Low Battery

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I am in Houston through tomorrow for the annual Texas Child Care Administrator’s Conference. The conference is hosted by the Texas Alliance for Child and Family Services. I drove in yesterday morning and arrived at the Galleria hotel before 9:00 a.m. In case your wondering, that means I got up really early.

 

A person asked me on Sunday why I was attending the conference if I was retired?  Actually, the General asked me the same thing.  Historically, I’ve always satisfied my need for CEUs for my professional licenses by attending that conference.  I attend other conferences and training opportunities as well, but this conference has already been pre-approved by the regulatory agencies that govern my licenses.

 

I figure it can’t hurt to keep my professional licenses intact. I don’t anticipate ever going back to work, but this way I have the option.  Having options is a nice safety net.  In addition, the conference is a great place to see people that I only see once a year.

 

As I said, the conference started yesterday. There was only one stretch of the journey that made me a little uncomfortable, but it turned out okay. I say that, but I don’t really know for sure. So far, so good is my way of looking at it. As you can imagine, early morning traffic coming into Houston was bumper to bumper and stop and go. How I ended up in the HOV lane, I still don’t know. If you live in Oklahoma you might not be familiar with the term. It is not my intent to offend, but simply to explain my plight. An HOV lane is a high occupancy only lane. If you opt to drive in that lane without a passenger or two, it is a violation.  It is not punishable by death and I doubt that the fine is over a couple of hundred dollars, but I didn’t want either. Besides that, the General controls our checkbook.  Can you imagine the lecture I’d get.  As my little brother (oops – younger brother) might say: “That’s not a hill I want to die on”.

 

The downside to the HOV lane is that once you are in the lane, it is not as easy as the turn of a wheel to take corrective action. There is a barricade that  separates you from the line of stopped traffic. To heighten my anxiety, I could see the flashing lights of a police car in the distance up ahead on my left. Intuitively, I knew the patrolman was there to stop, ticket, arrest and haul me to jail because I didn’t have another person in the car with me.

 

Call it magical thinking, but I looked to my right thinking another head might appear. I was busted. There was no mistaking the fact that I was the lone occupant of my vehicle. To add insult to injury, the other lanes were all in stopped in a gridlock a and I was moving past them with the speed of the wind.

 

Even that made me uncomfortable. How could I enjoy flying past stopped traffic when I had no legitimate right to do so? Guilt can take the joy out of any experience. I had a flash back to the level of frustration I experience when there is ample notice that the “right lane” is closed ahead and people from behind continue to speed past you in the right lane knowing they are going to edge in front of someone far in front of you before the lane abruptly ends. It makes me a little crazy.

 

I grit my teeth, grip the steering wheel a little tighter, and ensure there is only twelve inches between the front bumper of my car and the back bumper of the vehicle in front of me. Despite my resolve, when push comes to shove, I always let the people in the car to my right cut in front of me. I let them in, but it is not because I want to.

 

I managed to get past the police car with the flashing lights on my left without incident. Actually, there were two cars pulled over. Was it for being the lone occupants in their vehicles? I don’t know. I looked the other direction. Maybe my logic was “if I don’t look in the direction of the policeman, he won’t look at me.”

 

Trust me, I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally came to the place in the stop and go traffic on my right that I could inch back over. It was stop and go traffic, but I was grateful to be out of the HOV lane. Even with that, I was at the conference hotel by 9:00 a.m.

 

Did I mention you know it is going to be a good day when the display on your car alerts you that the battery is low on your smart key? So what did that mean? For starters (pardon the pun) I didn’t know I had a smart key. On the other hand, it is smart enough to stay in my pocket when I press the start button on my car and the vehicle starts with the key out of sight. Yeah, I get it. I guess you could call that a smart key?

 

So what was the projected time frame for the “smart key” to become the dumb key (inoperable) and I’d find myself stranded. Stranded is not a good term. I went inside the hotel and picked up my registration packet and went back outside to the parking lot. As I walked, I talked to Siri. He’d know where to send me for a battery for my smart key.

