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Thoughts On Death And Dying

Thoughts On Death And Dying

Time most certainly is running out. For all of us.

That message couldn’t have come home more true to me than any other over the past week or so with the passing of my last grandparent.

I’m going to be 49 in a few months and it’s amazing to think that nearly a half century has passed with me in it. For those of you younger reading this, trust me, it will go by fast for you, too.

We just don’t realize when we’re younger how fast time is whizzing past us. It’s like having a big pot of money and not understanding that at some point, it’s going to run out if we don’t put more in it. The only thing is, we can’t add more life to our frail bodies.

My grandma was a Christian. I am, too, so I firmly believe that now she is in Heaven with our Lord. There is comfort in that thought.

Funerals have a funny way of making everyone who attends one start thinking about their coming end.

Below I’ve added Neil Diamond’s song, Done Too Soon, from Taproot Manuscript.  He lists off dozens of names of people who lived life to it’s fullest only to realize at the end, that it’d come to an end way before they were ready.  Done too soon…. Think about that.

Bucket Lists and Such

I’ve never gotten into the idea of creating a bucket list. My Uncle Jon, who died about three months ago now, apparently had rented the movie the Saturday before they found him deceased on a Monday.

It appears he got to that film a little too late to make it happen in real life for him, so maybe he decided he’d live vicariously through the film as he knew he was passing from us.

We’ll never know.

What To Learn From Grandma’s Passing? 

My grandma had been fading down the path the Alzheimers for several years now. My dad and aunts moved her out of her house and into an aunt’s house a couple years back. They sold grandma’s house and she’d faded enough to where it never occurred to her. She went into a nursing home shortly there after.

Maybe that’s a good way to go, part of God’s kindness. Grandma’s BP the night before she died had dropped to 90/40. She weighed about 85 lbs. And if I’d been there even a week before, I’m told she wouldn’t even have known who I was.

I had a line I wanted to use in my eulogy–don’t ever let a dentist pull all of your teeth. Apparently they’d prematurely allowed a dentist to pull some of my grandpa’s teeth and put him in dentures. Grandma said that had been a huge mistake.

At breakfast Wednesday a.m. while I was testing some of the things I was going to say on my toughest life-long critic, my mom, she said a dentist once told her that “when you start having teeth pulled, that’s when you start dying.”

Yikes.

I don’t know how true that is, but it makes one think.

Growing up, I have made flossing every morning a habit. I hate leaving the bed room without having flossed and it’s made a difference. But jeez.

Eulogy

I wasn’t sure I could keep it together to talk during grandma’s eulogy, but I found comfort in looking at her body there the night before and telling myself the body they had there really didn’t look like the person who had made me homemade play dough once upon a time. It wasn’t the person who had given me such a love for music. I told one of my aunts today that it felt like I was talking about my grandma at someone else’s funeral.

Maybe that was God’s way of being as kind to me as he had to grandma in her fading slowly away from us. When I finished, two of my cousins came up to me and genuinely said that I’d represented well what they wished they could have said about her, too. You don’t know how much that meant to me. One of them got extra years with our grandma because he’s never really left Northern Indiana. The other had traveled the globe like a gypsy, her father/my uncle in the Army. I’d not seen her since we were in the third grade before they went to Germany, but I heard about her from time-to-time in talking to grandma regularly through the years. To have both of them say I’d said what needed to be said and to genuinely have meant it was satisfying.

Rough Week

It’s been a rough week. Life didn’t stop just because grandma’s heart did. Clients have needed things throughout the whole family gathering. My range of emotions have been clouded because of the demands of work. I need to shut down and be still for awhile but can’t seem to find such peace. I know the need for to do so is there. But so is the responsibility to keep going.

My dad said when my brothers and I were young he saw a strength in each of us that made him proud; that he knew we were Claxton boys. You see, we all ran like the wind. Like our dad.

One of the extra joys of this week was getting to hear him and others talk about the younger days.

In talks with Dad, he apparently still holds the Indiana state record for the mile among eighth graders. He set it more than 50 years ago.

Now I did not have my dad’s speed at that age/any age, but I had a love for running when I was younger. With that came a determination to not give up when things got tough.

That fire is still there even though this aged body could barely run to the car if I needed to at this point.

I’m praying that tomorrow is going to be a better day. I have lots of work to get done and maybe after a good night’s sleep my brain will be ready to keep going.

Some day I’m going to find the rest that both my grandmas and grandpas have found.  I hope my daughters and their kids will be able to find a similar peace.

 

Eulogy For Grandma Claxton

The following are portions of my eulogy for my grandma, Retha Jackson Claxton, delivered at Rees Funeral Home in Hobart, IN, Aug. 20, 2014. The passing of grandma marked the last of my living grandparents. 

Eulogy For Grandma Claxton

This morning I will attempt to deliver a eulogy the last time as the eldest grandchild in my maternal and paternal families. And do it without losing my composure.

It’s not done out of expectation or obligation but out of what my Grandma Claxton would see as an appreciation. My hope is to add honor to her memory.Grandma Claxton

I’ve been by the old Claxton house our family inhabited for decades and I’ve seen the body that used to be that of my grandma’s. She’s no longer at home in either.

