FRIENDS

Certain days stand out among the masses we’re gifted to get. I had one of those today, and not just because I got presents. I met with friends over a late morning cup of coffee – friends I’d never met before.

Although we’d never laid eyes on one another, I knew them, especially Mary. I knew her warm personality and caring nature. Yeah, words are that powerful.

I met Mary via our sites, hers is Piles of Smiles, aptly named, by the way. We both call Arizona home, Mary, and Tom in the high pine country, me in the sweltering Valley of the Sun. The “I-17” connects us, but before it was blacktop, it was the internet. Kinda reverse how it used to be.

I walked in a few minutes late only to be greeted by Mary’s brilliant blue eyes and contagious smile. Then the hug, despite my slightly sweaty shirt, to let me know I was among friends… family really.

Tom, Mary’s husband, reminded me of my cousins; a Vietnam veteran at ease in his skin. The type of man you look up to, and not just because of his imposing stature.

We chatted about life, family, of course, writing, and God, along with our mutual understanding of His sovereignty.

Here’s the thing about real friends; they give it to you straight. They warn you upfront that they’re being honest, which I’ve come to figure out the only kind of honesty there in in this world is what we call the “brutally honest” type.

friends

A Hillbilly Memoir

Over the years I’ve had a lot of friends, and family for that matter, discard my words, had more than a few unsubscribe from this site for various reasons. I’ve learned or instinctually developed calluses when it comes to feedback regarding my writing.

But writing and editing are different than asking an acquaintance, “How you doin’ today?” The obligatory, “Fine, how are you,” expecting the same generic response won’t do for someone trying, as Mary says, “to polish their writing.”

Of course, Mary’s words have merit. She’s kind, generous, and gifted with wisdom from God. Mary spent so much of her gift of time on my words that she spoke in detail about the manuscript that she edited for me. The good stuff first… followed by the truth.

I left my pride and ego in my truck. Funny how those traits distort hearing… then understanding… and finally wisdom.

Mary’s edit is going to cause me a boat load of work… but I do believe the manuscript will be better because of her work and honesty.

A good friend will do everything they can to deliver truth as gently as possible. I didn’t even need a Kleenex. Of course, Mary and Tom’s gifts of cookies, pumpkin biscotti, and a book for my new grandson helped.

Isn’t that just like a good friend? Even if I did just meet them today.

Stop by Mary’s site here. Tell her that her friend Floyd sent you.

ON THE ROAD

I think about Dave Dudley from time to time. And yes, usually when I’m on the road.

It didn’t seem like it, but Dave Dudley was a bad influence for kids way back when. Mr. Dudley was in a hurry to get home and was unashamed by the fact that he was breakin’ the law to get there – post haste.

With my driving record, I try to be more mindful of the speed limit these days. I learned in traffic school, over and over, that cops on a highway, generally speaking, give folks about a ten mile an hour leeway. After that, you’re throwin’ the dice.

On my way out of town on business, I set the cruise control right at ten miles an hour over – feeling pretty impressed with my willpower to do so. There was a time when a gas pedal, any gas pedal, owned me.

Sleeping in a strange bed and eating in restaurants, usually by yourself, has a way of making most of us a tad homesick. Or at least sick of not sleeping and crummy food.

When work was done I was like an antsy dog desperate for a walk.

It was windy and raining. The sky was black, grey, and brown. The Arizona desert was getting a rare break, the saguaros, creosotes, and mesquites were drinking up the sky.

I set the cruise control to ten over, cranked the satellite radio to trek the lonely blacktop that’s so far out in the middle of nowhere that an A.M. radio airwave couldn’t find it back in the day.

I waited for oncoming traffic to clear before I passed the stray eighteen wheelers, justification for speeding, pulling back to ten over less and less with each pass.

The speed felt like an old sweatshirt.

Speeding is a lot like parking; park in the loneliest part of an empty lot and it attracts others like flowers do bees… and speeding does cops.

The Nissan, desperate to catch this Dave Dudley disciple, didn’t see the cop hiding behind the creosotes in the median. My stomach shot a little bit of poison when I saw that cop pull out with his lights flashing.

The cop could have had a red light special; two for one, but he settled for the trailing Nissan.

Bending the rules isn’t like adding a little bit of white paint to a big bucket of black. In their purest form, there’s only black and white, right and wrong, there is no grey. And trying to justify our actions to suit our emotions reveals the hypocrite in us.

I throttled it back to nine over. And when the miles were counting down from being on the road, Dave Dudley, and his famous tune, came back to me for an encore visit.

“My home town’s uh-comin’ in sight – If you think I’m-uh-happy, you’re right! Six days on the road and I’m-uh-gonna make it home tonight.”

BLACK LICORICE

There are only two type of people in this world; those of us who love black licorice and those misguided folks that don’t.

Everybody knows that Choo Choo Charlie was an engineer, but black licorice lovers understand better the mastery of the cartoon character behind every box of Good-N-Plenty black licorice candy.

black licorice

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

As a kid, I’d devour anything black licorice, including black jelly beans, like a hungry dog does a piece of meat. I remember thinking that there really was justice for kids in a bossy world – once I discovered black licorice at the health food store. It’s not just every day a kid gets to put adults in their places.

With enough time, like Paul wrote about, I put away childish ways; Hot Wheels, skateboards, and eventually black licorice… until a few months ago.

My wife brought home my childhood favorite from Sprouts. Thick, about three-quarters of an inch across, and around an inch and a half long black licorice rope.

Now, in general, I don’t think much of advertisements, or advertisers for that matter, but a few of them were so effective their hook line is still stuck in my head… like a hook line and sinker is in the mouth of a greedy catfish.

