Tom Keefe

Spirited Communication

I don’t worship the creation

I’m not saying that I won’t try to be outside when the eclipse is nearing totality. It will be fun to experience. I’m saying that the movement of the Earth, moon and sun that will result in this alignment was put into motion by a God who deserves the glory and honor.

I would love to know that every thrill-seeking person who will don protective eyewear and gaze into the eclipse would reflect on the majesty of the Creator. But many don’t think–or believe–that God exists or cares about them.

If that is you, I respect your feelings and beliefs. I have to say that I can’t comprehend how someone can look at this world, this universe, and see the logic in the theory that it began out of nothing, evolved into its current state by random chance, and operates unguided with a precision and logic that allows us to accurately predict events like the eclipse. How could all of that be true without a Creator putting them into place?

Today, like every day, I will worship the Creator, not the creation.

Getting Untangled

This week I brought in my Christmas decorations from outside my home and the power cords and timers that I used to light them at the appropriate time. I only had a short time to do that and so I piled the decorations, cords and timers on a workbench in my garage.

Today I finished packing the decorations and cords. When I looked at one 100-ft. power cord, I saw it was a tangled mess.

The cord was still functional; if I plugged it in it would provide power to whatever I plugged into the other end. But because it was tangled, it was more difficult to use. It couldn’t stretch to the distance that it was made to reach.

Isn’t that like us when we get tangled up in emotional and spiritual dilemmas? We can’t stretch ourselves to think and do some things that we are made to tackle.

Just like I had to work to untangle the power cord, we sometimes have to untangle our hurts, habits and hangups with the help of friends, family or professionals.

I felt so much better when the power cord was neatly wrapped around the holder. If you’re feeling tangled up today, use your faith, friends and family to begin loosening whatever is entangling you.

An uncluttered home, mind and soul is so freeing!

New Day, New Year

This is the view that I captured this morning from my daughter’s kitchen window in Tucson, AZ. What a magnificent image that captures the awe and excitement of the new year.

Regardless of whether or not you set resolutions for 2024, each day will bring opportunities and challenges, beauty and sorrow, activity and rest.

I’ve recently had a spiritual boost by joining a Christian church that brings a powerful worship experience and relevant sermons soaked in biblical truth. My 2024 will include intentional effort to walk closer with my Lord and to appreciate His many blessings, including sunrises and sunsets.

Happy New Day and New Year!

My Favorite Christmas Gift

The radio host today asked listeners to share their favorite Christmas gift. I didn’t call in but I knew what I would say.

When I was in my late teens, my sister, Annette, sewed each of her brothers and our parents the same gift: A cloth ornament shaped like a candy cane. At the time, I didn’t think much of the ornament, except to acknowledge the time and effort Annette put into cutting the fabric, adding a soft filling and sewing each closed. When I left for college, I packed the ornament with other personal items that I couldn’t take with me and forgot about it.

A few years later, Annette, who was two years older than me, got married and they had a son. When we gathered at our parents’ home to celebrate Christmas, I saw that my mom had included her cloth candy cane ornament on the Christmas tree. That reminded me about my ornament, which was still packed away because I didn’t decorate a Christmas tree at my apartment.

One day my sister called me. Her voice breaking, Annette told me that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 24. It was a shock, of course, and I moved back into with my parents to be able to help as Annette fought the cancer with chemotherapy and radiation. After 1-1/2 to 2 years, the cancer spread to my sister’s lungs and brain, causing her death that June.

In December, although we still mourned the loss of Annette, my parents and I put up the Christmas tree. When mom added the candy cane ornament, I ran to where I had stored mine. I placed it on the tree and wished that I could tell Annette how much her thoughtfulness meant to me.

This week, 40 years after my sister’s death, my wife and I put up our Christmas tree. Kim knows I have a tradition now, so she patiently waited until I found the ornament that would be placed first on our tree: a weathered fabric candy cane ornament. Over the years, I’ve opened many presents that were placed under our tree. But my favorite gift has always hung above the gaily wrapped presents below. A simple present made with love by the sister who will always remain in my heart.

