Glasses and Worldview

When I was two years old my mom noticed that my left eye was turning in towards my nose. Thankfully she panicked and took me to an eye specialist. I cannot remember not wearing glasses, but I do remember my first eye doctor visit with Dr. McKinnon.

Dr. McKinnon had an Old South accent.

“Which lens is clearuh?”

“The educated southerner has no use for the letter ‘r’ ,except at the beginning of a word.”

Mark Twain

It turns out that I was farsighted. I always get confused when people start trying to tell me the difference between farsighted and nearsighted. They say things like, “If you’re farsighted you can see far away without your glasses.” Or something like that. I probably got it wrong because I can’t see anything without my glasses. The quickest way to tell if someone is farsighted or nearsighted is to look through their lenses. If their eyes or face look smaller through their lenses they are nearsighted, if their eyes are bigger through their lenses they are farsighted.

I say I can’t see anything without my glasses, but that is only partly true. If the conditions are right I can focus my eyes much like you would focus a manual camera lens. But it’s getting harder to do that.

Not only was I farsighted, I had a lazy eye. Dr. McKinnon had me wear a patch over my good eye to strengthen my weak eye.

The eye patch

Dr. McKinnon told me, “Zane, just tell ’em you have a rabonic eye and if you take the patch off you’ll see right through ’em.”

I don’t know if you’ve ever worn a patch on one eye all day, but it is an interesting feeling. It is even stranger when you take the patch off later in the day and one eye is dilated and the other is accustomed to the light. But the patch worked and my eye no longer crosses.

When I was about fifteen I noticed that it was getting harder to focus my eyes and Dr. McKinnon prescribed my first pair of progressive (lineless trifocals) lenses. Aside from falling down the stairs at the high school entrance the first day I wore them, they turned out to be fantastic.

But progressive lenses are expensive, and when I moved out on my own I realized that I could save a few hundred dollars by just getting single vision lenses. And I started wearing contacts. Which was great because I was able to wear sunglasses. Dr. McKinnon never mentioned contacts because he had been wrestling me down for fifteen years trying to give me eyedrops.

If I am honest with myself, I have never really seen very clearly with contacts. So for the last fifteen years I’ve been squinting through life just so I could wear sunglasses. I think that not seeing has influenced my thinking. For instance, because I can’t see detail on people’s faces in a large room, I think that no one else can see me either. Perhaps this makes me a little less self conscious in front of a large crowd.

A couple of weeks ago I went back to the eye doctor and requested the progressive lenses again. It has been a long time since I have had a prescription this correct, and I am seeing details that I forgot were possible.

Anyway, I wrote all of that about glasses to talk about this. There are some things that you can only see with spiritual eyes.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:14‬ ‭KJV‬‬

I heard a lot about worldview when I first went to college years ago. Worldview is particular philosophy of life, or a conception of the world. Worldview is shaped by a lot of things from how we are raised to our experiences. It is very difficult to divorce a worldview and adopt another. It takes a miracle.

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
‭‭John‬ ‭3:1-3‬ ‭KJV‬‬

The Bible is full of themes of spiritual blindness and I could rattle a bunch of them off and hope that you could catch some of it. But “The kingdom of heaven cometh not by observation.”

You have to experience it before you understand. Which may seem against your nature.

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭KJV

Give it a taste, then you’ll see.

VED DU HVAD OCH GOD GLAD

When I was a kid we had an old rusty Ashley wood stove in the living room. It was huge. Dad would load it with wood he had split with a maul in the backyard. Eventually they moved the old wood stove out of the house because I think it rusted through. And probably so us babies wouldn’t burn our hands off. Or maybe it was because the the old house was built out of heart pine a hundred years ago. In essence, the foundation and frame of the house were kindling wood. Dad told us more than once that if the house ever catches on fire, get out immediately because it was going up quick.

