29 June 2009

HR on R&R

The family is wandering Indiana for a few days. I'll be back soon with some great stuff from around our state parks.

It is very possible that we'll be home much sooner since we've been told that we will be asked to leave Turkey Run's premises at midnight tomorrow night if the state doesn't pass a new budget. Wow. If that happens......watch out!

23 June 2009

a little off the top


the barbershop.

When but just a wee lad, my dad would take me into town with him to Don the barber. Often dad would drop me off, tell Don to get to me when he had the chance and he'd be back to pick me up...that he had errands to run while in town. At around 7 years old, I felt like big stuff, with all the other men sitting around the little gas station turned barber shop there on the highway. Of course, then the clock would tick by and no dad. Even after my haircut....then finally he'd show up. He and Don had a running joke where Don would ask me if I thought my dad would actually come back for me, and that he could always put me to work sweeping up hair clippings.

great haircut, eh?
Don's barber shop had that checkerboard green and white linoleum tile floor. There was a barber pole outside the front door. And I remember the big sink with all these glass bottles of various tonics and such. And then there was the big red chair with the leather strap my dad told me was for whoopin kids who misbehaved. I thought it was madness to be scraping a razor blade across it, but dared not question Don the barber.

Whenever I went to get my haircut, which was straight until I was about 14, Don would have this worn old piece of wood that he would straddle the arms of the chair with so that I could sit on it....I don't ever remember going anywhere else, so I probably started at around 4? I'd get a sucker too, if I was good. But it seemed that hair clippings would too often stick to it.

Don had old magazines. And it seems I remember baseball games and Paul Harvey on the radio. There was one book for kids...it was a compilation of Family Circus cartoons. Don moved downtown briefly until retirement. His old shop was razed.

About the time my hair went wacky on me, I switched to a "stylist" here in river city. I went there until just a few years ago when she hung it up. I had never had anyone else cut my hair so trying to find someone to take over was difficult. I tried two different barbers. I think they didn't know what to do, and the one guy gave me a pompadour after implying I was Italian.

So my wife just cuts my hair now. It's good enough and free. I cut my son's hair once but his mother didn't like the Amish bowl cut. Maybe I should take him to the barber. It seems like a rite of passage for a boy. Maybe leave him there while I run errands. Knowing my son, he would be talking up a storm about the NFL or possibly the best routes to take on vacation.

Small town barber shops are another bit of Americana that just keeps hanging on.

22 June 2009

hung out to dry

Thank blogger Birdman for this idea.

We didn't have a clothes line when I was a kid. Fact is, I can't hardly think of any of my friends who did. My aunt from Van Buren did...I remember running head-on into the steel pipe out in the backyard. I remember my grandparent's clothes line well too, all the sheets strung out across the backyard and granddad's overalls hung by the straps as if to have some sort of specter holding them up.

When my wife and I moved into our little old house, in this quaint little neighborhood, there was a round contraption mounted to the side of the barn. It did not look familiar to me, but evidently is was a clothes line...you know, the type that is spring loaded and winds itself back up after you've pulled it out. It had lost its spring, so hanging clothes didn't work well. A few years ago, my wife said....can we please get a clothes line? So, we went to the hardware and bought the last of the only model they carried...another spring loaded jobbie.

And now she uses it in our backyard frequently.....in fact I had to put my foot down once when I came home from work and saw my undies flapping in the breeze. Not my underwear, but everything else is fair game.

I know these things seem old fashioned, and unfortunately many subdivision control ordinances won't even allow them. But it's probably one of the easiest, environmentally conscious things that you can do. And it saves on your electric/gas bill big time!

And you can't beat that fresh air smell. Seriously. How many of you older folks out there remember from clothes line days the sheets on your bed scented in outdoorsy freshness? Does it take you back to yesteryear? You know, as cheap as clothes lines can be to install, maybe we should start a movement, or some kind of give-a-way program to get these things into the hands of those who could most benefit. What would we call it?

