Here Comes The Bride

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His was an interesting story. When he threw the first snippet of information my direction, I took the bait. I said, “I write a daily blog. Yours sounds like an interesting story. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask more questions. Of course, I won’t divulge your identity or the name of the place where you work, but yours is definitely a story that perks my interest”. He responded: “That’s not a problem. Everyone here knows my story”. Though he didn’t explicitly say so, I gathered he was a man with few secrets. It is really difficult for one’s life not to be an open book when you live in a small community.

 

So have I shared enough of the background to capture your interest? I don’t know the age of the man with whom I was talking. I’d guess mid-forties, but he could have been younger. For that matter, his age could go in the opposite direction. He was definitely old enough to make mature decisions and exercise prudent judgment, but by his own admission, he had not always excelled in that category.  That was particularly true in marriage.

 

We were in a restaurant yesterday afternoon for a late lunch. The venue was something other than Mexican food, but it, too, was a culinary delight from another country. The General had placed her order and when asked if she wanted low, medium or high spice, she opted for low. When I placed my order and the waiter asked me the same question, I opted to go with medium. That’s when the General said: “Okay, I’ll go with that too.”

 

The guy looked like a no nonsense kind of fellow. I simply explained: “She hangs on to every word that comes out of my mouth. Of course she wants exactly what I want. That’s always been the case. It never varies”. I then added with laughter: “Yeah, that’s right! You can count on it!”

 

I guess you could say that’s when he took the bait. He responded: “I set the ring tone on my phone for my third ex-wife as: “You’re right”. Was he referring to the last song Nirvana recorded? If so, the official title would have been: “You Know You’re Right”. It was the last song Kurt Cobain wrote and recorded. He obviously was at a very dark place in his life. Shortly thereafter, he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The song was recorded in 1994, but didn’t become a hit posthumously until 2002. Nirvana was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

 

I never listened to Nirvana and I know nothing about Kurt Cobain other than from

name recognition. I was startled to read the lyrics to: “You Know You’re Right”. It is not a feel good song. I guess like Country Western music, even grunge band lyrics tell a story. With his last lyrics, Cobain shared his story. It was autobiographical.

 

The lyrics are unsettling. Yet, they seemed to fit the dimension of what the waiter was sharing, particularly if by the time he added the ring tone to his phone, his wife was already his soon-to-be ex-wife.

 

The lyrics sound like a sad farewell: “I will never bother you / 
I will never promise to
 / I will never follow you / 
I will never bother you

 / Never speak a word again
 / I will crawl away for good

 / I will move away from here
 / You won’t be afraid of fear / 
No thought was put in to this
 / I always knew it would come to this
 / Things have never been so swell / 
I have never failed to fail / 

Pain
 Pain 
Pain /

 You know you’re right / 
You know you’re right
 / You know you’re right”

 

Like I said, “The waiter had perked my curiosity, but after reference to the third ex-wife, how much further could I go? I didn’t want to invade his privacy and obviously his experience with wedded bliss had fallen short of expectations. When talking with folks, I prefer to focus on their strengths rather than their disappointments.  Obviously, the topic of marriage carried a disappointing dimension.

 

Okay, so I opted to take a chance with the hope I wasn’t being offensive. I decided to ask another question. After all, he voluntarily brought up reference to his third ex-wife. So I asked: “So how many times have you been married?” He said: “Four”. I cautiously asked while I held my breath: “Are you single now?” He said, “No, I’m married”. Okay, so when it comes to marriage, unlike baseball it was not: “Three strikes and you’re out.” Wife number four was the magic number.

 

He went on to explain: “The owner (referring to his employer) said I didn’t make good decisions related to marriage. Consequently, my employer offered to make the next decision for me. My employer made the arrangements for my fourth wife. I am married to one of my employer’s extended family members. Ours is an arranged marriage. The owner handled everything.”

 

Wow! Wow! Wow!   I had the immediate thought: “This guy knows how to play with fire.” His answer to my next question really caught me off-guard. I asked: “So how long have you worked here?” He responded: “Twenty-six years.”

 

No wonder the owner (his employer) had the full picture when it came to understanding his lack of prudent judgment in asking the question: “Will you marry me?” This was not a casual employee with whom the employer was only briefly connected. Twenty-six years is a long time to be in an employer/employee relationship. So was the owner throwing caution to the wind when he or she paired an extended family member from another country with his or her employee and friend? I don’t know the answer to that question, but it obviously has worked out well.

