Were those instructions meant for me?

WAKE UP I SAYrinse

WAKE UP.

There are moments in my life, omg (oh my goodness) moments, moments of realization. Often followed by reformation and life renewing energy

Today, it seems a moment like this arrived.

My life has been filled with bad decisions.  As well as good.  But the moments of caution ignored.  I reflect on my youthful actions, and marvel that I still enjoy life.  I have been guarded and protected for reasons only explained for me with Supernatural explanations.

And I am a guy.  I somehow think I can avoid instructions and directions.  I will learn as I struggle.  Of course I will also assemble a kit and finish the job with leftover pieces.  Oh please work.  Please, please, please.  I was once a professional cook.  Recipe?  Really.  Yes really.  And I made many a covered dish to share with friends, neighbors, church suppers and the like.  I even had my own restaurant.  “Bob, that was great!  Can I have your recipe?”  Why sure.  Knowing full well that the requester would probably never make the dish again I would fumble through a written copy.

What is remarkable is that instructions actually have a purpose.  No I am serious.  There is a reason to do things in order and according to design, as written on the sides of boxes and bottles, and assembly guides.  That does not mean that I am loyal to this process, but today, this morning I actually followed some instructions.  I did it to prove that I did not need to.  I did it because I was certain the guidelines were without purpose.  I am only 62, I can learn, but I can also use my vast knowledge to debunk the myth.

So I find myself in the shower.  Nothing unusual.  But the morning was cold, and I was particularly stiff and achy.  So I decided to linger under the warm streams of water.  The lower back was truly a beneficiary of this extended time.  And then I had a Serendipity moment.  As I shampoo my head, I laugh and said these words aloud.. or I think I said them.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

When have I ever done that?  When I had hair and went to a salon, the barber would do that for me.  But in my alone time, with no accountability to follicle maintenance, when did I do that complete process last.  Lather, Rinse, Repeat.  What a waste.  But today was a breakthrough moment.  I mean I wanted to linger in the shower for wet hot therapy anyway… Go for it.  Grab your roots and follicles by the roots and follicles.

So I did what I always have done.  I lathered and rinsed.  And then as if possessed I repeated.  Breaking new ground.  I lathered again.  And oh my.  The suds exploded on my scalp.  There was a new tingle on my balding dome.  No exaggeration, it was a moment of invigoration.  It was so wonderful I had to Google “lather, rinse, repeat”.

And what do I learn.  I am not just involved in a hair cleansing process anymore.  “The idea of the first step is not to wash your hair, but rather to clean your scalp and remove the sebum (oil) and product that has accumulated since your last shampoo.”  I was, it appears a sebum factory.

I did NOT know this until I rinsed and repeated.  And during the second step my head felt so good.  And frankly, I am writing this on Sunday evening, and I think my scalp still tingles in a very good way.

I am now inspired to investigate the sides of boxes.  Well maybe not.  Because how hard can the recipe for Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in the blue box be?

I don’t care!

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I have a confession.

I really do care.

For years, literally for years, I would use the phase “I don’t care,” as a response to almost any situation.  I would say it ALL the time. I was especially guilty as a business manager.  It was meant to be a harmless, encouraging response, and a talisman of hope.  A sort of look at me and how far I have come kind of response.  Look at me, I am unflappable.  I am a pillar of managerial strength.  The star on top of  the “I am not rattled by what happens to me in life” tree.

Frankly, I believe I have lied to myself and to others for decades.  Yes decades.  I look back at my life in business, and personal events, Church, and marriage, and relationship failures–both mine and of those around me, and anything that could be on any list of anything.  The I don’t care list of events.  I am not certain of the genesis of this phrase, but looking back it may well have been when I left the ministry and a beloved circle of friends in 1980, to do whatever it was I did.

If there was a change in a business meeting.  “I don’t care”

If someone was late for a luncheon. “I don’t care”

If I had to work long hours.  “I don’t care”

If my Sunday School classroom was not set up for my session.  “I don’t care.”

