The Waco Influence . . .

It was late 2005 and I was doing a seminar in Waco . . . at a nice, older hotel directly across IH-35 from Baylor (the Clarion Hotel). Chris had recently set up a large part of the program as a power-point presentation. I still was not comfortable being in the front of a large ball-room and operating a lap-top with a remote devise, so I engaged Chris to attend the seminar and run the power-point. He had helped with a few seminars in recent years. There were always lots of pretty girls and he had a good time, plus earning some money. The seminar in Waco was for our old friend, Sox Johnson. The entire family loved Sox, so Chris was happy to accompany me. The first night there Chris, Sox, and I had an early dinner and Chris excused himself saying he wanted to tour the Baylor campus. He returned to the hotel room later that evening smitten and declared that he wanted to do his grad work at Baylor. The next semester he began his grad program.

The next year, I was back in Waco for another seminar (I have considerable influence on location when groups call wanting to schedule a seminar—and having a son in Waco influenced me). I had scheduled dinner with Chris for each of the evenings I was to be there. The first evening at dinner, he handed me a photo of a ’79 Sting Ray, and said a friend from school really needed to sell the car (wife was going to have a baby). After dinner, we drove across town and checked it out. I bought the car on the spot and Chris went to work on finding a car-carrier so I could haul it home. I brought it home, parked it in the big shop, and didn’t do much to it for a few years (well, I did rebuild the engine and got it purring like a kitten).

Later, Chris would meet and begin dating Sarah. They would marry (Sarah already had Ali who was 3-years old). Sandy and I fell in love with sweet Ali. A couple of years later, they would have Abi. What a blessing those two girls have been in our lives! Waco had had quite an influence on our lives!

Courtney was home for a while during my medical struggle. She recruited Chris’ help, notified the neighbors what was up, and told them, “Do not call the cops when you see the car carrier hauling away the old Corvette!”

She had the car delivered to a local shop and over the next year and after considerable expense, it was transformed.

For me, that beautiful car stands as a visible testimony of the transformation that has occurred in our lives . . . all from the Waco influence. Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Chris! Thank you, Sissy!

It Seems to me . . . that the Lord does, indeed, work in mysterious ways. He certainly has in all of this!! Every time I look at that beautiful old a Stingray, I am reminded of a few important things:

1. The Lord does have a plan for our lives, and has an amazing way of bringing it to pass;
2. His plan is far better than our plan;
3. He uses circumstances, events, and choices in our lives;
4. That life can be beautiful;
5. That love is powerful and oftentimes manifests itself in the form of sacrifice and service;
6. There is nothing quite as special as loving, adult children;
7. Grandchildren are a huge reward; and
8. Granddads can still be cool and drive Grandmas around in cool old cars!

My, My, How Things Have Changed . . . The Dating Game

I have been married since June 3, 1972. I am glad I am married for a wide variety of reasons, but this week I discovered a completely new reason . . . that being that I simply would not have the time, energy, willingness, mindset . . . or actually even the know how to play today’s version of the courting ritual . . . dating game . . . or whatever name it goes by in this confused culture. Permit me to explain.

Sandy came in the family room the other night where I was watching the Spurs and announced that she wanted us to take a lady out to dinner . . . a lady who has recently become a middle-aged widow (for privacy reasons, I will refer to her as Ms. X). Sandy had had Ms. X’s daughter in class and had made her a graduation present, and in trying to arrange a time to deliver the gift (Spring Break and college kids coming home), the plan was formed. In their telephone discussions, Ms. X asked if it might be possible for her to take both Sandy and me to dinner . . . explaining that she has a large boat under repair and would like to pick my brain about owning a yacht, selecting a navigation system, and related issues. I told Sandy that I would surely join them for dinner and talk boats with Ms. X. They arranged a time to have dinner at the Country Club.

We all semi-knew each other so there was not much effort required to break the ice or the usual uncomfortable pauses in the preliminary sit down at the table . . . I did what a savvy guy does in such situations . . . I spoke saying, “It is nice to see you again. How are the kids?” and then let the ladies talk. They are very good at that sort of thing and the experts say they each have some 15,000 words to use up each day. Soon the conversation shifted to Ms. X telling of the difficulties of widowhood . . . the pain in losing a mate, the weariness of it all, the loneliness, and the uncertainty of rearing teenage kids all alone. After some time, she volunteered that after a year had passed she has taken steps to start dating. The story she told just blew me away . . . I had no idea the world had changed so much. Here is a brief synopsis of what she shared.

Wanting to avoid the proverbial “unequally yoked together” thing, she had subscribed to a “millionaire’s courting service” . . . it is international in scope. In her profile, she discussed her life, living situation, likes, dislikes, requirements in a suitor, and stated that any male who might be interested in trying to develop a relationship with her would first need to: submit audited financial statement(s) and a letter from a physician declaring a clean bill of health . . . along with a lab report on the potential suitor’s blood. A remote P. O. Box was provided to which the required documents were to be mailed.

