Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Indiana Christmas. Apparently.

One of my daughters-in-law is from the state of Indiana, otherwise known as the "Hoosier State".

Unlike Lumpkin County, Georgia, where the word "hoosier" would always be followed by "daddy", no one can say why Indiana is known by this nickname or what the word even means.  What's a Hoosier?  I don't know, nor does anyone else.  I researched it on the Intraweb to no avail.

But I digress.

Friday (Christmas Eve Eve here in Georgia) a truck carrying at least 40,000 pounds of ice cream overturned  on an Interstate 69 on-ramp, releasing over twenty tons of Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Chocolate Chip, and whatever else Edy's Ice Cream makers make all over the road.

But that's not the real story.

Click on the link above and you'll see a picture of an Indiana Health Inspector inspecting the Interstate Sundae and declaring "Looks good to me...sell it."

I am not making this up.  Apparently most of the ice cream was "salvageable" and therefore, fit for sale and consumption.  Which makes me think of Jerry Clower.

He and I were eating breakfast one morning at a Shoney's restaurant.  For the uninitiated, Shoney's had a breakfast trough with enough food to choke a horse.  Bacon, eggs, grits, biscuits, and gravy on one end and an IV with straight cholesterol on the other.  Take your pick, the results would be the same.

Anyway, I got some "breakfast potatoes" at the "breakfast bar" and sat down to eat across from Jerry.  He looked at my plate and asked "Whatchu got theyah, Rayanday?"  When I told him they were "breakfast potatoes" he replied, "Son, I grew up poor, but I was never so poor I had to eat taters for breakfast."

And like he said, I grew up poor, but I was never so poor that I had to eat ice cream scraped from off of the highway.

But then, I'm not from Indiana.  Hoosier Daddy?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Thrown-Up Christmas List.

It's that time of year...

The War on Christmas has given way to Occupy Christmas.  Happening at malls all around the country.

It's been in the mid-60s here in the North Georgia Mountains.  This time last year it was in the mid-20s.  Global warming has arrived in the Blue Ridge.

We saw some friends last Sunday we hadn't seen in over thirty years.  The Queen is still the only person from her class who hasn't changed since college.  Still beautiful.

The South Florida contingent will be arriving for Christmas today.  There will be approximately 378 family members and two big-ass granddogs in a house on the lake for the holiday.  Should be interesting.

I love Dairy Queen.

We've been attending the Methodist church for the last few months.  I can't believe I said that, but there, I said it.

Dahlonega at Christmas.  There's nowhere else like it.  Transplanted furriners who loved our town for what it was, moved here, and then told us how it should be changed.

I really, really dislike Yankees.  When the great General Robert E. Lee referred to them as "those people" he was being kind.

I realized that if my two sons don't get busy there will soon be no Berrys to carry on the family name that aren't in jail or in hiding.

I really, really love Mustangs.  Except the Mustang II which was a dressed-up Pinto.

You really can't fix stupid.

I'm extremely thankful for all 2011 has brought to me and my family.  God has been gracious in His blessing, allowing us to reconnect with some old friends and keeping others away.

May 2012 bring more of the same.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Hard Candy Christmas

I'll be fine and dandy, it's like a hard candy Christmas
I'll barely make it through tomorrow, but I won't let sorrow bring me way down
--Dolly Parton, "Hard Candy Christmas" lyrics

I couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old.

I was sitting in the middle of our living room floor, surrounded by the wrapping paper of what was left of what once was a pile of presents under a big Christmas tree in the corner.

I asked Daddy, "What was the best Christmas present you ever got?"

I'll never forget his answer.  It haunts me this time every year.

"Son, a good Christmas for us was when we got an orange and a candy stick."

That was the answer.  The entire answer.  I never asked again.

Even at that age I felt ashamed at all the toys, books, and clothes I received, knowing that Daddy had never, ever had a Christmas like that.

