I have served on a jury three different times in my adult life, and been called to be in a pool for a federal case one other. Besides the fact that each time I served, it really screwed up my work and my personal life, I pretty well enjoyed the experience. This time, however, it was Cheri’s turn. As soon as she received the letter, however, her first words were, “I hope not…” it’s not that she disliked the legal system, or didn’t want to do her “civic duty,” but rather, she really for her entire life has worked pretty hard not to render a judgment on another human being, which of course is what sitting on a jury is all about. Last Monday evening after 5:30, while she was busy working on my neck to try to get the cramp out so I could actually move my head side to side, it came time to call in and see if the “team” she had been put on would have to report the next morning at the Cass County Court House.
Of course she did. I have to admit it was kind of a grumpy evening, as she called and left message at work that, sure enough, she would not be at work at least for Tuesday, and then she would have to let them know after that. As much as I wanted to encourage her, with my neck frozen almost solid, I was pretty much focused on myself. I did drive her to the courthouse Tuesday morning for her big trial, and then went back home, and ended up sleeping most of the morning, since I had gotten no sleep the night before, due to a neck that I really wish I could replace at the “you could do better” neck store.
She called at noon, telling me that sure enough, she had been picked, and had to wait until all twelve were selected, and then she would get the schedule. A little after 5pm, I drove back down to the courthouse, picked her up, and we went home. They predicted that the trial could possibly start and be over on Wednesday. No chance. The proceedings themselves went the entire day, and so their task then became to meet on Thursday as a jury and see if they could come to a unanimous agreement as to whether to hang the varmint, or set him free into society.
The whole trial thing consumed a great deal of our lives. First, Cheri missed at this point three whole days of work, which when you are seeing about 18 patients a day ends up being a nightmare for the schedulers. Fortunately, she couldn’t have her cell phone on during the trial, so she missed the dozen or so calls from the clinic, asking if she might be done by noon, or be able to come by 2:30, or whatever. She informed them once again that she would be done when she was done, and there was no use asking her things she didn’t know. A bit of backbone was starting to grow in this one..
Evening meals, and anything else left on the schedule at home just had to be punted or set aside, since she really couldn’t say to the judge, “Well, it’s been nice, and I’ve had such a wonderful time, but I’m sorry to have to leave early, and put you in a bind…” Apparently, he was pretty clear to all of the jurors at the beginning that this was not an optional activity, like finger painting or other craft time. We just had to accept the punt and retrieve her from the legal system when we could.
Of course, the very worst, most terrible part of all of this was that she also was unable to take care of ME… Remember the Sunday morning wake up with my neck and head seized up and in pretty strong pain? Well, I can tell you that it didn’t/hasn’t gotten better all by itself! I – yes me – even went to the urgent care clinic to see if they had a nice large bat that would possibly bring things back into alignment. All I got were some pain meds that were supposed to free the knot up, and allow me once again to shake my head no without grimacing. I have taken the little pill religiously, and the only result has been that for most of the day, I’ve slept, and so haven’t know what the pain was until I woke up again. I wish the same thing could happen at night, but no – I’ve even gone to bed at 9pm, falling right asleep, but only then waking up at 11:15, and then nodding off and waking up in 15 minute cycles. I’ve even had the problem of being awake, and deciding that what I’m going to do is get up, get a drink of water, and perhaps take another pill. I do that, although it seems to take a long time to accomplish such a little thing – and then I wake up, and realize I never got up – I just dreamed that I was doing to do it. Talk about skating on the very edge of being pretty nutso! Over and over again, in 10 or 15 minute segments, I have napped, and then shot awake with a cramp or a twinge of the neck, reminding me that I stuck in a cursed cycle, and getting to wake up about 5 or 6 times before 2:15 in the morning. So, let’s just say that I’m a wee bit tired right now. And I can’t say no, at least with my neck. And Cheri has been able to give me only limited care, which is pretty tough. I know, I know – big baby…
So, now I have been to the chiropractor, who – and it’s always troublesome to hear someone in that position look at an x-ray – and say, “Wow! I’ll be you are in a lot of pain right now!” Duh.
So, our hopes for today is that Cheri will be finished and dispatch her civic responsibilities, and that somehow my neck will miraculously return to normal. You see, I have always tried to explain in different classes I have taught, that hope is far more than just wishful thinking, like “I hope I win the lottery,” or “I hope we will have something other than hotdish for supper tonight..” No, hope carries with it a much greater and deeper power than that. Hope, as I have defined it a number of times, is “The faithful expectation that God is working on our behalf.” One, it arises out of faith – a trust in both the ability and willingness of God to care for us, and our ability to align our desires and wishes with God’s will. It is so much more than rubbing a genie’s lamp, or getting wishes from a birthday cake or coins in a fountain. Hope allows us to rely on God’s creative power, even when it appears there is no way out or through.
We often want quick fixes or magical changes to our world. Instead, when we are able to step back, to take a deep breath, even when our neck hurts, and to recognize that God is working His purpose out, even as we take each breath, the hope arises and encircles our mindset and our own efforts, as we work in cooperation with the One who rules the Universe.
I do hope for the best, because the best is what God creates every day, in each of our lives. I hope that for you as well, and I really hope that your neck doesn’t feel like mine. But it’ll get better, for sure. Peace.
Word for the day: ambisinister. Pronounced am-bee-SIN-ih-ster. Let me say first of all that this is one of the more biased and pretty crummy words you can come up with. The actual definition is “clumsy or unskilled with both hands.” So, let’s look at the origins of this word. From the Latin ambi, meaning “either” and sinister, meaning (no, not evil) “left.” So if you were to be specific, an ambisinister individual, by this definition is someone who is clumsy with both their left hands… Compare that to “ambidextrous” which is Latin really is defined as “able to use either of one’s right hands.” You can see my distaste in this as a pure born, card carrying left-hander. Now, I know there is nothing in creation that will somehow turn the mindset and bias of 90% of the world to respect left-handers, but certainly we could get rid of this word, at least to start, and then work on the word, “sinister” itself. So offer that left hand of friendship, and put your left hand over your heart to say the Pledge of Allegiance…
Once again, I apologize for abandoning my daily column yesterday. I awoke to a huge biting, stinging, hot the touch neckache. I almost thought I knew what Louis XVI, and Marie Antoinette went through during the French Revolution, except they sort of missed when dealing with me. Seriously, I had the ability to rotate my head about two inches each way, which caused me to try to push my eyes too far to the end of my eye sockets. Plus, in case anyone was asking, it was really painful! I mean, if I forgot for a moment that the neck was completely fouled up, and try to turn my head like a normal human, it reminded me that all I might have thought was just a wish, as sharp, big ol’ needles seemed to be jammed at the base of my head. Even the skin on the back of my head, and one side all just hurt when I touched it. I know, I know the old doctors joke: don’t touch it.
