Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 28 – “Shipping inheritables”

We took the last of the inheritables (that would be the stuff Chris’ Mom left in her will to Chris and her siblings) over to UPS yesterday to get them packed and ready for shipping out to Virginia to Chris’ sister.  It didn’t seem like all that much once we got it in some boxes to carry over there.  They were going to do the actual wrapping and packing, so we just needed something to carry it all in. It took three boxes plus the big glass display case that the homemade doll called home. 

Now that’s what it took us.  We dropped it all off around ten in the morning, and I knew we were in trouble when they said the glass case had to go by itself in a huge box to make sure it didn’t break in transit.  Made perfect sense, but when they told us how much just that box would cost, I knew this was going to be a bit hit.  We left the stuff with them for the day so they could get it all packed and weighed.  They also asked if it was OK with us to wait until Monday to do the actual shipping.  Otherwise it would sit in a warehouse somewhere until Monday anyway. 

They finally called back last night with the totals.  Five boxes.  Packing and shipping to Virginia.  The total cost was a little over twice what we expected.  The problem came in the weight of the five Aladdin lamps and the heavy lead crystal glasses.  Well, along with that crazy sized and shaped glass doll display case.  Ouch.  They did ask if we were members of AAA or AARP.  Chris hastened to inform them that we were both.  That means we’ll get a little bit of a break on the packing part.  But as expensive as it is, we’ll take whatever we can get.  In fact, I’ll be happy to search my wallet for some other letters to see what other discounts we can qualify for.  I know there’s a CCA card in there (Coastal Conservation Association).  Oh, and there’s the FFC (Federation of Fire Chaplains).  Can’t forget BCBST (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas).  I’m not sensing any takers yet …

Psalms 145:8 says, “The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”

Father, thank you that memories cost so much less to ship, yet are worth so much more.  Amen.

Friday, February 27, 2015

February 27 – “Secret codes and silly questions”

Boy, did we ever receive a shocking surprise the other day.  I was paying some bills and preparing to pay others as soon as my paycheck arrives.  I knew that the day when our car would be paid off was approaching in March.  Now we borrowed the money from ourselves.  My annuity set up years ago allows us to do that, and all the interest goes back into our own account, all for a fee that amounts to a whopping $170 ($70 to get it set up and $20 per year that the loan is open).  They did an automatic draw from our checking account once a month. 

So, I decided to give them a call to see if I was going to have to notify them in any way once the account was paid in full.  She ran through all the required secret codes and silly questions, and finally agreed to talk to me about it.  She looked it up in her computer, and after what seemed to be an eternity, she began talking, “Well, Mr. Vaughan, it looks to me like that account was paid in full with the February draw, so there will be no more draws from that account.  There is nothing you have to do.  Is there anything else I can help you with?” 

Wait.  What?  Are you telling me that the event I have been anxiously anticipating for five long years came and went and I didn’t even know it?  I just … missed it?  I didn’t get to celebrate?  I didn’t get to jump up and down and talk about how we can change our insurance coverage and go out somewhere to celebrate?  We didn’t get the chance to talk about the hundreds of ways we could possibly spend the extra money (i.e. cruise to Alaska), or the one thing we probably would actually do with it (put it into savings).  Why, I had every right to be absolutely indignant.  I should be furious.  I should rant and rave.  I should …

Well, OK.  All that last part never entered my mind.  I was too busy doing all that first part, minus the literal jumping up and down.  But I was definitely doing it on the inside.  I had to verify this news.  I keep a ledger of that loan, and every month I mark that it has been paid.  According to the end of that ledger there was still one month to go, so I thumbed back to the beginning to check it out, month by month.  Didn’t take long.  The very first entry was made, not next to the appropriate month, but next to the title of the list.  Very confusing, since the title of the list was a number - the total amount of the loan.  A valid mistake, right?  So come to find out I really was a full month off in my projections. 

So we really do have cause to celebrate.  Now what should we do?  Outside of taking a walk around WalMart.  See … that’s what we actually did.  I was just hoping thre might be a little more to come.

Psalms 145:6-7 says, “They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds.  They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.”

Father, thank you for the small accomplishments.   Celebrating even the little things is fun.  Amen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February 26 – “Hey, Kel. Happy birthday”

That would be about 38, wouldn’t it?  Man, you’re getting old.  Must be tough to have such a young, spry, wild man for a father, huh?  At least you have those three awesome boys to keep you on your toes while you go about spoiling that sweet little girl.  It’s good to know she has someone else wrapped around that little finger on her other hand.  I’m keeping my side occupied just fine.  Love you, my son.

Now, I know this whole colloquialism thing is getting old for everyone, but I do have one more set that I want to share.  These are ones that I don’t remember hearing as a kid, but I sure wish’t I hadda:

“He’s as handy as a back pocket on a shirt.”  Great imagery.  I actually tried to reach around and see what that would be like.  Pretty much worthless.  It fits.

"Stump water."  First time I heard that I had absolutely no idea what it meant.  Do you?  It is actually a reference to weak coffee.  I guess when water sits for a long time in a low spot on a stump it starts to take on the color of the tree sap … light brown.  I never saw many tree stumps in Galveston, and when I did, we always made sure to sweep out any excess water.  That’s nothing but a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

And what do you say when someone asks, “How ya doin’”?  Now I know it’s easy to just say “Fine” and be done with it.  But what about those days when you really do feel good, ready to take on the world?  How about this one? 
How ya doing’?  "If I had a tail, it'd be waggin'."

And if your day has not been so great, and you are at least getting to the end of it …
How ya doin’?  “Oh, I'm circlin' the drain." 

