Friday, December 31, 2004

The Sauterne Dies Tonight

"An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves"- William E. Vaughan

I saw that quote while reading my blog friend Chuck's newspaper column the other day and figured it sort of fit my thoughts on 2004, and it was also easy to steal....Thank you God for cut and paste.

Amy and I are not big on New Year's Eve celebrations. When I was out of control with alcohol and substance abuse, before Amy knew me, I scoffed at the revelers as "amateurs." Now I think we're both simply more comfortable being where it's quiet and safe on New Year's Eve...home.

I've also never really been big on using January 1 as the date to start a diet, or discipline. I think the only one that I really tried and stuck with for any length of time was to read the Bible over the course of a year... I bogged down in Jeremiah around was 2001; Jeremiah wasn't the only thing I found hard to fathom that year.

This year though is different. Amy and I are looking forward to 2004 being behind much so, we're killing a fancy bottle of wine.

We're not big drinkers (I was forced into mandatory retirement from the alcohol pros for some ten years) but we do now allow ourselves a glass or two of wine. This year Amy hasn't been able to drink - heck for most of the year she couldn't eat - and her taste for wine has not returned still, but I think she'll savor one glass of this wine tonight.

The wine was given to us by a friend with the stipulation that it be saved for a very special time.

It's only a 350 ml bottle - that means it's about a half a bottle - but it's still a very expensive wine and we've never had an event occur which we believed merited its uncorking. It's sat on top of our entertainment center in the living room for a couple of years at least, as a decoration.

Today I put it in the fridge - it's a wine which must be served ice cold - and it's about to succumb to our revelry.

We are saying good bye and good riddance to has been a hard year. I have seen people I loved and cared for deeply die, people I have worshipped the Lord with have gone to join Him, others have wandered away in their spiritual journies. Amy has been through so much medically it would take all night to recap. We have struggled financially, and my brother used politics as a way of escaping an honest relationship with us. I have cried alone more this year than at any time in my life.

Yet I have also prayed more, my relationship with Amy has grown stronger than I ever thought possible, I have laughed in the face of demons that once would have dragged me into dark places where I would have allowed them to torture me without mercy. I have come to understand the imperative of turning my burdens over to God in a new and promising way. Admittedly the lessons have often been painful, but I have learned about true faith and I know with certainty that I have been guided by the Holy Spirit.

2005 is a year which we expect will be better...much better. Our young friend Erin, having endured a year in rural China, has accepted our offer to live in our home, only a marginal step up sanitation-wise from her previous digs, while she finds her way in life. My company this year will launch a true radio news network in association with FOX and should I choose to do so I may play a very active role in that challenge.

Most importantly though, Amy's health is the best it's been all year and she's getting better every day.

So 2004 is bitter sweet and we have declared New Year's Eve a special night. The wine that dies tonight is a true Sauterne, a very sweet dessert wine. 2004 was bittersweet. 2005 is full of hope.

God is steadfast.

Amy just hollered up the stairs, "Five minutes!" I promised I would be finished writing by 7:30.

I'm done now...done with 2004 too.

May God Bless you.

God bless 2005!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Book Of Numbers

Lately I start each day writing and reporting stories about how many people in another part of the world are dead.

I'm used to it. In the news business you get jaded toward death and devastation.

In truth all of us do, folks in my business simply attempt to adjust to such horrors more quickly I think.

I mean how many of you are walking about in sack cloth and ashes mourning the thousands who died in the earthquake in Bam, Iran?

That was horrifying remember? Maybe you've was so long ago...One year exactly 365 days before the tsunami disaster.

The death toll figures from that tragedy swung wildly, at one point up to 60 thousand, eventually the Iranian government settled on 30,000 dead. We'll never really know.

I have listened to police and fire scanners eight hours a day almost every day for nearly the past 30 years. It is not uncommon for me to hear police called to a "shooting" only to find when they arrive that no shot was fired. Often these calls are made by people who know that if they call police saying, "someone stole my car stereo" it may be hours or days before an officer arrives, but if they report a "shooting" there will be a swarm of police in their neighborhood within minutes.

Impoverished people in my city call EMS all the time... "for headaches." They use the EMS system instead of going to a doctor, because they can't afford a doctor or don't want to wait in long lines or don't have transportation to free clinics. The city sends them a bill. Most don't ever pay, but they received a "check up" from a medical professional - what they needed. They used the tactics that work in the world in which they live.

I mention this only because if there is any imaginable way to offer a fragment of hope in tragedies such as what is happening in South Asia and East Africa, it must be framed in such cynicism. In countries like Iran or Indonesia where help was/is desperately needed - and needed urgently - it benefits no one to "under estimate" the degree of devastation. The more significant the horror, the faster and more plentiful aid arrives.

Please don't get me wrong, this is the economics of is a reality, not a value judgment.

News people, relief workers, public officials, emergency personnel and the general public are used to tacking a "death toll" to tragedy.

I truly believe this is one way we as a society assigning value we are able to embrace calamity and to grieve.
I fear though it's also basic math...death tolls, body counts, casualty figures...allow us to reduce the unfathomable to a jumble of numbers.

Some months ago, after noticing it on an email from an old friend, I added a link at the bottom of this blog to The Hunger Site. If you click on that link you will help feed hungry people. One click provides 1.1 cups of staple food donated by the site's sponsors.

1 click....1.1 cups of food.

I don't write stories or report those numbers every day...I wish I did though.


Addendum: I came back upstairs to print out some crossword puzzles and I thought, "Why couldn't I ask people to feed the hungry every day?" So now you'll notice under "Click here to leave a comment" is another link "Click here to fight hunger." If you read this blog's one or two extra clicks.

O Lord , by Your hand save me from such men, from men of this world whose reward is in this life. You still the hunger of those You cherish; their sons have plenty, and they store up wealth for their children. - Psalm 17:14

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Fire & Ice

I saw this picture this morning. I don't remember where.

click to enlarge

When I do I'll at least give the publication I stole it from credit, but right now I simply wanted to share it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Bargain Hunt

There was a time, in our life before poverty, when we had cable TV with hundreds of channels we didn't watch. It was digital and we could spend hours with the remote control flipping past shows of no interest until eventually we'd fall asleep.

During this time Amy found one channel out of the 743 channels available which had programs she adored...BBC America. She fell in love with people who spoke in a language I eventually recognized as English.

BBC America's programming has been widely imitated in the U.S. It's where all those "makeover" programs started except the American networks outspend the BBC. Where ABC might spend a million dollars making over someone's home, the BBC would fork over a thousand bucks to put some plants in some unsuspecting woman's backyard, plus they'd require the spouse/lover/children/neighbors of the "winner" to do half the work.

One program on the BBC which no American network has stolen yet is "Bargain Hunt."

It was hosted by this guy:

Although having a host, or "presenter" as they're called in England, such as this clown might be reason enough not to do an Americanized version, I believe the brain trusts at American networks figure "Bargain Hunt" simply won't translate to the U.S. because it's ...well, it's cheap.

The premise is there are two teams made up of various combinations of people: a man and wife, father and daughter, mother and daughter, two gentleman "friends", a couple of drinking buddies, neighbors, etc. Each team is given roughly 150 bucks and told to go hunt around flea markets, garage sales or wherever to try to find a bargain. Then a week later whatever they have bought during their wild and wooly adventure is put up for auction. If the items they bought sell for more than they purchased them for, they get to keep the "profit!"

As I'm sure you can envision - this is compelling stuff. It's hard to believe it's only a 30 minute seems so much longer. There are lengthy -serious- discussions on whether an antique fishing reel is worth 40 quid, or whether one team made a grave mistake and overpaid for a 1950's era picnic basket because the original spoons were missing.

When I watched (insomnia will do strange things to you), more often than not, the teams lost money at the auctions. That was how the show climaxed almost every time. There was a "winner" though...the team that "lost" the least. End of show. No one got parting gifts Johnny, no new car, no cash, no surprise visit from an offspring the participants didn't know they fathered...not diddly. Everyone simply went home.

Now, on those rare occasions when the turquoise colored ceramic Eiffel tower a team purchased actually made money at the auction then it was a time for great excitement and the winning team would get very enthused, plus they got to keep the cash...not the 150 bucks. The show got its 150 bucks back; the team got to split whatever money remained after paying back the show.


Often "the winners" would split like 6 dollars and be absolutely giddy.

Maybe it's because they had this guy:

To keep us on the edge of our seats and to keep viewers from wondering why they would watch a show where the big prize might pay for a large one topping Tuesday night special pizza...if you didn't tip the delivery guy.

Anyway, this was a very long way to get to my point.

Amy and I are going to do our own version of Bargain Hunt.

Yes, that should give you a good indication of the exciting lives we lead.

Actually I was thinking of cheap dates and this show kept coming back to mind.

