Monday, February 28, 2005

Dragons & Drastic

We slayed a dragon moments ago. It was painful. It was wonderful. The dragon had sharp teeth, and fiery breath. For a long while I thought the blanketedy-blank didn't have ears.

For those of you unfamiliar with my metaphors...dragons are creditors. We have a lot...we'll always have a lot. All of our "normal" dragons, credit cards, mortgages, etc....are being paid, but some dragons - specifically medical bills have lay dormant and ignored. I paid off some recently but another big chunk from the hospital Amy has spent a great deal of time in had already been turned over to a very nasty collection agency.

Today I received a letter offering to settle one small bill from the hospital for half the original amount. I could have written a check and mailed it back, but instead I thought I'd call and do it right away. That led to knock down drag out phone conversation with the most hostile people I've dealt with yet in trying to get our financial mess untangled. I hung up on the first guy and called back assuming I'd get someone else who might be willing to simply accept my payment and not berate me for other debts.

That strategy doesn't work. I did get to talk to someone else...she was very nice...then she connected me with Mr. Snot (I changed his name to protect his reputation). Mr. Snot and I got no where. He wanted me to use a credit card to pay off this debt...a credit card that charges 28 percent interest. I refused. He yelled. I yelled. Finally I asked to speak to his supervisor. I then learned who trained Mr. Snot. This guy, let's call him Mr. Poophead to protect his identity, was even nastier. I tried repeatedly to simply pay the dang bill, but this guy screamed and moaned to the point I had to put him on speaker phone so Amy could understand why my eyes were bugging out.

Amy then got on the phone assuming she could be a calming influence. Five minutes later she was screaming at Mr. Poophead and the phone was in my lap.

Then it got surreal.

I decided to make a counter offer to settle 3 of the 4 outstanding claims...all relatively minor. I asked what he'd settle those for...suddenly he grew quiet and asked if I would mind waiting while he spoke to his supervisor. Moments later he came back and offered to settle all the claims again...but this time for a drastically reduced amount. I suppose I shouldn't mention the amount but I'm not ashamed of it...we've had rough times. We owed about 3200 dollars to the hospital...there was no dispute, we simply don't have that much money to pay anyone right now and maintain a savings account for emergencies, avoid using credit cards, etc.

He said he would settle today for $1300!

$1300 to kill a big dragon - a big nagging dragon that has really been the only one constantly hassling us.

I brought out the spear.

I paid him.

Dragon dead!

Mr. Poophead was happy. Amy was still somewhat upset - she took names and numbers and promised to inform all sorts of folks of the tactics the company had used.

Me? I was looking for a freaking' celebration cigar.

To be exact, we saved $1882.00 yelling.

Let's not be mistaken. We're still in debt up to our eyeballs but this was the biggest dragon we've killed and we got a discount in doing it.

Now to the unfortunate part of the day.

Amy and I are about to leave to deal with a computer issue for someone which means I have no more time to hawk Gordy.

Time is running out on the auction and there have been no bids.

So I'm pulling out the big guns....literally.

Either someone buys Gordy...or he dies.

That's right. I'm turning to terrorist tactics to sell this silly little doll.

Should we return from our computer client and Gordy has gone unsold. Gordy will die.

I don't really own a gun so I won't shoot him.

I do own a shredder.

The choice is yours.

I've already proven I can kill dragons...don't test me.

Going Going Gordy

Time is running out for Gordy. To the surprise of absolutely no one, there has not been a single bidder on this not prized...what's the word I'm thinking of...worthless...yeah, that's pretty much it...this worthless little doll made out of a gourd.

I've already changed the description several times to attract more traffic, but so far folks have been able to find Gordy resistible.

So it's time to pull out my hole equivalent of having Jerry Lewis cry in the final hours of the telethon.

I've decided that should Gordy sell, I'll donate every dollar* (with the exception of postage costs) to our little church project to send some of our young people to Moldova to work with orphans. They are trying to raise a bunch of money and have been holding various fundraisers from our Valentine's dance, to Amy baking bread and selling it at church.

I'm not going to revise the Ebay listing so this is a blogger's only thing. I would assume this would also make your purchase tax deductible, but I'm no accountant. That's the upside. The downside is you still end up with Gordy.

This is my last ditch appeal...well actually I have one more possibility in mind for the final hours, but that wouldn't be pretty...don't make me resort to that.

*Now if Bill Gates, or some other rich guy pays thousands of dollars for Gordy, I will add the caveat that I will likely skim a few shekels off the top to take Amy out to dinner....or run away to Belize.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

You Can't Have It All

I want it all.

Let's be clear on that. I want the perfect wife. I want oodles of money. Lots of time to travel. I want an ultra clean house. Kids who never have problems. I want zero health concerns for everyone I know and love. I want a job that's easy, good paying and which doesn't really require me to be there but is satisfying when I am. I want a really nice car, leather seats...clean and shiny. I want a garage that's completely uncluttered so that I can park my fancy car inside. I want that garage to be part of a perfect house located in perfect neighborhood in the perfect state. The list goes on an on.

I want it all.

I can't have it.

Odds are you can't either.

Sometimes I am tempted to pray for it all. Certainly I have prayed for little bits of "it all" - health, job security, our kids. I long ago gave up praying for an uncluttered garage.

I see nothing wrong with wanting those things, even praying for some of them. Desire sparks deeds and you certainly won't get it all if you don't try.

It's when that trying becomes trying that you have to stop.

You can't have it all.

In fact you'll likely have to give up some of the things on your list in order to get others. You may have to work at a less than perfect job in order to have a nice car. Or maybe you will drive a less than perfect car so you can pay for health insurance. Or maybe you'll settle for a smaller house so that you can have more time with your children.

So maybe you narrow down your list...a bunch. Really narrow it down to what you really, really want.

I want a healthy family, in mind, body and spirit. I want time to enjoy them.

