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.

Saturday, March 31, 2012


fraz·zle  (frzl)

1. To wear away along the edges; fray.
2. To exhaust physically or emotionally.
I guess I have too many irons in the fire.  I am feeling a little frazzled. I do not like feeling frazzled.  Feeling frazzled wears one out . . . makes one grumpy . . . and makes one not pleasant to be around.  Life is getting a little hectic around the ol' homestead and it is causing a little fraying emotionally.  Nothing like a good frazzle to kick-off a good lament!
Let us begin with the sun . . . actually, the weather.  It is the last day of March here in Montana and we are sitting in the mid-seventies--not typical Montana weather for this time of the year.  In fact we have been having abnormal temperatures for a couple of weeks and it has been playing a number on Mother Nature.  With the warm temperatures Mother Nature has let loose and everything is greening up and blooming.  The wife sees this as an invitation to get a jump start on everything in the gardens and yard.  A day does not go by that she doesn't make some sort of a hint about this or that being done in the yard--weed the flower beds, rank up the leaves, scatter mulch, plant grass, and on and on the list goes.  Sounds like a lot of work for me.  Of course, these are not actual requests for work, they are just thoughts she has.  I married an extrovert who does her best thinking out loud--for the whole world and me to hear.  They are not actual items to add to the every expanding "honey do" list, just thoughts that she is having.  Explain that to me as I am ripping out renegade grass growing in her flower beds--it didn't feel like much of a suggestion!  It was more of one of those things you do in order to keep mama happy so everyone else is happy.  Thanks to this premature spring-like weather I have been relegated to more and more work in the yard--two months early!

"Expectations: Please aim low" . . . that is what the mini print says in the picture above.  In the next month (April) there are a lot of expectations on the table.  In the next couple of weeks these are the following expectations: (1) a grand-daughter is to be born in Colorado; (2) Holy Week and Easter; (3) Ministers' Retreat; (4) youngest son graduates from college; and, (5) relatives coming to attend graduation and stay at our house.  With each of these expectations come more expectations that compound the original expectations.  Again, the wife has some "thoughts" about each of these and is more than willing.  Buy a nice gift for the graduating child.  Make everyone happy.  Entertain.  And, the list goes on and on and on!  The wife's out loud thinking sets the standards high, but she has gotten used to me aiming low.  Talk about piling on the frazzle!

The tax filing deadline is approaching!  Yeah, it is the annual fleecing of the taxpayer that I have always put off until the last minute.  The Internal Revenue Service and I have always had a wonderfully strong "love/hate" relationship.  I hate to do my taxes, but they love to take my money and make my life a living hell.  As of this date I still have to file my taxes.  This is always an adventure that has everything that a top of the line thriller would have and no one knows how it will end until the credits are rolling.  The wife has no ideas about this topic and usually allows me to go into my downstairs office, lock the door, and ignores all of the swearing that emanates from behind the closed doors.  It adds to the frayed feeling I am having at this time.
Piling on to all of this is the fact that tomorrow begins Holy Week.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday . . . it is also April Fools Day.  Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?  Holy Week brings its own list of expectations--the flying palms of Palm Sunday, the communion laden Maundy Thursday, the darkness of Good Friday, and the expectant joy of Easter morning.  As a clergy type this only adds to the frazzleness one is feeling.  But, hey!  As I stated earlier, who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?  Holy Week is kicked off on April Fools Day . . . the joke is on us.  I read somewhere that during Holy Week the most Christian observance of it is not in the churches, but in the world where Christians go forth to protest.  In this line of thought the idea is that Christians should go out into the world during Holy Week to confront that which Jesus confronted--Christians should not sit in the pews and reflect.  I like that idea . . . I like it because it saves me a lot of work in preparing services.  But, despite it all, I will be ready for each and every service we celebrate during Holy Week.  I like my paycheck.

So, is there a cure for being frazzled?  A cure for being a little frayed around the corners?  I'd like to know . . . 

I'd like to know because this is no fun.  It makes my head hurt.  Pain is no fun.  Pain hurts . . . but I guess it is a reminder that I am still alive--still have a life (even if it is frazzled)--and that there is always tomorrow.  But, remembering the previous blog, there is better living through chemistry.  There is always the cure that comes in beer.  I am pretty sure that is what I wrote yesterday . . . a couple of beers and everything feels fine!  Frazzled?  Ha!  I have a frig full of micro brews . . . I think I can survive.  If not, and you find me wandering the streets, please return me home.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Better Living Through Chemistry

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
-Benjamin Franklin
 "We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old."
-Martin Luther

Passing the half century mark came with a few new "quirks"--primarily dealing with the physical side of life.  True, the hair makes an exit--but that has been pretty common place in my life since the early twenties.  The hearing goes--but the wife tells me that the hearing loss seems to be selective, to which I usually respond, "Huh?  Did you say something?"  The equator expands, but I can cover that with the next size up and lots of baggy clothes.  The sight goes, but that is why they tri-focal glasses--now I can't see in three different ways.  Yes, as one gets older the body seems to go.  Plus, there seems to be more aches and pains that accompany the aging process.  As I have said over and over, getting older is not for wimps.

With the advance of age I have now discovered places on and in my body that never used to have aches and pains, but now they do.  Now I can understand aches and pains that come from exertion, exercise, and hard work--three things I have not been accused of in the past couple of years.  But these pains just appear out of nowhere--appear during the night--and they hurt.  My knees hurt.  My elbows hurt.  My hips hurt.  My gut hurts.  My back hurts.  Everything at one time or another hurts.  Sadly, I did nothing to earn these aches and pains except live.  Those older and wiser than me tell me that "it just comes with getting older."  The only thing that they did not tell me is that "old" starts when one starts on the downhill side of fifty!

