Monday, December 24, 2012

'Twas the Day Before . . .

The Christmas celebration is in full swing at our house. It's Christmas Eve and we are in full preparation mode.

Older Son, DIL and Wife's parents all arrived Saturday about noon.

For close to a year now Daughter has had a significant other who also joins us on special occasions. From henceforth, in keeping with my practice on this blog of giving everyone a "code" name, he shall be known as "DSO" (Daughter's Significant Other).

So DSO is here too. He lives in North Alabama, about an hour and a half from here, and Daughter will join his family tomorrow afternoon.

Younger Son, home from college, has been here a couple of weeks now and has been able to work some at the County Parks and Rec Department where he worked this summer.

So the house is full, as are the hearts of Wife and me.


We have had an internationally themed Christmas Eve for a number of years now and this year's country is France. Not sure of the menu but Wife is cooking even as I type this while Daughter and DSO are making place cards with our "French" names.

Wife has put a table cloth on the dining room table that we bought in St. Paul de Vince, France when we were there in 2009, and has added a few other touches. 

Details to follow and maybe even pictures.


We will be having Christmas brunch tomorrow -- that's largely on me, so keep me in your prayers!  We will then do an abbreviated gift exchange, after which we are off to the big screen premier of Les Miserables.

I will tell you that I am skeptical about this movie. "Le Miz" is far and away my all-time favorite stage play and musical and I am afraid the movie will be too much of a Hollywood spectacle and will relegate this wonderful story to the annals of pop culture.

In the words of the Apostle Paul, "May it never be!"


After the movie it will be back to our house for pizza which we picked up today and put in the refrigerator to heat up. FDIL's parents are joining us for the movie and will join us for the post-movie meal as well.

Wife is not totally comfortable with this -- serving take-out pizza at Christmas. This was largely my idea, wanting to spare her a little of the non-stop cooking that is often the overriding activity of her holiday celebration.

But oh my goodness, we already have leftovers running out our ears -- and will have even more by tomorrow -- and I think come tomorrow night she will be happy with this arrangement. 


I said "abbreviated gift exchange" above because we elected this year to go on a  trip rather than do full-blown gift giving. When we first started looking into this, we were hoping to perhaps leave today or tomorrow (Christmas Day), but found that traveling the week of Christmas is quite expensive.

So we are postponing "Christmas Vacation" (even though our name is not Griswold) and will leave New Year's Day for Mexico.  I'm not even sure where we are going. I know we are flying into Cancun and it's somewhere south of there.

Sharp readers with sharp memories might remember that I am not a lover of the beach/sun/sand, but I am happily going because (a) I got outvoted; (b) I will love being with my family, wherever we are; and (c) I will have a number of diversions such as visiting the Mayan ruins and fishing.

We drew names for our gifts so everyone will get something tomorrow.


I did not meet my goal of meeting at least one of my blog friends in person in 2012 but I'm resetting that goal in 2013. I've already told Hong Kong friend Steve to let me know when he's in the U.S. this summer and I'm going to try my best to meet him at a baseball game. Who knows if that will happen but I'll sure try. Any of the rest of you, beware . . . . you never know when I might show up on your doorstep, although you know I've been threatening it for some time now!  Oh well . . . I'll be keeping you in mind whether in person or from afar.

And here in Middle Tennessee at my house, I'm leaving the light on for you.

Merry Christmas -- "Joyeux Noel" -- to all. 


Saturday, December 15, 2012


I was numb yesterday after following several hours of coverage of the tragic school shooting in Connecticut.

This one hit too close to home and by "home" I don't mean my geographical location; I mean my heart as a dad.

I told Wife as we watched and listened to the news accounts yesterday that the community of Newtown is much like the one in which we live, and the school where the tragedy happened is much like the one our children attended as youngsters.

In addition, Daughter is now a kindergarten teacher.

In this age of instant communication, in which I am participating by virtue of this blog, comments and opinions abound. And we all know about comments and opinions.

But for what it's worth, count me as one who favors stricter gun laws. I have felt this way for years and an event such as this reinforces my feelings.

Go back and read my posts over the past four years and you'll see I'm not a liberal. Frankly, I don't see this as a matter of being liberal or conservative, or even a matter of politics for that matter.

This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. Your right to bear arms will not be affected by required background checks and other reasonable controls put in place.

No, this will not prevent the crazies from doing what crazies will do and I realize that discussion of character and values also needs to take place. I totally get that.

But can we not make it more difficult for the crazies to get the guns?  Or at least try?

Please hear me:  I have no problem with your owning as many guns as you want. I bought a shotgun for Older Son when he was in high school. He bought a rifle himself when he reached legal age and if I'm not mistaken it's still in his room here.
When the Kansas City football player recently shot and killed his girlfriend and himself, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas made comments during the broadcast of a game, calling for stricter gun laws. Like me, he wasn't calling for repeal of the Second Amendment or outlawing guns (even though his critics tried to make it sound like that). He simply said maybe it's time to consider enacting laws that help prevent this kind of thing from happening.

Since his broadcast, we've had a mall shooting in Oregon and now this horrible event in Connecticut. Could stricter laws prevent these occurrences? I don't know but I think it's worth a try. 

From one Bob to another:  I'm with you, man.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Modern communication

Wife recently switched all of our "communication channels" (my term, for lack of better words) -- phone, cable and Internet -- to one provider.

Wife handles all of these matters because I am woefully inefficient at doing so, and also lacking the patience required to maneuver through all of it. Where once talking on the telephone and having one installed in one's home was a relatively simple process, it now involves "bundling" and other such nonsense.  A phone wired into in one's home is now called a "land line" and more and more, folks are opting not to have one and making their cell phone their primary point of contact.

I can remember an antenna on top of my parents' house that enabled us to watch three channels of network television, before we advanced to "cable-vision" which gave us the same thing plus Public Television, and a much clearer picture. When Wife and I married we used "rabbit ears" until we got cable when our first child was born. We needed something to do in the middle of the night when we were up with him and reception was too sketchy. Now of course there are hundreds of channels available via either a "dish" or "cable," although there is very little of any quality on any of those channels.

Last but not least, the Internet comes into our home via mostly wireless devices now, whereas once various wires and cords were necessary. 

Of course this is a gold mine for the companies that provide these services.

Wife got tired of our cable and Internet provider overcharging us every month. It got to the point of being ridiculous. When she would call them they would always apologize and credit back the overcharged amount, then assure her they would fix the problem. Only the problem never got fixed.

She talked to our telephone provider and they gave her a sweet deal that included everything, at a substantial savings. We made the change about a month ago and it's been fairly smooth sailing ever since. Of course our old cable and Internet provider did everything but offer to come cook Thanksgiving dinner if we would stay with them, but Wife stuck to her guns. Since she is a kind and merciful person, she became very sad during the parting conversation, but let's face it: they caused it. If the new guys start the same shenanigans, we'll look at going back.

Here's the big news involving our new service: it includes a new "smart phone" for yours truly. I now am the owner of an iPhone 4S.  A couple of years ago I wrote a piece here about all the modern services in which I did not take part. I have now succumbed to this one.

So far I like it. It's much easier to use than I thought it would be.

But please do me a favor. If you see me walking down the street looking at that silly phone and ignoring everything and everyone around me, stop and yank it out of my hand.  Thank you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Love this season

This is definitely my favorite time of year, when the air is crisp and Thanksgiving is almost here.

Here in Middle Tennessee we have had one of those fall seasons where we (literally) run our air conditioner during the day after sleeping with the heater on.  A big cold front came through last night, along with heavy rain, which canceled my plans for early morning fishing. I was one day too late. Yesterday would have been perfect.

Oh well, what can you do?  This is the second time in a month this has happened to me. My friend who was going with me sent a text message last night wondering if the closest we were going to get to a fish fry anytime soon would be Captain D's.  Could be.


