Tuesday, September 30, 2003
In my role as an official member of the news media I manage to get on any number of lists. I'm really not sure why, but I get calls, letters and emails from a wide variety of folks with their own agendas. For whatever reasons they've pegged me as a person whose opinion matters, and more importantly whose views can be influenced, thus impacting our radio station's news coverage. They're wrong, but it's flattering.
The first time this happened was when I was in college. I was the News Director for KNTU radio, the campus radio station, which at that time broadcast at 400 watts, which meant you could only hear it if you were close enough to also see the actual "ON AIR" lights in the studios.
Despite these meager surroundings, Exxon decided I was someone they wanted to impress. Although I'm still a little mystified they chose me, their motives were less cryptic. It was at the height of the first major gas crisis in the late 1970's. The big oil companies were looking for allies anywhere they could find them. Obviously since I was targeted, they must not have found many.
Exxon paid for me and the editor of the college newspaper to a spend a weekend at a relatively posh resort in Austin, posh being a subjective term since at the time I was living in a typical college town hovel with three other guys which we lovingly referred to as "Withering Heights". It was not uncommon for my food budget to be about 4 bucks a month -- you'd be surprised how far you can stretch a box of Quaker Oats, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter.
The trip was couched under the guise of broadening my understanding of journalism, and various impressive speakers were brought in like Sander Vanocer, the then-President of ABC news and Fred Graham who at that time was the Supreme Court correspondent for CBS. Sandwiched between them were other speakers who were less famous and less focused on journalism. They were more intent on not so gently passing along the message that oil companies were not evil and that sky rocketing prices and long lines at gas pumps were the fault of others. Rumors of price fixing and profiteering were pure fiction.
I listened to their words. I ate the free food. I applied more than a few grains of salt to both.
I washed down this wisdom with beer from a keg that was available nightly.
I left the retreat with no higher regard for Exxon, Vanocer or Graham. Nor did I feel I understood the energy crisis any better than when I arrived. I wondered if I got anything out of that weekend more valuable than a flashback of what a clean room felt like, a full belly and a slight hangover.
In retrospect I'm sure Exxon would now think it's money could have been better spent elsewhere.
Amy just cleared away some of the debris on our desk and about eight inches down I found something that was sent to me a few weeks back. It's a little book entitled, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam. It's about 70 pages long.
I've read what the book says, but I don't understand Islam any better.
The book dedicates one page to the question: What does Islam say about Terrorism?
It says this:"Islam, a religion of mercy, does not permit terrorism".
Flipping through the book again today, I couldn't help but think about that weekend in Austin. I think this is another case where the message may have been misdirected. It seems like there are other folks who could stand a refresher course in that aspect of Islam. Send them the book...the postage charges would likely be a lot less.
I slept on C.S. Lewis this morning without realizing it. I spent last night coughing and wheezing and I'm sure I slept at some point but I didn't really feel like it this morning.
After a few hours at work, my coworkers sort of insisted I leave...working next to someone who sounds like he belongs in a TB ward makes that collective decision easier to arrive at I suspect.
Came home and crawled right into bed, and when I awoke I realized I had been sleeping on top of my copy of The Screwtape Letters. I have several C.S. Lewis books on my nightstand. I have picked up The Screwtape Letters off and on for the past few weeks and fallen asleep almost every time. In my world, that is not a bad thing. Sleep is always good and it's pretty obvious now that C.S. Lewis has already made an impression upon me...just not in the place I expected.
Monday, September 29, 2003
There are days for deep thinking....this isn't one of them.
Fall is in the air...almost. It's not Fall in my mind until I step out the door in the morning and am hit with a brisk breeze peppered by the fragrance of a distant fire.
It's still 70 degrees at night....no one's loading logs in the fireplace yet.
At 60 let's talk.
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Samantha's world is being torn apart. I saw it today when she came into the Sunday school room where I had been recruited as a substitute teacher. There were only three kids, all about Samantha's age, 7 or 8.
I hadn't seen Samantha in several months because our little church doesn't have Sunday school over the summer, and her Dad only comes to church to bring her to Sunday school. The last time I saw her, she was wide eyed, talkative, and cheerful. Today she seemed more unsure of herself and reserved.
They were late, her father said he always has trouble remembering when Sunday school starts. Being late, the small class, and not having been in church for months, all contributed to the awkward feelings I'm sure Samantha was experiencing.
There are other factors. Her dad has had a long series of problems. Her parents are divorcing.
It took a while, but I finally got Samantha to open up a little. She began to talk, and giggled a few times when I did something silly (everyone has their own teaching methods).
Still it didn't take long for me to notice something new in Samantha.
It's a trait I am intimately familiar with, more so than I would like. I see it everyday in the people I work with, the world at large, and too often when I look in the mirror.
It's not a trait I see frequently in children. In one so young it stuns. I was repelled by its familiarity. It may be the confidante of the world at large, and I'm certainly not immune to my own jaded moments, but in Sunday school...in children's Sunday school... it hit me like the first sight of blood oozing from a gaping wound. I wanted to bandage it; to stem the flow; to prevent this cancer from spreading.
Today's lesson was on the 10 commandments, but we were only covering the first four. Next week, the regular Sunday school teacher will take up where I left off.
Before class ended though, I briefly mentioned the fifth commandment: "Honor thy Father and thy Mother."
Without hesitation Samantha said, "Not my father."
I pushed her for only a moment and told her she didn't mean that. She disagreed with me, and I realized this was not the time or place, in front of other children, for her to bleed this misery .
I felt wounded too. It cut like a knife.
Samantha's little heart has hardened since I saw her last.
I pray Samantha keeps coming to Sunday school.
I pray some lessons can be unlearned.
Saturday, September 27, 2003
It doesn't take much to get our dogs to pay rapt attention.
I merely have to hold a tennis ball in the air and their frenetic lives come to a halt.
In that brief moment of time there is nothing on this planet that concerns them...only the ball.
The ball's implied promise of release and the slobber punctuated frenzy that will follow, holds them still.
Amy is home. She told her doctor she wanted out of the hospital last night and he capitulated. She's still in pain. Modern medicine has found a few relatively minor medical anomalies in her innards, but it looks like still more wizardry will be needed.
