Of Pizza and Fireflies

Sunday night after church is often Pizza night at our house. Tonight, as I have another slice, I’m also watching the AFC Championship Game as the Steelers are, at least thus far, beating up on the Jets. Should they win, it would set up a Super Bowl pitting the Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two teams that remind me a lot of my childhood. Terry Bradshaw, Lynn Swann, Franco Harris were among my favorite Steelers players as a child. For the Packers there was head coach, Bart Starr who, with his Montgomery and University of Alabama connections, drew a lot of my attention. Anyway, with the help of a Facebook conversation, I took a little trip down memory lane and decided to repost this entry about the innocence and fun of childhood and how we let that attitude slip away from us far too easily as adults. Hope you enjoy…

Originally posted August 11, 2009

Why do I get so excited every time we order pizza? Because we did tonight and I am. Excited, that is.

I grew up in Slapout, Alabama, and the only restaurant there at the time was Hungry Horace’s. Once in a blue moon we would order something from Hungry Horace’s and go pick it up. I can remember only one time that I actually ate there inside the restaurant. It’s probably because they had an arcade and a pool table and my dad wasn’t fond of me going in there because he said the people would get in there and gamble. I don’t know if they did or not but I’m sure that had something to do with it.

Anyway, that was just hamburgers and fries pretty much. Nothing fancy like pizza! We only got to eat pizza every other Friday when we would go to my Aunt Bunny and Uncle Ralph’s house in Montgomery. I loved that! They had cable TV with something like fourteen channels, a piano in the back room that I’d bang on, and they lived in the city where there were other kids to play with within walking distance instead of on the other side of the county. We’d order pizza from Pizza Inn, go pick it up and bring it back to their house, eat it while watching something sports related ON CABLE(my Uncle Ralph is a bit of a sports fanatic). Then, we’d go to K-Mart, the one next to Big Apple, in Aunt Bunny’s big, brown Bonneville where I would always get an Icee and some sort of toy. I have two enduring memories of riding in that car. The first is that I would sit in the back seat on the fold-down armrest in the middle of the seat. I thought it was a seat for kids. Really. Of course I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. The other was the sound that the turn-signal would make. TUNK-A, TUNK-A, TUNK-A. It was so loud! There is no way you could have gone more than a few feet without realizing it was on the way you can with modern blinkers. No going around the world to the left in that car! 

When K-Mart would finally close for the night we’d head back to my aunt and uncle’s house again where some of the neighborhood kids and I would catch fireflies by the jarful. It was there that I learned you could squeeze the “stuff” out of the firefly’s tail and rub it on your shirt and it would glow(don’t tell PETA). My dad and Uncle Ralph would sit inside and watch CABLE TV and my mom and Aunt Bunny would sit on the front porch and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. My mom was partial to Pall Mall Golds. That was twenty-nine years ago and smoking was not quite as frowned upon then as it is now(as it should be). I should note that my mom quit smoking altogether several years ago. While they smoked and talked I would run up and down the streets of the neighborhood until I heard mom hollering for me. Then we’d load up in our 1972 LTD and head back to Slapout. I always fell asleep in the backseat, you guessed it, with no seatbelt on. In my pre-adolescent world I wondered how life could get any better! Until I got married and had children, I’m not sure that it did. 

I got older and got my driver’s license and there were things that became more important for me than pizza and fireflies. It’s been almost twenty years since Aunt Bunny, my mom’s twin sister and the closest thing I had to a grandmother, went to Heaven. After that, Uncle Ralph came to live with us for a few years. He has Multiple Sclerosis and has since moved into a nursing home. There is a lot I could write about him and the time we spent as roomies with my parents. In fact, I think I’ll do that soon. 

The older we get, the less we seem to love life. Not that we aren’t happy, but with age comes a job and bills and responsibility. We get bogged down in temporal things that demand far too much of our time and the joy of childhood is replaced by stress and busyness and the pursuit of things we think will give us joy. And sometimes those things do. But that joy is often fleeting and thus begins our pursuit once again.

