Friday, March 26, 2010

Only to be Free!

Dark. Slow. Pressure. Three words that probably describe my surroundings the best. I don't know much, but I do know that I just keep reaching for the light. It's all I really can do. I feel so alone and isolated... and it's so dark! Everything around me seems devoid of light. But, if I just keep straining upward, I might actual see some light - someday. I sense that, just slightly, it might actually be turning a little less black... at least not total darkness... maybe, just maybe, it's happening...

But, if it is, it's happening so slowly! It's like nothing happens - almost everyday. It's like watching grass grow. It's like watching a nail rust. It's so slow! I'm simply here, waiting to be seen, but no one ever does. I mean I actually haven't seen the light of day for months...OK, forever! But maybe, just maybe, it won't be much longer...

If only I could be free... could break free from the pressure that seems to hold me down - hold me captive. If only I could escape from the pressure that surrounds me like the jacket of a crazy man. It's not that I can't move at all.... it's that I so dearly want to break through, but can't. At least not so far. What's holding me back? But maybe, just maybe, I'm making the most minute bit of progress...

I have confidence that my day is coming! I won't have to wait much longer. And when I finally arrive, people will marvel at my beauty... my newness... my break though. No doubt it will not be without effort and pain.... but, no doubt, it will be worth it! After all, being called and known as the 1st tooth of Savannah's will be an honor that only I will hold. I'm only a few days away.... don't fret, I'll be here soon.... and at last, I'll be free...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Don't People Follow the Rules?

What is it about people that they won't follow the rules? Are we wired in such a way that we just don't want to be told what to do? Is it that we actually enjoy stepping over the line?

I've thought a lot about these questions... I've come to a few conclusions, but it still baffles me. Let me explain:

Maybe they don't understand the rules?

It is entirely possible that folks simply don't know what the rules are. I remember driving in Australia last year for the first time. They drive on the opposite side of us and have a bizillion round-a-bouts. There are specific rules regarding your lane choice and turn signal usage that everyone in Australia knew - except me... and the rules weren't posted anywhere. I just didn't understand the rules!

Maybe they know the rules but some other necessity takes priority?

I recently read this narrative regarding cell phone use on airplanes:

The FAA dictates that all cell phones must be turned off once the cabin door closes, but that’s when the fun typically begins, says flight attendant Heather Poole, who says she must routinely go through the cabin asking passengers to turn off their phones. “I try to be funny because people are so sensitive about it,” but when she sees “a guy in an exit row with his head between his knees, do I think he’s talking to the floor? No, I know he’s on the phone.” Sometimes we " ask them pointedly to turn off the phone and they reply, ‘Yeah, I know’ and then continue talking. This can be an exhaustive routine especially because there is typically only one flight attendant for every 50 passengers.”

Obviously there are phone calls that are so important they take precedence over following the rule. I actually see this rule broken all the time when I fly. It's almost a joke... I'm just glad they don't let people talk on satellite phones while in flight. This would drive me crazy (on the other hand, Tami would love it!)

Maybe they just simply disagree with the rule?

The speed limit sign states the maximum you should drive is 35 MPH. But, you think this is clearly not correct, because it would be just as safe, and certainly much more efficient, if it were limited to 55 MPH. So, being that it is incorrect, you drive 55 MPH and break the rule. Now, I have to admit that this might be the #1 rule breakage for me. Although, it's not always because I disagree with the posted sign, it's because I am listening to my classic rock channel on satellite radio and not paying attention to my speed. Boston, Kansas, Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers, Styx, Journey, and REO Speedwagon can do that to you....

Or Maybe they just love breaking rules?

I generally believe that most of us respect rules and follow them. But there are obviously some people who just don't like being told what to do. For most of us it's, "Tell me what to do and I'll follow it". But for some it's, "Who are you to tell me what to do?!". These are the people that deserve the speeding tickets.... deserve being tossed off the airplane... deserve the traffic citation for making the wrong move in the round-a-bout! Not people like me!

