Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mr. Hawkins

(This has nothing to do with weight loss, food, surgery or, well, anything relevant. Just cleaning out the corners of my mind, I reckon.)
Few things inspire as much awe and wonder and curiosity for us mortals as a sky full of stars. The history of our species is dotted with celestial flirtations. From building a tower we thought would take us straight to The Almighty to strapping ourselves on rockets and blasting towards heaven mankind has, from the start, been obsessed with what’s out there. I guess we’ve come full circle…a space shuttle is simply a high-tech Tower of Babel.
Sitting on my patio appreciating the grandeur of a starry night doesn’t take me to the planets or galaxies. It doesn’t cause me to feebly ponder infinity or deities. It takes me back to sixth grade. In the sixth grade, Jack Hawkins taught us how to look up and find the great hunter Orion and his trusty dog Canis Major. And now, as an adult, whatever else is headlining in any given night sky, I always search for the ever present Orion and I silently thank Mr. Hawkins (who I haven’t seen in 30 years and probably wouldn’t know me if he saw me.)
At Rockbridge Elementary School Mr. Hawkins taught us how to make all types of gadgets out of cardboard, drinking straws and fishing weights that would help us find The Big Dipper, The Little Dipper and Orion. He told us what planets would be visible at what times of the evening and how to find them. Back on earth, we tracked hurricanes and raised tadpoles into frogs. His were the only homework assignments I looked forward to completing.
My mother used to say that only God and mamas could love sixth graders. I think she left Mr. Hawkins off the list. He had to love us to put as much effort into making an impression and teaching lessons that would last into our adult years. It had to be more than just a job for him. I’m not an educator. But I have three sisters who are. When I grew up and got married I married the daughter of an educator. I have a special place in my heart for those who teach. I liken them to those who work in the mortuary science fields – I’m glad somebody wants to do it but I’m glad that someone isn’t me! There probably are educators who don’t care about the difference they make and treat their jobs as, well, jobs. But I haven’t met them among the ones I know.
My father-in-law has been retired from school administration for over ten years. Yet there’s not a meal-time blessing at his dinner table that doesn’t mention our schools and our teachers. I’ve heard him imply many times that it’s not so much the career he misses as it is the kids. The fondness with which he remembers those kids tells me that he made as profound an impression on those children as Mr. Hawkins made on me.
Jack Hawkins probably never got famous. He probably never got rich. But what he did accomplish in the course of a career was to make children better people and, in turn, make the world a better place. There are CEO’s, presidents and prime ministers who can’t make that claim. I’m not even sure that Mr. Hawkins is still living but I’d like to have the opportunity to thank him. He didn’t just teach me how to find Orion…he taught me how to find my way through the universe (and that it helps to have a good dog watching your back.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Alive and well......

I mean really well. Total up to 180 lbs. lost. Sometimes I think "oh, 180 pounds,,that's good." And then sometimes I think "Holy crap! 180 pounds?????" Yesterday was a "Holy crap!" kind of day. Had an eye-opening day yesterday.
We started out the day going to church. We then went to lunch and Discover Mills. Yes, I went shopping. In a roundabout way, the one thing that you would expect to lure me to shopping was the key - college football. I had a gift card to Tailgater's Alley. I went to see if they had a white hoodie that would fit me. Thursday night against Miami is a whiteout and the only white stuff I have will not be warm enough for a night game. So I went to a store and bought clothes off a rack. They had one that fit me! Are you hearing me? I bought something off a rack!!! I tried on other stuff. They had lots of stuff that fit me. I had tried on other stuff so that maybe Rhonda can give people gift ideas. Instead of telling them "you'll have to order it from the 'GOD YOU'RE HUGE!' catalog" she can tell them "they have a jacket at Tailgater's Alley he wants." I stood in the middle of that store and started crying. So did my bride. People in the packed store probably thought "Wow - those people love Georgia Tech!"
We left that store and walked around the mall for a while longer. Not one single person stared at the fat guy. Not one child pointed and laughed. I wasn't sweating to death. I didn't stop every five minutes to rest. We left the mall and went to the grocery store. More walking and I was fine. I didn't go home and take painkillers for my knees and ankles and go to bed. I felt alive for the first time in years.
My sister has long compared me to the George Bailey character in "It's A Wonderful Life." I relate to the way the man felt about himself, but I fear she overestimates the "being important in other people's lives angle" where I'm concerned. That said there's one scene in that movie I relate to more than any other. When he's standing on the bridge screaming to The Almighty "I wanna live again..I wanna' live again!" I'm not trying to be a martyr when I tell you that I've been screaming that for years now. My weight has kept me from being the husband, brother, son and friend I should be. My weight has kept Rhonda from having much to look forward to. Yesterday I truly felt alive. The day we spent probably seems routine for some of you. For me it was but a peek into how good things are about to become. I'm looking forward to the ride.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


