Who Told Her to Stop Dancing?

My work put me on the road from Hickory to Jacksonville, Florida on Sunday, so I loaded up my CD pack with some music I hadn’t heard in awhile. One of those CD was a collection of…

Zydeco.

I first heard of this genre when I was in college from a Brazilian-born professor, from whom I was taking a multicultural class from. The music was, and still is to me, infectious. Because I was by myself in the car, I was having a grand dance-and-groove session on I-95 South as I made my way down the Georgia coast.

I mean, how can you not get down to the sounds of Roy Carrier singing What ya gonna do with a man like that or Chubby Carrier and The Bayou Swamp Band crooning That Zydeco Stuff. Other hit titles include She Kept Chewing Gum and “Don’t Put Your Hand on That”.; A baker’s dozen of these Acadian hits blared from the Toyota Camry’s speakers and I loved it all – and played it twice.

As I shook to the accordion riffs, my mind wandered back to a scene that involved by oldest daughter Joy when she was 3 1/2. She had been packed up with her mom and I as we made the cross-country trek from Huntington Beach, CA to Cairo, GA.

On this particular day, we had slogged through heavy rain from San Antonio to Baton Rouge, where we would spend the night. We all were hungry and honestly, we all wanted something more than McDonald’sWendy’sBurgerKing. OK, the parents wanted something that didn’t reside between two buns. I found a place called Mulate’s (sadly, it’s now closed, though the New Orleans offering is still open and bills itself as the “Original Cajun Restaurant”) and it served blue crab. I think my feeling at the time was “Shut Up and Take My Money”.

It was a Saturday night and so the place was full of diners and the floor was full of Zydeco dancers moving to the beat of a live band. Deb and I looked at the scene and we wanted to join in the fun, but among the twisting and twirling, this looked like a place where we non-Cajun infidels could get hurt.

But not long after we sat, a little girl dressed in frills and lace and such, invited Joy to dance with her. And so the California girl and the Louisiana belle moved counter-clockwise around the floor, hands joined together, spinning, spinning, spinning. For a child that had patiently (an enormous amount of patience for a 3-year-old, I might add) sat in a car for several long, boring days, this was a much-needed way to blow off some energy.

As I thought about that scene, I also remembered a recent scene in which a little boy was dancing around on a sidewalk to some music he was hearing. He was having a blast, but I watched him, I thought and said out loud, “when will someone tell him to stop dancing?”

Most of us during our very young days danced and moved about in rhythm to music that we heard. But there comes a time when a lot of us stop dancing because we’re told it looks silly. Others sing, but we hear at some point “You can’t sing.” And so we stop. That’s sad to me.

Joy took dance classes for a while, but she stopped (not her fault, but more due to circumstances) and as an adult, she doesn’t dance anymore. When I asked her why, she said,”It’s just not something I do anymore, even by myself.”  I’m guessing that’s the experience of most people. I’m guessing that someone told her in so many words or in disapproving gestures to stop it. I wonder who told her to stop dancing.

To those reading this: Who told you to stop dancing? Who told you to stop singing?

We’ve had that same sort of question asked since the Garden of Eden, no? It was God that asked Adam and Eve after they hid from Him, “Who told you you were naked?” We’ve all had an innocence that was taken away . (Not the naked part… let’s be real here.) Someone has told each of us to stop doing what we do naturally.

When asked who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus called a child to himself and responded, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

As adults, we worry too much about having the right form, the right behavior, the right manners, the right airs. We worry so much about being adults and looking the part; we get so full of ourselves, we no longer have a sense of what we once were naturally. Jesus railed against that. To me, to be that child Jesus talked about, it’s being who and doing what you were made to be – and not caring what anyone else things about it.

Among my favorite scriptures is John 10:10, in which Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly.” The Savior lived that out for us during His time on earth. He ate with sinners, laughed, restored wine, played with kids, and so on. I’ll bet He danced at weddings! But we… we were told not to dance.

Who told you to stop dancing?

As we press into Lent, and we begin to focus on what we might give up, I would suggest that we begin to look at who each of us as individuals really are and give up the things that keep us from that- and live life abundantly!

 

 

An Ode to BBQ

In living and traveling this great country of ours, I’ve had the pleasure of eating many things called BBQ and/or experiencing many events called a BBQ.

