New Rituals

Good morning, Internet. I know you’re surprised to see me this early in the morning. I’m trying to start a new pattern in my life. I’m trying to start my days differently and, hopefully, spend my days differently.

My typical morning starts with me rising with my daughter and starting the day with her. She has been our morning alarm and, thankfully, she’s a good sleeper. She doesn’t typically wake until 7:30 or so. This morning, she gave us a gift and slept in until nearly 8:30. But this morning, I had been up nearly two hours before she awoke. (One of life’s great joys, by the way, is waking up before my daughter just to listen at her door, listening to her talk to her stuffed animals in the morning. I can’t pretend to understand everything she is saying but she sure has a constant stream of it. She does the same thing at bedtime.)

I’m trying to get up earlier just to spend quiet time alone. When I rise with my daughter, my morning begins full and I don’t have time to spend in my thoughts or alone with God. As I alluded to in my earlier post, I miss periods of reflection in my life. I spend so much time consuming the news or Facebook or cute kitten pictures that I don’t even know how to think anymore. I used to sit for long periods of time absorbed in my own thoughts. My writing used to spring from those thoughts. It’s no wonder that I write less on this blog these days. I don’t have any thoughts worth sharing.

Judging from the time I spend on Facebook, no one else does either. It’s all moral outrage and kitten videos and pithy wisdom that make a small ripple in your soul before being crowded out by all the noise.

Anyway, I am trying to remove all that from my life. I do like checking in on my friends and family and I like knowing what’s going on in each and every one of their lives. But I am very mindful of all the wasted time and wasted thoughts. The clock is ticking and life is passing in a steady stream. I don’t want to waste it in mindless consumption any more.

I hope that means you will find me here more often. Even that is a challenge, however. It means I have to spend some time in thought and reflection in order to have a thought worth sharing. And then I have to fire up the laptop and ignore Reddit and Facebook and my other typical news sources in order to come here and write it all down. Today I was successful-ish but one day does not a pattern make.

For those of you who came here to read this today, thanks for consuming my little piece of the internet. Ironic, isn’t it? 🙂

Father’s Day Musings

Hello and happy Father’s Day to all. I sat day-dreaming of writing all through church this morning and I’m hoping that the inspiration will not leave me now that I’m actually in front of my keyboard. I find that my computer (and my phone) has become such a tool of consumption that I have a difficult time using it for creation any more. I find myself endlessly distracted by Facebook and Reddit and the consuming of news. I’m trying desperately to rid myself of those distractions so I can be productive and creative again. I have gotten so used to consuming everything in sight that I can’t even let my mind wander in reflection any more. All the things I dream, I fail to create. I miss being reflective and generally miss day-dreaming.

So what’s on my mind? Family mostly. Life. Creation. I guess I was day-dreaming of what I want my life to be from here on out. I am nearly 46 and I know that I don’t have forever left to me. I hope I have a goodly amount of time left but you never know. My father passed last year at the ripe old age of 81 but he spent the last 15 years of his life in declining health from Parkinson’s. The last time I saw him alive was Father’s Day of last year. From some of his behavior, we knew he was declining and didn’t have long. My siblings and I made an effort to travel across the country to be together as a whole family one last time. Thankfully, we were all able to make the trip as he passed away not two weeks later. I think of him often and have been thinking of him much over the last two days. I miss him very much.

Anyway, If I am as blessed to years as was my father, I could only have another 25 years or so of good health. The way I feel sometimes, I wonder if I have that many left. I don’t have any major health problems but the minor ones make you think something is out there waiting for you. With my remaining time, I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. The times when the whole family comes together are not as often as I would like. We used to find a week every year to gather at the beach or at the lake but even an annual gathering of the whole family is tough these days. Busy schedules and long distances intervene to keep us all apart. I am sure it’s been over a year since I saw some of my nephews and the last time I remember the whole family being together was two years ago in April.

