Mercy

I’ve been writing this blog for over a year. When I first began I had a single vision in mind. I wanted to share with you my experiences of living life as a disabled person. Likewise, I wanted to share the positives that I see. Finally, I wanted to make it a place where I could show how absurd life can be. However, as I have gotten deeper into writing, I have begun to widen my focus.

For instance, I often share my experiences as a foster parent. Likewise, I have written about my family. Finally, I have shared with you my hobbies and interests. One topic that I have shied away from is politics. The reason for this is that I believe political issues often divide us. I never want to cause division. I would much rather bring people together. However something has been on my heart and mind the last several days.

It is an issue that is political, however, it goes far deeper than that. The thing that has been troubling me is the murder of George Floyd. This is not meant to be a political debate. Please read to the end of this post and then if you’d like to comment, I’d appreciate hearing what you have to say.

First, I believe we as humans are born with a sinful nature. However, I believe that God has also instilled in each of us the power to love. He also gave each of us free will. We are free to love, but we are also free to hate. Whichever one of these we choose is often ingrained in us at an early age. We can be taught to love our neighbor, or we can be taught to hate them. Along with this, I believe we all have the power to change what we think and do. Finally, our actions have consequences. If you act out of hate, you will perhaps just breed more hate.

I believe hate leads to destruction. I don’t truly know the heart of the police officer who murdered George Floyd. However, that police officer’s actions were certainly not coming from a place of love. To me it appears they were rooted in arrogance.

He pinned a defenseless man to the ground until that man could no longer breathe. This was despite pleas for mercy not only from George Floyd himself, but from a crowd of onlookers as well. Undertand this, I do not believe all police officers are bad. In fact, I have much respect for those who put themselves in harm’s way for others. However, there are police officers who use excessive force, simply because they can. This is something that must stop.

A man was murdered in cold blood because he was falsely accused of passing off a counterfeit $20 bill to a local shop owner. A life was lost over a misunderstanding. A life was lost because mercy was not extended to someone who was powerless. This goes much deeper than politics. It also goes much deeper than race. This is an issue of the heart. The Jewish prophet Jeremiah wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things , and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 King James Version). I believe the heart of the police officer responsible for the murder of George Floyd is perhaps much like that described in the book of Jeremiah. Why else would he have not shown mercy to a man who was clearly in distress?

Those who have taken to the streets in non-violent protest, I am with you. My heart goes out to the anguish and rage you are feeling. Yet more injustice has been done to you. It has been there for hundreds of years and there seems to be no end in sight.

In a speech given to a crowd at Stanford University on April 14, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about “the other America.” Unfortunately, This is a place that exists today. It is one in which many black Americans, and other minorities are still living. It is a place where poverty, violence, and hunger reign. It is a place that could be fixed if the human heart was not so wicked.

Those of us who have the power to help often sit on the sidelines thinking that the “other America” is someone else’s problem to confront. This is wrong, we all have the power to make life better for those who are unable to see their way out of poverty and despair. If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves as Jesus has commanded us to do, then we can no longer sit on the sidelines. It is time for action.

In Dr. King’s speech refenced above, he also noted, “the riot is the language of the unheard.” Yes, people are out in the streets rioting because they feel they are being ignored by a justice system that has historically marginalized them. Dr. King further went on to say that “riots are socially destructive and self-defeating.” I believe this to be very true. What is to be gained by burning down your neighbor’s business? I empathize with the frustration and anger that drives the riots. However, creating more death and destruction is senseless.

I hesitated to post this because I do not want to create any more division. However, I express myself best through the written word. For me to remain silent, I feel, just perpetuates more indifference. When so many are hurting, we need to be showing each other love and mercy. I wish I knew how to solve the problems we are facing today. I do know one thing, we need to be checking our hearts. If we are not doing things out of love, then we are doing them wrong.

Nowhere Man

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you probably have noticed that I am a Beatles fan. I’ve enjoyed their music for quite some time. My favorite Beatle was John Lennon. I have always appreciated his wit, and I can relate to his cynicism. These two things combined made his songwriting something that speak me on a very personal level.

I often have a very cynical view of the world. I believe that things will turn out all right in the end. However, sometimes I just need to convince myself of that fact. In order to deal with a world that can seem like a rather dark place at times, I try to use wit and humor to lighten the mood. Sometimes all that you can do when life throws your a curveball is laugh. I feel as if I have had my fair share of curveballs.

