Tuesday, April 29

"Not Now!!"

Judi and I are in the middle of a two week marathon of special events and family visits. This past week we have been on the campus of the University of South Florida twice to witness an awards ceremony for daughter Megan and the installation of her boyfriend Greg as the in-coming President of the Student Government Association. Thrown into that mix was an inauguration party and another party to celebrate Meg's 23rd birthday. Greg's family from Pennsylvania have been in town all week to take part in these events and to spend time "just enjoying Florida." It has been a whirlwind. Tomorrow evening my stepson, his girlfriend and our two granddaughters arrive to attend Megan's graduation on Friday evening and to spend 10 days "just enjoying Florida" as well. I'm glad somebody is enjoying Florida. For Judi and me it has been pure work.

We have been living in our home here in St. Petersburg for almost 24 years. During all of those years the enclosed front of our home has served as a "catch-all" space for anything and everything that couldn't be conveniently stored in our attic or garage. It has become so crammed full of stuff that even our two cats have been reluctant to venture into that space. So, my dear Judi decided that now was the prefect time to "tackle that mess and make some sort of sense out of it so the grandchildren will have some place fun to play." Bless her heart, she's been at that moumental task for the past three days. I came home last evening from work and she looked like she'd been sharecropping...covered in dust and grime from head to toe.

Not wanting me to miss out on all of the fun, she suggested"Before the kids arrive, I think the yard could use a mowing." Looked fine to me, but I've learned many years ago that she has some sixth sense that I do not possess that sees a thing that needs done to which I am obviously oblivious. One does not just sit down in our home when Momma is busy and expect to be left alone in peace. Sharing the wealth of productive endeavors is a gift she amply wishes to bestow on anyone who is otherwise not so engaged. So, I drag out the lawnmower and set about the task of power clipping the grass perhaps a quarter inch lower...only to have Murphy's Law visit...the mower quit when I was only half way through with the front yard. No amount of tinkering, kicking, or swearing could convince this piece of machinery to spring into action again so that our yard didn't look like the goats had gone on strike. The lawnmower is now in the repair shop for what I hope is only a minor tune up. The yard is only half mowed and our family is due on Wednesday. I guess it is the sling-blade for me. And, by-the-way, our ice maker quit making ice last evening. As daughter Megan has often said, "God looked down on me and said, 'I hate you!'" I'm thinking that might be a real possibility. No doubt about it...just enjoying Florida is the life for me.

Monday, April 28


That's the amount of the contract my company was just awarded to undertake an up-coming construction project! Hurray!!

It was only a few weeks ago that my employer approached me about either going part-time or becoming a per-project consultant, a move necessitated by the fact that our company had a previously awarded two million dollar contract postponed indefinitely, thus requiring a reduction in overhead expenses. I was the reduction in overhead expenses.

One of my favorite uplifting blogs that I read on a regular basis is entitled "Finding My Way...we all have things we carry forward..." [ http://www.the-things-we-carry.blogspot.com/ ] Martha had a particularly insightful post this past Wednesday entitled "Do Not Worry." In it she quotes the scriptures found in the Gospel of Luke (Chapter 12 verses 22-25), wherein Jesus lovingly admonishes His listeners to have faith that our heavenly Father has only our very best interest at heart...that our needs will be met sufficiently...and to worry otherwise is counterproductive to the peace of mind and heart that God intends for us to experience as we live this gift of life from day to day. There is comfort in those words, but too often fleeting as we humans tend to too quickly take up again the burdens of trying to predict how we alone must confront the uncertainties of an uncertain future relying solely upon on our own sense of needing to be in control...sleepless nights and antacid days being the result. Too often, sadly, I can relate.

A little over a month ago I was faced unexpectedly with the prospect of being either underemployed or unemployed. What to think? What to do? My mind initially envisioned all the worse scenarios. With Judi's real estate investment business at a virtual standstill, with more money going out than coming in, and daughter Megan's college graduation looming on the horizon with all the ancillary expenses associated with that auspicious event, my outlook for a survivable economic future was, in my tunnel-vision opinion, bleak at best. When the initial shock began to subside, I turned back to the memories of when I previously have faced similar circumstances and remembered how the Lord has always provided and brought me safely and securely through what my minister likes to call "the shadow valley." I travel through yet another "shadow valley" with Him at my side and see yet again His faithful promise delivered, Do not worry. I've got your back.

