Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Observances (Not much News)

Congratulations to Brad and Summer Fuqua for the arrival of their new baby boy! Ethan looks great and Brad is using no shoe leather as he is walking off the ground as a proud new dad. I am happy for them and for Ethan. I know he will grow up in a great family.

Everyone missed the mystery song. It was "The Boxer" by Paul Simon. No, not that one... or that one. The one who sang with Bozo the Garfunkle. I must, however, give honorable mention to my next-door neighbor, Travis, who came up with a very obscure Billy Joel song that also mentions boxing. Can you come up with that one without Googling it? I couldn't, but once I heard the song I remembered it. Nice one, Travis.

Speaking of shoe leaether, I have a size 9 1/2 mouth and a taste for shoe leather. But there is one thing I have noticed about many people with similar tastes, when confronted with a situation of embarrassing verbal gaffes. How people react at the pivotal moment of embarrassment is interesting. Some go from embarrassment to shame, rightfully realizing the mistake that created the embarrassment. Others, however, go from embarrassment to indignation and engage in a blame and smear campaign to divert from the behavior that caused the initial embarrassment.

Today is Connor's birthday party. The actual birthday is June 14 but sumer schedules are hard to accomodate. We are having a dive-in movie. Basically, we will set up a screen and projector by the pool and hope than some West Texas thunderstorms stay away. Then a bunch of goofy boys will be spending the night. Tomorrow I feel certain that I shall be grumpy.

I am intrigued by Bono and, frankly, admire his motives in his efforts to abolish Third World debt. I am further intrigued by how the United States is even involved (let alone the largest holder in many nations) when we're too evil to offer anyone assistance. I think there are ways to abolish Third World debt in a fiscally healthy way, but a mere wave of the hand could have economic and political repercussions that are more problematic than the debt itself. Either way, I am glad the public discourse on the issue is increasing.

Kendra and I went to see "Kicking and Screaming" last weekend. As Will Ferrell movies go, it could have been better. But more disturbing than how the movie was done is what it portrays. Basically it focuses on how out of control parents can get at kids' sporting events. I get pretty intense myself at games. In years past I have been one of those parents who occasionally hollered at the officials but I have been working hard to tone it down. In fact, this baseball season as I have observed other rabid fans and coaches take leave of civility I have tried to remain positive. I haven't yelled at an umpire or gotten carried away this season and I am proud of myself. I do still pace a lot, though.

Michal Kate finally lost a tooth yesterday that had been hanging on way past its prime. When I got home she made a bee-line to me and grinned. She is so cute with her new sunny space.

By the way, why do they call it a bee-line? I have watched bees fly and they don't always seem to take the most direct path.

Speaking of lost teeth, one of my favorite Tooth Fairy stories comes from Maria White. When she was little she had a gold-capped baby tooth. When it finally fell out, she put it under her pillow with a note which said something like:

Dear Tooth Fairy- Since this tooth is gold it seems like it should be worth more money. Thank you for your time, Maria.

When she awoke there was another note waiting for her saying something like: Dear Maria- Thank you for your note, but I have already spent so much money on this tooth that you might think we were dating. Enjoy your nickel, TF.

Well, if you have endured all of this, thanks for reading. The new song topic today will be songs containing the word "SMILE." Knock yourselves out (so to speak).

Thursday, May 26, 2005

News and Observances

I have changed my e-mail provider. If you are trying the old address it is not working. Perhaps that is an opportunity to send me that rude message you've always wanted to send without any repercussions. I will be saddened by the lack of stimulating debate, I'm sure.

Traffic levels are getting worse and some estimates suggest that commuting times in major cities will double again in less than ten years. Enjoy.

Today is the last day of school. Remember that feeling when you were a kid? Do you wish you could feel that way again?

Is it weird to wait for the closest parking spot at the store where you are buying a treadmill?

I am sometimes amazed at the behavior some people will try to defend rather than admit they are wrong. I know that sooner or later the embarrassment must set in but I wish I could be there when it does.

My prayers are going out to this year's graduating seniors and also to their parents. I am not looking forward to that day.

I was talking to one of the blues at last night's game and he mentioned that a fan from another league in Abilene had called him a "f***ing numb nuts." All I can think to do right now is shake my head. (I am.)

The circus was in town last weekend. I am sorry, but it just isn't complete without elephants. They were on medical leave (or study break or sabbatical or something).

While I am confident in God's plan for our deliverance, I sometimes struggle to find other things in which I am confident. How about you?

