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 30, 2013

Seeing Red . . . Husker Red

Seven point six million reasons why.

That is the reason that the University of Nebraska will not fire head football coach Bo Pelini this year.  That is the amount of money that it would take for the university to buy out Pelini’s remaining contract through the year 2017.  That is a lot of corn!

Like most rabid University of Nebraska Cornhusker football fans—and, I hate to admit this—the loss to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes to drop Big Red to an eight and four season, was cause enough in my corn-addled mind to fire Pelini.  It was bad enough to lose four games this year, but to lose to the Hawkeyes was almost an unpardonable sin.  Granted, the Hawkeyes are a good team . . . but, they’re Iowa!  Another corn growing state (and, for those people out there, they kick Nebraska’s butt at producing corn, too).  No one likes losing to their archrivals from across the river.  I am sure that this sounds like whining—and, it is—but, there are a lot of teams who would have seen an eight and four record as reason to celebrate (especially considering the age of the team and its uncharacteristic track record with injuries) . . . phttt!  Not a true Big Red fan though . . . this is close to blasphemy in Big Red Nation . . . especially to cap off the regular season with a loss to the Hawkeyes!

The gut reaction is to fire Pelini . . . but, 7.6 million dollars is a whole lot of money to spend to scratch an itch that probably won’t go away anytime soon.  Gut reactions are not always the best response to an issue . . . or perceived issue.  When seeing red, one does not always make the best decisions or choices.  Sometimes a person needs to step back, consider what is going on, and then make a decision.  Something the University of Nebraska is not always willing to do . . . shoot they fired Frank Solich when he was a coach after winning nine games and losing three!  They hired the flashy Bill Callahan to replace Solich, and then took a quick trip down the football toilet as he decimated the team and Big Red Nation.  This pattern is not unfamiliar in big time college football . . . but, the University of Nebraska is just not used to this pattern after having such a huge run of success at the top for so many—not years, but generations.  This supposed black spot on the Big Red reputation needs to be removed and removed now!  It hurts too much!  Cut it out now!  Fire Pelini and everything will be okay!  At least that seems to be the sentiment of many within Big Red Nation.

Again, 7.6 million seems like a big price to pay to get rid of a pain that is probably fleeting.  Remember, an eight and four record is a winning season that lots of schools would die for.  True, there is no Big Ten championship . . . there is no BCS bowl game . . . probably no New Year’s Day game . . . but, it is still a darn good record considering the season that the team and Pelini have been through.  We, within the Big Red Nation, need to shut-up and put up with a little pain . . . after all, these are the pains of growth if used right.

There are not a lot of coaches out there who would have wanted to put up with Pelini’s situation.  It seemed that player after player went down each week with injuries . . . the biggest of all was losing four-year starter at quarterback, Taylor Martinez, who set all sorts of school records on the field.  The offensive line, touted as one of the best at the start of the year, replaced almost all of the first and second teamers after racking up the injuries during games . . . I hear that Pelini even converted the ball boy to a left tackle position so that there would be some depth on the playing chart for game days.  Add to that the fact that a lot of players graduated from the team last year, and there were a lot of young, new players getting starting positions . . . and, getting injuries.  This was one of the youngest teams that Pelini has ever put on the field.  It was everything and anything that every coach goes to bed at night praying never materializes . . . Pelini lost the bet!  Lost it big time!  None of these issues are things that Pelini can control . . . poop happens.  Apparently lots of poop happened to the Cornhuskers this year.

In all honesty, this is about where I thought the Cornhuskers would end up this year at the end of the season.  In fact, they actually did better than my real self wants to admit . . . I saw them losing a couple of more games than they did.  But, that is the real me talking . . . the die-hard Big Red fan in me expected an undefeated season, a Big Ten Championship, and at a minimum a BCS bowl game if not the national championship shot.  Expect it every year . . . it is ingrained in Big Red fans.  In the heat of the moment, when I am seeing red, my gut reaction is to fire Pelini.  Fire him now!  It is a heck of a lot easier to fire the coach than to deal with the fact that with everything that was piled on this team . . . everything that this team went up against each week (including disgruntled fans) . . . that they were actually overachievers who had a pretty decent season.  Sure, it hurts not to reach unreachable expectations . . . sure, it hurts to lose to Iowa . . . but, the hurt will go away.