This room last night was filled with laughs, jokes, love and fond memories. Only periodically were there tear-dimmed eyes and that’s just how she would have wanted it to be. A celebration of sorts. And relief that one of God’s servants finally has gone home.

What she taught me to enjoy in life: The tastes of good foods and the practice of having something good to feed others when they come to your house. Not necessarily healthy food, but gosh-dog it tasted good. For her that was:

  • Chicken and dumplings
  • Cinnamon toast

When my brothers and sister and I all lived in the same town, our house became the family dinner spot. My answer to “what should we bring?” became “only your smiles.”

Grandma loved to laugh. Maybe that’s one of the things that kept her young for so long.

The eve of Grandpa Claxton’s funeral, piled around her dinner table for snacks, I’d brought Mrs. Renfroe’s Habanero salsa. When people started dipping in I said Habanero means “Damned Hot” in Spanish. Grandma stood in her kitchen laughing. She thought it was hot, too, but that’s how Claxton’s roll.

She emphasized a love for music.  She once gave me an Englebert Humperdink album. There also were albums from Abba, and in kindergarten she gave me an album with Alvin and the ChipmunksAll I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

Her least favorite Christmas song: Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.

She talked constantly about how she loved the trip to Germany to see my Aunt Patsy and Uncle Mike when they were stationed there in the Army. She loved the colors of the trees in Northern Michigan in mid-September. Yosemite in California. She and grandpa rode the Alabama Reunion Train with Gov. Hunt from Auburn to Montgomery in 1990. And they both went to a Cubs game with me and my friend Tim Cobbs in 1993.

When traveling home after wedding in December 1995, Tim was checking her bags in BHM and greeted her with, “Hey, I know you, I’ve been to your house.” It made her feel good to be so far away from home and have someone tell her they knew who she was and had been excited about being at her home.

Words of Advice:

She loved the quilts she made. If you have one, take great pride in your possession of it. There’s a story in the fabric. Her heart and soul still lives on in every stitch.

Even as you age, don’t ever let a dentist take out all of your teeth.

Work the tense situations in life like you were working a puzzle. Put the straight-edged pieces together first then go about filling in the middle part. In time, you’ll start to see the bigger picture.

True love doesn’t have age restrictions. This is the girl who eloped all the way from Athens, down to Decatur, AL—about 10 miles or so—with a man six or seven years older than her when she was 16, and she stayed married to him to the day he died 61 years later. These days we’d put a guy in jail for doing that. Where would you be right now if they hadn’t run off and gotten married at such young ages?

If you’ve been struggling over a puzzle too long, take a break. Go to the bathroom. Go for a walk. Come back in 10 minutes and the answer/puzzle piece probably will be the first one you find.

Read. Every night. Keep the phone by your bed and stop reading when your grandkids call you. They may be keeping you from your reading, but you’re giving them a lifetime of joy in every conversation. And if you can answer it before it rings, well, then you’re faster in their minds than the gunslingers you’re reading about.

Why go to the store and buy Playdough when you can make your own. Even if it was white and didn’t last, the story that you made it with your grandkids will endure for the next 40 years or more. The point is, time with little ones count. It’s not the big things, like trips to Disney World, that count the most. But making Playdough in your kitchen does. Trips to the store to buy things they really don’t need is pretty cool, too, though.

When your family is coming and going to and fro and the Air Force makes them feel like they don’t really have a home, let them know that no matter where they travel, your home is their’s, no matter how big or small it is.

Life can be difficult and families can be hard on each other. Love harder. No matter how mad you are or frustrated you are with someone else in the family, never close your door to them. Life’s too short.

Love music.

Love God. But not being at church every Sunday doesn’t mean you don’t love the Lord.

If you’re sitting there sad about her passing I ask you to stop. She wouldn’t want that. She wouldn’t want tears. Just like in the old hymn Where the Soul of Man Never Dies … she would want no tear dimmed eyes today. She’d want us all to be happy, to tell a joke or two, to find Mike Feltman and get him to say something about “Mama” that would make her laugh. She’d want us all to find a way to get along … life’s too short to be mad at each other over differences of opinion or doctrinal interpretation. I heard so many times from her over the years the heartache she had over the fissures that were there between brothers and sisters. Life’s too short, she would say.

And it is. Forty-three years after I really came to understand who this woman was, it seems like it only was yesterday. Life has raced by with all it’s pains, sufferings, temptations, high points, celebrations, births, successes, and tragedies.

Grandma believed she was going to Heaven. When Grandpa died, her last words to him were “Grab hold of Charlotte and I’ll see you soon.”  She lost a child who was age five and until these recent shadowy years, never forgot Charlotte had left so early to be in God’s arms.

Now she, Grandpa and Charlotte are reunited again and in the words of Grandma, we’ll all be seeing them soon.  In Heaven.

Do not pain the loss of this great, loving woman. She’s dancing with angels now, and out of pain.

In 1973 she brought me a 45 of Paul Simon’s Loves Me Like A Rock. For all her four children, the 10 grandchildren and 22 grandchildren, really, anyone she knew, that was how she loved us one and all.

Thank you.

 

Aug 16, 2014 - Family--Parenting, Featured, Great Pyrenees, The Real Me    Comments Off

“Leader Chain,” The PC Way Of Saying “Choke Collar”

“Leader Chain,” The PC Way Of Saying “Choke Collar” 

We took Maycee, our 12-week-old Great Pyrenees to the vet this week and I mentioned to him that our pup, when we go for walks, tends to make the first portion a drag. Literally.

