27 August 2013

Never Doubt That You Can

I saw this today and felt like it was worth sharing. No other commentary from me needed.

Have a great day, folks!

21 May 2013

Hell, Mary! Where's Your Grace?

I started writing this several days ago. Yeah, you've heard this before.

ADD sucks. Anyway, I reread this and figured I'd let it stand, but now it's changing a little in context. You won't see that until a little later.

Thanks, for checking in and feigning interest.

The dishwasher was ready to be emptied this morning, and in the top rack among the sparkling glass and stainless steel were a couple of my favorite, well-worn coffee mugs. Looking at them, then studying the crowded cabinet where they reside, I had a thought about gifts and how the gracious recipient might deal with perfectly lovely thoughts that are incongruent with his or her design sense, decorating style or the manner in which he or she approaches a typical day.

I thought to myself, I wonder what other people do since I seem to fit in the group that has a house full of stuff that reminds me of those Sesame Street quizzes... none of this stuff looks like the other...

Is it graceful to throw said gift in a closet until one sees an opportunity to regift? Is it more acceptable pass things along to Goodwill after they've collected dust/been dusted for years? Would it be acceptable to donate it within days of receipt?

Usually for me -- particularly when it comes to items designed for specific uses, but are redundant because I already have the same thing in a style I've chosen -- I use the gift seasonally. Maybe it works well as an Easter brunch platter but looks out of place as a Cinco de Mayo chip bowl. Maybe, in cool weather, it works better as a soup mug than a coffee cup.

I read an article that mentions other alternatives for handling unwanted gifts "unless you need to keep the gift around to showcase it whenever the giver stops by your home."

Something about that sentence feels so slimy to me. I know we've all seen the situation unfold on tired sitcoms or heard acquaintances mention hiding something until said giver is coming to visit.

Why can't we just be truthful?

In the past, I've expressed my gratitude and sometimes have offered the gift back with the explanation that I'm switching things around or not using the article anymore. Perhaps the people to which I'm offering these things are exercising more grace than I, but I think I ought to at least offer before I consider one of the previously mentioned alternatives.

Then, there are other times when I've made a complete ass of myself, calling a set of dinnerware I'd been given "tired" in front of the person who gave it to me.

An esteemed colleague of mine has told me more than a handful of times, "just because you're tired of looking at it doesn't make it tired." Of course, this is in reference to the brand and brand guidelines I worked with him to create for a locally revered institution. And, he's right. The thought is applicable here, too, regarding the things we accumulate whether by choice or by gift.

Here is where the context of this post changes: this entry was meant to explore gratitude over arrogance, or grace, when it comes to maintaining order in one's mind versus letting others' interpretation of that place be a part of that order.

Being open. Letting others in.

Being grateful. Being flexible.

Finding beauty in things one may not have been drawn toward without the gentle nudge from someone who wanted to bestow their love in a physical, tangible memento....

I posted on Facebook several weeks ago that our eleven-year-old Boxer, Billie, has been diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy. Within hours of that post a very good friend called me to talk about how he and his husband handled the same exact diagnosis with their baby, Zara.

From what I know, and am now experiencing, it's an ugly disease very similar to multiple sclerosis.

Please, don't be offended by my oversimplifying of either of these maladies that follows. I am not a doctor. I am a complicated, but simple guy, a creative/art director by trade, who has worked for nearly thirty years to research then distill a message to its core and blast it out there for the three seconds' attention I may get from a passerby hoping to keep them interested in staying longer.

If you're still here, thank you. Apparently, I've done something right.

The simple explanation: the protective sheath around nerves deteriorates, making signals from the brain become lost before they end up where they should. In my Billie's case, this means she's losing control of the back half of her body.

In late October or early November, the best I can recollect, I started noticing that her hip/leg function had become a little odd. She was still getting around well, jumping on the bed, doing her normal things. But, as time has progressed, the things Dr. Carol told me to expect (during Billie's annual checkup in January) are coming to fruition.

First, feet dragging. We got rubber booties for protection on our vast concrete patio areas so she wouldn't make herself bleed a second time. As a bonus, they helped with traction on the linoleum and hardwoods indoors.

Then, it was knuckling over. Booties getting stuck on her bed. Doing the splits in the kitchen while waiting for a cookie. Legs getting crossed. Falling down. The look on her face as she fell and landed on her hip in a puddle today, in the rain, just about did me in.

But, she's doesn't appear to be frustrated, either.

