Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nor Iron Bars a Cage

Those of you still around that followed my old blog site may have seen an excerpt from my upcoming book called Every Stones A Story.  (Don't eeeeven think about it.  It's already copyrighted).  This isn't about the book, but a story of a different sort.  It's a story about a boy........and his love for stones.  It goes something like this..........

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a boy who loved stones.  He loved rocks and pebbles and stones and boulders of every different kind, color and variety.  As the land he lived on was rocky indeed, he was able to spend most of his free time perusing the countryside for stony treasure.  He searched in the sunshine.  He searched in the rain.  He searched in the cold.  Nothing could deter his search for the perfect stone.

On nearly every outing, the boy was able to find some agate or pebble that caught his fancy.  He would place it gently in his soft hands, rolling it over, feeling every bump and smoothed edge.  He fascinated at the colors and the minerals.  He found something he loved about each and every pebble.  Sometimes the boy would put the rock in his pocket or knapsack and carry it around for days, taking it out over and over again to wonder at the unique quality of each new prize.  And then, without exception the boy would discard the stone in search of another.  Often he would throw the treasure in a lake and watch as the ripples made their way across the smooth surface.  At other times he would toss his rock in a stream and know that regardless of the size, the stone changed the flow of the water forever. 

When he grew to be a man, the boy was on one of his fabled hunts when he came across the treasure of all treasures.  Before him, under the shade of a giant Oak at the edge of a wide meadow, was a pile of rocks of every imaginable shape and size.  He knew there must be thousands, if not millions of his stony passions..........all in one place.  He put down his knapsack and began to search.

Carefully, oh so very carefully, the boy who was now man, began to pick up each rock one by one.  As in his youth, he would look for the best in each and every stone, bask in its glory and then toss it beside him and move on to the next stone.  For hours and days and weeks and months the man enjoyed the stony treasure, tossing each aside as he was finished with it's examination.  Oh, how he loved the fine, unique qualities of each pebble, each rock.  "Magnificent!  Beautiful! Colorful! Rough! Smooth! Solid! Pithy!"  They all were different and yet wonderful in their own way.

What started as minutes, passed into years and one day, under the light of a new moon, the man stooped to pick up the very last stone.  Like all the others, this stone was splendid in its own way.  He took his time to relish in his last treasure and tossed it aside.  Saddened by the fact that he had exhausted his find after such a long time, the man turned to leave.  Surely, there must be other more splendid treasures to explore.  It was then the man made his most important discovery of all.  Surrounding him in a perfect circle, was a wall built by years of tossing stones.  There was no where for him to go.  He was entombed by his own treasure.  Trapped inside stony walls, a reflection of his years of repudiation.

He sat in the middle of his stony castle and laughed to himself at the predicament his obsession had presented.  What was he to do now?  He could have cried for help of course, but no one had seen the man for years and considering he was some miles from civilization, crying for help did seem a bit silly.  After all, it was HIS mess, right? 

As the sun began to rise, the man looked carefully at the walls of his creation.  Although each rock was beautiful in its own right, together the individual jewels made the most amazing monument.  Before him, in glorious wonder, was his life in stone.  His life work.  His experience.  His wake.  There was only one thing to do.  The man stood slowly, brushed the grass from his jeans and began looking at each rock again, placing them back in the middle, ever so slowly creating a path by which to leave.

No one really knows whether the man ever escaped his tomb.  But you can be sure of the lessons he learned.  It most certainly is wonderful to find glory and beauty in every treasure you find, but discarding many in search of the one slightly more perfect, can only leave you trapped and alone.  There is no "perfect" stone or treasure.  There is only the treasure perfect for you. 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dear Driver

Dear Driver,

Thank you so much for pulling so close behind me today that you couldn't slide a piece of paper between our cars.  I just bought a new Jeep and I always wondered why they put the spare tire on the back.  NOW I KNOW!!  It's a  bumper!!  I would have spent my entire life trying to figure that out were it not for you.  By the way, you should get that chip in your tooth fixed.

