Wednesday, May 30

So Many Choices... So Little Time...

As a young buck I was employed as a youth director with the YMCA in Greensboro, North Carolina. The "Y" was a hotbed of athletic activities, especially basketball in the winter. There were organized leagues for all age groups from 8 years of age and up. One particular league
was called "The No Break League." This was for guys 30 years of age and above. All the governing rules of the game of basketball remained observed, but no fast breaks were permitted. Simply stated the rule required that if there was a "turn over" the team that gained possession of the loose ball could not run ("fast beak") to their basket at the opposite end of the court. The ball was advanced at best at a slow trot. This was to keep these "old guys" from keeling over with a heart attack. I didn't participate in that league. Being in my early twenties at the time, I ran with the more athletic bunch and we nightly played cut-throat basketball... "If you lose, you go home." I remember thinking then that when I "finally" turned 30 I'd still be able to get up and down the court and run circles around "these old guys." I turned 59 in April. The "no break" rule doesn't sound nearly as preposterous to me now.

I find it hard to imagine that I am fast approaching the age milestone of sixty. To say that number does indeed sound "so old." Yet, as so may people of varying ages have quipped, "You're only as old as you feel." I feel no older than thirty mentally, but my body reminds me that my mind is playing tricks on me...especially after a weekend of working on various projects around the old homestead. The legs just don't spring back into action as they use to and my back reminds me that I can't go as long or has hard as once I did. I recognize that in the long run I'm not going to get out of this life alive...but I'm not going down without putting up a major struggle.

If financially I could sustain the blow, I'd retire tomorrow. Much more than money, time is my most important and cherished commodity. I remain employed, like most other work-a-day stiffs, because I have monetary obligations that care little that I would rather permanently call it day. Between the many remaining home improvement projects I still wish to accomplish, my desire to read every interesting book that come into my pruview, to write extensively, to travel, to teach, etc., this "go to work every day" thing is getting to be a major drag. It all comes down to having so many choices, but so little time to accomplish at this time even a small portion of any of them.

I read and hear of many individuals who once retired soon wither away and cash in their chips. For them what they do for a living defines solely who they are; their sense of worth, importance, and contribution. How I produce income represents but a tiny portion of who I am as a person. It is a recognized means to a limited end, not an end unto itself. I pray that when the Lord calls me home that my epitaph will read not what I accomplished, but who I positively influenced. It is not my desire to leave in my wake sage words of advice, but an example of how to live one's life impacting a small part of the world for good. If it can be said, "This was a man who made a difference in my life," then I will have lived a worthy life. With that as my continuous goal, I've have from this day forward only just begun. Pass the liniment, please!

Friday, May 25

It's Summer...

The first major three-day weekend is upon us...Memorial Day Weekend (sounds like a dichotomy to me). For the majority of the country this weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer. For we folks who live in sweltering and sultry Florida, it's been "summer" for weeks now. We had was one day back in March. I mark the beginning of summer by putting my windbreaker away for the last time and wearing socks only on Sundays with my deck shoes (a.k.a. "boat" shoes).

I don't own a boat. I've always wanted to own a boat. There's water everywhere and boats galore. But I don't own one. I've always wanted one, but my wife has never been too fond of the idea. She has always wanted a swimming pool, but I've never been too keen on the drudgery of having to maintain a swimming pool. So we don't have a swimming pool. We compromised. Neither one of us have what we both wanted. I keep thinking that one day I'll win the Florida lottery and then we can both could have what we've both longed for all these years. Only problem with that plan is you have to actually purchase a lottery ticket to have any chance, minuscule as it may be, of winning. I seem to forget to buy that mandatory ticket each week. Oh well...there's always the beach!

So, summer is in full swing here in central Florida. A season that will last from mid to late March until mid to late October. Aside from the heat and the accompanying, clothes drenching humidity, you can tell it's summer because you don't see any of the neighbors much anymore, except as they scurry to and fro from their air conditioned homes to their air conditioned cars. Floridians hibernate in the summer. We're funny that way. Another sure sign that summer has overtaken us is that the streets and highways become less crowded. The "snow birds" have taken flight for cooler climes to the north and left we permanent residents with a little more elbow room. In this heat we need all the extra room we can get. They'll be back in late October...after the hurricane season has wound down. On a lot of counts, these are pretty savy folks.

Memorial Day Weekend...I'm looking forward to the three-day weekend. I'll spend some of it just sitting in my air-conditioned car and thinking about taking a trip north. I'll just think about it. It's much cheaper to dream about that road trip than to apply for a second mortgage so that the car can be filled with gasoline. Maybe a swimming pool isn't such a bad idea after all. This weekend I'll think on that too. Funny thing...I really enjoy summer. Would be better if I had a boat.

