The Great American Eclipse

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I like to think of myself as the king of adventure.  Of course, some folks would describe that as a delusional misrepresentation of truth.  My eight-year-old grandson would tell you that you’re mistaken. He knows that it is true because I’ve subtly and not so subtly suggested the concept to him for the past several years.  Bottom line – we always have fun! In addition, we don’t always color inside the lines.  I even let him steer my truck once from the gate up to the house without fastening his seat belt. After all, he was sitting in my lap. How much safer can you be than that?

 

“Busted” is probably a good word to use. My grandson didn’t know that we’d both be better served if his dad didn’t know. However, when it comes to kids, I think it is important for them to know that: “We don’t keep secrets”.  It is a good theory to learn.  Sometimes my grandchildren’s dad can take on some of the General’s characteristics. After all, she is his mother and half of his DNA came from her side of the family. Long story short, he was not a happy camper! 

 

Believe it or not, I was the subject of his discontent.  I won’t say that he talked to me like I was a step-dad instead of blood-kin, but he made it abundantly clear that I had violated one of the family covenants.  You know: “The wheels don’t roll until the seat belt goes click.”  I agree with that 100%; however, that surely doesn’t include from the gate of the driveway up to the house.  I probably should have cut him some slack. After four tours of duty in far-away and not-so-nice places, who could blame him if he was a little uptight?  Then again, it could be the DNA? 

 

 Okay, so I mostly play it safe and I always color within the boundaries of my sense of how far I can bend without breaking. After all, I’ve never ridden 2.7 seconds on the back of a bull name named “Fumanchu”. But, I might one day. You just never know. When it comes to “granddad”, I like to keep folks guessing.  However, I figure attempting to ride on the back of a bull named “Fumanchu” would break me for sure; maybe even for good?

 

Yesterday I was a little taken back when a close friend mentioned the adventure he has in mind for his nine and eleven year old grandsons.  In the world of children, I suspect he is soon to be elevated to sainthood if he is not already there. He is actually going to ensure that this year’s “Great American Eclipse” (the first in 100 years) will be etched in stone in the resources of their memories.  His logic seems sound, “If the total eclipse in Texas is only going to seem like half of an eclipse, why not go-the-distance and see it unimpeded from Nebraska?

 

I know, some of you fellow-Texans are now scratching your heads.  Actually, some of my new friends in Oklahoma are probably scratching their heads as well.  Even from Oklahoma it is still “a fer drive” to get to Nebraska? So is my friend who is probably ten-to-fifteen years my junior playing with a full deck of cards? Sure, he is going to make some brownie points with his grandsons, but at “Oh what a price!”  If I rode in a car all the way to Nebraska, someone would have to help me out. I am seventy-years- old and I’ve never been to Nebraska.  Isn’t that a long, long way from Texas?   Doesn’t that add a whole new concept to the term “road-trip?”

 

When I think of a perfect meal, grilled corn on the cob is fairly tasty with a savored Omaha rib-eye steak, but I’ve never picked cotton and I don’t routinely husk corn. Every time I husk an ear of corn, I have the thought: “I’d hate to do this for a living”. Besides that, don’t they have machines that husk corn? Some of you are thinking I’ve turned down a dead-end road, but it all gets back to word association.  Besides that, isn’t Omaha in Nebraska?

 

I don’t know much about football. Some of you are now thinking “my not knowing much” is a universal characteristic and it isn’t limited to my understanding of sports. When I think Nebraska, I think Cornhuskers. Maybe a lot of people do, but that has not always been the case. 

 

In years gone by before the1900s, Nebraska football teams were known by a variety of different names. How does “Rattlesnake Boys”, “Antelopes” or “Bugeaters” sound?  In the late 1890s the Bugeaters were highly regarded as a WINNING team.  The name came from insect-devouring bull bats. 

 

I mean, how many cobs of corn do you have to husk before you think naming a team after insect-devouring bull bats is a good idea?  I don’t know.  At any rate, the Bugeaters incurred a heart breaking loss after a ten-year winning streak and the team was rebranded as Cornhuskers.  If you can figure it out, you’re smarter than me. Of course, even if you can’t you’re probably still smarter than me.  I’m the guy who got up at 5:00 a.m. to write all this nonsense down and some people won’t even read it because it is too long.

 

So maybe I’m not the king of adventure after all. I’m thinking my friend who is driving from Texas to Nebraska to orchestrate lifelong memories for his two grandsons is at the top of the leaderboard. In addition, before the day is done, I bet he never forgets it either. 

 

After all, the last solar eclipse to cross the entire United States from Washington to Florida occurred in 1918. My friend and his two Texas born grandsons will see it all in person. I just hope they remember to get the protective eyeglasses. Of course, I’m sure my friend has already purchased them. He is a planner and he thinks of everything. He’s been planning this trip for over two months.

