Saturday, April 22, 2006

Once Upon A Time In The State Of New Jersey...

...there was a little girl. A Beauty. She lived with her mother, father, and brother. They were happy and lived a simple life just like millions of others. One day when she was 8 her mother died suddenly. Her father tried the best he could but it proved too much for him and 6 months later he was gone too.

Beauty and her brother went to live with different aunts and uncles and were passed around on a regular basis. They didn't get to see each other as much as they should have been allowed to but that's the best that could be done in those days. Even though she always had a roof over her head she felt like she was a burden to whoever she was staying with. She learned early to chase that feeling away by working hard. Whether it was cooking, cleaning, or laundry she pulled her weight and then some. She learned at 10 what most of the rest of the world doesn't learn until 20 and she could do the household chores, a day's schooling, and a part time shift & be ready to start again the next morning.

During her early teen years she developed several athletic talents. She could beat most grown men at golf and pool thanks to the summers she spent with an aunt and uncle who ran a golf course. She kept the grounds then played golf and shot pool in the clubhouse between mowing the greens. About this time her gym teacher told her she would either go out for basketball or she would flunk gym (gotta' love our educational sytem!) She said "go ahead" and promptly left school at 15 and started working full time. By now she was living with a married cousin. She learned how to fight off the unwanted advances of the husband and spent as little time there as possible. She bought a car with the money she earned and learned to fix it herself when it needed a new starter or a tune-up.

At 17 she met someone who made her believe that he wanted to build a life with her. A day or so after their wedding she saw him fly his true colors. He talked to her worse than a plow animal. She asked "why are you treating me this way? I thought you loved me." he said "your mine now. I can be myself . I don't have to act anymore" as he gave her a back hand across the nose. This began 7 years of hell.

She took it because she figured that's probably the way it was supposed to be. Didn't all husbands hit their wives daily? Didn't all wives have to deal with broken noses, black eyes, and fractured skulls? Didn't she deserve this? One day about 3 years later he hit her and knocked her into one of their sons causing him to stumble against a wall and hit his head. A tiny ember erupted into a volcano and she grabbed the husband by his head and introduced it to the same wall several times and told him "if you ever hurt one of my babies again I will get one of the knives from the kitchen and [make you a gelding]"

He responded like most men of that type and didn't lay a hand on her afterwards, although he ratcheted up the verbal abuse to take up the slack telling her how worthless she was. Never mind the fact that she supported them because he never could seem to get along with anyone long enough to last more than a month at a job. Then it would take him another 3 months to get another job. After another year he decided he was moving to Texas...the land of opportunity where he could make his fortune. She had never been more than 100 miles from home her entire life. What was he thinking? "If you don't want to come stay here. I'm going anyway" he said.

"If we go, that's it. The last go around. Last chance. You have GOT to learn to keep a job and help support the family. I can't support all of us any more" she said. They made the move and for about a year things were ok. No more fists but the verbal abuse was still there. Meanwhile she fell in love with this strange new place called Texas. She was amazed that there weren't cacti and hitching posts on every corner...there were trees...and grass! No desert in site! After 18 months the husband decided he didn't like it in "the armpit of the nation" so he announced he was "going back to New Jersey".

She said she wasn't going back and reminded him this was the last try and he hadn't held down a job more than 6 months total since they came. He didn't care. He was going home. If she didn't like it, tough. She could stay in Texas. She said "If you go that's it. It's over. You give up all claims to me or either of the boys." He left taking the car and leaving her and his sons in an apartment with rent paid through the end of the month...with money she earned working for the Family Business.

He came back about 1 1/2 years later and found, to his shock, she had managed to survive without him and prosper. She had moved on with life. When he tried to re-insert himself into her life he was informed by someone who cared deeply for Beauty that his services were no longer required nor wanted and he should leave...under his own power or under power assist, the choice was his. He called Beauty to inform her that he was reporting the threat from the friend to the police. She told him it was 'gelding time' and he'd better report 2 threats while he was at it. Nothing more was heard from him for a long, long time to come.

That day Beauty was set free. She was a new person with a re-born spirit who would never be under the control of someone like that again. Life would have it's share of ups and downs but mainly she had set her course on an upward path that day. I'm just thankful she let me come along for the ride.

To follow up: the husband eventually realized the poison he was spreading and changed his life.


Friday, April 21, 2006

Beauty and the Beast

Meeting my wife was a ‘one in a million’ thing. If either one of us had been where we thought we should or would be or where we wanted to be at that point in life we would have never met.

