Monday, November 13, 2017

The Death of Innocents

Ten years ago, Pete was alive.

He was in Baghdad, Iraq.  He was doing what his commanding officers told him to do.

He was doing what the Commander in Chief, George W. Bush, told him to do.


Pete was part of, The Surge.  The Surge was an infusion of military to deal with what our government failed to plan for.


Ten years ago, Pete was part of a Cavalry Regiment sent in to deal with crap that our government never expected to deal with.   But due to their bad planning, they sent innocent young men and women into the their worst nightmares.  And, their nightmares became real.


Those nightmares are now shared by over 4,000 families who have no answers as to why.


We share in those nighmares of the 50,000 parents from Vietnam.  Why?


As I understand it, Pete's platoon was on an overnight mission in a part of the city where bad guys thrived.

The bad guys were Shia militiamen, supported by Iran, who were deeply involved in killing as many American troops and Sunni Iraquis as possible.


Pete's partner unit had discovered a huge cache of Iranian weapons hidden in a soccer stadium a few days before. The weapons were blown up in a huge explosion.


The prevailing belief is that Pete's unit was attacked as payback.


Ten years ago, Pete was alive.

What in the hell was he doing there?  What in the name of God was our Commander in Chief thinking?


Saddam Hussein had been captured years before.


Iraq was overrun by Iranian assholes with artillery, bombs and training.


Nobody bothered to tell the American people or the families of American military what the fuck was going on.


It was several years after Pete's death that I met a senior official at the Pentagon who was the guy in charge of monitoring Iran.

"Mr. Burks, I guessing nobody told you that your son died in a proxy war with Iran."

He said it like a good military man would.  No emotion.  No commentary.  Just fact.


My precious boy died in Iraq in a proxy war with Iran?  What?  What the fuck?  What the fucking fuck?

And today, the place where he died and where thousand of Americans died and bled is overuun by Iran?


I'm still trying to recover from that statement.


Ten years ago Pete was alive.


Pete told us he had hoped he would be deployed to Afghanistan.  He could understand that military intervention due to the Taliban and Bin Laden and the now defamed al Qaueda.  Many had died and are still dying in Afghanistan.  We still don't have a clear strategy there.


Sweet boy, you died serving your country.  You went to war as a result of 9/11.  You went to war knowing it was a less than 1% chance that anything could happen to you, yet you were part of the 1%.


God Bless and Godspeed to those who died in Iraq.  God Bless and Godspeed to those who were injured in Iraq.  God Bless and Godspeed to all those who served in Iraq.  God Bless and Godsp[eed to all who have served, bled and died in Afghanisan.

God Bless and Godspeed to all who wear the Cloth of our Nation.


I hope one day we will have an answer as to why.  But, I doubt we will.


Damn you Iran.  Not the people, but the towelheads in charge.


Damn you terrorists.


I will go to my grave fighting your terrorism.  I will go to my grave educating people about how evil you are.


A young man recently said to me, "America hasn't had a good clean war since WWII."  He's 30.  All he knows is the last 18 years of crap in Afghanistan and Iraq.


We need to understand what the misuse of our military has done to our young people.  What it has done to the trust of parents.


Damn you, Iran.  Damn you, radical Islamists.


Damn you, leaders without spines or souls.


God Bless America.


Thank God for men and women who are brave enough to wear the Cloth of our Nation.


Let us pray for clarity and proper use of our military going forward.


Good night, sweet boy.  I love you.  I miss you.  I thank you.  I'll see you soon.


















Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Beware the BIPLIR


A dear friend is a really good golfer.  Really good.  Carries a 6 handicap.  That means he shoots in the 70s everytime he plays.

When you're that good at golf, the separation between you and a scratch golfer is all mental.  You've already mastered every shot in golf perfectly.  You just can't replicate it every time.  The problem is you have a mental lapse each round and those 6 strokes add up quickly.

My friend has coined a term that golfers will identify with.

If he's playing a casual (non-tournament) round of golf, and is playing a hole badly, he'll pick up his ball and announce to his playing partners, "BIPLIR".

"Ball In Pocket Losing Interest Rapidly".

