Saturday, May 31, 2014

I Uncovered The Baritone

I've been cleaning the basement and I uncovered the baritone from much debris.  When I was in High School, I played a baritone in the band.  I wasn't very good.  I was third chair because there were only three of us.  Had there been six, I would surely have been sixth chair.  I wasn't very good for several reasons.  The primary reason was that I didn't practice.  I carried that baritone instrument on the handlebars of my bicycle every day to and from the High School for a couple of years.  However, I didn't practice so I don't understand why I carried it back and forth.  Another reason which kept me in the last chair was that I couldn't tell the difference between flats and sharps.  I could hear that something wasn't right but I couldn't have told anyone what was wrong.  The baritone had those three valves so, when something didn't sound correct, I would push a different valve.  Occasionally the Band Director, Mr. Robinson, would have us play individually so he would tell if our instrument was "in tune."  That was always a bad time for me because he could tell, in front of the entire band, that my instrument was out of tune.  He would instruct me to tune it and I would try but, I really wasn't certain what I was doing, so it was difficult to make it right.  I wish I'd practiced more.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

One's Mind-set

I've been doing counseling or therapy for nearly 50 years.  The more I do this the more I'm convinced that most of the task leading to mental, emotional, social, spiritual, etc. health is one's attitude or mind set.  I like the phrase "mind set" because it really is the direction or purpose to which a person 'sets his/her mind.'  Is the glass half empty or half full?  The reality is that with either mind set, you have water.  My family was fond of saying that attitude or mind set was the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. When you get up in the mornings and sit on the bed side, is your mind set "Good morning, Lord" or "Good Lord, morning?"  I've known some folks who seem to have overwhelming troubles, yet they have a positive mind set.  They say, "Sure it's tough, but I'm working at it."  I've also known others whose troubles appear to overwhelm them, they want to give up and their mind-set is toward hopelessness.  I still believe that the main difference is how the person or persons has 'set their mind.'

It Has Arrived

The UPS man brought it to the house this afternoon.  When my wife purchased a Smart phone a couple of years ago, she informed me that her old flip-phone was coming to me.  I wasn't certain that I wanted a cell phone.  I've been able to get along without one for these many years.  Nevertheless, that flip-phone has been in the glove compartment of my car in case of emergencies.  It has also been in my pocket during trips to the grocery or drug store in case Judy wanted to add something from which I was shopping.  That old phone worked well for me.  Unfortunately, I dropped it a couple of days ago.  Judy said that I was going to get a new phone; one that did something more than just make and receive calls.  I was either going to choose one or I was getting one for Father's Day.  So, I chose and it has arrived.  It is a Smart phone which will let me make and receive phone calls.  The instructions tell me that I can even tell it whom to call and it will do so. Perhaps it will also play music, dance in the street, show a video and get a soft drink while I wait.  I'm not so certain that I'm comfortable with this phone--maybe it is too smart for my tastes.  I'll need to have a tutoring session; maybe it will even do that for me.  Anyway, it has arrived.

The Final Touches

These past couple of months we have lived with the process of remodeling our kitchen.  It was a remodeling job that removed the flooring down to the original hardwood floor.  The workmen removed all of the old paneling, dry wall, plaster, plaster lathes until they had recovered the studs.  Then there was removing some of the walls in order to open up the kitchen to the dining room.  They put in new insulation, electric wires, plugs, lights, etc. along with plumbing and new appliances.  After all of this, there were new cabinets and a counter top followed by tile and finishing that original hardwood floor.  It is looking great.  However, we were getting weary of washing dishes in the bathroom's small sink.  We've also worn out several dusting rags.  The vacuum cleaner is ever so handy standing in a corner of the dining room.  Today and tomorrow the workmen will be here to do the final touches.  During the remodeling process, with all of the mess, we often said to each other, "Remind me why we are doing this."  Our kitchen's finished product is really worth all of the trouble, especially since the final touches are being completed.  A finished task, whether it is a remodeled kitchen or a new and healthier habit/attitude, is worth the effort.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Boots Came Home

Today is Memorial or Decoration Day and I have a significant memory.  It must have been summer because I don't recall wearing a coat.  The extended family had gathered at the Rock Island railroad depot in Shawnee, Oklahoma.  We were not the only extended family at the depot that afternoon.  If it was 1945, I was four and one-half years of age.  I recall playing with my cousins on the railroad baggage wagons.  The huge locomotive slowly made its way to the depot.  I think my father held me up so I could see Boots get off the train.  I do recall the applause, cheers, tears and hugs.  My Uncle, Boots, my mother's baby brother, had come home from the War.  He was in the Marine Corps.  Everyone in the family, plus some friends, went to Granny's house on Draper Street.  I don't know what happened in the house because I was outside playing with cousins and friends.  I remember that day because my Uncle, Boots, had come home from the War.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cleaning The Basement

