Don’t Load The Cart – Ask For Curb Service

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If you had your life to live over, would you do it the same way? I’m tempted to say I’d try to avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, but would I really?   Don’t we learn from our mistakes? Don’t we grow from all that comes our way? We are a composite of both strengths and weaknesses. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have an Achilles heel of some sort. There is a chink in the armor.  Broken is the only way we come. It’s just that some folks are better than others at camouflaging their imperfection.

You are probably wondering where I’m going with this dialogue. Perhaps you think I am wondering as well. Perhaps you are right, but I had an experience Saturday that was bothersome. Should it have created a problem for me? I don’t know, but it momentarily took the wind out of my sails. In a spirit of transparency, I thought I’d throw it out there and let you be the judge.

The General and I made a quick run to Home Depot on Saturday. You guessed it. The General wanted us to pick up an additional twenty bags of mulch for the back yard. To her credit, she personally opened and spread the previous ten bags we purchased while I was at work one day last week. I was amazed!   The fact that she’d even consider doing it was totally off my radar screen. The General doesn’t do yard work.

I guess her vision of how she wants the back yard to look took precedence and she opted to take matters into her own hands. On the other hand, maybe she got tired of waiting on me to get it done. Either that or she had the thought: “If you want it done right, do it yourself.” In my defense, I hadn’t been home since we purchased the mulch. I simply unloaded it from the truck and strategically placed the unopened bags in the yard. I lugged them over my right shoulder with the bag leaning against the right side of my head.

While I was pleased that the General exercised (pardon the pun) the initiative, I have to confess that I found it a little unsettling. Her do-it-yourself- approach when it comes to yard work is not typical. It is a paradigm shift. So what was that all about? Maybe I’m a little overly sensitive since a friend from college mentioned that the cemetery is full of indispensible people. Has the General turned the corner and determined that it is time for the old horse to be put out to pasture?

This is crazy talk, but I am still puzzled how bags of wet mulch could weigh as much as those seemed to weigh. I have lugged bags of mulch for years and remember that when wet, they seem to weigh a ton, but I’ve never really struggled with the adventure. I’ve just done it.

Saturday when we went back to Home Depot, to my dismay the bags of much were still wet. In fact, water was dripping from the bottom of each bag I picked up. I started to write, “struggled to pick up”, but couldn’t bring myself to be that transparent. Did I struggle or did I not? I’m not saying, but I will admit the bags were heavy. I was grateful when I stacked the 20th bag on the cart.

Do you have any idea how much twenty bags of wet mulch weighs? Let me know if you do. I don’t know, but I do know it took everything I could muster to get the cart going in the direction of the check out stand. Did I mention it wasn’t rolling very quickly? In fact, after about ten feet it almost came to a total stop.

I wasn’t gasping for air, but I was borderline out-of-breath. How could that be? I’m in great shape physically. At least, I tell myself that my physical health status is great.   Stopping to determine what “Plan B” looked like, I had a flash back to childhood. Do your remember the cartoon character “Popeye the Sailor Man?” The cartoon’s theme song was dancing around in my head.

I can still clearly hear the words: “I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. I’m Popeye the Sailor Man. I’m strong to the finich, cause I eats me spinach. I’m Popeye the Sailor Man”. It was all I could do not to attempt to flex my arm muscles. Fortunately discretion prevailed. So did the outline for “Plan B”. The cart was simply too heavy. I’d go get another empty cart and unload ten bags of very wet and heavy mulch from the loaded cart. That is exactly what I did. That’s pretty clever, don’t you think?

I pushed the first metal cart with ten bags of wet mulch near the check out stand and walked to the back of the store to push the second. As I was checking out with the first cart, the clerk asked, “Do you need any help?” Under normal circumstances I would have answered, “No”. But since I didn’t have my spinach and I was dreading unloading twenty bags of wet much in the back of my truck, I said, “If you have someone that could help, that would be great.”

Okay, so write it down. That is the second paradigm shift. The first was the General initiating yard work on her own. The second was my being open for assistance. I rolled the first cart with 10 bags of wet mulch out to the back of my truck. As I lowered the tailgate, the “Incredible Hulk” appeared out of nowhere and pleasantly said, “Let me help.” Of course, I didn’t know at the time that he was the “Incredible Hulk”.

