Just So Proud To Be Here

Minie_pearl_hat To our visitors from the national media,

Sorry about the mess, we just haven’t had time to tidy up yet. 

Unfortunately, while your eyes were somewhat understandably turned elsewhere, we had a bit of a “situation” here in Nashville.  Large swaths of our city and surrounding areas were flooded after unprecedented rainfall.  People were trapped in their homes, or in need of rescue, had their homes damaged or destroyed altogether.  There was much loss of life, health, and property.  Schools, businesses, even beloved landmarks were affected.

At one time, when water was impossibly flowing into the first floor of my own house, and the rain just would not stop falling, and sirens were going past my house on the way to Bellevue almost every 30 seconds, knowing I had friends who were either being evacuated or were trapped,  it almost became too much.

And it’s not over yet.

As a child, I played in many of the creeks and rivers which suddenly raged and caused so much damage.  I have lived and worked and played and worshipped and shopped and cheered in all of the places your cameras have shown underwater.  It is heartbreaking.

I have many friends and coworkers who have lost everything.  But even if I didn’t personally know so many victims of this disaster, its impact would still be enormous.  Bordeaux to Bellevue, Antioch to Bell’s Bend, Hermitage to Brentwood, Franklin to Ashland City to Murfreesboro – these are not just places where strangers live.  This is home.

These are not strangers, they are Family.

We will take care of our family.  Long after your cameras are gone, we will not rest until our neighbors are healthy and whole.  Come back in a few months or beyond, you’ll see.

Yes, in less trying times, we fuss and we fight and roll our eyes at each other.  But our disagreements end at the water’s edge, as it were.  Our hipsters and bumpkins alike have a fierce attachment to this place. And both can lay claim to its rich tradition and history.  We are like Minnie Pearl – country and bodacious and silly, sometimes embarrassingly so.  And we are also like her creator, Sarah Cannon – patrician, proper, educated,well mannered – yet always “in on the joke”.

Most of us overflowed with ecstasy and pride when the Music City Miracle happened (and we were ALL there, don’t you know?), and we wept and mourned last 4th of July when Steve McNair was killed.  I dare you – go to any part of Nashville, rich, poor or in between – and ask about these events, and you will find the reaction is exactly the same, be it in north Nashville or Brentwood.  Somehow, the Titans transcend all of the barriers others might try to put between us.  That may seem weird to you, but it makes perfect sense to us.

Before you take your cameras and move on to your Next Big Thing, take a few minutes to talk to the people who live here.  There is a spirit to this place – I’ve lived here all of my 45 years and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it.  You can see it in the celebrities and sports stars who move to town, many times supposedly on a temporary basis until they can move on to bigger and better things on the coasts.  Yet, they find themselves lingering here.  And they stay.  “It’s a good place to raise a family”, they might say, but there’s something more.  Perhaps even they cannot put into words the spirit of this place.

It’s the spirit that compels hundreds to gather at a moment’s notice to sandbag one of the few remaining riverside communities not yet flooded, saving it in the process.

It’s the spirit that has people in Bordeaux taking a flash collection for people in Bellevue, and vice-versa.

It’s the spirit that asks “what can I do?”, then does whatever is needed without hesitation.

It’s the spirit that causes emergency workers to carry on beyond the point of exhaustion.

It’s the spirit that causes our usually silly local media to become an extremely valuable information lifeline for hours upon hours straight.

It’s funny, normally we natives express our coolness by showing our ambivalence to the Grand Ole Opry.  I’ll be honest – I was born here, and I’ve never been to an Opry performance.  Yet, sometimes when I travel and I’m missing home on weekends, I tune into WSM and listen.  It is at these times I realize how much I love the city of my birth.  Hearing that the Opry House was flooded affected me in ways I cannot explain.

My family will find somewhere and someone to help this week.  Then, uncharacteristically, this weekend I will listen to the Opry, if it airs.  I need to hear it.  It will serve as both a salve and a reassurance, as an expression of grief and of hope. 

Through the Opry, that Mother of Churches, we will thank God for his provision, mourn those who were lost, and dedicate ourselves to finishing the job of helping our neighbors.  Mostly, we will declare to the world that we are still here, and it’s going to take more than a little water to stop us from singing.

Like Minnie Pearl, I’m just so proud to be here.

