Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Family Tradition

Country music singers
Have always been a real close family
But lately some of my kin folks
Have disowned a few others and me
I guess it's because
I kinda changed my direction
Lord I guess I went and broke their family tradition
Family Tradition - Hank Williams Jr.

We broke a couple of family traditions this year ourselves. For the first time in almost 25 years, we didn't gather at my uncle's house for Thanksgiving. On-going health concerns with him and another uncle ended a long streak of my side of the family gathering together for food, fellowship, drinking brews from a tailgate cooler, and watching my cousin-in-law arrive on a 4-wheeler from across the horizon as if he were one of the 4 rednecks of the apocalypse.

We also broke a long streak of traveling the Tennessee triangle - from middle Tennessee to Chattanooga to Knoxville to back home. Again, a health concern locally prevented us from traveling to Chattanooga. And a couple of family deaths in 2008 put kind of a damper on folks wanting to gather in Knoxville. So for the first time for me in almost 20 years, the in-laws came to camp with us rather than the other way around. It was kind of weird waking up in my own house on Christmas morn.

One tradition, however, held firm - a compass pointing to true north - a lighthouse's beacon - the sun rising in the east. The wife, ma-in-law, and sis-in-law all wound up on the couch at some point covered in a blanket.

I understand a post-holiday-dinner nap is often a part of many family gatherings, but these women talk so much year-round about how much they look forward to gathering together to visit. Instead, they inevitably adjourn to the couch (or recliners if the traditional visit to the in-laws had continued), draw an afghan up to their neck (the blanket kind - not the terrorist kind), and say NOTHING to each other for seemingly forever. Yet they all head for their respective homes having enjoyed the visit immensely.

To her credit, the wife had to sacrifice the blanket this year because she was the hostess.

They have even begun to extend this tradition to future generations by training my daughter to simply lie around. In this her first year of participation, she chose to stay somewhat alert and engaged by reading and forgoing the blanket. In years to come, however, I'm quite certain the blanket part will be added.

The health of both uncles is improving - and God is to be praised for that. All are pretty well expecting the Thanksgiving tradition to return as normal in 2009. And while the future of the Knoxville trip is still to be determined, I fully expect us to make the drive at least to Chattanooga next December as we've done for so many years.

I don't know what 2009 will bring. Many questions can't be answered right now about the economy, a new Presidency, escalation of tensions in the Middle East and between India and Pakistan, when The Office will jump the shark, etc.

But I do know that come next Christmas season, one certainty will still remain...The Blanketed Housewives.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Nashville Project Homeless Connect

"...so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him... ' ~ John 13:4-5

Earlier this month, I spent a few hours volunteering at the Project Homeless Connect in Nashville. Specifically, I spent time with some tremendous folks at Room in the Inn's foot care booth. I watched with awe as nursing students from Vanderbilt University and Motlow College took time washing the feet of the homeless, trimming their nails, and inspecting their toes for signs of larger problems such as diabetes.

My meager efforts were to welcome folks, distribute some literature, answer a handful of questions, and give socks to the nursing students when the feet were dry. These folks didn't rush through their effort or ignore the person being served - either by not talking to them or talking around them. Instead, they welcomed each person with a smile and introduction and talked to them off-and-on during the foot care. It was a truly a Christ-like moment seeing this amount of compassion generously doled out.

Some three weeks or so later, these caregivers finally got their props with an article in The Tennessean buried in the local news section. But at least someone finally took notice of the tremendous compassion offered that day.

One quote jumped off the page for me. While spoken by one of the nursing students, it succinctly states my feelings each time I have the opportunity to spend time with these folks.
"I realized how fortunate I am and how my problems are minute compared to not having food or shelter," she said. "It was a very humbling experience, and I walked away thanking God for my life and praying for those not as fortunate."
If you are in the greater Nashville area, please find a way to help support and serve with Room in the Inn. Its truly a tremendous program.

For more info, you can check out their web site at www.chd-nashville.org/room-in-the-inn.html.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Uncomfortable Christmas Sights and Sounds

Sister-in-law: Is that all you got Momma?
Wife: No. This was just a gag gift.
SIL: OK. I was just gonna say that was a crappy gift.


Father-in-law: I don't need any clothes.
SIL: Then why are you looking at clothing ads?
FIL: I'm not really. I'm looking for ad for toys...toys for men!
TMC: Snicker


TMC: What's the goofiest gift you ever got?
SIL: A man's vest with buttons hot-glued on it. And it was size 42 regular! Look at my chest. Do I look like a 42??