And so he started talking about harnesses, which he said aren’t effective, and then he said something about a contraption over the mouth and back of the head, and then he started talking about a “leader chain.”

He said you put the chain around their neck and when they don’t do what you want, it tightens in on them.  It doesn’t take long for them to learn that when you tug, that’s where they’re going. And he kept talking about leader chains, the harnesses, and the other contraption and finally I interrupted and said, ‘Leader chain?  Isn’t that a choke collar?”  And he kinda twitched and then said, “Yeah, but we don’t use the word ‘choke’ any longer for PC reasons.”

Even in the dog’s world, PC has taken the place for good, old fashion, easy to understand tools.

Maycee at 12 WeeksMaycee 25 lbs

Our pup weighed in at 25 pounds.  In another four weeks we’ll weigh her again. The vet says that at that point, he’ll double her weight, saying that’s the best predictor of how much she’s going to weigh when she becomes an adult.  Right now, given her rate of growth, she’s going to be about 75 lbs.

Lessons Learned From Our Other Great Pyr

I told the vet that we learned a lot from how we raised Molly, my first Great Pyr.

Most importantly, the 42-inch crate we use for Maycee we didn’t get for Molly until we’d had her for a month or so.  By that time, that ship had sailed. It freaked Molly out and she wound up tearing up metal sides of the crate.

With Maycee, Amazon Prime assured that her crate got her on Day Two of her being with us. That has been so good for all of us.

For one, it’s now Day 13 since Maycee had an accident of any sort inside. If she needs to go, she goes to the door and whimpers.  And that’s usually every two to three hours during the day, mostly to pee.

We’re to the point, also, where if I open the door of the crate at night, turn on this wave music off iTunes she has going near her, and I turn off the lights, she pretty much gets up and walks into the crate without my even having to say, “Kennel.” Even with that, I still give her two treats as rewards.

Car Rides

Maycee enjoys going for rides in the car. It used to scare Molly.  In fact, there were a couple of times when she pooped on the fabric seats of the Armada I had at the time.

Maycee gets up in the seat and watches the world. When we stop somewhere, she wants to come across me to say “Hi” to the dry cleaning people, etc. She also enjoys the spot right in front of the AC vents.

Ice

Some say ice for dogs isn’t good, but I’ve seen on the Internet that that’s a wive’s tale.  It’s to the point now though that if we open the freezer and even rustle one piece of ice, when we close the door, there are two black eyes and a fur ball sitting in front of us waiting for a two-piece treat.  Ice is cheaper than Milk Bone treats, too.

Tricks

This past week Chandler taught Maycee how to do “High Fives.”  I didn’t believe it till I saw it, but she actually does turn her paw flat so that you can high five her. Then she gets a treat.

She also now will do sit, shake, down and fetch with a tennis ball.

Wave Music

I make sure when she’s in her crate or especially at night, that there is wave music playing near her.  White noise stuff, but the thing about Great Pyrs is they tend to like to bark at night with the comings and going that human ears barely can hear.  With the soothing sounds of the ocean, we’re largely blocking that out and she’s sleeping through the night.

Speaking of, she can now get in the crate about 10 p.m. and sleep until 6:30 a.m.  It was for a while that she needed to get up and go pee about 5:30 a.m. and then would go back to her crate and sleep another hour, but with a bigger dog and a bigger bladder, that’s getting better, too.

Leader Chain

We got a choke collar, I mean, leader chain last night. It made a huge difference in our walk today.  The vet said prettied colored collars only should be for show right now.  At least until she’s learned to go where I say, when I say….

My Hopes

I hope if you have a Great Pyr pup or are considering getting one, some of these things will help you.

Maycee has been a different dog than Molly. We’ve been better at ensuring training started from the beginning. We’ve been getting in our walks and we make sure we spend plenty of time each day rolling around in the floor with her playing with her toys and loving on her. So far, it’s had a tremendous impact.

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 13, 2014 - Family--Parenting, Featured, Thank You, The Real Me    Comments Off

Happy 90th Birthday Grandma Claxton

Happy 90th Birthday Grandma Claxton

Today is the 90th birthday of my grandmother, Retha Jackson Claxton. She was born this day in North Alabama in 1924.

There are so many wonderful things this woman has done for me in these past 48 and a half years, probably should add another nine months and kick it into 49 years, but anyways.

Grandma is on that lonely journey into darkness these days with Alzheimer’s.  She barely knows who anyone is anymore. And from accounts from home, things are beginning to shut down and she likely won’t be around in a few weeks.

Now that I have all that sadness and pain out of the way, I will bring her back to you with sunshine. Grandma Claxton

It’s A Mighty Fine Morning, This Morning, How You Doing This Morning, Morning Glory?

Once on Hee Haw or some TV show of the like, a skit grandma had watched held the premise that however many times you’d kissed someone the night before, you had to say the word “Morning,” the next morning. We were in town; passing through from somewhere to somewhere else on behalf of the USAF, and she was just howling about how one girl got up and said “Morning,” in a sad tone and another sister came walking in going, “It’s a mighty fine morning this morning. How you doing this morning? Morning glories, I just love morning glories this morning!” And then she would bend to laugh and raise a knee she thought it had been such a funny production.