Well, I guess the specter of someone walking out of the bedroom, looking like Frankenstein’s monster with his walk, and inability to turn his head alerted my wife that something was a bit wrong. She volunteered to rub my neck and shoulders. I warily agreed. And sure enough, with her first grinding rub, I almost felt my soul leaving… the pain was shocking actually, and I have a pretty high threshold of pain, I think. As she felt me crumble like an overdone coffee cake in her hands, she stopped, and said, “Maybe I’ll just rub lightly.” As I caught my breath, I shared my agreement with her plan.
As a testament to our love, she actually worked on my neck and shoulders for a good 15 minutes, and pulled out a small vibrating hammer that Aaron got for Christmas two years ago, and hammered away on the knot and tight spots. A couple of times, I think she nearly lost me, but she did focus in on the pain spots – there were a bunch of them.
Finally, she said, “I think that’s enough for now – we don’t want to injure anything!” Her next suggestion was that I take a hot shower and let it pound on me. I normally would have rejected that plan – there is just too much involved with fans and towels and everything – but I went ahead and showered, and probably came close to emptying the water heater. It did feel pretty good, but that old neck was not the least bit interested in letting go of the death grip it had on me, which made the towel dry off a bit of an epic challenge.
I spent the next few hours sitting pretty still – what a waste of a day! – and then around mid-afternoon, Cheri asked if I still had any muscle relaxing pills left from a former time when things went a bit kerflooey. I actually did, and since they had my name on the bottle, I took the standard dose, and hoped for the best. The effect was a while in coming, but I did start to feel like the neck was loosening up a little. Of course, the other effect was that I could hardly keep my eyes open, and it only 4pm. I have to say that one of the crummiest feelings to have is that feeling like you simply have to sleep, and the world around you, including your wife on a late Sunday afternoon, is telling you that you need to stay awake, so get up and walk around expend energy… it’s just a horrible feeling, because sleep is so delicious, and exercise kind of stinks in comparison.
So – we took a walk around the house, ostensibly to see how the plants were doing, now that it was fall – even though it was in the mid-80s outside. Fine, let’s walk around the house. Except, Cheri can’t do just one thing, so as we walked, she would stop periodically and pull weeds out of one part of the garden. That meant, because there was no way I could actually bend down and pull anything, I just stood there, starting to close my eyes, until she finished the gardening, which was not in our original plan or agreement, I must state…
Well, I made it through dinner, tired and still in lots of pain, and we went downstairs to watch some TV. Sure as clockwork, at 9pm, Thor, our Siamese came down to announce it was time for Cheri to go to bed, and then bug her until she agreed. He’s a pushy cat. Anyway, at that time I was in the big recliner, which is totally cushioned and like floating on air. Cheri’s finally medical suggestion was that, since I was comfortable, to go ahead and sleep in the chair that night – which I did, after everyone else went to bed.
From 10pm to about 2:15 am, I slept like a rock. I woke up like I normally do in the middle of the night, but as I did downstairs, I was met with an entire constellation of little white lights, emitting their glow from the dozens of electronics devices that cover the wall in front of me. There was one thing more: catching my right eye with a dynamic glare was our friend, the Moon, shining particularly bright just in the corner of one of our windows. It was pretty, but it was the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb burning. You see, I couldn’t turn my head to not see it, and if I tried to shift my body, it shook its finger and said, “Ah, ah, ah! No way, Mister!”
I thought of one last option. I crawled up the stairs to our main floor, and shuffled my way to my office, which has a nice recliner as well, but faces away from the window. I grabbed a blanket off the other chair, and tried to settle my head in the right place. This was all very futile, as the arrangement had some crunch however I moved my head. One time, I actually thought I had found the position, but then Hermes, our cat who likes to be up late at night, howled in, and jumped up on the arm of the chair, with the need to be scratched and patted.
Cheri had promised to wake me at 6:15 – I was awake at 5:30, and crawled out of the chair at a quarter to six. I won’t go into it, because I know you can spell “pain,” and “tied up mess.”
As I had a cup of coffee, Cheri advised/ordered that I find a chiropractor. I did agree that I went ahead, and I have an appointment on Wednesday at 3:30. Yep – two more days away….
It is miserable when something keeps you from doing what you normally can do without a second thought. First let me say that that is perhaps a great topic for your daily prayer. What parts of your physical presence on this earth seem to run with pretty good dependability? Thank God for the good parts of your body…
Second, it’s amazing what something like a tight, aching neck can do to distract you from what God’s work is for you. We kind of get caught up in ourselves, instead of being aware of the world around us and the acts of love and kindness we are being called to take on. I have to do better to think about that over the next couple of days, instead of just thinking what a mess I am right now. We have the power every day to love, and offer justice to this entire world – God will take care of those other pains that come – they don’t own you, unless you give them the title. Have a great day, and even a stronger tomorrow.
Prayer for the day: Psalm 90:14 O Lord, satisfy us in the morning with You steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Good idea!)
Sorry about missing yesterday’s writing, but it was another long day in Grafton, sorting out things to get the townhome ready to hand back to the landlords. It looks like a typical Fall day today –it started with 44 degrees, and will end up at about 75 degrees. Later this week, we are expected to have a couple of days with 85 degrees… you know, that typical Fall weather…
Anyway, for some reason, today I’ve been thinking about my brothers. I was the youngest of the three boys in the family – all of us older than the four sisters – and we were suitably staged at each of us 2 years apart. Ray was the oldest, and then came Tim – and then the most precious child, and Mom’s favorite…
The three of us spent our entire childhood and into our teenage years living in the same bedroom. We had triple decker bunk beds, which made it easy to irritate the person sleeping above you, by pushing on the springs with both legs. Fun times. We mostly had the same toys to play with -- blocks, and little white plastic building blocks, and Creepy Crawlers hot plate where we would take different colored goop and pour it into the molds, and let it cook, pulling it out and dumping it in the water to cool, with a giant hissing sound, and then carefully taking a straight pin and pull out the worm, or cockroach or other kind of bug we “created.” This was of course during that golden era of children’s toys, where the hot plate was REALLY hot we often had burns on our arms or our fingers – just part of the game.
We also would go through different phases of building plastic models. We built little cars, military planes, houses, and especially monster models. We of course had Dracula (Ray got first choice) and the Creature the Black Lagoon (Tim was second) and I got Phantom of the Opera. We later filled in the set with a variety of other gruesome creatures from the monster movie era. To build them meant we first had to paint them, and so while we bought the models, we also bought tons of little model paint bottles, and a few tubes of “airplane glue,” a great glue that had a very powerful aroma, that meant we sometimes had to open the window so we didn’t pass out.
The painting rarely looked like the box, in part because we were in hurry, and would take semi-dry parts, put the glue on and stick them together, leaving fingerprints on the capes, and glue squirting out from the edges. Still, in our eyes they were beautifully horrible.
