Thursday, December 27, 2012

No Time Like Snow Time

Snow is not my favorite kind of weather.  My memories of snow are howling winds and brown-tinted drifts piled in inconvenient places.  Where I grew up was too flat to get any good from a sled or skis.  Snowmobiles were OK as long as you could avoid the bare patches where all the white stuff had blown off and into the fence rows.  Of course, we didn't own snowmobiles.  They were the domain of those who had cabins at Ruidoso or Red River and spent portions of the winter in the mountains.

Snow meant cold, but cold rarely meant snow.  Temperatures in the teens were no fun.  Yeah, I know, many of you think temps in the teens is a warm spell.....not me.  Those temperatures were always accompanied by howling winds that dropped the chill factor below zero -- or at least into the single digits.

I grew up in town but spent many of my free hours helping my grandfather who always had cattle and horses.  The cold weather meant breaking ice for the livestock and feeding them hay.  Sometimes the challenge was just to get to them.  Breaking snowdrifts could be interesting and sometimes involved a walk to find a tractor.

The crazy thing is that often the field would be virtually bare of snow and the roads filled and overflowing.  After years and years of road graders smoothing the roads they were often lower than the fields on either side.  When the wind moved the snow from the level ground of the fields it naturally went to the lowest place -- the road.  More than once I have driven on the turn rows of fields rather than in the road.

I figured that with the move to East Texas we wouldn't see much snow.  Obviously I hadn't done my homework.  We had several inches fall on Christmas Day.  They are still with us.  The challenge here is picking up tree limbs and avoiding the vehicles driven by East Texans who are unfamiliar with snow and ice.  Their timidity on the roads seems to be a greater hazard than the snow itself.

I know this sounds like a complaint but it really isn't.  The snow is a  blessing.  It was preceded by good rain and my ponds are replenished and my pasture has a good dose of water that hopefully will start some of the winter grasses to growing.  This snow will actually help reduce the amount of hay I'm having to feed because of the drought that hopefully is breaking.  The forecast calls for moisture for most of next week.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Anticipation fills the air
And fires the hearts of men
With hope and love and family
And times without a care;

Remembrances of childhood time
With laughter, food and fun
And peeking 'neath the Christmas tree
For any telltale sign

Of what beneath the wrappings lay;
Delights of Christmas morn
So near and yet so far away
Awaiting break of day.

Jesus in the manger fast asleep,
Unnoticed on the shelf;
Mary and Joseph standing watch
With Shepherds and their sheep.

While towering o'er the manger scene
Is dancing Santa Claus
Proclaiming loudly, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"
When someone pulls his string

Somehow I think that our delight
Is empty -- without meaning
As we focus on the things of earth
Ignoring God's Holy Light.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Preparations

I am always somewhat dismayed but never shocked that the last few days before Christmas are whirlwinds of activity.  I do my best to stay at the peripheral but it seems that I am always pulled into the maelstrom.

I can cook.  But I don't really enjoy it.  So, I leave the creative cooking to others.  Frosted cookies, loaves of bread, candies and pies are not my domain.  I find it best to go rake leaves or something when such activities are in full swing. 

Then there is the inevitable last minute dash to get packages wrapped before "the trip" somewhere.  Always we go somewhere -- even when we would prefer to have Christmas at home.  Or, maybe it's just me that prefers to have Christmas at home.  I'm the one that travels all the time so when there is a holiday, I don't get especially excited about hitting the road.

Oh, I was talking about wrapping packages.  I can do so -- adequately.  But, they usually don't turn out "pretty" so I shy away from the task.  I wrap what I must wrap.  I am thankful for gift bags.  Years ago we didn't have that luxury.  I can handle gift bags.  Just put whatever it is into the bag, stuff some tissue paper in on top, put a tag on it and call it good. 

So, cooking.  Yes, I cooked dinner.  It was a trade.  I didn't wrap packages.  I can handle a basic meal of meat, potatoes and a veggie.  I even did most of the dishes.  That's a fair trade isn't it?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life Marches On

Once upon many years ago a Mayan carved a calendar into stone.  Given the limitations of stone, he ran out of space.  It is just a coincidence that this day was the last one carved into that stone.  But, what does that say to us today?  Not that it is the end of the world, but that life marches on. 

Back in the 90's I took over management of a division of a company that developed software for feed yards.  We faced the Y2K issue.  Hmm.....someone failed to consider the fact that the software would be around long enough for that to be an issue.  It reminds me of the Mayan carving his calendar.  Y2K passed and the world didn't end then either.

On a more somber note, this week also saw another mass murder by a deranged individual.  It has become a political football.  I am saddened for those families who lost children or other loved ones.  But, in the bigger scheme of things, it is only temporary.  We all will die.  The only question that should be asked is will we be united with them in eternity.

I am not going to debate whether all innocent children automatically go to heaven.  I don't know the answer to that.  I do know that many of the adults affected by the loss will not.  Many do not believe in a life after this one.  If they don't it was all meaningless anyway if you follow the logic of their belief to its conclusion.  Our temporary sojourn on this planet is but a moment in time.  Life marches on. 

The real tragedy in the murder of those kids is that people don't see that it is only a symptom of something much bigger.  It isn't about guns.  It isn't about the mentally unstable.  It is a tiny event in the battle between good and evil.  Stalin, Hitler, the Huns, the Chinese, abortion clinics -- all have murdered many more innocent victims than the killer in Connecticut. 

Ultimately good will win.  It will be when Jesus returns.  Not before.  In the meantime, we struggle on as the Spiritual Battle rages around us.  We must choose sides.  Jesus told us that if we aren't for Him we are against Him (Matthew 12:30).  If you think you haven't chosen sides you are mistaken.....it is time to think hard about that choice.  Life marches on but, only temporarily on this earth.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ranchers and Veterans Day

I've needed a lazy morning for awhile.  It seems like it has been go, go, go forever. 

My job sometimes causes me to work on the weekends -- this one is an example -- and my own projects keep me going when there is spare time -- whether at home or on the road.  This morning I don't have to be at the Trade Show until 11:00 so I slept late and now I'm sitting at the computer (must be an addiction).

It seems that when I have a little spare time I also have the urge to write.  Often it is just meandering thoughts strung together, but occasionally I have something on my mind that needs to be given wing -- such as the previous post on the election.  Today, I am just wandering with no clear direction.

I always enjoy the WRCA's World Championship Rodeo in Amarillo.  That's why I'm here.  We have a booth and are a sponsor.  It is refreshing to see the ranch families who are there not only to compete but to "come to town" for what is for many of them, an annual vacation.  In many ways it is like a giant family reunion.

One thing I kept noticing yesterday was all of the children.  It seemed like there was an endless line of baby strollers and little kids walking through in their hats and boots.  Young families together with joy on their faces.  I didn't see an iPod or computer game in any of their hands.  I saw simple toys that required imagination.  I saw happy faces filled with excitement.  It made me proud to be a part of the ranching community.

These are people who make their living from the land.  They care deeply about their environment and the livestock in their care.  They live simply and work hard.  They are one of the reasons that this country is still a land of plenty.  Many of the ranches where they live have been in business well over 100 years.  That's sustainability.  These are just some of the people who produce the food we eat.....and not only us -- they feed the world.  I appreciate them.

I also saw a number of Veterans scattered through the crowd.  Some carried the scars of their service.  Others I'm sure had scars that weren't visible to the eye.  Today, on Veterans Day, we need to remember those who have served to keep us free.

Ranchers and Veterans have a lot in common.  Both are willing to fight for this country and to take care of each other and to give rather than take.  The WRCA Foundation was organized to help those in need.  If you get a chance, follow the link and read about what they do.

Well, I guess my wandering thoughts found a path after all.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Reflections

On November the 29th of 2011, I posted my election prediction.  You can see it here.

Sometimes you just hate to be right.

Although my call of the race was correct, perhaps my reasoning was a bit off.  I've been giving thought since about 9:30 Tuesday night about the outcome.  I know, 9:30 was before the race was called, yet it was increasingly clear the likely outcome.  Even before that Sarah Palin gave an emotional commentary that reflected my feelings as well.

It would be easy to rant about the election.  I will hopefully avoid that.  But why, I continue to ask myself, is the American public so clearly deceived by what is going on in Washington?  Maybe the answer is that they are not.

