Thursday, September 30, 2004

Needleless To Say

We probably should have considered it a sign...on the way to the acupuncturist we blew out a tire on the freeway.

Amy panicked a bit, she's still a little freaked out by driving in general...watching me change a tire on the shoulder of a busy freeway was not a calming experience by any means. I did manage to get the spare on and get us on our way without too much of a delay and Amy's composure was still salvageable.

Unfortunately, the tire was only the first thing that got deflated during the course of the afternoon. We quickly realized the acupuncturist, who mentioned repeatedly that she studied the ancient Chinese arts under the masters and not at some trade school, was not fluent in insurance.

The wisdom of Confucius was less present than the waves of confusion.

We both made phone calls to my insurance company, but we couldn't get it to translate into treatment at the price we were expecting.

The money wasn't really that big of an issue - I would have paid her price, but the longer we haggled with this master of the ancient healing arts, the more uncomfortable Amy and I became with her gruff demeanor.

When someone is about to stick needles into you their attitude becomes a fairly pointed issue.

I'm sure this woman was highly competent, but gentle is not a word that anyone would use to describe her.

Amy and I couldn't help but wonder if she might enjoy her work a bit too much.

Eventually Amy gave me a look which I knew meant, "let's scram," so that's what we did.

We'll still pursue the acupuncture option, but I think we'll spend more time making certain whomever we choose not only meets our insurance criteria but is also more familiar with shiatsu than sadism.

Oddly enough the insurance came through...on my tire. I had purchased "roadside protection" when I bought that tire two years ago at Sam's. On the way home we stopped to see if there was any chance that coverage still applied. Amazingly, it did...completely. The only thing we paid for was the cost of putting on a new tire - nine bucks.

No hassles, no phone calls, no confusion.

When I asked the lady at the Sam's customer service desk if they ever considered offering acupuncture, she gave me a puzzled look, but then she laughed. I suppose she thought I was needling her.


I've only a moment or two to write before we're off to turn Amy into a pin cushion, which I'm certain is going to end up being my "blog fodder" for today. By the way, my mother-in-law the other day used the term "blog fodder," I think that has to be symbolic of something...if nothing else I have a hip mother-in-law.

First off, I'm testing a relatively new browser called Firefox. If you're into this type of thing, it's worth checking out. Personally I think I may actually jump from Internet Explorer simply because I can set up all the pages I check each morning in a "tabbed folder" and it will load them all at once. That will save me time...and time is a precious thing when you rise before the Sun.

On the slightly less geeky side of things, I suppose everyone has received an email from someone in Nigeria offering gazillions of dollars if you'll only provide these benevolent folks with your bank account number. I stumbled across a hilarious (albeit there is some bad language) site run by a guy in Houston who decided to go after those spammers/con men in his own unique way.

He communicates with the spammers/con artists pretending to be everything from a little old lady in a nursing home to a rap artist wannabe and then documents his correspondence. Some of it is very funny, but again if you are offended by coarse language, or you are one of my nieces, don't go there. It's called

That's all for now...more later on mystics and pinpricks.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Good Fences

Sometimes I feel like I'm looking over the fence at Christianity.

Did anyone else see this story?

Fistfights at the tomb of Jesus.

Sometimes I wish the fence was higher.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Let Sleeping Men Snore

The medical flurry today was certainly not as big of a deal as we expected...and that was fine with me.

Amy and I have become so accustomed to medical chaos, that being in a medical office operating efficiently really made us both nervous. We kept asking if they were certain we were in the right place and that everything we thought was supposed to be done was going to be done. The staff looked at us like we were from Mars and explained everything that was planned (actually they did more than we anticipated).

The doctor came back to the recovery room looking dejected as he woefully told me he had found nothing abnormal. He then gave me pictures taken of various parts of Amy's interior. They're not suitable for framing, but with a little creativity they might be montaged into some interesting Christmas cards.

I wasn't sure how to react to the doctor's disappointment, I was tempted to make him feel better by saying something like, "Oh well, maybe next time you'll find a tumor," but Amy was coming out of the anesthesia so I resisted. In truth I'm sure the doctor was hoping to find the source of Amy's long term pain but we knew going in that wasn't going to happen. These tests were simply to confirm what all the other tests had shown; the source of her pain is not something obvious.

The main thing is the frustrating feeding tube has been replaced by a button system which I think is going to be much easier on Amy physically and mentally. Additionally she didn't get put back in the hospital so I was able to comfort her as soon as we were out the door with some Reese's Pieces and a diet Pepsi.

No hospital also means the acupuncture option is still in the mix.

There was a lot of waiting time, but the actual procedure only took about 30 minutes. I passed the time doing crosswords until I was allowed into the recovery room. Then I waited for Amy to wake up while listening to the melodious tones of the guy parked on the gurney next to her. He snored...loudly.

They should search people like me for recording devices....I'm too easily amused.

An Amy Update

Amy and I leave shortly for another doctor and a couple of other medical procedures. Not sure if we'll be coming home together or not. He may admit her to the hospital after he's done.

I'm ready to camp out...crossword puzzles and books...I'm getting too used to this I think.

One thing is definite, the gastric tube is coming out since it's only been a source of pain. It's being replaced with something more advanced. Hopefully that will reduce her pain and we can stay on track. It would be nice to give her a period of actual healing, but I've learned to take each day as it comes, and pray each day that God will eventually fill me in.

If she doesn't get stuck back in the hospital, we're going to give acupuncture a try this week. Our insurance covers it and I can't see how it could hurt...of course it's Amy who has to get needles stuck in her not me.

Anyway...this is all I'll have time to write today I suspect.

I know the prayers are there, please know we appreciate them.

Monday, September 27, 2004

High Fives & Hard Candy

Steven says his prayers.

Steven is a small boy in our of many children who display God's joy and is learning of God's grace.

He's has been written about before by my friend that time he called him Elliot.

Steven is one of the kids who sit on the blanket with Gordon each Sunday.

When that brief session ends, Steven, and most all the little kids, scampers from the sanctuary down the hall to a classroom for what is essentially children's church. I usually sit at the end of the aisle so the kids run right by me.

Each Sunday as Steven starts to run past he remembers something and invariably stops.

He gives me a high five and then runs on....there are no pleasantries exchanged, it's simply something we always do and it always makes me smile.

I'm not sure how it started. I'm certain it was one of those things I exploited when he became old enough to give me five, and now it's become a tradition. I'm not even sure that Steven knows why he does it, it's one of those things he always does in church and when you're little sometimes it's easier to do than to ask why.

Sometimes when you're big that's true too.

Apparently in Steven's Sunday school class yesterday the kids were given Jolly Rancher candies and instructed to give them to someone in church. Steven gave me one, and I thanked him before putting it in my pocket.

Here I must take a moment to confess that I often wear the clothes I wore to church on Sunday to work on Monday. Usually the first thing I do after church is to change out of my nicer clothes and into something grubbier. Then I have a mostly clean set of clothes already laid out for work...wallet, belt, keys, and such already in place. When you wake up as early as I do, and often dress in the's a blessing believe me.

That's how it worked out today. I was wearing the same pants as yesterday and as I was leaving the office I reached into my pocket to fetch my car keys. That's when I rediscovered Steven's Jolly Rancher. It was watermelon, my favorite. I savored it and thought of precious gifts in small packages.

If you have read Gordon's stories you know that before Steven was even born we prayed for him. Now Steven is four years old and he prays for us. His Mom & Dad have told Amy that Steven says his prayers each night and always asks God to heal Miss Amy.

A precious gift in a small package.

I savor Steven like a hard candy surprise.

Wayne's Wheels In Weird World

One of the things people mention to me during occasional conversations about the news business is that they want to hear how stories "ended up." In other words, follow ups on people who made headlines one day and then seemingly were never heard from again.

Reporters, and I'm no exception, are generally lazy. Those types of stories take more work than covering a fire, or a shooting. I think that's probably the reason you don't hear/see more stories of that nature. However, I did want to at least mention that David Koresh's Camaro did sell over the weekend, not for 60 thousand dollars, but for 37 thousand.

A car wash owner from San Antonio purchased it. The L.A. Times article I read had some delicious quotes

The new owner, "I'll bring it out for things like parades."