Whenever we would get to the Claxton’s in Northern Indiana, grandma always had a pot of North Alabama-style chicken and dumplings ready for devouring. And cornbread.

If we were having breakfast, it was home made biscuits, gravy, bacon, eggs, and most of you will scratch your heads on this one, rice.

Athens, AL

Grandma met my Grandpa Claxton early in life. They married when she was 16 and he was 21 or 22. They eloped from Athens, AL all the way to Decatur. (That’s about 10 miles to the south on Highway 31.) Together, they raised my dad and four girls. They remained married till Grandpa died in 2001. We laid him to rest on 9/10. As the preacher said the grave-side prayer, an amazing gush of air passed over the cemetery and blew through a pine tree nearby.

But as Grandpa died, Grandma said words I never shall forget, “Give Charlotte a hug, and I’ll see you both soon.” Charlotte was my aunt, killed at five years of age when she was hit by a semi in Athens. Years later, at my Grandpa’s death, that was top of her mind.

Cooking, Music and Life

My Grandma taught me how to cook. She taught me how to make Play-dough home made. She helped give me a love for music which many of you still see today. In my iTunes right now are 8,088 songs that would play non-stop for 22.6 days without repeating. Grandma also gave me constant encouragement, especially when the chips were down.  On one trip to see us in Northern Michigan, she brought me a 45 of Paul Simon’s “Love Me Like A Rock.”  I never really liked the song, per se, but that is how my Grandma Claxton loved me.

When The End Comes

Grandma Claxton is my last surviving grandparent. And while I had close relationships with my other grandmother and Grandpa Andy Sheptak, I probably was the closest to Grandma Claxton. When Grandma Sheptak died three months after the twins were born in 1999, it was a huge hit. When Grandma Claxton passes, it’s going to be even harder and in more ways.

The passing of family and friends always sets one’s mind to thinking about their own mortality. Life is fragile and it’s gone in a flash.  And it’s too short to be wasted on mean and hateful people. There are a couple in my world right now who think I’m going to continue to accept their wicked, hateful ways. But they are mistaken.

I don’t like thinking about when the end comes with Grandma, though in many ways, it already has. Were I to see her today, she wouldn’t even know who I was. But it’s the closure.  That finality that’s making the back of my throat right now feel like it’s trying to close in.

Today, I shall celebrate the birth of Retha Jackson Claxton. She’s been a positive influence on my life from Day One.  When the end comes, I shall try to celebrate that, too.  Even though it feels like a huge part of me is dying inside already because of it….

 

 

Aug 9, 2014 - Family--Parenting, Featured    Comments Off

Parents, Let Your Adult ‘Children’ Be Adults

Parents, Let Your Adult ‘Children’ Be Adults

AL.com is featuring a story this morning of a 20-year-old woman who left home a few days ago and took a cab from Homewood, AL to Huntsville and has been holed up in a hotel without telling her family where she is. Let me repeat here, she’s 20 years old. TWENTY.

Police went and talked to her and then in the article described her as a “run-away.”  Say what?!

Once upon a time in American society, it was thought that once you were age 18 if you wanted to live on your own or be on your own, you were free to do so. But somewhere along the line that’s gotten lost among a generation of Helicopter Parents–the same ones who insisted that all kids on the Little League team should get a trophy whether their team won every game or none.

Parents, its time to stop coddling your “adult children.”  Just typing those two words to relate to the other makes me sad.  A child is not an adult and adult is not a child, but it’s gotten too hard for many actual adults in our society to see the difference.

My Money, My Rules

The 20-year-old woman in the Homewood case used a credit card to pay for her cab ride. I’m assuming that’s what’s paying for the hotel, too.

The question becomes is the credit card hers or her father/mother’s?  If it’s hers, well, then more the power to her. She has her money and she’s choosing how she’s going to spend it.

If it’s mom and dad’s and they don’t approve of how she’s living, well then the choice is simple. Cancel the credit card. If she wants to live on her own and by her own rules, let her.  Cut the card off.  It really is that simple.

Afraid that if you treat your adult offspring to the realities of the world they’re going to quit loving you?

I have seen this in play far too many times in modern life. Admittedly, I’ve seen it played out in husband-wife boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, too.

If a person’s love is only based on whether or not you’re blindly enabling them to live out an obviously unhealthy lifestyle, it’s time to cut the cord.

It doesn’t matter how old the person is. It’s just not healthy for either party.

We Learn From Our Mistakes

Now that they know where she is and that she’s safe, I wish the parents in Homewood would let their 20-year-old daughter be a 20-year-old woman.

She’s probably making some very bad choices and mistakes that could affect her the rest of her life.  A parent only can do so much to protect their offspring before it’s time to let the little birdy fly. It happens in nature all the time.

Yes, we are a step above animals of the wild, don’t even go there with me. But adults who are treated like children are going to perpetuate such nonsense and it will only spiral out of control.

A person over the age of 18 is legally an adult.

If they choose to make dumb decisions, well, maybe finally being allowed to touch that red-hot eye on the stove will teach them a lesson you didn’t let them learn when they were five.

