The O K Corral Isn’t O K

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Despite my unintended efforts yesterday that seemed destined to sabotage a beautiful day, intermittently the kindness of others was enough to boost my spirits and set me in a healthy place emotionally. Abraham may have set out not knowing where he was going, but he managed somehow to become the father of the Israelite nation despite a blunder or two on his part. Seriously he could have jeopardized the whole shooting match. It pays to have God watching over you and being involved in the process.

 

Please don’t judge me as being sacrilegious, but yesterday’s prayer: “God, help me figure this out” didn’t get me a lot closer to proficiency in learning the use of Office 365. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming God. At this point, I’m not even sure Office 365 isn’t the work of other forces. I am also quite sure that I really didn’t pray: “God help me figure this out.” That was a strategic error on my part. I labored under the illusion that I could figure it out on my own. How’s that for the joke of the day? I could have used the outside help.

 

Day-before-yesterday I thought I was closer to having Office 365 figured out. Yesterday it was two steps backwards. I would say at this point that if I have things saved in the cloud, only God knows where to find them. I am fairly certain that I’ll never see them again. In fact, I’m not sure I want to see them again. Yep, it was that kind of day around the “O K Corral”.

 

Speaking of the “O K Corral”, it didn’t help my attitude any when I went out to my truck yesterday morning and noticed that the “O K Corral” around my house is no longer “O K”. I’m stretching the truth a bit here, but half of one side of my yard fence is bent over. O K, so maybe “half” is a substantial exaggeration, but large four legged animals don’t stop at much. That includes what once was an attractive fence. So do I say calf-rope (pardon the pun) and pay to have the whole thing taken down and something substantially stronger installed in its place?

 

I don’t yet know the answer to my own question. I’m still thinking. The current fencing around our home was selected because it went with the look that we wanted for the house. Using oilfield pipe with a three or four-inch diameter welded together to fashion a rail fence is going to look very different. I started to say “aesthetically awful”, but decided not to in the fear that you might have a fence like that. In addition, I’d have to rob a bank to pay for the materials and the labor to build that kind of fence. That sets up another scenario of a shoot-out at the O K Corral or Wells Fargo.

 

So why wouldn’t I just have the fence refurbished? It was only about a year ago that I had similar damage done to the fencing on the other side of my yard. I opted to have that damage repaired. Seriously, the damage was only about three hundred dollars, but it is frustrating. Of course, my frustration hasn’t risen to the place that I’m contemplating a real shoot-out at the “Not So O K Corral” around my home. However, I have heard the expression: “They shoot horses don’t they?”

 

Of course, shooting horses had some relationship to putting a horse out of its misery. It hasn’t really been that long ago that it was customary and merciful to shoot a horse with a broken leg. Veterinary medicine has improved a lot in recent years.

 

Besides that, not much good comes from a shoot-out. The famous gunfight that ensued at the O K Corral in Tombstone, Arizona lasted all of 30 seconds. The year was 1881, but the memory lives on. Reportedly only around 30 shots were fired. According to one source: “Though it’s still debated who fired the first shot, most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest. Though Wyatt Earp wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach, Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing, as did Billy Clanton. When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills”.

 

I will leave it up to you to figure out who the good guys were. I’m going to side with the country song on this one as far as shooting horses is concerned: “Son, Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.” Consequently, the horses are safe. It’s not that they were intentionally destructive. It isn’t there fault that they previously looked at my shiny tough Ford truck and gnawed on the paint. Shucks, only a drug store cowboy would worry about something like that. A real buckaroo would write it off as good luck and a badge of being rugged. After all, it is just a truck. Did I mention that I had my truck fixed?

 

Let me mosey on to the kindness of others that reframed the day for me yesterday. It was noon before I got to the Post Office. No sooner had I parked my truck than I realized I didn’t have my post office key with me. I started to back out and just go back home, but I was also mailing books to my cousin with whom I reconnected day-before-yesterday. Consequently, I gave it a second thought and went on into the post office.

 

Mercifully, there wasn’t much of a wait. The young man behind the counter asked: “How’s your day going?” I responded: “It would be much better if I hadn’t forgotten my key to the post office box.” He asked: “What’s your box number and do your have your diver’s license”. Miracle of miracles, I actually remembered the box number and I had my driver’s license. It hadn’t even crossed my mind to ask for that kind of help.

 

I told him up front that I was mailing books. He asked: “Do you want to ensure them?” I laughed and said: “I wrote them so they can’t be worth much”. A kind lady overhearing the conversation interjected: “If you wrote them, then they are worth a lot.” Her kindness boosted my spirits greatly. I thanked her for her kindness and told her I also write a daily blog. She asked for the blog address and promised to check-it out.