We will have a total of eleven on Thanksgiving Day. Wife has put ten at the dining room table before, but never more than that. I think one year we had twelve and she split us up -- six in the dining room and six in the kitchen.

Of course our philosophy is the more the merrier. And Wife would love to have all those merry folks making merry at one table.

"What would you think about putting two of our six-foot tables end-to-end in the living room?" she asked me the other day, speaking of a couple of utilitarian folding tables we have down in the basement that are not esthetically pleasing but look fine with table cloths thrown over them.

I gave her a quizzical look and before I could answer she said she thought that would work fine, answering her own question. I quickly agreed. (I'm no dummy). 

Today she brought one of the tables up from the basement, put it in the living room, put a table cloth on it and walked around it a couple of times. She tells me she's not sure yet, that she's still thinking about it.

Doesn't matter to me, but I am putting odds on her deciding to give it a try. Just a hunch I have.

Whatever she decides, it will be great. We will have a delicious meal with people we love. There will be much conversation and laughter. And so much for which to be thankful.

I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Wife is a people person.

That is no more evidenced than by the fact that six of her old friends have descended upon our home for the weekend. Two arrived yesterday (Thursday) and the rest today.

These are the "girls" with home Wife has gone through thick and thin. Four of them were in our wedding. All of them became moms back in the 80s and early 90s and all are now parents of adults.  One is now a grandmother.

Wife has all kinds of things planned for them -- shopping, eating, going to a concert. She'll herd them around, not unlike cats, and they won't move very fast, but that won't matter to them.

I worked upstairs this afternoon and I could hear the hum of female conversation downstairs -- peppered with hysterical laughter, stopping and starting, oohing and ahhing at this thing or that. These ladies have a history and although there might be months, or even a year, between visits, one would never know it. They pick up right where they left off.

I know and love them all just as Wife does, but I am not needed here. They're happy enough to have me but they know as well as I that it would be better for me to make my exit.

So tomorrow morning after a meeting, I'll head east and go visit some friends of my own.

And the laughter and good times will continue while I am gone.

That makes Wife happy so, consequently, I'm happy too.


I have decided it is a good thing to not live in a so-called battleground state. Because when one lives in a state that the candidates and/or his people have decided has already been painted red or blue, they ignore you.

I have already voted (love, love, love early voting) and I am so glad I don't have to endure non-stop commercials telling me how bad either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is, when I think they're both decent men who just have a number of differences of opinion.

Because I'm not in a battleground state, I can relax. I'll tune in with interest on election night, but not with the sigh of relief that a person living in Ohio or Florida might. Those folks are still being courted and sucked up to big-time.

Here in Tennessee, we're supposedly red and we're a done deal, so not worth anyone's time and energy. And that's fine with me.


I've never been a big one for commemorating days.  I'm good at remembering the important ones like birthdays and anniversaries (usually) but days on which significant events might have happened usually pass right by before I know it.

About 4 p.m. yesterday I realized it was the day my mother died 16 years ago -- Oct. 25, 1996. So when it came to mind I could not help but think of her.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in April and died in October -- a brief but fierce battle. She scarcely had a good day from the time of her diagnosis. Chemotherapy probably did more harm than good.

One of the things I most remember is how my dad went into total denial. He just refused to believe she would die and wouldn't even discuss it up until just a few days before she did. I remember her wanting to talk about it with him, and with my brother and me, and how uncomfortable it made me. I would listen to her but I offered little in response.

Wife, on the other hand, had a couple of poignant conversations with her.  She loved her, but I think because she didn't have the lifelong connection, she was a little more willing and able to talk to her and provide the sounding board my mother needed.

I think I learned from that whole experience -- and this is not profound -- that people who have terminal illnesses need to talk about it and we don't do them any favors acting like they aren't dying. It's self-preservation, of course, because those of us who are being left behind don't want to accept it and have this unreasonable belief that if we don't talk about it, it won't happen.

Anyway, I thought about my mom a lot after I remembered the date yesterday.  I like to think about her the way she was before she got sick -- a warm and funny person who always had something good to say to me.

I could not have asked for much more than that. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Music City On Screen

Did anyone catch the premier of the the new ABC show, "Nashville" last week? 

It's a night-time soap, with a rather predictable storyline, but hey, it's being filmed right here in Music City with shots of the skyline and icons that make our city great. We're all excited about it here. Had I been more on my game I would have tried to be an extra. Maybe it's not too late.

I thought they just filmed a few outdoor shots around Nashville and the rest on a Hollywood set but I was wrong. Apparently there is a sound studio just north of the city where production has been taking place. An almost exact replica of the famous Bluebird Cafe, the songrwiters' Mecca where many a star has gotten his/her start and where stars and starlets are known to just show up from time to time, has been built, as well as sets replicating some of the rooms in the mansion where the show's fading country star (played by Connie Britton) lives.

The actual house is in Nashville's tony Belle  Meade neighborhood and is reported to be about 20,000 square feet. Some inside scenes have actually been shot right inside the house and the owner says all the production folks have just been swell to work with.

We already have the tour buses that travel around Nashville pointing out the stars' homes and other landmarks. Dolly Parton is a resident of our suburban community and her home is featured prominently on the tours.

Not long after we moved in our first house here, just a few doors down from our current one, we noticed one of the buses nearby and asked around regarding what famous person might be lurking among our neighbors. We learned that "Little Jimmy Dickens," of Grand Ole Opry fame, lives in a nearby subdivision not far from ours and his modest ranch-style home is included in one of the tours.

Should the "Nashville" TV show catch on, I'm sure other landmarks will be added to the tours.  City coffers have already been increased due to production of the show and local movers and shakers are hoping that will continue.

So tune in and get a glimpse of our fair city. And if you want to visit in person, just let me know. I'm sure I can cut you a better deal than the tour buses.

Friday, October 5, 2012

At the intersection . . .

Well it's been a while.

Fall is definitely our busy season and October is that month where two of our favorite pastimes intersect -- college football and post-season Major League baseball.

Unfortunately things are a bit dismal this year for our teams. Auburn is 1-3.  The Atlanta Braves lost their "play-in" wild card game tonight and the Texas Rangers are on the verge of doing the same as I write this (I'll update if anything changes).

For some reason the MLB powers that be decided the top two non-divisional winners would have a one-game playoff for the wild card spot.  That sounded like a good idea until these two teams blew it and lost to the Cardinals and Orioles, respectively.

A rare infield fly ruling figured heavily in the Braves game and I'm none too happy about that. But that's baseball and that's post-season play.

In the AL, I'll be pulling for blogger friend Steve's Detroit Tigers, although I have a bit of a soft spot for the Orioles after a 15-year absence from post-season play. In the NL, well, just not too excited about any of them. 


I watched the presidential debate this week and found it surprisingly interesting. It was definitely Mitt Romney's night as he took command of things from the very start. This was the universal consensus among almost all the pundits.

I thought it was a good debate overall. There was a good discussion of the issues and the candidates and their families had civil exchanges with each other. I understand it's all for TV but I like that anyway.

Veteran PBS anchor Jim Lehrer moderated the debate and I thought he did a good job. He got a lot of criticism but I don't get it. I thought he handled both candidates well, especially when they went over their alloted times. He was respectful and gracious to both and I don't quite understand what else he was supposed to do? 


Wife and I went to Dallas to see Older Son and DIL last week. We were gone almost a week. Wife was able to incorporate a HR seminar with our visit there and I was long overdue a few days off. Enjoyed every minute with Older Son and DIL.

We drove, as we were taking them a piece of furniture and other odds and ends. We made overnight stops in Little Rock both ways.

We rented a mini-van, the vehicle from which we graduated years ago as our little birdies began to leave the nest. These vans have progressed a great deal from the time we owned one, with "stow and go" seats that are a lot easier to handle than the ones that weighed a ton if they weighed a pound. I remember sweating buckets when I would remove them when needing to haul big items.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Fact checking and hummingbirds

I don't write much about politics here anymore. And I don't talk about politics much anymore either.