So next time you try to reach me via cell phone, I hope I'm not on an airplane, bound for a foreign country where my XM radio-enabled rental car is waiting for me to tune to channel 49 and I can bust into a version of "Don't Stop Thinking about Tomorrow".... I might be breaking a rule...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here's To My Best Friend!

My best friend! My best friend has a birthday today. I hope she knows how much I appreciate her in my life. She is the kind of person that always gives more than she receives. She always puts others ahead of herself and spares no expense at meeting the needs of the people around her (this is often her reasoning for shopping...). I married this 'best friend' over 27 years ago in Ashland, KY. We've obviously had our ups & downs, but it's been a journey that I wouldn't trade for the world.

I've learned so many things from her over the years. Some good, some not-so-good. But, that's true about all of us, isn't it? I wrote about this last year. We are certainly wired differently, and it was a very mature moment in my life when I finally realized this. We started dating the summer we graduated high school. We were finally engaged during our years at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. All-in-all, we were together about 5 years before getting hitched. So, it's more like 32 years instead of 27.

Tami has taught me to be more compassionate (although I have miles to go), and free-spirited. I don't always have to plan every detail based on probability and logic. Sometimes it's OK to 'just do it'. I see how other people respect and admire her ways and I am so proud of her. She really is an excellent role model for many young women. Did I say how proud of her I am?

Raise your glass.... here's to the woman of my dreams! There's no one else I want to do life with. I love being by her side and will never stop loving her. She'll always be my best friend!
Happy birthday, Tam. You're beautiful... I love you!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Favorite Time of Year!

"UK Basketball Rules Baby!!"
Dick Vitale may not have said this out loud, but I know he's been thinking it. I absolutely love March Madness! Especially when KY gets to the Sweet Sixteen! Making it extra sweet is the fact that the overall No. 1 seed, Kansas, goes down to Northern Iowa.... Northern Iowa?? The only thing that would top that is Duke getting toasted by .... anyone!
I hate Duke! (did I say that?) The only thing I like about Duke is this.... DUKE....!

In Alabama it's all about football... and trust me, they do it well. But we're basketball fans as well and we bleed blue deep from within. I am actually watching the game on my TV via CBS Sports, while viewing it on my MacBook, streaming live. I can see the action about 5 seconds faster than the broadcast from DirecTV. I had a bit of fun mysteriously predicting the plays ahead of the TV. It took Daniel several minutes to figure that out....

Multiple games on at the same time.... Upsets galore..... UK now the overall tourney No. 1 seed.... fan excitement..... last second shots..... Overtimes..... Ashley Judd.... Indianapolis - here we come, Baby!! Go Big Blue! Come on, say it with me: Go Big Blue! Go Big Blue! I know you love it too!

Son & Daughter-in-law To Be...

Check out the creativity of this young couple.....

Jordan & Bethany's Save the Date! from Bethany Cleveland on Vimeo.

They look like they were made for each other!

Pics of the Family

Savannah... almost 8 months old

My Mom & Dad with Savannah,
their Great Granddaughter

Play time with Granddaddy

Tami & Savannah

Lauren & Caitlin

Cody on Caitlin's bed... this is a No No!

Jordan with Savvy at Christmas

Savvy enjoying Rice cereal...

Lauren & Daniel

Mom & Daughter at the Park

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Special Day...

Today I turned 51... yep, it's true. I know you might think I look like I'm only 40, but alas, I really am 5.1 decades old... The day of my birth is always remembered by my closest relatives and friends. Faithfully, my parents still call me every year on my special day and sing "Happy Birthday". They did today as well. As always, they were superb! I always enjoy it...

My wife is spending the weekend in Birmingham at a Bible Study Fellowship retreat. She snuck B-day cards into my briefcase before I departed for work this morning. Her birthday is only 2 days after mine. My strategy: I usually wait to see what kind of gift she gets me and how much she spends.... then I go out and spend just a tad more... But this year we've decided to forgo the gifts and simply take each other out for dinner and a movie. We just want to spend a little "date night" time with each other. That would be a wonderful birthday gift!

But, today is a birthday that I will always remember for another special reason. Sadly, the father of a good friend and co-worker passed away just after noon today... March 19. That means that this day will be a day that they will treasure and honor forever. I didn't know this man, but I know his son. I know that he will be missed and that I look forward to meeting him someday in heaven.

