Adventure Is Second Nature To A Child’s Mind

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Who were your heroes when you were a kid? During my growing up years, from early childhood, all of the kids on our street lived in a world of make-believe. We played outdoors and we played pretend. I think we were pretty good at it. Did I mention that we took our play seriously?

 

One of our favorite games was playing soldier. My dad had been a soldier and I guess at some level my brothers and I wanted to be like him. Of course, it was long before we met him, but he came back from WWII with a German helmet and a German dagger. We had seen those things. In addition, his Army uniform was in his closet. We had seen that, too. We wanted to be like him.

 

I am not sure how our lives would have been impacted had we been born prior to WWII and dad been separated from us while serving in the armed forces. Of course, ours was a different world back then. News of what was taking place on foreign fronts was limited to the newspapers and radio. In addition, there was confidence that what was being shared via the airwaves was filtered through truth and responsible reporting. Personal communication with loved ones was through written letters that could be weeks in arriving. Apart from that, there was a shroud of silence.

 

For the past couple of years, I’ve followed a blog entitled Pacific Paratrooper written by G P Cox along with about 5,000 other readers. He really has a lot of followers who regularly read his blog. I occasionally make a written response to what the author has shared. He, in turn, occasionally makes a written response to something I’ve written in my blog. I am proud to think of him as a friend though we’ve never met. Our only communication has been electronic. I always smile when I see he has “liked” something I’ve written. I suspect the same is true for him. I sense that in a lot of respects we have much in common as baby boomers.

 

G P Cox has effectively chronicled the annals of history and brought news from WWII to the computer screens of many who are descendants of those WWII veterans who served from an environment of imminent peril. Often his blogs includes letters written by those in harms way back to their families in the United States. Reading the personal letters make it easy to imagine how the news of what’s being shared was received by a mother or father or other close family member.

 

I have such respect for the families of those who currently serve in harm’s way in our military. I’ve seen first hand the courage and valor required of my grandchildren and their mother when Craig was separated from his family and in the midst of things he chooses not to talk about. Unlike WWII, children of those serving today have a lot more information available to them. Sometimes I think the shroud of silence may have been easier. It re-enforces the concept: “No news is good news”.

 

Getting back to my childhood, when we were playing soldier, it worked best and it seemed more real when we dug foxholes in the back yard. It didn’t cost anything and all you needed was a shovel to make it happen. I guess it goes without saying, “We sometimes got into a lot of trouble for messing up the yard?” It definitely proved to be a circumstance where forgiveness may not have been easier to obtain than permission, if you get my drift.

 

It also made the game of pretend more real if we actually engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Just in case you’re wondering, I’m a lot tougher than I look. For the record, I still am. Without fail, my twin brother and I both wanted to be Audie Murphy. He was a real war hero. Of course, we had gone with our dad to see the movie “To Hell and Back”. Seeing the movie is all it took. At the age of eight, we wanted to be like Audie Murphy and we talked the talk and fought the fight in the world of make-believe.

 

As a side note, sometimes I think it would be great to be eight-years-old again. I mean, after all, you never consider the possibility that just because you can’t do it now, doesn’t mean that someday you can’t. In the midst of adulthood, reality has a way of limiting your perception of the kinds of adventure available. When you are eight years old, anything is possible.

 

We played pretend because we wanted to be like the people who were our heroes. We wanted their life to be our life. We wanted their endeavors to be our endeavors. From the vantage point of childhood, their accomplishments could become ours. Sure, we were in a world of make-believe, but if they could make it work, so could we. Besides that, were we all taught from early on, “You can be anything you want to be?” Isn’t that the mindset of how you grew up as well?

 

Isn’t that still the American dream? Isn’t it the idea that every US citizen should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative? It is easy to latch on to that concept as children. We all think we have the stuff it takes to be successful and achieve the things we dare dream about.

 

So who is top dog? Don’t we all at one time or another anticipate being at the top of the leader board? Isn’t filling that role at least a passing dream we’ve all entertained at some point in our lives? Doesn’t the person at the top of the leader board generally garner more respect or attention? Don’t we all ideally think we at least have the potential?

 

  • Doesn’t the president of the bank automatically have more clout than the college student who is a part time teller?

 

  • Doesn’t the owner of the restaurant have a much higher level of income than the waiter who waits the tables?

 

  • Isn’t the coach of the team more important than the student manager?

 

  • I was pastor of a church once were one of the members owned an oil company. She lived elsewhere, but when she came back to visit (she did often) everyone in the church treated her as though she was Royalty.  Don’t get me wrong. She was delightful and she was generous. I would have liked her regardless of her income level. If she had an opinion and expressed it, no one would dared have questioned her suggestion, though I’m sure she would have been open for that to happen. You’ve heard the expression: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”. So it was with her. It re-enforced the concept that money talks. I promise you, she carried more clout than the lady who always brought her four German shepherds to church with her and left them in her car (with the windows down of course).

