Sprinkles of Joy

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.
Brown paper packages tied up with strings.
These are a few of my favorite things.”
(1965) “My Favorite Things” from, “The Sound Of Music” Recorded By: Julie Andrews Composers: Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rodgers

Sitting at my desktop computer, where I write, I truly had no clue of what what I would jot. Does this ever happen to you? Usually, something is already on my mind, burning through the noise and the sights of the day. More often than not, a theme is just itching to slide out of my noggin and onto my keyboard. But not today.

A decent psychoanalysis performed by a solid, experienced professional in the field could most likely open me up and explain why this occurred. Then again, maybe not. I can be complicated.

In my frustration, I sat at my desk looking at a blank screen, which mirrored my hollow brain, when suddenly a light came on. A phenomenon which warms me so often that I take it for granted. Well, not taken for granted today.

Just before I pull back my desk chair from the desk, I face a study closet door, which stands about a foot from the chair to the right of the desk. On the doorknob of the closet, hangs two precious items of note. Let me show you.

Draping over the doorknob is a Christmas ornament of hand painted hues displaying blue, purple, yellow, amber, green and black. The small piece of art is encased in glass with a silver alloy frame and backing. If you look closely, you can read the words, “by Skylar 2017”. Skylar is my granddaughter. When she was 6 years old, she won an art competition that year for this little treasure. It is a small print of a much larger piece she painted that year. Hanging behind the ornament, is the collar and tags of my childhood dog, Tickey. (I have written about him before.) We grew up together. He died at 16 years old, I was 23 at the time. The jingle-jangle of his tags was heard anytime he jumped, ran, scratched. I can reach over and shake them right now, always leaving me with a smile.

Tickey, and a 9 year old me – 1969

Once I sit down to face my desktop screen, this is what graces my vision before I boot up the computer.

16″ across the bottom of my computer screen is a plethora, a sprinkling of little keepsakes. Let me explain.

On the left is a 5.5″ tall cross section of a piece of wood with its original thick, rough bark on the backside.

A few years ago, the oldest, largest tree on our short street was damaged heavily in a fierce windstorm. So much so, it had to be cut down. It was a grandfather of a mammoth tree, no doubt 200 years old, or so. As a memorial, the property owners left a 6′ stump. I am so glad they did. It helps to remind us all that at one time, when my neighborhood was once a thriving cattle ranch from the late1800’s, there stood a tree of testimonial. When they sliced down the massive tree piece by piece, leaving tall piles of lumber along the curb of a full city block, I found a small chunk from this old friend. It had a flat bottom, so it stood up vertically, with its beautiful two-toned colors of its outside ring layers. When I first brought it home, I thought of staining it. But no, I couldn’t. I feel its natural look is stunning as it is.

To the right of the wooden memorial, sits a replica of a Ford Mustang Mach 1 made by Hot Wheels. A girlfriend of mine, from my high school days, drove a royal blue one with black leather interior. It was a beauty, and a beast. I keep it on my desk because I was from the 1960’s-1970’s Hot Wheels generation. Growing up, every cool boy in school had a Hot Wheel set. You were even more so if you were able to collect a herd of Hot Wheel cars and trucks. Well, I was raised by a single mom who worked a graveyard shift. We were poor. So, Hot Wheels was not in my shoe box of treasures. There were the Johnny Lightning 500 cars, a cheaper competitor, which I was able to receive one Christmas, but alas…you guessed it…they were not of the coveted Hot Wheels brand. So, I guess you could say I guard this one with my life.

Just to the right of the Mach 1, lays a genuine, honest, true blue fossil. I sincerely don’t recall where I found it, but I believe I discovered it on the sandy dry floor of the Brazos River in west Texas when I was a kid. Looking closely, it looks to be a part of a neck, or backbone. I’ve never had it analyzed, but as a kid my imagination ran away with ideas. Could it belong to a baby Tyrannosaurus Rex??? More than likely, a duck, or a prairie chicken. My wife poured cold water on a boy’s dream by saying it looked like an intestinal track of a dog. “Gee, thanks, honey.” Either way, it’s a full blown fossil. And that’s what counts. Right?

Just behind said fossil, sits a small stapler I had retrieved from my mom’s storage unit, buried under tons of junk. Nothing fancy, or worthy of writing your mom about. It is rust color, about 5″ in length. It looked very familiar when I unearthed it from the stacks of storage boxes. One day, as it sat on my desk, it hit my memory like a a mob at a New York jewelry store. It was the stapler I used during my high school years. It not only is in decent shape, but it also still has staples in it. Suddenly, it felt like an old friend. And it works!

