Rejection Of Style

I knew I was going to get a haircut this week; I was not sure of the day.  As I was nearing the end of my walk, I decided today was the day.  I used the online check-in.  I didn’t need to.  There was no one ahead of me, and no one behind me the entire time I was there.  Unless requested, you get the next stylist that comes up.  Today, someone who had never cut my hair before cut was “up.”

This person was of a different faith than me.  She referred to praying while in troubled times.  And she claims to talk to others often about her faith.  I complimented her on her values, and we didn’t talk about much else.  She did compliment me on my full head of hair.  (My dentists used to compliment me on my great teeth…until they didn’t.  It was like I woke up one day and found out my teeth had aged two decades in a 6-month period.)  I didn’t let my “hair pride” get the best of me.  I took her comments about, “Some of our product lines are on sale” and “You should get yourself a new style for your women” as idle chatter.  I would not make any changes.  My only hope was she didn’t make my cowlick into a creature I could not control.

When the haircut was over, she did not comb my hair over.  She left it sticking up in the front.  Her mention of “Brad Pitt” may have been her last attempt to convince me I should try a new style.  As I stood up, I used her mirror and her comb to put my hair back the way it belongs.  Her unsanctioned styling looks to be a battle I will fight with my hair in the coming week.  She did not cut it to comb-over where I like to part it.

Fortunately, I had something to rejoice about as I checked out.  Nearly every year, I buy a hair card and prepay for 15 haircuts.  Two years ago, the card was purchased but soon disappeared.  The “Put it back in the envelope” rule developed soon afterward.  With some encouragement and two key pieces of information from my favorite stylist on a previous visit, I could call the corporate customer service number.  Within a few weeks, I had received a new card MINUS the one haircut that had already been used.

I got a haircut.  Because I used the recovered card, the cost was only the tip.   With this haircut, I have now received a haircut from everyone at this location.  I will only let this stylist cut my hair if I give her very specific instructions.  On the positive side, I have hair to cut, and it grows in quickly.  This puts me ahead of many my age.  It is motivation for me to continue to act and feel as young as I can.  When necessary, I will adopt the philosophy of many of my peers, “Beauty is only hair follicle deep.”

 

And Then There Was One…

My Favorite Coffee Mug

I didn’t grow up drinking coffee.  It entered somewhere before marriage.  While I still don’t have a strong love affair with coffee, it is part of my morning routine.  I will do everything possible to avoid drinking coffee black.  And, if creamer or a donut is not available on the side, I am likely to add some sugar.

My normal routine is a bagel or toast with peanut butter along with my 2 cups of coffee.  That is what makes this mug so special.  When my wife drinks from her little mug, she is getting very near “one cup” of coffee.  This mug swallows 2+ cups of her coffee cup.  When I drink two of these mugs, I am drinking almost half a pot of coffee.  I assign one cup to each piece of toast or each side of the bagel.  That is how I do it.

This mug said goodbye to one of its siblings today.  When they started, they were a set of quadruplets.  Romantically, I could say my wife got these mugs for me as we spent our first Christmas together.  She hoped its impressive depths would make me addicted to coffee for the duration of my earthly existence.  As of today, only one sibling remains.  Today’s accident was my fault.  To avoid doing dishes, I creatively stacked the dishes on the counter.  When my wife came into the kitchen, she accidentally bumped my stack.  I could say my deceased mug was a hero and sacrificed himself for others, but we all know that is not true.  He became another statistic.  I have no recollection of how the first sibling died.  The previous sibling was bumped, and it no longer had a grip on its handle.  Because I could not let go, I glued the handle back on the mug.  It was a poor repair job.  It saddened me every time I lustily drank coffee from its incredible reservoir of caffeine.  After too many repairs and possibly a stern talk from one of my children, I let it go.

