Saturday, December 23, 2017

I Believe in 'Heros' and 'Sheros'

This is a special season for many of us. Truth is, what follows is about as 'preachy' as I get on these pages. Though I've posted this piece before it seems to say what I want to say. Hopefully it speaks to everyone, regardless of their spiritual leanings. And as a extra holiday treat it comes with desert.


I replied---”Shirley, your post reminded me of this little essay I wrote for a class assignment a few months ago---about those battles we all fight, and what I believe.”

Caring, unselfish, willing to face adversity and do what must be done. Those are some of the things that define a hero. I happen to believe in heros. More to the point, I believe in “heros” and “sheros.”

Like most folks I remember the heros of my childhood---for me that meant The Lone Ranger, Red Ryder, Jack Armstrong. They were the good guys, and they always won. Later there would be Mickey, Willie, and Johnny U---who seemed bigger than life, and although they didn’t always win, they won more than anyone else. 

Fast forward to the present. Perhaps it’s not surprising that by now much of what I know about real-life heros has been learned in the context of my church family. I’ve learned that God’s blessings often arrive in the form of "hes" and "shes." 

Over the years Roma and I have had the opportunity to visit with more than one hundred twenty individuals and couples from our congregation, getting to know them while creating short profiles of their lives and battles. Along the way we were constantly amazed at how many heros we met in the course of those visits. For the last thirteen or fourteen years we’ve also visited shut-ins, and in the process discovered a whole different crop of heros.

Along the way we've learned some important lessons. First of all, heros don’t always win. They become heros by the way they try. In fact, they’re often at their best when it seems that life has turned against them and the bad guys are winning. In times like that those heros are on the job, doing their good work and giving their best---encouraging and comforting, healing and praying. I’m pretty sure you’ll find them in every church on any given Sunday. (Though of course they don’t have to be in any church at all.) In any case, I know for a fact that you’ll find them in my congregation every Sunday morning.

Sometimes we’ll know who they are. Their efforts will be obvious. But at the same time there will be dozens of others dealing with their own struggles---fighting battles we will never know about. For those 'undercover, out-of-sight' heros the focus may not be on winning. Often it’s about coping---dealing with their personal adversity, relying on their own resources and the power of prayer to make it through hard times. I see those heros in every pew, every Sunday, seeking the strength and renewal to carry them through another week.

It’s comforting to know that when I’m in need of inspiration I can find examples all around me. And if you pay attention, you can too.

"Caring, unselfish, willing to face adversity and do what must be done"---those are the characteristics of the heros I believe in, including the pair of special heros who keep me going. Each of us will have our own special list, but our reliance on heros will be the same. Everyone needs “heros,” and “sheros” to help them cope and carry on. That’s why I believe in heros.

Finally, just in case your holiday is starting off a little rocky, this update from Roberta Morin may explain the problem.

Sunday, December 10, 2017


  I suppose there is some comfort in knowing that it is not normally an October/November thing---falling victim to the newest fad, jumping in headfirst before knowing how deep the water is. 
  After all, how many of us late-lifers are willing to make a drastic change of course? Not many, I'm guessing. But perhaps we should be a little bolder. How can the thriving and becoming I so often rant about take place if we refuse to leave the same old rut?
  I won’t pretend to speak for you---not in light of my own sometimes suspect history. For any of us, climbing out of our comfortable rut to move toward something more or better is apt to be a formidable task---a daunting mental journey from the known to the unknown, or at least the less-well-known. 
 As sometimes happens in my November storytelling world, an evolving Tanner Chronicles storyline is apt to have me pausing to examine some “taken-for-granted” part of my own late-life routine. Ironically, the story I am presently dealing with is about an October fellow sunk deep in his own personal rut.
  The new friend I have imagined into being, I call him Neal, is a semi-disabled, apartment-bound senior who has reluctantly resigned himself to a narrow and limited, television-centered life. His most basic of Basic Cable packages allows him a boring routine of morning game shows, afternoons of dated situation comedy reruns, and evenings spent nodding off in the midst of mind-numbing old movies. For all practical purposes that has become his life.
  Of course, scattered throughout those endless hours of uninspired detachment are the quiet moments that overtake all of us from time to time---when bittersweet recollections of times past float to the front of our mind. Remembered bits of childhood, some of them sentimental, some traumatic, may capture our attention. Or the unsettling highs and lows of long-ago school days may hold court. For Neal those reveries will also include endearing, but hurtful memories of special times spent with his recently-departed wife of forty-some years.
  After months spent adapting to his new lifestyle he has come to accept the latest, and apparently final stage of his long life as the only future in sight, the best he can expect.
  But what he has not foreseen are the insistent efforts of his daughters, who are determined to steer their father toward a more fulfilling future. Most surprising of all, they are setting out to expand his nearly-destitute lifestyle by taking advantage of capabilities he had never considered. 
  Though he will grumble each step of the way, railing against the possibilities ‘the girls’ are trying to sell him, there will be no denying the impact of their seductive sales pitch. What can they possibly offer that would move him beyond his rut? Let’s see if I can explain?


