Running on Empty

For someone who’s supposed to be retired, I’ve allowed daily events to affect me too much. I know better, but that doesn’t keep those things away. They eat away at my tank of energy, and these days the needle is aiming toward the big “E.” One area of consternation deals with politics. I admit my addiction to the subject. In fact, I start each morning with a healthy dose of “Good Morning Joe” on MSNBC. If I’m working at my desk, the television station’s programs serve as background noise. The themes for all the shows seem the same: political parties play roulette with the nation’s well being. Neither side wants to give any at all because ideology is so much more important than governing to them. Some are prepared to allow the country’s economy to go belly up to prove some silly point. Others are just as willing to do so rather than make changes in social programs running amok. It’s time for these egocentric individuals to compromise and get about the business of the nation. If they can’t, I propose that recall votes be held to oust the rascals. Let’s see how these talking heads function in the everyday world again. Americans have grown tired of politicians’ name calling and attacking persons with opposing viewpoints. Civility and respect for others are dead in the nation’s capitol. So many of our elected representatives profess their strong Christian faith, but I doubt that God would recognize any of His followers by their actions. Another sore spot concerns gasoline prices. In a matter of a week, prices jumped 20 cents a gallon. Oh, plenty of reasons flooded the news media. Some said that refineries were closed for maintenance; others said the more expensive summer blends were being produced. The most irritating excuse stated that speculators were driving up the prices as they looked for the economy to improve. Such weak reasons give me a headache. It stands to logic that spiking gas prices stall the economy. Folks can’t afford to drive those extra trips, so dining out or shopping at malls are added to the list of things not to do. Use goes down and prices follow, although they never drop to the original levels. It’s an economic game that is replayed every few months. I’d be in favor of a boost in gas prices IF the proceeds were directed toward ending our dependence on fossil fuels. The funds could go into alternative fuel sources that would free us from the whims of a gone-crazy Mideast and money grabbing oil companies and would help clean up the environment at the same time. Most of all, I exhausted from being a UT fan. Like so many others, I’ve suffered through football mediocrity for too many years. I’ve watched a men’s basketball team that had so much potential perform poorly in most every game. I’ve grimaced as one Lady Vol basketball player after another goes down with season-ending injuries. Some radio hosts dog the latest recruiting class without considering how late the coaching staff jumped into the fray. These talkers predict another horrible team with a losing record before the season even starts. I’m the eternal optimist. That means I’ll begin the 2013-14 seasons with renewed anticipation and hopes. Perhaps those expectations will be dashed upon the rocks of disappointment, but I’ll hang in for as long as possible. Then I’ll turn off the television set and save my dwindling supply of energy and patience. Maybe I’d be better off not caring about the direction of our country; maybe I should just pay the price for gas and let the oil companies jerk the collective American chain. Maybe I should find another team for which to cheer. On second thought, maybe bowing my back, hanging tough, and running on empty are the best things to do.

