Saturday, September 23, 2017

Family, At All Costs

Southern people are family oriented. Anytime there is a gathering, it's always a family gathering. Big families or little families, it's an important connection.  And it's amazing to me to see several generations of the same family all living in the same little holler* and seeing each other every day. I grew up in a close family, but we now live in different parts of the country and rarely actually see each other face to face.We communicate a lot, but distance keeps it down to emails and social media. Even if we had only landlines and snail mail, we would regularly connect.  I know this.  Family is important. 

Which makes it all the more confusing to hear stories of families who don't speak to one another. To me this is hard to understand.  I hear stories all the time about "Oh I haven't spoken to my brother since he broke my pen in the 3rd grade."  or "She wore my blouse and stained it and I haven't spoken a word to her since."  Of course I'm making light of this with insignificant examples. To me, regardless of the transgression, regardless of the affront, there has to be a way in which we stay in communication.  I've had cross words with my family and yet we still stay in touch.  We live at opposite ends of the country but we still do what it takes to stay a family.

30 years ago, I had the misfortune of attending my great aunt's funeral.  She was one of 11 children and was the last of her siblings.  I remember her saying "Well, there's only me now." Without family, she was feeling lost. Most of them had lived close their whole lives. AND they stayed in constant contact. (This, before cell phones and social media!) She died less than a year later. The connection to family is life giving, life sustaining, important beyond your-my-their needs or wants. Do whatever you can do keep that connection from being lost.  This is why we're here, to be part of that family part of that connection, part of that love.  

Look at those people who pop up on the news, relatives of some mad bomber or murderer. There they are, supporting their kid, their brother, their family, even after he/she's brought down the full weight of the media and the world on them.  Why?  Family.  The ties that bind. A connection that cannot, should not be denied. It allows them to say "We love you in spite of what you've done, what we've done, what's been done; and we're beside you regardless of those events."

Why we choose to cut off a family member is not as important as realizing that the connection is lost.  Be it a blood relation of sister, brother, mother, father or cousin or the family and extended family, adopted brothers, children, step fathers, step children, the list goes on.  Love does that. I would say "Blood does that" but we all know that true family goes beyond blood. Love does not cut ties. Love doesn't hold a grudge. Love doesn't determine who's worthy or not. At least it shouldn't. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Leave it there.  Create new memories now and in the future before it's too late.  When you or they are gone, there is no going back and rekindling the love you once had.

And if you're the one that broke the connection, there is hope. You see that connection is still there, still waiting for you.  Regardless of what you've done, or said, or felt or thought, family is family.  

I could fill this little blog post with all manner of quotes both biblical and secular about how family is above all; forgiveness is more important than anything but the one thing that matters is that  you need that person, those people, in your life. You need it, they need it we all need it.  No matter how large of a transgression, no matter of what was said, Familial Love conquers all. That connection stands far and above any  misunderstanding you may have.  Look past it, look at the love.

There is no time like the present to reconnect.

*In the south east mountains of the united states holler is used instead of hollow; a small rising valley region between two hills or mountains;often containing a creek or other fresh water source.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Southern Sun and the Eclipse

Image result for eclipse
It comes as no surprise to anyone that the US had a solar eclipse run across diagonally from Oregon to Georgia.  It should also come as no surprise that Nashville, my home, was in the 'Path of Totality' for said Eclipse. What did come as a surprise to me was that I had to work on Aug. 21.  At least my office set up to see the eclipse first hand, out on the plaza in front of the building. 
One of the guys in our office ordered in some special glasses (yes, the good ones) and we forwarded the phones to voice mail and headed out a good 30 minutes before to the moment of totality.
The plaza was full of folks from all over, and when the moment of totality came, it was breathtaking.  In a matter of moments, the sun winked out, and the lights in the adjacent buildings could be seen with the naked eye.
In some areas I'd heard that people shouted and cheered when the sun was covered.  At the Nashville zoo the cheering may have caused the animals a bit of concern but here in the downtown, people were a bit louder, but overall it was more a moment of awe.  To see something to amazing that could very well be a once-in-a-lifetime moment was enough to make you just stand and watch.  
The full totality of darkness lasted only 2 minutes.  Then the lights came back as the shadow of the moon moved on. Some people headed on back to work, others standing around using their special glasses to watch the event in it's entirety. 

Many years ago, my daughter and I watched a partial eclipse and used a pinhole in a piece of paper to see the shadow travel partially across the sun without looking at it.  The light around us then merely dimmed.  We still enjoyed it. Oddly, she is living in Cheyenne Wyoming which was also in the path of totality this time around.  The next one won't come until 2024 and maybe the two of us will be together again and can travel down to see it.  

One can only hope.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Causual Friday - Redux

The building I work in gives us free coffee.  It's a big 26 floor office tower with more than just my office group.  We take up only 1 floor and 2 half floors.  I say this as a precursor to the events which lead up to Causual Friday - Redux.  Yes, Causual, as in I caused this to happen.  

