The Most Important Things...

The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them--words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they’re brought out. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? The most important things lie too close to where your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you’ve said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That’s the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear.

~Stephen King~

Keep On Smilin'

It was a good day today... workwise anyway. Sheri went to Michigan yesterday to be with her hospitalized father. We expect him to make a near full recovery, he's a tough old bird... but it's going to take some time. Your prayers for him and his family sure would be appreciated.

Sam, Donnie, Bob and I had a really productive day at the remodel job and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had dinner with my folks and a couple of missionaries and then we got another round of heavy rain, and roads turned into rivers in a matter of minutes. It made for an eventful ride back home. I'm about ready for the rains to stop for a while... we could all use the break.

Something kind of neat happened when I got home that brought back some really cool and strong memories.

In the summer after I had turned sixteen, I took my first real job at an amusement park in Houston called "Astroworld", across the street from the Houston Astrodome. Even though I only worked there that one summer, the experience left a few impressions on me that I carry to this day. I remember the smells of the park, hot dogs, cotton candy, and the like. I always loved the sounds of people having a good time, something I could appreciate even at that young age.

I remember all the games where I used to work. My favorite at first was the softball toss into bushel baskets because that was one where people could figure out how to win after a few usually unsuccessful attempts. I liked it when I got to hand out the huge stuffed animals... even when it was to socially inept braggarts who liked to appear superior to their girlfriends and look down their noses at me.

Then I worked for a while in the Penny Arcade, which needs a little explaining. The building was a long narrow structure and shaped like a horse shoe. There were doors on either end facing each other, and there was a door in the middle, also facing the inside of the "horse shoe." The games in the arcade were primitive by today's standards... mostly pinball and a few pong types. My friend, Scott, and I liked to work each end of the arcade and stick the new guy at the middle door. We got away with this because we had "seniority." We did this for two reasons. The middle guy was more visible, making him work harder than the other two. The second reason was so we could look out into the center of the "horse shoe" area.

What we were intent on looking at was the "Boogie Fog Disco" complete with a flashing colored lights dance floor and a fog machine in the middle of it. Scott and I had a really good view of the entire dance floor, while the guy in the middle only got to see the back of the DJ booth. You should have seen the characters that came out after dark to dance. Sheeeeesh... If I never see that much polyester in one place again, I'll die a happy man. The whole thing was really a sight to behold... and Scott and I positioned ourselves to oversee the festivities every chance we got.

One night though, I was working in another game booth. The game was some kind of river with plastic ducks floating around and around. The object was to pick one of the few ducks that had "winner" stamped on the bottom... purely a guessing game. Not too many people liked that game and that was ok with me... I could still see the dance floor from where I was.

As the end park hours approached, the DJ at the Boogie Fog Disco started winding things down and then played a certain song that he played every night at closing time. The song was "Goodnight Sweetheart" by The Spaniels. That's the same song that Ted Danson, Tom Selleck, and Steve Guttenburg sang to the little baby girl in "Three Men and a Baby." You've heard it, I'm sure... "Good night Sweetheart, well it's time to go... doo doo doo doo doo" The "Doo doo doo" part was in a very deep bass voice. Remember it now?

Anyway, that song started playing to signal the end of the dancing for the night, and for some bizarre reason, the first time the "doo doo doo" part came up, I stuck my head around the wall separating my floating ducks booth from the booth next to me, and sang "doo doo doo doo doo" in the deepest voice I could muster to the girl working there. Like I said, bizarre... especially when you consider the fact that I didn't really know her and I was extremely shy at that point in my life. Not just a little bashful, mind you... but painfully so. And not only that, I was sixteen years old… how deep could my voice have been? To this day I don't know what possessed me to do such a goofy thing.

But the first time I did it, she smiled at me... and I was gone. I couldn't remember ever seeing a smile like that before in my life. So, of course, I leaned around the wall and sang "doo doo doo doo doo" in my best Barry White voice every time that part of the song came around again and she smiled bigger and bigger at each idiotic performance. I don't remember much else about this girl, but she had long hair and I think it was blond, but I can't be sure. I don't remember her facial features either, but that smile of hers is etched into my memory banks forever. I'm not even sure if I ever knew her name and as chance would have it, I never had the opportunity to work next to her again. Probably a good thing too, given my apparent uncontrolled bouts of absurdity. I wondered for a while though, what kind of real conversation we might have struck up if given the chance and if I hadn't been such a dweeb around girls.

I feel the need to be really clear about this... every smile is a good smile, and certainly always better than a frown. I enjoy gazing upon any smile every chance I get... but have you ever seen a smile that literally brightens up a room when it's flashed? That's what that Astroworld girl's smile was like. I see them every now and then, and I never cease to marvel at the beauty of them. Most are on girls, but some are on guys too.

Smiles are indeed blessings that we've been given by our Heavenly Father to share with each other. Some people have great hair (sigh), some have beautiful eyes and facial features (sigh again), and some are blessed with certain talents and abilities, but the smile that illuminates everything and everyone within sight is something wondrous to behold. It brightens my soul every time I'm fortunate enough to spot such a phenomenon. It might be because they are kinda few and far between. I know that I personally don't have a smile like that. Good thing too... I'd probably just stay home and look at it in the mirror all day.

So why am I writing about this?

Because something happened today that made me think of Astroworld Girl’s smile, and I had cause to think about smiling in general. Do you know why smiling is so important? Let me share something that I found...

From Mark Stibich, Ph.D.
Top 10 Reasons to Smile

1. Smiling makes us attractive
- We are drawn to people who smile. There is an attraction factor. We want to know a smiling person and figure out what is so good. Frowns, scowls and grimaces all push people away -- but a smile draws them in.

2. Smiling Changes Our Mood - Next time you are feeling down, try putting on a smile. There's a good chance you mood will change for the better. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.

3. Smiling is Contagious
- When someone is smiling they lighten up the room, change the moods of others, and make things happier. A smiling person brings happiness with them. Smile lots and you will draw people to you.

4. Smiling Relieves Stress
- Stress can really show up in our faces. Smiling helps to prevent us from looking tired, worn down, and overwhelmed. When you are stressed, take time to put on a smile. The stress should be reduced and you'll be better able to take action.

5. Smiling Boosts Your Immune System
- Smiling helps the immune system to work better. When you smile, immune function improves possibly because you are more relaxed. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.

6. Smiling Lowers Your Blood Pressure
- When you smile, there is a measurable reduction in your blood pressure. Give it a try if you have a blood pressure monitor at home. Sit for a few minutes, take a reading. Then smile for a minute and take another reading while still smiling. Do you notice a difference?

7. Smiling Releases Endorphins, Natural Pain Killers and Serotonin
- Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin. Together these three make us feel good. Smiling is a natural drug.

8. Smiling Lifts the Face and Makes You Look Younger
- The muscles we use to smile lift the face, making a person appear younger. Don't go for a face lift, just try smiling your way through the day -- you'll look younger and feel better.

9. Smiling Makes You Seem Successful
- Smiling people appear more confident, are more likely to be promoted, and more likely to be approached. Put on a smile at meetings and appointments and people will react to you differently.

10. Smiling Helps You Stay Positive
- Try this test: Smile. Now try to think of something negative without losing the smile. It's hard. When we smile our body is sending the rest of us a message that "Life is Good!" Stay away from depression, stress and worry by smiling.

