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, January 31, 2014

No . . . Snow!

As I sit in the glow of the computer, the snow is gently falling for the second time this week.  The prediction is for four inches of new snow by morning.  It has been since the end of October since we have seen our yard . . . it has been buried in snow since about Halloween.  Dora and Lucy, the family Dachshunds, haven’t taken a potty break without squatting in snow since who knows when . . . they are beginning to take a lot more interest in the toilets in the bathroom . . . at least there they will keep their rear ends warm.  But, it has been a long snowy winter this year and we still have nearly two months before it starts to swing over into springtime.  I am tired of snow.  The only nice thing about the snow this evening is the fact that I do not have to get up and do anything in the morning.

I am not alone when I state that I am getting tired of snow . . . call it snow fatigue if you want to . . . but, there are a lot of folks expressing the same feelings when it comes to the snow.  As much as most of us like snow, we are getting tired of it . . . about as tired of it as those who live around Atlanta who saw their community literally shut down with two inches of snow this past week.  Two inches!  That is a pretty normal day around here in Montana.  Here in Montana, at least in the area where the homestead is located, is on track to have its snowiest winter since 1978 . . . and, from what I have been told, that was a pretty snowy winter in Big Sky country.  Outside of the snow boarders and skiers, most folks are getting tired of the snow.

I will admit that I have pretty much reached my limit when it comes to snow . . . at least between Monday and Friday.  Snow changes my routine.  Snow messes up my day.  Snow raises the emotions and ups the ante in the stress department, especially Monday through Friday.  When it snows I have to get up earlier in order to clean the car off, give myself enough time to drive snow and ice covered roads, and to wonder who in the world are those other idiots driving down the road in the storm.  Makes me anxious, even though I do just fine driving in wintry conditions.  Messes up my day . . . and usually my week.  Symptoms of snow fatigue.

I have not yet joined the lamenting ranks of the wife who usually has epic sessions of whining about having to drive from the homestead to the big city in snowy weather . . . but, I am getting close . . . especially when the pattern is beginning to be snow about every other day.  Of course it is usually nothing major, just enough to be an inconvenience . . . a little extra work, a little more time, and a little more anxiety . . . a mere inconvenience, that really is all that it is.

We Montanans like to brag that winter is those nine months we have to deal and put up with to enjoy three months of perfect weather in a beautiful location.  Yeah, we brag, but the truth is we would give up a couple of those wintry, snowy months for a couple of drizzly, rainy, muddy months just to get the heck away from the snow . . . but the weather people, nor God, seem to be listening to us this year.  The result?  Land sales have gone up in Arizona and a whole lot of the southern states . . . well, until it snowed in Atlanta.  But, Montanans are beginning to experience snow fatigue . . . we are tired of snow.

I want to see my yard . . . my dogs want to see the yard!  I want to see something besides snow and ice.  I want to experience a forty degree temperature swing and it actually get above freezing.  I want to quit using so much sign language while driving.  I want . . . to get beyond this inconvenience that is called winter.  But, I don’t think God really cares about what I want when it comes to wintry weather . . . there is probably a good two inches on the ground since I started writing. 

And . . . I’m okay with God’s indifference to my snow fatigue.  I do not ask God to stop making it snow.  No . . . instead I pray to God that God put the snow only on the lawn . . . not the driveway . . . not the sidewalks . . . not where we park the cars . . . only on the yard.  I am tired of shoveling and I have no where new to put all of the snow.  I pray to God to keep the snow from accumulating on my car . . . I’m getting tired of cleaning it off.  I pray to God that God will give me a clear lane all the way to the big city where I work . . . and, I pray that God will have my parking space cleared off by the time I get to work.  In the silence of my wintry prayers, I can hear God snicker.

It is January 31st . . . Groundhog Day is two days away . . . and, it won’t matter.  Anyway that a person adds it up . . . we still have nearly two months of winter left . . . and, at least another two months until the snow melts in the yard.  Yeah, I hear God snickering . . .