 

Had I been more daring, I would have asked what ring tone he has assigned for his current wife? I’m hoping it is Frank Sinatra singing: “Love Is A Many Splendered Thing”, but I wasn’t bold enough to ask.  I did mention that he was obviously a very trusting and brave man. He certainly had more to lose than just a wife if things didn’t work out well. After all, twenty-six years is a long time commitment to an employer and when you mix marriage and work together it immediately becomes all or nothing.

 

In case you’re wondering, I left a very generous tip. His was certainly an interesting story.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

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Run For Your Life

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What do you do when you find yourself living with a sense of unfinished business? I’ve read stories of folks in the midst of mid-to-late adulthood who went to college for the first time to pursue a coveted degree only because in their youth they didn’t have the resources or the opportunity.

 

I read somewhere that the majority of folks live with a sense of regret, do so about the things they didn’t do rather than the things they did. I can’t say that I have a frame of reference for either. Maybe it is a lack of imagination on my part, but I’ve mostly enjoyed life and have been content with the status quo. I don’t live with a sense that I’ve missed anything that really mattered.

 

What’s true for me is not true for my daughter. She lives with a sense of unfinished business and she’s made her bucket list and plans to check the most important missed event off that list in October 2017.

 

Perhaps as you read this you can hear the sound of Ol’ Blue Eyes singing: “Regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course; each carful step along the byway, and more, much more than this, I did it my way”.

 

The year I graduated from high school there was a popular television drama that ran for three seasons. It was entitled, “Run For Your Life”. The episode starred Ben Gazzara who played attorney Paul Bryan. Bryan’s doctor tells him that he only has a short time to live. Actually, with the prognosis that death would come in nine-to-eighteen months, Bryan opted to do all the things for which he had never made the time. Each televised episode began with the voice-over of the physician telling him he will die in no less than nine months , but in no more than eighteen months. Consequently Bryan attempted to squeeze thirty years of living into one or two years. He was a man on the move. He literally was running for his life. Much like Route 66, each episode featured the main character in a different location encountering new people and building memories.

 

When I think of a man on the run, I’m reminded of a story my younger brother shared in a sermon he preached at my church. Larry Dean is always entertaining and he always has a good point. When it comes to preaching, he isn’t a three-point kind of guy, but he lives with the notion that any sermon worth it’s salt has to have a point.

 

Disappointly, I actually don’t remember his point, but I do remember the story he shared. It was about a trapper who crossed the continent to the Pacific Ocean with Lewis and Clark. The trapper’s name was John Colter. Colter secured permission from Captain Meriwether Lewis to stay and trap beaver. Of course, Captain Lewis had previously garnered hatred by a Blackfoot Indian tribe for killing a Blackfoot warrior who was trying to steal horses. In return, the Indians hated the white men and were intent on killing as many as possible.

 

John Colter stayed behind knowing all of this, but the lure of trapping was paramount in his life. I’d call that “really not being smart”, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. He and another hunter named John Potts opted to take the risk. I mean after all, the best beaver streams were in the Blackfoot hunting grounds. The two set their traps at night and hid during the day.  If you think they were living the good life, you could be mistaken.

 

Long story-short, the trapping expedition didn’t turn out like Colter and Potts planned. They found themselves in a canoe paddling up a creek and subsequently surrounded by hundreds of Indians on both banks. The Indians made signs for them to come to shore. Since they couldn’t escape, Colter turned the canoe toward shore. As they arrived at the shore, an Indian immediately took Potts’ rifle. Colter used his strength to wrestle the rifle from the Indian and returned it to Potts. Potts killed the Indian and then died with a seconds with a body full of arrows.

 

The Indians stripped Colter of his clothing and talked about how they would kill him. The chief decided to make a sport of it and asked Colter if he could run fast. Colter understood enough of their language and replied that he was a very slow runner. I guess when you’re facing a life and death situation, why bother to tell them you had a reputation for running really fast. It was his only chance of escape.

 

When my brother was sharing Colter’s story, he left few details untold. The chief gave Colter a head start as the Indians gave their war-whoop and started after him. Colter ran straight across an open plain toward the Jefferson River six miles away.