Waiting for Their Return

            One of my Facebook friends posted a rather sad message the other day. He lamented the relationship with his growing daughter and longed for the years before when he was at the center of her world. I replied that he was only living the normal life of a parent.
            In my case, I should have known that my daughter Lacey and I were destined to struggle in at least part of our lives together. Upon her arrival, she looked up at me with eyes that seemed already capable of focusing. The message was clear: I’m here now and things are going to change.
            Her stubborn streak reared its ugly head early. When she grew overly tired, this child would lie in the floor and cry, no sob, uncontrollably. The more exhausted she became the more she cried, but this little darling refused to sleep.
            On one particular occasion, she was ill-tempered about having her picture taken. The photographer wanted her to cross her arms and lean forward on a pillow. Lacey wasn’t in the mood, and try though we might to convince her to follow instructions, the best we ever got was her folding her arms but holding them in mid-air.
            Oh, I had plenty of special times with her during the toddler years. I’d pick her up from daycare, and we’d stop at the convenient store for white powdered doughnuts. She’d munch away on them and survey the world from her car seat. On another occasion, I took her to see “ET” at the movie theater, and my heart broke when she cried during the sad scenes.
            During her early years in school, I enrolled her in activities that would give her exercise and improve her physical skills. Karate lasted only a couple of months. She was the only girl in the class, and her Gi wasn’t one of her favorite outfits. She played T-ball one year and spent a couple of years playing softball but never particularly liked them.
            During middle school and high school, my daughter discovered defiance, and she set out to master it as if it were an art. If I said something was white, she countered that it was black. Many were the arguments we had in raised voices. Lacey never admitted I was right, and I refused to concede a single point to her. Most of these “wordy warfares” ended in my yelling, “Don’t slam your door, or I’ll take it off the hinges!” She never even gave the satisfaction of removing the thing, choosing instead to call me muffled names from the other side of the door.
            On one rough evening, my daughter announced that she wished she could move out and never come back. I told her I was tempted to help back her bags. After that, we declared an uneasy truce in which she followed the rules Amy and I had set. I have no doubt that when she was out with friends that many of them were broken.
            Amy and I took her to college at MTSU. In forty-five minutes, we’d unloaded and turned the car toward home. Lacey called home and cried, something that broke my heart. She said she was homesick. Those were wonderful words to hear from a daughter who was hell-bent on getting out of the house. 
            Since that time, Lacey has been that sweet, loving daughter I remember so many years ago. Sure, she has her moments, and so do I, when sparks fly and anger erupts. Nowadays, we know how to handle those spats much better, and neither of us doubts the strength of our love.
            So, Facebook friend, don’t worry. Our children grow and rebel and drive us crazy. It’s only temporary. In no time at all, they come home and bathe us in their wonderfulness as we wrap our loving arms around them. It is tough now, but fear not, for we always love our children, and they always love us right back. We just have to wait for their return.

Follicle Follies

I’ll watch most anything on television, at least for a few minutes. Very little of what I view is offensive enough to make me change the channel or turn the set off. However, some commercials irk me to the point that I want to yell profanities at the screen. Many of those ads offer products for hair. I don’t get it.
            For some reason, lots of men don’t want to be seen with gray hair. The other day I was at the place where I have my hair cut and spied a little old man who must have been close to 80 having his hair dyed. Millions of other males choose, instead, to use things like Just for Men. It’s supposed to cover “just the right amount of gray.” How much is that? In one commercial, a man’s young children give him the stuff and encourage him to find someone to date. Huh?
What’s wrong with having a head full of silver strands? My hair began turning gray years ago; my brother Jim and I struggle to remember a time when we were brunettes. It was a gift of genetics from our mother, and we’ve managed in spite of this evident handicap.
Razor commercials flood the airways. An announcer is yammering about the fabulous shave that some “technologically advanced” razor is giving. Women can have silky smooth legs and underarms. Men can have the closest, safest shaves of their lives.
To that I say big deal. The truth is that most of us, men and women alike, will arise each day with the knowledge that our faces, pits, and limbs must be scraped clean with a sharp blade. Oh, some will use electric devices which are poor substitutes for the cold steel of a razor. Sometimes the instruments will dull so that removing hair is a rather painful affair. At other times, faces and legs will be covered with wads of toilet paper to ebb the flow of red from nicks and scrapes.
Other gadget commercials promise wonderful results. For instance, the Micro Touch is the right tool between haircuts. Why, a guy can cut those pesky hairs on the back of his neck or the ones the sprout from his ears. Best of all, this little machine takes care of unsightly nose hairs. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for Christmas.
What’s the need for such a gadget? A pair of tweezers can do the job just as effectively. Oh sure, using them causes a man’s eyes to fill with tears with each pluck from a nostril, but hey guys, man up.
The goofiest new product is called the No-No. This little contraption is used by rubbing it back and forth over areas where hair is present. The treated places can be the arms, faces, legs, and lips. Supposedly, the No-No sends out thermo pulses that crystallize hairs. Is that anything like burning them?  
The one place that seems ridiculous to use this new tool is on a man’s chest, but honest, the commercial show a woman running a No-No over a man’s pecks. Times have sure changed, perhaps not for the good. I remember when doing some manly things were said to “put hair on a male’s chest.” Now that look is disgusting. Guys want chests that are as smooth as a baby’s bottom.
Some of us aren’t so wrapped up in hair. In fact, lots of guys are what I call “folliclely” challenged. I’m becoming one with each passing day. I don’t worry too much about tools to help me cut, clip, and remove hair; nature is doing that just fine. If our biggest worries are about what to do with unwanted hair, I’d say we should hit our knees and thank the good Lord for all His blessings.