 

Truth be told, I didn’t even know we were set to have a solar eclipse until this past Sunday when my son-in-law said they had ordered protective glasses for all of us to stare directly into the sun without damaging our retinas.  Wouldn’t that have to hurt? 

 

Someone expressed it this way:If you’ve been avoiding the news for the past six months (and hey, I don’t blame you) you may have missed that America’s about to experience its first total eclipse of the sun in 38 years. On August 21 the moon will completely blot out the sun, and stretches of the United States will be in complete darkness as the moon casts its shadow. During an eclipse like this, the temperature drops, light takes on a spooky filtered effect, and the sun’s corona is visible as a spectacular aura around the moon, just for a moment.

 

“People are rightfully stoked. This is the first time since 1979 the US has been in the path of a full eclipse, and even then it was visible only in six Northwestern states. This year’s will cross the country from Oregon to South Carolina, marking the first time in 99 years that we’ve had a coast-to-coast eclipse”.

 

So my friend and his grandsons are set to get the full picture of the Great American Eclipse from somewhere in Nebraska. Now let me get this straight.  Is it really true that the full view from North Platte, NE (with protective glasses of course) is anticipated to last only one minute and 52 seconds?

Don’t hear me wrong. This is a big deal for North Platte and the Texans who’ll see more than they would if they were still in Texas. Reportedly, North Platte is known for its hospitality.  In addition, it is the home of the world famous “World War II North Platte Canteen where volunteers greeted more than six million service men and women on their way to and from the front lines of WWII.  If I drove from Texas to Nebraska, I’d head directly to the North Platte Canteen.  I’d need more than a drink.  I’d need assistance getting out of the car.

Truthfully the ranching communities in the Nebraska sand hills are pulling out all the stops and opening their homes to offer unique lodging opportunities. That sounds a lot to me like the sound of money in a slot machine.  I said it earlier. Perhaps you missed it or may have thought I was figuratively speaking when I said “And at ‘Oh what a price.”  The closet my friend could get to making hotel reservations in Nebraska wasn’t very close.

I’ve never stayed in a Super 8 motel, but I thought “super” was a little overstated from the looks of things on the outside.  I’ve learned that you get a better venue out of a hotel through Priceline, but the Cornhusker who owns the Super 8 Motel on cornhusker soil is “cashing in” so to speak. After all, this is a once in a lifetime kind of experience.  That being said, “$1,600 a night” to stay anywhere seems a bit over the top, but for a Super 8 experience?  Are you kidding me?

My smart friend from Texas who is on his way to the top of the “Granddad Leaderboard” is opting to stay 90 miles away in Kansas.  $1,600 for a Super 8 room in Nebraska seemed a little steep for him as well.

I’ll be eager for the rest of the story once he returns.  My apologies to my two grandsons if they read today’s blog and want to tag along with my friend’s grandsons. Granddad is going to have to pass this one up.  I might consider it, but it seems like a really long ride for one minute and 52 seconds.  I’d take my chances for 2.7 seconds on the back of “Fumanchu” before I signed up for a road trip to Nebraska.

All My Best! 

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Don

Accentuate The Positive

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The list maker has been gone for five days. Thankfully she’s coming back, but who knows when? Her mother surgery’s to correct the faulty pacemaker issue is scheduled for today. Her mother wasn’t dreading the surgery, but she wasn’t looking forward to the recovery process. Consequently, it will be several more days before the General returns home.

 

Interestingly, I recently gave some thought to how the concept of favorable anticipation in contrast to dreading something impacts the present. Isn’t it true? I’ve got an example of something that transpired recently, but I was only peripherally involved. Since the story isn’t mine to tell, I’ll let it go. But had the scenario played itself out the way I was told to expect, I was dreading my involvement in the process. When the game plan changed to be more favorable, it lightened the emotional stress I was experiencing.

 

The point I’m attempting to make is that the circumstances that loomed before me, impacted my level of contentment or sense of peace associated to the present. I suspect the same is true for you. You can be on top of the world one minute and something transpires that alters your frame of reference and immediately your focus shifts.

 

Several years ago, friends were planning their 75th wedding anniversary celebration and the wife told her husband if he died before the party, she’d kill him. Fortunately, the party subsequently fell into place as scheduled and both parties were present. It was a fun time for a host of their family members and friends.

 

I also had the sense that anticipation of the upcoming event was a catalyst that promoted a lot of satisfaction for both the husband and wife. Seriously, the privilege of celebrating a 75th wedding anniversary doesn’t come around often. It was something they looked forward to celebrating. Their record garnered respect and admiration from many.