One potential buyer, "It's kind of sick, buying a car owned by Koresh. It's like buying a car owned by Hitler. When you think about who sat in the driver's seat, it's like Satan was there."

The seller's wife, "Oh, I'm just furious. He shouldn't have sold the car for so little. I'm about to walk home."

The buyer, "My wife isn't happy either."

Maybe she'll get over it in time to wave to the crowds during parades.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I Want To Be Where You Are...

Amy cried on the way to church...emotional anticipation.

I cried during the service...emotional reality.

How long has it been since I've been able to watch my wife lead our small body of believers in song.

Far too long for me, that much is certain.

I relished every second.

This small sampling - recorded with the limitations of my pocket PC doesn't do it justice, in sound quality or spiritual depth.

However I've listened to it about 30 times since I hurriedly edited it together.

As promised, Tiffany worshipped with us as well...had I remembered to tell her we were having a pot luck after church there never would have been any doubt. She stayed for the service...and the meal. In between she brought out her violin and "jammed" with a few members of the music team.

This next week may lead us in any number of directions with Amy's health...but today I spent with my wife, child, and church family in song and sustenance...praise and prayer.

Today I spent time with God...right where I always wanted to be.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

This Is The Day...

It was a good day.

I spent the day helping build a future for a young family.

I spent the evening at a simple ceremony where several members of our small church formally committed their futures to Christ.

It was a good day.

Tomorrow I have great hope that Amy will join me in church. She wants to lead music; we'll see if that's possible, but even if she's only there sitting beside me it will be a big step. Our daughter Tiffany called me tonight to tell me she wanted to take that step with us, so she will drive down in the morning.

It was a good day and for tonight at least I am wide eyed with the hope of more good days to come.

There's a lot of future on which to build.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Force Feeding

Amy may be on the feeding tube, but I force fed my mind and attitude today.

Minor things were becoming monumental in violation of my basic rule of sanity.

So I fell back on those things which I know quench my thirst for hope, that satiate my hunger for humility.

I scrubbed toilets at the church.

I enjoyed cold pizza with Gordon. We talked about important things like little girls and writing and dreams of writing better. Like ceiling fan dust and devotion.

I came home to confrontation with bills that could bust our hoped for budget.

I put the numbers in perspective and added in a measure of faith.

I got an email that was upsetting...I hit delete and walked away.

I hugged my wife and we worked a crossword puzzle until we both fell asleep.

Now I am going to the church to get in an hour or two of lawn work. Tomorrow I will rise early to join friends and strangers in building a home for people with real troubles and much more tangible fears.

And I will be full....having been truly fed.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Pigs, Plugs And Automobiles

My first car was a 1967 Chevy Camaro - jet black with a vinyl roof.

My first dog, that wasn't the family pet, was a mutt named Max.

I bought that Camaro for a thousand dollars in 1975 or 76. I didn't appreciate what I had at the time. I wrecked it twice. Once I ran it into a fire plug in broad daylight in the middle of the upper middle class Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch; the other time I ran it into a 400 pound pig in the dark of night on a farm to market road near the very rural town of Flower Mound.

Both wrecks were quite a feat. Both were completely my fault. Both involved drugs and booze.

In Farmer's Branch about the only fixed object I could have hit was a fire hydrant or a golf ball washer. In Flower Mound in the dead of night moving targets were equally limited. Yet I managed to hit them both- a fire hydrant and a female porker. Few people can boast of such accomplishments. Few people would want to I suspect.

Those stories are for another day perhaps, although I made passing mention of them in another post last February if you're really bored.

The reason I thought of my old Camaro today was because of this picture.

That's not the Camaro I owned, although mine looked a lot like it. The one in the picture is a 1968 and it was owned by a guy named Vernon Wayne Howell. His had a 427 engine...mine had a 327. I don't really know what that means but it's important to car guys.

He took a lot better care of his Camaro than I did mine. That's what his looks like today. I suspect mine may look like a six pack of Old Milwaukee or a Zippo lighter.

I did have my Camaro repaired each time I wrecked it, but eventually I let it fall apart. The vinyl roof started peeling away... I vaguely recall using duct tape to patch it because the roof actually sprang leaks. The dings and dents stood out more than the slick black paint job. It ceased resembling a sleek "cool car" and instead betrayed the reality that it had been driven hard down the rough roads of life....and had run off the roads on numerous occasions as well.

Eventually I got another car...a ghastly semi-metallic gold Ford Capri.

The Capri was a dream car compared to the Camaro. It ran and it didn't leak.

While in college, I parked the Camaro in my back yard and let in rot in neglect. After a couple of years, two guys I sort of knew begged me to let them try to save it from the destiny of becoming an overgrown flower pot. They offered cash, $300 (in payments of 75 dollars a week). I wasn't a soft touch though, so they upped their offer. They threw in a dog....Max.

I took a little better care of Max than I did the car. He was not the best dog I've ever had...he was stupid, hyper, and liked to get drunk.

We had a lot in common back then.

Max died years ago, but I'm certain he outlasted the Camaro.

Still I think now if I had taken better care of that car I might be able to sell it today for a lot of money.

Vernon Wayne Howell's Camaro is being sold this weekend at an auction up the road in Fredericksburg. They say his car might fetch $60,000.

My Camaro wouldn't be worth near that much. I don't think Vernon Wayne Howell's is either, but there's no accounting for taste.

You see Vernon Wayne Howell used to drive his Camaro to town and back home. He didn't venture very far from that course. It's not the low mileage that's the selling point though. "Town" to Vernon Wayne Howell was Waco, Texas...and "home" was a little ranch where he lived with his "family". They called that little ranch Mount Carmel. They still do.

His family called themselves Branch Davidians and they knew Vernon Wayne as David.

David Koresh.

They treated him like the Messiah, but much like Max...he's not around today.

His Camaro was wrecked too by the way. He didn't run it into a pig or a fire hydrant...a DEA agent drove a tank into it. It's been repaired and repainted but there are still a few marks where you can see that a tank bumped into it.

There's also a mark on the engine....evidently Koresh had it stamped on the engine block. It reads: "DAVID'S 427 GO GOD"

They may find someone to spend huge amounts of money to own David Koresh's Camaro this weekend.

I'll cling to my memories of fire hydrants, pigs and an occasionally drunken dog named Max.

I'd pay a lot to hold onto those.

Vernon Wayne Howell I'd rather forget.

Wife Your Feet

Pain is such an all consuming thing. I've watched Amy grapple with it for months and months now. I can't imagine how frustrating it is for her.

This new pain from the gastric tube often results in her having to find "positions" in which to rest that provide her some relief.

This morning I stumbled out of the bedroom to find her lying in the entryway to the living room. I nearly tripped over her.

Half asleep, bleary-eyed and confused (which is my state of being most of the time not only in the morning) I started to panic fearing she had fallen down the stairs or collapsed in the middle of the night.

At that moment though she opened her eyes, smiled, and said, "Oh, this was a comfortable position....I guess I fell asleep."

I didn't make any coffee this morning; my heart was beating plenty fast.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Button It Up

Amy's pain is still no better so we're going to try some new things next week. Our meeting with her doctor went well today and we laid out a plan of attack. Amy mentioned that she can handle the pain and frustration a lot better if she knows that it's going somewhere.

Next week we'll undergo some different procedures... replacing the g-tube with what's commonly called a "button."

Hopefully that will reduce her discomfort.

This morning I allowed myself to be mentally sucked in to some other folk's self pity and perhaps unintentional attempts at manipulation. As a result that dominated my mind for too long. As Amy spoke of her pain today and how coping with it became easier when a plan was in place, I thought how I could use the same approach.

Her plan works for pains in the rear end too.

I See Through It

I almost got caught up in it.

Distractions and disillusionment brought on by petty antics and public martyrs.

Sympathy vampires.

No...not today.

There are far more important things to do today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This Is The Day That Slipped Away

Ack! It's past 8:45...and I really have no topic to write about. There's no time even if I did.

I emailed a non-Christian friend tonight and used the word "churchianty" to describe how sometimes we fixate on church and lose sight of Christianity.

