That NEW Adage

A pressure-relief valve about God, and just about everything else.

God’s Mysterious Ways Often Become Clear to Those who Wait

I was born in Florida and grew up in Memphis. I always took pride in the fact that I was born where my father was born, and while I am proud of the music heritage Memphis has, the town always left me disappointed in almost every other area. Racism is in the DNA, the politics and general mindset are archaic and mired in a ditch, and crime is stratospheric. Education is teetering over the abyss, and job opportunities are scarce.

There are thousands of world-class musicians and artists, but in order to be heard by the world one must leave.

As a child, my parents stressed education and diversity of interests. We had books on a wide array of subjects — geography, animals, trees, national parks — and we were given an appreciation of things like nature and solar systems and music and vocabulary and sports and writing and drawing. I wanted that for my progeny as well. The kids with whom I grew up had the most mundane desires and often ridiculed me for liking “white boy stuff” like books and chess and the like. And it was only because I had parents who were teachers and who values education and home-training that I could represent myself fairly well when speaking formally.

Once I got married and had kids, my wife and I always hoped to move to Nashville so that she could have better employment choices and so that the children would not have to go through what I went through. But I wasn’t going to move with no musical contacts and have to wind up getting a job in a factory or a call center somewhere. I wanted to be established first.

Before we moved here to Las Vegas, work was drying up like water in the Serengeti in June. I want to be this famous saxophone player and songwriter, and Memphis was showing itself to not be the place for ME. People just don’t call sax players first for jobs. We are non-essential extras. Kathy was on maternity leave and didn’t want to go back to that dead-end job, and finding a new one — even though she is a college graduate — was proving impossible. Bills were piling up with no prospects of being paid… Life was miserable. We were constantly knocking on God’s door begging for assistance with waning faith.

The best thing about Memphis for us was our church and our families.

My daughter and youngest son have eczema (it had taken a lot of Diana’s hair, and her skin was always breaking out), and my eldest son has problems with all the pollen and such in Memphis. We were also wondering about how they would develop when they started school. I’m a proud product of the public school system, but things are so different now… Homeschooling was not an option for many reasons. I wanted my kids to be broad-minded but proud of their heritage and culture, and Memphis is such a racially polarized town.

Fast forward to now:

Everyone is FLOURISHING!

I have worked in Vegas numerous times over the years, and I never was overly impressed — not being a gambler. The Strip is beautiful, but I thought once you got past that, there was nothing else to see. How wrong I was!

This is a wonderful place! Mountainous (which I always wanted) and picturesque. There is actually an attractive quality to the desert. And there are a thousand things within a few hours’ drive… The Grand Canyon, San Diego,  Hollywood, Hoover Dam, San Francisco, Yellowstone, Yosemite…

The area is incredibly diverse, so my kids won’t have to suffer life in a racist fishbowl to the degree that I did (although…). And they will have interests that extend beyond the usual — TV, video games, and a 9 to 5. They will see so many things that we wouldn’t have been able to afford to show them.

The area is spread out enough that a good neighborhood is not one block away from a bad one like back home. The architecture is interesting, and the weather is more to my liking because I HATE being cold!! And there are more work opportunities for me here if my current gig plays out. I make three times what I made back home, where saxophone players are considered “options” like heated seats in a car, or 50 inch plasma televisions, or shiny, spinning rims.

I feel exactly like a biblical figure saved by God from a famine, a flood, or a fire. He got us out of a place that — for us — was becoming desolate and depressing. He uprooted us and lined events up in so obvious a way that we had no doubt that God was orchestrating them. And then, He showed us what would have been. It is almost spooky, knowing that there is actually Someone else — who we cannot see — in the room doing stuff! God changed so much for us! We paid off our car early, got my son in a great school, got a second vehicle big enough for all of us, and we got a bigger, more comfortable home with nice amenities. Diana’s hair is thick and full, her skin is soft, and Max doesn’t have nearly the issues with allergies as back home. My kids are blossoming before our eyes like dogwoods. Kathy is exercising — even running — and is much, much happier with life than she was a year ago.  And we both have drastically changed our eating habits in order that we may be here for the kids. Little to no salt and sugar, smaller portions, no sherbet :-(, no candy, and no fatty foods.  We have both lost a lot of  lbs. in the past three months. I’m actually writing this between weightlifting sets…

All this came from my saxophone, which was another answered prayer.

But there is a problem… In order to achieve all this we had to move 1,600 miles away from every single person we love! It is incredibly difficult to juxtapose missing mothers, fathers, siblings, church members, and best friends with the advantages existent here. It is like our arms are running while our legs are walking leisurely.

We used to have Sunday dinners at my parents’ house weekly. They got to see the kids on a regular basis, something I never had with MY grandparents and always wanted for my children. Moving so far away meant that they would no longer be able to see the children grow up and develop. They would not be able to see them at the drop of a hat. That alone made this the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. While my folks are happy for us, I KNOW they’re heartbroken but won’t admit it. In order to function, I have to try to not dwell on it too much…

Before I got married, I saw my parents five or six times a week. I would come home from road gigs and go to their house in the middle of the night and sit at the foot of their bed in the dark and tell them stories about what happened and we would just laugh… Once I got married, though, I stopped all that in order to be true to the biblical mandate to “leave and cleave.” But we still had Sundays when we, my sisters, and my nephews would all get together after church. I had a weakness for Bluebell Homemade Vanilla ice cream, and Mom knew that and kept a ready supply for me in her freezer. I treasured those days and never thought about them ending.

But I think about biblical times when, if a family moved away — as so many did — it could mean they would NEVER see their loved ones again! At least we have planes now. My parents moved away from their childhood homes — my father moved almost as far away as I did. That, in part, was why I wanted my kids to have relationships with their grandparents, since I never really did.

Weighing the pros and cons, though, tipped the scales in favor of the move. There were just TOO many signs, answered prayers, and obliterated obstacles! And I couldn’t show myself to be the true head of this family if I couldn’t bear the excruciating pain of leaving “Mama” to give them a better life. I’m not naive! I KNOW this is Vegas with all its attendant pitfalls and dangers. But you should know — as I now do — that Las Vegas is waaay more than The Strip!

I feel stressed sometimes, as the Disciples and the wandering children of Israel did even in the very presence of God, but He has shown Himself  gracious and faithful. My job is precarious in the sense that I have only EVER been fired by THIS particular organization, but God is bigger than all that, and if He brought us out here which He obviously did, He did not do so as some cruel trick knowing what all is at stake… Following Him is like riding out on the wing of an airplane; frightful but exhilarating, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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May 25, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, God, God's Hand, Life, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenthood | 7 Comments

Writer’s Block…

I have been trying for MONTHS to think of some new stuff to write about… Libya? Japan? Charlie Sheen? Life here in Vegas? Missing my family back home? The grace of God through three babies and no health insurance at the moment?  Praise-a-Thon? Anti-Christ du jour?

All of the above?

Bear with me.

March 31, 2011 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Life, Work, Writing | 1 Comment

“…Arise, take up thy bed (and thy entire LIFE) and go. TO VEGAS!”

So, I live in Las Vegas now. The last place on Earth — next to Mississippi — I expected to live.

I went –er, I mean, CAME — to train the horn section of the BB King’s Club in the Mirage casino for just a month. That was hard enough… I missed my oldest son’s fourth birthday, and my baby son was only five months old.

It was a trying ordeal that wound up being extended for an extra four weeks, but we needed the money with Kathy on maternity leave with no pay, and with financial options running out and Pharaoh’s army fast approaching…!

I will color in the details later, but the rough outline is this:

The front man is a good friend and former band mate whose arrangements I helped create, so, it was a prime opportunity for me. I put a word in on a Thursday, and I was in Vegas two days later. In an apartment with blue, pink, and orange walls with big daisies stuck to them, and an enormous ROUND bed in which to sleep! Vegas!

At the end of the first month, right when I was about to go home, the sax player quit, and they offered me the gig, which I previously vehemently refused to consider accepting. The money was too good to turn down, especially considering the bleakness of the landscape back in Memphis.