We haven't ironed out all the rules but essentially once or twice a month we're each going to take ten bucks and go together to sleazy pawn shops, flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores and the like and look for something we think we can sell on Ebay for a profit. The profit will have to cover the eBay listing fees, etc.

I think we've determined that whoever makes the most "profit", if any, will get to keep it and should the other player also make money the "winner" will get to keep the other player's money as well.

The initial ten bucks will have to be returned though.

That's it...end of game.

Since we're limiting ourselves to ten dollars I don't think we're going to get rich, but we're also not going to go broke.

In truth I'm only hoping for two or three things: That we get out of the house and spend time together; that we have some cheap laughs while admiring truly tacky merchandise, and of course, most of all, I'm hoping we never run into this guy:

Monday, December 27, 2004

Time And Temperment

I had every intention today of writing about my phone conversations with occasional callers to the newsroom. It's hit or miss when you pick up the phone, sometimes it's someone wanting information, and sometimes it's a crazy person.

What I really wanted to do was post a brief recording of one of the more humorous requests for information left on my voice mail, but Amy objected saying, "Our nieces read that!"

That's true, but our nieces listen to the radio too and that's where this guy heard it.

Anyway the caller asked for information about a product we apparently advertised at one time which...well let's simply say claimed to produce an "enhanced love experience." He left his full name and phone number twice before requesting I call him back to tell him how to obtain more information about that one hour "love experience."

I never returned his call, but over Amy's objections, I'm probably going to post the audio tomorrow...I have to edit it anyway. It's not pornographic or anything, I simply don't want to give out the guy's name and phone number.

What makes it slightly humorous in my mind is that the caller is a bit elderly. Actually I looked him up through a public database and discovered he's 83 years old.

Personally I think an 83 year old seeking information about a "one hour love experience" deserves some credit...if not applause.

What brought that character to mind today was that I had a lengthy discussion with an 84 year old man this morning who was upset that we didn't update the temperature "every minute." I understood his point actually, at this time of year the temperature can rise rapidly between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., but the National Weather Service only gives out hourly temperatures so during the 8 o'clock hour we give the 8 o'clock temperature. At 8:45 that temperature is in truth often off by a few degrees. This was important today to an 84 year old man.

What always strikes me as funny with these conversations, usually they're more hostile than this nice gentleman was, is that most of the callers already have the information; they're simply upset we're not broadcasting it. Often this is the case when it comes to traffic...people will call up and scream at me because, "You're not telling people about the delay on I-35!" Obviously these folks, almost always men by the way, already know there is a delay on I-35, but because they're not hearing on the radio what they already know it upsets them to the point that they call to scream at anyone who answers the phone - I have virtually nothing to do with our traffic coverage by the way- but I do have a direct line.

I think it is a social phenomenon worthy of further day.

Today the elderly gentleman I spoke with told me it was 46 degrees and we were saying it was 32. When I mentioned that the National Weather Service gauges showed it was "officially 32" at the airport, 36 degrees in another part of town, and 40 in yet another, he insisted it was 46. His window thermometer said so. Who am I to argue? We didn't make much progress, but we parted friends.

Anyway that's what I was going to write about but Amy objected to the one hour "love experience" audio so my mind wandered to Ebay. I was going to put up for bid an old cast iron bank I bought for a quarter at a garage sale more than 35 years ago, but I wanted to do some research first.

There are a bunch of similar banks on Ebay that aren't selling for much but they're not exactly like mine and what little research I have done turned up differing results. Apparently two similar banks were made, by two different companies. One appears to be worth a lot of isn't. I can't really tell which one I have, so I'm putting the sale on hold until I can go to the library or find someone who knows more than me about cast iron banks (which is pretty much anyone).

In any case, now I'm out of time to write and I haven't accomplished much of anything.

Well except oddly enough that I may have a bit more empathy for the frustration of one 83 year old man.

(my nieces shouldn't click here)

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Still Life

We have a love hate relationship with our dogs...I dare not put a percentage to it.

Anyway, it's hard to get the dogs to sit still for a picture together without one of them licking, snarling, wandering off, or going hunting for socks.

Now we have a picture...a gift from our son.

He didn't get them to sit still either...he simply drew them in charcoal.

click to enlarge

It's dead on...even including the current makeshift haircut we gave Winston, the special needs dog. The little white lines coming off Winston are a trick of the light, not drool, although that certainly would be appropriate.

We may have a love hate relationship with the dogs...but we will cherish that at least sits still.

Suddenly I'm repressing the desire for one our daughters to marry a taxidermist.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Books, Rings And That Love Thing

To: Ruth
Love: Boaz

with apologies to Clement Moore and to all who despise bad poetry.

It's Christmas morning, and all through the house
Everyone is still sleeping, including my spouse.

The "children" will snooze until at least nine or ten
Amy broke with tradition wrapping some gifts before then.

I snuck out this morning and grabbed two gift sacks
Bless the gift bag inventor - no more panic attacks

Triggered by scissors paper and tape,
resulting in presents appeared wrapped by an ape.

Inside are two books - one from a friend, the other from me.
They both are of hymns with detailed history.

That's all I'm giving my wife on this day,
with one exception...a note that will say:

"Soon will arrive another small gift.
You know what it is - I'm not that swift.

The box will contain a petite silver band
To match the one I wear, on my left hand.

The letters are Hebrew from the book of Ruth.
They speak of a promise, a love, and a truth.

"Whither thou goest, I will follow."
they say.
Words true for tomorrow as well as today.

A few words of mine will be on a note inside.
Meager expressions of love - a dream for my bride.

They ask her to "glean" with me love - perhaps laughter.
To live fairy tale lives...happily ever after.


May all of you who have blessed us with love, prayer and grace so preciously over this past year have a Christmas of wonderment and fun, and please know you have brought great joy and faith to our lives in so many ways.


Michael & Amy

Friday, December 24, 2004

Morning Eve

It's Christmas Eve...I think most of our mania is behind us.

I'm up early and after I slurp down some coffee that was made far too long ago but is still warm enough for the truly lazy, I'm going to drive over to the church.

It needs to be cleaned before tonight's service and I might as well get it done while everyone else is snoozing. It's 30 degrees, so the dogs aren't even clamoring to go outside.

The quiet of the church will be different though.

Even in this weather, there will be warmth found few other places.

I think I will enjoy this Christmas Eve morning.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Snow Way

Tina asked in the comments section if we've received any snow in South Texas. It doesn't really snow here. Well, I shouldn't say 1985 San Antonio recorded 13 plus inches of snow. It was then that the city came to the collective conclusion that if it gets cold and anything resembling snow, rain, ice, sleet, or excessive snot falls to the ground we should have a plan. The "San Antonio ICE PLAN" was then developed. It really has three parts.
Part 1: We close all the roads so no one can get anywhere.
Part 2: Everyone tries to go places anyway causing innumerable traffic accidents.
Part 3: The local TV stations abandon normal programming and instead run wall to wall coverage of reporters dressed in anything that they can find that looks like it was purchased from the gift shop of the "Northern Exposure" set. The reporters are then told to go anywhere that appears cold, even if that means a local restaurant walk in freezer.

We haven't really had any snow of substance since 1985, but we've implemented the ICE PLAN every year or two at least.

Since there is no snow, the reporters must fill time by telling us insightful things like, "it's cold." Once in a while they'll do something brilliant like stick their tongue to a metal highway overpass railing - well one can dream - but usually they drive around town stopping periodically to get out of their news vehicles to tell us "Live and Local" that no one should be driving around town. During these enlightening reports I've found it most entertaining to watch for watch to see if there is any nasal discharge dripping from the reporter's well powdered yet reddened schnozzles. Thankfully, TV photographers take great joy in getting close ups of the reporters when this occurs.
Of course if any city official is watching and spies that nasal seepage they sound the alarm again, and the ICE PLAN is extended.

Each TV station spends several seconds also dreaming up a name for their live local in depth team coverage of the fact that it's cold and there is a one in 400 million chance of snow. They then rush to produce a graphic blaring whatever clever moniker their brainstorming session has produced which they flash in the corner of the screen every several seconds - something clever like - "The Big Chill", "Ice Ball 95", "Arctic At The Alamo" or "Polar Distress!"

In truth, there's actually a chance for snow flurries in San Antonio over the next couple days, but there's also a chance Donald Trump will realize he has a family of weasels living on his head. The odds are against it actually happening.

No White Christmas.

We'll improvise.

(photo swiped from the local newspaper which is not worthy of mention)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Cowardly Lion -"Alright, I'll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I'll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I'm going in there. There's only one thing I want you fellows to do."
Tin Woodsman and Scarecrow - "What's that?"
Cowardly Lion - "Talk me out of it."

