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Construction Zone

It can be very frustrating for us as we run into construction zones while we are trying to navigate from point A to point B. It seems like every year our normal routes are interrupted by a roadway being blacktopped, a bridge or culvert being replaced, trees being trimmed, or an intersection that is being restructured. Even though it can be frustrating during the time of construction it sure is nice when it’s completed. The roadway is smoother and easier to travel on.

Currently I am under construction.

On December 24th, 2017 I saw an Instagram post where a friend of mine posted a photo of her young  daughter’s notes reminding them to do their daily Bible devotions. Seeing the importance and how it was a priority for her daughter to do her devotions really convicted me that I need to become more consistent in reading my Bible, praying and living more like God expects me to live. I had gotten pretty lax in recently in my Christian walk.

Yes, I am a Christian but I know I’m far from perfect, never will be perfect and don’t pretend to be perfect. As a matter of fact there are many times I just plain stink.

I can and will say from the experience of being a Christian for 20 years I have found that the closer I am in my relationship with God, the better I feel, I tend to make better choices overall and tend to screw up a lot less. So that’s a good thing, right? Of course.

Also, I have began going to a counselor to help deal with the time period in my life of my brothers illness and death and the depression and anxiety it has caused by trying to avoid it.

I’ve only been to three sessions so far but it has been very helpful. My counselor, Kristen, is very good about listening and letting me talk A LOT which I’m very comfortable doing. Anyone who knows me knows talking excessively is not an issue for me.

Kristen explained to me after the first session it was like I was giving her a big ball of tangled yarn and that she and I are going to untangle it. Sounded good to me.

The next two sessions I have found I need to work on forgiving myself for things I have had no control over and that I need to re-evaluate my expectations of people. I’ve also learned a lot about depression itself and especially seasonal depression on my most previous visit.

I realize my time on this earth is short and I want to live it as best as I can because I understand that I do have influence, as we all do, on the people I come in contact with. I want to have a positive impact or influence on my family, friends, neighbors and community but I can only do that if I take the steps to take care of myself.

So, while I’m under personal construction right now and having to face my faults and issues that I have kept comfortably suppressed for eight years it’s going to be bumpy, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable. The goal for me is to gain the tools I need to help me change, grow and become a better person. Just like when a road construction project is complete and the road is nice and smooth and better for travel, hopefully, my life’s road will be smoother and easier to travel on than before.

road

Buffet Debacle

Back in December, my wife and I had a rare Saturday night out together to do some shopping. We headed to Mansfield and finished up our Christmas shopping. We were happy to have the time alone and were looking forward to dinner. We seldom go out to eat without our 6-year old, Harlie, in tow.

By the time we finished our shopping which always takes longer than I prefer it was way past time to EAT. In hindsight, we should have eaten earlier and should have decided where to eat ahead of time. There are many choices in Mansfield – far more than in Holmes County. We were both REALLY hungry by this time. We knew that at 7:00pm on a Saturday night, we’d face a lengthy wait to eat almost anywhere went.  Our hunger apparently clouded our judgement and we threw caution to the wind and chose to eat at a large chain ‘buffet and grill’ restaurant. Why? Because it was close to where we were and there would be no wait. We usually don’t care to eat at buffets but, listen…  We were hungry!  Don’t judge us.

Had we forgotten WHY we don’t typically eat at buffets? Yes, yes we did.

However, within moments of walking in, I think we both began to regret our spur-of-the-moment decision. Our preconceptions about buffets began flooding back into our minds. What’s not to love about the smell of greasy, fried food or the sight of hordes of hungry people picking through trays of heat-lamp warmed food? Nothing unappetizing about the thought of ALL of the hands that have been who-knows-where touching who-knows-what using the same serving utensils that you’re about to, right?

But maybe this time would be different.  Maybe we’d change our minds about buffet dining. 

Our first stop was the short line to get our drinks and pay for this delightful experience. I may have already been slightly hypersensitive to everything but as we got in line I immediately started getting strong hints of someone’s unapologetic body odor.

