Privilege and Opportunity


Spin It anyway you want, but doesn’t privilege and opportunity become defining moments in our lives?  It is only as we make choices and yield to the options before us that ultimately seal our fate and become characteristics of the legacy that we will one day leave behind.

My son will not be pleased for me to share this, but facts are facts and he can’t deny that it is true.  When he got his driver’s license at the age of sixteen he was elated.  Actually as strange as it may seem, his mother and I were as well.  After years of carting him back and forth from Henly to Johnson City for extracurricular activities, the day came when he could drive himself. All he needed was a car.

Truthfully, Craig would have been thrilled with a pickup truck. Back in the day (2nd grade through graduation) Craig was pretty intent on dressing like a cowboy or ranch-hand. Very seldom did he ever wear a pair of shorts or dress in anything other than Levis and a long sleeve shirt.

Craig will credit it to being young and desperate for wheels, but he was elated when we purchased a used Toyota Camry (2 door) from a co-worker for him to drive.   The Toyota was in mint condition, had a good look and was burnt orange.  That may not have been the official factory name for the color, but trust me, folks with a liking for Longhorn orange would have intuitively gravitated toward the car. It looked sharp.

Would Craig drive that car today?  Not on your life and it all has to do with color.  Recently my son announced to me, “My kids are so blessed to have Aggies as parents”.  How’s that for confidence and another means of substantiating that privilege and opportunity become defining moments in our lives?

Monday, the host who invited me to the Headlines Club in Austin talked about some of the club members he has met who are in their late eighties and nineties.  They may not have the physical prowess to climb 21 flights of stairs, but they still have memory and stories to tell.

One of the stories they tell relates to the popularity and good luck of a man named Rooster Andrews.  Actually, “Rooster” isn’t his real name and sometimes his luck wasn’t all that good.  In fact, the story of how he came to be call Rooster is one of those times.

“He also acquired his nickname during his freshman year. It had nothing to do with his banty-rooster size or a gravelly voice that might have sounded like a rooster’s if a rooster could talk.

“Billy Andrews became Rooster late one night when several Longhorn players who were headed to a cockfight in the nearby town of Elgin came to his room, rousted him out of bed and led him to a tall hickory tree near the Longhorn baseball field. They were birdless, they told Mr. Andrews, but when they shined a flashlight into the tree, they could see several cocks roosting high in the branches. The water boy, lithe and light, was just the man to snatch their entrant.

“I put the flashlight under my arm, skimmed the tree and it seemed like it was the Empire State Building,” Mr. Andrews told the Dallas Morning News almost 60 years later. “I got up there, and there were five or six roosters.”

“He grabbed the bird the players wanted, one they called Elmer. “When I did, he clawed my face,” he recalled. “Oh, man, he tore me up. I fell, bounced through some limbs, but I still had the rooster.”

His buddies, late for the cockfight, left Mr. Andrews under the tree with a broken arm — and with a nickname that became him”

William Edward “Rooster” Andrews, Jr. was a former University of Texas team manager who gained fame as a drop-kicking player, whom the media called the “All-American Waterboy.”

Would it surprise you to know that Rooster Andrews, the University of Texas alumni who developed the “Steerhead” Logo in 1961 and changed the bright orange color that was then used to burnt orange was one day away from going to Texas A&M.

As a 17-year-old at Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas, Andrews participated in the 1936 Texas state championship track meet as the school’s manager. There he met legendary Texas track coach Clyde Littlefieldwho put Andrews to work setting up for the Texas Relays Andrews ended up staying three extra days to work even after the track team left on the bus for Dallas. For this he was paid $9  Malcolm Kutner, a classmate of Andrews, asked Texas football coach Dana Bible to bring Andrews on as a team manager, but said that Andrews would need a job. Texas A&M coach Homer Norton also wanted Andrews as a manager and even sent him a dorm room key. But the night before Andrews was to leave for Texas A&M, Andrews’ classmate called to tell him that Bible had found him a job through the National Youth Administration so Andrews headed to Austin instead.

It really is true that privilege and opportunity become defining moments in our lives.  I guess another way to phrase it, “Be careful which rut you take, it may be a long time before you get out of it”.

All My Best!





A Room With A View


Was it the Monday morning blues? I don’t think so. I was actually in a pretty good mood when I left for work yesterday morning. But you never know what a day will bring. By mid-morning, my good mood had gone south. I was wishing I had stayed in bed and I’m not the kind of guy that can generally sleep late.

