Archive for the ‘love’ Category

212,343.7

I decided to start documenting my memories of Farrah when she hit 212,343 miles. Not too long ago, I hit a pretty nasty dip coming out of the Waco post office. I was turning left when we hit the dip and it felt like I bottomed out my front suspension. From that point forward, every time I turned left, there was audible, palpable knock. I decided to find out what was wrong with Fairuza and treat her to a little TLC. After consulting my Chilton’s manual, I concluded that my front bearings were incredibly loose – I also changed my spark plugs.
My history of maintenance with the truck could fill up a small pamphlet… of one pages. I’ve changed my alternator, serpentine belt, spark plugs, starter, and R-134a. I’ve also paid someone else to change the fly-wheel and a different starter.
When I bought the truck in July 2002, I went out on two dates almost immediately. On the second date (with a girl whom I’ve forgotten), I went to Charleston’s, Barnes and Noble, then the movie “Road to Perdition”.  Excellent movie, horrible date.  It was one of the worst dates ever. While at Charleston’s, I asked said date if she read much and wanted to go to Barnes and Noble to look around (two of my favorite past-times). She answered, “I have to read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ for class.” and “That sounds like fuuuunnn.” She was obviously lying to the second question. I asked her if “How to Win Friends” was the famous one from Dale Carnegie and she said she didn’t know who wrote it. She wasn’t lying to that answer.  In retrospect, I should have seen this as a horrible foreshadowing of the evening to come. After the movie was over, we returned to my truck. When I turned the key, there was this horrible scrape. Inquisitively, I turned the key again; to my dismay, I heard another scrape. I tried it one more time and the engine turned over. I was so relieved by the F-bomb’s resilience so that I could end this dog-crap of a date.  I didn’t have the starter looked at. I didn’t really care either. I’ve always been passive about fixing things. People kept telling me, “you need to get that looked at” and they were right. I finally changed the starter when my truck hit 190,000 miles. It worked fantastically for 15,000 miles, until I had someone change the starter and fly-wheel. Not to sound like a commercial for Ford but I think that Ford got it right on their trucks. They got it wrong on their domestic cars but they got it very right on their trucks. I would be happy to have another Ford truck, or a foreign-inspired Ford car (see Fiesta).
These newest blog entries are a moral imperative, of sorts. Flenore is on her death bed and we owe it to her to pay our respects before her passing. I included the eulogy and many wonderful thoughts of my grandmother on my blog, so this is only right. At 212,343, she’s making a bunch of noises. She sorta shakes and farts as if she has palsy and held in too many farts. She’s old now; she doesn’t need to act like a lady anymore. She just lets it rip, as she’s earned the right. I’ve learned enough lessons from her, my only job now is to forgive her shortcomings and make her final days more comfortable.

Almost Heaven, Argentina… sorry John Denver

My wife Carmen and I are from Oklahoma, and if you’ve ever been to Oklahoma you could have a ton of observations about the place but one observation would not be the mountainous scenery.  We have two claims to fame as far as geographical/geological structures:  One; the Arbuckle “mountains” (not really mountains, not even close) whose sediment runs sideways.  Two; Cavanal Hill, Poteau, Oklahoma (pronounced Poto).  It is the world’s largest hill at 1,999 ft. tall (one more foot and we’d be hosed).  So with that in mind, imagine the beauty we got to experience going into Mendoza de Argentina, and behold the magnitude of the Andes; simply amazing.

Now, I’ve been to taller places.  One time as a part-time youth minister I went to Monarch Pass, Colorado.  I’ve been to Denver for a day.  Hell, I’ve walked Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii.  But there is something about the Andes in Mendoza that the others didn’t have… wine.  Oh yeah, you know there’s a difference.  Denver was with school; Haleakala was when I was 18; and Monarch Pass was me and a bunch of Baptist youngins (You know what it’s like when a bunch of WASP’s get around each other).