Remember, this was the mid-60s, and there was a bit of a mania for monster movies – not the terror, guts and gore movies like they produce today – if Dracula went in for the neck bite, it was bloodless, but we all knew what was happening. Imagination is often better then just showing everything. Anyway, somehow we found a magazine that showed you how to apply monster makeup to create yourself (or your little brother) into a life-sized, walking gruesome monster. We were hooked, and talked Mom into helping us get the monster paint and makeup so we could look just like the movie characters. We learned that you could boil up some unflavored gelatin, let it semi-harden, and then smear it on one part of your face to look like the monster had been recently burned. Of course, once again, we were tempted to apply the gelatin a bit early, while it was still flaming hot, which left our cheeks with first degree burns anyway.
One day, in the magazine, Ray read how to create a realistic mummy look. Since I was the youngest, I was the perfect model (read sucker) to get “mummied.” The process required a bit of time, as I sat there, and both Ray and Tim took cotton balls, stretched them out, and then dipped one side in Karo Syrup (who thought of that?) and stuck them on my face. I have to tell you, it’s an interesting sensation to be covered with syrup and cotton balls. Everything but my eyes. The next step was to mix green tempera paint until it was the right undead color, and they painted the cotton balls. Never mind the fact that tempera paint is pretty drippy, and so I had as much paint down my neck and chest as I did on my face. Yet, in the quest for true monster makeup, I imagined Boris Karloff also had a bit of tempera paint in his ears, right?
The next step was to take old sheets – with Mom’s permission, tear them into strips, and wrap me up to fully look like a 10,000 year old mummy. It’s not easy to do, actually, because there is nowhere to tie it off, and with any motion, they tend to droop and separate. Still, it was a good try. The final work was to take a ping pong ball, cut it in two, poke holes in the center of each, and draw a black circle around the hole, and red veins across the ball. Yep, they put them on my eyes, and now I could only see a fraction of the world.
But I truly was gruesome. The next idea came pretty quickly. They walked me outside, and laid me down in the wagon we had, and proceeded to drag me around the neighborhood. As little kids would approach to see what we were doing, my brothers would give me the signal, and I would moan with my best 10,000 year old moan, and slowly raise my arm. I wonder how many of those little kids are in therapy today. We set the record for most screams in the neighborhood in a single hour.
Finally, they dragged me home, I shed the mummy rags, and peeled off the now semi-hardened karo cotton balls. It was a total mess – but a raging success. “We” had made a true monster, and showed him to the world…
I’ll have to tell you another time about being tied up in a locker and having my brothers beat on the outside, until I could act like Houdini. And escapades of sleeping out in the summer, and playing with a chemistry set in the bedroom with the door shut. I’m happy to report we all made it to adulthood, fairly unscathed.
So it was sad and sudden in 2006 that Ray died. The memories of childhood were locked and preserved, as only memories were available to be in contact with Ray. Tim and I have actually grown pretty close since then, as the two remaining “boys” of the family. We don’t see each other very often, but now and then, out of the blue, one or the other of us will fire off an email or a text, and the connection is strong and we both carry the memories of times past, and what that all meant.
I don’t have a great insight to pull from my thoughts today – just the privilege and the opportunity to share memories of my brothers when I was young. It is a part of my family that I miss as I remember – not to go through it all again, but just being able to look through that glass to the past, and see a wagon with rags dragging behind, and the best mummy created that day.
Blessings to you.
Word for the day: perfidious. Pronounced per-FID-ee-us. It’s a great Latin word with a great Latin history. The word itself means “tending to betray, or faithless.” It’s far deeper than that, however. Perfidiosus in Latin means, “treacherous,” from the Latin word, perfidia, meaning “faithlessness.” However, the word really is a squished up modification of an entire phrase that explained the action. The phrase was per fidem decipere, which is strictly translated as “through faith to deceive,” or “to deceive through trustingness.” There is perhaps no worse breech of any relationship than when one member becomes “perfidious.”
I’ve mentioned before about our cat Hermes, and his utter contempt and hatred for flies in the house. Actually, he has a pretty rigorous patrol that he makes to ensure that our home is safe from any intruders from insects on up. I’m not sure how many times in his 16-year old life I or one of the other members of the family has said, “Hermes – what you doing there?” As he is quick to explore the many places where we live, where nothing good will come of it. It’s a common sight, when we wake in the morning, to see jigsaw puzzle pieces having been carefully flipped on to the floor, or stray small pieces of paper, or batteries left on the table, or pens or paper clips, or anything else that we inadvertently forgot and left on a high perch or place to be found on the carpet or tile below. I’m not sure which manual he received as a small kitten, but I can only imagine there was a pretty significant chapter in it entitled, “Knocking Things to the Floor.”
I should say, this isn’t a new or recent phenomenon. Truly, when Hermes was just a kitten, barely a year old, and both boys were away at college, while we would sit upstairs at the kitchen table, we would hear a huge racket coming from the basement. The loudest part was a near-blood curdling meow or howl, that sounded like a cat being caught in a horrible trap. What it was, however, was Hermes, having gone done into one or the other’s bedrooms, and then carrying something they owned up to the main floor, like… a mighty hunter. Dozens of different socks found their way, as did t-shirts, flip flops, sets of keys on lanyards, and even one time, he managed to drag up the stairs a fairly large rolled up banner that Adam had bought on our trip to visit the University of Alabama. The thing was probably three times the length of this little cat, and the thump-thump, howl, cry, thump sound was actually pretty amazing to watch. Of course, after every one of the installments of his work to try to move everything from the basement up to the main floor, he would drop it in the kitchen, and then, having completed his task, it seemed, he walked away, smug and self-satisfied that he had done his heavy lifting for the day.
As of late, Hermes has adjusted his tactics. I should say, if you are not already aware, that anything stretchable or elastic might as well be catnip to most cats, and especially to Hermes. I can’t leave a windbreaker with an elastic cord at the waist just sitting on the back of a chair, to wear in a few minutes. It is almost immediate that somehow the little elastic alarm goes off, and Hermes is at the jacket, pulling and chewing and trying to dislodge the stuff from the jacket itself. He is merciless, and persistent, to the point that we have to make sure to keep the coat closet door shut completely, or there will be a small tawny cat, trying to get at his heart’s desire.
When Hermes was little, we had some large, thick rubber bands lying around, that we could shoot across the room, and the cat would bound after it, like a game of catch and fetch. He still gets excited to see them, but when we shoot them, he now takes a couple of steps, and then looks at us as if to say, “Ok – that was fun – now go get the rubber band, and shoot it back this way, and I’ll watch for it.” This all goes, of course, to the prove theory that dogs have owners, but cats have staff.
One thing was have discovered, however, is that Hermes can get pretty bored, and if there is nothing for him to do, he will make up his own game, to try to extort us to play with him. For the past week or so, after Cheri has gone to bed, and the other three of us are watching another hour of television, we will have to periodically pause the show, as we hear from upstairs the sound of a little cat begin torn to shreds. It’s really a horrible sound. They talk about the cry of the banshee – I’m sure that’s close to what we hear.
