Homemade

Do you live to work or do you work to live? At Christmas, I was gifted with Clint Harp’s book: “HANDCRAFTED – A WOODWORKERS STORY”.  Two or three years ago, I heard Clint Harp share his story at a Home and Garden Show in Austin. Knowing that he was scheduled to present an overview of his claim to fame on the Fixer Upper, I gravitated to the space where he was speaking in time to catch his opening remarks. I set spellbound throughout his presentation.

His story is impressive. Coming from a highly successful background as a sales person in the medical field, he chose to leave it all behind and pursue his dream of building furniture.  I remembered being shocked at the Home and Garden show when he shared that his first endeavor at building furniture was from salvaging reclaimed wood from wooden pallets.  Can you imagine starting a furniture building business and asking the folks at H-E-B if they had any wooden pallets that you could use?  Wow!  That would be a stretch even for me.

I know virtually nothing about woodworking; however, I do remember enjoying woodshop as an elective in junior high school.  I still have in my possession a couple of things that I made. For starters, I made a picture frame. A friend, who was a budding western artist, gave me a small painting and I wanted a nice frame.  The painting is one of the things I’ve treasured since the 7thgrade. Consequently, the painting along with the frame followed me to college and to the forty different places the General and I have lived over the past fifty years.

I also have a pipe rack that I made for my dad. He smoked a pipe for many years. Did I mention, there is nothing that smells quite as good as cherry blend pipe tobacco?  In my late twenties, I attempted to smoke a pipe for about two weeks. Never, have I been that sick.  It didn’t take me long to figure out that you’d have to be certifiably crazy to continue doing something that made you sick even if you thought it made you look cool. After all, I had the herringbone tweed sports coat with the leather patches on the elbows. Add the pipe and I looked brilliant – well, maybe not so much!

My daughter has a couple of bookcases in her home that I built in 1974. We had just purchased our first home in Ft. Worth and I knew what I wanted for a bookcase. Unfortunately, I could find what I wanted and I probably couldn’t have afforded to purchase them at the time anyway. Consequently, I built my own.  

Years later, when we lived in Midland, I built a similar bookcase for my parents for Christmas one year. Consequently, after they no longer needed the bookcase, I incorporated it into our home.  Despite the fact that it is homemade, I think it has a good look. I can’t take credit for the design. A former girlfriend’s father, who was a carpenter, built one similar for their home.  I liked the design and I filed it away in my head for later use.

The thing that surprised me most about Clint Harp’s story is that he didn’t grow up building things. His maternal grandfather, who was very skilled at craftsmanship, created a dinning table for his home that seated twelve people. Consequently, as a thirty-year-old, Clint had this insatiable urge to walk away from a lucrative career that he hated, to pursue building tables.

Clint’s is a compelling story and he is now living his dream.  The thing that I found fascinating about his book is the back-stories woven into his history. I remember thinking when I heard him speak at the Home and Garden Show, that he was a very effective communicator.  He was articulate and poised and seemed perfectly at home with a microphone in his hand.  The message that came through had a relationship to his passion for making things out of wood.  Because of his maternal grandfather’s influence, it may have even been woven in his DNA. Who’s to say?

But how do you know that before you actually do it?  Maybe at some level, life has something to do with trial and error. You learn by doing. You gravitate toward the things that feel right and you steer clear of circumstances that make you uncomfortable. 

Though Clint grew up with a loving family, it was far from a stress free environment. His parents divorced when he was three and his sister was six.  In short order, both parents remarried and the balancing act of living between two families emerged overnight as a challenge he had to learn to navigate.

Clint chose an interesting word to describe the every-other-weekend shifting of kids between their parents. For starters, his mother and step-dad moved from Atlanta to Ashville, NC shortly after their marriage. For the next eight years, every other weekend, both parents would drive two hours to the halfway point between Atlanta and Ashville for the exchange of children.  The dad and step-mom would park on one side of the parking lot at Kentucky Fried Chicken and his mom and step-dad would park thirty yards away on the other side of the parking lot.   The kids would then navigate the thirty-yards on their own. Clint referred to it as “your basic prisoner exchange”.

He talks about the stress of trying to please both parents and the importance of figuring out what makes them explode, laugh or smile. You figured out what you did that seemed to work to promote peace, and you chose to do it again and again.

