For What It’s Worth

Merry Christmas!

If this headline offends you, please feel free to stop reading now and move on to something else. I won’t be offended.

As is my habit most days, I turned on my computer this morning and ventured onto the Internet, where I enjoy reading a variety of news stories, commentaries, sports articles, and whatever else nabs my attention. Now and then I encounter a story that stirs a visceral reaction on my part.

Today, that story was about a man who went bonkers over airline employees wishing him a Merry Christmas.

Apparently, he doesn’t celebrate Christmas and was offended by the friendly, seasonal greeting. Not only offended, but, seems to me, easily offended, to the point that he went overboard about it.

According to the news story, the man was preparing to board a plane Tuesday at La Guardia Airport in New York for a flight to Dallas. A cheerful gate agent was welcoming everyone with the Yuletide greeting while checking boarding passes. When she greeted him, the grumpy man snapped at her, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas.”

The agent asked what she should say, and the man shouted, “Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’” He then brushed past her.

I agree that the man has a point; some people do not celebrate Christmas. I assume he is one who does not. Fine. That’s his privilege. He even has the right to be offended if he chooses to do so. But I suggest that he could be offended and still display polite manners. No need to be a jerk. Just ignore the greeting and go quietly on your way. Or, rather than being rude and offensive yourself, respond politely, “Thank you, but I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

Once on the plane, he received a warm “Merry Christmas” greeting from a flight attendant. That, as the old saying goes, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’” he raged and began lecturing the flight attendants and the pilot about their faux pas. The crew tried to calm him down, but he persisted and continued browbeating them.

Finally, he was escorted off the plane, accompanied by cheers and applause from other passengers.

How sad. I understand that in today’s politically correct society some people are easily offended; often, in my opinion, unnecessarily so. But this man’s reaction seemed beyond reasonable expectations for the perceived offense. My assumption is that he had other things weighing on his mind and emotions and the string of friendly greetings was simply the tipping point.

In that regard, all of us have been there at some point in our life. Events and circumstances combined to stir us mentally and emotionally and perhaps nudged us to the edge of depression or despair. Then, one day our mood was so near the breaking point that an innocent or innocuous remark sparked an angry response from us, and we took out our feelings on someone who really was not at fault.

My hope is that this man, whoever he is and wherever he is, has a happy day today even though he apparently will not be celebrating Christmas. I also hope that those of you who, like us, celebrate Christmas are having a joyous day.

If your reason for celebration of the season is remembering the birth of Christ, chances are greatly increased that this is a joyous day, whatever else may be going on in your life.

Merry Christmas!

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For What It’s Worth

Christmas greetings

I hope that you have enjoyed the season and that Christmas Day will be an occasion of joy for you even if your circumstances are not what you would wish or hope them to be. At my age, I have experienced enough to realize that, even though the celebration of Christmas is intended to be a time of joy and gift giving, everyone does not experience joy and goodwill in equal proportions. Sometimes, circumstances hold the potential to rob us of some of the joy we hope for. However, I believe that we can exercise some control over the extent to which circumstances hinder our celebration and enjoyment of Christmas.

I acknowledge that the most pleasurable Christmas celebrations personally have been those when all the family was together. I remember as a child that gift exchange time for our family was a time that started with all of us gathering around, settling in, and listening to my dad read the biblical accounts of the birth of Christ. He stressed to us the conviction that Christmas was a celebration of the birth of Christ, our Savior, not an affirmation of Santa Claus.

As an adult, I experienced great joy at having the family together and watching first my children and later my grandchildren enjoy exchanging gifts. One tradition we continued was opening gifts one at a time. This was tough on impatient youngsters, but it allowed both the gift recipient and the gift giver to more fully share the moment than did everyone opening presents at once.

This year is different for Carol and me. Our children are grown and so are our grandchildren. With multiple family responsibilities, job responsibilities, and other contributing circumstances, this will be our first Christmas without a houseful on Christmas Day. Nonetheless, we expect it to be a day of joy. We can still celebrate the real reason for the holiday. Christmas Eve we will have a grandson and his wife with us for supper along with Carol’s brother and sister and their families. The day after Christmas we will journey north to Olathe, Kan., to visit a daughter and also see a grandson and his wife and children.

