Road Construction

 While driving this morning at an hour that is best left to milkmen and burglars who are heading home after a dishonest nights work, I came across something that amazed me. It was a construction zone. Not only was it a construction zone but it had men at work. Well, men standing around signs that said they were at work. They must have been doing some serious, strenuous supervision of the one guy who was actually holding a shovel. Of course he was just standing there looking at the 7 supervisors with a look that said, “Where is the ‘on’ switch on this thing?”

Living in Knoxville made me an expert on construction. Until very recently we had the dubious distinction of have continuous construction on the infinite interstates. You would drive down I-40; I-75; I-275; I-640; I-1,436,278; or stand at the corner of Gay and Union Streets (and no I’m not making that intersection up) and find construction. No one ever seemed to be doing anything. But the construction zones were impressive in their ability to block traffic for no apparent reason. That has changed and we now have fast flowing freeways that allow us to go wherever it is we need to go at speeds that guarantee the Knoxville police department will make their ticket quota.
Having never worked road construction I am not qualified to judge the complexities of the job. But when did I let a little thing like the facts stop me? There must be something that causes slowdowns that those of us who are not in the know must not know. I suspect that it has something to do with delivery scheduling, labor unions, the cost of living in Ecuador and the dangers of non-dairy creamer in microwave ovens. It is astonishing that it takes so long to repair a highway when I saw how fast they can be made on the Dr. Seuss cartoon “Who Lifted the Lorax?” And we all know if it is in a Dr. Seuss cartoon it’s got to be realistic and true!
It seems that there is an insidious instinct behind the timing of road work. It would be cruel to cast aspersions on those who are not to blame because who knows how much damage a spersion could cause if you cast it at someone. Those things are lethal! Nevertheless, there are a few things that need to be said. For example, why do the road crews start blocking off the lanes right at the beginning of rush hour in the mornings? Would it kill them to stand around and wait for traffic to slow down to block off the lanes and then stand around waiting for a sign to begin work? It seems like they could stand around without blocking off the lanes.
Just one last thing. Would it kill the people holding the signs to wave once in a while?
Being a friendly person I like to wave at people who are working and doing things that help me. It’s not like I want a huge grin like they are long lost friends of mine who I recognize from high school English class where they sat two seats behind me. (I’m talking to your Larry!) You don’t even have to be enthusiastic in your greeting. Just a little wave is all I’m asking. Pretend you’re on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Just do that little wave. Come on! I’m friendly!!

Know Thyself

So often we are influenced by the opinions of others. Watching the news we can hear the same story from two different perspectives and come out thinking two different things about the same topic. We can see a billboard advertising for beer that will make you more popular than the biggest Hollywood celebrity within a few miles of another that is telling you there is help for alcoholism. While buying milk, bread, and a few other odds and ends we can read the headlines at the checkout that tell all kinds of juicy gossip and the latest info about the aliens’ meeting in the Whitehouse. What do we believe anymore?
Even closer to home we may hear all kinds of things from all kinds of people. Some people may want something from you and be buttering you up and inflating your ego so that your head will not fit through the door. Others may want to knock you down a notch or two because of jealousy or spite. Some people are well meaning. Others are just plain mean. Everyone looks at you through the lens of their presuppositions that will distort the reality of their picture of you. Some see what they want to see while others see only what you want them to see. It is not that different from what you see in the news or advertising. It is a matter of perspective.
The most important thing is to know yourself. The temple of Apollo at Delphi had that inscription on the forecourt for those seeking knowledge. It has been attributed to Heraclitus, Socrates, Pythagoras, and the Oracle. It has been found in ancient tomes, Greek mystics, Roman poets, medieval monks, and modern movies. It is intertwined in our culture and counter-culture. It is a common denominator from the Greatest Generation to the 9/11 Generation. This is a message that transcends generations to reach to the core of what and who we are.
How well do you know yourself? To paraphrase former President Bill Clinton, are you as good as your strongest supporters believe? Are you as bad as your harshest critics claim? The answer to both is probably “no”. It doesn’t matter how good or bad others think you are. Whether hero or villain, it is a matter of their perspective and presuppositions that they see. Rare are the individuals who can see past the perspective to the reality within. There are very few people who know you like you know yourself.
Check your reality. Can you look in the mirror before going to bed at night and be pleased with your actions that day? When you wake up, do you dread the consequences of the last night? Knowing that God forgives, can you also forgive yourself?
Do you know yourself?