 

Okay, so the first Toyota option I was provided was less than two miles from the Galleria. Could that really be right? I knew that it wasn’t, but I followed the “yellow brick road” that led to an office building two miles away. So what’s wrong with me? I knew there wasn’t a Toyota dealership that close. Despite that knowledge, I followed the verbal directions I was provided and wound up exactly where I thought I would (aka – somewhere other than a Toyota dealership).

 

Everybody is entitled to one mistake. I’m not just saying that because I inadvertently drove in the HOV lane. Making mistakes is the common denominator of mankind. I decided to let Siri off the hook. He usually gets it right. Besides that, he always asks: “Don – Is that the one you want?” Foolishly I said yes.

 

Of couse, Lilian, my granddaughter (on my twin brother’s side), had Siri change my name from Don to Granddad once. It was a very awkward hearing Siri say: “Granddad – Is that the one you want?” Of course, I had no idea how Lilian changed my name. I wasn’t present when she did so. Even if I had been present, I probably wouldn’t have figured it out.

 

The good news is that the battery for the smart key wasn’t expensive. Could I have replaced it myself? Not on your life. I would have had no idea how to do that. I watched the guy at the parts counter do it and I still would try it myself. It only cost $5.36 to have the battery replaced. Had it cost $50.36, I probably would have paid more attention to how the man behind the counter disassembled the device, removed the panel with the circuits and found the battery.

 

The upside to getting to the conference two hours early is that you have plenty of time for things like that. Of course, I wanted to get there early for the “meet and greet” time shared with old friends. That too, was magical thinking.  With the exception of folks at the registration tables, no one was there two hours early.  I even took a handful of business cards with me to pass out.

 

Later in the morning after I returned from the Toyota dealership and was still early for the conference, I got into my meet and greet mode. One friend said as I handed him my card: “When I saw you standing over here, I almost went the other direction. I don’t want any pressure to join the organization your working with in Washington”. It was subtle, but I took the warning to heart. I don’t want the reputation of having just discovered “Amway” or “Mary Kay” and being on my road to wealth and success with the intent of taking all of my friends down that road with me. Besides that, I don’t want to drive a pink Cadillac. The old Toyota with the smart key works just fine.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

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We’ll Leave The Light On For You

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One of the most often asked questions of children is: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most of us as children didn’t have to be asked. In the childhood world of make believe, we could be anything we wanted to be and we pretended we were. Weren’t you like that as a kid as well?

 

I remember when Craig was little that he wanted to either be a fireman or to ride on the back of a garbage truck. Like Art Linkletter used to say, “Kids say the darndest things”. Those dreams eventually faded as he replaced them with something else.

 

Of course, one of the rights of passage that occurs about the seventh or eighth grade is the realization that some things are out of reach. Trust me, it didn’t take me long to figure out that rocket science wasn’t my forte. While my twin brother was carrying around a slide rule in his notebook and demonstrating that his left-brain functioning exceeded mine, I was establishing myself as the school clown. Hey, I’m a funny guy! Always have been. Why not go with it?

 

Actually, I was funny even back in grade school. I know that only because after the dynamite cap explosion that sent three of us to the hospital, one of the classmates sent a get well card indicating I was missed because I was funny. She also said I was smart.   After my folks were gone, I found a stack of get-well cards that my mother had saved from our childhood. Smart and funny were the two characteristics my 6th grade friend had chronicled concerning me. Most would say I couldn’t have been too smart to be playing with dynamite.

 

The list of things that I can’t do or didn’t have the potential to do are endless. Obviously, doctor, lawyer and Indian chief were off the list early on. I simply didn’t have the hardwiring to make any of that work.

 

When we were in Maine a couple of weeks ago, we visited Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park and toured both the lighthouse and museum. Wow! Wow! Wow! You’ve got to see it to believe it. In fact the view is almost too much to fully process. The setting is picturesque with lots of rocky cliffs and crashing waves. The views from the lighthouse are incredible. I think iconic is the term used to describe the setting, but despite it’s beauty I couldn’t have made it as a lighthouse keeper. Having never lived on either coast, the possibility never existed in the resources of my thinking, but I couldn’t have done it. I couldn’t do it because I’m people needy.