Congratluations to Brad Fuqua. No, not for the baby, yet (as far as I know.) He got the mystery song last time: "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes." His prize is the role of first chair tenor on the praise team. This time were going for songs that deal with: SPORTS.

Yesterday I was hitchhiking and a guy driving a hearse stopped. I said, "No thanks. I'm not going that far." -Steven Wright

Have a blessed day.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Off Base or On Track

When this season of baseball began, we were a little concerned. We deliberately drafted a boy who, we figured, would come along with a problem parent. This boy's dad had coached a team last year, but this year did not get one. He was very vocal in his displeasure and called the player's agent and league president every name in the book and insisted they were racially motivated in not giving him a team. In fact, he was the only coach who had not yet paid his children's entry fee and their efforts to contact him were met with no responses. As it turns out, this was probably because of false information. He refused to take any shifts in the concession stand. He wouldn't even associate with the other parents at practice. At first.

Our coach, Travis, seemed determined to be as nice as possible to this parent although I have never seen or heard him be unkind to anyone. Kendra also took this approach by trying to "kill him with kindness." I approached him at the first practice even though he stayed at a distance and tried to engage him but he seemed disinterested and still bitter. I feared that he was going to complicate our season but I still followed Kendra and Travis' lead and we stayed positive. To shorten a longer story, let me just say that the season is almost over and he has become a pleasant fixture- at least more so than in previous years. He repeatedly thanks Travis for his kindness and eagerly visits with Kendra and me whenever he can. Two nights ago we even had his son over to hang out for a few hours. Last night when he nervously asked how it went Kendra told him that the boys had fun and "Shoe" fit right it. The dad was almost overwhelmed. I think there is an oppotunity here to offer a sense of belonging to someone who at one point was probably disenfranchised. That's one of the cool things about being in the world, but not of it.

I would like to congratulate Chris for getting the mystery song: Bohemian Rhapsody. The topic this time will be:


This might take a while.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Rest in Peace Senior PETA

Happy Birthday to Kyle and Carl.

The circus is coming to town this week. PETA has been in Abilene with a woman demonstrating topless against the treatment of the animals. I am sure we all get the connection there. (???) Other than a sporting event, I have heard it was one of the worst traffic jams we have had in quite a while.

Senior Sunday yesterday made me think: 1) I am freaked out by how soon that day seems to be approaching for our kids. 2) I hope our kids will have people like Sarah and Mark in their corner when they are that age. 3) I am not the only one who thinks Suzetta Nutt is someone special. Those kids mentioned her a LOT. 4) our youth group travels a LOT. 5) it seems impossible for some of these people to be this old. 6) I really do think many of these kids will look back appreciatively on their Highland family.

We always hear this, but you really never know who is being influenced by something you've done. A teacher from Abilene High stopped me the other night and mentioned that a student in his class had written about me. I am frightened to think about how many have written me off instead because of something inappropriate I may have done.

Rest in peace Corn Dog, Kimmy Gibbler and Llama Spit. We hardly knew ye. (See the other blog.)

The winner last time was Bohemian Rhapsody. I know that song is a terrible story, but it is still a very cool song. This time, we will go for something different. Since this blog has been solidly planted in the mundane, I thought a mundane task might be the way to go. So, give any songs that discuss:

Household Chores.

Weird, I know. Which is why I leave you with this thought. Boyctt shampoo. Demand the real poo!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day

Another Mother's Day is upon us. I have to admit that for many reasons I kind of see this holiday through a bit of a haze. At times it is a dream-like haze created by the too-good-to-be-true image of motherhood I see between Kendra and our kids. They are so blessed to have her and so am I. She is awesome on so many levels.

At other times I have seen this holiday through a haze of confusion about what I should do with this day. I lost my mom on Christmas Eve, 1974. I had just turned five. I remember few things about her first-hand. Sadly, some of the images I remember are related to her death (on a side note, I hate open-casket funerals and I will not change my mind about that), others are tied to other eventful things- a car wreck, getting bitten by a rabid dog, the usual. I remember some good things, too. I remember thinking she was brave and funny. Some thoughts of my mom have come from stories others tell. I have heard how she dedicated herself to teaching young kids and was, frankly, a pioneer in working with extremely young kids in programs kind of like "Cradle Roll." Once I was even stopping at a church in Kansas and dropping off my own son in the nursery when I glanced at a plaque on the wall and noticed to my amazement that the room had been furnished in her honor. It was a rather surreal moment and further evidence that she was an amazing and much-admired person whose influence, though short, was a blessing to my life.

