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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A State of Mind

In about two weeks the daughter and son-in-law will officially be residents of the state of Alabama.  They are moving to Fort Rucker where the son-in-law will begin training to be a helicopter for the National Guard.  They will be stationed there for approximately two years.  The rumor is that they are going to become "Southerns"--heaven help the South!

Growing up as a child I remember asking my father what a "Southerner" was, and his answer to me was: "It is all a state of mind, Son."  My father was born and raised in the backwoods of Alabama.  My mother was born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina--both Southerns by birth.  They both talked funny and had that little drawl that seems to manifest itself among those who are from the South.  After the age of 18 neither one of them ever really lived in the South, except for one year when my father was stationed in Georgia.  They never claimed to be Southern, but did admit their Southern heritage. 

The wife is from Kentucky and likes to claim that she is Southern, but I remind her that she is a Mason-Dixon Southerner--sort of a confused individual stuck between two cultures and who can't make up his or her mind which one he or she is.  During the Civil War the citizens of Kentucky couldn't decide which side they were on and were fairly split between the two sides.  We have had a subscription to Southern Living for nearly thirty years, but she likes to buy Yankee Candles--are you seeing the pattern? When she goes back home, she talks funny and with a drawl, beyond her family she talks like a mid-westerner.  As much as the wife would love to claim being a Southern, she is always going to be stuck in that limbo land of being a Mason-Dixoner.

Despite my parents upbringing and heritage, there is very little "Southerner" in me.  I was born in the "south"--southern Massachusetts in a little town called Wareham.  Sounds "Southern" doesn't it?  I never picked up the funny way of talking and I mumble better than I drawl.  I never grew up in the South but do remember the few times that I visited this exotic land to see my grandparents.  I didn't fit in with that side of the family even though I did pick up a few of the Southern expressions my parents used.  I also picked up the nasty habit of dropping "g" off the end of words--something becomes somethin'.  My preaching professor in seminary liked to nail me on that one.  But I am not "Southern" by any stretch of the mind even though I love grits, fried green tomatoes, hush puppies, country ham, and sweet tea.

I agree with my father--it is all a state of mind.  I imagine that my daughter will develop a funny way of talking while she lives in Alabama, but they will already think that when she moves there because she is not from there.  I am sure she will develop a love of parts of the Southern culture--she might even develop a taste for Mint Juleps, but I hope her mother and I raised her better than that.  She will adapt in order to survive--mainly because it will become a state of mind.  But that is not who she is and I imagine we can convert her back once she and the husband move back to Montana in about two years.  Then she and the son-in-law will once again be one of us--the ones who people always ask, "Where in the world did you come from?"

We come from a place that is within our hearts that defines who we are.  It is not determined by the accent we have or the way that we mangle words.  It is not defined by where we were born or who we root for in sports.  It is not determined by the food we eat or the way we dress.  It comes from that place within us that makes us feel safe and comfortable--that place that allows us to love--that place that lets us be who God created us to be.  It is all a state of mind--our own minds.

When the daughter and son-in-law return from the South they might sound funny, drink strange drinks, and drop the "g" at the end of words, but the essence of who they are will still be there.  So, for those of you in the South, take good care of the children and return them to us safely--we can handle the funny accent and way of talking (we have good speech therapists here in Montana who can fix that).  In the meantime be prepared, Montanans are pretty stubborn people and they just might change you.  Remember, it is all a state of mind! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Surgery

As a male I have always valued the right to prolong the unpleasant.  Isn't that a male "right"?  To prolong, ignore, and avoid that which will eventually need to be done?  Especially when it involves having to make changes to one's self?  What male goes quietly into change when it involves changes to himself--not me!  I go kicking and screaming if it is not my choice.  But, if you give me enough time I usually come to my senses and approach change with a quiet whimper--as long as I think it is my decision.  Luckily for me I have a fairly patient wife who plays along with this game.