Our country seems more clearly divided than at any time in our history except perhaps the period around the War Between the States -- or should I call it the Civil War or, even yet, the War of Northern Aggression.  The words we choose to convey our message can be divisive.  Today, persons at all points on the political spectrum -- either "left" or "right" -- are using very divisive language.  That language in itself further divides when what we need is civil discourse that draws us toward common ground and practical solutions for the issues that our country faces.

I think our society has taught us to use divisive language.  It has not been done overtly or purposefully, but it is symptomatic of the "culture of self" which has become pervasive.  Every message on television subtly (or not so subtly) points to the thought, "What's in it for me?"  It is that very attitude that erodes the moral fabric of our society.  After all, what is civilization?  It is coming together for the common good.  Other related words come to mind, such as civility -- being aware of others needs, or civics -- the study of citizenship, its rights and duties which leads us ultimately to citizenship -- which denotes both obligation to others and the privileges of belonging to those in whom resides the power of governance.

As we have become a society composed of individuals focused on self we have lost civility and lost the impetus for seeking common ground. 

So, how does such an attitude of incivility -- or this "culture of self" -- explain the election results?  The election is merely symptomatic of the prevailing cultural bias to look only to one's own needs without thought to consequences to others -- whether it be the unborn, our grandchildren, our neighbor or strangers and aliens. 

The "culture of self" also erodes our ability to think critically about the messages we are hearing.  People stop listening when they hear the words they want to hear.  (For an interesting perspective there are some great verses in the book of Proverbs about honey to the ear, etc.)  There is a failure to reason through the message to the consequences of behavior.  In my mind, the legalization of marijuana in Colorado is a perfect example -- not for the result, but for the messaging which led to the result.  Proponents of the measure touted legalization as a way to increase school funding.  Is there not something fundamentally wrong with connecting marijuana to our school children?  In my mind there is.

Ultimately, the "culture of self" will lead to the fragmentation of society.  We are quickly moving in that direction.  Until we change our culture we will not change our direction.  We must reinstate the value of seeking the common good into our thought processes or the "change" will only accelerate.

Just my thoughts.....

Chris

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Coaching Tips

Thursday night was the annual meeting of the Northeast Texas Beef Improvement Organization (NETBIO).  It is a group of ranchers, Veterinarians, bankers and livestock auction owners that came together to find a better way to market their cattle.  It is a great organization that has been very successful for many years.  Many have tried to duplicate the success of NETBIO but none have been able to.

The guest speaker for the Banquet was Gene Stallings, former coach of the Texas Aggies, the Crimson Tide and then coached under Tom Landry at the Dallas Cowboys before becoming head coach of the St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals.  Coach Stallings is a rancher and lives not far from where I do.

I expected Coach Stallings to talk about his experiences in football -- as a player and then as a coach.  He did not.  He talked about ranching and overcoming hardship and maintaining proper values.  He talked about perseverance and about making a difference in someone else's life.  He is giving back to others.  Currently he is pursuing building a hospital in Haiti.  Of all his accomplishments, it is the one he seems most proud of.

During his speech he talked about taking pride in what you have been given stewardship over.  He specifically referred to his ranch.  He said, "I don't want to see a weed in the pasture or a tree limb fallen in the woods.  I want everything to be well-maintained and there is no excuse for walking past something that needs fixing day after day and not fixing it."  Well.....those may not have been his exact words, but they represent the gist of it.

I expecially found it interesting in light of my current project on the ranch.  Clearing brush from the fencelines that pass through some woods on the place.  Things had grown up into a tangle of Greenbriar, Blackberries, Dewberries, locust trees, and a million saplings of various species of tree and shrub.  There were trees fallen on the fence pressing down the wires and there was no good way to get through to fix things.  So, a couple of weeks ago I set out to change that.  I'm doing it the old fashioned way too.  A lot of sweat and manual labor.  I figure it's a good way to get back in shape and it seems much more productive than going to a gym or jogging.  There are a couple of pictures below to give you an idea....

 
Above:  Where I'm going.
 
Below:  Where I've been.
 

Realizing a Dream

All my life I have wanted to be a rancher.  I grew up following my grandfather who always owned cattle until he was almost 90 years old.  The problem with wanting to be a rancher is that it takes a lot of money.  That wasn't something that I inherited or was given so, I had to start saving what I could.

My undergraduate advisor at Texas A&M was Dr. Ronald D. Kay.  I will never forget Dr. Kay because he cared about the students and teaching more than he did about research.  He gave me some very practical advice.  Pursue what you want to do but remember, there's more than one way to skin a cat.  You may have to do something you don't really want to do in order to do what you really want to.  He suggested agricultural finance might be a good way to start working toward my dream of owning a ranch.  It was good advice.  Managing money properly is necessary to realize a dream that costs as much as ranching.

I owned cattle a time or two through the years.  But, I was never able to put much together beyond a few stocker calves or a few old cows on leased land.  I stepped away from it for awhile and decided to focus on putting together enough to do it right.

This year, we finally were able to realize the dream.  Looking back it was all obviously "God orchestrated" because the combination of things coming together could have been the result of nothing else.  There are a few pictures below....












Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Patience

Trusting fully
In God's timing
And not in our own
Is patience.

Knowing that
He has contol
Of everything
Is patience.

Having faith
That His timing
Is best
Is patience.

Patience
Is
Faith
In God's timing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Adventures in Learning

We took a hike in the woods today.  Well, that's what it ended up being although that wasn't necessarily our intent. 

We've been looking to acquire a little acreage out in the country where we might be able to run a few cows.  So far, we haven't been able to find the right place or the right deal or something.  I guess it amounts to an exercise in patience.  Eventually we will find the right place.

Anyway, we went out to check out a property listed for sale that we had driven by a few times.  It's one that I have kept coming back to as other properties fell through.  I wanted a serious look and so I got the combination for the lock box from our realtor and this evening we went out to look it over.

It is grown up in weeds and brush and although it is being leased for grazing we were only able to find a handful of cattle on the place.  We drove a short distance into the property following the faint trace of a road that once was.  It wasn't even as clear as the cattle trails but it got us about 100 yards into the place before we decided that we would just walk.

My goal was to get a feel for the boundaries of the property -- how it lay and what the grass looked like.  I knew that there were a number of shallow watercourses that crossed the land because they were choked with trees and brush.  Interspersed between are areas that were once pasture but are now grown up in weeds and brush.

We hiked toward the back of the place looking for the back fence.  And we kept hiking.  And we hiked some more.  No fence.  We both felt sure we were beyond the boundary of the place when we came upon a road through the pasture so we followed it a ways.  Sure enough, it led to the neighbor's house on the place behind.  Well, sort of. 

He came out to meet us in his pasture and said he figured we must be lost.  Seemed like a nice guy and was very helpful when I explained what we were doing.  He kind of laughed and said, "You won't find many fences in the woods of East Texas -- at least not ones where the wires are up on posts and that will keep the livestock in.  You gotta look at the ground to find any fences around here.  They've all fallen down years ago."

He went on to explain that the dry creek we crossed actually belonged to the state and was considered navigable waters....remember, I said it was dry.  Then we had crossed another small tract that was landlocked and he didn't know who owned it.  It was probably claimed by the county for failure to pay taxes.  Then we had come across a portion of his land.  Not a single fence.

It's no wonder we didn't see many cows.  They are probably scattered over half the county.  I think the place would be a great project but, it would take more investment to get it into shape than I'm willing to put into it.  I guess we'll keep looking.

Chris

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two Cases of Misguided Response

Over the past few weeks there have been a couple of things in the news that actually got my attention.  I know that seems like a strange thing to say, but the truth of the matter is that I have grown somewhat immune to the news.  It is almost formulaic and highly predictable.

Two events however, have stood out to me recently.  The first was what I will call the "Chick-Fil-A Debacle" and the second was the naming of Paul Ryan as running mate for Mitt Romney.

The "Chick-Fil-A Debacle" was actually about freedom of speech.  However, it turned into a Christians bashing Gays vs. Gays bashing Christians and the media piling on.  I was actually gratified to see the support given to Chick-Fil-A in the form of a day to eat there.  I was disappointed that it became a Gay vs. Christian event.

