Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A State of Mind

There is a song from the old Broadway show, Mame, titled “We Need a Little Christmas.” You will no doubt hear it if you listen to a radio stations that plays continuous Christmas music from mid-November through Christmas Day. One of the verses goes as follows, evidencing the song’s recurring theme:

We need a little Christmas! Right this very minute! Candles in the window, carols at the spinet, yes we need a little Christmas, right this very minute! Need a little Christmas now!

In the play the song is performed by Auntie Mame and her nephew, Patrick, acknowledging the hard times they are experiencing but agreeing that, by pretending it is Christmas, they can take at least momentary solace. In one of the other lines in the song, Patrick states, “But Auntie Mame, it’s one week from Thanksgiving Day now.”

I am guessing Patrick meant Thanksgiving was one week away rather than one week in the past but either way, this line from the song would today be ludicrous. Stores are completely decorated for Christmas by the day after Halloween if not before. This has been going on for some time now and to an extent, it is understandable. Retailers depend on the Christmas season for a huge part of their year’s revenues.

Now, individuals have caught on to the early decorating and preparation. Several houses in our neighborhood are already decked out for Christmas and I am confident that, by this weekend, many of our friends will have put up their Christmas trees.

This past weekend at our church, the entire service was devoted to kicking off our “Global Christmas” where, for a number of holiday seasons now, members have been urged to give to a fund that is used throughout the year to support worthwhile causes and ministries all over the world. The emphasis is on the idea of giving rather than receiving and the special offering will be taken in mid-December. It is always a wonderful time in our congregation and extremely heartening to see people look beyond what is sometimes superficial gift-giving and choose to invest in something with eternal worth.

There was no acknowledgement, however, of Thanksgiving, other than the pastor who was speaking saying something like, “I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but . . .” No “Come Ye Thankful People, Come” or any other song or reading to acknowledge the holiday that has become pretty much the gateway to the Christmas season.

I used to get all worked up over this, lamenting the fact that Christmas has become so commercial and we just skip right over Thanksgiving. I scoffed at the early decorating and the playing of Christmas music starting in early November.

After a lot of good natured ribbing and outright laughter from my wife and children, though, I have completely mellowed about it all. I have come to realize that Thanksgiving is a state of mind (as is the commercialization of Christmas, but that’s for another day). If I am having a problem being as thankful as I should be, well, that is a problem of my own making.

The fact that Christmas decorations are up should not prevent me from being thankful. On Thanksgiving Day I will get up and go participate in a 5K to benefit Habitat for Humanity. I will go serve at a little inner city church that caters to its community, many of whom are way down on their luck. I will come home and enjoy a wonderful meal with my wonderful family (who laugh at me, but that’s OK). Again, something is way wrong with me if I am not thankful after a day like that.

I am thankful for so much and my heart is full as I think of the blessings I have. And to anyone reading this, I hope you are thankful also. And if you want to put up your Christmas tree tomorrow or this weekend -- or if you put it up last week -- you have my blessing.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Something positive

In the midst of all the discouraging crap going on, I found encouragement here:,123304

I don't play golf and don't even fully understand this, but I know one thing: this guy chose to do the right thing. He didn't have to do it but he did it. Not because it helped him; not because he would get kudos from folks like me. He did it simply because it was the right thing to do. That was enough.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Tag Game

Thank you to everyone who "tagged" me. I know you meant well. At the left on my blog page is my blog list which I believe at last count was seven. The rules of this little game say that you tag seven friends, post the rules, then state seven weird or random things about yourself. I think almost everyone on my list has already been included in this so I'm not going to "tag" you again, nor am I going to post the rules again. Quid said we didn't have to . . .

I did come up with seven things and added one more. These are not weird but I guess they are random. I am, as usual, too wordy. I don't like to talk about myself and look forward to writing about things that I hope are more interesting.

1. I’m a family man. My wife and three children bring me more joy than I have ever deserved. Having a family trumps most everything I have ever experienced.

2. The longer I live, the less I like and am comfortable with the liberal and conservative labels, both politically and socially. I know that, by common definitions, I am conservative. Like one of my other blogger friends, I am anti-death penalty but pro-gun. I am pro-life. I believe in the capitalist system but I am totally frustrated and disenchanted by the current state of healthcare in the this country and although I think I oppose universal health insurance and am skeptical of anything run by the government, I know that is easy for me to say because I have not been without health insurance. I still have not decided if health care is a privilege or a right. I have a fundamental problem with the recently passed financial rescue legislation but I work for a bank that will likely benefit from it. So is all of this conservative or liberal?