Having prolonged my male right to diddle-dick around (as my mother used to say) I finally came to my senses and decided to deal with a problem that had been lingering around for over four years now--repairing a hernia.  Yeah, I know--four years!  But I think I have legitimate grounds for postponing this little problem as it was going to be the third time that I would have to have surgery for a hernia.  Yes, I said third time.  The first was with stitches, the second was with mesh, and with each another hernia appeared right above the previous repair.  When it happened the third time, I just wasn't ready to deal with it again.  Besides, I had read that if it was not bothering a person they should wait--wait until it became a problem.  A couple of months ago it became a problem--the time had come to get it fixed once and for all.  Yeah, I told the doctor to wrap me in mesh, but I am jumping ahead in the story!

Having finally come to my senses or running out of excuses, I made an appointment with a surgeon to get the hernia fixed--besides I was really getting tired of pushing it back in.  I felt like the popping fresh Doughboy for Pillsbury except I was the one doing all the poking.  Having the appointment I ventured forth to meet the surgeon and the adventure was begun.

  As most doctor appointments go it was fairly routine.  The nurse came in and asked all the preliminary questions about my health.  She took all of my vital statistics--pulse, blood pressure, and more.  She proclaimed me quite healthy and then proceeded to explain to me that the doctor has a Physician Assistant intern that was female--would it be okay if she participated in the examine?  Would I be comfortable with this arrangement?  After hemming and hawing around I decided that it would NOT be okay.  I sure did not want to display my middle aged, slightly pudgy (remember the Pillsbury Doughboy--I wasn't kidding), hairy body in front of any female who did not need to be there.  Damn her education!  Let someone else with a better physique educate her! Then the nurse left.

Soon there came a knock on the door and entering the exam room was a twenty-something Physician Assistant trainee who was going to perform the exam.  She asked me to remove my shirt.  She asked to see the hernia.  She had cold hands.  I was sixteen shades of red.  Despite my greatest fear she performed the exam with the utmost professionalism and did not laugh once at my Adonis physique!  I appreciated her compassion and ability to not laugh.  Then the doctor came in, did his little thing to teach the student, and announced that I certainly was an excellent candidate for surgery.  The doctor was quite good and I even learned something myself--this was not a third hernia, but a second recurrence of the original hernia.  With that all said and done I was told that I could have surgery on Halloween, but I would have to preregister for the surgery.

Preregistering sounded like no big deal.  At least that is what I thought until I found out that they had difference standards for those who are over the age of 50 years old.  Seems like I fell into that category--by a couple of years.  Besides the normal paperwork I would be required to take an EKG--Electrocardiography--a heart test.  That is a little cause for anxiety when one has never taken a heart test.  No one wants to flunk that test.  But guess what--I flunked the test.  With wide eyes the nurse doing the pre-surgerical intake asked me if I had ever had any problems with my heart.  Nope, I said, why?  Well, she explained, your EKG is abnormal.

Abnormal?  How, I asked.  She then proceeded to inform me that I had had a infarction at some point.  I don't know about you, but medical terms are a foreign language to me.  Infarction sound like some sort of secret letting out of gas that one does not want to admit to.  At least that is what I thought, but I was informed that it is a heart attack.  She was telling me that my EKG was saying that I had had a heart attack.  Needless to say I was a little short of words at that point.  How does one respond to such news--I sat there wondering, why didn't I just wait another year or two?  She then explained that the doctor would need to see these results and then would let me know what the next step would be.  In the meantime, since it was 3:00PM on a Friday afternoon, I should go home and wait.  Anyone thinking anxiety?

So I waited . . . I did yard work all day Saturday.  Sunday I did church, laundry, and did visitation.  I did anything humanly possible to keep my mind off of waiting.  On Monday, I waited at work for a call from the doctor.  I pestered my co-workers.  I anxiously waited until late in the afternoon they finally let me know what was next--I would get to do a stress test.  The ol' tread mill test.  Walk till you dropped.  Plus, they said, it would be on Friday--nearly a week away.  More waiting!  More anxiety!  More worry.  So, while waiting I decided that if the medical establishment was going to change my whole life due to some reading of an EKG I was going to enjoy it while I could.  I then proceeded to eat all those things that I knew they were going to take away from me--boy, I had some great cheese burgers this week!

Finally the day arrived and I was to do my stress test as the adventured continued.  There needs to be some sort of law that states that medical offices should not hire staff that look like they could be poster children for fitness.  Every person in the cardio place looked as if they were the perfect, non-fat, physical specimens that everyone aspires to be in his or her wildest dreams.  They were a far cry from what I looked like--I just wanted someone who looked some like me, someone to make me feel comfortable.  Good luck!  It was my wildest nightmare--Pillsbury Doughboy stuck in some sort of medical Stepford Wives movie.

