Friday, September 28, 2007

One Hundred Blogs And Counting!

Today marks my 100th blog! It should now be clear to those who read my blogs why my grandfather used to worry about me coming up for air when I was talking. It has been quite interesting since typically I don’t really think often about what I am going to write until I sit down to do it. I am thankful to use this forum to share some about my life and how God has, in spite of that unholy trinity made up of me, myself, and I, brought me this far. In the final analysis we do in many ways reflect the sum total of all that’s happened to us and God is the only One who can make it into something that has purpose, meaning, and ultimately can bring honor and glory to Him.

Having 100 stories reflecting past and present events, ideas, thoughts, opinions, and testimonials make me at the least a junior blogosphere junkie, and a card carrying member of the blogging universe.

I already have one granddaughter who reads my daily recollections and perhaps someday the rest will do so as well, and even their children might later on. It will be interesting for someone to hear a great grandchild say, “No wonder I am like I am, just look at Poppy and his experiences!” That will be good because it will help connect them to our family heritage. (Think about how many times I’ve mentioned my Paw Paw Mac.) I also hope some of these meandering musings have brought a smile since truly the funniest things in life are those that really happen.

Thanks to those who do read and have commented on my rambling observations. My three sons are learning things they never knew. I don’t know how many more I have in me but I am enjoying the trip thus far. Here’s a few more tidbits gleaned from Wikipedia regarding the significance of 100, and as always, there will surely be…………more later!

One hundred is also:

The number of years in a century.

A 100 year old person is known as a centenarian

The number of runs required for a cricket batsman to score a Century, a significant milestone

The number of pounds in an American short hundredweight

The number of subunits into which many of the world's currencies are divided; for example, one euro is one hundred cents and one Pound Sterling is one hundred pence

The denomination of the U.S. hundred-dollar bill with Benjamin Franklin's portrait; the "Benjamin" is the largest U.S. bill in print

The denomination of American savings bonds with Thomas Jefferson's portrait

The denomination of American treasury bonds with Andrew Jackson's portrait

The number of the first folder of photos in the DCIM folder created by a brand-new digital camera (or after a change of memory card if the camera is set to auto-reset numbering)

The number of tiles in a standard Scrabble set

In Greece, India and Israel, 100 is the police telephone number.

In Belgium, 100 is the ambulance telephone number.

In United Kingdom, 100 is the operator telephone number

Hundred Days, aka the Waterloo Campaign

"The First Hundred Days" is an arbitrary benchmark of a President of the United States' performance at the beginning of his term

The record number of points scored in one NBA game, set by Wilt Chamberlain on March 2, 1962

100 is the HTTP status code indicating that the client should continue with its request

On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, "The Hundred" refers to a group of 100 young changelings sent out to explore the galaxy.

Historical years: AD 100 or 100 BC.

The minimum distance in yards for a Par 3 on a golf course.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Things Learned Under The Mimosa Trees!

Growing up in a small rural area meant we typically got haircuts a couple of times a month. My grandfather used to take us a few miles out of town to a man’s house and he had his little barber shop out in his backyard. This fellow had the largest mimosa trees I’ve ever seen. They were huge. We had some in our yard but they never really amounted to much. His trees could be climbed and it was really great climbing because the branches were spread out far and wide which gave plenty of room. These trees had a special kind of worm that fed on its leaves which were prized for fishing, especially for white perch.

We could have gotten our haircut in town but my grandfather didn’t really care for that barber. He only had one eye and every time some one sat down in the chair he would ask how they wanted their hair cut and then everyone around would burst out laughing because they knew it didn’t matter, he was going to cut it the same way every time, his way, which usually meant bad.

Us boys heard many stories when we went for a haircut. One day out under the mimosa trees an older gentleman sat down in one of the wooden chairs. He looked inside the shop and saw my granddad. Then he looked at me. He said, “Boy, is that Rancher McMillan in there?” I said proudly, “Yes sir, it is.” He then asked, “Are you his grandson?” Again, “Yes sir, I am.” He then proceeded to tell me a remarkable story about something that had happened many years earlier.

He began, “Your Grandpa and I go way back. We used to saw logs together. We cut trees in some of the big woods all around these parts. One day he and I were getting ready to fell a huge pine tree and I was using my axe to bed it on one side. When I swung that axe back it came out of my hand and flew through the air and hit your grandpa right in the face. In fact, it plum cut his nose off. Your grandpa grabbed his nose because it was still hanging and put it back on his face and held it tight. I loaded him up in the truck and carried him to Doc Stephens who sewed it back on. He didn’t even deaden it. We then went back to the woods. Yep, I’m probably the only man you will ever know who cut your grandpa’s nose off!”