There are two bedrock principles on which the Christian faith is anchored: mercy and grace. Paraphrasing how my minister defined each Sunday... Mercy is not receiving what we justly deserve. Grace is receiving something over and far beyond what we should have no expectation to deserve. Time and time again, as I look back at my past life, I have seen emerging from the mist of past personal trials and troubles the evidence of where God has pitched His tent along my path, directing me in His own time to a future not void of tribulations, but free from doubting that by my continuing to place my faith in His loving watch care that He will meet my needs. I have a continuing role to play in this relationship...the role of having and maintaining faith. Faith is no more than a noun without action. To step out in faith is to convert the word into a verb and that is when God goes to work...when we work in on-going trust that He will always hold up His end of the equation.

I have work to do. It is time I get on with it...most thankfully.

Wednesday, April 23

"What Do You Want To Hear First...

the good news or the bad news?" These were the words that my cardiologist spoke to me at my appointment this morning as he reviewed my medical chart. I was only prepared for just "good news."

Dr. Rosenthall is considered to be one of the top heart doctors in the Tampa Bay area. I am lucky to have him. We met under less than ideal circumstances four years ago when I suffered my heart attack. He just happened to be walking through the emergency room when he was summoned to "look in" on a newly arrived patient suffering with chest pains. He confirmed what I already suspected, "Mr. Latchford, you are currently having a heart attack. That's the bad news. But the good news is that we can fix that. Here's your options..." Although he listed several, his strongest recommendation was that I be taken to surgery immediately so that he could implant a stint in my blocked vein. Who was I to argue? Two days later I was home and for the past four years have been under his careful watch care.

So the good news is that overall my heart is "strong." It appears that my recent stress test indicated that the the old ticker has years of life left it in. However...and here is where the less that good news comes in...there is some indication that I may have some muscle distress at the apex (top) of my heart that he would like to take a closer look at. Could be that it is "nothing," or it could mean that some "minor repairs may be indicated. I'll know more when I get in there for a look see. This is more of a preventative measure than anything to be overly concerned about." I am always skeptical of the word "overly." It is too opened-ended to suit me. Reminds me of when General Custer suggested to his staff officers that they ought to consider going over yon hill and see if there are any Indians lurking about. "I wouldn't be to overly concerned. I doubt we'll see anything." Well, any student of history knows how that casual assumption turned out. Still, the prudent course is to follow the good doctor's suggestion and let him see if he can find any Indians lurking in my heart.

"When would you like to perform this procedure, Doc?" I inquired. "How about tomorrow afternoon!?! My startled response..."How about we don't!?!" I then went on to explain the impossible schedule I have coming up between now and the third week in May, all related to daughter Megan's college graduation and Judi and my planned get away for our 25th wedding anniversary. "Well, I don't want us to put this off too long," replied Dr. Rosenthall. "I thought you said that you aren't too overly concerned about there being a possible problem," was my reply. "I'm not, but time is of the essence." Maybe it's just me, but not being too overly concerned and time is of the essence do not seem to square. The good doctor went on to explain that the procedure would only take a day out of my life..."one to just look around and two if it is necessary to put another stint in the effected vein." We came to an understanding that I am to schedule the procedure to occur just as soon as possible during the third week of May. "Should I be overly concerned between now and then," I asked with some trepidation. "You have my phone number handy, don't you?" Sounded to me very much like "if you run into any Indians...give me a call!"

My current state of mind? I'm not too overly concerned. I don't have the time right now to be otherwise.

Tuesday, April 22


That's what it's been for me for the last couple of weeks...and it isn't going to get any better right away! My desire to be consistent in my blog posts have had to give way to the realities of day-to-day living.