Now, there is only one.  Other mugs entered my life as just a “one”.  Knowing I started with 4 of these mugs and am now eulogizing the three that are no longer in my life, I am saddened.  My immediate response when I heard the crockery breaking was, “No.  Darn.  That is too bad.”  Since the rest of the day had not been great, the shattering of the mug brought me back to reality.  Even though these mugs escorted me into my coffee addiction, they are just mugs.  I have plenty of love to share with the mugs who will lobby for my affections.  With a new Mrs. Baird Bread Store (The factory store on the south side of Fort Worth was a socially-distanced success) available to provide my coffee its morning company, I have much to be thankful for.

Take On The Challenge

As I was nearing the end of my walk today at the park, a boy on a scooter approached me.  As I tried to figure out what side of the sidewalk he was going to take, he uttered, “Are you going to take on the challenge?” before slowly surfing down the paved hill.  It was clear what his challenge was–he was going to see how far he could coast without pushing off.  My challenge was a little less clear.  So, the kid forced me to think…

  • What are you going to do today in trade for another day of life?
  • Who did you make feel better about themselves today?
  • Were you a helper or someone who avoided helping those who needed it?
  • Did you show those you loved that you cared for them today?  Do you need to have a bigger list so you are more challenged?
  • Did you laugh today?  Did you make someone else laugh?
  • Did you feel empathy for someone who hurts? (Preferably someone you know personally.  There is a spectrum of hurt–it can land anywhere on that spectrum.)
  • What did you do today that will be remembered tomorrow?  For how many tomorrows will it still be remembered?
  • Do you think you were more good than bad today?
  • What reward do you think your opinion deserves?

It seems I have come to a point where I am challenging you to think about where you will spend eternity.  Am I allowed to do that?  Could it hurt someone’s feelings?  In the past, forcing a person to think about their eternity was effective.  In the present, a discussion about eternity could trigger someone.  If anyone is curious about the hereafter and what you can do now to affect your eternity, please contact me on the contact form for this site.

Being Kind

Earlier this week, we had some work done in our backyard.  The previous owners in the first half of our house’s life (The house is 20 years old, and we have been here 10 years.) had some concrete work done.  Although nothing can be proven, it seems quite likely the “cleanup” from that work found its way into our drainage pipe.  The cleanup for that previous project took place this week.  It was strenuous work.  And, for me, it was made more difficult by not being able to communicate with the laborers–they were all Mexican.  The rest of the blog is largely about how we treat others.

The oldest of the laborers appeared to be blind in his right eye.  He may have been twice the age of the other two workers.  Early in the project, he tore one of his knuckles up working.  (Do I need to even say he was working very hard and definitely not getting overpaid?)   I had misplaced some inexpensive work gloves two weeks ago.  I bought myself a new set of 10.  When I found the gloves I misplaced, I had 3 sets remaining.  The gloves seemed meant to be given to the workers.  The older gentlemen took the gloves without question.  I set the other gloves down where they could quickly be put on.  After I left and returned, all 3 of them were wearing the cheap gloves I offered them.  This made me feel very good!

After the workday nearly was complete, I had the hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin, and bandaids for my injured friend.  I am not sure he received the full benefit of my efforts.  I hope he left thinking, “He cares about me.”  I know I have not always been the nicest of people.  After having kids, friends and relatives make big mistakes, I feel deep regret for those who are the victims of just a few life-changing decisions.  I made some poor decisions when young, but none of them had the consequences of some decisions these men working on my yard had made.  Because of decisions they made or decisions that were made for them, they are in a country where they do not speak the language of the majority or have the means to generate an income where they will ever get ahead.  Instead, they are forced to do whatever is necessary to survive.   While I am pro legal immigration, my heart grows soft when I see people who won’t ever have the opportunities I have.  If I wrote a check to each of them, it wouldn’t change their lives.  The best I can do is try to show them a Christ-like love during the time they are in my life.

Finally, I am not claiming to be better than anyone.  If you have the means to give someone something that benefits them, consider it.  (If people are begging as a way of life, I ask myself, “Will this benefit them?”  Most times, I seem to say, “No.”)  Any kindness I have is traceable to a pre-pandemic life.  Assuming I don’t have any false memories, the size of my heart and compassion for those who are genuinely hurting has grown.  The harder someone works with no proper opportunity to get ahead, the worse I feel for them.  And the lower the person is in the organization, the more I hold back my frustrations.  When a person is just doing what they have been told they can do, the people who sign their paychecks mean more to them than me.