I responded, “Thanks, I’ll go get the second cart.” It was as I was making my way back with the second cart that I saw the man in action. He literally was standing at the end of the tailgate of my truck, picking up bags of wet/heavy mulch and tossing them in the bed of my truck like they were made out of Styrofoam. It was amazingly unbelievable. He had the first cart unloaded by the time I got back with the second. At his instance, he mostly unloaded the second cart single handedly as well.

Honestly, he looked like Bluto in Popeye the Sailor Man. Actually, that’s not nice. He was a lot bigger than me (muscular is a more accurate word). He didn’t resemble Bluto, but he was physically strong. He was also incredible kind.

The General told me later, she mentioned as he was unloading the first cart, “You won’t have to go to the gym today. You’re getting a workout.” He responded, “I don’t go to the gym on the days I work here, but I do regularly go to the gym.” He also told her the mulch we purchased was the most popular mulch sold in the store. Consequently, they have a supply outside up near the front. He said, “Next time you need mulch, just tell us and drive to the front. We’ll load it for you. You don’t need to load it on a cart.”

Olive Oil, (I mean the General) was impressed! I guess I was as well. I attempted to give the man a generous tip, but he declined and smilingly said, “I get paid to do this.” I started to ask permission to take his picture for my blog, but decided he might think I was a little weird. At any rate, “KUDOS” to the guy at Home Depot and thanks for the tip. Next time, I won’t load a cart. I’ll simply ask for curb service.  At the end of the day, I was more than a little envious of his strength and ability to hurl bags of wet mulch.

At the General’s insistence, I purchased a new wheelbarrow before we left Home Depot. My old one was shot.  She knew I needed something to move twenty bags of wet mulch with. At least she thought I did, but she was wrong.  I parked my truck next to the fence, climbed in the back of the bed and physically hurled the bags of mulch over the fence. I guess I was more than a little envious of the ability I had seen displayed by the man of steel.  Was in envy or was it jealously?  I’m not sure, but that too was a paradigm shift from my usual demeanor.

After physically lugging the bags of mulch I had tossed over the fence to their respective locations without using my new wheelbarrow, I subsequently went to the next project of cleaning out the garage.  By the time I finished, to my surprise, the General and spread all the mulch.  She thinks we need six more bags.  I know what you’re thinking, but we won’t go there.  I’m not going to mention that superman could have them loaded in seconds.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

 

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Travis & Dotsy -Love Finds A Way

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I like stories with happy endings. I suspect we all do. Isn’t it true that every cloud has a silver lining? I’ve heard that expression for years, but I’m really not sure I know what it means. If every cloud has a silver lining, how does that play itself out in the context of one’s life?

About mid-afternoon yesterday, I thought about the movie, “Love Story”. Maybe the thought had some relationship to today being Valentine’s Day. Isn’t it all about sharing love? In fact, as I write these words the lyrics to the sound track roll around in my head. The last stanza tugs at my heartstrings:

“Can love be measured by the hours in a day?

I have no answers now, but this much I can say

I know I’ll need her ’till the stars all burn away

And she’ll be there, she’ll be there.”

There’s no denying it, I left the movie theatre with tears streaming down my cheeks. I guess I’m an emotional kind of guy. Maybe tears come easily for me. Perhaps they do. I’ve been known to get teary-eyed watching re-runs of the television series, “The Waltons”.

That television series started the year after Love Story was released in theatres. The Waltons chronicles the life and trials of a 1930s and 1940s Virginia mountain family through the financial depression and World War II.

Love Story, on the other hand, was the movie about a young couple that met in college, fell in love and subsequently wanted to get married. They are as different as night and day. He is a student at Harvard and comes from an affluent upper-class family. He plays ice hockey for relaxation and plans to attend law school. She is a student of classical music and is the daughter of a working class family. Despite her lower socio-economic background, she is a classy lady. She is quick witted and fun to be around. She has dreams of subsequently studying music in Paris.

Long-story-short, his father disowns him because he is marrying someone from a lower socio-economic background. She sets aside her dreams of studying music in Paris to marry and they struggle financially to pay the husband’s way through law school. The wife works as a private-school teacher while her husband attends law school. The happy day finally arrives where life is going to get better.

 You know the drill. At the age of twenty-four, they had achieved much to their credit. He is now an attorney and is working with a prestigious law firm. They have hopes to start a family soon and life is sweet beyond belief, or so they thought. She is subsequently diagnosed with a terminal illness and what began with promise abruptly ends with her passing. Trust me, it at least gets honorable mention for a very sad story.

