PLATFORM SHOES AND COTTON PICKERS

mens-platform-shoes1427“They’re just soft,” he said.

“They are,” I agreed, my mind churning the thoughts over, and added, “But then again we’re softer than the generation before us.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” my oldest brother agreed.

“I guess we did alright though, we came around,” I mumbled while pondering aloud the next generation directly behind us in God’s chronological time line.

My big brother and I know good and well that as strong or tough as we might think we are, we don’t hold a candle to our predecessors. A lot of that has to do with where we come from and bloodlines we hail from.

I’m also keenly aware of the fact that my big brothers had it light years harder than I did… one of the few perks that come with being the youngest I can assure you.

My brothers were years nearer to the days of my dad and his family hailing from the struggling south. They were closer to the days of their family’s bloody hands and knuckles from draggin’ sacks and pickin’ cotton by hand.

It’s hard to imagine how my dad kept his mouth shut when I was coming of age. As I look back on my teenage years, I realize there is zero chance that I would have been able to bite my tongue the way my dad did.

I wasn’t as concerned with survival as the generation before me. I was more concerned with being cool… While we didn’t have much, I didn’t have to pick cotton. Not only that, but my parents didn’t make me quit school to help put beans on the table like my dad did either. It’s hard for a youngster that doesn’t have to struggle through things like that to consider those kinds of notions…

No sir, we had different priorities in my generation. We had more important issues to dwell and stress over. We had things like platform shoes to consider… When I graduated from eighth grade I proudly sported my platform shoes, the ever-popular leisure suit, and of course the long hair slung over to one side of my face so that it cooly covered my right eye.

While my dad was able to keep a lid on his opinion, my brothers were another matter. If their tongues were swords, I’d have bled out before they ran me through the heart.

At the age I was at the time when platforms and leisure suits ruled the day, I couldn’t have been but a few years older than the age my dad had been when he had to go to school… with no shoes at all…

I was a different person some decades later, just a couple of years before God called my dad home to Him. I cherish the conversation we had when my dad told me that he guessed he was one of the last walking cotton pickers. I suppose he was… and I’m proud of him for that, but I’m prouder for the life of honor that my dad strived for and lived. If I’d been a man with the same messed up priorities that saddled me as a kid, my dad wouldn’t have wasted his breath and heart to share something so intimate.

I think about things like that when I consider the next generation. If a person like me could allow God to wrestle away my crown of foolishness with my free will, I’d say there’s a pretty good chance He will the ones who follow in our footsteps too.

GONE WITH THE WIND- LIFE LESSON

gonewithwind460It was late afternoon on the 31st of December, last week. Like most of the years I’ve been given, I try to squeeze every last ounce of the time allotted to me. I was in my office pushing hard up against the end of the year and wringing every last drop of production out of it that I could muster.

I do, however, have a kryptonite that can pull me away from a task quicker than you can say “daddy’s girl”.

For more years than our youngest can remember she’s been going with me to Barnes and Noble. Specifically the one at a place called Kierland Commons that isn’t too far from our house. I dragged her with me when she was young, of course it didn’t take much coercing since she loves all things books like her dad. Now that she’s older she drags me… not that it takes too much in the way of convincing the book hound in me.

That last day of the year was significant for more than just being the 365th of the year, it was a day of dread for my youngest. It was the beginning of more change, and one in particular that she wasn’t remotely looking forward to. Although she’d been reminding me about the significance of that day for some time, I’d forgotten about in my haste of life and work.

“You wanna go to Barnes and Noble with me?” she asked.

I looked up and over the top of my readers, “Uhhh, right now?” I asked.

She looked at me with her stunning brown eyes that landed her the nickname of “Button eyes” when she was little, “Yeah, dad… our Barnes and Noble is closing today, remember?”

I nodded, “That’s right. Yeah, let’s go,” I said with a new sense of priorities and with the melting heart of a daddy.

While my daughter is young, she’s old enough to know when something special is ending, like another year in this life.

We talked about all the times we’d hung out our local bookstore and the times spent walking around the outdoor mall afterward as I drove us to the place she has driven herself regularly to do homework. I’d drink coffee on our walks, she’d swig the sweetened tea in the warm months and hot chocolate in the cold ones.