I never really defined churchianity for him, since I sort of made it up during the course of the email exchange, but I suspect it's related to insanity....a first cousin most likely. A cousin in violation of laws regarding inbreeding. It certainly trashes the tenets of true worship.

And I'm still thinking about that billboard. I'm hoping it's like one of those posters that were popular some years back which you had to stare at and sort of half cross your eyes before you saw the true picture.

I'm still staring.

I still don't see it though.

Anyway, I think what I meant by churchianty is that too often we get caught up in doing church to the exclusion of being the church.

In many ways it's not too different from certain forms of neurosis, when we examine our lives more than we live them.

There's a lot at stake.

Take note of this survey.

Oh well, I need to let this go for now.

When writing fails I mercifully have a fall back position...eyes closed, in bed...and snoring.

Another Voice Heard From...

About to go sweat out a few miles in the South Texas heat, but thought I'd point out Ray's most recent post to those of you who have commented, emailed, or simply read along with the discussion about speaking in tongues.
It's quite intriguing.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Returning The Flavor

Amy is home...tired, frustrated, emotional, and in pain. We had to reschedule a doctor's appointment this afternoon after learning the doctor was running 3 hours behind, but that was a probably a good thing. Amy needs more time to rest. Traveling takes it out of the best of us these days, when you're traveling alone and not feeling well it's especially wearisome.

We managed to squeeze in some alone time last we stayed up too late talking, and got up too early. Today we're both a little ragged. We did manage to run a few errands today and had an all too brief visit with Rhonda (actually Amy and Rhonda visited...I fell asleep at Starbucks - presumably folks who were there pegged me as a decaf drinker).

I spent much of the day trying to help Amy get readjusted. It's tough...for her and for me.

Frustration, pain, fragile emotions and fatigue...these are things that at first blush would seem we all could live without.

In truth we can't.

We can no more do without them, than we could make spaghetti sauce without tomatoes.

The key is not to keep them out of the's remembering to include them only in proper measure.

I'll gladly accept a dash of disappointment, a pinch of frustration, and a tablespoon of tired...for I know in the end it will still produce something I savor....something I love dearly.

Those are but a few of the many ingredients included in the "recipe of us."

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
-Psalm 63:4-5

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Socks, Rocks, Headbutts, & Clocks II

I'm probably one of, if not the most, cynical person I's not something I'm proud of...part of it is a mental defense mechanism I adopted long ago, part of it comes with years of being exposed to politicians and promises, part of it is simply my nature I fear. Despite that, I try very hard to keep from being cynical about my spirituality...and - although I fail all too often - about other folk's spirituality.

There are however many things which I simply find mystifying.

This is one of them.

This is the billboard for a large and thriving church around the corner from my house. I saw it as I drove from the home of some friends this afternoon.

Purely from a marketing point of view...casting religion aside...I wonder what the thinking was behind this approach.

Not only the slogan, "When Religion Fails", but also the photo of the Pastor pointing his finger to resemble a little gun.

Does anyone else look at that and flashback to someone in the 1980's wearing a leisure suit who winked at you while simultaneously making a little handgun gesture as a little clicking sound emanated from the back their throat?

I have to work on that cynicism thing some more I suppose.
I butted heads a bit this afternoon over something completely unrelated. The verbal head banging was with a woman in my church whom I dearly love. The issue was a pseudo-minor thing, the chastity of our church email list. I felt some of the things being sent out on the list could easily be misinterpreted by people who were new to the church, by people who didn't know the senders well, and suggested perhaps we should be more cautious about the use of sarcasm in that little coveted corner of cyberspace.

I want so badly to guard our purity and innocence. I feel so inadequate at times to the task.

The conversation became all too heated all too quickly and I was the only one on my side. I kept looking down wondering how I ended up defending this turf - thinking surely there were better qualified folks to make this case. It was like I was drifting into this semi-surreal place where I was arguing in favor of gentleness, acceptance, and understanding with a woman who I know is a deep and devout Christian, and who is perhaps the most liberal and accepting person I know in the church.

I finally shut my mouth and remembered that when I get so caught up in trying to prove a point, the conversation invariably becomes pointless.

However, there is an upside to blogging, that conversation at least gave me a lead in to a portion of my original intended topic... socks, rocks and headbutts.

Our special needs dog, Winston, has always had an odd affinity for socks. Particularly, but not exclusive to, my sweaty socks, the ones I cast off after getting back from exercising. Any time Winston is coming into the house or is on his way outside, he pokes his head around the corner toward our bedroom to see if the door might be open. If it is, he dashes inside and goes into a manic frenzy looking for dirty socks. This is not a difficult task - which is good because Winston is not up to difficult tasks. I'm usually sweating and exhausted when I finish my daily walk and I cast my socks aside without thought as I head to the shower. It's like finding gold to Winston. He grabs socks, as many as he can fit in his mouth and runs. He runs for the door (I've found socks outside on many occasions); he dashes into other rooms (I've found socks buried like treasure in couch cushions); he runs around the living room like a looter on COPS proudly displaying his stolen wares daring us to catch him.

I've gotten used to this...what is new is that now Winston has learned that our bedroom door doesn't close all that well. If he rams his head into will pop open. This is a wondrous discovery to a dog whose brain size is subject to great debate.

Almost every day now when I let the dogs in and I hear "THUNK!" followed by the gleeful panting of a dog dashing about madly with a dirty sock in his mouth.

Our dog who hasn't learned to sit in 5 years, has taught himself how to head butt open our bedroom he can fill his mouth with dirty socks.

Perhaps I should be proud...he's at least learned something.

I learned something today as well...actually I remembered something I already knew. Life has been tough for us in recent months. There are tougher days still ahead I suspect. At church this morning, I made my usual prayer requests, one of which was for Amy's health. Then I closed my eyes and listened to the requests of others. I heard prayers for friends who had inoperable brain cancer, for people whose children had died, for others whose financial struggles were jeopardizing their marriages and prayers for couples fighting with technology to become pregnant only to be met by inexplicable heartbreak.

And I thought of rocks.

Sacks of rocks.

Amy and I carry a sack of rocks. It is heavy...

If however I take my eyes off our sack for only an instant, and focus my attention outside of us in virtually any other direction, I will see someone else...with their own sack of rocks. I remembered today that many of those sacks are far heavier than the one we plead with God to help us bear.

I didn't stop praying for God's help. I did reword my prayer to praise God for the grace, guidance and strength with which He has already gifted us, and others.

I also thanked Him for the reminder that no burden is too heavy as long as we place it upon the proper shoulders.


Yes, clocks are on my mind today too.

Amy's flight arrives in about 2 hours. This is the longest period of time we have been apart in more than 10 years.

Every time I look at the clock I am reminded - I am incomplete.

Until 10:49 p.m.

Socks, Rocks, Headbutts And Clocks

I'm heading over to some friends to watch the Cowboys....perhaps they might even win.
I was reminded today about rocks, socks, headbutts and I'm putting this here to remind me to write about them.

Not sure how I'll tie them together...maybe after I see the Cowboys perform I'll know better...though I may have to reverse one word.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

A Lesson In Humanity

I'm in pain.

Let's get to what everyone wants to know. I ended up in shorts and work boots. Most of the experienced workers were dressed the one one broke out into a chorus of Y-M-C-A either.

Not even when we were forced to wear hard hats.

I spent most of the morning hoisting wood up to folks doing the roofing. After lunch I hammered on siding.

I'm in pain.

And it was well worth it.

Habitat for Humanity is one of those rare undertakings that started with a Christ-centered philosophy and never veered from it.

If you're not familiar with its origins, you should read this.

When you keep Christ the focus of your works...hang on, there's no telling where God may take you.

I thank God for the opportunity.

And for ibuprophen.

I'm going back next Saturday for more...assuming I can walk by then.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Sticks, Stats, Clicks And Wives

A lot of folks might miss Laura's comment about the "Stick people" since it was something I posted several days ago, but she wrote a really cute piece some time back about the same thing. It's worth reading.
I noticed the hit counter went over 30,000 today. I'm not a big believer in hit counters. I've left that one up only to give me a warning when Gordon's mentions my blog. It's set very stringent, so it doesn't count me, or any computer in my home or office. It's supposedly counting unique visitors, though it's a completely different number than what I receive from the web host statistics.