Although Christmas may be memorable for the joy you experience, circumstances some year or years may have made Christmas memorable for you for reasons other than the joy of the occasion. Such circumstances may include illness, job loss, a tragedy within your family, death of a family member or members since the last Christmas, separation from family, etc.

My choice is to focus on memories of Christmas as a family time, but I am compelled to admit that one of the most memorable Christmas Days for me was not one spent with family. Instead, it was one spent away from family.

It was Christmas 1957, and it wrapped up an interesting year of my life. In April that year, Carol and I got married. In May, I graduated from Stillwater High School. In July, I reported to active duty with the U.S. Navy, and in September I was a wet-behind-the-ears, 18-year-old sailor aboard the light cruiser USS Roanoke CL 145 at sea on my first Western Pacific deployment. At Christmas, we were sailing in the South China Sea on standby to help evacuate Americans from Indonesia should the crisis there demand it.

On Christmas Day, we had been at sea several weeks, and the only thing in sight was ocean. Fortunately, it was a calm sea, but my emotions were not calm. What a way to celebrate your first Christmas away from home. I admit to shedding a few tears and lamenting my fate of not being home for Christmas, especially the first Christmas after getting married. However, I also have to confess that though the memory overall is not a pleasant one, it is one I can smile a little about because of the way my two best friends and I celebrated the occasion.

We decided to make the best of it. My buddies, Don Methvin of Abilene, Tex., and John Nizzi of Albuquerque, NM, and I got together on the main deck, talked a short time about what our families probably were doing, and then sang a few Christmas carols and songs like Jingle Bells. Methvin played his guitar, and Nizzi and I just chimed in off key.

However, we did have a touch of home throughout this three-man celebration—homemade cookies. You see, I was most fortunate because my wife, my mom, and my mother-in-law frequently sent me boxes of homemade cookies, and a few days before Christmas a helicopter had made a mail delivery to the ship. In that mail had been some cookies, though I don’t remember how many boxes. Enough that we had some to share Christmas Day. Actually, they were mostly crumbles and chunks of cookies as it was almost impossible for the cookies to survive the trip from Stillwater to our ship intact. A whole cookie was a rarity, and selfishly I reserved most of those for myself. It mattered not to the three of us that we were eating crumbs and chunks of primarily chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, my favorite homemade cookies. Whatever shape they were in, they were cookies from home.

Fortunately, Carol and I will be together for Christmas Day this year. In addition to celebrating the birth of Christ, I hope we remember to think of those whose day may not be as filled with joy as ours.

Merry Christmas to each and every one of you!

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From the Stands

Football musings

Potty mouth—It’s not in the dictionary yet, but the new definition of the term potty mouth seems to be Bo Pelini. For some time, Pelini has frequently been in the news with his foul-mouth remarks. His latest reported tirade was some nasty name-calling and denigration of the Nebraska athletic director and university president during a meeting with members of the Cornhuskers team, which he coached until recently being fired.

That he was fired was not a major surprise, though his accepting the head coach job at Youngstown State may have raised a few eyebrows. I have no personal interest in where he coaches and certainly no interest in having any family members play on a team he is coaching.

Despite his vocabulary limitations, Pelini does have a winning record as a coach, and winning can be an overriding factor.

Gundy right—OSU Coach Mike Gundy was right in making a swift, decisive move in dropping Tyreek Hill from the team based on the available evidence about Hill’s alleged abuse of his pregnant girlfriend. This is a clear, strong statement that hitting or abusing women will not be tolerated. That’s a standard that should apply to all team members, whether stars, substitutes, members of the scout team, or whatever.

Gundy may have caught some flak for other actions or decisions in the last year or so, but there should be none in this instance. He did the right thing.

Big (?) 10—Big might be an apt adjective for the name of the conference since it actually has 14 members, but let’s not call it valid as an adjective for describing the perceived strength of the conference. Yes, the conference champion, Ohio State University, was chosen to participate in the College Football Playoff final four, but that choice came burdened with controversy and questions of how deserving the team was as a pick.

Theoretically, strength of schedule was supposed to be a key factor in the evaluation and choice of teams, though in the final selection the winning of a championship game seemed to outweigh overall schedule strength. So, how strong was the conference over which OSU reigns as champ?

Apparently, not very strong. Many writers and commentators have suggested that the conference is not as strong as some other conferences, which would seem to suggest that OSU’s schedule overall was not that strong. And, out of conference, the Buckeyes lost to Virginia Tech, a weak opponent this year. But, beyond the writers and commentators, let’s go to the people who know—the Las Vegas odds makers.