  Perhaps like you, I grew up in front of a television set, weaned on dramas, comedies, and variety shows that reflected the 1950s and 1960s world I knew. Sadly, in today’s 2017 universe, with its too-violent dramas, phony fantasy, too-graphic relational tales, and unfunny comedies there is little left for someone like me to watch. Beyond my nightly news fix, Rachel Madow, a good ballgame or documentary it too often feels like I have been left behind.
  In those long-ago 50s and 60s my peers and I stumbled through our adolescent years with music playing all around us---more than any earlier generation had experienced. The music we heard was new, unlike anything heard before. Moreover, the technology that made it possible was just as new. 
  Today we all know how that music has remained with us in ways we never imagined. Yet, like everything else in this world of ours, both the music and the technology have continued to change, until all these years later they have become something very different than we remember, something totally foreign to an old fossil like me.
  Then, about the time we had resigned ourselves to being left behind, out of step with today’s cultural tastes, we came face to face with the most disruptive change of all---a technological firestorm that rewrote the rules and changed the landscape.
  Could you and I have imagined such a thing in our well-remembered glory years? Just think about the timid, perhaps overwhelmed teenager you were back then. Could you have made your way in the intimidating new world of Twitter and tweet, Gmail, and Facebook?  Could we have handled today’s internet? 
  Of course, that was then. This is now. Here we are, a tick or two past our prime---living, if not thriving, in that brave new internet world. If you are at all like me you have set up shop on the fringes of that on-line techno-world, holding on by your finger tips.
  For a long time my internet involvement was limited to Gmail, Facebook, my own blog, and the Daily Mail. Those became the elements of my after-breakfast routine, before I moved on the day’s more mundane activities---until, that is, I started looking around for more 'online candy.' The more I looked, the more I found, and the more I realized how much the internet, aka ‘the web,’ has to offer.
 In the course of late-life conversations I have met dozens of peers for whom the internet is at best a foreign idea, and at worst a threat they would rather avoid. You probably know folks like that. You might be one of them. It is not my place to say those concerns are wrong. But I do feel an urge to explain, even briefly, what I think they are missing. At least I will try.


  First of all, long story short, my fictional friend Neal will use the internet possibilities his daughters are selling to expand his life. That is the story I want to tell---how so many of us October/November folks could use those tools to broaden our own horizons. More to the point, if you have been told, or have told yourself, that you can’t do that, YOU ARE WRONG. Again, allow me to explain.
  They tell us that younger generations no longer rely on newspapers to stay current on the issues of the day. But I’m guessing that many of us October/November types have never outgrown our reliance on a morning newspaper with our breakfast coffee. What many of us don’t know is that If you are a ‘newspaper person’ the internet is definitely for you. 
 By now nearly every major newspaper in the world has an online, English-language edition. It has never been easier to follow international events, in a format we can read, often presented from a very different perspective than our home-town press. As an avowed Anglophile one of my personal favorites is the site that lists websites for virtually every newspaper in England.
  Or maybe you are the social sort---perhaps the kind who fostered pen-pal friendships as a youngster. Rest assured that virtually every country has online senior pen-pal sites, making it easy to meet and visit with international friends---including October types like us. While following a few common sense rules, (Do not disclose personal information, succumb to romantic overtures, or send money.) it is still possible to create satisfying and lasting international friendships.
    Or you might be a senior who would rather use the internet for your personal entertainment. It is hard to overstate the range of entertainment and educational videos that await your viewing. There are literally thousands of videos featuring your favorite performers and their music from years gone by, along with classic stand-up routines and the situation comedies you remember from your own glory days.
  And finally there is the ultimate retirement staple---late-life travel. In both photographic and video formats the internet offers an incredible selection of travel material to whet your appetite. Most every country is represented--- each with their own enticing photo essays and comprehensive video presentations, documenting the virtues of travel to and within their country. 
   Whatever your imagined destination, no matter what you hope to see or do, you can be sure that someone has been there, camera in hand, to illustrate the possibilities from every angle. Their efforts have literally taken 'armchair travel' to a whole new level.
  And how do you find all those treasures? If you don't know by now, you  should certainly learn. It is called 'Google.'
 You call it up, type any question you want answered, ("Where can I find old music videos?") and bingo, your screen will be filled with hundreds, if not thousands of answers. That works for any question you can imagine.
  So, it is those possibilities, along with many more, which will finally win Neal’s attention---providing a multitude of ways for him to move beyond his numbing retirement experience. And in the end, when the time comes for a break from those online diversions, his ‘most-favorite-of-all’ internet destination ---Sixteen Exciting Solitaire Games---will remain just a click away.

