Enjoying The Journey

Aah…there’s nothing like coming home after a two week vacation. Vacations are wonderful, especially while visiting family when returning to one’s original stomping grounds, but there’s something to be said for a comfortable routine at home as well. My lovely wife and I had just gotten back to Arizona, from our trip to Iowa, when I found myself saying aloud in a somewhat sarcastic manner, “Just enjoying the journey.” Well, first I said, “What the?” Our car which had been sitting in the parking lot of Sky Harbor International Airport, while the missus and I were off gallivanting, was dead as a doornail. We were stranded for only a short time because we quickly learned the airport offers free (minus a tip) jump-starts, but it was enough time for me to remember I had said the same thing only a few days earlier. However, at the time when I said, “just enjoying the journey” while back in Iowa, I genuinely meant it.

I have always wanted to try my hand at kayaking and was pleased to find out my big sis had arranged, for those family members willing to endure one of my “bucket list” items, a two-hour kayaking excursion at Rock Creek State Park. It was a beautiful day to be at one with the lake. And I was literally at one with the lake. As I was backing my kayak away from the harbor, I was violently thrown out of the watercraft. Oh yea, and I don’t know how to swim. No worries though. My kayak was not one of those confining cockpit types (I made sure before getting in), I was donning a lifejacket (I’m no dummy…and wearing one was mandatory), and the water was only chest deep at this point. I was the only one in our group to taste the unfiltered water of Rock Creek.

Knee deep in sludge, and drenched with not so crystal clear lake water, I trudged the few yards back to the shore. The park’s employees swiftly met me there with looks of great concern on their faces although assuredly they were laughing hysterically on the inside. Come to find out, I had been given faulty equipment – my theory, but certainly backed up by common sense. A vast amount of water had been left within the watercraft’s shell which made the weight distribution of the kayak extremely unbalanced when I initially attempted to go forward. About ten minutes later, after the staff drained the intrusive liquid from the kayak, I began the launching process all over again. This time everything went smoothly, and I believe during the next two hours I proved to everyone that I could probably be a kayak Olympian. My wife felt so bad for what had happened, even possibly shedding a few tears, but I truly wouldn’t have changed a thing that day. It was an experience not everyone will have, and for me an integral part of enjoying the journey.

Driving home from Sky Harbor I was hoping our car’s battery would recharge itself during the lengthy jaunt. No such luck, so I scheduled an appointment for the ailing Hyundai Elantra at our local Brakes Plus. The following day, after taking the missus to work, I tried jump-starting the car for no less than 35 minutes, but to no avail. I was now angry, sweating profusely, and swearing up a storm. I felt totally defeated and shared with God how ridiculous I thought the whole situation was. I questioned how this could possibly be any part of His plan, and I pleaded with my Savior to help me out. I then apologized for my unsavory tongue and cautioned God I was only going to turn the key one more time before giving up. (He knew I was fibbing a bit.) After the second try, I finally heard the sweet sound of a purring engine. I thanked God! I then phoned Brakes Plus to inform them of my obvious tardiness – my appointment was scheduled for 9:00 am, and it was already 9:10 am.

I was relieved when I was told by the representative to bring the car in anyway. But wait. As I was backing out of the driveway, I became utterly dumbfounded when realizing the Hyundai’s power steering was barely functional. And there were at least four warning symbols now illuminating from the dashboard. I’ve never seen that before. God surely does have a sense of humor. There was no turning back. I silently prayed, and held my breath, as I drove approximately 3 miles to the auto repair shop. (Spoiler alert: The car’s alternator was bad and needed replaced, as well as the battery.)

My original plan had been to relax at a nearby Starbucks while the Elantra was being serviced, but now I was saturated with sweat and just wanted to get home. The gal behind the counter offered me a ride, but I declined. I already had it in my head that I’d be walking home, and I also don’t like to be a burden to anyone. It’s hereditary I suppose. My one grandpa could be quite stubborn at times, and my other grandpa did not like to ask anyone for help. I’m a descendant of both, so I’m screwed. I slung my backpack, almost filled to capacity, over my shoulder and headed out the door. I planned on entertaining myself at the coffee shop with the contents inside my backpack: my Bible, crossword puzzle books, an AARP magazine, my Fantasy Football notes, and most vital – my reading glasses, but now they’d all be accompanying me on this surprising long haul.

I had only taken a few strides when I spotted the large metal cross on the grounds of the Circle of Peace Church. Even though I’ve never been inside that church, one can’t help but notice the iconic symbol when driving by. I’ve seen that rusted cross hundreds of times before, from the well traveled thoroughfare, but this time was very different. I was close to it. I was drawn to it. I was prompted to take a pause. I sat down on one of the six wooden benches at the foot of the cross, and I prayed. I thanked my Heavenly Father for being there with me when I was feeling alone, frustrated, and overwhelmed. I offered Him my gratitude for the many blessings He has bestowed upon me including my family and the finances to be able to afford whatever would be determined to be wrong with our car.

