Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Haiku 27-2018

Good morning, my friends!
Another beautiful day!
Life in the Ozarks!

John <><

Monday, February 26, 2018


I've been reading a few articles and watching some TED Talks that deal with people, their relationships with others, and their sense of purpose. Pretty much all of the data indicates that people that have strong community ties and a feeling of purpose in life live longer and happier lives.

I guess the good news for me would be that I won't have to bear this miserable existence for very much longer!

I read or watch articles like these and think I need to become more involved with people. Then I get around people and think, "I don't need this crap!"
I want to live a long, happy life, but I wonder how often there are exceptions to the studies that show happy, old folks that don't have large communities and only purpose is to enjoy their time alone.

I enjoy reading and gathering information. I even enjoy sharing what I've learned. But do I really have to interact with people to do that? No. Not really.

I think I'll spend the remainder of the Lenten season trying to find purpose for my life. Lately, I'm coming around to the understanding that it is probably more important for me to live a life according to the teachings of Jesus than to try to convince others to do the same. While I'm all for sharing what I believe, I'm less likely to try to convince someone that I have all the answers and coerce them to my way of thinking than I once was. There is the issue that living by Jesus' teachings will make living apart from people difficult -- he had a way of always interacting with people and lifting up the lowly while managing to irritate the high and mighty. I seem to have a pretty good handle on the irritating people part. Now if I could only master the loving others part.

It's been said that Jesus makes it easier for us by telling us that we are to love our neighbors and our enemies -- since they're often the same people. Figuring out whom to love isn't the hard part (the answer is everyone), the actual loving people is where things get difficult.

If anyone ever told you that following Jesus would be easy -- they lied. 
Maybe that's not fair. Maybe it is easier for some to give control of their will over to the spiritual part of their being. I tend to struggle with hanging on to the human will. The voice of Ugly John is often more persuasive and more persistent than I care to admit.

Where do you find purpose for your life?
In your family?
In your work?
In your faith?

I'm in need of some information to help me find my own sense of purpose.
...Or maybe becoming that crazy old man that is happy and doesn't know why isn't such a bad thing.

John <><

Haiku 26-2018

Watching baseball films,
Bull Durham and Moneyball.
Ready for baseball!

John <><

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Haiku 25-2018

It's Sunday -- church day.
Or should I call it Son-day?
See what I did there?

John <><

Saturday, February 24, 2018

When did our neighbors become our enemies?

Note to my foreign readers: This post is to the citizens of the USA. You are free to read it and comment, perhaps even see your own country in some part of it, but it is to my fellow Americans.

How did we get to the political place where anyone that disagrees with our politics becomes our enemy?
How did we let politicians drive the public to the place of the smack talking sports world?
Government is supposed to be a cooperative effort, not a winner take all contest or game of chance.

When we move government into the arena of competition where the winners look out for the winners and their supporters only and the losers are punished and targeted to keep them losers, then we have lost our way of life and lost our democracy.  Conservatives are not the enemies of liberals and liberals are not the enemies of conservatives -- no matter what the party leaders tell us. We are all a part of the same community -- The United States of America!

Perhaps the biggest problem with the winner take all attitude of government (or anything else, for that matter) is the things that we will do to keep from losing. We begin to look on the enemies of my enemy as my friend and engage in some pretty questionable relationships. Making deals with the devil never really works out well for anyone but the devil.
In 2016, many Republicans and many evangelical Christians (pardon the redundancy) decided to sacrifice moral standing in favor of a candidate they thought could win and would appoint Supreme Court Justices more in line with their political views. In the year since #45 took office, many of them are beginning to understand the true cost of that decision.

#45's cabinet appointments have been in direct opposition to the departments they are supposed to lead -- an education secretary that opposes public education, an interior secretary that wants to sell off protected lands, a labor secretary that opposes worker's rights, etc., etc.
He continues to use his office for personal gain and bills the US for trips to his resorts and the party of fiscal conservatives say nothing because they hope to make political gains from him being in office. Although many leading conservatives have started to rethink their loyalties and distance themselves from #45, they are still not too willing to admit they made a mistake and oppose him.