My purpose in writing this?  Being kind takes only slightly more effort than getting angry.  If you need to ask, “What would Jesus do?”, use that as your motivation.  If you need to realize, “My bills get paid today whether or not I work.”, then allow that to push you toward greater compassion.  We share this planet with at least a few billion other people.  If you believe your bad day gives you the right to stomp on everyone else who doesn’t perform the exact way you would like, then you are very arrogant.  Try kindness.  You will like yourself better, and others will like you better, too.

My Current Series

When some people talk about a series, they are likely talking about what they are watching on Netflix or Hulu or whatever.  (My wife and I have one of those, too.  We are watching “Mary Tyler Moore..”  Yes, it is nearly 50 years old.  But, it is funny, and they had writers that respected my prudish ears. Since most of the writers could be dead, what does that say about me?)  When I refer to a series, I am reading it.  My present series is Harry Bosch.  For this series, I have some observations and goals:

  1. The show is not perfect, but it is entertaining.  My wife and I have watched all the seasons.  So, with this book series, it started with the TV series.
  2. I purchased the first Bosch book on sale in Audible.  It was a special edition book. And the actor who plays Bosch was the narrator.   It pulled me right in.  His voice made me feel like I was watching the show.  It would be inaccurate to call it a perfect “gateway book.”  I could call it a perfect “media switching” book.  It gave me elements of the TV show while allowing me to become familiar with the author’s writing style.  I was still timid, but very ready to go through one more book.
  3. The next book was not available for “free” listening anywhere.  I could get it from the library on my Kindle.  It forced me to admit to myself my reading speed is not what I desire.  I persevered and completed this installment in the series.
  4. The next few (at least the next two) books are only available in paperback.  My son asked me, “How long has it been since you read a paperback?”  It has been multiple years.  It is critical when I read a series to read it in order.  I made a mistake in the past.  I thought, “I can read the Left Behind books in any order.  It won’t matter since I know how it ends.”  It did matter.  The Bosch books have far more complicated characters, and they could probably survive such a mistake.  If I want to say, “I read the series.”, reading the books in orders means no asterisk is necessary.
  5. Why don’t I just buy all the books and listen to them all?  As I write this, I believe there are 22 books.  At $10 per book, it would take the fun out of it.  My Kindle and Audible library is far bigger than it should be.  If I were to buy a whole series at full price, I could never justify it to my wife.  She tolerates my spending on discounted books.  I visit my wishlist on Amazon every day.  If a book on my list is on sale, I grab it up.  It doesn’t matter if it is triple-digit inline behind other books, the immediate satisfaction comes from getting the book at less than 50% of the regular price.  The rest of the satisfaction comes when I get to read it later.
  6. My primary “reads” are fantasy and history.  Fantasy gets a little too unbelievable.  And, come to think of it, history is hard to believe sometimes too.  Given that scenario, I might as well read something with a very human character living in a very dysfunctional city.  While he lives there, he might as well solve a few murders.
  7. Once I commit to a series, I become more tolerant of problems in the series the deeper I get.  When I was reading the Wheel of Time, there were places in that series where it seemed time stood still.  When two of the books were completed, I wondered if the next book in the series started before the previous one had even begun.  It went very slow.  With the Bosch books, the biggest problem is his apparent age.  He was born in 1950, and the new books are coming out.  So, even if I am not reading a fantasy series now, we do have to give up some of our reason to enjoy this series, too.
  8. The other benefit of a series, especially right now, is life continues to be pretty boring.  Being restricted in your activities in your house severely limits what things of value I can accomplish.  Reading may only be something I can find value in, but I will allow it to be enough.

Update

The fourth book in the series turned out to be closely aligned with the series.  After hitting the 25% point, my eyes refused to continue.  I just couldn’t nudge myself into further commitment.  This does not mean everything written above is false.  It means until I become more committed to this genre (Crime Fiction…or whatever it is called), I will need to be more cautious in what I commit to.

