Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

Hang out with the old preacher by browsing my blogs.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Splendid Gorge

The first time I saw the Grand Canyon was in the 70s when we were crossing the country, and along the way my wife lobbied for a stop at the big hole. I saw it on the map, and it seemed to me to be too far off the highway we were traveling to bother. I futilely argued, "I've seen it in magazines and on calendars, murals, movies and photos. I know what it looks like." BL: "Please!" Me: "Okay." So we took the extra time and trouble. So when I got out of the car and went to the railing at the edge, my mouth involuntarily dropped open and my eyes widened. It truly awesome.

So now ever since our 50th anniversary we have been planning to take the package tour advertised at the AAA office, which is a ride on the Grand Canyon Railroad from Williams, AZ, to the Canyon and back. We have been providentially hindered for 2.5 years. You know things like pneumonia have a way of changing your plans. Now that we have done it, I simply have to say the same old trite things like, "Wow! How awesome!" I didn't feel like driving to Williams, so we added an Amtrack ticket from LA to Williams to our experience. We stayed in a nice hotel in Williams one night going and one night coming back. We also stayed in the motel overnight at the canyon. This gave us more than a full day at the park to try to take it all in.

On the train one sees a few scary people. There was a lady behind our seat who neglected to hear the call for Riverside, and stayed on the train, bewildered. Then a couple of gang bangers were arguing about whether or not the one had been dissed. There was the lady whose husband was just too large to come from the sleeper to breakfast in the diner. There but for the grace of God... On the train from Williams to the park we met a few nutty people including a contrived train robbery, a troubadour with a few old western songs and a little lame humor.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Zuccini everywhere

Recently we enjoyed fresh squash from our garden. The zucchini that I planted are all proving quite prolific. When you go to the nursery and buy flowers or veggies, they usually come in a six-pack carton, and you have no choice but to plant six plants. Well there is quite a different matter between the enjoyment of planting a garden, and the responsibility of harvest. Years ago we had a fruitful zucchini plant, and we remember overlooking a squash that was hidden under leaves. Maybe we left home for a few days. I really don't remember. But I vividly remember discovering this squash that had transformed itself from a vegetable into a giant gourd.

Now we have not one or two, but six zucchini plants, all of which are proving themselves to be healthy and active. The other day I counted no less than 10 mini squash developing on these fruitful plants. Several of them are finger size and even a little larger. Fancy restaurants like to serve them this size with maybe baby carrots or some other infant veggies. Now we are planning to be away this week for our trip to the Grand Canyon, and we can just imagine the harvest jubilee that will greet us on Saturday. I will have to get out the cook books and find out what we can make of them in addition to our much anticipated ratatouille.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Parenting Experts

Barbara's best friend told her that the Lord sent us Paul because, after Philip and Calvin, we thought we had all the answers on parenting. Nobody comes to the job of being a parent with experience. We found out how true that is. When we told Philip, "Don't touch that!" He didn't touch it. Calvin came along and he was every bit as compliant as his older brother. In rare cases we may have to spank the hand, but only once. They were sweet, obedient little boys. When Paul arrived we found ourselves to be novices again. When we said, "Don't touch that!", we found we were giving him the most compelling reason to touch it. I hope there is a statute of limitations for child abuse or the authorities may come after me for what I am about to disclose. When our third child turned up the volume on our hi-fi equipment for the third defiant time, I spanked Paul's little hand. Now it became a battle of the wills, and I spanked his hand repeatedly. His will was too strong because my fingers were turning blue from broken capillaries, and he was still twisting the radio knob.

We should have been warned by the way he behaved even before he was born. When this determined fetal brat was only 10 weeks along, he began to move. Barbara told the doctor, and he said it had to be only gas because a 10 week fetus is not yet active. But when he kicked the doctor's stethoscope, his eyes widened and he went to the calendar and pontifically declared that he must be a month in error on his calculations. But Paul's birthday proved him wrong.

Barbara swears that he bruised her internally. I am witness to his antics. I saw her abdomen stretching two directions at once, and I got this cartoonish image of our tiny baby straining with arms above his head and feet pushing the opposite direction, and the caption reads: "GET ME OUTA HERE!"

He deserved many swats as a child, and we discovered on one of those tragic occasions that he had prepared for the trauma by donning 6 pair of briefs under his bluejeans.

Then there was his brief career in the Air force. He deduced that he could ride his skateboard around base without saluting officers because he was on a mode of transportation. He even was caught drawing a mustache on the great picture of the base General.

His favorite game is to tweak the nose of authority.

What do you think about?