Who said you can't have it all?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Trust And Dismay

Our oldest, and largest dog, Klondike, is the most trusting (albeit I'll admit I once thought stupid) dog I've ever owned - by the way if the concept of people "owning" dogs offends you, I'm sorry it was unintentional, feel free to substitute whatever phrase is currently in vogue amidst the San Francisco city council or PETA. Klondike is a trusting creature, let's put it that way.

Quite often, he will plop himself on the floor beside where I am on the couch yet when I attempt to get up, he has no instinct to move. Zero. None. He knows my feet are potentially headed for his body. He knows I am one of the few creatures in the house slightly larger than him. He even knows that if I step on him it would hurt...but he doesn't budge...ever.

It took me many years to get used to the fact that if Klondike was sleeping on the floor next to my bed that I would have to "step over him" when I wanted to get up because he certainly had no intention of doing so.

Early on when I noticed this odd trait I thought I could "train" it out him. I would step on him a few times and he'd get the message.


Every other dog I've ever had quickly learned that lesson. They knew to keep at least a small fragment of their limited attention focused on the people on the couch, or the bed, etc....because otherwise people might step on them resulting in pain.

Not Klondike. You can step on his head (something I haven't completely ruled out as the root cause of this characteristic) and he will look at you with wide trusting brown eyes that seem to say, "Why would you do that?"

When he adopted us (actually there is some debate as to whether Amy stole him) at about 10 weeks old, he sat down on the stairs, usually the fourth or fifth stair, and if we attempted to climb or descend the stairs he remained sitting. Unphased and unmoved. I mean he wouldn't scoot over a fraction of an inch. We had to step over him or go around him. It never dawned on him to actually get off his rear and make way for us to pass by.

When he was a relatively small puppy it was cute.

When he grew into young adulthood, it was tolerable but slightly annoying.

Today it is an expected constant in our lives...on the stairs there will usually be a big black roadblock with dog breath.

It's a behavior to which everyone in the house has adjusted, even our little dogs. They will scramble under Klondike, between his legs or attempt to squeeze by him. They don't jump on him; they find a way to get by him without requiring him to move. To them he is part of the stairwell.

I will say training has worked a little...for Klondike. He has trained us to speak. We'll say, "Klondike MOVE!" almost every time we leap, stumble or trip on his 90 pound frame. He'll look at us with those big brown eyes and keep his fanny planted like it had roots.

You can be running down the stairs in a mad frenzy because you're late for work, or be dashing up the stairs in a pressing panic to find an open bathroom and Klondike will still stake his ground - completely oblivious to your sense of urgency, although occasionally I swear I detect a bemused look on his face but that's probably my imagination in overdrive.

I will admit that even after all these years there are times when I find this behavior annoying, but in truth I'm also fascinated by it.

I suppose folks who have dogs that are well trained - a concept completely foreign to this household, would simply consider this disobedience. I don't. I consider it in its highest form.

Klondike knows beyond any doubt in his mind that we will go out of our way, no matter how inconvenient, to avoid stepping on him or harming him. It's not something he learned gradually. It was a decision he made about us when he was 10 weeks old. He would trust us...completely.

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but perhaps this old dog can still teach me a thing or two.

I trust in Your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me
. - Psalm 13: 5-6

Friday, February 25, 2005

Eye Teeth Why Not Ear Teeth?

It's a semi-constant worry of mine, that I am losing touch with the general population. It's sort of my job to listen to the grass grow, to know what people are talking about, to have a feel for issues, trends, pop culture type stuff so that we can sound like we're actually members of society instead of impartial observers of society. My boss picks my brain every day asking the same questions: "What are people talking about? What have your friends been involved in lately? What's the hottest TV show or movie? Should we do a story on it?" That type of thing.

It's those pop culture stories that separate us from our truth anybody can cover politicians, fires, murders and people named Wayne. So I try to keep up. I admit I've failed in some for example. I think most folks sort of get stuck in the musical era of their high school years, and very few people stay current with all the new artists. I rely on our younger reporters to let me know if an especially important musician is coming to town, much like they rely on me to alert them when someone notable from another era dies.

I'm not going to dwell on that last statement because it will make me depressed.

Anyway, this is an unbelievably long way to get to my point.

Which is that I don't understand this.

When I think of a toothbrush...I think of ...well...a toothbrush.

You know...something like this:

Why on earth would you want a toothbrush that played music?

Okay, so the idea is it's supposed to encourage kids to brush their teeth longer…but does anyone think that's what it will actually do? I mean think this through for, oh I don't know….five seconds.

Right now this musical toothbrush plays one song. One song...every day. If you are Martha Stewart or some other perfect person and brush after every meal...that's three times a day....every day...365 days a year.

Hearing the same song nearly 1100 times in a year is supposed to encourage you to brush your teeth?

I must be out of touch…but to me that doesn't sound like fun…that has the distinct ring of torture.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Old, The New, And Being In Between

My friend Charles lost his wife a few months ago, and he also lost the person who really handled the family computer.

Amy and I have been trying to get him to let us help him but he's an independent man, having been dependent on only one person - Barbara - for many many years. Last night he agreed that Amy and I could come to "visit" and perhaps do a little computer work, but primarily he wants to talk and that's a wonderful thing.

I mentioned I'd like to set his email so that it doesn't say it was sent from Barbara and he hesitated a bit. I can speak plainly about Barbara's death with Charles but I could tell this was something that simply hadn't slipped his mind so I said, "how about I change it to Charles & Barbara...instead of only Barbara." He smiled and said that sounded like a good idea.

In this new season of life, there are a lot of things of which Charles is learning he must let go and some new things to learn.

However I think this afternoon I may learn that there are little things that perhaps we can all hold on to and there really is no harm.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Playing In The Land Of Ignatius

It's's supposed to be pouring rain...I need to get in a walk before church so I have to hurry. Luckily my Jasus name theorist was quite quick in responding to me today. I'm simply going to post portions of our two email exchanges. I've edited some rambling on his part and mine and added in a few editorial comments in red, but the basic gist is here.

