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

Friday, August 30, 2013

Oh, Well . . . GBR!!

It is approximately 18 hours before the season officially begins.  In 18 hours the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers begin another season of football . . . its 123rd season . . . against the University of Wyoming Cowboys.  It shouldn’t be much of a game, but who knows . . . nah, it won’t be much of a game.  With 18 hours to go, the excitement and anticipation build for those of us who bleed red . . . football season is about to begin.

Unfortunately, thanks to being out in the middle of Montana—Grizzly Bear and Bobcat country—and, being cheap . . . I won’t be able to watch the game on television.  Oh, it is on television, if I want to pay to watch the game, but I am pretty cheap . . . especially when it is a game against . . . well, you know . . . Wyoming.  Thank goodness for the technology of the day where I can get play-by-play on the Internet . . . it is almost like listening to the games way back when there was only radio.  I will survive . . .

The University of Nebraska Cornhusker obsession in the Keener family is solid . . . I am a die-hard fan, three of my children are die-hard fans, the wife rides the fence, and one child hates the Huskers despite being born and raised in Nebraska . . . he is a Virginia Tech Hokie fan.  What the hell is a Hokie?  Their mascot is a turkey.  I should know, I had two cousins who graduated from Virginia Tech . . . one was even a male cheerleader for the Hokies.  I still wonder if I dropped this child during a Cornhusker game around Thanksgiving causing him to be a Hokie fan . . . I often wonder where I failed as a parent with him.  He hates it when the Huskers are on television . . . complains that it is ridiculous at how the rest of the family acts.

Oh well, not being able to speak for the rest of the family, I can only say that I have improved over the years.  I hardly ever yell at the television any more . . . hardly swear at the television any more . . . hardly threaten to throw a bottle or other object at the television any more.  I don’t know whether it is maturity or the fact that I start drinking beer hours before the game . . . tailgating, you know.  I have calmed down . . . except when Brent Musberger is announcing the games . . . then all bets are off . . . the guy has never said anything positive about the Huskers.  Whenever he is covering the game for ABC, I turn the sound off . . . it is cheaper than replacing the television because I threw a bottle or shoe at the screen.

As I cannot understand how anyone can root for a turkey, my son cannot understand how I can root for some guy who picks and husks corn.  Once again, I remind my son that it is better than what the team used to be known as throughout the years of their tradition.  In the beginning they were known as the Bugeaters . . . then the Tree Planters . . . the Rattlesnake Boys . . . Antelopes . . . and, even the Hawkeyes.  Surprisingly, the University of Iowa team was known as the Cornhuskers in the early years of their football program . . . only when they took over the Hawkeye name did Nebraska become the Cornhuskers.  But, at least we don’t gooble!  Yet, at the same time, I can respect my son’s choice . . . maybe I don’t understand it, but I can respect . . . I can respect it as long as he respect mine.  When he doesn’t, well . . . I remind him whose house it is and who is paying for the cable.

I don’t watch a lot of television . . . about four hours a month.  When football season rolls around . . . I watch Cornhusker football wherever I can find it on the television.  It is the only television I watch.  Once again, though, Montana is not a big market for Cornhusker football . . . after all, this is Grizzly and Bobcat country.  Thus it is that I relish those few opportunities that the Huskers are on television, much to the chagrin of this son of mine.  Luckily, for him, the Huskers are not on our set tomorrow.

I am not sure how anyone explains their deep affection and love for a sports team.  I have been a Cornhusker fan since moving to Nebraska way back in the dark ages of the 1970s.  I have embraced the lore and myth of this team . . . I bleed red.  I have rejoiced in the greatest moments, and lamented in the lowest.  I am a part of the Husker Nation . . . my license plates on my VW Jetta and Ford Ranger sport statements that are references to the Big Red.  The one reads “Bugetrs” (Bugeaters), while the other is “NU SKRS” (Nebraska University Husker).  Unfortunately most Montanans—unique in the way they see and pronounce everything—think that “Bugetrs” has to do with accounting, and the “NU SKRS” means that I am a new skier.  Duh!!

Oh well, such is life.  The fact is that in 18 hours the Cornhuskers begin their 124th season as a football power.  I know that people do not understand the fascination and loyalty of Cornhusker fans . . . but, hey, have you ever been to Nebraska?  If you have, then you should understand the loyalty of Husker football fans. 

In 18 hours, the season begins.  It will be what it is . . . for better or worse . . . for in sickness and health . . . the season begins.  I will continue to root for my team . . . root for the boys who make up the team . . . and, I hope, always stay loyal no matter how much they underestimate a team.  Tomorrow it is the Cowboys of the University of Wyoming.  On paper it does not look like much of a game . . . but, in real life, it is wide-open.  Trust me, I have lived and died following Cornhusker football.