Let me share a different scenario with you. It, too, is a love story. It is a true love story. It is the story of my uncle and aunt. It begins very differently. From my perspective, that is one of the reasons the story is a tremendous affirmation of the power of love. 

I was in the first grade when my Uncle Travis joined the army and was off the see the world. He was twenty-one years old. His first tour of duty was somewhere in Korea. I remember he wrote my mother asking if she’d send any clothing Ronnie and I had outgrown. He had somehow run across a little boy whose needs were great. Travis thought it would also be good for him to have a pair of cowboy boots. If you had known Travis, none of that would surprise you. He was an advocate for children. It must have been in the DNA. It runs throughout the family line.

I know it’s hard to believe, but the U.S. Army made a mistake. They had intended to send my uncle to Japan instead of Korea. I don’t remember how long he was in Korea, but they subsequently moved him to Japan. I do remember he wasn’t in Japan very long.

It is a painful and sad memory, but I recall my mother breaking into tears while she was on a long-distance telephone call. My grandmother telephoned to say they had just received word that Travis was very ill. He had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The prognosis was grim. He reportedly had about six months to live.

Returning to the States, Travis went back home and attempted to negotiate treatment and live some semblance of a full life in a very short time. Ringgold was a very small community and the adjustment was one of great difficulty. He started dating Dotsy, the girl across the street.

Reportedly, when they’d been in school, he’d never paid attention to her. Dotsy was younger than Travis. She later confided that she had the biggest crush on him in school, but he never even noticed. They hit it off well after his return home.

One day Travis announced to his parents, “I can’t do this. Everywhere I go people treat me like I’m sick. I can’t live like this. I’m going to Odessa and get a job. I’ll stay with Neva and Wayne.” He told Dotsy, “I’m sorry. I don’t have a future. We need to say goodbye.” 

Obviously, my uncle didn’t always get it right. That, too, may be in the DNA. Dotsy had other plans. At it turned out, she had an aunt in Odessa. She went to stay with her aunt.  She found a job and the courtship continued.

Actually, despite the prognosis that time was very short, Travis and Dotsy got married shortly after coming to Odessa. I have such fond memories of the time my uncle and aunt shared with us. Dotsy stole her hearts. She was kid-friendly, too. She taught us to paint by numbers. She took us to the roller skating rink on almost a weekly basis. Travis and Dotsy spent lots of time with our family. They were fun.

My uncle never told folks in Odessa he was ill. He got a job as a car salesman at the Ford dealership. One day he came by our house driving a 1956 red Ford Thunderbird. I remember it like it was yesterday.

As it turned out, my uncle’s doctor at Brooks Army Hospital in San Antonio was a kind man. Actually, as luck would have it (or maybe it was part of the silver lining), he was the same doctor who had diagnosed my uncle’s illness in Japan. He transferred back to the States about the same time my uncle came back. He told my uncle to live a normal life. He encouraged them: “Buy a house if you want. Have children if you want. Don’t put off anything just because you’re ill”.

Travis and Dotsy lived life to the fullest. By the time they were married, he had already lived beyond the initial time-line provided.  Instead of living six months, my uncle lived six years. They were good years. Love shared together was like the balm in Gilead. Their marriage was filled with happiness.  

In addition, they were blessed with a daughter. Denise, my cousin, was eight-months-old when her dad died. I will never forget the sadness of that experience. Fortunately, our family retained Dotsy as a family member for the remainder of her life and she lived many more years. Love has a way of drawing people in. My grandparents were two of the most loving people I’ve ever known. They passed those same values on to their children. Of course, Dotsy stayed a part of our family. Isn’t family forever? 

I think it is true. There is a silver lining in every cloud and it manifests itself in the course of life. Very often it looks a lot like love. We have God to thank for that. God is love. 

All My Best!

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Don

 

BINGO

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It was an evening of surprises. A recently formed ladies group at church suggested a Valentine’s Day party as an opportunity to orchestrate shared time. It really is true, people both need and benefit from opportunities to enjoy shared time. The silent killer that steals both a sense of joy and ultimately shortens our life is that of isolation. We were created for community. The Scripture maintains that it is not good for man to be alone. People need people, yet out of some flaw in our thought process we most often opt for privacy and the chink in our armor is our failure to understand the importance of living with a sense of connection.

