, Pat’s had been handing over the belly blasters since 1930… so, they should be the best, right? Not so quickly, my friend. 

Walking into my house late one afternoon, I heard the sounds of laughter and music… not just any music and certainly, not just any laughter. The grandkids were sandbagged in for a three-day, three-night sleepover. 

One might expect some raucous sounds of what is being passed off as today’s “music” to be blaring as I opened the door… curious as to what kind of activity that the then eight and six year-old sisters were into at the moment as a temporary distraction from potential chaos… but to my surprise and my delight, I immediately recognized the strains of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II from the score of the Sound of Music wafting through my home. I couldn’t help but smile.

Having just spent a week in Paradise on the lovely “Garden Island” of Kauai, the westernmost of the Hawaiian Islands, I come away with a sense of wonder and amazement.  The flora and fauna of the fabulous tropics bring us a clear example of God’s magnificent creation, yet I find myself recognizing that Dorothy Gale in the Wizard of Oz is absolutely correct when she tells Auntie Em that, “there’s no place like home.”

As summer vacation season rolls around, every family has a way of celebrating the great American tradition. Maybe you’re in the process of planning this year’s version as we speak. If so, read on.

In the olden days, it would mean piling the kids in the back of the station wagon and heading to points, otherwise unknown… or… off to the lake house or a few hours of motoring off to share some quality time at a campground.

We asked you, our subscribers to submit your favorite story from the grand Lady, The Chicago Stadium (1929-1994) and we received some classic stories about the great games, fights, and unforgettable goals, as well as the recollections of the building itself. We heard about the second balcony, where the action was, or the favorite vendor and the best concession location to hang out. We heard a number of accounts of running through the parking lot to get there in time for the National Anthem. There was more than one mention of being late and turning around and going home. Even I had forgotten about the Sonja Henie Room. There were a number of mentions of the NHL All-Star Game in January of 1991 when the world first witnessed “The Roar.” Just to have actually been there for many was the far and away biggest mention of all.


One thing that you can count on at least couple of times a day in my hometown of Chicago is rush hour traffic. It really needs to be re-named rush hours. It seems that never have so many people been in such a hurry to get somewhere at the same time since the Oklahoma land rush. And tens of thousands of urbanites and suburbanites routinely battle it… twice a day.

I have had an incredible experience year after year when it comes to the story I am about to tell. I always know, from the moment that I wake up on this special day that I was going to be a part of a uniquely Chicago event.

No matter how rough things get, or how difficult it might be to see the light at the end of the tunnel, there is always something good that happens to each of us every single day. The challenge is to find these things, recognize them and ...

In sports, we often hear the phrase, knowing his limitations, or staying within himself, whatever that means. But the point is, we all do have certain limits of our abilities, either physically or mentally and in some cases, professionally. 

Very few things touch the heart as much as a hand-written letter. We love to get one in the mail. We eagerly tear open the envelope with anticipation of what message it may carry. Maybe, it’s from a loved-one, or an old friend. Whatever the case may be, we appreciate the personal connection, the time it took to sit down and compose the carefully selected words which were crafter just for us.


Who’s the wise guy that put all of these candles on my cake?

It’s the steady cry that calls out from the mouths of Boomers every day.

For those of us American “post war” babies who were born between 1946 to 1964 into what was to forever more be known as the Baby Boomer generation… The numbers are alarming.

78 million of us, qualifying for Social Security in record numbers.

Get this… 7,000 Boomers a day are turning 65!

Slow down, we’re dealing with 60 here… part of the rest of the crew falling somewhere in-between retirement and just feeling a whole lot older all of a sudden… especially with a small birthday cake fully emblazoned in front of you looking like a brush fire in an empty city lot.

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Where's Wayne

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    Wrigley Field,  Chicago
     
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    Wrigley Field,  Chicago
     
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    TBD, 
     
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    Wrigley Field,  Chicago
     

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