The entire story is heart wrenching and glorious, and I will be recounting it in the coming days and weeks. Suffice it to say for now that my wife and kids and all our worldly possessions are on this side of the country, and everyone we love is on the other! With NO prior warning…

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Christian Life, Family, Music, Music Business, Work | 5 Comments

Steven Horace Williams. And the Tempest on which He Came

Now, thanks be to God, I have three children! TWO of them sons!

Steve — named for my lost cousin, and my father — came into this world Tuesday morning amidst a whirlwind of activity.

Usually, when I play gigs, all I have to do is show up and blow. However some church members recently asked the church band to play their wedding reception. And they asked if I would play the wedding, too. I wound up being the point man for the function, which meant I would have to meet with the couple, get their requests for material, negotiate the price, get the music out to the guys, and hire the sound man and players. (Most of the church guys had other gigs.) A lot of extra work.

Now, when I took the job, I didn’t put it together with the fact that it was happening FOUR DAYS AFTER MY BABY’S BIRTH, and that Kathy would be having her third c-section! I just looked at the fact that it was January, and as I had been jobbed out of my New Year’s Eve gig, the money would be cool.

We have experienced record cold temperatures the last two weeks or so. Weekends are tough for me. I usually don’t get to sleep Saturday nights until 5 AM, and I have to be at church at 7:30. We have two services, and I’m usually done at 12:30 or so. I then go home, help Kathy get the kids fed, and we usually go to my parents’ house for dinner. I try to get a nap in there somewhere, and we’re home by 8 to feed the kids again. But I don’t get to sleep until about 4 or 5.

Mondays used to be my recovery day, with the only work I had to do was raise the kids. But the club switched our night from TUESDAY and Thursday to MONDAY and Thursday.

So, with all that, I went to work Monday night, and got to bed after 5 since I was too nervous to sleep. We had to get to the hospital at 7:30 for the birth. I was dead tired, and it was 15 degrees outside! By 10 AM, Steven Horace was here! Another nine-pounder!

After a long day of visitors and everything that comes with having a child, late that night, I decided to brave the sub-twenty degree weather to go get something to eat.

There was no one on the road. The car was driving funny, and I thought it was because the engine was still cold… I pulled into the turning lane to get out and see if a nudging fear I had was legitimate, and I found a blown-out tire! I rode verrry slowly down the turn lane looking for a place with enough light to get my thoughts together, and found a church parking lot. Kneeling on the ground to get to work, the cold crept up into my bones and took residence!

I was done and back on the road in about twenty minutes. But now, the thought in my mind was that tires for this car cost almost $300! And we just had a third baby in three-and-a-half years! I was juggling figures in my mind. And a snowstorm was in the forecast, so I couldn’t be driving around with a donut on the front of a front wheel drive car.

I had a rehearsal the next night at 11:30 PM, so I would have to take the car home, turn the faucets on to keep the pipes from freezing, say hello to my kids (who were being kept by Kathy’s mother Tuesday and Wednesday), get my truck, and go to the rehearsal. As I arrived at the club, the “CHECK ENGINE” light popped on!! What next?!? This could be big, or it could be small. But with single-digit temperatures and possible snow, 2 AM wasn’t the time to gamble!

After — prayer– and practice, I headed home. I had to spend the night at home because Kathy’s mom had to work and couldn’t keep Max and Diana, so I had to get them up early, dressed, and fed, and take them to my folks’ house to stay until Saturday afternoon. Soooo tired. After I did all that, I went back to the hospital for a couple of hours with Kathy and Steve before I had to leave for my Thursday gig.

I drove the truck, so after work, I went back home to check on the house, turn on the faucets, and switch back to the car since I needed it to take Kathy and the baby home in the car seat.

Now, all during the week, I’m corresponding with the groom, the sound man (who thinks he might have pneumonia!!) and the guys in the band. I had to make CD’s with the tunes on them, and e-mail others out to guys with whom I couldn’t contact. I had put together a GREAT collection of players!

Friday was even busier than the other days… After getting Kathy and the baby home, I left right out to get a tire for the car. The wedding gig was far out, and I couldn’t trust the truck to make it. After I got the tire, I came home, got the directions to the venue and headed straight back out to the wedding rehearsal! I wasn’t even home ten minutes!

And it was about 8 degrees outside. On the way home from the rehearsal, I treated Kathy and myself with Papa John’s!

So, we’re sitting at home, chillin’, after a long week, eating pizza, and I get up to go wash my hands, and the doggone water won’t come on!!! The pipes are frozen!! It’s Friday, and my troubles are just starting. Kathy: “Oh, yeah… Mama told me something about the water wasn’t running…”  Would’ve been cool to know that a whole lot earlier in the day. (in fairness to Kathy, she turned the bathroom sink on, and when it worked, she thought everything was cool. But THAT sink never froze.)

I turn up heat, turn on blow-dryers, space heaters, and the ENTIRE STOVE to try to get the water running again. My friend, Tim, came over to help, and I wound up going to Wal-Mart to buy a replacement line for the kitchen sink — which, being next to an outer wall, was the biggest trouble spot.

More running around and less rest for me. And the next day, Saturday, was the busiest day. And the bride and groom and all their visiting family didn’t care about my problems! The show must go on.

I got up very early to go and pick my kids up from my parents’ house, and would head right out to a noon set-up and soundcheck. The wedding was at 6, and the reception was right after at 7. I wouldn’t be coming back home until about 11 PM when it was all over.

Kathy called me at about 2. I thought she was calling to tell me that the faucet was running again. She was at home with three children, 3 years old and under, four days after having a baby cut from her womb, and I had booked a gig at the wrong time!

“You need to come home! You need to come home RIGHT NOW!! There is water coming down through the cabinets and all over the kitchen!! Water is gushing all outside!!!” I could hear my kids laughing and oblivious in the background.

It took me twenty minutes to get home (at 100 miles an hour!), and I couldn’t get the water turned off at the street because the valve was faulty. By the time a plumber got there, another thirty minutes had passed!

When would it end?

The plumber gave me an INCREDIBLY low price and said he would NOT have to cut through the walls! Kathy stopped crying when I told her that.

Turns out, he had to tear the cabinets out and cut through the walls. Still incredible price though!

My wonderful parents came and got Kathy and all three kids, and I went back to the gig.

The drummer got pulled over for speeding and we had to stretch two tunes for twenty-five minutes until he got there.

The gig was cool. Everybody was happy, the band got cash, and the sound man didn’t fall out. And I had to turn around and get up for church with one hour of sleep, work Monday… I still haven’t rested. And Kathy is just as tired, plus major surgery.

The thing is, though, that with all the drama and running around, I had to do… I never got frustrated. I usually would crack a LITTLE bit, but not this time. It was like God opened the valve — pun intended — a little at a time so that by the time the BIG disaster happened, I had built up enough confidence in His work to know that He would come through.

So, my second son, Steve, rode in on a tidal wave of action and turmoil and amid it all, he is the epitome of peace. I can learn a lot from him.

January 14, 2010 Posted by | Action, Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Drama, Family, Gigging, God, Music, Stories, Work | 8 Comments

God… One Egg. Three Yolks.

The past few months saw God step into my life and circumstances in tangible ways which amazed and humbled me. I have written about some of it… my horn situation comes immediately to mind.

He has provided me with gigs just when I needed them, He worked me through that nasty KWEST (jazz band) thing, He has counseled me in marital situations (more people oughta try this!), and He gave me another SON(!!!!) — about which I will post separately.

All of that set the stage for what happened to my family and me Tuesday.

Generally speaking, everybody loves their kids. No need to go on about who I’d kill and what fast-moving vehicles I would jump in front of about mine.

Max has this thing about coughing and throwing up. He gets it from his mother. He has a hair-trigger uvula. Mopping up his meals has become routine for ME. Kathy won’t do it, or else the house’ll turn into the theater scene from “The Goonies!” But he does not have any asthma or any other diagnosed health problem. He just can’t overeat. And sinus drainage sets him off after time.

