On the wall in a spare bedroom at my wife’s grandmother’s house hangs an old portrait of a sailor. It was the kind of portrait that was made on black and white film with color added by hand as a part of the development process. I always stop and look at this picture whenever we are visiting Grandma Mattie.
“That was my father, Claude Cornelius Cooper.” She told me at my first visit.
Mr. Cooper had been a sailor in the 1930s. He got out of the Navy and came back home to south Alabama where he purchased a farm from a cousin or uncle. It was during these last years of the Great Depression that he realized he could reenlist to the Navy for a few years and be able to pay the farm off. So he did just that.
He was on the USS Neosho on December 11th, 1941. The oiler was able to successfully escape the harbor and the destruction of that day of infamy.
It was at the Battle of the Coral Sea on May 11, 1942 that the Neosho was attacked and set afire. A destroyer rescued the surviving crew and then scuttled the Neosho.
Claude Cornelius Cooper was not among the survivors. He left behind his wife and children and the farm.
I read a lot of books about war. Perhaps it is the little boy in me that finds this history so interesting. More likely I find it interesting because I have never experienced the hellish nightmare of combat. One thing that is inescapably painful to me as I read these histories is the massive cost in human life that war demands.
Memorial Day is a day set aside for remembering. We remember the thousands upon thousands of individual Americans who have died in the name of freedom. It is a heavy and somber day. A day when history becomes personal.
“I’ve always thought skydiving would be fun. I’ve just never found the time or money to do it.” I said this to a friend who skydives all the time.
“Doesn’t everything take time and money?” He asked.
It is true. You can get a lot of things done when you have a lot of time and money. Everyone may not have the same amount of money, but we all are given the same amount of time. The difference is, if you have a lot of money you can buy other people’s time. When I write it out like that it makes me wonder if I’m selling my time too cheaply.
“What’s time to a pig?”
I had a conversation recently that on the surface was about organization of a daily routine and getting better sleep. At the core though, this conversation revolved around time. And more specifically, the frustration and guilt over the mismanagement of time. In an effort to help my friend, I shared my thoughts about time. It was nothing new, but I think it helped him. So I’m sharing them with you.
Time is currency. We spend it, waste it, or invest it.
Each of us is given and indefinite amount of this currency made payable only in the present. We can make plans on how to use our time just like we make plans to use our future paychecks. We’re not really sure when our time will run out. And we know that at a single instant everything could change. But we do not like to retain this in our knowledge. If dwelt upon, the uncertainty of time is unnerving.
Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1
The gift of time is a great responsibility. If time is indeed currency, or money, I want to get the best deal for my hours and minutes. Perhaps it comes with age or possibly is a byproduct of sheer laziness, but economy of time is very important to me. Let me explain.
I am allotted one hour for lunch. Lunch can cost me the full hour, or I can choose to only pay five minutes for lunch and then have fifty five minutes to spend practicing guitar. If I do this five days a week, that is four hours and thirty five minutes of practice gained.
Currently I have precious time bound in my commute to work. In order to make the most of that nonnegotiable hour in the truck I listen to audiobooks. Which means I can read a book a week on my commute alone. If I adjust the audiobook speed I can sometimes squeeze in two books a week.
There are some times when I’m less concerned about how quickly a task can be completed, or rather how cheaply I was able purchase an activity with my time. Some things are worth however long it takes. I am thinking of the time I invest with my wife and kids. I do not believe that all moments are equal. Five minutes on my lunch break is not worth the same amount as a five minute conversation with my five year old.
Then there are the truly priceless moments of opportunity that can never be regained nor renegotiated. How can we measure their worth? These are the moments of decision in life. It may be possible that they can be anticipated by the wise, although they often go unrecognized by the foolish. These are the moments that if missed will be a source of regret and anguish, if acted upon will be a source of strength and resolve.
So what are you doing with your time? If the Chronological Examiners Board showed up at your door to do an audit could you endure their report?
My prayer for you, dear reader, is that you would take time to address the areas in your life that are of eternal significance. Thank you for your time.
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.”
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.
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
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.
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 ofter 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 on 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 they’re 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.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I think that it is wonderful that there is a day dedicated to giving thanks, giving thanks to God. I have so much for which to be thankful.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Everything good thing in my life is because of Jesus Christ. And I have a lot of good things in my life.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. James 1:17
Time would fail me to list everything that I am truly thankful for. So I have chosen to write about what is dearest me.
I am most thankful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I cannot understate the joy and the peace that the Holy Ghost has brought to my life.
The next best thing that has ever happened to me is my beautiful wife Sarah. I am so blessed. My children are so blessed to have her as a mother. I am so thankful for my wife.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord. Proverbs 18:22
I am thankful for the Word of God. I have never had a question in life that the Word of God could not answer. My sincere prayer is that I may have a deeper understanding of the God’s Word.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalms 119:105
I am thankful to be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven. I love my church. I love my pastor. I do not want to live any other way.
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. Luke 16:16
I am thankful for my children, Wesley, Miriam, and Hollynn. Oh what joy!