Because I responded to an invitation today, I was privileged to see and learn some wonderful things about some awesome people that I know. I also got to see one of those smiles again. Someone I knew a few years ago and haven't seen for a while. I always enjoyed seeing that smile and I'm thrilled to be able to view it again, even if only in pictures. Thanks for that.

Frown and you frown alone, but smile and the whole world smiles with you. Now I can't speak for the whole world, but it sure does make me smile and brightens up my day.

So keep on smilin'.

Until next time...

Hugs... not drugs

I wrote this back on the 20th of March. I thought it was way too bitter and angry to post, and maybe it is... but if I'm going to be honest with myself and with this blog, then I guess I should put it out there. It felt good to write it, although it was much bitterer and rancorous before I did some much needed editing. It helped me sort through my feelings about the matter at hand, and time has a way of calming frustrations and bitterness. I'm not as resentful and disillusioned as I was when I first wrote it, but the incident has affected me and the way I will conduct myself... at least for now.

Maybe I don't get it.

I have always viewed a hug as an alternative form of greeting, a little more informal and personal than a handshake... and certainly not always meant just for two people of opposite gender. I hug men, I hug women. I hug some of the brethren in my church, and I hug some of the sisters. To others, I offer the handshake. I hug my mom and dad alike. I hug my sisters. I hug my wife. I hug my dog Baxter on occasion, and I hug my cats when I can get away with it. I hug my daughters and my son. I hug my nieces and nephews. I hug my best friends and their wives. I have also shaken the hands of all those mentioned above, except for the cats... they're way too cool for that.

So what's the difference? I found this while researching, that may lend some insight in the handshaking part of the equation...

Get a Grip: Handshaking 101
Tracy Laswell Williams, JCTC, CPRW, President, CAREERWriters

Have you ever felt awkward during a handshake? For job seekers, possessing savoir faire in this age-old custom can be an important factor in establishing “chemistry” in networking events and those all-important interviews. For an incredibly detailed analysis of a seemingly simple act, read on.

Why do we shake hands?

Well, here’s one possible explanation. Back in the days of yore, most folks were armed with daggers. Upon meeting, those having peaceful intentions would hold out their right hands to show the other that they weren’t grasping a weapon. When both parties had extended a right hand, they would then grip them together until certain the other meant them no harm.

Why do we continue to shake hands today?

As a psychology major and business person, I believe that no important meeting should take place or conclude without a hearty handshake. Numerous psychological research studies indicate that even the briefest physical contact with another, if non-threatening in nature, improves strangers’ disposition toward each other and increases the likelihood that each will be honest and helpful during the interactions that follow.

A simple thing made complicated.

You know how to shake hands, right? Did you know that there are at least 10 key factors to bear in mind during a handshake? They include: timing; corresponding eye contact, facial expression, and greetings; pressure; positioning; velocity; number of shakes; plane; temperature; and humidity. Sound like a lot? You’ll get better with practice, so practice.

Timing: Upon meeting, a guest (interviewee/customer/subordinate in the same company) should wait a few beats for the host (interviewer/business owner/superior within the same company) to extend a hand. If the host does not extend a hand, the guest should. Offer a hand while looking in other person in the eye, with a smiling, and while speaking an introduction or one’s own name if this is the first meeting.

Upon conclusion of the meeting, the same protocol should be followed along with an appropriate thank you. If you are meeting with multiple individuals, shake everyone’s hand and learn their names by repeating them as you shake.

Pressure/positioning: Most gentlemen I meet these days offer a firm enough grip. The ladies, however, are another story. The proper way to shake hands is placing your hand fully in the palm of the other, web to web. A firm but not bone-crackling grip demonstrates sincerity. Many of the ladies with whom I have had the occasion to shake hands offer me only their fingertips and do not return the grip. An even more offensive handshake is the one where your hand is shaken and released in a semi-forceful downward manner. Etiquette experts say to reserve the “dead fish” handshake only in situations where you wish to telegraph your extreme displeasure with another individual.

Velocity/number of shakes: Upon greeting, two or three pumps of the hand in a not-too-fast manner will do. Upon conclusion of a successful meeting, perhaps three or four pumps at an even more relaxed pace should help end the meeting on a positive note. Do not touch the other party with your free hand during the handshake – this can be seen as aggressive behavior.

Plane: Perpendicular is the only way to go. If you extend your hand such that your palm is mostly down, that’s viewed as aggressive. Offering a hand with the palm mostly up is the opposite: passive.

Temperature/humidity: No, this isn’t a weather forecast. But nobody likes gripping a chilly or damp hand. Just prior to an important meeting, be sure your hands are clean, warm, and dry.

In our warp-speed and somewhat disconnected world today, we could all use a little more human warmth and connection. Be sure to offer a hearty handshake to as many as you can.

And naturally, in non-business situations, whenever you can get away with it, give a warm hug instead!

Ok... I don't know about you, but that makes me feel like a laboratory rat. That explanation is too clinical, too precise, too stuffy, and way too formal for my personal tastes, but ok... it does explain the handshake so I can live with it. Referring to the first two paragraphs of that study, handshakes are extremely well placed in business situations. I have no problem with that. I have always been and remain today perfectly willing to shake the hand of an associate, especially in business settings.

In a non-business setting however, I am more prone to hugging, especially if I am close to the individual in question. Not physically close, (although that helps when hugging), but emotionally, spiritually, mentally close. Close in a "good friends" kind of way.

I told my daughter many years ago that I have an unlimited amount of hugs for her. That pretty much goes for anyone. It's a way that I show friendship, love for my fellow sons and daughters of God, caring for the hurting and afflicted, a greeting, a goodbye... for me, hugs are a opportunity to say in a non-verbal way, "I'm very glad to know you and to have you as my friend, I love you, I want you to be happy, and if there's ever anything you need, I'll do my very best to be there for you."

For me, a hug is not an opportunity for a grope, a chance to make unwanted (or any, for that matter) advances, an excuse for a quick feel, or any other unsavory act that could be easily cloaked in a seemingly innocent hug. I haven't been accused of such an act, per se... but I do suddenly feel looked upon as creepy and of questionable character as I've been asked not to hug certain individuals in the future. One of these persons I have hugged on a weekly basis since I moved here. I have never been given the slightest indication that I was causing discomfort. People who opened their own arms for hugs knowing that I am a hugging type of person. Bad enough already, but the request did not come from the two individuals in question, but from our Bishop. Here, let me pour a little more salt in that wound for ya.

Oh, he was very polite about it, and he knew that my feelings would be hurt. He went out of his way to lighten the blow, so to speak. He said there was no reason for concern; it had just come up in conversation. He indicated that the two individuals made no accusations of improper behavior. They just want me to stop. I wanted to scream. My first thought was to jump over his desk and tell him in very plain terms exactly what he could do with the ward. I didn't, of course, because I knew he was just the messenger, asked only to relay the requests of the two persons. I listened to the concerns and told him not to worry, he's got more pressing matters to deal with I'm sure. Didn't make it any easier to just sit there though.

So I've spent the past few days in retrospective self evaluation, trying to recall an instance when a hug might have been mistaken for an advance. When the same greeting I have given these two individuals could have been misconstrued as misconduct by some weird and creepy guy. I can't, and I for the life of me do not know when these innocent hugs turned offensive. On more than one incident, one of the two has come across the room to give me a hug. And while I can't say that about the other, I have liberally hugged everyone else in that particular family.