I sometimes write about politics in my weekly column, but it's objective and I offer no opinion.

Accordingly, I watched very little of either convention. In fact, I watched none of the Democratic convention and only a few minutes of the GOP gathering.

Here's a mystery to me:  after the speeches at both conventions, "fact checking" news reports told us how what a speaker said was an outright lie or spun in such a way that is was a half-truth.

Wonder if any of them ever thought of doing that fact checking before opening their mouths?


Wife gave me a hummingbird feeder as an anniversary gift.

It is one of the best gifts I have ever received. I hung it on the back deck, right in front of a big picture window that frames our kitchen table.

I had a customer within a half-hour of hanging it and it wasn't long until he told his friends. We have daily visitors now.

They're a curious bunch, those hummingbirds. One will come fluttering up to the feeder and here will come another, and then another, but they don't imbibe at the same time, even though there are three different little holes where they could consume the sweet nectar together.

No, when one is there enjoying the treat, another comes and chases him (or her) away. I want to tell them that there is plenty to go around and plenty of room at the table, so to speak, but they'll have none of it. It's one at a time and appears to be everyone for himself.

I love watching them. I often sit and work at the kitchen table in the early morning and they start coming soon after the sun rises. Needless to say, sometimes I have trouble getting my work done.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Late summer happenings

I find that the older I get, the more I ask that question, "Where did _____ go?"

As in, where did the time go, where did last week go, where did the years go. You know what I mean.

Summer, by its true definition, is weeks away from being over. But by its more common definition in my world, summer's drawing to a close. As I walked Ralph the Dog this morning, school buses were humming through the neighborhood.

It's too early for school to be starting and I fought that battle for years as my children went through school here. In the county just to the north of us, they started on August 1, having adopted the dreaded "balanced calendar" that provides for a shorter summer break and more frequent breaks during the year.

It's an educational fad whose proponents say enhances the academic experience, but lack any empirical evidence to back that up. We were able to to fight it off when they tried it in our school district and it was not even a difficult battle because of what I just said -- the evidence was not there.

I still think it's too early but I'm thankful it's no earlier than it is.

And that's my rant about that.

 Speaking of things that start too early, Wife and I deposited Younger Son back at Auburn University over the weekend for his second year. He moved into an apartment with three other guys and classes will begin later this week. Not that anyone's counting, but this was our ninth college move-in.

And I'm asking myself that where-did-the-time-go question. When he arrived home in May it seemed like so much time lay before us and just like that, in a flash he is gone again.

Wife and I still have to catch our collective breath when leaving one of our little chicks behind.

Saturday, when we left him after a very smooth move-in, just happened to be our 28th wedding anniversary. Knowing that keeping ourselves busy is key to getting through these sad/rough patches, Wife had suggested a few weeks ago that we go to nearby Callaway Gardens, a huge resort area of natural beauty (gardens, of course) just across the state line from Auburn in Georgia.

We had a great time enjoying the serenity and beauty. The Southeast was blessed with a respite from the oppressive heat over the weekend which made it even more enjoyable.

On Saturday we explored the grounds, including a huge butterfly exhibit that was fascinating. We drove to a small town nearby and ate dinner at a crummy restaurant but that did not deter our enjoyment.

Sunday morning we enjoyed a breakfast that made up for the bad dinner the night before. Then we got outside of our comfort zones and rented bicycles. We rode for about two hours and had the time of our lives. I felt like a ten-year-old zipping along the trails, standing up on my bike and taking my hands off the handle bars. (Wife allowed as to how I was also acting like a ten-year-old).

It was a nice way to celebrate 28 years of marriage and ease ourselves into the adjustment of Younger Son once again being absent from us.


And of course I'm asking myself where this summer went and how in the world 28 years have zipped by since we got married.

Note to self:  get on a bike and act like a ten-year-old more often. It's good for the soul.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Still don't do 'mad' well

I generally love people -- all kinds of people. I consider myself a "people person" and, for the most part, an extrovert.

There is one type of person, however, that really gets under my skin and that I cannot identify with in any way. That person is abrasive, caustic and makes a huge deal out of something of minor importance.

Yesterday (Saturday), as I often do, I went to a 7:30 a.m. cycling (spin) class at the Y. These classes are made up of folks of various fitness levels. We are all on stationery bikes and there is an instructor at the front, also on a bike, who plays music and gives instructions regarding levels of resistance, speed, cadence, etc.

There are four fans on the walls, positioned high above the bikes (the room has about a 20-foot ceiling) and the normal practice is for the instructor to turn the fans on about half-way through the 45-minute or one-hour class. They "oscillate" so the air moves around the room.

I am aware that there are conflicting feelings about the fans among the participants. Some like the fans; some don't. It has always been my understanding that the ones who don't are able to position themselves on bikes that don't get direct air from the fans.

But apparently I was wrong. Yesterday there was a guy on a bike next to one of the walls, right underneath one of the fans. After the fans had been running for about ten minutes, he motioned for the instructor to come over to his bike.

She dismounted her bike, went over to him, and a several-minute intense discussion ensued. While this was going on, the music continued to play but we received no instructions. We just pedaled.

When the instructor got back on her bike, she resumed making her calls to us, but we could tell she was upset.

At the end of the class, during the cool-down, she told us that we needed to come to some agreement about the fans, that she sincerely wanted to keep everyone happy, including the man who had called her over an had the intense discussion with her.

At this he began to address the entire class. He said that he knew that he was in the minority (being of the no-fan school of thought) but he had as much right to not have a fan blowing on him as those who would want air from the fan have the right to have it. I mean this guy was worked up over it.

Someone asked him if he could really feel the air from the fan on the bike he was using that day and he said yes, he could feel it on his back.

I asked him, "Is this really that important to you?" (Because I myself don't have a strong feeling about it and didn't know it was such a controversial matter).

His voice level escalated as he told me emphatically that yes, it was of great importance to him and that he was tired of "management" dictating that all the fans go on at the same time.

With the escalation and irritation in his voice, I became a little annoyed myself and I, quite uncharacteristically, decided to "take him on," explaining to him that I thought it was very selfish of him to take up class time and upset the teacher the way he did.

He said, "Tough sh__" and walked out!  Then the poor instructor began to cry!

I told her I was sorry, but that I was really coming to her defense. The whole thing with the fans is NOT her fault and if it's really so important to him, he needs to take it to the top of the house, not take it out on her. He also might want to check into one of those "hot yoga" classes.

I wrote a  post a couple of years ago about how I don't "do mad" well.

I still don't.


Our family trip to Kansas City was last weekend. We had a ball. Stayed at a hotel adjacent to the Hallmark Center (Hallmark Cards is headquartered in KC).  In addition to going to two Royals games, we did a tour over at Hallmark, ate some great barbecue and, on blog friend Michael's recommendation, visited the Country Club Plaza, a beautiful and hip shopping and entertainment district.

It was great to have some family time, with all of us there. It was too short, of course, but we made the most of it.

To see some photos, visit Daughter's blog: ("Delightfully Living" over to the right on my blog list).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Introducing . . .

A couple or so years ago I introduced you to my then future daughter-in-law's (FDIL) blog which featured funny happenings from her classroom.

She's now been my daughter-in-law for a year and has had both a location and career change. I miss her (and her husband) tremendously but they are both really good communicators, which helps soften the ache I feel from their absence.

She has started a new blog which looks like it will feature stories from her cooking and entertaining adventures. I can tell you with all modesty and pride that she is a terrific hostess and homemaker. And she writes about it in a way that makes you feel as if you're sitting right at her table.

So put this in your browser and get to know my sweet DIL:

You'll be glad you did! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Heat and politics

It's hot.  We are talking flower-wilting, sweat-inducing, fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk, miserable kind of hot.

The only tolerable time of day is early in the morning. As the sun comes up between 5 and 5 a.m., until  7:30-ish, it is possible to be outside and not feel as if one is about to suffocate.

