Christian of The Year
⚽ Our neighbors (Mary Beth & John) are great friends and for the past year have suffered some medical setbacks so my wife and I try to lend a hand whenever possible. Last week John needed to cut his grass for the first time this Spring, but his John Deere riding mower refused to start. I’m moderately good at working on small engines so I loaned him my riding mower, which is identical to his, while I investigated the problem.
What I discovered was that since his mower had not been used for 6 months, the gasoline had evaporated in his carburetor and gummed up the little holes inside that let the gas escape into the engine? So, I removed the carburetor, grabbed my air compressor hose, and with a few extra squirts of compressed air, cleaned it out. I reinstalled the carb, turned the key, and it fired up. It felt good to hear that motor whirring away. Total time to fix the balky engine was 3-4 hours.
I returned the tractor feeling good that I had helped my neighbors. A couple of days later I’m out in the front yard picking up pinecones and sticks and their daughter (Robin) is backing out of their driveway. She pulls up to the curb beside me and thanked me for repairing her Dad’s lawn tractor and smilingly said, “I think you are a good candidate for Christian of The Year” and drove away. I stood there watching her as she departed, thinking boy that was a nice thing to say. I wondered if there was such a thing and shouldn’t we all strive to be that person?
There are 4,200 religions in the world, and they can be categorized into five categories: Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism & Judaism. So, pick your category and try to be a candidate for that “Person of The Year”. In my opinion, your God wants you to be that person. If you know someone that could be that person, tell them. You know how good that made me feel 😊.
Mother Teresa said it quite tenderly “Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand.”
⚽ Country singer, Charley Pride, has a song titled, “It Seems I’m Always Standing in My Way”. Sometimes, I feel the same way. I have it on my list to clean my workshop, a big endeavor, and I constantly find other things to do, which at the time I feel is just as important, but I know they aren’t. I need to get back to playing my guitar, but I tell myself at the end of the day that I’m too tired, so that gets put aside.
When I look back over the last few years, I can see a pattern of my “Standing in My Way”. Perhaps, when we perceive a task as difficult, we’re inclined to find something to take its place, something much easier to accomplish. I find that if I have a clear vision on the outcome of my endeavor, I’m more inclined to want to get that particular thing done.
Consequently, the tough things get placed in the “undone” pile and stay there for a pretty long time. The question is, how do I change that? Well, I have decided to overcome that tendency by picking at least one difficult each week and staying with it until it’s accomplished. So, next week my difficult task is going to be cleaning the workshop. My wife made the comment the other day that she had never seen it so “messy”. After I finish it, I will take her hand and lead her to it and boast loudly, “The workshop is clean!” (probably repeating it several times). 😊.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said,”.
⚽ “Your dog only loves you because you have food”. I ran across that statement the other day and wondered if that were true? We do not own a pet, but a lot of our friends and family do, and I refuse to think that their pets feel that way. Growing up, my brother and I always had a dog, but they always got distemper (inflammation of nose and throat) and within a week would pass away. We could not afford the distemper shot that was available at the pharmacy (15 miles away) and consequently our pets would expire. I recall that Dad let us get two puppies from a litter of pups that a friend of ours had and I named mine “Pete” and my brother named his “Re-Pete” because they looked the same. We had to keep them in the basement since Mom wouldn’t allow them inside our home. In a few weeks Pete died, and sure ‘nuff, shortly thereafter Re-Pete did the same thing. My brother and I told this “Pete & Re-Pete” story to all our friends, and they thought it was funny. We were sad they passed but made the best of the situation. Young boys can be insensitive at times. Today, families spend hundreds of dollars to keep their pets healthy and treat them like family. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. I have always believed that when our pets die, they go up and sit on a rainbow, waiting for us to pick them up on our way to Heaven. Eight of them should be waiting for me.
Bertrand Wilberforce nailed it when he said, “Dogs are evidently intended by God to be our companions, protectors, and in many ways, examples.”