I think I just answered my own question about ordering pizza. When I sat down to write this it was going to be funny. I like funny. Funny is…fun. I suppose sometimes things don’t work out like we planned. Life is short and each passing year seems to go by faster. Maybe it’s time, as the old Waylon and Willie song says, I got back to the basics of life. Reassess my priorities and responsibilities and concentrate on the things that really matter. Being a good husband to my beautiful wife, a loving daddy to my two incredible children, banging on old pianos, drinking Icees, catching fireflies in jars…and pizza.

Don’t Mess With Us Christians, We’re Bad!

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6, NIV

“Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,”  Governor Robert Bentley following the official inauguration ceremony

I’d like to take just a moment to have a word with the Anti-Defamation League, The Birmingham Islamic Society, and various other people and groups who are “shocked” or worry that they may not “receive equal treatment during his (Gov. Bentley’s) tenure as governor.”

Really? These are things that you fear? Seriously? Give me a break! Governor Bentley is a Christian. He has a brother of the biological sort who is a preacher so I can only assume that he grew up with parents who took him to church and taught him Christian morals and values. They probably also taught him that above anything else in this world, that his relationship with Christ is most important. He probably also learned the two passages of scripture that I’ve quoted above. 

The first is universally referred to as The Great Commission in which Jesus instructed his disciples to spread the word of His gospel to all the world. In the second reference, Jesus is speaking to those same disciples, his friends, at what we know to be The Last Supper. He is answering a question from Thomas, famously branded a doubter, regarding how the disciples would be able to find their way to Jesus when he left them. Jesus referred to Himself as the way, the truth, and the life, not one of many ways. Whether anyone outside the Christian faith chooses to believe that or not is up to them. Those of us who do believe it, well, it didn’t originate with us. We didn’t say it, Jesus did, so you’ll have to take that up with Him. 

Rather than pen a deeply theological missive to those who choose not to adhere to Christianity, mostly because my severely limited education prohibits it, let me just tell you what I, a simpleton who was raised in a Christian home with a pastor for a father, think these passages mean and how I think Christians are to live them out on a daily basis. The way that I believe the vast, vast majority of Christians, including Gov. Bentley, do.

I believe that it is the privilege and responsibility of the Christian to share the truth of scripture with everyone that they can in this life. Christians should be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in doing so, so as not to offend, frighten, or do a disservice to either the subject of their proselytizing or to God. This isn’t always the case. I understand that. But I believe that most Christians are sensitive to the manner and attitude with which they share the Gospel. I would guess that Gov. Bentley, as a deacon and Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, has done this numerous times, likely in a wholly appropriate way with few finding him offensive.

I also would assume that the Governor, like me, believes that the Bible is more than just a book of tales and yarns meant to teach a lesson much the same as one of Aesop’s fables would.  I believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God. A love-letter to all of humanity meant to  guide a fallen creation back to Himself through His Son, Jesus. If I am to be an adherent to the Christian faith then it would behoove me to believe and follow the principles and commands set forth in scripture to the best of my ability. Among those being the way that Jesus dealt with people. He did so with compassion and love, often befriending those who were thought to be unclean or evil or of an inferior race or other people group. The beautiful story of the woman at the well in the book of John, chapter 4 springs to mind. The New Testament is full of similar examples.

I said all that to say this: there are only two plausible things I can think of that Gov. Bentley’s detractors on this (non) issue are being driven by. The first is a lack of understanding of scripture and the manner in which Christians are to be about the work of God here on earth. The second is a desire of the allegedly offended to grab a headline or two or a hundred by attempting to make political hay with the Governor’s comments. If I were a betting man, smart money would be on the latter explanation.

Christians in leadership positions are not to check their beliefs and values at the door. They are not to bow at the altar of “you can’t legislate morality” the way so many politicians mistakenly do. After all, someone’s morality, or lack thereof, is being legislated with every law that is passed in this nation. Christians are to use their station in life, whatever that station may be, to bring glory to the God of the universe. The fact is that those who are not and do not desire to be followers of Christ are not brothers and sisters in the Christian sense of Gov. Bentley, Billy Graham, Thad Hankins or anyone else who is a Christian any more than a member of the Boy Scouts of America is a brother to someone who is a member of their local Masonic lodge. That doesn’t mean you and I can’t be the best of friends or that I will treat you unfairly. I have some dear friends whom I love who are not my brothers and sisters in Christ. I wish they were. Perhaps one day they will. I hope so. But, short of them joining Al Qaeda, I will continue to count them as friends regardless of whether they choose to become a Christian or not.