109 in our little 'burb on Friday, an all-time record. I'm staying in.


I don't write much about politics here anymore. Looking back over four years of blog posts, I can see that I used to weigh in on politics more than I do now.  I wrote a number of political pieces during the last presidential election.

I am still a political junkie of sorts, with great interest in the political process, but for the most part these days I keep my opinions to myself.

It's a policy that has evolved over the years -- one that has, obviously, changed a good bit even since starting this blog.  I used to be almost always willing to enter into political interaction and also willing to express my opinion without hesitation.

Today I shy away from those discussions, other than to make comments of a general nature. I don't display yard signs and/or bumper stickers.

I'll periodically write about politics in my column but I made a decision early on, after getting that gig, that I would make observations rather than voice opinions. 

I came to this place for a number of reasons. Some of them are:

-- I was getting way too emotional about it.  I didn't feel good after heated political discussions.

-- I would often voice opinions without having all the facts.

-- As far as possible, I want to be at peace with all. Debating politics was not getting me there.

-- Too many times I would equate my political views with Christianity. Although my faith is very important to me and plays a part in every part of my life, including my political views, I know that there is room for disagreement and differences of opinion among Christians. Jesus is not Republican or Democrat (as much as many in each camp would like to call him a member), liberal or conservative. There are some Gospel passages that would make him out to be both, by today's standards. In some ways he was radical and I want to be radical as he was, but I don't want to ascribe a label to him.
There's really  more to it than that but those four bullet points represent a large part of where I am today.

I have no problem with people who still enjoy a good political discussion or debate. In fact I welcome it, because those opinions inform me and give me food for thought.


With all of that said, I do have some feelings about the Supreme Court's heath care decision that was just handed down.  I'm going to mull over it a few more days, then come back and express some of those thoughts. Stay tuned. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good Dads

It is the day after Father's Day. I am so privileged and honored to be a dad. At this point in my life, I've become somewhat of an emotional sap and yesterday almost every time I called to mind one of my four (three from birth and now DIL) I got choked up.

So I don't need Father's Day. It's every day as far as I'm concerned. But thanks for the sentiment.


I have read a number of articles over the years about the "Top TV Dads."  TV Guide compiled a list a few years ago and there are a number of others floating out there.

There are two who tie for the best of the best TV dads as far as I'm concerned -- Sheriff Andy Taylor and John Walton.

Andy was a single dad and when he first came on the scene, Opie was just a little guy so had to have just lost his mom within the past few years. We never knew if Opie's mother died in childbirth or what happened, but Andy filled in beautifully. Aunt Bea performed the domestic duties of the household but she always deferred to Andy as Opie's parent.

Andy was gentle, kind and wise, but could be a firm disciplinarian when necessary. Opie knew his dad loved him and could laugh and joke with him, but he also knew who was boss. It never happened on screen, but there were references to, and it was clear that Andy had no problem with, rare corporal punishment when necessary.  

Andy set a positive example (even though he smoked in some of the early episodes). He was devoted to his job, revered and respected in the community, but knew how to balance his home and work life.

Andy married teacher Helen Crump when Opie was a young teenager (when "The Andy Griffith Show" was transitioning to "Mayberry RFD" and Andy was moving on, not long before Ron Howard reverted to the 1950s and became Richie Cunningham on "Happy Days").  But I doubt Helen was ever a true mother figure to Opie -- it was Andy who was there in his formative years.


John Walton definitely had a past. Before he married the refined Baptist Olivia, he had sewn more than a few wild oats. But Olivia was his prize and he straightened up to get her.

John had four sons and three daughters. It was tough during the depression, when the show opens, and John did whatever it took to piece together a living for his family. His primary occupation was the saw mill right there on Walton's Mountain but he also dabbled in farming and would barter his skills as a handyman on occasion.

The Walton children were no strangers to work and John saw that all of them did their chores before anything else. The boys, as well as John's father Zeb, all worked in the mill, and the girls milked the cow and worked under their mother and grandmother cooking and cleaning.

But John also knew how to have fun. He would take the whole crew over to the swimming hole and to picnics on the mountain. They would also gather in the evenings around the radio.

He was puzzled by John-Boy's aspirations to be a writer, but fully supportive. He worked and sacrificed so John-Boy could be the first one in the family to go to college. He supported all the other children in their endeavors as well.

Like me, he was emotional and could be drawn to tears or near tears in dealings with his family. He was a gentle disciplinarian but demanded respect for himself and Olivia.

In the later episodes, when Olivia contracted TB and was written out of the show, John became somewhat of a single parent but continued to be a strong rock for his family.

(As an aside, The Waltons was never the same after Olivia (Michael Learned) left and it got worse when they replaced Richard Thomas with John Wightman as John-Boy. Some TV shows could get away with it, but there was only one John-Boy. They would have done better just to write his character out completely. And they should have worked with Michael Learned to keep her on the show!).


I know, I know. It was only TV. But I appreciate that there was a time when networks saw the value of positive role models! 

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Here at my place, Wife and I still laugh when people ask if we are "empty nesters"  Maybe one day. For now, Daughter is still right here with us and Younger Son is in for the summer, home from his first year of college. We are happy to have these "little ones" right here under our roof. Between the two of them and various friends who are often here with them, there is plenty going on around here.

And Ralph the Dog, he who was given a few weeks to live three months ago?  He's sleeping at my feet even as I type and I don't believe he's going anywhere anytime soon. He's a little slow going up and down stairs and he sleeps a lot, but he's as alive as ever.

We had a delightful -- yet all too fast -- weekend last week with Older Son and DIL, who met us us in Little Rock, a good approximately-half-way-point between here and Dallas and, of course, our former home and still home of numerous friends and Wife's parents.


Our only all-family get-together this summer will be in mid-July when we all meet in Kansas City for a long weekend. We will attend two KC Royals baseball games, marking off another MLB park visited.

Haven't heard from blogger friend Michael ("Megaloi") in a while, but if you're out there, Michael, would love some info on what else we might do in KC.  Will be my first trip there.


We are getting ready for a neighborhood garage sale. Wife, Daughter and I spent a good part of yesterday pulling stuff together.  Wife asked where I would like to set up the "staging area," suggesting that we pull a car out of the garage.

We have, fortunately, always been able to park our cars in our garage since moving into this house 11 years ago, rather than storing so much stuff there that there's no room for a car or cars. With past houses we were not always that way.  Now don't get me wrong, we have plenty of other stuff in there besides cars but we have always been able to keep our cars there.

So at first I resisted, saying I didn't want to have to pull a car out for a week. That lasted maybe 15 minutes.

Much of what Daughter is putting in the sale is stuff she hasn't seen since she moved back home from college a year ago.  It's a lot of stuff and I am thrilled beyond words that she's willing to get rid of  some of it. So I can live with a crowded garage for the next week.

Once it's over, and I'm putting this in writing so everyone can see it and hold me accountable, nothing, and I mean NOTHING comes back in this house.  It goes to Goodwill or it gets thrown away.


We have had a beautiful weekend.  After a Memorial Day weekend that had near-record highs, this one has been gorgeous, barely climbing into the 70s.  It was very pleasant working in the garage yesterday and last night Wife and I went out to our local minor league ballpark and saw the Nashville Sounds play.

We weren't the only ones with that idea.  With a post-game fireworks show and the pleasant temperatures, it was an attractive draw for many Middle Tennesseans last night. The game was in the bottom of the third inning by the time we got off the interstate, parked, got our tickets and arrived at our seats.

It was a very pleasant night, though, and a good way to take advantage of the nice weather.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Then and now

At my age, I have learned to expect the unexpected. I am well familiar with the old adage, "the best laid plans of mice and men."

This Sunday afternoon I am sitting out on my deck, with Wife and Ralph the Dog, alongside me. Ralph is doing what he does best -- sleeping, but with his ears up, just in case something should happen that needs his attention (even though he's going deaf).  Wife is reading.

