Here’s Johnny


Last night Andrea and Kevin wanted to orchestrate a belated birthday dinner for the General. Of course, as part of the entourage, I was also invited. In all truthfulness, I can say it proved to be an exceptional evening.


For starters, Andrea and Kevin chose a restaurant where the General and I have never been. Truthfully speaking, I am mostly a stranger to the kind of fine dining that includes something more than a white tablecloth and dinnerware. I am not accustomed to having a myriad of choices for the first course, second course, main course and the grand finale (aka – desert).


It was a touching moment when Andrea looked at the menu and said to her mom, “Why don’t we take this and this and this for starters?” She offered several suggestions to include for the second course and pretty much left the third course for our own choosing.


Seriously, for the most part, I had looked at the menu and had no idea what was being served. When it comes to culinary choices that include something outside my regular fare or frame of reference, my first reaction is to look for something else on the menu that seems more familiar. I kind of discount the possibility that I will like it if I haven’t already tried it.


Andrea has a culinary charm about her where she can get by with promoting a menu selection for consideration. She does a good job of convincing you that you have a treat in store. I had a flashback to the General coaxing Andrea throughout her childhood to try different foods.


It was both interesting to observe and experience the role reversal-taking place before my eyes. Andrea was taking on the role of teacher and mentor. Though she’d never suggest that we were her inept students, we were on unfamiliar territory. She was pretty convincing that we would enjoy the taste. Never once did she use the line: “It is good for you”.


The waiter was a young man named Johnny. Actually, when he first came to our table, I missed his providing us his name. At least, I didn’t recall his name when he came back around. Consequently, when he came back around I said: “Help me with my memory. I don’t remember your name.” He smiled and said: “It is Johnny. Just like Johnny Cash, except that I don’t have any cash. Okay, so now I had a frame of reference. I would remember his name.


As our two-hour-plus dinner took place, I watched Johnny interacting with a host of other folks dining in the restaurant. He was attentive, personable, and had a genuine gregarious nature about him that added to the ambience of the evening.


He mentioned early in waiting on our table that he had just returned to work. He had been on vacation. I asked about his vacation and he provided a thumb-nailed sketch. He had gone to Arizona. While he was there, he attended his brother’s wedding. He added: “I also had a great time visiting with my mom. I sprung her from the hospital for a while. She has just finished chemo and radiation treatments”. He mentioned that in four months she has aged about fifteen years.


Immediately, I had the thought associated to the complexity of his family’s circumstances. His mother’s health status had to weigh heavily on the family as they rallied around and celebrated a family wedding. I’m sure there were lots of emotions surrounding the celebration.


I mentioned that I was sorry he was dealing with that kind of stress. He said, “It comes with life”. Who could argue with that? He went on to say: “It is interesting, but my mother has developed the most magnificent sense of humor. She had never been so funny. I guess she figures, ‘What do I have to lose’?”   He added: “I really enjoyed the time with her. In addition, my brother’s wedding provided an opportunity for me to visit with a lot of old friends I’ve not seen in awhile. It was really nice. I enjoyed my time at home, but it is also good to be back at work.”


Through the course of the evening, bits and pieces about his life surfaced in conversation. He mentioned George Straight’s song: “Ocean Front Property In Arizona”. He said he had recorded the song and given it to several friends. His friends had responded with positive reviews.


I asked: “So did you come to Austin to get in the music business?” He said he had graduated from high school at the age of seventeen and was ready to advance his career. He had started skateboarding at the age of four and thought he could make it as a professional skateboarder. California was calling his name. He had to go and give that career track a chance”.


I doubt that is just the kind of thing every parent wants to hear from his or her seventeen-year-old son? Actually, he told his dad he was going to request court emancipation. The dad countered that he would allow him to go, but that he wasn’t going to be emancipated. The dad wanted to keep him on as an income tax deduction. Did I mention that his dad is a CPA and his mother is an art professor?


He had support from his family as he pursued his dreams. In the course of the two hours we shared, he shared several more tidbits about his life. He got a degree in nursing and things began to fall apart with his girlfriend at exactly the same time that he was beginning to see a line of white picket fences.


I had the thought: “What a clever way to express where he was in his human pilgrimage.” Romance didn’t work out in California and he made his way to Austin. His story associated to getting into the restaurant business really caught me by surprise. He said, “It was all about the Balloon Animals”. “The what”, I asked?” He said when he was still in high school a friend had showed him a stash of cash in his wallet. He said: “He had twenties and hundred dollar bills.” His friend explained: “I’ve been working at a restaurant making animals out of balloons for children.” He said, “The parents love it and they pay me. Some pay me very well”.