The choice of Paul Ryan as running mate for Romney is interesting to me for a similar reason.  Ryan is seen by many as representing the values which are closely identified with the Tea Party movement.  Tea Party is really a misnomer because it isn't actually a political party, but it is a movement of people with similar values which are closely aligned with what many deem are Christian values.

This morning at church it was mentioned by someone who will remain unnamed that we Christians must stand up and confront the non-Christian values being pushed upon this Christian nation.  I have several problems with that.  1)  We are not a Christian nation.  Only an individual can be Christian.  Christianity is a relationship between the individual and God through the mediation of Jesus.  2)  Confrontation is not the answer.  How can the love of Jesus be shared through confrontation?  3)  Non-Christian values are pushed by non-Christians.  If you are a Christian and reading this, pay close attention;  you cannot expect non-Christians to have Christian values. 

So, how does the preceding paragraph align with the two newsworthy events?  I think the first one should be obvious.  The owner of Chick-Fil-A exercised his first amendment right in answering a straightforward question that was likely meant to entrap him for political reasons.  He answered the question just as he should -- according to his deeply held beliefs.  The problem lies in the Christian response.  If it was solidarity over the exercise of freedom of speech, it was a correct response.  If it was solidarity in opposition to homosexuality it was misguided.  Homosexuality is condemned by the Bible.  If you profess to be Christian it should have no part in your life -- just as you should seek to eliminate all other sin from your life.  The fact is that as long as we live on this earth, sin of some form or another will be part of our daily life.

Now, to the selection of Paul Ryan.  I think he is probably the best candidate in the field for the highest office in the land.  But, why was he selected and why is he a polarizing candidate?  I think he was selected because Romney needed to appeal to the Christian right and those non-Christians who identify with the Tea Party movement.  Evangelical Christians do not see Mormons as Christians.  I agree with that position.  Many Christians see Paul Ryan as one who will confront the anti-Christian agenda in Washington.  Again, it is a position of Christians confronting non-Christians.

Now, I ask the much abused question, "What would Jesus do?"

I think Jesus would tell us to do exactly what He told us to do over 2,000 years ago. 

Then 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[a] 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

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Coming Revolution

Yes, the title is somewhat provocative.  It is the title of a book -- or at least part of one.

I recently read The Coming Revolution: Signs from America's Past That Signal Our Nation's Future by Dr. Richard G. Lee.  It is a book that I struggled with.

In some ways, this is a book that I would write.  It is an attempt to place the backlash that has come to be identified as the Tea Party into historical context.  Yet, to call it such would be to "pigeon-hole" it in a way that is neither accurate nor completely without merit. 

Dr. Lee is obviously a thoroughly studied historian whose Christian worldview informs his interpretation of events that led to the formation of the United States.  His traditional Judeo-Christian values cause him to place emphasis on those writings and events that led the "Founding Fathers" of this country to place their livlihoods, their liberty and even their lives on the line for their beliefs.  His interpretation of current events, when placed against that backdrop, form the basis for the book.

I struggled with the book because it forced me to evaluate my own positions -- my own thoughts -- regarding those events and it caused me to closely examine the "why" of my personal beliefs regarding what is truth and what is right.  It caused me to ask questions of my own beliefs and to evaluate my positions on many issues that we as a nation face.

Is the Tea Party merely a temporary backlash among those whose values closely align with the traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs or is it something deeper?  Is it a return to the values of our forefathers or is it an outmoded way of looking at the world?  I will let you decide.  I encourage you to read the book. 

Chris

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Independence Day

Tomorrow we celebrate the birth of a nation.  It is a time of reflection and a time of celebration.  It is also a time of thanksgiving for this land of unprecedented freedom.  It is a time to consider what is truly important.

It would be easy to vent my frustration at the direction that our country seems to be heading.  It would be easy to attack the very instruments of power that have made it great.  It would be a simple task to outline the erosion of the liberties that we take for granted.  It would not be constructive.  Instead, I want to remain appreciative of what we do have.

When God is forgotten by those in power, they become their own God.  Power is sought for the sake of gaining more power.  When man focuses on his own efforts he forgets that in the end, all power resides in God's hand.  God in His wisdom allows us to go along the paths of our choosing, knowing that when we have run our course, the only recourse is Him.  That is why we cry out to Him in time of crisis.  We are free to choose Him or ourselves.  That is the ultimate freedom.  That is the freedom that I celebrate.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Running Errands

I have a tendency to put things off.  Those of you who know me really well probably have figured that out already.  I admit, I procrastinate.

What's wrong with procrastination?  I have found that it actually makes me more efficient.  I put things off until I have a pretty good list accumulated and then I do them all in a mad rush.  Quite simply, I take things that could be scattered over weeks and get them all done in a half day of dashing about from here to there.  Definitely efficiency at its best!

This afternoon has been one of those mad dash to the finish afternoons with running errands.  It follows logically the mad dash of this morning and early afternoon when I was dashing madly through a list of tasks that had to be completed today.  One mad dash follows another.  Does that make me the "Mad Dasher?"  It's a nice feeling to have both lists behind me.....

Chris

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

More Settling In

I guess there's a lot more to settling in than just getting all the boxes unpacked and everything in a designated space.  There is the seemingly never-ending list of address changes that must be made and the getting acquainted with neighbors and various other folks around the community.  Fortunately, since I've been traveling here for the past several years I know a fair number of people.  Still, there's a difference between being someone who just passes through occasionally and being a neighbor.

Small towns generally have a good sense of how to be a neighbor.  Larger places have forgotten the art.  Before we were even moved into our new home a lady down the street brought us a cake.  Our next-door neighbor looked after our place for several months while we were in transition because we bought this place quite some time before we were able to sell the place where we were living.

Of course, everyone needs a good banker.  I am thankful for community banks.  We found a good one and not only have they been helpful from a banking standpoint, they have been invaluable in helping us to meet people in the community.  The loan officer who helped with our home financing invited us to church and made sure we were welcome and spent a large amount of time making sure we met the pastor and sunday school teachers and anyone else who walked by.  Of course, there's no way I can remember all the names or put them with the correct faces.

We have spent many hours already on the yard.  It is a comfortable, inviting yard with lots of big trees and flowering plants.  The previous owner was a student of our next-door neighbor who came from a family that owned a nursery.  Some day I hope to be able to name all the different plants growing in the many flower beds that we have.  I'll post a couple of photos at the bottom.

Anyway, settling in takes some time.  At our age, which by-the-way I don't feel all that old on the inside, it is a little strange to be settling in.  That is a term that denotes nesting.  We aren't nesting.  We are empty-nesters.  I suppose that's part of the reason for the move.  Priorities change as we age.

Although I will continue in my same job and occupation, we will begin to focus on some new things.  Ventures that have been held out in the future as dreams to work towards.  More on that later.


Chris

Monday, April 30, 2012

Settling In

We have moved.  From the dry, sunny climate of the Texas Panhandle, we have moved to the woods and lakes of East Texas.  It is cooler and it is humid. 

We have trees and green and blooming flowers all around us.  This might take a little getting used to!  It's gonna be tough though, my eyes are assaulted by the colors every time I look outside.

Our backyard is very inviting.  We have a nice patio with a planter that we have turned into a miniature garden.  We have tomatoes and jalapeno peppers planted and they are almost ready to set on blooms.

We also have a huge tree.  I will post a photo of it at the bottom of this post.  I have rarely seen trees this large.  We had some friends stop   by on Saturday as they passed through and when they got out of their pickup truck the first remark was about the size of the tree in the back yard.

In the early morning our backyard is a great place to watch the squirrels and birds.  Not much better than to sip a cup of coffee and watch the critters.  We can even see a squirrel nest up in the tree.  Occasional you will see a head stick out momentarily.

But, there are still many things yet to find a place in our new home.  Some are still in boxes and others sitting in temporary places.  There are also many pictures yet to find a place.  We won't mention the garage.

We are making progress though.  The people here have been great so far.  We met many of them at church yesterday.  We even met a couple that were originally from my home town.  It's definitely a small world.....

Chris

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Earth Day 2012

I'm not a treehugger.  I don't worship Gaia.  I don't believe in preservation of the natural state at the expense of humanity.