The book is filled with nuggets of truth discovered through trial and error.  I found it a very thoughtful read and worthy of one’s time. It includes a kaleidoscope of topics and issues that deal with family, relationships, challenges, risks, and dreams. The content of the book gave me much to think about. I recommend it.

All My Best!

Don 

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On The Fourth Day – He Barked

Snickers

It was the highest form of flattery, but I didn’t see it coming.  Long-story-short, the General’s dog has become my dog.  His first night with us, he actually snuggled against my leg as I sat on the sofa watching an episode of HGTV.  I can’t really say that the dog watched with me because to a careful observer, it appears his vision is very limited if at all.  

Under the concept of “fake it until you make it”, vision impairment doesn’t slow Snickers down any.  Initially, he had a little difficulty navigating around the house and the yard, but after bumping into things, he demonstrated a knack for doing it differently the next time.  

In terms of temperament, Snickers comes across as playful and happy.  Seriously, this dog is a charmer. His disposition is consistently happy.  His tail is always wagging and one gets the sense that he grew up in a household where he was loved and adored. Of course, a wagging tail could also signal insecurity and fear, but Snickers is very engaged with others and is a tag along. He will follow you from room to room. He doesn’t seem insecure. In fact, his difficulty in negotiating the lay of the land or the obstacles in his path is hardly noticeable. 

Of course, we were told early on about the vision difficulties.  That was not a detriment to our being a resource for Snickers. The lady at the shelter said:  “He is most housebroken dog that I’ve ever seen.” What else does one need to know? Those were the magic words that made me think Snickers was perfect for our home. Two Yorkies back, we had a dog like that. Brittany never had an accident or did anything out of line. Of course, Brittany was a year old when we got her and completely housebroken. Never once was there a regret that she had come to live with us.

Barnabas, the last Yorkie, would hike his leg just to watch me go crazy.  He, too, was a charmer, but he was also an escape artist.  Leave a door or gate open, and he was on the run.  In addition, Barnabas was never held responsible by the General for his misbehavior. Always, the accusing finger from the General credited me as the non-responsible party.  Don’t get me started. The stories I could tell could fill a book.  

The thing about Snickers that concerned me was his seeming inability to bark.  God as my witness, Snickers barks at nothing, or so I thought.  We’ve never had a dog like that.  He never barks to go outside. He simply goes to the door and sits patiently until you notice and let him out in the yard.

I know a lot more about children and child development than I know about dogs, but there has to be some similarity.  Children deprived of getting basic needs met eventually stop crying. The crying is an alert system to communicate that the child has a need that only the caregiver can provide. Generally, they are hungry or in need of a diaper change.  Sometimes they simply need to be held and cuddled. 

What happens when a child’s parent or caretaker totally ignores the communication through tears and is not attentive to the need? Eventually, the child loses their “voice” or ability to cry.  Nothing is sadder or more tragic, short of a child’s death, than an infant who has learned through neglect that they don’t have a voice. In an article entitled: “The babies who suffer in silence: How overseas orphanages are damaging children”, the author notes: 

“I am a social worker who has researched and campaigned for the reform of child protection systems across the globe for more than 30 years. But more importantly I am a parent. And so, without doubt, the most gut wrenching sound I’ve ever heard is that of silence in a ward full of children in an orphanage.  

In orphanages throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, babies have learnt not to cry because they realised no one will comfort them. They’re ignored. Forgotten. Silent”.

From what we know of Snickers story, his owner – a thirty-year-old guy, was very attached and lovingly responsible.  But, when you work in the oil business on an offshore rig, the ability to provide continuous care is impossible.  Fortunately, the dog’s owner had a back-up plan until the onset of tragic circumstances. Probably the circumstances associated to the need for the Snicker’s to have a different home was the catalyst for me to let my guard down and say: “Okay”.  Without my nod of approval, I’m almost certain the General wouldn’t have said okay.  Of course, I’m not throwing that out there as an absolute.  My approval may not have been necessary, but I like to think so. 

Okay, so maybe I’m delusional.  The General has been looking at refuge dogs for the past ten months without my knowing.  Snickers met every expectation she had for the perfect pet. So was my approval really necessary? Maybe it is best if I don’t attempt to answer that question. There is at least a question mark in my mind. 

Like I said, “It was the highest form of flattery, but I didn’t see it coming”.  I got home from church around 8:00 last night and didn’t see Snickers anywhere. I asked the General where Snickers was and she said: “He is in his crate”.  

