Monthly Archives: November 2012

My simple mind vs. the complex world… I think I’m losing!

The complexities of life are just about to cause my head to explode lately.  My mind seems to have kicked into some absurd warp speed overdrive.  Aging parents, work that I love and a job that I don’t, kids growing up and moving on with their lives, failed relationships, friends dealing with life threatening illness… the list gets longer and more complicated every day.   I now sleep about half as much as I use to… and probably only about a third of what I need.

So what’s the point?  Why all of this complexity?  Is it really so necessary?  So since I’ve been awake a lot… I’ve been working on a list… let’s call it Wally’s list to simple(r) living… Here’s what I’ve got so far (in no particular order)….

  • Travel light
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Never look directly into the sun
  • Always put your breathing mask on first before helping others
  • Do nothing
  • Pray
  • Read the instructions
  • Drink lots of water
  • Get up in time to see the sun rise
  • Less is almost always more
  • Go for lots of walks
  • Talk with friends (not text or chat or facebook or blog… really talk…. face to face… remember when we use to do that?)
  • Take the time to watch the sun set
  • Read
  • Do something
  • Finish strong
  • Always Love

I know it sounds like a lot but I don’t think I will do them all at once… I just think that if I change my focus, maybe I’ll actually do the second item on the list…. we’ll see.

Feel free to add to this.  I am quite sure that there are things I have omitted that should be included… and may have included somethings that we don’t need to do…. remember, we’re trying to travel light here.

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Raining Frogs, Musicals and a War….

I can’t remember anything about her.  I don’t remember is she was tall or short, heavy or thin… I can’t remember anything at all about her face or the color of her hair.  All I can remember is that she lived on West Street in Ahoskie… and that her name was Mrs. Oaks.

I’m not even sure if I went over to her house very often.  I do remember it was a very nondescript little bungalow.  My mom would just drop us off there sometimes on her way to…. well, where ever it was she was going.

There was something that seemed almost magical about Mrs. Oaks house.  It wasn’t your typical babysitting situation.  She was one of those people that truly enjoyed spending time with us.  We were always doing stuff.  She would teach us how to play card games, or we would go on big adventures in her back yard.  I can still remember she had the first weeping willow tree I ever saw.

There were three things that I remember in particular that happened related to her.  Once my parents were going to be out for the afternoon and evening too so my sister and I were going to have to spend some extended time with Mrs. Oaks.  This was always okay with me but particularly this time because she and her husband were going to take us fishing!  I had never been fishing before and so I was so excited.  As luck would have it, it was raining when we got there.  Not the passing storm kinda rain but that “setting in for a spell” kinda rain.  I was pretty bummed.  But this is Mrs. Oaks we’re talking about!  She wasn’t going to let a little rain stop us from having an adventure.  We didn’t go fishing but instead she took us to the the movies to see the original “Doctor Dolittle” with Rex Harrison.  I loved the pushmepullyou… This movie was my introduction to the musical genre… which I have been in love with ever since.

The other event was also a rain storm… but like a lot of things associated with Mrs. Oaks, it wasn’t just your average rain event.  we were looking out her front door at the rain when suddenly I noticed frogs… every where!  very little frogs!  It was raining frogs!  It was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!  It was like she could make anything happen!!!

The last thing I remember, I had actually forgotten until my sister mentioned it to me recently and it came back to me.  This was the first time I ever remember being directly affected by a war.  Her son had been drafted… I remember a green duffel bag being filled with clothes… and a sadness that I had never experienced there before.  The late sixties were some turbulent times in the US… but also, they were a great time to be a young kid… just starting to learn about the world around them… raining frogs, musicals, and war… my, what a rich world Mrs. Oaks provided for me.

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Three pies and the corner slice of a round cake…

My grandmother passed away 20 years ago this past May.  I have written about her on several occasions here.  I do miss her a lot.  It is particularly bad this time of year.  You see, she was really the family cook.   When ever there was a holiday or special occasion, you could bank on some of the most wonderful eating in the world at her house.

I remember many a day, sitting at her kitchen table while she was walking around preparing one thing or another.  We solved many of my worlds problems right there at that table.  She would prepare foods and I would talk and she would just listen, never really offering much of an opinion.  It was as if she knew that if she just let me keep talking, I would get to the right answer.

But as I think about my time with her there… I don’t ever recall seeing the first recipe for anything.  I’m pretty sure they all of the recipes were stored away in a file in her head… she could just get out the appropriate bowl, take out the ingredients, pour exactly the right amount in the bowl together and out would pop the most wonderful breads and cakes and pies.

