Wednesday, December 26

"And Now For A Little R & R..."

Everyone take a d-e-e-e-p breath... Sigh... It's official. Another Christmas is in the books. I hope yours was as enjoyable as was mine. Presents were opened, greatly admired and genuinely appreciated. Mother-In-Law Francis was our guest, and although her mental acuity is fading fast, she seemed to have an enjoyable time...especially having granddaughter Megan fawn all over her. Distant family and friends were contacted and holiday pleasantries were exchanged. Even our two cats were presented with a present...from which they instantly fled in abject fear. I guess a raccoon's tail chasing a gyrating ball isn't exactly their idea of a fun gift. Mother Judi prepared and we consumed a most delectable meal that left everyone pleasantly sated. All in all a bang up, good cheer Christmas.

And now that the hustle and bustle of preparing for the Christmas holiday is behind us, Judi and I leave tomorrow afternoon for a much deserved and long over due four day reprieve from our day-to-day responsibilities. To St. Augustine we are bound. The city's festival of lights is still on-going and there is a king-sized bed awaiting us there where we shall slumber in peaceful bliss until the spirit moves us to welcome a new day. No cell worries.

So, until we return late Sunday evening, I will be placing my blog maintenance on hold. Perhaps the trip will provide subject matter for future observations, which hopefully shall be determined to be of some entertainment value. I might even share a few photographs taken with my new digital camera. But then again, maybe not. There's nothing quite like trotting out a few dozen candid shots of a person's vacation to bore the crap out of people...

"Here's one of me and the little misses standing beneath the left nostril of Chief Beerbelly. And here's another one of the black bear that climbed into the back seat of our car and mauled Aunt Saddie. This last one is of Aunt Saddie just after she was released from the hospital. You can just make out her eyes and mouth peeking through the bandages."

I promise I won't put anyone through that kind of self-indulgent torture. Unless it's just down right hilarious. Later...

Monday, December 24

"A Failure To Communicate..."

When musing about what to title this entry I remembered one of the most memorable lines of dialogue from one of my most favorite movies, "Cool Hand Luke," in which the "Captain" is addressing the prisoners, including most mature women's heartthrob, Paul Newman. And I quote," What we have here is a failure to communicate." This about sums up my feelings this morning, having just spoken to daughter Megan regarding her conversation with Dell Computers.

It has now been confirmed that Judi's laptop computer, that I wished to present her on Christmas morning, will not be delivered today...the day before Christmas...but shall be delivered "some time by mid-January." My reaction? And I quote, "Well, that's great! That's just super! Crap!!" Or words to that effect. Apparently my previous conversation with the Dell representative from Bangladesh, who promised me in her broken English, that the computer would be delivered in plenty of time for Christmas failed to mention which Christmas she had in mind. I am thoroughly disappointed to say the least.

According to Megan, the $20.00 we spent to have the instrument shipped to her address in two business days was a "miscommunication on their part." No hock, Sherlock! It seems that half the nation decided to order Dell computers the last week before Christmas and this turn of events threw their production schedules into a tizzy. It's a nice problem for them to so much for me. Had not their WEB site stated that two day delivery could be anticipated and had I not been assured by Dell-Bangladesh that that would indeed be the case, I would have made other arrangements to secure Judi's most wanted gift through another venue. Yea...and if soup were nuts we'd all have a Merry Christmas. Dell now promises, for what that may be worth, to up-grade our shipping to "next day" whenever the computer is ready to ship. Thanks a lot.

What to do? Megan and I decided that after Mom opens up all her other presents (She's still getting her iPod), we'll take her into where the desktop computer is located in the house and pull up Dell's WEB site and show her the laptop she eventually will receive. To me that's like a child on Christmas morning who has asked for a bicycle for Christmas only to open a present that contains a picture of the bicycle he so had his heart set on. It's hard to ride around the neighborhood on a picture. But it is what it is and there's nothing I can do to change it. The virtual thing will have to suffice for the time being.

Still...I'm disappointed. Boy, if I could get that Dell Lady from Bangladesh back on the phone I'd give her a piece of my mind...all in the spirit of Christmas, don't you know.