This is not starting out well.

We were up!  It was our turn to order drinks and pay. I watched as the speedy cashier lady filled our drink order in a rush with speed and sloppiness and then slammed them onto the counter spilling the sugary liquid down the side of each glass. Then I pay the $30 some dollars for the two of us.

What? When did this get so expensive?

We found our seats. Then it was time to go get plates, utensils, napkins and get ready to line up at the trough.

Freshly prepared foods like the fish, chicken and shrimp are is hard to get when it’s brought out and dumped into the heated trays. A bit of a mad dash happens when these hot commodities are presented. It’s like bees swarming a garbage can full of empty pop cans or lemonade cups on a hot August day.

I patiently waited as the fresh food is mercilessly moved around and picked through with the tongs by every individual ahead of me. I can’t help wondering about the personal hygiene of each person who touched those tongs before me. I’m not a germaphobe – I’m really not – but it’s pretty gross to think about the probable lack of cleanliness of others.

Then there are the pans of crusty, nearly unidentifiable entrees that have most likely been there under the heat lamps for hours. I wonder what fun strains of bacteria linger there.  I don’t even want to know!

In my two trips to the buffet, I wanted to get those most out of my portion of the 30-some bucks I just paid so I opted for the fried chicken, shrimp and fish. I added a couple of dinner rolls but no side dishes because none looked even a little appealing to me. My wife initially tried to find healthier foods but the puny, messy salad bar offered nothing that wasn’t picked over, dried up or wilted. She managed to snag a grilled chicken breast, some green beans, some corn, a grease-soaked hush puppy and some potato side dish (at least that’s what it looked like.)

Thankfully, we didn’t have a need for empty plate removal. I’m not even sure if our waitress introduced herself. She never asked if we needed anything or refilled our drinks. Fortunately, though, she stayed in our section the entire time and stayed busy – busy chatting it up with a guy and his buddies. From what we could hear, the guy was really working hard at becoming her boyfriend. I guess there was once that she came and took our empty plates. But when she did, she just placed them with the other stacks of dirty dishes on the table behind ours that had never been cleared from before we even arrived. She didn’t have time to clear that table and take the dishes to the kitchen; she had to get back to the table with the guy and sit down and flirt some more.

It was time for dessert! That’s always a good thing, right? I grabbed an empty plate and headed to the dessert buffet. I slowly walked all the way around the dessert area twice and it looked as if the pans had been thoroughly ravaged by the customers that were ahead of me. Disappointed, I walked back to our table with my empty plate and sat down. My wife asked, “What’s wrong?” I said, “I’m done.” I was defeated.

We sat there across from each other and I asked, “Why did we do this?” Looking side to side and again scanning the buffet and the other customers in the restaurant, my wife replied, “I have NO idea!” At that moment we made a pact – even shook on it – we agreed to never eat at a buffet again.  Deal?  Deal!

So will we ever eat at a buffet again? I don’t know for sure. You never know what situations will arise in life but I can say that we’ll probably exhaust all other options before we do!

Nasty Buffet
Perfect! (www.funnysigns.net/nasty-buffet/)

A gift

Have you ever received a surprise gift? One you would have never expected? One that caught you so off-guard you were stunned, speechless or overcome with emotion?

I’ll tell you about the time I got just that.  But first, some background information…

After the onset of a rare illness, my little brother, Jason had total and complete short-term memory loss. He could remember things, places and people from his past but he could not retain any new memories. At times, this was incredibly sad and hard to deal with because it was confusing and frustrating for Jason. It also required lots and lots of patience because we often found ourselves saying the same thing over and over, explaining things again and again, and repeating exact conversations many, many times.

Also, during this time, he, like many victims of memory loss, unintentionally fabricated experiences to fill in the gaps in his memory. This is called confabulation. In other words, he made up stories because he couldn’t remember what was really going on. It was a challenge to learn to play along to keep him calm and not make him feel confused.