⚽ Did you know that forty of the fifty world’s tallest mountain peaks are in Pakistan? Knowing that little fact can help us understand how difficult our battles were in that war-plagued country. I grew up in the mountains of southwest Virginia and our mountains would be rolling hills compared to Pakistan😊. But as a kid, I always thought they were tall. More than likely they are about one thousand feet high. Mountaineers are a sturdy group, always going up or down a hill. That builds stamina. As a kid on my bicycle, it was fun racing downhill at tremendous speed, but the trip back up required a lot of energy. I think the constant walking up and down hills, carrying coal in a bucket, and chopping kindling were responsible for the muscle core that made life easier for me throughout my many years on this wonderful planet. Which reminds me that on June 24th of this year I will complete 29,000 spins on this planet we all call home. I am looking forward to that very important day. I am aware that maybe I’m the only person you know that counts the number of earthly rotations they make. Most of just count our trips around the Sun. I still enjoy my yearly trips back home to enjoy the mountains of my youth. They haven’t changed a lot, but then again, mountains seldom do unless you take a bulldozer to them. On top of one of those mountains, way up in a holler called “Clell”, is buried my great grandpa, “Pap” Hale. I doubt his grave has been visited in 50 years. I wonder if I could still find it. He was born in 1868 and died in 1961 and was very active up until the age of 90, thereafter slowing down considerably. After that he mostly sat around reading the Bible and getting ready for his final trip. He never talked to us about his life. I surely wish he had.
Chauncey Wright said so eloquently, “Looking from the mountains, I always think faster and freer and better, but about anything rather than the landscape. It seems so much better to talk from the beauty than of it, but value it like meat and drink, the pure air and… my cigar, only for the excitement it gives,”. I especially like the part about the cigar😊.
An Old Guy & His Dog
֎ Recently, I was sitting on a park bench in the middle of a shopping mall when an old guy walked up with his Golden Retriever and sat down on a bench in the middle of the square. Within a few minutes, a young woman came over and started talking to the man and petting his dog. As soon as she left, another came and the process continued for the entire 45 minutes I sat on my bench waiting for my wife to return from her shopping endeavors. It’s not a big leap to assume this guy does this every single day. Loneliness can become overwhelming. I have two close friends that are homebound and their constant complaint is that of being alone. Probably, all of us can name a few people that have been excluded from normal activities because of health problems. That is especially prevalent as we get older and our bodies start to forsake us. It is easy to criticize those with failing health; didn’t eat healthy, didn’t exercise, drank too much, smoked, overweight, etc. Murray Kempton said, “A critic is someone who comes onto the battlefield after the battles are over and shoots the wounded”. Sounds a lot like I was being critical of the old man in the shopping mall. I need to do better!
֎ I read an article the other day by Jacob Mikanowski about the most prominent language spoken on our wonderful planet. To my surprise it was English. Over 400 million people speak it as their first language and more than one billion use it as their secondary tongue. It is an official language in 59 countries and no language in history has been used by so many people or spanned a greater portion of our globe. It is the language in the worlds of education, international commerce, global business, internet, & science. Mandarin (Chinese) and Spanish have more native speakers but English has the greatest number of non-native speakers in the world. I think what makes that so important is the more our neighbors speak the same language the greater the possibility of peace and harmony in the world. I’m not advocating the elimination of other languages, just that we should all be able to communicate. An increasing number of parents in South Korea have their children undergo a form of surgery that snips a thin band of tissue under the tongue, believing it will make their children speak English better. Supposedly, it enables the child to pronounce the English retroflex consonant easier, a sound considered to be particularly difficult for Koreans (there is no evidence to suggest that it improves that ability). English retroflex is using the tip of the tongue rolled backwards. I think if I were a young man with a young family I would insist that my children learn another language, and I would attempt to do the same along with them. And since I’m on a roll, I would insist they learn to play a musical instrument, attend church, and keep their eye on the possibility of going to college after finishing high school. Sadly, my enlightenment came a little too late, but Thaddeus Golas said, “Enlightenment doesn’t care how you get there.” That makes me feel better.