LFB: "Dell Computers. How may I help you?"

Me: "I want my $20.00 back!"

LFB: "With whom do I speak?"

Me: "Jim, from St. Petersburg, Florida. You remember me don't you? Megan's Dad."

LFB: "Who?"

Me: "I ordered laptop computer and you promised two day delivery. Now I'm being told it won't be delivered until the middle of January. I want my two-day $20.o0 shipping fee returned."

LFB: "I not have your $20.00. I can't help you."

Me: "I'm sending a representative from my personal collection agency to retrieve my $20.00. His name is Guido. He has a bad disposition and won't take 'No' for an answer. Expect him this afternoon. Have the money ready...or else!"

LFB: "What?"

Me: "Merry Christmas."


I feel better already.

Sunday, December 23

"Merry Christmas"

A Family Tradition...A Family Portrait In Front Our Christmas Tree

Not unlike thousands of other proud families, we too wish to record for prosperity a record of our family at Christmas. Above is our effort for this year. We clean up pretty good don't we?

I am thankful to have been blessed yet again this past year with a wonderful wife and daughter. It is family that makes Christmas the joy that it should be. Together our family gives thanks for each other and a shared belief that this special season is only possible because the God who created the universe so loved and revered His special creations that He sent His Son to dwell among us, to teach us about the Father, and open up a gateway for all to seek and secure a Heavenly home that shall be eternal. We celebrate His birth and we celebrate the blessing of His love that dwells in our family's heart for Him and for each other.

We pray that your heart's will be filled with all of the joys of the season and that God will enter into your home and bless it beyond measure. Merry Christmas...

Friday, December 21

"The Christmas Reindeer Has Landed!!"

If one compares my Christmas bonus with that of say the CEO of Exxon, my piddly sum wouldn't even begin to pay a portion of the taxes on their year-end windfall. But I am most pleased and thankful with my employer's largess...especially since this summer there were rumors of layoffs throughout our company...mine included. Just maintaining steady employment is a blessing for which I am most thankful, and having a little extra "Christmas money" to spend on my loved ones most certainly "makes the season brighter."

The check has been cashed and with the most appreciated assistance of daughter Megan, Mom's wish list has been fulfilled. Number one on Judi's "wants" list is a laptop computer to be utilized in furthering her expanding real estate investment career. We ordered "on-line" from Dell. It is suppose to arrive at Megan's residence today or tomorrow. I'm skeptical of that occurring, especially after my telephone conversation yesterday with a Dell representative...

Me: "Jim Latchford speaking. How may I help you?" (The phone call came in on my business cell phone, so I always answer an in-coming call in that manner.)

Lady From Bangladesh: "This be Megan?"

Me: "No, this be her Father."

LFD: "This not Megan?"

Me: "No Ma'am. I am her Father, Jim."

LFD: "Is Megan there?"

Me: "Is Megan where?" (I'm getting into the flow of the coversation now.)

LFD: "I wish to speak to Megan. She ordered computer. No?"

Me: "No. I order computer. I order computer with my credit card."

LFB: "She have no credit card?"

Me: "Yes. J.C. Penny. Will that help?"

LFB: "I not know J. C. Penny. Not on my order form. She order computer too?"

Me: "No that I am aware of."

LFB: "I am confused! (No kidding...)

Me: "I order computer. Me. Jim Latchford. The person you are talking to right now."

LFB: "You order computer?"

Me: "Yes. I order laptop computer with my credit card."

LFB: "Megan not order computer."

Me: "Yes. Correct. I order computer. I wish to have computer shipped to my daughter Megan's home address."

LFB: "Megan not there? She somewhere else?"

Me: "We need to forget about Megan. She not order computer. I order computer."

LFB: "Okay, you order computer. What your name?"

And this stimulating conversation carried on for another five minutes. I think I finally convinced the Lady from Bangladesh that I had indeed ordered a computer, with my credit card, and it is to be shipped to my daughter's home address...I think. We'll see.

LFB: "Thank you for purchasing Dell Computer. Happy Holidays."

Me: "Thank you. Merry Christmas to you too. And by the way..."

LFB: "Yes?"

Me: "Megan says ,"Happy Holidays to you too."

