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, November 24, 2012

Growing Up?

A couple of days ago the wife informed me that two of our sons (the youngest and oldest) wanted to put the Christmas lights on the house as a gift to me this year . . . and, she informed me that I would let them.  How is any good husband supposed to respond to such a statement?  With a “Yes, dear.”

At the breakfast table I informed the boys that they needed to go across the street to the neighbors and ask if they could borrow a ladder to get on the roof of the house.  These are neighbors that neither one knows, but I figured that they were adults. It was about time for them to introduce themselves and learn how to borrow something.  It is not often that we have “whine” with breakfast, but we did this morning.  I had mental flashback to about twenty years ago . . . I ended up getting the ladder myself and hauling it back over . . . so much for giving ol’ Dad the day off.

Next the two of them hauled the sack with the Christmas lights in them up onto the roof, strung them out across the pitch, and declared that they were ready to start hanging them on the gutters.  I asked if they had plugged them in to check to see if they would light up.  The response was: “Oh, do you mean we were supposed to do that?”  Duh!  I could only do what any good Keener male could do . . . I rolled my eyes and whispered to God, “Help me!”

As they dragged the lights across the roof to the backside where the nearest electrical outlet was, I cringed . . . Christmas lights are notoriously easy to break . . . Thank goodness, they all lit up!  So, it was drag the lights back across the roof to the front of the house where they meticulously laid them out above the clutters ready to clip on.  They did this while the dogs and I went to get the mail.

First thing I noticed when I got back from the post office with the dogs was that they had begun to clip them up backwards . . . they had the wrong end of the lights on the wrong end  of the house.  We would have needed about two hundred feet of extension cords to make their arrangement work.  I pointed this out . . . which brought a bunch of laughter from the boys, with the oldest one declaring, “See, I told you Dad would tell us we were doing it wrong!”  Of course, the youngest piped in, “Mom said this is the way it is supposed to go.”  I assured them that they were wrong, as I have been the one to put the lights up each year.  Once again, the lights had to be unhooked, turned around, and the whole process begun one more time. 

Eventually they got them strung up . . . I did the extension cord from the roof to the outlet on the side of the house . . . primarily because I could see in my mind the two of them leaning over the house, arguing about how to string the cord, and falling to their deaths.  At least if it happened to me, I couldn’t blame anyone else.

Since they were in such a “giving” mood I informed them that they could clean the gutters out . . . now we had “whine” on the roof . . . sounds like some sort of song, doesn’t it?  The youngest went off to get the hose from the garage, but instead of carrying up to the roof, he stood on the ground . . . twirling one end around and around . . . until he pitched it to his older brother on the roof.  It only took three tries before they got it.  Then the oldest shoved the hose down the spouts and pushed . . . and pushed . . . and pushed.  I suggested that he use a little more hose.  He yelled down at his brother to untwine some more hose.  One down, three to go.  After the second one there was a mini-celebration . . . they were done!  “Don’t forget the gutters on the back side of the house.”  Some celebrations don’t last very long.

Instead of pulling the hose to the top of the house, the youngest and oldest walked the edge of the roof to the back side of the house . . . the youngest had to navigate one corner, climb one fence, and then another corner before the two of them reached their destination.  Then came the shove, shove, shove . . . until the gutters were cleaned.  The celebration commenced once again . . .

. . . until I took advantage of their “giving” spirit one more time.  “Hey, guys!  How about you rake the leaves up along the fence?”   By then I was looking for some cheese to go with the whine.  But, they did rake the leaves . . . filled up two big, black garbage bags . . . which probably would have fit into one bag, but hey!  They were doing the raking . . . I would stomp them down later after they put them in the garbage container.  Despite their reluctance to do any more “giving”, I did get them to put their mother’s sand bags in the back of her truck . . . they only busted one.