When I first put up a hit counter I also put up a fake counter.

I liked that. Everyone sees a different number...hit refresh you'll see what I mean.

Near as I can tell, this site averages about 180 visits a day from different websites...unless Gordon mentions me...then it skyrockets for a week or two. A few of those folks come back. A few link to me.

I'm not all that interested in the numbers as much as I am the comments. I find it fascinating which subjects provoke the most responses. I'm fairly certain, despite all my spouted wisdom and insight, the post that got the overall most comments was something I wrote months ago about whether it's okay to bend the pages of books.

Those of you seeking intellectual thought might take that under advisement.
Saturday I will be working building a Habitat for Humanity house. Say a prayer for the poor people who are going to live there...I don't mean "poor people" as in financially, I mean "oh those poor people, they drew me on their building team."

I'm not a handyman.

My friend, Ben, tells me to wear shorts and work boots. I can't see myself doing that...I think I'd feel like one of the Village People. No matter the heat, I think I'm sticking to jeans.
Phone calls don't cut it.

Sunday night, Amy will finally be coming home. I've taken off work Monday so I can meet her at the airport.

She hasn't had the easiest time of it in Ohio, but it's been a good time.

It's time for her to be here though.

I need her.

Cut And Wait

And in an instant…I was back in the dark ages.

Some time ago, we were having problems with our cable modem…it turned out to be a firmware upgrade the cable company had done, but when I called to complain they sent some kid out to run a new cable. He ran it across our back yard and left.

I called the cable company and said with three dogs and an occasional - albeit reluctant- desire to mow the yard; I suspected a cable strewn across our back yard was destined for problems. They agreed and said someone would be out to bury the cable. Sure enough someone came out and buried it, most of it.

Apparently this particular cable guy was not a believer that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line because he decided to go around a tree instead of simply straight across our yard and as a result he found himself unable to bury the cable under several tree roots.

His decision: string the cable above the roots.

Click to enlarge

I mentioned again that with three dogs and an occasional desire to mow the yard, his choice seemed like an accident waiting to happen. I was told the rule was to follow the fence line and then go straight across. I shrugged and figured I'd try to be careful when I occasionally mowed the yard.

When Amy saw it she said, "You're going to run over that with the lawnmower...if you ever mow the yard."

I'm not ready to open up a 1-900 service offering psychic premonitions, but that one came true today.

11:15 am - I called the cable company and whined my way into a service call "sometime today."

When you read this, it'll mean they showed up, because I have no Internet access or cable TV until they do.

I can't go anywhere since in order to get them to agree to come out today I had to "be available all day."

Not that I had big plans…I was thinking of going out to the church to do some yard work this afternoon. We don't have cable at the church…I couldn't do too much damage.

But now I'm going to simply sit and wait instead.

I also stink, since I took a nice long walk before working all morning in the yard. It wasn't until I had finished that I realized I had cut the cable with the mower. The question is whether my phone rings loud enough for me to hear it in the shower. Right now I'm afraid to risk it…because the cable guy is coming…"sometime today."

12 noon - Somewhere in this house are 643 different pieces of coax cable with various ends on them which we've acquired over the years. I had this passing notion that I might be able to find them and splice the cable together enough to at least get a decent TV signal.

I have torn the house apart and found zip.

Tomorrow, I promise I will trip over one….and probably knock out the cable again.

12:30 pm - The cable company called to confirm they would be out "sometime today." The delightful young woman could not tell me anything more specific.

5 pm - I risked a shower to stop the dogs from call. I found some cable…and also realized there was no way I was going to splice it together. I called the cable company a few minutes ago to find out how long "today" lasts in the world of cable repair. Apparently it's a long day. They now tell me someone will be out before 8 p.m.

Off to find another crossword puzzle to do.

6 pm - Decided to push up the process. I put the dogs out back knowing that will prompt an immediate call from the cable guy.

6:02 - The cable guy is on the way.

6:09 - Cable guy is here

6:15 - Cable is fixed…I should have put the dogs out earlier.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Penny Lane

I took off work for a few days and was out walking this morning as the garbage men were collecting trash. As I turned a corner along my route I noticed the trash men politely setting a trash can on the curb with the usual delicacy and finesse - dumping its remaining contents on the street. I noticed the trash man look at what he was leaving behind, shrug and wave the crew on.

This is what he left behind.

Click to enlarge

I kept walking but I couldn't get those coins out of my head. Someone had decided to simply throw them in the trash and the garbage collector had also determined they weren't worth retrieving.

I decided different. I went back after my walk...picked up the coins (there were more than I caught in that photo), cleaned them off a little - using vinegar which I'm beginning to treat something like the guy in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" treated Windex and then took them down to the Coinstar machine at the local grocery store.

$3.87 after Coinstar took its share.

That's not including about 80 pesos that were in the mix, a couple of screws, and five coins that were either too corroded or covered in stuff so gross I decided they should probably go to a hazardous waste site.

The whole process of picking up the coins, rinsing them off, drying them and cashing them in took me about 30 minutes...$3.87.

One man's another man's latte.


Make that $4.87...I only now realized one of the coins I kicked out thinking it was Mexican money is actually a Sacajawea dollar.

So that's what happened to those...I always wondered where they went.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Inside The Circle

I fit into some jeans today with a waist size smaller than I thought possible for my frame. I fit into them easily.
The circular waistband jump started a pattern of thought that actually began last night during a phone conversation with Lisa, our youngest child. We talked about numerous subjects which is always fun, but somehow I got to rambling about how Christians often make major issues out of minor things. Even actual "major" issues sometimes take on more importance than perhaps they truly least in my mind.

I believe our tendency to do that not only separates us from each other...but also from God.

Lisa and I don't have a lot of theological discussions; she's got lots of folks to choose from for that, not only at Baylor where she's going to school. Her dad is a minister, her step mom is a minister, her uncle, cousin, and grandfather are all ministers plus any number of family members are more steeped in Biblical knowledge than I will likely ever be, if for no other reason than because they were raised in the church.

Mine is certainly a more simplistic theology compared to those who have devoted themselves and their lives to such studies.

Anyway I did recall an illustration that I believe Gordon passed on to me...which I think was passed on to him by someone in seminary. I remember it because it fits into my theology - it's simple...only a circle and three words.

There are a lot of things that fall outside of that circle, but I believe many of us think that circle is smaller than it appears.

Like my blue jeans, we might be surprised how easily we can all fit inside of it.

Within that sphere we are brothers and sisters in Christ and, at least from my view, a lot of the stuff that falls outside the circle doesn't seem quite as monumental.

One by one the seats were empty,
One by one they went away,
Now my family, they are parted,
Will they meet again someday?

Will the circle be unbroken?
By and by Lord, by and by,
There's a better home a-waitin'
In the sky Lord, in the sky.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Invasion Of The Stick People

Image swiped from

Maybe it's only in San Antonio, but I've noticed an increasing number of stick people. This was a phenomenon I first became aware of a few years ago when the largest homebuilder on earth moved into our neighborhood and decided to surround us with starter homes or homes for people who are pretty much finished, depending on your point of view.

The builder put up the usual signs directing people to model homes, but down the street at the only intersection that might qualify as busy in our immediate area; the company hired an older kid to stand with a sign shaped like an arrow pointing to the development.

He stood there for 8 hours a day...holding a sign.

He didn't dance. He didn't smile or wave. He might occasionally motion the sign back and forth, but most of the time he'd simply stand there with the arrow pointing our way as traffic and life passed him by.

It's a job that could be done by a stick:

Help Wanted- Stick
Job requirement - hold up sign.

It would seem more humane to insist that it be a job that only sticks are allowed to do.

How do you apply for such a position?

"Well, I can stand and hold something; I really have no ambition to move at all, but I do kind of like watching cars go by."

Admittedly, when I saw my first stick person I thought, "Hmmm, it's probably the son of someone who knows someone and they're giving him 6 bucks an hour in a make work position."

But there were a variety of stick people holding that sign over the years (they're still building all around us). I also thought, "Maybe this is something for down on your luck folks, or people with disabilities," but most of the stick people certainly appear to be fully capable of any number of jobs which have to be far less boring. They all appear to be able to move, they've simply chosen not's like they've devolved...into lumber.

