Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30 – “Turkey Bowl Incites Controversy”

In order to take advantage of the ongoing hype about controversy in sports today, I have decided to leap ahead in my review of the Vaughan Thanksgiving Extravaganza 2014 to the 48th Annual Turkey Bowl football game.  Once again this year it was a downsized affair, but none the less intense and competitive.  Well, I suppose it was some the less … no, it wasn’t really competitive at all.  But it was sure a lot of fun.  Here is the noted news article ripped from the sports headlines. 

Caleb had the primary responsibility of naming the teams for this year’s contest.  No small feat, as you know if you have been following the travails of teams like Baylor and TCU in this year’s college football inaugural playoff hunt.  Caleb immediately wanted our team to be the Baylor Bears, of course.  Always the Waco enthusiast.  Jachin, however wanted to keep it a bit closer to home, so he wanted HBU.  Ah, his parents would be proud.  So would Caleb’s grandparents.  Sadly a compromise was in order.  Jachin rose to the occasion and suggested a move to the professional ranks, opting for the Denver Broncos, a nice selection.  Not one to be denied, however, Caleb came up with a decision of his own.  The final decision.  We became the Lakers.  Wow.  That came out of nowhere.  But this is Caleb we’re talking about.

Game action was exciting, to say the least.  Zak showed his mighty quarterbacking skills, rivaled only by the youngster who came out of the same draft class, Micah.  Totally different styles, though.  Zak was ever the patient, methodical by-the-book QB, while Micah displayed a scrambling style reminiscent of Fran Tarkenton.  Oh, who is that?  Sorry, I date myself.  How about the college years of Robert Griffin III?  And speaking of quarterbacks, Jachin showed some amazing dexterity by making numerous last-second tosses on the run.  Uncle Nathan showcased what remains of his agility when he turned a sure-incompletion (the aging QB at the time had an arm too weak to reach even the ten yard gain before them) into a large gain by employing a masterful soccer kick/hackey sack move on the football, gently flipping it up into his arms.  Not sure if he was just that good or if he didn’t want to bend over, but the result was the same.  It’s not often an offensive lineman gets mentioned in this column, but young Caleb, the greatly underestimated center (and somewhat undersized, as centers generally weigh in), thrilled the crowd with his daunting snapping skills.  Wherever he found the ball, whether set in its proper place in the center of the field, or rolling away toward the sideline, he stopped it motion, immediately bent over and hiked it from right there.  And by hike I mean he forced its movement backwards between his legs to whoever might be standing somewhere behind him.  Certainly kept his offensive backfield on their toes.  No one back there was ever sure who the quarterback would be from play to play.  Oh, and Cory and Sarah and Josh Roach showed up during halftime.  Just in time to eat.  Hmm.  Cory and Josh did join us for the second half, though, and provided some highlight reel-quality play, I might add.

We did our best to arrange a guest soccer appearance by our brand new neighbor.  He was displaying his dribbling skills on the sidelines, but refused the potential accolades that could have been his had he turned his back on the sport he loved and opted instead for fame and fortune in the world of field goal kicking.  No, he was simply too much of a soccer purist to betray the international king-sport.  And sadly, none of the people driving by in cars would join either, although we invited every one.  All they ever did was smile and wave.  Except for Mrs. Chris from down the street.  She stopped to apologiae for disrupting the game.  Said she saw us when she first left her driveway, turned her car around and went the other direction.  On her return trip, however, she simply forgot about the game and the intrusion she would be making.  We accepted the apology and invited her to make atonement by joining us for just one play.  She politely refused.  Mario, our neighbor across the street, came out at tone point to good-naturedly harass me a bit about my lack of control over the leaves from our sycamore tree.  I responded by inviting him to join us as well.  He, too, refused, citing his last experience playing in a football game with grandkids.  He had to be taken to the hospital with possible broken ribs.  Whoa.  That’s intense.  I appreciated him not wanting to show us up.  Problem was, that gave him time to return to his task for the day – putting up his outdoor Christmas lights.  Ouch.  Showed us up anyway.

Cailyn roamed the sidelines on her scooter, oblivious to the action on the field.  She’ll make a great cheerleader, won’t she?  Gorgeous and athletic and not at all interested in whatever the guys are doing with the little ball on the field.  Mascots Noa and Luke toddled across the field a time or two as well, followed by their respective Mommies, of course, so it seemed everyone was intent upon making an appearance.  Film making legend Christina was behind the camera, capturing action highlight.  And guess who made certain we had a final Turkey Bowl Commemorative Photograph take before anyone could leave?  That would be Nani.  Oh, and unbeknownst to us all, Josiah, who occasionally made a brief entrance just to keep up appearances, was in hog heaven.  He had the run of the entire house full of toys without the interference of his older brothers or his baby sister. 

And now, on to what you have all been waiting for.  The controversial final score.  It all started with a somewhat questionable mid-play substitution wherein Josh Vaughan crept in from the sidelines to make a leaping interception of a potential touchdown pass to Cory.  “Debate” immediately ensued.  “Negotiation” followed in its wake.  And then “Compromise” showed up.  Since there was roughly a 50/50 chance that he would have caught it, Cory’s team was awarded half a touchdown.  An official protest was immediately issued to grant a full touchdown.  Results of the protest are still pending review by the league office.  The real problem came to a head, however, after a flare-up of a previous day’s “helping father-in-law move” injury caused a pass to bounce harmlessly off Kel’s stomach, a miss that would have been the game-winning score.  So the question remains: Should Cory’s TD count?  Should the call on the field stand?  Does anybody really care?  Wade in with your comments.  Perhaps the league could be swayed by your passion.  Without the incessant hawking of on-air talking heads to egg it on, however, post-game discussions rapidly shifted from the game to much more important issues of world-wide impact - an in-depth investigation of Marvel vs DC TV shows, movies and universes.