Monday, May 14

I Have...For 24 Years

In October of 1982 I met my second wife to be, Judi. She and her then nine year old son, Christopher, had joined the First United Methodist Church of Pinellas Park, Florida that same Sunday, the church I had been compelled by God to visit for the first time as I was driving past it on my way to work earlier in the week. We have for our entire married life together been in wholehearted agreement that it was indeed God, not chance, that brought us together.

Was it "love at first sight?" No, but it certainly was attraction, on my part, at first sight. Judi was initially, at best, ambivalent concerning our first encounter, and remained so for many weeks following that first meeting. Nevertheless, I remained persistent in my steady pursuit of this fair and beautiful lady, winning first son Christopher to my side as a staunch ally. Unless one has an outward demeanor of a convicted axe murdered, the way to a woman's heart is through the love of their children. Still, it was tough-sledding for the first few months of our rather lukewarm relationship. It wasn't until Chris left to spend his Christmas break vacation from school with his father in Maryland, that I was able to wrangle my first "real date." I invited her to dinner. Her mother's fateful words still ring in her ears, "Go ahead and have dinner with him... You don't have to marry him." The dye was cast from that first date forward.

I somehow managed not to make a complete fool of myself on our first "official date," as she later told me that she found me to be "humorous and charming." Must have been a God-thing. The first date lead to a second, then a third, and we began to spend more and more time together. The marriage proposal came on Super Bowl Sunday at Seminole Park. She said "yes" in plenty of time for us to get home to watch "the game." One must maintain one's priorities, don't you know.

We were married 24 years ago today.

It hasn't been all sweet music and roses, but we have hung in there together through the greatest of memorable times and through times when we were not sure we were going to continue forward as a couple. But we never lost sight of the bedrock understanding and firm belief that God brought us together. Our blessings have included among so many a truly beautiful and remarkable 22 year old daughter, Megan, and two-beautiful granddaughters, courtesy of our son Christopher. We have much to be truly thankful for, but I am most thankful that on that October day in 1982 I heeded God's directive and attended worship services at the Pinellas Park Methodist Church. On May 14, 1983 I said "I do" and I have been forever thankful for having said those words that have continued to echo in my mind for the past 24 years. I love you Judi.

Thursday, May 10

Arrogance Convicted....

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, "Stupidity Should Be Painful." I offer yet another, "Arrogance Should Be Punishable." If such a sicker were readily available I'd slap it on the paddy-wagon that will transport Paris Hilton to jail where she will begin her over due but well deserved 45 day prison sentence. Were she not such a classic case of insipid ignorance and unabated conceit, I wouldn't bother to waste one paragraph on what has been to this point her pointless existence.
I despise passionately arrogance...the definition of same that so adequately describes this hollow of human failings; "being baselessly proud and overbearing through an exaggerated feeling of one's superiority." Hollywood and Madison Avenue are awash in these poor human specimens, striving and thriving on being famous only as a result of their flamboyant notoriety. Paris Hilton and others of her ilk - Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Richie, the premature balding Britney Spears, the now departed, waste-of-a -life, Anna Nicole Smith, etc. & ad nauseam - bring nothing of value to the human condition but their own highly inflated sense of entitlement. And what is tragically sad is that so many of us, especially the impressionable youth of our country, hold these shallow individuals up as worthy role models to be immolated. It has become fashionable to be end and pointless purpose unto itself.
This is not intended to be a diatribe against persons of wealth. I am a proponent that what one earns, regardless of the amount of money accumulated, if so earned through means and methods of personal sweat and integrity, one deserves the spoils of one's toil. However, such accumulated riches does not imbue any individual from ascribing conceitedly that their wealth is an unbridled license to declare themselves unapproachable, privileged, and most certainly unencumbered by the dictates of legal statue. It has been said that "the mark of a man is what he does with his money." It can be unfortunately just as true by conversely stating that the mark of a man can be ascertained by what money does to the man.
In Ms. Hilton's case, money and the arrogant power that she derived from it, made her blind to any sense of obligation other than to her bloated sense of self-importance. The tears she shed upon the judge's sentence pronouncement were not ones of remorse nor ones of embarrassment. This spoiled debutante shed only tears of bewilderment at finally being made accountable for her own self-absorbed arrogance. Perhaps spending forty-five days behind bars void of all her unearned privileges will awaken Ms. Hilton to the realization that the sun, moon, and stars do not revolve around her well coiffured head...but I won't bet the home in the Hamptons on it.

Tuesday, May 8

Go Figure... Figuratively and Literally....