She came to work at the Family Business just like anyone else looking for a job. The first time we met I poked my head in the door to say something to Brother, whom I was a little put out with at the time, therefore I wasn't my usual polite self. She was NOT impressed. We worked together one night shortly after and I was immediately attracted. "From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth, and her courage. I knew then, as I know now, she would change my life...forever."

There was just one thing: She had a husband and 2 children.

I thought ‘why is it that all the nice girls are already taken?' I knew the answer. What I didn’t know was their marriage was already severely strained and very shortly after we met he abandoned them and moved back to New Jersey. Over the next year or so we went from very good friends to very much in love. We got married and started our life together.

Mom wasn’t too thrilled because Beauty didn’t match the image of the Southern Baptist Baylor Girl that she had planned for me to marry. I had spent the better part of 3 years at school and seen first hand what ‘those’ girls were like **violent shudder**. I had also seen an example like that in Brother’s wife and I knew I didn’t want any parts of that. Aside from already having been married and having 2 children Mom wasn’t thrilled that Beauty was 3 ½ years older than me.

Bottom line, it was my life. I was going to have to live with my decision. I wasn’t going to live with Mom and although I loved her I didn’t really care if all she could look at was ‘outward appearances’ and all that worldly crap. I knew I had found a spiritual relationship with someone that I would never be able to find with anyone else and I didn’t really care what anyone thought.

My wife doesn’t like it when I call her Beauty or make a fuss over her but I have to say it. Now, years later, I mean it more than ever, I have never met a more beautiful soul than hers.


6 Things You Don't Know About Me

Got tagged by Allison. Here you go Allie---

1. Other than College I have never lived more than a 2 mile radius from the same house. In fact, we now live in the house I grew up in, which is a true gift from my parents considering there's no way in today's economy I could afford to buy a house like it. A testimony to their hard work and dedication to leave something for us.

2. Although I played football from 2nd through 14th grade and lived & died on everything Tom Landry's Cowboys did today I DETEST traditional team pro-college-school sports and haven't spent more than 10 minutes watching football, baseball, basketball, hockey, etc. in over 15 years. They've become too money motivated. Most of the athletes are WAY to impressed with themselves. Even High and Middle school is ruined by parents who push for success and ruin it for their kids. However, I am glued to the TV every year for 3 weeks in July for the Tour de France and most of the other Grand Tours and One Day Classics. The Tour de Georgia is going on as we speak. I know that the personality of some of these guys isn't any better than your average jock, it's just the thought of racing a bike 150+ miles in a day or 2200+ miles over 3 weeks is really awesome to me. Besides, this is one sport that I can participate in too. Not the racing but I have been known to do 75 + miles in a day myself. I am also an Olympics junky, summer and winter, although it's getting tougher there to be a big fan for reasons in #2.

3. I have a girlfriend. Her name is Ringo. She's half Husky and half Wolf. I only had her a short time...a friend and her daughter moved into a place that wouldn't let them keep her so we did for 2 years. During that time we became inseparable. She stole my heart. The friend remairried and they took Ringo back : ( but I still get to visit her : ) I'm a sucker for blue eyes.

4. I ride a motorcycle almost everywhere I go...well, whenever my wife will let me that is. Planning on riding from Dallas to Tucson to visit family some time this year. If my wife lets me.

5. I love to lift weights. About a year ago I was still able to bench 375 pounds.

6. Used to smoke 3 packs a day of Marlboro Reds. Tried for a long time to quit then, with tons of prayer and a wife who put up with my 'bitchiness' for 2 months a miracle happened and I kicked it.

Don't really have anyone else I can tag so like Jeremy the MEME stops here.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Be Right Back...

Sorry. I'll be putting up new post shortly. Had family in from out of town the last 3 weeks. Also this crazy little thing called glad when that nuisance is over with...

In the meantime THANKS to everyone who stops by and for your comments! It really means alot!


Friday, April 07, 2006

The Rest is Silence

Dad had a heart attack on January 2nd and died from another on January 12th, a month and a half after his 53rd birthday & just before #2 Grandson's 2nd birthday. No one really saw the bomb ticking: stress, long hours, 3-4 packs a day, the poor diet (Dad never was overweight but had extremely high blood pressure).

The rest of that winter was cold and of the coldest winters ever (not according to the weather service but that's the way I remember it). The sun didn't shine much until about June. I worked 80-100 hour weeks for the next year...week after week...month after month, no hope, not knowing what the future held, not really caring. Mom took over the Business along with Brother. While they fumbled around in the dark trying to get a handle on everything I abandoned all thought of returning to school and worked.

