Saturday, March 20, 2010


I love the title of Debby's blog, "Life's Funny Like That." I love it because it is so, so true.

A common question when one says the word "funny" is, "Do you mean funny/strange or funny/ha-ha?" And I won't speak for Debby but, for me and my life, it is quite certainly a combination of the two.

I am exhausted tonight. Why? A number of reasons, but chief among them is the fact that Wife has been gone for a week. We have one child left at home. One would think that he and I could function quite nicely and we have done so, but there's still so, so much to be done. Making sure this one child left at home has everything he needs. Worrying about him until he gets home if he's been out (Wife usually does that). Laundry. Taking the dog out. Picking things up. Putting things away. Telling the one child left at home to pick up and put away. Cooking (or some semblance thereof). And working fulltime, of course, through it all.

All of that is funny/strange in a way because I am always giving Wife helpful tips and questioning, sometimes, why she seems frustrated trying to balance all that she does.

That's also funny/ha-ha because of the sheer irony that here I am barely able to put one foot in front of the other trying to do what two people usually do (and mostly what she does!). When Wife reads this she will laugh, and rightfully so.

On another front, I have written here previously about a non-profit on which I have served on the Board of Directors for several years. It's what is commonly perceived as a "homeless shelter" but it's so much more. In addition to three meals a day and a bed for anyone who needs it, this incredible organization offers life recovery programs that are unbelievable. I couldn't even begin to share the stories of the changed lives and new directions of people there, people just like you or me, who might have made a bad choice or two (also just like you or me) but, through God's grace, were given another chance because of this place. I am humbled to be a small part of it.

Late last year I was asked to serve as vice-chair of the Board, a position which has its own responsibilities in addition to most likely being in line to be the chair in a couple of years and, of course, filling in when the chairman is absent. I quickly said no, not the time in my life, lots going on, still traveling, etc., etc. I told them I would be happy to fulfill some other commitments I had made to the organization, but no thank-you, I would not be taking that position at this time.

Nobody put any pressure on me and my non-acceptance was received graciously. Toward the end of the year, however, I received a phone call from one of those people who just commands your respect, a fine Christian lady in her 70s who served as Board chair several years ago and who explained to me the need for new leadership. By the time I got off the phone I had accepted the position of vice-chair. Sometimes you just know, and I knew.

I told Wife it would be a big job but at least I would have a strong chairman to work with, who is also a good friend, and he would give me a lot of grace, as well as plenty of time to grow into his position if I were eventually asked to succeed him.

My friend the chairman sent an e-mail to several of us a few weeks ago. He had just been diagnosed with lymphoma. He said he was confident that he has a good prognosis and he had been given a lot to be optimistic about. But short-term, he's starting chemotherapy and, according to his e-mail, he did not yet know how his body would react. And of course he would be having some down-time as far as his responsiblities as board chair are concerned.

And friends, you can read between the lines here. This morning was our monthly meeting and who do you think stood in front of this august group of people, trembling, wondering what in the world he was doing? This organization is very visible in the community. We have over 100 employees and a large budget. We're in the middle of a huge expansion program to be able to house women and children who are knocking at our doors. What possible business do I have being IN CHARGE of something like this?????

And when I got up to call the meeting to order, I was completely overcome and could hardly speak. And it's not because I was nervous (which I was), it was because I had this realization that life really is FUNNY --funny/strange and funny/ha-ha at the same time. It is both odd and hilarious that God would allow and/or call me to be in this position, leading a group that has the potential to make such a difference in the lives of people who have perhaps lost the ability to see that life can be funny -- and fun -- at times.

And tonight I'm weary. I am so ready for Wife to get home and resume normal life. So ready to go back to the teamwork that makes our marriage work, where sometimes I lead and sometimes, thankfully, she leads, and we collectively roll with the punches that come our way. It's a great institution, marriage.

And as for the new position I found myself in, well, I can only quote my friend Debby (and thank her), that life is indeed funny like that. We think we know what's going on and what's going to happen next and we make all these plans, only to find ourselves having to learn new roles and accept new challenges.

And that's not just funny, it's exhilarating. I am thankful.