When we first heard it, we thought that perhaps Hermes was in some kind of trouble, but now, we realize that he’s only calling out his battle cry, the victorious Rebel yell that comes after subduing a fearsome enemy, or a dangerous foe. He will howl for a couple of minutes, but it’s strange that the sound he makes seems muffled, like he’s wearing a face mask at a bank or something. It’s at that point that we slap our hands across our legs to encourage him to come down the stair, which he eventually does. The reason for the muffled sound, we find, is that he tries to carry a large rubber band in his mouth as he trots across the living room and then down the stairs. When he gets to the bottom, he then drops the rubber band, and then howls a little bit more and then comes over to get scratches and pats, and recognition for being such a mighty hunter!
Every couple of days or so, we then have to carry the rubber bands upstairs and put them back in the living room, so he has a new set to wrangle and transport back down again. One day, all the rubber bands were downstairs, and so we once again heard the howl and cry, and in summoning Hermes, he came downstairs hauling one his other toys – a feather on a string attached to a stick. Now, we know for certain that the feather was actually in their little toybox behind the couch, so he would have had to work pretty hard to pull it out and carry it around all the furniture. Apparently that didn’t dissuade him…
I can’t guess whether your family feels as safe and protected as we do, knowing that a little tawny cat stands guard against all intruders or infiltrators in our home. Rubber bands can be pretty sneaky late at night if you don’t watch them carefully…
Even in you don’t have a “mighty hunter” in your home, take courage in knowing that whatever happens, you can trust that God stands guard in your life. As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 121: God won’t let your foot slip. Israel’s Protector never sleeps or rest. The Lord is your Protector…
I know it’s silly to talk about a cat protecting us, but these sure seem to be dangerous times in which to live. To know that we are not alone, nor left helpless, even when things seem to surround us, and threaten us, is proof of God’s unfailing love, and equally unfailing promises – to you this day. Blessings.
Word for the day: pertinacious. Pronounced per-tin-AISH-in-us. Sounds like a stubborn word, doesn’t it? You would be right. It means, “stubbornly tenacious, almost perversely persistent, or obstinate.” Now, that sounds negative, but it really depends on whose side you are on. It comes from the Latin, pertinax, meaning “very tenacious,” and tenere, “to hold.” Of course, to be tenacious is to hold on to something without letting go.
So, think about pertinacious as it refers to your faith. Are you willing to hang on to what you believe, even when there is an all-out assault against you? The early Christians, and many others today died and are dying for their faith at the hands of those who would want to destroy it. Our pertinacious attitude is that same as the image of standing on the rock, and hanging on to what you believe with all your might.
That Sunday evening in 1986, like every Sunday in the Fall, I was at the youth group meeting at the church until about 8:30pm or so. One of the things that many folks don’t realize is that a pastor in even a middle-sized church gives away many of the evenings of the week, as well as work at least 5 or 6 full days. Now that I am retired, I sometimes look back and think about how much family time I did miss – when I was the senior pastor of a large downtown church, it was almost that I kissed the family goodbye on Tuesday morning, and didn’t see them until Friday afternoon. But that’s another story…
On this particular Sunday, however, I didn’t miss the big event. Like I said, I got home a little bit before 9pm – Cheri and her sister had been watching the Emmys on TV, and after the sister left, Cheri commented that she wasn’t feeling very good. That was nothing new, since for the past month, she had been uncomfortable, as a big baby was filling up her tiny 5’ frame.
For the weeks before, I did carve out an evening a week so we could dutifully go to Lamaze classes, where Cheri learned how to breathe, as though that were a new concept, and I learned how to “coach,” which meant I sat there, and according to the medical oath, I “did no harm.” One of the exercises, just for fun while we were attending the class, was being handed a little card, on which we were to write our predictions about the baby that would be born – things like gender, date, hour and minute, poundage and length. Remember that – we will come back to it later…
Anyway, Cheri’s discomfort gave way to her first contraction at about 11pm. Do you recall that I had been working since 6am that morning? Anyway, as we were instructed, I timed the length of the contraction and how often they came. There was a problem, however – it seemed that when Cheri first started having the labor pains, there was no break in the action. She just went from contraction to contraction. Being the not-quite-first-time father, I called the hospital to see if I should bring her in. The nurse on the other end of the phone, I must say, could have been a bit more sympathetic! She just sort of laughed, and with a lovely condescending voice, she told me that I probably could bring Cheri to the hospital, but more than likely, it was just a little blip on the screen, and they would send her back home.
By the way, if you are talking to a first time daddy – don’t talk that way… I gathered Cheri up, got her into the car, and drove the 20 blocks to the hospital. They brought the wheelchair, I parked the car, and by the time I came back, they had already determined that, indeed, “the time had come that she be delivered of a child…” I wanted to sort of punch the phone nurse in the nose.
Up to labor, and then once again, the medical folks told us that, although Cheri was in labor, it was going to take a long time, since it was her first child and blah, blah, blah. Let me say right here that past experiences are only that: they are a cumulated gathering of events that may or may not have anything to do with the here and now!
I’ll spare you the rest, but I can report that Cheri got to the hospital at about 11:30. At 3:21, just about four hours later, we met Aaron for the first time. It was four pretty intense hours, but it all went like textbook – except for the fact that it was REALLY quick. The little card that I had filled out at Lamaze was in the bag with all the other very important items that I guess you have to take with you when you are having a baby. After things settled down, I looked at the card. I was a bit stunned to read what I had written a couple of weeks before. Aaron, a boy, was born indeed on his due date, September 22. What was eerie was that I had written he would be born at 3:21am. To the minute. Even stranger, I predicted he would be born 6 pounds 14 ounces, and be 21” long. Every one of those stats were exactly what happened. I’m not boasting – just bragging a bit, which is my right.
For 35 times since that night in 1986, we have celebrated and feasted and continued to rejoice that God would bless the two of us with what became the three of us. And of course, a couple of years later, we made the perfect family with Adam coming into the world.
I could fill an entire book, as I am sure you could with your kids, of the escapades and adventures and wonderful experiences that we have been pleased to enjoy about Aaron. He has surprised us thousands of times, from teaching himself to read at two years old, to going off to college 1200 miles away, to even earning his PhD. and writing a number of books. To say we were and are proud of him would be to say too little. His imagination and his focus on whatever he is working on in many ways changes the world around him, and our world too.
So today, as “35” on the life odometer rolls around, we boys are going to enjoy one of our favorite noon restaurants, and then find whatever we will eat when Cheri’s around – every birthday consists of great food, a cake that always has the candles, one for every year, and some wonderful presents to commemorate the fact that this human being lives and makes a mark on the world.
So, thanks for indulging me in a time of remembering – I hope it spurred you to recall those moments on your own life’s journey. To remember is to gather up the past once again into the present, and as we hold that all in our hands, and our minds, we then thank the God of the Universe for this blessing, and for what’s ahead, as we live intentionally in the midst of God’s world. Blessings to you today.
Word for the day: inveigle. Pronounced in-VAY-gull. It’s a verb with a strange history. The word actually means, “to win over by one’s wiles, or to entice.” Sometimes it carries the context of deceiving, and they use the word “wangle” in order to get what one wants over another.