I found that very puzzling and out of character for the General. Why would she put Snickers in his crate? That would be very out of place for her!  As the story goes, Snickers was very disturbed by my absence when I left for church. Consequently, Snickers sought the refuge of his crate and bed. He went by himself.  Are you kidding me?  

I walked into the room and it was almost as though Snickers was pouting.  I petted him and he sprang to life and followed me out of the room. The door to his crate wasn’t closed.

I subsequently walked out of the room to get something and Snickers filled the house with the sound of barking.  Wow!  Seriously? Where did that come from?  I picked him up and spoke softly to him and he immediately fell back into the category of completely content.  

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Snickers is a good judge of character. I have always heard that a man’s best friend is his dog. Perhaps there is truth to the statement. For better or worse, Snickers barked on the fourth day.

All My Best!

Don

The Dog’s Name Is Snickers

A man’s home is his castle until it isn’t.  You are probably wondering what I mean by that statement?  Actually, I’m not really sure, but the expression has filled my head for the past several days.  I’m not suggesting that there is trouble in paradise or even that the General and I are at cross-purposes because we aren’t. It is just that things have changed. Maybe it is as simple as I changed my mind.

Sometime the issues that garner national attention seemingly pale in contrast to things taking precedence in one’s personal life.  “Personal life” is a phrase that triggers the alleged remembrance of a robber who pulled a gun on a man and said: “Give me your money or it’s your life”.  The man responded: “I’m a social worker. I have no money and I have no life.”

I don’t know why I think that’s funny because there is nothing about my life that I am eager to change. I live comfortably and my life is filled with activities and involvements that provide me a sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed every morning. Even something as simple as jotting down my daily musings prompt me with an eagerness to start my day. 

There are days that I am my own worst enemy. Not everything that fills my thoughts or occupies a source of unrest should be aired in the tide of pubic opinion. I’ve lived long enough to know that my opinion doesn’t always reflect what others think or are passionate about. I probably should never have mentioned in a blog that the question regarding “the wall” paled in contrast to the issue over the General’s desire for a dog.

Case in point – the issue of whether to get a dog or remain dog free – has been a topic of much discussion around the castle for the past several weeks.  Ours is a divided household.  The General and I don’t always vote alike and we certainly don’t always find ourselves on the same side regarding life choices.  I’d also admit that I always have a 50/50 chance of things working out in my favor when there is equal passion for a course of action other than the one I prefer.

This is not an “ole poor me” scenario that is unfolding before your eyes. Like I said, I have a good life and would mostly change nothing.  To the General’s credit, when she is passionate about something “hell could freeze over” before she’d change her mind.  

Two or three weeks ago, I was surprised by her direct question: “Do you mind if I get a dog?” What kind of question was that? For the past two-years or longer following our separation from Barnabas, I’ve made it abundantly clear “we are not doing that again.”  End of story, the head of the house has spoken – right?  

Several years ago a man who’d been married a couple of years asked me: “Can you tell me what I need to do to let my wife know that I’m the boss?”  Not to be insensitive, but I almost laughed out loud.  I had the sense based on what he told me that he wanted to come and go as he pleased and saw his wife more as an indentured servant that a life partner.

I think my advice was valid, although not well received.  I suggested that he do everything he could to contribute to his wife’s happiness.  It is easy to be the boss when the message “I love you” is clear through one’s behavior and actions.  Without the behavior and actions, the words are hollow and empty.

It was a question I’d have preferred not to answer, but it was out there: “Do you mind if I get a dog?” I initially relied on my ability to reinforce that our lifestyle was no longer conducive to having a pet. We have kids with pets and they bring them to our house.  Why did we need one of our own?

I was almost speechless when she showed me a listing of Yorkies on her computer with a price tag that exceeded the price of my first new car.  I can’t remember exactly, but I may have even asked if she’d been smoking with Willie. What was she thinking?  No, we were not doing that!

The chink in my resolve for the castle to remain pet free flew out the window when the General discovered I’d subsequently reached out on Craigslist to inquire about a Yorkie puppy. It was stupid. It was dumb. I was simply doing due-diligence and garnering information. The General saw it as my raising the “white flag”.  My goose was cooked, I’d deferred to her wishes.  

Of course, the realization of my defeat was mostly filled with denial on my part, but the battle was over.  The General had crossed the finish line in front of me.  “Betrayal” is a strong word, but my daughter-in-law, Rebecca Reichardt Forrester clearly came down on the side of the General.  She sent the General the picture of a 6-year-old rescue dog that was a Yorkie/poodle mix in a rescue shelter in Sealy.  

