Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Procrastination, Priorities, and Pickles

Yes, I am still alive.
Yes, Amy is still alive.
No, we have not had any sudden tragedy resulting in me not posting here.

Thought I'd get that out of the way right off the top. I know I've been ignoring the blog and I could give all sorts of reasons, but it would sound like whining for the most part so why bother?

I have been busy trying to get some things accomplished in our "business life" and when I sit a the computer I really can't justify procrastinating on those matters by blogging, as much as I'd like to...and believe me I'm pretty good at rationalizing. The things I want to do need to get done, and I have to get over and around some learning curves along the way.

However the "Are you alive?" emails do start to pile up, so I figured I'd better let the 3 or 4 people who still visit here to find the answer to that question know that we're not below room temperature.

There's been no "sudden" major change in our basic life situation. No one's in jail, rehab, or the rubber Ramada - although we're keeping all of those options open. I'm still employed. We're still happily married. We do have someone in our "Upper Room Ministry" but I don't have time to go there today. Amy's health could still use your prayers. We are struggling in some areas, like everyone else, but we have food, shelter, God and each other...our blessings are too often taken for granted.

So onto other matters lest the whine reaper wrest control of the keyboard.

Oddity: I was at a stop light the other morning and noticed a "bandit sign" - one of those little professionally made signs that are illegally stuck in high traffic areas to advertise everything from phone services, to diet aids. This one was offering to "Fix Your Credit!"

First off, if your credit repair options have fallen to the point where the best counsel you can find is from an illegally placed sign at an intersection, I think you've ignored too many signs and traveled the wrong road for too long - I'm just sayin'...

However it was the next portion of the sign that intrigued me. It read: "80 Percent Guaranteed!"

What's that mean? Can this company fix 80 percent of your poor credit record? That seems unlikely. Does it mean they have a record of fixing the credit of 80 percent of the people who use their service? Maybe it means if they fail to fix your credit they'll give you back 80 percent of the money you gave them so you'll only have 20 percent less cash to pay off your bills.

I don't know. My credit is fine and even if it weren't I'd be hesitant to use some outfit that uses illegal signs on street corners they don't have to pay for to fix it. I sort of think the sign's true meaning is more along the lines of, "There's a 20 percent chance we could make your credit rating even worse!"

Who knows, the light changed and I moved onto the highway where I was calculating the odds of being hit by a drunk driver. I seem to have developed a habit I once abhorred of hitting the snooze alarm and as a result, since I don't factor in this habit when actually setting my alarm, I'm usually in a hurry to get out the door in the morning as I'm running a little late. "A little late" was a key factor in my mental mathematics that particular morning. I usually drive to work with the intent of being in the office by 2 a.m. at the latest. When I run late, which is not yet a ritual but I may have to get an alarm clock without the snooze option to prevent it from becoming one, I find myself still on the highway on 2 a.m.

There is a big difference in the traffic at 2 a.m. which changed my death by drunk algorithm significantly. 2 a.m. is closing time for bars in Texas and I've taken notice that there is a vast increase in the number of cars on the road. I don't really even know if I could define the word algorithm if I had to and I don't want to ever envision being in a position where I would, but I can do basic math. As much as I'd like to think there are an abundance of other people suffering with snooze alarm disorder who also have to be at work before roosters are even required to warm up their cockle-doodle-doos, the way I add it up is more like: 2 a.m. + more cars + bars throwing out everyone who ordered a double at "last call" = a bunch of drunks all around me on the freeway.

I'm going to have to get a new alarm clock.

In the not too distant future though I might not have to worry about such things at all. No, I'm not making a career move , at least to my knowledge, but I have taken note of the amazing work being done in developing cars that can drive themselves.

