Tuesday, September 30, 2008

S. Dallas Poverty

I'm getting a real education with the new bus route I have this school year. I guess the area just west of Fair Park has the most abject poverty seen in Dallas. Signs of this are everywhere you look. About a quarter of the houses are boarded up, deserted. Nearly all the others have burglar bars. Many lean to the right or left...some to the right and left.

The toll of poverty on the people there is readily apparent. I see men who are old before their time, their bodies twisted and contorted as they walk the streets. Another cue is the problem posed by transportation...specifically, the lack of available reliable transportation. Cars tend to be beat-up, weathered, and dilapidated. As I reflect on the stress caused when our family has an automobile maintenance issue, I wonder the turmoil caused when one of the aforementioned clunkers gives out. Today, I saw a large lady, appearing to be 40-ish. She was pushing a bicycle along Pennsylvania Avenue. It appeared that she perhaps had been riding the bike but had become winded, and now was simply pushing it along. Obviously, this is not a scene you'll see in the suburbs. I immediately wondered about the circumstances: had she ridden it to work? to check on her mom? Was she on the way to the grocery store? Probably not the latter. There are no grocery stores in S. Dallas.

There is a heavy police presence in this area. It is difficult to travel from my school on the west side of Fair Park, down Pennsylvania, and west to Lamar St. without seeing at least one squad car. Poverty breeds desperation, desperation breeds crime. Now I know all the arguments about folks who've hit bottom...they made their bed, they made poor choices, they should have gotten an education, they're lazy, etc. All I know is that the older I get, the less import I give those arguments. It seems we Christians should be less about explaining and more about reacting.

I've been conducting a strange experiment every afternoon. As I drive down Pennsylvania, I've been noticing a man sitting in front of a house, same place, same time every day. His body is twisted and his head is always canted in a way that suggests mental illness. He is skin and bones and dirty clothing. And he's reading a Bible every time I see him. He always looks up as I pass because, after all, you can hear a school bus coming. About three weeks ago, after I began to pick up on him being there every day, I started waving to him as I passed. And until yesterday, his only response was the coldest of stares...a chilling stare, frankly. But then yesterday, he raised his right hand ever so slightly. And again today, the same reaction, an almost imperceptible wave. In the grand scheme of things, this is pretty small. I can't see the two of us ever getting past this most rudimentary of contacts. But somehow, someway, I was glad to make the connection. A highly blessed, never wanting, educated white man from the bedroom community of Rockwall allowed to penetrate into the sphere of a South Dallas black man. I wonder what he thinks of me?! God moves in mysterious ways!

Friday, September 26, 2008

The height of something...

It's rather embarrassing how this presidential campaign is going. The vitriol between the two camps of supporters is so caustic that I fear the aftermath of Election Day. It appears that the "losers" will be seriously fatalistic about the results. If it's the Dems, they simply will not be able to imagine life with still another dull Republican. If it's the GOP, there will be genuine concern about the future of our country under such an inexperienced leader.

What has sadly added to this situation is the reality that smear tactics work...they really work. That's hardly an endorsement of the intellect of the electorate. But a huge percentage of us seems vulnerable to believing outrageous, messy allegations. Why is that? My guess is that we don't have time to study our candidates or the issues. We therefore will rely on soundbites, gossip, and how tall or short the nominees are rather than what they truly stand for. And why is that? Could it be that we have become a nation of instant-gratification lovers who want quick decisions because research takes time and effort? Pretty sad.

I also am appalled by the talking heads on Fox and CNN who interview guests. They aren't interested in listening to their answers, so interrupting them before they finish a thought is the M.O. of these shows. I'm a Republican, but it galls me to see a lack of grace and politeness that Sean Hannity exhibits. I love his ideas but his attitude is very unappealing. I guess the good old days of gentlemanly disagreement are over.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stalked by 22's, con't.