I sat in on a lecture regarding historic preservation being the ultimate answer to reduce, reuse, recycle and it would seem like simple things our grandparents did were right on the money for true stewardship. He mentioned keeping a couple of chickens at our home too.....our kids would love it, but I don't think the neighbors would.

20 June 2009

a battle to fight, a beauty to protect

It's been a blog-worthy tumultuous and taxing week. Despite my reluctance to be involved in political quagmire...it seems this week it was difficult to side-step. I mean, geesh, I can't even find escape on my own personal blog.

As I've said before, I'm going through Wild at Heart with the 20x guys, which has my male thinking on high alert. It seems a number of opportunities to get together with guys this week helped in shaping some thoughts in my mind. Maybe most profound was last night when a buddy who I was talking about Wild with commented that my blog was my risk, danger and source of adventure. Hmmm. I can see that. Eldridge points out that not only do we seek the risk, but that every man needs a battle.

What's your battle? When the guys met last week one said to me, "you know, going out on your own...that's your battle". Maybe, and while it's been good....you won't catch me on the deck of a ship declaring victory.

With this last week's messiness I found myself saying again and again, "that's just not right, why can't they do what is right?" and probably most enraging was one hot-headed elected official's treatment of my wife. If you really want to get my ire up, take out your frustration with me on my wife or kids and see what happens. I think I'm beginning to understand my battle. It is a battle for what is right, really right...which may just mean being a loud voice for now. But at some point it will become a battle cry to do not only what is in the people's best interest, but also the best interest of our kids.
There's this beautiful piece of property-40 acres with a little farmhouse, wetlands, woods and some tilled ground way out on the west side of our county. Nice, quiet neighbors and a back porch you can kick your feet up on and watch the sun set. It would be an easy move to make. While I yearn for something like that, I sit here looking down from my window on river city and my gut says there's a battle to fight. I believe God designs us with a specific purpose in mind, equipping us for a battle to fight.......and most guys walk away and look back on their life with regrets. I don't want to have my feet up on the porch rail watching the sunset with feelings of regret.

18 June 2009

from the Brick Yard



Memorial to the early stars of the Indy 500


Gasoline alley



What's your pole position?......that could sound bad



the starting line...the only brick left

the Winner's circle


that famous last turn!

those? those are soybeans.

the big LH tour photo shoot at the Speedway fountain


I've been crazy busy and the prospect of losing a day in the middle of the week damaged the possibility of meeting a self-imposed deadline for a project at the end of June. Almost a year ago I was asked to be a guide for a bus tour on the Dixie Highway between South Bend and Indianapolis-seemed doable then. I am more familiar with this route being the Michigan Road, but hey, when in Rome....

our starting point north of the St. Joseph County Courthouse

South Bend and the Indiana Lincoln Highway Association were host to the National Conference of the LH Association. They wanted to highlight the founder of the road, Carl Fisher, by taking attendees to Indianapolis to the German Club (Rathskeller) for lunch at the place where the idea of a coast to coast highway was birthed. And why not travel the Dixie Highway (old U.S. 31/now 31, 25, 29 and 421), another of Fisher's ideas, to get there. I had no problem pointing out Michigan Road era farms and landmarks along with Dixie Highway era gas stations, diners and motels. And what I couldn't answer, I just made up...which made me wish blogger Down the Road was along!


We had a good mix of folks from different parts of the country on the bus, including some Hoosiers. The out of staters had questions about corn, beans, barns and the origin of "Hoosier". They also asked why there were patches of woods in the fields...to which I said the question should be asked why there were fields in the woods. I thought that was clever.

Crown Point Cemetery gates...a tight squeeze


Not only did we dine at the old German Club, but we also circled Monument Circle, visited the Indianapolis Speedway (another Fisher idea), Crown Hill Cemetery/James Whitcomb Riley's tomb (we were also supposed to place a wreath at Fisher's grave, but time got away) and Marian College-soon to be university-where the mansions of Fisher, Frank Wheeler and James Allison (being the big three of the Indy Speedway) were all located prior to it becoming Marian.