He believes the name Wayne itself is not bad, unless paired with certain surnames, although he admits that he needs to give further study to the idea of the middle name of Wayne skewing the results.

Dear Sir,

Your email was forwarded to me and I have only one question: how does the name "Wayne" factor into your calculations?

I have noticed a preponderance of serial killers/criminals with either the first or middle name of "Wayne."

Thank you,

Michael Main
Managing Editor

From: Solamen David []
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 9:14 AM
To: Main, Michael
Subject: Re: Story Tip

WAYNE is a great name when attached to the right surname, but is otherwise problematical.


I have to research and see if they were 3-name people like "SARAH JESSICA PARKER" "SARAH MICHELLE GELLAR" "RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON" "LARA FLYNN BOYLE," or whether they were like most people a 2-name person 88% of the time. All of the men above used the standard first+last in their everyday life. Jasus The Name Computer has the middle names and uses the vowels and consonants to assess a name, but the 88% rule is programmed in also and is the overriding factor in assessing a name. Here are three with first name WAYNE.


(This is the line I absolutely adore -mm)
You can imagine that the computer will not recommend WAYNE as a first name with the above surnames.

WAYNE BOUTWELL - CEO Southern States Coop.
WAYNE MURDY - CEO Newmont Mining
WAYNE SANDERS - CEO Kimberly-Clark
WAYNE SMITH - CEO Community Health Systems
(These next two are a bit dubious in my mind -mm)
WAYNE O'NEIL - MIT professor of linguistics-philosophy

You can also imagine that the computer is happy to recommend the name WAYNE as a first with the above surnames. I do note that only one professor at MIT has the name WAYNE and zero professors at Stanford. Furthermore, no winner of the Nobel Prize has had the name as either a first name nor a middle name. - An important distinction indeed!-mm

From: Main, Michael
To: Solamen David
Sent: Wednesday, February 23, 2005 9:32 AM
Subject: RE: Story Tip

Thank you for your prompt response...I personally would avoid "Wayne" as a first name simply as a matter of policy having seen too many references to killers/criminals with the first or middle name of Wayne, but I may be jaded by years in the news business.

Okay "may" is something of an understatement
-----Original Message-----
From: Solamen David []
Sent: Wed 2/23/2005 1:07 PM
To: Main, Michael
Subject: Re: Story Tip

Re: Story Tip Michael Main,
You got it!! If all people surnamed "MAIN" named their sons "MICHAEL" they would, like you, "get it." Please write again.

Unlike many of the folks who are let's say eccentric who write to me or my office, this gentleman seems quite friendly, has no apparent wild eyed conspiracies to spin, and doesn't write in crayon. Moreover, I sort of understand what he's getting at....

Okay, now I'm growing a slightly more concerned...I better go walk it off.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Wayne & Jasus

I've embarked on a dangerous path...I've attempted to open a dialogue with someone I have admitted to my "Ignatius File."

I won't go in to great explanation, you can click on the archive link above to learn more but basically it's a file I keep of the correspondence received from various individuals whose thought patterns are usually quite elaborate and often a little skewed. I call it my "Ignatius File" since I tend to think of the Ignatius J. Reilly character from the book A Confederacy Of Dunces when I receive such letters, hand written scrawls, screeching tirades, cards, multi-page theses or emails.

Today I received one from a man who says he is in Nacogdoches - that's East Texas where strange things have been known to breed in the minds of many of man and the discovery of oil only added to the collective madness. I won't print it out here but I edited out small portions that might be used to identify him and posted the email here. However now after a very cursory search I find this guy has a blog the contents of which are even more confusing.

In any case, I invite you to read his theory, but believe me I have no expectation that you will comprehend one word. For those of you who don't want to read his supposition I'll boil it down as best I can: I gather he believes our names dictate our behavior and using Jasus the name computer he has proven least in his mind.

Nonetheless I decided to write him back. I'm sure this is a decision I will regret, but since I have repeatedly mentioned my "Wayne Axiom" I felt somewhat obligated to seek this gentleman's wisdom regarding the name "Wayne" and how or if it fit into his equations. If you're not familiar with my musings on the name Wayne suffice it to say I believe people named Wayne are predisposed to evil...usually serial killing. Whenever I make that statement I hasten to add that if your name is Wayne I'm sure you are the exception.

Anyway it now occurs to me that I did not ask this emailer if his name might be Wayne before I wrote to him. That could prove to be a critical error on my part; however I also corresponded through my work address so hopefully, should that prove to be the case, he'll at least have to get through our on site security...and our receptionist is known for her tackling skills.

In any case, when I awoke from my nap this man's email was like manna from the sky. It gave me something completely meaningless to write about today and who knows what fruit it might bring forth in the days to come.

This will also explain why you might see me looking over my shoulder more often.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Everyone Else Is..Why Shouldn't I?

Since there seems to be this thriving business still in its infancy on Ebay of people selling their body parts for advertising or objects which they believe depict images of Jesus or the Virgin Mary, I've decided I should get in on the ground floor. Gordy.

I have put Gordy up for sale on Ebay as a doll with ultra special qualities - primarily that he is guaranteed NOT to allow any of his body parts to be tattooed, painted, etc., for the purpose of advertising...PLUS it's guaranteed that you can look at Gordy any which way and you WILL NOT see a vision of Jesus!

You can read more about Gordy here.

Feel free to pass the word about Gordy all around the blogosphere. You will be doing mankind a favor.

Well, maybe not mankind, but you'd help get this ugly little doll out of my house and I might actually make a few dollars off of him and isn't that really what makes the world go round?

You Knew It Would Come To This

For sale:

This guy

Click to enlarge

I especially like the fact that as a bonus he'll have your name or company logo on his tombstone.

I'm thinking of selling something on Ebay which will remain un-tattooed, and that you can look at from any direction and not see Jesus. I already have the item. I simply haven't had the time to waste.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Heart Songs

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
and the sun does not appear
I will be here
If in the dark, we lose sight of love
Hold my hand, and have no fear
'Cause I will be here*

Amy is still sleeping. I woke up determined to get in my daily walk before church today, but I also felt a need to write.

