Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Although this is not Thanksgiving, it is the perfect time of year to take stock in our lives, give thanks for all the many blessings we enjoy (hidden ones and the ones we take for granted especially) and pray for those in need of strength, healing, joy, peace and love this coming year!   

Happy and Blessed New Year to all of you!

"We return thanks to our mother, the earth, which sustains us.
We return thanks to the rivers and streams which supply us with water.
We return thanks to all herbs, which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters, the beans and squashes, which give us life. ...

We return thanks to the sun, that he has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.

Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit, in whom is embodied all goodness, and who directs all things for the good of his children."

- Iroquois traditional

Friday, December 30, 2011

It all starts with a thought...

"Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
- Anonymous

Thursday, December 29, 2011


"We can always choose to perceive things differently.

You can focus on what's wrong in your life, or you can focus on what's right."
   - Marianne Williamson

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;

The spirit of Christmas which is peace;

The heart of Christmas which is love.

- Ada V. Hendricks

Merry Christmas!!!

Another Christmas is upon us and it is hard to believe!! 

What a magnificent time of year on many different levels and what a terrific time for self-reflection!!

All of us, no matter our station in life, are burdened with our own issues, problems, challenges, crisis', and reasons to have a woe-is-me attitude.

I do not care who you are or where you are in your life, we all have our crosses to bear daily and we all find out own reasons to curse life and despair.

Despite this, we must and in fact owe it to ourselves take the time this weekend to really reflect and identify the many many blessings we have in our lives!! 

And we are all beyond Blessed!!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Whatever you are doing today enjoy the gift of life, remember the true meaning of Christmas, and take a second to give thanks for all we have been given!

God Bless and Stay Strong!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


"At all times and under all circumstances, we have the power to transform the quality of our lives."
- Werner Erhard

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kindness knocks

"The holiday season promotes a heightened sense of community. It draws our chins up and helps us look above and over the limiting fence of our own events, activities and preoccupations. The opportunity for a heroic gesture can tap you quietly on the shoulder in the midst of a holiday bustle.

If you are attentive, you will notice the gentle touch and will be able to respond.

Remember... There are no small acts of kindness.

Every compassionate act makes large the world.

- Mary Anne Radmacher

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Perspective....Seize today!

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."
   - Henry David Thoreau

"Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory."
   - Betty Smith

Happiness and Joy in our lives is truly in our control and a lot of it depends on our outlook, faith and perspective on our purpose here on earth.

The quotes above are such great reminders of this control.

The second quote really rings true to me.

I will always remember my Dad's last few weeks on earth and specifically taking my Dad, at that point in a wheelchair, around in the car to spots he loved on Cape Cod - the beach especially.  He looked at these sights, for the last time as it turned out,  that we take for granted with such perspective and value as he knew he may not see the ocean or sunset again.

We must look at each and every day as a GIFT because it is and we may never know when our time to move on is upon us until it is too late.

Put petty differences aside and love one another as though your time is at hand, it will certainly improve the quality of all of our lives regardless!

Stay Strong!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Do Not Surrender!!!

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

My optimism, then, does not rest on the absence of evil, but on a glad belief in the preponderance of good and a willing effort always to cooperate with the good, that it may prevail."
   - Helen Keller

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."
   - Booker T. Washington

Sunday, December 11, 2011

This too shall pass and make us stronger!!

"We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival."

  - Winston Churchill

"One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the ONLY strength which can overcome adversity."

- Albert Schweitzer

Saturday, December 10, 2011

We are all works in progress... Be Patient!

"Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore, let us be extremely patient with each other's faults and failures."

—Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Friday, December 9, 2011

Brendan and The Invitation

I had seen this poem a few weeks back and it was very very moving but also, even back then before he passed from this earth, it reminded me so much of Brendan.

To me this hits on what B knew to be the true measure of a man, a man's true worth and soul, and also reminded me of any conversation I had with him.  He really did want to know these things about our inner desires and character and scoffed at the other petty ridiculous things in life that people love to talk about.

To me the "see Beauty" line was penned with his very own hand..

I hope you can read it all and enjoy it.

If the spirit of Brendan does not lift you up and grab you during this I would be amazed. ;)

God bless and Stay Strong..

The Invitation by Oriah

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love for your dream for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon... I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own,  if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful to be realistic to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.

If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes."

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

By Oriah from her book, THE INVITATION © 1999.