So we're right at 175 pounds lost now. Like I've said a zillion times, success worries me. I'm waiting on the bad news. Perhaps I need to change my lifelong thought process. Perhaps there's not always a bad with the good, a dark with the light or a fall with a rise. Perhaps this is going to work. Listen to me - gushing positivity! Change my house to glass and call me Robert Schuller!
From the get it off my chest department - I'm not a fan of politics. I've lost faith in most politicians and their parties. I'm not a conservative, I'm not a liberal. I'm me and "me" is fairly liberal in some areas and pretty conservative in others. I generally don't see a "me" running for anything so I'm left to choose the closest possible option. That said, here's what I'm sick of - the so-called talking heads. The Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world. Obama hasn't been sworn in yet and they've already started. Limbaugh said something to the effect that this is "Obama's economy,,it's in recession and headed for depression." IT'S OBAMA'S ECONOMY? Uh, Rush...Obama hasn't been steering the ship the last 8 years. They're spewing drivel about what danger we're in, how dire things will become and tons of rhetoric about "Marxism." They're entitled to their opinion...I got no problem with that. Here's what bugs me, though - these are same morons who in the last eight years have told us that if we didn't agree that George W. Bush walked on water then we hated America. We needed to support the president because wanting him to succeed was wanting America to succeed. So why don't the same rules apply now? I have NO idea if Obama was the right choice. But I do know this - the better off he does the better off the country does. So he has my prayers, not just for his sake, but for the sake of my country.
Along these lines, I overheard a frightening conversation while traveling Sunday. In Somewhere, South Carolina (really, I have no idea where we were) we stopped for lunch at a Wendy's. The place was full of folks who just got out of church. With God as my witness, I overheard an employee of the restaurant telling a customer "Well, they say that every fourth president is assassinated, so maybe......" I wanted to ask her "Let me get this straight - you're actually HOPING for an assassination attempt on the president's life?" Remember the line from "Driving Miss Daisy" "You think things have changed? Well they ain't changed all that much..."
Ok, I feel better now.....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Collards make me happy....

You can smell them cooking a mile away. I don't really think they're appreciated by anyone north of Tennessee or west of Mississippi. It seems the big cooking show cliche is "comfort food." Ok, I'll play - collards are comfort food to the umpteenth degree. In a time where food has become a chore rather than an enjoyment, I am relieved to find out that collards still make me comfortable and happy.
At a small, hard to find corner of Chapel Hill, North Carolina sits Mama Dip's. Mama Dip was a real person but I'm not really sure if she's still living or not. But her family carries on the tradition of southern delicacies that'll make you feel happy no matter where you're from. On our annual trip to that part of the world for football (either against Duke or North Carolina, depending on the year) we made a stop this past Friday to visit Mama Dip's. I've gotten my mind trained to not really look forward to food all that much. Find something that's "allowable" and eat what you can. Soft cooked vegetables are "allowable" so I decided to give a bowl of collards a shot. Granted, they would've been better with a chunk of cornbread, but that bowl of collards tasted as good as almost anything I've put in my mouth since surgery. Granted, there wasn't any protein to speak of, but they sure tasted like heaven. The only thing that's come close is a turkey meatloaf my bride made me right after surgery. I bet I'd enjoy that even more now that food is actually starting to taste good.
I'm rambling..bottom line, it was a treat to sit down and enjoy food.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Tis the season......