Health wise it has been a slow, but steady climb back to full health from the tremendous chest cold I contracted almost three weeks ago. I still hack myself awake in the mornings, but at least I don't have to stop for 10 minutes at a stretch anymore while I get the coughing under control. I visit my cardiologist tomorrow morning and I am sure he is going to detect some abnormalities in my chest and want an explanation. As long as my ticker is sound...as my last stress test seems to indicate...I can deal with the remnants of a cold.

Job wise, it is day-to-day. The boss has yet to decided if I am to start working only three days a week. I am bidding two large hospital projects today. Hopefully we will be the low general contractor and for each and the anticipated proceeds from those two profitable jobs will keep me gainfully employed on a full-time basis. The down turn in the economy is really playing havoc on all segments of industry...most certainly including the construction field. Belt-tightening is the rule of the day and I'm trying my best not to get squeezed out into the ranks of the unemployed. I am a firm believer that the good Lord always takes care of the needs of His children...and I am in need of steady employment at the moment. So far I have his ear...

Other than trying to make a living, Judi and I are in the midst of leading the spring session of Dynamic Marriage at our church. Tonight is the mid-way point with the presentation of session number four. All of the couples seem to be adjusting well to the homework load and are openly sharing with the rest of the participants, albeit for one couple, not without some obvious pain as they try to make heads and tails of their lack of communication and problem solving skills. They, like so many very young and newly married couples, are experiencing financial difficulties that only serve to compound their lack of experience and maturity in talking through their situation as a couple rather than as two individuals. We are providing them with the tools to do a better job with that, but the jury is still out.

Daughter Megan is nearing the end of her under-graduate work at the University of South Florida. She graduates on May 2nd with a B.A. in Political Science. Prior to that auspicious event, she is being presented with the time-honored and most cherished "Golden Bull" award tomorrow evening, which is presented to the most outstanding senior student for leadership. Needless-to-say, Mom and Dad are quite proud of her, which is true regardless of whether or not she receives such a great award...although I can't think of a better person to give it to. But that's just me. Thursday evening of this week Judi and I travel back to Tampa to be part of Megan's boy friend's inauguration as the new President of USF's Student Government Association. Looks like we are going to be hob-nobbing with all the goober-smoochers of the USF elite. I guess I should polish my shoes and put on clean underware! And to top it all off...there is family arriving for all the above mentioned events, which means Judi is cleaning our's and helping with Meg's house as though we were expecting the world's heads of state to be arriving momentarily at our humble abodes. And when Judi starts to clean, my honey-do list goes through the roof!

So, my few but most appreciated readers, I apologize for my most recent lack of entries and apologize in advance if in the next couple of weeks (hopefully not that long) if I don't throw a few lines out for general consumption. I'll be back...soon or later.

Thursday, April 10

"Hot Dogs And Baked Beans..."

That's what's on the menu for tonight! This is my traditional birthday celebration dinner. Daughter Megan, her boyfriend, "Butters," and dear ole Mother-In-Law will be in attendance to partake in a belated birthday celebration. Couldn't imbibe on Tuesday, as that is the evening that Judi and I lead our two and one half hour session of Dynamic Marriage. The six participating couples all joined in to celebrate my special day with a rousing chorus of "Happy Birthday," mostly on key. Was a good day and a good evening.

Received an email from a dear and cherished North Carolina friend whom I have known since childhood. Thought I'd share it... It's entitled the "Law Of The Garbage Truck." It makes better sense if retold in the first person...