LFB: "Megan there?"


Wednesday, December 19

"Gateway To Wisdom...Portal To Knowledge"

In this month's issue of The NEW YORKER appears a critical article entitled, "Twilight of the Books," in which the author examines the decline of book readership in America. In 1937 twenty-nine percent of American adults were avid book readers. By 1955 that percentage had dropped to seventeen percent. Beginning in 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts began in earnest board based national surveys to determine quantitatively how much Americans are reading and what. In 1982 56.9 percent of those solicited to respond to the survey reported that in the previous twelve months they had read some form of creative literature. By 1994 the percentage who had done so fell to fifty-four percent, and by 2002 the percentage dropped still further to 46.7. Last month's N.E.A report surmised that the continuing steady decline in America's reading habits have detrimental consequences: "Poor reading skills correlates heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement."

Even more alarming are the indications that Americans are losing not only the will to read, but the ability. The Department of Education noted that although our nation's fourth and fifth graders have moderately improved their reading skills in the past decade, America's twelfth graders are, as a whole, mimicking the general adult population; their reading skills dropping five proficiency points between 1992 and 2000 from forty to thirty-five percent. Sixty-five percent of our nation's graduating high school seniors lack the basic comprehensive reading skills to effectively and productively compete in today's marketplace. The percentage of Americans who read literature is steadily declining not only in every age group, but in every generation. "We are reading less as we age, and we are reading far less than people who were our age ten and twenty years ago."

"Why?" In a word, television, the world-wide elixir of the masses whereby we are spoon fed what we are to perceive about the world and our place in it. Critical analysis has given way to five second sound bites and thirty minute situational comedies. Nightly news broadcast are packaged in generalized, pre-scripted monologues and digested as uncontested truth. No matters of public import can ever be considered "fair and balanced" when consumed in three minute increments. Conversations around the water cooler elevate themselves no higher than the latest Hollywood scandal, American Idol contestant results, and the Sopranos. We have turned our minds over to mass media outlets who make it their business to know more about us than we know about ourselves. We are manipulated into opinions and mindsets not of our own devising, but calculated to obtain a desired end result based on carefully crafted focus groups. It is far easier to nod in agreement than to question the basis on which we are being asked to consume the fodder to which we are being relentlessly bombarded.

Entertainment for entertainment's sake is not to be considered detrimental to our intellectual well-being in and of itself. It is only when the consumption of these offerings become the only means by which we weakly stimulate our minds that we run the real risk of losing touch with what it real and of value. My sixth grade teacher challenged me to explore the world beyond my very limited rural North Carolina understanding by presenting me with her personal copy of Victor Hugo's Les Misearbles. "Read this," she said. "It will change your life." At 520 pages in length, I was convinced that if I lived two life-times I would never finish that "stupid book!" I couldn't put the book down once I began. She was right. That book changed my life. I have been exploring distant horizons through the written word ever since. It is my hope that when I take my last breath upon this earth, those who find me will discover that I am clutching an open book upon my lap. Read! The whole world lies within the covers of a good book.

Monday, December 17

"Well, I'll Be Darn..."

This past Friday one of my consulting clients presented me with a $300.00 gift card to Nordstrom. Being the prolific, proficient and prodigious shopper that I am, I instantly recognized this name brand as one of the most prestigious and premiere retail outlets (five Ps in one sentence...don't you just love alliteration?) . Thought I, "Sounds to me like a place to buy expensive furniture." (So much for being a seasoned shopper. If it ain't Home Depot or the local super market, I'm basically clueless.)

But being a firm believer that if one needs to know anything at all one need only type in the word "G-O-O-G-L-E," then the particular area of interest, and "Presto!," one has the information sought after. Once I worked my way to Nordstrom's main page, I typed in "Men's Apparel," thinking perhaps that I would browse around their dress shirt offerings. That turned out to be a short browse. They have plenty of shirts...mostly in the $100.00 and up range. You do the math. I'm thinking, "I just want to purchase a few nice dress shirts. I don't want to buy stock in the company!" Now what?