֎ My wife and I went out to eat with two friends (Rick & Colly) that were celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary. We were told that we were the only ones to remember their special day. After dinner at their favorite restaurant (Red Lobster), we went back to their house and watched a DVD of their wedding way back in 1994. It was heartwarming to jump back in time and see how we all looked back then and enjoy again watching them get married. I was reminded of how beautiful my wife was as a younger woman (she still is). There were around 75 people at their wedding and 24 years later only two people let them know they remembered it. There must be some logic there that escapes me. Maybe, the only commitment is to attend, not to remember.
֎ A few days ago, my wife and I walked a local trail with our daughter-in-law (Rachel) and as we walked and talked, we passed under a very large tree. All of a sudden, we heard branches snapping as a rather large branch plunged to the ground, landing about within inches of us. Had it landed on anyone we would not be on the green side of the grass now. We continued our walk as the possibility of the tragedy we just avoided started to sink in. I know that I am guilty of taking too many things for granted, but when things like this happen, you become acutely aware that our blessings are tenuous and can be reversed at any time. I can think of four times in my life when there was a distinct possibility that death was imminent, but I was saved by the Grace of God. Now the number is five. Kahlil Gibran said, “They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.” I have been on this planet 28, 311 days and, sadly, a lot of those days were sold for gold. Truth is a hard apple to throw and even harder to catch.
֎ A few evenings ago, I attempted to walk down the steps from the kitchen into the garage. It was late and the garage was mostly dark, and thinking I was on the last step, I stepped for the garage floor from the 2nd to last step. I was holding a ceramic bowl we use to put kitchen scraps into the compost bucket. As I went crashing down the aisle leading to the garage door, holding the bowl aloft so it will not get broken, I banged my left knee on the concrete floor, winding up in a heap halfway down the aisle. I kinda know that at my age you do not get a free pass on a fall like that. The skin on my knee was burning from the scraping action but other than that, everything seemed to be ok. I clamored to my feet and walked around in the garage and all appeared well. As the week progresses, I can tell that all is not well in the land of the brave and free. I can still walk fairly well, but the knee is swollen, stiff, and a little painful at times. I put an ice pack on it for 20 minutes, took an Aleve, and things improved a lot. I will follow that regimen for a few days and see if things continue to improve. My suspicion is that I will wind up in a doctor’s office somewhere, and he will tell me they need to amputate at least two toes on both feet, remove some skin from my nose and use it to cover the big hole they have to drill in my knee. I will have to sign a pledge that I will never again walk in the dark unless I am holding the arm of someone half my age. I will also be asked to sit daily for 30 minutes in front of a concrete wall, reinforced by time and silence, and think about what I need to do to prevent falls in the future. As I look outside, it appears the sky has the blues. It may be because I have the blues. I almost escaped that fall without any damage, but then, almost doesn’t mean anything because almost doesn’t matter.
There’s an old maxim that goes, “Happy people rarely correct their faults”. I’m thinking that I will correct some things because I’m not that happy right now!
Cupcake… by Taylor
April 17, 2021
I used to have a dog named Cupcake. She was a shih-tzu. She was absolutely adorable, but she could be troublesome. Cupcake was white with big black spots. I was just a baby when I got her from an elderly woman that had a shih-tzu of her own with about 3 puppies. Cupcake was the runt of the litter and I fell in love with her. I would take naps with her, eat with her, and play with her. I even remember sharing my food with her like you see on television shows.
I literally remember sitting in my highchair and taking a bite of an apple and then leaning over to give her a bite. She loved it when I did that. Then I would take a bite again. I know that’s gross, but that was just her and I doing our thing.
We were inseparable. I used to walk around the house at 3-5 years old and carry her in a Walmart sack. She would just stick her head out and let me. I liked to play with her. She wasn’t rough with me and let me do whatever. When I got older, I would tease her and mess with her so that she would chase me around the room. It was so fun. She would run really fast. I would start running in circles, then jump on the couch. She would jump up with me and get over it.
