Friday, February 28, 2014

February 28 – “Jousting”

We got to Waco in plenty of time to go with them to church on Wednesday night.  The boys all had their activities and we went to a Bible study that Josh led.  Good thing, too.  He told one of my stories from high school, so I was there to make sure he got the facts straight.  He asked the group to share the one most unusual job they had ever been paid for doing.  He didn’t think his cleaning toilets at a coffee house qualified as interesting enough, so he told about my summer job driving a garbage truck. 

I know.  Doesn’t sound so glamorous on the surface, but let me fill in a few details for you.  First of all, the route was … the beach.  Back before Hurricane Ike there used to be trash receptacles spaced at intervals all along the beach on the East End of the Island.  Secondly, it was what we did to make it bearable that made it a truly memorable experience.  (Disclaimer: don’t try this at home.  Or on the beach.  These actions are neither sanctioned nor encouraged by the author or editors.  Come on, you can be more creative than this anyway).  See, we started work at five in the morning.  We had been issued the two oldest dump trucks in the city fleet.  Of course the city didn’t want to waste new trucks on the beach where they would get corroded much earlier.  That’s real dump trucks, mind you.  None of those new-fangled things with the robotic arms that pick up cans so you only have to hire a driver.  We had to have three guys on each crew: one to drive, one to pick up the can and toss it into the truck, and the other to stand in the back of the truck, dump the can and toss it back to the ground, where number two would stand it upright.  Not many people were on the beach soaking up rays at that time of day, so we would empty our first few cans each and then meet up with the other truck for our “break time.”  That was when we got really creative. 

Our favorite game (Yes, we had several, but none as much fun as this one) was, in Josh’s words, a jousting match.  We lined up the trucks facing each other a few hundred yards apart.  Then we drove straight at each other, veering off at the last second.  Meanwhile, the two other crew members were in the back of the truck.  One gathered together all the perishable food stuffs (ie. Tomatoes, bananas, watermelon rinds, fried chicken bones, etc.).  The other was the key player in the drama.  As the trucks veered apart, the number three men would pelt each other with garbage.  My number three guy (I was a driver) was the shortstop of the high school team, so he had quite a strong arm.  No one much enjoyed going up against ol’ Joe.  Of course it was Ol’ Joe who caused us to have to stop that particular contest of skill. 

One day he tossed a grapefruit that wasn’t quite as rotten as he thought.  His aim wasn’t quite as good as it might have been with a baseball, either.  He threw it too early and instead of hitting his opponent, it crashed into the windshield and broke it.  I heard the story he told our boss when he came out to check on us (Of course they checked on us every so often.  You don’t think they would just turn high school kids loose with trucks and free reign of the beach, do you?  They could be … destructive).  He insisted that he was just tossing a piece of driftwood into the back of the truck and didn’t quite have enough strength to get it all the way over the cab.  Did I mention this was the shortstop – the guy with the strongest throwing arm on the team?  Fortunately for Joe our boss wasn’t much of a baseball fan. 

Josh didn’t share all those details with the crowd, though.  He was apparently pressed for time.  At least that’s what he told them at one point.  Of course he had to admit that he wasn’t really sure what time it was, because he didn’t know how to read the clock on the wall.  Sigh.  That’s one of our failures as home school parents.  Josh never did learn how to read a clock unless it’s digital.  That disappointment turned out to be inspirational to Zak, though.  As the joy of coincidence would have it, his school lesson for the next day was how to tell time on an antique clock – with hands and numbers in a circle and counting by fives.  I’m praying Christi’s lesson sinks in better than our attempts. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.”

Father, thank you for the time gift you have given us this week to be with family.  Amen.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

February 27 – “Startle Attacks”

We took advantage of our window of opportunity, and we are now in Waco for a day or two.  Actually I guess it would technically be part of four.  We got here Wednesday and will return Saturday.  That’s four days, right?  After stopping LaMarque to sing Happy Birthday to Kel (Well, we couldn’t just totally ignore his birthday.  After all, I wrote about him yesterday, so he knows we didn’t forget.  And yes, we literally did sing to him as we entered the front door), we arrived around 2:30 or 3, just in time to somewhat disrupt rest time.  NOT “nap time,” of course.  These boys are way too old for something as childish as a nap.  After all, Caleb informed us “I am already five years old.”  And Zakary is off the charts at seven (I think).  And the two big brothers are doing their part to ensure that Luke, now four or five months old, will always remember that he has a place in the family.  Of course that place being the “youngest child” may not exactly be one that he will always cherish.Good ol’ big brother Zak has devised a way to keep him on his toes.  He sneaks up on him, jumps at the little guy’s face, and yells, “What cha doing?”  Luke is, of course, quite startled at first.  But then he realizes what has just happened, and in a spirit of “Aw, you got me … again,” he erupts into laughter.  It will be interesting to see what tactics Zak employs in the future when Luke gets old enough to anticipate the startle attacks.  As it is, he sometimes refuses to reward Zak with laughter.  Instead he presents a stoic face, simply staring down his big brother as if to say, “Is that all you got?  Is it?  You can’t scare me, Big Boy.  Bring it on.” 

