Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31 – “Groundhog homework”

I just had a serious lesson on the ins and outs of Groundhog Day.  Seems Cailyn forgot to do her homework last night, so I was tasked with getting it done this morning before we take her school.  The assignment was to tell a parent (or grandparent) all about Groundhog Day, and then draw a picture of a groundhog.  I sure wish I had had an assignment like that when I was in school.  Of course she is technically in preschool, and when I was four years old I would have been happy to hold a crayon with the end pointed the right direction.  They are just so tempting, though.  I mean, were.  They were so tempting.  Red ones that should taste like cherries.  Yellow ones that should taste like bananas.  And the black ones.  They had to be licorice.  It was such a disappointment my first time.  They didn’t taste like much of anything, really.  That didn’t stop me, though.  I kept trying on the outside chance that one of them would come through for me and really taste good.  Oh, and when I got that first box with a hundred different color choices, I thought I had stumbled upon the smorgasbord of delight for sure.  But still no taste.  Sigh.  That’s the sort of thing a four-year-old should be thinking about, right? 

Enough reminiscing.  Cailyn knows her stuff about the old groundhog.  She whipped through the events summary of the day in nothing flat.  “If he sees his shadow, it means there will be … six … more … weeks … of … win … ter.”  Oh, no.  We can’t have that.  Especially not in Galveston.  We have had enough winter here to last us for at least six more years.  “And if he doesn’t see his shadow, it means that it … is … almost … almost … (Yes, she really did hold out the syllables.  Made for quite the dramatic pronouncement.  But then, she is good at being dramatic) … almost … Spring.”  And there you have it.  Assignment completed.  Well, almost.  Now she had to draw a picture, and I was supposed to help her.  How do I go about doing that?  Like any other self-respecting DadDad without an appropriate book handy, I googled “groundhog.”  And there were a host of photos and artist’s conceptions to choose from.  We looked through the array of pictures.  We laughed a lot at the silly little creatures.  She teared up when one was especially “so cute.”  And finally she was ready to tackle her own version of the furry critter.  We grabbed a pencil, plopped down on the floor, and opened up her notebook.  And she was off.  I thought at first she was going to draw it like a snowman, with a few separate circles joined together.  But her trained eye was able to transform what started out as an oddly misshaped oval into a pretty fair representation of the groundhogs we had been spying on.  Eyes, nose, mouth in a two-toothed grin.  Two long legs and two much shorter ones.  Little tail added on at the last minute.  And for yet another touch of realism, little tiny hairs coming out of the body.  Of course she also had to add a flower, "because groundhogs always have flowers around them," and a necklace.  Gotta have the best-dressed groundhog, too.  There were only two animals it could possibly be.  A groundhog, of course.  Or possibly a beaver.  Those two big teeth kind of stood out.  DadDad was appropriately proud, of course.  Now of that Punxsutawney Phil will just cooperate and be bleary-eyed enough to miss his shadow, we can get on with Spring.  I’m ready to do some fishing.

Hosea 6:3 says, “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.  As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

Father, I am ready for some Spring, but if we need a while longer of your Winter, well, I’m OK with that, too.  I trust you.  Amen.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30 – “Another send-off”

I went to a very interesting funeral yesterday.  It was to honor a man who grew up on the same street I did.  Really nice guy who ended up having a lot of problems medically.  He was quite a fixture on the street, though.  He rode his bicycle everywhere and was one of the most pleasant folks around to the public.  His Mom still lives on the street, so we are praying for her to get through the grief.  Chris and I both got to attend, thanks to Nathan coming over and hanging out with Mom.

The service itself was led by a Catholic deacon assigned to the Galveston parish.  He also works at our bank, so I know him in several different scenarios.  He’s a really good guy.  Anyway, just as the service got going a phone went off about two rows in front of us.  It wasn’t a quiet, traditional ring either.  It was one of those loud, obnoxious ring tones that plays a recognizable song.  Kind of like mine plays “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as sung by Donald Duck.  And the guy couldn’t get it out of his pocket to turn it off.  There were snickers all around when he finally did manage to silence it.  Then Chris punched me and whispered, “Watch for it.”  Sure enough, virtually everyone in the entire back half of the room pulled out his phone and checked to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. 

I was impressed that the deacon mentioned baptism by immersion.  In the process he described, the person is dunked three different times, once each for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Maybe I’ll try that on Easter Sunday at the sunrise service on the beach when we baptize in the Gulf.  It’ll mean waiting for three separate waves, though.  Might take some time unless it’s some rough seas. 

The bulk of the service followed essentially the same plan as other Catholic services I have been to.  He did bless the casket with water from the Jordan River.  That was an interesting touch.  And he blessed the body with water from a well in Ephesus at the sight where Mary was supposed to have lived out her days with the Apostle John.  Scripture passages came from the 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my Shepherd), 2 Timothy (I have fought the good fight) and John 14:7 (Stop letting your hearts be troubled).  He did seem to have a bit of trouble handling the very personal obituary and the sharing time.  It came across that it was a little out of his comfort zone to leave the printed service.  And it struck Chris and me both that he referred to the deceased as an angel.  Not very sound theology, but I know he was just trying to communicate comfort to the family.  A childhood best friend had no trouble reminiscing, though.  Oh, and the one comment that everyone seemed to connect with was that Randy’s favorite food ever was … Mario’s supreme pizza.  Nice. 