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kind of Like My Odds

One in 4,294,967,296 of winning . . . I kind of like my odds at winning this year’s March Madness basketball brackets.  The payout . . . a cool one billion dollars.  Yeah, you read that correctly . . . one billion dollars.  Billionaire Warren Buffet  and Quicken Loans are offering a billion dollars to anyone who can pick a perfect bracket . . . that means picking the winners of all 63 games in this year’s NCAA men’s college basketball tournament.  They will pay any person who picks a perfect bracket one billion dollars . . . either in 40 annual installments of $25 million or a lump sum payment of $500 million . . . I will take my winnings in the annual installment plan.  That is how much I like my odds of winning . . . only one in 4,294,967,296.

I have already informed the family that I will be willing to share the wealth once I win . . . I think I will be able to afford to spread a couple of million here and there to help everyone out.  I have also contacted the bank to see whether or not they can handle the annual deposits of $25 million . . . they are checking into it as they have never had anyone make a deposit that big before.  That should get a whole bunch of free toasters!  I have not informed the Internal Revenue Service yet . . . I am sure they will know well before I ever get the first check for winning . . . they will probably take half of it before it ever hits the bank.  But, the point is, I am already making the necessary plans to receive my financial windfall when I win.  Heck, it is only one in 4,294,967,296 . . . pretty darn good odds!

Well, maybe they are not the best odds . . . but, I like them.  I imagine that I would have better odds of bowling a perfect game at 11,500 to one.  If I played golf, the odds that I would get a hole in one is only 5,000 to one.  Dating a super model (these are really lousy odds because the wife has already told me, NO!) is 88,000 to one.  This is would be a good one if they were offering a billion dollars . . . drowning in a bathtub is 685,000 to one . . . good thing I only take showers.  This one I would have won a long time ago . . . getting hemorrhoids at 25 to one.  At 11,500 to one, I have a better chance of winning an Academy Award.  Striking it rich on Antique Roadshow is 60,000 to one . . . getting a ticket to be on Antique Roadshow is like a billion to one.  Yeah, there are things out there with better odds than picking a perfect bracket in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; but, I just have that feeling that this is my year.

Shoot!  I have never won anything . . . it is my turn.  I can just feel it.  Now, all I have to do is play . . . me and the first ten million people to submit a bracket when they open up on March 3rd.  Plus, I have to be faster than the rest of the family in the house . . . there is only one bracket per household.  I have already threatened my family that I will cut them out if they submit a bracket from our address . . . just more money for me!  Whatever the case, I want to make sure that I submit a bracket.  I do not want to be like the guy who kept praying to God to help him win the lottery . . . finally God had to tell the guy that he had to buy a ticket if he wanted God’s help in winning.  I will get a bracket in . . . come hell or high water or even knocking off a few of my children . . . I will be one of the ten million.

Now, you are probably thinking that I am a fool for even thinking that I could ever pick a perfect bracket . . . that I would ever win a billion dollars; but, this is a no lose situation.  Let me explain.  Buffet is a smart business person and he is going into this knowing his risk.  He has already stated that he would probably strike a deal with potential winners before they actually get to the final game . . . or, as he stated, “I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.”  I have decided that I would save Mr. Buffet a whole lot of time and effort by striking a deal with him now . . . I’ll take a cool couple of thousand right now.  If he would do that, I won’t enter the contest.  Sounds good to me.  We both win! 

With a couple of thousand I can take the wife on a vacation . . . feed the whole family at Red Lobster . . . drop a little in the collection plate at church . . . and, still have enough left over for lunch a couple of times at work.  Either way, how can I lose?  I get some cash either way . . . even at 4,294,967,296 to one odds.  I kind like my chances . . . I’m putting all my money on the Cornell Big Red!  Go Big Red . . . a billion dollars is riding on you!

Monday, January 20, 2014


In grade school I had to write the obligatory “what do you want to be when you grow up” essay.  The teacher specifically stated that we students had to pick the three professions that we wanted to be when we grow up . . . three things, mind you.  So . . . I chose to be an officer in the Air Force, a special education teacher, and . . . I just could not come up with a third one.  Finally, in desperation, I wrote . . . minister.  Those were the three—well, maybe two—professions I chose.