 

I am not minimizing the role of the lighthouse keeper or the invaluable community service he provided, but at what a price. Talk about living in the midst of isolation in the 1800s. The job inherently had to be one of a very lonely and boring existence.

 

Unlike Tom Bodette who’s voice resonates with the line: “We’ll leave the light on for you”. I couldn’t do it. I know my limitations and the isolation and boredom would push me over the edge. I’d go stark raving mad and many of the brave courageous souls who accepted the responsibility for keeping the light on went a little off the deep end.

 

One of the stories we heard in Maine related to the tragic outcome at Sequin Lighthouse, located on a small island off the coast of Maine. Boredom can be the catalyst for disaster. It’s been said: “Idle hands are the devil’s playground”. The lighthouse keeper wanting to fill his wife’s day with pleasure reportedly purchased a piano. At least her hands wouldn’t be idle. In today’s world, he’d probably outfit her with an iPhone and an application for Solitaire. Did I mention the General invests an inordinate amount of time associated with that kind of debauchery (perhaps self-indulgence is a better word)? I don’t get it. It is total nonproductive nonsense to me.

 

Much to the chagrin of the lighthouse keeper and probably his wife as well, only one piece of sheet music arrived with the piano. When you stop to think about it, even Pachelbel’s Canon in D-Minor would get old after a while.

 

At any rate, the wife was determined to learn to play and she practiced non-stop. It was almost an addiction for her. Day in and day out, hour after hour, week after week, month after month the music of that one song filled the house. Was it music or was it the constant banging? They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps music is as well. Who’s to say?

 

With the use of an ax, the lighthouse keeper turned the piano into kindling. Sadly, his wife didn’t fare so well either. I know, it all sounds like something out of Shakespeare doesn’t it? According to legend, the keeper then jumped to his death off the lighthouse. Surely such a horrendous and violent act would forever silence the sound, but subsequent lighthouse keepers have documented the sound of hearing piano music in their journals.

 

I’ve heard it said that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but that’s not necessarily true. Perhaps if the aforementioned story is true, there is another explanation behind the violent erratic behavior.

 

It is a documented fact that in the 1890s some lighthouse keepers chose to float the lenses and keep them turning by using liquid mercury. Unfortunately, the keepers who breathed and touched the mercury on their daily cleaning rounds didn’t escape the toxic results. Chronic mercury poisoning causes confusion, depression and hallucinations. There is also documentation that some keepers uncharacteristically engaged in unpredicted and violent behavior.

 

I wouldn’t last as a lighthouse keeper. However, I will go back to Maine and look at more. The view is stunning and the people I met were keepers.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

Self-Service

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I didn’t see the car drive up, but hearing their voices made me aware of their presence. I had my back to the gasoline pump and was in the process of fueling my truck. At the sound of their voices, I turned to look in the direction of the sound. I saw him first. He was probably my son’s age or a little older.

 

I’m assuming the older lady with him was his mother. She was an attractive lady, but she looked like a fish out of water standing in front of the fuel pump. She had that “deer in the headlights look”. The man was surprisingly patient, but steadfast in providing step-by-step instructions.

 

The man had the gift of encouragement. He said to the woman: “You can do this. It really is quite simple once you know the steps involved.” Okay, I’ll admit it. I was purposefully eavesdropping. I even moved from where I was standing where my view of the two of them was unimpaired. How often do you observe a man in his late forties or early fifties teaching a parent how to put fuel in their car? Frankly, I’ve never given much thought to  the fact that there are people who haven’t had that experience.

 

I found myself wanting to engage in their conversation. I almost said, “I was out-of-state last week and the place I filled up didn’t have self-service.” I didn’t share my story because it would have been an intrusion. In addition, I was interested in hearing the tutorial the man was providing?   He suggested that she select the least expensive fuel since it worked fine in her car. I smiled at that. My dad often said the only difference between regular and premium was thirty-eight cents a gallon. Dad also purchased regular regardless of the car he was driving or the recommendation from the dealer.

 

At the Lexus dealer where I get the General’s car serviced, they provide a free loaner while your car is getting attention. At the prices they charge for service, I always take the loaner rather than wait. I figure that way you get more for your money. In the past couple of years, they’ve required you bring the loaner back with the fuel gage at the same spot it was when they loaned you the car. Prior to that, there was never the expectation that you purchase fuel. Of course, I never put over twenty-to-thirty miles on the loaner.