 

  • Let me ask you this: “Is the pitcher of the baseball team more important than the person who plays in the outfield?” Are they equally important? Be careful how you answer the question. My “All Star” grandsons played outfield this season.

 

What about church? Is there a pecking order or is everyone on a level playing field? I routinely tell people: “We are better when you are here.” It is true. We are all on a level playing field and it takes all of us collectively to accomplish the things that need to be accomplished.

 

My grandchildren will be here later today. We are having Vacation Bible School this week and they are coming to participate. This year I am as well. I don’t remember that I volunteered, but the General signed me up. At least, it gives me an opportunity to be a kid again. I can hardly wait!

 

All My Best!

Don

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The Peril of a Home Office

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My daughter and son-in-law have the luxury of working from home. Yet, under most circumstances they opt not to do that. I have been perplexed wondering why they’d maintain an office elsewhere when they could just as easily work from home. Think about the advantages. For one thing, you wouldn’t need to dress business casual simply to sit on the sun porch and enjoy the view between phone calls and the need to be on the computer. Secondly, there would be absolutely no wasted commute time. Add to that the ability to negate the expensive involved in maintaining an office and it sounds too good to be true.   I’m slow, but I think I’ve figured it out. It sounds too good to be true because when you work from home that’s all you do at home.

Actually, the General figured it out yesterday before I did. “So, are you going to be on that computer all evening?” It was a legitimate question. I was on the computer yesterday morning before the General knew it was morning and it was time for bed… no change that… it was past time for bed when I got off last night.

Is it the quest to accomplish one-more-thing that drives that insatiable need to import one more file or transfer one more report or do this or do that? Honestly, yesterday was a very atypically day for me. After weeks of waiting for access to the domain for my new role with the Coalition of Residential Excellence, I foolishly thought I’d have an easy time of populating computer files and getting everything set-up.

Truth be known, for me to simply remember the password I need to access the information is about the extent of my skill set. I transmitted information to our membership yesterday morning and discovered one of the attachments (a one page attachment) somehow appeared to be over-size for any system to allow it to download. Explainable? I’m sure it is, but I don’t have the answer. All I know is that it didn’t work.

The quick fix, which was no fix, was for me to email the document to myself along with the attachment to the new email address at the Don@CORE-DC.org address and then to forward the document to the intended recipient. Of course, before I selected “send” to the new recipient, I had to erase the history that would have been a giveaway that the document was forwarded.

Okay, so maybe I’m becoming proficient in camouflage, because I managed to reach out to all of our membership with what looked like a professionally and well thought out transmittal of needed information. Fortunately, I have a close friend who is at the top of the leader board as an IT Guru. He has sincerely offered his expertise to be of assistance. Trust me, I’ve got his contact information next to dial-a-prayer in my outlook addresses.

Of course the “home office” syndrome is an ever-present threat to finding balance in one’s life. It certainly has been true for me. In order to keep-up on the never-ending flow of email and business needs, I don’t get it done in a day’s work. Actually, that is true for most of the people I know. Okay, so that’s an overstatement. It is true of most of the people I professionally hold in highest regard.

However, the price of admission is probably to one’s detriment. How’s the phrase expressed? Oh, I remember: “All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy.” While I don’t think boredom has ever been just around the next corner, I have to confess that a lopsided existence can be the result.

At the end of the day it has to do with boundary issues. That coupled with the notion that if you really like your work, you never work a day in your life becomes one’s reality. The downside is a lopsided existence.

So how am I going to manage this? I’m obviously going to have to manage it from a work/play family perspective. When my parents retired, they set designated times throughout their day for a “break”. You can get so busy being busy that all you do is stay busy. I don’t remember who said it, but it lent to the notion that hurry is of the devil.

Actually, I do remember who said it. John Ortberg captured it in one of his books entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He expressed it like this: “The most serious sign of hurry sickness is a diminished capacity to love. Love and hurry are fundamentally incompatible. Love always takes time, and time is one thing hurried people don’t have”.

Ortberg quoted Lewis Grant’s reference to “sunset fatigue”. Is there any chance you could have it? This is his definition: “When we come home at the end of a day’s work, those who need our love the most, those to whom we are the most committed, end up getting the leftovers. Sunset fatigue is when people are just too tired, or too drained, or too pre-occupied, to love the people to whom we have made the deepest promises”.

