Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rest in Peace Santa




“Kids believe in Santa; adults believe in childhood.”
(Cate Kennedy)

Sometimes childhood doesn’t last as long as it should.  As I watch our oldest granddaughter—about two-and-a-half years old—get excited at the mere mention of the name “Santa Claus”, I cannot help but to get sucked into her enthusiasm for the jolly fat guy.  Yet, at the same time, when I am alone and contemplating life, I cannot help but to mourn the fact that this enthusiasm for good ol’ Saint Nick is not going to last long.  Childhood ends and with it the death of many of the most cherished symbols of that time.

For years, when confronted by others about the existence of Santa Claus I took the metaphysical route in answering their question.  I would state with certainty that Santa existed as long as one believed in the existence of Santa.  For me this worked because I did not have to be the “bad guy” who was popping some person’s dream and flooding it with the cold hard reality of life.  And, this worked for many years, especially in those years of my life that ended with B.C.—“before children”.

When our children came into our lives, the high falutin metaphysical didn’t carry much weight any longer as they were certain in the existence of Santa Claus.  Why wouldn’t they be?  Their mother and father had perpetuated that existence through years of being the “spirit” of Santa through always making sure that Santa heard and responded to their Christmas desires.  There were always gifts under the tree, mingle among the other gifts, bearing the name of Santa.  There was always the half-eaten cookies and empty milk glass as evidence that the fat guy had made his dutiful stop at the Keener household.   Evidence abounded . . . Santa existed.  There is no arguing with a Keener—no matter what age that Keener might be—once they have set their mind to believing in something . . . even Santa Claus.

But, childhood ends.

It was the year our oldest child was in first grade that adulthood and reality reared its ugly head in the Santa Claus department.  As the Christmas break neared at the elementary school he attended the teacher ran the kids through the time-honored tradition of asking the kids in the class to share what they were asking Santa Claus for Christmas.  Listening to my son describe the activity I could imagine the awe upon all of the children’s faces as they share the grand hopes of what they were expecting Santa Claus to deliver under the Christmas tree.  There wasn’t a kid in that classroom who didn’t have grand designs and hopes anchored to the jolly fat man come Christmas morning.  With the ringing of the class bell signaling the end of the day and the start of the Christmas vacation all the kids ran home happily.

Of course it was a nice exercise in killing time for the teacher, but it was an open ended exercise . . . it would not be complete until the kids had the opportunity to share what Santa actually delivered on Christmas Day.  This, of course, would not be done publicly in the confines of a classroom, but throughout that first day back from vacation on the playground, in the hallways, and lunchroom.  It would be there that the truth would come streaming out . . . and, it was there that our oldest son began to lose his childhood.

There in the hallways, on the playground, and in the lunchroom, our son learned that not every child—his friends—did not get what they asked for from Santa.  Oh, they might have gotten a gift from Santa but it was nothing close to what they had asked for or desired.  Others got nothing at all from Santa.  This is confusing for a little person who believes . . . who believes in Santa treating all good little boys and girls fairly . . . in rewarding them for being good.  According to my son, all his classmates were in that category.  “So,” he asked me, “why did I get everything I wanted from Santa and my friends didn’t?  Why did some get presents and other nothing?  Why did Santa do that?”

My first reaction, being a good father, was to refer him to his mother; but, unfortunately she was nowhere to be found and the kid was wanting answers.   Answers I wasn’t wanting to share.  Metaphysical mumbo jumbo doesn’t carry much weight with a first grader.  With a swoosh you could hear the innocence of childhood fleeing the scene.  This was one of those sucky moments of being a parent . . . probably right up there with the talk on “the birds and the bees”.

So . . . we talked.  We talked about how unfair life could be.  We talked about the fact that there are poor people in the world.  We talked about how much one could hurt for others, especially when we love them whether they are family or friends.  We talked about hope and dreams.  And, we talked about the fact that Mommy and Daddy were really Santa . . . and, we talked about what Santa meant to him.  But, you know, it isn’t easy talking when you see those tears welled up in a little one’s eyes . . . and, you feel them wanting to burst from your own.