Amy is seemingly doing better physically. We got out with the intention of doing some Christmas shopping today...I'm not sure we actually did any but we did spend a lot of time amidst the throng of shoppers.

Amy had to pick up something from a friend who sells something one of the girls wanted. I waited in the car and woke up 45 minutes later. That's a good life lesson...never pass up the opportunity for a good nap.

Among the stores we waded into was Sam's and since the weather had suddenly turned frigid I dropped Amy out front while I parked somewhere near Waco and allowed the 20 degree storm gusts to propel me quickly toward the doors. It wasn't until I got inside the giant store that I realized I had left my cell phone in the car. I assured myself I could find Amy sans technology and walked the store perimeter 4 or 5 times availing myself of the free samples each trip around with little or no shame. I never spotted Amy, but I do recommend the fake seafood salad...I don't know what they make fake seafood out of, but I'm fairly certain it's best not to ask.

Eventually I trudged back through the blustering winds to the car and got my phone.

Stores are so big we have to each carry mobile phones lest we lose each other shopping.

Amy was in aisle 34 befuddled by the high price of the 80 pack boxes of gum.

We opted against the gum but still spent 80 dollars, some of which was spent on fake seafood salad at the last minute.

Tiffany and her boyfriend joined us for dinner. When all three kids and Amy sit down to a meal especially when they haven't seen each other for a long time there is no semblance of sanity to the conversation. It took me years to figure out how to listen to what appear to be four different discussions going on at once and realize they're somehow all tied together. Tiffany's boyfriend was completely in the dark. I merely offered him a knowing glance of reassurance. I'm assuming it's like one of those "immersion" language courses, you simply have to be constantly exposed to it and then one day it makes a degree of sense.

He'll learn.

Some days you go shopping in order to sleep, you go walking in order to eat, you realize your only link to sanity is a cell phone and that being confused is easily tolerable if there is food nearby.

There's nothing to fear really....once you find the order amid the chaos

Auntie Em -"Why don't you find a place where there isn't any trouble?"
Dorothy-"A place where there isn't any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place Toto? There must be. It's not a place you can get to by a boat or a train. It's far, far away. Behind the moon, beyond the rain."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Oh Dread Oh Dread A Man At Yule

Amy is feeling puny. We're not sure if it's dehydration or the general malaise brought about by the reality that the holidays are actually here. In any case, she's got a slight fever. Her doctor is making noises about IV's again, we're praying against another "direct admit" and I have decided to make a preemptive strike of pessimism and embark into the frightening world I commonly refer to heck.

Yes, I've decided to go Christmas shopping to make certain we have some gifts for the kids come Christmas day in case Amy doesn't start to rally.

Mercifully there is not much to buy and I ordered a few things on line already.

I have steeled myself for this task, at least some of it - one of the girls wants some make up which I fear is going to require me to master the "man in the mall serpentine attack approach" to avoid women with little misting spray bottles of smelly stuff lingering near the cosmetics counter.

I can fire back if it comes to that...I had bean soup for lunch.

Of course, if push comes to shove I can always fall back on that which I know best...excuses...and cash.

The kids will recover and I won't have to remember where I put the receipts because no exchanges will be necessary.

Hi Ho Hi Ho...It's off to um....heck....I go.

Jack Of Broken Hearts

I have chronicled before the unfortunate life of the man with a fortune.

The latest development again drives home what it means to be truly "rich."

Jack Whittaker, the winner of the largest lottery prize in American history, has now suffered yet another tragedy. The death of his grandaughter.

She was 17.

315 million dollars doesn't seem like very much does it?

Monday, December 20, 2004

Fluid Motions

Spent today sort of picking up around the house and working on the youngest kid's computer -spyware everywhere.. Now I'm tired and writing seems like a remote concept. I'm determined to get in a walk though.

Amy is having some difficulties with fluids so I'm having to play to the electrolyte nazi while trying not to get bummed.

Anyway...there are more important things to do than write, which is also a wonderful excuse since I have nothing to write about.

Christmas is coming up isn't it?

Better start thinking about shopping.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Miracles They're Not Just For Christmas Anymore

I woke up this morning and tears streamed from my eyes. I looked at Amy sleeping comfortably next to me and thought of my youngest daughter upstairs sleeping knowing they would both be with me in church today. We'll be joined by our oldest child too who will drive in from Kerrville, and tomorrow our son comes home from Ohio. All of that in itself is enough to make me tear up these days....but I've seen miracles...true miracles and I woke up thinking about them and how God has used them to carry me through this past year or two.

It was in September of 2003 that I think I first mentioned Amy's pain although our medical saga began several years prior.

It is December of 2004 and I think I have my wife back.

She still has some pain and nausea, but she's got something that she's been lacking for many many months...fight. The fight is back in Amy. She is fighting for her health care, she is fighting physically - tackling jobs around the house that I've put among my lowest priorities because my highest priorities took up all of my time; she is fighting spiritually - realizing a true battle - spiritual warfare - has been taking place all around her, heck, she may be close to ready to start fighting the insurance company and doctors over some of these medical bills that I have piled in a box labeled "One day."

This a wonderful day...but it's a day made possible by miracles. Miracles upon miracles.

I was speaking with a co-worker the other night explaining how spiritually enlightening this ordeal had been and I said, "I can point to days on my calendar and tell you how God blessed me that day, at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way to keep me going." There are a lot of days, a lot of blessings. One day I will go through my calendar, and my blog, and list them all - but that's going to take more time than I have this morning. I've already taken more time than I should...and I won't be late for church, I promise.

I can mention a few.

I can mention the new relationship I have with my co-worker Randy. We've worked together for nearly two decades but now we share our lives as Christian men. Our conversations deal less with show prep and more with spiritual matters (I don't think our show has suffered as a result, in truth almost anything would improve that show...I'm only kidding Randy...sort of). Randy has become someone I can lean on, and also an unexpected and true source of healing for Amy.

There was the time some months ago when I realized Amy and I were on the brink of true financial ruin (not that we're fat with cash today, but we've at least tamed a few dragons). I knew we had to sell Amy's van in a hurry, but we hadn't had any takers, heck we didn't have anyone even come to look at it. I reached a point, "God how often have You shown me this lesson?" where I fell to my knees, declared I was helpless and I needed God's intervention.

The next day I got a call from a small family with big needs who eventually bought that van. At the time I knew it was the right thing to do even though I had to reduce the price. I had no choice because that family reminded me so much of Amy and I ten years ago...desperate for transportation, with three small kids. I knew God was answering my prayer.

Several days later I wrote a rather cryptic entry thanking a friend. I didn't offer any details because I know this man well and I know he wouldn't want that, but I'm going to elaborate a little more now. That friend sent Amy and me a check out of the blue. It was a check for the exact amount of money I had discounted the van (I'm fairly certain I never wrote how much I cut the price so you decide whether God had a hand in that or not). I normally would not have accepted such a gift, but he included a tiny note which I can quote exactly because it's taped to the computer monitor in front of me. It reads, "Michael, God asked me to do this. Please allow me to do be obedient to him by accepting this gift of love."

How do you refuse love such as that?

It was a miracle as far as I was concerned. It allowed me to pay off the little nagging debts that had been allowed to loom so large. I keep that note taped to my monitor to remind me that if at all possible I will return that love ten-fold one day to someone in need.

There was the day a credit union loan officer called me after we had been rejected for a higher credit limit and said, "Mr. Main, I've looked over your credit history and after hearing about your wife and what you've been through I've decided our credit union can take a chance on you. We're making a lot of exceptions but I think we're doing the right thing."

There were days of car repairs made easy (tell me that's not a miracle...anyone I dare you), and emails of encouragement sent to or read by Amy at exactly the right moment, which boosted her confidence. There were miracles of healing, miracles of mercy, miracles of love, family members who altered their lives to try to stabilize ours.

As I said, one day I will list them all...and I will cry.

Today though I will sit in church as Amy joins several other women in singing a song called "No Room". Next to me will be our two daughters and I will sob in gratefulness...for God has made room for miracles...and has performed miracles for me.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Remembering And Reminders

I spent Thursday evening at a retirement party sharing stories many of my co-workers had never heard. It was nice to reminisce. Our industry has changed so much that there aren't a lot of old timers around any more and certainly the way things operate these days is far more rigid than in years past.

That doesn't bother me. It's how it has to order to maintain control sometimes you have to tighten the reigns.

Last night, Amy and I attended Christmas party for my corporation. It was lavish and loud. It was crowded and although it was very nice Amy and I soon felt out of place. We eventually decided to leave but as we were walking out the door we were greeted by my old boss. He's my age. He joined the radio stations as a salesman about the same time I started as an overnight reporter/writer and eventually he was in control of all the company stations in the market. He left four or five years ago to take a position heading up all of the international radio stations owned by our corporation. It was wonderful to see him. He seems happy.