I interrupt here to explain what was happening inside of me as I listened to all of this. I want this to be Ms. X’s story, but I am compelled to explain my feeling relative to it. First off, I hoped that I had not made too much noise when my jaw hit the table! In my courting days I was actually pretty good at it all and had no problems meeting girls, interacting with them, and even dating. However, my scope was actually quite simple, and was much different . . . I had no interest in marriage . . . I was just having fun and meeting new people (I was foot-loose and fancy-free and traveling around the oil patch making a living). Of course, I was not too caught up with matters of social or financial status and my basic threshold requirement were: 1.Was she pretty? 2. Did she have a good smile? 3. Was she pleasant and fun to be with?

I met Sandy at a red light early one evening on the main drag of Plainview, Texas, and we flirted a bit. I suggested she pull over into the parking lot ahead when the light changed and I would pull alongside and chat . . . she did and I did. I liked her and thought she met the requirements, but I was soon to learn that she, too, had some requirements of her own. I proposed that she leave her car and ride around with me. She declined and said, “I can’t go with you unless you call me and ask for a date, and then come to my house to pick me up, and meet my Dad.” That was a new one on me and I interpreted it as “Her Dad wants to be able to identify the dude and be confident he is killing the right scoundrel.” I took both the bait . . . and her phone number . . . and followed the requirements. The end result was: a wedding . . . a good life filled with love, companionship, devotion . . . two children . . . and two precious granddaughters!

I love Sandy . . . and for the most part, I enjoy being married to her . . . most of the time. Actually, I am committed to remaining married to her all of the days of my life, but if I suddenly found myself single again, I am confident I would spend the remainder of my life like that . . . and never remarry, but who knows. I am confident that I would never submit an audited financial statement, medical and lab report to some unknown lady halfway across the world. I submit my financial statement to the bank and my medical data to Aetna.

The next day over lunch Chris inquired about our dinner (he was particularly interested in learning about the boat . . . he is such a guy). I, quite respectfully, recounted the conversation of the night before. I shared my sentiments and he chuckled and said, “Good for her!” I was taken aback at his response. He smiled at his mom and said, “If something happened to my Dad, I would hope that you would do something similar . . . I sure would hate it if you met some dude and he squandered my, my sister’s and the girl’s inheritance. It would be good if he had his own resources!” That made sense . . . and I appreciate his concern for his mom and the girls.

Since then, I have thought quite a bit about the rights and wrongs of it all and I am thinking that this thing is much like a kaleidoscope . . . what one sees is significantly influenced by where one is standing.

I asked Ms. X is men would actually respond to her requirements. She chuckled and replied, “Absolutely” and removed a mobile device from her bag and called up some data and handed it to me, saying, “Scroll to the right.” I was blown away . . . there were page after page of financial information . . . letters from banks, broker houses, investment firms, and the like. Amazing!

I returned her device and she began a scroll of her own . . . showing a large collection of photos to both Sandy and me. The photos were of men standing in front of various sports cars (there was not one corvette in the bunch) . . . primarily European vehicles such as Porsche, BMW, and Mercedes. Other photos of the same men standing in from of old European castles/homes . . . and other photos of the men standing with a beautiful yacht or racehorse in the background. It seemed to me . . . that the only thing those photos really proved was that the men had been photographed; thus, I suppose in this world of trickery, smoke-and-mirrors, Bernie Maddoff, and Enron, perhaps it is prudent for a well-positioned widow to set the bar high and arm herself with a pre-nuptial agreement!!

Nonetheless, I believe that I, personally, would simply skip the drama . . . and occupy myself with feeding the sea gulls from the bench located at end of the dock on Redfish Bay . . . and hanging out with Ali and Abi.

Several years back, there was a cute TV commercial that I think is appropriate. It involved a panoramic shot of a boy of perhaps 10-years of age and several pretty little girls on a playground. The boy is like 75-feet from the girls and the playground equipment . . . and he is holding a bag of Oreos. He slowly walks away while singing the jingle . . . “girls have pretty curls, but I like Oreos!”

If I get what the kid meant . . . I believe it is: “hold tight to the things you value in this boy and girl thing . . . if you fail to do that, you just might sacrifice more than you budgeted!” Frankly, I have known a few couples who got it right the second time around: Bill and Phyllis Smith (foremost), Jim and Cindy LaRouax, and the widow and the plumber at my friend’s Church in Corpus (Hollingsworth). But the truth is, that is a rare and special thing.

In my mind, the question looms large: “Could I ever find another Sandy?” . . . I think not!


Easter . . . The Empty Tomb . . .

I recall hearing the story of Jesus’ crucifixion when I was a little boy,

My heart was young, pure, and tender as I listen to the story retold
I could not imagine such wicked people. I did not understand their efforts to seem coy
Even to my young ears two centuries later, they came across as being terribly bold.

All that they saw from Jesus was loving and kind,
The things they heard from Him challenged them to think
To open their hearts to what was offered, redemption to find
The miracles they saw, the prediction they had heard . . . to now make the two link.

