Count Your Blessings

22 01 2017

Psalm 40:5

“Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered.”

 

In Deuteronomy 29, a chapter in the lives of the Israelites was about to come to an end. Before sending the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, Moses wanted to be sure everyone realized what they had just experienced because they had so much for which to be thankful.

 

This is the way I hear Moses’ address to the crowd.

 

You people have been following me around this desert now for 40 years. Have you not realized that you’re still wearing the same clothes you wore on the night God delivered us from Egyptian bondage 40 years ago? Yet, your clothes are not worn and tattered. They look as if you just walked out of a Sears catalog.

 

Have you never stopped to think about where your food and water, here in the desert, have come from for the past 40 years? True, mana and water isn’t meatloaf and Merlot, but by the grace of God, you’ve managed to survive and survive well.

 

Everything you have needed, God has provided. And now, He’s about to give you land, a great land, where you can settle down and raise your families.

 

Stop for a minute, people, and think about the past 40 years and how we have survived. God has blessed us every day with innumerable blessings.

 

In many respects, we are much like the children of Israel. We go through each day of our lives and it never occurs to us just how many times God has blessed us. Our blessings, like those of the Israelites, are too many to count. Every possession, every gift and ability, our children, our friends, our very lives we owe to God. We work hard to build the lives we have, but it’s our God-given abilities that allow us to achieve; and, sometimes we need a reminder of how good God has been to us.

 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Take a moment every day to thank God for the things He has done for you.





Following in the Footsteps of My Twin

18 12 2016

Where does this fall on your weird-o-meter? Last week I was doing work for a company in Jackson, Tennessee. Jackson is a small town about halfway between Memphis and Nashville. Because of the distance back to either airport, I planned to complete the work and drive back to a hotel near the airport so I could fly back home the following morning. I chose to fly into Memphis because I knew, from past experience, given the location of the two airports, driving back to the Memphis airport would be much easier.

 

On Tuesday night, my second night in town, I went to what turned out to be a diamond in the rough. It was an Italian restaurant named Baudo’s. Baudo’s isn’t much to look at from the outside, but the food was really good. Anyway, the hostess seated me at a small table off to the side of the dining room. Only seconds after being seated, a perky, young waitress came bebopping out of the kitchen toward me like she had just gotten to work. Actually, she had. I was her first customer. That’s one of the advantages of getting old. You get out to eat early, before the server has been worn down by demanding customers and 500 trips back and forth into the kitchen.

 

“Welcome back!” she said, cheerfully.

 

I told her this was my first time at Baudo’s.

 

“Well there was a guy here last night who sat in this same seat and looked exactly like you. You have a twin.”

 

Okay, there’s nothing unusual about that. I’ve always had people tell me I look like so and so. When I was younger, it was Dan Rather. Then as I got a little older, people told me I looked like Martin Sheen. So, I wasn’t very surprised at this.

 

Then I ordered my dinner…salad with house dressing and veal piccata with mashed potatoes.

 

“That’s exactly what your twin had last night,” she told me.

 

Now, that seemed a little odd but still not that big a deal.

 

The next day, I completed the work and made the two-hour drive to my hotel near the Memphis airport. It was actually in Southaven, Mississippi, about 8 miles south of the airport.

 

Even though I was surrounded by a plethora of restaurants, I decided, for a number of reasons, to stay in and just eat at the hotel restaurant.

 

The waitress was a generation older than the waitress back at Baudo’s, but no less energetic. I forget what they called it, but I ordered a cheeseburger with roasted red bell peppers and onions. About halfway through the burger, which I highly recommend, the waitress came by to check on me.

 

“Is it as good as last night?” she asked.

 

For a second, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Then I told her I hadn’t been there the night before. In fact, I had never been to that hotel before.

 

“Well there was a man here last night, sat right there where you’re sitting and had the exact same thing.”

 

Now that’s a little on the weird side. I was afraid I was going to return home the next day only to have my wife ask me if I enjoyed the back rub she gave me the night before!!





