Friday, July 27, 2012

ALL OF THIS OVER A CHICKEN SANDWICH?

I really didn't want to write about the recent Chick-fil-A controversy, but things have gotten so out of control on it in such a short period of time, that I feel like I need to state where I stand on this whole mess.

Let's get this little thing out of the way first.  Chick-fil-A has never made it a secret that they were a Christian owned business.  They run the corporation based on Chistian principles as they see them.  For example, it is my understanding that they are not open on Sundays.  Fine with me.  When I was young and learning to drive, my mother rode with me quite a bit.  She use to complain about the speed I was driving by saying "Just because the speed limit is forty doesn't mean you have to go forty."  Just because a business CAN be open on Sunday doesn't mean they have to be.  They have the right to run their business anyway they want as long as it does not infringe on people's rights as afforded by the constitution or local laws.

Now, as for the interview that started this whole mess with Dan Cathy, President and CEO of Chik-fil-A, much of what was written in the article was taken out of context as far as his quote goes.  the quote in it's entirety as far as I can find was this:

“We don’t claim to be a Christian business,” Cathy told the Biblical Recorder in a recent visit to North Carolina. He attended a business leadership conference many years ago where he heard Christian businessman Fred Roach say, “There is no such thing as a Christian business.”

“That got my attention,” Cathy said. Roach went on to say, “Christ never died for a corporation. He died for you and me.”

“In that spirit … [Christianity] is about a personal relationship. Companies are not lost or saved, but certainly individuals are,” Cathy added. “But as an organization we can operate on biblical principles. So that is what we claim to be. [We are] based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.”

The company invests in Christian growth and ministry through its WinShape Foundation   The name comes from the idea of shaping people to be winners. It began as a college scholarship and expanded to a foster care program, an international ministry, and a conference and retreat center modeled after the Billy Graham Training Center at the Cove.

“That morphed into a marriage program in conjunction with national marriage ministries,” Cathy added.

Some have opposed the company’s support of the traditional family. “Well, guilty as charged,” said Cathy when asked about the company’s position. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …

“We are very much committed to that,” Cathy emphasized. “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

Okay.  The man sounds very sincere and is very clear about what his beliefs are.  Now there are people who believe that gay and lesbian marriages should be a right afforded to them by the Constitution.  Most of these people can read the quote as a negative quote as far as their belief system is.  For example, if you are for traditional family values, then you are REALLY saying you are against Gay marriage.  That is probably a fair assessment of how Mr. Cathy feels.  I would suppose that he is indeed against gay marriage.  The thing is though, that he never speaks the word "gay" and he never says that there is no right to gay marriage.  He speaks on a positive note about his beliefs, not a negative note about what he does not believe.  There is no hate speech in his words.

His final statement in the quote is the biggie that everyone should adhere to and agree with:

"...thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values ..."

Yes indeed.  We live in a country where EVERYONE can share and live to their own values.  

As to my own point of view, I have made it no secret where I stand on marriage, gay or straight.  I wrote a blog entry about it ( http://wm-clark.blogspot.com/2012/05/marriage-civil-unions-and-constitution.html ) .  In short, I feel that marriage is the culprit and is unconstitutional, and that Civil Unions certified by each individual state should be available for everyone affording the same rights to everyone.

I made one mistake when this whole thing burst open.  My sister-in-law posted something about this and it was from the Chick-fil-A point of view, and I think it stated how gays would probably boycott Chick-fil-A because of this half quote that appeared on the internet or something like that.  I commented on her post with this:

"I would boycott Chick-fil-A but I never go there anyway. (and won't now)"

She answered my comment with:

"Everyone has the right to speak up for their beliefs."

to which I responded:

" I agree, sis. I have no desire to stop you from standing up for how you, or anyone for that matter, feel on any particular subject."

My mistake here was that I was being sarcastic, as in funny sarcastic.  The (and won't now) should not have been written but should have been a smiley face emoticon.  She is right when she says everyone has the right to speak their beliefs.  I agree with that.  I think the gays have the right to speak their beliefs as well and to respond to the business model that Chick-fil-A is run by.

Honestly I have no idea where I would find a Chick-fil-A and have never really thought about going to one and do not plan on going to one.  When it comes to chicken, Kentucky Fried is the only way to go as far as I am concerned.  If you told me "Let's go to Chick-fil-A!!!"  I would have to ask, "where??"  I don't have a clue about the company as a whole. 

Here is what I worry about when it comes to the statement by Mr. Cathy where he states :

" ... asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. " (emphasis added)


Has there ever been a case when someone was denied employment or let go from a job at one of your restaurants because they were known to be or suspected as being gay?  If so, that is wrong and against the law and the Constitution, and I might add, not very Christian in my own personal thinking.

Has service ever been denied to a person because they were known to be or suspected of being gay?   If so, that is wrong and against the law and the Constitution, and I might add, not very Christian in my own personal thinking.

I did some research and didn't come up with any situations that suggested that Chick-fil-A was guilty of either of those scenarios.   I hope that they aren't and never will be.

 The strange thing about this whole ordeal is that the LGBT community has been rather quiet on the subject.  I have not heard or seen any cries for an organized nationwide boycott of Chick-fil-A.  They seem to be okay with it.  It could be that they already knew what the philosophy of Mr. Cathy's was and have already been running a boycott for years.  I don't know.  But the supporters of Mr. Cathy's statement are all up in arms defending his philosophy, which is okay.  What I see happening is a very strange event.  A "pro-protest" is shaping up as supporters are gearing up to all eat at a Chick-fil-A on August first.  That is how I read their postings anyway, I could be wrong and if I am I would love to be corrected on that.  Most protest are "anti-protests".  In this case there doesn't seem to be a large contingent of loud voices hammering away against Mr. Cathy's statements.  Sure there are the obligatory remarks made by the gay community, but nothing that is calling the whole LGBT community to show up with signs outside every Chick-fil-A in the country. (They may just do that now that the pro-Chick-fil-A people have August first designated as a sort of support Chick-fil-A day).

My biggest hope is that this doesn't become a political issue in the campaign.  It isn't that big of a fish when it comes down to the exchange of ideas that this country needs to address.  The only way it does become a big fish is if Chick-fil-A has fired, not hired or have not served people based on their perceived or real sexual orientation comes to light.  So far, as far as I can see, that has not happened.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

MUSIC IS A PHOTO ALBUM OF THE MIND

There are many forms of art.  There is sculpture, painting, writing, fashion.  They all have their special qualities.  You can read a book and the story may or may not stick with you.  A book may effect your life in some way as it can change the way you look at things and the way you think.  A painting or sculpture can either overwhelm you with it's beauty or simplicity.  Film can live in your mind for years and if it is a good enough film, may even stay with you the rest of your life.  But one form of art is like a time machine taking you back in time to certain moments in your life.  That art form is music.