I think I may have seen confusion in her face today, though. I try to be reassuring. I tell her "it's OK." I tell her, "go pee pee." She goes, even in the effing downpour that was our gift from the front that destroyed an Oklahoma City suburb. So -- really -- I'm not bitching about the weather in the wildest stretch of any imagination. My heart and prayers are with each an every soul in Monroe. I just hate to see my little girl suffer in the torrent just so she can "go pee."

Because Dr. McCutcheon tells me that Billie isn't in pain, I'm not going to have my usual sign that it's time to return this gift.

I'm going to have to look at this beautiful face one day, and decide when it's time to let her go without any indication from her that she's ready. This once fawn and black but now completely white face, the one that visits me in my office twenty or thirty times a day, head tilted like Nipper, ears up, waiting, that seemingly says, "I'm focused on you so I can be ready to respond gleefully when you finally get your ass out of that chair and follow me to the cookie jar (first) or the back door (last). I love you. Please come with me."

Billie, this gift, is as inquisitive as she's ever has been. For the past eleven years the curious, interested, full-of-life Boxer has been at her core. But, her body is not keeping up. Lately it seems as if the latter is in a wicked, hateful race to abandon her.

I suppose I've said all of this to say, "Grace? Yeah. I've got that -- most of the time." Do I fall down? Youbetcha. Am I now? I'm not sure.

So, I pray, God, give me the grace to know when it's time to express my gratitude for the extraordinary amount of time we've had with this blessed gift, and help me trust when it's time to let her be at peace.

07 April 2013

Happy Birthday, Nano

On what would have been her 95th birthday, I'm happily recalling fond memories of my grandmother, Thelma.

My first thought of her this morning was remembering that she gave us a wake-up call every day for many years so we wouldn't miss the school bus, largely because I would ignore my alarm clock and fall back to sleep. Being the eldest, I was expected to motivate my sisters and brother for the walk (or run) down the street to the bus stop at Becky's driveway where we would wait for (or chase after) bus #307. Unfortunately for her, the chore usually ended up on the shoulders of my more responsible, younger sister, Lisa.

Thinking of those phone calls helped me remember many a weekend spent behind the white picket fence at 1311 East Breckenridge, and how I often wish we could relive those days with her.

Once, when she was standing at the sink shaking a can of V-8 we told her that she was "shaking more than the can". She didn't find any humor in that remark and she made sure we knew it. I'm not positive, but at that moment we may have seen her weapon of choice for dispensing discipline and keeping order: the flyswatter.

Often, after having experienced that rare display of frustration with us, we'd hide behind her black sofa, the kind from the early sixties with silver threads woven into the fabric, to pout or perhaps "make her miss us." One of the long, hipster sofas with a slanted back, it provided a perfect "cave" between it and the wall for three little brats to find refuge.

Because we could be a hard-headed, determined lot, she'd usually come to the living room in order to coerce us out of our isolation, and ask, "Would you like an ice cream and a Pepsi?"

What child wouldn't want a sugar buzz? We'd follow her to her kitchen, where for as long as I remember a bird cage hung from just inside the kitchen door, with a little yellow inhabitant that wouldn't sing songs like Nano had hoped. Oh, it would chirp and make noises in the mornings, but for all of the "practice" with the 45 RPM Hartz Mountain canary records she played, Sunny never produced a song. None of the canaries named Sunny did.

Gathering our "rewards" from her white Coldspot, she'd position us around the kitchen table where we could sit and drink our Pepsi-Colas and eat our swirly chocolate or strawberry ice-cream -- the kind sold ten to a bag at A&P or Kroger in little plastic cups with cardboard lids and wooden "spoons" -- leaving space for her to start preparing dinner in anticipation of Papaw returning from his day at Pillsbury. And, more likely, where she could keep an eye on us.

To begin, she'd pull the snap-bead chain of the flourescent fixture on the ceiling. As it flickered to life, she'd fetch a paper grocery sack out of her pantry, carefully tearing it open so it would lie flat on the kitchen table. It was always fascinating to me, watching how she could peel a tomato, an apple, a potato or just about anything with that Old Hickory butcher knife, (one Papaw sharpened so many times that the blade, blackened with years and years of service, had become concave), skillfully leaving a long, unbroken ribbon of skin in a rumpled pile. Watching her with that same knife and a whole chicken was another experience altogether.

"How do you do that, Nannie?" She would just smile and wink.

Once the peeling was done, she'd set in motion the other tasks to put food on the table. And typically, boredom would send us kids back to the console television to watch afternoon cartoons in the living room. In a while, we could smell the fruits of her labor, often accompanied with the rhythmic hiss of the the Mirro-Matic on top of the stove.