He and I always had a good relationship and I was flattered when he said he used me as an example in many an overseas meeting when trying to explain to rather stiff necked folks that it was possible to be entertaining and yet still be a credible newscaster. I told him he should consider letting me prove it to those folks in person. I could suffer through a few corporate junkets to Australia and China for the good of the company. I'm a trooper.

Actually he did very subtly plant a seed that might grow into another opportunity, but mostly he wanted to share stories. He picked my brain to recall some of the many eccentric characters that have graced our work lives and as we parted we promised to make time to write down some of those memories.

I've worked with a lot of pretty strange folks over the years and indeed with a little help it might make for a very entertaining book...or at the very least a 13 week sitcom commitment from a desperate programming executive at the WB network.

It was interesting that at the retirement party the night before I spent a good bit of time talking with a woman who had worked at our radio stations years ago, then left and has now returned. That was a good conversation too...we didn't share stories of the past though.

We did talk of our struggles but more in terms of how we've managed to get by amid the roiling waters of corporate change.

Somewhere a long the way we both found something to cling to...the same thing. God.

We parted promising to make time to have lunch and talk about our faith and how that's held us together in the hard times.

I doubt that would make for a very entertaining sitcom...but I know it's already made for a very good book.

Friday, December 17, 2004

At The Crossroads Of Hope

It was a confrontation I knew was coming and until a few hours ago I was fairly convinced I had bet on the wrong horse. Hope was racing worry and apprehension was thick in the air.

Today Amy and I went to her surgeon to determine if she should have another central line put in her body. I have been praying...praying hard...for the past week or so that Amy would come to the decision on her own that she wanted to avoid that if at all possible and try to eat enough to sustain herself. However over the past couple of days I could tell Amy was growing increasingly worried that she would fail. She was trying hard to eat; she was also trying hard to conceal her concerns fearing she would "disappoint" me if she told her doctor of her doubts.

Knowing my position, Amy called her Mom and my sister in law seeking sympathy and perhaps a little ammunition for her side of the debate. She got none. Both of them told her they loved her, but they both believed she shouldn't have another line installed.

Oddly enough Amy also found two emails sent to her while she was in the hospital which for some reason she hadn't read. These were emails written a week or more ago. They both said essentially the same thing, "Be can do it. Don't doubt God."

These emails were in truth encouraging Amy to cut herself off from her lifeline, the plastic tubes and electronic gizmos which have been responsible for delivering food and medications into her body for more than a year.

Even after reading those emails, Amy certainly wasn't brimming with hope and optimism. She was afraid.

I won't go into all the details here, but Amy and I literally debated the issue all the way to the doctor's office and by the time we got there I was convinced I had lost the argument. We did agree at least to leave it up to the surgeon; however I was certain Amy would tell the surgeon she wasn't making it and she wanted another line put in. Her doctor is a very compassionate man and I knew if she told him that, a central line would be ordered right away.

I pictured it in my mind: more feedbags being delivered, more vitamin concoctions to mix, more electronic pumps that beeped for our attention. A manmade mixture of sustenance. I couldn't help but think that what Amy really needed to sustain now her didn't come in a bloated bag of formula.

However I tried to stay positive. I assured Amy that although I might be disillusioned she'd have to endure that process again, I would not be disappointed with her at all. Her fears were certainly justified considering all she's been through and what do I know really...maybe that step was what would be best for her.

I dropped Amy at the front door of the doctor's office and went to park the car. I sat in the car for a moment and prayed. I asked God to give me strength to support Amy no matter what, and admittedly I also asked Him to somehow convince the surgeon that Amy would be better off without that central line.

Here I must mention that the first thing Amy does when she visits her surgeon is "weigh in."

When we sat down with the surgeon I said very little, I had decided Amy was able to make her own health care choices now, but I did slip in the fact that she wasn't wasting away. Her weight today was the same as it was during our last visit weeks ago.

The surgeon took note of my observation and then listened to Amy intently. Then he stated quite bluntly that there were sound medical reasons to put in another central line.

I sank down in my chair. I had lost…or so I thought.

Then the doctor said something else, perhaps the most important words Amy has heard in a long, long while.

He said, "There's a difference between worrying about what might happen and worrying about what is happening."

He lovingly told Amy that for now at least he thought she was worrying about what "might happen" not what "was happening."

It was a watershed moment as far as I'm concerned - a flat out answer to prayer.

Those were the words Amy needed to hear, from the only person perhaps to whom she would really listen.

I could see hope flowing back into my wife at that very moment. I can not adequately describe the feeling.

We have been down a long road, and it has worn us down physically, emotionally, financially and spiritually. We have been battered and bruised, but I think today we were at a critical crossroad where we very well could have turned away from hope and toward desperation.

It's possible of course this won't be the final twist, but for today...for right now...I think we have found a spot on the road where we are both comfortable, where dreams are allowed to flourish, and hope still seeds the soil.

Thank you, God....once again You have answered my prayers. All it took was me admitting I was helpless without You.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. -Psalm 31: 23-25

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Last Writing- Euphemistically

I mentioned that earlier this week we buried our friend Barbara. Barbara and her husband Charles determined long ago that they wanted very simple funerals, even setting a price limit. As the years past that cost ceiling became impossible to achieve because funerals, even modest ones are expensive. Anyway one thing Barbara did want was a very plain headstone- simply her name I think.

If you wander around cemeteries these days you'll see a lot of folks make different choices. Some tombstones have photographs on them...some even "talk." You can push a button and hear the dead person's pre-recorded wisdom or favorite tune. It's a little creepy, but I suppose whatever gets you through the night.

"We wish him/her well in their future endeavors."

That's how memos end, in some case that's the entire gist of memos, in my company when they are announcing that someone has been fired.

I'll be driving across town in a few minutes to attend a retirement party for a co-worker. I never really worked with her. She did some job no one ever really ever defined, but she was quiet, she had her own office, and no one asked too much about her duties because the one thing we were all certain of is that she was the person who handed out paychecks. Every two weeks she was everybody's best friend. Now after 22 years she's retiring.

This is the real life toll taken by direct deposit boys and girls.

I'm only kidding. I'm sure she's retiring of her own volition. Otherwise there wouldn't be a going away party. She'd be "disappeared by memo."

Before the days of email those memos would be posted on a bulletin board downstairs in my building. I came to call it the wall of blood. Each morning I'd come and check to see if there was a memo announcing that I was working with a new morning team. Occasionally that happened.

Anyway, this woman has worked at the company for 22 years; I'll have worked there 20 years in September. I don't think I'll ever retire though. I probably won't get the opportunity.

Most people in positions like mine leave less ceremoniously. It's the nature of the industry. Truthfully, staying at the same radio station for 20 years is not the industry norm by any standard. Most folks come to their senses after about three years and go find real jobs where you actually produce something of value or at the very least you don't have to wake up before the drunks are ordering two beers from the waitress knowing last call is only moments away.

Part of me sort of hopes that one day I'll be a doddering old newsman kept around either because no one is really sure who hired me or simply as low cost amusement for younger employees and I'll be able to keel over on the job. To the best of my knowledge we've never had any employees die at work. There have been a few close calls over the years, drug overdoses, heart attacks, panic attacks, full mental breakdowns, but no deaths. I'm in no hurry mind you, but it would be kind of cool for people to point to my little area while giving station tours and have them say, "See there...that's where Michael Main donated the liver pate."

Let me reinterate, I'm in no rush, but should I buy the pine condo...deanimate...shed the mortal reformatted by God...( okay I'll stop I promise)...If I were to face plant the meringue while on duty I would really like it if my tombstone was simple too. Maybe it could read:

Michael Main

"We wish him well in his future endeavors."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Day Without Blogging Is Like...

Okay...I skipped a day. Things are a little chaotic. Amy and I traded PDA's and I started playing with that gizmo and then I fell asleep.

This is my excuse, I'm sticking to it.

I really have nothing to write about today, and I want to get in a walk before it gets too cold, but I realize our lives are something of a daily serial for some folks and I sort of feel like I'm to blame for your cable going out or something.

Amy and I are fine. No major news to report on the health front. Our schedules are all out of whack, and suddenly we've realized Christmas is like an hour away.

We've been trying to organize our house, put some stuff on Ebay... that's resulted in completely unmarketable debris being piled in stacks.

Yes, I know what this sounds like...normal life.

Shhhhh...Don't tell Amy. I don't think she's realized that yet.

I'm sure I'll write something meaningful and witty soon.

Okay meaningful.

Alright well at least witty.

Well, I'll write something.


Well, eventually.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Saying Goodbye

I'm wearing a suit at the office this morning. That is likely to prompt some raised eyebrows. When you come to work at 2 a.m. most co-workers are pleased if you have your shirt on right side out...a suit and tie is an uncommon sight. I must mention this is the same suit I got married in (the first time - 20 some odd years ago). I've gotten about as much use out of this suit as that marriage come to think of it...but I can fit in the suit again - that marriage never fit.

