Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne

I mumbled the words "auld lang syne" for many celebrations of the New Year before taking time to check exactly what I was saying. Apparently, the phrase is old Scottish that translates to "old long since" or what might be phrased today "days long gone" or "the good old days". Well, something like that. On this, the last day of 2008, I am fond of the phrasing "old long since". It brings to mind a stream of thoughts that have been recurring since last week when Laura, our middle daughter, returned from the bath off the guest room at my mom's house and asked "Dad, how long have you been shaving with that razor?" She was referring to this;

It is a double edge razor that my dad gave me when I was 12 or 13. Yes, I needed to shave at an early age. So the answer to her question was "a little over 40 years." Well, the answer stung me a little and she and the others among the third generation present thought it was funny that someone would have a simple tool so long. As we discussed it a little, I added that I did not know how old it was when I got it, but it certainly was not new. It was a short and fun conversation.

But the conversation continues in my head. There was something deeper that I could not put together on short notice. Gradually, it has occurred to me this week. This little tool represents more than a quaint method to trim whiskers. It represents the different perspective that generations hold about the passing of time, our place in the universe, and other generations. What?!? All of that in a razor? Consider this; most of the readers of this post will be near the age of my children and have never used or thought about such a razor. Not only that, the notion of keeping one half a century seems beyond ridiculous to them. Disposable plastic and electric razors are all they have ever known. I understand how archaic it must seem. Really, I do. To prove that my generation has struggled with the same thought process, check out these pictures;

It is a razor blade sharpener. That's right, not only have razors not always been disposable, the blades were not always either. Guess what? Neither were plates, cups, or diapers. They were all washed and used again and again. And not that long ago none of those things were washed by placing them in a machine and turning a knob. You had to go outside to a pump for water and heat the water on a wood burning stove. You are thinking this went on in the days of George Washington but you would be surprised how recently some areas did not have electricity and indoor plumbing. So pardon me if I chuckle when youngsters who missed the "ice age" talk of 30 years ago and can't imagine the economic depression of 80 years ago, try to educate me on global warming and carbon offsets. I have had a soft life compared to my parents and they had it easy compared to their parents, etc. The current young generation has had it easier than all so far. To most of us that is a good thing. But microwaves and disposable diapers and razors and fast-food containers that make life so easy bring a price.

This little poem did not originate with my parents, but it states what they taught me by example;

Patch it up

Wear it out.

Make it do

Or do without.

It is a change we can believe in.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Signs, Signs, Everywhere....

Here are a few signs from beautiful downtown Wetumpka, Alabama that I thought were funny during this last week of 2008.

Now, what kind of wedding is it?

What? You are offering a REWARD for a bloodhound that can't find her way home? Maybe she ran away because you make her wear that pink harness.

And finally this; Note that spellcheck caught the mistake in spelling "changes" and that was "changed". But Lube and "Oir" change? $22:50 (is that a time or price) seems like a pretty good price for a lube and oil change, but if you can't spell "oil", should I trust you to be sure that little plug is snugly replace on the oil pan?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Photos-2008

Santa gets all the publicity, but in our family Mrs. Claus gives the best gifts and cooks a scrumptious Christmas dinner. The ham and turkey were perfect, as always.

The dressing was even more delicious than beautiful!

After lunch we opened presents and a good time was had by all. Becky was stylin'. Anthony, Helen's boyfriend even remembered the pets!

Sometimes the wrapping is more fun than the gifts. Here Rachel "repackages" Russ.

This photo is not clear, but this is the reaction you hope to see.

After eating and ripping through our gifts, we all took a walk to work off some calories. Note the absence of jackets.

Everybody waits while Roxy explores deer sign in the neighbor's yard!

If blogger was not so slow uploading photos, I would share more. I liked this one of a male cardinal in mom's backyard snacking in the Bradford Pear tree. Note the partially eaten berry over his head and the piece still in his beak. Obviously, there was no white Christmas here in the sunny south but a great time to be with family and enjoy life. All together now "And a Cardinal in a pear treeeee!"

Thank you, Santa!

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. Luke 17:15

This verse is from a short story in the gospel of Luke where Jesus happens upon 10 lepers who cry from a distance for mercy. He sends them to the priest and they are healed as they go. One turned back to say "thank you" and to praise God. Jesus asked "Where are the other nine?" I am afraid that 90% of the time I am in the 90% who forget to say "thank you".

I would like to do better.