Her pecan pies are still the best one I have ever had.  My sister took the time once to measure the ingredients so we all have the mechanics of how they go together.  It was funny…. the recipe always made three pies.  I have no idea why three… but I was always grateful for the fact that regardless of the number of people that showed up there would always be a slice available.

Nothing would put a smile on my face quicker than to walk in the kitchen and see one of her world famous chocolate layer cakes sitting on the counter.  My oh my those things were the best!!!  and the thing I love the best was the corner slices.  Yeah, she would cut the cake all the way across the middle, then start taking slices out from the center of one side.  As she worked her way out from the center, you would start approaching the edge.  This created a corner of sorts, that had even more icing on it than the other slices did!  It was my favorite…. with an ice cold glass of whole milk…. now that was something to be thankful for right there!

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One hell of a brick mason….

My life is full of walls… big tall brick ones. They are very sturdy and impressive… designed to be a barrier… to separate me from various people and things in my life.

These walls have sometimes been built by circumstances… other times they are built by others. The true master brick mason of the wall work in my world is yours truly. Yes, I have built some mighty impressive structures over my lifetime. I am so good at it, that I can rather stealth-fully build one to rival the Great Wall of China without even realizing that I was standing near a single brick. This proves to be quite frustrating at times. At other times, I just look at the wall and walk away.

I read somewhere recently that these walls in our lives are not there to keep us from things that we desire the most, but rather to help us determine which people and things we really and truly want in our lives. Are we really willing to do the hard work it will take to climb over or better yet, are we willing to do the necessary things to just tear the wall down?

This is the story of one wall….

There are some of you that know that I have been dealing with a wall for the last couple of months related to my running. Let me set this up. I run 3 days a week and do core strength work the other two days. My runs consist of a 5 mile run, a 4 mile run and a three mile run. It is rather strange but the one that has been giving me the most trouble over the last 2 months in the 3 mile run. See, I have been flirting with the 27:00 mark for that entire time. I just couldn’t break 27 to save my life.. I would get down to 27:04 then the very next week it would be back up to 27:15…. It didn’t matter how hard I tried or if I started fast and ended slow or started slow and ended fast. The results were the same. I had almost resigned myself to be the “27+ guy” forever.

And so I got on the treadmill again today… staring at all the numbers and things and thought I just don’t think I can do it… but I knew I had to try. I tried to let my mind go… to just forget about it. I was starting to think that I couldn’t even make it in under 30… much less 27. But I pushed… hard. I can’t remember the last time I felt like that when I was running… my lungs and my legs both burning…. screaming at me to just stop…. to just give up the craziness.

But as I said earlier… the wall was there… not to keep me from getting there, but to measure my desire. To see if I was willing to do what it would really take to get beyond that wall. See I know that I am a quitter. I have walked away from many walls in my life… to tired to scale them and not enough interest or energy to tear them down.

But there are others… that I will not let get the best of me… so, Friday, November 16, 2012…. I ran 3 miles. And when I looked down at the timer… it read 25:52. One more wall down. On to the next one!

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Today’s Flight….

I use to fly a lot in a different life… when I say a lot I mean several times every week.  I flew so much that I knew the flight numbers and times for every Delta flight going to Atlanta from 8 different airports around the country.  The employees in the Crown Room in the Atlanta airport knew me by name and would be looking for me every Monday morning at the exact same time.  It seems that every Delta flight must go through Atlanta…. I told someone back then that I swear I believe that when I die, before I can go to Heaven, I’m going to have to make a connection in Atlanta first.

But this isn’t about Atlanta… or airports… or even really air travel itself.  I’ve just had a lot of things on my mind… about going places… and experiencing things.  When I start that whole thought process, I tend to get very detailed in my thinking… Like how I hate sitting in airport lounges waiting on flights.  There will always be some kid there just irritating me to no end… and his parents totally oblivious to juniors behavior.

But what I was really thinking about the most was the pre-flight instructions by the flight attendant.  I heard that speech so much I could give it for them.  I knew all the hand gestures for the emergency exits… how to demonstrate the life jacket and using the seat as a flotation device… but my writing today isn’t about any of that either.

This is about the oxygen mask.  Should the cabin lose pressure, the mask will drop down… you know the drill… but the thing that has really gotten to me lately is the next part… “be sure and put on your mask before assisting others with theirs”.  I hadn’t thought about it too much but I guess it is hard to help someone else when you can’t breath yourself…  but then again…  this is pretty much true about everything in life isn’t it?  Okay everyone…. before you start assisting others be sure and have your own mask on, your tray table up and your seat in it’s straight and upright position….