So with the big wood stove gone, we were left with a large sealed fireplace with a hole in the center where the stove pipe went, but mom didn’t want to get rid of the mantle. So for years she hung a piece of decorative fabric over the stove pipe hole, and for as long I can remember she had a curious little saying painted under the mantlepiece:

VED DU HVAD VER OCH GOD GLAD

She repainted it every time the living room got painted. I’ve lost count of how many times. She was forever redecorating. For a while it was green. Then later gold. But it was always there.

She told us that it was Danish and meant I tell you what be good and be happy.

I think the translation is closer to You know what be good and happy. Of course I may be remembering it wrong and she may have spelled it wrong, but the thought is clear enough. It was a great conversation piece, but it was also the idea that set the atmosphere for our home.

Bad moods were not encouraged in our home. You weren’t allowed to keep one very long before Mom or Dad would deal with it. My parents believed that no one had an excuse to not be happy, at least for a reasonable season. To many people, especially those to whom life has dealt some pretty miserable cards, this may be a hard doctrine to accept.

Nevertheless, I watched broken people come and sit in that living room and visit. They’d come in downcast and leave, many times well past midnight laughing.

I believe that there is a time to be angry, and a time to mourn. We can write about that another day. But right now we’re talking about being happy.

“…for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

Philippians 4:11

I believe that happiness-or contentment- is a learned characteristic. Like any skill that is learned, being content takes practice. If you want to be good at anything you have to practice. Some people never get good at anything because they don’t practice anything. I won’t lie to you and say that practice is always easy either.

“People who are miserable over nothing will probably be miserable with everything.”

Now that I have a household, although we don’t have a folk saying in a foreign language painted above the fireplace telling you to suck it up and smile, we do strive for to create the same atmosphere. I have three children, and I didn’t have to teach a single one of them how to whine and pout. They knew how to do that from that first day. A large part of my duty as a parent is teaching my kids how to act. Or “How to don’t”, as Uncle Remus admonished. Learning how to act when things aren’t going your way is pretty important life skill. If you’ve lived long enough you will agree that much of life is dealing with things that don’t go our way.

It is a painful fact that life can be straight cruel. If you allow it, life can suck all of the joy out of, well, life. But if you practice you can learn to be content no matter what. So the next time you’re just about worn out from dealing with life and you need some inspiration, I’ll tell you what, be good and be happy.

2020 Booklist

According to my Reading Specialist Mother-in-law, “The same area of your brain is used whether you are reading or listening.”

I listen to a lot of audio books during my daily commute and while performing menial tasks. Although I worked from home three out of five days for much of the year, according to Audible I still managed to listen to audio books for 23 days 5 hours and 5 smokin’ minutes. Now I know there is a lot of debate over whether listening to a book is the same as reading a book. This is a silly argument. According to my Reading Specialist Mother-in-law, “The same area of your brain is used whether you are reading or listening.” There is nothing like sitting in a comfortable chair in a quiet room and reading a real hard back book with typeset printing. Alas, I spend ten hours a week on the road and I try to make the most of that time with audiobooks.

Rather than give you the huge list of books I finished this year-some of which were duds-I’ve tried to narrow it down to the five titles that resonated most with me.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill Defender of the Realm by William Manchester and Paul Reid

This was the first audiobook that I tackled back in January. This 53 hour behemoth covers the life of Winston Churchill from 1940-1965. Which is to say that it covers world history from that time period. It inspired me to listen to several of Churchill’s speeches and read a host of other books about World War II. If I could only recommend one of those books it would be The Last Battle by Cornelius Ryan.

While the book obviously focuses on Churchill, it goes into great detail about his relationships with other world leaders like Stalin and Roosevelt. I found it interesting how Roosevelt, ever the politician, slowly and steadily dismantled the British Empire.

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

I love Charles Dickens. His books are fun to read, but there is something marvelously appealing to me about listening to a great narrator read in all the Dickensian accents. I like to listen to Dickens whenever I finish a truly heavy work of non-fiction like Night by Ellie Wessel.

Why Little Dorrit made the list is not because of the great storyline-it’s good, but it’s not Dickens at his best to me. This book made the list solely because of his invention of The Office of Circumlocution. Anyone who has ever been frustrated with inefficient government bureaucracy will appreciate Dicken’s satire. It is worth thumbing through if only to read those passages.

