Saturday, December 31, 2011
Wife and I decided we would have a very calm New Year's and NY Eve. Daughter has a couple of friends here and they are going out and staying elsewhere tonight. Younger Son and some friends have gone to a concert in South Carolina. Some friends had mentioned maybe having a party but they folded and we just didn't have it in us to invite anyone over ourselves. So it's just us, and we're fine with it.
We found a discount theater earlier today, about 20 minutes away, that was showing "Moneyball" and you could not beat the ticket price -- two bucks! We agreed we would remember that theater because, except for during the holidays, we rarely make it to the movies and will often say, "Oh I meant to go see that" after it is already gone. This particular theater, apparently, shows, for a greatly discounted price, films that are between the theater and DVD release. Can't beat that.
Loved the movie, by the way. As I had noted in my last post, it was a favorite book of 2011 and the movie did it justice. If you are not a baseball fan, however, you might not find it as entertaining as I did.
Last year on New Year's Eve Wife and I looked at each other and said, "hang on," knowing with a wedding and graduations coming up, it would be an eventful year. We didn't know the half of it. As my dog Ralph said in our family Christmas letter, quoting Wife, a good year but not one I would want to live over again.
Have you heard about the tiny country of Samoa, near the International Date Line, which decided to move to the OTHER side of the IDL, meaning they had to skip an entire day? That's right, they went straight from Thursday, Dec. 29th to Saturday, Dec. 31st.
I heard an interview with a Samoan lady who said she was pretty pleased about the whole thing. Since they are neighbors with New Zealand and Australia, with whom they deal heavily in trade and commerce and who have been a day ahead of them for as long as anyone can remember, it's been a source of stress and concern for business people in Samoa for quite some time.
The lady interviewed said that, due to the difference in times with their neighbors, she would sometimes have to go to work on Sunday, "or Monday, which is really Tuesday."
Whoo, that would be enough to confuse me too, Lady. Good for you.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
For now I'm going to give you my year-end reading review. Once I finish Nearing Home by renowned evangelist Billy Graham, I will have completed my 24th book for 2011. I know this is not nearly as many as some of you read but for me, averaging two books per month is pretty good. I always have a mental, if not literal, stack of "to read" books and it just takes a while to get to all of them.
Since I mentioned Nearing Home, I will tell you it is a sweet, sweet book full of good advice for all ages from "America's Pastor." He says in the introduction, "All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one taught me how I ought to live in the years before I die. I wish they had because I am an old man now, and believe me, it's not easy."
Right before this I read Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, one of the strangest books I have read in a long time. It was highly recommended by Wife, Older Son and DIL and as I read it, I kept questioning Wife as to why she was so drawn to it.
As I continued to read, however, I became more and more drawn into the story myself. It's fantasy and science fiction, and I am a fan of neither, and besides that it is WEIRD. But I confess, I could not put it down in spite of myself. The movie is coming out in March and there will be much buildup to it, so I recommend you get it and read it soon. And it's the first of a trilogy. Yes, I will be reading the next two.
My favorite non-fiction of the year was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), the beautiful story of U.S. Olympian and war hero Louis Zamperini. You might remember that I wrote a few months ago about Wife getting to meet him. If you have not already done so, get this and read it. You'll be a better person for it.
On the fiction side, I loved Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, the compelling tale of twin boys born in unlikely circumstances in Ethiopia whose lives eventually take different paths. Great writing and a great
I read Blue Like Jazz for the second time, the book that brought unconventional Christian writer Donald Miller to notoriety. Read this book, Christian or not, and you will alternately laugh and cry and thoroughly enjoy yourself. I wish I could write like Donald Miller.
Also on the spiritual side, I adored Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me, a memoir by Ian Morgan Cron, whom I met in October 2010 whowrote one of my all time favorites, Chasing Francis. When I met him last year, Ian recommended to me Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, which I also enjoyed.
The latest installment in The Number One Lady's Detective Agency series, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party (Alexander McCall Smith), certainly did not disappoint. This is number 11 in the series and I can't think of one that did not leave me with a big smile on my face after finishing it.
I read Ayn Rand's classic, Fountainhead, at DIL's urging. This is capitalism at its extreme (and not a pretty extreme, either) and it's a page turner.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Rebecca Skloot) had to be one of the most interesting books I have read in a long, long time, and if I knew more about science, it would have been even more so. It's an unbelievable (but true) story about an everyday woman whose cells became famous beyond what she would have ever believed.
John Grisham continues to turn them out and I still find his tales gripping, hilarious and compelling from start to finish. The Confession and The Litigators are his two latest and I thoroughly enjoyed both.
If you are an animal lover, you will definitely love The Art of Racing in the Rain (Garth Stein), written from a dog's point of view, which is especially cool for me because my dog, Ralph, sometimes writes my family's Christmas letter. I think you would like this book even if you're not a dog person. If you are, there's no way you won't love it. I liked it even better than Marley and Me.
Older Son recommended I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis (author of The Blind Side) before seeing the movie. It's a great story about the business of baseball and I loved it. Only thing is, by the time I finished it the movie was gone from theaters, so I am anxiously awaiting its release on DVD.
Finally, I completed two more Wendell Berry stories, Andy Catlett: Early Travels and Nathan Coulter. If you have not discovered this incredible American farmer/professor/author, get yourself to the library, the bookstore or Amazon before you do another thing.
Finally, I must mention The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Cadwell, much of which is set in Shanghai. Great, great book about family and redemption.
OK folks, now I need to know what should be in my "to read" stack for 2012. Let me hear from you.
As for movies, Wife and I always take in a couple or so around the holidays, then hardly go at all for the rest of the year. We saw War Horse and We Bought a Zoo on consecutive nights this week and loved them both. Well worth your time.
Friday, December 23, 2011
According to Wife, we are doing something unprecedented -- getting all takeout! I guess, since Chinese restaurants are famous for staying open through Christmas, it's just the natural thing to do.
We are, from Wife, promised a few surprises for the decor so I'll report back on that. Should be a hoot.
Menu items include sushi, orange chicken, egg rolls, fried rice and edameme. That's what I've been told. Would not be surprised to see egg drop or wan ton soup make it to the table as well. And I'm sure there will be fortune cookies.
For "entertainment," Daughter has found a Chinese version of "Jingle Bells!"
We are in full holiday mode.
Some dear friends of mine were here for a concert Wed. night. They came by and we went to lunch yesterday (Thurs.). That really kicked off the holiday for me.
Older son flew to Little Rock from Dallas Thursday afternoon. Wife's parents picked him up at the airport and they drove over here. So, so good to see him and so glad he's here. DIL flew in yesterday. We will have everyone, including DIL's parents, for Christmas Day lunch.
We are big game players and we've already had a few rounds of Phase Ten, and Wife and I played Bridge with her folks last night.
How incredibly blessed I am to have these people I love around me at Christmas. May I never take it for granted.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
When we moved into our house ten years ago, Wife bought some wreaths to hang on the windows across the front. Every year when I take them down I say, gently, "Honey, before I hang the wreaths next year, you might want to freshen up the bows just a bit." I can hang the wreaths but I don't fool with items such as bows.
Do you think we give those bows one thought during the year after I take them down? Heavens no. The fact is, most people don't get close enough to them to notice they are a little old and crumpled. Maybe this year we'll go down, oh, say about August, and think about those bows. Maybe.
I've mentioned here before that I am not a very good gift receiver. I don't care for gadgetry and electronics. I check out most books I read from the library. Clothes? Wife can pick me out some clothes and I am happy to receive them but I don't go nuts over them. She knows not to buy me stuff that has little horse labels or whales or things like that, because I think those clothes are so over priced and I don't want to wear them and send the wrong signal about myself. I'm a simple guy, you know.
A few years ago I started making a list of suggested Christmas gifts for myself to help my family. I also included, to their amusement (and to Wife's disdain) a "Do Not Buy" list -- a roster of items NOT to get me. Frankly, I think that's more important than the list of thiings to get me.