From the now-defunct Melear’s in Fairburn, GA to a buffet in Rocky Mount, N.C. that had the pig on the buffet, to a Samoan BBQ in Albuquerque, where the pig was cooked underground, to San Antonio and beef brisket BBQ to Corky’s Restaurant in Memphis and their scrumptious ribs to Kansas City BBQ to 12 Bones in Asheville and those melt-in-your-mouth Blueberry-Chipotle ribs, it’s all delicious and I wouldn’t tell any of the people that cooked the meals, “that ain’t BBQ.”

There is a saying that people in the South “eat” BBQ, while folks elsewhere “do” a BBQ. I suppose in my travels that’s true, but I’d venture to say that people in the south also “do” BBQ. But not in the same way as a person in California lighting a grill.

I thought about this when I happened upon Smitty’s BBQ in Carnesville, GA, located on GA HWY 59 in NE Georgia. You see, in Georgia or North or South Carolina, to me there are certain hints as to whether or not a place is going to have good BBQ – the pulled pork stuff, I’m talking about here, or even the Brunswick Stew. My first look at a place will help me decide if a BBQ restaurant is worth trying.

Now, I mean no disrespect to Sonny’s or Dickey’s or any other chain places. I mean no ill will to the fancy wine-and-dine places in the big cities that I’ve had the pleasure to eat at. It’s BBQ, but it AIN’T BBQ.

See, to me, a place like Smitty’s, I knew it was going to be good before I walked in. Why? The parking lot was full. I’m in the middle of “NOWHERE” and people flocked to this place. But there were other clues.

The place is situated across the 2-lane highway from a cow pasture, bordered by a barbed-wired fence. When you arrive at Smitty’s there’s a gravel driveway, with muddy, Georgia red clay along the sides. It’s a wood-framed house and before you walk in, you smell the fire upon which the remains of the pig has encountered.

I walk in and, man, this brought me back to my childhood. I sat in an area of a now-enclosed porch. Around the walls were a collection of items that certainly had no interior decorator’s touch: A deer’s head, a calendar from 1967, a local newspaper front page from 1953, a potato sack, framed pictures of Georgia Bulldog football players, American flags, scripture verses. At the cash register are York peppermint patties for sale.

This, my friends, is the final telltale sign.

Since I was eating light that day for lunch, I went with just a plain bowl of stew. What kind of stew, you ask? If it’s a BBQ restaurant, it’s the one-and-only Brunswick Stew.

Before it comes, I see others with pork sandwiches and pulled pork on a plate, baked beans, cole slaw (That I can do without)… and as my mouth waters, I know.

I text my wife to tell her what I’m having. She responds, “Is it going to be good?” From what I see and smell… oh yes.

First, I get a small tub of sweet tea in a plastic red cup. I think it was about 87 ounces. On the table, bagged by twos in Ziploc bags, is white bread. And then… here it comes.

It’s not fancy. The bowl looks like something you would’ve eaten out of in grade school. Contained therein, a thick, tomato-based stew with chicken and pork and corn and beans and who knows what else – it’s Brunswick stew. I add the obligatory anointing of BBQ sauce and 65 crushed Saltines and… The taste. I can’t describe it other than to say, it tastes like home. It tastes like New Year’s Day at my Papa’s house, when he’d make it for the occasion. It tastes like a run-down Melear’s restaurant, my first memory of eating BBQ, complete with white bread. Add in the pickle spear and the bag of Lay’s potato chips and I am 7 years-old again. And all this cost $6.84. Cheap at half the price.

You see, yes, BBQ is a food for us here in the South, but it’s more. If you do BBQ in the South, it’s what you ARE. Smitty’s, like so many small BBQ joints in the South, are family-run operations. It’s what they do and are. Their reputations are on the line. You can’t fake this stuff.

Folks, I can’t stress this enough. If you are in the South, and at meal time you see a full parking lot at a BBQ place… stop in and await the heaven-come-down-to-earth that is on hand.

 

smittys

 

A Full day (1/16/17): Notes and Observations

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

 

Today is January 16, 2017, the 16th day of the year. It is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

 

On this day in 1970, Curt Flood filed a civil lawsuit in New York Federal Court, which challenged baseball’s reserve clause. The reserve clause essentially restricted movement by baseball players from one team to another unless by a trade, or by the release of the team. Eventually, the reserve clause was struck down and the ruling paved the way for free agency in baseball.

 

Laugh:

Ok, it’s been awhile since I posted some driving stories . So, here we are: Notes and observations from the road.