And worked. And worked. I couldn't help them much with running The Business because I was "ignorant...didn't know any better...what does a 21-year-old child know"? So, I worked...and learned. I learned: that you CAN work 197 days in a row without a day off and still be standing; that the human body CAN survive on convenience store food and stale hot dogs & nachos; what it meant to crawl your way through the days and to just survive. I had already learned that hard work can kill you, now I learned how it can bury you alive.

I didn't learn how to fight. I already knew how anyway. Don't we all learn that growing up and being teenagers? Besides, what was I going to fight? Life, circumstances, the Devil, God? It wasn't God that made Dad work like he did, or smoke like he did, or not take care of himself. Those were his choices. He told me so himself that day a lifetime before in December. He once told me why he wouldn't quit smoking: "Look, I don't drink and I don't chase women. I think those are the 2 big ones so leave me alone."

One big misconception, though was the whole "boss' son" thing. I'd hear "Oh, you've got it made" "You get to do whatever you want" "You just tell everyone else what to do" "I'll bet you get all your stuff free". Right. In our world being one of the family meant you worked harder than anyone else to set the example. You were first in and last out. You didn't get paid until everyone else did. You never took something without paying for it. You never lost your temper with anyone. You were servant to your employees and to your customers. And, I wouldn't have had that part any other way. That was Dad's way of doing business.

I also didn't learn how to be angry (already knew that, too). I was lucky. I have seen many people in similar situations get extremely angry and Lt. Dan in Forest Gump. They sink into a "dungeon of black despair" -- of bitterness & rage and become lost. I was spared that...that time. I didn't hate God or life or anything or anybody. I knew that how I reacted was my choice...I could choose what to do with my life, I didn't have to stay and work in The Business (no matter what kind of guilt trip was laid down), I chose that path because I cared about Mom and Brother and wanted to do my part...whatever they decided that was. Even though I wasn't bitter I was lost for some time and didn't realize what was going on around me. I have a hard time even now remembering allot of the details of those long days. Guess my mind has blocked some of it out.

Then, something wonderful happened around the first of June...I met my future wife.


Monday, April 03, 2006

"Down once more..."

Sometimes you just don't fit in. Your round peg doesn't fit into their square hole. You just can't help the circumstance you were born into. A shame, really, because everyone has a beautiful story...if we'll give them a chance, be still, and listen. I guess what I really meant in my 3-31 post was thanks, guys, for sharing your stories. I'm glad I slowed down long enough to get to know you a little. So much has happened recently that I had been searching for some way to make sense of it all...

It started long ago. I had a normal childhood except I was blessed with parents that were very, very, good (almost perfect): noble, self sacrificing, hard working (had the Family Grocery Business), they were children of the Great Depression who wanted only the best for me and my brother. But mostly for Brother, I suppose, since he was a Junior and 6-years the elder (the way Mom looked at it, anyway. I don't really think Dad cared much about that stuff). I suspect Mom didn't mind when a little of Brother's glory shined her way. I never minded much...he was a pretty awesome guy and I was the text-book little brother...just like the Beaver. I was told over and over again that I even looked just like the Beav. That's how it all went, anyway. My brother was the smart one: graduated from Baylor with the accounting degree; married the appropriate sorta-pretty-college girl-grabbing-for-the-brass-ring. They had the mandated first-child-as-a-son and followed it up with second-son (which college-girl thought secured her a place in immortality...but who can guaranty immortality except God? Don't EVER misplace your trust).

All went according to script...we lived a hearty robust life, worked hard, Brother and I found Jesus at age 9 respectively like you’re supposed to, and all was well. Dad worked long, hard hours and slowly grew the Business and acquired a reputation for fairness and honesty. Mom did PTA & church, made sure we were all fed and where we were supposed to be and eventually worked long and hard helping Dad with the books.

Brother tried football but knee injuries forced his 8th grade retirement and he became a very accomplished golfer (won the North Texas Youth tournament his Junior year in High School beating, among others, Ben Crenshaw), worked after school in the Family Business then went to college where he met and married his wife. After a year of grad-school he came home and joined the Family Business full time.

I played football from 2nd through 14th grade and did band from 7th-9th (had a thing for the Tympani...still a sucker for the Symphony). I had more money than most of my friends. Not because we were rich (we weren't) but because I the Family Business...all the time...and never had any time to go spend what I made. Great for a nest egg but it sucks for your social life. It ultimately cost me a 4-year relationship with a wonderful girl and forced me to make allot of hard decisions…some I’m still not real proud of. All that was ok, I supposed. Brother came back and started in the Family Business putting his accounting knowledge to work and pushing to grow. I took his place at college. Never could quite measure up to what he accomplished, though...not in Mom's eyes.

