Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017.12 Inheritance

Today's post is another guest post, because, clearly, I am slow to get original content out there in a timely manner.  Today's Blogger is Candace Halbrook Fowler.  When I knew her at OBU she went by Kami and sang in chorale and stood next to Heather Cook.  Years later when she sent me a friend request on the facebooks I had to ask Heather, do I know this chica?  Heather reminded me that she had probably, at countless performances, stood next to Candy/Kami and said, "look, Judson and Kathleen are here, no, over there, sitting together. No, they are "not dating" still."  

Post OBU Candace used her considerable music talents to marry Brian Fowler and start a family of 5.  I am pretty sure there are a few more than that, but they stopped counting at 5.  Recently, in a move that surely shocked the nations, and the alumni organization, Candace became a Methodist. What's more? She is in seminary, and recently preached her first sermon (excluding the ones she has been preaching to her children for years).  I say all of this tongue in cheek because I love to give Candy a hard time, but honestly, I am excited for this new path for her. I also cannot help but wonder, if the structure and patriarchy and baptistness at OBU had been different, had other options even been available, what might Candy have done?

Recently I was asked to think on something that I inherited from a family member. The inheritance could be a possession, a habit, or physical characteristic. Thinking…Thinking... My friend shared that she was thankful for her singing abilities. Another was thankful for his straight teeth and the propensity to avoid cavities. My mind ran through all the different choices I could voice. I finally settled on one. For me, the answer was not as important as the process of choosing. For in this thought process I realized that I have little to claim as my own. So much of who I am today is from the influence and gifts of others. Talents given, information gleaned, habits formed; all learned in the shadows of others who have loved me and poured into me. I have spent countless hours at the feet of those I love, learning from their wisdom and ways. Even the lessons I have learned from pain and heartache come from time spent with others, if only for a chance to know how I would act differently when the decision was mine to make. A brush against distaste calls me to do better. Again, I cannot do this without knowledge from someone else. Again, I inherit. The culmination of who I am comes from the good and bad gained from a life spent with others. For me, this brought a feeling of thankfulness. Thankfulness for the talents I enjoy, habits I put into practice, and difficult lessons that eked a change in my life.

What have you inherited? Is it your mother’s gift of storytelling, your uncle’s gift of laughter, or a friend’s patience? Will you be eating on china that was passed through the family, sitting on a chair where your father always sat or donning your youngest in the hand-me-downs of an older sibling? Or maybe you’ll play the piano and remember your loved one playing the same Christmas carols or perhaps a niece’s laughter from the other room will remind you of her mother or yours. Inheritance. In the words of John Donne: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” We all are the culmination of the goods and bads inherited from a life with others, inherited from those who have gone before.

So, as you gather 'round your table this Christmas, be thankful. Be thankful for what you love and what you don’t because it is all part of you. And the essence of who you are will be an inheritance to someone else


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017.11 Happy Happy Hanukkah!

***Full disclosure.  I sat down to type this up last night, and then promptly fell asleep on the couch.  So, yeah, falling more and more behind every day, but here we go…

Tonight is the first night of the festival of lights.  If you observe, I hope you are with family and eating your heart’s content of fried foods.

In a previous incarnation as a big wig in the tanning world I traveling back forth between Denver and Oklahoma City and found myself eating out, often.  One of the restaurants in Denver I frequented was Zaidy’s Deli.  Best Reuben sandwich in Denver, not to mention their German chocolate cake is out of this world.  Maybe not as good as Kathleen’s but better than no German chocolate cake.
So, one particularly rough day in December 2010, when I was missing my family, I stopped by Zaidy’s on my way back to where I was staying.  Traffic was especially bad near city center because they were having a Christmas tree lighting.  I thought I was never going to get to Zaidy’s let alone to the place I was staying.  When I got to the restaurant it was about half an hour from closing, but the usually grouchy waitress welcomed me in, assured me it was no issue, they were staying opened until everyone had eaten.

When she seated me, she did not give me a menu, asking instead, “You want the Rueben right? And latkes of course, its Hanukkah, you are having the latkes” I agreed, although I was not previously aware it was Hanukkah.  When she brought me my dinner she sat at the table and chit chatted with me, pointing out the live feed of the state capital building all lit up for the holidays.  When I finished my mean she brought me a huge piece of German chocolate cake and a handful of chocolate Hanukkah gelt. 

As I paid the bill, and thanked her for a lovely dinner I confessed that I hadn’t realized it was Hanukkah and that I wasn’t even Jewish, she just laughed and said, “It is the first night of Hanukkah everyone is Jewish.”

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2017.10 Tucson memories

I have a theory that time speeds up in relationship to a person’s age.  When I was a child it seemed like Christmas took forever to get here, and now, as an adult, if I am not careful, I still have boxes of Christmas things waiting to be put up and suddenly here it is again.  Yes, there is the whole thing where out lives are busier as adults, and how technology speeds things up even more.  However I am not convinced that somewhere a twisted Dumbledore is spinning a time turner with my name on it.