Because if you buy me on the DNB list, you have no right to get angry if I don't use or wear that gift. You were forewarned.
Anyway, in looking through the Target circular today, I saw two items that I would put on my permanent DNB list.
One is a coffee maker that makes one cup of coffee. I don't drink coffee, so I am sure I am uninformed about all the intricate details of coffee making and preparing, but here's what I find profoundly mysterious. There is this fancy coffee make that makes ONE -- that's right, one -- cup of coffee and it costs well over $100. A Mr. Coffee coffee maker, that makes up to 16 cups, costs $16.99.
We have a coffee maker because we have friends and family who drink coffee but I'll be darned if I'm going to make one cup at a time, especially at that cost.
I think the most baffling thing in today's Target Circular, however, is the "cake pop and donut hole maker."
Even if you want one of these, I would highly recommend passing on it for now. I'll lay you odds you'll see one at a garage sale by summer.
Sunday, December 11, 2011
It's December 11th, two full weeks before Christmas, and I got the tree up yesterday but it's still naked. We'll get the lights and decorations on over the next few days. It will happen.
Wife said yesterday that "we just got a late start this year" but really, I think two weeks ahead of time is plenty. Since we still get a real tree, there is less time for it to get dry.
I put up a garland around the front door and hung wreaths on the windows this afternoon. I'm sure the neighbors, most of whom had their outside lights up Thanksgiving weekend, were thinking we would just not participate this year. Be patient, folks; we still observe Christmas.
I don't have to worry about shopping because we agreed long ago that Wife would take care of that. I am not, shall we say, inclined that way. I just hate it and Wife knows it, so she doesn't even try to get me involved. I think she knows how much I appreciate it and that I'll help in other ways.
We are invited to a "Christmas Murder Mystery" party tonight. It's one of those theme parties where there's a whole story involved and you're assigned a character to play. We went to one a number of years ago (not at Christmas) and I can take them or leave them, but I try to be a good sport.
Wife is assigned the part of Mrs. Santa Claus and I am a Gingerbread Man. Wife, of course, is taking it very seriously. She considered a number of options and ended up getting a costume from a rental place. She tried it on for me and it looks great on her. Only the white wig gives a bit of a George Washington look so I told her she might pass on that.
I told her from the start that I would participate with a smile on my face (there is no assigned part for Ebeneezer Scrooge) but I would appreciate it if she would not involve herself in my part. I could just see her getting me some costume that I would refuse to wear and that would not go over well. So she kindly agreed to stay out of it.
Earlier this afternoon I asked Daughter if she would help me. I gave her a brown sweater that I have and told her that, whatever she came up with, I would be fine with it.
She took some black felt and made some buttons to go down the front, and took some white felt and made some "icing" to put around the collar. Perfect. I'll be a splended Gingerbread Man.
Younger Son made it home Friday night, a semester of college now under his belt. He'll be here about a month and the supposed empty nest will swell even more later this month when Older Son and DIL, as well as my in-laws, come for Christmas. It will be a merry time.
I recently told Wife that one of my goals for 2012 is to meet one of my blog friends in person. Kelly doesn't count, of course -- my hometown friend is the one who got me into all of this and I'm fortunate enough to get to see her once a year or so. Her sweet sister Pam doesn't really count either because I met her years ago, although she might want to be on the lookout. Since Older Son lives in Dallas now, I might just show up on her doorstep when I'm there visiting.
For any of the rest of you whose blog titles are on the right on my homepage (except for my son and daughter, of course) -- you have been warned.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
As we gathered around our Thanksgiving table and joined hands, I couldn't even get the words out. Emotion overcame me as I thought of how incredibly blessed I am by the people around that table.
Blessings of the last week:
-- Having Younger Son come home early in the week. I can't put into words how great it was to have him back at home for a few days. To hear him stomping up the stairs and knocking around the house, having him hit me on the arm and give me a big bear hug -- all the things that make him the guy he is -- was pure joy.
-- Running a 5K Thanksgiving morning with Daughter and Wife. We didn't set any records but we had a lot of fun. And of course by starting the day with exercise, we could give ourselves permission to eat whatever we wanted, all day long.
-- Seeing Older Son and DIL walk in the door Thanksgiving Day. Hasn't even been that long but long enough.
-- Taking food to an inner city church Thanksgiving Day where they feed those who are hurting, down on their luck or whatever in their community. The people in that church get what it means to love their neighbor. It was a privilege to help in a small way.
-- Seeing Daughter in the kitchen with Wife Thanksgiving Day, loving the preparation as much as her mom and adding her own special touch.
-- Sitting on the sofa with Wife after everything quieted down and thinking about how blessed we are.
There was, of course, football over the long weekend. LSU looks headed to the BCS National Championship Game, continuing the dominance of the Southeast Conference.
And this time it's even better (or worse, depending on how you look at it) as they will very likely face another SEC foe in the title game -- Alabama, who handily defeated our beloved Auburn Tigers in the annual Iron Bowl classic on Saturday.
The discussions about the unfairness and inefficiencies of the BCS will reach fever pitch over the next couple of weeks but it's the system we have. We have to live with it.
Finally, I hope you'll indulge me as I toot the horns of two of my children and their respective blogs. Younger Son aspires to be a sportswriter and recently started "The Whole Nine Yards" here where he will be pontificating on sports and other topics of interest to him. His wry wit comes through in every line.
Daughter continues to delight over at Delightfully Living and her most recent post brought tears to her dad's eyes.
So just in case you don't get enough of my family here at my place, go see what these two young folks are writing about.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Anyway, I had mentioned to Daughter some songs I like and asked her to make the CD for me. She did and there are 19 songs. She included the ones I asked for as well as some surprises. She did a great job.
One of my current favorites, which is the lead-off song on the CD, is This is Home by Switchfoot. I heard it for the first time less than a year ago when my spin class instructor played it as our cool down song. As soon as class was over I asked him about it. It's part of the sound track from Prince Caspian, from Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia series. Now you know I don't know how to post a link from YouTube or anything like that but, if you haven't heard it, go find it somewhere and listen to it. Great lyrics.
Another song on the CD is Blessings by Laura Story. I will be honest: I don't always like contemporary Christian music. Some of the songs we sing in my church just leave me cold. But this one hits the mark, folks. This lady has a gorgeous voice and this song is beautiful, both the lyrics and melody. I did manage to find the lyrics for you:
We pray for blessings,
We pray for peace.
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep.
We pray for healing, for prosperity.
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
We pray for wisdom,
Your voice to hear.
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love.
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough.
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we'd have faith to believe.
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?
When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It's not our home.
'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights?
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life,
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?
My favorite line: What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy?
So go find this one, too. The words are incredible, as you can see, and when you hear them with the melody, you'll be moved. Trust me.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
I enjoyed the Veterans Days holiday immensely yesterday. I had driven to Memphis to work earlier in the week so Thursday night I drove two more hours to the west to Little Rock. I stayed with Wife's parents that night and had a great visit with them.
Got up early Friday morning and met one of my old friends, and a mentor of sorts, for breakfast. I worked for him for three years, from late 1984 through 1987. We had a unique opportunity to do a contract job together and not only did I learn a lot, but I gained a very close friend. It was great to catch up.
Later in the morning I drove out to a wonderful walking trail that meanders along the Arkansas River. While walking, a lady about my age passed by me and after a second I realized it was my cousin. I called her name and identified myself.
Her dad and my mother were brother and sister. Her dad had a congenital heart defect and died when he was in his thirties. I was, of course, very young when it happened and I remember being outside playing and going inside and finding my mother crying. It was the first time I had ever seen her cry and I remember being amazed that a grownup would even have the capacity to weep.
He had a son and daughter (the one I saw yesterday) who corresponded in age roughly to my older brother and me. Their mother never remarried. Through the years we would see them on occasion but really not very often, and I never got to know them very well.