It’s a matter of semantics, really. If you are an Orhtodox Jew, you aren’t a Christian. If you are a practicing Muslim, you aren’t a Christian. If you are a Wiccan, you aren’t a Christian. If you are an atheist, you aren’t a Christian. If you believe Jesus was born of a virgin, was crucified on a cross, rose again three days later, and you invite Him to be the Lord of your life then you are a Christian. Outside of that, you aren’t, thus precluding you from being a spiritual brother or sister to anyone who is. How is that offensive or frightening? Be honest. My three sisters are my sisters because they were born of the same two parents as I was. My spiritual brothers and sisters are spiritual brothers and sisters because they made a decision to be adopted by the same Heavenly Father that I did. It’s that simple.

If our new Governor is a devout, devoted Christian who is earnestly seeking to relate to people in a manner of which Jesus would approve, then any fears anyone has about not being treated fairly by this new administration are completely unfounded and for them to insinuate otherwise is shameful. To say that one can’t govern fairly if they practice a certain faith is in itself unfair. Context clues and recent history lead me to believe that there is no real fear of this and that this whole affair is nothing but the most recent case of political posturing by those who desire the limelight or have an ax to grind with a particular belief system.

If I’m proven wrong then I’ll step up and admit it and take whatever lumps I have coming. If, after a reasonable amount of time (more than a day), those who are “afraid” Gov. Bentley won’t represent them fairly as citizens of this great state are proven wrong they should be willing to do the same. I won’t hold my breath because by then they’ll likely have forgotten the horrible, detestable, evil words spoken by this governor and will be in search of something new to be offended by. Perhaps a child bringing a Bible to school with him in his backpack or someone with her head bowed, silently thanking God for and asking Him to bless the meal she is about to eat. We Christians are a mean bunch, after all. If you don’t leave us alone we’ll start responding in large numbers to places devastated by natural disasters like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and even terrorist attacks. Don’t believe it? Try us. We’re bad.

Is Sarah Palin to Blame for Violence? A Palin Critic Says No. But…

Posted by Nicky D.

I dislike Sarah Palin. I could go into a big long paragraph about how she is a genius at manipulating the American public, how her addition to the republican ticket should have made every single woman in America (no matter what your party preferences are) say “Really? Is that what you think of me? That my brain is so tiny and incapable of understanding the big bad world that you think you can get my vote by just by saying ‘look she has girly parts just like you’? or how she preys upon the simple minded by spewing one over-simplified, socially irresponsible, folksy catch phrase after another designed to make herself seem more like you, but I won’t. 

She is though, like all of us everyday folks, just the worst possible versions of ourselves we could ever be. Mean, racist, intolerant, misinformed, cruel, and socially and environmentally irresponsible. Odd that these are the qualities she chooses to highlight so that she seems relatable. Makes you wonder who exactly she thinks we ARE. See, I didn’t write a paragraph about how much I dislike her. I wrote two, but only two. Very conservative of me I think.

Now that I have made my position on Sarah Palin clear let me just say I think it’s horrible that any of the blame of this awful event is being directed at her. Should she have put other politicians in metaphorical “crosshairs”? Nope. It was stupid, but she’s hardly alone in her poor judgment It’s the political environment today. Acrimony over harmony. Hatred and fear are part of the political process these days. Is it her fault? Nah. It’s ours. They didn’t put the McRib on the menu cause nobody eats it honey. Do we find it vile and disgusting? Do we contemplate how any good could possibly come of it? Do we recognize that its harmful and unhealthy? Oh yeah. But it’s so deliciously easy to swallow. 

We love to be angry. We are mad as hell, even if we can’t really articulate what it is we are so mad about. Funny thing is, I think people are scared more than mad. We are being manipulated to respond to our fears with anger. And I have to disagree with anyone who says fear mongering and inciting hate haven’t primarily been the go-to tools of the far right. 