 

In contrast, reportedly a flamboyant, Bible thumping minister from Oklahoma (Correction – I meant California) I don’t know where that came from. The man was from California has the reputation of being the most often married man. They say seven is the perfect number. “No”, in case you’re wondering, seven isn’t the number of times he said, “I do”. Seven years is the length of his longest marriage. I have the sense that his wife must have been a saint. His shortest marriage was nineteen days. Did I mention he was married 29 times?

 

Can you imagine the difficulty associated to chronicling his family tree? He had 29 wives, 19 children, 40 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. At the time of his death, no one showed up to claim his body. By default, county authorities in San Bernardino County made his final arrangements. Reportedly, they were planning on cremation.

 

Sorry, I got off track. The concept of looking forward to something adds an extra dimension of joy to one’s life. What about the contrast of dreading an experience that is to take place? Dread of something anticipated has the ability to spoil the present.

 

Consequently, the ability to keep a positive attitude and live in the present is an antidote to the emotional stress associated to dread. Give yourself a break. If you are living under the umbrella of dread, close the umbrella and walk in the sunshine. The only real task that matters is to enjoy every minute of today. Let the issues associated to tomorrow go undone until tomorrow gets here.

 

Many years ago I was dealing with some heath issues that were potentially debilitating. Initially, the thought of what could be eradicated the joy of what was my reality for that day. Consequently, I reformatted my concept of long-range planning. I redefined it as giving myself permission not to look beyond one week out.

 

Call it baby steps if you want to, but it proved to be an avenue that freed me from the sense of dread. Don’t borrow trouble and don’t let anticipated inconveniences of circumstances over which you have no control steal you joy or your ability to take delight in the day.

 

I figure my little brother in Oklahoma will probably not opt to repost this blog. If he has read this far, he is probably wondering: “What is your point?” I’m not sure I have a good answer. However, in the list maker’s absence, I’m making a list.

 

My list for the day includes:

  • Schedule the General’s car for an oil change at the dealership this week
  • Straighten up the closet by grouping my suits together, sports coats together, dress slacks together, etc. [As a side note, before the General left town she said: “You used to be neat. You are no longer neat. Being “not neat” is not acceptable.]
  • Change the filter in the fish pond

 

I could add four or five other things that need to get done to my list, but adding them will simply be overwhelming and fill me with a sense of dread. Dread spoils the day, so I’m going to stick with the baby steps.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

You’ve Got Mail

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Yesterday didn’t turn out the way we planned. Actually, I mentioned the concept in yesterday’s blog. If you recall, the pieces to the puzzle don’t always fit according to our plans. The General and I had planned to take the kids home yesterday and spend the weekend with Craig and crew. They live in Cat Spring, just outside of Sealy. I was also going to carve out the time to visit with a dear friend in LaMarque on Sunday. He is currently awaiting his heavenly homecoming. His spirits are good, but his days are numbered and from all appearances, time this side of eternity is short.

 

Mid-afternoon on Friday, the General received a telephone call that things were not well with her mom. Her mother had gone to an appointment with her cardiologist and experienced another of her pre-pacemaker dizzy spells while she was in his office. If there is an upside to that, at least the symptoms were present while she was in his office. My experience is generally one of feeling fine when I’m in the doctor’s office. That really makes it a stretch of cognition to describe the presenting problems or symptoms. Out of sight/out of mind is generally the way I operate.

 

At any rate, the wiring out of her newly installed pacemaker (May 2017) had come loose. Wouldn’t you know it? The surgeon who works with her cardiologist lives in Austin where he maintains his primary practice. He is only available on Wednesdays in Odessa. In the interim, an elderly dizzy dame was on-her-own so-to-speak to find and maintain a balancing act.

 

Fortunately, one of the General’s cousins came to the rescue and ensured the General’s mother would not be left alone. She and her husband spent the night at the General’s mother’s home on Friday. They also ensured someone was present with her until the General could arrive yesterday. The General headed westward yesterday morning while I patiently waited for our grandkids to wake up and get their stuff together before we headed toward Houston.

 

Actually, while they slept, I went into Dripping Springs to check the mail at the post office. To say that: “You’ve Got Mail” added a whole new dimension to the concept. You’ve heard of discretionary mailing in a non-descript plain brown envelope? This envelope was a beige colored plastic envelope, but it was anything other than discretionary. Trust me, the folks mailing the merchandize advertised the contents of the envelope in bold black and red lettering. Actually there was even a rough sketch of a “Bubba-Type Man from Oklahoma” wearing mostly nothing pictured on the envelope. The bold lettering read: “Feels Like Wearing Nothing At All – BUCK NAKED UNDERWEAR”.