Caleb has one of those love languages that insists on lots of physical touch.  I don’t mean holding hands and gently touching his cheeks.  Come on, he’s a five-year-old boy.  He was constantly leaping into my lap and offering his feet to me so I could have the privilege of dangling him behind the couch.  Zak even wanted in on some of that action.  I have never been so glad for water therapy.  My triceps will never be the same.  The boys even convinced a friend’s dad and their pastor (Wait.  That would be their Dad, too) to engage in a wrestling match before church activities got started at church last night.  Caleb came out of that one with a twisted ankle of sorts.  Not enough to slow him down when the opportunity arose, but enough to call forth some of that awe-inspiring “Mommy sympathy” when it came to avoiding bed time.  He also never turned down a chance for a back rub.  That’s what we were doing when he spoke his “Caleb-ism” of the day.  It came out of nowhere.  We weren’t talking about anything that triggered it.  He had actually been quiet for a good two or three seconds.  Plenty of time to totally reboot his thought processes.  Ready for this one?  Get out your journals.  “Allergies are awesome.”  I’m not sure why he said it or what the deeper theological significance is, but I’m positive it’s in there somewhere.

Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life — of whom shall I be afraid?”

Father, just as laughter replaces fear in the heart of Luke when he recognizes his big brother, so will you replace the fear in our hearts with your joy when we recognize you.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26 – “Happy birthday, Junior”

Yes, he really is a junior.  If you know him, all you have ever heard in an introduction is “Kel,” but that’s not his fault.  It’s not as if he tried to get as far away from his given name as he could because he hated that it sounded like a girl’s name or something.  As far as I know, he likes his name just fine.  It’s a grand Irish name, my mother’s maiden name, and thus the surname of a fine Irish family.  When he was born Chris was adamant that he would not be called by any nickname, but I must confess … I was too lazy to abide by her demand.  I called him Kel right off, and it stuck.  Come on … I had to have some way of knowing if I was talking to him or to myself, didn’t I? 

Speaking of his birth, I don’t remember a lot about when he was born, but I do recall that I was supposed to be playing in a church basketball tournament.  The tournament started the night before, a Friday.  We did pretty well, I guess, but we had several games scheduled for the next day, Saturday.  We came home, and if I remember correctly a few of the guys from the team came over as well.  We probably had some nachos or something.  Gotta make sure the weekend athletes eat well.  When everyone finally left, I remember finally getting a great “before” picture of Chris.  It was perfect.  She was even turned to the side so you could really see her extended midsection. 

That’s where things get kind of fuzzy for me.  I don’t think she smacked me that hard when she realized I had taken the picture, but that could have been the problem.  I think maybe the excitement and weariness all just caught up with me and I was on autopilot.  I have no recollection at all of being in the delivery room, but I know I was there.  It was a big deal back then to be allowed in.  I had to promise not to move from my mark.  As far as I know, I was a good little boy and obeyed to the letter.  I do remember after he was born and it being my responsibility to go out to the waiting room and tell everyone whether it was a boy or girl.  None of that finding out ahead of time back in the day, you know.  I ran into my Dad first, and I have always regretted not stopping right then and letting him in on the secret before everyone else.  I guess I figured I had to be politically correct or something and tell everyone at the same time.  Not that he expected special favors or anything.  All he said was, “What do we got?”  He was always a man of few words.  I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him the next few steps into the waiting room to make the announcement.  Looking back I just think it would have been kind of special to have that kind of a moment with him.  And that’s where the specific memories of the event end. 

The next thing I remember was that I had the check to pay for our team’s entry in the tournament in my pocket.  I found out later that we were almost kicked out for non-payment.  They cut us some slack, though, when they heard about the new baby.  I offered to leave the hospital and go play in our last game, but for some reason Chris frowned upon that option.  Mom did more than frown.  She read the Oralee riot act, and said if I left she would personally haunt me for the rest of my days.  It’s amazing the things you can and can’t remember, isn’t it?   Well, Kel, now you have the story of how you caused me to miss a basketball tournament.  Do you feel guilty yet?  Happy birthday, Son.  I love you.

Proverbs 10:1 says, “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother.”

Father, thank you for my first born son.  Direct him in your paths.  Grow him into a wise man.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February 25 – “Tickle bombs”

Well, some days there just isn’t much that I can think of to write about.  Chris is back helping Mom get out of bed.  They both have been awake since about 3:30 this morning.  We had another night of unspecific moanings.  Cailyn just left for school with her Daddy.  We narrowly averted a meltdown this morning with her.  She decided she didn’t want to wear the pants her mom had packed.  The compromise this time was she could pick out any shirt in my closet and I had to wear it.  Of course she picked one that is way too small for me.  I got it on, though.  It made the point perfectly: sometimes we have to wear things we don’t particularly want to wear.  Nathan’s arrival solidified her “decision” to get dressed without further incident, and he took her on to school.  He returned to help us get the car in to the mechanic for an oil change before our excursion to Waco tomorrow.  I left for water therapy, so we took care of that when I got back.  He said he was up all night making calls at the fire station, so he is pretty tired.  All in all, I would say we are ready for a few days somewhere else. 

I did think back on a day when Kel and his whole family came over just to hang out.  I’m pretty sure we ordered pizza.  Usually do in that situation.  And after we ate the boys went outside while Christina nursed Noa and talked to Chris and Mom.  I mean all the boys went outside.  Kel and I watched as they rode bikes and climbed in and out of the bed of the truck.  We watched from our perch: Kel sat in one of the porch rocking chairs.  I pulled out my old desk chair that we haven’t hauled away yet, and the two of us rocked and talked like a couple of hillbillies.  All that was missing was a couple of corncob pipes and some whittling wood. 