Idea... Why not be really smart and let Judi have the entire gift card amount to purchase for herself (at my behest and certainly with my blessings) some really nice quality lingerie? (Some times I amaze even myself with my brilliance!!) So...I sundered over to Nordstrom's lingerie section on their WEB site to have a look around. Let's just say that I browsed there a wee bit longer that I lingered in Men's Shirts. The possibilities are endless, I must say. Re-doing the math, I am assuming that with some select purchases she will fair far better than would I, perhaps my being only able, with any luck, to exit the store with maybe two shirts and a reduced priced necktie.

I presented her with the card later than evening and explained how I had arrived at my painstaking decision..telling her about the two shirts and a tie scenario. With a twinkle in her eye, she said, "Are you sure?" "Absolutely," said I, matching her twinkle and raising her a sly grin. "I do so gladly," I continued, "but under two conditions. #1) Don't buy anything practical, and #2) stay away from any clothing article that has the word 'flannel' associated with it!" (We spark whenever she wears flannel night clothes and it has nothing to do with being amorous). "It's a deal," she replied, and placed her new lease on shopping adventure in her breast pocket...a good place to start.

I'm expecting a very Merry Christmas and the prospect for a wonderful New Year.

"Reality Check..."

At 17 he was a "man-child," standing 6'-2" tall, weighing in at over 200 pounds, all muscle, and still growing. I use to joke with his Dad by asking how often he had to change the light bulb in the refrigerator, believing his son, Jason, must live to eat when he wasn't playing sports. Jason played high school football and was good enough to win a scholarship to play on the college level. I coached him in basketball. He was a terror. No one could rebound like Jason. He believed that every ball coming off the rim belonged to him. Most did. We won two champions with Jason on the team. In college Jason became a member of the ROTC. He graduated with honors, got married and entered the Army as a second Lieutenant. His first tour of duty was in Afghanistan. He was promoted to through the ranks to Captain. He is now serving in Iraq.

Yesterday, having just arrived home from church, I received a telephone call from his Dad, Rich."Jason's unit had been attacked. There are fatalities and wounded. We don't know about Jason. Please pray." I immediately passed this most disturbing and alarming news along to my fellow Deacons, asking them to also be in prayer and spread the news to others who know Jason and his family. We all prayed...and we waited.

This morning we received an update. "Jason is okay. Not wounded. No further news on the condition of his troops. Continue to pray." We are thankful and praise God for Jason's deliverance from harm's way. And we continue to pray...

At this time of holiday preparations for joyous gathering of family and friends, it is easy to become consumed with the many seemingly endless tasks and details of getting everything "just so" that we understandably become disconnected from the trails, tribulations and disquieting fears that are the watchwords for other families and friends who wait in trepidation for a similar phone call they hope they never receive. All across this far-flung world are men and women in our military branches of service who stand as the camouflaged line between us and tyranny beyond, who will quietly celebrate a homesick Christmas with their weapon at the ready by their side and a ready prayer in their heart. Come this Christmas morning a child who once leaped joyously around the Christmas tree in years past will be absent from their midst...and their loved ones so dear shall pray for their eventual homecoming. Some will return with memories too painful to share. Some will return with wounds that will take many Christmases to heal, if ever. Some, will never return and only their memories shall linger as small comfort at Christmas times yet to come. And many, I pray, will return in full health, standing tall and proud for having served this nation with unquestioned honor.

Whether you agree in the name of all that is patriotic that our "war on terror" is a defensive necessity or vehemently oppose our involvement, remember this Christmas season there are thousands of men and women who hail from families just like ours all across this vast land we call home who do not question why, but daily stand firm in their duty and devotion to country so that come Christmas morning our celebration shall be one of peace and joy. That is their gift to us. Let our gift to them be our unwavering voiced appreciation and our continuing prayers for their protection. My friend Jason gives no less. He expects no more from us. Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 12

"You Want What For Christmas!?!"

I came upon my dear wife's Christmas gift wish list a couple of evenings ago. It was conspicuously placed on the computer's keyboard...hard to miss. The list of "I would like" wasn't that extensive, but what it lacked in length was certainly made up for by the potential price tag that could be incurred if each gift is purchased.