Music is magical.  Music marks special events in our lives that stay in our memories forever.  A special moment occurs in life and chances are there was a song playing in the background.  After that moment in time, every time you hear that song, chances are you will be taken back to that special time. More than any other form of art,  music lives within each of us.

I have told some stories on this blog about music and the events surrounding when I heard that song.  Sometimes it is an event that is occurring the very first time you hear a song.  Other times you could hear a song many times but at some point something special was happening when that old song was being played.

I can look back on so many times that a song came along and is forever branded in my mind with an event.

One of Harry Chapin's last albums was entitled "Dance Band On The Titanic".  Whenever I hear that song I get a picture of Ronnie and myself sitting on the floor of his bedroom shortly before he left to join the US Army.  Ronnie had picked up about three albums that night and songs from all of those albums bring that special night when we sat and listened to new music without much talking.  It was a special evening for us.  We had spent most of our teen years listening to music together either at his house or mine.  We had discovered a lot of music together, but this night was different.

I hear Chapin songs off of that album or Jackson Browne's "Running On Empty" Album and I am immediately in Ronnie's room.  Shag carpet on the floor.  The music not to loud.  Reading the liner notes of these albums only talking between songs debating on which song was best so far.  We spent half the night listening to those albums.

When I hear the classic IN-A-GADDA-DA-VIDA I am taken to an earlier time with Ronnie in a different house.  At that time, he had a big console stereo in his room that really brought out the bass as the song was played.  It was seventeen minutes of hard rock and roll that made no sense what so ever, but we loved it and when I hear that song, again I am back with Ronnie playing air guitars and keyboards as the Iron Butterfly go through the excersize of stretching a rather monotonous rift out to those seventeen minutes.

One Saturday afternoon I went to visit Larry.  As I walked into the house, I heard Johnny Cash for the first time that I remember.  "I hear the train a comin', It's coming round the bend....." went the song and Larry's dad was sitting in his chair tapping his foot and ignoring me as I entered his home.

The first time I heard Led Zeppelin's fourth album was at a party of one of Barb's friends.  We were early to the party and I had just bought the album that day.  I put it on the stereo and as the girls prepared for the party,  Larry and I sat and listened to one of the all time greatest rock albums ever produced.  Then suddenly in the middle of the second song on the first side, I heard a sound that every audiophile hates to hear.  "Rrrrrriiiiiiippppp" as the tone arm was removed from my brand new album and then I heard "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters start to play.  I get a picture of Larry's face as he looked at me in shock probably mirroring the same expression I was giving him.  Whenever I hear those two songs, that picture pops into my head.

I wrote earlier in the blog about going to see the Allman Brothers Band and walking around the concourse as a the song "Midnight Rider" was being played.  The picture I get in my mind is Larry and myself looking at each other with that same shocked expression that we had the night of the Led Zeppelin incident.

I get a picture of seeing my dad sitting and listening to Jimmy Dean sing on our old mono record player.  Whenever I hear Jimmy Dean or Jim Nabors I get that same picture in my mind of dad sitting there enjoying the music.  He didn't sit and listen to music that often because he was always too busy, but when he did sit and listen, he would sit still with a hint of a smile on his face as he enjoyed the music.

There was an old old song called "Barney Google" that I had learned to play on the piano.  My Grandma Clark was over at mom and dad's one Christmas in which I had gotten Brett some of those glasses with eyeballs attached to coils so the eyes would swing around while he wore them.  I called them his Barney Google glasses and told my Grandma this.  Before I knew it, my grandmother was singing along, not missing a word and tapping her hands on her thighs while tapping her feet.  She had a HUGE smile on her face as she belted out the song,  She was almost to the point of laughing as she sang that old song.

One year, somebody gave my grandfather a music box that played "Somewhere My Love".  I have a very clear picture of him sitting in his chair listening to the music box puffing on his pipe with a far away look in his eye.  He loved that song among many others.  I have lots of snapshots in my mind of grandpa listening to music.

Another very clear picture was when my aunt Sue and myself were about seven years old.  My great aunt Margaret was chasing us around the house with her arms out stretched singing "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" over and over again.

When I hear "The Missouri Waltz" I see my sister sitting at the piano playing it flawlessly and making it sound so beautiful.  It doesn't matter if it is Marching Mizzou playing the waltz, when I hear that song a picture of Elaine sitting in the living room playing it pops into my head.

When I hear Bread's "Baby I'm A Want you"album I find myself upstairs at grandma and grandpa's sitting with my aunt Sue playing a game of cards.

When the song "Then Came You" enters into my head, I remember one evening when Barb looked at me while it was playing and telling me that it was our song.  I am not sure WHY it was our song, but to her it was, and that was important.  Over the years it has indeed became our song and a picture of her looking at me when we were so young and the look in her eyes as she told me.

I could go on and on with examples.  Some more recent than others.  Springteen's "Human Touch", McClean's "Crossroads",  oh and of course Three Dog Night's "Joy To The World".  That song has over the years became a sort of secret joke between my mom and me.  I use to play it on the piano or play the record constantly and she swore she couldn't stand it.  Personally, even though she still swears she can't deal with the song, I think she has come to like it because of the picture that is in her mind when she hears it.

Music effects us all differently.  Most songs we hear are forgotten, but those special songs that serve as bookmarks in our lives, stay with us forever.  I believe everyone has a musical photo album in our minds.  Enjoy that photo album.  It brings more of your life back to you than anything else.

I know I enjoy my musical photo album and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Monday, July 23, 2012

THE BROWN BOOKS

I absolutely love books.  While I will read an occasional fiction book, I prefer non-fiction by far.  The fiction that I did learn to read and enjoy, I mainly picked up from high school Literature courses.  One particular teacher, Ms. Belden was the main person to make me appreciate fiction writing.  She introduced me to authors such as Steinbeck, Sinclair, and Lewis.  These were authors that wrote fiction for a purpose and to get philosophies and messages across to the readers to make the readers think.  However I was reading fiction books many years before and enjoying the stories just for the stories.  It was a time before I was able to pull messages from what the author was writing about.

When I was young, in the sixties, there was not an internet to look things up instantaneously.  The best way to do research was by using something called an encyclopedia.  The encyclopedia  that was best known and considered to be the best out there was the Encyclopedia Britannica.  The set of books were not cheap and usually consisted of a minimum of twenty volumes covering every topic you could think of from letter A to Z.  The Encyclopedia Britannica also threw in as a bonus some extras like classic novels.

I am not sure how my parents pulled it off but somehow they managed to get our family a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica that included a set of classic novels written for kids.  We were not a wealthy family and my parents scraped by as much as they could, so the purchase of an encyclopedia set was a major coup that they pulled off somehow.  The books were abridged and had large print but they were edited so well, they were able to get the whole story and remain an enjoyable read.  I am not sure how many of these classic novels were initially included with the encyclopedia but there were quite a few.  I am thinking that ten classics for kids were included in the set.