It was Albert Schweitzer who said: “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness. A comprehensive study conducted by researches from Duke University and the University of Arizona concluded that 25% of adults have no one with whom they can talk bout their personal troubles or share their successes. If you exclude family members, the rate of isolation escalates to more than 50%. Studies of elderly people are significantly higher. People need people, but for whatever reason we blindly opt to live in isolation rather than a sense of shared community.

It should come to no surprise to any of us that have the ability to read that cigarette smoking can be deadly. After all, how many years have packages of cigarettes been required to carry a warning label? The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 (Public Law 89–92) required that the warning: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health” be placed in small print on one of the side panels of each cigarette package. Two years later, the required notice became even more pronounced: “Warning: Cigarette Smoking Is Dangerous to Health and May Cause Death from Cancer and Other Diseases.” Since that time, the list of negative health warns benefits have increased to about nine different warnings.

What most of us fail to comprehend is that living in isolation is equally harmful. Research about the health effects of social isolation indicates that isolation is a silent killer. The person doesn’t even have to feel lonely or be aware of the inherent danger to be adversely affected. People need people.

One of the surprises from last night’s valentine’s party was the number of participants. Truthfully, I figured it would be about half a handful. For one thing, some of us are getting too old to drive at night. I don’t have a problem with night driving as long as I’m going forward, but recent experience indicates that backing up is a problem for me. For another reason, many of us are mistakenly content to miss opportunities for shared time with others.

When fifty people made reservations to attend the party, I was surprised. As it turned out, there were some last minute cancellations due to conflicts, but we had an exceptional turnout for the party. The meal was exceptional and the shared time rejuvenated my spirit. I say that even though part of the evening included table games. I don’t play table games and I don’t play Bingo if I can avoid it. Last night I couldn’t. I even announced to those at my table, I have no frame of reference for BINGO, I’m not Catholic. I’m not sure where that came from? I don’t always get it right.

As I was bemoaning the fact that opting out didn’t appear to be available, a young man at the table said, “I don’t like BINGO either. Shouldn’t you lead by example?” Okay, so I misinterpreted his meaning. I thought he was suggesting I be a good sport and participate. I immediately felt guilty. Perhaps being Baptist is a lot like being Catholic. I think we both easily succumb to guilt. (PLEASE – NO OFFENSE INTENDED IF YOU ARE CATHOLIC. I DON”T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT).

I opted to become an enthusiastic participant in what proved to be several rounds of BINGO. Of course, “BINGO” was Modified To HEART on our game cards. Okay, I admit it. It was a fun evening. I’d do it again.

The thing I most valued about the evening is that I got to know some people better. Isn’t it true that when you get to know people better, the connection feels good and you benefit from their friendship? Sitting at our table were two relatively new families to our family of faith. Tom and Susan are from Missouri, but now are Texans by choice. They fit perfectly in the dynamic of our community. The same is true for Jonathan, Renee and their three children, Cory, Camden and Kylie. They are an absolutely delightful family. Renee grew up in Pennsylvania. Jonathan is from the Valley. Their family now calls Henly home.

Another highlight for the evening is that just prior to the party’s beginning, Jonathan and his son were flying their drone in the church parking lot. What an amazing machine! Jonathan’s hobby is radio controlled aircraft. He has several planes and two drones. The camera on the drone was reflecting pictures from above the church. It was impressive.

My grandson Jake, got a toy for Christmas that functioned like a drone. Last week, he sadly shared that it had broken.  You know what they say, “The only difference between boys and men is the price of their toys”. Jonathan’s drone is made to last. What an incredible flying machine.  Okay, it’s true. I want one. Will I get it? Probably not, but I’ll probably look for more opportunities for shared time with Jonathan and his son Cory.  It’s not just for the drone. I like their company.

Why not do something good for your health today? Share time with people.

All My Best!

Don

The Look Of Forgiveness

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This year’s Ash Wednesday experience got off to a really rough start. Of course, “rough start” is a relative term. Perhaps I am being a little too dramatic in describing it as such. I can assure you that when it comes to things that matter most, my experience didn’t touch the radar screen for a rough start. At least I have the level of awareness to know I’m now dealing with facts. Isn’t that one of my commitments to you? Everything I publish is the facts, nothing but the facts. If the General chooses to disagree, so-be-it, but it still doesn’t alter reality or at least my perception of reality.