To be at the base of the Andes, standing at the gates Melipal or Fincas Patagonicas, and staring out over the arid grapevines and into the snow-capped mountains is astonishing.  A trip like that really makes you appreciate the wine.  The idea that the most of the wine people drink from Argentina, would not exist if were not for these mountains.  The snow that gets caught on the mountains… melts and runs into a river… which is dammed and rushed to the fields… which grows the grapes that are smashed… and fermented for the world’s drinking pleasures.  The work, the care, nay, the love that goes into each bottle and the precision that is required to make a fantastic bottle of wine comes through with a single visit.  If nothing else, if not for the amazing beef, the remarkably nice people, or the Cuban cigars, then a trip is needed for the surroundings.  After one trip… every time you hoist a glass to your lips you realize you are tasting heaven.

darn clouds are in the way

darn clouds are in the way

Time is an illusion

Carmen and I were out for dinner last night at this local restaurant called “Parrechio”. Pretty good stuff, I had a Bife de Chorizo and Carmen had some stir-fried chicken and vegetables. She mentioned something that surprised me. She said that if we got the money she would like to be able to go to Austin City Limits this year to see The Mars Volta. She knows I love the The Mars Volta but Austin City Limits is so much more this year, click here to see the lineup. The conversation got me to thinking about the first time I went to Austin, and then onto something deeper… Something like this…

“Well it wasn’t that long ago, But, I’ve been plenty of times sinse then.”

“We could call my buddy Ryan Shue; I played football with him in college; maybe we could crash at his.”

“Well it has been a while since I’ve seen Ryan, like 4 years… wait; no, 5 and a half years since I’ve seen Ryan, since I went to Austin for the first time, WHEN I TURNED 20!”

“Where the hell did the last 5 years go?”

I told Carmen that the entire time we’d known each other (5 years- in a month and a half) has been fun; that’s why the time has flown, and I think that’s true. But it did get me to thinking about an arbitrary period of time (5 years) and how an half a decade is viewed differently by different eyes. For example, for me, from 5 to 10 was an eternity. Kindergarten-4th grade, baseball, basketball, my brief entry into soccer, six flags, grandparents, all that. There was a lot going on and the time seemed to last a while. My birthdays couldn’t come close enough. 10-15, was the same real length but slightly shorter. Let me introduce to you football, Disney World, Junior High, Sunrise Scramblers, Sega Genesis, Music, Your big brother’s puberty, your big brother’s music, your big brother’s hair. Ryan started listening to Pearl Jam, which means I started listening to Pearl Jam, Ryan started listening to Rage Against the Machine which means I started listening to RATM, Ryan started shaving his face and dating girls which means I started … wishing I had some facial hair to shave. Instead I was left to figure out that a flat-top hair cut doesn’t work on a late-blooming adolescent. 10-15 took a while, but we got through it.

Needless to say 15-20 was much shorter and 20-25 didn’t take long to blow through at all. I might write later about what defined 15-20, and really when I think about it, quite a lot happened in that period of time but… suffice to say that hair started to finally grow, Girls noticed me, and then half-way through this period the head-hair started to slide off the backside of my noggin’… kind of like, I heard about these sheep that were jumping off of a cliff in some sort of mass suicide, that’s kind of what my hair is doing. The sheep on the top of my head aren’t going too far, however; they’re landing on my shoulders and back so… it’s okay. I’m 25 and the birthdays can’t be spaced far enough apart.

Now, I know that I’m only 25 and most people reading this are older, which may be a good thing, you can offer up some insight. But when I think about how fast the time has gone, up to this point, it’s astounding. 30 is sometime next week, 40 is in a year or two, in no time I’m going to be catching the early bird special at Luby’s wondering how long after dinner I need to take my meds… only to find out that I should have taken them on an empty stomach. When that time comes, I’m popping those meds… with milk, and by God I will operate heavy machinery if I want.

I have no words…

There has been so much that has gone on in the last week I don’t know how I can sum everything up.  Okay, Walter, Janie, and my dad all showed up in Buenos Aires last Saturday.  Anyone who knows my uncle Walter knows that when he shows up for vacation, he doesn’t vacate.  Instead he turns into a nazi, not like a “mean, semite-slaughtering” nazi, more like a “you need to be ready to go in 5 minutes… no wait, 2 minutes” kind of nazi.  Tito said of Walter that he can’t enjoy what he’s doing right now because he’s thinking about what he’ll do next.  I might joke about his behavior but the truth is that it’s nice having him here because it is a huge change of pace that I enjoy.  I have much more to say about our adventures but I want to talk about Iguazu real quick.