ok, so it's not "the season" just yet but I've already started thinking about it. We're just about done with football season (somebody hold me,,,please) and I've survived tailgating season. You know what? It IS possible to tailgate and have fun without indulging in copious amounts of unhealthy food and drink. I'm probably much less amusing to the folks that sit around me at games but, fear not, that fool will be back next season. Now begins the hardest season of all. I'm not sure that it's possible to fully enjoy the holidays (I'm talking Thanksgiving and the Christmas season) without good foods that you don't consume at any other time during the year.
If I make it to heaven one day I'll know I'm there because my heaven is a place that forever smells like my Mother's kitchen the day before Thanksgiving. I've cooked many turkeys and many pans of dressing but was never able to recreate that heavenly aroma that was "home" in every sense of the word. Perhaps I should just refrain from recognizing Thanksgiving this year and go sit in the mountains somewhere and look at the leaves changing. Or maybe I should just go sit in downtown Athens. I never seem to have an appetite there.
And Christmas - what's Christmas going to be without a taste of potato candy? Before my Mother fell victim to Alzheimer's there were two people who knew how to make it. Now there's only one of us. I guess I'll make a batch of it so that my family will have that connection to Mama. And I'll survive.
Fast forward to adulthood - one of my favorite current traditions is to splurge and cook something fancy and good for my bride the day before Christmas. I'd spend all day Christmas Eve alternating between martinis and cooking. This year she's being a trooper "We can go get some fresh fish and grill it or something..that'll be good." Christmas Day is usually a blur for us and becomes as tiring and stressful as it is enjoyable - rushing from house to house seeing our loved ones. Christmas Eve always seemed more like our holiday than Christmas Day. Again, I feel she's missing out because of my self-imposed change in lifestyle. But we'll survive.
Whenever something gets stuck in my craw, I always feel better after blogging about it. When it lives in my mind, whatever challenge I'm obsessing about seems insurmountable. Then, when I put it in words, I think "I can handle that...."
Totally unrelated ramblings:
Mindless rant #1 Thank GOD that today is election day. I'm grateful to live in a free society where we can have a change of leadership without tanks in the streets and former leaders being hung by their toenails in the square. That said, I'm sick of politicians at this point. Whoever wins I'm glad it's over.
Mindless rant #2 - can we now agree that the SEC was the most overrated conference in football this year? It's Florida and Alabama and then everyone else. Before the season the media stepped all over themselves touting the SEC as the reason God created the universe. This year, give me the Big XII, hands down. The Texas Tech/Texas game last Saturday night was as good a college game I'd watched in....well........hours - at least since I got home from the Tech-FSU game. And what's that loud THUD I just heard? It was everybody jumping off the Georgia bandwagon. Let the word go forth - before the season I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that Georgia was nowhere near the team the national media had proclaimed them to be. And yes, my view is severely skewed by my white and gold colored glasses. But I have one message for the guy that wears #24 for the bulldogs - just play football. Just play football and quit acting like a fool. You looked like a buffoon (is that a word?) patting Charlie Strong on the hiney after picking up a first down. Especially when, a few plays thereafter, your quarterback threw it to someone wearing the wrong jersey. And personally, I could watch that video of the Florida middle linebacker changing your zip code over & over & over....In fact I have. You're a talented young man and I want all talented young men playing NCAA football to get their degrees and succeed. But you'd make it easier to root for you if you'd act like you'd been there before.
WHEW! I feel much better now.