While you may not wish to think of the Vegas odds makers as experts, they are. If they weren’t experts at what they do, they wouldn’t be the ones regularly going to the bank—the bettors would be. Yep, the Vegas folks know what they are doing and whereof they speak. If you don’t believe it, try betting against them and see who wins and who loses.

So, what do the odds makers think of the Big 10? Notice that in the forthcoming bowl games, each Big 10 team is the underdog. With that in mind, what do you think the people-in-the-know think about the overall strength of the Big (?) 10?

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For What It’s Worth

Ask my doctor. Really?

My apologies for getting your attention and then turning away, but an apparently urgent drug commercial has flashed onto the screen on my TV and I feel compelled to watch.

Wow! Some guy wearing a white lab coat is talking. He must be a doctor. I mean, who but a doctor wears a white lab coat to make a commercial? Not likely that he’s a researcher. He’s not in a lab, and there’s no microscope, vials of liquid, or petri dish in sight.

“Yes, Cureitall is the answer. You may be suffering frequent or intense pain, but relief can be yours. Cureitall is a prescription medicine that will take care of the problem. Experience relief today. One Cureitall tablet taken once a day, if taken at precisely midnight, will bring 24-hour relief.

“While Cureitall may be right for most people, it may not be right for you if you are pregnant, wish you were pregnant, or someday may become pregnant, or if you wish your wife were pregnant, or you hope she someday will be pregnant. Cureitall is not advised if you have hair and don’t wish to become bald, if you are prone to a rise in blood pressure when the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown, if your kidneys, liver, spleen and thyroid are functioning correctly, if your thighbone connects to your hipbone, or if you have false teeth.

“When taking Cureitall, watch for any side effects and report them to your doctor immediately. Possible side effects include nausea, insomnia, kidney failure, heart palpitations, unexplained pain in back, shoulders, hips, legs, arms or feet; a compulsion to talk constantly, flu-like symptoms, hot flashes, cranky disposition, sudden fits of anger, intense itching behind your knee joint or other hard-to-reach places, growth of cuticles, hangnails, and ingrown toenails. Some fatal reactions have occurred.

“Why wait another day to seek relief? Cureitall is available now. Relief can be yours.

“So, ask your doctor if Cureitall is right for you.”

I know this will come as a surprise and shock to the drug companies, but despite being bombarded by drug commercials on TV, I have never, not even once, dashed to the phone after a drug commercial and called my doctor to make an appointment so I could ask him about the drug being advertised. Actually, my usual reaction is fear—fear that a doctor would prescribe that drug for me. With all the potential reactions, frequently including the possibility of the reaction being fatal, I am scared of taking the drug.

Pardon me, I should not have allowed myself to be drug away from you to watch that drug commercial. However, it certainly sounded like it would take care of whatever ails me, didn’t it?

The truth is I think I got a hint of what ails me earlier this year when my family doctor, whom I really like and appreciate, noted that we (I suppose he means himself and me, unless he had a mouse in his pocket at the time) needed to keep an eye on some things because, I think his words were, “Harry, you are 75.” That was a kind and subtle way of saying, “You’re getting old.” At least, it is clear that I have crossed some kind of demarcation line.

Last I checked there is no cure for old age. Not even one of those commercials is for a drug claiming to cure old age.

When I caught your attention, I was going to write about something specific I had in mind. But, I got distracted and now I don’t remember what it was. That, unfortunately, is a sure sign of a senior moment. Since I don’t remember, I guess I’ll go watch TV for a while and check out the drug commercials. Surely, there will be one for a drug that cures senior moments without too many serious side effects. Then, I can do as the guy in the white lab coat says, and go ask my doctor about the drug.

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For What It’s Worth

Awesome young people

What a night it was, and what a morning!

Thursday night was the annual Christmas recital for students of adults at our church who give music lessons. Most, though not all, of the students were from families at Bible Baptist Church. The program included performance of 48 pieces, primarily piano, but also including harp, horn, violin, and vocal. Performers ranged in age from the youngest, age 6, to mid-teens. Some were in the early stages of learning, and others clearly had advanced skills.

The skill level mattered not. The energy, dedication, and desire on display invigorated the audience, and, as nearly as I could tell, everyone had a good time.