Finally the test came--my goal: Pass the test!  After having parts of my chest shaved with the dullest razor on God's great creation, having my skin rubbed with number nine sandpaper, and having little electrodes placed on me, I was finally taking the test.  It really wasn't too bad once they finished the shaving, rubbing, and placing . . . all I had to do was walk as they increased the speed and incline on the treadmill for ten minutes.  Piece of cake!  I did well.  Talked throughout--drove the technicians crazy, but finished without falling flat on my face or having a heart attack.  They were impressed--I thought I was going to die!  The results?  I passed with flying colors.  The doctor proclaimed that I had a 100 percent healthy heart--it worked like it was suppose to work; and, he proclaimed that I had no damage from any previous heart attacks.  In fact, he said I had probably never had a heart attack--that the first one was probably just a false negative.

It was like the heavens opened up.  Like the heavenly choirs sang.  Like a dove flew down, landed on my shoulder, and a voice proclaimed: "It is well!"  Okay, maybe I exaggerate . . . but it felt pretty darn good to get a clean bill of health.  He stated that my hernia surgery would probably still be on Halloween.

As I get closer to the actual surgery I will let you know more about that--that is another story.  In the meantime, once I got over the good news, I started to think--this wasn't free.  This probably cost a whole bunch of money.  The more I thought about it the more  I began to worry.  Worry is not good for the heart--puts stress on the heart.  Now I am concerned, concerned that the bill is going to kill me!  Just what I need!

It is funny the things that happen on the way to surgery.  We do not always take a straight and narrow path towards our goals--sometimes we have detours that change our lives forever.  Sometimes we get a wake-up.  Sometimes we just get the poop scared out of us.  I thought I was being a good person--a good male--finally agreeing to do what I should have done years ago.  Little did I realize I would have all this extra baggage to drag alone with me to get a simple hernia surgery.  Oh well, if I had only been patient a little longer I might have missed out on all of this fun.  You know, I am getting too old for all of this stuff!  If anything else happens, well, I don't know . . . maybe like Fred Sanford on Sanford and Son my reaction will be:

It's the BIG one, Martha!

Of course I haven't got the bill yet, so you never know!  But, in all honesty, I doubt it.  The doctor said I have a 100 percent healthy heart.  The container may be a little rough, but its what's inside counts and it is good.  For all the prayers and support I thank everyone.  Yep, some funny things can happen on the way to surgery!

Monday, October 17, 2011

To Be Benjamin Fodor

As a kid I always wanted to be a superhero--heck, even as a young adult I harbor a secret to be a superhero.  Who wouldn't want to have super powers like jumping over tall buildings, running faster than a speeding locomotive, and having bullets bounce off one's chest.  Even the x-ray vision would have been cool.  But alas it was not meant to be.  I have no superpowers.  I have a hard time at my age of jumping over the stool in the living room, I am barely faster than our wiener dog--Dora, and nothing bounces off my chest.  The closest I have come to x-ray vision is my tri-focal prescription for eye glasses which do not let me see through anything.  Despite it all, I still can dream.

Benjamin Fodor  apparently followed his dream of being a superhero.  Phoenix Jones is his superhero alter ego in the city of Seattle where he patrols the streets and fights crimes.  I am not really sure what his super powers are, but he likes pepper spray.  On October 9th he came to the rescue of two men standing outside of a night club smoking cigarettes when an enraged man ripped off his shirt and prepared to give them a beating.  Phoenix Jones swooped in, doused the aggressor with pepper spray, and saved the day.  Several hours later he tried it again . . . only this time it was a false start as he sprayed a group of people outside of another night club.  This time the culprits were all innocent bystanders.  The result was that Phoenix Jones got arrested for assault.  Those he rescued were not too pleased with being showered with pepper spray--heck, here in Montana we use pepper spray to ward off grizzly bears who don't care too much for the stuff.  I imagine that ol' Phoenix's spray did quite a number on those folks.