So, thank you Santa. If you checked your list twice, I know you must have scratched some things out that I did this year. You must have overlooked LOTS of things I did not get around to doing this year.

Thank you, LaWanna. Your gift indicates that you are listening to my thoughts and dreams and the listening is the best gift you could give.

Thank you, Helen, Laura, Mark, Baron, Lindsay, Tata, Chris, Holly, and Skylar. Your willingness to participate in a new Christmas tradition of giving to others instead of exchanging gifts is encouraging and makes me a proud dad. Our gift will be a token amount compared to the great need of Cystic Fibrosis research, but every bit helps people like David live longer and enjoy Christmas with family.

Thank you, Keith. You are a great brother--in every sense of the word. Who else would drag me out for an early morning 5 mile run to work off the pralines? Thank you, Becky, Russ, and Grace for the great gifts that indicate you have been thinking about our family.

Thank you, Rachael for spending time with our crazy family and for preparing to become one of us THIS WEEK!

Thank you, Anthony for driving to Americus and back to Atlanta on Christmas day and tolerating our silliness in order to spend time with Helen. I hope we can spend some time together in a setting where we can get to know you better.

Thank you, mama! You are amazing! I wish I had inherited/learned more of your planning and list-making abilities. I do notice how efficient it makes you and although I am nearly grown, I still hope to learn to do better. Although you are the matriarch of our clan, you are the driving force of these gatherings. I know it takes lots of energy, money, and determination to prepare your great meals, provide such generous gifts, and cook the best candy in the world. Really, just the pralines are all you need to provide to have done a fair share. You serve as a great role model for me and the rest of the family by serving the way you do at an age where you deserve to sit back and be served. I feel guilty that you do so much, but you are too fast to be outdone. It is like being on a cruise ship--I set a dish down and when I turn back around it has been washed, placed in the dishwasher, and is being washed again.

And, of course, thank you, God. We are all healthy. We traveled safely. We all went back to jobs. We have people to love and who love us. Most of all, we can call you Father because you made it possible for us to have that relationship with you. Sometimes we thank Santa for gifts that come from you. Sometimes we thank each other for gifts that come from you. Much of the time we forget to say "thank you" at all. I am going to try to do better. It is a New Year's resolution. Again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Put on the New Man

The following lines are quoted from Dr. George Sheehan's book, "Running and Being".

"The people who think they know say that given a second chance a man will make the same mess of his life he did the first time. Playwrights and novelists over the years have never given us hope that reliving our lives would have any different result the second time around. Our scientists and psychologists seem to agree. Even such disparate thinkers as Bucky Fuller and B.F. Skinner are together on this. ""We shouldn't try to change people," wrote Skinner. "We should change the world in which people live." It is a thought Fuller often expressed.

Some, of course, take an opposing view. The people who deal in Faith, Hope, and Charity seem to think that one day is as good as another for changing your personal history. Philosophers since recorded time have recommended it. From Pindar to Emerson they have told us to become the thing we are, to fulfill our design, to choose our own reality, our own way of being a person. What they didn't tell us was how to do it, or how difficult it would be. When Paul said to put on the New Man, he reminded us of the unlimited potential of man, but the lives we lead constantly remind us of the obvious limits to this potential.

Clearly the Good Life is not as accessible as the books say. And yet it is not from want of trying that we have failed. We start our new lives with almost as much frequency as Mark Twain gave up smoking (thousands of times) and with about the same success.

Can tomorrow be the first day of the rest of our life? And can that life be completely different from the mess it is today? The answer, of course, has to be yes, or all those great men wouldn't have said so. But how do you go about it?

The first thing to do, it seems to me, is to retrace your steps. To go back to that period of your life when you were operating as a successful human being (although you most likely weren't aware of it). To go back to those times when your soul, your self, was not what you possessed or your social standing or other people's opinion but a totality of body, mind, and spirit. And that totality interacted freely with your total environment.

Somewhere past childhood that integration of self and that response to the universe began to dissolve. We came more and more to associate who we were with what we owned, to judge ourselves by other people's opinions, to make our decisions by other people's rules, to live by other people's values. Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, our physical condition began to decline. We had reached the fork in the road. We took the well-traveled path.

One who took the path overgrown with weeds and rarely used was Henry David Thoreau. The world knows Thoreau as a man of intellect, a shrewd observer, a rebel against conventional values. What has not been emphasized was that he was an athlete, and a fine one. He was, of course, a great walker. This kept him in prime physical condition. "I inhabit my body, " he wrote, "with inexpressible satisfaction: both its weariness and its refreshments." It would not be too much to say that Thoreau's other activities derived their vitality from the vitality of his body. That the self that was Thoreau depended on being as physical as he could be. And that no life can be completely lived without being lived completely on a physical level.