Husker Nation needs to get real.  Husker Nation needs to deal with its denial to do the one thing that it expects its football team to do . . . man up and own the reality that it was just not a great season to put into the annals of history, but it was not a terrible season.  Husker Nation needs to admit that this season was probably better than most of us expected in our moment of weakness prior to the season when we were being honest with the landscape of college football . . . when we were thinking we would be lucky to five football games.  Husker Nation needs to deal with the fact that unexpected things happen . . . players get hurt . . . balls bounce funny . . . and, young players make mistakes . . . that poop happens.  Husker Nation needs to realize that there are other things that matter more than football, and that the sun rises even the day after a big loss (even though it was pretty cloudy this morning after losing to Iowa).  Husker Nation needs to get real and acknowledge that it is not going to fork over 7.6 million dollars to a coach that it would love to fire . . . admit that even the most rabid Husker football fan is not going to fork over a couple of bucks to help offset the university’s expense if they do fire Pelini and take a 7.6 million dollar hit . . . that they are not going to “put up or shut up”.  Yeah, it hurts right now, but time heals everything including growth pains.

I do not like Pelini, but I also can think of 7.6 million reasons why he shouldn’t be fired.  I also think that when someone has a run of bad luck, that he or she should get a second chance . . . Pelini deserves a second chance (or is this the seventh or eighth chance?).  The fact is, no one from the university comes knocking on my door asking me for advice on how to coach or run a big-time college football program.  Sure, I see red . . . but, it is Husker Red.  I will moan and groan, but I still keep coming back no matter what the record of my beloved Huskers might be.  I imagine somewhere down the line that will become the classic definition of “crazy” . . . doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results . . . yep, that is Cornhusker football at its best!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Giving Thanks?

In a couple of days there will be a gathering in our home to celebrate a day of giving thanks . . . Thanksgiving.  Around the table will be most of the family . . . the granddaughter . . . some of the children’s in-laws and their family . . . and, the two Dachshunds.  The table will be spread with the full compliment of food befitting a Thanksgiving dinner.  There will be a turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberries and cranberry sauce, gravy, rolls, cornbread casserole . . . the whole nine-yards.  Plus it will be almost one hundred percent organic because it is good for our health, though my wallet would say that it isn’t help it much.  We will pause, join hands, and give thanks . . . and, with the “Amen” all hell will break loose.

As an introvert, crowds bother me . . . especially crowds that gather in my domain.  I like people, but not all at once.  But, this is an annual expectation from the female side of the family, and one that I must endure.  Now, do not get me wrong.  I love my family.  I love my children’s in-laws, they are practically full-fledged family—they are good people.  I love the feast.  I even love the two Dachshunds who will be hanging out by the granddaughter who hasn’t quite mastered the art of keeping her food on the plate yet.  It is just that I do not always want them all in my life at one time.  Because of that, the wife has given me ample time to prepare myself for the big day.

Part of that preparation has to do with what happens after the “Amen”.  Of course there will be the usual mauling of the turkey and all of the trimmings.  It will be the usual feast of stuffing the participants.  I can handle that . . . it is all of the stuff around the feast that I need to get a handle on . . . stuff like having to talk to one another . . . having a conversation.  I am not always great at conversation . . .

A couple of years ago, the big Thanksgiving feast took place at our daughter’s in-laws.  There were the two families, including the grandparents on her husband’s side of the family.  Our son-in-law’s grandfather is a graduate of the University of Montana in Missoula.  This makes him a great big Griz fan.  Me, well, I never grew up in Montana and thus I have no allegiance to either of the football powers in Montana . . . I don’t care to be a Griz or a Bobcat fan when it comes to football . . . I am a diehard Cornhusker fan.  Little did I realize how seriously they take their Grizzly football among the alumni. 

Taking advantage in the lull of conversation at the table I ask the son-in-law’s grandfather—the Griz fan, if he had seen the prediction for the Grizzly football season in the newspaper.  He replied no.  I said, “Nine and two . . . nine acquittals and two convictions.”  Of course that was the year that the Grizzly football team was getting into a lot of trouble with the law in Missoula.  Needless to say, Grandpa did not appreciate the joke.  Haven’t seen him at a family Thanksgiving since.  Do you see what I am trying to say?  Do you understand why I need time to prepare for these big gatherings?