Fox News

21 06 2016

I get my news from the Fox News Channel (FNC). I’m an early riser and, usually, have all of my showering and shaving done by 4:15, or so. By the time I finish my quiet time, I can catch the end of last night’s Special Report with Brett Baier. After that comes Fox & Friends First, and then at 6:00 is Fox and Friends. Of course, by the time Fox & Friends comes on, I’ve already seen all of the news, but they will have interesting guests from time to time. When I first came up with the idea for this post, it was because I was annoyed at the way FNC will latch on to a major (or minor) story, such as a commercial airliner crash, or more recently, the terrorist shooting at a gay night club in Orlando, and give it relentless coverage for the next two or three days, as if there is nothing else going on in the world.  But when I began writing, all of these other issues came to mind; so, I decided to broaden the scope of the post by including some of my other pet peeves. After all, this is a rant but I’ll bet a lot of FNC viewers will agree with much of what I have written.

 

Smart Folks

First, understand that Fox doesn’t hire just any schmuck and hand them a microphone. For all the flubs and annoyances, Fox reporters, and particularly the on air personalities, are intelligent and well-educated people…especially on the national level. Most come to Fox with extensive experience and loads of talent. That is probably true of all networks.

 

Grammatical Executioners

Experience and talent don’t necessarily equate to quality of delivery, as demonstrated by the daily slaughter of good grammar. Many are not very good grammarians-not even close; and, that includes those who possess English degrees. For example, many don’t seem to understand the rules for using I and me. And some are notorious for slipping a personal pronoun in behind the subject, e.g. “President Obama, he lied to voters about Obamacare.” You already mentioned the subject once so there’s no need to add the superfluous personal pronoun.

 

“You’re not Going to Believe This!”

In one particular episode of Andy Griffith, Andy and Barney have been charged by town council with selling an old, worthless, eyesore of a Civil War era canon. When the first prospective buyer came along, Andy made up a story of the canon being used during the Spanish-American war and how it was Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite. He later felt guilty and admitted that his story was a complete lie. He explained to Opie, who had done the same thing to sweeten a trade with a friend, that he made up a good story to sell the product.

 

As I write this post, I am watching as FNC runs a story about an alligator spotted near a ride at Disney World. This comes less than a week following the tragic alligator-related death of a two-year old boy at the same park. The lead-in by the FNC anchor described it as “disturbing video of a worker fighting off an alligator” to protect park-goers. I envisioned a worker grappling with a 12-foot alligator while park patrons run in terror. The video actually shows an employee calmly reaching down toward a 3-foot, motionless alligator floating on the surface of the water, with a long metal pole to keep him at bay. The caption below the video describes it as “Shocking video.” And to make matters worse, it’s a video shot in 2009! Sorry, Fox. I don’t see disturbing or shocking in this video. I do see a broken down canon charging up San Juan Hill, however. I guess non-sensational stories don’t sell but, how about truth in reporting?

 

Time Misers

It really bugs me how they won’t allow enough time for personal interviews and then will keep interrupting the interviewee until they finally cut them off before any substantive information can be revealed.

 

Tunnel Viewers

I guess the thing that bugs me the most about Fox is when a major event such as the recent shooting in Orlando happens. For the next two or three days, all day long, that’s all you’ll see on Fox. Throughout the day, you’ll see the same video and interviews on Fox BusinessFox Lifetime, Sheepherder Smith Reporting and every other Fox show.

Once you get through Fox & Friends First, you may as well switch over and watch re-runs of Bewitched and Get Smart because for the next 48 to 72 hours, you aren’t likely to see anything new other than the new characters they’ll round up for another Fox Alert interview.

 

This is a Fox News Alert!