"The taxi cab arrived to take me to the airport. The 20 minute trip was proceeding uneventfully. The cab driver was skillfully maneuvering through the morning's city traffic when a black foreign limousine suddenly pulled away from the curb directly into our path. The taxi driver slammed on the brakes, putting the car into a skid, and just missed crashing into the other vehicle by mere inches. The driver of the other car whipped his head around and began cursing at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved politely in return. To say that that he was really friendly doesn't do justice to the remarkable restraint that he demonstrated. After I had begun to regain my composure, I asked the cabby, "Why in the world did you respond to that jerk in such an accommodating manner? He almost caused us to be involved in a serious wreck!" "Garbage truck," he responded. "You see," he began to explain, "many people are just like a garbage truck. They run around with their lives full of garbage, full of anger, full of frustration, full of disappointment. As the garbage in their lives begin to pile up, they need some place to dump it. And if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, they dump it on you! I don't take it personally. You shouldn't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well and move on with your life. Don't take their garbage and spread it on other people you encounter at work, or at home, or on the street. The bottom line is that successfully happy and contented people do not let garbage trucks take over their days. Life is too short to wake up each morning with regrets. So...Love the people who treat you right and pray for the ones who don't."

I'm thinking that if there is some formula for successful living, the "Law Of The Garbage Truck" ought to be included. I'm going to think about that this evening as I enjoy my birthday dinner of hot dogs and baked beans. Seems that ought to be a part of the formula too. It is for me.

Tuesday, April 8

"So, Where's All The Cards And Letters?"

Well...Happy Birthday To Me!! Today is my 60th Birthday!! Yesterday, my un-birthday - I was pretty depressed. But I woke up this morning, which is a pretty good sign, and decided, "What The Hell!?!" Got a phone call first thing this morning from my two precious granddaughters, who live in Cincinnati, wishing "Poppa" a great day. How good is that?

Guess I'll need to change my blog's profile to reflect the attainment of this personal milestone. No longer 59 going on much younger, but 60 going on much younger. It is being touted that with all the advancements mankind has made in the medical field that 50 is now the new 30. Seems to me that if that is true, then it must follow that 60 is the new 40. Suits me. At that rate I'll have to live to the ripe old age of 80 before I actually turn 60. Doesn't really make any difference to me, as I plan to live forever. So far...so good.

So...keep those cards and letters rolling in friends. I only turn 60 once in a life time and today's the day!!

Wednesday, April 2

"Still An Uphill Climb..."

I seem to have devolved into one of those rare moods where I am finding it difficult to become personally motivated about anything. I attribute my current lingering lethargy with my inability thus far to fully recover from my most recent struggle to get past becoming ill with some strain of the flu that has literally laid me low. What physical strength I seem to recoup from a good night's rest, by mid-day has abandoned me completely. Even now I could crawl into the corner of my office and be soundly asleep in five minutes. At least my coughing fits have subsided significantly. There for a while I was convinced that I would never again be able to take a deep breath without convulsing. I suppose that with each passing day I am slowly returning to some semblance of full health. I keep telling myself that anyway.

Last evening Judi and I began our spring session of Dynamic Marriage. Six of the original enrolled couples were in enthusiastic attendance. We lost the one couple that we were most concerned about...the couple that is on the verge of divorce. I received an apologitic email from the lady yesterday morning stating that it didn't appear at this time they could participate in the course. Judi and I just scratched our collective heads when we read this. Just when would be the best time for this couple to do whatever may be left for them to explore and try in order to save their marriage from the waste dump? Have they come to accept their current pain to be more palatable than the effort it would require to face their individual inadequacies and to mutually work to reconcile? Have they decided to just let fate take its course and let their self-proclaimed wreck of a marriage slip once and for all over the cliff to its final destruction? Both profess that not to be the case, but what else are we to believe? They are awash in a turbulent sea, flailing desperately to keep their heads above water, both clinging to and repelling each other, unable or more likely unwilling to grasp at the driftwood that is within their reach that could save them from the doom they have resigned themselves to accept as inevitable. Sad. So unnecessarily sad.

Maybe that is why I am feeling less than my usual enthusiastic self. Human tragedy comes in many guises. When it is needlessly self-inflicted I can but shake my head in sad wonderment. And though I constantly ask myself "why" I have no answer. God never intended any of his children to be unhappy, but unhappy many are. I wish it were not so. For the six couples who are enrolled in the Dynamic Marriage course and are embracing all the blessings God intends their unions to be, we are indeed thankful. Happiness is a choice. Love is a choice. We are thankful that we can show at least these six couples that these best choices can last a life time. I'm feeling better already...