I don't remember when the massive set of books arrived, but I always remember that they were kept in a small bookcase in the living room.  The books were all brown with a slight gold lettering on the binding of each of them.  I am told that as soon as the books arrived I began leafing through them and, when finding a topic of interest, would stop and read.  Usually after reading an article on one topic, it would arouse my curiosity about another topic, which I would dutifully look up and learn some more.

Soon I was finding solace on dark winter nights or muggy summer nights by taking one of the big books up to my room and read about places far away, about people who were famous and why they were famous among many other things.  I did not restrict myself to just reading the volumes of the encyclopedia, but read the kids novels as well.  There were some great titles in those books.  "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped", "Black Beauty". as well as one book that had stories about children written by Charles Dickens.  This was the book that captured my imagination more than any of the others.  This book marked the beginning of my first author that I felt I wanted to read everything he wrote.  My love for Dickens would last right up until today, even though he would eventually be replaced as my favorite author by John Steinbeck as I grew older.

Still, it was this set of brown books containing classics for kids that continued to grow my love of reading and of books.  Those books became an important part of my life.  Both the encyclopedia and the classic novels formed my early years as I headed toward my teenage years.  I would eventually stop reading them as my taste for books became more complicated and more into the non-fiction realm.  The brown books eventually were part of a distant memory.  They were indeed books for kids and I stopped picking them up to read.

At some point in time the whole set of encyclopedia and classic novels disappeared from my parents living room.  Pretty soon they were all forgotten as part of my childhood that I had out grown and had vanished somewhere else, never to be seen again.  However, even though the books were not to be seen or read, there was always a special place in my mind and memories for those books, particularly the Dicken's one.

As time went by and I got married and embarked on my career, I had little to do with what was going on in my parent's house.  I really had no idea all that was in that house but I did know that there were two large barrels in the garage that were sealed and I never questioned what was in them, that is until one Saturday morning when I went over to help dad clean out the garage a bit.

Mom and dad had decided it was time to get rid of some of the old stuff that they had collected over the years and I was going to go over and help them move stuff out.  When I got there, those two big barrels were sitting in the middle of the garage.  As I stood there my curiosity got the better of me and so I asked my mother what was in those mysterious barrels.

It turned out that in one of the barrels were old clothes.  clothes not only of my mothers, but clothes from generations past.  I had no interest in any thing in that barrel.  Then came one of the shocks of my life.  In the other barrel apparently were books that had been saved over the years.  The majority of the books were Reader's Digest condensed books that my dad use to read all the time.  I never really got into the condensed books because the majority of them were fiction.  By this time I was firmly engrossed in the non-fiction genre of books.  I decided to look through a few of the books just to see if there might be something that I may want before they got donated or thrown away.  As I began going through the books I felt an emotional shock that made me wonder what my parents were thinking.

The first books that I latched onto were a couple of my grandpa's old mechanical engineering books that explained how railroad steam engines worked and the math behind how steam engines worked.  They were complicated books and were not in very good shape.  The bindings were falling away from the pages and I realized that even though I wanted to keep them, they would take special care.  I took them and wrapped them in ziplock bags and put them in my basement where they still sit.

Then came the second shock.  There, sitting among all the condensed books, were the brown books of children's classics from the set of encyclopedias.  I immediately questioned my parents on how in the world could they possibly think about getting rid of these books.  All of the love I had for these books as a child came flooding back over me.  I still loved them.  They were part of our family life as I was growing up, they were part of my life as I was growing up.  These were the books that filled many lonely nights and days in my bedroom with me, firing my imagination as I read them.  I pulled them out one by one looking at the bindings to see the title of each book.  Finally, I read on one of the bindings "Dicken's Stories of Children".  I held that book longer than the others and leafed through it.  These books were not going to leave the family.  I found nine of the books and packed them up and took them home and put them in my own bookcase in my living room.  They were back in circulation.  In the next few weeks I read a few of them reliving my own childhood and my discovery of books.

A few years went by and before I knew it, my own son was reading books with the fervor that I had read books when I was a child.  He discovered the brown books on the bookshelf one day and began reading "Treasure Island".  He seemed to have a sense that these books were special and rather fragile.  He always turned the pages easily as he read the books one after another.  As he grew up he read the brown books several times over.  These books that had helped me fall in love with reading had found a new life by helping my son fall in love with reading.  I still read a lot.  My son still reads a lot.  Both of us can look to our love of books and give some credit to those old brown books that came with the encyclopedia set that had been bought so many years before.

The brown books will forever be a part of my life.  They still sit in the bookcase in my living room and will stay there as long as I have any say in it.  When I see them on that shelf, I look at them with fondness.  The brown books impacted my life and my son's life.  Perhaps they will eventually impact another generation's love of books, even though the internet makes that highly unlikely.  Never the less, they will always be a part of my family.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

STAYING OUT OF POLITICAL ARGUMENTS THIS YEAR

My uncle Dan and myself were having dinner together one night a few years ago.  Dan approached politics from a liberal philosophy.  I considered myself, and still do, as a moderate that leans to the conservative philosophy quite a bit.  In short, there wasn't a lot we agreed on.  The topic that night was the impeachment of President Clinton and we were about as far apart as we ever were on any political topic.  There was not any way that we would ever agree on any part of the scandal that brought about the impeachment, but neither of us were going to back down.

We were at Chubby's on Broadway, one of our favorite haunts because it had a different atmosphere and served breakfast twenty four hours a day. The discussion became an argument and the argument became louder and louder until we were pounding our fists on the tables to emphasize our respective points we were trying to make.  Eventually each of us began to feel our bodies shaking from the stress and the anger.  Dan was to the point of getting up to leave to ease his stress and to get away from this argument that had grown out of control.

Then at about the same time, we stopped talking and looked at each other.  This just wasn't worth it.  We had grown very close to each other and we both could feel that we were on the edge of losing a relationship that neither of us wanted to lose.  We each reached across the table and held each other's hand.  We worked our way around to making a promise to each other that we would never argue politics again with each other.  Not in a serious way anyway.  As time progressed we would make political jokes to each other but drop the topic immediately.  It just wasn't worth losing our love and friendship for each other.  It was the last serious political argument I had with Dan.  That night was one of the worst nights we had together, but also one of the best.  That night we came to an understanding that would stand until the day he died.

I still feel passionate about politics and my philosophy.  I will argue once in a while issues that face our country, but I always try to stop short of getting too wrapped up in a discussion that I lose control.  Most of the people I know and my friends know where I stand with regard to my philosophy concerning politics.  There is no reason to keep airing them out when I know it will cause friction that isn't desired or needed.

Over the past few elections, the country has become more and more divided and passionate.  Partisanship is at the worst that I can remember in my lifetime.  I have come to the conclusion that most intelligent people, on both sides of the political spectrum, are so very passionate and dug in to what they think and believe that trying to have a discussion about any particular issue is a fruitless endeavor that will result in nobody changing their thinking and the hardening of feelings for friends and family.