What a story! When I asked Paw Paw about it he just waved it off like he always did whenever anyone tried to talk about him. Later in his life when he suffered much in the way of sinus problems I often thought about that story. I can’t imagine having your nose sewed up with no pain medication. But I will tell you this. From what I know about my granddad the entire story has the ring of truth and it added to the legend of my great respect for this man of influence in my life. That’s at least one thing I learned under the mimosa trees that I will never forget. .…..More later.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Medical Madness!

I have been very blessed with good health all my life. This is a gift from God and I thank Him for it. While I do not take it for granted I am aware that as time passes by many things change and issues involving health is one of the ‘biggies’. A couple of months ago I went to the doctor to have him check on some skeleton pain in my chest which I thought I had strained but ended up thinking it might be arthritis. Yes, that’s right, at sixty plus you do have things like arthritis!

So he checked me over and since I couldn’t remember the last time I had actually seen a regular physician he decided to give me a complete check-up including all kinds of tests, exams, etc. But the only reason I came to him was to check on this bone pain. He did a variety of x-rays but when the battery of blood tests came back it indicated my blood sugar was elevated, my cholesterol was too high, and that coupled to borderline high blood pressure set off alarm bells (for him, not me).

He started me on all these medications. I’ve been blessed to have taken very few prescription drugs throughout my lifetime. Other than the aggravation of the pain I had been experiencing I felt pretty good before I went to the doctor. But these medications totally whacked out my entire system. They also did an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. Tell you what, if I had known all of this was coming I would have certainly delayed my 60th birthday for a few years.

The past two months has been a very humbling experience as I have been in monitor and adjustment mode. I’ve pricked my fingers and checked my blood glucose, I’ve kept up with my weight, blood pressure, and heart rate, and I’ve had to work with the doctor to change the medication so that I could get up and go each day. The good news is that everything seems to be headed in the right direction and it just may turn out that I can manage all these new found issues with diet. That’s my goal and I will be lobbying for it when I go back in mid October.

I’m certainly not joking about the seriousness of diabetes or high blood pressure or any other medical problems that millions face every day. However, it just seems so odd that I had gone along so well for so long and then all of a sudden I have five pill bottles with my name on it! Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I’m thinking they have the wrong guy or the wrong diagnosis. Since being on this regimen they have had to cut the two primary medications in half since it had slowed down my system so much. Then there was the issue of listing my gender as female on the blood tests. I told them I was not the bearded lady from the circus which they didn’t think was that funny and they still believed they had the right set of numbers regardless.

Here I was minding my own business and enjoying the fatted calf so to speak and now I’m on one of those high fiber, low sugar, watch out on everything kind of programs. I’ve lost twelve pounds thus far and I have the medication dosages now within livable adjustment and my energy levels seem to be coming back. I’ve tried to cooperate with the program I’ve been given and I’ve read hundreds of pages of information so that I can be well informed. It has been quite a change for me. My wife has nursed a variety of health issues for years and I guess this experience makes me more aware of what she has been dealing with. But I am not giving up yet on the fact that this entire episode may have been a BIG MISTAKE and if not I will be going for the next best thing and that is to be able to deal with these challenges without medication. Using their terminology that would indicate diet and lifestyle changes.

So there you have it. I remember back in the day whenever I failed to show up for work at the big company the joke among the staff was they should check the funeral homes. Now I reckon they will just look at each other and say, “Did he mention they were drawing blood today, or did he have another exam to do?” To be honest I prefer the funeral home story but we live with the current event we have been given and I thank God for His helping me to deal with these issues. …..More later.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things!

Today I am in a reflective mood, therefore, this may or may not make sense.

One of the things I realize more and more as I grow older is how difficult it is for me to nail down favorites. The song about favorite things from the Sound of Music lists a variety of items that are favorites of the writer and expresses the idea that these things are there to be remembered when things don’t go so well. While there’s plenty of truth in how our memories are useful to us, it’s the process of identifying favorites that has become tough for me.

At one time I may have had a favorite color. But if I do now I don’t know exactly what it is and I no longer know if it really matters. I now answer what my favorite food is by saying anything that is home cooked, where as before I may have had a specific dish in mind. Since I have been a Bible teacher for forty years many people ask what my favorite verse is. I honestly don’t know. I count my life verse as being Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. I count my model verse for teaching to be Nehemiah 8:8 “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading”. This is the verse I try to follow when I teach.

But I really can’t define a favorite Bible passage because I have way too many and new ones are being identified all the time. I’ve done some of those on-line profiles where they try to figure things out about you by the answer to your questions. There was a time in my life whenever I may have had a favorite TV program, or a favorite hobby, or a favorite writer. Now I end up guessing at what might be something that’s in the ballpark and I’m sure this distorts the results.