I told God I knew this inconvenience was a Lower Story event, and I wasn’t sure what I could learn from it, but whatever the reason I hoped ultimately it would bring glory to Him. I have always sort of wondered why the Circle of Peace Church stationed benches near their outdoor cross. This is the desert, and the area’s not shaded after all. I had never seen anybody take advantage of their set up the entire time I’ve lived in the city. I’ve even questioned at times whether or not the outdoor arrangement made any sense at all. Now I have my answer. I left that old rusty cross with a new attitude.

I was about halfway home when I became painfully aware that I wasn’t wearing the most comfortable footwear for a trek through the desert. But, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death ….” With several more blocks to go, I could no longer tolerate my uncomfortable shoes. I immediately noticed I was, of course, wearing a virgin pair of socks. I’d much rather have dirty socks than blackened feet, so I finished the three-mile hike sock footed. I even showed a bit of moxie, by walking an extra half a block to retrieve the day’s mail, before finally reaching my destination.

I had persevered. I celebrated with a rinse in the swimming pool and a much needed drink. (Fruit Punch Gatorade never tasted so good!) My unexpected hike had given me a new perspective, a renewed appreciation – and a couple of mega blisters on the heels of my feet. Sadly, the very next day I broke my favorite coffee mug, and the garbage disposal stopped working. But the unforeseen circumstances and little inconveniences in life are what make the good times seem even that much sweeter. Things don’t always go my way, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.

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The A-Word

There are some words in the English language that when spoken tend to make people cringe. There’s, of course, the mother of all dirty words: the F-word. There’s the C-word that especially drives the fairer sex to shudder, or so I’m told. And then there’s the A-word. Not to be confused with the other A-word which is commonly followed by hole. (Oddly enough, censors have decided hole is a more offensive term than ass. Hole is the word always bleeped out on broadcast television when combined with that A-word.) The A-word I’m alluding to is probably the most cringe worthy word when mentioned in our society at this moment in time. I am, of course, talking about abortion.

Admit it. You just cringed. And a good number of you are now saying, “Oh no he di’int.” Well, yes I did just go there. I’m well aware discussing this topic is a no-win situation for me, but I really don’t care. I also realize both the pro-choice and the pro-life advocates are extremely passionate about their chosen stance. I think there are sensible arguments to be made on both sides, but when the rhetorical idiocy and politicizing enters the fray – and it always does – the extremists’ and alarmists’ voices drown out any rationale thinking and hinders all bipartisan discussion.

You’re either a sanctimonious conservative Christian opposed to civil rights, or you’re an immoral liberal gung-ho on killing babies. Those typically are the only two categories of people offered by the media. You are either an anti-abortion extremist fond of abortion clinic bombings, or your views align with Michelle Wolf’s who recently said, “Don’t knock it till you try it! And when you do try it, really knock it. You know, you gotta get that baby out of there.” The “comedian” equates anti-abortion as being anti-woman, proclaims “men are irrelevant” in this matter, and finds humor in quipping, “God bless abortions and God bless America!”

I’m a moderate when it comes to the A-word. I assume my chosen stance is quite the anomaly in this country, but hopefully not. I believe life begins with a heartbeat – usually detected at six weeks after intercourse. Therefore, my thoughts on the A-word are based on that premise, and I think anything goes in a pregnancy up to that point. That’s surely why I’m a proponent of the “morning-after pill.” The single dose does not abort a baby, but it does prevent fertilization if taken in time. The pill is fairly inexpensive and highly effective up to five days after engaging in unprotected sex.

I think this allows a woman the best chance of having peace of mind since she’ll truly never know if she would’ve become pregnant. Sort of like the old-time firing squads that enabled a sense of “diffusion of responsibility” by issuing one firearm containing a blank cartridge amongst the firing squad. Nobody knew for certain if he actually participated in the execution. I also believe Planned Parenthood is not the evil that some portray the vital organization as being. The reproductive health agency offers numerous services other than abortions. Planned Parenthood was a godsend to me and the missus prior to and during our first year of marriage.

I absolutely think abortion should be legally available in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother’s life is in jeopardy. I think legalized abortion should be an option in some cases of unwanted pregnancies as well. For example, the hormonal fifteen-year-old who makes a mistake and afterwards has no means to properly care for a child. She should not be coerced to carry a baby to term for adoption purposes either. I think if the government forces motherhood on a woman then the government has to be willing to financially support the child for as long as needed. But at the same time, women who continue to choose to bear children they cannot afford should not be rewarded with an abundance of government funding.