So, now imagine the amount of coffee that is prepared each morning.  I get  here about oh-dark-thirty and am waiting for the coffee when they open at 7.  There are usually 3-4 big containers of coffee to pick from.  Mmmm ....coffeeee....

But now comes the dilemma. Which coffee bin is the hottest?  Over time, I've developed a routine for this.  Usually, I bring my own refillable coffee mug.  Mug? More like barrell.  36 ounce.  Yes,  you read that right, 36 ounces.  (Don't judge me.  I like coffee.)  So, what I usually do is grab a paper cup sitting beside the big bins (it's self serve) and then run a couple of tablespoons of coffee into the cup. Taste. Pour what's left into my coffee mug barrel and move to the next bin. In only a few seconds I've found the hottest and fill my coffee mug barrel with it.

To help those that come after me, (read: late co-workers) I put the paper cup on top of the bin, flagging it as the hottest.  There was no big decision to do this, it's more of a habit that formed over time.  I didn't know how much I had affected the entire building. Every so often, I'd run into some guy from another office who would say "Hey, you're the coffee guy!"

Fast forward to recently.  I had taken a long weekend and was back at work, getting my coffee.  The lady who runs the cafe where the coffee is available is bustling about preparing for the day and she stops by to tell me how people had come in all morning the day I was out, and not finding the empty coffee cup on top of the bin would stand there, lost.  "Which one's the hot one?" they would murmur. You got to wonder at the fact that no one thought to do what I did, taste them all and then leave a cup as a marker.  No, they just felt...lost.   After a bit they would pick one and hope for the best.

So, once again, I've caused a Friday meltdown. Causual Friday.
Trademark, Copyright and Patent Pending.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shutter Eye Land

 A few years ago a tornado came through our little estate and took off with some shutters.  A search of the surrounding neighborhood and subsequent  yard sales found that my shutters were forever gone, leaving my house looking a bit askew. For years I've searched in vane to find matching shutters.  So, finally (Ok, so it's been nearly 20 years) I decided it was time to remove the remaining shutters and give my poor abode a more complete 'look.'

Not a major project, but let me digress and tell another story (as I always do) about the number of wasps that seem to hang around my yard, watching me work, buzzing me and in general making pests of themselves. For years I've always thought these pests were just part of the Southern Experience (yes, all caps, like it's a tourist destination or a ride at Six Flags.)  I also wondered where they all came from and blamed my neighbors for not being more proactive in getting rid of nests.  

So, I removed the first shutter and found:
Wasp nests.  Wasps will use old nests and mud daubers constantly build new ones,so it's important to get rid of them when found. And I found the mother lode!  Behind each of the 6 shutters I pulled down, I found literally dozens of nests for 3 kinds of wasps!  I even found a small birds nest.

With my favorite metal putty knife, I dispatched them all.  (And laughed maniacally the entire time!) The result is now that my house looks a bit more normal and less lop sided.  And will hopefully be less wasp attractive in the future!
Now, I just gotta do something about those posts by the walk.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Street Smarts and Music Appreciation

This last week was a busy week here in the Mid South.  Not only did we have the CMA Music Festival (Fan Fair for you older folks) but we also had the Bonnaroo Music Festival AND the Stanley Cup Finals! Today, as I'm typing this is the final day of Bonnaroom, the final day of the CMA Festival and Game 6 of the Stanley Cup plays here in Nashville.  I'm so glad I'm not downtown or on the highways! 

It's exciting to see so much of music and arts and sports happening in this area, but for someone who works downtown and commutes from one of the many bedroom communities, I have one complaint.  

People, People, People: Stop crossing the street without looking! 

I take the bus.  We all know that, I remind people of this constantly here in my blog.  The bus is 58 feet long and weighs a lot. Even more when it's full of commuters. It goes without saying that if you step out in front of the moving bus without looking one of two things will happen.  
  1. You will meet your maker, be he the big G.O.D., Buddha or the F.S.M.  In any contest of person versus bus, you will lose.  And it will be painful while it happens.  
  2. You will be lucky in that our talented bus driver will slam on the brakes causing all the people in the bus to loose their seats, sliding forward into other people's laps.  (Me? I lose my place reading, we all know this too.) 
When the first option happens, understand that we all will miss you, and your CMA tickets will be sold for face value.  When the second option happens, the bus horn will sound.  At you.  This is not a signal for you to show us your middle finger, but to get out of the frakking way, so that the bus full of commuters can make their way home.  

It's not difficult. Just look both ways before you step off the curb. (Something we all learned or should have learned at a very early age!) Stop looking at your phone, stop looking at that girl with the tight top, tight shorts and cowboy boots.  Look both ways.  Cross. 

I hope this little diatribe finds its way into the the mindset of those who attend CMA/ Bonnaroo next year.  

Oh and Go Preds! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Southern Man's Tool Box - The Snow Shovel

It's a sort of running joke in my family that I own a snow-shovel.  "A snow-shovel?  In the South?  What you use that for, shade?" followed by the requisite "Hardy Har har!" Yes, here in the south we do have need of the wide mouthed, light weight shovel for the scooping of snow.  But sill they persist, they are jokers all.  