Revelation 1:17-18 says, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.’”

Father, there’s yet another family that needs to know you are walking with them through some grief.  Be kind.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

January 29 – “Random thoughts”

Well it looks like our horrendous winter storm event is about to end without us seeing much of anything here on the Island.  Oh, it’s still 29 degrees right now, but I understand it will be closer to 60 tomorrow and 70 by Friday.  Then it’ll be time to release Chris’ outside plants from their draped prison and allow them to see the sun once again.  Oh, and hope that we’re about done with the frigid air. 

At least Easter comes a little later this year.  What does that have to do with anything?  Well, our first baptisms of the year at Seaside usually come during our Easter sunrise service on the beach.  The later in the year Easter happens, the longer the beach water temperature has to rise to more bearable levels.  We have done some pretty chilly baptisms out there in the Gulf of Mexico. 

We just had one of those twisty-curly looking light bulbs give up the ghost this morning.  I’m not sure how long it has been operating in my home office pole lamp.  It was our first foray into the high tech world of curly-cue light bulbs.  I think it lasted almost a year, so I guess that’s good.  They sure seem expensive, though.  Especially the three-way version like this one was. 

We discovered a new show on Netflix a while back.  It’s called The 4400.  All about 4400 people who were abducted by what they thought were aliens.  Turned out it was by people in the future.  Then they were all sent back to the same place at the same point in time.  And each of them had been given some kind of unusual power that they were supposed to figure out how to use to save the world from the horrible fate that awaited it in the future.  There have been some fun episodes with weird powers and the inevitable struggle between good and evil.  We started season four last night, and Chris looked it up online to see how many more episodes there were.  She found out that it was abruptly canceled after the season we were about to begin due to budgetary constraints.  And apparently there was a major cliffhanger episode that ended it all, so there is no resolution.  Aargh.  Now I’m torn.  Should I even bother watching the rest of it?

I thought Cailyn would be here this morning for us to take her to school, but so far she’s a no-show.  I guess April must have a late start day today and she’s taking her.  Oh, well, it’ll give me some more time to work on the teachings for this week. 

Hmm.  It’s amazing how much random stuff I can come up with when I have absolutely nothing to say.  Kind of gives me a headache, though.  I’ll try to take better notes today.

Matthew 6:33-34 says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Father, thank you for the occasional quiet days where not much seems to happen.  I could probably use a few more of those.  But then I really don’t like being bored.  I’ll trust you to handle the events of my day.  One day at a time.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

January 28 – “Goin’ to the radio”

From the looks of things on Weatherbug and out the window, I don’t know if we’re going get any of that harsh winter weather that has been so hyped the past day or two.  Oh, it’s cold enough, all right.  At least for me.  36 degrees.  But it looks like most of the wet stuff is slipping by to our north.  Once again, the advantages of living on a tropical island paradise, I guess.  However, the Galveston school district already closed for the day.  They announced yesterday.  So has the city of Galveston, so no garbage service.  I assume I will still have water therapy this morning, though.  UTMB ignored all the hype and everything connected to them will be open. 

All that being said, Cailyn is here for the day.  The fire department never gets a snow day, thank goodness.  And with UTMB open, April has to go in as well.  So Cailyn arrived last night to spend the night, and was she ever excited.  She was all set to go to the radio.  That sounds kind of confusing, I know.  How do you go to the radio?  You can listen to the radio.  You can go over to the radio and turn it on.  You can even go to the radio station.  But go to the radio?  She was quite insistent.  Now to be fair, we had the advantage of seeing her.  And the visual clues instantly solved the riddle.  She was all decked out in her pink boots and jeans and a cowboy hat.  She even brought a horse.  A huge toy horse.  About the size of a german shepherd.  She brought a boatload of other stuff as well – Barbies and clothes for the Barbies and one of those dolls that looks eerily like their owner (although hers doesn’t look much like her.  It’s a blonde, for one thing.  But it is still rather disconcerting when they dress alike).  Dolls are just creepy things.  The other day when our friends from the Austin area came by to say hi, one of their boys let me know that he was more than a little freaked out by the doll we have in a glass display case.  I assured him it was trapped inside and couldn’t get out.  Of course those other ones in our bedroom were free to roam around at will.  He wasn’t interested in seeing them.  But I digress.  Cailyn was dressed and ready for a trip to the radio.  Very cute stuff.  Of course I have never understood the female fascination for horses.  I guess it has something to do with the hair on both ends that they can brush and put bows in.  Tough luck if you’re a guy horse, I guess.  She assured me that hers was a girl horse, though.  “Because she has long hair, DadDad.”  Of course.  That’s the telltale sign.  I forget that.  I’m a child of the sixties and seventies.  Guys had long hair back then, too. 

She explained that some of the stuff came from her other grandma and some came from her birthday money and she can’t wait to take her Target gift cards and her other birthday money and get some other stuff and … and …

And she didn’t stop talking until we gave her some of that new Blue Bell ice cream flavor – I Love Chocolate.  Milk chocolate ice cream, chocolate chunks coated in chocolate candy, chocolate cake coated with chocolate icing, and a chocolate syrup swirl.  Decadent.  Surprisingly, she fell asleep less than five minutes into Despicable Me.  Her tired defeated the raging sugar in her system.  Took mine a bit longer, but let me just say, ours was a peaceful evening.