Monday night/Tuesday morning I couldn’t sleep. (God) I usually turn in at about 4 AM. I was awake to hear that familiar sound coming from Max’s room. I could tell he was in the launch sequence.

I went in to get him, and as soon as I got him to the bathroom, he let loose.

It tears me up to see him like that and be so helpless. I just pray.

I put him back in the bed and he was fine.

Later that day, Kathy — who didn’t go to work because SHE was sick from being pregnant — was sitting on the couch with him and noticed him wheezing. And the space at the bottom of his throat was sinking in with each breath. (I have two nephews with asthma, so I knew the signs)

She sent him to me to have a look, and what I feared was coming to pass.

Normally, Kathy would have been dozing, but since she was off, she was rested. Usually, Max would have been taking a nap, but for some reason (GOD) I put Diana down and left Max awake. We would never have known!

I would have been gone to work by the time he woke up, but God orchestrated it all so that we would see what was happening.

Let me tell you… when I saw my little boy… wheezing and still smiling… out of breath but playing… I was like cornbread with no eggs in it!! Kathy was tearing up as I made the arrangements for us to take him to a doctor. I had to lie to Max while I got him dressed and while Kathy got Diana together. My son. So little, and such an overwhelmingly big part of my whole world. My son. My SON. Understand?

I had to push all the horrible possibilities out of my mind. No luxury to marinate in what-could-be.

I just prayed. And I told Kathy what I wrote earlier — that all His tangible blessings in the past weeks put Faith in our accounts for withdrawal now. We had seen Him be so true to us, so hands-on, so REAL! And NOW, in the midst of terror, we had to tell Him — and ourselves — that He was the same Person. That He would not operate so clearly in the verses and disappear in the hook!

The end of it is that Max is fine. He has one more day of taking medicines to return his little bronchial tubes and lungs to normal.

MY_boy!

We suspect that he picked up something from a child at church (which irritates me to NO END!!! Don’t take your sick kids to church! They can miss a Sunday!), or else dust or some other allergen in the house set him off.

God is going to HAVE to drive this vehicle for us! As hard as we try to protect our little people from life, we simply can’t. And we cannot live every day in fear of what MIGHT happen to them.

He is faithful!

August 28, 2009 Posted by | Babies, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Kids, Love, Parenthood, Parenting | 1 Comment

Low Commotion

My two- and one-year-olds running around the house tearing up stuff and making a bunch of noise.

Always into something!

Always into something!

July 9, 2009 Posted by | Babies, Childhood, Children, Family, Home Life, Humor, Kids, Parenthood, Parenting | 6 Comments

How I Learned the Bible

“How you gone just sit there and let all them people in front of you? I got somewhere to be! D&%n Good Samaritan! If you ain’t gone drive it, park it!” exclaimed my father, stuck in traffic behind a courteous slow driver.

“Ohhh.” I thought, putting two and two together… “A ‘good Samaritan’ is someone who helps someone else for no apparent reason.” My parents used to use that one a lot.

“G@d! Je$us! Man, PASS the ball! Quit being so d&%n selfish!!” Shouted my father at Andrew Toney, who played for the Sixers back in the day.

“Ohhh!” I realized, “Jesus is God in the flesh, and He committed the most unselfish act of all. I get it now.”

“If I come in this house and these dishes ain’t washed, It’s gone be Armageddon up in here when I get back!” Said my mother upon reaching the end of the rope.

“Ohhh! Armageddon is the battle that occurs at the end of the world!” I discovered after a few times of failing to meet a deadline due to procrastination…

“I don’t know why you askin’ ME for no money! I’m poor as Job’s turkey!”

“Ohhh!” I gathered. “Job was a man, like Daddy, who had had a lot of kids, and was incredibly poor at some point. And if HE didn’t have nothing, you KNOW his turkey was broke! Sorry for asking, Dad.”

Great teachers I had.

(How I learned Civics) “Bring less than a ‘B’ in here if you want to! It’s gone take a act of Congress to pull me off you!!”

(How I learned what color rice was)“Boy! If you don’t turn off that TV and do your homework, I’mma be on you like white on rice!!”

January 14, 2009 Posted by | Bible, Childhood, Children, Christ, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, God, Humor, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting | 2 Comments

Work and Family: All I Do

Max, Diana, and Ryan   Max       Diana  Work

Sundays @ Neil's  Gotta Be Somebody's Baby!

  I'll Kill a Brick!

                 On the Job

 

KWEST   I've got a better son than my parents have!

Rich, Ryan, DJ, Allissa, Max, and Diana  

Election night. 

December 12, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Daughters, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Daughters, Fathers and Sons, Home Life, Kids, Life, Marriage, Music, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 6 Comments

What They Taught Me

Boys love their fathers. I am no exception. No one loves his father more than I love mine.

But my mother is equally as excellent in my eyes. They taught me so much — they still do — and now that I am a parent, I want to be the same thing and show the same things to mine.

I know that in this age, it is not as vogue or common to have parents or be parents. If that is you, feel free to change the trend and use my example. There are many more, but these are the ones I can recall.

1 Tough it out. My folks never quit anything. They got up and went to work well or sick every day. I didn’t miss more than a dozen days of school in twelve years.

2 “Don’t let nobody hit you and you not hit ’em back!” My MOTHER told me that before my father got the chance to! Life doesn’t put up with cowards.

3 “Burn the midnight oil.” Ma drilled this into my head. And I saw her raise four kids five and a half years apart from top to bottom while teaching school in the daytime, night school at night, and getting her Master’s degree!

4 Share. Daddy was tight with his Tang (remember Tang?), but to this day, I can’t say, “Ma! That waffle iron is great!” without her trying to give it to me! And when I needed eye surgery in my late twenties and didn’t have the money (I was just starting out as a road musician), my pop paid for it out of his pocket.

5 Know how to fix stuff. My daddy showed me how to work with tools, fix faucets and change alternators. Even though he didn’t have a father to show HIM.

6 Don’t procrastinate. My mother would scold me to death on those perpetual Sunday nights as I wrote my term papers and handed the pages to her to type at three and four in the morning.

7 Be helpful. Be willing to give until it hurts.See number six.

8 Don’t ever hit a girl. I had three big-mouthed sisters. I failed at times, but I got it before it became crucial.

9 Know the answers. My folks stressed education. Bad grades were met with pain, and later with disappointment.

10 Sit up front and shut up unless you have a question. “I’m sendin’ you to school to learn, not to be no clown!” The night before my first day of school.

11 Read. Read everything.

12 Do YOUR job. No matter if no one is looking. Don’t let the next man have to carry your load. Got that from Ma.

13 The worst thing in the world is a thief, and a liar is the second. Ma.

14 Don’t kiss behinds. (I cleaned that one up) Yep. Ma.

15 Family sticks together. If your family member is in a fight, I don’t care if he’s winnin’, you pick up the biggest stick you can find a knock the…Nosy neighbor, Mrs. Burrell to my mother: “Allie, high come I jus’ saw yo’ kids walkin’ up tha street carr’n sticks an’ thangs’?”  I was in a fight up the street.

16 Stay married. No matter what. December 23, 1963 and counting…

17 Don’t argue in front of the kids. Don’t yell. They never did.

18 Don’t be weak. Don’t show fear.

19 Speak up! I still hear my father saying this in my ear!

20 If something’s on your mind, get it off. And be through with it. I get this from my mother. It kills Kathy, but she knows it is a good thing.

21 Nobody’s better than you. But treat them like they are.

22 Don’t half-do a job. (Cleaned that one up, too.)

23 God knows your max. “The Lord doesn’t put more on us than we can bear.” Ma says this to me every time something bad happens. I can’t stand to hear it, but I know she is right.

24 Choose wisely. There was a family that lived on the corner when I was a kid. The husband was always beating his wife up. He would beat her, she would leave him, and every time, she would return. He shot her. She left him, and returned. I remember overhearing the grown folk saying that he was going to kill her one day.