The grand bookstore was somber. The employees, some of which my daughter knows personally, wore rectangle faces with lips hanging lower at the outside edges. The fifty percent off shelves looked like the Grinch had just made a haul, pre-heart growing that is…

An unprofessional voice came across the PA system, “Good afternoon Barnes and Noble shoppers. Please wrap up your selections and make your way to the checkout station… This Barnes and Noble will be closing in twenty minutes… forever…

“Awwwwe,” my daughter said with a melancholy smile.

“Everything changes, huh, babe?” I said as I thumbed through the $4.99 CD racks.

We got our last drink at the Starbucks inside the vanishing Barnes and Noble, as much for old times sake as anything else…

Every five minutes a new voice would come on the speaker system and thank us for the support over the last twelve years and remind us that in a few precious minutes their store would be gone permanently … like one of the popular books they sold so often titled, “Gone With The Wind”.

You don’t have to look far or wait for a new year to get another life lesson. Things we cherish all change… Only God alone doesn’t…

The lesson from the closing bookstore that my youngest and I had spent so much time together in was easy for me; I was reminded that the best things in this life are measured within the heart and can’t be calculated by a number… or a building.

To be honest, is was never the bookstore… it was always the precious time with my daughter…

Sometimes it takes change and loss to remind us how much we already have. A good reminder to start the new year off with I think.

A NEW YEAR RIDDLE

k0054029What’s the most precious gift we have, yet we squander it like it has little value? When folks do finally begin to figure out how dear our gift is, they’ll do and try just about anything to get more of that gratuity. All the power and money in the world can’t guarantee any of us we’ll end up with more of what we cherish desperately.

You’ve probably figured out that the gift I’m describing is “time”. Time is a peculiar thing. It represents the measurement of sunups and sundowns all of us are given that make up what we call our life. Big subject.

I don’t mean to tackle it, not that any of us could, in these few simple lines. I ponder mine and at some point everyone does theirs. The lives that cross paths in our given time I believe have purpose and that there are no coincidences.

Most of have thrown time away like the paper that our Christmas presents were wrapped in. Then a funny thing happens; we get so many days that we begin to figure out that tomorrow is less certain to us than it was ten years ago… or yesterday…

Life has it’s ups and downs and none of us are immune from the reality of this fallen world. The paths of our lives are intertwined, for better or worse. All of us stumble along the bumpy trail of life, but to have a word or hand to help one another back up physically or spiritually is a gift inside the amazing gift of life. It’s what we’re called to as Christians.

Thanks to many of you for your heart, words, and prayers for me and my family over this past period of time we call a year that ties three hundred and sixty-five days together like a bale of hay. For those of us that have a bend for writing, we call it a chapter.

Thanks to all who’ve shared in my chapter. I pray blessings upon you and yours in this next chapter of your lives that numbers 2015.

And how ever many days you and I get of this precious life that we measure in time, I pray that it is one of honor and finds us together in eternity with the One who gave us His precious gift…

Happy New Year friends…

A BARNYARD CHIRSTMAS

IT LEANS MORE THAN IT USED TO, BUT THEN SO DOES THE LAZY DOG AND I

IT LEANS MORE THAN IT USED TO, BUT THEN SO DO THE LAZY DOG AND I

I’d fit in well with the now famous gang that lived out on the farm. I’m not sure what my title would be… I suspect it wouldn’t be as charming as “The Little Red Hen’s”. Mine might be more in line with the her barnyard buddies; The Lazy Dog, A Sleepy Cat, and The Noisy Yellow Duck. I suppose my title could be “The Grouchy Man”.

That’s what it feels like and probably what I look like when it comes time to decorate the house for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve come to appreciate and desire the festive decorations like The Lazy Dog, Sleepy Cat, and Noisy Duck do the freshly baked bread. I, like they, want the benefits without the earning it.

Unlike the barnyard gang, I know the working part of the scenario. Before we start I know the role appointed to me around the house isn’t so different than that of The Little Red Hen’s… only the attitude is… Some things are too heavy and our twelve-year-old Christmas tree is the same amount of feet as it is in years. So along with the weight, the high work, that’s mine too.

Hauling the massive step ladders from around the side of the house, navigating them through the house without knocking anything over or taking chunks out of the walls is an art. One perfected over time and many-uh-season.