And humbled.

And tired.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The (March) Madness of Health Care

Two big news items are forefront in my mind today: March Madness and health care.

We are not the biggest of basketball fans around here and it definitely comes in third after baseball and football, but we love March Madness and the NCAA tournament. My sons run a family bracket in which the five of us and Wife's parents participate. I think Older Son's girlfriend has joined also. It's tons of fun but in the years we have done it, I don't think I have ever won. I also participate in one at work with the same results. I receive unmerciful grief from both fronts.

It looks like this year's tournament might include some surprises. Villanova, who I have all the way to the final four, had to go into overtime to beat some obscure team named Robert Morris yesterday. Old Dominion upset Notre Dame (I had that one). Georgetown got beat. And, especially of note around here, Murray State beat Vanderbilt!

I am hanging on with my bracket right now but, as one of my friends at work has said, I am sure it will soon begin its "inevitable collapse!"


I have written here previously about health care. But for the election of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the health care reform legislation would have passed soon after the first of the year.

Here is my prediction: it will still pass. It's going to be close but I believe the president will prevail upon his Democratic brethren to get it done.

I will still be ambivalent no matter the outcome. And so will a lot of folks. This is a much watered-down version of the original incarnation and, although the likes of Nancy Pelosi will be grinning like cheshire cats, assuring us of what a historic victory this is (and taking the credit for it), this is NOT what they, nor the president, envisioned. Although there will be some big changes, the public option at one time was the non-negotiable centerpiece. And now it is no more.

Readers here will remember that I have conflicting feelings over all of this (which is why, no matter the result, I'll have somewhat of a "ho-hum" response).

I don't believe health insurance companies, in business to make money like anyone else, are the villainous outfits that so many have made them out to be and against whom the president is declaring war in his last-minute populist stand to push through this legislation.

Neither do I think that those proponents of a seemingly more radical single-payer system are crazy extremists who have lost touch. We already have a form of this with Medicare and, although I don't think I could ever buy into it, in a way I can see the point of these folks better than what's now being proposed.

Nobody who has read my posts here could accuse me of being a closed-minded right winger about this. I am, however, unalterably and unapolegitically pro-life and believe that NO public funds should be used to cover abortions. As I read it, the proposal on the table will work that way. I hope I am right.

My chief regret today is that, somewhere along the way, this became less about health care and more about politics; more about how a representative's vote will play in his/her home state and whether he/she will be elected again and less about voting his/her conscience; and more about cutting deals to buy votes and less about coming up with the best reform possible for all.

And, perhaps saddest of all, it's become very much about a president -- who I believe to be a decent and sincere person -- scarcely a year into his first term, trying to protect his legacy.

They're saying we could have a vote by Sunday. Those arbitrary deadlines are often missed but, again, I believe something will pass soon. Stay tuned.


One thing is certain. The March Madness happening right now is not just happening on the basketball courts.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Math and Science

I think I have some folks with some experience as educators who stop by here occasionally so I am seeking your opinion on something today. Anyone, of course, is welcome to chime in.

It seems as if for the past couple of decades or so, our elected officials, especially on the federal level -- and I seem to remember this at least back to the Clinton administration, maybe longer-- have espoused the need for our young folks to do better in math and science if we are going to stay competitive in the world market/global economy/choose-your-impressive-sounding-phrase.

I am probably not getting this exactly right but I believe there are some statistics out there as to how we lag behind in this area and with technology such as it is today, math and science are vital.

I will not argue with that. Technology has changed so much in my lifetime that it boggles the mind. I am thankful for the folks who are wired in such a way that they can grasp all of the details required to keep all the digital stuff going.

But I am not inclined that way.

I did fine in math until about fourth and fifth grade when we got to fractions. I was able to plod through it but, not only were fractions difficult for me to understand, I also hated them. I still do. It's not personal but I really, really dislike fractions. I break out in a sweat to this day when my banker colleagues talk about interest rates.

I did OK in Algebra and Geometry but it became evident to me, as well as my parents, that I was not strong with numbers. I stopped high school math after Algebra II my junior year, which I barely passed.