I'm wearing a suit because I'll leave from work, whip by the house to grab Amy and then head up the road to Barbara's funeral. I spent a short time with her husband Charles last night. Charles is a retired Baptist minister but he could have been a military commander...he's known for being very orderly. We kid him about being a control freak. He tends to have everything prepared...even things for which you don't ever want to be prepared. The funeral of your wife is one of those.

He put his arm around me last night and pulled a piece of paper from his pocket where he had neatly typed out the "orders" for Barbara's funeral. It will be a simple, low-key event...that is befitting of Barbara. She led a simple, low-key life and never wanted to draw attention to herself. Even as she was dying from the cruel slow ravages of bone cancer she shunned the spotlight of affection and certainly pity.

There is one part of today's service over which Charles will have no control. It's when people in attendance will be asked to share their stories and thoughts about Barbara. It will be hard and it will be helpful. Those of us who are brave enough to stand and speak aloud will be permitted to grieve by giving our memories to others.

I doubt I will be so brave. I choke up too easily, but I know what I would say if I could muster the courage. I would tell the simple story of Barbara playing the keyboard at our church service one Sunday. Barbara and Charles were relatively new to our church and like many people who had spent their lives in church had settled in on the idea of "letting someone else" run the place this time. Over their lifetimes they had built churches, moved churches, ministered churches, and now they simply wanted to attend a church. Yet one Sunday the keyboard player for our small music team was out and there was no one available to play. It created a momentary panic...until Barbara quietly volunteered the information that she could play the piano "a little." She certainly wasn't familiar with the electronic keyboard we use, nor was she comfortable being in front of the congregation trying to play praise music "cold." Despite her discomfort, she volunteered. She saw a need and felt compelled.

God has asked the same of me many times, mercifully not musically, but much of my spiritual growth has been in response to God essentially saying,"Do these things...they will make you uncomfortable and you will grow closer to Me."

Unlike many Christians I came to God late in life...gradually. It wasn't someone preaching at me or beating me over the head with a Bible that got me to listen to God. It was seeing people like Barbara; people who lived Christ like lives; people who felt God asking them to serve and knew of no other way to respond. I saw those people and said, "I want what they have...I want that sense of purpose and service."

I was privileged to know Barbara and in the process I was able to grow closer to Christ.

I will miss her.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Securely Confused

"You boys be careful out here tonight. I bought me a wetback last night. Gave him a blanket and a rifle so he could sleep in the barn and maybe shoot a rabbit to eat. I even gave 'em a six pack of Pearl beer... Hell, I wouldn't pour Pearl on a fire."

That is a quote I won't ever forget. I was a junior in high school and sitting around a campfire with some friends. One of my friends was what we considered "rich" and his family had a farm in Hamilton, Texas (120 miles south of Dallas) where we occasionally would go on weekends. We called it camping although it was actually something closer to binge drinking and drug abuse in the woods. At least we didn't venture off the farm...we explored the land, our minds, and our blood alcohol limits, but we never ventured into the "city" of Hamilton. We couldn't harm anyone but ourselves through our stupidity.

The farm was sharecropped. A caretaker lived on half of the property and grew crops which he sold in return for tending to the rest of the land which contained our cabin retreat. I only met that caretaker once...the night he came up to our campfire and said the words I quoted above.

I remember being stunned on so many levels. Here was a man who was telling me he had "bought" a human being, whom he was laughingly treating inhumanely.

I was stunned because my friends laughed too.

The caretaker was a way making the claim that he was better than some "wetback."

Ironically, my friend who owned the farm thought he was better than that sharecropper and openly mocked him as soon as he was out of earshot. I fear I probably laughed right along with him.

None of those value judgments were true much less justified...with the possible exception of the merits of Pearl beer.

The weekend passed and I never saw the illegal alien who had been "bought" although I admit keeping a wary eye out fearing someone desperate enough to be "sold" might be capable of any number of things especially when given a rifle and Pearl beer.

As the years have gone by I've met many a person with attitudes like that sharecropper. I have also known lots of people who have hired undocumented workers. That is so common in this part of Texas you'd have to be blind not to see it. In fact Amy and I could have been guilty of much the same thing. We had a young woman working for us as a housekeeper for several years. I wasn't entirely certain of her legal status. Not too long ago she bought a home around the corner from us. She's a U.S. citizen, recently married, finishing up college and she and her husband had a baby a while back...but in truth, for all I knew initially, she could have been an "illegal." I didn't ask and I paid her in cash.

All of this comes to my mind today because I awoke to the end of a news story on TV saying that the President's choice for Homeland Security Czar was withdrawing his nomination. I was somewhat familiar with Bernie Kerik already, and when he was nominated I was sort of pleased. A tough talking, born from a hooker, street cop who had battled demons all his life and risen above them. He seemed like the type of guy I would like protecting me from real life demons. I also wondered if someone like him could pass muster amid the often beyond partisan evil political scrutiny that comes with such an appointment. I have seen that process destroy men...good men.

When I found out Bernie Kerik was withdrawing his nomination because he apparently hired an illegal alien to watch his kids my first thought was "that's silly" and I was a little angry.

I still think it is silly really.

Our country will lose the services of someone who might very well have brought a fresh, non-Washington tainted, viewpoint to a very important job because of a "nanny-gate" scandal.

However part of me also thought of that sharecropper I met in high school. I don't mean to equate Bernie Kerik with that racist. Kerik apparently hired a nanny "off the books"....the other guy thought he "bought" a man. There is no real comparison.

Yet, I must admit I'm a little divided now in how I'm thinking about the whole episode.

Being in charge of our homeland security means more to me than protecting borders and buildings...we are guarding values too...and perhaps even small lapses, those of which we could all be guilty, should be treated like big threats these days.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Amy came home to me this morning.

Our friend Barbara went home to God this afternoon.

Barbara's husband, Charles is a private man. He is old enough to be my father, but in recent months especially we have had a bond...two men trying to cope as the women they loved suffered. Our conversations and emails have often been brief but meaningful. Certainly the underlying gist was clear - we felt pretty damn helpless.

Barbara knew she was dying for many months. She was ready. She long ago stopped asking for prayers of healing. She asked we pray that she could endure the pain, and more recently that she could cling to life long enough to see her newborn grandson, Tate.

This afternoon hospice workers brought Barbara from the hospital to her home and laid her in her own bed. Then they brought in Tate. I wasn't there, but I'm told Barbara cradled this small miracle in her arms and smiled.

Moments later God called Barbara His house.

I can't help but believe that is exactly how she wanted to join the Lord.

A life fulfilled...with both joy and sadness.

This morning I came to the hospital and held Amy tight. I tried to reassure her as best I could that we would take life as it comes. Maybe everything will work out exactly as we have hoped. Maybe it won't. We will be prepared to deal with the sorrows and setbacks should they come but we also must be ready to recognize the joy with which we have been blessed.

Yes, this has been a day of joy and sadness; heartbreak and hope.

I am reminded such things are not inseparable, nor should they be.

How could we appreciate the one without the other?

One Flew Back From ....

It's never too late.

This story
probably didn't get as much play as it deserved today.

Rudolphus rubrinasus

Simply for a change of pace here's a link to New York
City's St. Bartholomew's Church and their version of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.

In Latin.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Let's Roll

I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. -Ecclesiastes 9:11

As has happened before, Amy is hesitant to leave the hospital. I don't blame her. We don't seem to be able to get very far away before we end up scurrying back.

As a result of the infections she's had she can't be hooked up to any foreign objects, which means if she comes home she will experience true freedom for the first time in over a year. No beeping machines, no IV' feedbags or gastric tubes.

It will require some pretty rigid dietary guidelines. It will require bravery. It may require I buy a "smoothie machine."

But I see this as such an opportunity that may prove to Amy that she is healthier than she thinks.

Right now, Amy's fear is blurring her recognition of that; she doesn't see it, at least not as clearly as I do. Make no mistake her fear is justified, my vision might be a little different had I been through so many surgeries and spent so many months in the hospital in the past year alone.

However I think we've got to take the gamble.

Unless someone tackles us on the way out the door, I'm busting Amy out of the hospital Friday morning...

Tonight I pray like hear the very wisdom of God.

Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Change, Change, Change...

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.~ W. Edwards Deming

I suppose it's human nature to resist change. We're comfortable with the known, even when the known is somewhat uncomfortable.