 

The last time I went in, the staff person walking me around the car for an inspection of the vehicle before I left the premises reminded me to purchase fuel before I returned. I asked what grade? She said: “We tell folks to use premium, but if we are doing it, we choose regular.” “Good to know”, I said without indicating the fuel grade I’d choose going forward.

 

Call it the voice of prophecy, but I predict my sister-in-law in Florida will subsequently make a comment on today’s blog. She has the inside story. Her husband retired from Chevron. I suspect she’ll set me straight and provide insight that the difference between regular and premium is a lot more than just thirty-eight cents.

 

Even though my vehicle finished fueling before the Toyota Camry the woman was filling up did, I opted to wait until they completed their transaction. I then found myself lost in thought as I was driving away wondering what that transaction held for the two of them.

 

A host of questions crossed my mind. Had the man’s father recently died leaving his mother without the skillset to know how to function independently? That was my initial thought, but things aren’t always as they seem. I could have it wrong. Maybe the husband is temporarily out of the picture due to illness, hospitalization, rehab, etc. There are any number of things that could have temporarily moved him out of the picture. Yet there was something about the sage advice provided by the man that made it seem imperative his mother develop the skill set. He used reassuring words like: “You can do this”.

 

As I drove toward home, my mind drifted to my own parents. I would be surprised to learn that my mother ever purchased fuel for her car. I tend to doubt it. She wasn’t the type. I think it would be far more likely for her to notify Dad when she needed fuel. I don’t recall that she ever made a road trip without him.

 

Dad died three years before Mother, but neither my brother nor I found we needed to provide tutorial support to her following his death to assist her with maintaining independence. Alzheimer’s had already taken away her cognitive skills for that quality of life. In fact, she went for care into a facility specializing in the treatment she needed six weeks before Dad’s death. By the time he was gone, she no longer had the recall to know he was absent.

 

If there is an upside to that, Larry and I were spared the pain of watching mother have to make an adjustment she would have found difficult under the best of circumstances. Dad did a lot that mother never had to even think about. He paid the bills. He balanced the checkbook. He serviced the cars. My mother lived a charmed life. A lot of wife’s don’t have it that easy.

 

I guess you could say: “I am my mother’s son.” I, too, have it abundantly easy. The General pays the bills and she not only balances the checkbook, she is the sole proprietor of the checkbook. Okay, so years ago I may have misplaced my personal checkbook or have forgotten to write down a check or two I’d written. That could have something to do with the General’s steadfast position that one checkbook per family is all that’s needed. And of course, the checkbook stays in her possession. If I need a check, I play the game of “General may I?” and she provides me a check. Of course, I’m pleased to say the General has never said “No”. That way, we both win continually.

 

I’m glad I happened upon the “how to purchase fuel” tutorial between a son and his mother. It was a tender moment to observe the support an adult son was providing his mother. The two of them have been on my mind ever since. If, as I suspect, the two are in the midst of living with an empty chair, my heart goes out to them. That is not an easy place to be, but I’m confident the son will continue to step up to the plate to provide the needed support. I really liked his style. The “You can do this” encouragement has to make a world of difference for his mom. Somehow, I think that’s the way it is intended to be. It was pleasant to observe.

 

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Not Playing Smoochie Poochie

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Last night the General and I visited briefly with my daughter and son-in-law. They are headed out this morning to New Orleans via SWA. They are traveling for a work related meeting that will absorb most of their week, but I suspect they’ll manage to find the time to mix pleasure with business. After all, Andrea is her father’s daughter. In addition, Kevin grew up in New Orleans so it’s like going home for him.

 

Following the week in New Orleans, they travel Friday to Washington, D.C. for the annual Marine Corps Marathon. Actually, I’m torn that I can’t be with them. I know my way around D.C. pretty well and I would make a great tour guide. On the other hand, can you imagine the crowd in Washington D.C. next weekend? The marathon is on Sunday and it will draw quite a crowd even though the number of runners is capped. According to the publicity I found: “ The event field of 30,000 is composed of runners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and more than 50 countries. Known as “The People’s Marathon,” the MCM is open to all runners ages 14 and above and is the largest marathon that does not offer prize money.

