Once Upon A September

Painting:  My step-son, Kellen Mills

The waning heat is urging us onward
Farewell to its waves and thunder
Parks and pools have been silenced
The kids mourn the death of summer

Sounds from the Earth, Wind and Fire
Together inviting us to remember
Some clouds will not be desired
Selective memories bring September

Labor awaits in loud rigorous debate
August’s end ushers the work of rest
The light colors fade to darker shades
Breezy wisps birthing autumn’s best

Brooklyn’s mine unearthed a Diamond
Its cut resonates September Morn
How blessed to dance-in a new day
Mending hearts broken and torn

Johnny Appleseed launched his orchards
Vast colors and kinds among the members
Their sweet aromas mask political torture
Tis the season to approve of September

Old Maggie, was a wooing abuser for self
T’was late September in her brutal court
The jester’s wage became a kick in the head
Tests from this wake-up school still ignored

Unexpected screams flooded 110 floors
Love held us between hell and heaven
We prayed and then prayed all the more
Reflections of Pearl, our September eleventh

As for now, I wait for the leaves of fall
Like Ol’ Blue Eyes, spying through tears
The children’s laughter, bikes and balls
Singing along, The September of My Years

-Alan

Remembering the times in which we live with a good dose of fuel for the race.

“Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?”
For it is not wise to ask such questions…When times are good, be happy;
but when times are bad, consider this:
God has made the one as well as the other.
Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10 & 14 (NIV)

Music Ref:

“September” – Earth, Wind & Fire.  Composers:  Al McKay, Maurice White, Allee Willis.  Recorded:  September 1978.
“September Morn” – Neil Diamond (1979).  Composers:  Gilbert Becaud, Neil Diamond.
“Maggie May” – Rod Stewart (1971).  Composers:  Martin Quittenton, Roderick Stewart.
“The September of My Years” – Frank Sinatra (1965).  Composers:  James Van Heusen, Sammy Cahn.

Lessons From Fluorescents

“It’s not just another dream, another play, another scene.  Shifting sand beneath my feet, ever moving, oh-so deep.  Walking in the light.  No fear of the night.  Walking in the light…” – (1984) Walking In The Light.  Written & recorded by:  Cliff Richard

Let me know if this happens to you.  Knowing myself, as I do, it wouldn’t surprise me if I’m alone on this.  I will give it to you exactly the way it occurred without embellishments.  Here goes.

A little over a year ago, I’m getting ready to slice up some onions and peppers at the cutting board in our kitchen.  The sun was fading fast, so I turned on the overhead double fluorescent from the switch on the wall.  Lo and behold, one bulb was out and the other was half-light, as it flickered at me like a winking eye saying, “Yep, it’s almost time to grab the ladder.”  Do light bulbs mock us when we aren’t looking?  Most pro-active residents might have grabbed the new fluorescent bulbs, waiting in storage, right then and there, but no…not me.  I hate this about myself.  My decision led to a couple of months of brown-out flickering from our kitchen ceiling.  It nagged at me each and every time I flipped the switch while nursing absent-mindedness.

I came to realize, after a great while, fluorescent bulbs are not just full of gas, but also full of grace (unearned favor).  If the struggling half-lit bulb were a person, that soul would be a very understanding, generous, most enduring individual.  Each time I flipped the switch it gently reminded me I needed to replace it, unlike the regular light bulb, or flashlight, that loves to surprise you in the middle of the night.  Not too long afterward, the struggling bulb gave up the ghost.  At first it was tough to adjust to the darker kitchen.  Nevertheless, we learned to rely on a sun-filled window and three lamps in the kitchen instead.  How silly of me to ignore the changing of the fluorescent guards hovering over us.  One of our lamps is in the hood-vent over the stove.  Another sits in our window overlooking the sink.

Lamp Kitchen Window

The other sits in the corner of our coffee bar.  When all three are on, it may be dim, but it’s enough…temporarily.