So Do You Sudoku?

Hello. My name is Doug and I’m an addict. There I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest. I have a problem and I need help. I’ve been seeing this series of numbers everywhere I go. They are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. If it were just such a simple thing then it wouldn’t be that bad. Think about it! Just ten minutes of Sesame Street and I’d have my counting fix for the day. The Count would be my hero. Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha. (Imagine lightening!) But for an addict like me it is not that simple. Sometimes the numbers are 4, 7, 2, 8, 3, 5, 9, 1, 6. The other day I found 2, 9, 4, 7, 6, 5, 8, 3, 1. Then there was this series that looked like
1 4 7
2 5 9
8 6 3.
Yes. I admit it! I am addicted to that stupid Sudoku square. I can’t help it. Every time I see a nine square grid, I start filling it in with nine numbers. The problem became apparent the other day when I was trying to play tick-tack-toe with my son and developed this nervous twitch in my left hand. My right hand was writing O’s while my left hand wanted to erase the X’s and O’s and fill in the numbers. I just barely made it through one game… and lost! Curse you Sudoku! Now my son thinks he’s smarter than dad!
At this point I decided to take inventory of how desperate the situation had become. I started to count the number of Sudoku books I have. One…look! There is an easy one. I’ll just do it real quick. Put a 6 there, an 8 there. Where does that 3 go? And then there are sevens in those two rows so that row needs a seven there… O.K. So I couldn’t even get past my first book without getting sucked in to that greedy grid. Now what do I do? Is there a Sudoku Anonymous? Do they get together on Wednesday evenings and do word searches and crosswords to keep their minds off the numbers? Are there support groups to help people such as myself who are trying to quit but do not have the willpower to give up cold turkey? Cold roast beef maybe…
I think this is a suspicious circumstance. Consider the trade imbalances around the U.S. Now look at those who are spending their mental energy counting to nine on little grids instead of counting the shipping containers coming in from overseas. And from where did Sudoku come? Coincidence? I think not. Could this be a masterful manipulation on the part of a group of Yakuza to gain criminal control over the minds of Americans? Is this a creative corporate control contrivance from Tokyo to distract us? This one thing is certain: If Congress starts putting tariffs on Sudoku books, I will lead the protest marches with tattooed Japanese gangsters on my right and suited Sony execs on my left.
Help me!

To Thank or Not to Thank

Have you ever reminisced over something that was pityingly painful and with the loupe of looking back to see that it led you to something that was strangely superior? How many instances in your life that once were the most devastating disasters are now merely the turning of a page to a new chapter in your life that was better for you? Not that you ever want to take that terrible trail again; however, it did serve a purpose.
Everyone who takes the time to look back can see countless episodes of bad things working out for good. It doesn’t matter if it was a letter to John or a request to remain acquaintances in an affair gone afoul. Perhaps it was the employer who was sizing down or taking the Donald Trump approach of ending your working relationship. We have all had those times that life doesn’t just hand us lemons; it gets Randy Johnson to throw them at us at 100 miles per hour.
Here is what is wandering around the empty corridors of my cranium. Do you have the ability to look at a current situation that is still painful and make a prophecy for future fun? Imagine you are taking the dangerous drive to visit the Oracle of Delphi. She shares with you all the pain and suffering that lies before you and all the pleasure and joy that will result. Those silver linings are the hope for you. Now come back to planet reality and look at your life. Whenever the tumultuous times terrify can you use your creativity and imagination to see the hope-filled happiness on the other side? One thing I am learning is to look forward to the fabulous future in the midst of feelings of failure.
Now comes the part that is frying my brain. I am told that there will be a day when some of the recent recollections of life’s distressing doctrines will be grounds for gratitude. There is an amazing song by Chicago that says, “Suddenly remembering doesn’t haunt me.” The crooner continues to say that he would have missed out on the best thing in his life if not for a painful experience and he wants to thank the girl who hurt him. What if we could thank those who hurt us – not after the fact – but at the time it is happening? Someone says something cruel and insensitive and you say, “Thanks for the feedback.” Someone betrays you and you say, “This will lead me to new relationships that will make me stronger. I appreciate this.” A lover leaves and shatters your heart and the reply is, “I can’t wait to see who will come along and receive the love that I have yet to give.”
Thanking those who hurt you AT THE TIME is something that I cannot do. But what if we could? Not only would it give you a new perspective on the dangerous and deadly disease of depression but it would also have the side effect of messing with the minds of the angst causing antagonists. I’m going to give it a try.