Many openly acknowledged that it was clearly God at work, this was surely God in action
But many of those who were the leaders of that day said, “Well, it’s not for me!”
And dedicated themselves to finding anything they might call an infraction,
And tragically, their blindness would not allow them to see.

With trumped-up charges, brutal intimidation of a flaky and weak political judge,
Along with the delivery of false witnesses to testify,
Those wicked men ignored obvious truth, and motivated by their selfish grudge,
Perverted and twisted it all and presented what He taught as if it were a lie.

So, the innocent Lamb was presented to the brutal Roman soldiers with a sentence of death,
He carried that heavy, brutal, rugged cross up the Via de la Rosa to the place of the skull;
They nailed Him there, raised Him high and dropped Him low, and the weak of heart surely left,
The foolish and bold were totally ignorant that they were in serious spiritual trouble.

The birds hushed their singing, the insects scurried away, all of nature held its breath,
It turned dark in the middle of the day because two Suns cannot shine from the same sky
Jesus gave up His spirit and passed into death,
The Angels surely uttered under their breath, “Why, oh why!”

Broken hearted, His followers finally drifted away . . . troubled and confused,
They forgot what they had seen . . . how He had commanded the wind, sea, and another storm,
So they left, troubled . . . and wondering if there was anything else they could lose.
There was simply nothing in all of this by which they could find a norm.

The leaders told Pilate, “His disciples will steal him away,
Seal the tomb and cover the entrance; a large, heavy stone lay
Send armed guards before the end of the day, and refuse any going to bed!
At all cost make certain this dead man . . . stays dead!”
The Disciples hid out and cried . . . troubled and really afraid
Two dark and troubled nights over them heavily loomed;
Then the morning broke on the third day . . . the women discover He Was not where He had been laid,
The stone had been flung away . . . and there were angels at the tomb.

The sorrow of the night turned to joy in the morning . . . He is Alive . . . He is Alive!
And that small company was set free and became energized like a bee hive,
Those common, ordinary folks turned their world upside-down with the Good News,
He is still alive . . . in Him you can believe . . . honestly, what do you have to lose?

Halibut . . .

Sandy and I had a week to do whatever we wanted to do . . . and at that period of our lives that was a rare and cherished thing! We were extremely busy people . . . her teaching school and also busy with grad school . . . I had started a new development business and was getting it up and running—packaging deals, developing loan packages, optioning tracts of land for building sites, going through local building code and zoning processes, working on plans and designs with my architect, and building apartment complexes in various areas of Texas. I was also doing a couple of seminars a month at various places across the United States, which was what had us in Alaska at that moment. Even further, we had a couple of teenagers back home. We were in the frontier-type town of Anchorage. It was late Friday afternoon and I had finished my work. We were not scheduled to fly back home for a week. We went to the rent-car desk in the lobby of our hotel (Downtown Hilton) and rented a new red 4-wheel-drive Jeep Grand Cherokee. We took an atlas to dinner and developed our plan of action.

Sandy wanted to see the Kenisha peninsula, visit the Kennicott and Portage Glaciers, see some wildlife, and stay in a Bed-and-Breakfast. My list was simple . . . I wanted to fish! The things on her list were also attractive to me, but I was pretty focused on fishing . . . fishing for Halibut.

I had just become better acquainted with Halibut that very week. It was actually kind of funny how that happened. We had flown into Anchorage on Tuesday of that week and I kicked off my seminar on Wednesday morning. The seminar was in the HUD office, located on the top floor of the Wells Fargo building in downtown Anchorage. It was in the fall of the year and sunrise didn’t occur until mid-morning. As the sun rose, I was looking out of the large glass window at Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in the North American Continent (just over 20,000′). The mountain’s peak was well covered in snow, there was a haze of clouds hovering near the top, and I was awe struck . . . I literally fell in love . . . I mean head-over-hells in love! That evening I returned to the hotel and as I entered the lobby I spotted a nice fireplace with a most inviting atmosphere located in a restaurant/lounge area. I was drawn to the area. I borrowed a phone and called the room. Sandy answered and I invited her to join me—telling her that I needed to tell her something important. She hurried down and joined me. The waitress came by to take our order. I ordered a cup of black coffee . . . and asked if a snack menu might be available. I told Sandy that I was not hungry for dinner just yet, I just needed a bit of something to tide me over. I ordered the fish and chips. When it arrived I was amazed at how good it was and remarked about it to Sandy. I offered her a taste. She reluctantly took a bite.

I suppose I need to interrupt and explain here that Sandy was raised in Plainview, Texas, and was rarely around seafood. Thus, she had always had a limited and guarded taste for any form of seafood. We were living on the Texas Gulf Coast . . . and fishing was my passion. She had, over time, begun to eat Redfish which I caught, prepared, and cooked. Sandy was raised as an Adventist and was taught the Old Testament Levitical laws relative to diet. She was horrified at the prospects of possibly eating any form of shellfish . . . or any unclean fish . . . that being a fish without a scale. Her Dad had no such reservations and loved fried catfish, so she tended to be on high alert when fish arrived at the dining table.