1 Peter 5:14 says, “Greet one another with a kiss of love.”  Peace to all of you who are in Christ.”

Father, we could use a few more of those peaceful nights.  Amen.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27 – “ensure-ing a place”

The other day Mom was drinking some of that ensure stuff that supposedly tastes like a milkshake.  I have never tried it, so I will make no judgments.  It does look like a milkshake, I guess.  A really thin one.  Anyway, she gets very excited when we hand her one.  It is a very special treat to her.  As she slurped down the last of hers, she commented, “Mmm.  That’s so good.  Nani would sure like this.  Can we get her some next time we go to the store?  You know, my mother.  I know she would like it.”  Nani was our name for Mom’s mother.  Nani K. (for Kelley, which was her last name), because Dad’s mother was also Nani.  She was Nani V. (for Vaughan, of course).  We weren’t completely sure how to answer that one.  I never have been clear on whether to enter into the mistaken delusions or to correct them or just to ignore them.  I have read “expert” opinion on all of those, and honestly, I have probably tried all of those at one time or another with Mom or Dad when he was battling Alzheimer’s.  The easiest, and probably the most fun for me, has been to join them in the delusion, to carry on the conversation with them as of it made perfect sense.  Chris on the other hand is a master at deflection.  She can always think of some other topic that effectively distracts her away from the subject at hand.  There have been times, though, when I have been really weary and just couldn’t come up with anything.  At those times I realize that I have just held her gaze and smiled.  After a few seconds she returns the smile and moves on to something else.  Whatever tactic seemed best for the situation, we have really tried our best not to lie to her.  Our response to the ensure query was a simple, “I’m sure Nani would like it.  We will be sure to pick some up next time we go to WalMart.” 

Mom also asked again the other day when we were going back to Galveston.  That has been a regular theme off and on for quite some time now.  We assure her that we are in Galveston and that this is her home and that her room in right here in this house.  She can’t figure out how to say exactly what she means, but this time she countered, “But we have so much stuff there that is not here.”  I think that maybe she thinks that she is visiting us in Colorado and feels like she is wearing out her welcome.  And this outrageous cold weather is not helping with that situation.  Especially if it does snow some tomorrow like they are predicting.  All we can do is keep on reassuring her that she is welcome and safe here.  And loved. 

Psalms 91:1-2 says, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’”

Father, wrap your arms of security around Mom so she can feel your presence wherever she is and know she is always at home with you.  Amen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26 – “Fire and smoke”

With all this cold air flowing all around us, we decided to do something about it the other night.  I was at WalMart picking up a few things when Chris texted me with a request.  “You want a fire in the fireplace?  If so, we need logs – IF there are any left.”  I know.  If you are a guy, that doesn’t sound like a request.  But I think even old Dagwood Bumstead could figure that one out.  I retreated to the far back corner of the store from where I was standing and grabbed a box of logs.  After all, a fire in the fireplace was always one of Mom’s favorite things when she came to visit us in Colorado.

Now, we don’t actually have a fireplace as such.  We have one of those Franklin-type wood–burning stoves.  It’s the kind that vents out our back wall before making a turn to the roof.  This old creature is one of the few things that made it through Hurricane Ike.  It was badly rusted, but one of the Galveston firefighters’ family has been in the funeral monument business for years, so he sandblasted the whole thing for us.  Thanks again for that, Jab.  We then painted it with that paint that can take high heat.  Looks really good, too. 

It is made so we can burn wood in it, but because of several factors, we stick to those fake ones that burn for two hours and then are gone.  So Chris put one of those logs into the fireplace and we settled down to watch a few episodes of Classic Doctor Who and sew.  Chris rarely just sits and watches TV.  She has to be doing something.  I, on the other hand, consider relaxing on the couch and struggling to stay awake enough of a challenge. 

Now, we never have been completely sure which way is open and closed for the flue.  When I start a fire I have to check every time.  After all, how often do we have cold enough weather in Galveston for a fire?  Well, this time we forgot to double-check.  And this time we guessed wrong.  At least for a while.  The fire had been burning for at least twenty or thirty minutes when Chris commented, “It sure is getting hazy in here.”  I hadn’t noticed.  Or if I had, I attributed it to the quality of production back in 1967 or maybe my glasses were dirty or maybe I was just too old or too tired to care.  But as it turned out, she wasn’t the only one who recognized the smoke.  So did our smoke detectors.  All five of them.  Oh do they ever work well.  By the time we actually got up and realized that our house was literally filled with smoke, the five noise-makers were making a racket that I thought sure would wake up Station Four over at the airport.  At first we just fanned the detectors with a towel, our usual tactic when the one near the kitchen goes off after culinary episodes.  But this event required more than a cursory swoosh or two.  We opened windows and doors.  We checked the flue and went outside to see if smoke was venting through the chimney.  We turned on ceiling fans.  We even made sure the heater came on so the blower would work to suck some of the tainted air through the return vents.  Chris told me to try breaking up the log so it would burn faster.  That made the fire flare up enough that I could see for sure that the flue was now open, but it didn’t really help our immediate smoky dilemma.  Meanwhile Mom was covered up on the couch under a blanket wondering why it was so cold all of a sudden.  The noise finally stopped, and the smoke gradually dissipated, leaving a fine layer of soot around the house.  We breathed a sigh of relief, changed the channel, and settled back down. 