If you were unable to repay me a debt owed on time.  “I don’t care”

If a customer wanted to return an item purchased from my business.  “I don’t care”

If someone lost a loved one. “I don’t”….. WAIT, wait just a minute.   What the hell have I been saying?

And the “I don’t care” seed was planted.  Decades of planting.  I CARELESSLY spread the seeds of “I don’t care.”  It is a phrase I used with an attitude of being patient and thoughtful. It was instead, a doomsday phrase to so many who heard me say it.  Though I can’t confirm this to be so, I surmise that I became the “I don’t care” guy.  Don’t ask Bob for help, he doesn’t care.  Don’t bother Bob, he doesn’t care. Don’t approach Bob, because he just doesn’t care.  I am certain the I don’t care phrase poisoned more than one relationship.

I don’t care was not unlike a two year old child’s auto-response “NO”

Do you want to have lunch?  NO

Do you want to lie down?  NO

Do you want to visit Bobby?  NO

Do you want ice cream?  NO….. whoa what did I just say?

“I don’t care” became a canned, reactive, thoughtless and selfish response.  And as the fruit of this seed grew and multiplied, I became an uglier person to be around.

The reality is I care about almost everything.  And particularly when it involves pain and loss and suffering and need of both friends and the newly met.  But how do I express that reality with the “I don’t care” phrase. I will give you the shirt off of my back (well not literally, because you could go blind with that visual memory imprint), but there is little I have not given up to help someone in need.  Caring really is a part of who I am and want to be. But unless you really know me, you won’t really know me.

This is borne of my understanding of where I stand and live in creation.  And suddenly (like after 25 years suddenly) I have a renewed vision of sovereignty and my Creator.  Nurtured by an old friend from 30 years ago who has returned to my life to offer help and hold me to accountability.  I remember that I care.  It is Godly wisdom I do believe.

And so the reality of my new life language is this.  The seed I intend to plant from this moment forward.  If there appears to be a roadblock in my life, I choose to say “I don’t mind”  Because I care very much.

How can I help?  Do you care?

I don’t mind if you don’t.

Philippians 2:4
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

May you and I be surrounded by people who care.  I choose to be one who cares.

I throw this seed to soil.

Husband …. say what?!?!?!?!?

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Do not judge me.  I listen to sports talk radio most mornings.  Mike and Mike, and The Dan Patrick Show are among my favorites.  But I listen to others, all national broadcasts, nothing of local flavor.  I must confess the Boomer Sooner radio provides no entertainment for me.   What is particularly odd about this habit is I know very little about sports anymore. It is just ambient noise with an occasional laugh, and an even more rare “really?” moment.  And I had a moment like that this morning.

The topic was an aging and injured basketball superstar, Kobe Bryant.  And the host of the show, Trevor Matich, said this, (or a facsimile thereof) “The Los Angeles Lakers need to husband Kobe Bryant.”  Say WHAT???

Having been what I consider to be a really crappy husband I was taken aback.  My husband context needed a reset.  And my search for the “meaning of life” began.  Or at least a reminder of the meaning second definition of a really great word.  I had forgotten that husband was also a verb.  I look around the world and I think the world may have forgotten that also.

Dictionary.com   husband

verb (used with object)

to manage, especially with prudent economy.                                                                 to use frugally; conserve: to husband one’s resources.

And I am verklempt.  I am not without words, but I can hardly speak.  This is a moment of serendipity.  It is a reminder that language matters.  That words are transforming and powerful.  And I had not only failed as a husband, but I have failed to husband my language and speech.  I can’t change the past, I can affect my present and future.

I noticed with almost no emotion during this holiday season that some clothing store chain changed the “Deck the halls” Christmas Carol from “Don we now our gay apparel” to “fun apparel.”  And of course, this was and is a far more emotional issue as the country husbands the Christmas/”holiday” season.  What have I, What have we become as we open our mouths and our Twitter accounts and push send?  I have been a fool with my words.