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You Won’t Find It

WARNING: BRUTAL FRANKNESS AHEAD.

The worst, most heartbreaking thing to come out of the emerging scandal surrounding state senator Paul Stanley, is the revelation that many if not most male legislators act like the session is one big frat party with the female interns.  From an intern’s email to Post Politics:

What I can also tell you is that almost every man up there feels entitled to look, touch, and flirt with any female in that place, regardless of whether she is an intern, lobbyist, guest, etc.

I was shocked when I heard about this, but not really. The ego that exists in most men up there is enough to make me sick. There are people that you respect and admire who wouldn’t think twice about giving you a good up and down look in the elevator.

I had been given looks, creepy smiles, and strong drinks made by those very legislators who are probably laughing right now at all of this, those hypocrites. most of them married, too.

I’d like to talk to the men of of the state’s Capitol Hill, especially the ones who hang their hats as social conservatives. 

This is wrong.  It has to stop, now.

No, I’m not going to wag my finger at you about sin, the commitment of marriage, and prayer.   I could, and probably should, but I’ll leave that to others.  You are political animals, though, so let’s talk about your behavior politically, shall we?

Certainly you know that with every revelation of bad behavior, small minded people with an agenda proclaim very loudly that our worldview is invalid, or at the very least that we do not have any right to pursue any legislation that advances that worldview (not recognizing that they do the very same thing themselves with different values).  Since nobody likes a lech,  and the world does not share our view of human frailty and forgiveness, you lose any high ground you might have had.

But, let’s go a little deeper, OK?

If you are a predatory person, if you glare and grope and improperly propose and otherwise act like a jackass toward women in your office, just stop reading now.  I have nothing to say to you, and I hope you are exposed and lose your position as soon as possible.

But, for the rest of you, whole truly struggle with temptation and unfortunately sometimes give in to it, I’d like to talk about that temptation.

First off, know that simply having the temptation is not a sin.  It isn’t a personal failing.  Christ was tempted, after all.  Too many Christian men think that, because we are Christians, when a temptation comes along we should be able to extend our hands Gandalf-like, say some incantation like “the power of Christ compels you!”, and the temptation will go away.  When it doesn’t, they view it as a personal failure, and give in.

In my experience, this is not how things work.  I can only tell you my experience.  I have been married for 22 years, and I have managed to not only stay faithful to my lovely wife, am blessed to have a thriving, soul-sustaining marriage.

Yet, I am no eunuch.  I understand temptation.  I understand the psychological confusion a man feels when a beautiful young woman is friendly with him.  And I understand the darker temptation, where thoughts unbidden come, where availabilities are considered, where the thoughts almost consume you.

But God did not give me a magic wand to wave while chanting “Away, evil temptress!” (which isn’t really fair anyway to someone who’s just being friendly, anyway).  No, I was given a more powerful gift: the ability to see things as they are.

First, this kind of temptation is never really about sex, it’s about ego.  It is so incredibly gratifying, especially as a man gets older, to think “this beautiful young woman is interested in ME!  She finds ME attractive!”  Trust me, this allure is almost impossible to resist for a man.  Our main need, no matter what anyone else says, is to be considered Good Enough.  Worthy.

When this happens to you, do me a favor.  Go home, strip down naked, and look in the mirror.  What, are you in your late 30’s?  Your forties?  Fifties or even later?  Look at yourself, then do it again.  It should become clear, even if a young, beautiful woman really is flirting with you, that it’s not YOU she’s attracted to.

Oh, she might be attracted to your power.  Or maybe your charisma, or your money, or what she thinks you can do for her. 

But, there is no way, outside your current position, this young girl could be chomping at the bit to have YOU. 

Just look at yourself.

Do you think she stays up at night, fantasizing about your bald spot?  Although she’s surrounded by hard-bodied young men at school, do you really think ear hair is what turns her on?  That she can really, really relate to your stories of the Frampton concert in 1977?  That she prefers a flabby belly and disappearing butt?  Do you really believe that she thinks it’s cute the way your breath whistles when you take out your partials?  Really?

No, if a young woman is flirting with you, or just being very friendly, you can be rest assured that it isn’t because she’s just got to have YOU.