Maybe I should classify my early morning experience on Ash Wednesday as a jolting experience rather than a rough start? Yes, I think “jolting” is the correct term. Isn’t one of the definitions of jolting to “startle somebody into reality?”

In my defense, it was pitch black outside at 5:30 a.m. I had set the alarm for 4:30 the night before because I needed to get an early start. I had places to go and things to do. Isn’t that consistently the story of my life? I’m not complaining. I’m grateful that I’m not a couch potato and that I’ve got a job. It was my hope to be in Houston early morning. Consequently, I needed to hurry and hurry I did.

I loaded my luggage in the car, got in, fastened my seat belt and had the car backed out off the concrete pad and was on the crushed granite driveway before the rearview camera even had time to become operative. Not to worry! I’ve backed out of the driveway enough times over the past 13 ½ years that I can do it in the dark and not even have to think twice about it. In fact, I could even do it with my eyes shut. At least that was true until I had the jolting experience.

I am not just figuratively speaking when I say I was “startled back into reality”. I simply had forgotten that I had backed the General’s car out of the drive the night before. Folks were scheduled to come first thing Wednesday morning to replace our garage door. The garage door needed to be replaced because it was irreparably damaged when I backed the General’s car into it back in October. Actually the door was marginally operable until about three or four weeks ago. It finally reached the point where the up and down no longer went up and down. Consequently, since that  time our vehicles have been parked outside in the elements and near the horses (Not a good call). I was grateful that the new garage door was now ready for installation.

I was startled back into reality when I backed my work car into the General’s car. Her car was parked under the cover of darkness on the other side of the driveway. In case you’re wondering, it is true. Things that go bump in the dark can create a lot of damage. My initial thought was “Aren’t bumper’s suppose to have a 5 mph guarantee to withstand that kind of jolt without damage?” Certainly, I wasn’t backing out any faster than that. Okay, you’ve called my hand on that one. My initial thought was something other than what I’ve shared, but you get the idea that I didn’t process it as good news.

I was panic stricken as I exited the driver’s side of the car and made my way toward the back of the car. I guess more accurately I could say I went to the back of my car and to the front of the General’s car. Trust me, they were closely enmeshed.  I was attempting to calm myself with the thought that there would be absolutely no evidence of damage. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t always get it right. Certainly that was true Wednesday morning.

It was now 5:35 a.m. It was still dark outside. Maybe I was over reacting to allow something like a little bent metal or broken plastic to darken my thoughts of the day? Yet at the core of my being, I had the sense that the news would like a bee in the General’s bonnet when she learned the facts of what had happened to her car. Actually, I think mine is the name is the on the car’s title. No big deal! Right?   Well, maybe not?

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the memorial and celebration service for Mrs. Billie Sue Henna. Mrs. Henna and her husband were the founders of Texas Baptist Children’s Home. Her grandson, a pastor from San Diego, California, delivered the most heartfelt and inspiring message based on personal reflections concerning his grandmother’s life and range of influence. He told the story of playing ball in the foyer of his grandparent’s home when he was a small boy. Actually, both he and a cousin were playing ball. His big hit of the day knocked the ball into a very expensive leaded glass window located above the entryway door. It shattered one of the panes. His first response was one of fear. The next emotion was a sense of dread at having to face the consequences. He summoned his grandmother to share the news of what he had done.

He was just a small boy, but he remembers the look his grandmother gave him when she discovered what he had done. In fact, he’ll probably never forget that look as long as he lives. It was not the look of anger because something very costly had been damaged. It also wasn’t the look of criticism because, shouldn’t he have known better? It was a look that captured the essence of forgiveness. Her primary concern was to restore her grandson’s sense of calm.

When I heard that story yesterday afternoon, I had the thought “What an incredible virtue! What a great life lesson to demonstrate and role model.”  As I was sharing that thought with someone, they made the observation that grandchildren can get by with a lot more than husbands.

I don’t know what kind of look the General would have given me on Wednesday, but I dreaded the telephone conversation I knew I had before me. One of the dilemmas was determining when to convey the information. If I waited too late in the day, the General could possibly make the discovery independent of my participation. If I awakened her with my call, that might also have been a bad omen. To make a long story short, I’ll simply say the General wasn’t happy with me. Fortunately by the time I got back home on Thursday, I saw the look of forgiveness. However, she did say that both of our children think it’s time to take my car keys.