With the first kick-off last night, the football season has begun.  The blood pressure has risen . . . it is almost more than I can wait for.  Go Big Red . .. GBR!!!

Personality and Longevity

MSN.com is a wealth of information.  Imagine my surprise when I read an article on the website stating that personality traits play a role in the longevity  of life in people . . . imagine the surprise when I realized . . . like, wow . . . that I have a personality!  It was a pretty enlightening evening.

Now, in all honesty, I do not worry about the longevity of my life.  I figure that when God is ready for me, God will take me . . . knowing me well, God is in no hurry for me to join the heavenly choir any time soon.  God has heard me sing . . . it ain’t pretty.  Yet, at the same time, like everyone else, articles like this do pique my imagination . . . who wouldn’t want to know whether or not there are a few more years added on in the long run?  Deep down . . . I do.

The article stated that there are ten ways that one’s personality can effect longevity.  First of all, a study was done on 500 healthy participants—age 95 to 112 years olds—that basically stated that the best indicator of longevity was not lifestyle predictors, but how long the people’s parents lived.  This group did nothing that was considered to be healthy . . . nothing that the doctors asked them to do . . . and, they were all between the age of 95 and 112!  Half of them were overweight or obese . . . 60 percent of the men and 30 percent of the women had smoked for many years . . . few exercised . . . and, only two percent were vegetarians.  Now this sounds like my group of people . . . I like these guys!

Floored by these results scientists began looking for other factors—outside of the longevity of parents—to determine factors in helping to predict how long one might live.  Personality traits seemed like a good place to start.  Through research—which means it must be right—the scientists determined that there are ten personality traits that can affect the length of one’s life.

So, let’s begin . . . conscientiousness is the first trait . . . orderliness, prudence, persistence and responsibility.  Hmmm . . . I am pretty conscientious . . . I guess I can add a few years onto my life.  Yet, on the other hand, my conscientiousness drives other people crazy . . . that could take a few years off of my life . . . they might kill me if I am not careful!

Extraversion . . . being an extravert . . . can add years to one’s life.  This one made me cringe . . . scratch those years off.  I am an introvert and if being a person who needs to thrive on being around other people . . . talking to other people . . . acting like I like other people . . . well, I’ll never make it to a hundred much less seventy!  Shoot, I’ll be lucky to make it to sixty.  Darn extraverts win at everything!

Optimism . . . seeing the bright lining in every cloud . . . expecting the best . . . always seeing the glass half full.  Being optimistic can add years onto one’s life because there is less stress.  Stress beats the body down, takes years off . . . I am closer to a pessimist than an optimist.  I sort of flip flop back and forth.  I think that I am becoming more of a realist . . . when I see a cloud now-a-days, in the middle of this heat sucking drought, I don’t care if it has a silver lining or not . . . I want rain!  Lately, around our part of Montana, that is like a snow ball not melting in hell . . .

Other-oriented volunteerism . . . helping others.  This could add four years to a person’s life.  I think that this is an extravert sort of thing because it involves people.  I’m an introvert . . . people are okay as long as I don’t have to deal with them . . . volunteering to help others means people.  Knock off another four years off of the longevity of my life!
How this next one made the list, I’ll never know or understand . . . marriage.  Those who have solid marriages . . . stable, healthy marriages . . . live longer.  I don’t think those doing this research have ever been married.  Marriage is not for the faint-hearted . . . not for the weak . . . it is tough work making a marriage work.  It is hard work . . . maybe, the hardest work anyone will ever do.  Plus, I have learned, over the years, that it is best to agree with one’s spouse if one wants to live to see the next day.  “Yes, dear” should be included in the marriage vows.  But, hey!  If research says that being in a marital relationship can add to one’s longevity . . . well, after thirty-plus years, I might be around a little longer than I think . . . as long as I remember, “Yes, dear.”

Being industrious . . . hard work . . . a demanding career . . . can add years to one’s life.  Well, with the constant changes to retirement plans . . . the Internal Revenue Service constantly adding years to the retirement requirements . . . and, my lousy pension plan, I should be working well into my seventies.  I guess that qualifies for being industrious . . . I’ll never get to retire!

Career success.  Duh!  Successful people get rewarded for their success . . . they get raises . . . they get bonuses . . . they live in fancy neighborhoods . . . they become wealthy.  I guess they have never worked for the church or the state . . . at this rate I will probably never add any years to my longevity of life.   Despite my great efforts, my accomplishments, and constantly being praised for my work . . . state mandated freezes on salary does not do much for boosting one’s longevity in life.