“You’ve got to show me how to do that,” was his response to his friend. In short order, he received permission to do the same thing in another restaurant. He said, “I guess it was my gregarious nature, but folks really liked me. When the restaurant decided to stop allowing me to do that, they said I was too valuable to loose. They employed me as a part-time server while I was in high school”.


When asked about his passion going forward he said: “I am a writer. I was made to write. I can’t stop writing. I haven’t gotten anything published yet, but I will. I write. I can’t stop writing”.


Something tells me, he’s got the stuff to reach his dreams. I liked his line: “I was beginning to envision a line of white picket fences”. What an incredible way to say much in a very different way of expressing it!


Johnny gave me permission to share his story and reluctantly provided the same regarding his picture. It would serve you well to find him. He is an exceptionally knowledgeable server who works for an incredible restaurant. You’ll enjoy a fantastic meal and an exceptional waiter.


All My Best!





I recently visited with a friend who grew up in a children’s home. When I say he grew up there, I literally mean that he spent the entirety of his childhood years in a children’s home. Actually, that’s not quite true. He wasn’t placed until the age of five.  He and his four siblings were placed in the same children’s home.


Because he repeated a couple of years in school, he holds the record of being in care longer than any other alumnus.  Would you believe, eighteen years?  Yesterday, I had the privilege of riding with him  as he drove through the campus where he grew up. It was almost as each building we passed held special memories for him.


When I go back to the hometown where I grew up, I always drive by the house where I lived during childhood. I simply only have to turn onto the street where I lived to be flooded with memories associated to that time and place. I think about the other kids who lived and played on that street.


I think about the neighbors who were very much a part of our lives.  Of course, I mostly focus on the sense of everything that surrounds the concept of home. I think of my family. I think of the gift and innocence of childhood. I think of the positive experiences associated to church and school. I think about the ability to be anything I wanted to be because I was an American and growing up in a country where all things are possible.


At least, the hope of that possibility was one of the things we were encouraged to embrace.  It was an atmosphere that fostered the concept that you could “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps”. The sky was the limit.


I got the sense as we drove around the children’s home campus yesterday that my friend was having similar kinds of thoughts associated to neighborhood where he grew up. The children’s home campus was the focal point where positive things took place in his life. It provided him a place of security, nurture, encouragement and safety. It was also an environment of opportunity.


I got the sense as we talked that he was a pretty precocious kid in a lot of ways.  In some respects he had to grow up fast. No doubt that was true for his four siblings as well.  As we drove by the campus administration building yesterday, I wondered what it felt like seeing that building for the first time at the age of five? I can almost imagine his eyes were wide with a combination of both excitement and fear.


You can garner a lot of wisdom regarding the need for a lifestyle change by the age of five if basic needs aren’t consistently met.  That’s not to say that his mother didn’t love her children. She did and in return, they loved her as well.  Loving someone doesn’t mean that you want to live with them when experience has already taught you that your mom’s alcohol dependency routinely stole from her the ability to put your needs first.


I didn’t ask, but I wondered how often he drives through the campus where he grew up simply to garner the memories.  I felt honored to hear his stories.  He has nothing but praise to express his gratitude for the safety and security afforded him by the children’s home.


He and his siblings continued to have contact with their mom during the time they were in care. By then their dad was mostly out of the picture.  Divorce has an ugly way of severing what could have been into something less than desirable. The same is true for one’s propensity for a drink.


Of course, all behavior is an attempt to get a need met. What drove his mother to drink instead of responsibly giving priority to the needs of her five children could have been any number of things.  Who knows, it could have been learned behavior left over from her own childhood? Don’t most of us learn to parent from those who had the responsibility for providing for our care?


Some of you might be inclined to think that if you were a single mother responsible for the care of five children, you might need a drink as well.  Actually, the drink only temporarily masked the disappointment associated to life.


When my friend talks of a sense of gratitude to the children’s home where he grew up, he recognizes that the nurture and care he received equipped him for life.  He reached adulthood with everything he needed to embrace life and an opportunity to be successful.


A couple of years ago, he left a successful law practice to answer a higher calling.  In the spirit of giving back, he now heads the agency where he grew up.  The children’s home no longer operates the campus where he grew up, but the mission and purposes of the organization are still the same. Talking with him was refreshing. His enthusiasm and ability to relate to kids from hard places puts him ahead of the learning curve.


He will settle for nothing less than a normal childhood for those entrusted to the care of the agency he now leads.  He challenges staff to look for ways to say “Yes” to every kind of enrichment opportunity that can come a child’s way.


I was privileged to learn from him.


All My Best!