 

1) I did some driving post-snowstorm. While there were a few slick spots, I made it through. There was one spot I did think I would wind up in the trees. it was on Poplar Tent Rd. just south of Hwy. 73 near the Cabarrus/ Mecklenburg Co. line. As a came around a curve at 5:30 a.m., there was a 50-feet stretch of melted snow that had refrozen. I quickly shifted down, stayed off the brake and eased through. An hour later, a traffic report on WBTV listed an accident at that spot. Really, so humbly blessed to make it through the icy conditions.

 

2) A street in Cornelius named “Lagoona”. It made me laugh anyway.

 

3) An honest question I had in my brain while driving a Muslim woman in a full burka, allowing only the eyes to be scene: She had a female toddler with her. At what age will this child have to wear the same attire?

 

4) Until last week, it never occurred to me that men can also get osteoporosis. Had an older couple that I drove home from the grocery store. The hunched-over man was now as round as he was tall. I honestly didn’t think he could get into my car. It was like seat belting a bowling ball with legs. Sharp mind, though.

 

5) For those reading this with kids now, or who have raised kids, think about the different things you did for birthday parties. Bowling, roller skating, laser tag, baseball game, etc., etc. Now in Charlotte, you can get…. Haircuts. Yep. There’s a place called “Snip Its” where the slogan is “Kids. Haircuts. Fun.”

I guess I’m out of touch with first-world life, but I know of no kid that wants the activity surrounding their birthday to be a haircut.  To each their own, though.

 

6) Picked up a man from Newton to bring into Hickory. At first, he was complaining about something related to his psychiatrist’s appointment. Suddenly the comment, “I was telling you about my prescription at CVS.”  In my head, I said, “Wait …… what? When? When did you mention this? What random straw did you grasp out of outer space.” At that point, I could see why the psychiatrist was needed.

 

7) Frederic Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2 is called the “Funeral March”, because of the memorable third movement. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kyFyAqLtHq8

So, I get a ping for a rider and as I arrive, I see the rider is an elderly woman. The music from Sirius’s classical music channel is playing in my car and she is walking in rhythm to the music slowly towards my car – unaware, of course the music is playing.  Such a macabre scene, but I’m chuckling at the juxtaposition of the two events taking place that only I know about. And then I think, “Do I keep the music playing while she enters the car?”

I decided against freaking the lady out and given her age, I switched to the Sinatra channel. Turns out, the woman lost her water heater that morning. I’m sure her hearing that music would’ve freaked her out.

 

8) I’m always amused at things that wind up in the medians of highways. On one trip up I-85 near Concord last week, someone obviously didn’t tie down what they were moving. Microwave… baby walker…. decorative earthen water jug…. couch cushion…  Would love to have been the fly on the wall when the folks went to unload.

 

9) Had the pleasure of a woman from Bulgaria visiting family in Charlotte. I was fascinated by, and she was nice enough to share in the limited time of the trip, her stories of the transition from communism to democracy. My hope, and I think I succeeded, was not to sound like the self-righteous American. She was exceedingly open about how little freedoms she had growing up – what they could say, where they could live or go to schools, etc. etc. I asked what was the most difficult part? Without hesitation, she said the isolation by the government from family members that chose to emigrate.

I asked, what freedoms do Americans take for granted? Voting. Sadly, she said the younger generations in Bulgaria do not vote either. Only about 50%.

We talked for 15 minutes. I could’ve listened to her for 15 hours.

 

10) I missed the full moon as we had cloudy skies in Charlotte on Friday the 13th. However, I was repaid with a full moon in Statesville this morning at about 4 a.m. I pulled up to a house and the guy suddenly waved out the window, then got up from where he was sitting to get dressed and…. That was not the impending crack of dawn I was expecting to see this morning.

 

11) And finally. I picked up a passenger near Uptown Charlotte this evening (Monday) after he had turned in his rental car at Enterprise. The gentleman – I soon learned he was from India – gets into the car and asked the question, “What city is this?”

Me: Excuse me?

Man: What city is this?

Me (thinking, it’s a little early to be drunk, but I’ll play along): Charlotte.

Man: This isn’t Seattle?

Me (facing ahead, but shifting my eyes to the right corner): Noooooo.

Man: I got on the wrong flight. Where is Seattle from here?

Me: About 3500 miles away.

Man: I’ve been driving around for two hours thinking this was Seattle.

A little later…..

Man: Is Canada nearby?…. Is it a state?

At this point, I’m literally scanning the guy to see if he has a Candid Camera hidden somewhere and someone in a truck is recording my reactions.

Apparently, he booked the wrong flight from Chicago. Turns out, he’s having an American adventure, as he had already been to New York and Chicago. Later stops including San Francisco, from where he is supposedly is going to drive to Vegas to play Blackjack. Then go to Dallas and fly home.

