Down On the Farm: Hey! Jameson here. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the official Farm Dog for Opal’s Farm. Every farm needs a dog to make sure everything flows smoothly. My human, Greg, he may be the farm manager but I’m the one who keeps it on track. That is just what I do!
Being as farm dog is hard work.
First thing in the morning I patrol the perimeter. We started with an acre and
it makes for a long walk. Next season we’ll be enlarging the garden, with more
of our five acres cultivated. That may be more to patrol but I’m up for it.
Sometimes I go well beyond the confines of the farm. I’ll take off down Trinity Trail and Greg inevitably yells “Jameson” every time I get out of sight. Having my quiet stroll interrupted gets on my nerve, but I know Greg can’t do his job without my supervision…
Then I take a hike through the
underbrush around the farm. You know, make sure no uninvited guests or other
pesky critters are about. We’ve had a bout with furry little long-tailed
rodents eating holes in the cantaloupe and watermelon. I’m proud to report that
several melons have been saved due to the diligence of yours truly.
After all that work, I get to enjoy a nap in the shade of the truck or, even better, take a bath in the Trinity River. It’s usually a short one though. There’s work to be done and if I don’t keep an eye on things, who will?
I love it when volunteers come to
work at Opal’s Farm. All those extra hands get so much done! I really stay on
guard when they’re there. I love our volunteers!
I hope you come to see us at Opal’s
Farm. We’re doing great things and would love for you to be a part of it all.
Besides, volunteers mean more people to scratch my ears…
I better get off for now. My human
is coming and it’s off to the farm. See you soon!
I took a break over the last few weeks due to the heat. I guess that is why they call them the “dog days of summer”. Don’t worry though. Now that Fall is finally be here, I’ll be a fixture at the farm. My human, Greg, did a good job during the hottest days of summer heat but I know he missed my wit and wisdom…
By the way, I forgot to mention you can contribute to Opal’s Farm at http://www.unityunlimited.org or through our Facebook page. To volunteer, simply go to our website, click on Opal’s Farm page and then click on the sign up to volunteer button. See ya!
Thoughts from the Porch: Summer is officially here. The
summer equinox is in the rear-view mirror. The days will grow shorter though no
one will notice (or care) for the next three months. While we normally
experience summer drought, this year has kept the rains coming into June. We
had another huge thunderstorm last night. It’s the third Sunday in a row for
North Texas. I am eternally grateful for the rain as we’re still working on
irrigation for the farm. I could do without the straight-line winds though.
I’ll be clearing out tree limbs for the next couple of hours…
I had the privilege of attending my first Spartan race this Saturday at AT&T Stadium (Home of the Dallas Cowboys or “Jerryworld” as it’s known locally). I didn’t realize what a big deal a Spartan race is. The fact they were holding it at the stadium should’ve been a clue. There were folks from all over the country racing Saturday. The first competitors started early in the morning and they were still starting racers when I left at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.
My oldest son, Adrian, started running and working out regularly again. Last month he ran his first 5K in twenty years and finished first in his age group. I was proud of him and quite impressed! Saturday he was more concerned about simply finishing and helping other team members than where he placed in the race. I’m far more impressed by his heart than I am by his race time.
He formed a team with several other guys that shared the same race coach for the day. Although they hadn’t meet each other before the race, they bonded as a team and helped one another through a grueling race and obstacle course. One of the team members struggled and fell farther behind than the others. Finally, the rest of the team had to press forward, leaving him behind with the team coach. The other members went on to complete the course.
Adrian crossed the finish line and we celebrated together.
Then he returned to the field to join the rest of his team look for the one runner
still on the course. When he entered the field from the punishing run up and
down the stairs at AT&T Stadium his team members were there to cheer him
Then an amazing thing happened…
The other team members joined him on the course to complete
the final obstacles alongside him. It may not seem like a big deal, but
understand, these guys had already completed the course. They were tired and
sore. Most importantly, they didn’t have to do it. They ran through the
remaining three obstacles and crossed the finish line together – as a team!
None of these guys had met before Saturday. The only thing
they had in common was the Spartan coach they’d each paid extra for. Still,
they became a real team. They were there for each other; the perfect example of
Running and racing is generally thought of as an
individual, not a team, sport. Adrian and his fellows reminded me one more time
of the importance of teamwork. No one is left behind and forgotten simply because
“I” finished. It’s about finishing together and relying on each other. I
truly am my brother’s keeper and not just at a Spartan race…
I will remember Adrian’s example more than I’ll ever remember his race time. Thank you, Son for the reminder of what’s truly important. Individual accomplishments are great, but team accomplishments, what we do together as a community, mean the most. I’m proud of you, Son!