This doesn’t mean I lack passion. I am very passionate about the things that matter in my life. I believe in priorities and while I might not always be able to keep everything in order, I know that God should come first in all things, that my wife and family are a priority, and that God would have me to do my best in serving others wherever I happen to encounter them. Maybe growing older does include some of the “been there, done that, now what?” thinking.

Perspective is a developing process and I’m sure maturity becomes the lens through which much of life is seen. I enjoy being with my wife. We don’t have to be doing anything. She still likes to go places and do things but I’m perfectly satisfied just being with her. We now find more to laugh about than to argue about although we still know how and occasionally we have a pretty good one and I think it surprises us both. I know some guys my age who want to find things that remind them they are still able to embrace their wild side, so they jump out of a perfectly good airplane, or bungee jump into a deep ravine. I have no problems with that, but I don’t feel that need.

At the same time, I never want to become stale, bland, or lukewarm for it’s my desire to live with “all of the above” in their proper order with an excitement that’s based on God’s power living through me. That power may show itself in any number of ways but in the end I do pray that it makes a difference for time and eternity, not only in my life, but in the lives of my family, and others that I can influence, and that it all tallies up into great honor and glory to the God who gave me the life I have. Amen. …..More later.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Lord, Give Us Gumption!

Last Friday’s blog reminded me that when I did work on that summer job back in 1964 I tried to help some other guys get jobs there too. Mr. Roy, the field superintendent, asked me if I knew of any other fellows who might be available to work. One was my cousin from Texas, Don. He was a junior in high school but I felt sure he would want to work in the summer. Don was the closest thing in our family to being a mountain man and he held his own with any other man on that pipeline job. Having Don come to work with us was a good thing. The other fellows I helped did not work out so well.

There were three guys I used to run around with who were available and the company was looking for some basic laborers so I reluctantly told Mr. Roy about them. They were what my grandparents called town boys which meant they mostly hung out around the small town sitting outside the barbershop or just walking around. It was these guys who actually encouraged me to go with them to a Church singing school to see the girls there. One of those girls I met that night turned out to be my future wife, therefore, I guess in some ways I owed them. I’m not sure how they felt about it because after I started dating my future wife I no longer ran with them.

At any rate, they signed up to do pipe end filing. The pipe lengths had been delivered out to the right of way and placed end to end for later welding. These guys were to get the ends of the pipe all filed and ready for our crew when we came along to do the welding. It was not so much of a difficult job but it was very hot and they had to carry a couple of boards to prop up the pipe so they could file it properly. These boys were not go getters in any sense of the word but it’s pretty hard to mess up what they had been hired to do.

Mr. Roy was by nature very suspicious and he lorded over and ruled the project with an iron fist. I could tell from the get go that he was not too keen on these new guys but he needed the help so he gave them a shot. Once they were trained they were then sent up ahead to do the filing and were more or less on their own. They had their tools, their lunch buckets, water, and other needed supplies.

My old buddies only lasted a few days and it all ended based on this one incident. Mr. Roy had given them a couple of hours head start and then he decided to slip up on this unsuspecting trio to find out if they were staying busy. He did find them and all three were taking a snooze under a big shade tree. Mr. Roy took out a note pad he carried in his pocket and wrote this message to the boys and laid it on one of the lunch buckets. “As long as you boys are asleep you have a job, when you wake up, you are fired!”

Over the years I’ve been very reluctant to recommend people for jobs. I have done it but only in those situations where I felt as comfortable as I did in recommending my cousin Don. Even at seventeen I learned a valuable lesson about trying to help people who lack what my grandfather used to call old fashioned gumption. This word is of Scottish origin and it’s still in the dictionary, and it still means the same thing, initiative and resourcefulness. May God help us all to have enough gumption today to prove our commitment to Him in the way we do our jobs. Amen. More later.

Friday, September 21, 2007

You've Got To Be Kidding!

We hired a new kid to work out in our plant last week. Everyone was joking about us now hiring children. He just enrolled in college and is working to help support himself. In addition to being young, he looks even much younger. He did quite a bit of welding in high school and thus far he seems to be a fast learner and a hard worker. The older guys were saying we might have to open a day care for our new employees. I had seen the young fellow but not spent any time with him.

One day I was walking through the shop checking on various projects and there he was standing in the shipping and receiving area. I went over and introduced myself to him. He said to me, “Sir, you sure look familiar to me, could it be possible I know you from somewhere?” I saw the opportunity for a joke so I told him, “Well, back in the early seventies I did work as a department store Santa, and you may have sat on my knee, but I would guess you were born much later than that.” He was dead serious, “No Sir, that would not have been possible because I was not born until 1989.”

