Friday, July 31, 2015

Things to do...

It's hard to believe that I've been on this retirement gig for six months, as of today! 
Seems like an appropriate day for a "blue moon" celestial event!

I have to admit that I'm still working on finding an easy rhythm for the day-to-day stuff (maybe working on it is an exaggeration), although I am getting along pretty well without one. The freedom of not having to have anything set in stone is nice, it just takes a little getting used to.

Yesterday, Chris and I spent a couple of hours kayaking on the James River, just east of Springfield Lake. It was a nice day and we could have stayed out longer, but I wanted to keep it pretty short. I figured it would be better to plan a short day and have her like it and be willing to go again than to be out too long if she didn't like it. 
As it turned out, she suggested that next time we pack a lunch and find a place to stop and enjoy it!
We finished the day (and began this one) with an unexpected visit in our neighbor's driveway. It began with going over to tell him about my Chicago weekend and ended with our wives joining us and all of us out talking until 1 am! 

Because of working a day last weekend, Chris ended up with a stretch of 5 days off this weekend. It was something that she didn't realize until she was already a day into and so we didn't make any plans for a long weekend. We do have plans to meet with couple of friends for dinner tonight and are considering what we might do with our remaining three days. 

We may head across the state to hike some of the trails at Taum Sauk State Park. Or we may find something closer to home and return to sleep in our own bed at night. I guess we'll figure something out today. 

I am really a little surprised at the interaction I'm having with some people. We've been doing more things with more people over the past few months than we have in a very long time. I don't think it's just having more time. I think that maybe not working has made me a little easier to get along with. I guess that would be a good thing (unless it means I'm going to have to start being around people again)! I need to find a balance between human interaction and solitude. At least now I have more control over the people I see. 

I found out that another of my controller friends has decided to move his retirement forward a year and will be hanging up his headset soon. I'm really happy for him and his family. I'm pretty sure that in the end, he's not going to be wishing that he worked one more year!  

It kind of stinks for the people that remain. They are already short staffed and working scheduled overtime. I told my old boss that I could help his staffing numbers if he wanted to work out a re-hired annuitant status and bring me back to work a few mids each week. I'd work only mids (limited interaction with anybody) and he'd get a body for the day or evening shift. I don't think he took me seriously, but it is something I'd consider. It would only be temporary since I age out of eligibility in a few months, anyway.

Oh my! 
I have such a good life!

I'd better start figuring out how I'm going to spend my day.
I think I'll start by having another cup of coffee!

John <><

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Keeping my Sanity

I could be wrong...
But I'm seeing a lot fewer news stories, blogs and political posts about the current GOP presidential hopefuls.

Actually, I'm not wrong.
I am seeing fewer of them. That's not to say that there are fewer of them. I have just decided that they are not news. Political hopefuls are catering to the radical fringes of their respective parties at this point in the primary polls. They are saying things that will get them party recognition and outrageous things that will get them in the news.

Politicians know that the American public is largely uninformed and are banking on name recognition over an informed voter making the decision about a future presidential candidate.

What ever the case, I'm ignoring it all. When somebody asks if I heard what insert presidential candidate said, the answer is NO!
I haven't heard it. I don't care what it is. And I don't really want to hear it.

I am skimming past the social media posts that have to do with any of this garbage and letting the candidates position themselves without my caring a single bit. When it comes time to make a decision about a primary election (still more than six months away in MO) I'll begin to pay attention to credible news sources and decent blogs or articles. By that time, I'm sure the field will have been whittled down and most of the crazier ones will be out of the running.
Then, after the primaries, the remaining candidates can back track on the outrageous things they said to get their party vote and begin to say things to win the general election.

For now, it's all just background noise. I think I'll keep it that way.
As much as I enjoy social media, I'm finding that limiting my time and managing what I read has been very good for my sanity and attitude.

I may just end up being a social hermit that is happily ignorant of the things that seem to be driving everybody else crazy!

John <><

Monday, July 27, 2015

Organ Donor/Recipient Surgery and other stuff...

It boggles my mind to think that my sister had a kidney removed on Thursday morning and was released from the hospital on Friday afternoon!

My brother, the recipient of the kidney, received the transplant on Thursday afternoon and was released from the hospital on Saturday!