It was similar with science, though not as bad. To this day I love the "idea" of science. I love to read about medicine and the human body and I have always been fascinated with outer space. I am equally fascinated by the opposing arguments over the environment and global warming. When my chlidren were little I really enjoyed helping them with their experiments they did in school such as making volcanoes.

But once the science progresses into its mixture with math, like anything beyond basic chemistry, I am woefully inept. I can do enough to get by but it is just so obvious that my inclinations are not toward this area.

In college I was in the College of Arts and Sciences and I took the basics of math and science that were required. I did OK but I completed those courses as quickly as I could.

I had a buddy across the hall from me one year, an engineering major, who had to take a Technical Writing class. To be crass, he sucked as much at written communications as I did with math and science. He brought me his papers and I edited them for him. This was one of my first "ah-ha" moments, coming to realize how we are all created differently and how we can compliment each other. He was miserable trying to put words together and for me it was (and still is) a joy. He had mild effusive celebrations when equations would balance and I would just be glad to be done.

Today, at age 52, I can add, subtract, multiply and divide, all without a calculator. When I ran a cash register years ago, I could make change without having the register tell me how to do it. I know the very basics of biology and chemistry (working crossword puzzles has helped keep my knowledge somewhat current there). I seem to function just fine with these basics. I could not balance a chemical equation, solve a theorem or whatever, or complete an algebra problem if my life depended on it. And I don't want to.

That brings me to the point of this post. Younger Son appears to be wired much as I am. He has struggled mightily with math since about fourth grade. He has had a tutor for the past couple of years. He has done a little better with science but, now in his second semester of high school chemistry, he's sweating that a bit now too.

On the other hand, he excels in English and History and has done well in Spanish also. He's writing for his high school newspaper and thinks he will major in journalism in college (as I did).

A few weeks ago he was required to select his classes for next year, his senior year in high school. He came to his mother and me and we reviewed what he would be required to take to graduate. He asked if we thought he should take math his senior year, which would be some form of trigonometry.

Younger Son has already taken the ACT and, though he defnitely didn't knock it out of the park in math and science, he showed basic proficiency. He is not anywhere near needing any kind of remedial learning. And in all the other areas he did quite well.

Wife and I mulled it over. We talked to our older two about it. I thought back to my own experience. We decided that, given what his natural inclinations appear to be and the way he has struggled, it would be just fine for him to take a couple of electives in subjects that interest him (like Creative Writing) next year rather than suffer through another year of math. For science he's going to take an ecology class that looks pretty cool.

Yesterday Younger Son shared that he met with his guidance counselor last week and she was very upset that he had not enrolled in a math class next year (even though it is not required). He told me that he explained to her that he had conferred with both of his parents and we had made the decision thoughtfully.

Apparently she went into the whole thing of how important math is and how he'll need it for college, etc. Younger Son said I should probably be expecting a call from someone at school about this.

So, I ask you: am I wrong here? Is he going to be penalized later for not taking math his senior year in high school? Should all of our young folks be forced to take as much math and science as possible because that's the way of the world these days?

And what should I say if and when I get that call from the school?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Almost Spring

Another weekend has arrived. It's cool and rainy but, of course, nothing like the bitter cold we have had so I am not complaining. Spring is in the air, for sure.

Younger Son is playing in a rugby tournament so I'll make my way to that here in a little while. I hope, this afternoon, to catch some SEC basketball. The tourney is here in Nashville. I am not going -- tickets were way too expensive -- but will take in at least part of the semi-finals today on TV. I'm not the biggest of basketball fans but I do take an interest at tournament time in March.

Wife is leaving today for a little spring break jaunt with Daughter and Older Son's girlfriend. I am envisioning all of these projects I will do while she is gone and in my mind I am probably being a little overly ambitious. I can piddle around with the best of them and get very little done to show for it!

On the rare occasion my mother would be absent when I was growing up, she would leave detailed instructions for how to prepare food (which she had prepared in advance and only had to be warmed up). Happily, I am not nearly as helpless as my poor dad was and, although I am not a chef by any means, I can get by. Wife is an extraordinary cook and she offered to get some things ready in advance, but she also works and I would not have thought of asking her to do that while trying to get ready to be gone for a week.

