Interstate Highways . . .

Since returning home from our motor-home vacation, I have received a couple of bills from the motor-home rental company . . . the bills are for toll roads upon which we traveled. These toll roads are everywhere. It is the new way by which highway construction improvements are being funded. It Seems to Me . . . the 48.8 cents per gallon tax on fuel simply isn’t enough anymore. In spite of the high cost, one must admit that the USA has a terrific road system. Here is a bit of history:

In 1956 under President Dwight D Eisenhower, the Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, and began the interstate highway system. What a great thing this highway system is . . . which efficiently and economically facilitates travel, business, commerce, and shipping. Over the past 20 years, Uncle Sam has spent some serious money upgrading the systems. Everywhere one travels there is road construction.

On our journey, we traveled across much of Texas and across a dozen other states and did 95% of it on these marvelous high-speed roads. As we drove along, I told Chris some of how cross-country travel has changed during my life time. I chuckled as I told him of traveling in old cars, with bad tires, over bad roads, without air conditioning! Today, we typically plan on 750 miles per day . . . when I started driving it was 400 miles per day, and that was not always easy to achieve.

I chuckled and told him that when I drive to Snyder (almost 400 miles) which I can do in about 7 hours, I always think of my grandparents who would have spent close to a week on such a trip . . . as I recall the best car they ever owned was a very used 1949 Ford that would go about 30 MPH. Their parents would have likely spent a month on such a trip in their horse-drawn wagons.

Do you know these high-speed highways are also part of our national defense system? The law requires long, straight sections at various intervals that can be used for landing military aircraft.

It is good that we have such a great highway system as there are some 250 million cars and trucks today . . . about one per citizen. By contrast, as the 20th Century opened, there was one vehicle per every 18,000 citizens.

As we traveled across the country, it occurred to me that . . . we are truly a mobile society! I wonder how it will all be when Abi is my age?

Psalms . . . .

On our long road trip in the motor home, Ali and Abi sang quite a bit. As I listened to them and even joined in from time-to-time, I was reminded how important music was in my own children’s learning, and even in my own learning as a child. Most folks learned the ABC’s by signing them . . . to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. We were taught the books of Bible and the names of the Apostles to music. Moreover, many of our childhood stories were learned with music.

On occasion I will hear an old song on the radio . . . a song I had long forgotten, but by the end of the song I will remember most of the words, where I was, and what I was doing when I first heard that old song. Music has a powerful impact on our emotions.

The Lord really knew what He was doing when He had the Psalms written and included in the canon of Scripture. Many of the Psalms (if not the full Psalm, at least a portion thereof) have long been used in songs sang in both Jewish and Christian congregations. Perhaps there is no better loved, well-known, more memorized, or often quoted than the 23rd Psalm . . . the Psalm in which David declares that he has everything that he needs, has nothing to fear . . . it is a declaration of comfort, confidence, security, and assurance that he will always dwell in the house of the Lord forever, because he has a Shepherd looking after him.

My Sunday school class is studying the Psalms this quarter. This Sunday’s lesson is Psalms 138 . . . Our response to the great Shepherd David spoke of in the 23rd Psalm.

My personal favorite Psalm is the 90th, a Psalm written by Moses, the Man of God. I view that Psalm as Moses writing his memoirs near the end of his life. Think about all that Moses had seen and done . . . he stood on a mountain and spoke to the God of creation . . . who spoke back to him in the form of a burning bush that was not consumed. He was dispatched to Egypt to confront the most powerful man in the world at that moment in time . . . no one would have given Moses any hope of success, but he went and did as the Lord directed. As he walked with the Lord, he saw miracle after miracle . . . the plagues, deliverance after deliverance, and the cloud-by-day and the column-of-fire-by-night. The smart guys tell us that there were some two million in the multitude that followed Moses out of Egypt. Of that large body, only two men remained alive and permitted to lead the next generation into the Promised Land. Think about that . . . Moses probably knew more about living and dying than any human being in history. In the 90th Psalm, as he surveyed the landscape of his life, he made four declarations, which are as follows:

1. God is good;
2. Life is short;
3. Sin is a most serious matter; and
4. It is a wise and prudent person who chooses to invest his or her life in the Kingdom of God (as opposed to merely spending life as one spends money).

I love the Psalms!

A Most Special Gift . . .

Chris walked in the back door yesterday afternoon and said, “Dad, I have your Father’s Day gift outside, but I wasn’t able to wrap it. If you will close your eyes I will bring it in and you will see why I could not wrap it.” I said, “Okay.” In a moment he returned and told me to open my eyes. I did and he handed me a heavy hand-carved Lesser Canadian Goose . . . a true work of art. As I marveled at the excellence of it he said, “Dad, I bought it for you because it was hand-carved by our buddy, Walter.” That report sucked the breath of me and . . . quite honestly, brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes!

