Put Another Dime in the Jukebox

My First Concert Since the Pandemic

10,389 Concert Crowd Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

The outdoor concert venue slowly filled as the evening light faded. Before too long we were surrounded by a great horde of Millennials all standing, talking in small groups and listening to the vibrant music. Only a small percent were actually focused on the music. They had gathered early up near the stage. This portion of the crowd bounced up and down to each song, waving arms in the air, singing right along. I even saw a brave girl or two crowd surf over the heads of this part of the horde. They were like every crowd I had seen or been a part of during all my years of rock concerts. Of course, as an aging adult, attending classic rock shows, crowd surfing was out of the question. I doubt most of us could even raise our arms over our heads for long. Inflammation and arthritis having taken more of a toll as each year passed.

“Don’t let anybody put you in a box. You are much more than a millennial…much more!”  ― Jerry Gladstone

My generation doesn’t like to stand for long either, much preferring the seating away from the mosh pit. On this evening we were kept safe from the horde in a caged off seating area in the back. I could see everything with very little risk. It was the perfect spot. We did have some Millennial females sneak in to our enclosure. It’s a strange phenomenon I experience at almost every concert. Young women, who I assume have paid a lot of money for their tickets, and then sit near me and talk through the whole show. Talk very loud so that they can be heard by each other over the blaring music. Describing that mole that needs to be removed or the terrible new boss at work. Happened again this night. I don’t get it?? I watched one young lady come over and say hi to a couple on a date sitting in front of me. She then proceeded to stand there and talk (shout) to the girl the rest of the evening. The poor guy was left all alone. I thought they’d been having a great time until the blabber mouth showed up. I still don’t get it??

How to Play Guitar - Beginner's Guide (2022 Update)

In fact, as I surveyed the horde in front and around me, I noticed that the attentive crowd up near the stage was only about one-fourth, if that, of the audience. The rest of the three thousand plus attending was standing around in small groups, chit chatting as if they were at a wedding reception. Most only glanced up at the stage periodically. It took a very familiar song to get everyone to jump around, sing along and become more drawn into the music. Then it was back to the mingling. Maybe the Millennials have been shut away too long and desperately needed the social interaction (more than the music)?

“No matter how different you are, no matter how different you think, no matter how extraordinary or how ordinary you are, when you get on a train, you will go in the same direction as everyone on that train! That’s what happens to you if you mingle with the crowds! The crowd always takes you where it goes!” ― Mehmet Murat ildan

11 Tips for Surviving a Concert Without Your Phone

When people used to smoke more, a mellow song would start and the lights would dim and then a magic moment started.  People all around would pull out their lighters and hold up the flames above their heads. This may have evoked much deeper memories of the gathered tribe lifting their torches to the inspiration coming from a leader telling a story or an epic song shared by all. On this night I noticed that when a special moment arrived, the phones went up. People were recording the experience. But this looked to me to be producing the exact opposite effect than the one I remembered. The light was on the little screens cast back on each person holding up a phone. Instead of a social experience of raising up a collective flame, it was a self absorbed moment, directing attention away from the experience we were all having and up to a little private screen – rewarding each person with their own spotlight. How weird we’ve become.

“Normal consumers declare rock to be dead whenever they personally stop listening to it (or at least to new iterations of it), which typically happens about two years after they graduate from college.” ― Chuck Klosterman

It was a great night of music and people watching. My favorites. The weather cooperated, even here in heatstroke Houston. It was a beautiful sunset after the cool off of rain earlier in the afternoon. Even more of a big deal because it has been such a long time since any music has come to town. I was also very encouraged to see Millennials out having a really big social experience. We hear reports about people staying home, working digitally, living a distanced life, dropping out of organizations like church, etc. Attending this big night together told me that people, no matter what demographic they fall under, still like to gather and have fun with great music all night long. It was a good sign for the future, no matter what the TV is telling us.

“Music needs to be felt to be heard.” ― Anthony T. Hincks

Love is a Long Road

Tom Petty | Biography, Songs, Albums, & Facts | Britannica

I’m searching through song titles in my music library. It’s hard to believe how many include the word “love” in them.

LOVE IS A LONG ROAD is a Tom Petty song.

Yeah, it was hard to give up
Some things are hard to let go
Some things are never enough
I guess I only can hope
For maybe one more chance
To try and save my soul
But love is a long, long road
Yeah, love is long, long road

There are people I know who have hearts permanently broken because of love (and betrayal). Some have a nasty dog chained up in their spirit keeping everyone away. There are others in my circle that keep searching for true love. It’s been a long time, but no one’s talking give up…yet. I’ve run across a few people (haven’t we all) who are too much in love with themselves to ever find it anywhere else. If you’ve grown up paying attention to what’s playing on the radio – love is something everyone is looking for at some time in their life.

Have you found it?

It’s a long and winding road. Isn’t it?

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

Summers are strange periods of time for people in higher education. The schedule isn’t as rigid and there are less people in one’s orbit. Mostly, its different because the students are no longer around. My living alone becomes more accentuated. I really cherish my time spent with friends and family. These are ordinary connections; talking on the stairs on the way to parking lot, a FaceTime visit,  having lunch at our regular table, a phone call late in the evening, sending a note in the mail. These seem to especially matter during this overheated and dried up summer. I’m slowly learning a bigger life lesson about reciprocity. Don’t wait to receive, make something happen with a simple gesture. Love, to become real, needs someone else to share with. 

