Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Okay, house sitting is nice until you have to leave...then it's a lot like moving. Amy and I do not travel light....but we're home...with a fenced yard for the with junk mail filters...and all our clutter is right where we left it.

I'm too tired to write much and I want to get to church I'll briefly mention this for you outdoorsy types.

The Outdoor Bible

It's true!

For folks I suppose who rough it so much they need a waterproof Bible...tear "resistant" Bible. It doesn't appear to be camouflaged...probably because enough Bibles are already.

Anyway, it goes on sale September 12th. You heard it here first.

Time to unpack...we're home

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Taking A Roll In The Smelly Stuff

I've been living the relative lap of luxury this week, house sitting for of the reasons my blogging has been a bit sporadic.

It's an odd dichotomy. In truth, although house-sitting for our friends in their VERY BIG house is nice, it's not home. I'm more comfortable in my own bed. I am more comfortable in my own messy house.

To spare Erin the ordeal of caring for three dogs, we brought our two smallest dogs on this house sitting adventure. The yard is huge but it's not fenced and they're confused by their surroundings. Chaining them outside was a miserable failure from the start so Amy or I have to walk them on leashes several times a day, which is not too difficult since they're so small and the yard is SO BIG we can walk them and never leave the property.

A couple of times I have stopped at a little spot on the property where there is a stump surrounded by rosemary. I sit on the stump and have found myself praying and thinking - two things I often confuse with each other. The dogs play at my feet as I breathe in the sweet rosemary aroma.

Inevitably the dogs find a spot a few feet away where they smell something else. I'm not certain what it is - likely the remnant of something - but soon they start to roll in it.

I usually pull them away, because I'm sure it smells wonderful to them, but it probably won't smell too good to anyone else. It is the smell of decay or death or some other d word if you're being polite. For whatever reason their instinct is roll in it...there must be a certain familiarity to it that extends beyond time and place.

Sometimes I think maybe it's like home.


Fish and prayers are with you.

"Wherever your treasure is, there your thoughts and hearts will also be"
- Luke 12:34

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Throwing Aunt Jemima To The Lions

Like most members of the media, this past week I've spent a lot of time writing stories about Cindy Sheehan - if you don't know about her then I applaud you and please don't let me yank your head out of the hole you've found so comfortable. If I had a choice I wouldn't write anything about her. It's not that I agree or disagree with her, I'm simply sick of her.

However one of the radio stations I do news for is in Waco, and Ms. Sheehan is the talk of the town, not so much because of her beliefs but because of all the folks who have descended on Waco and nearby Crawford to either join Ms. Sheehan in her cause or to demonstrate against her. It's now become an organized event for both sides...kind of like the carnival coming to town except there are no rides or animals, but there still seems to be an abundance of animal dung left behind.

As you might imagine the folks in the small town of Crawford, no matter their political leanings, are kind of sick of everybody. It's hot...really hot...and humid...wake up feeling sticky humid. It is generally uncomfortable in Crawford anyway without having a bunch of California peace activists and California pro-military, pro-President Bush activists screaming at each other and swarming all over the place, staging "media events." When they're not doing that they're going in and out of restaurants, gas stations, motels, and bars...and letting a lot of the cool dry air escape outside.

In truth, there's not much to do in Crawford...or Waco and now these folks who have traveled all the way there are scrambling to find something to occupy their time when the TV cameras are off - evidently a lot of these people on both sides don't have to work for a living.

So who is the primary beneficiary of this restlessness?

Hearne - the town of Hearne - which is not too far away. A lot of the Crawford invaders have ended up going to Hearne for something to do.

Hearne's biggest claim to fame is that it was the hometown of Rosie Lee Moore Hall...she was the last real person to play Aunt Jemima for the Quaker Oats company. She had that role from 1950 to 1967 when she died and the company started thinking different about things.

You can go to Hearne and visit her grave. That's about the extent of the Hearne experience, but so help me that's what people are doing.

I'm serious, once you've seen the Dr. Pepper Museum in Waco and driven by Mount Carmel where the Branch Davidians died your Central Texas sight-seeing options tend to degrade rather rapidly.

I believe I mentioned that Amy and I are house-sitting for friends the next few days. We're doing this for several reasons. First off, their house is clean and every once in a while we like to remember what that's like. Secondly, they've got cable out the wazoo so we can really be completely mindless fools should we so choose - this blog entry is ending soon by the way. Lastly, they have a really nice house and sort of like to have people watch out for their really nice stuff when they're protect it from people like...well like us.

Anyway I was thinking today about how we are the guardians of their domain when I read this story.

I really...really like this idea. Having a problem with bandits? Unleash the lions! The kids hanging out on the corner starting to make you a little nervous? "Sic 'em Leo!"

I was struck by the simplicity of the solution and sort of gladdened by it - of course I may have been watching too many Steven Segal movies on cable...who knows?

In any case, I hope the folks in Crawford don't get wind of this approach to dealing with unwanted malingerers.

Okay, to be honest, I sort of hope they do.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Happy Endiings

I only have a moment to take a passing swipe at blogging today so I thought I'd briefly mention that 1425 years ago today a crude form of toilet paper was invented by the Chinese.

Thank goodness...things could have turned out much worse.

See...if you look hard enough you can find something to be thankful for every day.

How Did We Get This Busy?

Amy is attempting to work a few hours tonight and I figure I should do something productive while she's gone...blogging probably isn't it.

I think I'll do the dishes or something.