Sometimes good news comes from the most unexpected places.  Though I do not spend a lot of time lamenting this old age phenomenon of aches and pains, it does cross my mind from time to time--especially when one works on a university campus where there seems to be an abundance of healthy and non-pained individuals walking around on campus.  Today I stumbled across an article from Men's Health magazine reprinted on the MSN website that brought to me hope.  The title of the article was To Bounce Back Faster, Try a Beer.  According to this article beer is healthy for you--especially for all of those little aches and pain.  As one who has entered into that phase of life where there are mysterious aches and pains that accompany daily living, this was good news!  Heck, it was great news!  I like beer!

The article states that beer--especially wheat-based beer--is good for you.  It is good for you because it contains polyphenols.  Polyphenols are are an antioxidant chemical found in many plants and fruits. Polyphenols have antiviral properties, they help regulate the immune system, and they help to down-regulate genes that are related to turning on inflammation and stress.  One researcher stated that beer has lots of these!  Researchers also stated that research that shows polyphenols can act as a more-effective substitute for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen.  Polyphenols are most effective when ingested in combinations. That’s why wheat beer, which contains many different types of polyphenols, was perfect.    And, get this, the alcoholic wheat beer was double the non-alcoholic beer in polyphenols.  Now, tell me, does that sound like a godsend for someone over the age of fifty, who experiences aches and pains, and likes beer?  Is that not good news?  I think so! The news made me so happy that I went right out and opened up a beer to celebrate.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking out there--if anyone drinks enough beer he or she will never feel any aches or pain.  True, but there is the little thing that often accompanies an over indulgence of beer consumption--the hangover.  Which, in reality is really no big deal--a couple of beers and that too disappears.  According to the study beer is even better than ibuprofen--a couple of micro brews and who is feeling a headache?  The reality is that the researchers are not endorsing excessive beer drinking.  Instead they say that a pint (maybe two) is good for the body.  Who am I to argue with medical researchers with more degrees and letters after their name than I have?  The old theologian Martin Luther said it best:  "We old folks have to find our cushions and pillows in our tankards. Strong beer is the milk of the old."  I imagine he was speaking from experience as he was an experiential theologian in my estimation.

So, I lift my frosty mug to the wonders of beer to ease the aches and pains of getting older.  I toast the mysterious healing touch of a fine ale that makes getting older easier.  I once heard the phrase, "Better living through chemistry"--this sounds like the results of this research.  When the researchers are ready to do a little research on the magical, wonderful, healing powers of beer on the geriatric--well, I am ready to volunteer.  Here's to beer!

(For those who would like to read the article:  http://onit.msn.com/story?ocid=hpep.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

We Came as a Duo . . We're Going to Stay a Duo

I do not know of a single person who admits to being prejudice--especially within the "church."  When confronted with the charge of prejudice the resounding answer I have heard is, "Prejudice?  Not me!"  The fact is, we all are prejudice.  We all have things and people that we value, and those that we do not value.  When those values dictate the way that we treat others--good or bad--they become prejudice.

Take the situation of  Jonathan Antoine.  Never heard of Jonathan Antoine?  Well, Jonathan is the seventeen year old who wowed the audience and judges of Britain's Got Talent"--sort of like Susan Boyle did a while back.  One article described Jonathan as an "unassuming, shabby social misfit-type"--long stringy hair, overweight, dressed in a rock tee-shirt, bashful and shy, grungy looking, and not quite what one expects of its future rock and pop stars.  Disdain might be the best way to describe the way that he was questioned by Simon Cowell, the lead judge and creator of the show, especially when he cracked: "Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse."  There was not much respect shown towards Jonathan or his duet partner, Charlotte Jaconelli, as they prepared to sing.  The audience was circling for the failure and ridicule that was to sure to follow.

This is what happened:
As was expected the reaction of the audience and judges was of shock and surprise as they heard a wonderful rendition of Andrea Bocelli's and Celine Dion's "The Prayer".  To say the least the audience and judges gave the duo a well deserved standing ovation.  And, once again, as was the case with Susan Boyle, the audience and Simon Cowell were caught in their prejudice and left to eat crow.

I think that this was a fairly blatant example of how one's values can taint how others can be prejudiced against.  But, this was not the end . . . in fact, in the original tape that can be found on You Tube ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kt3Utn4mjeg) Simon Cowell's positive values turn into a prejudice--this time not against Jonathan, but against his singing partner Charlotte Jaconelli.  Several times he lets Jonathan know that he has a future as a singer--as a star, but he needs to ditch his partner.  Poor Charlotte just stood there like a balloon slowly leaking its air as Cowell put her down in hopes of improving Jonathan's chances of winning the competition.  This, too, is an act of devaluation--an act of prejudice.

Poor young lady . . . in front of a international audience she was reduced to nearly nothing as Cowell continued to pursue Jonathan dumping her.  Talk about being devalued.  At one point she looked as if she was going to cry.  Cowell pursued it all the way to the end . . . and then something heroic happened.  Heroic because it went against all the common sense and values of today's society . . . Jonathan responded to Cowell suggestion of dumping his partner by telling him (and everyone else): "Well, we come on here as a duo, and we're going to stay on here as a duo."

