Technology…….. an old guy……… and two terrific kids……

The first time I heard the term FaceBook (FB), I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about . . . I heard them say something about “writing on the wall” and that troubled me. People with rental property get nervous about writing on the wall . . .

I turned 61 in December and have come to realize that I am fast approaching the “old man phase of life.” I am amazed at how quickly technology has changed everything around me. With the announcement that FB would issue an IPO today and the buzz surrounding it, it caused me to reflect on how I have been exposed to the new technology. It was a surprise to me that I kind of understood what it was about since I just so happen to be a FaceBook dude now.

My first encounter with the new technology was with a PC. Of course, PC’s have been around long enough now that I am about the only person I know who still considers it new technology. I have used a PC for about 10 years, but only as a typewriter. I made more mistakes and exhausted everyone around me just trying to do simple things with the PC. Just in the past few months I have actually used a PC program for something other than e-mail or simply typing a letter or document.

Then, came the cell phone. I was one of the last to actually get one. I had to have my kids show me how to use the thing. I sure didn’t know how to retrieve a “voicemail.” But over time and use, I adapted.

Next, I bought a car that was equipped with OnStar. The car salesman pushed pretty hard to get me to subscribe. I remember having Sandy with me in that car a few days after buying it. We were going to see my Mom for Christmas. As we drove down the interstate highway, I was flirting with her and being a little frisky. She slapped my hand a couple of times and reminded me we were adults and we were in public. After a while, I thought about the OnStar and said, “Let me show you how this thing works.” I punched the button and we heard the connection being made.  In a moment, a gentleman answered and thanked me for using OnStar and asked how he might help. I explained that I had my wife in the car and it was the first time she had ridden in it and I wanted to show off OnStar. He said, “Let me unlock your car doors for you to show her some of the things we can do.” In just a moment the locks popped open. She was surprised (I was too – I didn’t know they could do that!). He then went over a list of services OnStar offered and things they could do for their subscribers. She was quite impressed. As we began to wind down the conversation, the OnStar guy said, “Before we end the conversation, I just want to tell Mrs. Melton what a lovely necklace she is wearing.” I looked over at her and saw that she was near shock and breathing hard. I asked, “What’s wrong.” She fluttered her eyes and said, “That guy saw you trying to paw me a few minutes ago!” I tried, to no avail, to explain that he was just joking and pulling her chain — reminding her that it was Christmas and that 99% of all women in the USA were wearing a necklace that morning. She wasn’t having any of it. I think she still believes that OnStar can see us when we are in the car.

Next came the wireless internet connection (what they told me was “hi speed”). That change came about because the kids were ashamed of us for being on “dial up.” Chris once told me, “Dad, ya’ll are probably the last people in Texas still on dial up.” It didn’t bother me too much, but Sandy changed it over. I am not sure that I ever would have changed. That became a source of irritation for me for a while because it was new and different.

A couple of years ago, Courtney was visiting for a few days. She told her mom, “Let’s go to Corpus for the day and hang out.”  While they were there, she took her mom to AT & T and got each of us an iPhone. I came home from work and said, “Hey, someone needs to call Sprint and tell them my phone is not working.” They explained that I had been switched over to AT&T and presented me with my new iPhone. I was not very happy. This thing was really complicated. I finally adjusted, but it took a few months. I still think that that old flip phone was probably worth something, but they argued that it was outdated and without resale value as no one wanted to buy them.

At Christmas 2010, they gave me an iPad as a gift. That thing nearly drove me nuts, but after many struggles and learning sessions with Courtney and phone calls to her, I have come to like the thing. They set me up with my own FB account and told me that I could write on people’s walls too. I have learned how to use FB some and find that I do like writing on people’s wall. However, I still wish they would change that term.