Riley's grave...the highest point in Indy


I think I enjoyed the speedway most. This was my second time, but the first time was before you could take a trip around the tracks...way cool. And I enjoyed hearing about the Jens Jensen landscape design and restoration of the Allison estate. Man, I love Indy.


The folks on my bus were especially kind, rarely got out of control and I even got an invitation from the 2011 host of the LH conference for the family to attend in Lake Tahoe. That may be a possibility.....Route 66 out and the LH back.

Ending point: my favorite building in downtown South Bend

16 June 2009

growing old & letting go

or at least trying to let go.

My niece's graduation open house was this past weekend. My folks hosted it because of the nice set up and parking and the weather was perfect. We were to bring veggie trays for the 140 guests expected to be there. I think it ended up being more like 80 and we have a lot of peppers and mushrooms left. We got there a little late and already a number of cars were assembled in the driveway.

I got out of the car, unloaded my kids and grabbed a cooler full of vegetables when the first guy walked up to me...completely gray headed and said hello.

"uh, hello...uh, long time, eh?"

I had no clue who he was at first. This scenario began to repeat itself. A number of folks were invited from the truckstop...customers and employees alike, well that's been 12 years ago. And then a number of people were invited from my parents' church...I haven't been there in 10 years. And I have to tell you I was struggling with who was who. Of course family was there, such as my second cousin who just graduated from engineering school. Whoa!

Gray hair and wrinkled faces were abundant. My aging great aunt and her boyfriend of 20 years were there. She is 89, and still is a township trustee...at least while there is such a thing. I had to help her up and down from her chair, and down our front step. And then, for reasons I'll not go into here, Doc Bowen was there. He came in the door and sat down, and people came and "paid their respects" for lack of a better observation. He asked to see me and we talked for awhile-he remembered me and not my brother so I wondered what kind of conversation we would have. Being questioned on a number of different issues made me realize that while physically failing, he still had a sharp mind for 91...at least sharp on topics he cared about. He asked if river city's mayor would be elected for 4 more years and I said, that depends on if I run. He got that straight-lipped smile and said that's why he asked. He also suggested the party needed me so that it could be better. I'm thinking about using that as a campaign slogan "Doc says HR's the cure for what ails the GOP". LOL.

A classmate's father recently passed away. You know when your parents' generation is starting to fade from the scene that you too, only have so much time left. And so I think about what it is I have to show for my life....and why I don't take more chances.....and maybe this is just all hitting at an odd time in my life, particularly when viewed from reading Wild at Heart. There were a number of people at the open house who were my age not that long ago.

The author of Ecclesiastes says that "it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart". Who knows, maybe it's the weather....but I do seem to be struggling with the temporalness of life and permanence of my endeavors on this earth. It would seem that being aware of this is healthy. But now what?

Over the years I have had to "let go" of a number of things. Things at church, work, politics, family, friends....you get the picture. Some I still struggle with. Believe it or not, our family has just cause to hold a grudge against Doc. As I sat there listening to this man revered by so many across our state, holding in my heart some pretty significant hurt, I looked on him almost in somber pity. Finding it difficult to turn his head, or hold it straight without his chin hanging down....something in my gut said, "you too some day will sit here, trying to find some value left to your life". And then that hurt went away.....because it just didn't matter anymore.

This is already longer than I intended. But I wonder if looking into old faces doesn't turn a light on our own soul. I'll be writing more soon about letting go.

raising Cowbirds


Last week I looked out our window that our bird feeding center is located at and saw a pair of Brown Headed Cowbirds and at first I thought, cool....then I thought, uh oh....I wonder who has their kids.

Cowbirds are parasitic nesters. That means that the female waits until an unsuspecting bird of another feather leaves the nest and she swoops in, removes one of that bird's eggs and lays her own. There are not many parasitic bird nesters...thank God...which I guess He made them that way...so go figure. The Cuckoo is the most famous one and oddly enough the Cuckoo female can actually make its eggs come out to resemble the host's eggs. That is remarkable and makes me wonder what I would have chosen my kids to look like.