Kindness is all that matters

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
- George Eliot

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Immaculate Conception

An amazing event celebrated today and an enduring and shining example of following the Lord's Will even when it does not make sense in our earthly world! 

Say one Hail Mary.

God Bless and Stay Strong!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lessons learned from Brendan O'Toole

Sorry for such a long post, but you cannot write about someone like Brendan O'Toole in a few simple paragraphs.  ;).

It may be best to read in installments if at all... Lol...

Wow!!  What an emotional roller-coaster of a week to say the least. 
Brendan's sudden and tragic departure from this earth hit me like a ton of bricks across the nose and although I loved and cared for Brendan, I could not lay claim to being as intimately close to him as obviously his immediate family and close friends were. 

Still, the news of his death still reverberates into my very core.  I am still besieged with feelings of profound sadness, regret, anger, confusion, helplessness, hopelessness, despair, hope, love, and inspiration!!

All at once at times, and independently during the day at other times. It is chaotic and surreal.

My feelings today are much like what having a deep conversation with Brendan brought forth in me, and many others it appears. It ran the gamut of emotions and as I believe his brother Tim remarked to the effect,  a conversation with Brendan was so comprehensive, so intense, it left you exhausted but totally fulfilled.  His energy could not be matched, his passion could not be surpassed!  You never left a conversation with Bren wanting or needing more at that time.

But, sadly, we all surely want more now.

Spending time with Brendan was entertaining, amusing, and fun but above all, it was always educational.

His depth of knowledge on so many topics was dizzying and this encyclopedic intellect, combined with his raw passion and his pure love of living made for a rare, unique and tremendous human being and soul!

He touched so many lives, so many people, and truly helped people by saving lives.

He was trained as an EMT, but amazingly he saved more lives as a Pedicab transportation engineer and through his leadership and compassion displayed with his brethren at Midnight Madness, than he did in an ambulance.

He was truly doing God's work on the tough, mean streets of Manhattan on a daily basis and there are undoubtedly thousands of souls touched by his energy and compassion that we will never have the joy of hearing about.

And maybe that is for the best, at least it is the way Brendan would probably prefer it to be.

People who may or may not have even known his name but were surely, as all who met him were, swept up in the BTO vortex of positive energy and passion and inspiration as he yelled out their name, pumped his fist, stopped to chat and listen to them, or helped them with whatever they were doing.

The coffee or bagel guy, local shopkeepers, street vendors, politicians - no one was immune or escaped his humor, wit, and energy field!  And no one forgot him!

Tireless, endless, passionate work helping others in need, not for the praise or glory, but because it was the right thing to do - and he just did it quietly, anonymously, and with nothing but the goal of making others' lives better.

Is there a better example of what my son Thomas said of his Uncle Brendan through sobs upon hearing how he was mistreated at the hospital when he crawled into the waiting room - "Brendan is like a modern day Jesus"... High praise from the mouth of babes. 

And as we hear more and more from the people who worked and saw him on a daily basis, he truly was a modern day Jesus and Mother Teresa and  Saint Theresa wrapped into one ball of love, passion, fury and energy!!!

He gave and gave and gave, helped ALL in need regardless of who they were or what they needed, all because of his tremendously huge heart and because he knew to do the right thing! 

He could not do otherwise!!

As long as I knew him, Brendan was always a "blow in and blow out" type of guy. He was always heading somewhere or just coming from something and despite this lifestyle, as Tiffany said, you never questioned his presence and his place in the family. You always knew he stood ready to jump to your assistance at the drop of a hat!  He had all of our backs...continuously!

As he displayed with our niece Fallon when he would either sneak in or talk his way into the hospital after a night of work to stay overnight with her and Lizzy in those darkest hours of her illness - a steady rock of support and love in the toughest times was what we all came to know and expect of Brendan.

You did not need to see him daily to have 100% confidence that when someone - anyone - needed help or assistance or defense that Brendan would be the first on the scene, throwing the full brunt of his passion and compassion into the solution and leading the charge!

This was a given and an irrefutable fact.

I consider myself blessed to have known Brendan and to be a part of his family.  As with the entire family, just being around them makes you a better human being.

One cannot help but be shown what it means to be a caring, giving, and passionate soul by living near and with every member of the O'Toole family.  It is a privilege and a wonderful gift to be anywhere near their love and support network.

Brendan led that charge as well. As we heard from his co-workers and friends this week, his capacity for kindness and compassion was boundless and he was truly his father's son.