Number one was an Air Force officer.  This was a natural choice as my father was a careerist in the Air Force, but I wanted to make sure that I was one up . . . not a non-commissioned officer like the old man, but a commissioned officer.  And, it almost happened.  Right before I graduated from college, I applied for the Officer’s Candidate School . . . and, missed it by one slot.  I was the first alternate from the region in which I was living.

Number two was to be a special education teacher.  Again, this was a fairly natural choice as I was a sibling to two brothers with disabilities.  Throughout junior and senior high I did a lot of work—paid and volunteer—with organizations that serve the disabled.  My undergraduate degree is a Speech Pathology major, with a Special Education minor.  I just never did the student teaching to get the official title.  It was close, but no cigar.

Number three . . . minister.  That was what a kid comes up with when he or she has no idea what else to put on the paper.  I guess I could have put fire fighter or police officer . . . but, everyone else in the class did that.  I grasped for the farthest and craziest profession that popped into my mind.  Never in a million years did I ever think—at that point in my life—that I would be a minister.  Shoot, my family never went to church.  My mother was a Methodist, my father a Baptist . . . but, mostly, they were non-practicing in their faith.  If I wanted religion while I was growing up, I was on my own.  Growing up—at least until I got to high school—I didn’t know a minister from rabbi or priest.  And, guess what, I ended up a minister.

Now, people end up in the ministry for a variety of reasons . . . some to find God and faith . . . some because they felt a call to serve God . . . and, others to find vindication, respect, and love.  You see that is one of the myths of the ministry . . . ministers are loved and respected by all . . . especially if that minister has “Reverend” in front of his or her name.  At one time that might have been true . . . that ministry was a loved and respected profession, and thus those who were ministers were automatically loved and respected . . . but, not anymore!

In the realm of public love and respect, ministers are dropping like a lead balloon.  At least that is what the latest Gallup Poll reveals.  Ministers have dropped below the fiftieth percentile for the first time since the Gallup Organization has been polling the public about professions . . . first time since 1977!  According to the poll taken in December of 2013, only about 47% of the people polled ranked ministers high in the poll . . . clergy finished seventh out of the twenty-two professions that the pollsters sought opinions about.  Nurses (1), pharmacists (2), grade school teachers (3), medical doctors (4), military officers (5), and police officers (6) finished ahead of ministers.  In reviewing the list, I noticed that my number one and two choices as a kid finished higher than what I am now. 

According to an article in the most recent Christian Century (January 22, 2014) this downward spiral of respect for ministers has been fairly steady since 2001. Reasons listed for this plunge are the many sex scandals involving minors and divisive clergy.  No one is going to argue that the sex scandals within the walls of the “church” did not severely affect the attitudes of people towards clergy . . . anyone who messes with children loses all respect from others.  The divisive clergy . . . well, we live in contentious times where differences seem to be painted in black and white . . . lines are drawn in the sand . . . sides are picked . . . and, no one likes conflict.  When ministers are seen to be in the eye of the storm when it comes to divisive issues . . . whether it is true or not that they are the trouble makers . . . they lose respect.

But, ministers need to smile . . . at least we are not at the bottom of the pile . . . at least we are not among the lowest rated . . . and, I would contend, reviled or professions.  No, that honor goes to car salespeople (20), members of Congress (21), and lobbyists (22) . . . nine, eight, and six percent of the people had any respect for these professions.  Also, if a person wants to play the game, the respect issue can be split between political parties.  It seems that the more traditional and conservative Republican party has a higher tolerance . . . I mean, respect . . . for ministers.  Within the Republican party, ministers ranked number two and had a 63% rating.  Unfortunately, those darn liberal Democrats did not rank ministers so highly and their rating was only at 40%.

There used to be a time when ministers were not bashful about telling others what they did for a living when standing around shooting the breeze at a dinner or cocktail party.  That announcement often came with a respectful acknowledge and a free drink or meal.  Not so much anymore!  Ministers are not so quick to confess their profession any more.  People look at ministers with that funny look that is usually between confusion, pity, and disdain.  Being a minister is no longer an automatic for love and respect that it once was . . . unless you happen to be a Republican. 