Since I started doing news for additional radio stations I have had a hard time getting into sync, this is due in part to my schedule being a little whacked out with Amy's health issues, mid day doctor appointments, etc....but I've come to the decision that it's also because I was trying to fit my new duties into the "system" I had used for years, i.e. working from home for an hour or two and then going into the office. Today I decided to change the pattern. I simply went to work to do my job instead working from home. All of a sudden I had a better grip on my time - I didn't feel like I was racing the clock quite as much. What's odd is that I'm not waking up earlier, I'm simply immersing myself into my work environment instead of leisurely sitting at the home computer, and writing at my home computer pace. Admittedly it's only been one day, but I suspect this one small change is going to be beneficial.

Changes are coming for Amy too. The infectious disease specialist has dictated that Amy can not have another central line put in for at least two weeks. That came as a shock to Amy. It was like someone yanking out the safety net from a trapeze artist unannounced. The doc wants to make certain that if another line is put in; the chances of another infection are reduced dramatically. It makes sense, but Amy has had some sort of line that's been used for feeding, fluid intake, medications, blood draws, or whatever for many many months and she is frightened to be without it. It's become a security blanket. As uncomfortable and awkward as the lines have been, and even though she's had to be treated for several infections, those lines have provided her with a certain level of reassurance.

Now that's going to change. There is no choice.

Those who expect moments of change to be comfortable and free of conflict have not learned their history. ~Joan Wallach Scott

It's the unknown and it's worrisome.

Yet I can't help but believe that this is exactly what we needed to happen. Maybe it's time to shake things up.

It will be hard. It will take a concentrated effort to make sure she gets proper nutrition. It will mean some medication changes too.

The "system" Amy has mastered to help her cope all these months is going to be revamped if not abolished altogether.

I know there will be a lot of hand holding in the process and no doubt some finger pointing resistance. But I'm also going to embrace Amy and this opportunity... because perhaps as a result of all this we will become a little less fearful of the unknown.

I have to think that will be a change for the better.

Change is inevitable - except from a vending machine. ~Robert C. Gallagher

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Blame It On The NyQuil

Yes, I had it backwards. Actually what we were hoping would be discovered today was that Amy's "stoma" was constricted and would require "dilating", not a dilated stoma.

What do I know? I'm certain though that God, mercifully, can sort this stuff out. Unfortunately Amy's stoma is fine, although I guess technically that's a good thing...see how confusing this gets?

Anyway the procedure did find a couple of small ulcers nothing more and that's not the source of Amy's problems so we're going to have to have a meeting of the medical minds and think of some new things to try to further bewilder our insurance carrier.

I stayed at the hospital all day since Amy hates this particular procedure...I'm sure I was of great comfort, sleeping off my creeping crud. I'm fairly sure I'm on the mend at least.

Amy was not able to come home with me and we have no timetable for liftoff, although we haven't been told of any new procedures being planned, so I don't see why she couldn't come home to be treated with antibiotics. Then again I don't know a stoma from a hole in the ground.

I came home this afternoon to the surprise greeting of our three our front yard. They must have somehow opened the gate. Luckily they have the collective IQ of a grapefruit and hadn't ventured more than a house away. The good thing is they're all tired out from their freedom frolic. I think they sort of think this was some type of reward for the fact they've been ignored for the past few days. I am not one to shatter their illusion, although I did reinforce the gate.

The dogs are excited by the prospect of what's beyond the fence, but once there they really have no idea of what to do.

I don't want to dwell on that the thought, but in that respect I don't think we're too far apart on the evolutionary ladder, although I don't have the desire to pee on plants.

At least not yet.

Yes, I realize I'm rambling...I'm caught up in stomas, and frenetic dogs who'd break into a chorus of Bobby McGee if they knew how to sing.

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing, that's all that Bobby left me, yeah,
But feeling good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues,
Hey, feeling good was good enough for me, hmm hmm,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.

The little ones do howl in harmony by the way... that gives Amy great joy.

I confess it occasionally makes me want to deliberately leave the fence gate open.

Okay, maybe I still have a slight fever.

Hopefully you can sort this stuff out too.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Oh No!

And you didn't think it could get this tacky?

The Stoma Story

I've got the crud and I'm saying prayers for a stoma.

It's not what I needed right now. My boss, who is on vacation much of this week and needs me healthy, sent me home this morning (once I did 95 percent of my job). I didn't stop at the hospital to see Amy figuring the last thing she needs is someone feverish and coughing in her room. My decision didn't make her happy but she didn't exactly object either.

An infectious disease doc found a fungal infection in her new central line today. That means goodbye central lines for a while and new antibiotics. Tomorrow she'll have another procedure which we're hoping will show a dilation of her "stoma." I'm not a doctor and I'd need more Nyquil to explain this better but essentially it's the tube the food she can eat goes through. If the stoma is dilated, food gets stuck...there is pain...nausea, etc.

She's had this procedure before and it's not shown such a problem, but that was prior to her most recent operation.

If she were to have a dilated stoma it could be fixed during the procedure and it would be a very wonderful thing.

Anyway, I'm not sure I'm making any sense, but I'm praying for a dilated stoma.

It seems like there should be some prayer for that you could chant in Latin doesn't it?

We now return to our regular programming brought to you by: Nyquil - You have to respect a medicine that comes with its own shot glass.

==================== other thing. The WOAI Elf Louise Radiothon raised more than $200,000.00 in less than 2 days.

That is a Christmas miracle. We've never done that well before. I should stay away more often.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Good Days Bad Days

Amy has her good days and her bad days...I suppose I do too.
For me, today was a not so good day.

Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow will be better.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Refiner's Fever

Purify my heart,
let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
let me be as gold, pure gold.*

I checked Amy into the hospital by 7 or so this morning. The on-call doctor, who's a nice guy, did exactly what we expected and ordered that her recently installed "temporary" central line be removed. We did exactly what we expected and said, "No...not until Amy's surgeon is contacted."

This caused a small amount of consternation, but that was also predictable. We are really getting quite adept at this stuff.

I left for a while intending to go to the Elf Louise Radiothon, but instead coming home and falling asleep (my boss knew of the situation and told me he would have sent me home had I shown up). I did leave a note for Amy's hospital staff reading "No invasive procedures without her surgeon's express permission and Dr. ___________ in radiology is not to touch Amy for any reason." You'll have to search the archives for our radiology nightmares if you're really that intrigued, but suffice it to say we believe that particular radiologist lacks certain traits which we think are the ability to follow orders, listen to patients, demonstrate any form of empathy, and to occasionally try not to actually cause pain.

Refiner's fire,
my heart's one desire
is to be…holy;
set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be…holy;
set apart for You, my Master,
ready to do Your will.

Even though he wasn't on call, Amy's regular surgeon ended up calling her and saying we were right, he didn't want that line pulled yet, he wanted some tests run...and Amy put on a new antibiotic. They didn't run the first radiology test until about 7 tonight, I suspect because Dr. ________ was on call in radiology until about 6:30, and they wanted him to go home first.

In any case, more tests are scheduled. If the fever doesn't subside quickly with the new antibiotic, the line may come out, but another one will go in...I don't understand this, but that's the way it works with a lot of things. I don't understand them when they're happening, but later I see things more clearly.

Amy is feeling a little better....the fever is still there, but not in the "gee your face looks like ripe fruit" range.

I suspect she's going to be in the hospital a few days at least.

She's most disappointed about not being able to go to church tomorrow. She wanted to sing especially because, Joe, a guy who has been delivering our home health supplies for the past two years is visiting the church tomorrow (his church is disintegrating so he's looking for a new church home and he was hoping to hear Amy sing). He also plays keyboards, and I know Amy was half hoping to have someone in the congregation to spell our wonderful keyboard player when she can't be there.

More importantly though, he's a good guy, a very strong Christian, with a wonderfully upbeat attitude whom we haven't had a chance to really get to know. He comes to our doorstep, delivers supplies, we chat and he leaves to deliver to other patients.

Our church may not be a perfect fit for Joe - I don't know him well enough to determine that - but tomorrow I will at least have the chance to get to spend time with him somewhere other than our doorstep. He'll step inside the house of God and we will share in worship. That has to be a good thing.

Purify my heart,
let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
let me be as gold, pure gold.

Our friend Erin is in town and will also be at church tomorrow. She stopped by the hospital tonight to visit, and has also formally agreed to move into our house next month. There is no downside to that arrangement. She needs an inexpensive place to stay - we didn't want to charge her rent at all, but she's insisting and there's a limit to our ability to turn down cash these days. Still the rent is very minimal - less than she'd be charged anywhere this side of Mexico...well anywhere where you wouldn't have to spend a small fortune on deadbolts and ammunition in order to get a decent night's sleep.

We have plenty of room, so she can have privacy, and the whole deal is open ended...if she stays 3 months or 3 years, that's fine with us.

Erin returned a few months ago after spending a year in rural China. I mean real rural and very primitive by our standards.