I’m definitely not entirely onboard with the pro-choice notion that a woman’s body is solely hers to do with what she wants. None of us, male or female, realistically have total control of our bodies. There are laws against prostitution and drug use, and the government can quarantine any human body with an infectious disease, such as tuberculosis, at any time. It also seems a bit unfair that the man has no real voice in the matter – because it does take two. However, it is probably proper for the woman to have the final say on whether or not to give birth. Proper up to a point.

I do not think abortion should ever be used as a method of birth control. Acquiring an abortion after the first trimester of a pregnancy should not be as readily available as Michelle Wolf desires. But banning abortion entirely is just as silly. I’m completely fine with the government imposing restrictions on abortion once a heartbeat is detected. I am relieved we currently have a conservative majority in the Supreme Court although I don’t anticipate any significant changes coming concerning the A-word. The Supreme Court Justices are there to interpret congressional laws, and the lion’s share of them tend to rule with high regard for set precedents.

Right or wrong, or somewhere in between, those are my thoughts on abortion. The goal of this essay is not an attempt to radically change people’s minds. It’s simply intended for all to consider what they may have never considered. I also think it offers some hope that we are capable of engaging in a much more civil dialogue regarding the A-word.


The 5th Of July

The missus and I arose early this past Independence Day with jovial thoughts of our well-planned itinerary for celebrating our country’s birthday. We finished our tennis match (well, a set at least) and then visited one of our six nearby Starbucks for some coffee. (Well, I had coffee. My lovely wife had her usual “fivebucks” foo-foo drink: Venti nonfat White Chocolate Latte – extra hot, no foam, and light whip.) After an hour or so of stimulating conversation, and achieving our caffeine fix for the day, we headed home to continue our day’s agenda which included swimming, sipping adult beverages poolside, having a cookout, and then savoring some homemade ice cream for dessert. I had already watched my DVDs of Mel Gibson’s The Patriot and We Were Soldiers the day before in order to get in to the patriotic spirit of the holiday, so everything was going just as planned. Then the telephone rang.

My brother began leaving a message on our answering machine (yes, we still have one of those) in his best “old man” voice although he wasn’t fooling anyone. My younger sibling lives in Colorado and rarely calls, so my wife hurriedly picked up the phone. After a minute or two of my wife and my brother exchanging pleasantries, I got on the line with my kinfolk that I had not seen or heard from since Christmas. I was relieved to learn there wasn’t an emergency. My bro, six years my junior, basically just wanted to say hello to his dear, dear brother. We chatted about everything under the sun: the weather, family, the upcoming Fantasy Football season, real sports, childhood memories, adulthood, TV evangelists, and our Christian faith.

We then discussed current events which of course led to a political discussion and ultimately a debate. It’s quite interesting to me how my brother and I seem to disagree about EVERYTHING politically. We were reared by the same parents, in the same house, yet a majority of our perceptions and philosophical preferences are entirely out of sync. There was no yelling, no childish hang-ups, and very limited hurt feelings during our cordial debate. (What a completely different, wonderful world we’d live in if only our elected officials had the good sense to conduct themselves in such a manner.) By conversation’s end, my little brother and I were still able to profess our love for one another when saying goodbye.

Come to find out I had been on the telephone for nine hours. That’s not a typo, folks. 9 hours! No wonder I was left with a blister on my ear and a severely sprained elbow. Not really. But my elbow was a bit stiff and my throat a little sore. This from a guy who as a teenager in love had no patience whatsoever when talking on the phone even while courting his future bride. A good deal of our spats back then were due to my lack of enthusiasm when conversing on the phone. I don’t know why it is, but I’d much rather write a letter, send a telegram, or even try my hand at sending up smoke signals than communicate via telephone.

But I digress. Sometime before my conversation had ended with my brother, the missus had kissed me goodnight. After hanging up I spied a note from her which read, “The 4th of July has been postponed until Thursday, July 5th.” Until that note, I had actually forgotten it was Independence Day (well, evening at this point). I immediately felt horrible about neglecting my wife and missing out on our well-planned day together. However, I was thrilled she was willing to give our much anticipated agenda another chance the very next day.

The missus did have to work during the morning of the 5th of July, but shortly after arriving back home she had our ancient boom box plugged in and properly positioned on our patio, our two outdoor umbrellas completely opened and situated for maximum shade, and a variety pack of craft beer on ice awaiting us. In no time flat we were able to resume our fun-filled agenda from the day before. My lovely wife and I spent the afternoon enjoying the pool, conversation, and each other. We sampled our chilled Leinenkugel’s Explorer Pack consisting of Orange Shandy, Summer Shandy (lemony), Cherry Blonde Lager, and Canoe Paddler (a spicy domestic style brew). We had our “cookout” which consisted of pan-fried hotdogs (my little sister refers to as “tubes of death”) and all the customary side dishes. Our grill was never turned on, so technically it might not have been a true cookout, but we did at least eat outdoors.