One of her favorite things to do was sun- bathe. She will do that all day, every day. If I wasn’t playing with her, then she would lie on the floor, or her favorite spot, on top of the back of the couch, basking in the sun. That was her thing to do when she wanted alone time. She looked so cute and calm just lying there. She also loved to lie down inside our old futon. There was a hole in the back underneath it, and she would just climb right in it.
One problem we had with her though was potty training. If we did not let her out when she had to go, then she would just go wherever. We would lay peepee pads down in multiple rooms before we left to go somewhere and come back to see that she only peed partially on the pad and some on the floor. It was so embarrassing one time she literally peed on a table when we had a guest over. I mean, I was just standing there in such awe and embarrassment.
Besides that, when we let her outside, she had to have a leash on or else she would run off. She would also just run out the door if she had the chance when it was open. I would get so scared sometimes. Most of the time she only went to the neighbor’s house and I would go get her. I will say I loved walking back with her to the house because I would hold her belly up like a baby. But as she got older, she ran further than just the neighbor’s house. She started running a couple miles to find a male dog she liked.
He was black and white also, but too big for her to be with. If she got pregnant because of him, then her puppies could have ended up too big, and that would have ended badly. One time she was gone, like half a day, and I almost lost it. One day we left for Church, around 5 or 5:30pm, and as we were backing out of the driveway she showed up. I felt so much relief. Cupcake also ran off one time and came back with that male dog. I was happy she found another dog, but I was not happy that it was causing her to run away. That eventually came to a stop.
She stopped running off one day, and I remember we looked at her and thought she was pregnant. Her belly was enormous. So that was the first thing we thought. I was ecstatic at first, but then we all thought about how dangerous that could be for her. Also, mama and daddy did not want any puppies. They took her to the vet and came home with bad news. She had diabetes. I was very upset when I found out. I hoped she would be okay, and she was a fighter. We had to give her one shot every day. She would get bloated, but the shots helped with that.
Then the hits just kept on coming. She went blind. It hurt me to find out that she also was turning blind. One day I was playing or something with her and noticed her eye looked different. She had some weird bump on it. I took a good look at it and went to get my mom. She looked at it and took her to the vet. The vet told her she had an ulcer on her eye. The diabetes caused her to go blind. On top of that, she always rubbed her eye on the carpet floor. There is no doubt that made it worse. Once she couldn’t really see anymore, she had some trouble getting around the house. She might run into something every once in a while. She got the hang of it, though.
Now outside was a different story. She would go outside and use the bathroom like normal, but had trouble finding the door to get back in. I felt so bad for her. Cupcake would get goopy stuff around her eyes all the time. I wanted to start help to clean her eyes, so my parents showed me how to wipe her eyes with a baby wipe. I did not feel comfortable giving her shots on my own, so I left that to them.
One day, the worse happened. I left for school one morning and did not know what news was coming ahead of me. Cupcake was gone. My dad was off at work, and my mom told me she must have run away when she opened the door. She didn’t know at the time because she was busy with my little brother, trying to get him out the door. It devastated me! It really hurt me deep down inside. I didn’t know I could become so attached to an animal until I met her. Especially at that moment, I didn’t know how to handle the situation in my head.
My mind was going a million miles an hour, thinking about finding her. I had nothing but her on my mind. We started off just shouting for her outside. Then my mom drove off to look for her. Then I really started thinking about her not coming back. I vividly remember standing in the middle of the road yelling my heart out for her. I was sobbing. My voice cracking as I yelled. I felt like the world stopped and I couldn’t do anything. All I wanted was for her to come back to me. My mom came back home and saw me and helped calm me down. I never stopped thinking about her. How could I? She was like my own child. I didn’t want to give up. We looked around in the nearby field and yelled and shouted for her. Our neighbors saw us and wanted to help. We still didn’t find her, though.
My mom told me something that her mother told her: Sometimes when a dog knows their journey on earth is ending, they run away so their owner won’t see them. It helped me feel better knowing that. It’s hard to explain how. I like to think she died a peaceful death. I love her so much. I know she is waiting in Heaven for me though.