This past week is a blur. I worked in town last Monday and Tuesday.  I took our Mission CEO to meet with an influential friend of mine late Monday afternoon. I had a Mission Executive Committee meeting Tuesday night. 

Wednesday morning I drove over to Memphis to work for a couple of days (or what I planned to be a couple of days).  Thursday morning I got word that a dear friend, the lady who lived next door to me growing up in South Arkansas, Mrs. M., had died the night before.

This was not unexpected.  She had had Alzheimer's for about six years. Her husband, Dr. M., died in August 2009 after faithfully caring for her. After that she went to live with her son and she's been there ever since. The last time I saw her, a couple of years ago, she did not know me. 

To give a little background, I met Mrs. M. in 1968 when her family moved in next door to me. She and Dr. M. had four children, two older and two younger than myself. I loved them all and over time they became like family to me.

Mrs. M. and I had a special friendship and she remained a faithful friend to me throughout my adult life -- calling me on birthdays, writing me notes -- until she became ill and could longer communicate independently. She and Dr. M. were also good, faithful friends to my parents. 

Anyway, when I heard that she had died, I knew that I needed to go. The funeral was to be Saturday afternoon. It's about a 7.5 - 8 our drive from home and, since I was already three hours down the road, Wife and I decided I would just stay in Memphis and go from there. 

This was totally selfless on Wife's part because we had a number of things scheduled this weekend. Both Daughter and Younger Son are out of town and we had a wedding to attend Friday night and had accepted another invitation for Saturday night. Wife was helping host a brunch Saturday morning (not at our house) and we always have a running list of projects, of course. She knows how much Mrs. Mr. and her family meant to me, though, so she gave me her blessing.

On Friday I felt something, a little bit of a "nudging," a feeling that I should write down some of my thoughts about Mrs. M. I decided that, if it would be at all appropriate, I would share this at the funeral on Saturday. I would not push it on them and would only do it if it would fit, and I did not even call in advance to ask. I would just discreetly mention it when I got there and if I didn't speak at the service, I would just give the family what I had written down and let them read it at a later time.

Friday night I drove to Little Rock to spend the night with Wife's parents. I got a text from longtime friend (and blogger friend) Kelly, who had heard about Mrs. M. and knew of my friendship with the family, asking me if I would be coming. We agreed I would meet her for lunch.

Lunch was delightful. We talked nonstop and could have talked hours more. Old friends are the best (even though Kelly and I are still, of course, quite young. We've just known each other a long time).

When I arrived at the visitation just before the funeral service, I spoke to one of Mrs. M.'s daughters. I told her what I had written down and told her I would be happy to share it but only if it would be appropriate and if it would fit in with what they had planned. She smiled broadly and said she thought it would be perfect, that they had planned a brief, simple service and that she, her two sisters and brother had all wanted to say something but didn't think they could, emotionally, handle it. Her husband, a pastor, was conducting the service. We spoke to him and he said he thought it would be a great idea.

I talked to the other siblings to make sure they were OK with it and they all told me that they would love it and thanked me.

So at the start of the service, I gave a brief talk about my memories of growing up next door to Mrs. M. and what she and her family had meant to me. I said that it truly "takes a village" and that Mrs. M. had been such an integral part of the village that helped raise me.

I talked about the wonderful neighborhood in which we had grown up -- where we played touch football games in the non-busy street during the day and kick-the-can at night. We all looked out for each other and Dr. and Mrs. M. had been like another set of parents for me.

It was a simple little talk, but it was well received, and I'm so glad I got to do it. I have no doubt that the "nudging" was God urging me to step out and do something that didn't make me feel comfortable but, in the end, made me feel very good.

After the graveside service, I took a walk by myself over to the headstone that marks the graves of my parents, buried side by side. I know that they are not "there" in the truest sense, but I smiled, and even laughed a bit, as I read their names on the headstone.

And in my old hometown, downtown where I had lunch with Kelly, at the funeral and at the cemetery, I felt them with me, as well as Dr. and Mrs. M., and others who were all part of my "village," and I felt very warm, and very thankful.

I got in the car about 5 p.m. and drove back to my current "village."  At 12:45 a.m. I climbed into bed with my wonderful sleeping wife, who always puts my wants and needs before hers, and I counted my blessings until I fell asleep.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's a subset, folks

Kelly had a great post recently about overused and misused words. She had to know she was ringing my bell when she wrote it. I am always on the lookout for those words and phrases that the media and people in the workplace just can't stay away from.

In my world right now, by far the most overused phrase is "reach out."  I do not go one day without hearing it or reading it in an e-mail. Nobody calls me, they reach out to me. It's hilarious.

And the media folks are just as bad. You don't have to listen to the talking heads very long before they tell you that they "reached out to so-and-so but he was unavailable." 

As I told Kelly when I commented on her post, a big up and comer now is "subset."  You might remember learning about sets and subsets when you took math. Now it's all the rage in the office with people talking about subsets of people who do this or that, subsets of information, subsets of all kinds of things.

Just in case you didn't know, there is as big subset of folks out there now who just love to hear themselves say the word subset. Listen and you'll see -- or hear.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Two movies and a book

Thought I would share today about a good book I just read and two good movies I have seen.

Wife and I don't go to the movies very often except for the week between Christmas and New Year's. We talk about it a lot and have a lot of weekend conversations where we discuss going to see a movie. We'll even get so far as to look up the feature times.  In reality, though, we usually don't make it.

I have made two exceptions to this rule lately. Both movies I saw were based on books I had read -- Blue Like Jazz and Hunger Games.

Blue Like Jazz is an "indie" (independent) film based on Christian writer Donald Miller's book of the same name, the book that catapulted him to notoriety.  The film almost never happened. Nashville filmmaker Steve Taylor worked with Miller several years ago on making a movie out of BLJ but scrapped it when they decided they just didn't have the funds to make a film.

Some folks got wind of this and, long story short, raised the money through a web site. Each person that contributed is named as an associate producer in the movie's ending credits.

I loved Miller's book. It's a compilation of essays in which he candidly confesses his struggles with conventional Christianity.  He talked about moving from Houston, TX to Portland, OR where he attended a progressive liberal arts college (Reed).

Miller struck a nerve with believers and non-believers alike, especially believers like myself who have been left cold by more conventional Christian leaders who would purport to speak for all Christianity. Besides the message Miller delivers, affirming his faith, his writing is beautiful -- both sensitive and humorous. 

OK, this part was not supposed to be a book review but I get carried away.  I liked the movie Blue Like Jazz; I didn't love it. The movie presents a fictionalized account of Miller's life and his experiences at Reed -- very different from the book, while still conveying the same faith affirming message.

But it is not for the faint of heart, very much earning its PG-13 rating.  The fictionalized Donald Miller's experiences at Reed are crazy. I had to really stay with it, hoping for the resolution of the story that it did indeed have. It was worth it.


Hunger Games is based on the movie of the same name, the first of the trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I wrote about the book in this space right at the end of last year. I found the book incredibly weird but incredibly compelling.

The movie did the book justice with only a few insignificant departures from the story line. Unlike many movies I see based on a book I have read, many of the characters and scenes were very much as I had pictured them as I read. I highly recommend it.


After Wife and I visited Walt Disney world a few weeks ago, I couldn't quit thinking about its sheer mass. I mean, the place is huge, so much more than a theme park (well, it's four theme parks, but so much more).  I had been there a number of times but I had never really considered its enormity.

I was curious about some of the history behind WDW and how it all came about. I found a book, Married to the Mouse, by a college professor, Richard Foglesong.  Foglesong recounts Disney's early days in Orlando and the unlikely relationship developed among the city, the two counties on which the Disney developments sit, and "the Mouse."