Let’s take a fictitious story-say a truck hauling hogs to the slaughter-house turned over on Interstate 64 (For you Californians that would be the 64.) outside Louisville, Kentucky. They’ll open with a Fox News Alert. Then one of the anchors, perhaps Ainsley Hardears, or one of the other curvy couch occupants, will give us the story, including everything known up to that point. Next, they’ll switch to on-the-scene reporter, Leland Dither, who will interview all of the witnesses, including truck drivers, A.C Petty and Burt and Naomi Wideload, both of whom happened to be passing by and stopped to corral runaway pigsAnd, when they run out of witnesses, they’ll start bringing in the experts for interviews. There’s Mr. Eugene Stinchpits. He’s a truck driver who, like Mr. Petty, hauls hogs for a living, but for a different company. He will be one of the subject matter experts. Then there’s Robert C. Washburn, who is president of the American Pork and Hog Breeders Association. He will provide insight on the challenge of wheeling 500 squealing hogs through Louisville at rush hour. Then Dr. Keith Loblow will discuss the psychological toll on drivers taking hogs to their doom and may suggest Mr. Petty’s death was an attempted suicide by motor vehicle.

 

Then they’ll bring in FNC’s up and coming young reporter, Peter “Peter Rabbit” Doozy who will interview Thomas T. Hullscraper of the National Transportation Safety Board who will provide a computer model which will show how the hogs were tossed about during the crash and provide speculation on how so many managed to survive the crash. All these clips will be repeated 15 times every hour in case viewers missed it the first 14 times.

 

The following day, Barack Hussein Obama will address the press in an impromptu press conference and try to find some way to blame President Bush and the GOP for this terrible massacre of innocent animals and at the same time decry a lack of gun control as the blame for all that is bad in America. Later, in a follow-up press conference, Chief Washington Correspondent, James Frozen will ask White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnestless, why the president refuses to say the words pig, pork or swine and instead refers to the truck’s cargo as cargo.

 

Schmucker Carlson will have the assignment of interviewing A.C. Petty. It’ll probably go something like this:

SC: Mr. Petty, you drive a truck hauling hogs for the Dine on Swine Trucking Company, a job that keeps you behind the wheel for up to 8 hours every day with a herd of squealing hogs right behind your head, right?

Petty: Yes, sir.

SC: How does it feel driving hundreds of noisy hogs to their deaths?

Petty: Well, to be honest…

SC: Yes, let’s be honest. Do you go through any emotions while driving hogs down the road?

Petty: Well, I have to say…

SC: I’m sorry, Mr. Petty, we’ve run out of time but thank you, sir for joining us.

 

Still Number One

Don’t get me wrong. In spite of all my criticism, I’ll take FNC over any other network because I like to know what’s going on in the world and in America. I resent the purveyor of news opting not to share a story because they see it as politically incorrect or slanting a story to fit their own ideology. Fox may seem to be conservatively biased, but they bring the story regardless. Unlike ABC, NBC and CBS, they aren’t in the president’s hip pocket. And, while it may not be grammatically, or even politically, correct, you can count on getting the story that liberal America wants to sweep under the rug. I’m willing to tolerate a few pet peeves to get a fair and balanced report that other networks are too cowardly to air.

 





When Did They Stop Teaching English?

13 03 2016

One of my pet peeves is the incorrect use of the personal pronouns, I and me. The misuse of these two words is so commonplace today, it has made me wonder if they have stopped teaching it in school. But, then, if they did, they stopped a long time ago because I hear people as old as I use them incorrectly. And, I’m not talking about uneducated or backwoods people, either. I see it in people from all walks of life. Highly educated public figures, politicians, company executives, television broadcast journalists, PhDs, and co-workers…hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear someone violate the simple rule of I and me.

 

“Professor Whackentoad gave Tammy and I some advice on writing our dissertations.” Nope. That would be wrong, Brainiac. It’s Professor Whackentoad gave Tammy and me some advice on writing our dissertations.”

 

“Andy’s gonna pick Barney and I up to go fishn’.”