(EVERYTHING I DO) I DO IT FOR YOU

Oh, you can’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
I can’t help it, there’s nothin’ I want more
Yeah, I would fight for you
I’d lie for you
Walk the wire for you
Yeah, I’d die for you

Bryan Adams

I’ve decided to stop just praying for other people. Really to stop praying that someone else (God) would solve someone else’s problems. Instead I’ve started to pray that God would solve the problem but ALSO would use me in that solution. I’m volunteering for service. I’m ready to get up and get involved. When I was younger, I talked about love. I didn’t know what to do about it. There wasn’t much sown into my own field. As I grew older, more scarred, and scared, I realized how much love I needed. Then I discovered I was never going to get enough. My only relief was to find some way (today) to give some away.  Love isn’t really a feeling, it’s a verb that must be put into action.

The Sower by Jean-François Millet | Obelisk Art History

The Sower, 1850, Jean-Francois Millet

All those years that you spend making dreams come true will one day happen to you. One way or another. People last, plans rarely do. Others in your life need your love. Mostly they don’t realize it. What they know for sure is how much you loved or didn’t love them. (Remember, it’s not a private feeling but a verb, something to share). Be careful about the bed you are making. When you are older you will have to lie in it. I have a friend who has been cut off from his children. What must that be like? He keeps trying, day after day, year after year. One day, when they are on their own, they will see the truth of his love.  Love is always a long, long field that is sown with seeds and some will take a lifetime to bear any fruit. 

LET LOVE IN

And you’re the only one I ever believed in
The answer that could never be found
The moment you decided to let love in
Now I’m banging on the door of an angel
The end of fear is where we begin
The moment we decided to let love in

Goo Goo Dolls

Pay attention to all the love in your life

One certain way that all of us let love in is when we become conscious of all the ways that people in our lives practice loving us. Sit down and think it through. From the big heroic acts like felling a giant to every little word of kindness and comfort. It’s easier to remember what we don’t have than all that we do. It takes effort. Put your mind and heart in the right place with more frequency and see what happens – see what view appears as you travel down THAT road.

Premium Photo | Man walking down a desolate road, man walking backwards on a road surrounded by vegetation

Love is a long hard road. But it’s the only road worth traveling. That other road isn’t going anywhere.

“When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” ― Paulo Coelho

 

 

A Little of This, A Whole Lot of That

Smash Burgers

I was ordering a hamburger the other day. Sometimes I get a craving for ketchup. Never on my hamburger, but to go with the fries. So, a hamburger to go with the fries. Make sense? I noticed on the menu as I was ordering that cheese on my burger would cost more. I asked the teen taking my order, “can you really tell that there’s cheese on this burger?” As any good employee, you know what his answer was. My burger really looked like the size of one of those in a happy meal. It tasted great, but was very small. How do they get buns that little? No, I could not tell that there was any cheese on it, not enough surface. Maybe it was what they call a “boutique burger”?

Of course, a day doesn’t pass that I’m not reminded of my aging. One day when I was at church I realized a cataclysmic shift had taken place in my life. My church was started as a new neighborhood fellowship back in the 1970’s. It has grown as this part of town has. Right now, we have a lot of senior adults in our church. In fact, the “traditional” service that I attend I refer to as the senior citizen worship service. Tongue in cheek, sort of. My brutal collision with reality happened one Sunday morning when one of these senior adult men called me “sir” in our casual interaction. I almost dropped my Bible.

The power went out in our neighborhood this afternoon. The temperature indicated it was 104. I guess that means they didn’t actually get the Texas power grid updated and ready when everyone in the most advance civilization in the history of the world turns on their heater or AC at once. I’m not sure that people in Texas realize that our legislature only meets five months every two years. The only other times they can meet and get something serious done is when a special session is called. Only the governor can call one of these.

How to Cut Watermelon

When the power went off I panicked and went to the HEB. They had power. I got a slice of watermelon. That made perfect sense to me. Do you remember people putting salt on their watermelon? I wonder why they did that and why people stopped doing that?

It’s especially hot out in the parking lots during this time of year in this part of the country. I mean, very hot. I can’t figure out why some people come and get in their cars and just sit there for a while. I don’t know why they aren’t in a bigger hurry to get moving, get the air flowing, get home and out of that hot car. Maybe they don’t feel as hot as I do waiting for their parking space?

“I have noticed that the people who are late are often so much jollier than the people who have to wait for them.”  ― E. V. Lucas

Certain categories of jobs attract different personality types. Or at least they should. Anyone working as a mail carrier ought to be a detail oriented type, right? Recently I stood out in the hall and watched an office full of people who I considered to be very obsessive about details – and rightly so – cleaning up spilled salad dressing off the floor. These people are in charge of individual academic records. That’s a lot of very important information that must be accurate. I thought about this as I watched several on their hands and knees wiping up balsamic vinaigrette spots off the carpet. I would have stopped after half an hour and called it a good job. But then, leave it to me and your child might or might not graduate on time.

“How you do the little things is how you do everything.” ― Sharon Pearson

In my brand of church, at the end of each service there is a time when people who want to join or become Christians are invited to come to the front and speak/pray with a minister. There’s a guy that repeatedly marches down the aisle during the invitation time. He doesn’t do it at every service, but at enough to be noticeable. I wonder what’s going on? I’ve heard about this phenomenon at other churches, someone who responds to the invitation again and again. I don’t think he’s rejoining the church each time. Maybe he needs to say something important to the pastor. These walking down the aisle invitations were first invented in the 1800’s by having what was called an “anxious bench” on the front row. If someone was feeling particularly led by the Spirit, they were encouraged to come down to sit at one of those seats and resolve your anxious feelings by praying or speaking with a minister. But I’m not sure one was supposed to become anxious every week?

I think I’ve finally figured out how to prevent Netflix from only showing me Eastern European selections on my television menu each time I log in. Most of these choices are dubbed in English or have subtitles. Sometimes the dubbed film or television series isn’t that bad, but other times, when the budget was too small, they only have a couple people doing all of the voices. Really cuts down on the dramatic moments when it’s the same person doing each character but trying to sound different. Never really works that well.