The church had a "post valentine's" dinner last night. It was a fundraiser really, for one of our church missionary projects to send a couple of our young people to Moldova to work with orphans living in some of the harshest environs imaginable...unimaginable really.

Amy was asked to sing at the dinner, and although waking up with a chest cold and feeling crummy, she sang, albeit several octaves lower than her original plan. A lot of folks ate their spaghetti and talked...they didn't pay any attention to her. I did though...I fumbled around for a moment trying to record her with my PDA and then decided I was missing the moment. So I sat - I listened - I loved.

I will be here
When you feel like being quiet
When you need to speak your mind
I will listen
And I will be here
When the laughter turns to cryin'
Through the winning, losing and trying
We'll be together
I will be here

You see that was the same song Amy sang to me at our wedding nearly 11 years ago.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the future is unclear
I will be here
Just as sure as seasons were made for change
Our lifetimes were made for these years
So I will be here

At our wedding, it was a surprise. I was holding my future bride's hands, looking into her eyes when suddenly music started playing and Amy burst into song. It was beautiful. I teared up, but back then I was better at avoiding public displays of blubbering...had it happened today I would have unashamedly had tears streaming down my face. I've changed over the emotions are close to the surface. I no longer make any apology for that, in fact I credit Amy and God for giving me the freedom to express what I feel, especially when that feeling is love.

At our wedding, I must admit about midway through the song there was a slight murmur amid the small crowd of family and friends. I immediately understood...there was a collective sense of worry that the song might in fact be a "duet" and a thinly repressed sense of horror that I might actually sing too.

When Amy finished, and I kept my mouth shut, the sigh of relief was audible.

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

Last night I listened to Amy sing ...and thought how appropriate that song was today and 11 years ago.
Amy couldn't have known back then where our lives were headed, the twists and turns, the ups and down...yet she chose that song to sing to me out of all the songs she knows...and Amy knows a lot of songs.

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder
When the mirror tells us we're older
I will hold you
And I will be here
To watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me
I will be here

I had never heard the song before our wedding night. Some years later I discovered in my car (yeah I need to clean my car more often) the accompaniment tape she used at our wedding . I played it on a regular basis until it eventually wore out. There are rarely music tapes in my CD's...I listen to the radio...that's what I do...but I listened to that tape...a lot. A lot more than Amy ever knew.

I will be true to the promise I have made
To you and to the One who gave you to me

Last night we had spaghetti and salad and good conversation with some dear friends. We gave a little money to a project to send a couple of our young church members to Moldova where they will learn about life's hard lessons.

And I had the pleasure of listening to my wife do what she has done so often over the years...fill my heart with song.
I remembered our wedding night and the many days and nights since then.

That song didn't mean as much to the other folks in meant the world to me.

Tomorrow morning, if you wake up
And the sun does not appear
I will be here
Oh, I will be here.

These are lyrics I have lived...thanks to the wonderful inexplicable mercies of a loving God.

* "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Honest Struggles

I received an email last night from a reader I haven't communicated with before, she was curious about what exactly was wrong medically with Amy and mentioned her husband had a chronic illness. I gave her a brief overview of Amy's struggles (short recap- Amy had gastric bypass surgery 4 years ago to relieve a multitude of medical ills- she has had a seemingly endless string of complications/surgeries since then) and then I started to write about the loneliness of being the caregiver sometimes and offering some words of encouragement.

I really don't know if this woman feels those strains but I felt compelled to tell her about how I coped at the lowest points and how Amy and I discovered many blessings throughout this journey. I also mentioned a book I gave Amy for Christmas of old hymns and the stories behind them. It is startling to read how many of those songs which are so spiritually uplifting were written by people in the throes of the worst miseries imaginable.

Regular readers of this blog see almost daily comments from my friend Matt - who goes by Mr. J - and I have Matt on my blogroll listed cleverly as "Matt's blog" although technically the title is: "To have found God and still pursue's paradox."

Every comment "Mr. J" leaves here and around the blogosphere is upbeat, encouraging and spirit-filled, so some of you may think his life is a bed of roses.

I would encourage you to read his blog (side note to Amy, my buddy Harlan and anyone else who is blessed with the vision to have grammatical or spelling errors glare at them - put down your blue pencils when you read Matt and simply open your hearts).

His is an amazing tale of great love, great loss, great fear and abundant faith. If you think Amy and I have struggled...if you think you have struggled...I will tell you right now, Matt's story will make you feel like a least it does me.

Although I didn't seek his permission to publicize him or his story I know I'm not revealing anything here that Matt doesn't spell out in great detail on his blog. I also know he will forgive me if I've overstepped my bounds, forgiveness is simply part of his character.

Matt lost his wife more than a decade ago to AIDS. He also acquired HIV and is struggling with the disease while simultaneously trying and succeeding in being a father to 3 sons, one of whom has severe problems, to the point he has endangered Matt and the other kids.

Yet almost every day I get a comment from this man, whom I've never met, being playful, encouraging, honest and humble. It really doesn't matter what he says in those remarks because each one I read with the knowledge of what he has been through and is dealing with every day.

Matt is in the process of writing the entire story...I think he's planning four parts...part one starts here.

I can not emphasize enough how uplifting he has been to me, even in his heaviest sorrows, because his words, his actions, his life exude one thing: grace.

Thank you strengthen me...may God continue to strengthen you.

Friday, February 18, 2005

A Full Bladder

I took today off work so that Amy and I could go out last night without me looking at my watch. I'm about to go for a morning walk, since Amy is used to sleeping in, but I did stop by Ebay while browsing around a few minutes ago and noticed you can get a real steal on Ebay if you're in the market for - bladder stones.

Cocker Spaniel bladder stones to be precise.

This cocker spaniel

A woman is auctioning off the bladder stones removed from her 6 year old Cocker Spaniel "Baby."