Lamp Coffee Bar

Last December, my step-son was over to help ready some holiday food for a family Christmas gathering at our house.  The funniest thing happened.  I walked around the corner to enter the kitchen, as he is working like a chef at a bistro, only to see the fluorescent bulbs above were on at full strength.  Not even a flicker.  It was shocking.  I asked how he got them to work.  My mind assumed he had hopped up on the counter and did some good old-fashioned bulb jiggling.  He just said he turned them on, then inquired why I asked.  Go figure.  As you can imagine, the next morning, they were dead again.  He must have the magic touch.

Fast forward to this month.  My get-up-and-get-it-done-button was pushed.  I took the cover off, took the bulbs out, bought replacements and attempted to change them out.  Alas, I had trouble with installment.  (A longer story there.)  Ironically, the same step-son was over at our house recently while I was busy writing to you from my computer in the studio/study.  The next time I walked into the kitchen, LIGHT EVERYWHERE!  He figured out the issues, popped them in without a hitch.  Honestly, I had forgotten how wonderful it was to have our fluorescent bulbs illuminating the kitchen once again.  The first thing noticed was how badly things needed to be cleaned.  That’s the problem with light, it shows the dirt around you, even in the tiniest corners.

I guess I’m getting old.  In April, I took my wife to my favorite restaurant for our wedding anniversary.  Honestly, the dining room lighting was so dimly lit, I had to use the little light on my phone to read the menu.  With silverware you get flashlight?  How long does it take for the eyes to adjust?  Any chef is disabled without excellent lighting.  Any artists with brush, pencil or ink knows the urgency of the spectrum of light.  Any photographer always checks the shutter speed when light is given.  Any farmer survives off the rays needed to grow crops.  Any long-distance trucker depends upon the multiple of lights coming off the truck, especially fog lights when necessary.  Light is not a throw-away item, although it seems so at times.  It all depends on who you speak to or how slowly the anti-light seduction goes.  You might find you ordered a salad but you got Bananas Foster instead.

Allow me to be blatantly honest.  It’s been about three weeks since we got our lights back up in the kitchen.  More than a couple of times per day, I continue to walk-in forgetting I have the fluorescents above available to me.  There’s nothing like a sharp blade, an onion and unprotected fingers in a darkened room.  It’s amazing what you can get accustomed to when you allow your eyes to squint.

Woods at night

Can you spot a time in your life when this has played out?  You’re going along with your core beliefs, your faith, your center, that part of yourself which can indicate a dark place in life, when suddenly you are awakened to how much darker things have become.  Sure, it could be a geographical location, but mainly a shady area in thought-life, actions, language, or input where the dwindling flame only flickers.  The flickering continues as it warns of darkness creeping into a lifestyle.  At first, the fade away from light isn’t usually noticeable.  Do you recall when you felt you were slugging through a shadowy haze while in only a brown-out, a partial light around your steps where once brilliance resided?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalms 119:105  (Aramaic Bible In English)

If you’re like me, the less illumination there is, the more your eyes adjust away from the full wash of light.  During those days, years, or decades, we can walk in darkness and not even realize it anymore.  It reminds me of captain’s logs from lost ships documenting the joyous release which poured over the crew when the piercing glow of a distant lighthouse, or a lit harbor was spotted.  “Land-Ho!”  (It’s fascinating to learn the old English word “Ho” was a representation, or imitation of laughter.)  Many times historical sailors were so used to the darkened deep and black velvet skies, seeing sudden light hurt their eyes.

Lighthouse Final Take

Painting:  Michelle, my wife.

Sometimes, all it takes is getting rid of the old, the moldy-old, that our nature has adjusted to, and plug-in a fully illuminated replacement.  When you do, be warned, the dirt will show up.  Contrary to popular thought, there’s only One who permanently cleanses.

Often when the flickering light alerts me, I have found to be running low on fuel for the race.