Apparently there is a superhero movement spreading across the country--a movement I was unaware of until I stumbled across Phoenix Jones' situation.  It seems that people are actually following their childhood dreams of becoming superheroes.  According to the website Real Life Super Heroes (http://www.reallifesuperheroes.org) there are some 660 members in the group--and these are just the ones that have joined the organization.  Part of the blame, I am sure, has to do with all of those wonderful comic books of yesterday and the great graphic novels of today which share the exploits and adventures of numerous superheroes.  Then there are all the movies out now about superheroes from Super Man to Batman to Captain American to . . . well, you get the picture.  Maybe, though, the biggest culprit of this movement's start was the movie Kick Ass.

I LOVED this movie.  It had a great story and plot, it was colorful, engaging characters, lots of laughs and action--and it inspired me!  Made me want to grab a pair of colorful spandex, climb on the roof of the house, and scope out the neighborhood for bad guys.  I was raring to go even if it was the middle of winter in Montana and the temperatures were well below zero.  But the wife nixed the whole thing when she reminded me that the church had a "no superhero" clause in my contract.  It is difficult being a pastor in a small, rural congregation.

So, I just keep my dream to myself.

Truth be known though, the superhero I really, really always wanted to be like had no real super powers except for silver bullets, a white horse, and one of those cheap looking eye masks to hide his identity.  Yeah, the Lone Ranger.  I loved the Lone Ranger--in thirty minutes he could solve any problem and save the day--even though the law always pictured him as some sort of bad guy.  Despite how he was often misunderstood he always brought law and justice to the forefront.  He rode in, took care of business, never asked for anything in return, and rode off into the sunset with a "Hi Ho, Silver, Away!"  Yeah, I could picture myself as the Lone Ranger--always thought I would look good on a white horse.

But instead I went into the ministry.  It is sort of like being the Lone Ranger.  I often go about my business in much the same manner--I ride in, do what I must, and then take off into the sunset with folks wondering "Who was that masked man."  I like that because like the Lone Ranger doing the good deed, helping others out, is recognition enough . . . besides I do it for a higher power, just like the original Lone Ranger.  I can understand how the Lone Ranger felt about being misunderstood because ministers are often a pretty misunderstood population of their own.

So, that is as close to being a superhero as I get today. It satisfies the dream and takes care of the superhero lust.  Besides at my age I don't look too hot in spandex--there are laws against that sort of exposure once a person gets beyond a certain age and weight.  I know that I am at that age and weight.  Thus I dream . . .

. . . yep, me and all those other middle aged guys, we dream.  Up, up, and away!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Getting Old

When my father got home from work he used to tell the family that he was going to read the newspaper.  He then proceeded into the living, grabbed the paper, and fell asleep within ten minutes.  There was "hell" to be paid if anyone woke my father up from "reading the newspaper".  I guess the acorn doesn't fall from the tree . . . I now catch myself falling asleep reading the newspaper before supper.  It is a drag getting older!

One of the things that I have discovered about getting older is that my mind often disagrees with my body about what it means to get older.  My mind seems to think that I am a thirty-some year old person, while my body likes to remind me that the wear and tear on the ol' body adds up to fifty-something.  Sadly, I listen to my mind more often than my body and I usually get to pay a price for such inclinations.  My body just laughs at my mind, "You fool!"

For example, today.  Today I decided that I needed to do the yard work before the predicted rain set in. I needed to finish trimming the neighbor's lilac bushes, clean out the wife's gardens, and do the usual scoop the poop detail.  The mind said, a couple of hours.  The body . . .  well, the body just laughed and cringed.  What the mind was promising as a couple of hours turned out to be closer to eight hours.  I had really hoped that the rain would start and I could quit, but it never did rain.  Thus it was that I labored for over eight hours trimming bushes, burning branches and leaves, chopping down flowers and plants, and yes, scooping poop.  Having finally stopped and actually sat down my body is telling me, "I told you so," with each little ache and pain that is knocking on the door of my mind.  It is a drag getting older!  The backyard looks great though!

In my elderly wisdom I have come to the conclusion that I have a problem--it is my mind.  It needs to grow up and act its age.  Either that of I need to start listening to my body more often, but the problem with the body is that it never speaks up until it is way too late.  By the time that my body speaks up I have already run it through abuse that I get to pay while listening to a sound track of my body laughing.  Every time that I pull this stunt of abusing my body my mind is off playing in some fantasy land where there is no age--no limits--and apparently no pain.  My mind has a terrible memory!