It's not easy work. This is South Texas. It's hot. It's hot a lot. People here don't simply stand in the sun all day least people with the brains God gave wood.

That may be wood. Heck the trees grow leaves and put down roots to suck up the coolness from the earth below. Most of these stick people stand on cement with no shade around.

I've seen people doing this same job for a variety of firms now. Down the road there is a shopping center which regularly has people standing out front holding up signs that say, "Sale." I'm not talking fanatical people wildly waving you in with giant smiles on their faces or dressed up like hotdogs or clowns...I mean people who stake out a place on the sidewalk and hold a sign. I mistook them for picketers the first few times I saw them, but I couldn't imagine who'd go on strike against The Dollar Store. Plus, picketers usually move, demonstrate some passion; they're sticks with a cause at the very least.

Why not put the sign on a pole? It seems like for what you'd have to pay someone to hold a sign all day for weeks and weeks on end you could buy a really nice flashing sign, with colored lights.

I'm sorry...I'm missing something. There's nothing I understand about the stick people phenomenon...not in the doing or the hiring.

I've had some crappy jobs in my life (selling Christmas cards door to door in the deep August heat of Dallas ranks at the top by the way), but standing still holding a sign....being a stick...I don't get it.

Where do you go from such a job?

"Well, I see here on your résumé they say at your last position you did a stand up job.

Um...what exactly does that mean?"

Monday, September 13, 2004

Dj's, Ducks, Dogs and Big Bucks

I felt pretty good about my finding 93 cents on Sunday, until I read this story. Maybe I should take the dogs with me on my walk, no telling how much I might inflate the value of my discoveries. Of course I'd also be driven insane, but that might be a small price to pay.

I got an email today from a gentleman who works as a mobile DJ in Denver...he's moving to Corpus Christi and is networking the local radio scene. I tried to help him as much as possible in that although I'm on five stations in Corpus Christi I don't actually live there...he said, "I know you probably get hundreds of emails each week...."

Now, that's inflation. If I got hundreds of emails through my blog each week I'd shut the puppy down and run....I wouldn't look for any coins on the way either.

I picked this up while walking the other day...I have no idea why.

Yes, it's a duck head. I have no idea what it's from...I have no idea why I picked it up...and I have no idea why I'm writing about it, except that it's sitting on my desk.

It seemed like such an odd thing to find in the middle of the street I simply couldn't resist putting it in my pocket.

It's broken, off what I don't's chipped and battered. It's of no use to me.

Someone had use for it once though.

I think I'm going to keep the duck head.

As a reminder of chipped and battered things that are discarded.

It's not a gold coin, but it has value to me.

In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.
They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
But You remain the same, and Your years will never end.
- Psalm 102:25-27

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Dog, The Child, And Da' Boys

Our special needs dog Winston woke me this morning at six, howling.

He hasn't done that in a while but it was probably a good thing for me to get up and get moving. Winston may howl, but he's always such a happy dog, it's hard to actually get angry with him even when he does interrupt my sleep.

I tossed the dogs out and went for my walk. I mentioned the other day that I usually find a penny or two when I get out each day. This morning was like Vegas...I felt like I wasn't getting in any exercise I was stopping so often to pick up coins. I began to suspect a lot of folks got home late on Saturday night, got out of their cars and didn't really care about much of anything except getting to bed, because coins were seemingly everywhere.

I came home with 93 cents.

Before I had even returned from my walk, I had decided I'd give the money to one of the kids at church to donate during our "blanket time" with Gordon. The kids give small donations each Sunday which is sent to help a very specific missionary project in India.

Today was our "New Beginnings" Sunday, the start of our Sunday school year which, being good Baptists, means we don't actually have Sunday school, instead we eat and talk about having Sunday school starting the next week. I waited to decide which kid to unload the coins upon when Jacob bumped up behind my chair, trying to squeeze his way through to retrieve a toy that had gotten away from him. I let him by, but when he came back the same way I demanded a hug before letting him through and then asked very solemnly if he would do me the favor of donating the coins I had found.

Jacob is a funny kid...he's always smiling - unbelievably cute. Sometimes he reminds me of Winston, except he isn't a special needs kid and he doesn't howl to my knowledge. He's simply a delightful little boy. He took my coins and carefully put them in one of the many pockets of his cargo shorts. I really wasn't sure he'd remember which pocket they were in much less to make an offering.

When blanket time came I watched and when Gordon pulled out the small bag (made by the Banjara people of India) where we accept the children's offerings, Jacob's eyes lit up and he quickly started fishing around in his pockets to find those coins which he dutifully put in the bag.

It was a simple thing. It made me smile. Sometimes that's all I need from church...simplicity and devotion.

This afternoon another Sunday tradition resumes...Gordon will come over and we'll watch the Dallas Cowboy's season opener. They're playing the Vikings...there's no telling if that will make me smile or not.

I think I'll hang onto the image of Jacob and the 93 cents today...that way I'm assured of a bountiful Sunday.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Seeing Dave...From The Other Side

Before you read this post you should read this one.

I wrote it almost exactly one year ago, the morning after having dinner with my friend Dave and his family. That was the last time I had seen any of them...until today.

Yesterday while doing my usual morning scan and fetch of news off the Internet I came across an article that made me think of Dave so I emailed it to him. That prompted a flurry of emails and quick updates about our lives and families.

I was ecstatic to hear that Dave had faced down some very harsh demons and has been clean and sober for some months. That's such a huge thing, I'm sorry I'm not going to write hardly anything else about it. I really thought that was going to be my focus.

Until I really thought.

We hurriedly arranged to have lunch today - Dave, me...his wife and son. There was a sense of urgency to it.

I flattered myself briefly thinking perhaps I could give Dave some needed encouragement, be the kind of witness I want to be: honest and caring...reflecting a sense of peace that comes from knowing God.

Dave has been a lot of things in my life...a mirror into a dark world where I could have easily ventured further, a support system who appeared out of no where, a source of great laughter, and a subject of much prayer. He and his wife have also always shown genuine concern for me and for Amy. Even in some severely addled states, Dave's affection and caring were evident to me.

When we sat down to lunch I started with the usual banter of, "So how are you guys...etc"

Dave's response was, "So how is Amy...tell us everything."

I gave them the complete story, sparing nothing and they listened to every word. I also tried to let Dave and his family know how much they had meant to the past and now.

I did tell Dave how pleased I was that he had taken control of his life and that I was there should temptation become too tempting - it never leaves you completely...we both know that.

After lunch we said our goodbyes amid promises to get together as soon as Amy is back in town - a promise I will keep - and I drove home still under the delusion that I was "there for Dave," much as I had been when I wrote that entry one year ago.

It wasn't until I sat down to write tonight that I realized the foolishness of that.

Here was a family which had in the past year gone through their own struggles...severe, teeth clenching, gut wrenching, hard time struggles.

And they were stronger for it.

But their concern was for me...and Amy.

Who's witnessing to whom?

Long Distance Holding...

I sat down to write on another topic, which I'll get to soon but my thoughts have been harnessed.

In my last call to Amy she told me she was having some problems with her feeding tube...and she's a thousand miles away.

Of course it's the weekend...her doctor is not on call. So we will wait until Monday...a thousand miles apart.

She's handling it, and she knows what needs to be done...there's nothing more to do but wait.

I'll handle it too.

It would be a lot easier though, if I could hold her hand...but she's a thousand miles away.

Father, I know You're there...hold her close I pray.

If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, You are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.
- Psalm 139:8-12

Friday, September 10, 2004

Spirit In The Guy

I said I would venture down this road today, so here I go...I will warn those of you who consider any blog entry longer than four paragraphs too wordy, that I'm going to blow that limit by a wide margin.

As I mentioned yesterday, in July I had a dream which I actually remembered, something of an uncommon occurrence for me. In it, Gordon, my Real Live Pastor and I were in a swimming pool and across from us was a woman. The only thing I remembered about her was that she had a mullet hair style. The dream ended with Gordon asking her, "Did you get your mullet at the airport?"

At the time I thought it rather silly and figured it was as good an excuse as any to make fun of Gordon, so I did. However I also mentioned my father-in-law was rather well versed in dream interpretation, particularly influenced by the thinking of Carl Jung.