As we travel to his destination, he has to repeat his questions because I can’t understand his English very well because of his accent.

Man: I notice you have a hard time understanding me. Do I not sound like I have an American accent?

(Again, where is the camera?)

 

Think:

Everyone who is successful at anything holds themselves accountable to someone else. I can’t help but wonder if our new president Donald Trump has anyone he will listen to that will hold him accountable.

The tweeting thing is getting disturbing.

 

Cry:

One more story: I’m driving home Saturday night (Sunday morning) after working in Asheville. My hope is to get to bed by 4 a.m., get a few hours, wake up, be at Hudson UMC by 8:15 a.m. No biggie. Play two services, go home, take a nap, I’m good.

Since Uber and Lyft are now both in Hickory, I make it a habit to leave my app open for pings at home. So, as I approach Morganton, “Ping”. Pick up is at the IHOP on Hwy 70. “Super” I think to myself. I’ll take someone home and get home myself.

Now, it’s at this point the reader must understand that drivers do not know where they are taking people to until the trip starts.

I arrive, begin the trip…. It’s a trip to Charlotte! I got to bed at 7 a.m. and slept 45 minutes.

A Full Day (1/5/17): Remembering Liz, a Marriage Joke, and a Pioneer Governor

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

 

Today is January 5, 2017, the fifth day of the year.

 

On this day in 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross became the first governor of a state in the U.S. when she was sworn in to lead Wyoming. Ross won a special election after her husband William died from complications during an appendectomy.

The democrat held office for two years before losing a re-election bid. Ross was appointed the Director of the United States Mint by President Franklin Roosevelt and went on to serve 20 years at the position.

 

 

Laugh:

They were an older couple sitting at dinner. The husband and wife were having a quiet meal – a meal in which both were content to just enjoy each other’s company. Nothing needed to be said.

But, while sipping a glass of wine, the wife suddenly found a tender place in her heart and spoke.

“I’m still crazy about you after all these years,” she said. “I know I just couldn’t live without you.”

“Do you really mean it,” the husband replied excitedly. “Is it you talking or the bottle of wine?”

The wife responded, “It is me taking to the wine.”

 

Think:

How does one become combobulated?

 

Cry:

Today, I want to write about my friend, Liz Helms.

Each year, I cover the local high school basketball holiday tournament for the Hickory (N.C.) Daily Record. It was on the first day of that tournament in 2010 that I found out that she had died. I remember watching the basketball games that were playing out in front of me and I honestly could’ve cared less what was happening and what I would write about. A giant of a lady had passed to her eternal reward.

I first knew Liz from my time working at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Hickory, starting in 2002. We both loved baseball, so we had conversations about the game and what we thought about this player and that.

I soon found out that she was on staff with the Hickory Crawdads baseball team, working in the press box. She got me and my family hooked up with tickets at times over the 2003 and 2004 seasons, just because she could. I remember at one game – a slow, midweek game – she made sure that I “won” something that the Crawdads were giving away that night. (I hadn’t entered anything.)

Perhaps the most special game I attended at Hickory was on my 20th wedding anniversary. I had lost my job at St. Luke’s the spring of 2004 and had a hard time finding work. There was the ensuing stress of paying of the bills and dealing with depression, as well. Not a great scenario during which to plan a special anniversary. My wife wound up planning the special night, and with Liz’s help, we had a nice dinner at the Crawdads Café’, great seats behind home plate… and a signed baseball. I’m not sure how much she knew her kindness provided needed therapy for me at the time.

Liz had a lot to do with my employment with the Crawdads. In fact, it was she that lined up an interview for me with the general manager at the time. (After 5 seasons of tarp pulls, I’m still not sure if I should’ve kissed her, or slugged her… don’t worry, she’d laugh and get the joke.)

For games, I was put in the press box and for five seasons, she was my colleague. She ran the scoreboard, inputted stuff I needed for the videoboard. Basically, she was my right arm in running the press box during the four years I ran it.

It’s probably here that I should mention – for those that don’t know Liz – that she spent her life in a wheelchair. She dealt with an arm’s-length list of physical ailments with which no one should have to deal. The fact that she lived for 30 years was, in and of itself, a miracle.

A story I heard about Liz after she had passed had to do with her no longer needed a wheelchair in heaven. It is said that Liz didn’t care so much about that. For, in heaven, no one would care that she would be in a wheelchair. There’s a part of me that thinks Liz would be okay with a reality of eternity in her wheelchair, because she embraced life being in it.