She hopes to help offset the costs of having them removed...which was like 800 bucks.

So far the bidding is at 99 cents

Okay off to know what they say about rolling stones...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

To Priscilla and Bernie

click to enlarge

I am really bad at writing thank you notes. I should do it more. Please accept my apologies.

I don't know what the spark was that brought you two together. I do know yours has been a lasting love affair of which I am the beneficiary...because it produced a wonderful by wife....43 years ago today.

I can not express enough my appreciation for the way you raised her, cherished her, taught her to love God and to reflect that love to others.

Most of all I have to thank you for teaching her to accept the truly flawed, otherwise there's no way she would have ended up with the likes of me.

Today that little girl is all grown up with children who are all grown up.

I have been blessed to spend good times and hard times with her and make no mistake I would not trade one moment of any second of that time for anything.

I make no attempt to conceal the joy of knowing that I have won this lottery of love. I will spend all of my days with this woman, this beautiful mysterious forgiving creature of wonder you named Amy.

Some say the name Amy means "much loved," I couldn't agree more.

I will celebrate with your daughter today. I doubt there will be cake or party hats. I know there will be mixture of quiet time and laughter.

It's our favorite combination.

I wish you could be here so I could thank you personally for your love...for it gave birth to mine.

Alas this meager note in cyberspace will have to suffice.

Thank you Priscilla and Bernie.

Happy Birthday Amy.

I love you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Whence Upon A Time

It was last year at Lent that I re-started walking every day, and although I adopted a very similar regimen the year prior, it was last year where it seemed to "take." I never tired of walking, I suddenly started dropping weight easily where the year before I didn't lose an ounce, and I've kept up the habit.

This year Lent got off on the wrong foot. Amy and I had plans to set aside time together, work through a 40 day devotion of reserving quiet time for God, and read through the book of Psalms. That suddenly became harder to do with her in the hospital and then we felt "behind."

The question then became where would we play catch up? Trying to "cram in" time with Amy or God or Bible reading seemed completely at odds with our intent for this season of peaceful reflection. So we're not going to do that. Yelling out, "Hey Honey! Let's force ourselves to read God's word and spend extra time today to make up for yesterday" seems silly...because it is silly.

I'm not abandoning our goals though.

I think I'm finding the perspective I need...hopefully it's not simply a rationalization.

The first lesson of this Lenten season: We can't "make time" or "find time" or "recapture time"...instead we have to get "in time" with God.

Thank God He's patient.

The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time.
You open Your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalm 145:14-16

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Michael 11:35

It's been a very long day...I'm very tired, but I'm determined to get out and walk, so I'm going to let these words count for my daily blogging: Amy's home.

Monday, February 14, 2005

To Ruth...Love, Boaz

To Ruth...Love, Boaz.
That's how I addressed my Valentine's card to Amy - we don't do a lot of Valentine's Day usually gets clogged up with her birthday and our anniversary. Cards are about it. Coincidentally her card to me was addressed To: Boaz...Love, Ruth.

Amy and I spent the morning together at the hospital holding each other close and counting our many blessings. It may not have cured Amy but it did wonders for me.

Obviously today was a better funk is fading and I appreciate all the prayers, kind emails and comments. I don't do emotional nosedives too often, at least not publicly, so hopefully there won't be a repeat performance.

Quite frankly I realized I let myself be deceived and distracted. I vowed to devote this time of spiritual seeking to the worship of God and on day three I let myself get fixated on me.

This is a familiar game played for centuries upon the minds of the faithful...and I should have recognized it sooner.

Simple pure devotion to Christ...that's all God really asks of us.

I need to work a lot less at religion and walk a lot more with that thought.

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." - Matthew 22: 37-38


My computer is working. I fixed it...sort's in pieces still and a lot of things are not connected, but Amy was fairly certain from my description that the power supply blew. I bravely replaced it (okay, after buying the wrong one the first time) and sure's rumbling along...I think it will keep working until I can get Amy home to really look at it.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Runs

I woke up to stomach ailments which I suppose puts a bright spin on Amy not being least for her.

Actually I recovered enough to handle a full Sunday school class of kids with no lesson plan whatsoever, kept them entertained and we actually learned a little about the Bible in the process - a lot about each other.

Then I went downhill. Not having Amy in church has become something increasingly difficult for me and for the first time in my life I sat down in church, prayed a bit and then got up, tossed a check in the offering plate, and left mid service.

I mean I ran.
I couldn't be there.

I ran home and sat in the sunshine out back with dogs crawling on me until I fell asleep.

Compared to past ills, Amy's current situation is likely nothing, but for me today it was everything...When I looked up at church at the folks singing, 2 years worth of our struggles all came crashing in on me, money, and fear suddenly outweighed my faith.

So I ran. I called Amy and said I was on the run...she didn't understand and I couldn't explain.

So I ran some more. In silence.

I ran into the sunshine. I played with our dogs. I cried and I slept with a little dog on my lap.

The Spurs came on TV...I crawled onto the couch but fell back asleep, missing the entire game. I was awoken at one point by a sudden sound of a pop and the smell of smoke. Evidently a halogen light exploded...I realized later it exploded enough to burn a hole in the carpet. In the grand scheme of things that doesn't even rate as a crisis.

A little while ago I came upstairs, sat down at my computer and it went "POP!" and died.

I've been a computer geek for a long time...I've had lots of computers die. I didn't mourn.

For some inane reason though I thought I might be able to fix it. That was stupid. Now it's in pieces.

I called Amy. She talked me down. She's not worried about my computer being in pieces...she's worried about me falling apart.

I cried and told her about a church I know that ministers to the homeless, feeds the hungry, turns no one away. People smell bad there and many don't speak English. I told her I wanted to run there...and do things like Jesus called us to do.

Amy talked me down.

She reminded me that we were called to Covenant and that I had spent the morning teaching children about Jesus. God has a place for us there and it's obvious.

She's right.

Today was a bad day. I don't have many.