We went to Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil, and it’s amazing.  Elenor Roosevelt, upon seeing the falls, couldn’t help but proclaim “Poor Niagra”, and how right she was.  There are over 270 individual falls and there are no amount of words in my English and Spanish lexicons combined to describe the beauty, magnitude, and fury of the falls.  I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed while I was there with an existential and theological dilemma.  I have a tendency to sympathize with religious perspectives on many things like the falls being the handiwork of God and how natural beauties (like Iguazu and pale ale) are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  At the same time, I have no problem espousing the idea that the earth is over 2 billion years old and these falls were formed over many millenia by erosion of the rocks and that they have grown in scale over at least a billion years.  When you think about it scientifically, it seems to make sense.  But to look at it scientifically, the falls aren’t impressive.  The idea that these falls just occurred as part of a natural process doesn’t really impress me; why am I supposed to be awe-struck by a random occurance, no matter how great?  However, to look at the falls from the middle, the idea that there is some kind of infinitely intelligent being that got this ball spinning a long time ago, and put it in a place like Argentina/Brazil, Zambia/Zimbabwe, US/Canada for people to marvel, study, hypothesize, and theorize over is much more impressive to me.  This is not a plug for intelligent design or the “answersingenesis” crowd.  I’m reminded of the words of British Scientist Sir John Houghton, “the phrase that both believers and scientists need to learn and not be afraid to say is, ‘I don’t know'”.  AmenJust a portion of Iguazu

America, the okay…

The Johnson’s cannot take one more battle,

That’s why our fearless leader left

She felt sorry for their weak aerial display

Against our bombs that would make you deaf.

The town of Crescent won’t be the same

without the Lewis family outing.

With Bocce Ball and beer from a washer

and the sound of the children shouting.

My brush was a candle of roman descent;

my canvas was the sky.

The paint I used was the fun of my heart

And gun powder mixed with dye.

We did not sing America the Beautiful,

singing could not behold our glory.

We didn’t see the point of hymns

When our sunburns could tell the story.

Reflections on a good woman

I had two grandmothers die recently.  I was allowed the opportunity to give the eulogy at the funeral of my paternal grandmother.  Here it is:

I’m sure if we gave a piece of paper to everyone who entered into these doors with the instructions that you were to write down one adjective to describe Betty Ross, based off of your own experiences with her, (or stories you may have heard)I would receive about as many different responses as we have people.  Whether you refer to her as Betty, Miss Betty, Aunt Betty, Mrs. Ross, cousin, memaw, or mom, it doesn’t matter; we all have at least one Betty Ross story.  The reason why you have a Betty Ross story is that Betty Ross treated you not just as an individual but as a person.  The two concepts of the individual and the person seem similar but can be divided.  When she treated you as an individual she didn’t lump you into one particular group of people like Hispanics, or whites, or Muslims, or Baptists.  She knew that people had their own context and their own stories that shaped who they were as people.  I believe she knew that because she had her own stories and her own context, which shaped her.  When she treated you as a person, she believed you had basic human rights that were laid down by God, and even though it might’ve seemed like she didn’t like you, she most certainly loved you and she cared about your human rights and your health.  And she didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt because you were a Baptist or a Democrat, either. 

I’m not here to portray her as a saint or a deity; on the contrary, I’m here to portray her as a real woman.  Actually, when I began thinking about this eulogy I thought I might like to compare memaw to the great matriarchs of the bible.  I thought it might be really nice to point out that Betty Ross, as the matriarch of my family, was much like Sarah of the bible and how all that I know spawned from her.  Or it would be cool to draw parallels between Ruth and memaw and point out how God rewards people for faithfulness, kindness, and charity.  But I have neither the theological training, nor the time to carry this out, and I resolved myself to let Preston handle that, so… Preston, you’re welcome. 