A Memory In The Midst of Anxiety

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It isn’t often that I opt to cut it close, but both meetings were important. Why not tempt fate and make them both happen. Actually, there shouldn’t be a problem. I prefer to get to the airport an hour or so early. That wasn’t going to happen, but everything should be okay. At least, that’s what I told myself.


When I arrived at the meeting in Round Rock yesterday, I took my backpack containing my electronics inside.  I might tempt fate with my schedule, but I wasn’t taking chances with my computer. Knowing my propensity for leaving my backpack behind, I put the keys to my truck inside. That would ensure that I didn’t forget.


Actually, that’s not quite true.  As luck would have it, I did forget. I hurriedly left the meeting. When I got to my truck, I discovered the door locked. Where was my key? That was the question that prompted me to remember that my backpack was still inside.


It was a little embarrassing to walk back into a meeting I had just left a little prematurely, but I didn’t have a choice. I was leaving town on a jet plane so to speak, and I needed my computer.


I’ve been to the Austin airport often from that location and I always took the toll-road. I checked the distance earlier from my iPhone and the map indicated the fastest route was to drive south on IH-35 through Austin to HWY 71. Okay, so maybe my map application isn’t all that smart.  Of course the time of day could have a bearing, but I’ve been on IH-35 when it was a parking lot.


Actually, getting on to IH-35 yesterday to head south in Round Rock resembled a parking lot. I decided to trust my fate to Waze. Reportedly, it offers real-time projected arrival times.  It also was routing me South on IH-35 to HWY 183 and then steering me to the airport. Been there/done that!  I’ve never been in such a mess. The construction coupled with traffic lights on HWY 183 was a deal breaker. At the last minute, I headed to the toll road exit. Why not stick with a  route I knew would work.


There is something about the comfort of legally driving 80 mph that gives the false sense that one is probably ahead of schedule. Actually, I was probably doing all right time-wise. At least that was my misperception until I saw signage that indicated I was in route to Buda. What happened to the HWY 71 exit?  It had been awhile since I’d gone to the airport from that direction, but instead of one possible exit, there were three. None mentioned HWY 71 or the airport. I obviously opted for the wrong exit.


The exit I chose was figuratively the road to nowhere, but how did I get off?  A sense of panic immediately set in.  I had tempted fate related to my timely arrival at the airport and it looked like I was coming up short.


I took the first exit that landed me in the middle of nowhere. I immediately sought the assistance of Siri and hurriedly selected Austin Bergstrom International Airport. Had I selected the South location? I think I did. Hey, there is only one Austin Bergstrom International Airport, right?


The level of tension left a sick sensation in the pit of my stomach. I decided to throw caution to the wind and fully trust the link Siri  had provided with my arrival to the airport.  The longer I drove, the sick sensation in the pit of my stomach worsened. The directions led me on roads I’d never heard of before.  I was in the middle of nowhere. There was no sign of the airport. Eventually, I saw Emma Browning Avenue and immediately knew I had made a made mistake.


Actually, I had the privilege of knowing Emma Browning. She once served as a board member for the agency in Round Rock I had just left. She died at the age of 99 and left quite a legacy.  Emma flew her first plane at the age of 18 and loved the sensation of flying. Of course, that reportedly had something to do with meeting Robert Browning, a daredevil and barnstorming pilot, who later became her husband.    She subsequently helped her husband train World War II pilots at the old Robert Mueller Municipal Airport.


Robert and Emma Browning started Browning Aerial Services in Austin in 1939. Although she had her pilot’s license, her husband was the teacher and she ran the company. They received government contracts to train pilots destined to fight in WWII.


Emma told stories of meeting Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh, who both landed in Austin with plane trouble. “Earhart needed repairs for her plane. When the parts didn’t come in right away, Earhart spent a night in their home”.


The memory of Emma Browning quieted my spirit as I thought back to an independent and feisty lady. She was a pace setter. I also sensed I couldn’t be that far away from the other Austin Bergstrom International Airport.


When all else fails, pray!  The prayers paid off.  When I finally got to a parking space, it was closest to the terminal. The shuttle bus pulled up just as I stepped up to the curb.  I wasn’t out of the woods yet. I was not TSA pre-checked. This could take a while and I had a precious few minutes left.


Imagine my surprise and sense of elation when there was absolutely no one in line to go through security.  The butterflies in the pit of my stomach landed in formation. I subsequently made my flight with a couple of minutes to spare.


All My Best!



The Sound Of Laughter


If there is a downside to having a grandchild spend a week or two with you, it has something to do with the level of quietness that seemingly engulfs the home once they are gone. Earlier this summer, Jake spent a couple of weeks with us and kept us in stitches the entire time. In addition, the General accompanied him to a couple of movies and made several trips to the ceramic shop where he painted items to be fired and picked up later. He was always thrilled with the finished product and always ready to paint something else.