Joy

The concept of joy is rather elusive to so many. Have you ever met someone who seems to have that almost strange peace in the most extreme situations that makes you think they are either a complete fool or a total sociopath? For many years I envied them their ignorance or mental illness. Then one day I came across a woman who lost her husband. She was smiling in the midst of tears. As I was looking up the number for the padded ambulance service, she said something to me that I will never forget. “I still have my joy even in my sadness.”
That flew right in the face of logic. How can you be joyful and sad at the same time? Isn’t joy just another word for happy? You can be happy yet not joyful and sad while filled with joy. Who knew? Joy goes to a new level beyond simple happy, sad, depressed or mad. Joy is comes from knowing something that goes beyond yourself. For some it is hope for better times that gives them their joy. Others look to some kind of inner peace to transcend the troubling times. For me it is a matter of faith in God. Knowing that there is someone much more powerful and wiser than I am in control of… well… everything, gives me that joyful peace that helps me get through the day.
Whatever the source – and mine is the best by the way – joy is something that we need in these challenging times. Find your joy! That is something that has kept me together through the worst of times and has helped me to soar to greater heights during the best of times.

Why Do We…

… always feel the need to correct people instead of listening to what they mean and not what they say?
… make a joke at someone else’s expense and then fail to laugh when someone does the same to us?
… get mad when someone is going to slow in the fast lane and get mad when someone tail gates us when we are the slow one?
… tolerate rudeness in complete strangers and get mad when a friend has a bad day and is a little miffed?
… think it is admiring beauty when we look at someone of the opposite sex and it is leering when someone else does it?
… believe we have freedom of speech and other people are just whiners?

Painting

Paint has always been interesting to me. Ok. No it hasn’t. It is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Oh wait a sec. It IS just as interesting as watching paint dry. But I have found a new way to paint that is truly exciting! It involves rollers and paint brushes and family and drama and lives in danger. It is a rollercoaster of rollers and bungee jump of brushes.

Today we painted the living room. Starting off with you on the edge of your seat, isn’t it? One of us – not to point fingers but it wasn’t me – had gone to the store to discover options for our painting possibilities. The parade of paint swatches were examined in painstaking detail. And I mean PAINstaking detail. It hurt! Lots! Was it going to be Sand Trap or Sand Stone or Sharon Stone? Ok. Sharon Stone wasn’t really an option but I’d rather look at her than a bunch of colors that all look the same to me. How can someone say they like one hue over another hue? I am a fan of Hughes. Hugh Grant, Hugh Heffner and Hugh Laurie are all on my list of top Hughes. Sand Pit or whatever it was would not make the grade.
I know what you’re thinking. “How could this get any more exciting? My heart can’t take much more of this!” It gets better. First the paint guy at the store couldn’t be found. Then the lady who came over to help had extensive training and detailed knowledge … of the lingerie section. The air head nature of this little lady was so great that she had a tattoo behind her ear that said “Inflate to 25 PSI.” She was a good person but had never even seen a paint can and had no clue what she was doing. Bless her heart!( In Tennessee you can say anything you want about anyone you want and end it with “Bless their heart” and it’s all good. “She was the meanest, cold bloodedest, evil little troll to ever to show her disgraceful face in this county. Bless her heart.”
Well we finally got all the paint and after three tries 25 PSI got it right. We went back to the house, taped things up and began the process of painting over my ex’s hard work. She had faux finished so much of the house! And now it was going bye-bye. Nothing left. All gone. We did it! Got rid of those nasty reminders not for the sake of my mental health – which it helped immensely – but so we could sell the house easier.
Now you are probably feeling cheated right now aren’t you? I promised drama, life and death struggles, and a roller coaster of rollers. Now I need you to go back and reread this and where you see “us” or “we” substitute “my ex and I.” Need I say more?