It comes out of the French, and of course our Romance language of Latin, of aboculous, “to blind someone’s judgment.” Breaking it down further, you have ab, “off or away from,” and oculus, “eye.” It doesn’t look like it comes from that root, but of course the French messes it up quite well, with aveugler. Children are experts at inveigling their parents, and I guess from time to time, we all engage in that activity.
It’s a quiet time, here on Meadow Creek Circle South. We don’t have any school-age children (thankfully!), and even our two sons have earned all the degrees they are planning on earning, unless something dramatic occurs. For the next long number of years, they will be more focused on paying off the student loans. Just a word about that, by the way – I’m not at all in favor of the government stepping in to pay off the loans, even though it would be very helpful economically to do that. It’s an obligation that they (and we) took on over the years, and I expect at some point to have them all resolved. The one thing, however, that I consider to be a bit of racketeering on the part of the government is that they “own” the loans of every student, unless there were private ones taken out. The interest rate that the government charges on school loans is between 7.9% and 8.5%! For the last many years, the prime rate for loans has rested at 4.75%, and has been there for over 14 years. When I was in high school, in reading The Merchant of Venice, I studied “usury,” which is the outrageous rate charged by one entity to lend money to another. Loan sharks are that way – and in my opinion, when the federal government has $1.7 TRILLION, charging 8%/year, it’s hard to think of it as anything other than a real rip off. Just my opinion…
Back to today’s story: as I mentioned yesterday, we are seeing the slow disappearing of summer, and the onset of Fall, which really only taps us on the shoulder, and reminds us that we were going to buy a new snow shovel this year, and it’s time to do that – and clean the gutters. The change is also punctuated by the gathering of the geese around all sorts of little ponds and sloughs, as they are mapping out the charts for their trip south in a few weeks. Other than that, it’s pretty quiet, and outside of Aaron’s birthday to come tomorrow, there is not a lot of other even mildly exciting things to look forward to.
So, on a nice cool Tuesday morning, what else is there to do except perhaps “go through” the center desk drawer in my office, which has remained in suspended animation since I graduated/retired in July of 2020, and see what I truly do need to keep. I thought I would first find my miner’s hat with the bright light on the front, just to find my way through what looks like the tomb of King Tut. I’m sure there is a curse connected with it somehow…
Yes – I need the roll of stamps. Granted, nowadays with most everything paid on line, I use about two stamps a month, so that means the roll will last me into five years. There is the ruler that hides a letter opener, a gift to Dad from the Tandy Leather store in Columbia SC, where in the 1960s, he would buy all sorts of leather kits to make us wallets and moccasins and belts and such. I have a stack of address labels from all sorts of groups who sent them to me in hopes I would fork over some money to them. Two – no, three pairs of scissors, a couple of fingernail clippers, and two small free measuring tapes. All of that is pretty good to keep.
Then – I wander in the valley of shadows… there, in the dark of the closed drawer, pens have reproduced, and created an army of writing implements. Now, I know some of them are by my own doing, but others are the remnants of freebies given out at conferences, or red uni-ball pens that were included in the packet of black ink pens, that I’ll never need, but can’t throw away. Paper clips of all sorts and sizes are strewn all over the drawer, but never in a spot where I can easily access them.
Then, there are the unusual items. For some reason, I have a tiny plastic bag in which is sealed a small fuse, and a brass screw. Really? Who’s putting this stuff in my desk drawer? Way at the back of my drawer is another, unopened little plastic bag that holds my United Methodist Retired Clergy pin. It’s a vestige of an older time, when “the old guys” would get together, or meet at Annual Conference, and be sure to wear their pin, which broadcast to everyone that “this used to be someone who was involved in real ministry, but who now just knows how to be first in line for the coffee breaks…” I think I’ll leave the pin where it is.
Then, because I am older than 40, I have made a major investment in the whole “reading glasses” industry. At one time, I thought of just hanging a pair about every 6 feet around the house, so I would have them in reach. However, for some reason, they migrated under the cover of darkness back to my desk drawer, where they spend their time getting the lenses scratched, or now exist with too low of a power for me to use to read. It’s kind of like the 500 pens – I use one pen, until it runs out, and then use another, but I like a nice dark ink flowing from the pen tip, and so many of the pens produce a tiny, skinny, fine point that I really don’t have enough time left in my life to appreciate.
There are cords from electronic devices of old, and adapters, and a nice stack of business cards from a former life…
Basically, the drawer is full of junk. Most likely I have about 15% of the things that are worth any value – but how do you throw away pens? Or open battery packs, or the little silver bubble level from The Woodworkers Journal – another freebie that is really cool, but useless in my current life, and if I needed a level, I probably would go down to my workbench in the basement, and not think of checking my desk.
I’ve said before that we live truly in a culture of excess. I used to despise the old MTV slogan of “Too much is never enough,” because I thought it just invited greed and a denial of reasonable limitations. Now, I think we have given ourselves over to it. I know, I know – it’s only a desk drawer, but if I have a challenge in maintaining this drawer, what does it say about my life? I’m pretty sure I can do better. I think I’ll start with this drawer, and be intentional about what I truly need, and what is just the fluff and clutter that quickly overwhelms.
Anyone need a pen? Or a pair of reading glasses?
Word for the day: risibility. Pronounced riz-uh-BILL-ih-tee. Did you know that the muscles around your mouth that help you smile are known as risorius muscles? It all come from the same Latin word risibilis, meaning “laughable, or able to laugh,” from Latin, ridere, the verb which means simply, “to laugh.” Someone who is endowed with risibility has a tendency to always be laughing – they are jolly people, who love a great joke, or simply have a well-tuned funny bone. They laugh and smile at the drop of a hat, and they both refuse to take themselves seriously nor see the world in the same light.
Well, when I woke up at 6 this morning, while it was still pretty dark and cloudy, the temperature was 58 degrees. That was a bit of a change from yesterday morning, when the low was 71 degrees – almost a summer-like day. What makes this morning such a drastic change is the fact that the projected high today… will be 58 degrees. Unlike those summer afternoons when you expected the temps to climb, today is typically Fall – plus dark rainclouds gathering, and it’s expected to just be a wet and cool day all around. So much for the weather forecast…
However, something a bit more ominous tells me that we are indeed on the cusp of an entire season change. Granted, today has a full moon (apparently it’s the Harvest Moon, which if you are of a certain age, even the mention of those words will send you into song, about “shine, on…), and in two days, it will be the autumnal equinox, which up here makes it really hard to drive, since all the streets are set up either north-south, or east-west. Especially when you drive east in the morning, or west in the afternoon, the sun sits in front of your windshield like the giant ball of flame it is, staring right at you, reminding you that you are only a puny little speck on the Earth, which is only a puny speck in the solar system.
More than the sun, however, and the fact the daylight hours start to shrink (although they actually have been shrinking since June 20!), we have one more sign of the seasonal change starting to occur: yes – it’s our wimpy ash trees. Even though the elm tree is the state tree here – notwithstanding the fact that they are continuing to be decimated through the Dutch Elm disease, and even though the cottonwood is the fastest growing and pretty prevalent, not to mention all the beautiful white cottonwood seeds that get spread around the middle of summer, the tree that seems to be everywhere is our friend, the ash tree.