 

Sorry, Gomer, but that’s incorrect. It should be “Andy’s gonna pick Barney and me up to go fishn’.”

 

The rule is simple. Drop the other person and say the sentence as you would if you were the sole subject. You wouldn’t say, “Andy’s gonna pick I up to go fishn’.” But you would say, “Andy’s gonna pick me up to go fishn’.”

 

Or, you wouldn’t say “Me am gonna go fishn’ with Andj.” But, to be grammatically correct, you would say, “I am gonna go fishn’ with Andj.” Hence, “Barney and I are gonna go fishn’ with Andj.”

 

I know…I know. The grammatical purist is reading this and saying that in order to be grammatically correct, it should read, “Barney and I are going to go fishing with Andy.” It’s colloquial. I’ve told you before, I’m fluent in Southern. Besides, the lesson isn’t for grammatical purity, it’s for grammatical correctness. Not to be confused with political correctness. Have a good day!





Welcome to Town

29 02 2016

I gave a presentation at a big conference recently at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. This is the second largest convention center in the country, and it is big. I walked from one end to the other, and I’m pretty sure that somewhere along the way, I crossed the Georgia state line. 

 

There was somewhere north of 16,000 people attending the conference and approximately 1,000 scheduled to attend the session at which I was to speak ( I believe about 500 actually showed up!). 

 

The quiet before the storm

The quiet before the storm

I stayed at the Hyatt Regency- not the Waldorf Astoria but still a really nice hotel about a half-mile walk by sky-bridge to the convention center. The hotel is a large 27 floor hotel with its own conference center, large enough to handle a good-sized conference itself.

Hyatt Regency-Orlando

Hyatt Regency-Orlando

 

While I was standing at the front desk checking in, I noticed a young, 30-something couple standing next to me. He was pulling a red suitcase on wheels and she carried a blue duffel bag with white trim. We all got checked in at about the same time and headed for the elevators. They seemed to be lost as they walked just ahead of me, which is understandable given the size of the hotel. So as they walked along gawking at the size and opulence of the place, I heard her say, “Where ya reckon the elevator is?” Having been raised in the South, I am fluent in Southern so I offered the helpful guidance of a seasoned traveler. “Just follow the signs and that’ll get you there,” I suggested. 

 

The young man then saw the sign for the elevators and turned to me, “Thank you, sir.”

 

Sir? I thought to myself; who is he calling sir? It’s easy for me to forget I have a 40-year-old child.

 

So as we stood together, waiting for the elevator, I noticed the name tag on the red suitcase. It had the name Margaret Starling with an address in Opp, Alabama. Assuming he was pulling her suitcase, as I was pretty sure he wasn’t Margaret, I said to the young woman, “Margaret, are ya’ll in town for the Grainger Show?” She told me they were but her name was not Margaret. I told her I assumed it was because of the name on the suitcase her husband was pulling. “Oh, we borrowed it from my mom. My name’s Mindy,” she told me.

 

Okay, I’m thinking- rookie travelers. Rookie travelers borrow a suitcase from friends or family and then stuff it with two weeks of clothes for a two-day trip. Rookie travelers buy one of those silly neck pillows to use on the plane. Rookie travelers wander the hotel looking for the elevators. I’m not slamming rookie travelers, mind you. It was just an observation. 

 

So, we exchanged a few more pleasantries as the elevator arrived and the doors opened. When we got inside there was an identical panel of floor call buttons on each side of the doors. I remind you, it’s a 27 story hotel- the young woman exclaimed in her south Alabama drawl, “My gosh! Look at all them buttons! I ain’t never been in an elevator with that many buttons.” I believe the tallest building in Opp, Alabama is Mayor Rob Nester’s two-story chicken coop.

 

The young man then responded, “I ain’t never been in an elevator with buttons on both sides of the door!”

 

Clearly, they were impressed and clearly, they were no longer in Opp. 

 





Oh No! I’ve Lost My Phone!