To the right of the stapler, proudly sits a model replica of the Galileo, the space shuttle from the Star Trek TV series. The old, U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701/7 Space Shuttle. It’s more than just a plastic model of the beloved shuttle, but a container. The top hatch opens to a compartment where a library of Star Trek trivia cards can be found. One of my stepsons gave it to me for a few years back. I was a Trek fan ever since the 1960’s series aired. When my three girls came along, they too became fans. That’s one reason why an old picture of my middle daughter, Megan, sits on the back of the shuttle. At that age, she used to say she wanted to ride in a space ship someday.

What the song said is true. Maybe to you raindrops on roses, or whiskers on kittens may not be your bag, but no doubt you have some favorite things. They don’t have to be large, or expensive. The value is in what the item does for you, to you. Because when that dog bites in life, or the bee stings when unanticipated, a few of your favorite things can trip off a few thousands memories which are reserved in a very blessed place inside. It’s God’s gift.

Poundings of threats of war, rising crime, along with thin wallets can melt away our smiles rather quickly. Losing friends over selected desired pronouns, or ideology which goes against your values, can cause bitterness if not guarded. At the same time, I can vouch for what a small desktop item can bring in your day. The sweet thoughts can point you in an alternative direction where we all were meant to be.

In scripture, there are literally dozens of times where we find where God uses the word, “REMEMBER…” Often, it is the first word in a sentence. Still, we are admonished to use our memories to combat negative, or dangerous desires, thoughts, or depression and disobedience. When we do remember what God has done in our lives, and the lives of others, we can begin to turn the tides of our seat of affections, or a darker path we weren’t chosen to walk. Yes, there’s something to turning the heart toward what we have been blessed with. Just little sprinklings of joy do this. Even if it is a petrified intestine.

Sometimes under “R” in your phone index, a simple line of sweet remembrance, refreshes when taken from fuel for the race.

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.” Hebrews 10:32 (NAS)


Antique Value

“So keep your auditions for somebody
Who hasn’t got so much to lose.
‘Cause you can tell by the lines I’m reciting.
I’ve seen that movie, too.”
(1973) “I’ve Seen That Movie, Too” Recorded By: Elton John Composers: Elton John & Bernie Taupin

As long as I can recall, I have always loved old buildings, old architecture. One of my very favorites would be old theaters. After I moved to Buffalo, NY, I had the privilege of visiting a few old theaters, even performing in a couple of them. Coming from Texas, where most of the oldest theaters were built in the 1920’s-1930’s, with some rare exceptions, our culture was just catching up. However, up north, where vaudeville reigned supreme, the old theaters go way back into the 1800’s, some even dating back to the 1700’s. So, please understand, when I say a Texas theater is considered old when it debuted in the 1930’s, we are talking about a pioneering land.

My mom has fond memories, from the 1940’s and 1950’s, of her small town theater, (movie house) where she and her two brothers would spend Saturday afternoons watching Roy Rogers, Mickey Mouse, and Laurel & Hardy on the big screen. In fact, my very first memory of being inside a theater was in that same movie house in Greenville, Texas. I must have been 3 years old. (1963). All I recall is the movie being a western.

My hometown, Carrollton, Texas, northern suburb of Dallas, has a very similar theater which is considered a true Carrollton landmark. The Plaza Theater. Recently, some friends visited the cinema from the days of yore, in the old downtown square.

Carrollton had its pioneer families settling here in the 1830’s and 1840’s. It was good farmland, as well as a prime location for cattle ranches. Before you could say, “Remember The Alamo”, the railroad came through and Carrollton built its own train depot, which still stands today about five blocks from my house.

Photo: City of Carrollton Centennial Calendar Train Depot

The old Carrollton square was the original downtown business district. Most of the buildings still stand, but have been refurbished in one way or the other. A lot of urbanization is changing the old square area. One building of note, the old bank building, which sits on the northeast corner of the square. A couple of locals, Bonnie and Clyde, paid a visit to that institution in their day. It’s a retail business today.

Photo: City of Carrollton Centennial Calendar Bank

The other businesses in that time were exactly what you would expect from an old pioneering farming town. There was a pharmacy, a hardware store, a seed and feed store, grain storage elevator, barbershop, etc., complete with hitching posts for the horses. But the main feature in the downtown area would be the gazebo. Once a community artesian water well, it sits in the middle of the square. Through the decades, many band, choir, and chamber orchestra performances have graced the old gazebo, including yours truly. Even local beauty pageants have been decided there. CBS TV show, “Walker Texas Ranger” was filmed in and around the square many times.