One summer day — I was watching my sisters since my folks were at work on their summer jobs — I was outside on the driveway when I saw the oldest daughter, Cynthia, run out of the house in her night clothes shouting, “He killin’ her! He killin’ her!” She ran across the street to her best friend, Bridget’s house.

Sure enough, there he was, in the living room (the front door was open) stabbing her to death. I was about eleven. I saw it happen. When the police came and got him — he didn’t try to run — he had on white painter’s overalls that were now more red than white.

When my folks got home, my father sat us all down and told us to choose our mates and our friends wisely or else the same thing could happen to us. It’s a cold, hard world.

25 Be loyal, even if they are not. My folks seem to go to a funeral a month now. And when my mother’s rather, I’ll say… “elitist” co-worker got sick, my mother went and served her like a slave, only to have her continue to treat Mom like she was less-than. Ma was confident that SHE did the right thing.

26 Don’t raise brats. My father saw a young child acting bratty and resolved to not let that be the way his kids would act! I can’t stand a brat!!

27 Dance. Be social. If you’re shy, fake it.

28 Don’t let an unlearned lesson come around and hit you in the back of the head. Learn from the past. My mother was abused as a child. She vowed not to treat her children that way, even though that is how the pattern regenerates itself.

29 Fat meat is greazy! Ask your black friends.

30 If you’re gonna fight, don’t talk about it. Do it. In my ninth grade summer, my sisters and I were made to walk, every day, to the park that my father oversaw as his summer job. It was in the serious hood! Kids from all around went there in order to stay out of trouble. My sisters and I were Fauntleroys compared to these kids! It was ROUGH!

In me, they smelled raw meat! I was bullied every day in front of my own father. Being who he was, he must have been thoroughly ashamed of me. It wasn’t that I was scared, I just hated to fight. One kid in particular, Tyrone (his name WOULD be Tyrone, hunh?), made it his mission to build a reputation off of me.

Nothing he did got me to fight. (He never hit me) One day, though, my baby sister was riding a skateboard down a steep hill, and purely to provoke me, he pushed Kim off the board.

Every kid in the park ran up the hill to tell me what happened and to see the fight they knew was coming.

My pops, whose JOB was to keep order, leaned calmly on the monkey bars and watched…

“Yeah, I did it!” Tyrone proudly proclaimed. This was it. Everybody was looking, and I was nearly blind with rage. I put up my guard as daddy had shown me years ago.

Tyrone started swaying confidently, back and forth. “You ain’ gone do nuthin’, punk,” smiling.

Left hook — POW! The world seemed to stop. Tyrone was in the dirt, getting up.

Left hook — POW! He went down again, rubbing his right jaw and blinking back tears. He got up slower this time. He wouldn’t swing. He just stood there with his hands up.

From behind me, I heard a familiar adult voice, “HIT him again! H*ll, HIT him. If you gone fight da**it FIGHT!” His exact words. I turned and looked at my father, the keeper of the peace, urging me on to beat this kid up. “Aw, h*ll! He waved his hand and walked away in disgust.

My heart wasn’t in it, and Tyrone’s heart was in my pocket. It was over. I had won, and hadn’t even taken a lick! I heard the kids who had taunted me all summer consoling Tyrone, ” Man, he didn’t even wanna fight you.”

I thought they would hate me, but they didn’t.

Talking to my father years later revealed that he, in all his ruthlessness, wanted me to beat the brakes off that kid to make up for all that stuff I took all summer. He was proud of me, though.

I had learned: Keep your mouth shut, and don’t put your dukes up until you know you gotta fight. And those who do the most talking often have to eat the most words.

31 Protect your home. I was never more secure than when at home because I knew Daddy was the baddest beast in the forest.

32 Work hard. Don’t make yourself look bad.

33 “Keep your name clean like it was when you got it!” Ma PREACHED that!

34 Don’t bring home no dumb girls. First thing they ever told me about girls.

34 Show love. That’s all they did, and all I try to do.

September 12, 2008 Posted by | Adage, Advice, Boys, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Proverbs, Quips | 4 Comments

Welcome to the Club(bed Foot)

CRASH!! STUB!!

“Oww! Sunnava…!!”

Okay. I’m officially a daddy now, kicking one of the kids’ toys — a heavy one! — in the dark in the middle of the night while making my rounds.

August 10, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Life | 2 Comments

Kidspeak

“Daddy, Daddy!”

I’m looking at a movie. Max is crawling all over my back looking through the window behind me into the sunroom.

“Daddy, Daddy! Ma Targit!” he pleads, tapping me on the shoulder. I’m watching a movie.

“What did you say?” I asked.

He is two inches from my face, and I’m backing up, and he’s moving in: “Ma targit, ma targit!” As though his life was at stake.

“Your what?”

“Ma targit. Ma targit!” He is pointing into the sunroom, which stays locked to keep him out.

“Pleeease?”

“Okay. Show me whatcha talking ’bout.”

We get up, and he pulls me into the back room and runs to get the object of his urgency.

The instrument he has been playing with ever since it was iven to him a couple of months ago: His targuit. His GUITAR! He switched the syllables! It was so funny that while he was still playing with it, I had to write it down before I forgot.

Is there such a thing as “verbal dyslexia?” Welll, the Bible does say that “the last shall be first.” He’s just doing God’s will.

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Baby Talk, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Max | 2 Comments

Family

Max just turned two. We took him to his first movie theater movie, and he had this big party that his mother put together.

Diana is getting bigger, prettier… and quieter! I can’t believe this is my life now. Here they are.

July 22, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Life, Marriage, Pictures | 2 Comments

Home Trainin’

“Hey, Max!”

“What, Daddy?” Smiling.

“Max, don’t say ‘what’ when I call you, okay? Say, ‘Yes, Daddy?’.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

He walks away. Five seconds later…

“Hey, Max?”

“What, Daddy?”

This is gonna take some time.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Home Training, Humor, Kids, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting | 5 Comments

Babee Tawk

“Jlknsphote giso dnb tjiom rhsdder!” Max said to me, dead serious.

“What?!?” I thought.

So, I repeated what he said, word for word: “Jlknsphote giso dnb tjiom rhsdder?”

He frowned and looked at me out the side of his eye as if to say, “Man, what’s da mattah witchou? Speak Englitch!”

Then he said, “No, Dah! Sefcka tehpmfn hse SOAVEX!”

“Oh. Okay. MY bad.”

It was so funny! What he said to me — he always has these extended conversations with us — made perfect sense to him on the inside of his head. Everything makes sense in there! Including putting cell phones and dead leaves in his mouth, using a sharpie on my desk and the washing machine, and pushing and pulling the keys on my horn while I’m playing it. Oh… and getting his big head stuck under the couch!

Whatever he said, it sure wasn’t what I said. What I said was just gibberish, I guess.

June 17, 2008 Posted by | Babies, Baby Talk, Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting | 2 Comments

Son, Don’t Point it Till You’re Ready to Shoot!

We can leave Max alone to watch educational television on the Sprout, or Noggin networks, but we cannot leave him alone for a second on his potty.

We’re training him to go on his own, and it is proving to be the hardest thing yet about child-rearing! Kathy and I have dealt with colic, wildfires of diaper rash, mounds of “butt mustard”, gallons of re-gurj, waterfallian sinus infections, cuts, all-night feedings, soap tasting and ant eating, penny sucking, picky eating, and nap refusing, but this potty training is kickin’ us in da collective butt!

Put him on the pot and go right down the hall, “Son, don’t move!” and the next thing you know, Max is spraying the bath mats like he’s a hose-fed weed killer and they’re crabgrass, or he’s triumphantly swirling his hands around in you-ryne like he’s filming a Palmolive commercial! “You’re soaking in it!”

 Now, I have to watch out for shiny spots on the floor when I go back in to get him, or I’ll have a disgusting slip-and-fall incident. 

He’s 100% boy, and I just LOVE it! Every exasperating moment! My son!

Kathy’s gonna deevorce me for this!