            The truth is that through the numerous experiences and theological conversations I’ve had with her, I’ve realized that Betty Ross has lived like the entire body of scripture thrown together.  She was complex and layered, loving and thoughtful, sharp and surely frustrating.  I relate memaw to Genesis, chapter 32 when Jacob wrestles with God.  Bear with me because it will make sense in a moment.  It’s not my goal to take the scripture out of context but I’ve heard it said that when Jacob wrestles with God, that is like you and I wrestling with scripture.  God doesn’t necessarily beat Jacob (or vice versa) while wrestling but God does hurt Jacob’s hip AND blesses him, all at the same time.  Even though Jacob walks away with a limp he does not abandon God and it is very important to know that God does not abandon Jacob.  (Now I must tell you that if memaw heard me saying what I’m saying she would surely pop-up and tell me to quit talking, I’m being sacrilegious).  Memaw was a lot like that; you could wrestle with her about anything; philosophy, religion, politics, education, child rearing or just life and she would say some things to you which would be so odd or cross you come away limping, emotionally, some of us still walk with our limps and some limps are more pronounced than others.  But we should also know that we were blessed in that wrestling match.  Whether we were blessed with the ability to question her, the establishment, ourselves, our faith, or whether we come away knowing that she just loves us and she tried to express it in the best way she knew how… we were blessed. 

A very minute example is that in the summer of 2003 I went with memaw and the Kappa Kappa Iota teaching sorority to Cleveland and Canada.  The first night we were in Cleveland, she was resting in a chair in the hotel room with the TV on, obviously tired from the day’s activities.  I say to her “Memaw, where’s the remote at?”  Not breaking from her position, she responds, “Right behind the AT.”  Frustrated I ask her to repeat what she said and she broke from her rest and said, “Behind the AT!  AT is a preposition and you can’t end the sentence with a preposition.”

I call my dad that night and I told him the story and I said, “Do you know what memaw said to me when I asked her ‘Where the remote was at?’” He said, “What, right behind the at?”

“Yes, how did you know.” 

“Well son, it’s a preposition and you can’t end your sentence with a preposition.  I’ve been hearing that stuff my whole life.”

            That’s a small limp that I got from that trip, and it is a small limp, but I can guarantee you that I do not end my sentences, when I write, with prepositions.  That’s the blessing.  The biggest blessing she would bestow upon all of us, at every wrestling match, is that we would come away, knowing ourselves better and better.

Much like the scriptures themselves, she was a woman of many, seemingly paradoxical traits:

a.       She was a woman of great pride while displaying incredible humility

b.      She could be the source of great frustration and be a wonderful calming presence

c.       She displayed a strong-will while being completely self-deprecating

d.      She had a strong sense of self yet was so incredibly selfless

e.       She had a sharp tongue as well as a soothing one

f.        She was a woman who seemed to be of “the establishment” but to acquaintances, she was quietly subversive, while to friends and family, she was a revolutionary.

She was passionate, a moderate, a lover of mankind, loyal, a humanist, worldly and other worldly. 

These are the traits of, maybe not godlikeness, but definitely godliness; and, whether or not she meant to be, these factors made her very Christ-like.

She might not agree with everything that I’ve said here today and that’s okay.  I’m sure we’ll argue about it on the other side some day.

While I was writing this eulogy I couldn’t come up with a really concrete ending.  I was actually sitting at the Panera Bread on NW expressway, which was the place where we met together the day I went to Waco, TX to attend Grad school (that she was helping pay for).  As I reflected upon the somewhat emotional departure towards Waco and the things she said to me, it occurred to me that the only thing I could do is try and leave with you, the legacy of a beautiful old woman:

                 

      Read, educate yourself, enjoy the arts, get involved with life, do not accept the status quo, question everything (including her), learn an instrument, learn a foreign language, look out for the little guy, know what you believe (know why you believe it), appreciate other cultures, don’t forget your roots, travel the world, but don’t forget to call home from time to time. 

Dear lord, we thank you for the gift and Blessings that you gave us in the form of Betty Ross.  We know we don’t get to wrestle with Betty in person anymore, and we’re wrestling with that, but we also know that we can look forward to many unforeseen blessings headed our way.  I pray that we can live out the legacy that she has left for us and we can follow on the road of righteousness that she has paved.  We ask that you guide and protect us and receive memaw into your kingdom, In Jesus’ precious name we pray.  Amen.