Conquistadors by Michael Wood

Of the five books I completed this year in this area of study, this title is an excellent sampler. I found this subject so interesting that I’ve started studying Spanish again after I realized that all the hard words were Nahuatl anyway. This book focuses on Hernan Cortes, Francisco Pizzaro, Francisco de Orellana, and Cabeza de Vaca. It also spurred my curiosity to learn more about people like Father Sahagun, and Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala, and events like the Valladolid debate between las Casas and Sepulvida.

It is amazing how these conquistadors were all more than a little bit rogue. Hernan Cortes was actually fleeing from the governor of Cuba when he began what became the conquest of Mexico. Orellana led a rebellion from a failing expedition and became the first European to sail the Amazon River- from West to East no less.

Perhaps most interesting though is the story of Cabeza de Vaca, who washed up on an island off the coast of Texas after the ship returning from an aborted expedition into Florida sank in a storm. The natives that rescued him insisted that he could heal people. He attempted to refuse, but then eventually began to pray for people when he realized that they would not take no for an answer. For the next few years he walked to through Texas and Mexico healing people on his way back to Spanish civilization. There were even reports of the dead being raised.

This book had one statement that stood out to me. I am paraphrasing, ‘The native peoples were unfamiliar with the concept of separation between the natural and spiritual worlds. They believed that the spiritual world could break in on the natural world at any moment.”

As a Christian, I strongly share this feeling.

The Sultans by Noel Barber

This book helped fill a large gap in my knowledge about the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Turks often receive praise for being efficient administrators of such a vast empire, but we must remember that they did not establish their empire. They overtook a fully functional empire from the Byzantines, who called themselves Romans, who received it from the Greeks, who won it from the Persians, who took it from the Babylonians. In essence the Ottoman Empire-and a lot of the rest of the world-is the scrappy leftovers of the most glorious empire in history: Babylon. (See Daniel chapter two)

The book follows the Sultans from Sulieman the Magnificent, to the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). The Sultans were a colorful lot as far as characters go. Their biographical sketches read like fantastic story book material, albeit not for children. For all their piety many of these Sultan’s exemplified the basest elements of human nature. I suppose a few could be called supervillains. It is a fortunate thing for western culture that the Ottoman empire slowly self-destructed by fratricide.

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

My brother recommended this book to me. Aside from the Bible, this is the most important book that I have read this year. Dr. Frankl was already an established psychiatrist prior to World War II. He survived a number of concentration camps during the war, although many of his family members did not.

In this book he argues that as long as man has meaning-something to live for-he can endure the worst circumstances. He uses his harrowing experience in the camps to support this idea. Without meaning, man loses the will to live and will die. Dr. Frankl states that every person’s meaning is different, and it is up to the individual to find that meaning.

I believe that there is an ultimate meaning that supersedes the elusive personal meaning that Dr. Frankl is describing.

That ultimate meaning can only be found in serving Jesus Christ.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭2:8-12‬ ‭KJV‬‬

Caroling and Such

Merry Christmas

We used to go Christmas Caroling when I was a kid. A group of us from the church would pile into a trailer filled with hay, wrap up in blankets and drive all over the town surprising elderly people with a few Christmas Songs. It was a lot of fun.

Pop and Marion used to have a couple of Percheron horses, Hawk and Holly. Aside from the occasional parade, I think their sole purpose was to pull Santa Claus in a wagon around Vandiver and Sterrett. Santa Claus would hand out candy to children. If you still believe in Santa Claus I’d like to warn you to skip the next sentence. The last year they did this I’m pretty sure my brother had to be Santa Claus, and he was pretty sulky about it too.

I still like to sing Christmas Carols, without or without a hayride, or hot chocolate to burn your tongue. Every song is better when someone sings it with you. I’m fortunate to have a little songbird for a daughter. This year we sang together at the Christmas Concert at our church, Cornerstone Revival Center. I know my parents would’ve been proud. They’d have loved to be there holding Hollynn while they listening to Miriam lay that vibrato on thick.