So tonight our family was sitting on the living room floor playing "guess what's in the bag" that our kids collected from a nature walk at grandma's, and I heard a great deal of chipping. I looked out and saw a poor little Chipping Sparrow trying to keep up with feeding a bird nearly twice its size. You guessed it....the baby Cowbird. And I wondered where the little guy's other offspring were, but chances are they didn't make it because of the enormous energy going into feeding baby Huey. I watched this go on for a few minutes and then became disgusted by it.

So, I started to speculate on some deeper meaning behind this and only came up with ugly right-wing parallels of my tax dollars taking care of someone elses kids. I tried really hard at some sort of spiritual analogy....like God having adopted us Gentiles. But that was His choice, we didn't just show up in His nest, or did we? Maybe it's a picture of adoption or foster parents...but that comparison breaks down too.

So I don't have any deep insight into this. I only feel guilty now about shipping my kids off to their grandparents today with their big mouths to feed.

12 June 2009

on Privatization

It's been a while since my last political rant, and since the events over the last two days got my blood boiling over the public being played like pawns in a philosophical experiment of privatization here in river city....I've decided to unload.

Seems like our new mayor felt it was priority #1 to get our trash collection privatized here in river city upon taking office. Of course he never mentioned this on the campaign trail, but since his mouth-piece and greasy city attorney needs to make a splash in this little pond....after realizing he's wasted or drank away most of his life, and more importantly the puppet-master and financier of his campaign felt so strongly about it....well, it looks like it is going to happen.

Now normally when republicans get the public pumped about privatization, usually it's because private companies can 1) do it cheaper and 2) provide better service. So if one or both of those factors can't be realized by privatization one would wonder why a republican administration would feel so strongly about it. Because the puppet-master feels so strongly about it...in fact, he is the only one in river city who has even mentioned this. And now, not only is our cost going to go up by more than 50% and our service is going to be cut by the same; this administration now has the gall to say that the private bid price per household isn't enough and that they'll charge an extra buck more a month just in case. Friends, does this sound more like LIBERALS? This is crazy....and what's worse is that the republican administration isn't even being challenged by the republican held council, save one....nor does it seem like this republican town cares.

So I don't get it. It's ok for me to have to pay above and beyond the cost of trash collection? How is that any different than the puppet-master feeling so adamant about not paying for something he doesn't use? It just goes to show....it really isn't about the public good, nor is it about pure conservative thought.....it is simply about an aging ideologue attorney with nothing to show for his life and a deranged politico hell-bent on saving a few bucks so that he can gamble it away in Vegas.

But the story doesn't end there.

Yesterday morning I spent a fair amount of time estimating a proposal for a project. Since I was a little new to this area of work I had a few questions, sent off a few emails...and then realized the cost for me to do it was going to be considerable. I called the client, just to be certain I understood the proposal correctly and he said he'd put my mind at ease, the other fellow from Ball State got the job.

Ball State.....Center for Historic Preservation. I knew that both he and I were asked to submit a proposal for the job. I assumed he was submitting it as a side job as a professor. I don't believe that's the case. Instead, Ball State has embarked on directly competing for jobs that its graduates...and folks like me.....would be vying for. To add insult to injury, I got a postcard in the mail today highlighting the services that Ball State's Center for Historic Preservation can offer....hmmm.....everything that I can.

Something seems wrong about competing for work against a state university that I'm supporting with my taxes. And it would seem that if that's the case I should be able to opt out of paying income taxes to the State of Indiana. So, why is the government getting into the private sector on one count, but when privatization actually costs the taxpayer more, they bid it out?

but who says government, or politics for that matter, is logical?

11 June 2009

a Wild night

Last night I started a summer session with a group of guys from the 20x class. Eight of us are going through John Eldridge's Wild at Heart. It went great and I couldn't think of a better group of guys to go through it with.