After Papaw came home, they'd drink a couple of Blatz beers, no doubt purchased from Jesse Schook's Beer Depot on Kentucky Street near Barret Avenue -- with the foul-mouthed Mynah bird -- and Charms Blow-pops. He'd drink his from the bottle, but she'd pour hers into a glass and sprinkle it with salt from one of those orange and green "Indian" shaker sets.

It seems like I asked her why she salted her beer, and if I remember right, it was to get rid of the "suds." Truth be known, though, she salted a lot of things I would've considered "no-salt" foods until I tried them her way, like watermelon.

I haven't salted my watermelon in decades. I rarely eat watermelon for that matter, but I'd love the chance to do it with her one more time. Happy 95th birthday, Nano.

01 April 2013

Oh, For God's Sake

I'm constantly in awe of the ridiculous, ignorant claims made by folks who oppose marriage equality for whatever reason, which are becoming more frequent with last week's Supreme Court hearings regarding the constitutionality of The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8.

Like this one from Georgia's GOP Chair, Sue Everhart, as reported by TalkingPointsMemo via Marietta Daily Journal:
“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
Sue "My Easter bonnet was an asshat" Everhart.

She continued:

“Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married. If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”

Of course, we have a plethora of nonsensical tidbits like this about which we can mock and ridicule. But, at this moment I'd rather mention one of the most sensible comments I've heard on the whole debate, which aired on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, as shared by The Raw Story:
Abyssinian Baptist Church Pastor Calvin Butts on Sunday called on the U.S. Supreme Court to legalize same sex marriage because it was part of “the freedom God has given you.”
“It’s something that we don’t believe in, in terms of what we have learned from the Bible,” Butts told ABC’s George Stephanopolous. “But in terms of men and women having their rights as citizens and human beings, we certainly affirm that.”

“You should have every right as a citizen of this nation and every right as a human being to enjoy the freedom that God has given you. The choice is yours. And I should not stand in the way of you making that choice.”

Butts added that even though his religion did not teach that “marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is God’s divine imperative,” it would be wrong for him to oppose marriage equality for all Americans.

“And I think that the Supreme Court should not stand in the way of that,” the pastor explained. “I have to support that in a civil society because, otherwise, I would not be a good citizen of our great nation and a participant of this great experiment in democracy.”
“However, I choose to believe the book upon which I build my life.”
If you follow the link to The Raw Story, there is a video of the conversation at the bottom of the article. It's worth a click.

In my final analysis, I don't expect the church to change its views. In fact, I could care less about what they believe as long as it doesn't influence law and interfere with my life.

Separation of Church and State. It's a pretty simple concept.

Which brings me to the whole "we're being oppressed" bleating I'm hearing from the likes of Family Research Council.

I've got news for them. We know what they're doing and it's wrong. We must vociferously expose their claims as heresy. This article from Jay Michaelson in The Advocate sums it up very well. Click the link and read the whole article, but here's an excerpt:
"But according to a well-coordinated, well-funded campaign, actually the gays are oppressing conservative Christians, you see, because we’re not letting them discriminate against us. And according to a comprehensive new study published last week by Political Research Associates, and prepared by this writer, the campaign is working. Its rhetoric has been adopted not just by the usual fundamentalist loons but by mainstream politicians and academics. It has successfully obtained religious exemptions to non-discrimination and same-sex marriage laws. And it has turned the cherished value of religious liberty from a shield into a sword."
And, just for fun (or clarification for those who may believe they're being oppressed), there's a nifty little quiz, brought to us by The Huffington Post, and Reverend Emily C. Heath of the United Church of Christ that will put fears to rest. A sampling:
Quick Questions." Just pick "A" or "B" for each question.
1. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to go to a religious service of my own choosing.
B) Others are allowed to go to religious services of their own choosing.

2. My religious liberty is at risk because:
A) I am not allowed to marry the person I love legally, even though my religious community blesses my marriage.
B) Some states refuse to enforce my own particular religious beliefs on marriage on those two guys in line down at the courthouse.

She concludes:
"In closing, no matter what soundbites you hear this election year, remember this: Religious liberty is never secured by a campaign of religious superiority. The only way to ensure your own religious liberty remains strong is by advocating for the religious liberty of all, including those with whom you may passionately disagree. Because they deserve the same rights as you. Nothing more. Nothing less."
Seems simple, really.

17 March 2013

I'm Awake. That's a good thing, I think.