 

My neighbors insisted Sunday that they take me to dinner last night. That too, proved to be most enjoyable. It helped erase away some of the afternoon frustration associated to Office 365.

 

When I got home following dinner, I opened an email. It was from my cousin’s daughter that I had reconnected with months ago through ancestry.com. She sent me a note: “I don’t know if you’ve seen this picture of your mother or not, but I found it on ancestry.com”. It was a class picture taken at the school in Forestburg. The picture identifies the students by row. My mother is on the first row in the center. I don’t know how old she was at the time. The picture didn’t identify the grade level. But seeing it was a “feel good” moment for me.

 

All is well in my world even if the O K Corral isn’t so O K. The owner is and that’s all that really matters.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Superstition – Déjà vu

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When it comes to superstition, I don’t have much of a frame of reference. I’m not even sure how you’d define superstition. Isn’t superstition: “A widely held belief related to consequences for certain actions that really are without a basis?” For example: “It is really bad luck to spit in the wind?” I guess the real answer to that question depends on the direction you’re facing related to the wind.

 

Take the number “13” for example. Some folks see “13” as an unlucky number and opt to stay in-doors on Friday the 13th. They choose not to press their luck by taking unnecessary chances. Not me, I’m going to celebrate that it is Friday. Besides that, if you don’t take a chance every now and then, you might miss out. I don’t care what numerical day of the month any Friday falls on. Fridays work well for me. Obviously, that thought leaves me optimistic for today.

 

I don’t have an aversion to staying in a room on the 13th floor of a hotel, but I have stayed in hotels that didn’t have a 13th floor even though there was an open deck on the roof or near the top of the building. I figure the open deck represents more of a risk than the 13th floor. Did I say: “I always consider it a little strange when the number 13 is not an option on the elevator select button in a multi-story building that is much higher?” Obviously, there is a price to pay for superstition.

 

Though I don’t consider myself superstitious, I do find it problematic or concerning when a black cat crosses my path. You know what they say about black cats?   Of course, the color of the cat isn’t the real issue. I interrupt it as bad luck when any cat crosses my path because they intuitively do a U-turn and head directly toward me.  Before you write me off as irrational and uncaring, Isn’t it true they smother babies? Oh, I guess that, too, is a superstition.

 

At any rate, I am a cat magnet.  Passive aggressive is the only way I can describe it. Cats love me, but only because they know they have the negative impact of making the hair on the back-of-my- neck stand up. There are two kinds of people in this world. There are people who like cats and there are people that don’t. I obviously fall into the latter category.

 

I’m resistive to the notion that I’m superstitious, but how many times do I say: “Knock on wood” while I’m knocking on wood to signify my hope that something I’ve just said doesn’t happen? I guess maybe I am a little superstitious. After all, it always bad luck when I break a mirror. For one thing, if I break it, the mirror doesn’t belong to me and the General would be a little miffed. For another you know who would have to clean up the mess. Consequently, it would be back luck on two counts.

 

I do remember at some point in my junior high school years that I had a rabbit’s foot keychain attached to the zipper on my notebook. That sounds really gross.  What was I thinking?  In addition, do they even make notebooks like that anymore? Surely you remember the type I’m talking about? It was a notebook for the storage of 3-ring paper and the notebook was held closed by a zipper that kept the paper and pencils inside.

 

Speaking of bad luck, I just discovered that it is bad luck to make a cup of coffee on a Keruig Coffee maker in the dark. Do you want to know why? I just went to retrieve my coffee and was in for quite a surprise. When I picked my cup up, I discovered the cup was upside down. I guess I’m stating the obvious, but I now have a mess to clean up. Call it superstitious if you want to, but I guarantee you it won’t serve you well to make a cup of coffee the way I just made mine. Fortunately, the General will never know. Right now I could be listening to lecture #2693 about the need to pay attention.

 

So, I had a rabbit’s foot keychain for good luck. Where did the keychain come from and why did I want it are questions that immediately come to mind? I don’t have the answers. I’m sure it was a fad back-in-the day and that many in my peer group also had a rabbit foot in their possession.

 

So did you ever carry a “Good Luck Charm” with you? Apart from the rabbit’s foot, I don’t think I did. However, I have thought of getting a James Avery silver cross to wear hanging from my neck. I wouldn’t consider it a good luck charm. I prefer to think of it as a good look and a visual reminder that it isn’t about luck, but about love that matters most.

 

I have a leather notebook stored in the top of my closet that belonged to Ronnie. It has been years since I looked inside, but as I recall, the notebook includes a slide rule that he needed for coursework at Texas A&M. But of course, he also had a slide rule in high school. Besides using it to draw a straight line, I am clueless related to its use. Would it bring me bad luck if I opted to give or throw the notebook away? What about the slide rule?