Could it really be true, Carla Reichardt sent the General the same information.  Did I mention that no one consulted me?  Well, that’s not particularly true. The General shared the information with me.  She was moving forward with an application to receive the pet.

The dog’s name is Snickers. Are you kidding me. Who would name a dog after a candy bar?  How sweet is that?  It is also the candy I most often took off the shelf at the grocery store while waiting in line to check out.  I always ate it before I got home and no one was the wiser.

Okay, so the General talked to the rescue person in Sealy and got the back story.  The dog’s name should have been Precious, because this was the sweetest, happiest, most well behavior dog ever.  Even with limited vision, the dog managed to adjust.  

Okay, so the dog’s story along with the owners pulled at my heartstrings.  The owner of the dog was a single guy around thirty. He works off-shore in the oil business and is gone for days at a time.  Because of very tragic circumstances in his family, the loss of a loved one as well as his alternate care plan for the dog made the dog’s placement elsewhere an inevitable reality.  So, why couldn’t we help out with that?

Interestingly, as all of this was unfolding and the General was moving forward with the application process, my oldest granddaughter texted her Gram: “Does granddad know about the dog situation?”   

Let me make this perfectly clear: “The castle is better with Snickers.”  The dog has a playful personality. He is fully housebroken and he doesn’t chew up things.

All My Best

Don

P.S.  We are not getting a cat!  Of course, I had that conversation with the veterinarian yesterday. As we were leaving his office, he jokingly told me he’d have a 3 year old cat for me at our next visit.

Horse and Buggy

Okay, so is there a lesson to be learned?  The obvious answer is to always refrain from saying “Never”.  How many times have I heard the expression: “Never say never.” The truth of the matter is, no one knows what the future may hold.  

There is actually a Never Say Never Foundation that seeks to provide help to children and young adults with disabilities.  The purpose of the foundation is to help those with disabilities be able to go to camps, attend sporting events, acquire a costly prosthesis if needed and provide other support that may be necessary to overcome adversity with a positive attitude. 

Who can argue with the concept: “You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it? The only person who can limit you is you”.  I had lunch with a friend yesterday that I had not seen in a couple of months. Actually, it may have been longer than that because I almost didn’t recognize him.  He now has a beard and it completely changes his appearance.

I don’t know why that would surprise me. I also look very different with a beard than without one. Of course, I’ve shaven my beard off three or four times for brief periods since the age of thirty-two, but most people would fail to recognize me without one.  

I’ll never forget the first time I made it home after adding the look of a beard to my persona. My mother was horrified. She intuitively thought I looked like Charles Manson.  I countered that Jesus had a beard, but she wasn’t buying it. She was stern in her mandate that I shave it off.  

Thus began a tug of war that went on for years. Mother finally acquiesced and at least stopped making it a topic of conversation every time we were together.  My friend confessed that everyone seems to like his new look except his wife. She said the mustache was scratchy.  Consequently, he shaved the mustache off. I guess it falls under the concept of “happy wife – happy life”.

My friend’s new appearance reminded me of a movie from 1985.  It was filmed in Amish country and starred Harrison Ford. The film was entitled Witness and included some fairly intense scenes. But beyond the plot of the film was the unfolding of a culture unknown to most of us.  The Amish are private people and they choose to live simply for religious reasons.

Initially representatives of Paramount pictures attempted to rent a dairy farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as the main location of the film.  Reportedly, the payment of $700 a day seemed somewhat appealing, but the owners eventually said “No” because the price of admission was way too high. In the long haul, their way of life was thought to be more important than the money.

I’ve actually been to Bird-In-Hand, located in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania where it is not uncommon to see folks dressed in simple dark colored homemade clothing and riding in a horse drawn buggy.  Reportedly, even to this day for the Amish, most of their homes don’t include electricity and telephones. They value the simplicity associated with living separately from the mainstream.

Whether it was purposeful or by happenstance, the friend I met for lunch yesterday was dressed in black and wearing a black coat.  There was nothing homemade about the look, but he was definitely the “man in black” sporting an Amish face.  Frankly, I was surprised, but it was a good look.

The other thing that surprised me was his confession that he has taken up running. He reportedly finds it therapeutically beneficial. I countered that there is nothing about gasping for breath that I’d find therapeutic.  He smiled and said, “If you stay with it long enough, you get past that. It really is relaxing”.

