Season of storms and Bluebonnets

Near Covington TX, March 17, 2018 Photo bu Jeff Stephens, The Backroads of Texas Facebook group.

This is not a tornado but it might have turned into one if conditions had been just slightly different yesterday. The photo is pure Texas in the spring.

Here’s another one taken yesterday near Lampasas. This is called a supercell. You don’t see these everywhere, mainly in tornado alley. You really don’t want to see one up close and personal. But again, this is not a tornado, though it can give them birth.

Near Lampasas, TX, March 17-2018 Photo by Jessica Price – Backroads of Texas Facebook Group

When you live in Texas you learn more about weather than you need to know in California.  Spring and fall are severe storm seasons. They can throw softball size hailstones at us, spawn terrifying tornadoes and create brief straight-line winds up to 100 mph on what was a hot, sunny day just a few minutes earlier.

Most Texans don’t seem terribly concerned by any of this. Here in Tornado Alley there are darned few storm shelters and nobody has a basement or cellar. Crazy, right? There’s just something inherently Texan about being a cockeyed optimist and at the same time shrugging off fate.

If your time is up, it’s up.

Photo by Abby Gordon,
https://www.facebook.com/texasbluebonnetsightings/

But spring in Texas is also time of dazzling natural beauty, when the prairies bloom into a heavenly landscape of wildflowers. Chief among them is the Blue Bonnet, the state flower of Texas.

I don’t know anyone here that would give up either extreme.

The essence of Texas is a sense of wonder built of challenges overcome.

“You didn’t come with instructions.”

Researchers have warned that the prospect of leaving home has left ill-prepared millennials feeling anxious and panicked.

A recent study of 2,000 young people about to enter college has concluded that millennials are unprepared for the realities of life in the real world. More than half don’t know how to pay a bill or how much they should expect to spend on rent.

61% of these young people are scared to leave their parents. 58% have trouble sleeping. 27% have panic attacks when they think about moving away from home.

These blossoming adults go off to college nervously in need of “trigger warnings” for their studies and “safe spaces” in which to live their lives. Many don’t want to learn how to drive a car.

Some expect to get a trophy for merely participating in life.

Recently on our Dallas morning radio show on KLIF my partner, Amy Chodroff, and I talked about this study and tried to figure out how young Americans went from being excited about inheriting their own lives, as we were at their age, to being seemingly terrified by the prospect of growing up and leaving the nest.

Amy, a Gen-Xer with two well-parented and supremely prepared and confident children of her own, decided her generation is to blame for coddling these kids.

We talked about so-called helicopter parents and the everyone-gets-a trophy entitlement era of today’s society. It made sense to us and we left the blame there, on the Gen-X parents of Millenials.

Something about the discussion nagged at me and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized what it was:

Amy’s generation of helicopter parents are my generation’s free-range kids.

We Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, were the beatniks of the 1950s and the hippies of the 60s. We worshiped at the altar of Do Your Own Thing in the Church of What’s Happening Now.

We had a wonderfully carefree childhood during a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity and yet we rejected every notion of our own parents’ culture from the Hit Parade music they loved to our haircuts and the clothes they wanted us to wear.

We even rejected the uniquely American idea that liberty came with a price worth paying, though that’s easy to understand if you consider our perspective.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall – Washington, D.C.

Politicians of the 60s sent us to a war of their making. 50,000 of us died in Vietnamese rice paddies ten thousand miles from home.

I frequently think of my high school buddies who had their lives blown away before they were old enough to grow a beard or fall in love for the first time.

Those of us who dodged the draft warned each other to never trust anyone over thirty and shouted, “Make love, not war!”

Now we’re in our sixties and seventies wondering why our grandkids are so nervous and we blame their parents, our children.

Just look at the society we Boomers left in the wake of our cultural revolution.

In some ways our kids are more traditional than we were at their age. Growing up as the children of free-range parenting they’re over-correcting our mistakes by inventing their own, insisting that every spare minute of their children’s lives be scheduled, structured and under constant supervision and  by insisting that the road to happiness begins at birth with eyes fixed on the prize: a scholarship to Harvard or Stanford.

Our children’s children are leaving home, entering those schools confused and scared. And who can blame them? They were never taught that they would be challenged and sometimes they would fail. Nobody ever explained that they aren’t really bulletproof, bound for glory or as exceptional as they were constantly assured.

Nobody ever explained they’ll be paying off those student loans for the next twenty years.

We love our children. We don’t want them to ever be scared or disappointed. And yet we know they have to suffer to succeed.

Or did we forget to tell them that part?

Sometimes parents make mistakes. We can’t avoid them. We can only try to minimize them and try to make them teachable moments for ourselves and our kids.

As my Carolann likes to remind her Gen-X son: “You didn’t come with instructions.”