I wish I could pull up to your house in a horse drawn wagon and sing you some Christmas Carols, but this is the best I could manage this year. Oh Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas from my family to yours.

Pecans

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be.

I have two pecan trees in my yard. Hurricane Zeta knocked all of the pecans out at one time. They’re good pecans too. We picked up half a five gallon bucket just off the porch. I’ve tried to inspire the children to pick up pecans, but I don’t think they’ve caught the vision yet.

I grew up in the remnants of a pecan orchard. At one time there were probably thirty or forty trees behind our house and the next three neighbor’s houses. By the time I was a kid there were only about seven left. Over the years some of those pecan trees were blown down in different storms. We’d play on a fallen tree for days until someone came over with a chainsaw and hauled it away. Dad used a lot of that wood to grill and barbecue.

Very often Dad required us to pick up a five gallon bucket of pecans before we could go gallivanting around town with Jared and Creed. I can’t lie and say that picking up pecans is fun, or has ever been fun. But we did it. We would sell them to the local grocery store Smith’s, where I’m sure some grandmother would buy them, shell them, and make with them a delicious pecan pie. Nowadays we would have marketed them as handpicked, and it would’ve been true since we threw the pecans with wormholes into the kudzu patch.

Pecan pie may be what every pecan aspires to be. I used to think that it was the only pleasant way to eat a pecan. Fresh pecans cracked in your hands- take two pecans in one hand and squeeze with all your might until one of them cracks-have always had a slightly bitter taste to me. I still do it out of nostalgia though, and to impress my kids, but pecans are ingredients, not stand alone snacks.

Pecans need some love, or sugar as we say in the South, to really come alive. Candied pecans, praline pecans, cinnamon and sugar pecans-they all taste great even though I’d be hard pressed to tell you how to make them.

For all their bitterness, I still love pecans. It makes me think about being a kid. I also think pecans are pretty with their dark streaked shells and their orange to yellow meat inside. I like the smell of pecans, and the oily feel of the fresh meat.

I think I finally understand why Dad wanted us to pick the pecans up. The harvest was just laying on the ground, all we had to do was pick it up. As an adult, waste bothers me. So I’ve been picking up pecans when I get a chance. When I get an afternoon where I don’t have a deadline approaching I’m going to figure out how to make something sweet out of those bitter pecans.

The Google Reviews I Haven’t Left

Here are a few bad reviews that I didn’t leave, but wanted to.

I only leave five star Google reviews. If a restaurant or business isn’t worth a five star review they certainly aren’t worth my time to give them a lower rating. While some people might “Cause a scene” as my Dad would say, I try to avoid confrontation. If service or the experience is bad, I just won’t go back. Which is part of the reason why I only really like to go eat at about three places, Hamburger Heaven, Taquiera Las Cebollitas, and you guessed it, Chick Fil A.

Hamburger Heaven, my favorite restaurant.

But sometimes I get worked up enough to want to say something. Here are a few bad reviews that I didn’t leave, but wanted to.

Three Star Grocery Store

At best this place is a compromise. People don’t shop here because this is a great grocery store, but rather to avoid going to town. Unless you are getting a rotisserie chicken-which are pretty good- or it is an absolute emergency I would avoid trying to shop here. They also picked the worst possible music to play too loud, which always puts me in a foul mood. How am I supposed to find the pectin while some grown man is whining and mumbling-I’ll not call it singing-about his feelings?

Two Star Home Improvement

The only thing this place has going for it is that there is no other competition in town. Which is a shame, because our town would benefit from having options. In theory having competition would make the current store sure up their customer service. More than likely though all these workers would just jump ship to the new store because they look pretty miserable now.

Two Star Home Cooking Restaurant

The pandemic has not been kind to this restaurant. The problem with chain restaurants is many decisions that should be made locally are made in some corporate office a thousand miles away, or in this case 167 miles away. The last time I ate here I’m glad we had a gift card, because I would have been mad if I would have had to pay for rock hard mashed potatoes.

