My Life In a Shoebox

Here in North Texas the seasons change overnight. And then they change back again. A couple of days ago we hit 94 degrees. Today we’re going to stay in the 40s. Next month or next week we might have snow, then back to 85 for a couple of days.

Texas is famous for it and I love the variety.

We all mark the passing of time with changes in the weather. If it never changed we would seem to be living the same day over and over.

And yet… the days and years of our lives often seem to change like calendar pages flying off the screen to show passage of time in old movies.

You know what frustrates me? I can’t remember everything. The past 66  years are written on my brain in fuzzy black and white memories like the photographs of my childhood. They’re all mixed up in my shoebox of a brain. I sort through them from time to time and while I can usually remember a relative few specific places and people the entire experience of my life is mostly conjecture.

I figure young people of today will have the opposite problem. When they’re my age they’ll be sorting through hundreds of thousands of pictures of cats and babies they once knew and meals they once ate.

Making sense of your life is as hard as predicting it

60, 70, 80  years…

It sounds so long but it lives so fast.

Daylight saving time is dumb but it won’t kill you

Daylight Saving Time begins Sunday.

I don’t really care. I’m the least busy person I know.

Everybody still says we’ll all lose an hour’s sleep Saturday night. Not me. I go to bed when I’m tired on Saturday and wake up Sunday morning when I’m finished sleeping. The clock says whatever it says, I don’t care.

The only time changing the clock became a personal issue is when I was working on the air at radio stations on the Fall Back all night shift. I would slog through the 1-2 a.m. hour and then, presto time change-o!, it was 1 a.m. again! That kinda sucked.

If you do have to awaken at a particular time on Sunday and you’re afraid losing an hour’s sleep will kick your butt I have two suggestions: go to bed earlier or change your plans.

Seriously, why is this a big deal?

It’s exactly the same as when you fly into a different time zone that’s one hour ahead. Does that wreak havoc in your life for as much as five days as they keep telling us in the news? I don’t think so.

Lately we’ve been treated to sensationalized news stories telling us how changing the clocks one hour leads to more highway deaths for sleepy drivers and more heart attacks and strokes for people who have trouble adjusting their bodies to the arbitrary numbers we call time.

Oh, puh-leeze!

I don’t mean to be a jerk but if you have a heart attack because of Daylight Saving Time I’m guessing that your heart was in critical distress before you changed the clock.

Farmers: “Make hay while the sun shines.”

We’ve all been taught that the goal of Daylight Saving Time was to give farmers an extra hour of daylight. Farmers, being much smarter than the rest of us, call that a big pile of horse hockey. The sun rises and sets on its own schedule all year ’round. Farmers adjust their work to the actual hours of daylight, not clocks.

And, by the way, there really are more hours of daylight in the summer. We don’t need to extend them artificially by changing our clocks.

10:30 P.M. – Oh, Canada!

One summer Carolann and I drove to the Canadian Rockies. It didn’t get dark until 10:30 P.M.! The Canadians seem to be just fine with it.

The only thing I find remotely interesting in all of this is the history of keeping time in the United States.

Until 1883 clocks were set at noon when the sun was straight overhead no matter where you happened to be. This made sense except that a town fifty miles east or west would set their clocks to noon when the sun was straight overhead a few minutes earlier or later.

That was no big deal until the railroads came along and started moving people great distances faster than the speed of the overhead sun. The availability of pocket watches made the problem suddenly obvious: your watch said 2:30 but the clock at the railroad station where you just arrived might say it was 3:15.

Imagine flying into an airport today and needing to change planes. Say it only takes you five minutes to walk from one terminal to another but when you get there you’ve mysteriously lost half an hour and missed your connecting flight.

That’s how railroads worked until 1883. There were literally hundreds of “time zones” in the U.S.

But then the government got involved and, as usual, made everything work smoothly.

But here’s the good news: if we insist on maintaining this silly tradition we’re darned close to living in a world where all clocks change themselves. Your computers, tablets and phones already do this. Watches, clocks on stoves and in cars can’t be far behind.

And you know what that means?  Blessedly, nothing.

We’ll never notice anything except that it suddenly stays light an hour longer.

“Hmm. I guess the time changed last night.”

That’s all we’ll say.

If TV and radio stop beating us over the head with stuff to worry about we’ll all be fine.

September 2010: The nice police

I don’t know why we sugar coat things these days.

For some reason the word “cripple” is distasteful so we now say “disabled.” Frankly, I don’t see how that’s any better. I guess the nice police figure it implies strength within infirmity. It excuses us from our physical and mental shortcomings though it doesn’t help us overcome and live with them. It helps us pretend we are not less than complete; we cripples are just as good as anybody else, even though we are, admittedly, “disabled.”

In the words of my Wyoming coal-mining cowboy grandfather, that is horse hockey.

I’m crippled. It’s no shame. I had an accident, that’s all. My feet don’t work well but my brain still does. I suffer a bit but I make do and live with it. And by the way, the accident was my own fault. I need to remember that so please don’t take it away from me.

Don’t call me a senior citizen. It’s cute but condescending.

Nobody is old these days. We’re “senior citizens.”

Puh-leeze. It’s cute but I’m not a big fan of cute except in babies and puppies. You can be a “senior” if you like but don’t call me that, okay? I’d rather be “old” or, better yet, not defined by my age at all. Don’t make me cute. I’m more than that.

I think all this social nice-nice has less to do with respect for others than our own desire to seem caring so we can accept our own imperfections.

People don’t get fired these days, they get “laid off.” 

I remember when “laid off” meant you could expect to be rehired in the near future. Not anymore. The fact is you’ve been fired, canned, kicked to the curb. The company you worked for just doesn’t need or want you anymore. But, it’s supposed to be somehow less painful to say you were “laid off.” Being “fired” is terribly, terribly personal.

It’s not your fault, nothing is.

And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Nobody is at fault and nobody is to blame for the ups and downs of what we used to just call life.

My grandson’s soccer league doesn’t keep score. They don’t want any losers.

I don’t have to explain to you why that’s so horribly twisted. Most of you are old and wise like me. You remember when your parents and grandparents watched you fall, waited for you to cry and picked you up to wipe your tears, clean your wound and say, “I told you so!” Touching a hot stove is the only way to learn to never do it again. Losing is the only way to learn to win.

It used to be, anyway. These days being on the losing side of a soccer game is considered the death of self-respect.

The only thing that seems to matter now are our fragile egos and manufactured self-esteem.

I can’t change the culture but I still have something to say about the raising of my own sons and grandsons. Here’s what I’d like to say to them:

–You will curse your mistakes and failures. I will quietly celebrate them because they’re lessons I can’t give you. You are a winner and, at times, a loser. Deal with it. You’ll be happier for it.

–You will suffer emotionally and I will try to love you out of your pain but then I’ll have to go home and leave you to sort it out for yourself. Can’t help it, that’s the way it works.

— There is not enough time in my life or yours for us to completely share our hearts. Try to be grateful for every moment we have together, especially the ones that seem unimportant at the time.

Thirty-some years ago while in the depths of my personal despair my father, my hero, told me — in these exact words, which I will never forget:

“If you don’t love yourself you’ll never be worth a damn to anybody else.”

And now, I have finally reached an age where I am qualified to add to my dad’s life-defining revelation:

You don’t love yourself for being good, that’s a given. You love yourself for falling down, getting up and living better for what you have learned.