Psalms 35:18 says, “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.”

Father, thank you for occasional forays into street football and silly sports reporting.  Families and friends sure are grand.  Thank you for inventing them.  Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29 – “The Leap”

And so it begins.  The saga of the Vaughan cousins at Thanksgiving 2014.  So many memories.  So many cousins.  So little time.  And because of that, what follows will be a hodgepodge of activity, not so much a series of reflections, but just stuff that happened. 

And why not start with the most unexpected, the most startling, and by far the most spectacular occurrence of the entire weekend?  OK, I know the weekend is just getting started, but I doubt even the Turkey Bowl will hold a candle to this one.  And it starts with … Micah.  Micah is eight years old, you see.  I know that to be true because he just flew through the office and I asked him.  And as an eight year old, warm-blooded, out-of-my-way Vaughan boy, he is … how shall I say it? … hard to hold back.  So … withing minutes of the arrival of his similarly aged cousin Zak, the two of them, no … pretty much all of the cousins … were outside running in circles around the house and up on the deck and back down and through the house.  One would think they were just a bit happy to see each other.  As Moms and Dads and Grandparents were still exchanging howdy-doos, I admit, I kind of zoned out, staring out the back door, watching the drama unfold.  The faint din that had electrified the air seemed to dissipate into an eerie silence.  Oh, the pleasant chatter of the already-weary adults continued, but something was different outside.  I could sense it.  Someone might say there was a disturbance in the force.  It was as if a Jedi was about to leap from the reels of cinema into real life. 

As it turned out, I was right about the leaping part.  As I gazed at the seemingly peaceful vines and bushes of the back yard, suddenly a force did indeed explode onto the scene.  From out of nowhere (well, actually it was from off of the deck, which is roughly level with the roof of the house) came a barely recognizable streak, just a blur in the range of my already medically assisted vision.  Was that really what I thought it was?  Shaken from my trance by the unexpected intrusion, I leaned forward, peering into the depths of the yard, waiting … for confirmation?  Yes.  But for more as well.  For affirmation of life?  I admit there was some of that.  For identification of the Flash impersonator?  I had a really good idea already, but yes, that too.  After what I’m sure was just a few seconds, made longer by the slow motion effect that kicks in when something is happening that you know has a chance of turning out badly, but you have no way of affecting the outcome, an distinctive swatch of hair appeared from behind the obstructions on the patio.  The head followed, facing away from me at the time.  And then the body arose.  No question in my mind now, as a grin made its way onto my face, a grin of remembrance of days gone by when the swatch of hair belonged to a youngster who had just leapt from the roof of the house … wearing roller blades.  Sure enough, the body slowly turned, and my grin was met by its twin.  A grin of accomplishment.  A grin of unmistakable adrenaline rush.  A grin of eight year old victory.  A grin of … yep … Micah. 

And then the moment was gone, broken from my reverie now by a surge of grandfatherly pride that I knew might never be expressed in deference to parents who are (and rightly so) much more safety conscious than some old geezer who enjoys the small victories in life.  I had to do my part, however, to at least see that the accomplishment was recorded in the annals of horrified motherhood.  So I announced it. 
Me: “Did y’all see that?”
Everyone else: “See what?”
Me (Struggling to contain my pride and put forth an expression of appropriately horrified parental-like concern): “Micah just jumped off of the deck.”

After a brief period wherein the pronouncement sank in and the potential damage assessments had been made …

Christina (Micah’s Mom) to Kel (Micah’s Dad): “Um … um … Kel … um …”
Me (in a sincere attempt to deflect the rising “what ifs” and “he could haves” that were certainly inevitable): Oh, look, I think Zakary is going next.”

Wait.  What?  You don’t think was the most encouraging thing I could have said?  Worked for Kel, I guess.  He never had to answer his wife’s query.  It did awaken another mother’s heart of apprehension, however.  Of course, I never intended for poor Christi to be stricken with anxiety at all.

Christi: I’m going to the bathroom.  If Zakary jumps next, I don’t want to be around to see it.

As it turned out, all was well.  Zakary never made the attempt.  Neither did older brother Jachin, for that matter.  He told me later that his was a practical decision.  “I couldn’t afford an injury,” he explained.  “It might hurt my football season.  So I just jumped from the first stair level.”  Wise man, that Jachin.  But I have to say, for the record … Nice jump, Micah.  I’m proud of you.

Psalms 28:7 says, “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.  My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”

Father, thank you for watching over little boys who just have to try crazy stunts.  And thank you for keeping that watchcare going when the little boys get older and the crazy stunts begin to change.  Grant the little guys and the bigger men the assurance that they are loved and always have a place in your heart.  And from the Mom perspective, maybe help them keep their leaps confined to the heart realm.  Amen.

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28 – “A Fire Station Thanksgiving”

So what do the guys at the fire station do one a big family holiday like Thanksgiving?  Somebody has to be on duty, to be the ones on the other end of the radio call just in case the unthinkable happens.  But what about their celebration?  What really does happen down at the fire station on Thanksgiving Day?

Last year Chris and I decided to fry some extra turkeys and give them to the guys at work.  We continued the new tradition this year.  So about ten a.m. yesterday morning I started my rounds.  Here’s a quick summary of my adventures.