Who knows, maybe it is in his DNA?  When the General and I were anticipating Craig’s arrival and the beginning of our journey as being parents, we took a ceramic class at a pottery shop in San Angelo. It became addictive. Interestingly, once Craig arrived, we no longer had time for pottery, but we still have several hand-painted pieces that we have hung on to over the years.


Don’t ask me why, but I was immediately drawn to the ceramic German beer steins. Consequently, I painted a couple and thought they’d make a great start to a collection.  Okay, so give me a break here. I also collected baseball cards when I was a kid and I didn’t like to play baseball.  The same could be said of collecting German beer steins. I liked the look.  Of course, with the baseball cards, you also got chewing gum to go with the card.  Nothing was quite as good as that pink rectangular piece of gum enclosed with every baseball card. It was more than a mouthful.


This past week, we have been privileged to have William, our oldest grandson, staying with us.  I almost didn’t recognize him at first. I was shocked by how much taller he is now than when I saw him a month ago. He’s figuratively grown about a foot over the summer.  One thing is for certain, he’ll be wearing a totally new wardrobe when school starts.


Knowing that William was with us, my younger brother sent me some suggestions of things I could allow William to do that would create a lifetime memory for him.  Larry’s first suggestion is that I hand him the keys to my Miata and let him learn to drive a six-speed.  Did I mention that Larry has always been a jokester?  Intuitively, knowing that suggestion wasn’t going to fly, he suggested I let him drive my truck.  That was an idea that had merit.


My granddaddy always took delight in allowing us the privilege to drive.  He did the same with our children.  After all, by the age of nine, you need to know how to steer and alternately use the gas pedal and the brake.  Of course, with Granddaddy, he took great delight in having kids take great delight.


The General and I both asked William if there was anything special he wanted to do. Without having to give it thought, he mentioned going ziplining.  Even if I didn’t have my sights set on being the world’s best granddad, I’d have opted to go with the ziplining out of a sense of vested interest. Of course, we were going to do that!


There were no movies that William wanted to see and he didn’t express an interest in painting pottery. Of course, in summers past, although reluctant to do so, he always had an enjoyable time doing so along with his siblings.  This year he was flying solo and the peer pressure to participate was absent.


The first morning William was here, he slept in a little late.  I say that, but then again, I get up early.  I think I had oatmeal for breakfast that morning.  The General took care to prepare breakfast for William. Did I mention that William ate eight slices of bacon for breakfast?  I can’t remember what else was on his plate, but the smell of the bacon made the measly bowl of oatmeal I had eaten early even less tasty than it had been.


William is thirteen-years-old and he is mostly a meat connoisseur. He has absolutely no interest in eating rabbit food. If the ingredients can go inside a salad, don’t even suggest putting them on his plate.  Seriously, it is non-negotiable. When it comes to hamburgers, he is a meat and bread kind of guy.


How many meals have I shared with William over the past thirteen years?  Fortunately, there have been many. He has a set pattern in place for how he chooses to dine.  I had never noticed it before.  He wants the food items on his plate separated. One food item should not be touching another unrelated food item.  He also only eats one food item at a time.


Consequently, William has deprived himself of the privilege of knowing the exhilaration associated to holding a burger in one hand while alternately eating French fries covered with ketchup by using the other hand.  Actually, I’m not sure William would be open to the taste of ketchup. I encouraged him to color outside the lines and mix up his established pattern of eating, but he had absolutely no interest.


Following our ziplining experience, we went to a great restaurant.  I ordered fried catfish. William ordered a cheese burger and fries. About halfway through our meal, I noticed that William had not touched his burger.  Seriously, that was my first recognition that William chooses his own route in devouring everything on his plate.  I figured by the time he finished the ample portion of fries, he’d have no interest in the burger. I’ve been wrong before.  He consumed it all. You’d really have to see it to believe it.


Most of the week, William and the General busied themselves by playing dominoes or Monopoly. The General loves to play table games. Obviously, so does William. They played one game after another all week long.


As a bystander, I liked the sounds associated to hearing them play.  William has the gift of laughter. I love to hear him laugh. He and the General spent hours upon hours of alternating between the two games. Actually, they both found things to laugh about. It was fun hearing the sounds.


While he was here, William had a reading assignment along with a book report to write. He independently carved out the time to do those things. He is really a very responsible kid. I’m sure he’d say the highlight of his week was the zipline experience, but he took great delight in playing table games with the General.  Knowing that I’d rather have root canal work done at the dentist’s office than play table games, they gave me a walk on the need to participate.