We're going to house-sit across town for a few days next week - it's a nice house...with cable TV...and so it would probably be better if we didn't simply walk out the door of our house leaving it in shambles.

We've been blessed a lot lately and I need to write about that, but this isn't the time. It seems we've been inordinately busy - although not necessarily productive - lately.

Suffice it to say things are going fairly well...on a lot of fronts...and I'm more convinced than ever that God is watching out for us.

Hopefully we'll never be too busy to remember that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

24 On The 24Th

Happy Birthday Tiffany! Yes, I know that's an old picture but really, when do you get a chance to post pictures of people with their heads resting on the back of looks so natural.

May God Bless you this day as you have blessed us everyday!



Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Speech- Free & Cheap!

If this is Tuesday, I must be groggy....

Let's see...Pat Robertson is calling for the assasination of Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela.

Good for Pat...I'll bet most people can't name the Ten Commandments and quite honestly after commandment number five they all start to run together in my head too. I'm glad he's showing us no one is above the ability to lose gray matter. I especially like the fact that he equated the assassination with being a "lot cheaper" than a war.

Thou shalt not kill...unless of course it proves to be cost effective. It might breathe whole new life into K-Mart.

K-Mart...killing at a discount.

I also saw a story today about how people who attend church regularly are far more likely to support the war on terror and believe foreign affairs often boil down to good versus evil. This poll...I don't report polls by the way because I don't really understand their news value...was done by a group called Public Agenda which has also completed an in depth survey entitled: Americans Perplexed and Anxious About Relations with Muslim World.

If it's any consolation, I don't think they're government funded.

One person who apparently is not perplexed about the Muslim world is Michael Graham, a now unemployed radio talk show host for W-M-A-L in Washington D.C. who referred to Islam as a "terrorist organization." He contended he was exercising his right to free speech. The radio station disagreed and exercised their right to broom him.

Maybe Pat Robertson could give him a job...of course he'd have to be a good shot.

For The Record.

Yesterday was National Punctuation Day.

I suppose those of you excited by that might have stated it more emphatically, "yesterday was national punctuation day!"

I stink at punctuation. I have unpaid editors who shall remain nameless (fake sneeze Harlan/Amy) who regularly correct my punctuation errors.

National Punctuation Day has a long history having been established way back in 2004 by the owner of a newsletter called Put It In Writing who became tired of noticing errors found in stuff he read. The idea being to call attention to the proper use of punctuation.

I once took a summer school class in college...a literature class - which by the way is a huge mistake since it requires you to read massive amounts of material and what's worse retain what you read - something I was not particularly good at then or now, but especially then.

Anyway, I wrote my first paper for the class, which was due on the third or fourth day of summer school - after we had read 8 or 9 novels - and I thought it was pretty good for a guy who was quasi-sober. The teacher looked at the first line and scrawled a big red "F" on the paper and handed it back. She never read the content. She said I misplaced a comma.

I've never been good with commas...but I've been even worse with dictatorial, power crazed, ego maniacs and after a very short discussion in which proper grammar grew increasingly less important we came to a mutual agreement that I would no longer be in her class. I came to some other conclusions about her which I recall mentioning to the other students on the way out which also cemented the deal regarding my departure.

On a brighter note, National Punctuation Day did remind me of my favorite Peanuts cartoon and I searched the Internet hoping to find it...what good is this Internet thing if you can't find copyrighted material to steal when you need it?

In the comic strip either Charlie or Linus is writing home from "camp" and it reads something like: Dear Mom? and Dad? Today at camp? was great? We learned how? to use question marks?


That's all I'm going to say about National Punctuation Day

Yes, I didn't put a period at the end of that last sentence simply to drive a few of you nuts.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Four Hours!!

We only now returned from our meeting with Amy's lawyer who will represent her at her Social Security hearing...I'm not sure if he was testing her stamina but he talked, and talked and talked and talked...It was a 3:30 appointment...we left at 8 p.m..

I hope he doesn't talk as much in front of the judge or Amy will be led away in cuffs for strangling him.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cryptic Love

You'll never know.

You'll never know the sacrifices that were made for you.

You'll never know the pain you caused.

You'll never know the hardships endured for you.

I am tempted to tell you because your selfishness amazes me sometimes and it burrows into the heart of those I love most. I see their pain and I see your blithe ignorance.

Then I realize that the only thing I truly have ever wished was for you to learn forgiveness.

So all I can do is hold those who have been scarred...and forgive you.

I pray you'll never know.

Yet I pray one day you'll understand also that there are many things you never knew and you should fall down on your knees and thank God for the people who protected you from that pain.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blatant Self Promotion

One of the things I do for a living is produce a short Internet/computer related radio feature called "Cyberstuff."

I've done this for many years, it's a 60 second feature and the topics are all over the map. I opted to produce the feature for several reasons: I had been doing a weekend computer talk show that was being canned and I didn't want to lose the money and second it is relatively easy and occasionally companies send me free stuff to try out.

Anyway in the past month or two the webmaster of - the primary radio station that pays my salary has been urging me to also do a "Cyberstuff" blog...with him. He does computer related stuff for our TV station in this market WOAI-TV. He figured we could be a little more free to put stuff on a blog, and not be wedded to doing "reviews" of products all the time. Also he wants to gravitate toward putting my daily audio feature on the blog for download for folks who are into podcasting. Personally I think if you're downloading a one minute radio feature on some wacky computer subject you have advanced beyond the stage of "geek" but that's only my personal opinion.

