Hakuna Matata

[A repeat from October 11, 2018] It’s in the Bible – “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you.  He will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalm 55:22).  And Proverbs 12:25 “An anxious heart weighs a man down but a kind word cheers him up.”  And then there’s John 14:27 – “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  This is good counsel for all.  The message?  Have faith. Don’t worry.   

Numerous sages have offered comment on the subject of worry – “Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight” (Benjamin Franklin).  “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles.  By the ears.  By the heels.  Or any other way you can manage it” (Mark Twain).  “Sorrow looks back.  Worry looks around.  Faith looks up” (Ralph Waldo Emerson).   “You’re only here for a short visit.  Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  And be sure to smell the flowers along the way” (Walter Hagen).       

 While there is wisdom in these quotations, there may be a better way to convey the message.  I can think of no better way than “Hakuna Matata” (Swahili for “there’s no problem“).  “Hakuna Matata” is a song title in Disney’s “The Lion King.”  My granddaughters associate me with Pumbaa (which means “silly” in Swahili) – the odoriferous warthog who “sings” the song.  But listen to his message.  Watch for 3 minutes and 49 seconds.  You’ll smile.  I promise.   Oh watch it.    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbY_aP-alkw     

Half on the Wagon

Have you ever had an epiphanal moment? Okay – here’s a true confession. . . .

Some months before I was married, I went out with some friends. I drank too much whiskey (was that what it was?) and got sick. Upon arising the “morning after,” I made a vow to myself — that I would never – ever – drink hard stuff again.

Donna and I were married on January 22, 1972, and since that fateful morning months before – Scout’s Honor – I have not had one drop of “hard stuff” (bourbon, Scotch, vodka, gin or anything like that). I’ve had the chance but nary a driblet has passed my lips. It is one of those lines (that we all have within us) – that has not been crossed. True.

I know – you’re thinking okay Petersen, what’s the punch line? Well there is one . . . of sorts. What I will drink is wine and an occasional beer. I’ve been perfectly content over the years with sipping cabernet or pinot noir (glug glug glug). Seriously – it’s not like that but there is something about a nice wine. Mine usually comes in gallon boxes — three for ten dollars. So I guess you can say I’m “half” on the wagon. . . .

I Know That Guy!

In the prior post – “Facial Recognition Software” – I talked about how our grey matter can often identify friends or acquaintances even in a crowd. And we can “update” our identification capabilities even when we haven’t seen someone in several years. Such has been the case with me.

In the early 1980’s, I walked into a men’s bathroom at Disney World and who should be there? My old fraternity brother George H. During a trip to Italy a decade later, Donna and I met neighbors Dick and Gail W. – who took our picture in St. Mark Square in Venice. The wildest example of coincidence was being in the middle of the Okavango Delta in Botswana – 6 of us – bouncing along the Veld in a Land Rover. Not a soul around save for zebra, gazelles and a few antelope. Then at a distance appeared another Land Rover from another camp. And I squinted – “I know that guy!” It was Rick L – a partner from our Los Angeles office (see below).

Fast forward to three weeks ago. Donna and I are in Amsterdam – awaiting the start of a Rhine River cruise. We are prowling around the Rijksmuseum – home of paintings from the great Dutch Masters — Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh. And I’m thirsty. Sooooo. . . . I hoof off to the second floor cafeteria to grab a bottle of water and who should be sitting there enjoying a bite? Our old friends – Jack and Cheryl N. It’s been a few years but I spotted him in an instant – thanks to my facial recognition software. Our next getaway may be in January. What are your plans??

Facial Recognition Software

[A timely repeat from February 2, 2014] Donna and I were at O’Hare Field last weekend – off to Florida for a few days. At the airport, I walked by thousands of people.  And I didn’t recognize a soul. One or two prompted a second glance – is that . . . . no.   And then – from a hundred feet away, I went – that’s JT.   And it was.   A golfing pal.   We chatted (we were on the same flight) and boarded.   We arrived at the West Palm Airport and again saw a veritable sea of people as we shuffled toward the exit.  All shapes, sizes and attire.  But not one person did I recognize.  All had the same standard equipment.  Face.  Nose.  Eyes. Ears.  Hair.  But all were different (some really different).    