William had to go home yesterday and it is now more than a little quiet in our house this morning. Already, I miss the sound of his laughter.  How privileged we are to have easy access to sharing time with grandchildren. I understand that is not an inherent privilege that every grandparent or grandchild experiences.  It hurts my heart for those that miss it.


All My Best!


A Backwards Leap


The year was 1970.  A friend from college introduced the General and I to the sound of the Mystic Moods Orchestra and their album entitled: “One Stormy Night.”  He had come to San Angelo to visit and he brought the album with him. The sound was incredible!  It was quite a contrast to the country/western genre I generally listened to at the end of a workday.


This past Sunday night or in the early hours of Monday morning, it was as if I was hearing the soundtrack for the first time.  Only this time, it wasn’t the Mystic Moods Orchestra. It was Mother Nature orchestrating the sounds.  Even in our darkened bedroom with the shutters closed, I could imagine the zigzag of lightning bolts illuminating the sky.  The sound of the thunder was riveting.


I thought about our thirteen-year-old grandson on the other side of the house.  Would he be frightened by the storm?  I crept out of bed and opened the shutters in our bedroom. The lightning was as I had imagined. It was zig-zagging it’s way all across the sky. Throw in the repetition of roaring claps of thunder and even I found it a little unnerving. Of course, the General and I were in the house once when our home was hit by lightning. Since that time, I’ve had a healthy respect for lightning and when it appears to be close, I get a little anxious.


It was nice going back to bed and watching the storm illuminate our bedroom.  At some point, I was aware that the electricity in the house had gone off. The nightlight in the room and he illuminated dial on the clock radio were no longer visible. I didn’t mind, the sound of rain and the storm was music to my ears.


At some point, following a loud clap of thunder, the lights in another portion of the house came on. I could see the light spilling over through our open doorway. How did that happen?  I was curious, but I wasn’t curious enough to get out of bed and go look. In a few seconds, the unexplained light was off, but so was the electricity. The nightlight and dial on the clock radio were darkened again.


I must have fallen back to sleep. When I awakened again, it was to the sound of rain hitting the roof. I got up to walk through the living area. Strangely, light was again coming from that area.  The overhead lights on the fireplace side of the room were on. So was a table lamp.  I figured the table lamp was purposefully left on, but I didn’t have an explanation for the overhead lights.  I walked across the room and turned them off and went back to bed.


Before I fell back asleep, I thought about the outing my son-in-law and I had in store for William that morning. The only thing William identified on his wish-list of things to do while he was visiting was to go ziplining. I had the thought, he’s going to be disappointed if that doesn’t happen.


Monday morning, the General sent me to awaken William since he wasn’t up for breakfast my 8:00 a.m. I simply walked toward the bedroom and called his name. He responded immediately.  He mentioned the storm. He said it kept him awake all night.


At some point he came into the living area/kitchen are to get a drink.  He was startled when the lights went off. He said, it was totally dark with the exception of illumination coming from lightning from both sides of the house.  Of course, the sounds of thunder filled the air.  He sought safety from the darkness by sitting on a bar stool and waiting for the electricity to come back on. He said he kept his bare feet propped on a rung of the barstool.


William reportedly wasn’t afraid of the storm and he wasn’t afraid of the dark, but he was terrified with the thought that there might be a stinging scorpion somewhere near his feet. That’s why he kept his feet propped up.  Earlier in the evening, he had located a stinging scorpion on his side of the house. He found it a little unsettling.


Obviously, William had just gone back to bed when I walked into the living area to turn off the light. I never had a passing thought that a stinging scorpion could run interference with my walk back through the house.  It wasn’t an issue.


The morning sun quelled my fear that the ziplining experience would be cancelled. Everything was on as planned.  William said he had a great time. Actually, I could tell from observing him that he had a great time.  The same was true of Kevin.  As for me, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  It was absolutely awesome!  I had a lot more fun than from the time before.


For starters, a couple of things were different from the time before when Kevin and I had taken Jake to zipline.  The group size was smaller and the temperature was about ten degrees cooler. What a difference that can make in terms of enjoyment.


In addition, I didn’t stumble and fall down on the trail like I embarrassingly did the time before. The scars that remain on my lower leg from having had that experience the first time were a reminder to step carefully on the steps leading upward.  I didn’t want to take another tumble.


I did ask the staff if it was common for folks to get to the first zipline and then back out of the experience. That said it happens all of the time.  People realize they are afraid of heights and they opt out of the experience. That would have to be awkward.


I had a flashback to what it was like as a little kid the first time I opted to jump off of the high diving board at the swimming pool.  I got to the top and didn’t have the nerve. It was almost like the walk of shame to back myself down the ladder.  Would it feel like that if you opted out of the zipline experience?  I figure it might even be worse.  BTW – just for the record, I did eventually master the high diving board as a little kid and routinely went head first. I was better at it that my twin. It is one of the few things I did with more grace than he.