 

Jul 25, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, Product Reviews, The Real Me, Travel    Comments Off

Cafe Del Rio – The Great Mexican Restaurant in Mesquite

Cafe Del Rio – Mesquite Finally Has  Great Mexican Restaurant Again

If you’ve been longing for great Tex-Mex in North Texas and you’re fatigued with the more popular chains, your taste buds are in luck. Cafe Del Rio is open in Allen and Mesquite. More importantly that means that Mesquite, Texas has a great Tex-Mex restaurant again. And Lord, it’s about time.

Best place for Tex-Mex in Mesquite now is Cafe Del Rio.

Best place for Tex-Mex in Mesquite now is Cafe Del Rio.

Yes, we still have Posado’s at 635 at I-30, but even it seems to have gotten a little flat lately.

And don’t even mention On The Border to me. (Notice, I didn’t even add the URL). The food and the service in early December was so bad I won’t ever go back.

Cafe Del Rio is housed in the former shell of The Jalapeño Tree, a place that put many in Mesquite out their Mexican culinary misery when it went out of business sometime in mid 2013.

So What’s So Great About Cafe Del Rio?

For starters, kind of like Chuy’s, they bring you three kinds of salsa–a habanero/Ranch Dressing mixture that doesn’t set your mouth on fire, a regular salsa and one they call “firehouse,” but even it isn’t too hot.

Regular queso is nice and cheesy and has a good spicy mix. The chips are fresh. They’re actually making them fresh when you walk in the door.

The Menu

This is Tex-Mex. You can get most meals bathed in queso, Tex-Mex chili or sour cream sauce–like for sour cream and chicken enchiladas.

The Service

A familiar face graces the place–it’s bearded Bill, the former field marshall and friendly manager of Posado’s. He left in November to open three stores for Cafe Del Rio.  (For those of you living in Corinth, Texas, he says there’s one headed your way. )

Bill ran Posado’s like a top. One of the bartenders tonight says he’s running this place the exact same way.

What does he think can be improved?  The service and if this store is anything like how he held court at Posado’s, well, that won’t take long to fix. Heck, they’ve only been open a week and a half now.

Friday Night 

When I pulled up tonight there wasn’t a space available in the parking lot.  Along the back of the store is a fire lane. It was full of cars save for the last spot out by the main road.

Dining alone tonight, I’ve wound up sitting at the bar under the care of Hayley and Lacey.

Oh yeah, the conversation with Bill the manager started with him saying he was glad they’d put WiFi in. I’m glad they did that, too.

Cafe Del Rio – It’s Worth It

Want to take the family some place different?  You know, like a Tex-Mex place in Mesquite where the food is warm when it gets to your table and tastes good when you eat it?  You’ll love the music selection if you’re over age 30–it’s a mixture of ’70s, ’80s and maybe a song or two from the ’90s. The price of the food, for the amount they bring you, is excellent.

This is a great place to eat.  Load up.  It’s time to eat.  And bring your appetite. You’re going to be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 10, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me, Travel    Comments Off

My Daughters Are Growing Up

My daughters are growing up. It’s a daily event, but there seem to be certain waypoints along the way.

These days, my eldest is soon to begin her senior year in high school, while the twins are beginning their sophomore year.

Two of the three now have entered the workforce. Dabbled in it.

One is taking two courses at the local junior college for credit.

The twins turned 15 just Monday. The eldest is ready to turn 18 in December.

Oftentimes, as their Dad, I wonder where the time went. Maybe that’s something of my Myers-Briggs’ INTJ temperament coming thru, but in many ways it isn’t.

As parents we often get so caught up in the daily grind, we don’t notice how the kids are changing, maturing into young ladies and men on their way to being adults. Some parents coddle. INTJs like me want to give them the freedom to figure out what this world is all about, largely on their own, without hovering or “helicoptering.”

My parents raised me similarly. Not sure what Myers-Briggs Mom or Dad are. And while there are additional life lessons I wish they’d not shielded me from, I have to say I got a lot out of my youth in large part thanks to the USAF, which moved us around like ping pong balls on a pool table with no pockets. But I have to say, it worked out the way it should have. God’s way, clearly.

So as the eldest ponders colleges–she wants to get out of the South and go north–like to Indiana University, I keep reminding her that she’s free to go to any college she wants so long as it’s Auburn. I understand the desire to get as far away from home as she can. There should be enough written between the lines on this site to explain.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Typical view of the UP in September of each year.

Many are the days when I wish I could pick up and get out of the South myself. Dreams fill my head at night of returning to the woods of Northern Michigan, where we were stationed three or four times when I was a child. I often drift to sleep with memories of the sounds of the wind racing through the evergreen pines and Birch trees that make up the deep woods of the North. I hear sounds of my footsteps echoing through the wood as I trounce on fallen leaves, step on and snap dead branches, inadvertantly kick rocks, and even the sounds of boots that slip or trudge into the dirt upon each step.

Hidden across our family land are natural springs that bubble up from the forest floor, trickling with an icy cold flow of crystal clear mana one could put a water bottle or soda can in and chill to perfection; no additional ice required.

And during the winter months, wow, do I ever miss snow. Visually, there is so much ugly in this world that I truly think the Lord created snow just to give Northern foke a break from much of it for months at a time each year. Johnny Mathis records have made immortal the sounds of him singing about that “mantle of white shining down from the night” as he’s walking in that Winter Wonderland. Few sights in life beat the shroud of freshly fallen snow, pine boughs weighed down with large clumps of white, and miles of it for as far as one’s eyes can see.