 

I don’t know if you’d call it back luck, but I would feel like something important was missing if I didn’t have it. Just saying that is really stupid because other than collecting dust in the top of my closet, the leather notebook serves no useful purpose other than to trigger a memory when I take the time to glance toward the top of my closet.

 

Of course, as you might suspect, my primary focus when I look in my closet is to look down. Could I have inadvertently dropped one of the yellow tags attached to my laundry on the floor? That, too, is guaranteed to bring you bad luck.

 

So what about the All-STAR baseball games taking place in Sealy, TX this week? What place does superstition hold related to winning or losing? As you might suspect, I am on very shaky ground with this one because I know folks who are more than just a little superstitious when it comes to baseball. Smart people really, but maybe not always?

 

Maybe the term is “Déjà vu?” If your son’s team won the first All Star game, you guarantee a win on the second by exactly duplicating the first game. If you are observing the game, you sit in the same spot or you stand in the same place. Nothing can be altered, you march to the beat of the same drum you followed previously. If you wore your favorite whatever for the first game, you leave the good luck unimpaired and unwashed and you wear it for the second. I mean, after the third consecutive game, wouldn’t a fresh look guarantee some level of success?

 

In Sealy, Little League baseball is King. In fact, someone recently mentioned that All-Star week is not the week to have your wedding. What you’ll find is an empty church because nothing, I mean nothing, is of higher importance that the All Star Games in Sealy.  The crowd might show up for the reception, but they are not missing the game for a wedding.  In Sealy, that probably would include the father-of-the-bride.

 

I recently heard of a very successful entrepreneur in Sealy who invited an elderly couple to come watch his son’s team play. The couple previously invested highly in the man’s business. They arrived for the 3rd game. With there welcome to the game came the pronouncement: “If the team starts to lose, you’ll have to leave.” The man agreed that he understood. Maybe the man is a local that knows you change nothing including spectators to continue the winning streak.

 

At any rate, the General wanted to go to the fourth game last night. I said: “Not on your life. If the team should lose, we’d always be suspected as the cause”.  No, I’m not overly superstitious, but I wasn’t going to take that kind of chance. Some risks are acceptable, while others are not. Hopefully, I have the discernment to know the difference.

 

I’d like to have another cup of coffee, but after the first cup should I take the risk?

 

All My Best!

Don

Location, Location, Location

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They say it rains on the just and the unjust.  At various times it probably could be said that I fall into both categories. Our lawn is currently green and lush, so I’m not complaining, but we’ve missed some really good chances for rain.  The man who has taken on the responsibility of maintaining our lawn has done a tremendous job.  He is a perfectionist and his rate is very affordable.   He actually does a much better job than I’ve ever done. Consequently, I don’t plan to go back.  Why should I “sweat it” since he’s set a higher standard and seems to enjoy the process.  Interestingly, his own lawn is xeriscaping and it purposefully doesn’t take up much of his time.

Last year when the General had half of our lawn replaced with river rock, I opted to get rid of our lawnmower.  It was taking up too much room in the well house.  I also tossed my old weed eater and bought a new one. I used it one time, loaned it to a friend who found that it didn’t work, and put it back without resolving the issue of its brokenness.  I mean after all, it is still in warranty, but getting it repaired is such an inconvenience.  I’ve only been to the SEARS repair center one time and that was thirty years ago.  I truthfully don’t even remember where it is located, but it was a long way from where I live.

Getting back to the rain, a couple came to church yesterday and their car had literally been through hail. The car was covered with huge dents.  I guess I needed the visual imagine to really process the level of damage that hail can cause.  Reportedly, a portion of Dripping Springs incurred golf-ball size hail one evening last week.  In case you’re wondering, that causes a lot more damage than the nickel and dime stuff.

I guess when it comes to a hailstorm; it is a lot like the real estate market. It gets back to location, location, and location.  The only variable is where you are at the time.  Hail is no respecter of persons.  If you find yourself in its path, brace yourself for the damage it can cause.  You literally have no option but to ride out the storm.

Reportedly, many who found themselves in the hail headed for the closet bank to safely park under the portico extending over the drive-in banking location.  Wouldn’t you know it? Everyone had the same idea and most didn’t find save cover. Consequently, there are dented cars in Drippin’.  Fortunately, mine is not one of them, but only because I wasn’t in that location at the time.

It is interesting that when bad things happen, someone always wants to assign some level of blame.  Sometimes people point the accusing finger  to themselves.  If only I hadn’t done this or that, I wouldn’t be dealing with this…  You can play that game out and to the nth degree and it doesn’t alter one’s circumstances or situation at the end of the day.  The blame game isn’t a silver lining that leads anywhere other than an attitude of regret unless it carries with it a lesson learned that leads to life-altering change.  Then it may be worth the price of admission.