As my wife will attest, I am not one to be indwelled early with the Christmas spirit. Christmas has become too commercialized for me. When I see Christmas displays, decorations, or TV ads before Thanksgiving, especially those appearing shortly after Halloween, I want to boo. I’m just not into Christmas as a time to spend wastefully, which is the way I view much of the gifting that occurs today.

However, even the “Bah, Humbug” guy that I am, I came out of the recital with a good dose of the Christmas spirit.

It was a delightful evening. I was impressed by the youth. It takes courage and desire to perform in front of more than 200 people, especially when you are young and know that you likely will hit some sour notes as you play. But they stepped up and performed. And any wrong notes they hit were not sour notes to me.

Now, I’m ready to move on into the Christmas season.

Then, Friday morning I had the privilege of being one of the judges for the annual Heritage Academy Spelling Bee. Heritage Academy is an educational program at Bible Baptist Church that works closely with parents home schooling their children. We had a peewee spelling bee, elementary school bee, and a middle school bee.

I was impressed by the competence of the youngsters participating. We started spelling about 10 a.m. and concluded about 10 minutes after 1 p.m., interspersing two breaks of about 10 minutes each.

Many of the children in the spelling bee also were participants in the Christmas recital the night before. What an encouragement it is to see these youngsters working and achieving in areas of personal growth. They are learning so many valuable lessons about setting goals, working hard, being responsible, overcoming fears and doubts, dealing with mistakes or failures, etc.

They are blessed to have parents who encourage and support them in endeavors such as this. Unfortunately, far too many children in today’s world are not so fortunate. It is overwhelmingly sad to me the number of children I see who are growing up in homes with violence, drug usage, absent father or mother, parents more concerned with career or self-indulgence than caring for their children, a lack of love, and no real guidance or training to help them grow into mature, responsible, and loving adults.

The warm feeling I had from the spelling bee meshed nicely with that from the Christmas recital the night before. Apparently, I’m getting the Christmas spirit a bit earlier this year.

Are you?

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From the Stands

Playoff mumblings

Choosing from among non-choices

The college football playoff teams have been chosen, and the selection committee made the choice of whom to root for easy.

Oregon.

The other three—Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama—are long-time members of my short list of teams I love to root against. Three of my favorite teams each football Saturday are the teams playing Alabama, Ohio State and FSU. A fourth, though irrelevant to the playoff, is whoever is playing Notre Dame.

Please understand that I am not an Oregon Ducks fan; it’s just that they are the only team I can root for among the choices I have.

Perhaps a brief explanation is in order. I am a sports fan, and college football is my favorite spectator sport. Except for Oklahoma State in football and the St. Louis Cardinals in major league baseball, I am not a strong fan of any particular team. I just enjoy a good game, and basically I derive more pleasure from rooting for underdogs than I do from expending passion on following a particular team.

So, in this first year of the new playoff system, my cheering interest gravitated to Oregon, a relative newcomer to the favorite’s roll long enjoyed by the powerhouses OSU, FSU and Bama. Or, stated more bluntly, the Ducks are the only one I can possibly root for.

Since they are playing FSU in one game, my choice is clear there. In the OSU vs. Alabama game, the outcome I would like most—both of them lose—is not possible. Thus, I am stuck hoping that the winner will be the loser to Oregon in the title game.

What if Oregon is not in the title game? I’ll still watch it, but will settle for rooting for an exciting game with only an interest in the quality of the competition, not in who wins or loses. Believe it not, I can enjoy, and have enjoyed, games in which I have no particular rooting interest.

Though I’ll root for Oregon, my real rooting interest going into the playoff was TCU or Baylor. I was hoping one of them would be selected and give the Big 12 Conference a representative and someone I could cheer for. However, neither was selected, though I think either one was more worthy than Ohio State; but that is a topic not to be addressed at this time.

The only decision

The judge ruled this week, and Douglass High School was denied injunctive relief based on its protest of the recent loss to Locust Grove in the Class 3A state playoffs. As you will recall, officials in the game misapplied a rule and disallowed a touchdown by Douglass that gave it a lead in the game and a likely victory since just over a minute was all the time left in the game.

Although neither fairness nor justice was served, the judge made the only decision he could under the circumstances. It was not fair that Douglass lost because of a mistake by the officials. However, it would not have been fair either to have replayed all or a portion of the game because the circumstances would have been altered. Nor does it seem right that Locust Grove moves on in the playoffs tainted by the knowledge that the victory was not a clear-cut one.

