Friday, February 29

"Three For February..."

Books that is...that I've read....this month. I am a voracious but sporadic reader with an eclectic taste for all types of reading materials. Heretofore not very disciplined in my reading habits, I set a goal for myself to read at least one book per month for the entire year. Last month I read one, but this month I knocked down three. So I'm either really ahead of my goal or it will all average out over the course of the year.

Why read? Obviously for the added knowledge (and entertainment) I derive by doing so. Secondly, because I have found that reading with a critical eye toward style and composition has, or at least I hope it has, made me a better writer. I haven't decided whether the ability too write well is a natural tendency for some people or a learned, acquired skill. Probably a combination of both with a heavier emphasis on the latter. I just know that I often in my personal reading recognize and appreciate a well turned phrase and try to duplicate same in my writing efforts by critically reviewing my expressed thoughts with a determination to state each in a manner that is refreshing, if not occasionally unorthodox. I certainly do not wish for my musings to be overly weighty, but I do intend for them to be more entertaining and illuminating than the white pages of one's phone book. Whether or not I am thus successful lies with the reader. So far, no complaints...yet.

To the last. Three books that I consumed this month were Coach Tony Dungy's Quiet Strength, Hoodwinked (more about this very illuminating and disturbing book in a future blog entry), and The History of Air Force One. Air Force was an entertainingly quick read wherein not only was the history of each of the different types of aircraft utilized throughout past administrations highlighted, but the relaxed behavioral and unique habits of each of the Presidents that flew on Air Force One, who regarded this special aircraft not only as the symbol of America's strength and influence, but their refuge from their burdensome day-to-day duties and responsibilities as the recognized "most powerful man on earth." From Roosevelt to George W., each President expressed great reverence for this very special aircraft. A good read...

Quiet Strength documents the life of the current coach of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, from his early childhood up and through when the Colts won the Super Bowl Championship in 2006. Coach Dungy is still loved at revered in the Tampa Bay, he being the former head coach of the Buccaneer's pro football team. This most inspirational book is about this man of great faith in God, who having lost his eldest son to suicide, never wavered from his belief that his creator continued to hold him and his family within the palms of His loving hands. His book shows a life being well lived through steadfast principles, practices, and priorities that is worthy of everyone to emulate regardless of one's degree of faith.

Talent is God-given; be thankful.
Praise is man-given; be humble.
Conceit is self-given; be careful.
Dave Driscoll

Coach Dungy lives his life based on these truisms. His life shines among men for doing so. I could not do much better than to not also live my life in the same manner.

Thursday, February 28

"Bits & Pieces Of Stupidity..."

See these two examples of blossoming femininity and fully flowered sexuality to the left? They're both idiots. I won't embarrass their parents by revealing their names, but these two local University of South Florida air-heads (pun intended) made the national media outlets earlier this week for having been refused return flight tickets from Los Angeles to Tampa on Southwest Airlines. The girl's explanation? "They (Southwest Airlines) were discriminating against us because we were young-decent looking girls." Adding, "I feel I was discriminated against based on my looks." Oh contraire, breast for brains!

Here's the real scoop friends... These two adolescent malcontents proceeded to make their obnoxious presence known from the outset of their boarding the flight to the west coast by being disorderly and verbally abusive to the flight attendants and other passengers, cursing one middle-aged male passenger because he had supposedly occupied the lavatory too long. Statements of the incidents were taken from the flight attendants and passengers upon the flight's arrival in Los Angeles by four police officers who unceremoniously escorted the women (that's a stretch to classify them as such) off the plane; all of whom verified that "these women were behaving in a way not appropriate on an aircraft at 30,000 feet." Were it not for the catastrophic consequences of opening the cabin doors at such a lofty altitude, I would have escorted these two arrogant and clueless miscreants off the plane long before it touched down at its final destination! I know...I know. This is a harsh judgement for two otherwise maturing females who, one would hope, would learn that their inappropriate behaviors are in need of drastic modification if they ever wish to co-exist in polite society that has little tolerance for arrogant stupidity. If other past personal experiences with this type of youthful condensation and baseless conceit is any indication, I am increasingly having my doubts...