If Thoreau was right, the way to find who we are is through our bodies. The way to relive our life is to go back to the physical self we were before we lost our way. That tuned-in self that could listen with the third ear, was aware of the fourth dimension, and had a sixth sense about the forces around it. That tuned-in self that was sensitive and intuitive, and perceived what is no longer evident to our degenerating bodies.

This may come as a surprise even to physical fitness leaders. Physical fitness programs have long been based on the desire to lead a long life, to forestall heart attacks, to feel better generally or to improve your figure. No one ever told us that the body determined our mental and spiritual energies. That with the new body we can put on the new person and build a new life, the life we were always designed to lead but lost with the body we enjoyed in our youth.

Now, common sense will tell you that you'll never see twenty-eight again, but the facts on fitness show that almost anyone can reach levels of vigor and strength and endurance equal to most of the twenty-eight-year-olds in this country. Given the good fortune to find an athletic activity that fits him, a man can recapture his youth and a second chance to listen to what his total self held important at that time.

If you think that life has passed you by, or even worse, that you are living someone else's life, you still can prove the expert's wrong. Tomorrow can be the first day of the rest of your life. All you have to do is to follow Thoreau. Inhabit your body with delight, with inexpressible satisfaction; both its weariness and its refreshments.

And you can do it if you'll just go back to that fork in the road."

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dear Santa;

First, thank you for the piece of coal last year. It was not exactly what I was expecting, but really I should not have been surprised. My friends have explained that diamonds come from coal under pressure so I put mine under the mattress. After the first time LaWanna turned the mattress, I put it in a sandwich bag.

I just wanted to touch base with you before this Christmas. I have been pretty good this year. I was voted "Disgruntled Postal Employee of the Month" in March. I have responded cheerfully and in good taste to all the "Hot enough fer you?" and "Cold enough fer you?" "Kinda wet today, ain't it?". In my counseling work at Pre-Trial Diversion, I have kept a straight face while discussing the convicted felon's firmly held views on "justice". Those jobs helped me prepare for my first feeble efforts to serve as an elder of our congregation. During each passionate conversation about important issues like "If men didn't wear suits, it wouldn't be so cold in here" and "I don't like it when we sing during communion" I was able to refrain from shifting the conversation to trivial matters like the expanding acceptance in churches of homosexuality, divorce, and not paying your bills.

Also, I have tried to do better about my physical condition. I know I haven't really lost much weight since last year, but isn't losing a few pounds a lot better than I was doing when I was gaining some every year? Yes, I am behind on the brazen goal I set to loose 37 pounds by March 8, but I am trying. I have run in some bad weather and after dark. Of course, I still have a really hard time passing by cake and candy. Do I get extra credit for dragging lots of pounds through a triathlon, a mountain bike race, and an adventure race? Santa, you know better than most, those things are not easy for big boys. And I have noticed you don't usually miss the plate of cookies on Christmas eve.

I left this to last because I am afraid it is what will keep me from getting the toy I really want. About the way I have treated are going to have to give me partial credit for trying. That sweeping and doing chores around the house is just so......boring. I know I need to do more. Lot's more. But really, she almost never says anything about it. Doesn't that mean she is o.k. with it? Do you think my efforts to buy her off with dates and eating out is working? She seems to really like going to the movies and eating the 50-gallon size popcorn with the 3 liter Diet Coke. I am not hoping for an "A" or "B" here--just a passing grade. Next year will be better. I really mean it this time.

Anyway, if I don't get any toys it will not be too bad. All three of our children and spouses still spend time with us and don't even seem embarrassed for us to be around their friends. That is more than enough. And my mother-in-law seems to really like me. Maybe more than LaWanna does. And with all the economic slow-down, LaWanna and I still have great jobs. Next year I only have to work three months before retiring and having a guaranteed income for life. It will not be enough to live on, but a defined annuity is a great blessing and maybe worth the 37 years I traded for it.

Now that I think about, just forget the toys. You can bring me some more coal and I will have the family over for some burgers (after I repair the patio cover) and we will tell stories and laugh. Yep, that is what I want for Christmas....simple food, time with family, and laughs. Lots of laughs.



Saturday, December 06, 2008


....and I don't care.