In any case, the blog is's a "soft opening" at this point in that I'm not publicizing it yet and there's not much original content on it. Next week I hope to post something each day along with that day's radio feature which you can either listen to or I suppose download as some weird keepsake.

Since I've been writing this blog for a couple of years I thought it only fair to let folks who suffered along with me here get a glimpse of what the new blog will look like. Keep in mind the "Cyberstuff blog" is completely separate from The Main Point. The Main Point is mine; I write whatever I want here. Cyberstuff is a work product and I'll try to post brief bits of interesting technology related stuff there along with Cyberbob, my cohort in this scheme.

I've only posted one item on the Cyberstuff blog and it's not anything new...I merely wanted to test out the system I have to use to post there. I haven't tested the system I'll use to post audio but I'm fairly certain that will be easy enough.

So today I'm plugging the new can find it at:

Now I promised Amy I'd vacuum the upstairs and wash the dogs before we go have a late lunch with friends at the restaurant where Tiffany is a waitress.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Gas Pains

Saw this picture in USA Today, although it's actually from the Fort Payne, Alabama Times Journal. Couldn't find it on their website though.

Gasoline prices went up 20 cents a gallon in San Antonio last week.

The photo says it all.


Blogger is now offering Blogger for Word a new tool that supposedly lets you write your posts in Word and publish directly to Blogger. This is my first test. Let's see what happens.

Actually it failed. It posted - although it appeared to post to the wrong place on my website - but couldn't handle the html and blogger for Word does not support images which also makes its value somewhat questionable. Oh well, it's a first step.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Lunch At Tiffany's

I shouldn't be least not here...I should be on my way to work but having slept for 7 or 8 hours I feel like a human being again and don't feel like being a worker bee quite yet.

Amy and I have cleared the schedule for this afternoon - meaning no computer work for lawyers and no lazing around watching season 3 of "24" - in order to have lunch with our eldest child, Tiffany. The child who seems to tolerate us being childlike and whom I'm sure will end up with the job of taking care of her senile parents...once they declare us senile which I'm certain Tiffany fears could be any day now.

Tiffany's been working 60 hour weeks "waitressing" this summer to earn money before she leaves in a few weeks for Harvard and her Master's in Education Policy. This after spending the past two years teaching math to 7th graders and deciding public education has big problems, so she's going solve them.

This may be one of the final times we'll have a chance to share a meal with her...all to ourselves...for a while. I want to savor it...the time...not the meal. She's an amazing young woman who will turn 24 next week...but there's no limit on where she will go from here. I can promise you this...she'll blaze new trails along the way.

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Out Of Gas

For the past several days, Amy and I have been entrenched at the law office where she used to work and now does occasional computer work. She's tackling the big issues - virus attacks, network stuff - and I'm fulfilling my role as "lackey."

That's my official title actually in our computer business which is technically out of business except for one or two clients...Amy is President and CEO and I'm the "lackey."

It may sound somewhat derogatory but when people come running up to me asking for help with this computer issue or that I need only mention my "title" and they smile politely and go off in search of Amy.

Anyway, I have done all the work I can do and am merely waiting for Amy to finish up...and write out the "bill." I'm good at that too...reminding Amy to bill the clients.

Were it not for the quadruple latte Amy brought me when she picked me up for day three of this exercise I would be asleep at this desk...which - for future reference - does not go over real well with the resident lawyers. They tend to expect me to be conscious and not drool on their mahogany desks even though my title is "lackey."

I wish I had some insightful thoughts to pass along today, but truthfully we've been working so much and sleeping so little that I'm fairly certain my wisdom well has run dry.

I have run out of gas...which considering the price of gas these days might actually be a good thing.

At least my chance to whine about being fatigued triggered my memory of this story.

I suppose it will have to suffice for my daily offering...and maybe fill your tank with a little humor along the way.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

There Are Only 6 Words Worth Saying....

Man...that was a great nap.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Chuy Loco, A Baby & Bird Crap

I should have guessed by how the day started...not enough sleep...bird poop on the windshield of our car.

Not on a portion of the windshield which the wipers could reach...exactly an inch and a half outside the wiper's sweep. This means the bird, with some serious gastric problems, had to climb to the very edge of the longest frailest limb overhanging our driveway - the limb I've been meaning to cut down - and let fly.

There was only one shot at hitting the bull’s-eye.

I wouldn't be so fixated on bird droppings except the exact same thing happened yesterday, only in larger proportions. Yesterday at least I had time to wash it away before I was in a hurry. The bird poop came along for the ride all day...which was fitting I suppose.

I walked into the office to hear police scrambling to find four little thugs at least one of whom shot a 9 month old baby twice...while the baby was in his mother's arms.

Of course "Mom" was out at 2:30 in the one of the worst parts of town.

Sometimes even in pools of innocent red blood you can still see a lot of gray.

Police know the name of several of the is "Chuy Loco"...he's 14 years old.

Welcome to Monday.

The other big news story was the type which I live for when I'm tired...a story which can be shared between markets. It was an easy story too - the first day of school. I changed a few words and the same newscast - or at least the lead story - could be used on nine stations.

I left work with a 9 month old boy on my mind and a 14 year old punk gnawing at my gut.

I was tired. There was no time for a nap, even if I could have cleared my mind.

Amy had a doctor's appointment across town in less than 2 hours.

I suddenly remembered I needed to call Chase and ask them if they had tracked down the information they swore they'd provide me with about the 7.99% interest rate they promised me five months ago.

Now their story had changed again. Chase denied being able to track down that information, denied ever promising to provide the information, and informed me I would have to "fax them proof" of their promise. At that moment, part of me wished I were Chuy Loco and put no value on human life.