I also want to create something. I don’t know what exactly but I have visions of creation all the time. If we are indeed made in the image of our Creator, I think the desire to create (and procreate) is possibly the strongest evidence of it. I think we all desire to make something, however small. That is the echo of God in us all.

So my day-dreams are filled with ways to shrink the distances and make the time. They are filled with things to create. Most of them seem so plausible in the midst of the day-dream but so tough to make real when you sit down to the keyboard again. But we’ll see. Maybe if I can cut out distractions and start creating again, I can live the creative life I imagine.

Greetings from a Sunday Morning

Greetings and salutations from a lazy Sunday morning. I’m playing hooky from church this morning but, don’t worry, I talked to God about that earlier. I asked if it was okay for me to sit and listen to the rain instead and He said He was fine with that as long as I did something to update the blog. So here I am, sipping my cinnamon hazelnut blend and tapping away at the keyboard.

So far, all I’ve been able to do is change the look of the site. What do you think? Whaddya’ think? I think it’s hideous, personally. I am so dissatisfied with many of the free themes available out there. They all seem to meet maybe one criteria you have for them but fail utterly as far as the rest is concerned.

This “theme” for example, meets the criteria for easily allowing people to follow this blog via Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc. But it does not do anything for the aesthetics of the blog. I probably could hack the template given a little motivation and a lot of time but…I’m no designer either. In fact, I am the opposite of a designer. I know what I like but I have no ability to bring the picture in my head to life.

I’m convinced that is why God made woman. Adam was in the garden and he was making a real mess of the place. It was comfortable but messy. God took pity on Adam and created Eve to tell him where to put the furniture.

Anyway, I have some topics in mind for future blog posts if I can ever work up the energy. I wanted to write a little more about my trip to Seattle and I’ve been meditating on the topics of pride and gratitude. I’d like to share my thoughts if I can get them out on the page.

Until then, I think I’ll go back to shopping or page layouts. I am not digging this one. Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by.

Oh…and, God, I realize this post is probably insufficient as far as the church-skipping agreement we had earlier. I’ll, uh, just keep working on a more substantial post, shall I? Thanks!

Update: Okay, I’ve settled on a more appropriate looking theme, though one that is slightly less functional. I’ll have to work on that. Plus! It has rotating featured posts. Nifty.

Why Southerners Are Fat

Why are Southerners so fat?

I came across this article on Time.com today and thought I would share with all of you. The article covers a topic I’ve pondered once or twice, typically coincident with the Stafford family reunions in Mississippi. If you came to the Stafford family reunion, you might understand why the topic crossed my mind.

The Stafford family, while not uniformly obese, has quite a few specimens that tip the scale somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds. I have aunts and uncles that come in all shapes and sizes, as long as those shapes and sizes include squat and round. I have one cousin that had a heart attack and bypass surgery at 35 and one cousin that I thought was a garden shed when we were first introduced.

The other thing you notice when you’re in Mississippi for the family reunion is the fact that people in the deepest parts of the South will literally flour and fry anything. Fish, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, okra, pickles…you name it. If you can eat it, chances are someone in Mississippi has tried it fried. I’m convinced people down there would fry the sweet tea if they could only figure out how. The state is awash in grease.

And there’s only one serving size for all that fried food. It’s called “all-you-can-eat”. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single restaurant I entered in Mississippi was a buffet. I cannot think of a single restaurant we patronized that was not a buffet. Not one. I once tried to count the number of buffet restaurants that we passed as we drove. You may as well try to count the grains of sand on a beach. It cannot be done.

But the reason I think Southerners are fat goes beyond both of those items. The reason I think Southerners are fat is the same reason I think my father is fat. It’s not that he’s lazy and doesn’t exercise. The man ran 1000 miles in his 40th year. He’s walked many times that distance since, much of it with bad hips and knees. At 75, he still tries to exercise with barbells.

The reason I think my father is fat, (or was for most of his life) is because he has a love affair with the food experience. For him, the food experience goes beyond just food. It is an infinitely social thing, a finding of joy in the breaking of bread with his family and friends.

