Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Stress Level Reaching Critical

I've discovered why I enjoy vacations so much....because preparing for them is so stressful.
Amy and I swore we were "going to pack light" this year.

I'm going to need Sherpas to schlep all the stuff we're bringing.

In any case, work is done. The job will survive without me and vica versa. Our bags are packed, except for Lisa who seems to be oblivious to stress...I think she's doing her nails.

All systems are go.

Next stop...the joys of airline security. At least I'm a seasoned traveler now. I know to take off my Rockport walking shoes. Last year I thought I must match the profile of some known terrorist because I was stopped and subjected to so many searches along the way. I think Amy was even getting suspicious.

I finally figured out there was metal in my shoes which sets off all the bells and whistles. Of course I figure that out on the way home.

Am I rambling? Of course I am. This is that horrible time when you're all ready to go, but you can't leave yet because it's too early. So you wander around doing meaningful things like bellowing at your wife, "Are you sure you packed deodorant?"

I'm fairly certain they sell deodorant in Ohio even if she's wrong. At least I don't recall meeting any particularly offensive Ohioans.

Oh well, time for one last check of everything. I think I get two more before I qualify as someone with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Let's see....first thing on the check list - turn off computer.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Forgive Me. It's For The Common Good

I don't like to blog about politics. Too many bloggers are far better at it than I am, and I'm not all that political. I don't really even enjoy talking about politics. It's not like I'm going to change anyone's mind and in truth if we're going to argue about something I'd prefer it be over something meaningful, like who makes the best pizza.

I suppose it's no secret that I'm fiscally conservative. I've voted Republican in recent national elections. There was a time in my life when I voted the exact opposite. I like to think I'm more liberal when it comes to human rights issues, but I'm probably not liberal enough for a lot of folks.

When I advise people about radio news one of my first suggestions is not to spend a lot of time on politics, I find most people don't care. I know that's probably a violation of some journalistic code, but my real goal is to get people to listen to the radio, and if we talk about things they don't care about they punch the buttons on their radio dials. When enough people punch buttons, I end up unemployed, so I tell people not to talk about politics on the radio too much.

I suppose that's another reason I don't blog about politics...not that I'm going to get fired, but I've figured out plenty of other ways to alienate or bore people.

So, I 'm going to apologize in advance. Today I wanted to write a little about politics. If you push the blog equivalent of the radio button I'll understand. I hope you'll come back.

I saw a quote from Hillary Clinton today; she was speaking to a fundraiser in San Francisco so I suppose I should cut her some slack. I suppose she was probably abiding by the "when in Rome" adage, and certainly if you're going to say something like this, San Francisco is the place to say it.

Anyway, she was referring to her desire to oust the current White House administration but also to do away with the tax cuts passed by our elected representatives. To her credit, she has voted against almost every tax cut proposal that's come up since she's served in the Senate, except for the 2002 proposal to give 14 billion dollars in tax refunds to people who didn't get tax refunds in 2001 because they didn't pay taxes. She voted for that idea...but it failed.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

I'm all for the common good. I'm all for sacrifice...but before you start telling me that the 300 bucks we got back last year can be better spent by Washington for the common good might I suggest that there are some things we "take away" from Senator Clinton and her colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, in the House and Senate?

The starting pay for a member of Congress is $158,000 a year. That's on day one, when you're still trying to figure out where your office is you're making $158,000 a year...or to put it another way, on day one you pocket 600 bucks for stumbling around confused.

Okay, I'll give you's a demanding job and some members of Congress no doubt are capable of earning something comparable to that in the private sector. Everyone who thinks every member of Congress could land a job in the private sector paying that well raise your hand.... yeah, me too.

The top dogs in the House and Senate pocket $198,000 a year.

They get free life insurance. A show of hands for everyone whose life insurance is free please. Yeah... we need to negotiate better.

The Congressional retirement plan has been greatly exaggerated in some Internet chain letters but it is still safe to say it's generous. It's based on a formula depending on years of service and the average of the highest three years of his or her salary. Their retirement annuity can not start at more than 80 percent of their final can increase beyond that in later years.
Members of Congress qualify for retirement benefits after FIVE years of service. They can begin collecting them immediately or defer them depending on their age.

How's your retirement plan? Do you start collecting retirement pay after 5 years on the job? I worked for five years to earn 3 weeks vacation.

From what I can tell, the average retirement pay for a long term member of Congress, someone who served about 25 years is around 73 thousand bucks a year. Not bad and I think that's probably fair, for someone who toughed it out in Congress for 25 years.

Of course, the average Social Security retiree, who worked about 40 years gets about 10 thousand bucks a year.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Now let's add in a few other things.

Every member of Congress receives, free office space in Washington and in their home district. That seems sensible. Ever been to the office of a member of Congress? Very bleak. Bare bones stuff.

Luckily they can spruce the place up with flowers. Anytime they want they receive free fresh cut flowers from the Botanic Gardens.

House members get a staff allowance of three quarters of a million dollars a year. Members of the Senate have staff allowances that vary according to the population of their state and the distance their state is from Washington - really. The bottom rung...say someone from North Dakota is $400,000. Senators from state's with big populations, like Senator Clinton receive about $2.4 million. They also get more money for "committee aides", which presumably are lowly creatures that do not constitute "staff".

Of course they each have an expense account covering their phones, stationery and basic office costs...for both of their offices.

These hard working members of Congress receive 32 taxpayer paid for trips home per year. They have the same years we do...the ones with 52 weeks in them.

If they do any foreign travel, that's basically free and also includes a travel long as they're making official "inquiries".

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

They get to mail virtually anything for free. Licking stamps can really be a waste of time and the staff members splitting that $750,000.00 a year really are far too busy.

Our Washington lawmakers have free access to video and film studios, owned by Congress, to record messages for their constituents for those 20 weeks a year they can't make it home to see them.

Eating and shopping at the Capitol is cheap. There are 'tax free" shops on Capitol hill, and members of Congress get a discount for shopping there. Certainly they should be rewarded for shopping in places where they don't have to pay taxes don't you think? A cup of soup in the Senate dining room costs $1.40. A cup of soup at a popular and reasonably priced restaurant chain in San Antonio, "Jim's" is $1.99. I'll bet the Jim's soup is better.

A haircut on Capitol Hill will cost you 10 bucks. Well, not you...but a member of Congress. You're not allowed in the Congressional barber shop.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

Congress people don't pay to park at Washington National Airport; in fact they have reserved parking spaces. This is convenient when they're rushing home to see their loved ones, 32 times a year at taxpayer expense.

They do have to pay for their memberships to the House gym and Senate "Bath". What's your gym membership run you? Members of Congress pay 100 dollars...a year. It's probably a pretty shabby place though...I'd wear shower shoes if I was allowed to set foot in there...but I'm not.

Keeping track of all this stuff can be very complicated, even if you have a paid staff earning three quarters of a million dollars annually, not including the pittance you toss at the lowly committee aides. Luckily, if you're a member of Congress your taxes are done for free.

They get every holiday off...and usually several days, weeks or months around each holiday. When it comes time to decide if they should receive a pay raise...they are the ones who decide. In the past 4 years or so Congressional raises have totaled $18,000.

I think they've shown a great deal of restraint...if I got to decide how much my pay raise would be each year I'd probably get all goofy and go way over 18 grand.

"Many of you are well enough off that ... the tax cuts may have helped you. We're saying that for America to get back on track, we're probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good."

This is why I don't blog a lot about anyone?

Monday, June 28, 2004

The Gift

Today is my birthday. I hesitate to mention that, but it's germane to the events of the day, and it's nothing to be ashamed's not like I'm 50....yet.

*image swiped from
No birthday cake please... I'm still watching my girlish figure.

We spent much of today running around doing all those last minute things you do in preparation for vacation, but ours included getting arrangements made with our home health care agency to "overnight" Amy's supplies to her in another state. They were fabulous about it.
We also had to meet with Amy's surgeon one last time and go over our game plan.

This trip has been our main goal for at least the last three months. I firmly believe it's going to do wonders for Amy's health.

We've put off other medical decisions and concentrated a lot of prayers toward making sure this family tradition did not get derailed.

Amy's doctor has been wonderful in understanding our intentions and working with us to try to make sure that we can leave town with everything we need, including peace of mind.

When the doc said, "As far as I'm concerned, we've covered all the bases and you're good to go" all I could think of was, "Thank you, God...that is the only birthday gift I truly desired."