When we were forced inside by the darkness and inexplicable cold (This is Galveston.  What is thirty degree weather doing here anyway?), Micah remembered to ask his infamous question … “Are the cows hungry?”  That’s his call that the tickle contests are about to begin.  Oh, there is a question about the question?  Have you ever had someone playfully grab your leg just above the knee?  It’s a unique experience.  Doesn’t work if you do it to yourself, but if the situation is right, it can be the cause of a flood of laughter when the mouth of the cow (that’s the shape of the fingers as they grab your leg) chomps down on the corn cob (that would be your leg.  It is roughly the same shape).  Not sure why, but Micah must love the sensation.  Either that or he enjoys the incredible amount of attention he gets when the cow’s appetite becomes voracious and he has to taste some ribs as well.  Our favorite thing, though, has become watching Noa during the tickle-fests.  She laughs uproariously when someone else gets tickle-bombed, just as if their sole purpose for existing is to entertain her.  You’re not far from correct, Noa.  You’re the princess.  If you have any questions, compare notes with your cousin Cailyn.  She won’t steer you wrong.

Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

Father, thank you, thank you, thank you for the incredible families you have surrounded me with.  My own … the Church … the fire department.  I am in awe.  Amen.

Monday, February 24, 2014

February 24 – “Under the bus”

We had another classic response from one of the kids at church yesterday.  We had already been through a rousing kids’ sermon, and I was well into the adults' teaching.  The topic was the man who had been blind from birth and then healed by Jesus.  After the healing he was required by Jewish law to present himself to the religious authorities so he could be declared ceremonially clean and be admitted into the covenant community.  The problem he ran into was the hatred of those same authorities for the one who had done the healing.  It had taken place on the Sabbath, and healing was “officially” considered work, so technically Jesus had broken the Sabbath.  The authorities were out for Jesus’ head, and saw this as an opportunity to get it.

Part of their plan was to discredit the miracle itself, but the only way to do that was to get testimony from someone who could prove the healed man was not really who he said he was.  So they called his parents to testify.  They answered the first two questions with ease: “Yes, he is our son,” and “Yes, he was born blind.”  They got a bit evasive on the third question, though.  That was the “How can he now see?” one.  Instead of speculating and maybe getting themselves into hot water with the council, they said, “He’s of age.  Ask him.” 

And if you ever wonder whether or not kids are listening to the sermon, let me assure you, they probably hear more than you think.  They are just incredible multi-taskers.  Right after I read their answer, one of the boys blurted out, “So they just threw him under the bus!”  Hadn’t thought of it exactly in those terms, but that’s exactly what they did.  So I agreed with the assessment wholeheartedly.  The youngster beamed with delight.  I guess because I didn’t just tell him to be quiet.  Now that I think back on it, that would have been a great opportunity to say something like, “Aren’t you glad God doesn’t throw us under the bus?”  I’ll have to remember that one. 

Deuteronomy 31:7-8 says, “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance.  The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’”

Father, thank you for that “never leave you nor forsake you,” promise.  That’s the same as saying “I’ll never throw you under the bus,” isn’t it?  Can we get in on some of that as well?  I know I’m not Joshua, but sometimes I feel his fear and discouragement.  And who doesn’t need encouragement?  Amen.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23 – “Doppleganger”

Cailyn joined me for a trip to Kroger’s the other day.  We had to pick up another prescription for Mom.  Well, it was part of a prescription.  This was yet another case of the insurance company knowing more about what is best for Mom than her neurologist.  She is on a dose of two tablets a day, and the insurance geniuses kicked it back because “the usual dose is one a day.”  That meant the neurologist’s office had to write them an appeal letter explaining why the real dose was appropriate.  In the meantime, the patient, the one who actually needs the medicine, has to languish with no medication at all while they fight it out.  The neurologist finally assured us that “we usually win the appeals” so we could ask the pharmacy to give us a few days’ worth of pills to carry us over until the case is settled.  I called our pharmacy back (Randall’s) and told them what we needed.  The new guy there assured me that, even though he was leaving and the evening pharmacist was coming on duty, all we had to do was show up and pick up the pills.  Problem solved, right?  Not so much.

So Chris picked Cailyn up from school and headed over to Randall’s.  When they arrived the pharmacist on duty, one we have known for years, was obviously perturbed.  Seems that the day guy had failed to check their stock on hand before telling me to come on in.  Providing the extra few pills would not have been a problem, but they simply were out of stock and wouldn’t get any more in until Monday.  This particular medication is not one that can be missed, even for a day or two, so they were frantically calling around to locate some for us.  Target was out.  CVS was out.  Walgreens was out.  Finally Kroger’s said they had plenty.  Chris and Cailyn came back by the house to get her after-school snack before me and Cailyn started the next leg of the journey.

We had to wait a long time for them to get it filled.  That meant we had to put up with a very unprofessional tech who was acting as the cashier.  I think he was trying to appear funny, but it just wasn’t working.  He finally told us he was trying to get us a price break because the pills were so expensive.  Not the sort of thing you want to hear.  Randall’s usually fronts us the meds and just deducts them when the actual prescription comes in.  I made sure he was talking about the generic version, but they were still $65 for just ten pills.  I gulped and pulled out the trusty Discover card.