The food experience for him is finding joy in an abundance that he did not know as a poor kid growing up in the poor South. It is a recreation of Granny Holloway’s Sunday dinner, the maybe once-a-week meal in which he found plenty as a child, the one meal a week from which he did not walk away wanting more. It is a purely emotional response to food, a happiness found in satiety.

The food experience is something Dad always wanted to share, too. As a friend of mine growing up, you could not come to my house without being offered a meal of some sort. “You boys want sammich?” still rings in my mind as the question most often asked of me and my buddies. My father has Parkinson’s and cannot drive but will still, to this day, ask us if we want him to get us a chicken biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. In his retirement, his favorite way to pass the time is to enjoy a meal with one of his good buddies. The food experience is in his bones.

Couple that with the larger sense of Southern hospitality, a tradition that almost always involves sharing food with family, friends and neighbors, and I think you go a long way towards explaining the prevalence of obesity in the South. Southerners love food and they love the food experience. They love socializing over a meal and love the feeling of plenty when times are often lean. This keeps them coming back to the trough again and again and again, whatever the consequences to their appearance and their health.

It’s the Little Things

I’m sure you’ve all noticed that fitted sheets have both a long side and a short side.  Have you ever noticed that, even though you have a 50/50 chance of getting the long side matched up with the long side of your mattress, you’re always trying to stretch the short side the length of your bed when first making the attempt? Happens to me every time. You’d think I’d get it right the first time just once. But I never do.

You think maybe that’s a metaphor for something too? I wonder.

Metaphorical Underpants

I was in the midst of doing my laundry and packing for a trip to the beach for Memorial Day when it occurred to me: it’s time to change my underwear.

In folding my laundry, I began to notice the overwhelming number of pairs of boxers in my possession. I must have 40 pairs of boxers. (Why are they called “pairs”, by the way? They aren’t in two pieces or anything. Hmmm. Maybe it’s just me.)

Anyway, it’s a whole big drawer full, I assure you. And some of them are at least 10 years old, possibly pushing 12 years. For the most part, they are still serviceable and whole but the older are certainly looking a little thread bare.

Being the deep and insightful individual that I am, I’m beginning to think my underpants might possibly serve as a metaphor for my life.  I tend to hold on to lots of things that might have passed their prime. Relationships, for example.

Nah. That can’t be right. I’m sure I just have too many pairs of underpants.

How People Get Here

I’m always curious to know how people find my blog. Because of this, I’m always checking my referral reports to find out where people are coming from. Today’s top traffic driver? “Ashton Kutcher Tin Lizzy’s“. No less than 15% of today’s visitor’s to this blog searched Google with those words, only to find little old me.

Given that I’ve just doubled my references to both Ashton Kutcher and Tin Lizzy’s, I wonder how many people will find me that way tomorrow.

Doing Good, Doing Bad

It’s Sunday morning and I’m sitting here enjoying a little peace and quiet and a whole bunch of coffee. Saturday is typically the day when I rest and relax and enjoy my coffee but my Saturday this week was rather more eventful than not.  Because of this, I’m postponing church until the 6 p.m. service and enjoying my Saturday morning routine on Sunday. Since I haven’t blogged in a while, I thought it best if I caught everyone up on my doings as well.

Thus far, it’s been a pretty busy weekend.  Friday started things off with a group gathering at some guy’s house to meet the founder of the Ugandan American Partnership Organization. The story of this young lady is quite amazing. At the age of 19, after her sophomore year in college, she and several friends decided to go to Africa for the summer.

You might well imagine that a young sorority girl might not care for the African heat, the mosquitos or the poverty and, it’s true, the young lady in question did not. But through a series of circumstances, she came in contact with a Ugandan woman overwhelmed by trying to care for a group of young orphans and decided she needed to help her in some way.

I won’t recount the story here but her intention to simply leave a little money and go her own way turned into a crusade to build a house for the orphans. That snowballed into the building of an orphange to house 180 kids and that grew into a non-profit responsible for five orphanages in Uganda.