We took full advantage of our fabulous one hundred and fifteen degree weather. That’s not a typo, folks. 115°! But it is a dry heat. Later on, we savored a bowl or two (or in my case, three) of delectable homemade ice cream – finally completing  our patriotic celebration. At some point during the day’s festivities the telephone rang. My wife and I instantaneously in unison looked at one another, but then we quickly went about our business. There was no way we were going to miss out on the 5th of July.


A Broken Record

To be brutally honest, I’m fine with what’s been taking place recently along our nation’s southern border. However, many people seem to be up in arms over the latest techniques being used in yet another attempt to secure our border with Mexico. The so-called “cages” for captured illegal immigrants are continuously being aired on television for the purpose of invoking sympathy and promoting a certain political party’s agenda. Those “abhorrent” holding facilities happen to be the exact ones used during the Obama administration, but unsurprisingly, like a broken record, the media has assigned all the blame to President Donald Trump.

I think those to blame for the “ripping of children from their mothers’ arms” lies solely with the lawbreakers themselves. If I was pressed to name a runner-up at fault for this current, unfortunate situation, I’d have to choose the Democrats. In the same way the Republicans are mostly responsible for preventing practical gun control legislation, the Democrats are mostly responsible for preventing practical immigration policy. If I were the Democrats, I’d work tirelessly to get something done now instead of betting on gaining numbers during the next election. I suppose the gamble could pay off similar to how the Republicans were victorious (wrongfully, I might add) after refusing to give then President Obama’s Supreme Court Justice nominee a hearing before an upcoming election. The GOP’s stall tactic was successful, and they were rewarded with securing the open justice seat with a Conservative, after the votes were tallied.

However, if the Democrats decide not to compromise this time, and they lose numbers in November, then a more tilted Congress may very well enact a new immigration policy that does not include protection for their coveted “Dreamers.” Just give President Trump his “big, beautiful wall.” I’ve surely given up hope that Mexico will entirely foot the bill, but it’s quite possible the border wall could be funded via the savings from Trump’s tariffs and better negotiated trade deals. The fact is something has got to be done about illegal immigration, and the sooner the better. We’ve probably all heard the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, that cute slogan does not apply here. Our nation’s immigration policy is unequivocally broken.

Maybe we should take comfort in knowing we aren’t the only country currently experiencing immigration concerns and conflicts. In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened her country’s borders to asylum seekers from other countries. Three years later, Germany is now home to an additional 1.4 million immigrants. Merkel’s decision has put a strain on the country and has led to an increase in support for anti-immigration politicians. After dealing with the perils of a boost in immigration, for a relatively short time, at least 61% of German voters now desire for immigrants to be turned away at their border. Likewise, just a few days ago, Italy and Malta refused to accept approximately 600 migrants who had been rescued at sea a week prior. Spain has given the migrants a temporary stay while the authorities ponder whether to grant them asylum or not.

I am certainly not anti-immigration. I am, however, anti-illegal immigration. There’s a colossal difference between the two – regardless of how the media tends to purposely confuse us in to thinking they are one in the same. I also realize that refugees fleeing from violence or oppression are not the same as those who are boldly hopping over our southern fence. However, once refugees from other countries do make their way into Mexico it doesn’t necessarily mean they should automatically be allowed into the United States. They have already successfully fled danger and are now amongst friendly people. I certainly haven’t heard that take on the situation from the slew of mainstream political pundits out there. I’m simply tired of the majority of our media sounding like a broken record, on so many subjects, day in and day out.

For example, the media and loyal Trump haters alike are now recklessly using the word immoral when describing President Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy at the border. Their newest favorite word has already become all too commonplace. And they’re even quoting Scripture, mind you, in a futile attempt at proving themselves right. A vast number of those arguing about the morality in this particular case just so happens, oddly enough, to be the same folks who frequently celebrate homosexuality – biblically, an undeniably immoral act.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions launched the ill-advised Bible interpretation war when he referred to the Book of Romans in defense of the newly enacted “zero tolerance” policy. Sessions said, “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” Romans 13:1 does state, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” And Romans 13:2 says, ” Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” After exploring Romans for myself, I can’t disagree with what the Attorney General said. But Jesse Jackson does. The good reverend, the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and others disagree with Sessions’ shared interpretation, for whatever reason.

This WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) moment is sponsored by yours truly. The popular ’90s crusade was designed for Christians to ask themselves what their Savior would do before taking any of their own actions. I think it was my pastor who conveyed an unconventional, yet probably spot on, opinion concerning the clever campaign. He said something equivalent to this: if you’re actively pursuing Christ then you won’t even need to ask what Jesus would do because the proper response will just come naturally. This sort of deep contemplation reminds me of the dreaded debate that creeps into conversations every so often about whether Jesus would be a Democrat or a Republican. First of all, exploiting the Good Book for political reasons is never a good thing. Second of all, I’m pretty sure Jesus is an Independent – independent of all earthly things and only concerned with His Father’s Heavenly plan.