There were the usual requests along the line of perfumes, soaps, and other toiletry items. Piece of cake. One stop at Bed, Bath & Beyond and I'm basically through with my gift giving list for another Christmas. Of course I do make it an enjoyable habit to try and always purchase a few gifts that don't make her list...usually a few well chosen items of high quality lingerie. Similar items along this line that she otherwise usually purchases for herself is, in a word, functional. The prudish Pilgrim women-folk would be so proud of her choices. Admittedly, I have ulterior motives for my more provocative (I'm not talking sleazy, folks) selections. So, sue me!

Anyway...once my eyes moved past her request for a new terry-cloth bathrobe and slippers, I came upon the gift "suggestions" that gave me more than a few moments pause. "I would like an Ipod and a new laptop computer." My initial reaction was, "Well, I'd like to win the Florida lottery this week, but I don't think that's going to happen either!" So, I put the list aside and contemplated how I was going to be able to pull this off just short of adding an additional mortgage to my home? Then, as fate would have it, I received word that my employer would be awarding substantial employee bonuses this Christmas. H-m-m-m... Maybe I can make this least a goodly chunk of it.

So, I contacted daughter Megan and asked her advice as to the type of Ipod and laptop that would be of good quality, wouldn't overwhelm Mother with too much gadgetry, and wouldn't also break the bank. She gave me several good suggestions and promised that she would assist me in their purchase. Now all I have to do is wait until next week when I am scheduled to receive that substantial bonus to determine if my desire to surprise Judi on Christmas morning with something more exciting than a bar of soap and a new bra and panties measures up to available funding. If not, Bed, Bath & I come.

"An Unexpected Christmas Present..."

Look what I found under my Christmas Blog Tree last evening!! My newest blogging buddy, Coffeypot, (I have so few) bestowed and conferred this much unexpected and most appreciated award upon yours truly. At lunch today I must run over to Walmart and buy a new head has gotten three sizes larger over night! I'm such an ego fiend!

Perhaps with Coffeypot's continuing encouragement and promotion (The check's in the mail, ol' buddy!) a few more fellow bloggers will come my way and make their acquaintance known. I'm pushing around 280 individual visits, albeit mostly of the single variety - "I stopped by...looked around...have a nice day," and moved on. Such is the life of an unappreciated artist. Yea right!

However, I continue to receive "hits" from somebody or somebodies in Brooklyn, N.Y., the tally now standing at 65. Can a person be stalked as a blogger? Hum-m-m-m. I wonder if their computer has some type of virus and my page is an unwanted permanent fixture on their screen? Even now this pour tormented soul is screaming at the top of their lungs, "What the HELL is wrong with this stupid computer!?!" Well, be that as it may and since I have your undivided attention, let me wish you a Merry Christmas. Seems like the least I can do.

And you too Coffeypot.

Monday, December 10

"The Love Of Money..."

Last evening I made my weekly Sunday telephone call to my 79 year old Mother in Winston-Salem, N.C. Predicting what she will talk about is as easy as making a wager that Wednesday will follow a Tuesday. Still, it is most therapeutic for her and I otherwise engage myself with words games on my computer as she rambles on about the weather and her many real and debilitating physical ailments. It is an hour that she most looks forward to and an hour I certainly don't mind dedicating to her alone.

My Dad passed away a year ago this past Thanksgiving. Mom and Dad had been married for 60 years...most of them at least tolerable, if not blissful. Dad was a hard taskmaster and, therefore, equally hard to live with, especially for my Mom as she spent the last five years of his life being the necessary nursemaid to his steadily declining health. The immediate family all predicted that she wouldn't last a year after Dad passed, so wrapped up was she in caring for him...that task defining her day-to-day existence. But thus far she has fooled us all...thankfully. We attribute this welcomed resilience to her other life-long passion... amassing and overseeing a rather sizable nest egg...the value and extent of which isn't even fully appraised by her. So, predictably the subject of mine and my brother's eventual inheritance came to the fore.