Really. It's astounding stuff and researchers world-wide are a lot closer than you might think to actually making it a reality. I'm fairly certain any of those researchers could not only spell and define algorithm, but they might actually enjoy doing it. Some of the advances are being produced by a team in San Antonio at the Southwest Research Institute. This week they unveiled a prototype...I'm not talking a little Mattel© matchbox-size prototype...They've done some self-propelled "pimping" to a full sized SUV...look for yourself.

I wonder if they'll make them with a snooze-bar option.


Completely off topic, some months ago I wrote about the "Pickle Sickle" and gloated about how I had to push for a news story to be run on the then small town phenomena.

Now it's a national phenomena with recent mentions in numerous publications including the Fort Worth paper, and today in Newsday...the newspaper where my father worked when I was a boy.

Yeah, I'm still gloating...

See? Everything's fine.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pieces Of Light

A friend recently gave me a light fixture for a room I've made into my office.

It's depression glass,unique, frosted...fragile. I was honored to receive it.

It's amazing it's stayed together this long. The stories it could tell.

It's beautiful and will soon light the room with a warmth and character all its own.

I suppose it takes a keen eye to spy its true beauty, to appreciate it.

It was in a house my friend is renovating although demolishing might be a better term, and he brought it to me with a grin knowing it would have a place of honor in our home.

There's not a chip on it but I'd treasure and respect it even if it had a few mars. Sometimes scars are beautiful too.

I haven't installed it yet...actually, some friends will install it as I'm not known as a handy guy, although I've installed light fixtures before.

There are other more important repairs I've been preoccupied with lately, but this morning I looked over at that fixture and thought of one thing.

I love you, Amy. I see your light. I know your story. I am blessed to have such vision.

Happy birthday my love...

Amy, I will love and honor you all my life.

"Honor your father and mother" is the first commandment that has a promise attached to it, namely, "so you will live well and have a long life."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Dying Man Was A Lying Man

Below are two posts I wrote in October when some dear friends sought our counsel. I removed the posts without much explanation at the time. I'm not going to explain much now, because I want to nap instead.

However I will fill in details shortly and actually it will dovetail into the oft promised second half of my Leviticus to Lego post. Suffice it to say....our friends were decieved, we were deceived...and the person who perhaps suffered the most...was Amy, for doing what we vowed to for our friends, look out for them.

Accountability...I fear it may be nearing extinction.

More explanation later...I don't see any reason to conceal anything, after the players went on the Dr. Phil Show.

The Dying Man

"Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

I met a dying man today.

In fact, he told me he thought he might die tonight.

He might.

He's doubt about that, he's resigned himself to it and has decided not to go to extreme measures to prolong his existence, although he's not going to "rush" things either.

I don't blame him for accepting his fate. He has a disease for which there is no "cure" and he has been wasting away for some time.

He's also a doctor.

He's a very young man. His life is being cut short. However during his life he has been quite blessed and he will leave a legacy of two children...both very, very young. Unfortunately the woman who bore those children apparently will not be able to raise them when he dies, nor is that his wish, something about which he's rather adamant.

I don't know all the circumstances so I am not certain how that will play out.

I didn't know this man existed until last night when Amy was contacted by a couple of our dear friends who told us about him, and how they have been caring for him for some time in their home.

These friends have gone through some enormously unwieldy and heart wrenching struggles in recent years and they have stood by us through some of our worst we're pretty familiar with each others strengths and failings. I'll admit when I heard they had taken on the responsibility of this man's care, and then that his wish is for them to become the guardians of his children I worried. I worried that this might be far too much for our friends to bear.

I met a dying man today.

I met him in the home of those dear friends, and I was stunned by many things besides this young man's clarity of his desires. I was stunned at how our friends had "changed" since we last were really in any meaningful contact. Rather than burdened by the care of a man dying in their home, rather than being weighed down by the memories of their very real struggles of the past...they were aglow.

In all honesty, in all the time I've known them - and those haven't always been dark times - I don't think I've ever felt more confident about their physical and mental health. Everyone in their family looked great - except for one dog who looked like he might burst from being fed too many table scraps, but I was told the dog had even actually lost weight recently.