That crisis now averted, we went back to the car.  I pushed the unlock button and heard the click.  I was checking the fire department ap on my phone to see if Nathan was making the call that had just come over.  Cailyn pushed me aside so she could open the back door by herself.  She was so excited when she first discovered she had that ability.  Now there is no stopping her.  But when she opened the door, the car horn started honking, over and over and over.  I thought maybe I had accidentally hit the panic button on the remote.  I have never used it before, so I didn’t really know what to do.  I pushed that button, then both of the other ones, but the honking never stopped.  Cailyn was standing very close, gripping my leg in growing fear.  I was quite puzzled then, and looked up to see what could possibly be causing the car to make such a commotion.  That’s when I realized … we were at the wrong car.  It looked like ours.  Pretty much the same in all aspects including a car seat in the back, except it didn’t have the fire department sticker on the back window and, as Cailyn said, “That wasn’t my car seat back there.”  Oops.  Hope they are in a forgiving mood.  We shut the door quickly and scanned the lot.  Sure enough, we were a lane over from where we should have been.  There was our car right over there.  We hustled over and hastily entered.  We had no problems getting in.  Thankfully, by the time we got her buckled up, the honking had stopped.  I have no idea why my key remote opened their car, but that was a scary feeling.  I knew there was a reason why we used the Randall’s pharmacy.  Never ran into a doppleganger Twilight Zone episode over there.

Colossians 3:13-14 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

Father, thank you for your ultimate forgiveness that opened up a whole new world of relationship with you.  It’s great to know you are always in a forgiving mood.  Amen.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

February 22 – “Learning scientific method with an Arts guy”

Happy real birthday, George Washington.  At least this was your day when I was in grade school.  I remember the black construction paper silhouettes and the tri-cornered hats and the “I cannot tell a lie” folklore well.  And good ol’ Abe had his own special day as well (with his own silhouette and trademark top hat).  Sure made the teachers’ lesson plans a lot easier to prepare for those days. 

And speaking of lesson plans, Chris had an inspired one the other day for Cailyn.  It doesn’t really take much when the curiosity is already there.  Cailyn took one of those see-through plastic containers out into the back yard to play.  Or so we thought.  She was actually in the throes of scientific curiosity.  What would happen if I put some dirt in this container and then put water in it and then shook it all up?  Well, that’s not something you just wonder about all your life.  You have to give it a try.  So she did.  And the water did its part by dissolving much of the dirt.  Fascinating.  She raced inside to show us the results.  And as she revealed her findings to Nani, another idea struck her.  What would happen if I put the container in the freezer and froze it all?  Hey, you have to try that one out, too, don’t you? 

The next time she came over, she went right to the freezer to check out the progress of her little experiment.  This is the point where I entered the picture as an outside observer.  That was probably the best place for me, since my bachelor’s and master’s degrees both end in the letter “A” for “Arts,” not Science.  But I can ask questions.  Together we figured out that there was a lot of dirt on the bottom of the ice cube and some branches and even a little dirt on the top.  What happened there?  As the water calmed down after being shaken up, the dirt settled to the bottom.  The stuff that floats anyway, rose to the top.  And the rest froze.  Good observation.  Then she wanted to know what would happen if she left it out all day while she was at school.  Now up to this point we had been following the ignorant arts student approach to science, also called the “Let’s see what happens” approach.  It works great for getting into trouble as well, but let’s not go there.  Way back in the back of my feeble brain I vaguely remembered something about what I think was called the “scientific method.”  I recalled it not being nearly as fun as just doing something and being surprised by the results.  This way you have to make a guess at what you think might happen, then see if you were right or wrong.  I guess that’s part of what bothered me about the whole thing, yet appealed to me as well.  It was OK to be proven wrong.  Who ever wants to be proven wrong?  That was the negative part.  The good part was, I was pretty much always wrong in what I predicted, so it was always easy to write about my results.  So we came up with some predictions.  Will it still be frozen when you get home from school? Will it be like a slushie?  Will it just be dirty water again?  She decided on the still-frozen option and made her way to school.  And when she got home, she dutifully checked out the container on the bar.  The ice was completely gone.  The dirt was all in the bottom.  A few branches floated on top.  She quickly made her scientific observation, “Hey, look at this stuff.  It’s water.”  I couldn’t help myself.  I countered with, “Are you thirsty?  It looks clean enough to drink.”  And she bested me, once again.  She shook her head from side to side in a blatant display of abject pity.  Without saying a word, she shook the jar violently to stir up the nastiness.  A sly grin spread across her face.  And, still silently, she handed it to me as if to say, “You first.”  Ouch.  Not very scientific, but I gotta hand it to her, though.  This experiment was a lot more fun than any of the ones I ever did in school.

Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Father, thank you for a child’s thrill of discovery and the massive amount of it yet to happen for him.  Gives them so much to look forward to.  Amen.

Friday, February 21, 2014

February 21 – “Manic Meemaw or Oblivious Oralee?”

Who is it going to be today?  Mom has developed an almost schizophrenic separation of personalities over the last few weeks.  There are times when she is feeble and helpless and can’t even get out of bed.  But then there are other times when she is alert and aware and talkative.  Oh, so talkative. 