So when I saw this cousin yesterday we hugged and exchanged pleasantries. Each of us filled in the other on our children and what they are doing. We talked a bit about our work. Then we headed off in opposite directions.
We don't know each other very well and that's kind of sad but there is still that undeniable connection. Her dad and my mom were brother and sister. And they would want us to at least stop and say hello. I am glad we did.
I drove home yesterday afternoon. Two of Wife's dear friends are here spending the weekend. They were gone to dinner last night so Daughter, who has been a bit under the weather this week, and I went to get something to eat ourselves.
We went to one of those "fast casual" places that's a step up from true fast food. You order at a counter but the food's a little more like a restaurant. Anyway, we each ordered water to drink and were told we would find the cups over by the fountain that dispenses the drinks.
Only the cups were just slightly bigger than a shot glass or one of those paper cups they use at the dentist's office. So in other words, they punish you for drinking water.
Wife and I have noticed that in many restaurants now, when you order water, they bring it to you without ice. Now maybe that's a preference for some, but I like ice in my water. And yes, I will often order water to save money.
Note to food establishments: serving water to me in cups, or without ice, or in any other fashion that is supposed to discourage me from only ordering water, is going to have the opposite effect. I'll just keep filling up those little cups until I'm satisfied or I'm going to ask you to bring me ice and if that annoys you, or violates company policy, so be it. If I want water, I want water. And I don't intend to pay for it either.
Older Son went and joined DIL in Dallas last week and all seems to be well. We miss them something awful but we're managing. They will be here for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we're looking forward to that.
Younger Son will be home in about a week, as he is out of school the week of Thanksgiving.
It will be good to have everyone together. I really enjoy this time of year.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
Older son continues to improve. DIL went back today and he'll follow this Thursday. He saw his doc a few days ago, got his stitches out and got a good report.
He will be glad to get on with things. We will miss him but look forward to hearing about the new adventures he and DIL will have in their new home.
One of the cool things about having Older Son here for this extended period of time is that we got to watch the World Series together. He's a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan and I'm a longtime Astros fan, so neither of us had a dog in this fight, so to speak. As I wrote last week, during one of the rare times he and DIL have been together in their new home, they got to go to the American League Championship Series game where the Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers and won the American League Pennant. So Older Son, a National League guy like me, has adopted the Texas Rangers as his AL team since he lives there now.
But you couldn't help but be happy for the St. Louis Cardinals this past week and for all my friends and family (including my brother and Wife) who are Cards fans. In Game Six, two times they were only a strike away from losing, but they simply would not go away. It was indeed a "classic Fall Classic" and so much fun to watch.
For the Texas Rangers, it had to have stung to gotten to the big party two years in a row and come up short. But they're showing improvement. Last year they got swept and this year the series went to seven games.
Wife went to Las Vegas for a software conference this week. Yes, she really did go for a conference. I think she managed to take in some of the sights and sounds but all she'll say is that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
And I'm kidding, of course. Glad to have her back.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
When I picked him up at 6 a.m. he was all smiles, allowing as to how this was just what he needed. I told him I hoped the fishing would not disapppoint (which it didn't) but he said he was, at that very moment, already pronouncing it a successful outing, fish or no fish.
He and I are both allegedly at that "emtpy nest" phase of life but neither of us has seen a sign of one yet. He was feeling particularly overwhelmed and a day on the lake was just what he needed. He also put me to shame as far as catching fish was concerned. Glad I could help him out.
I am pleased to report that Older Son came through his surgery with flying colors and is recuperating well here at the house. He and DIL flew in last Tuesday, which just happened to be my birthday, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with them, along with DIL's parents, that night.
His surgery was Wednesday and he stayed the night at the hospital, with DIL dutifully at his side, as she has been ever since. He's still on some pretty heavy pain meds, and takes naps intermittently as they kick in, but he's also getting up and going on short walks and showing steady improvement.
(Thanks to all who prayed for Older Son. I appreciate it more than you know).
I might have already mentioned that this is one of the best times of year for a number of reasons, not the least of which are college football and post-season baseball. Our favorite college team, Auburn, is not having the banner season of last year but there have been some unexpected wins.
As for post-season MLB, well, Older Son, with whom I have attended numerous games over the years, found himself, along with DIL, at the American League Championship Game last Saturday night in Arlington, TX where the Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers to win the AL pennant. So happy for him to get to do that.
Later in the week I got an e-mail from my friend in Little Rock, who also shares the baseball passion with me and who I met in St. Louis earlier this summer for a game (subject of earlier blog post), with the subject line saying, simply, "Going to Game 2 (of the World Series) in St. Louis." So happy for him too.
Oh, and did I mention that I am so happy and pleased for both of them? Years ago when I learned in Sunday School that I am not supposed to covet, I was told that it was OK to want something like my neighbor has; I just wasn't supposed to want what he had and wish he didn't have it.
OK. I'm glad my friend caught more fish than I did. I'm glad my son got to go see a team win the league pennant, something I have never done. And I'm just delighted for my buddy in Little Rock who got to go to a World Series game (also an incomplete item on my bucket list) and who, the next time he attends a game with me, will buy his own beer and hot dog.
I wish I could have caught an equal amount of fish that were mine (not his fish, but the same amount or greater); I wish I could have been at a pennant game; and I wish I could go to a World Series game.
See? Did all that without coveting. And I'll stop grinding my teeth as soon as I'm done writing this.
I jest; you know I jest. Life is good for me, so much richer and better than I deserve and I try to remember to say a prayer of gratitude each day.
A big shout-out and Happy Birthday to Younger Son, David, who turns 19 years old today. I could write pages and pages about what his life has meant to me and what a blessing he is to his entire family. But I won't.
I have missed him terribly this fall but continue to be immensely proud of him and happy for him as he experiences college life. Can't wait to have some quality time with him at Thanksgiving.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Thing is, I don't think God is that interested in my having an easy life. He wants me to have FAITH and to be FAITHFUL. I love the verse of scripture that Kelly has on her blog home page about how we walk by faith, not by sight. But if I could just have a glimpse . . . .
OK, so I'm a slow learner.
Wife share with me just a couple of days ago that she and her Bible Study group were studying the "peace of God" and how there are references in the Bible to peace being "like a river."
"What do you think about when you think about a river?" Wife asked me.
I told Wife that I think about rapids. I thnk about swifly moving water, about currents and eddies. And then I think about stillness, where the water is more calm.
"Exactly," said Wife.
These past few months have been interesting, to say the least and our faith has been stretched. Older Son and DIL announce they are moving away. Younger Son goes to college. Daughter starts a new job.
Kind of like those rapids I just referenced.
Earlier this year, long before his June wedding, Older Son shared with us about some pain he was having in his back. He went to his doctor and she referred him for some physical therapy. It helped some, but not a great deal.
He had a cortizone shot before the wedding. About a month ago he told us the pain had come back and was, in fact, a little worse. He was also feeling some tingling in his legs.
Back to his doctor he went. This time she referred him to an orthopedic surgeon, who scheduled him for an MRI on a Thursday, the day before he and DIL would be leaving for Dallas. On Friday morning he saw the orthopedic to discuss the MRI.
Older Son has a herniated disk which is causing a pinched nerve, which is causing the pain. He gave him some options, one of which is surgery which should give him fairly immediate -- and permanent -- relief. He talked to DIL and he talked to us and did some research. We all prayed and Older Son came to the decision that this would be the best option. Short term discomfort and inconvenience for long term benefit.
He was supposed to have flown to Dallas this past Friday night to stay permanently. He did, in fact, go, but he and DIL will be returning to Nashville this Tuesday the 18th. On Wednesday the 19th Older Son will have surgery and he'll recuperate here with us for at least a couple of weeks. It is supposed to be a fairly short (about 45 minutes), minimally invasive procedure and, as I said, he should get relief from the pain. And his surgeon has assured him this should be an isolated matter that will not give rise to a lifetime of chronic problems such as this.