My daughter and son-in-law are smart people. They prefer not to mix their work lives with their personal lives and they carve out ample time for both. It has to do with honoring boundaries. Historically, I have not been very adapt at doing that. If I don’t take great care, I could find retirement is just another expression of doing good things at the expense of forfeiting time for better things.

At some level, I have to confess that I want it all. Aren’t most of us like that? The problem is a time problem. Unless you sort it out, life gets lopsided and without balance we become one dimensional rather than well rounded.

Besides that, I don’t like being in a rut. I’d much prefer to be delightfully unpredictable and explore uncharted territory. People time should always take precedent over computer time. How’s that for a life principal that works? Of course, I’m walking on egg-shells here. The General occasionally reads my blog. She may remind me of what I’ve written. Actually, I hope she does. People time should take precedent over computer time.

All My Best!

Don

 

MAGIC SOCKS

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The Sock Club is the gift that keeps on giving. One night this week, Kevin and Andrea presented me with the envelope containing the next installment of the gift they provided me at Christmas. It was a one-year membership to the socks-of-the-month club. Actually, I’m not sure when I’ve enjoyed anything more.

 

For one thing, you never know what to expect. For another, you’d probably never purposefully pick out the sock selection for the month that comes wrapped in the brown cardboard envelope. Bold and daring are the two words that best describe the selection.

 

Someone once told me that when your feet hurt, you hurt all over. I’ve lived long enough to know that is also true of your back, but gratefully I’ve never had feet that hurt. However, I intuitively tell myself when I’m putting on my fancy socks-of-the-month that I’m outfitting myself for adventure. I like the concept that provides.

 

Why not color totally outside the lines? So I guess from the ground up I’m dressing for something other than “same ole same ole” when I put on a pair of those socks. I like to think of them as magic socks. I want to squeeze every ounce of life out of the day and I suspect I won’t be worse for wear because of it. Isn’t it true that most people regret the things they didn’t do rather than the things they do? I understand that the concept of regret can go both ways, but I’m running out of time and there are a lot of things I’ve not carved out the time to do. Now that I am on the threshold of having nothing but time on my hands, I want to hit the ground running wearing my fancy socks and looking for adventure.

 

The socks-of-the-month for May couldn’t have been more germane. Interestingly the theme for the month is play. I guess whether you are a kid in school or an old man on the brink of retirement, the month of May signals a welcomed change on the horizon.

 

The General’s sister and her mother are visiting with us this week. For that matter, so are her brother and sister-in-law for all practical purposes. They only live about twenty miles away and we’ve shared a lot of family time this week with them as well. The General’s sister mentioned that her youngest granddaughter recently told her dad: “We only have two more weeks of school.” He countered, “No, you really have three more weeks of school.” Not to be deterred, the granddaughter said: “My teacher said we only have fifteen days of school left. Fifteen days of school is two weeks”. I guess it all depends on perspective. The granddaughter was adamant that she’s only going to school two more weeks.

 

Even though it was a long time ago, I still fondly remember being on the threshold of summer vacation when school was out from the end of May until after Labor Day in September. Of course, by the time school resumed, I was always more than ready to get back to the routine, but sometimes a time-out is therapeutically refreshing.

 

According to the thoughtful sock designers, the selection for May is intended to provide the thought that there is always room for a bit more play in life. In fact, they quote Plato who said: “Life must be lived as play”.

 

The socks are to remind me that there is always room for a bit more play in life. I can hardly wait! I’ve never been one to take life “way too seriously” and I attempt to steer clear of those who do. I recently told a friend who is Church of Christ that my wife wants to start going to church there. She recently attended a funeral at the Dripping Springs Church of Christ and was absolutely mesmerized by the music. She said it was like listening to a top class A capella choir. She added: “The harmony was unbelievable.”

 

I countered: “In the Baptist Church someone pounds music out of a piano and we joyfully gather around to sing: “Amazing Grace”. As a second thought, I added: “I bet that song isn’t even in the hymnal at the Church of Christ. They devoutly are more focused on the hard work of being Christ-like and sing all four parts to: “We’ll work ‘til Jesus comes.”

 

I’m not sure where that came from? No offense intended for my Church of Christ brethren. The friend I told that to thought it was haralious.  I knew he would. He, too, is fond of the concept of Grace. What was I thinking?  It must have something to do with my magic socks and bent on adventure. I awakened in the early hours and for a period of time thought about the “crazy days of summer”. Somehow with retirement two weeks or maybe three weeks (depending on how you count it) away, I’m on the threshold of a therapeutically refreshing very long summer vacation.