Station 2 – My first stop.  I entered through the tiny little office area and Greg met me.  When I entered the main room the guys were watching none other than Animal Planet.  The drama of the day involved a gripping tale of a frantic woodpecker defending its tree from the evil incursion of a trespassing squirrel.  They (the fire fighters, not the bird and the squirrel) shared a great-tasting cookie with me before we prayed together.

Station 1 – Joey was playing catch outside with his sons as his wife and parents looked on.  Jacob was inside the office strumming the guitar trying to pick out a tune.  I invited him to come lead worship at Seaside.  He serenaded Brad and I on my way out.  I went upstairs to drop off the turkey.  Nathan met me at the top of the stairs, shivering.  He looked like he might have the same thing Cailyn did on Monday.  I ran over to CVS and picked him up some Tylenol.  He and I prayed together, and I reminded him that Cailyn’s bug only lasted 24 hours, so he was about a third of the way there.  Of course, kids always bounce back a lot quicker than adults, but I didn’t mention that.  He did look a tad better when he came by the house later that evening for his two hour home time from the station.  He slept much of his time here, but that’s what he needed to do anyway.

Station 5 – Wasn’t sure if this squad would be there yet.  They had responded to the only call I heard on my phone ap all morning.  But they were back.  They were watching a particularly exciting action movie.  I don’t know which one it was, but why worry about details like that?  After all, it had lots of fire and explosions and the like, so it must have been pretty good.  The guys were quick to turn down the sound and gather around when I asked if I could pray for them, though.

I had to make a quick stop for a bathroom break at Seaside.  As I was leaving the parking lot a car pulled in right in front of me, cutting me off.  As it got close enough to me I recognized the driver and passenger.  Cory and Sarah were heading over to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving.  He asked if we were playing the Turkey Bowl game on Saturday, and I assured him we would toss it around for a little while at least, for the sake of tradition.

Station 8 – Jab was watching the football game and Paul was watching videos of fires (hey, always learning, right?).  Tim joined us after a bit.  It’s hard to stay away when Jab gets started talking.  He told some great church stories about sneaking extra wine at communion and telling the priest as he hands out the host that his fly is down and confusing the poor guy by kneeling next to the wrong wife.  We could use these guys over at Seaside.  It was great praying with them as well.

Station 7 – These guys were smoking a turkey, so when I opened the car door an incredible smell wafted over me that I didn’t want to let go of.  I enjoyed talking to and praying with David and Will in the kitchen.  Even got to talk to Kenny and then Glenn on my way out.  They were just about ready for the guys from Station 8 to come join them for a feast. 

Station 4 – My last stop was the closest to home.  I met Tom on my way in and we walked up together.  There was a football game on TV there, but it looked like these guys were all “helping,” in one way or another, to get the gravy cooked.  They responded almost immediately to the turkey I placed on the counter.  Almost savagely, in fact.  They were starving.  I found out why, though.  It was around one at the time, and their big meal wasn’t scheduled until three.  I would be hungry, too.  Station 5 was coming over, as well as some family members.  They were expecting at least 20 people.  Sounded like a really full house for them.  All the guys joined around for a prayer before I left to make my way home. 

My prayer for all the stations yesterday was that their call volume would be extremely low so they could have a meal and enjoy the day with the fire department side of their family, since they couldn’t be at home.

2 Chronicles 5:13-14 says, “The trumpeters and singers joined in unison, as with one voice, to give praise and thanks to the Lord.  Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, they raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: ‘He is good; his love endures forever.’  Then the temple of the Lord was filled with a cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God.”

Father, thank you for the sacrifice of the fire service guys, police officers, medical personnel, and even the pharmacy workers who sold me the Tylenol for Nathan.  Honor their time away from family with their own times of togetherness and assurance of love.  And please help Nathan recover quickly.  Amen.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27 – “An unexpected live show”

We had lunch yesterday at Fisherman’s Wharf.  OK.  I know.  Doesn’t sound all that exciting.  But that’s where we had Kel and Christina’s wedding reception back in the day, so it has kind of a special place in our hearts.  This time the meal was a gathering of the Fire Department and Fire Marshall administrative staff and their spouses.  Well, some of their spouses.  Chris was kind of hesitant to go at first.  I guess she was feeling sort of “just a spouse”-like.  I’m sure she was really glad when the chief and assistant chief and administrative assistant all invited their spouses.  I was, too.  Hey, when Mama’s happy, everybody’s happy. 

We were the first ones there, so we were escorted to the reserved room upstairs.  It had windows overlooking the ship channel.  The Elissa was docked on one side and a huge yacht on the other.  And in between the two … we saw a dolphin.  Then another.  And another.  They were swimming around and around in circles, obviously feeding.  We kept our eye on them throughout the meal, and we weren’t disappointed.  Among the group we saw either a baby or a really short dolphin join the action.  Very cute. 

Everyone else finally arrived and we began the meal.  Actually Assistant Chief Olsen asked me to say a blessing before we got started.  Thanks for the nod there, Chief.  The food was quite the array of Fisherman’s Wharf delicacies.  Everything from fried and bacon-wrapped shrimp to some kind of pork chop stuffed with a seafood dressing.  Nah, I don’t get paid extra for advertising.  That’s just for those young, virile athletes who get paid to play their sports.  Not that I’m bitter, mind you, or even jealous.  Well, maybe a little. 