Thoughts From the Porch: A line of thunderstorms is knocking
on our door this morning. The wind, called an outflow boundary, is the
precursor to the storm that will barge in any second. Jamison the Farm Dog is
huddled beneath my feet, making writing difficult by distancing my fingers from
the keyboard. Thunderstorms are anathema to him. He pants and paces or hides
under my desk to escape the noise. All I can do is reassure him we’ve got it taken
care of and we’d never let anything harm our Jameson.
Today is Margaret’s birthday. Please join me in wishing
my beautiful wife a very happy birthday. I think of myself as one of the most
blessed men in the world. It can’t be easy being married to me, although Margaret
tells me constantly that I’m not difficult. Some days I’m not so sure. I find
myself preoccupied with the daily goings-on of life and fail to stop and enjoy
the company of the best woman I know.
Sometimes I’ll be out and hear other people talk about
their difficulty in relationships. It makes me want to run home and kiss my
wife and tell her how much I love her. I realize what a gift she is in my life.
Our marriage isn’t perfect by any means. We each have our little idiosyncrasies
that cause friction. I’m acutely aware of mine, but to be honest, I can’t think
of any of Margaret’s. I’m sure they are present. They all seem to fade away
when I’m with her.
I used to think that wasn’t normal, that our relationship was too comfortable. I’d hear others speak of their struggles in their marriage or cohabitation. People would talk about how much work their relationship. Everyone talked about “working” out their marriage. Maybe we were doing something wrong because, quite frankly, I can count on less than one hand the number of issues we’ve had to deal with over the years. I’m sure that they each centered around miscommunication or misunderstanding.
I used to believe we were an anomaly, a blip on the
screen that couldn’t be explained. I thought there was no way anyone would
believe how good our marriage was (and there may not be…). However, I’ve observed
the marriages of our friends and acquaintances, and I’ve seen first hand we’re
not so different after all.
There seems to be one or two constants throughout them
all. The first one is the one my friend Jim told me about. Many years ago, he
asked me if I knew what honor was. The Good Book says to “honor your wife”. What
does it mean? I offered the proper dictionary definition and he laughed. He
said that was nice but didn’t come close. The real definition was… and he drew
in a quick, deep breath. I waited patiently for him to add his definition, but
he just sat there, silent.
“Come on Jim. What’s your definition of honor?”
He again inhaled sharply, “h-h-h-h-h” and fell silent. I was
beginning to get a bit perturbed and asked again to which he gave the same
reply. Now I was ticked off.
I guess he sensed my aggravation because he looked me square
in the eye, took another deep breath, and said “that’s what honor is”.
I sat there a bit perplexed. He went on to explain that
honor was seeing your wife walk in the room and she takes your breath away. It
wasn’t until years later that I really understood what he meant.
Fast forward to March 2nd, 2013 and Jim’s
definition of honor became crystal clear. I was standing in front of many
family and friends next to my Best Man, Edgar, with my brother Craig, the
pastor for the day. Everyone stood and turned to watch Margaret start her walk
down the aisle. She was radiant in her wedding dress, her face beaming. I
inhaled sharply and deeply. She took my breath away…
Fast forward again to April 6th, 2019. Margaret
walks in the room and she still takes my breath away. I can’t believe I am
married to such an incredible woman. I want to honor her in every way possible.
What surprises me is the honor she bestows on me. She makes me a better man.
I’m no marriage counselor but what I know for certain is that
honoring my wife is easy. As a result, our marriage is easy as well. If we are
an anomaly, then so be it. I could spend the rest of my life being different…
So, I wish my wife an unbelievably Happy Birthday. I look forward to sharing many more. I’m not confused my dear – you truly are “my better side” (I hate “half” as we were complete when we joined together) and my best friend. Today I honor you and wish for you a beautiful, joy-filled birthday!
Thoughts From the Porch: I survived the Daylight Savings
time change. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this oddity a bit of
history is in order. It seems that the practice came about during World War I to
extend daylight in the Spring and Summer months to conserve coal for the war
effort. It has remained in effect off and on in the years since. While the US
and most European countries observe Daylight Savings Time, most of the rest of
the world does not. I wish we’d get on board with them.
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has its benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the longer periods of daylight, especially working on the farm. Unfortunately, it has its drawbacks as well. I don’t simply miss an hour of sleep. I tend to lose a whole day. Maybe it’s best that it falls on a Sunday since I can always take a nap.
The Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic says the effects of time change last more than one day though. The effects last five to ten days. Since DST happens twice a year, almost a month is affected. It not only alters sleep patterns, it leads to memory and learning problems, increased heart attack or stroke risks, poor social interaction, and affects overall cognitive performance. If I’m having cognitive issues today, I at least have a temporary excuse. I’m not sure what I can say about the other eleven months…
Daylight Savings Time (DST) has its benefits. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the longer periods of daylight, especially working on the farm. Unfortunately, it has its drawbacks as well. I don’t simply miss an hour of sleep. I tend to lose a whole day. Maybe it’s best that it falls on a Sunday since I can always take a nap. The Center for Sleep Medicine at the Mayo Clinic says the effects of time change last more than one day though. The effects last five to ten days. Since DST happens twice a year, almost a month is affected. It not only alters sleep patterns, it leads to memory and learning problems, increased heart attack or stroke risks, poor social interaction, and affects overall cognitive performance. If I’m having cognitive issues today, I at least have a temporary excuse. I’m not sure what I can say about the other eleven months…
The cognitive issues were obvious this morning. I had a
great morning on the porch. Margaret is still sleeping so I extended my porch
time today. A lone Mockingbird serenaded me from the top of the street lamp;
announcing the coming Spring in song. He (or his kids) always show up when everything
gets ready to bloom and hangs around until the following Winter. I was so excited
I came to write about him and my morning thoughts. I did so until I hit something
on the keyboard that deleted my whole story. Definitely a cognitive issue!
Ss here I sit rewriting this morning’s post. I’m extremely
aware of my occasional Attention Deficit Disorder on mornings like this. I’m
not sure I remember what I wrote in the first place. “Squirrel!” Don’t laugh.
Some of you know exactly what I mean. Oh, I remember now…
I got to spend some time with my brother Craig this weekend.
I don’t get to do that as often as I’d like. I’m often asked why our mother
would name us Craig and Greg, so let me explain.
About eleven years ago, I suffered a couple of cerebral hemorrhages
that left me unable to work. Without health insurance or income, I ended up
losing my house after several months and was staring at imminent homelessness.
I frantically searched for housing programs for people in my position but had
found nothing by move-out day. My friend Craig (he wasn’t my brother yet, but I’ll
explain that in a bit) offered to let me stay at his place for a couple of
weeks while I looked for housing. I left five years later…
Craig and I spent our mornings on his porch or in his
workshop having coffee, praying together, and talking. After a couple of weeks,
Craig asked if I wanted to be his roommate. The coming years led to so much
Men do not often have the kind of relationship Craig and I
have. I have good friends. My parents have passed away, but I have family: my
sister and her family in Georgia whom I love dearly. Still, the bond Craig and
I have is beyond mere friends. I think it hit home when Craig gave me a tobacco
pipe that he handmade in the shop (he’s amazingly talented with wood). I still
have the note that accompanied his gift. It’s taped to my desk so it’s the
first thing I see when I sit down to write. It says,
“Like David and
Jonathan, you are my best friend. This pipe is a token of my love for you.
Enjoy it my friend.”
Before David became the King of Israel, he had come to live
in then King Saul’s house. Jonathan, the King’s son, felt an immediate bond
with David and they became fast friends. King SauI and David went on to become
enemies, but it never changed the friendship between David and Jonathan. Samuel
18 tells us that Jonathan was “totally
committed to David. From that point on he would be David’s number-one advocate
and friend.” Later, “Jonathan, out of
his deep love for David, made a covenant with him. He formalized with solemn gifts:
his own royal robe and weapons…”
I know how richly I’m blessed to have my relationship with Craig. Many people, especially men, fail to foster such deep relationships with others. I won’t pretend to know all the answers why. I’m no relationship expert. Still, I’m filled with gratitude for one who has gone beyond friend to my brother. In the five years that I lived at Craig’s house , we never had a cross word with one another. Not to avoid conflicts, mind you. Peace and serenity are the natural by-products and love and respect.
My sister and I are both adopted. We know what it is to have
a family desire and love you so deeply that you become part of them. I was in
my fifties before I knew that I had an adopted brother. We may not share the same
parents, but we share the same Spirit. I’ve got the pipe to prove it…
Thoughts From the Porch: All is quiet and peaceful on the porch this morning. Everyone else is sound asleep and I get to indulge in extra cups of coffee all to myself. It may sound selfish, but moments like this are few and far between in family life. I intend to relish in the moment, enjoying the quiet and a sunrise hidden by the overcast skies.
Ms. Opal and I were invited to speak to a university class
about Opal’s Farm. It went well. You all know I love to talk about the farm. As
such, I’m rarely intimidated by public speaking. I must admit I was a bit nervous
as the class filled. Things have changed drastically since I was a university
student. There wasn’t an overhead projector to be found. It may sound silly,
but I felt really old. I still
remember how cutting edge it was to type my term papers on a gold old IBM
Selectric typewriter. Heck, I didn’t even bring a Power Point presentation.
Yes, things have changed.