Liz wanted no pity… no! None of that! Liz wanted to be treated like everyone else. One of the genuine joys of my life was when Liz allowed me to pop wheelies with her in the chair down the hall in the Crawdads front office. I laugh even now as I type this.

Part of that “being treated like everyone else” included the occasional argument, as will happen during a five-month, minor-league season. It’d be hot in that press box in the summer, she’d mess up and I’d get on her, and she’d give it back. She’d get mad at something I did and I yelled back. That’s what she wanted – nothing special, just treat her like everyone else. She fiercely defended her independence.

I remember with fondness a bet I had to pay off, when my alma mater – Cal State Fullerton – lost to North Carolina in the College World Series. Here was Liz, driving in her van and parking at Ham’s, maneuvering into the lot and the restaurant, ready to be paid off handsomely with whatever her heart desired to eat that afternoon. I loved paying off the bet, because I know she would’ve hated to pay it off if she had lost. But pay it off she would have.

Liz went on to a position at St. Luke’s as the Director of Lay Ministry. It was a job she was made for. It was there she worked when she passed.

A testament to Liz was a full sanctuary of easily 700-800 people, all dressed in Carolina blue. Even the diehard NC State fans donned the hated blue. That’s the type of person she was.

When I think of people who have inspired me to be better in life, Liz Helms is at the top of my list. It is not because of what she overcame; it is because she lived life on her own terms. Isn’t that what we should all do?

I miss you Liz.

69592544_130499133181

 

A Full Day (1/4/17): It’s a Good Life… a Really Good Life… It’s Good You Have a Good Life…. Bacon crime, and the Lowest of the Low

 

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

 

Today is January 4, 2017, the fourth day of the year

On this day in 1853, Solomon Northup, born a free man in New York, was freed after being kidnapped and spending 12 years as a slave in Louisiana.

Northup went on to write his memoirs of that time, called simply Twelve Years a Slave

 

Laugh:

I can see why she’d be afraid of admitting such a thing.

Think:

One of the New Year’s traditions in our house has been to watch the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy Channel. We all have our favorites (I wrote of Talky Tina yesterday) and one of mine is “It’s a Good Life”. The episode is centered around six-year-old Anthony Fremont – played by Billy Mumy – who has mental powers that allows him to read minds and control pretty much anything he wants.

Little Anthony amuses himself by making such horrid creatures and three-headed gophers, which he kills on the spot after he tires of playing with it. The children of the town are not allowed to play with him, as he had wished other kids into the cornfield.

Anthony also makes television once a week, a gory scene in which dinosaurs fight to the death, much to the horror of his family and their guests. His father (played by John Larch) and mother (Cloris Leachman) are both afraid of him, as are the rest of the town. So, all of them smile, think happy thoughts (Anthony hates unhappy thoughts) and tell him how good everything is.

The episode comes to a climax when one of the house guests, Dan Hollis, is celebrating a birthday. He gets a bottle of brandy and a Perry Como record. While he has a few nips of the brandy, the entire household thinks it’s probably not a good idea to play the record, because Anthony hates singing. In fact, he turned Aunt Amy into a vacant, smiling shadow of herself because she started singing.

As the brandy kicks in, Hollis tries to get someone to sing Happy Birthday to him. No one does. Thoroughly frustrated – and to the horror of his wife – Hollis begins accusing his parents of having him, and in a sense, letting him get away with so much. Hollis then tries to get someone to get a bottle or a lamp and konk Anthony on the head. Aunt Amy reaches briefly for a fireplace poker, but doesn’t go through with anything.

Anthony finally has enough and turns Dan Hollis into a Jack-in-the-box before Anthony heeds his dad’s request to wish him into the cornfield.

In the final scene, Anthony makes it snow in the middle of summer. Mr. Fremont complains that it will kill the crops, but upon seeing Anthony’s face, and thinking better of it, Mr. Fremont smiles and with a combination of laughter and horror says”…But it’s good you’re making it snow. A real good thing. And tomorrow… tomorrow’s gonna be a… real good day!”

This episode to me is a masterpiece of social commentary. Sadly, our history is filled with eras in which evil people are allowed to rise up and bully the population into submission. When the opportunity rises to confront the evil ones, and to take a proverbial bottle or a lamp to end it, the chance to end it goes away and life continues into a deeper hell. Sadly, in those times, no one has the nerve to stand up and everyone lives in fear.

