Archive for the ‘coming of age’ Category

I woke up this very early morning thinking about several weighty things.

In the midst of it all, wrists deep in a load of dishes in need of cleaning, a song came to mind. Little surprise in that. Fancy meeting you in the purple stew, indeed, to quote a phrase.

It very much falls in the category of “we don’t sing that one, anymore”. Little surprise in that, as well, and it’s sad.

Anyway, I could talk,about the song and why I think it came to mind, or I can simply share the thoughts of another who has already done so more eloquently than I likely could, or would. Most likely, I might be guilty of “not mentioning it” at all. See what you think.

Don’t mention it…


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Have you ever had “one of those days”? Yesterday was just such a day for me. More on that in a moment. First, some backstory is in order.

Thirty years back, my dad worked as a Christian school administrator, of the small K-12 variety. Accordingly, from Junior High through high school, I had the “opportunity” (aka, the privilege) of working summers and evenings in maintenance, custodial services, roofing, landscaping, and the like. I met several notable characters along the way, some larger than life.

Mr. Voightlander was just such a character, his large frame, firm handshake, and boisterous laughter firmly etched in my memory. So, too, are some of his stories. His name was Harry, or Henry, I’m not exactly sure. After all, it has been over thirty years. I was a Sophomore, and he was the school’s mechanic, responsible for keeping a fleet of a few buses and over a dozen vans up and running.

Mr. Voightlander didn’t even work at good old Shreve Christian for more than a year, but as a kid, a year in my life felt like forever. One day, while he was fixing a part of some type that I needed for my work in the school building, he took advantage of the opportunity to tell another story. We stood in the humid Summer Louisiana morning in a non-air-conditioned outdoor shop, a large 3 foot square homemade wooden box fan serving a dual role as his workbench.

The story he told that day was of his past work as a truck driver and mechanic. It seems that drivers in the older trucks experimented with their diesel engines, screwing the injectors deeper into the heads in order to increase the horsepower. If they kept them too far out, heavy smoke would come from the stacks. If they got them pushed too far in, fire would come from the pipes. But, according to Mr. V, if they got it just right there was “no smoke, no fire, they were just a gettin’ it”.

Back to yesterday. I got a tremendous amount of work accomplished at the office. Not too many days are quite like that. Ignore the fact that most co-workers and customers were off campus for the day. That is irrelevant, and I digress. Let’s just say that something happened as I tuned up for the day, and all cylinders were firing at maximum horsepower. Where the day started with a disheveled and covered up desktop, many old unaccomplished tasks it’s slave, I found the wood before day’s end. It felt really good. And, it reminded me of Mr. V.

One of the things I loved about him, besides his stories, was his work ethic. He always seemed to be working hard. And, he seemed to enjoy his work.

1 Chronicles 28:9-10

“And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him. But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary. Be strong, and do the work.”

I really enjoy my job. It is hard, and there are some days that are better than others. Yesterday was just such a day for me: full horsepower, few interruptions, and a lot of output.

“…no smoke, no fire, just a gettin’ it…”.


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Listen my child, and you shall here, of the midnight ride…

It was called a tape. Some called it a cassette. I now consider it a time capsule, complete with symbolism on the outside and within. Back before music was streamed, and before it was downloaded, and before it was burned, ripped (or ripped off), and even before it was purchased on shiny little platters known to techno and music geeks in the 1980’s as compact disks, music was procured and enjoyed via these little plastic shells and their magnetic contents.

This one, in particular, was found lying on the console of Little Frau’s auto this morning as I made a coffee run. Yes, her car is a “tweener”, complete with both a “cassette deck” and CD capability, but absent Bluetooth and other rapidly expiring technologies, but I digress.

I popped this one into the player, and the garbled, yet very recognizable tones took me back to when I purchased this exact copy back in 1983. It didn’t sound much better when it was new and turning inside my Realistic/Radio Shack after market player that was loosely bolted below the dashboard of my 71 Chevy. I was 16, going on 17, and didn’t want to stop believing.

Now that one score and ten years have turned over, the symbolism is rich. I still want to “don’t stop believing”. I am “stone in love”, thanks to Little Frau. Sometimes, life dictates that the who in “Who’s crying now” is me: I assume you can relate. Almost daily, I feel the need to “keep on runnin’ “, and, as for the memories, “still they ride”.

Even the yellowed edges of the case are suggestive. It is intact. Its message is both legible and audible. It is not cracked. Not yet, at least. Kind of like some of us, maybe?