Then they gave me an iPod. My kids went to a lot of trouble and effort to download a bunch of oldies music. I mean really good stuff — like “When a Man Loves a Woman” kind of stuff. I really like it, but I rarely think about using it. I will pull in the driveway at home after a long trip and it will occur to me, “Hey you could have listened to some great music . . . ”

So, this whiz kid, Mark Zuckerberg, sitting in his dorm eight years ago came up with this notion about FB (I understand that there is some debate about the truth of that) and now, he instantly becomes a gazallionaire.   I read a projection this morning that FB will raise over $18B with its IPO, and will be worth over $100B. It is estimated that FB will be the 23rd largest company on the S & P Index, and that over 900 million people actually use FB.  As a contrast, Google raised $1.67B with its IPO in 2004. Isn’t the world both wonderful and crazy?

The mention of Google also brings up the subject of how all of this new technology has impacted the English language. It has us using words that just five years ago we didn’t even know what they meant. In fact, they weren’t even words five years ago.  Recently, I saw where Google has become an accepted verb today (e.g. “Hey, I will just Google it.”)

So, I am an old guy, but still trying to stay in the game . . . thanks to my smart kids! I know it hasn’t been easy on them, but I am better for it. Thanks guys! They don’t want their Dad to be a moron!

Truths of life ………….

A friend recently shared these truths with me and I saw wisdom in them. I thought they ought to be repeated, so I wanted to use them here:

  1. Prayer is not a spare tire that you pull out when you are in trouble. It is a steering wheel that directs us to the the right paths in life.
  2. Do you know why the windshield on your car is so much larger that the rearview mirror? Because what is behind is not nearly as important as is the future ahead. Look ahead and move forward.
  3. Friendship is like a book. It only takes seconds to burn it, but it takes years to write.
  4. All things in life are temporary. If it is going well, enjoy it — it won’t last forever.  If things aren’t going well, don’t worry–it won’t last long either.
  5. Old friends are like gold. New friends are like diamonds. If you get a diamond, don’t forget the gold. Because to hold a diamond, you need a base of gold.
  6. Sometimes, we lose hope and think it is the end. God smiles and says, “Relax, it is a bend, not the end.”
  7. When God solves my problems, I have faith in His ability. When God doesn’t solve my problem, He has faith in my ability.
  8. A blind man once asked St. Anthony, “Can anything be worse than losing one’s eyesight?” He replied, “Yes, losing your vision”.
  9. When we pray for someone, God listens and blesses them. When we are safe and happy, we ought to remember that someone prayed for us.
  10. Worry does not take away tomorrow’s trouble — it just robs us of today’s peace.

Good stuff!

The Name of the Boat is “Bamonitias” ………….

A name selected for a boat ought to be an important decision for a boat-owner. It certainly is for me. I love the name, and I enjoy people’s reaction to it. In fact, I believe it is the best boat name I have ever heard. It is proudly displayed in large, tasteful, vinyl letters on the sides of my boat.

When I drive past other boats on the bay I can see people in some of those boats moving their lips, trying to say the name and sound it out. I see the same thing in the parking lot at the grocery store when I stop to get ice and provisions. I also see it when I am fueling up. It is generally there that someone will walk over and ask about the name and how to pronounce it.

When told how to pronounce the name, most folks ask if it is Spanish. I chuckle and tell them it is not. They are really surprised when I tell them the boat is named after a black man in a story.

The story goes like this:

Years ago, when life was slower and folks lived differently, Bamonitias worked for a lady named Miss Lucy.  Miss Lucy owned a fine home and was considered ‘well to do’ by folks in the community.  Everyone knew Bamonitias worked for Miss Lucy and that he worked full-time, just like the housekeeper/cook.  No part-time work for Miss Lucy. Most people said he worked for her for something like 30 years, but no one really remembered for certain, just that it was a long time.  Bamonitias did her gardening, yard care, kept her car clean, did odd jobs around the place, and drove her in her Cadillac when she needed to go places.