Let me preference the following remarks by stating that my Mother doesn't possess a greedy bone in her body, but does possess a healthy respect for money. For her it is a tool that she has wielded wisely over the years to assure that she and Dad wouldn't have a moment's concern regarding their financial security. She could walk this earth for another 100 years and still have as many assets as she currently has accumulated to date. So, she continues to tinker and wishes to assure that I approve of her reasoning. She listed several new options to her last Will & Testament, most of which reward my younger brother more significantly for his stepping up to be Mom's helpmate since Dad's passing. "Was that alright" with me," she inquired.

I always hate this section of our weekly conversations, as it makes me very uncomfortable to discuss what she wishes to do with her worldly wealth, as I, honestly, could care less. I acknowledge and enthusiastically support that she may do whatever she cares to do and I would prefer not to have a say in how she does so. I also realize that upon her passing my financial wherewithal will change significantly. I do not wish to dwell on that eventuality as I prefer to live my life as I have for the last 59 years: relying on my own God-given abilities to make it through this world being self-reliant. It shall be what it shall be...all in God's timing.

I conclude this introspection to also comment on my Mother's younger sister Shirley. She, like my Mother and her older brother, Albert, grew up literally dirt farm poor in rural North Carolina. Both my Mom and my Aunt Shirley married well...both to enterprising men who through their ardours efforts produced a standard of living for their families that would be envious by most standard means of measurement. Uncle Bill started a company that made for him thousands upon thousands of dollars, affording his family of three children a most luxurious and pampered lifestyle. But my Aunt Shirley isn't satisfied with the untold blessing that have come her way. She wants more. She is upset with my Uncle Albert...upset that he didn't give her one third of their father's homestead when he passed away 40 years ago, but instead willed it all to Albert. She continues to hold a grudge against her much so that she hasn't spoken to him in years. This woman has no need for another dollar, but her misguided sense of fairness has turned her inwardly bitter toward her own flesh and blood. I pity her. She has swallowed the poison pill of bitterness hoping that her brother will suffer the consequences. How sad. How greedy.

I hope my Mom lives for another whatever number of years the good Lord wishes to bless her. I will cry at her funeral and be truly thankful that she was such a good Mother to me and my brother. Whatever riches that may come my way upon her passing shall be most certainly appreciated, but will pale in comparison to the love and devotion she showered upon her two sons all of her life. How does one place a price tag on that?

Sunday, December 9

"Yule Time Division Of Labor"

Yesterday was "Put up the Christmas Tree, Dear" day for me. This task has been assigned as my sole Yule time responsibility for the past 24 years of living with my holiday crazed wife. When daughter Megan was just a babe, some 22 years ago, and for a number of years thereafter, I performed the same ritualistic and devoted duty as my Dad did when my brother and I were children: wait until we (and she) were sound asleep on Christmas Eve to begin the ardours task of dragging the tree into the house to decorate into the wee hours of Christmas morning...all to promote and keep alive the sweet myth that Santa "had done it all," as was obviously evidenced by the fact that all of the milk and cookies had been consumed. The fact that Dad was a walking zombie come 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, having been able to snatch but a mere 30 minutes of sleep, was lost on the wide-eyed wonderment of Megan as she surveyed the mounds of gaily wrapped presents beneath the tree that, "Who would have guessed!," had her name affixed to almost every gift tag.

Those days of Christmas morning sleep deprivation have long since passed, but not the task of erecting the traditional tree to herald the season. So, what's the big deal? For a lack of a better term, it is a curse that I've brought on myself. For many of the early years, we like every other red-blooded American family, purchased a "live tree" to adorn with holiday cheer. This was all well and good as long the tree retained the majority of its foliage and didn't, over the course of two or three weeks, dry up to the point that the needles that use to be firmly affixed to the tree were now all over the floor and what clung stubbornly to the branches could pierce armor-plated steel. Determined that if it were ever to be my responsibility to put up the tree and subsequently (the part I detested the most) take it down, we were going to buy an artificial tree. We did...some 15 years ago. Except for the fact that it lacks the unmistakable fragrance of a freshly cut Evergreen, it looked then and still does today, like one of Mother Nature's finest efforts.

