COLD PLAY

The past week saw winter rear its ugly head. A small amount of snow didn’t look like too much of a problem, but temperatures that stayed in the teens and twenties turned melting snow into sheets of ice. Anytime in my life that the white stuff stacks up outside, I’ve been out in it.
As youngsters, snow was something that excited us. It seems that accumulations were more back then; maybe global warming has affected the regions totals. We begged to go outside, but Mother
sometimes made us wait. That was unusual since most of the times she ordered us out of the house to find something to do.
We didn’t have snow clothing. Instead, we put on a couple of layers of shirts and pants. Zipping that second pair of jeans was a challenge, and by the time all the clothes were on, we looked like the younger brother in “A Christmas Story.” No one had a pair of boots. In their place, we put on our play shoes and a couple of pairs of sox; plastic bags used for loaves of bread, secured with rubber bands, were on top of everything.
Once outside, we reveled in the snow. Sometimes snowmen were created. Snowball fights always took place until someone took a fistful of snow to the face. One time, we built an igloo of sorts, and all of us boys crawled into it before the sun came out and melted it. Then we moved to the pond in the woods. We skated on thin ice and hoped it would hold us. Only once did it crack and dump us into frigid waters. It was more fun than could have been imagined.
After my children arrived and became old enough to knock around outside, I accompanied them as they played. Both were more appropriately dressed for the weather than I was years earlier. The two of them immediately dropped to the ground and made half a dozen snow angels. Next, we struggled
to make a snowman, even though the snow was many times powdery and uncooperative. The kids always had a good time battling their dad in a snowball fight. Of course, I also took them around the yard and pointed out the importance of leaving alone any yellow snow that they found.
Before long, the children turned surly with boredom. That signaled the time to bring out the old coal scoop. It was the one that Daddy bought when the coal furnace was installed in our house when I was a small boy. The edge was bent and warped from use shoveling coal and scraping the curb in front of our property.
I grabbed the handle and placed both little ones on the metal part. Then I’d take off running as fast as my skinny legs would move me. The kids held on to each other as the shovel glided over the packed snow and ice. I’d stop suddenly and swing the shovel out into a big circle and then started over again. Lacey and Dallas loved the ride and laughed and squealed as they rode. I, on the other hand, stumbled toward the front door to take off soaked clothes and plop down into my recliner, where the next hour would be spent napping. Amy would step outside and scoop up a large bowl of snow. She added ingredients to make snow cream, and we all enjoyed a cupful of the stuff.
I thought that I would escape trips outside to play in the snow when I aged, but oh, how wrong I was to believe it. These days, Sadie, our dog, whines and jumps, and growls to go out. When we exit the door, she takes off. Her nose is lowered to the ground and serves as a plow. The snow covers her snout until her tongue licks the stuff off. Sadie runs as if she were escaping a dangerous enemy, but her exercise is fueled by an excitement to be in the white stuff. She grudgingly goes into the house and stands still until I can dry her off. Then we both head for the recliner for that same kind of nap that I took when my children were small.

I love the snow---for about two hours. Then I’m ready for it to disappear so that I can get on with life. To be honest, I enjoy snow the best when I view it from the windows of my den. Cold play just isn’t something important to my present life. 

FAMILY ARGUMENTS

When people are together for any length of time, they are bound to argue. If they are family members, the spats are worse, sometimes even leading to fights. To be honest, most of those family quarrels begin over rather ridiculous things.

Husbands and wives sometimes have disagreements. When Amy and I first married, those times came quite often. We were learning to live together, something that is difficult for two
individuals who have never been in such a close relationship. Each of us made messes that irked the other. Sometimes the arguments began over what television show we would watch.

Most of the time, I wound up in trouble with my wife for being “insensitive.” I’d say or do something that Amy considered thoughtless. Did I know that I had hurt her feelings by my comments or actions? No, I was oblivious to the faux pas, but I knew that something I did had landed me in trouble. Any attempts at discussion usually led to my wife’s going silent and my growing frustrated and angry. The resolution to the situation arrived when I uttered, “I’m sorry’” although I had no idea what sin I had committed.