“The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them.” – Isaiah 9:2 (NAS)   “In Him was the life, and the life was the light of men (humankind).  And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” – John 1:4-5 (NKJV)

 

 

 

 

Here’s To The Educators

Photo:  smilingcolors.com

“Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man (humankind) a more clever devil.” – C.S. Lewis

Miss Cain’s first grade class was busy in a reading circle.  Each child in the circle was to have his/her turn at a word in a workbook, one after the other.  The teacher herself, in her green Celtic plaid dress, was sitting in a chair inside the ring of readers, listening carefully to each delivery.  A girl in class had just finished her reading only to be followed by silence.  Miss Cain had seen this before, too many times apparently.  It was him again.  There he was, staring out at the meadow he loved playing in just outside the classroom window.  Before he realized it was his turn to read, BOOM!  He suddenly felt a solid bump on his right knee from the edge of Miss Cain’s fist.  “Alan, you’re daydreaming again!  Pay attention!”  It was her first year to teach.  Probably all of 22 years old.  I had a huge crush on her.  After all, her short blonde silky, soft curled hair was cut in a chic fashion (It was 1966.) which bounced up and down like a slinky when she walked.  My mom said Miss Cain had two wardrobes, one for the conservative school-look and one for her other life.  She had steel blue eyes which matched her terrific smile.  She reminded me a bit of a mix of Goldie Hawn and Kim Novak.  Above all, she drove a fire-engine red, MG Midget Roadster convertible.   What little guy wouldn’t be impressed?  (I lived across the street, so she never offered me a lift home.)

MG Migit 1965

I thought she was the cat’s meow.  So, as you can imagine, it broke my heart when she called me out with a firm bop on my knee.  Several times that year she and my mom had meetings about my daydreaming.  It was a sign of things to come.  They didn’t speak much of right-brained, artsy kids in the days of yore.  She probably retired early because of me.

In most districts around here, the new school year is just kicking off.  Skylar, my 2nd grade granddaughter, started school this past Wednesday.  The kids are hopefully prepped and ready to tackle another year in the classroom.  However, the educators have been prepping for awhile.  There’s so much work done behind the scenes that nobody thinks about.  An educator’s work is never done.  I know all too well.  My wife is a tutorial teacher.  My oldest daughter is a teacher.  My middle daughter has been a teacher.  I have a slew of family on both sides who are teachers or school administrators, active and retired.  Many, many of my friends are educators.  And, do they have stories to tell!

Meet my salty, Aunt Grace Atherton.

WP_20150212_004

She taught school for decades.  She married my great-uncle Robert Atherton who was also a teacher.  The two of them went on to be well-known school district administrators in east Texas, and the Dallas-Ft Worth area, back in the day.  The two of them raised educators, spawning a second generation of teachers and administrators who made a difference.  In fact, in Arlington, Texas, between Dallas and Ft Worth, there is an Atherton Elementary in honor of the couple.  They were salt-of-the-earth types.  He passed away in 1977.  As for her, she always reminded me of our own personal Bette Davis with an unmatched persona.  At 99 years old, she walked faster than I did.  She was a firecracker, a get-it-done lady.  I remember her email address was “grace-a-doer”.  She passed away at the young age of 103.  Sharp as a tack until the very end.  They LOVED teaching.  Moreover, they LOVED the kids under them.  Love matters!

It may be in the genes.  I, too, was a teacher for a broadcasting school in the mid 80’s, then trained many in voice-work, music vocalization and mentored air-staff during my radio years.  Loved every minute of it.

Please, allow me a moment here.  Stay with me on this and see if you recognize someone in your life.

Meet the Irish Rose, Peggy O’Neill.  Choral director, music theory, piano and guitar teacher.