Our church just started a fortnightly luncheon for seniors. Barbara reacted by saying, "How nice that they remember the old folks like that. Wait a minute, that's me!" So we went, and it was nice. The lady who kindly started this program asked me to bring a little devotional following the meal. I read Psalm 92 and talked very briefly on what it means for God's people to bear fruit in old age (14). That verse also says they will be fat and luxuriant. Newer versions hide the "fat" with "full of sap" or something else. But the Hebrew simply says "fat". Okay, I'm trying to reduce that substance, but the Hebrews meant "fat" to be a favorable condition. Those who are so poor that they hardly have anything to eat cannot become fat.

Anyway, that was not part of my devotional. I thought about what it means to be fruitful in old age. Sometimes us old folks don't feel very fruitful. But the text seems to suggest that if we constantly remember God's goodness and thank Him, and if we make it a habit of repeating it to others, this is at least part of bearing fruit.

Then I noticed that this is really the theme of this Psalm. It begins with that note: "It is good to give thanks to the Lord, And to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High" (v. 1).

It's really hard to be a bitter, complaining person (as some old folks seem to get) when you are always seeing good things God has done and thanking Him for them. I know since my heart attack, and then when the lesson was repeated in my bout with pneumonia, I realize how dramatically I am living on borrowed time. Without contriving to do this, I find myself waking up to thank God for the new day.

Sometimes ugly memories pop into my mind. I usually remember some sin or some embarrassing situation of the past, and groan with remorse. But I have been taught that the best cure of that is to replace that thought with a better one as soon as possible. It seems we cannot help what pops into our minds. But we can help what we let our minds dwell upon (see Philippians 4:8). May God always enable me to dwell on his Goodness to me. There has certainly been enough of His goodness for me to praise Him now and forever.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Home Improvement

Two electricians were yelling to each other from the attic crawlspace to our new extension section. Others were nailing shingles on the roof over our heads. Between the yelling and the banging, I just said, "Barbara, I've got to get out of here. Can't you think of some errands we can run?" We spent the rest of the afternoon going to the bank and shopping. This time I didn't mind shopping at all. Why should I? I got three new shirts and a pair of dress pants. Losing 70 pounds makes this necessary. My new pants are 10 inches less in the waist. I had been feeling like the cartoon character who lost everything gambling, and in the last panel we see him walking away wearing only a barrel with suspenders.

They installed a special extension cord for Barbara to use her new washing machine. The outlet behind the machine is not connected because the wall is in the process of being reconstructed. We cannot play our new Bose radio and CD player, because that outlet seems to be on that same circuit. I heard the electrician speculate to his co-worker that the position of our new air conditioner may be disallowed by the local code. I'm hoping the air conditioner man knows more about the code than the electrician. The inspection is yet to come.

We have a wonderful new builder working for Cal West. He has everything going ahead of schedule because he is always ready for inspections at each stage. But he had to leave for home in El Salvador because his mother just passed away. This is the first delay we have seen, and we have been promised that Manuel will return on Tuesday. We will see.

So even though I have lost a lot of weight, I now have much less space to move my torso through all the stuff that has been forced to crowd our shrinking living space. No big deal! There are too many people who have no home at all. Our nice home is simply becoming nicer (and larger) than it was when we bought it. It is a blessing that is simply a trifle bit delayed. God is so good to us.

Friday, May 14, 2010

4 A.D.

It's almost four weeks since I finished my Optifast diet. I want to tell you that food is delicious! It's even harder than I thought to stick to my weight control principles, and I already knew it was going to be difficult. At my last post about dieting I mentioned that I had officially lost 68 pounds. I have now lost a total of 72 pounds. Only 4 pounds in those four weeks, but it was a loss nevertheless.

Today we were acting as surrogate grandparents for one of our precious little friends, Payton Kooi. We attended a school skit in which he played the big, bad wolf. Since we were at that end of town (Cerritos), and since we had gift cards for Carrows Restaurant we needed to use, we stopped at the local eatery. Looking at a menu is an appealing temptation. It's like an alcoholic, sitting at a bar, thinking he will just order a coke.

Before I could retract it, I had ordered an 8 ounce blackened prime rib, medium rare. But I only ate half of it. I ordered baked potato, but remembered a tip from my sweet daughter-in-law, and ordered some Grey Poupon as the only accompaniment. Not bad--really. I know that sour cream and butter adds tons of fat calories. Oh yeah, I only ate half of the potato. I also ordered broccoli. They cooked it just right and it was good (and disgustingly healthy). The meal came with a large slice of cornbread. I only ate half of the cornbread, and even that was too much, but it was delicious. So we both brought leftover boxes home (we have no doggie, so let's call it by the correct name).

I know, I know, I've been rambling on and on about the minute details of dinner, but something psychological happens to a guy that has just finished a 20 week liquid diet. I think about food far more than I should. But I am still losing. To reach my goal at this rate will take another 17 weeks, and I'm still determined. It's just that I am discovering for the first time again just how luscious food can be!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day Fun

What is the most unusual Mother's Day present you have received? Was it an all expense paid fishing trip for two? Was it a new power drill? What do you give to the mother who has everything? Perhaps an ermine covered cork for the hole in her head. Well, I gave her roses. Not very original, right? But these roses were still attached to a bush in a pot. It wasn't dead, and sometime next week it will be in the ground in front of the house. Not as transparently self-centered as the drill, but we will both enjoy the future roses no doubt.