The wife will attest to that.  According to the wife I do not remember everything that she tells me . . . I am not sure that is a poor memory or selective hearing.  Whatever the case, I just do not remember as well as I used to.  Names are tough for me to remember, but they always have been.  I recognize the faces, but often time have difficulty remembering the names.  To compensate for this I have just started calling everyone "Bud" or "Buddy".  The wife didn't appreciate that the other day when I tolde her, "Thanks, Buddy." 

There are advantages for having a poor memory.  The best advantage is that everything always seems to be new.  When you can't remember the past the past is always new!  Life is always a new adventure no matter how many times I have walked down the same path.  I am always meeting new people even though I have know lots of them for quite some time.  Old jokes are always good for a laugh--again and again and again! 

Yes, getting old is a drag and I guess that the majority of the time I listen to the mind and not the body when it comes to age.  My father used to tell me that being Southern was all a state of mind--so is age.  At least that is what I thought until the past 48-hours.  Some things have happened in my life in the past 48-hours that have made me stop and consider that maybe I should listen to the body a little more than I do.  The body has definitely sent me a memo in the past two days that has gotten my attention--a sort of wake-up call.  I think I need to listen.  It all has to do with getting older, the body acting its age, and my having listened to the mind for way too long.

Yeah getting older is a drag, but I am not quite ready to share what the body has been telling me lately.  I need to get some answers about what the body is telling me so that I will be better able to share exactly what it is telling me.  That might take a couple of days, but in the meantime the weather forecasters are only predicting a 50 percent chance of rain tomorrow . . . I should be able to get the yard mowed and the front yard cleaned up for winter.  Probably talking a couple of hours.  What's that noise I hear?  Could it be my body laughing?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Winter's Knockin'--Here Moosey, Moosey

Winter came knocking on the door this weekend.  There was snow above 8000 feet on the mountains--the Beartooth Pass was closed down, the Red Lodge Ski Area got covered, and the moose made a grand appearance in the area.  Fortunately for us --in Joliet--we only received cold rain.  That is how our day began this morning at 6:30AM as the wife, daughter, son-in-law and I began our drive to the mountains down the road.  We drove through rain, fog, and then eventually snow.  We were on the Great American Moose Hunt.

In the three years since we moved to Montana the daughter is the only one of us who had not seen a moose.  She determined that these creatures did not exist and that they were magical, mythical creatures only found in stories.  In less than a month she and the son-in-law head off to Alabama where he begins pilot school for 18 months.  It was detrimental that the daughter see a moose before they headed south where winter (at least winters like Montana has) are a myth.  Thus our early journey to the mountains and the snow.

Despite her lack of belief the journey was a huge success.  The daughter saw five--yes, five--moose!  As is the rule in the family a "moose sighting" only counts if there is photographic evidence.  Luckily for the daughter both her husband and I had our cameras.  Those magical, mythical creatures were all captured in photographs in all of their glory.  It was hard to wipe the grin off the daughter's face.  So here goes, from first to last, the moose:

Moose One--this fella was unique in that he was missing half of his antlers.
 It was just beginning to snow.

 Moose One had enough of us and began to leave--note about his rear end,
at the edge of the woods stands Moose Two.

Moose Two.

After obtaining photographic evidence of the first two moose--and feeling pretty darn good about our luck--we heading further down the road in search of even more moose.  We were only at the start of our journey and there was still a long way to go before we would be done, plus the snow was starting to come down hard creating a winter wonderland. 

Moose Three was a little more of a challenge to spot as he was covered with snow, walking through the snow covered trees, and not really wanting to be spotted.  This big guy we caught twice--coming and going.  He was a big boy.