I do consider myself to be environmentally conscious.  I believe in God who the Bible tells us created this earth and then gave us the responsibility for it and everything in it.  I believe that implies conservation which is the wise utilization of resources, not preservation which implies non-use of resources.

So what.

We live in a world gone crazy where a minnow is considered more important than a human.  We abort human babies and spend millions of dollars to study the decline of an insect.  We build country estates on prime farm and ranch land, force agriculture overseas to countries who do not have the technological know-how to produce as much from their land as we do and don't have the infrastructure to get their products to market and then watch as people starve in other countries because of corrupt governments, lack of agricultural infrastructure and shortage of food because of perverse political motives.

We see rhinos killed for their horns so that wealthy Asians can grind them into powder and make a magic cure-all.  We see elephants destroyed for their tusks for who-knows what purpose.  We see other wildlife poached to extinction -- and it's all for the sake of the almighty dollar.  Then, in a misguided attempt to save an animal, we protect feral horses running on public lands until they over-populate and die of starvation.

There's a balance somewhere.

Common sense no longer is common.

Instead of the extremism of opposing views on these issues, there is an answer somewhere in the middle.  To achieve that will require reasoned dialogue driven by statesmen, not ideologues.  Ah, but therein is the real problem.  I sometimes wonder if we have allowed statesmen to become extinct.  They have been replaced by an invading species driven by greed and motivated purely by self-interest.  It's time to cultivate a few statesmen.  Hmmm.....that brings up an interesting thought; cultivation is part of conservation, not preservation.  If left in its natural state, the desired species are often crowded out by the weeds.  It's time to do a little cultivating......(Bet you didn't realize this was going to be a political statement did you?)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kutcher and Country Music

I love the uproar surrounding the appearance of Ashton Kutcher on the Academy of Country Music Awards program to present Female Vocalist of the Year.  It is refreshing in a way.  Whether he was spoofing the genre or perhaps providing a subtle reminder that country music has strayed from its roots is immaterial.  He had one of the most authentic hats that I saw all night.

Country music is many things.  Like other genres, it is constantly evolving and spinning off other musical styles.  What we call country music today is much like the rock-and-roll of some years back.  It really doesn't matter.  It has evolved until today it appeals to a much wider audience than ever before.

I have seen stories in the media talking about people like Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash and Hank Williams being "real" country.  The writers must be young because those guys were all outlaws in their time.  They were far outside the mainstream of country music. 

I have also seen similar stories about how country music is about drinking beer and raising hell and tractors and pickup trucks.  One line even listed "corn bales" as being country.  Ummm.....if you are clueless about country life, don't comment on it.  It would be "cotton bales" not "corn bales."

Country music is about values common to rural folk.  Well, guess what.  Those values are changing.  God and country are still at the heart of most people in rural America, but, popular culture has seeped into its very pores.  What it boils down to is that the "country" -- or rural America -- of the 50's and 60's isn't the country of today.

Country music isn't just about agriculture.  It isn't just about rural living.  It is about the heart of the people.  I think the greatest measure of a people's heart is what appeals to it.  Bottom line, country music appeals to more hearts today than ever before.  That appeal translates to money.  That's why Mercedes Benz and BMW cars are more common in Nashville than the Toyota Pickup trucks that are manufactured on the Murphreesboro Pike just southeast of the city.  Hmmm......maybe that's the key right there.  Perhaps they should move all the country musicians to Amarillo.

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/04/05/some-country-music-fans-say-ashton-kutcher-not-offensive-popular-country-music/?intcmp=features

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Transitions

What can I write when my mind is abuzz
With all that is going on?

My thoughts ricochet around in my head
And won't rest on one subject too long!

I think about this and I think about that
And I think about how it should be.

But the thoughts aren't connected in any real sense;
At least not so it's easy to see.

So, I step out on faith that all will be right
While telling myself not to fret.

It will all come together in spite of my worry
With only a minimum of sweat.

I have to accept that God's in control
And will overcome all my mistakes.

Thinking that everything hinges on me
Is just like applying the brakes.

The Father knows best what I need in my life
And works all ways for my good

'Cause he knows that I love Him and trust in His ways
That I never have quite understood.

___________________________

31 “As for God, his way is perfect:
The LORD’s word is flawless;
he shields all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God besides the LORD?
And who is the Rock except our God?


2 Samuel 22:31-32

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rain vs. Dirt

I understand there is a typical March dust storm howling at home today.  This is the time of year for such.  Many, especially the younger people, don't realize that such storms are fairly typical.  When I was a kid they were common occurrence, but it seems that for the past ten or twenty years that have not been frequent -- until last year when they presaged the devastating drought conditions that prevailed throughout the summer.

I'm in Kentucky today.  It is cool and raining.  The fescue grass is green and growing and the buds on the trees are swelling.  Some of the flowering trees have started to bloom but many more are on the verge and the next few weeks will be filled with an explosion of color on the hills and byways of this part of the country.

I am fortunate.  Although there is a dust storm at home, I am able to enjoy a rainy early Spring day in Kentucky.  I'd better not get too used to it.  Tomorrow I will be headed back to the land of raging winds and dusty skies.

Chris

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Impatiently Indecisive

Sometimes the things we do hinge on other things that we do or that we wait on others to do.  I guess I should be used to that after all these years, but it seems that now is one of those times when the number of things that I am waiting on others to do has created something of a logjam in my scheduling.  I know it probably sounds a little crazy but my to-do list is filled with items contingent on other things occurring first.

It makes me feel indecisive -- although that isn't really the case.  It's as if I don't know what to do next because some of the big stuff is on temporary hold waiting on others to perform their part.  (Hmmm....I think I've said the same thing about three times here....)

I'm not very good at waiting on other people.  My impatience begins to show.  When you are in an anticipatory mode and what you are expecting is delayed, it can make for frustration.  I am left with the desire and need to do something but am somewhat unsure just what it is that I need to be doing.  So, here I am, impatiently indecisive.....

Chris

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dusty Boxes and Shipping Tags

Over the last few weeks I have spent quite a bit of time cleaning out and going through "stuff" that we don't use on a regular basis.  Being located in the wonderful arid Panhandle of Texas, there is dust.  It is amazing how the super-fine dust can get in places where water can't.  It is even inside some of the boxes.

We've been in this house since 2003.  Why do some of the things I'm finding still have the little green labels from the moving company?  Let me rephrase that.  Why do we have "stuff" that we don't use frequently enough to have removed the little green stickers put on it by the moving company almost nine years ago?

Something is definitely wrong with this picture.  If we needed it we would use it.  The Amarillo Association for the Blind will get a nice pile of "stuff" that we apparently don't need.  Sadly, this first step in simplification is still insufficient.  There's still too much "stuff" left.

Chris

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Doing the Wave

Driving is something that takes up a large part of my time.  It is one of the hazards of my profession.  It goes along with the flying.  It seems that I am constantly flying or driving somewhere.

The advantage of so much travel is the chance to see many different things.  I have been from coast to coast and border to border of this great country and have even had the opportunity to go to other countries a few times.  Unless you've experienced the type of business travel that I do, it is difficult to imagine that after awhile it gets pretty tiresome.  Motels and airports look alike no matter where you are.

When I travel I try to keep it as interesting as possible.  If time permits, I really enjoy stopping at historical sites along the way.  I have posted a number of times about places that I have visited.  The other thing that I am constantly watching for is wildlife.

I guess some people really don't pay attention to the wildlife that can be seen along the highways and byways of the U.S., but I do.  I find myself counting the number of antelope I see or the number of coyotes or deer.  I see flocks of ducks and geese crossing the sky.  I see mourning dove and songbirds.  I see raptors of many shapes and sizes from the Kestrel to the Bald Eagle.  I even took note this morning of two crows which seemed to be on a mission to somewhere.

I have always been intrigued by the behavior of large flocks of birds.  Other than ducks and geese, such flocks are not as common as they once were.  I'm not certain of the reason, but many would blame the demise of such large flocks on poisoning.  After all, those flocks can devastate a field in a very short period of time due to the sheer numbers.  This morning I saw three different large flocks of starlings.