I may get distracted at times, but weeks such as this give me focus too.
Friday, September 26, 2003
Each day this week as I drive home from the hospital I pass an IHOP restaurant with a sign out front reading, "Pancakes that never end - $3.99"
It's on a busy street and I'm often stuck in front of that sign for significant periods of time.
Pancakes that never end.
Does anyone else find that disturbing?
At what point does pancake pleasure
turn into pancake pain?
It seems like it has all the ingredients of a nightmarishly abysmal B-movie.
PANCAKES THAT NEVER END!!!!!!
Shouldn't there be some culmination?
I guess it's symptomatic of my mood. This week, more than ever, I am looking for resolution. I am praying for it.
Never ending stories, even those smothered in syrup lack appeal.
There is another sign which I've seen a lot this week..
That sign is outside the elevator in the hospital where Amy is now well entrenched.
Each time I step into the elevator I look out upon that sign and think of the people who stood in the same spot pushing button 3 to the transplant floor.
What a long ride that must be.
Amy is in room 525, and as the elevator doors close I am thankful that I am pushing button 5.
Amy's prognosis is still clouded in uncertainty and concern, but nevertheless we are quite blessed.
I don't have to look far to see clear signs of that.
For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; upright men will see his face
Thursday, September 25, 2003
Amy is undergoing a bunch of tests today and there are too many to cram into just one fun filled day in a hospital gown, so she's not being released. I will say having my life focused on Amy's health has made the week fly by. It hasn't exactly been a productive week. I don't think I've done my best at the office, but sometimes you have to work by rote I suppose.
This has been the routine: Work. Hospital. Home. Nap. Hospital. Home. Sleep. Work. In between, I yell at the dogs for barking...and occasionally I feed them.
Amy is actually feeling pretty good, which makes all this much more tolerable. Early on, when she was just pained and drugged, it was a different story.
I'm reminded frequently that others have much heavier burdens to bear.
Patience is not my specialty, but obviously it's a character trait God is willing to instill in me by force if necessary.
I know this hasn't been the most enlightening or coherent writing this week. It's the first week since I started this blog that I haven't felt like saying much. However I promise that coming soon I will write about important things...like elevator buttons, bluebirds and pancakes.
There are lessons in those things...at least to me.
Amy asked me to bring a blow dryer, her makeup and hair gel to the hospital today....the tide may be turning.
Yesterday's tests did not spotlight the need for surgery, which is good news. The bad news is the tests didn't tell us much of anything else. Today another exam is planned, basically sticking a camera down her insides and looking around. There is a possibility that after that I can bring her home.
I hope she wants the make up for the trip home...and not for the medical photography.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Tuesday, September 23, 2003
Amy was born at 1:17, and thus began a life long obsession with that number. She notices when digital clocks read 1:17; I've pointed out this happens twice every day, but it still doesn't seem to demystify the event for her. She sees 117 on license plates, billboards, phone numbers, etc... Today at the hospital as she was getting prepped for a "PICC line" which will force feed her iron, she turned to me and said, "Do you have your camera? Get a picture of that."
Some machine above her head had a readout of 117.
117 pops up everywhere for Amy...except on lotto tickets.
My blog friend Jim points out that not everyone who reads this is familiar with Amy's health concerns. I guess a little background is in order since for a while I'm going to be consumed with her health when I have time to write. In a nutshell, Amy had gastric bypass surgery several years ago. She's had some complications, two of which have required additional surgeries. A fourth surgery looks like a distinct possibility. Despite her numerical fixation, I'm fairly certain Amy is not secretly trying to reach 117 trips under the knife.
It's odd, for the past week Amy has been in a state of near mania as the pain increased and the glare of additional hospital stays and surgery seeped beyond our collective ability to ignore it. I was fairly calm and did my best to remain optimistic.
As soon as Amy hung up the phone with her doctor last night she seemed completely at ease. She was in control. She had a game plan. She started making calls, packing her bag, getting prepared. I, on other hand, lost all focus and function. Amy got checked in to the hospital, and tucked in for the night. I tossed and turned. I prayed and searched for pity. Then I went to work in something of half functional haze.
Today, Amy is feeling fine
Of course when morphine is your breakfast offering a cheery outlook is a lot easier to achieve.
My breakfast was bacon and eggs...I couldn't sleep so I cooked..
Today, my attitude is better. My time at the hospital this morning was reassuring. Seeing the caring approach to medicine Amy is receiving has made me feel better.
I know we will deal with what's ahead from a position of strength. I have any number of reasons to believe that.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:17
Monday, September 22, 2003
Amy is packing her bag. She's checking into the hospital tonight. We finally managed to get her doctor to call us and he is relatively convinced more surgery is ahead. If that proves true it will be the fourth surgery in as many years.
Tomorrow will be full of tests and apprehension.
Tonight is absorbed in an all too familiar disorientation.
This is a road we've been down too often...I'm learning to traverse it on my knees.
It was Sunday afternoon, which of course meant his doctor was not available. I've learned over the years that on Saturdays, Sundays, and most holidays the on call physician is never going to say, "Gee, I think I'll go open my office and you come in right away." Instead they're always going to say, "Go to the emergency room". That's what happened in Sam's case.
Pass the buck medical style
Anyway, my friend Ben drove Sam to the E.R. and I decided to meet them because the hospital is nearby. Plus, the Texans game had just ended and I'm really not above kicking a guy when he's down.
Sam got poked, prodded and repeatedly asked questions that had nothing to do with his condition, but were required for some important insurance company medical form that will be filed away. The forms no doubt will go unread until archaeologists unearth them in 10 thousand years and scratch their collective heads saying, "Why do you think they needed to know his shoe size?"
Ben and I sat in the waiting room.
Ben is quite possibly the wisest person I know. He lives and works in a secular world, but he is spiritually centered. You will be talking with Ben and he will gently guide you toward insights of how God is working in your life. It is effortless on his part, because he lives that life so fully...so devoutly.
Ben is a gentleman and a gentle man.
When I met Ben I thought, "That's the type of man I want to be."
I've known him for seven years. My opinion and my aspirations have not changed.