This means our somewhat sloppy lifestyle will still be a step up I think. To my knowledge we'll only have to have one rule - about the telling of "dog stories." Since Erin received a different viewpoint of dogs while living in rural China, one which mercifully she didn't embrace, she will have to get used to living with dogs as creatures of annoyance, rather than potential entrees.

She's also got a great upbeat attitude which I think will strengthen Amy physically and spiritually.

That will do a lot for me too.

Refiner's fire,
my heart's one desire
is to be…holy;
set apart for You, Lord.
I choose to be…holy;
set apart for You, my Master,
ready to do Your will.

That's how it works so often. Here we are in the midst of turmoil...what seems like the intense and even harmful heat of uncertainty and good things happen...sometimes the most unexpected things.

God is shaping us's such a rare treat to actually be able to take our focus off our problems, wants, desires, or fears, and instead be aware of His hand at work.

I suspect if I didn't allow myself to get caught up in the day to day toils as much I would see God's attempts at refining me more readily.

Purify my heart,
let me be as gold and precious silver.
Purify my heart,
let me be as gold, pure gold.

* Refiner's Fire by Sonic Flood

Red Hot Mama

Ah to sleep in...

Amy's fever spiked to 104.7 at 6 a.m. so we're off to the hospital where she is being directly admitted again.
This is likely still an infection involving her "temporary" central line. It means an on call doctor will be involved in her care which means I'll be remaining vigilant.

As Bobbie is fond of saying, "still prayin'."

Friday, December 03, 2004

A Blatant Plug

I have one charity I work with...well technically I guess I work with a couple but each year I'm involved in one charity project with our radio stations. It's the "Elf Louise Radiothon." It starts this morning (Friday) and runs through Saturday.

We ask folks for money and the money buys toys for kids in the San Antonio area for Christmas. No one gets paid; a tiny fraction of the money (2 percent) goes for postage and insurance. It's a good cause.

You don't have to live in San Antonio to give toys to children who otherwise wouldn't get them for Christmas.

This is the number to call: (210) 979-7700

I'll be out there Saturday afternoon. Amy is bucking to come along with me. I will be doing very little "on air," I'll simply be helping in whatever way I can.

You can find out more about the humble origins of Elf Louise at their website.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Air Is In Christmas

I don't care if it rains of freezes
'Long as I got my Plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car.*

We're not big on outdoor Christmas decorations. We want to be, we simply don't succeed. The few times we've put up Christmas lights outside they've stayed up far too long...once Amy decided to "wrap" our trees in lights. They looked nice but they were a nightmare to try to unwrap when I finally got around to it in February or March. Eventually I figured a string of lights cost about a buck so I cut short my frustration with scissors.
Amy has bought outdoor lights on a number of occasions since. I've managed to come up with excuses for the past ten years or so not to put them up. I know that's sort of bah humbugish but we don't do that type of thing well and nothing is worse than poorly done Christmas lights. Plus it's a lot of work.

Through my trials and tribulations
And my travels through the nations
With my Plastic Jesus I'll go far.
Plastic Jesus! Plastic Jesus,
Riding on the dashboard of my car

The new trend in our neighborhood is to have inflatable Christmas decorations.
This actually started last year when we had a sad looking Santa and Rudolph down the road which kept deflating, resulting in what periodically appeared to be Santa steer wrestling.

(click to enlarge)

I don't care if it's dark or scary
Long as I have magnetic Mary
Ridin' on the dashboard of my car

Now I notice there are inflatable decorations all over the neighborhood...virtually every imaginable Christmas icon that you can fill with hot air - Santas, Christmas trees, and polar bears.

Some of them look very nice...some seem to have a hard time dealing with the wind, the rain, or local kids who lack the ability to resist temptation...or perhaps they suffer from inflation dysfunction. In any case I often see them flattened like run over Macy's day parade rejects.

Considering the number of hunters in this part of the woods I wouldn't be surprised if a few didn't fall victim to a six pack fueled shotgun blast actually.

I'm sure the folks who bought them thought they would be easy decorations to maintain. I suspect many of them have changed their minds now.

I don't care if it bumps or jostles
Long as I got the Twelve Apostles
Bolted to the dashboard of my car

They are everywhere though. I counted at least 20 while walking the other day.

I haven't seen an inflatable Jesus yet.

I know He's coming though...of course I don't know when.

You can buy Him phosphorescent
Glows in the dark, He's Pink and Pleasant,
Take Him with you when you're traveling far.

*Original "Plastic Jesus" lyrics by Eddie Marrs although many folks have added their own verses over the years.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Book O' Jack -Updated

Back in May I wrote about Jack Whittaker...Lucky Jack.

The winner of the the largest powerball jackpot in history. I mentioned then that I was going to keep tabs on Jack.

Here's the latest...he's still proving that money doesn't really buy jack.


Amy took off while I was napping and I can't find my cell phone.

Her driving on her own is a good thing, for one she's being independent and secondly I know she's slaying another small dragon, paying off the final installment on the repairs we had made to a vacuum cleaner. We've been paying the repair guy in dribbles for months so it was nice to get that debt wiped off the books, and actually get something back in return.

One of the drawbacks of not having a landline phone though is that if you misplace your mobile phone you're essentially out of communication with the world until someone calls you. So I'm waiting.

In the interim I decided to find some other distractions and managed to locate some interesting odds...and ends.

I read about a new book called "Hatless Jack: The President, The Fedora And The History Of An American Style." It talks about something I never knew - that hat makers accused then President Kennedy of destroying their industry. Apparently Kennedy didn't like hats so he rarely wore them, and some hat makers thought if Kennedy only wore a hat more often, more American men would have followed his lead.
The author finally gets around to concluding Kennedy was wrongly blamed for this fade in fashion; instead he says the automobile did in fancy hats for men years before Kennedy. Your car revealed more about your social status than your hat and hats were often an inconvenience in cars.

Another story I found surprising was that more people requested the definition of the word "blog" on the Merriam-Webster website than any other word this year. I wondered what the most popular word people looked up "off line" would have been, but I suppose that would be impossible to discern. Certainly that would be something different...if not surprising.

Lastly I did find it amusing to read about the latest promotion offered by Virgin Mobile in Australia. It allows customers to block themselves from calling certain numbers before they go out and get drunk. The company claims 95 percent of people in Australia have made calls while drunk and some 30 percent of those calls were to their ex-spouses/lovers...36 percent were made to their bosses. I couldn't find the story on their website (which is annoying by the way) and the one newspaper that carried the details wanted me to pay to read their on line news. It's a cute story but I've got more sense than that.

Of course the oddest story of the day comes out of Korea where parents are saving their children's umbilical cords...and having them gold plated.

That's a mental image I could live without.

Aha! I can hear my phone ringing! Saved by the bell!

FYI- You can click on any picture to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004


The server crash which caused major headaches for Gordon, caused a minor inconvenience for me. Now everything appears to be working, I simply have to get it all back in place. I don't think I'm going to worry about it all tonight though.

Why put off to tomorrow what you can do today? Because, I can.

Typing Blind

For some reason, Blogger is not letting me in to see my blog. It will let me see that some posts have been posted twice, and another program will let me delete posts, but I have to guess if I'm deleting posts where people have left comments.

I hope I guessed right.

Then again...I don't know if this will post or not.

I suppose I should consider this the first lesson of the day....nothing is certain.

Monday, November 29, 2004

A Post

The day went by fast.
Errands doctors pharmacists.
So you get Haiku.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

And Now A New Routine

Church is tough for me without Amy there.

Church is tough for Amy when she knows she isn't physically up to worshipping God as she is used to doing by leading singing.

We decided today to hold each other up. If she's physically able, she'll come to church to help me cope, even if she can't sing. She'll hold onto me until she's able to stand on her own.

A wise woman once told me, "sometimes when you least want to be in church is when you most need to be in church."

I married that woman.

Occasionally I have my wise moments too.

But now vacation is ending, my alarm rings in a few hours. My sleep schedule is all out of whack yet I feel this desire to spend an hour or two with my wife rather than writing.

I will add this addendum: we've evidently conned convinced a young friend to at least temporarily move into our rambling and mostly empty house when she moves back to San Antonio in January. That too simply feels like the right thing to do for everyone involved. She'll save a few shekels. It'll give Amy a little help so she doesn't feel quite so overwhelmed, and the arrangement will provide Amy with good spiritual company too.

Of course, we're all a bunch of introverts so we may not even notice each other.

I suppose the lesson in all this is that every once in a while to see straight, we have to lean…on each other.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Dimes, Dolls, And Dogs

"Poverty wants much; but avarice, everything" - Publilius Syrus - 100 BC

Amy and I spent the morning putting more stuff up for auction on Ebay and preparing to auction off other items. Today's venture included several lots of silver dimes. That meant counting out coins, recounting them...sorting them into some type of order and deciding how to break them into lots. It also meant washing our hands a lot...coins are filthy but these particular coins seem a little extra grimy in my mind.