Younger Son's spring break is still a few weeks away so he and I will be holding down the fort around here. He is usually fairly low maintenance and hangs out with friends a lot, so I'll have some time on my hands. Got all those projects to keep me busy, you know.

If the weather is good enough, I'll probably throw some things on the grill today or tomorrow that can get Younger Son and me through the next few days. If you have any simple recipes, send them my way!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Time for Everything

Well you might notice the new look here. Or you might not. I thought this might be a little easier on the eyes and Daughter helped me with it last night. Not sure this is the finished product but I thought the old format was looking a bit tired.


It was the writer of the Book of Ecceslesiastes who said, "To everything there is a season" or, in another translation, "There is a time for everything." Great words, and so true.

As I have written numerous times recently, we've been in a season of cold weather here in Middle Tennessee, unusually so for us, and even though cool is normally my preference, it has been a joy to see the sun these past few days and to awake early this Saturday morning and walk with my dog, with the sun shining brightly (even though it's still nippy), gave an oh-so-delightful start to this day.

Christians who observe the liturgical calendar are in the season of Lent, the 40-day period that precedes Easter, a period of introspection that is supposed to help us focus on the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, culminating in Easter Sunday when the resurrection is celebrated.

I am in a non-denominational church now but have the good fortune of sometimes working near a beautiful old Episcopal church that has noon services every weekday during Lent. I try to make it to a few of them during the season when I can and enjoy the few minutes of solitude and reflection in the middle of a busy day. I am always refreshed.

At work I feel as if I have been in a season of learning patience for quite some time now. As you all know, things are trying in the world of banking right now.

As a lawyer, I grew accustomed a long time ago to the disdain many have for that profession. There are not many lawyer jokes I have not heard.

I've been in banking a number of years now and bankers are held in about the same regard now as lawyers. When I tell someone what I do, the typical response is, "A lawyer and a banker?!" -- then uproarious laughter.

But believe me, I am extremely thankful to have a job. I can put up with stupid jokes. And inside the banking world right now I am dealing with the minutia of regulation that is sometimes equivalent to watching paint dry. And convincing others that yes, we must comply with these regulations and how we feel about them really doesn't matter, is often daunting. So I don't see that season of learning patience letting up anytime soon.

On the home front, I believe Wife and I are in a several-year-long season of transition. Older Son lives away from home. Daughter is a junior in college. Younger son is a junior in high school.

Yesterday I took Younger Son for his first college visit. He's the one to whom I have held tightly these past couple of years and I could almost physically feel him pulling away, oh so gently, yesterday, and I already felt myself not liking it.

And as much as I might resist the changing seasons, the changes and transitions will continue. And nobody could say it better than the aforementioed writer:

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born, a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uprooot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Monday, March 1, 2010

They'll Always Look the Same to Us

Did you see any of the "Mom" commercials during the Olympics -- the ones that said something like "This is how their moms see them" and then would show all the athletes as little children?

There were various versions but the message was, no matter how big and strong they are, their moms still see them as their baby boys or girls. I think it was P&G that ran these spots and I guess they were thanking the moms who had used their products over the years and hoped they would continue to do so. (Wife teared up every time she saw one).

And you know, I guess they are onto something but it doesn't just apply to moms. Last night I called to make reservations at a trout fishing resort in North Arkansas where I am going, along with my sons, in early April. I told the lady on the phone that I would be "bringing my two boys" with me to fish for a couple of days, then began to discuss the type of accommodations we might need.

"How old are the children?" she asked.

"Uhhh . . . . . twenty-four and seventeen," I replied sheepishly, realizing my truthfulness had probably just cost me any kind of discount.

I heard her snicker on the other end of the line as she confirmed the booking.

Even if it had been ten years from now, when my sons would be 27 and 34, I would have still said I would be "bringing my boys."

And if I were taking my daughter, I would probably have told her I would be "bringing my little girl" (who is 21).

So you are right, P&G. The moms and dads just don't see them much differently.