 

Do you remember the lyrics from the “Battle of New Orleans?” One of the stanza’s goes like this: “ Yeah they ran through the briers and they ran through the brambles And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn’t go They ran so fast that the hounds couldn’t catch ’em On down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

 

Unhindered by clothing because his had been taken, Colter literally streaked through the cactus and ignored the fact that his feet were filled with cactus thorns. Of course when you have hundreds of Indians wanting your scalp, that adds motivation to run like the wind.   The details of his survival are interesting, but you get my point. He ran for his life.

 

In October my daughter and son-in-law (poor guy, he doesn’t have a choice) are scheduled to run in the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon. Andrea had previously trained for and planned to run in the marathon with her brother the October following Craig’s return to Texas in conjunction with his retirement from the U.S. Marine Corps. The year before, Craig ran the marathon in Afghanistan.

 

Despite the fact that Andrea had requested leave from her employer months before to have the time away, when push came to shove, her leave had been cancelled. Consequently work won out and she had to forego the experience.  It was a disappointment that fell into the category of unfinished business.

 

Not to be deterred, she plans to have the experience anyway. Since Craig can’t run this year, Kevin will fill his sneakers and the two of them will join thousands of others in what she hopes will be the fulfillment of a dream.

 

While I applaud her effort, it all sounds like a very bad dream to me. I can’t imagine walking twenty-six miles much less running. For me to do so, I’d have to be being chased by Blackfoot Indians wanting my scalp.

 

All My Best!

Don

Double Jeopardy

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It was three o’clock in the morning. I cannot say that it ranks as an issue that would weigh heavily on a person’s mind. Actually, when I had gone to bed four hours earlier, it wasn’t even a consideration in the thought processes of my conscious awareness. Yet when I awakened, it was the first thing that came to mind. I found the thought bothersome. Actually, I found it very troublesome. But then again, “I sometimes have a tendency to overreact” or so says the General.

 

To make a long story short, I was facing an ethical dilemma. It was a matter having to do with integrity. How long has it been since you’ve pondered an ethical dilemma at three o’clock in the morning? Ethical dilemmas at that time of night (oops, I mean morning) have a way of blocking one’s ability to sleep or sometimes even to think clearly.

 

I can’t say that I tossed and turned for the next hour. Truthfully, I did not. I didn’t toss and turn because I knew what I had to do. I had to do the right thing. Consequently I opted to get up and make a really early start on my day. The downside was that doing the right thing would add an extra fifty-one miles on my round trip commute to Houston and back yesterday. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, “That’s a killer”.

 

There were two issues that I couldn’t ignore. The first is: “A man is only as good as his word.” Last week the receptionist in our building asked me if I was going to Houston this week.   I told her I was scheduled to be there on Wednesday. Consequently, her next question was: “Would you mind taking a computer with you? It belongs in one of the family cottages.”

 

She had even reminded me on Tuesday morning. As it turned out, the day was packed with mostly unplanned issues that needed resolution. When I left the office Tuesday at the end of what proved to be a very long work day, the farthest thing from my mind was the computer I had not yet put in my car.

 

The computer I inadvertently left behind was the cause of my consternation yesterday morning. I had forgotten to pack it in my car and now I was faced with the choice of either driving back to my office to retrieve it or “taking the fifth” when asked why I didn’t get it.

 

You’re probably wondering about the “taking the fifth” statement. It refers to the right to remain silent and avoid self-incrimination. I mean, after all who at my age would ever openly acknowledge that I forgot anything? Someone half my age could use that excuse and no one would give it a second thought. I mean, after all, people forget things all of the time.

 

When I was living in Dallas, a young mother who worked at a restaurant that I often frequented failed to remember her infant son was still in his car seat when she arrived at work. Sadly, it was a very hot summer day. That brings to mind a lot of questions. How does a parent forget to drop their child off at daycare? Sadly when she returned to her vehicle at the end of the day, she discovered a tragedy from which she will never be able to distance herself.  Even to this day, almost two decades later, when I drive past the shopping center where that restaurant is located in Dallas, I always think of that tragic summer day.

 

The point I’m attempting to make is that forgetfulness is an issue that people of all ages experience. It is not relegated exclusively to the aged. The agency where I work is very sensitive to avoid any action or comments regarding an employee that could be considered discriminatory.