When Amy and I met Ben's children we prayed our kids would turn out so well, and over the years we have asked Ben for his advice on child rearing. He has never steered us wrong.
I know of no better witness for Christ.
Ben and I talked about where we each are in the seasons of our lives, about the crises we have faced and are facing, and how we cope with the world at large. In his tender manner he coaxed me to unload my thoughts and burdens. He offered sympathy, but also sound advice.
The time flew by.
After a couple of hours of the hospital staff doing what weekend hospital staffs do best, ignoring us, we barged our way in to check on Sam and learned the doctors wanted to get another skull shot. Figuring they'd be dismayed by what they saw, and that it would take at least another hour as well as a few more forms, Ben and I went to dinner.
The meal was good...the conversation was fulfilling.
When we returned, Sam was dosed up with something that not only alleviated his pain, but also blanked out all memory of the Texans performance. No one could ask for more, obviously they had given him the good stuff.
Ben drove Sam home and I drove away realizing that this trip to the emergency room was just what the Doctor ordered...for me.
The mouth of the righteous man utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks what is just.
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Amy is in increasing pain, and I am unable to do much of anything for her. There are few things that rank higher on the scale of misery.
We await the scheduling of tests; the results of tests.
We are mired by the realization Amy's doctors do not share our sense of urgency.
It's a road we've traveled before, but the course is made no easier by familiarity.
The horizon is obscured by the foreboding mist of vagary and fear.
I can only offer it all up to You, Father...and in doing so know I am no longer helpless.
Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your Most Holy Place.
Saturday, September 20, 2003
They say jogging is good for you. My grandfather runs five miles a day, of course, now we don't know where the heck he is.
I was reminded of that old joke today as I read about this marathon monk.
He ran for a thousand days on what is believed to be the path to enlightenment.
As I read this story, I was struck by two things.
First, this monk ran in handmade sandals. You would have thought Nike would have intervened, if for no other reason than to stop anyone from realizing they could make running shoes on their own.
Second, when he completed his trip on the path to enlightenment, he was back home.
I was at the church this morning, trying to cram in a little yard work before it started raining. Chris showed up around the same time accompanied by another worker who has been helping Chris install a roof on our new building.
Chris has been through a lot. He's beaten back addictions to drugs and seems to have controlled his cravings for alcohol. He's still wrestling some of the common demons of youth, impatience and anger. He is struggling to hold his young family together, but so far he's succeeding. It's been tough and certainly the last chapter of that story is far from written.
But Chris is trying. He's attended AA meetings. He's sought out spiritual counsel. He's gone to a marriage counselor, and he's seen someone to help him deal with his rage.
Chris has a lot of people bending his ear. I know a lot of what he hears he doesn't like, because sometimes I've been the one telling him, but he still listens.
The other worker with Chris this morning is an older guy. I don't know his name. I actually met him yesterday when he came trudging through the church with his boots caked in mud....moments after I had vacuumed. We exchanged pleasantries, and some tips on how to properly wipe your feet. He's an outgoing fellow but he's obviously lived a hard life. I get the impression he has no family, is unable to drive, and has surrendered to many impulses.
The life he lives is itinerant ...and empty.
It was just after seven this morning when he came over to ask to use my phone. I was dragging the lawnmower out of the storage shed and had my back to him, but I knew he was nearby... the pungent odor of alcohol preceded him. During the course of the morning we spoke several times. He seemed to look for opportunities to stop working and talk. It didn't seem to bother him that both our jobs weren't getting done. He wasn't upset when Chris determined some of the metal roofing materials were the wrong size and that part of their project would have to be delayed. The threat of rain also seemed of no consequence.
I pray Chris sees this coworker clearly.
If he does, perhaps that will make it easier for Chris to travel the long hard road ahead and also return home enlightened.
He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.
Friday, September 19, 2003
"Greed is a fat demon with a small mouth and whatever you feed it is never enough."- Janwillem van de Wetering
This is a familiar site at our house.
Our dog, Winston, with his nose covered in mud. It happens on those rainy days when he attempts to cover his food bowl to protect what he values from intruders.
Winston may be our special needs dog, but in truth he has some justification I suppose to covet his kibble.
There are intruders lurking in the dark.
I had a conversation this afternoon with my television counterpart. She and I have been tasked with finding ways to integrate our news operations yet I continually find myself bouncing off the familiar obstacle of obstinance. She expresses concerns that I have heard repeatedly over the past 11 months since the TV station came into the fold. All of it is couched in journalistic obfuscation but in truth it too boils down to a reluctance to share.
That little possum in our backyard can eat all the dog food he wants and Winston will still be well fed. I'll never be able to convince Winston of that though.
Hopefully I'll have better success on the work front.
Then again, maybe I'm just being anthropomorphic.
That was the last word I remember that was mystically thrust upon me.
A blogger I read, Dappled Things, made mention recently of that quirky vocabular deja vu that seems to happen to all of us, well at least it happens to me and him.
You come across a word you've never heard or seen before, and then over the next few days you'll hear that same word on the radio, or read it in a magazine, or someone will casually drop it into into a conversation, or all of the above. It's almost like there is some unseen force at work trying to make sure the word becomes part of your vocabulary.
Amy will recall the specifics better than I, but last summer I remember asking her if she knew what that word meant because I had read it somewhere. We finally looked it up. A day or two later we were on a plane to Ohio and it came up in a crossword puzzle. When we arrived in Ohio, I was reading a C.S. Lewis novel and there it was again.
There should be a word for when that happens.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
I thought I was coming down with something this week. The burning sensation in my throat and chest were subtle clues. So, being male, I waited a few days and finally went to my doctor. Haven't seen him in close to two years, for which I am grateful.
The day after I write about not worrying, the doctor tells me I'm probably suffering from acid reflux, ulcers could be around the corner.
I got your irony right here.
Anyway, he gave me some new drug, told me if the problems persist to visit him again, otherwise I'm fine.
As I was leaving he looked at my chart and said, "When you hit 50 I need to see you every year!"
Thanks...warnings about ulcers and turning 50...I don't know why I don't visit him more often, it's like a trip to Sunnybrook farm.
Amy and I are cutting up credit cards and doing a little financial finagling. We're going to have to do something un-American for a while...live on a budget. We'll get by, but if you stop by for dinner you may get served beans and rice.