I let the latest apologist at Chase get to me...I took down names, dropped names, mentioned lawsuits and made a passing reference to basic decency...all of which the woman at Chase deftly ignored.

Amy drove us to the doctor's appointment as I continued to interrogate the woman over the phone...taking names which two weeks ago Chase said were impossible to track down, getting addresses, dates and phone numbers.

Yeah...I let her further ruin my mood.

This particular doctor Amy had an appointment with is something of a wandering shaman...I'm really not sure where his office is, but today it was at "the hospital where it's impossible to park." Amy hurriedly hopped out of the car because she had to be "admitted" to the hospital in order to visit the doctor. I shook my head at that absurdity and circled the lot looking for a parking spot...for 30 minutes with no luck. Apparently this hospital is like a roach check in but you never check out.

I gave up the search and left the hospital grounds. I found a random place to park a half mile away before I realized it was more like a mile and a half away. I turned around to head back to the car and immediately stepped in a hole...full of mud... I was wearing sandals.

I wasn't surprised. There are 14 year old boys with guns named Chuy Loco in the world.

I got back to the hospital where there was still no parking but eventually I did manage to locate a spot in a nearby parking garage. 40 minutes had passed since Amy exited the car.

I walked into the foot squishing with mud and found Amy still waiting in admitting.

We were both frustrated...but moments before we would have blown a gasket some guy who didn't speak came in and led us to the 8th floor where the gypsy doctor was headquartered for the day. My foot was still muddy and squishy.

The visit with the doc was good...he was great...very absolutely no rush and we left with a game plan which Amy and I were both excited about. We decided to go get Amy's prescriptions filled, forget our frustrations and maybe rent a movie on the way home.

Our regular pharmacy - at Sam's - was "out" of one of the primary medications Amy needed so I took that prescription to Walgreen's intending to let Amy shop for food while I got the meds and rented a movie. Walgreen's was out of the medication too. Two other nearby Walgreen's also did not have any.

I went to the huge grocery store across the street which boasts it has everything anyone could ever need. The pharmacist there told me they never carry that particular drug.

I wasn't surprised...remember Chuy?

I headed to yet another pharmacy, across from a nearby hospital which is a first stop for throngs of people who have barely stepped off the operating table...this pharmacy didn't carry the medication either.

It was 98 degrees but it felt like 112 in the shade. I was sweaty and frustrated and still pretty ticked at Chase.

I gave up and went to fetch Amy who I found waiting outside Sam's - that was a bad sign - Amy has never left a store knowing I was on my way. I always have to at least enter the store and start to whine before we begin to make moves toward an exit. Today she had assumed I would return much sooner so she stood out in the heat, worried and waited.

I broke the news that the one medication she needed was seemingly impossible to get, but I vowed we would find a pharmacy that carried it. We drove in search of a "new" pharmacy we both believed had recently opened down the road....we both were wasn't there. Finally after driving by far too many gas stations advertising their "cheapest" gas at $2.45 a gallon we opted to go home and continue the hunt via the phone.

15 minutes later, Amy located one pharmacy not too far away from us that promised it had the medicine. I went to fetch it, plus some dinner.

I succeeded at both.

Still I was dog tired and a 14 year old name Chuy Loco was still on the loose.

There are only two solutions to this day:

1 - Spend what little time is left cuddled up with Amy watching mindless TV - we never did find time to rent a movie.

2- Point you toward this completely mindless flash game...

You see I worry about you may have woken up with bird crap on your windshield.

So escape for a's fun and addictive.

The day wasn't as bad as it seemed...I promise.

The baby pulled through...he's going to be fine.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

A Post You Should Read

I read this post on Captain Wow's blog this morning before church. It was exactly the message I needed to hear at exactly the right time.

I plan to write something of my own sometime today...but for now I'm gonna let Wow wow ya.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Stuff On My Cat

Amy is furbling...we should have left two minutes ago. So I'm posting silliness, like this picture from which I found via GoingJesus.

Saturday Morning Ramble

Amy's sleeping...that's a good thing. She's been restless lately. Today we have plans with friends...and that's a good thing too.

Life has been busy lately and I've overlooked - or forgotten to mention - its sillier moments.

I had an elderly woman call me the other morning in the middle of a fairly ferocious thunderstorm. She was almost crying when she asked, "Can you tell me San Antonio's longitude and latitude?"

I realized she was upset, but I couldn't help but giggle a bit in my mind wondering how such a mundane thing could seemingly take on such importance.

"Well I'm watching the Weather Channel (old folks MTV) and they never give specifics about the storm...only the longitude and latitude of where it's worst...I have to drive across town and I don't want to drown!"

I took a deep breath and asked her where she was coming from and where she was going. I looked up street closings and eyed the radar before assuring her that if she stuck to the highway, and drove slow, she'd be fine.

She sounded so relieved.

No one drown in San Antonio that day, so presumably she's still alive.

Robert Norton isn't...he's dead.

82-year-old Robert Norton was buried this a suit. He'd probably be pretty ticked about that...not dying...the suit. He wanted to be buried naked. Norton made headlines on numerous occasions in Illinois because of his insistance that he be allowed to putter around his garden nude. His neighbors had him arrested some 20 times since 1962 for indecency...still he gardened naked and wanted to be buried in the raw too. His brother refused and Robert couldn't really protest I suppose.

On Thursday, Robert Norton - World War Two veteran was laid to his Sunday best.