Actually, the Amish look is not that far out of character for him.  If you forget the fact that the Amish shy away from electronics and the latest gadgets of the day, he’d fit right in.  His trademark and approach to life is one of kindness and encouragement to others.  You can count on him to consistently display a positive attitude and the love of God is the motivation behind his smile.   

He also has a farm that he uses as an occasional respite to fill his day or weekend with hard work and solitude. He finds the environment and activity replenishes his sense that all is well with the world.  While I don’t anticipate that he’d be open to an electricity free setting, I can see him spending most of his time outdoors engaged in the wonders of nature and freeing himself from the cares of the world.

Always, the guy is a source of encouragement. An hour shared with him over lunch, is always the catalyst that leaves me filled with positive thinking.  He role models the concept.  So, could I possibly be a candidate to take up jogging?  After all, I did spend an hour on the treadmill yesterday afternoon attempting to walk off the calories I enjoyed immensely at lunch.  

Was I successful? Who’s to say? The clue to the correct answer is that I was attempting to “walk off” the calories instead of running them off.  Like I said, “I don’t fare well when I’m gasping for breath.”  But I figure a four-mile walk couldn’t hurt me and is physically better for me than sitting in front of my computer.  

At some point, during the brisk walk, I attempted to read a message on my iPhone. When I had the sensation that I was soon to be dumped off the back of the treadmill for failure to keep up the pace, I put my phone away. I can’t multi-task that way. 

So, will I take up jogging instead of walking in place on a treadmill or walking through my neighborhood? Despite, the adage, “never say never”, I suspect you’ll always be correct to think not.  I probably still have the record for being the slowest 7thgrader running the 50-yard dash.  I can’t run, but I can walk fast. Catch me if you can.

All My Best!

Don

It Will Take More Than A Walk In The Park

A Walk In the Park

It will take more than a walk in the park. Sometimes I have the sense that I’m dumber than dirt. With me it apparently is always at least two steps forward and one step back unless the reverse is true. Unfortunately, there are days it feels like one step forward and two steps back.  That is true despite the fact that at a grassroots level, I want to get it right.

This morning when I turned on my apple notebook, I was forced to change my password for iCloud. In addition, the password could no longer be the same password I use for gmail. With each update to my computer, I find myself struggling just to catch up to a place of comfort where I have confidence moving forward.  

Actually, I’m giving myself more credit that I deserve. I returned home from Florida to discover my iMac hasn’t received any emails since over a week ago. Been there/done that before.  The problem magically got solved.  Well, guess what? The problem is back and I’m at a loss.  Somehow using a Big Chief Tablet and Crayola didn’t pose the difficulties I face daily with electronics.  I think I’m ready to go back to coloring books.

After years of denying that my hearing loss was interfering with accurate communication, I finally succumbed to the awareness that if I had hopes of having a conversation with anyone, I didn’t have a choice.  The General didn’t cotton to repeating herself. I had the sense that she thought I was purposefully not paying attention.  If she said it once, she said it a hundred times. The phrase “Never mind” didn’t set well with me. Just for the record, hearing impairment is not a character flaw.  

Okay, so now I have hearing aids. Problem solved! Right? – Not so fast.  Yesterday morning at church a friend confided prior to the church service: “Don, last week, no one could hear you because you talked too softly. I know your getting adjusted to hearing aids, but when you talk, you’ve got to talk louder. It was an aha moment for me. The General has been telling me I need to talk louder.  

Seriously, I thought it was a ploy on her part to get a pair of hearing aids for herself.  After all, partial deafness could be contagious. The thought of figuratively spending another truckload of cash so she could hang on to every word that came out of my mouth wasn’t all that inviting.

With my friend’s wise counsel before church yesterday morning, I recognized that I have in essence spent $6,000 so I could hear and now no one can hear me. What kind of trade-off is that?  Its nuts!  I sat in church yesterday morning during the first couple of hymns attempting to come up with a strategy for correcting the problem.  Why not just be honest?

You’d have thought it was an AA meeting. The first words out of my mouth were: “Hello  – My name is Don and I’m hearing impaired.  I just discovered that although now I can hear you, you can’t hear me. Under the concept of transparency I confessed that never have I liked to be yelled at. That is particularly true in church.  If you want to talk to me, I need to hear inside voices, not outside voices (aka – my son watching an Aggie football game on television).  