Then one of two things happen.  Either that golf humor relaxes him and he goes on to finish a fine round. 

Or, he can't get it out of his head, has several consecutive BIPLIRs and then announces he's done and will be the beer caddy for the rest of the day.


I think the BIPLIR has meaning in life beyond golf.  At work.  On a home improvement project.  In relationships. 

It's easy to just quit on it.  Even for a short period.

But implemented too often, we lose interest in all of it.  Being the beer caddy isn't a coveted position in any endavor.

Finish and finish well.  In whatever we are involved in.  That's the objective.

Use the occasional BIPLIR when it's appropriate.  Bad hair days happen.


Remember that the only problem with life is that it's just so daily. 

It's 18 holes.  It's four quarters.  It's till the kids are grown.  It's for better or worse, till death do us part.




Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Most Important Job in Retail

Carts.

Grocery carts.  

Walmart carts.  

Target carts.  

Kohl's carts.

If the carts aren't there, we don't shop.


There is a human being charged with going out in the parking lot to pull those carts back in. Regardless of weather.  Seattle rain.  Michigan snow.  Houston heat and humidity.  


The job is given to to the lowest on the corporate food chain.


Who else is going out there in the hot/rain/snow/ice to get those carts?


Certainly not the geinuses of retail.  They're too busy going out of business.

Or, those of us shoppers in those places.  We demand customer service.


Think about it.


If there's not a cart available, we'll walk back to our SUVs and go somewhere else.  


Yet, the performance of that person has so much to do with the performance of that store.

These folks don't scale.  It's hard frigin work store by store.  And, in the world or retail, they get paid minimum wage.

The next time you go to a store and use a shopping cart, say thanks to the person in the parking lot getting those buggies of commerce.  They're just happy to have a minimum wage job. 

The most important person in retail isn't the head of Amazon, Costco, Kroger or Walmart.  

It's that man or woman with a family retrieving carts for us to put more stuff in.  








Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Lesson for the Piano Teacher

Lone Oak, Texas is a town in East Texas that has had a population of about 500 for the last 70 years.

Not alot of change.  A few families make up the majority of the population.

It's quiet.  It's rural.


Sometime in the 1950s, the following true story happened there.


There was a piano teacher in town.  In fact, she was THE piano teacher in town.

Every little girl from any family that could scrape together a living sent their daughter to the piano teacher as part of a proper upbringing.


The piano teacher knew her stuff on the keyboards.  And, she knew her stuff when it came to managing little girls who might not be focused on becoming the next church music leader.


One afternoon, the piano teacher got a call from a mother asking if she could drop her daugter off early along with her friend who had the lesson scheduled right after her daughter.  It was a passive-agresssive means of asking the teacher to babysit while she gave a lesson.

The teacher agreed.

The two little girls arrived at the same time as the girl who had a scheduled lesson.

The teacher pulled out a coloring book and told the two litle girls to busy themselves coloring whilst she taught her pupil.

After a few minutes, the teacher had to interrupt her lesson to ask the two interlopers to hush.  They were much too busy talking instead of coloring.

For a few minutes, they were quiet.  But, then they couldn't stop themselves from chatting about their school teacher, that cute boy in Sunday School, who would be their first kiss . . .


"ENOUGH", said the piano teacher sternly.


She grabbed the two little girls by their shoulders and placed them each in a closet in her lesson room.  "Now, BE QUIET.  NOT ANOTHER WORD FROM EITHER OF YOU."

The teacher restarted her lesson.

Out of one closet, she heard one girl crying.  "Oh no.  My mother is going to be so upset.  I've been so bad.  I'm a bad girl.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry.  I'm sorry."


Aggravated, the teacher opened the door and let the little girl out.  Nose running, tears down her face. She let her out.

Then the teacher walked over to the other closet.  Not a peep.  No crying, no wailing.


"What are you doing in there", asked the teacher of the silent objector.


"I'm spittin' in your shoes and prayin' for more spit."


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

What church should taste like



I had church in my front yard this past Sunday.


My grandson and me.  He is two.  He wanted to swing in our frontyard swing.  He's an amazing athlete.

He can crawl up into the swing and buckle himself in.