Just as we were finishing up our meal the whole crowd of us were stopped in mid-bite.  We saw something that I personally have never seen before in person.  Three of the dolphins started putting on a Sea World quality performance.  They did the whole jumping completely out of the water thing over and over.  They never did the Flipper thing, though.  That’s where they hold themselves above the water and flip themselves backwards as if they are walking.  Flipper.  Wow.  Hadn’t thought of that one in years.  For all you youngsters out there, Flipper was a dolphin that starred in a TV show many, many … many years ago.  A dolphin as the star of a TV show.  I know.  We were easily entertained back in the day. 

Many thanks to Trish for including both of us in the event and even picking up the tab for our meal.  That is one great group to have the honor of working with, and by extension, so is the group of fire fighters they represent.  Be thankful for and pray for all of those guys every day.  Or at least for three days in row.  They work in three 24-hour shifts, so it takes three days to cover them all.  The firefighting community is one group of people who really do deserve our thanks all year long.  Appreciate you guys … Thank you.

1 Chronicles 16:8-9 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.  Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.”

Father, thank you for fire fighters and food and families of fish.  Whew.  Alliteration in a prayer.  I know you’re not so impressed, but it was fun to stumble on it.  Thank you for treating my meager efforts at combining words – and my meager efforts at life in general - like a patient parent who proudly displays his child’s crude drawings on the fridge.  I love you back.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26 – “Turkey Fry Day Disaster Narrowly Averted”

Ah, what a wonderful tradition to have.  No, I don’t mean that we do something special on the day of the week that follows Thanksgiving Day, although we do that on occasion.  In fact, this one usually takes place on the Tuesday before that elusive Thanksgiving Day.  It is the day we literally fry turkeys.  And the “s” on the end of that turkey is not a typo.  There is never just one turkey.  Oh, no.  Not for this family.  One turkey will barely get us through the Thursday feast, and we have family and friends over all the way through Saturday’s Turkey Bowl (That’s a story for another day).  And on top of that, Chris likes to freeze some and use it throughout the year for any recipe that calls for chicken.  Oh, and we occasionally fry a turkey or two for someone else as well.  Why not, since the grease is already hot?  As a result, this year we had eleven turkeys marinating in the fridge in our secret family rub recipe (not our family’s recipe, exactly, although Chris has made some modifications over the years, but it makes for the best turkey I have ever had.  

I thought we might have a disaster on our hands right out of the box, however.  I got the flame going on both fryers without too much difficulty.  We do have some ornery timers that we have to duct tape into position, because they keep running out and automatically shutting off the flame.  In fact this year Nathan wired one up so it would stay on not matter what.  Fires going, I set the big pots on top and poured in the gallons of grease.  It takes about an hour for the grease to heat up enough to dunk the first turkey, so I went back to the shed and put away some tools.  On my way back to the house, though, I happened to glance over at the fryers, just to make sure they were still flaming.  I noticed right away that there was a wet spot under one of the fryer.  My first thought was of our dogs, “Oh, boy, Fritz, you are getting a little too close with your marking skills.”  Bu then I noticed that the spot seemed to be growing, and Fritz was nowhere to be seen.  Either he’s the best long distance peeing machine on the face of the earth, or something was terribly wrong. 

I hurried over to check it out up close.  To my horror, there was a steady stream of oil pouring from the bottom of the pot, right in the center.  Pouring right through the hungry flames.  No wonder they were flaring so brightly.  They had plenty of fuel to lick up.  I raced over and removed the pot from its perch, and sure enough, the stream continued, flowing all over the patio.  I have to insert here … Frita and Heidi didn’t consider this a disaster at all.  They may be throwing up all day today, but they will be doing it with shiny coats (Shiny coats - I understand that’s what grease does for dogs). Fortunately, I remembered we had a backup plan just sitting in the shed.  We still had our old, original pot from way back when we first started frying turkeys.  I can’t even remember when that was because it was B.I. (Before Ike), and that’s like ancient history around here.  I raced into the shed, grabbed the replacement, and poured what was left into Old Reliable.  Whew.  Crisis narrowly averted.

Once we got started, we didn’t stop until we had eleven turkeys fried and carved and stashed away in the fridge.  Many, many thanks for your help lifting those birds, Nathan.  Oh, and Nani says thanks to Cailyn for all her help making chocolate chip cookies from scratch – the kind that nut-allergic Jachin can have (I did get that right, didn’t I?  It’s not “that allergic nut, Jachin”).  And when they were not working on the cookies, Nani and Cailyn spent their time playing in the little playhouse out in the back yard.  Yes … IN it.  I’ll end that thought by just saying, Chris only needed a little help uncoiling her legs to get out.  Would have been a great video.  Ain’t it amazing what Nannies will do for their granddaughters?

Psalms 75:1 says, “We give thanks to you, O God, we give thanks, for your Name is near; men tell of your wonderful deeds.”

Father, thank you for anti-allergy chocolate chip cookies and deep-fried turkeys and tea parties in way-too-small playhouses.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25 – “Dreaming”

It’s not often that I remember dreams.  On occasion I will wake up and recall a person from the dream and spend a moment or two praying for them before falling back to sleep.  But most of the time I simply forget.  That didn’t happen last night.  For some reason the same dream kept coming back.  Oh, I don’t mean recurring where the same thing happens.  This one just kept going, like I had pushed the pause button to make a quick trip to the bathroom.  And I remembered it.  Still do.  Allow me to welcome you into my dream world …

I was going off to college.  I walked into my dorm room.  It was pretty small, just a bed on one wall and little kitchenette area with a small table on the other.  I know.  For a dorm room even to have a kitchenette is pretty amazing.  Other than that, I was appalled at its condition.  Exposed pipes everywhere.  One huge section of the ceiling was completely ripped away, leaving bits of insulation hanging.  That wonderful kitchenette area was filthy, and roaches made themselves at home wherever you looked.  But apparently I was happy just to be there.  None of the mess seemed to matter to me. 