Being a little neurotic . . . research shows that it is good to worry a little, but it is not good to go to the deep end.  This sounds like a plot to me . . . I wonder what they are up too!

Openness to new experiences . . . I am in mid-life at 55 years of age . . . every day that I wake up and discover myself alive is a new experience.  I am open to anything . . . well, most anything . . . as long as it doesn’t mean that I have to change and try new things.

Having a positive perspective on getting older . . . outside of the times that my adult children run circles around me . . . outside of the time that my one-year old granddaughter runs circles around me . . . and, leave me gasping for breath . . . I never think much about getting older.  In all honesty, I wish I had all of this wisdom back when I was younger . . . life would have been a whole heck of a lot sweeter.  But, right now, I do not worry about getting older.  I don’t have time . . . there is life to live right now in the moment!

So, there you have it . . . ten personality traits that can affect one’s longevity of life.  Since I just found out that I have a personality, do you think God will add a few years to how long I live?  According to my calculations, I should have died last month . . .

Oh well, I am still here.  Ignorance is bliss, and I am one of the most blissful people you will ever meet!  Here is to life . . . no matter how long it might be.  May it be a blessing to us all!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hulking Out

I probably did not react in the best manner . . . duh!

Coming in the front door of the house I was greeted by one son holding a rag to his bleeding head, the other son over by the stove in the kitchen sweeping the glass up off the floor.  Behind the son sweeping the floor was the busted glass front of the stove.  Zero to sixty in seconds flat!  That is how I reacted . . . I lost it . . . I was angry.  Angry over what, I wasn’t sure, but I was sure I was angry.  I blew up and, I blew it.

It has been said that we save the best . . . and, the worse . . . for those we love the most.  I won’t disagree with that statement one bit.  Whenever anyone I love—family or friend—is threatened or hurt, I Incredible Hulk out.  I go on the attack . . . I am ready for a fight . . . ready to hurt whoever or whatever it is that has hurt my loved one.  I shoot first and ask questions later.  Not the best response mechanism . . . especially plays havoc on one’s blood pressure, but I have been that way all of my life.  Seeing the scene . . . I Hulked out.  For better or worse, I got angry.

Anger . . . yeah, there was yelling.  Anger . . . there was stomping around.  Anger . . . there were profane words thrown out.  Anger . . . and, there was some more yelling.  Of course, none of this helps the situation.  The situation was that the younger son, who has Epilepsy, was rounding the corner in the kitchen, by the stove, had a seizure, fell down, hit the glass in the stove door (the whole front of the oven is glass), and shattered it all.  He scraped his head (thus the rag over the head), cut his elbow, but was okay otherwise . . . oh sure, he was upset and frustrated, but he was okay.  The other son was being helpful, had helped his brother, and was cleaning up the mess.  Of course, the anger I was exhibiting was not actually helping . . . no one was being protected, no one was being rescued . . . it was pure unadulterated angry . . . a regular ol’ hissy fit!

In the process of un-Hulking, a myriad of emotions, feelings, and thoughts go through my rock garden of a mind . . . primarily how stupidly I had acted or reacted . . . embarrassed more or less . . . and, remorseful.  When everyone, my children, needed the best, they got the worse . . . and, yeah, I love them to the bottom of my heart and beyond.  Reconciliation was necessary and needed . . .

. . . so, I apologized.

I was not angry at my sons . . . I wanted to protect them from what hideous thing it was that had threatened them.  I was relieved that no one was hurt any worse than they were . . . it could have been worse.  I was not angry that the stove door now was broken and needed to be replaced at several hundreds of dollars . . . stove doors are cheap in comparison of replacing a child or a relationship with a child.  But, I had been angry.  Before I could apologize I had to know and understand the source of my anger.

The family, more the wife and I, have been dealing with our son’s Epilepsy for over 18 long years.  We have endured countless sleepless nights . . . more visits to hospital emergency rooms than we can count.  We have watched this disability wrack our son’s body and life for years and years.  We have witnessed numerous IV lines shoved into his arm . . . endured every drug he has taken to combat the Epilepsy . . . and, helpless stood by and watched as they cut open his head, messed around his brain, and sewed him up.  We have stood by our son as he was bullied through school, ignored by teachers who were ignorant of the disability, forgotten by those who should care, and given the run around by countless organizations designated to help.  And . . . nothing has changed in over 18 years.