It's sad he died before September 10th. You might want to circle that day on your calendar. That's World Naked Gardening Day.

They have a website but be forewarned...there are naked people on it.

Robert Norton would have fit in fine with those folks...I'd bet they'd have buried him in his birthday suit.

He'd still be dead though and probably would never be anyone's favorite dead celebrity. Apparently when it comes to having "favorites" we're supposed to have a "favorite dead celebrity." You didn't know that? Actually either did I, so we both better hurry and think of someone because we might be asked to take part in a poll to determine who is America's favorite dead celebrity.

For the record, Lucille Ball is currently number one on the most favored celebrity corpse list...I don't know if she was shocked to win that honor.

The diet doctor, Robert Atkins, was "voted" least favorite dead celebrity...people denied carbs can get really cranky sometimes.

Then again, for protein lovers the news got really exciting this week. Researchers now say they can "make meat" in a test tube.

They may be able to create meat, but I suspect that discovery may create a lot more vegetarians in the long run.

I wonder if they'll garden...

Friday, August 12, 2005

Two For One

"I just want it to be over," she sobbed as we left the doctor's office.

I tried to assure her one day it would be, but that day was like one of many...there was pain, and a growing sense of isolation. The doctor had no great revelations...he was a little disappointed but only because he wants Amy to not have to fight her emotions each day as well as her body's various rebellions.

We are better today than we were...physically. Spiritually I think we've both come to terms with the fact we are under siege. But we're here for the fight...which in truth for two years or more has primarily been a lonely battle.

No one really understands. Most folks don't want to be around people in pain or who require them to truly give of themselves. They give lip service and platitudes or offer ill informed advice...and we forgive them.

We've grudging come to terms with friends who deliberately find ways to shield themselves from our struggles. I don't blame them...they have their own worries...we've been there too.

Still such recognitions can be setbacks if we allow them entry into our hearts, so we must choose...harden our hearts or extend grace. Thank God for the model of grace.

The other night we lay in bed and I could see the pain...emotional pain...washing over Amy again.

I held her close and reminded her that we had dedicated this year to worshipping God.

We cried. We prayed. We thought about new ways we might find to worship.

And we remembered.

It's not as lonely of a fight that way.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On Our Way...with Amway

We're off in a few moments to another doctor's appointment - routine follow up stuff...I had to mention, although I know it's a tragic story in itself, that I laughed aloud today when I read the Ohio taxi driver who turned in the fugitives from Tennessee called police because the couple told them they were in town for an Amway convention and "they didn't seem pushy enough."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


No...not emotional...not physical...nor financial. It's stormin' in San Antonio so our cable connection is going in and out. Amy has some computer work to do for some folks today and I'm not going to sleep thinking of her driving around in this I'm going to drive her around and keep the storms out of my mind.

Maybe I'll blog something wise later.
Okay maybe something witty.

Well....maybe I'll blog.

Right now, I'm going to be practical.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Only on Ebay.

A memorial candle...of Peter Jennings.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Line

I came into work this morning to write about a 17-year-old boy.

He was dead.

The boy was out with friends at two a.m. on a Monday morning and all of them were apparently drunk or had been drinking. The 17-year-old decided, for whatever reason, to ride on top of his buddy's car. His buddy, and four other friends, drove around for a bit with the 17-year-old on the roof and I'm sure they were laughing and having a grand time.

I can almost hear them laughing.

Then the driver slammed the car into a tree.

The “car surfing” 17-year-old flew off.

He never got another ride...except in an ambulance.

No reason.

Several occupants of the car were badly hurt and the driver will likely face charges of intoxication manslaughter, his life too changed forever.

Booze no doubt played a large part in everyone's decision making, but so did something else - an inability to see the line.

How do you teach your kids about the "line?"

It's hard - there is no real lesson plan for parents - and the line seems to shift a little with every generation and circumstance.

When our kids were younger we worried a lot - needlessly I suppose - about their safety, but when they became teenagers and went out at night with friends we borrowed the words other parents we know had used with their kids - who all turned out super - and simply said, "Make good decisions."

Then we put our trust in God and our kids.

When my stepson Joey went to college, he moved all the way to Ohio. Although he was our second child in college, our first had chosen a school much closer to home and we didn't feel as worried about - let's face it - Tiffany was acting more like a thinking adult at the age of eight than I was at the age of 35...probably 45 too.

Joey though is our "artist." He was raised in two Christian homes, but he was sheltered from a lot of life…at least parts of life I had seen. I certainly didn't think him prepared for the world at large much less the urban environs of downtown Columbus. Plus he was going to be surrounded by art students with far different values...not to mention college art teachers.

We had no idea what to expect.

I wasn't there when Joey moved into his dorm room, but Amy flew with him to Ohio to help him get settled and she told me that as she was leaving she hugged Joey in tears and started to try to speak.

Joey interrupted her.

He said, "Don't worry Mama...I'll make good decisions...ya done good."

With the exception of used automobile purchases - and when you throw used car salesmen into the mix it skews anyone’s results - he has been true to his word.

All of our kids have "made good decisions" and truthfully we don't worry about them very much at all - they probably worry about us more...and with good reason.

Another story I wrote about this morning was somewhat humorous - at least I thought so. A kid in Oregon was sentenced to two years probation, fined a few dollars and a mark was put on his "permanent record" because he gave some other kid (pardon if this offends but it's the only thing I've ever heard it called) "a titty twister."

For those of you who missed or have forgotten adolescence, that is an act usually perpetrated upon kids by kids...although I found photographic evidence indicating it may not be completely a human trait.