I'm using Amy's computer now, one that's too slow and frustrating and which I planned to replace for her birthday next week with an unexpected bonus check I've been told I'm getting at work as well as our tax refund. The rest of that money we've already spent or set aside to spend on important things. Like dragon killing and family loving.

If need be I'll still get Amy another computer or we'll be a one computer family. We can survive that way.

I know I'm a way I'm running still.

But I think it's helped me reach the place I need to be to stop running now, at least to sleep.

There will be better days.

Days when church will be easy and Amy will sing and I'll see Jesus in the little things.

Days where light bulbs won't explode...where Amy will be here to fix things I break...and keep me from breaking.

Days when the Son will shine too.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Distantly Disappearing Disciplines

I think I was doing better with my Lenten disciplines before Lent.

Amy's hospitalization, my work committments, and a flurry of financial finessing has me run ragged.

Blogging suddenly seems like an obligation rather than an exciting exploration.

I've fallen off my walking regime and tonight I looked down and realized I was stuffing my face with food that could best be described as "crap."

I'm teaching a Sunday school class in the morning...I've done no preparation.

Right now all I can think about is sleep.

I'm sure I will come up with a Sunday school lesson ... I'm not certain though that it will be for the benefit of the kids....

Friday, February 11, 2005

The Price Is Righteous

Days get a little blurry when Amy is in the hospital. When I called her tonight, I woke her up and she thought it was tomorrow morning already. It made for some confusion until we both got our time straight.

Amy's doing fine but will be spending the weekend in the hospital. There's no surgery or tests planned...more of a wait and see period we're enduring. Another lesson in patience. I think we're in God's remedial class when it comes to patience.
Despite the hospital environs, we are still setting aside time each day to maintain our Lenten pledge. For the past two days we've sat on the hospital bed, closed the door, and discussed finding quiet time for God. It's been good. Actually that setting has given us a renewed perspective of God's blessings.
If there's any upside to having a family member who is chronically ill it's that you can write off a heck of a lot from your taxes, which means our tax refund was substantially more than in past years. That meant I was able to slay a dragon today. I walked into the office of the hospital "financial counselor" and after 90 minutes of confusion walked out with receipts showing we had at least made good on all of Amy's hospital "co-pays" for the past couple of years. I was fairly stunned at how difficult it was to tally up the numbers. The hospital can't seem to find a way to simply add new costs onto Amy's bill. Each visit is a new bill. Each bill has a new computer code. Each computer code generates more paperwork and each piece of paper more confusion.

When I announced I wanted to write a check for the co-pays from each stay, I thought the financial counselor was going to short circuit. For a moment I considered paying off one bill...walking out of the room for a moment and then walking back in and saying I wanted to pay another. I thought if I repeated that process 5 or 6 times it might be easier for this "financial counselor" to grasp because the concept of "adding" seemed to throw her for a loop. Eventually we sorted it all out.

There are still plenty of medical and other bills to deal with but tackling one bundle today certainly improved my perspective.

And I must admit it felt good to know when Amy checks out of the hospital this time I won't have wheel her out hidden under a sheet in a laundry cart.

Our youngest daughter, Lisa, is in town for a music convention. I took her to dinner tonight. It's a fairly rare occurrence for me to have one on one time with only one of the children. Usually Amy is present or one or more of the other kids. When Amy told Lisa I was taking her out for dinner she responded, "Just Michael and me? That will be nice."

Although she was tired from a day of running around and dinner was nothing fancy, it was nice. We sat quietly and talked. I listened to her dreams and her fears and then brought her back home so she could get some badly needed rest. She's already asleep.

But as we talked and ate I was reminded of my relationship with God.

I thought how I should spend more "one on one" time with Him. Too often I let too many other things or people get in the way.

"Just Michael and Me? That will be nice."

Out O Whack

I woke up this morning and started brushing my teeth before I realized my alarm hadn't gone off. I was up about 40 minute early. I was sleep tooth brushing.

Very weird.

Went back to bed...minty fresh.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

You Wanted Alone Time?

Amy and I vowed to spend time alone with each other this Lenten season...we're off to a great start. I'm dropping her at the hospital on my way into work in a few minutes. She's unable to keep food down and the situation has turned too serious for a liquid diet.

We'll begin our spiritual studies today as scheduled, only not in the place we expected.

I will blog when I can...probably quite a bit because I will blog when I need to also..

We begin Ash Wednesday and Lent on our knees.

God works a lot like that...not a bad lesson with which to begin this season of thought and repentence.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Clear Uncertainties

I backed out of a commitment I made at church. I withdrew from the spiritual partnering effort some of our church members have launched. It was a hard decision, but the timing for me simply wasn't right.

I know the months ahead are going to involve some big changes at work and I already work pretty wacky hours. I am committed to spending the Lenten season finding a quiet peace to share with Amy and God every day and there's the usual stuff - Amy's health, the oftentimes confusing chaos associated with simply living life. Plus new Deacons will be coming on board in the next few weeks who may look to me somewhat for guidance, not that I'm full of wisdom; I'm simply one of the few Deacons left. Leadership through attrition.

I don't want to shortchange a spiritual partner by spreading myself too thin, so I backed out. It is one of the few times I've said,"No" to anything asked of me at church - I even preached once...sort was more like a public blubbering but I think I got preaching credit nonetheless. Yet I know I have to maintain boundaries in order to stay centered on Christ.

The young woman spearheading the effort understood completely, as I knew she would...she exudes grace which makes me even sadder knowing that I will not have more of an opportunity to share this experience with her.

Although there were no true set guidelines, the partnerships would require some time and meetings which I'm uncertain I could commit to right now.

The worst thing though was the only real stated goal of the project was help each other "find where God fits" in our daily the big things and the little things. That's something I strive to do - something I love to do - and I'd love to help others and have them help me too.

I know backing out was the right decision though.

I am comforted in the obvious knowledge that there will be other opportunities.

The pictures I've sprinkled in this post demonstrate as much.

God quite often creates perfection.