On this day, it seems interesting that some of us will celebrate a birth, and some of us will remember a life. It's hard for me to keep up with all the dates, numbers, and schedules that I need to remember, but from now on, I will never forget this 51st birthday.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Think I'm Turning Green...

I'm trying to "Go Green" - I really am! Not "real" green, just "kinda" green. I used to be very wasteful, but now I'm just wasteful. I try to recycle and reuse as much as possible. I turn out lights when I leave a room and I toss my empty water bottles and used newspapers into our blue recycling container with award-winning frequency.

But the rest of my family is another matter. Let's take Tami for instance.... She has a bedroom closet that is very impressive. Usually it is so disorganized that no one would dare enter. However, she seems to always find what she's looking for and ends up looking splendid. This closet has three light fixtures on the ceiling containing three light bulbs each. Her closet door has an automatic switch which turns the lights on & off when she opens and closes the door. All she has to do is close the door! It's not hard! If not, nine 60 watt lights continue to burn. Let's just say... it happens...

Actually, sometimes it seems like it's my part-time job at home to going behind people and turn off lights... Why is it so hard? Do they forget? I've politely asked in the past.... I've even commented on the cost of our utility bills. I'm trying to set a good example, but I sense they think I'm a little over the top.... really? Me?!

Of course, maybe my attempts at being green are not really that authentic... or even effective.... after all, I still drive to work everyday in my SUV. I still use the grocery store's plastic bags instead of using my own. I'll sit in front of my energy-sucking flat screen TV to watch sports all day long. I even still read the "hardcopy" newspaper. I can get all of the same news on-line for free with no negative impact to the environment.... and, besides, reading the newspaper makes me feel old. I don't know any young people getting a newspaper these days. Usually by the time I read it in print, I have already read it on-line the previous day.... on my Blackberry!

Nevertheless, why can't people help me turn out lights? I don't ask for much in life.... just flip a switch, for pete's sake.... is that so hard? By the way, one day last week, I returned home, in my Sequoia, after making a trip to the grocery store. Upon exiting my SUV, I picked up our recently delivered Huntsville Times, and carried it, along with my plastic grocery bags, into the house. After setting them on the counter and turning on ESPN, I went to my closet... only to find that I had left my lights on while I was gone.... Hmmm...

Don't give up on me.... I'm still trying to become a darker shade of green...

I love you Tam!

Friday, March 12, 2010

5 Generations!

Has there ever been any point in your life when you've had five generations in your family alive at the same time? It rarely happens. But it's happened twice in my lifetime and is currently happening! Each time, we were able to get a snapshot of the milestone.

L to R: Dad, Lauren, Nanny, Jim, Granny

This is the first picture that we took back in 1985. The scanned image of the hard copy picture includes my 8 month old daughter, Lauren, who is being held by her great grandmother, Nanny. Nanny's mother, Granny, was still alive at this photo op. She would be Lauren's great-great-grandmother. My Dad and I round out the 5 generations. This picture was taken at Granny's house in Paducah, KY. Even back then, Dad was a serious UK Wildcat fan ....

L to R: Granddaddy, Mom, Memaw, Jim, Lauren, Savannah

Just last week we were fortunate to take this picture at my grandparent's house in Elizabethtown, KY. Lauren, now 25, is holding her daughter, Savannah, almost 8 months old. This time it's my Mom's side of the family, and includes both of her parents. They have been married 72 years. They are 94 and 87. Wow! I'm hoping Savvy will call me Granddaddy someday. I chose that name because of the man in this picture. I'm proud to be his grandson....

In the first picture I am the second youngest of the five generations.... in the second picture I am the third youngest.... not real thrilled about the direction this is heading.... I don't take these moments and privileges lightly. No doubt, it is a real blessing to have experienced this kind of generational family that most never get a chance to do. So, here's to another picture in the not too distant future...

Watch Out!

A co-worker passed this to me..... enjoy!