It's exactly what it sounds person grabs the other by the nipple and gives it a twist. Lest there be no mistake, the "victim" is always a boy...this type of activity would take on an entirely different dimension otherwise.

It's not pleasant but it's far from fatal.

In this case, the kid who did the "twisting" was 15...the possessor of the now bruised nipple was 13.

The 13-year-old's mother filed criminal charges. She says it was an act of bullying and she's right - no doubt in my mind. Her son doesn't really know the other boy, if it had been one of his friends she says she wouldn't have made a criminal case out of it.

The story revealed Oregon has rather specific laws and penalties’ regarding this type of what was termed "Three Stooges-like" behavior. Swirlies, wedgies, and noogies are technically against the law too...although if I could have had my two older brothers arrested for every noogie I received as a child they'd still be serving time.

From a distance the story is funny although I'm sure there's more to it and I really don't fault the mother - no one wants their kid picked on.

Yet this 13-year-old boy is going to encounter all sorts of wrongs during his lifetime...he's also going to encounter all sorts of temptations. When those incidents occur - and they will - his Mom is not going to be able to intervene or make it better or rectify it after the fact. She might still be able to file charges but it could be of little use, or worse yet...little comfort.

The boy will have to stand and make a decision then and himself.

I pray he will know what's truly important.

I pray he will know where to draw the line and not end up drunk on top of a car or worse.

Like it or not, the world is always going to be a little twisted.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


"You get out of it...what you put into it."

I'm afraid that's one of my stock sayings, and I'm fairly sure I stole the essence of the message from my brother-in-law Michael...actually all of the brothers-in-law I have whom I've met (my brother's wife has a brother I've never met) are named Michael...I think Amy's family is sort of subconsciously counting on Alzheimer's setting in en masse among most of its members so Michael became the chosen name for husbands, sons, sons-in-law...and I believe I'm proving that point by wandering so far off track already. Anyway, I remember Michael "Wayne" mentioning something akin to that phrase when we were talking about what colleges our kids would go to - you know, working up the right language to convince the kids that going to a cheap school would be fine if they put in the effort.

This also speaks to the influence I had on our children since Lisa is attending the third most expensive college in Texas, Joey graduated from a private art school that cost a fortune, and Tiffany is about to spend a year at Harvard.

Now, what the heck got me talking about this in the first place?

Oh...that's right. Last night Amy and I were speaking with some close friends who are newly married - to each other...they're pretty much pros at marriage in general - who are in a small amount of disagreement about where they will attend church. The husband feels a strong spiritual investment in a church he attended alone when he was in the throes of one of the worst periods of his life, and the wife - who was raised sort of Catholic - isn't sure that's the church for her.

It's a big church...but it's a very good church. Amy and I might have ended up there when we were church shopping years ago had it not been that the church was on other side of town and that - at the time - it was a Church of Christ which doesn't believe in using musical instruments in worship. That was a deal killer for Amy being that music is integral to the way she worships God. Since then the church has become essentially non-denominational, they have services with and without musical instruments and it is a church and a ministry that is thriving.

I was so proud last night that our friends wanted to include us as they honestly discussed their feelings about whether this was the church for them and I was even prouder that Amy and I were able to - for the most part - keep our mouths shut and realize in the end this was something our friends will have to work out on their own.

However I thought today of how symbolic this situation was of Christianity, of our relationship with God and of marriage. Odds are one member of this couple will eventually have to make a sacrifice.

The wife may join a church with which she's not wholeheartedly comfortable, or the husband may forego his spiritual investment in this particular church and find another to appease his spouse. Or maybe they'll simply agree to look around a bit more.

I thought how deeply rooted that premise of contradiction and compromise is within God's track least while his children have been hanging out with Him.

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it...?
That statement from Jesus is one of many examples.

God has a plan for us all, but His will is for us to shape our destinies.

God has given us a list of commandments, a code to live by, and yet He knows we will fail to meet His expectations.

God forgives us and accepts us knowing full well we will fail Him...such is grace.
In order to accept God we must accept these seeming contradictions and we must accept ourselves in order to lose ourselves so as to truly know God.

You can get lost in the enigma of it all...or you can try to understand that contradictions are an inherent part of the journey, and it is complex...and it is and should be hard.

This couple's struggle - and I'm confident they'll find a way through it - reminded me once again that the journey is often the most critical aspect of it all - whether seeking a church...building a love...or forging an honest relationship with God.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
"No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."

Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

5 A.M

Why am I awake? The one day of the week I can really sleep in (even though we were planning to get up early to see if we can catch my niece's mission gang before they hightail it back to Tulsa) and I tossed and turned all night. I finally gave up. I get philosophical when I can't sleep...I suppose you should consider that advance warning.

The moment an ill can be patiently handled, it is disarmed of its poison, though not of its pain. - Henry Ward Beecher

I've been a little obsessed with Henry Beecher lately, something about him stirred my curiosity and perhaps I'll write about it one day....not this morning though. He was Harriet Beecher Stowe's younger brother...a noted preacher in the 1800's....with his own problems. I simply thought of that quote while looking at this picture.

You can click on it to enlarge.

That's on the highly publicized “security wall" being built by the Israelis on the West Bank. One day the Israelis say the wall will extend for some 400 miles. The painting is one of several painted by a British graffiti artist called "Banksy."

The paintings are on the Palestinian side...jokingly imagining life on the other side.