 

Last night Andrea was lamenting the fact that they will be away from Colby and Samson for nine days. I started to write: “..away from their two dogs”, but thought better of it. Colby is the oldest and the slowest of the two labs. I’d also add the most well-behaved if you consider jumping up on people and ignoring boundaries misbehavior. Personally, I do, but my daughter probably sees it differently. She thinks the younger of the two labs can do no wrong.

 

Gram was providing doggie daycare for the two critters (I mean grand-dogs) earlier in the week. Unfortunately a repairman who’d come to service our water well knocked on the door between the inside of our garage and our house. Despite my instructions for the younger dog to “stay” as I opened the door, he was past me in a flash. I definitely remember the startled look on the repairman’s face as he backed waaaaay back.

 

I managed to grab his collar (the dogs – not the repairman’s) as he made his way past me through the door. It was an awkwardly embarrassing moment. Actually, several embarrassing moments more accurately describes the scenerio. For starters, the man had no idea that the dog is harmless unless you consider an unintentional injury to whoever is foolish enough to hang on to his collar. Trust me, it added a whole new dimension to dirty dancing. For starters, the dog was intent on leading. As you might suspect, he drug me all over the dance floor (garage I mean).   For a good fifteen to twenty seconds he and I did the watusi (or was it the cotton eyed Joe)? All I know is that it was fast moving and I was absolutely not in control.

 

So as we bid farewell last night, my daughter said: “Dad – Remember that Colby is going to need a kiss on the top of her head each night”. Just for the record, that’s not going to happen. How far can you bend without breaking? I’m not going to play smoochie poochie with Colby. I may be nuts, but I’m not stark raving mad.

 

I’ve been piecing word pictures together for years, but I’m not sure I’ve ever used the phrase: “Stark raving mad”. I looked it up to find that it means “completely crazy” – synonyms: completely, totally, utterly, absolutely, downright, dead, entirely, wholly, fully, quite, altogether, thoroughly, truly…” Color that anyway you want, but it doesn’t leave any element of doubt that it means totally crazy.

 

Leo Buscaglia said that: “If you act crazy consistently you can get by with anything; otherwise they call the cops. When you stop to think about it, that is almost like a “get out of jail free” card, but I’m not kissing a dog. I’m not going to talk “baby talk” to a dog either.

 

Out of fear that someone will mistaken me for an Archie Bunker lookalike, I probably shouldn’t say that a dog’s place is outdoors rather than in-doors. The expression “dog house” has to come from somewhere. When I was a kid and we had a dog, inside the house was “off limits”. Ours was an outside dog and the dog had a dog house. You can ask my little brother (oops – younger brother). He will tell you that dogs belong outside.

 

If you think I lead a dog’s life, you should see Larry. He has two inside dogs at his house. Trust me, it wasn’t his idea. I also predict that he didn’t get a vote in the matter.

 

The world has gone nuts; maybe even stark raving mad. Dogs regardless of their size stay indoors in today’s mixed up world. No one needs a dog house anymore unless they write a blog and suggest that dogs should be outside. In that case, the dog house would be for the writer of the blog.

 

They say a “man’s home is his castle”. Trust me, while the two labs are with us, I will think I’m royalty. Colby and Samson will sit at my feet. They will follow when I go to another room and once again re-establish their positions by sitting at my feet.

 

Even the General will change her persona while they are with us. Are you ready for this: She talks “baby talk” to the dogs. I’m not complaining. I’d rather she do that than bark orders. Long story short – I’m not playing smoochie poochie.

 

All My Best!

Don

LIGHT

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I concluded yesterday’s blog with the question: “Does bad behavior get passed down from generation to generation through DNA or is it learned behavior through environmental conditioning?” The responses I received were thought provoking. There were some folks who were absolute in their opinions. Some thought DNA played a role; others not so much. Let me share a few of the responses:

 

  • “I don’t believe behavior is in the DNA. I believe it is all about choice and sometimes people use DNA to justify their choice. That being said, I also think bad vs. good can be learned behavior, but in the end it is the individuals choice to make”.

