Sunday, October 26, 2008

Somewhere, Jesus is Scratching His Head

The priest at a local Episcopalian church contacted me several weeks ago, asking me to offer a sermon to his congregation on stewardship Sunday. Let's be clear: On the day the parish's ledership emphasizes the need for money or donations of time and talent, they had me as the preacher.
I'm not sure Fr. Bill knew what he was getting into. I'm not qualified to preach the gospel and I'm certainly not effective at asking for money. So, you go with what you know. In true Daddy D fashion, I just told a series of faith stories from my own experience and strung them together with some subjects and verbs, with a few adjectives thrown in to keep it interesting.
I "preached" (addressed the people is probaby more accurate) at two services. I have no idea how it went, but nobody walked out and nobody fell asleep. Of course, the central question is: did pledges increase? I think Fr. Bill, who was close friends with my late father-in-law, just needed a Sunday away from the pulpit and didn't want to be in a position to put the hard sell on the faithful.
I realize regardless of the outcome, this was a one-shot deal for me. There was some laguage in there about sacrifice. If I reached one person, then some good was done.
Speaking of sacrifice, here's what Fr. Bill doesn't know: I had a sideline pass for the Cowboys- Buccaneers game at Texas Stadium. Giving that up stung a little. Oh well, you gotta give 'til it hurts.
(In the unlikely event you would like to read the address, I'm posting it in the comments).

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Coming Up for Air

It's been a wild couple of weeks. The wife and mother-in-law made it back safely from New York. They had a wonderful time. The refusal to carry along a digital camera continues to frustrate me. My mother-in-law sent her film to China or someplace to get her pictures developed. Welcome to the 21st century.
I hardly noticed they were gone, I was so overwhelmed with other personal matters. My father decided he couldn't see out of his left eye. Naturally, he went to the eye doctor who confirmed that he, in fact, could not see. It was physically impossible because his retina was detached.
After asking around about which eye surgeon to use, we had to convince him to actually endure the procedure to reattach his eye parts. The good news is, the good doctor lasered him back together. The bad news is, the recovery period is long and somewhat difficult.
For ten days, he had to keep his nose pointed to the ground for 45 minutes of every hour, 24 hours a day. This meant no leaning back, no standing up straight, no sleeping on his back. We rented a contraption to keep his head down and that was just misery.
Oh, and the medicine. You would think that keeping up with antibiotics, cough suppressants, pain pills, anxiety relief and three kinds of eye drops would be a challenge. You would be correct. When you're 82 and already on a dizzying array of cardiac meds, you might as well be doing advanced calculus. Throw in the blindness, the fear and the keeping your head down all the time and you've got trouble.
This means I've been making three or four trips a day across town to manage meds and to keep his well-intentioned but ill-informed elderly friends out of his noggin. Man, an old person with a wive's tale and notion can cook your noodle.
His ten-day ordeal has passed and he can stand up straight again. The doctor even says the return of his vision seems to be ahead of schedule.
He's old and his short term memory is shot. That's a bad thing because I'm being forced to explain things to him over and over again...sometimes dozens of times. It's a good thing becasue he doesn't remember that he has to have a folllow-up procedure on his eye in about 90 days. The doctor injected some heavy fluid into the eye to hold the reattached retina in place. At some point, that stuff has to be removed. Use you imagination about how that will be accomplished. Hey, I'm not telling. I'll just remind him the night before the procedure and pick him up the next morning.
In the meantime, I'm just trying to keep my head held high.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mom and Daughter in NYC

Mom and daughter in NYC
Originally uploaded by Darrell
My caption: Two classy dames pose for a flattering self-portait in Manhattan.
There they are, my wife and her mother on the top deck of a tour bus in chilly NYC. I am posting this photo as punishment for my bride, who refused to take a camera, instead opting to send this kind of image from her cell phone. Her mother, an encouragingly attractive septegenarian, is merely collateral damage.
It's a mother-daughter trip, and my wife's sister is there with them. Remarkably, it's the first time in the Big Apple for the in-laws, so they're doing it right. They're eating in fancy restaurants you've heard of and seeing Broadway shows. They're enjoying the weather, which by our standards is cold.
Alarmingly, my wife went off on her own armed with a credit card. It's not every day a Louisiana girl shops 5th Avenue, so who knows how quickly that American Express card is melting.
After this, maybe she'll buy a decent camera!

