Monday, April 25, 2011

Pretty sweet if you ask me . . .

Daughter drove in Friday night for Easter weekend.

We had not seen her in more than two months, probably the longest we have ever gone. So Wife and I were anxious for her to get home.

Since our last visit she had a nasty fall which resulted in a sprained ankle. That was a couple of weeks ago and she has reported slow progress. She still has the crutches but is slowly getting rid of them. We made a big to-do over it, of course, as she made it up the back stairs to get in the house.

Wife and I had gotten her a salad from one of her favorite local eateries and sat down on either side of her as she ate. We remarked that this would be her last "visit" home. In two weeks she will graduate and move back in on a semi-permanent basis.

Like her older brother, she is not happy about this. Oh, she has a sense of accomplishment at having completed requirements for a college degree, but -- also like her brother -- she has had an extremely enjoyable four years in college. She has made some friends that she will immensely miss. She is sad about that coming to an end.


Saturday morning I got up and went out to a "berm" we have in the front yard, a little garden area that surrounds a couple of trees. It has been the bane of my existence since we moved into this house ten years ago. I am sure that it was once beautifully landscaped and was a credit to this neighborhood. Now I just fight with it every year to keep the weeds out. The weeds inevitably win.

Anyway, after pulling a few thousand weeds, I went around to the garage to get something and Daughter poked her head through the door and told me she was awake. She explained that since she's been doing her student teaching and getting up so early every week day, it's hard for her to sleep in on weekends.

Rather than going back out to the weed pulling, I went inside to see if Daughter needed anything. She had gone back upstairs and was lying in bed elevating her ankle, as she had been instructed to do. Ralph the Dog jumped up on the bed with her and I sat down in the bright pink chair by her bed.

We talked for about an hour. Unlike her brothers who generally will tell me things on a need-to-know basis, Daughter has always been willing to tell me about her life in great detail. She has loved her student teaching and has great stories about her second-grade students. I hung on every word.

As we began to hear Younger Son stirring across the hall, I got up and told Daughter I would be going back outside. I went to do something and then, as I passed by Younger Son's room, there was Daughter lying beside him in bed. He, of course, was trying to act annoyed but within only a few seconds I could hear him laughing. And naturally I had to go in and join them.

Daughter is four years older than Younger Son and they have always had a special relationship. It was particularly poignant for me to see her lying next to him in bed because, until she was about twelve and he was eight, they slept together. Both sets of grandparents were horrified by this situation at the time. Wife's parents gave Younger Son some type of video contraption one Christmas so he could project images on the ceiling as he went to sleep, with the hope that it would help him separate from his sister at bedtime.

I could have told them what the result of that would be. Typically, Daughter helped Younger Son put together "Bedtime Story Theater" and she incorporated it into their night-time routine.

Wife and I just never got too worked up about the sleeping together thing. It started because Younger Son was afraid of the dark and Daughter, ever his protector, was willing to help him through it.

Also, due to an unforeseen series of events, for a couple of years we found ourselves living in a duplex in which Younger Son really didn't have his own room, but just an over-sized closet off of Daughter's room just big enough for a single bed. As I recall, he never once slept in there.

By the time we moved into our current place, though, they separated. I don't detect any psychological damage to either of them from the years they slept together and Wife and I both still think it was a sweet period of time.

And it was pretty sweet when I saw them lying next to each other Saturday morning, laughing and talking, preserving a special bond.

Makes a dad feel very warm inside (even if he can't control weeds).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Budget Woes

It did not surprise me one bit to tune in to the 10 p.m. news a couple Friday nights ago and learn that our lawmakers had forged a last-minute deal to avoid a government shutdown. I believed all along that is what would happen.

The Dems were saying the Repubs were "holding government hostage" over social issues and were "sacrificing women's health." The Repubs were saying the Dems are still not getting serious about cutting government spending and they had to do what "the American people" had given them a mandate to do -- government shutdown be damned (I paraphrase, of course).