I, on the other hand, am a stickler when it comes to enforcing our country’s laws. Why don’t some people understand that in this world there are consequences for actions? I’d suggest the more severe a lawbreaker’s punishment, as we’ve been witnessing on the border as of late, the less likely the miscreant, and others considering following suit, would be to repeat the violation. Illegal immigrants should absolutely be made to feel very unwelcomed within the confines of a great nation boasting borders and laws. I would like to reiterate as to what I think is the proper course for a successful immigration policy as I proffered at this site on February 7th, 2018. I still believe in securing our southern border with a great wall, creating a sensible and sustainable pathway to citizenship for the “Dreamers,” and imposing strict, harsh penalties on all persons and businesses harboring, hiring, or catering to illegals. I could probably go on a little longer, on the subject of illegal immigration, but I don’t want to sound like a broken record.


Sorry

Sorry, doesn’t always make it starry. Maybe next time be more charming, so you don’t have to say sorry. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on those lyrics to the new song “Sorry” by Stryper – one of my two favorite Christian bands of all-time (Bride being the other). The words aren’t all that elaborate, but they are straightforward and true. Our sorries aren’t always warmly accepted, so it’s certainly better if we can avoid having to apologize at all. However, a real problem facing this nation today is the fact that so many of us are unwilling to say the S word.

President Trump appears incapable of saying sorry. This isn’t just a Republican problem though. Hillary Clinton could only muster a partial apology, concerning her infamous e-mails, and only after months of continuous prodding to do so. I think what our country is currently sorely missing is humility. What if our politicians, bosses and co-workers, and even our own families decided to embrace this seemingly unconventional notion of humbling ourselves amongst our fellow man? Could we at least try? I’ll even go first.

First and foremost, my apologies to God. I’m sorry for the anguish and pain my Lord and Savior voluntarily endured on my behalf, even though I understand His unjust crucifixion was necessary for a lost world. The ridicule, torture, and inhumane (temporary) death Jesus suffered on the cross was God’s quintessential plan of providing a way for one day bringing all of His children who believe in Him home. I’m also sorry for the numerous times, whether blatantly or unexpectedly, I’ve taken advantage of God’s never-ending forgiveness. I know I’m not alone in this, for the Apostle Paul can surely empathize with my plight based on a portion of his letter to the Romans. Paul wrote, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) God’s continuous goodness, in spite of our humanistic ways, is truly a mystery to me.

My apologies to my lovely wife. I often tell her I was put on this earth to make her happy, yet too many times those flashy words are meaningless when thoughts of myself take center stage. Similar to Kanye grabbing the microphone away from Taylor Swift, during her acceptance speech at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2009, I too sometimes allow my ego to get in the way of her important moments. I’m sorry about that. The missus knows my faults and insecurities better than anyone, yet she treats me like I’m something special. I’m sorry for the times I haven’t returned the favor. She really deserves so much more. I’ve said it before, I married up.

I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a little harsh with my son. As he’s gotten older, the less he and I are alike. And there’s nothing wrong with that. My wife and I tried to raise our boy to be an independent free thinker, and now to my slight chagrin I believe we succeeded. Today, many of my impassioned views, on a wide variety of topics, are nowhere close to my son’s chosen outlook on life. Again, it’s okay that my child’s worldview aligns much closer to that of his grandfather’s than with mine. However, it’s not always easy to have a calm conversation, even with someone so dear to your heart, when there’s not a whole lot you can agree on. Nonetheless, I’m sorry to my son for the times I’ve probably made him feel as though his thoughts, concerns, and opinions weren’t as important as mine.

My apologies to my parents and to my siblings for the times I’ve let them down as a son and as a brother. I haven’t always been the most generous person with my time. I realize I’ve been somewhat removed from the family, both literally and figuratively, since moving to Arizona. I’m sorry for being insensitive, nonflexible, and short-tempered at times. I’m also sorry to past classmates I never paid any attention to, friends I drifted away from, by not making a concerted effort to retain them, and a couple of teachers whose lives I made more difficult than need be. I’ve now had over 50 years on this earth to have possibly offended others I am not even aware of, either by my actions or with my words, but I’m sorry to them just the same.

The truth is none of us could ever try hard enough to overcome our sinful nature, embedded at birth, all on our own. “Trying” can only take us so far when targeting holiness, and inevitably all will fall short. (Heck, I’ve been trying to incorporate an abs workout into my weightlifting routine since January – with zero luck.) Regardless of one’s willpower, complete self-control is simply unattainable in this life. The good news is we can come close to that goal – but only with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. He will help guide us toward holiness when we spend an abundance of quality time in the Word and in prayer with our Heavenly Father. Traits of Jesus will naturally pour out of us when we’re in a solid relationship with Him.