Seriously? One day and two days on an organ transplant!

They are both doing pretty well although I think they are a little surprised at how much one uses those core muscles for every movement we make. They seem to be dealing with the pain and discomfort well, but then again -- they really don't have much choice at this point. Since I was in Chicago for the Saturday fights, I was able to visit my sister in her hotel room yesterday and visit my young nephew in a hospital across the city, as well.

I was up early to pick up my brother in the suburbs for a morning appointment for some lab work before I start home. I originally planned on going home Sunday but was delayed because my daughter in law needed somebody to go to a baseball game with her and Aaron was working. So I postponed my hospital visit until after the game and then met up with the kids for a late dinner.

I don't want to mislead anyone into thinking I was splurging on the finer dining establishments of Chicago while I was here. I was eating the best working class food around.
The Riot sandwich from the Haymarket is an Italian sausage patty topped with cheese, pulled pork and some pretty tasty seasonings.

The Hogunitas from Lagunita's is ham, pulled pork, bacon and cheese on a hoagie. I also had the Italian sausage on a hoagie roll and there was also the ballpark hotdog. All I can say is, "It's probably a good thing that I don't live up here!"

I'm waiting on Aaron to finish brewing my morning coffee from Bow Truss and then I'll be on my way.
It's going to be a beautiful day for a long drive! I'll make a brief stop in Bolingbrook and then it's on to home!

I do want to say thanks to everybody that has been praying for my family. It seems that everybody is doing well and on the road to recovery!

Have a grand week and be well,

John <><

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Color of the Uniform Trumps the Color of the Skin

I was sitting in the waiting room of the hospital this morning and observed two men in conversation. The first approached the second because of the Vietnam Veterans cap that he was wearing. It turns out that they were in the same unit at different times, separated only by a year or so. They were brothers in a common cause.
They knew some of the same people.
They each told their stories to the other.
It was as if they already knew each other.
As if they were long lost friends.

One was white.
One was black.

I know that shouldn't be a big deal, but I was thinking about the racial tension in our country at the time of their service. If I had closed my eyes, there would have been no indication that these two men weren't just old friends that met in the mid sixties without any indication of the racial hatred that was so much a part of the era.

I don't think that we should need to have a common enemy to see past the color of our skin and to see that we have positive things in common. We shouldn't need to be fighting for our lives to live in harmony. There are plenty of good things that we share. Why can't we focus on them?

After 9-11, we ignored political differences. We ignored geographical differences. We weren't red states or blue states. We weren't black Americans or white Americans. We were Americans and we worked together.
We honored our police, firefighters, first responders and military personnel. When we were attacked, we banded together, we stood side by side and we were one country.

Sure, we had different ideas about how to respond and how to finance our responses ...
... but we were united in purpose.

It is just crazy that we need a disaster or war to bring us together!
What is wrong with us?
Do we have a need to hate?
A need to fight?

Is it greater than our need to love?
Is it greater than our need to belong?

It was a really nice moment.
 ... but it makes me wonder...

John <><

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Love the sinner...

You've all heard it; maybe even said it --

Love the sinner. Hate the sin.

I want to give you a new mantra. It's similar, but shorter.
It goes like this:

Love the sinner.

That's it. No hate involved. Just -- Love the sinner, period.

The problem I see with adding the "Hate the sin" part is that the only thing anybody really feels is the hate.

And for all of my Bible believing friends, here's something else -- we are not condemned because of our sin. If we are all sinners (and you believe that we are) and people are condemned for their sin, then it stands to reason that we are condemned along with everybody else in the world.

At this point it would be fair to ask -- "So, John, if we are not condemned because of sin, why are we condemned?"

I'll defer to Jesus on this question. He says (beginning with the often quoted John 3:16):

16 “For God so loved the world,[i] that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 

If you are truly concerned for their salvation, stop showing them their sin and start showing them Jesus. If Jesus didn't come to condemn them, then neither is it our place nor purpose to condemn them -- nor their sin (remember that beam in the eye thing?). Our purpose is to point them to Jesus, ...with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16).  

So, how about it?
Can we drop the hate part?
I think it's a good plan.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.


John <><

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hitting the Road ... again!