Brothers and sisters constantly argue. The older child has an intense dislike for younger family members. Life was so much better when the older one was the only one. Fights occur everywhere; that includes at home and in cars, motel rooms, and restaurants. A younger child invades the space of the older one, and screams of “get out of my room” echo throughout the house.

In cars, the wars start in the back seat. One child squalls, “Stop touching me” That only serves to up the ante as the offending small person holds a finger just above the complainer’s arm. “Stop! STOP! STOP!” the volume goes up with each successive command until the sound is close to piercing adult eardrums. At that point, the parent
chimes in with his own demanding barks that tell both sides to cease and desist. The command is usually followed by a command that begins with “Or else.” Only the bravest children dare to tempt fate then; they know that the wrath of a stressed parent can lead to painful consequences.

Teens and their parents engage in the most ridiculous arguments. The younger person punches the buttons of the parent, and the fight is on. My daughter Lacey was a master button pusher. She would complain about home, and on one occasion commented that she wished she could leave and never come back. I replied that I wished I could help her pack her bags. That wasn’t the best way to handle the situation, but she had managed to push the right buttons to lead to the answer.

One evening the family traveled to West Town Mall. I noticed that Lacey was sporting a thumb ring. For the life of me, I didn’t understand it, so I commented that “The demise of the Egyptian civilization was in part due to the preoccupation with personal appearance. For a minute the entire family sat silent, somewhat dumbfounded by the comment. Then my loving
wife, who should have supported me, spewed out laughter that was followed by raucous yuks from my children. I fumed the rest of the evening, and when we arrived home, Amy and I spent more than a few minutes arguing about her outburst. Years later, I see why she found my words so humorous perfectly.


Over the years, my family has engaged in some ridiculous arguments. Most of the time, they were based on raw moods or inabilities to adapt to situations. In the end, however, we still love each other and have survived those disagreements with little or no lasting repercussions. The best thing about those battles is that they bring back memories that are always followed by laughter. Yes, families engage in absurd arguments, but they give a bit of spice and color to life. They also teach folks to develop thicker skins. 

RESTART

Okay, 2016 is in the rearview mirror, and I say good riddance. Don’t get me wrong; I am always thankful for the time I have in this life, but the past year has had enough negatives to keep me from wanting to relive it. I’ll take the future...and hope. I’m pretty sure we all need to look for a “restart.” At least that’s what I’m calling for in 2017.

One thing that needs a restart is the world where news organizations deliver stories each day. Over the past year, many politicians and special interest groups have demonized newspapers and television newscasts. They are accused of being “biased” and “liberal.” Other groups have accused the media of pandering to the inconsequential events that surround one candidate. The simple truth is that both sectors of the press have fallen into a trap. Not enough news is available to fill up each 24-hour cycle. To continue to bring in advertising dollars, these establishments have begun making trivia newsworthy. They give twists to ordinary events; they analyze the simplest things, and both liberal and conservative stations and papers can come up with an endless supply of talking heads who will support their biased views.

It is time for the TRUE news media to push the restart button. Their roles are to report the news without slant, not make it. In times past, folks sat down in the evenings to watch Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley. Those legends reported the news but never editorialized it. We also got a half hour of local news twice a day. The newspapers gave more in-depth coverage of stories, but the material was based on facts, on the 5 W’s of “who, what when, where, and why. Sources that folks find on Facebook are NOT news organizations. They are sites that make up news or boldly lie about a story to make it favorable to their sides.

We also need a reset on the latest ideas about the U.S. and its place in the world. Too many of our leaders are pushing for a pull back from involvement in areas of the world. They declare that our only involvements should be with those countries that will provide benefits to us. That kind of thinking is swimming in ignorance. Isolating ourselves will not end problems. To the contrary, it will increase them. The void that we leave will be filled by another country, and its power and influence will grow as our decreases. To stop the spread of ideas that are in conflict with democracy, our country must remain a key force in the world and its affairs. No, we don’t have to be the policeman of the world, but we do have responsibilities as a superpower. Refusing to address countries and problems will eventually lead us to becoming a second-class country.  