Then there are those times when you meet someone and they think you look familiar.  Try, “We've howdied but we ain't shook yet,” to communicate: “We've made a brief acquaintance, but not been formally introduced.”

Could you really use some rain in your area?  Put it this way: “It's so dry the trees are bribin' the dogs.”

Know someone who is not exactly useful in whatever task he has been thrust into?  I guess he would be “so useless if he had a third hand he would need another pocket to put it in.  That one’s kind of confusing to me.  I guess the idea is all his other pockets are occupied with hands stuffed in them already, since he isn’t doing anything.  Ouch.

And from the country again I really like the imagery of someone who looks really tired and worn down.  Like I usually do on Sunday afternoons, or like Nathan does after a particularly rough shift at work.  “You look like you been drug through a knot hole backwards.”  That’s a pretty bad day.

And my final all-time favorite that I have never had occasion to use, but I have my eyes open for just the right opportunity, when someone continually does things that should get him in trouble, but somehow he manages to get out of it.  Yep, I have it all ready.  That guy is going to merit a description as … “slipperier than snot on a glass doorknob.”

Proverbs 23:15-16 says, “My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad; my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak what is right.”

Father, thank you for my oldest son.  He taught us a lot when we were young parents way back all those many years ago.  Teach him now what he needs to know about raising those youngsters of his.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 25 – “Tunes in a bucket & hell in a handbasket”

Well, we’re slowly winding down on the whole colloquialism thing.  The next batch are ones that I don’t necessarily remember from childhood, but I definitely picked up later.  And have used a time or two myself over the years. 

“Can’t carry a tune in a bucket” was another one that fit well when applied to my singing attempts.  Oh, I kind of learned to match up with whoever was standing next to me, but by myself?  Not so much. 

“This ain't my first rodeo” I guess this one meaning “I've been around the block a few times” (Oh, wait, that’s actually another one.  Can you use one colloquialism to define another?) is more applicable among peers, so can see why I never heard it as a child.  

"The lights are on but there's nobody home."  And then there is its more modern equivalent, "One French fry short of a Happy Meal." OK.  So this is one of those rude remarks that I’m sure I never used against my peers.  And certainly never against my brothers.  I suppose it is quite descriptive, though, of someone who has said or done something less than wise.

"Don't have one penny to rub against another one."  First time I heard this one I actually had to stop and visualize two pennies in my hand.  Why you would rub them together is kind of a mystery, but I sure get the imagery.  One penny would be a windfall.  Two would be a miracle. 

"When pigs fly," meaning of course, never.  My farm folks up in Spring when I was growing up never had pigs.  At least I never remember seeing them.  Perhaps it’s a good thing, because honestly, my first image when I heard this one was of somehow getting one of those huge pigs up on the roof of a barn and giving it a shove to test out the theory.  Yeah.  Warped sense of humor, I know.

"Going to hell in a hand basket.”  Oh, now there was no way I would have heard this one around my house.  At least not from the adults.  Using the word “hell” in this way was simply not done in polite company.  Doesn’t take much context to figure out the meaning of the phrase.  Things are going from bad to worse.  I have absolutely no mental picture for a handbasket, though. 

The one in this category that I fell in love with for some strange reason was "wetting your whistle" when you needed a drink.  I can still remember the episode of Our Gang where I first heard it.  Spanky was supposed to be going to bed, but he kept asking for a drink of water.  After much difficulty, his Pop finally got him one.  Spanky took one tiny sip and put the glass on the bedside table.  His Pop was beside himself.  “Why didn’t you drink the water after all the trouble I went to getting it to you?” he demanded.  Spanky looked at him with totally angelic eyes and replied, “Well, I just wanted to wet my whistle.”  And of course good ol’ Pops smacked himself in the forehead.  Ah, great cinema.  But I was most proud that I figured out all by myself the reference to the scientific fact that it’s hard to whistle when your mouth is dry.  Speaking of wetting my whistle, I think I’ll go get a refill in my coffee cup.

Psalms 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Father, I appreciate that you have a handle on the weather.  But it sure is cold … and now wet … down here on the Island.  Keep folks safe who have to be out in it.  We’re just not used to it.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24 – “And then there were sports”

And then there were sports.  Oh boy, did I ever hear some creative things coming from the stands and the opposition bench (never, of course, from our bench).  It’s just that once the bad guys discover your most apparent weakness, it is in their best interest to take advantage of it.  For example, I understand one of the first things on any scouting report about me (well, OK, more specifically about my batting) was, “He’s like a fish out of water."  Now “floppin’ around like a fish outa water” managed to make its way into descriptions of my behavior in areas other than baseball, as well, but let’s stay on topic.  I know its intended meaning is being thrust into a job one is unqualified or unprepared for.  I guess that’s why it was a fitting description of my prowess in the batter’s box.  And you can imagine how easy it was for me to grasp the intended meaning.  After all I did grow up on an island with a Dad who ran a deep sea fishing boat as his business.

Speaking of Dad, he did his best to come to every game that he could.  He and Mom even spent numerous wedding anniversaries watching me play baseball.  Hey, not my fault.  They got married in June.  That’s right at the start of season.  But I remember one of Dad’s favorite cries of encouragement anytime I headed up to bat.  Ready for this one?  “Stay loosey goosey.”  Loose as a goose is the actual terminology, I think.  No idea what makes a goose any looser than others in the animal kingdom, other than the unfortunate circumstance of rhyming with the word.  I knew what Dad meant, though.  Relax.  Uh-huh.  Never happened. 