My greatest complaint with this Administration and our current congressional leaders is they continue to divide America into those they are for and those they are against rather than governing for all of us.

We are The United States of America!
And it's time our elected representatives were reminded of that.
Govern or go!
Work for all of us or lose in the next primary or general election.

I am not the enemy;
Neither is my neighbor,
Nor is the person in the next city,
Nor is the person in the next state.
We are not red states and blue states.
We are The United States.

Let's start acting like it.
And let's start holding our elected officials accountable to act like it.

End rant (for now).

John <><

Haiku 24-2018

Rain, rain, go away!
But don't send snow, send sunshine!
I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Friday, February 23, 2018

Haiku 23-2018

Platelet donation
The American Red Cross
Give blood, save a life.

John <><

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Haiku 22-2018

A short truth today
Just wanna say -- God loves you,
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Poetry as a platform

If you've been following along at Out of My Hat, you know that I've been posting a haiku each day in February as a part of the National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo) challenge. Most have been pretty simple, but meaningless poems.

I've decided that maybe I've been wasting my time.
Not because the haiku is a waste of time, but because I could have been using these simple poems to express an important point of view or simple message. It may be a bit more of a challenge to do that for the remaining seven days of February, but I'm going to go for it.

Here is a bonus haiku for today:

Schools are for learning.
One dead, two dead, three dead, more...
It is time to talk.

John <><

Haiku 21-2018

This daily posting
Is not what I like to do
Is it over yet?

John <><

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


I have no tattoos, nor do I really have a desire for any. However, I really do like seeing good ink work on others. I think the skill and creativity to create full sleeves or complete back or chest tattoos is to be admired.

Often, tattoos tell a story or hold some significance for the wearer. I sometimes wonder if it is rude to ask a complete stranger about their ink or if it might make them feel awkward to share a personal story with a complete stranger. I suppose it could be that they wear their art with the thought that they will have opportunities to share the story behind the art.

Tattoos certainly say something about the wearer. Some indicate that the people are family people with pictures of their loved ones. Others are pet lovers, motorcycle riders, musicians, religious, patriotic, gang members or any other type of passionate person.
They appear on arms and shoulders, hips and legs, hands and feet, backs, chests, breasts, butts, and even faces, necks, and skulls. Some tattoos look like they must have been extremely painful to endure and some must have taken hours or even days to complete. Some are colorful and some appear to be 3D.

How do you feel about tattoos?
Do stereotypes come to mind when you see tats?
What ink do you have and where?
How do you feel about strangers commenting on or asking about your ink?
Asking for a friend...

John <><

Haiku 20-2018

Eight more days in Haiku month.
Can't wait for the end!

John <><

Monday, February 19, 2018

Haiku 19-2018

Ten days until March
I am so ready for spring
and baseball season!

John <><

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Haiku 18-2018

Winter, spring, winter
Freezing, seventies, freezing
Life in the Ozarks

John <><

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Haiku 17-2018

February's long
Or at least it seems to be
Haiku month is dumb

John <><

Coffee Conversations and Getting Organized

It's Saturday morning and I've been up for a couple of hours. I woke up around 4:30 and was still awake 30 minutes later so I decided to get up and get the day started. I've read a couple of blogs I follow, had a light breakfast, finished a game of Scrabble on a phone app (I won), and am indulging in my morning coffee.

I decided to go with one of the recipes in my Christmas Coffee Concoctions notebook -- Thai Coffee. As I read through the simple ingredients I thought that I'd have to substitute heavy cream and stevia for the sweetened condensed milk, but Hannah (and Daniel) were all over that and included a can in the gift bag of spices!
It's simple and tasty--coffee with a little cardamom and a little sweetened condensed milk. It has a flavor like a chai tea latte. And since I'm using the Christmas mug from Jenny (and Aaron) it's kind of like having Christmas in February!

--While relaxing on the beach last week, I was reading a book about Louis L'Amour and his daily writing habits.