 

Actually, initially my eyes didn’t focus on any of the wording on the envelope. I didn’t see the visual image either. I looked first at the mailing label. It was from Duluth Trading Company in Belleville, WI. I had the thought: “What has the General ordered now?” Where had I heard that company name before? It was familiar. I even let “Duluth” roll around in my head while I was attempting to process where I’d heard that company name. For the record, I figured it out before my eyes focused on “Bubba from Oklahoma “figuratively wearing nothing but a button and a bow”. So maybe Oklahoma really is a third world country after all? The decorum of more discretionary places would have opted for a different and more fully clothed physique on the outside of an envelope. After all, this is interstate commerce.  What is ordered from Oklahoma doesn’t stay in Oklahoma.

 

About the same time that I saw the visual image, I noticed the lettering. How could I have helped but see the lettering? In case there is any doubt, “Don Forrester” was the recipient’s name printed on the envelope. Trust me, there are no secrets in a small town. I figure by now, anyone who knows me will interpret today’s blog as old news. They will also know that I have Buck Naked Underwear. That is way too much information.

 

When I got back to my car, I immediately telephoned my little brother (oops – I meant “younger brother”) in Oklahoma. For the record, he was expecting my call.   His first question of me was: “Did you get one package or two?” When I answered, “One”, he said, “Well then you’ve got another package coming.” Oh my!

 

Actually, I at some point I had the thought: “Finally, this daily blog gig is paying off! I’m getting gifts in the mail.” Larry went on to explain how I came to have my own pair of Buck Naked Underwear. When I tagged Larry on a previous blog, Larry’s friends that have the ability to read and write thought the banter between us was entertaining. It was his pastor’s wife that subsequently suggested to him that he should send his brother a pair of Buck Naked Underwear and a pair of Keene sandals. Wow! Did I hear him correctly? Apparently, he said he also ordered me a pair of Keene sandals. Those things are not cheap!  Long story short, I have a very generous brother in Oklahoma.  Thanks also to his pastor’s wife for making the suggestion.  Larry may never have thought of this on his own.

 

I was touched by his generosity. Of course, he has always been a generous and kind man. He said he’d received several comments from friends at church who found the narration between us entertaining. I couldn’t help myself. Under the concept of assuming he probably hadn’t thought of it, I asked if he had shared with folks that I’d be delighted for them to regularly read my blog. He assured me his friends were smart enough to figure out how to do that if they had an interest. While I don’t disagree, I took that to be a clear “No” related to his actively assisting me in building up my readership.

 

Larry also asked what I thought of the previous comment from another member of their church. He said, “She’s as good as gold and she’d do anything for you.” At any rate, her earlier response was brief. She simply wrote: “Interesting story for our third world state! Lmao” I immediately remembered the comment. Larry then asked: “Do you know what Lmao stands for?” Without waiting for me to answer, he blurted out the meaning. Before he finished, I was looking for a nitroglycerin capsule. Larry explained: “That’s just the way we roll in Oklahoma”. He then laughed. It was music to my ears. Since nonsense is my spiritual gift, I want to be good at it. If I can make you laugh, you’ve made my day. Consequently, let me send a belated “Thank You” to the kind lady from Oklahoma who thought the blog was really funny. You’ve belatedly made my day.

 

Please know that I have the highest regards for folks in Oklahoma. My inference that not all of Larry’s friend have the ability to read and write was my hopes to get a “lol” from you. Of course, if you’re more comfortable using the “Lmao” expression, don’t let me stand in the way. I  take that as a sign that it was really funny!

 

I’d be honored if any of Larry’s friends opted to regularly read my blog. I figure birds of a feather flock together and Larry is definitely one of the good guys.  In addition, folks from Oklahoma who wear Buck Naked Underwear are really smart.  The General looked at the Buck Naked Underwear and said, “That’s the type of fabric they use on sports wear. It dries really quickly if it gets wet”. I’m not yet to the age that incontinence is a presenting problem, but in the event I get their, quick dry would work great.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Somewhere In Time

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Several months ago, a match on ancestory.com paired me with the daughter of a paternal cousin that I had not seen in several years. My dad’s family was a small family and for a portion of our lives we grew up as neighbors. I guess you could say in our early years, we lived in the family compound or at least on the same street. Our house number was 512; my grandparents were at 514 and my uncle’s house was 516. Wow! That was a long, long time ago.

 

My uncle and his family subsequently moved to Lubbock. Actually, during the course of his life, he and his family lived in lots of different places. He was a builder and worked primarily building commercial real estate. I remember when Johnny Cash and June Carpenter released their country hit: “If I Were A Carpenter.” It was a good sound, but I remember my uncle wasn’t a fan.

 

Of course, I can understand why. The lyrics of the song carried the connotation that there was something less than honorable about being a carpenter. What other explanation could you construe from: “If I were a carpenter and your were a lady, would you marry me anyway? Would you have my baby?”   If that wasn’t enough, add: “If I worked my hands in wood, would you still loved me?” I can see how a person whose trade was that of a carpenter would be a little miffed at the lyrics. It does sound somewhat denigrating.