The whole story is pretty impressive and certainly bears all the hallmarks of a tale in which God is at work in a big way. The thing that struck me is that she really didn’t want to do it, much as you and I don’t want to do things that might interfere with our own selfish wants and desires. But, because she said yes rather than no, God has wrought an amazing work from her efforts. It makes me wonder what opportunities I’ve turned down simply by saying no instead of yes. I encourage you to visit the site and watch some of the videos. I know we’re all inundated with images of Sally Strother and starving children in Africa but I think you’ll be struck by the founder’s tale.

And, if you are touched by the story and want to help, you can get a great deal at Tom’s Shoes. If you buy a pair of shoes through the website, Tom’s will donate $8.00 dollars and a pair of shoes to the cause. I am now eagerly awaiting the pair I purchased this morning. I got the “Brown Leaves”. Not sure I’ll wear them but, what the heck. It’s for a good cause.

So, that was Friday. Saturday was more self-centered. I didn’t get to hang in and drink coffee but did have a lot of fun. My friend Pepper invited me to accompany her and her beau to the Inman Park Festival and parade. I’d heard the parade was a lot of fun but have not had the chance previously to attend. The morning started with a bruncheon at her friend’s house and then we walked over to the parade route.

What with the large crowd, it was pretty difficult to find a good spot to watch the parade go by.  It was hot and we were being jostled and bumped and pushed and just generally having a disagreeable time.  As we made our way through the crowd, we spotted this beautiful mansion fronting the parade route. The house had a lovely rooftop patio and we thought it would be a great place from which to watch the parade, especially seeing as how there was a group of people gathered upon it to watch the parade.

What a great place to watch a parade!
What a great place to watch a parade!

We were definitely covetous of their view and their roost safely out of reach of the crowd.

We decided that, were we to loiter around the gate long enough, we could meet people as they were going in and score some kind of invitation to the gathering. So we loitered.

Much to our chagrin, many of the attendees failed to acknowledge our presence as they were climbing the stairs and passing within. It was at this time that we decided to do something bold. We simply invited ourselves.

Now, this is not something I would normally do.  Abiding by the rules is something deeply ingrained in my nature. When I’m out hiking and a sign says “don’t climb on the rocks”, I typically don’t climb on the rocks, even if no one is looking. And when someone puts up an eight-foot iron and brick wall around their beautifully manicured lawn, I tend to stay outside of it. Especially when someone is looking.

But not today. Pepper and Pete (her beau) led the way and I, sucking up my inhibitions, followed. I did tarry briefly before crossing the threshold of the gate. Apparently I’m much like a vampire. If you don’t invite me in, I have a hard time inviting myself.

Pete and Pepper surely thought I would blow their cover. The way to invite yourself to someone elses’ party is to act like you belong there. If you act like you belong, no one questions your presence. If you hesitate and look like you’re out of place, people notice and question whether or not you should be there. Knowing this, I sucked it up, kicked the rules in the stomach and passed within.

We strode boldly across the lawn to the front steps. We climbed the front steps to the porch. We crossed the porch in through the open doors, up two flights of stairs and into the line of people waiting to get on the roof. No one said a thing. We got several smiles and greetings that we returned, climbed onto the roof, found a good perch for viewing and proceeded to enjoy ourselves. It was awesome.

This was our view:

The crowd of peasants below.
The crowd of peasants below.

As you might gather from the photo, the view was not quite as grand as we imagined from the street. You really couldn’t see the parade. All you could see was the mass of people lining the route.

It was also just as hot on the roof and perhaps even more so since the sunlight was reflected off tarred shingles. There was a pleasant breeze but, after half-an-hour of mixing and mingling, we missed the vibrancy of the milling humanity. The thrill of naked and willful tresspassing faded and we descended from our perch, having conquered the castle of the bourgeoisie.

Plus, we were never able to successfully locate the keg. We were pretty sure there was one in the house somewhere.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on porches and patios, drinking and dining and whiling away the hours. It was a pleasant way to spend a day.