Yesterday she was definitely on one of her highs.  We ate some lunch sitting on the couch together, as we do most days, and she was amazed that we would do such a thing.  It was a wonderful, picnic-y kind of idea.  She apparently enjoyed it immensely, because she informed Chris, “This is the best lunch I have had in a long time.”  Later she jumped up from the couch, grabbed her walker (thank goodness), and took off.  I thought she might be heading out the front door, so I stayed close behind.  She did pause for a second or two by the door, but then she continued on, as if she was taking a walking tour of every room of the house.  We paused to take a break in the office, but she never stopped talking.  One of her concerns was a small hole that has developed in one of her gloves.  She had a solution for that, though.  “Will you take me to the store so I can buy some new gloves?”  I assured her we would get that taken care of.  Kitchen, hallway, office, bedrooms, all met with her vocal approval.  Finally she turned to me and said, “This is a wonderful house.  I can see why you want to stay here.”  After our tour she was back on the couch when an old neighbor of hers called to check on her.  Martha lived two doors down from us on 36th and L before we moved to Gulf Village when I was five years old.  I wondered if even Manic Meemaw would remember who she was.  But I handed her the phone and said, “Martha wants to talk to you.”  She immediately reacted with her typical, “Martha?  No kidding.”  She grabbed the phone and the two of them reminisced and compared notes on aches and pains for a good fifteen minutes or so.  When she hung up she told me about some of the things they had discussed, and then asked what Martha’s last name was.  She remembered Martha, without question, but just couldn’t locate that last name.  I totally understand that feeling.  Happens to me every week at church, but I usually can’t remember the first name, either.

Later that evening Mom went through all the old cards people have sent her over the years.  She asked us who each one was, and began making a list.  She would read each name, then ask us who it was and whether she should send them a card.  We think she was making out some kind of Christmas card list.

And when the people began to arrive for our home group Bible Study, she transformed into the consummate hostess.  She stood up to welcome people as they came in.  And at one point, she came into the kitchen to make sure Chris had set up the cookies and drinks to serve to people.  I really knew something was up when she turned down a cookie for herself.  I recognized that strategy.  It’s called “You can’t eat until everybody else is served and happy.”  It’s one of those strange things that only Moms do.  M.M. carried on a conversation with Betty all through the Bible study.  She explained that her sweater used to belong to her mother (That came out of nowhere.  It is brand-new), and her leg and ankle had been swollen terribly and had finally gone down.  She asked me what it was that happened to cause that.  Caught me by surprise, because that hasn’t happened any time recently.  So I said, “It must have been a mosquito bite.”  She wasn’t impressed by my attempt at humor, but she did, nevertheless, recognize it as such.  She didn’t laugh by any means, though.  Her reaction was more as if I had just said the worst pun in the history of pun-dom. 

Manic Meemaw stayed with us through about 2 a.m.  I know that because even after she went to bed, she kept talking to someone.  Something about “does it need to be locked up?”  Chris checked on her to see what needed to be locked up.  It was her arm.  Chris assured her that it was fine for the night and didn’t need to be corralled.  Her response?  “No kidding?”  But she was fine with that, and it never came up again.  I guess she had too much else to talk about. 

But the next time she woke up, around 3 a.m., Manic Meemaw was nowhere to be found.  Instead she had transformed into Oblivious Oralee.  That personality is accompanied by moans and groans and sometimes even wails like she is in extreme pain.  We rush to help and she has no idea what we are talking about.  Even the tiniest sense of discomfort transforms into a major crisis of pain and agony.  And O.O. stuck around for the rest of the night, rearing her cries about every hour, and now into the morning.  What an adventure this has become.

Deuteronomy 30:16 says, “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.”

Father, watch over “both of these dear ladies” under our care.  Thank you for that one thing that holds those two personalities together – the truth that they have within them the same precious gift of your Holy Spirit.   Amen.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

February 20 – “Give me a break …”

I had lots of feedback on my blog yesterday.  Seems some folks want me to submit it to the newspaper letters to the editor.  I never have seen letters to the editor as accomplishing much of anything, so I’ll let someone else do that.  I did repost it last night in its full form on FaceBook.  Maybe a few more people will see it.  Still won’t change the outcome, though.

I read an article yesterday about the most influential candy bar in the world.  I thought it was going to have some connection to that beer commercial about the most influential man in the world who doesn’t always drink beer.  Nowhere close.  This was an actual, somewhat serious study.  Go ahead.  Which candy would you think?  I admit I went straight to Hershey bars.  I figured they had probably been around longer than any others.  I was right about that, but wrong about the influence part.  Seems that KitKat bars are number one.  Aside from that catchy tune (You know you are humming it.  “Give me a break, give me a break …”), the reason it affects more people around the world than Snickers or even Nestle’s Crunch bars?  Because it was the first candy to be marketed around the concept of sharing.  There has to be a spiritual lesson in that one somewhere.