Starlings often look like a smudge in the sky when seen at a distance.  There can be many thousand individuals in a flock of starlings.  They move in a way that makes them seem to flow across the sky.  The entire flock turns or rises or dives as one organism.  I don't know what makes them move in that manner, but I suspect air currents have something to do with it.

This morning, each of the three giant flocks although separated by many miles, was doing the wave.  They would rise and fall in a rippling pattern as they made their inevitable headway against a brisk breeze.  I know it was due to the breeze, but in my mind the thought occurred that they were celebrating the morning.  After all, it was a clear sky with the sun just cresting the horizon in the east.  It was almost as if they were cheering it on saying, "here comes the sun, here comes the sun...."

Sometimes it's the little things.

Chris

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Glasses

Aging is the pits.  I must admit that I've declared all-out war on what the ravages of time are attempting to do to me, but nonetheless, aging is the pits.

It has been a number of years since my eyes went through the inevitable phase where my arms were no longer long enough to hold reading material at the appropriate distance.  For several years it seemed the shape of the ocular organs in my head changed continually so that I needed a different prescription on a regular basis.  The rate of change has since decelerated and when I had them checked a couple of weeks ago there was very little change from the previous exam in 2008.

I have worn no-line progressive lenses since that appointment in 2008 and chose to stick with the same in my new glasses.  I recall quite clearly how difficult it was to adjust to them and how they made my eyes and head hurt until I had done so.  It is rather disorienting to have the vision suddenly blur with each minor movement of the eye.  I anticipated that there would be little such adjustment with this new pair which I picked up yesterday because there was such a minor change in prescription.  I was partly correct in my assumption.

What I am trying to say is that my eyes hurt.  Perhaps it could be blamed on too much time in front of this LCD screen, but I suspect the glasses have something to do with it.  I haven't experienced the sudden loss of balance due to the images being projected into my brain dancing in and out of focus, but my eyes are hurting nonetheless.  Surely it will get better in a few days.

Just my complaint for the day.....

Chris

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wet Grass

There is a dampness on the lawn this morning that brings back lots of memories.  Some of those memories go all the way back to Junior High and even before that.  They are memories of close encounters with wet grass.

I'm sure most people will think I have totally lost my mind talking about wet grass.  But, for whatever reason, those thoughts are stuck in my head just like the wet grass sticks to my boots when I walk across the yard. 

As a youngster I treasured the opportunities to go to Muleshoe with my Grandpa to help him at the ranch.  He had improved bermuda grass pastures that were irrigated first by side-rolling sprinklers and then later by a pivot system.  When he had the side-rolls we would drive along and make sure that all the sprinkler heads were working properly.  Sometimes they would be plugged by debris such as grass or sand or even the occasional frog.  We would take a piece of baling wire and try to free the debris by poking the wire into the nozzles.  Sometimes, if it was a frog, it would come out in stringy pieces, but always, my jeans would be soaked to the knees from walking in the wet, freshly watered grass.

Later, when I played football, I remember the early morning practices on wet grass.  We would get soaked.  We would have wet grass clinging all over us.  Then, if you were tackled, or were doing the tackling, you would sometimes find your facemask plowing into the wet grass and it would get in your face and in your nose and mouth and cling to the facemask.

In a small school, everyone is expected to do a little of everything so, I was also in the marching band.  We often had marching practice early in the morning before school started.  We kept special shoes in the band hall just for marching in the wet grass.  They were always wet so they rotted fairly quickly.  By the end of the marching season they were pretty much worthless.  They were the source of many stinking feet.

Then, there was mowing the lawn when it was wet.  I didn't mind mowing when it was wet for the reason that it wasn't quite as hard on my hay fever as dry grass, however, it was a pain because it constantly would stop up the discharge on the lawnmower.  Of course, it was never good to clean that discharge with your hand and then later to inadvertently rub your watering, itchy, hay-fevered eye.  It would cause my eyes to swell shut from the irritation.

Wet grass.  I laugh at this post because of the memories that it elicits from me. 

Chris

Monday, February 27, 2012

Nothing Really Matters Until it Matters

One of the things that is frustrating to me is to warn someone about an issue that appears to be developing and for them to ignore it because they don't see the potential impact.  In some ways it is part of the same phenomenon as the "unintended consequences" that sometimes append to good intentions.

There are many times the words "it won't matter" have been used for things that ultimately do matter.  It is symptomatic of those who tend to focus on the present and don't think about much beyond tomorrow.  The trouble is, almost everything we do today affects in some manner what happens in the future.  Sometimes the impact is a long way off and that is when it is most frequently ignored.

When those things do impact at a later date, it becomes a "disaster" to the person you warned in the first place.  They often think the sky is falling and the end has come.  "How could this happen?" is frequently the response.

It is tempting to say, "I told you so," but it is never productive.  First, they deny that you told them.  Or, if they admit you told them they blame you for not warning them in strong enough terms.  Second, it doesn't help to fix the problem.

Some people learn from their mistakes while others merely repeat them over and over again.  They may not be exactly the same, but are close enough the lessons of the past should have been clear. 

With some people it just doesn't do much good to warn them of the consequence of their actions.  To them it doesn't really matter until it matters.

Chris

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Clear Skies

It is nice to get out early in the morning when the sky is clear and the stars are bright and watch the light slowly begin to spread from the Eastern horizon.  This time of year it is usually crisp and cold with only a gentle breeze if any. 

I am in Nebraska this morning.  The Platte River runs just a short distance from my motel and the noise of the geese starting their day makes for a pleasant sound in opposition to the roar of trucks passing on the Interstate.  Where I am staying is on the edge of where the great flyways merge and the number of geese is astounding.  Over the past few days I have seen waves of snow geese in both the white and blue phase and even larger waves of both greater and lesser Canada geese. 

Some years ago we lived in Nebraska and I recall there were times that the great flocks of geese looked like smoke on the horizon they were so numerous.  I have not seen them in those kind of numbers this year but I also am not at the center of the great migratory path in the sky.

I guess that here the skies are not truly clear.  They are filled with birds slowly working their way back to the north after their winter vacation in warmer climes.  With that in mind I must say that I hope our skies are never truly clear. 

Chris

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fishing in Unproductive Waters

Sometimes sales can be very frustrating.  You invest a significant amount of time and money in reaching out to potential customers so you need to always be aware of the return on that investment.  Some people refer to it as customer acquisition cost -- how many dollars are invested for each new customer gained.

When you look at the expense of travel -- motel, car and airfare, meals, time -- you can invest a lot of money in a short period of time.  Often, there are also booth rental fees and other expenses associated with Trade Shows and events.  You must constantly be aware of not only the potential volume of your target audience but the amount of business that they represent.  In my business, we don't just look at the number of cattlemen that may be present, we also look at what segment of the business they are in (cow/calf, stocker, order buyer, feedlot) and the number of cattle they represent.  If you are doing a Trade Show in an area where the average herd size is 15 animals but the number of producers in attendace is high -- say 1,000 -- then you are looking at about 15,000 animals represented.  In my business, each of those animals is a potential sale.  In a different setting you might be in front of 10 producers who represent 10,000 animals each -- that's 100,000 potential sales.  Which is the better environment?

That's a lot of words to say that this past week has been frustrating.  I've been fishing, but either the fish have been scared off or there just aren't any here.  I think the event that I've been attending this week will not be one I attend next year.....

Chris

Friday, February 24, 2012

Remaining Calm

It seems that periodically everything goes a little crazy.  There is a cycle to life that applies to the pace of activity just as it does to life itself.  Each day is cyclical with sleep to waking to active to slowing down and then sleep again.  The years are cyclical with the various seasons.  Everything is cyclical.

Right now it seems that I am in one of those periods of frenzied activity with many "big" things occurring at once.  I will share more detail in coming days but for now, suffice it to say that it is crazy busy.  During times like this it is sometimes difficult to remain calm and objective.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." __ John 14:27

I am fortunate that there is a source of peace that is unaffected by the cyclical tides of this world.  His peace is everlasting but the price is high.  It cost a perfect life and it demands surrender of my own.  It is amazing how peaceful life becomes once I surrender to Him and His will for my life.