As an example, my wife and I were seated one evening at a local restaurant adjacent to a table populated by a group of late teens to early twenty year-olds whose very loud, boisterous and obnoxious conversations were liberally peppered with all manner of curse words. These youth each had the appearance of being well groomed and economically affluent, but their language was from the gutter depths. I am not easily offended and for the most part can overlook if not totally ignore other people's blatantly bad behavior (I've had cable TV for years). But we and the other near-by patrons were offended not only by their foul mouths, but also their apparently deliberate disregard for how uncomfortable and ill at ease the other people near their table (a number of which had children in their company) had by design become. My wife decided that someone needed to speak to these youth and ask them to please refrain from being so loud and offensive in their behavior. I won't repeat what their inappropriate response was to my wife's request, but I became so angry that I too entered the fray and, to no avail, tore each of them a new orifice out of which to spew their swill. They didn't care...just plain didn't care.

My daughter, herself a senior at the University of Florida, literally hates it when I classify with the broadest of brushes this type of disrespectful arrogance as being comparable to the products of the "MTV Mentality," or "I don't give a damn!" MTV representatives were once asked if they realized how much influence they were having on the youth of America. Their response..."We don't just influence them. We own them!" Bombastic at best, but still a far more truthful an evaluation than a blatant over estimation. Their program offerings are consistently geared to the mindset of winning by whatever means possible and is best exemplified by MTV's long-running Real World episodic series, wherein teams of pre-adults vie for prizes and and an end-game monetary payoff to be awarded to the remaining team who has successfully completed numerous feats of team and individual competitions. Along the way toward this ultimate goal teammates are periodically discarded as weak links, their individual dismissals often affected with indifferent displays of caustic and biting discord. Carnivorous hyenas demonstrate more concern for their fellow pack members than these self absorbed reprobates who have thus far contributed nothing more to society than to extend their up-turned hands demanding that the world somehow owes them an pampered existence merely because they occupy space.

"Too pretty to fly?" Hardly. Too stupidly self-absorbed to be permitted to fly or to even come in out of the rain? Most likely.

Wednesday, February 27

"Before It Is Too Late..."

We are losing them at the staggering rate of 2,000 per day...our nation's World War II veterans. My Dad will have passed away a year ago next month. He was a WWII veteran, having fulfilled his military obligation in the Army Air Corps as a mechanic on the P-38 Lightening aircraft, a truly awesome piece of equipment. Dad was a gifted athlete and had the opportunity on numerous occassions to play baseball while serving in the military with such hallowed and immortals as Stan Musial and Ted Williams. This God-given ability kept him "states side" throughout the war and the atomic bombs dropped on Japan served to cancel his orders at the last minute to go to the Pacific theater. It is difficult at best to say whether or not my Dad would have seen acutal combat, but my younger brother and I are thankful that possibility was never put to the test. Although my Father was never required to fire a weapon in defense of his country, I am nevertheless just as proud of him for answering his country's call to defend this nation and to stand ready to regain and perserve the freedom from the alliance axis powers who were determined if unchecked to spread their horrific tyranny nation-by-nation in the late 30s and early 40s.

Tom Brokaw labled these brave men and women "The Greatest Generation." I wholeheartedly concur. There is a special tribute to this generation that is sweeping the Internet. The link is provided below. I encourage you to be touched by this tribute, as was I, and take the time to personally express your personal appreciation to a family member, friend, or an aquaintance who remain with us still that the debt of gratitude that we owe them is reflected in the life of freedom we have enjoyed and cherished for over 60 years.

Before it is too late and before they go on to a far greater reward beyond this world, say "thank you." We are who we are as a nation and a people because of their dedicated sacrifice. God bless them all.

Thursday, February 21

"Too Close To Home - Part II"

Some times I suspect that this nondescript attempt at lucid thought is becoming too introverted...too serious...too taciturn, thinking that what few folks who happen to stumble upon its existence will be turned off by the downward cast of its reflection. The always persistent question then surfaces, "For whom am I writing this for?" In all genuine candor I would wish that my random thoughts on random subjects would at worse be entertaining and, at best, accepted on a deeper level as being worthy of a reader's additonal contemplation. Reality dictates that degrees of approval and acceptance are as fickled and as compricious as there are individuals of like temperament. In the final analysis, if I am to continue this enterprise, I should, if not must, remain uncompromisingly steadfast to the principles and ideals in which I hold as "self-evident" of my worth as a thinking and caring human being. Perhaps Mr. Shakespeare said it best, "This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thous canst not then be false to any man."