Candy Cane fabric ornament made by Annette Keefe

What is the Big Deal About a Prank? (Part 4)

Why do I dislike pranks? I’m sure that as the fifth of six children in my family, I endured plenty of common pranks growing up.

The only one I remember is when my sister wrapped up coal and gave it to me as a Christmas present.

Yeah, I cried.

But no prank made me cry like that until one pulled on me in third grade. That one hurt.

I had been called up to the blackboard to solve a problem, and was feeling good that the teacher praised me for answering correctly.

I quickly sat but suddenly felt a sharp pinch where my butt met the seat.

I jumped up and twisted to see what caused the pain. A thumbtack hung from my pants. I probably was more confused and surprised than hurt from the thumbtack. What hurt worse was the immediate loud laughter of the boy behind me who planted the thumbtack, joined immediately by a chorus of laughter from what seemed to be every other kid in the classroom.

I felt my cheeks flush and I walked quickly from the classroom as the laughter continued. Somehow I held it together long enough to exit the class, but the tears flooded out before the classroom door shut behind me. I cried loudly as I walked down the hallway, not having a destination, just needing to put distance between me and that situation.

The teacher found me shortly afterward and comforted me. She convinced me to come back into the classroom and made the offender apologize in front of the class. I remember his half-serious, half-smirking face. It seemed like he was only sorry about being disciplined, not for hurting me.

That’s what I see a lot in people who pull pranks. They like the feeling of control, of making themselves feel better about themselves by dragging someone else down. They try to cover up any guilt or consequences by saying things like:

– “Come on, I was only kidding.”

– “Can’t you take a joke?”

– “What a baby!”

– “That didn’t hurt!”

– “You’d better not tell!”

I’ve developed a zero tolerance policy about pranks. I react strongly when someone tries to pull one on me, and make it as unpleasant for them as I can. That makes the “prankster” and anyone watching uncomfortable—which is exactly what I want.

What is the “big deal” about a prank? I hope this series of posts helps you to better understand.

What is the Big Deal About a Prank? (Part 3)

Why do people prank others?

Reasons include:

  • Boredom
  • Desire to control
  • Fear
  • Desire to feel better about themselves

None of the above reasons relate to someone pranking another out of kindness or to improve their esteem. That’s because pranks almost always are tinged with fear and its mean-spirited brethren.

Examples:

  • Putting a sign like “Kick Me” on someone’s back
  • Pretending to be in severe pain or distress
  • Calling someone and asking inane questions
  • Placing something in another person’s path that will trip them, fall on them, or otherwise cause them to stumble or become uncomfortable

The victim of any prank may laugh it off or decide to pull a prank on the instigator or someone else. Neither response is good; the former gives power to the prankster, the latter perpetuates the negative behavior.

I know that “hurting people hurt people,” but no one has the right to make themselves feel better by hurting someone else. That’s the message to give someone who pulls a prank.

Read Part 1 Read Part 2

What is the Big Deal About a Prank? (Part 2)

When ‘Innocent Fun’ Is Neither Innocent, Nor Fun, To Others

In my previous post, I provided background on a prank, pulled on me, that has caused friction within my family.

In my previous post, I provided background on a prank, pulled on me, that has caused friction within my family.

Here is the beginning of the explanation for my reaction to the prank, and what pranksters in general represent to me.

When someone reacts unexpectedly to something that is said or done to them, it could be that the words or actions triggered something. The “fake bleeding” prank that my daughter and wife played on me, triggered several emotions and memories.

A few days prior to the prank, the three of us were reminiscing about a birthday sleepover involving my daughter and some of her friends when they were younger. The girls decided that the first one of them to fall asleep would be pranked by the others. When one girl eventually did fall asleep, Caitlyn moved toward her with a marker, intending to draw on the sleeping girl’s face.

Caitlyn tripped and her face struck an edge of our ping-pong table, near one of her eyes. As blood started to spurt out, Caitlyn and the other girls starting screaming for help.

Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night to the screams of little girls afraid that their friend was going to lose an eye, or worse. My adrenaline kicked in, until it became clear that the wound wasn’t serious enough for stitches. The rest of the sleepover didn’t involve much sleep for me.