The family was relating to each other, communicating well and lovingly, helping each other. One young man, the teenage boyfriend of one this couple's daughters - a strapping lad - was at this dying man's side at all times to make sure he didn't fall. At one point he literally swept him up in his arms and carried him up to his room while this "dying man" laughingly referred to the teen as his "elevator."

Amy and I were there for a couple of reasons I think - at least initially. To provide what counsel we could and to direct this couple to several people whose counsel we value and which they may need in the days, weeks and possibly years ahead. I think our friends also hoped we could gently provide some spiritual comfort. all honesty, I think our friends asked us to drop by to look in on them and make certain they hadn't all gone stark raving mad.

I'll admit with the information I was armed with before we arrived , I deeply feared that might be a distinct possibility.

I met a dying man today.

He was obviously very weak and fighting constant pain.

However I also met a man whose impact on our friends, their children and everyone in their household was undeniably profound. There was nothing weak or frail about his was unmistakably extraordinary.

Amy's empathetic heart took over for much of our "short" time there, but I was able to talk one on one with our friends about some possible concerns and hopefully give them some guidance or at least point them toward people whose guidance we trust.

Amy and I were also able to speak to this dying man a little about spiritual matters and Amy didn't waste time in making certain that he understood and believed in God's salvation...and then assuring him that he would receive it. I got the impression he has spoken a lot about this lately with our friends, as one might expect given his situation.

Still, as we were leaving - and by this time we were hugging - he asked me again, "I really am going to go to Heaven right?"

I hugged him a little harder - not too much he's fairly fragile - and told him not to worry about such matters. I then whispered in his ear, " God loves you, and that's all you need to remember now."

I met a dying man today and I am fully convinced he will go to Heaven.

I met a dying man today...

I'm only wondering if I met one of God's true miracle working angels too.

*This was originally posted on Oct 7th - It was removed a few weeks later due to circumstances which presumably will be outlined if I ever re-post it.

Gripping The Reigns Of Mortality

Death became familiar to me early in life, it wasn't my was simply how things played out.

I'm now realizing that although I may be well acquainted with death - dying, or rather the process of dying - has not been on my life's dance card. I have been with people at the moment they died, and I have hugged too many people over the years knowing full well that due to their health it would likely be our last hug. However until this week, I haven't really spent much time with someone who is both cogent and whose impending death is apparently certain.

I don't know when the young man our friends have taken into their home to care for will die, but Amy and I have been spending as much time as possible with that family to help him and them prepare. It's allowed me to examine this inevitable phase of life's journey more intimately.

I'm not taking notes or anything, but you can't help but try to seek discernment in such least I can't.

I met this man less than a week ago and my mind has been reeling almost constantly since that time trying to digest what he is going through as I bear witness to his personal confrontation with mortality.

This shroud of death looms over his thoughts constantly, but he's still alive. He's lived a vibrant productive life but he is haunted about the realities and uncertainties of death.
He is tortured at times by the inevitability of it all and by what must be the exasperating knowledge that spending any time worrying about how much time he has is a waste of precious time.

Take away all the pain and other physical issues, that enigma alone seems overwhelming. How can you not spend your time thinking about dying, when you know you're dying?

It must be agonizing.

He is a proud man, who has achieved far more than most in his lifetime...but now he is trying to come to grips with his achievements as he stares into the bleak reality that those accomplishments, his careers, and the possessions he obtained along the way will be of no use to him soon, most are of no use to him now.

He will often go out of his way to demonstrate both his mental and physical prowess. He'll challenge me with questions about everything from anatomy to spirituality. Being skilled in the martial arts and despite his weakened condition, he'll often want to demonstrate methods of self protection - I don't do the physical stuff, he may be dying but I know my skill set and I'm confident God's plan for me in his life is not to be his last knock out punch victim.

