Twas the day after Thanksgiving and out in the garage
Were the Christmas boxes stuffed behind my old Dodge
I began to unpack them yet again with dread
There were no sugar plums dancing around in my head

I knew the massive fake tree would test my patience
Along with my poor patched up back’s endurance
Each box has gotta weigh at least a hundred pounds
No holiday cheer here, just my straining and grunting sounds

It takes half a day to get the tree up and in place
And there’s always a short in the lights to trace
That’s when I make my first trip to the hardware store
I’ve learned the hard way that there will be more

With the heavy part over, now comes the dangerous part
By that time I have the same attitude and the Grinch’s heart
With the tall extension ladder leaned against the wall
It’s carefully and ever so slowly up the rungs I crawl

I wince and am quickly reminded that I have bad knees
Till a thorn sinks deep into me from the bougainvillea trees
The neighbors stop by, I keep working till they feel ill at ease
When I’m putting up lights I’m never in the mood to shoot the breeze

The lights were working just fine when I put them away last year
How a lot of them don’t work from year to year is never clear
So it’s down the ladder and back in my truck
They’ll still have my color if I have any luck

With the lights finally done it’s on to the yard
It’s a lot lighter but still way too hard
The trees are fairly easy, but not so with the deer
Takes a genius to put them together, or darn near

As it is with the lights so it is with the extension cord
How they always go missing drives me outta my gourd
So it’s back yet again to the hardware store
They know me by name, smile and hold the door

sometimes the gift is the gratification from the work

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment
And forget even these gifts are heaven sent
We gaze at the lights as the sun goes down
And my weak flesh lets go of the frown

It’s a gift to have a task at hand
A wise person begins to understand
This is a blessed and glorious season
And the gift of God and His Son is the reason


The airline I frequently use has three boarding groups; the A’s, B’s, and the C’s. The young man was loitering in the front of the line of the A group long before the boarding call.

image courtesy of

I’ve been in the front of the line or the A group more than a few times. It’s reserved for the person that is the most unorganized, has a last minute emergency, or spends the most money, or all the above.

I landed a seat right by the gateway that gave me an up-close look at the young man at the front of the A-line. You had to look closely to see him, ’cause he was wearing all sorts of distractions.

He had a dark, but thin, mustache and goatee on his innocent young face. He looked like he could have been a relative of Johnny Depp… but he didn’t dress like it.

The man’s mud-colored boots were the cowboy kind. Not the sharp-toed stab-the-stirrup kind of boot. They were the “Roper” kind of shoe wear that let everybody know that he was country.

His jeans were faded but without holes. The legs crinkled around the boots and hung halfway down the wooden two-inch heels. You couldn’t seem much of his button up shirt that was hidden by his midnight blue zip-up jacket covering it.

The jacket had patches all over it, but the biggest and most prominent ones were the famous logo for NASCAR on both sides of the zipper, about chest high. The young man’s bandana worn like a tight scarf matched the color of his NASCAR jacket, a few brown locks peeked out from underneath in the back.

His cowboy hat was white, or it used to be. It was more of a cream color with hints of yellow from the sweat. It was a real cowboy hat, not the ten-gallon type, but the kind with the front and back brim curled down to protect the neck and face from the sun.

I notice characters. But too often I prematurely judge them.

There are plenty of places in the world where the young man probably wouldn’t stand out in the crowd – like a NASCAR race.

It’s a fallen human nature that begins to judge without thinking. That’s when we have a lapse in wisdom.

When they called the A boarding group the kid just stood in the way. By the time they got to my group I had to step around the kid. I didn’t say anything, but I was perturbed. I was in my seat by the time the kid and his C group boarded.

Nothing worse than a middle-aged person who’s been shown mercy and grace not using it on others.

Before I felt bad for the kid I felt bad about myself. Who is a dude with hair too long, that wears T-shirts with either workout or beach logos, to point an invisible finger?

Regret and repentance followed. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Being in the A group that really counts is a matter of grace.


Hillbilly Storm Watch – A REPOST from August 2012

“The clouds are rollin’ in,” I noted the obvious.

“Looks like a storm,” she agreed.

“Might cool it off,” I mumbled.

“Mmm hmm,” she replied

I realized we sounded like something straight out of a Hee Haw rerun – a couple of hillbillies using just enough sounds to get our unneeded point across. A hillbilly storm watch.

Hillbilly Storm Watch

Some storms you can see coming for miles away, others, well, they can sneak up on ya’. Storms don’t sneak up on a person so easy in west Texas… but that’s another story… Some of the bad storms bring danger, but even when we know there’s a possibility of danger, we see the majestic beauty in a distant storm.

As we watched the threatening dark sky bear down on us, I thought about the other kind of storms; those storms that blow in just like the storm we were watching, but don’t have anything to do with the weather. If the storms of life could be compared to the real live ones, then it’s been hurricane season around here for the last five years or so… no sign of letting up neither…

“Maybe it’ll skirt around us?” I wondered aloud.

“Maybe?” my wife mumbled back.

“The desert could use some rain,” I spouted another unneeded observation. My wife didn’t even bother to respond to that one… She’s not much of a hillbilly anyway…

Interesting how the physical storms bring danger but sometimes needed turmoil that cleans and provides the basics of things needed for life, just in abundance. That’s easy to see in the physical reality of this world, but not so easy regarding our spiritual lives.

