Gloom, despair and agony on me

In the wake of the USA World Cup team’s defeat at the hands (feet) of the Ghanaians, I’m pretty much in a funk. 

Excitement about the World Cup had gone a long way in pulling me out of the depression left by the decision to put off hope of moving to Tacoma this summer.  And I was bouyed up by the anticipation of a visit from the grandkids later in the summer.

Yesterday, we even had a little rain shower and the temperature didn’t get much above 90 or 95 deg.  That was a grace and a blessing in and of itself, but today, it’s hot and dry again, there’s no World Cup left for the USA, and I’m feeling really blue.

Gloom, despair and agony on me.

Summer Fun

We’ve been working out how we can have the grandkids for a while this summer.  I think we’ve got it worked out now. 

On July 3rd we’ll drive from Dallas to Vicksburg, MS, and meet Bill and Ian at the Cracker Barrel. 

We’ll bring Ian back to Dallas with us, and, hopefully, he’ll have a good time just hanging out, going out to lunch with us, and maybe we’ll take a day and go out to Abilene to see the Airpark with all the static displays of aircraft.

We’ll also probably take him to one of the water parks here in Dallas.  There’s a nice city-owned one at Campbell Green that he’s familiar with.

Then on Friday, July 9th, Ian and I will board the Texas Eagle and ride to San Antonio.  We’ll check into a motel and sometime in the wee hours of the morning, his father and Kate will arrive on the Sunset Limited from New Orleans.  They’ll make their way to the hotel and fall into bed.

On Saturday, we’ll sleep late, spend a little pool time, have lunch, rest up, pool again, and then in the afternoon, we head to the Riverwalk, and ride around on one of the Water Taxis.

We may have an opportunity to visit the Alamo (Ian has been, but I don’t think Kate has).

 

Finally, at midnight, Ian and Bill will board the Sunset Limited back to New Orleans, and Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m. (I know, that’s early), Kate and I will board the Texas Eagle and ride back to Dallas.

I hope we can find things to do to entertain her, although we’ll probably make a trip to the Dallas Museum of Art, and a couple of visits to Campbell Green.  (She’s familiar with it, too!)

Then on July 17th we’ll do the Vicksburg, MS, trip again, and deliver Kate back to her dad.

I think the kids will really enjoy themselves, and I know Al and I will be totally exhausted by the time they go.

Hope

The Apostle Paul says:  “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)  I’ve been really reminded of the latter part of this phrase, particularly yesterday, particularly in the world of sports.

I’m not real sure about the suffering part (although I believe the players and team suffered mightily through the years and years of practice they put in to bring them to yesterday). 

What I am sure about is the endurance and character that allowed the USA team to keep trying, keep hoping, and keeping doing their best in order to pull out a must-have goal to win their group against Algeria in the World Cup 1-0 in added time.

And what about that unbelievable Wimbledon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahout that lasted three days and went for 138 games in the 5th set of their match.

Now that’s endurance, fueled only by character that lead to the hope of eventually winning.  And it’s obvious that Mahout had just as much character and hope as Isner had.  Both of those players undoubtedly suffered long hours of practice in awful weather, to get to the place where they could keep it up for the 11 hours on the court.

What can I say about the TCU Baseball team who were losing 7-3 to Florida State in the 8th inning of their game in the College World Series?

Instead of giving up, they drew on the endurance and character they developed by suffering through long hours for practice, and many, many games to pull off an 8-run inning winning by the score of 11-7, to advance to the semi-final game with UCLA.  Their hope of a title is alive and well.

Now I know that God doesn’t step in and affect the outcome of any sporting contest (Friday night coach’s prayers to the contrary).  But that doesn’t mean we, as Christians, can’t take a lesson from these events where athletes pull victory from the jaws of defeat. 

In the baseball movie “For the Love of the Game”, Kevin Costner plays Billy Chappell, an aging pitcher on the verge of retirement, who finds himself in the bottom of the 9th inning of a perfect game.  He’s old and his shoulder is aching.  He was once a great pitcher.  His team has been sold, and he’s been told he’s going to be traded at the end of the season.   Standing alone on the mound, he prays this little prayer, “Lord, you know I promised never to involve you in something as trivial as a baseball game, but if you could see your way to clear to take away the pain in my arm for just a half an hour, I would surely appreciate it.”

And isn’t that what we all want and pray for, just a little strength, just a little more endurance, just a little more hope to get us through to the end?