He challenges himself like that quite often though, certainly every day I have spent with him. I'll admit, I believe I misunderstood why at first...

There are still a lot of things he has to deal with if he wants to die in peace and so much of his time when he has the energy is focused on those tasks. Yesterday was one of those days, and in the early evening he was tired, lying on a couch and talking. It was then he mentioned in passing his fear of flying. He said he always had to take medication before getting on an airplane "because I know on a plane I'm not in control."

That's when I believe I understood things better.

He often wants to engage me or Amy in mental challenges, or show someone else a martial arts move, because these are abilities he has always been able to control and in which he has excelled. These things, more than possessions and degrees, are what he believes help define him.

In a sense he's saying, "You may not see it as easily now, but this is the man I am."

The phrase is trite, but I have been spending my time not so much with a man who is dying, but with a man who is "clinging to life."

Amidst the almost ever present tsunami of doubt, fear and pain that is engulfing him, he steadies himself with that which is familiar...the strengths of his life.

It wasn't long after he mentioned his fear of flying that we spent time in prayer. It was a long day for both of us, emotionally and physically...and I knew he was exhausted. I prayed that God would ease his fears and pain and I asked that God help remind him of His unconditional love by simply allowing him to see the people caring for him, in their true light.

Moments later he jumped up acting like he had been refreshed by a good night's sleep.

It was good to see.

I'm not sure how long that burst of energy lasted, I needed to go home and sleep.

I have more to learn about this season of dying, and I'm praying I'll have more time with this young man as he endures it.

Yet even as he clings to life, I know I can not cling to any illusions.

I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation
- Psalm 69:13

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON OCT 12 - It was removed due the a change in circumstance.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I Should Have Waved

Just noticed Google Maps has been busy in a half dozen cities, going the extra mile literally. They've been driving down streets taking photos, not from satellites but apparently from atop cars or Google-mobiles or Google-Segway's or whatever Googlees drive.

Welcome to my house:

I think they must have airbrushed all the leaves off the lawn...

This is the video explaining the feature. Remember when you see this guy that he probably has been holding onto Google stock options for years and can buy you, your house, your parent's house, your city....

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Amish? I Wish!

I know I still need to write about other issues, but I've been distracted by what my father-in-law would call,"Luciferian technology."

In truth, I have a variety of subjects running through my mind which I need to expel, but foremost lately is the overwhelming desire to...become Amish.

Admittedly such a transformation would likely negate me writing anything at all here or anywhere else on the Internet, but there are some other obstacles in the way as well.

Anyway, let's deal with the first question likely popping into your head, "Huh?" which I'll translate into," Um...Michael, why would you want to become Amish?"

Hey, it's my blog, my imagination, I can translate your thoughts anyway I wish.

Since the day we stepped off the ship from our Caribbean cruise I have seemingly been fighting technology. We weren't home for a day before our Credit Union called to make sure my VISA card hadn't been hijacked since it was used overseas. I completely understood the reason for this call. I never use that card, but I thought while traveling I wanted protection of a real credit card and not a debit card. I explained to the first person I spoke with that the charges were legitimate, I was not being held hostage by some Rastafarian nor were any members of my family, despite photographic evidence which might indicate the contrary.

Since that first phone call I have spoken with perhaps a dozen different representatives of my credit union's "fraud" department, hoping to convince them that all was well and good in the world. Additionally during this time the entire Dish Network nightmare has been playing out and although my previous post indicated all was resolved, it wasn't until today that our money was actually returned.

I'm skipping over a lot to spare you the agony, but don't despair...there's plenty of agony ahead.