Chris and I had another Wednesday to get out of the house together, thanks to Jennifer staying with Mom.  So we headed into Texas again to check on Robert, the Seasider who had heart valve replacement surgery last week.  He is doing much better after:
Having to have the surgery redone because the valve was leaking.
Having to swallow a trach camera to check for clots.
Having to receive a unit of blood to get him over a hump there.
Having to receive several different medications in an effort to regulate his heart rate.
Having to be shocked with a defibrillator because his heart rhythm wouldn’t respond to the medications.
Looks like he will be allowed to come home tomorrow.   His Mom and Dad are waiting for him there to help him out for the next month or so, and his paramedic partner will check in on him regularly as well.  Not to mention all the prayers being lifted up for him.  He’ll be in good hands.

Psalms 119:41-42 says, “May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word.”

Father, continue to reveal that unfailing love to Mike and Robert.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

February 19 – “A City Council blunder”

Well, once again I am officially embarrassed by the actions of the Galveston City Council.  Those who know me know I rarely say anything about politics of any kind.  I have found the whole subject to be divisive and counter-productive to God’s ideal of unity.  I know the city government is not the church, but I believe principles from scripture have proven effective in other areas as well.  This is one that is so ludicrous that I had to at least make mention of it.  I know it will not change anything.  I know I don’t have an obligation to take up someone else’s offense.  I just want to say something in support of a man I have grown to appreciate as an administrator and love as a fellow believer.

The city council fired our city manager yesterday.  Michael Kovaks has been with the city only about two years.  His most vocal opponent said she had issues “with communication” and something along the lines that Mike was working to avoid conflict in a position where “this just isn’t possible.”  (Just because you have never seen this style work doesn’t mean it won’t.  More about Mike’s management style later).  Two of his opponents said nothing at all.  The other one just spoke platitudes about wanting the city to grow and “everything to go smoothly.”  Not a very clear reason for firing in the bunch, is there?  On the other hand, two of those who spoke for him had some insightful comments:

“Everyone knows this has been a dysfunctional city council.  If we’re going to talk about what’s lacking at City Hall, it’s the council, the management that’s at fault, not Kovaks.”

“City Council’s personality was predatory and divisive, and the city manager’s personality was uplifting and nurturing, and I think they were in conflict.”

And there’s the rub.  A personality conflict.  And quite an accurate depiction of the two sides, I must say, from a meager citizen’s point of view.  The predatory and divisive council, which, I might add, stands to be completely different at the next election due to term limits and decisions not to run again (What a ridiculous time to fire a key city employee) … versus the uplifting and nurturing city manager, whose style of management has been to surround himself with department heads who know what they were doing, and then, shock of all shocks, to trust them to actually do their jobs without micro-managing.  Far be it from me to speak for anyone else, but I would sure prefer to work for the uplifting, nurturing guy.

As a BOI, I have seen over the years that, like it or not, it takes at least five years for anyone who comes here “from the outside” to be accepted by Islanders.  And once that milestone is reached, people become much easier to work with.  I don’t understand it, but it has been a fairly accurate description of the city since I was a kid.  Mike has been here two years.  I think we owe him at least three more just based on that.  The council granted him a severance package that works out roughly to a year’s salary.  Sounds generous, but what about his family?  He has a wife and three great boys who have been trying to break that five year barrier as well.  This move effectively puts them in limbo.  Where will they be in school next year?  What plans can they make for going to camp or taking a vacation or saving for college?  Dad will land on his feet, of that I am sure, but there are always longer-term issues at work when you look at family dynamics. 

I appreciate the fact that Mike is very pro-fire department.  I understand that because I am his pastor, I have a personal connection with him.  But I would like to state clearly and firmly – for the record - that Michael Kovaks is a good man who, given a real opportunity, will prove himself to be a highly effective city administrator.  I’d be happy to provide a reference for you, Mike, not that what a simple pastor would have to say would make a difference to a prospective employer.  In fact you probably won’t even ever read this blog entry.  Nevertheless, I love you and Fonya and the boys. 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 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, walk with Mike and his family as they look toward the bright future you have for them.  Help him to stay consistent in using a biblical strategy of management in the future.  Give him and Fonya and the boys your peace that passes all understanding in the midst of all the craziness that is Galveston politics.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

February 18 – “The Big D”

Well, then.  This morning we had that experience so dreaded by grandparents everywhere.  That horrible time of gut-wrenching agony.  That oh-so painful task that we for so long have rejoiced in avoiding at all costs.  What malady could possibly have such an adverse effect on an otherwise happy-go-lucky couple of AARPers?  None other than … the Big D.  That’s right.  We were forced this morning to reach way back into our long-suppressed memory banks and drag forward, kicking and screaming, Discipline.  Aargh.  It hurts to say it.  It hurts so much more to do it.  And I never was good at it when our boys were growing up anyway. 

The scenario.  It started out innocent enough.  Nathan dropped Cailyn off as usual on his way to work.  We get her fed and dressed, and at the proper time we take her to school.  Sounds easy, right?  Ordinarily it is.  She’s a great kid and most of the time she is incredibly cooperative.  It takes something really significant to invade her world and throw it out of kilter.  That something … happened this morning.  We followed our usual routine of her joining me at my desk and together we do some “work.”  Today we did spelling and an impromptu lesson on vowels.  Then she wanted to spell things and write them down.  Her name was first, of course.  She even added the “Vaughan” part.  She ran out of room on her paper, though, so the “Vaug” was on one line and the “han” was on the other.  I suggested she add a letter D to the “han” and see what happened.  Suddenly and miraculously it became a hand.    Not satisfied with such short words, she wanted to try a really long one – Peter Pan.  Then that accomplished, she informed me that it was my turn to pick a really long word.  I chose supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.  And so we began.   She made it through supercali before giving up and asking me to finish.  She helped me out by informing me that there were some children that “slidded down the stair thing and went outside to go to the park.”  It was one of the quickest shifts to movie plots that I have ever seen.  Great transition, though, from the children going to the park to her going to school. 