We've got a few more issues to contend with, ramrodding a prescription past the insurance Nazis ahead of their pre-determined timetable is one of them. We've also got to figure out how to keep Amy medicated "in flight" with security folks frowning on syringes. However I'm confident we'll clear those hurdles as well... in fact I'm certain it's going to be a piece of cake.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

An Update

Summer House has been updated. I still have no idea where it's going but after reading Dave Barry's column today, I have high hopes for it.

P.S. The Gmail invitations are gone

That Was Fact This Is Fiction

I started to write this in the comments area, but then I found myself spreading out responses all over the place so I figured I'd simply put it in a post.

I wanted to make sure no one was confusing fact with fiction. We do spend a portion of our summers at Lake Erie. However there is no Summer House...there's no town named Water's Edge. It's not something I have done for a lifetime. I think this will be the tenth year Amy and I have gone there. The houses where we've stayed have varied over the years. It's a wonderful time with family, 17 or 18 of us, all together. There are no dark times of introspection. We eat ice cream, play shuffleboard, and rush to get the daily newspaper to learn what celebrity has died (our vacations are always bad for celebrities...they start dropping like flies). Last year, Amy and I explored a little winery nearby which is about as exciting as it gets.

There is no Internet access. I think there's a phone in the rental house but we won't use it.

The only link between Summer House the story and our annual family vacation is that I love that area and I thought in the winter it would make a nice setting for story about isolation and fear. There is a lighthouse, but it's not on Johnson Island, it's at Marblehead, across the bay from the Cedar Point amusement park where my stepson works summers as a caricature artist. Johnson Island was a prisoner of war camp during the Civil War, thousands of confederate soldiers were housed there - hundreds are buried there. You can learn more about that through the Daughter's of the Confederacy.

I may write a little while I'm at Lake Erie -on my PDA with its pseudo usable keyboard, but I doubt it. Our time away is a time "unplugged".

We'll spend part of our vacation near Dayton, Ohio where I will have Internet access. I may post something brief, and will check email, but I do believe when you go on vacation you should try very hard to leave almost everything behind...that includes work, dogs, and blogs. I make an exception for kids, but then again our kids are all grown past years I might have been willing to negotiate that as well.

We don't leave until Wednesday, but have lots to do before then so posting is going to be sporadic even before we leave I suspect.

This post is one of those things on the "to do" list, so now that's one more item I can scratch off, and we're one step closer to departure.

P.S. Any burglars, thieves, aimless blog worshippers reading this...our house will not be empty while we're gone and there are big vicious dogs...well, okay they're not big or vicious, but we do have dogs. Plus, there's nothing worth stealing...everything we have that is of any true value travels with us...always.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Random Ramblings

I'm down to one Gmail invitation, although I suspect they'll offer me more.

I mentioned this to Bet from Dappled Things that the controversy surrounding Gmail is over Google's admission that it plans to target text based ads at Gmail users based on the content of their emails. It's not like Google employees will be reading the emails, some computer will get that thrilling task and make assumptions on what ads might be appropriate. Although this has given some folks an excuse to get their knickers in a twist over "privacy issues", personally I think it may be fun.

I've never considered email to be private, and you shouldn't either. It's more like a postcard; there are all sorts of opportunities for other folks to read it in the pipeline of the Internet. I also don't write a lot of secret steamy stuff in email, so I don't really care who reads it. I will confess I'm tempted to add some random word to every Gmail email I send, simply to see what type of ads it eventually provokes. I'm thinking "frogs" might be a good word...or maybe "elastic".

I'm easily amused.
Is it only me, or does it seem like shoelaces don't work any more? I don't recall having to double tie my shoelaces when I was growing up. If I don't double tie shoelaces now, they come undone in seconds. It doesn't matter what type of shoes I'm wearing...okay, I don't have the problem with sandals or loafers.

Was there a change in shoelaces some time ago that I missed? Seems like we should have gotten to vote on that one.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Blade, Sweat and Jeers

I had such ambition today. It's Friday, which in itself needs little more explanation. I had a spectacular day at work, teaching a colleague every trick I know to do my job so she can fill in for me while we vacation. She came away thanking me profusely and I think much more confident that she'll be able to handle things while I'm gone.

I decide to leave work and head directly to the church to get some yard work done, but I had to replace the blade on the church lawnmower first having bent it worse than Jessica Simpson's logic several weeks ago.

Despite being admittedly inept at all forms of repair work, I am confident. I actually replaced my own lawnmower blade a few weeks back. This time I am ready, I stop by Sears to buy a blade, I have tools at the church, and I even remember to bring along a block of wood to hold the old blade in place, as well as my handy metal pipe to give me added leverage with the socket wrench. I actually look like I know what I am doing.

Within seconds I have the old blade off and the new blade on. It's a watershed moment in my life. At nearly 47 years old I have finally fixed something on the first try.

Then I pull the cord to start the mower.


Okay....maybe something is still a little loose. I tighten the blade some more. Same thing.

Okay, maybe it's too tight. I loosen the blade a little.

Bad idea. The song "Foot Loose" starts rolling through my mind.

Hmmm...I look at the blade. I examine the mower. Everything seems right, except when the blade turns one edge keeps hitting the housing. I try adjusting the blade slightly to one luck. Finally I conclude that I perhaps have purchased the wrong replacement blade.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...It's back to Sears I go.

The salesman eyes me suspiciously when I tell him the 22 inch blade doesn't fit my 22 inch mower. I try to convince him that my old bent 22 inch blade is a little smaller than the replacement I purchased. He is a man of few words. I believe they were, "22 inches is 22 inches".

I decide that it isn't worth debating and I trade down to a 21 inch blade. The salesman shakes his head and takes my money - yes, a 21 inch blade costs more than a 22 inch blade. Look for Jessica Simpson in a Sears commercial soon.

I happily drive back to the church convinced this will do the trick but as I pull into the parking lot I notice some writing etched into one side of my shiny new 21 inch blade. It reads: "Grass side".

Have I mentioned how inept I am at this type of thing?

Not once did it cross my mind that it matters which way the mower blade is attached. I assumed it was the same on both sides. Moreover I actually thought that the side with the label on it, advertising "Craftsman" would naturally face outward, presumably so everyone turning over the mower would see the ad. Admittedly, upon further reflection that does seem to be a rather limited market.

Now I am faced with the dilemma: do I go back to Sears and admit I'm a moron who never attempted to attach the blade "the other way" or do I put on a 21 inch blade that isn't designed for the machine?

Hi Ho...Hi Ho....

I manage to make the exchange for the blade I had returned only 10 minutes before with a modicum of embarrassment. Okay, they laugh at me. All the guys in the lawn and garden area laugh. They may still be laughing for all I know.

I drive back to the church, put on the new 22 inch blade taking note of the "grass side" marking this time.

Did I mention it's about 90 degrees with 102% humidity? I'm sweating like a latter day Elvis. I've been at this project now for more than an hour. Not one blade of grass has been mowed.

I yank the cord. Nothing. I yank it again...and again...and again. I prime the engine. Yank. Diddly squat. Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank-Yank!!!!

Silence...followed by a few words not normally uttered in our church parking lot.


Okay, maybe I flooded the engine. I'll take a time a minute. YANK YANK YANK!


I decide to busy myself elsewhere, and start spraying some weed killer on the crushed granite paths around the church. Ten minutes later, I go back to the mower. This time I say a few words to God which are much more pleasant than my previous utterances.

Yank. Yank Yank. Yank Yank Yank. YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK YANK!


Taking note of my previous stupidity I double check to make sure there is gas in the engine and that the spark plug wire is attached. Both check out - which at least provides me with the satisfaction of knowing that I still have room to grow as an idiot.


I give up. It would be quicker to drive home, get my own mower and drive back than keep doing this...and certainly it would be less frustrating.

I push the mower to the storage shed thinking perhaps I damaged more than the blade but right before I stow it inside I give it one last YANK.


"Sputter? Did you just sputter?" I'm now talking to a lawn mower.

Sputter sputter.

It's talking back!



We have lift off!

I immediately start mowing away, and it's actually feeling cooler too. Hooray!

Hmmm... I'm still sweating though.

Oh, that's not sweat.

It's rain.

Big fat rain, coming down in sheets.

I keep mowing. It keeps raining.