The Disney company was able to become an entity unto itself, negotiating almost unheard-of deals with both city and county governments in central Florida. I found it fascinating, although the author is pretty detailed about land-use and government, which might bore you if you're not interested in that kind of thing.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moving right along

I guess the older you get, the more you ask the question, "Where did the time go?"

If I look back on older posts on this blog, I see that theme a lot. And since I'm getting older all the time, I'll be asking that more and more, I guess. If you have an answer, I'm all ears.

Yesterday Daughter and I took a walk on one of the wonderful walking trails we have in our community. This one goes alongside some of the youth soccer fields and she saw some of her students playing.

Some things never change. There are the ones playing who already show some athletic prowess. There are some who are mildly interested. And then there are those who are much more interested in all the other things going on like butterflies or bugs or whatever, not quite sure the direction they are supposed to be kicking the ball, should the ball happen to come in their direction. To them I want to say, good for you, you have your whole life to grow up.

The parents were also much the same way they were back when mine were little -- some getting way too involved and worked up over 3 and 4-year-olds playing organized sports (which is probably too young anyway, but that's another post for another day), some cheering wildly for their child but not too concerned about the game's outcome and some not quite sure what's going on.

As we watched them for a while I was totally taken back to the time I was a parent watching one of mine play. In fact, as I looked at the parents looking on as their little ones ran around on the soccer fields, in my mind I became one of them and convinced myself that there really was not much difference in age between me and those parents.

I shared that with Daughter and she quickly brought me back to reality.


After such a mild winter and an early, warm spring, we are all shocked when temperatures plunged this weekend. Highs yesterday were in the mid to upper fifties, but you would think we had just had an Arctic blast. Parents on the aforementioned soccer fields yesterday were wrapped up in gloves, scarves and blankets.

That's a little extreme.


Younger Son is about to finish his first year of college, speaking of "where did the time go."  He'll be home for the summer in just a couple of weeks. He's going to visit Older Son and DIL for a few days in May, then will start his summer job when he gets back.

Daughter continues to be our "roommate" so we'll have a rather full house here compared to the norm.

Empty nest anyone? Not this one. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Still magical

As I wrote in my last installment, Wife and I spent a couple of days at Walt Disney World on the end of our recent Florida vacation. We had spent the first part of the week going to spring training baseball games.

I love Disney World. I am not a big theme park guy but I love Disney. Wife and I went there in 1985, the year after we married, and we took family trips with two of our three in 1995, then the whole crew in 2000.  In 2007, when I took Younger Son and three of his friends to spring training, we spent a day there. In '08, when Wife, Younger Son and I went again to spring training, we spent another day.

Of course if you want to "do" Disney World, you can't possibly do it all in a day, or even two. But no matter how much time you have, if you're in the Orlando area, you can hit a few high points.

Walt Disney World is huge, consisting of a total of four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom), water parks, hotels, a big shopping complex called Downtown Disney, a sports complex, and probably more that I don't even know about.

It is a totally different experience going to WDW as two adults. We could definitely be a lot more spontaneous and flexible, just taking things as they came. We made it to all parks except The Magic Kingdom.  We were headed over there but it started raining so we opted out.

We definitely got our money's worth at the other parks, though. We spent a lot of time reminiscing about our family trips there.  My rule was that we would not take a child until he/she was seven. I have no regrets about that decision. I have watched people at Disney World with babies in their arms and in strollers and they do not look happy. Babies in Mickey Mouse's lap will never remember it.

Wife and I rode one roller coaster, a new one at Animal Kingdom that has a Mount Everest theme. We were foolish to do that as our bodies no longer handle fast rides well, especially if they go backwards. We were both green when we got off. We talked ourselves out of being sick but we could have been. I think we learned our lesson.

It's still a very magical place, though, and there is always something new. Can't wait to go back. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where in the world?

Wife and I are enjoying a few days of R and R as I write this. After 28 years of marriage, if we have learned anything, it is how to compromise. I say that because that is what this vacation is about. Wife loves the beach; I love baseball. It's really a good deal for Wife because she is a pretty big baseball fan too. I am OK looking at the ocean but I tire quickly of sand and sun and especially the combination of the two. So where are we? Near Vero Beach, FL, in a condo just steps away from the beach. We flew to Orlando late Saturday afternoon, spent the night there and caught a spring training game in nearby Kissimmee on Sunday afternoon before driving down here. Our routine until Thursday is one of my getting up for a long early morning walk while Wife sleeps in, Wife spending the morning on the beach with the sand and sun while I putter around and read out on our little deck, then both spending the afternoon at one of the nearby spring training ballparks. Late afternoon refreshments looking out on the ocean, an early evening walk for Wife (have you figured out that she's a night person and I'm a morning person?), then a nice dinner round out the day. Thursday morning we will head north a bit,catch a game near Cape Canaveral, then spend Friday and Saturday at Walt Disney World before heading home early Sunday. Yes I did say Walt Disney World and yes we are two 50-something adults who will be unaccompanied by minors. One thing we definitely have in common is that each of us is a child at heart. (I have written this on Wife's iPad which is not allowing me to make paragraphs and which is, of course, 100 percent responsible for all errors).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Learning anew

A couple of weeks ago in church I was looking at the morning program and saw a piece about a guy who was presenting a 6-week study for men on the life and writings of C.S. Lewis. As a longtime student and devotee of Lewis and his writing, I thought I should at least give it a try. I put it on my calendar.

It has been a long time since I have been to a men's group at church. Through the years I have been a part of a number of them but a few years ago I unofficially gave them up.  I say unofficially because there was no big epiphany or anything where I said, "I am done with all of this."  I was just weary of some of it and decided to exit that type of fellowship -- men's small groups, retreats, etc. -- for at least the time being. I can't even remember the last time I went to anything of that kind but I'm guessing it's been about 12 years.

The curriculum often followed by small groups for men in church has to do with "biblical manhood" or something along those lines.  What I found was that I often found myself not having a lot in common with the man that was being described.  At first it bothered me but then I decided that, as long as I was still seeking God, I didn't need to worry about it.

When I saw the little blurb about the class on C.S. Lewis, though, I was immediately interested, although with some hesitancy.

I told Wife the night before the first session that I was skeptical and if it was just a bunch of guys sitting around talking about what a particular Lewis book meant to them, or how C.S. Lewis was really the prototypical  "wild" man supposedly described in the Bible, a la the main character from Brave Heart (the script of which I believe might eventually be added to the canon and alter biblical history forever if some people have their way), I was out of there. 

In her usual infinite wisdom, she told me I had nothing to lose by going to the first meeting and seeing what it was about.

I've been to three now and it is a breath of heaven for me. The man who is leading it did graduate work on Lewis and knows his stuff. He asked us at the first meeting to choose a C.S. Lewis book and read it over the course of the next six weeks and, if we so choose, we may read something from that book to the group during the first 10-15 minutes of the class. After that, it's a lecture format, and the leader follows a handout he gives us each week.

I like it because it's real meaty stuff that we are learning and, although I appreciate the needs of others, we don't spend time sharing about our lives, feelings, prayer requests, supposedly manly movies, struggles with lust, etc. There is a time and place for that, but this is clearly a class with a teacher and students, we are singularly focused and the time is valuable.

The first week was an overview of Lewis's life; the last two have been about his conversion to Christianity.  The next three will be about the apologetics, and his views of heaven and hell.

I dusted off my old, dog-eared copy of Mere Christianity, Lewis's classic defense of the faith, many parts of which were excerpted from radio addresses he did in England back in the 1940s. I have read this book a number of times but it's been a while and I'm finding all kinds of new gold nuggets on which to ponder.

I am so glad I got over my cynicism/skepticism and decided to go to this class. I know I'll be sorry when it's over.

The following has always been my favorite passage from Mere Christianity, which is actually a paraphrase from one of Lewis's favorite writers, George McDonald. It's from the chapter titled "Counting the Cost." This is what I'll probably read to the class during one of the remaining sessions:

Imagine yourself as a living house.  God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.  He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to?  The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of -- throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.  He intends to come and live in it Himself.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weather and Ralph update

What a day of weather we had yesterday.