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Boom! Went Daddy D

Prayer books ready!
Originally uploaded by Darrell
My duties as a lay eucharistic minister took a painful turn this morning. The woman standing to my right in this photo just laughed and laughed.
During a baptism, I was sitting near the altar, dressed just as I am in the photo. I was simply biding my time waiting for communion to start. Gradually, the effects of Saturday night's red beans and rice began to create uncomfortable pressure. This is never good, but it's especially disconcerting in such an austere and reverent environment.
Knowing the baptism would take a while, I decided to quietly sneak off to the men's room to deal with my gastrobiological issues.
I'm not sure what happened, except that my feet slipped out from under me. I bounced off the arm of one of those Big Wood Chairs and landed SPLAT on the slate floor.
It looked like I was being ordained.
Did I say I was planning to quietly sneak off? That didn't work out. I landed with such force on the chair that the sound was thunderous.
Fortunately, all of the clergy were involved in the baptism and the eyes of the congregation were focused there. I fell behind the organ, so the only person who actually saw what happened was my snickering buddy Judy.
Everybody heard the boom, though. The acolytes and eucharistic ministers across the room saw me flat on my face, so this won't go away anytime soon. I stayed away from the altar until communion started. When people asked if I was okay, I said, "Yeah. I just had to go to the choir lounge to cry a little before I came back."
God got me for something. God only knows what it all means. Pray for me.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Not to Serve at Your Next Party

How bored am I? I was sitting around thinking about what to eat when a minor miracle happened: Someone took pity on me and invited me over for dinner. The wife is making red beans and rice. I happily accepted and began to look forward to a combination of southern staples: RB&R and Saturday night football.
Then, I thought about my buddy JJ’s point of view on Red Beans and Rice. He has a long-standing position that it is the most overrated food item. That’s not a knock on the dish or the people who serve it. It’s just the idea that culturally, we are expected to get excited about eating it.
In our kitchen, we have a spoon holder which pays tribute to, you guessed it, red beans and rice. Actual beans, rice and spices are encased in Lucite with a description of the Louisiana delicacy which says, “A Southern tradition served on Mondays using red beans, spices and the ham bone from Sunday’s dinner and served over rice.” I didn’t know that and certainly that’s not the context in which I will enjoy my RB&R this evening. I also sincerely doubt a ham bone will be involved.
As I contemplated this, I started wondering about other foods about which people might secretly have a lack of enthusiasm. So, I sent a text message to many people in my contact list asking them this question: “What is the most overrated food item?” This doesn’t mean you don’t like the food. It just means it doesn’t rise to the level of culinary or cultural expectations it engenders.(Hey, I told you I was bored). I have been surprised by the responses, because most of them involve Southern staples. Here’s a sample:
• JJ: Red Beans and Rice (of course)
• Chris: Cornbread
• Ray: Chili
• Sara: Steak (Steak? Really?)
• Brant: That cranberry stuff at Thanksgiving
• Tony: Crawfish
• My cousin Ron: Gator (I told him I didn’t think gator was highly rated. Maybe it is in Haughton)
• Rocky: Fried Catfish
• Sandy: 3-way tie between okra, grits and anything “chicken fried”
• Jim: Sushi
• Charlie: Chicken fried steak (That’s two for steak, I think and two for “chicken fried”)
• Steve: Rotel and anything made with Rotel (this is party sacrilege)
• Mike: sushi (with the comment “I mean, really!”)
• Tommy: anything made with cornbread
• Todd: catfish
• Irv: caviar (I give Irv credit for this, because I don’t think I’ve ever actually tasted caviar to know whether or not I agree with him.)

So, catfish, cornbread and steak lead the balloting. That rules out a lot of restaurants around here.

Updates: Kay, a wildcard entry, agreed with Irv. Mark put sushi in the top spot with a 3rd vote. Cliff weighed in with tuna casserole. Dave and Shannon say ribs.
Butch, who once was a full-time touring stand-up comedian, cleverly offered "parsley." Lori came out of her shell to say "snails."
Late entry from my thoughtful pal Patrick, who writes, "(Red beans and rice)is a sentimental favorite, but I see your point. I'm not really sure why oatmeal exists. My vote is for oatmeal."
My wife is of a similar mind with Brant, except she took on a holiday staple straight-up, saying "turkey." Matthew offered "capers," although I would put them in the same category with Ron's gator.

For me, upon further review, it’s lobster. I’d eat it if it’s put in front of me, but it’s a whole lot of work and is really expensive. Plus, there’s not much to it without the butter.
Isn’t that true, though, about many things in life?

Happy eating.