In the back of mind I swear I hear something singing, "Hi Ho, Hi Ho...It's down the drain we go" It's the weed killer.

I ignore the thought and the rain. I mow on... determined.

Suddenly I'm feeling like Lieutenant Dan from the movie Forrest Gump...

I'm atop the mast of a ship being pounded by the seas and rain and I'm railing at the Heavens, "You call this a storm??"

Sputter. Silence.

Yeah...that's what He calls it alright.

I call it quits.

"God? I'm sure I'll figure it out on my own...after I dry out a bit and I get my arm back in its socket, but I have to admit right now I'm thinking sometimes Your message gets a little lost in the translation."

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Stare

The fever is setting in. My boss sees it. He's been peppering me with questions and it's apparent that he knows.

He also knows there is no cure.

Our vacation is within reach.

For several months now Amy and I have had one get to the end of the June and be spiritually, physically and financially capable of getting the heck out of town. Now we can taste it. It's taken a lot of planning and prayer. We're still going to resemble something akin to a M.A.S.H. unit, but we're going to make it.

I actually managed to keep the fever at bay a little longer than usual this year, in part because I feared we wouldn't be able to pull it off and I wanted to be ready to minimize the disappointment. Today though, the fever's grip took hold in full force.

My boss started panicking - trying to plan for the weeks ahead but he was met with only "the stare".

The "you realize my mind is somewhere else" stare. The "I don't really care" stare.

Tomorrow morning I will go over some of my duties with one of my co-workers who will be picking up a few of my responsibilities while we are gone. She will panic, but the best I will be able to offer is a sympathetic stare.

She'll forgive's the fever.

Next week I'll spend several additional days answering the same frenzied questions, but my mind will already be elsewhere. In the water.

Wednesday I will walk out the door ready to feed my fever...staring straight ahead with no desire for the moment at least to look back.


I keep hearing how folks are clamoring to get Gmail accounts. There's even a website where people are pseudo-facetiously offering to barter things for invites.

The email service, which for those of you who are not complete Internet geeks, is much like Hotmail or Yahoo in that it's free, but it offers more storage space. Folks getting in early have a better shot at getting the email address they want.

I have seven Gmail invites, and possibly more. If anyone out there is really desiring one, zip me an my Gmail account: MichaelMain AT

I'll hand them out until I run out.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Summer House Move

I tossed and turned last night over this small piece of fiction that seems to have started to dominate my thoughts. I decided I didn't want it to dominate the blog, so I'm moving it to its own space.

I think this will allow me to modify and massage it more readily...or ignore it completely.

There's a link on the sidebar for those of you keeping tabs on it, and if I can think of some way to have that link indicate if new material has been added without it being too obnoxious I'll do that.

Blogger used to have the option of letting you set your posts in reverse order, which would have been nice for this particular project - people wouldn't have to read it in reverse order- but apparently that's no longer available.

Anyway...future Summer House writings will be confined to that space.

I'm hoping this isn't a sign of schizophrenia. If it is, don't tell us.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

P is for Party Hat

You know you're really bored when you start looking through the website statistics, but I comfort myself knowing that you must be even more bored if you're actually reading about me looking through my website stats.

The most searched for term that still brings people to this website is "Tony Parker". It used to be "McGriddle recipe". The McGriddle has fallen to number three now behind "party hat". I don't even remember writing anything about a party hat, but I suspect that must be people searching for an image using Google.

That surely is also why "urinal" and "urinal cake" are high on the least I hope so.

Out of curiosity I did a Google image search for "urinal cake", and my website was the first listing.

Yes, among folks worldwide searching for urinal cake pictures...I'm number one!

Oh, Brother

I have had few obsessions in my life, but for a brief while I was somewhat consumed by Humphrey Bogart films. At one point I attempted to record every Bogart film I could find - he made about 75 movies in his lifetime. I managed to record or buy most of them. I have no idea why. It became something to do....and I did it. I think I still have most of the grainy videos stashed in a closet somewhere. I don't watch them. Many are very bad.

One fairly forgettable movie in which Bogart had a supporting role as a rival gangster was called "Brother Orchid." It was one of the final films Bogart made before he became a leading man. His role was overshadowed by the performances of Edward G. Robinson and Ann Southern which made the movie somewhat salvageable.

The only reason I mention this film at all is that its title crossed my mind today as I saw a story about a guy in Houston who has been arrested for smuggling orchids. Doing a news search as I sat down to write about this, I noticed stories of two other men who recently were charged or copped pleas to this same or a very similar offense. Apparently some folks are obsessed with smuggling orchids. Who knew?

I don't mean to minimize the seriousness of this crime. I'm sure these orchids are endangered species and that's why it's a federal offense to stuff them in your pants in Peru and unload them in Houston - actually I don't know how you even go about smuggling orchids. Do they have dogs trained to sniff them out?

Forget I asked that. If anyone is tempted to explain to me why this is such a heinous act, please resist the urge. I'll defer to Uncle Sam on this one. Orchid smuggling is a crime. Bad bad orchid smugglers!

In any case, this particular nefarious orchid smuggler in Houston is likely going to go to prison....for up to 35 years.

35 years for orchid smuggling.

I'm sorry.

I couldn't help it.

The image of Bogart in the role of some prison thug instantly popped into my mind.

All I could think of was a gruff and threatening Bogart meeting up behind bars with this admitted pansy purloiner.

How awkward would that conversation be?

"So...what are you in for?"

Monday, June 21, 2004

A Dog's Day Of Summer

It's the first full day of summer and the season is off to an unusual start.

I opened the back door following my mid day nap and all three dogs came racing in. That is not uncommon - it's not like they only now discovered air conditioning - but our special needs dog Winston was acting a bit odd-albeit that is not an easy call to make.

I was in the kitchen making a small bag of popcorn. While our other two dogs were eying me hopefully, Winston went off on his own. This is not unusual either, since we long ago determined that everyday Winston apparently forgets almost everything, so every day every thing in the house is essentially a new experience.

My usual tactic when Winston is out of range is to periodically bellow, "Winston...NO!" I resorted to that approach in this case. I had no idea where he was, but I've found he's almost always up to no good when he's out of sight, so yelling, "Winston NO!" is something of a pre-emptive strike.

It's not like he pays any attention to me's purely for my benefit.

Anyway, the popcorn popped, and armed with a big glass of sweet tea I left the kitchen, but there was no sign of Winston.

There were no socks dragged out of the bedroom. Amy's crocheting stuff - this is a new hobby which I've been told is going to produce an afghan but which thus far has spawned a sweatband for me to wear while walking which I suspect will result in the neighbors having gleeful memories of bad John Travolta dance movies - was all still in the bag on the floor by the couch.

The bedroom door was closed...the trash from the guest bathroom had not been ripped to shreds, neither had the toilet paper been discovered and dragged gleefully through the living room.

A chill ran up my spine. Winston at times shares the trait of certain serial killers... you may not know where he is, but you almost always know where he's been. There was no evidence of him anywhere in view.

Although the general level of disorder on the first floor was unchanged I reassured myself that normalcy would be restored as I climbed the stairs certain to find whatever carnage he had wrought.

"Winston, NO!"

What the heck, it couldn't hurt.

I bounded hurriedly up the stairs suspecting that one of Amy's beanie babies - it was a stage, she got over it - might be meeting an unpleasant end....but they were all still sitting in the racks, gathering dust as always.

Okay, now this was strange. I went down the hallway, but every door was closed. Still, there was no sign of Winston.

Then I saw him - sitting in his crate, wagging his tail and looking quite pleased with himself.

There wasn't anything, or any remnant of anything, in there with him either.

He apparently decided to come into the house, go upstairs, and go to bed.

Every dog has his day...I guess this is Winston's.

Too bad he won't remember it tomorrow.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A Father's Gift

I never got to know my father well...he was 35 years old when I was born, his third son.

I know he was a World War II veteran, serving from 1942 to 1946. He wanted very much to be a pilot, but because he was color blind, he instead joined the Army and worked in communications. To my knowledge he never went into battle.

I know he met my mother on a train as they both traveled to Austin where they were marginal students at the University of Texas.

My father was a newspaper man, as was his father. During his career he managed production areas of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and Newsday. However at the end of his life he was commuting from our home on Long Island to Rochester, New York where he worked as a typesetter. It was a job for which he was highly overqualified, but it was the only work he could get. His career had spiraled downward - in part because he couldn't beat the demon of drink.