For me, many of those memories remain alive in my heart, much as this child once longed for a Tyco train set at Christmas.

Here in Texas, my daughters only vaguely know of snow and it’s allure. They’ve journeyed into my wooded playgrounds of Michigan once but need to return again. This time for longer. Someday.

September is but around the corner and in it’s third week, the leaves will be changing in the UP of Michigan. Maybe then the four of us, and guests, can once again walk into the woods ablaze with the colors of fire.

For now, I must leave you with these thoughts. My girls grow closer to becoming women each day; each with their powerful names to encourage them to prosper and seek out the best of what this life is all about. I’m proud of each of them, my darlings, Chandler, Reagan and Haley.

As the autumn of my life draws closer each day, late spring blossoms for my children and life races onward with us all ensnared its infinite circle…..

 

May 27, 2014 - America In Ruins, Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me    Comments Off

It’s Time To Get Serious About Abusers

It’s been noted here on this site before that I have had to deal with abusive relationships and people before. I don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior any longer and won’t going forward. Abusive people suck and there is no place for them in my world.

North Texas bar sign: "I like my beer like my violence-Domestic"

North Texas bar sign: “I like my beer like my violence-Domestic”

Today The Dallas Morning News has this story published about how a manager of a local bar this past weekend wrote on a sign on the wall: “I like my beer like I like my violence–Domestic.” As of this afternoon, the owners of the bar have fired the manager who posted it, and from the article, it also looks like a subsequent manager who a customer complained to about it, is gone, too, for not taking appropriate action.

What’s worse are the comments on the TDMN site of people who are making fun of the situation or dismissing it as political correctness gone overboard.

But I will say again here, there’s nothing funny about Domestic Violence or abusive, hurtful people, and if you’re tolerating one, you need a wake up call because it’s only going to get worse and later on, you’re going to be blamed or framed by the abuser because it will have become “your fault.”

Abusers Suck

Abusers are mean people. There’s a lot going wrong in their heads, things that don’t get resolved in a simple blog post, counseling or a one-time conversation. No, they have a lot of messed up in their worlds.

The worst part of what an abuser will do when called on to the carpet, according to a great article on abusive kids, is say, “’I wouldn’t have abused you but you…’ and fill in the blank.”

Problem is, there IS NO ACCEPTABLE REASON or justification for BLANK.

Abusing someone else is wrong. Period. Bullying family members, friends, co-workers, spouses, children or other family members is wrong.

Thankfully, many states and even the federal government have passed strict laws to deal with abusive people and bullies. But sadly, those laws aren’t taken seriously enough and are ignored by abusers until you do something matter of fact about their behavior.

Now What To Do About It? 

As a parent, there are various punishments and counseling available. There also are treatments. This article even says that if a child continues to get unruly and a parent feels threatened they should CALL THE POLICE.  Will the kid be taken off to reform school? Not likely, but hopefully, the be-Jesus will be scared out of them to where they can see something in them needs to change before they are off somewhere making big rocks into little rocks.

If it’s a spouse, I whole heartedly recommend the same thing. Why? Because things aren’t going to get better until someone realizes there are some pretty serious consequences involved if things continue. Admittedly, my friend Veronica Galaviz didn’t get much help from the Rowlett, TX police department in 2009, but calling the authorities and filing a criminal report, as the article above says, creates a paper trail.

Worse still, and I’ve seen this happen, if you don’t take action, when something bad DOES happen, the abuser is GOING TO BLAME YOU FOR IT (just like above) and they’re so good at being coy and manipulative, the police are going to have a hard time not believing them and really be wondering if indeed this isn’t your fault after all–i.e. that YOU are the abuser.

It’s Time To Get Serious About Abusers

The mayor of Dallas has done a lot to raise awareness about Domestic Violence while he has been in office, and I’ve often been critical of the efforts. Simply having rallies at City Hall isn’t going to solve this problem and indeed, it really hasn’t while he’s been in office. But it is good he has tried to raise awareness about the problem.

What is going to have to happen is that people are going to have to learn to establish boundaries to abusers and to enforce them seriously and effectively, even if that means putting or trying to put a loved one in jail for a spell.

Even then, as the Dixie Chicks sung about in Goodbye Earl, abusers like to “walk right thru their restraining orders” because they essentially are little more than pieces of paper and they are power freaks anyways. That’s part of the gunk they have floating around in their heads.

But fitting an abuser with an orange county jail jumpsuit or two might just be what it takes. And I’ve come to the point in my life where if that’s what it takes, I’d encourage you to sign an arrest warrant any time in the future you have to to stop an abuser or bully. It might just save your life and those of the ones you love, including the abuser him/herself. It might also mean a good night’s sleep….

 

 

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Happy Mother’s Day To Miley Ray Cyrus’ Mom

Happy Mother’s Day To Miley Ray Cyrus‘ Mom

The degrading downward spiral of Miley Ray Cyrus picks up speed. Don't you wonder how her Mother's Day call will go tomorrow?

The degrading downward spiral of Miley Ray Cyrus picks up speed. Don’t you wonder how her Mother’s Day call will go tomorrow?