I’ve observed the ash tree for a number of years now, given the fact that three of them are planted on our berm. What I’ve noticed is that in the spring, after the elm and the maple and the fruit trees have all produced their leaves, and help us think it’s no longer winter, the ash trees just sort of mosey along, like they are kicking rocks down the dirt road, and eventually – eventually, they bring on the leaves. I mean, you want to remark, “So glad you could join us!” They let the other trees do all the heavy lifting, and then finally, about mid-spring, they turn green.
However, when September comes, and especially when we pass the middle day of the month, you can look out your window and see the maples just hanging on to their leaves like it’s still July – even the flowering crabs stay nice and green. Actually, this can be a problem if we get a very early snowfall, or even some ice, because the leaves become little anvils that weigh down, and sometimes break off the limbs. That’s the trouble that Southerners have in probably January, especially where they grow live oaks, that never drop their leaves, but just break off and snap with the ice storms.
However, we never need to worry about that with our little ash trees, do we? Oh no – the first whiff of fall that comes their way, the first dark day, or a little bit of chill, and they start dropping leaves, like they are flower girls going down the aisle. While everyone else stays nice and green, they are already turning yellow, and if there is a slight breeze, you can watch them – it’s like paratroopers on D-Day – hundreds and thousands of leaves not even pulling the ripcord as they fall. Now, for what I call the mentally twisted, this proposes a wonderful opportunity – because those folks “get” to rake up the falling leaves! Yes, they will spend days and days, standing by their front door with a leaf rake, ready to scamper out and scoop up the falling leaves almost before they hit the grass.
You may guess from my description that I do not fall into that category. At all. Oh, I’ve been given the opportunity to rake leaves before. I’ve raked them, I’ve collected them with a special leaf sweeper, I’ve mowed them up with every kind of mower you can find… but in the end, it’s just a real, lack-of-fun job, and it only leaves you (no pun intended) with a pile that you then have to load up somewhere and take to the leaf dumpster, making sure to leave plenty of little bits of dried up leaf all in the back of your vehicle. Good times.
But, as the other song goes, “The times, they are a-changin’” – soon, very soon we will switch from a/c to just running the fan, to cranking up the furnace on cold October morning, and we will change out the screen on the front door to the storm glass, and Cheri will, when she gets up very early, even turn on the gas fireplace while she does her pre-dawn work before going to the clinic. The cats will even more urgently hunt down rays of sunlight to keep from getting kitty frostbite indoors (that’s anything under 74 degrees, I think). And we will drift more, as we have already started drifting into the seven months where shorts and tee-shirts go away, and jogging pants and sweatshirts become the norm.
And the leaves falling just simply whisper, “Get ready!” It’s coming, but you’ll be ok. Just be sure today, and each day, to give thanks to God for the privilege of living the day, and receiving the blessings that fall even more fully than the leave on an ash tree. Welcome to life…
Word for the day: opprobrium. Pronounced uh-PRAH-bree-um. Sounds Latin, doesn’t it? It comes almost wholesale from the Lat. Opprobrium, which means “disgrace, scandal, or dishonor.” The Latin verb is opprobrare, meaning “to reproach or taunt,” apparently giving action to the reaction of someone doing something disgraceful. The base Latin root is ob, “against” and probrum, “disgrace.” It’s interesting that we must have in our language words that are not only praise and laudatory in nature, but also those that condemn or bring shame. Opprobrium is that which is the cause of shameful conduct, which others condemn and criticize. Of course, the word is rarely used to describe oneself – we would never do such a thing, right?
The mail came at precisely 1:03 yesterday afternoon. But wait, let me put it all in context…
In 1993, 28 years ago, when Cheri’s folks were barely 60, they decided create a legal instrument that would leave an inheritance to each of their four children. It was an irrevocable life insurance trust, and after years of successful farming, they were in the position to “make it happen,” as they say. For some strange reason, they asked me to be the trustee of the trust. It didn’t seem like a great burden or anything, and I was glad they trusted me to be a trustee. (You could have a lot of fun with those words…)
For almost three decades, then, I have had a checking account opened wherever we lived, and four times a year, I deposited a check that Cheri’s folks wrote to the trust, and then as the trustee, I would turn around and pay that same amount to the life insurance folks when the statement came to me. It just took a bit of banking work, and I made sure that it was paid on time, and so it worked out pretty well.
About half way into the 28 years, as we were all together, Cheri’s dad remarked about the exorbitant amount they had to pay to the lawyer four times a year as they sent out four – only four letters to the four children. Apparently, when you have that kind of trust, whenever money is deposited into the trust, the eventual inheritors have the privilege of taking their cut of the money if they were so inclined. Of course, to do that really screws up the fund, and since it was set up to provide an inheritance to them in the first place, it would have been dumb to do so. And Cheri and her siblings are relatively nice people… anyway, whenever they would send me a check, the lawyer wrote each of the siblings – called a Crummy Notice – that they had to acknowledge and send back a signature saying they didn’t want to take money out. It’s a perfect example of banking and insurance law that just makes things more complicated than need be, but it also meant that the lawyer charged Cheri’s folks tons of money to send those four form letters out and receive the reply.
So, I made the simple suggestion that, since I was the trustee, I could just send the letters out (I had the form letter already), and get their signatures whenever I sent the check in to the insurance company. We followed all the legal mumbo jumbo, and saved Cheri’s folks plenty of money. What a great son-in-law they have!
Well, a couple of years ago, Cheri’s dad died, which made no difference in the trust, but it meant that Cheri’s mom was financially responsible for it all. Still not a problem, and we figured out, since that trust had grown so well, that quarterly there was more than enough interest to pay the statement without paying in extra money. It just meant that when the statement came around, as the trustee, I would write the agent and ask for the premium to be paid out of the interest, and they would send me a form, and I’d send it back, and that worked out well.
Like I said, this went on for 28 years, beginning on August 9, 1993. Exactly 28 years to the day, this past August 9, Cheri’s mom died. Suddenly I realized that as a trustee, everything now changed. Now, instead of just taking care of the billing, I was responsible for how the actual claim on the contract would happen. After a NUMBER of calls to the insurance agent – I came to the conclusion that they must rather like receiving money, than paying it out – they told me last Thursday that “the check is in the mail,” and that I should watch for it. Please understand: it was a BIG check that was going through the US Postal Service. I wasn’t sure whether to watch it as a piece of certified mail, or insured of registered, or overnight or whatever, and I also didn’t know from where it was coming. It seemed a bit large to just be written out of the insurance agent’s checking account…
So back to the beginning. I was sitting at my desk yesterday when the mail truck zoomed up to our mailbox, and then zoomed away. It was, as I mentioned 1:03pm. Sure enough, when I got the mail, there was a letter from the insurance company, and at the bottom of the second page, there was the largest check I have ever made out to me. This was not something I wanted to just fold up and jam in my back pocket – I needed to get to the bank, open up a new account, and have at least part of the money covered under the FDIC.