The posting did not go unnoticed by my father-in-law and he eagerly accepted the challenge to interpret the dream. Here's what he said, I've only edited out a small portion:

This is what in the analysis business is known as an initial dream. A dream is so called because the unconscious has somehow been stimulated to produce a product from which will flow more dream content, all in the service of a process known as individuation. That simply means becoming an individual. It's the stuff of which wholeness is made. Initial dreams normally constitute the beginning of an analysis, and if an analysis is to be properly served, each succeeding dream must be dealt with in order to keep the process going. As Jung put it: "Constant observation pays the unconscious a tribute that more or less guarantees its cooperation."

I laid this little Psych 101 tutorial on you in order to encourage you to continue regarding your inner life as a legitimate object for reflection.

The simple plot contains the following symbols:
Water = the unconscious
Airport = place of spirit
Fish = unconscious contents (Yes, the mullet is also a fish)
Gordon = counselor, guide, Spiritus Rector
Woman = the Anima, your feminine nature, the inner man, the embodiment of your unconscious
Actually, the dream is a statement of your current spiritual situation, and Gordon is asking the critical question, directing it to your inner man. It's like the question posed by Paul to the Ephesians in Acts 19:2. See also Jn 3:5.

You need to understand that this dream statement is not a value judgment. It draws no conclusions . . . merely asks a question.

Whether you agree with my father-in-law's interpretation really has no bearing since it struck home to me rather poignantly.

You see I had spent the Lenten season studying the book of Acts and the one question I was left with during that time was the exact question my father-in-law had referenced in Acts.

Paul asked the Ephesians:

"Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

So you'll have the full reference to contemplate, John 3:5 reads:

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit."

Okay, now here's the truly interesting part, at least to me...those of you who don't read past four paragraphs have already departed anyway.

I had not mentioned that particular spiritual struggle to anyone...not to Amy, not to Gordon, not to my was a question I was pondering well after the Lenten season had ended and was actively wrestling with at the time I had that dream - had I truly ever received the Holy Spirit? If so, was this not something of which I should be keenly aware?

It was - bar none- the dominant spiritual issue in my life at that time, so I thought the interpretation was insightful and quite honestly a little spooky.

There are people I know who believe you can not be received into God's Kingdom unless you demonstrate that the Holy Spirit resides within you...and to them that requires one thing - you speak in tongues, as referenced in the second chapter of Acts.

As you can probably discern, I am not given to speaking in tongues. Ours is not a charismatic church. When I belonged to a semi-charismatic church no one spoke in tongues, although some people - including the Pastor - often spoke for far too long to the point where I'm certain only God understood them, but I don't think that's the same thing.

Truthfully, the only times I've been to churches where people spoke in tongues it freaked me out. Sometimes it seemed rather out of control and I certainly didn't understand what the people were saying which would by that lone criteria seem to indicate I hadn't made the grade.

When I first wrote about this, my friend Jim immediately sent me a very gentle email offering himself as someone who might guide me by his own experiences, should I so desire. I'm not sure if Jim ever got my was lengthy and may have gotten tangled in that infernal Hotmail he uses (Jim- if you want a Gmail account...just holler).

Anyway, in part I wrote to him: I don't know if I will ever come to a point where I am 'brimming over' with the Holy Spirit....but I've changed a lot in the past 12 years...who knows?

I don't know if I am in fact already baptized in the Spirit in that God has given me the ability to listen to others, to care, to love and to accept them...despite our differences, not only our theological ones.

I do know I haven't had a "sudden" revelation that the Holy Spirit has come upon me...but then again, I never had a sudden "born again" moment either. I came to God gradually; can the Holy Spirit come to me gradually?

Certainly there are many times when I am overcome by the power and wonderment of His mercies and grace.

I fall to my knees and wail in tears far more often than anyone knows.

If outpouring of emotion is the signifier than I suppose I qualify....unless that outpouring must be done via a great public which case I don't qualify. My closest moments with God are often in times of solitude...some of them very dark times.

That now seems rather foreboding, considering that less than a week later Amy entered the hospital and spent the entire month there.

I think my spiritual experiences during that time have been well chronicled here. I believe anyone who's read along already knows this, but I'll say it again, the last 4 to 6 weeks have by far been the most spiritually enlightening time of my Christian date. I have come to know God in an entirely new way...humbled and bowed...awed and amazed.

Today I received an extremely encouraging email from my friend Ray who was raised in the United Pentecostal Church and who has been given the gift of tongues. Yet he was quick to offer me this insight:
It's not the manifestations of the gifts that mean you have the Holy Spirit.... First you receive the Holy Spirit when you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, then as YOU desire the gifts of the spirit He will freely give to all that you desire. (The desires of the Heart)

That resonated a great deal with me too. I write often about discerning a lesson from God in rather common things or events. I suspect some might feel that I do that in part to try to justify God's existence. That's not the case at all.

I do actively look for God's influence on my life...not to prove He's there, but because I don't want to miss anything.

I'm not the same Christian I was 12 years ago...heck I'm not the same Christian I was 12 weeks ago.

One thing I'm certain of though is that God wants us to be open to Him and from the very beginning "the way" to understanding all of the gifts He has to offer has been through "community."

I feel the Holy Spirit in me today because of people like my father in law and Amy; like Gordon, Chuck, Jim and Ray...fellow sojourners seeking all of God's gifts anxiously.

That being said, it seems obvious I should invite others on the journey and listen to them as well....for perhaps I'll hear God speaking in an entirely new way.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

A Spirited Discussion?

My body betrayed my attempts at getting back on an actual schedule today. I was hoping to come home from work, do a few chores (the carpet still stinks), take a brief nap...get back into a routine of walking and writing.

Instead I got home and fell asleep for 5 hours. I awoke to another list of stuff Amy forgot, a dash to the post office, a run on our bank account I couldn't understand, and general confusion. Besides the extra sleep, I am really as out of sorts as always. The chores aren't done and there's still a lingering smell of baby puke I'm trying to ignore. I did get my walk in. I'm not going to compromise on praying and walking...the rest is subject to negotiation I suppose.

There was the good news from the tax people at the state; I hope they'll be as quick to return our money as they were to take it. I also found out I got a small raise from one of the stations for which I work! That was a surprise. Not a total surprise, I went in to pitch an idea for extra compensation to the boss I never see last week (which believe me is out of character - I've worked for this company for nearly 20 years and I have had 2 discussions about pay raises) and he assured me he'd do something. He pretty much rejected what I pitched yet seemed open to other ideas although he gave every indication it would be a few weeks before a decision was made. I assumed it would probably be the next budget year before anything actually showed up on my paycheck. Today I was told the raise was effective immediately...for those of you keeping track at home of God's recent blessings on us, don't worry...even I've lost count now.

Having things not go according to schedule, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Yet I really had planned to spend some time tonight revisiting and writing about the "dream" post I touched on in July.

It was a goofy little post at the time, but my father in law's interpretation gave it an unexpected degree of depth and allowed me to further explore my thoughts and questions about the issue of baptism of the Holy Spirit. What it means to me, to others, how you know if you've received the Holy Spirit, etc. There are different viewpoints within my own family and church, and I'm anxious to hear others.

However when Amy went into the hospital in August my thoughts swirled elsewhere....and my writing was carried right along.

So I suppose I'll do what I try to avoid, commit to writing about a specific topic.
Tomorrow, barring exciting news that takes precedent like dive bombing birds, dog oddities, or the wonders of new odors, I'll let you in on my kinsman's dream interpretation and see if it provokes a dialog.

I sort of hope it does, but I won't to be surprised if things don't go as planned...I'm learning that can be even better.

Meeting Raul

Say what you want about the government bureaucracy, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Mr. Main:
We have received your report and payment for the 2003 Sales Tax. Based on the circumstances described in your message, your request for a penalty waiver has been granted. A refund will be issued for the penalty that you have already paid.

I hope your wife gets better soon. In the meantime, she appears to be in good hands. Please continue to take care of her and yourself, sir.

Raul Cruz
Revenue Accounting Division
Advanced Collections Processing
Texas Comptroller's Office

Not sure how soon they'll refund the money, but considering they responded to my email in two days, I'd consider that something of a miracle in itself.