Like anyone else, I want love and respect.  Looking back nearly fifty years to an assignment I received in elementary school . . . it would seem as if I chose the wrong profession.  I should have gone with being a teacher or military officer if I wanted love and respect based on an occupation.  But, hey!  That would not be the Keener way . . . the Keener way is always a lot more difficult . . . if it were easy, it wouldn’t be the Keener way!  Of course I was not going to take the easy road to respect and love . . . no, I would take the harder route . . . I would be a minister.

According to the researchers for the Gallup Organization, part of the problem with these rankings is that most of them are based off of stereotypes.  Long-held stereotypes are hard to shake . . . all car salespeople are crooked scum . . . while the truth is, most car salespeople are fairly decent, hard-working individuals just like you or me.  Yet, when we think about them in the areas of love and respect, they do not do too well because we are a people of stereotypes and generalizations.  Ministers fall into that trap too when it comes to love and respect.

Ministers are as different and diverse as any other group of professions.  Ministers fall between everything from being a liberal to a conservative . . . from being Democrats to Republicans . . . from male to female . . . to even being (gasp) gay!  No two ministers are exactly alike . . . we ministers are all over the board.  There is no standard mold that you can fit ministers into as a litmus test.  Nope, people just have to take ministers for who they are . . . individuals trying hard to answer God’s call in their lives.

I never went into the ministry thinking I was owed the love and respect of the people just because I jumped through some ecclesiastical hoops, went to seminary, and was bestowed with the title of “Reverend”.  I went into the ministry because somewhere back in elementary school God began calling me to come and join in the dance.  Upon graduating college I really thought I would end up as an officer in the Air Force . . . but, God had other plans.  I also thought that I would be a teacher for kids with disabilities . . . but, again, God had other plans.  Instead of heading off into the professions of the military or education, I ended up heading off to seminary.  Since then, I have dabbled in a few other professions . . . but, primarily I have been attempting to follow God’s call upon my life.  So, when it comes to love and respect as a minister, I want it based on the relationships I have and not on the titles I have earned.

The camp song said that people would know that we are Christians by our love . . . I think the same thing is true for us ministers . . . people will know that we are ministers by our love.  When they do, we will have their love and respect.  Besides, I could never join the Republican party just to boost my rating.  Who would have thought that the number three goal of occupations would be the one that I ended up being . . . I think God respects me for that, and that is all that matters in the end.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Name Your Brew

“They sell courage of a sort in the taverns. And another sort, though not for sale, a man can find in the confessional. Try the alehouses and the churches, Hugh. In either a man can be quiet and think.”
(Ellis Peters)

“Beer is my coffee.”

I am not a coffee drinker.  The wife and seventy-five percent of our children are coffee drinkers . . . or what passes as coffee drinkers these days.  My parents were coffee drinkers . . . Maxwell Cup right out of the jar . . . not this chocolaty, frothy stuff with exotic sounding names.  They liked their coffee to be black and strong . . . no cream . . . no sugar . . . straight up.  I never could stand the smell of coffee . . . made my stomach queasy.  Nope, I am a tea drinker through and through.  Not those wimpy herbal teas . . . not those spicy and fruity teas (though I really like Wild Sweet Orange Tea by Tazo) . . . plain old, black leaf tea . . . Red Rose and Liptons . . . no condiments.  I like my tea straight.  I guess if a person is not going to drink coffee, he or she should drink tea . . . I am not a coffee drinker.

The other day, the oldest child and his mother started a conversation about coffee . . . actually it was about Starbucks . . . the commercialized flag ship of coffee shops.  Both of them were drooling and ranting and raving about how wonderful the coffee was at Starbucks . . . actually, at any good coffee shop that can produce the exotic drinks that they pass off as coffee today.  Now, I have gone into the aforementioned coffee shop with the wife before, but my heart practically stopped beating when they charged me nearly four dollars for a cup of tea . . . black tea, at that!  I know the price of a box of tea . . . Liptons or Red Rose . . . and, I know that for four bucks I could have made myself forty-eight cups of tea!  The wife told me to relax, I was paying for the experience and ambiance of the place.  I thought I was paying for a cup of tea!  It didn’t even faze the wife to spend six bucks for her coffee . . . four bucks for my tea . . . to sit in a crowded, stuffy place where people used a strange language to order their brews.  For a minute I was not sure if I was really in the biggest city in Montana.  Which brings me back to the conversation . . . the two of them just thought that the coffee and experience was the neatest thing since sliced bread.