I don't know whether to be angry, hurt, sad, disgusted, or bitter. I'm all of that. I can't decide between feeling sorry for them, and just feeling creepy. I'm feeling both. I don't even want to go back to church now. The mere hint of indecency has left me with the bitterest of tastes in my mouth. I don't want to see these people who couldn't just ask me themselves to shake hands instead. I have always asked that if someone has a problem with me, just tell me. I can take it. I'm certainly not afraid to tell someone when they've offended me. It's usually a misunderstanding and can be easily repaired with a little communication. Running to the bishop kills any chance of that.

I have always liked the phrase "Hugs, not Drugs" and I've had my share of both, believe me. I still want to prefer hugs but have to admit, I was never made to feel so repugnant and revolting when I was shoving cocaine up my nose as fast as I could as I do now because someone wants to complain about hugs from me. No one ever implied either directly or indirectly that I was a degenerate for sitting in my own cloud of marijuana smoke. I am tired of my genuine feelings of friendship and good will being perverted into something seedy. Frankly, I've just about had enough.

Am I bitter and hurt? You better believe it. Big time ! ! !

Hugs, not drugs... maybe I've had it backwards all this time.

Man, I sure feel that way all of a sudden.

Official Proclamation

This being and is therefore subject to the whims, desires, inclinations, quirks, urges, impulses and fool notions of the writer; and


The writer of this blog, namely Lynn Henry, having never caused, created, or otherwise organized a national movement, conspiracy, revolution, crusade or mobilization; and

The Hawaiian Shirt and Dress wearing blogging community having never joined together to familiarize and educate the public about Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses and their importance in style and fashion; and

The history of the Hawaiian or "Aloha Shirt" can be traced to the early western missionaries in the 19th century who felt that it would be more appropriate, for the soon to be Christianized natives, if they were covered; and

Even though much of the general public is familiar with many of the uses and occasions to wear Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses, many people are unaware that Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses can be worn throughout all stages of life and for various public and private functions; and

Educating the public about the inner strength and beauty of those who adorn Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses will help them to make more informed wardrobe decisions; and

Familiarizing the public about the significance of Hawaiian attire in general will help ensure that nationally accepted standards in proper ways to dress in Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses are met; and

Technological advancements in Hawaiian Shirt and Dress making have had a tremendous impact on the fashion industry over the past 50 years; and

Professionals, laborers, laypersons, rich, poor, old, young, and bloggers will be given the opportunity to celebrate their inner Hawaiian, as well as educate their friends, family, and the public about the benefits of wearing Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses; and

I like Hawaiian Shirts,

I, Lynn Henry, in cooperation with the Hawaiian Shirt and dress wearing blogger community, do hereby proclaim each and every Tuesday as Hawaiian Shirt Tuesday. This unique day of the week recognizes the importance of Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses for every occasion wear in the fashion industry.

I call upon the readers of this blog to participate in Hawaiian Shirt Tuesdays by proudly wearing your Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses, proclaiming to everyone you meet that Tuesdays are for Hawaiian attire and sponsoring activities and programs that will educate the public about Hawaiian Shirts and Dresses.

I further call upon all readers of this blog to take a picture of the Hawaiian Shirt or Dress of their choosing each Tuesday and post said photo on their own blog page. I would really love to see them.

In witness hereof, I hereunto set my hand this 29th day of March, in the year two thousand and eight.

Lynn Henry
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When I was a kid...

When I was a kid, we lived in a different world than the one we live in today.

When I was a kid, we weren't holed up in the house all day. My friends and I were outdoors, in the fresh air, and in the sun. We were in one of our yards using our imaginations to invent games and activities. We would use plastic spoons to fire pea gravel at each other in Randy and Barry's yard, unless we were "safe" in one of two trees designated as "base".

We would ride our bikes around and around and around the block and see who we could intimidate with our eight and nine year old attitudes. We would take our BB guns and shoot cans strategically placed atop a fence. We played. We got ourselves into trouble; we got ourselves out of trouble. We never hurt anyone, although we did torment Lori Barton, the little girl who lived next door to me.

When I was a kid, my friends and I formed a club. The purpose of this club changed on an almost daily basis, but we had secret codes, passwords, handshakes, and meeting places. I would be happy to tell you what these were, but this is top secret information... and I can't remember them anyway. We put on some quickly written and thrown together plays, we went stalking armadillos and raccoons, we sat around discussing at great length how weird girls were, we explored every inch of our neighborhood, and I think there was something in the club rules and by-laws having to do with never wearing shoes. I'll have to check on that.

When I was a kid, we ran around the neighborhood (barefooted, of course) and our parents usually had no idea where we were at any given moment. We wandered through the woods behind our neighborhood and explored the countryside. There was a creek that my friend Payson and I visited almost daily. We hiked for hours down that creek, finding treasures around every bend. The air was fresh, the water was cool and clear, the only sounds were the sounds of nature, and we never even once, in the hundreds of trips up and down that creek, saw another human being.

When I was a kid, I enjoyed my first smoke in a big grassy field along side the creek while leaning back on a roll of rusty chain link fencing. Payson got his hands on some Tiparillo Sweets and we smoked and enjoyed life and commended each other on what big men we had become... until we turned green and threw up a few times. We managed to stumble our way back up the creek however, and cured ourselves with a quick dip in the pool.

When I was a kid, we didn't have a swimming pool, and neither did any of my friends. Turns out we didn't need one. Payson and I knew where the creek widened and deepened to form a natural pool. It was about 2o feet across and about 8 feet deep. We would shuck off our clothes and swim for a while. It didn't bother us in the least that we could look all the way to the bottom and see the crawdads scurrying about on the bedrock. We would lay on a big flat rock that overhung the "pool" and dry off, then get dressed, and continue our journey.

When I was a kid, Mom didn't worry that she hadn't seen me all day. She understood that I knew when it was time to come home for dinner. She even on occasion packed a sack lunch for Payson and I to take to the creek with us. She didn't have to be concerned about us being snatched up and taken away never to be seen or heard from again. The thought may have crossed her mind a few times, but things like that just didn't happen back then.

When I was a kid, television was what we watched in the evening with our families, not where we spent the entire day. Our parents didn't use the television as a babysitter for us, or a tool to try to keep us kids out of Mom's way while she attended to the household duties. There were two TV's in our house... one in the living room, and one in my parent's room. They were rarely both on at the same time. We hadn't yet discovered the art of channel surfing... we had to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel, and there were only 6 or 7 stations to choose from anyway.

When I was a kid, we watched Chet Huntley and David Brinkley mostly, but Walter Cronkite was invited into our home often too. I was happier when we watched Walter... that theme music for the Huntley and Brinkley news always scared the crap out of me. "Good night, Chet" - "Good night, David"

When I was a kid, the closest thing we got to a reality show was The Ed Sullivan Show. We enjoyed comedies like The Lucy Show, Gomer Pyle - USMC, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, and my personal favorite The Red Skelton Show on Tuesday nights. Sunday nights were reserved for Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and the Saturday Night Movie was a real event worth waiting all week for. Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, and Glen Campbell all had variety shows, Johnny Carson's Tonight Show was an hour and a half and was still based in New York City, and ABC had an improbable hit on daytime T.V. in the form of Dark Shadows. Gilligan's Island was my idea of Must See T.V.