Just the other day I was channel surfing when I came across a TV evangelist saying something I found to be quite profound. He said something like this: the more we are like Jesus – the less we have to say. (That might be a little challenging for an aspiring writer such as myself.) I assume the preacher’s statement meant that an active Jesus follower would remain silent rather than argue, or engage in gossip or coarse dialog. However, I possibly could’ve misinterpreted the pastor’s intended message due to my clinically undiagnosed “flipping” problem; By the time I was done scanning the other channels to see what else was on, the evangelist was finished with his message. Nevertheless, I think the theory of having to say sorry less often, when one becomes charming and resembles Jesus more, holds true. Until then…who wants to go next?


Our Coddling Society

It all began, I think, somewhere near the turn of the 21st century. All over the country the youth of that time were practicing their skills for upcoming games against their peers. It did not matter whether the sporting season was baseball, basketball, or soccer. When game day finally arrived the excited kids would lace up their shiny new cleats or expensive fashionable high-tops, grab their gear, and show up at the proper venue. The games began innocently enough, with the enthusiastic boys and girls proudly donning their typically oversized and itchy jerseys for all to see, but inevitably the hard fought contests would end with many players and fans alike feeling a bit empty inside – an internal sense of incompletion, if you will. A majority of the kids, and a few daring parents, would ultimately ask the pertinent question, “Who won?”

Most often though the question would not be answered. That once sensible inquiry had freshly become quite taboo and deemed as a politically incorrect question to ask. Somewhere along the way the idea of winning acquired a negative connotation. I believe the thought process behind this new way of thinking was that if there’s a winner then there has to be a loser – which I guess was no longer okay. Almost overnight that undeniable fact of life apparently grew unacceptable to many adults somewhere around the turn of the century. I think that is when our coddling society began. And it has only gotten worse (unless you’re into that sort of thing). Those children, first exposed to the unnecessary pampering, are now our nation’s 30-year-olds holding onto a sense of entitlement while shamelessly living comfortably with their parents.

Nowadays, everyone gets a trophy. Little Timmy finished tenth in a field of ten? Congratulations! The first place winner is no better than you, Timmy. Be proud of that shiny trophy (your parents undoubtedly had to pay for) atop your dresser. I’m proud that I’m old-school in this area. I subscribe to the more honest notion that 2nd place means you were the first loser. I’m sorry, Timmy, but the truth is you finished last amongst the losers. You can either be content with your placing, work harder for next time, or maybe find some other activity that fits your skillset better, but absolutely no trophy for you this time. (I suppose a participation certificate might be alright.)

Our decades of catering to a coddling society have led to forced diversity and all-inclusiveness, all of today’s silly political correctness, and in turn the pampering practice has ignored common sense, shunned Biblical principles, and diminished our “acceptable” personal preferences. For instance, I have no desire to see the blockbuster movie Black Panther. That does not make me a racist. I have no interest in watching the highly acclaimed Wonder Woman movie either. That does not make me a misogynist. I simply don’t care much for superhero films. I have not seen any of them since Batman in 1989, and I only went to the theater back then because my favorite musical artist, Prince, provided the entire soundtrack.

However, in our coddling society I’m expected to wholeheartedly embrace the recent aforementioned hit movies because they supposedly “broke the glass ceiling” for all the Black actors and women in Hollywood, regardless of my personal preference of cinema. And the guilt trip shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I’m prepared to be callously labeled a homophobic for not wanting to attend the new flick Love, Simon. The movie is being lauded as the first major studio picture to focus on a gay teen love affair. No thank you. It has also recently been reported, via the Newton Daily News (4/4/18), “A new study finds the film industry’s move toward diversity has largely ignored people with disabilities.” Oh no, now I’ll surely be accused of handicapism if I happen to not be extremely enthused about whatever movie is first to cast a disabled person in the lead role.

I tend to mainly blame the parents of the millennial generation for creating our coddling society – which has over time incorporated the acceptance of irresponsibility, senseless premature celebrations, and quite frankly has led to today’s youth running the show. There are now an abundance of middle school, elementary school, and even kindergarten graduations to celebrate our youngsters’ glorious achievements. Kindergarten graduation? Congratulations, kid – you’ve mastered naps and playtime. I suppose conquering playtime might actually come in handy when you and your folks sign your first videogame contract. Wait, what? Last month The Wall Street Journal (3/15/18) reported that Tencent Holdings Ltd., a Chinese videogame company, will soon be introducing digital contracts which will allow kids and their parents to negotiate reasonable play times. The youngsters can even gather their friends to witness the signing of the contract. Here’s a novel idea: how about if parents just parent and make that type of decision on their own.