Now, have a good flight.

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A memory replaced…..

It was a cool and drizzly day as I made the turn onto Water St.  I had been thinking about this day for the better part of five months now… and it was finally here.

It had been over 30 years since I had last done this.  I was a little bit apprehensive to be honest… I wasn’t sure I could do it again.  But I did have my son with me this time so I was counting on him to help me through.

As I approached Waterfront Park the street was closed.  That wasn’t so unusual right now as they have half the streets in town closed for some major water / sewer upgrade or something.  In any case, it forced me to have to drive around another way to get to my destination.  As I made the turn to get over to Charles Creek, I started seeing people in running shorts with numbers pinned to their chests.

Are you kidding me?!?!?  This can’t be happening!  The one day in over 30 years that I decided to come do a run I use to do in high school, someone is having a running event over basically the same course!  My son looks at me and started laughing and said, “Well, I guess we are going to have some company today.”  It made me laugh too.

So we get parked and get out and start stretching (funny how I never did that when I was younger but I’ll die now if I don’t do it).  About the time we were getting ready to start the race started and several hundred people started out on the run ahead of us.

This run started out just like every other run does for me these days… with my overwhelming desire to stop in the first 100 yards.  The excuses start running through my head… my foot hurts… my side hurts….. my sinuses are keeping me from breathing properly… I think I left the car running… any excuse I can possibly come up with.  But I did keep pushing along.  And as I we got into a rhythm and I started pointing out houses where my friends lived and areas where all kinds of shenanigans took place, all the pains left and I remember the car was in fact not left running.

And so we ran from Charles Creek Park out around the loop at Winslow Acres and started on the return trip.  All was going well but as we passed the 3.5 mile mark fatigue really started setting in.  I could tell I was in trouble.  This run is over 5 miles long and we still had a long way to go.  The steps got more and more difficult but my son kept talking to me.  Distracting me with conversation about anything but running.  We were closing in on the 5 mile mark and I was done… I just couldn’t go any more.

My son said, “Come on dad… let’s just get down to this next intersection, then we can walk some.”   When we go to the intersection and we turned the corner he said, “Look, it’s two blocks, one turn and a straight shot back.  Let’s just keep going to the last turn.”

And so we made the turn and headed down the last straight quarter mile or so.  It was as if he knew if he could get me to where I could visualize the goal, that I would be okay… and I was.  We actually picked up the pace a little bit in that last part of the run… we finished strong.

It is nice to be at a point in my life where I can lean on my son to carry me a little bit now.    I would have never made it without him.  It’s funny how I reflect on all the bright, sunny, crisp days that I made that run alone and how wonderful they all were and how great I felt when I finished them… I have cherished the memory of those runs for years… but now they all pale in comparison to this new memory.  Maybe I won’t wait another 30 years to do it again…

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Of course, I know EXACTLY what I’m doing with my life!

I knew exactly what I was going to do.  There was no question in my mind.  See, I had woken up on the bathroom floor at my grandmothers house one Saturday morning, stared in the mirror and really didn’t care too much for what I was looking at.

There were two main threads of stories that I had heard about my families as I was growing up.  One of them involved the church.  There was a long line of distinguished deacons, Sunday School teachers / superintendents and even a preacher or two.  Then there was the other side… the side that was the experts at consumption of fine distilled beverages… and my guess is some that weren’t so fine too.

And so I stood there… staring in the mirror…mouth so dry I could spit dust… head pounding so hard that I felt it would be a relief to just drill a hole in it and let whatever was in there that wanted to get out…. out and I came to the conclusion that I just didn’t like what I saw.  So the path was decided… I had no choice but to become a preacher.  And so I set out down that road….

I smile and chuckle to myself when I think about that now.  Many twists and turns happened over the following years that obviously led me to a different place.  Those stories of the twists and turns are coming but I guess what has gotten me thinking about this so much lately is my kids.

My daughter is a sophomore in college and just tearing it up academically… focused on accounting and driving through one balance sheet after another.  My son will be graduating from college next spring… and he struggles to decide which one of the forks in his life’s road he is going to take.

The fact is they are both right where they need to be.. they are right on track… to be the people they are meant to be…. just like I am on the track to be the person I am meant to be… whoever that is…

But while I’m still working on that… I’ll tell you some stories from my life… about exorcisms and attempted suicides and a run in with the law and a broken foot and a search for Wally P…. my, my my… the lives we have led…. and the ones that are still in front of us… I can hardly wait!

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