That having been determined, I must again return to a subject that grieves me deeply: the worsening phyiscal deterioration of my employer's twenty-eight year old daughter, she being diagnosed with terminal cancer of the brain. In all candor I grieve more for her father, my boss and friend, than I expend in equal measure for his daughter, Jennifer. This is honestly revealed not because I do not wish that there was some power on earth combined with the healing power of Heaven to remove this dire affliction from this young woman. I would have her, were it in my power to do so, to live to the ripe old age of a doting grandparent. It is this deeper degree of grief that I feel for her Dad, he being a man of life-long determination to tackel and conquer any adversity which heretofore has beset his path. I observe him now to being pulled steadily downward to a helpless and defeated mass of confusion and dejection, being unable, when it otherwise would be of the utmost importance, to eradicate a situation for the one person who means the very most to him. What words of comfort and understanding can I possibly impart that would ease his breaking heart? Indeed, are there even words yet coined that can even begin to express such profound and emphathic consoling of one soul to another? If there are, I have yet to adopt them as my own.

I learned a long time ago in one of my first creative writing courses that one should abstain from writing on any subject in which one has insufficient knowledge to expound upon. The subjects of dying and death are two such topics of which I have to date but a passing aquaintance. I would prefer that to be the case in all aspects of my life yet to be lived. But that is not to be. I have a friend who is losing a daughter far, far too soon. I can but in part share from a distance his growing grief and reveal to him the nobility of the human spirit as I attempt in some small and meaningful ways to faithfully demonstrate that his sadness is likewise internalized as only one father to another can possibly fathom. Life most certainly will go forward, but the emptiness of losing a precious child shall pierce the tearful heart forever more. I wish it were not so.

Tuesday, February 19

"Cracker Insider Tidbits..."

In a previous lifetime I lived in Lebanon, Tennessee, serving as the Executive Director of the town's YMCA. Lebanon (pronounced correctly by the local inhabinants as "Lebnan") was a great little town (it is no longer little by any definition), home of historic Cumberland University, where I spent many delightful and enjoyable times hobnobbing with the school's athletic staff. Lebanon in the 80's was the quintessential quaint southern town where everybody knew one another and their comings and goings. If one sneezed in Lebanon, a half dozen people offered personal blessings, or it made the local newspaper, which was published three times a week and had a propensity to frequently feature a photograph of the latest vehicular accident, especially if it involved farm equipment. I liked Lebanon, but I detested the winters there. When the temperatures dropped like a rock there was nothing between the city limits and the North Pole but a barbwire fence. My toes would go numb by mid-September and not thaw out again until late April or early May. When my tenure as YMCA director came to a close I jumped at the opportunity to move to far warmer climes...Florida.

Florida living is an aquired taste. One either learns to tolerate the hot, humid weather for the better part of the year, or one detest it vehemently. I am of the former camp. I've learned to adapt and my toes are the beneficiary. Having now spent twenty-five years in this fair state, I can say that although I am not a born and bred Florida "Cracker," I have become as close to being a native as a person can be. Here, then, are some unofficial Florida tidbits of information that only a true resident of the state understands and appreciates.

#1) Socks are only for bowling. I wear deckshoes with no socks year round except when #6 below occurs.

#2) You never bothers with an umbrella, as the afternoon rain shower is only going to last 5 to 10 minutes.

#3) A "good parking space" has nothing to do with the distance to the store's front door, but everything to do with parking one's car in the shade.

#4) Your winter coat is usually denium worn when only #6 below occurs.

#5) You instantly (and painfully) knows the difference between the bite of a mosquito and a fire ant!

#6) Any temperature under 70 degrees is considered "chilly."

#7) It is acceptable to pass on the right and honk at the elderly, being always prepared to pull to the curb for a passing funeral possession.

#8) You have to drive "north" to get to the "south."

#9) Any approaching hurricane that is rated a category three or less is nothing to get your shorts in a wad over.

#10) You hate the arrival of "Love Bug Season."

#11) You know what a seasonal "snowbird" is and when they will pack up and head back north.

#12) You consider a six foot long allegator to be pretty average.

#13) "Down South" means the Florida Keys.

#14) Flip-flops are everyday wear.

#15) Shoes are for business meetings and sometimes church...but flip-flops are considered "okay" for church attendance.

#16) Sweat tea can and should be served at every meal.

#17) An alligator has at one time or another taken a shortcut through your yard.

#18) You smirk when a game show's "Grand Prize" is a trip or cruise to Flordia. (Y'all keep coming...we need and appreciate your tourist's dollars!)

#19) You measure distance in terms of minutes, not miles.

#20) You have a drawer stuffed with bathing suits, but only one sweatshirt.

#21) You get really annoyed at the tourists who think it's a hoot to feed the seagulls.