 

Late yesterday afternoon I received a Facebook request from my uncle’s daughter. At least, I thought it was my uncle’s daughter. The three-word name on the invitation to be Facebook friends included the name “Rebecca”. I immediately accepted the invitation and with a smile on my face responded: “That’s not really your name. Your name is ‘Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane’.

 

As it turned out, the invitation wasn’t from my cousin “Becky”, but from her second oldest daughter. It was her oldest daughter that I had connected with through Ancestry.com. Annette laughingly responded to the name I had tossed back in her direction: “That’s not my name. That is the name you always call my mother.” She also mentioned that her sister had told her about my daily blog and she thought she’d enjoy reading it. Okay, so that, too, was music to my ears.

 

The name “Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane” took me back in time. I don’t remember the year, but I was traveling with my uncle and his family to see my grandparents who, too, had moved away at the beginning of my high school years. It is strange the things you remember.

 

We stopped for lunch or dinner at a café in Jacksboro, Tx. I think it was lunch, but I don’t really remember. You know the kind of café I’m talking about. They have all but disappeared from the landscape of places to eat. There was a large jukebox in the restaurant and each table had a device where you could select a song for a dime or three for a quarter. You sorted through the available songs by simply “turning the page” so to speak of the selection play list.

 

That was back in the day when “country music” was the only venue of music I listened to if I had a choice. I grew up listening to country music. None of us had a musical bone in our body and we had absolutely no musical ability. The one thing we shared was enjoyment from listening to music.

 

I am a sucker for a sale. I always have been. Three songs for a quarter in the jukebox seemed like a bargain to me. Why not? One of the three songs I selected was a song sung by Eddie Arnold. I had never heard the song before and I have never heard it since, but the title of the song has stuck with me well over half a century. The title of the song was   “ Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane”.

 

From that day forward, I have always called my cousin by that name. I guess you could say it has a musical ring to it, but as I recall, it wasn’t the kind of song you latch on to and can’t let go. However, the title of the song stuck with me.

 

Before the day ended yesterday, I had also become a Facebook friend with my cousin, Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane. I treasure the contact. The simple memory of family times together during our growing up years and times shared together at my grandparents home in Forestburg fill me with a sense of delight. I miss those times. They were good times, but they are forever captured in the resources of my mind.

 

It is nice to have the renewed connection with Mary Claire Melvina Rebecca Jane.

 

All My Best!

Don

Insiders/Outsiders

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Have you ever felt excluded? Perhaps you were on the periphery of something you really desired, but it was just beyond your reach?  What you longed for was not within your grasp. It simply wasn’t available. The experience really hurt.

 

Maybe you were twelve or thirteen years old at the time? Everyone else in your class was invited to a friend’s birthday party, but your invitation never arrived in the mail.  The invitation never arrived in the mail because it was never sent. Whether purposefully or otherwise, you were left out. The experience really hurt.

 

I sometimes listen to a talk radio station and I’m often surprised by the kinds of things that people find unsettling.  I am also surprised by the extremes they will take to extract answers. A young woman in her twenties was offended because her best friend didn’t invite her to be in her wedding party. She wanted to know why?  Instead of asking her friend, she reached out to the radio station to solicit the answer. Long story short, the best friend wasn’t included in the wedding party because the bride didn’t like the looks of her friend’s hair.  She thought the friend’s hair would spoil her wedding pictures. I think I remember that the color of her friend’s hair was blue, but I may be making that up.  Consequently, the jilted friend (blue hair or not) was left out. The experience really hurt.

 

If I were to ask for your participation in crafting my blog this morning, I bet many of you could offer an example of a time in your life when you felt excluded or left out. That is never a good experience, but you have to agree with me that it is memorable. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be thinking of it right now. In all probability, the experience really hurt. How’s that for proving my point?

 

I have a friend who vividly recalls the only birthday party her mother ever hosted for her. Of course, it was a conjoint birthday party for her brother as well.  Coincidentally, it was on his birthday and not hers, but what she didn’t know until later is that her mother made a notation on the invitations that gifts were being limited to the brother only. One was not desired for the sister.  How’s that for being excluded?  Trust me, my friend still remembers.  She still remembers because the experience really hurt. 

 

During my childhood years, I have no recall of my maternal great grandparents on Grandpa’s side. They may have been deceased before I was born. I really don’t know. I do remember that my mother never said much about her paternal grandmother apart for the fact that she wasn’t very child friendly.  Not long ago, I asked my only remaining aunt about her paternal grandmother and I was startled with the disclosure.

 

She, too, never looked forward to visiting in the home of her paternal grandparents. At family gatherings, the men and her grandmother ate together. The women and children were served last and that was only after the men folk and their mother had eaten.  Can you believe it? 