And folks, you can count on hearing those sound bytes again as we move toward the 2012 elections, which will come far too soon.

My opinion? Well, I think the Republicans should not have put the nation at risk of a shutdown over funding Planned Parenthood. Not that I believe that PP should receive government funding but it's not like this is anything new.

I also think, if we're ever going to get serious about getting this country out of its crippling debt, something's gotta give.

Wife and I were talking about it just recently. It was a timely conversation because earlier that day Wife had written the check for what we owe the government over and above what we had already paid in. The number was actually less than what we had thought it might be, so for that we were pleased, but then Wife shared with me the total we paid in 2010 and it's mind boggling.

And I shared with Wife how I had just read in the local paper about the shortfall our county government is facing. It just seems, I told her, that on every level -- municipal, county, state, and federal -- governments are spending more than their resources allow and different factions of those governments are fighting about what to cut, if they should cut and whether or not taxes should be raised.

I offer all of this as information with no editorial comment.


Along the same lines, since the compromised budget (band-aid) was announced, President Obama did a victory lap at the Lincoln Memorial, then went on the road jabbing at the Republican plan every chance he has had.

And the Republicans have fired back, lamenting a president who refuses to lead.

And in the midst of it all, Donald Trump has gone on the news shows telling us what a great president HE would be. I will tell you this: if anything might ever make me vote for a Democrat, it would be Donald Trump running as a Republican.


Here's my fantasy:

President Obama says, "You know, I've come up with a budget plan. The Republicans have also come up with one. We don't agree on everything but, by golly, I believe we both have the best interests of our citizens in mind and I think we can get together and make some tough decisions. I'm sure going to try."

And Speaker of the House John Boehner says: "The president has come up with a budget plan. I just got off the phone with him and told him there is much we disagree on, but we should try our best to get together and come up with something that addresses this deficit which will have devastating consequences if we don't get a handle on it."

Notice that in neither of these statements does anyone say anything derogatory about the other's political party.

Too good to be true?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Time of reflection

For those Christians who observe the Liturgical calendar, we are now in the season of Lent, the 40-day period which precedes Easter. The spirit of Lent is one of reflection and self-sacrifice, and you might be familiar with the concept of “giving up something for Lent.” The 40 days are symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying.

I grew up in the United Methodist Church and, as I remember, we took a middle-of-the- road approach to Lent. We did not go to church on Ash Wednesday and have ashes rubbed on our foreheads. I don’t remember being encouraged in Sunday School to think of something we could give up for Lent.

We did, however, observe the season. I remember several years where a Lenton Devotional Booklet was prepared with daily devotionals written by church members. The whole point, as I understood it, was to take those 40 days leading up to Easter, consider the sacrifice Jesus made when he fasted and prayed, and on the cross, and make that part of our spiritual journey. On Easter Sunday, of course, we celebrated the resurrection and the end of the 40 days.

Whether one ended up giving up something for Lent was a personal decision and I seem to remember a couple of years I did it. Maybe I gave up a certain food. When I craved that food, I was supposed to have thought of Christ and his sacrifice.

My best friend and two-year roommate from college grew up in a non-Liturgical church and as I remember he wasn’t very familiar with Lent at the time. I was able to educate him a bit. One of our other close friends, who was Catholic, always vowed to give up cussing for the season, but with little success. With that, my non-Liturgical friend was not impressed (his reasoning being that, maybe crass language would be a good thing to omit from one’s life on a permanent basis and not save it up until Lent was over).

Ironically, today the formerly non-Liturgical roommate is now part of the Methodist Church and he sends me, via e-mail, Lenten devotionals written by his pastor. He prefaced the first one, from a couple of years ago, with, “You remember Lent, don’t you?”

Indeed I do.

Even though I am now part of a non-denominational church that does not observe the Liturgical calendar (although we “borrow” from it on occasion), I well remember the sacredness of this season of the year and I try to do my own share of inward thinking during the time.