Now that’s not to say that I think this particular trend is the reason this individual set out to kill a person whose political beliefs he did not agree with, if it is determined that was actually his motivation.
The man who walked out of his home with a loaded weapon with the intent to wreak this type of havoc clearly had some mental illness and his choice was a product of that. But we have to stop allowing ourselves and others to be manipulated with blind fear and ENCOURAGED to allow our fears to manifest as anger instead of solutions or it stand to reason that we will continue to see tragedy.

Why Aren’t Liberals Blamed for Senseless Violence? A MUST READ!

This is absolutely a must read for anyone, conservative or liberal. Every time some wacko nut-job does something like this guy in Arizona did, the left-wing media wants to blame everyone from the Tea Party to Ronald Reagan. Check out Michelle Malkin’s The progressive “climate of hate:” An illustrated primer, 2000-2010 and see for yourself. You will be shocked!

It’s Good to be the King

I have three older sisters, the youngest of which was 13 years old when I was born, and, for all intents and purposes, I grew up as an only child. Needless to say, as the only boy and the baby of the family I pretty much had run of the joint. Some might say I was spoiled. In my own defense…nah, what am I thinking? I was spoiled rotten. Even as an adult, I’m not very good at sharing my toys. Anyway, since I like to have things my way, I was thinking what I would do if I were president. Then, I realized that even though the office of president of the United States is a powerful position, I’d really rather just be the king. It’s good to be the king, after all. These are some of the things that I’d do if I became the king of the world.

  • Everyone would have maps. Google “Miss Teen South Carolina” if you need more info on this one.
  • The TV show Glee would have to dispense with all the hokey, political/social-statement story lines and just dance and sing. My wife was a member of the Auburn University Show Choir and the singing and dancing sort of remind me of when we were dating. That’s a good thing. The story lines remind me of the time Tullis Lanier punched me in the stomach at Michael Morgan’s house; I get a headache, feel kind of sick, have a hard time breathing, and want to go hide in a closet and cry. Stick with crisp choreography to Safety Dance and we can be friends again.
  • North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-il, would have to get a haircut. Immediately. There’s no reason a grown man should be running around firing off nuclear missiles and shooting -38 with 11 holes-in-one in a single round of golf with what appears to be the same hairstyle every girl I went to high school with in the 80’s had. Minus the tight-as-a-gnat’s-chuff perm around the edges, of course. Even if he is a big fan of 80’s new wave band, A Flock of Seagulls, that’s still no excuse.
  • Nancy Pelosi would never be able to be on TV, radio, YouTube or anywhere else where I would have to see or hear her speak. I’ve a feeling I would enforce this rule even if she weren’t a left-winger. Case in point, click here. She makes me want to stick an ice-pick in my ears.
  • Smoking sections in restaurants worldwide would no longer exist. A smoker may know that they are in the smoking section but their smoke doesn’t. I spent 10 years of my life being a smoker but quit 12 years ago. If I wanted to smell like the drapes in my 17 pack-a-day-habit Aunt Myrtle’s house then I’d move in with her. I’d like to enjoy my Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity Breakfast without having to don a post-apocalyptic gas mask.
  • Barry Manilow would be vice-king and his main responsibility would be to make sure that all radio stations spent no less than 8 hours daily playing nothing but Barry Manilow tunes. The employees of any station found to be in violation of this rule would be punished by being forced to memorize and perform Justin Bieber’s song Favorite Girl as the opening act for the band Gwar on their Bloody Pit of Horror tour.
  • The aforementioned Kim Jong-il would be forced to adopt Justin Bieber’s hairstyle.
  • Justin Bieber would be forced to adopt a hairstyle that doesn’t make me both laugh hysterically and feel great sorrow for him at the same time. Where is that boy’s daddy? Someone needs to tell him to spend  an afternoon at Supercuts on his next day off.
  • The ACLU would be outlawed as a terrorist organization. Hey, they can’t all be funny.
  • Julian Assange of Wikileaks fame, or infamy I should say, would be banished from anywhere people are. I’m a little tired of seeing his pasty, skinny, face smirking every time I turn on the telly as if he is some sort of pseudo-celebrity/hero. He’s a no account computer geek who probably spent too much time in his parents’ basement playing World of Warcraft or D&D. Get some semblance of a life or go away. Oh, and can someone buy this cat a month’s membership at Electric Sun? He’s gonna’ end up with rickets.
  • Being a celebrity would require that you have some sort of discernible talent. Are you listening Paris, Nicole, and all of the Kardashian chicks? Saying stupid things on TV is not a talent. Contrary to the beliefs of most men, neither is having a big butt. Perhaps Mr. Assange could benefit from meeting you.
  • I’d have my very own pimento cheese factory!
  • And, of course, MONKEYS RIDING DOGS!!! (Nod to Rick and Bubba)
There are plenty more edicts that I’d hand down with an iron fist but I want to become the king before I share them with the general public. I don’t need a revolt of the commoners before I even get to wear my crown. Whatever happens, though, I promise to never wear my hair like ol’ Kim Jong. Or Justin Bieber.