 

  • If we believe we are made in Gods image then I think we are born good. Life happens as we grow into adults & we are given free will. We have a choice.

 

  • Only by the grace of God it could be any one of us. Also by Gods grace we can rise above environment and DNA. Our hearts have to change.

 

  • Years ago when psychologist first started talking about DNA possibly affecting people and the choices they make versus learned behavior and home environment, I came down squarely on the latter. However so much more has been learned about DNA since that time that I give more credence to it playing a larger part in people’s lives than I once did. Also with 70 years now in my rear view mirror I’ve lived long enough to see some of the heredity and home environment both come into play. Guess Flip Wilson’s signature line: “The Devil Made Me Do It” was closer to correct than we thought. lol

 

  • I do not know where the behavior of children comes from whether it’s good or bad. But I believe, everyone after reaching adulthood, all have a choice with how to live our lives. I might be all wet here, dunno…

 

  • Compared to the long, labyrinthine sentences of CSL, your blogs are not toooo long. Give thanks that GRACE beats DNA.

 

  • I agree with everyone’s opinions. Having been raised in a non-nurturing home, one can only count on God’s grace to rise above the situation & ask God to provide great role models to learn “how to parent”. Time does NOT heal all wounds, but His grace can cover a multitude of sins! Don, thanks for sharing!

 

Actually, I should have broadened the question I asked in yesterday’s blog. I asked about “bad behavior”, but the real issue relates to “all behavior”. Is it learned from one’s environment and experiences or is it in the DNA? William, my oldest grandson, is the epitome of my dad made over. William was two years old at the time of my dad’s death and his interaction with my dad during his young life were limited. I’d say the way William thinks closely mirrors my dad. Is it simply a coincidence or does DNA play a role? You be the judge.

 

Of course, I’m of the mindset that behind the gift of life is the God of the universe. Like the Psalmist said: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Behind our DNA and our environment is the reality we are God’s unique design. Jeremiah wrote: “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”.

 

Can we reach our full potential or fully develop our personalities and follow the pre-ordained roadmap for our lives without the knowledge of his love and grace that provides the wherewithal to live life differently through his leadership and strength?

 

Behind the DNA and behind the environment is the God of creation. His over-riding characteristic is unconditional love. If we have the good fortune of being surrounded by others who are nurturing and loving, we get a head start in being able to process the concept of love. Perhaps that’s why Jesus pronounced: “You are the light of the world.” The marching orders for folks who know love is to share love. It changes people by providing hope.

 

We live in a broken world, but in our brokenness our acceptance, love and support of others can be life changing. Only God can make that difference in our lives and in the lives of others, but we can be the conduits of encouragement and support. At the end of the day, nurture is God given and God directed and it alters lives.

 

Our lives are best lived when we choose to be light.

 

All My Best!

Don

It Shouldn’t Hurt To Be A Child

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Some folks think my blogs are too long. On the other hand, most of the time I have additional thoughts or information I want to share, but simply opt to give it a rest. After all, there’s nothing to say that I can’t pick up where I left off the next day. Certainly that is true concerning my blog from yesterday. I was dealing with the concept of “bad” and some folks just don’t get it. The line I shared was from C.S. Lewis: “No one knows how bad they are till they have tried very hard to be good”.

 

 

Across the years I haven’t personally met many people that I thought were the epitome of evil and void of any redeeming virtues. That’s not to say that some didn’t come close. I’ve met people I didn’t want to be around, but they weren’t folks that filled me with fear. Of course, I’d be hard pressed to be in a cheerleader position for folks that want to purposefully promote harm.

 

That being said, I remember a sermon by Joel Gregory where he used the illustration about observing a distraught mother sobbing over a fresh grave in Rose Hill Cemetery in Fort Worth. As it turned out, the fresh grave was that of Lee Harvey Oswald. I think we sometimes forget that even the perpetrators of the most horrendous acts of harm are people generally regarded as family and important to someone.