And after about an hour, Mom sat up, glanced from side to side with a puzzled look on her face, and asked, “What happened to the fire in the fireplace?”  What happened, indeed, Mom.  What happened, indeed. 

Acts 2:2-4 says, “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”

Father, I have to admit that this was not the verse I was thinking of when we were fighting that smoke.  But thank you for the beauty and warmth that fire does provide.  Oh, and, could you help us remember next time that the knob pulled out means the flue is open?  Or was it the other way? Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 25 – “An Ice-pocalypse Episode”

Well, it did get awfully cold in Galveston over the last few days.  We ended up canceling home group on Thursday night because of the freezing rain expected.  Then yesterday we woke up to 28 degrees and a sheet of ice covering the cars.  Sleet.  Even a few snow flurries.  Schools were delayed for two hours getting started to give the old sun time to warm things up.  Sad to say, though, it never did get much above freezing all day.  People on Social Media were calling it Ice-pocalypse.  Houston was a mess.  Several of the freeway overpasses were closed down.  Wrecks everywhere.  Those Texans just don’t know how to deal with this wintry stuff.  Thankfully most people here in Galveston followed the proper course of action in dealing with winter weather … don’t.  Just stay inside.  I got a call at one point during the day from a Seasider who just had surgery.  He needed an emergency errand run for him because his entire deck was one massive sheet of ice.  It worked out pretty well, though, because I happened to be in the car when he called.

And there’s the next question.  What was I doing in the car when I knew all this craziness was happening outside?  Well, we got a call about one of the fire department’s safety trucks being involved in a rollover accident.  Not responding to a call about a rollover, now.  He was the rollover.  I was trying to piece together the reports as they came over my phone scanner when Nathan called.  He wasn’t on duty, but he happened to be driving near where it happened and stopped by to check it out.  He just wanted to give me a heads up in case I got a call later about the guy being in the hospital or anything.  That was enough.  I got my coat on (yes, my winter, Denver, ski coat) and headed over to the wreck sight.  I had to make my way through two police officers who were blocking the scene from each direction.  The first one asked if I would mind going through the other checkpoint.  He didn’t want to take any chances on getting into trouble.  The other guy let me through with no questions asked.  As I approached the scene I noticed someone walking in my direction.  That had to be one really cold individual.  Apparently the fire chief thought the same thing.  I saw his vehicle pull over and offer the person a ride.  He told me later that it was the photographer from the Daily News.  The gesture apparently worked.  The picture and story were essentially buried in a bigger story about the icy conditions in general.  Nice job, chief. 

By the time I got there, the driver was on his way to the emergency room.  It was just him.  No other cars were involved.  The roadside was very soft, and the truck just rolled over onto its roof.  I had pictured it rolling several times.  That was good news.  Well, not so much for the truck, but the fire fighter was doing OK.  He even managed to get himself out of the truck before any help arrived.  He had a banged-up knee and his neck was sore.  Everything looked good at the hospital, though.  It took a couple of wreckers to get the safety truck righted and on its way.  It really didn’t look as bad as I thought it might.  The roof of the cab was king of caved in, but everything else looked all right.  It all could have been much worse.  Looks like God is not done with that fire fighter just yet. 

Psalms 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Father, thank you for protecting Jim yesterday.  Walk with him as he recovers.  Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2014

January 24 – “Thump, thump, thump”

Blasting.  Booming.  Constant thump, thump, thump.  That’s the noise that reached my ears as I turned onto the seawall.  I honestly expected to turn and see one of those tricked out super-cars, or whatever they call them, with its bass turned to the max and the volume as high as it would go.  I turned all right.  But what I saw didn’t fit at all with what I was hearing.  I saw a bicycle on the seawall.  I know, not an unusual sight at all.  But this one was towing one of those little trailers behind it.  Again, not that strange.  But what really threw me was what he had on his trailer.  I wouldn’t even have noticed it if I hadn’t heard it first.  This little trailer was hauling an amp that was bigger than the bicycle and its operator.  And somehow the music was exploding from that amp.  He was having some difficulty with it, too.  Looks like he had slowed too fast or hit a bump or something, because the front wheels of the trailer were up in the air, causing the back wheels of the bike to barely touch the sidewalk.  Quite a sight.  And yes, I admit it.  I laughed.  A lot.

I had a chance to get to know one of the other men at water therapy the other day, too.  I noticed that he had a fire department union sticker on his car, so I asked him about it.  Sure enough, he retired after 25 years as a fire fighter in Detroit.  That explained the Michigan license plates.  After that career he went into medical technology and worked at a hospital there for a number of years.  At the present time he works for the Detroit Tigers as the guy who does all of their x-rays.  Of course that led to plenty of baseball talk about Al Kaline and exorbitant salaries and how low the Astros’ payroll was last year.   It’s always great to find a new friend with some similar interests.  I just wish I could remember his name.  Oh, well.  We are in a therapy class with a bunch of senior citizens.  I’m sure he’ll understand when I ask for it again.  And again.