Falling behind

I’ve been busy the last two days.  We made a flying (no airplane – just 70 mph car) trip to Shreveport/Bossier to the commissary.  We needed toilet paper, and laundry soap (and just about everything else in the freezer) so we bit the bullet and went.  It was  profitable trip, both for the improved prices at the commissary and for the trip to the casino.  We (Big Al – not me, I don’t like to grocery shop) go to the commissary about once every 6 weeks.  We take the ice chest and stock up on meat, frozen vegatables, canned goods, laundry supplies, paper goods, etc.  We’ve been trying to empty out the freezer and eat up what’s in the pantry in anticipation of moving, but we found that we had been really successful at eating everything up, but we still haven’t moved.  Soooooo, to Shreveport we went.

I always go with Al because he gets very bored on long drives (this one takes about 3 hours on a good day), and tends to drift off to sleep.  So I go to help with the driving and to keep him company.  I also go to play the slot machines at the Horseshoe Casino.  Fortunately we have done this for so long and so regularly, I’ve become a “good customer” and I get special perks like cheap (or sometimes even free) rooms for overnight, and sometimes, free breakfast.  It works for me.  I have a limit for my losses that I take out of my discretionary entertainment budget, and every now and then, I win enough to make it pretty well worth while.  

I took my $100 for the evening down to the casino on Monday evening, and played the slot machines.  They were paying off pretty well, and I ended the night with the same money I had when I went in.  Four hours of entertainment for free.  You can’t beat that with a stick.

Then yesterday morning, while Al went to the commissary, I decided to play roulette.  I put down $100, and I figured I’d leave, either when it was gone, or when it was 11:30 (when Al was supposed to pick me up).  Well, I won!  When I cashed in at 11:15 I had $300 bucks.  You can’t beat that!  We paid for the groceries with my winnings, and we got a nice supper, night in a first-class hotel, and breakfast in the deal.

It doesn’t always happen that way, but it does, just often enough, to keep going.

Papa

(This is the eulogy I gave at my father’s funeral.  He died in May 2008 at the ripe old age of 96.)

Papa’s obituary was correct and factual and in that way it matched him.  He was an engineer, and he was nothing if not correct and factual.

For those of you who are touchy-feely personalities, you probably thought it was terribly dry, and you don’t really have a feeling for the man whose life I honor today.

But correct and factual actually embodies him better than many of the other things I can say about him.  That’s not to say he was uncaring, or cold – unless you think the rock your life is built on is uncaring or cold. 

To me, he was strong, solid, dependable, deep, supporting, and faithful – qualities I’d opt for any time over sweet, sentimental, emotional, sensitive and demonstrative.

I remember in the movie “Love Story”, the main character was estranged from his father, and said “My father never wrote letters to me, he sent Memos”.  When we heard that my sisters and I looked at each other and said, “So???”  Papa used to always send us memos in school.

To:  Abbie

From:  Papa

Re:  Funds

Do you need any?  How are your grades?

Love, Papa

Mama was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1993.  Papa took over running the house as Mama became less and less able to keep up with things.  But he didn’t do it like a woman would, he did it like an Engineer with schedules, and flow charts, and checklists.  And he never complained.  He didn’t take up cooking, he took up shopping for microwavable dinners.

  He let Mama keep doing the wash – because it was one of the things she could still manage, until the day she emptied the trash into the clothes washer and started it running.  Papa was taking a nap in his recliner in front of a baseball game when he heard a terrible rattling and clanging coming from the laundry room.  Empty bottles and cans were agitating in the washer!  But he didn’t fuss.  He just cleaned out the machine, and put a lock on the sliding door.  He continued to care for her at home until the sibs and I finally convinced him that it wasn’t doing either one of them any good.

He was a great tease and kidder.  It is one of the things that never left him, even at the end of his life.  Clara, one of nurses in the health care unit, said a few days before he died, he was semi-conscious, and she had just finished taking his blood pressure.  She leaned over him to straighten the linens on the other side of the bed and suddenly he popped his eyes open and said “Boo!”  Then he just grinned.

As an engineer, he always loved to stick his head under the hood of any car around. 

That’s Papa with two son-in-laws, two grandsons, and his only son.

When Ray was just 2 months old, I became gravely ill.  Al and I were still in college – Al was about to graduate – we had NO money – we didn’t know what to do.  So Al put Ray and me on an airplane and shipped us back home.  I ended up in the hospital for three weeks, Mama was working at a new job, so during that time, Papa took vacation from work and stayed home to take care of the new baby. 