Now I was the same age I am now, or maybe a little older.  Once I got settled in I decided to take a little walk and see the sights around the dorm.  To my surprise the first person I met was Warren Martin.  Before his death many years ago, Warren had been a n extremely active member at Seaside, and was beloved to many of the folks in the community.  Apparently he was a real go-to kind of guy in the dorm as well.  We talked for a while, and during our discussion we were interrupted.  We both whipped our heads around and … well, at that point I roused from my sleep, shook my head in an unsuccessful attempt to clear out some cobwebs, changed my sleeping position, and willed myself back to sleep, content in the knowledge that I don’t really have to go through college all over again, especially at my age.  I know.  That “willing myself back to sleep” doesn’t always work for me, either, but this time it did.  I figured at least in some fresh new dream cycle me or Warren wouldn’t have to be old dudes. 

To my surprise the dream began again.  Same dorm.  Same terrible condition.  Only this time it got worse.  Answering a knock at the door, I opened it to reveal a housekeeping person.  Didn’t know they had those at colleges.  Sure didn’t at mine.  She came in and set to work.  Now Warren wasn’t around this time.  Guess he managed to graduate or something.  Lucky guy.  I went out into the hallway because for some reason I was waiting for the ambulance to arrive with some paramedics.  And it was for me, but I didn’t know exactly what was wrong. 

Before long I noticed that people were beginning to congregate … in my room.  How odd.  Well, like anything can be “odd” in a dream, right?  I went back inside to see what everyone thought they were doing.  Sure enough the room was crowded with people.   Two large tables had somehow been crammed into the space, and people were seated in wheelchairs all around them.  The housekeeper had transformed into a cook, and she was over at the kitchenette preparing a meal for everyone.  I was horrified.  How dare they invade my space?  I may not have minded, but they didn’t even ask.  I stormed over to the housekeeper cook and demanded to know what was going on.  I was unable to continue my objections, however, because I was called out in the hallway.  Seems the paramedics had arrived and my wheelchair awaited.  I meekly surrendered myself to them, collapsing into the chair.  The kindly paramedics informed me that I might want to grab a long-sleeved shirt because it was chilly outside.  I struggled to my feet.  I had to go back to the room anyway because I had forgotten my cane.  Apparently I now walked with a cane.

This time when I entered, a door opened at the exact same time on the other side of the room.  A tall, regal-looking young lady entered.  A hush instantly fell over the room as everyone looked first at me, then at her, then back again.  Who was this woman?  I certainly had no idea.  I just knew she was in my room with all these other uninvited guests.  She quickly, and quite rudely, introduced herself as the one in charge who had admitted everyone into the room, and she, in no uncertain terms let me know that I was in some serious trouble for locking the door.  Wait.  What?  It was my room.  How could I be in trouble?  Apparently the guy before me had signed an agreement allowing all meals to be held in this room.  Well, I had signed no such agreement, but a sit stood, I had no choice in the matter because, in her words, “this was the biggest and best room in the whole dorm.”  And she added, “That’s the price you pay for such opulence.”  Opulence.  Who even uses that word?  I haven’t even seen that one in a crossword puzzle in a while.  I was furious.  But apparently whatever it was that ailed me took precedence over my desire for justice.  I grabbed my cane and stormed out the door.  And yes, I forgot my long sleeved shirt.  Yes, it was chilly when I got back into the now pitch-black hall.  But it really didn’t matter.  Because out in the hall all I could see was a glowing light.  And as I got closer to that light I began to realize that it was actually a series of lights.  And the lights made up a figure.  No, three separate figures.  The figures were … numbers.  And the numbers were … 5:55.  And … I was awake, staring at the clock.  Out from under the covers. 

Sigh.  May as well get up.  Big day today.  Frying ten or twelve turkeys.  What do dreams mean, anyway?

Acts 2:17 says, “’In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’”

Father, I know my silly dreams are nowhere close to what you promise to bring, but thank you for random, goofy dreams, both when I’m asleep and when I’m awake.  They make life interesting … and fun.  But thanks for reality, too.  The one where you are.  Feels much safer there.  Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24 – “Holiday fever … for real”

Aren’t kids great little creatures when they get sick?  Cailyn spent the night with us last night, and around about 8:30 she and I were sitting on the couch, snuggling and watching the Dallas Cowboys football game.  I noticed she was doing her best to get closer and closer, and even had a blanket over her.  She was obviously sleepy, but Chris took one close look at her, did that whole Mom thing where she they put the back of their hand on the kid’s forehead and know instantly that they have a fever.  I never have been able to do that.  But Chris is kind, so she included me in her discovery by asking if I thought Cailyn felt hot.  Of course she felt hot.  We had been snuggling together under a blanket.  I was hot, too.  But I dutifully and gently placed my hand on her head and announced my agreement, “I guess she is.”  And with that agreement, that dual pronouncement, if there was ever any doubt in her mind, it was completely dispelled.  She was sick.  It was as if we had given her permission to suddenly develop every symptom of illness she had ever had or heard about or seen in her Mommy and Daddy.  Yes, she was hot.  And her head hurt “really bad.”  Oh, and her stomach hurt, too.  And we all know what that means … “I might throw up.”  I guess there is something rather final about throwing up.  It’s not like a fever that may or may not be there (unless, of course, someone makes you cram one of those glass things under your tongue.  Who puts anything under his tongue, anyway?  Besides, if the adult leave the room long enough, you can stick that permomether under the covers and rub the business end against the sheet and make it get really hot, then stick it back in your mouth quickly.  Gotta be careful you don’t do it too long, though.  Not even a dog can survive a temp of 110.  Oh, wait. I think I digress a bit here.  Well, a lot.  Not that I ever did anything like that when I was a kid, you know.  Besides, this is Thanksgiving week.  No school anyway).  Oh, no.  Vomit provides tangible evidence that something is clearly wrong and there is no way school can happen today. 