 

May 29, 2008 Posted by | Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Pictures | 7 Comments

Max’s Mother’s Day Sentiment

This is the card Max “wrote”* to Kathy yesterday:

This is Max

*Actually I wrote it (he dictated…) with my off hand. It took almost an HOUR! My hand is still hurting! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 12, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Kids, Life, Mother's Day, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

Be Married Every Day. Every Day.

Marriage ain’t got a motor! You gotta push it for it to work.

Marriage is like a plant. An indoor plant that needs water every day. You can miss one day, and it’ll be fine. You can miss two days. But if you go a week, the leaves will start to brown around the edges. Before you know it, it’s dead, leaves like corn flakes all over the floor to be divided up by judges and lawyers.

I push my wife. Lovingly. Sometimes it irritates her, I’m sure, but I have seen relationships slowly turn into bland cardboard facsimilies, and I am bound to not let that happen to me! I don’t want to wake up one day and have my wife look at me (or not) like a stranger on an elevator. I tell her how I feel probably hourly. If I don’t say it, I show it. She doesn’t always feel like talking about where we are and what needs to be repaired. Why the Lord would give me someone who is not excessively expressive I don’t know… But I refuse to let her take a day off from being married to me. I won’t let her coast through our relationship.

Some people might call this too much. But I have witnessed too many relationships — of all kind — fizzle and falter because someone thought they were in a comfortable place.

Before I got married I NEVER turned down a gig! Never. That was a commonly-known thing about me. I was single for a long time, but when I got married, Kathy showed me how I needed to take time to do things with her now and then which made me have to miss work. Even though we couldn’t afford it. I realized that little things like going to a movie, or going out of town to visit her family kept the marriage-ball rolling.

I ask her often to tell me how she feels about me, not out of insecurity, but partly to help us both stay aware of who we are to each other. I tell her that we should have periodic, “State of the Marriage” meetings so that we don’t let the moss of discontent build up over time. I have seen what a miserable wife looks like. And I have too many friends and co-workers who think they have it made at the house while their wives are mentally already gone. If mine leaves me, it durn sho* won’t be because I didn’t let her know how I felt. Or that I cheated on her on my gig and somehow rationalized that that was different than being in a relationship!

You can’t fix your leaky roof by shingling somebody else’s!

Over time, the list of wrongs committed can grow long and bitter. At some point we have to just stop.

And start from scratch. Wipe the slate clean and forget about pointed fingers and “you did this, so I did that,” and “you stopped doing this, so I went somewhere else and got that.” We have to go back to square one, forget the hurt and remember the love and the pledge, and just listen.

Pain is a circle with no beginning. There is always a reason for why who did what to whom. The Devil does actually do his job. He wants discord. Those things don’t matter. What matters is restoring a bent and broken relationship. Stop trying to win. The only way you win is to both reach the finish line together.

When I feel a need to bring up something uncomfortable, even though I know it may cause trouble, I do it. I can’t help it. My mother gave me that. I refuse to let a minor irritant grow into poison ivy.

The beauty of this all is that she lets me do this where others have chastised me. Sometimes you have to be the right person to find the right person…

These are things that most of us know. I’m no guru. Far be it from me to give advice with all MY flaws! But even though I make mistakes, I at least know what the answers are.

We know these things, but we just choose not to do them. We’d rather not pick the lock on a closed door than walk through an open one.

 

 *Certainly

April 30, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Marriage | , | 4 Comments

A Porpoise-Driven Life

Are you like me? Do you sometimes find that you live your life like a dolphin, holding your breath the overwhelming percentage of the time waiting for trouble to come?

I have to constantly tell myself that my Faith is the engine that drives me, and that God will see me through whatever disaster awaits me at the surface. I often am not able to enjoy even long periods of peace for holding my breath dreading the next calamity.

“Max might get sick.” “Diana might get bitten by the giant Great Dane that lives next door.” “My parents might die soon.” “Kathy or I may get fired.”

Things could happen. Things will happen. Bad things will happen. The point is that they will happen whether we shy away or stand there.

I am telling myself and you that it is okay to live in the face of the wind. God is able to transport us through what travails may come, and if we spend our time flinching from a blow that may or may not be on the way, we will miss the joys of life; watching kids grow and become independent, seeing parents become grandparents, relying on the Lord for sustenance when men cut you loose. “Fight back,” my daddy used to say, “They gone hit you anyway, whether you flinch or not!”  You might as well get some licks in.

Life is so much more good than bad, even for the most unfortunate of us, when we have an Eternal Point of View that sees through pain and around obstacles. Life is so much more Florida than Seattle.

All is not lost for the Christian even at the point of death. But you only die once. You live forever. Trust God. He is hurt when you don’t. I have to tell myself this from time to time, so I figured I’d tell you, too.

Come up for air.

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Advice, Christian Life, Christianity, Death, Depression, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fear, God, Life | 3 Comments

No, No, No Ya Don’t…

I had to change the words to that familiar children’s song, ’cause every time I turned around, Max was getting into something else he shouldn’t have.

Like just today, he pulled ALL the clothes out of Kathy’s bottom drawer, threw them onto the floor, and put his toy remote control in it. And when he was supposed to be taking a nap, he instead threw all the blankets out of the bed, and was sitting upright with the liner from his dirty clothes hamper on his head. Smiling at me.

Last night, he came into the living room with the vaseline jar on his hand like a glove, and a jar full of vaseline in his hair. He has broken tusks from elephant statues at my folks’ house, phones, and computer keypads, and he has eaten a Christmas light. He tried to climb up into the automatic swing that Diana was sleeping in. He mistimed it, fell, and the swing began mindlessly hitting him until he could get up and out of the way.

Monday, when he was supposed to be taking a nap, I heard him in his room talking. (He knows not to do that) When I burst into his room, I saw him sitting, still as a mailbox with his blanket over his body. “Max! Lie down and go to sleep!” No movement. I walked closer: “Max! YOU know you’re not supposed ta be in here talking! Lie down!” No movement. I pulled the blanket off of him, ready to chastise him for not doing what I told him to do. He was just smiling up at me , all sixteen teeth showing.

In a hurry, I put the blanket up to my face so he couldn’t see me laughing. I laid him back down. See, HE thought that, even though he was sitting up, I couldn’t see him sitting up! His little child’s mind told him that to be very still under that blanket made it impossible for him to be seen. It was sooo funny! That’s my boy!

My mother and sister bought him one of those motorized trucks that you can sit in and drive for Christmas. Now, he is only one year old, and I tried to tell them not to do it, but it was no use. He can’t even associate pressing the gas pedal with making the truck go yet. Well, the other day, I brought it home from my folks’ house (it was too big to fit in the car, I thought…), and when I took it out, Max jumped in it and proceeded to slam it into the car repeatedly. “No, no, no, Max! Stop! Wait! Don’t…!” We just laughed

So in that spirit, and for that reason, I have changed the words and the meaning to that singalong:

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you mess with that.

Don’t put that upon your head,

A shoe is not a hat!

No, no, no ya don’t

Don’t you eat the keys.

When Daddy has to go to work,

He’ll be needing these.

No, no, no ya don’t

Poke your sister’s eye.

She needs that to watch for you

You’re a dang’rous guy.

And so on…

April 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids, Nursery Rhymes, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

The Rest of the Story

I said that when I got more time, I would write more on what happened when Diana was born. Seeing how things have been this last week, I know now that I’ll NEVER have any more time!

Kathy began having real contractions Wednesday night. By Thursday, they were coming steadily enough so that our friend, Megan who is trained as a labor and delivery nurse, took basically her whole day — Excuse me. Both babies just woke up yelling and crying from different rooms at the SAME time!!!— to walk Kathy through a nearby park in order to bring on the true labor Kathy wanted. (Our last birth was a c-section, and Kathy really wanted to have a conventional birth!) Megan homeschools her kids, one of whom was sick, and she forsook that all to spend hours helping my wife!

Thursday night/Friday morning at around three, She started to have strong contractions at from six or seven minutes apart to four or five. Even though I’m a night owl, going to sleep at around three or four every morning, I was really sleepy. Kathy was taking one of thee thousands of showers she had been taking all day to soothe her pain when I finally fell off to sleep. As soon as I did, she came into the room and said that she was ready to go. Wishful thinking made me stay in the bed.