Well, more accurately, what a day of weather we had all around us yesterday. Here where we live we had some wind and about five minutes of rain and that was it.

But north and south of us, and east and west of us, tornadoes, hail and high winds caused extensive damage.

Wife and I, in some ways, were right in the middle of it -- figuratively speaking.

Daughter has a wedding she is attending in Montgomery, AL today. She was scheduled to leave yesterday and had arranged to get off work a few hours early.

She got home about 1:30.  We had already had one round of storms yesterday morning and more were on the way. We had had the Weather Channel on a good part of the day.

After looking at the Weather Channel and the weather radar online, Wife said she thought there was a clear shot south for the time being and Daughter should go ahead and leave. She was meeting a friend about an hour and a half down the Interstate from here and they were going to Birmingham for the night.

In hindsight, her leaving was not a good decision. She was gone scarcely an hour before she called us and her friend had called her and told her she should probably pull over. She found an exit where there was a small hotel and the manager let her come in and wait out the latest storm.

Even though things looked good -- or we thought they did -- when she left, these "super cell" things were spawning tornadoes all around the area into which she was driving.

We kept in close contact with her. She got the "all clear" and left the little hotel where she had taken shelter, then met up with her friend. There was another round of storms and the two of them went in yet another hotel (thank you to the hotel managers of both facilities) where they waited out this round. 

Wife and I were watching it all play out on TV and were kicking ourselves for letting her go. Now granted, she is 23 years old and I can't exactly tell her what to do, but I should have looked at the situation more closely and told her emphatically that she should wait until the morning (today) to leave.

Fortunately, they made it to Birmingham last night and all was and is well, but Wife and I were quite uneasy.

In addition, Younger Son was planning to come home from Auburn for the weekend and would have been driving right through it.

I can still tell him what to do and I told him to stay put. He was not happy with my decision. I told him it could quite literally endanger his life and as much as I wanted to see him, I could not in good conscience allow or advise him to start driving north in that kind of weather.

"Wait and come home early tomorrow morning," I told him.

"No, if I'm not coming home tonight, I'm not coming at all," he said.

He got home a few minutes ago. 

Today it's beautiful and cool here in Middle Tennessee. We dodged a bullet but, as I said, areas around us did not fare as well. I have come to greatly respect storms/tornadoes. Wife and I were prepared to go to the basement yesterday but never had to make the trip down there.


We have decided to let Ralph the Dog live out his life.  We could have opted for surgery which might not have even achieved the desired result if the cancer had spread.  If he were 5 or 6, it would be different. At 14 or 15, I'm not putting him through it.

The surgeon said we'll know when the time comes to "help him along."  For now, he's right here with us, doing fine and being treated, quite appropriately, as royalty.

Friday, February 24, 2012

More technology; Ralph

My blog friend Bob has a good post about his use of the iPad as a pilot.  Like me, Bob sometimes eschews technology (maybe it's a thing with guys named Bob), but he's found the iPad to be a great resource for a pilot. 

Wife has an iPad and she lets me use it sometimes.  I won't deny for a minute that  it's cool with all its "apps" and I asked her to download the one with the piano keyboard after seeing it on a commercial. 

Here's the thing, though: yes, the piano keyboard is kind of fun and I guess it would be a good way for someone to learn to play piano.  As for me, well, I've played piano since I was six years old and I could never get used to flat piano keys as opposed to the raised ones on a conventional piano. I enjoyed playing around with the iPad virtual piano for a while but then I thought to myself that I don't play the real piano nearly as much as I would like to, and it would really be more enjoyable doing that.
Likewise the typing keyboard on an iPad. I would much rather type on a keyboard where I can feel the keys depress, at least ever so slightly, as I hit them. 

Along those lines, I got a new phone last week. We were down in Auburn, AL visiting Younger Son and mine stopped working. 

I do depend on my cell phone so I needed to replace it forthwith. For me, that's not difficult. I went to Wal-Mart last Sunday morning as soon as I realized my old phone was not to be resurrected. I bought one of the "pay-as-you-go" brands, slipped off the back and inserted the SIM card from my old phone, and I was good to go. It's automatically part of our "family plan." In other words, I'm just buying the phone, not the phone service. I already have that. 

For some reason some of my contacts did not transfer, so I had to send e-mails to a few folks asking for their phone numbers so I could re-insert them. I think Kelly might have gotten a little excited, as her reply to my e-mail requesting her phone number said, "What kind did you get?"

No, Kelly, there's still no "smart" phone in my life, just the same old dumb one. Maybe someday but not now.


I am sorry to report that Ralph the Dog has not been well. He came back from a recent kennel visit very sick. He began heaving in the middle of the night and stopped eating and drinking.

The diagnosis was some kind of liver malfunction and after a round of medication, IV fluids, a couple of shots, a baby food diet and a a couple of hundred bucks (conservatively), he is recovered from that, but his doctor's visit revealed a malignant tumor.  Our vet has referred us to a veterinary surgeon and Wife and I are going to meet with him this morning.

We don't know exactly how old Ralph is but we got him in August of 1999 and he was full grown. At that time, at his first vet visit, his doc estimated his age as between 1 and 2 so Ralph is probably somewhere between 14 and 15.

He's a "terrier mix" and weighs about 20 lbs, about the size of a Jack Russell, although he doesn't look like that. He's tan colored, kind of like a Cairne, but not as big as most Cairnes I have seen.

Anyway, we might be faced with a hard decision.   Do we want to subject a dog Ralph's age to surgery? Would it prolong his life that much?  And even though I hate to say this, what about the cost?

All questions I should have answers to within a few hours. We're going to the doc's office at 8:30.

Whatever the outcome, Ralph has been an outstanding dog.  He's had a good life.  He is neurotic but aren't we all on some level.

I'll report back when I know more.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Modern appliances

It is no secret that, although I enjoy and take advantage of many parts of it, there are parts of modern technology that frustrate me.

I will give you a good example.

In 1985, when Wife and I bought our first house after being married less than a year, my parents bought us a house-warming gift: a Maytag washer and dryer. My mother told us we would have them at least 20 years and she would have never had another brand.  They had very simple little knobs and controls and the washer had the normal cycles like gentle, delicates, permament press, etc.  All of this was, of course, operated with a little dial that would point you to the various features. Even I could work it.

Through the years of raising a family we washed and dried, I am certain, literally tons of laundry. 

In 2006, after 21 years of faithful service from the two machines, Wife and I dedcided it was time to replace them. We were not having any significant trouble but the drier was taking longer and longer to get clothes dry and the washer seemed, well, "tired."

We had gone a year past the time my mom had said they would last.  We had never had one repair call for the washer. We had had the drier serviced a couple of times but, as I remember, neither time was anything major or expensive.

We did a little research back in '06 and decided the front loading washer and dryer would be a good kind for us. The washers were reportedly very efficient and used less water and with a front load washer, we might as well have the same feature in a dryer.

I was on a trip to Colorado in September of that year and Wife called and said she had found a set she liked. I told her it was fine with me and when I got home, they had arrived.

We opted out of the little platforms you could buy to set them on so you wouldn't have to bend over as far.  They added several hundred dollars to the price and we reasoned that we could still bend down just fine and even envisioned maybe building (or having built) a custom platform sometime in the future.

Both machines have digital displays which are, of course, more difficult for me to deal with than what we previously had. But Wife was excited to have these new, modern appliances and I was confident we could both master operation of the updated controls.

We did learn how to work them but I am sorry to report that these machines, especially the washer, have been a major disappointment. The dryer has never seemed to get clothes completely dry on its normal run and we almost always have to add additional time to it. I've always felt like there was something I could probably do to remedy that problem but have never taken the time to try to figure it out.