It wasn’t anything major, but sometimes frustrations can seemingly come out of nowhere. Actually, that’s not really true. With little effort most of us can draw a pretty direct line to the catalyst that changed the sunshine into dark clouds. I guess it falls under the category of “cause and effect.”

Recently I mentioned to my daughter a comment someone had hurled my direction with the force of a Molotov cocktail. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think it was their intent to be kind. I’d be the first to say, “I give way too much credence to what other people think.” The General tells me I need to get over it. Actually, my daughter pretty much said the same thing. Actually, she said more than that. She asked: “Dad, Why would you allow anyone to have that kind of power over you?” I guess in some respects, Andrea has part of her mother in her. She could have left well enough alone, but she added: “You know what was said isn’t true. Don’t give anyone the power to take away your joy. Life is too short.”

Wow! Talk about the shoe being on the other foot. Where had I heard that before? I guess it really is true: “What goes around comes around.” Life is short. She was now telling me the kinds of stuff that I was telling her when she was an adolescent. What puzzles me is why I’d needed to hear that in my late… (I’m not going to go there).

Shortly before lunch yesterday, an incredible ray of sunshine replaced the dark clouds. Talk about coloring outside the lines, I had the privilege of having lunch at The Headliner’s Club in Austin at the invitation of a friend. The ambience of being on the 21st floor with floor-to-ceiling glass walls is truly an amazing sight as one looks down on the State Capitol and into the distance. I found myself blinking my eyes in an effort to absorb it all and process the experience.

The pre-meal conversation, absorbing the sights, visiting with the kind man who was hosting the four of us from where I work and simply taking the time to choose not to be rushed added an unfamiliar concept to the way I generally have lunch. Actually, yesterday’s lunch had absolutely no similarity to any dining venue I’ve ever experienced. I guess, I can truthfully say, “It was over-the-top”.

It was more than simply being in an upscale venue where the “movers and shakers” in Austin congregate and enjoy camaraderie and fine dinning. The food was exceptional and the conversation and opportunity to visit with the man hosting us was delightful. At some level, being high above the city and taking in the view seemed almost a subtle barrier from the stress and complications of everyday life.

The very name, “The Headliner’s Club” is reflective of the venue’s history. It had the dual purpose of providing a comfortable environment for those that make the Headlines and those that write the Headlines. It was established by Charles E. Green, the long-time Executive Editor of what would become the Austin American-Statesman, in 1954. For more than 50 years, the Headliners Club has been at the top of the Austin social scene in both stature and station with its high-rise location on the 21st floor of the Chase Tower downtown.

In the small, almost private dinning area where we opted to sit, we had the place to ourselves. I found that my focus throughout most of the meal alternated between the conversation and view through the windows and the conversation and news report being delivered on a very large, wall mounted, flat screen television. The news broadcast centered on what is now known about the massacre in San Bernardino, California and the couple responsible for the carnage.

At some point, I recognized that my sense of relaxation was not nearly as calm and stress free when my focus during lunch included attempting to capture tidbits of information from the news report. When I finally gave myself permission to totally focus on that which prompted an incredible sense of calm – the conversation, the view, the incredible meal and a sense of not be hurried, the physiological impact was dramatic.

Of course before we left, at the insistence of our host, I excused myself to go to the men’s room. It is rumored to be legendary and no visit to The Headliner’s Club would be complete without it. “The ‘Old Actress’ is permanently displayed on the wall next to the men’s room. The actress herself is a haggard, unattractive woman whose image serves a distinct purpose. As members explain, when she begins to look attractive to you, then that’s the signal that you’ve had too much to drink and it’s time to go home.” The men’s room itself had quite the view. The glass walls were strategically placed to capitalize on much to see.

Later as I reflected on the experience, it occurred to me that in all of life the issue is focus. What we choose to focus on has the ability to either make or break us. We can either opt to focus on that which fills us with joy or we can choose to focus on that which threatens to steal our joy. The choice is your and the choice is mine.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think of these things. (Philippians 4:8)

All My Best!



Is Violence The New Normal?