That's a diet that worked for the Mayans by the way...until the Aztec's cut their hearts out.
Our suffering won't be quite so severe, although we may both bleed a little as a result of our decision to cut the cable TV. I doubt we'll eliminate it completely, but all the fancy stuff really has to go. I'll be sad. Amy may have to go through serious BBC withdrawal. I won't really feel the pain until Spurs season.
All of our efforts aren't going to suddenly make us solvent, but we beat back the flames of debt a little. I started getting rid of my heartburn today too.
We're eliminating some stuff from our lives, and that will leave more room for something better...each other.
I think I'll keep fanning that particular flame.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
I once heard a sermon -- one of those "I hope no one saw me wince" sermons -- that went on for 45 minutes before the preacher said, "And now I have 12 points to illustrate these observations..."
The glaze that crawled over my eyes apparently didn't ooze into my ears because somewhere along the line the Pastor said something which struck home. He said, "It's a sin to worry."
I was taken aback.
A sin? To worry?
I am a sinner, make no mistake, but I didn't count worry among my transgressions. At least not until then.
I worry a lot.
The Pastor's point was that we should rely on God. If you worry that means you aren't relying on God. So, worrying is a sin.
"Great" I thought, "Now I'm worrying that I am even a worse sinner because I'm worrying!" That, of course, only made me worry more and therefore I was sinning more.
This could get ugly.
I remember driving along with my stepson, Joey, some years ago and he asked if we could rent a video game. I said, "We'll see."
Joey said, " 'We'll see' means, 'No'."
I went out of my way to prove him wrong. We stopped at the video store and rented the game.
I realized by saying, "We'll see" I was halting all speculation about what our future might hold.
At that moment, I felt guilty about it.
My mother died when I was a teenager, and I don't remember enough about our relationship, but I do recall having those all too typical kid conversations involving, "What if ?" questions.
"What if this....or what if that?"
My mother had a stock response: "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
I remember being disappointed with that answer much like Joey was with my "we'll see" response.
Today, Amy and I have some pressing issues in our lives. Amy blogged about it today, and was far too flattering, but I've had her fooled for a long time.
It made me think of those other times, with Joey and with my Mom. Even that dull sermon.
Being in the car with Joey that day was more important than what either of us wanted at the time.
Remembering my Mom today is far more important than recalling my fears of yesterday.
I know that Amy and I will address these latest concerns. I'm truly not worried about them.
I also know there will be other things to fret about in the future.
But I know this too: Amy loves me. I love her.
God is in control.
So we'll cross those other bridges when we come to them...and we'll see.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
I felt sorry for him, which made me feel even worse for wanting him dead.
My Customer Service Representative from T-Mobile was very polite and very understanding. He sounded too young to die. Especially a violent death.
Amy and I have been plunged into a swirl of digital dementia with our mobile phone service. It's so bizarre I'm having a hard time even explaining it.
First off, we get random voicemails from people who are obviously calling someone else. Initially, I chalked this up to wrong numbers, but it was happening too often. Then I started getting messages in my voicemail from people calling Amy's phone. Eventually, we determined that our mobile phone voice mail systems are co-mingling, not only with each other -- which presumably is permissible in mobile phone morality since our phone bills are combined, and we're married -- but also with complete stranger's voicemail systems. Moreover, my "voicemail greeting" is now the same as Amy's. If I change mine, it changes hers, and vica versa.
If someone leaves a message for Amy, it might go to her voicemail box...it might go to mine...it sometimes goes to both and I suspect it sometimes goes to a complete stranger.
Sensing this was a problem, I called my Customer Service Representative and tried my best to explain it. Following my explanation this is sort of how it went:
CSR, "Please hold."
Delightful musical interlude
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
CSR, "It appears you and your wife both have the same message on your voicemail."
I'm aware of that, that's why I'm calling. I used to have my own message but now we're co-mingled. I guess I didn't explain it well.
CSR, "Please hold."
Somewhat redundant musical interlude
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
CSR, "I'm going to send a test voice mail to your voicemail system. Can you hold?"
Annoying musical interlude
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
CSR, "Does your phone show you've received a voice mail message?"
CSR, "Please hold."
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
CSR, "This is a known issue."
What's that mean?
CSR, "Well, it means our technical services department is aware of this problem in your area."
That's reassuring. So, when will it be fixed?
CSR, "Please hold."
Throbbing sound of blood pulsing through my veins with slight strains of Mozart still discernible in the background.
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
CSR,"I don't have that information, but I am authorized to give both of your phones 200 extra calling minutes."
Will the problem be fixed by the time I use up those 200 minutes?
CSR, "Please hold."
CSR, "Mr. Main?"
Is there someone else you expect to be here?
CSR, "Sorry, to keep you holding. There is no time frame for fixing the problem."
What's that mean?
CSR, "Well, it means it's a known issue."
Does that mean someone knows when it will be fixed?
CSR, "I'm sure someone does."
So when will it be fixed?
CSR, "Well, I don't have that information."
Does someone else?
CSR, "I'm sure someone else does, since it's a known issue"
Can you call them?
CSR, "Well, I don't know who to call exactly."
So it's a known issue, that someone knows will be fixed, and someone knows when it will be fixed, but you don't know who that someone is?"
CSR, "Please hold."
I had to hang up. I needed to call my lawyer to see what constitutes justifiable homicide.
Monday, September 15, 2003
Spent the morning and part of the afternoon in a meeting. A meeting called by other people who then sat in front me and stared like I was some font of wisdom.
If folks stare at me long enough I'll start spouting...not necessarily wisdom, especially in the context of a meeting. I'm not sure if it's because I feel self conscious, or if I figure that unless someone talks the meeting may never end.
The meeting and my intellectual spewings dragged on so long -- well past my lunch and naptimes -- that I started having visions reminiscent of an old Warner Brothers cartoon, except my meeting cohorts began to resemble big fingers. Worse yet, I envisioned myself as something of a talking pimple.
Apply enough external pressure and out pops all sorts of gunk.
It may provide a sense of accomplishment, but I'm not sure it's really healthy.