Now I have to get cleaned up to do it all again. Friend Kim is coming over and we’re traipsing down to the park. It’ll be good to get in some exercise but, at this point, the last thing I need is more sun. I missed a spot with the sunscreen yesterday and I look like someone tried to press the wrinkles out of my forehead with an actual iron. Either that or I’ve been suffering from spousal abuse. I look forward to the liver spots and cancerous growths of my age.

Until then, I’ll slather on more sunscreen and wear a hat. Maybe somebody will come up with a cure for all these things in the interim period. Sure hope so.

Anyway, I’m signing off. See you all soon. Thanks for stopping in. Even if you weren’t invited.

Still Here

Hi, all. I know I’ve been bad about keeping up the blog of late. Since my return from vacation, I’ve been vacationing from the blog. Honestly, it’s not because I haven’t had the time. It’s more that I haven’t felt the need to say anything or that there was anything worth saying. Minus the update to let you all know I’m still alive, I feel that way still. Who knows when I’ll be in the mood to blog next?

Soooo…feel free to talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back soon, I promise.

The Calm Before the Storm

It’s 11:43 a.m. I have, I think, roughly forty-five minutes before the Rug Rats return. Forty-five minutes of peace and calm before the madness begins again. Forty-five minutes until the shouting, screaming, hitting, kicking, climbing, jumping, crying, begging, laughing, dancing, candy-consuming little bundles of joy burst through the door screaming for Uncle Chawee. From that point on, I will be under assault by children.

Olin will come running to pounce on my peaceful rest and composure. He’ll climb onto it’s shoulders and beat it away with a tattoo of drumming hands, relentless in his desire to display his violent affection.  He’ll screech and whine and beg and plead until either he is allowed to play video games or until I play a video game whilst he watches, offering a non-stop stream of loud and repetitive advice.  I generally try to encourage him to play but he insists that I watch, ensuring my inability to concentrate on anything by constantly demanding that I “watch this!” “Watch this, Uncle Chawee! Watch! Are you watching? Watch me! You’re not watching. Look at me!”

Competing for my attention will be big sister Tato. (Tato used to be Toto but the littliest indian now refers to her as Tato. So will I.) Tato will be right behind little brother. As soon as his attention is split between me and the game, she’ll charge. “Will you play a game with me? Can we play cards? Will you come up to my room? You want to play “Scrabble”? Come with me! Come with me!”

This will, of course, infuriate Olin. “Chawee is watching me! Chawee! Look what I can do! Watch me! Watch me!”

And then the fight will start. Olin will insist I watch. Tato will insist I play with her. And the Littlest Indian, rapidly becoming my favorite of the three, will watch or do his own thing. He is the only one that does not appear to need me as a source of entertainment.  He’s pretty self-contained.

Occasionally he’ll join the fray, generally as an unwilling participant or pawn. He’s pushed aside, picked up and moved, commanded to act, commanded to stop acting or wielded as weapon or king-maker.  Our usual interaction involves him making a series of indistinguishable noises that approximate speech, mumbled around the shield of his pacifier.  I have no idea what he’s saying most of the time. His preferred method of communication is a whining grunt and a pointing finger.  “Uh! Uh!” <Finger point>. I generally nod and verbalize my agreement. This typically satisfies him and he goes about his business. We get along well.

***

I think there’s more to be said in this post but I hear a car door. At least I think it’s a car door. My peace is about to be shattered and time for blogging is coming to an end.  Maybe there will be more tonight when they finally drift away to bed.  One can only hope.

My fight or flight instinct is kicking in. Maybe I should hide. But where? The only place I’m safe is…ah, yes…the bathroom.  It’s the one private place for which they have a smidgin of respect.  I still have to lock the door and they hover outside the door waiting impatiently for me to emerge. They shout and bang on the door and shove little fingers underneath it, begging me to come out, but they can’t physically get to me while I’m in there.

But that won’t stop them from trying.

Too late. Tato is here. “Peaceful time is over!”,  she says.

Don’t I know it.