Dizzy

Having read the Bible, I know that Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” In The Life of Brian they also found that the developers of dairy delights were also blessed. I think that we need a new blessing for those of us who must climb the perilous and perturbing peaks know as the parking garage. “Blessed are they who go in circles for they shall be called wheels.” Am I the only one who gets dizzy while trying to find a parking place?
I know there needs to be something to meet our parking paradoxes. Imagine if we didn’t have parking garages in downtowns, near sports spaces, or at the mall. (NOOOO! I can’t find a parking place at the mall!! What shall we do?! Let’s go get a beer instead!) Parking downtown would be more of sport without these garages. Every 53 minutes you’d have to go down and put more money in the meter. We could make it into an Olympic event! “Look how Phil, wearing his Citicorp jersey is beating out the German from BMW and the Sony exec from Japan! Look how the British are sneaking past the meter maid. The Frenchman doesn’t have the right change. It’s going to be close!!! The US wins the gold! USA! USA!” So maybe we need them downtown.
I must admit that they would be a rather pleasant addition to some locales. Imagine that you are in a southern university town with a football stadium that seats 110,000 people. If you were to do a little math… figuring 4 people per car…divided by 110,000 people…you’d need…hmmmm…lots of parking places. There is a southern city in eastern Tennessee that has such university with that exact seating capacity. I will refrain from telling you its name (but it rhymes with “foxville”) There are about 178 parking places. If you are going to a football game there, let me just say “Good luck and wear comfortable walking shoes.” I think parking garages would be amply appreciated there.
I can handle a rollercoaster with twists and turns. The thought of white water rafting get me going. However, there is nothing that compares to the dizzying excitement of entering the parking garage. You take your ticket. The bar raises! You’re off speeding through the aisles at the speed of smell. You race to find a space. Dodging and driving up one way and down the other. Then you see the glow of an empty space. You skid to a stop just as someone else pull into your place.
No wonder I am dizzy when I get out of there.

Love’s Labors Lost

One of Shakespeare’s great plays has the ominous title of “Love’s Labor’s Lost”. It has been seen on stages from London to New York to the Middle Eastern Shakespeare festival in Abu Dabi. The theme of lost love is one that the Bard knew well. He lost a son and lost loves many times throughout his life. Yet are we any different from Will?
Time and time again we hear of man’s inhumanity to woman or woman’s inhumanity to man. Two people who at one time seemed very much in love have that same love turned around into hatred and loathing. Yet it has been said that love and hate are not the opposites they seem. When we take the emotional energy to pour into another soul the hatred that is boiling within us over wrongs that are either real, perceived or a little bit of both then we are not truly free indeed.
It is not until we let go of both our love and hate for an individual who has harmed us that we will truly know how to be free indeed. The opposite of love is indifference. That is not the same as apathy. When we no longer allow another to take out happiness, our joy and the joie de vivre that is ours due to the love of those who matter and the love from God above, then we are truly freed from the past love who’s labor has been lost.
Did Shakespeare know the pain of love lost? Do you know how it feels to suffer the heartbreak of heartache? Do you know the secret? Let the labor of love be focused not on another who does not deserve it. Save your love and passion for those who do.

Are you having fun?

Who you are is best shown by who you chose as friends. Meeting new people is like enjoying a great meal. It is the familiar taste of the food that draws us in but it is the surprises that keep us coming back for more. In the same way, discovering what we have in common and then uncovering our differences is what adds familiarity and spice to the relationship. When we have enough things in common to have something to talk about and enough differences to learn something new it makes the chance to meet something special. Great chemistry and great conversation lead to great relationships.
Laughing with one another at the strangest things makes a simple day into a memory that you will always have. When humor is shared and the smile crosses the face it lights up a room like nothing else. Telling the joke that makes someone else roll their eyes and moan in pain is just as much fun as telling the joke that makes them laugh until their sides hurt. Both are more fun than should be legal!
The simplest and most basic philosophy for my life goes: If you’re not having fun you’re doing it wrong. It applies to fun and frivolity, life and love, romance and raucousness. I just have one simple question for you: Are you having fun?