All the stormy seasons of life have left us with things we use in our lives… I don’t believe in bad luck. Period. I believe there are consequences to our actions or lack thereof, and for the choices we make. Sometimes the biggest blessings come from rebuilding after the big storms of our lives have blown through.

The cleanup process can take time, but we don’t leave the mess, we always clean it up and we become a little more prepared for the next time a storm blows through.

“You ready?” I asked.

“Yep,” my wife pushed out of her chair. She is sounding more like a hillbilly every day. “Think the dogs’ll be alright?”

“They’re dogs,” I answered. “They’ll be fine…”

Maybe we need to start looking for the beauty in those spiritual storms like we do the weather ones. It could very well be that the season of our storms won’t pass until our perspective does…


I went to the mall the other day. Things have changed. Almost as much as me. As a kid going to the brand-spankin’ new indoor mega-malls, I never envisioned being back in one as a grandpa.

I rode the escalators, ran down the “Up” and up the “Down”, in the mall in San Bernardino CA. I was mesmerized by them like I was a ride at Disneyland.

It was in ’73 or ’74 when I went with a friend’s family to Phoenix. Metro Center, what was then the northwest edge of town, was sparkling new. A few years later we wound up living just over two miles away from Metro Center.

Mega-malls were like magnets for kids. Metro not only had the state of the art theatres, it had an ice skating rink and an amusement park with a humongous arcade. Pinball heaven.

Add a couple more years and a driver’s license on top of a muscle car I wish I’d never sold, and Metro had become the place to cruise. The 300 plus acre site was jammed with teenagers and gas fumes on Friday and Saturday nights.

But time changes as do people. Toss several more years into the history of mall going, like Metro Center and its sister mega mall Paradise Valley Mall, on the northeast part of the valley, and I didn’t have the same priority and I was of age… but that’s a story for another time.

By that point in my life, I was a consumer. I was one of the young adults that frequented the hip shoe and clothing stores that blared obnoxious music. It was the eighties and thin leather ties that matched shoes were the rage… I’m glad I don’t have too many pictures to remind me of what a fool I was.

went to the mall

a tired parking lot that used to be wall to wall cars

The years that followed were the dark days of mall going. I avoided them at all costs. I went a few times to Paradise Valley Mall, necessitated by the kids mostly, a knife and cigar shop did lure me more than once.

By the time the kids were teenagers, they didn’t hang at the mega malls like we once did. Times had changed.

Mr. B, my grandson’s nickname, loves the mall like I did as a kid. He glares wide-eyed at the escalators and the enormity of the mega-mall space. When I set him down his little legs carry him faster than I can walk.

I’m still getting a kick out of mega malls, but for vastly different reasons.

Our grandkids won’t be passing down memories of the mega malls. The malls are just about extinct.

I looked around PV mall. Almost half of the stores are empty now. As we walked out, Mr. B cradled on my right forearm, my wife pointed out the Fortune Teller store by the exit. The rent’s cheap and the landlord is desperate.

It cost a hundred million to build Metro Center in 1970. It sold last in 2012 for twelve million… more than an 88% drop in value.

Trends change and people change, but the only truly valuable things we have in this life can’t be measured by a number or location.

I went to the mall the other day.


It happened quite by accident I can assure you, which is a down right shame. It was one of those times when you’re reminded of something subtle, but something that has faded into history like a Hula hoop.

I’m not sure why it’s so easy to get distracted and betrayed by technology and creature comforts. Then again, most of us overestimate the strength of our fallen flesh.

When I was a boy in the sixties and seventies, life was different in a lot of ways, but just one of those differences in day to day life was automobiles.

Cruising was still en vogue. People were still smitten by the idea of a decent car that could take you from point A to point B. Sometimes it was like Chuck Berry said, “With no particular place to go.”

We get in our vehicles now-a-days and they fire right up with no special skills needed. That wasn’t the case back when most cars were half a block long and burned oil like gas and leaked it like a sieve.

Each car or truck was different. One you’d have to pump the gas peddle like you were keeping time to “Dueling Banjos”. If you pumped other ones more than twice the carburetor would flood and you’d be stuck.

I even learned from watching how to talk to a vehicle to entice it to start. My dad and brothers would turn the key, brows pinched, a stern look required. While they were pumping the peddle they’d talk to the vehicle, “C’mon – c’mon – c’mon!” With each repeated “C’mon”, their voice would raise an octave.

If and when that old engine would fire yet again it was a small victory. You could see the satisfaction on their faces.

down right shame

image courtesy of

The windows in those days, in majority, were hand cranks and air conditioning was rare. We had a/c in a Plymouth Fury once, but it worked for like a day. And when it did work any hill or warm day was more than the old Mopar could bear.

We had priorities then that most people don’t have to contemplate anymore. It was Arizona and no air conditioning. We drove with the windows down and we didn’t worry a whole lot about our hair getting messed up. If I was riding instead of hoofing, it was all good.

It’s cooling off in Arizona this time of year, especially at nights. It still heats up pretty good in the day yet.

Our garage was holding heat from the day before. I didn’t want my protein bar to melt before I got to it so I hit all the electrical switches in my truck and rolled down the front and back windows to cool the cab off. I was engulfed by a beautiful fall morning. The sounds and smell of the outside were all around me – just like when I was a kid.

Some of the greatest gifts we have we lock out of our lives because of the minor gifts we’ve come to define our lives by… and that’s a down right shame.