I called the waitress over and asked what species of fish I had been served. She answer that it was Halibut . . . and the fish in the basket had been caught right there that very morning and was delivered fresh to the dining room every afternoon. In fact, she said my order was the first cooked and served from that afternoon’s delivery . . .talk about fresh fish! I basically knew about Halibut . . . mainly that it was a much larger version of our Flounder (which Sandy had learned to like—if it was fried). With that information, she took a leap of faith and took that small bite. Her eyes lit up and a big smile came on her face . . . and she declared it as “Wonderful!” She ordered her own fish-and-chips basket and we sat and nibbled, enjoyed the fire and the view of the lovely mountain which so predominantly rises above the city. As we nibbled and talked, I explained what had happened to my heart as the sun came up that morning . . . and I told her that I wanted to move to Alaska! She grinned and said she was onboard . . . and that she, too, had fallen in love!

After a while we returned to our room and dressed for dinner (I had been wearing a business suit). I had the bellman call for a cab. We took a tour of the city and heard the cab driver’s report of what changes he had witnessed since he had arrived years before to work on the famous pipeline. Finally, we asked about a good place for dinner. He asked what we might be hungry for . . . to which Sandy quickly replied, “Halibut.” I chuckled and he said, “There is only one place for great, fresh Halibut . . . Queenie’s!” He delivered us there, and my darling wife, that sweet gal from the country town of Plainview, Texas, that gal having serious reservations and apprehensions about fish, fell in love with Halibut. I was tickled and delighted at her discovery! The comical thing was that every meal Sandy had for the remainder of our trip (lunch and dinner) included Halibut.

The next day during my seminar, I told some folks about Sandy’s seafood history and sudden affection for Halibut. One of the guys suggested that I drive down to the Kenai Peninsula and catch some and have it shipped home. The seed was planted!

We rose early Saturday morning, checked out of the Hilton, and headed for the small community of Seward, located on Resurrection Bay (Prince William Sound). As we left Anchorage, we were just in awe at the beauty of the area known as Turn Again Arm, of Cook Inlet. It was literally breath-taking . . . majestic! As we drove on toward Seward, a bear crossed the road ahead of us, and a few miles up the road a couple of mature moose also trotted across the road. Soon we arrived at Seaward and spent the afternoon looking at a beautiful blue glacier on a scenic boat tour. We saw seals, sea lions, whales, a variety of sea birds, and eagles. We overnighted in Seward and spent the night in an igloo (not actually an igloo made of ice, but rather a modular cottage made to look like an original igloo). It was cute and different and Sandy liked it. The next morning we started out for Homer . . . sometimes referred to as Land’s End. As we traveled along, we came to a small community with a gas station, a post office, and a roadside diner. We stopped for lunch. I was blown away at the $12.99 hamburger on the menu. I had a flash back to a time when I was a 12-year-old kid eating a burger at a lunch counter in Ma Brown’s Hamburger place in Hobbs, N. M. An old fellow asked me, “Son, did you pause and thank the Lord for that hamburger?” I was embarrassed, knowing my sweet mom would have taken me to the woodshed, and told him that I had not. I will never forget the sad look on his weathered old face, nor the words he uttered to me that day, “Son, if America does not learn to stop and give thanks to the Lord, you will see folks paying $10 or $12 for a hamburger.” The irony was that the great burger I was eating that day in Hobbs had cost 25 cents!

We later passed through the somewhat larger town/village of Ninilchik and saw a great-looking waterfront place advertising Halibut fishing trips. I pulled in and visited with the boat Captain/fishing guide. I set up a trip for 8:00 am the next morning, and he directed us to a local bed and breakfast. Sandy liked the place, so we signed up for the evening. It was my first time lodging in that environment, and much of its charm was wasted on me, but the Hostess was a nice older lady and she told us her story of how she got to Alaska. She served a lovely breakfast the next morning and sent me off with a nice box lunch. Sandy remained behind and slept in.

As I arrived at the dock, the guide apologized and informed me that we would not be able to fish because “the wind was going to blow about 20 mph” that day. I had prepaid the trip in cash and was concerned. I chuckled and told him that I regularly fished on days with a 20-mph wind. He chuckled and asked me where on the Gulf of Mexico I lived. I answered him and he said, “and you get about a one-foot tide there, correct?” I said we did. He chuckled and asked, “Sir, you see that 25′ Trophy boat, with the 250-HP outboard?” I agreed that I saw the boat. What he said next chilled me to the bone. He said, “We would run about 10 miles that way (pointing out across the water. When we head back in I would throw the throttle to the wall, and with our 30′ tide going out, running into a 20-mph head-wind, we would be sucked out to sea faster than we could cross the water’s surface. We simply cannot go out on days with high winds. Wow . . . a 30′ tide exchange. I did get to see it go out and come back in later that day . . . but that is a good source for a future blog. The guy loaned me a spinning reel and a handful of lures and pointed me to a place where I could fish from the bank and possibly catch some salmon. I went there and did catch a few fish. I returned his rod and gave him the fish. We cleaned them at the dock and then took the scraps down to the beach to recycle them. I was delighted to see mature Bald Eagles feeding on the beach and standing only 10 to 15 feet away.