Some of the epithets hurled in my direction should sound quite familiar.  "He can’t hit the broad side of the barn" followed in rapid succession by, "He couldn't hit a barn if he was on the inside, with the door closed."  Ouch.  You have to understand something here.  It was bad enough that these things were even said.  But what made it worse was … they were right.  Even the guy who coached me at one point in my career, Mr. Green, once told my kids, “Your Dad was probably the best shortstop Galveston ever produced.”  Now if he had just stopped there we would have been fine.  Proud children, and all that.  But he continued, “The only thing was, he couldn’t hit a bucket of balls.”  And there it was.  So much for Hero Daddy.

Now I really did get a hit every now and then.  And as I got older I did get better.  Of course most of the time the response to my getting a hit was something like, “Look at that.  Even a blind hog sometimes finds an acorn (pronounced akern, of course).”  I know this is one of the carry-overs from the farm.  I heard Mom’s family use this one a lot, too, but I remember Dad using it first … and more often.  It has the idea of unexpected discovery, stunning surprise and absolute elation all built in.  It was especially applicable on the rare occasions when I did actually hit the ball.

Just as a final mention, when I was in the field, I changed into a different creature altogether.  I loved the challenge of fielding grounders and throwing the guy out at first, or turning a double play.  My Dad often said I was "cool as a cucumber" out on the field.  Of course I never did like cucumbers.  Still don’t.  I don’t mind their pickled cousins, though.  Oh, and I’ll close this segment with the ever popular, "blind as a bat."  Of course on the baseball field we all know who that refers to.  And I will not share some of the other “monikers” the dear old umpire had to endure.  We had a rather creative cheering section when I was in Little League.  Different rules back then.  One guy even tried to climb that really tall backstop fence behind home plate in an effort to show, up close and personal, his displeasure with a certain call.  I understand they don’t allow that sort of thing anymore.  That’s good.  Still, it was entertaining …

Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”

Father, thank you for my Little League experience.  All of it.  I loved the game.  And I think maybe the experience had a lot to do with developing me into the character I am today.  Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I’m even more glad you were there to take the hodgepodge of experiences and mold it into something you could use.  Amen.

Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23 – “Get on the stick”

Are you sick of my colloquialism tirade yet?  I have a boatload of ‘em left, so are you ready for some more?  Well, then I’d better get on the stick and get to it.  Yep, there are two of them right there.  I was always being told to get on the stick in particular.  I figured out pretty quickly from the context that it meant hurry up.  But what stick?  And how would getting on it help things?  I haven’t looked it up, but I have a hunch it might come from the railroad.  My Granddad worked on the railroad for years, so maybe he started it around our house.  Could mean to push the accelerator stick forward (lean on it) so the train would move faster.  Here are a few more that I remember hearing around the house and neighborhood as I was growing up.

Now I was raised in a household with two brothers.  We had four male cousins.  A family of three boys lived next door.  Two more lived about the middle of the street.  Two more lived around the corner.  Two more lived two streets over.  Lots of boy sin our neighborhood.  That kind of explains some of these, I guess. 
“Raise a ruckus” That was something we were masters at, if I do say so myself.  Come to find out the word is a combination of two others, ruction (meaning a disturbance) and rumpus (a boisterous activity).  Double whammy of bedlam, you might say.

How about "You're so loud you could wake the dead"?  Now why would an adult say that to a poor, unsuspecting kid, even if he was being loud?  Threatening us with walking dead people.  And you wonder why we were so fascinated with vampires growing up.

Then there were the inevitable “disagreements” among friends.  And on those “rare” occasions, one might hear things like …
"dumb as a rock"  or "dumber'n dirt"  Interesting comparison, wouldn’t you say?  Of course that was before I had read the Scripture where Jesus says it is possible for the rocks to cry out in praise of him if the people don’t do it.  Sheds new light on those insults, doesn’t it?

My older brother often heard how he was "smart as a whip."  And he was, by the way.  But, what does a whip have that makes it so smart?  I often wondered how I could get some.  Not that I was competitive or anything.  In a similar vein, there was "sharp as a tack."  He pretty much got that one as well.  Except of course when a little sarcasm was inserted into the mix.  You know, like when somebody does something really dumb that needs to be pointed out in a less than merciful way. 

"Strong as an ox" brought memories of Paul Bunyan and his pet cow.  Hey, I read something other than baseball books.  And where was I going to see a real ox in Galveston?  Well, maybe out at Schaper’s Dairy …

Now one that I did have applied to me quite often as a kid was "skinny as a bean pole."  Not that I ever saw a bean pole.  Still never have, as far as I know.  I do know I was pretty skinny growing up, and this one always seemed to solidify that status, although in spite of my lean build, I was always considered “fit as a fiddle” by our doctor.  Scary man.  Very large guy.  And very loud.  Very loud.  Dr. Caravagelli (We shortened it to Dr. Carv) had a nurse who worked for him for many years.  It was always frightening when he finished an exam.  We knew the next thing coming was a shot when he hollered out her name, “Almeda.”  Read shuddering here right now. 

Now one that I did hear often after my little brother was born (now my much bigger, black-belt-in-Tae Kwan Do, absolutely-favorite-younger-brother-of-all-time, please- don’t-beat-me-up brother) was "quiet as a mouse."  It was invariably applied in conjunction with a bribe of some kind to get us to be quiet when the baby was asleep.  For some reason a baby sleeping required a different level of quiet than Dad sleeping on the days he had to work a night shift. 