The current campaign that is under way between President Obama and Governor Romney is very passionate on each side.  I don't know who will win out in November, and to be honest, right now I am not sure it will make much of a difference.  The congress has become so partisan it is hard to imagine them being able to accomplish anything.  As a a matter of fact, the congressional elections this year are probably more important than the Presidential election.

Another reason it may not make a difference on the outcome of the Presidential election is the recent rulings of the Supreme Court.  I think that everyone who was following the President's health care bill was a little confused when the decision came down upholding the health care bill.  Whether you considered the Supreme Court's ruling a victory or defeat, you had to end up sitting there scratching your head on how the decision came down.  The major swing vote over the years on the court has been Justice Kennedy while the Chief Justice Roberts was considered a definite part of the right wing of the court.  When the decision came down it was 5-4 to uphold the health bill.  That wasn't too big of a surprise.  Most people were pretty sure it would come down to a 5-4 one way or the other.  The head scratcher was who came down on the majority and minority of the decision.  Justice Kennedy came down strong against the health bill.  Chief Justice Roberts swung to join the left wing of the court in upholding the bill.  Even the Supreme Court is all mixed up and now we have no idea how to predict how the court will rule in future cases.

The whole system is acting in a manner that we haven't seen in decades.  I believe that the strong passionate feelings that the American people have going into this election is feeding into that uncertainty.  We are close to entering into a kind of philosophical civil war of the minds.  The country began splitting, I believe, during the Nixon Administration, grew a little during the Carter era, and has slowing been carving a chasm in the American political spectrum at a slow and steady pace over the years until President Bush and Senator Gore ended up taking the election of 2000 to the Supreme court to be decided.  The chasm deepened quickly then and has been like a run away train ever since.

I will participate in the election.  I will listen to the pundits and watch the debates that are surely going to be held as we get closer to November.  I will vote.  I will pay extremely close attention to the house and Senate elections as well as the Presidential election.  Every seat in congress will be important this year as well as the White House.

But getting into arguments over issues during this election will not happen with me.  I have grown closer to friends and family over the last few years and getting into an argument over the election will not help those relationships at all.

I probably will give my opinion on certain issues here on the blog.  I have in the past and see no reason not to continue to do so.  But I plan on being careful to just put my thoughts out there and let people read them.  They can agree or not, doesn't really matter to me.  One thing I won't do however is to get into a discussion that will probably cause harm in my relationships.  I can see myself joking with politics this year, but not to express myself or take an issue so seriously that a relationship is broken. People will know that I am making light or joking.

I plan on still having those relationships after the election and beyond. This year is too passionate to take any chances.   There will be those that think I am ducking from confrontation.  That might be a good way to describe how I approach this election.

I am taking the lesson that my Uncle Dan and I learned a few years back, and holding on to it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Johnny Met June - Shelby Lynn

Got some news today from the radio man
He spoke the words softly and as somber as he can
The world stood still and the sky opened up
made my way to fill up my coffee cup.
Then it occurred to me as the daylight sky shone blue
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June.

He waited a while he knew that he would
He was gonna hang around here for as long a he could
The days went by and hours idle passed
He was never sure just how long he would last
But there’s not much love in a lonely room
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June

Hey my darlin’ hey my sweet
I’ve waited on the day that I knew we would meet.
Hey my sun, hey my moon
Today’s the day that
Johnny met June.

Now were starting over it’s the place that we are
You look more than pretty underneath all the stars
Love, love is a burning thing
Oh how I still love to hear you sing
And everything we ever heard about heaven is true
Today’s the day that Johnny met June
Today’s the day that Johnny met June.

Monday, July 16, 2012

PUSHING NATURE AROUND

Before we start this entry, there is something you need to know about me.  I am not much of a "green" person.  I am as green as a very fat juicy vine ripened tomato.  As green as a Kansas City Fire Truck.  As green as a Chiefs helmet.  In other words, I would not be what you would call an avid environmentalist.  I fill my car up with gas no matter what the temperature.  I do not believe in global warming or the coming of a new ice age.  I do recycle however, but started only when the city started curbside recycling.  I would not drive somewhere just to recycle.

I realize that this makes me a follower of Satan to some, if not most, of you reading this.  I think though that my thinking may be changing a bit.  I am recycling to degree after all.  But the one thing that has seemed to open my eyes a bit is happening by my office.

The building that I work in is in a river valley that is also an old Civil War battle field called the Battle of the Big Blue.  It was part of a larger battle, The Battle of Westport.  The Battle of Westport was one of the turning points in the war as far as the Missouri-Kansas border war was concerned.  It is not famous like the battle fields in the east or the south, but it was important around these parts.  If you take a walk in the woods over by my office, you can still find the occasional Civil War leftovers, as bullets and stuff like that.

On the west side of our building, about thirty feet away is the Union Pacific railroad tracks.  Freight trains and trains carrying coal to the electric plant run constantly through the old battle field.  On the west side of the tracks is a large wooded area.  The wooded area has remained undisturbed since the battle took place and has become home to a lot of wild life.

Every once in awhile a few deer will make their way up to the tracks and walk along side them for a bit before darting back into the woods.  There are several different kinds of birds that fill the woods with life and song.  Huge hawks circle above the woods looking for dinner in the way of smaller birds or animals that leave themselves out in the open too long.  I have become fascinated with watching the woods and the birds and what ever else wanders out before heading back into the safety of the woods.  That is starting to change though and I am able to see what damage the change is bringing.

Late last summer we began to hear the sound of heavy equipment off in the woods.  We weren't sure what they were doing at the time and it didn't last very long.  We figured that they possibly were doing some brush clearing in the woods.  There is a drainage area where the rains run down a hill and sometimes if the rains are heavy enough, it floods in the middle of the woods.  Our thinking was that it was a minor flood control project and pretty much put it out of our minds over the winter.

Then this spring the equipment was back and they meant business.  You could hear the cracking of trees as the machinery ripped through the woods.  You could hear the trees falling and crashing.  After a month or so, they had cleared enough of the woods out that we could make out the bulldozers through the woods from out office.  It wasn't a clear view,  they were clearing things out pretty deep into the woods but the thinning was enough that we could make out the colors and the movement of the equipment.

Soon we found out what was going on.  A sign up on fifty-ninth street, where the clearing was beginning indicated a new housing project being built.  We think that it is going to be low income apartment housing.  From fifty-ninth street you could see a wide path of destruction heading off into the woods.  There were still some tree stumps that had been too stubborn to leave where they had been for hundreds of years, but plenty of the trees had simply given up under the attack.

They have continued working in the woods all summer so far.   They are going deeper and deeper into the woods.  Then we started noticing something happening that we hadn't noticed before.  More and more birds were start to hang around closer to the tracks then deep in the woods.  We were seeing more small animals coming up to the tracks and not turning right around and heading back into the woods.  We began to see more deer either come up on the tracks, or stay just inside the woods from the tracks.  Things were changing, and it wasn't taking long for it to happen.