Do you remember the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty? I thought of it as I’ve reflected on events of the past week.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

All the king’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

Isn’t it true that ours is a broken world and we are broken people? I haven’t yet fully wrapped my head around the concept of an office Christmas party that turned deadly – fourteen killed, twenty-one injured. Earlier this week, I looked at the list of those whose lives were indiscriminately taken. They ranged in the age from twenty-six to sixty. They each had a family. They each had a story. Their lives were cut short of their expectations.

In San Bernardino today there’s a family with six children that will spend Christmas this year with only the memory of their dad. Getting used to an empty chair this time of the year is really tough. I’m also sure the planned Disney Land trip for the family the 27 year old father who also was killed is now cancelled. For all who grieve, their lives too, have tragically changed.

Of those present at the Inland Regional Center on December 2, 2015, there was only one who knew the potluck Christmas luncheon would be the last for many. From what is now known, the massacre had been carefully planned. One of the assailants had worked side-by-side with co-workers for the past five years. He and his wife reportedly were responsible for the carnage.

Written accounts of the massacre are unbelievably horrifying, but sadly true. The San Bernardino Massacre is thought to be the most lethal terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11. Reportedly, a subsequent search of the assailant’s home suggests “the assailants had set up a bomb factory at their house where they had constructed a dozen pipe bombs; they had acquired two assault rifles and two handguns as well as 4,500 rounds of ammunition., and they wore “tactical” military-style clothing and black masks during their assault”.

Humpty Dumpty like brokenness – “All the kings horses and all the kings men, couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again”. Isn’t one of the fears that many hold, the fear that collectively as a nation we are the target for those intent of destroying all that we hold dear? In fact, some think we’ve reached the point of no return. They already see us as victims of Humpty Dumpty like brokenness?

James Denison’s blog “How To Find Hope In Violent Times” dated December 4, 2015 addresses the topic on many of our minds. He writes this: “…Tragically, the massacre in California wasn’t the only shooting of the day. A gunman in Savannah, Georgia shot four people early Wednesday, killing a woman and injuring three men. According to The Washington Post, in the U.S. this year there have been 355 mass shootings (defined as a shooting with four or more victims, including the shooter).

“We face two competing narratives this morning, each of which will paralyze and polarize us. One mistake is to accept nearly daily shootings as the ‘new normal.’ In an age of expanding jihadism, violent video games and media, economic unrest and racial tensions, we should expect to see more violence, we’re told. But when something terrible becomes “normal,” we accept what we should try as hard as possible to change”.

“The other mistake is to become terrorized by these events, living in a perpetual state of fear. After the San Bernardino shootings, The New York Times invited readers to respond online about their fear of a mass shooting. More than 5,000 wrote in. Reporters interviewed many others around the country on Thursday. The results were troubling”.

“Army veterans confided that they felt safer in war zones than on the streets of America. People spoke of being spooked by gestures they once considered normal—a man looking at his watch or a woman reaching into her purse. After the movie shooting in Aurora, one man said he watches movies only at home…”

The year was 1859. His novel was historical and based on fact. Charles Dickens expressed circumstances in his day: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only”.

Charles Dickens highlights the issues of his day by way of contrasts: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Is his description not equally true of where we find ourselves today? Most of us have an idealized picture of what a perfect world and a perfect holiday are supposed to look like. Yet, as Ortberg writes: “We forget Jesus did not come to a perfect world filled with perfect people. That world would not have needed him. He came for a broken world filled with broken people”.

All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but the King of King, the Lord of Lord’s has the ability has the ability and the wherewithal.

The Psalmist makes a wonderful statement regarding God: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) In our Humpty Dumpty like brokenness, we need to know that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

John Ortberg describes it like this: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted. This Jesus knows all about rejection and failure and disappointment and pain and death. The good news is, Jesus came for broken people, and he is at his best when brokenness is at its worst”.

James Dension concluded his blog: “Choose to be ready for eternity—today. When the worst that can happen to you leads to the best that can happen to you, fear is vanquished and hope reigns supreme”.

“Henri Nouwen: ‘It is important to nurture constantly the life of the Spirit of Jesus—which is the eternal life—that is already in us. . . . The sacramental life and life with the Word of God gradually make us ready to let go of our mortal bodies and receive the mantle of immortality. Thus death is not the enemy who puts an end to everything but the friend who takes us by the hand and leads us into the Kingdom of eternal love.’”

“The old hymn asks, ‘O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!’ Here’s the refrain, and God’s invitation to us today: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace’.”

All My Best!