Moose Three . . .
 . . . trying to ignore us intrusive humans . . . 
 . . . until we got to our turn around point to begin the journey back.
After a short potty break, a few quick snow pictures with Flat Stanley--a guest of the daughter and son-in-law--we headed back knowing that we would have an excellent opportunity to catch Moose Three once again.  Our hope was that we would be able to get clearer and better pictures.
  Moose Three trying really hard to lose us . . . 
 . . . until he finally succeeds and slowly disappears into the snowy woods.
Moose Four was the youngest of the five moose spotted thanks to the quick eyes of the wife as we were driving down the road.  This young fella was fairly anit-social and really wasn't in the mood for getting a picture taken.  The best he would do for us was to give a rear shot, but photographic evidence is photographic evidence--front of back.
Moose Four, a young bull without antlers.
 Moose Four.
Feeling pretty blessed at having spotted four moose in one day, we sort of got greedy in hopes of seeing more as we continued back from our turn around point.  The wife, daughter, and son-in-law were all in "high moose alert mode" and looking out all sides of the truck as I drove down the road.  That is probably why they missed the next one until I pointed him out--he was standing right in front of the truck, right by the highway.
Moose Five . . . the oldest of the moose we saw . . . and one who was not going
to stick around us humans as he took off up the slope to the left . . .
 Going . . .

. . . gone!
It was a record day for moosing--five moose!  As winter comes the moose head down out of the mountains and this first real snow of the season brought out a bevy of moose to observe.  To top off the perfect morning we stopped in Red Lodge and had breakfast at the Regis Cafe--a five star eating establishment in an old grocery store where the food was delightful.  The daughter kept babbling about this being the happiest day of her life, the wife kept stopping strangers and telling them we had seen five moose . . . and I would have to admit that it was a special day.  Not bad for the daughter and son-in-law as a year ago they were married on this weekend.  I think seeing five moose is a pretty cool way to but an exclamation point on the first year of marriage.  Five moose--its got to be some sort of blessing.  Yeah, winter came knocking and we got the moose--we even have pictures to prove it!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

You Never Write

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.”
  (Phyllis Theroux)

“Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company.”
(Lord Byron)

“What a wonderful thing is the mail, capable of conveying across continents a warm human hand-clasp.”
(Author Unknown)

In 2010 the typical home received a personal letter about every seven weeks, according to the annual survey done by the United States Postal Services—that does not include greeting cards invitations.  Way back in 1987 it was once every two weeks. The onslaught of advertisements still arrives with all the magazines and catalogs—but it seems that personal letters are a thing of the past.  The times have changed.

I used to be a fairly prolific letter writer—usually writing up to ten to fifteen letters and notes a week.  Once a week I would sit down with a list of names of people I wanted to write and crank those personal missives out like clockwork.  And, typically, I received one or two personal letters a week in response.  It was a labor of love and a lot of work . . . but people appreciated the effort and the connection.  I didn’t mind spending a couple of hours a week writing letters . . .

. . . but then something changed.  I discovered the computer for my letter writing.  No longer was I hand writing each letter—which often repeated the same information—and cut my letter writing time in half.  The only handwritten part of the letter was where I signed my name.  Now the letters were actually readable!  No one complained and I still received a letter in response about every two weeks.

It wasn’t long after I started doing this that computers became cheaper and more practical—more and more of the people I wrote suddenly had computers with Internet access.  They had email addresses.  It was not too tough of a transition to go from writing personal letters to writing personal emails.  This took even less time than composing a letter, printing it, and mailing it.  Took less time and those receiving the correspondence were practically getting the emails in seconds instead of days.  It was practically instantaneous!  Plus I was saving money as I was no longer spending it for postage.  Killing time and saving money!

Though I am saving time and money, it is not the same.  This age of instant communication—email, text messaging, Twitter, Skype, and more—has taken something away in the way that we communicate today.  It just does not seem as personal as it used to be.  Gone are the days of the old love letters, the historical adventures of a loved one’s journeys, and the insights of life.  Gone is the personal connection.  I just cannot picture my future grandchildren sitting in the still quietness of their bedrooms reading emails from their lovers—gone will be the love letters laced with perfume and tenderness.  Gone will be the anticipation of receiving that special correspondence from a loved one far away. 

In our age of needing instant gratification the computer and Internet do more than admirably—communication is instantaneous in the flash of a keystroke.  In the blink of an eye it is done.  Even though I appreciate the quickness and efficiency of today’s modes of communication it is just not the same.  I guess I am showing my age with that statement, confessing my awkwardness of being in that generation stuck between today and yesterday, but I miss getting those handwritten letters.