Some of you have read a previous blog entry of mine (scroll down), and you know how the number 22 and its cousins delight in ambushing Carole and me on a daily basis. Here's another example:

This morning, I was heading south on I-35 in my bus at 6:30. It was dark, I was sleepy, and my mind was wandering. Then something dawned on me about my bus, which is bus #499. If you add those digits together, you get, ahem, 22. I wondered if that were unique on my bus lot. So when I arrived back at the lot, I cruised around looking at every bus number. Not one other bus number totaled 22. And we have well over a hundred buses on our lot. Surprising? Not in the least.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What's Goin' On

Well, it's been a busy week. This new exercise routine that Carole and I are committed to takes at least three evenings a week. I'm real encouraged by the results so far. I'm up to 50 minutes of lap swimming per session with the goal of doing a full hour each time I jump in the pool. Carole is making great progress on the treadmill, easily exceeding a half-hour per session. We've traded quite a bit of free time for the goal of getting in shape and it's a pretty good trade-off.

My first field trip of the new school year was cancelled due to the extreme Ike weather last Saturday. So I had to wait until today...and I took the Highland Park Middle School girls to a cross-country meet in McKinney. I kinda knew what to expect since a couple of other drivers had tipped me off on HP students: they are extremely polite. This is a quality that drivers seldom see, sadly, in the groups of kids we transport. I know it's easy to stereotype a Highland Park kid with all the money and a privileged upbringing...but I was blown away when one of them got on the bus this morning and said, "Thank you for taking the time to drive our bus today." When we arrived in McKinney and the girls were stepping off the bus, nearly every one thanked me...what an amazing show of kindness!

One of the consequences of going to the gym so often is the impact on my yard work. Whereas I was mowing our front yard every fourth evening, now it's once a week. And I'm not doing near the usual amount of weed-eating and other landscaping chores. Oh, well, as long as the neighbors don't hang me in effigy, I guess I'm safe. I'm truly ready for cold weather to come along and completely shut down this boring routine.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Stalked by the number 222 and it's cousins

It all started soon after Carole and I were married. My new wife noticed that invariably when she awoke in the middle of the night, the alarm clock was at 2:22. It happened so frequently that we thought it might be a noise coming from the clock at that time every night, but we tested the theory and found no sound, just silence. Simultaneously, we began to note that "twos" were flooding our lives from all directions. Carole noticed that her birthday, August 10, is the 222nd day of the year. The assault was on.

Since she was a dental hygienist, it was vitally important to be careful around all the radiation from the x-rays she took. To be on the safe side, she wore a clip that measured the amount of the bad stuff to which she was being subjected. The clip was mailed in and a report would be sent to her. One day a report arrived announcing that she was exposed to 22,222 rads of radiation...enough to turn her green, yea even kill her. It turned out to be a terrible mistake, but there were those numbers again.

When someone on Carole's side of the family published a genealogy book of their family tree, she was very interested. She wondered where in the book her name might be mentioned. We should have known...p.222.

One New Year's Eve, we were driving home from a party in our fairly new car. We noticed the odometer approaching 22,222. When that momentous moment occurred, the time was exactly 2:22 AM.

I could go on. Suffice it to say there have been at least 222 incidents involving the twos. They occur on a daily basis. The occurrences don't connote something bad, usually, so when our first son, Brett, chose his number for the Dallas Christian basketball team, he grabbed 22. A year later, second son Blake couldn't have 22 so he picked 21. And they both had superlative years.

As the incidents mount up, we can't help but wonder what is going on. This is far beyond a matter of coincidence. You may be thinking that I've over-exaggerated the matter and that, say, 47 pops up just as much if we'd pay attention. Nay, nay, my friend.

Carole just walked in the room and reminded me of a relative who had a premature baby that weighed in at 2 lbs, 2 oz. And she was born at 2:22 AM. And so the beat goes on.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


"Change" is certainly a buzzword during these politically volatile days. I'm kinda tired of hearing it used to represent so many things. But I have an announcement to make: I am in the process of changing. Actually, "we" are in the process of changing. Guess I better explain.