I’ll Be Home For Christmas


If you can’t sing, but love music and love trying, why not make it funny? My two kids grew up with their dad shamelessly breaking out in song; even in front of their friends. If you can prompt laughter, you win the hearts of those around you. Laughter is good medicine and it is a universal language. The same is true of music, even the made-up kind that makes no sense, but carries a ring of humor.

The General and I are keeping our granddaughter, Lilian, this weekend while my niece is out of town. As luck would have it, Lilian needed to go to dance yesterday morning at the theatre arts group. There is nothing quite like a 45 minute jaunt to Lakeway on a Saturday morning. Her class started at 10:00 a.m. and concluded at 1:00 p.m. Yours truly, got to be the chauffer.

I wouldn’t describe Lilian as a morning person. I’m not saying she routinely has a slow start, it’s just that her verbal prowess Saturday morning was a little short of conversational. Consequently, I thought I’d try to be entertaining. I opted to make up a song.

As I allowed the sound of White Christmas to roll around it my head, it sounded a little bland. Consequently, I decided to step it up a notch. In fact, why not try something very different?  I momentarily switched music tracks in my head and listened to Elvis singing Blue Christmas.  That was more of what I had in mind.

In short order, I found myself pelting out, “We’ll have a blue – blue Christmas in Poland. We’ll have a blue – blue Christmas in Poland. The weather isn’t nice, everything has turned to ice. We’ll have a blue-blue Christmas in Poland. We’ll have a blue-blue Christmas in Poland. Santa isn’t coming…his reindeer need warmer air. We’ll have a blue-blue Christmas in Poland”.

Dumb song – catchy tune. It grabbed Lilian’s attention. “Come on! Sing it with me!”, I begged. She smiled and for the next 25 minutes we connected through music and laughter. We added another two or three lines to the chorus and played around with the lyrics.

Was it time wasted? I don’t think so. I don’t think it was wasted time because we had fun. We built a memory that I’m hopeful will be one of many that Lilian associates to having shared time with granddad.

How many years ago? How many years ago did I hear my grandfather playfully sing, “I wish I was in Arkansas, sitting on a rail, with a sweet potato in my hand and a possum by the tail?”   That too, makes no sense, but I associate it the fun times that were always characteristic of time shared with my granddad. Obviously the time crafted a forever memory for me.

Interestingly, I also remember granddad teaching my kids the same song. In addition, I’ve heard Craig singing that song to his kids. Dumb song- catchy tune, but it is included in a treasure chest of memories associated to good times, family times, a sense of connectedness and family togetherness.

Why shouldn’t rituals and family traditions be included in plans for celebrating the holidays? When we add our legacy to that of our children’s, doesn’t it enrich their experience?

As I write words associated to joyful family memories and the hope to create new ones, I find myself sensing the need to put the brakes on. How preposterous of me to suggest to you that being with family for Christmas or New Year’s is a refreshing and satisfying cup of tea? Many folks equate the experience with something worse than drinking hemlock. In fact, if given the choice, they ask for the hemlock and say, “Make it a double.”

How many people (normal people) do I know for whom sharing time with family is a landmine that emotionally leaves no survivors? It is more dreaded than the stress of Christmas shopping and finding the perfect gift for that someone special. It is more dreaded than managing holiday time commitments, office parties and other social obligations. It is even more dreaded than the credit card bills that leave one in the Christmas spirit all year long. Family togetherness for some is tantamount to re-experiencing unhappy memories, disappointment, loss, unmet expectations and a host of other things that lead to something other than one’s sense of well being.

Consequently, one might be best served to hit the reset button and make the commitment to simply celebrate the reason for the season. Other than that, nothing is sacred. If old rituals and family traditions carry with them the destructive force of a hand grenade, why not choose to leave the explosives alone and start fresh with new traditions and new rituals.

The one thing the General and I have consistently been in agreement on is that nothing is of more importance than the reason for the season. We love time with family, but we also recognize that there are only 24 hours in a day and loved ones cannot be in two places at one time. We made a commitment long ago that we would rejoice with whatever plans our children or extended family members made around Christmas. We’d celebrate if they were with us and we’d celebrate if they needed to be elsewhere. It has worked well for us and for them.

All My Best!