I consider myself to be an unabashed Newshound. I am addicted to the daily reading of current event news from a myriad of sources, absorbing along the way a multitude of op-ed pieces. I pride myself in attempting to maintain a knowledgeable opinion on a majority of news-worthy topics that make for intelligent conversation with those of like interest. One cannot expose oneself to this daily barrage of information and not on more than infrequent occasions come across a story of human interest that makes one stop and consider the lunacy involved. Such was my reaction when I read the Reuters and USA TODAY reports about a multitude of "naked people" braving cold and damp weather just to get their photographs taken.
On Sunday, May 6th, the renowned photographic artist Spencer Tunick convinced a record number of 18,000 people in mass to disrobe in Mexico City's Zocalo Square. (No mention was made as to whether or not representatives with the Guinness World Book of Records were on hand - presumably appropriately attired - to document the alleged record). Tunick has garnered a world-wide following by conducting nude-in photo shoots throughout the world, with Amsterdam slated next on the schedule in June.
The photo at top contains but a small sampling of the individuals who, for allegedly the sake of art, elected voluntarily to turn their best assets towards Tunick's camera lens. One can only wonder why such a large gathering of diverse human specimens would bear their all in close proximity to thousands of strangers, especially when one takes into account that the Mexican people as a rule are rather prudish. Most men will wear shorts only while on vacation and the women shy away from revealing clothing, such as mini-skirts, in order to avoid unwanted whistles and cat-calls. So why the sudden lessening of social decorum? Said one female participant, "This event proves that really we're not such a conservative society anymore. We're freeing ourselves of taboos." And apparently all of their inhibitions, as one reporter witnessing the event wrote that the crowd enthusiastically performed the "wave" in unison...which evokes an unavoidable visual of 18,000 people flapping more than just their arms!
History attests that the Roman and Greek societies observed a more liberal view of public nudity. Public baths were in vogue, as were many athletic events performed by both sexes sans clothing. In modern-day western societies the idea of parading around in one's birthday suit is not only vigorously frowned upon, it is in all but a few locals outlawed by statue. Nudity mistakenly and unfortunately becomes equated with sex. The former doesn't foreshadow the latter. It is the suppression of the appreciation of the human body that leads to the unquenchable heighten titillation in this country that Madison Avenue and Hollywood thrive upon. Not that I am advocating that we should all forsake our fig leafs and throw personal inhibitions to the wind. Aside from the obvious observable fact that many of we Americans have enough body weight for two people, there is also exposure to the harsh elements of the environment...sunburn or chill winds on a bare bottom is a circumstance to be avoided.
I guess the bottom line is I have no personal problem with the 18,000 men and women shedding all of their clothes for Tunick's Mexico shoot. Their personal choices are their personal choice. Would I follow in their bear foot foot prints should Mr. Tuncik announce he was coming to our area for another of his exposes, say at the Don Cesar Beach Resort? I think it would be a hoot! I'd join right in with the hundreds or thousands of fellow "nudies" and place my best attributes along with theirs to the test. However, count me out if the "wave" breaks out. I do have my pride.

It Ain't No Day At The Beach...

Let's cut to the chase... I'm out of shape....woefully out of shape, a conveniently ignored and long suppressed fact that was painfully brought to the fore when I attended, at the long behest of my dear wife, my first Pilates exercise class last evening. Heretofore I had poo-pooed the notion that Pilates is truly a man's-man kind of exercise, believing it was best suited to women who abhor the notion of honest sweat.
My idea of going to the gym, up until last evening, was to part company with Judi as she entered the room where the Pilates class is conducted and I in turn sought out a vacant exercise bike where I would sit myself down, set the controls to perpetual "warm up," and for 20 or 30 minutes would entertain myself with whatever book I was absorbed in at the moment. Judi would emerge from her class drenched in sweat and I looked like I'd been engaged in nothing more strenuous than a stroll through the aisles of the local super market in search of double-stuffed Oreo cookies.
As fate would have it, a fellow member of my church and his wife had attended their first Pilates class last week. In ear shot of my wife, the husband Jason, a member of St. Petersburg's "finest," challenged me to give the class a try. Being caught off guard without a glib excuse to turn down his pointed invitation, and not wishing to appear to wimp out in front of this manly-man police officer, I agreed. I figured, "What the heck. If this guy didn't have any negative remarks about the bad can it be?" The dye was cast...
I was introduced to the lady who would serve as our class instructor for the evening. She had an hourglass figure and a flat stomach that you could fry eggs on. She cheerfully greeted me and proclaimed that "we were going to have fun this evening." It might have been fun for her, but it turned out to be pure hell for me. Without going into a great many details of the next hour of torture, let it suffice to say that other than the initial "warm up" stage, I was introduced to a totally new definition of the term "agony!" There wasn't a muscle in my pudgy body that wasn't stretched into positions that only a trained contortionist could endure. One particular "position" required one to place both hands under one's fanny and then thrust one's extended legs up and over one's head until the toes touched the floor behind one's head. I managed to get the hands under the fanny pretty much without too much difficulty, but the balance of the exercise was a lost cause. Judi flipped over like she was rolling out of bed. I, on the other hand, looked like a wounded duck. I think it was at this time that I determined the instructor to be a latter-day Nazi. The evening's contortions ended with everyone being required to stand on one foot, extend both arms and the opposite leg out from the body to "form a star." There is no star in any known constellation in the universe that comes anywhere close to my pour attempt at imitation. The only saving grace from the entire ordeal was to observe my friend Jason looking like a mirror image of yours truly. We are two pitiful specimens indeed.
But...we'll be back next week. At least I wasn't bored to tears. Well, I was crying, but it had nothing to do with my mental outlook. Even though today I am suffering agony with each poorly calculated move of my pain wracked body, I am determined to one day fling my legs over my head to touch the floor behind me. That seems like a worthy goal for a guy who now looks like the Pillsbury Doe Boy's first cousin. Every person needs a dream to sustain them in life. This is mine.