That was the day that Santa Claus died in our house.  Rest in peace, Santa.  That was also the day that we began to share a different story of Christmas even though it had always been running throughout since the children arrived in our lives . . . that was the story of God’s love for all of creation, for all people.  We shared the fact that Santa doesn’t come to everyone’s house, but that God does.  We shared the Christmas Story and how it bursts into our lives and changes us and the world around us.  We shared a different “Santa” story . . . the story of Saint Nicholas and how the priest began the tradition of giving to those in need.  We shared that it was not the gifts under the tree that were important, but the people gathered around the tree.  We shared the love and the grace that the true gift of Christmas is supposed to be about.  And, in the meantime, we shared the fact that Santa can live in our hearts for as long as we believe in him . . . that metaphysical stuff . . . in hopes that he would understand.

I cannot say that it was one of the easiest conversations I ever had with my son, but it was one of the most powerful and memorable ones.  It is a conversation that has been lifted up every couple of years as the family has expanded with a son-in-law, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren.  It is one that I think lurks in the shadows of the Christmas season in many households and families when children are attempting to make sense of the propaganda of the commercial Christmas against the one that dwells in our hearts.  Childhood is wonderful, but it is also shrinking all of the time.  I do not remember whether or not I hugged my son after our heart-to-heart conversation, but I hope I did.
The time is coming again when the story of Santa’s death in the Keener family must be retold as the granddaughters continue to grow.  They are sharp and smart little girls, and the day will come when what they believe and what they see doesn’t quite mesh . . . when friends do not receive what they ask Santa for, or receive nothing at all.  Though I relish the joy and excitement of my two-and-a-half year old granddaughter when it comes to the ol’ jolly guy, I also know that the time will come . . . because that time will come.

Reality sucks, but the power of love and grace . . . the power of the Christmas Story . . . does not.  Nor does the mind-blowing power of childhood suck.  I relish the gift of the newest generation within the family that brings hope, belief, and Santa into the picture of life.  I relish it because I believe in them . . . and, in childhood.  Yeah, Santa died years ago, but the dude keeps on coming back . . . always providing us with an opportunity to connect and broaden the intimacy between generations as we discover together the true meaning and power of Christmas.  If you believe . . . really believe . . . it can be so.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Gee, Its Getting Warm




According to some on Facebook, I am going to hell.  Well, they haven’t quite come out and stated that quite that way, but their intentions imply that I am well on my way to hell.  The cause of my demise?  The refusal to re-post or share posts.  You know the posts that I am talking about . . . those posts that state that if you love . . . or care . . . or support . . . or believe in any of the causes that they post you will either re-post or share.  If you do not re-post or share you are a myriad of nasty things that will earn you a trip to hell or at least get your toe firmly planted in the pools of fire.  At least that is the feeling I get . . . I’m going to hell in a hand basket.

Why?  Why am I doomed for hell?  Basically because I am not a person who re-posts or share a whole lot of what is posted onto my news feed.  Apparently this knocks me off the Facebook pedestal for committing an unforgivable sin.  For that I apologize.  I did not read the Facebook Member’s Handbook very closely . . . like everyone else I just click on the “accept” button and moved onto the Facebook experience.  I should have paid closer attention . . . it is getting a little warm and I see the flames on the horizon.

It is a rare day that I re-post or share what someone else has shared.  Especially rare when I am threatened or manipulated in order to re-post or share something.  I do not appreciate being threatened or manipulated to repost or share something just to be invited to the party.  That is what seems to happen in a lot of the invitations to re-post or share.  I do not think that bullying should be allowed, especially in my experience in what is billed as a “social network”.  When I am threatened or manipulated it doesn’t feel very sociable.

