Thursday, September 29, 2011

This week's column

Duke the fierce and grumpy
Most of the time, most people find themselves cheering on the little guy.

When David faced and defeated Goliath, everyone cheered, “Way to go, Dave.”

When a small band of rebel forces took on the galactic empire in “Star Wars,” we all yelled, “Use the force, Luke.”

When Rocky took on Apollo Creed, we joined the chant and yelled, “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky.”

When the underdog defeats the No. 1 team in any sport, we all suddenly become fans.

When 300 Spartans battled Xerxes’ hordes, many took on the rallying cry of fighting against the odds. OK, well maybe that one is a stretch and the only reason I cheered on the Spartans when I saw “300” was because it starred Gerard Butler who, as I’ve admitted several times, is my celebrity crush.

But back to the little guy, which brings us to the tale of one foot tall Duke the Corgi who might be one little guy who should leave well enough alone.

I took Duke to Glasgow to a Woofstock pet event where my brother’s vet clinic, Animal Clinic of Glasgow, had a booth. Duke and I walked around, got a few treats, signed up for a few games and Duke even got his picture taken.

We tried one game with a pool full of tennis balls. Kind of like a duck pond game. If the dog removed a tennis ball they got a prize. Duke sat down next to the pool and looked at me like he was thinking, “Are you kidding me? This looks too much like a bath.”

Then something strange happened. Little, tiny, squatty Duke ran toward a German shepherd, growling. Everyone around us just stopped and looked down at him.

I think the shepherd was laughing inside at the thought of this tiny challenge.

My first response probably wasn’t very maternal.

“What are you thinking? Do you see the size of that dog? He can eat you,” I said as I looked down at him.

After that point, he decided to be grumpy and growl at every dog that passed, especially the German shepherds. I guess that day proved that Duke is actually a people dog and not a big fan of dogs outside his immediate circle. He’d be a great therapy dog for people but would probably spend the day in the dog house if he went to puppy daycare.

So for the rest of the event, Duke was in my brother’s booth, in time out.

We did win second prize for the dog that traveled the farthest, but I scratched his name out of the Mr. Woofstock competition because he became Mr. Grumpy Britches.

Regardless of Duke’s sudden bad mood, we did have fun visiting my brother and it looked like the rest of the dogs enjoyed themselves.

The moral of Duke’s story is that sometimes when the underdog takes on a giant the story is retold and cheered by many. But sometimes the little guy should just back down before he gets eaten by a German shepherd.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This week's column

My memories of 9/11

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was observed over the weekend, many have recounted where they were or how they felt that day and in the time that followed.

I had recently graduated from Seminary and was about to move home from Louisville. I went to work like any other morning to input data at a library collection agency in Southern Indiana. Some called us the library police.

After the first plane hit, the receptionist told us she received a phone call saying an airplane had hit the World Trade Center. We all thought it was a small plane and was an accident. Then she got a second call about the second plane.

We all huddled in our conference room on a fuzzy television that barely had a signal.

We all stood there, speechless, as the first tower crumbled. Shock would be the best word to describe it.

The days that followed were a bit of a blur. The television stayed on in my apartment, constantly tuned into news coverage to see if anyone survived.

From my apartment I could see planes heading in and out of the airport, but the skies that week were empty, no blinking lights. Except for one night. Any other time it wouldn’t have stood out, but a single plane was flying in the night’s sky. I found out the next morning it was a small plane that had been given permission to fly medical supplies to New York.

I remember seeing the tired and worn rescue workers on the news and wanted to drive to New York and give them a hug or bake them cookies, anything. Most of us will never know what they went though. What they saw, smelled and heard.

The end of that week I was scheduled to move home, commuting to Indiana while trying to find a church job. Home was such a welcome thought. I kept thinking as I watched things unfold on television that I would soon be home. Home seemed like a safe place.

In the years that followed many things changed. We went to war and I encountered people’s lives touched by the results of 9/11. Brave families at home with fear behind their eyes.

I also took my first plane trip in the post 9/11 era. I wasn’t scared of terrorist or crashing. I became paranoid that my suitcase wasn’t packed right or my shoes looked suspicious. A strange kind of paranoia in a post 9/11 world.

The date 9/11 later developed a happier significance for my family. Three years after the attacks my cousin’s twin boys were born on that date. Something like that takes a bit of the edge off the impact of just saying “9/11.”

But on the tenth anniversary, I remembered it all again. The strange feeling of hope through sadness brought the same tears as it did 10 years ago, when bravery wore a uniform or a fireman’s hat or came from ordinary people in a tower, in a government building, on a plane.

Images still shake the heart and stir emotions. It’s hard to watch old footage where the towers can be seen rising in the distant New York skyline. It’s almost haunting.

But for me, in the midst of the hurt of that day, God’s love remains. Many might find that a strange reality, but in the days and weeks following the attacks it’s a comfort to which many ran. The day after the attacks I walked into my little office building in Southern Indiana to find every co-worker holding hands, regardless of where they were in their faith, praying.

It’s a day that will never be forgotten. A day when simple words become a mantra.

“Let’s roll.”

No, I don’t think any of us will ever forget.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This week's column

Miniature golf and simpler times

Sometimes I experience small flashes of realization about how complicated I make life.

It seems like we live in a society obsessed with being entertained.

Not only being entertained but going to the most hip and expensive place or having the most up-to-date technology that only stays current for a year and then we just have to get the new version.

I realized it more over the weekend. We took my dad out for his birthday and after dinner we played miniature golf and had a blast. It was so simple, a mother and father playing with their two 30-something-year-old children. Well, mom didn’t play, she just kept score. But she still got in on the fun.

We played at Cave City because my brother lives in nearby Glasgow. Being there made me think of simpler times.

Vacations when I was a kid didn’t have to be a big event each year.

Every so often we would venture to Florida or Gatlinburg but most of the time we went camping or took short trips to places in Kentucky.

Do kids even go camping anymore?

I remember going several summers with my grandparents and cousins. It wasn’t fancy. We just camped out in a camper and rode bikes all over the campground, occasionally getting picked on by my older cousin.

Sometimes there was a hayride or horseback riding but no amusement parks or high-tech entertainment.

Another time, my brother and I went to visit our cousins in Louisville. My greatest memory of that trip was making a fort in their basement with what I think were the screens that were supposed to go in their doors and windows in the summer. Maybe I shouldn’t have confessed that one — now remembering we probably shouldn’t have used those things for a fort — but the memory of something simple stands out.

The older I get, the more I miss those things. We make things too complicated these days trying to outdo others or sometimes even ourselves.

I know when I was younger I always wanted to go to the places that had the most things to do or were the coolest places to go. But now, I long for the days of camping, miniature golf and riding bikes.

Why don’t we appreciate those things when we have them? Now, as I run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to get things done, my mind drifts back even more to those simpler times.

Even my vacation this summer, although at the beach, was kept simple. I lounged about and ate some fish. Nothing fancy. Restful.

I got a good feeling inside last Saturday night as we all played golf together. The air was cool, the atmosphere was fun and we had a great time. As this summer comes to an end, it will probably stand out as one of my greatest memories.

And, I should add, Dad won the game. He usually does. I’m not sure we’ve ever been able to beat him at that game and probably never will.