However, fortunately, during this period of time when laughter was harder to find than an honest politician, there were lighthearted, even entertaining moments that resulted from my brother’s memory loss issues.

One such moment was when I was making one of my regular, daily visits to see Jason at the Holmes County Home where he was a resident. When I walked into the room, there was a bingo game in progress. Jason didn’t notice me right away because he was heavily concentrating on his bingo card as the letters and numbers were being called. I walked up to him and laid my hand on his shoulder. He squinted up at me – one eye open the other one closed – with his ball cap pulled tightly down over his forehead. He was surprised to see me and said, “What are you doing here?” I replied, “I stopped in to see you.” Jason then said, “How did you know I was in Las Vegas.” To which I responded, “I always know where you are; someone has to keep an eye on you.” He was so happy that I had found him in Vegas and that we could hang out.

Another time that we were able to find some smiles was, ironically, when Michael Jackson passed away. I’m sure you remember, this was big news and on every TV channel. My wife and I were watching the news with my brother. Once a commercial break was over and the news of Jackson’s death resumed, Jason was shocked (as we all were when we heard this news for the first time). He exclaimed, “Damn! MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD?!?” Bobbie and I would tell him “Yes”, talk about it a little about it and go back to watching the news. A few minutes later the broadcast would break for another set of commercials. When the news came back on and the topic was, once again, the death of Michael Jackson, my brother would be shocked by the news and would exclaim, (you guessed it) “Damn, MICHAEL JACKSON IS DEAD?!?” We would tell him “Yes’, talk about it a little and go back to watching the news. This went on and on and on. After the first couple of times, Bobbie and I would just look at each other and smile.

During this this time period, my brother never physically left Holmes County, but in his mind many exciting things happened. He became the governor of Alabama, attended a Marine Corps Ball, and set up base camp. He spent the day fishing along a river bank, spending time with his kids (who live in Louisiana) or had been working at DuPont all day. Most of Jason’s days were good days – in his mind. A blessing of his memory loss was that he wasn’t spending his days sitting around and contemplating his illness and how it had ravaged him both physically and mentally. It brought us such comfort knowing that he was not retaining any bad memories but instead making up good ones.

Now that you better understand the situation, let me tell you about the gift.

One day, after visiting with Jason it was time for me to leave. We hugged, kissed and said “I love you, Bro.” Then I walked away. In five minutes or less, he wouldn’t remember that I had even been there.  But this day was different. When I was approximately 12 feet away from him with my back turned, walking away, he called out, “Chad! Thank you for taking such good care of me.”

Those words that stopped me dead in my tracks. Like a deer surprised by the thundering sound of a shotgun blast from an unseen hunter who just missed his target.

Breathe.

Did my brother REALLY just say that to me?  

What?

How did he know? He has no short term memory; he doesn’t even remember he’s sick or where he is or what day it is. For months, I had visited him every single day but he never remembered any of it. He had no clue that I was involved in his care because he hadn’t made any new memories for a year or more. He didn’t know that I was his legal guardian, his payee and that I oversaw every aspect of his care. 

I quickly steadied myself, regained my wits and walked back to my brother. I said “You’re welcome, Jas, it’s the least I can do.” Again, we hugged, kissed and said “I love you, Bro.” Then I turned and walked away but this time I had tears in my eyes because for a moment I had my brother back. I was certain that somehow he knew how much I loved him and that I’d do anything for him. It was only for a moment but it was a gift.

Little Bro
Jason’s First Birthday. His big bother holding his hand. (1977)

I can’t think of a more special gift than the one my brother gave me that day. In the moment, he knew I was there for him. He knew I was taking good care of him and doing my best for him and he was thankful. I will never forget the moment.

We celebrate Christmas to recognize God’s ultimate gift to us: his Son, Jesus. Most of us celebrate by giving gifts to the people we love. Many of us use Santa to illustrate to our little ones the generosity and grace of God’s gift. Christmastime is when me most often talk about gifts, give gifts and receive them. But always keep your eyes and ears and your heart open for the special, little, unexpected gifts that are given to you.