“being sick feels like you’re wearing someone else’s glasses” ― Megan Boyle

For two weeks I was sick with the COVID virus. I’m all vaccinated and boosted but I got sick anyway. The first week I had a fever each day. Once I had met the CDC guidelines for being out of quarantine, I went to work. For that week, I felt like lying down on the floor and taking a long nap every day at about 2pm. Once the third week arrived, I felt much better. I guess I caught a variant that I wasn’t fully vaccinated against. I had traveled out of state and got sick on the flight back. Since moving to Houston, when summer arrives, I become much more lethargic. Sitting on the porch, swatting mosquitos, sipping mint juleps, watching the parade of life go by… So I guess suffering with the virus didn’t cause a tremendous difference in my life – considering the time of year. I am a real baby when under the weather.

Starve a cold and feed a fever. Ever heard that one before? I knew I had neither, took the COVID test twice. But I did feed whatever it was, again and again. Being stuck in the house 24-7 with only Yugoslavian Netflix to watch (I hadn’t solved that problem yet) was probably the chief cause of my eating too much – not the virus percolating inside. I had gotten accustomed to really just eating one meal a day. This quarantine really messed that up. I felt like a hobbit. Don’t they eat seven times a day? Add to that very little physical activity and I was glad it was summer or I might have looked for a cave to start my hibernation.

“Just because a man is a hermit doesn’t mean he’s hiding.” ― Paul Doiron

Everybody needs someone, right? The lady that has been cleaning my house for the past decade (probably longer) went to visit her family in Ecuador. The country was going through a period of civil unrest while she was there and she couldn’t get to the airport to come home. She eventually did make it home and will be here to clean up my messy house. My grandkids were here and spent the night. They don’t really make a mess, but I do when in the role of caregiver. Now there’s two of them and only one of me. I just can’t imagine how frightening it must have been for Ana to have been trapped in her own country with all that chaos erupting around her, knowing she really needed to find a way out.

“Far too much modern Christian prayer has insisted on words, on logic, on getting everything clear and out into the open. This is of course important and indeed vital–as one aspect of the whole. But prayer, if it is to be Christian prayer, cannot be a grasping at control. It is precisely a relinquishing of control–to the one who is capable of doing far, far more than we can ask or imagine. It is saying ‘Thy will be done.’ It is therefore appropriate that, at some times and in some ways, that prayer should pass beyond the merely rational and wordy and engage with God, as Paul says in Romans 8, at a level too deep for words.” ― N.T. Wright, chair of New Testament and Early Christianity at the School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland

 

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Roses in December

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”  ― J.M. Barrie

Have you traveled back to a once familiar place or run into people from your past and experienced a reunion? I remember visiting my hometown and being shocked at how rundown everything had become, thirty years later. Nothing stays the same. I’m certain I looked like a mile or two of bad road myself.  Friends from the past become aged, their once care-free happy faces can sometimes be tinged by hard years. We have all walked long roads, our hometowns have weathered the storms of life. But that doesn’t stop the chain of memory that is carried along by the people and places.

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“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.” ― William Faulkner

As the pandemic has slowly begun to pass away, I awaken now and see that I am living in a cobweb of my own self-constructed memories. I was looking at repairs that needed to be made in the guest bathroom and there was another memory hanging on the wall. Not just a photo but an experience.

This made me realize they were strewn all over the house.

Not so surprising, I’m a collector of symbols. I started surrounding myself with meaning long ago. I needed something to balance out my life. So, there are pictures, people, and sayings all around me. I even have a photo of the lady who redid my other bathroom, hanging on the wall in that bathroom – as a tribute.

I’m sitting here typing this out and I can see through the doorway at the album covers hanging on the wall in my hallway. They are of aged rock stars who have played concerts I have attended. Not just the songs but the events of seeing and singing along with each of these artists in person is a memory of nights long ago in my middle age. Sometimes it was a lot of trouble, but I never regretted attending and creating those wonderful memories with family and friends. All that music also draws me back to my much younger days and the radio and the tape deck and my own car and the hot summers a thousand years ago.

In my office at school and here all around me (in every room of the house) there are shelves filled with books. Someone else’s story but a remembrance for me as well, a connection to new information, a lesson or mostly a pleasant escape. I just re-read for the third time a fun novel about a college professor enduring so much of the same turmoil that all of us in this profession muddle through. Just as many laughs as the first time.

There’s a giant photo portrait of my daughter on her wedding day here before me. She and her husband have been dating and married for almost twenty years. They have twice as many memories as a ten year wedding anniversary might predict.  I remember the day I had been married to my wife for longer than she had lived with her own parents. We were the two adults who knew one another the longest. We must make our times together count, they never last as long as they imagine. 

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ― Charles Dickens

How will I pass on what really matters?

I walked out the front door last week and looked down at the coat rack. There was a little cane that my great-grandmother had used. I knew her and was able to spend time with her as a child and young adult. Who do I pass that memory on to? My daughter didn’t know her. It’s a memory that I guess will stop here with me. I wonder what she implanted in me that I’m unconsciously passing on? 

I’m working on being more conscious and intentional with my own descendants and passing on the legacy of those who have left. I think it’s important for people to know how I remember their loved ones. What are your memories that you are passing on?

“But we are never alone. We bring with us the spirits of our ancestors. We are haunted by their demons and protected by their deities.” ― William Ritter

These days I’m encouraging my peers to write down what’s important to them so that they do have something to pass on – memories of what’s important for their own grandchildren and loved ones. One day when they are much older and might need something (or someone) to hang on to when life gets gray and the road dark and difficult. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a volume of experience from one or two of your own ancestors?