We had a great time yesterday. On one of the runs, it was suggested that if we wanted to step the adrenaline rush up a notch, we might want to consider going off backwards and leaving our hands free from holding on to the rope. Was he serious?  Apparently so, I watched in disbelief as a few people in the line before us opted to do that?


I was last in line, so I had time to give it some thought.  What could go wrong?  I could envision myself hanging upside down.  On the other hand, I don’t normally opt out of an adrenaline rush kind of experience. Would I do it? I didn’t know the answer until I was on the platform. I had just watched William and then Kevin opt to go with the backwards leap, why not join them?


Wanting to exercise prudent judgement before making the decision, I asked how to right myself if I inadvertently found myself upside down? I was assured it would be an easy process of simply grabbing the rope and pulling myself up. What could go wrong?  You tell me. It was absolutely exhilarating.


All My Best!


Living Out Loud


In her book entitled “Living Out Loud”, Anna Quindlen writes: “There are two parts to writing a column about yourself, about your life and your feelings. One is, naturally, the writing itself, the prose and, if you’ve got it in you, the poetry.
“But the other is the living, and that is the harder part. When I was twenty-two, I wanted badly to do such a column, but the managing editor of the newspaper for which I was working said that I was a good enough writer, but that I hadn’t lived enough to be qualified for ‘living out loud’”.


I read those words earlier this week and the “living out loud” concept has resounded in my head over and over since that time.  When I was a kid growing up, my mother would sometimes use the expression: “For crying out loud.”  It was normally articulated in response to her disdain for something one of us had done that didn’t square well with her. Closely akin to that phrase was the adage, “You know better than that.”


Before seeing it in print earlier this week, I was a stranger to the term “living out loud”. I don’t guess I’ve thought about it before, but some might say my daily blog falls under the category of “living out loud”.  I sometimes reach levels of transparency that make me a little uncomfortable.  I don’t like the taste of eating crow, but I generally own it when I’ve messed up.  It happens a lot more than I like to think.


Anna Quindlen is also credited with saying: “The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself”.


Fortunately, I learned a long time ago that I have absolutely no control over anything that ultimately matters and the illusion of perfection has never been a part of my persona.


Brene’ Brown writes; “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”  “Becasue true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance”.  “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage”.


I’m content with the notion that I’m a work in progress. I’m not perfect! You don’t need the written affirmation to know that what I’m saying in true. At the same time, isn’t that true of all of us?  Sometimes I think I should be farther down the road than I am, but each day offers a new opportunity to make the most of what I’ve been given.


Never would it be my intent in “living out loud” to only share one dimension of my persona.  By now, I’ve exposed enough about the good natured back and forth sparring the General and I engage in on a regular basis to know that our marriage is give and take. We each hold the other accountable.


We are happily married and the thought of divorce or murder doesn’t enter our minds.  I’m making that assumption on her part. I know it to be factually true on mine.


Across four plus years of making our lives an open book by “living out loud”, most of you have drawn the conclusion that the General is a saint.  Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it. I married really well!  She is a saint, but that doesn’t mean that married life can’t at times be challenging.


The General and I routinely agree on the things that mostly matter. We, at times, can get sidetracked on the inconsequential.  Of course, familial wars have sometimes started over something that doesn’t matter a hill of beans. We make every attempt not to let that happen.


Of course, the General would probably counter, that from her perspective, I generally craft my pen in a fashion that I always come out looking like a hero.  In fact, she has said as much when she perceives I’ve overstepped my boundaries and inadvertently cast a negative light on her behavior or response to a situation.  It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened. However, I think I’ve gotten better at knowing what I can safely share and the categories where I’m better served to “zip it up”.


Please know, the awareness that I’ve made a glitch in using prudent judgment always fills me with fear and trembling. Okay, so maybe that’s an overstatement; however, I’d never purposefully do that. I don’t believe in airing dirty laundry.  Actually, I can’t even think of any dirty laundry, but if I could, I wouldn’t share it.


Living out loud is a privilege. The thing I’ve mostly value about the experience is the feedback that my stories remind others of their stories. I like hearing the details of the things we have in common.


The General and I are not like a couple of porcupines huddled together to stay warm. Our lives our filled with mutual respect, civility and love. Living at our home isn’t like living in a war zone.  We don’t disagree on anything that really matters much.


The back and forth sparring is good natured and not meant to be offensive.  Actually, the process of writing it all down is therapeutically beneficial to me. Living out loud is a privilege.