I’ve been in churches where the pastor screamed his message. That is a complete turn-off for me.  On the other hand, some folks call that “real preaching”.  Then you can chalk mine up to counterfeit, because I’m not knowingly going to become a screaming preacher. If you go that far, snakes in church could be next. I’m simply not going there. Pardon the expression but “No Way Jose!”

So I told folks I needed visual feedback. If the sound of my voice was just right, a thumbs up from them would do it for me. If the sound of my voice was too loud, sticking a finger in each of their ears would send me a visual signal and also at the same time muffle the sound. How’s that for a win/win?

Of course, in the midst of much, I face a problem of challenges. For starters, for the past four weeks I’ve been attempting to eradicate that “more than enough” look. A little weight loss could be could be extremely beneficial if I want to tighten my belt.  I’m really trying, but progress is slow.

Toward the end of the day yesterday, I managed to carve out the time to work in a four-mile walk. It was dark before I got back home.  According to my Apple watch, I burned 2,227 calories.  Of that number, only 627 were active calories. The other 1,597 were resting. I found that really confusing. So what’s the difference?  I get the sense that becoming less than “more than enough” is going to take a lot more than a walk in the park. Was the walk a total waste of time? To add insult to injury, according to another app on my iPhone, that entitled me to eat an additional 19 calories.  

The one thing I’ve learned over the past four weeks since I’ve been looking at calorie counts is that almonds are not your friend.  Consequently, my favorite snack is no longer two handfuls of almonds followed by two more handfuls of almonds.

Are almonds good for you? Some say “yes”.  I thought so myself.  Reportedly, based on a Google search: “Almonds contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, protein, magnesium and vitamin E. The health benefits of almonds include lower blood sugar levels, reduced blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. They can also reduce hunger and promote weight loss”. 

Really?  Can that possibly be true?  You’ve got to be a nut job to think so because the calorie count of almonds is beyond belief.  Ten measly almonds, (which isn’t even a good-start), has a calorie count of 70. 

Since I’ve already given you a clue, do you care to guess the number of calories in 3 almonds?  Would you believe 21?  I sound like a two-year-old, but that’s not fair.  

I ran across an interesting story in one of John Ortberg’s book last week. I mention it simply because my younger brother is keeping track of the number of times I mention John Ortberg.  In addition, the story fits with the theme of my blog.  

Ortberg tells the story of a husband and wife that seemingly were always at cross-purposes. Can you imagine?  Theirs definitely was not a marriage made in heaven or one with a storybook ending.  Long-story-short, the two simply did not get along. 

They were always at cross-purposes. According to Ortberg: “The husband worked in security, but his passion was to be a body-builder.  He was strong, sarcastic, and self-centered.  In contrast, his wife was small and timid – and angry.”  

The husband had to go to work every morning at 6:00, and his wife got up at 5:00 to fix his lunch.  John and Nancy Ortberg lived next door to the couple. They were puzzled why the wife would choose to do that since it was common knowledge from talking with her that the there was trouble in paradise. However the wife’s explanation seemed to have merit or at least offered a plausible explanation.  

The wife explained that she was secretly packing her husband’s lunches with enough calories to put weight on Shamu, the killer whale.    She loaded what he thought was dietary turkey sandwiches with butter and mayonnaise.  She put extra sugar in his yogurt and made his protein shakes with half and half. He worked out a lot, but he could never understand why his body didn’t look like the guys in the magazine.  He never knew that she was larding him up when he wasn’t looking”.  

All My Best!

Don

Double Your Pleasure

Friday morning, prior to leaving for the airport to fly from Tampa back to Austin, I took the opportunity to get some last minute pictures of the bay and the canal that borders the General’s sister & brother-in-law’s home.  It was simply a point and click experience with the camera on my iPhone.  I didn’t think much about it at the time. If fact, I didn’t even look at the pictures until the following day.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised. Every picture that I made that morning carried with it a reflection in the water of the object I was focusing on in the photograph.  Seriously, how often do you get two-for-one of anything? In terms of photographs, the extra dimension of the object reflected in the water added a meaningful aspect to the photography.  

Do you remember the Wrigley’s Doublemint Gum ads from the late 1980s and early 1990s?  “Double your pleasure  Double your fun   It’s the right one   The Doublemint gum…  Refreshen your life mint    It’s the right mint   The Doublemint gum”.