Chris

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Striving for Perfection

Somewhere deep inside each of us is the desire to be the very best that we can be at something.  What that something is can be known only to the individual.  For many children and adolescents that something is to be a superstar athlete.  For adults that desire may center around a job or career choice.  Whatever it might be, for most of us at least, there is a point in our life where we have a desire or vision of being the very best.

Then, life happens.  We get beat up and kicked around by the events that shape us.  We find that we don't possess the talent or skills to be the very best and we begin to reach accommodation with that fact.  We settle for something less than our ideal.  We achieve the rank of mediocrity.

What we see in this process that results in settling for mediocrity is the result of an internal battle between opposing forces.  The desire to be the best runs headlong into the "world."  Most of us don't know what to do about it, but the Bible gives us the answer.

The desire for the best is the desire for God.  It is a seed planted deep inside of us that impels us toward what we were made to do.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” __ Jeremiah 1:5

The forces of the "world" is the dominion of Satan which is arrayed in opposition to God.  He has been given control over the systems and forces of this world.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." __ Ephesians 6:12

When we seek by our own power to overcome the forces arrayed against us, we fail.  We settle for less than the best.  It is only by the power of God within us that we can achieve perfection.

I have been known to say, "perfection is not in me" when I managed to flub something up.  That is not true.  I have inside me the One who is perfect.  It is only when I fail to acknowledge Him and allow Him to lead me that I truly fail.

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." __ Philippians 4:13

'But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.' __ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Confusing Mix

I am looking around my highly cluttered desk and realizing the inconsistencies which lie thereon.  I see there a mix of proper utilization of technology and dependency on old ways of doing things.  Already you should detect the issue -- my desk wouldn't be cluttered if I used the electronic technology that is available to me in the way it was designed.

I am working on a laptop.  Beside it is a yellow legal pad and pen.  There is a small stack of "snail mail" that needs tending to.  There are manila folders with various labels on them.  There are paper copies of "customer information forms" that are part of an ongoing project.  There is an "outbox" with various items to be passed to someone else.  There is an "inbox" with the things I haven't gotten to yet or have just put off until later.  There are the obvious utensils such as stapler, business card holder, etc. and an old-style Rolodex.  There also is both a cellphone and a land line telephone.

I should be able to do away with most of this paper and definitely should be able to junk the Rolodex.  However, I find comfort in the fact that when electronics fail I have a backup system.  Is that a symptom of my age?  Or, is it simply a distrust of depending solely on electrons?  Maybe the two issues are one and the same.....

Just thinking.

Chris

Monday, February 20, 2012

Disagreeable

I once worked for an individual who surrounded himself with people who were afraid to disagree with him.  They were what are often called "yes men."  They were always telling him what he wanted to hear and were never willing to risk his "wrath" by holding opposing views.

That company no longer exists.  Long before it failed however, they decided they no longer needed me.  I voiced my opposition at least once too many times and lost my job as a result.  Blessings are often disguised quite thoroughly.

I've had people work for me that would never voice opposing views.  They would get me coffee (even when I didn't really want it) and say "yes, sir" and jump if I asked them anything.  They drove me crazy.  I ask questions in the hope of obtaining an answer, not in getting the response of a lap dog.  The fastest way to gain favor with me is to tell me when I'm wrong (hopefully in a polite way) and then explain to me why.  I can't learn from someone who always agrees with me and we can never get better if we blindly go down the wrong path.

I ran across the following quote:

"I never learned from a man who agreed with me." __ Robert A. Heinlein

What can I do with such a quote?  I certainly can't learn anything from it; he agreed with me!

Chris

Sunday, February 19, 2012

That's What Food Eats

There's rarely much of a debate about what will compose the main course of a meal at our house.  Other than for breakfast, we eat a lot of beef.

I have always liked beef.  I think I was "burned out" on chicken before I graduated from High School.  It was always fried chicken for Sunday Dinner (most of you would call it lunch).  For whatever reason, it became something that wasn't at the top of my desired list of foods.

When I was a kid my grandfather usually kept a calf that he was fattening to butcher.  They had chickens too, but it was the beef that fed his eight kids and later their spouses and the grand kids that came around.

Ranching was something that always interested me.  Grandpa always had cattle and I enjoyed spending time working cattle with him.  That's what ultimately led me to a career in service to the cattle industry.  Even my years spent as a lender were years of serving agriculture. 

I've always liked cattle men and women and have a tremendous respect for their stewardship of the land and other resources in their care.  They capture sunlight with the grass and other plants growing on the land and then convert it into something usable by the human species through the amazing machine we call a cow.  It is that industry which has supplied me with a living for the past thirty years and for that reason I continue to be loyal to them by eating lots of beef.

In my travels I come into contact with people from all walks of life.  I am quite frankly shocked at the number who think beef is bad for you and that ranchers are ruining the land.  It's just not true.  When I see Vegetarian or Vegan items on menus in a restaurant I am saddened because the people that typically order those dishes just don't look healthy.  If they have a specific health problem that affects their ability to digest red meat, that is one thing, but when it is a conscious lifestyle choice based on misinformation, I am saddened -- not because it is against my business and my customers, but because they are missing something good.

That giant salad with bean sprouts and cauliflower and other marginally identifiable plant parts is not especially appealing to me.  Yes, I do eat some vegetables as part of a balanced diet, but I feel that protein is critical to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

A few years ago I heard a friend use the line when turning down a salad, "No, thank you, that's what food eats."  I felt that his sentiment summed up my feelings on the subject quite succinctly.  So, I adopted his words and have been heard to use them quite frequently ever since.

Don't get me wrong, a small dinner salad goes well with my steak and baked potato, just don't offer me the green stuff as the main course.  I might tell you, "No thanks, that's what food eats."

Chris

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Profoundly Unmotivated

The third definition of profound in the Merriam Webster Dictionary is something "characterized by intensity of feeling or quality."  It fits.  I am absolutely and completely unmotivated today.

Most weekends I have something planned.  There is something that I either need or want to accomplish.  Not today.  I want to do nothing.  Yet, here I am writing a blog entry about it.  I suppose that seems a little self-defeating.  If I want to do nothing yet I am willfully doing something, then I must not truly want to do nothing!

OK, that's a bit convoluted.  In reality I do want to do something.  I want to write something profound.  But, I don't want to do the normal Saturday chores.  So, I sit here at the computer composing a profoundly ordinary post while sipping coffee from a Starbucks coffee mug that was a gift to me delivered to my hotel room at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville a couple of weeks ago.

The Starbucks mug is an important symbol in my quest for the profound.  I am looking at their symbol of the young woman with a crown and wondering what in the world it means.  So, I looked it up.  It is of the "twin-tailed siren" Melusine.  Here is a link so you can read about it yourself.  I'm not certain I know much more than I did before I looked it up, but it's interesting.

Now let's dig a little deeper.  What is the importance of Melusine?  I looked up Melusine.  It appears that for the Starbucks logo it must be used in the context of alchemy.  It symbolizes the union of "of earth and water, body and soul- and the vision of Universal Mercury, the all-pervading anima mundi that calls out and makes the philosopher yearn to her."  I can see that.  Coffee is grown in earth and water, is a stimulus due to the caffeine content and therefore addictive.  Coffee drinkers develop a craving for coffee.  The siren song -- come to me.....

Now that I've satisfied my addiction to coffee and to knowledge, I can go back to being unmotivated.  Is it too early for a nap?

Chris

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lucky

I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not a believer in luck.  Chance, yes.  Luck, no.

I went through a stage years ago when I was envious of those whom I considered more successful than me.  They drove nice cars, lived in big houses and went on vacations to places about which I could only dream.  I was known to make comments about how lucky they were.

While it is true that some of them inherited their good fortune and others just happened to be in the right spot at the right time (chance), the majority of them were successful due to hard work.  Very rarely were those who had lots of money the employee of someone else.  They were almost all self-employed.

Through the years I have had the privilege to meet many very successful people.  Some are multi-millionaires and others are just at the top of their field of endeavor.  I have found some characteristics common to them all.  Self-confidence, thorough knowledge of their field and a willingness to work hard.

I guess the reason for today's post is a line that I found in the book I was reading over lunch.

'He shook his head.  "I don't believe in luck, Sam.  Luck is a tag given by the mediocre to account for the accomplishments of genius."' __ The Old Man in "The Puppet Masters," a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein

Well said.