You ain’t all that.  Maybe at one time you were, but that ship sailed long ago.  And that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

If you give in to a sexual temptation, you will not find the validation you are looking for.  It’s hard to admit, but it’s all an illusion.  You may be a great guy, but you won’t find what you are looking for, deep down, by pursuing a woman young enough to be your daughter.

Your emptiness will only grow more profound, and that’s after you’ve destroyed everything you hold dear.

You will not find the validation you are looking for.  If you can strip things down to the harsh realities, you can overcome temptations that are sure to come along, some real, some just a psychological misunderstanding.

And the amazing thing?  God has given you an incredible gift.  Your wife, unlike some 20-something who doesn’t really know you, actually does want YOU.  She has been given eyes to see you as you are and still want you, even love you.  It is there you will find some of the validation you are looking for.  And only God can give you the rest.

So, if you have been participating in this circus, and you aren’t evil and lecherous (just tempted), I’m begging you, stop this, now.  The young women in your midst are not there to hook up with you.  NOR DO THEY WANT TO.

See things as they truly are.  Be a real man.

On The Warpath

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m very touchy about my reputation.  I guard my good name like a buried treasure, because in the end, it is far more valuable to me than money.

If one is traveling through life without a college education, in the circles I run, you’d better have a great reputation.

Of all of the pieces that make up my reputation, one of the most valuable to me is my credit rating.  I’ve spent a lifetime building it up. 

How good is it?  25+ years of on-time payments, without a blemish, make lenders and potential employers very excited when they see me approaching.

Like everyone else, I’m cutting back financially, and employing ways to ensure that every single bill is paid well ahead of time.  One of the things I did last month to accomodate this was signing up for my electric company’s automated bill paying system.

Well, today was my first payment.  It went through like a charm.

Twice.

Causing my account to have to draw on overdraft protection.

I’m so mad, I can’t even call them.  I’m leaving that for Lintilla.  All it would take is getting some snotty CS representative, trying to claim it was MY fault (I know it wasn”t by looking at the confirmation numbers on the payments), and I’m liable to say something that would truly damage my reputation.

Peh.

Quick Work Update

Because I know many of you are concerned, I’ll give a quick update.  I still am employed, for which I am thankful, yet I feel no joy.  It has been an absolute bloodbath today.  So many people – it’s almost incomprehensible to me.

Worst of all to me, I lost my “office wife”.  We have worked side by side for 7 years.  I hurt so badly for her (and, to be honest, myself), I can barely speak of it.

We have also lost many incredibly talented people, many of whom I call friends.

Please pray for all of them.

D-Day

Everyone in my department has been given notice that they need to physically be in the office tomorrow.

They have to tell people these things in person, you see.

The only good thing about it, I guess, is that the walking on eggshells can now end.  Why worry?  The decisions have been made.  There’s nothing I can do about it.  If I am unemployed tomorrow, so be it.  I just worry about some dear friends,and co-workers with young children and mortgages.  I can always take the kids out of private school, sell a car, drop the cell phones. For some of my co-workers, baby formula is not optional, however.

I have no doubt you’ll be hearing something about it on the local news in the next couple of days.

Tonight is going to be a whole-pill Ambien night.  Stay tuned.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:25-27

Feel Good Friday: Everlasting Love

This is one of the catchiest songs ever recorded, and my favorite from Howard Jones:

 

I need a feel good Friday.  Things are rough all around.  Maybe you could throw up a generic prayer for “Slarti and all the people who work with him”.  A lot of people are going to have a very stressful holiday season.  I could very well be one of them.  I will say no more for now.

On a happier note: X-Alt is playing “A New Thing” in Ashland City tomorrow night.  It formerly was the TBG coffeehouse, but it has undergone a complete transformation.  We have a LOT of new material, so if you’ve seen us before, this is mostly going to be a new show.  We go on at 7.

Y’all come on out and see us!

Feeling The Years

All ye who dare enter – run away now!  This post will not be pretty.

I don’t like being grumpy.  It’s not the default “me”, but I’ve been just as grumpy as can be the last few weeks.  We have hard FAR worse periods of time in our lives, where life-altering events have tossed us to and fro, and in the long run I have NOTHING to complain about right now, but the world just annoys me lately.  I’ve become “get off my lawn” guy.

Mostly, I think I’m just sulking like a four year old because it looks like I’m not going to have my way.