After getting our luggage and walking outside, I spotted Bob and Carol driving up in a car.   I find it pretty awesome that we humans all have a facial recognition software hardwired into our brains.  We can pick out someone we haven’t seen in ten years in a crowd of thousands.  We can detect an old friend from across the room (“well look who’s here!”).  And these faces – and what we perceive to be an evolution of them – is reposed with clarity and order in the gray matter between our ears.   Some people change dramatically and become unrecognizable.  But most retain some of the remembered characteristics from years past.   I remember seeing Jon H. – an old friend from Boy Scout camp – at O’Hare.  I hadn’t seen him in years but I knew him in an instant.  It’s amazing how our brains work. 

Now where did I leave my keys. . . . .   

Can You Count the Frogs?

Early in our marriage, my parents gave me a small ceramic lily pad and three goofy looking frogs who were sitting around the lily pad — playing cards. It was cute and so I put it on my desk. Shortly thereafter, I began receiving more frogs – wooden, ceramic, metal, glass. Most were small though I have a large concrete frog in the back yard. After marriage – and especially after having Lauren – frogs began arriving on a regular basis.

At my old law firm, I had a nice office in the Sears Tower. With the added space, I brought a box of frogs to adorn my digs. Shortly thereafter, one of the staff members brought her little boy to work. And they stopped by my office. The little boy was mesmerized by the frog collection. To make it interesting, I offered him a dollar if he could count them. He immediately took up the offer. His mom gave me a thumbs up and walked out. And I got back to work with the little boy wandering around – looking out the window and counting frogs. After maybe 20 minutes, he finished and I thought “plus or minus 20 is close enough” so I gave him a dollar. And so it began.

Every time a little one would accompany mom or dad to our office, Petersen’s office – and the “frog count” – was one of the main stops. No one ever was “wrong” on the count (I believe the correct number was 63) so everyone walked away richer. And I ended those “count” days poorer. Slightly. . . . .

One Shoe

1935. India. Mahatma Gandhi rushed into a railroad terminal to catch a train. He was late. And as he ran, the train began to move out of the station. Gandhi raced and grabbed the railing on the last car. And pulled himself up. But just as he stepped on board, the sandal of one foot fell off — and landed between the tracks.

QUESTION: Did Gandhi jump off the train to retrieve the sandal (and then try to make it back on the train)? Or did he shrug – and step inside the railroad car with one bare foot? What would you do?

It really is a trick question. Gandhi did neither. Instead, he quickly removed the sandal on the other foot and lobbed it into the center of the tracks — near the one that had fallen. An acquaintance who was already on board the train asked why he had thrown his other sandal. Gandhi replied that he was hoping that the person who found the first would find the second — and have a fine new pair of sandals.

This is an example of what might be called “creative compassion” — an ability to help others in ways that may not be so obvious. It is stories like this that give credence to the idea that we may not be able to change the world — but we may be able to change the world of another human being. The biggest thing we might do on any given day is simply to do an act of kindness, of compassion or of love — to another person.

Shakespeare Oxford Society

[An old post from August 30, 2012] William Shakespeare was born on April 20, 1564, and died on April 22, 1616.  In his 52 years, he is alleged to have written some of the world’s greatest plays, tragedies, dramas, comedies and poetry.  As for me, I don’t buy it. 

For several years, I was a member of the Shakespeare Oxford Society — a 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to getting to the bottom of who actually wrote the works of Shakespeare.  The Society leans toward Edward de Vere – the 17th Earl of Oxford.  DeVere was born on April 12, 1550, and died on June 24, 1604.  It was de Vere who likely wrote the works of “William Shakespeare” — despite the fact that several plays were arguably (but disputably) written after his death. 

The real William Shakespeare’s personal details do not ring true to one annointed with the amazing literary gift ascribed to “Shakespeare.”  There was actually doubt about his authorship dating back to when the plays were first written(!).  De Vere (or “Oxford”) was in the mix of speculation from the very beginning. 

As a collector of historic manuscript material, there is another — significant — factor in this disputed attribution.  For a man who allegedly wrote thousands of pages of glorious literature, there is not one sentence of handwritten text penned by “Shakespeare” (or de Vere for that matter).  In fact, there are only six known examples of Shakespeare’s handwriting — and those are scratchy signatures on legal documents. 