The form of Epilepsy our son suffers from is a cruel form . . . a silent culprit that shows no rhyme or reason to its activity.  Someone once asked me to describe what it was like . . . all I could say is that it was like someone sneaking up behind you with a baseball bat and hitting you in the head when you least expect it.  Knocking you flat.  Depending on which medical expert you want to quote, the cause of Epilepsy is unknown in 70 to 90 percent of the cases . . . our son’s is in that “unknown” category.  Yet, one has to grasp for whatever hope there is whether it is 30 percent or ten percent.  After 18 years of treatment nothing has changed . . . despite the huge amount of money that we have spent . . . despite countless doctors and experts . . . despite every conceivable drug . . . neurological surgery . . . counseling.  It has been a long, frustrating journey . . . and, we have not even begun to see the end.

What broke the dam?  What brought on the flood of anger?  Hmmmm . . . I wonder . . . maybe countless years of frustration.  Frustration that goes beyond my own son’s Epilepsy . . . frustration of having two brothers with disabilities as I grew up . . . frustration of having to relive all the problems again . . . with no solutions, no answers.  My brothers are both still alive, living productive lives . . . but my sister has sacrificially taken care of them for years as I have never lived close to my family since graduating from high school.  I stand in amazement and awe of her ability to do it.  I was angry, and my anger was at the Epilepsy.  A never-ending curse upon our lives.

As Christians we are urged by popular thought to think and believe that God does not give us any more than we can handle in life . . . phfttt!  That is nonsense.  I think God would even agree . . . sometimes life is just more than any of us can handle.  I don’t blame God.  First of all, God did not do this.  Secondly, the wife and I have not committed some terrible sin that has brought this upon us or our son.  It is not God’s fault, nor is it our fault.  These were just the cards that we were dealt . . . and, these are the cards we have to play.  As much as it sucks . . . well, it sucks.

I have never pulled a Job on God.  I have never ranted and raved at God as to why this was happening to any of us.  As I said, God didn’t do it.  It is just what it is.  We—the wife and I—have never blamed God.  But, God has caught our anger . . . and, God understands our anger.  God understands because it angers God, too.  The problem is that I don’t like the fact that there are no answers . . . I don’t like that there is no pill that cures the disability . . . I don’t like that my son has to struggle so hard every day just to have a so-called normal day that the rest of us take for granted . . . I don’t like the way that people treat my son and have exiled him to the borders of life and society . . . it sucks and it make me angry.

And, so, I went to apologize.  First, to the son with Epilepsy.  I explained that I was not mad at him . . . poop happens and we are fairly used to it happening with the Epilepsy.  I explained that I was not mad about the stove door . . . hey, what is a couple of hundred dollars when we know that he was okay.  And, I admitted that I screwed up, wanted to protect him from the enemy . . . but, because there was no enemy to attack, the worse was dumped on him and his brother.  I was so, so sorry.

Then, I went and apologized to his brother.  These two have a difficult “love/hate” relationship . . . at times there is no love lost between them.  I explained the same things to him . . . apologized profusely.  This is the son, who over the last couple of months hasn’t been the most loving towards his brother (and vice-a-versa), came to his brother’s need . . . helped him, cared for him, and cleaned up his brother’s mess.  He lived what he always proclaims, “Family comes first.”  I was proud of him . . . and, proud of his brother for letting him help when he needed someone.

The Hulk has crawled back into that deep, dark place to hide . . . to hide the next time I perceive a threat to those I love.  I hope the Hulk stays there for awhile . . . I don’t enjoy the Hulk when he appears in my form.  And, the weird thing, which is what stresses the Hulk so much (I think), is that the whole time it is happening we both know how helpless we are in stopping it.  We just lose it . . . right or wrong.

I am not alone . . . I know that.  I have known that since I was a small child.  There are many others who deal with the disabilities of their children . . . and, their own disabilities.  There are others who don’t understand the question of why . . . nor the silence that answers their questions.  Others who suffer for their children . . .

No, I am not alone . . . but so often it feels as if I am.  Forgotten.  Ignored.  And, that too, is a part of the anger.  God understands and weeps with me.  Yeah, I did not react in the best manner, but I reacted in a very human manner . . . those who love me understand even if I, myself, don’t.  For that I am thankful for the love and grace of family.

Friday, August 23, 2013

No Matter How Hard You Try . . .