 

Of course there are exceptions. I know a preacher who always ritualized “Mother’s Day” at church services by asking who was the oldest mother, who was the youngest, who had the most children, etc. In an attempt to add a dimension of levity, he asked: “Is there a mother who wishes one of her children hadn’t been born?” No sooner had the question slipped through his lips than a mother stood and said: “Billy Ray has been nothing but trouble since the day he was born. I would have been better off without him.” Wow! I bet my friend changed his mother’s day ritual going forward.

 

On my flight from Boston to Austin last week, I started reading an electronic book with a captivating title. It was entitled “Not My Father’s Son”. The book is autobiographical and included the kinds of detail that only a child from a hard place could remember with amazing accuracy. It was heart wrenching. All of the kid’s life, he never got a break unless you want to include the broken spirit and the horror of living through humiliation and the flagrant physical and emotional abuse that surrounded almost every day life of his life.

 

Early in the book, the author described a scene where his father complained that he needed a haircut. Before the evening was over, the father dragged his eight-year-old son (I’m stating the age from memory – he may have been younger) to the barn and used sheep shears on his head. In the process, the eight-year-old lost chucks of hair and his face and neck were gouged multiple times by the shears. Like I said earlier, the amazing accuracy with which the writer shared his story made the experience real in the mind of the reader. It hurts my heart that it is possible for children to find themselves in such egregious circumstances.

 

The little boy was not a stranger to the concept of fear. His greatest fear was going home after school and page after page in the early part of the book, he highlights the horror he lived through. You wonder how a parent could repeatedly take such delight in placing their child in harms way? Why didn’t someone intervene? Why didn’t his mother intervene?

 

One day this week, I visited with a friend by phone. She had read my blog on six-degrees-of-separation and opted to share a personal story with me. In terms of background, she said that following her father’s death, her mother subsequently remarried. Her mother’s new husband proved to be emotionally abusive and consistently unkind. She said of him, “I have no idea why my mother chose to stay in the marriage. It was a horrible ordeal for her”.

 

At any rate, following a Christmas vacation period, my friend asked a co-worker about her holiday experience. The co-worker responded that the time with family had been an uncomfortable and emotionally exhausting experience. She described her father as being emotionally abusive and nothing was ever good enough for him. She was grateful when the holiday ended so she could go back to work.

 

My friend is a social worker at heart and she empathized by sharing that her mother’s husband was the same kind of guy. In the process of describing him, she mentioned his first name. The friend looked at her funny and asked: “What is his last name?” Unbeknownst to either of them before that moment, my friend’s step-father was the brother to the co-worker’s father.

 

That leads me to the question: “Does bad behavior get passed down from generation to generation through DNA or is it learned behavior through environmental conditioning?” Personally, I think it is a combination of the two, but whose really to say?

 

I worked with a lady once who often said of children whose choices were questionable: “It’s in their blood. They will never be any different. They will turn out just like their mother or dad.” We talk about breaking the generational cycle of child abuse and neglect, but if it is passed on through DNA is it really possible?

 

I figure with the gift of Grace it is possible for all things to become new. Every day is an opportunity to hit the reset button and choose to negotiate life differently. I’ve lived long enough that I’ve seen folks rise beyond their circumstances. Tomorrow doesn’t have to look like yesterday.

 

That seemingly brings us full circle back to where we started: “No one knows how bad they are till they have tried very hard to be good”.

 

All My Best!
Don

The Posting Took Me By Surprise

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I have a cousin whose grandson recently tweeted: “No one knows how bad they are till they have tried very hard to be good.” It is a serious and thoughtful quote originally shared by C.S. Lewis. The posting took me totally by surprise. But of course, I should have seen it coming.

 

For starters, I should have seen it coming because Michael is an occasional blogger and he does a thoughtful job of presenting real life issues in current time. I read his thoughts with interest. Sometimes I hang on to his words and I find myself saying “attaboy”. At other times, I think: “I’m not sure I would have expressed it that way.” Regardless, he gets kudos from me for tackling the big stuff and having a well thought out opinion.

 

My blog has a very different intent than Michael’s. My blog is designed to garner friendships and assist readers in discovering the common ground we collectively share. My chronicled experiences remind others of their experiences and there is always value in reflecting on life and the similarities we share.