Living under the auspices of blame and shame doesn’t often add quality to one’s life.  I’d much prefer to think each day is an opportunity to hit the reset button and with the Lord’s help choose to do it differently. 

I recently visited with a young man at the hospital who said with a smile on his face something closely akin to: “My days of drinking, wild-ways and running around are over”.  I had the thought: “Good for him!”  Yet, I’ve known the guy a long, long time and I wouldn’t have described his lifestyle as being filled with any of those things.  Back in the day when he prided himself on being a “wild bull rider who liked to rodeo”, maybe I would have been in agreement, but not now.

Fortunately, he has come to the place where he can live and learn, but I’m not sure it was a lesson he could have learned earlier.  Maybe he should have known better, but I’m not sure without last week’s wake-up call, many of us would have gotten it.  Even though he previously was forewarned by his doctor, he precipitously and unexpectedly found himself in harm’s way. 

Though he was fully alert last week, he was moved from his hospital room to the intensive care unit with a blood sugar level of over 500.  He knew something wasn’t right, but he didn’t know he was diabetic. 

The year before the doctor mentioned a “pre-diabetic condition” and suggested a dietary and life-style change.  The young man processed the information in exactly the same way that many of us would.  He saw it as “cautionary and suggested” rather than a life and death mandate.

This time, there was nothing cautionary or suggested about the doctor’s warning. It was a mandate and it effectively garnered his attention.  Just hearing the mandate made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. 

The doctor’s pronouncement was grim. Without an immediate and abrupt lifestyle change, there were three things the young man could count on: damage to his kidneys, damage to his extremities and damage to his vision.  All three were at risk.

Some may question the doctor’s bedside manner, but the physician was on a roll.  There was more to the warning on the off-chance that his mandate for a life style change weren’t followed: “In all likelihood, the kidneys would be first to go. Consequently, the young man could count on coming to the hospital three times a week for dialysis”. The doctor wasn’t finished.  “Next, we’ll start cutting off your legs and someone will be pushing you in a wheel chair to get you to dialysis.  Next you’ll lose your vision and you won’t even known where you are, but someone will still be pushing you in a wheelchair to get you to dialysis.”

So what are the young man’s choices?  If you’re thinking: “Get a new doctor”, that doesn’t really change the game plan.  I’d turn to God and ask for the perseverance and stamina to go the distance in making dietary and life-style changes.  Seriously, I think he has done that, but the journey is far more difficult than one might think.  Consequently, please remember my anonymous friend in your prayers.  I know that he would appreciate the prayer support. 

All My Best!

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Don

Traveling Light

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Yesterday was a day filled with good things. For one thing, we were having the air conditioning and heating unit in our home that covers our master bedroom replaced. Was it absolutely mandatory? I don’t know. It was cooling fine, but for the past couple of years the air conditioning man who services our units has recommended that we might want to consider replacing it.

 

We have four separate air conditioning units in our home. The other three have been replaced. I’ve procrastinated having that one replaced because of lack of access. The scuttle hole that is accessible through the master bedroom closet wasn’t large enough to get an air conditioner unit through. In fact, the scuttle hole was designed for skinny people. I’d be pushing my limits to go through it. I think I could, but I really don’t know. I’ve never been in that part of the attic. It really is the only flaw I’ve discovered over the past fifteen years about our home. What was the architect or builder thinking? Nothing last forever and that includes air conditioners. Sooner or later they have to be replaced.

 

The Scripture may say: “Be anxious for nothing”, but I can always manage to find a reason to substantiate the need for an exception on my part. That usually doesn’t serve me well. One of the chinks in my armor is the ability to go immediately to worst possible case scenario. So do air conditioning people really know how to do carpentry work? Secondly, since they were going to have to cut through one of the 2 x 6 joists in the attic in order to enlarge the opening, did they have the skill set to do so?

 

Okay, so I’ve got an active imagination and I know nothing about carpentry. Was this going to be the catalyst for a crack in the closet ceiling or heaven forbid, the entire house collapsing? I know, I need to give it a rest, but if I didn’t consider all of the possibilities including those that weren’t, who’d do so?

 

Early afternoon my daughter texted and asked: “Is now was a good time for us to bring the dogs over?” Actually, I had forgotten that we were keeping the dogs. Andrea and Kevin were headed to Cat Spring to spend the weekend with my son’s family. They go often to visit. They like having the opportunity to be involved in the kid’s lives. That has to be a feel-good for the kids and I know it is for them.