1:03pm. Guess what time the bank closes on Saturdays? You got it – 1:00pm. That meant I had until the doors unlock on Monday morning a big ol’ uncashed check sitting on my desk! Not comfortable! I know now why I’m not a diamond dealer… But come Monday, it goes in the bank, four other checks get written, and that pretty much completes my responsibility as trustee of this fund, at least. Of course, since I must have the most honest face in the family, over time I’ve been consecrated as trustee of two other trusts, that will probably never run out.
You know, when you are a little kid, and someone asks you what you want to do when you grow up, I doubt any of us would answer, “Oh, I want to be named the trustee of a big ol’ life insurance trust! And to do that for 28 years!” There are things that happen in our lives that we simply can’t imagine happening, until they happen. I’ve always thought my life to be pretty simple, except as I look back, it has involved me in so many more things than I could ever dream of happening. Some of those, like marrying Cheri or raising two great sons, are dreams come true. There are other things, however, that, like you, make life far more complicated and even confusing, and demand stepping out in faith when not all the data is available. I remember watching a video once that was a spoof, but meant to motivate. It looked like a long commercial, where the people interviewed were in the air at about 20,000 feet, and were assembling the jet airliner they were flying in! The first line is, “Some people like to climb mountains – I like to build planes – while they are flying…”
That really a lot of what our life is about, isn’t it? Sometimes we simply have to learn while we live and take on the challenges, responsibilities and joys that are before us. We don’t have to live perfectly – I believe we simply have to dare to live with abundance and hope and commitment. That’s the life of faith, and the life God offers you each day.
Saying for the day: “Challenge yourself with something you know you could never do, and what you will find is that you can overcome anything.” Anonymous.
Now, we all know that every day of our year holds something significant for our world – it’s such a busy and complex place in which to reside that it only makes sense that there would be a myriad of special events that have happened, and continue to happen each day. For instance, it was this day in 1961 that Dag Hammarskjold, UN secretary general, died in a plane crash. It was also today, back in 1793, when George Washington laid the foundation stone for the US Capitol. What you probably didn’t know is that today is also the US Air Force birthday! And Rice Krispies Treat Day! Tomorrow is almost as significant, as we will come together as the people of Earth to celebrate International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Should be fun to be in church and hear the pastor say, “Garrr! The Lord be with Ye!” Oh, and tomorrow is also Wife Appreciation Day. Not quite sure what that entails, but I would bet it has to do with someone else fixing supper…
Back to today, however. Of all the commemorations, and remembrances, and holidays that could fill our calendar, on September 18th here in the United States, we are all called on a people to celebrate a grand occasion: National Cheeseburger Day.
I’ll bet you weren’t even aware of this significant commemoration for our national culture! When did this culinary masterpiece first come into being? Glad you asked. Actually, there is quite a fierce debate as to who is the true Father of the Cheeseburger. One thing we can be certain is that this creation is all-American, given our creative and exploring nature as settlers in the New World. Actually, it doesn’t go back quite that far. Kaelin’s Restaurant in Louisville, KY claims that auspicious honor, rolling back to 1934, when the cook wanted to give the burger a bit of a “tang” and so slid a slice of cheese on it as it cooked. They actually applied for the trademark in 1935.
But hold your hamburger horses! Louis Ballast of the Humpty Dumpty Restaurant in Denver actually first applied for the trademark name in 1930, a good four years before Kaelin’s dropped the cheese. AND –the debate rages even hotter, when we discover that in 1928, O’Dell’s restaurant in Los Angeles actually had a “cheeseburger” on the menu. AND! We can go back to 1926 – eight years before Kaelin’s, and report that Lionel Sternberger, working in his father’s restaurant, The Rite Spot, in Pasadena, California, put a slice of cheese on a burger to see what it would taste like. Of course, why else would you do it? He was probably a teenager, fooling around with the grill…
The discussion/debate/burger war continues to rage as to who was first – sort of like the thousand different restaurants in the country who brag about having “The World’s Best Cup of Coffee…” My job as a humble writer is not to crown the first cheeseburger inventor, but to share with you all the possibilities of where the genesis of this tasty meal arose.
So – how many cheeseburgers do you imagine you have eaten across your own lifetime? In the 95 years since it first sizzled onto the American scene, it has found its place in heart and soul (and cholesterol) of most Americans. In 1940, when McDonald’s opened its first shop, you could get a hamburger for 15 cents, and if you wanted to splurge, you could have a “tempting cheeseburger” for four cents more. By the way, in honor of today’s special day, you can go to McDonald’s and get a double cheeseburger for 50 cents. One per customer.
Being a child of the 60s, I would have to calculate my lifetime cheeseburger consumption to fall in the “thousands” category. That includes all the drive throughs, or the ones I ate at A&W with a root beer, or the sitdown meal at noon in any number of tasty spots. It also, of course, includes the ones that were non-commercial – Mom’s, fried on the top of the stove, or the ones that were charcoal broiled outside on the grill – even the ones that probably had more ash than beef, cooked over a campfire after we set up tents and burned up log after log to get a great bed of coals.
Now, I also have to admit that I am sort of a stranger in my own family when it comes to cheeseburgers. Three of us like a cheeseburger completely plain, or with a little ketchup or ranch dressing. “One” of us likes a cheeseburger with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, pickles, lettuce, grilled mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, and often other guest condiments as they show up on the counter. And I don’t like a cheeseburger that appears to have gone through the fires of hell, either. Not so much medium rare, but stick on the medium side. With food prep the way it is today, it can be a bit less gray than the olden days…
So, today we have covered cultural preferences, history of invention, personal tastes, and possibly a small bit of trivia. Makes reading this column something to anticipate, eh? By the way, the Guinness Record for world’s largest cheeseburger is held by the Black Bear Casino near Duluth, Minnesota, where in 2012, they produced a cheeseburger that weighed in at 2,014 pounds. Imagine what the basket of fries looked like!
Whatever you do in your life, do it intentionally, whether that is acting nobly or with valor, and simply using your creative thoughts to do something no one has done before – even something as simple as putting cheese on a burger. You’ll never know the impact you might make on an entire culture. There is so much more to be done for the first time. Enjoy the exploration, the discovery and the joy of doing something new!
Word for the day: nimiety. Pronounced ni-MY-eh-tee. It’s a great Latin word. Coming from nimietas, meaning “excessiveness,” from nimius “beyond measure, from nimus, “too much” and finally, ne+mis, meaning “not little.” Using the Latin underexpression of “not little,” all you are left with in nimiety is “excess, overabundance.” A three-year-old lives with a nimiety of talking – their little brains are connected with their vocal folds… “Nimiety” can very often be used as a criticism by those who believe that any excess is wrong; however, there are times in our lives when nimiety is the best avenue for expressing our supreme joy, or exhilaration in life.