 

Yesterday I was talking with someone who mentioned a friend who just retired for teaching as a college professor. Reportedly, the friend confided to the man I was talking with: “I’ve got to find something to get me out of the house. My wife is driving me crazy. She has all these things she wants me to do and I don’t want to do any of them.” Just hearing of the man’s experience was enough for me to break out into a cold sweat. We may have “nothing to fear but fear itself”, but my greatest fear is closely akin to the recently retired college professor’s experience. Consequently, I’m planning to begin everyday by wearing my magic socks and giving myself permission to seek adventure. It will be my ticket to escape if need be from the mundane household tasks someone else thinks is in my best interest.

 

It is my full intent to become a lot like the socks-of-the-month club. Folks will think of me and say: “You never know what to expect.” I want to be thought of as “bold and daring”. When day is done, I plan to have no regrets for the things I wanted to do and didn’t find the time to do. This is my last extended summer vacation (school is out and work is done) and I plan to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment from the experience.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

Adrenaline Buzz

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Gravity is one of the absolutes of nature. One of the things I like about snow skiing is the sense of adventure and the adrenaline rush associated to getting down the mountain. Seriously, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to garner speed and find yourself going faster than you can safely control if your skill set and understanding of how to remain in control is lacking. I should know, I’ve been there.

 

Several years ago a ski instructor put me on notice that if I went passed him one more time, I was out of his class. He said: “I’ve got things planned for the afternoon and I don’t have the time to fill-out an accident form for you.” Actually, the warning was more than a little embarrassing. He told me that in front of the rest of class.

 

Truthfully, one of the reasons I was taking skiing lessons was to learn how to slow down and stay in control. Like I said, I don’t like a sense of terror. I simply want a sense of adventure with just enough adrenaline to give me a buzz, not put me in a death defying posture.

 

I guess you could say I am growing up with my grandchildren. I think Jenna was four-years-old and William was three when they took their first skiing lessons at Lake Tahoe. Out of happenstance, the General and I were tag-alongs since we were visiting at the time. At the age of sixty-one I had never been skiing with the exception of skiing down Ranch Road 12 at the Divide in 1982. We had two inches of fresh powder and it covered the black top beautifully. I’m not sure the fresh powder would have provided much cushion had we fallen, but we didn’t fall and we had a lot of fun. The downside is that it was a pretty short run.

 

Wayman Curry, mastermind for the make-shift ski adventure, used his little red pickup and a ski rope for water skiing to pull us back up the incline and we took full advantage of having snow in Henly.

 

At any rate, when Jenna and William went for their first snow ski lessons, it occurred to me that I wasn’t getting any younger. If I was going to learn to ski, I needed to get started. Consequently, while Jenna and William were taking a class for children, I took one for adults. Thus began my annual pilgrimage to the slopes to make up for lost time.

 

Yesterday’s ski adventure marked the 9th year that I’ve been skiing. Some year’s I’ve had the good fortune of hitting the slopes twice during one skiing season. However, the past three or four years, it has simply been an annual pilgrimage. I don’t plan to stop. I’ve half-jokingly said, “When someone mentions assisted living to me, I will take up skiing black diamonds.”

 

The jeweler will tell you diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Perhaps black diamonds on the slopes are a man’s best friend?   How else can a guy substantiate his prowess and expertise in defying gravity and elevating himself to at least honorable mention in the game of king of the mountain?

 

Under the auspices of transparency, that’s not why I ski. I ski because I enjoy it and I don’t enjoy being terrified. Consequently, for me it is recreational. I don’t care if the run is labeled green or blue as long as I can negotiate it without risking injury to self or others. I am not under any circumstances going to ski black. I am not in competition with the mountain. Like I said, “An adrenaline buzz is all I need.” I don’t need to be frightened out of my wits.

 

I guess you could say different strokes for different folks. A close friend that I’ve known for twenty years is an exceptional skier. He is the friend who has guardedly and protectively attempted to offer some level of oversight and a helping hand when I’ve fallen on the slopes in Colorado. For the first four or five years that I had the privilege to ski in Colorado, he insisted that I take at least a half day of lessons offered by the ski-resort in order for him to agree to accompany me. How could I argue with his logic?

 

I know folks who occasionally go skiing and they’ve never taken a lesson. That is beyond my comprehension. Seriously, it just takes getting a little too close to a tree in an out-of-control run down the mountain to result in imminent peril. In the state of Colorado, there have been thirteen ski related fatalities this year.

 

The friend who accompanies me when I go skiing never falls. At least he doesn’t fall on the kind of slopes I’m content to fall on. He also doesn’t make a big ado about his skill set or prowess. In addition to skiing, he has also taken up climbing mountains on skis. Apparently, the skis you use for mountain climbing have some kind of backing on the bottom of the ski that prevent them from sliding backwards. For the life of me, I can’t figure why anyone would want to climb mountains, but like I said: “I am not an addict for a sense of terror.”