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate. Psalms 127:3-5
I am thankful for my brother Zach and sister Lindsay. We’ve always been close, but I value our relationship more than ever now.
I am thankful for a godly heritage. My parents have passed on to their reward, but I think about them every day. I was truly blessed to have Perry & Sonja Wells as parents.
Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:2-3
I am thankful for dear friends, kindred spirits.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17
There is something that happens inside of me when I begin to sincerely thank God for his blessings. It is refreshing to my soul. God has been good to me.
Thanks to everyone who reads, shares, and comments on my blog. Iam always in wonder when someone mentions to me that they read it. I hope that it brings you joy.
One of my favorite things about a being a parent is having someone to listen to my accumulated trivia. Lately, I have reached the point in parenthood where my children are beginning to pose questions that sometimes stress my intellect. For instance, “Dad, what is manners?”
I usually try to give a clear and concise definitions.
“Well, manners are the principles that govern proper social behavior.” I replied.
I sat back in my chair and smiled, feeling satisfied with my quick thinking without consulting the dictionary.
A moment later the child asked, “Dad, what’s principles?”
This is what I mean by testing my intellect. I’m afraid their curiosity is about to outpace me. At any rate, I am going to attempt a more thorough answer to the original question, because some things require not only clarity, but elaboration.
Manners, best-beloved, are what my Mom and Dad taught me little by little and day by day about how to act around folks.
– Keep your elbows off the table
– Say ma’am and sir
– Keep your feet off the table
– Don’t talk with your mouth full
– Don’t interrupt someone
– Hold the door open for a lady
– Stand up and let a lady or an elder take your chair
– Don’t invite yourself anywhere
– Don’t cuss
– Use your blinker
– Cover your mouth when you cough, sneeze, or yawn
– Don’t smack (chewing with mouth open)
– Don’t ask someone how much money they make
– Don’t ask someone how much they paid for something
– Wipe your feet
– Don’t wear a hat indoors, unless you are a lady and the hat is classy
– Don’t yell inside
– Answer when someone speaks to you
– Don’t stare
– Don’t pick your nose
– Don’t take the last piece of chicken
– Don’t scratch
– Don’t spit
– Don’t reach over someone’s plate
– Don’t grab or snatch
– Don’t talk about gross things at the dinner table
– Don’t tell dirty jokes
– Don’t laugh at dirty jokes
Now this is not an exhaustive list, best-beloved, and we’ll add things as we come to them, but we have to start somewhere. If you follow these guidelines, when you come something you are unsure about you’ll probably make the right decision. Just do what your Mother would do and you’ll be ok.
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.
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.
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.
The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle.
Wesley just chased a lethargic rabbit halfway around the garden and up the fence line behind the barn. The rabbit was not living up to it’s image on the lawnmower throttle. He must have doubted Wesley’s accuracy with the bamboo javelin he had poised for throwing. It looked a bit like a Road Runner cartoon in slow motion.
I have seen rabbits run a lot faster. Like the time we were working in the hayfield and had just stopped to get a drink of water to keep from dying from exhaustion in the sweltering heat. Up sprang a little rabbit. My brother jumped up chased him halfway across the hayfield before catching him in dive. He was parallel with the ground, arms stretched out in front of him. The rest of us watched cooly from the shade of the truck and sipped the ice cold water from little dixie cups. Zach panted triumphantly back to the truck and held out a tiny rabbit that was visibly throbbing from adrenaline and fear.
“You boys ain’t tired if you can still catch rabbits.” Pop said as he stirred us back to work, as if I had been out there chasing rabbits along with Zach.
Not surprisingly, the best rabbit story I can offer comes from my Dad. Back during the Reagan administration, my parents and Uncle Tony were setting on the front porch of the house were I was raised. Dad was leaning against the column and drinking a Pepsi from a glass bottle when someone noticed a rabbit out next to the kudzu. That’s about thirty yards away, depending on the last time the grass was cut. Kudzu can grow about a yard a day. Uncle Tony tried to hit the rabbit with a rock, but he missed. Which is not surprising since his glasses are as thick as mine. The rabbit tensed up and sat frozen while Dad took the last swig of his drink. Then he held onto the post with one hand and leaned out into the front yard and casually lobbed the empty glass bottle over a crepe myrtle tree in the general direction of the rabbit. The bottle struck the rabbit square in the head and killed it graveyard dead.
I’ve never intentionally killed a rabbit. Even when I was conned into going hunting in the back yard with Dad and Zach. I don’t remember what exactly we were hunting, but I jumped a rabbit in the sage patch and watched him bounce away while I held my shotgun on my shoulder.
“Hey, there goes a rabbit.” I said proudly.
“Why didn’t you shoot it?” My Dad laughed.
Now that I have a garden, I can relate a lot more to Farmer Brown and Elmer Fudd than Peter Rabbit and Bugs Bunny. I’m almost ready to start intentionally killing rabbits. I’ve taken the first step by giving Wesley a slingshot and a sack of marbles.
Thanks for reading, sharing, and for your continued Support.