 

The three o’clock early morning dilemma I faced yesterday was one of double jeopardy. You’ll say that I’m over-thinking this, but my thought processes are sound. Did I really write than down? Am I suggesting that I am of sound mind? People who know me better would say it’s questionable. From my perspective, it was both an integrity issue (i.e.: Did I do what I said I’d do) and it was a competency or cognitive memory issue. (Have I reached the age where I can’t be trusted to remember important things)?

 

Maybe because of my age, I am a little too sensitive when it comes to forgetfulness. My mother had Alzheimer’s and prior to her death lost her cognitive ability to remember. She didn’t remember or seemly recognize anyone. Because of her memory loss, she forgot how to walk; forfeiting her mobility. She lost the memory of how to feed herself; forfeiting meeting even her most basic needs. She was mostly in a far away place known only to herself the vast majority of the time. But there were exceptions. On occasion, she sang hymns to herself. That may not seem unusual at face value, but my mother never sang out loud in earlier years. Actually, that is not totally true. Sometimes when she was with small children she would sing nursery rhymes to them. Other than that, we never heard her sing.

 

So how did I solve my dilemma? I opted to do the right thing. I drove back to the office before I headed to Houston. Consequently, I delivered the computer as I had promised. Secondly, it was so early when I arrived at the office yesterday morning that no one will ever know that I forgot the computer the evening before.

 

Speaking of the gift of memory, I recently re-visited the lyrics to Carrie Underwood’s song entitled “Don’t Forget To Remember Me”. For parents whose son or daughter just left for college, you may find the lyrics close to home. The lyrics read:

 

“Eighteen years had come and gone

For mama they flew by

But for me they drug on and on

We were loading up that Chevy

Both tryin’ not to cry

Mama kept on talking

Putting off goodbye

Then she took my hand and said

“Baby, don’t forget

 

Before you hit the highway

You better stop for gas

There’s a fifty in the ashtray

In case you run short on cash

Here’s a map, and here’s a Bible

If you ever lose your way

Just one more thing before you leave

Don’t forget to remember me.”

 

This downtown apartment sure makes me miss home

And those bills there on the counter

Keep telling me I’m on my own

And just like every Sunday I called mama up last night

And even when it’s not, I tell her everything’s all right

Before we hung up I said

“Hey mama, don’t forget

 

To tell my baby sister

I’ll see her in the fall

And tell Me-maw that I miss her

Yeah, I should give her a call

And make sure you tell daddy

That I’m still his little girl

Yeah, I still feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be

But don’t forget to remember me.”

 

All My Best!

Don

Scammers Prey On The Elderly

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The envelope looks official. It is highlighted with a bright yellow label that covers the majority of the brown paper-sack like envelope. It came in yesterday’s mail. I picked it up at the Dripping Springs Post Office. There is a green star in the upper left hand corner of the yellow label next to the words in capital letters: “WINNERS SELECTION LIST NOTICE”. Those words are circled in red. Does it sound familiar? Let me guess: “You got one too?” The envelope is from the Publishers Clearing House in Port Washington, NY.

 

There is a notation on the envelope: “Open immediately and respond as instructed.” Of course, I have an easy out. The envelope is not addressed to me. It is addressed to the General and she is out of town. The last time I checked, it was illegal to intentionally open someone else’s mail. While I don’t think for a moment that the General would opt to have me prosecuted, you really can never be certain. You know what they say about the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I figure my days are numbered.

 

For one thing, when it comes to my persecution (oops, I think I meant prosecution – I guess in this case, it could go either way), the General would much prefer to handle that in person rather than outsource it to the U.S. Government. They mess up enough stuff on their own. If it comes to persecution or prosecution, she’d want it done right. You know what they say, “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” That is a mantra the General holds close to her heart.   Secondly, the penalty for intentionally opening someone else’s mail is only up to 3-years incarceration. If the General opted to do away with me, 3-years would not even be a good start.

 

The General left town on Tuesday and took the grandchildren with her. Of course, I was out of town on Tuesday night and Wednesday, but did I mention it is uncannily quiet here? Condolences aren’t necessary or needed. I’m actually doing okay. Of course, I really miss the kids! Besides that, now that I’m back home, only God knows how many things I’ve left undone without the General here to provide oversight, structure and support. I purposely left out “orders” because I don’t want anyone to think for a minute that I’m henpecked.