When I was a kid, I wasn't allowed to watch Dark Shadows, but Mom let me stay up late to watch Red Skelton every week, and once to watch Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

When I was a kid, Saturday morning were filled with Bugs Bunny, The Roadrunner, and Heckle & Jeckle... all with an unhealthy serving of Oreo cookies. Sometimes Dad would wake up and watch cartoons with me, then go back to bed. I had to control my Saturday morning Oreo dependency on those mornings. One time, Dad and I stayed up all night to watch a lunar eclipse. We camped out in the front yard and ate Easter eggs from the week before. It was on a Friday night and that was the only time I can remember when I was too tired to get up early on Saturday morning to watch my cartoons. Might have been worth it if we had actually seen an eclipse.

When I was a kid, going out to dinner was reserved for special occasions. We normally ate meals that Mom cooked. We always ate them at the table and the television was turned off. Sometimes we could listen to the radio... I remember vividly hearing Elvis singing "I can't help falling in love with you" during one meal. My sister and I scolded him through the radio for singing at the table... even though that was only a minor faux pas in our home. I enjoyed mealtime with the family and the food was the best because my mom prepared it with loving hands. My favorite meal was fried sausage slices with corn fritters. I haven't had a good fritter in years.

When I was a kid, drug busts didn't happen in our neighborhood. Drugs were far away from our little community on the northwest side of Austin, Texas. Oh, I'm sure they were really there, big college town and all... but we didn't hear about it. Drug use was looked upon differently back then. People didn't brag about it.

When I was a kid, we knew all of our neighbors and they all knew us. The Swann brothers lived on the corner and across the street from the Hoovers, the Bartons lived on one side of us and The Allens lived on the other. The Allens had two teenage daughters named Dede and Doris. Doris was my favorite and I had a big time crush on her... she had a boyfriend though. Her father sold cookies out of a truck and would sometimes give me a box. They had a big red dog named Rex that would play fetch with me if one of the girls was with me. He bit me a few times though and I was pretty afraid of him.

There was Mitch Mitchell who lived on the street behind us. Brothers Terry and Tommy lived down the street, as did Payson and his four sisters. There was a kid a few years younger than me who climbed on our roof from the tree house when we weren't home and fell off, breaking his arm. Do you know what kind of lawsuit we would be facing if that happened today? His name was Brian and I always thought he looked like Curious George for some reason. Kathy lived across the street and was usually called upon when my parents needed a babysitter. And the bus stop was in front of Kim and Renee's house. Their back yard was where I learned to throw a Frisbee.

When I was a kid, I went to Kindergarten and first grade in the school where I had a crush on Roxanne and saw the milk delivery truck back into my dad's car just after I was dropped off for school, then forgot all about the incident come "show and tell" time.

I went to second grade at a different school where I got to sit next to the Principal at lunch one day, and when I stuck my fork into a piece of sausage, the juice squirted all over the book he was reading. Oh man, I was so scared.

I was fortunate enough to attend the 3rd grade twice. These two years were in yet a different school, and then I finally got to go to school with my friends at Hill Elementary School for the first half of fourth grade before my family moved to Houston.

When I was a kid, my school lunch cost 40 cents a day, and we said a prayer every day before we sat down to eat.

When I was a kid, Neil Armstrong was my hero. We watched him step onto the moon on a television in my fourth grade class.

When I was a kid, I had big colorful photos of the moon, and equally big and colorful photos of the Earth taken from the moon, hanging on my bedroom wall. My mom painted that wall black eventually, got a leopard print spread for my bed, and her best friend said all I needed now was a smoking jacket. It's my understanding that the black paint on that wall still showed through any attempts to paint over it for years after we moved out of that house. They'd paint it white, and it would turn grey. I think that's funny.

When I was a kid, "Dream Dream Dream" by The Everly Brothers was my favorite song. Other popular songs on the radio were "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro, "Love Is Blue" by Paul Mauriat, and Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay". "Those Were The Days" by Mary Hopkin still makes my mom dance around the room. Elvis was big, The Beatles were still together, Simon and Garfunkel were about to hit the really big time, and Janis Joplin was still performing with Big Brother and The Holding Company.

When I was a kid, we didn't go to church a whole lot. Mom was raised Methodist, and Dad, a Baptist. When we did go, it was to a Methodist church in Austin. I remember walking from the parking lot to the building in a long covered walkway that made a really weird echo when my shoes hit the pavement. Mom and Dad went into the big chapel and I would go to Sunday School with the other kids. We would have some outside play time with swings and slides and teeter totters... and some old tires that had been painted red or blue. Those were my favorites because I would roll them down a hill behind the church and then gather them all up and haul them back up the hill just to do it all over again. I remember too being able to go into the big chapel with my parents one Sunday, and how big and important I felt. I was asleep five minutes into the sermon.

When I was a kid, my parents went to Mexico City and brought back a little guitar for me. I took it next door and asked Steve Barton to tune it for me, and he broke a string. I grabbed the guitar out of his hands and ran back home crying. I was crushed until I found out that guitar strings can be replaced. They also brought home some Mexican marionettes for me that I managed to get all tangled up in a matter of minutes.

When I was a kid, Slip-N-Slides were a big thing. So were Water-Wiggles. Hula Hoops and Frisbees were relatively new. Silly Putty was always a big hit with me, and I couldn't get enough of magnets. Simple pleasures included sitting on the porch swing in front of our house and eating oranges with Payson, eating lunches in the tree house with my sister Linda, and laying with my head at the foot of my bed and reading books by the light coming in through my bedroom door from the hallway.

When I was a kid, Payson, Randy, Barry, and I were the best of friends... they all gathered at my house the day we moved and gave me some going away gifts by the back door. I started to cry and ran into the house, embarrassed. They cried too. I had to move away.

When I was a kid, it was a different world than it is today... and that sometimes makes me sad.

Really, really sad.

Until next time...
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I'm not only not the president...

This is a true story...

You may or may not find what I'm about to say difficult to believe, but it is the truth. I had struggled with a certain condition in varying degrees over the years and it finally worked its way to the forefront of my daily thought patterns in the early 1990's as I was approaching my 30th birthday. It was then that I decided to stop dreaming about how the other half lives, and to do something about it instead.

I sent off for a package of information concerning the issue at hand. It came in a mostly unmarked envelope and when I opened this parcel with great anticipation, it was filled with brochures and pamphlets outlining what this great company had to offer. I feel obliged to keep the name of the company out of this post for reasons that will become apparent shortly, but the pitch line for the television commercials is the president of the company holding up to the camera a "before" picture of himself while stating "By the way, I'm not only the president, I'm also a client."

So I'm looking through all these fantastic brochures with page after page of "before" and "after" photos of the various men who have become customers, and I'm really stoked about this. I couldn't wait to go there myself and see what they had to offer someone like myself. I called the 800 number listed on the material, and I found out that there was an office right there in Houston! Wow... talk about lucky. I thought I'd have to go to New York or Los Angeles... or maybe even Atlanta. Right there in Houston... my home town.

I scheduled the appointment and on the chosen day I went to the twin towers of Houston on the South West Freeway and made my way up to the designated suite. The sign on the door said simply "HCM"... I knew I was in the right place.

I boldly walked into the lobby and strolled up to the window and announced that I had arrived for my consultation. I was asked to wait a few minutes and someone would be out shortly to assist me. In the waiting room was book after book with the same type of "before" and "after" photos of the many happy patrons of this fine establishment.