 

*Source of quoted material: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-4666794/Millennials-aren-t-ready-reality-life.html

 

Those beautiful Swedes

I have a friend who does consulting work around the world; he has clients in the U.S., all through Europe, New Zealand, Central and South America. Occasionally he passes through Dallas and we catch up over a meal.

He told me one thing that he’s noticed in his travels is that the Swedes are the most physically and facially beautiful people in the world. He said when he first started doing business in Sweden he caught himself staring at people because they were just unnaturally attractive.

Swedish actors Peter Johansson, Anna Sahlin and Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

One evening while out to dinner with a group of his clients in Sweden he had drank just enough wine to ask the question that had been nagging at him for awhile.

“Do you people realize how beautiful you are?” he asked. “There are no ugly people in your country.”

They laughed and told him immodestly yes, they do know that. Whenever they travel outside their national borders, they said, they find other people in the world a little unsettling.
Isn’t that hilarious?

Daylight Saving Time

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.
 
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.
 
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?  Nothing. 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.

The Age of Irrelevance

Getting older is like getting fatter. You don’t notice because it happens gradually.

One thing you do notice is suddenly being ignored. You notice because it seems to happen overnight. One day you’re a vital part of society and respected leader in your industry; the next day people merely nod at you with a perfunctory smile as if you were a greeter at Walmart.

This only happens with people who didn’t know you when you were young. Unfortunately, over time that seems to be most people.

Several years ago I mentioned this to my son’s mother-in-law, Gloria, a dear friend who is a bit older and very wise. I told her I was frustrated because my experience and knowledge of my business had always been sought by my colleagues but suddenly nobody seems to have any interest in what I think.

“You’ve reached the age of irrelevance,” she explained matter-of-factly.?

I had to let that sink in for a moment.

The age of irrelevance.

Gloria could see I was stunned.  “It happens to all of us,” she said gently. “I used to be the person my managers turned to for ideas. Then one day they weren’t interested in any of my observations or suggestions.”

I didn’t know what to say. It made no sense and yet this is exactly what I was experiencing.

“It’s like when your kids are growing up,” Gloria continued. “They rely on you for everything and then one day they suddenly don’t need you at all. You’re irrelevant.”

Nobody ever warned me this would happen. I don’t like it but I’ve come to accept it philosophically, if not quite emotionally. It still hurts a bit. I feel kind of useless.

Irrelevant.

It’s been a few years since Gloria explained to me this particularly jarring bump on the road of l ife. I’m getting used to it and so will you.

I just thought someone should give you a heads up.

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Clutter

I just read a news article quoting new research that determined clutter is stressful.

Really? How much time and money did you spend figuring that out?

While my blogging partner, Anita, is trying to figure out what lifetime memories she should keep and what to do with the rest, I’m still trying to understand how I manage to collect so much stuff in the first place.

I feel a little like the kid named Pigpen from the Peanuts comics. He’s the dirty kid with a perpetual cloud of dust surrounding him. Wherever I go I seem to be in a pile of stuff, especially paper.

Paper collects on my desks at home and work. They gather on the floor and under the seats in my car. They boil out of the glove box: years of expired tire warranties and Taco Bell napkins.

I can’t even bring myself to sit down at my desk at home surrounded as I am by notes, receipts and stacks of paid bills I haven’t had the energy to file.

All around me are boxes of pictures I intend to scan and keep, just like Anita was talking about. That sounds easy enough except that I have  sixty-some years worth and that doesn’t even count the thousands of pointless pictures I’ve taken since my phone became my camera.

I have little boxes here and there filled with stuff I don’t know what to do with. Some of it is unidentifiable – all the stuff I have no use for but am afraid to throw away.

And now we have the research confiming — clutter is stressful.

I’m going to add that article to the shredder pile I’m slowly collecting. It’s not big enough to deal with yet.

Great Minds

I don’t write as much as I used to. When I was young I was much smarter. Wisdom came to me so fast I couldn’t explain it all. But, over the years I’ve come to realize the older I get and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know.

Me, thinking deep thoughts.

That was an original thought when I thunk it. Nobody enlightened me. I had never heard or read anything like it. It was a brilliant and original epiphany. But now we have the Internet and ego crushing reality is just a search away.

A minute ago I typed “The more I learn…” into Google and here’s what popped up:

“The more you learn, the more you know. The more you know, the more you forget. The more you forget, the less you know. So why bother to learn? — George Bernard Shaw”

And…

“The more you know, the less you understand. — Lao-Tse”

And the real stunner…

“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know. — Socrates”

Socrates had my original thought 2,400 years before I did and said it more crisply!

AND, in ancient Greek!

Socrates had nothing on me.

I suppose having an idea expressed by one of the great thinkers in history come to me all by itself is cool but there’s no point in my passing it along. It obviously occurs to everybody eventually.