I appreciate receiving any communication—except maybe for the phone.  Being an introvert I still find the phone to be an intrusion into my personal world.  Though the majority of the correspondence I do now is done through email, Facebook, and text messages, I still write an occasional handwritten letter—mostly to those who are over the age of 70 years old.  They are always appreciated—or so they tell me when they write back.  It is like receiving a hug in the mail—the connection received and completed.  An effort acknowledged.

Yep, none of us ever write any more.  The personal letter is probably a thing of the past, and in this digital age we still have somewhat of a semblance of it through email.  But, it is just not the same.  As one person said, it is hard to imagine poet Robert Browning imploring Elisabeth Barrett to be his BBF.  LOL!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.
(Jack Handey, Deep Thoughts)

We humans are pretty selfish creatures who live in our own little world without giving much thought about how our lives effect the lives of others--the ripple effect.  The ripple effect is a fairly simple concept as demonstrated by the above picture. A drop lands in a pool of water disturbing its peaceful serenity and creates a wave that drifts outward.  This continues until it meets another object and then it crashes into it.  We are all big old drops of water that hit the pool and radiate outward, much like the picture above, crashing into one another.  It has an effect on us.  Our actions in life do effect others whether we realize it or not.

Everything we do effects someone or something.  Who knows when the waves of an other's ripple will cross path with ours.  For a while my little pond had been pretty still and calm.  Not too many waves crashing in.  Then about six weeks ago things began to change--not because of anything I did, but because the waves of others ripples began to intersect with my own.  Intersections were created, new areas of relationship were born, and a new adventure was placed before me.  None were of my own design, some were newly created by the actions of others, some were set in motion years ago.

This has made me have to do a lot of thinking, praying, and waiting to hear the voice of God.  It is a process of discernment.  In one situation life will be completely changed and neither the wife nor I have any control over the situation--it is in the hands of those who created it.  As much as we want to be involved in this new adventure we have to wait to be invited.  This all happened so suddenly and unexpectedly that the ripple washed across us and no matter what happens it has changed us.

The other ripple was started long ago and involves the most fragile of all gifts--family.  In the story of the family there have been divisions, rifts, and hurt feelings that created a shattering effect upon the family.  Relationships were broken, words were spoken, and lives ere changed forever.  Some of the characters in the family story are long gone never having had the opportunity to mend the hurts or to restore the relationships.  Goodbyes were never uttered.  And, now, years latter the effects of that ripple have crossed my own.

My youngest uncle who I have seen or heard from in over fifteen years worked hard to discover where I was in order to reconnect and hopefully restore some sort of resemblance of family for himself.  I have known the story for years from those on one side of the family, and I have now heard his side of the story.  As with any story told from different perspectives there are vast gaps between the two.  But, I have also heard the voice of a lonely man seeking to restore some connection--some relationship--as he and I enter into those so-called golden years.  There is a sadness in the situation because it calls for forgiveness and reconciliation on the parts of the two primary characters in the story at this point--him and me.  Something not easily done as I know that whatever I chose to do will create ripples across the lives of those other family members unwilling or not ready to forgive, forget, and move on.

It is up to me . . . this uncle, only two years older than me, has made the first move.  He has reached out across the loneliness and pain of the past to invite me to consider restoring a relationship.  Thus far I have not been sure what I should do.  The waves of his ripple pound my mind and heart every day.  On the one hand, my faith clearly shows me the way--embrace the gift and restore the family.  That is what Jesus would do--welcome home the prodigals.  On the other hand, I want to respect and honor the family--my family--who still feels the hurt of loved ones turning away.  The waves pull in all directions.

As I wrote earlier, our lives effect others.  The waves come rippling across us whether we are prepared for them or not.  Some are positive, some are negative, but none of them come without effect.  The choice is ours as to how we will respond or react to them.  From reaction to response--that is my prayer.  The choice is mine.  With the first, I wait patiently and pray that the invitation will eventually come and allow the wife and I to be a part of the journey.  With the second, well, that is also my choice and I seem to be leaning toward restoring family even though it will cause a ripple with the rest of the family.  Neither one seems simple . . .   I guess it is my turn to create the ripple.

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world"
(Mahatma Gandhi)