Four Star Italian Restaurant

I really wanted to leave a five star review because my food was excellent. But there is more to a restaurant than good food, and unfortunately the service fell short. The teenage waiter was friendly enough, but frankly he forgot about us and we waited a long time for our check. Which made me wonder why we waited a long time to be seated.

Perhaps I’m turning into a cranky old man who fusses about paying first class money for second class service. Kind of like my dad. As a kid I remember thinking he was making a big deal about something trivial, but now I begin to understand his frustration.

We perpetuate the decline of quality when we continue to accept lesser quality at the same price. If I have a bad service experience at a restaurant but still go back, I’m likely to have another bad service experience the next time and the restaurant will think that I’m ok with it. Or I could just start leaving bad reviews.

Tater-Tot Poisoning

Sarah fried tater-tots the night before a doctor’s appointment the other day. They were so good that she decided to fry some more right before the appointment. I did not know this, or rather, I do not like to retain this in my knowledge, but fried potatoes and more specifically salt (which every self-respecting person knows must go on fried potatoes) can elevate your blood pressure. Which kind of unnerves doctor’s.

“I’m not telling you this to scare you, and don’t rush down there, but because your blood pressure is elevated (along with some other factors) you probably need to go to the hospital to be monitored. It could be nothing, but you could be having a baby tonight.” This is what the doctor told her.

So we pawned the kids off on my sister and headed to Birmingham. We stopped at Hamburger Heaven in Gardendale in case it was the big one. The hospital has a tendency to starve you half to death when you are in labor. We went ahead and got burgers and fries because we wanted to make sure her blood pressure would still be elevated so the hospital trip wouldn’t be in vain.

After about an hour or so hanging out in the hospital room, they told us we could go home. Which was a relief, because I had forgotten my eye drops and my contact lenses have a 100% chance of drying out if I plan on staying up all night reminding Sarah to breathe. It was a good practice run anyway.

Last week Sarah went to two appointments and even without tater-tot poisoning, her blood pressure was still high. Anyone trying to raise two children probably needs to check their blood pressure. So the doctor wants Sarah to be induced.

So I’ve written all of this to let you know that we are having a baby this week. Our other children weren’t this predictable. We let them decide when they wanted to come-Sunday night after we’d been at church all day and Christmas morning respectively. Unless it happens before, we should have a baby this Thursday, October 1st, 2020. I can’t wait to meet this little tater-tot.

You Are My Brother

What constitutes a brother? The same hair style? The same color eyes? The same likes and dislikes?

by Perry Wells

I grew up in a small country home. I would like to emphasize the word small. It was four rooms and that was not four bedrooms by today’s standard. I had a brother who was a year younger than me. My other brother is fourteen years younger than me. My mom gave him to me for my fourteenth birthday and I have been bearing children since then.

I have had a brother for as long as I can remember. I did not choose my brother, he just came along.

What constitutes a brother? The same hair style? The same color eyes? The same likes and dislikes? No. A brother has the same father and mother. Everyday my dad worked and came home in time for the evening meal. He had a problem in that he thought he owned our little house and the inhabitants who resided in it. He insisted that we all be at the supper table when he came home. This did not mean in close proximity to the table, but seated at the table.

After supper we had to give him an account of the activities of the day, which mostly consisted of school and chores. Farming was an all day job and performing chores could last into half of the night.

Our mother won every fight my brother and I had. She would settle all of the differences we had before my dad came home. It was important to her. She knew he was coming home and everything needed to be taken care of before he arrived. You can believe me when I say we did not want to bother dad with the differences we had encountered!

Now that I am grown and on my own and paster a wonderful church with wonderful people, I have a new set of brothers and sisters. We all have the same Father, who is Jesus Christ. We have the same Mother, which is the Church. And we have all be baptized into One Body, which means we all share the same last name. We need to settle our differences with our Mother as the mediator before our Father comes home. By the way, our Father is due any minute!

You are my brother. Is everything right between us? If I have wronged you, I am sorry. If you have done wronged against me, I forgive you.

We are all brothers, I love you, keep up the good work!

Buffets

If Shoney’s was a country backroad, The Golden Corral was a five lane highspeed freeway.