We are spending this Memorial Day weekend, cleaning the new cabinets and trying to put kitchen "stuff" back into a cabinet, drawer, or shelf where we hope we can remember where we put it when we begin looking for it.  We are also taking "stuff" to the Goodwill store.  I borrowed my son's pickup and have taken two loads out of our basement.  A basement is a very good thing; except it is too handy to just take an item to the basement rather than give or throw it away.  Our basement is an interesting collection of "stuff."  I bring something up from the basement and, then my wife and I try to figure out why we kept it after we had decided that we had no use for it.  Some of the "stuff" we have no use for collects space and dust in the basement but, we remember who gave it to us and on what occasion.  Therefore, I take that "stuff" back to the basement because of the associated story and memory.  It would be easier and probably more productive to clean something like a basement, if you didn't remember the associated stories with all the "stuff."  Many things in life that are valuable primarily because of the associated story and memory. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Whatever Became of Sin?

In 1973 Dr. Karl Menninger, a patriarch of American psychiatry, published his book, Whatever Became of Sin?  His writings are some of those classics to which I often return.  His thesis is that when a person has behaviors and attitudes that are in opposition to their primary values, ethics, morals, basic beliefs, etc., then a personal tension is created which eventually leads to mental, emotional, social, spiritual and relationship problems.  Some sins are done by commission, such as an affair; while other sins are done by omission, for example taking others for granted.  Some sins seem to be culturally approved, such as greed.  Whatever the sin, the consequences are troublesome.  All major religions teach that sins are primarily dealt with by confession and repentance.  Our places of worship have rituals to help us with our regular need of confession and repentance.  Some therapies can also provide us with the means for confession and repentance.  Sin is our constant companion and good health requires that we deal with that reality.  Denial and avoidance have never worked very well if our goal is good health and positive relationships.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

It Isn't Just An Old Rocking Chair

It is just an old rocking chair.  It creaks when it rocks because the glue has dried up.  It really doesn't even feel comfortable sitting in it.  It is old.  We keep it in our basement rather than regularly use it. Because of the associations connected with that old rocking chair, it is very valuable to me.  My parents owned a furniture store in Norman, Oklahoma.  I grew up in Norman and loved the University of Oklahoma football team, the Sooner's, and their heritage.  When Dad purchased that old rocking chair, he was told that it once belonged to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Bernie Owen.  Mr. Bernie Owen came to Norman in 1905 to coach the OU football team.  He coached the team for 22 years.  The team had great success under his guidance. He was also the Athletic Director of the university during this period.  The OU football stadium is named Owen Field in honor of Coach Bernie Owen.  It is just an old uncomfortable rocking chair but because of it's story, it is valuable to me, an OU football fan.  Because of the story, it isn't just an old rocking chair to me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Burning Daylight

I don't recall ever having heard of the Protestant Work Ethic until a class in college.  However, when I heard of the concept, I immediately recognized it.  My parents owned a furniture and antique store.  My paternal grandparents owned a small vegetable and chicken farm.  Any time I asked Dad if I could sleep in a little late, he would say that, "I was burning daylight."  When I would stay with my grandparents and want to stop picking vegetables before dusk, Grandpa would remind me that if I quit, "You'll be burning daylight."  I'm either at or past the age when many retire.  However, when I think of retiring, I feel guilty because I know that I'd be "burning daylight."  Traits have a way of getting deep into one's life via family observations and comments that are catchy, often repeated and significantly forming.  

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Detour Through A Nursing Home

My wife, brother and myself are visiting a nursing home in northwest Arkansas.  My mother-in-law is a resident of this nursing home because she is suffering with the Alzheimer's disease.  She is no longer able to care for herself.  Her memory, seems to us, to have no logical sequence.  She recognizes us but, then may talk to us as if we are strangers.  It is not fun visiting a loved one in a nursing home.  There are better ways to spend vacation time.  Nevertheless, visiting my mother-in-law it is not only what we are supposed to do but, also, we want to do because we are family.  Life's journey doesn't always go the way we planned. Sometimes life takes us on a difficult detour.  Even if a portion of life's journey has been detoured through a nursing home, it is nice to have family with whom to share the journey.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Style or Comfort?