More Filler

When your wife says, “They messed my drink up.  Could you please get this taken care of?, that is what I do.  Since the day was so slow, I immediately arranged for her to get her fresh drink.  (We do not drink mixed drinks during the workday.  We barely drink anything at all.  Flavored syrup found its way into my wife’s Coke Zero.)  Since she was slaving so we can keep food on the table, I could not come up with one good reason I could not make her drink my top priority.   Unfortunately for me, the fast-food restaurant was very responsive and remedied the problem immediately.  This left me with the need to find something even more exciting to highlight my day.

This is a mosquito trap.  This trap and its siblings have been creating additional health fears in our area.  We are told a large percentage of the mosquitos caught are carrying the West Nile virus.  Apparently, the mosquitos are not wise enough to know it is a trap.  Or, maybe, they just send the really sick ones into the trap to push the numbers up.  On the evening news for the mosquitos, the news anchor announces when the silly humans will be spraying.  I am not sure if the older members of the mosquito community volunteer to give themselves up, or if there are any senior mosquitos.  I just know they are often hungry, and they hide in the shadows.  If there is a superhero called, “Mosquito Man”, I could not take him seriously.  (A quick internet search appears to identify two images of such a character.  If a Mosquito is a superhero, what villains does he go against?  What are his secret powers?  I have no interest in knowing beyond the purposes of this posting.)

Last, I cleaned out approximately 1/3 of the garage today.  The carpets lining the door all needed vacuuming.   When one of our recent neighbors moved out, we borrowed a carpet from the street on trash day.  Now, the carpets are completely lining the pathway from the door to the trash cans.  This gives barefoot access to both the freezer and refrigerator along the wall.  Before you come over and seriously walk barefoot in the garage, you may want to know what else I found out there.  I found a rodent that was recently deceased.  And I found another one that was not nearly as recent, but definitely less than a year.

In summary, don’t walk through the garage to the car barefooted to drive across the street to get your soft drink.  If you wear socks and shoes, it will give the mosquitos fewer places to nibble.  And, if you check the drinks before you bring them home, you won’t have to make a second trip.

Pandemic Pain

The pandemic has affected all of us.  Some of us may just have suffered from a lack of activity. (Fortunately, most of that is navigable now.)  And others suffered emotionally.  As I do, I will do a mash-up of both and try to output something uniquely mine.

First, in the early days of the pandemic, it seemed like the Martians could have landed on planet earth and taken all leaders back to the home planet.  If the evening news presented this as the leading story, we could have believed it.  Our senses of reality were so disoriented.  We could have been told the Bigfoots of the world had been awaiting this moment and were prepared to make their immunity known.  The bottom line is we were all really confused and walking in a dream.  Eventually, we went out and got food or had it delivered.  We tolerated the rules that we didn’t understand, but we were being forced to accept.  And, eventually, our hope was realized–the Son Of Spanish Flu wasn’t revisiting us 100 years after its first appearance.   COVID-19 was lethal to a very few.  And, your natural immunity was not important.  We lumped everyone into the “possibly asymptomatic” category.

Some, I realize, suffered from far greater depression than I.  Besides the obvious financial concerns, there were many who walked around in complete fear.  What will happen to my kids if I die?  What are we going to do about the wedding?  Are we going to have to cancel the 4th of July gathering?  And, for those who don’t have a Christian worldview, you might think that the world was spinning out of control and only the scientist could solve this problem.  While celebrities may get the sympathy for these feelings of hopelessness, the pandemic did shake all of us foundationally.  Eventually, those who trust in a created universe reaffirmed their trust in God and His plan for each of their lives.  Those who don’t share this worldview suffered more deeply.  They got deeply depressed and questioned why they had to suffer in this way.  I don’t know why the pandemic happened, but I feel confident that He who let it happen will not be surprised when it ends.

Today, I don’t know if the pandemic will touch my life directly or not.   As I have said with nearly all things in my life, “If God wants to take me out, He is going to have to work at it.  I will not make it easy for Him.” And that is how I approach nearly everything–eventually.