He said the wind would lay overnight and we could fish the next day. I returned to the B and B and picked up Sandy. I told her what had happened and suggested that we drive on into Homer for the afternoon and perhaps spend the night (20 miles away). I told her I could drive back out the next morning. We booked a room at a lovely and quaint lodge known as Land’s Inn. It had a terrific dining room, with one wall of glass overlooking Resurrection Bay, and a great fireplace in the center of the room. What a great place.

The next morning I drove back down and caught my boat. There was another couple there wanting to go out, too. The guide asked my permission and I quickly agreed and we set out. We fished in water about 150′ in depth. As I recall the water temperature was about 38 degrees. In any event, we soon started hooking up with fish. I caught the largest fish of the day . . . back at the fish house it weighed in at 385 lbs. I paid to have the fish cleaned, vacuum sealed, quick frozen, and shipped FedEx back home. I called Santos and told him to be on the lookout and when the fish arrived at home to put it in the garage freezer. That was a special fish and a great trip. The following day I fished out of Homer and again caught fish, although much smaller. As I recall, the fish that day were about 20 – 25 lbs each. Again, I had those fish cleaned and flown back home . . . for my bride’s new addiction.

Halibut fishing is certainly a different sort of fishing than what I normally do, but it was enjoyable. One must use large and heavy weights (7 to 8 lbs) simply to carry the baited hook down to where the fish are located on the ocean’s floor. The large weights are necessary because of the intense currents at the lower depths.

The main thing that made an impression on me about Alaska fishing was the level of skill and knowledge one must possess to captain a boat there. It is light years beyond fishing our Texas waters. A 30′ tide exchange . . . whew!

NOTE: I recently was invited out to have coffee with Coach Gladden Dye and his lovely wife, Karen. The Dye’s permanent home is in Clinton, MO, but they have spent the winter months in Rockport for several years. They have been in my Sunday school class during their visits.

We had a very pleasant visit and they shared their travels across the USA following their retirements. Coach shared his experience of fishing for Halibut in Alaska, and I told them that I, too, had fished there and caught halibut.

Yesterday morning before church, Karen suggested that I do a blog about my Halibut experience. This is for you, Karen. I am happy the Lord crossed our paths. I am privileged to call you two my friends.

Happy Birthday, Alison Faith . . . Ali

Today is my beautiful granddaughter’s birthday . . . her name is Alison . . . we call her Ali . . . and she is 8 years old today. Let me tell you a bit about Ali.

Ali is terrific. She is happy. She is very well-adjusted. She is kind-hearted. She is gentle and loving. She is beautiful . . . inside and out. She may well be the smartest kid I have ever been around. She is an accomplished reader . . . well beyond the average adult. She loves to play on my iPad when we are together, so I let her use it, but not simply to play games . . . I want her to think when she uses it, and while she uses it. I am always impressed as she uses it. She is a most impressive child.

I love being her Pappy. I love being with her and her sister Abigayle Grace (Abi). They are fun to spend time with and they make my heart happy.

Ali was born premature and had a pretty rough start, spending much time in and around doctors and hospitals. Early on, she decided she wanted to be a doctor when she grows up. She is certainly smart enough, and she is a really hard-working kid. She sets goals and works diligently to accomplish those goals. As a first year Girl Scout last year, she was the #1 cookie salesgirl in her region. She worked tirelessly . . . always having a table set up in front of a store, as time permitted. The girls sold a lot of boxes of Girl Scout cookies. She repeated that performance again this year!

She joins her Mom in doing 5K’s to help raise money for wonderful causes and organizations such as the March of Dimes.

Ali . . . I am really proud of you . . . I love being your Pappy . . . and I’ve got your back! You go girl!

I love you . . . Happy 8th Birthday!

Early Childhood Development . . .

. . . is a field of study that has been around for several generations . . . being called by various names over the years . . . but always focused on the method, manner, and ways by which children in the first stages of growth and development . . . in both brain and body . . . evolve and learning can occur. The science generally focuses on the period from conception to age five, but in recent years has telescoped into two separated fields of science: first from birth to age three . . . and then from ages three to five. Of course, the objective is to help develop healthy young children . . . physically, emotionally, socially, in cognitive domains, and with proper language development.

Sandy is something of an expert in the field of education . . . holding multiple degrees; plus, being in the final stages of earning her PhD, along with many years as both a classroom teacher and a continuing-education learner. Most of her work and studies have involved secondary education; yet, she has taught pre-school age children in Sunday school for some 25 years. Moreover, she also played a large role in raising her younger brother and sister and has raised two children of her own.