All My Best!

Don

 

Ash Wednesday

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In the Christian tradition I grew up with, Ash Wednesday was non-existent. The family of faith certainly celebrated Easter, but we were strangers to the practice of Lent. Yesterday morning, Ash Wednesday, as I made my way toward Houston, the radio talk show I was listening to made reference to “Ashes-To-Go”. Apparently “Ashes-To-Go” is an attempt to accommodate folks who are simply too busy to carve out the time for a brief church service and the application of a cross of ashes applied to one’s forehead.

It probably was at least thirty-five to forty years ago.   I went with a friend to an Episcopal church in Houston for an Ash Wednesday service. It was the first and only time I’ve had ashes applied to my forehead. I thought about that experience as I drove to Houston yesterday. I also thought about the friend I previously worked with. He and I both worked for the State and were simply in Houston at the same time in the course of our work. We went to dinner together that evening, but the first order of business was to attend an Ash Wednesday service. It was an important part of the demonstration of his faith.

In the course of yesterday, I noticed someone at the hotel where I’m staying with a cross of ashes of their forehead. Of course, closely tied to the Lent penance period is giving up something or foregoing something inherent in one’s routine as an act associated with fasting. In the ninth chapter of Daniel, there is a reference to fasting with ashes.

Reportedly, the ash used on Ash Wednesday is made of palm branches used on the previous Palm Sunday, when Christians carry palms acknowledging or yielding to the Gospels’ reference to Jesus’ path being covered with palm branches on the day he entered Jerusalem. Sometimes the ashes are mixed with oil so they will stay on the forehead for a longer period of time.

Of course, when you stop to think about it, anything we embrace or integrate in our lives to remind us of God’s love and the message of Easter has to be beneficial. I’m not sure I’m on board with the concept of “Ashes-To-Go” for the person of faith who is simply too busy to incorporate a more formalized experience of Worship in his or her routine.

Isn’t it true that the whole concept of Christianity should manifest itself in an exchanged life? Yet, how often are we so self-absorbed and focused only on our perception of what’s in our best interest that we are oblivious to the concept of investing in the lives of others.  Yet, when we move our focus from selfish ambition to meeting the needs of others, what we discover in the process is that it is also in our best interest.

Decades ago, a psychologist by the name of Daniel Yankelovich wrote an article entitled: “New Rules: Searching for Self-Fulfillment In a World Turned Upside Down”. It was published in Psychology Today magazine. Somewhere in my filing cabinet at home, I have a copy. No doubt the pages are yellowed from age. Yankelovich made the assertion that we live in a day when folks refuse to deny themselves anything, not out of a bottomless appetite, but on the strange moral conviction that “I have a duty to myself.” In other words, we have become so self-absorbed that we strangely embrace that which focuses exclusively on ourselves. The needs of our family become secondary or non-existent in our pursuit of living.

The radio talk show host yesterday morning identified several things he was considering setting aside during Lent. He hadn’t completely decided, but he would narrow his list down to one thing. That one thing would serve as a reminder to him that he was on a journey of faith.

Perhaps Ash Wednesday also serves as subtle reminder related to the physical dimension of life. “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” We live in a day where cremation has become increasingly popular. That, too, potentially impacts the message of ashes on our forehead. We all stand in need of the message of Easter. Somehow the importance of our faith walk seems way to important to simply rely on “Ashes-To-Go” for the person who is simply too busy.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

He Really Was Surprised

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My daughter sent an electronic invitation to both her mother and I early in the day on Tuesday. It was simply confirmation of the verbal invitation she had expressed privately on Sunday. We were invited to stop by for desert around 8:30 p.m. last night. Of course, the purpose for the visit was primarily to extend Birthday greetings to Kevin, our son-in-law. We were delighted with the invitation.

When we pulled up to their gate, we were a little surprised to find the gate closed. The General suggested that we telephone to ensure they were expecting us. I nixed that idea by reminding her we were invited guests. Gate open or closed, we were going in. They have not yet succumbed to the need for an automatic gate opener. Consequently, one of us needed to get out of the car and open the gate. I know what you’re thinking, but your wrong. I didn’t suggest to the General that it was her responsibility to open the gate since I was driving. There are a couple of reasons I didn’t do that. For one thing, a gentleman would never ask a lady to open a gate. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the General wouldn’t have gotten out of the car to open the gate, even if I had asked.