 

Several weeks ago my friend decided to up-the-ante on his spirit of adventure. He signed on for the “Ultimate Alaskan Heli-Skiing Experience”. I’ve never been to Alaska and I’ve never heard of the Western Chugach Mountains, but reportedly skiing those powder bowls will: “Take away your breath and leave you begging for more”.

 

This experience has “death defying and terror’ written all over it. Forget the black diamonds, the inspiring steeps and colossal vertical incline that looks almost straight up isn’t even rated. It is beyond description.

 

 

Truthfully, from what I can ascertain, the only begging that will take place will be begging God to get you safely out of the mess you voluntarily got yourself into when you stepped out of the helicopter. By the way, my friend has not confirmed the accuracy of what I’m saying, but it has to be true, don’t you think?

 

So this is how it comes down (pardon the pun). My friend and three other men were transported by helicopter to the jagged peaks of the Talkeetnas. They were dropped off at the top of nowhere with a guide who lead them on what I envision had to be a horrifying trek down unmarked snow covered terrain. At the end of the run, the helicopter would pick the four death-defying skiers and their guide up and fly them back to the top of nowhere to repeat the process. The top of nowhere was not always the same area. Consequently, they were dealing with fresh snow and unmarked paths.

 

Recreational skiing and low stress is more than enough for me. I can’t imagine an uncharted plummet down a snow covered mountain.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

The Best Way To Experience A Road Trip

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One day this past week I walked with two colleagues from the Texas State Capitol to a restaurant on Congress Avenue. While waiting to cross an intersection, I noticed a double decker open-air tourist bus. I had the thought: “I’ve never done that in Austin.” I wondered what it would be like. What would the tour guide point out that I don’t already know?

 

I’ve seen the sights of London from the second level of a tourist bus and looked with interest as the bus driver/narrator highlighted the history of what we were seeing. I remember thinking following the London bus tour experience that the time spent was worth every pound. Seated on the second level of an open-air bus somehow takes away the barrier of looking through the confines of a windshield. It somehow seems more experiential. It takes away the boundaries and somehow you seem thrust in the midst of the experience.

 

The same is true of Chicago. When I visited the city of Chicago for the first time, I wanted to see and experience it all. I threw caution to the wind regarding the expense involved. After all, I had never been there before.

 

Some of you know how frugal folks struggle with letting go of a dime unless it is absolutely necessary. My dad was a lot like that. Unfortunately, during my younger years, he and I opted to think differently on the value of a dime. He’d rather have the dime than what it would purchase and often I opted to take the opposite approach. Strange isn’t it? Now when it comes to spending money, I’m pretty much a clone of my dad. I often have a tendency to intuitively fall into that same frugal mindset.

 

Consequently, going to Chicago was a stretch for me. I spent $ for the architectural boat tour and $ for the boat ride out on Lake Michigan where I saw firsthand how the Chicago River Lock System works related to adjusting water levels between Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. It was fascinating. So after spending $ for the architectural boat tour and $ for the boat ride on Lake Michigan could I really afford to spend more $ to see the City of Chicago from the top of the Sears Tower? I almost said “No”. My dad would have said “No”. Okay, so I gave in and as an after-thought changed my mind.

 

Pardon the pun, but the Sears Tower proved to be a highlight of the trip. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Consequently, I emerged from the experience by thinking, regardless of what a tourist sees in Chicago, unless they see Chicago from the top of the Sear’s Tower, they really haven’t seen the city of Chicago.

 

That is kind of like the fellow who said to a friend that he had been to Atlantic City. The friend asked, “Did you go to the boardwalk while you were in Atlantic City?” He responded that he had not. The friend replied, “Then you haven’t really seen Atlantic City”.

 

Interestingly the young woman I met on Friday’s SWA flight from Chicago to Austin confessed that she had never been to the Sears Tower (now named Willis Tower). She said, “My seven-year-old daughter has, but I’ve never been and I lived there for years”. In fact, she still works there one week a month. Somehow I managed to refrain from telling her that her seven year old has a perspective that she’s not experienced. That seemed a littler softer than telling her that she has not actually really seen the city of Chicago. After all, she’s lived on the 40th floor of a high-rise. Maybe that was almost as good? Who am I kidding? The Sear’s Tower (Willis Tower) is 108 stories high.

 

I’ve said all that to suggest: “If one has the good fortune of living in a destination locality where visitors and tourist flock simply because of the breathtaking beauty or the amenities of interest that are available, why not take the advantage and find enjoyment in those same things?” I don’t know about you, but going forward I plan to do it differently.