Photo: City Of Carrollton Centennial Calendar Gazebo

Sitting now, on the south side of the square, is the old Plaza Theater, built in 1949. One of the outstanding highlights was that the Plaza was the first building in our town to have…(what for it)…AIR CONDITIONING! In Texas, that’s a must! As I type this, it’s 108/f outside.

I moved here in 1973. At that time, the old Plaza was still playing current movies, and some throwbacks for nostalgia purposes. I remember some old silent flicks running through the projector room. Many of my old high school friends talk about the movies they saw there as kids. Disney’s original, “Cinderella”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Bambi”. One friend tells me about a time in the 1960’s, The Three Stooges appeared there for some live gags during a Three Stooges festival, of sorts. Imagine, nothing needing a rating system. You didn’t have to fear shielding your kids from nudity, ideological indoctrinations, or obscene language. Those were the days.

Others, from my mom’s generation, love to talk about the wooden fold-down chairs, huge lollipops, and enormous dill pickles for a dime just waiting by the popcorn machine. However, by the time I arrived in town, my generation was the first to experience the mall cinemas, or multiplex theaters. That was the beginning of the death of the old, one-screen palaces our folks grew up with.

Through the decades the old Plaza has gone through lots of changes, with many owners. It survived at least two major historic floods from the swollen Trinity River which runs just west of the square. For many years it sat lifeless as the building began to show signs of a much needed repair, or overhaul. In fact, this shot was taken my freshman year to be the cover of our yearbook. As you can see, when comparing to the other picture, some of the changes to the front entrance since 1975.

Photo: Carrollton’s RL Turner High School 1975 yearbook

Recently I discovered something I didn’t know about the old Plaza history. The Carrollton square had an original Plaza Theater, but it was located on the west side of the square. It was opened in 1938. The building remains to this day, but now it is a gift and curio shop.

Photo: City Of Carrollton Centennial Calendar Original Plaza Theater

Carrollton’s Plaza Theater has transformed into many venues during the post-movie decades. There have been live plays performed there, ballet, business meetings, concerts, Elvis impersonators, church services, dinner theater, private parties, and dancing events, etc. It’s been gutted, reworked, repainted, added construction, and refinished. All of these changes in one place, but the old memories for so many still remain.

There’s just something about walking into an old place, with all its deco décor, painted trim high ceilings, slanted floors, and that musty hint in the air. Some have glorious winding staircases to a balcony, printed carpeting, with some displaying chandeliers. I love the little ticket box outside, just big enough for one ticket clerk with popcorn wafting in the air. Those were the days.

One might say it’s a desire for the old things, the old ways, the old founder’s culture. Honestly, for me, there might be some truth to that. Others might say, it’s just an appreciation for the solid architecture, craftmanship, and historical sites. There again, for me, that is partially true. Some might say it’s a love of the imagination. And, I do tend to step into a building, which dates back to my great grandparents, and imagine myself being there, enjoying life as they lived it. It could be the same reason why antique stores are in such demand. I also think about the relationships that were growing in and out of that entertainment venue. How many dated their future wife or husband inside the doors of the old Plaza? I do wonder. Summing it up, I think it’s all of the above for me. Frankly, for many, antique things are a waste of time and space.

One certainty nobody ever discusses about “the old days” which should be brought up.

The downtown square, including the Plaza Theater, was closed down on Sunday mornings. Many, all day and night on Sunday. Back then, most were going to church services, including the business establishment owners. If there was an owner who didn’t attend church services, they stayed closed on Sundays because of simple neighborly respect for those of faith in the community. I am no religious legalist by any stretch, I often buy groceries on Sundays. I have no problem doing so.

If you have lived long enough, you know the common values our communities shared. Now, it is considered antique values. The days for respecting the “day of rest” is long gone, and so is my rose colored glasses.. I do have a solid rock I stand on Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That is a comfort.

There is renewal, refurbishing, and remodeling found in the old pages of fuel for the race.

“Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.” – King Solomon – Ecclesiastes 7:10 (NAS)

A Lovely Lady, Indeed

“My love, there’s so many ways I want to say I love you
Let me hold you in my arms forever more…”
(1980) “Lady” Recorded By: Kenny Rogers Composer: Lionel B. Richie

Reading the lyrics to this great old ballad, you get the hint of an undying, long-lived love for the ages, the stuff of thick novels. Before you read on, just know you might have the wrong idea. However, this is a great love story.