It was interesting, before casting the final ballot, that Cowell stated that in his head he saw this one way--the wrong way, but the conventional way in that it would never work, but in his heart he saw it as something magical.  Sadly, the way of the heart is the one true way, while the way of the head often leads to the pain and suffering for those who are devalued--those who are prejudiced against.

Jonathan Antoine is an exceptional talent who may or may not go far . . . at this point it would seem that the sky is the limit.  Yet, there is a long, tough road ahead of him . . . not because of his talent, but because of the way that he looks.  Sad, but true.  Had you heard Jonathan Antoine singing on the radio, how would you have envisioned him?  Probably nothing like he is . . . a prejudice?  Probably not, but definitely an issue of value . . . especially if you were disappointed when you finally saw the "real" Jonathan Antoine.

I do not want to accuse anyone of being prejudice--myself included.  We live in a world and society in which we place value upon things and people based on a myriad of standards--looks, color, education, wealth, clothing, and so on.  Often these values dictate the way that we treat others--some good, some bad, but most with indifference.  Those actions can drop into the realm of prejudice when we size up the value of another based on the way they look before we even know anything about them--just as it was done in Jonathan Antoine's situation on Britain Got Talent.  And, we also witnessed how value--even when trying to help--can drop into prejudice on the very same show a few minutes later with the same people.  Devaluing another to the point of removal is prejudice at its ultimate apex.

Yeah, the kid has a voice--the kid has talent, but more importantly he has got a heart.  He stood by his friend and singing partner when he was being encouraged to dump her because she would drag him down in the competition.  In that moment when he declared that they would remain a "duo"  I witnessed something magical--something special . . . for a moment, I saw God's Kingdom as it should be.  Together they might not win the contest and receive the big contracts and money, but together they showed the world that there is more to life than just the glory and power of rock and roll--there is the friendship and love that sees the value and beauty in everyone.  That is how God sees it . . . and that is how we should see it.

Yeah, sometimes God slips through the facade and allows us to see what could be.  Even on a cheesy show like Britain's Got Talent.  May Jonathan continue to share that vision.  In my eyes he is already a winner.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Warm Weather Blues

With the typical Montana winter on awol we Montanans have experienced an unusually warm start to spring.  The temperatures lately have been ten to twenty degrees above normal for this time of year.  We have been having temperatures in the sixties and even seventies in the past week.  This is our normal May and June sort of weather.  We Montanans are not used to having summer this early in the year--usually it is mid-July to August before we kick on the air conditioners in our homes and vehicles.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have had the onslaught of warm weather lately . . . and, for the most part, I appreciate it.  Blame it on global warming . . . blame it one a crazy jet stream pattern this year . . . or blame it on the president (Seems he gets blamed for everything anyways!--whatever the cause it has been warmer than usual.

One of the things I appreciate about the climate of Montana is that it allows for a "layering" effect of clothing about nine months of the year--especially in the winter.  With layering the questions becomes: Is it fat or is it the layering?  No one knows!  That is what is nice about winter and the layering of clothing.  In the winter I like to wear sweaters, fleece, and sweat shirts to keep me warm and to hide the expanding equator of my waist.  With sweaters, fleece, and sweat shirts people have to guess--is it John or is it his clothing?  Trust me, I'm never going to tell.  I'm never going to tell because the truth is it is more me than the clothing.

The nice thing about layering clothing to keep warm is that it can be removed layer by layer whenever one is too warm.  The bad thing about layering clothing is that as the layers disappear the truth appears.  The warm weather has been pushing the issue lately.  The warm weather has been demanding a switch over to the lighter and thinner clothing of spring and summer.  This is not something I am looking forward to as it will expose me for what I have become--the Pillsbury Doughboy!  Yeah, I know, that is a scary picture!

This issue brings me to my annual lament--EXERCISE!  Just the thought of exercising makes my body hurt and cry out in pain.  The idea of adding another hour to my day to put myself through the rigors of exercise has me shutting down in the recliner in front of the television with a bag of chips and a ice cold micro-brew discerning whether or not it is worth the effort.  If fashion designers would make spring and summer clothing that could be layered and still provide the necessary cooling for the warmth--shoot, I'd invest millions in that clothing line and keep my figure under wraps all year round!  But, they do not.  Exercise and dieting come to mind as the only reasonable solution to the problem. 

Ouch!  Exercise does not sound reasonable.  It sounds costly, time consuming, and painful.  I think this is something I need to sit back and contemplate a little more . . . besides I still have a six-pack in the refrigerator.  Maybe it will snow yet!

Adding to the dilemma is the fact that the warmer weather makes people want to start wearing shorts.  It is blinding what we Montanans have to put up with as people begin to wear shorts after a long, cold winter of being covered up.  Instead of the threat of snow blindness we have skin blindness.  I know I will be among those who are guilty of this offense.  My legs are whiter than white after a long, cold winter.  It is a scary picture isn't it?  Hey, if this weather keeps up the shorts will be out soon and the world will wish that there were laws against such cruel and unusual sight. Yeah, there should be laws against that or at least mandatory sunglasses until mid-June or July when the tans actually begin to happen.