 

I’ve been in the greater Austin neighborhood for over half my life and I’ve somehow gravitated into a routine that I seldom break. I like to think that I’m adventuresome and open to squeezing out every ounce of life that can be found, but I’ve lost some of the spontaneity and inquisitiveness that is characteristic of many first time visitors to Austin. I follow my charted course and I seldom vary from routine. Going forward, I plan to do it differently.

 

Saturday afternoon the General and I took a route off the beaten path to make our way back home from Fredericksburg. We opted for lunch at the Alamo Springs Café. It is in the community of Alamo Springs. If you don’t know where that is, I don’t have a clue how to tell you to find it. Had it not been for the GPS, we’d still be looking for the location. Reportedly, Alamo Springs Cafe serves one of the 3 best burgers in Texas according to Texas Monthly.

 

On Saturday afternoon when we arrived at the location targeted on our GPS, I wasn’t sure where we were and I certainly didn’t see a restaurant. Looking down a stree that was marked “No Exit”, I saw a host of cars parked along the roadway.  As it turned out, it was an adventure of sorts for us as we ventured way outside our comfort level by joining about a hundred people (I could be exaggerating) converging on a restaurant that wasn’t equipped to easily handle that kind of crowd.

 

After waiting 30 minutes for a table, we opted not to turn down the first one offered us. Interestingly, the man managing the seating asked: “Are you sure? I’m not going to take you name off the waiting list until you know that the available table we currently have is in the sun. Did I mention that the General doesn’t do the sun? She is not an outside kind of gal.  I was absolutely amazed when she interjected: “That’s okay”.

 

I had the thought: “This person looks like my wife, but was she really? It felt like being on a blind date. I was amazed!  She was so relaxed and comfortable setting in an outdoor environment that she’d have never said “yes” to in Austin, that I thought “Wow! Wow! Wow! Who is this person?

 

We had walked past about twenty motorcycles with sidecars making our way to the restaurant. Do you think there was any chance…? I was pushing my luck with her willingness to sit in the sun. A motorcycle was out of the question.  But oh what a wonderful way to experientially get the feel of an environment.

 

Saturday was a day of surprises. For one thing, we didn’t realize that once we ordered it would be another hour and fifteen minutes before we were served. To say that we were toast is not that far from true. But we didn’t care. Experientially we were in the midst of springtime and it felt good except for the sun that was beaming down on our faces.

 

We traveled on roads getting home that were barley wide enough for two vehicles to meet without colliding. We were mesmerized by the scenery. There were picturesque houses that have withstood the test of time scattered here and there. I wondered about the people who lived in them and for how long those structures had been there home. Homes from yesteryear surrounded by the most vivid colors of wildflowers all served to orchestrate a picture perfect view in every direction we looked.

 

Everywhere there was evidence of the freshness associated to springtime. It was a great day and a great date. We were out of our element and we had fun!

 

All My Best!

Don

A Birthday To Be Remembered

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One of the passions of Craig’s life has to do with hunting. He’d be the first to tell you that there are many upsides to 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. One of the upsides he counts is the availability of a place to hunt either on the base or in the vicinity of every place he and Becky have ever lived. He’s not just a trophy hunter. He hunts because he likes the taste of wild game and he gets a shot of adrenaline each time he brings home the bacon (I mean venison).

 

When Jenna was four and William was three, they got their first taste of bear hunting. Craig was stationed at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Northern California at the time. All I can say is, “Thank God for guardian angels”. Who in their right mind takes two small children with them hunting anything, much less bear hunting?

 

Like I said, one of Craig’s passions is hunting. Trust me, he and his Marine Corps buddy who was hunting with him weren’t out in freezing weather and snow covered terrain simply because Becky told Craig it was his turn to take care of the kids. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have made the same choice had that been the case. He was out there because he wanted to be out there.

 

Does it relate to brain chemistry, learned behavior, temporary insanity or a combination of all three? It has to be closely akin to the “call of the wild”. A hunter has to hunt. Reportedly, the kids were never at risk. Both were being carried in backpack like devices made to carry small children and the kids were wearing coats, caps and scarfs to protect them from the elements.

 

We went to visit Craig and his family in Northern California shortly after Craig’s lucky shot or pinpoint accuracy as a skilled marksman. Never say I’m not a good sport. I sat down to a culinary experience like no other I’ve ever experienced. I tasted bear for the first time.   Actually, it was the only time. You’re not going to believe this, but bear tastes “just like chicken”. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.  I made that up because I thought it was funny. What I most remember about the bear filet mignon that Craig prepared on the outdoor grill is that he wrapped it in bacon and added jalapenos. It actually was pretty tasty. I guess that’s a “no brainer”. Wrap anything with bacon and throw in jalapenos and you’ve got a meal.