I don't blame the Israelis for building walls for protection. I can't envision a life where men...women and children living within miles of you opt to become human bombs to further a cause most of the world no longer understands...if it ever did.

I've walled myself off from far less lethal threats...we all do.

At 5 a.m. on Saturday I'm grateful that such creations can be disarmed a bit though...if only for a moment.

If only in our imagination...

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Hearing, Now Seeing

We have a hearing!

Almost exactly one year since I hired an attorney to fight the Social Security Administration's decision that Amy suffers from no disabilities, we have a hearing date for our appeal - September 7th.

I had to go back through my blog - yes, it's become a virtual replacement for lost brain cells - to remember when I actually first met with the attorney to discuss Amy's case. It was almost exactly a year ago and we've been through a heck of a time since.

I don't go back and read my old posts much, but I did today. I have to say it was pretty painful.

Amy was on her computer writing a whimsical email to some Pastor somewhere, and I was doing a pretty poor job of holding back my tears reading...remembering.

I don't know how all this disability stuff will work out...I think we've learned by now not to get our hopes set too high. Truthfully I can't envision how anyone can look at Amy's medical records and say she has not been disabled.

But it's the government.

I'm more thankful than anything else. Honestly, going back through those memories has made me appreciate today a lot more.

My wife is sitting in the same room with me, she's happy and she's relatively healthy...her pain is controlled...she has more good days than bad days.

And I do I.

Praise God!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Once A Lying Thief...

Okay faithful readers...allow me not to waste your time by mincing words: Chase LIES! Chase... the bank...the one merging with Banc One your face!

They are LIARS!

The truth is a defense against libel so please don't worry on my account.

Ah...that feels better.

One thing nice about writing every day is that when you need to remember the exact date something important happened you can look it up on your this case the important thing happened on March 3rd.

That was the day that a representative from Chase....the bank that lies...told me...and Amy that they would reduce the astronomical interest rate they had been charging us on our credit card to a miraculous 7.99%. If you care to you can click back and read the entry that day...we were thrilled, it marked a small but dramatic turn around in our financial quagmire.

Now the lesson...if you're an electronic digital emailee kind of person like me you might pay your bills on line and when they send stuff to you in the mail you might not even open it, since you get the bill electronically too. If that is something you do....stop. Open the envelopes. Read the bills.

I opened our Chase bill the other day and was stunned to see they NEVER lowered our interest rate to 7.99%...they lowered it from the Mafia-like level they had been charging to something more akin to your local loan shark but no where close to 7.99.

I was at first confused, and then furious but the other day I spoke with a very nice woman who insisted she would refund all the interest we had paid in the past three months but I would have to speak to a "specialist" about lowering our interest rate. She said Monday was a bad day to talk to "specialists" and suggested I call back today. Moments ago I got off the phone with a not so very nice "specialist" who denied having any record of our rates being lowered - although our rates were lowered and there were records of multiple phone calls to their representatives that day. When I told Amy that she asked, "What did he think we were talking about...swapping recipes?"

Anyway, this clown/hired thief/liar with whom I spoke today said he could lower our rate to 14 point something something but would have do a "work order" to find a reference to the actual rate we had been promised. A "work order" would take 5 to 7 days.

I wasn't satisfied with that although I asked him to do it...nothing is going to satisfy me but canceling my account with Chase and watching them come up in Google when people type in "liar"

I could rant here for a good while longer, but let's put it this way - it took 5 to 7 minutes for me to put in a "work order" with our Credit Union to transfer the bulk of the money from Chase to the Credit Union at a fixed rate of 7.9%. I'm certain they'll approve it because our credit is much better now.

We're still in debt up to our eyeballs but we're keeping all the sharks fed.

The moral of the story? The obvious one is biblical: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.- Proverbs 22:7

The addendum might be to remember never to trust a credit card company, and open those envelopes.

It's Early I'm Late

I should be leaving for work but two thoughts crossed my mind. First I'm too reliant on Bloglines. When someone's RSS feed changes (they change software or whatever) I may never catch up with them again until I start to wonder why they're not writing. Secondly I rarely see pictures and stuff with bloglines which is 80 percent of understanding some posts.

Anyway another thing that kept me awake last night was sparked by a wonderful post by The Reverend Mommy. I thought I might use it as a jumping off point to get a few new posts on the Schwab Blog which has again started to attract the slightly suicidal to semi demented.

Post your oldest memory or your memory of your oldest relative, or the oldest story you know about your family...leave a little history at the bar. Leave your name or be anonymous...The Schwab Blog is an open source blog.

Login to blogger with the user name: schwabwriter
The password is: Freedom

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Great! Another Addiction

Hi my name is Michael...I'm an addict.

There are lots of different types of addictions. I have a good friend who shall remain nameless (cough Gordon) who might qualify as a Coke addict -

Diet coke actually.

My penchant for addiction is no secret - from anyone...the people in my church, my co-workers, my family...including my children. I've battled some serious demons most of my life and believe me you don't beat them in secret. Mercifully with the grace of God and Amy's presence in my life, the harshest of those demons have been cast aside although I readily admit I am occasionally haunted by their lurid whispers.

I've done my best to keep them at bay - on occasion that has required help...if not restraints. Serious help from Amy and God - not necessarily in that order.

But I'm still an addict. I will always be one.

Personally I believe people either are addicts or they're not. Some folks can take a drink or two and never be tempted to have more...I know many. Some folks have never tried drugs of any form. It never crossed their minds.

I grew up in a different culture. I tried almost everything, and some things I tried over and over again.