Don’t Let the Earbugs Bite! A Blast from the Past.

I thought I’d go back and repost some of my favorite blog entries over the last couple of years for those of you who might not have gotten to read them the first time around. This entry is one of my all time favorites because it happened to someone else rather than me.

Originally posted on May 28, 2009
The Facebook status update jumped out at me like…something that jumps out at someone. It said, “Courtney Barrett is taking Dale to the Emergency Room because he has a BUG in his ear !!!” Dale is my nephew. Being a good uncle, I called him to check on him. They were en route to the hospital. I said, “This will be written about on the blog.” He said, “I know. It should be.” He spoke with little joy or humor in his voice. He said, “It feels like a Cadillac is parked on my eardrum.” I stifled a laugh and spoke with as much sympathy as I could muster under the circumstances. I asked him to update me when he was done. The following email that he sent me this morning is his account of the events of last evening:
We are on the way home from my mom’s and we stop to get a drink at the store. I walk to the door and as I open it I am swarmed by about 700 million bugs. After dancing on the sidewalk to get the bugs off of me I go into the store and go about my business. We start heading home and about 2 miles down the road I feel something in my ear crawling, so I start freaking out because it is in all the way down and I can’t get it.

Once home, I get a baby suction bulb and start trying to get it that way with no luck. Next, I get Q-tips and go that way, still with no luck. So, I get in the shower and run about 200 gallons of scalding hot water into my ear. At that point, I thought it was gone, so I get out of the shower but while I’m drying off, it starts crawling again. I get another Q-tip and by this time I see that my ear is bleeding which causes me to get even more frantic because I think that it has bitten a chunk out of my ear. Then I think to myself, “How do I kill it and then flush it out?” Alcohol is the first thing that comes to mind. I pour it in and immediately realize I have to go to the ER and do two things: A) Get the bug out, and, B) Repair the eardrum I have demolished trying to do just that.

We head out to Baptist Medical Center East and Courtney is driving when at the end of the toll bridge we see…State Troopers doing a license check. It is right then that we realize Courtney had left her wallet at home and we have to play twenty questions with with the officer and watch him struggle as he tries not to laugh at the 6 foot 300-pound baby in the passenger side who is all broke down with a bug in his ear.

We get to the ER and it is appears as though there has been a war of some sort and all of the wounded are at this ER. I see a woman sleeping in the front door so we turn and head to Elmore Community Hospital. We get there about 20 minutes later, go right back to the treatment area and the festivities begin. The doctor looks into my ear and says, “What have you tried to get this thing out?” I did withhold the part about the q-tips and alcohol and only mentioned the bulb thingy and the water. He sort of chuckles and continues. He says he sees it way in the back, a tiny, little black speck. He flushes my ear with a saline solution several times and it doesn’t budge. He walks off and comes back a few minutes later with a nurse, a pair of angled tweezers, and a light to look into my ear. He still sees the speck and he reaches in and grabs it! Ahh…it is finally coming out. Hallelujah! It is at this point that I almost faint because he has it alright, my eardrum! If you have never had your eardrum clamped onto with a pair of tweezers and stretched out, I highly recommend you run out and have it done now! What an incredible rush! Anyway, he looks in again and nothing is there and he gives me some antibiotic drops and tells me to leave it alone. Turns out my self-treatment had done far more damage than the bug could ever have done. Go figure.