What he can't do is swing on his own.

So, I started to swing him.  The more he swung, the happier he became.  The higher he went, the greater the smile.   He was free.  He was moving.  He knew that his grandpa (although he calls me Boss) was 100% focused on him and he was 100% focused on me.

It was happiness.  It was joy.  It was pure unconditional love.

How many times a week, a year, a lifetime do we experience this?  Too few I think is the answer for most.

I'm a Christian man.  I love him with a grandpa's love.  I think that quailifies as lifestyle witnessing.

It was one of the sweetest times in my life.  I believe it made a mark on him.  That was church for me.


My grandson is adopted.  He is from a differnet ethnic background than me.  Love is color blind.  He loves me and I love him.  He knows he is safe in my arms.  The only way to describe our time is sweet.



I went to church recently at a place that has been worhsiping for over 100 years in the same place.

The building is a beautiful red brick building with stained glass windows.  Lots of farmers and ranchers gave way more than 10% to make this place a reality.

And in 2017, it is still populated by ranchers and farmers.  Families that have been in this locale way long before the concrete showed up.


A dear friend is the pastor.  He's the luckiest man I know.  His flock is sweet.  They sing George Strait songs on Father's Day.  The average age is old.

I had a chance to attend a church seminar there.  I asked where the online signup was.  My buddy the pastor informed me that we just signed up on the bulletin board.  There isn't an app for small town love.

We were all to show up and learn and to bring someting to eat.

I spent a Friday evening and Saturday morning with a group of 65 plus year old folks.  We all had pain.

Kids in prison.  Kids with drug problems.  Kids that had turned their back to Christ.  Kids that died before their time.

But, we all ate really well.  Strawberry shortcake, sausage and biscuits, potato salad, honey baked ham, Krispy Kreme's.

It was one of the most humbling, numbing, reality-glass experiences of my life.


And when my wife asked me what I thought, I told her it was sweet.



We are all sinners.  And, we all have a story.

Thank God for the church.  And, the church just means people that gather together.

If you are hurting, there's a sweet place.  If you are in need of harmony, there's a sweet place.


Brothers and sisters, these are the pillars of the church.

It is sweetness.

Peter.  Paul.  And, cholestorol.


The Gospel.  And, macaroni and cheese.  It will cure what ails you.


















Friday, December 23, 2016

The Christmas Unicorn

The mysterious package arrived a week or so ago.

In a distinctive DHL yellow bag.  Addressed to me from:

Suzhou min Huan Mdt Info Tech Ltd
11-8_no.688_yanchenghu_west_RD.
Center
suzhou
China

I don't know anyone in Suzhou.  So, I was a bit confused from the start.

Then I opened the package.  A bit confused immediately became wildly confused then to paranoia then to laughter then to concern then to WTF and finally reaching the sane confusion that it was just a mistake.

There was a bizarre little unicorn costume in the bag.  Not my size.

Was this Twatson playing a joke?  Was it some sort of shaming thing?  What did unicorns symbolize? Who did I piss off in China?  Is someone videoing me as I'm in shock on my front porch?

I asked my sweet wife if perchance she had any idea.  Nope.  Not a clue.

I became convinced that it was just a mistake and somehow DHL's system had a glitch.

DHL has great customer service.  The nice lady I spoke with tracked the package in their system immediately.  She was as confused as me.  She promised they would send someone to retrieve the package.

DHL did come by at some time that day but missed us and left a nice note on the door.

I then left the package on the front porch so the driver would easily find it on his next stop by. We were leaving town for a few days so we asked the world's greatest neighbor to watch for packages on the front porch, collect our mail, etc.  But, we explained that DHL would be coming to pickup the mystery package.

While out of town, my wife got the sad news from the world's greatest neighbor that someone had ripped open the mystery package but to add to the mystery, they had left the package and the contents on the porch.  Wow.  It even freaked out porch thieves.  Then, I remembered I was the dunce that had ripped open the package and placed it back on the porch without sealing the package.

The world's greatest neighbor placed the mystery package inside our house to prevent further mayhem.  When we arrived home, there it sat with our mail and a few Amazon deliveries.