 

Michael’s blog has more of a political overtone or undertone (which is it?) geared to solicit votes or sway opinions. He has political savvy, a good head on his shoulders, and a resolve to make a difference. I couldn’t live with the stress. I figure about 50% of the time, he is offending or alienating someone because they differ with his opinion.

 

Secondly, I should have seen it coming because Michael lives in Montana. Isn’t Montana known for being one of the badlands? On the surface level (pardon the pun), the term “badlands of Montana” has nothing to do with the character or values of the populace though they are few in number. Badlands is a term that describes the land. Steep slopes and the absence of vegetation characterize the terrain. If you need a visual image to wrap your head around the concept, look at some of the paintings by G Harvey. The mountains in Wyoming are not dissimilar to the mountains in Montana.

 

Of course in the late 1800s and 1900s, it was easy for bank robbers and horse thieves to take refuge and hide in Saskatchewan’s Big Muddy Valley, which extends down from Canada to northeast Montana. It makes one wonder: “Why steal it if you have no place to spend it?” I guess that gets back to the value judgment associated with “no one knows how bad they are till they have tried very hard to be good.”

 

My kids would tell you that it wasn’t always easy being the “preacher’s kid”. Like their dad, they weren’t perfect, but didn’t want to be disappointing. I figure Michael and his two brothers had a similar or even more intense experience.

 

Trust me, my kid’s didn’t have the option not to play nice. The same is true for my cousin’s grandson and his siblings. At different times over a period of about ten years, I told both of my kids at least once and sometimes twice: “ I don’t have much in common with God, but you need to know that like God, I know it before you think it, so don’t even consider doing it.” I’m not sure they paid much attention to my warning, but they were terrific kids and turned out well in adulthood.

 

Michael and his two brothers are a generation younger than my kids and they turned out to be pillars of model behavior. I figure at a very real level, they grew up with at least the potential to experience a day-to-day kind of stress that would have been alien to my kids. There are worse things (oops – I mean things with higher pressure) than being the preacher’s kid.

 

For starters, despite the fact that Michael’s parents are personable, bright, well-read, thoughtful, funny, sensitive, compassionate, and loving people, at least one of them is always packing heat. Seriously, it is probably true of both of them. In addition they “know people who know people” if you know what I mean? If “Big Brother” is always watching, they have a direct line. Of course I’m sure that none of that ever happened, but at least in the make believe world of children it could have. That has to represent some level of stress.

 

Like I said, “I chucked to myself when I saw Michael’s tweet”. Seriously, if there is a family anywhere that mirrors the Walton’s, this family comes close. The tweeter of Lewis’ quote is as close to being a John Boy Walton look-alike as you can get. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the Walton’s and I like my cousin’s family.

 

Of course the quote is attributed to C.S. Lewis. In some respects, Lewis was a man for all seasons. According to Wikipedia, “Clive Staples Lewis was a British novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, broadcaster, lecturer, and Christian apologist. He held academic positions at both Oxford University and Cambridge University”. Lewis obviously fell into the category of the “gifted and talented.”
In 1956, at the age of 58, Lewis married for the first time. His wife was an American English teacher by the name of Joy Gresham. At face value, some might be inclined to think his book entitled “Surprised by Joy” was written with that relationship in mind. While I’m certain that anyone who’d been single for 58 years would have more than his share of surprises in the midst of one of life’s most ordained and significant commits, his book about Joy does not pertain to his marriage or his wife. It is about his faith walk or the re-emergence of his faith-walk as some think.

 

Lewis’ time with Joy was limited. She died within four years of their marriage. As you might suspect, her death impacted him dramatically. Lewis described the darkness of his journey through the grief process in his book entitled A Grief Observed.

 

C.S. Lewis wrote a number of children’s books, but I’d describe him as a brilliantly sophisticated and a very deep thinker. In fact, the quote Michael shared is one example: “No one knows how bad he or she are till they have tried very hard to be good”. How do you wrap you head totally around that concept?  Obviously Michael has figured out how to do that. He, too, is a sophisticated and very deep thinker.  I’m glad we are kin.

 

 

All My Best!

Don