SWALLOWING PILLS

He’s got bad knees, but he doesn’t like swallowing pills. I can sympathize with him. He’s not as fast as he used to be, or brave for that matter, but who is at this age? He limps a little, but so do a lot of us. The difference is that most of us can force ourselves into swallowing pills to help our abused joints. That’s one of the differences between Larry and me.

He goes out of his way to not take glucosamine. He’s stubborn like that. I don’t look forward to swallowing the horse sized pills on a daily basis, but that’s life; we have to do things that we don’t always like. Wisdom tells us to sacrifice some things, like discomfort and taste, for the physical reward is just part of it.

When Larry refuses to take his pill it sometimes makes me irritated. I know it’s best for him, but he only wants to put in his mouth what tastes good. Sometimes when he refuses to take his pill I’m closer to indifferent, “Suit yourself, big guy. I’m only trying to help you, you’re only hurting yourself,” I tell him.

I’ve noticed the things that irritate us about others is often the very thing we’re guilty of or are susceptible to ourselves.

Sometimes I eat things I shouldn’t, things I know aren’t the best choices for my health. Occasionally I eat late when I shouldn’t. Then there are times I’ll pick the steak over the fresh fish, the pasta or rice over the vegetables… and those are just the physical choices I make. The spiritual choices made by my free will aren’t always so different from the physical.

Often I’ll park my carcass in front of the TV instead of picking up the Good Book or writing. I know one, if not poison, can lead to extreme indifference spiritually and the other leads to health and joy and peace spiritually.

I’m guilty of all the things I get so irritated with Larry for. Even worse, I know better; I’m smarter than Larry.

While I’m collecting the vast and varying size pills in the morning to ingest at different times throughout the day, I watch Larry often spit the only pill he has to take all day out onto the floor like an animal.

My wife tends to pamper him and tries to coax him into making the right choice. She wraps the brown joint medicine into a tasty slice of turkey or chicken and gives it to Larry. Sometimes he takes it, other times he eats the meat around the pill and drops it like it’s poison.

and he has to wear diapers...

and he has to wear diapers…

My wife picks it up and tries to fool him again… with marginal success.

When I get mad at Larry I have to remind myself that I too struggle with doing the right things – spiritually and physically. I also have to remind myself that Larry’s a dog. He doesn’t fathom the benefit of swallowing pills and the consequences of free will…

Which puts me and my choices in a pretty incriminating light.

CRUNCH TIME

One of her favorites... mine too.

One of her favorites… mine too.

It was crunch time and you could feel tension slowly draping my wife and youngest’s shoulders. Decisions are sometimes hard, especially when they’re very personal. It’s often easier for others to make a better decision for us, particularly when we’re young, but that’s more easily seen from the vantage of hindsight.

It’s a rough time in life when the whole world seems to revolve around you… just before it never does again…

There were only two short days left to put together the page of pictures for our youngest’s senior yearbook. A hurdle her sisters didn’t have to navigate. One that none of us close to my age or older could have ever dreamed about with our imagination stretched to its limit of possibilities.

In fairness to the youngsters that have yet another load of peer pressure dumped on them; it wasn’t their idea. The notion of out doing the year before has brought about the evolution of how kids do school and the extracurricular activities.

Our youngest has some characteristics that are eerily similar to her dear ole dad, especially when I was her age. She sometimes lives her life by the analogy, “Why do today what you can put off till tomorrow?” That’s approximately one hundred and eighty degrees in the polar opposite direction from the way my wife is wired. See where I’m headed here?

I completely get that it’s no easy peasy task for a seventeen year old to pick ten or twelve pictures to represent who you are, your priorities, and a life to date. Add to that a choice of hundreds and hundreds of pictures and you’ve got a pair of young hands full.

My wife pressed the youngest to help get the task off both of their “to do” lists for about a week before crunch time. Once crunch time counts down to hours after my wife’s prodding to no avail then the one-hundred-percent-type-A-full-blooded-Sicilian takes over.