We had a surprise visit from our friends Kenny and Lauren and their children yesterday.  They were Seasiders back in the day before they moved to Austin.  Of course, once a Seasider, always a Seasider.  Kenny is teaching at a conference for fire department commissioners that is meeting at Moody Gardens.  It was great to see them.  Their two little girls are growing like weeds, and the two boys they are fostering are looking good as well.  The boys are both waiting for word on kidney transplants.  They have to be ready at a moment’s notice to get them to the hospital should a kidney come available.  Meanwhile, they spend a lot of time in hospitals doing dialysis.  My hat is off to that great family. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

Father, thank you for new friends and old friends and unexpected sights on the seawall.  They all make life a little more exciting.  Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 23 – “Red”

Yesterday Cailyn and Mom had some “hang time” at the table.  Cailyn created one of her famous journal books.  She takes a handful of paper from her drawer in my desk (Yes, she has her own personal drawer with paper and pencils and pens).  Then she staples them all together on one end, forming a booklet.  And then she draws pictures or practices writing her letters or whatever else one might do with her very own journal.  This time she and her journal were sitting at the table with her MeeMaw.  She had some multi-colored markers and was diligently at work on some masterpiece of art.  And Mom was completely engrossed in the process.  

I heard Mom comment, “That’s so pretty.” 
Cailyn: “Yes, it is.”
Mom: “Oh, I like that.”
Cailyn: “What’s your favorite color, MeeMaw?”
Mom (Remember, her hearing is not so good): “Uh-huh.”
Cailyn (With a somewhat puzzled look on her face, she tries again): “What’s your favorite color, MeeMaw?”
Mom: “Yes, that’s right.”
Cailyn (After a long pause): “What’s your favorite color?”
Mom: “That’s so pretty.”
Cailyn (Instead of succumbing to frustration, she responds quite gently, recognizing the problem.  Very slowly, she enunciates each word carefully): What’s your favorite color?”
Mom: “I see that.”

And that was enough for Cailyn.  She quietly chuckled to herself, took a deep breath, and picked up the red.  Red is always nice.  And it just happens to be one of Mom's favorite colors.

Psalms 27:4 says, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Father, thank you for brief glimpses of your beauty in family cross-cultural interchanges.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

January 22 – “The Other Side”

Ah, the joys of homeowner’s plumbing.  No water to the house.  Trips to the hardware store.  Searching for the right tools.  What a refreshing way to spend the day.

Nathan came over right after he dropped Cailyn off at school.  I had to go to water therapy, so I was secretly hoping our little leak in the back yard would somehow miraculously be fixed by the time I got home.  No such luck.  Nathan and Chris had some quality Mommy-Son time, though, over a cup of coffee.  That was a good thing.  But still we had to tackle the plumbing beast in the back yard. 

Once we got the pipe wrap off and took a good look at it, we took a picture and headed off to Village Hardware, the tiny little store that has been around as long as I can remember.  They never have a huge inventory of stuff, but somehow they almost always manage to find just the part you are looking for.  And their staff happily does all the looking and cutting for you.  It’s a do-it-yourselfer’s dream place.  Between our picture, the image Nathan had in his mind, and the sales person, we came away with a small bag of goodies, all set to take on the plumbing world.  You know, I guess I really could have done this thing myself.  Chris and I have tackled much harder things in our life together, and she even told Nathan that she was gearing up for it when I started talking about calling the plumber.  She sounded disappointed.  Guess I’ll have to remember that next time something comes up.  Of course it would have taken me twice as long to do it.  I would have drawn a picture of all the possible combinations of pvc.  I would have measured everything to the millimeter.  I would have forgotten something key to the process, probably the glue primer.  Oh, I would have done it, but we would be finishing up in time for supper instead of just after lunch. 

As it turned out, we got the contraption built with little difficulty.  I say contraption because it is a strange conglomeration.  When that part of the house was added on, the water was extended out of the house, as you might expect, but then they ran a line underground all the way to the back flower bed so there would be faucet out there.  But they still wanted a faucet right there by the house as well.  So we had to figure out how to tie onto the building line, veer off to a faucet there by the house, then connect to the underground line.  Sounds harder than it was.  You just had to know your way around Tinker Toys. Same principle.  Connectors.  Elbows.  T’s.  Nathan had it done in record time.  We waited the requisite fifteen minutes for the glue to set, and then turned on the water.  And there, in another spot altogether, was a tiny leak.  Back to the drawing board. 

This time we went to Home Depot so we could have a wider array of choices.  Nathan had a new vision of simplifying the whole process this time, so I acquiesced to his prowess.  What he came up with this time was indeed a lot simpler than before.  Fewer twists and turns.  This one took even less time to construct and install.  Didn’t surprise me.  I learned these words of wisdom a long time ago when working on cars with my friend Cary in Arlington: “The other side is always easier.”  Once you do your learning on one side, it stands to reason that the other side should go much more smoothly.  In fact we even considered opening a car repair shop called “The Other Side.” 

This time all the seals held and we had an official success.  Just in time for the drastic drop in temperature that is expected here tomorrow night.  I spent thirty minutes or so wrapping the new pipes in the unlikely event it did drop to near freezing here.  And then the plumbing was done.  Well … until Nathan called a few hours later to ask if I had a snake.  The pipes kind, not the slithery kind.  Sigh.  Round two.