Could this be another moment in time in which this is happening again? Could this be another time in which evil is allowed to fester and grow into something monstrous? Only time will tell. If it is, I hope is surgically removed. If not, I fear for what we have at hand.

As we’ve learned throughout history, it is far easier to confront evil early than to have to wage war against it later.

 

Cry:

It takes a special kind of dirtbag to desecrate a burial site. I mean, to try to cause harm to a family for no other reason than hatred is about the lowest of the low, in my opinion.

I hope they find the persons who did it and lock them up with other bad people for a long time.

http://www.whas11.com/news/local/indiana/anti-semitic-message-spray-painted-on-scottsburg-ind-headstone/381409636

 

 

 

 

 

A Full Day (1/3/17): Talky Tina, a Dora Cup and Puppies

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

 

Today is January 3, 2017, the third day of the year.

 

On this day in 1973, George Steinbrenner purchased the New York Yankees from CBS for $12 million. He owned the team until his death in 2010. The team was then worth $1.2 billion.

 

Laugh:

Puppies!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJiiWrjl_ik

 

Think:

Watching some of the Twilight Zone episodes, including a favorite, Talky Tina.  In the episode, the doll (Talky Tina) – voiced by June Foray, who also was the voice of Rocky the squirrel – catches the ire of the stepfather Erich Streator, played by Telly Savalas. Streator turns out to be infertile and takes his anger at the situation on Christie, the stepdaughter, as well as the new doll.

 

Tina is no pushover and in due time, she makes it known that she will have Streator killed and she’ll do it herself. Streator tries to harm the doll – a blow torch, vice grips, a saw – all to no effect. Eventually the doll makes good on the promise, tripping Streator as he walks down the steps.

The narration closes with this: “Of course, we all know dolls can’t really talk, and they certainly can’t commit murder. But to a child caught in the middle of turmoil and conflict, a doll can become many things: friend, defender, guardian. Especially a doll like Talky Tina, who did talk and did commit murder—in the misty region of the Twilight Zone.”

I’ve wondered if the doll’s owner, Christie, had this fantasy of the doll taking out the mean, old stepfather. When the wife, Annabelle, discovers what happened to her husband, Talky Tina, in turn, threatens Annabelle, who had thought her husband was going mad surrounding the doll.

The quote reminds me that often in their own stressful worlds, kids do turn to their toys or pets to bring some normalcy to their lives and provide comfort and to defend them against a world that is hostile. I think Talky Tina would defend Christie with all her inanimate life

Cry:

It was just a Dora cup I found underneath a laundry table. However, it sent me into tears on the spot. It was Grace’s cup and a sad reminder that she is no longer a little girl.

dora-cup

Grace is my youngest and her growing up (she’s a ninth grader now!) is another reminder that I am growing old. She no longer needs me to fill that purple four-ounce cup and she needs me less and less for a lot of things.

I had those same, mournful moments with my older two kids. With my daughter, Joy, it was the time I disassembled her doll house, as our family prepared to move to Hickory, N.C. from Columbus, GA. She was 12 years old and I knew I would never reassemble the house. She was about to enter seventh grade at the time and she had no interest in child’s toys any longer.

With my son, Andrew, that tearful moment came when I say some pictures of him as a younger kid and I realized I could no longer hear his unchanged voice. That one hurt a lot.

Those who are parents understand that pain more than we want to describe. We come across memories of our kids that we’ll never have again. I know with each of them I wonder – and I still do – did I do enough with them. I look back I have moments of regrets. A time they wanted me to swing them… to play a game… to build a snowman. A moment of their childhood I let slip away that I’ll never have back because I was tired, or sadly, I just didn’t want to at the time. I realize we can’t do it all, but that realization doesn’t east the pain.

I know they’ll need me less and less as they become adults and I can do less and less physically and mentally. And that is, perhaps, how it should be. From the time we first hold them in our arms, we seek to give them the tools to help them grow up and fend for themselves. A bottle, a spoon, a cup, a walker, a book, a crayon, a pencil, a bike, a calculator, a phone, a car, etc, etc,. Each one and more designed to fold them into the world. And then the time comes we encounter an item that takes us back to a simpler time when they were young – and we were young as parents – and we so wish we were there again.

At times, it seems they’ll be two or six or ten forever. Then you turn around, and they’re 14 and 22 and 26. If you are a young parent reading this, cherish the moments with your kids; It really does go fast.

 

A Full Day (1/2/17): Notes and Observations from the road, Prayers requests, and an NHL dream realized

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is January 2, 2017, the second day of the year.