Carole and I had slipped into an all familiar trap in recent months. With our ages creeping steadily and scarily toward 60, we had settled into a very comfortable routine of heading to the couch/recliner after the evening meal, laptops in hand. And for the next 3-4 hours, she would be immersed in her internet world of dolls and blog friends while I would touch base with every aviation website this side of Kitty Hawk. We didn't grow apart or anything like that. In fact, it was kind of an endorsement of our marriage that we could go hours with limited verbal communication.

But the flaw in the slaw of all this was that as we sat there evening after evening, giant globules of fat were seeping out of the seat cushions and onto our formerly svelte bodies. Like moss slowly growing on trees, flab was creeping into the typical, familiar body locales. And this was alarming. We have always been skinny types...Carole has had a model's body forever and I used to run marathons. But the needle on the scale cares little about your history. And it was time to do something.

So I signed us both up to a YMCA membership. I had been mulling this over for a few weeks, but had been waffling back and forth...on M-W-F, I'd be gung-ho, ready to rip. On Tues-Thursday-Saturdays, I'd cave in to the voices of unreason and try to forget about it. But then I finally committed to the idea and tried to convince Carole of the same. She demurred initially but then came on board. So, long story short, we have gotten started.

I'm swimming mostly (with a bit of time in the weight room); Carole is hitting the treadmill (with a bit of time in the pool). So instead of vegetating during prime time and then hitting the sack with that familiar dullness of mind and body, we arrive at 10 PM with a fresh, invigorating tiredness. It feels so good!

Now the tough part...maintaining. It's easy to have energy during the first part of a race. It's also easy to grow tired of the routine. But part of my reason for exposing our new endeavor is the accountability factor. I don't want the three people who read this blog to confront me in a couple of months, asking about the status of my flab, only to have to confess that we've fallen off the wagon.

I'll keep you posted on how we're doing. Whoopee!!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Full Circle

Tucked away in various closets and also in our attic are hundreds of videotapes, each containing 1-3 basketball games involving our two sons. There was only one game in their careers that I didn't tape, an exciting win where Brett hit a 30-ft. jump shot at the horn to steal a victory for Dallas Christian. That still haunts me. It seemed that in the '90's, we were always at basketball games. Maybe that's why that decade seemed to fly by.

Now I find myself going to soccer games featuring my grandchildren, as my sons have started the process of showing up at any athletic event where their kids are involved. We were in attendance at one of Zach's soccer games in San Antonio in the spring, and yesterday we caught 4 year-old Maddie's first-ever athletic event, a soccer game (of course). I came away from the game happy for Maddie, but also extremely impressed with the league. Lake Point Church in Rockwall organized the league and has done a masterful job. Before the game, I noticed Maddie's coach leading her team in prayer.

Seconds later, for the first time in her life, Maddie participated in the traditional team handshake.

Then it was on to the game. She played well for a 4 year-old, given the fact that her league is for ages 4-6. I think she was the youngest player on the field.

At halftime, all of the soccer games (and there were many) stopped for an announcement from Lake Point Church. The guy urged the spectators to cheer for both sides, not just your team, and to treat coaches and referees with dignity and appreciation. Then he said a prayer, a nice touch. All in all, it was a very satisfying experience even though Maddie didn't score a goal. Her time will come.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Cleaning the clutter from my brain...

1. How 'bout Sarah Palin? If McCain wins in November, it could well be that his risky but sensational v-p choice made the difference.

2. Isn't politics messy? I find it distasteful to the max, all the name-calling and chest-thumping.

3. Just can't get any hurricane to leave its remains over my house. They always get close and tease me unmercifully, but then move off to the northeast.

4. My meteorological background asserts that the first cool front arrives on Sept. 21. That's a Sunday this year and it can't get here soon enough.

5. If I had a smooth, green yard, I'd love to play croquet again.

6. I really admire people who can think and speak on their feet.

7. I have a girl on my bus this year named "Asia Pink".

8. Bill O'Reilly is obnoxious. And so is anyone else who interrupts constantly. Aaarrrgghhhh!