Wow . . . what a perfect gift! I would not sell it for any amount of money . . . no way!

Walter was an extremely talented man in many areas. I knew he loved wood decoys and was something of an expert on them. One afternoon years ago, he and I went in a junk shop in Snyder (the dude loved those places). I watched as he bought a small wooden duck . . . he gave $20 for the thing. When we got back to my suburban, I asked him why he bought it. He chuckled and said, “It is probably worth $2,500.” He explained that the decoy was a Loon, carved by a master carver named Galatas. He educated me that carving wood waterfowl decoys was a really big deal in the Chesapeake Bay region. Walter just knew that sort of stuff. He learned to carve when he lived in that area.

I really miss my dear friend.

The Raffle Ticket . . .

During our visit to the National Corvette Museum I learned that the Museum raises money by selling a variety of raffle tickets on several corvettes. The tickets range in price from $10.00 up to $200.00 per ticket. It is progressive in that the more expensive tickets are quite limited with much better odds mathematically. The cheaper tickets are mathematically like trying to win the lottery.

In any event, I bought a $200 ticket . . . the drawing was scheduled for June 22nd . . . I have been expecting a phone call all day . . . but now I fear I may have written my phone number down wrong on the ticket stub. Funny? One of the guys who works for Dorothy won a new ‘Vette a couple of years ago.

Perhaps they wait until the next day to call . . .

West Texas . . .

Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm,
I know; it’s been comin’ for some time.
When it’s over, so they say,
It’ll rain a sunny day,
I know; shinin’ down like water . . .

. . . begins the old song ‘Have you ever seen the Rain?’ The song was first recorded by the old rock band Creedence Clearwater Revival. I have the Rod Stewart version on my iPod. It is a lively song that asks about it raining while the sun is shining in the sky.

This week I am in West Texas examining damage to the apartments caused by a hail storm. My traveling crew came here to do exterior siding repairs and to repaint about 100 apartments. During their work, they discovered hail damage to the roofs. I reported the finding to my insurance agent. He started the claims process and asked a date of the damage. I inquired locally and was asked, “which storm do you want . . . June of ’16 . . . September of ’16 . . . February of ’17 . . . March of ’17 . . . or last week?” I had a roofer tell me that his crew had finished a roof-replacement on a house two weeks back and were waiting on final payment by the insurance company . . . and the homeowner called him this morning to say that it had hailed on his new roof last night!

I took the guys to eat dinner last night. As we sat in the restaurant, we watched the storm roll in. In this old, flat country one can see for a long ways . . . a couple of common descriptive terms of endearment are “This is the Big Sky Country” . . . or “Big Country.” During dinner, it rained pretty hard and we watched water running down the street. The rain slowed as we finished our meal, so we paid our bill and headed for the car. I was shocked to discover that the drizzle was actually something of what is referred to as a “Wintery mix,” which means it had a bit of ice, but not quite what is called sleet. Good grief . . . this is mid-June and the temp had climbed to 108 degrees during the afternoon. The temp actually dropped from 108 to 88 in a period of three to four hours! The sky turned black, the wind blew, it rained, and to the north it looked threatening, but as we drove South thru town, we drove into an area where the sun was shining . . . and the rain was coming down! We drove past two identical cars parked in a lot by the road . . . the cars were equipped with a number of antennas and other attachments clearly identifying them as storm chasers. I circled back around to snap a photo of the cars . . . and saw a lovely double rainbow across the dark sky. As I looked at that amazing sight, I was reminded that the Lord put that rainbow there as a sign of His Promise, and that He is the God who keeps His promise.

I love watching such storms out here. The same thought always comes to me: ‘all of that energy . . . that power . . . that majesty . . . is but a flick from the finger of my Father!’

Vacation . . .

A large group of our family shared a vacation this month. We all met at Duck, North Carolina, otherwise known as the Outer Banks. All total there were six families present. Most everyone flew in, except a niece and her kids who drove up from Florida, and Sandy, Chris, the girls, and me. As we planned the trip, Chris suggested that we rent a motor home and drive it up (3,500 miles is a far distance to travel with two smaller kids). I arranged for a Class A coach and Chris, the girls, and I picked it up in McKinney. Sandy and Dorothy flew to Atlanta where they joined us, and the group of us traveled the rest of the way together.