We grabbed her bag to get her dressed.  As I reached in to get things out – shoes (two pair.  Hmm.  Kid’s gotta have a choice, I guess), shirt.  She told me rather matter-of-factly that “I guess today I’m wearing a skirt.”  Sounded good to me, but … there was no skirt in the bag – only pants.  And so it began.  Now she has done this before and we were able to pawn the blame off on Daddy.  We did that again this time, and she was certain the fault was all his.  “I told him that I wanted the skirt.  He just didn’t listen to me.”  Ouch.  I loved Chris’ response, though.  “Maybe he didn’t hear you.”  See, Nathan can’t hear much better than I can.  It’s in his genes.    Cailyn accepted that, but this time it was just not enough.  She was adamant that she was not going to wear those pants.  In fact, she was not even going to go to school.  We bantered good-naturedly for a bit, but time was running out and she was no closer to being dressed.  I tried to shift gears and be stern, but when she recognized the tactic, she informed me that “You and Nani are not the boss of me.  Only Mommy and Daddy are.”  With that I knew that the next few minutes were going to take an eternity to elapse. 

Oh, we coaxed and cajoled, but the die was cast.  She went through the “I want Mommy and Daddy” wail.  She went through the angry “Grrrs” (always one of my favorites, I must add).  Nothing we said or did would convince her.  So … it was time for the dreaded wooden spoon.  It most assuredly had the desired effect, even though we have never used it.  By the time I got to the proverbial “One … Two …,” the wail had changed to “I’ll do it, I’ll do it myself.”  Not that she actually did do it right away.  She had to see how far we were willing to go.  It’s part of the Big D game.  I remember it well.  Now to make a longer story somewhat shorter, she did get herself dressed.  I never had to actually wield the spoon, just convince her that I might.  Chris got to play the good cop and brought her a nice warm washcloth to wash her face.  By the time we got to school she was fine.  She gave me a big hug and told me she loved me and I melted, of course. 

A word to all you grandchildren out there.  Please do us a favor and save the drama for Mom and Dad.  We had to discipline them, so now it’s their turn.  We love them and we don’t want them to miss out on anything.  Our job is to spoil you guys, so behave around us and I guarantee it will come out in your favor. 

Proverbs 22:6 still says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  I checked.

Father, thank you for helping us get through the Big D once.  We’re really gonna need some extra help this time.  This part of loving is always the toughest.  Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2014

February 17 – “aiaiai, colugo, and stoat”

I got a phone message from an old friend from Denver yesterday.  He and his wife were in town to run in the half-marathon part of the Galveston marathon.  I haven’t seen or heard from Rocky since we left there back in 1995.  That’s almost nineteen years.  No wonder my old brain took a while to wrap itself around who that voice belonged to.  In part of the message he referred to me as “that Ron Santo-type guy who played third base for the church softball team.”  As I told him when we finally made connections, “Anybody who compares me with Ron Santo is my friend for life.” 

We cycled back to the smaller crowd at church yesterday.  I guess everyone was attending (or more likely avoiding) the huge cheerleader convention that was in town.  It was a great group, though.  Very much into worship.  They even told me they enjoyed the teaching.  Must have been the Holy Spirit in that case.

I took a little bit of a different approach to the kids’ sermon.  When it takes so long to work through a story, it is hard to keep coming up with new approaches to get the kids interested.  This time I handed out blank paper and a crayon to each kid.  And there were quite a few adults who wanted to be involved this time, so they grabbed for a sheet of paper, too.  I asked them close their eyes and draw a picture of a camel.  That kind of threw them off their game plan a bit, but we got some, well, interesting pictures.  I liked the one with a very small round body and a hugely fat head.  Strangest camel I have ever seen.  But all of them had humps.  After they showed off what they had drawn to each other, I showed a picture of an actual camel on the screen so they could compare.  They did so well that I gave them another challenge … an elephant.  My favorite picture on this one looked like an amoeba with a trunk.  One of the adults actually sketched an outline that closely resembled the picture on the screen.  The third one was the state of Texas.  All the kids managed the coastline where Galveston is located, but the rest of the state was somewhat discombobulated (I always wanted to use that word in a sentence).  One of the adults who is in college at Baylor was here visiting.  She is from Chicago, so she tried to draw the state of Illinois.  I have no idea how close she was to being accurate, though.  Could have been perfect, though.  Is Illinois just a rectangle with a squiggly line at the bottom?  If so, she nailed it.  After those three everybody was really into the swing of things, so I kept going.  They had some problems with the aiaiai and the colugo and the stoat, though.  Not a single person even attempted one of them.  They claimed they had never seen them before.  I had to show them the pictures to convince them that they were real creatures.  I guess they had a point, though.  How can you draw something you have never seen?