My brother who is mentally handicapped, loves the Oklahoma University "Sooners" football team.  He has a bright crimson sweatshirt with the OU "Sooners" emblazoned on the front.  It is a favorite of his.  Yesterday the temperature almost reached 80 degrees and he insisted on wearing that OU sweatshirt.  The reality of it being hot didn't seem to matter.  I kept thinking surely the heat will cause him to sufficiently uncomfortable that he will put on his OU tee shirt and remove the sweatshirt.  However, I guess for him it is style and message over comfort.  In the afternoon he and I went to the grocery.  In front of us in the vegetable section was a professionally dressed woman with shoes that must have had a six inch heel.  She walked like a ballerina, but without the gracefulness.  It was her walk that caused me to first notice her.  I guess for her, also, it is style over comfort.  Surely most of us choose both style and comfort.  It seems to me that either extreme must be awkward.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Prayer allowed at public meetings

Today's Lexington Herald-Leader's headlines reads, "Prayer allowed at public meetings."  I sort of like that news.  My "sort of" attitude refers to "prayer allowed."  I'm pretty sure they meant "public prayer" is allowed at public meetings.  I suspect many of us have prayed privately and fervently at many public gatherings such as UK's football and basketball games, meetings of our city council or the Commonwealth's General Assembly, etc.  The paper reported that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote for the majority, wrote, "The prayer in this case has a ceremonial purpose."  I've participated in many meetings, especially at church, where prayer was ceremonial.  Prayers were merely the bookends for the meeting which informed everyone when it was time to begin and when it was all over.  The prayers seemed to have little to influence on the participants words, attitudes or behaviors in addition to having minimal impact on the results of the meeting. I'm for appropriate public prayers at our meetings but, I also want those prayers to impact all of us so that our behaviors and results reflect a respect for each other as well as a higher power, by whatever name we use for that higher power.  Shall we pray for that end.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keep Your Focus and Keep Going

Today was the running of the 140th Kentucky Derby.  One of the stories came from the first race of the day, not the main one called the Derby.  In that first race, a horse pooped while running and the famous jockey, Gary Stevens, was on the horse immediately behind the horse that pooped.  Stevens got messed on.  He laughed about it when interviewed after the race.  I think that's a pretty good metaphor of life--stuff happens.  When you are trying your best, someone might mess with you.  In spite of the mess, Stevens won that first race.  So, when it seems that life is throwing a mess at you, keep your focus and keep going.

The 140th Kentucky Derby

Today was the 140th Kentucky Derby.  I've never been to the Kentucky Derby even though I lived in Louisville for four years and now in Lexington for more than 40 years.  I've been to the Keeneland races in Lexington several times.  I've never chosen a winner so when I go I think that I'm making a few donations.  I obviously don't know how to pick winners.  This Derby I liked the name "Vicar's in Trouble."  That sounds true.  I also liked "Wicked Strong" because they planned to give some of their winnings for the victims of the Boston Marathon.  I didn't choose 'California Chrome" even though it was the favorite.  Nevertheless, "California Chrome" won the 140th Derby.  The horse ran the Derby's distance in two minutes and 3.6 seconds.  It is a similar distance from my house to my office as the Derby's distance.  Sometimes I walk to work.  It takes me about 40 minutes to walk the distance; that is unless I stop at the bakery which is about half the distance and buy a couple of doughnuts. Usually the horses in the Derby are purchased for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars. "California Chrome" was purchased for about eight thousand dollars. The couple of men who purchased the horse named their horse purchasing and training business "The Dumb Ass Partners."  I bet that name aggravates the 'blue bloods' with their expensive horses and farms.  I think "Vicars In Trouble" finished last.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

We Are Together In The Human Family

I've a friend who travels to eastern Europe to work with women who've been involved in human trafficking. Yesterday, I interviewed a young lady who is a Senior at the University and desires to help women who been rescued from human trafficking.  She has been looking into the trafficking situation in central Kentucky.  I don't understand why the world's countries are not aghast and hurrying to help when more than 200 teenage young women are abducted in Nigeria.  Human slavery has not disappeared.  This reality says something about the mind-set with which we view others.  Others do not exist to meet my needs.  They exist because they are children of God.  They are a significant part of my human family regardless of the other person's race, culture, sexual orientation, political persuasion or religious beliefs.  I may not be able to go to Nigeria, but I can treat all people who are around me with great respect.