 And so it is that I have the "I Can't Believe It's Spring/Summer Blues".  I'm sitting in my recliner, sipping my beer and munching my chips humming those warm weather blues.  I know what I need to do . . . but the blues sound so good.  I guess I will just have to accept it and go with the flow--there is just more of me to love than there was before.  Oh winter, where art thou?  I miss you!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Venus Kicks Mars Butt

Just about every day I am reminded that women do many things better than men.  I work in an office with ten women--I am the only male in the office.  Trust me, I know my place.  Experience, though, is not the only evidence I need to understand that women do many things better than men . . . no, MSN.com (http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/live-your-dream/slideshow?cp-documentid=32497722#1) shared a story from Cosmopolitan magazine about a recent study that states this fact.  The story lists ten things that women do better than men.  Shoot, they could have asked me and I could have told them that there are hundreds of things that women do better than men!

According to the article, women are evolving hotter than men.  Now if the article was referring to body temperature I might have argued, but it was referring to looks.  The article states that through evolution women have gotten better looking than men through the generations, while men have basically remained the same in the looks department.  I am not sure as to the reason why this happens, maybe it was because men were so good looking the women had to catch up--but I am probably wrong on that account.  The bottom line is that women are getting better looking while we men are struggling to hang onto what we got.

Women survive car accidents more often than men.  At first this one floored me . . . it floored me because of all the women I have driven by who were multitasking when I drove by.  I have seen women eating, applying make-up, talking on the cell phone, and fiddling with the radio--all at once!  I guess if you are distracted enough an accident wouldn't even phase you.  I guess if we men were not rubber necking at all the women while we were driving we probably would avoid more accidents, and thus survive more of them.  I also think that we men are more adventurous and risk-taking than women--especially here in Montana during the winter.  We have four-wheel drive and we can go anywhere!  Boys never grow up!

Women are better at seeking comfort--DUH!  When there is a problem men react without thinking.  We pound the crud out of whoever is making us uncomfortable and then ask, "Do you understand now?"  Women are more apt to talk about their problems and what is stressing them.  Men . . . well, we get into cars, drive fast, have accidents, and hope we survive.  Women, nearly two-to-one, talk their problems out.  Most men would never admit they had a problem as they kick the dog.

Women are more recession proof than men.  In this recent men have suffered the greatest loss--80 percent of the jobs that were canned were jobs men had.  The article suggested that maybe men needed to start working in those fields that have been traditionally been seen as women's careers--jobs like teaching and nursing.  After a couple of years of doing professional development for teachers--and being a man--I can honestly say that teaching is not an area I would want to go into.  I am not tough enough . . . teaching is tough.  Women are tougher than men, I will give them that because it is true.  Hey, they have to put up with men.  Nursing . . . it involves needles.  I don't like needles.  Enough said.

Notice anything wrong with the picture above?  There is no male in the picture.  There is no male in the picture because women graduate from college more often than men.  Now this might be because there are more women in college, but the study showed that despite that more women actually finish their college degrees.  Also, they take less time in doing so.  Now from personal experience I will put my college and graduate school record up against any woman as far as graduating and graduating on time . . . but I did notice, even in seminary, that there sure were a lot of women standing around me as we graduated.  Women are smart . . . they are hard working . . . and they take this stuff a lot more serious than men do.

In the picture above I see lunch . . . with the wife and the women I work with this is nothing more than a heart attack waiting to happen.  Women eat healthier than men.  I can attest to that.  In fact, I am reminded of this on a daily basis.  At work the women marvel in disgust at what I eat . . . at home the wife reminds me that I need to eat healthier.  Women want to live a long time, I just a good meal that tastes good.  I just want to live.  They all look good, I have the northern hemisphere migrating south.  There is no doubt that women eat healthier than men . . . but you know until they make a yogurt that tastes like prime rib . . .

Women have stronger immune systems.  They handle illness better than men.  Men are babies when they get sick.  Me, well, when I get sick I just want to crawl off and die in privacy.  I don't want to hear the lecture that if I only ate better, took better care of myself, drove slower . . . yada, yada, yada . . . from the wife.  It is a quicker and less painful death to just crawl into the bedroom and die.  But the article states that women have a secret weapon that allows them to be less impervious to illness--estrogen.  We men are lacking in the estrogen department, but my understanding is that age equals this one out.  This, though, carries with it a whole new set of circumstances that shortens the lives of most men--menopause!  I think I had better stop while I am ahead on this one.

Women live longer than men . . . obviously this is true for various reasons.  The article states that women live five to ten years longer than men.  My flippant response--and what is most obvious to men--is that it is because women don't have to live with men.  Now, having said that, I suspect that the majority of the women in my life will take offense to that and let me know.  In their letting me know I will lose at least five years of my life expectancy.  Again, this is probably due to the fact we men are adventurous and risk takers who don't know when to keep our mouths shut!  Remember, women have less accidents, eat healthier, have better immune systems, and are not afraid of dealing with their problems.  Men, well . . . oh, look!  A pretty ball!

Women are better managers especially in today's economy.  No arguments from me in this department.  I am amazed on a daily basis at how well the office I work in runs . . . and, trust me, it sure has very little to do with me.  Women are better listeners, problem solvers, and multitaskers than men.  Shoot, they handle everything better than men.  Once again, from personal experience, I am in awe of the women in my life and at how well they handle life.

And, lastly, women are better investors than men.  The financial portfolios of women out-perform the portfolios of men by a two-to-one margin.  On this one I plead the fifth amendment--or is the fifth of Jack Daniels--as the wife always has the checkbook.  I do have to admit that the wife can stretch a dollar a lot further than I ever could . . . men and money seem to be soon departed.  Women are more cautious about their investments.  We men are more apt to buy a fast car, drive recklessly, and have an accident.  Women survive more accidents than men . . . obviously, then, they are going to have better portfolios than men.