The washer has been a nightmare. It is noisy beyond belief and it shakes the ENTIRE HOUSE. It sounds like an airplane about to take flight and if I'm upstairs and the windows begin to vibrate, I know that Wife is downstairs washing clothes. This is no exaggeration.

As to its ability to wash clothes, I would rate it a mediocre -- at best.  Clothes have seemed a little mildew-y at times. But the noise is by far the worst feature. 

We are throwing in the towel. Last weekend the digital display on the washing machine stopped at 22 minutes. Then it started flashing "N-D" which we, upon investigation, learned to mean "No Drain."  So our clothes were sitting in the machine, soaked, and the water was not draining. And we couldn't open the door.

I pulled it out from the wall and fooled around with the drainage hose.  Long story short, we were able to get it running again and got the water drained so we could get the clothes out, but this went on all week. We can operate the thing but we have to stop and start and it takes about 1.5 - 2 hours to wash a load.

Friday we had a repair guy come and he pronounced the control panel "fried."  The cost to repair?  A whopping $700 -- MORE THAN THE COST OF THE MACHINE!   In other words, this way cool, up- to-date washer lasted less than six years, about a fourth of the time of our first one.

We are going back to top loading and we're getting the simplest one we can find.   You know, all these digital displays and controls are just as cool as they can be but if they are not going to last any longer than this, I'm really not interested. 

Wife says we'll continue to live with the dryer for a while but I wonder about that.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Time flies; mild winter

Where did January go?  Will someone please tell me?

It has been a pretty busy month so far, which is probably the reason it feels like time has passed so quickly. Effective January 1st, I became Chairman of the Board of the non-profit on whose board I have served since 2004.  A couple of years ago when I became vice-chair, the two years before I would take the chair position seemed such a long time away . . . and now my two-year term has begun.

I am passionate about the cause for which this non-profit exists -- to help the homeless and hurting, to provide them food and shelter and to, hopefully, provide them the resources to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient.  A large percentage of the clientele are addicted to drugs and alcohol and those addictions hold them in a tight grip.

Jesus said we are to help the "least of these" and that when we are so doing, we are serving Him.  It's a tall order and there are numerous obstacles along the way but it's a high calling.

We have hired a new CEO for this organization after a year-long search and interview process. He starts in about a week and he and I will be learning together. We have high hopes for him and have every reason to believe he will be a strong leader.  


Older Son, firmly entrenched in his life in Dallas now, turned 26 last Tuesday. UNBELIEVABLE!  Wasn't it just a few days ago we were bringing him home from the hospital, the same day the space shuttle Challenger exploded?  And I had hair?  (I think this is when I began losing it).

Wife and I are going to Dallas to visit him and DIL next Friday and we can't wait!


It has been a mild winter here in Middle Tennessee. While last year at this time we were freezing our little booties off and schools were pushing the limit on snow days, there has been only one county-wide snow day this year and frankly, that one was a little iffy. I think since it was mid January and there had been none up to that point, the school officials had some leeway in making that decision.

Not that it has any direct impact on us anymore.  We're past the days of waiting for that fateful recorded call announcing the school closings for bad weather and hearing our kiddos erupt in cheers. 

I am still holding out for a good snow this winter. I really like the white stuff and feel a little cheated if we go through a winter with nothing more than a few flurries. Maybe if the groundhog sees his shadow this week our chances will improve.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chevy runs deep

Full Disclosure: This is recycled from one of my recent columns at Brentwood Home Page. Wanted to share it here:

I am a total sucker for the TV commercials that tug at my heartstrings.

During the holidays Wife and I are especially partial to the Publix ad showing the medical resident working Christmas Eve, talking to his mom on his cell phone.

In a subsequent scene he calls her back and tells her to wish all the family a Happy Holiday, then trudges into his apartment alone, only to find her and the rest of the family all there, baking and decorating.

And don’t even get me started on the Hallmark ads, or any of the ones where soldiers or long lost family members are showing up to surprise their families. They get me every time.

You would think a car commercial would not affect me. Think again.

The latest campaign for Chevrolet incorporates the slogan “Chevy Runs Deep,” pronounced by none other than Tim Allen, a/k/a “Tim-the-Tool-Man Taylor,” the prototypical Guy’s Guy from the 90s TV show Home Improvement. The Tool Man’s love affair with machinery, especially cars, was the pervasive theme of the family sitcom.

The latest commercial that puts me in a puddle every time I see it shows a grandfather playing with his little granddaughter in a park.  He looks over his shoulder and sees his grown son pulling up in a 1965 Impala, the very one he owned years ago. His wife and another son are also there and they present him with the keys, telling him it took five years for them to find the car with which he had reluctantly parted years earlier.

Grandpa drives the car away and is heard talking about how it’s not just the car, it’s the memories. And in this particular spot, the Tool Man is heard to say, “From fathers to sons, Chevy runs deep.”

I’m not a car guy. I don’t have that in common with The Tool Man or Grandpa. I see an automobile as a utilitarian means to an end and I have never gotten excited about what make or model I drive. Get me from Point A to Point B and that’s all I care about.

So why, pray tell, does “Chevy Runs Deep” touch something inside of me?

I’ll tell you why.

From an early age, long before he could drive, Older Son wanted a pickup truck.  I never understood the yearning, but his desire only became stronger as he got older.  He dutifully drove hand-me-down family sedans until the summer after his freshman year in college, when he and I drove to Lexington, Tenn. and purchased a bright green 2000 Chevy Silverado with four-wheel-drive.

He had found it online after a thorough search. It had about 68,000 miles on it and was in good condition. We each took it for a test drive and we negotiated a pretty good deal.

Once he could get his feet back on the ground from the excitement of it all, he proudly drove it back toward Nashville. It was soon christened as the “Green Monster.”

It served him well through college, including a period of time that he lived in a God-forsaken dwelling high atop a hill in some woods just outside Auburn, Alabama -- property affectionately known by him and his roommates as “The Farm.”  The Green Monster was, of course, well equipped to traverse the rugged terrain leading up to their lovely “home” (and I use that term loosely).

I must admit having that truck in the family has come in handy over the past seven years. Moving college students in and out of their latest accommodations (like The Farm), hauling debris, taking a riding lawn mower to the repair shop – the uses are endless, really.

And Older Son learned that other folks quickly make friends with pickup truck owners. He has been extremely gracious to let others use it when asked.

With mileage now over 150,000, he has had to put some money into it to keep it in running condition and has done so responsibly and carefully. He asked a shop owner he trusts to let him know when he thought it would be time to perhaps think about parting with it rather than spending more. Happily, he has not received that directive.

Last year, about a month before his wedding, his wife-to-be asked to borrow the Green Monster for a few hours. I can’t remember the tale she concocted to justify her need for it but she somehow convinced him to turn over the key for an afternoon.

He learned the reason a month later when he saw the beautiful photo of his bride in her wedding dress, sitting in the driver’s seat of his prized vehicle.

His mother and I drove it to Dallas for the newlyweds in early October when they made their move there.  It ran like a top and was extremely useful for items that didn’t make it into the rented moving van.

Older Son’s new job will require a bit of driving around the sprawling Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. He and his wife have been painfully contemplating trading in the truck for something more fuel efficient. It’s in good shape and running well, and he’s confident there is a buyer there in Texas who would pay a good price.

I’m still not a car guy, but I have tears in my eyes even as I type this. Like Grandpa in the commercial says, it’s not just the car (or truck), it’s the memories. That truck is full of them.

I was relieved to receive a text message from Older Son a couple of weeks ago that simply stated, “Keeping the truck for a while.”  He had to have anticipated the grin on my face as I read that.

I’ve seen him get married, have surgery and move to Texas in the past year. I know it’s not about me, but I appreciate not having to deal with another emotional passage just now and I’m thankful the Green Monster is staying with us – or him – for at least a while longer.

Oh yes, friends.  From fathers to sons (or sons to fathers), Chevy runs deep.