When "Tom" walked in and asked me to join him in his office, I thought "Here it is... the moment I've been waiting for since I was 19 and started noticing my condition." We walked to his office, he sat down behind his desk after inviting me to have a seat, asked me if I would like something to drink (I declined), and we began our conversation.

He began by telling me that he knew how I felt about my condition. Many men have come in to his office and he's been able to help everyone who seriously wanted help. He told me how much better I would feel about myself and how this would really help my low self esteem. Ok, that's good to hear, but my first thought was "How can this guy, who has a full and great head of hair, possibly know how I feel about losing mine?" I was really kind of put off by this blatant presumption. I was rapidly losing interest in this guy and I was about to excuse myself and forget the whole thing.

I wanted to go home.

He must have sensed my inner reaction to his obviously fake empathy, because he asked me to take a look at something. He reached into his top desk drawer and took out two 8 by 10 glossy photos of none other than "Tom". I took the two 8 by 10 glossy photos of "Tom" in my hands and commenced to study them carefully. These were the same type of "before" and "after" photos I had been studying for the past few weeks ever since I received my packet in the mail, but these were of the man sitting before me.

I wanted to hug him.

I couldn't believe it, and the look on my face must have told him that I couldn't believe it, so he stood up and asked me to do the same. He sat down in the chair that I had been sitting in and he asked me to stand behind him and look deep into his hair all the way down to his scalp, in an attempt to convince me that this was the real deal. He said I should use my fingers to part the hair so I could see the mesh against his scalp. I had no real qualms about doing this... until an image from some PBS show popped into my head in which orangutans were picking bugs off of each other. I quickly withdrew my arms and politely informed "Tom" that I had seen all I wanted to see.

I wanted to send "Tom" back to the jungle.

He then suggested taking some measurements of my head so we could get a ballpark figure and start choosing hairstyles. COOL ! ! ! He started rummaging through his desk drawer for the measuring device. I started looking around the room for one of those head measuring things that they use for newborns... looks like some kind of protractor with a dial on the top, but I didn't see one. "Tom" excused himself and went down the hall to find one.

He came back into the room carrying a sophisticated 23rd century looking device apparently invented for measuring heads... a ruler. A plastic ruler. A blue plastic ruler.

I wanted to take it from him and beat him about the head and shoulders.

He stood behind me and put the zero edge of the ruler next to my hairline on the right side of my head, then rolled the ruler across the top of my scalp to the left side hairline, marked the ruler with his thumb, walked around the desk and wrote down the number. Then he took the sophisticated 23rd century looking device apparently invented for measuring heads and got a measurement of the range of hair loss by performing the same highly technical procedure from front to back, noting again the reading by marking it with his thumb. He wrote that number down next to the first.

He sat down at his desk and looked at these two numbers. I waited for the appearance of some type of calculating instrument and a formula placard, but no. He just stared at these two magical numbers for what seemed like an hour, then looked up and calmly said "Twenty five hundred dollars... give or take a few."

Are you kidding me?????

How in the world did he come up with this figure? Then he started talking about how much better I will feel about myself and my appearance once I consent to spending a few dollars and how can one put a price on self esteem and blah blah blah...

I wanted to slap him.

I could only stare at the guy. Again, he sensed that there could possibly be something slightly askew in his presentation techniques, but he pressed bravely on.

He asked me how I would like to see what I would look like with a full head of hair. Sure ! ! ! I kinda really did want to see that. He said we would have to step into another room. OK now... this is better. We must be heading to the room where all the really advanced technology is kept. Computers... scanners... the newest age software developed for just this purpose. I should have known better. We walked into the office next door and he asked me to sit in an old barber's chair. Then he left the room.

Do you know those kiosks they have at the mall sometimes where you can take your picture and they scan it into the computer right there and then in a matter of seconds you can see what you would look like with 50 different hairstyles? Well, he didn't have one of those. I was hoping, but no such luck. What he had was something even better and far more advanced. A Polaroid camera.

I wanted to go home again.

He asked me to look straight into the camera and then pressed the button. The little square film came whirring out, and he took it by one corner and waved it back and forth as if that might help it develop faster. I waited patiently and after a minute or so of extremely awkward silence (except for the flapping back and forth of my picture); he looked at the picture with a satisfied look, held it up for me to gaze upon, and proudly stated "This is what you look like."

I wanted to kick him in the kneecaps.

I held what little composure I had left so he could scan the photo into the computer for my 50 different hairstyles, but instead he took out a black felt-tipped pen and started drawing black "hair" to fill in the spots where my blond hair, (did you catch that? BLOND HAIR) wasn't growing anymore. He drew and drew and looked at me and drew some more... looking like some cheap imitation of Pierre, the finest artiste in all of France. When he was finished with this masterpiece, he held it out to me for my approval with one hand, a contract in the other hand, and had the audacity to say "There... doesn't THAT look better?"

I wanted to kill him.

I stood up calmly, looked directly into his eyes, took a deep breath, and said "It looks like I've got ink on my head."

Today, I am fine with the way I look. Sure I would like better hair, or less waistline, or whiter teeth, but my self esteem certainly needs no boost by artificial means. I am proud to say that I'm not only not the president; I'm also not a client. In the years since my adventure into the world of blue plastic rulers and ink drawn hair on Polaroid photos, I have come to learn that our Creator in His infinite wisdom has made billions and billions of human heads... and the ones He doesn't like, He covers up with hair.

How can I complain about that?

Until next time...
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Fire Pit Therapy

There is something very special in a good fire. There is something magical, and maybe even mysterious in the flames of blue and orange and red and yellow. The way a flame is kissed by a breeze so it curls around a log in a beautifully elegant way, and then disappears is the very reason I will sit by a fire and stare into its soul for hours upon hours. There's always something in the heart of a good fire that I'm looking for, something way down deep within the flames and embers and logs, something hiding in there just out of view. I never quite know what is that I'm seeking though, until I find it.

So why is a well-made fire so fascinating to me? Through the centuries there has been an intimate connection of fire with the cultural growth of humanity. We may assume there was once a time when man had no fire, but very early he must have become acquainted with fire derived from natural sources, and made use of it; for no remains of man's art show him without fire as his companion.

Fire has many uses in everyday life. We can heat our homes with fire. We can cook our meals with fire. We can mold steel to build and create. Fire can also destroy if left alone. Huge forests of thousands of acres can disappear because of fire. Fire can be made with many items invented for that very purpose. I have even walked barefoot across hot coals taken only moments before from a huge fire. Yes… fire has many uses.

I obtain energy from a fire... mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional energy. I feel rejuvenated and invigorated after a good fire session. There's a magical, but very real, quality in the heat and the light from a good fire. In this case, bigger is not always better, but I do like a rather large fire... just hot enough that you can only stand close enough to make needed adjustments without singeing your eyebrows. My own personal philosophy is if I don't leave the fire with burned hair on my arms, then I could have done better, so my fires are usually bigger than someone else's might be.

Maybe my own fondness for the art of storytelling has something to do with my love for fire. There's a connection to our past in sitting around a fire and holding conversations that could consist of stories or lessons or even just "Tell me about your day, Dear." I would think that our early ancestors sat around open fires and had these same conversations. If so, then it stands to reason that the fires that I enjoy so much today come from deep rooted traditions that form a link to our own history with humanity.