“This Job Is Killing Me”


“This job is killing me.” Does that sound like a figment of your imagination or at some level do you fear it might be true? “This job is killing me” is an often heard expression. It had to start somewhere. At least, when I started typing the question into a Google search, the topic self –populated. Could it be true? Doesn’t research indicate that the vast majority of the American workforce is dissatisfied?

“This job is killing me”. Have you ever felt that way? If so, is your feeling a misperception or is it based on your current reality? Oh, and by the way, just for the record there is no right or wrong answer to the question. Only you know the answer and it is based on your perception and circumstances. Do I need to ask the question again?

Actually a morning talk show was the catalyst to my giving thought to the topic. The question was asked, “The inventor of which of these three things died using his invention? The three options were (1) fire escape (2) parachute (3) seat belt.

I recently saw a blog entitled: “Well That Didn’t Work – Homemade Parachutes Are Amazing, Until You Jump.” Can you imagine? If you can’t, you probably didn’t have the same kind of childhood I experienced. Don’t forget, I’m the project of the baby boomer generation. Remember all those World War II movies that reenacted what our dad’s had experienced?

We saw those movies and as kids went home and played soldiers. Don’t you remember taking small plastic figurines of soldiers and tying string from their arms to the four corners of one of your dad’s handkerchiefs?   We’d throw the plastic soldier with his handkerchief parachute tied in place into the air to watch it land.

I even remember in my early childhood, my twin brother decided to parachute off the top of our roof. I can’t remember how the two of us climbed on top of the roof, but I made haste to get down and let the folks know Ronnie was going to jump. They intervened before he actually jumped, but it was his full intent. He had his homemade parachute rigged to work. And to think, he thought he was the smart one.

On February 4, 1912, Franz Reichelt, an Austrian-born French tailor and inventor actually did opt to try-out his homemade parachute in person. He jumped from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Sadly, it wasn’t a soft landing. The jump resulted in the inventor’s death. I can assure you that the policeman at the Eiffel tower who’d granted permission for the jump to take place immediately regretted his decision.

I’m grateful that my job isn’t killing me, but I’ve had a couple of that would have, had I stayed in them. When I was in graduate school I worked as a billing clerk at a freight company in Dallas. I don’t remember exactly, but I think we worked from 4:00 p.m.-to-midnight. It was eight un-interrupted hours of nothing but typing. If memory serves me correctly, I think the typewriters were manual.

When you were on the clock, you were on the clock and they carefully calculated how many billing transactions you typed during each 60 minute segment. I don’t remember thinking my supervisor was brilliant. For that matter, I don’t even recall that he was friendly and personable. I do remember that his name was Rod and that he wore a flat-top hair cut. He could have been a drill sergeant in anybody’s army.

He also had a propensity for smoking cigars. I can’t imagine a job more boring than his. He simply spent the eight hours of his shift walking back and forth in what appeared very much like a high school classroom watching a room full of people type. Of course, he was blowing smoke all during that period of time.

The other thing I remember about the experience, is that I always was sick, even though I was always on the job. Management believed that employees worked better if they were uncomfortable. Consequently, they kept the room temperature set at 65 degrees year round.

Between the runny nose and the regular breathing of cigar smoke, I’d be dead by now. The job would have killed me.

I had one other job before I went to work as a child protective services worker that was an eight-hour-day of boredom. If the phone didn’t ring or a customer didn’t come into the office, there was absolutely nothing to do. I kept thinking, I didn’t go to college for this. Actually, I should have thought, “I wasn’t born for this.” That job would have killed me.  I would have died of boredom.

Is your job killing you? If you’re giving the question some serious thought, “What have you determined about your personal, work related circumstances?” For each of us, the hours of our day filter through the lenses of our experience and our physical, emotional and spiritual aptitude associated with time and how we use it.

Life is way too short to be unfulfilled and miserable in a job related experience. There are times my job represents stress, but for the most part I am generally pretty upbeat and positive about the experience. That is not to say there is never a day that I’m not grateful for the experience. I experience a day or two on rare occasion that I could have done without.  On those days I simply tell myself they serve as a reminder that at times it is a job.

All My Best!



Making Room For A Skinny Christmas Tree


The drive home from Houston at the end of the workday yesterday seemed to take forever. Actually, that’s not true. It was just that I was lost in thought when I realized I was already almost through Sealy. I had planned to stop at Sonic and get a cup of ice, but somehow I missed the exit. I should have been more attentive. I have found that eating ice minimizes the risk of my being asleep at the wheel. If you’re not in the music business, being asleep at the wheel can be deadly. Consequently, I try to stay awake. Ice helps.