Shoney’s was probably my introduction to buffet restaurants. It was the same idea as the family Barbecues of my childhood; you could eat all you wanted. Instead of barbecue and all the orthodox fixings that go with it (potato salad, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, deviled eggs, etc.) Shoney’s had a little bit of everything. I mainly got fried shrimp. The first few times I ate shrimp I got sick with clockwork accuracy. It was a shellfish or iodine allergy. We were at Shoney’s once with a bunch of people from church when Bro. Oliver Murray prayed for me before we commenced to eating. I haven’t been sick from shrimp or any other shellfish since that night. God knows I’ve had plenty of chances because I still love shrimp.

Shoney’s had a Salad Bar. My siblings and I would make a salad with croutons as a base. Then we’d pile on diced ham, and bacon bits, smother it with ranch dressing and eat it with those club crackers that come in packs of two. Eventually we started adding lettuce to the base, but it took a long time. I still credit the salad bar as my introduction to green leafy vegetables. To this day I am a sucker for a salad bar, but now I prefer blue cheese dressing.

I remember distinctly the first time Mom and Dad took us to The Golden Corral. It made the Shoney’s buffet look like a snack bar. If Shoney’s was a country backroad, The Golden Corral was a five lane highspeed freeway. The very entrance put you in mind of standing in line to ride a roller coaster at Six Flags. There was even one of those people counters that you have to walk through to enter the dining area. I imagine it was hooked up to a bell in the kitchen that alerted the kitchen commander. DING DING DING DING DING “Family of five just came in! Drop some more fried chicken and throw some more rolls in the oven.”

Ahhh! The rolls. Quincy’s had the best rolls. The waiter brought them out to your table hot and with a buttery sheen on them. I could eat two of them right now. I think the rolls were a tactic to get you to eat less food from the buffet. It never worked with me. There aren’t many things that I’m good at, but I am confident in my ability to eat. I was made for buffets. “Clean your plate.” This is how I was raised. My parents only had to tell me a few times because the idea caught on very early. They were training me to become a heavy weight buffet champion. We even had a piece of furniture in the kitchen called a buffet.

Don’t misunderstand me, I like all the buffets. But if I could only choose one it’s probably going to be a Chinese Buffet. Our family used to go to Happy China in Childersburg after church. It was in an old KFC. My Dad would get that Hot and Sour soup that looks like they dumped all the buffet leftovers into the dirty dishwater and served it up by the gallon as soup.

“It’s good.” He would say as he slurped it out of one of those round soup spoons that you only see at restaurants and rich people’s houses. We have one at our house but we only use it for special occasions. Like when all the other spoons are dirty.

Now there are some purists out there that are probably turning their nose up at the very thought of a buffet. They’ll say the quality of food is better when you order it a la carte. Snooty people are always using French phrases like that to make you feel dumb. They’ve got a point. But ordering off the menu is so restrictive, and I’m not good at making decisions in Chinese. The wonderful thing about buffets is you don’t have to choose! You can eat it all! Although I probably won’t eat those whole baby octopuses. But it is nice to be able to poke them with the spoon to help you decide.

The last place I ate before the pandemic lockdown was a Mexican buffet. What a way to go out. Since then I’ve been worried about the future of buffets. Will buffets become like The Piccadilly Cafeteria where someone fixes a plate for you behind a sheet of plexi-glass? Will you just have to hope that they pick right piece of fried chicken? That won’t do. I pray that I’m wrong, but I’m afraid that we may have seen the last of the all-you-can-eat buffet.

The Last Buffet

That is why I feel compelled to write about buffets. My kids and future generations need to know that at one time in America you could walk into a buffet and fix a plate of pizza, brown gravy, macaroni and cheese, fake bacon bits, sweet potato casserole, and gummy bears and no one would say a word to you.

Nice Things

My sister came over to the house the other day to help make zucchini bread, because I planted to much zucchini. We hovered around Sarah’s KitchenAid mixer like little kids at a science experiment.

“Is it going to sling zucchini sludge all over us?” I asked as she fired up the mixer.