 

The General’s dad was a hunter and he took Craig hunting many times. He would have taken me many times, but I’m not a hunter and I don’t like hanging out in cold weather unless I’m on a ski slope. Besides that I like my “New York Strip” medium rare.” That’s not to say I haven’t tasted venison. Actually, I’ve had it fried with mashed potatoes and gravy and it could pass for a chicken fried steak.

 

We were living in Mertzon at the time and hunting is second nature to a lot of people in that part of West Texas. We were friends with a couple at church that was at least ten- years older than us. They had three sons and they were  about as country and country comes.  They were all hunters.  At any rate, they invited us to dinner one evening and I was amazed at how good the meal tasted. It was the first time I ever tasted venison.

 

Yesterday Craig was feeding a passion that is even greater than his passion to hunt. It was the passion to orchestrate a hunting experience for his children that would build memories for a lifetime.   Yesterday morning, I was at my computer crafting my blog when Craig walked in my office and said, “We’ve got to go. I’m taking William hunting.” They were off and out the door on their way to Johnson City about the same time I left for work.

 

Craig said before he left, “I hope William gets a deer. If he does, I’ll take Jake hunting this afternoon.” I reminded Craig that it was Jake’s birthday. I’m sure I learned it from the General, but I attempted gentle redirection: “You can’t take Jake hunting because he’s requested a special meal for his birthday and he’s having a Star Wars birthday cake.” Craig replied, “You’re right. It is his birthday and that’s exactly why we’re going hunting. Jake wants to shoot a deer more than anything else for his birthday”.

 

If it is the “call of the wild”, all of Craig’s kids have it. All of them love the experience of going hunting. Can you think of anything more boring than setting in a deer blind and waiting on the outside chance that a deer drops by to say “Hello”.  Jake would say I’ve watched too many episodes of “Tea With Mussolini”.  Actually, I don’t remember ever watching that movie, but apparently Craig has told the story that I subjected the family to its viewing.  Periodically, Jake will jokingly asked if I’ve watched “Tea With Mussolini” recently.  The kid is a character.

 

About 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning, I got a text message from Craig. Without further details he wrote: “Call the taxidermist!” Instantly the General chimed in with: “Yippee!!!” I had no idea that she was ever out of bed that time of morning. I guess you could say that group texting is a way to learn a lot.   I decided to respond by providing the name and telephone number of the taxidermist in Johnson City. Craig hasn’t asked, but I’m sure he’s wondering how I knew that?

 

Did I mention there are a number of reasons I don’t hunt? One of the reasons is that once you shoot a deer, you’ve then got other issues with which you have to deal. It was an extended period of time later that Craig reportedly made it back home.

 

William was on top of the world. Not only did he shoot a deer, he shot a big deer. The rack had a spread of eighteen inches and included 12 horns. What do you do but have that professionally mounted? By the time it’s all said and done, you could have a freezer full of “New York Strip” steaks packaged in white paper from the grocery store and a very large handful of money left over. Of course, you’d have forfeited memories of a lifetime for both an eleven year old and his dad.

 

True to Craig’s word, he took Jake hunting for his birthday yesterday afternoon. Bingo – Jake got an eight point. “Thrilled” doesn’t even begin to express it. Another memory logged into a treasure chest that will forever be chiseled in stone for both the son and his dad.

 

I’m not a hunter, but my son and his children are. It makes me proud that Craig invests the energy and resources to craft those kinds of experiences for his children. It is a passion worth pursuing. Any investment you make in the life of a child is meaningful because your investing in their future treasure chest of shared memories.

 

I mentioned that Craig is not a trophy hunter. Actually he’d say anything he kills and takes to the table is a trophy.  When Craig and Becky lived in North Carolina, William would point to the bear hanging on the wall and tell his friends: “This is the bear my dad helped me kill.”  Soon there will be a very large mounted deer head hanging on the wall.  That, too, is fully attributed to the marksmanship of young William.  The way I see it, Craig wouldn’t have a trophy mount of any kind were it not for his oldest son.  He, too, is a hunter and a hunter has to hunt.

 

All My Best!

Don

The Sound Of Music

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed music. My first exposure to music other than church music was country-western. That’s the kind of music my dad and mom listened to on the radio and subsequently on television when it was available. I guess my parents liked country music when country music wasn’t cool, but what was true for them was true for every adult I knew.

At our last family reunion, I mentioned to a couple of my cousins that I was really surprised when the pianist played “Your Cheatin’ Heart” at my uncle’s funeral. Of course that was twelve years ago, so I’ve remembered the piano rendition of the song for a very long time. The song was selected for inclusion in the prelude music at his service because from1952 forward, that song sung by Hank Williams got top billing with my uncle. It was his all-time favorite CW song.