My father had a wry sense of humor and would go to great lengths to demonstrate it...if only for his own amusement.
For a very brief time in college he drew a comic strip for the University of Texas newspaper, The Daily Texan. The strip featured a character whose lisp resulted in him pronouncing the letter S as "th". Apparently my Dad started the strip with the sole intent of getting one cartoon published and he succeeded. That cartoon featured the lisping character complaining about his algebra class and saying, "I don't know ma'ath from a hole in the ground". At the time, that was pretty risqué stuff. It got by the faculty editor and into print. It also ended my father's career as a cartoonist.

My father loved photography, which was both a blessing and a curse. My brothers and I have a lot of photographs from our childhood, but not many featuring Dad...because he was usually the one taking the pictures.

Dad died on February 22, 1972. He was two years older than I am today when he suffered a massive heart attack while leaving work one night. He died in a cold parking lot in the dead of winter, hundreds of miles from his family. I was 14.

I remember my mother waking me to break the news. I also remember that my father had already prepared me for that moment.

It was in January of 1971. I was standing in the driveway of our home crying as I repeatedly tossed a rubber ball against our garage door. It was a senseless lonely game but it made as much sense to me as anything else that day. My father came out to the driveway, and pulled me into his arms. He told me he was leaving the next morning to bury his father, but that I shouldn't cry. He said his father had lived a long and productive life, and death was inevitable for us all. Then he passed along the lesson I will always cherish. He told me crying was okay, but that I should also celebrate the lives of people I loved. "That way" he said, "they will always live on within you."

Thanks Dad.

That lesson is one I'm glad I didn't miss.

Floyd Harold Main

Friday, June 18, 2004

Call Waiting

I remember standing outside the door and every once in a while giving it a gentle kick. My brothers had locked me out of the attic and were upstairs giggling at my frustration. I was a small boy, the youngest of three, but I didn't want to give them the satisfaction so I entertained myself in other areas of the house.

Every once in a while though I walked by the attic door and gave it a little kick. I hoped no one would notice, but I wanted to see if it might budge.

In a few minutes, my phone is going to ring. It will be my friend Roy asking if I am still willing to go with him and his wife this afternoon to visit Charles and Barbara, a couple of fellow church members. Amy wanted very badly to join us, but can't because she's running a higher than usual fever today.

The fever wouldn't slow Amy down, but we can't risk it for another reason.

Barbara is dying.

Like Roy and his wife, Charles and Barbara are in their 70s. They are from a different era. When these very hard times hit, their reaction was to hunker down, hold each other close while asking for prayers and privacy.

We've respected their wishes....but every once in a while we've wandered by and given the door a little nudge...a gentle kick.

This afternoon, it's opening a small crack....enough room to allow three people, carrying the love of many, to squeeze through...if only for a little while.

Gotta go. It's the phone.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Can You Hear Him Now?

I believe God screams.

I believe He is screaming at you right now.
Last Christmas, Amy gave me a small set of headphones to use with my pocket PC. There was nothing especially significant about the headphones except for the little plastic hooks on the ear pieces which insure they stay in place once I put them on. Amy knows I like to listen to music on my pocket PC when I do landscaping work at the church and she also knows I have often been frustrated by the earphones I had been using because they fall out of my ears with great regularity.

I remember how excited I was when I saw the headphones for the first time, because I knew those little moments of aggravation would be gone. What a wonderful gift.

Nearly six months have gone by, and in addition to using the headphones while doing yard work at the church, I now use them when I take my daily walk, so literally I wear them every day.

Yesterday, for the first time, I noticed that there is a volume control on those headphones.

Admittedly it's small and easily overlooked, yet I had never bothered to examine the headphones beyond the earpieces. I had never before seen the small slider which provides an easy way to adjust the volume.

In all honesty the discovery made me feel a little foolish. How could I overlook something so obvious?
I believe God screams.

I believe He's screaming at you right now.
As some of you know, Amy has had some medical problems on and off for a number of years. In the past three years, she's had four abdominal surgeries; the most recent was in January. Amy was hospitalized for nearly that entire month. Out of all her surgeries, it's that last one from which she has had the hardest time recovering.

Every day I ask God to help me encourage Amy. I beg him to heal her - physically, mentally...spiritually. I do that every day-no exceptions.

It's the easiest thing I to God.

Since being released from the hospital last week, Amy has had more energy than at any time in the past six months. It's been wonderful.

Today I came home from a long day at work and was determined to get in my daily walk right away before the South Texas heat sapped my enthusiasm. I also was fixated on spending some time writing, because I haven't given this blog much attention over the past several days.

Amy was up and about when I got home and indicated she wanted to stop by a couple of stores and maybe go out for a coffee and do a crossword puzzle together. I must confess, I am like a lot of men...I don't like shopping. I suggested that perhaps she hit the stores solo while I went on a walk, and then we could meet up for coffee afterwards. I figured that was a pretty good compromise.

Amy wasn't exactly thrilled with that plan, nor was she surprised. She knows me very well and raised no objections.

I quickly changed clothes, and strapping on my headphones and hand weights I headed out the door. I was less than halfway through my walk when it hit me.

How could I overlook something so obvious?

I hurried home, praying all the way that Amy hadn't left yet. Thankfully she was still there when I returned.

As soon as I walked in the door, I blurted out, "I want to go shopping with you."

She raised a suspicious eyebrow and said, "Oh? Is there something you remembered you wanted to buy?"

I said, "No, not a thing"and then asked her to wait while I showered and changed.
I believe God screams.

I believe He's screaming at you right now.
I have spent six months on my knees pleading with God to heal Amy. To give her strength. To return some normalcy to our lives.

Today, she is far from healed, but she had a small amount of energy and a desire to do some things together - routine things...mundane things....normal things and my response was a "compromise".
I believe God screams.

I believe He is screaming at you right now.
We have jobs, responsibilities, appointments, favorite TV shows to watch. We have children, and school plays, and soccer practices. There are bills to pay, and things to worry about, Church events to coordinate, vacations to plan, lawns to mow, dogs to groom -the list goes on and on! It's a never ending agenda of noise.

The din of every day demands and desires.

It's not our's our lives!

The easiest thing I do is talk to God....listening to Him, now that's another story.

I realized today I need to stop for one small moment and look around. I need to find a tiny volume control for all that racket. A volume control which I've overlooked for far too long....and far too easily.

Then maybe God wouldn't have to scream.

Esther, It's The Big One

From the Houston Chronicle this morning - Yes, it's 2 A.M.

For `Esther,' `Madonna' is immaterial
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone has a message for the world: "Call me Esther."

Madonna, after all, isn't exactly kosher if you're into Kabbalah. So the Material Girl has claimed the Hebrew name of Esther.

This announcement comes in the middle of her Re-Invention tour and just days before the release of her third children's book. Her latest, Yakov and the Seven Thieves (Callaway, $19.95), hits bookstores on Monday.

In an interview to air Friday night on ABC's 20/20, Madonna/Esther talks about her faith, adding that although she was named after her mother (who died when she was young), the superstar isn't dishonoring her memory with the name change.

"I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name," she says in the interview.

I love that line..."I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name".

I think I'll do the same thing. You may now call me Bill Gates. I am only doing this to attach myself to his energy....if a few shekels should fall my way as a result...well, so be it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Time Out

Rushing around a bit today...that's a good thing. It means Amy is feeling like rushing around a little.
Now it's time to relax.
Maybe tomorrow I'll write about hearing God scream...or maybe I'll discuss missing the obvious. Hmmm...maybe those could be one and the same.

Probably so.

One For The Little Guy

Sometimes when I wake up and realize I need more sleep, I reach out and cling to whatever little thing I can to hit the day in stride.
This morning was one of those days...I grappled in the dark, showered myself awake, stumbled my way through some emails and work related stuff.

Then I sat back...took a deep breath and uttered the words I know will carry me through the day.

"The Lakers lost."

For an unabashed Spurs fan, there is justice in that...and to see a team like Detroit, which is made up of primarily "little guys" (can you name more than 2 players on the Pistons?), it was all I needed.

David topples's 2 a.m and a long day is ahead, but all is right with the world at this particular moment.