I remember an argument/discussion with my beloved friend and brother in arms Bryan about this very subject.  He was a self taught student of the Hebrew and Greek Bible.  He was a picky guy when it came to language and the use of words as it applied to God’s word.  And I use to say, it can’t matter THAT much.  And Bryan would just let me know that I was wrong.  He was forceful and loving, and so inflexible.  And I would depart from the discussion knowing I was right.  Well as I have aged and perhaps grown in wisdom I realize now I did not know of what I spoke with such a non-informed opionion.

And though this is not a theological discussion.  It certainly can be.  It is whatever you wish it to be.  “It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

But what this “is” to me is a plea for self assessment and evaluation.  Because words are like seeds.  And seeds grow and produce a crop.  And the crop is ALWAYS a harvest of the seed planted.

So now that Christmas (insert holiday) has passed, and I head toward the New Year, I choose to husband a new habit.  It is not a New Year’s Resolution.  It it just a seed planted

Proverbs 16:24
Pleasant words are flowing honey, sweet to the taste and healing to the bones.

Unwrapped

presents

Hearing voices.  Voices here?  His name is softy called, “Bobby,” gently called,  “Bobby.”

Slowly he opens one eye, then one more
A morning of awakening,
Christmas morning.

OH MY!
CHRISTMAS MORNING!

Usually on this day
he would quickly set feet to floor
slippers…..slippers
find the slippers, grab the robe,
and run to the tree

But this is a strange awakening
slower, more thoughtful perhaps.
Perhaps the heat from his dogs that surround his body
are like bed gravity
He is moving more deliberately than on Christmases past.

As i recall last eve and the service of song and celebration
The Annual Christmas eve service of the downtown congregation
There was an air of contemplation not seen before
But the songs it seemed still stirred his spirit.
And he sang aloud rapt with joy.
The lighting of the candles moved him visibly.                                                                       And after the service on the ride home .. expectancy.
Bobby was expectant.
Or so I thought.

But not Santa expectant.
The Santa story was now fiction.
and offered no sense of wonder

But the Baby Jesus story.  That sort of expectant.
That was a story of peace and goodwill.
That was a story that brought life.

Bobby stumbles to the bathroom
and rubs the slumber from his eyes
And then a brief glimpse to the mirror
and the greeting

Good morning Bobby
and Bobby is me
and I am alive to the morning

I am alone, with my dogs, with my thoughts.

And there is no family, there is no tree,
But here I am. I have aged since my last celebration
Of a childhood Christmas
Two score and five years, perhaps more,  since I sat last with Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother.

But this is Christmas morning, And I unwrap my present
Another day of life.  Grace.  Undeserved favor.

I am blessed beyond measure
Merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all.

So Rarely do I look again.

It seems like a good day to drive.   And look, and see                                                                 Through the aftermath of the war of ice that attacked my home                                               And the surrounds of the city, and I am startled by the beauty of the                               newly encased world of ice

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Trees bending low, I hear the sounds in the quiet morning of the cracking, is that ice?        Or is the the sound of branches about to leave their homes?  I drive by quickly, hoping soon to see or hear something else

I see the evidence of the fallen ones.  There are limbs on the ground.

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Power lines encased in an icy sheath add weight and girth to the wires now heavy,  An experiment in tensile strength and the resistance to the laws of gravity are in a battle for dominance.

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And I stop, and I look.  I observe the wonder, the power, the destruction.  It is a quiet morning for only a few of us are on the streets.  And Then I see A tree that causes me to look a second time.

fallen

You are only one tree in the forest
A city park in the aftermath of the ice storm
At first glance I noticed nothing
and I almost just drove by
And then I happened to look again
So rarely do I look again
and there at your feet
the fallen one
and you are reaching down as if to bring the departed
back to the place
where it lived with your for years
Branches grasping for and leaning
But it will do no good
As you lean farther and farther to your friend on the ground
Will you join
Will you return to upright
If you join, you will accomplish nothing
If you remain strong and reach upward you will accomplish much more

It is good to mourn the loss of your companion
It is
It is important
and it is important to know that it is not your time

So rarely do I look again

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Tank, my friend

Old friends, old friends sat on their parkbench like bookends

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A newspaper blowin’ through the grass

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Falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends

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Old friends, winter companions, the old men

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Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun

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The sounds of the city sifting through trees

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Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

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Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a parkbench quietly

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How terribly strange to be seventy

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Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears

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Old Friends.  Lyrics by Paul Simon

Thanks to Nancy Gallimore for the group shot at Tails you Win Farm.