“When I get dressed, I’m goin’ to tha hospital, whether you’re ready or not!” she said, rummaging through her drawers. It took her forty minutes to put some clothes on. It takes longer when you have to stop and pray to Jeessussss every four minutes…

“Oh,” I croaked, “You were serious?”

“Yeah! This is IT! The contractions have been four minutes apart for an hour.”

We got to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Megan, the angel, had met us at the house and followed us. My parents, who were going to keep Max for us, were waiting for us when we got there. They took him home with them shortly after Kathy was admitted.

Kathy was scheduled to have a c-section on Saturday, but she and her doctor wanted her to try to have her “the regular way.” Max was a c-section baby, and weighed in at nine pounds, six ounces! She was more than a week past the due date and the baby was only getting bigger. We felt now that the Lord had answered Kathy’s fervent prayer in the affirmative with all these labor pains and stuff.

Kathy’s friends, Heather, and Lisa, who took all those pictures, arrived at between 6 and 8 am. They both have families, and left them to stay with Kathy. Her mother came to town to stay with us for a week, and got to the hospital at around 9 am. We all thought that, at this rate, she would be having the baby by no later than twelve noon or one at the latest. HA!

I had a gig that night which Kathy had no problem with me making, and since it started at 10:30 that night, we both knew I would make it ok. HA!

Her contractions were coming steadily (every two or four minutes) for hours, and she took them like a champ until around 10 am or so when she asked for an epidural. This involves injecting an anesthetic through a catheter inserted into a canal in the doggone spine! And how is this better, I wonder…?

To make a long story long, Kathy endured the process of physical and mental stress (which was probably worse) until 7:30 pm. The doctors and she were trying to wait for her cervix to dilate to the point where Diana could pass naturally. “I don’t want to be gutted like a fish!” Kathy would repeatedly say, only partly in jest.

Just as with Max, it would never happen.

Through all of this, Heather and Lisa stayed! Hour upon hour of stress, tedium, pain, and varying opinions on what to do and they just called husbands, arranged for kids to be picked up, and stayed right there with her. Never had we experienced such friendship and dedication. Even after I left to work, (musicians don’t have workman’s compensation! No play, no pay! Kathy’s maternity pay is a little bit less than her regular pay, so I had to go get it!) Megan returned, and Lisa and Heather stayed into Saturday morning until I told Kathy to have them go home!

I am so blessed (Kathy, too…) to have people who love my wife so much. She is not from Memphis, and used to fret about not having ties here. This is an answer to that prayer, because she has friends now from all strata who love her like family!

Yes, they attend that church I rave about. (And Heather wants me to tell you that in spite of the name, she IS black! 🙂 )

It was obvious after all these hours that Diana was not going to push her way out. There was a lot of back and forth about what should happen, so the nurse — at Kathy’s request — cleared the room. Kathy, now crying,  called me back, and while I had a whole line prepared — excuse me, Diana just started to wail again — about how God knows better than we do what is best, and that this is His will, and that we have to get in line with that will… But she wasn’t crying about having to have another c-section. Suffice it to say that she was worried that her friends’ feelings would be hurt through all of this.

So, after much travail, much of which would be politically and socially improper for me to tell, Diana was pulled into this world at exactly eight o’clock looking just like her brother did, and suspiciously like a little Eskimo lady. (Kathy spent four years living in Alaska…) Actually, my grandfather had a white father and a Cherokee mother, so that is why they come out looking so U.N.

I spent an hour or so with them and left for my gig with my wife’s blessing. They started late waiting for me.

For the next two weeks in what is apparently a tradition in many churches (NOT the one I attended!), we will be receiving meals cooked by different women in the church. When this happened with Max, we were blown away! It is a wonderful thing to see the Body of Christ work in such fluid and effective fashion.

And just as we cannot do anything to warrant God’s Sacrifice and favor, we have not done anything to deserve being loved in so great a way by so many!

April 1, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Church Life, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Love, Marriage, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

For Unto US (Kathy and Me) a Child is Born

Diana, our new daughter, was born on Good Friday! She weighed nine pounds and one ounce, and was 21 1/2 inches long. Even though she was in pickle juice for nine months, she is beautiful. (She looks like the little “Ice Age” baby) Kathy was basically in labor from Wednesday on, and we went to the hospital at 4:45 AM. Diana was born by c-section at eight PM!

Many beautiful things happened, but as I am just getting home and getting adjusted to the exponential increase in work and DEcrease in sleep, I will have to write about it all in detail in a day or so.

You can see pictures of the process at  http://kiralisa.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/a-precious-baby-is-born/where my friend and churchmember, the great photographer Lisa Thomas, has chronicled our experience.

March 24, 2008 Posted by | Birth, Children, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Kids, Life, Motherhood, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 16 Comments

It Takes a Village to SPOIL a Child!

“Max just put a battery in the toilet upstairs,” young Demetrius calmly said to the adults who were downstairs watching the game and having adult conversation.

Exasperated, Kathy looked at me and sighed, “Go up there and get it out.”

“There’re some yellow gloves under the sink you can put on to get it out,” Daddy said, laughing.

As I made my way through the kitchen to the stairs — about eight boys were having a sleepover/party for my nephew, Ryan, who just turned ten — I heard a yell from up in the gameroom, “THASS OKAAAY. MAX GOT IT OUUUT!”

What? As if THAT’S better! So I get upstairs just in time to snatch the wet battery from the soaked hands (and arms) of my boy an inch before he put it in his mouth! I couldn’t be angry at him. I had to shake my head and laugh. He’s incredibly curious, and I know this curiosity will pay off for him in the future.

We were at my folks’ house tonight since I didn’t have to work.

My parents were the most no nonsense parents in the world when they were raising my sisters and me. I said “WERE.” I get most of my parenting techniques from them — with a few modifications. They did not stand for spoiled behavior in us. They spanked WAY more than we do. We didn’t drink Kool-Aid with meals — only water. We did as we were told with no backtalk, no “whys” and no stomping off into another room. We toed the line, no exceptions.

Now, as grandparents, they are doggone marshmallows! You know what I mean…

At home, and in stores, and at church, etc., we have Max pretty much locked down, behavior-wise. He does as he is generally told the very first time. If I say, “Max don’t go in that room,” he turns right around with no whining. We don’t have to get after him that much.

On most Sundays, our family gathers at my folks’ house for dinner, and as soon as we get there, Max, somehow sensing the change in the rules, does what HE wants to do.

Tonight, as every time we visit, he wanted to go upstairs and play with the teen-agers, who were playing video games, pool, and wrestling. Kathy — rightly — felt that those boys shouldn’t have the responsibility of watching a nineteen-month-old Super Ball bounce from one new discovery to the next! It was their time to play and have fun, so we, to the great chagrin of the former wicked witch (NOT in an evil way!!!) of MY childhood and the current jellyfish of my adulthood (Ma) declined to let him go upstairs. He whined and cried all night. To the guests who had never seen him, I’m sure he looked like a brat.

Max is a LOT of work at my parents’ house. There is so much more room, so many more things to get into. Rather than acquiesce to our commands, he chooses to pout, and we — to our fault — sometimes give in to the peer-pressure and the possibility of being seen as mean parents and don’t cut the bad behavior off quickly like we do at home.

My parents have spoiled that boy and he knows it and they won’t admit it. If I did to Max what they did to us, they would probably cut me out of the will like a cancerous tumor!

So, Kathy and I went to the store, and asked Ma to watch Max for us. “Yeah,” I said resigned, “You can go ahead and let him go upstairs, but I’m gonna make him come back down when I get back.”