“No. This is a nice thing.” She said matter of factly, and with a bit of discovery in her voice, as if we-not having grown up with nice things-had just had our first encounter with one.

My family used to play this game called Scattergories. It’s a trivia game where a letter die is rolled and each participant has to come up with an answer-that begins with whatever letter is rolled-for a list of twelve questions in a set amount of time. If your answer is unique you get a point but you do not get a point for duplicate or blank answers.

I’d like to take a paragraph to point out that I just explained how to play a game in two sentences-albeit they might be considered run on sentences. Even so, Think about the last time somebody tried to explain to you how to play a board game. There were 35 people crammed in a living room. Everybody was talking so loud at once that the music blaring in the background would have been indistinguishable save for the two musicians singing along at the top of their lungs. A kid was tapping you on the knee and the least concise person in the room was giving you instructions on a game you didn’t want to play cause you were more interested in the cocktail weenies on the paper plate that you had to hold because the dumb game was taking up all of the space on the coffee table. But you couldn’t have reached the coffee table from the bar stool you drug from the kitchen anyway. The next time in you’re in a situation like that, I hope you think about me.

Anyway, in Scattergories one of the categories is Items You Save Up Buy. I think this is the best way to describe nice things. You tend to treat things that you save up to buy a little better because they are dearer. I saved up to buy a proper guitar for years. Several times, just when I had enough money set aside, I would decide on a whim to reallocate that money for something else. Like a radiator for a Honda Accord, or tires, or a baby carseat. When I finally had enough money to buy the guitar I was so anxious to make the purchase before there was an emergency that I developed a case of the shivers.

I suppose that there are even nice things that rich people save up to purchase. Yachts and airplanes, that sort of thing.

Most of the people I’ve known that had nice things weren’t necessarily rich, they just didn’t have any kids. Or at least any boys. Boys are much to rough to coexist with nice things. Zach and I broke the heads off all the wooden ducks in the living room while wrestling. That was Mom’s idea of nice things: wooden ducks. She had about five wooden geese and ducks in the living room. Some folks are just born with class.

At least once, every mother has probably said to their children in exasperation over a broken lamp or busted window, “Your Daddy works hard so we can save money and try to have nice things, but y’all are barbarians and we can’t have nice things.”

I remember Zach putting a dent in the top of Dad’s brand new Mazda truck with a softball. Dads can give a completely different “Why can’t we have nice things?” speech. It’s just as passionate as a Mom’s speech, but it is usually the audience and not the orator that is moved to tears.

“When you have three kids that’s about all you have.”

Perry Wells

I’m not saying that you can’t have nice things and kids, I’m just saying that most people can only afford one or the other. It’s a tough choice for many people. Children are expensive. It may even be cheaper to not have kids and just have nice things. Just ask your parents. How many times have you been to someone’s house and sat down in the recliner only to be warned that the recliner doesn’t work because Kid A broke it using it as a diving board, and that they didn’t notice that it was broken until they got back from the emergency room. That’s the funny thing about nice things, people tend to hang on to them after the kids have already broken them.

The fact that my parents didn’t follow through with those threats of death after I had just broken something lets me know that they chose keeping me over having nice things.

Nice things are fleeting. The classiest vehicle on the market will be old and out of fashion when the new model rolls out next year. I quit trying to keep up with the phone innovations back with the iPhone 6. Furthermore, these things are guaranteed to expire.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:

21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:19-21

“Children are the only thing that you can take to heaven with you.”

Ultimately nice things are not important. It’s easy to forget that when you’re daydreaming about the next thing you’re saving up to purchase and how happy it will make you. It won’t make you happy. If it does make you happy it won’t last. One day it won’t even matter to you. If you don’t believe me, just visit a thrift store or better yet, the dump. Both of these places are jam packed with junk and trash that someone not to long ago probably saved up to buy.

There are still some nice things I’d still like to have. Perhaps a proper digital camera to take better quality bad pictures for the website store. Maybe I’ll get one some day. I’m not really worried about it. These days I’m more excited about meeting our third child in October.