However, the plain truth of the matter is that many others stood in the gap after I lost my mom who also deserve credit for their efforts on my behalf (rather than blame for the eventual results).

My sister Vicki was about 12 years older than I. As such, she took on a great deal of the burden of raising me. One of the earliest examples I remember was on the day mom died. Dad called all of us together and told us she had "passed away." I had no clue what that meant, but things at the time were so crazy that I was pretty intimidated and waited until I could ask Vicki. My sister had the unenviable role of making me understand I had lost my mother. She worked very hard to get through high school and even take on a job when she could while still trying to have the life of a kid like she deserved to have. She would later suffer from the same disease that took our mom, but I think that in seeing the valiant way Vicki fought helped me know my mom a little better.

My Grandma Edie came to live with us for months at a time when I was growing up, too. I also spent all of my summers with her. Though she was only an admitted 4'10" in height (actually, I think she was 4'9") she was tough as a boot and a hard worker. She was a widow, but she ran a farm by herself and tended her garden with a single-shot 12 guage as well as a hoe. She never really understood why people wanted to do things for fun when there was work to be done, but she was true to her roots. She refused to let me call anyone old saying that they deserved the respect of being called elderly but she used to talk about needing to drive some old ladies to church (she was in her 80's and they were in their 70's). There are a million stories I could tell about her, but the only one that matters is that she was selfless and stood in the gap without hesitation. Her mind is pretty much failing her now, but even when she doesn't remember me, I remember her and am thankful.

Mary was a family friend. Her husband and my dad had gone to college together. She was another who very willingly stepped up and mothered me. I remember staying with them and playing with their cat Sergeant and their dog Schultz. I remember riding around town with her in her pristine 1965 Mustang. She was a class act in so many ways and I still think about her with fond memories but regret that my kids did not get to know her.

Next there is Carol. She is the only one mentioned so far who is alive or lucid. She and her family reached out to us in so many ways. They were friends from church, but more than mere members- they were ministers. I stayed so many nights at their home that it felt like my own home. My brothers and sister all worked for them in one of their stores at some point. They came all the way to Muleshoe for my wedding and I still hear from them from time to time. One memorable moment of my history with her is from the day I was baptized. She hugged me and cried over me with a pride I could not merely dismiss. I loved that feeling.

Finally, there is Colleen. She is now my step mother. She married my dad when I was a junior in high school. I remember thinking I was glad he was getting married so someone else would get his attention besides me and take the heat off. Thankfully, she has turned out to be much more than a diversion and has been great, not only for dad, but for our whole family. We are replete with quirks that probably do not fit into her mold of poise and refinement, but she has never let it show. I am thankful for her reputation of high standards of honesty and discipline and hope that she eventually rubs off on me. People who don't know about the "step" relationship say we look alike and they can tell we're related. That's just fine with me.

So, there you go. Perhaps this was a bit lengthy for a blog entry, but still woefully inadequate to give proper tribute to what each of these mothers has meant to me. But it would be a shame if I said nothing at all. So, happy Mother's Day to


Thanks again.

P.S. Obviously, we're looking for songs about MOTHERS. Get after it.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sausage Races

In my stroll down the memory lane of blogging, I came across another post I rather enjoyed. Indulge me later as I re-post, but we'll make a little game out of it (indulge me for that, too). Consider this the Sausage Race between the 4th and 5th innings but please, please, no wagering- and no beating the sausages with a bat. Anyway, consider the topic of this blog and offer any mixed metaphors of your own. The more the better; I need them to drive my friend Snutt Granny crazy.

Back in the Sam Hill of Beans May 26, 2004

I am afraid I have been on more airplanes in the last few days than I like to be. It wasn't a record as far as the number of actual airplanes I have been in, but I certainly endured more airline hassles in the last eight days than I ever had in the previous eight years combined. The amazing thing was, that security has been an absolute breeze as though anticipating the airlines themselves would pick up the slack.

Anyway, during recent travels, one travel companion mentioned how much they hated mixed metaphors. You know what I mean: combining and misquoting little colloquialisms. For instance combining "on the tip of my tongue" and "at the top of my lungs" to come up with sentences like "It just rolled off the tip of my lungs." Anyway, this person's disdain for mixed metaphors was just too wonderful an opporunity to pass up. I came up with several and have heard more from others in the process. Here are some of my favorites. Work on some of your own. After all, it's not rocket surgery.

It's just spilt milk under the bridge.