Anyway, I spouted, they nodded and eventually we finally adjourned. However as I got up to leave, my boss asked me to write a "recap" of the meeting. The meeting which ended seconds before. He also requested I write another memo of suggestions for my television counterpart so she can have another meeting to tell her colleagues about our meeting.
I agreed to write the memo only because his first suggestion was that I attend the other meeting too!
I still had a few moments of sanity within my grasp...I told him I couldn't attend that meeting because I had a dermatologist appointment that day. It was the only excuse that popped to mind.
The day actually got sillier, but I'm too turned around to write about that. If you're truly interested, I'll try to schedule a time we can meet and discuss it.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Hi, my name is Michael. Nice to meet you.
"I've got green beans!" has become an odd rallying cry around our home.
We learned some months ago that my "sister-in-law," Kasha, is being fed green beans on the advice of her veterinarian. Kasha was on medication that made her hungry so the vet suggested green beans as a low calorie solution to quell her desires.
As I have often mentioned, we have three dogs. They aren't on any medications, although I wouldn't object to regular doses of Prozac.
Despite the lack of need, Amy decided it would be fun to see if our dogs might eat green beans, as sort of a treat.
I vaguely recall my high school biology text defining a dog as a carnivore. This apparently is evidence of another flaw in our education system. Our dogs react to green beans like Martha Stewart does to triple coupon day at Hobby Lobby. They salivate in anticipation and celebration when the mere promise of green beans is indicated by the distant whir of an electric can opener.
Being responsible pet owners we treat the green beans like any other snack; we try to limit their intake.
Amy only buys them one case at a time.
Give us some credit, Amy and I quickly realized the potential upside to this behavior -- that we might be able to parlay it into a heretofore unseen phenomenon in our household: Dog obedience.
So, I have evolved into something akin to a Jolly Green Crack Dealer.
When I need the dogs to do something they're not used to doing, for example, pay attention to me, I bellow, "I've got green beans!"
Before we left for church this morning, I used my vast meteorological forecasting skills and pronounced with authority, "It's not going to rain!"
Hence, we left the dogs outside.
Upon our return, the puddles and mud in our backyard only added to my humility as our soaking wet and wound up dogs scurried about me in the driving rain. Of course, they refused to come inside.
Bravely, I stood foursquare against the storm.
I hollered the words I knew would return a small portion of my dignity.
"I've got green beans!"
Now the dogs are inside and like opium den customers of old they are satiated.
And I am perfectly willing to ignore the absurdity of the situation.
Perhaps I have attained an enlightened state of bean.
Saturday, September 13, 2003
I met Dave about 12 years ago during the course of a news feature I was producing. He is an extremely intelligent man and a gifted musician. We quickly learned we shared a certain twisted sense of humor. My sense of humor bends more like Gumby when compared to Dave's which can, at times, flex like a triple jointed acupuncture-practicing contortionist whose act has moved by popular demand from the sideshow to center stage.
We share common histories. In our teen years, both of us fancied ourselves rebels who were plunging into waters uncharted.
In fact, we bore a closer resemblance to lemmings cloaking our oblivion behind drugs, booze, long hair and loud music.
It was that affinity for alcohol that cemented our relationship.
We've never had a drink together.
Dave quit drinking before I met him. When he learned I was giving up alcohol he went out of his way to encourage me. Many of the friends I had known much longer were cheering me on in the opposite direction. Dave's support proved invaluable.
About a year after I met Dave, I met Amy. I didn't know Amy well, but I knew she was struggling mightily. Her marriage was ending. The support system she had bound herself to spiritually and financially proved to have faults within its foundation. She was broke, jobless and essentially homeless.
Dave didn't know Amy at all, but upon learning of her situation, he and his wife, and a number of their friends, instinctively rallied around her. They provided her shelter, food, and more importantly reassurance of hope amidst her pain and fear. Dave opened Amy's eyes to the knowledge that there are many good people in the world who do not call themselves Christians. This, at a time when she had no choice but to learn that many self-professed Christians are not necessarily good people.
Although Dave and I have much in common, there are stark differences in our lives. As I grew out of my teen years, I cut my hair and turned the volume down on my stereo. I began paying attention to the world around me, working more, and partying less. I became, for lack of a better phrase, a contributing member of society.
Dave's hair is still down around his waistband and he sports skull rings, spike laden leather wrist bands, and a general disdain for the world and reality. Yet he manages to live his life. He is still married and is a caring father.
Around the same time I met Dave, I also reintroduced myself to God. I've had a relationship with Him all this time too.
For many of those same years, Dave developed a different relationship...with heroin.
My first inclination when I realized he was using heroin was to abandon Dave.
Luckily, I came to my senses.
Several years ago, after seeing Dave in a state that I thought was a mere footfall from death, I used what small influence I had with him. I threatened Dave with the only thing we really had -- our relationship. I told him I couldn't watch him kill himself.
I don't think that was the lone motivating factor but, to the best of my knowledge, Dave has given up heroin. However, he is still a drug user...and not in the casual sense.
Last night, Amy and I had dinner with Dave, his wife, and stepson. It was wonderful. We laughed and told stories. We still enjoy each other's company.
Dave has no relationship with God. Honestly, I really don't foresee that he ever will, although I will pray I am wrong.
It's bizarre that Amy and I associate with him at all. We are leaders in a Baptist church.
Yet I can't help but feel that I owe it to God to maintain this relationship...and I know I owe it to Dave.
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Physicists say there is no such thing as empty space. Even a vacuum is filled with little marvels of matter or anti-matter, non-matter, subatomic matter or some such matter. None of that really matters to me, I only mentioned it because I had nothing to write about and I wanted to make sure I didn't blow the rules of physics by leaving this space empty today.
I have to admit, I was tempted. I woke up from my nap and realized it was Friday, which is always a nice feeling, but it rarely inspires me to action.
Then I remembered that I was at a local hospital yesterday because my friend Sam was getting a snout-reroute. While there I stumbled upon something I have never seen before...oddly enough in a Men's room.
Yes, that's a urinal.
No, it's not the first one I've ever seen.
However it is the first urinal I can ever remember seeing that had its own stall.