I was working on a blog entry on Christmas books, and I had this memory I wanted to share from December 1985.  I was a sophomore in HS and I had flown to Tucson to spend Christmas with my Mom.  Jenni had hitched a ride with the youth group at First Christian to take her to Santa Fe to spend Christmas with our Dad. In the middle of all the usual Christmas stuff, my Mom was preparing for the Great Peace March.  If you don’t remember, or perhaps weren’t around in the 80’s it was a   was a cross-country event in 1986 aimed at raising awareness to the growing danger of nuclear proliferation and to advocate for complete, verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons from the earth. The GPM consisted of hundreds of people, began in Los Angeles, CA in February 1986 to walk from L.A. to Washington, D.C,  The group left Los Angeles on March 1, 1986 and arrived in Washington, D.C. on November 15, 1986, a journey of about 3,700 miles, nine months, and many campsites.

Now I have stories for days about that experience, both from my Mom’s perspective and my own, but that is not what I am sharing today,  In order to prepare her for the insane amount of walking she was going to be doing we went on long walks just about every day of my break.  I am not sure how we managed to find the time for this, because surely she was working?  Or maybe she was substitute teaching that year and had winter break like I did? One afternoon we walked down Prince, or maybe Grant, farther than we intended and then the “shortcut” my Mom suggested, was hardly that, and we wound up sitting on the grass at a park recuperating from a walk that had already been 5 miles and we still had to head home. 

So in our park time I showed my mom I could do a back handspring.  Then my Mom told the me the store of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. “Video-o-o-o-o”  and we laughed and hung out until we felt up to finding our way home.  Thing is, I can remember what I was wearing, levi 501’s, the surf ghandi tshirt, a long sleeve grey sweatshirt and a sleeveless bright blue sweatshirt with mickey mouse faces on the front, grey saucony running shoes.  I can remember what my mom was wearing, long sleeve generic yellow jersey with #88 on it, denim overalls, and brown hiking boots. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we talked about, besides the mad max movie. 

I miss my Mom, of course, and her sense of humor, and mostly I miss having long conversations with her about clearly very important topics. 

2017.9 Throwback Movies

Yes I know I missed a day yesterday.  I had plans on what I was going to post, and then I also needed to do laundry, and then there were two parties to go to, and some imbibing of grownup drinks and then I came home and, well, what is a polite term for passed out on the couch? In any case, I am a day behind and it is just December 10th. Anyone betting on if I can get caught up?
As you may know my oldest son Paul works at Harkins Bricktown Theater here in Oklahoma.  Occasionally they show older movies, “throwback movies”.  Typically they show the vintage movies on Tuesday nights.  Through the end of this month however, every Tuesday and every Saturday they are screening some holiday classics.  I am disappointed that I have already missed Love Actually, Polar Express, and White Christmas, but I am looking forward to the rest of this month’s choices
  • Tuesday December 12th     Christmas Vacation
  • Saturday December 16th     Elf
  • Tuesday December 19th     Home Alone
  • Saturday December 23rd    It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Tuesday December 26th     Die Hard

The Tuesday night showings are usually at 7pm, and the Saturday shows are 10am. The best part? These special screenings are only $5. So if you are looking for something low key, but still festive to do during the holidays, this is a great choice.

Friday, December 8, 2017

2017.8 Wassail to You!

Like many churches, our church has a traditional Christmas eve service, and we also a time before the service affectionately called a ‘Christmas sampler’ where church members bring cookies or candies from home to share and the church provides coffee and warm wassail (pay attention that is important).  

Now the very first time we visited the church it was Easter, but the second time we visited, with Kathleen’s parents, was Christmas eve. As is my habit I carefully selected festive attire for both boys.  If I remember correctly Matthew was 3 and Paul was 6 and Matthew wore navy blue pants with an oxford blue dress shirt and a blue and green sweater vest, (the pants and shirt were the ones Paul wore to my sister Jennifer’s wedding weekend, the sweater vest was a Christmas concession).  Paul wore black cargo pants, and an oxford blue dress shirt with an orange and navy blue sweater, (hand-me-down pre-loved from his cousin Baby Scott). 

Cute Picture but not of the years I mentioned.

Now all this fashion talk aside, we were there maybe 15 minute, Matthew had 2 cookies, and then spilled the hot wassail on his lap.  I quickly got him in the bathroom, out of the pants and got cool water on it to prevent a burn, and once we knew he was ok, I bundled him up, pants less in my coat and took him home and changed his clothes.  This time he wore navy corduroy pants and a red turtleneck.  We made it back just in time for the church service.