Soup Line

P1420874 I was a guest in a friend’s home for Thanksgiving this year.  A wonderful event, I was the only non-blood relative among the 17, and I was welcomed like I was born into the clan.  And so I got a family pack of food to go,  plastic containers filled with everything for at least another meal… if not more.  So gracious, so delicious.

And I got to take home the turkey carcass.

Really, my host asked if I would like the carcass.  It was as if my Mom reached down from the heavenly places..”you should take it home, dear.”   So I listened to the voice.  Time for some home made turkey rice soup.

Squeeze everything out of everything.  Mom was that way.  The depression was still a part of her every day existence.  Generous with and to all around her.  She would squeeze value till there was no value.  I didn’t really appreciate the frugal nature of it all.  In fact I am the black sheep of the frugal family.  The Prodigal as it were.  But there is one element of my Mom’s thriftiness for which I will always be thankful, the making of stock and then soup from the leftover turkey carcass.

As an aside, I must mention that mom was not much of a cook.  I mean she could do it.  She just hated to do it.  Swanson tv dinners, Banquet pot pies, and Campbell’s soup can recipes, these were the chef’s at our table.  In the 70’s after she remarried,  the microwave became the most important kitchen tool for this learned woman.  And she was frugal with the use of that kitchen tool, using only enough electricity to get something warm.  No need to waste extra energy to make something hot.  I mention that for the benefit of family who might read this and shake their heads in knowing approval.  But this is about soup. Home Made Turkey soup.

Her second husband.  Tennis and Dancing.  Music and art were my mother’s passions.  My mom traveled the world, over 200 countries.  Seriously, as a private citizen, she was in the upper 1% of world travelers.  She could do most anything she wanted to do.  She could cook.  It just was a waste of her time.  Kitchen travels involved freezer to oven as I grew up, and then to microwave.  As frozen food quality and selection increased, so did her menu choices.

But there were exceptions.  And the holiday meal was one of them.  I mean no meal was complete without canned cranberry jelly and freezer to table rolls and instant potatoes.  But the turkey and dressing and cheesed onions were from scratch, there were no shortcuts.

And then the meal.  And then the follow up.  And that meant boiling and stripping the turkey carcass for what would become, and still is my favorite Mom recipe.

chrissieacarcus Mom at her Turkey soup best.  With my sister Chrissie.  Get all the meat off of the carcass dear.   “Wow” look at all of that turkey meat.  Ooo la la.”  Mom (Grandma Wow) wasted nothing.  And Turkey Rice soup  was her annual masterpiece.  An homage to waste not want not.  It was glorious. It is glorious.  Did I mention it was a glorious nectar.

So I was wrong when I posted earlier this week that there were no traditions to be followed in the Fulton clan.  When in fact as I write this, I smell the onions, carrots, and celery in the saute, and the sage in the fresh turkey broth.  I feel the bones in my fingers as I scour the boiled carcass for the last scrap of turkey meat to add to the soup.

And then I add it all together with some medium grain white rice, and ladle into the bowl. I spoon out the first taste, slowly it passes my lips,  carefully, knowing that in this bowl resides a small bone or two.  No matter how careful I am to strip the meat, a bone will surely follow.  And I enjoy, and I remember my mother, and I smile, and I cry in a moment of tradition remembered.  This soup contains the best wishbone ever… the wish you were here Mom to enjoy a bowl with me.

Thanks.

Wow!