 

Before they got to their destination, my daughter sent another text. This one put a smile on my face. It stated: “The memory came out of nowhere…I was remembering Grandma DeMoss’ house and the many many times we went there. Mine was the most wonderful childhood! Love you much!”

 

I don’t take it for granted that my children were privileged to share life with my grandparents. Actually, both Andrea and Craig have lots and lots of memories of the love and extended family times shared with my grandparents. I had the thought that one day my grandchildren will look back across the memories of time and be grateful for the doting love and support they received from their only aunt and uncle on their dad’s side.

 

Like I said, yesterday was a day filled with good things. The General returned home after having been away for the past eight days. I’m not sure how I survived without the structure. Actually, I think I did pretty well. The only thing on the “To Do List” that the General left for me that I didn’t get done was to “fold the laundry” in the dryer. I suspect it is still in the dryer. This is the first time I’ve thought about the laundry since I looked at the list she left from over a week ago.

 

Following her mother’s doctor appointment on Friday morning, the General headed homeward. I smiled as she recounted for me her week in Odessa. Honestly, the General isn’t content with maintaining the status quo. While she was there, why not eliminate some of the clutter from her mother’s home?

 

Of course she always asks permission before she starts dismantling the assortment of things too precious to throw away, but not good enough to keep. Before she was done, she had totally filled the dumpster twice and made eight trips to Goodwill to donate items. At some point, her mother said: “This really is fun. At first I didn’t want you to get rid of anything, but now I’m into it. It feels good to have that stuff out of my way.”

 

Bless my mother-in-law’s heart, at some point toward the end of the week she asked: “I know you’re not Don, but do you think you could rearrange my bedroom furniture?” Hearing that put a smile on my face. Rearranging furniture isn’t one of the General’s inclinations. As it turned out, she managed to get it all done and she was very pleased with the outcome. In the process of moving this and that, she discovered artwork that had been stored behind this and that. Consequently, she also found herself needing to hang pictures. That, too, isn’t a dimension where the General has experience. I’ve always hung the pictures.

 

So the take away from all of this is that air conditioning men can also possess the skill to do carpentry work and the General can move furniture. Of course, after looking at everything she packed in her car, I think she should apply to go to work for “Two Men and a Truck” in Austin. In fact, I bet she could teach them a thing or two about adding one more thing or organizing it better to travel.

 

Traveling light is not one of the General’s spiritual gifts. In fact, I was stunned when I saw all the stuff she had packed in her car. Actually, I wondered if her real intent in taking her mother home was to leave and not return? It looked to me like she had taken everything she needed to be gone for a very long time. Are you ready for this? She had her clothing for the week on wooden hangers. Can you help me understand why she needed eighteen different outfits to be gone for only a week?

 

When I asked, she responded: “I didn’t know what kind of weather we’d be having, so I wanted to be prepared.”   For that matter, why did she have 12 and 10 pound weights in her car? In response to my question, “She thought she needed to work out while she was away, so she bought them?” Of course, she didnt’ use the weights. She didn’t need to because she got a work-out tossing things out of  her mother’s house.

 

Like I said: “Yesterday was a day filled with good things.” I’m glad the General is home. I’ve also got some things I need her to do after I fold the laundry in the dryer. I figure if our kids haven’t needed it for thirty years, there is no sense for us to continue hanging on to their stuff. Goodwill or the dumpster are the only two acceptable alternatives. While she was away, I worked on organizing the garage. Those blue plastic containers of things to precious to throw away and not good enough to keep have got to go.  I am going to provide her the same encouragement she provided her mother.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

The Dawning Of A New Day

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What a difference a day can make. I was scheduled to have lunch with a friend – colleague, mentor, board member and confidant yesterday. He and I generally have lunch every month or two. He is an important and encouraging person in my world. At 11:19 yesterday morning he sent me a text: “I am headed your way now. Burger or salad?” Without having to think about it, I replied: “It is a burger unless you can talk me into a salad.” After all, only secure men eat salad and I was a feeling fragile in the shadows of the melancholy mood from the day before. The experience of tossing most of the files, notebooks, and manuals from my office into the dumpster highlighted for me the finality that I was moving on to the next chapter in my life.

 

I chronicled the experience this way: “So for what seemed like an inordinate length of time, I tossed manuals and notebooks into the dumpster. When I was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was short lived. It was then that the thought hit me like a ton of bricks: “I had just tossed a paper trail of decades of my work into the dumpster”. Worthless? Yeah – probably, but the visual impact of seeing it strewn in squalor was unsettling”.