P.S. - My apologies to Lakers fans...there's always next year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Selling Heck

I was walking out of work today when someone handed me a press release for a new book. We don't do stories or interviews on new books (sorry, RLP), so usually such press releases end up in the trash. This one was entitled: Why 99% of the Religious Are Going to Hell.


It's an "explosive" book by Minister Earl M. Wright (he doesn't Google, save yourself the time) who promises to "spare no religious denomination, race or even his fellow servants of God."

I don't plan to get his book, even a promotional copy. I hesitated even mentioning it actually.

I kept thinking, if 99% of the religious are going to Hell, does that mean the other 1 percent is going to end up spending eternity with Minister Earl M. Wright?

I think I want a recount.

Free American Flags

I'm posting this for two reasons. One, I wanted to test out blogger's feature where you can send an email which will publish to your blog, and it looks like a normal post.

Very cool.

Two, I found this American flag deal a week or so ago. We received our flag yesterday. It's a very nice, decent quality flag. It's "free" if you overlook the $5.99 shipping charge. Still six bucks for a sturdy nylon 3 by 5 flag is a good deal, and you probably won't find anything cheaper in stores this close to July 4th.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Officially Mindless

I'm a Baptist. I live in the South. I'm not a Southern Baptist. There are lots and lots of different types of Baptists. Besides finding reasons to serve food at church, finding reasons to divide ourselves with doctrinal statements appears to me to be what Baptists do best.

Starting Tuesday, the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Indianapolis and I know that no matter what decisions are made, the story that is going to get the most ink and airplay in the media is going to be concerning a resolution calling for Southern Baptist parents to remove their children from public schools because public education is "officially godless".

Jack Graham, the President of the Convention, is the first to admit that this proposal - in its current form - is not going to fly, but he also realizes it's going to get a lot of attention and some aspect of the resolution's intent may indeed end up being formally adopted.

He says it's going to get publicity because people want to "make Southern Baptists look bad". No argument there. Certainly opposing Baptist groups will point to this one resolution and say, "See, they're wacky. Don't send them your money....send your money to us instead." It's a tactic the Southern Baptist Convention leaders should be able to spot.

Some of the publicity will also come from people who believe the Southern Baptist Convention bears watching like a hawk. No argument there either- sunlight is a good disinfectant.

Some of the publicity will come from members of the media who don't understand religion or the religious. It's an easy story to cover.

In the end though most Southern Baptists won't know what was approved and many of their kids will still go to public schools. They'll come home from school and still watch their Disney videos which the Southern Baptists blacklisted some years back.

My concern isn't for the Southern Baptists, the Texas Southern Baptists, the Cooperative Baptists, the Primitive Baptists, or any of the other Baptists.

My concern is for the folks who aren't churched at all...and looking for any excuse to stay that way. I think they're going to hear accusations using terms like "officially godless", and come away thinking they were right all along...there's no place in church for them.

If only we'd stick to serving many more could be fed?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Weight Thing

A couple of years ago I was in a somewhat heated discussion with "CyberBob" the very talented webmaster for our radio/TV station website over the content we should provide. I was reluctant to put too much of our news product on the web because I thought it might give people a reason not to listen to the radio or watch the TV station.

Bob responded, "It's been my experience that you can't go wrong if you give customers what they came to you seeking in the first place."

I mention this only because I made a remark a few posts ago about my recent weight loss and the fact that I haven't detailed too many specifics here because my experience has shown most folks don't really want to hear the specifics. There's still a lot of truth to that statement, but it was also a little flippant - I tend to be that way, you can ask Amy...or for that matter anyone else who knows me, including CyberBob - who by the way won that previously mentioned argument.

When I wrote that post, I received a few comments and emails from folks asking for more information, and Clarence essentially called me out....something I rightly deserved.

I certainly don't want to minimize the struggle so many people have with their weight or act like I lost weight with ease and there really is no need to discuss it further beyond, "eat less...exercise more".

In truth there was a great deal more to my weight loss than that, but also it must be said that the way I lost weight is not going to work for most people. My circumstances were very specific and happened to make weight loss at this particular time much easier than it has been in the past. However, perhaps my experience will provide others with some encouragement, and if nothing else I won't feel like I snubbed Clarence who currently weighs almost exactly what I did several months ago.

First off, I didn't start off intending to lose weight. Admittedly I had thought about it as does everyone who gets up, looks in the mirror and decides that mirrors, like cameras, add 10 to 40 pounds. However I was truly seeking a time of spiritual growth.

I decided to fast and to walk beginning last Ash Wednesday.

For at least the past seven years during Lent I have fasted in one form or another. For the past two years I adopted an almost identical regimen. I call it a modified version of the Daniel Fast. The modifications are that I wasn't maniacal about it, I might sample a dab of pasta salad at the church pot luck and more importantly I added small portions of fish 2 to 3 times a week, usually tuna or salmon...although lately I've really begun to like tilapia which I can buy frozen at Sam's in individual packages. They take 5 minutes to cook. I also allow myself to drink iced the gallon, and I don't scrimp on the no-cal sweeteners, preferably equal.

I vowed to walk for at least 40 minutes every day...a brisk walk, rain, shine, or unbearable heat not withstanding.

Last year I did this and I did not lose a pound. Not one pound. I still found the experience spiritually enlightening.

Here's what I did different this year:

Spiritually - I decided to study the book of Acts during those 40 days...and only the book of Acts. I read small portions every day for 40 days, and I used a commentary to learn more about that particular time in church history.
Physically - A few days into my walking regime I began carrying hand weights - five pound weights.
Dietary - I gave up my almost nightly indulgence of a glass or two of red wine and I also abstained from all breads, even those made with whole grains.

I started losing weight almost immediately and even after Easter I decided to maintain the basics of the discipline, although now I am allowing myself a glass or two of wine per week...and I read more than the book of Acts.

It's a very rigid system, but it worked for me. Here's why it probably won't work for most anyone else.

First off, my best friend who happens to be the woman I'm married to, Amy, has been unable to eat conventionally for many months...she is fed intravenously. That, in combination with the fact we're broke, means we don't go to a lot of restaurants.

Second, Amy has been in pain much of this time and our lives have revolved around her health care a great deal. During Lent I recognized I was becoming obsessed with her health and that would in the end be unhealthy for her and for me. I made a conscious decision to focus a small portion of my energies on losing weight as a healthy release from stress. It is certainly much better than the paths I have chosen in the past to cope with the realities of life.

Thirdly, all our kids are either in college or are on their own so the nights when the house is full and the communal thought arises of, "Let's call out for a pizza" are virtually nil.

Lastly, I am one of those people who can eat the same thing every day and not complain. Every day since Ash Wednesday I have had the same breakfast...almonds and raisins. During the week for lunch I have a banana, a 12 ounce V-8 juice, and maybe an orange or tangerine.
Most nights I have a small salad, or fish mixed with stir fry vegetables.

Again, I tend to doubt most folks are going to be happy with such a monastic approach toward food.

However I think there may be one or two universal truths in my experience.

I believe everybody has "trigger foods", things you eat that make you want to eat more. Mine are cheese and breads. If I steer clear of those, I find I rarely get hungry, no matter how little I eat.

Diet soft drinks make dieting harder. If I drink a diet coke, my stomach demands food minutes later. I don't know if it's the carbonation, the caffeine, or the sweeteners they use, but it's true. If I am trying to soft drinks are not my friend.

Alcohol, even in moderation, slows down your metabolism. If you are serious about losing weight quit even that one glass of wine for a month or two and see if it doesn't make a difference.

Portion size is way overlooked when people try to lose weight. You can eat much less than you think and still be full. Restaurants that serve meals as big as your head are not giving you a "good deal"; they're giving you a "big butt".

If you exercise you will feel better, even if you don't lose weight. I've had gym memberships that made my bank account thinner. I've tried various home exercise gadgets that we ended up hanging clothes on before selling at garage sales. Walking costs nothing and there's almost no excuse that really flies to get out of it besides laziness or blizzards.

No matter what it is though, the key to exercise is to find something you actually enjoy doing. If you hate it, you ain't going to do it.

"You can't go wrong giving customers what they came to you seeking in the first place"

That statement applies to more than a website. If you come to yourself honestly seeking a way and acknowledging you need God's help...I don't think you can go wrong.

Saturday, June 12, 2004


I seek such small steps.

I hope,I pray and I wait.

Amy's out. Be home soon.