Over the first few weeks of his working for her, they settled into a routine that would become a custom with them.  Each Friday afternoon at quitting time Bamonitias would clean his tools, put them away, park the Cadillac in the garage, and wipe his hands and spiffy up a bit. When he felt he was presentable, he would tap at the back door. Miss Lucy would invite him in, have him sit at the breakfast table, she would go to the frig and get him a beer, grab her purse and return to the table and sit with him. As he drank the beer, she would count out his week’s wages and then discuss what she wanted him to accomplish over the next week. It was a good system and prevented a lot of interruptions throughout the day for instructions.

Miss Lucy did have a bit of a drinking problem and that lead to some bickering between them from time-to-time.  Bamonitias was a man who could not abide rude behavior or a person being abrupt or snappy with him without making some form of reply. That was just his nature and this became part of their relationship, such as it was.

After many years, on one particular Friday afternoon, Bamonitias went through his normal ritual and tapped on the back door.  Miss Lucy didn’t answer as she normally did. He knew she was home because he hadn’t driven her anywhere.  He knocked again, louder this time. After a bit, he heard her rustling around inside the house. He wondered what was up with that. Finally, she opened the door and when he saw her, he immediately knew.  She had been drinking and she had been drinking pretty good, too. As she stood there in the door, still in her housecoat at 5:30 in the afternoon, with her hair uncombed, she barked in a slurred voice, “What do you want?”

He replied, “Now, Miss Lucy, we have us a custom on Friday afternoons, and I am just following that custom, so don’t be barking at me.”  Suddenly, a puzzled expression came across her face and she asked in a softer tone, “Is today Friday?” He assured her it was.

She invited him in and they went through their normal routine with him sitting at the table and her getting ready to do their normal Friday-afternoon business. This time she brought along a beer for herself. As she sat at the table, took a long swallow of beer and opened her purse, her face grew concerned. She looked up at him and said, “I am so embarrassed. I didn’t go to the bank today and get money to pay you with and I have no cash.”

Being a sporting man and not about to get caught on a weekend without some walking-around money in his pockets, he was pretty quick on his feet. He exclaimed, “Why, Miss Lucy, do you mean to tell me that all those Friday trips to the bank was to get cash money to pay  me with?” She said that was the purpose. He quickly replied, “Well, that is not necessary at all, I will always be happy to take your personal check.”  After a moment, she agreed that was a good solution to the dilemma. She once again opened her purse and removed her checkbook and pen. She began to write the check and stopped at the Pay-to-the-Order-of line, looked up at him and asked, “How do I spell your name?”  He chuckled and said, “J. G. Green” and then spelled Green, “G R E E N”

Her face again showed confusion and she asked, “Well, who on earth is J. G. Green?”  He said that was his name. After thinking about that for a moment, she asked, “Well, is this Bamonitias name just a nick-name or something, then?”   He chuckled and said, “Ever since I been knowing you it has been. If fact, you got everybody in this town calling me by that, but it never was my name before I knew you.”

Now, totally confused, she asked, “What on earth are you talking about that I gave you that name?” He grew very serious and said, “Now, Miss Lucy, you done gave me that name so don’t go trying to deny it now after all these years.”  He then recounted for her what had happened.

He reminded her that she had put the word out that she was looking for help all those long years ago. He heard about it and came to her house to inquire. She visited with him in the shade of a tree in the back yard and agreed to hire him for the position.  He said, “After we agreed on terms and pay, we walked around the side of your house and I started down you long driveway  headed back to my old car. When I was about halfway down the drive, you hollered out and asked me ‘What is your name?’”, I told you my name was J. G. Green just like I just now told you. You hollered back and asked ‘what is it folks call you by’ and I said, they just call me by my i-n-i-t-i-a-l-s.”  He paused and then concluded, “and you hollered back and said, “OK, Bamonitias, I will see you Monday morning at 8 a.m. and don’t be late, and you been calling me Bamonitias ever since that day.”

That is the name of my boat.

The Hard Head………

I could hear his cry for help from across the Bay…. I just wasn’t sure I could help.