--One of the guys in our small group is a writer/musician. Over coffee one morning, I asked about his daily routine.

--I was also asked to do some magic, but really wasn't prepared for that. Two things play into that -- I don't normally perform close-up magic and so I rarely practice it, and close-up magic takes a lot of practice.

The result of these things is that I've decided that perhaps I need a little structure in my routine.
Although I have been more intent on writing this year, I haven't set a time or daily writing goal. I need to do that. I'm going to have to evaluate just what I want to accomplish in writing so that it can have some purpose or goal. I also need to set aside a time to read. I've been doing a little more reading and am enjoying it. I need to be more purposeful about setting aside time to read and to write.

I also want to work on some close-up magic regularly. I felt bad about not being prepared to perform a few effects for friends, but hate to perform badly worse than I hate to let people down. I tend to think of myself as a stand-up magician -- meaning small stage performance with no large props. However, when people hear "magician" -- they just want to see a trick. If I'm going to be around people, I need to be prepared for that. (Or I could avoid being around people.)

I also want to work on my Spanish. I have a "listen and learn" course on my phone and have transferred it to my Google drive so that it is also available on my laptop. I want to spent a little time listening (and learning) on a regular basis as well as using some flash cards to increase my vocabulary.

When you throw in exercising, motorcycle riding, and household chores it sounds like an awful lot of stuff -- too much to do without being organized. I think I'll work on a weekly schedule with some things done on a daily basis and others done less frequently.

Since I'm not a very organized guy, I'm asking for your help.
How do you get things done?
How structured is your routine? Daily? Weekly?
Do you use lists?
What inspires you to do what you do?

Help a brother out, would you?

John <><

Friday, February 16, 2018

Haiku 16-2018

Damp and dreary day,
But baseball is on its way!
I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Haiku 15-2018

Seventies today
Snow forecast Saturday night
Life in the Ozarks

John <><

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Haiku 14-2018

Oh! A good night's rest
Sleeping in my comfy bed
It's good to be home!

John <><

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Haiku 13-2018

All my bags are packed
I am NOT ready to go!
We are heading home.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Vacay -- last full day

It is our last full day in Cancun and this has been a little different trip than we have experienced in the past. I think that Chris and I have spent less time together than on previous travels. We only took one long walk on the beach and haven't ventured off of the resort for a trip into the market or to take any excursions. This is not to say that it's been a bad thing -- just different.

This resort is our first "Adults Only" resort. I will say that there are things that I really like about this resort as well as things that I don't. Not having kids splashing around the pool is a plus for an old guy that just wants to relax, but traveling during the school year pretty much limits that anyway. Individual service has been less than we have been accustomed to for all inclusive resorts, but it's not that big of a deal.

Let me be clear -- I've had a great time and can't say that I'm ready to leave. It's just been a little different.

This is only the second time we have traveled with another couple. And it is the first time to travel with two other couples. I do have to say that I have enjoyed the dynamics of our differences. Our travel companions are just four of the many Canadians that populate the resort. Most of them seem to be from Quebec and French is spoken as much as English is around the pool. Chris and I are the oldest of our small group, with the youngest being alive for fewer years than we've been married.

Tomorrow we will have breakfast, check out and board the shuttle bus to the airport.
Another easy day in the life of John.

John <><

Haiku 12-2018

Almost time to leave
Today is the final day
Leaving tomorrow

John <><

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Vacay -- Day 6 (and a little philosophy)

It is sunrise on Sunday morning and I am holding chairs by the pool for our group. It works out well for everyone that I am an early riser -- even while on a relaxing trip. Many of the chairs are covered pretty early but the people saving them don't show up until quite a bit later. I prefer to stay with the seats I'm reserving for our group. It gives me a chance for my coffee and quite time, a time to read, a time to blog, and a time to witness the sun rising over the Caribbean Ocean.