Let me clear up a few misconceptions.
I am not “too cool” to re-post or share a post.  My refusal to re-post or share a post has nothing to do with being cool.  The fact of the matter is . . . I have never been “cool” . . . ever.  I was always one of those wallflowers in the game of life . . . partly because I was not “cool” and mostly because I am an introvert.  Introverts don’t need to be cool as we have our own little party going on in our heads all of the time.  So, it is not because I am “too cool” that I choose not to re-post or share a post.

I am patriotic.  I do not appreciate my patriotism being questioned because I choose not to re-post or share a post.  I participate in each and every election.  I pay my taxes.  I pray for those who are serving our great nation.  I take off all the nationally declared holidays and observances.  I fly a flag outside of my house when it calls for the flag to be flown.  I say the Pledge of Allegiance and stand for the National Anthem.  I do not appreciate having my patriotism questioned and challenged because I choose not to re-post or share a particular post . . . even at the peril of landing in hell.  I am patriotic . . . red, white, and blue through and through.

I love Jesus.  Just because I choose not to re-post or share some religious post acclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior does not mean that I do not love Jesus.  Jesus knows that I love him . . . God, too.  I message both all of the time . . . we have conversations all the time . . . we are on speaking terms.  Yet for some reason there seems to be those out there who think that if people don’t re-post or share their posts about Jesus and God . . . well, that you don’t love them . . . and, if you don’t love them you’re certainly on your way to hell . . . but, I imagine I will be in good company.

I am not uncaring . . . nor am I unloving.  I am not apathetic.  I am not callous.  I am not mean.  I am not racist.  I am not homophobic.  I am not anti-religion.  I am not a Republican or a Democrat.  I am not stupid . . . ignorant, maybe, but not stupid.  I like to think of myself as a fairly open individual who will listen and think before responding to anyone or anything whether it is on Facebook or not.  Thus it is that I do not appreciate being threatened and manipulate by those asking me to re-post or share their post.

As much as I hope that this simple explanation would put an end to the requests I get to re-post or share, I know that it will not be.  I know that people will continue to bombard my news feed with requests . . . with threats . . . with manipulation . . . or guilt . . . to re-post and share their posts.  Unfortunately . . . it ain’t gonna happen.  I like the people I have friended on Facebook and I do not think that it is too sociable to trash their news feeds with a whole bunch of hooey.  I like to think of the Golden Rule here . . . do unto others as you would want done to you . . . and, since I do not care for all of that hooey, I sure the heck am not going to pollute their pages with it.  Also, I think that people should think for themselves and since a lot of these requests for re-posts and sharing often involve misinformation . . . well, I sure am not going to re-post or share them.  Makes me look as stupid and ignorant as those posting them.  If I have an opinion I will express it for myself in my own words.  Yeah, I know this is Facebook blasphemy just putting me one step closer to the roaring flames of hell . . . oh, well!

Look out, hell . . . here I come!  But, I have to admit being this close to hell during the winter in Montana sure keeps one warm. 

Don’t Mess With My Junk . . . Food, That Is




Geez, it seems every time I turn around someone is telling me how to be healthier and live longer through the food that I eat, the diets I am on, the exercise I do, and the way I live my life.  I imagine that all of us want to live longer which means that we probably should watch what we eat in our diets, probably exercise a little more than we do, and make the most of our lives.  A little advice now and then probably does not hurt . . . but, I am ready to draw the line as these pundits of health have crossed one too many of what I consider to be sacred ground in my own life.  The latest is has to do with what I consider to be “comfort food” and the health experts have labeled to be “junk food”.

I guess I should qualify that what I call “comfort food” I grew up with as being called “snacks” by those adults who graced my life.  Of course that was a different time and mind set than today’s more health conscience crowd, but around the house I grew up in they were snacks . . . snacks that were always a treat to receive.  I guess that is probably why I think of them as being “comfort foods” today . . . they bring back fond memories of childhood.  But, now, they are considered “junk food”.