Well, it has been a busy 24 hours for my beloved wife, Cheri. After a full day working as a nurse practitioner at a women’s health clinic, she decided to finish the day by getting her second and final vaccination against shingles. Lots of needles getting poked into skin these days, aren’t there? Anyway, through the evening and into the morning, she succumbed to the same icky feelings that come when you get shot with a pretty tough vaccine. She’s pulling through, and continues to say that it’s much better than actually getting the shingles disease. Just a short public service announcement: if you are of the age (older than 60), you may want to explore getting the Shingrix vaccine. I’ve known folks who got the shingles (known officially as “Herpes Zoster”), and it’s a plain miserable time, with lots of very uncomfortable symptoms. It’s not always a picnic getting older, I guess.
So, the next task on the list for Cheri came this morning, when, after a number of months, I finally convinced her to go and get her new driver’s license before her old one runs out in December. Up here in the Northland, it’s just plain easier to do that kind of stuff before December rolls around. This new license is the one the entire nation eventually will need to have – called the “Real ID” (as though the other licenses we all have had since we turned 16 were fake?), it looks like all the others, except for a little gold star in the upper right corner. The star means that you have gathered up a huge pile of documents and carried them into the driver’s license office, where they were scanned, supposedly into your permanent record (the same place all your school grades and such were kept, I guess), which goes to prove that you are an upstanding and reliable citizen who can be trusted with the national secrets of our country, and so you get the gold star to show to the world. It also means that next year you are going to be allowed to fly on a plane, and lots of other neat stuff, I guess. Anyway, Cheri’s was going to expire in December with her birthday, so I lined up an appointment for her first thing this morning.
Thinking it would take about five minutes, I decided to just wait in the car, especially if they were going to make everyone wear masks (which is pretty ironic, since you have to have your picture taken as identification, but in the meantime, everyone looks like they are getting ready to rob a bank or something…). Well, five minutes stretched to ten, and then fifteen and on and on – after about a half hour, Cheri walked out waving her new license like she was 16 all over again. Apparently the process took a bit longer than she expected. Good thing that her dear faithful husband lined up the appointment, and gathered up all the documents she would need and put them in a folder, and then drove her to the license place and waited for her… but I’m not one to curry praise or anything….
Well, after that ordeal, and since we now both had the day off – I of course have every day off, but Cheri usually takes Fridays at home – I suggested we actually go out for breakfast at the nearby Perkins. Breakfast out has become a rare thing, for some reason, especially since they tore down the great restaurant that was close to where we live so they could put up a new bank – as if we needed a sixth bank in a two block strip, instead of a great place to get eggs and pancakes. Anyway, it sounded like fun, so off we went to act like grownups and order from a menu and drink coffee…
One of the things I had forgotten about eating out, is that outside of a couple of requests, where you sit is really a potluck of its own. I always ask for a table, since sitting in a booth usually means the seat cushion is never a match in height to the table top, so it always feels like I am sitting with my chin at table height. No problem – tables were available, so the hostess dropped us into a pretty nice spot, I thought. Perhaps the only problem was that it’s nearly the day of the autumnal equinox, and so the sun rises nearly due east, which for our table meant we were fairly blinded by the reflection on the table and chairs. Still no problem, though – we are tough.
The bigger problem came in the “ambience.” That is, there is no way to avoid other diners when they sit about two feet away from you. To our left were two fellows, who seemed to be in some kind of law enforcement or fire station business. As they talked – very loudly – every 45 seconds or so, one or the other of their cellphones would blast out a ringtone that was close to the decibels you would endure at a rock concert in a metal Quonset. No kidding – it was almost jarring. Now, in some settings, you might think that when people are sitting at a table in a restaurant, surrounded by other folks, they would actually put their cellphones on mute or vibrate (the cell phone makers came up with that switch for a reason, you know), so that the entire world wouldn’t need to hear that someone’s phone was ringing, and then needed to be answered with a voice level needed to talk over a jet engine running. Like I said, jarring – and made Cheri’s and my conversation almost non-existent. Still, we had our coffee, right?
Now we turn to the booth behind me, and entire 3 ½ feet from my right ear. Now, I believe you can’t call something eavesdropping on a conversation when the conversation could probably be heard across the restaurant, and perhaps even across the parking lot to the Burger King next door. A middle-aged brother and sister were “talking” (read loudly) about some land “up north” that they owned with another two siblings as an inheritance, and there was some pretty dicey issues around paying taxes, and possible liens against the property, and not wanting to get “hooked” with having to dole out lots of money because of the apparent misconduct of another sibling. Really – it couldn’t be eavesdropping because their voice levels were akin to having two people “talking” with each other across a farmyard. The fellow, you could also tell, was very comfortable and rather adept at using a wide range of profanity and obscenities to make his point concerning the land and the pickle they were in.
Eggs benedict doesn’t taste nearly as good when eaten with cusswords in the air. Finally, in a flash, however, the two guys with the cell phones got up and left, and then within another minute, the cussing guy told his sister he had to go get a smoke, and so that conversation was done, too. I’m sure you know the experience of, after a huge loud, noisy, ear-shattering pounding finally goes away, how your ear drums almost ring and it feels like a deafness has fallen. Cheri and I sat there, in blissful quiet, once again enjoying the cup of coffee without soundwave rippling across the surface.
So, we ended breakfast well, but it is rather remarkable how, with the first time in over a month since we ate outside the home, we would be treated with such a sonic boom-like floor show at a Perkins restaurant!
Now, I’m not trying to sound like a snob or the only ones with culture – but I do believe in many parts of our culture, we have lost the ability to do a couple of things right. First, I do wish everyone would just put their cell phones away when they are in earshot of another person. Very –VERY few people live in such and urgent or emergency-laden lives that to constantly connected with a phone or text or whatever is so critical. Second, we need to all remember what Mom and Dad used to say to us seven kids: use your inside voice. Not everyone needs to know what you are talking about. I really do believe much of our culture has either lost or set aside a real sense of self-awareness, and the context one finds oneself. Little kids yell and shriek and make all sorts of noises because they are in the midst of learning how to regulate and be aware of others. Adults, I guess, and most teenagers, would be well-served to Google “How to conduct yourself in public places” and memorize those little, simple rules. Without them, we lose capacity to listen, to control our tongues and to respect the lives of the people we come in contact with.
I do hope this is only a pendulum swinging, and that soon the sense of appropriate speech and actions will return to our world. In any sense, I for one refuse to give over to being anything but polite. Again, that’s not being snobby – it’s being what I hope is just a better way to live and act. With intention, and with a respect for the world around me.
Word for the day: stentorian. Pronounced sten-TOR-ee-un. It’s a Greek word, all the way, and it comes from an interesting root. The Greek, stentein means “to groan or moan. Our word, though, comes out of a character in literature, specifically The Iliad by Homer. Stentor, it seems was a Greek herald in the Trojan War. It was said that his voice was a loud as 50 men! I wonder if he was at Perkins this morning… Anyway, our word, stentorian, reflects the qualities of Stentor, and means almost anyone who is truly loud, earsplitting or strident in her or his voice projection. Stentor never had an indoor voice.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.