Box stores, fad diets and Boxes

I am pretty sure I am about to be rich.  And when I hit the mother lode, I am sharing the fortune with any and everyone that has liked or commented on my blog.  I am a generous dude that way.

Now I hope to be able to stay focused as I write this.  So many things to cover.  Not an easy task for me.  But to summarize in advance, this involves Walmart and Box stores, Fad diets, buffets, boxes and plain old good sense.  OK, I got that out so I have a reference point if I begin to wander.

I went to Walmart the other day.  A very rare occurrence for this shopper.  Frankly I am NOT a box store guy, the exceptions are the Home Depot or Lowes, and that is because the local supplier of lumber and building supplies has all but disappeared.   I know where the small guy is for a hammer or flange, but lumber and sheet goods, not a clue who sells these close to my home.  There is almost nothing I want at any of these megastores that I can’t get for a similar price from a local merchant.  So the “save money, live better” thing, well it just doesn’t work for me.  However, I must say the “people of Walmart” YouTube videos do hold a special place for me if I choose to shop in my pajamas.  Sorry.. stay focused.

I do like Walmart for one thing.  Boxes.  It really is a great box store.  Cardboard boxes is what I mean.  Plain never used, I buy them. I do not beg for them free like I use to do at the liquor stores every time I moved.  I use many cardboard shipping boxes.  I make my living selling stuff on Ebay.  So I know my boxes.  And because I sell collectibles, I often double box the fragile stuff, wrapped in bubbles, or resting in styrofoam peanuts.  I still double box the expensive fragile things.  I have lost many items to breakage in my attempt to work around this process.  But that is another story also… focus.

I double box.  I use a great number of boxes in the 12 x 12 x 12″ sizing, and also the 16″ cube box.  Those are available at many local merchants.  But my most treasured size, I can find Nowhere else in stock, but on the shelves of Walmart.  Yes, the elusive 14″ x 14″ x 14″ box.  It is the KING of my double box world.  It serves 2 double box purposes.  It is the perfect outer box for items packed in the 12 x 12 x 12 box.  It is a wonderful inner box companion for the 16 x 16 x 16″ outer box. And as an aside, most shipping rates go way up when the box is bigger the 16″ cubed.   Oh I love this 14″ box.   The best spent $0.68 in my shipping life. And nowhere else can I find these in stock.  No where but…. say it with me Walmart.  I find them in every Walmart in every city I travel to.  And yes I will vacation and ship on occasion.  Oh glorious box, love is your name.  LIVE BETTER, BOX BETTER.  So I had to make the visit.  I was in NEED.

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There really is no good time to visit a store.  And the Christmas season, with a snow packed and icy parking lot is just another bad time to make my way to the shipping supply section, next to the office supply section, near the school and stationary supply section of my local Walmart.  But visit is what I had to do.  And I got my beloved boxes.  But wait there’s more.

Every Walmart visit includes a moment of patience in the checkout lane.  May I add, an unusually long moment.  I have shopped at midnight, and noon, at 6 am, never 6 pm.  And Walmart knows exactly how few cashiers to schedule to give you a long wait in the lines.  It is a designed wait, I am certain.  It is a conspiracy theory I hold to.  SHOP LONGER, LIVE BETTER.  The wait is for you to shop the wonderful array of impulse buy items like gum, mints, energy shots and q-tips.  And it is also time to read the weekly rag covers.  Be still my heart, what has Kim Kardashian done this week?  And of course, as a fat guy, it is time for me to learn how to lose lots of weight during the holiday overeating season.  Today I was pleased to find out I can lose 6 pounds a week.  A new special tea.  A self proclaimed “Miracle Weight Loss Tea”  Yes!!!!  Bring on the Dr. Oz recommendation now!!