We let so much slip away unnoticed, but there is always more to come.

Those pictures...they are of snowflakes.

Real snow flakes.

I need no more proof of God than pictures such as those.

If you'd like to see here.

You won't regret it, of that I am quite certain.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Kinky Avoidance

image swiped from copperlove studios

I don't know Kinky might not either. I have several connections to him though. I've read most of his books, mainly rather blasphemous and humorous detective novels. I had a co-worker who helped produce an album of famous artists performing songs Kinky did with his band "Kinky and the Texas Jewboys." Songs like, "Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns into bed."

Classics - although that tribute album was wretched.

Kinky recently kicked off his campaign to become Texas Governor with slogans like "Kinky- Why the Hell Not?" and "Kinky Friedman for Governor- How hard could it be?"

I hope he makes it onto the ballot. It will be a very difficult task. He'll have to convince hundreds of thousands of Texans NOT to vote in the primary and then sign his petitions. Texas, a state that prides itself on its independence makes it almost impossible for an independent to run for statewide office. Go figure.

Anyway, I've bumped into Kinky a number of times over the years. He used to be a regular on our various radio shows because of his quick wit. Then we banned smoking in the building and Kinky never came back

He's a militant cigar smoker.

Anyway I do have a more personal claim to fame to Kinky Friedman.

I've mentioned before on numerous occasions that I believe people name Wayne are predestined to commit crimes, specifically to become killers. I won't go into'll simply have to believe me...or trust people named Wayne...your choice...probably a good idea to lock your doors either way.

Years and years ago WOAI had a somewhat abysmal talk show in the dark of night called "Road Across America" which was originally aimed at truckers and eventually became aimed at anyone who could pick up the rather extensive 50 thousand watt signal of the station. It was hosted by a guy named Ben Baldwin who was known to occasionally augment his coffee with stuff besides cream and sugar, so the topics quite often would stray.

One night I was called in to work for the normal overnight guy and I had time on my hands. I set up our newsroom computers to search for all the stories about people named "Wayne" on the newswire (this was pre-Internet) and crimes. I also had a list of some of the more notorious Waynes already compiled. During a break in the show I went into Ben and gave him the list as sort of a joke. The next thing I knew he opened the microphone and said, "Why are so many killers named Wayne?" He started reading down the list live on the air without giving it a second thought. I was horrified. I mean, there are a lot of people named Wayne out there.

The phone lines lit up like Ben Baldwin after a full night of "coffee"....not only from people named Wayne threatening to kill Ben, but also from all sorts of people with stories about Waynes who were killers or general no goodniks. Ben did an entire hour on the topic ending with a psychologist theorizing that in the 50's and 60's men named their sons after John Wayne and those boys had a hard time living up to their father's macho images. Thus they became killers. It was truly a surreal experience.

Fast forward a few years - Ben Baldwin is gone....Road across America is no more...I still believe Waynes are dangerous life forms and I'm reading one of Kinky's trashy novels, I don't remember which and I'm too lazy to go downstairs to look it up, but there's a line in it that says something to the effect of, "I can't sleep and I'm listening to all night talk radio. The announcer is asking,' why so many killer's are named Wayne?'"

Wayne serendipity.

It has nothing to do with anything, but I was reminded of the story today and the only other things I had to write about were going to take more thought to explain...and certainly more thought for me to understand. Primarily today I've been thinking about and praying about boundaries as well as saying "No" even when it means saying no to one of the sweetest people I've ever met and a project which I truly believe in. I'm having a hard time with it, but somehow I know it's right.

I'm not ready to write about that yet.

So I dashed out this old memory and I plugged Kinky Friedman's run for Governor.

Maybe tomorrow I'll be ready to write on that other hard could it be?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Making Room

I am supposed to be in the shower...I have no time to write. Superbowl Sunday may prevent further insights from me if I want to make room for a pre-game nap.

But I'm thinking about Lent. Amy and I are not going to "give up" anything. We're going to give each other instead. Give each other more of our time and give more of that time together to God.

We're still working out the exact details, but if the intent of Lent is to abstain from things or remove things from your life so that you can make more room for God, I think we're on the right track.

I know this much...we're going to set aside one hour a day...every day. No TV, no distractions, we'll turn off the phones and spend the time with each other and God. What form that will take...we're not certain.

However I think we're both sure it will be a good thing.

Showering before church is a good thing too...and I better get a get to it.

Saturday, February 05, 2005


Amy's coming home this morning.

In terms of hospital stays...this one was a piece o' cake.

Next time I'd prefer to skip dessert entirely though.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Price

Amy is in the hospital again.

We don't expect this to be a drawn out thing, but she had some distressing symptoms (I won't elaborate) this morning, on top of a lack of sleep and the general nervousness one might expect from someone who spent nearly four months in the hospital last year. A call to the doctor resulted in another direct admit to the hospital. She's undergoing some tests and will probably be in at least through tomorrow. I'm hoping she won't spend the entire weekend there, but we'll deal with whatever comes up.

A few minutes ago she called to wake me up, as ordered, and told me she was being prepped for one of the primary tests. Then she told me to go back to sleep for an hour or so before driving up to spend time with her tonight in those all too familiar surroundings.

Her suggestion I go back to sleep is not possible; once I'm awake I'm usually up for the duration. That's the price I pay for a wacky schedule.

I've been thinking about the price we pay for a lot of things lately. Partially that's due to the fact that I'm confronted by our bank balance each time I sit down at the computer, however a larger reason is because one topic has been on my mind a lot this week: freedom.

Watching the people of Iraq go to vote and defy the threats against them, to see some walk miles to the polls...that has been awe inspiring. Knowing that many Iraqis died at the hands of terrorists this week because they chose to vote and recognizing that, their neighbors still lined up to cast ballots undeterred by the violence...that has been almost impossible for me to comprehend.