It's been a whirlwind few days and I wasn't expecting this one to start so early due to the exhaustion both Cameron and I felt when we retired last night. Yet, I was rudely awakened by a rerun of Lizard Lick Towing at the end of my first four-hour sleep cycle, and instead of grabbing the remote and clicking "off," I idiotically reduced the volume and changed the channel to TCM thinking I'd find something familiar by which I could doze back sleep.

I knew better. Really, I did. But, after punching the right channel buttons, I found myself watching what was left of The Graduate. It had only been on for a few minutes. I. Can't. Not. Watch. After the credits, station identification showed the first of the next three films to air: Kramer vs. Kramer. I thought to myself, "I've seen this." I'll be able to go back to sleep now.


I became intrigued by a short film "The Big Sur," narrated by Richard Burton, promoting MGM's 1965 release, The Sandpiper, starring he and Elizabeth Taylor.

Still awake.

Kramer vs. Kramer.


Maybe I'll get up for a glass of water. I might even have a cigarette.

Let's see. Four hours' sleep. I know that's not enough, but I honestly don't feel tired. And, now, that I have a cup of coffee sitting in front of me, I suspect it's going to be a while before I rest again. Maybe I'll take a nap this afternoon.

I feel like I should be exhausted. I should be sleeping. In fact, after a fun but frustrating day bowling in singles and doubles events during St. Patrick's Invitational Tournament yesterday, (at which I stunk: 98 pins under my 1,164 scratch average for six games), Cameron, Cleo and I kicked off warm weather dinner season with homemade baked beans, potato salad and barbecued chicken with homemade barbecue sauce. It was a fine way to wind down and he and I both commented to each other that we were both pooped after Cleo hit the road. We went to bed at least two hours earlier than typical.

Bowling six games on any given Saturday isn't usually exhausting for me, but perhaps the preceding two days added, somewhat, to my fatigue.

I woke up Thursday morning nearly unable to close my inexplicably painful, swollen, itchy, red hands and had a rash covering just about everything "but the junk," as my doctor said, who squeezed me in for a visit that afternoon without an appointment.

"Did you have a rubella shot as a kid?"
"Yes, I'm sure I did."

"It looks like German Measles. Do you have a sore throat? Forgive me, I'm running through all of the possibilities with these symptoms. The patterns on your hands and feet look like an allergic reaction to something. What's happening on your torso looks like hives."

After further discussion, a swab test for strep, and another painful stick in the arm for two vials of blood, I've been instructed to throw out the bathroom cleaner I used on Wednesday, avoid latex gloves and stay away from the new Clif Bar flavor I ate that day.

Until we get the results from the allergy panel he's running, I'm on my third day of a Medrol dose pack, Xyzal for allergies and Zantac to ward off any stomach upset caused by the steroids. Cortisone cream makes it bearable to bend my hands and it looks like this plague is subsiding.

"Do you still have Chlorpromazine on hand in case the steroids give you hiccups?"

Ugh. Please don't bring hiccups into this conversation.

The prescriptions didn't have enough time to affect the swelling in my hands before the Friday night no-tap "fun bowl" celebrating twenty years for our tournament. I could barely get my fingertips and thumb in the ball. Add to that the fact that we were bowling with black lights, blaring music and a 4-screen video wall flashing images of the Notre Dame vs. Louisville game on two screens and music videos on the other two above the lanes, I could rarely see my mark.

Nicki Minaj. I try. I do. But, how can someone look so sexy and fun at moments (like in the latter half of "Starships"), but then annoy the crap out of me with ghetto attitude otherwise?

I managed to bowl over 200 the first game, followed by an unceremonious 59-pins-below-average game for the second: a dismal 135. By the end of the third game I was only interested in saying goodbyes, packing up my gear and heading home -- I don't even remember what I bowled for that one.

Really? I didn't even bowl my average during a 9-pin no-tap game where I'm given a free strike for every nine I bowl?! This didn't bode well for regular tournament play.

Coincidentally, I had PLENTY of nines (that should have been strikes) yesterday for singles and doubles. I hope to do my team proud during team event today. While the goal is always 300 on the lanes, I have to hit 226 for every game today to bring me back to my average for the weekend -- just for pride's sake -- 'cause average during a tournament rarely places or pays.

It's nice to have a goal, though. I'm awake. It's now 7:15AM and time for another "cup of ambition" while I "yawn and stretch and try to come to life." I hope my fingers fit the ball more comfortably today.

No matter where or what you decide to put your fingers in today, I hope your Sunday fits like a glove. Good morning, y'all!