Of course, if I could, I would trade places with my son. In a heartbeat. That's what parents do.
But I can't. So I'll join him in walking by faith, not by sight, and trusting God for that peace like a river.
I'll look forward to sharing a good report with all of you later this week. In the meantime, please send up a prayer on Wednesday.
Friday, October 7, 2011
We made the trek to Dallas last weekend with Older Son and DIL. We drove their two cars and a rental truck filled with their earthly belongings.
There have been many mixed emotions since they announced their plans to us back in July. Wife and I wanted to be supportive but still felt an overlay of sadness about it. As time went on and we talked, and processed it, we became more accepting. Still sad, but accepting. As Wife quipped recently, "I believe God's in it but I think I'm mad at Him."
Wife and I both know that God is plenty big enough to handle our being mad. Or whatever else we might be.
Anyway, we went as far as Little Rock last Friday night and spent the night with Wife's parents. We arrived in Dallas around noon. Their new apartment is in a lovely, tree-filled neighborhood, right across the street from a golf course and next to a very nice walking trail. The apartment complex is probably 20 or so years old, but very nice and very well maintained.
Their apartment is small but it's a good floorplan and has plenty of closet and storage space. Older Son and DIL were excited as we unloaded their stuff and got them settled into their new home.
Older Son had wisely hired a couple of moving company employees to help us on that end and they had the truck unloaded in less than two hours. That was money very well spent. Of course Older Son had an ulterior motive -- to see the entire second half of the Auburn-South Carolina game which had started at 2:30 central time.
By 4:30 we were in a bar and saw the exciting second half. This was NOT a sports bar so it was a very sedate atmosphere. The bartender, in fact, told us we had some of the best silent cheers he had ever seen.
Best of all, Auburn pulled out the win.
On Sunday my old college buddy, who lives in a Dallas suburb, brought us lunch. Great to see him, as always, and I'm comforted by the fact that he'll be there where Older Son and DIL are.
I also have a wonderful cousin who lives just up the road from them. Older Son and I went by to see her and her husband Sunday afternoon while the girls went shopping for some provisions for the apartment. Great to see them too and, of course, they are family so it cheers me that they'll be there too.
Early Monday morning DIL took Wife, Older Son and me to the airport and we flew back to Tennessee. Older Son is wrapping things up at work with Wife this week and next, and staying here at the house with us.
Of course Daughter is here too and last night Younger Son called and said he would be coming home today for the weekend.
So this weekend our three little birdies are all back in the nest.
It's no secret that Wife and I have struggled a bit with all these changes taking place. And you know what I think? I think someone immensely wiser than ourselves knew exactly what we needed and gave us this wonderful gift of our intact family this weekend.
We know that all good gifts come from Him.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
How I love traveling with these girls! It was truly a laugh a minute, starting before we even left, as Wife and I had to have a discussion about whether we would take our own pillows. Daughter and DIL found this hilarious. Wife and I reminded them that they would be old someday and they would understand. Wife and I took the pillows.
It was a beautiful day for the short drive to Atlanta and we got there in time for some sitting by the pool for the girls and watching the first half of the Arkansas-Alabama game for me.
The wedding was lovely and the reception was much fun. Older Son was in his element, as he always is, with his old chums. Wife and I have come to love these guys, so many of whom visited our home and became like family during Older Son's college years. It's always great to see them again. Fine young men, all of them.
Wife and I danced with the best of them. We're not that much better than we were before we took lessons, but we have a bit more confidence, so the money for those lessons was well spent.
This morning Wife and I got up and drove over to Auburn to see Younger Son and take him to lunch while Older Son, DIL and Daughter headed home.
Younger Son was well rested and in a good humor, so we had a great visit. He is busy with his classes and pledging the fraternity and gave us good reports on both. He had a flag football game later in the afternoon. While he did that, we did his laundry for him.
It was so good to see him and made me feel much better. I had fretted a bit since our last visit, just not satisfied with the amount of time we had together and concerned about the tiredness I sensed.
Today made up for that. I think he is learning to manage his time well, a valuable life lesson. I still miss him terribly, but this visit filled my tank, hopefully enough to get me to the next time we see him.
Got home earlier tonight and Daughter is getting crafts ready for her children for school tomorrow. It's extremely gratifying for Wife and me to see her doing something for which she is so enthusiastic and so gifted. I'm so thankful for the time in her life when she's here with us.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Here in the south, we are teased a lot with a few cool days, then hot days that follow right behind. It can also change during the day. We might go to work in the morning with a sweater or coat and drive home with the AC blowing full blast.
We have had about a week of nice, cool-ish weather here in Middle Tennessee and it's extremely pleasant. I have enjoyed a number of outdoor runs and have enjoyed the less humid air and lower temperatures. I know it's not here to stay but I'll enjoy it while I can.
It just boggles my mind that we're already in mid-September. What a year this has already been. We've married off Older Son and soon he and DIL will be making their move; Daughter graduated from college and moved back home; and of course Younger Son has gone to college.
Speaking of Younger Son, we miss him fiercely. As boys tend to do, he communicates with us on what I call a "need to know" basis. When he thinks we need to know something, he tells us. And that's not very often. We're working on that.
Overall, with what we have been able to piece together, we think he is doing well. He tells us his classes are going fine and he is faithfully attending and doing what he needs to do. He has pledged a fraternity and is busy with that. As I said, we miss him but we're happy for him to have this change to spread his wings.
And speaking of Daughter, I am thrilled to announce that she has found full-time employment! She is teaching in a preschool. Probably not her "dream job" but a great place to start and she is very, very pleased. And she already is very happy with it, enjoying the three and four-year olds that have been entrusted to her.
And I will tell you that Wife and I just love having her here with us. We try very hard to be good "roommates," giving her space when she needs it but thoroughly enjoying her company.
She's threatening to write a book about life after college, moving back in with parents. It will feature, of course, all the witty things I say . . .
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
We don't water here in the 'burb where I live. It's too expensive. We all kind of have this unwritten agreement that, if it doesn't rain, we'll just let our yards turn temporarily brown. We know it will rain again sometime and the green will come back but when we go through a dry spell, the yard's just going to turn brown. We'll water plants, but the grass suffers.
Our most recent dry spell has ended with a vengeance. We have gotten some of that wind and rain from the Tropical Depression Lee. Over the holiday weekend the rain came in and temperatures plunged into the 50s at night, if you can believe that.
It won't last but we're thankful for the wet stuff (although we've about had enough) and especially the relief from the heat.
Daughter has observed -- and I agree -- that people are getting a little ridiculous, talking about "how cold" it is, wearing jackets, etc. I think folks just look forward to the change of seasons and hurry it along any way they can.
We went to the first Auburn game over the weekend. They narrowly escaped defeat to Utah State. That's not a good sign of things to come. Oh well, you can't be on top every year.
Game time was 11 a.m. I detest the early kickoffs but of course it's all about TV and the money a school can make from that. Anyway, I knew it would be unbearably hot and I had no intention of sitting out there for the entire game.
As it turned out, there was a very stiff breeze (courtesy, I believe, of the aforementioned tropical depression) which made it entirely tolerable. I went down and took a break at half-time but other than that, I stayed right with it.
Got to spend just a little time with Younger Son. He seems to have adapted well to college life. Miss him terribly.
We spent the remainder of the holiday weekend at our friends' lakehouse in North Alabama. It's become an annual Labor Day Weekend tradition. This year it was a complete washout with the weather. The wet and wind from the tropical depression followed us north and hardly let up from the time we arrived Saturday night until we left on Monday.
We had a brief break late Saturday afternoon and had a very pleasant time sitting out on the dock for a couple of hours before the rain once again started.
We still had a great time with great friends. Lots of good food, fellowship and rousing games kept us occupied and entertained.