Wait a minute. 1989? 1989? That’s almost 1990. Sometimes those moments occur when you really begin to appreciate how much water has flowed under the bridge, or in my case, under several bridges. As Willie Nelson used to sing, “Ain’t it funny how time slips away?” And so it does. Then I thought about how that I was exactly him many years ago. I graduated high school at seventeen and went to work immediately in a summer job working on a pipe line installation project. The fellows there treated me like this young man is being treated. They asked me if I had a note from my mommy that allowed me to work there.

I started out as a welder’s helper but quickly was given the opportunity to try out for a skill position where I did the initial spacing that allowed the first pipes to be welded. I caught on to this very quickly and while it was very demanding and tough, it was a lot better than catering to ornery welders who tried to make your life miserable. It also quieted down the jokes because everyone knew it was a pretty important job, so with it came a little more respect. Now that was in 1964.

I can picture it now. If I would have said to Mr. Roy, the pipeline project superintendent, that he looked familiar to me, he would have gathered a group around and then may have said something like this, “Well sonny, back in the thirties I did do one season as a Santy Claus, so maybe your mommy brought you to see me, ha ha, ha ha! Everyone would have laughed because Mr. Roy was the all powerful boss man. Perhaps I would have responded, “No Sir, that wouldn’t be possible because I wasn’t born until 1946.” Everyone would have stopped laughing and Mr. Roy would have then said, “Hey, you trying to be smart aleck, don’t you have something better to do than running your mouth?

And so it goes. The more things change the more they stay the same! .......More later.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Too Easily Stirred Up!

I will admit it. I get too involved in just about anything I focus on. It’s something that I’ve always done. I pretty much gave up on NFL football a number of years ago but I do watch some of it occasionally. Often I’m not even up to date on who the team is or what’s going on but my wife comes through the family room and says, "Why are you leaning forward and trying to help that running back make one more yard?" Last night I was watching the Food Channel and they had the national pie championship on. People came from all over to compete and there were over 700 pies to judge. Pretty soon I became engrossed in trying to think about a pie I might be able to enter in this contest. In fact, I later had trouble going to sleep as I tried to think about Granny Mac’s pie crust and what kind of ingredients might be just the order to win the best of show prize. I have no intentions of ever entering a pie championship but this doesn’t keep me from losing sleep over it!

This week I am studying from John chapter 13 where Jesus washed the feet of His disciples. As I have read and studied this passage my mind goes into that very room and I can sense the tension, the atmosphere, the lighting, the sounds, the smells, and no doubt the surprise when He, the very God in human flesh, gets up and starts performing this task which typically would be done by the lowest household servant. When I sleep and dream about this event I see myself there in the room. I am a part of the scene and can understand their Aramaic dialect and they see me but take no notice of me. I am a witness to this unbelievable demonstration of humility and even in a dream world it makes me aware how far I miss the mark of the Master’s great example.

Hey, I’ve been doing this kind of stuff all my life. Visiting places far and wide and often paying for it dearly. My school teachers did not embrace me leaving the classroom to make a visit to ancient Rome or ride the waves with Columbus. You would have thought by now I would have outgrown this imagination thing but it is still alive and well. I’m sure there’s a psychologist somewhere who has a good explanation for why I’m so obsessed with being somewhere other than my present reality. Maybe so. I sure don’t see it that way. I could not be more blessed than to have the wife I have, the children I have, and the grandchildren I have. I could not be more blessed to have the mom and dad and extended family I have. I could not be more blessed than to work with the people I work with and have the Church family I have.

The joke used to be that I always wondered what I would be when I grew up. The trouble is in this particular area I’ve never grown up. They used to call me a daydreamer or a kid with a vivid imagination. At one time I thought I had come up with a scheme that would put all of this into perspective. Moses lived 120 years. His life was divided into three phases, the first 40 in Egypt, the second 40 in the back of the desert, and the last 40 leading the nation of Israel. Therefore, I came up with this idea that if I lived to be 75 then I would have 25, 25, and 25. I took this approach and looked at my life in the first 25 years, and then the second 25 years, and I am now in the final 25 year span. This all looked pretty good except for the fact that I still have a lot of the stuff from the first 50 overlapping into the final chapter. Sounded like a good idea at the time.

Now I’m faced with straining to help Tiger make a good shot, pulling for Venus to win her match, becoming red faced on behalf of trying to urge Jeff Gordon on to victory, or visiting the Upper Room in Jerusalem, or helping David from the Bible in his many exploits. This is why I wouldn’t wish me on anyone else but I am thankful that God has allowed me to be who I am and with His help perhaps I can find a way to utilize even these quirks for His honor and glory! More later.