13 02 2016

Admit it. You’ve done stupid things. We all have. You, just like I, have done things only to look back and say, Boy that was dumb!

 

If you can’t think of anything, then allow me to help you.

 

How many times have you reached to pull your cell phone from its holder, your pocket or your purse, or wherever you normally carry it, while you were talking on your cell phone?

 

I was on a business trip to some far off land and, as usual, when I returned to my hotel room following dinner in a nearby restaurant, I pulled my cell phone from that annoying, yet essential, plastic holder attached to my belt to call my wife. As we spoke, she asked me if I had gotten a text she had sent me earlier in the day. Instinctively, I reached down toward my hip to grab my cell phone.

 

Now, had things stopped there, I would have probably been able to get away with that little mind cramp and my wife never would have known what stupid thing I had just done. But, no! I wasn’t satisfied to buy a cabbage from the “stupid farm”…I had to buy the entire farm!

 

Shift to Panic Mode!

My heart jumped into my throat as I panicked. After feeling the empty holder, I said to my wife, “I left my phone at the restaurant!”

 

“You what?” she asked.

 

“I left my phone at the restaurant! Either that, or it fell off somewhere. I have to go and see if I can find it!”

 

Now, I do have a reputation as a bit of a practical joker so I believe my wife’s initial thought was I was up to something. She never told me so but she had to be thinking, This can’t be real.

 

Finally, she said something like, “Maybe it’s on your ear.”

 

Suddenly, I realized where my phone was and we both had a good laugh.

 

Since then, I have come to learn that I’m not the only one who has done that. If that has happened to you then leave a comment to let me know I’m not the only one who has suffered such a momentary lapse of awareness. Maybe the studies are wrong after all-perhaps cell phones do affect the brain. I have to blame it on something.





Clean-up on Aisle Five!

7 12 2015

Last week at the grocery store, I was trying to pick out a fresh loaf of bread. I pressed gently on several loaves until I found what I thought was the freshest. This particular loaf had been pulled out and replaced, backwards, with its open end pushed in first. So, as I grabbed the end of the loaf and pulled it from the shelf, all of the bread in the bag fell onto the floor, leaving me holding an empty bag. Or, as they say in Iowa…empty beg. Some jerk had, apparently, removed the twist-tie and put the loaf back on the shelf, leaving it for the unsuspecting victim…in this case, me. I gathered up all the loose slices and handed them to a nearby employee, explaining what had happened. He thanked me. I had no idea at the time this was a prelude to coming events.

 

Yesterday, I was doing my weekly grocery shopping, minding my own business, pushing my cart down the canned goods aisle and humming, “O Come All Ye Faithful”, while I looked over my list. As I turned the corner at the end of the aisle, still looking down at my list, my cart happened to catch the corner of one of those temporary, cardboard displays. This particular display held boxes of cookies. Not just boxes of cookies, but boxes and boxes and more boxes of cookies. It appeared to be about 100 boxes, or so, until I knocked the display over and saw all the boxes spread across the floor. At that point, it looked more like 10,000 boxes.

 

It was like a scene in a movie. You’ve seen it where a character in the movie knocks over a display and the items seem to keep on falling until the character is knee-deep in cans of ravioli. This display appeared to be moving in slow motion as it fell forward, dumping every single box of cookies. I tried, in vain, to grab it, but I felt like I, too, was moving in slow motion and there was nothing I could do to save it. In the aftermath, the pile of cookie boxes in front of me looked like the Pyramids of Giza while I looked like Chevy Chase in a clumsy moment.

 

My first thought was to steer my cart around the avalanche and pretend I didn’t know anything about it; but, there were two eyewitnesses, I mean ladies, standing across the aisle laughing. So, I began to pick up the mess and a store manager and another of the store’s employees came rushing over and told me they would take care of it.

 

It wasn’t until I was on my way home that it occurred to me that I should have pulled out my cell phone and shot a picture. Maybe next time. I’m pretty sure there will be one.