Then I only had one more act of “giving” that I wanted from the two of them.  I wanted them to take the stack of cardboard from the garage to the recycling bin behind the supermarket.  Then I wanted them to go into the supermarket, go to the chips aisle, and get me some “white popcorn”.  I even gave them three dollars to purchase the “white popcorn”.  Off they went . . .

. . . fifteen minutes later they returned and I heard laughter upstairs in the house.  Their mother was laughing at them . . . they had returned with a bag of “white cheddar cheese popcorn”.  They wanted three more dollars to go back and get the right popcorn—the stuff you have to pop yourself—the white kind!  I refused . . . told them to take it back and get the right stuff.  Ten minutes later they returned . . . with the “white popcorn” and a six-pack of beer.  The white cheddar cheese popcorn was still on the table . . . they insisted that their other brother—the middle son, would eat it.  They were too embarrassed to exchange it for the right kind of popcorn . . . cost them about three times as much to do it their way, but I do appreciate the beer.

And, then . . . it was over.  The “giving” session was over.  The lights were hung, the gutters were cleaned, the leaves were raked up, the Toyota prepared for the winter, and I eventually got my white popcorn.  The comedy of errors was finished and things looked right . . . the gift was received.  The intentions were noble and good, but the desired result . . . me having a respite from the annual Thanksgiving weekend Christmas light decorating . . . well, I’m still out on that one.  I think it was more stressful watching them do what I have always done, than for me to actually get up on the roof and do it myself.  But, it was an ultimatum from the wife for me to smile and say “thank you”.  Yes, dear.
All my children have reached adulthood.  At times they act like adults and do adult things, at other times . . . like whenever they gather together for the holidays or some big event, it only takes a day or two before they revert to their childhood years.  I see it when we are sitting around the dining room table breaking the bread . . . it comes is the kidding around . . . comes in the laughter . . . comes in the whining.  Even though there are adults around the table, I see my children ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago around that table.  Those were good times then, and they are good times now.

I am not sure which was the gift today . . . the putting up of the Christmas lights or the memories it evoked.  I guess I should take them both . . . the kids are becoming adults and some day they just might grow up.  In the meantime, I am thankful.  Thanks, guys!   

Thursday, November 22, 2012

If . . .

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

I am not real big on the “traditional” myth of Thanksgiving with the pilgrims and Indians . . . the real story is too gruesome and heartbreaking to buy into that first Thanksgiving—ask any Native American.  Yet, here I am taking advantage of that observance . . . sitting around the house as it is filled with the aroma of roasting turkey and all the trimmings . . . joking around with the family, laughing, and telling big stories . . . enjoying the beauty of the day.  It is a good reprieve from the busyness of daily life . . . a respite of sorts.  For this opportunity, I give thanks.

I probably do not say it often enough . . . thank you.  Two simple words with the power to change lives with its mere utterance.  A verbal acknowledgement of gratefulness for the gifts, blessings, and joys of life that pop into our lives more often than we are aware.  I probably do not say it enough . . .

Later the family will gather around the table . . . the meal will have been lovingly prepared . . . and, we will pause for a moment, share what we are thankful for, and give a grace to bless the food . . . then we will dig in.  As each member of the family shares his or her words of thanksgiving, we will hear how  appreciative folks are for the day, for family, for jobs, and for the food that we are about to eat.  At least for one day we will remember to give “thanks” . . . as superficial as it might sound to those gathered around the table.  But, will we remember to offer “thanks” tomorrow?

In workshops I have conducted I have discovered that if I ask people to brainstorm ideas that all of them can easily come up with five or six items to share.  Typically the group pretty much produces the same list of items.  Those are the “pat” answers that all of us know . . . thanks for the day, family, friends, and food.  To really get at some fresh and new ideas I challenge those in the workshops I conduct to come up with a list of fifteen to twenty ideas . . . to take the time to really consider the issue . . . to get beyond the obvious and encounter the life of the challenge.  Around the table on Thanksgiving Day we rarely get beyond the obvious, but I believe there is so much more to give “thanks” for as we pause on this day to “give thanks”.  Thus it is that I and probably everyone else do not give “thanks” often enough.