A good fire, especially one at night when darkness surrounds the globe of warmth and orange light that only a fire can create, has a hypnotizing effect on me. When I'm outside that ring, I want in... and once I'm in, I don't want to leave. There's something in the fire that I want. The answer to many of life's quandaries are in there. I think a good fire for me is like writing for this blog. I will sit and stare at a good fire and let my mind wander the same way I do when I'm writing something for this blog (and a few things that I dare not actually post), giving my thoughts free reign to go where they will.

Some of the places that I find myself are fun and pleasant, some are sad, some funny, some scary, some are serious, and some places are down right dark... not evil, but places where even angels fear to tread. It's always a bit risky to ask me what I'm thinking about when I'm lost in a fire... I might tell you without censoring myself first.

I like a tall fire... my father likes a flat fire. There will always be a battle of wills for control of the fire stick used to poke and prod the fire. Since I'm younger and more mobile than Dad, I usually win this epic struggle for power. I like to have some of the logs upright, not quite standing on end, but leaning so as to create a fire that is mighty and will swirl up and around and through the wood in a mesmerizing fashion.

And I am never satisfied with the fire as it is either. I always have to be messing with it. I will move logs around and shift the fire this way or that until I get it the way I want it, then I'll sit back and enjoy my efforts for a minute or so until I see another possibility. Then I'm back up moving things around again... and so it goes, for hours on end sometimes. And this becomes therapy for me.

Fire Pit Therapy.

I had a fire going in my back yard in Richmond a few years ago... nothing major, just some sticks I had gathered from cleaning up the yard after some heavy winds. The fire was in an old BBQ grill that I didn't use anymore, and I was raking some leaves and not really paying much attention to the fire. It wasn't that kind of fire anyway... I was just burning some sticks to get rid of them.

My good friend Paul stopped by for a short visit, and as I was finished with my yard work, we stood by the fire and chatted for a while. I had some chairs close by and invited my friend to "sit a spell", but he was content to find a stick and poke around in the fire a bit. This is one of the very few times I have voluntarily relinquished control of the fire stick.

I don't remember how the subject came up, but Paul began talking about his youth and his basketball playing days. I asked him several times if he would like to sit down or have something to drink... but his answer every time was "No, I'd better be getting home soon."

But he didn't go home. He stayed and talked and pretty soon it became apparent to me that he just needed to talk this on this evening. I found a comfortable position in my chair and let him talk in great detail about people he grew up with, the teams he was on, the games he played, his coaches, his team mates, his parents... his youth. The whole time he talked, he stared into the fire as if all of those memories were right there, in the flames. I stopped speaking after a while, not because I wasn't interested... but because there was nothing that I could say that would add to this particular conversation. This one was a tête-à-tête between Paul and the fire.

He added wood when it needed wood... he stirred things around when they needed stirring... he left it alone when it was good enough for the time being to leave alone... and he talked. I knew exactly what this was for him... I've felt it myself and I've been there.

Fire Pit Therapy.

There's nothing like it. No therapist. No Psychologist. No self appointed self-help guru. No one telling you what you should be feeling, or thinking, or doing... just you and the fire, mano a mano. I have worked out many things in my life by staring into a good fire. It's not an easy thing to get out of your mind's way and let it do what it does best. We tend to want to control our thoughts, and for the most part, we should. Sometimes though, we should just step aside and let that part of our thinkbox that we so rarely get to see, take us to places where we don't even know we want to go.... or should go whether we want to or not.

We all have those places. The places where we don't let others into. The places where we can go and be totally alone in a crowded room. The places where our own insecurities wait and feed and get stronger and stronger until we go there to confront them. The places where we can relive our childhood, like my friend Paul did. Those places where we plan and design our lives and see the results of such planning before we take even the first physical step to implement that plan. These are not necessarily bad places to go. They can be, if we're not careful, but with a little nudge in the right direction, and close monitoring, we can put our thoughts in the driver's seat, take a firm grasp on the wheel, and we're just along for the ride.

We can do this anywhere too. In your car (you still have to watch the road and obey traffic rules), in bed at night, in front of the television, even while writing a blog... for me the best place is in front of a good fire.

I have been so lost in a good fire that I didn't notice the other people around getting up one by one and retiring for the night. My entire being was inside those flames, sorting out my life, making plans for the future, remembering the past... and always ready to stand back up and move a log or two when I saw the possibility for improvement, always a possibility for improvement.

Fire Pit Therapy.

It's been a while since I have given myself the gift of a good fire session, and I'm feeling it. I'm overdue. I will have one very soon, and probably post the results here... no promises though. Anyone who would like to join is invited... we might have hot dogs and marshmallows or even make s'mores. There might be some music, there might not be. I hope my friend Paul will be there.

At some point though, I will hand the wheel off to the uncensored psyche, and let myself be taken to the unknown (or at least, the not recently visited) places of wonder and awe. And I'll be staring into the fire and making adjustments as needed. The light from this fire will help me find my way along the path, and keep me focused on what's important in life.

Without it, I'd probably be a mess.

Until next time...

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Good Friday Message

It's Good Friday. It should a time for reflection for all of us. Reflection of our Saviour, even Jesus Christ. This is the day that matters for each and every one of us. So as we celebrate Easter with family, friends, loved ones... I wish to share this with you. It's the story of Easter as told by Glenn Beck, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and set to the music of Pink Floyd.

Before you turn your nose up at the thought, as I did the first time someone told me about it, give it a listen. It's really well done. If nothing else, it might help with that reflection I mentioned earlier... and I couldn't have told it better myself.

so click here

and then click "continued..." to read along, and I hope you enjoy as much as I do.


Today we're going on a journey.

They say that time itself does not exist as we know it... as we understand it. It only really exists as something called "space time." It's really only a point on a giant map. Something that we can use to find out where we are, or where we've been... or where we're going.

So let's unfold space time and trace our way back... first just a few years.

Now back even farther.

Back farther still... even before Marconi, when the air was silent. Back past the signing the Declaration of Independence, past the age of enlightenment, before Martin Luther hung his protest on the church doors, before Columbus rediscovered the fact that the world was round. We go past Newton, Galileo, the dark ages, the crusades, back to a time before books, when most of the world couldn't read nor write, when history was oral.

We leave this world now where we can hear and see a lone protestor standing in front of a tank in a country on the other side of the planet, and we can see it live. To a world seemingly simple, yet brutal beyond our understanding, where news was spread from mouth to mouth.

We stop here, at approximately Twenty Nine of the commen era.

We stop at a small walled city in the Middle East. It's around ten o'clock at night, a couple of days before Passover. The meals are being prepared, the night's meals already have been eaten and most in the city are asleep. One man, however, is not.

It's strange... he's younger than I am, He's about thirty. He's awake and alone in a garden. His friends who have been with him for several years are just a few yards away. They slumber underneath a star filled sky. They still don't know that even though they sleep, the world is about to wake.

Eleven of twelve men sleep beside a hill... and one man awake.

He couldn't sleep. He knew. He was in a garden, he was in prayer. He was praying about what he knew was yet to come. Praying so hard that blood actually dripped from his pores in the place of sweat.

Back at the hill, when he returned, he begged his friends to wake up and pray with him. They didn't know how serious his request really was.

He said "Why will you not rise and pray with me?"

He asked this again before returning again to the garden alone. He knelt there on rocky soil, his hands clasped, his head bowed as twilight dew draped his neck. The horizon was still in black. He prayed even harder, for the sky would eventually turn purple, then light blue, and he knew what awaited him.

Back to the hill once more. His friends asleep. He begged "My friends please rise and pray with me. I need you now more than ever." They said they would, but they fell asleep again shortly after he left. The dawn was even closer... and he knew that his time was running out.