I'll be putting in some travel time this week.
Tomorrow I head for Central Illinois for an brief overnight stay with my parents. We'll be up in the wee morning hours (somewhere around 0 dark 30) so that we can be on the road by about 3am. That should have us downtown Chicago by around 6.

Thursday morning is a pretty big day for the Hill family. One of my siblings has been dealing with on going kidney problems for pretty much all of his adult life. It has reached the point where he is in need of a kidney transplant. A second sibling will be the donor. The surgeries are scheduled for Thursday morning. I feel so blessed that I am able to be there with them and I know that mom and dad are also happy that they can be there. I also know that if I was still working, getting the time off to be there would be very unlikely since staffing is so very short at the tower.

If you are one that believes in prayer, I would greatly appreciate your prayers for Mike (the recipient), Mary (the donor) as well as for their families. I know that I have mentioned what an awesome family I have, but it has been way too long since I've mentioned it on this blog. We'll be together for a big reunion in another month. I am really looking forward to that. This week's little get together will be a little more somber.

After taking my folks back home Thursday night, I'll be going back to Chicago for the weekend to see the UFC Fight Night Chicago with Aaron. I plan to head back early enough in the day on Friday to check up on Mike and Mary before going to the afternoon weigh ins and then meeting up with Aaron and Jenny for dinner. Hopefully, I'll make it to the hospital on Saturday morning before the afternoon preliminary fights begin. I'll make the long drive home on Sunday (or maybe Monday).

I plan on using the long drive time to brush up on my limited Spanish with my listen and learn audio course. We'll be back in Ixtapa Mexico for our 34th Anniversary in September.

My next post will probably be from a hospital waiting room in Chicago.

Be well,
John <><

Friday, July 17, 2015

It's the Weekend!

It is going to be a full Friday!

I'm enjoying my coffee this morning while watching the UFC Weigh-ins for tomorrow morning's fights from the UK. I'll need to get a quick walk in before meeting a pastor friend for lunch and Chris and I have plans to meet friends for dinner. I suppose I should mow the lawn this afternoon ... or not. Chris is working tomorrow so there's always tomorrow for the lawn ... or Sunday ... or next week.

Ah well, I suppose I need to do it.

It looks to be another beautiful weekend here in the Ozarks. The weather will be hot, the sun will be bright and blocked by occasional clouds. It will be humid and there will be a light breeze.
Summer in the Ozarks.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not written much about the many controversial issues that have been in the news. One of the things that I have noticed in my own reading of blogs, news articles and social media posts is that I either agree with them or disagree with them. Few of them change my mind about anything. Fewer of them are written to even try.

Most of them share the writer's point of view. Many of them are based on irrelevant or incorrect information. For the most part, I rarely read them. And I expect that others are pretty much the same way. As the political cycle gets closer to the 2016 elections, I imagine that there will be more and more written about the buffoonery that will be taking place in that arena. I hope to avoid that, as well.

I'll be looking for positive stories to share. I want this to be a place of encouragement and positive energy. I sometimes struggle with the idea that I want to be a source of reliable information and correct some of the misinformation and outright lies that are being spread as truth and news. But the reality is that people will believe what they want to believe and those that are most sure of their opinions and most willing to argue for them are the people that I least desire to be around.

I don't want to be that guy.

Nothing more than that for today.
It's sunny and getting warmer out and there is a walk in my immediate future.
Enjoy your weekend!

John <><

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Baseball Blues and Divine Appointments

I am not a fan of the All Star Break.

I'm not even a real fan of the All Star Game.
I did watch the game this year. I also watched some of the Home Run Derby.
But now we're faced with two more days of no baseball. Ugh!

I decided to get my baseball fix by going to the Springfield Cardinals game tonight.

I usually just get a general admission ticket and then find a seat on one of the benches that circle the field at the top of the regular seating. There are usually plenty of seats available, but I've grown accustomed to sitting on the benches and sometimes walking the concourse to check the TV monitors if the St. Louis boys are also playing.

As I was sitting down to enjoy my ballpark dinner, another fan asked me, "Who usually sits here?"
I said, "Anybody that wants to! It's general admission seating."
So he sat.