It was a situation in which there was no fair, just, or truly satisfactory way to handle the situation once it had occurred. Though not a totally satisfactory solution, the most workable one seemed to be to just move ahead. It’s no consolation, but life is not always fair, and this is clear example of that.

A similar situation happened in Kentucky, and the solution there was not to allow a protest and, instead, continue the playoffs. The governing body there has a policy, which it enforces, that no protest can be filed once a game is over. Georgia does the same.

Obviously, Oklahoma needs to get its act together. Protests over the outcome of sports events should not be settled in the courts.

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For What It’s Worth

Matter of perspective

An oft-overused saying today is, “It is what it is.” What “it is” is frequently not clear, but whatever it is we can be assured that most often “it” is a matter of perspective. We each see it from own particular viewpoint and interpretation. Thus, what may be desirable to us is not desirable to someone else or vice versa. A cliché way of expressing this is to say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

I was reminded of this during a morning social hour yesterday with fellow residents in the condo complex where we live. Each Wednesday morning for an hour or so, interested residents gather at the clubhouse for lively conversation and imbibing in some tasty goodies, most of them homemade. Sometimes, we enjoy word games, but mostly we just converse, sharing stories and personal observations. Since all of us are senior citizens, except for some family members who may be visiting the group, most of our story exchanges involve reminiscing or remembering when. That just seems to be a natural part of getting old.

At one time, probably not very long ago, you would have been hard pressed to convince me that I would be part of such a group or that I would enjoy it. To my own surprise, I have found the sessions to be fun, and I look forward to them. Each week, someone serves as sort of a moderator and directs the word game or chooses a topic for discussion and coordinates the storytelling that follows.

This morning, we focused primarily on telling stories about our most unusual or memorable Christmas. Then, someone mentioned that Sunday had been Dec. 7, a day to remember Pearl Harbor, and the question was asked, “Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the attack?”

Several are old enough to have some specific memories of where they were and what they were doing. At almost 2 years old, I was not old enough at the time to have a clear or specific remembrance of that day. However, when my dad was drafted, I was old enough to have a memory of his leaving on a train and my mother crying. That is my initial memory of her crying, and I think that is why it is something I remember.

Part of the shared memories of Christmas included observations from the majority of us that our families were not moneyed and thus Christmas was not a time of multiple or expensive toys and the like. Aside from receiving oranges and apples in our stockings, we sometimes received clothing made by our mothers. For one resident, that recalled to mind a non-Christmas story he had about shirts his mother had made for him.

Feed sacks and other materials were used by our mothers to make shirts, blouses, etc. In this instance, the resident said that when he went off to college, his wardrobe included a shirt his mother had sewed for him. Although she thought it was just a passing fad, she made the shirt with a button-down collar to please him. At college, he had a friend whose family was wealthy enough for him to have brand name, store-bought shirts. The friend regularly commented on our resident’s shirt and asked what brand it was. Somewhat embarrassed that it was a homemade shirt, the resident avoided a direct answer until one day the friend reached out, grabbed the shirt collar in the back, and turned it up to read the label.

“You’re not wearing a regular shirt,” he exclaimed in surprise and admiration. “That’s a custom-made shirt!” The resident then revealed that his mother had made the shirt.

He smiled as he told us the story, and we all laughed.

“I was wearing a custom-made shirt, but had never thought about it that way,” he said. “Interesting, isn’t it, how we see things differently?”

Indeed, it is. It’s a matter of perspective. For one young man, the shirt was something his mother had made him, not an expensive, store-bought shirt. For the other man, accustomed to wearing shirts bought off the rack at a clothing store, having a shirt made especially to fit you was having a custom-made shirt. Quite an elevation in status, huh?

As I listened to the story, I remembered how many shirts I had worn that my mom had made and how I could hardly wait until I was able to buy shirts with a name-brand label in the collar. And all the time I was wearing custom-made shirts.

It probably behooves all of us to keep in mind that the way we view life, the way we view our circumstances, the way we view the actions of others, the way we view so many things is a matter of perspective.

We need to be careful when we think, “It is what it is,” because “what it is” may be a custom-made shirt, not the store-bought shirt it appears to be from our perspective.

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