They may not sell at all but even if they do I'm sure I won't get what I paid for them. I bought them when the price of silver was going through the roof in the 1970's because the Hunt brothers were trying to corner the silver market. Everyone else was selling their silver...I of course decided it was the ideal time to invest.
I was in college at the time and that incident saved me the cost of an economics course. I learned all I've really ever needed to know about economics: that "buy low, sell high" thing is true (the trick is to buy low), and I was never going to be an investor. Truthfully that lesson was well worth it.

More importantly I confronted a characteristic in myself theretofore unchallenged...greed. I was easily sucked into the idea of making a fast buck without having to even think much less work for it. It's another one of those harsh realities I'm thankful I learned early because there have been plenty of similar temptations that have crossed my path in the decades since.

I hung onto those dimes though...for a while I must admit I thought the market might skyrocket again and I'd recoup my original investment. Then I simply enjoyed having the physical reminder nearby whenever I heard the seductive whisper of financial scheming echo around my dreams.

Of course, if my luck holds true to form, silver prices will soar again....about 9 days from now - after all my Ebay auctions have ended.

Anyway, Amy and I decided these days we need spendable dollars in the bank, so we're hawking my silver reminders of foolish greed on Ebay.

Amy is paying a price too...cataloging Beanie Babies which she bought by the boatload years ago. Our oldest daughter is fond of walking by those dolls and saying sarcastically, "So that's where my college fund went." Unlike my dabbling in dimes, Amy bought the beanie babies because she liked them. She wanted something to collect and wasn't looking for an investment or a quick buck. Plus, she had a friend who worked at a store which sold them.

That friend would call when the newest beanie shipments arrived. I remember thinking how it was like Amy had a "beanie baby pusher" - a kindly woman who sold her little stuffed rabbits and cats instead of methamphetamine and crack. The beanie babies are eventually going up on Ebay too...the only one who will miss them is our special needs dog Winston who runs past them several times a day wishing with all his might that he could destroy them. Somehow we taught him the Beanie Babies are off limits. I'm not sure how we drove that lesson home - I wish I knew - he hasn't learned anything else we've tried to teach him.

Then again, Winston never bought silver dimes when silver prices were at their highest in history.

A greedy man stirs up dissension, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper.
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
- Proverbs 28:25-26

Friday, November 26, 2004

Untrustworthy Part Deux

Well, what a happy little surprise this turned out to be.

A month or so ago I attempted to solicit my numerous readers...okay all six of "Google bomb" Yahoo bill pay, by linking them to the word "untrustworthy."
Quite frankly, I thought the experiment had failed because if you type in untrustworthy in Google, Yahoo bill pay doesn't come up, at least not in the top few pages. I didn't search too deep but evidently there are a lot of things, people, institutions that merit that adjective. It was a Google bomb dud.

Anyway, this morning I was reading that Microsoft is beta testing its own search engine to compete with Yahoo and Google.
On a whim I typed in "untrustworthy"....and guess what comes up as number one? Well, you don't have to guess...simply click here.

How fun!

An MSN search bomb!

It has to be one of the first.

Take a bow....I couldn't have done something so silly yet somehow satisfying without your help. Okay, some might say "help" is the wrong word...they might opt for a phrase like "aiding and abetting"; such is the nature of semantics.

In any case, it worked.

At least for now...I'm certain someone more untrustworthy will come along....eventually.

In that you can put your trust.

Crazed And Confused

I couldn't sleep, so I thought I'd head out in a few minutes to check out the local stores and, even though I'm on vacation, phone in a few "aren't these folks crazy for getting up so early to shop" stories, before shopping.

I know it's crazy, but I've had 3 cups of coffee and I sort of like these studies in human behavior.

Amy had a rough night so she's opting to sleep in. This is serious. She is either really tired, or she's taken a peek at our bank balance and realized there's not much sense in getting too hyped up about early morning bargains.

I can suggest to those of you thinking of getting out there and shopping today that you can avoid the insanity and instead buy all your friends books this year. I happen to have two handy recommendations: and The World According to Chuck.

Conveniently I have links to both on the side of this web page.

I actually only finished reading Chuck's book last night - both are wonderful collections of essays so you can pick them up and put them down at your own pace. They're great for the nightstand, or the bathroom and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

I'm plugging Chuck's book a little harder because he actually mentioned me in his acknowledgements (heck that should be worth something) but I also think it will really appeal to the voyeuristic nature of bloggers who enjoy getting a chronicled look at the lives of others.

To be fair I will note Chuck has one error in his book - which every other journalist in the country who wrote on the topic made as well. It's not really an error, more of backhanded accusation that Clear Channel initiated a boycott of the Dixie Chicks during their "I hate President Bush" tour (page 209). For the record it was Cumulus Radio that instituted the Dixie Chick ban. Clear Channel never did anything to the Dixie Chicks on a company wide basis, although I'm sure there were stations that stopped playing their records at the time, much like stores removed Tylenol from their shelves years ago when some nut put poison in one bottle somewhere. If there's a risk a product is going to cost you customers, you take it off the shelves. It should be noted too I work for Clear Channel and have seen the company unfairly accused of everything from homogenizing radio to causing Wolfman Jack to have a raspy voice.

I swear I also found one typo in Chuck's book....but now I can't recall exactly where.

I mention that really only to drive Chuck crazy...crazier. is a perfect book for anyone on your shopping list, be they religious or not. Okay if they're fundamentalists, legalists, unbending and unforgiving "Christians" it might be better given as a "white elephant" gift to them...but they could still use it.

I've had to read the copy I have of Gordon's book carefully since the purchased copies I have are being given as gifts and too many coffee stains or bent pages might make the receivers think they're receiving used material...or worse that they're being "re-gifted."

Gordon is giving us a free copy...since we're such close of these days.

I mention that....only to drive Gordon crazier.

Okay... off to the crazy land of post Thanksgiving shoppers...It's 5 a.m., I don't want to be late.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

We May Be Onto Something Here

I awoke moments ago from my Thanksgiving nap. Well, technically since we actually had Thanksgiving yesterday, this was my day after Thanksgiving nap, but since today is Thanksgiving for the rest of the America it's actually my Thanksgiving nap even though it's the day after our Thanksgiving. Okay, I'll stop. I know many of you are still digesting and this pattern of circular thinking might result in a feeling of queasiness....or worse: cranberry stains on computer monitors around the world.

In any case, this having Thanksgiving before Thanksgiving I believe is a concept which merits further consideration.

To begin with, our relations who had to travel were able to leave today...there's no one on the roads...they're enjoying their post Thanksgiving travels on the highways--two adults, two teenagers and a fairly large dog in a van are not the least bit stressed driving on the day after Thanksgiving (which is really Thanksgiving). That alone should be reason enough for folks to consider having their holiday ahead of schedule. Usually the trip on I-35 after Thanksgiving results in any holiday spirit being sucked from your soul. The kids in the backseat often learn words which jeopardize their chances of being on Santa's "good little boy or girl" list for at least the upcoming holiday if not for years to come.

Additionally, we didn't center our Thanksgiving meal around a football game or even a game featuring the Dallas Cowboys which could quite easily be argued no longer qualifies as football in the traditional sense. We ate when the food was ready. There was no TV on and no one was craning their neck to see a score.

Thirdly, we woke up this morning and realized everything of note was closed. So we didn't have to rush out the door at 5 a.m. (something Amy and I actually enjoy doing) to take advantage of mad post Thanksgiving sales. Tomorrow a bunch of slugs who at best have had one decent nap will grudging roll out of bed, newspaper ads in hand and lethargically immerse themselves in a sea of senselessness in hopes of being in line at JC Penny's at 5:30 a.m. to get a free Mickey Mouse snow globe. Amy and I on the other hand will have a full day's rest on these other ill prepared, still tryptophan influenced shoppers. We won't be suckered in by snow globes...we'll will head for true bargains, like...I don't know free CD-R's or something.

Plus we woke up this Thanksgiving Day (even though it's not Thanksgiving to us) and said, "Hey, we don't have to do anything!" - no cooking, no housecleaning to get ready for relatives, no rushing to Wal-Mart for parsley or some such sudden necessity, no post holiday meal clean up which no one wants to do because we're all to satiated - nothing. We did nothing but hug the kids when they went up the road to eat again with their other set of parents, and squeeze our other relations tight as they embarked on their empty highway adventures, then we read the paper.

We called other relatives...watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - did Brooke Shields look scary to anyone but me?
Then we had pie.
Later we had leftover turkey and dressing.
Then we napped.

Now I'm about to watch the Cowboys with no risk whatsoever of them spoiling my holiday....although indigestion is still a distinct possibility.