 Then about three weeks ago we saw something that was seldom seen along the tracks.  A red fox came walking slowly out of the woods and up to the tracks.  It stayed out for a fairly long amount of time before heading down the tracks and re-entering the woods a little ways to the south.

We have seen red foxes come out of the woods before, but it was a rare sight.  The small fox never did look comfortable in the past when he would find himself out in the wide open like this and he would dart right back into the woods.  This one looked confused though.  He didn't like being out in the open, but it seemed like he didn't really want to go back into the woods either.  It was by far the longest amount of time that he had stayed out of the woods.

As rare of an event that this was, we were in for another surprise.  A few days later, the fox came out of the woods again and acted in much the same way as before.  It use to be that we would see a fox about once every two years and now we had seen one twice in just a few days.  Since that time we have spotted the fox about five more times.  He looks confused and scared.  The woods are changing for the first time in forever.

Those woods on the other side of the tracks has been home to generations of wild life that humans don't get to see too often.  Now things are different.  The wild life that has lived, more or less, in comfort in what can be described as a natural habitat are being flushed out of their homes to make room for new construction.  It isn't a pretty sight to observe.  The whole eco system is changing in a manner of months.  These animals do not know how to deal with it, what to do or where to go.

I can see a time when a train will be coming through the valley and that little red fox will not have anywhere to go except to try to outrun the train in a futile attempt to find some safe haven anywhere.

This has opened my eyes a bit, well maybe more than a bit.  Kansas City is a metro area that spreads over many square miles.  We have lots of wooded areas throughout the city, both in the city and in the suburbs and outlying areas.  I find myself changing in my idea of growing and constructing in areas where wild life innocently live.

I am not sure what the answer is if there is one.  The city will continue to grow and construction will continue to be taken up as the city grows.  I wonder if there was a survey of the woods to see how much wildlife was in those woods.  I wonder if maybe there could have been an attempt to relocate the wildlife into safer areas. Right now the animals in those woods are trapped between heavy construction equipment and railroad tracks.  Not much of a choice.

I think I have become a little greener because of this.  I feel for those animals.  The confusion of the red fox really brings it home.  Perhaps this will be a pathway for me to consider other things that I never thought of much before.  Perhaps at this time next year I will be as green as a six year old entering a school house for the very first time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Modern Man - George Carlin

I’m a modern man
A man for the millennium
Digital and smoke free

A diversified multicultural postmodern deconstructionist
Politically anatomically and ecologically incorrect

I’ve been uplinked and downloaded
I’ve been inputted and outsourced
I know the upside of downsizing
I know the downside of upgrading

I’m a high tech lowlife
A cutting edge state-of-the-art bicoastal multitasker
And I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond

I’m new wave but I’m old school
And my inner child is outward bound
I’m a hot wired heat seeking warm hearted cool customer
Voice activated and biodegradable

I interface from a database
And my database is in cyberspace

So I’m interactive
I’m hyperactive
And from time-to-time
I’m radioactive

Behind the eight ball
Ahead of the curve
Riding the wave
Dodging a bullet
Pushing the envelope

I’m on point
On task
On message
And off drugs

I got no need for coke and speed
I got no urge to binge and purge

I’m in the moment
On the edge
Over the top
But under the radar

A high concept
Low profile
Medium range ballistic missionary
A street-wise smart bomb
A top gun bottom feeder

I wear power ties
I tell power lies
I take power naps
I run victory laps

I’m a totally ongoing big foot slam dunk rainmaker with a proactive outreach

A raging workaholic
A working rageaholic
Out of rehab
And in denial

I got a personal trainer
A personal shopper
A personal assistant
And a personal agenda

You can’t shut me up
You can’t dumb me down
‘Cause I’m tireless
And I’m wireless

I’m an alpha male on beta blockers
I’m a non-believer and an over-achiever
Laid back but fashion forward
Up front
Down home
Low rent
High maintenance
Super size
Long lasting
High definition
Fast acting
Oven ready
And built to last

I’m a hands on
Footloose
Knee jerk
Head case
Prematurely post-traumatic
And I have a love child who sends me hate mail

But I’m feeling
I’m caring
I’m healing
I’m sharing
A supportive bonding nurturing primary care giver

My output is down
But my income is up
I take a short position on the long bond
And my revenue stream has its own cash flow

I read junk mail
I eat junk food
I buy junk bonds
I watch trash sports
I’m gender specific
Capital intensive
User friendly
And lactose intolerant

I like rough sex
I like tough love
I use the f word in my email
And the software on my hard drive is hard core, no soft porn

I bought a microwave at a mini mall
I bought a mini van in a mega store
I eat fast food in the slow lane

I’m toll free
Bite sized
Ready to wear
And I come in all sizes

A fully equipped
Factory authorized
Hospital tested
Clinically proven
Scientifically formulated medical miracle

I’ve been pre-washed
Pre-cooked
Pre-heated
Pre-screened
Pre-approved
Pre-packaged
Post-dated
Freeze-dried
Double-wrapped
Vacuum-packed
And I have an unlimited broadband capacity

I’m a rude dude
But I’m the real deal
Lean and mean
Cocked, locked and ready to rock
Rough tough and hard to bluff

I take it slow
I go with the flow
I ride with the tide
I got glide in my stride
Drivin’ and movin’
Sailin’ and spinnin’
Jivin’ and groovin’
Wailin’ and winnin’

I don’t snooze
So I don’t lose
I keep the pedal to the metal
And the rubber on the road

I party hearty
And lunch time is crunch time

I’m hanging in
There ain’t no doubt
And I’m hanging tough
Over and out.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

FIRST IMPRESSIONS - LASTING IMPRESSIONS

All of us were taught growing up that the first impression that we give to people of ourselves are very important. Once that impression is embedded in a person's mind, it is a long road to change what is an impression to a reality of what kind of person you are and how they think of you.Sometimes that first impression will last forever in some peoples minds.

This is the story of my meeting a lovely lady named Laurie Merta. People who will read this and knew Laurie much better than I did will rightfully think and say to themselves that this guy didn't know Laurie at all. They would be right. Laurie and I crossed paths at most five or six times in our lives. She lived in Washington State while I live in Missouri. As little time as I spent with Laurie though, I have a strong and lasting impression of her in my mind.

Laurie was a friend of my Uncle Dan's. The people that were drawn to my Uncle were all different. Each person that I met had a totally different personality. Laurie was no different by being different. Her longtime partner in life, Craig, was as different from Laurie as Laurie was from everyone else. Then again, like Laurie and myself, Craig and I only crossed paths in person a few times. I have managed to keep in touch with Craig and a few more of my Uncle's friends from the Pacific Northwest so my impression of Craig is about the same reality as my impression of Laurie probably is.

My sister and I made a trek to the northwest to visit my Uncle one summer several years ago. Dan wanted us to meet his friends because he loved them all. We went to the theatre with his friends, went to dinner with his friends. The few days that we spent in the Tacoma area turned into an almost non-stop social calendar with Dan's friends.