We always went to Grandpa and Grandma Berry's on Christmas Day.  They lived up on Wahsega Road, about six miles outside Dahlonega.  The house is still there, Daddy's and Uncle Johnny's initials still etched in the chimney they helped erect in 1932.  Daddy was twelve, Uncle Johnny thirteen.

Grandma and Grandpa had a Christmas tree, too.  I can still see it next to the fireplace, the only source of heat for the entire house.  It was one they had cut from their land, lit with old bare-wired lights, trimmed with older glass ornaments.

They didn't have electricity until after World War II.  They never had indoor plumbing (i.e. a toilet).  Grandma's phone number was 4-3128 (didn't need the "86" before the "4" in the prefix until they got "dial phones").  Most of the time you just picked up the phone and asked for whomever you wanted to talk to.

It's amazing what you remember.

I never, ever lacked for anything.  Mama and Daddy made sure of that.

But sometimes I wonder how Grandma did it.

I bitch and moan if my cell signal's weak.  Grandma cooked on a wood-burning stove.

I whine if my television's satellite signal is interrupted by the weather.  Grandma milked her cows until the week before she passed away.

I drive to work every day.  I still remember Mama and Daddy talking about walking everywhere they went, as did most folks who lived up here during that time.

It's Christmas again, and if we spent as much time talking about the meaningful things in life rather than what we don't have, can't do, or wish we had, we'd be much better off.

I'll be fine and dandy.  Because Mama and Daddy had a lot of hard candy Christmases.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leadership. Or Not.

I make no secret of the fact that I detest I'm not a fan of the Florida Gators, but there's one former player that I have to admire on several different levels.

Tim Tebow.

He's been glorified, vilified, deified, and denigrated.  Sometimes by the same people.

I read FBC Jax Watchdog almost daily, and today the blogger talked about Tim Tebow.  And leadership.

In a day when leadership from the "White House to the Church house" is sorely lacking, Tebow offers an old but fresh perspective.

I hope my fellow blogger won't mind me lifting these passages from his post:

"There aren't many Christians who have had to endure public criticism like Tim Tebow has. Sure, he has many supporters who love him, but within his chosen profession he has many detractors. Sports writers have criticized him for being so public about his faith, unfairly criticizing him because he prays while he plays, and always mentions Jesus Christ when he gives his post-game conferences.

The criticism has been unrelenting. Criticizing anything and everything. Writers and fans have criticized him personally, his motives in being open about his faith, his stance on abortion, even criticizing he and his mother for a pro-life commercial aired during the Super Bowl. They even criticize how he does his job, his throwing motion, people doubting he even has the basic skills required to be an NFL quarterback...You name it - about his profession, his abilities, his family, and his faith - he has been criticized non-stop.

How does he handle it? Does he complain about his complainers? Does he criticize his criticizers? Does he try to shame the reporters who ask asinine questions?

Does Tim Tebow tell people about how great he is, or how important his "calling" is and how people should respect him? Does he call on other people to stop the criticizers? Is he worried one bit about the criticism?

No way. Never, not one time has Tebow retaliated or complained or criticized his criticizers. He just does his job and he lives out his faith. He has always done it his whole life, and he continues to do it now on a national stage and it just amazes reporters because they've never seen anything like it. A Christian acting like...well, a Christian.

Perfect example of this was last night after he led his team from behind to beat the New York Jets on a last-second 20-yard touchdown run on national TV. He came out to speak to the NFL Network sportscasters after the game. One of the talking heads, Deion Sanders, asked this question:

"Of course these fans in Denver, they love you. But nationally, I've never seen a guy that provokes so much talk, good or bad. What do you feel attributes to that?"

Tebow probably should have asked him "attributes to that"? What does that mean? Instead, Tebow answered:
"You know, I'm not sure, but I know one thing is I am extremely blessed. God has blessed me with so many people that support me, a great family that supports me, great teammates and a coaching staff and that's what I'm focused on."

