Monthly Archives: November 2013

Repurposing

goodwill

I both donate to and frequent the local thrift shops. My wife and I refer to it as “hunting for treasures.”

I look at it as a way of giving each item one more chance to be useful, rather than ending up in the landfill. We don’t (knowingly) donate things that don’t work, although we’ve bought more than a few of them. Doesn’t matter – it’s a good cause.

We recycle. We compost. We try to show that this is a wonderful world and we all need to be good stewards.

Today I put a few things on eBay and Craigslist.

I guess I could claim that my time is too valuable, and it’s wasted on such trivialities.

But, as I travel through life, if I leave things as good as I found them, I think that’s a good thing.

If I am able to encourage my children to follow suit, that’s better.

The Day After Thanksgiving

I took today off so I’d have a four day weekend. We could get the Christmas decorations up! I could get my radio room back to where it was! We could do this, that, and the next thing.

Instead, I took a badly needed nap. We watched the LSU football game. I got a little done with the computers.

My To-Do list is still full.

I don’t care.

Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving – the traditional start of the second phase of the Christmas shopping season; the first phase began after Halloween.

Once upon a time, in my life, Thanksgiving was a time for the family to gather. For a few years I was in the right place at the right time to host the family Thanksgiving. Alas, I was the one whose destiny moved me away from the rest of my family.

This Thanksgiving was more different than most.

My 15 year old son was off on his first solo trip. He’s headed to Baton Rouge, LA to see an LSU game up close and personal. He’s an LSU fan both by genetics and environment. We’ll just leave it at that.

I’ve mentioned my father’s current situation in the past. Physically he’s still challenged; however, when I speak with him on our daily calls, I can still make him laugh. How can we laugh in the face of death? We’ve connected on a level that neither of us ever expected. I’d rather we share it with laughter even if it’s amidst any tears.

But back to Thanksgiving.

As I’ve gotten older, I worry less about the Holidays in terms of their spiritual significance.

I am not in the proverbial, privileged 1%. However, I am blessed that my family does not lack for anything critical. When an unexpected challenge occurs, the answer – like manna in the desert – always appears.

We Catholics are taught to begin and end our prayers with the sign of the cross. I told my dad that I rarely use the sign of the cross outside of Sunday Mass; on a daily basis, I never quite finish my prayer. In the morning, I wish God a good day (How stupid [but sincere] is that?) I walk down the hall at work and thank God that I have a job – and a good one at that. Sometimes I just say, “Hi. I’m thinking of you.” Oh, and by the way God, I love you and am happy that you love me.

My Thanksgiving is every day.

Of course, my begging for forgiveness and mercy is also every day.

So today, I give thanks for my family. I give thanks for the blessing of a God who is able to focus on me and every other one of His children so up close and personal. Tomorrow I expect to be thankful all over again.

There is so much to give thanks for.

I’m Not Paranoid, But…

I thought it was bad enough that governmental agencies were spying on us. I mean, the Chinese, Russians and North Koreans were no surprise, but when you have to worry about Luxemburg and Monaco, it’s a different story.

In any case, I read the other day that a software guru checked his LG television and found it was tracking his viewing habits and sending the information back to the company.

I can’t say I’m surprised.

I’ve been suspicious of my coffee pot for some time.

I know it’s watching me.

SONY DSC

 

Priorities

I’ve got at least one blog written, but it needs the right picture.

I’m focused on my father, on one end of the scale and my new granddaughter on the other. As my father says, it’s the circle of life. It’s very strange to see two people so important to me at both ends of the spectrum – on entering life – one leaving.

I’ve also got a long story that I need to edit and break into pieces. Hopefully you’ll like it.

So I apologize, but then again, I don’t. God has given me a wonderful family to have and to hold. I’m busy doing so.

Reality

I’ve got several blogs mostly written – which is quite unusual for me. However, none of them feel right just now.

My father’s physical condition continues to ebb. It’s slow, but visible. We all know he’s dying.

The good news is twofold; first that we’re experiencing it together and second that I believe that I’ll be able to go back to visit him at least once more before he leaves this world. Once he got settled into the rehab hospital, I’ve been able to talk with him on the phone regularly. Every time we have a few good minutes to talk is a blessing.

I know I’m straddling the link between my parents and their generation on one side and my children’s generation on the other. What makes this challenging is that my children range from 38 to 13 – literally two generations.

Moses was eighty-something and settled into his routine with his wife, family and goats when God called him.

Abram and Sarai were well past my age when they were called to serve.

I know God’s got everything figured out.

However, faith, up close and personal is a different experience from the intellectual discussion of faith.

 

November 22, 1963

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I was in seventh grade at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Toledo, Ohio. I remember the announcements over the public address system, first that President Kennedy had been shot and then Walter Cronkite’s announcement that the president had died. I remember being so upset and frightened that I couldn’t sleep that night. I can still hear the muffled drums of the funeral procession and  the note that cracked during the playing of “Taps. I can still envision the televised image of Black Jack, the riderless stallion with boots reversed in the stirrups in honor of a fallen warrior.