So, maybe the recipe for curing tired blood, today, won’t come from a vitamin bottle, although I’ll be sure to not forget mine, but from musings, music and memories.

Don’t stop believing, and I pledge to do the same. “Still, they ride“.


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“It’s going to be a cold, chilly day out there”.. The words of Sunday morning’s weather forecast rang in my ears as I looked away to finish my newspaper article about the life and ways of OKC Thunder Coach Scott Brooks.

They both had garnered my attention, both the weather caster and the coach, but for different reasons. One, for using hyperbole to artificially inflate the conditions of a day that would be sunny and mild, like so many others. The other, for how he goes about his work, deflecting from opportunities to promote himself, and garnering praise in the process.

It reminded me of the early days of TV weather, and yes, sadly, I can say I was alive and watching within that era. Harold Taft, he of 1960’s and 1970’s DFW Channel 5 fame would garner my attention as he talked about the weather and showed his hand drawn charts of what was happening in our atmosphere.

Even in “those days” weather was big business, and the personalities would use tools at their disposal to draw our attention and garner viewers. In this age of computerized models and high tech visual aids, the personalities, and the hyperbole, still rule the day.

As Sunday’s weathercast snippet played out, my mind went back to the article about Brooks, his upbringing, his work ethic, and what it really meant to garner the attention that he has. And, what does this word garner really mean?

Verb garner – acquire or deserve by one’s efforts or actions
acquire, get – come into the possession of something concrete or abstract;
letter – win an athletic letter

Garnering attention. Garnering favor. Garnering praise. Garnering minutes. Garnering results.

We do lots of things in this day and age to garner attention. How we dress, what we drive, where we live, what we say: we Facebook and we blog, but I digress. Touché?

I know some garnerers. I also know some Garners. In this instance, they might be one in the same. As my son’s most recent high school basketball game ended, and ended badly, I said to the eldest namesake “your sons played well tonight”. The bewildered look I received back spoke volumes, so I clarified my thoughts: “they played hard and aggressive; they never quit working”. His eyes cleared, and hopefully he understood my point. His boys are garnerers, like their dad.

Garnering, in the truest sense of the word, takes effort. It takes work. All the fancy moves, fancy gear, and fancy words, in weathercasts, in basketball, and in life won’t win the battle for you. It takes hard work. It takes persistence. It takes dedication. It means putting your nose to the grindstone, sometimes even to the breaking point.

No one ever said garnering was easy; just ask this guy…
*photo by Bonnie Howard

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It’s been an interesting week….
It’s been a good week…
It’s been an unexpected week…

I am not a country music fan, per se, and yet I awoke this morning with a 10 year old John Michael Montgomery tune rattling around in my head, and that only scratches the surface….

…..Sink or swim you gotta give it a whirl

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

The longer I live the more I believe
You do have to give if you wanna recieve
There’s a time to listen, a time to talk
And you might have to crawl even after you walk
Had sure things blow up in my face
Seen the longshot, win the race
Been knocked down by the slamming door
Picked myself up and came back for more

Life’s a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don’t worry about what you don’t know
Life’s a dance you learn as you go

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Here I am, This is me
I come to this world so wild and free
Here I am, So young and strong
Right here in the place where I belong

It’s a new world
It’s a new start
It’s alive with the beating of a young heart
It’s a new day, In a new land
And it’s waiting for me
Here I am

It’s a new world, It’s a new start*

It has been quite a week, a full gamut of experiences that seems more like what would be experienced in a year. One week ago today, I was awaking in a hospital room in Texas with an ailing father. We had discussions about living a good life, and desiring a peaceful time to pass into the next. Today, he is out and improving.

A few days ago, Little Frau and I made a brief sub 72 hour escape by ourselves just to catch up on each other. In days gone by, we would do this type of thing regularly, but life and health have a way of placing binders on you, and it’s hard to break free.

In the midst of it all, the twins, wild Mustangs in their own right, were away at camp. I would love to say “the babies”, but 15+ years out, that is no longer true. Upon their return home last evening, we were treated to tales of their week gone by. Camp is such an emotional experience, and I can’t help but feel proud of hearing about their experiences and how they responded and grew.

As last evening grew late, I left the girls to their wedding dress shows to join the boy in the other room playing FIFA World Cup on the Wii. After we chatted a bit, I dozed off on the couch, only to awake some time later to see that he’d found an old VHS copy of Spirit, and he asked if I would stay up to watch it with him. A new acquaintance early in the week used the phrase with me “there are no coincidences in our lives, only meaning”, and I took that to heart as Al-boy and I watched the movie together past the midnight hour.