We do get very little snow here in the south.  (I am reminded that my family back in Colorado this week has had lots of snow. Yes, in May. Colorado, go figure.)  But I find that owning a snow shovel is important, but just not in the snowy seasons.

Oh yes, I do use it to scoop snow, sometimes as much as three days a year!  But where it truly helps to own a snow shovel is in the hot summer when I'm mowing the lawn.  

After I mow the yard, I clean up the mower by tipping it on it's side and using a putty knife to scrape out all the moist, finely chopped grass (read: chopped weeds) which collects on the underside of the shroud and above the blade.  Not cleaning this out in a humid environment means it will mold by the next time I get the mower out and that's no fun at all.  In addition, mold leads more to rust and my handy fossil fuel powered tools don't need that.  

So, I scrape out all the clogs and bunches of chopped grass (read: chopped weeds) and they form a pile there beside the mower.  It is the snow-shovel I turn to to get this pile scooped up quickly and efficiently.  I've used other shovels, with flat blades but I usually have to stoop too low to get things up into the scoop.  With the snow shovel, I have an ergonomic handle so I don't have to stoop so much and the scoop of the snow shovel is deep and holds enough that one scoop is all I need.  

I suppose I should start calling it a grass-clippings shovel,  but no one would look at me right again. 
Thus is the life I lead.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

Southern Storm Elves

My brother smelled a blog post.  He was right.  Early last week, on Tuesday night, here in Nashville (ok, the suburbs of Nashville) we had some spectacular storms. There was lightning, thunder, rain and heavy winds. Trees were downed, electricity was lost, beers were spilled. (It really was a lot more damage than my witty commentary lets on.)  Most importantly, my big stick tree lost some major branches.  I call it a stick tree because, normally after every windy day, I find sticks of all sizes in the yard. Usually I just meander about the yard, morning coffee in hand while I pick them up and pitch them into the brush pile, but this was different. These were massive branches. You can see the far branch there next to my jeep was taller than the car itself.  These were so heavy I couldn't even lift them to move them to the brush pile. 

It happened during the day and when I got home that night I worked with a pruning hand saw (my chain saw has gone on to that big garage in the sky) to get those branches next to the house moved away from the air conditioner so that I could see any damage. Thankfully, the damage was nil. (Ok, so  I ruined a good pair of khakis but they were tight in the seat anyway, so not really a big loss there.) 

As I sat down to dinner, (late) I mused at the busy schedule I had for the weekend and the fact that I'd need to rent or even buy a new chainsaw to get these heavy behemoths out of the yard. I had to leave the branches where they were from Tuesday night until - most likely - Sunday. (Saturday was already full of prior commitments.)  

Then....well....strange things happened. 

Saturday morning, bright and early, I'm up and out of bed, headed for the coffee maker.  I'm normally up during the week at 4, but on the weekends sleep in until about 7, so the sun is up and the birds are singing. As I reach for the coffee grounds, I glance out the front window and see - nothing. (Cue frozen moment while I blink a couple of times and expect the view to change.) Well, yeah, I see grass and a couple of squirrels and my neighbors house across the street.  BUT what I don't see is the big branch that has been irritating me for 4 days.  Remember the branch taller than my car? It was literally gone. Gone!

Leaving my coffee for a moment, I head out to stand on the porch.  All the branches are gone.  Not just the one in front of the house, but all of them are just gone.  Even the few smaller branches I tossed into the brush pile are gone! The entire brush pile is missing!  The big city trucks with their big chippers would have alerted me to the work being done, but there was nothing the night before or early in the morning. I was stumped. I got coffee and stood by the window musing over what had truly transpired.

I came to one conclusion. 

Elves. Southern Elves. I mean, it couldn't be 'cobbler elves' as this wasn't shoes.  I hadn't left any cookies out for any of the North Pole type elves, and they don't clean up fallen branches, anyway. It also comes to mind that the Wizard Dresden (Dresden Books, by Jim Butcher) leaves pizza out for the elves that clean his apartment, but again, no pizza was left out on the porch.  We aren't affluent enough to have our own Harry Potter type house elves, so that leaves only one thing.  

Southern Elves.  Southern elves never-heard-of-before clean up fallen branches and wear camouflage (so you can't see them).  In the middle of the night they work quietly and completely carrying off the branches for bonfires and crafts.  It's the only explanation.  

Oh, but if that's the case, I think I owe them a case of beer.  I mentioned this to my neighbor who admitted he was the one to came out in the night and using an electric chain saw (electric?  really? In the south?) he chopped up all the wood for bonfires and marshmallow roasting.  Not making any fuss or sound, he was able to round them up and get them into his back yard in a matter of a couple of hours; all while I was on the couch watching TV. 

I thanked him. I praised his thoroughness. I shook his hand.  I retreated to my coffee.
No, I'm not giving him a case of beer.