Friday, June 11, 2004

That Crazy Invitation

When I became an honest to God, studyin' the Bible, goin' to church, tithin', singin' hymns Christian I was frightened.
How do you tell people who have for decades known a cynical pseudo agnostic former drunk and drug abuser that, well into adulthood, you've suddenly decided that God came back to earth as a baby, lived a sinless life, performed many miracles, then died for your sins and three days later came back to life?

It sounds crazy. It is crazy.

I didn't have a choice...I believed.

I couldn't conceal my faith, but still I wasn't one of those folks who had a sudden conversion and then went on a maniacal mission to save souls. I came to Christ gradually, and I wasn't in any hurry to witness to others. Quite frankly I didn't think I'd be very good at it.


"If for some reason today you feel God has spoken to you, we invite you to speak with someone. Michael Main is one of our deacons, he's on the second row..."

My Real Life Preacher says something to that effect almost every Sunday. The first time I heard it only one thought crossed my mind, "Holy crap! What if someone actually comes to me asking for spiritual advice?"

I never wanted to be a deacon.

I figured, quite rightly, that I was probably the least churched person in our church...surely there were better candidates...heck everyone was a better candidate as far as I could tell.

Make no mistake, I loved our church, but I didn't have any ministerial gifts. I went to the bible studies, and came to church service. I stayed afterwards to vacuum the floor. I sometimes took out the trash and made sure no one left any surprises un-flushed in the toilets. That was my contribution. It wasn't much, but no one else was rushing to do it...and it was a job I was knew I was capable of doing.

But helping guide someone to find God? That was a job for expert Christians...real church folks…people who spoke the language.

Over my objections, I was ordained a deacon in January of 2000.

One Sunday not long after that, Gordon made his usual closing invitation. Moments later a woman came up to me and said, "I need to talk to you, can we meet this week?" I was petrified, but I agreed. I had no choice...I was a deacon.

All week leading up that meeting I thought, "This is crazy, here's a woman going through some spiritual crisis, and I'm supposed to help her?"

It turned out she had heard from God. She said He was telling her to be more involved in church, but she didn't know how.

"Holy crap!" I thought, "I have an answer!"

I told her, "Come to church. Put your fanny in a seat every Sunday. Come to Sunday school and get your kids in Sunday school too. If you want to do more, grab a mop, and a bucket. Are you any good at cleaning toilets?"

I suppose that sounded crazy, but she took me up on my offer. She's now a serious disciple of Christ, and she and her kids clean the church toilets.

So this is how I witness. I show people how God worked in my life. I tell them I'm on the journey too and I don't have all the answers. I invite them to join me...and I warn them we may scrub toilets along the way.

Yes, it can be frightening, and it's certainly God works these things out.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. - Psalm 25:9

The Flippin' Birds

Okay, one update to a previous post. The "cute" little birds on our porch all grew up. They did all fly away....for about an hour. Then they all came back...or some other group of barn swallows moved in.

I walked out this morning and there were seven grown birds all crammed into the nest...I thought, "How cute" until they ALL started to dive bomb me.
I ran to my car, clutching my tea and briefcase looking like a character from a b-movie escaping marching zombies. I was half awake and in total disbelief.

I walked out to the mailbox a few minutes ago - yes, I forgot there was no mail today - and upon my return I was assaulted...not by Mama and Papa protecting their babies, but by at least 4 grown swallows. Where before one might squawk and another might dive all of them attack...en masse! I was tempted to get a baseball bat, but then I actually had the passing thought that for the only time in my life I might swing a bat and hit something, and I'd feel terrible....probably. I also wondered of what else are these maniacal winged beasts capable? Could they get meaner or call in reinforcements?

One thing is for certain...this is not a little family of birdies....this is a gang.

I don't share this revelation lightly. How embarrassing is it to say, "Did I mention I'm living in fear...of the tiny barn swallows on my porch"?

I struggled for a solution and even briefly toyed with the idea of renting a cat.

Googling the phrase "rent-a-cat" however resulted in this....

Apparently the Dollar Rent-a-Car folks in Japan need a better translator.

It did help me realize the only way I was going to survive this assault though.

Laugh if off....and run.

So Perhaps Saturday

A small hiccup, but I'm still flying solo. We'll shoot for Amy to be released tomorrow. I have to confess I crave normalcy. We'll get foot in front of the other all the way.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Less Loafing, A Glass Of Wine, and Now

Back from my walk and I'm sitting down to write. There's nothing wrong with that, except it's almost 8:30 and my alarm goes off in less than 5 hours.

I'm treating myself to a glass of wine.

Amy is likely coming home tomorrow and my soul is much more at peace.

I stepped on the scales a few minutes ago and weighed in at 193. Once I re-hydrate that will change, but I'm going to hold onto the vision for tonight at least. Seven more pounds and I'll have dropped a full 50.

I haven't written too much about the weight loss thing here since that really wasn't my intent when I started fasting, and now I find the folks who ask me about it don't really want to hear the answer. It's always a short conversation.

"I'm amazed at how much weight you've lost! So what's the secret?"

"I ate less, and exercised more"


I really want to write about something else tonight. About how crazy it is to be a Christian. About how frightening it is to realize you are one and about how sometimes God doesn't give you any choice.

But this isn't the time.

Instead I'm going to enjoy this glass of wine and go to bed...and let my thoughts ferment.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Into Each Life

Well, the thunderstorm I referred to earlier has turned into a full blown typhoon. This has altered the plotline of my personal sitcom, "My Three Dogs".

I actually had them fairly attuned to my schedule but that did require them going outside for extended periods of time.

Moments ago, I fed them big heaping bowls of food and green beans hoping they'll sleep for at least an hour or so, so I can sleep for at least an hour or so.

Of course full stomachs do have their consequences, and from thus comes today's truth: Dogs poop a lot quicker in a monsoon.

If Confucius didn't say that I'm sure he would have gotten around to it eventually.

The Waiting Game

I stopped at Sam's on the way home from the hospital today to drop off a prescription and a booming thunderstorm broke out as I was walking into the store. Since I was only in there a few minutes, the storm was in full fledged rage as I was leaving.

The choices - run to the car or stand and wait for the storm to pass like many people were doing.

Patience is not my strong suit, and now I'm soaked to the bone.

If anything the storm intensified with every hurried step. By the time I got to the car I was splashing through six inches of water.

I should have waited.

Barring the unexpected, Amy should get out of the hospital in a day or two.

I'm optimistic, but I'm suddenly in less of a hurry.

Sometimes God sends pretty clear lessons...I only need to soak them up.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Happy Birthday EmmaWayne!

I'm really going to have to do something about this...this growing up stuff.

My niece Emily (or EmmaWayne as some jokester nicknamed her) is celebrating a birthday today.

She can't read this today, because she's in Mexico doing God's work.

Emily is a beautiful and excited spirit.

You danced your way into my heart long ago.


Uncle M

My Apologies To The Lady Of Avon

I think I was rude to the Avon lady.

Normally when I take a nap in the middle of the day, which God willing is every day, I turn off the ringer on the house phone, put my cell phone in another part of the house by Amy, close myself in our bedroom, turn on the floor fan which makes about as much noise as an f-14 fighter jet, put in earplugs, and adorn my face with a charming little sleep mask given me recently by the local Baptist hospital system as a promotional tschoske - I don't know if they really expected me wear it, but as soon as I saw it I said, "Hey, I can use that!"

By the way, if you're under the impression that news coverage can't be influenced, at least I only wear blinders to sleep.

Anyway, I block out the world. I take my napping seriously.

This week Amy is in the hospital and my boss is on vacation which technically puts me in least at work. Part of the downside of that is that I can't turn off any of my phones...the upside is I can sleep anywhere I want in the house. Today, all of the ingredients of a good nap came together. It's not excessively hot, it's raining on and off, I "accidentally" doubled up the medication for Winston the special needs dog, and another hospital bill came in the mail making me want to go fetal.

I curled up on the couch and started watching a movie (Matchstick Men - haven't made it through it yet so I can't tell you if it's worth renting)...I promptly fell asleep.

Somewhere during that blissful state of oblivion the phone rang and it was the Avon lady. This wasn't a "ding dong Avon calling" sales call...I think Amy has actual friends who are Avon ladies with whom she has some barter arrangement for computer work in return for overpriced stuff that smells good. Anyway, I'm not real good on the phone to begin with, when the phone is responsible for Nappus Interruptus I'm even worse.