Thursday, May 3

Conviction Must Be More Than Rhetoric...

I ran across an article today on entitled "Orphan Care." I recommend linking to the article at the following address:

The opening paragraph reads, "Prominent evangelical Christians are urging church goers to strongly consider adoption or foster care, not just out of kindness or biblical calling, but also to answer criticism that their movement, while condemning abortion and same-sex adoption, doesn't do enough for children without parents." Still further along in the article it is stated, "In some people's minds, the church has been very pro-life up until birth...but a lot of people are saying it is not enough to be pro-life. We need to be pro-children as well." Count me among those people who hold to this conviction.
I have long been dismayed (better yet read "angered") at the shrill and unceasing voices immolating from within our evangelical ranks in the past decade against the "sin of abortion" and the "evils" of homosexuality, same-sex marriages, same-sex adoptions, et al. Let it be clear that as far as I am from being a "prefect" Christian, I hold to the biblical teachings that speak to the subject of homosexuality. It is not a life style that I have chosen to adopt. But, as my minister has taught me, neither am I God and, therefore, it is not my role as a practicing servant to my Lord Jesus Christ to serve as judge and jury to those who recognize themselves to be so. Be it also known that I am overall an anti-abortion proponent, but recognize that there are some unique cases when the life or death health issues of the mother must be considered, or when the health of the infant or infants have been in the prenatal state determined to result in such dire outcome that their termination(s) would be far more merciful than a life consigned to projected dismal quality. Thank God, however, that I have not been personally acquainted with having to make that judgement call, as I also am aware of many instances when children of woefully diminished physical and mental capacities has come into this world to live a most fruitful and productive life on their own terms. Again, I am not God, and choose not to condemn those parent(s) who may elect to terminate their unborn child rather than have the child face a very uncertain and perhaps painful existence. These painful and gut-wrenching decisions are to be made ultimately and finally by the parent(s). The consequences of their decisions fall to the purview of God...not to me.
That having been said, agree with me or disagree with me, that is your choice. My purpose and thrust of this dissertation is to pointedly ask we proclaiming among them...when our oppositional rancor stops where does our real compassion and desire to be part of the solution begin? The article states that as of the last reporting date of 2005 there are more than 500,000 children in this nation's foster care system. Of that number 115,000 continue to wait for permanent adoption. According to the WEB site, there are approximately 224,457,000 (that's million!) individuals who proclaim to be affiliated with some form of "Christian" faith. If only one half (11,22,850) or one third (7,407,081) of that total number were to embrace the idea of opening their homes and hearts to these languishing children, the issue of securing "suitable adoption homes" in this country would evaporate.
I readily recognize that not all professing Christians are in a current or foreseeable future position in their lives to embrace this idea of "Orphan Care." As my wife and I begin to slip out of the last bonds of "middle age," it wouldn't be fair or prudent to adopt a child into our home. However, with our college-aged child now permanently out of our home, it is not unreasonable to seriously consider becoming foster parents. It is a "possibility" that I plan to pursue with greater interest and enthusiasm. And, it is my intention to investigate in far greater depth the "Orphan Care" program to hopefully become a champion of its embrace within my home church as well as within my local Christian community as a whole.
George Bernard Shaw said, "Some men see things as they are and ask why - I dream of things that never were and ask why not?" James 1:27 in the New Testament of God's Word says, "...look after the orphans and widows in their distress." There always comes a time in a person's life when he or she should introspectively question whether or not their convictions are merely righteous rhetoric or the springboard to performing a greater service beyond their own self satisfaction of being morally right. Being right doesn't in and of itself change the world for good. To impact the world for good one must sacrifice complacency and embrace real sacrifice with viable and committed action. You?