We crossed Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and into North Carolina, where we parked the coach and stayed in a splendid house on the beach. The house was three stories, with eight bedrooms and eight-and-one-half bathrooms, with a great family room and kitchen on the third level . . . there were a large number of windows that allowed open views of the Atlantic. The house had a pool and hot tub and a boardwalk down to the beach.

My family bid the group farewell on Thursday morning and started our way back home to Texas. We drove in to Virginia . . . a beautiful and surprisingly large state. We drove past the Navy shipyards, which are quite impressive. Then we drove through West Virginia . . . also a place of beauty. Then we entered Kentucky, and then Tennessee . . . both Nashville and Memphis. Then we drove to Little Rock and on to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, where we returned the coach and spent the night at Dorothy’s new house in Fort Worth. The next day we delivered the girls to West and drove home.

All total we drove about 3,500 miles, crossed 12 states, made many stops along the way, saw great beauty, met some really nice folks, loved on family, enjoyed some delightful meals together, sang Jesus loves me and other children’s songs about 500 times each, laughed, and told a great number of corny jokes!

All in all . . . it was terrific, but not particularly something I would want to repeat for a few years. The truth be told, the little girls are just too young and undisciplined for such a long journey. Perhaps when they are 12 to 15 we might try it again. Sandy and I would both like to visit the Yellowstone area . . . let’s see what happens.

Father’s Day . . .

Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. In Catholic Europe, it has been celebrated on March 19 (St. Joseph’s day) since The Middle Ages. This celebration was brought by the Spanish and Portuguese to Latin America, where March 19 is often still used for it, though many countries in Europe and the Americas have adopted the U.S. date, which is the third Sunday of June. It is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in the months of March or May. It complements similar celebrations honoring family members, such as Mother’s Day, Siblings Day, and Grandparents Day.

It wasn’t celebrated in the USA until the turn of the 20th century.

My family has held our family reunion on Father’s Day weekend for something like the past 50 years. The observation of the day was important to me during the years Sandy’s dad and my dad were living. Both of those good and decent men fulfilled the role of dad pretty darn well . . . but being different men, they did it in different ways. Each of them looked after their families and worked hard to provide for them.

As a dad myself, I appreciate Courtney and Chris loving on me as well as their expressions of love and appreciation. I think that I have been a pretty good dad, but still wish that I could have been better. As a Pappy, I am both delighted and humbled.

But such is not the case for everyone. It makes me sad, but some folks who I love really struggle with the whole notion of Father’s Day . . . just as they struggle with the memory of a very selfish dad who was much more concerned with his own desires than with their needs. For the life of me, I cannot even remotely comprehend how a man could produce a child and then for all practical purposes abandoned said child, or place material things above him or her. That moment I stood before that nursery room window and looked for the first time upon each of my children, I was forever transformed in pretty much every way . . . emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I knew for a fact that the Lord had entrusted me with something really special, and I wanted to rise to the highest level of my ability.

Over a 40+ year career in affordable housing, I have known many families that were deprived of the love, nurture, and protection of a father . . . because that dad was more concerned with his own desires than with his family. That reality impacts kids and leaves them with many questions.

Last week during a fuel stop I observed in that truck-stop parking lot what was clearly an absent and away dad, accompanied by his new love, picking up his little girl for their weekend visit. As I filled the motor home with fuel, I watched as they walked back to his car and the mother stood alone looking on. Of course, I don’t have a clue what went wrong in the relationship, but I do know that mess leaves a big hole in the little girl.

God intends for a man to look after his family . . . and that clearly means putting his will aside and being focused on his family.

I also know a few guys who are terrific dads who simply are unable to fulfill God’s plan and his own desires to live with and look after his children. There are situations where the mom is so difficult, contrary, and full of herself that the guy is forced to flee the home. My heart breaks for those good men and their children.

I wish I was able to figure it all out and do something to fix it, but of course I cannot. I can only do my job as a dad and a Pappy and when the opportunity presents itself, try to be a good, positive influence on young dads.

This year I spent Father’s Day away from home. I am overseeing repairs to our West Texas properties . . . some of it is just on-going maintenance . . . siding, fascia, soffits, cedar trim, exterior painting and such. Other items are those things that suffered damage from a series of hail storms.

Courtney has been working in Midland for several months and she drove to have lunch and spend the day with me. We had a sweet time and reminisced about her childhood, which we both like to do . . . but it is always a bit humorous in that we remember parts of it quite differently. She gave me a card that said, “Dad, we don’t have to see eye to eye to still be connected heart to heart.” That sums up our relationship. We tend to struggle with the challenge of simply being too much alike . . . both being with strong opinions and the need to express them and . . . then defend them! Perhaps we are entering a new stage of our relationship where we can laugh at ourselves some.