 

I had the privilege of having lunch on Wednesday while I was in Houston in the home of the friend of a mutual friend. I met her thirty-plus-years-ago and looked forward to the visit. I actually crashed a luncheon party the mutual friend had been invited to attend. At any rate, the lady mentioned that her daughter is a little bossy when it comes to telling her what to do. She said, “My sons will support whatever I want to do. It isn’t like that with my daughter. She tells me what to do.” Thinking I was one step ahead, I asked: “And who does she get that from?” Knowing full well she’d answer, “She’s just like me”.   That’s what I thought she’d say, but I was wrong. She said, “I know who she gets it from. She is just like her father. He always tells me what to do.” I guess you could say, “We all have our crosses to bear.”

 

Getting back to the Publisher’s Clearing House’s “List of prizes”, I’m not holding my breath that the General will come out a winner. On the other hand, she’s got me. Maybe her luck will hold out. I’d tell her not to quit her day job, but it is way too late to play that card. When it comes to retirement, it is now old school for her. She wouldn’t trade it for anything. She is in her element.

 

I read somewhere the other day, that the crime of the 21st Century is financial scams targeting seniors. Gullible, too trusting and cognitively unaware are three terms that could possibly reflect the frame of reference into which my peer group often falls.

 

Self-preservation and the desire for longevity of life are two of the variables I hold close to my heart. Consequently, I haven’t yet suggested to the General that she needs to be careful. One of the risks facing seniors is the number of fraudulent anti-aging products that people her age are most vulnerable to order on-line. I’ve seen those small brown boxes that come to our mailbox. They aren’t addressed to me. I have no idea what’s inside, but one day I may forget and ask. If that happens: “God help us both”. On the other hand, she looks easily fifteen years younger than me, so I don’t guess I get a vote.

 

I’ve also discovered that older people should never answer their home telephone. My experience is that it is never anyone that I know. It is either someone calling to ask for a contribution or someone calling under the pretense of helping you out. Just yesterday on two separate occasions, some thoughtful person called to tell me the extended warranty on my Lexus had expired. If I acted now, I could have it re-instated.  They then added, “And, by the way, this will be the last time you hear from us. It is now or never.”

 

There obviously is a credibility issue with their messaging. I received a second call wanting me to extend the warranty within twenty minutes of hearing “We won’t call again”.

 

One of the things I learned from my dad is: “If it sounds too good to be true, It probably isn’t.” That certainly was my take on the 3-month option of someone helping me market my books. Since there were no guarantees associated to the offer, I thought of the lyrics in George Strait’s song: “Oceanfront Property”.

 

“I got some ocean front property in Arizona.

From my front porch you can see the sea.

I got some ocean front property in Arizona.

If you’ll buy that, I’ll throw the golden gate in free”.

 

Most folks that read my blog on Facebook, never see comments that are added to WordPress. First I have to say under the concept of full disclosure, it is rare that anyone comments on WordPress. Yesterday, Wayne Terry, a dear friend from the first grade thoughtfully responded. Since his response was thoughtfully insightful, I thought I’d close today’s blog with his comments. They reflect the Wisdom of Solomon:

 

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”. (Matthew 10:16)

“Donnie,

Sadly the world is full of wolves who prey upon the hopes and dreams artists and writers have for success in the work they have put their hearts and souls into.

When they want money up front…….run.

They promise wealth and fame, but deliver dust and disappointment.

These wolves may be using new technologies, but are running scams as old as the hills.

 

When the hills were much younger than they are now God came into the Wilderness and told Moses to build the Tabernacle.

In Exodus 35 and 36 we are told God told Moses to send for a man named Bezalel to create all of the furnishings and utensils that would go into the Tabernacle. Scripture tells us Bezalel was an artist, a man with skills, talents, abilities and knowledge in many crafts. God had equipped this man for a purpose and now The Master Creator will do something for him not ever done before.

 

Before Bezalel will start, The Lord will fill, this man of the arts, with God’s Spirit. He will overflow with it for the task at hand.

God gifted Bezalel for a purpose, to do what God called him to do. To use his gifts in a God directed way.

 

Over half a lifetime ago God showed me the talent He had given me was for more than just making money or personal satisfaction.

When God called Moses to the work He had for him, God put a stick in his hand as an “attention getter”. It would open doors, minds and hearts to God’s will.