I found an article about eight things that you should never say at a Thanksgiving dinner.  Those eight things are:

--“Well somebody likes the stuffing.”  I am not a stuffing person.  The wife is making the stuffing this year.  I live with the wife.  I will cram the stuffing down no matter how much I dislike it.  Thank goodness for gravy . . . gravy makes anything edible.  But, I will not be the one saying anything about any of the food on the table.  I like sleeping in my bed.

--“Do you know what they do to the turkey before it’s slaughtered?”  Well, since our turkey is organic, I imagine that it died of old age.  Most folks do not care where their food comes from . . . they just want to eat it.  As far as I know, there are no PETA carrying card members gathering around our table . . . it just has to be organic.  Our turkey is full of peace, love, and harmony.

--“Can you pass the yams, and I’m dropping out of law school.”  Yams . . . sweet potatoes . . . not coming from my lips.  I don’t like either of them.  Nor will I announce that I am dropping out of law school.  I don’t think that is the actual point behind this statement . . . the point is that one should not announce earth-moving announcements at the Thanksgiving table.  It kind of puts a damper on the festivities . . . besides, we would never allow a lawyer to the table.  Yeah, I know, we claim to be Christians, but we do have to draw the line somewhere.

--“Are you sure you need another glass of wine?”  Don’t even ask.  Yes, I need another glass of wine . . . I am an introvert and self-medicating might be the only way I make it. 

--“I’m thankful that after Tom’s affair, he and I were able to work through our issues and move forward.”  Well, good for her and Tom . . . more power to them . . . whoever they are.  Again, another bombshell dropped on the table.  Apparently bombshells are not acceptable at the Thanksgiving table . . . even acquittals and convictions.    The past is the past and it is best to leave those moans and groans there.  Besides, there will be plenty of wine to go around from the bottle.

--“And I’m thankful that most of my kids were able to take time out of their busy schedules to spend Thanksgiving with their mother (father).  Even if you can only stay for one night.”  Hey, as an introvert . . . one night is good for me.  Actually, I am quite sad that not all of my children and their spouses could make it to the big deal.  I really miss the two of them.  I also am thankful for whoever can gather around the table . . . and, if that is only for a day or two, so be it.  We will make the most of it, but I won’t complain if they have to go home early.

--“Do you have any salt?”  Hey!  This is fair game at our table.  Ever since the wife went on a health kick to keep herself and me healthy, salt has disappeared in her cooking.  Asking for salt is not a statement about the food sucking.  Far from it . . . especially for those of us who grew up salting first and asking second.  The wife keeps a shaker by my plate . . . she is a good wife.

--“I really miss Grandma’s pumpkin pie.”  Well, I miss Grandma, but she can keep the pumpkin pie.  I don’t like pumpkin pie . . . in fact, I am not even a big dessert person.  Trust me, I won’t be saying anything about the pumpkin pie other than, “Ewwww!”  Besides, I can handle the scorn of being un-American and passing on the pumpkin pie.

As good as those were, I have a few more I would add:

--Politics.  I think you understand this one. 

--Religion.  Yes, the wife and I are ordained clergy, but we just want to enjoy the food, family, and fellowship without having a debate about whether Jesus walked on water or knew where all the rocks were in the lake.

--Future plans of the adult children.  This one usually pits the children against the parents . . . expectations never mesh up with reality.

--Work.  That is something I left at the office at 5:00PM on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and there is a reason I left it there.

--Jokes about Grizzly football . . . or Nebraska football . . . or any football.

I think I will survive.  I usually do.  As I stated earlier, we will all gather at the table, join hands and give thanks . . . and, there is much to be thankful for.  For each individual gathered around our table, I am thankful that they are a part of my life.  For the food placed upon the table for the big feast, I am thankful that I have food to eat because there are many who cannot.  For the fellowship of the moment, there will be laughter, teasing, and great fun . . . I am thankful that I am not alone.  For the opportunity . . . even as an introvert . . . I am thankful.  Though I probably do not say it enough, I am thankful.  The little girl in the cartoon is right, we need to be thankful more than one day a year.  Hopefully we remember that as we give thanks.