On this day in 1906, William Carrier receives a patent in the U.S. for the world’s first air conditioner.

Laugh

News and Observations from the road:
1) A few weeks ago, I’m in Winston-Salem just north of the Wake Forest campus to do a pickup. It’s pitch-black dark and as I wait, I turn my head to my left towards the house. I lowered my head to look over my glasses and I suddenly see this person run towards my door. I barely have enough time to say “Geez!” before this person runs into my car. Or, so I think. I then realize it was the reflection of my head moving in the window as I lowered my head to look over my glasses.
2) Have been enjoying the jazz stations on Sirius XM. Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Pearl Bailey were all fine jazz singers,but for me, the sweet voice of Billie Holiday is at the top all day and every way.
2a) glad to see the Christmas music is gone, because nothing conjures up the magic of the holiday like Perry Como singing the word “Mommy” in “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus”
3) We’ve all seen businesses – especially restaurants – come up with a beautiful, flowery foreign name, so as to lend a extra touch of class to the place.

With that in mind, if you were to hear of a restaurant called “BABES”, what would be your sight-unseen impression of the place be? I asked this of my wife and her response was, “Kind of like a Hooters.”

“Exactly”, was my response.

But, call it “I Bambini” and we have an classy, Italian restaurant in Mooresville.

4) Once in a while I’ll see the “How am I driving?” bumper stickers. Now, when you see these bumper stickers, you don’t get the tone of voice with it.

I KNOW what the bumper sticker is supposed to mean, but inflect the words differently. Example: with a quizzical tone, say, “HOW am I DRIVE-ing?” When you watch some people drive, you really do ask the question, “How ARE they driving?”

5) Seen during the pregame traffic at the Belk Bowl – a game between the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Arkansas Razorbacks: A Virginia license plate with “ARK HOG”

6) As seen in an Asheville shop on Friday: Do these beads make my butt look big?

7) If you drive up to a Waffle House for a meal during a slow time, and your cook is not outside smoking a cigarette, you don’t want it.

8) Friday night at a Waffle House in Asheville, I hear the mid-80s song “Take on Me” by a-ha. In the booth next to me, I see an old woman who is singing along. I think, “It’s cool this old woman knows this song from when I was growing up”….. pause….. Oh yeah.

9) I’m taking a person traveling home Friday night from Asheville at 2:15 a.m. and he chooses to sit in the back, passenger side seat. It’s clear he’s had a tough night and he just wants to get home.

If you’re not familiar with Asheville, as I get onto I-240 West from Broadway traveling north from downtown, the on ramp is about a 270 degree loop to the right. As I take the loop, I see in my rear view mirror a body that had gone limp and is now falling like a tower to his left and crashes into the seat. This cat was out cold.

10) Nothing says tacky Christmas decoration like Santa riding an large inflatable Elephant wearing an Alabama cap. #Rolltide

11) New Year’s Eve night: Two girls in their mid-20s get into the back seat. We begin making small talk and I ask the question, “Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?”

“No”, they both answer.

“How about you,” one asks.

“To gossip less about my passengers,” I responded.

Silence.

Think:

“God accepts our desires as though they were of great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests; nor ask for frivolous things unworthy of God’s greatness.” – St. Gregory Nazianzen

Cry:

Through unfortunate circumstances, Jorge Alves, an equipment manager with the Carolina Hurricanes hockey club, got to live out a dream – to play in an NHL game.

https://www.nhl.com/hurricanes/news/jorge-alves-lives-out-nhl-dream-as-goaltender-for-carolina-hurricanes/c-285235426

A Full Day (12/27/16): Farewell to a Princess

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 27, 2016, the 362nd day of the year.

On this day in 2002, the movie Chicago, starring Richard Gere and Renee Zellweger, was released. It went on to win the Academy Award for best picture.

Laugh:

A buddy of mine has two tickets for the 2017 Super Bowl. Box seats, plus airfares, accommodations, etc. But he didn’t realize when he bought them that this is going to be on the same day as his wedding, so he can’t go.

If you’re interested and want to go instead of him, it’s at St Peter’s Church in New York City at 5pm. Her name’s Louise. She will be the one in the white dress.

Thanks for your help!

 

Think:

When someone asks you, “A penny for your thoughts,” and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?

Cry:

For those of my generation, Leia (Carrie Fisher) was THE Princess. Beautiful, smart, desirable. Ok, she was seven years older than I am; as a teen when Star Wars came out, she was, well, quite fetching.  She was nobody to be messed with. She was the sex symbol that would kick your tail.