I am part of a church that would be known as both conservative and evangelical as those terms are commonly defined today. Again, though, I don’t like the labels. I believe Jesus is very inclusive, not exclusive. I love the creeds, worship, liturgy and music in many of the traditional Christian churches. I do not believe any particular brand of Christianity has it all right and I am immediately put off by any faction that teaches or implies that it does.

3. I am extremely soft-hearted, probably to a fault. I do not like conflict but I am also very stubborn and will (obnoxiously at times) resolutely argue about something if I am impassioned about the subject matter. My wife would confirm this and would add that I will resolutely argue even when I know I am wrong.

I have tried to channel the soft-heartedness into good things and several years ago began volunteering at, and eventually went on the Board of Directors of, a local homeless shelter and life recovery center. I am totally in awe of both the staff who work there and the clientele who work so hard to change their lives.

4. I love music of many types – Classical, Modern, Rock and Roll, Jazz and Country. I play the piano – started taking piano lessons when I started school. I also love to sing. I sang in choirs from an early age until moving to Tennessee in 1997. I also sang in small ensembles and an occasional solo in my former church in Arkansas. The music in my current church is very contemporary and hard for me to follow, so I don’t do any up front singing anymore.

5. I love to read and write. My reading preferences are as varied as my musical ones. I have read a lot of sports books this year for no other reason than friends have passed them on or recommended them to me. My five all-time favorite books are listed on my blog profile. I do not care much for fantasy or science fiction.

I love the whole blogging thing because it gives me an outlet to write and there are about a half dozen folks who are kind enough to read what I write and give me their feedback. Most of these people I have never personally met, yet I have come to think of them as friends. My friend Kelly introduced me to blogging. She and I have known each other our entire lives and, until she married, had the same last name but are not related.

I have been saying for years that I think I have a novel in me but it has not yet been birthed.

6. I majored in Journalism in college and wrote for my college newspaper. I went to law school right out of college. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken some time between undergrad and law school. That is what I advise young people – who ask – to do unless they are extremely passionate about the profession or graduate study they believe they want to pursue. For me, although it has all worked out fine, I was not very mature when I graduated from college. A year or two doing something else – maybe working for a newspaper or maybe just doing a low skills job – would have done me a world of good, helped me to mature and maybe helped me avoid a great deal of second guessing myself.

7. The best job I ever had in my life was during the summers of 1980 and ’81 when I worked in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Those were the summers after my senior year of college and first year of law school, respectively. This is where I became totally hooked on the great outdoors.

8. This is one extra but I have to add that I am huge sports fan, especially Major League Baseball and College Football. I'm also a big high school football fan, especially since Younger Son currently plays on the O-line and his team is in the state playoffs.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'm progressing

I let him go after getting my picture made
Dad and Son having a great day at the lake

Older Son Daniel

Older Son has taught me how to put photos on here. You have to understand that I am only semi-literate at computing. Even having a blog was a stretch but I enjoy it so much and I enjoy seeing the occasional photo so I wanted to be able to do it.

Older Son and I went fishing yesterday and had such a good time. Caught some blue gill and catfish and had just an incredible time. It was a gorgeous fall day and even was worth missing a game or two on TV (we caught the second half of Bama/LSU when we got home).

So now I have a profile shot and here are some photos of our day at the lake yesterday. Oh yeah, in the one of Older Son and me, I'm on the right. (HA!) I know, we look like twins don't we? Also, I added a group shot to my post a while back about the Auburn/Vanderbilt weekend so take a look if you'd like to see it.
Yes folks, he can be taught! :-)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

No Great Revelation Here

My blogger friend Hal had a very interesting piece recently about dreams. He said that he viewed his dreams about his wife and son as gifts. His wife and son are very much alive but he has to be away from them from time to time.

Hal's piece got me to thinking. This is the time of year that my mother died, in the fall, of 1996. I don't make a big deal about the anniversary of her death. This year I did not even think of it until the day was almost over. But when the fall season comes I do tend to remember the circumstances surrounding her passing and the months of suffering she endured.