Roy Exum: Toyota's Silent 'Mule'
by Roy Exum
posted March 3, 2010

There is a story told about an old prospector ambling into a cowboy town with his pack mule when suddenly the swinging doors at the saloon burst open and a gun-slinging dandy stumbled out to cry, "Hey, old man! Do you know how to dance?" A jeering crowd quickly gathered as the old miner replied, "No, but I've always wanted to."

Well, that young, drunken cowboy then fired both of his shiny pistols towards the ground at the old man's feet. With the flying bullets kicking up dust, the prospector danced a mighty jig indeed. The crowd loved it and, when the cowboy's guns finally clicked empty, he spun them just so, jauntily tipped his hat to his gleeful followers, and turned to step back into the saloon.

But as he did, the gaiety suddenly stopped because the cowboy and the crowd alike could clearly hear both big hammers being pulled back on a 12-gauge, double-barreled shotgun that had been in a scabbard on that old smelly mule. As the red-faced cowboy gulped and gingerly turned back to face the old prospector, he was asked the question, "Sonny boy, have you ever kissed the south end of a north-bound mule?"

Indulge me for a moment, but all those people who have laughed and pointed at Toyota's torment in the past few weeks are getting ready to echo what that cowboy had to tell the prospector: "No sir, but I've always wanted to."

You see, there have been two important events that have already occurred this week if you've been following the story of how the world's largest automotive manufacturer has been ridiculed and debased after recalling 8.5 million automobiles due to a variety of acceleration, transmission and floor mat issues.

First, General Motors just recalled 1.3 million cars on Monday for steering problems. What? You didn't see that? Where were the TV cameras? Where were the righteous who demanded that, no, the American president of Toyota (Jim Lentz) wasn't good enough, that our "pound of flesh" must come from the "big man" himself - Akio Toyoda - so that he could be publicly humiliated last week? Don't dare think the government is going to slap GM after last year's bail-out.

Secondly, on Monday Toyota announced it will now sell any new car or truck to a qualified buyer by providing that person with a five-year, zero-interest loan. Further, Toyota will change the oil and offer complete maintenance for free for the first two years. And, yes, on top of that there will be rebates up to $3,000 on certain models. That's strong.

Listen, gunslinger, General Motors doesn't have bullets like that. Toyota's third-quarter earnings last year were $1.7 billion, exactly the same amount lost during the third quarter of 2008. The company also just sold 2.07 million vehicles from October to December so, with the recall embarrassment, now there is a firm-jawed resolve to make the overblown travesty "the mother of all recalls."

Right now Toyota is processing 50,000 recalled vehicles a day, somewhat easily, too, I might add. To do so, their dealers are loaning cars while repairs are being made, paying rental fees and even taxi receipts. The simple fact is that never in the history of the auto industry has there been such an intense response. General Motors, on the other hand, will not offer a similar assistance program to the 1.3 million owners in this latest recall because, quite frankly, it doesn't have the clout nor the "want to" that Toyota does right now.

Listen to this - J.D. Power has just announced the best luxury car in the world right now is a Lexus, the premium brand of Toyota that just dominated four of J.D. Power's five main categories. This week Consumer Reports, not a government agency but one of the most respected quality-assurance sources in our country, returned eight different Toyota models to its "recommended" list. Go ahead, look it up. While you're at it, buy the Consumer Reports' car annual; you'll see for yourself Toyota is a tight No. 3 overall while GM and Chrysler are solidly "dead last."

What our jeering Congress members actually did last week while ridiculing Toyota was to make the company more determined, more results-driven and, yes, even a bit angry. Those that mock Toyota as "Japanese" are too stupid to realize today there are 175,000 Americans who are paid each day by the auto manufacturer. My goodness, look how many plants they have built in the United States in the last 10 years while American manufacturers have been stagnant.

Those who laugh and point have not yet been to Blue Springs, Miss., a sleepy town in the northeast part of the state. Toyota has just spent $300 million building a new plant in that poverty-riddled area that will soon employ 2,000 job-starved people. Toyota also pledged $50 million to "better educate" potential workers in Mississippi, but had to delay the plant's opening because of a lagging market and (gulp) the hysteria resulting from the recent recall, which is expected to cost the company $2 billion.