While I was standing close to the top rung of the ladder, I was trying to untangle one strand of the cream beads with golden accents. A heavy hand that believes strength can overcome all adversities ended with milky colored beads falling from ten feet up in the air like rain… When they finally did stop bouncing off the stone floor, it looked like a movie set for a classic slapstick comedy.

“Where at?” I asked my wife who was directing me like a traffic cop while I held out the red ornament about as far as I was able, still holding onto the grand ladder, and spoiling gravity’s fun… for the moment… The useless metal clip that has been long gone from the top of that ole ornament forced me to use the threaded loop to lasso one of the artificial branches that hung just about out of reach.

The tired and overused red ball hung proudly there for about a second and a half before plummeting to its death and leaving microscopic glass shards everywhere. I sighed deeply, fighting the frustration within me that often seems to have even more pull than gravity, as I descended back to earth to grab the vacuum.

The dread of the inevitable frustrations, I can’t deny, but neither can I deny the gratification that follows most any discipline in this life.

The grand tree with the glowing lights ignites the night and overwhelms the senses. It points to the endless battle that rages within a fallen world and the supernatural power of free will given to us by God to overcome instinct.

I pray all of us might use ours to honor Him this season and all across the year.

The Christmas tree looks pretty good, even with all the dead lights… As much as I dread the process of baking the bread or setting up for Christmas, I find it’s well worth the payoff.

I gotta quit hanging out with the barnyard animals… they’re a bad influence.

Merry Christmas and God bless.

SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS

Some days are better than others

She’s not to big to hang out with her dad…

“What are you doing this weekend? my youngest daughter questioned me.

“Why?” I answered her with a suspicious one of my own. I’ve come to learn that some days are better than others but had no idea what was in store for me this one.

“I was wondering if you wanted to hang out?” she told me.

“With you?” I asked a little caught off guard.

“Yeah – I thought we could hang out since I had to work the weekend of your birthday,” she explained.

“Of course – that’ll be great babe,” I answered, pleased as punch.

My youngest wasn’t around much, what with her hectic schedule that juggles school activities, work, and not to mention she’s sixteen and it’s not so cool to hang out with your dad. All that had me not exactly holding my breath on a follow up of it actually happening.

When she was little we went together like peanut butter and jelly. On the weekends, she’d go to work with me. When the weather was nice she’d use blocks of cut lumber to build and create her own little villages for hours on end while I worked close by.

On the rare days of bad weather, I’d leave her in my truck with the engine running and the heater toasting her warmly. It didn’t take her too long to figure out how to use the horn as my reminder that she was there waiting for me. Even after I urged her to not use the horn, it was of little use. She figured out too that it made me laugh every time she laid on the horn and made it play a one note song.

Being a little kid at heart, after my half day of work on Saturday was done, it was my pleasure to swing by the local amusement park. We played miniature golf, rode the go-carts, her in my lap. We played video games, pinball, and one of her all time favorites; air hockey. She didn’t know when she was small I’d let her win.

I didn’t think much of that tradition at the time, but we’d always wrap up our outing, after cashing in the cache of tickets to exchange for the cheap trinkets, of course, by stopping at the photo booth for carnival type black and white photos… sure glad I did that.

I was surprised again when my daughter asked me if I was ready to go the next weekend.

“Where we going?” I asked.

“You’ll see,” my little one teased… I have no idea where she learned to do that…

I wasn’t shocked that our very first stop on “hang out” day was Cracker Jax, our old stomping grounds. It’s changed a bit, looks older, like me I guess. They don’t have pinball machines anymore and a new laser tag has gobbled up most of the arcade space. But the place was still magical. Not so much the place as it was the precious time and memories made with my daughter there.

Like the old arcade has changed, so has my daughter and myself to a lesser degree. I don’t let her win at air hockey anymore… she does that on her own occasionally without any help from me.

The little girl I once carried like a football is fully grown now… she’s taller than her mom, but not too old to sit on my knee in the photo booth at the end of one of our amusement park outings. Birthday presents just don’t get any better than that in this life.

“Did you have fun, dad?” my daughter asked, knowing full well the answer, but just wanted to hear me say it.

“It was great, babe. It couldn’t have been any better, thanks, babe.”

“You’re welcome,” she said… beaming like the twinkle of her in her dad’s eyes…