I am not sure about Doublemint gum, but I am sure that if we miss the reflections associated to the days of our lives, they becomes like sands through an hour glass that we can’t reclaim. For most of us, we don’t get the full impact of life unless we carve out the time to reflect (word usage intentional) on all that we’ve been given.  Life moves by so quickly that unless we take the time to reflect on the activities of a day, we miss the opportunities to fully explore the life lessons to be learned.

You know that what I’m saying is true because we all fall in the same category. We live life up and it figuratively flies by without our knowing. Can you deny what I’m saying is true?  Day- before-yesterday you were half your age. Your children were young and the house was a flurry of activity. Throughout their childhood(s), you had the passing thought that life would eventually slow down once the kids were grown and gone. Instead, you’ve found the opposite to be true. 

Truth-be-told, for most of us, life seems to be going past us in a blur of unrelenting activity. Someone recently asked you about your hobbies and you had the thought almost with a sense of panic: “Healthy people have hobbies, but frankly I don’t have the time”.  

Seriously, even simple things like reading a book, listening to music, visiting with friends, enjoying the outdoors and the sounds of nature have been replaced with traffic jams, over commitments and literally more than you can say grace over.  Life gets lost in living. Isn’t that your story and my story and the story of almost everyone that you know?

Let me share a nugget of truth with you that you may not have stopped to consider. When it comes to your personal life, failure to capture some of the details of your day through at least a process of thoughtful reflection will result in the same thing. What can you learn from what you’ve experienced? If you don’t slow down long enough to give it some thought, you’ll probably miss the lesson or the cause for celebration. 

It is even more helpful if you carve out the time to chronicle the experience. If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because next year or next month or next week or perhaps even tomorrow you won’t remember it. Purposefully choosing to slow down long enough to reflect on life’s experiences can be a lifeline in experiencing a sense of purpose and contentment. 

Obviously, anything I write about doesn’t fall into the category of rocket science or even complicated life lessons. Maybe its magical thinking, but I try to discover the adventure in the midst of the ordinary. I write about the simple everyday kinds of experiences that make up my life. Aren’t those the kinds of things that most of us share?

The thing I routinely discover from the feedback I receive from my daily postings is that my stories remind other people of their stories. A tender moment for me, reminds someone else of a similar experience.  When I write about the “To Do List” the General just handed me, some of my friends think they must be married to her sister because they are dealing with the same “To Do List”. 

Regardless of the topic, the same is true for every story I share. People identify with my experiences and in response, reflect on their own. 

People are hungry to get in touch with their lives. Writing it down is one way to do that.  By reflecting on a day and chronicling a memory, it captures the adventure and creates a forever memory. 

Okay so this is a stretch, but I think there is validity to the observation.  Could it be possible that the experience is an illusion and unless we carve out the time for reflection, we miss the real experience?

The year was 1967. Pick up a pen and quickly write down what you remember about 1967?  It may surprise you by the number of things that come to mind. Okay, I’ll go first. My listing is not in any particular order: “The General said ‘yes’ to my marriage proposal. I bought my first car. I accepted a late night request to accompany a patient brought to the emergency room of Hendrick Hospital in Abilene to Timberlawn, a psychiatric hospital in Dallas. Of course the patient was heavily sedated and loosely strapped to a gurney. The doctor’s order had been to ensure he was securely strapped to the gurney, but the ambulance attendant who sat in the front seat of the “station-wagon like” vehicle thought otherwise. My responsibility was to keep the patient sedated if he awakened. I was entrusted with a vial of Thorazine for an injection if that happened. Fortunately it did not until we safely arrived at Timberlawn.  

One other thing from 1967 comes to mind. It is the sound of Tammy Wynette and David Houston singing “My Elusive Dreams”. The sound fills my head this morning because in some sense the song highlights what I’m saying: “I followed you to Utah  We didn’t find it there, so we moved on…I know you’re tired of following  My elusive dreams and schemes  For they’re only fleeting things  My elusive dreams…”

The things on my list from 1967 are things I have reflected more than once across the past 52 years. I’ll never forget them.  My gut tells me that in some respect, life flies by us in a series of experiences that quickly fade away into illusions if we fail to capture the memory. It becomes permanently real when we carve out the time to reflect on the experience. 

All My Best!