 

The first words out of my friend’s mouth related to my morning’s blog. He asked: “Don, do you mind if I offer constructive criticism related to your blog?” Without waiting for me to respond, he continued. “You missed an opportunity this morning in posting your blog and I’m surprised you passed it up. It was so unlike you.” So I articulated the thought: “What didn’t I get right?” We were not yet out of the parking lot. He looked me in the eye and said: “It was the title. You called it ‘Hump Day’. ‘Dump Day’ would have been a more effective and accurate to have title.”

 

We talked of many things over lunch. The guy is always a step ahead and his ability to be affirming, encouraging, creative and kind are his signature characteristics. He even suggested a title for my next autobiographical book. He said: “The title has to be ‘Color Outside The Lines’. Of course, the implied theme of everything I’d write would related to the assertion that ‘Life’s adventures don’t happen inside the box.’

 

Let me be quick to say that I don’t have any immediate plans for writing another book. Of course, had it not been for this friend’s encouragement More Than Enough would never have been written. It was during a shared lunch that he responded to something I’d said by saying: “Don, you’ve got so many wonderful stories. You need to write them down.” I responded, “I have”. His next suggestion was that I needed to write a book. I responded: “I plan to write a book. That’s why I’ve been writing my stories down”. He asked what he could do to help? I affirmed that he just did.

 

Like the tenacity of a bulldog chomping on a bone, he didn’t back off until he came up with something he could do to assist. Like I said, the guy is a dear friend and friends always push you in the right direction. He wanted to know if it would help if he gave me a deadline? I said: “Probably because I am the ‘last minute’ guy. If I’ve got a deadline, I’ll meet it. Left to my own devices, I’ll probably never start. Thus began my writing journey.

 

Last night, a long-time friend who lives in Dallas and now works in the Governor’s Office came out for dinner. We, too, talked of many things. He was surprised to learn that I’d retired. He said, “You mentioned you were thinking about retirement when we last met for dinner, but I can’t believe you’ve already made that move.” Like I said, this guy has known me a long time. He knows I have the ability to procrastinate.

 

Like my friend from lunch, he too moved the conversation to what the “yet to be completely defined” next chapter of my journey would fully look like. He had some out-of-the-box suggestions that I’d never stopped to consider. He referred to them as skills. Actually, he was giving me way too much credit.

 

I’ve done a couple of workshops with families on grief and how to reframe the process to glean strength and new direction on the heels of loss. Is it a skill? I didn’t think so. It is simply a compassion for folks in the midst of hard times. All I’ve done is offer encouragement and shared life experience.

 

At any rate, he encouraged me to at least give myself permission to entertain the idea. He shared with me that his wife has a background in providing hospice care. Her specialty was working with families whose children were terminally ill.

 

In fact from that experience, he and his wife became close friends with a prominent SBC pastor and his extended family. As he shared the family’s story with me, he was surprised when I provided him the pastor’s name.

 

Though we were never friends, I held the pastor in highest regards. I have fond memories that go all the way back to church camp the summer between my junior and senior year in high school. This camp pastor whose son was also following in his father’s footsteps was that family.

 

I knew their story. Unbelievable and horrifying best describe how a church turned their back on a family in the worst of times. The family’s small son had to have a blood transfusion for a life-threatening condition. He subsequently developed AIDS from the transfusion. It was like having “LEPER” tattooed on your forehead. The church banned the family from attending. In fact, there wasn’t a church to be found who’d welcome this family because other parents didn’t want their children around the little boy. This little boy was one of the children on my friend’s wife caseload.

 

Last night the time went by way too quickly and the evening ended before our conversation was completed. It will be a good starting point when we next meet.

 

Getting back to my melancholy mood from the day before and the experience of tossing most of the files, notebooks, and manuals from my office into the dumpster, a sensitively thoughtful and compassionate colleague responded:

 

“That mountain of paper represents the sustained, productive journey up the path of leadership, guidance, vision and legacy. I’m grateful for the meaning that lies behind your discarded files and forms. The ink fades and the fibers fail, but the investment endures in all of us whom you’ve prepared along the way. Thank you for all of it!

‘Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain’.”

 

It is a new day and all is well!

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Don

 

“Hello, My name is Don”

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Sunday afternoon I drove over to San Antonio to visit with a friend and previous church member whose wife died a couple of days earlier. Truthfully, it has been several years since we’d last visited, but from appearances he looked the same. I couldn’t tell that he had aged at all.

 

His daughter was there from California. She mentioned that she had told her dad that I was going to stop by to visit, but he wasn’t quite sure he remembered me. He also didn’t remember the church at Henly. Yet, when he looked me squarely in the face, there was a hint of recognition and a smile. He nodded and said, “I know you.” He went on to share with me that he’d been in a very serious car accident and that because of the head injury he had lost a lot of his memory.