One great one that I have used even to this day was "if’n it was a snake it'd've bit you."  Yes, that one is kind of hard to decipher just looking at it, but it sure did the trick as far as clear imagery is concerned.  My Mom used it a lot, usually in her gentle chiding after she finally came to our rescue when we couldn’t find that missing shoe anywhere.  She always seemed to know right where it was.  And of course it was usually right in plain view.  But how can she expect me to find it when I had a comic book in one hand and a stack of baseball cards in the other?  Give a guy a break.

Proverbs 22:17-18 says, “Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips.”

Father, thank you for granting a gift of creativity to whoever came up with these sayings.  They sure make life fun.  Amen.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22 – “Now, my Dad …”

Now my Dad was always known as a quiet sort, and as I understand it, that wasn’t so much the case in high school.  He was, after all, a cheerleader at Kirwin (Now O’Connell).  Some of the colloquialisms he came out with were the same as those from Mom’s family, but he had his own set of old sayings that differed a bit from those Mom brought to the table.  A few of them probably harkened back to those wilder high school days.  And maybe he picked some of them up during his stint in the Coast Guard.  Or maybe I never got to hear the ones he picked up during that particular phase of his life.  Probably best.  Can’t be unduly influencing those youngsters. 

"he's a quart low" – Dad was always concerned about the oil level in our cars.  He would invariably wait until we were all packed and ready to leave, and he would insist that we “pop the hood” and let him check the oil level.  Of course that was just the basis for the comment, since it was used to indicate the intellectual capacity, or lack thereof, of any individual who did something deemed a little off or foolish.
"slick as a whistle" – This one was said, not so much just when something went well, but more when some sleight of hand or trickery had been afoot that directly contributed to the success of the endeavor. 
"crazy as a loon" – Dad shortened this one to “looney,” as in “he belongs in the looney bin.”  We did live on an Island, but I can’t say I ever saw a duck doing anything particularly crazy looking.  Now a pelican making a dive … maybe.
"low man on the totem pole" – This one was often a reference to the newest hire on the Houston Pilots boat my Dad worked on.  This poor guy had to do all the worst chores, kind of like the rookies in the fire department.
"workin' like a dog" – I personally never had a dog that did much work of any kind, unless you include Queenie, our Boston Terrier who could clamp down on a rubber inner tube from a bicycle tire and hang on for dear life while she was swung around and around in circles until her feet left the ground.  Not work in the truest sense of the word, I guess, but that couldn’t have been easy.  Maybe this one comes from the sled dogs in Alaska or something.
"ants in your pants" – Now I heard this one as a kid … a lot … because, well, I couldn’t sit still.  I was always squirming around or moving in some way or another.  The imagery is a vivid one.  One that I am not interested to undertake in real life.  We have too many fire ants on the Island. 
"dead as a doornail" – There’s that classic one.  In fact most of the time what we heard was closer to “deader’n a doornail.”  Still don’t get how a doornail is any more dead than, say a window screw. 
"filthy rich" and "dirt poor" – These always fascinated me.  I mean, think about it.  Both ends of the spectrum somehow always needed to take a bath.  Did that mean us lower middle class folks were the only clean ones in town?
"take a long walk off a short pier" – Now don’t get me wrong on this one.  I can honestly say I never heard my Dad say anything like this in anger or bitterness toward anyone else.  When he did use it, it was always in a situation of jesting, and always really funny when he said it. 
"better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick" – Ouch.  And I remember always thinking the same thing … ouch.  Probably never got past the imagined pain to understanding the implications in the saying.  “Better than nothing” certainly worked better for communication to my warped little brain.  But once the stick in the eye image came out, I was lost in my imagination, dreaming of what that might feel like.  How would it be different if it was a sharp stick?  Or perhaps just a needle?  Or maybe … well, you get the idea.

And now for my personal favorite of all time from my Dad.  It comes from one of those weird memories that for some reason became seared in my memory when I was quite young.  I know I didn’t understand it at the time.  In fact I remember having to ask Mom what it meant.  Didn’t get much of an answer from her, as I recall.  The story behind it goes like this.  We were on our way back to Galveston from one of our journeys to Spring to see relatives.  We stopped at that old famous drive-in restaurant that used to be in Houston (sorry, I just can’t remember the name of it).  It was one of those that would bring your food on a tray that hooked onto your rolled-down car window.  The waitress came over and took our order.  And as she walked away, my Dad commented, “Look at the chassis (pronounced chassie, of course) on that lassie.”  Anybody have any idea what he could have been talking about?

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Father, thank you again for memories and for the legacy of laughter from my Dad.  Amen.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

February 21 – “Well, I’ll swan”

I mentioned a few days ago something about colloquialisms and traditions and how they have infiltrated our society and our language.  Well, I didn’t say it in so many words, but the thought was there.  Enough at least to warrant my returning to the idea and pondering my own roots a bit.  Here are some of the colloquialisms, the old sayings, that I remember from my youth.  Some of them I can attribute directly to the different arms of my family tree.  Meaning that I can remember certain ones actually saying these things.  I’ll try to point those out.  Others were just common, daily fare around our house.  Still others I have picked up since growing up, and finally there are a few that I sure wish’t I’da known ‘cuz I’da sure used ‘em.

From my Mom’s side of the family.  That would be Nannie K. (For Kelley), who lived with us my whole childhood.  Born on the Island, she left at the age of two after the 1900 storm and moved back to the old Holzworth homestead farm in Spring where she grew up with her sisters and baby brother.  Now I also included some things that her good friends said.  She had a card club that came to the house every few weeks.  Those ladies were all her age and felt quite comfortable treating us kids as their own.  Here goes.