After seeing the #MileyCyrus hashtag trending this morning, I  have to wonder how Miley Ray Cyrus’ mom must be feeling this Mother’s Day Eve.

Her daughter’s photo is all over Twitter this morning with her straddling a large phallic symbol during a concert. There’s also photos of her letting fans “touch her lady bits.” She’s in England, and so it goes on and on and on.

I’m not judging Miley or her parents, but one has to wonder how long someone is going to let this downward spiral of the child go on. No, she’s not a child, but I’m trying to decide who is acting more like an adult in her life, her fokes or her, and I’m not getting any convincing answer.

The sad part is that Miley will continue to degrade herself in front of thousands at a time until people get to the point of saying they’re not going to pay money for that.  We have a long way to go as crowds have proven throughout time that when someone wants to do self-destruction on a grand and public scale, foke will stand by and give more rope, more gasoline and even yell “JUMP!”

In Scarface, I remember Tony Montana, played by Al Pachino, going home to see his “MaMa,” and her refusing his “filthy drug money. How many people did you murder for that money, Tony?” she asks him.

His mother had pride in working hard and honestly for what little she had and didn’t want Tony’s “blood money.”

For the Cyrus family, you’d hope that degrading, raunchy sex money would be seen like Tony Montana’s drug money.  But it appears, even from some of Billy Ray Cyrus’ comments, it’s green and it’s going to spend just fine as long as it keeps coming in.

Don’t you wonder what the long distance phone call from Miley will be like tomorrow?

 

 

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May 2, 2014 - Family, Family--Parenting, Featured, The Real Me, Yosemite    Comments Off

A Note To My Grandchildren

A Note To My Grandchildren

It’s May 2, 2014 and at this point in my life, I don’t have any grandchildren. Just three wonderful teenage daughters who still are trying to figure out who and what they’re going to be in this world. Many days, even like today at my age of 48, I’m still trying to decide that myself. This morning in Arlington, I had breakfast with my long time friend and mentor, Ron Rose, and he began telling me about a work he’s writing and that prompted me to take on this simple task: Writing A Note To My Grandchildren.

But at this writing, the thing is, I do not have any grandchildren. That doesn’t matter, the Internet will be alive and well when I do and this will be cached away somewhere in cyber space for each to find and to ponder.

Point One

My Great-Grandparents, Clarence and Mamie Claxton are buried in Athens, Alabama, where they lived hard and raised many children. I go to the main cemetery in Athens anytime I’m in town to pay them my respects. Sometimes I leave my current business card on their headstone. I always say a prayer and talk to them, even though I only met my great grandmother “Momma Claxton” once that I can actually remember. We sat on her porch there in Athens with her while she shucked peas, I think.

I know so little about them and their lives. I don’t know about their sacrifices or what a normal day was like. Knowing how we Claxtons have been, they were honest and hardworking. Maybe an aunt or two of mine could tell me more, but nonetheless, this is all I remember about the Claxton side.

Of my mom’s side, I remember my great grandmother on Mom’s side, we called her Granny, and my grandpa’s mom, who could only speak Czech, we called Baba. Granny was Swedish and I remember visiting her apartment in Hobart, Indiana when we would pass thru between moves. She always seemed to have those powdered candy breath mints at her house. That was nice.

My own grandparents, Andy and Joyce Sheptak, my mom’s parents, were hard working. Grandpa was an artist and there’s a wooden carving portrait I’m sure one of your mom/aunts now have. It kind of looks like a heart and it’s a family treasure. If one of you ever get to have it, treasure it.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That's his pic below.

The artwork of the late Andy Sheptak. That’s his pic below.

Grandpa Andy wrestled with his liquid demons throughout his life but he was a great grandpa. Grandma Sheptak got bad arthritis in her latter days and died three months after your twin aunts/mom(s) were born in 1999.

Grandma Sheptak was always telling jokes. I called her on the phone all the time throughout my life and have dearly missed her being gone each and every day. In the years after she left us, I was able to draw closer to Grandpa. There were times when he would just cry. Once he said he tried some of the pain medicine she had been taking and later told his doctor he’d done so. His doctor helped Grandpa understand how strong the meds she was on really were. That greatly helped him let go of her and understand she no longer was in pain.

We buried your Great-Great-Grandpa Claxton on Sept. 10, 2001. That night, I flew back from Northern Indiana to Dallas not thinking anything significant about flying. The next day was 9/11 and I was glad to not have been stuck as I would have been away from your mom/aunts. As I write this, your dear, dear Great-Great-Grandma Claxton’s mind is withering away in the dark years of life. She was such a positive influence on me. She would bake. Made me Play Do from scratch once. And she taught me Southern delicacies like how to make gravy and chicken and dumplings. I never learned how to make her biscuits from scratch. I’m sorry. That would have been something good to have passed on.

My dad, your Great-Grandfather, still is alive, too. He’s a retired USAF B-52 pilot who helped bring to life me, three great uncles and a great aunt. My dad spent much of his career on alert in Northern Michigan ready to go attack the USSR, or he was flying, and later, in Montgomery, AL, he worked at the prestigious Air War College. He was great at military history and planning. He was happiest when he was flying. After he got out of the Air Force, he got a teaching certificate to teach high school kids algebra. He enjoyed it, but kids didn’t really want to learn and he wanted to travel.