Has this country gone completely crazy? Instead of slapping Toyota around and forcing Mr. Toyoda to bow before a sadly-arrogant Congressional committee, we should instead have gracefully allowed the largest manufacturer in the world to clean up its own mess in the same way we have afforded other car companies to handle their own recalls for years.

What's that? The other companies? Automotive recalls protect consumers when, in truth, very few actual cases are ever found. But what you need to know is that, in the last 20 years, there have been 569 recalls of Toyota vehicles. At the same time, there have been 3,498 recalls of General Motors vehicles. Yes, there have also been 2,691 Ford recalls and 2,419 Chrysler recalls, too. Do those numbers tell you anything, particularly if you are a fortune-teller?

So now America - our Congress and all of us they call constituents - must "behold the mule." You see, all Toyota has to do is wait. General Motors doesn't have "the bullets" to play in a high-stakes card game that offers zero-percent financing, free maintenance, rental cars and taxis, and - most importantly - has its "hold cards" the best-made vehicles with the highest reliability and safety ratings in the whole world.

Just in case you weren't listening as Aiko Toyoda bowed before Congress last week, you should have heard both big hammers being pulled back. You mark this down; those men in Congress, the ones who took the UAW contributions and strutted about like proud little roosters, should have fallen for the ploy, but, far worse, they should have never laughed.

"Sonny boy, have you ever kissed the south end of a north-bound mule?"

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Mobile Blogger

Saw these two fencing at our local park. First time I've seen this AL. What's next.... Jousting?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Want to Make God Laugh?

Has God ever asked you to do something? Has He ever spoken to you at all? I mean, have you ever heard His voice, or received direction from Him in another way? If so, how did you answer? Have you ever told God "No"? In other words, how do you know what God wants from you and how would you answer?

We recently studied Luke 5 : 1-11 in our Young Adults group. Jesus is teaching near a big lake when crowds of people force him to board a small fishing boat and put out a little from shore. Once safely distanced from the crowd, He sits down in the vessel and teaches the people from the boat. I suspect His voice carried well along the surface of the water to the ears of the audience.

After He finished, He does something unexpected. He asked Simon to take the boat out into deeper water. He says, "... let down the nets for a catch". There it is... Jesus is asking Simon to do something. Now... if I were Simon, I would have said something like, " Dude... I am the fishing pro! You are a wandering preacher. I believe I can do this fishing-thing much better than you." Not smart you say? Well, here's what Simon actually said: "... We've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything." Sounds like a definitive "No" to me! It's a valid and logical argument, right? But, Simon continues... "But, because you say so, I will let down the nets". Simon doesn't sound real optimistic here, but because Jesus asked him to do so, he will.

God has never spoken to me audibly, but He has in a variety of others ways. The most common way is through His written word.... the Bible. I read it often, almost everyday - certainly weekly. The Bible is chocked full of examples worth following. I can find leadership examples, relationship examples, marriage examples, forgiveness examples, financial examples, plus a myriad of others. Through these examples, God shows me the right way... in His own way, He's speaking to me. He also speaks through circumstances around me, and though other spiritually mature people with whom I interact. But, His word is clearly the mechanism that directs me the most. This is how I know what to do.

So how do I respond? Usually, like Simon, I think my way is better. I think I know how to do it better than God does. Yep, it's true. I think I can play God better that He can.... I can use my own skills, strengths, logic, relationships, connections, problem solving, etc. Basically, when God asks me to do something, I often say "No". That's initially what Simon said. But almost in the same breath, Simon realizes that Jesus is special and that, maybe, just maybe, he should do what He asks.

Simon follows Jesus' request and ends up catching so many fish that their nets began to break. They actually had to get folks from the other boats to help haul in the nets. The boats became so heavy that they began to sink. Needless to say, the fishermen were astonished! By following a simple request from Jesus, they realized that nothing is impossible with God, and that there is benefit in following God's way of doing things.... in other words, God's plans.

So, you want to know how to make God laugh? Tell Him "your" plans....