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Though I did not buy this mag rag, I was tempted and then I remembered something.  I remember there is a caveat.  There always is … this is it… said fad product (fill in any choice you want)…. will work best when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.  That is the reality.  I know it.  I was healthy a long time ago.  I ate right, I exercised.  But diet shortcuts, that is where the money is.  And that is why I am going to be rich.  And I am bringing you all along.  See, I didn’t forget why I am writing this.  I went to lunch, and I figured it out.  It is the diet every one of us seriously overweight folks is willing to pay for.  And trust me… my last name is Fulton, and FULL-TON is not the name you want if you are growing up heavy.  But for a diet program, well things are looking up.

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I introduce to you the “Fulton all you can eat buffet diet plan”  Isn’t this what folks are looking for.  No special foods, or pills, just eat all you want, and in the small print add exercise.  Look it worked for Swimmer Michael Phelps.  The Olympian ate up to 12,000 calories a day.  And he was ripped.  I don’t even think he drank the miracle tea.

So I just have a few more things I have to do.  I need to write the book.  I just need to lose 100 pounds.  And I need to put together a marketing package with special tools and personalized silverware, and motivational pictures and phrases.  I am sure there will be an infomercial.  Featuring skinny folk who never used the diet, but love it none the less.. an you my readers can sit in the audience.  Practice, shake your head yes.. thank you.

And then we will wait, and get rich.  And when people call in an order, the product will be shipped a large over sized packet to make them feel special.  And they will feel special.  Because the stuff will arrive in a 14 x 14 x 14″ box.

I know the place to buy them.

Look for the announcement in the checkout line… say it with me.. at your local Walmart.

The search

Starts and finishes.  Endings and Beginnings.

Where the does the rainbow end?

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I have actually followed a rainbow.  The truth be known, I have followed more than one.  And it matters not the location, rural or urban, the rainbow’s end is always in front of me, until that time that it is not there at all.

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This beauty appeared just to the west of my home, Casa Canine.  A rare sight from my front porch.  And a spectacular looker.  Blue above the bow, red below.  A diffraction of light and production of color like none I had ever seen before.   And from my porch I should have seen its end.  Somewhere next to the convenience store.  But alas, foiled again in my search for its end.

There are endings unseen, and there are also beginnings undiscovered.

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This is a 3″ roll of clear plastic packing tape.  They appear all over Casa Canine as they are a tool of my shipping trade.  You may have a lesser cousin in your house, the 2″ box tape roll or household scotch. There is a problem with this product when it is separated from the tape dispenser.  If allowed to merge with the “mother roll” the tape end will disappear.  Many of you may experience this during the process of wrapping Christmas, Hanukkah, Birthday or Anniversary gifts.  Seriously.  How the hell does the tape do this.

Where does the tape begin?  I am not done with you.  I run my finger around the roll, and sometimes I find the beginning, and continue the taping task.  But sometimes the end literally disappears.  And I talk to the tape.  “I know you are on this roll.  I know.  This is not a faith venture.  You exist.”

Again and again, I run my finger around the roll.  I use the fingernail search method.  I check in one direction, and than the other.  Where is the beginning.   I usually allow myself 2-3 minutes of frustration before I make the the obvious choice.

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Time to grab a new roll.  As a matter of fact the manufacturers know that they have made a product which will often end with similar action.  The tape companies put a starting tab on their rolls.  If they knew it was easy to find the beginning of the tape, the starter strip would not be required.  And it is required.  Beginnings are not always easy.

Oh yeah, on a common theme, the Manufacturer of rainbows knows you can’t find the ending either.

RED

cardinal

I see you staring at my porch

Waiting for the moment to approach when the ferals leave the food I left for them
And you make a meal of a morsel
I love that you visit me
And your mate is also striking in her look
but none I have seen compare to you

You sit in contrast
A splash of red
in a pallette of browns, grey and amber
the colors of earth’s winter
you are of the sky
and add rounded form and warmth to
sharp lines and the cold that surrounds you.

I am thankful you are safely perched
and a frequent day visitor to my home
be watchful
be safe
feel welcome

The suet left below you is an offering
and invites your safe return
you need not risk a visit to the feline trough
I need you to be here and
bring color to my life

For that is what you do.