#22) Everyone not from your neck-of-the-woods talks with an accent.

#23) You recognize that Florida only has four seasons: hurricane season, love bug season, tourist season, and summer.

#24) Any temperature under 95 degress is only considered to be "warm."

#25) You have either hosted or attended a "hurricane party."

#26) You understand the utter futility in attempting to exterminate cockroaches.

#27) You can pronounce correctly Okeechobee, Kissimmee, Ichnatuckee, and Withlacoochee.

#28) You understand and frequently appreciate the fact that it is far better to have a friend own a boat than you owning a boat yourself.

#29) Gulf Coast sunsets are an event, not just a time of the day.

#30) Bumper Stickers on the front of the pickup truck in front of your vehicle will most likely include: various tributes to fishing, a NASCAR driver and/or car, "Go Gators," and perhaps a Confederate flag.

#31) You have worn a pair of shorts on Christmas and New Years.

#32) You consider the Miami-Dade County part of the state as "Northern Cuba."

I am sure that there are several if not a dozen of so other Florida tidbits that make this state's permanent residents unique. For me it is far from utopia, but it is presently as close to heaven as I can get for the time being. Y'all come visit. Stay a while. Spend your money. Have a safe trip home. We'll leave a light on for you and place in line at Disney World.

Monday, February 18


Dateline: Tampa, Florida. Not only did this story make the Tampa Tribune and St. Petersburg TIMES this past Friday, it appears that most, if not all, of the national news outlets have also latched on and exploiting the following headline: "Local Church Issues 30-Day SEX Challenge." Now we've talkin...

(Want to learn more? Go to: http//www.revelantchurchcom/)

Pastor Paul Wirth of The Relevant Church (I just love that name) located in Ybor City, (pronounced "Ye-bore." I assume you know how to pronounce "C-I-T-Y.") an artsy, croissant, watering hole, enclave located just to the east of downtown Tampa, has issued a month long challenge to his married parishoners to engage in "purposeful (Is there any other way to go about it?) sexual relations" each day for 30 consecutive days...and for the single attendees to abstain from such activities for an equal amount of time. I can't speak to how Pastor Wirth's membership is taking to this "out of the norm" challenge, but I have already come across several Internet sites that are vehemently decrying this improper use of the pulpit. My take? With clarification...good for them. But let me digress a little bit.

In my home church (the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, Florida) a couple of months ago, our pastor presented a four-week series on sex. We have two worship services each Sunday. A nine o'clock service that is far more traditional in its presentation wherein the older members of the congregation are most comfortable attending. This service is followed at 10:45 by a much more contemporary worship experience wherein a much younger age group in years and also in attitude attends. That's the service Judi and I like to participate, we continuing to be youngsters in spirit and mind, if not in body. As one may hazard a giant leap of suspicion, a great many of the nine o'clock attendees were far less than thrilled with the pastor's selected topic and used various means often to voice their disapproving opinion. The rumbling of discontent became so loud among this minority faction that it was determined that we of an alternate opinion should offer our pastor words of encouragement and support. I was most happy to do so and suggested to my pastor that his decision to speak on the disquieting topic of sexual relations was much akin to Colonel Custer suggesting to his followers that they "travel across yon hill to see if there be any Indians," reminding him that this impromtu decision left an indelible place for Custer in history, albeit sans his scalp. Nevertheless I promised our good pastor that our family most wholeheartedly supported his topic, echoing our belief that if the God given gift of sex cannot be ennuniated Biblically from the pulpit then the marketplace of the world at large would distort it to its lowest common denominator...lust for lust's sake.

Judi and I facilitate twice a year a marriage enrichment course entitled "Dynamic Marriage," and a companion follow up course entitled "Dynamic Love," a scriptually based interactive course designed to teach married couples how to develop and maintain intimacy in spirit, mind and body. The current divorce rate is this nation hovers consistently around the 51 percentile range, with "Christian" couples fairing little if any better. Second marriages have a failure rate of 76% and re-marriages for the thrid, forth, etc., fail 93% of the time. Why? It's not because the individual couples don't care to make their marriages all they can and should be. It's that they don't know how. They don't know that there are tools, techniques, and tried and proven means of relating to one another as a married couple that can transform their marriages from humdrum to dynamic...from failure to promises renewed and joyfully kept. And if you don't think that there is a terrible misconception about the important and often overriding role that sexual relations plays in a marriage, then you haven't been married!