That’s how he ended up being up there. Kathy and I were only proven right. And as further confirmation, there’s this:

After I took off his shirt and washed all tha HEPATITIS off his hands and arms(!), Ma took him with her into her bathroom while she put up some towels. “Come on, Max! You can stay with me!”  As soon as I got back to the adult conversation and to my four years pregnant wife (that’s why I was doing everything… She can’t MOVE!), I heard Ma in the back; “No Max! No. NO! When I got back there to to see what cat as trophy he had wrought, I saw my mother laughing and wringing water out of the silk-lined shower cap that she hangs on the faucet of her jacuzzi which just happens to be just the right height for a nineteen-month-old baby to reach!

All the adults in the living room, even Daddy, chuckled and agreed: “Thass what she GIT!”

March 15, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Christian Life, Family, Fatherhood, Grandparents, Humor, Kids, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 2 Comments

The Night the Lights Went Out

Never in my life. Never has this happened to me.

Kathy and I were watching tivo, and Max was playing destructively, as is his bent. “Bent” being anything he has touched.

Karen from the church gave us one of those easels with the chalkboard on it, for the kids to write on. There is a tray under the board that goes from front to back which is to hold supplies — crayons, pencils, etc. The tray also serves to support and strengthen the easel. Its base is pressboard. Not very sturdy at all.

Max likes to crawl inside of stuff… When Kathy had a contraction last week and slightly panicked and started packing hospital bags and asked me to quickly put the bassinet together, Max crawled into the little space at the bottom where the baby supplies are kept.
Well, we were watching tivo, and Kathy tapped me on the leg and whispered, “Look at that li’l boy!”

He was crawling, legs sticking out, hanging down, onto the tray part of the easel. It was about two feet off the floor. I forgot to tell you that of the four butterfly wingnuts that hold up the tray, only three were actually in service. One being unfindable.
Max is nineteen months old, but he is as big as some three-year-olds. He weighs about thirty-five pounds. I know he will bump his head in life, and I don’t generally rush to save him from every skinned knee and fat lip. I didn’t move. Just watched him…

He pulled himself up into the tiny space, and as soon as he tucked his legs in, in slow motion, the tray began to break apart and collapse. Verrrry slowly. You could hear the pressboard crackling like giant graham crackers. Max, who is MOSTLY head, rolled head-first onto the floor amid a pile of what was now kindling! (I’m laughing now. But I’m scared to laugh anymore…)

Kathy and I howled like two wolves. More like two hyenas.
I laughed so hard. So hard that I couldn’t breathe. My eyes began to roll back, and my head felt like it was floating…This has happened before when I have laughed really hard, but what (apparently) happened next never has.

I was frozen. All I remember is that I was holding my glasses limply in the crook of my thumb and forefinger. I remember that when we started to laugh, we both lifted up the blanket that covered us to hide our faces. And our shame at laughing so hard at our boy.

Now, though, my fingers were curled as though I were still holding it, but it had dropped.
“What happened?” I asked. “What’s going on?” I didn’t feel any pain, but I felt as though I had just awakened. It felt as though days had passed but the same tv show was on.

Kathy was crying, but I couldn’t remember if she was crying from laughing, or crying from crying. So many unformed questions swirled, alphabet soupy, in my head. The fog began to clear when I saw Max walking around swinging a stick that looked like it came from a tray that attached to an easel.

Kathy was leaning over me, scared to death, and now crying from crying. “What’s wrong?!? Don’t play with me like this! You can’t leave me now! We got too much goin’ on!” (I wasn’t dying or anything. She was just scared.)

I was still trying to get it together. “A B C D E F G… Now, smile… okay, I can smile. Move your left arm… okay. So I didn’t just have a doggone stroke!” I knew what had happened… I laughed so hard that I lost oxygen and freekin’ blacked out! (It’s called “hypoxia.” I looked it up online as soon as I got up!) I have gotten that light-headed feeling a lot of times in the past when something reeeeeally funny has happened, but I have never gotten to the point where I lost consciousness!

I asked Kathy what let her know something was off since Max was on her side of the room and she was looking away from me. She said that she knew something was wrong because I had suddenly stopped laughing and it wasn’t time for it to stop being funny yet. She said that when she saw me, I was staring up into space, “What’s goin’ on? What’s happ’nin’?”, as though I had just seen Jesus or an alien. Seriously, I wondered if I had just gotten back from a summit meeting with God.

I guess this is what they mean when they say, “I fell out laughing!”

Folks, don’t laugh at your kids. It could kill you..

March 13, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Children, Family, Fatherhood, Humor, Kids, Life, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Writing | 4 Comments

Two Bears and a Cub

The Parents were both sleeping soundly when out of the silence, a horrified — and horrifying — cry shot like lightning through the dying darkness. The Mother immediately leapt into action, while the Father lay there not moving, thinking he was dreaming and praying it was not the Baby.

The Mother returned to the bed with the Baby in her arms. The Baby, wide awake now, and smiling, was unconcerned with the fact that the Father had only just two hours ago gone to sleep, and had to get right back up in two more small hours.

The Baby was talking to the Mother in a cute, nineteen-month-old kind of way and the Mother, unaware that the Father could hear it all, whispered back to him in an effort to soothe and drowse him.

“O-Mommee!” he said, as though he just realized she was there.

“Go to sleep, Baby.”

“Ohh Kayyy,” he whispered, resigned. This went on for minutes, as it does when he has a nightmare and the Parents go get him to put him back to sleep.

The Father was desperately trying to hold on to the greasy rope of sleep that slid, ever more rapidly through the fingers of his mind. His head was facing away from the Action and towards the clock, whose ten-foot-tall numbers screeched in neon, “5:38 am.”

“Well,” said the Father to himself, “Almost two hours… That’s a LOT of time left to sleep.” As though he would drop to sleep that very moment. The thing about sleep, though, is that you don’t get to experience all that good time when you are asleep. You go to sleep, and the next second, the alarm goes off. It doesn’t FEEL like eight or ten hours just went by.

In the waning darkness, the Baby realized that the Father was right there. “O-Daddee!” he said, elated.

Something that felt like a little Baby arm smacked the Father on the back of the neck.

“Don’t hit the Daddy, Baby. He has to get up in a little while.” It was a little Baby arm, then.

“Ohh Kayyy.”

They went back to their back-and-forth.

“5:47 AM!”

“I know, “ the Father retorted sharply, on the inside.

Something that felt like little Baby fingers began to wrestle through the tangle that is Sleeping Black Father Hair. “Aaa Da-Dee!”

“Leave your daddy alone, Baby,” said the Mother in a vain effort to forestall the inevitable. “You suuure love your daddy, don’t you?” she whispered rhetorically, as much to the air as to the Baby. The Father heard this and thanked God for giving him stewardship of a son who thought absolutely the world of someone so unworthy as he.

The Father, like the rolling of a tidal wave, at the rising of some leviathan, gave up on sleep and turned over and took in his arms this thirty-five pound wriggling onesie full of all that the Parents hold dear. “Come on, Baby. Time to go to sleep.”

Ohh Kayy!” smiling.

The Father began what was known as “The Kansas City Shake” which no baby could resist.

“Go to sleeping, Baby,” he said, in a lilting,  nonspecific, somewhat French, somewhat German accent.

His eyes soon began to slide closed. The Baby’s eyes did, as well.

In the bluing light of the morning, something like a little Baby arm reached up and lay on the Father’s neck. The Father looked and noticed that it was, in fact, a little Baby arm. And the Baby was asleep.

“6:24 AM!”

“Da-Dee…”
 

March 3, 2008 Posted by | Childhood, Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Kids, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents | 10 Comments

Makin’ Grosy

So, since I work at night, and Kathy is on max-swole* right now, I do a lot of the grocery shopping. Trying to be a good husband. I tend to make fun of the way we black folk tend to speak down here in the South, and as such, what follows is the phonetically-spelled-out list of items for purchase:

                                                    Grosy Liss

Mennit Rise

Gobbitch Bags

Pento Bens

Hole Chikums

Crem uh Chikum

Crem uh Mushrome

Unyun Soop Miks

Bred

Shuger

Murk (a Memphis thing, sadly)

Jeffey Conebred Miks

Sereul

(And then I had to go to the)

Butey Suplie Stoe (to buy an afro)

Pik

The problem came when, because of my own smart-aleckiness, I found myself repeatedly standing in the middle of an aisle (dodging old ladies) frowning, trying to figure out what the– heck “Sereul” was! I thought I was being funny, and instead wound up being the butt of my own joke! No social or underlying Christian message this time. Just something funny that happened to me today.