As we approached the driveway, the house looked mostly dark. The outside lights were on, but I wasn’t sure that either Andrea or Kevin was in the living area. As it turned out, Andrea was in the kitchen. She hurriedly invited us in and made the motion with her hand to signal us to remain quiet and follow her. I didn’t know until then that the birthday celebration was a surprise.  We dashed quickly inside and followed her to the darkened living room. She motioned for us to get on the floor behind the furniture.

Actually, there is nothing quite like a game of “hide and seek” especially when the honoree doesn’t know there is a game that needs to be played. Andrea motioned again for me to get my head down. In short order I was lying on the floor with my head partially under a chair. Kevin was nowhere to be seen, but Samson their 84-pound lab wanted to play. Like it or not, he was intent on licking me in the face.

For a brief period of time, I felt like a kid again. How many surprise birthday parties did we attend as children that we already know the drill?  You have to remain quiet and attempt to remain out of sight.  The anticipation of the look of surprise on the honoree’s face adds t0 the process and excitement.

Have I mentioned in the last several days that I’m not much of a dog person? I don’t have a lot of history being dog friendly, but I’d rather not be close enough to get licked in the face. Samson doesn’t know how to take “No” as an answer.  At the same time, Andrea was quietly laughing as she awaited Kevin’s arrival. He obviously was not in a rush. The three of us knelt behind furniture for a very long time.

When Kevin finally made his entrance in the kitchen/living area he seemed both surprised and pleased that we were there. Andrea apologized more to us than to Kevin that she had something baking in the oven and that it was not quite ready. No apology was needed. Whatever she was baking smelled fantastic. As it turned out, it was four mid-size iron skillets filled with chocolate chip cookie. I guess it is implied, but the chocolate chip cookie encased in the iron skillets were hot.

It was not my first experience to eat hot baked cookies prepared in an iron skillet and covered with ice cream. Andrea has served them before.  If you’ve not tried it, you have absolutely no idea how heart warming that experience can be.

What was most fun was watching Andrea and Kevin together. They really have an exceptional relationship. When Andrea and Kevin were dating, I often told friends that Andrea was dating an older man. Of course, that statement always was followed by the question, “How old is he?” I would always answer, “He and I are the same age.” You have no idea how many strange looks I’ve seen people make upon hearing that disclosure. Of course, after folks had an opportunity to digest the thought that my daughter was dating someone old enough to be her father, I’d laugh and say, “Not really. He isn’t as old as me, but he’s 12 years older that Andrea.

I guess you could say Kevin is a kid at heart. He doesn’t look old enough to be 12 years older than Andrea. He certainly doesn’t look old enough to be forty-seven. Since October, the two of them have worked together.  They are thoroughly enjoying the experience. Of course, when you work with your spouse you are taking a real chance. I’d never be bold enough to take a step like that. Can you imagine the potential for family conflict in a family work environment? Thanks, but no thanks!  At least, on most days when I’m at work, I have the sense that I’m working for myself.  Of course, in reality I have a boss, but in four different companies I’m at the top of the organization chart.

At any rate, it was a delightful evening. I am grateful that we live close and have lots of opportunities to visit.

All My Best!

Don

 

 

 

 

Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair?

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Yesterday a friend from college telephoned. It took him little to no time to ask: “When are you going to retire?” Instead of having an immediate answer, I paused to give it some thought. Obviously the outside pressures I’ve been experiencing are at least getting honorable mention. Almost everywhere I look someone has an unsolicited opinion. My stock answer historically has been, “Never, the General much prefers my death be work related and accidental”. Yesterday, when my friend asked, I was at least willing to consider that it might have merit to come up with a “Plan B”.

My friend from college has been retired for three or four years. Of course, it really may be closer to five or six. I don’t know for certain, but he certainly seems to enjoy not having to follow anyone’s schedule but his own. He said to me, “At your age, you don’t have that much time left”. He then added: “You need to know it goes by really fast”. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I said he was a friend. As if to add insult to injury, he went on to say: “Don’t forget the cemetery is filled with indispensable people.”

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with any of that information. Saturday night at the work related event the General and I attended, I overheard a person I work with talking to the General. I held my breath. He told me a few days earlier that when he sees her next, he is going to suggest that I take the weekends off from writing my blog. I know, you’re thinking, “Why does it matter to him?” I couldn’t agree more, but he’d say, “He is looking out for my best interests. He thinks I should do a better job of establishing boundaries”.