I don’t know many grandfathers who thought their “baby days” were over, who would have done the same, but there was never any question about it with Papa.  He just did what needed to be done.

While we lived in New Jersey, Mama and Papa became friends with one of the preachers at the church and his wife.  Orville and Margaret Austin remained friends for 30 years, even though they moved away in 1963.  They really enjoyed playing bridge – men against the women – because the women claimed the men didn’t really know what they were doing.

I think about 7 o’clock last Monday evening, Orville and Margaret and Mama were gathered in heaven to meet him with the cards already dealt.  “Sit down.  What took you so long?  We’ve been waiting for you for 10 years.”

Papa loved to fish and, although he was a loyal churchman, we occasionally could convince him to take us fishing on Sunday mornings – particularly if he had caught a line full on Saturday.  In Arkansas during the summer the only time the fish will bite is early in the morning – right during church. 

I remember my sister and I convinced him to take us on a float on Little River one Sunday morning from Cerra Gordo, Oklahoma to Little River Country Club.  Someone would drive us up-river where we would put in about dawn, and then we would float back down to the club.  As I said, this was a Sunday morning, and Papa’s conscience must have gotten the better of him, because we did the middle three miles singing “Love Lifted Me”, “Shall We Gather at the River” and all the other good old revival songs at the top of our lungs.  We sang the verses and Papa provided the oompa-pas.

He was my foundation, my rock, my underpinning, my support!  He was my father, and, although we had him many years longer than the biblical three-score years and ten, it was still too short a time.  Someone once said, “You are old when there’s nobody left to whom you are a little girl.”  I miss him.

Hooray! and Well Done!

Ray got a job!  I’m incredibly excited for him.  He’ll be working on a contract basis for United Airlines, helping them recover from outsourcing their IT for the past 8 or 10 years.  If he does well in this contract he could be extended and help them get their IT integrated to whatever airline they gobble up next.  They have apparently learned what folks in the IT world have known for quite a while – nobody takes care of your stuff like your own employees do.  Even though I have one son who works for a firm that fills that position for small companies, I still think a company is better off to have a really competent IT staff and then outsource project work to firms that specialize in that kind of thing.

I went toddling down to the Social Security office today to apply for my retirement benefits.  There was a nice little man who was very helpful and we went over all my options.

If I take my own SS now (age 66) I’ll get about $1,040 a month, or if I want to take payment on Al’s SS, I’ll get about $920, and then I can switch over to my own any time I want to up to age 70.  At age 70, my own SS will be about $1,400.  So when I did the math, I realized I would get about $5,760 less by the time I got to age 70 ($120 per month times 48 months), but I would make it up in 16 months ($5,760 divided by $360 ($1,400 minus $1,040) per month).  Then I’d be $360 ahead per month for the rest of my life.  This deal is apparently only good for the second person who takes Social Security.  My considered advice to all other women (or men) who are retiring at full retirement age after their spouse has already retired is to at least run the numbers.  If you don’t know what to do exactly, send me an e-mail and I’ll be glad to run the numbers for you.

The growly, snarly, snarky part of this post is that the Social Security Administration INSISTS that you have a birth certificate to prove your age.  They won’t take their own records (didn’t ask for it when I went on Medicare last year), or a United States Armed Forces Civilian Identification Card, or a Texas Driver’s license, or ANYTHING other than an official birth certificate.  But the thing of it is, they tell you how to go on line and order a copy of your birth certificate from the state.  And the state will send you one – with your Driver’s License number as the only proof that you are who you’re ordering the birth certificate for.  Huh????  And they (SSA) don’t want to keep your birth certificate after you go to all the trouble to get one – they just want to look at it – because they are going completely paperless.  Seems like it would be much more efficient for them to query the state electronically.  But, hey, what do I know?

Now I’m sure you’re thinking, “Why doesn’t she just take her birth certificate down there?”  Good question.  Remember back in the winter when we thought we could sell the house quickly and be moved and in Tacoma by this time?  Well, all those records got packed up in boxes and they are in a closet somewhere because the realtor didn’t think we ought to have stuff like filing cabinets sitting around when we wanted to sell the house.  They would cause too much clutter.  AAAaaarrrggghhh!!!!!!

And the hits just keep on coming.

On a totally separate subject, one of the main reasons I want to get out of Texas is that A**HOLE Joe Barton.  Can the Republicans come up with any more totally head-up-the-rear excuses for humanity?  Apologizing for charging BP to clean up their mess!  The very idea!

But Ray has a job and I’m happy!