Perfect transition.  That’s how the man felt in the story today.  He had never seen anything … ever.  He was blind when he was born.  And then Jesus came along and gave him his sight.  That had to be an amazing feeling for him.  It was kind of confusing, too, for everybody else.  Noone had ever seen anything like it, and they weren’t sure what to do.  So they took him to the leaders of their religion and asked them.  But that was a problem, too.  See, the leaders already didn’t like Jesus, so they were really mean to the man.  So much so that he had to decide.  Will I follow Jesus who gave me sight, or these men who lead my religion?  What do you think he chose?  Right!  Jesus.  And we can, too. 

Joshua 24:14-15 says, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.  But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Father, help us to follow you no matter what anybody says.  Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

February 16 – “Happy birthday, son Josh”

Thought I’d put the birthday wishes into the title this time.  It usually takes Josh a month or so to catch up with the blogs.

We went to a football game yesterday.  Jachin has been playing in a flag football league again this year, and this was the first game we could go to.  Thanks so much to Jennifer for hanging out with Mom so we could go.  We even had time to have a Chic-fil-a lunch with them and then walk around those two bastions of retail greatness, Hobby Lobby and Goodwill. 

Speaking of Mom, Friday night she woke up around 1 a.m. and apparently some kind of light clicked on in her head.  She was very pleasant and extremely talkative.  She got up on her own, folded all the clothes in her room, and even made her bed.  Did I mention that she was extremely talkative?  Chris had to talk her into going on to the bathroom while she was awake.  The problem was that she couldn’t find the address.  Address to what?  No idea.  But she was quite talkative.  Chris finally convinced her that they could do the address search later on when it got light outside.  Mom has begun doing and saying some of the more classic Alzheimer’s things, too – the things I remember Dad doing.  For instance she asked if it would be all right for her give one of the flowers that I gave her for Valentine’s Day to her own mother.  Of course we told her that would be fine.  While Jennifer was over she apparently never stopped talking.  One of the things the two of them like to do together is watch the food channel.  Strange shows there, by the way.  Chris had me watch one where two chefs were trying to teach some terrible cooks how to get by in the kitchen.  One guy cut himself and bled all over the fish he was trying to cook.  Very odd.  As they engrossed themselves in such culinary delights, Mom made the comment that Jesse would love a show like that.  That’s the first time she has mentioned my Dad in months.  It’s been so long that Jennifer didn’t even know who that was.  One other question has suddenly begun to plague her as well.  She wants to know when we are moving back to Galveston to live with that other family.  I asked if she knew which other family.  She thought about it for a few minutes, then said, “Oh, I think it’s one of your brothers.”  I asked which one.  No answer.  So I got more specific.  “Was it Jay?”  Nothing.  “How about Stan?”  That got a little more reaction with, “Maybe it was Stan,” but it was apparent that wasn’t what she had in mind either.  Guess she meant that secret brother we never knew anything about.  We finally transitioned out of the heaviness of the conversation when I asked if she was ready to have a pillow fight yet.  She wagged her finger at me and insisted, “You better not throw that thing at me.”  There you go.  Gotta love a feisty Momma.

Psalms 136:1-3 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of gods.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.”

Father, thank you for the time we have with Mom, especially when she shows her feisty spirit again.  Amen.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February 15 – “Twinkle tongue wordsmith”

Chris received the wake-up call yesterday morning.  I was already up, but the call came to her phone this time.  No, it wasn’t from Uncle Jerry.  It was from Cailyn.  She was on her way to school and wanted to personally invite her Nani to join her at the school Valentine’s Day party.  She even volunteered her Daddy to come by and pick her up, since he was going to be off work and join the party as well.  Now how can you say no to something like that?  Especially when it doubles as your wake-up call as well. 

It certainly got Chris in the Valentine’s Day spirit.  She made me some homemade waffles for our Valentine’s breakfast.  That’s some good stuff.  I wasn’t quite finished with my Valentine gift for her.  I had another wild hare to do a carving and the eight hours I spent at the hospital really cut into my finishing time.  As a result I spent most of the morning working in the garage to get it finished.  That is, until my phone call came through.  This one was from Uncle Jerry.  He was being released from the hospital and needed a ride home.  They postponed his prostate biopsy until they could get a handle on why he has a perpetually high white blood cell count.  After dropping him off I stopped off at McAllister’s Deli and brought home some sandwiches for our Valentine’s lunch. 

Nathan came to pick Chris up for the party, so I finally had a few more minutes to finish up the carving.  The main part was done.  It was a fairly simple small footed tub.  I know, I know.  So romantic, right.  But there was a letter to go with it that explained everything.  Twinkle tongue wordsmith, right?  It was the second part that was taking me so long.  I was carving each of our grandkids’ names.  Again, you’d just have to read the letter.  It all makes sense.  At least to me.  And apparently to her.  She seemed to like it.  Oh, and she made me some chicken enchilada pie for supper last night.  Now that’s some really good stuff. 

I did make a quick run to the store when she got back from the party.  I picked up a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed monkey for Mom.  Hey, I had to make sure she knew it was from me.  After supper we all watched some Olympics together.  Homemade waffles, McAllister’s Deli, and chicken enchilada pie … and a gorgeous wife of almost 39 years to share it with.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Psalms 118:28-29 says, “You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”

Father, thank you for another great day with Chris.  And thank you for one more day with Mom.  Amen.