The lesson I learned here, and I hope you take heed of this, is that a bug will come out on its own, usually quite quickly, because there is nowhere for it to go in someone’s ear. Unless it is too big to turn around. I don’t even want to think about that possibility. I know that from now on if I have to go into a convenience store at night, I will wear earmuffs!

The Republican Party is the Party of the Rich? Hot Dog! When Do I Get My Check?!?

Ms. Emily Moore wrote a letter to the Wetumpka Herald’s Elmore County Weekend this past weekend in which she chastised the Republican Party for being “the party of the rich.” She says that Republicans and conservatives in Alabama “go on about big government control and unsympathetically criticize anything that benefits the smallest amount of us.” She stuck to that theme throughout her letter and I encourage you to pick up a copy of the paper so that you may share in the joy of her incredibly well thought out prose. She also makes the assertion that Republicans and conservatives have never been a friend to much of anyone other than “their rich chums” and that it was the Democrats that “gave a voice to the blacks.” Note to Ms. Moore: Google Allen West, Alan Keys, Clarence Thomas, Lynn Swann, or J.C. Watts to name just to name a few. You might be surprised at what you find.

I registered as a Republican in 1987, my senior year in high school, and have spent the last almost 24 years honing my conservative worldview. I graduated from Holtville High School in the now booming metropolis of Slapout, Alabama. My father is an old-school, Southern Baptist preacher who grew up dirt-poor in Lamar County, Alabama. You haven’t seen rural until you’ve been to Lamar County. I loved the three years I lived there but it’s so far out in the country you actually have to drive back towards town just to go hunting. My mom is the youngest of fifteen children so, needless to say, she didn’t exactly grow up splitting time between her home in Montgomery and the family chalet in the hills of Coosa County. Both my parents were born in 1929 which, for those of you who know your history, was the year the Great Depression hit..

When I graduated from high school, after an ill-advised trip to Panama City Beach, Florida, I went to work. I intermittently spent some time here and there attending various institutions of higher learning but am no closer to having a college degree today than I was the day I started the first grade. I’ve worked at a cotton-gin, on a grass-cutting crew, at a hardware store, a grocery store, and two bookstores, one of which was at a small private college. I probably got more of an education by reading the Abnormal Psychology textbook than I would have had I been an actual student. I have worked at a miniature golf course, in a parts warehouse, and even spent a few hours pulling weeds, row by row, in a cotton field as a teenager. It was only a few hours because it didn’t take long for me to conclude that I hated working in a cotton field and so after about three hours, during a water break, I made my getaway. My father was not impressed by my great escape and I’ll spare you the gory details of what followed my dash to freedom. Suffice it to say that punishment was swift and severe. So much for my homage the Underground Railroad.

Anyway, my point, and I do have one, is that I am neither rich, nor powerful, nor highly educated. I am a conservative first and a Republican second. If the Republican Party ceases to represent the issues I feel most passionately about in a way that is not indicative of my own personal beliefs, then I will cease to be a Republican. I criticize President Obama because his beliefs and ideas are antithetical to my own. It has nothing to do with the color of his skin. The fact that Ms. Moore speaks in generalities and likely paints everyone who doesn’t share her views with an awfully broad brush would seem to make her the more narrow-minded, less tolerant person. Perhaps those on the left should be a little more dedicated to practicing what they preach. I am proudly pro-life, anti-big government, pro-gun rights, and I have a daughter whose first name is Reagan. Yes, she is named for that Reagan. I also have very close friends from various walks of life with views and beliefs that differ greatly from mine. Somehow, they are able to overlook my supposed narrow-minded conservatism and I am able to live with their be-tolerant-of-everyone-except-narrow-minded-conservatives mantra. It’s an arrangement that actually works out quite nicely.

As usual, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong. I’m not, though. Rich and powerful Republicans never are. Now I’m off to the South of France for the weekend. Au revoir.

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