Peggy O'Neill

She looks so calm in this old photo.  To this day, she will tell you, when I walked into her choir room, with a chip on my shoulder in 8th grade, she knew I was trouble from the start.  It was my first year in the area. I had come from a tough Jr. High school where it was the norm for race riots to breed gang warfare.  I think she saw me as a special challenge.  No doubt, she was on target.  Affectionately known as P.O., she did challenge me in a myriad of ways.  Later that year, she had me doing solo work, MC work, stand-up comedy, as well as guitar lessons.  She knew exactly how to keep me perking.  It wasn’t long when I wanted to excel just to make her proud…or because of the sheer fear of her Irish-red-faced wrath.  Unexpectedly, I became her #1 tenor in choir.  She must’ve loved me because she followed me to high school, the following year, where she became part of the choral directorial staff.  We still laugh about that.  She and I remain friends to this day.

Meet Ted Polk, the man, the maestro, the legend.

Ted Polk

T.P. is how we lovingly refer to him.  He was so many things to me during my high school years, but officially he was the top choral director and chief of the choral department.  There were five choirs total in the school of 3,500 kids.  He had a tender way of leading.  He taught music, but more than that, he instructed us in life.  Through my four years with him, I believe he gave some commentary on the lyric of every piece performed.  Rightly so, he made sure us music lovers didn’t just jam to the compositions, but rather knew the meaning of the lyrics and the composer from which they came.  He ushered us into giving each lyric value, not in just musical mathematical mechanics, but also the soul of the phrase.  Under him, I learned how to be more than just a singer and sight-reader, but an artist.  Craftily, he used his faith and philosophy as he directed rehearsals.  He lived what he believed and shared it openly.

I recall a couple of times how T. P. warned us not to get so absorbed in the workforce after school hours.  Gently, his message was how work will always consume your adult life, so free-up those precious days of youth before they fade into history.  The care and the encouragement for each of us was so apparent, available and tangible.  His door was always open and I took advantage of it many times, even after graduation.  He recognized talent and knew how to grow it, mold it and give it wings.  That’s what he did for me.  I could write a novel about this man.  He later would become the district’s Fine Arts Director over all the schools in our Dallas suburb.  Even today there is a middle school which bears his name.  When he died suddenly, a few years later, thousands of us mourned and still do.  You will never find me ashamed to say: I am the man I am today because our paths intersected in my early teen years.  Thank God!

Meet the lovely Anel Ryan.

Anel Ryan

Anel, among other things, was a theater teacher.  It was her first full year to teach when I was a senior in high school.  I was a singer, not an actor…or so I thought.  My choice was not to take theater.  All my electives that year had to do with music and voice.  When I won the male leading role in the musical production that year, Anel took me under her wing.  She was/is a super talented actress and director.  Somehow she saw some seed in me beyond singing and stage presence.  She basically tutored me in and outside school hours with a catch-up acting course, complete with character retention exercises, as well as proper blocking and stage etiquette and disciplines.  It was all so foreign to me, but she pulled out the results she was looking for.  If not for her direction, her challenging this boy and her Job-like patience, I know my performance would have been lacking.  That May, Anel wrote the following in my yearbook, “I’ll be watching your life.”  Oh, my!  I can’t tell you how that small sentence turned my core several times during the days of adulthood.  Afterwards the acting bug stuck!

The following decades were filled with lots of stage and video characters taken, plays written and a couple of thousand pages of script as a voice actor.  There were times she agreed to critique me privately for role development after high school, as well.  Years later, the tables were turned.  One year, while casting my next radio theater project, I asked Anel if she would tackle a tough role for me.  Even though she was living over 160 miles away, she was happy to do it.  She’s one of my heroes in this life.  I love her dearly.

Stay with me.  There’s a method to my madness.

Meet the engaging Eric Bowman.

Eric Bowman

This comes from a humorous newspaper photo as he was pretending to be a student.  Like Anel, Eric was an alumni of our high school.  We used to poke at him while we sang
the “Welcome Back, Kotter” theme song when he walked into the classroom.  Do you remember it?  Are you singing the first line?  Me too.  He taught Government and Civics.  His talented style drew the students in with analogies along with side stories of humor.  I dreaded the class until I discovered his brand of teaching.  He got on our street level to help us understand and respect the due process of law, voting and the systems of civic, state and federal government.  I loved his class, as most did.  When I was chosen to be on a jury for an armed robbery, right after the year I graduated, I couldn’t wait to go back to tell him of my experience.  He soaked in all of my verbal waterfall describing my jury duty, including my youthful, wide-eyed exuberance.  He grinned from ear to ear listening intently.  He was excited to see my excitement.  He followed it up by asking what I learned from it.  He was always finding ways to stretch our minds.  I am so glad I visited that day.  He died in a car crash about a year later.