Chris

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Empty Nesters and Dishes

When the kids have all left home there are many changes.  The grocery bill is smaller even though sometimes the quality of what is prepared is better -- such as steaks instead of hamburger; it doesn't take nearly as long to clean the house even though when the kids were home they were "responsible" for certain chores -- which required repeated follow-up for completion; it doesn't take nearly as many loads of laundry to wash the clothes and it takes several days to get a dishwasher full of dishes.

I guess that's what inspired my post tonight -- washing the dishes.  Sometimes now it is quicker and easier to wash them by hand rather than to let them accumulate in the dishwasher until there is a decent size load to wash.  (A quick disclaimer here:  I rarely wash the dishes, but can when necessary.)  Think about that a minute.  We have a dishwasher to wash dishes because of the convenience -- quicker and easier.  But, now it is sometimes quicker and easier to just wash the dishes by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher.

It makes you wonder whether a dishwasher is all that great of an appliance!  When the kids were at home, they could be the dishwasher.  Now that they're gone, there aren't that many dishes to wash.  The convenient has become inconvenient.

This reminds me of something from the Bible.  Without quoting specific verses but, giving the basic sentiment it says, to give is to get, to gain you must lose, to live you must die.  In other words, worldly wisdom has it all backward.  One might conclude that dishwashers are of the Devil!

Just thinking.....

Chris

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

Homemade cards of
Cutout hearts
Glued to paper doilies.

Elmer's glue and
Blunt-nosed scissors;
Happy children noises.

Crayon letters,
Crooked lines,
Stick figures with no noses.

Just for Mom
With sloppy kiss
Much better than roses....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Disappearing Snow and Breakfast for Supper

The high here yesterday was 21 degrees and it snowed from Noon until dark.  I got out and shoveled the driveway before dark hoping that it wouldn't fill back in before morning.  The wind of course increased during the night and there was a small drift across the drive when I went out to start my car.  Fortunately it wasn't enough to worry about.

The high today was 61 degrees.  That's quite a difference in 24 hours.  Other than a few drifts in sheltered places, the snow is about gone.  The same south wind that blew the snow back onto my shoveled drive brought warmer temperatures.

It seems a little early in the year to be getting our Spring weather swings.  Usually February is just cold and windy.  The alternating cold with wet and warm usually doesn't start until March or April.  I hope it's not a sign that we're in for another miserable summer.

Oh, well, changes in the weather are a good thing.  If it was the same all the time we'd either be in the Antarctic or the South Pacific.  Hmmm....the South Pacific doesn't sound too bad.  I don't think I could stand the continual cold of the Antarctic though.

Changes keep us on our toes I guess.  Sometimes I like a little change just to break the monotony.  Like tonight; we're having breakfast for supper -- fresh homemade biscuits with butter and honey to go with the bacon and scrambled eggs.  Mmmmmm, mmmmmm, good!

Chris

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Stepping Up

I truly value the individual who will step up and say, "I'll do it."  They are somewhat rare.  Most people tend to hang back in hope that someone else will step forward and they won't have to volunteer -- or be volunteered.  This is especially true with the difficult tasks.

The characteristic of being willing to take on the difficult is often associated with youth.  It is an indicator of the desire to "prove" oneself.  It is a sign of wanting to make a name.  Because such an individual is often less experienced, careful judgment should be made of the suitability of the individual for a particular task.  Not only are they taking risk, but by accepting them as a volunteer you assume risk as well.

As individuals mature, one of two things happens regarding their willingness to "step forward" for risky challenges.  They either hang back in fear of failure based on past experience, or they move forward with confidence based on positive experience.  Rare is the individual who will continue to "step up" after repeated failure.  It's like the old joke about "it hurts when I do that."  The obvious response to which is "don't do that!"  Getting back up again after failure can be difficult.

Some have an uncanny ability to get things done.  It doesn't matter what the task, they can be trusted to accomplish what they set out to do.  It often is not pretty, but the results are those desired.  Such people are often hated and distrusted within an organization -- especially if their methods tend to be rough and with little regard for casualties.

How does one couple the ability to accomplish with a compassion that knits together a cohesive organization?  Is there a special kind of individual who can both accomplish the desired task and not make significant enemies along the way?  I don't think there is, but I do think there are individuals who are masters at getting things done with minimum casualties.

I have often said that one measure of success is the caliber of enemies one makes along the way.  If the "bad players" in the marketplace or in the organization hate me, I have confidence that I am doing my job.  If they like me I have failed.

I think the key is motivation; what motivates the individual to accomplish -- to get the job done -- to step up when no one else wants to do so.  But, motivation alone is not enough.  There must also be a measure of compassion.  The means do affect the results and definitely determine the casualties along the way. 

There is one source of inspiration and strength that is unfailing; the word of God.  One of my favorite verses says it all:

"I can do all things through God who gives me strength."  Phillipians 4:13

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Zealous Ignorance

Understanding begins with the admission of ignorance.  I am sure someone in history has said something to that effect, but if so, I'm not going to take the time to look it up.

My disenchantment with the political process has reached the point where I refuse for the most part to even pay attention to the headlines.  Only a few months ago I was voraciously reading a number of daily sources for the political news of the moment.  My loss of interest began with the decline of the Perry campaign for the Presidency.  It isn't that I felt he was the ideal candidate, but after weighing the pros and cons of each of the candidates, I believed he was the best of the bunch from an ideological standpoint.  Ideology is not the key to the Presidency.  It is the ability to infinitely shift an illusory image that ultimately wins the day.  It is all about the manipulated sound bite.

Ronald Reagan was the rare political figure who had both sound ideology and the ability to articulate it effectively.  Our current President on the other hand has an extremely flawed ideology but is the consummate communicator.  It is a chimera -- an illusion created through zeal.  It is sad that such zeal should be steeped in ignorance of truth and foisted on ignorant voters whose loyalty can be purchased with a can of beans containing a smidgen of pork.  We all know that the result is flatulence.

Thomas Fuller once said, "Zeal without knowledge is like fire without light."  It is rare that an individual who possesses zeal for a specific cause fully understands the interrelated factors that affect and are affected by the object of his zeal.  They are rushing down a tunnel toward an oncoming light that often as not is a train.  The law of unintended consequences is indeed real.

When I see extreme zeal, I immediately react with caution.  Such caution is likely rooted in personal experience.  It seems that my experiences when rushing blindly forward have typically ended badly.  I therefore expect the same to occur when I see others in such headlong pursuit.  The individual who has all the facts does not exist.  There are always pieces of the puzzle that have not yet been turned over let alone put in their appropriate place.

What I see in Washington are power hungry individuals who zealously pursue the agendas foisted on them by those who would meet their hunger.  They pursue in ignorance a slate of laws and regulations that fill the needs of their puppet masters while meeting their own need for self-righteous contortions of back patting.  It is easy to feel good about lined pockets and accumulated power when steeped in ignorance of the industries and lives who are ruined in the process.  Blindness has its advantages.

With this post I reach the end of my alphabetical journey.  Now I must seek inspiration elsewhere.  Hopefully it will be something that I can pursue with adequate zeal to maintain daily posting -- or at least nearly so.  Fortunately I am ignorant enough to move blindly forward when true knowledge might sway me from the path.  I do appreciate suggestions for topics; please comment with yours.

Chris

Friday, February 10, 2012

Yearning for More

There is never enough.  It seems there is never enough time or money or fish or points or whatever it is that we are wanting.  There is never enough land and there are never enough cattle.

Why are we never satisfied?  What is it inside of us that causes us to strive for more?  Is it something in our genetic material that is tied to survival of the fittest?  Why do we always want more?

I don't have any answers for this one.  I'm guilty.  I'm a lot like the old rancher who when asked by the city slicker how much land was enough answered, "I don't want much; just what's mine and everything that borders it."

Could it be that we are never satisfied because we try to fill the holes in our life with the wrong things?  I've heard it said that each of us is born with a God-shaped hole in us that must be filled.  It's too bad that we try to fill it with everything under the sun before we turn to the one that created that desire in us in the first place.

I guess when you think about it it makes some sense.  It all goes back to a time before the Garden of Eden.  Satan got tired of God calling all the shots so he gathered up a bunch of his buddies and decided that they were just as smart as God.  They felt like they knew better.  They could become gods themselves.