I'd also like to thank you for driving to the end of the acceleration lane and then coming to a complete stop.  I realize all the books say you should accelerate and then gently blend into traffic, but who writes that crap anyway?  And even though I almost rammed you hard enough to blend you into oncoming traffic, I was, in fact, able to stop whereby I realized I am always just in too big a hurry.  Your courteous halt probably prevented me from being part of a 20-car pile-up.  Thank you, thank you.

But before I forget, thanks also for slowing down a half mile before the DEceleration ramp.  And wow, are you ever good with that blinker!!  I mean, I could stare at it for hours!  Those ramps are meant to give you time to slow down, but slowing down WAY before in rush hour is much more prudent and almost guarantees you won't miss your exit.  Great strategy.  I'll try to remember that.  I have much to learn from you.

While I'm at it, I am particularly grateful to you for driving ten miles under the posted limit in the passing lane....the FAST lane if you will.  I mean, really, who assigns those anyway?   And I gotta tell you, that little move you make where you stay right next to the car beside you so it's impossible to THAT is pure genius.  I just can't count the times I might actually have made an appointment on time if I could have passed you.  But little ESP person you.  You knew being on time might mean I actually didn't keep someone waiting and patience is a virtue.  The person I kept waiting probably needed that lesson and I need to learn to leave earlier.  Thank you SO much!

I truly am praying that you start some kind of online school or even better yet, an 8 hour class on how to drive while you're eating, trimming your toenails, talking on the cell phone AND putting on your eyeliner.  Professional drivers could gain so much from your honed skills.  The very BEST part of your multitasking is how you've learned to ignore the traffice signal and then notice it just in time to get through and leave me to wait for the next one.  There is just nothing like the feeling of being first in line.  I mean then I can REALLY gun it and make up some time.  But then there you are at the next light!  How do you DO that?  It truly must be a gift from heaven above. 

I know you must be tiring of all this praise, but I just have to tell you a couple more quick things.  I don't want to bore you with endless compliments.  I never could understand how you get those parking places so close to the door at Walmart.  Then it dawned on me.  You have the wherewithal and courage to actually hold up an endless row of moving cars to wait for the perfect spot where that little old lady is loading her groceries.  Man, I'd love to have just an OUNCE of that courage.  I could move mountains!  And using your grandmothers handicapped placard on your mirror?  That, my friend, is a little piece of heaven.  Alot of people are just crazy enough to be grateful they can walk a few extra yards.  But not you!  That spot is YOURS and that little old man that really CAN'T walk could use the fresh air and exercise anyway!  I love your guts, man.  I really do!

Happy driving and thanks for all the lessons.  Until we meet again......



Monday, February 15, 2010

In The Arena

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

-Theodore Roosevelt, Man in the Arena Speech given April 23, 1910 -

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love is................

“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, is not pompous. It is not inflated. It is not rude. It does not seek its own interests. It is not quick-tempered. It does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”      - 1 Corinthians 13 -

Happy Valentines Day, everyone.  Yesterday I had the distinct honor of escorting my daughter and her friend to see the Texas Ballet Theater's rendition of  William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  If you have not had the privilege of indulging yourself in this classic tale, I recommend it highly. 

Briefly, Romeo and Juliet fall in love despite the fact that Juliet is betrothed to another.  Romeo and Juliet are secretly married, but then through a bizarre set of circumstances, Romeo must flee the city.  Juliet's parents begin to pressure her to wed Paris, the man her family has arranged for her to marry.  Juliet finally agrees to the wedding, but with the help of the local Fryar, plans to stage her own death, whereby her parents would bury her in the family tomb where she could  THEN be rescued by Romeo.   There was only one small problem with this little plan.  The word never got to Romeo.  Romeo returned to town to find his beloved.  What he found was Juliet in a deep sleep meant to mirror death.  Believing it so, Romeo drank poison resulting in HIS death.  Juliet awakes, finds Romeo dead and then stabs herself.  She dies in Romeos arms.