So, again one might ask, "What's big deal?" You see...I'm a perfectionist. I believe that if it's worth doing it's worth doing it better than anybody else (as though there is some committee that goes around judging how well I put up and decorate my Christmas tree!). First I have to drag the tree down from the attic, unfurl its many branches, which takes the better part of an hour...then check and recheck to make sure that it is absolutely straight. Then comes the lights. If you are worth your salt as a certified Christmas tree decorator you know that you can't just throw the lights on any which-away. You have to put them on in such a manner so that you get even coverage and intertwine the strands as though they were part of the tree to begin with. And I have enough lights on our tree that when I throw the switch the lights in the neighborhood go dim! (Sounds like Chevy Chases' Christmas decorating antics, doesn't it?). Placing the lights "just so" takes another couple of hours.

Next comes the task of placing all the ornaments on the tree that we have collected over the years...and Bubba, we've got some collection! My dearest wife has an ornament (or two, or three) from every place we have ever visited over the years and additional ornaments that serve as special remembrances of other sentimental occasions:"Our First Christmas, 1983...Baby's First Christmas, 1985...First Lunar Eclipse, 1986...First Transmission Replacement, 1987...stuff like that...and each must again be placed "Just so," so as to not upset the symmetry of the tree. Now we're talking another two hours at minimum. Admittedly it wouldn't take nearly as long if I didn't spend an inordinate amount of time taking breaks to determine who was winning the current college football game on TV. But hey, "All work and no play!" You get my drift. Before you know it an entire day has been devoted to putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. But, "Boy howdy," it's a doozie...even if I do say so myself.

So, that's how I spent this past Saturday. Judi came in from her gift wrapping in the back of the house to pronounce my efforts most worthy of her praise and, in the same breath, put me on notice that "next year we are going to get a live tree." I protested to no avail, suggesting that to find a "moderately priced tree that would compare even remotely to that which we already possessed was an oxymoron, much like the term "cheap gas." Said she, "Well, be that as it may, that's what we're going to do." Not wishing to wimp out in the face of over-whelming odds, I retorted, "Fine...I'll put it up but you have to take it down. See how you like having your skin lashed with dozens of needle pricks!" "It's a deal," said she in reply. And if you believe that I've got a dozen acres of prime Florida swamp land I'll sell you real cheap! I'm not looking forward to Christmas 2008.

Wednesday, December 5


I have no idea who this seductive young lady is, but her photograph hopefully serves to illustrate the point that (most) men enjoy looking at pretty women. I know that I do, and this propensity was the subject entered into with great vigor as part of the discussion that occurred this past Monday evening at the gathering of our Dynamic Love couples. No, it is not a collection of orgasmic sex fiends, but an intimate and safe environment in which married couples may utilize the included course materials to more deeply and profoundly enrich their marriages "emotionally, sexually, and spiritually."

Dynamic Love is the more intimate twelve session offshoot course to the eight-week, interactive Dynamic Marriage ministry course that is produced and distributed by Family Dynamics, Inc. located in Franklin, Tennessee (, for which wife Judi and I are certified course facilitators. Dynamic Marriage graduates learn, through the course materials and couple's homework assignments, how to "be" married, and to regain and sustain that level of intimacy that the couples joyfully experienced when they first fell in love. The Dynamic Love course delves more deeply and intimately into how each partner in the marriage may learn to be more in tune in meeting their own and their spouse's emotional, spiritual and sexual needs and desires. The course materials and follow up homework assignments can lead to some pretty interesting (some times intense) discussions between the married partners, and to some equally interesting (and often entertaining) sharing during the discussion sessions. Thus was the case this past Monday night when Part 1 of sexual intimacy was the topic...

The question for debate, "When does a male's (always the male!) appreciation of an attractive female cross the line from mere acknowledgement into becoming offensive to their mate? The question was posed by (we'll call here Nancy), herself a stunning beauty in her own right, who took personal offense that her spouse (we'll call him Fred) in her mind seemed to take his observations to a whole other elevated level of appreciation: "She's hot!!," were the descriptive words that set her off. Fred responded that"her reaction was not logical" (totally wrong choice of words), that he was merely making an observation of the obvious. Whether logical or not, "perception is reality," Judi and I chimed in. Fred insisted that he had no carnal intention of "acting" on his observation...just overtly appreciating a fine work of nature. Nancy was not appeased...nor amused.