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Alone Again, Unnaturally

Wow. My weekend fell apart. For weeks, I had been geared up for a trip to Gainesville for the LSU-Florida game. Thursday and Friday, life conspired against me. I'll spare the details, but I can sum things up this way: Instead of spending my Saturday in the company of 90,000 people watching one of the great college football matchups of the year, I'm sitting alone at the house watching games on TV.
That's not all bad. I'm getting a lot of rest. The games have been really good so far, and I'm not spending any money. Given the state of my investment accounts, that's probably a blessing.
This is the first of three football trips I've lost this season. I have surrendered LSU-Tulane tickets due to an unanticipated personal commitment which directly conflicts.
And this one hurt me: Yesterday, I handed over four 45 yard-line tickets and a parking pass to the Dallas Cowboys - Seattle Seahawks game next month. Can I be forgiven for being a middle-aged man on the brink of tears?
There is great news about the Cowboys' situation. I have a friend who is an avowed Cowboys fan. He's the kind of guy who uses the word "we" when talking about the team. He has never been to a game in Texas Stadium. I told him over the summer that he needed to get over there before the Cowboys move out. I handed him the tickets and the pass yesterday. The look on his face easily balanced the knot in my stomach. He's taking his family, none of whom have been in the stadium before.
I hope it's a good game. I hope it's played in an ice storm. (Okay, not really...I don't think).

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Monday, October 06, 2008

The City is Buzzing

My daughter is a junior at a midtown high school. It's the oldest school in the city and has a long, rich history. There is a long-standing rivalry with a school in the southeast part of town. We actually live in the other school's attendance zone, but my daughter is a magnet student, so she chose the mid-city school. Our son graduated from yet another magnet program. My wife and I attended Catholic schools in town. So, until recently we had been blissfully oblivious to the intensity of the rivalry.
Things are coming to a head now, thanks to this billboard.
That's a message touting the spirit of my daughter's school. It was paid for by a group of seniors. What's wrong with this picture? It's a block away from the rival school, and it's easily visible from the south side of its campus.
Hold on. I should say it was visible. The other school's principal, a person who clearly has nothing better to do, complained to school district authorities. Somehow, the principal of our daughter's school was compelled to become involved. A flurry of phone calls and urgent conferences ensued and it was decided that it would be in the best interest of all concerned for the billboard to be moved.
I will resist the temptation to register my disappointment with this development in harsher terms. Let's just say I think some kind of explanation is in order. This is not the principals' or the school board's business. This was a transaction initiated by a group of citizens. It makes no mention of the other school, although its placement was quite intentional.
I'm embarrassed for the other principal. If she had her head screwed on straight, she would have laughed and acknowledged that the kids from across town had found a healthy positive way to poke good-natured fun at her student population.
This was a great teaching moment, an opportunity for her to lead by example, and she blew it. She taught her students to be shallow and thin-skinned.
I'm glad my daughter isn't under her influence. I hope our principal comes to his senses.
I asked my daughter if people are talking about this. She just rolled her eyes and said, "God, yes." The schools play against one another in football a week from Friday in the stadium they share. Sounds like fun! The other school's mascot is the gators. It's tradition the week of the game to have parties featuring "gator gumbo." The students wear camo gear to school on game day because they're going "gator hunting." It's great fun and it's been going on for decades. It pre-dated their myopic leader and will survive her. Jacket Pride, City Wide indeed.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Celebration Headache

Vandy fan
Originally uploaded by Darrell's BlackBerry
These are heady times in our house. My poor bride couldn't sleep last night because she had a headache. She had a headache because the football team from her university was on national television and won by a single point to remain unbeaten and in first place in the Southeastern Conference east division.
The game went down to the final minute and her blood pressure was through the roof. She was wearing her colors, screaming at the TV.
How big an event was this: even Joe College and the girlfriend hung around and watched. Yes, the whole immediate family was gathered 'round the living room pulling hard for the Vanderbilt Commodores. The daughter, who will be making college decisions soon, wants to consider Vanderbilt.
We have not reached agreement on which was more entertaining, the game of my wife's quite out of character antics. Let's be clear here: Vanderbilt hasn't had a winning season in a quarter century. To be nationally ranked and undefeated through five games is just absurd. Yet, there they are. They've beaten Auburn, South Carolina and Ole Miss. They still need to play Florida and Georgia among others, so staying undefeated is just unthinkable. Here's hoping their return to reality features a soft landing instead of a crash to Earth.
She has vowed that we will go to whichever bowl game the Commodores get invited to. That's great for me: a December trip to Memphis or Nashville...or stay at home in Shreveport. We dare not think any higher than that lest we be emotionally crushed.
The season is perfect as of now. It will be great no matter what happens. It will be most satisfying for her if the'Dores can get one more win. It will be dreamlike if it comes at the expense of the Tennessee Volunteers.
See you in December. Go Gold.

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