Then Sanders follows up with this doozy, still saying that Tim "provokes" the criticism:

"Do you feel like it is your throwing motion, is it your faith, what is it that provokes anger or hatred or disdain from some journalists and publicists?"

Tebow simply smiled and answered:
"You know, I'm not sure, something I learned early in college was to not worry about what I can't control, and that is something I can't control. But what I can control is my attitude, my effort, my focus, every single day, and that is what I'm trying to worry about."
Wow. Words of wisdom from a young man that seminary-trained pastors need to learn from. Tebow could have used that question to blast critics, or claim he is attacked for his faith. He could have told Deion Sanders what an absolutely stupid question that is, that he doesn't "provoke" anyone. He could talk about how hurtful it is to his family to have to see him be criticized, and talk about how it makes his job no fun at all.

Tim just fields the questions with a smile, is a nice, polite person, and respectfully answers all questions, even the very stupid ones. Like maybe a Christian would do.

This is what true leaders are made of. Leaders who inspire others to greatness don't pay attention to the critics, they don't portray themselves as victims or martyrs. They just stay focused on the task at hand, they praise their fellow workers, and are grateful for being granted the opportunity to lead. They don't behave as though they have a God-given right to be the leader. They respect everyone, even the critic, and they focus on the positive.

Tim's leadership has caused his team to rally around him. He was named the starter when his team lost 4 of their first 5 games with Kyle Orton as quarterback, and now the team has rallied around their new leader by keeping the games close and allowing Tebow to win them in the end.

Tebow is 4-1 as a starter. Kyle Orton was 1-4 as a starter.

Kyle Orton was the one who was supposed to lead the Broncos this year. He was the one with the training, experience, and credentials. He was the chosen one.

But the real leader has emerged, the one who can inspire his teammates. Now Tebow is the leader of the Broncos and he is grateful for the opportunity, and doesn't take it for granted, and you can bet it won't get to his head. He does nothing but publicly praise his teammates and coaching staff for their hard work.

So pastors, learn from young Tim Tebow. He's a leader. Some of you are crybaby tyrants, demanding respect and love from those you want to lead, and complaining about those who don't succumb to your leadership. You may be in charge, but you won't be a leader who inspires.

Thanks, Tim, for being such a great example."  

Real leadership doesn't have to tout its merits.  Nor do real leaders.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Our Entitlement Mentality.

What a couple of weeks it's been.  The "Occupy" movement, Joe Paterno/Penn State, Hummon Cain, etc.  My head hurts.

However, I noticed a common thread running through all the news reports, commentators, articles, and blogs.  A variation on one word:  deserve.

"Deserve", by definition, is "to be worthy, fit, or suitable for some reward or requital".  I'm not sure anyone, anywhere, at any time in the last couple of weeks (or longer) has even glanced at the dictionary.

The "occupiers" say that 1% of the people have the majority of the wealth and that they, the "99-Percent-ers", deserve to have their "fair share".

Joe Paterno, ingloriously ousted as Penn State's head football coach in the midst of an awful child sex-abuse investigation, "deserves" better.

(As an aside, I'm steaming over this.  Bobby Bowden gets fired for losing.  Paterno gets fired for this.  JoePa got the worst deal of the two.  I don't understand.  And my head hurts.)

Herman Cain is accused once twice numerous times of sexual harassment.  Innocent?  Perhaps.  Tainted?  Definitely.  His supporters unequivocally say he doesn't deserve this treatment.

(In Hummon's case it's like wrestling with a skunk.  You might win, but you're still gonna stink.)

We have mixed up our definitions.  Folks are using "deserve" when what they actually mean is "entitled" (same dictionary--I love the Interweb--says that "entitle" means "to give a right" to someone about something).

For instance, the OccuWhiners say they deserve some (or all, I can't tell) of the wealth those awful One Percenters have earned or inherited (or stolen, I can't tell).  What they really mean is that, by virtue of their being alive current position in society, they are entitled to this.  One idiot person said that they had over $35,000 in student loans.  For a degree in puppetry.  I looked, and there are no "Help Wanted" ads for recently graduated puppeteers.  Either it's a very volatile puppet-operators market, or there's no demand at all.  Either way, it sucks to be him.