I had been all bubbly with excitement, planning my 2009 Disney gathering with my parents and brothers and their families.  Things at work were going better than I ever dreamed, with a job opportunity that would give me more money and recognition.  The kids had the summer of their lives, and school would be even better.

Well, crap.

Between the braces and dental work, the back-to-school expenses that get worse every year, and the car repairs that of course aren’t covered by warranty and now sit at $1200 and rising – well, let’s just say I’m a firm believer that God is trying to tell me something about the trip I was planning.  I can still do it, but unless something changes, it’ll probably involve debt, and that’s hard to justify in these times.

And the job?  I got through two interviews, one with the AVP over the department.  I’m in, right?  Well, those interviews were in late June.  I haven’t heard a thing.  The org charts say they haven’t filled the positions, but not hearing anything in all this time makes me think it isn’t the most pressing thing in the world to them.

This hurts, because I had mentally put myself in the job after the second interview.  I have lived a charmed life, and I’ve NEVER interviewed for a job I didn’t get.  And this job is with the “official” department for what I do.  It would be an affirmation that I really do belong as a programmer.  Plus, the project I’d be working on is very high profile, which is the kind of thing I love.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a huge ego, and I’m not pretty enough to put a 4-inch banner featuring myself on my blog. 

🙂

So, I get my ego-stroked through work.

This one hurts, probably moreso because it’s just sitting out there in limbo.

And the thing that bothers me the most: I’m fat again.

I want to be very, very careful with this.  I don’t want to invalidate anyone else’s view of weight and self, but I see others saying things about weight that just don’t apply to me.

I’ve had my doctor speak with me about it, and of course, I’ve noticed my pants sizes getting bigger and bigger.  But it didn’t emotionally hit me until I went to pick Susie up to go to the studio the other day.  I had to clean out the back seat, and what I saw appalled me.

Behind the passenger seat was a pile of fast food bags and containers that looked like it had accumulated for a family of four over the period of a year.  But I had put those there alone, over the course of less than a month.  And each bag represented meals that were probably twice the size a normal person would eat.

No, I have not gotten the way I am through the simple manifestation of my own biology.  I know my heart, and looking at that pile of bags made me realize something I didn’t want to admit.

I have been sinfully gluttonous.  I have been sinfully slothful.

I have turned to food to fill some kind of emotional need (no doubt, the “God-shaped hole” in my being).  I eat to ease stress.  I eat to celebrate.  I eat to drown my sorrows.  I seem to eat for every reason imaginable but sustenance.

And, my whole life, when things get this bad, I’ve been able to flip the switch and start eating right, and hop on the treadmill and lose the weight in a few months.  I tried to do that this week.  I walked a very reasonable two miles (I usually do three, running, when I’m in shape).  The next day, my knee hurt so bad I could barely walk.  It still hurts.  Of course, to console my self for my depression about not being able to exercise properly like I’ve always done…

I had a big meal.

I am really feeling the years.  Getting out of this quandary is going to perhaps be the one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  It isn’t easy anymore.

Depressed yet?  Hang on, I’m not done. 🙂

My dog burned a big stripe in the back of my leg the other day with her leash.  But, that was just physically painful.  There are worse things.

Last night was the culmination of several months of work Lintilla and I have done for a fundraiser for the children’s ministries at church.  We have a congregation of hundreds, and the church calendar was cleared so that our fundraiser (we put on our own game of Jeopardy) was the only thing going on.

After Wednesday dinner, everyone but 5 or six people went home.  This event was heavily advertised.  I’m trying not to make it all about me (although the personal feelings of rejection are tough, too), but I’m most upset because our children’s ministry is already low on the church “importance” food chain, and really has no funds to do the things it needs to do to grow.  Last night, I held a fundraiser that didn’t raise ANY funds, so I feel awful for our children’s minister, who was counting on the raised money for important work.

So, yeah, I’m kind of pissy right now.

But I don’t want to end on a sour note – even in a bitch post, it just seems wrong.  So, I’ll leave you with this.  The band has been heading to the studio at least once a week, and I have to tell you, we’ve matured musically.  I say that because we’ve resisted the temptation to add layer upon layer, track over track.  We’ve kept each song to its simplest element, and what we’ve got so far sounds wonderful.

If it weren’t for my family, my wonderful friends in and out of the band, I don’t know what I’d do.

Things will get better, starting now.