“Give me some sugar”  Always a frightening request/demand for a young boy. And it usually came from one of those sweet old ladies at the card club meetings.
“If that don’t beat all”  Kind of a unique way of saying that something was the absolute worst possible … or best possible.  Versatile.
"dumber than a June bug on a string"  Don’t think I was supposed to hear that one, but it sounded funny enough that me and my brothers tried it.  Of course I remember expanding the focus to include toads in our “experiments,” but that’s a story for another day.
"slow as molasses"  Another versatile one.  This could refer to the opposing pitcher in a Little League game or (more likely in our case) to some little boys who are supposed to be getting ready for school.
"well, I'll swan!"  I still have no idea what that means!
"bless his heart"  Apparently you can say anything you want about someone, however mean and hateful, as long as you bless him when you're done.”
"flatter’n a pancake" This one, as I recall, was reserved primarily as a descriptive term for roadkill or as an image of what you were gonna look like after I beat you to a pulp.
"sit there like a bump on a log"  As a kid I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to sit anywhere for very long.  Too much to see.  Too much to do.  And now … bring on the forest.  I could use a few of those bumpy logs.
"actin' like she's got bees in her bonnet"  Imagine the imagery in a young lad’s mind upon hearing this one.  Well, once he figured out what a bonnet was.
"burnin’ both ends of a candle at the same time just wears you out"
"stubborn as a mule"  Never saw a mule as a kid that I can recall, other than the ones in the Pinocchio movie.  But they were kind of like a horse, so I managed to make out the imagery in this one.  Big, strong, if he doesn’t want to move, he will not move.  Got it. And, unfortunately for my parents, I often emulated it as well.
"naked as a jaybird"  Now, their pronunciation was a little different on this one.  Maybe closer phonetically to “nekkid.”
"slicker ‘n a hounds tooth" – Another one I had no idea about.  I was always taught to keep my hands out of a dog’s mouth.  Learned it the hard way when I got bit by a stray.  Again, a story for another day.
"looks like the cat that a swallowed the canary"  We never had a canary, and our cat used to terrorize the neighborhood dogs, so it didn’t really sound like a fair fight to me. 
"You kids are noisier than a hound in the henhouse"  We did get to see a hen house when we visited Spring.  Very smelly place.  And those hens could sure raise a ruckus when we walked through.  Made it easier to imagine the presence of a dog.  Or maybe a raccoon …
"you snake in the grass"  My Mom said this all the time.  Of course it was usually directed at us when she had fallen victim to yet another of our “innocent childhood pranks.”
"high-tailing it"  In the sense of running fast.  In our case it related to “getting’ the heck outta Dodge” (there’s another one) when we were in trouble.
"don't swallow watermelon seeds or one will grow in your tummy"  What a nightmare-inducing thing to say to a child.  And yes, I have said it to my children and my grandchildren.  But none of them ever believed me.  Something about needing sunlight and photosynthesis …
"tad, smidgen, dab" – Nannie’s cooking measurements.  Chris tried to follow her around the kitchen one day to get an accurate recipe for a special dish.  Didn’t work.  Nannie moved too fast for her to keep up.
"fair to midlin" – I read that this has something to do with grading cotton.  For us it was the ready answer to the proverbial “How are you?”  A bit more accurate than the typical “fine,” don’t you think?
"Good Lord willin' and the crick don't rise"  I picked up on this one early on.  It sounded more fun to say than “maybe” or “I hope so” or “That’s the plan.”  I’m not sure when I finally discovered what a “crick” was, though.  
"poor as a church mouse"  The whole church mouse thing was a favorite of Nannie’s.  I often looked for mice at our church growing up, but never saw one.  I never understood the connection between a mouse in a church and being poor.  And then I went into the ministry.  Nannie sure was smart …

Well, that’s enough for one day.  I’ll store up the other ones for days to come.  It’s gonna be a rip-snortin’ day, Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools  despise wisdom and discipline.

Father, thank you for legacies and language and memories of loved ones.  Amen.

Friday, February 20, 2015

February 20 – “Dead battery syndrome”

Nathan experienced a bit of a revelation the other day.  It had to do with the truck he just received from one of his buddies.  Seems that in some of these antique vehicles you see on the road, you actually have to turn off the lights manually when you get out of the vehicle.  Imagine that.  And if you treat it like its 21st century counterparts, expecting the auto-censor to read that the engine is off and thus automatically turn off all lights in the vehicle, you will face a consequence in the morning known affectionately as “dead battery syndrome.” 

Oh, many of us have experienced the malady.  I sure have.  Many times.  It’s the reason I have a pair of jumper cables in the first place.  Nothing quite like being stuck in a public place with a dead battery and no one who lives nearby to call for help.  And you sure don’t want to call an auto club just for a jump.  That’ll make you feel silly.  But enough about me.  Nathan’s battery was dead as a doornail (Whatever that means.  Have you ever wondered what that means?  I’ll have to look that one up).  He called, and being as he is now less than a minute or two away, I jumped in the truck and headed on over. 

As I pulled up he was outside with hood up, waiting for my arrival.  And as I opened the door he queried, “You didn’t happen to bring jumper cables, did you?”  Uh oh.  Now I know I mentioned earlier that I have a pair.  Problem was, I keep them in the garage at home.  Not a problem to run back to the house and get them.  But the time was now ticking closer and closer to 7:30 a.m.  Why is that significant?  Because Cailyn also greeted me when I arrived.  And it was a school day.  So we all piled into our truck and made a quick detour over to her school.  Oh, and it was also water therapy day, so I texted Chris and told her my attendance was looking bleaker by the minute.  She decided to join me in my truancy.  What a gal, right? 