Now I do not put much stock in the validity of Cosmopolitan magazine when it comes to scientific studies about men and women.  It is not coming out of a leading research university or think tank, but I cannot dispute their findings.  My experience is that women pretty much kick the butts of men . . . I know because my wife has told me . . . the ten women I work with have told me.  Who am I to argue with the authorities?

Men and women are wired differently.  I see and experience this on a daily basis.  The women in my life remind me of this on a daily basis.  I guess I was a "mamma's boy" growing up, and my mamma taught me that if "mamma wasn't happy ain't no body happy."  Because of that I have a healthy respect for the women in my life.  They bring to me a dimension that magnifies and makes my life that much better.  I appreciate the women in my life as they make my life better.  I've got to . . . I've got to because I will never be able to beat them!  It is better to love them than to sit in the proverbial dog house.  Besides, this is what a woman told me:

That probably explains why women kick the butts of men.  Whatever the case, as I stated earlier, I appreciate and love the women in my life.  God has blessed me abundantly in that area . . .

Thank God for women . . . where would we men be without them!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Potpourri

Potpourri . . . I think it is a French word that means "moan and groan" or "bitch and complain".  Actually it means a mixture of things--often not related--thrown together to create something unique.  I kind of like my original understanding of it in French, but either way it will work for this blog.  I have a few things I am thinking of, but nothing that would constitute a whole blog topic--thus, potpourri.

 Gas prices continue to climb in our area and the rest of the world.  I read this evening in Time magazine that the a big part of the problem is that the rest of the world has started to use more and more gas, thus driving up the cost of gas in our country.  This continues to happen even though we Americans are using less and less of the stuff.  I think it is pure greed, but what do I know.  I know that there is supposedly plenty of gas available and the prices continue to rise.  As I was filling up my vehicle this evening I was reminded of that scene with Al Pacino from Dog Day Afternoon.  It was the scene where he is negotiating with the police and he keeps telling the police to "kiss me."  This confuses the police as they don't understand what he means.  Finally he tells them, "I liked to be kissed when I am being ****ed!"  Crude, but probably what most of us feel when fueling our vehicles.  I know, wah, wah, wah!

Slush . . . what a wonderful surprise when I woke up this morning, prepared to go to the big city to work at the university, and discovered that it was slushing!  Actually it was snowing, but as soon as it hit the ground it was slush--three to five inches of slush.  Now I enjoy a nice slush--typically cherry flavored--but this was not that kind of slush.  It was a steady forty to fifty miles speed all the way into the big city.  Now this is not all that bad except for all those speed demons who don't know how to drive in the slush.  Hey, what do they care?  They've got four-wheel drive and can handle anything . . . at least that is what they keep saying as they slide off in the ditch.  I appreciate the spray as they go blazing by . . . I appreciate how they think driving with their high beams and fog lights will make it easier for them to see the ditch as they slide off . . . and, I hope they appreciate my sign language.  I guess it is appropriate that no one else is in the truck with me--my ordination is still safe.

Typically a slushy snow storm usually means that we Montanans are entering into that period off weather when Mother Nature cannot decide whether or not she is going with winter or spring.  This morning started out in near blizzard conditions (northern Montana was in a blizzard) and ended with all the snow melted due to the warm temperatures.  I guess that is probably why most Montanans dress in layers--we are prepared for whatever Mother Nature throws our way.  Yet, at the same time, it would be nice if she would make up her mind one way or another--WINTER or SPRING?  I don't care which one, but make a decision and stick to it!

Peyton Manning is to become a Denver Bronco--who cares?  Probably Peyton as they are offering a minimum of 90 million dollars over five years to play for them.  Ninety million dollars . . . I think that is the state budget for Montana.  That is a lot of moo-la for just playing a game that has no relevance (outside of pure entertainment) in most of our lives--it is a game!  Good for him, he has succeeded in living the American Dream and has used its economics to get what he wanted.  For those of you out there now fearing that Tim Tebow could be coming to your team . . . well, I'm sorry.  I'm sorry because I think the Broncos should keep Tebow and use him as a running back who can play a little quarterback.  With Manning as the quarterback and Tebow as the running back it could be quite an awesome combination.  Denver could win all around on this one and it would lessen the stress of my clergy friend in Bozeman worrying that Tebow is going to Miami.  Blessings come in all shapes and sizes.

Despite the fact that my children are all involved in the March Madness of the NCAA basketball tournament, I have once again succeeded in avoiding filling our a bracket.  One has to wonder what all this is really about--is it about the basketball being played or is it about the brackets (gambling) that are being filled out?  I would hope it is about the basketball being played, but something tells me that it is otherwise . . . especially when every person I hear keeps telling me that their "bracket is busted" and they are out of the running.  I just like the basketball.  I would love the opportunity to follow a team through the tournament--from start to end.  It should be about the game--favorite teams--and the love of a bunch of kids putting their all on the line, not about whether or not I still have teams left in the race for the over all best bracket.  I know . . . wah, wah, wah!

Last little bit of potpourri . . . MUD.  Slush in snow with lots of moisture, lots of moisture.  Moisture makes mud--especially in our back yard.  The dogs like to run in the yard, which means they run in the mud.  The mud gets on their paws and legs.  They love it, we hate it.  We have light brown carpeting in the house.  Mud shows up on it well.  We should have gotten mud colored carpeting, but we weren't thinking.  This muddy season now entails us washing the dogs off every time they come in from being out. They don't like and neither do we.  We are seriously talking about getting mud color carpeting or boots for the dogs--the carpeting is winning.  In the meantime we clean paws.  Mud sucks!

