I AM Charlie Brown!

I am Charlie Brown

I think maybe it’s because my birthday coincides with the first syndicated appearance of Charlie Brown in the newspapers back on October 21, 1950. I have always been like “good ol’ Charlie Brown” even before I knew who he was. It could be that or either just the luck of the Irish (or the Scotch-Irish in my case) but when I was young, every time the gang in our neighborhood got together to choose up sides for baseball or football, I always started to get a knawing feeling in the pit of my stomach. I just knew that no matter what happened, I would be the last one chosen for the team.

It wasn’t that I was that bad a player, because I wasn’t. There were just a lot of decisions which entered into who was chosen and who wasn’t. Rickey was chosen first because he was the fastest. Mikey was chosen early because he was small and quick and could maneuver well. Mike B. was chose early because of his HUGE size. Hiram was chosen, because he was the meanest and nobody wanted to choose the meanest guy last. Stanley was the friendliest so he got picked. So, by the time the last choice came around, it was me who was left. The last boy to be chosen.

I was mediocre at most things. In baseball, I was probably the best hitter though. I later won a lot of games for my team in Little League, although I was the last kid picked by a coach for his team. I steered away from baseball and football in High School and went with “individual” sports like golf and tennis, where I did well.

I’m not sure what the problem has always been. Maybe I don’t smile enough. I sure never kissed up to anyone just to be chosen, I considered that below my dignity. Guess it’s just part of that Scotch Irish heritage thing again, where my ancestors never bent their knees to the English. I am sure quite a few of my ancestors got a chopping or a hanging because they wouldn’t bend quickly enough. FREEDOMMMMM…….Hmm,..guess I watched “Braveheart” one too many times.

I was big, but not the biggest, fast but not the fastest, quick but not the quickest. For sure I was never the meanest. Definitely not the friendliest. Maybe the quirkiest. Yep, for sure that.

But I guess the main thing is that it really never bothered me that much back then to BE the one chosen last. It bothered all the other guys, and if they were the last one picked they would raise all kinds of hell, and get their feelings hurt. I never did. It bothered me some, but all I really wanted to do was be a member of the team, and I always got to do that even if I was the last one, so what did it matter really? The proof of your worth comes after the choosing not during it. So, I guess that’s another reason why I was always the last one chosen. I took it calmly. I was always the mediator and rarely the instigator. It must be because I’m a Libra. That causes me to believe in a certain balance. Or maybe because I believe God made us all the same on the inside.

As I have gone on through growing up and into my adult life, it has become more difficult to be the last one chosen. I still exhibit most of the same qualities I did as a kid. I am smart, but not the smartest. Quick to learn, but not quite the quickest. I work hard, but there are probably some people out there who work harder. I am consistent in my beliefs about how people should be treated, but I am still not mean. I believe in treating other people like I want to be treated. I still don’t smile that often, and I am terrible at telling jokes. Most jokes require that you belittle someone or something, and I am just not going to do it. I don’t like talking about myself and what I have accomplished, or failed to accomplish for that matter. I just still believe in that balance. I believe in being calm and waiting for all the decisions to be made and for all the choices to be exercised.

I believe that fairness should be Universal and not just reserved for the richest, the strongest, the most advantageously placed politically, the meanest, nor due to any other quality that might be construed as giving a person the appearance of forbearance or special treatment. I despise favoritism. Fair is fair. People know what is fair and what isn’t. It is an innate quality that is placed within each of us a birth. The only difference is that some humans believe in “being” fair, and some don’t.

So, many days in many ways I still wait to be chosen. I have a good record in life, not outstanding but good, and always trying to be fair and fight injustice. Just like back in my baseball playing days I have had a good average and have always helped the teams I have been on. I would love to be chosen first sometime in life, BUT even if I am still the LAST one chosen I will continue to do my best to be above average. Even if things don’t turn out to be exactly fair in THIS life, I think that the Universal “balancer” will square things up one of these days. It may be a while yet, but it is one thing that IS inevitable.

Of All the Jobs I’ve Loved (and Hated) Before.

When it comes to jobs, I have run the gambit. I have worked as an hourly worker doing hard manual labor.

I made mattresses.