One thing that I have had trouble dealing with recently is a sense of isolation. This is something that most, if not all, can relate to as we look forward to the world once again hanging out its “Welcome-Come On In!” sign. I just want to go to a public place without wearing a mask. However, I must say the Chicago Cubs mask that Amanda made for me is pretty cool, but I digress.

With warmer temperatures and sunshine here now, it is even more difficult to “social distance.” I want to be in the bleachers at Wrigley Field with a hot dog in one hand, and a cold drink in another. I want to hear the sound of the pipe organ between innings. Most of all, I just want to be able to travel again to the places that I love.

This week I have been perusing my “Facebook Memories” quite a bit. I’ve been able to look back on trips I have taken together with family and friends. Nearly a year ago Amanda and I were in Washington D.C. enjoying Memorial Day weekend. Eight years ago we were in New York City visiting the Statue of Liberty. Finally, my brother Shannon and I were in Alaska twenty years ago this month. May apparently has been a great month to travel. I long to have more adventures and to make more memories.

Until then I will remain a “Nowhere Man.” The opening lines to this John Lennon penned Beatles tune sum things up for me perfectly for now:

He’s a real nowhere man
Sitting in his nowhere land
Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Changing Diapers in the Dark

A powerful storm moved through our area tonight. The storm was accompanied by heavy winds, which took down trees and knocked out power to hundreds of homes. It seemed like the storm was here and then it was gone. Unfortunately, our home was one that lost power. Being someone that loves to be “plugged in” at all times, I don’t enjoy power outages. Now that we have a baby in the house it is even more of a challenge.

Fortunately, Baby Boy had his last bottle for the night just before sunset. However, he also decided it would be a good time to go poop. I’ve never changed a diaper by flashlight, that is until tonight. Let’s just hope Baby Boy sleeps through the night. I’m not sure I really want to change another diaper when I can barely see what I am doing. You never know what kinds of things may hit your face. Perhaps, I should grab a welding mask before I bed down for the night.

At last check, it looks as if our power could be restored by 4 a.m. Then again, when I first checked, the estimated time of restoration was 7:45 p.m. It is now just past 9:30 p.m., so it is really anyone’s guess. Luckily, we keep our thermostat set to just above freezing in our house once summer temperatures start to set in for the season. So, by the time this nightmare comes to an end it might not be all that hot in the house. I guess time will tell. The penguins might have to migrate to the basement tonight, as I am sure it will be too warm for them upstairs.

I see now that the houses across the street are once again illuminated. Let’s hope this side of the street is soon to follow. However, we have our flashlights at the ready. Now, I just need to find that welding mask!

I’m a Sucker!

I hate to admit this, but I actually enjoy vacuuming the house. There are several reasons for this. First, with two cats it is a necessity to vacuum on a regular basis. Plus, it makes the house smell much more fresh. Likewise, it is a job that produces palpable results. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we own six different vacuum cleaners. However, my pride and joy is my new Shark UV560.

This thing came out of the box like a set of Legos. I just snapped them all together and I was ready to hit the floor running. It also comes apart in various ways so that it can be carried around the house with ease. Doing the stairs with this vacuum is a breeze. Perhaps my favorite feature is the canister.

Messing with a vacuum bag is a pain. You have to open the vacuum itself, secure the bag in place before closing the baggage storage compartment. Then after the bag fills up you have to carefully remove it so that its contents don’t start spilling out. There is none of that with a canister vacuum. It sucks up the mess and then you just dump it in the garbage.

I just swept the living room floor and the stairs. I’m thinking the only thing I need now is an attachment that vacuums the cats directly. However, that might cut down on the fun of vacuuming the floors. Plus, I think Cat and Dot might stage a revolt. I would not want to be the victim of one of those “When Cats Attack!” videos you see on YouTube. I already get a piercing shrill in my ear every time I burp the baby. No need for anymore trauma.

Now if I could just have the same zeal when it comes to dusting. I’d rather vacuum a million floors before dusting one shelf. However, there are no attachments, or swiveling heads like there are on a vacuum cleaner. There is simply a can of furniture polish and a rag. Where’s the excitement in that?

My enthusiasm for vacuuming might best be illustrated by a clip from an old Saturday Night Live sketch where Dan Aykroyd is selling a fictional product called the “Bass-O-Matic.” If you’ve never seen this check out the video below. The way he feels about the “Bass-O-Matic” is how I feel about my Shark.

https://youtu.be/6RLHPaZUuyc

Surrealistic Westerns

If you are anything like me, you are tired of turning on the news and hearing about how chaotic the world is becoming. My last few posts have been on the more serious side. Therefore, I thought I’d lighten the mood today and share a short story I wrote several years ago. All of the names have been omitted to protect the innocent. What follows is a slightly modified version of the original story. All of the details are true.