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“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ― Walt Whitman

Every day, there’s something wonderful waiting for you to notice

I was sitting in the burger joint waiting for my children and grandchildren who were visiting from out of town. Remembering things that were working and things that weren’t. It’s been too hard to have them gone for these past few years. I haven’t done a good job of figuring out how to relate well from far away. Technology has been a wonderful tool, but it only takes us so far.

My four-year-old grandson came through the crowded doorway, looked around, saw me sitting in the corner, beamed a big smile and ran right to me. I got a big hug and kiss on the cheek. I only thought I’d been happy in life before that moment. It comes when it does like a flood of starlight and music only your soul can hear.

“I can only note that the past is beautiful because one never realises an emotion at the time. It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”  ― Virginia Woolf

Marriage Gives and Gets, Part 2

In my first post I wrote about two important relationship experiences that we create together during marriage. One was empathy and the other was keeping track of each other. Here are two other important gives that provide us, over time, with so many more gets than we could imagine.

As you can tell, I’ve been reflecting on marriage. Not just because of the courses I teach but also due to a number of personal experiences, mine and those of others. Marriage and family makes, and for some, breaks us.

“You are not good for your own sake. That probably isn’t even possible. You are good as a courtesy to everyone around you. Keeping a promise or breaking it, telling the truth or lying, matters to those around you. So there is good you can do and always do again. You do not have to believe you are good in order to act well in any specific case. You never lose that option.”  ― Marilynne Robinson

This is tricky, but when we are in a long-term relationship with someone, there is a kind of accountability that develops. I truly believe a lot of this is subterranean. We unconsciously figure out what manners to mind and how to keep one another happy. We negotiate the best game plan for living and if we’re smart, we learn to first figure out how to make our partner happy. Over time we make conscious adjustments and also a great deal of internal shifting that happens as swiftly as paint drying.

Holding one another true to what we each know really matters, our values, beliefs, customs and norms – this keeps us civilized in our own little ways.

For some reason, I can’t seem to forget the dear pastor who was providing us pre-marital counseling. He told us this story about his new bride and her rule about never sitting on the bed once it was made up. He thought it was a strange custom but knew it was important to her, so that’s the way they lived the rest of their lives. I think this was part of his pre-marital counsel because he wanted to communicate that keeping each other happy, no matter how bizarre the expectations, would always be worth it.

I never made the bed during my married years. Who makes the bed in your house? Now that I’m alone, I make it every day, knowing it’s the right thing to do – in my heart being accountable to the memory of my spouse. Aren’t there things you do as a habit just because of the other person in your life? Likewise, aren’t there things you don’t do because that person would let you have it?

Ideas for Alternative Kitchen Tables

“Bravery is listening even when you don’t want to hear it.” ― Alaric Hutchinson

I joke with people these days about what it’s like living alone. If I see something that needs to be picked up, the new normal is, no one else is going to pick it up! When you live with someone else a division of labor of love evolves over the years.

I made sure that before I was married we had a prenuptial agreement that I would never load the dishwasher. It held up, even years later when I messed up every pan in the kitchen cooking for company. But mostly, couples figure out what works and doesn’t over time, as they navigate their shared life down the meandering road. It’s generally not something that can be pre-planned and written up in a contract.

Research tells us that opposites DO NOT attract. People come together and fall in love because they have so much in common. But if you ask couples they will tell you that they were opposites. After many years together, because of this division of labor – people use their selective memory to decide that they must have been attracted due to their evolved complementary relationship. He cooks and she cleans, he puts IKEA together and she cleans up the leftover bits, he rearranges the furniture and she vacuums the floor. Seeing a pattern here?

This kind of labor isn’t just the jobs that need to be done, it’s also what social scientists call “emotional labor.” There are emotional responses that are required from parents of adult children (and grandparents). Now that I’m the only parent and grandparent I feel the duty to play both parts and all the emotional scripts that go with each. I used to be able to sit back and relax while mom did all the mothering – being nosey, interested, expressive, up-to-date, involved, and actively participating. I was always very much in the backseat, ready to change any flats or provide the urgent directions when needed. What was I thinking? 

Adorable Clip Shows Grandpa Carry Little Girl in Bucket on Shopping Trip

I’m not always comfortable playing both parts – but it must be done for the good of all parties and the success of the family. It’s good for me too. The division of labor, to work well, must be oriented around our love for others – never about what’s best for me. That always poisons the soul.

“They never fail who die in a great cause.” ― George Gordon Byron

So, that’s what I think marriage is about when all is said and done. It’s a series of “gives” and in the long run we end up with a wealth of “gets.”

  • You have become a more empathetic personality because of those closest relationships in your life. You’ve given of yourself and in the long run, you’ve become wealthier
  • Keeping track of each other, physically, emotionally and spiritually is one of the best ways to stay honest and to remain connected to the world.
  • Long and deep relationships create a kind of accountability in each of us. This is one more way that we shed more of our selfishness and internalize civilization.
  • That division of labor that has evolved over time in your relationship has made you into someone more ready and better able to give of yourself to others.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” ― Donald Miller

Sit down and think about this most important relationship

Think about the one’s that were lived out before your eyes.  Be thankful for all that you’re getting. Figure out how to give some more.

293 Young Couple Doing The Dishes Together Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

Marriage Gets and Gives, Part 1

Come Sit Beside Me on My Mourning Bench – Leading Captivity Captive

“If I get married, I want to be very married.” ― Audrey Hepburn

The other day I was sitting outside in the rain waiting for an Uber to take me home. For the first time ever I realized that no one on the planet knew where I was or where I was going. I really was living more detached than I ever have. Throughout my life, I never had to think like this.

I teach classes about family relationships, how they work and what they look like these days. I gave a talk a about a month ago to a senior adult group about some of the stark numbers related to the family situation here in American. It was a very depressing presentation. You should have seen everyone’s face as I went on and on. I’m certain I won’t be asked back.