I said I was lost in thought, but I was actually involved in a telephone conversation. I guess I could modify that to say, “I was in a thoughtful telephone conversation”. That modification keeps my blog both factual and credible. If I’m not careful, people will think the General is right. She maintains that I write historical fiction. But, of course, we both know nothing could be farther from the truth. I may be a little off balance, but if I write it, you can take it to the bank unless, of course, it is a check.

I missed the exit because I wasn’t paying attention. I started to take a subsequent exist and go back, but I was already getting a late start, I needed to remain in forward motion. I’d get ice in Columbus. It was only about a thirty minute drive. No worries, I was good to go.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t know if it was worry or frustration, but I learned late Wednesday that proposed legislation (not yet published) with the potential for negatively impacting my line of work was rapidly coming to fruition without an opportunity for many who would be impacted to even have a seat at the table in discussing the merits. That seems to circumvent the way the system is supposed to work, but then again it happens more often than I’d like to think possible.

If I’m not careful, I could deteriorate to making this a rant and I really don’t want to do that. Keep it positive, keep it real and keep it moving. Aren’t those marching orders that regularly serve us well? Let me fast forward and tell you that my next surprise was the realization ten to twelve minutes later that I had not passed though Sealy earlier. The sign in front of me stated, “Sealy – Next Three Exits”.

I know what you’re thinking, but you’re wrong. I am not delusional! The only negative related to the discovery is that I wasn’t as far along on my jaunt back home as I thought I was. Consequently, that error added to my perception that the ride home from Houston seemed to take forever. However, I did stop in Sealy at Sonic and get a large cup of ice.

On the Dripping Springs side of Austin, I stopped to buy more ice. I had exhausted my supply and because I was feeling exhausted, I opted to stop. Safe is better than sorry. I really did need the ice.

I don’t know. Maybe I was in a negative mood when I got home, but the General and I almost verbally got into it. That may not be true, but if I had said what I really thought rather than “Yes Ma’am”, it would have been the catalyst for WWIII.

We had eaten dinner. There was something about the way she said, “I need your help” that led me to believe I wasn’t going to like the assignment. Did I mention that my intuition is generally pretty good?

From her perspective, she wasn’t asking for much. She had purchased a skinny Christmas tree from Michaels because we didn’t have the space this year to put up the bigger tree. At the risk of confusing you, even though we didn’t have the space for the bigger tree, we set that tree up when the grandkids were here last weekend. Consequently, the skinny tree was going to go in the dinning room.

That’s where I come in. The skinny tree was bigger than it looked. I guess you could say it wasn’t skinny enough to fit. In order for it to be right, I needed to move the Grandfather clock over about four inches.

What wife in their right mind would ask their dog-tired husband to move a grandfather clock four inches so that the Christmas tree he didn’t want in the first place would look better?  I married well. She’s one in a million! That is exactly what the General wanted me to do.

It wasn’t that I couldn’t have given the clock a shove and easily made that happen. In the process it probably would have broken the spring holding the pendulum in place and I can only wager a guess concerning the three weights and what my shoving the clock would have done for that process.

As you probably can predict, I eventually did it her way, but not without trying some other options first. Maybe I am delusional! I thought my suggestion had merit. The General didn’t give it a second thought. I asked the question anyway: “Why not put the skinny tree in another room?”

She agreed for me to try it, but assured me there was not enough room where I suggested it be placed. I moved the tree and “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not”, she didn’t like it. Does that surprise anyone? Her logic was valid. “It looks like a tree that we just stuck in the corner.” Was she trying to be funny? Where did she think the tree was being placed in the dinning room? It, too, was in a corner and from my perspective, it looks like we just stuck it in the corner.

After removing the pendulum and the three weights from the clock, I carefully scooted the clock over to make more room for the skinny tree. The clock is now almost in front a picture that looked perfectly placed in the room until of course, it shared space with the Grandfather clock.

I’m sure the tree will look fine once it is decorated. The General plans to use “Norman Rockwell” Christmas decorations her mother gave her. She wanted the tree out of the flow of foot traffic (four legged foot traffic) to minimize the likelihood that an ornament would get knocked off and broken.

I can assure you that on Christmas day, after I remove the tree, I will once again disassemble the Grandfather clock and slide it back in it’s regular place and then put the clock back in working order.