Anyway, he's part of the movement now because, guess what?  He can't find a job.  Apparently the college's job-placement folks aren't doing their job-placing very well in his case.

My Princess has a Business degree from a well-respected, four-year university.  And the student loans to match.  She's part of an "occupy" movement as well.  She occupies her first part-time job at the Outlet Mall in Dawsonville four or five days a week, before she drives fifteen miles in the opposite direction to "occupy" her other part-time job at a beauty salon for three days a week.

Does she "deserve" better?  Absolutely.  Is she "entitled" to better?  Absolutely NOT.

Several factors contribute to her situation--the economy, her degree, geography, availability. etc.  But, instead of bitching and moaning about her situation in front of the camera, she...works.  Two jobs.  And still can't pay everything she owes.

If I'm in the 1%, then I'm 99% sure I'm 100% disgusted with hearing about what all these folks "deserve" every time I turn the TV on or read the news.

A wise man once said that we'd better be glad we don't get what we "deserve".  Or, as far as that goes, what we're "entitled' to. 

I agree.

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Veteran

I've said this before...

I'm thankful on this Veteran's Day for all the men and women who served in our military during peacetime and war. My uncle Robert was an Army Medic with the forces who stormed Normandy. I don't know all that he saw, but I know he gave me a Nazi blanket that he brought home after the war. He never talked about his service, and I never asked.

My cousin Raymond was a career Air Force man, retiring after more than 20 years, many of them during the Vietnam War. Thankfully he never had to go to Vietnam. Every time I asked him what his job was he told me he ran the bowling alley. I still don't know what he did, and I think that if he told me the truth he'd have to kill me. I'm glad I don't know.

My uncle Johnny was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the "day which will live in infamy" and was on his way to church when the bombs started dropping. He spent the rest of the war in the Pacific theater.

Which brings us to my dad. Roscoe Athens Berry joined the Army in late December 1941, after growing up poor in the northeast Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega. He was twenty-one years old.  While this was where America's first major gold rush happened, from pictures and handed-down stories I don't think my Dad saw any of that wealth. He grew up in the country, raised by self-sufficient parents, Miles and Pearl, who grew the vegetables and raised the livestock they survived on.

I've seen pictures of Daddy at Civilian Conservation Corps camps from Rock Eagle, Georgia to Wilmington, North Carolina. He looks young and skinny...not malnourished, but like James Taylor says, "soft as smoke and hard as nails". Life is in front of him and he looks up to the challenge.

Then comes the war.

Daddy went from Fort Bragg to San Francisco to Guam, the Phillipines, Guadacanal, Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia. He told me one time that if he could live anywhere else in the world it would be New Zealand (Mama used to tell me I might have some relatives there...I don't know).

He never talked about his experiences voluntarily. If I asked him specifics he'd tell me, in short answers, what happened. I asked him once if he ever saw anyone die. He told me about spending a silent night in a two-man foxhole only to find his partner dead of a slit throat when the sun came up the next morning. He wondered why the Japanese didn't kill him as well.

Dad came out of the Army with Sergeant's stripes as a part of the 82nd Airborne Division and stayed in the reserves for some time after that. I used to wear his dress uniform jacket and hat when I was four or five years old. I don't know when he got rid of it, but one day it was gone.

If my dad, and thousands like him, had not been willing to serve we wouldn't enjoy the freedom we have today. No wonder they're called the "greatest generation". They did what they had to do, without complaining or making a big deal out of their service. It was what we would call today a strong work ethic. It was what they called doing the right thing.

In this age of putrid self-glorification there are few people who would do what they did without wanting everyone to notice and praise them.

Daddy taught me about patriotism. When we'd have parades in my hometown and the flag would pass by, he'd stand at attention and put his hand over his heart. There were times I thought it was corny and old-fashioned.