I was home for Christmas break my junior year. It was Friday 12-23 and Dad had to make 3-hour round trip to a business associates house. The Cowboys and Vikings were playing for the NFC Championship on Christmas Eve (this was before the cowboys dishonored themselves and their fans) and Dad's friend was giving him some complimentary game tickets. A 3-hour road trip may not seem like a big deal until you understand that Dad never went anywhere...NEVER. I couldn't even drag him away long enough to get a line wet. He couldn't bear the thought of being out of touch with The Business for that long (no cell phones in those days).

When he asked me to go along I jumped at the chance to have some private time with him away from The Business and Family. It was very educational. I found out that, despite what I had been told, he wasn't ashamed of fact he thought I was pretty ok and admired my tendency for doing what I thought was right and not listening to other people...except when I didn't listen to him. I found out that not only did he NOT go ballistic like Mom did (and she predicted that he would), he was actually excited when I told him I didn't feel like my place was in the Family Business after college. He said I'd better NOT follow him unless I could figure a way to do it without it costing my whole life and time away from my future family...this shocked me because I never dreamed Dad had any regrets about The Business. I found out, too, that he wasn't really all that thrilled about Brother coming into The Business...that meant he had to keep pushing and expanding...trying to be successful. He wished Brother had had the guts and courage to follow his chosen career of accounting and, not to sound too indelicate, leave Dad alone to enjoy a little bit of what he had built. He was 53 and, while not ready to retire, he sure didn't want to sink more time, energy, and money into a business that had extracted a heavy toll from him of 70-75 hours a week for almost 20 years and was finally starting to provide a reasonably comfortable living. Dad ended up telling me that I had damn well (his words) better promise him to finish school and follow that secret dream career I had just confided to him. This was the first time Dad and I talked to each other as men and not just father and son.

Three weeks later he was dead.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

"Sometimes we must leave our safe places...

...and walk empty-handed amongst our enemies"

I've had allot of people ask me "where in the world did you come up with Beast1624" or from some of my christian friends "I have a real hard time typing in that address. It just seems wrong." Well, really it just represents where I started and where I am now. Let me explain...

There was a time when I wondered: is it worth it? I knew there was a God. I've been lucky. I've never doubted. I'd seen too many things over the years to ever question 'Does God exist?' But I had begun to envy the comfort and wealth of those who I knew didn't care about God. They didn't have to struggle to make a living. Everything they touched turned to gold. They treated their employees with contempt and ruled over them with an iron fist yet their businesses prospered...they didn't have trouble finding good help. They were healthy and fit no matter how much they partied or indulged. They didn't struggle with their appearance or their finances like the rest of us did. It all just came naturally...just fell into their laps. They held up to ridicule and mockery all the things that I was taught you were supposed to do...all the things that were right.

It seemed like everything I had done, all I believed was in vain. What good was it? Had I been stupid to play by the rules? Even though I tried to do what was right, even though I treated people beyond fair, still I struggled to keep my head above water. Our business was a constant struggle: solve 1 crises and have 4 more even worse come up. People either didn't believe my intentions or took advantage of them saying "if he's stupid enough to play fair let's steal him blind". Get slapped with litigation at every turn but when we had a beef with someone it gets ignored. What good had it done Mom and Dad? Dad died WAAAAY too young...Mom died pretty darn young too. I began to resent the very foundation I had built my whole life on...what Mom and Dad had built theirs on and taught me was the way to do things.

Then, when the world looked like it was caving in on me, when it seemed like I was going to be crushed, a small voice said "Just give me 1 more try. Come with no expectations and ignore the 'holy' ones". I did. I spent some loooong days thinking, searching, reading. I realized that I had been a dumb ox...a 'brute beast'.

I began to realize that the real important things don't have anything to do with money, business, success, possessions or prestige. When life was over it would boil down to 2 things: who we loved and who loved us. I had been set free ("free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I'm free at last!"). I realized I had been in prison since I was a child (it was a 'born into the family business' thing) and that to follow the narrow path I had to deny the things that I thought meant something. I had to focus on the '2 things' that require me to 'deny myself' & suck it up and bear the burden. Like the title says: "Sometimes we must leave our safe places and walk empty-handed amongst our enemies"

Oh, and 1 more thing I learned...a 3rd thing I guess: all this only applies to me. Not you. I don't have the right to try to force what I think or believe on you. All I have the right to do is tell you what's happened to me. I can't judge you and I SURE won't condemn you for what you think and believe...that's the fun you get to have: finding YOUR path...back to that 'who loves us' thing again!

For the Beast reference check this out.
Check here for the '1624' reference.