Sometimes I think the General should leave well enough alone, but when I’m thinking thoughts like that, I’m dangerously close to being delusional.

All My Best!




Broken Is The Only Way We Come


If you could change one thing about your life, what would you change?  Most of us have little difficulty naming an area or two where change would be perceived as a positive.  I’m not talking about the cosmetic changes we’d all eagerly volunteer to undergo if only we could.  The truth of the matter is at times all of us probably fantasize looking differently than we do.  Whether we want to be taller or shorter, thinner or larger, brown headed or gray, there is always something we’d tweak if we could to improve our appearance. I’ve never been a fan of tattoos, but I might consider a barbed-wire wrap- around look on one of my biceps if my arms were more muscular. As it is, why call attention to nothing?

However, I’m not talking about dimensions of our appearance that are obvious to the casual observer.  I’m talking about the hidden chink in the armor that we fear would be the catalyst for others not to like us if only they knew. It has nothing to do with personal appearance.

I’ve mentioned Brené Brown, Ph.D., research professor and story-teller at the University of Houston School of Social Work, in several of my blogs.  I’ve never met Dr. Brown personally, but I’ve been mesmerized by the findings of her research related to connection, vulnerability, worthiness and shame.  Shame carries with it the fear that if only people knew “this or that” about me, they wouldn’t like me.

Initially when Dr. Brown asked survey questions of people regarding their sense of belonging, instead of routinely hearing stories of being loved and connected, she heard heart rending stories of people who felt unloved and excluded.

She described it this way: “When you ask people about belonging, they’ll tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, the stories they told me were about disconnection.

“So very quickly — really about six weeks into this research — I ran into this unnamed thing that absolutely unraveled connection in a way that I didn’t understand or had never seen. And so I pulled back out of the research and thought, I need to figure out what this is. And it turned out to be shame. And shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection? The things I can tell you about it: it’s universal; we all have it. The only people who don’t experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it the more you have it.  What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough…”

One of the things I value about Dr. Brown’s style is the risk she took related to transparency.  Her findings regarding connection were of such importance that she publically shared a personal anecdote or two related to changes she was making in her own life related to findings from her research.

When I say that she shared them, her delivery of information wasn’t limited to an audience of 400-to-500 people. Her appearance on TED Talks went viral.  I think most of us would be more than a little intimidated with the thought that 4 million people would have an interest in what we had to share.

In fact, she reportedly had a vulnerability hangover the following day and opted not to leave her home for the next three days.  Can you imagine the level of misgivings she must have experienced knowing she perceived she had revealed a chink in her armor?  Did she really want to do that?  Perhaps at the time she did.  However, there is always a potential downside.

One important aspect of her research was the fact that people who actually felt loved and connected were people who saw themselves as being worthy of love and connection. They were folks who had conquered their fear of vulnerability and were accepting of the fact that their lives were not perfect.  They didn’t have to appear as though they were.  Despite their faults, they loved life and they felt worthy of love.  They didn’t have to hide behind a “perfect” persona. They were accepting of themselves, faults and all, and they didn’t need a façade of perfection.

Wouldn’t it be life changing if we were healthy enough to live that way?  Many years ago, I heard Dr. Milton Cunningham, pastor of Westbury Baptist Church in Houston speak.  He shared the story about going to visit an older couple who had visited their church.  In short order, the man quickly identified himself and his family as picture perfect.  There obviously were no chinks in their armor.  If there at been four parts to the Trinity, this man would have nominated himself to  take the fourth slot.

Respectfully, Dr. Cunningham thanked the man and his wife for visiting their church.  He told him that they were always welcome to attend, but that he really didn’t think Westbury Baptist Church was the church for them.  He had the sense they wouldn’t fit in or be happy with the family of faith that worshiped in that locality.  Dr. Cunningham said something along the order of:  “Most of the people who come to our church are still struggling to manage life issues and figure out where God fits in to make a meaningful difference. We are more of a hospital for the sick rather than a gathering place for folks without needs.”

Reportedly, the man’s wife punched her husband with her elbow and said, “So now, why don’t really tell Dr. Cunningham what life is really like for us?” Broken is the only way we come.  Perhaps if we had a better understanding that God loves us as we are, we might find the courage to love ourselves and take the risk of being vulnerable with others.

All My Best!