I want to acknowledge that I am: thankful for today (it is beautiful, yet chilly day in Montana and the mountains are marvelous); thankful for the family that has gathered for I truly love them (and I miss the ones that could not be with us—we are not quite complete); thankful for the food that we are going to eat (despite the fact that turkey is pretty close to chicken on foods that have over-extended their welcome in my diet); and, thankful for having a job, friends, good health, a functioning brain (those there are those who question this one), and a winning football team in the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers (I can say that today as they don’t play until tomorrow).  To these, I say “thank you”.

But . . . is it enough?  Probably not.

As I have scanned Facebook, Twitter, and various other social media and blogs, I have been impressed with the things and people that have been given “thanks” today.  With those examples of gratefulness I want to also say “thanks” to: my impetus for the ministry—Bob Chance, who has been loving and supportive of me and the ministry I have chosen—even though we have not always been in the same zip code geographically or theologically . . . I would not be here today if it were not for his belief in me; to those individual friends over the years—Wayne, Tom, Ken, Jim, and Dave . . . individuals who stood by me, played with me, dreamed with me, and put up with me . . . and are still there today even though none of live near each other.  I am thankful for my wife who has stood beside me even when I did not want to stand beside myself . . . she is loving, challenging, and big hearted.  I am thankful for our new family members and the host of extended family that have been brought into my life . . . they have raised the bar of hospitality and love for each of us . . . and, they are a lot of fun to hang around with.  For a granddaughter known . . . and, unknown.  Sometimes in life we are not dealt the cards as we are expecting them, but we still have to play them . . . for Harper and the joy she has brought—thank you . . . for Emily, there is still that to come in time. 

The list could go on and on and on . . . and unfortunately someone will be left off . . . but, not forgotten. 

God has blessed me with life . . . with a life filled with adventure . . . with mystery . . . and with lots to contemplate and be thankful for . . . good and bad, God has blessed me.  For life, I give “thanks” to God.  Unlike my wife and many of my clergy friends, I am not a great poetic person of prayer . . . I struggle with my public prayers . . . but, I try.  I try to take to heart the simplest of all prayers . . . to say, “Thank you!”  Probably not enough . . . but, I try.  For this day, for this life, for all the people in my life . . . I give “thanks!”  Thank you, Lord for this day and every day . . .

It is a simple prayer: “Thank you!”  May we all remember it tomorrow and in the days to come. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Twinkies, Okay . . . but, Wonder Bread?

There has been a lot of uproar lately about the potential demise and death of the Hostess Twinkie . . . not to mention all of the Hostess Company’s other culinary delights: Ho Hos, CupCakes, fruit pies, Ding Dongs, donettes, and who knows what else they have created that can be stuffed with processed sugar and cream.  Hostess’s whole line of a sugar junkie’s is on the brink of riding off into the sunset if the company, its lenders, and employees can’t come to some sort of a compromise to save the company.  The nation is sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to learn the final decision . . .

. . . and, to think, I almost missed it all.  I am not a great big fan of the Hostess line of junk food.  I have never been a big fan of most of the junk food that Hostess put out . . . except after those long nights in college when I had been out partying, was low on money, and there was nothing else left to eat.  It seems that there was always a Twinkie in the house that had been hiding for months—if not years—waiting to be consumed.  I don’t think I have ever eaten a fresh Twinkie . . . most of those I consumed in my college years were often well beyond their expiration dates . . . by not months, but years.  Twinkies were more fun to step on than to eat.  If you step on a Twinkie just right the cream would shoot out several feet.  You have never lived until you have had a Twinkie stomping contest with a bunch of friends after a night on the town . . . our record was about six feet. 