So Cailyn brought out all the guns.  Fever, “maybe vomit” (thankfully she never followed through on that one, or I would have joined her), headache, “Will you text my Daddy and tell him I don’t feel good?”  Of course good ol’ Nani knew just what to do.  Rather than get Mom and Dad all worried since both had to go to work the next day, she brought over some trusty children’s Tylenol and the three of us snuggled until the Giants went ahead with about three minutes left in the game.  I understand the Cowboys put together a miracle drive and came back to win, though.  Sorry I missed that one. 

She and Chris headed back on to bed while I turned out the lights and locked up the house.  When I got done with my chores and came into the bedroom, Chris was in the bathroom getting ready for bed and Cailyn was hunkered down, covers over her head.  I remember thinking, “poor thing.”  But this was Nathan’s daughter, after all.  There was something unusual going on under there.  I heard noises, so I inched just a bit closer and heard, “Will you tell Mommy I have a headache?”  Ah, so she talked Chris into calling her Daddy after all.  I chuckled and went into the bathroom with Chris, all ready to tease her a bit about giving in and allowing “The Phone Call.”  But she didn’t allow it.  Didn’t even know what I was talking about.  Sneaky little Nathan’s-daughter Cailyn had pillaged Chris’ phone and made the call on her own.  Resourceful, even when hindered by illness.  Gotta hand it to that kid.

She slept pretty well last night.  I did my best to stay quiet this morning so she would sleep, but come to find out, when I exhausted all my FaceBook options and finally made my appearance, she had been awake for almost an hour, waiting for me.  Sorry about that, Chris.  She roamed around the house with me for a while this morning, helping me feed the dogs and fetch the newspaper – my usual morning chores.  And the whole time she was chipper and happy and – now here’s the sick kid part – extremely well-mannered.  When a kid realizes he actually is sick, he can go one of two ways.  Either it’s “I’m going to die.   I can’t move.  You have to wait on me hand and foot.”  Or, especially when there is something special planned or something she really wanst to do that she knows just won’t happen for sick ones, or perhaps a little fear kicks in and it becomes, “Oh, I’m fine, totally fine and I can do anything you can do only better and watch me do this and sure I want to help and let’s play a game and I’ll get that for you and yes, sir and no, ma’am and …”  And then they collapse from the sheer exhaustion of trying to prove they really aren’t quite as sick as you might have thought.

Anyway, she lasted about thirty minutes or so, before her morning adrenaline began to wear out.  Right now she is back on the couch absorbing the latest dose of Tylenol, wrapped up in a blanket or two with her head never more than an inch or two away from her little trash can/makeshift vomit bucket.  Sigh.  What a way for a DadDad – er - I mean a Nani – er - I mean a five-year-old (that’s the one I meant to say all along, of course) to spend a Thanksgiving holiday.

Malachi 4:2-3 says, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”

Father, could you bring some of that healing to our house today?  I love her no matter what, but I sure do prefer the leaping-like-calves version.  Thank you.  Amen.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23 – “Fri-mily”

We had some very dear friends (You know, the kind mentioned in the Bible … Something about a friend being closer than a brother.  Guess that makes them friend-family … fri-mily) arrive Friday evening for an all-too brief weekend stay.  Cary and Kay Lynn from Arlington came in after Cary made a work-related delivery in Beaumont.  Hey, that puts Galveston right on the way, right?  Cary just dropped Kay Lynn off at the nearest mall to do some Christmas shopping while he made the delivery.  Quick in and out job, right?  Well, not so much this time.  Apparently there was some cross-up with the remote server or some such techno-gobbledy gook.  Several hours later Kay Lynn was outside waiting on a park bench for her ride.  She must have ready, too, because she tried to get into the first white truck she saw pull up nearby.  The driver wasn’t quite so accommodating, however.  Drove off as quickly as he could when he saw her coming.  They did finally get together again, and made their way here down the dark stretches of the ferry road on the peninsula.  I’ll assume they didn’t see many dolphins on their ferry ride out of Texas and into Galveston.

Yesterday we all went to the Moody Church craft fair.  By “all” I mean Nathan and April and Cailyn joined us as well.  Or I guess we joined them.  The fair didn’t seem as big as it has been in the past, though.  Don’t get me wrong.  Chris managed to get her some more goat grease.  Sorry, Laura.  Goat Grease is my affectionate nickname for hand lotion homemade out of farm-raised goat’s milk.  The Bearded Lady (not Laura.  That’s the name of the family business.  Get it?  A goat has a beard?) makes everything from hand lotions to soap out of goat milk.  Pretty impressive.  They are the anchor tenants of Seaside’s own Bethlehem Street Market Craft Fair coming up on December 13, proceeds to go toward sending our youth to camp next summer.  Whew.  How’s that for some shameless self-promotion?  Speaking of self, I must confess I did pick up one book for myself.  It is a collection of stories that have been published in the Saturday Evening Post over the years.  There are some awesome authors represented, too.  Edgar Allen Poe, Ogden Nash, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Stephen Vincent Benet, William Faulkner, Ring Lardner, O. Henry, Jack London, G.K. Chesterton.  Even three by Benjamin Franklin.  Gotta love books.