Plus, if we all regurgitated every brilliantly mundane original thought we have what would become of the poor philosophy majors who have nothing else to do with their educations?

The other reason I don’t write much anymore is because Americans don’t read much anymore.

We Tweet. We text. We spend our days expressing every banal thought that crosses our mind in such a way that we don’t have to bother hearing or reading a response.

Maybe we don’t want response. We’re just spewin’.  Maybe we’re just trying to shut off the noise and hear ourselves think.

I could be wrong about this. Maybe, but how can I know?

I’ve learned so much, so fast, I’m rushing toward total ignorance.

Emily’s Gift

CarolAnn and I just sent a birthday gift to our daughter-in-law, Emily. Took just thirty seconds to pick it out and ship it. ?

Gift giving isn’t what it used to be and a lot of us old geezers are highly annoyed by it. Back in the day we’d think about it a lot and then head out to the mall to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Then we’d go home and gift wrap it. If that person lived far away we’d package it and take it to the post office. The whole process could take half a day or more but it was gratifying. It was fun to think of our loved one opening the pretty package and being surprised and delighted by what was inside.

Sending a gift card via email as I just did takes no time at all. No thought. The efficiency of it is undeniable and that doesn’t mean we love our daughter-in-law any less, of course. It just means another tradition has fallen to our modern addiction to efficiency.

We don’t write letters anymore. Heck, most of us don’t even bother with email anymore. We text. We tweet.

Occasionally we use our phones as phones and actually talk with each other but that’s starting to seem like a special occasion these days. I’ve even started texting people to make an appointment to talk with them on the phone. No kidding.

Here’s what I think:

I think adapting to change is difficult as we get older but our only alternative is to refuse to change. Those who do that just sit on the porch and watch life pass by without even bothering to wave to them.

I think wistful longing for the past is natural and fine in small measure. Nostalgia is warm and comforting but it’s no way to live.

I want to keep learning to keep living. These days I find I’m constantly learning from my children. And why not? We taught them the ways of the world with hope they’d make it better. I think they’re doing that, even if we don’t always understand or like the changes.

Thisaway and Thataway

I have chronic wanderlust. Got it from my dad. He would wake up in the morning and just decide he needed to go see Wyoming and off he’d go for a week or two. I’m not retired so I can’t do that but if you get off the major highways in this country you can find some wonderful roads to travel.

 

Folks living in an Arizona retirement community undoubtedly get a thousand laughs a day from living, as they do, at the corner of Stroke and Acoma Streets.

 

If you’re bored and depressed in Albany, Georgia, you can always go hang out at the corner of Lonesome and Hardup.

 

 

In fact, that’s why the merchants of Amador City, California, years ago began selling copies of their iconic Pig Turd Alley sign, hoping that tourists would stop stealing the actual sign. That must have worked. Carolann and I bought one.

Wherever your travels take you, keep smiling. We live in a very funny country.

Gene Robinson

I met Gene Robinson a year ago and haven’t seen him since.

He came at me the way a hummingbird zips up to a flower, flits around from blossom to blossom and then is gone before you can take its picture.

“Merci beaucoup,” he said cheerfully as I left a box store and held the door open for him. I turned to him, smiled and said, “You’re welcome!”

“Do you speak French?” he asked.

“No, but I know what you said,” I replied with my smile still in place, and that was all it took.

Before he told me his name Gene Robinson told me he’s 73 years old. “Really?” It surprised me. “I’m 66 and I look like your grandpa.” He grinned and acknowledged that he doesn’t have much gray hair and that his face is portly enough to avoid creasing. Then he explained that his mother was white and his father was black. “I got my dark complexion from my father,” he said. This also surprised me because he was about as black as black skinned people get. I didn’t say that, of course, but I couldn’t have if I had wanted to because Gene kept talking.

“My mother’s people were from France,” Gene told me. “That’s why I spoke to you in French.”

Gene is the kind of person you meet throughout the South. He’s a talker and he never met a stranger. I know you can find those people everywhere but there are many more of them here in Texas than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. If you’re in a line of three people at Kroger you’ll be swapping recipes by the time you reach the checkstand.

Gene told me he was born and raised in New York City and that he has lived all over the country, and he continued to flit from topic to topic for another three or four minutes.

There we were, two elderly men who had never met standing on a sidewalk smiling and looking each other in the eye.

It was weird but oddly exhilarating.

Then Gene seemed to be finished.

“Well, I got other things I need to do,” he said, “so I guess I’ll say goodbye to you. It was nice meeting you. My wife says I talk too much. She says, ‘You’re always talking to total strangers as if you were their best friend. Why do you do that?’ I tell her I don’t know. I just like people, I guess.

Then Gene stuck out his hand and told me his name. I took it and told him mine.

“Merci beaucoup, David,” he laughed. Then he waved and walked away.

Five minutes a year ago. I still miss him.