 

Without skipping a beat, I playfully introduced myself again, reached out and shook his hand, and said: “Hello, my name is Don. From this day forward, we’re new friends. You don’t need to remember anything about me from the past. (Actually, I thought that might have the potential to be a good thing) You can let all of that go”. Whether I added: “Like water under a bridge”, I don’t remember, but I did say: “We can start fresh.” That kind of broke the ice with him. He smiled and said, “I like that.”

 

His smile was familiar to me. I had seen it before. He looked the same, but that smile was his trademark. He wasn’t a jokester, but had a good sense of humor. He smiled a lot. He was a pleasant and thoughtful man with whom to share time.

 

For the past year or two he’s lived in an assisted living complex on the Southwest side of San Antonio. His wife required more acute care. Consequently, her care was provided across the parking lot from the assisted living center in a rehab facility.

 

Reportedly, he dutifully and lovingly checked on his wife daily. He’d walk over and spend the morning, walk back to the assisted living facility for lunch, rest a while and subsequently make his way back to rehab to share more of her day. Day in and day out, that was his routine.

 

If fact, he picked the location out because the property was mostly flat and he could walk on it. In addition, it wasn’t overstated or opulent. However, it was very nicely done and looked like a real home. Truthfully, it was very nice!

 

I couldn’t help but think about my dad as my friend shared his daily routine and the focus of his life. My dad, too, had lovingly and dutifully invested his last ounce of energy focused on being available for Mother. With Mom, Dad was far more patient than he’d ever been with us during our childhood years. Maybe patience comes from wisdom. I started to say, “experience”, but I don’t think experience necessarily teaches patience. However, wisdom is one of the building blocks that help in orchestrating the jigsaw puzzle of life and making sense of the journey.

 

I don’t remember how many years ago the couple was actively involved in the life of our church, but they were absolutely delightful. He was retired military. If I’m not mistaken, I think he was a pilot. I know he served in Vietnam. He was also very skilled as a carpenter. He and his wife had previously volunteered with the Texas Baptist Men and traveled around the State building churches as a post-retirement activity. One day they decided it was time to settle down and they landed in Blanco.

 

 

I remember shortly after meeting them, that he told me he built their home.   He invited me to come see it sometime. I subsequently took him up on the offer and I stopped by to visit. I don’t know what I envisioned or expected, but the home was much more than I dared to imagine. My imagination had no relationship to anything about him or his wife, it had more to do with the belief that if you want a home built professionally, a “do-it-yourself job” seldom works out well. I was wrong about this one. This guy was a professional builder.

 

He didn’t cut corners anywhere including with the wooden floors he installed himself or the size of the rooms. In addition, there was nothing about the home that looked cookie cutter. It was quality construction and spaciously comfortable and very attractive. I guess, once a builder, always a builder. After the got the home constructed, he built a garage apartment in the back yard. He was the kind of guy that had to have a project to stay busy. The garage apartment also served as a landing place for snowbirds from the North that came South for the winter.

 

Prime and proper sounds stuffy. I started to describe them that way, but he and his wife weren’t stuffy. Perhaps dignified and proper is a better descriptor. They were classy people and at they same time they were salt of the earth people who lived with a sense of humility and gratitude for all they had been given. There was genuineness in their countenance and joy associated to life. The reflected the love of Christ.

 

His wife had been a schoolteacher when they met. I don’t know if she taught after they were married, she never said. At least, I don’t remember if she did. What I do remember from what she previously shared with me is that she was from Chicago.

 

Back in the day, right out of college she wheeled around Chicago is a Studebaker convertible. When I mentioned that Sunday, the daughter initially looked puzzled, so did the dad. I then saw that trademark smile appear and he said: “You right. She did have a convertible.” The daughter then acknowledged that she vaguely remembered her mother talking about that car.

 

It made me feel good that I could flag a memory associated to life that they had forgotten. Memory is such an incredible gift. I’m certain that in the days and weeks ahead, many memories from the past will fill their heads. I plan to stop by and visit with my friend again. Even if he’s recall of me is limited to Sunday, the day we first met again, it will be worth the investment of my time. I am captivated by his smile.

 

All My Best!

Don

Family Secrets

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Is yours a picture perfect family? Honestly, if you’re looking to photograph one, there is no sense stopping by at our place. If I’m in the picture, it will take more than “photoshop.com” to make it right. I am not the perfect husband, perfect parent, or perfect anything for that matter. Of course, I credit that to my failure to be the perfect child. I had two brothers that came close, but I was way back there somewhere in the background. I was the “yes, but kid” who always wanted to tell my side of the story long after anyone had an interest in hearing. I guess that’s enough said, after all you get the picture and it isn’t pretty.