I vaguely remember the very pleasant woman asking for Amy, and me saying she was in the hospital. The woman naturally was curious as to how long Amy would be hospitalized, what she was in for, etc. I didn't satisfy her with my response. In truth I think I ignored all her questions and grunted, "I'll tell her you called". She was still saying something when I hung up and rolled back over on the couch trying to find a place unspoiled by my drool.

Now, I am awake and refreshed (it was a good nap) but I feel a little guilty.

I'll have to figure out a way to make it up to the Avon lady....if only the Fuller Brush man was still around.

From Heavy Revvy

I stumbled into Heavy Revvies Blog ...and saw this picture

Since there is no permalink I swiped it without express written permission from the National Football League, the U.S. Navy, John Kerry, Gomer Pyle, or even Revvie.

But it was too funny not to pass along.

Monday, June 07, 2004


I got home from the hospital today and slept all afternoon.

And it was good.

Amy told me this morning she thought I shouldn't blog about her health issues, "because it's like you have to live everything twice and it only makes it harder on you."

Amy worries that I worry too much.

When she told me that, I nodded.

I nod a lot. I found that gets me in less trouble than when I open my mouth.

In honesty I live everything far more than twice, but who's counting.

As I was writing this post, I was interrupted by a phone call. My eldest stepdaughter Tiffany was on the line. She and her boyfriend are at a stage of their relationship where there are some communication barriers coming to the forefront.

In other words, she's a female and he's a male. She wants to talk about stuff... he really doesn't.

I tried nodding, but for the record that doesn't work as well over the phone.

We talked for quite a while, and I offered my advice, but Tiffany will soon be 23 - she is far wiser than her years. She'll make up her own mind.

I must confess it is nice to know she wanted my opinion.

I realize also that it's nice to love and be loved so much that it provokes worry.

(Insert nod here)

As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-4

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Sleepless in San Antonio

A long day didn't get any shorter. I suspect rather than sit and whine I could do us all a favor by going to sleep.

Every once in a while I get it right.

A Hard Night's Day

It seemed like I had been asleep on the couch for about an hour when Amy woke me around 10pm.

Now it's 4 a.m, so you can assume this is not a good thing.

Amy's pain increased dramatically over the course of the past day or so. Last night we went back to the emergency room. She's been readmitted to the hospital (after 4 hours of waiting and a CT scan).

I'm optimistic this hospital stay will be brief.

Amy's illness has been an ordeal, but we are strong.

We will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move day.

Right now I'm debating either a nap or strong coffee....cogent thought seems out of the question.

It's been a long day.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Goodbye Gipper

My phone just buzzed from the office. Ronald Reagan has died.

Politics aside, the one thing about Ronald Reagan that I always respected was you knew where he stood. That quality in a leader can not be underestimated.

There will be some who will disagree with me, but Reagan's stout determination and unfaltering faith restored this country in many ways. He gave many of us hope and a renewed belief in the concept of America.

God rest his soul.

Who Is Who?

X-"You know I've spent my entire existence trying to please you."

Y-"All I've ever wanted is your love and approval."

X-"I don't know if you even hear me."

Y-"Sometimes I think the standards you set for me are impossible."

X-"I want so desperately to be part of your life."

Y- "I need your respect."

X-"I respect your needs."

Y-"I wish I could prove to you how important you are to me."

Y-"I wonder if I can ever truly please you."

X-"Sometimes I wonder if you even know I'm alive."

Y-"I want to be what you expect me to be but that's not always possible."

X-"I only want you to need me."

Y- "Are you there? Are you listening?"

X-"Sometimes it's like you don't want to see me."

Y-"Why don't you answer me?"

X-"Why can't I hear you?"

Y-"Don't be afraid to ask more of me"

X-"You can never expect too much of me."

Y-"Have I hurt you?"

X- "Please, trust me."

Y- "Maybe you don't need me."

X- "No one can hurt me like you can."

X-"I know what you want to hear, but sometimes you don't listen"

Y-"I hear you, but sometimes I can't answer."

X-"Do you really love me?'

Y-"Do you really love me?"

X&Y-"Sometimes I fear I've failed you."


Small Dog Big Lesson

I am off this morning to do a little clean up work at the church. We have a group coming in from Oklahoma using our new education building as a crash pad/way station on their way to Mexico. I only want to cut the weeds down around the back of the building so they don't lose any kids.

I threw our dogs out for a few minutes, only long enough for them all to bark so the neighbors could roll over in bed and say, "Hey it's 6:45 and those freakin' dogs are must be the weekend and Michael slept in!". I'm sure that brings them great joy, since during the week I let the dogs out at 1 a.m.

As I was putting the dogs up, our two smallest stay in crates in the house which they love, Winston - the special needs dog - did something he's never done before....he pushed his head against the crate door as I was closing it. He resisted my authority. He wasn't being mean...he was asking for more of me in the only way he could express it.

I laughed, let him out of the cage and rubbed his belly for a minute; then he ambled back into his crate and plopped down peacefully. He's already asleep.

Yet, there was a life lesson in that small moment.

How often do we push back against that which we love because we think that's the only way to get the attention we need?

Friday, June 04, 2004

Luau Luau, Oh No Me Gotta Go

My company is hosting a little gathering for employees this evening and we're going.

Amy has been feeling lousy all week. We think (and actually pray) it's due to dehydration. Today we convinced the medical minds that be of that diagnosis and also not to hospitalize her. Instead she's going to administer fluids at home for a few days and we'll see if that leads to an improvement.

I thought we would simply pass on the company event, but Amy is rather insistent that we do something "fun". She doesn't apparently see the light moments that I do in sweeping up dog hair around the house and looking at the caller ID to determine if a bill collector is on the line.

So we're off for the night, or as much of it as we can take.

The theme for the evening is a "luau".


The joke around the office is the company is throwing this little party "in luau a raise."

*Artwork swiped from Penelope Illustration

A Side Order of Sanity

First rule of blogging...don't blog about blogging.

Blew that.

Last time Joey, my stepson. was in town he asked me with a great deal of incredulity, "Why do you blog anyway?"

I didn't really have an answer.

I enjoy writing. I wanted a daily discipline in my life. It's free?

When I challenged myself to write every day, I did attempt to set a limit on how much of my time that writing would occupy. As I recall, I imposed the random standard of no more than an hour a day.

I adhered to that least for the first hour.

Writing here occupies more of my time lately.

I suppose that's due in part to our lifestyles. Amy's health issues keep us close to home, the pesky general limitations of poverty, we have only basic cable, the Spurs tanked and the worst one of all...I'm getting old and boring.

I've wrestled a lot of demons in my life, some have ripped at the very bowels of my beliefs...they've all left scars. Now I'm a creature of few bad habits....heck, there are illegal drugs people take nowadays the effects of which I'm completely oblivious too. The names of some of those drugs I can't even pronounce.

So I readily confess to diving into this swirling vortex of words to purposely lose occasionally find myself.

Although Amy has at times referred to herself as a "blog widow", I know she understands and is supportive... unless of course I publish a candid picture of her.

God? Thanks for that forgiveness thing.

Still, Joey's question haunts me and I still have no real answer.

This is simply where all the mixed up stuff in my life blends together.

Call it sanity succotash.

At least I'm getting my vegetables.

(Written in an hour or less. See? It shows!)

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Mama Was A Divebomber

"Serpentine, Shel, serpentine!!!"

That has to be one of the funniest lines from the movie "The In-Laws", the 1979 version with Peter Falk and Alan Arkin - not the recent remake which wasn't anywhere near as humorous.

In the film, Falk bellows that advice to Arkin as they are coming under machine gun fire. It's a reminder to run in a serpentine motion because a moving target is harder to hit.

Whenever Amy and I walk in or out of our house lately we do the same and yell, "Serpentine, Serpentine!"

We're not coming under attack from a machine gun nest, but rather from the nest of baby swallows encamped immediately above our front door.

Actually the baby birds are quite peaceful....Mom and Dad on the other hand are outright mean.

The little birds are almost big enough to fly away, but until they do their mother and father defend them by dive-bombing us or any other unlucky trespasser on our porch.

They'll get close enough where you can feel the breeze from their wings. Or if you're stupid enough to stand there, get a picture of their wing

What's interesting is that in a few days, the parent birds will use the same approach on their offspring that they've perfected on us. They'll swoop and squawk and generally harass them. It's their way of telling the fledglings it's time to move out.