In somewhat related news, a California girl made headlines in January 2013, for drugging her folks just for the sake of being able to use the internet beyond her set curfew. Oddly enough, the American Psychological Association began identifying internet addiction as a disorder that same year. Therefore, we are expected to accept that the poor girl had no choice but to lace her parents’ milkshakes with sleeping pills due to her “condition.” Our indulging society simply does not recognize the tried-and-true practice of personal responsibility as an asset anymore. We should all know by now, in this day and age, once something is labeled an illness or an addiction, or a trend is declared an epidemic, then all blame seems to be laid at the foot of everything else rather than where it truly belongs – at the feet of the actual person whose choices led to their undesirable actions. Only in our coddling society can a man cheat on his wife, gamble away their savings, become obese, and get high – and none of it is his fault. The cheating, irresponsible, fatso druggie is regarded as the VICTIM of sex, gambling, and food addictions, and a sweeping epidemic.

Case in point, I came across an intriguing obituary late last year that I think unwittingly exposes our society’s perverse modern way of thinking and victimhood mentality. A young man died from a heroin overdose just two days before Christmas. Tragic, for sure. However, I was taken aback when the obit went on to point out that the 28-year-old Iowan was “preceded in death by 13 of his friends who lost their life to the opioid epidemic.” Thirteen! There may very well be an opioid crisis at this time in history, with enough blame to go around, but I find this particular situation to be something entirely different than what’s being proposed by the surviving family. I think it’s much more probable the deceased and his buddies were regular drug users, voluntarily in search of euphoria, rather than helpless victims of drug manufactures and negligent doctors.

Our children should certainly be heard (not just seen) and loved unconditionally, but we need to refrain from enabling them, making excuses for their unflattering behaviors, and prematurely treating them as our peers. For example, regardless of my preference for better and stricter gun regulations, I am not in favor of high school students taking on adult issues and skipping their classes in doing so. I happen to agree with the view William McGurn conveyed in The Wall Street Journal (2/27/18). The opinion page columnist wrote, “Quick show of hands for those with children: How many of you look to your teens for political wisdom, whether it’s the daughter obsessing over her Snapchat streaks or the son who would spend his day eating Doritos and binge-gaming ‘Grand Theft Auto’ if you let him?” By the way, many teens in favor of gun rights have been peacefully counter protesting the protesters, even though their stance has been (presumably) intentionally less reported by the often biased media. The truth is every generation will be divided on this hot-button issue.

While we’re at it we should also be honest and debunk the great American lie, we keep passing on to each generation, that contends you can be whatever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. In this life, all things are not possible. I unequivocally believe Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” but only within the parameters of the Scripture’s intended meaning. God can do all things, but surely I cannot be our nation’s next Olympic champion, Miss America, or a rocket scientist. I can’t even become a bona fide journalist because my mind is just not capable of comprehending STUPID algebra – which unfortunately is a prerequisite for obtaining a journalism degree. Only in our coddling society does one truly believe that anything is possible.


The Old Gal

She has had a good life. More to the point, I have had a good life, in part, because of her. We’ve been through thick and thin together, and she has silently stood with me experiencing the highs, and a few lows, of my life for almost thirty years. The times we have shared are priceless, but I’m deeply afraid the old gal’s days are numbered. I cannot fathom a life without my mainstay – my reliable one – my comforter – my mate. To me, she’s an integral part of the family. To my wife, she has served her purpose but is long overdue for being put out to pasture. I’m at a loss as to what to do about my ailing La-Z-Boy rocker recliner.

My lovely wife, on the other hand, has been lobbying for many years to replace what I’m sure she sees only as an embarrassing eyesore. Her pleas to say good riddance to the old gal have increasingly become more boisterous and much more frequent with each passing year, but her requests have consistently fallen on deaf ears. It seems as though the missus has grown to loathe the color of my easy chair, but I think mauve still goes well with our living room décor. If mauve was good enough as the primary color of our wedding then by golly it should be good enough now. “But that was over 30 years ago,” my wife keeps reminding me. Supposedly, the pale purple color is no longer hip and doesn’t even deserve a place in today’s society. When did mauve become such a bad word?

I’m guessing women just may not know how attached a man becomes to his chair over the course of time. We need only look to Martin Crane of television’s Frasier, or to the revered Archie Bunker character, to grasp the importance of a man’s easy chair in his life. If an insufferable curmudgeon’s chair from All in the Family can make its way into the Smithsonian then surely my mauve mate can continue residing in my living room. A man’s adoration for his chair is certainly nothing new and transcends multiple generations. I assume my father was very fond of his rocker recliner. Me…not so much. Many times the all too familiar sound of my father swiftly depressing his chair’s footrest meant he’d had enough of my roughhousing and was coming after me. Maybe my son has a similar story to tell about me.