Apparently, he bought a ticket in a crowded area and he was by himself and instead of moving to another comfy seat, he chose to share a bench with me.
I know that there are many that will say it was just a coincidence, but I'm not a big fan of believing in coincidence. Perhaps believing in Divine intervention is an occupational hazard for a preacher, but none-the-less I believe that this meeting was meant to be.

I had to start a conversation with him. In the back of my mind was this thought that I have again challenged a church (and accepted the challenge myself) to find somebody that needs to hear that God loves them and Jesus died for them. I encounter so few people during the week, that this can be a real problem. With or without the challenge, a conversation with a new acquaintance will generally get around to my asking if they go to church anywhere.

Before I got to that point, I found out that he is the principal at a local elementary school but will be retiring soon. We talked about Red Ribbon week and I pitched my new magic show. I think I may have a booking for the fall.
We also talked about some of the challenges facing teachers and school administrators today. We talked about issues in middle school and high school, as well. I shared some of the experiences that I've had in schools and some of the other magic programs that I've used in public schools. Since the only business card that I had to give him is the one that I use for churches, the transition to "Do you go to church in your community?" was an easy one.

It turns out that he drives to Springfield each weekend to serve as pastor for a small local group of Christian believers!

I have to say that my attention was very divided. As much as I tried to keep up with the game, the conversation with this new found brother in Christ was pretty great!

After an eighth inning grand slam that put the Cardinals ahead and a quick scoreless top of the ninth, we parted ways. It felt right to pray with him (and for him) as we shook hands to go. He thanked me for the short prayer and said, "I'm glad I decided to sit here."

I said, "Me, too."
But inside I was thinking that he didn't really have a choice. Our meeting was orchestrated at a much higher level.

God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

Tell it to somebody.
They need to hear the Good News!

John <><

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Random Thoughts

One of the perks of retirement is the time to sit and contemplate the many events of life.

Right now my old team from work is heading to work while I'm sitting on the deck as a light rain passes, enjoying a good Dominican cigar, and writing on my Chromebook.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke briefly with a man that will be retiring at the end of the year. Although he has been talking about it for a while, many of his coworkers doubt that he will actually do it. He will be 70 when he retires.
I don't know his situation, but I do know that you seldom hear of people that wished they worked more in their life. Since he seemed pretty set on following through with his decision, it was easy for me to encourage him to do it! Almost six months into my freedom from work and I haven't regretted it for a single minute.

The brief rain shower will keep me from mowing the lawn today (rats!). There is work to be done inside but that can happen after I finish my cigar (it's a good cigar and will take about an hour or more to finish). No worries. I have the time.
Besides, it's not like I'm not doing anything -- the washer and dryer are both in mid-cycle as I type.

Last weekend I was privileged to officiate the wedding of a good friend's son. It still amazes me to know that there are people that hold our friendship is such high regard that they would ask me to be a part of such am important day. When I think back over the time that we have known each other, I can't think of anything that I might have said or done to have earned his respect and friendship.

I have said before that I have very few real friends. I know the qualities that I look for in such relationships. I don't know that I am one that often exhibits those same characteristics. I am fortunate that most people have never seen the "ugly John" that lurks just below the surface of the man they see.
"Ugly John" shapes many of my ideas and thoughts on life, but I have learned to keep him under control ... most of the time. But because I know he is there, it still surprises me that there are people that genuinely like and respect me.

I suppose that we all have that side that is seldom seen. Some people are transparent enough that they don't seem to mind if their ugliness always shows through. Personally, I'm ashamed of my ugly side and wish that he didn't exist at all.
And yet, I wonder how strong I would be without him.

I suppose it is a little weird to think of my dark side as another person. Maybe it's a mechanism for absolving myself of the responsibility of the things done by "ugly John" and maintaining the good guy image that I really want people to see.
From somewhere in the past I remember a story of a Native American teaching where a grandfather tells his grandson that within each of us are the spirits of two great wolves that are in constant battle with each other. One is good and one is evil. The boy asks his grandfather which one wins and the wise old man responds, "The one that you feed."

Feed the good one in you.
Avoid the negative.
Avoid criticism.
Avoid hate.

Be positive.
Be kind.