Listening to the stories from the people he helped ("Brendan truly saved my life") it was like deja vu all over again from his Dad, Tom O'Toole's, wake and funeral.

Brendan, your Dad would have been bursting with pride if he lived to see what you accomplished with your life, the enormous impact you had on people's lives, the unconditional love you showered on your son, Jonah, and the tireless work ethic you displayed on a daily basis.  All without losing sight of what truly matters in life.

Any dad would be thrilled to hear his son describe what their dad meant to them as eloquently as Jonah did about his father, Brendan.  It was an amazing and accurate tribute to a great man and summed up what made B so judgments and unconditional love. 

So as I attempt to go back to a semblance of normalcy and fight through the fog of emotions that his passing has caused in all of us, I reflect on what lessons we can take from Brendan's way too short life here on earth.

1. Never give up on anyone. He never did and as Jonah said, he would see what was special in you and work with you, regardless of your shortfalls.

2.  There are second chances for everyone. No matter what path you start down, or how far we stray from "normal", there are always second and third and fourth chances to get to where we are destined to be. Brendan had amazing courage, willpower, and guts to do all he did in his 55 years and as my daughter Teaghan quoted, he lived 5 lives in his 55 years on this planet.  His last 12 years especially were an example for everyone as to the way a real man conducts himself, for his family, his beloved,  and his fellow human beings!!  Brendan nailed it and then some!!

3. None of the crap we use to measure our worth as humans matters at all!  You hear it consistently but does it ever really sink in? Who can look past societal norms and not let themselves be caught up on the chase for material wealth?  "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his soul?" Brendan had the courage and heart to do just that!! He lived simply, with only a few material wants (his blue convertible) and understood exactly what should be valued, what the measure of a man truly is by the standards that really count, and showed us all how very off base we are in that regard! Few people including myself, even if I won the lottery, could ever be as rich as Brendan was and this lesson should be a wake up call to us all!

4. As his brother, Robert "Bruce" O'Toole sang so perfectly at the funeral,  "Read, Read, Read, and help all those in need".  Brendan did both of these things tirelessly and was brilliant!  How often do we have the opportunity to help a fellow human and sadly do not do it for whatever reason and whatever excuse? B did not make excuses, he JUST DID IT!  Each and every time. He WAS the Good Samaritan on this earth!!  How much strength, courage and selflessness did this man possess? All in anonymity, all for the sole benefit of those who needed help.  How can any of us ever measure up to Brendan's standard?  To me, it is like the difference between a mole hill and Mt Everest!

5. Do not take anyone for granted. Life is so fleeting and short!  If you have to say something to someone, SAY IT!!  Show the love now, let them know you value them and this earth would not be the same without them!  Do not wait!!  Do not put it off until tomorrow.  Do it today, because tonight it may be too late to say it!!

6. No regrets!  There can be no regrets. We all screw up and make mistakes. Dwelling on regret gets us nowhere at all. Instead, learn from the mistakes and fix the problem. Teach others to do the same.  Life is a bizarre trip, and the real rules of this game are questionable and up for debate. Follow your heart and soul and do the right thing, with others as the focal recipients of our actions, and you cannot go wrong!  Brendan embodied this approach!

7. You never know what your actions, however small and seemingly insignificant, do to others.  People derive such strength and inspiration from our words and actions, so do not be afraid to share your thoughts with others and lead by example above all!!

Brendan will live on in our hearts and I am certain he will be a guiding force for us all going forward from his perch in Heaven! 

Listen for him, speak to him, and above all follow his lead and example as to what a successful life truly means!!! 

To me, he was by far the richest and most successful man I have ever known and I would be lucky to be 1/100000th as successful as Uncle B!!!
We all would!!

And that is my goal now!!!

We miss you and love you, Brendan.  Fortunately for us your energy level and passion cannot be held back even from Heaven and we feel it today!!

You did indeed fight the good fight and you were the Champion in all of our hearts!!

Rest well!!! I will miss the sight of you rolling up on your bike and hearing your stories, opinions, and feeling that blast of positive inspiration and energy that blew in like a hurricane whenever you appeared!!

We have a lot of work to do here until we meet again!!!
But meet again we certainly shall and I hope by then you can be proud of what we carried forward from your example! 

If not, I am sure you will let me know!!!!  ;)

Love ya, B!
Uncle Doug

Love will heal all that hurts right now.....

"Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand."

- Mother Teresa

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Brendan Thomas O'Toole 1956-2011

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than 10,000 tongues.
They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."

- Washington Irving