This year on Mother's Day Eve our eldest, Phil, ordered a troubadour in a tuxedo to deliver a singing telegram, wishing his mother a happy day. He tried to crack jokes, but thereby proved why he was not in legitimate show business. Okay, he was smile-provoking at least. "If I'm successful here, I get a gig in a crawlspace across town." (Apparently a veiled reference to our cramped and messy house during the renovation.) He was charming, corny and actually not that bad a singer. I surmise that he was told that Barbara preferred classical music, so he sang "Roll Over, Beethoven" (the closest he could come to classical in his repertoire). Before leaving he presented Barbara with a pink teddy bear.

Have you had a more unusual present for Mother's Day?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Broken Arm

This is another of my "ancient tales".

We discovered that the state of Delaware checked us out for foster children by talking to people who knew us, rather than putting a tape measure to our doors and windows. We were impressed that the division of social services cared more about the character of people than the mere statistics of floor space. We were sure that we would get along with an understanding agency like this. We had applied for a boy, because we already had four of our own, and felt we had enough experience to handle him. But when we heard that he would have to be separated from his sister, we asked them why we couldn't simply take both. It worked out, rather amazingly, and before we knew it we had Bobby (who was 9) and Donna (who was 8) in our noisy, active family.

What we didn't know was just how Donna worked. She was different. Maybe our original idea was best, but that would have left these siblings separated, and it would have broken our hearts, even if it didn't break theirs. Donna was active - no, frenetic - no, hyper! Well, anyway you get the point. She also felt it was very important to be part of the family, and to be accepted by the group of kids with whom she was playing. I guess that doesn't sound very unusual, but perhaps it was the degree that this compelled her that was unusual indeed. Since the other kids were roller skating, she had to roller skate too. Since the other kids were skating down a steep driveway, she had to do it too. Only she didn't really know how to skate. The results were predictable had we really known our new daughter. She broke her arm. This is when we learned that foster children really belong to the state, and only certain people have the authority to approve medical procedures--including the setting of broken bones. My wife is a trouper. She made a phone call or two, and got Donna to the hospital. All seemed to be going well, finally, when we had a new disclosure to learn about our cute little new daughter. She is deathly terrified of needles. So when the nurse tried to give her an anesthetic shot, Donna screamed and pulled her arm back, and out came the needle. Barbara reports that it took four of them to hold her down and give her that shot.

Even back then there were horror stories about foster care in the news. So we began imagining what our social worker might think when our Donna's arm is broken just six weeks after she was placed in our home. We kept looking out the window, but no black sedans with suits, and no black-and-whites pulled to our curb.

Further musing brought to mind that school was about to begin like the next day, and, of course, it was her right arm that had to break. This, however, was not to be Donna's greatest obstacle in her educational experience. We learned, after clinical analysis at the Alfred I. DuPont Institute for children, that Donna has an auditory learning disability to accompany her hyper-active lack of attention span.

In due time Donna learned to calm herself down, and eventually earned an unqualified high school diploma. Let me say that whatever she lacked auditory-wise, she compensates for with visual alertness. She is legendary in our family for being able to find things. To this day when something can't be found we are prone to say, "Where is Donna when you need her?"

Monday, May 3, 2010

Worse now, better later

How often did you realize things have to get worse before they get better? Well of course I am referring to our house expansion. They tore out the wall of our living room today. Imagine your living room with one of the walls (to the outside!) torn off. In all honesty, that was only for a short while. Since then they constructed a crude temporary wall with plywood. But there is no window. Yes, it is dark in here. Yes, we have the light burning in the afternoon.

This side of the mess we have a clear plastic sheet taped to the ceiling, shielding us from the dust created by this kind of work. So at this point in time, the living room that was way too small for our big furniture is now a little smaller, with all that furniture scrunched together a little more. I have to reach behind a cabinet in order to turn on the TV with my remote. That sort of defeats the purpose of a remote. But when our luxurious big screen TV finally does light up, we need to crane our necks to the left in order to see the action on the right of the screen. Left handed batters I can easily see, but when a righty comes to the plate I lean way over.

This is only an imagined hardship, I realize, and it is only temporary anyway. But for right now it is just as dramatic as I pictured it. The huge beam that was lying on the ground was destined for the support of our living room when completed. I commented this morning that it would take 6 men to lift that thing. Scott chuckled and told me that it was a lot easier for them to put it down on the ground. This afternoon they did lift the beam and fit it into the slot prepared, and it did take 6 men. Alright, it took 5 men and one supervisor. I was supervising and documenting the construction with my camera.

Here's what I saw.