My parents were family oriented. I remember throughout my childhood years, there were times we went as a family to live music performances. Even though my paternal grandparents lived next door and would gladly have provided child care for us, we were always included.   If my parents were going out for the evening, they took me and my brothers with them. Interestingly, that became the template that was characteristic of our family. Seldom were there exceptions.

I can promise you that despite my parent’s appreciation for country music, there is no way they would have enjoyed it inside a “honkey-tonk”.  That was not a frame of reference that defined our family.

My folks also like other kinds of music. For example, as a matter of routine, we watched the Ed Sullivan Show on television on Sunday nights. I don’t recall that he ever featured country western music, but the show was filled with performing artists. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, he featured the Beatles at one time.

That also brings to mind: “The Hit Parade.” Do you remember it?  It, too, made its way into our home via television. In fact, two of my favorite songs from that venue were Harry Belafonte singing “The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and Jim Lowe singing “Behind The Green Door”. I can hear both of those songs playing in my head as I write these words.

Talk about honky-tonk piano! I can almost hear the words with the piano pounding out the tune in the background:

“Midnight, one more night without sleeping,

Watching till the morning comes creeping.

Green door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?

There’s an old piano

And they play it hot behind the green door;

Don’t know what they’re doing

But they laugh a lot behind the green door.

Wish they’d let me in

So I could find out what’s behind the green door…”

Out of curiosity, I Googled: “Harry Belafonte – The Banana Boat Song (Dayo)” and found a link to the musician singing that song from 1956. I couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. It was like turning the clock back sixty years. Check it out. It is authentic and it is Harry Belafonte. Wow! Wow! Wow! It is exactly as I remembered it from of “The Hit Parade”.

I’ve said all that to simply say, “I appreciate music, but I have absolutely no musical ability”. In the midst of adulthood, I took piano lessons for a little over a year. I wanted desperately to learn to play, but I had job that required travel and finding time to practice wasn’t easily accomplished. That being said, I’ve got such an appreciation for folks who are musically gifted and talented.  I also recognize that I am not one of them.

I have a friend I’ve known for twenty plus years. He never touched the piano until he was in college. He simply sat down one day in the student center at Texas Tech and started playing. He’s never taken a lesson, but he occasionally has a gig where he plays background music for special venues. He also sings. It is a winning combination.

I noticed on Facebook recently that a friend and neighbor referenced that she took up playing the guitar and singing about three years ago. She, too, apparently is very talented and at the top of her game. I gathered that she performs regularly at some venue near Drippin’.

One day last week, I had lunch with a friend. He mentioned that he and his wife had recently purchased a new home. They haven’t yet occupied the space, but the closing is set for the first of the year. The lady selling the house is ninety years of age and she was a little disheartened that none of her children or grandchildren had room in their homes for her Steinway Grand Piano. Consequently, the Steinway is staying with the house. He said: “There is also has an incredible chandelier hanging over the piano”. He couldn’t be more pleased and rightfully so.

What an incredible find! When I asked if he played the piano, his response took me totally by surprise. He said: “ I do play the piano. I’ve been playing the piano since March. I tinkered around with my sister’s piano a little bit to determine that I wanted to play. I subsequently started out with a weighted keyboard, but quickly determined I needed more. Consequently, I bought a grand piano for our home. You need to see it. It really looks nice.”

I was immediately filled with questions: “So did you take piano lessons?” He said, “No, I didn’t need to. I’ve been a pretty accomplished guitar player for many years. Consequently, I know all the chords. With that frame of reference, transitioning from guitar to piano wasn’t difficult for me. In fact, if anything, the piano is more forgiving than the guitar. I find playing very relaxing and I play every night.

He said, “After we get the kids to bed, I start playing and I play for three hours. That has become my routine and I find it both relaxing and very enjoyable.” I was blown away. Who would have thought? I’ve had lunch with the guy almost a dozen times since he took up playing the piano and he’s never mentioned it. I obviously need to ask more questions.

So when it comes to musical talent or the ability to play the piano, is there any hope for me?  Until recently I would have answered: “Absolutely not”.  Perhaps I need to modify that to say: “Probably not”.  I could accidentally fall into a situation that could alter my ability; although the chances are slim-to-none.  Recently there was a cover story in  Southwest Airline magazine about a man who dove into a swimming pool.  Unfortunately, he dove into the shallow water end of the pool and hit his head on the bottom.  The resultant head concussion was serious, but he recovered in about a week.  A short time after the experience, he was walking past a piano is some public venue and intuitively felt drawn to the keyboard.   To his surprise, he found he now had the innate ability to play beautifully.  To say that it is an anomaly is an understatement.  Could it happen to me?  “Maybe, maybe not is my best answer.  Only time will tell.”

All My Best!

Don