On the way back home on Saturday night, I asked about the conversation. I was prepared to justify my need to craft something in writing on a daily basis. Apparently he didn’t mention the blog at all. The General said he was encouraging her to ask me to retire, not because he didn’t work to work with me any longer, but because he doesn’t want to be working when he is my age. He thinks I should be kinder to myself. What’s all that about?

On Sunday evening, the General and I visited with friends who are in the process of moving. Following retirement, they are off on a new adventure and moving to Maine. That seems crazy to me, but once again wise counsel was lofted my direction. “You know, when I retired I never looked back. After getting up at 4:00 a.m. for almost as long as I can remember in order to head to work by 5:00, the first morning after retirement I slept until 7:30 a.m. You have no idea how much more rested I’ve been over the past year.”

I’m not quite ready to turn the retirement corner, but I’m not totally discounting the advice that has been hurled in my direction. When I got home from work yesterday, I noticed that the grandfather clock in our living area needed to be wound. It hadn’t stop working, but it wouldn’t have made it through the next four hours. I did a quick inventory of the other two grandfather clocks in our home. One had stopped and the other was still working, but in need of being woud.

I had the passing thought that in some respects, my life has to be like a grandfather clock. Sooner or later, I’m going to run out of time. The thought is a startling realization of how quickly time goes by. Over the course of many years, I’ve visited friends of all ages in many different homes. Often times, I noticed folks who have incredible clocks in their homes and the clocks didn’t appear to be working. The hands are no longer making their way around the face of the clock.

I remember the first time the General and I spent the night in the home of my aunt and uncle. The bedroom we slept in was adjacent to the entry foyer of their home. The grandfather clock chimed every fifteen minutes all night long. I distinctly remember thinking, how does anyone sleep through that? I obviously didn’t

At some level, perhaps the sounds relate to what you get used to hearing. We have three grandfather clocks. I purposefully keep them set at a slightly different time so I can enjoy the sounds. At night, I am unaware of their chiming every fifteen minutes or striking the time on the hour. I sleep through it all.

Getting back to hands that no longer make it around the clock. I often noticed when visiting others that their clock(s) had stopped. Was it because the clock was broken or simply because that the clock had not been wound? In addition to our grandfather clocks, we have three other chiming clocks in our home. Two are in need of repair or they’d be wound regularly. The third is now located on a bookcase in our bedroom. It is not wound because the General can’t sleep when it’s ticking.

Some time ago, a friend who periodically reads my blogs asked, “Do you think your dying?” I was shocked and answered, “I certainly hope not.” He said he garnered the thought from reading my blogs. I’m still at a loss of what he was talking about unless of course he thinks I’m dangerously close to pushing the General over the edge. But even then, I don’t think she’ll be responsible for my demise.

The thing about the hands of the clock is that they make the same route or routine every day. They never vary if they are wound and in working order. Unlike the clock, I have the opportunity for variation and adventure in life. I am not bound by the same routine day after day.

Who knows where tomorrow will take me? It may or may not have any resemblance to the day before. One of the things I value about my work is the lack of predictability of what I may find myself doing. Of course, I could discover that variation or more in a host of many other things.

As I reach this point in my blog, the music to “Have I Stayed Too Long At The Fair” is making its way through the resources of my mind. It is a good sound, but the words are haunting:

“I wanted the music to play on forever

Have I stayed too long at the fair?

I wanted the clown to be constantly clever

Have I stayed too long at the fair?

I bought me blue ribbons to tie up my hair

But I couldn’t find anybody to care

The merry-go-round is beginning to slow now

Have I stayed too long at the fair?

The music has stopped and the children must go now

Have I stayed too long at the fair?

Oh, mother dear, I know you’re very proud

Your little girl and kingdom is so far above the crowd

No, daddy dear

You never could have known

That I would be successful, yet so very much alone

I wanted to live in a carnival city

With laughter and love everywhere

I wanted my friends to be thrilling and witty

I wanted somebody to care

I found my blue ribbons all shiny and new

But now I discover them no longer blue

The merry-go-round is beginning to taunt me

Have I stayed too long at the fair?

There is nothing to win

And there’s no one to want me

Have I stayed too long at the fair?”

All My Best!

Don