But one of Eldridge's questions in the study guide was "who was your boyhood hero?" and "did you take on that persona?" Being that the point of the group is for vulnerability, accountability and brotherhood.....I won't share too much, at least not use names. However, I will admit what I said.

I've already written about my stint as the superhero crime fighter "Tomahawk Kid" (I made up my own superhero); but I don't know if I've ever mentioned my wishing I was one of the Duke boys. Oh yes. In fact I used a cassette recorder to tape all of the shows, practically had them memorized, and fantasized about living on the Duke farm in Hazard County....and no, I was too young to appreciate Daisy in her short shorts.

For some time I felt that the South should have won the war; I created a Rebel flag and put it up in my window, I even bought an orange dirt bike, same color as the General Lee, and named it that. I started wearing cowboy boots and button-down western shirts. My grandmother, who drove a 2-door Pontiac of some kind-powder blue-was mortified when my cousin and I would roll down the window and hop out like Bo and Luke at the grocery. My first wristwatch played "way down yonder in the land of cotton" (the horn from the General Lee?), until I wore it out.

I wish I could say that I had grown out of it by high school, but even after the show was cancelled and I had my driver's license....I was still pretending to be a Duke boy. Something that a friend of mine reminded me of at our school reunion when he asked if I remembered taking the elevated railroad crossing on a certain back road at 70 mph with my pick-up.....pretending I was jumping with the General.

So, having to admit this to these guys, who only know the Dukes from reruns on cable, made me delve a little deeper into why it was I wanted to change my last name to Duke and move to a dumpy farm. I think it had a lot to do with what Eldridge points out of boys wanting to be men. The Duke boys drove a fast, flashy car.....beat up the bad guys.....always put that crooked king of Hazard County-Boss Hog-in his place......and always rescued the beauty. Boy did that realization settle some unresolved issues.

And now, I still am kind of like the Duke boys. I try to squash villainy in our own little country bumpkin version of Hazard; its just that our Boss Hog has a bit of an English accent.

09 June 2009

the Father, Son & Sugar Creek

Recently I was lectured by my wife regarding spending too much woods time with the fellas. She said to me that I needed to take my son, along with his good bud, canoing or something. His good bud's dad is also a good friend of mine, so canoing? Yeah, as if I need an excuse to head into the wild.

So we did a quick 24 hour trip down to Turkey Run State Park....took in a trail Monday evening and Tuesday morning, then headed to Clement's Canoes on Sugar Creek. Our first father/son adventure. And he did great....even with the paddling....not that kind of paddlin'. We hopped out and looked for fossils and river glass and kept our eyes peeled for Bald Eagles.

And can I just repeat once more that Indiana needs to change its state tree to the Sycamore? I've been on this stretch of the Sugar about a half-dozen times and this grouping of sycamores always intrigues me. It's like they're the old men of the river.....kind of a band of brothers who have stuck things out on this sandbar together for the last century or so.

I swear there is a "spirit" about Sugar Creek. If you've never been in the grotto of Indiana, you must go. From the absolute tranquility of the rippling creek, the cathedral-like cliffs of weathered limestone and the fairy-tale conjuring images produced by gnarled trees, roots and fern covered boulders, this place is beautiful. Add in the inspiring images of Great Blue Herons lofting only a few yards from you and the kingfishers and swallows actively working the creek and you have everything that is good about Indiana at your paddle-tips.

I have no doubt God is in nature. And in my mind I was thinking how much pleasure He was taking in the pleasure we were taking from the things He created for His pleasure.

My school was soooo small....


'83-'89 GBCS Alumni

that recently at an all-school reunion, the entire graduating classes of the 1980's gathered and sat around a single table. We had six in my class of '87. My poor niece just graduated valedictorian of her school. She had a class of 1.

my folks with my niece's entire graduating class

This may come as a big surprise....but I am the product of Christian school education. And not just any Christian school....a Baptist school! No, I wasn't raised Baptist, I was raised Charismatic. Don't try to figure that one out, particularly when adding both Missionary and Seventh Day Adventist university education into the mix.