And then there’s an education of another kind.  Often it can be just as relevant as math or science.

Meet the champ!  Demetrius “The Greek” Havanas.

Demetrius Greek HavanasHe was simply known to his students and friends as “Greek”.  Greek was my Kickboxing and Tae-Kwon-Do trainer.  He was a world renown, blue-collar martial arts instructor and world contender in both standard tournaments as well as full-contact bouts.  It would take about four pages to list all of his titles and accomplishments.  (I suggest a Google tap and/or a YouTube viewing.)  With his professional teaching techniques, he created national and international champions.  This was my life outside of school and church.  While being trained by Greek, he kept me and three or four of my high school mates off the streets and among quality….well, okay, semi-quality competitors.

Channeling certain energies of youth can be a very good thing for the community at large.  He knew the ends and outs of protecting yourself in street fights, or in the ring.  He taught us endurance,physically and emotionally.  He taught us how to respect other athletes studying other styles that were different from our circles.  By just hanging around him we learned much about respecting other races, creeds and cultures.  This boy really needed it at the time.  He taught cool-headed, rewarding confidence which gang members often avoid.  To this very day, 40+ years later, I deal with pain like a fighter in a competitor’s bout.  His training opened our eyes to endure.  He instructed in the knowledge of absorbing pain, struggle and fatigue while never giving up.  Under his training you either were toughened to the hilt, or you dropped out to join a chess club.  Case in point:  Last December, when they opened me up for a quadruple bypass, the cardiac surgeon told me I had old bruising on my chest plate, like a tattoo.  I smiled, knowing whose footprint branded its mark there.  He lost his life in a plane crash in July of 1981.  The who’s-who of the martial arts world came to his memorial service, including Chuck Norris, who couldn’t even get in the building due to overflow, standing outside on the steps for the duration.  Through my tears I thanked him for coming.

People building people.  Constructionists building society.  C.S. Lewis was right.  Education alone will not bring inner peace or enlightenment.  It’s such a misconception not often determined through the lens of study.  The turnip will not be squeezed.  Virtues and attributes like ethics, faith and love will not drip out of degrees and diplomas.  Stellar core values often are discovered in individuals who never finished school, or cracked open curriculum from higher learning institutions.  Educators worth their salt know this, accept it and adhere to it.

Great educators produce great educators.  The evidence is all around us.  Common denominators seem to include:  passion stirred with compassion, intuitiveness and love.  It matters!

The debates rage concerning unions and non-unions, private or public schools, home schooling or the little rural frame building out in the woods with an old school bell.  The rub will most likely continue.  However, if you’re an educator of the heart, you’re enriched already through a higher calling.

May this new school year grant you wisdom beyond your degree, beyond your training, beyond your studies.  May your goals be worthy and focused.  May the care for the kids be authentic, full of grace and discernment.  May you and your classroom be well protected from evil.  May it be a sacred, honored and loving place.  May you be comforted when you burn the midnight oil only to rise up early the following morning.  May you discover new loves this year that will ink themselves on your heart during your coming days of rest.  Most of all, know that your very fingerprints will remain on their hearts and minds for decades to come.

Miss Cain, wherever you are…here’s to ya!

Remind yourself each day that many may write about you long after you are gone, maybe some 40-50 years from today.  When wrapped in the thought, you might just find more fuel for the race.