 

I can almost imagine the puzzlement and the confusion my grandmother and her sister-in-laws must have experienced.  They waited while their husbands and their father-in-law and mother-in-law dined together in the dining room before anyone else was served. Talk about feeling excluded!

 

Actually, according to my aunt, it was the cluster of women (her mother and aunts) who were waiting to feed their own children that actually prepared the meal.  My maternal great grandmother was reportedly above any of that.  She was the matriarch of the family and menial tasks like housework and cooking were beneath her.

 

Speaking of feeling excluded, is it possible to be a member of a church and long for connectivity and a sense of belonging with the family of faith only to find that for whatever reason, you never felt like your presence was wanted?  You had the sense that no one really cared whether you attended or not.   Consequently you dropped out. You made your way out the back door of the church and you never looked back. You felt excluded and unimportant.  The disappointing experience at church really hurt.

 

The numbers of people that I know who’ve experienced disappointment, rejection, criticism and emotional bruises from going to church surprises me. I’ve mentioned before that the term “family conflict” seems like an oxymoron. Certainly that is true if it happens within a family of faith.  It is a bitter contradiction to what the church teaches about grace and forgiveness.

 

People long to be a part of a welcoming, loving, inviting fellowship where everyone is valued and deemed important.  By the way, I sense our church is a church like that. We recently were paid the highest of compliments – without disclosing identifying information – I was told about a family that previously worshipped with us and then because of circumstance had to relocate.  They never again discovered a fellowship as welcoming, genuine, loving and inclusive as Henly.  Consequently, they soon dropped out of the church where they moved because they didn’t feel included. That hurts my heart.

 

We don’t always agree on everything, but regardless we are friends that stick closer than a brother. We come from different places. Some grew up in the church. Others of us discovered Henly and the place where we worship in the midst of adulthood. In fact, there is one younger couple that are relatively new to our church. They discovered the church by looking at a house to purchase in the neighborhood. The house didn’t work out, but they concluded God used the house hunt to bring them home – home to a family of faith where there is unity, a sense of family, a sense of belonging and a sense of God’s presence. 

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

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Sassy and Self-Confident

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Shortly before bedtime last night, I told the General, “I have never been more surprised or more pleased.” She agreed! What a difference a day can make if it occurs in the right venue. The General’s mother and her sister arrived in the greater Henly area (aka-my house) a week ago Wednesday. Little did I know that both planned to be here for a full week. Of course, I was fine with that and pleased that they were here.  It didn’t matter that I didn’t know the plans. The General operates on the notion that she only tells me what she thinks I have a need to know. Who knows, she says I don’t tell her anything. Perhaps it’s contagious or maybe even projection on her part. She doesn’t tell me much either.

 

Of course, during the week the General tossed several questions my direction. For starters: On the day after her mother arrived, she asked: “Would you like to go to Blanco and watch Mackenzie (the General’s nephew’s daughter) play softball this evening?” The General knew full well when she asked the question in front of her mother that the last thing I wanted to do was go watch anyone play softball. After all, we’ve been married forever and she knows my stance. Despite that knowledge, she asked anyway. What does that tell you? If you’ve got an answer, let me know. I still haven’t figured it out. But, I continue to ponder the question.

 

Common courtesy on my part would have dictated that my response would be “Sure”. After all, the General’s mother wanted to go and so did her sister. “Sure” would have been the polite response. But what would an answer of “sure” really mean? It would either mean one of two things. It could mean that I wasn’t secure enough in our relationship that I could be truthful. It could also mean that I knew full well that it didn’t matter how I responded, the die was cast: “I was going to the game”. If you’ve got a thought to the answer of this riddle, I’d really like to know.

 

As it turned out, I did go to the game. It was my idea.  Guilt is a great motivation. I could have stayed home out of selfishness or I could be hospitable and follow the extended family’s lead. Okay, so I don’t always get it right, but I went to the game.

 

Mackenzie’s grandfather (the General’s brother) saved for me what I immediately thought was the best parking place in the ballpark. It was directly behind home plate. After arriving, I went over the say hello to a friend from church and she asked: “Is that Treva’s car parked there?” I affirmed that it was and she suggested I move it. She said: “People get their windshields busted out from parking in that spot all of the time.” Wouldn’t you know it? The General’s brother was setting me up. How’s that for some level of paranoia on my part?

 

When I explained to the General’s brother that I was moving the car, he denied that a broken window was even a probability. I figured the lady from church who never misses a game probably had a better frame of reference than he did. I moved the car anyway.