Alcohol was by far the worst demon in my life. It was so pervasive and accepted. I drank far too much for far too long.

Not girlie drinks

I drank beer and became rather intimate with Bushmill's Irish whiskey for a while - I don't remember how long - I'm certain my liver could tell us...if liver's could talk...but that would probably require an hallucinogen I've already sworn off.

Then I quit.

For ten years I didn't drink a drop. When Amy met me and for close to ten years afterwards she never saw me take a drink. Then I began to hesitantly allow myself wine. I've managed to keep that under control...I may have become something of a wine snob, but I haven't been a drunk. Still I started feeling lately that I was allowing wine into my life too easily so I've put some new restrictions in place. I'll still have wine. I love wine - and it's not a girlie drink for those of you snickering - but I'm going to limit my wine drinking to when I take Amy out (we're likely be going out more often) or when we have friends over for a fine dinner - party at the Main's - or when we visit Amy's parents or other couple's who are also moderate wine enthusiasts. I still believe I can control my alcohol consumption, I simply think I want to make better use of my time.

I just realized that last statement is going come back to haunt it goes.

Truth is, my worst addiction lately is television...not regular TV - we have cheap cable and there's nothing to watch - but DVD's. I succumbed to NetFlix until Blockbuster offered a better deal. Now Amy and I are watching TV shows that have been on for years but which we never saw before...they're delivered to us in the mail. We whipped through all the available seasons of "The West Wing" a program I thought I would hate - yet turned out to love. We zipped through "Arrested Development” and today we stuck in the first disc for the first season of "24."

Nearly four hours later I'm writing about my addictions only because the next four hours of "24" won't arrive in the mail until tomorrow.

I realize there are worse addictions and those of you who have and are battling them, believe me I in no way mean to belittle that struggle, truthfully I fight it in one way or another every day.

The bonus of DVD addiction though is that Amy and I usually watch these mindless TV programs together in bed.

After the past year where Amy spent so much time in the hospital and I spent so much time whining to God about Amy being in the hospital...this particular addiction...well it's pretty hard to beat.

Admittedly part of me cries out that this is not the most productive use of our time - the house could be cleaner clean, the bills could all be paid, I could do some serious writing that might earn money, or exercise, or walk the dogs...but in this stage of our lives...spending time together in bed...awake...well, to me this is an addiction which I'm not going to run off too fast.

Who knows, it might lead to new addictions...

I am addicted to you Amy...thank you for loving me.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Clearing The Land

Before we built our small church, we owned - bought and paid for - a beautiful piece of land. It was purchased by members who had left the church before Amy and I came along. They left but the land remained.

The land was always my dream and it was instrumental in my choosing to leave the church we had been attending and in joining Covenant. I was never completely happy in our old church, but I think people should find it immensely hard to walk away from their fellow believers. To this day I'm stunned at how easily people can commit themselves to God and a church and then simply decide to skip away citing vagaries or saying nothing at all.

We didn't skip away. I wrestled over the decision to leave that other church, even though I absolutely hated attending there. Even when Amy and the kids said they didn't like the church we were attending it took a great deal for me to go along with them and to "visit" someplace else...Covenant.

In addition to wonderful people including a solid preacher, there was an almost immediate and obvious sense that we were needed at Covenant. The one thing which our old church didn't -and never would - have was a true vision. At that point of my spiritual growth, that was the foremost thing I felt God calling me to find.

Covenant had a vision...Covenant had money...and very few members...but land nonetheless.

We ended up leaving our old church and joining Covenant and I knew it was good. Covenant was where God wanted us to be.

Some years passed but finally, through the wondrous ways God works we were able to build our first building. To do so required a lot of the land be cleared. Completely lacking the common sense God gave goats, and not having anyone in our small congregation with the slightest idea of the most expedient method of doing that job, we went after the rough South Texas brush and cacti with hatchets, clippers, chainsaws and machetes. It took teams of men and women weeks and weeks to clear the land, pull stumps, etc... There are still piles of brush on the back of the property that stand in memory to those days.

When we were done we were sunburned, bruised, scarred and beaten.

We stepped back and admired our labors with immense pride.

It seemed like only days later we had a real place of worship.

Years later, we built a Sunday school building and hired a guy with a "bobcat" to come out. He cleared almost the exact amount of land in an hour or three... and charged us a couple hundred bucks. God teaches us lessons in all sorts of ways.

Still doing it by hand the first time was worth it. Those days of hauling brush...working and wincing in pain as a team were invaluable in terms of investing sweat equity into our church.

In December of 1999 we held our first official service in the new building.

On January 9th 2000 the church body ordained me as a Deacon, a job I didn't want and to this day for which I feel unqualified.

This afternoon I called Gordon to let him know after five and a half years I had decided to "rotate off" the Deacon board. This was no great shock. I have not made any secret of the fact that I wanted to allow someone else to take my spot when our new Deacon elections are held this Fall. All I've done is pushed that timetable up and the remaining Deacons can hold down the fort without me at their much as I love meetings.

What's ironic is I will still do almost everything I've always done at Covenant if need be. Clean, organize the cleaning crews, welcome visitors, visit people who are sick, mow the property, etc...

However I don't feel I can devote the effort God deserves to some other duties, mainly ministering to families on the hours are too strange, I have some huge job opportunities possible which could change many things, and I don't want to put Lord's work on any lower rung of the ladder.

So now it's time for me to step back again - only an inch or two - and survey what God has done...with me.

Hopefully this will allow me see the way for the next season of my I can join God in clearing the land to get there.

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee, Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.