God put a stick called a paintbrush in my hand. An “attention getter” that God has used to opened doors, that otherwise would not have been to draw a crowd and open the way for me to tell them about the Lord. The paintings and drawings have caused people to pay attention to what God would have me say and lives have been changed by using what He put in my hand.

 

Talent coupled with the Spirit is a mighty thing that will do what talent alone can’t.

God has even used ink drawings I have “messed up” for His purpose.

 

The Lord has put a “writing Stick” in your hand for a purpose. He filled you with the Holy Spirit a long time ago.

You did good work today.

You and your church did Good in the creek Sunday.

Watch out for the wolves.

Wayne”

 

What a thoughtful and insightful response. Solomon couldn’t have expressed it better.

 

All My Best!

Don

Was It A Suicide Or Was It A Woman Scorned?

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He described it as the funeral from hell. I can truthfully say that I’ve never witnessed or been a part of that kind of experience. I’ve heard horror stories of things that happen at funerals, but I have no first hand knowledge. All I’ve got to say about the preacher who shared his story is that he remained amazingly calm through what could have been a very unsettling set of circumstances.

The only positive thing he said about the funeral is that it was one of those occasions where the only appropriate thing to share was to brag about God. There was simply nothing about the departed that seemed worthy of highlighting or bringing to anyone’s attention.

As was his custom, the pastor entered the chapel area at the funeral home from the side door. From his vantage point, he did not have a view of the front side of the casket, but he could see folks as they entered the chapel. He didn’t know much about the young man who died apart from the fact that his death was an act of suicide.

One of the things that he immediately found a little troublesome was the number of people who entered the chapel area, sat down briefly, looked up at the casket and then stood and walked out the door. The alarm bells were going off in his head, but he didn’t yet have enough information to have any sense of cause and effect.

If yours were the belief that the preacher is the guy orchestrating the order of service at a funeral, you’d be wrong. Generally, the pastor has some idea of the order of activities, but not always. First up was the brother of the departed. He raised his filled glass to propose a toast to his brother. “How the ‘@#$%#’ am I supposed to get through this without this (referring to the contents of the glass)? He then gulped it down.

You can imagine what the preacher was thinking? Actually, you probably can’t. He was experiencing some level of empathy for the brother dealing with his grief in the only manner he knew. Obviously if it provided any relief it was only temporary.

Before the program moved farther, someone from the second row started stomping his feet and verbally invited the crowd of other members from their motorcycle club to do the same. Collectively they joined in a chant in honor of the departed. By now, the preacher was feeling a little anxious (very anxious is probably more descriptive.) As people stomped their feet, clapped their hands and chanted, the noise level grew louder and louder. This was proving to be a disaster. In this kind of environment it would be easy to totally lose control of the crowd. Yet, when the chant was over, order was restored.

Next up was a pictorial overview of the young man’s life. Normally, you don’t expect that in the midst of the funeral service, but maybe so. However, there was a troubling aspect to the pictorial representation. It was then that the preacher remembered he didn’t share with me the full back story. Allegedly the young man killed himself because he was caught cheating on his wife. Since she was still his wife, she was the one responsible for the funeral service.

You’ve probably heard the expression: “There is nothing like a woman scorned.” Trust me that could have been a contributing factor to the preacher’s perception that this was a funeral from hell. Toward the end of the pictorial presentation of the young man’s life, there were a number of pictures of him with his arm around a woman. “Busted!” They were not pictures of the man and his wife”. However, the two of them looked, shall we say: “Quite cozy?” Reportedly, the primary reason the man took his own life was that he was caught cheating on his wife.

I’m not the sharpest Crayola in the box, but I wasn’t buying it. I’ve watched too many episodes of Cannon P.I. on CBS when I was much younger. Do you remember him? Frank Cannon was a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. However, he retired after the deaths of his wife and son in a car accident. He later became a private investigator. The cause of death of Cannon’s wife and child was not clear through the first four seasons of the show. The first episode of the fifth and final season of the series revolves around Cannon’s investigation of the deaths, and he finally finds out why they were killed.

I turned to the preacher and said: “Problem solved. This was not a suicide. This was murder and the scorned wife got away with it.” That makes a lot more sense than his being overwhelmed with regret. Trust me, he wasn’t that kind of guy.

At the close of the service, the preacher stepped around to the front of the casket to greet or offer support to folks as they walked passed the casket. It was then that the dots connected in his head. The “Harley Davidson” casket had the words: “Final Farwell” painted across the front. Actually, “Final Farwell” isn’t the two words that were written. The message did include two words. You can only imagine. Actually, I hope you can’t imagine, but the two words were not for a family friendly audience.