I do write good letters.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Oh Yeah Ohio

Amy has landed and is off and running in Ohio. She's only called 4 or 5 times, and I only had to overnight her one thing, so far...when you're being treated for pain, remembering to bring your pain meds is somewhat critical.

I on the other hand am dealing with the departure aftermath. Whenever any of us go anywhere for more than a night, our house seems to explode as over preparation turns into panicked packing. Sometimes I think it's easier to squeeze shut an overstuffed suitcase than it is to close our front door on the way out on vacation.

I'm enjoying it though, picking up things and wondering why Amy considered taking this item or that, or why she rejected them. Who knows, another package may have to be overnighted tomorrow.

There may be things that didn't make into the suitcase, but at this moment I'm certain Amy has everything she needs, unconditional love...for that there is always room.

San Antonio Water Torture

Well, I'm sitting on hold, thanks Sprint for letting me test the phone...still lovin' it and the free minutes by the way, trying to get through to the water company. By my estimation they are the only creditor that I have no record of paying. I can't find a bill, I can't find any place where we've made electronic payments, but I'm assuming they don't give us water for free, so I've decided to suffer through being on hold to talk to a human being. The "estimated" waiting time is 30 minutes which would be more tolerable if they didn't blare music at me the entire make matters worse it's music from one of the radio stations in my building...mercifully not one for which I work.

I suppose it's better than those annoying recorded reminders that come on every 90 seconds saying, "Your call is important to us, please continue to hold" but not much.

ARGHH... Some kid just answered, I said, "Hello", and he apparently couldn't hear me so he hung up....

Now the "estimated waiting time" is 25 minutes.

Speaking of torture (a word of warning, it's 2 Megs so if you are on dial up don't subject yourself to it) but my brother sent me this video today. He's been digitizing old family films. This is boring footage of me as a child, the only thing that makes it the slightest bit interesting is that I appear to be a child whose never been exposed to the sun before and my brother seems to think I was one month old when it was shot. I'm no expert on babies, but I don't believe one month olds are quite this active.

Of course, I was an exceptionally bright wasn't until later in life I became crazy enough to wait on hold for an hour to find out if I owe people money.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Boundaries, Bills And Brief Goodbyes

It's easy for me to write and come off as some wonderful, caring, Alan Alda/Phil Donahue/Dr. Phil type husband.

Let's be clear...I ain't.

If I in any way appear as such, chalk it up to the liberal use of poetic license. Truthfully, there are days, too many I fear, when I come home tired and grumpy only to be greeted by a minor issue which I quickly allow to become major.

Lately it's often centered on my wrestling match with our finances, which in turn has sparked somewhat unnecessary wrestling matches over boundaries between Amy and me.

I suppose this is all part of the learning curve, new things to be discovered both in duty, and in dialogue. It's not easy...but we're getting better, a bit more patient and hopefully in a month or two when I'm firmly convinced I know where the heck we are financially it'll be even easier.

Today I learned Amy had forgotten to file her sales tax return for her small business (it was due in January, a month she spent in the hospital) the amount was not miniscule, but in the grand scheme of things it was insignificant -although the late filing fee was certainly excessive. I at first let it become another source of aggravation, and Amy let it become another source of guilt. Then we permitted it to become something else...a meeting place for discussion. What was said is not important, and certainly not for public consumption, but I'm thinking that tax bill may be the best money we've spent so far (although I'm appealing the late filing fee...what the heck, I do write good letters).

Tonight Amy went and got a massage, cashing in a gift certificate I gave her for her birthday 4 years ago (she doesn't only procrastinate with bills). Tomorrow she will fly to Ohio to spend nearly 2 weeks with her parents, where she will be pampered a bit more. It will be good for her, and I feel a lot better about the trip now knowing she's not boarding a plane carrying unnecessary mental baggage.

I may not have figured out our finances quite yet, but I do know one added up to some sorely needed healing.

Long ago, when we first started dating, I promised Amy I would listen not only to what she said, but also try to hear what she meant.

I'm glad I remembered that today.

I need to practice it more...for it's far better than money in the bank.
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.
- Proverbs 19:21

Monday, September 06, 2004

To Coin A Praise

There's a spot on the Internet that's been up for some time, called the Bill Gates Wealth Index. I'm not sure how updated it is these days, but the premise behind it is that Bill Gates is so rich if he saw X number of dollars laying on the ground it would not be worth it for him to stop to pick them up because he'd waste precious seconds. He'd make more money if he were to use those seconds working therefore it's more cost effective for him to step over the cash and get to work. The "too small a bill for Bill" index has jumped dramatically over the years. It's a cute idea.

I mention this only because almost every day when I'm out walking I see a penny or two on the street. I always stop and pick them up. Today I made 7 cents....that's about two and a third cents a mile. Unlike Bill Gates it doesn't cost me anything to pick up the coins...thank God my life is not that busy. If I were lucky enough to pick up 7 cents a day (although usually it's a penny or two at best), in a years time I could almost buy one share of Microsoft stock (today's closing price was roughly 27 dollars).

I have no shame in stopping to pick up a penny, I think at one time I did but I'm not certain as to why, I suppose I thought people might think I was cheap and I didn't want to risk being seen stooping over for something as insignificant as a penny. Presumably I thought I had a reputation to protect.

Today as I stooped over to snag a penny. I held it in my fingers for a moment. I rubbed it and thought about God.

How often have I stepped over His offerings? I know it's been far too frequent of an occurrence and sometimes for the same silly reason: I didn't want to risk being seen as someone in need.

Yet God has never ceased to place Himself before me...even when I had repeatedly passed Him by and ignored His value.

Today I didn't miss the gift of God's patience, purchased for a penny of my time, yet bought long ago with something far more precious.

I had to stop to thank Him for never being too busy to stoop over and lift me up...for seeing my value even when perhaps I have not.

God got His two cents worth in today...and more.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Sleep,Seep, Beep & Weep-A Shop Vac too

I slept in today...I woke up in time to shower and run to church. It was nice for a change. Amy stayed home, which wasn't nice. I find myself in church barely hanging onto my emotions wishing I was hanging onto her hand.

Amy hasn't adjusted well to being home from the hospital. Little frustrations loom large and I can't blame her. She's yet to really develop a strategy for overcoming them. My time tested approach of making light of all situations doesn't work.

I can prove that...if need be I can show scars.

The primary frustration for Amy is the feeding pump. I hoped when we fled the hospital we might escape the medical electronics too, but that's not the case. The feeding pump is now part of our household, although eventually she will be able to feed herself by hand (essentially by squirting this liquefied food into her g-tube using something that looks like a cross between a giant syringe and a turkey baster), right now Amy needs the pump.

It means her feedings take hours instead of minutes, it's messy, it leaks and several times a day that provokes tears of frustration to which I have little to offer. Having already discovered laughing it off is the wrong approach I've resorted to pep talks and prayer.

Sometimes I admit that seems like all I'm providing is more force fed pabulum.

The other night the pump was having its own problems. It doesn't shed beeps. It beeped....and beeped...and beeped. Amy managed to sleep through the alarms thanks to pharmaceuticals. I however found myself lacking the proper medications.

Since Amy had a pharmacological advantage...she snoozed...the pump beeped, and I muttered. I tried to fix beeped...Amy snoozed. I kept trying; it kept beeping....Amy snored a little.

Finally I gave up, and roused Amy (a feat unto itself). After several attempts she finally managed to silence the thing. She snoozed...I tossed and turned occasionally dreaming of old Roadrunner cartoons.

The worse problem with the pump is that when it is doing its job, it continues to do it no matter what...even if the feeding tube becomes detached from Amy, which happens far too often. If you were thinking this would be an ideal time for the pump to're too logical for a career in medicine.

Instead of beeping, the pump simply discharged its content onto our carpet...all its content. Were we at a Urologists convention and the liquid had not been adult feeding formula, I'm certain the flow rate would have resulted in a standing ovation.

Amy awoke to discover our carpet soaked. I awoke to an odor of stagnant formula, which in truth smelled a lot like baby puke.