Here is a list of the so-called “junk foods” that health experts are claiming are bad for one’s health because of fat, sugar, salt, and calories: potato chips; tortilla chips; snack mixes like Chex Mix; corn-based snacks like Cheetos; gummy candy; hard candy; packaged cookies like Oreo Cookies; snack cakes like Twinkies; baked goods like those powdered sugar covered mini donuts; and, chocolate candy bars.  I’m surprised they didn’t list microbrews . . . I would have had nothing left in my diet worth eating!

Now, having looked over their list of “junk food” I can admit that for the most part there are some that even I would agree are “junk food”, but the rest I would throw over into the category of “comfort food”.  Remember that “comfort food” is that food that we reach for that makes us feel good when we don’t quite feel up to snuff or we are having a bad day . . . a couple of bites of “comfort food” we perk up and feel better . . . so what if the health experts are going to say it is a sugar rush.  I prefer to think of it more on the spiritual and psychological side as being beneficial because it makes me feel good.

My problem with the whole article that I stumbled upon was the fact that the examples that were shared about these “bad” foods were that they practically used stuff right out of my kitchen cabinets.  For example, potato chips . . . they chose Lays potato chips . . . “no one can eat just one.”  That is their motto and I can attest to it being true . . . try to sit in front of the television and eat just one Lays potato chip . . . it can’t be done!  Closest I have come so far is about a half of pound.  How could something that taste so good, be so bad for you?  Well, they say it is the fat, salt, and calories packed into those thin delectable chips that makes them so bad . . . but, that is why I find comfort in them . . . I like them!

Chex Mix . . . over-the-top sodium . . . too much salt.  The health experts say that one serving (about a cup) is approximately a third of the sodium any person should consume in a day.  To tell you the truth, I do not find much comfort in only one serving of Chex Mix when sitting in front of the television watching The Simpsons.  Besides they package the mix in those nice little bags that easily sit in one’s lap.  But it is the sodium, the salt, that makes this such a wonderful “comfort food”.

In the area of corn-based foods they went after Cheetos.  Now Cheetos are not one of my top “comfort foods” because that orange artificial cheese they coat the corn-based product with gets all over my fingers . . . then I end up wiping them on my jeans and it leaves a big orange stain on my jeans . . . then the dogs follow me all around the house wanting to sniff and lick my jeans . . . but, there are times when I crave Cheetos—especially the crunchy ones.  The health experts proclaimed that these sorts of products are some the unhealthiest things that a person can eat.  They say they have no nutritional value as they are fried and loaded with sodium . . . but they taste so good.

In the category of store-bought cookies they took on two of America’s favorites . . . Keebler’s Chips Deluxe and Oreos.  How un-American can one get . . . how un-patriotic!  The problem?  Trans fats . . . whatever those are!  Apparently trans fats are what give these cookies their shelf life . . . the ability to taste great even after having sat on the shelf in the kitchen cabinet for months on end before being eaten.  It is probably the reason that these cookies float in milk and never absorb it.  But, they taste so good!

The health experts really pulled Hostess and Little Debbie products through the wringer as “unhealthy” for people . . . especially Twinkies (which I agree with because it is like trying to eat a sponge filled with whip cream) and Little Debbie Swiss Rolls.  Little Debbie Swiss Rolls have been a staple in my diet for over five decades.  They are cheap.  They taste great when they come out of the refrigerator.  But, the experts agree, there is nothing good about them except their taste . . . at least we agree there.

They took on those mini-donuts that are covered with powdered sugar . . . the food of every college drunk.  The health experts stated that these were the “perfect storm of saturated fat, sodium, and copious amounts of sugar.”  After a night of heavy drinking, with little or no money to buy real food, nothing beats a package of powdered sugar donuts.  Brings back fond memories as I write about them.