By this point in the preacher’s story, I had to admit. It really was the funeral from hell. But wait, there is more to his story. When they got to the cemetery one other surprise awaited the preacher. Instead of starting the committal portion of the service in a timely fashion, there was one other surprise in store. The director of the funeral home said: “This is going to be a little different. The folks on motorcycles want to spin out around the grave and sling dirt into the opening. The preacher handled it well. He turned to the funeral director and said: “I’m done” and walked away.

I guess you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away. It is a sad story. The preacher was right, it was the funeral from hell.

All My Best!

Don

The American Dream

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How important is it to dream? If you’re going to dream, is it important to dream big? When I was a kid growing up, I was reminded often of the American Dream. I guess we all were. Wasn’t it the mantra that the baby boomer generation grew up believing?

“In his 1931 book, The Epic of America, James Adams defines the American Dream as the ‘dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement’”.

Adams’ definition of the American Dream was threatened with the outbreak of WWII. Subsequently, our father’s both went to war and came home from the war and promoted the concept of a better life for their children. After all, they had paid the price of admission. Wasn’t our nation known for being the home of the brave and the land of the free? Wasn’t the sky the limit? You could be all you chose to be. How did that line play itself out? Wasn’t it synonymous with the concept of pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps?

From the vantage point of experience, most of us have discovered that is certainly easier to articulate than it is to implement. I guess it carries with it the connotation of getting out of a difficult situation by one’s own effort. Yet, realistically, how often does that actually happen?

Lilian, my twelve-year-old granddaughter is already thinking about the storyline that Wikipedia will use to describe her life. Of course, she has lot of years before her. Who knows how her interests and passion for living will ultimately define the person she eventually becomes. As for me, I don’t have enough time left to do anything significant enough to make it into Wikipedia. I’ve missed that window of opportunity unless I opt to do something extremely stupid. Consequently, I’d prefer to forego the experience. Who wants to live the notoriety of being remembered for press worthy bad behavior?

I guess from both a faith based perspective and social work viewpoint, I’m more of an advocate of the concept that “tomorrow doesn’t have to look like yesterday” than the need for one to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. I’m not minimizing the importance of staying focused, working hard and investing the sweat equity to support our dreams, but most of us get where we are going through the encouragement, support and assistance of others. We live in community and it is through community that our needs most often get met.

I like the way Jeremiah expresses it: “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Yesterday I was at a work related function. The opening speaker was poised, articulate and confident. There was no mistaking it, she was passionate about working together in community to meet the needs of mothers and children from hard places. I have known the speaker for about three years and have always found her at the top of the leader board in terms of ability and passion to be a resource for helping single mothers and their children.

She began by sharing the story of a young mother in Chicago. Her husband had opted out of their marriage. He also abdicated from the responsibilities associated with fatherhood. The young mother felt overwhelmed and alone. This wasn’t what she signed on for when she said, “I Do.” For her, the American dream had become a never-ending nightmare. At that venture in her pilgrimage, she didn’t envision that her long-term outcome would ever be favorable.

Confused and alone, she really didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately her mother was sensitive to her daughter and grandson’s need for support. She provided them opportunity to live with her in her home.

In December of her first year as a young mother, something happened that forever changed her life. It was a bitterly cold December. I say that, although the speaker didn’t’ reference it directly, but I know it is true. Aren’t all Decembers in Chicago bitterly cold?

Perhaps the outside environmental conditions were a precursor for that which seemed bitterly cold and harsh. The daughter and her mother got into a misunderstanding. I don’t know the source of the conflict, the speaker didn’t say, but the mother demanded her daughter and her eleven month old grandson leave her home. They were thrown-out in the dead of winter.

Guess what? They had nowhere to go. It was cold, bitterly cold, in the streets of Chicago. Hearing the story that the speaker shared, sent a chill down my spine. Apparently a neighbor from close proximity had observed the young mother and her son being discharged from her mother’s home.

Identifying herself as Mama Walker, the older lady with kindness resonating through her voice said to the young mother, “Please come with me. I’ll get you and your baby to a warm place.” Confused by the offer, but grateful for the opportunity to get out of the cold, she followed Mama Walker to her home. Once inside the house, Mama Walker said to the young woman, “God has a plan and a purpose for your life. While you are in the process of finding it, my home is yours. You and your baby can stay with me”.