A cup of coffee and some family conversation later, we had the cables and headed on to business.  The jump was no problem, and as I drove off Nathan was running back into the house for something.  I got back home and dutifully returned the cables to their spot in the garage.  I poured myself another cup of coffee (it was kind of chilly outside), and eased back at my desk, now prepared to meet the day.  And my phone rang.  It was Nathan.  The battery was dead again.  Could I come back for another intervention?  So back I went, cables in hand.  This time he let it idle for quite some time before waving me on.  He jumped in and headed off to Home Depot to start his day.  Oh, did I mention?  My jumper cables are now in his new truck.  Just in case.

Psalms 145:18 says, “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”

Father, thank you for proximity of assistance, whether I need or can offer it.  Kind of like know you are always right there when we need you.  Amen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

February 19 – “Ash Wednesday Wisdom”

We had a really good Ash Wednesday service last night.  I never know how that is going to pan out.  Folks with an evangelical tradition behind them have no idea what any of the symbolism means, so I created a teaching-type communion service to start things off, and then went from there to a Litany style Ash Wednesday administration of ashes.  The teaching covered the history and development of Lent, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday in the life of the early church, and brought it up to where we see it today.  It is always a lot of fun to see people’s faces light up when they reach one of those “oh, so that’s why …” kind of moments.  Does my heart good. 

We had some special guests as well.  One guy told me he has been in Jamaica Beach for about four months after retiring from the police force in the Dallas area.  He now works for the Port Police and as the low man on the totem pole, he has to work every Sunday.  He seemed to enjoy the service, though.  We also had some folks from the Jamaica Beach Volunteer Fire Department.  Their training chief canceled training so whoever wanted to attend the service could come.  And after the service one of them even stepped up and put ashes on my forehead.  He asked why I didn’t have any, and I told him that it was because I was just a normal guy like him so I needed someone to help me out.  He joined me by the bowl and very carefully formed a cross on my head and read the words from the handout.  I really appreciated his effort in doing that for me.  They even took some photos with me, but I can’t imagine why that would be helpful to anyone. 

Of course my favorite part of the service involved a youngster.  I like to do interactive teaching, so when I ask a question the folks know it is OK to call out an answer.  My opening question of the evening was simply, “What is Lent?”  Seemed an easy enough gauge of how much information the group already had.  The first hand up was young Matt.  His Mom oh, so gently tried to discourage him, but it was too late.  I had already seen the movement, so I asked him point blank what his answer would be.  Obediently, he looked to Mom first and received her approval before continuing.  Now all I heard was, “You see it on the floor sometimes,” before Mom’s hand went to her forehead in anguish.  But I understood perfectly, and obviously so did many others in the room, as many words of agreement and clarification followed from the adults.  “That’s right.  It’s in the dryer.”  “You know, that fuzzy stuff.”  “It shows up in your pockets, too.”  Yes, I was rapidly losing control.  But, you know what?  I have to say, Matt’s answer was not wrong by any means.  Not many people, especially in the South, are adept at the phonics nuances between the sound of a short “e”- like in “wet” - and that of a short “i” – like in “fish.”  I was just proud that he felt like he could speak up and be involved in the discussion.  I did see his Mom’s FaceBook post later that night.  Seems that his response has inspired her to new heights.  She writes that they will be studying the history of Lent for the next 40 days.  Now.  After you finish chuckling … what did YOU get out of Ash Wednesday?

Ephesians 3:14-16 says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being”

Father, thank you for Matt and his hunger for knowledge and his desire to be a participator in the world around him.  Bless that in his life.  Thank you for his Mom, too.  It’s obvious she has been doing something right.  Bring her great happiness as well.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18 – “Unjustly accused/tainted evidence”

We received some interesting mail yesterday.  It was from the TXDOT people, the ones who handle the tolls on Beltway 8 and elsewhere.  I guess they do it all over the state.  The letter mentioned a toll road somewhere in Austin, but that was in the fine print at the bottom.  Apparently if you messed up on that road you would get a bill from somewhere other than these folks.  So … what was our fine communique from the state about?  I’m glad you asked.

We were being assessed a huge fine.  When you factor in the penalty for not paying right away, the total came to $6.90.  Can you believe it?  Seven bucks for a 60 cent toll?  And we weren’t even there to enjoy the thrill of the moment.  It seems they thought our truck blew through an EZ Tag location somewhere on a road in Houston called Grand Parkway.  I remember seeing a sign leading there one time, but I personally have never been on that one.  I did recognize a cross street they mentioned, though.  This horrible infraction occurred near the Spencer/something exit.  I assumed that meant somewhere in the Pasadena area, but we haven’t been over there since I was Nathan’s basketball coach.  They included a very grainy picture of the back left corner of a vehicle that appeared to be towing something.  We don’t even have a trailer hitch.  We got out a magnifying glass to see if the license plate really matched ours.  I gotta say, it looked like it could be ours, but the picture was so blurry I really couldn’t tell.

Now, Nathan has been using the truck for a while now, so I decided to give him a call to see if he knew anything about it.  Oh, and speaking of that, congrats to Nathan. He was blessed in much the same way we were with our old faithful blue truck.  A co-worker gave him a truck.  He said it had been given to his Dad when he needed it.  His Dad in turn gave it to him when he needed it.  And now he was giving it to Nathan because he needed it.  He wouldn’t take no for an answer, and only asked that he do the same for someone when the time came.  It’s great to see God at work in people’s lives.