He asked me if he’d seen this movie before. We had, when he was 5. He asked me if he had liked it. The answer was an obvious yes. As the credits rolled later, he talked of it being a good story, and thanked me for staying up to watch with him.

As I got up and stumbled on to bed, Little Frau shared some more of their stories from the week gone by, and the simple emotions tied up and portrayed in the movie finally connected with the experiences we’d all lived over the past seven days. And I cried, just a little. Deduct man card points now, if you insist, but it was all in order.

You see, life is all about rolling with the changes, and they seem to be coming faster and faster. As we watch our little Mustangs learn to fly, and how to remain grounded yet unfettered, I can’t help myself.

Here I am, This is me
I come to this world so wild and free
Here I am, So young and strong
Right here in the place where I belong

It’s a new world
It’s a new start
It’s alive with the beating of a young heart
It’s a new day, In a new land
And it’s waiting for me
Here I am

*Spirit soundtrack Lyrics by Bryan “cuts like a knife” Adams. There is probably a whole separate analogy in that one, but maybe for some other day….

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The Basin Improvement Committee of 1890: it sounds like an exciting group to be a part of, don’t you think? Nestled on the heart of Main Street in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, this marker commemorates the intentional efforts of a small group to make things better and to improve life within the community.

If asked, I would likely say that a basin is a small container of water. According to Dictionary.com, it is that, and more…

1. a circular container with a greater width than depth, becoming smaller toward the bottom, used chiefly to hold water or other liquid, especially for washing.
2. any container of similar shape, as the pan of a balance.
3. the quantity held by such a container: We need another basin of water to dilute the mixture.
4. a natural or artificial hollow place containing water.
5. a partially enclosed, sheltered area along a shore, often partly man-made or dredged to a greater depth, where boats may be moored: a yacht basin.

I must admit, definition number 5 is my favorite. You see, I have a basin of my own, and the improvement committee has been meeting the past two days to make it even stronger. “A partially enclosed, sheltered area along a shore, often partly man-made or dredged to a greater depth…“: it’s called marriage, and yes, it is only partly man made.


To coin a phrase, I might say “those who go away together stay close”. Little Frau and I first visited Eureka Springs in the Summer of 1991. Yes, for those of you young ‘ens keeping score at home, it was indeed last century. The Frau and I had been married all of about two years, maybe a little less. We were young. We were in love. We were broke. Truth be told, we weren’t really broke, we just didn’t have much money to spend, so everything was carefully allocated to make sure we could do the trip and make it home.

The pinnacle of the trip was supposed to be a day at Silver Dollar City in Branson. Like I said, we were young, and traipsing around an amusement park in the heat seemed like the be all and end all of a good time. As we almost ran toward the ticket booth together, hand in hand, a man called out to me. It seems that he and his bride of 20+ years had gone to Silver Dollar City on their honeymoon, and returned each year as season pass holders. With the purchase of their season passes came one pair of single day tickets each year, and each year on their anniversary day visit, they would seek out a young couple to take in with them for free.

Almost in shock (remember, I was the ripe old age of 24), I asked the man if we could repay them, buy them lunch, or something else. His answer? “Do something nice for your wife with the money, and that will be just what I wanted“. We thought about that couple and their request all day. We looked at kitschy souvenirs. We thought about going to a show. Ultimately, we decided to use the money to spend a night in a Bed and Breakfast here in Eureka.

It’s not that spending a week sleeping on the ground in a $19.99 pup tent from Wal Mart isn’t romantic, but we were beginning to feel the trip growing on us. An indoor shower, air conditioner, and a bed turned out to be a pretty nice break in the trip.

A few years have come and gone since that trip. Life and kids have placed a few demands on the days and the dollars. Little Frau and I don’t get away as much anymore, at least for just the two of us. But, courtesy of kids at camp and a mid week July 4th calendar, the stars aligned for a brief 2 day excursion back to Eureka. We were not so adventurous as to desire a day in the amusement park this go round. It seems this Basin Improvement Committee of two finds catching up with old friends, casual dining, a small bit of kitschy souvenir shopping, reading, and napping more the order of the day. And it has all happened at a little Bed and Breakfast just a few doors down and 21 years removed from the last Eureka meeting of our little group.

I think we may not wait so long to reconvene the next time…


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