The speaker then said to the audience of about 300 people: “That young woman was me”. People need others and they need a sense of community in which to thrive. Consequently, that provides each of us the opportunity to be a source of encouragement and emotional support for others. It could represent a lifeline for them. It may not be enough to ensure your place or the mention of your name in Wikipedia, but it is more than enough to both fill your life with joy and that of someone else.

All My Best!

Don

The Power of Music – There was no one like Patsy Cline Until Now

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Easy Listening Music” has changed, or so it seems. My son used to describe the music I listen to as “funeral home music”. I’m not sure how he came up with that description, but  twenty-plus years ago our music tastes were worlds apart. Back when he was alleging that my music genre of choice was funeral home music, he was listening to Robert Earl Keene. “Worlds apart” pretty well describe the gap in our music venue of choice. Enough said!

That’s not to say that I had totally boycotted country western music. You may find it difficult to believe, but during my high school and college years, I was drawn to the lyrics of country western music. There was something about the storyline as it resonated with the notes that captured my imagination and garnered my attention. Maybe it was a one-size-fits all approach, but the story lines seemed real and the narratives they told were compelling.

When I was a kid growing up, our family watched the Grand Ole Opry on television. Trust me, it captivated our attention the same way that many music fans track the weekly performances on American Idol. In addition, it wasn’t unusual for our family to attend music venues to hear live performances of recording artists or amateur singers. We liked music. We liked country music.

I took up the violin in elementary school. Did I mention I have absolutely no musical talent or ability? Actually, the mistake I made as a fourth grader is that I wanted to play the fiddle, not a violin. They may look like the same instrument, but the sound and music is entirely different.

Even as a kid, I had it figured out when it came to incredible music. She was without doubt my all-time favorite vocalist. Yet, on March 5, 1963, the same year that President Kennedy was assassinated, Pasty Cline, Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Randy Hughes perished in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee. Yesterday marked the 53rd anniversary of their tragic deaths.

I never heard Patsy Cline sing in person. Yet, she was and has been my all-time-favorite vocalist for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t just that her voice reeled you in and held you fast. It was also the emotional impact of the story musically shared. It was the lyrics. The story that unfolds takes you captive and draws on your heartstrings.   If you question what I’m saying is true, go back and listen again to: “I Fall To Pieces”, “Crazy” and “She’s Got You”. Patsy Cline was an all-time great. She had the stuff to make it work: a storyline, vocal range and the delivery to make it all seem real and up close and personal.

Maybe my subsequent departure to “funeral home music” twenty years ago as my son calls it, was an attempt to replace verbal and emotional messaging with calming and soothing instrumental music. In fact, some might even more appropriately describe it as “elevator music”. But that was twenty years ago. Times have changed and so has the easy listening genre.

Earlier this week, I heard a recording artist I had not heard before. Wow! Wow! Wow! What she brings to the table is as impactful and captivating as the music of Patsy Cline. Am I overstating it to suggest her musical gift, the emotional story she crafts, and the play on the listener’s heartstrings is etched in stone? You can’t escape it. In fact, you find yourself not wanting to run from it, but run to it.   Perhaps her genre is more “soul” than “country”, but the emotional draw reels you in and holds you fast. Without even consciously being aware of what’s taking place, you are intrinsically crafted in the story line. Her story reminds you of your story or that of someone you know and of course, when your story is being shared, it has you full attention.

Let the sound, rhythm and storyline of “Hello”, sung by Adele, resonate in the fabric of your mind. We’ve all got stories. Sometimes our stories have a common tread. Adele has the ability to craft it in the most uncommon and powerful way.

“Hello, it’s me

I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet

To go over everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya

But I ain’t done much healing

 

“Hello, can you hear me?

I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be

When we were younger and free

I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet

 

“There’s such a difference between us

And a million miles

“Hello from the other side

I must have called a thousand times

To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done

But when I call you never seem to be home

 

Hello from the outside

At least I can say that I’ve tried

To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart

But it don’t matter. It clearly doesn’t tear you apart anymore

 

“Hello, how are you?

It’s so typical of me to talk about myself. I’m sorry

I hope that you’re well

Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?”

All My Best!

Don