I know, this truly is a potpourri of whining and complaining about pretty much nothing at all . . . and, that is okay.  It is okay because at least for a few minutes I stopped thinking about those serious things I am always thinking about in my life--NO, not world peace, justice, and equality for all living human beings!  No, not that stuff . . . stuff like: I wonder if Rogaine really works--I could use some!  You know, the things that matter.  In the meantime, I am thankful that my life is really not that bad.  I have a family that loves me, a church I enjoy serving, and a God who loves me.  Oh yeah, plus I hope that my Minnesota Vikings don't end up with Tim Tebow!  Oui,oui, this is truly potpourri!

Newspaper Etiquette

system of rules and conventions that regulate social and professional behaviour. In any social unit there are accepted rules of behaviour upheld and enforced by legal codes; there are also norms of behaviour mandated by custom and enforced by group pressure. An offender faces no formal trial or sentence for breach of etiquette; the penalty lies in the disapproval of other members of the group. (Encyclopedia of Britannica, 2008)

I consider myself a newspaper purist.  I have always enjoyed a good newspaper . . . though I have rarely lived in an area with good newspapers.  Despite that, I still enjoy newspapers and attempt to peruse the newspaper with a sense of purpose and decorum. Because of this I believe that there is a sense of  etiquette which one must practice when reading the tomb.

Too often etiquette is associated with those social skills that we teach children as they grow up.  Such etiquette involves teaching children proper manners like when it is appropriate to burp and when it is not.  I'm all for this sort of etiquette, but I think it goes beyond the mere rules of table manners and social graces.  I like that it also encompasses the "norms of behaviour mandated by custom and enforced by group pressure" according to the writers of the Encyclopedia of Britannica.  I like that because my understanding of "newspaper etiquette" falls under this broad definition and understanding.  There is a proper way to read and handle a newspaper! 

The first rule of newspaper etiquette is that it must be remembered that the newspaper is read by more than one--there are others beside the first person up who reads the paper.  Because there are others who read the newspaper the practice of the Boys and Girls Scouts should be practiced--leave it better than you found it.  True, that involves camp grounds but at the same time a newspaper should not be any worse than it was after one reading than when it was delivered.  

This first rule of newspaper etiquette is often broken at our house much to my dismay.  Because I am the first one out of the house each morning I am unable to read the paper before I leave.  This leaves the paper open to anyone and everyone else in the house who wants to read it.  The wife often tears it apart and removes the section with the daily crossword puzzle.  The son grabs the sports page.  Thankfully the dogs don't really care for the paper.  What is left behind is a pile of paper in every conceivable arrangement but the one in which it was deliver.  Way too often I have had to do a scavenger hunt to find all the paper before reading it.  This is sacrilegious--it is newspaper blasphemy--a crime punishable by having to watch Fox News for an eternity!  Despite my most biblical laments this behavior does not change--not even disapproval works!  

The second rule of newspaper etiquette involves the actual reading of the newspaper.  There is a certain way in which a newspaper should bed read and it is as follows: the funny papers, the front page and national/international news, the local news, the special sections, then the sports section, and the rest can go into the trash.  That is the proper way in which I read a newspaper . . . unless it is college football season.  In that case I read the funnies first, sports second, and the rest in proper order as described above.  The only problem I have with this is that the local big city paper, we won't name any names Billings Gazette, cannot decide where to put the comics.  This really screws up the way that one reads a paper when the paper's publisher seems to think it should be a game of "hide and seek" when it comes to the daily comics.  Our newspaper likes to print the comics on a page that is removable (I guess that is for easier reading in the library of most homes--the Thunder Dome).  The problem is that that page can be in just about any section of the paper.  It is never in the same section two days in a row.  It is always a "search and destroy" mission which leaves the paper in disarray and breaks the first rule of newspaper etiquette.  This should be punishable by having to listen to Rush Limbaugh non-stop until one's ears bleed (that should only take about thirty minutes).  The comics are sacred and the local paper treats them like a holy grail that must be sought for enlightenment--shame on them!

The third rule of newspaper etiquette in my world (located between my ears) is that nothing should be removed from any section before everyone has had a chance to read that section.  There is nothing worse than starting a story on the first page of a section and turning to finish it on another page only to discover that it had disappeared into thin air!  The primary culprit of this breach of newspaper etiquette is the wife.  The wife does the daily crossword puzzle and in order for her to do it she has to remove it from the newspaper.  Most often it is removed from a section of the paper from which I usually find the most interesting article--especially on Thursdays when it is in the "outdoors" section.  The wife has no qualms about ripping the crossword puzzle out of any section to accomplish the task of completing it.  Then, to rub my nose in it, knowing good and well she is breaking the third etiquette rule, she asks me to help answer the clues for the words on her crossword puzzle!  All I really want to do is to finish the article on how much wood a woodchuck can chuck in the outdoor section, not answer some cryptic word puzzle.

Other minor rules of newspaper etiquette are: remember that the "letters to the editor" are opinions of people who have way too much free time on their hands and need to learn to write blogs--they are opinions, NOT FACTS.  Read them for the entertainment they are.  The classifieds make great starters for the fire pit and to line bird cages.  Advertisements are the last thing I want to read.  The religion section is slanted--usually to one point of view and heaven help those who oppose it.  Pictures are worth a thousand words, but rarely do they tell the whole story.  Don't touch your glasses while reading the paper--newspaper ink is a pain to get off of lenses.  Dear Abby, Heloise, and Ask the Doctor, along with the daily television guide are always on the back side of the comics--which no one can find easily.