I'll write more about some of the artistic inspiration I've received from one of our travel companions when I'm back at home and have had more time to organize my thoughts. For now I'll say that I have had  some great conversations and made friends with a fellow seeker of truth. Though our journeys have taken us in very different directions, we share many of the same thoughts and ideas. I believe that a true seeker of knowledge has to have an open mind. I've said that although it is true that not all religions can be right, we rarely think that it is possible that we may all be wrong. Being skeptical or open to critical examination of your own beliefs (and I am) is not the same as doubting. It is merely wanting to know the truth -- if truth exists. And so it is that my new friend (an atheist) and I have had some great conversations.
I'm sure that we will stay in touch and we will again share what we have found along our life journeys and in our individual searches for truth.

Be well, my friends!

Haiku 11-2018

Time needs to slow down
It flies when you're having fun
We're having a blast!

John <><

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Haiku 10-2018

Not going to lie
I'm loving some travel time
Retirement is grand!

John <><

Friday, February 09, 2018

Haiku 9-2018

I almost forgot
It's still haiku challenge month
It's NaHaiWriMo

National Haiku Writing Month


Vacay -- day 4

It is day 4 of our trip to the tropics and the skies are looking like the weather forecasters may be right and we could get some showers at some point during the day. If that happens, we'll move the party indoors or take a cab to the mall or something. We may just occupy a table in one of the restaurants and break out a deck of cards or something. I just might have a new deck with me.
In any case, warm rain in the tropics is way better than cold and snow. You don't have to shovel rain!

We haven't done anything in the way of exploring the area. In fact, other than a nice walk along the beach, we haven't been off of the resort property. I have burned through a few cigars while sitting poolside or on the beach and we have enjoyed reconnecting with old friends and making some new ones.

I'm not very good at this whole vacationing thing. I think I'll spend another day by the pool trying to figure it out.


John <><

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Vacay - Day 3

It is the morning of our third day in Cancun Mexico. This is our first time staying at the Grand Oasis Sens and I am enjoying our time here. Our "key card" is embedded into our bracelet, so I don't have to worry about forgetting or losing the room key!

So far -- the sun has been warm, the drinks have been cold, the view has been magnificent, and the time spent with friends has been fabulous. One of the couples in our group (there are two other couples with us) booked a VIP suite that has a small private pool on their balcony/patio. We spent some time there yesterday afternoon and I'm sure we will invade their space more in the coming days. Chris mentioned that if we return here, she would like to book the VIP package. The rooms come with either a pool or hot tub, along with other perks and VIP members only areas. I told Chris that I think I'd prefer a hot tub this time of year. We could slum with the masses at the main pool or beach during the day and then enjoy the private hot tub in the evening after dinner.

I'm beginning to think that a part time working gig may not be a bad idea for the time that Chris continues to work. I have a feeling we could easily spend additional income on more traveling. Or perhaps to save up to buy a nice beach home and be able to travel back to the states on occasion. I'm pretty certain that we wouldn't have to worry about our kids coming to visit us. We may even have a few friends or relatives that would come visit us!

I have to admit that I have read and posted more on social networks than I expected that I would. Even so, I am reconsidering my connectedness (spell check tells me connectedness isn't a word, but you know what I mean) to the world. Several of my internet friends  have recently done some cleansing of their Facebook followers. Perhaps it's time that I do some re-evaluating of my own.

Please take no offense if you get dropped. It's probably just that we have little in common and have no other contact than through Facebook. I'll probably drop many of you that are more acquaintances than close friends. If you get dropped and want to keep up with me, I'd suggest subscribing to this blog or following me on Twitter or Instagram. I'm @magicianary on both of them. Or you can always request to be re-added. Like I said, no offense is intended, I'm just doing a little cleansing.

But the sun is getting bright and I'm tired of straining against the glare to see what I'm writing so I'm ending my morning rant and back to relaxing with a real book.

Adios, amigos!


Haiku 8-2018

Up before the sun
I slept until I finished
Time for some coffee

John <><

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Haiku 7-2018

A beautiful day
For me, Chris, and our good friends.
Wish you could join us.