 

What I most noticed about the game is that the General’s mother appeared absolutely worn out after it was over. She was moving very slowly and didn’t seem like herself. Actually, I had a similar thought when she came for Easter. She didn’t seem like herself then either. It was almost like she had aged overnight. Never before had I thought of her as old. Obviously the last several months had taken their toll.  I remember thinking: “Is this what’s it like to grow old? One day you are and the previous day you weren’t. Wasn’t aging supposed to be a gradual process?

 

I kept my eye on the General’s mother the rest of the week and I was genuinely concerned. When the entire family (myself excluded) opted to go to Johnson City to church on Mother’s Day so the General’s mother could be surrounded by her family, I thought it was a good idea. Frankly, I wasn’t sure how many more Mother’s Days she’d be here. I mean she looked worn out. It concerned me.  Slow motion doesn’t even begin to describe her demeanor.

 

When the crew returned from church in Johnson City, the General and her sister were very concerned. They both said that their mother had almost passed out during church. Had they not supported her, she probably would have fallen out of her pew. Frankly, I thought they were over-reacting. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the General’s brother preach? Is it possible that she could have fallen asleep? I’m just throwing that out there as a possibility. It is not a value judgment on my part, but the possibility did exist.

 

The General and her sister make a great tag-team. They had questions for their mother and they wanted full disclosure and truthful responses. I almost felt sorry for her.  They were playing doctor and their only frame of reference was the Internet.  Maybe I was preoccupied laughing at my own joke about her bother’s preaching, but I didn’t follow the totality of their conversation. At some point, I tuned in enough to know that the General was recommending that they call her chiropractor because her mother said her back hurt.

 

Did her mother need to see a doctor? Probably is my best answer. However, I was thinking a gerontologist not a chiropractor. My word, had the General lost reason of her sanity? As frail as her mother was looking, the last thing she needed was someone poking and prodding and popping her back. The tag-team duo of the General and her sister continued to cross-examine their mother. Okay, so the General’s mom admitted to often being dizzy.

 

I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. The General’s mother is about as close as you can get to a Carrie Nations look alike. If Carrie hadn’t led the temperance movement, Opal would have. Carrie took great delight in doing a hatchet job (literally) on taverns. She was noted for attacking alcohol-serving establishments with a hatchet.

 

No offense intended, but Carrie described herself as “a bulldog running at the feet of Jesus and barking at what he doesn’t like.” With all due respects, that sounds a little bit like my mother-in-law. Consequently, Carrie claimed a divine ordination to promote temperance by destroying bars. I wasn’t sure why the General’s mom has been dizzy, but it had nothing to do with strong drink. I’d bet my life on that one.

 

When I tuned back in, the General and her sister were thinking cardiologist. Why not? Her mother has a cardiologist. That might be a good place to start. They called the next day. Actually, they had their mother call the next day and they offered the doctor the benefit of their observations. Hands down, he had the answer. The General’s mom needed a pacemaker and she needed one soon.

 

He asked when the General’s mom would be back in Odessa. Unfortunately, her scheduled flight on Wednesday didn’t get her back in time. Wednesday is the one day each week that a colleague of her cardiologist comes to Odessa to implant pacemakers.

 

The cardiologist talked with the General. Trust me, she had lots of questions. At any rate, it was the doctor’s suggestion that the General’s mom get the pacemaker in Austin while she could be with us. He said, “I can make arrangements with a doctor in Austin to see her”. As it turned out, it was the same doctor that flies to Odessa from Austin every Wednesday to do surgery for the cardiologist. True to his word, the General’s mom went to the hospital yesterday mid-morning and was released to go home around 6:00 p.m. last night.

 

I am not making this up. It is as though the procedure restored fifteen years to her life. She no longer looks worn-out and old. Her countenance has been restored to sassy and self-confident. The old persona is back and she thankfully is her old self which really translates to her younger self.

 

Like I said earlier, “I have never been more surprised or more pleased.”

 

All My Best!

Don

What Are Your Three Things?

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My daughter looked at me like I was delusional. I said something about, “Old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”  When I responded that it was a Tom T. Hall song, she remarked: “I have never heard of Tom T. Hall and I’ve never heard that song”.  For that matter, neither had her husband. 

 

I guess you could say the song identifies three things of importance for “the old gray black gentleman” that was cleaning up the lounge.  He expressed it to the lone occupant still in the lounge this way: ““Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime, but old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”

 

Can’t you envision a conversation like that taking place?  I can almost see it in the resources of my mind.  I also like the concept that the old man could articulate three things he valued for himself.  I’m not really a dog person, but old dogs tug at my heartstrings. They move ever so slowly and you get the sense that life is hard and far more difficult for them than what they previously experienced.  Even I can have empathy with that. Secondly, I easily understand the kid thing. I don’t know that I have a favorite age when it comes to children. I like kids of all ages.  Last week I was holding a six month old and someone remarked, “that I have always been a child whisperer”.  That was music to my heart. I like kids.  Watermelon wine isn’t anything for which I have a frame of reference, but I often associate watermelon with my paternal grandfather.  When I was a kid growing up, he and Granny lived next door.  He often brought watermelons home during the summer to share with his grandkids. That too was a feel good memory for me.