There it sat for two days.  DHL was no longer interested in trying to pick it up.  We couldn't for the life of us figure it out.  So, to the trash it went.  It was too strange and had too much voodoo attached to dump it on the sweet folks at Goodwill.

Last evening, we had a family Christmas gathering and gift exchange.  As happens when kids grow up, they marry and have to split time between the in-laws.  One of our married couples was here at Thanksgiving and was spending Christmas with the other side of their family in Houston.

My son called just before the party to make sure that the gifts they had sent had arrived.  My wife spoke with him an explained that we had received an Amazon box and all of the gifts were clearly marked.  Hallelujah.  All was good.

Then my bride had a thought.  Do you know anything about a package from China with a unicorn costume?

Well, of course he did.  It was a gift for his niece Piper who loves unicorns, fairies, elves, princesses, Santa Claus and all things wonderful in her imagination.

Like Shimmer Laglinda.  That's the name she gave the new Elf on the Shelf.  Shimmer Laglinda had replaced Sprinkles, the previous Elf on the Shelf.  Sprinkles had survided a near death experience a year or so ago only to be revived with positive thoughts, some crystals and a touch of incense.

But alas, Sprinkles has wandered off again (maybe to New York City to join Buddy) and had to be replaced by Shimmer Laglinda.

As I'm driving home from work to help make last minute arrangements for the party, my wife calls me repeatedly.  It was a Christmas emergency of the highest order.  To make matters worse, I didn't answer her call as I was speaking with another daugther.

As I walked in the house, she was panicked.  She told me the story and immediately began the last minute search for the unicorn.  We found the DHL envelope under coffee grounds in the trash compactor.  But where was the costume?  Did we take it to Goodwill?  Was it stuffed in a closet where Christmas secrets are hidden?

OMG!!!!!!  It's in the trash!

I rushed outside and looked in the trash bin.  It was dark, but I saw two bags of normal glossy white Kirkland Signature kitchen trash bags.  "It's not there", I reported dejectedly.

Undeterred, my wife dumpster-dived and found the unicorn costume under the trash bags and saved it from a sad, mistaken, unintended ending.

Piper did get her unicorn outfit.

I once again proved to be an idiot.

My wife saved Christmas.

And, somehwere, Sprinkles is smiling.





Saturday, July 16, 2016

Well, at least we didn't get blanked by the Biscuits

On a recent trip to Birmingham, we went to watch the Barons play.

You know, the minor league baseball team that Michael Jordan wasn't really good enough to play for?

There's not much more fun than minor league baseball.  It's cheap.  You're close to the field and the players.  There's lots of fun and hi-jinks.

You get to see a combination of Crash Davis and the future of MLB.

On this particularly lovely Southern summer evening, the Birmingham Barons were hosting the Montgomery Biscuits.  Yep, the Biscuits.

How can you not love a team whose logo is a flaky biscuit with a slab of butter in its mouth?



The Biscuits have produced David Price, James Shields, Jonny Gomes and Evan Longoria (the Rays third baseman, not the actress that married Tony Parker and then cost himself a heap of trouble by messing around with Brent Barry's wife).  This is not only a lovable team, they produce talent.

We were blessed with seats a few rows in front of one of the Barons' most ardent fans.  He loves him some Baron baseball.  And, he loves to talk about it.  Loud enough for all 6,000 fans to hear him.

Seems the Barons season isn't going well.  And, the team had suffered a rash of injuries and call-ups that had resulted in a long losing streak.

Superfan explained this to all with gusto and just a touch of defeatism.

The Biscuits are apparently THE rival of the Barons.  Being separated by just 93.4 miles of I-65, this is to baseball in Alabama the same as the Barners vs.the Gumpers in semi-pro football in that state.

Anywho, this game got out of the Barons control early.  It was 10-0 Biscuits after 4.  If this had been Little League, it would have been game over.

Thankfully, in the bottom of the 5th, the Barons designated hitter Nicky Delmonico cranked one over the wall in right center.

That produced one of the greatest baseball sayings this fan has ever heard.

The Baron Superfan exclaimed, "Well, at least we didn't get blanked by the Biscuits."