Sandy took Chris to brunch at the Yacht Club to honor him as a Dad. Sandy later reported they had a sweet time. I would have liked to have seen him and his girls for the day, but that just wasn’t in the cards this year. The little girls did call Aunt Courtney’s phone to FaceTime with us. Ali said that she was going to church camp next week.

All in all, it was a sweet day, but I do miss Sandy. She was my accomplice in this parenthood adventure. I thank God for permitting me to be a dad . . . and allowing Sandy and me to raise our kids to be productive adults. I thank God for my little granddaughters. They, with my kids, are certainly one of my primary focuses in prayer.

A Great Learning Experience . . .

This week as we were in the Atlanta area, I was reminded of one of my real learning experiences . . . real life-learning, not simply learning from a book.

It was about 1990; there was trouble brewing on the Island and the Atlanta HUD Regional office engaged me to go down to Puerto Rico and try to settle things down. Upon my arrival in the late afternoon, I drove over to the large project which I had been told was the greatest concern at that moment. The actual location was in Caguas. I parked my car and went for a stroll to look things over to see how things were when Management was away . . . it was much like the “mice will play while the cat’s away.”

As I walked, I was astonished as I saw a couple of cop cars driving fast with their lights flashing and siren blaring, an ambulance from another direction, and yet a fire truck too! As I walked on, I heard a gunshot and was surprised to see a dude running and trying to get his pants on as another dude was chasing him with a pistol in his hand. I suppose someone arrived home from work early and didn’t like what he found. In the Latin culture, the dude trying to escape is commonly referred to as “Sancho” and that bad boy was no stranger to these projects.

The next morning I identified myself at the office and asked to speak with my contact person. I chatted with the receptionist while I waited and asked her how they got folks to live in this big project. She chuckled and informed me that they had a couple thousand folks on the Waiting List. My contact lady came out and introduced herself and pointed me to what would be my temporary office for the next several days. My question to the receptionist rattled around in my mind most of the day . . . I mean who would want to live in that mess? That afternoon as I drove out, I saw a fellow in a beat-up old pickup towing a U-haul trailer. The poor fellow waved back and was smiling from ear to ear . . . he was moving to his new home!

It was in that moment I came to understand what Maslow was saying about the life experience being like a ladder and that one simply cannot advance from one rung until securing a good footing on the lower rung. The fellow with the U-haul was trying to address the basic need of shelter and didn’t even see the mayhem. I am certain that in a couple of weeks he would begin to question how safe his family was living there. In the theater of my mind I see it much like being out on a nature walk and a sudden and violent storm blows in . . . with rain, lightening, and hail. Feeling desperate and in danger, we seek a place of safety and enter a cave. Once inside the cave we discover that it is the home of a bob-cat . . . and she is home! Exit stage left . . . we had entered the cave without even thinking about what might be in there . . . it was simply a place of shelter in our minds.

Puerto Rico is in the news in a big way at this moment in time. The Commonwealth is in serious danger of financial collapse . . . and pleading with Washington to bail them out. In a recent election, the folks of the Island voted to apply for Statehood (which has never been attractive to them until now). It is a tragedy that its corrupt government has put it in such a terrible situation. It is a beautiful place with great natural resources and unlimited potential . . . its name in English is “Rich Port” . . . but then what is a name, anyway?

I am wondering this morning if the poor folks in Puerto Rico just might be like the poor fellow pulling the U-haul.

A Long-Term Goal Realized . . . .

There is a new phrase being used today to describe things and/or experiences folks set for themselves . . . the phrase is The Bucket List. It was also the title of a movie in which Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play a couple of older guys who believe their deaths are near. In the film, Jack Nicholson’s character had considerable wealth, while Freeman’s character was an auto mechanic. They agree to make a list of all of the things they both had long wanted to do, but had never experienced . . . hence, the phrase the bucket list! Once the list were completed, the pair set out to accomplish each item. The movie was a hit and got folks to thinking about their own bucket lists.

I don’t use the term myself, but I certainly grasp the concept; I have a list of my own. One thing I have wanted to do for many years was to visit Bowling Green, Kentucky . . . world headquarters for Corvette! I am not sure why I have never done that until now, but I just never did. Of course, I certainly could have made the trip and had the experience pretty much anytime over the past 25 of 30 years, I just never took the time. Moreover, I have done a number of seminars in the states of Kentucky and Tennessee and could have rented a car and driven there; I just never did. I suppose it was simply a desire that I felt was beyond my grasp. I find that I tend to do that with myself . . . I suppose it is a result of my humble beginnings.