Supposedly this is body spray for my daughter. But what perv designed the packaging for this stuff?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

He's knocking. Are you going to open the door?

In just a few days, we'll celebrate His birth. For too many of us (myself included), the focus will be more on gift giving, overindulging in food and drink, jacking up our stress levels by majoring in minors, etc. Regardless of our focus, the baby is on His way.

The Light is yours for the taking. He will help all through the darkness. He's knocking on the doors of our hearts. But notice the door doesn't have a doorknob on the outside. We can only open the door from our side to let him in.

My friend, BirminghamSteve, recently uploaded this video to YouTube. Its a true Christmas classic - in the right sense of the word. Thanks Steve & Merry Christmas y'all.

Dock Ellis's Passing....and Tripping

I read this morning Dock Ellis, former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher, died Friday, December 19. I'm not much of a baseball fan, and I'd never heard of Dock until about 6 months ago. It seems legend has it ol' Dock pitched himself a no-hitter for the Pirates back in 1970... while under the influence of LSD. What little I know about baseball is that pitchers can be some pretty kooky guys - but they are highly skilled in what they do. Apparently Dock had the stuff all the way around and his skills were...ummm, err...enlightened that day by a substance in his system other than steroids.

A bit more about Dock's no-no as told biographically...

And Dock's story told through Todd Snider's lyrics...

Tip to the Todd Snider List-Serv wire for the news about Dock's passing.

Sit, shake, and wait on me - I still miss you old friend

OK, let me post this for my own benefit. Get it out of the way. I originally published this on my MySpace blog 2 years ago. I can't believe its been 2 years since the posting much less FOUR years since I faced one of the toughest decisions I ever had to make.

December 18, 2006 (ed. note 2008) - 2 years (ed. note 4 years)? Are you kidding me? 730 days? (ed. note 1,460 days) No, it can't be. I know you are still on your mat in the garage curled up in a ball to greet me each morning as I head out to win the bread and bring home the bacon. I know you are there ready to uncurl, rise, stretch, yawn, and begin that incessant tail wagging and begging for a head scritch and a milk bone.

You are still asleep on the front-seat of my car. Seven weeks old, 5 pounds, curled up on a towel, grunting a bit as you sleep.

We're still walking the neighborhood streets. You, by my side with a loose leash hanging between us - maintaining a healthy, steady pace. In the early years, it was all I could do to keep up with you. In the later years, I had to whoa up my pace to allow you to continue. But side by side we were. Get the leash & wait on me. I'll walk you when I get there myself.

You are still sitting in that semi-circle with your buds from the neighborhood. All of you have your paw raised trying to shake my hand and get that next Milk Bone. The 5 of you make me feel like an orchestra conductor. As I raise my Milk Bone baton, you cellists raise your rosined paws.

We're still crashed in the front yard in May. I got the lawn cut earlier in the week, we got a good rain, and the clippings have settled. Now you are lying on your side, eyes closed, soaking up the rays through your thick black coat on a warm, cloud-free afternoon. And you make a great pillow. Not a lot on my "to do" list today. So I grab a cold one, settle it in the grass, pull my Preds hat down over my eyes, lay back and rest my head comfortably on your midsection. Eventually the beer gets warm but we are resting comfortably. I hope you still are.

But that's simply not the case. I'm still here, but you are not. The pain of not having you here is palpable. While I still have memories of almost 13 years with you, I also cry inwardly and outwardly from time to time as I think about you in those final moments on the vet's table. We looked in each other's eyes for what seemed an eternity. It was as if you were looking to me for answers, and yet all I had to offer in return was tears, crying, and a sniffling nose. I watched the glow of your eyes fade to a matte, reflection-less stare.

On December 18, I'll again lift my own nose in the air & wail hauntingly like you did when you heard a siren off in the distance.

I miss you terribly Winston. However, I believe heaven is such a grand and glorious place that I truly believe we'll run and romp together again someday…and this time it'll be for eternity.

And so it begins...

I was one of the last to get a cell phone, a PDA, an iPod, a MySpace account, and now seemingly a blog. Yet here I am. Don't expect much. A lot of stuff will likely be covered - mostly a mile wide and an inch deep. So let's get this party started.