Psalms 30:10-12 says, “Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me; O Lord, be my help.  You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”

Father, thank you for being my Help in all the things that really matter.  And thank you for providing help through people in those times of tiny life leaks.  Amen.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

January 21 – “On weather or not”

Guess what I did on a fine January afternoon yesterday?  I mowed the grass.  That’s right.  I live on a tropical island paradise remember?  Eat your heart out, all you Northeasterners and Oklahomans who are dealing with snow and freezing temperatures.  And one of the “perks” is having the “opportunity” to spend an extra hour or so basking in the glorious sunshine while walking behind a lawn mower. 

Actually, it’s not so much that the grass is just growing like crazy.  It’s those winter weeds and clovers.  They permeate the landscape.  And when they feel especially frivolous, they bunch up in one spot and make an ankle-deep blob of greenness that is very annoying to walk through.  The offending piles of worthlessness have been sheared now, though. 

The only residual effect that I can see – or rather feel – is the soreness wracking my body.  Always happens when you rediscover muscles that have been on hold for the winter.  And as also always happens, that soreness leads to overcompensation by other body parts, which leads to a flare-up of the disc issue in my lower back, which leads to tingling and numbness down my right leg, which leads to sharp pains in my middle toes.  Is that crazy, or what?  Of course I have water therapy this morning, so now I get to wade into a heated pool, which will feel great, then spend forty-five minutes or so jumping and twisting around, which will feel not so great.  And then I get to go back outside into some Galveston weather.  The temperature has dropped from 57 to 52 degrees since I got up this morning, and we are under a high wind alert.  Gusts of up to 48 miles per hour.  Wind chill is already 45 degrees. 

And why do I have to go back outside, you may ask?  Or you may not ask.  You probably don’t care in the least, but I’ll tell you anyway.  While I was returning the gas can to the shed yesterday I discovered that one of our faucets in the back yard has a leak in it.  Not a big one, but most assuredly a leak.  I have no idea how long it has been going on, but I know the city appreciates our donations to the water department that have been the result.  Nathan is coming over after he drops Cailyn off at school, and we are going to tackle that project.  Can’t wait.  No, really.  I enjoy whatever time I get to spend with my boys.  Even in the bitter Galveston cold.  Doing plumbing. 

Psalms 147:7-8 says, “Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God on the harp.   He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills.”

Father, thank you for the miracle that is this crazy weather.  If nothing else it gives us a surprise to look forward to every day.  Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2014

January 20 – “Light”

We have a great group of children at Seaside – Kings’ Kids, we call them.  And quite a few of them were there yesterday for the Kids’ Sermon.  I think I counted at least ten or eleven.  That made a difference because the first thing we did was make a fort.  You know, the same way you no doubt made at some point in your own career as a kid – using blankets and furniture.  In our case we moved around a couple of the front pews and draped a blanket over the top.  It didn’t completely block us in, but it made for the perfect effect.  Especially with the littlest ones.  They weren’t so scared as if it had been really dark.  There was one guy who assured me he could make the place as dark as I wanted it to be, even with the lights on.  All he needed was one more blanket.  About that time someone turned off the room lights, though, so I assured him we would be fine.  In fact all of the older ones were great.  They held the little two-year-olds in their laps or made a special place for them right in the center of the group where they would feel safe.  Everybody managed to get under the blanket.  Well, except for me.  They told me I was just too big and that I would have to sit on the outside.  Hey, that’s OK.  I can handle it.  My self-esteem is doing just fine right now.  I plopped myself down and got as close as I could.

The first thing I did was turn on a flashlight.  That’s part of the fun, isn’t it?  That’s one of the things that makes a pretty good fort into a really great one.  Their eyes were wide with excitement as I flashed it around the tiny, cramped little house of fun.  And then I turned the flashlight off.  That was my cue to start the teaching. 

“Wait a minute.  There wasn’t really light coming from in there, was there?  It’s just a big stick.  Everybody knows light doesn’t come from a stick.”
That brought some immediate disagreement. 
“Yes, there was light.”  “It’s not a stick.  It’s a flashlight.” 
I kept going: “Don’t get me wrong.  Light would be a good thing to have.  We need light.  But really, there’s no such thing as light.”
Again, the floodgates of protests began.    
“Of course there is light.”  “There’s light everywhere.” 
Undeterred, I continued bantering: “But how do you know there is light?  Can you prove light to me?”
And then one of my favorites.  I asked, “Who told you there was a light?”
Instantly came the response: “My science teacher.”
Hey, science teachers of the world.  Someone out there is listening.
I replied, “Can your science teacher be trusted?  What if I don’t know her?  How can I trust her?”

I finally gave in and turned the flashlight back on.  Here’s how I continued:
You know, there is something really special about light.  Light is what we call, self-evident.  That means it doesn’t need a witness to confirm its alibi.  If it is on, there is no doubt about it.  In the story today Jesus says, “I am the Light of the World.”  There were a lot of people who didn’t believe him.  They wanted proof.  They wanted to hear some eye-witnesses.  But you know what?  Jesus doesn’t need any of that.  He is like light.  He is self-evident.  All they had to do was listen to what he said and see the miracles her did.  Jesus is the one to trust when you need to know where to go or what to do. 

John 8:12 says, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

Jesus, thank you for being the best flashlight ever.  Amen.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

January 19 – “Color coding”

Well I was sent on a mission on Friday.  Since I was already headed to WalMart to gather some supplies for Chris to make dips and punch for Cailyn’s birthday party, one more thing was added to my list.  Now let me say upfront that I did volunteer for this mission, hazardous as it may sound.  Nathan was headed over to borrow some tables and April wanted some table covers.  Sounds simple enough, right?  That’s what I thought.  Until the rest of the instructions came forth.