Now, over the hill, they march like the flow of lava burning the night's solace. The eleven are surely awake now. They all swear their faith to him, but he knows this isn't really true... they'll weaken and he'll be forsaken. Forsaken by the same men who just swore their undying devotion. The torch lights grow brighter... the hourglass was running low. The clanging of the metal swords and the spears ran over the sound of the march and down each of their spines into a shallow vibration leaving them quivering.

The soldiers approach. He is kissed... and grabbed. Betrayed with a kiss. A kiss and wearing the mask of loyalty. One of the men leaps forward and draws a sword cutting the ear off of one of the soldiers. He raises a hand and he says "No, I will not have this. I will have peace. Take me now, in peace, for this is my purpose. This is my being. This is the reason for my existence."

Now one of them, Peter, strays while his friend is being persecuted for sins he didn't commit. He stands by a fire, denying any relationship he has, as he tries to blend in with the common people. A woman approaches, "Didn't I see you with him?"

Peter says "Surely I don't know him."

"But you're from Galilee!"

For the third time, Peter says "I do not know this man."

Jesus is now dragged back and forth between the two who will determine his fate. They can't really see any crime, yet they still torture and mock him. "You are the king? Well then here is your crown" one says as they give him a crown of thorns and press it into his head.

He stands before the judge who can condemn him for no crime, but it's Passover. He says "You can choose. One will be released, a murderer or the King of the Jews."

Jesus standing silent, his eyes to the ground, is condemned to death.

Jesus now, carries his cross through the stone clad streets, to the place of the skull, the place where he will soon die. His back torn, his head bleeding beneath his thorny crown... the women cry aloud as he passes.

He pauses for a moment, and tells them, "Do not weep for me, rather weep for yourselves."

His mother looks on as huge nails are driven through his hands, and his feet. They raise the cross, and slam it into the ground.

You know, it is at this point where all four writers of the Gospels struggled with the description of the crucifixion, as I did last night. They described it in the only words that I could use... "And they crucified him... and they crucified him."

He now hangs on the cross as the soldiers bid lots for his clothing below. Next to him, two criminals hang. But they're merely tied to the cross. One of them says, "You're the Son of God. Save us now, save all of us." And he did nothing, for he had a purpose. The afternoon passed. His stretched. He wept. He begged for water. They gave him a sponge on a reed filled with vinegar.

In a moment where he showed us he was truly human, he called out. He said "My Father... Why have you forsaken me?"

The sky began to grow dark. It was approaching three o'clock on a Friday afternoon when Jesus spoke once more, and only once. His last words were, "It is finished."

So today, I thank that lone carpenter for dying.

Dying that Friday afternoon... so I may live.

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Normal Life Update

The rains have stopped and it's a beautiful day. The water is receding, but the floods had contaminated our wellwater for a few days. We're all safe and sound and starting to get around normally again.

The remodel project is going well. Lacinda (the wife) had to go out to Utah for a visit while we did some demolition work. The mold in the walls was being released and she got pretty sick. We're all done with that now, at least enough so that she can come back home, and Dean (the husband) is really happy about that. I am too, I can't imagine Sheri going away for 6 weeks or so like that. I would really like to be there when Lacinda gets home to see her reaction when she views her new home for the first time, but I think I'll let the family have that moment to themselves.

We are waiting for the Edens to get here this evening... I'm so excited to see them again. My dad and I are going to bid on an auction house in the morning. If we can get it, we'll turn it into a rental. Other than that, there's not much on the horizon for us. We need something to happen and soon. I might have to go get a real job.

Sheri is doing extremely well at Cold Water Creek. She really loves her job, except it's about an hour away in Branson. I really like the clothes they have too. Very colorful and bright. Better than Pendleton, in my opinion. She really soured on Pendleton too... they told her all sorts of things that never happened. Too bad too, but everything for a reason, right?

Anyway, nothing much happening for the time being. So I'm off to start my Easter weekend... after I post my Good Friday / Easter message.

Have a safe and wonderful Easter weekend.

Love to you all from the Henrys.

Until next time...

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Love Story - The Beginning

Man, it's raining like crazy here today. All the creeks and rivers are flooded well beyond their banks and we're looking at somewhere around 5 to 7 inches of the stuff by the time it's over. Yucky day indeed, but that's life in the Ozarks I suppose.

I shall put away my nefarious tendencies for the day and speak of a subject that's very near and dear to me.

As we approach the Easter weekend, and anxiously await the arrival of our friends, the Edens, on Friday, Sheri and I are fortunate enough to be spending some quality time together in the manner of "Spring Cleaning". I mention Sheri quite a bit, and there are several references to her and her interests on the front page of this very blog. She's not only my wife of almost six years now, but she has become my absolute best friend. I couldn't even imagine not having her to talk to and to run things past. I truly believe that all the experiences this life has to offer would take on a dull and dreary appearance without her by my side.

Not everyone knows how Sheri and I came together. A great many things had to happen first before she and I were to meet, but then that seems to be the case with most couples. Does anyone really grow up knowing all the while who they will eventually meet, fall in love with, and marry? I didn't. Looking back it all seems to make sense on some levels... but at the same time it's a strange sequence of events that led us each to finding each other. Coincidence? I dunno. Let me know what you think.

Back in 1996 I discovered American Online (AOL) while living with my folks in Houston, Texas. I met some people in a "Thirtysomething" chat room and quickly developed a list of friends that I had never met. These were new and exciting times for me as the Internet opened up new worlds and possibilities for me.

I went to AOL gatherings across the country, my first in Harrisburg, PA being my favorite of all of them. I met people from all walks of life and became romantically involved with a few along the way. They never worked out in person as well as they did online, and I eventually met a girl who lived in Richmond, VA. After doing the long distance / online thing for a few months and finding out that we were actually compatible in person, I decided to move to Richmond so we could pursue things in a more normal fashion.

Well, things went well for a while but then that too went by the wayside. Several reasons for the breakup but it was amicable for the most part and I have no regrets. At the very least it got me out of Houston.

So there I was in Richmond, alone and far from my family, and very leery of doing the online thing anymore. I was still chatting with some of the old crowd and certainly not looking for any more romance for a while. I decided that having been single again for a dozen years or so after my first marriage ended, I was better at being alone and in the blissful state of bachelorhood.

Around Labor Day in 1999 however, there was someone in that chat room that I hadn't noticed before and we struck up a conversation. The screen name was "ClozAddict" and I was understandably concerned that this might be someone requiring large amounts of high maintenance, to say the least, so she didn't fall into the "possible romantic suspect" category right away. She mentioned however that she had to go make spaghetti, and of course that got my attention. Never one to shy away from sketti talk, I told her that I should make a pot of sauce for her some day. When she returned, (under the different screen name of Clozwyz), she asked what I was doing and not immediately putting the two names together I responded with something brilliant like "Uh... talking to someone I don't know." After she told me who she was, we talked online for several hours, and then on the phone for a while more. I can't say that it was "love at first sight" for me, but there was something about her that I really liked...

After a few weeks of chatting online and on the phone, we made our plans to meet. I flew to Michigan and I finally got to make that pot of sauce for her. She reciprocated by baking me an apple pie (which was served with generous portions of vanilla ice cream on top) and laughing at me for watching an Andy Griffith Show marathon on television.