For me personally, early childhood development was pretty much limited to a phrase used on the front of some buildings at various universities and something that girls often studied. I was first aware of special attention to very young children back in the mid 1960’s during LBJ’s War on Poverty program. The Federal government developed and funded a program which continues to be called “Head Start.” The program was and continues to be aimed at reaching children of poorly-educated and lower-income families . . . oftentimes of minority ethnicity. Several of my friend’s younger siblings were in head start and we thought it was wild that those little kids were going to school just like we were. The design of the program is to engage such children early on and start healthy growth and development in order to give the kids a better shot at the life experience.

Over the past 18 months, this field of study has become of increasing interest for me as the Grandad of a three-year-old granddaughter . . . Abigayle Grace! Sandy and I are both just amazed at how much she advances from one visit to the next. As we approach the time we will get to have her for a few days, we contemplate what might be new with her and what might be her new buzzword.

Recently, Sandy told her something that she didn’t want to hear. Abi stopped, turned around, put her little hands on her hips and said, “Nana, you can’t say that to me!” Nana and I busted out in laughter, knowing that was something Abi had recently been hearing at home and was now mimicking. Abi, enjoying being the source of laughter, made it a point to repeat the phrase to her Nana several times over the course of the visit. Nana would say something along the lines of, “Abi is Nana’s girl,” to which Abi would reply, “Nana, you can’t tell me that, I am Pappy’s girl!”

It is amazing how quickly she learns stuff. The little squirt is masterful with my iPhone and iPad. She is fearless and teaches me stuff about those mobile devises regularly. Show her the password one time and she has it. She can even (at 3 years of age) go to the App Store and purchase games she likes. Her older sister Ali is homeschooled and I must say that she is the most remarkable home school student I have ever encountered. She is quite advanced over other kids her age (7). She can read better than most adults. She is amazing to talk with. I meet lots of kids around the pool and I make comparisons as I listen to them talk. Ali is far ahead of those kids. I see the great benefit for Abi as she observes her big sister doing her school work.

Each time we are privileged to be with the girls we are pleased at how well they are doing with behaviors such as sharing, cooperating, and helping. I always make it a point to stop by the bank and pick up a stack of one-dollar bills to be divided between the girls. I set the stack out in the open for them to see over their visit. Over the course of our visit, I will casually distribute it to them. I want them to learn that money is simply a commodity to be used . . . never feared, nor ever permitted to become an obsession. I want them to understand that if they do the things they are supposed to do in life, money will follow. I want them to be comfortable around money and learn to respect the truth that it is not theirs until it is given or earned. I love how sweet and free Abi is with the money she receives. As I give her a few of the bills, she stands at the coffee table, neatly folds each individual bill and then casually distributes them to whomever might be present. There is not even a hint of greed or selfishness in this little angel. Ali is so wise and prudent. She, too, demonstrates a sharing heart, but she is also frugal and finds her way back to her bedroom and safely stores most of her money in her luggage for her return home. She seems to always be saving her money for something she wants to purchase. She is also careful to verify that she and Abi are receiving equal amounts. Sometimes I purposely allow her to audit it all and make corrections in the distribution. I want her to learn and practice the important need for fairness with her sister. Moreover, I want her to play a role in teaching that need to Abi. I don’t think there is anything much sadder than a sibling who is willing to steal and cheat for his or her own personal gain. I have struggled for years with a brother who has always been prepared to lie, cheat, and steal from me . . . and anyone else in the family . . . even our parents. Tragically, it now even extends down to his own children and grandchildren. It is heart-breaking to see him isolated and even sadder to know his selfishness has placed him there. But the truth of the matter is folks just are not able to trust him to do the right thing . . . he has consistently demonstrated that he is not to be trusted . . . with money . . . assets . . . or other folk’s hearts and emotions.

What a sad place in life to be . . . I want to do all I can to help teach these precious girls to love and respect each other . . . and to always value the sister more than any asset.

These sweet girls are developing quite well and are on the pathway to becoming successful, well-adjusted, and healthy ladies some day in the future. I am thankful for the comfort I have in what I see in each of them as their core values. Each one is a well-adjusted, confident, kind, and loving little girl. They receive correction and discipline pretty well and respond as appropriate. They live with a standard, “You get what you get, and you can’t throw a fit!” They, each one, actually adapt quite well to that concept.

Of course, this thing called childhood development involves many people and influences. Parents, grandparents, extended family, folks at Church, school/day care, dance class, scouts, gymnastics, and the community at large.

Our little girls live in the small, agrarian community of West, Texas. In April, 2013, a fertilizer plant (actually built right in the midst of town) exploded one evening and did tremendous physical damage to the small community. The blast destroyed many homes and buildings, damaged Church facilities, schools, and public buildings. Lives were also lost. The blast hit close to home for our girls in that it destroyed the home of their maternal great-grandmother and did significant damage to the family’s real estate portfolio.