So yes...thank God some churches are willing to address the rampaging issue of divorce in this country and are not afraid to attack the root causes of its demise with sex within a healthy marriage being one of the most important. It is Bibically and scripturally sound to do so. Read selected scriptures from The Song of Songs (Solomon), particularly chapter two. It is a book of erotic potery. This is not two admirers of each other's phyiscal attributes that limit themselves to strictly commenting on how each looks in their double-breasted and fig leaf finery. These are two steamy lovers who have given themselves completely and unashamedly to each other as only a commited co-joined couple can and should do. Puritanism aside, sex was created by God to be fun, not just for the single purpose of procreation. If you want to work at at your marriage and recognize that sex with your partner is a vital key to its successful bliss and longevity. I hope each of the married couples in The Revelant Church in Ybor City flap their bedsheets at least once a day for thirty days...and beyond. Knock yourselves out! God made each of you for each other. Share the gift of sex that God has given and be happy. It beats a sharp poke in the eye any day.

Pardon me while I share intimately the newspaper article with my dear wife. Later...

(For more information on Dynamic Love, please go to the Internet site: http// There you will find an indepth presentation on what the course Dynamic Marriage teaches and the location in your area where the next 8 week course will be conducted. God said, "What a beautiful ceremony. Now invite me to the marriage.")

"Time Out..."

I took a mini vacation this past week, or as my daughter so aptly described it, "Mental Health Days." Not your typical vacation, but one that best suits my temperment...sort of a working vacation. I did play golf with some of my now retired buddies (lucky them) from church on Thursday, which was a hoot. The weather was gorious and my golf game was anything but. Still, it was good not to be shackled to my business cell phone and to enjoy the companionship of close friends who enjoy each other's company and do not take themselves or their golf games seriously.

Took my beautiful bride of 24 years to dinner at Carrabba's Italian Grill for a Valentine's dinner that was intimately shared with 200 plus other romantic souls who, like us, waited in line of an hour and a half to be seated. The food was, as always, excellent and we stuffed ourselves shamelessly to the point that when we returned home around 10 p.m. we went right to bed...and to sleep. Such is the life of contented old married folks....

Friday I worked on my long, self-impossed, home improvement project's list. Contentedly, I might add, as this gives me a sense of satisified accomplishment as I see things I've envisioned turned into reality. Vocationally I am a project manger for a construction company, wherein I become too often frustrated at trying repeatedly to get the various involved trades to accomplish those categories of work that must be undertaken in sequence to complete the project. Working on my own projects, I enjoy being nobodies boss but my own.

Saturday I spent half the day at church completing the construction of the set for an up-coming dinner theater play that our choir is going to put on in March to benefit our youth. The ministerial staff has long ago realized that I know my way around a hammer and a table saw and assume (I usually can't say "No.") that such construction projects are to fall to me as chairman. Then it was home again to work on my projects until after dark when it was then time to take Judi's Mom out for some dessert on her 85th birthday. We showed her old photograph's from her earlier years, but she had no recollection of any of them, so advanced has her failing mental capacities rendered her. Sad...

Yesterday we had a follow up birthday lunch for Judi's Mom so that our daughter Megan could also be in attendance. Grandmother dotes on granddaughter Megan, which was the best gift we could give her. We again brought out the photographs that she had looked at the previous evening, sharing them with Megan as well, but grandmother had no recollection that she had done so, nor did she again recognize anyone in the pictures. The decision is looming that we place this poor soul in a facility that can watch over her, as we have become increasingly disturbed that she can no longer care for herself. She'll go kicking and screaming, but she must go and soon.

The intention was to spend the balance of yesterday afternoon at the beach, enjoying the early balmy spring weather and what promised to be another memorable sunset. So much for good intentions. Judi and I both fell asleep on the couch while the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500 hummed on the TV in the background. Had to read the paper this morning to find out who won.

Now it's back to the work-a-day routine...already looking forward to next weekend when my time will be my time. Mental Health Days are a good thing. I'm looking forward to when each day will be a metal health day.

Wednesday, February 13

"From The Heart..."

What do Jamie Lynn Spears and Rodger Clemens have in common? They are two pseudo-celebrities du jour who in their respective 16 and 46 years of residing among us have contributed nothing of lasting substance to the betterment of mankind as a whole. The older throws a baseball arguably more proficiently than anyone else in the history of the game and derives an insane amount of compensation and public acclaim for doing so. The younger's link to notoriety is that she is sibling to sister Britney (sadly and pathetically infamous in her own right) who determined that the best means to influence impressionable and gullible youth who worship blindly at her misguided alter of fame would be to spread her legs and become pregnant. The media of very stripe is literally hemorrhaging with nonstop, wall-to-wall coverage of these two latest examples of popular American Idols in order to feed the public's shallow adulation of and addiction to celebrity. Neither is worth the ink it requires to print their petty and trivial sad stories.