For a long time after her death I would have very vivid dreams about her. In those dreams she was always sick. I would wake up sad because, even though I was 39 years old when she died and I had a lifetime of "healthy" memories of her, I was beginning to always think of her as sick. Of course I could remember her as a very well person but for some reason the "sick" memories were very much trumping the "well" ones. I did not want to remember her only in that way.

I cannot remember exactly when it happened, but eventually I began to dream about her the way I wanted to remember her -- as the compassionate, funny and caring mother and person that she was, and not sick. Although I would awake from those dreams and have a quick twinge of sadness as I remembered she was no longer with me, within minutes I would feel extremely comforted. And the dreams made me feel as if she were right there with me.

My dad died nearly ten years later, in 2006. His death was sudden, so I did not have the dreams of him being sick.

Strange thing was, I almost immediately began to have dreams about both of them. I still do. I guess I average several dreams per month about them. Often they are in the house where I grew up (which we sold after Dad died); sometimes I am a child again in the dreams.

I almost always awake from these dreams with a great sense of comfort and peace. Although I still miss both of them very much, in a very real sense I feel as if they are with me when I have these dreams.

And I believe I might have hit on something here, thanks in part to Hal's recent blog which got me to thinking about all of this. I think I have come to realize that yes, they are in fact with me in these dreams.

But not just in the dreams. They continue to live because all they did for me and everything they ever said to me are so much a part of me. I could no more not have them with me than not have my limbs or any other part of my body. They are a part of me and they go with me wherever I go; it is just that simple.

I know this is no great revelation but, just as I believe the dreams are gifts, I believe God continues to comfort me. I believe, no matter what age we are, we become different people when we lose a parent. Although we learn to live with it and accept it, I am not sure we ever really stop grieving the loss. And to deal with that in a healthy way, there has to be some comfort, some assurance.

And these dreams, as well as my good thoughts and memories, continue to comfort me and make me feel a very real presence. Wow.

(Thanks, Hal).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Final Thoughts

Election Post Mortem:

-- I am very disappointed, more than I thought I would be. I have predicted an Obama victory for months now and did not even watch the coverage Tuesday night, other than looking in for a total of about three minutes to confirm the result. I had prepared myself for it, but the reality is I hate to lose.

-- I want to make clear that my vote for John McCain was not just a vote against Obama, nor was it a vote for “the lesser of two evils.” I enthusiastically voted for John McCain. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

-- Tons of folks, even McCain supporters, disagree with me here, but the brightest part of the election for me was Sarah Palin. The die was cast long ago for a Democratic victory that was only going to be derailed by a major screw-up by Obama (and with the media cheering him on, that was not going to happen), but Governor Palin brought a breath of fresh air to the Republican ticket and to the entire election. And I loved how it just infuriated the hell out of her detractors when she kept right on going as much as they tried to discredit her. As I stated in an earlier post, borrowing from Rudyard Kipling, she kept her head about her when all about her were losing theirs and, being lied about, did not deal in lies.

-- Geraldine Ferraro graciously recognized Governor Palin for what she was doing. Ms. Ferrarro, who ran as Walter Mondale’s running mate on the Democratic ticket in 1984 and is now a commentator on Fox News, made it clear from the outset that she was not a McCain-Palin supporter. She was, however, extremely gracious and enthusiastic about what Governor Palin represented and symbolized for women. Oh my, if only some of the others in her camp would copy her grace and good manners.

-- As I have stated before, I like Barack Obama. I think he and I could be friends. I will do my best to be supportive of him.

-- I am very concerned about a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President. I am concerned about the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court who will make law rather than interpret it. I am concerned about welfare being disguised as a tax cut. I am concerned about pulling out of Iraq prematurely and jeopardizing our own national security as a result. I am concerned about a president who appears to have had very poor judgment about some of his past associations.

-- I am concerned but I am not scared. I do not think it is right to incite fear in people. As I said, I am disappointed, but I am also hopeful. Unlike James Dobson, who somehow decided he is a prophet and wrote a ridiculously awful hypothetical letter about what life will be like in just four years, I have great optimism that we will continue to be just fine in this country. The people have spoken. Thank God we live in a place where we are allowed to have a voice. In two years we will have that chance again in Congressional elections. And in four years, if Obama has not lived up to all of his own hype, we can boot him right out.