My friend, Ross, told me he had access to a place at the back of the bay where no one fished. He excitedly told me about regularly seeing large redfish in the shallow water near the bank. He described it as being a place where the fish were not pressured by boats and fishermen. It sounded like a special place and I wanted to go there. I had only known him a short while and wanted to get to know him better. I sensed that this was a guy who could be a real friend.

We set it up for an early Saturday morning. We met, stopped by a fast food place for a quick breakfast, and headed to his special place. As we entered through the locked gate and I got a glimpse of the place, I knew it was everything he said it was. As we parked and got out of his truck, we discussed how we should attack the fish. As he talked, it was obvious he had been thinking about how to fish these waters for a while. As his suggestion, we agreed that he would head one direction while I circled around in the other direction.

The place was beyond description in appearance and I saw fish working the water out a ways from the shore – Heaven! Yet, as I stepped into the water to begin wade-fishing, I was reminded, once again, that things are never all they appear to be. Immediately, I sank into a nasty, muddy bottom. I could see the discoloration ooze rise around my leg. With my first step I sank to mid-calf – and grumbled to myself, “Oh No – a soft, nasty bottom”. The water was only a foot deep, but the water was above my knees when I was actually standing in it with both feet. I could see the fish working a ways off, but feared the bottom was simply too muddy to get to the fish. The sight of the fish pushed my concern back and I slowly and gingerly began moving in the direction of the fish, desperate to get close enough to cast to the edge of the area they were working. Each step was a struggle as I seemed to sink deeper with each one. Soon, I was knee deep, but I pressed forward. Soon I was able to make a cast and present my lure. Pretty quickly, I had a hit and landed a nice redfish. As I worked him in and put him on my stringer, I grew more concerned about the bottom. The longer I stood there, the deeper I sank. I could feel submerged shell scrapping my legs. I repositioned and made another cast and immediately hooked up again. I comforted myself by thinking at this rate I would limit out pretty quickly and move back on shore. I readjusted and made another cast. That was when I heard him cry out for help . . .

I eased around and looked for him. I spotted him standing in the water at what seemed to be about a quarter up the shoreline from me. I thought to myself that it would be murder to have to travel that distance under these muddy conditions and convinced myself that he was not calling out to me. I made another cast . . . and heard him cry out for help again. No mistake in hearing, my new friend obviously needed help.

I began working my way back to the shore so I could go to his aide. As I worked my way back in, I began to consider what sort of a problem he had. Immediately, I thought about the possibility that he had stepped on a stingray – a wade fisherman’s greatest danger on a muddy bottom. I picked up my pace, growing more concerned for my friend.  I arrived on the shore and headed to him at a quick pace. I was a muddy mess.

As I neared the most direct place to enter the water to go to him, I yelled out, “What’s wrong?” He replied, “I need help, I have a real problem here!”

My worst fear seemingly had come true . . . I entered the water and quickly learned that this bottom was likely worse than the bottom I had been fishing in. As I got near him, I became concerned as he was sweating profusely and had turned a white, pasty color and seemed to be having a problem standing upright.   I suppose at this point I should tell you my friend Ross is 6’8” and is a big man. He had sunk in the mud pretty deep. As I made my way around to his front side, I noticed that he had both hands clasped in front of his groin area. That immediately got my attention. As I tried to look – without appearing to be looking (it is a man thing), I suddenly saw a hard-head in his hand. A hard-head is a saltwater catfish, but that really doesn’t adequately describe the fish. Let me just say, it is a really nasty, slimy, bottom-dweller.

I tried to be concerned, but casual too. I asked what the problem was (I had just made a terrible journey to arrive and see him holding a hard-head). The poor guy, looked at me and said, “I caught a hard-head and was trying to hold my rod above the water and unhook him. Somehow, I got him against the front of me and he stuck his dorsal fin through my jeans and into my groin area and the barb is keeping me from pulling it out.” He then announced that he might faint.

After a moment, I told him, “Ross, if you faint, you will fall in the water and drown. It would be physically impossible for me to hold you above the water, and even if I did try, you would force me down into the mud.”