So...who is the young man featured in the photograph above? His name is Johnny. He is 19 years of age. He has downs syndrome and he works as a bagger in a super market. Johnny will never be elevated by the star-starved media to the heights of pop icon because he has no Hall of Fame athletic abilities, nor does he possess celebrity status as a headline performer. He just bags groceries. But because he cares that he does so to the very best of his ability and by doing so he had discovered a way to impact his sphere of influence for the betterment of all who come into contact with him on a daily biasis. See his story by clicking on the WEB link below:

Greek philosopher Pericles penned, "What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lies of others." Impacting one's world for the good does not require unique talents nor a pedigree of ancestral service. It only requires a desire to do so...a heart to do so. Kindness is not a disease, but it is contagious. Johnny the bagger caught the spirit of reaching out to others, spreading it with a pure heart, and by doing so he touched the hearts of dozens of others with his infectious spirit. Our world can do with far less adolation of pompous and arrogant prima donnas who have no light unless it is in the limelight and far more recognition and limelighting of nobodies like Johnny. They're out there. They are all around us. They are you and me. It all starts from the heart.

Tuesday, February 12


I know that Valentine's Day is not until the day after tomorrow, but a profound sense of panic is already permeating my otherwise demure and sedate state of complacency. I don't do particularly well with gift-giving. I require hints. A list of gift suggestions is even better. Christmas, birthday, wedding anniversary and Valentine's Day all give me a sense of dread. Not that I am at all opposed to these celebratory's just that I want to expend enough personal grey matter to demonstrate to my darling wife that I have given each occassion more than just a passing lick and a promise, knowing that a dog-eared card and a wilting rosebud doesn't exactly convey a much appreciated essence of romance or a renewed pledge of my unwavering love and devotion. What to do that demonstrates sincerity and depth of feeling?

Being a typical red-blooded male, lingerie instantly leaps to mind. But, let's be honest, who is that gift really intended to please...hum-m-m-m? Judi would see right through that ruse. "Sex, Sex, SEX!! Is that ALL that is on your mind!?!" (Actually, no. Occassionally my idle thoughts turn to what may be on the Golf Channel.) Still could a little something frilly be such a terrible idea? I was thinking of perhaps this eye-appealing little number...

Then again, maybe not...

Jewelry is always a dependable gift stable. Nothing says "I love you" more eloquently than a diamond encrusted piece of well-crafted Bling Bling. I've had my eye on the following bobble...

Again, maybe not...unless I have a desire to spend between now and hell freezing over sleeping on the couch.

Guess I'll fall back to the old tried and proved expressions of my love by purchasing a well chosen Hallmark inspired card and red roses, and maybe a small box of chocolates. Dinner reservations have already be secured, promising that we would dine at one of the finer eating establishments rather than being satisifed with pulling up a couple of bar stools at Al's Crab Shack. Perhaps if the evening gravitates toward a romantic conclusion I'll spring that little red number above on her and she'll present me with a gift only she can give with complete and utter freedom of expression.

It's the thought that counts. Happy Valentine's Day ya'll!

Monday, February 11

"Too Close To Home..."

In 2005 I suffered a heart attack. Turned out to be "mild," if such an event can be so classified, with no residual damage to the heart muscle. I am under a cardologist supervision and, as long as I continue to faithfully take my prescribed medications, I "should" live a very full and productive life. So far so good.

A year later, after my general practioner strongly advised that I should do so (His words, "I have set the apointment and you will go!"), I had my very first colonoscopy. As everyone knows who has ever under gone this procedure, it is the prep prior to the actual procedure's scheduling the following day that is the pain in that part of the anatomy where the attending physician conducts a thorough looking up of one's personal address! Hindsight (pardon the intended pun) is always 20-20. I am glad my GP insisted that I was overdue to "have a look around." It was discovered that I had several pre-cancerous pallops that had to be surgically removed. Outcome...pallops removed...all clear. (Before moving on, let me stress that every person 40 years of age and above needs to undergo a colonoscopy. Mine may have saved my life. Not doing so could end yours and the thought of the inconvenience of doing so pales when compared to the real and permanent inconvenience of being excluded from the next U.S. census.)