In any event, I visited the Corvette Museum on a Friday, June 9, 2017! Sandy, Chris, Ali, and Abi went with me. Unfortunately, the factory where the cars are assembled was closed to tours and will remain so until the summer of 2018, which likely suggests a retooling for a significant change in future models.

Upon entering the museum, we paid and got our wrist bands. I bought a $200 raffle ticket for a 2018 model . . . maybe? We then went to the restaurant for lunch. We had to walk past a line of new cars which had been special ordered and were awaiting the proud new owners to come take possession of them. As we walked along admiring the cars, I pointed out to Chris that our black convertible had once sat in that line, as it had been custom ordered (I have the order form)! It might well have been the sheer joy of being in that terrific place, but the 50’s style diner was quite good. It was a simple and limited menu . . . burgers, hot dogs and such, but the food was very good and quite reasonable in price. As we enjoyed lunch, we talked about our surprise on both matters and that food at most places like this was greatly over-priced.

Following lunch, each of us one just struck out on their own. As I walked around I actually went back through my life . . . where I was and what I was doing when that year’s model came out. Each car is proudly displayed and has a billboard beside it providing the particulars of that model. After a while, I needed to sit for a while and found a bench near an orange ’69 427, L89. As I sat there resting, Chris joined me and began telling me about that model and said it was likely his favorite year I chuckled and said, “Dude, that was the year I graduated from high school . . . I know that model very well.” He asked me which was my favorite year/model. That is a brutal question for me, as I love all of them . . . every one of them. After thinking long and hard, I suppose my notion of the perfect car is the 1967 model in metallic blue, with a white rag top. As I recall, that car sold new for about $3,500, and today would bring $100K (clean condition with low mileage).

After we wore ourselves out touring, the place we merged on the gift shop and enjoyed ourselves. I gave Ali and Abi a budget of $50 each, and each one grabbed their own individual shopping baskets and set out on their own searches. Periodically, they would find Chris and get him to do the math on their items. We will all be well decked out with our new items.

After we left, my family asked me if it was everything I had expected. The answer to that question is I simply don’t know that I had any expectations . . . I simply wanted to go, look, and see! I did that and it was terrific. I mean, how could a true admirer of the Corvette be in a building with every year model on display and in a state of perfection not be thrilled?

What a great experience . . . and all in all, I think the timing of my visit was pretty much perfect; younger, I would have been too full of myself; older; I would have likely found myself limited and restricted somewhat physically and made it more difficult and, thus, less enjoyable.

One thing I would have liked to have been different was that I would have loved for Courtney to have been there, too. She, too, loves Corvettes and is my partner in crime on the old String Ray. Otherwise, it was a very sweet day.

This morning I remembered the day when I bought my first Corvette . . . a beautiful red, very low mileage, ’91 model. The kids were grown and had flown from the nest. Sandy and I were in Austin for the weekend and stumbled upon it. We agreed that I would drive it halfway home and she would follow in the Suburban, then we would trade cars for the remainder of the drive. As we left Austin, I set the radio on the oldies station. As I drove along the great old song, “Under the Boardwalk” came on and it was followed by Percy singing “When a Man loves a Woman” . . . probably my all-time favorite recordings! That morning in that car I felt like I was in Heaven . . . as we left the Museum Friday afternoon I pretty much felt that same way.

It really is true that the Lord does give us the desires of our heart.

Fishing . . .

Ryan had been wanting to bring some his pals from Indiana down to fish. It seems there were three guys who take an annual trip together to fish somewhere . . . this year it was here in the Coastal Bend area.

They all arrived from pretty much different directions over the weekend, and the weather turned bad (well, at least bad for fishing but good for area farmers). Ryan had asked both Chris and me for help, so I put them with Slick, a guide I keep on retainer. That trip had to be set back a day because the Babes on the Bay tournament, with its 400 teams, was winding down and all of the boat traffic and pressure on the fish had “messed things up.” The guys fished all day in drizzling rain and never got a nibble; they did see a large school of redfish, but they would not bite. It is certainly not the guide’s fault that there is an empty ice chest when he put the fishermen on a large school of fish.

Chris had set them up with another guide for the next day. The caught eight keeper-trout, then the dude’s boat broke down and they had to be towed back to the boat ramp.
The next day they went on an offshore expedition aboard a Catamaran out of Port Aransas. I had purchased the trip at a fund raiser for Friends of the Pool, and set it up for the guys to use. Chris went out with the group and in spite of the day being questionable in the morning, it turned out to be a terrific day. They caught a big mess of fish and the calls afterwards said everyone had a good time!

It all started out rough, but ended well, but that is how it is with this thing called fishing. As the old adage goes, “You never know, until you throw.”