 

By Jason
These are special words that Jason wrote about his big brother before he became ill. “My brother was my best friend and my life.”

Advice To My Younger Self

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking, “If the 45-year-old Chad could sit down a talk with the teenage Chad what’s the best advice I would give for the future?”

As I contemplated my answer to this question I kept changing my mind. I’d consider one piece of advice and think “That’s Perfect!” but then I’d think of something else that would be equally as good advice and may be more important in the overall scheme of things.

After much consideration I believe I have it narrowed down to a few things I would tell the teenage version of myself.

The first thing I’d say would be “Chad, I know at this age you think the world revolves around you. But it really DOESN’T. Get to know other people by taking the time to really listen to them and always make others feel important because they are important.”

Secondly, I’d say, “Chad, you act like you’re bold and confident but if the truth be told, you’re actually very insecure. Since you lack confidence you try to make other people feel small by making fun of them and picking on them. Stop it now because what you say and do will be remembered by those who are the brunt of it long after you’ve forgotten all about it.”

My Younger Self
Here he is – my younger self – 17 and not knowing NEARLY as much as I thought I did.

 

Lastly, I’d say, “Chad, you may not believe this but, your parents are right when they say life goes by fast. So don’t go through life in a hurry. Soak it all in, every moment, because in a blink of an eye it will have passed you by and there are no do-overs.”

So, what advice would you give to your teenage self?

If you can believe it, I actually have a few friends. I asked them if they’d share their answers to this question.  What would you tell the younger you? Here are some of their answers.

“I’d say try your hardest at whatever you do.  Don’t expect THE best, but give YOUR best!!  And like yourself.  If you do then others will like you too!!” -anonymous

My friend Tim said, “The number one thing I would tell myself is don’t take life so serious it’s not about you.”

Tim’s brother, Nathan who is also a good buddy of mine shared, “My advice to myself would be to live life more intentionally. Don’t just allow things to ‘happen’.  Create your own destiny instead of allowing life to create your destiny for you. Be more financially responsible. Learn a valuable trade. Learn a valuable trade. Again, learn a valuable trade! Be your own self and don’t worry what other people think.”

Another friend said, “My advice would be don’t settle… fear of the unknown is not a good enough reason stay put.”

My friend, Chad M.: “If I could sit down with my teenage self, I would have lots to say, as I’m sure many would, if given the chance. The main thing would be to not care so much what others think. So many of my bad decisions I made were based on what some may think. My alcohol abuse started at 18, mainly because of the anxiety that came along with what others think or might think, MIGHT being a very important word.
I would also tell teen Chad to focus on what it is you love to do, or dream to do, and go for it. It is possible. Don’t let others opinions of what you should do for your future steer your direction in life. Don’t be afraid to take a chance.
Also, love your family and spend as much time as possible with them. Time is short, and their time with you can be cut short at any moment. Cherish that time. Cherish your life. It’s a gift that at any moment can be taken from you.”

Another answer I received was from Judge Hyde.  He said, “If I could talk to my teenage self, I would give the following advice (although I expect it would not be understood or appreciated). Everything you do will leave a mark on the world.  Even those acts done in private will leave a mark on yourself.  Every act has a consequence.  Like footprints or the wake of a boat.  Some may quickly disappear and some will last forever, but they all will exist for some period of time.  They can be either a good mark or a bad mark.  Therefore the question before every action is fairly simple.  If I do this act, will the mark that it leaves on this world be a good one or a bad one.  When a man can take the time to think this simple question through prior to acting, he will leave a much better mark on this world.”

The words of my wife, Bobbie were “I would not have given any unsolicited advice because –  in reality – I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway. Instead, I’d spend quality time, set a good example and build a trusting, open relationship. I’d try to help teenage me understand her worth. I don’t think I ever once thought of myself as smart or talented or special. I wish I had understood those things. I think I would have applied myself more had I grasped those ideas.  Advice to teenagers feels like lecturing – Even though it’s not intended that way. Being an example and having a connection is better than ‘talk’.”