 

Getting back to old dogs and those not so old, I had actually gotten on my hands and knees to retrieve a tennis ball from under an end table to return it to one of Andrea’s labs.  While I was on all fours, the dog for whom I was retrieving the ball licked me squarely in the face.  How’s that’s for a “thank you” while I was attempting to do him a favor?  It was gross!

 

Of course, it was the younger dog.  Who else?  Both dogs, young and old, think the world of granddad.  Why wouldn’t they? I know full well that if my daughter had a hint that I’d been anything other than amazingly kind to either of her dogs, she make the General look like she needed assertiveness training.  If you’ve been reading my blogs for any period of time, you intuitively know the General is emotionally healthier than that and could teach a master’s level course in pleasantly expressing oneself, making her needs known and being confident that every expectation would always be met to the letter of the law. 

 

Actually, I’m still struggling to figure out how she does that. “How did the ad for E.F. Hutton go?”  “Yes, I remember.  Thank you for asking.” It goes: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”.  The same is true of the General. 

 

The General’s ability and wherewithal to engage in an open and honest conversation about what she thinks, feels and expects is not an unmet need on her part.  Actually, I think of it as a virtue (okay, at times and annoying virtue) but at least I don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking. Would I want it any other way?  “Depends of the circumstance” is my best answer. “Lucky me”, you say.  I agree. Most folks think she should have shot me by now. Of course, I think they are dead wrong.

 

Just for the record, “It was the younger dog that licked me in the face. The older dog would never invade my space by doing that.  The younger dog???  “Well, let’s just say that he has boundary issues”.  He is all over the place.  

 

Think what you will, but a dog’s slobber on you cheek is wet and sticky and serves no useful purpose.  As I wiped the slobber from my cheek, I had the thought: “It could have been worse”.   Earlier, I had observed the younger dog giving Andrea a kiss on the mouth.  I would still be on the verge of having a gag reflex if that had happened to me.  “Oh, yuck! He could have kissed me on the mouth”.  The very thought is unnerving.  The experience of the wet kiss on the cheek was not a feel good moment. I can’t imagine the mouth.

 

The concept of “Old dogs and children and watermelon wine” immediately came to mind. The old dog was respectful of boundaries.  He didn’t get in my way or opt to lick me in the face. It was the younger dog.  Can I endearingly say: “The younger dog is a loveable mess?”  Actually, in dog talk, he makes Marley look like St. Theresa. The older dog understands and respects my limits.  Not so much for the younger dog.

 

Andrea and Kevin had been to the “home and garden show” at Palmer Auditorium in Austin. It was a work related venue for them. Reportedly, Andrew and Holly, the hosts of the “Tidy Tech” show on HGTV were present.  Andrea thought we had met them before.  Maybe it is because they live in Buda and are local.  Somehow Andrea thought that maybe our paths had intersected at one of  previous home and garden shows.  You may be thinking that perhaps the General may have procured their services to deal with me. Trust me, she doesn’t need outside help.  She’s got everything under control.

 

“I am not” a hoarder. Just for the record, let me say that again. “I am not a hoarder.”   I am not emotionally attached to a lot of stuff and nothing makes me feel better than taking the trash out to the street on Wednesday evening for Thursday morning’s trash pick up.  If I were a hoarder, I’d have a problem with that.

 

Apparently, when it comes to hoarding, there are five different levels.  From Andrea’s perspective, we don’t yet classify for even the lowest level hoarder. Just for the record, there is a big difference between being a collector and being a hoarder.  However, she does think we have too much stuff.

 

I’ve known people who fall into the Class 5 (severe) category of hoarding.  They have boxes and boxes of opened or unopened stuff sitting in their house to eventually unpack and make some kind of decision regarding the need to keep or to throw away.  In the interim, the boxes which may have represented one’s inheritance from family members long gone continue to occupy space and represent clutter on top of clutter.  I absolutely could not live that way.  Fortunately, neither could the general.

 

For that matter, our garage is less than stellar, but at least two vehicles fit inside.  I know folks who have never parked their vehicles in their garages because the garage if filled with keepsakes or throwaways that haven’t yet been determined.

 

If you look around and find that your place might qualify for the description of a mess, you might want to reach out to Andrew and Holly at Tidy Tech.  They will therapeutically help you part with your stuff or at least get it organized.  If you just want the stuff gone, you might check with the General. She doesn’t have the reputation for being particularly therapeutic, but she knows how to clear a room.

 

All My Best!

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Don