  Finally, as I am prone to do, I will end with one more bit of context for the ‘Neal’ story I am telling. It was only a few months ago when an upsetting cancer diagnosis had me seeking a late-life purpose, a reason to keep going.
  I would never claim to speak for the Divine. But it feels as though my meanderings through today’s tangled, but satisfying October/November landscape---trying my best to shine a light, dim as it may be, on late-life opportunities and challenges---is as close as I will find to a valid reason to keep plowing ahead. 

  Too often we allow ourselves to approach these years with dread, when we ought to be focused on the possibilities and potential. That’s what I would like to do. Hopefully, my friend Neal will lend a hand in that effort.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Finally, the truth


Perhaps like me, you are cursed with an inquiring mind. If so, you will probably be as glad as I was to see the truth spelled out more clearly than ever before. To give credit where it is due, it was my good friend Ron Staples who finally uncovered the long hidden secret. (Is "Oregon Staples" as catchy as "Indiana Jones"?)

Please do not Google or check this with Snopes. They will lie to you. Trust me!

In ancient Israel, it came to pass that a trader by the name of Abraham Com did take unto himself a healthy young wife by the name of Dorothy.   And Dot Com was a comely woman, large of breast, broad of shoulder and long of leg.  Indeed, she was often called Amazon Dot Com. 

And she said unto Abraham, her husband, "Why dost thou travel so far from town to town with thy goods when thou canst trade without ever leaving thy tent?" 

And Abraham did look at her as though she were several saddle bags short of a camel load, but simply asked, "How, dear?" 

And Dot replied, "I will place drums in all the towns and drums in between to send messages saying what you have for sale, and they will reply telling you who hath the best price. The sale can be made on the drums and delivery made by Uriah's Pony Stable (UPS)." 

Abraham thought long and decided he would let Dot have her way with the drums.  And the drums rang out and were an immediate success.  Abraham sold all the goods he had at the top price, without ever having to move from his tent. 

To prevent neighboring countries from overhearing what the drums were saying, Dot devised a system that only she and the drummers knew  It was known as Must Send Drum Over Sound (MSDOS), and she also developed a language to transmit ideas and pictures - Hebrew to the People (HTTP). 

And the young men did take to Dot Com's trading as doth the greedy horsefly take to camel dung.  They were called Nomadic Ecclesiastical Rich Dominican Sybarites, or NERDS  And lo, the land was so feverish with joy at the new riches and the deafening sound of drums that no one noticed that the real riches were going to that enterprising drum dealer, Brother William of Gates, who bought off every drum maker in the land. Indeed he did insist on drums to be made that would work only with Brother Gates' drum heads and drumsticks. 

And Dot did say, "Oh, Abraham, what we have started is being taken over by others." And Abraham looked out over the Bay of Ezekiel, or eBay as it came to be known.  He said, "We need a name that reflects what we are." 

And Dot replied, "Young Ambitious Hebrew Owner Operators."  "YAHOO," said Abraham. And because it was Dot's idea, they named it YAHOO Dot Com. 

Abraham's cousin, Joshua, being the young Gregarious Energetic Educated Kid (GEEK) that he was, soon started using Dot's drums to locate things around the countryside. 

It soon became known as God's Own Official Guide to Locating Everything (GOOGLE). 

That is how it all began. And that's the truth. 

I would not make up this stuff.