My good friend, Jerry, would tell his younger self, “Put your faith in Jesus. Respect your parents more. Take your parents advice because they really are right. Save money and buy land.”

Gayle, nearly 70 years old shared her answer. “Thinking back to my teenage years is a stretch!  If I were to be able to advise that shy young woman, I would say – be yourself!  It is too easy to go with the crowd in those years.  Be more of a leader, have ideas but also reject those that do not work for you. As an older adult, I have done some things to be proud of, whether in my career or in retirement. I worked at helping others, still do. Do that as a young person, get out of the ‘ME’ mode. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.  Life is so serious and we must be secure enough to enjoy the funny things we do and allow others to enjoy them also. I would also say, follow that dream.  Life is too short to not enjoy what you choose as your life’s work.   Happy at your work is a good creed to follow. Love well.  Be open to it.  Yes, hurt may come with it, but if you never take a chance, you won’t find real love.”

Think about it. What would you tell the teenage you?  If you want, share your thoughts.

How are you?

There is a chemical called sodium aluminate that is delivered to the wastewater treatment plants that I operate. The delivery company is based out of Columbus. I have had the same driver for a few months now and of course he’s been subject to my question-asking that may sometimes seem more like a mild interrogation. Hey, what can I say, I enjoy asking people questions. That’s how I learn new things and most people like talking about themselves.

I found out on the drivers latest delivery that he served two, year long tours in Iraq between 2004 and 2012. He now has to deal with P.T.S.D because of those two tours in Iraq. The P.T.S.D causes him to have trouble in large crowds and also causes him to be very suspicious of objects as he’s driving; things we would barely notice if we even would notice at all. Objects like potholes, guardrails and telephone poles. In Iraq, these were very good places, from my understanding, for the enemy to plant explosives.

This conversation made me think, what do we really know about the people we with whom we regularly come in contact?

I dread the typical exchange of, “Hi.  How are you?

“Good.  How are you?”

“Good.”

This drives me absolutely crazy.  

This just doesn’t seem genuine to me. The person asking, “How are you?” seldom, – if ever – really wants to know how you really are. And the response probably, rarely is genuine.  We answer, “Good.” whether we are discouraged, depressed, sad or actually ‘good’. Then, if time permits and we actually take the time stop and talk, meaningless small talk ensues.  The weather.  Current news.  Sports.

This conversation with the delivery driver made me contemplate what other people are could be going through as they pass through life and possibly by me during the day and they, like most of us, put on the smile and pretend everything is “Good.”

Is the lady I said, “Hi” to in passing dealing with a controlling or possibly even abusive spouse who refuses to lend a hand around the house or with the three kids he helped produce?

Could the man ahead of me in the hardware store be spending most of his evenings with his ailing mother and helping her out as he misses a lot of time with his wife and kids at home?

Is the lady running the register at the convenient store wondering how in the world she’s going to take off work because her child has the flu and still have enough money to pay all the bills?

Are the other parents I’m talking to at the sporting or school event trying to figure out what to do with their oldest son who’s into drugs and flunking out of college as they blame themselves and try to figure out where they went wrong?

So many other countless numbers of situations people are trying to deal with like, a death of a loved one, job loss, paying for car repairs on a tight budget, paying for countless medications as they’re living off a social security check, a cheating spouse, depression, addiction, guilt, insecurities or anxiousness and yet they put on that fake smile and pretend they’re okay as they are out and about in society.

It’s actually very sad that we have to go about our life, in a lot of ways, alone and unwilling or unable to share how we’re really feeling.

I understand why we can’t share most of the time. We’re busy. We fear looking weak, soft, or possibly unstable. We risk making ourselves vulnerable. If we do share, there are always those people who will pretend to care but then turn around and turn our pain into the latest gossip.