Near my office in Memphis, where I work part of each week, there is a beautiful old Episcopal church where, during Lent, weekday services are held at noon. I try to make it over there a few times and always leave refreshed and renewed, with something good to think about in the midst of a work day.

So, although I agree that my foul-mouthed buddy in college was somewhat missing the point when he tried to clean up his language during the Lenten season, I think the observation of Lent, whether one is “high church,” “low church,” or somewhere in between, is a rich and important tradition of Christianity.

My prayer for you, if you are reading this, is that you will find yourself closer to Him this season as you make your own journey toward the resurrection. I know some of you in the northern climes are extremely tired of snow and cold weather. All I can say is: Lent will soon be over and Easter is coming.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Good weather; great game

We have finally had a full blown beautiful spring weekend here in Middle Tennesssee and it could not have come soon enough. Temps today (Sunday) have been in the 70s and yesterday got close. It's been a little on the windy side but we have had two beautiful days. As I write this, Wife and I are sitting on our back deck. I have just grilled about ten pieces of chicken for us to have this week and Wife is blissfully reading and drifting off from time to time as she does so. Our weeks are busy so to have a few hours on Sunday afternoon to just enjoy the nice weather is a real treat.


This past Thursday was one of my favorite days of the year -- Opening Day of Major League Baseball. As visitors here know, I am a big sports fan, but if I had to give them all up but one, I'd probably choose baseball.

That would be largely for sentimental reasons.

When I was just a little guy, my older brother and I used to listen to St. Louis Cardinals games on the radio. Late at night, when we were supposed to have gone to bed, I would hear the sounds of Harry Caray (yes, he was in St. Louis before Chicago, and I am dating myself) from my brother's bedroom, narrating the plays of Bob Gibson and others, and announcing at the 7th inning stretch that it was time for (another) cold Busch.

My first visit to a Major League park was the Houston Astrodome and I saw them play the Milwaukee Braves (that's right, Milwaukee, before the move to Atlanta -- showing my age again). I became an Astros fan for life and if you know anything about baseball, you know that my causes for celebration have been few and far between. (As I write this, I know they are already 0-2 for the season, having blown a 4-0 7th- inning lead in Philly Friday afternoon and losing to them again yesterday. Haven't even checked today yet).

Most folks I grew up around in Arkansas, including my brother, were Cardinals fans and we visited Busch Stadium in St. Louis with our parents a year or so after we went to Houston. My brother caught a fly ball in batting practice and a foul ball later in the game. I asked him about those balls about a year or so ago and he says his wife gave them to his twin boys (now 33) one day when they were looking for a baseball to play with and he never saw them again. He's still a Cards fan today and I still loyally follow the Astros.


Wife is one of the many Cardinals fans I know. She and I visited St. Louis and Busch Stadium a number of times when we lived in Little Rock. We are even closer now, just a little less then a five-hour drive from Nashville. We're even closer to Cincinnati and Atlanta so we always make at least one game per year at one of these three venues, if not more.

In 2007 I took Younger Son and some of his friends to Spring Training in Florida. We returned the next year with Wife. I believe there's an older blog post about this.


Older Son became an Atlanta Braves fan when he was about six, watching the games on TBS. When he was eight, Wife arranged for him and me to fly to Atlanta and see them in person. I had a buddy with a law firm there who got us tickets right behind home plate. So incredibly fun.

It was at that time that Older Son declared us on a quest to visit every Major League park. Some 17 years later he is more than half-way there and I am not far behind. Wife, Daughter and Younger Son have done pretty well too. I have a feeling FDIL will now become part of the adventure and I could probably talk FDIL's parents into it with not much coercion. Of course a lot of the teams have built new parks in the past decade or so, so we have to add the new stadiums to our list. (We visited Yankee and Shea in New York City in 2008, the last year for each).

I have this vision of the day we visit the last one. There will probably be grandchildren along. It will be way cool.

It really is a grand game.