I’ve been trying to decide how to describe what that day meant, but found an article by Bill Flanagan on CBS News that does a better job than I can.

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jfk-assassination-when-a-nation-coming-of-age-lost-its-youth/

I think that November 22 was the day that my parents’ generation and mine changed and began to grow apart. Before the end of the decade, mine decided, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” and “If it feels good, do it.”

Unlike my father’s “Greatest Generation” who fought “The Good War” those returning from service in Viet Nam were spit upon and called “baby killers.”

On the day that Kennedy died, as Flanagan says, my parents’ generation stopped feeling young. I’d add that my generation no longer enjoyed the innocence of youth, felt betrayed and began to become cynical.

Eventually, the generations reconciled, and both were probably better for it. However, I wonder from my own selfish perspective, how my life might have felt had that day been just a normal day in November.

Gettysburg

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It used to be a common requirement for students to memorize Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. If you’re not familiar with it, try this link. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/gtsburgaddress.htm

The Battle of Gettysburg is generally accepted as the turning point in America’s Civil War. The Confederacy’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed into the Northern states of Maryland and Pennsylvania, with the first engagement on 1 July 1863. On 4 July, General Lee called for the Confederate Army to retreat. Over 50 thousand soldiers – representing both sides – were killed, wounded or missing. It took nearly two weeks to bury the dead. The priority was to bury the Northern dead, so many Confederate soldiers were unable to be moved due to the summer heat and decomposition, so they were buried where they fell. The Union soldiers did not fare much better, originally being buried in shallow graves. A proper cemetery was deemed appropriate.

The National Cemetery was dedicated on 19 November 1863. President Abraham Lincoln’s speech followed a rousing two hour oration by Edward Everett. Lincoln’s speech was barely two minutes.

Few today know who Everett was much less what he said.

Lincoln’s few words are remembered and revered.

Serial Killer Interview

headline

One of the news organizations touted their interview with a serial killer before he’s executed.

Why would I want to know what a serial killer had to say?

If I were a therapist or a police investigator, it might be helpful to understand how depraved criminals think.

Or maybe if I was a clergyman, I could help him find his conscience and seek forgiveness.

But for entertainment purposes? Give me a break!

Autumn Leaves – A Different Thought

photo homtv.net

photo homtv.net

When I was growing up, people would rake up the leaves in the fall, sweep them to the curb and burn them in the street. The smell of fall was the smell of burning leaves.

Some people thought the smell was attractive. I haven’t thought of it in years. When I lived in Florida, there were few leaves to burn, and when they did it was usually an out-of-control wildfire. Burning palm trees smell like someone torched the dump. Wyoming had lots of wide open spaces unencumbered by trees, so there was no need to burn leaves.

Open fires are frowned on in Virginia. That frown comes with a citation and a fine.

Over time, up here in Ohio and Michigan, burning leaves changed. Many of the concrete or brick streets were covered over with asphalt. Asphalt tends to melt and/or burn, so burning fell out of favor. If you smelled burning leaves, it probably meant that someone parked over top of a pile of leaves and the heat from their catalytic convertor started a fire. Somehow the mix of burning car and burning leaves isn’t quite the same.

So it surprised me to find in southern Michigan – just over the line from Toledo, OH – to be exposed to the ubiquitous smell of burning leaves.

I think that burning leaves, whether autumn or tobacco, belongs to a time now past.

Why Do Newspapers Do That?

reporter

Newspaper subscribers are declining in number, which has caused some newspapers to publish less frequently and many to shift to online content.

Those who get their news from printed newspapers tend to be older and are looking for more traditional journalism – fact based and objective.

So, if that is what the print media buying public wants, why don’t the newspapers cater to them?

Yesterday I read a story in a newspaper about the Typhoon that devastated the Philippines. Somehow I can’t see the cigar smoking reporter of yore with a press card tucked into the hat band on his fedora writing about George Clooney’s reaction to the storm.

Half Empty?

machine

I met with the purchasing director of a company once, and he was explaining the challenges of his position.

“I could save half-a-million dollars a year by switching all the vending machines at all our facilities to either all Coke or all Pepsi,” he told me. “But I can’t or there would be an uproar.”

Now it’s important to note that this was not a restaurant or other business with primary involvement with food or drink. That meant that employees and customers were spending millions on vended soft drinks. He couldn’t appreciate the massive secondary income that was generated, only the effect it had on his part of the equation.

I’m guessing that if there were only one choice, the net revenue would be reduced significantly – especially with something like soft drinks where it is a non-essential and there is significant brand loyalty.

How many times do we take the positive for granted and instead focus on some minute shortcoming in our lives?

One Day

200px-OldMansWar(1stEd)

In John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, the protagonist, John Perry, talks about how when you reach a certain age it isn’t “one thing after another,” but instead, “everything all at once.”

That’s what my father is dealing with, and us along with him.

Both my father and mother – and myself for that matter – have told others that if medical science can return us to a reasonable functional level, go ahead and do what is necessary. However, if life is going to be severely limited, such as being bedridden and connected to a ventilator, please don’t take such extraordinary measures.