 

Consequently, I started out wrong and once a tree is leaning too much in one direction or another, it is going to take a lot of work. We’ve got a great family and love is the glue that keeps us stuck together, but we’re not perfect. I’ve admitted often, I don’t always get it right. On the other hand, the General is never wrong. Could that be right? I don’t think so. Under the concept of transparency, we’re a mess but we have fun.

 

I worked with kids from hard places before I had kids of my own. I remember being on the witness stand in a child welfare courtroom once and the defendant’s attorney asked me under oath: “Mr. Forrester, Do you have any children?” I answered “No”. I almost said, “We’ve got one on the way”, but somehow that didn’t seem germane to whatever life lesson the defendant’s attorney was attempting to impart at my expense. Fortunately, for once in my life, I put the brakes on my words before they rolled out of my mouth.  I guess you could say: “That is one near miss that I remember.”

 

I was a responsible dad, but I wasn’t perfect.  I once said something really inappropriate to my son very late one night or maybe it was very early morning when he came rolling in long after curfew and sometime before daybreak. He was probably sixteen-years-old at the time. In looking back, it was not one of my prouder moments. I should have saved the lecture until the following day.

 

My demeanor was somewhere beyond calm and my voice level was loud.  Like I said, it was not one of  my finest moments. At some point I suggested he look at the “@%$! Grandfather clock”! I was loud enough that our conversation awakened his little sister who had been sound asleep.

 

I’ve never forgotten that experience. Of course, neither have either of my kids. That was thirty years ago. Somehow the memory hangs on and it represents a regret. I hate it, but I can’t change it. As a dad, I didn’t always get it right.

 

I think it is universally true, “Teenagers can be tough”. Of course, it can also be tough to be a teenager. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t sign on to be an adolescent again if my life depended on it. My mother always said, “These are the happiest days of your life.” I wasn’t an unhappy kid, but I don’t want to do it again. For that matter, my mother didn’t have it right. I had a good childhood, but being an adult is better than being a child most of the time.

 

If I had it to do over, would I make any changes? That’s a tough question. How about you? I wish I could say that I’ve learned from all of my mistakes, but I’m not really sure that’s true. I’ll probably never drive a car 130 mph ever again, but my sense of being alert and on top of my game was never better. I was invincible even if I had a host of guardian angels working overtime.

 

I have a friend who is probably approaching five years on either side of sixty. I’m not good at guessing anyone’s age. I occasionally look in the mirror when I’m shaving the lower part of my neck and have the thought that I look old for fifty. Consequently, I’m not going to even wager a guess on my friend’s age.

 

In the recent past, she was in for a real surprise. How would you like to be sixty and meet a half brother you never knew you had? We live in a technological age where family secrets aren’t necessarily family secrets forever. All you have to do is spit in a cup and send it off for analysis and you might find yourself linked to someone else with the same kind of spit. Ancestry.com kind of puts it out there and their “match” is based on DNA and it is not refutable.

 

I’ve known one lady during the midst of her forties that learned from her mother that she had a half-brother who was the oldest. He was placed for adoption shortly after his birth. Her mother was unwed at the time and was not at a place where being a parent seemed like a good choice. Consequently, attempting to piece together a family with a forty-five year gap can be both challenging and exciting. Can you imagine?

 

My fantasy didn’t happen often, but I remember during my adolescent years I had the passing thought more than once that my family was not my real family. If we were really kin they’d understand the importance of staying up way past bedtime and sleeping a little later in the morning. Besides that, if my real parents had a lot of money, it could open a lot of doors. Color it anyway you want, but those were childish thoughts. Today in the midst of adulthood, I wouldn’t opt to change a thing.

 

I have a friend who met her half brother for the first time this week. Unlike the story of the mother who placed her son for adoption, her story and that of her half brothers’ didn’t have that kind of common denominator.

 

It was many years ago and her dad wasn’t always the pillar in the community that he later proved to be. In fact, during the early years of her parent’s marriage, her dad liked to party and play music in dance halls. His absence from the household on Saturday nights wasn’t particularly well received by the Mrs..  Consequently, she gave her “5-string banjo pickin’ or playing” husband an ultimatum. You can stay at home and be a family or you can just leave. But you can’t do both. He opted to go with “family”.

 

What her mother never knew and it only recently came to light, her father had a son with someone he met at a dance. It is an interesting story. The half-brother dropped into my friend’s world as a most probable match through ancestry. com. If you need further proof, did I mention the half brother plays a “5-string banjo”?

 

I don’t guess there are any picture perfect families. But how nice to know that regardless of missed time shared, once the secret is no secret, family mending and bonding can begin.

 

All My Best!

Don