I can only imagine the stories my La-Z-Boy would tell if only she could talk. I have seen and done so many things, and have watched history unfold, from the confines of my comfortable chair. I witnessed the O.J. Simpson white Bronco “chase” and subsequently the dramatic trial. I watched one evening as President Bill Clinton looked me, and the rest of the nation, in the eyes and insisted, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” I cheered for my favorite baseball team (at the time), the Atlanta Braves, as they were crowned World Series champions in 1995. I was also in my comfy chair when rooting for University of Northern Iowa alum, Kurt Warner, as he led his St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory in 2000.

However, not all memorable times spent with my mauve mate have been happy times. Once I was slowly rocking in my La-Z-Boy when out of the blue I informed my wife I thought I needed to go to the emergency room. It was the evening of the very day a dream of mine came true when I opened a music store in my hometown. The jubilation I was experiencing, from a successful day at Mac’s Compact Disc Shop, instantaneously turned into unrelenting pain. The culprit responsible for my abrupt anguish was later determined to be a kidney stone. I’ve also felt uneasy at times, oddly enough, in my easy chair (get the irony?). I’ve anxiously recuperated from a few colds and flus, softball injuries, and a knee surgery. I also somberly observed most of the events of 9/11 from my comforting chair. I’m thankful though that life in my prized chair has produced mostly positive memorable moments.

I can recall multiple times relaxing in my La-Z-Boy with my beloved dog underfoot. Brittany could be a bit of a nuisance though whenever she would decide to lay down directly in front of my chair. Her ill-advised choice often prevented me from operating the footrest without having to disturb her slumber. My dog’s decision also significantly hindered my path to both the kitchen and the bathroom, but it certainly was wonderful being worshiped by my faithful companion. Brittany’s unconditional love was often rewarded with a hunk of pizza crust or several pieces of popcorn (she’d expertly catch) during our family movie nights.

Many of my most cherished memories, while lounging in my easy chair, involve being snuggly encompassed with my child. There’s nothing quite like the pride I felt as a father when holding my newborn son, so close to my heart, while gently rocking him to sleep. Or a few years later when witnessing my toddler’s wide- eyed curiosity, while cozily on my lap, as he intently watched whatever shenanigans his favorite purple dinosaur was up to, during episodes of Barney & Friends emanating from our television screen.

Fast forward twenty-some years to a more recent memory I have of my adult son when he came to visit his very cool parents one weekend. He’s a fan of the old gal, too, so he’s frequently chomping at the bit to inhabit her. My respectful son is pretty good about asking me if he can seize control of my La-Z-Boy, before just plopping down, so I almost always say yes to his request. Just as predictable as my answer, is my son’s propensity to be snoring within only a few minutes of settling in. One time I found myself chuckling out loud after noticing my kid all sprawled out and making use of every inch, and then some, of my chair’s lounging capacity. Seeing my boy’s 6’3″ frame overflowing the parameters of my recliner was a sight to behold.

Although my son now lives over a thousand miles away, my mauve mate unexpectedly, but pleasantly, reminded me of him just the other day. I had flipped over my La-Z-Boy, as I’ve been doing from time to time, to see if somehow my mechanically uninclined self could find a cure for my ailing chair. No such luck again, of course, but on this particular day something trickled out from one of the rusty springs underneath the chair. It was a small, black strip of something somewhat familiar. Upon further investigation, I concluded that the small piece of plastic adhesive probably came from a handheld label maker my son used to own long ago. I turned the black label over to find only a single word imprinted on it – although it was a wonderful surprise! The one word was just the name of my son, but the seemingly insignificant label was much needed at the time (I was missing my boy) and is now my newest treasured possession. The old gal is the gift that keeps on giving.

So, with everything we’ve been through together, why am I now suddenly concerned about the remaining longevity of my mauve mate, and why am I even considering putting her out to pasture? Probably because my rocker recliner no longer rocks and she can barely recline anymore. The shape of my chair has slowly morphed into something only resembling that of a chair. And just the other day, while attempting to recline, I heard a “pop” as my La-Z-Boy immediately tilted to one side. I hesitantly turned her over to find a small piece of broken wood laying on the carpet. That can’t be good.

My left butt cheek now sits about two inches lower than my right one when I’m all nestled in my chair. The silver lining though is that the new angle relieves a bit of pressure off my ailing right hip, and I’m now even closer to my crossword puzzles and any snacks or beverages that may find their way onto the nearby end table. To be sure, there are a few stains here and there on my La-Z-Boy, but my adored chair does not stink, and there are no holes, rips, or tears in the upholstery to be found. Not too shabby I reckon for something that has shared in my daily experiences, and has seen me through thick and thin, for nearly three decades. I suppose I’m no longer at a loss as to what to do about my La-Z-Boy rocker recliner. I’m keeping the old gal!