The Biggest Barrier . . . Between the Ears

A simple definition of accessibility: The degree to which a product, device, service, or environment is available to as many people as possible.  We live in a world of varying accessibility . . . everything in life is not available to every person.  Not only do we live in a world with varying degrees of accessibility; the older I get, the accessibility grows even smaller.  This diminishing world of accessibility can be attributed to the fact that I am aging.  In growing older, I do not see as well as I once did . . . I do not hear as well as I once did . . . I am not as agile as I once was . . . and, my income is growing smaller all of the time.  All these things limit my access to different parts of the world around me.  Yet, like many out there, I believe that all things should be available to all people . . . the world that God created should be accessible to all of God’s children . . . me and you and everyone else.  We are all God’s children.

The sad fact of the matter is, the world is not as accessible as we would like it to be . . . for a variety of reasons.  We see this denial of access throughout history.  Race has always been a big barrier to access in our society . . . ask any person of color . . . ask a black person, a Hispanic person, a Native American Indian, and they would all affirm that throughout history and today they have fought for access to the world around them that has been denied because they were people of color.  Gender has been a barrier to access . . . ask a woman and she would tell you that things have been tough in gaining access to the world around them.  Ask people with disabilities and, they too, would affirm that they do not see a whole lot of access to the world around them.  Poor people could join the choir.  Gay and lesbians, too.  Elderly are beginning to feel it too.  History shows that we have had to legislate access into law to get a lot of these folks access . . . legislation that doesn’t seem to have made much difference.  The world is still pretty inaccessible to a whole lot of people.

As humans we do a real good job of talking about accessibility . . . about inclusion . . . about bringing everyone to the table for the party; but, the reality is we do not practice it as well as we preach it.  And, I believe, we are all guilty of it.  All of us know the motto of the Three Musketeers, “All for one, and one for all!”  Yet, we live in a time when we practice survival of the fittest and everyone for him or herself.  Plus, I think we are lazy.  Our laziness keeps us from truly practicing accessibility in our lives and in the world in which we exist.  Most accessibility issues are not that difficult to overcome . . . some cost a little money . . . some an investment in time . . . some cost a little effort.  But rarely do we really want to expend that much of our money, time, or effort . . . we don’t want to be bothered.  Unfortunately I think that drops it into the area of sinfulness . . . of committing a sin.  At least if one believes in M. Scott Peck’s definition of sin being taking the easy way out.  The bottom line is that as humans, the majority of us, don’t do well with accessibility . . . we either ignore it or we deny it.

I do not believe that the biggest barriers to accessibility are time, effort, and money.  I think that we have plenty of those resources at our disposal.  I think that the biggest barrier that we have to accessibility in the world in which we live is an attitude problem.  As an attitude problem the issue lies between our ears . . . it is all in our minds.  When scraping to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to issues of accessibility, it comes down to what is between our ears . . . it comes down to our attitudes. 

When I was in seminary—long before the Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) was made into law—the administration was bemoaning the fact that the seminary was required by federal law to make its building accessible to people with disabilities.  Primarily it meant putting in an elevator.  I remember hearing a professor tell a class that in the past it was no problem to get a person in a wheel chair from the first to the second floor—several of the male classmates would just pick the person up in his or her wheel chair and carry them up the stairs.  As far as this professor was concerned, the seminary didn’t need to waste money on an elevator . . . money that he deemed better spent on education.
Now mind you, this was a seminary.  A seminary where people were being educated and trained to be ministers within the church.  A church that believed in and proclaimed to follow the teachings and examples of Jesus.  To say the least, I was floored at such an attitude.  It didn’t seem very Christian to me.  Money was not a big issue . . . attitude was.

At the university where I work I have had the privilege to meet many wonderful people who are both able and disable in body.  One young man I met flew through the university’s education program to become a teacher.  He had excellent grades.  He jumped through every hoop put before him.  He meet all the criteria to graduate and become a teacher.  He even succeeded in getting through the state-mandated tests to be licensed as a teacher in Montana.  That was two years ago . . . do you think any school district hired him to teach in their classrooms?  Not one.  Though they would not say it, his wheel chair was an issue.  It did not matter how high in the class he graduated . . . how good of a teacher he was . . . no school district was going to hire him because of his disability.  They weren’t even willing to give him a shot.

These barriers have to do with what is in the minds of people and nothing else.  Time, money, and effort can solve the problems of physical accessibility, but until the issue between the ears is ever addressed, nothing will change.