A good friend of mine enlightened me on an important factor in life. Joe Dooley and I were discussing politics and world events. At one point, he looked at me and stated,
            “Everything in life is a bell-shaped curve.”
            Now, most people know that I am a failure in the area of math, and for a few seconds my mind processed on that statement. Because a bell-shape curve also is discussed in sociology, a subject in which I minored in college, his point became clear. In fact, Joe’s statement is one of the most poignant that I’ve heard in quite some time.
            For those who might not recognize the term bell-shaped curve, I’ll give a quick definition. The formal one says that it is “the symmetrical curve of a normal distribution: a normal curve.” My definition is that it’s a curve where the most of any thing is in the middle and smaller segments are on each side.
Bells-shaped distribution is visible in most things in this world. For example, in school, the majority of students do average work for their grade level. Some students, by means of superior intelligence or industriousness, make A’s in classes. Another smaller group refuses to complete the work or study for anything. They find no value in education and can’t wait to escape the classroom. The problem comes when the parents of the average students insist upon their children receiving inflated grades for average work, something that would skew and wreck the normal shape of distribution.
Plenty of folks pooh-pooh welfare and denigrate all recipients. The fact is that the majority of individuals on welfare struggle to make ends meet. They would much rather have independence than handouts. At one extreme are those who use welfare only for short periods of time as they re-group from some misfortune which they have encountered in life. At the other end is a group that enjoys the free life; they have no intention or compunction to leave it.
Politicians fit “the bell” as well as any group. Most representatives are moderate in their views. They work to do what is in the best interest of the country and its citizens. However, a few are ideologues who care only for advancing their narrow-minded agenda. Yes, the ultra-conservatives are on the right, and the ultra-liberals are on the left. It’s sad that these fringe groups too often determine what happens in our government.
The same is true for gun control. The majority of Americans want some restrictions. That might mean registering them, running background checks on anyone who wants to buy one, or closing gun show loopholes. Now, one radical group screams and hollers against any restrictions. They yell 2nd amendment rights, even though even conservative Supreme Court Judge Scalia said the government has the right to regulate guns. The other extremists group yells for complete ban of all guns, another ridiculous stance such a statement ignores the millions of folks who enjoy hunting and target shooting.
Even religion fits this equal distribution. Most folks are God-loving people who work each day to live by the examples given in their religion. It is the splinter groups that cause the troubles. Some want to fight holy wars that destroy any and all who refuse to drink the poisonous Kool-aid of their extremist views. Others want to damn to hell all who fail to toe the line of their word-for-word credo that ignores others who might think differently. To them, theirs is the only correct interpretation of God’s words.
In all things, the largest group is in the middle. That’s where the truth usually lies. The extremes of the bell shape curve cause the problems. In many cases the small groups yammer and whine and curse the loudest, and in cases like the government and religion, the squeaky wheel gets the grease while the silent majority is ignored.
We might take a lesson from religion’s middle. It believes that God loves all of His people, no matter on what side they fall. He expects the middle to teach and guide the extreme parts until they understand the divisiveness they cause. If we work a bit harder, perhaps the middle can grow while the extremes diminish. It would be nice if we all pulled in the same direction for a while.