Compared to the above, my physical pain seems almost a privilege.  Walking 12,000 to 30,000 steps a day has obvious benefits, but it can be detrimental to.

  • I have lost the baby toenail on my right foot.  My shoes were born longer than their pre-pandemic brothers.  I consider it a very acceptable sacrifice.
  • Recently, whether due to overworked shoes or an angry foot, my right arch decided it did not want to help me walk the way I was accustomed.  I could not roll from heel to the toes.  I had to swing the foot to avoid stretching it.  Three days in, the arch has accepted it alone cannot make me stop walking.  If it recruits a few more body members, it might keep the scabs from ruining the strike.
  • At first, I thought my shoulder pain was from throwing my arm up to acknowledge all the bikes before they passed me on the path.  Now, I think it is a change in sleeping habits.  I don’t think it is pandemic-related.  Yet, I do seem to want to hug myself more tightly…I guess it is possible.
  • All of the allergens in the air will affect those who are allergic and outside walking.  When those who are allergic have a sore throat, cough, and a runny nose, is it possible they think they have COVID?  If we did not have a thermometer that read my temperature below 98 degrees during these times, I would have run to the nearest COVID testing location.
  • On a positive note, I do have a very nice farmer’s tan.  I have been disgusted by many men of my age range who find walking shirtless as a wise decision.  When you get to be my age, the imagination is a far more powerful force than the actual.

The pandemic has bombarded us from all sides.  Despite the overabundance of bad news, take comfort in knowing God knows how it is going to end.  And if you truly believe that, the “now” is only part of the journey to there…

Weight Of An Opinion

There used to be an expression, “That and a quarter and yourself can get a cup of coffee.”  While the price of coffee has gone up, an opinion still has the same value.

Because an opinion has so little value outside of your own head, or at least outside of your personal cabal, why are people so free in giving opinions on social media?  I can understand a particular event so dominating a person’s thinking they temporarily believe an opinion expressed on social media is going to make a difference.  The wiser people realize the limits of social media in changing opinions.  The unwise people who think they can save the world plaster their social media with very opinionated posts.  If their posts lean the same direction as you do, the offense is likely lessened.  If the posts are blatantly “anti” your candidate or completely go against your political beliefs, you just turn off posts from that person.  (A person who posts an average of every hour of every day may also suffer this fate.)

Social media to me is a means of staying in touch.  Two posts per week are about right.  If you are convinced you need to post more frequently than that, you may need to evaluate if people care about you enough to read that level of detail.  If you need to tell intimate details of your life, volunteer to buy a friend a coffee and talk their leg off.  If you need to share all of your political opinions including trying to convince others why your arguments are so much more relevant than all the other posts from people who also have the most excellent opinions, contact a major network and try to get hired as a consultant.  The pay is better and they will appreciate you more.

If we made people pay you to listen to their opinions, we might have a workable solution.  Professional athletes are trying to tell us their opinions are worth more than ours.  Their credentials?  They have access to the media and egos to match their paychecks.  (It is my blog so I can state whatever I want) Those who have to tell you they are smarter than you probably aren’t.  If I ask for your opinion, I deserve everything I get.  If I don’t ask for your opinion, but you insist on giving it to me anyway, I will avoid every platform necessary to prevent myself from hearing a sermon from an athlete (or anyone) who should let his athletic skills (or any skills) do his preaching.

As a parent, I deal with the same issues.  As my adult children move further into adulthood, I would like to give them guidance from my wealth of experience.  Yet, if they don’t ask for help and I just start talking, they may hear my shared opinion, but it will be unheeded.  If they ask for my opinion, I can use my experiences to instruct.  And, if we schedule a time to discuss, we might talk over coffee.

Political Preferences

As my wife and I watched the news last night, we saw a small little grandmother walk up to a podium.  She was speaking such hateful things.  You could almost see the spittle flying out of her mouth as she reiterated the talking points of her party.

I commented to my wife, “For a person in their 80’s to be that angry, she must be filled with lots of hate.”