People today put off getting married until much later. They probably do this for many reasons. These days, most people decide to live together for a short period of time before they tie their knots. Five years, on average. There are a number of explanations for this new phenomenon. Not wanting to try to forge a meaningful relationship probably isn’t one of them.

A friend just told me she was celebrating 40 years of marriage. As I was thinking about two people living together for most of their adult lives, I realized that there are several shared experiences that may, over time, just get taken for granted. We wake up one day and come to believe this is just the way life has always been for us – but it’s a creation of two people who have given and taken to build a joint project called life together.

Here are two important shared experiences. I’ve got two more in a second post next week.

Couple married for 71 yrs die within 4 mins of each other! | Trending News,The Indian Express

“Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.” ― Jonathan Franzen

Once you’ve been married for a good long while, you realize that there isn’t going to ever be anyone else who is will truly be able to empathize with you in the same way. No one else is going to “get you.” Think about it:

  • A look across the room
  • Laughing at the unspoken joke
  • Hearing their voice in your ear when your alone

An empathetic relationship takes time. It grows like the plants in your back garden. It can’t be overshadowed with fear or reservation. You’ve got to learn to be yourself and grow together, and let your partner have space to grow as well. That’s always easier said than done.

“A great marriage is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”  ― Dave Meurer

Sure, you know of people who’ve jumped ship, trying to search for that perfect dance partner who will deeply understand. Typically, these don’t last. This kind of person is still in love with himself. A truly shared life produces real empathy. Research tells us that there are three important components of empathy:

  1. Real feelings – we need to share our hearts with each other. Sometimes men and women experience roadblocks when it comes to expressing and understanding each other. It takes effort and humility.
  2. Real knowledge – this one is simple. If you’re not communicating nor spending time time with each other, it’s almost impossible to empathize. We just won’t know what’s really going on.
  3. Real concern – this is easiest for couples, because love has drawn them together and kept them connected.

If you’re not feeling enough, that means you’re not sharing enough. Come out of your hiding places more often. Some people can’t take that risk, or at least it’s so much more difficult. Over time, partners learn how to understand this and with patience, love and deep understanding slowly dance in rhythm.

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

What to look for when buying binoculars - BusinessToday

My first anecdote about waiting for the ride reminded me about being married and always having someone tracking my movements. Sometimes this drove me crazy. I felt like I wanted to live like a spy sometimes and go underground. Very silly. In hindsight I now see how valuable it was to have someone in the world out there who knew where I was, and visa versa. That balloon is no fun at all if it comes loose from my hand and gets pulled off into the clouds. It’s meant to be held. In our relationships we are meant to be connected to others. Literally as well as figuratively.

These days, when I get up on the ladder to change the light bulbs in the kitchen, I have to call someone in case I don’t come down the right way. Before, there was someone there that knew where I was and was not supposed to be. Like it or not, at the time, being connected was a lifesaving constant way of life. Couples can’t help but take each other for granted. What we talk about is when that person is late,  missing, or somewhere else and we don’t know why.  I don’t mean to infer any sort of insecurity in the relationship here, just that feeling that something essential to yourself is not where it should be.

“He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began.”  ― Leo Tolstoy

 

More to come in the next post…

The Hills Are Alive

Top Kid-Friendly Things to Do in the Texas Hill Country

I was driving through the Texas Hill Country the other day. We were supposed to be heading to a specific destination. I was probably wandering the back roads too much. I know I was wandering around in my mind with chapters of memories evoked by the scenery. The Hill Country is a unique part of the state and very different from the low country of Houston where I now reside. As we drove up the winding roads, the memory machine started to crank up.

“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” ― Marcel Proust

There were a few cedar trees in my sights. When the seasons would change, the cold winds would blow down through the hill country and carry he scent of the cedars. An unmistakable reminder that it was time to look for your long sleeves. I remember even a few trips to cut firewood for winter with noisy chainsaws. Back then you couldn’t buy it at the grocery store.  There were a few Christmases that we trekked off to the north and chopped down our own cedar to use as a tree to decorate. Apparently no one in our family had any allergy’s. Doesn’t your memory also come with an assortment of smells?

The Hill Country is where my distant relatives lived. During my childhood, we went back there to hunt, fish, camp out and have reunions. As I grew up, I could see that there were branches of the family that lived a very different life out in these small rural towns. In my mind they were indelibly linked with animals, hard work and dirty pick up trucks. My larger family liked to read, play music and name their children with the same first letter of the alphabet. We seemed to have had an unusually large percentage of introverts in the clan. It was always interesting to see what kinds of personalities these people searched for to marry. What kinds of characters are in your family? How did that aunt help turn you into you?

“You should always be taking pictures, if not with a camera then with your mind. Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.” ― Isaac Marion

The past few days I was at a beautiful lake. My Hill Country memory also has a lake in it – two. We grew up first on Canyon then mostly on Medina Lake. South of the hills but fed by rivers (Guadalupe and Medina) that flowed through them. It’s impossible to stare into the bright waters of a Texas lake and not see, hear and smell a hundred memories from days on lakes of yesterday. It was so quiet in the mornings, until that boat with loud boom boom box trolled along past the tranquility. Old farts like me don’t always have the groovy frame of mind at 8am. Isn’t there a body of water in your treasure trove of memories?

It was on the Frio River that I spent summers at camp with my friends from church. That’s the coldest river in Texas. The most beautiful spot in the world. We grew up together in so many ways along those banks and in those cabins under the cypress trees. The most significant decisions in my life were made during some of those hot summers under that big open air tabernacle.