One of the biggest regrets of my life came my senior year of high school.  The year was 1996 . . . the bicentennial of our nation . . . an election year.  One of the presidential candidates was Jerry Brown, the then governor of the state of California and also the boyfriend of Linda Ronstadt.  My children talk of having “man” or “woman” crushes on famous celebrities . . . one of mine has always been Linda Ronstadt.  She has been one of mine since I started listening to music . . . through the Stone Ponies . . . through her rock-n-roll years . . . through her “Trio” years with Emmy Lou Harris and Dolly Parton . . through her big band era . . . through her Mexican heritage period . . . and, even through her brief dabbling in punk music . . . Linda Ronstadt has always been one of my favorite singers of all time. 

My senior year of high school . . . 1976 . . . she went campaigning for her boyfriend, Jerry Brown.  With the Eagles and Jackson Browne she hit the road to raise money through concerts for her boyfriend’s campaign for the presidency.  That was the first year I could vote and he had my vote . . . I don’t know what his platform was, but if he was good enough to have landed Linda Ronstadt as a girlfriend, he had my vote and admiration.  The fundraising trail made its way all the way to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., where I was a senior at Wheaton Senior High . . . it was a concert that had three of my favorite performers and I had a free ticket to attend.  My crush, plus two of my favorite musical artists and bands . . . I was in seventh heaven.

Unfortunately, the unscheduled concert coincided with the school play.  The school play . . . How to Succeed In Business . . . of which I was the stage manager was showing on the same night as the concert.  Actually, I had two free tickets that weekend of the school play . . . the Brown fundraiser and Paul McCartney and Wings Over America . . . neither of which I got to see.  The school sponsor wouldn’t let me go . . . I was needed.  I have regretted missing that opportunity for over . . . well, more years than I want to count.

This past year, another of my music idols—Judy Collins, I had the opportunity to see in concert in the big city near us here in Montana.  It was wonderful, and that was always the hope with Linda Ronstadt . . .  that I would get to see her in concert before either one of us died.  Oh well, I live well with regret . . .

The article I read stated that the diagnosis was devastating.  In a brief statement on the AARP website, Linda Ronstadt announced that  she could no longer sing due to discovering that she had Parkinson Disease.    “I was completely shocked.  I wouldn’t have suspected that in a million billion years,” she wrote.  As a result, she said, she “can’t sing a note.”  No matter how hard she would try . . . she could not sing a note.  “No one can sing with Parkinson Disease,” she said, “No matter how hard you try.”  Regret . . . my regret.

I have always been more inclined towards female singers than male.  There just seems to be a more earthy, honest, and emotional quality to their singing.  They seem to touch my heart more . . . and, Linda Ronstadt is one of the purest voices I ever heard no matter what the genre of music she sang.  It was a voice that was pure and true . . . and, it did not matter whether she was singing songs written just for her or in the cover of some other famous artist . . . she was the voice.  Plus, as a male adolescent, she was a pleasure to look at.  A “man” crush.

No matter how hard you try . . . you cannot stop the passage of time.  Time waits for no one.  The theory of entropy is all things break down over time . . . all things.  The body is not immune to this breakdown no matter how well one treats his or her body . . . it is a part of the journey of life.  In T.H. White’s writing about the King Arthur legend he emphasizes this in Merlin the Magician.  In the story he tells “Toad”, the child King Arthur, that he is reverting back to his childhood . . . that he is going back in time . . . going back in time the older he gets.  The bottom line is simple . . . we all wear down . . . our bodies break down . . . we lose what we have had.  Linda Ronstadt’s body has broken down . . . she can no longer sing.  Regret . . .

It is funny the things that make us stop and pause in life . . . it should be things like the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech in Washington, D.C. that is about to be observed.  It should be things like a massacre in some foreign land . . . a major weather related devastation, but in the end it seems that it is often more simpler than those crises or celebrations.  Sometimes it is the news of one of our favorite singers—one of our “man” crushes—losing their voice due to time.  The news of Linda Ronstadt’s health was one of those for me.

Good music rubs off on the soul.  As my children grew up they were exposed to much of the music that the wife and I enjoyed . . . seemingly they had to endure the “old fogey” music.  But, good music touches the heart no matter how “old” it might be . . . so it was for my daughter who grew up listening to her father play his eclectic music.  It was at her wedding that she selected the solo to be one of my favorite Linda Ronstadt songs, Feels Like Home.  It was not only officiating my daughter’s wedding that brought tears to my eyes, but the flood of memories of hearing that song echo throughout the sanctuary.

I join in the thousands, possibly millions, who express their best wishes and prayers that Linda Ronstadt is able to cope with Parkinson Disease . . . her voice—for now—now might be silence, but the echo of her legacy as a singer fills my heart.  No matter how hard you try . . . she will always be a part of me.  I wish I had had the guts to skip the school play . . .