We will have warm weather again, you can count on it. Still, this past weekend always marks the unofficial end to summer and a gradual beginning of a change of season.
And as that season changes, Wife and I are gradually adjusting to a new way of life. Daughter is here with us (and we are so glad) but she's an adult (she calls us her roommates), and we try to remember that. (Sorry, Sweetie, but these things take time).
We will soon see Older Son and DIL off on their new adventure and we are preparing ourselves for that.
And today I just happened to notice that my last blog entry was my 200th. I appreciate all of you who have come along for these mid-life thoughts. (When do I have to call it late mid-life?)
We'll see what happens with 200 more.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Wife is a weather junkie. She probabaly would have been a splendid meteorologist. She understands jet streams, dew points and high and low pressure systems. Me? I just try to catch the forecast when I can so I'll know whether or not to carry an umbrella. Most of that other stuff goes over my head.
As I write this, Irene is on her way north from North Carolina. Although North Carolinians took a pretty good hit, early indications are that the damage is not as bad as they thought it might have been. You never know. We'll see what happens as this massive storm heads up the East Coast. I believe I just heard the Weather Channel guy say that the last time a hurricane hit land in New York City was 1821. Wow.
Wouldn't it have been a bummer to be visitng the Big Apple this weekend? You might have had theater tickets, planned to ferry out to Ellis Island or planned to take in a Mets or Yankees game. Not this time, friends. And you might even be stuck there to boot as most flights in and out of the airports are grounded.
In trying to find humor in this situation, I keep track of the buzz words the reporters use. I swear, I don't know what these people would do if they couldn't use the folliwng words and phrases:
1. Impact as a verb. "Virginia Beach has really been impacted by this storm." "It is almost certain that Irene will impact Marlyland." "Tell me Jim, how have the beaches been impacted?"
2. Issues. "This storm will cause big issues for travelers." "Hurricane Irene is causing issues up and down the East Coast." "The water will likely cause flooding issues."
3. On the ground. "We'll go right to __________ who is on the ground in Battery Park in New York City." "There are volunteers on the ground to aid storm victims."
My only commentary is with regard to number three. On the ground? And where else might they be???
Friday, August 19, 2011
I share this passion with Wife. She is in two book clubs and earlier this year, both clubs read Laura Hillenbrand's book, Unbroken. Ms. Hillenbrand also authored the book Seabiscuit.
Wife told me I really, really needed to read Unbroken. I had greatly enjoyed Seabiscuit years ago and Wife assured me this one was every bit as good.
Wow, I was not disappointed. The story is one of courage, redemption and faith and I was awe struck from start to finish.
This week Wife had the privilege of meeting the subject of the book, Louis Zamperini. She sent an e-mail to her book club members describing her visit and was kind enough to share it with me. I told her I thought my blog friends would enjoy it and she said she was glad to share. Unfortunately, I was not able to join her.
I know some of you have read this book and I hope you enjoy Susan's personal account here. If you have not read it, you should defnitely put it on your "to read" list.
So here's a word from the boss:
I wanted to e-mail you all to tell you about a wonderful experience that I had today. I know we were all so moved by the story of Louis Zamperini in Unbroken. Louis is 94 now. He is traveling, doing a lot of speaking now. Unbroken was the summer reading book for MBA this summer and Louis came here and spoke this morning to their students.
The guy who travels with him around the country is a USC grad who was an Olympic swimmer, John Nabor. John is a college friend of our friend Marc Albright. John contacted Marc and said he was going to be in town and wanted to know if they could meet this afternoon and visit and meet Louis. Marc had just read the book based on Bob’s recommendation. Long story (sorry), Marc invited us to join him and Judy to meet Louis. So all that to say, I just returned from sitting at the airport for an hour visiting with this amazing man!
What a treat and an honor it was to meet him. There were four of us and we literally huddled around him to hear his stories. He was so gracious and answered questions in a strong voice and did not seem to tire of talking at 94! What a memory he has for details! He says he memorizes a lot, especially scripture. He gave us a lot more details of his conversion and walk with Christ that were not in the book. It just gave me chills.
Marc asked him about when he met Hitler – Wow! How many people are still alive that have met Hitler! I could go on and on about what we talked about but maybe I can tell you more when we meet again. The most important thing was how he spoke about his faith. He said that every time he escaped death he knew there was something bigger than him protecting him, but he didn’t understand it until he was converted and realized how God has used the story of his life to reach others. It was just amazing.
The whole experience just WOWs me! I met a man today who is an Olympic athlete, almost was the man to run the first 4-minute mile, met Hitler, survived bullets by inches in a plane in WWII, survived 45 days floating in a raft 1000 miles in the Pacific Ocean, was a prisoner of war, and on and on, but a man who was so humble and talked mostly about his walk with Christ! It was just a tremendous honor.
He talked a lot about Laura Hillenbrand and the seven years it took to write the book. He also said when they started she interviewed many, many people, including 17with whom he had served in the war and in the camps. The last one of those 17 died last month! Time is precious!
He is writing a book based on Romans 8:28 and how his life has been spared many, many times starting with a house fire when he was 18 months old from which his father rescued him. He told us that he lives by that scripture and told us stories of breaking his hip recently and how God used him in the hospital to witness to the doctors and nurses. I wish each of you could have been with me! Sorry for such a long, long e-mail but I just had to share this experience. I feel very blessed this afternoon.
Sunday, August 7, 2011
He has indulged Wife and me this weekend as we have hovered over him. Wife has taken him shopping and we have stacked up his stuff in the living room before we start packing it up.
Wife told me this yesterday she's afraid she hasn't been as "engaged" in this process as maybe she should have been and I quickly told her not to worry because (a) this is the third time we have done this and we know the routine and (b) he's a boy and the last person she took to college was a girl. Younger Son is not interested in how his bedspread goes with his roommate's, color schemes, etc. In fact, I have strongly suggested that Younger Son go to college as a minimalist, taking as few possible items for which he has to be responsible.
The good thing about taking the last one is we can poke around the basement and find a lot of the stuff he needs. And, as I said, we've done this a couple of times already and we pretty much know the routine.
The bad thing about taking the last one to college is just that -- he's the last one.
Today is Wife's birthday. Older Son and DIL are out of town at a wedding this weekend, as is Daughter, but all will return later today and we will celebrate Wife's birthday tonight. I am to prepare the meal. That will be interesting.
This Thursday is our 27th wedding anniversary. This will come in the midst of getting ready to leave with Younger Son, who is planning a little send-off for himself this Thursday night at our house, with a command performance by Wife, i.e. she will be preparing food. She is only too happy to do this, of course, and we will be happy to spend our anniversary with Younger Son and his friends.
Wife and I went out for a quick dinner last night and called it our anniversary celebration. Somehow we got to talking about life events and how they change us. We got married. Wife thought it would be hard for us to conceive a child. She was pregnant with Older Son by our first anniversary and eight years into it, we had three.
My mother died. We moved to Tennessee. The job I moved here for was a bust. We couldn't sell our house in Little Rock and we lived in two different rent houses here. There were some dark days.
We blinked and we were sending one to college. I decided to take a severance package when my second employer here wanted me to move. Another job came along.
My dad died. Another one graduated and went to college. She's done and is back home now. The "baby" is about to fly out of the nest.
Older Son and DIL have announced to us that they will be moving to Dallas, Texas around the first of October. A wonderful job opportunity has come along for DIL. They are debt free, pet free and child free so the risk is minimal. It will be an adventure. Older Son is confident he can find a job when they get there.
To say we are sad to see them go is an understatement. But we are happy for them and 100 percent supportive. We will adjust.
Change. Transition. Passages. Do we see a theme here? Have I seen this theme for three years writing this blog?
Do life events change us? Do I even need to ask that?