My daughters saw her as beautiful, smart and nobody to be messed with. For my girls, Leia was one of them: someone to look up to. I’m glad they got to see Fisher in her younger days – someone nearly their age – and as a mature woman, who could still hold a part and could still be someone to look up to as a live-action hero.Honestly, there aren’t many of them.

Not many people get to play larger-than-life characters nearly 40 years apart. In fact, think for a moment – other than Fisher and Harrison Ford’s Han Solo – who got to do that? Miss Fisher did so convincingly and sublimely in a way that will live on as long as Star Wars is a memory.

Farewell Princess Leia.

 

A Full Day (12/26/16): Washington, Burps and the Unsafe King goes to unsafe places.

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 26, 2016, the 361st day of the year. Today is Boxing Day.

Image may contain: meme, cat and text

On this day in 1776, George Washington defeated the Hessians in the Battle of Trenton.


Laugh:

It is Christmas Eve and I am playing the piano during Communion at a worship service. I am playing a piece out of the United Methodist hymnal – No. 235 to be exact – called Rock-a-Bye, My Dear Little Boy. It’s a Czech carol that is a lullaby.

It’s a solemn, peaceful mood, as persons are coming forward to receive Communion. Suddenly, I burp. Not a loud burp, but loud enough that my wife and youngest daughter, who are sitting in the choir loft, both hear it.

I’ll be reminded of this one for a while.

Think:

Those who are familiar with C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe from The Chronicles of Narnia series, understand that Lewis uses the character of Aslan, the lion, to represent Jesus. With that in mind, the following quote from the book is certainly appropriate for the Christmas season.

Aslan a man? Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the woods and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver. “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about being safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” (from “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis)

We love the sanitized image of the perfect Baby Jesus, that we can handle and adore and pet and swaddle and cuddle and treat as our personal pet. However, Jesus did not come into the world to  be safe. He came into the world to upset the status quo – to confront what was – and certainly is now – wrong with our world, including the religious… especially the religious.

If we really want to encounter the Christ Child born in Bethlehem so long ago, we best be wary of what He might do.

Cry:

I am somewhat ashamed that I do not know much of the sad story in Aleppo. That is on me. I celebrate those who work in an unimaginable hell-on-earth.

I came across this tweet. This… this… is more likely the reason why Christ descended to Earth than our Disneyfied Christmas celebrations.

 

A Full Day (12/23/16): An All-Time Jeopardy Contestant, Washington’s Farewell, True Peace on Earth

“If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” Jim Valvano

Today is December 23, 2016, the 358th day of the year. It is the fictional day of Festivus, made famous on an episode of Seinfeld.

On this day in 1783, George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Washington surrendered his commission to the Continental Congress, which had met at the Maryland State House in Annapolis.

Image result for washington surrendered his commission

Laugh:

I couldn’t decide whether to put this here and laugh, or at the end and have a good cry. Monday morning, I’m driving out of Davidson, N.C. when I see a deer that had been hit and killed. The animal was laying across someone’s driveway. For someone, that was not a good way to start a week.

 

Think:

When we say we want “Peace on Earth” we forget that Jesus did not come to give us the peace that we seek. God has something greater in mind than a one-night silent night from which we revert to our regular lives the next day.

When God brings peace, often our normal order needs to be turned over like the tables of the money-changers, and the coins that we hold dear need to fall to the floor.

 

Cry:

Cindy Stowell has become one of the more memorable Jeopardy! contestants to ever appear on the venerable game show. Stowell became a six-day champion on the show, winning over $100,000. What was not known by most during the taping of the show in late August and again in mid-September was that Stowell competed while suffering with Stage IV colon cancer.

Image result for cindy stowell

The native of Austin, Texas passed away on December 5, prior to the airing of her shows. All her winnings were donated to cancer research. Stowell found out she had cancer after being selected for the show and worked with the producers to appear on Jeopardy! as soon as possible.

As I read her story, I wondered if I found I was dying in a few months, what once-in-a-lifetime challenge would I set out to do? To direct a challenging, beloved piece such as Johannes Brahms’s Requiem? To interview a favorite baseball player? I don’t know, but it’s certainly a question worth pondering.

Thinking further, why is it that we wait until the winter of life to do those monumental things? For Stowell, she sought out a lifelong ambition and was fortunate to follow through with it despite her terrible circumstances. (And, oh the good she did with it!)

I think one of the things I’d like to pursue over the next year is to pursue is one of those “Life moments”. To seriously consider what do I want to do that means something to me and chase it.