That's grabbing the tiger by the horns.

Cry me a liver.

Keep your ear to the grindstone.

Don't beat a dead horse in the mouth.

I'm the one sticking my neck in a sling.

He's a little green behind the ears.

I've buttered my bed, I'll have to lay in it.

She was burning the oil at both ends.

And finally, my favorite...It's time to fish or get off the pot.

Frankly, I am too tired to be very philosophical right now, so I thought levity was the better way to go. Besides, a spoonful of boogers makes the medicine go down.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blast From the Past

Forgot to mention that the mystery song for "GO" was "Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake. Remember that one?

Also, the mystery song for "MONEY" is "Danny's Song" by Kenny Loggins. Even though we ain't got money, I'm so in love with you honey...

Well, my buddy Ryan Porche just celebrated his one-year blog anniversary by reprinting his first blog, so I thought I might do the same. For me it may be a celebration but that is probably stretching it for the rest of you. It does seem hard to believe that:
1) It has been a year
2) I'm still crazy after all this year. Ohhh! Still crazy after all this year.
3) I have yet to drive anyone else crazy. It never takes me this long.

Nevertheless, from May 5, 2004, here goes...

In consideration of whether to blog or not, the obvious consideration I am forced to confront is why a rather private home-body would feel the least bit compelled to write out thoughts that might fall under the watchful gaze of others. The inner discussion is thus begun and continued as I pose to myself the very obvious reality of the fact that few "will little note nor long remember" what I have to say if indeed anyone were to stumble upon it. So why bother? Again, a great counter to myself. Well, Self, I think there might be a therapudic quality in blogging, much like that people have in keeping a journal. And like a very wise man once said, "It's better than a kick in the head."

Perhaps that is what many of us are missing: PERSPECTIVE. After all, what situation could not be better presented in the light of a well chosen comparison.

"Eat your vegetables. There are starving kids in China."Perspectives in the kid's eye: "Brussel Sprouts v. Ice Cream, Brussell Sprouts v. Hunger. Either way, Brussell Sprouts come out the big loser. Send them to China."

This politician or that politician. Perspective of the voter: "Um, how about that kick in the head?"

So as I toy with the worth of blogging, I think that perhaps there is the element of perspective, but also of time. Time will tell whether or not the exercise was actually therapudic or wasteful; inspired or annoying. Until then, it's better than a kick in the head.

By the way, the very wise man who used that expression was an old boss of mine. I wish I'd kept that evaluation form.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

You're a Rich Girl, But You're Going Too Far

If you're just in this for the song contest, the topic this week is:

If you are wondering what led me to that topic, read on.

This week a major topic of conversation between a very good friend and I has been family finances. She and her husband are older than Kendra and I (waaay older) and although they live fairly comfortably, life has dealt them a difficult hand in terms of matters of health in their family. Our conversations, though, have focused more on finances and the traps we get ourselves into succombing to the bait of materialism. This person and her husband teach a class of thirtysomethings at our church and she was remarking on how fervently they are pursuing a lifestyle. Many have built and furnished new homes and are driving popular late-model cars and though they are making it work, they are doing so with little or no margin. In other words, if there were a job or health crisis that affected just one month financially, they would be against the ropes.

What are the implications of this? If a family's financial margin is that thin, what does that suggest about their ability to address philanthropic matters? Taking it a step further, if their interests are so firmly rooted in material things, what does that suggest about their desire to address philanthropic matters? My dad always poses questions like that to me. Out of the blue he might ask, "Do you think Jesus would care about fashion or wearing the latest style?" He doesn't just ask questions like that. He puts his money where his mouth is. He has been a successful aeronautical engineer and real estate investor but you would never know it to look at what he wears or drives. Instead, you might think he needs some assistance. Truth be told, however, he is able to generously help others because he follows one of the most basic of Christ's requests: "Deny yourself."

How often do we actually do that? In terms of denying our creature comforts, I would say rarely. And in continuing to pursue such things, are we helping the kingdom and the "least of these" or are we merely continuing to fuel existing trends? If we have $75 in our pocket today, what can we do with it? Our choices might include a round of golf, a hotel room for a friend from church needing to visit M.D. Anderson, an afternoon at a Rangers game, a scholarship for a kid from a struggling family to play baseball, a new shirt, a nice dinner for two or a bag of groceries for several; the possibilities are , of course, endless.