As Ms. Opal and I were walking back across campus to our
vehicle, we spoke of sharing our experience with young people. The students at
TCU were attentive, interested, and engaging. Not all young people are. That’s
I am under no illusions. Young people are better navigating
the technologies available and I’m glad. If it weren’t for my grand-kids I may
never have gotten my phone to work right. Some of you know what I mean. Still,
young folks today tend to neglect the wealth of wisdom that comes from our
elders and that makes me a little sad.
I’m not saying I have any wisdom to impart mind you. Most of
my life has been an example of what not to do. I didn’t start growing up
until I was in my late forties. It wasn’t until then that I began to truly
appreciate my elders.
Appreciating my elders meant I had to spend more time with them. It began with my Mom and kind of spread out from there. Dad had already passed, and Mom was in an assisted living facility here in Fort Worth. I stopped by to check on her several times a week and see if she needed anything. I met the ladies who sat at her table in the dining room and several of the other residents, particularly those who didn’t have frequent visits from outside the facility.
I saw the sheer delight in their eyes as they began sharing
their life experiences and memories with me. It dawned on me that having
someone to listen was all-to-rare for many of them. I’ve found that listening
is not only a gift to them, it’s filled my own life with a wealth of joy.
Try to spend some time with your predecessors today. They
have a wealth of knowledge and experience to impart. Who knows? You might just
make their day, and yours will be blessed beyond imagination…
Thoughts From the Porch: Yesterday
would have been my father’s ninety-third birthday. He passed in 2002 and nary a
day goes by that I don’t miss him. Even after sixteen years there are days when
grief feels overwhelming. I often
stop by the cemetery on my way to and from so I can sit and “talk” to him. It’s
a great way to work through the grief I feel some days.
One can argue that the cemetery is a resting place for the body only. For those that share my religious faith it’s understood that Dad’s spirit probably left that place to go wherever it is that our spirits go after death. It may sound childish, but I believe it’s a place for our spirits to be together.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
says something to the effect that when one with a great soul passes, a strong
wind will begin to blow. I remember stepping outside the hospital to have a smoke
after he had passed. A blustery wind made it almost impossible to light my
cigarette. I was so overcome with grief that I didn’t put two and two together
until a cemetery visit some time later.
On that particular visit, I had
come to read my father a letter I’d written acknowledging the fact that I had
caused a lot of harm while in my active addiction. In my program of recovery,
it’s called “making amends” a cleaning up of the wreckage of my past. Some may doubt
that amends, the process of amending or righting a wrong, can be made to
someone who has passed away. My experience that day says otherwise.
I stood in front of the
headstone, wiping away the tears, and reading my letter. The details of my
letter are deeply personal and between Dad and me. Suffice it to say that my
father was an incredible man who loved me dearly and I never gave him much to
work with as a son. It wasn’t until he was gone that I realized his greatness.
People often said that he was
my chief enabler and, while that may be true, it was his love that showed me
what God’s love was all about. As frustrated, and oft-times angry, as he could
become with me, he never stopped loving (or forgiving) me. I can’t think of a
better example of how the God of endless grace loves me…
I finished my letter. The tears
began to subside. I looked up and the wind began to swirl around me. It had
been still just a moment ago.
Our family plot is in an older
part of the cemetery surrounded by beautiful old oak trees. I mention this because
as the wind swirled about, I could see that none of the tree limbs were moving.
That’s when it hit me: “when one with a great soul passes, a strong wind will begin
to blow.” Dad was telling me one more time, “It’s okay. I forgive you and I
love you more than you can ever know. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
I think of that day often,
especially when life shows up with all its occasional difficulties. If Dad, a
mere human, can love me that much – how much more so can the Creator of the
Universe love me?
I’ve been thinking about Dad a lot this week. Not only was it his birthday, but the Stock Show and Rodeo opens on Friday. After Dad retired from the railroad, he would work the Harley Street gate for the Stock Show every year. He would be there a week before the show and a week after, so for a month straight he worked twelve-hour days. We usually didn’t celebrate his birthday until afterwards because he just came home, ate, and went to bed. As tired as he was, especially as he got older, he wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Since 1918, the Fort Worth
Stock Show was called the Southwestern Exposition and “Fat” Stock Show. Now it’s
just the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. I’m not sure why they changed it. I
guess it’s no longer politically correct to call livestock fat. Maybe “weight-challenged”
is more acceptable. I’m not sure Dad would approve. Cows are supposed to be fat
and it violates tradition. Dad was big on tradition…
Saturday I’ll watch the annual
Stock Show Parade and I’ll think of Dad. Afterwards, I might go by the cemetery
on the way home. It’s no surprise that Saturday is supposed to be a really windy day…