God said, "OK, Satan, if you know how to run things I'll give you a little chunk of ground to prove it."  So God gave Satan control of the earth and everything in it.  God planted man in the Garden and gave him the opportunity to make the right choice.  It's too bad Adam and Eve listened to Satan and not God.  They thought they knew better too.  The rest is history.

The one thing that didn't change though is that their descendants still carry the genes for that God-shaped hole.  The trouble was they now carried a gene for self-reliance too.  That conflict is probably the reason we are such an acquisitive race.  We're depending on our own resources to fill that God-shaped hole when what we really need to do is quit relying on ourselves and start relying on God.

Until we can figure that out we will just keep on yearning for more and more.  It's too bad we're not yearning for the right thing.

Tomorrow will be the letter "Z."  It will be the last in this series of alphabetically inspired posts.  I don't know much about Zebras so I'm not certain what I'm going to use for a title.  Oh, well.

Chris

Thursday, February 9, 2012

X-Gen and Connecting the Dots

Maybe I'm stretching things by using the terms in the title to this piece, but if you haven't looked lately, there aren't a lot of words out there that begin with the letter "x."  I appreciate J.B.'s suggestion in the comments for yesterday's post because it helped me to choose a subject that might be more appropriate than say, xenophobia....

Generation X is generally defined as those born between the years 1965 and 1982.  They are the post-WWII baby boom generation.  They were raised in a climate of accelerating and intense change -- from the computer revolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Gen-X'ers came of age in an era of two-incomes, increasing divorce rates and a faltering economy.  They tend to be highly independent, resourceful and self-sufficient while valuing both freedom and responsibility.  They don't like to be micro-managed and display a casual disdain for authority and structured work hours.

I was born at the tale end of the post-WWII baby boom.  I am not considered part of Generation X and yet when I look at the characteristics of that generation, I see many things that apply to me.  Perhaps it is just my personality, or perhaps I was just one of the pioneers for that generation. 

I know people who were born into Generation X that would probably fit better into my generation in some ways.  They are highly structured and definitely rule followers.  I have heard it described as "coloring within the lines." 

I also like to color within the lines, but primarily for the aesthetic effect, not because it is the rule.  If I thought the lines were in the wrong place, I had no qualms about altering them to better fit my sense of the way they should be.  Then, once adjusted, I stayed within the lines because the final result was more pleasing.

I think my real talent was more along the lines of connecting the dots.  I could never get enough of the connect-the-dot activities when I was a child.  I usually didn't have to hunt very hard for the next dot because I had a good feel for where things were going and how to get there.

Today I find that altering the lines and connecting the dots are two things I continue to do.  Only now it is more in ways of conducting business.  Just because conventional wisdom says things must be done a certain way doesn't mean it is the best way.  I am constantly seeking to adjust the lines a bit and hopefully create a more pleasing result.

As for connecting the dots, I see that as building relationships and linking them in beneficial ways.  Some might call it networking, but I think the conventional wisdom of networking is seeking personal benefit.  My desire is to seek synergistic benefit for all involved.  I enjoy introducing people to each other who could benefit from a relationship -- and then just stepping out of the way.  It is gratifying to see that the result is frequently good for all involved.

I could probably go on for quite some time on this, but this post is getting a little long so I will conclude on this "X"-topic.  Tomorrow is the letter "Y."  Please post suggestions in the comments!

Chris

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Whatchamacallits and Whozits

Communication is an interesting thing.  We all do it in many ways and yet we often fail to communicate clearly.  This becomes especially obvious when attempting to convey ideas across generations.

Words seem to change over time.  Today, "bad" is good.  When I was younger, "bad" was actually not good.  In fact, I run a danger in even discussing such things because about the time I figure out the current vernacular I find that I am out of date!

There are a few words that seem to be universal to every generation.  Words like "whatchamacallit" and "whatsit" and "whatsherface" or "whozit" seem to convey the same meaning to all listeners.  They need no explanation.  The are self-defining.

Such words are rare.  I feel it is important that we preserve them though.  They come in mighty handy at times.  So, whoevertheheckyouare that is reading this, I hope you find whatevertheheck you're looking for here.

We are getting close to the end of the alphabet.  Only a few more letters to go.  I have no idea where I will find my writing inspiration after that.  Tomorrow will be with the letter "X."  That one might be a little tough.  Help in the comments would be appreciated.

Chris

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Voracious Appetite

There are things of which we can't seem to get enough.  We each seem to be designed with an appetite for certain things -- things that we crave.  For some, it might be a specific food or type of food like Mexican food.  For others it might be an activity such as football.  Whatever it is, we each seem to be wired for something.

I am a voracious reader.  I read during most of my spare minutes.  I read sometimes when I should be doing other things.  I read when I eat (unless there are others at the table) and I read each night before I go to bed.  I read in the mornings and I read at Noon.  I read online, I read magazines and I read books.  I read the banner scrolling across the bottom on FoxNews Channel.  I read labels.  I read T-shirts (although sometimes it is difficult to do because of the uneven surface behind them.....) I even read Dr. Seuss and this paragraph is beginning to sound like something he would have written.

There are other things that I crave.  Some things are just temporary though.  I may go through a period of craving vanilla ice cream and then I will get hooked on chocolate or something like Bluebell's Pecan Pralines and Cream (probably my all-time favorite.)  Sometimes I crave pie and at other times only cookies will satisfy me.  Then I go through periods when I don't want anything sweet (that usually doesn't last too long though.)

I think some of our cravings are signals from our body that we are short of some vitamin or mineral.  They are nutritional cravings.  I think other cravings are emotional.  We may need to be hugged or touched or just have someone spend time with us.  Sometimes our cravings are based in addictions such as adrenaline or drugs.  Whatever the craving, our appetites must be satisfied or the craving will only grow stronger and perhaps be met by unhealthy substitutes.

Voracious -- an interesting word suggested by a reader who chose to submit their suggestion via e-mail rather than in the comments.  Thank you!

Tomorrow I will use "W" to begin the title of my post.  As always, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments -- or e-mail them to me -- or leave them on Facebook (as Shari did).  I can't use them all but, I definitely appreciate the inspiration.  Perhaps what I really crave is my Muse.....

Monday, February 6, 2012

Using People, Loving Things

It's amazing what people accumulate over time.  We have garage sales to get rid of all the extra "stuff" that we don't want anymore -- or, we give it to Goodwill.  We have houses and garages and rented storage full of the things we thought we couldn't live without.

We love to have lots of things around us and we love the means to buy those things.  Sadly, those boats and ski mobiles and toys of all shapes and sizes often gather more dust than dents and dings from use.  They are status symbols.

It seems the more one has the more one wants.  As we climb the economic ladder we face more and more opportunities to leverage our time and our resources by hiring the time and resources of others.  Of course, it is important that we get the most for our money -- just like the best boat, the biggest house, the nicest car.  If those we hire don't perform according to expectations we can always get someone else who will.

The same goes for friends.  Why hang out with someone who doesn't pull their weight?  Who wants to spend time with someone who doesn't have similar tastes and interests to our own?  After all, if I have a boat and my friend doesn't, they will always be wanting to borrow mine or go with me to the lake.  It doesn't seem right.  They should provide their own boat.

As far as that goes, why should I invite someone over for an evening of socializing if they won't ever invite me?  If they don't feel their house is nice enough or maybe they are embarrassed because they don't live in the nicest neighborhood, why should I invite them over?  They won't ever invite me back.  They won't pull their own weight.

You know, it makes me think that things should take priority over people.  They have no expectations.  They let you use them as you choose.  When you're tired of them you can always replace them with something better.  It's easy to love such things.  They never have demands or problems that can't be fixed by a little money.

People on the other hand are constantly needing something.  They expect you to treat them nicely even when they don't deserve it.  They're just needy.  It's so much easier to love things and use people.  I just don't understand why anyone would expect anything else!

Ah, the ills of our society.......focus on self and not others.  I think that one has some pretty deep roots in history.

If I can stay on track, tomorrow's post will begin with "V."  Hmmmm.....what begins with "V?"  Suggestions are appreciated.
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