The Frio is Chilly but That's the Point - Texas Highways

Growing up I spent different seasons in the Hill Country. I’ve sat in deer blinds while it rained, played on the tangled trails left by sheep, floated and splashed down bright green rivers, and camped to the music of frogs and crickets under magic skies of lights deep in the heart of Texas. Down here in Houston there doesn’t seem to be much seasonal variety. It can get cold, hunting during deer season. The summers are hot. You want to be near a water source to jump in and stay cool. Fall is magic with that cedar in the air, cold fronts down from the Panhandle and the Hackberry’s lose their leaves. When the weather changes, what changes in your own treasure of memories?

“If it don’t kick, bite, tear, burn, sting or maim – it ain’t from South Texas.” ― William Jack Sibley

There are important lessons about life I learned during all those trips to the Hill Country. Try to sit in the middle seat, that way you won’t have to jump out to open and close the gates while traversing the dirt roads through the ranchlands. When you pass by a bathroom, use it, even if you don’t have to. Meals ALWAYS taste better when cooked over an open fire. When watching older relatives playing dominoes around the card table, don’t stand too close to those who are chewing tobacco. Use a walking stick to rustle the brush along the way as you walk – hopefully scaring off any snakes. Only the homesick play radios and recorded music while out in the open. Those ready to go native make their own music. What sounds do your own memories make? What songs come up and take you back a thousand years to when the cares of the world and yet to arrive?

WATERFALL ROAD: AT A GUM TREE FARM BAND CONCERT

Is it possible that a place gets into your soul like red dirt into the bottoms of white tube socks? The sound of fiddle music, burning branches from a bonfire, dark night skies as bright as heaven, and even the wind whipping through your hair as you race down the lake on a fast boat – all is deep inside me. When I sit on a lakeside porch now, in my reclining years, it comes back to the surface, like those fish early this morning, hitting the top of the water.

“Every man’s memory is his private literature.” ― Aldous Huxley

Where is your place of memory? Is it a part of the country? A house, school, church or town? Is it a time of year in a part of your past? Memories are wrapped up with sights, sounds, smells and people that produce all kinds of feelings. I don’t think you have to go back and visit, I think it’s there inside you and it’s providing you with fuel and treasure that continues to carry you into all your days to come.

Midwest Center for Hope & HealingMidwest Center for Hope & Healing

Take some time sooner (rather than later) to be quiet. To be still. To listen and remember. All those people and events really do still matter.

Whisper a thank you as you take another turn around the hills.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

 

Connected, Really?

“Communication is merely an exchange of information, but connection is an exchange of our humanity.” -Sean Stephenson

Should cell phones be banned from American classrooms? | TheHill

I’m not convinced that our technology has done much for our deeper needs for human connection. Maybe it’s even done some damage. Technology has brought us more convenience, broadened our reach, enabled deeper dives into information swimming holes, and created serious addictions to our devices. How has all of this marvelous “wirelessness” made our lives more wonderful and terrible all at once? As I thought more about this during the week, I think college students, despite the perpetual presence of technology in their lives, are not necessarily experiencing useful connectivity.

What if you spent four years at college and never really met anyone?

Since the widespread use of the cell phone (I’m told using that term places me in a very old fashioned category) as I walk into my class, I am always surprised that the silent room is full of people. In the old days (why am I using that phrase so often?), students would be talking, laughing,  sharing information at each class session. Today, every student is silently hunched over a phone or laptop never speaking  a word or looking at anyone else. It’s not a problem related to getting “warmed up” after the first week or two. This doesn’t change for the entire semester. I have to deliberately instigate social interactions. And these still typically do not have lasting results.

“Human connection is based on trust, and it is trust that is continually violated when people do not practice setting aside their narrow self-interests in consideration of the needs and interests of others, such as their coworkers, family, neighbors, and community.” ― Diane Kalen-Sukra

Time to get intentional. I’m going to have to think about deliberate, non-threatening practices that will enable and encourage college students to develop trust in their situation, fellow students and in me. 

Is there another world passing you by?

I’m at the old man stage where I talk out loud to strangers. This is especially prone to happen at school where everyone gets asked, “Did you learn anything today?” These days I can’t always talk to people passing by. Every other person is plugged into their phone while the real world passes by, day by day. I’ve stopped assuming people are talking aloud to me as they pass. It’s more than likely someone is on their hidden phone. I learned that lesson the hard way years ago with a few loud talkers at the grocery store. No one really needed my help finding the beef consommé.

Does staying plugged in while walking or bent over your phone in a crowded room keep people safe from the uncomfortable small talk with strangers?

“I care about strangers when they’re abstractions, but I feel almost nothing when they’re literally in front of me.” ― Chuck Klosterman

As an introvert myself, yes it is much more comfortable to sit in a crowd and look busy/distracted and not in need of anyone’s company. But I’m old enough to realize that’s not very healthy.

Is there really anything better going on in that little phone than the real people’s lives all around us?

Audio audacity: Students use concealed earbuds to avoid authority – U-High Midway

“I’m an introvert.
If your party isn’t better
than the one in my head,
I’m not interested.”
― John Mark Green

Time to get intentional. I can’t invade the personal space of strangers. What I can do is keep smiling. I can continue to extend all the social grace that’s so valuable. It never goes out of fashion or plunges in worth like bitcoin. I can continue to believe that someone real will always win out over everything artificial, in the end. 

What’s the weather like today?

All that time and attention spent plugged in and what always surprises me is how little enlightenment occurs. Very rarely do I run across a student who’s prepared for the rain or cold weather. It snuck up almost out of the blue. How is this possible? You’ve been connected almost every waking hour. Don’t you know about the weather, the Russians, or clogged up I-59?

If being constantly connected to the world around doesn’t help us to live a better life – then what does it matter? What else is going on?

Maybe being online all the time is something that’s out of control. Seems harmless to be on your phone constantly. What does an addiction look like? It’s not really about learning, growing and getting a step ahead.