Laurie and Craig came over to my uncle's a couple of times during our few days there. My very first impression of Laurie was that she was a lady who put herself out there. I mean WAY out there. While Craig was a little shy and a little quiet, she was very friendly, but Laurie was one to make her presence known as soon as she stepped in a room.

The first time I saw Laurie she came whooshing through the living room and into the kitchen like she lived there herself. She was totally at home and began to welcome people to my uncle's party. Her voice was rather ... well let's just say she projected her voice VERY well. I also began to notice that she would talk about anything. She picked up conversations with people she had not seen in a while like they had just been talking that morning about a subject.

Another thing that I noticed was that people responded to her and her big personality. And then I was introduced to her. To be honest, I was feeling a little intimidated when Jo Anne introduced me to her. Nothing to be intimidated about though. She quickly stuck her hand out straight at me, hard and fast and gave me a good hard handshake and made sure I knew she was sincerely glad to meet me.

The next time I saw Laurie was the next day I think. It was the Fourth of July and we were having a party to celebrate our country's independence. There was a an inlet of water that my Uncle's house looked over. Tacoma was going to shoot off fantastic fireworks display from a barge in the water. It was while we were waiting for the fireworks to begin that I learned to enjoy Laurie.

First off she had a sense of humor that matched her voice and personality. It could be a light hearted sense of humor or more likely a subtle dry sense of humor that was delivered with a straight face as long as she could hold it. Laurie was quit witted and seldom missed a beat when someone said something that could have two or more meanings. She was sharp. She was fast. She was fun.

As we continued to wait for the fireworks show to begin, the Boston Pops came onto the television with their annual performance of the 1812 Overture. Laurie immediately jumped up, turned the volume all the way up on the television got a chopstick and went into her version of how to properly conduct the Boston Pops. Her movements were over exaggerated as she swayed her body back and forth and bobbed her head in stiff movements in all directions with her arms flying back and forth in front of her. It didn't take her long to be completely enveloped in the music. She was feeling it as she was conducting and while all the rest of us were smiling at her, she was getting filled with the music and, I think, a feel for love she had for her country.

When the 1812 Overture was finished, Laurie had beads of sweat on her face that was a little red from the exertion she had just put herself through. While breathing heavily she manages to get out of her mouth "I love that song." That was my impression of Laurie. Unafraid to be herself, but aware of everyone around her and able to make them laugh. Elaine and I continued on our trip after that holiday and wouldn't see Laurie again for awhile, but she, along with all of the other people I met in the Seattle area, was engraved on my mind as a good memory.

The next time I saw Laurie and Craig was anything but a holiday. My Uncle had died and Elaine and I took a train to Seattle to participate in a memorial service for my uncle with his friends and to spread his ashes around a special place where my uncle's partner had his ashes spread when he had died. It would be at the of estate of Jem and Sterling's and all of my uncle's friends would be there, including Laurie and Craig.

I saw another side of Laurie the day of the service. She was very respectful and thoughtful. She was thinking of my uncle, as everyone was. She gave me a hug both before and after the little memorial service and it was clear that both her and Craig had lost a good friend.

After the service, we went to Jem and Sterling's to spread the ashes of my uncle. Laurie walked slowly around the estate finding special little places to place the ashes in her hand. It was a very somber time and every one was quiet as we placed the remains of my uncle around the place he wanted to be.

After that, we had a great dinner party. I felt like I was with old friends as we ate and drank and talked. Slowly things began to loosen up and we began to have a party in honor of Dan. We had shipped items that Dan had specified to be given to his friends and we began to parcel out memories of Dan to his friends that were considered part of his family. As a matter of fact it did feel like we were all one big family together to celebrate Dan.

As the evening progressed, Laurie's sense of humor began to emerge once again. It was the same quick, sharp witted Laurie that I had met years before. It became a fun time and every time I would walk past Laurie she was talking and being her witty self. It was a good time and a fond memory I have from that night. I was with my uncle's family and they were remembering him with humor and stories. Elaine, Barb, Brett and myself left the next day. I haven't seen any of Dan's family from the northwest since that day, although I have kept in touch with them through the miracle of the internet and Facebook.

Last week I received an email from Craig. She had attached a copy of Laurie's obituary. I was stunned and broken hearted for not only Craig, but for all of Laurie's friends, including myself.

Her obituary shed a new light on Laurie's life that I did not know. Her Obituary read:

Laurie Lynn Merta March 24, 1956 - June 23, 2012 A sparkling light has dimmed, but a new star is shining brightly. Laurie Merta passed peacefully from this life on Saturday, June 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, where she was attending a conference for the work she loved so much. Her enormous, generous and happy heart simply stopped beating. Laurie was born in St. Petersburg, Florida and moved to Chehalis, Washington with her family in 1968. She graduated W.F. West High School in Chehalis in 1974 and the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma in 1978. She settled in University Place after college, going to work immediately for the Washington Department of Corrections as a Community Corrections Officer, where she worked until 1990. In 1990 she proudly accepted a position as an Area Representative for the Washington Federation of State Employees, fighting for the rights of state employees. At the time of her death, she was the Director of Field Services at WFSE's headquarters in Olympia. Laurie was a faithful advocate and a strong voice for state employees; a genuine inspiration for so many people across the State of Washington. We are heartbroken, but we know you are resting well, watching over us and shining so beautifully in heaven. We will miss you always and we will love you forever. Laurie is survived by her mother Adelaide Merta of Chehalis, WA, her father and stepmother, Leonard and Sharon Merta of Gig Harbor, WA, her younger sister Leslie Merta of DuPont, WA, her close friend and companion Craig Haynes of University Place, WA, and her Godson Bryan Haynes of Seattle, WA. Laurie will also be remembered by other loving family members and many, many friends. A celebration of Laurie's life will be held on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 11:00am at the Indian Summer Golf and Country Club, 5900 Troon Lane SE, Olympia, WA 98501. Donations may be made in Laurie's name to the following organizations: The Humane Society of Tacoma and Pierce County, 2608 Center Street, Tacoma, Washington 98409 or AFSCME PEOPLE, c/o 1212 Jefferson Street SE, Suite 300, Olympia, Washington 98501.

The first thing I noticed was that Laurie and I were born in the same year, 1956. She was my age. Too young to die for someone who loved life as much as Laurie did. The next thing I noticed were the various jobs and professions that she had held during her life. She worked to serve people. She served the public as she worked for the corrections department. She worked hard to represent the state workers for the state of Washington. With her personality, and her strong voice and strong beliefs, I can't help but think that she did a wonderful job of fighting for the rights of those workers. Then I thought of her leaving this world so very far from home. My heart went out to Craig as I imagined how she found out that Laurie had died.

I knew Laurie Merta. I considered her a friend even though I only saw her five or six times. She was a shining light that dimmed much too early. This world could use more people like Laurie Merta.