To top it off there have been those pictures. It has been humbling to see pictures of men and women whose hands were marked with ink proving they voted and who proudly displayed those ink stained fingers to celebrate the voting process. They knew those celebrations put them in further danger, but they risked it gladly because they knew they have won something of which they have too long been deprived - freedom.

I couldn't help but remember how many times Amy and I have blown off voting because the lines were too long or we "didn't really care" about an issue, or it was too nice a day to "waste" 10 minutes...or worse yet that "our vote didn't count."

I am embarrassed.

We should wave our freedoms aloft - high above our heads - treating them like treasures and letting them glisten in the glory of the dazzling light from the sun. We should simultaneously cherish them - hold them close to our hearts at all times - to make certain they come to no harm.

Instead too often we ignore them.

And we forget.

We forget the very men and women who won those freedoms for us.

We forget the price they paid.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!"

That quote is rather famous. Almost every American knows who said it, except most don't realize they know it.

It's the next line - the end of the quote - that is etched into our memories...

"I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" - Patrick Henry

It's been a long time since we Americans fought for our freedoms. We're more apt to fight over who gets possession of the remote control.

"Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose..." - Kris Kristofferson

That was a fun song once, though to me today the lyrics ring very hollow.

Freedom is much more than another word.

It's a way of life that almost always comes to us at a high and mournful price...blood.

Yet we forget.

Even Christians forget despite being reminded so very very often.

Last Sunday I stood around a wooden table with fellow members of my church. We shared small portions of bread and juice and said these exact words, "This is the body of Christ broken for you. This is the blood of Christ poured out for you."

Christ bought our freedom - freedom from sin.

And He purchased it with His blood.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Cashing & Crashing

It's been one of those days. I've had too little sleep and we came to the realization that we had far too little money.
An Ebay blessing (thank you folks for instant pay) kept us from the financial all I need is about 9 hours sleep.

So I'm cashing in for the night.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Using Your Head

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes

click to be really annoyed

I remember years ago noticing that every time Troy Aikman went to the sidelines during a Cowboy's game he quickly put on a cap. At first I thought it was a superstition, but then I learned it was a paid arrangement. He was under contract for something like $200,000 a season to make sure anytime the TV cameras caught him on the sidelines he was wearing that cap.

That of course was Troy Aikman and presumably it worked. I suppose someone sold a lot of caps because of Aikman's famous head.

Of course Troy would have probably made more money if he kept his helmet on since he had his skull bashed in so often he had to be reminded of his name for the last year or two of his career...but that's another story.

Troy Aikman made 200 thousand bucks a year using his head.

I'm sure you've heard about this kid -

He's a 20 year old web designer who auctioned off his forehead on Ebay...for 37 thousand dollars. He has to keep a logo for some anti snore goop on his noggin for a month and he pockets the cash.

This woman

cashed in to the tune of four grand and change the other day after she agreed to keep her shirt lifted up over her pregnant belly for a couple of months to hawk a casino.

I wonder if when she's in the delivery room they'll pull her arm and the baby will tumble out like coins from a slot machine.

Topping it off of course is Richard Hamilton, of the Detroit Pistons who agreed to have hair cut in the pattern of Goodyear's "Triple Tred" tire.

They're not saying how much he got paid, but he admits he did get a free set of tires.

I suppose his agent arranged it. I can only imagine how that conversation went...

"Hey, I've got a client in the NBA...he's not much of a talker but surely he could advertise something.

Yeah, I know he's an airhead but…..hey there's an idea!"

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,
Knees and Toes

Every little body part goes
Head, Shoulder, Knees and TOE$!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Turning Over Stones And Finding Memories

I was confronted by an old memory this morning. It was triggered by a newspaper story about Stonehenge.

Oh, not that Stonehenge...a different one...sort of a sequel I'd guess you'd call it...Stonehenge II, a pseudo replica almost hidden in the depths of the Texas Hill Country.

The newspaper story was about how Stonehenge II was gradually degrading and how the nephew of the man who originally had it built was working to preserve it.

The man initially who "commissioned" Stonehenge II was named Al Sheppard. He died more than a decade ago, but several years before he finished being amused on earth I had the pleasure of meeting him and his close friend Doug Hill, who actually did most of the physical work constructing Stonehenge II - for the record there really wasn't much stone involved, mostly plaster and rebar.

That was a different time in many ways. We did things on the radio which I'd never allow today...things like 4 or 5 minute feature stories. Today we don't have that luxury of time. We work very hard at presenting a sense of urgency in hopes of convincing our audience that if they turn their attention away for only a few seconds they'll risk missing something important. Today if a radio story runs longer than 30 seconds I'm usually chopping it away in chunks. I try not to believe this trend is due to the public's ever decreasing attention span...luckily if my thoughts do drift in that direction they don't linger there long.

Anyway, back then we also encouraged reporters, of which I was one, to spend less time digging for dirt at city hall, the courthouse or Washington and more time scratching the surfaces closer to our doorsteps. We often found fertile soil yielding wonderful tales which perhaps today might go overlooked due to a shortage of patience.

It was during one of those free wheeling "go find someone interesting...something fun to report" excursions that I happened upon Al Sheppard and Stonehenge II.

I don't think I've ever laughed more during any news interview I've done...even when I worked at the State Capitol surrounded by politicians.

It was nice to remember that today.

I had to search around a bit, but with Amy's help, I found the radio feature I produced way back then.

I also sent a note to Al's nephew mentioning my fond memories of glomming onto his Uncle's enjoyment of life and his obvious amusement at befuddling passersby - not to mention his neighbors - with something so completely out of place and unexpected.

It's a lengthy audio if you don't have broadband don't even attempt it, but if you want to listen to the original story I did all those years ago you can click here.

The irony of this situation isn't lost on me. For centuries people have been trying to preserve the original Stonehenge and also come to some understanding of how and why it came to be...and today, nestled in a little valley in the Texas Hill Country, work is underway to restore a knock off version, the origins of which might only be truly understood if you perhaps had the privilege and pleasure of meeting Al Sheppard and listening to him laugh and even then you might still be left wondering.