If we could just share our situations and issues openly with those who are close to us (I understand we can’t spill our guts to complete strangers) it would make our lives so much better. It would help ease our burden because it is helpful just knowing that someone is listening. It’s a bonus if they may have even been through it themselves and can now share how they survived or even overcame this time period in their life.

So hopefully if you are the person carrying the burden you can find that someone to listen you. If you have a set of ears maybe you can take time to truly listen to someone and give them that opportunity to say, “You know what? I’m not good and things aren’t alright.”

And a little advisory: If you don’t want to talk, be asked lots of questions or divulge anything, steer clear of me!  Because once I start asking questions even the strong don’t survive. I’m a master interrogator. I don’t do it to be nosy.  I ask because I want to get to know you and I care.  

 

Under Construction

Hello! It has been too long since my last blog post and I’ve missed you!

The past 3 weeks have been crazy busy. The Curry home is under construction. So, a LOT has been added to  the normal schedule and routine that we keep – which, by the way, isn’t extremely busy compared to most because I prefer being a homebody who seldom leaves Millersburg other than to go to work and if it was up to me I would hardly leave my property. I know it’s hard to imagine but, hey, that’s how I roll.

With a growing family – for which we are very thankful –  we have outgrown our kitchen/dining room area and changes needed to be made so we could all gather round the table when the gang’s all here.

So, thanks to Duane from Pinnacle Design and Contracting our kitchen and dining room are being remodeled. In order to remodel that space we had to move the laundry are from a closet area upstairs to the basement. Well, when planning to move the laundry downstairs we thought it would be a good idea to take our open, unfinished basement and make it into living space with a play room, living room, a ½ bath, storage room and, of course, the laundry room.   

Normally, I wouldn’t even consider taking on a project like finishing the basement but my buddy and coworker, Jerry said, “IT’S EASY!” Since I’ve seen Jerry take on some pretty big projects at work I believed him. I’ve since learned that “It’s easy!” is one of two go-to, frequently used answers of Jerry’s. The other being, “I CAN DO THAT!” There have been very few, if any, tasks or projects that we’ve faced in the remodeling job that Jerry hasn’t met with at “It’s easy” or “I (we) can do that!”

Thankfully it actually it’s been easy, fast  and we were able to do everything we wanted to do. Jerry doesn’t give himself much credit but he’s very talented. I couldn’t have done it without him (wouldn’t have even tried, actually).

So after almost 60 hours in the basement in 16 days, numerous trips to Holmes Lumber, Lowe’s, Orme’s Hardware and Ace Hardware, lots of sore muscles (that I’d forgotten I even have), many missed naps (you know how I love my naps), and some shuffling of our schedules, the basement rooms are ready for some finishing and painting and the upstairs is nearly finished as well.   

Our son, Hank helped out a lot along with our son-in-law, Brock, my patient wife, and our eager-to-help 6-year old, Harlie. We’ve done plenty of picking on each other and had many laughs and minimal disputes.

During this time I’ve been off all social media other than Instagram and away from the news which actually has been kind of nice. But it’s also meant that I haven’t had had time to write and I miss it.   

As things get finished up with our home improvement projects and get back to normal I will be able to devote my free time to writing and sharing again.  As always, thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy it.

Steps

Recently, my wife and I were watching Mack, our 11 month-old grandson. A few days prior to his visit with us he had taken 3 steps on his own. Now that we were watching him it was grandma and grandpas turn to try and work their magic to get him walking.

img_3217
Mack, 11 months old getting a little help with his first steps.

My wife was seated on the floor holding Mack up from behind while I stood a short distance away bent over and arms reaching towards him and we tried to coax him into walking with our overly exaggerated voices of encouragement and big smiles. Much to our chagrin he would take a step and fall down. For that day, at least, he was unwilling to show off his newly found skill to his grandparents.img_3218

Those few moments with Mack made me revisit old memories of my wife and I trying to teach our three children to walk in the exact same way. As I reflected on those times it really made me think,

“Do we ever really quit helping our children take steps or encouraging them to walk?”