Well, that is how I knew Laurie. It was that first impression of her that has become a lasting impression. The impression is a good one, and one that I am glad I was able to experience.

This entry is dedicated to the memory of Laurie, to Craig and all of Laurie Merta's other friends. May she rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

"America The Beautiful" as performed by Ray Charles

Personally, I think this is the best version of this song.  Charles pours his whole soul into this song and you can tell he is passionate about it's meaning.

America The Beautiful as performed by Ray Charles:


Oh beautiful for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, our country loved,
And mercy more than life,

America, America may God thy gold refine,
Til all success be nobleness
And every gain devined.

And you know when I was in school,
We used to sing it something like this, listen here:

Oh beautiful, for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple maountain majesties,
Above the fruited plain,

But now wait a minute, I'm talking about
America, sweet America
You know, God done shed his grace on thee,
He crowned thy good, yes he did, in brotherhood,
From sea to shining sea.

You know, I wish I had somebody to help me sing this
(America, America, God shed his grace on thee)
America, I love you America, you see,
My God he done shed his grace on thee,
And you oughta love him for it,
Cause he, he, he ,he crowned thy good,
He told me he would, with brotherhood,
(From sea to shining Sea).
Oh lord, oh lord, I thank you Lord
(Shining sea).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

ANDY GRIFFITH - A ROLE MODEL FOR THE AGES

I don't do a lot of writing about public personalities here.  The ones that I do write about generally tend to be political in nature.  Most of the people I write about are people I knew personally while growing up and on into adult hood who influenced my life in one way or another.  I have written of my grandparents, my parents, Aunts and Uncles, leaders in churches and schools and an occasional sports figure that would capture my imagination and hold themselves up through their career as role models of how to win or how to lose with grace and dignity.

Today the world lost a man that influenced millions of children and adults throughout his public career.  Andy Griffith died today at the age of 86.  I grew up with Andy Griffith in my home on radio, records and television.  He was about as real as a celebrity could be.  It was obvious that this man did not put on a public persona while being something totally different in private.  With Andy, you got what you saw.  Sure the stories he wrote were fiction but they all had one thing in common.  Those stories taught honesty, strong morals, and a belief in your fellow man.  Through his writing he brought before the world the idea that no one man is better than another, and that there is no doubt at least a tiny bit of good in everybody.

I met Andy Griffith on the television watching "THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW".  It was a show that followed life in a small town in the Carolinas full of ordinary people like you and me.  The town wasn't perfect.  It had a town drunk, Otis, who would check himself into jail when he became too drunk to be in public.  A lot of lessens were learned from that town drunk and how Andy, who was the Sheriff of the town, dealt with Otis.  Andy always treated Otis with respect and as a human being that was equal to Andy.  Looking back on it, the Otis and Andy relationship probably was one of the best examples that Andy gave us of how to treat each other.

As sheriff of Mayberry, Andy was a single father.  Not until this very moment have I ever wondered what happened to his wife.  I can not remember any explanation being given but one thing was for sure, Andy was not divorced.  I guess I always assumed that his wife had died shortly after their son was born.  He and his son lived with Andy's Aunt Bea.  She was a lovely grandmotherly figure that gave many lessons as well.  She always welcomed strangers into the house that Andy would invite over.  There was always an extra piece of pie for the guest and coffee was a staple of dinners on the show.

Andy's deputy was Barney Fife.  A bumbling lawman that tried so very hard to do things by the book and uphold the law.  The relationship between sheriff and deputy was a special one as well.  It was Andy's job to keep his deputy within the bounds of what was real lawbreaking and sometimes what was just a mistake.  At the end of each show Andy would make sure that Barney felt like he had upheld the law to the best of his ability and would praise Barney for it, even though most of the time Barney had not done a thing.

This was where we met the lovable Jim Nabors playing the part of Gomer, a gas station attendant on the oustskirts of town.  Gomer was probably one of the most natural and honest people in the town.  He was a simple man who did not know the meaning of dishonesty and would constantly question others motives based on this lack of understanding wrong.  His character was put out there as not too bright, as a matter of fact a little dimwitted, but Gomer understood things that most people don't and each week there was sure to be a small amount of wisdom slip from the lips of Gomer Pyle.

Then there was Opie, Andy's son.  We watched Opie grow up from a five year old kid into his preteen years.  Opie was on a journey of his own.  That journey was trying to figure out the world and life and what the proper way to live was.  He had the perfect teacher in Andy.  There were times when Andy would see that Opie was heading down a rough path that wasn't exactly the correct one, but would let him go on anyway.  In the end Opie would come to the realization of his mistake and go talk to "Pa" about it and learn yet another lesson in life.  We all learned along with Opie on these adventures.  Sheriff Andy was there to teach us all.

True the town did have it's bad influences.  The moonshiners that lived up on the mountain.  Otis, as mentioned earlier, and a small cast of people who would come to town to run scams on the good people of Mayberry.  When ever these people came to town, Andy would work out the puzzle of what was going on and sure enough, if their crime was harmful or bad enough, they would be sent off to court somewhere or off to jail.  Sheriff Andy Taylor knew when it wasn't worth causing a lot of trouble just because a law was on the books.  As long as the moonshiners behaved themselves and didn't cause trouble in town, well Andy could not find a reason to lock them up.  There was mercy and passion built into the character of Sheriff Andy Taylor.

I remember listening to Andy Griffith's description of a football game from the eyes of someone who had been living in the backwoods of the southern United States and seeing the game for the first time.  It is one of my favorite bits of comedy.

Andy Griffith also starred in one of my all time favorite movies titled "NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS" Again Andy plays a innocent from a southern town who joins the army and can't understand the strict rules and undo punishment that comes with boot camp.  It is a film that I always suspected was the template for a show that would spin off of the Andy Griffith show as "GOMER PYLE, USMC" in which we watch Gomer leave Mayberry and join the Marine Corps and all of the adventures that came with it.
Growing up it seemed that there was a little of Andy Griffith in our lives at least once a week.  And while the shows were funny, and I mean REALLY funny, there was always a lesson to be learned.
Andy Griffith was more than a writer, actor, comedian and teacher.  He was also a wonderful singer and guitar player.  He would sing country favorites but he always made time to sing gospel songs.  You could tell by the way he sang them that he was singing from his heart.  Once again, with Andy, you got what you saw.  This was not a man just singing gospel songs, oh no.  This was a man singing gospel songs and having faith and belief in what he was singing.

I did not follow Andy's career into the "MATLOCK" series on television but I have talked to people who did follow that show.  From what I can gather, you age Sheriff Taylor a few decades, make him a lawyer instead of a lawman and you teach lessons in morality, honesty and how to treat other human beings, and you get Matlock.