John <><

Monday, July 06, 2015

Change Can be Difficult

Over the past few days I've had several conversations on varying topics and am realizing that change is a very difficult thing for some people. We often become so accustomed to our ways of thinking that we literally refuse to hear another perspective. Admitting that we have been wrong is never easy; but sometimes change isn't about right and wrong. And it still isn't easy!

I'm one of those people that is pretty set in my ways. I would much rather that you come over to my way of thinking than for me to have to come over to your way. I am no longer compelled to try to change your way of thinking as much as to understand why you think that way and to explain why I think as I do.

Perhaps, it would be a better way for us to discuss controversial topics:
I get to listen to you explain your position and ask questions so that I fully understand it, and then you get to do the same for me and my position. Even if we remain on different sides of an issue, we have a better understanding of our respective positions. However, with understanding often comes a change in perspective and that's when things can get difficult.

Sometimes change is about something in the way of a more personal nature -- health, finance, career, etc.
It may come down to "Which is better?" rather than an issue of right and wrong.
But still, we can be set in our way of thinking.

What if your career plan was to retire at a certain age and travel, but now your situation makes travel inconvenient or very difficult? Do you live a difficult and stressful life so that you can travel or do you adapt to your new reality?

Maybe your plan was to keep working and delay retirement because you had a specific financial goal in mind, but now you find that goal to be unnecessary and you are comfortable with what you have already achieved. Do you keep working for the sake of the goal or adapt?

Sometimes change is forced upon us. Heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc. can bring about devastating changes in our way of life. Even so, some people refuse to change and continue to live and think as they always have -- even to their own destruction.

And sometimes life brings us to a place where we pause to reflect on "What happens next?"
Maybe an examination on what happens after life would be a worthwhile use of your time. Rather than just continuing in your belief (whatever that may be), maybe an examination of why you believe that to be true and how you came to believe it would be worth your time. Maybe considering what others believe and why would give you a different perspective.

Whatever your situation might be, it is difficult to remove yourself from it in such a way that old biases are not a part of your present decision making process. "The way we've always done things" can often have a negative impact on our decision making process unless we are also able to understand the whys behind our beliefs. Sometimes we find that the things we've always been taught are not necessarily true. Much of the information that we receive today via internet and commercial news outlets is inaccurate. Finding a source of information that you can trust can be difficult.

My blogging friend Bilbo often says, "Don't let anyone do your thinking for you,"
That's good advice. I might add, "Don't let a younger, less experienced you make the decisions for the person you are today."
Allow yourself the freedom to change.

John <><

Thursday, July 02, 2015

The Retirement Advantage

With the Nation's Birthday celebration upon us, one can easily expect the beautiful lakes around the Ozarks to be filled with boats for the weekend. Since our boating friends are off for the week, we are taking advantage of a week day outing and hitting the lake prior to the 3-day weekend rush.

As you can imaging, being able to do things during the work-week has some huge advantages--the biggest being no lines, no waiting, and no crowds.

I know that I've mentioned that I often go entire days (sometimes consecutively) without talking to anyone other than Chris. I really have been working on that. Yesterday I introduced myself to another young couple that lives in our little subdivision. I was out walking, they were sitting on their porch (as they often are), they waved (as they often do) and I stopped to introduce myself and chat for a little bit. The husband (Mike) was home early from work so that worked out nicely.

As you might expect, I see a number of stay at home moms with their little ones as I walk during the week, but wouldn't really consider stopping to talk with them unless their husbands are with them. We generally wave or acknowledge one another, but stopping to introduce myself would feel a little creepy and might make them uncomfortable.

In any case, my acquaintance world is slowly growing.
I have also been surprised at the number of former co-workers that I've had contact with recently. I really don't think that any of them read this (maybe one), but it has been nice to catch up and see what they are doing and to know that they are a little jealous of the old guy that left.

It looks like today will be a busy day. I'll probably talk to 4 or 5 people throughout the day. I'd better get my quiet time in while I can and get mentally prepared for those encounters.

Have a safe and enjoyable weekend.
For my fellow countrymen, Happy Birthday to the US of A!
Celebrate our freedoms.
Pray for our leaders.
And remember -- the retired guy doesn't get a three day weekend!

John <><