All My Best!



Somewhere In Time


There were a couple of things on my agenda for yesterday that proved to be really special.  I had a three o’clock meeting with a couple at church to talk about their wedding plans.  They live in Houston, but they selected a wedding venue between Blanco and San Antonio. They were in Austin for a wedding last night, so the opportunity to visit yesterday afternoon was convenient for them. They proved to be absolutely delightful.


Actually, it was the grandmother of the bride who initially asked if I’d be open to officiating at her granddaughter’s wedding. She sent me an email via messenger on Facebook.  She obviously reached out to me as soon as the couple expressed their intent to get married. That was well over a year ago.  Of course, I said yes.  At the same time, I had the hope that the grandmother wasn’t volunteering to find a minister without the couple’s blessing to do so. I figured that once we met, if they weren’t happy with the selection, they’d opt to do something else.


How often does a childhood friend from school have the opportunity to officiate at a wedding for the granddaughter of one of their classmates?  After all, it has been a very long time since 1965. It was an honor to be asked and the young couple are the kind of folks it is easy to like. They have nothing but a bright future instore for themselves.  I feel so honored to be able to participate in their wedding.


Following the meeting with the couple, we had plans to have dinner at a restaurant that we haven’t frequented in years. Actually, I’ve been back once in the past four years, but the location of the restaurant is less than ideal for someone living in the greater Dripping Springs area.  The General probably hasn’t been to dinner there in at least twenty-five years.


We were introduced to the restaurant when we first moved to Austin in the mid-1970s. Actually, the General worked as an administrative assistant to the man who introduced us to the restaurant. His wife was related to the owners.  I won’t call it a hole-in-wall restaurant, but it is a very small restaurant located in the shadow of the University of Texas. Today, it still looks very much like it did in 1976.


It is a family owned and operated restaurant. The cheese enchiladas are addictive. Did I mention they are also very good?  In addition, the service is always top shelf. During a portion of my tenure working for the state of Texas, my office was located a stone’s throw from the restaurant. When it came to selecting a place for lunch, I often was a MWF patron. I ate there about three times a week.


The owner and his wife were always present and always personable and welcoming. In addition, their son and daughter spent a fair amount of time working at the restaurant.  Of course, the original owners are no longer on this side of eternity, but the restaurant is still operated as a family owned and operated business.


The last time I was in the restaurant, the daughter was the matriarch in charge behind the cash register. I reintroduced myself and told her how much I had previously enjoyed the restaurant. She told me that David, her brother was mostly responsible for the restaurant’s operation, but that she helps out from time to time.


I remembered David well. He, too, was also personable and welcoming.  Last night when we arrived at the restaurant, I didn’t see anyone I recognized.  One of the waiters was a really tall guy.  I vaguely thought he resembled someone from long ago, but I’m not sure. The time before, I recognized one of the waiters.


We actually chose to go back there yesterday at my daughter’s urging.  She didn’t have the kind of familiarity with the restaurant that her brother did, but she remembered it from her early childhood.  In addition, I took her there for dinner her freshman year at U.T. In recent months, she indicated that she’d like to go there for old-time-sakes.


As a kid, Craig was addicted to the place.  What can I say about the discriminating taste of a little kid? With Craig, he always wanted to go one of two places. He was fond of Long John Silvers and he was fond of El Patio. Of the two places he recommended, I always opted for El Patio if at all possible.  Of course, our home was close to Manchaca and sometime Long John Silvers seemed a lot more convenient.


About halfway through the meal, I noticed that David was in the restaurant. He was near our table, I called him by name and stood to introduce myself. He recognized me immediately. It was feel-good experience to reconnect. In his traditional pattern, he was personable and welcoming.


At some level, it felt like regaining something from the past.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  While we were there, the General took a picture of the signage painted on the wall and sent it to Craig. William was seated next to the sign and leaned backwards so the General could take the picture.  Craig responded that he was jealous.


It was a nice family outing and the memories from the past made the effort significant.


All My Best





Memories To Last A Lifetime


Our grandson William is spending this week with us. About three weeks ago, his younger brother Jake spent two weeks with us.  When asked if there was anything special William wanted to do while he was here, he only had one request.  He wants to go zip lining.  Who could blame him?  It really is a one-of-a-kind activity.


I suspect knowing that Jake had experienced the thrill while he was here may have been a contributing factor. Of course, Jake also went with Gram to see two different movies and he also made a couple or three trips to the ceramic shop to paint ceramics.  Williams list was limited to zip lining.  How could I say, “No”?