I've heard the story before, but yesterday was the first time I'd seen the story put to dance.  No dialogue, just graceful dancers telling the story of secret love.  I know I was a guy at a ballet with two pre-teen girls, but I cried.  I don't think anyone saw me.  At least I hope not.  But here's the thing.  I'm still trying to sort out what it is I cried about.  Was it the fact that two people in love were not able to share their life together?  Was it the shock that people would go to such length to end their suffering over lost love?  Was it the fact that the entire scenario could have been avoided by just being honest?  Or was it just a moving piece that I need not overanalyze?  Easy for YOU to say!

The dictionary I searched online gives 28 different definitions and idioms for the word "love".  What IS love?  The older I get the more I wonder if I really know.  Hell, even Webster can't figure it out!  Is it that warm feeling you get when you first see someone, the excitement, or that pit in your stomach?  Is it longing when they're away?  Or is love an action?  Is it buying flowers and cards or cleaning out the garage or helping with dishes?  Or maybe, love is just a chemical reaction...........a coming together of pheromones that make two people want to be together.   Maybe love is that parental thing I have for my daughters.  I can't describe it, but I'd lay down my life for either of them without a moments hesitation.

The truth is, I'm not really sure exactly what love emcompasses.  I think perhaps maybe it's all those things.......feelings, chemicals, actions.  I do know that what love means to me might be entirely different for someone else.  I think I like the Apostle Paul's letter to the Corinthians best because it defines what love is NOT.  With over 28 definitions of what love IS, maybe what it isn't is just easier. 

I have been so blessed in this life to both give and receive "love".  Some go their entire life without that honor.  I'm puzzled still by Romeo and Juliet, who would rather die than be apart.  Is that true love or was it just youth that couldn't see beyond the moment to a life where maybe they COULD be together?   I don't just makes my head hurt.  This is what I truly want to say.........................

On this Valentines Day, may you be privileged to be with the one you love.  And if you can't be with them, to feel the comfort of knowing your ARE loved, whatever your definition may be.

Friday, February 5, 2010

When the Bow Breaks

"When a nation goes down, or a society perishes, one condition may always be found; they forgot where they came from. They lost sight of what had brought them along."   – Carl Sandberg --

Yesterday I had the privilege of giving a pint of whole blood at our local blood bank.  My blood type makes me a universal donor so my precious life source is in high demand.  Every 8 weeks you can bet my phone starts ringing in an attempt to get me to come in and give them more.  I'm honored to help out, really.

Yet somehow it seems that each time I go, donating becomes more of a challenge.  Sure there's the little questionnaire and the mini-physical, but that's only part of it.  If I didn't lie about that little trip to Angora back in the 70's they'd NEVER take my blood.  (j/k).  But every time I go there's another question, another part of the screening process, another drug you should never have taken or another medical condition that makes you ineligible to give.  And at the same time they're always crying about how short they are in their supply of blood.

Now lets be clear.  This is NOT the blood banks fault.  You know where all this regulation comes from?  Thats right, the good ole FDA.  You heard me.......your government.  I have no issue with the blood being tested thoroughly before it's actually used, but lets not make it quite so difficult to give!  To be truthful, how the hell would I know if I've ever had sex with someone that traveled outside the country, was exposed to hepatitis and had contact with a prostitute since the time of Neanderthal????  I don't THINK so, but.........anyway I digress.

What really stirred my pot yesterday was the fact that as they inserted the needle into my arm, I was asked to squeeze on a ball of, well, TAPE!  When I asked what happened to the little rubber squeezy-ball-thingamajig, I was informed they could no longer use it because it might spread H1N1.  Please tell me your mouth is gaping right now and you're finding it hard to breathe.  If that little rubber ball is a major contributor to H1N1, then you better use disposable paper blood-pressure cuffs and remove the door handles and bathroom sink fixtures.  In fact, you'd better make it federal law that you can't touch anything.......ANYTHING!!  And where does this new little rule come from?  The FDA.....your federal government.  The pit in my stomach continues to grow.

As you may have guessed, there IS a bigger picture here.  The picture is one of government control.  I don't care whether you're Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, the long arm of government is clearly out of control.  And if you think tilting the scales towards a Republican congress or a president in the next election is going to fix it, you're fooling yourself.  Our government is presently like our expanding universe. Is it bigger under the Obama administration?  Sure it is.....slightly.  But if you measure it against how big it was when Reagan was in office, the percentage of change would be so minute you wouldn't even notice.  Our government is big.......period.  How big hardly seems to matter.