Sometimes I suppose you have to go on the offensive, even with the ones you love.

If you do, remember to yell, "Serpentine! Serpentine!" to let them know you care.

To The Best Of My Recallection

For the record....the great recall saga has come to a close.

I thought it only appropriate to photographically document the last stages.

The odds of my 1997 Achieva experiencing spontaneous combustion have evidently been reduced, and I've mailed off the form to the folks at Oldsmobile so they can stop worrying...and perhaps back off on their medication.

Something for RLP Readers

Since my Real Life Preacher decided to direct folks here the other day from his blog, I thought I might gift his readers with what I guess we could call bonus material.

Not too long ago RLP wrote about a wonderful child in our church named, Chloe.

He doesn't post a lot of pictures on his site, especially of congregation members. I do though.

I also actually wrote about Chloe last summer when she was formally baptized as a Believer. That story is here, but mostly I wanted to pass along the picture....and yes, that's Gordon doing the dunking.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The Trip To Sensible

Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done. - Harriet Beecher Stowe

My 1997 Oldsmobile Achieva has been the subject of a recall for some time now. Apparently there is a chance the ignition switch can catch fire. Every few months, for the past year or two, I've received a notice from Oldsmobile reminding me of the threat of fire, and asking if I've gotten the switch replaced, sold the car, or been incinerated. Every few months I look at the notice and toss it in the trash.

I don't want my Achieva to burst into flames - although if you saw my car you might say that suggestion merits some debate - but I haven't had the work done because the folks at Oldsmobile insist that the recall be performed at a dealership in a little town more than 30 miles away. There are no Oldsmobile dealerships in San Antonio any longer - for some reason when the company announced they were going to stop making cars, the dealerships here closed. So now apparently the entire storehouse of Oldsmobile ignition switch expertise in South Texas is housed exclusively in the tiny community of Seguin, Texas. That's big news, since heretofore Seguin was famous only as home to the world's largest pecan.

Anyway, Sunday afternoon I gave in - I sent an email to Oldsmobile's customer service folks explaining that I had already seen the world's largest pecan, which by the way is made of concrete, and really could see no reason to go to Seguin ever again. I asked if perhaps there was someone in the 9th largest city in the United States capable of performing this task instead.

To Oldsmobile's credit I received an almost immediate response: "No." Actually this was the exact quote : "I apologize but according to the dealership locator tool on the closet Oldsmobile dealership to you is located in Seguin, Texas. An Oldsmobile dealership must perform recalls"

I assumed that they meant "closest" although I did momentarily toy with the idea that in addition to hosting the world's largest pecan Seguin might also be the proud home of a closet Oldsmobile dealership. In any case, we then exchanged a flurry of emails which included insightful statements from the company like: "unfortunately there is no way that I can make a closer dealership for you" and "There is no Oldsmobile dealership that is nearer to you. This is not something that we can change for you." They also suggested I call random car dealers in San Antonio and ask if they might perform the work and then tagged out that brainstorm with "Best of luck to you in this endeavor".

It was obvious to me that I was dealing with people who were trained to give polite programmed responses, but not to think. They had their "dealership locator tool" but nothing else in their tool chest.

I decided there was little more I could do except have some fun at their I did.

I must have exchanged 8 or 9 emails with 4 or 5 different customer service people and their supervisors, all of which were marked by a fine balance of polite vapidness indicating everyone had memorized the same handbook on customer relations, or at least the first chapter.

Finally I decided it was bordering on cruelty to play it out any further so I ended the silliness with a gentle reply that I figured would let them off the hook.

Dear -----,

I've decided to simply take the risk that the car will burst into flames.
Thank you for the many emails, I only wish the customer service department had spent half the time trying to locate a dealership in the 9th largest city in the nation capable of doing this one hour repair job as it did corresponding with me.

Yours in cremation,

Michael Main

An hour or so later my phone rang at home. In a matter of seconds the woman calling told me she was from Oldsmobile and, suppressing a laugh, informed me that, "Any G.M. car dealer in San Antonio can perform this repair." She added, "I've read all these silly emails and I have no idea why our customer service department didn't suggest that in the first place."

She then told me she had contacted a dealership less than 2 miles from my home and would arrange to have the ignition switch replaced at my convenience.

It was that easy.

We shared a few more giggles over the absurdity of the situation. She apologized for the confusion and I thanked her profusely for being able to look away from the customer service handbook and the dealership locator tool long enough to see common sense.

I'm having the ignition switch replaced tomorrow.

To get to sensible, sometimes you have to take the scenic route.

The Preacher Spike

I was half planning on writing today about how my brief dalliance with blogger fame was waning.

After being mentioned recently when Gordon outted himself as Real Live Preacher the number of visitors to my normally quiet little blog spiked dramatically. I noticed yesterday however that my 15 minutes of blogosphere notoriety appeared to be fading.

Now Gordon's done it again and the hit counter is spinning at an abnormal rate.

So, welcome all you RLP readers.

I have to confess I did call Gordon and half heartedly inquire if he was playing one of his social engineering experiments - remind me to blog sometime about the time I took him to a bar and we spent the night altering the mood of several well oiled folks in the crowd by making specific musical selections on the jukebox - but he assured me his motives were far more pure than that.

I believe him...he is my Pastor after all.

Of course now that I've planted the seed...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Wind Is There In Spirit

Several years ago, my preferred form of exercise was bicycle riding. My preferred excuse not to ride back then was usually not the rain, or the heat, it was often the wind.
If the wind was blowing hard I automatically knew it would be a tough ride. Sure, when the wind is at your back it's great, but sooner or later you have turn into the wind and on a bike that translates into a lot more work. If the wind is blowing really hard, it can be truly exhausting and can ruin a good ride.

Recently, as I've mentioned, my preferred form of exercise is walking. Ironically though I've actually tried to convince myself on occasion that it was reasonable to skip my daily march because of the lack of wind.

There is actually a modicum of sense in this admitted rationalization. For example, yesterday it was hotter than blazes, humid enough to make any swamp creature smile, and there wasn't so much as a whisper of a breeze. By the time I finished my trek I was completely depleted.

However if there is even the slightest movement of air on any given day, I know when I climb a tough hill or exit into an open area at a brisk pace, I will be refreshed almost instantly by the breeze. The wind helps me maintain and often regain my momentum.

I'm told in both Hebrew and Greek the term Holy Spirit is something of a translation injustice. In Hebrew this component of the Godhead is often described with the word ruah; in Greek, the term k'numah is used. Both of these are powerful descriptions when teamed with the Lord. They literally translate to the very breath or wind of God.

It dawned on me today how my exercise efforts have been something of a metaphor for my spiritual growth.

When I have found myself fighting the wind, I have been slowed and at times defeated. When I find myself seeking the very breath of Christ...the God Wind...I am refreshed, renewed....and I know I can keep going.

In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind. - Job 12:10


"The world should know of those who give so much for liberty.
The dearest thing in all the world to a father and mother---their children."
- Congressional Record 1917

Each day on my walk I pass this image in the window of a home on a small cul de sac.

Many of you know what it symbolizes, but in case others might want an explanation, it is what's been termed a "Blue Star Flag" or "Service Flag".

It's a tradition started during the First World War - American families displayed small flags or cardboard placards in their windows to let others know that someone in their family was serving our country in the military.

The tradition grew more popular during World War II, thanks in large part to radio promotion. In recent years, there has been a small resurgence.

Tradition calls for the blue star, which symbolizes hope and pride, to be replaced with a silver star should that family's service member be wounded....if they are killed, a gold star is put in its place representing sacrifice.

As I mentioned, one of these small placards sits prominently in the window of a home I pass every day. It is in fact the home of the two young red haired boys I wrote about a couple of months ago.

I don't know what family member of theirs is serving, but when I saw the placard placed in the window a few weeks ago I started thinking about those little boys differently.

I considered writing this on Memorial Day. I thought that would have been fitting, but then I decided that would actually be wrong.

You see, that placard is in the window to remind passersby like me that a great sacrifice is being made by the family in that home. It's not something they put out once a year on's an every day reminder.

It should be for me too.

I've also decided each day as I walk past that home I will say a small prayer.

A prayer for safety...and a prayer of thanks.

Aw Heck

The Lakers won and it was 104 degrees in San Antonio on Monday.

Did I miss the rapture?