“My friends, we should not all try to become teachers.  In fact, teachers will be judged more strictly than others.” – James 3:1 (Contemporary English Version)

 

 

Radio – Theater of The Mind

“Let’s dance.  Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.  Let’s dance, to the song they’re playin’ on the radio…” –  Let’s Dance, by David Bowie (1983).  Composers:  Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman.

With his smooth and cool, Dick Clark-style radio voice, the great Chuck Conway of KRRV/Sherman, Texas said, “Be the 9th caller now for your chance at a large, chilled bottle of Coca-Cola, compliments of KRRV-Sherman.”  A wide-eyed, curly-headed kid had been waiting all day for the invitation.  One needed to be quick on the draw with the old rotary dial phones.  Phone contests for promotions at the medium market station couldn’t afford $1,000 give-aways, or a new car, but offers of Coca-Cola’s new large bottles was a thrill!  It was the summer of 1972.

Radio Kitchen

Photo:  pinterest.com.au

The music-loving kid was always glued to the little shoe-box sized, mono radio sitting on top of the fridge in the kitchen.  His single mom worked a third-shift, leaving him dipped in the ways of radio formats.  The lad often stayed up to watch Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, then off to his bedroom alarm clock radio.  It just fit nicely on the shelf of the bedstead where the boy would fall asleep listening to top 40 hits, or a local late-night talk show out of Dallas.  (Yes, a talk-show.  What does that tell you about this 11-12 year old kid?)  He had his keen ear plastered up against the speakers.  Bouncing off his face was the soft amber glow of the tiny bulb behind the frequency dial.

Radio Alarm Zenith_C520W

Photo:  web.eecs.umich.edu

During the summer days, he did house chores while listening to the tunes on the charts.  Floating through the air from the AM radio was, “Run To Me” – Bee Gees, “I Can See Clearly Now” – Johnny Nash, “My Guy” – Mary Wells and “Betcha By Golly Wow” – Stylistics, just to name a few.  Lost in the music, he would dance and sing to the top of his lungs, unless his mom was sleeping during the day.  However, it slowed the boy down on the list of chores that needed to be completed by the end of the afternoon.  Trouble always followed.  Yet, he knew every lyric, the artists, as well as the 3-1/2 hour rotations for each song from the top 10 list.  This kid was studying radio without even realizing it.  Let’s face it, he was hooked!

Radio 1930

Photo:  census.gov

The love of radio must have been in his genes.  His grandmother used to talk about her days as a child sitting in the living room at night, with the lights off, in front of their RCA floor cabinet-radio.  She would talk about dramas, comedies, big bands, preachers and the like.  The one person she recalled, that pierced her mind, was hearing FDR’s speeches.  She said there was just something about the president’s voice coming through the fabric cover of the speaker.  She must have passed the intrigue down to this little guy.

It wasn’t too long when the lad began to spin 45s on his little mono turntable in his bedroom while tape recording himself.  He went all-out playing the role of the radio personality while back-announcing and pre-selling the cuts played.  Of course, one had to include doing public service announcements , weather, traffic, etc.  I am sure he wishes he could find those old mock-radio shows recorded on cassette…I doubt it!  At that young age he understood the ability of radio which could take a bored pre-teen, with a huge imagination, and put him in a different place altogether.  Theater of the mind can and will take you to a variety of levels on the canvas of the brain.  He figured it out right away.

He and his mom were poor.  In those days, he didn’t know what FM was.  His mom’s car only had AM, just like the two radios at home.  Years later, for the first time in his life, when finally he heard FM in his uncle’s car, it was shocking.  By today’s standard, it would be like going from a tin-can with a string to an HD theater system.

Radio Car Vintage 1966

Photo:  vintagecarradio.com

That was many moons ago.  The times are mysteriously foreign to what they are today.  We all have to grow up….or do we?  Could fantasy turn into reality, even for a poor fatherless kid?

Part of me wants to say I planned my career during those bonding times with the magic of radio, but I can’t be certain.  Nevertheless, in my mid 20’s, I made the career change to dive into live radio for a living.  Honestly, it was so comfortable, like an old favorite denim shirt.  The radio bug still remains after all these decades.  Radio continues to be my friend.