For mid June, the weather could not be more perfect for outdoor plans for the Havens family in Idaho Springs, Colorado. In fact, dad had the garage door opened as he was working on a project in the garage. The four young kids, and Lady, their mid-sized chihuahua-pit bull mix, were enjoying their time in the fenced-in yard, playing on the swing-set, while mom was close by, listening to the sounds her little joys at play.

The scene was not unusual for them. Outdoor fun was a natural for the entire family. They had been peacefully living in that house for nine years without a peep of trouble among the woods with its beautiful Colorado countryside.

Suddenly, without warning, the happy sounds of children’s playtime on the lawn was brutally interrupted by an awkward, uncharacteristic aggressive barking and growling from Lady. She could not stay silent, even after the kids admonished her for the ultra loud vocals. Mr. Havens heard the commotion from the garage and took a peek from the driveway. There, just feet away, behind his little girl on the swing, was a large approaching mountain lion, clearly in a stalking prowl, inching toward the little girl. Before he could get the words out of his mouth, Lady ran between the kids and the preying mountain lion, charging the big cat without hesitation. The family momentarily froze. As Lady ran into the battle, like a knight in shining armor protecting a princess, dad began to shout with every ounce of volume he could muster.


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Running up stairs to a bedroom window, they peered out to see the fierce war going on outside. Although Lady was much smaller than the mountain lion, she took the defensive battle to the wild cougar. The family did not own a firearm, with the exception of a BB gun. Dad shot at the lion, to no avail. Mom grabbed items in the room to throw at the beast, but the bloody battle ensued, regardless. The police were called. When they arrived, the big cat had pinned a badly wounded Lady on the turf, having its violent ways with her. The officers shot at the lion several times with non-lethal ammo, and finally, with a blood soaked muzzle, the mountain lion slowly walked away and up a small hill just outside the fenced area.

The Havens family rushed downstairs with tears rolling down their faces. As they opened the door to the yard, poor, wounded Lady somehow found the strength to stand and walk toward her family, into the house where she knew love and care. Immediately, dad saw how serious the injuries were, which included a multi-punctured skull. He wrapped a blanket around her and held her as even then, through her moans and whining, she tried to jump out of his arms to be next to the children she had just saved from a terrible attack.

The family knew the time for Lady was precious as they loaded up the car for the nearest animal clinic. It was there the vet expressed the hopeless diagnosis they didn’t want to hear. Lady’s massive injuries were too extensive and irreversible. It was best to put her down. The four kids, mom and dad, all wrapped their arms around dear Lady as they thanked her for sacrificing her own life to rescue those she loved. With a great amount of personal loss, dad carried her back to a room where Lady was gently, and peacefully rescued from her critical condition.

When I read this heartbreaking story of Lady and her defiant stance against the enemy of her family, I saw us. I imagined you, me, and my neighbors.

There they were, happy, joyful, playing together on their own lawn where it is safe and secure. Right? After all, it was a fenced-in yard, a lawn with boundaries, a protected place of freedom and shelter. The gate wasn’t open. The fence was not breached. Nightfall had not yet arrived. Still, a ferocious enemy, without love for the children, without a sense of honor or respect for this family unit, found within its longing for the blood of the child, exercised the ability to leap the boundaries set in place. Lady was gallant, even sacrificial in the moment, without hesitation, she was outweighed, outsized, and out muscled. The claws and fangs of the enemy were far beyond the caliber of sweet Lady.

Today, many in America are indeed “waking up” to the claws and jaws of the enemy. Yes, Woke crowd, we get it. You have awakened a sleeping bear. Hibernation is over.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

The attack is carefully strategized. Destroy the child physically, emotionally, and spiritually. When the youth of America are killed prior to birth, when hateful ideology clouds the minds of our school children, when drag queens want to boldly indoctrinate our young ones, when violence and murder are celebrated and encouraged, when our youth has no clue of God, and God’s sacrificial love for them, the future is firmly in the paws and jaws of the enemy. For sure, the enemy is beyond just crouching at our door.

You might feel like Lady against a large mountain lion on the prowl. I admit to feeling that way. Is my bark greater than my bite? Scripture tells us that we are NOT alone, nor do we fight alone for righteousness sake. Our cat is far bigger! Just ask Aslan.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When lacking the fierceness needed to protect, find courage in fuel for the race.

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8 (NAS)