Over the next couple of years, that small community crawled from beneath the ashes and reached out for glory . . . and along the way developed a community logo of “God is good, and West is Blessed!” Much of that positive community effort has been led by the girl’s Pastor, John Crowder, of First Baptist Church. I am thankful that even through their young eyes, they have been able to see results coming from a good attitude and hard work (a lovely, remodeled Church building, new homes being built all over town, etc.) There was certainly a steady supply of healthy and beneficial encouragement being delivered from the pulpit of FBC, and it found its way into the hearts and minds of old and young alike. It is a healthy thing for young children to observe the challenge, struggle, and overcoming of adversity at home, in the family, at Church, and in the community at large.

We just enjoyed a sweet visit with the girls in Burnet for Spring Break. What a sweet, loving time it was. Sandy and I delight in our roles as Nana and Pappy. We thank God for these sweet little girls and how He has watched over them and blessed us through them.


Spring Break . . .

When I was a kid in school, we did not know what a Spring Break was. Of course that is okay, because we had no money to go do anything anyway. If we had a week out of school, we would have just been underfoot for my mom.
By the time Sandy and I had kids, Spring Break had become a common practice in the school system. We liked it and usually planned a trip with the kids. I suppose our best Spring Break trip was to Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in the mid 1980’s. That was a fun trip, except I got Montezuma’s Revenge on the last day of our trip. A medical doctor on the plane told me that the “chicken salad” we had for lunch was most likely iguana (giant lizard). I am still amazed that Sandy ate hers, what was left of mine, and each of the kid’s, and she didn’t even have an upset stomach.
A few years later Sandy became a public school teacher and we felt Spring Break was our just reward for the long hours she spent at school every week. Accordingly, we always planned some form of escape for that week.
This week is Spring Break week! We will drive to the house in Burnet on Tuesday morning and Ali and Abi will come hang out with us . . . Tuesday through Friday evening. I don’t think there is any better way to spend our vacation than with our little girls.
I am looking forward to some sweet time with them. We haven’t seen them in person since Christmas . . . and that is simply too long for us to go without seeing them!
YEA . . . for Spring Break . . . a great custom!


Presidential Elections . . . and my near misses . . .

There are several states holding primary elections this week . . . one being Michigan. As I watched the news, the camera zoomed in on Detroit and I had a flashback. It was along in the Spring of 1992 and I was doing a seminar at the famous Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit, when the convention Center was overrun in a mad rush because of a surprise visit by then Presidential candidate William Jefferson Clinton. The convention center is located along the Detroit riverfront on Jefferson Ave. It was an absolute mad-house, as was the entire downtown Detroit area. While my seminar was in a banquet room apart from the convention center ball room, the noise and traffic in the hallway made it impossible to continue with my seminar, so I cut the session short and we went into the ball-room to hear the candidate make his pitch. It was my first and only time to see or hear Clinton in person, but one could sense he was loaded with charisma and certainly knew how to speak to a large crowd. I sensed that afternoon that my guy, George H. W. Bush, just might have his hands full with this character from Arkansas. As it turns out, he defeated the incumbent Bush and the entire country had its hands full with this character from Arkansas. Now, it just may be that the Nation will have its hands full with his goofy wife!!

Years later, in the summer of 2000, I spent the night in a Holiday Inn Express on Long Island, New York, on my return home. At breakfast the following morning I ran into a group of Texas Rangers who were providing security for Presidential candidate George W. Bush. I had flown into JFK Airport earlier in the week, rented a car, and drove to Wood Bridge, New Jersey, where I did a three-day seminar. Driving in New York City rush-hour traffic during a heavy rain storm was a mess, and driving over the George Washington Bridge at a snail’s pace in heavy traffic, with rain crossing above the Hudson River far below was nerve wracking. Some of my students chuckled at my tale and suggested that I ride the ferry back to Long Island since I was flying out of McArthur Airport – also known as Islip Airport. That was what put me at that Holiday Inn Express that morning at breakfast.

Four dudes coming into the room wearing inexpensive, well-worn and rumpled western-cut suits and cowboy boots tends to catch a Texas boy’s eye. As we passed through the breakfast line, I asked one of the guys where in Texas he lived and he chuckled as said, “The Austin area, how did you know?” He told me they were doing security detail work for our Governor. We sat together and enjoyed breakfast, then said our good-byes and everyone went on their way. I am not sure where our Governor spent that night, but I am quite certain it was not at the Holiday Inn Express. That is lodging for the business class.

Fortunately, W was elected to serve as our President, and was then re-elected to a second term. He had only been in office from January until September when our Nation was attacked on 9/11/2001. In my humble opinion, this good man distinguished himself during that terrible time. He was a steady hand on the helm in a tragic storm.