My father hasn’t been able to eat much over the past week or so. Today the discussion among the staff was the need for a feeding tube. There’s a temporary nasogastric tube that’s effective but uncomfortable. There’s a surgical gastrostomy tube that’s permanent. Where’s the line between supportive and extraordinary? What should we do?

His doctor arrived at about 9:00 pm and discussed the situation with us.

Were we going to face a heart rending decision?

She brought us up to date on everything. When it got to the issue of nutrition, my father protested that even the sight of food bothered him. His taste was altered by the treatments and everything was sickly sweet.

“What about toast?” the doctor asked. “Say toasted rye bread?”

“I think I could do that,” my father replied. “I also want something to drink that’s not sweet – like lemonade.”

The doctor pointed out that lemons have too much potassium. We threw out various suggestions and lo and behold someone mentioned a particular grapefruit based soda that none of us had thought about in ages.

My brother ran out and got the soda. My father decided that toast and the soda was good.

The Lord gave us at least one more day, but I know there was a reason. Perhaps it was to bring us closer. Perhaps it was to teach us not to let the high tech overshadow the simple solutions. It could even be because He rewards families that love one another.

For whatever reason, it was a day that began with concern and ended more sweetly.

Thank you God.

Joseph’s Death

We don’t know anything about the death of Joseph the carpenter. We know Joseph was there for Mary when by the power of the Holy Spirit she became pregnant with Jesus; he was willing to quietly divorce her to save her from shame, but the Holy Spirit instead told him to marry her.

We believe he helped raise Jesus and then taught Him to be a carpenter. He cared for Jesus; but then Jesus taught us to call no one Father but God.

Does this dismiss Joseph and all the earthly fathers?

When Joseph died, was Jesus there?

I can only express my personal views, but here are my thoughts.

Earthly fathers, and mothers, are given the opportunity to minister to their children as the very representative of God. We do not replace Him; instead we are appointed stewards of the children that He has brought into the world.

So, just as Joseph cared for Jesus, our parents cared for us and so we care for our children.

I believe that Jesus was there for Joseph when he died. I believe that when the time came, Jesus comforted him as only Jesus could, and even knowing what awaited Joseph in paradise, I believe Jesus wept, just as we do for our own parents.

It only makes sense if you believe we’re travelers, passing through this life on our way to where we belong.

Yet Another Lesson

Monet Autumn in Argentuil

Monet
Autumn in Argentuil

I spent most of today driving to visit with my father who is in the hospital. I’ve still got a few hours to go in the morning, so I’m writing this from a hotel room.

Sometimes my prayers are very clear. Long ago I learned that God’s plan for me is better than my own, so I don’t present Him with a list of my current wants. Instead, I pray to trust Him enough to let go of my own concerns, fears or desires. Today my thoughts were a bit jumbled and I was forced to just be quiet as I drove.

I had a sense, that I’m going to relate as though it were spoken.

“Look at the trees,” He said as I drove through Virginia. “As the leaves die, they take on their most gorgeous colors. During the summer, they all wore the same basic green, but at the end, each has a slightly different hue. Some are red; others orange or gold or brown.”

I thought He was telling me that there is a beauty in passing from one phase to the next.

I’m glad I was listening.

Aging

There are a couple of things that are particularly difficult about aging. The first is when your body begins to betray you. It starts with the pulled muscle that used to heal in a couple of days, but now is not quite right after a couple of months.

Eventually various parts stop working properly, and you amass quite a collection of pills and potions around the bathroom sink. Your heart isn’t doing this right. Your kidneys don’t do that right; and your brain? Something about the brain – I forget.

The second is that there are things that you either can’t or shouldn’t do. Can’t as in you can’t just pick up that hundred pounds and put it up on a shelf. Shouldn’t as in anything involving an extension ladder. I don’t mind hiring out some of the repairs I used to be able to do myself; I do mind the fact that when I assign something to the kids and they don’t follow through, I can’t just do it myself.

It seems like only yesterday I was the nerdy high school kid worrying about bell bottoms. Back then when I thought of getting older I mainly worried about balding and wrinkles.

Wisdom from Alex the Parrot

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Alex, like most pets, believes that his human exists to pay attention to him and to give him treats.

Not too different from most of us.

I was giving him pistachios – one at a time so that each evening he’d eat three or four of them. Unfortunately, the shells ended up everywhere. One might be tempted to believe that he preferred the shells to end up outside his cage rather than in it. I switched to a can of cheap mixed nuts which have peanuts as the majority item.

As he ate his way through the contents, I stopped trying to figure out which peanut to give him and let him poke his head into the can to pick his choice of treat. I think that he enjoys the ability to make a choice even more than the treat itself.

Isn’t that true for all of us? We want the ability to make choices. God understood this and gave us free will – the ultimate ability to make a choice.

When faced with a choice, be thankful for the freedoms that permit you to choose. Then, quite literally, for the love of God, choose wisely.