And when I say I made them, I mean just that. I threw the naked heavyweight springs onto a wooden table and added the “innards” of the mattress, the foam, the cotton batting and then thicker foam and the quilted cover. (Which I had already also made on the quilting machine…I was a one man department)

I took a “hog ringer” which is an air gun which bends large metal staples through the cover and attaches them to the spring. I got my thumb in the way several times and ended up with one of those things through my thumb. Most of the time, if I just shot them through the corner of my thumb I would just have someone else take a pair of plyers and unbend the ring. Once when I shot one straight through the middle of my thumbnail I had to let a Doctor get it out. He used a pair of plyers too.

The only difference was the tetanus shot.

After hog ringing the cover onto the spring and filling up a huge buggy with mattresses, I would take them to “tape edge machine” and sew the cover to the “boxing” which is the narrow strip which runs around the circumference of the mattress. You would pick the mattress up off the buggy, throw it on the sewing table and pull it up under the tape edge machine. You would then sew completely around the mattress, flip it over and while putting pressure on the mattress with your right arm to hold it down, you would use the knee lever which moved the machine to sew the second side. The king size mattresses were about 90 pounds each. If the “boxing” was a little narrow then it required a lot of pressure to sew the second side. It was like holding down a horse to give it a dose of castor oil.

I once did nearly 100 mattresses in one day, since we were on “incentive” meaning the more I did, the more it paid.

This company worked ten hours a day four days a week, with two ten minute breaks and a half hour for lunch. During the half hour lunch I usually slept.

For the first two weeks before my body got used to it, I would come home at night and just fall onto the bed and lay there. I didn’t even feel like eating, although I ended up finally doing so because I needed energy for the next day.

There were many weeks when our orders were not very good and they started cutting our work down to three days instead of four. I was in a lazy “funk” at that time, and I did this for two years,1980-82, before moving on to the world of medical supply sales, at my wife’s highly motivating suggestion that we needed more money to raise our growing family. We did, and I got out of my doldrums and got my butt to work.

Meditate

I’ve got to go to a place very deep inside me, and think for a while. I don’t go there very often, perhaps not often enough. I let the things of the world take me over..pay too much attention to issues of no importance as if they really mattered a hill of beans. In reality nothing matters as much as the peace that can be found in that deep, dark and secret place that dwells in all of us. Call it what you will.

Taking Care of my Home

For so many years I did not take care of my spirit’s dwelling place. I abused it with improper fuel, not enough rest, and too hard and extreme of a work ethic. Also too much worry over insignificant things. I did not have nearly enough respect for the precious home I was created into.

I can never totally undo the damage I have done through my neglect and apathy, but I try hard every day now to preserve and improve upon what I have left. By doing so, I feel closer to the creator. I feel more affinity for nature and its beauty. I feel more respect for all other life.

I wish and hope by continuing on this path to live a better and perhaps longer “rest of my life” All of you who are younger, you have even a better chance than I do of becoming more fulfilled. Please use that chance, you will shine brighter if you do.

The Trestle

I have passed by this trestle all my life that I can remember. It’s an icon for me, as those of you who even remotely look at my posts will already know. It demonstrates to me over the last few year how things can change. It has gone from rusty black to shiny white with a flag. But still there are those reflections in the water. Those reflections. Our lives are reflections. We are reflections of who we have grown up with, of where we have grown up. We are reflections of our experiences be they bad or good. We are reflections of the unknown.

I have had the privilege of living in seven decades, in two different centuries, and two different millenia. How many people can say that? It has all been good. I have not accomplished nearly as much as I thought I would, but it has been good. I will continue to go on, and I will now reflect the values which I have gathered over this unique time in which I live. Many don’t agree with me, some do. I anger some people. Some I do not. I am what I am, I cannot help it. I reflect my nature into the river of life which flows past me each and every day, just as surely as the railroad trestle casts it’s reflection into the Chattooga river. I am the old, rusty black trestle. I think it casts a deeper and more moving reflection. I hope that as I continue to live, I can affect my children and grandchildren to have values which they will not compromise, because they will need them in the future as their own river runs beneath them.

Our Time Here is Borrowed

What we have here is only borrowed. We think we own land, houses, cars and other possessions, but we do not. We often care for our possessions more than we care for the people around us. People who have more money than they can ever spend themselves horde it instead of giving just a little of it to make more people comfortable.

We own nothing. Everything we think we own is simply borrowed for the short time we are here on earth. Our bodies are our own, but even those will be turned back into dust once we’re finished with them. Depending on your belief system we go from there to a known….or greatly unknown existence, or a lack of one.

We should act as borrowers then, and in my own personal system of belief, be grateful to the one to whom we are really indebted. Even if one does not believe in a supreme being, they should still exhibit enough humanity to share their good luck.