I also met President and Mrs. Carter at his inauguration as President on a cold, snowy morning in Washington, D. C. in1976. I was privileged to dance with Mrs. Carter at the inaugural ball at Union station that evening. I have always believed President Carter is a really good, decent man, but he certainly won’t be identified in history as having been a very good President. I have a theory about all of that and perhaps I will share that in a blog some day in the future.

I also was privileged to actually have dinner with President H. W. Bush on two separate occasions. I really admire that good man.

Charging Off . . . Only Knowing Part of the Story . . .

Chris got up Saturday morning and announced he was going to Oysterfest. He did, and Sandy and I went out to run her errands. After a while Chris returned and brought me a gift he found while he was out . . . a handle he bought for the Yeti cup he had bought me several months back. The handle fit perfectly . . . and is plenty strong. It makes the cup much more pleasant for me to use.

Sandy mentioned to me later (privately) how endearing she found it that Chris always goes out of his way to bring me gifts. She pointed out several recent occasions when he has done that very thing . . . in fact, I wore the coolest long-sleeve white shirt to dinner last night that he brought me from the Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, (a very good-quality shirt).

Later, as he came downstairs, I thanked him again. I told him how much I appreciated him always bringing me gifts. He chuckled and said, “Dad, you always brought me gifts when you went off and returned. If fact, I loved it when you gave me my first wallet, and it was filled with plastic hotel keys and I thought they were my very on credit cards.”

Soon after our conversation, he and his Mom took Bamonitias out for a Saturday outing on the bay. I remained home to do my exercise-bike routine and finish up my Sunday school lesson. As I chuckled to myself about Chris’ comment, I remembered the day I brought that wallet home and gave him. Someone had come by the office that day and gave me an inexpensive tri-fold wallet. Of course, I have not carried a wallet since Sandy and I first married (I lost a wallet out of my hip pocket with pretty much my entire paycheck in it early on in our marriage and never carried one again).

When I traveled, I always brought the plastic hotel keys back and tossed them in the junk drawer of my desk. Just for fun, I put several of them in the wallet with the intention of taking it home to Chris (he was about six or seven at the time). I also folded a $20.00 bill and hid in the wallet. When I arrived home that afternoon, Chris, as was his custom, greeted me in the driveway . . . he and the neighbor boys were always out riding their bikes and playing in the neighborhood. I asked him to follow me into the house for a minute and told him that I had a gift for him. He was really excited with the gift, thanked me, and rushed out the door to tell his buds about his wallet.

Later when he came home, I asked him to look inside the wallet. He discovered his $20 bill and got excited all over again. We had a discussion about a dude running off . . . with only half of the story, and the dangers of that.

He has since been pretty good at checking things out before going off half-cocked. I think that practice has served him pretty well in life!

Hershey . . .

Chris and Courtney are around for a while . . . part of the $25.00 barrel oil prices. We got Bamonitias out of the repair facility Friday and they took it for a “test run.” Five hours and 450 photos later, they announced that Bamonitias was “healed and running great.” I really wanted to join them, but I am rehabbing my knee, and the recent struggles with the incision healing frighten me about possibly getting it wet with the bay water (there are some serious dangers and bacteria in the saltwater that have been around over recent years), so I stayed home and worked.

This morning I was in the office working out on the new machine when Chris came in and announced they were about to head out for day two . . . they located a large pod of dolphins yesterday and played with and photographed them for a couple of hours. They were hoping for more today. In fact, they signed Nana up for a trip out on Saturday . . . it is one of her favorite past-times too.

As Chris was leaving the office, I heard him talking. I asked him who he was speaking to on the porch . . . he chuckled and replied, “Lady,” which is Courtney’s dachshund. I chuckled and asked, “Are you going to take her on the boat?” He said he was and went on his way.

As I continued with my work out, I recalled taking my great chocolate Lab, Hershey, out 25 years ago when she was just a big pup. She loved the boat and did great while we were running. When I stopped to fish, she got in the way a bit, wanting to be near me and have me pet her. She was really a mess when I hooked onto a really nice Redfish. She saw him thrashing around in the water and her instincts kicked in and she leapt into the water . . . to do her job! Labs are retrievers and it is an overpowering instinct . . . they see something in the water and they are going to bring it to their Master!! That was a real mess, I was trying to land that fish and scold my pup without breaking her drive . . . she was pretty set on getting that fish in her mouth! It all worked out, but it was a chore getting her back in the boat.

Over time, I trained her that it was okay to enter the water from the boat, but only after I gave her permission. Each trip I would pull up close to an island and release her to take a swim and run about for a while. Then she could jump back into the boat as compared to me leaning over the side and lifting her onboard. Of course, her shake-off was always rather rude . . . but that was simply part of fishing with Hershey. Wow, I really miss that sweet dog today.

I have had a large number of bird dogs in my life . . . but Hershey was in a class all by herself. When I took her on group hunts, she always out-worked and out-performed every dog in camp, and every hunter coveted my dog. She was really special. That dog loved me and lived to please me . . . and she always did!

I hope Lady didn’t prove to be a handful in the boat today! Dogs provide some sweet memories!