For those of you who might not be as intimately acquainted with such places due to your gender, the traditional arrangement is for urinals to be free standing. Privacy is not required because men have an unwritten rule to always face forward while standing at such places. This not only prevents embarrassing comparisons, but also decreases the odds that you'll ruin some stranger's shoes.
I've been in my share of Men's rooms but, until yesterday, I had never seen a urinal in its own tiny stall. Maybe this is more common than I thought, perhaps these are everywhere, like subatomic particles, and I've never noticed. In any case, it was a first for me.
This was, as they say in the land of un-gentry, a "two-holer" restroom. So there were two stalls.
The second contained the more common commode arrangement.
I will always remember this restroom and, like it or not, I will always associate it with a game show.
Everyone who enters must make a choice.
Door Number One? Or Door Number Two?
Thursday, September 11, 2003
I do not know you, Denny.
I have your Bible. I know it's yours because your name is embossed on the cover.
It's the King James Bible, and affixed in the center of the front and back covers are stickers...for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I don't know why.
A friend found the Bible last night protruding from a small white box, inside a garbage bag discarded on the edge of our church parking lot.
I do not know you, Denny.
I know you haven't had this Bible for very long. The binding is unbent and inside there is an inscription dated June 4, 2003.
The inscription reads in part, "I want you to have this Bible. I want you to know I love you with all my heart."
It's signed "Dad."
I do not know you Denny.
I don't know if you are hurting or believe you have a good reason to reject this gift.
I do not know you, Denny.
I'm going to hold onto your Bible in case you change your mind.
I will keep it inside that same little white box. The one marked, Handle with Care.
I would like to know you, Denny.
Please feel free to come inside my Father's House.
We will handle you with care too, I promise.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
This is a rare sight. It's not like these are endangered species...unless they bark during my nap.
These are just our dogs, and they're standing still. There's really no purpose to this post.
I put it here to remind myself that sometimes I should be thankful for those times when I can simply be still.
PSALM 37: 7-8
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil.
I don't know.
I don't know how to write my thoughts about this story and still stay within the boundaries I've set for myself in terms of profanity.
Our system of justice is going to proceed with lawsuits that scattershoot blame for the September 11th horrors. Lawsuits contending governmental agencies, building owners, aircraft makers, and any number of other people or entities should have anticipated these events.
They should have known.
That's the legal argument. They should have known.
"Hello, my name is Evil.
Here is my plan:
I will kill a few thousand of your people.
I will outrage you.
Then, I will let your lack of focus fester.
I will watch as you foment amid your freedoms.
I will immerse myself in glee as you devour yourselves."
We should know better.
The Cambodian government has cancelled that nation's first foray into Reality TV.
The Fear Factor-like show was deemed too inappropriate with people eating bugs and other creatures.
This is the quote from Cambodia's Information Minister:
"It is a dirty game. It might be OK in America, but it is not proper for Cambodian culture. Children are always watching TV and they sometimes copy what they see."
The wire story is quick to point out that people in Cambodia, who are not on TV, regularly eat bugs and other things that we would consider disgusting.
That's not the point. This enlightened Cambodian official has realized the nature of this type of programming and the path to which it leads will quickly give his nation more than indigestion.
I wish we found it a little harder to swallow.
Monday, September 08, 2003
Anyway, I had Amy polish up my resume, bio, and other associated materials that are required for the position I've recently applied for and I thought, "You know, my credentials are fairly impressive."
It helps being fond of writing...making up stuff comes so easy.
Actually, I look at the materials and wonder if although the lists of accomplishments might seem impressive, do they truly reflect me?-Who I am?
Certainly my resume outlines the basics of my career, and my bio gives a brief glimpse into some other areas of my life. The letter of recommendation from my Pastor shows some insight into my spirituality, at least the real letter. The first letter he handed me, which included a line assuring my possible future employer that my past criminal offenses shouldn't be an issue since "yours is not an agricultural school, right?", reminded me that I should add "proof reading skills" to my resume.
These are merely pieces of paper though. Two dimensional accounts. Perhaps flattering, but still flat.
These documents contain truth, but it is a truth that is sanitized. Unscathed. Unscarred.
They don't show the bags under my eyes.
They don't reflect the toll taken upon my thoughts by years of starting each day seeking out details of the misfortunes of others.
Worse yet, they don't reflect the all too familiar glee I have honestly felt upon realizing that, despite the horror of an event I had uncovered, I was relieved with the knowledge that, "at least we have a lead story."
These recaps don't reflect the sacrifices my wife and family have made since the day they met me to accept a man whose work hours and requirements rob them of time and too often of an even temperament.
But I suppose the documents will make a good first impression, and that's what they're supposed to do. If there are personal follow ups to this exercise in career expansion I can hopefully add a few dimensions to it all.
Thank God for that opportunity. I wouldn't want anyone to think they knew me based on these written accounts of accomplishment and accolade.
It may be hard to believe considering how wordy I've already been, but these thoughts today expanded beyond me.
I started thinking about the impression our country makes upon the world. Not our military might. Not our political bluster. Something much more pervasive and probably much more influential. Our media.
When people overseas see the TV show "Friends" are they seeing the values of my friends and my neighbors? What do people in other lands think when they watch Freddie vs Jason or Britney kissing Madonna?
Do they assume this is the accepted behavior of people I know? People I associate with?
It's so easy to make the wrong impression...it's also easy to get the wrong impression.
Can we always blame others when they come to the wrong conclusions about us, if this is the America we broadcast to the world?
As water reflects a face, so a man's heart reflects the man.
Sunday, September 07, 2003
Ah, Sunday. The day is full of promise and hope.
It got off to a somewhat rocky start. I was driving to church and using my electric razor when I got a subtle whiff of what smelled like bacon grease. This was an odd realization and I must admit I momentarily took it as a sign from God that my arteries were so clogged I was now literally exuding fat. Could every double bacon cheeseburger I had ever consumed now be exiting my pores?
Then I noticed that my entire passenger side seat had a slightly stained tint to it.
Upon further inspection I realized I was wrong. It wasn't bacon grease. It was sausage juice.
Yesterday I had taken an evening meal, which Amy prepared, to some friends and evidently I took a few turns too fast...leaving the pork equivalent of skid marks on my car seat.