The response for young adults our daughter’s age vary… but hurt feelings and responses laced in frustration and shortness seem to be the norm. And yes, at this point you could say that I am an expert.

After dinner my wife hauled out the loads of pictures from pre-computer years and started sifting through them. It doesn’t take long to forget your loved ones shortcomings. We reminisced, laughed, recounted family stories like a tradition, and sometimes sat silent, taking a sip of the past realizing life lasts just about as long as that drink.

When our youngest finally showed up after her play rehearsal she joined us. She picked through our pile we thought she might like to represent her life. She silently made her final choices and stacked them up at the end of the coffee table where she sat on the floor.

The next day I went to scan her pictures and found that our youngest had added some pictures that we hadn’t considered… pictures of her with her mom and dad when she was little.

After opening night of the play

After opening night of the play

Loved ones don’t always see eye to eye, but come crunch time, they always love.

SANDCASTLES

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Bringing our dreams and desires to reality doesn’t seem a whole heck of a lot different than trying to build a sandcastle out of dry sand… with only our tears as mortar. I believe the way many of us can paint vivid pictures with our minds is a gift from God, but that’s just the first part of the epic or tragic story, just depends on a perspective.

The best dreams and goals are the ones that seem to dance on the boundary of impossible… and a lot of them are. In that long battle between sweet dreams and a vicious reality a lot can change, but nothing more than the reality sandwich that’s laced with the sand from that sifting sandcastle.

I have a very good friend that writes like the wind. He’s a writer who at one time made his living at a production company in Los Angeles and he’s relentless in his quest for perfection. His latest screenplay is stellar and he’s been bringing the epic tale to life for two and a half years.

In that time, my friend ‘K’ has written, rewritten, changed outlines, changed complex characters, most of which was in stolen minutes between business meetings and kids sporting events huddled on bleachers. We’ve had countless conversations and meetings year after year. In fairness, not nearly all the meetings were about his story, he’s been instrumental and invaluable to me in my own quest to conquer the war of words.

At long last when ‘K’ finally started to see the lonesome light at the end of his long tunnel, he went into overdrive trying to deliver his latest baby and cut the umbilical cord.

The feeling, anticipation, gratification, and romantic notion of finishing a manuscript is quite remarkable. It conjures up all the countless images told about writers in movies and books that sit down and seem to effortlessly spread words across the pages as if it were as simple as crossing the street.

Even as seasoned a veteran as ‘K’ is when it comes to writing, like all great writers, he’s still a diehard romantic underneath the layers of cynicism and reality.

‘K’ sat hunched over his keyboard – determined to add “THE END” to his latest screenplay. His lips pressed tight, teeth almost gritting, punishing the keys like disobedient children in his quest to cross the finish line.

As ‘K’ finally approached the last few pages his features softened as he tapped the keys like a concert pianist plinking out the denouement of an opera. By the last few lines, his fingers almost whispered to the obliging keys.

After ‘K’ finished, he took a deep breath, blinked hard and pulled his eyebrows and lids as high as he could. He glanced around his office… he was alone. He looked out the office window; grey skies and rain…

The pictures of our ideal romantic notions in our minds rarely get a re-run in reality.

‘K’ laughed knowingly as he shared with me the anti-climatic finishing of his manuscript. My chuckle echoed my understanding.

While striving to create in real life doesn’t always turn up sandcastles, leprechauns, unicorns, and a rainbow dead ending into a pot of gold, but it doesn’t take away the supernatural gift we gain in the process.

THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The sun was clocking out for the day and being run out of town by a vicious storm that goes by the name of El Nino in these parts. I peered out the gym windows rooting for the retreating sun to make a stand, at least for a moment, so that I could make a mad dash to my car.

It doesn’t rain much in Arizona, but when it does it makes up for lost time. Not one of us desert rats in the lobby of the gym trying to wait it out thought to bring an umbrella. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time is a fairly common occurrence in this life.

Back in the days of youthful exuberance and trying to live life as large as the state of Texas I was in a few car wrecks. One, in particular, had a buddy of mine riding shotgun in my little jacked up four wheel drive pickup.