Sunday, July 31, 2011
With that said, the following statements are opinions based on observations and nothing more:
1. I'll be honest. I have found myself panicking a bit over this debt ceiling business. It's kind of like the bank bailout from a couple of years ago -- conceptually I don't like it and there's a part of me that wants to say don't raise it and let's just see what happens. But most of the less political and more objective experts (and believe me, they are hard to find) seem to believe that Congress needs to reach a compromise that raises the ceiling so that financial calamity is avoided. It's Sunday afternoon as I write this and it appears a deal is close. I hope that, if and when that happens and it's signed into law, cooler heads will prevail and some real work will get done on accomplishing financial reform. We'll see.
2. Assuming this deal happens, I believe that, unless the economy totally tanks over the next year, Barack Obama will be re-elected in 2012.
3. I so want to believe that, throughout this latest crisis, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, other key players and even President Obama have thought more of our nation's welfare than what's going to happen in the next election and what it means to them politically. I want to believe that but I don't.
4. Matt Lauer on the Today Show last week, after interviewing a Congressperson about all the finger pointing by both political parties, ended with a very pointed question, something along the lines of, "With all due respect, don't the American people deserve better?"
Amen to that, Matt.
Went to my 35th high school class reunion last weekend. We had a "pre-party " before the reunion event for a small group of friends. Saw dear lifelong and blogger friend Kelly there.
The big party itself was great fun. I had to depend on name tags a bit, but many I knew immediately. This is profound, but I would say I don't look as old as some, but younger than many.
I love to go "home" every so often. But I like coming back home even better.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
I am old enough to remember the first manned orbit and, of course, the first moon landing. I well remember President Kennedy's challenge to put man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. He didn't live to see it, of course, but it happened.
Of course there were missteps and tragedies. There was the whole incident with Apollo 13 (which ended up being a great movie).
The day we brought Older Son home from the hospital after he was born in January 1986 was the day the Space Shuttle "Challenger" exploded and all its passengers were killed. In the videotape of us walking down the halls of the hospital, you can hear the news reports.
I always found it all very exciting and thought it would be way cool to go into space, even with my extra cautious personality. One of my favorite cartoons as a child was "The Jetsons" and I remember wondering if that's what life would be like when I grew to be an adult.
I also loved the old TV show "Lost in Space" even though I've never been much of a Sci-Fi fan. I wondered if it was conceivable that a family could travel into space together as the Robinsons did and wondered if we would ever have a robot as part of the family.
I had a short stint as a Star Trek fan, watching the reruns late at night when I was in law school, a great escape from studying. Never really got into the movies though.
So what happens now to the U.S. Space Program? In a tribute to the Space Shuttle I heard today, the speaker said no matter what happens now, "America will never stop exploring."
Sunday, July 10, 2011
We incorporated two of our favorite things -- seeing old friends and going to a Major League Baseball game.
We left the middle of Friday afternoon and drove to St. Louis, a less-than-five-hour drive from here. We met some of our best friends from Little Rock, a couple whose two children correspond closely in age to our older two but who declined to get on the bandwagon and have a third when we had Younger Son 18-plus years ago. To make up for their omission, we named Younger Son after my friend, the husband of this couple.
Even though we have not lived in the same town for nearly 14 years, we can get with these folks and it's like continuing a conversation that was only interrupted a few minutes ago. We have been with each other through some of life's biggest events, including our own weddings, births of our children and the weddings of each of our oldest children. They will be grandparents soon and you can bet that's a big topic of conversation now.
We got there Friday night later than they did and they had already eaten (he is a bit anal retentive and won't vary much from a schedule, something I love to remind him of), but we called them and they met us and sat with us at the restaurant where we were dining outdoors. It was a very pleasant evening and we sat and talked and laughed with them for quite a while.
Had a leisurely breakfast Saturday morning where more talking, laughing and remembering ensued. We drove out to a mall east of town and walked around and had a late lunch.
Got to Busch Stadium early for batting pracitce. The Cardinals were playing the Diamondbacks. Our seats were close together but two-and-two rather than four together, so the girls graciously took two of the seats so my buddy and I could enjoy the game together, something we do all too seldom. There is no bigger Cardinals fan than he and this was his first visit to the new Busch Staditum. I indulged him about the Cards, only lamenting the fact that Lance Berkman now wears a Cardinals uniform which I find unacceptable.
We each bought a round of hot dogs and beer for each other and thoroughly enjoyed the game and fellowship. My friends, there is just nothing like being in a big league stadium, especially with people you love.
The D-backs led most of the game but the recently returned Albert Pujols figured greatly in a Cardinals rally that tied the game at 6 in the 8th inning. The Cards pulled out the win in the bottom of the 9th. Great game.
Just what I needed.
Friday, July 1, 2011
How could we have a spring break trip, graduations, a family reunion and a wedding behind us? I was there, and I remember them all, but oh my -- how, how, how did it all go so fast? !
We have slowed down a bit and that is a good thing. We still grin when we think back on the wonderful wedding celebration. When people ask me about it, there are three words that seem to be used repeatedly: Joyous. Glorious. Blessed.
Daughter has some college friends coming for the July 4 weekend. She and Wife have been busy cooking today. Other than having a lot of food on hand, Wife and I plan to keep a low profile. We have another wedding tomorrow night, a "down" day planned for Sunday (hope to maybe see a movie), then we're meeting Older Son and DIL at the Y early Monday morning for the annual July 4 Firecracker 5K. We plan to meet up with friends late in the afternoon and will go watch fireworks at the local park.
Older Son came by this afternoon and it was the first time I had seen him since the wedding. I am just about finished with the table I am refinishing for them and he took a look at it and pronounced it "awesome." It's far from perfect, as I stated in a previous post, but it will serve them well.
He said he and DIL would like to take Wife and me to lunch on Monday if we're available, to thank us for everything we did for the wedding. I told him I thought we could make ourselves available for that.
I mentioned a family reunion. When my dad died in 2006, he was the last of five siblings to pass away. A couple of months after he died I took it upon myself to contact all my cousins from his side (ten in all) and give them a little family history. The result was a family reunion we ended up having in Memphis (nine of the ten cousins, plus some spouses and sons/daughters) in June 2007. During part of the weekend we went over to East Arkansas where our parents had mostly grown up, visited a family cemetery and met up with some other more distant cousins.
It was a great time. Sadly, some of us had never even met. My dad's family, like all families, had its quirks which I won't go into, but getting together with my dad's siblings and their families was never much of a priority as I was growing up.
Anyway, we had a great time in 2007 and it served as a sort of catalyst for these cousins connecting with each other.
Late last summer, one of the cousins who lives in Savannah, GA decided it would be good to get us together again and invited us all to come there. He did an informal poll and arrived at the weekend of June 11, 2011. Now at the time I strongly suspected Older Son would be getting married this summer but he was not talking.
Long story short, not longer after my agreeing to the June 11 family reunion, Older Son announced his engagement and chose June 18, exactly one week later.
Wife quickly announced that she would not be attending the reunion with me. I vascillated back and forth and thought of backing out, but finally decided that I should be supportive of my cousin. Besides, there was really nothing going on that weekend that I would miss.
I flew to Savannah on Friday the 10th, and was back home at 10:30 Sunday morning. Only six of the cousins made it this time but we had a great time and my cousin in Savannah was extremely hospitable. He and his wife hosted an incredible dinner at their home Friday night (fresh shrimp and crab just out of the ocean). Saturday afternoon he took us out on his boat on the Intercoastal Waterway all the way to where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. It was another great time to be with my extended family. I told Wife when I got home that she and I definitely needed to return as Savannah is an extremely interesting city and I got just a glimpse.
OK I know this is getting long but I have some other news to share.
In addition to writing this blog, I am now a columnist!
A very nice lady here got let go from her job at the big city newspaper about three years ago. In one of those "necessity is the mother of invention" type of things, she and a partner started an online newspaper, exclusively for the suburb where we live. The lady I mentioned is the editor and her partner handles marketing.