The Six Most Common Types of Technology Addiction

“When you can stop you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t…” ― Luke Davies

As a sociologist I realize that there are powerful market forces that want nothing more than to trap young people in a perpetual surf on the web. Selling consumer products isn’t the only commodity being peddled. Ideas, calls to action and group affiliation are a few of the categories enticing us to roam endlessly through the web. Actually, there is no age boundary to who can become ensnared in this digital trap. Right?

I just feel at times as if I’m in a zombie film when I walk across campus and there’s so few to return a greeting, much less eye contact.

Back view of Handsome Teen Boy in gray suit stretching his right hand up for greeting. Portrait of caucasian Teenager waving hand isolated on white background. Stock Photo | Adobe Stock

If I’m going to be more intentional about this, maybe I need a big name tag or sign that just reads, “Hello!” or “Happy Thursday!” Something I could wave and people as they march past while all plugged in. What do you think? I’m already sort of a character at school as it is…

“Beware the man of a single book.” ― St. Thomas Aquinas

 

 

Some Big Lessons

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.” ― Plato

I got to have lunch with a friend last week. We caught up on family and our work, as friends are supposed to do. But we also did some remembering and reminding. I think that’s another important role that friends ought to play in our lives. There’s probably too much distance being kept for fear of hurt feelings. In the end, we all end up living wounded lives because no one had the guts to help us steer clear of mishaps.

Afterwards, I came away realizing three big lessons in my own life that I lived through and am even now still trying to think about more clearly.

Walking in forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” ― Mark Twain

Growing Violets: Wild Violets Flowers In The Garden

There’s a way to live your life where you’re always trying to prove yourself. I really am worth loving, I really am worth being your friend, I really am worth having this job. Most of us walk around with this terrible guilt and shame hung around us – it weighs us down so that we always walk our steps with a hunch and limp.

What I’m trying to learn is that when I became a Christian and believed – that meant I was forgiven. I would forever live in a state of forgiveness. Not because I had been a good little boy. Not because I would work really hard the rest of my life to earn it. Not because I do all the outward acts and hold to all the inward beliefs that my group thinks are correct.

I walk in forgiveness because God has made it so and offered it to me. To be  honest, this is next to impossible for me to live out day to day. I’m clinging to my guilty conscious like an addict. So, each day I need to be reminded that I’m walking in forgiveness. What helps me more than anything is to just forgive others. As simple as that. You’d be surprised at how many people you’re mad at at any given moment.

Here’s a great lesson to remind us what can mean (click the link)

Living in a broken world

What always helps me to deal with the tribulations and tragedies of living here and now is that this world is a broken place. This not heaven yet. There are all kinds of catastrophes, cancers, killers and crooks around every corner. To think that God is manipulating my every move and therefore everything that happens to me must have a divine purpose seems silly.

May Your will be accomplished on earth as it is in heaven.  – Jesus (Luke 11)

Didn’t Jesus teach his followers to pray and ask God to bring about his will on earth as it is in heaven? I know it’s not always happening in my own life. Why would I think it’s happening all around me? We’re supposed to daily pray for it because it’s not always happening.

Rear-end Collision Lawsuit - 10 Key Things To Know About Fault

This changes my expectations when things don’t work out. Even when I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing and I still get rear-ended on the freeway, I don’t have to throw away my faith.

In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble…  – Jesus (John 16:33)

We like to think that God is an American too. Managing and controlling life, fixing every problem after reading the latest self-help book, staying on top of each situation by consulting the right expert (or google). We don’t like having to endure, we want to quick fix it now. Instant faith is our method (just add some water and put it in the microwave).

“Trouble makes us one with every human being in the world – and unless we touch others, we’re out of touch with life.” ― Oliver Wendell Holmes

During lunch we both shared our stories of grief, failures and heartaches. Realizing we weren’t alone, everyone has had their own dark days. Doesn’t sound very encouraging does it? I promise I’m great at lunch.

Being reminded of this truth can keep you from being mad at God. That’s a life wreck waiting to happen if ever there was one.

The cart before the horse

College students no longer understand idioms like this. I once asked every member of my class to get up and go write on the board what they thought “If the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem you see is a nail” meant. You wouldn’t believe what ended up on the board. No correct answer either!

Do You Have Your Cart Before the Horse? - Client Insight

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower

I often wake up in my spiritual journey and wonder why God hasn’t delivered my special order. I told him all the details, following what I understood to be his guidelines, and my expectations are that he will hand me just what I want. As a product of my society deep down, god has been changed into a vending machine, drive-up window or a happiness charm hanging around my neck.

No one in their right mind would ever admit that – but just watch the way you act, talk and pray with God.

When I really think about it, this makes me sick to my stomach. It doesn’t surprise me. I think I’m very smart and know just what needs to be done. I’ve got a great plan all figured out, all God needs to do is follow the steps I’ve laid out. As I type this is, it sounds silly. I can’t believe I still operate like this so often!

My friend and I were sharing disappointments in our lives – there were times when we both thought we knew exactly what should happen next, but it didn’t. This can leave not only terrible disappointment, but also deeper (unasked) questions for the captain of the ship.

I’ve got nothing against planning. What I’m writing about is my own Messiah Complex – I know how to save the day, just follow these three easy steps and all will be fine in the end. My own need to be needed gets in the way. I’m talking too much, aren’t I? Who’s doing the listening around here?

I shudder when I look back at all of the TODAY’S that I missed as I had my head stuck in the fog of tomorrow. What a colossal waste. Years!