In my post of August 18, 2011, I spoke of my interest in searching for a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (of some 200 sets printed, only 47 are known).  Another quest that I’m sure I would enjoy is a hunt for the handwritten proofs used for setting the type of Shakespeare’s works.   I’m sure there are manuscripts out there.  Somewhere.  Waiting.   Perhaps waiting for me. . . . .

Maybe I need a sabbatical.  🙂

The Sports Page

Does anyone read the sports page in the daily newspaper? In the Chicago Tribune, the sports page is an entire section. When I come back in from picking up the newspapers off the driveway, I peel them out of the plastic bag and pitch the sports page into recycling. I think the last time I looked at the sports page was in April – when the Masters golf tournament was in progress.

I rarely watch sports on television either. College or pro. Some years ago, the Cubs were in the World Series and – yeah – I watched. And years before that – the Bulls were ongoing champs. But since then, there’s little reason to watch unless someone of interest is in the hunt. And that’s rare. . . . .

I am troubled by those who earn $30 million a year for “playing” football or basketball or baseball. Forget the grade school teacher who wants to take his children to a baseball game. And can’t afford the $150 tickets. Much less the $8 hot dogs or $7 Coca Cola. Oh and don’t forget the $50 parking. . . . .

No – the sports page doesn’t resonate – or sports for that matter. I’ll cheer when Northwestern, Augustana or Villanova win. And I’ll sometimes tune in on Sunday for PGA Golf. But as for the other pro stuff? As Donny Brasco said “fuhgetaboutit.”

Happy 90th Birthday!

[A smiling repeat from June 28, 2018] Donna is the one in our family who handles the birthday or greeting cards. She buys them at the local card store (selecting the perfect card for the occasion). She addresses the envelope and fills out the card with a touching message. She seals the envelope, puts on a stamp and sends it off.  At most, she will ask me to sign the card or draw and color one of my artistic creations (see post of November 16, 2017).  

Once in a while, I will send off a birthday card on my own (cue the trumpets).  When I do, the card doesn’t show a puppy dog.  Or a mountain scene.  Or offer a “Best wishes on this special birthday” message.  I have a supply of “Happy 90th Birthday” “Happy 95th Birthday” and one or two “Happy 100th Birthday” cards stuffed in my drawer.  Along with some birthday cards that are (these days) not sendable.  If you get my drift. . . . . .  

I usually have no clue as to whose birthday is when.  But if Donna reminds me that it’s someone’s birthday, I may groan.  Go up to my desk.  Rummage around a bit.  And dash off one of the “Happy 90th Birthday” cards to one of my fraternity brothers or golfing buds (who have a sense of humor).  In most cases, the “90th Birthday” business is these days ten to fifteen years off from the actual number.  If I want to add pizzazz to the card, I may draw a line through “90th” and scribble “Ooops – 91st”. . . . .   


Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.  It is like the precious ointment upon the head . . . . and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion . . . .”  Psalm 133:1-2

In July 2015, I posted on attending the 100th anniversary of the Gamma Alpha Beta fraternity at Augustana College.   Many of the brothers from my era showed up.  We have remained a close-knit group since graduation.  This last weekend, we had a reunion of “GAB’s” in Rockford with about 20+ brothers — all of my vintage.

I wasn’t destined for college (see post of October 13, 2013).  My future was to work as an assistant plumber after high school.  Frankly, it’s a fluke that I even applied (around the time of high school graduation) and got in to “college.”  And that I came to know my brothers. 

There are amazing memories and stories.  One I smile at is the dark night when my entire pledge class was corralled by police and taken off to the police station for borrowing a neighbor’s ladder at midnight (the neighbor was awake, thought it was theft and called the police).  One quick-witted pledge escaped detention by launching himself over a window well and clambering up onto a fire escape.   Yeah.  That was me. . . . 

The GAB’s won the Homecoming Sing with the ballad I sang to Lauren every night when she was young — “Oh Shenendoah.”   It was that song I picked for the Father-Daughter dance at her wedding (see post of August 14, 2011).  We had tears in our eyes as the music played.  It’s interesting how when you meet old friends, you pick up where you left off.    It’s as if time stands still and I’m 19 years old again.  With my brothers. In my brain, I’m still 19.  Now if only my body would cooperate . . . . .