The last few days have been pretty surreal. I came home sick with the flu on Thursday. My stomach was so upset. It felt as if someone had been twisting my intestines into knots. I slept for about 17 hours off and on between Thursday afternoon and into Friday morning.

Most of the day Friday was spent in front of the television, although I did venture out to the store once. Who knew going to the store took so much strength? Once I got back home I felt like I had just made my way up Mt. Kilimanjaro. I definitely was in need of more rest.

I then woke up Saturday morning and did what most people would do after nearly dying from the flu. I went to a funeral. The grandmother of one of my closest friends had passed away. His grandmother’s dog was in attendance, which I found rather touching. My friend’s uncle did not dissapoint either, as he was dressed in blue jeans that he was having trouble keeping up above his waist. This particular uncle is known for wearing blue jeans to most functions. In fact, he often sports a pair of blue jean cutoffs while out and about.

After the service at the funeral home was over, I attended the graveside service, which unbeknownst to me, was in a town about 15 miles from home. So, I joined the funeral procession as it snaked its way across two towns. On the way some tumbleweed came blowing across the street, which is a rare sight in this area. It made me feel as if I was in a Spaghetti Western. The only thing missing was Clint Eastwood chomping on a cigar. Eventually, we made it to the gravesite, where we stayed for no more than five minutes. It was a magical, mystery funeral, that is the only way to describe this event.

After the funeral was over I broke out in a cold sweat because the flu still had its hellacious grip on my body. So I did what all people in my condition would have done, I went and had the oil changed in my car.

I then came home and had a long talk with the guy who had been fixing my computer, as it had become infected with a virus. He was there to deliver it to me. With my computer and I on the mend, I was feeling deliriously happy. On second thought, I might have just been plain delirious. After the computer repairman left I went outside to clean up the yard.

As I was outside picking up twigs, I looked up only to see an umbrella blowing down the road. I once again felt like I was trapped inside a Western film. One based on a painting by the Belgian Surrealist artist Magritte. I would have much preffered more tumbleweed. At least that would have been more in keeping with the theme of the rest of this influenza fueled weekend.

An Open Letter to an Absent Parent

You gave birth to a sweet baby boy, however, your selfishness has kept you from him. In a few days he turns 5 months old. He has begun to smile, laugh, and chatter. He is slowly learning how to roll over. You are missing this because you cannot move past the stumbling blocks in your life. In a sense this infuriates me. In another it makes me hurt for you. However, it makes me hurt most for the precious life you brought into this world.

This baby boy is growing up in a home where he is loved. He is taken care of by two parents who are raising a child for the first time. I am sure we are making mistakes, and will in the future. However, you made the biggest mistake by letting this beautiful boy slip through your fingers. It angers me that you were allowed to have children, while my wife and I were not. Life is not fair, which is something your child will learn as he grows and matures.

I know life certainly must seem unfair to you. I am sure you have seen your share of hardship. You certainly have experienced hurt and heartache along the way, as every person has. I pray that you find healing. Likewise, I pray for the baby boy that you unwittingly gifted us with. Even if he is not our’s to keep forever, he has brought us so much joy in the few short months he has been a part of our lives.

Each month that you stall out on your legal obligations, you fill my wife and I with yet more uncertainty. Will we get to keep this little boy? Are we going to lose him after growing to love him like he was our own? These are questions that play over and over again in my mind. His young mind is beginning to see us as his parents. Are you going to take him back when he is just a stranger to you? How much will that destroy his psyche?

My wife and I knew what we were getting ourselves into when we took your child into our home. We welcomed him with open arms. We have fed him, bathed him, clothed him, and we have dried his tears when he has cried. Most of all we have loved him and nurtured him in an environment where he is thriving. You are missing out because you cannot see past your own wants and desires. I empathize with your plight. However, that does nothing to quell the anger I feel towards you. I pray that God will work on my heart to look past this anger. Likewise, I pray that He will give me a heart of forgiveness and love.

My “Anti-Bucket” List

Last April I wrote a post listing the “Top Ten Things I’d Like to do Before I Die.” This list included places I’d like to visit, events that I would like to attend, and so forth. Today I am going to turn things around and do an “anti-bucket list” or things I hope I never have to do again before I die.