John <><

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Haiku 6-2018

It's traveling day!
The sun's warm and the sand's fine
On to Mexico!

John <><

Monday, February 05, 2018

Travel Eve

It is the night before our early morning flight to Mexico. This Mexican trip is to the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula -- Cancun. It's been two years since our last trip to Cancun and I am looking forward to the warm weather, the sound and smell of the ocean, and some good times with our friends from Canada.
And lots of time to relax and think.

One might think that a retired guy has plenty of time to sit and think. And that's certainly true, but daily routine and life in general has a way of interrupting and distracting one from focused thought. And I'm finding that there are imposed protocols about sharing personal thoughts, particularly about actions of churches and church leaders. It appears that there is no quicker way to find oneself the subject of whispered conversation and the target of gossip than to have a disagreement with a leader of a church or church group.
My particular case is small and insignificant. Many I've been reading about have much greater issues and have been silenced and shunned at some pretty high levels. I'm not sure where we got the idea that lying or covering up for leaders is somehow protecting the integrity of the church or guarding the reputation of God. Maybe we're following the political model of self preservation. (Oh wait, I'm the one that lets politics influence my religion.) To my knowledge, no one has shortened the hand of God (that's church talk for expressing that God is able to defend himself).

I had breakfast and a coffee conversation with an old friend this morning. We talked a little bit about how organized religion and organized religious education has managed to change us from a people following God to a people following a religion -- in many cases, to a people (or congregation) following a person that speaks for his/her particular religion. I shared some of my own ideas about Unorganized Religion.

I'm getting used to the idea that ministry will look a little different for me in the coming year. I think it's going to be more organic and primitive than it's been in the past -- more personal.
Just yesterday, an old friend asked me to be a part of a missions team that he takes to coal country in Eastern Kentucky. I don't know if it will work for this summer, but I'm going to take a good look at it.

For now, I'm going to enjoy a short break from life and relax on a beach for the next few days. Right now the temperature here is 27f (-3c) with light snow. By morning it will be 16f (-9c). The current temperature in Cancun is 75f (24c). Tomorrow afternoon it's supposed to be 82f (28c).

By the way --
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

Simple enough?

John <><

Haiku 5-2018

Ready for baseball?
Spring training begins next week.
I'm ready for spring!

John <><

Sunday, February 04, 2018

You're Gonna Miss Me ... or not

It's right around freezing in the Ozarks this morning. The forecast is for the temps to climb one or two degrees before starting a downward trend, so we're pretty much at the high for the day. The cold weather makes the upcoming trip to the tropics even more appealing.

Since I'm not one of the daily bloggers and sometimes go extended periods without posting, I doubt that anyone would miss me if I failed to post for the coming week or so. I expect the resort to have some internet service available, although I don't know if it will be available by the pool or beach.
That's okay since I don't plan on spending time on Facebook or keeping up on the latest political side show or center ring happenings. I have my books and cigars -- no wifi access needed.
I will probably post some pics to Instagram (shared to Facebook) when I can and if opportunity allows, I'll write something here.

If previous trips are any indication of how things will go, I'll be up early enough to enjoy a simple breakfast, coffee and some quiet time long before Chris gets up. If internet is available from my breakfast table I'll keep up with my daily Haiku and try to share something from our trip. If that's not the case, I'll see you (so to speak) when I get back.

Here's a little music for your Sunday.
Even though I know I wouldn't be missed, it's nice to think I might be...
(Hint -- for full view, click on the video title instead of the play symbol)

Btw -- Thanks to my son (he was a teenager at the time), I can no longer listen to this song without hearing her say "You're gonna miss me by my taco..."
I know it's " Oh..." but you'll hear taco from now on, too.
You're welcome.

John <><

Haiku 4-2018

Is Sunday fun-day?
Today people will party.
Superbowl Sunday!

John <><

Saturday, February 03, 2018

If it's not small talk, is it large talk?

On most occasions, a trip to the barber shop doesn't come with expectations of great conversation. I'd put most of my barber chair conversations in the "small talk" category.
Yesterday was different.