The high points:

1. A "credit fraud expert" at my credit union told me my "card must be damaged."
When I explained that her revelations seemingly would not explain why medications ordered through my health insurance company's on-line pharmacy were being refused, she said,"Well, your card may have a scratch on it." I never could get her to understand that that the "on line" pharmacy has never touched my physical credit card in that they"on line" and she insisted on sending me new card.
2. The DISH network corporate "Media communications office" - although Evelyn B3B did everything she promised,"God bless you "Evelyn B3B" - has bombarded me with reassurances that "all is well" - except when it comes to to my emails asking why my on line billing statement now says I owe them 150 bucks, a number apparently picked out of thin air.
3. After speaking with the "credit card fraud" experts at my credit union and asking flat out, "Is there ANYONE ON EARTH OR ELSEWHERE who could be messing with this card's acceptance?" I was told over and over that "Nope, everything should go through now."
4. The VISA card is still being rejected everywhere except apparently Jamaica.
5. I received a letter from VISA (word for word identical to the letter I received on the SAME DAY from my credit union) saying, "because of unusual activity - i.e. I was using the card - THEY(VISA) had put a hold on it. Never once did anyone at my credit union say, "Oh, you might want to check with VISA."
6. I called VISA, and spoke to a seemingly competent guy who listened to my tale of woe and said, "Gee, I don't know why your credit union didn't tell us you'd spoken to them, but 'everyone who looks up your record' will see now that the card is to accepted."
7. The VISA card is still being denied...I've given up on that card, paid it off, and taken it out of my wallet.
8. I rush out of work to get Amy to a doctor's appointment she says she's certain is at 9:15 a.m.
On my way home, I call Amy and she tells me she's not feeling well enough to go to the doctor and can't get through to their office. I tell her to rest, I turn around since the Doc's office is nearby, and say I'll deal with it.
9. I call the doctor whose office opens at 8:30 a.m....but keep getting their "please call back during office hours recording." It's nearly 9 a.m..
10. After repeated attempts I decide to stay on hold to talk to the doctor's service...maybe he's sick (actually he was) and hear a recording saying, "All our representatives our currently busy, please stay on hold. Your estimated wait time is TWENTY-TWO seconds."
11. Nine minutes later, I hang up...I'm in the parking lot of the doctor's office.
12. I rush up the stairs to see the doctor's receptionist fixing her make-up and mention that I wasn't certain of the appointment time, plus I couldn't get through to her via the phone.
13. She finishes fixing her hair, and responds, "Oh, I never turn off the machine until I've done my make-up." It's now 9:30. She adds, "The appointment is at 10:15 anyway."
14. I step outside to call Amy only to see the doctor running in. He stops to talk telling me he had awoken with a migraine and was running late. I told him not to worry because at least one appointment was being rescheduled. He then apparently has plenty of time to talk and I jokingly mention that I'm giving up technology and becoming Amish. His response? He says, "Did you know you can buy an Amish buggy for 8 to 900 bucks?"
15. I leave, worried about why this doctor would know the price of an Amish buggy.
16. I'm called by another credit union representative wanting to know if my VISA card is being held hostage.
17. I'm called by our on-line pharmacy asking if I have another credit card they might try.
18. I ask the pharmacy if they have "anything on special." I'm only half serious.
20. Out of curiosity I do an Internet search on "Amish buggies" for sale.

The doctor was not only right, but he's apparently been searching prices recently.

21. I buy a tiny item via eBay, only to find the seller "doesn't accept PayPal" but no where in her 15 page "ad" on eBay does she say WHERE to send her a check. I send no fewer than three emails to her and finally one to eBay.
22. One day later, I get a response from the seller saying, "Sorry, here's my address. I've been too busy filling orders to read email." HUH?
23. I look at the Amish buggy again and wonder if I might be bidding against our doctor.
24. The DISH Network corporate media communication's office stops responding to my emails asking why their proclamation of "you'll have your money in 3 business days" hasn't materialized.
25. I realize to become Amish I only really need that buggy, a horse, and a beard.
26. I haven't ever been able to grow a beard.
27. I praise God for the Internet.

28. I realize praising God for the Internet might also toss a wrench into my Amish aspirations.

29. I decide to go to church in the morning and pray about it.