There are certain foods that I despise. Near the top of this list are lima beans. To me they taste like soap. Plus, their texture is unpleasant. Therefore, I will never have another lima bean as long as I live!

Over the course of my life I have undergone at least 30 different surgical procedures. Being put under for surgery is not an unpleasant experience. I do enjoy the feeling of euphoria that comes over you just before “the lights go out.” However, as I have gotten older it has taken me longer to bounce back after surgery. It is because of this that I hope to never have another surgery.

One thing that does not fill me with euphoria is riding a rollercoaster. I actually am terrified of going on most amusement park rides. I prefer to have my feet planted on terra firma. I would be happy never to ride another roller coaster as long as I live.

In keeping with the amusement park theme, I hope to never go to Disney World ever again. I went for the first time at the age of 30. Perhaps, it is a different experience if you go when you are a child. It may seem more magical then. However, I didn’t find anything appealing at all to being at Disney World.

Me on the “Small World” ride at Disney World. I think my face says it all.

A few years ago I went on a canoe trip on the Meramec River in Missouri. I have written about this experience in a previous post. It was quite possibly the last trip of this kind that I will take. If you do go back and read both parts of this story, you’ll see why. I not only lost my crutches and glasses, but I lost some of my dignity as well.

One thing that I have experienced a couple of different times is food poisoning. I can safely say I hope this never happens again. There is nothing pleasant about eating something that makes you ill. I can no longer eat at couple of different restaurants due to very bad experiences.

Nearly three years ago Amanda and I had an issue with the plumbing in our house. I will admit it was caused by me. I had gotten into the habit of flushing little bits of clumping cat litter down the toilet as I cleaned out the litter box for our cats. Needless to say this was not a wise idea. Fortunately, I have a cousin or two in the plumbing business, as our sewer line backed up into our house. I learned my lesson and I hope to never have to live through this experience again.

As noted above, I have had numerous surgeries in my life. Many of these have been orthopedic in nature. I spent the first few years of my life in and out of body casts. There is nothing worse than being confined inside a hunk of plaster, especially when you are hot and tired. This is an experience I would prefer to never have again.

Me propped up against a chair in one of the many body casts I was in as a child. My brother Cory is looking on in amusement as I see just how wide I can open my mouth.

We are fortunate here in America to have public restrooms in almost every store and restaurant. If you’ve ever traveled abroad you’ll soon find out that in other parts of the world public toilets are not so common. I learned this the hard way one night in London as I really was in dire need. While I do love to travel, I hope to never again have the trouble I did that night.

Finally, I have spent the last two months working from home. In that time I have begun having conversations with myself while Amanda is at work. I am ready for restaurants, movie theaters, and other public places to once again be open. Never again do I want to experience a global pandemic. In the words of the late, great Jerry Stiller, who played Frank Costanza on Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!”

Richard Scarry

Ever since I was a little boy I have loved Richard Scarry books. Thankfully, I have been able to revisit a few of my favorite Richard Scarry books since Baby Boy has become a part of our family. In addition, I have found a few with which I am not familiar. For instance there is one called the “The Bunny Book.” If you have never read this one, it is about a baby bunny whose family all have different hopes and dreams for their baby bunny once he grows up and becomes an adult.

As I have read this several times now, I have begun to question some of the aspirations Baby Bunny’s family has for him. For instance, Daddy Bunny wants him to be a circus clown? Really, who wishes this for their child? The Grandaddy Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lion tamer? Again, I am not sure this is great line of work for anyone. Finally, Aunt Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a lifeguard. Low-paying, seasonal work is kind of an odd choice, at least in my opinion.

It seems the only sensible people in this story are Baby Bunny’s siblings and cousins. For example, Little Bunny Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be an entrepreneur who owns his own candy store. Likewise, Little Girl Cousin wants Baby Bunny to be a doctor. Moreover, Little Sister Bunny wants Baby Bunny to be a pilot.

This Bunny Family needs to sit down and have a frank discussion about Baby Bunny’s future. However, Baby Bunny does have his priorities in the right place, as he wants to be a Daddy Bunny.

Let’s get this bunny a good guidance counselor and/or mentor who can steer him into a profitable profession. Because, if he is going to raise a big family, he is going to need to bring home the carrots.

Richard Scarry, I love your books. However, I’d like a follow up to the “The Bunny Book.” Does Baby Bunny become a lifeguard on the beaches of Malibu, or does he become a heart surgeon with a thriving practice in Scarsdale? Please tell me he is not working in Vegas as a lion tamer. That would just be disappointing. Let’s just hope whatever he is doing now is fulfilling. Richard, I will be waiting to see what happens.