Although distance now permits me to make personal light of my most recently successfully diagnosed and treated physical maladies, and to say how truly thankful I am for the advancements in medicine that have granted me, Lord wlling, many more years of happy memories yet to be created, I am also grieveously aware that modern medicine has not advanced to the point where every affliction can be successfully eradicated. This truth came home to me this day as my boss announced with all the courage he could muster that his oldest daughter, Jennifer, has been diagnosed with a type of melanoma cancer that is speading rapidly in her brain. The prognosis, absent of a modern medicine miracle coupled with God's merciful intervention, this young lady in her early 30s has perhaps a year at best to live. I am at a loss as to what to say or how to feel.

As a father or a young and vibrant daughter myself, my heart goes out to this fellow father who is struggling to comprehend that the daughter he so successfully loved and protected for all these preceeding years is beyond his earthly ability to snatch safely and permanently away from this far too premature visitation of finality. How does one realign ones emotions to comprehend that the assumed expectation of years to come with this daughter of promise is not to be? This is a reality that defies human explanantion, leaving one numb with helplessness and searching for answers to the questions that all begin with "Why?" My heart is filled with his saddness and no words of comfort form on my lips. I am left with the only source of comfort that I know exists but cannot myself fully comprehend: the undefineable power to pray for God's grace and mercy to be visited upon this family in their coming hours of desperation.

Look with your heart today to those you care and love the most. There is no promise for tomorrow. Say "I love you" and mean it, and be thankful to God for the gifts that these special people are in your life.

Wednesday, February 6

"When All Hell Breaks Loose..."

I handle it much better now, but when I was a child I was deathly afraid of lightening, especially at night. My Mom and Dad told me that when I was but a toddler my abject fear was the result of a lightening strike that occured just across the street from where my parents and I were standing looking out our front picture window. The blinding brilliant flash and the instanteous accompanying thunderous boom scared me so profoundly that I hurled myself across the room, knocking both of my parents down in the process. I was too young then to bring to the fore now that particular memory, but the consequences of the incident obviously made a most profoundly frightening and indelible impression upon me. As a result there are a dozen or so other childhood memories involving my lightening phobia that invoke a remembered mixture of either knee-buckeling hysteria or nervous humor.

As for tornadoes, I have only been witness to one such awe-inspiring storm from afar as it tore up the uninhabited landscape along the perimeter of McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas where I was stationed in the early 70's. Someone, who obviously had little personal regard for the vastness of that region of the country, once remarked that "Kansas is miles and miles of just miles and miles." Fortunantely this observation of fact proved of benefit on the day of that particular tornadoe's appearance, as for all its sound and fury it merely meandered across the open planes reeking havoc only upon some pour farmer's early summer wheat fields. While living in Lebanon, Tennessee I was on the outskirts of an unseen tornadoe that was striking at that moment in Mount Juliet approximately 20 miles to west of my location where I had hurriedly stepped outside to lower my garage door before the arrival of a most fierce thunder storm overtook my location. Just as I had all but closed the door a terrific gust of wind suddenly lifted the door with me firmly attached and flung me across the backyard. The tornadoe to my west was sucking all of the air into its core for miles around. I managed to secure the door and hurried into the house hoping and literally praying that I would weather this storm without further incident. I did, although my nerves were still frayed long after the departing thunder had rumbled its last.

I relay my brief personal encounters with nature's wrath as a reflection upon the death and destruction that visited five of our southern states last evening when untold dozens of deadly and destructive tornadoes visited their terrifying hell upon the unwitting lives of the communities arrayed in their paths. Thus far the death toll stands unsteadily at 52 with untold additional injured. I can only begin to barely imagine the indescriable terror that clutched at the throats and hearts of these poor souls as they heard if not actually saw the raw devasting power of the swirling rage racing toward their front doors. Nothing...nothing, in my opinion, can possibly be more paralyzing to rational thought than to stand helplessly on the threshold of an advancing storm bodding mass destruction. What does one do? Where does one go? "Dear God in heaven, help us!!" I hear the cries of those who survived. I morn the cries for the loved ones lost.