But I guess I shouldn't complain if no one chooses to follow my proper rules of newspaper etiquette.  Since I have started working so early in the day I have discovered that there is an internet version of the local paper which I can read . . . and, so I do.  I read it five days of the week on the computer.  The only thing missing is the comics, but the computer has also been gracious enough to provide me with several sites which have actually broaden my selection of funnies.  True, there are about three that I can only get in the actual printed newspaper, but otherwise I pretty much get them all emailed to me on a daily basis.  Now I am discovering that I pretty much can read the whole newspaper online, it isn't quite the same but it gets the job done.  If it had a crossword puzzle online with it I would probably quit subscribing to it.  True, I do miss the paper feeling in my hands.  But most of all, I miss being able to gripe and complain that someone has messed up MY paper everyday--especially when that last little bit of the article is on the backside of the crossword puzzle!  Oh well!

Friday, March 9, 2012


Like a lot of people I imagine that a robber is some masked individual with a gun taking my riches--sort of like Yosemite Sam in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons.  Well, maybe not quite like Yosemite Sam, but at least wearing a mask and carrying a big gun.  The truth is though, I have never actually been robbed in the classic sense--no one has ever held me up.  Up in my mind I have encountered a few robbers over the span of my life, but instead of a mask and a big gun they are out in plain sight and hide behind a cash register or fancy Madison Avenue advertising.

In the last couple of weeks the robbers I have encountered and being losing my riches to are the big oil companies that sell gasoline.  In the past two weeks gas prices have risen a whopping fifty cents--usually jumping up a dime at a time--from $2.95/gallon to $3.45/gallon.  It took nearly six months for gas prices to get below $3.00/gallon only dropping pennies a week, and only two weeks to see all of that disappear.  Which confuses me . . . confuses me because I thought that we consumers had reduced our consumption for the crude by nearly twenty percent over the past year or two . . . confuses me because the world demand for the crude has gone down . . . confuses me because there is an abundance of crude available at the present time . . . and confuses me because despite the dip in prices in the past six months, the oil companies still showed ungodly profits.  Why in the world are gas prices skyrocketing out of control to new heights and depths in my pockets?  Something smells and it isn't just the two oil refineries in our area.

This feels like robbery--plain and simple.  The oil companies continue to rake in outrageous profits while everyone else hasn't seen a raise in income in years.  There is something morally wrong about this, but it is the American Way--it is the law of economics, which is the American Way.  On those grounds it is hard to argue with what is going on because that is just good business, or so I have been told.  But when is enough enough?  How much profit does one need?  This is greed . . . and it is scary.

It is scary because of the "domino effect".  Rising gas costs make other things rise in price.  The food that we eat will rise in price.  Household goods will increase in price.  Travel will increase.  Services will increase.  Life will become more and more expensive to live as the dominoes start to fall--where will it all end?  Probably when most of us are in the poor house . . . and that is scary.  Scary because we are living in shaky times and the prospects of the poor growing in population is very real.  As I see it, this is robbery all for the sake of greed.

One blogger who writes for website Money Crashers--Your Guide to Financial Fitness offers several solutions for the rising cost of gas.  Heather Levin recommends the following:

1. Switch to a high MPG car.  Seems like a good idea if I could afford one.  Remember this is big business and the American Way that we are dealing with--economic reality.  High mileage cars are suddenly going to be in demand and the prices for them are going to shoot to the moon.  If I can't afford the gas how in the world am I going to afford the car?

2. Find alternate ways to heat your home.  She suggest putting in a wood stove as one way to combat rising prices in crude.  Well, I need wood to burn.  The wood is in the forest on the mountain about a half-hour from my home which means I have to drive my truck.  My truck runs on gas.  Gas cost money.  Seems like a vicious circle--sort of like running in place.  It feels like your going somewhere but you are not!  Besides I kind of like the trees in the forest.  Domino Effect on this one.

3. Grow your own food.  This one won't work.  I have a brown thumb and gardening experiments in the past have ended badly--we would starve if we had to rely upon my agricultural skills.  It is sort of like fishing.  I do my fishing at the Red Lobster or Long John Silvers!  My food comes from the local grocery store where someone else has grown it.

4. Buy some food in bulk.  Most of the bulk of food hangs over my belt.  The bulk food sellers in our area are 45 minutes away by car.  The car takes gas.  Gas costs money.  Domino effect anyone?  Besides the wife once bought oatmeal in bulk and we had everything and anything oatmeal for months!  I can only eat so many oatmeal raisin cookies!  Which seems to correlate with the sudden bulk slumping over the belt.

5. Learn how to can your own food.  Heck, I just learned how to open a can of food.  Now I am suppose to learn how to can my own food!  I don't think so!

6. Walk, take public transportation, or ride a bike.  It is difficult to walk to work when work is nearly 40 miles from where I live, but I do enjoy walking.  Walking is good for you--makes sense if you are not a commuter, but it would increase the shoe budget by quite a bit.  Probably wouldn't save much if I was having to replace shoes every couple of months.  Public transportation--what is that?  Is that the same thing as bumming a ride with the neighbor?  There is not a lot of public transportation in a town of 600.  Ride a bike--sounds like exercise.  Good idea but lets get real--this is Montana.  Nine months of winter, one month of rain, and two months of beautiful weather. 