It took off like crazy and they now have a strong readership and a growing base of advertisers. They will soon celebrate two years in business. They are competing well with her former employer's suburban presence here and are slowly expanding. It's a great little "paper" and I think she's really hit on something.
Anyway, I have written a few guest pieces and a few months ago she contacted me and asked if I would like to write a weekly column. It took us a while to get together and decide what this would look like, but on the first Monday in June, "What I Know" made its debut in the Brentwood Home Page (http://www.brentwoodhomepage.com/). The name comes from a college professor who looked at me one time, put his fist on his heart and said, "Write from here! Write what you know!"
You can click on the above link and look to the left and you'll see my piece on Mondays and it usually stays on the "front" page three or four days. You can also click on a toolbar that runs across the page and my name, and see my previous columns.
I have a new column each Monday and the theme is much like this blog, kind of family-ish, touchy-feely, with an occasional opinion. I am having a ball and consider it a gift from God. A very long time ago I realized how much I love to write and how I love the written word. I am just wired that way. I majored in journalism in college and was an editor on my college newspaper. I chose another career path but have never lost the passion. To get to do this at this point in my life is, as I said, nothing short of a gift.
I realize I am joining my good blogger friend Debby who also writes a column. I'm in great company.
A happy holiday weekend to all. I hope you get some rest if you need it and/or get to spend some time with family if you would like to do that.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
After eight-plus months of anticipating and planning, the blessed event has come and gone. This past Saturday night Older Son got married to my new daughter-in-law (no longer FDIL). It was, in a word, glorious.
Although they are now on their honeymoon in Mexico, memories of the special weekend linger.
Wife and I were thrilled with the Rehearsal Dinner. The venue (Nashville's Union Station Hotel) was lovely, the food delicious and the ambience just right. We had about 75 guests. Highlights included toasts to the bride and groom and a special slide show video that Daughter had made.
The wedding itself was a holy, joyous event in a church sanctuary that was absolutely breathtaking. The reception was celebratory and loads of fun. Older Son and his bride were beaming. There was dancing...and more dancing. We sent them off under masses of blue-and-orange Auburn shakers about 11:15 p.m.
We had a brunch at our house Sunday morning for our out of town guests, catered by dear friends.
Wife and I had hearts full to overflowing all weekend. We consider ourselves so incredibly blessed. I really am without words to adequately describe it so I will show you pictures instead.
Here are a few highlights:
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The festivities begin tomorrow night. Older Son and FDIL have bought a block of tickets to the Nashville Sounds (our minor league baseball team) game for those who are in town. I was an early "yes" on this since Older Son is sponsoring the event! Should be a hoot.
He'll be playing golf with his groomsmen on Friday. I am not a golfer so I'll sit that one out. For the ladies Friday, there will be the bridesmaids' luncheon.
Wife and I are hosting the Rehearsal Dinner Friday night at Nashville's Union Station Hotel. Wife has worked very hard to make it a very special event and I am sure it will be.
I have invited Older Son's groomsmen to an early lunch on Saturday. Then the big event takes place at 6 p.m.
Sunday morning Wife and I are having a brunch at our house so we can, hopefully, visit a bit with friends and family who we will quite likely feel we have not given adequate attention. A good friend of Wife's is catering the event and, as Wife says, all we will have to do is unlock the door.
Wife and I had our fifth dance lesson this afternoon and we feel adequately prepared to not embarrass ourselves. The lessons have really been fun but the dance studio folks are wearing us out. Every lesson is about half dancing and half sales pitch for future lessons. They mean well and I realize it's a business, but I didn't sign up for this to enlarge my social circles; Wife and I just wanted to learn a little "movement" if you will.
I feel bad about it but we scheduled another lesson for next week, which we fully intend to cancel. We have no intention of returning. But there was just no way to get out of there (without making a scene, which Wife and I both always try to avoid) unless we signed on for another lesson.
There has been a fair amount of stress this week with all of the details that had to be attended to, but things have gone smoothly and Wife and I have balanced each other out. When she's been stressed, I've been calm, and vice-versa. This is a joyous time and we are thankful.
I should be posting a full report and, hopefully, photos in a few days.
Sunday, June 5, 2011
It is one of the only pieces of new, wood furniture I remember my parents ever purchasing and their purchasing it is one of my earliest memories. I'm guessing it was 1962, making the table just shy of 50 years old.
My mother loved old things and, rather than buying new furniture, she would pick up tables, chairs, lamps, etc. -- you name it -- at estate sales and antique shops. She would strip, sand and refinish pieces herself. I have a lot of those today.
I suspect her love of all things old was as much about her being frugal as it was her affinity for antiques, but she was inceredibly zealous about it.
To be honest, as I was growing up, I got tired of some of these pieces. The chairs were rickety and squeaky, and sometimes fell apart. I got tired of telling my friends -- and got tired of my parents telling my friends -- not to lean back in a chair, as guys inherently do, lest it would break. I have even had a recent reminder of that as I had to take a couple of their old dining room chairs, which are now in my dining room, to be repaired a few months ago.
Today, of course, with the benefit of age, I appreciate that furniture because of its history. I look at one of those old tables or chairs and I see past the flaws. I see my mother, stripping off the old stain, sanding it down and making it into something . . . . well, not new by any means, but fit to be used in a family's home.
Back to the round table. Around 1962, as I said, my parents bought this table. It's perfectly round, about three or four feet in diameter and it seats four, or five in a pinch.
This was our kitchen table in four different houses as I was growing up, its longest stint being in the house my folks built in late 1966 and where my dad was still living when he died five years ago. Countless meals were eaten at that table by my parents, my brother and me, and many family meetings took place there. Games were played. Pinewood Derby cars were constructed. Gallons of coffee were consumed by my mother and her neighbor friends at this table.
Over the years there were nicks and scratches and of course countless spills. It was the centerpiece of a not-very-large kitchen, so it absorbed grime from cooking. My mom always meant to put a new finish on it.
When I went to law school in 1980, my parents had become emtpy nesters. They disassembled the top, round piece of the table from its single pedestal and gave it to me, and put a smaller one in their kitchen. My dad and I packed the round table into a U-Haul and moved it into my new apartment. We placed it in front of a picture window. My mother found some used (of course) chairs to place around it.
Wife and I married in 1984. She moved in with me and brought an old dining room table into the marriage. We put that in front of the picture window and crammed the round table into a very small kitchen nook in our very small kitchen.
The table went with us to two more houses in Little Rock and to the three we have lived in here. High chairs were pushed up to it. Homework was done there and games were played. A few years ago we once again disassembled it and decided to store it.
Yesterday I took the top piece of the table from the playhouse. I set it up on a makeshift work bench I had set up in the garage. I washed it down and stripped off the old, nearly-50-year-old stain. I stripped away scratches and water marks from its years of use, which came off quite stubbornly.
I will now sand it down and apply a new finish. It will not, by any means, look new, but it will be a solid table, ready for many more years of use. Maybe I will find some old, rickety chairs to place around it.
I will present it to Older Son and his bride, and they will be the third generation to use it. They will sit there and eat their meals as newlyweds and, who knows, at some point they might be pushing a high chair up next to it, playing games on it and/or helping with homework on it. It will be disassembled from its pedestal when they move. It will withstand more nicks, scratches and spills. I think it will serve them well.
They might decide to eventually store it for a time, and they might eventually pass it on to another generation. I know it's just a table and a table is a thing but I hope that, eventually, they will appreciate its heritage and look past its flaws to someone who stripped and stained it, then refinished it just for them, with a big dose of love and good wishes.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
It is early Sunday morning. The "baby" -- Younger Son -- graduates from high school today. He's still upstairs asleep. The last few days has been a whirlwind of parties and celebrations for him and his friends.
The tradition in our little suburb is that parents throw grad parties for their sons/daughters. A lot of them combine with others. Younger Son spent yesterday and much of the day before going to one after the next. There are dinners, ice cream socials, brunches and pool parties. We made the decision when our first graduated that we would do ours a week before graduation, so we kind of unoficially kick things off.