“You need to get pink one.  But not just any pink.  You need to get light pink, not that bright hot pink.”  OK.  Wait a minute.  Really?  Now you are putting restrictions?  And based on color of all thing?  You want me to make a decision about color?  How important are these table covers to you, anyway?  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m happy to do it.  I’ll be there anyway.  Just give me more to go on than shades of color.  That aspect of my eyesight just doesn’t work that way (differentiating shades of color – they all look the same to me).  April told me exactly where in WalMart I would find them, and then she said the magic words, “they will have the color printed on the package.”  Well, why didn’t you tell me?  That changes everything.  No stress.  Just read.  How hard can it be?

Yep.  That was meant to be a literary tool.  It’s called foreshadowing. 

When I left for WalMart Chris remembered something else April had said.  She was looking for pink and brown bandanas for the party, and the ones they ordered looked like they weren’t going to get here in time.  So Chris said I should check at WalMart to see if they had any.  Again, I figured I could handle that one.  I went straight to the crafts and fabric department to get that one out of the way.  And it didn’t take long.  They had some red ones (that’s the color bandanas are supposed to be).  They had some blue ones (I have seen blue before as well).  They even had some white ones (very strange looking).  But no pink or brown.  I even asked the lady working there.  She found some “bandana material” (who knew there was such a thing), but none in pink or brown.  So much for that task.  On to the table covers. 

And there they were.  Table covers of all colors.  Blue.  Green.  Yellow.  And … Pink.  But not just one pink.  No, that would be too easy.  They had “Lovely pink” (looked to be a good candidate), and D pink (That one scared me.  I was afraid “D” might stand for “Dark”), and Diva pink (you’ve got to be kidding me, and finally “Elegant pink” (that one had all sorts of designs swirling around on it).  Great.  Many choices.  And then I had an idea.  I snapped a picture of the one marked “Purple” and sent it to April, asking if this one would work.  Didn’t take long to get a response, either.  She just about panicked.  I think her response was something like, “No, that’s purple!” quickly followed up with, “I can get it myself.”  That was fun.  I finally did calm her down and assure her that I was kidding.  I ended up going with “Lovely pink.”  Hope it works.

Psalms 84:1-2 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

Father, thank you for all those shades of color, even when I can’t tell the difference between them.  It just goes to show that you have an eye for all this beauty you have created.  Amen.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

January 18 - “On chairs and FD cousins”

I made a quick trip over to Office Depot the other day.  They were advertising office furniture for sale, and I need a new desk chair.  The one I have has a few problems, some of which I could live with.  The worn out padding is annoying, as is the tiny little hole in one arm right where my hand fits.  But the really troublesome issue is the fact that it has lost its ability to raise and lower.  Well, it will raise up, but it won’t stay in position.  It slowly eases itself back to the lowest possible spot.  That means I feel like I’m typing from a hole.  Now, some people who use the chair like it down there anyway, and I have often had to reset it over the years.  But I don’t do well operating from a hole.  I think maybe this is the reason my back has been barking at me lately. 

So I was looking for an office chair.  One was listed in their big sale in the paper for $49.99, but I missed the cutoff on that by one day.  That same chair was now $59.99 (regularly $129.99).  I finally found one that swiveled and rolled, but it didn’t rock.  That could be a problem.  The deal-breaker, though was when I realized that it was only a half-back chair.  Well, I mean the whole back was there, but it only reached half-way up my back.  I really need one that comes all the way up.  Strictly ergonomical reasons, you understand.  It has nothing to do with having a place to rest my head when I lean back and take a nap.  I kept searching and finally found one that met all my must-haves (can you tell that HGTV has been on our TV lately?  Property Brothers).  It was comparable to the one I have, and it was also on sale.  But it cost $99.99.  That’s a bit more than we had discussed, so I texted Chris to see what she thought.  Her answer?  Classic.  “Duct tape the old one.”  Gotta love that woman.  I responded with, “But duct tape doesn’t work on hydraulics.”  So she lovingly replied with the answer that every husband hates to hear.  “It’s up to you.”  I didn’t get the chair that day. 

But I did go back and get it the next day.  And I had an interesting encounter along the way.  The guy who helped me carry it to the car – Miguel – was eyeing my cap, and finally got up the nerve to ask what he had been thinking about.  Somewhat incredulously, he managed, “Do you work for the fire department?”  Now the way he said it reminded me of the Greek construction (or is it Hebrew?) that communicates asking a question but expecting a negative answer.  In other words, “You don’t really work for the fire department, do you?”  I guess my aura doesn’t really exude “This guy will risk life and limb for your burning house – and be successful.”  Although it was tempting to see how he would react if I told him I was a fire fighter, I was honest and let him know I was the department chaplain.  And as such I was able to experience the best of both worlds.  I didn’t have to run into burning buildings, but I could still be a part of the whole fire department family experience.  He did have a reason behind his question, though.  He told me his cousin married “one of those guys who works way out there on the West End.  His name is Jones.”  I told him I knew Steve, and he assured me that Steve was a good guy.  So I guess you have Nicole’s family on your side, Steve.  Way to go.