I don’t believe so. No matter what stage of life our children are trying to navigate themselves through we are there with them. Maybe not with the overly exaggerated voices of encouragement and big smiles but we are there trying to encourage and guide them as they try to learn how to walk along the path of life.

Currently, our older daughter, Rylee, age 25, is married and has two children. We’ve been there for her and her husband and have tried to help them with different situations they have faced during this season of their lives. We’ve seen them experience things like dating, engagement, marriage, a wedding, searching for a home, changing jobs, pregnancy, raising small children and many other situations that have come along.    

Our son, Hank, is 20. He’s at the age where he is finding his independence and taking steps to make his own way. He is facing decisions about his future: Go to college or not? Which job suits me best?  What am I going to do with the rest of my life? Also during this time Hank is spreading his wings and stepping into independence by owning his own car, grocery shopping for himself, cooking his own meals, doing his own laundry and paying for his car insurance and other expenses. He’s managing 2 jobs, a couple of college classes and a relationship. Hank still is living with us and therefore is subjected to his parents’ opinions and (sometimes unsolicited) advice. He listens to our instructions even if he doesn’t want to sometimes. Does he always heed our warnings or take our advice on how to walk through this stage of his life? Well, no, but that’s part of being in this stage of life, right?   

Our daughter, Harlie, the youngest, is 6 years-old and needs help with the typical things and still relies on us for most everything, of course. She needs guidance and instruction on things such as like always being truthful, being kind to others, not whining or crying when you don’t get your way, pick up your clothes, take care of your things, and what to wear (or what NOT to wear in some cases). If you’re a parent, you know this list could go on and on and on. Probably the most important thing this year has been helping her understand everyone is different. Some people are short, some are tall; some people can run fast while others cannot; some people are shy; some are outgoing. We have all different God given talents and that’s fine. It doesn’t make make one person better than another and if we were all the same it would be boring. At age six, Harlie is still learning the very important values that will shape her into the person we hope she will become. She needs us to both figuratively and literally hold her hand at times to take steps.  

We once held the chubby little hands of our three babies as they took their first steps and then, at the various stages of our children’s lives we help them take steps and encourage them to walk. But someday, due to old age or illness our children may be the ones helping us take steps and encouraging us to keep walking. They may have to speak to us with overly loud and exaggerated voices and put on big smiles as they are trying to encourage us to keep going, not to give up, and keep moving forward.  Our children will hold our weathered hands and help us walk.  

I’m so thankful that in one capacity or another we never stop helping each other take steps or encouraging one another to keep walking.     

Navigating Under The Influence

cooper-deeppurple
http://www.rockhall.com/tour-deep-purple-alice-cooper

Recently, my son, Hank and I were fortunate enough to be given 2 tickets to a concert at Blossom Music Center. We saw the Edgar Winter’s Bad, Alice Cooper and Deep Purple. The concert itself was good. We really enjoyed Alice Cooper. He still sounds great and puts on a very good theatrical stage performance that keeps your attention the entire time.

What was even better than the concert was the group of veteran rockers seated behind us and to our left. This group consisted of 3 men and 2 women. We were seated first then they came in behind us halfway into the opening act. We didn’t notice them immediately. It wasn’t until the slight breeze brought the unmistakably strong smell of marijuana into our nostrils that we looked to see where it was coming from. It was from this group to our left. Along with their left sweet leaf, as Black Sabbath sang, they were enjoying their alcohol just as much.

Our first interaction with this group happened when the taller man in the group was yelling over the music at the people 30 yards ahead of us to put a grounded beach ball back up into the air. His request was falling upon deaf ears. I looked over at him after his many feeble attempts to get the other concert goers to put the beach ball back up in the air and suggested he may have to go down there and just do it himself. ‘Tall Man’ explained to Hank and I that back in the 70’s that ball would have never touched the ground. He let us know also that back in those days when you would look up at that beach ball coming towards you and you’d think and I’ll paraphrase, “Wow man, there is a planet coming towards me.” Hank and I looked at each other and laughed. Hank suggested that maybe Tall Man had been under the influence of a little more than booze and marijuana in the 70’s.