This is the third, and last, time around for this little exercise for us. As Wife says, it's always a bittersweet occasion.
This year we are caught up in planning a wedding but we said from the beginning that we would not let that overshadow this milestone in Younger Son's life.
When Older Son graduated, my dad came. We had dinner the night before here at the house with him, Wife's parents, Wife's sister and all of us. I told Older Son at dinner that night how proud of him we were. I told him we would miss him when he went to college, but that all of us, including his grandmother who had died a few years before, would always be with him, and that we would take a picture of all of us the next day for him to take with him to remind him of that. He did not say much about it at the time, but every time I visited him during his college years, I noticed that the picture was somehwere in his room.
My dad died before the next graduation (Daughter's) but I had my aunt and uncle who live nearby come for dinner the night before and dear friends who live a few hours away joined us for graduation the next day. Daughter spoke at her commencement ceremony and it was beautiful.
Wife's parents were not able to make it over this weekend. They are both not feeling 100 percent and we encouraged them to conserve their energy so they can be here for the wedding. Younger Son was very gracious in understanding.
No other extended family will be with us, either, but the aforementioned friends will drive up for the ceremony. Tonight we'll go out to dinner with "just us" -- Wife, Older Son, FDIL, Daughter, Younger Son and me -- and we will celebrate this little boy who had the nerve to grow up on us, the one who God in his infinite wisdom knew that we needed to make us whole, the one Wife used to lovingly say would "keep us young or kill us."
And I don't now if he kept us young or not (the lack of hair on the top of my head would seem to say no to that) but we're still kicking.
For what he has added to our lives, though, I am without words. He is the caboose of this crazy train we call our family, the part that very much makes us complete.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Wife and I had our first dance lesson last week and we go back tomorrow for number two. The first one, not surprisingly, was pretty much a sales pitch. Our instructor went through some basic steps with us, told us this dance studio could be our "family" (I appreciate her enthusiasm but I have a family, thank you) and then sold us a package.
It was actually quite reasonable and we'll get three more private lessons in before the wedding, and we have the opportunity to go to some group activities. I think the lessons will serve their purpose -- to keep us from looking foolish at the wedding reception.
We had a big graduation party for Younger Son last Friday night. It was a lot of work but well worth it. We did this for our older two, so it was a given that we would do it this time around.
It took Wife several days of preparation to get ready. Daughter was a big help and I helped where I could, as well as Younger Son, of course.
Fortunately, it was a beautiful night, so we were able to have folks outside.
Early that day I went to get in the car to run an errand and saw a snake lying in the sun on the driveway. He was about three feet long and brownish in color with some little flecks of color on his back. I honestly could not tell if he was a "bad" (poisonous) snake or not, but with Wife and Daughter nearby, I knew he needed to go.
I went to get the shovel, which was under the deck. This probably took all of ten seconds but when I got back, the snake was gone. I looked all around and decided he had just moved on.
I told Wife about it and told her that, even though I thought he had probably slithered far away by now, it would probably be a good idea to keep the garage doors close.
Fast forward a few hours later. I was working at my desk in the playroom, which is over the garage. I was also on the phone. I heard an earth-shattering scream and I knew in a flash that Mr. Snake was back.
The scream came from Daughter who doesn't care for any type of moving creature other than dogs.
I got off the phone and ran down the stairs to the garage. Daughter was on the stairs shaking. Wife's friend Mary, who was helping us get ready for the party, was also down there. She had seen the snake go behind a long table leaning against the wall, which we would set up later for the party.
I armed myself with the shovel again while Mary pulled the table from the wall. I gave him about ten whacks. He appeared to be motionless but when I lifted the shovel, he began to move again.
I was at an odd angle. Mary propped the table against my leg, told me not to move and to hand her the shovel. She finished him off.
I'm sorry if this was a "good" snake but he had to go.
Younger Son will graduate this Sunday and we'll have one more major event behind us. His baccalaureate service was last Sunday and it was lovely. Since it is religious in nature, it is optional, but most students participate.
The graduation candidates wear their gown without their caps and it always takes my breath away when they march in to the organ muscic.
These passages just keep happening.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Wife and I rose early last Saturday morning, went to spin class at the Y, made a quick trip to the Farmers' Market (local strawberries were in! YEA!), came home and showered and were off to Memphis for Younger Son's rugby tournament.
The game started at 4:30 so we had time to stop in Jackson for a quick lunch. The drive over was actually somewhat relaxing because in the car we can only obsess about all the things we have to do, not actually do them, which makes sense in some warped kind of way. Just humor me.
The game had a sad outcome because even though our team scored more "tries" (like a touchdown in football) than the other one, they beat us on penalty kicks. Younger Son was quite disappointed.
We consoled him for a while, assured him he had done well and we were proud of him, then were off to head toward Auburn for Daughter's graduation.
We spent the night in Tupelo, MS Saturday night, then rolled into Auburn about 1 p.m. Sunday. We picked up Daughter and took her to lunch, then stood in line about two hours -- that's right, two hours -- to take her picture in front of the stately concrete and brick Auburn University sign in front of the campus. And yes it was worth it.
We had a celebration dinner with the family that night, excluding Younger Son who was unable to make it down, and Wife and I left Daughter and Older Son with some of their friends for late night celebrating. We made it back to the hotel about 9, took a nice leisurely walk around the grounds, then turned in fairly early.
I don't know how to describe Monday's commencement ceremonies other than to use one word: miserable. Outside, pushing 90 degrees, hardly a cloud in the sky, 3500-plus graduates. Did I mention it was miserable?
Bright spots were (1) seeing Daughter proudly march across the stage, at which point Wife and I gave each other a handshake and almost simultaneously said, "Two down, one to go," and (2) hearing Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary, give the brief (nine minutes) commencement address. He was a good speaker.
The event began at 9:30. Daughter "walked" at 11:15. She had already sent us a text saying that she would be leaving immediately thereafter, as did roughly 95 percent of the graduates. We heard they finished up around 1 p.m. What word can I use other than MISERABLE?!
But Daughter is now a college graduate and we are immensely proud. Wife and Older Son hit the road shortly before 1 p.m. Daughter and I went to lunch, then went to work packing her up. We loaded up Older Son's pickup truck and the back of my Honda Pilot. I left about 5 p.m. and headed home and Daughter followed a couple of days later. She and her earthly belongings are now back here at the home she left just four years ago. She will now seek a teaching job and see what lies ahead.
Tomorrow morning we'll attend FDIL's hooding ceremony at Belmont University in Nashville, where she will receive her Master's Degree, and we might or might not attend the full blown graduation in the afternoon. Mercifully, it's all inside. It's cooler here than it was earlier in the week, but I appreciate that we won't have fight any kind of weather.
We are now turning our attention toward Younger Son and the graduation party we will have for him next Friday night, then his graduation on the 29th. And then of course there's the little matter of a wedding coming up in five weeks.
Not that this matters in any way, but I am approximately 14 pounds away from the weight I would like to be for the wedding (that would be 14 pounds over, by the way, just in case you were wondering). Unless I decide to shed a body part, I won't make it, but if I can drop a little more over the next few weeks I'll be happy. For about 15 years now I have had this matter of about 40 - 50 pounds that always want to come back after I get rid of them. Here's hoping their exit this time will be permanent.
That is not to say that these recent activities are about me. I just want to be healthy for them.
And in the mist of all of this, Wife has signed us up for dancing lessons. She is scared to death we will make fools of ourselves when we have to dance at the wedding.
Our first one is next Thursday night. When she called to tell me about it, Wife said, "the first lesson will be all about teaching you to lead and me to follow."
OK, folks. She walked right into that one.
What self-respecting husband would not have automatically made some sarcastic comment about having been married X amount of years (in my case, almost 27) and expecting a dance instructor to accomplish that?
Above all, we keep our senses of humor.