Oh, and by the way … the chair is very comfortable. 

Ephesians 3:14-19 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Father, watch over the fire department family, cousins and all.  Amen.

Friday, January 17, 2014

January 17 – “A Prediction”

Well, I tried my hand … er, rather feet, I guess … at the balance beam in the playground outside Cailyn’s school.  Not a pretty picture.  Thank goodness it was only about six inches off the ground.  And that the ground was covered with those wood shavings.  She did great on her turn, though.  Really shamed me.  She did take one picture of me making my stand on one foot.  That’s what I’ll hang onto – photographic evidence. 

We did have one of those once-in-a-lifetime discussions while we were there.  I have no idea what brought it on, but here’s the transcript.  See what you think.

Cailyn: “DadDad, when I get thirteen, you’ll be died.”

Wait, that’s only 8 more years.  That means I’ll just be 68.  I scrambled to answer.

Me: “But you said I could dance with you at your wedding.”

Cailyn (pensively): “Oh, yeah.  So you’ll wait to be died then.”

Not a question.  That was a statement of fact.

Me: “Well, that’s good.  Especially since your Daddy says you can’t get married until you are 35.” 

That’ll get me to at least 90.

Cailyn: “No, DadDad.  He said not until 50.  So you have to wait.”

Fifteen more years.  Hmm.  That puts me at 105.  Wonder if I’ll still be able to cut a rug?  Well, maybe Luke can push me around in my wheelchair.  

Proverbs 9:10-11 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.  For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.”

Father, I’ll sure take whatever years you want to give me.  Just help me be helpful while I am around.  Amen.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

January 16 – “Emergency Wake-up Call”

What a start to the day yesterday.  What an early start, that is.  We got a call from Uncle Jerry around 4:30 a.m.  Never a good sign.  The only thing anyone should be doing that early in the morning is going fishing or maybe leaving for a vacation.  He said he was having the worst headache of his life, and it had begun to affect the vision in his left eye.  The pain had gotten so great that he needed some help getting to the emergency room.  I let him retell his story to Chris while I got dressed, and she concurred that he needed to get to the ER right away.  Some of what he was describing could be signs of a stroke. 

I got to his house a little before 5.  The door was locked, which surprised me, because when he knows I am coming over he usually manages to unlock it.  And when he didn’t answer my knocks right away I was beginning to get nervous.  Just as I was pulling out my phone to call, though, he finally opened it and stumbled back toward his bedroom.  His gait was very unsteady as he moved slowly from couch to chair to wall before collapsing into his bed.  As he stumbled along he said, “For some reason I’m having trouble seeing out of my left eye.”  That’s when he finally turned so I could see his face.  The whole left side of his face was swollen, and his eye was swollen completely shut.  Explained the lack of vision, I guess.  I described his face to him, and he was surprised about the swelling.  I hesitantly ventured, “You know, I think this might be one of those times when we need to call 9-1-1.”  I was floored when he actually agreed with me, but I didn’t hesitate. 

The fire fighters from station 7 were there in less than five minutes doing their assessment.  The ambulance had to come from downtown, but it was on its way as well.  Before it arrived one of the fire fighters, who shall heretofore remain anonymous, went out to move the truck to give them room to load up.  Suddenly we heard the loud blare of the distinctive siren.  It only lasted a few seconds, but it might have been enough to give a few of the neighbors an … unexpected … wake-up call.  I asked if that meant the ambulance was there, and through a stifled chuckle I heard, “Sure, that must be it.”  Kudos to the crew.  They did a great job.

The ambulance did arrive just seconds later with their gear and the travel seat they would use to carry Jerry down the stairs.  As the paramedic was writing down all the drugs Jerry takes, she asked if the patient was related to Nathan Vaughan.  I said he was the patient’s great nephew and my son.  She looked up rather abruptly and said, “Oh, now I see your hat.”  Yep, that would me … Chappy.  That settled, they got Jerry into the ambulance and I followed them in to the hospital.  All that and we still arrived at UTMB before 6 a.m.  Gotta get there early to do your most effective waiting.  He had a CT scan, blood work and a quarantine test.   He’s in quarantine because at his last visit they removed his sigmoid colon.  Apparently that makes you an automatic quarantine for the next three times you come in.   

Jerry started talking to me around 7.  He was reminiscing about his days growing up and how his good ol’days intersected with so often with my Mom and Dad’s.  It quickly became evident that this was some good stuff.  I told him he needed to record all the stories, but he said, “It works better when you’re just sitting around talking to someone – like you - and they ask an occasional question or two.  So there was my job description for the next hour or so.  Listen and ask a few questions.  It didn’t take me long top start taking notes, and I ended up with five pages of memories.  They were quite disjointed as he was saying whatever came to his mind, but I plan to send them to his kids.  I know I would get a kick out of having stories like that.  In fact, because several were about my own Dad, I’ll just keep a copy for myself as well. 

The “treatise of the past” was the only really good thing we took home from the experience.  The docs never did give a satisfactory answer for the swelling, which, by the way finally went down on its own.  Jerry was feeling much better, so we left and went IHOP for some breakfast.   And yet another adventure came to an end.  Bring on the next one.

Jeremiah 29:11-14 says, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’”

Father, thank you for the first responder team that took care of Uncle Jerry.  May they all have peace and rest and joy within their families.  Amen.