I see so much waste around me that often is not even recognized as waste. But even more sad is the strain people put on themselves to live at or beyond their means when living within them would present so many opportunities for the kingdom. Sunday in his sermon, Mike considered what it might have been like if the disciples had withheld some of the abundance of loaves and fishes for their own use and savings rather than actually using them to feed those in need. It is an interesting question and one we all struggle with. While I am not much of a spender, I am a saver. Some might say that in doing so I am "putting up store houses" (for lack of a better term) and they might be right. On the other hand, I have been able to extend loans to people in a pinch when I might otherwise not have been able to do. Some have been repaid, some are still a work in progress after years of waiting.

We seem to talk these issues to death and try very hard to convince ourselves that we are still confused about the proper approach to finances when, in fact, I think Jesus gave us a pretty clear-cut litmus test. Are we denying ourselves? In light of how many around the world are living and how many struggle to meet very basic needs, the truth is that we probably aren't. I have a friend with four, (count 'em, four) homes. I have mentioned to this friend before that perhaps it is time to sell at least one, maybe two, but have been met with an answer that is basically, "But I want them." This one is easy for most of us to scoff at since owning many homes seems so extravagant. After all, the Son of man had no place to rest His head; four places is absurd. But we are merely talking about degrees, not conceptual differences, when we think about our closets full of stylish clothing, our hobbies, the money we spend on entertainment, the money we spend on dining, the money we spend on vacations, what we spend on comfort, and on and on.

This blog is not an indictment of anyone in particular other than myself. I could try the finger pointing game, but like every fire and brimstone preacher knows, there would be three fingers on the same hand pointing back at me. Rather, I am just adding my voice of encouragement on an issue we all can probably recognize, but struggle to address. On the other hand, maybe we don't recognize it after all.

Another resource for encouragement is a great little book called "The Richest Man in Babylon." It is a story book, but is set in ancient times and offers a healthy look at several financial concepts in an easy-to-read format that can be done in several sittings if so desired. Give it a look and I think you'll be glad you did.

Anyway, just in case I have not bored you enough on this issue, let me use this opportunity to suggest another topic for songs. Let me have some songs that deal with


Good luck with all that. Coming soon: Blasts from the past.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Well, there you go...

Once upon a time I entered (late) a meeting (church related) and found that a conversation had been going on about something controversial (but basically harmless) that had occurred. I was immediately asked my opinion of the matter. Consider my position. I had no idea what had been said or what the general consensus was of those in the room (not that that mattered) or whether someone in the room was personally (or otherwise) involved and might be hurt if my reaction was negative (which would matter).

"Well," I responded. "There you go."

The room erupted in laughter. The moderator of the meeting said, "That is so true! And a classic "Val" answer!" I nodded like I knew what the heck was going on and took my seat telling myself (1) to remember that answer and use it often and (2) to get to meetings on time.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, "Self, why did he use so many parentheses and why did he tell such a pointless story?"

To which I would have to reply (say it with me), "Well, there you go."

Sorry about not blogging regularly. I have been out of the office much of the past two weeks and in the evenings have been at the ball park. Blogging has really fallen by the wayside. Here are some of the other things that have been going on:

Sang at a wedding yesterday in Albany, TX (SALUTE!). That's all I have to say about that.

Led worship today. Getting to church at 7:00AM makes it easier to get a good seat. For some reason at 2nd service I started sweating like crazy but only from my forehead. What was that about? Then later, while I was leading a prayer I started to kind of lose my voice. Mike jumped up with a bottle of water. (Thanks, Mike!) It is the first time I have had someone come up and ask me for a re-print of a prayer I led.

Still up to our eyeballs in Dixie. I power-washed the bleachers today. I have found that using one of those things for two or three hours tends to make your forearms very sore the next day so you'll know why if I don't wave or shake hands with anyone tomorrow.

It's May 1. For you James Taylor fans out there, "Hooray, hooray." If you've been to some of his concerts you probably know what I mean. Congratulations. Again, that's all I have to say about that.

Scored points yesterday with Kendra because a brisket I had forgotten I had purchased from some non-profit effort was delivered and dinner was served. It was an accidental Fonzie moment, but I'll take what I can get.

Got to be a cowboy on Friday and round up goats for the sale. I love it when I surprise the guys and they have to eat their words about some of that "City Slicker" crap. Yippee Ki Yay.

All that having been said, I am also sorry that I have been too busy to keep the song game going. Anyway, taking a word from my little story above, let's see if we can come up with any songs containing the word:


Good luck with that and thanks for listenin'. (By the way, I just felt parenthetical today.)