WINDOW SHOPPING

We sauntered along the old scenic city sidewalks after dinner stopping at each little downtown shop. Some stores were closed, but that didn’t stop our curiosity and window shopping.

The little town saddling route 66 was bustling. Restaurants, bars, hotels, art stores, and even horse drawn carriage rides behind a massive Clydesdale. My wife and mom are more adept shoppers than I am. It seems like women tend to be a little more smitten with ogling objects, even if they don’t really want or need them than men.

I followed the two most important women in my life patiently. They’d show me or point to something and I’d nod thoughtfully with no expression, the way men do after they’ve been worn down by life… and women shopping…

I took a break from a few stores in the cooling Northern Arizona air and people watched and listened. While the window shoppers were doing their thing I strolled over to get a close-up look at the horse that had just dropped his latest fare.

Just west along Route 66 was another store… there’s always another store. “Oh, Floyd! You’ve got to come in here – you’re gonna love it!” my mom said. When people that know you very well say things like that there’s a pretty good chance they’re right.

While my mom, my wife and myself don’t have the exact same taste, we do all share the appreciation and love of art.

Generally, women are famous for their shopping prowess, it just takes the right product to turn men from spectators into passionate participants. It didn’t take a whole lot of time for the reversal of roles to take effect, “Diane – look at this!” I whispered too loudly, “How cool is that?” I asked my wife drinking in the scratchboard art with my eyes the way a thirsty man does water in the Arizona summer.

“Yeah, that’s amazing,” my wife agreed as I went to round up my mom to show her the cowboy sipping a cup-uh-Joe.

The truth is, I wanted that artwork. It wasn’t that much money for a numbered piece of art, but after a lifetime of self-discipline I just couldn’t justify it. I was happy to have been able to see it and appreciate it.

I think that’s one of the issues we as a society face today; many of us believe we have to own or have title and possession of something to enjoy it. We forget the show of God we participate in daily; the majesty of a sunrise and a sunset as well as the birds flying in between cost us nothing. We take for granted the window shopping of God’s creation.

window shopping

The Cowboy Sipping A Cup-Uh-Joe

I’ve come to realize the best things in life can’t be purchased. We have to accept them as the free gifts that they are and if they had a price tag… not one of us could afford it anyway.

Imagine my surprise two months later when my wife smiled and said, “Hang on a second,” then came back in with the Cowboy sipping a cup of coffee for my birthday.

It too makes for fine window shopping. Enjoy…

THE NEXT GENERATIONS

Folks my age and older have a tendency to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to judging and making declarations about the next generations. I’m not saying that some, maybe even most of what is said about them isn’t true, but we rarely stop to consider the world they viewed with wide-eyed wonder when it was their turn.

The things that the next generations have possessed are rarely caused by them…

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

I remember my dad telling us about his life on the farm. About pickin’ cotton as the son of a dirt-poor sharecropper. He chuckled as he rarely reminisced his early years and the lack of running water, the shared outhouse, and the JC Penney catalog.

That catalog was a valuable commodity for poor folks. A person, young or old, could flip through the pages and dream of having the finer things in life. They could fantasize about the distant future when they might have running water, fine clothes, and a home that could keep the snow out.

But that was a distant future and life for others. Their life was ripping those dreams out page by page, day by day, to use for what folks with running water and indoor plumbing could afford not to.

A kid from a more privileged upbringing has a hard time relating to other people’s stories from a generation when the standard of living sounded like something from a John Steinbeck novel.

My dad’s older sister lived in the same simple manner the majority of her life. That fact gave my siblings and I a taste of the world and the generation that forged the trail in front of us.

The California desert along the Colorado River is dreadfully hot in the Southwest summertime. Counting my aunt, uncle, and all the cousins, there were nine of them that shared  the outhouse that was about fifty yards from the house. Not nearly far enough when the rare summer breeze kicked up. Using that facility brought a real meaning for what that generation used to describe as, “God-awful”.

I pondered my kin that used it every single day. I thought about my dad’s family of eleven that shared the same type of life. The nine by nine room I shared with my two brothers along with the shower all six of us split time using took on a whole new level of appreciation.

I’ve lamented a time or two over my kids and their perspective on life. They never asked to live in the manner that we’ve provided. The life the next generations know is the one we built and painted for them.

I lay in bed pondering my dreams and prayers. It’s easy to fall into the trap of our answered prayers. We tend to cherish the provision sometimes over the Provider.

I thought of the humble and sweet prayers of the simple man that uttered them in earnest. Then I prayed the words again with the same honesty, “Father, thank you so much for Your protection and provision. For the roof over our heads, for this warm bed.”

I slept like a baby remembering that God loves a humble heart.

May the next generations learn that from Him and this one.

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.