Joseph Stalin, the satanic and despotic ruler of Russia in the 19th century, who callously authorized the cruel and inhumane deaths of millions of his own country men, women and children, penned the following: "The death of one man is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic." The English poet John Donne had a far fuller understanding of the interlaced dependencies we humans have on one another. "The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth; and though it intermit again, yet from that minute that this occasion would wrought him, he is united with God. Who casts not his eye to the sun when it rises? But who takes his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occassion rings? But who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent, a part of this man." Mr. Donne realized what Stalin could not...that every injury...every death...rises far above a cold statistic by those who bear the pain of such loss. And each of us must not allow ourselves to become callous in our reflection upon the tragedies of others. They each, as one soul to another, deminish each of us as well.

God be with these souls who were visited last evening by a calamity that has no name but saddness.

Tuesday, February 5

"Let's All Go Out And Buy Stuff!!" that I've got your attention, which is exaclty what the dozen or so companies pointedly conspired to do with their varying array of Super Bowl commercials, I would be disappointed in myself if I did not offer a few passing comments on those that I appreciated for their artistic approach and/or comedic content. Super Bowl 42 was indeed a "great game," which kept me firmly planted on the couch and reluctant to take those necessary potty breaks, made doubly more so because this year's commercials were for the most part in and of themselves most entertaining. Now for the highlights...

Hands down the winner for the best commercial once again was garnered by Budwiser's "Rocky" commerical. Animals and heartstrings always seems to be a winning formula and Budwiser has once again further perfected that art from. The Audi offering made me salivate like a Pavlovian esquisite was that automobile. In my dreams could I only wish to drive much less own such a fine piece of automotive engineering. But reality dictates that much like reading of all the exotic places in the world in my monthly edition of National Geographic I, alas, will never get to visit any of these locales first hand. I do agree with another blogger that perhaps the Godfather reference was most likely lost on the younger generation and that perhaps also the front end of a Ford Mustang would have been a better option to place at the foot of the bed to invoke more clearly the namesake movie's image of a severed horse's head. To each his own...

Bridgestone Tire's offering of the screaming squirrel in the middle of the road was fun, as was Dorito's mousetrap commerical. I laughed out loud when the giant rat burst through the wall and began to beat the living daylights out of the smug would be assassin. Planter's Nuts had a winner with their unibrow vamp who wooed her many admirer's with the alluring scent of cashews emanating from her person. Never again will I view the lowly salted peanut with the same casual disregard. For pure entertainment value Pepsi Max's commerical with the bobbing heads was an obvious winner. Watching the otherwise austere sport's comentator Joe Buck bob his head in rhythm to the song "Don't Hurt Me" was indeed a fun spot to watch and enjoy. My personal award for the best special effects goes to FedEx and their carrier pigeons entry. Having giant piegons pick up full sized automoblies and slam then into the side of a building was most inventive.

Being an example of the typical male, when a commercial break comes on the tube I am quick to command my remote to scan for anything but. The trusty remote during this year's Super Bowl was treated like an unwanted stepchild. I was happily engaged in escapism for three hours Sunday evening, only being pulled back to reality when Victorian Secret's commerical aired offering more than a subtle reminder that there is far more to life than football. "Let the games begin," they suggested, and being a red-blooded consumer of American enterprise, I dutifully complied. The "Boob Tube" never had a finer hour!

Monday, February 4

"Now That Is SUPER!!"

Not rivaling the audience that tuned in for the last episode of M*A*S*H, but estimated to be perhaps the most watched Super Bowl of the proceeding forty-one. I lay claim to admitting that I viewed both, Super Bowl Forty-Two and M*A*S*H... and if memory serves all or a portion of all of the intervening Super Bowls.

As far as this Super Bowl may be judged, it was very competative and, therefore, entertaining. I had no personal dog in this contest, nor any of my hard-earned cash wagered, so I gravitated toward pulling for the proclaimed underdog New York Giant just to have something to keep my interest in tact between copious mouthfuls of snack food. The game was "good" overall, but very good in the final quarter when all of the scoring was accomplished with Eli Manning and the N.Y. Giants pulling out the victory against the heretofore undeafeated, 18 & 0 New England Patriots.

Good, as far as it goes. There can never be any real losers in any game of athletics. My sense of dispair or exhuberation at the conclusion of any athletic event is always tempered by the realization that there are men and women in far away places wearing the uniforms of our armed forces that are making game day decisions that literally could mean whether or not they get to put that uniform on again tomorrow. There will always be "another game," but there is no guarantee that there will be another day for these brave men and women who face with determined trepidation the prosepct of placing themselves yet again in harm's way. God Bless 'Em. God protect them. The real worth celebrating by us when these men and women come home to their loved ones permanently. Now that will be SUPER!!