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Back in 2004, I met an older couple participating in a Ferrari rally, and after a deep conversation over a long lunch, they became dear friends. It was an event that would change my life in many ways, and several months later, shortly after my husband “surprised” me with a divorce, the husband sent me an email that so moved me that I put it in my “Blue Book”. (A Circa planner with a blue leather cover, hence the name, that includes not only my calendars but also a section with a few things I re-read on a regular basis.)

Last month, he passed away. I always made a point of letting them know that “Footprints” had become an important part of my life. They are words to live by. And, in honor of my dear friend, who is loved and missed, I want to share that email. With no edits … as we do not get to edit our lives …

In the spring of 1972 Sue and I had been married for 18 months and we were dissatisfied with our existence. After some serious soul searching we decided to make a radical change in our lives. Both of us had read a book by the author Louis Bromfield that rhapsodized about the joys of farm life. We were young and adventurous, and we did not realize that Mr. Bromfield was independently wealthy, he was in fact a famous Hollywood screenwriter and not even remotely dependent on farming for a living.

We sold all of the extras that we had accumulated such as our house, my AA Fuel Dragster, Dragster Trailer, and miscellaneous spare engine and associated parts, cashed in my life insurance and moved to a small farm in North Central Missouri twelve miles South of the community of Marshall. We had chosen that latitude carefully reasoning that the land around us needed to change as much as possible during the year if we were going to stay in one place all the time. Marshall, Missouri has four distinct and nearly equal seasons with a long Spring and Fall, a real contrast to the monotony of Houston, Texas. The first year of our Missouri residence we saw the temperature swing one hundred and thirty four degrees, from a high in late July of 106º to a low in January of 1973 of 28º below zero. The land changed around us indeed.

One of my real surprises was learning how much I liked cold weather. I had never really lived anywhere where it snowed very often. I was delighted when we had snows during the night that formed ice crystals in the surface so that when the sun came up in the morning the snow sparkled as if there there was a diamond studded white blanket draped across the fields.

One morning in that first winter I left the house early while I was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing. It had snowed about six inches during the night but dawn broke on a cloudless sky with the blue that only a cold clear morning sky has. I wandered with the rising sun at my back to the top of the closest ridge. When I reached the crest I could see before me a gently undulating pristine white scene with only the sounds of the early morning birds to keep me company. It was a glorious day.

After a few moments I turned to leave and there in the otherwise unbroken white lay a path of solitary footprints. Dumbstruck I realized that I was looking at a metaphor for my life, that each step that I had ever taken led precisely to where I was standing. I turned back around and looked at the future, unmarked waiting for my next footprint and I had an epiphany. If I wanted the footprints of the future to go in a certain direction, or to have a particular shape then it was up to me to make each individual step count. The footprints of the future would leave a history of my choices. That morning in the snow my life changed and I started the footprints that surely lead to where I am standing now.

In time I came to understand that each footprint was necessary to help me reach this moving destination, each misstep, each stumble, each mistake and fall, each heartache and all the joys have made me into the man I am today.

I don't regret a single one.

Drive carefully my friend, the future is before you, the footprints of the past cannot be changed.
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It’s #GivingTuesday, and although it’s always a good time to think of others, remember all the people who are continuing to deal with the aftermath of natural disasters long after the headlines have been forgotten.

And even though Black believes charitable giving can be “secretive”, she also knows there’s science proving helping others is good for you. (Warning: she likes to recommend the book “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself.“)

P.S. – Wherever you may choose to donate, beware of potential scammers. So, if in doubt – check them out! (Black likes GuideStar and Charity Navigator.)

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I know today’s Giving Tuesday, but what I always find so amazing is how you treat every day as “Giving Tuesday."

Black's HeadBlack

What makes you say that? I do not donate to an organization or charity every day.

red headred head

You’re always so literal. I meant that the spirit of “giving to others”, whether donating or providing support in some way, seems to be part of your daily life.

Black's HeadBlack

I think you are exaggerating.
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Photo courtesy of Red’s eldest daughter, Natasha

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At the risk of asking you a warm and fuzzy question, have you thought about what you’re most thankful for this Thanksgiving?

Black's HeadBlack


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I should’ve guessed that you’d take the question literally. Could you expand on that a little, or at least give me a hint?
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Photo by htomas for iStock

When Red was a child, toilets represented more than a place to go when, well, you had to go. Much to Black’s amusement, Red saw cleaning them as a reward. (Really! Check out Red's post below.) But neither of us realized that billions of people don’t have access to toilets. And if it weren’t for today being World Toilet Day, we never would have known the magnitude of the associated health and safety issues – or the connection between sanitation and groundwater.

RED: What can I tell you? When I was a kid, one of my all-time favorite things to do was … clean the toilet. Yes, you read that correctly. And it wasn’t because I was a germophobe or a clean freak. I just loved being able to sit on the floor, using as much Bon Ami (I’ve no idea why I remember the brand) cleaning powder as I wanted. And the best part? All those bubbles!

It kept me entertained for hours. Not to mention, my mom was thrilled because it kept me “contained” and out of her hair. So much so that if I was very good and behaved myself, she might even give me “special permission” to clean the toilet in my parent’s bathroom. Of course, Black, being five years older and understanding the situation, found it all extremely amusing. Even now, decades later, she still gives me grief about it,

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