Oh, to stand next to him one more time and salute the flag.

When Dad died we draped an American flag on his casket. It's still folded like it was the day Mr. Matt Haisten gave it to my Mama. My sweetheart framed it for me and it sits on the bookcase right next to Daddy's picture in his dress uniform, smiling confidently at the world.

Every day I want to live up to his example.

Every day I miss him.  And Uncle Robert, and Uncle Johnny.  But mostly him.

I didn't say it often enough when I could have.  And should have.

Thank you, Daddy. I love you.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Velma Coppage.

Mama always said if you're going to say something nice about somebody, say it while they're here.

My mother-in-law, Velma Floyce Milton Coppage, is here.  But she's not.  She's one of the sweetest, humblest women I've ever known.  I can name on one hand (with fingers left over) all the people I've known whom I've never heard say anything bad about anybody.  Velma is one of them.  Her qualities live in the woman I love, so I get to see her every day.

Velma has Alzheimer's and is in an assisted living facility in Vero Beach, Florida.  The Queen, Princess, and I last saw her earlier this year when one of the Princes got married.  She was so happy to see us...but I think she was happy anytime she saw anyone.  She kept saying "I'm so glad y'all came to see me".  It hurt in a sweet way.

My Queen lives nine hours and a world away from her Mama.  Mine's ten minutes away.  It's rough on her, not being able to see or talk to her Mama.  I talk to my Mama every day.  It's not fair, or right.

It's hard to find a good woman, and you can't find Mamas like mine and Jennie's.

My heart breaks when I think of Velma.  The other side of that is that she's happy.  By default.

I heard a while back that Glen Campbell had Alzheimer's and was embarking on his self-confessed "last tour".  He wanted to play one more time while he still could, and he has his children playing with him.

This song is called "Ghost On The Canvas"...my favorite lyrics are

We dream in color, others they color their dreams
It takes one to know one...the spirit always knows what it sees

If the Spirit knows what it sees, I'm not worried about Mama, or Velma.  God watches over them, and that's good enough for me.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Florida Gators: Profanity, No. Stupidity, Yes.

I make no secret of the fact that I ab-so-lute-ly detest the Florida Gators.  Remember that, because that's the last time I'll write the name of that team in this post.

They're arrogant, cocky, and obnoxious.  While FSU has to make sure all their players are out of jail by Friday for a Saturday game, apparently the Alachua County Sheriff's Department just runs a bus full of players to the stadium the day of the game.

Last Saturday they played Auburn (let's not go there as well).  Will Muschamp apologized yesterday for using profanity on the sidelines during the game.

Now, let's not be naive.  Football is a man's game, and men sometimes use profanity to express themselves.  I'm from the South.  We call it "cussing".

So the Coach Cussed.  Not a big deal.  It only became one because ESPN (again, not going there), broadcasting the game, thought it would be a good idea to mike everybody and everything that was said on the sideline.

A train wreck just waiting to happen.

The picture of Coach Expletive above could have been taken anytime, anywhere.  It's one of his better angles.  Here, shoot me doing THIS.  No, wait, just shoot me.

And his apology?

"I do want to apologize for my language on the sidelines the other night," Muschamp said. "That's not something that's going to be tolerated here at the University of Florida, first of all, by me and our program.

Let me see if I understand this.  The coach cussed, it's not going to be tolerated by the school or by him or his program.

Isn't putting the person who stole your car in charge of protecting it kind of stupid?

I can't wait to see how he disciplines himself.  After that, the intolerant school will also have to do something, and last of all the program itself will smack him around.  Because none of me will tolerate what I did, as will not the Archer Avenue Trade School, neither nor the Alachua County Sheriff's Department university's Athletics Program.

What have we learned here today?

--Don't cuss.  Especially on live television.
--If you do cuss, you'd better go easy when you give yourself a whipping because there are others waiting in line for their turn.
--Apologize, but don't.

Makes perfect sense if you're a Gator one of "those people".