In fact, as my wife says, coffee shops . . . in particular Starbucks and the coffee shop in Barnes and Noble . . . are one of her favorite places to unwind, relax, and spend some time with her self.  Most of the time she is with friends or family, it is rarely quiet, and nerve wracking in the introvert eyes of me. She likes to get her brew, sit back, do a crossword puzzle or read a book, think, and relax . . . a good way to end her day, she tells me.  I don’t get it.  In my mind I would think that it would be better to come home to the peace and quiet of home, brew a quick cup of coffee, and find true tranquility . . . but, the oldest and wife informed me I was wrong.

So, I was thinking about this as I was driving home from working at the university in the big city.  Coffee shops are the wife’s favorite places to sit back and have a brew . . . she can relax . . . talk to people . . . read a book . . . listen to music . . . cruise around on her smartphone.  It is a special place for her.  As I thought about that, it dawned on me . . . I have a special place like that too . . . a place where I get my favorite brew, sit back, enjoy some company, listen to some music, do a crossword (if I was really, really desperate for entertainment), cruise around on my smartphone, and even read a book if I wanted to.  The only difference is that my brew would not be coffee . . . it would be beer.  As I was moving down the highway, I thought to myself . . . there ain’t much difference between a brewery and a coffee shop in Montana . . . just depends upon what type of brew a person wants.

The wife doesn’t agree with me on this one.

So, I did a little research . . . coffee versus beer . . . coffee shops versus breweries . . . which are better for a person?  Here is a bit information for you . . . if you want to be creative, drink beer; if you want to be energetic, drink coffee.  Research shows that a couple of beers will make a person more creative . . . that the brain is less distracted by the world around it . . . that it is good for searching for an initial idea.  On the other hand, research shows that coffee is great at giving an individual quick energy . . . makes the person able to focus better . . . and, it makes one active.  This particular research stated that two would be perfect working together . . . the beer would create ideas that the coffee would give energy to achieve.  But, the research warned, moderation is the key to either one . . . neither one was good in over-abundance.

Other research had to do with telomeres—the end parts of DNA.  Apparently telomeres get shorter as a person ages, when they become too short, the cell dies.  Shorter telomeres are associated with poor health and an increased chance of premature death.  In this research it was found that caffeine was found to shorten telomeres, but that alcohol lengthened them.  In others words . . . beer lengthens a person’s life while coffee has a tendency to shorten it.  Beer topped coffee in this research.

Now, if you are actually seeking to relax, think, and spark the creative juices . . . beer is the brew to go with.  If you are seeking to be energetic, twitchy, and raring to go . . . coffee is the brew to drink.  If you are seeking longevity . . . beer.  If you are seeking an adventure and quick action . . . coffee.  Beer is served in breweries . . . coffee in coffee shops.  I get anxious in coffee shops . . . I feel out of my domain . . . out of place . . . I am uncomfortable . . . and, no one has ever yelled out my name in a coffee shop when I entered.  The brewery, on the hand, I feel more comfortable in, I feel I am among my people, and every so often someone actually knows my name.  A pint of beer is usually between three and four dollars . . . a cup of coffee between four and seven dollars . . . a cup of tea, four dollars.  I am no Einstein, but I think my genetic make-up would have me preferring the brewery and beer over the coffee shop and coffee.

I haven’t popped this theory on the wife yet.  As I said, she is a coffee drinker, I am a beer drinker.  She likes coffee shops, I like breweries.  She likes to spend money, I like to save money.  Either way, I have discovered that neither one of us really buys our coffee or beer . . . we rent it.  I do not think that we are going to agree on this topic of which brew and which place to have our favorite brew is best.  We disagree. As singer Dave Mason used to sing: “There ain’t no good guys, ain’t no bad guys.  There is only you and me and we disagree.”  On that I know the wife and I agree.  I can raise my stein to that!

What is your favorite brew?