Our debt will be up for payment one day, and the only…the one and only thing which will matter, is how we have treated our fellow debtors. No matter how you believe.

The Beauty of Sunrise, and Life

We have all seen them. Beautiful Sunrises. Mornings when the light turns dozens of colors behind a scant screen of clouds. Everything from muted purples to magentas, to bright blood red. How does a beautiful Sunrise make you feel?

For me the beginning of the day, which is signified by that marvelous sunrise, symbolizes a daily rebirth. A new beginning, a time when everything is new again and all options for doing things wonderful, useful, loving, and kind are open. It renews my soul. It tells me in no uncertain terms that I am alive, and that I have been treated to the sight of some of the most beautiful colors on God’s own palette. I give thanks for life and the chance to live it. To experience other people, people who I love and who love me. To touch another person, even to simply shake hands or to brush back the hair of my daughter, my granddaughter, or my wife from their foreheads is an experience that I will only get to enjoy once. Just once, that I will remember in any case.

I can taste food for another day and hear music. I don’t really even care what kind most of the time…I generally like it all. I get the privilege of talking and interacting with other people, most of the time in a positive manner. All of this starts with the beautiful Sunrise that I saw this morning.

Then the other night going to take my granddaughter to soccer practice, there was a stupendous Sunset. How does a gentle sunset make you feel?

The colors were a similar palette as was the Sunrise, but the feeling was different. Day was leaving. I felt peaceful. I felt content. My list of things to do for the day was done, and I was heading towards the house to rest. Headed towards my home, my familiar place, my territory. I had accomplished all I could during the day and I was satisfied. Maybe I should have tried to do more, I feel that way practically every day. But in the awesome light of that Sunset I felt happy, tired but happy. I knew I would be glad to get home, and see the ones that I love. My tasks that others would have me do were over. I would eventually lay down that night, and rest this body that God gave me, happy to have seen another day on this Earth.

Life and Death are like the sunrise and sunset. Both are beautiful in their own way, similar, yet vastly different. It’s what happens in between, what WE make happen in between that forms the legacy of our lives. It’s the appreciation of getting to see the sunrises and sunsets of other people’s lives that hopefully will make us appreciate our own and be less afraid of the final sunset that we all must come to one day. Not melancholy, but happy to have shined and to have enjoyed being in the light. I know I am.

We all fear the unknown, and not knowing what’s on the other side of that sunset IS a bit scary. Even to those who are secure in their beliefs and solid in their convictions. I experience that tinge, we all probably do when we think about it. I experienced it heavily yesterday. But I believe the soul goes on, and we are meant to all be together again. I am thankful for that.

Resolved

If I have to crawl, or claw. If I must rend and tear, bite or be poked and prodded. If I have to ache and groan and moan, or sigh a heavy sigh. If I have to have a thousand needle sticks or If I have to suffer through a thousand days like today to witness one minute of joy from a beloved family member or friend, to hear of a good deed by humanity, then do not hesitate to think I will do all this and overcome it. My body’s weaknesses cannot conquer the strength of my spirit. I’m not going to allow it. Peace.

We are Afraid.

We are way too afraid of things of which we are being told are dangerous, such as caravans of migrants who want to apply for citizenship, or to work in our country. The President is directly responsible for stoking those fears. We had better be more afraid of a nuclear arms race, as the number one danger of bring on an apocalypse is nuclear war, and for good reason. Despots have these weapons and are itching to use them.

Writing for Writing's Sake

We are Afraid

….of things which are happening half way around the world. And I know that we have to be cautious. But, if we live our lives afraid of forces who do heinous things, and dramatically and cinematically record them just to make us afraid, then we have given over the victory to them.

Some members of humanity who are or were madmen have always done things such as this, but have never before had the ability to project them to the entire world on a practically uncontrolled and unregulated new technology. Two beheadings of innocent men is an inhuman act but, I can’t imagine the kind of fear that Vlad the Impaler would have caused if he had been capable of putting his deeds on the Internet.

We didn’t have the internet between 1958 and 1962 when over 45 million Chinese people starved to death…so very few people…

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Reflections

I think our lives and the way we live them are like reflecting pools. We see in others the good we want to see in ourselves…the good we have in ourselves, and we act accordingly with love.

Either that, or we look at others and see reflected back the hatred or dislike that we feel for ourselves, and act accordingly with something which is less than love.

All the qualities of love and hate are contained in each of us and what we see in the mirror, in our reflection, depends on what we are searching for.