I guess I am going to have to face reality and accept the fact that I am just going to continue to get robbed.  Gas prices are going to continue to sprint towards that five dollar prediction everyone is talking about.  My wallet is going to continue to grow slimmer and the ol' bank account is going to shrink.  That retirement fund I have in the bank has now become the family gas fund--there will be no retirement for me.  I will have to work just to put gas in the car.  Yeah, it torques me off.  Yeah, it doesn't make sense to me.  And, yeah, I could be totally off base with everything that I have written . . . but, you know what?  It just feels good to complain.  Plus I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  I know that there are a lot of others who feel the same way.  This is not an exclusive club.  We all know robbery when it happens and this is definitely robbery.  At least when Yosemite Sam robs you you can laugh--he's a cartoon character.  When big oil does it there is nothing to laugh at.  The least they could do is wear a mask.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The "WORD"

I don't advocate violence for solving issues--no matter how big or small the issue might be.  At least that is what I think now, but there have been a few times when I resorted to violence.  In my life time I would say that I have had three fist fights--of which I like to think of myself as having a record of 2 and 1, and there may be those who disagree but my opponents are long gone and cannot dispute the facts as I remember them.  As I have written many times, the older I get the better I was.  In another ten years my record will probably be 3 and 0!  But the fact it has been many, many years since I believed in violence to settle an issue.

Of those three fights the first one was probably the most noble one.  The second one occurred when I got tired of a friend making fun of me and I walloped him with a couple of quick punches.  It surprised me when he fell down and started crying like a baby.  Since his father was my father's best friend I worried about what was going to happen to me when he told on me.  The third fight was basically the same sort of thing--I got tired of the class bully picking on me and told him to knock it off.  Which he was more than willing to do once we got off the bus.  We introverts need to remember to ask ourselves, "Did we say that out loud or was that just in our heads?"  It was out loud.

The fight was short.  I figured I had only one shot against the guy who was at least a foot taller than me and outweighed me by 50 pounds--I had to hit him in the mouth which we loaded with braces.  So that is what I did--punched him right in the mouth.  There was blood and everything.  There is a reason why they say one should leave sleeping dogs alone . . . needless to say the next couple of minutes were not pleasant.  I got whooped.  I hurt for a week.  But the nice thing was no one every picked on me again--no one wanted to mess with the crazy kid!

The first fight was when I was eight or nine years old.  We were in the neighbor's yard playing some sort of a game.  At that stage of the game I was not one of the most athletic kids--usually I was the one who got picked last.  Apparently I did something during the game that was good for our team, but really irritated the other team--especially one guy whose father worked with my father.   Whatever it did brought the kid's ire on me.  Instead of attacking me directly he began making fun of my brother--started calling him a "retard".

Well, the fact is my brother has Cerebral Palsy.  Cerebral Palsy has nothing to do with intellectual disability.  My brother was not "retarded".  Something snapped within me and I was all over the kid.  All the while I was punching him I was yelling, "He's not retarded!"  Needless to say it was a messy scene, but I think that the kid got the point.  Words do hurt . . . and they can hurt for a long, long time.

 Pretty much my whole life I have advocated for people with disabilities--partly because my brother had a disability, and partly because I really do not like the way that most people treat those who are different than others.  I have never liked using words to separate people--words like "retard".  These words are unacceptable in my life and in the house I share with my family and friends.  So are other words that put people down because of who God created them to be.  Those sorts of words are fighting words.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon the discovery yesterday that it was the designated day to "Spread the word to end the word".  "Spread the Word to End the Word" is an ongoing effort by Special Olympics, Best Buddies and our supporters to raise the consciousness of society about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard(ed)” and encourage people to pledge to stop using the R-word. The campaign, created by youth, is intended to engage schools organizations and communities to rally and pledge their support at www.r-word.org and to promote the inclusion and acceptance of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The founders of the "Spread the Word to End the Word:--two college students named Soeren Palumbo (Notre Dame 2011) and Tim Shriver (Yale 2011)--state: "Respectful and inclusive language is essential to the movement for the dignity and humanity of people with intellectual disabilities.  However, much of society does not recognize the hurtful, dehumanizing and exclusive effects of the word 'retard(ed)'."

I couldn't agree more with the movement and its goal--the "R-word" has to go.  So do a lot of other words as they relate to age, sex, gender, ability/disability, culture, education, financial standing, and on and on the list could go--what someone once said were all the "ism" words. Life is tough enough without having the added burden of being excluded and prejudiced against--these words have got to go.  I gladly joined in yesterday to "spread the word".  

As nice as it is to call attention to this issue on one special day a year, it is not enough.  It has to be an everyday part of all of our lives.  It is necessary for us to become conscious of our "words" as we speak them and our "actions" as we live them.  Violence doesn't only come in the form of physical harm, but it also comes in the form of the words that we speak and the actions or inaction we take.  A bruise will eventually go away, a spiritual bruise never leaves.  

I have, for years, have witnessed the cruelty of the world towards those who are different.  I have seen it first hand when it came to my brother and to my own sons.  The "R-word" hurts . . . it hurts for a lifetime. I hope that you would join me in spreading the word to end all  words that are used to hurt and separate.  Join the crusade by signing up at:

Real change only begins when it begins within ourselves first and spreads out to include others.  This is your invitation to be a part of change to make the world a better place.  If it does not begin with ourselves how can we ever expect anyone else to change.  Spread the word to end the word(s).  Not only yesterday, today, or tomorrow but every day.