Columns & Editorials
Growing up in South Texas, air conditioning was a dream that remained an unattainable dream for most of my childhood. Everyone in the house had a fan that provided some relief for the summer heat at night. When I was in my early high school years, my fan was inherited from my great grandmother, Ella Barber. It was a box fan, but it was an ancient ancestor to the cheap plastic box fans that we buy today. The actual fan blade was made of metal, and it was behind metal fins. It was held together by wood at the top and bottom and had a cord that was covered with cloth not plastic.
Make a Left
When Can You Choose Retirement?
Make a Left
Every day you wake up is a special day. It is filled with potential and opportunity. Yet too many people start their days in a foul mood. They drag themselves out of bed to prepare to endure another day. Starting on Monday, their objective is to make it to Friday. Then, on the weekend, Sunday becomes stressful as the clock clicks down to Monday.
I have spent a good deal of time sitting in a deer blind. Not nearly as much as I would have liked to, but still, I have braved a lot of hours either shivering, sweating, fighting mosquitos and finally, contorting to get a good shot. In all of those years I have never hunted in a blind that I built myself. Most of the blinds I have ever hunted in are made of plywood and 2 x 4s and are pretty basic. When the cold wind blows, they don’t offer much protection. For years, I got to hunt at my Uncle Jim and Aunt Nell’s ranch in Floresville, Texas with my dad, my brother Jeff, and my son TJ. My dad and Uncle Jim had built two blinds. Both were in the oak trees on the far side of the ranch. One we called the “Green Blind”, and the other was “The Brown Blind” for obvious reasons. But the best blind Uncle Jim ever put on his place was a 6x8 foot “Tough Shed” that we always referred to as “Uncle Jim’s Blind”. What made the blind so special was that it was roomy enough for 2 or three people at once and it was practically soundproof. Eventually my brother Jeff bought a little propane heater that we would use on cold winter days. In Uncle Jim’s Blind, hunting was more about bonding and being close to the people I love. It was a time to really talk and visit as we would park at the gate, walk through the woods in the dark and get in the blind an hour before sunup. Those times are some of the best in my memory. My son TJ shot his first buck in that blind, a ten pointer whose antlers he has on the wall of his house to this day. Then over a decade ago our little hunting club suffered a tragic loss. Uncle Jim died of cancer, but we carried on the tradition. In the blind was one of his Sam Houston Cigars that he loved to smoke as a reminder that whenever we hunted in his blind, he was still with us, even though it was probably those cigars and a whole lot of cigarettes that took him. My aunt let us hunt there for several years until her son decided there were too many houses around the ranch and that we couldn’t hunt anymore. A couple of years after that, my dad died. I would have like to have spent the last couple of seasons in the blind with him but in his later life he was in his 80s and had a very hard time walking through the woods and he would only do evening hunts rather than stumble through the woods in the dark.
“You should always read the Bible when you’re bored or don’t want to play,” says Katy, age 8. “God is always around you whatever you do. If you were sad, God will still be with you.”
Dear Aunt B,
The experts are finally agreeing on something. Times are tough. The degrees of toughness are up for debate, but general woefulness blankets all the predictions. Will we have a recession? Are we in a recession? The details are under tremendous scrutiny. Just like anything else, spin doctors for all sides are incredibly busy creating labels and new catch phrases to skew our thought process toward their views. Certain factions will encourage you to save your pennies. Certain factions will prompt you to continue to spend. And, the raptors of the investment world, who pray for times like these, are licking their lips and waiting for the chance to pounce on whatever becomes a low commodity. I’m not a pessimist. I’m just a realist. This I know to be true. The economy will rise. It will fall. It will hang in the balance. This will happen cyclically, over and over and over and over again. But, all is not lost. In fact, rejoice in the opportunity to weather these storms. It means that you’re still here in this world, ready to keep on trying. I remember riding in the backward facing suicide seat of my mother’s wood paneled station wagon on even days (that was our day), in a miles long snaking line of other folks who just needed a little gas, back in the 70s. I tied yellow ribbons onto trees so no one would forget the American hostages in Iran. I watched The Day After for extra credit in high school chemistry, so sure we would be nuked before we had the chance to grow up. Yet, here I am, still watching the sun rise and set in what has turned out to be a gorgeous world. I have willed it to be so. But, back to the economy. My late father, born during prohibition and a child of The Great Depression, has a few things he needs to share with you via his obstinate daughter’s hand.
Superman, Wonder Woman and the Incredible Hulk all possess superpowers, but I enjoy supremacy even greater than x-ray vision, unlimited strength or the ability to fly. My capabilities come from grocery lists in my pocket and canned goods on aisle seven. It’s the power of food acquisition and I’ve assumed extreme control. Those of us in the know, know it doesn’t get any better than that.
This week I want to introduce you to a truly remarkable young lady, Makenzie Hyde. This weekend she played the lead role in Mary Poppins to sold out shows in the Greenville Municipal Auditorium attended by thousands. Her stage presence was captivating, and she sang with the voice of an angel. To be sure, she was one of a huge cast of dozens of characters that included her sister Larissa who also put in a stand-out performance. There were dozens more people who worked behind the scenes, including her mom and her dad who worked tirelessly building sets for the production. The musical was bolstered by a top notch performance by the orchestra directed by Eilene Wiemar.
It’s very easy to get caught in the loop of only worrying about tomorrow or replaying the past. A good teacher once said, “Look at your feet. Are they where they are supposed to be? Are they headed in the direction you want to be going?” Of course, when this statement is made, the reaction can be, “What?” or “That is so lame.” The better reaction is, “Let me look and see where they are pointing me.” There is much to be learned from paying attention to the direction your feet, and ultimately your head, is pointing towards.
For many years, Americans provided for their retirement needs through three sources: employer-sponsored pension plans, Social Security income, and savings and investments accumulated through employer plans or individual accounts – the so-called “three-legged stool.” But today, that stool is shakier than it used to be. What can you do to strengthen it?
Last week I was busy in my workshop listening to music as I worked when Leon Russell’s version of “If I were a Carpenter” came on. It was a version that was popular when I was in high school, and it brought back some fond memories.