God always takes care of me, always delivers from disaster, always gets me out of the tangle I’ve wandered into. He can be trusted to come up with a great big plan. By the way, I think he has and I think it’s actually going to occur when all is said and done…

“Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, and perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next. Disillusion comes sooner or later, but it always comes, it doesn’t miss an appointment, it never has.” ― Juan Gabriel Vasquez

As I get older (and older), what I’m repeating to myself and others is to look for the task at hand TODAY – don’t miss it. All I’ve got is now, I need to forgive, plan and expect as if today really, really matters. It’s hard to do when you’re tired, fighting a cold, have bitten off too much at work, or just not talking to people. Start your today being more conscious, think about specific people in your life, put some forgiveness in your pocket, lower expectations, and open your eyes.

“The beginning is always today.” ― Mary Shelley

 

 

Another Visit to the Grocery Store

“There are two types of people in this world. People who hate clowns…and clowns.” – D. J. MacHale

Going to the grocery store was always something I enjoyed doing. For many years, I did all the cooking. Trips to the store made sense as I tried to figure out what to fix that week. Our meals were mostly determined by inspiration as I wandered up and down each aisle .

These days I don’t do any cooking but I still go to the store, a lot. Maybe I’m going so often now because it’s the best place to see the everyday world of people. Maybe that’s the real reason I’ve always gone so often. I’m curious and those trips satisfy almost as much as a visit to Buc-ees.

Thousands Line Up For Opening Of New Patel Brothers Store In Niles - Journal & Topics Media Group

Try out these links:

  1. The most popular items at the grocery store
  2. Six things you should never buy at the grocery store
  3. How to shop for groceries
  4. Seven ways the pandemic has changed the way we shop for food
  5. Surviving the sneaky psychology of supermarkets

Social scientist like me are trained to categorize. If you visit the store often enough you will start to organize people – maybe not. You’re probably just going to pick up some bread and bananas.

“The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.” ― Erma Bombeck

  • At my store there are people who are on a mission. These folks move in straight lines. They know what they want and seldom stand around to ponder. Many are driven by a well organized list. Other categories of people need to stay back and not clutter the aisles – it can produce very frustrated looks.
  • As time has gone by, I’ve noticed more people at the store who don’t really know what they’re doing. Mostly older males. He’s backtracking a lot. Not watching where he’s going because he’s looking up at the aisle signs to figure out where chicken bullion and muttering to himself why someone has put this on his list.
  • I used to notice a rare character talking to herself, usually in frustration. These days there’s much more out loud by yourself conversing going on. Everyone’s got a phone, ear buds and a list. Some people are filming their adventure, sending photos back to Central Command. It’s like a secret raid on an foreign military installation.
  • As I’ve moved into a more diverse city, I notice that personal space rules are different. Some people have no hesitancy in getting right up there with me as I stack my purchases on the check out conveyor. In such a hurry as if the prices were going to increase any minute. Sometimes I can’t even get everything out of my own cart before the person behind me has started to fill up the belt. One time I asked the lady if she expected me to pay for her stuff. That got an unamused looked. 
  • Personal space rules also come into play when my cart gets rammed sometimes by overanxious shoppers – maybe they’re in that mission driven category or too distracted looking up at the aisle markers? I like to use the small carts, I don’t buy very much and it helps me keep my distance, while I’m watching.
  • Sometimes I see someone who has their giant cart packed to the gills with supplies. I wonder if they’re getting ready for the end of the world. Probably a house full of hungry boys! Where will they store all those packages of meat? Who has room these days for those bales of toilet paper now being sold? Why do you think we use so much more toilet paper now than we did twenty years ago? Eating more kale?
  • Have you ever seen the way people put items in their carts? Males often organize their items, trying to keep them aligned and arranged in some sort of order. The “professional” has her cart packed efficiently with the most – probably two carts worth of groceries jammed into one (and sometimes a toddler riding shotgun).
  • Having to work through each aisle and get the necessary supplies for the week while also managing children (some on the loose) is a major accomplishment that never gets the recognition it deserves. I took my toddler grandson in one time and within five minutes had to bribe him with a giant bag of Cheetos and get out to save my life. He was not going to sit or leave anything unopened that I put in the cart. Only three items, by the way. It quickly became an Amazing Race to the checkout.
  • The new challenge at the grocery store these days are the giant trolleys being pushed up and down each aisle by teenagers with phones (when have you seen a teen without a phone glued to their hand?). These are online orders being filled. The teen employee has the orders on their phone and is shopping with a parade float sized “cart” – never in anyone’s way, ha! The temptation is always present for me to start “shopping” off those carts as they roll past – when I see something I’ve been looking for, or looks like I might need it.
  • Who is lining up to use the Self-Checkout at your store? Are these the people in a hurry? Mostly males? People with just a few items? How did the store convince us to work as unpaid labor for them? At some places they’ve even got us weighing our own apples and gluing on the price tag. I’m still amazed at the number of checkout lanes at Target that are actually props – never opened, even at Christmas. It fools us into believing getting out will be quick and easy.

“Where one leaves a shopping cart in a parking lot says a lot about their character…or lack thereof.” ― Bobby Darnell

Meijer Makes Checkout Even Easier | Progressive Grocer

There are some absolutes that I have figured out while spending too much time at the grocery store. People at the store very seldom make eye contact. Not many conversations take place, unless you run across a friend, then you want to be careful and not poke your nose into what’s filling up their cart. Generally speaking, everyone is kind to others at the store. We see civility in practice here. The grandfather who doesn’t know the difference between baking soda and powder gets a quick lesson from that lady with a baby strapped to the front of her cart.

When a disaster is on the way, we run to the grocery store. Can’t get enough toilet paper or bread. Maybe it’s not just panic or the fear of running out of essentials. At a subconscious level, the grocery store in your neighborhood is the one place where you experience the most physical contact with others. You see people, hear their voices and know that you all share the same set of basic needs. Let me help you hoist that giant pack of waters into your cart ma’am. 

At the grocery store, we are reminded that we’re not alone.

 

“Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.” ― Kurt Vonnegut