Our projected budget deficit for this year is about 1.6 Trillion dollars.  That means we're going to SPEND that much more than we're going to take in.  Where does the difference come from?  It comes from China and Saudi Arabia and anywhere else standing in line to lend us money.  You can't just print more.  You have to borrow it and then pay interest on it.  1.6 Trillion dollars.  Let that sink in a minute.  It's clear we're not going to catch up and we're never going to pay it back.  We'll be lucky to make interest payments.  I wonder if one of those debt consolidation companies could help us out. 

Every politician harps about how we're saddling our grandchildren with a huge debt.  Ya think?  But that just makes me laugh.  Our grandchildren aren't going to pay it back.  They're going to borrow more to make the interest payments.  This will continue to go on and on until the bow breaks and the cradle falls.  And it will fall.  Do I have the answers?  Of course I do! But I don't want the FBI bugging my apartment!  (I'm just kidding G-Men.  Take a chill pill.)

I could write for days about the way our government wastes money.  But the truth is it's wasted primarily because we keep asking for stuff.  STOP IT!!  The little grants and special projects and agencies designed to help those that could help themselves is killing us.  Oh yeah, and that little war is puttin a dent in the checkbook too.  Just ask yourself if you really need it the next time you go to the government for something.  Every dime they spend is being borrowed from a foreign country.  We're leveraged to the hilt.

Can you spell United States of China?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Punxatawny Phil

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the fine folks at PETA for breaking a week-long writers block.  Just when I thought there was nothing left on this earth to write about, along comes a topic so absurd that I have to write lest I curl up on the floor in the fetal position, crying out loud at the reality of some people's insanity. 

Now that I have that off my chest, I'd like to say that I'm sure the membership of PETA has done some great things for animal rights.  But seriously want to replace Punxatawny Phil with a robot, because poor Phil is under, um, stress from all the crowd exposure?  Are you kidding me?  I'm almost positive little furry Phil lives a life of luxury being fed grapes and fanned by the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders while tanning in the off-season.  You really want to cause the little guy some stress?  Turn him loose into the wild where he has to forage for food and wear camouflaged body armor to protect himself from Mr. Hawk.

In my youth, I hunted Pheasant and Quail and even trapped poor innocent Muskrat and Beaver.  I even shot a couple racoons.  I no longer hunt, because frankly, I don't see the point.  I don't need the food.  I can get that at the local grocery store for ALOT less money than having a deer processed.  I don't even step on ants or kill spiders any more if I can avoid it.  I guess my middle age and wisdom has taught me of my own mortality and I prefer to just live and let live.  

So I understand the sentiment that surrounds wanting to protect animals.  But I thought it might be more prudent to rescue animals that were actually suffering or being abused.  I hardly think Phil falls into that category.  Suggesting Phil be replaced by a robot would be like suggesting we offer asylum to amoeba in a luxury condo because the funk they grow in is just too, well.....funky.

When and how did we lose our sense of normal?  How did common sense get replaced by the absurd and ridiculous?  Our kids can't fail in school.  Everyone makes the team.  People win lawsuits because they were injured when they spilled coffee on themselves that was, GASP!!, hot!  My employer spends thousands of dollars in overtime in an attempt to make a point and dole out punishment.  I could go off on a serious tangent here as all this relates to government, and our sense of entitlement as a society, but frankly, I just don't have the strength.  Perhaps another blog entry for another time.

I'm trying to be light-hearted about this, but the truth is, sometimes the things we as humans come up with frighten me.  If I weren't a more positive type of fellow I think I'd feel hopeless.  People just like the fine folks at PETA are even helping to run our government!   NOW are you scared?

For the love of God, let Phil enjoy his life in the limelight.  He looks pretty darn happy to me.  Besides, I don't think a robot could be programmed to effectively predict weather like the real thing.  A robot........a ROBOT!  I swear, even when I have nothing to say, this stuff continues to just write itself.