Well, sure enough, Nathan had no idea.  We just don’t normally take the truck off the island unless Nathan had to go to work up there or we were picking up something specific, like that piano last week.  So I grabbed the phone and made the call.  It only took a six minute wait time to finally get connected with someone.  Terrible quality on their elevator music.  I explained the situation to the guy on the phone and asked for whatever help he could give me so I could better understand the whopping violation they had applied to my non-existing account.  After reading the entire page to me (I guess I sounded like an old geezer who couldn’t make out the words on the page for myself.  But I let him drone on), he finally ended with “and that’s what the charges are for.  Is there anything else I can help you with?”  I took a deep breath and let it out before I began.  “There sure is.  That’s not my truck.  It was never there.  And we don’t even have a trailer hitch.”  I thought he would have been used to hearing things like that in his line of work, but he really seemed taken aback by my suggestion that his little picture and his computer might actually have made a blunder.  He apparently stared at his copy for a few minutes, then put me back on hold with the horrible music so he could review the photo more closely. 

After three or four minutes he returned, with an entirely new outlook on life.  “We were unable to verify this fine by the photo taken.  In fact, that picture doesn’t even look like a GMC.  It looks like a Chevy.”  Relieved, I helped him along, “And it’s newer than ours, and it has a trailer hitch and is towing something.”  He agreed with me on all counts and concluded with “I’ll remove that fine right now from your account and you now have a zero balance.”  Ah, finer words were never spoken.  Well, that’s not actually true.  Plenty of finer words have been spoken.  But at least we were freed from the stigma of a seven dollar debt hanging over our heads.

Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.”

Father, thank you being a righteous judge who offers mercy when we deserve the worst.  Oh, and thank you for blessing Nathan with a truck.  Bless his benefactor as well.  Amen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

February 17 – “Let’s kick it

Well, it got cold again.  Really cold.  For Galveston, mind blasting, toe-numbing cold.  When I woke up this morning the temperature on WeatherBug read 38 degrees.  Thankfully, it adjusted itself to 39.9 rather rapidly.  Thanks a lot for those extra two degrees, WeatherBug.  Looks like the forecasted high for today is 48 and the low is 35.  That is way too close to the freezing mark as far as I’m concerned.  Just think, yesterday Chris and I took a walk around the neighborhood and admired all the buds shooting out from the trees.  Come on Spring.  You can do it.

After Chris did some of that famous online research, I decided that starting today I am going to try to get off the decongestant I take every day.  It was prescribed for me by one of our now-AWOL doctors at UTMB way back in the day before Claritin-D became an over-the-counter drug.  It does work for me, by the way.  It is a wonderful thing to breathe.  I kind of like it.  But the research indicates some kind of rebound effect when you take too much of a good thing over too long a time.  Your body decides it requires a larger and larger dose, or something like that.  Sounds like the basic principles of addiction to me.  It’s supposed to take four to seven days of congestion before a breakthrough occurs.  Of course they never mention what “breakthrough” actually looks like.  Will I suddenly wake up one morning and realize I can breathe?  That sounds like a pleasant experience and all, but I kind of already do that.  Pretty much ever since I became a Christian.  It comes with the whole “I appreciate you for giving me life, God” concept.  And definitely since I passed 60.  Every day’s a gift when you get “that age,” you know.  (I said that for Chris’ benefit.  One of her greatest pet peeves is for a doctor to start any sentence with any variation of, “You know at your age …” or my particular favorite, “When we reach a certain age …”  This being said by a youngster fresh out of medical school.  Lose the “we” my young friend.  You have no idea).  So … here goes nothing.  Let’s kick it. 

Genesis 2:7 says, “the Lord God formed the man  from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Father, thank you for every day of breath you give me.  And thank you for that first blast of your life-giving breath.  Amen.

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16 – “Hey … Happy Birthday, Josh and the Tale of the missing cap”

Figured I should put that in the title.  Josh doesn’t spend much time on FaceBook, so he’ll probably never see it anyway, but now he can say he got an official online, embedded in the blog birthday greeting from the old man. 

Cailyn came over before school today and made a blog request.  She wanted me to say that she has a blister on her big toe.  So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen.  The announcement of the decade.  Cailyn Vaughan’s great toe has been invaded by a blossoming blister.  More details as they arise.

Speaking of Cailyn (and I guess I do that a lot, don’t I?), when she was driving away from here the other day (well, when her Mommy was driving away), the small cap to a tiny little pencil sharpener she had leapt from its already precarious bindings and flew somewhere into the abyss that was our street … or maybe the grassy, oleander laden section of our lawn … or maybe it never left the confines of the car.  The sky was already darkening, and we had already made our way back inside.  Cailyn made the realizations and yelped her concern to Mommy.  And of course, being the wonderful Mommy that she is, even after an extremely long day in the operating room, April dutifully pulled to the side of the road and performed an initial search operation.  Sadly the darkness overwhelmed her efforts, so she texted us and requested a follow-up operation when the sun would offer more substantial assistance.

Now, we are grandparents, don’t you know (Thought I’d throw in a little Canadian-speak there).  A request like that was certainly more than I could bear to lay in wait until the next day.  I grabbed my cell phone, flipped it over to flashlight mode, and headed outside.  Now here’s where I say a little something about my incredible dedication to the cause.  I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Oh, and sandals.  And the temperature was on the low side of 55.  In short, it was getting awfully cold on the Island.  But still I pressed on, now joined by Chris in our desperate search for the missing piece of plastic.  Wide sweeps.  Nothing.  Intricate detailed analysis of one area at a time.  Still nothing.  And just as we were preparing to postpone the search until morning, our neighbor Mario walked out of his house and wanted to know what we were doing, walking around in the middle of the street, all hunched over like we were.  I hadn’t though until then what we must have looked like.  (Not that it would have changed much.  I guess I would have at least thrown on a jacket).  A bent-over old dude and his gorgeous wife roaming around with a flashlight?  Maybe they lost their dentures?  And then when Mario grabbed an industrial sized flashlight and joined in the search, it became a real event.  If we had started just a little earlier we probably could have made a block party out of it.  The rest of the neighbors were probably in bed already, though.  It was after 7:30.  Mario did find one of the toys that had been in the same batch as the missing cap.  Plastic lips with a whistle inside.  Great fun.  But apparently she hadn’t missed that one yet.  All of our efforts proved futile, though, so we called it a night.