Lastly, chocolate . . in particular chocolate bars.  Apparently there is over 20 grams of sugar in most chocolate bars.  I guess 20 grams of sugar in one sitting is not good for the human body.  But I am not a big chocolate bar fan . . . I prefer my chocolate over raisins—which seems to be a healthier alternative, but I am sure that the unless the raisins are organically-grown in some third world country that they are probably not good for consumption either.

I guess I would be less touchy about this advice if they had not stepped on my toes by going after some of my favorite “comfort foods” . . . or it they had not labeled them as being “junk food”.  At the rate that the health experts are going there is not going to be much left for any of us to eat or enjoy eating.  It gets tiresome feeling guilty about having to sneak into the garage to enjoy a few potato chips or to indulge in a few Little Debbie snack cakes.  Yet, on the other hand, it is creating a sense of risky adventure . . . death-defying risks . . . that creates a little adrenalin rush to go with the sugar rush.  I kind of like that “living on the edge” feeling it brings to the equation.  Still, I would like the health experts to back off for a little while . . . to let me eat my “junk food”—I mean, “comfort food” in peace.  Besides these so-called “junk foods” have been around a long, long time.

Potato chips have been around since the 1800s.  Oreos made their appearance into the American diet in 1912.  Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups appeared in the Roaring Twenties (1923 to be precise).  Snickers and Twinkies—a double whammy—welcomed the Thirties by showing up in 1930.  Kraft macaroni and cheese (still one of my favorites with a couple of slices of Kraft American Cheese Singles thrown in) also came in the Thirties—1937.  M&Ms were 1940 with Peanut M&Ms coming 14 years later in 1954.  Cheetos were 1948.  Flavored potato chips . . . only took a hundred years for them to appear in the 1950s.  Pop Tarts and Doritos came just in time for the free-loving do anything era of the mid-1960s.

It is not like “junk food” or “comfort food” hasn’t been around for a while.  Obviously there must be some reason, with it being proven to be so bad for people’s health, that the Federal Food and Drug Administration hasn’t yet ban them from the market.  Shoot, I think I know why . . . they taste so darn good!  If they didn’t they wouldn’t still be around today.

So, in conclusion, I wish the health experts would keep their research and opinions to themselves.  I wish they would quit messing around with my junk . . . food that is.  I wish they would leave me alone and allow me to eat myself to an early grave . . . at least I will die happy.  As Homer Simpson says, “Mmmmmmmm . . . donuts!”   

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Motivation?




As I have gotten older, the body has gone south for the ages . . . or, in other words, I have allowed myself to age naturally.  I have put on a few pounds over the years . . . seen a Dunlop take shape around the equator . . . and, I have basically gotten out of shape . . . way out of shape.  There was a time that I was somewhat of an athlete.  I did sports through junior and senior high . . . track was my best sport . . . which lead to me running track and cross country for two years in college.  I lettered on all levels of competition.  I continued to do sports and run well into my late 30s and early 40s.  I was competitive.  I usually finished in the top ten percent of most of the road races I ran in.  I have a box full of medals and trophies from those glory days.  But, something happened and running became work . . . exercise hurt . . . and, my darn shin splints made me a virtual cat on the ceiling whenever anyone or anything bumped my shins.  Running died . . . and, the expansion began.  The motivation was lost.

Once a person gets him or herself in shape the goal is to stay in shape.  It is easier to stay in shape than it is to get into shape.  A rule of thumb I was taught many, many years ago is that it takes two days to catch up for one day of missing a workout.  I figure that if that rule of thumb is true it will take me about 32 years to get back into shape!  Remember, exercise is painful . . . exercise hurts . . . exercise means breaking a sweat . . . I am getting too old for all of that stuff.  Just thinking about it makes me want to sit back in my recliner, pop a brew, and revel in the good ol’ days when I actually did run . . . what Bruce Springsteen refers to as the “glory days”.  When I think back about how hard I used to work at staying in shape and running competitively, I get tired.  There is not much motivation there to break a sweat and get in shape.