I should state that I wanted a particular barber yesterday and skipped a turn to get him. I wanted him for two reasons. First - he gives a good haircut. Although all of the barbers at the shop do a decent job, there are two that I prefer. One wasn't working yesterday and of the two, the one that was working is my go to choice.
The second reason is that I enjoy talking to him.

He's a young man and not exactly where he imagined he would be in life in his early 30s. Sometimes life happens and it leaves you in a place where people -- church people -- that you grew up knowing and respecting start to judge you rather than comfort and encourage you. I happened to be preaching at the church he grew up in when he was going through some tough times (a few years ago) and so I check up on him once in a while.

I think he's doing okay, but like anyone that has been hurt by the church or abandoned by them, he will continue to have some trust issues when it comes to reconnecting with a local church. I wanted to let him know that he is not alone and encourage him to continue to seek God and his ways rather than to seek men of God and their ways. I shared a little bit of my own struggles with today's churches and the cultural battles they choose to wage.
He paid me a very nice compliment. He said that although he's only heard me preach a couple of times, I came across as a very real person and someone that people can easily relate to; that I'm easy to talk to and don't seem to put on a professional manner.

So I got a good haircut and came away feeling encouraged, too! I hope my young barber found some encouraging words in our conversation, as well.

I should mention that there is something about his words that bother me.
He's not the first person that has told me that I'm easy to talk to about faith and religious matters. With him and with the others, I have to stop and ask myself -- Why does this seem to be so unusual?
Why are people uncomfortable talking about their personal struggles with the very people that are supposed to be able to give them comfort?
Have we (church leaders and church people) become the people that judge and condemn our own and outsiders so quickly that they avoid us?
If we are Ambassadors for Christ, aren't we supposed to ease their burden rather than heaping more upon them?

I want to say that it is unfortunate that I can easily empathize with those that have been judged and come up short of the church's standard. I want to say that I can easily go to any church leader and question the doctrines of man vs the doctrine of God and not worry about being judged for my questions or doubts.

I don't believe that either of those statements is true.
Because the second statement has proven to be false, perhaps it is fortunate that my own experiences allow my to hear with a different heart. Perhaps the curse has become a blessing.

I just don't see what is so difficult about being bearers of the simple message:
God loves you.
Jesus died for you.

John <><

Haiku 3-2018

It is the weekend!
No big deal if you're retired.
Yes, I am bragging.

John <><

Friday, February 02, 2018

It's Haiku month!

I missed a Haiku for yesterday because I just remembered that February is Haiku month -- the shortest month for the shortest poem genre.

It's cold in Ozark
Time to go to Mexico
Loving retirement

And a bonus to make up for yesterday...

January's past
Resolutions are intact
Let's keep it going

John <><

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Coffee Conversations with John

About a week ago I posted a meme on Facebook about enjoying my morning coffee and quiet time.

Although many people agreed with that sentiment, there were a couple of people (that live alone) that commented that they would love to have some conversation with their morning coffee. Yesterday morning, I had a nice conversation with my Vermont brother while we each had our morning coffee.

I realize that work schedules (yours, not mine) and time zone differences might present some challenges, but I was thinking that maybe a brief morning conversation over coffee might be something that others are interested in, as well. If that's something that interests you, you can comment with your number, along with a good day and good time to call. All of the comments on the blog are moderated, so that won't go out to the public. If you're reading and commenting on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, you can message me with the information.

I probably won't do more than one or two per week (remember, I do enjoy my quiet time) and I won't keep you for very long. We can make arrangements via text or messaging so we can have an enjoyable time without being hurried. I'd even be willing to set my alarm and get up a little early to accommodate your morning schedule or time zone difference.
And if you're local (or with-in an hour or so), I'll hop on the motorcycle and meet you somewhere for a face to face over coffee!

So what do you say?
Anyone up for  Coffee Conversations with John?

John <><

"To me, the smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the greatest inventions." --Hugh Jackman
(taken from my Coffee Concoctions notebook from Hannah)