She replied, “Oh, I agree.”

If you didn’t know, this grandmother is Nancy Pelosi. She has a handful of kids and grandkids.  Despite these many things that should make her happy, she has to summon all of her anger every time she gets in front of the microphone.  (When the President is a blue-colored animal, the highest-ranking red-colored animal does the same thing.  This is the jockeying part of politics.)  Maybe I should admire her ability to be so angry.  Yet, the inconsistencies in her life make it difficult.  Her actions show she thinks she is better than those she is supposed to serve.  (i.e. the recent hair salon story) Does this make her different from other politicians?  Again, not really.  What motivates a woman in her ninth decade to take part in this charade?  She claims to be working for those who have nothing while constantly breathing in the power.  And, if her power is diminished temporarily, she sucks a youth serum from straw a awaiting her return to the majority.  If her district is smart enough to retire her this fall, they will do themselves a great service.

I should probably indict all politicians who have been in Washington so long.  They no longer remember what it is like to live outside of the bubble.  They use decade-old memories to justify their actions.  They, I mean people from both parties, are so focused on keeping their sins buried and their accomplishments at the forefront.  It is no wonder voters are so jaded.

I know I am.  For President, I take both candidates and scrub all of the political dirt off of them.  Some of the dirt is old, and we are told some of the dirt is not dirt at all.  Yes, I know how I am voting.  Only one candidate will permit me to come out of the voting booth saying, “I voted for [That Guy], but that doesn’t mean I approve of all his actions.”  Oh, and I pray the decision I am making is the right one, too.

My Breadstore Closed

When I first moved to Texas 10 years ago, I stumbled across the Hostess Resale store. (This was not a place where people returned “bad” bread.)  Likely, I am misnaming it.  The purpose was to have a place to sell bread near its expiration date.  If you owned a freezer, you could figure out how to save some money on good quality bread.  The longer the store was there, the better I became at adding a box or bag of something sweet.  It may have been cookies or a bag/box of cake donuts.

Unfortunately, the rent went up or not enough people maintained the necessary amount of freezer space.  My Hostess store closed down.  I forget whether there was a gap in finding a new store.  Whatever the time frame, I eventually found the Mrs. Baird’s Discount Store.  Better yet, I found 2 of these stores.  If I was going to visit a friend, I could choose the pathway that would allow me to pass one store.  And, if I had a little extra time and it was not the end of the school day (This location was right near a school.  Between entering and egressing difficulties, you want to avoid this one mid-afternoon.)  I loved the cinnamon swirl bagels.  They also sold nice dense bread.  The ideal kind to toast and put peanut butter on in the morning. The coffee is optional.   The store also gave FREE bread to various charities that would come in.  I don’t know the details, but if the people were not affiliated with a charity, they were taking the bread somewhere and feeding LOTS of ducks.

Except for a short period where there was some management change, the staff had very helpful advice.  (i.e. The cinnamon swirl bread made GREAT French toast.)  In almost all cases, I don’t draw attention to my participation in the military.  But, if there is a 15% discount on it, I claimed it.  And, if you spent over $6, you could pick an item from the free rack.  This was not a minor accomplishment.  They sold bread that normally cost over $3 per loaf for “3 loaves for $4”.  The bagels were the same pricing.  They also had a blue card that granted you a free loaf of bread and a fruit snack pie when the card was filled.  With these opportunities to save money while already shopping at a discount store, I was happy.

Then the pandemic hit.  I did not try to go to the store for 2 or 3 months.  The first time I drove by both of the stores, I thought, “Maybe they have just not reopened yet.”  Recent drive-bys prove my suspicions.  The stores are closed.  I miss the variety and pricing.   The freezer space previously saved for purchased baked items has been filled with items baked at our house.   It is with regret we have adjusted to the void.  I think it is the “crumb” cake donuts I will miss most.

One possibility left to me is a thrift store located at the Mrs. Baird’s bakery.  The bakery is in south Fort Worth.  With both of my daughters attending college in a southern direction, I may have to make a little extra room in the freezer before the next time we go for a visit.