Of course, I’d enjoy it again as well, but my memories of the experience weren’t 100% fun related.  The scars on my lower leg have mostly disappeared. It wasn’t that I fell on my face. I didn’t, but I did take a pretty good fall on the trail as we made our way up to the highest launch pad.  I slipped on the crushed-granite lined step leading upward.  I also messed up one finger in the fall. It, too, has mostly stopped hurting, but it is still tender.  Beyond that, by the time we got to highest peak it was plenty hot outside. The perspiration on my forehead and face was stinging my eyes. I’m sure it had something to do with the sunscreen I had coated over my face before we made the trek toward the boats to take us to the island.


My thoughts associated to the experience weren’t all pleasant. Will I do it again?  You bet I will. How could I deny William the same experience as his brother? I couldn’t and I wouldn’t.  Thinking back on my childhood, I never outgrew the experience of wanting to spend time with my grandparents. That was true of both sets. I want my grandchildren to have the same memories.


My paternal grandparents lived next door until I was in high school. Granddad retired and they moved back to the family farm. I was saddened to see them move, but I loved the experience of going to visit.


My maternal grandparents lived in Ringgold. Every summer my brothers and I were privileged with spending a week with them without parental supervision.  I have such fond memories associated to those experiences. In fact, every time we visited, even with the presence of our parents, we had great time.


Late yesterday, one of my cousins shared a post written by Larry Lemons. Apparently, he, too, has wonderful memories associated to Ringgold. His post carried a picture of a brick with the inscription “ACME WICHITA FALLS   LUMBERMAN’S   SPECIAL”. The brick came from THE DOMINO HALL in Ringgold.  He writes of it: “…The door was always open to hog farmers, cattle ranches, cowboys, rodeo clowns, gas station owners, welders, educators, and professional men who wore nice suits…”


I don’t remember ever seeing anyone inside wearing a coat and tie, but for that matter, I don’t remember a rodeo clown either. Of course, a rodeo clown probably wouldn’t be inclined the dress the part unless he was at the rodeo.  I do remember that the domino hall was a very popular place.



The writer of the blog credited a single acme brick taken from what once had been the building as the catalyst to trigger a host of wonderful memories associated to childhood.


When I walked in the living area of our home this morning, I noticed Grandpa’s branding irons hanging on the wall in our living room. They serve as a trigger for me to remember Ringgold and the wonderful times associated with my grandparents.  The branding irons were never inside their home, but they were hanging in their detached garage.


My grandparents subsequently moved from Ringgold to Nocona before I graduated from college.  Shortly, after their move, I asked Grandpa what he had done with the branding irons? He reported that he had left them in the garage in Ringgold.  He said: “If you’d like to have them, I’ll ask my brother if I can get them back.”  He had sold their home to his younger brother. The next time I went to visit, Grandpa gave me the branding irons.  They have been on display in every home where we’ve lived since that time.


For years, even before my paternal grandfather’s death, I had his pocket watch on display in a shadow box along with a picture of him and Granny.  He had given me the watch when they came to visit us in our first home in Austin.  He had bought a wrist watch and wanted me to have his pocket watch. Consequently, I framed it and hung it on the wall in a grouping of pictures.


Every time Granddaddy came to visit after that time, he always cautioned me that someone was going to steal the watch. It never happened. I had the watch in my possession for seventeen years prior to his death.  I passed the shadow box frame on to my son about sixteen years ago. At the time, the watch had been in my possession for twenty-six years.  It subsequently has been displayed in every home my son has lived in since that time.


Memories are a treasure from the past.  Sometimes we are inclined to sugarcoat them.  When I think about times at my grandparents, I always associate them with the most wonderful of experiences.  It is easy to rule out the time Grandma took us to pick wild plums for jelly. Actually, the experience stayed on my mind for some time.  The chigger bites caused hours of agony.


Then there was the time a group of us went exploring. We even packed a sack lunch for the adventure. I’ll never forget the experience. There was something about looking up, as I was eating a sandwich, to see a large snake hanging over a tree limb over my head that I found extremely frightening.  We all immediately  exited “stage right”.  I had been carrying my bow and arrow. In my haste to “run for my life”, I never went back to get the bow and arrow. It wasn’t worth the risk.


Memories are the most wonderful gift. I hope to leave my grandchildren the same kinds of wonderful memories associated to time with me and the General.  Actually, the General is pretty skilled at ensuring time with us is a wonderful experience. For starters, they mostly have a say in the menu planning for the week.


Yesterday for lunch, we went to Fuddruckers for a hamburger and fries. Of course, the General was elated. She likes Fuddruckers. I could forego the experience and never look back. Fortunately, for me, William likes steak. Last night for dinner, we enjoyed grilled New York strips.


Hopefully, today will be another day of building memories that will last a lifetime.


All My Best!