We were sitting at a red light in the right-hand turn lane of a mega intersection in the heart of old Phoenix. The worn full sized three quarter ton faded gold Ford pickup hit us at full speed. I never saw it coming.

While I had zero guilt in the whiplash lesson and could just chalk it up to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, that wouldn’t tell the entire story. The truth is, it was a Saturday night, well Sunday morning technically, and we, like the roughneck that hit us, had just closed down a club. The difference was that the hit and run artist was knee walkin’ drunk.

While we were definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time, no one had us there against our will.

I think the old adage about the wrong place at the wrong time might also apply to more than physical places. In fact, I think sometimes it’s where we’re at mentally that causes us to roam into the wrong places and occasionally harms way physically.

It doesn’t matter if we’re using planes, trains, or automobiles as the vehicles to take us where we desire to go. When ego, pride, and the flesh are driving us we’re headed for a crash. With enough crashes, physically and spiritually, the bumps and bruises begin to guide the chosen and wise.

Drawing nigh unto God in earnest has a way of opening our eyes and minds to see this world more clearly than the amazing gift of our physical eyesight. It also has a way that tends to take us out of harm’s way even when we’re smack in the middle of it.

Peace and joy are found in shedding pride and bathing our soul in humility. What pride seeks to find and fulfill in the flesh that comes up short every time, humility before our Maker delivers; we are lifted up.

Without God’s guidance, we’ll continue to find ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, every time. In Him is where we will always be in the right place at the right time.

The only good in me… is Him.

ANNOYANCES

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Black ink was spilling in somewhat legible lines across the yellow legal pad like a car cruising in overdrive. Limited time coupled with a deep desire and need to write can overcome a great many obstacles, distractions, and annoyances.

I’ve learned to tune out almost everything when I’m in the scarce writing zone. It doesn’t matter if it’s laughing, yelling, or screaming kids if I’m dialed in they’re all white noise in an all white house. But… with time and experience I’ve learned, there are a few things that can render me as helpless to write as Superman is to save the world with a bucket of kryptonite parked on his chest.

I barely noticed the elderly couple that got seated two tables down from where I was seated for breakfast. My pen was recording my thoughts out its tip while waiting for my six egg white omelette.

Then I heard it. My head lifted along with my pen trying to solve the puzzle of what was having the same effect on me as nails on a chalkboard. Bingo. It was the freshly seated gentleman with the black dress slacks, white Oxford type of dress shirt that was tucked in neatly around his generous torso. His black glasses matched his black hair with natural grey distinguishing streaks.

The man’s wife was talking, but he wasn’t paying much attention. As she chatted comfortably he made the most annoying subtle sound with his mouth drowning her out, mostly. With his lower lip pushed out slightly he made a sound that wasn’t quite a whistle, more like a whispering ‘S’ type of sound, “Sss-sss-sss-sss-sss-sss-sss,” and non-stop.

My eye began to twitch in annoyance as I watched him make noise while his wife talked. By the time they got their food my muse had long since jumped ship.

The quiet waiting room at my always tardy skin doctor’s office the next day seemed like the perfect setting to summons my fast and fickle muse. With thoughts and ink flowing again the nurse barking names had no effect on me.

That’s when the elderly couple sat just across and down one chair from me. She talked softly to the grim sun-scarred man as he snatched up a magazine to kill time. The man glimpsed the open pages for a few short seconds before reaching for the bottom corner of the page then snapping it like a towel, almost ripping it from the magazine. He’d repeat the angry page turning every four or five seconds in rhythm.

I try to ponder things, to figure out in circumstances like that why my buttons seem so easy to push. Folks who never consider anybody but themselves and lack basic manners is one reason.

The other is the habit that I too might be a little guilty of… My only saving grace is that I’m not nearly as blatant as Whistler’s Brother and the Page Punisher.

After decades with a spouse, we tend to take them for granted and don’t always show them the love and respect they deserve.

There are lessons and reminders from God all around us every day. Sometimes it’s just in everyday interruptions and annoyances…

You know. Like the ones we ignore in ourselves.