Walk Headfirst Into Life
Making The Crooked Places Straight
Five Memories of Friday
“My mum always used to buy a record every Friday.”– Elton John
“I’m half Puerto Rican, and every Friday we have rice and beans and chicken in my house – so that’s like a very Latin staple. It’s just so comforting. I look forward to every single Friday because I just can’t wait for my rice and beans and chicken.”–Victoria Justice
“I understand what’s it like to work all week and on Friday night just want to go and leave your brain at the door, buy some popcorn and be thrilled by something.”–Don Cheadle
“Happy Days, which we did for 11 years, we did with three cameras in front of a live audience. Very special. We had a party every Friday night. The boys, Ron, Henry, they grew up on that show.”– Marion Ross
“That smell of freshly cut grass makes me think of Friday night football in high school. The smell of popcorn and cigar smoke reminds me of the stadium. The cutting of the grass reminds me of the August practice.”– Garth Brooks
The Heat Is On*
In a few hours, it will be 95 degrees. I dare not doubt the weatherman’s forecast, as I just left the pre-noon outdoors, and it was already volcano-lava-hot. Any exercise must be done in the wee small hours these days.
Despite getting only three hours of sleep last night, and despite the forecast of a Martha Reeve’s heatwave, I donned my jogging apparel, headed to the local soccer park, and began climbing the hills around the perimeter.
Perhaps the path was once grassy, but now it is a knobby rubble of limestone, ripe for ankle injuries and displaced hips. Save a lone runner wearing what appeared to be a long-sleeved shirt made of shimmery black Glad trash bags ( a self-sauna?), I had the path to myself.
As I ascended, I passed evening primroses, Indian paintbrushes, and daisies, bending into candy cane shapes in the 20+ mph winds. I cinched my ballcap tighter, to the point where I almost felt I was being birthed again. Small white butterflies suddenly appeared, staying two steps ahead of me, swerving about like hybrid cars steered by texting teenagers. There must have been a half dozen of them, apparently delighted by spring. So, too, was I, inhaling the syrupy scent of wafting chinaberry blossoms. I love me some chinaberry trees!
Nearby excavators kicked up limestone dust, as they prepared yet another new subdivision, rising like weeds around here. I turned away, shielding my eyes from the dust, avoiding a head-on collision with a shrubby mesquite tree, and noticing my butterfly friends had departed.
The ridge was steep, and my quads ached, but I thought of our friends at church who do marathons in wheelchairs, and, of course, I always think of Nick Vujicic, the motivational speaker who has no limbs. It hasn’t stopped him from enjoying the beach with his wife and son.
When I got to the top, I took in the sight of rooftops stretching to the horizon. There I was, queen of all I surveyed, lording over the peasant village. It felt good, being so high above other things, looking down on the soccer fields, the tennis courts, the swimming pool (getting freshly-chlorinated), and the parking lots. Perspective changes everything.
I jogged my hour, and that was enough. I didn’t want to. But I was glad I did. Did it burn off the calories I ate in a handful of raw pistachios this morning? Probably not. But sometimes Nike is right. Just do it.
* not to be confused with another cattier post, The Heat Is Not On, Glenn Frey.
Mint Is Busting Out All Over
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
April (minus the ominous dark clouds and lightning that never once lead to a drop of precipitation but simply pass over us like the Jake Ryans of the world to the wallflowers at a high school dance) is lovely. As you can see, I have more mint than I can shake a stick at. I doubt I’ll use it for more than one glass of iced tea. What I will eat, and what my best friend and I called “pickles” in our childhood, are these little sour cones:
I don’t know what they are, but I know you can eat them (pesticide-free!), and you won’t die. Other than that, my plant knowledge is limited. I would never make it on Naked and Afraid. I lack any survivor skills, and rather than try to determine which mushrooms are edible and non-toxic, and knowing I’m bound for eternal glory, I would simply shuffle off this mortal coil and head toward heaven’s brunch buffet. Surely they have migas!
However, while I remain in this mortal body, I have already spent (statistically) half of my years–which means half of my Aprils are gone, and that is a shame. Perhaps heaven is eternally April? But then I would miss my Octobers…
The Best Part Of Waking Up
The best part of waking up is not Folger’s in your cup; it’s not being dead. I average about four hours of sleep per night, so I am never fully-rested, fully-cognizant, or fully-functioning. It is one of many thorns in my side. But I keep waking up each morning, before the sun, before the rooster crows, still breathing and being alive.
In the time it’s taken you to read this, about 100 people have died. Yep, approximately 6000 per hour.
So consider yourself lucky! If you’re still here, you’ve still got a mission to accomplish. Maybe it’s tackling that in-box. Maybe it’s chores. Maybe it’s fighting an illness. Maybe it’s a kind word to build someone up today, or just putting one foot in front of the other. But you’re not still sitting here, converting oxygen into carbon dioxide, for nothing. My guess is you’ll make it to the next minute as well. Hey, that’s better than the 200 people who died since you clicked on this post. Cheers to life, buddy! Get another cup of coffee (free trade, fair trade, or whatever) and enjoy the morning.
Meeting The Challenge
Today we have a guest blogger named Mat, who shares with us his amazing weekend in McAllen, Texas last week, accompanying his friend as part of Challenged Sportsmen of America, Inc.:
Almost 9 years ago, I became friends with a guy named Brian.
I met Brian through a mutual friend. A few of us were recently divorced, added to the fact that we all liked cold beer and cooking out, made for a group of friends that were always together. My first date with with my (now) wife was a night of karaoke with some of these guys. Brian and I had a special connection. He was always a calm, level kind of guy that operated on logic and wisdom. Many late nights talking over a cold beer happened between he and I. He is my brother, and he always will be.