Amy tried sopping it up with towels, I tried a deodorizing agent that's guaranteed to neutralize the odors produced by any end of your dog, but apparently is useless when it comes to spoiled liquefied nutrition.

We tried all sorts of things - all with no luck...when we entered the house we immediately were hit by the smell. I resisted telling people we were thinking of having another child and decided to get used to the smell of baby vomit first. I knew Amy wouldn't see the humor.

Gordon loaned us his much beloved and powerful shop vac.

The shop vac is indeed a device to be reckoned with; it will inhale your Hoover, and dispatch your Oreck, haughtily spitting them out in chunks.

We soaked the carpet in a variety of cleaners and the shop vac sucked it all up. I also used it to consume cobwebs which had lurked for years in hard to reach areas. I groped behind beds, under tables, and even used it on our big dog Klondike (he'll forgive me...dogs are good about that).

Although it worked wonderfully, and I know Gordon is proud of his shop was no easy task. This is Gordon's shop vac.

This is the state of Vermont:

They are roughly the same size, although Gordon's shop vac has more attachments.

Of course no one is really attached to Vermont, but I suspect it's easier to drag around the state of Vermont than it is to maneuver Gordon's shop vac....especially now that most folks have forgotten Howard Dean lives there.

By the time I finished sucking up everything in sight, I felt like I had accomplished a lot, but I was exhausted and the odor was still detectable. I could only compare it to being the second dog attached to an Iditarod sled. It was a lot of work, but the smell from my position never really improved.

Enter Rhonda. Rhonda had an actual carpet cleaner gizmo.

Amy mixed up some concoction of cleaner, deodorizer, bleach and lizard tails which I then used to soak the carpets and suck up the excess.

I even pulled out the shop vac again and went over everything one more time.

It sucked up more liquid and dog hair...heck I had to stop it from taking the entire carpet on several occasions.
The selling point to the shop vac is not only its power, but also "there's no bag to empty". That sounds wonderful, unless you have a bucket of what smells like baby puke mixed with dog hair and dirt with which to contend. Plus, as an added bonus, there are seven thousand nine hundred attachments to clean, so that they don't smell like baby puke.

The process did at least work...somewhat. We can still smell it a little, but at least the neighbors can't anymore.

Gordon has a nice clean shop vac...I have muscles I didn't know about before, and I think Amy, although still frustrated, may now at least see the value in the adage, "Don't cry over spilt milk."

Sleep Vs Stink And The Shop Vac

I had every intention of writing tonight...about sleep, and seepage...about stink and shop vacs....but there were too many distractions ( I didn't even get in my walk until close to 11pm). Now I can barely keep my eyes open, and if I fall asleep while writing, I can only imagine how insufferable the finished product would be for the reader.

So tomorrow I'll set aside time for hopefully more cogent thought about vacuums and Vermont;frustrations and formula...borrowed tools and baby puke.

Tonight I hope to dream...of none of the above.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Mouthing Off

I met with a pshrink yesterday...partly to make sure I'm not insane, but mostly to talk about Amy's health. However as soon as he saw me, this grave look consumed him.

It took me a minute to figure it out. Being one of the three doctors we've chosen to keep on Amy's team, he is well acquainted with Amy's problems. He knows that it's been a long fight for us both. We've spoken semi frequently on the phone in recent weeks, but it's been 4 months or so since I've actually dropped by to talk with him face to face. When I walked into his office he immediately decided I must be a deep state of depression...because I'm not fat.

I suppose that's a reasonable assumption...weight loss is a classic sign of depression...although I gently reminded him later that it is also seen by many folks as an indicator of a healthy lifestyle.

Mercifully he didn't take too much convincing to admit that his flash card diagnosis was a bit premature. I explained that I had lost weight deliberately. I was eating better and exercising daily, something I realized might actually help prevent me from stressing out, and coming to visit him more often.

I don't think he believed me at first...he had that prescription pad ready, but I gave him the reader's digest version of my philosophy of discipline, about my daily walks, about writing, about facing our financial demons and about coming to trust more and more that God is in control of this and all situations.

After a while he loosened his grip on his prescription pad and announced, "Well, you're not depressed....depressed people don't do stuff like fact they tend to stop doing things like that."

I found that reassuring, at least until I remembered that only a few minutes earlier he seemed ready to have me committed inside a padded Denny's and force fed lithium laced ice cream.

I told him the truth...certainly at times I get angry, or sad and or frustrated. I could use more sleep, but that's nothing new. I also told him that if I ever felt otherwise I'd be honest about it, but I needed him to focus his attentions on Amy.

Next week Amy is going to fly home to spend some one on one time with her folks. This is something she had been anxious to do before her most recent medical setback and I'm hopeful being able to keep that plan from being derailed will boost her confidence a little. The surgeon has signed off on it; the pshrink is okay with it too.

Although she's out of the hospital, Amy is not having an easy time adjusting and I wanted her to see the pshrink before she leaves town. He'll have his prescription pad at the ready I'm sure, but I am also fairly certain that he'll at least consider the idea that much of the true cure is time and patience.

Being around her folks, rather than me and three manic dogs, may be a bit more conducive to that approach.

The upside to recognizing the need for persistent patience is that I'm teaching myself a new language...I call it, "michaelcloseyertrapese", although now that I think about it, that sounds like it might be a skill only taught in Clown College.

I will tell you it's not an easy language for me to master, but at least there are no verbs to conjugate.

Between now and next week, I will spend my time with Amy trying to be more patient, while offering fewer suggestions. I will still try to gently remind her that God is healing her body and her spirit.

The trick is to do all that while still keeping my mouth shut.

Well, not all the time....I'll open my mouth to eat....I promise.

Oh My Aching Bank

I did it again...I made the mistake of sitting down with a bank statement in hand and Quicken in front of me.
Hours have passed...I still have not reconciled our bank account. There's something I'm not accounting for, of that much I'm certain. It's clear there's something I'm overlooking, but the two ultimate truths are: we're not broke at the moment, and I have spent far too much time on this today.

I let the afternoon slip away...I growled at Amy and my back is killing me.

It's quitting time. I'll worry about this....nah, I'm not gonna worry about it at all.

It's a holiday weekend but I'm pulling an extra shift tomorrow and working Monday. I think I'll savor a tiny fragment of Friday night, even if I have to do it curled up with a heating pad.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

50 Words Or Less-More Than Enough

Sometimes you feel like a writer...sometimes you don't.

Tonight I feel like being quiet...and sleeping.

That's why God made tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Major Or Minute?

I'm under the constraint of time to write tonight, I want to make it to church this's been too long since I've been able to sit with my church family and share a meal. That's what we do on Wednesday nights; nothing fancy...we eat and talk. Sometimes I merely listen....which allows me to eat more.

Since only minutes ago I returned from my afternoon walk, a shower has to be crammed into the schedule as well, otherwise I'll likely be eating alone...downwind. That means I have about 5 more minutes to write.

Time is on my mind tonight though, so it all fits.

My company provides me with a mobile phone, which is very nice and the monthly allocation of minutes the plan includes is usually far more than I require. However this month we rid ourselves of SBC and our land line phone. That came at the same time as Amy went into the hospital and I made innumerable calls to her as well as family members. Of course there were also the hours of enjoyment I spent on hold with various creditors listening to recordings that passed along advice like , "Press one for Spanish, press 2 for German, press 3 for the Mandarin dialect..... If you are attempting to pay a bill, press 9....if you are attempting to lose weight press the # sign 250-thousand times."

Anyway I realized last week that I was going to go over the minutes my company will pay for and so I've been conserving them rather greedily. Then out of the blue a public relations person from Sprint sent me an email.

One of the things I do for one of the radio stations I work with is a brief feature on gadgets, computer stuff, the Internet....etc. This P.R. guy really wanted me to see Sprint's newest phone, the Samsung MM-A700, so I could check out their new media player service, and built in camcorder.

Really...the phone has a camcorder. Of course, he wanted to overnight it to me and set me up with nationwide calling so I could play with it as much as I wanted. He insisted I have at least a months worth of all their services packaged with it. How could I refuse?

It really is a very nice phone.

I'd tell you more about it, but I don't have the time right now to write the details...the shower beckons.

I do have plenty of minutes though.

Coincidence or God's perfect timing once again?

You make the call.