Still it was nice to know the odor wasn't emanating from me. One of my car windows doesn't roll up all the way so the hint of Eau De Porcine will actually be a nice change of pace from the Musk of Mold with which I've become accustomed.
Yes, I'm feeling optimistic.
Today was our "New Beginnings" Sunday at church where the Sunday school classes are introduced and we prepare for a new year of study. Being Baptists this, of course, is another excuse to hold a "pot luck". There was lots of good food and good community.
This is going to be an exciting year. We're splitting the adult class which I think will be good for our church and for me personally. There will be a more structured bible study and then the more wizened Cynics and Mystics, who have had a tendency to dominate our wallflower contingent, will be relegated to a place all their own.
Our new classroom building will soon be finished so these classes will have actual places to meet. It's not yet been determined if the Cynics and Mystics class will be finished out with padding on the walls. I will lobby though for doors that lock...from the outside.
All in all I am feeling very hopeful today.
I'm sure this feeling will last....until the Cowboys kickoff.
Saturday, September 06, 2003
They say as couples grow older each member becomes more like the other. This is obviously true in our case. Last week I managed to wrench my back, and now Amy has bollixed hers. I'm getting better, but Amy had to go horizontal this afternoon for an extended nap. When I walked into the bedroom later I noticed she had supplanted my place beside her with another form of sustenance.
The only thing that came to mind was a prayer from long ago.
"Now I lays me down to sleep...."
"Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett
I've been thinking about failure today. The thoughts started bubbling up as a result of the recent discussions about changing jobs, moving, charting a new direction in life.
What's terrifying is the fear of failing.
"You won't skid if you stay in a rut." - Kin Hubbard
I only failed two classes when I was in school. I failed geometry in high school because I was a stoned teenager who didn't pay attention and by the time I started paying attention I didn't have a clue. Geometry is really a study in logic, and if you miss out on the first few steps, it never seems very logical.
I retook the class and made an "A".
I failed an urban studies course in college because I had a next door neighbor who worked as a secretary in that department of the University and she thought she would do me a favor by giving me a copy of the first test in advance. I chose to cheat and made an "A". I felt so guilty that I never went back to the class. I also never made up that course. I wanted an "F" on my permanent record as a permanent reminder.
"There are two kinds of failures: those who thought and never did, and those who did and never thought." - Laurence J. Peter
In retrospect I'm thankful for both of those events. The geometry experience helped me learn that if you want to win in the end, you have to start at the beginning. The cheating experience reminded me that I've had to work for everything in life that I truly value.
I've had plenty of other failures.
I'll have more.
I can only pray I won't fail...to learn from them too.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. - Psalm 73:26
Friday, September 05, 2003
Amy tells a story of when Tiffany was very, very young and she caught her Dad in a parental ruse. Tiffany responded with astonishing and astute annoyance, "Daddy, don't try using reverse psychology on me!"
Tiffany is a very bright lady. She is my stepdaughter, we're not actually related by blood, which further explains her early ability to discern when she was being played like a wheezing asthmatic at a bagpipe festival.
As for me...
Last night as we were going to bed, I mentioned to Amy that if I were to consider applying for this job in Ohio it would mean some fairly radical changes for us. Amy said, "You'll actually apply for that job when pigs fly."
In all honesty, for us to pack up and move it would take more money than could probably be offered and a series of miracles, not the least of which would be for Cedarville University to lose all common sense; however it's not like it takes a lot of work to fill out an application, print a resume, and drop it in the mail. Considering the number of relatives now in on the conspiracy it almost takes more of an effort to not do it.
Today I started thinking how easily I am able to say, "well, that's nice a dream...BUT" or "I know this is really what you want ..BUT" or "We'll be able to one day, BUT".
So, I applied for the job....
If nothing else, maybe I'll stop feeling like such a BUT.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
My wife is leading a plot to get me to quit my job and move to Ohio. This is not news. It's not even a thinly veiled conspiracy any longer. It's an outright assault which I've become accustomed to, and quite frankly, do not oppose on the condition that it makes economic, spiritual, and common sense.
I admit I've been a tad resistant for silly little reasons like: I've invested nearly 20 years in my current position. We have no money. We're deep in debt. We'd lose our medical insurance. I occasionally like to eat.
The latest position that appeared for my perusal is for the Operations Director of a Christian radio station/broadcast network at a small Baptist University.
My qualifications for the post are subject to debate, but I could probably wing it.
Since this is a religious school there are some other criteria beyond skills and experience, including the signing of a Doctrinal statement. I read it over, and although it's fairly fundamentalist in viewpoint, I really have no strong theological objections to the beliefs being espoused.
Then there is the "Lifestyle commitment", with which all employees must agree to abide.
I read through it and as I went along I thought, "Okay, I could do this".
Employees should do only those things that glorify God. I'm certainly in favor of that.
Employees must abstain from alcoholic beverages. I drink wine these days, but in moderation and I quit drinking for ten years so I could live with that.
No tobacco: No problem.
No non-medical use of narcotics: Been there, done that, no desire to see the replay.
No unwholesome media materials: Personally I think most media is unwholesome, but I figure that's subjective and they're probably referring to porn, so that's not an issue.
No gambling: That'll save us some money.
No dancing: Amy will be crushed, since we've been dancing exactly ZERO times since I've known her, but I could probably survive as long as foot tapping is allowed.
Respect the Lord's day: No problem here, assuming this is not a prohibition on watching football on Sundays.
Dress appropriately: Believe me the more of me I keep covered the better I feel and those feelings are echoed by everyone around me.
No racism, disrespect, or unethical conduct: I'm home free.
We're coming down to the wire..only two words left in the whole "Lifestyle commitment" pledge!
DOH! That one might be a deal breaker :)
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Well, I've lost the top spot on Google when you search for McGriddle recipe. I'm not even on the list anymore, and only last week I was number one. Fame is so fleeting.
I'm now setting my sights on being number one when I egosurf Google for Michael Main. There are lots of Michael Main's, but the guy who is always ranked at the top is a computer science teacher in Colorado. I sent him an email once that said something clever like: "Nice name."
I'm currently ranked at number three.
This makes perfect Google sense, since his website is: www.cs.colorado.edu/~main/.