No one writes them like Richard Scarry.

My Mother

On this Mother’s Day I wanted to share with you what my mother means to me. There are so many things that I could say about my mom. However, the most important thing that I can say is that I love her. She is a special woman who has taught me some very valuable lessons.

First, my mother lost her husband when she was 41 years old. She was left with 3 boys to raise on her own. My oldest brother was 17, at the time, my other brother was just about to turn 16, and I was 12. My father, being the excellent provider that he was, left our family with little debt when he passed away. However, my mother was working as a teacher at a small, private school and making very little money at the time.

Despite this, she provided a home for my brothers and I where we were loved. We also had most of the material things that other kids our age had. I do not know how she was able to keep our family together after experiencing such a devastating loss. My mother’s strength in the face of despair is something I will always admire.

Likewise, my mother’s faith in God never wavered after she lost the love of her life. She could have chosen to be bitter, but I never remember my mother giving into those types of emotions. She continued to give to others even when she had very little to give. I think this is something she learned from her mother, who was also a very giving woman. She always had time for my brothers and I when we needed it.

Several years after my dad passed away, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. However, being the woman of faith that she is, she never asked “why me?” She simply relied on her faith to see her through yet another hardship. Even through chemotherapy treatments that weakened her body and made her dreadfully ill, she never wavered in her faith. She just trusted that God would see her through the pain and anguish. He did bring her through that struggle.

Today, my mother is still working. She is a librarian at the local library. She is still giving her time and talents to the community. Likewise, she is still involved in her church. She too remains dedicated to her family. It has been over 30 years since my dad has been gone. In that time my brothers and I have all gotten married and are raising families of our own.

My mom was the rutter that steered the ship for our family after my dad died. She helped my brothers and I to stay grounded. I will admit my teen years were not easy ones. However, I knew I could always go to my mom with any problem.

One thing that both of my parents told my brothers and I when we were young is that we would never be able to do anything that would make them stop loving us. We were also taught by my dad to respect our mother. I know I have let my mother down many times, but I know she will always love me.

My mother is one in a million. She has been faithful to her God through so many trials. Likewise, she has remained a person that loves her family. It is comforting to know I can still go to her for advice when needed. Her experiences in life have given her wisdom that she is more than willing to share. Happy Mother’s Day mom, I love you!

Be Still

One thing that I have enjoyed while working from home is having the blinds open in the room where my computer is stationed. We have quite a variety of birds that live in our neighborhood. I have seen cardinals, blue jays, robins, and wrens, just to name a few. It is quite peaceful to sit and listen to the songs of these various birds. Before the world stopped, I rarely took time to enjoy the small things.

I’m used to having a podcast playing on my phone, or the sound of music from a radio. I think I have become accustomed to always having noise on in the background due to a problem I have with my left ear. I was diagnosed with something called Meniere’s Disease several years ago. This disease affects your inner ear and can lead to a range of symptoms, such as vertigo and hearing loss. As a result of the disease I have very poor hearing in my left ear. The one thing that I do hear in my left ear is my pulse. I have learned to live with this “annoyance.” However, it can be extremely difficult, especially if my pulse quickens for any reason. Having noise on in the background helps to drown out the constant pulsating in my ear.

The last few weeks I have tried to turn off the “artificial” noises during the day. This has allowed me to focus on things that are coming from the outside, such as the birds, as I noted above. I also can hear the wind blowing through the trees. Likewise, I can hear myself breathe. Yes, there is that constant pulsing as well. However, it is not as prevalent when I am focusing on the natural sounds coming from the world around me.

As I said above, the world has stopped. In many ways this is true. There are many people who have lost their jobs, there are those who have lost loved ones. Likewise, there are those that have lost their peace of mind.

I for one have struggled to stay positive as the world seems to have fallen into despair. Despite all of these things, I know there is peace to be found. God is there in the midst of the chaos. You may not believe that, which is your choice. However, I know He is because I hear it in the creatures that He made. Those birds outside my window are a reminder to me to be still. If God is concerned about even the smallest of creatures like a sparrow, He certainly cares for you as well.

If you haven’t taken time lately to be silent and listen to the birds, or to the wind, or to the sound of rain hitting the ground, just stop. Life is too important to ignore these “small” things. It is in these sounds that we can be reminded to be still and know that there is a God who loves us and is in control, even when life seems hopeless.