My mom, your Great-Grandmother, raised the five of us. When your great Aunt Kim got old enough, your Great-Grandmother earned her nursing degree and then spent 20 years working at the ER in the VA in Montgomery, Alabama. She got a bunch of grandkids all of a sudden in the 1990s and insisted on being called “Be Bop.”  I have no idea why, but it stuck. If you ask your mom/aunts, they will light up when you say the name.  I promise. Even with her in Alabama and them mostly growing up in Texas, Bop still had a positive impact on their lives and they each loved her greatly.

So what was the point of all that? Simple. You now have some context of your family that’s probably not written down anywhere else and probably won’t be spoken about much when you’re reading this. I wish I had this about my Great-Great-Grandparents, so please regard this as a special treasure that I learned needed to be left behind because it was not left behind for me.

Point Two

There’s a 2013 movie called People Like Us, and in it, the lead character offers a young boy in it the six secrets to a happy life that were left to him by his father in the movie.

I’m going to repeat them for you here now:

The Six Rules

1. If you like something because you think other people are going to like it, it’s a sure bet no one will.

2. Most doors in the world are closed, so if you find one that you want to get into, you damn well better have an interesting knock. 

3. Everything that you think is important, isn’t. Everything that you think is unimportant, is.

4. Don’t s*** where you eat.

5. Lean into it. The outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were there for it, whatever it is – good or bad.

6. Don’t sleep with people who have more problems than you do

These rules are simple and clear. They don’t need a lot of extra explaining. If you need some help with them, I suggest a conversation with your mom/Aunt Chandler.  She and I have talked about them. Hopefully I will have time with the twins before it’s too late.

Point Three

I don’t know if we ever will get the chance to meet, but I pray daily that we do.  I also want to encourage you to keep an open mind about your mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles. And your grandparents.

People at no matter what point in human history will make mistakes. Some of us fall into holes. There will be some days and some holes so deep you might think it’d be easier to reach up out of it and pull the dirt in on top of you. Other days it will feel like people, even the ones you thought were helping you, are tossing the dirt in on top of you on purpose.

Family members seem to get at odds with each other so easily and so often over the simplest of things.

Sadly, as a parent yourself many days from now, you will have to experience the tension of not talking to your mom, your dad, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a grand child, etc.

Trust me. It will happen. And when it does, I encourage you to keep loving them and say and particularly write as few harsh words about them as you might. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to hurt, but keep praying for them and believing that in the end, someone is going to turn a corner and come around.  And if it needs to be you who turns the corner, do it when the time is right.

We all get forced to grow up faster and faster with each changing generation. I can not bare to think of the challenges and world you will have to face.

Point Four

Trust your faith. I have done what I can to instill it in your mom/aunts. But ultimately know how they relate to God is in their own way and as a parent, all I can do, and all they can do, is point a child in a direction we would hope they would go. Forcing doesn’t work. I’ve seen it and there are people still alive who might read this and think I was talking about them, so I shall stop there.

Point Five

Live your life honestly. Work hard. And fight like the Devil for what you believe in. The one thing people cannot take away from you in this life is your personality and your integrity. It is your job to protect both. They can pour cold water on your ideas and maybe even hold you back from time-to-time, but I encourage you to get back up and keep going. We Claxtons have seldom just had anything spectacular given to us. It’s been all work. I’m sure life is going to be very much the same for you. And remember, even if we were able to amass millions, in the end, we’re not taking any of it anywhere with us.

I’ve told your mom/aunts multiple times that Grandpa isn’t/wasn’t going to pay for any weddings for them until they each had/have set foot on at least three continents, worked in their own job, finished college and been on their own for a while. The order those things happen in is up to them, but to my dying day, I shall be suggesting the same thing to them and hopefully them to you, too.  Not doing those things is going to lead to avoidable failures, but you’ll also find, some people just have to make failures in order to actually learn something.

Final Point

My lineage ends with your mom/aunts because I wasn’t fortunate in God’s plan to have a biological son. So carrying on my legacy is left in a diluted way to you.  Know always, even as I write this in 2014, that I loved you very much, whether we are ever able to meet or not. There are many a days when I feel the presence of my three retired grandparents upon me, much as though you might feel a warm breeze touching your face as you view the passing sun at the end of the day.

I’ve asked your mom/aunts some day to leave my ashes off the beaten path near the Sentinel Dome area of Yosemite National Park in California, the side facing off toward Half Dome. To me, there is no prettier place on this earth and if you put me in a box some six feet under, I won’t be there anyways, for I shall do all in what cosmic power I have left to lift my spirit to that point anyway. Yes, I hope to be in the Heavens with our Lord, but what’s left of the physical me should be left where I have longed to spend the breadth of my days but was not able to.

Never let go of the beauty God has put into this world. Your mom/aunts can mimic for you how I would get excited about the beauty and power of the morning light, particularly at Yosemite, as beams of radiant energy from the sun pierced the treetop veil over the rocks and nature below. And as you sit along the water way at the foot of Bridalveil Fall and hear the rushing of the cold spring rapids racing toward the Merced, know that my spirit also will be there encouraging you to slow down, to stop, to breathe deeply and enjoy the beauty of what God has left us all.

Thanks for reading. I love you and your mom/aunts more than words here can tell. Love them back for me.

Grandpa “Daddy Claxton”

 

 

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