The last time this group of guys and I hunted together was 3 years ago this month on the Breckenridge lease. Later that year, Brian was found to have a cyst on his cerebral cortex that had to be removed. What was supposed to be a simple procedure, ended up inducing a stroke and changing Brian’s life. He and his wife, Mary, both have daughters, and they had just had their son. The obstacles and trials for this family had just begun. The last three years have been filled with tears, triumphs, therapy, treatments and milestones.
Fast forward to this year. On one of their many flights, Mary and Brian met a guy named Chad. Chad became a paraplegic after an automobile accident when he was 19 years old. I don’t know all the details, but at some point, Chad told Mary about Challenged Sportsmen of America, Inc. and the work they do for Sportsmen/women to get them back into the field and on the water, doing what they enjoyed. A couple of months ago, Mary contacted me and told me about the CSA Wing & Water weekend and asked me if I would be willing to accompany Brian for the weekend. Obviously, my answer was a YES!
Last Friday morning, I drove to the McAllen airport to pick up Brian and begin our weekend with CSA. Neither of us really knew what to expect. We were the “newbies” this year–Brian as the challenged sportsman, I as his able body (AB). We knew we would hunt and fish and have aids and opportunities specifically for people in Brian’s position, but we didn’t really know more than that.
We soon learned that we were entering a family of some of the most amazing people on the planet. Not just the challenged individuals, but also the volunteers and donors to this organization. We got some of the best dove hunting I have ever seen, incredible food and wholesome fellowship.
This group includes those with various types of limitations , as well as volunteers who give up 3 days of their lives to make a difference for someone and experiences that words can’t even describe.
This is Cody, a blind man, who was a former body building coach who lost his vision, but didn’t let it stop him. One of his former students was his AB, and they had devised an intricate system of verbal commands combined with touch to get him on to targets that he can’t even see. I got the opportunity to visit with this man quite a bit. He didn’t even flinch when I approached and asked, “So exactly HOW do you dove hunt?” He was one of the happiest, most genuine people I have ever encountered.
I overheard him talking to someone else as he was telling them his secrets to life:
1) No whining or complaining, EVER.
2) Spend at least 5 minutes per day focusing on God.
3) Spend at least 5 minutes per day giving undivided attention to someone else.
4) Spend at least 5 minutes per day giving undivided attention to yourself.
Seems simple, yet I know I don’t meet this goal every day. During the skeet shoot, he busted 3 clays and continued to shoot a handful of dove over the weekend. No excuses, no whining.
This incredible guy has lived with birth defects that make simple tasks impossible for the average person. He doesn’t have hands like you and I. At the end of his arms are flesh that no way resembles hands. The same condition affected his legs, causing him to require prosthetic legs. If the fact that he retrofitted his shotgun to enable him to hold onto it and function it wasn’t enough, the fact that he built a T-bucket street rod and holds an active pilot’s license should impress all of us. He is heading up a new division of his company, called enabled.org, which puts challenged and disabled people in contact with companies and their products that make major differences in how they do things- from sporting goods to daily life essentials. My company, Round 2, will be working with him in the near future on a couple of projects, and I am excited. It makes me think of my own training and students….after what I’ve been privileged to witness, there really are NO excuses!
Most importantly, Brian was smiling. It was a long weekend, full of activities. He tired and over-stimulated quickly, and the responsibility of making sure he was taken care of and comfortable was tiring for me as well. I got a taste of what his wife does on a daily basis, and I gained new respect for her. She admitted, “This road has been hard , long , and accompanied with many challenges, not only for Brian, but also for ALL that have lived him. I couldn’t have ever said “I do” without loving him unconditionally . He is my Rock- and our journey is filled with God’s gracious love, and I look forward to what will continue to unfold for our journey.”
I saw firsthand how simple tasks that I regularly take for granted are much more taxing on him, and I gained new respect for him and his strength. Not only did we get to hunt together again, but we got to share even more. We got to laugh together again as “the guys” for the first time in 3 years. We got to hang out and sip a cold beer together, go hunting, go fishing and share memories. Brian has come a long way, and he is still moving. Parts of his memory are cloudy and missing pieces. On Saturday, he asked me when I was going to tie the knot with my wife. When I told him we were already married and reminded him that he was drunk at our reception and eating the flowers off the cake, the memory came back and he was able to fill in the gaps. We filled in a lot of gaps this last weekend, and it was good. I freaking love that guy.
No less important are the countless volunteers and donors to this organization. Aside from actually getting to McAllen, participants are given an all expenses-covered weekend. All meals, lodging and activities are free of charge. Even ammo for the hunt and drinks/snacks are provided. This is all made possible by generous donors who care enough to get challenged and disabled sportsman back in the field. Every need was provided and any special needs were addressed by a top notch committee that has been making this event successful for 18 years and counting.
Everyone who attended won something during the weekend. Prizes, gifts, raffles–everyone was a winner. Brian was the lucky winner of a 150-160 class whitetail cull buck hunt on the Shipp Ranch near Laredo (His super lucky AB gets to go with him!). This is a once-in-a-lifetime trophy hunt by most of our standards- all expenses paid. Several other hunts were given away, along with a multitude of prizes.
I have committed to making this an annual tradition for Brian and me, and I am already excited for next year. I have also committed to being a part of this amazing organization through donation, fundraising and volunteering. In the event that Brian couldn’t make it one year for whatever reason, I’ll be there as a volunteer. I have never met a more genuine, down-to-earth group of people who treat each other better than family and refuse to accept limitations and let anything hold them back.