And mine is the far more confusing: www.michaelmain.com
On a brighter note, the scientists who told us yesterday that we all might die in less than a dozen years because an asteroid might hit the earth, now say they were wrong. Hopefully you hadn't already made plans to flee.
I woke up two minutes before my alarms (yes, plural...I use two alarms because I'm a paranoid freak about waking up) were scheduled to go off this morning. I hate it when that happens. I like cracking my eyelids, rolling over and coming to the blurry realization that I still have some time to sleep. It's wonderful when there's about another hour. Two minutes? That stinks.
I do play time games with my clocks, they're set 20 minutes fast. I do this because I don't want to face the fact I wake up at 1:45, so my alarm is set for 2:04 and my clock is set ahead.
You wake up at 1:45 for 15 or 20 years before rushing to judgment on whether I'm sane or not.
I can't play the snooze button shuffle, I don't want to be repeatedly "alarmed" plus it would be annoying for Amy, but I can finesse myself back into oblivion with the knowledge that I have ten more minutes of slumber if I happen to wake up in advance of the alarms.
I can even fudge five.
Two minutes...120 lousy seconds? Might as well get up.
Florida will execute Paul Hill tonight. The former minister murdered two men, one an abortion doctor. Hill is unrepentant. This is the quote from him which we aired over and over this morning, "I expect a great reward in heaven. I am looking forward to glory. I don't feel remorse."
I'm against abortion. I'm pro-life. I waver on the death penalty, but I'm opposed to murder. I also dislike giving murderers air time, no matter how well spoken they may be, but today I made the decision to put Hill's comments on the air.
He got more far more minutes of attention than he deserved.
And I do feel remorse...
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
"My name is Michael and I dog ear books."
Our kids freaked out when they first saw me bending pages of newly purchased books. I never use bookmarks. I keep track of my place by folding the tops of pages, and I will often mark poignant passages which I think I may want to return to, by bending the bottom of pages.
For the record, I don't mar the sheeted sanctity of books that I have borrowed - my mother was a librarian and 30+ years after her death her stare can still haunt the back of my neck. Nonetheless, I've always felt books should be manhandled. We should chew on the writer's words and consume their meanings to our lives. To me that type of devouring should leave a messy trail. We should savor and swallow, spit out crumbs, and I find no offense at the occasional droppings of the wisdom we have digested.
I do draw the line at writing in books though. With the exception of the Bible, I find it distracting to pick up someone's book and find scribblings in the margins or words underlined.
The other day I purchased a book of some of the writings of Thomas Merton. It was on sale in the "next to nothing section" of Barnes and Noble. By the way, if you aspire to write for the Christian community don't ever go into Barnes and Noble, it's depressing.
Anyway, for the under-educated like me, Merton was many things: A Catholic priest, a monk, a highly influential writer, and a peace advocate. He died in some freak accident, electrocuted in a bathtub, which has nothing to with anything, but I like little facts like that.
I'm sure there are many things I will disagree with or not understand in Merton's writings, but one thing he wrote literally stunned me by its simplistic reality.
"The discovery of Christ is never genuine if it is nothing but a flight from ourselves...it cannot be an escape. It must be a fulfillment."
When I read that I grabbed a pen and underlined it. I folded the page too.
I wincingly rolled out of bed and into the ibuprophen this morning.
"Bend at the knees!"
That's something my mind yells at me on regular occasions to remind me that I have back problems. Of course, one of my many personal flaws is that I ignore this advice too often. In fact I really only hear it clearly when my back is searing in pain and even then it's drowned out a bit by my periodic screams.
I came home from work and spent a few hours on my back....I was feeling better until I got up and read this little day brightener.
An asteroid may be headed for Earth. It could hit in 2014. How nice. The odds are like 900,000 to one, but then again those are better odds than what are offered by the Texas lottery and I've actually wagered money thinking I might have a shot at winning that. Wouldn't that be just my luck?
Maybe someone else is telling us:
"Bend at the knees!"
Monday, September 01, 2003
Please bring bed rolls or air mattresses when you come home to visit. We love you, but we've decided paying a mortgage to maintain shrines to your childhoods is a symptom of insanity. You should be proud of us, it's one of the few symptoms we've recognized without you pointing them out to us.
Your memories are still in the house. In boxes. In closets. In the garage. There are some exceptions. The waterbed in Joey's room is no more. The crusty mattress dating back to my college years was hauled off today. The wood I saved. We converted some of it into a workbench for Amy's computer business today. The rest we'll probably make into shelves. Oh, we also converted Joey's room to hold the workbench and the shelves. Additionally that area now hosts the inventory for Amy's Tastefully Simple business .
Technically this means Joey doesn't have a room here any more....however his Mom now has an office.
He's such a giving son.
This also means we saw something shocking in the upstairs family room today...the floor. I'm still learning how to negotiate my way to the stairs without having to hop, lean, and slither, but I'm fairly certain I'll get the hang of it.
Not to worry, we still have some actual bedding available. There are the day beds in Lisa's room.
She's only been away at college a week, give us time.
We also have a Papasan chair in Tiffany's old room, at least until Erin comes back from China and reclaims it. I've never slept in a Papasan chair, but I hear they're comfortable...if you're a small Chinese person. We sold Tiffany's bed some time ago to a woman with little children. She had a big need and a small budget, it seemed the Christian thing to do...and she paid cash.
We still have a pullout couch right next to my 1939 radio downstairs. There's no privacy in that room, but besides the radio, that's also where the piano and the wine cabinet are, so privacy might become less of an issue as the night wears on...if you bring sheet music and a corkscrew.
Upstairs we still also have the futon (futon being the Japanese word for: houseguests discouraged).
Admittedly, the futon smells like dog, but if you end up sleeping there you likely won't notice that ...since Klondike will probably snuggle up next to you....
All 90 pounds of him. You're welcome to tell him "NO!" It's not a word he knows, but I've found it somewhat cathartic over the years to yell it in his direction.
It's sad in many ways to see your kids grow up. To realize that Amy and I are entering a new season in life. However today I feel like we've seen some possibilities amid the pain.
Apparently, the nestlings aren't the only ones who can spread their wings with this empty nest syndrome thing.