After taking a minute to figure out a solution, I removed my filet knife from its plastic holder on my wading belt and announced myself ready to perform surgery. I offered a proper disclaimer and told him I had zero medical training, but I had a willing attitude and that was the best he was going to get under the circumstances.  My sick friend looked at me holding that razor-sharp filet knife, considered the sensitive area needing surgery, and obviously saw something he didn’t like in my eyes. He yelled at the top of his lungs and with the strength that belongs only to a giant, he ripped that hard-head out. I heard it rip his skin as the barb and fin came out. I actually saw a stream of blood shoot 10’ across the water. Now, I was really afraid he would pass out.

What would I say to his sweet wife who was pregnant with their third child? How would I explain that a catfish had killed my friend? How would I live with his rejection of my offer to help in his hour of need?

With the hard-head called some really bad names and thrown about a mile across the bay, we somehow, managed to work our way back to the bank. Immediately, we fell to the ground exhausted, promising ourselves an ice-cold soda from the Igloo back at the pickup, after a brief rest. My friend was hurting. As he laid there groaning, I lifted myself up where I was laying on my side with my elbow against the ground and using my hand as a pillow. I looked down at my friend and saw his misery and knew I needed to keep a close eye on him.

I don’t know why I do things like this, but I asked him if they had planned to have any more children? He opened one eye and looked at me and said he wasn’t sure. He then inquired why I had asked such a question. I looked my friend in the eye, and with my most solemn mannerism, I told him that I suspected the hard-head had injected him with poison and that he would be the 6’8” guy singing soprano in the Church Choir in the days ahead. Of course, that is the last thing that a 30-year-old man wants to hear . . .

I sometimes wonder why he never wants to go fishing with me anymore . . . I know the dude likes to fish. He even bought his own boat.

How do you Measure Success?

The guy was about 25. He was working in a fast oil-change place. When asked what his plan for life was, he replied, “I am going to own 7 of these oil change places, ride around in a convertible, smoking a cigar and bossing everyone around”. What a plan! When asked how he was going to make his plan come together, he replied, “I am going to win the Lotto!”

When it was pointed out that the odds of being struck by lightning twice in a lifetime was greater than winning the Lotto once, he got a confused look on his face and said, “Duh, I haven’t even been struck by lightening once yet.”

I can’t remember the last time I went into a convenience store when I wasn’t asked the question, “Do you want to buy a ticket for the lotto”? Where did this notion of instant wealth & success come from?

You will surely laugh, but it was born in the USA during the California Gold Rush. Before the Gold Rush, few Americans aspired to achieve great wealth. Prior to 1848 most Americans didn’t dream of wealth. Their dream was to hold enough land to maintain family independence from the need to work for wages.

The Gold Rush changed that. The lure of instant riches proved irresistable. “Why spend a life plowing a field, when a lucky strike could set a man up for life?” Gold-rush-fever became the American Dream!

The spirit of the 49’ers lives on today — evidenced by the Lotto, Powerball, IPO’s, and the Stock Exchange.

It seems to me that success is a journey — not a destination. It is something one must continue to move toward in order to gain. It is not instant … it is a life-long pursuit.

Nowhere is our run toward success more challenging that when we encounter obstacles, complications, road blocks, and difficulties. That is the point at which we hit the proverbial wall and come face-to-face with our inner character.

When conditions are favorable, things are easy, distractions are minimal, no one is interrupting, and nothing is distrubing our stride; everything goes well in that context. But, it is not until situations are stressful, problems are persistent, and help is absent that we get to illustrate our discipline and make real progress in the life experience. It is in these times that success comes from not merely wishing things were better, but striving to make ourselves better.

It is when we hit the wall that discipline, routine, integrity, and consistency make a difference. It is in these times that God and life give us the opportunity to grow, to achieve, and to overcome.

There is no free lunch …. but there are opportunities to buy the lunch counter!