-- My blogger friend Michael wrote a great piece a few weeks ago, a parody of sorts about a debate between the candidates in which Michael is the moderator. Here's what he said at the end:

In four years, your life may be slightly different due to which candidate gets elected. Either man may be able to shape laws and policies to impact your day-to-day existence. But those impacts pale in comparison to what you do to shape your life over the next four years.You hope for change? You hope for better days? You hope for enriched family life?Don't hope. Choose.

Thanks Michael. Truer words were never spoken.

And Congratulations, President-Elect Obama. My prayers are with you and your family.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rammer Jammer and War Eagle

If you look at my Shelfari bookshelf, you'll see my most recent read is Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer by Warren St. John, a hilarious look at football fans of the University of Alabama.

St. John, who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama but did not go to the University in Tuscaloosa, in 1999 took leave from his magazine job in New York City, bought a used RV, and traveled among the die-hard Alabama fans to both home and away games.

In his introduction, St. John writes with tongue squarely in cheek that "in the life of every sports fan there comes a moment of reckoning" when you must ask yourself "a version of the question others -- spouses, friends, children and colleagues -- have asked for years: 'Why do I care?' "

Why, indeed. Although St. John and I are in different camps (I bleed Auburn blue and orange after sending two children to school there), I relate well to the question he presents. My name is Bob and I am a Sports Fan.

It started innocently enough when I was a boy growing up in South Arkansas. Lacking the genetic makeup to play sports with any degree of effectiveness, I became a fanatical spectator ("a fan") instead. I first became a fan watching my older brother play baseball, football and basketball. Like my parents and other relatives of players, I had a vested interest.

But somewhere along the line I joined the throngs of others who become obsessed with other teams, teams made of of people they do not know from Adam. It started for me with the Houston Astros when my family visited the Astrodome in 1968. I followed them loyally through many lean years and literally teared up in 2006 when they won the National League pennant for the first time ever.

Worse, however, was my total devotion as a child and young man to Arkansas Razorback football. I grew up in South Arkansas. Although when the time came I did not attend "the University" (what everyone in Arkansas called the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville - pronounced "Fedvul" in South Arkansas), I, like so many others, loyally supported the state's only major college team.

I am not proud of the fact that my mood during football season was directly related to the success of the Razorbacks. This started in early December of 1969 when I was 12 years old. Arkansas and Texas, both undefeated, were playing in what was being billed as "the game of the century." The winner would go on to win the (now defunct) Southwest Conference championship and a berth in the Cotton Bowl and would more than likely be the National Champion as well.

Leading 14-0 going into the fourth quarter, the Hogs looked as if they would proceed to victory. Alas, with two miracle touchdowns and a successful 2-point conversion by the Longhorns, the final score was Texas 15, Arkansas 14.

This was the first sports event where I actually cried because of the result. This game also birthed a strong hatred of the Texas Longhorns.

I continued this devotion (and hatred of Texas) for many years, but as time went on and I married and had a family (although I once promised my wife I would be nice to her the rest of her life if she would let me go to a game at the last minute), I mellowed. I became more interested in my children and their activities, including their own involvement in sports. I felt like maturity had finally set in. I still really enjoyed college and pro sports and still faithfully followed the Astros, but took a much more casual interest in the Razorbacks. I could carry on in the event of a loss. I even began to look disdainfully at the fans who got so worked up over it all.

Fast forward to Fall 2004. We had lived in Tennessee for seven years by that time. Older Son had graduated high school and headed to Auburn University in Alabama. It did not take long for him to get "bit," big-time, by Auburn football. It did not hurt that they went 13-0 that year and were cheated out of the national championship (not that I am bitter).

It did not take long for it to catch on with me as well. I have fallen hard. Older Son has graduated and Daughter is now there. We make as many games as we can and I have been known to revert to my 12-year-old histrionics. Wife has more than once had to grab me and try to calm me down.

It has been a frustrating season for the Auburn Tigers and I have not done well with it. I find myself getting angry at the players and at Coach Tommy Tubberville as if they are personally letting me down. It is crazy.

But it does not look as if things will get better anytime soon. I sat here just today with my two sons watching Auburn on TV as they haplessly played and lost to Ole Miss. I yelled, I hit things (though not my sons) and I put my hands in front of my eyes to dull the pain (it did not work). I stayed mad for several hours.

Although I abhor seasons like this (Auburn is 4-5 and has lost four straight as of today), it does help to put things in perspective. After all, it's just a game. And it HAS to get better soon, at least by next season! IT HAS TO!!! War Eagle!!!!