Going to high school at a Baptist Christian school was challenging for many reasons. First: dating. Not many girls to date in your school, so when you break-up it better be on good terms because no doubt, you would be dating them again when it came time for your rotation.

No dancing, drinking, smoking, cussing, drugs, rock music-especially Christian Rock, jeans or revealing clothing of any kind, kissing, holding hands, comments that could be interpreted as lewd or sacrilegious, use anything other than the KJV, so on and so on. The tough thing was that any time a new guy showed up who was kicked out of the public schools (the rebel) the girls all fell for him instantly. My role was sorta Alex P. Keaton meets the Godfather. I was both bad and good, but my badness had to have a distinct purpose and goal. A few years back I was confused with another guy in town with an eerily similar name and was asked if I "sewed wild oats in high school". I laughed off my seat and said, "gee...I may have been cool for Christian school standards, but I was still kinda a geek for public school standards."


My Class of '87

I look back and I don't think I like the guy I was in high school. I don't think I would have hung out with me, and probably would like to have kicked my a*!. Nonetheless, we were who we were. Which leads me to this all-school reunion.

You see, there was this kid two years under me. He hung out with one of my best buds there, but I always felt he was a bad seed. And he proved it. He went away to college and that was the last I heard of him. Until last week. It seems he acknowledged his mistakes, regrouped and started heading down a pretty straight path. And then as bad luck would have it, the trials came.....and he suffered, his new found ministry suffered, and in some respects you might say life caught up to him.

He was at the reunion, at the 80's table, and sat next to me. We made small talk and then he gave a short devotional that blew me away. With a slight quiver to my voice I said, "buddy, you have a gift". People change....maybe because we are extended grace...but we change. Sometimes for the worse, but from what I can tell, usually for the better. I think back over the last 2-3 years and think wow, I am sooo different today than then. I would hate to be judged on what I was like 3 years ago let alone high school.

Which tells me....simply....do not judge. I think that's biblical or something. Hey PNW Hoosier...WE MISSED YOU!

08 June 2009

Youth Sunday Challenge

It was "Youth Sunday" yesterday.....sort of my last official act in being involved with youth group over the last year.....tying together some great skits, here was my challenge:





So what will YOUR story be?
We DO all have a story to share, the question is how will you use your story to encourage others and how can God use you to reach others for Him? And since this is Youth Sunday…let’s talk about pouring our lives into our children and youth.

We know that in Titus we are instructed, as older men and women in the faith, to teach the younger men and women. As far as I can tell, every one of us is older than someone else out there…..and there are beginning to be more to the younger than older side to me. Unless I’m reading it wrong, it doesn’t say anything about having a “calling” to do this…..it just says DO IT! It’s a command!

Our children need to be surrounded by men and women of faith to encourage them. How many of you during baby dedications at our church over the last 10-15 years spoke the words “I WILL” when asked if you would commit to coming along beside parents in raising their kids?

You saw the mentor program highlighted this morning…..it is a phenomenal way to get involved in the lives of our youth…BUT SO is teaching, helping with VBS, and just making conversation in the foyer after church.

God may be raising up this generation to reach the world. Don’t sit on the sidelines and pray for revival fires if you’re not willing to fan the flame that is flickering in our kids! We’ve heard report after report of our kids leading their friends to Christ, right here, in our schools. What if THEY ARE THIS GENERATION God is calling?

I believe with all of my heart that recently our community was on the threshold of revival, and either we don’t have it together for God to use us or His timing isn’t right…maybe both. But it is clear to me that He CAN and IS using our kids to show His glory. And it may be that our kids will bring revival to our town. I believe God has greater things in store for our community, in store for our youth. DON’T YOU?

Before the worship team returns, we have a short video clip called “Greater Things” with images from youth group over the last year-some are pretty silly, along with images from the community. The clip is set to a song called “God of this City” whose origin has a pretty miraculous story. As you watch it, consider what your role is in encouraging our youth, and in seeing a move of God over this city.