A while later, Tall Man brought us their binoculars to get a better look at Alice Cooper’s stage and all of the props that were present. We’d made a friend.  

Hank and I really particularly enjoyed Tall Man’s buddy, ‘Leather Jacket’. He was a trip. I believe he came to the concert cloaked in his weathered leather jacket already quite inebriated because he seem to be very unstable on his feet as he tried to navigate the hillside. What amazed us about Leather Jacket was that as unstable as he was on his feet to begin with, he continued to get worse. He’d drunk-wander but never get lost. Hank or I would watch Leather Jacket with a beer in his hand stumble down the hill weaving in and out of groups of people and into the darkness. Approximately 15-20 minutes later the man would weave his way back up into our general area. Those in his group would catch sight of him and yell out, “BUDDY!”  Leather Jacket would holler back, then the group would again yell “BUDDY!” and Leather Jacket would make his way safety back to the pack.

After being back with his group a few minutes it was time for Leather Jacket to go a few feet in front of us and play some air guitar or possibly even drums.  Then he disappeared down the hill into the night again. Just like before he stumbles up the hill, his group yells, he yells back, they yell again, he navigates to them, hangs out with them a few minutes, plays his air guitar and drums and back down the hill.

I’m sure Leather Jacket woke up the next morning with very little, if any, recollection of the concert and definitely no memory of me and Hank.

To the contrary, though, Hank and I will never forget Tall Man or Leather Jacket and the entertainment that provided us that evening as we were creating memories.

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Climate Change

Just a few short weeks ago we saw a small percentage of Americans in Charlottesville Virginia, divided into two groups. Violence erupted, one person was tragically and violently killed, and several were injured.

As I watched, read and listened to the news concerning Charlottesville I wondered how much impact this particular incident would have across the nation. Is the division in our country growing to a point where it must fully implode and then it become a tipping point to which there will be no return?

You may be like me and you don’t want to be pinned down to a specific ideology and you prefer to listen, watch or read about a specific topic or thought and reach your own conclusions. Unfortunately and consistently you will be put in into some sort of pre-labeled box. Just because of one particular belief you may have you will be considered either republican or democrat, left or right, liberal or conservative, about love or hate, free thinking or close minded.

It is not necessary to have all these neat little boxes in which to stuff each and every individual. Can’t each of us be a free thinking American who have the ability to be his or herself? We don’t need to be divided and continue to fight. Why not? Because nobody wins. We all lose because we are working against each other rather than working together.

On June 16th 1858, Abraham Lincoln stood in the Hall of Representatives in the Illinois statehouse and warned those present that, “ A house divided cannot stand”. Jesus is recorded in 3 of the 4 gospels giving us the same warning.

That’s where our nation seemed to be, a house divided, until…

Hurricane Harvey

Watching and listening to the news these past few days, I, like many of you, have witnessed that when a catastrophe hits in America the true human spirit emerges and is put on full display for our entire nation and the whole world to see. When a category 4 hurricane dumps 40 plus inches of rain it doesn’t matter whether you’re black, brown or white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Atheist, liberal or conservative, left or right, people will help their fellow man.

The ‘climate’ has changed – from divided to united.  

There have been so many amazing and positive stories shared during this time that it has helped filter out most of the recent hate that has been on display. People have been freely and selflessly giving of their time, supplies and finances to save and take care of those who are in need.

These displays of selflessness have renewed my hope and strengthened my belief that this is who we, the human race, really are.

My wish is that as a nation we could maintain this level of love and charity toward each other. That the news would be saturated with stories of neighbor helping neighbor and communities coming together and accepting – even ignoring – the differences we have.  

That is what I believe really represents us truly as humans, as Americans.

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Houston Police SWAT officer Daryl Hudeck carries Catherine Pham and her 13-month-old son Aiden after rescuing them from their home surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston. (Photo: David J Phillip/AP)

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