Radio Theater Trophies

After 11 years into my radio career, while at my fourth radio station, I launched a radio theater department at a non-commercial station in Dallas/Ft Worth.  I was a playwright, actor and director prior to radio.  The idea was pitched to the general manager and off we went like a bottle-rocket.  We named it, Criswell Communications Radio Ampitheater.  Overall, at last count, I have produced seven audio movies (One produced in Buffalo, NY.), three of which won national and international awards, along with multiple :60 second dramatic scenes for a radio feature series.  Now THAT is theater of the mind at its zenith.  My grandmother was so proud.

Me at KCBI 2012Speaking of theater of the mind, lots of radio listeners imagine the air talent they follow, tends to look a certain way.  With the visual gone, radio forces you to paint your own painting.  It’s often funny.  Right after they meet me, most listeners usually say they thought I sounded blonde, clean shaven, tall and skinny.  (Question:  How does a blonde, clean shaven, tall and skinny guy sound?)  It seems I’ve burst a few bubbles in my time.  They also imagine their favorite radio personality listens to what he/she plays on the air at home or in the car.  It may come as a surprise to you, most of us don’t.  If you ever flipped burgers for a living, you usually don’t want a burger for dinner.  An old friend of mine was a well-known, on-air classic rock personality.  At home he listened to Braums, Beethoven and Mozart.  Because I was raised to be highly eclectic musically, I have always listened to other formats after I got off the air.

“…FM – no static at all…FM – no static at all…” – FM by:  Steely Dan (1978)  Composers:  Walter Becker and Donald Fagen.

Me@WDCX board

Does this happen to you?  In recent years I have been playing CDs in my car, as well as in our studio/office at home.  I find it clears my head when all the chatter is missing.  Sometimes you just have to shut down all the quacking that comes over the speakers.  So, for years now I have had my radio off in my down times.

CDs in Study

In my last posting, I mentioned the excessive heat our July dished out.  Some parked cars registered 127-140 degrees inside.  It certainly did some damage to my dashboard CD player.  It has malfunctioned and refuses to spit out the CD when I push the eject button.  Yet, a great love came to visit when I was forced to power down the CD player.  My radio mode was waiting for me, set on a retro AM station I had forgotten about.  They were playing power-gold hits from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Everything was there, Paul McCartney and Wings, Dobie Gray, Three Dog Night and Carly Simon.  I felt the splash of sonic fresh waves weaving through the monitors in my car, filling my ears with some precious jewels from dear old friends.  I found I missed radio, even with the slightly muffled crackling of AM frequency.  LOVE IT!  I’m singing at the top of my voice again, dancing the best I can while driving.  Who knows, I may buy myself a little hand-held transistor radio for old-time sake.

Isn’t it strange how you can leave something you love so dearly without even realizing the drift that takes you away?  It happens in education, relationships, values and your core beliefs.  I find it serves me well just to put a keen ear to the ground while listening for the familiar distant sweet spot.  Sometimes, just a quick revisit is all it takes to see the scope of lacking.  But beware, it takes courage.

By the way, just in case you were wondering…I was Chuck Conway’s 9th caller.  It was my first time on the air, and my first, and last time, to ever win anything!  My mom drove me about three miles to the tiny studios of KRRV where Mr. Conway sent his studio engineer to the lobby with my bottle of Coke.  There are things you just never seem to get over.  I had hoped to meet, the blonde, clean-shaven, tall, slim Chuck Conway.  But alas, it didn’t happen.  He was probably a 300 pound red-head with a beard down to his chest.