Don

Reflection

 “I’m going to Kansas City – Kansas City here I come” are the lyrics that rolled around in my head most of yesterday afternoon.  Strange isn’t it, how something insignificant can latch onto one’s thought processes and steer one’s thoughts exclusively in that direction?   Our scheduled flight from Atlanta to Austin early yesterday afternoon was very delayed.  

An hour and a half after our flight should have departed Atlanta, the flight from our assigned gate made its way to the runway headed to Kansas City. Our newly posted scheduled time for departure to Austin was still at least an hour and a half later. Consequently, for a brief moment, I entertained the fantasy that the General and I were on the flight to Kansas City.  

After all, Kansas City reportedly is known for barbecue, jazz, trains, and the World War I museum. Besides that, the sound of Fats Domino belting out “Kansas City here I come” in the resources of my memory had an appealing beat to it. Do you remember the lyrics and the tune? Careful!  You’ll have a hard time getting it out of your head.

Having never been to Kansas City, the thought of going was preferable to staying for an extended period in the Atlanta airport. Been there/done that is all I can say! I might add that a little of that goes a long way!  

When Craig and his family were living in North Carolina, we frequently spent a lot more time in the Atlanta airport than we cared to spend or planned to invest.  It was not infrequent that our scheduled flight either going or returning was delayed. In fact, you could almost count on it. Sometimes it was both.  If memory serves me correctly, the longest delay we experienced was somewhere between six-to-seven hours and it was very late at night before we arrived back in Austin. 

I don’t regularly pray for patience.  Despite my need for more strength in that area of my life, the price of admission related to developing patience always seems to have an excessive cost.  Never is the price of admission such that it is comfortable to go the distance. 

So how did we manage to fill the down-time yesterday afternoon?  For starters, the General and I walked some. Of course, it was periodically so crowded in the airport that the need for patience surfaced again and again. Perhaps knowing that our delayed flight meant that we weren’t getting back to Austin in time to do much was part of the catalyst that I allowed to make me a little crazy.

Just prior to my brother-in-law chauffeuring us to the airport yesterday morning, a couple of dolphins in clear sight of their balcony (where we were standing) figuratively bid us farewell by repeatedly lifting themselves up out of the water for our viewing. Thinking back of that experience helped me hit the reset button and put a smile on my face.  We had just experienced an incredible three days in Florida. Why allow an extended stay in a crowded airport to alter the memory or spoil the day?

Earlier in the week, I had asked the General of her sister and brother-in-law, “Do they really expect us to leave?”  Seriously, we had the third floor of their home all to ourselves.  Her sister had made her office available for my use. The guest bedroom was huge and included a wall of windows with access to an outdoor balcony.  The view was absolutely incredible!  In addition, from their home it was a quick walk to the beach.  Why would we ever want to leave?  In fact, I’m still surprised that we did.

Yesterday morning there was absolutely no hint of wind.  The water was like a sheet of glass and the reflections on the water from buildings and trees that were visible was absolutely stunning.   Had I been faster with my camera, I’d have caught a bird flying about fifteen feet above the water and the identical reflection from the bottom up reflected on the water.  It was amazing.

I remember thinking yesterday morning that the beauty of it all underscored the importance of reflection. We all are privileged to reflect on the wonder and magnitude of all that we’ve been given. Yet, how often do we take advantage of the opportunities before us? Without fully processing the gifts that have come our way, we hurriedly shift our focus without fully appreciating the experiences and attempting to decipher the lessons or level of gratitude that should be ours.

Had our flight yesterday been timely, I would have rushed home to incorporate a rag-top- down, back-road two-lane, country road experience.  After all, over the past several weeks, weather in the hill country would have made that a miserable, if not impossible experience.  Reportedly, the temperature was in the mid-eighties in Austin yesterday afternoon. We were bundled-up with a jacket earlier in the week when we made our way to the Austin airport.

The bottom line is that I need to slow down and take advantage of the gift of reflection. Not everyone has extended family members with whom they enjoy the experience of shared time. Both my family of origin and the General’s family understand and value the importance of shared time. That’s not to say that I’m not the EGR (extra grace required) member of both families, but somehow we seem to make it work.

I know so many people who live with a level of estrangement from the folks they should intuitively love. That’s not to say that we always agree on everything. Even the General and I don’t always agree on everything.  Life is a process of give and take. 

Had our flight been on time yesterday, I would probably have missed the lesson associated to the importance of reflection.  We probably all need to SLOW down and reflect on all that we’ve been given.

All My Best!

Don