Most of all, the time has come for us to restart our dealings with others in our own country. The presidential election of 2016 has proven to be the most divisive event of the last few years. The winners are less than gracious in the victory. They prefer to rub salt into wounds and to get even with those who did not support their candidate. The losers are set on discovering something that will overturn the elections results. Even though their candidate won the popular vote, our country determines winners based on the electoral college. So, these disgruntled individuals must hold their noses and accept the outcome of our election process.

We have plenty of challenges ahead. Unless a person is living in a fantasy world, he realizes that campaign promises are rarely kept. Folks, no wall is going to be built; illegal immigrants are not going to be rounded up and shipped south of the border. Old jobs are not coming back; they either don’t exist, no longer pay enough for a good living, or won’t be around as soon as technology replaces workers. Our duty is to make this country a place of opportunity for all folks. That starts with making sure each person is educated in some area or trained in some skill that meets the world’s needs. We must learn to get along with folks of all races. Bigotry and racism will destroy us long before an outside enemy will.


A new year is here. Isn’t it time to put away old grudges? Shouldn’t we offer an olive branch to those with whom we have differences? Don’t we want a country that allows free speech in the media while demanding that it be objective? Can’t we take care of our affairs and still be the leader that the rest of the world looks to for guidance? These are the things that I hope 2017 will restart. God knows we need it. 

A SMOOTHER JOURNEY

The older I grow,  the more I come to realize that life resembles a ride on the biggest roller coaster in existence, and it’s a ride that travels much too fast for my taste. Those rides that make stomachs rise to throats and frazzle nerves aren’t things I find particularly fun; more my style is a slow moving boat on a waterway that flows through an amusement park’s grounds. Nevertheless, as long as folks take breath on this planet, they’ll encounter the highs and lows that come with each day. The ways they handle those lows that come determine what kind of lives they will have.

We all will face disappointments in life. They occur when events don’t match expectations. Yep, we often set ourselves up for disappointments when we are unrealistic about life. Dreaming is not a bad thing. Thoureau stated, “"If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.”He then added, “Now put the foundations under them.” Too often we skip that second part and then wonder why things didn’t work out.

Sometimes our disappointments are the end results of losses. We might lose jobs that provided us with the security we need in life. We go from the happiness of employment and the benefits it brings to the fear of uncertainty. Maybe we lost the job because of re-organization of a company. It might have occurred due to poor performance, or perhaps office politics lowered the boom as a higher-up chose us to take the fall for his incompetence.

The loss of a loved one through death or divorce can drop us to our knees. We wonder what could have been done to stop our partners from leaving. We punish ourselves for not spending enough time with the person who has passed. Many people cry out in anger and simply ask “Why?” The height of frustration swallows us when no answer comes.  

One action during the down times is to make every effort to correct problems. An individual can look to himself for answers of how he contributed to the situation. That self-examination might lead to the discovery that actions or attitudes contributed to the negative results. If that’s the case, he must decide if a personal change is worthwhile.

Sometimes, a person investigates those downturns in life too much. He wonders why things happen; he worries that something wrong within himself has caused the problem. Fretting over disappointments or events in uncontrollable situations accomplishes nothing. At some point, beating up oneself is unproductive and excessive.

The truth of the matter is that at times there is nothing any of us can do to “fix it.” Our abilities to heal, mend, or understand run out. It is at those moments that we can look outside ourselves. We can call on a power greater than we are. Yes, our prayers go up for help or understanding. Then we turn loose of those things completely. That’s the hard part. We just can’t stand not being in control, even if we can do nothing to change things.But if we step out and take that leap of faith, we might just be surprised how things turn out.
The good lord wants the best for all his children. He will shoulder the unbearable; He will take on the worry; He will lay out a new path that is better. Our jobs are to simply get out of His way. That means waiting for His time, not our own. Doing so might be the most difficult task. When that brick wall  of conflict appears, we surely can’t run  through it, so why not let it go?  


No, I don’t mean to preach. It’s just that in the last few years, I’ve faced such things, and I’ve eventually asked for help with them. It came in ways that I didn’t expect, and I’m grateful. My roller coaster ride then became a smoother journey.