Not being a fan of the Hostess junk food line it did not bother me too much to learn that it was on its death bed.  In all honesty I had no childhood connection to Twinkies, Ho Hos, or any of the sugar-laden concoctions . . . no fond memories (except for the Twinkie stomping) . . . they were all mere blips on the screen of my life.  True, an American icon is falling from our psyche, but it is not the end of the world . . . it is not like taking away all the microbrews in Montana.  I bid adieu to the Hostess sugar line . . . it was nice knowing . . . no skin off my nose . . . and, my waistline rejoices.

But, that was yesterday.  Yesterday I did not know that the Hostess Company was also makers of that fine baked delight known as Wonder Bread.  That got my attention.  I grew up on Wonder Bread.  I love Wonder Bread.  Wonder Bread was a staple of my diet for decades until the wife declared it unfit to be consumed . . . that it wasn’t “real” bread . . . and, that it was not “good” for your health . . . it was a part of some evil plot to kill all Americans through the hardening of the arteries.  

The wife made some good points.  This so-called bread wasn’t called “Wonder Bread” for nothing . . . you have to wonder about a bread that could be placed at the bottom of a grocery bag, have a water melon placed on top of it—crushing it, and bounce back to its original shape within an hour after being removed from the grocery bag.  This bread could self-inflate no matter what crushed it . . . it was the Wolverine of breads!  But, when you think about it . . . is it bread?

Also, making you wonder whether it was bread or something else was its pliable nature that allowed one to roll it into perfect little balls that you swallow, shoot at your siblings, or stick up your nose to irritate your mother.  Balls weren’t the only shape one could mold with this clay-like substance . . . I made square blocks, pyramids, snakes, and other things that always resulted with my mother telling me to quit playing with my food.  Oh yeah!  You could also smash the bread to be a thin as you wanted it to be . . . paper thin.  It was great . . . but was it bread or Play Doh?  Makes one wonder doesn’t it?  Try doing that with a loaf of hundred percent whole wheat bread that is like a brick . . . it can’t be bread . . . at least that is what the wife told me.

Yet, at the same time, it made great sandwiches . . . banana sandwiches with Miracle Whip . . . peanut butter sandwiches . . . grill cheese sandwiches . . .fried bologna sandwiches . . . ham sandwiches . . . and the bread would always stick to the roof of your mouth.  Another thing that the wife told me bread should not do.

Wonder Bread was a big part of my life, and for nostalgia’s sake, every-so-often I sneak a loaf home.  The arteries and heart moan, but relish the clog.  The tummy rejoices.  And, while no one is watching . . . I still make shapes with the bread.  I think that it is good to touch one’s roots once in a while . . . to enjoy the past . . . and, to contemplate what could have been.  Though Wonder Bread hasn’t been a big part of my life for quite a while now, it still stung to learn that it too could disappear the way of the Twinkie.

Outside of losing Wonder Bread . . . name one product that the Hostess Company made that was good for any human’s health . . . physically, that is.  Mentally and spiritually, Hostess probably hit the jackpot.  Seems to me that everything that Hostess made was more of a comfort food than anything else . . . they made us feel good (unless we took the gluttonous route and ate the whole box—then we were in a sugar induced coma).  I hope that Hostess works out its problems and continues to make at least the Wonder Bread.  Every child should have the privilege and right to have food that is fun to play with . . . a loaf of Wonder Bread is cheaper than a set of Legos.

I guess the saving grace is that Hostess products have a life-span of decades . . . only Spam outlives a Hostess product.  Hostess products live forever and if they were to stop making them completely, there would still be some hidden out there.  Hidden in places that can only be discovered after a night of heavy drinking.  Even after a decade, I bet you could stomp on a Twinkie and squirt the creamy filling out . . . maybe not six feet, but at least a foot.  You have got to hand it to Hostess, their food product may not have been the healthiest, but they sure were fun to play with.  With sadness in my heart . . . I wait . . . and, I wonder . . . bread?