I remember the potato chip pitch man’s proclamation; “Lays Potato Chips. You can’t eat just one”. Son of a gun if he wasn’t right. I tried it, more than once, and never mind one, or even two chips for that matter, I couldn’t stop until the whole bag was gone… including the crumbs that we’d tip the bag up like a bottle of soda to empty down our gullets.

Most things are like that for me… including black licorice. I devoured the bag of licorice and went to the store to restock my re-found habit personally.

Funny thing about everything in this life; even the things that are good for you, if done to excess, become bad for you… and yeah, that goes for black licorice too.

It took a trip to the hospital for heart issues, then some relapse symptoms the next week for me to put two and two together… after another ten piece licorice night.

Who knew? Black licorice is a natural stimulant… and somewhere along the way, with me paying zero attention, the F.D.A came out with a warning that black licorice could cause heart arrhythmia… and possibly death.

There’s wisdom in the old adage, “Everything in moderation” when we live it out.

I guess it’s not a coincidence that the things God’s word warns us about for the health of our spirit also pertains to the health of our bodies; the temples of His Holy Spirit.

I’ll use the black licorice incident to help remind me that in this flesh we can get too much of a good thing.

I’m gonna miss black licorice.

ANY DREAM WILL DO

Our youngest is artistic. That’s a double-edged sword, but it’s her’s to wield… and she’s not afraid to swing it. But if the passion is worthy, any dream will do.

Our kids change our world from before the day they’re born and never cease to again… for better or worse.

I never was much on plays or musicals, except that one time I played the Tin Man in our junior high school rendition of The Wizard of Oz. And that was just in our tiny English class with the desks shoved to one side of the room.

It was way more exciting, not to mention nerve-wracking, to watch our youngest sing and dance across the stage as Dorothy, in the same play we butchered as kids when she was in high school.

The two youngest, especially the last one, are drawn to plays and musicals like a bee is to a Hibiscus. She managed to find her way into theaters and auditoriums. She even convinced her parents to pop for tickets to see her favorite movie and play, along with her two big sisters, on Broadway in the Big Apple; Phantom of the Opera for her sixteenth birthday.

I had chances to see plays and operas across my life. I ducked them like a professional dodgeball player, but our children have a way of aiming for the heart with pinpoint accuracy.

I’d never heard the song before, which is pretty odd for me. The song was written in the late sixties when I was still a little kid. It would take our youngest to introduce the famous song to her simpleton parents.

Now I’m pretty familiar with the story in the Bible, it’s one of my favorites. I’d even heard of the Broadway production and its megastar, but I’d never seen or heard anything about the music itself.

In fact, I do recall silently scoffing the production… like unpolished folks do things they don’t understand. That is until my baby had a role in Joseph’s Technicolor Dream Coat.

Before the play was finished I had a new perspective and appreciation for the arts. And that song written in part by Andrew Lloyd Weber has been stuck in my head ever since.

I witnessed the months and hours that were equivalent to a full-time job put in by the cast, including our daughter, pay off big. The play ran for a couple of weeks to standing ovations nightly.

We root and cheer for our children. Sometimes silently, other times with clapping and wolf whistles… then we pray for them without ceasing.

Our children’s lives, at some point, begin to shape our world the way ours once did theirs… for better or worse. When they belong to the Father His sovereign hand tips the better side of the scale.

And Donny Osmond summed up what I’ve been trying to teach all of them their entire lives; when we know Him, “Any Dream Will Do”.

BURNOUT

It started innocently enough, just a simple game of playing catch, but inevitably the baseball would pick up more and more velocity. Pretty soon my buddies and I would be hurling the ball like Catfish Hunter. The baseball smacking the leather gloves sounded like gunshots playing the game called “Burnout”.

The game of burnout is like most activities; they take some skill, a fair amount of guts, but the sense of gratification from doing it is worth the risk.

Another kind of burnout we grew up with was one created by power, horsepower that is, and it was usually accompanied by the roar of a V-8 from Detroit back in the muscle car era.

burnout

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

Drop the right foot, snatch the left one off the clutch, and presto; burnout, tires spinning, smoking, squealing, and little kid’s jaws hanging in awe. We were waiting for the years to roll like those tires so we could have our turn to a burnout… or two.

If a person lives long enough we all discover another type of burnout. The kind that longs for a break from whatever it is that has occupied us, possessed us and worn us down like back tires from too many burnouts.

All of us have participated in the game of burnout. Maybe not the stinging fastball that inevitably sneaks past the mitt. Or the kind where the rubber and pavement chew on each other, growling, screaming, and smoking.

Wisdom and intellect from God have a way of not just preparing us for burnout, but the keys to get it behind us.

I just finished a manuscript that I started over four years ago… the last forty thousand of the ninety-four plus words in the last two weeks… not to mention the twenty plus re-writes that are looming in the future.

None of us know when the ghost of writer’s block will pay us a visit. And because he’s hung his invisible hat around here so often in the past, I prepare for his always inopportune visits.

I write ahead. That’s why losing my briefcase with a different manuscript and three months worth of posts inside, a few months back, left me with instant mental burnout.

Of this I’m certain; none of us sit in the sweet spot between slothdom and over-achiever status in this fallen world. We’re either not doing enough or we’re doing too much… and beating ourselves up on both sides of the scales.

If it were up to me? I want… but give me what I want and I’ll toss it aside like a little kid ripping open packages at Christmas. And rest alone, without the soothing spirit of God can’t fix burnout. It’s that easy burden, that light yoke that our Savior told us about.

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.

Bye, bye, burnout. (sung to the tune “Bye Bye Blackbird”)