We hurried home to grab a sandwich, because Cary and I (and later Nathan as well.  We desperately needed reinforcements.  Young, strong reinforcements) had to get over to Uncle Jerry’s house and help my cousin Jer finish moving stuff out.  Actually our job was to get the rest of whatever was left over to Seaside for the youth group’s booth at the Bethlehem Street Market, “Gentile-ly Used Goods.”  Pretty much a garage sale booth.  I think Jer is just about done with cleaning out the house now.  I think I’m just about done, too.  I was three different kinds of sore by the time we got back home.  Jer seems to be having a hard time letting go of Galveston.  He said he may even buy a condo here, just to maintain his roots.  Hey, once you get that sand between your toes, it is next to impossible to get it out again. 

We finished out the day in the presence of great friends, eating some barbecued redfish that Chris cooked for us, savoring some Blue Bell Peppermint Bark ice cream, and enjoying a victory by the Baylor football team.  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

Father, thank you for friends like Cary and Kay Lynn.  It is really awesome when the line between friend and family begins to blur.  And we do love our fri-mily.  Amen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

November 22 – “The G-Man”

A Mom, a Dad, a little six-month-old boy, a judge, an attorney, a social worker, two grandmas, one aunt, a pastor and his wife.  All the ingredients that when added together on one particular day churn together to produce one of the most incredible events ever recorded in the annals of mankind … well, at least in the life of the Mom, the Dad, the little six-month-old boy, the two grandmas, the one aunt, and that pastor and his wife.  An adoption was about to be completed.

We arrived first.  We had to get up around 5 a.m., no easy feat for a non-morning person like Chris, I might add.  But it gave us plenty of time to get through the traffic and rain and be there in time to catch our breath.  We followed the directions the Mom had given us, and made our way to the appropriate courtroom.  There on the wall was the electronic docket, and sure enough, the name of the parents scrolled by, right near the top of the list.  Right place.  Right time.  Now on to the … wait.

The rest of the entourage arrived not long after we did, and we all gathered outside the courtroom, oo-ing and ah-ing over the cool little hat Cedric was sporting, and looking over our shoulders for signs of the lawyer.  Finally a sheriff deputy made an appearance and announced that our venue was changing to a different court because a big case was still being tried in that room.  Along with the others who were gathering, we made our way just a few yards down the hall to the new spot.  More waiting.  We noticed that Dad, who had been rather ill over the past week, was looking a bit pale.  Mom carried young Cedric proudly, but had a look that resembled that of … oh, say … a deer in some headlights.  In awe at the reality of all that was about to take place.  An adoption that they had waited literally years to happen was coming to fruition … right now.

Finally we made our way into the already crowded courtroom.  Several people moved and adjusted their seating to allow us all to sit together on the front row.  It soon became evident that there just wasn’t enough room for everyone, so our friend the sheriff deputy returned with another announcement, “If you are not here for an adoption, please, wait in the hall.  It’ll be a few hours before we get to you anyway.”  A few hours?  Wow.  That many adoptions?  But then, it was National Adoption Day.

The judge soon arrived, and after the requisite, “please rise” and “you may be seated,” a wide grin appeared on his face.  He was obviously happy to be at work that day.  His fun demeanor soon spread throughout the room, too.  When Ann and Eric and Cedric were called forward, we hung back, not wanting to take away from the family’s experience.  But the Judge would have none of that.  He invited all of us – anybody who was here to support the new family- to come up and stand around the bench.  So we made our way closer.  We thought that the proceedings were about to begin, when suddenly the Judge remembered something and stood up.  “Oh, just a minute.  I forgot to tell you.  “Cameras and videos are all fine here today.  Usually they are not fine, at all, ever in this courtroom.  But today, for this occasion, bring on the cameras, videos, cell phones. You name it.”  Out came the cell phones, my own included.  OK.  Again we were ready to begin.  And this time the attorney even cleared her throat.  The anticipation was almost palpable.  In the background a few babies waiting for their new permanent homes gurgled and cooed and one even cried out a bit.  Hey, I’d be impatient too.  Apparently the judge agreed.  He interrupted the attorney again. He stood up and announced, “One more thing I forgot to say earlier.”  Parents were shushing their babies and young brothers and sisters, worried that they were about to be excluded from the premises until their time came.  He continued, dramatically, “Little babies are … also totally welcomed in the courtroom today.  If they cry out, that’s OK.  Please stay in the room.  It won’t bother us.”

Turning his attention to the new family before him, the judge had them raise their right hands and testify that what they were about to say was the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.  The attorney launched into a series of questions for Anne and Eric.  “Have you been working with Depelchin Children’s Home?  Did they make home visits and report to the judge.  Do you have any other kids?  No?  Then do you understand that your whole life is about to change and you have to feed and clothe and be there for this little guys forever?   That last one pretty much sealed the deal.  Maybe that’s one the doctors should add to their list before a new Mom is released from the hospital.  And finally, “What name to you choose to change his to?” All vows completed, the judge pronounced that they were parents and child, proclaiming him officially adopted, officially Cedric Ethan Geswender.  And then he gave him a stuffed puppy. Cheers and clapping filled the courtroom.  Photo ops all around. 

We made our way out into the hall which by this time were being patrolled by members of B.A.C.A., Bikers Against Child Abuse.  Cedric received a gift bag filled with miscellaneous stuff.  He was handed a stuffed penguin as big as he was.  And a book.  Refreshments abounded.  More photo ops.  There were some incredibly proud people there.  An attorney, a social worker, two grandmas, one aunt, and, oh yes, a certain pastor and his wife.  It’s great to be around for the happy times. 

Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Father, you know what it’s like when a little baby comes into the life of a family.  The expectations are high, the excitement is almost unbearable.  Please surround young Cedric with your protection and grace.  You have already surrounded him with a family that loves him.  So give them energy and patience.  Transform them into a family committed to following you.  Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21 – “Thanksgiving Feast”

It’s 5:30 in the morning and I just have a minute or two to post today.  We are headed to Richmond to be present for the “making it official” moment when Cedric Geswender actually becomes Cedric Geswender.  Very special moment and we are proud to be a part of it. 

Cailyn’s Thanksgiving Feast at school was yesterday.  We met her Daddy up there and took some pictures while she danced in her Indian vest and feathered headband and feasted on her goldfish and grapes and popcorn.  That would be the popcorn that Cailyn was certain looked just like poodles.  Had the little boy next to her convinced, too.  She didn’t keep the vest on long, though.  Said it was itchy.  Looked it.  I think it was just cramping her style, though.  She was also supposed to be one of the few pilgrim girls and switch to a bonnet instead of a headdress, but she changed her mind at the last second.  Just her shy around strangers streak coming out, I suppose.  All in all it seemed to be a fun experience.  She’ll probably be watching the video I made for years to come.  At least until she gets old enough to be embarrassed by it.  Then I’ll have to fight to keep her from deleting it.  That’s one I’ll have to back up for sure. 

Yikes.  Time to go already.  Yawn. 

Psalms 7:17 says, “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”

Father, grant your great blessings on the Geswender clan this morning and for many years to come.  Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20 – “Bringing up Moms and Daddies”

“Mom picks on me and Daddy argues with me.  I don’t like it when they don’t do what I say.”  How’s that for a heart to heart revelation from a certain five-year-old?  I’m so sorry Cailyn (and Jachin and Micah and Zakary and Caleb and Josiah and Noa and Luke, for that matter), but the ride is just beginning.  You have many more years ahead of you, and in spite of what things are like at Nani and DadDad’s house, you just won’t always get your way.  Especially with Mom and Daddy.  See, there’s this tiny matter of them loving you and wanting what is best for you.  They are gonna be totally committed to that.  And sometimes that means you have to wait.  Or get along without.  Or not do what you want to do when you want to do it.  Stomp if you must.  Complain if you have to.  Crying sometimes helps let out frustrations.  But all the while understand … their decisions are made for your benefit.  They love you more than life itself. 

Sometimes it’s really hard for them to say no to you.  Why?  Well, honestly, sometimes they did or said the same things you are doing and saying.  Or wanted to.  And sometimes they were told no the same way you are being told no.  And sometimes they did it anyway.  And sometimes they got caught and punished.  And every time, the one doing the “catching and punishing” (that would be their Mom and Daddy) was very sad, very disappointed.  They didn’t know it at the time, just like it’s hard for you to see right now.  But now they see you doing the same things they used to do, and they are feeling that pain, that sadness, that disappointment.  It’s not easy being the Mom and Daddy.

But guess what?  There is something else about Moms and Daddies that is kind of strange.  Just like they get really sad when you do something that might hurt you, they get really happy, sometimes even silly-happy, when you do something they know is right and that will help you.  It makes them feel like they did something right in the way they tried to teach you.  It makes them see you as a perfectly wonderful, smarter than the average kid.  You did it.  And they helped.  A little bit.  They look at you and do you know what they see?  They see that tiny baby they held right after you were born.  They see that little toddler who just took your first steps and everyone laughed and cheered and you did, too, but it made you forget that you were actually walking and you fell flat on your face and it hurt and you were surprised and you were scared and the only thing you could think of right at that moment was you wanted Mom or Daddy to scoop you up and tell you everything would be all right.  I know.  I told you it would be kind of strange.  But parents are like that.  Yep, they are.

Sometimes even Moms and Daddies goof up, you know.  They do things – even adult kinds of things – that they wish they hadn’t done.  Sometimes it’s hard for them to admit, though.  See, they want you to know that you can come to them for anything and they will help you find the answer, no matter what the problem is.  But they sometimes get afraid that if they make a mistake, you won’t see them as quite so powerful, quite so smart, quite so reliable.  They love you so much that they are actually afraid you may love them less if you know they make mistakes.  Yep.  Parents are like that.  But we know the truth now, don’t we? 

See, us kids (I know, I’m really old.  But sometimes I’m a lot like a kid.  And I have plans to get more and more like a kid and less and less like an adult the older I get.  Sounds weird now, but it’s what Jesus wants us all to do.  He said so in the Bible.  Check it out) have a very special, straight from God, no matter what kind of love for our Moms and Daddies.  Sometimes we get frustrated or angry or overwhelmed or sad and we just haven’t learned yet how to handle those really strong emotions.  Sometimes we think it’s one thing, like anger, when really it’s something else, like fear.  That can be really confusing.  So sometimes we scream our angry scream when what we really mean is to cry our “I’m scared” cry.  We’re still learning, Mom and Daddy.  Give us time.  We’ll get there.  But deep down, whatever comes out - whatever foot stomp or door slam or wailing cry or flying fist or kicking foot – please know, Mom and Daddy, that no matter what you see, what we really mean is “I love you.  I trust you.  I need to know that you are you are there and that you care.” 

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

Father, walk with our children and their children as they learn from each other what it means to trust and love.  Amen.