Andy Griffith was an icon.  He embodied what it meant to be an American and a Christian.  I am not sure that any one man in my lifetime had such a huge effect on as many people as Andy Griffith did.  The remarkable thing about Andy Griffith is that he had this effect on all of us and was able to do so without letting us really know he was teaching a lesson with his television shows and writings.  Not until much later do we realize what Andy was trying to say in a particular episode of The Andy Griffith Show.

Andy Griffith will be missed, there is no doubt about that.  He lives on though.  His lesson in morality will continue to teach generations as those little shows are replayed over and over again through generations yet to come.  Andy Griffith was like no other public personality that had come before him, and no other personality that came after him is close to who Andy Griffith was and the effect he had on a nation.

Thanks for all the years Andy.  Thanks for the laughter and the music.  Thanks for the life lessons.
May you always Rest In Peace.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

HELLOOOOOO SEC!!!!

The day has arrived.  July first marks Mzzou's switch from the Big 12 to the SEC.  It is a historic day as far as the Big 12 and Mizzou is concerned.  Not sure it is as historic of a day for the SEC.

Mizzou is leaving a conference it has been a member of for over one hundred years.  They are leaving traditions and rivalries that they will never find an equal to as members of the SEC.  As members of the Big 6, Big 8 and the Big 12 they have been consistently in the upper half of the conference in most athletic programs.  They enter the SEC with only one national championship to their programs, the 1954 NCAA Baseball championship.  The programs at Mizzou have always been good, never great.

In football, they always seemed to play second fiddle to Nebraska and Oklahoma.  Over the years, if anyone was going to upset Those two football powerhouses, it was going to Mizzou.  When they start playing SEC football, there are going to be a lot more than just two consistently great football programs.  They are bound to take some lumps in football, but I think they will still be a factor as a spoiler in the SEC just as they were in the different conferences that grew into the Big 12.  They have played some SEC teams in football over the years, the last one being a Cotton Bowl victory over Arkansas.  They have been both been blown out by and beaten Alabama over the years.  Hopefully they will be able to hold their own in football and continue the string of bowl games that they have.

The other major sport is basketball.  Again, they have always been good but never great.  They consistently found themselves playing second fiddle to Kansas.  It has been a bitter pill to swallow over the years but it is a fact.  There were spurts of greatness that would show up here and there, but never enough to make it to the final four.  They were the last team in the conference to go undefeated in conference play.  That was in the Big 8 days and they came within two inches of losing the last conference game that year to Nebraska.  They won four consecutive titles in Big 8 play but have not won a title since the conference became the Big 12.  The SEC is tough in basketball but not out of Mizzou's capabilities.  Mizzou should make a consistent showing in basketball in their new conference.  This is the one area where the SEC should not make the mistake of overlooking Mizzou.

Softball has been great for Mizzou.  they have been in the WCWS three of the last five years and have made seven appearances in the tournament.  It was an SEC LSU team that knocked them out of the super regionals in Columbia Missouri and a SEC team from Tuscaloosa that won the WCWS this past season.  It will be tougher than the Big 12 but they can, again, make their presence known.

The SEC is going to kill the Mizzou baseball program.  Mizzou has been good in Baseball, but the SEC has been GREAT in baseball, year in and year out.  More than football, Mizzou is going to feel the strength of the SEC in baseball.  It is going to be hard watching Mizzou play someof those SEC teams in baseball when we are used to making a decent showing and going to the baseball tournament more or less consistently.

What Mizzou does bring to the SEC is another AAU qualified school.  With Texas A&M, the two Big 12 schools double the AAU membership of the SEC.  That is academics.  Mizzou was the first university west of the Mississippi to have a journalism school, so there will be a school who knows how to read and write in the SEC.

They bring a certain kind of common sense that I find mysteriously missing in the SEC.  For example, they will be the third "Tigers" in the conference.  There is the LSU Tigers, whose colors are purple and gold?  There are the Auburn Tigers with colors of orange and blue?  guess what Mizzou tigers colors are.  Black and Gold.  Now, what color is an actual tiger?  Black and Gold.  See this is where the AAU stuff comes in handy.  To top that off, the Auburn Tigers war cry is a hefty "WAR EAGLE" and they have this bird fly around the stadium before each game.  Where did the Tiger go?  I don't get it.  Another thing I don't get is the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Sounds like it is one of the plagues from the Bible.  And what does Alabama use to represent this idea of a "crimson tide"?  An elephant.  REALLY?  I understand the the strange tiger colors better than I understand this elephant thing.  I can see where possibly Auburn and LSU both had color blind athletic directors or something, but an elephant represent the idea of a crimson tide?  With all the oil spills in the gulf, they would better off to call themselves the black tide.

On the other hand, they are leaving a conference that has Kansas represented by a fictitious red and blue cartoon bird that has feet but no legs and they call it a Jayhawk.  The Iowa State "Cyclones" which is another word for a tornado is represented by a goofy looking Cardinal.

I know where the idea of a Jayhawk came from.  It derives from before the Civil War as Kansas Jayhawkers would make raids into Missouri to terrorize slave owners and release slaves being held in Missouri.  Missouri Civil War militias were known as Tigers, hence the Mizzou Tigers.  Somehow I don't think that those brave Jayhawkers back in the 1800's would appreciate being characterized as freakishly looking cartoon bird.  But that is not Mizzou's problem to figure out anymore.  During the Civil War, militias from Missouri burned Lawrence, Kansas to the ground trying to save them the embarrassment they put upon themselves with that cartoon of a mascot today.

Still, the Tigers will never have another rivalry like they had with Kansas.  That is probably the saddest part of Mizzou moving to the SEC.   The whole year focused around the Kansas/Missouri games year after year.  That is gone now and it is a big loss for both universities and both states.  I am sure that as the years go by, Mizzou will pick up a rivalry with somebody, probably Texas A&M or Arkansas but it will NEVER match the intensity of Mizzou meeting Kansas on any stage.

Mizzou will be seen as a stepchild to most of the SEC.  We realize that and are prepared for it.  It will take some time but eventually Mizzou will be accepted by the old horses of the conference and they may even earn some respect from those schools that have been raised as part of southern culture.

It is historic.  It will be different.  But Mizzou will be there.  They will not be a pushover in football or Basketball.  They may have to make changes in their their style of play and they will.  It is a new era for the University of Missouri and it will effect how things play out in the SEC.

It is exciting and sad at the same time. I can guarantee that Mizzou will do everything they can to make the SEC proud to have them as a member of their elite conference.

SO ... let the games begin, and may each school in each athletic program do their best and earn  the right to be called a member of the SEC.  That is a very special title that we, in Missouri, do not take lightly.  If we did not have respect for the SEC,  we would still be in the Big 12, otherwise known as the BEVO 12 because Texas runs everything.  At least in the SEC we will have the chance to be among equals or aspire to be among equals.

From now on it will be said in Columbia, Missouri, "MIZZOU - PROUD MEMBER OF THE SEC"  I hope that the SEC will eventually be able to say "SEC - PROUD HOME OF THE MIZZOU TIGERS"

Good luck to all as we begin down this road together.