I suggested that men, for the most part, regard other females much like they regard automobiles. A Ford is a Ford is a Ford, but a that's fine looking automobile. It's a statement of fact and not a precursor that I intend to rush out and possess that particular brand of automobile. It's when I begin to drool all over myself that my observation has transformed into flights of fancy, so much so that I absentmindedly walk out into an on-coming Ford sedan rounding the corner. Nancy shook her head in agreement. Fred was left pondering that analogy.

Judi entered into the fray by stating that some women appreciate being admired by members of the opposite sex...that they are inwardly flattered by their compliments that infer that they are attractive, appealing and alluring. It's an ego booster for women. It is most appreciated when these same compliments are expressed by their husbands, but not totally ignored or discounted when received from others than their mates. All in the room concurred. Fred was still left pondering...

Final consensus? All/most men are going to look at other females and, admittedly, evaluate their most notable "accessories." And some women (if not most) are going to evaluate other men, using whatever personal criteria they hold dear in judging their observations. The line not to cross over in doing so is to ogle and froth at the mouth, or use the word "hot" in conjunction with said observations. Fred seemed to get it. We suggested that he take his "hot" wife home and make mad passionate love to her. They both left with a smile on their face...and sat outside in their car in front of our house for over 30 minutes. Judi and I have no earthly idea what they were doing. Yea...right!

Our next session is on Part II of Sexual Intimacy. I'll keep you posted...


This beautiful young lady is back in the news again, much to her chagrin. Debra LaFave, the infamous Florida teacher who had sexual liaisons two years ago with one of her fourteen year old, middle-school male students, was re-arrested yesterday for allegedly violating her conditions for parole. The charges? "Conducting intimate conversations with a 17-year-old (female) co-worker at her place of employment (a fast food restaurant)," which is in violation of her previous sentence that stipulates that Ms. Lafave is not to have any unsupervised contact with a "child under the age of 18."

The violation/arrest report further stipulated that "Lefave and the Ruskin (FL.) teen discussed non-related work issues such as family problems, friends, high school, personal life, boyfriend issues and sexual issues in both private one-on-one conversations...and group settings." The lawyer who represented Ms. Lafave in her initial court appearances classified the conversations as amounting to nothing more than "girl-talk...among fellow employees." Her employer essentially echoed the same sentiment, stating he was shocked to learn of Lefave's arrest, further noting that he personally never heard her talk about personal matters...and "never noticed anything unusual about her relationship with the 17-year-old girl."

Why bother to devote any "bog" time to this subject? It smells like a witch hunt to me. Admittedly what Ms. Lafave pled guilty to was unquestionably despicable, and to receive a sentence of 3-years house arrest was a gift. A male who had committed the same crime would have found himself behind bars for far longer than a mere three year. Double standard? Unquestionably. Still, the sentence was agreed to by all aggrieved parties and, from all accounts, Ms. Lefave has been conducting her personal life in strict accordance to her terms of probation. Again, this latest incident smacks me as having a deliberate vindictive motivation. If indeed Ms. Lafave is found in violation of her parole conditions, she could face up to 15 years of prison time for each of her two previously adjudicated felony counts.

The comment sections of the local newspapers are already filled with statements of condemnation, a veritable lynch mob of vindictiveness. With approximately 2.5 million souls now populating our nation's prisons, which works out to 1 individual out of every 142 citizens, one would safely assume that rehabilitation is having considerable difficulty gaining traction. I am hands down in favor of incarcerating any and all individuals who have committed crimes that inflict purposeful harm of any nature, especially for those heartless and hardened souls who do not possess even a glimmer of remorse for their actions. But to impose vindictively imprisonment for an individual, such as Ms. Lafave, when she is outwardly remorseful for her previous transgressions and is dutifully and faithfully trying to make a life for herself beyond her past mistakes, in my opinion is a miscarriage of justice at best, and at the very least a willful abdication of common sense and compassionate encouragement.

We have all been exposed to admonishment that "we are to learn from our mistakes." For those of us who have and for those who are still making that personal journey should not be arbitrarily further punished for attempting to faithfully do so themselves. Just my opinion...