The black folk will know what these words say. White folk, ask your black friends…

*Extremely Pregnant!

February 25, 2008 Posted by | Family, Humor, Language, Life, Marriage, Race, Words | 4 Comments

As I Carried Him Across the “Threshold of Pain”

“Max, don’t kick me in the… Uuhhhhhhhhhh!!!”

That is exactly as it happened.

February 20, 2008 Posted by | Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, Humor, Kids | 2 Comments

“Where Do Bibles Come From?” Max asked.

My expectant wife, Kathy, and I were on the couch talking, and she remarked that Max (who is now 17 months old) has been increasingly poking her in her rapidly disappearing navel and asking, “Baby?”

She told him, “Yeah, that’s where the unbib — I mean — the umbilical cord is!”

“Yeah, son, ” I said to both of them,  “It would be called the unBIBLICAL cord only if we weren’t married!”

January 8, 2008 Posted by | Christian Life, Christianity, Family, Humor, Jokes, Malaprops, Pregnancy | 4 Comments

Butts Are For More Than Just Shaking In Videos!

Spanking is NOT violence. Why should I even have to SAY that?! This is just a clever argument designed to cancel any potential disagreement. It is fallacious, though. Is ”violence” simply the act of one person physically inflicting pain on another? What about a car accident? Is that an act of violence? What about hernia surgery? Or a hernia EXAM for that matter! (Nawww, THAT’S some violence!)

A spanking is no more an act of violence than these occurrences.

And frankly, I don’t appreciate a shackin’, no-children-havin’, feminist, Universalist, New Age, talk show host tellin’ me how to raise my children in my Christian household!

Raise YOUR kids as you see fit. I will do the same. If YOU want kids who defy you, yell at you, disobey you, that’s fine. Mine won’t do those things. Not twice. I will not accept the label of ”abuser” because I choose to use a perfectly Godly method of discipline when necessary. Doing too little is as bad as doing too much. I suggest that one who is excessively liberal in dealing with his children is just as much an abuser as the parent who truly DOES beat his offspring. One who lets his kids run around doing what they please and talk back will unleash a complete terror on society. Those kids make teachers’ lives miserable, as well as shoppers, and co-workers later in life. They grow up to be awful friends, selfish paramours, and EX-husbands and wives. Check the divorce stats, if you think I’m lying! I propose that there are as many divorces, if not more, that had NO physical abuse but occurred because one or both parties had no willingness to tough out a rough situation selfishly choosing to ruin lives rather than live up to a commitment.See: Irreconcilable differences.

There are things that damage society just as much as child abuse– WHICH SPANKING IS NOT! Ask ENRON investors. Ask anyone who has suffered at the cloven hooves of a crooked politician.

Don’t try to trivialize a good point by saying that I think that the ills of the world will be solved with a belt. I am not ridiculous, so don’t you be. What I AM saying is that if you prune a shrub early, you stand a better chance of controlling and shaping its development.

Spanking is no more necessary in every situation as is the emergency brake in a car or a fire extinguisher– it is there for use in extreme cases. And different kids need different levels of discipline. My mother got only one spanking from her father, but some of her siblings got probably dozens. Oh, yeah, I just thought about it; the only sibling of hers to go bad was the one my grandmother wouldn’t let anybody touch! But THAT was just a coincidence, hunh experts?

When there was more discipline, there was less crime. There were fewer unwed mothers and fatherless children. Old people were respected, and children didn’t curse in front of grown-ups like they do now. The more lenient and ”progressive” we have become, the more incivil our world is. Whooh!! We really have evolved!

Gangs are RUN by kids. Kids with NO parental guidance. We are the first generation who are actually AFRAID of our children! Ask their innocent victims which is worse– a whipping or a bullet in the head.

”Nip it, nip it, nip it,” Barney Fife used to say. And I agree. My great-grandmother used to tell my father, ”Um gone git MY hands on you before the po-leece do, cuz they don’t care nudd’n ’bout cha! They’ll knock ya in na head an’ KILL ya!”  That is the truth. This world loves no one. It is hard and harsh, and will do whatever it can to take what you have. Including your life. A parent’s measured, Godly discipline is not harmful and will help a child avoid — or cope with– life’s potholes.

Christians have an ETERNAL perspective that allows us to see the tremendous difference between a whupping and death. We know that there are worse things in life than a child crying. We serve a God who tells us that whipping a child will not kill him. It is a temporary pain. God disciplines us in sometimes painful ways. We ALL will lose our lives. I am not angry with the Lord because I will die, or because my folks won’t live forever, and even if I did get angry, He is God enough to not let that make Him soft. He will hurt our feelings when and if necessary.

We, however, ARE soft. Rather than have our kids angry with us, we try to become their pals. A bunch of spineless yes-men! We try to reeezon with them. How can we reason with a person who doesn’t possess the judgment to drive a car or marry or drink alcohol or buy a gun or rent an apartment or share a toy or eat vegetables or stay out of mud puddles or come in when the street lights come on or not eat the Christmas lights!!! “STOP, MAX!!!”

I don’t necessarily have the time to explain the properties of alternating current and conductive metals to a doggone baby. I don’t necessarily have the time to explain how boiling water makes baby’s skin slide off. A sharp smack on the hand saves time, words, and LIFE!!!

We opened the gate wide and let them run around in traffic. So that WE could feel better about our compassionate selves. I say that a child getting hit by a metaphoric car out in that street is a DIRECT act of violence!

I’ll stop spanking my kids when Oprah starts spanking hers!

November 27, 2007 Posted by | Childhood, Christianity, Discipline, Family, Fatherhood, Liberals, Oprah, Oprah Winfrey, Parenthood, Parenting, Spanking | 18 Comments

Swimming Lessons.

My good-hearted 16-month-old son, Max, stands tottering on the shore of an ocean of sorrows. He has what appears to be the most friendly personality of any child in the world. He beams at the sight of other kids, never fights over toys, and when he smiles, he does so with his whole body! He loves to have fun, and possesses a wide-open heart. Life and this World are gonna KILL him!  Beat him to oatmeal! Waiting for him is a sea of sharks, jellyfish, and other predators seeking to drag him under and rip from him all the innocent, uncorrupted joy he now possesses.

Though I could bail him out and be a vessel by which he could navigate this ocean, I can only guide him while he swims alongside. It is with great sadness that I realize this. I have swum this way before, only barely making it without being consumed by rage, hatred, and selfishness. I didn’t know if I would make it, and I don’t know if Max will.

But God knows.

It is He who has given me the map by which I will lead my son. It is He who will instruct me as to what to say when the waves roll high and threaten to swallow him.

”Don’t let Life win, Son.

“Don’t let situations cause you to give up and become that which seeks to destroy you. Don’t be led by those unworthy. Make God your conscience. Know the right answers. USE them. 

“Every girl won’t like you. Some will hurt you. On purpose. Be nice anyway. Don’t let matters of the heart submerge you.

“Pain passes. Laugh when you need to. Cry when you have to. Keep swimming!

“Don’t let people be the riptide, the undertow that pulls you in an unGodly direction.

“Sit up front. Don’t back down. Don’t sell your friend out. You won’t have many.

“Life is hard. Often unfair. God is the prize. Know Him truly.

“Have your fun, but put in your work first. Stand flat-footed on your word.

“When you get tired, God will buoy you by the Spirit-shaped float inside you. 

“Keep this joy you have, only coat it with a veneer of strength with which to defend yourself. With this, you will be able to brush off the arrows hurled by those who will hate your love.” Daddy.

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Advice, Childhood, Christian Life, Faith, Family, Fatherhood, Fathers and Sons, God, Life, Life Lessons, Parenthood, Parenting, Parents, Words of Wisdom | 2 Comments