By the following year we were attending regularly, and looking forward to Christmas eve, and Matthew was looking forward to the Christmas cookies he felt he had missed out on because of the whole hot wassail accident. Christmas Eve came, and again, as is my nature I dressed the boys festively.  Matthew wore green slacks, a green shirt and a blue cardigan sweater vest (that he did not like, but that Paul had loved when it fit him).  There was some good natured joking that I should pack a change of clothes for Matthew, ha-ha. But surely he wouldn’t make the same blunder two years in a row?

Nope, 15 minutes in, one cookie eaten and then a lapful of hot wassail.

I asked my Matthew about this last night, and he had this to add—According to him, anyone who has ever been to our church on a Christmas eve knows, it is not Christmas if you do not have a blistered and burned mouth and throat from wassail that is way hotter that it has any right to be.  Who needs to drink something that hot?  Coffee is not that hot, Tea is not that hot.  Why does wassail have to be served at a temperature hotter than the surface of the sun? No one knows.  But it always is.

Matthew said the reason he spilled both years is the same.  He ate a cookie, took a sip of hot wassail and then, “OH NO! FIRE! FIRE IN MY MOUTH!!! AHHH!!! SO HOT! PANIC!” followed by the loss of control in his hands and feet, causing him to stumble and let go of his cup of lava. Then “Wait, What? NO NO NO! MY PANTS ARE ON FIRE! MY LEG! MY LEG! ITS BURNING! I HAVE HOT WASSAIL LAVA ON MY SKIN!!!!!”

His version of the memory had me crying, literal tears of laughter. You know what they say, from the mouth of babes…

***disclaimer, this post in no way is meant as a slight to David Swenson, the former church chef who is rightly adored or his loyal volunteers, it is just some serious hot wassail is all. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017.7 Hallmark channel

So here we are, December 7 and it is starting to feel like winter here in Oklahoma.  It is COLD.  To make matters more enjoyable I have been sick.  I thought I was just down for a day, but as I look at my phone I realize I missed 3 days of work.  Where has the time gone?  I have done a super human amount of sleeping.  Hours and hours of sleeping.  Last night I reached a point where I could not sleep anymore.

Like any red-blooded American male, I did the only logical thing, and I turned on the television.  I watched some NCIS, got bored, then deleted dozens of shows off of the dvr,  Why as we still recording series when we have seen all the episodes?  I tried some food network, but even the sight of food had a negative effect on my stomach.  So I channel surfed, and as much as I am reluctant to admit it, I settled on the hallmark channel with its specific non-stop heavy handed sentimental romantic Christmas movies.

I know, I know, I have been chiding, no, harassing Texas Jay for overdosing on hallmark Christmas movies starting back in November.  So go ahead, judge me. I admit it. I can see its heavy handed, and contrived and cute, but at the same time… Can I blame it on the cold medicine? 

Because I do not for a minute believe in all that Hollywood happy ending gingerbread and whipped cream.  I know deep down that the holidays can be hard.  Feel free to review last year’s blog entries for proof of that.  I know that no amount of hope is going to magically change that.  This whole year has been a very long climb out of a dark place.

So keep all of that in mind when I say forgive me if for just a little while I indulge in this Christmas nonsense? Besides I often wonder what happened to Dermot Mulroney, Danny Glover and Joan Cusack.   

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017.6 Jolabokaflod

Apparently in Iceland there is a Christmas tradition of gifting loved ones with books on Christmas eve, then everyone goes to bed and reads and snacks on chocolate. I freaking love this!  Just imagine snuggling in and getting to read until you fall asleep, instead of late night gift wrapping and stocking stuffing and getting ready for tommorrowing?

So from what I have read the tradition goes back to post WW2 when paper was cheap so publishers would flood the market with books right before Christmas. Now, I am certain that giving books is not unique to Iceland, the part where you get to spend the rest of the evening reading them is priceless.  No wonder 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime. 

Now, I have never been to Iceland, and this certainly isn’t my tradition, although you never know… It does remind me of the first year Kat and I were married.  I was still in college, and Kat had just graduated.  I don’t remember everything she bought for me, but I do recall that she purchased me several books, and I gave her several in return.  One night, over Christmas break, we had gone to bed early, mostly because it was cold and we had an electric blanket and no central heating.  Around midnight I rolled over and discovered Kat was awake too.  I don’t know whose suggestion it was, but I do know we spent the next couple of hours reading our books and snacking on leftover lemon cake that Elizabeth Norman had made.  That may not be how it is supposed to work, but I certainly remember that evening and that experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

So if you are a reading type, and you should be, and I guess even if you are not a reading type, but you are looking for a good gift, I am going to put it out there that books are amazing gifts.  I was going to put a plug here for Fawkes Press books, aka my side hustle, but just figured out the website is undergoing some technical difficulties. So Yeah! Books!  Boo Hiss Technology

2017.12 Inheritance

Today's post is another guest post, because, clearly, I am slow to get original content out there in a timely manner.  Today's Blog...