So, turn your radio on, using filters that spring up from the pools of fuel for the race.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  – Jesus –  Matthew 11:15 (NAS) 

Texas Summer Spiral

“…The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz and the sky with no clouds.  The heat was hot and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound.  I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name.  It felt good to be out of the rain…” – A Horse With No Name – Recorded and released by:  America (1972)  Composer:  Dewey Bunnell

Not so fast about feeling good to be out of the rain.  Although far from the desert, here in the Dallas/Ft Worth metroplex, we only got a total of a quarter of an inch of rain for the entire month of July.  It has been a brutal month.  In fact, we had 21 days of 100+ temperatures, 10 of those days consecutively.  Most of July hovered around 101-106 degrees.  We reached 109 degrees at our house at one point last week.  My dad, in West Texas (where the photo above was taken), reported 111 degrees at his place.  When it’s that dry and hot, everything suffers and the spiral begins.

Our neighbors left for a long trip to Florida early in the month.  They had friends periodically come over to care for their dogs and a chicken coop they set up in their backyard.  However, much of their plants and grass lost the heat battle.

Dead Long Plant  Dead Garden When they returned home yesterday, they mentioned one chicken was found dead.  They also discovered a crack in their driveway measuring 10″ deep.  Even though we water our landscape vigorously, it really just wasn’t enough.  The cracks in the ground are big enough to get your foot caught.

Dead Pot

Down our street, about five houses to the east of us, stands an old grandfather-type tree.  I walk by it often.  The age of it is unknown to me, but it certainly is older than the actual neighborhood.  A few days ago, one of its giant limbs, that reaches over and across the street, which is massive enough to be a tree itself, partially broke off from the trunk.  The colossal limb totally blocked the street.  Deep into the night city crews with chain saws had their tussle slicing it up dragging its branches to the curbs for about half a block or so on both sides of the street.

Broken Branches  The tree itself remains standing, but I’m a bit nervous about it’s lack of hydration.

Broken Tree

This week we enjoyed a break in the excessive heat, only in the upper 90s now.  However, we are way behind on summer rainfall.  It’s amazing what a month of dry, scorching sun can do to us all.

Meanwhile, my 7 year old granddaughter, Skylar, came over to spend part of the sweltering weekend with us.  Even though the soil has separated from the tree trunk by about 3″, I am so grateful our stout pecan tree remains somewhat healthy.  She loves the backyard tree swing.  We had a terrific time.

Tree Swing

Droughts come and go.  We’ve certainly had our share through the years.  I’m sure August will be a tad more kind to our neck of the woods.  Yet, there is also another drought that can bring down the very soul and spirit of a person.

Skylar on guiar

Skylar is highly intelligent, sometimes to a vice, as well as loving and kind.  I love being with her.  Because she misses lots of spiritual teaching, I always do what I can to nurture her in that area on the rare occasion she gets to spend the weekend.  Not a time of babysitting has gone by when I don’t bring up my faith and why I rest in it.  Usually, if time permits, I take her to church, read Bible stories and introduce her to the biblical characters I learned about when I was her age.  Sometimes she even pays attention.  When I gave her a nativity set for Christmas a couple of years ago, she asked why there was a dinosaur in the manger scene.  Shrugging, I told her that Jesus must’ve loved dinosaurs.  When I asked her to show it to me, she pointed to one of the wise men’s camels.  (Well, sure.  Why not.  It has a long neck and odd face.)

Skylar Shirt of Truth

The truth is, my branch of the family needs watering.  In some cases, grafting.  If raised without a solid teaching of the faith from the parents and grandparents, it can be like an oak growing without water, striving in the Texas July sun. There are nutrients in the scriptures that can bring a life that flourishes, bringing guidance and strength in the times of dryness.  Without these truths, we attempt to stand on our own when the seasons of drought overtake us.  At other times, we’re just off and away to Florida.  Our roots can grow in shallow sands.

I try not to worry about my granddaughter’s spiritual health.  For now, I will lean on one of my favorite phrases written many times through the passages…”BUT GOD…”  I love it when a sentence is launched with those words.

Sometimes you can’t outrun a heatwave, but you can endure it with fuel for the race.

“For he (The person who trusts in God.) will be like a tree planted by the waters, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes;  But its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8 (NASB)