My love of my daughter added to the stress of that moment. I wanted to protect her and help her to move past her fear.

The other day, when my wife said Caitlyn had fallen while walking her dog, and I saw what seemed to be a large degree of bleeding from Caitlyn’s face, that same desire to protect Caitlyn kicked in.

When I learned that it was a prank, my adrenaline was still pumping from racing up the basement stairs and taking action to assess and deal with the situation.

It was neither funny, nor fun, for me at that moment.

In my next post, I’ll provide some context for my intense dislike of pranks, drawing from my own experiences.

What is the Big Deal About a Prank? (Part 1)

Why Someone’s ‘Little Joke’ Sometimes Is A Very Serious Matter

An ugly confrontation earlier this week led to strained family relationships and my decision to sleep on the basement sectional the past two nights.

The cause? A prank.

Since March, I’ve been working at home in a contract role for a large employer. The manager to whom I report absolutely requires me to stop each week when I reach 40 hours.

Some additional work responsibilities in recent weeks have stressed me more than usual. I’ve worked long days with occasional short lunch and dinner breaks. Even though I only worked four days because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, I still reached the 40-hour mark.

The following week, which ended today, was even more stressful for various reasons. I was working at a desk in my basement on Wednesday, concentrating on some detailed work, when my wife called down.

“Tom, can you come up? Caitlyn fell on the ice while walking Mickey.”

I hurried up the stairs and saw my wife standing in the powder room doorway. I could hear my daughter running water. When I looked into the powder room, Caitlyn was leaning over the sink. I saw her reflection in the mirror and saw a large amount of blood above her eyebrow and on a towel in her hand.

I asked Caitlyn if she had lost consciousness, and she smirked when she said she hadn’t. I then asked Kim to hand me another towel that I could use to wipe the blood from Caitlyn’s forehead.

My wife asked if we should take her to the hospital, and Caitlyn said no. Then she started to laugh…because she was faking the whole incident.

When I looked at the two of them laughing loudly, I got angry. I swore at them and went back to the basement.

I wish I could say that I fumed for a few minutes and then laughed it off. Or called a trusted friend to vent.

But I was so upset that I instead went back upstairs with the intent of calling them on their poor decision to prank me during the work day when they knew how stressed I have been.

The angry exchanges lasted several minutes. The fallout is still being felt. I slept in the basement over the past two nights because I was too angry at my wife to sleep next to her. I haven’t said more than a few sentences to my daughter for two days.

What made this such a big deal? I’ll explain in my next post.

Physical and Emotional Considerations for Timing Communications

At 10:05 a.m. on New Year’s Day, I received a group text from one of my brothers and his wife, wishing the six people included in the text a happy new year, That started a string of replies as one by one, family members shared their New Year’s greetings–except one.

My brother who lives in Maui replied that we should “remember your poor brother in paradise that is 4/5 hours before you and a sinner so needs his sleep.” Yes, it was 10 a.m. in Chicago where most of my family lived, but it was 6 a.m. in Maui, where my youngest brother was awakened too soon following a late night of celebrating the coming new year.

Any of us who deal with multinational companies have to consider the physical location of the people who would receive any messages we create. Would recipients be excited about the information , or would they be annoyed at the “ding” from their email or text alert? The happy chirp that indicates “you’ve got mail!” doesn’t cause happiness when it arrived in the middle of night halfway around the world.

As simple as it can be to consider the physical location of message recipients, the more subtle challenge always is to consider their mental and emotional “zip codes.” One reason why important messages sometimes fail to connect with recipients is because the communicator doesn’t think enough about where the intended audience members “are at” emotionally. I’ve worked at large companies that either acquired another company or were acquired. Messages such as “Welcome to the Team,” and “We’re Working to become One Company” impact colleagues differently in an acquisition.

Change is stressful even when it is related to a typically pleasant event such as a wedding, birth of a child or purchase of a new home. Imagine the stress around a change that impacts your career and income.

Remember to check the timing of your messages to provide the best reception by your intended audience.

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