Now, I am sure there are those of you who are out there reading this and thinking that I am full of it.  If so, I want you to take a moment and consider your own life.  Take a few minutes to think about where you work . . . how it is on diversity?  Take a few minutes to think about the organizations and clubs you belong to . . . how diverse are they?  Think about the neighbor where you live . . . the community in which you . . . the places you like to play . . . are they diverse?  Think about where you go to worship . . . is there diversity?  I doubt it.  I doubt it because as humans we have a tendency to gather with those who are the most like us . . . including the places where we worship.  My questions is . . . why?  Why isn’t there more diversity?  Is it because there is lack of funding, time, or effort . . . or, is it attitudes? 

I think it is a problem that lies between our ears . . . our minds.  That is the greatest barrier to accessibility.  Until we can tear down that barrier, the world will never be a place where all can gather at the table as one family in God.  Think about it . . . that is where it must begin.  Think about it and ask yourself, who is not at the table?  And . . . why?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Walking Among the Giants

There are little people among us.  I think that we forget this . . . that there are little people among us.  I know I do.  A co-worker recently had a few of her nephews visit her at the university . . . little, short people . . . children.  I saw the little people as they walked among us giants.  I nearly stepped on one because I forgot to look down.  Inches from crushing the child, a thought flashed through my mind, there are little human beings among us giants. 
My granddaughter is one of those little people . . . and, in my estimation, she is one of the coolest little kids I know; but, then again, I don’t know a whole bunch of children at this time in my life.  But, that does not mean they are not there . . . they are, lots of them.  Little, itty-bitty human beings walking in the land of the giants.  We giants need to be watching our steps.

That little epiphany got me to thinking . . . about little people.  Now, I understand that the term “little people” is used by those who are short in stature due nothing in their control . . . they were just born that way.  And, because they were born that way they have put up with a whole lot of discrimination, prejudice, and cruel behavior because they are different than the majority of people in the world.  I do not mean them any disrespect, but at the same time (and, I think they would agree), there are a whole lot of other people who fall into the category of “little people”.  These are people, who due circumstances beyond their control, are those who are deemed less than everyone else.  These are the people who are different than everyone.  Because they are different they are treated with discrimination, prejudice, bullying, disrespect . . . and, even to the point of death making.  Here are a few groups that I would throw into the category of “little people”: elderly, those with disabilities, the poor, the homeless . . . and, even women.  These are some of the “little people” who walk in the land of the giants . . . trying like hell not to get stepped on.

I think that we forget the “little people” in our lives.  I think that we don’t pay them much mind.  That we try to avoid them . . . ignore them . . . push them out to the outer reaches of our lives.  And, I think we usually don’t even know that they are there until we step on a few of them . . . only then does it seem that the “little people” get our attention.

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is Horton Hears a Who.  It is a book that deals with “little people” and a stubborn elephant’s efforts to stand up for them when everyone else ignores them and threatens to kill them by boiling the “dust speck”.  It is from this book that one of the most quoted lines is written: “A person is a person, no matter how small.”  The sad thing about the quote, as loved as it is, is that most people don’t put much into living it . . . nope, it is easier to step on the “little people” than to welcome them into the land of the giants.

Those children, running around our offices, reminded me of how scary it was as a child to be in the land of the giants.  How scary it was that there were so many giants that could step on me or hurt me.  How scary it was to never to be able to see anything because the giants blocked me from being able to see the world around me.  And, those children reminded me of my granddaughter as she begins her journey through the land of the giants.  I pray that the giants remember to look down, see the little people, and to lift them up so that they can be safe and grow.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

We giants forget that we are giants . . . basically because that is all we see . . . all that we hang out with.  We forget that there are others in the world besides giants . . . little people.  We forget that we can make a difference in the lives of those who are little in the eyes of the giants . . . that we can help the little people walk among the giants . . . to have a life that allows them to be one of the giants.  We forget that we were little once too . . . and, some giant (knowingly or unknowingly) helped us.  In the land of the giants we are called to look down, not up.  I know my granddaughter would appreciate it . . . so would all those the world has deemed to be “little” in its eyes.  In the eyes of God, we are all the same . . . beloved children.  There are no giants in God’s eyes.