Early the next morning, however, just at daybreak when I was out picking up the paper, I couldn’t resist the urge to enter DadDad mode once again.  I mean, come on.  If I could find that hunk of plastic I could be a real hero to a certain six-year-old.  But no such luck.  A while later when Chris and I went for our morning walk, we tried again, also to no avail.  That’s when she told me that Mario had been out earlier and was putting in his share search and rescue efforts. 

Sadly, our search proved futile.  We hadn’t heard whether the car search on the home front had been any more successful, but we vowed to keep our eyes peeled (or would that be “pealed”?  I’ll have to look that one up).  I was disappointed and almost hated to say anything when Cailyn came over the next afternoon.  As it turned out, I didn’t have to worry.  She never brought it up.  All was forgotten.  My grand plans to make a replacement were unneeded.  I was going to craft one out of wood, but that seemed like overkill.  My next option was duct tape.  You can make anything with duct tape.  So, if she ever brings it up again, I’m thinking duct tape is the way to go. 

Hebrews 13:16 says, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

Father, give me once again the ability of a child to rebound so masterfully and completely from disappointment.  Amen.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

February 15 – “Who’s your Valentine? A Treatise in Two Parts”


Well, without divulging too many trade secrets, I will continue.  Whatever they did in their own most special of moments, all three of our boys managed to get the question out and all three of them received the answer they were hoping for.  And apparently, each of their girls managed to submerge their feelings of “It’s about time” and responded with happiness and I hope at least a hug.  I don’t know.  I wasn’t there. 

So now I had not just my wife and my Mom, but also three other women in my life.  Three beautiful young ladies who made the ultimate overture possible toward my sons … they didn’t reject them.  They didn’t break their hearts (at least not completely or too many times.  Hey, I know about a guy’s heart.  It is incredibly fragile, but he’ll never let on).  They accepted them.  They loved them.  For all that, I am eternally grateful to my daughters.  Sorry, I don’t even know how to do the daughter thing, much less daughter-in-law, so I’m all in with them.  They are family.  Valentines number three, four and five have officially taken up residence in my heart.

Oh, but the story does not stop there.  These girls teamed up with my boys and together they produced that most marvelous of marvels … grandchildren.  A boy.  Another boy.  Another boy.  OK.  There’s three.  I know what to do with three boys.  I grew up with two brothers.  I raised these three sons.  Boys are good.  Another boy.  Hey, the more the merrier, right?  Bring him on.  That’s what Vaughan’s do, right?  Have some sons.  And then the unthinkable happened.  What?  A girl?  Wait.  This changes everything.  A sixth Valentine.  A baby girl.  I … I … I am speechless.  She is beautiful.  I have no idea how to do this.  Will she break when I hold her?  So when does all the drama kick in that I have heard about?  Very confusing time.  But then … another boy.  Phew.  Are we back into the routine now?  Another pregnancy.  And … another girl.  Not as high a degree of stress as before, but just as much Valentine-ish mush in my head and heart.  And finally (at least for now) one more birth.  And one more boy.  My head still spins when I think about this whole grandparenting thing.  How in the world God can create eight entirely different, entirely perfect (Like I said, I’m a grandparent), tiny little human beings is totally beyond me. 

But this is a Valentine’s Day story, right?  My tally of Valentines now stands at seven.  Mom is gone physically but she’ll always be hanging around in her designated portion of my heart.  Chris holds a huge chunk of real estate in there as well.  Christina and Christi and April all have staked a claim, whether they want it or not.  And now there is Cailyn.  She the one who just the other day needed some help with a necklace.  Nana couldn’t get the clasp open for some reason, so Cailyn confidently advised her, “I’ll get DadDad to open it.  He can do it because he is 61.”  Necklace intervention.  Apparently a task for which I have been grooming for 61 years.  I have arrived.  And the newest Valentine to storm her way into my heart?  That would be Noa.  She’s the one who quietly walks up to me as I sit at my computer, patiently waiting until I acknowledge her presence (how does a one-year-old do that, anyway?).  And when I do say my patented, “Hello,” she responds by pointing to the painting on my wall, the one of the old man with gnarled fingers praying at a table, and she says, “DadDad.  It’s DadDad.”  Now come on.  Who doesn’t want his granddaughter to remember him as the old dude who was praying?  And when she finally has my attention, and wants some one-on-one DadDad time, she flashes that little grin of hers, grabs her own belly, and says, “Get you me.”  That, of course, is one-year-old code for “Come tickle me.”  The dictionary definition of “Irresistible” as far as I’m concerned.

So … Who’s your Valentine?  As far as this old coot is concerned, I have seven … count ‘em … seven of the sweetest gifts from God I could ever have hoped for.  So here goes … Mom … Chris … Christina … Christi … April … Cailyn … Noa … If you have enough room, Will you be my Valentines? 

1 John 4:7-8 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Father, thank you for each one of the special young ladies you have placed in my heart.  Watch over them.  Protect their hearts.  Let them know they are greatly loved by you … and me.  Amen.