Oh sure, I know that by getting in shape I will improve my health . . . I will live longer . . . I will have more energy . . . my mind will work better . . . I will be a two-by-four, I mean, stud.  I know that it would make my doctor happy . . . make my wife happy . . . make my exercising son and daughter-in-law happy.  As much as I understand this . . . and, as much as I love them all . . . all I can think of is how much work and pain it will take to get back into shape.  Still, no motivation.

Then I read an article on the Last Best News website about a 44-year old mother of six who set a world’s record for the mile in Texas.  Chris Kimbrough is a native Montanan living in Texas who took up running later in life.  In high school and college she was a point guard, running came later.  On November 2, 2014, she broke the world record for the mile . . . but, not just any mile . . . she broke the 17 year old record for the women’s beer mile by 13 seconds.  She ran 6:28.6 in her first effort.  That is pretty impressive considering that she had to run the mile and also drink four beers.  You can read her story here or watch the video here.

Here is how the beer mile works: the race begins with the competitor drinking a beer (the beer must have an alcohol content of at least five percent) and then running a quarter mile . . . this must be repeated three more times.  So, that is four beers per mile.  Chris ran the mile and drank four beers in a little over six minutes.  Shoot, there are times when I am driving in my car in downtown Billings that I cannot even get a mile done in six minutes . . . even without drinking four beers.  Even more amazing is that she kept it all down at the end of the race.  Pretty amazing athlete . . . pretty amazing beer drinker.  I don’t know too many people who zip through four beers in six minutes without having to run a mile.

Who knew!  Who knew that there was a sport that combined beer drinking with running.  Who knew that one of the things I love now could be combined with something that I loved long ago.  Who knew that I could find motivation and inspiration in a bottle . . .

I am so inspired and motivated at this point that I am actually considering the idea of putting on the ol’ running shoes and putting in the miles once again.  I have something to shoot for . . . a goal to achieve.  I have even done my homework . . . the men’s world record for the beer mile is held by James Nielsen who ran a 4:57.1.  Okay, I admit that I am motivated, but I am not that motivated . . . I can’t even tie my shoes in 4:57.1!  I also checked to see what the Montana record was for the beer mile . . . 5:42.0 by a guy who set the record in 2004.  That is quite a record that is not quite in my reach either . . . but, I am motivated . . . I am inspired.  Beer and running . . . I haven’t done that since I was a minor stealing beer from upper classmen in college. 

But I am motivated . . . or it could be the beer I am drinking.  Either way it has got me thinking . . . I need to start doing something and training for the beer mile just might be the trick to getting it done.  I know because of my age I should check with my doctor before starting any strenuous exercise program . . . I’ll probably leave the beer part of the training out of the announcement—besides I have been working on that one for quite some time already.  I’m sure the doctor will give me the thumbs up. 

This could be exciting.  I could get me a sponsor . . . like one of the local breweries.  They could supply me with the beer for training . . . put their logo on my shirt . . . great advertising seeing that logo and those empties on the side of the track.  Just thinking about it inspires me . . . motivates me.

But, first . . . there are some reality checks.  The temperature outside is a minus five degrees . . . maybe I should wait until the winter is over sometime in late June or early July to start running.  I like a lot of different beers and breweries . . . should I go with an IPA or EPA or Porter or Stout or . . . it could take me a while to test them all out before I decide on a training brew . . . might take months or years.  I’d have to find a training partner . . . well, not so much a training partner as a designated driver . . . four beers in six minutes is above the recommended amount for driving . . . how would I get home from the track?  And, last but not least, I should probably run it by the wife . . . running—check, beer—I seriously doubt it.  And, to think, I could have been a contender!

Well, at least the motivation is here for the time being . . . ask me in the morning . . . it might be gone.  I wonder if FitBit makes a counter that counts the beers while logging the miles?  A “beer mile” . . . who would have ever thought!