We also did the long distance thing between Richmond, VA and Lansing, MI for several months, traveling to the other's location, meeting each other's families, etc... and then began discussing who should move where. I really didn't want to move again and she seemed to want to get out of Michigan so it seemed to be a no-brainer. She would make the move.

She was working for Pendleton Woolen Mills as the store manager there in Lansing and she went to the corporate meetings in Portland, OR and discussed with her superiors about the possibility of relocating to Richmond and was told that they were looking very seriously at Richmond. "That's the number one place we want to open a store." she was told. She then informed them of her desire to open that new store and the wheels were set in motion for the Richmond Pendleton with Sheri as the manager.

I was continuing my work with the courier company I had been working for and enjoyed following the progress of the strip center construction with great interest. When the building was completed and the time had arrived for the move, we began our life together in Richmond in June of 2001.

This was a wonderful time for the two of us and as time went by I felt more and more like the three of us (Sheri, Rebecca, and I) could have a real shot at building a life together. We dated and got to know each other better and better with the passing weeks and months. In December, I bought her a series of gifts and gave them to her for Christmas. The first was a will preparation software package, the second was a stuffed female sheep, the third was the movie "There's something about Mary", and finally a t-shirt that said "It's all about ME. (it's a puzzle)

Ignoring all my warnings of how difficult I could be to live with, she accepted.

We set the wedding date for the following June (2002) and made plans to be married in an informal ceremony wearing Hawaiian clothing in my parents' back yard. Family and a few friends were in attendance for the wedding and it will always be at the top of my list of happiest days in my life. We were married by Bishop Gifford Nielsen under an arch in the back yard with Jessica, Justin, and Rebecca all standing with us. Sheri and I were barefooted as was Rebecca. We had leis flown in from Hawaii and afterwards there was Hawaiian type food galore.

It's been a wild ride for the both of us with ups and downs and twists and turns, but I consider to this day her acceptance of that goofy proposal to be the best thing that's ever happened to me. What a lucky guy I am. I'm looking forward to many years of life together and especially to our retirement when we can sit together on the porch and read to each other and really enjoy each other's company. I do enjoy her now, but life has a tendency to get in the way on most days. So I can be patient because all of the plans I have for the golden years have her prominently in the picture.

That is what helps me stay focused and keeps me a happy, happy man.

I love you Sheri, you'll always be my greatest love.

Until next time...

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Sheri's "A Better You"

Hey everyone

I want take a few minutes and fill you in on something that Sheri is doing.

For many years before we left Richmond, and even before she and I met when she was living in Michigan, Sheri was involved with a project that she was very fond of doing on an almost daily basis. It was called "A Better You" and it went something like this.

She gathered quotes, articles, and other items that were uplifting, informational, inspiring, etc... She sent several of these out in an e-mail every day to literally hundreds of people (including me) who had signed up for the service. She did this with no compensation in return; except for the knowledge that she was sending love and enlightenment out into the world to persons she both knew and didn't know alike.

When we moved to Missouri though, we had to wait a few weeks before we had internet access, and she lost her e-mail list. Too much time had elapsed and all of the sent e-mails were no longer in her AOL mailbox. She was truly devastated. There was really no way to retrieve the e-mail list either. We looked at some of the e-mails I had saved but she would always send it to herself and "blind cc" the rest of the list. That way, everyone wouldn't be inundated with e-mails should someone wish to comment on something she'd sent. So, not having the list anymore, we thought "A Better You" was gone for good.

We thought.

While I was looking for an e-mail on my old Comcast account Sunday morning, I came across that folder titled "A Better You". For some reason I clicked on one of the e-mails (there's about 175 in that folder) and the first thing I saw was the list of e-mail addresses in the "sent to:" area. I couldn't believe it. I was as surprised as I could be and I copied the list for her and couldn't wait to call and tell her what I had found. Self promotion sure helps sometimes, you know. We later went through every single one of those e-mails I had saved, but that one that I clicked on was the only one... the only one... that she had forgotten to "blind cc". What a break... and after all this time, too.

Therefore, she has decided to resume "A Better You", only in a new format. In keeping up in the 21st century, she has set up a blog where she will post the same kinds of things she did before. She is so very excited to be doing this again, and I can't help but to be thrilled for her. I have added a link in the "Sites Worth Visiting" section of my own page here, or you can click Sheri's "A Better You" to visit.

So go check it out... I hope you'll enjoy it and add it to your favorite places and check back often.

I think you'll be glad you did.

Until next time...

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A Goat, A Tree House, and the New York Yankees


If you have kept up with my postings, you already know how I feel about them. When all of my family gets together several times a year, there are stories that inevitably and mysteriously make an appearance in our conversations.

People ask me from time to time why I am the way I am. How did I get this way? There are a number of plausible theories worth consideration, but if you’ll allow me a few minutes, I’ll tell you my own theory.

In this day and age of Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Jenny Jones television where the guests play “Let’s see how many people I can blame for my rotten life”, it should come as no surprise to you that I intend to blame my father for the way I’ve turned out. Don't get me wrong here... that’s not a slam on my father; it’s just the way I choose to see things.

I guess I should give a little background first. My father was a large man; at least he was to me when I was 8 years old. He frightened me sometimes, not because he was a violent man, he wasn’t. Not because he was abusive to my mother or me, he wasn’t. He did have a rather short fuse on a large temper, but even that wasn’t it, really. He worked long hours, and when he did come home, it took a while for me to get comfortable with him again. Loving? Yes. Providing? You bet. Intimidating? Most definitely. But I loved him, and I knew he loved me. And he was (and still is today) funny without always meaning to be.

This was a man who in 1960, just a few months before I was born, informed my mother that he knew everything that the newly formed Henry Family would ever need to know about politics and sports and to prove it, made a friendly wager with Mom on the upcoming World Series between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates by announcing “I’ll take the Yankees, who do you want?” Her reply was something along the lines of “Who else is playing?” The birth of their first born (namely, me) a few short months later almost didn’t happen when the Pirates won game 7 by the score of 10 to 9, and took the series.

All in all though, I’m happy to have him as Dad… doesn’t mean I’m not going to blame him for the following though.

Anyway, back to the real story at hand… this is the story of a wonderful family pet. When this story is inevitably mentioned at family gatherings and other large crowded situations, it for some reason sends my sister Linda into a tirade of bitter and angry screaming towards me. She still remembers how I tormented her when she was just a little girl. I was a mean kid, all right. I tried to explain to her that this was, is, and ever shall be a natural thing for an older sibling to do. Older sisters are mean to younger brothers too, I suppose to establish some sort of pecking order in the home. Boys on the other hand, do it just out of meanness... I mean, come on, we’re boys. We actually grow out of it around the time we start growing facial hair, and our voices deepen, and our IQs dip a little, but it was just routine for me. It was something that was so much a part of me, as ordinary and acceptable as the thought of death in an automobile accident every time I put on clean underwear in the morning, a thought for which I can thank my mom, of course.

Anyway, Linda for some unexplainable reason tends to become very agitated at the very mention of the following incident, so naturally, I would like to share that story with you today.

We lived in Austin Texas, up on the north end of town, in a 3 bedroom ranch-style home on a rather large lot. Well, it seemed large to me, but then when you’re eight years old, many things of ordinary size seem large. The front yard was well manicured, nice green grass, flower beds that my father built, a front porch that ran the entire length of the house, complete with a happy little porch swing on one end where I would spend time with my friend Payson eating oranges.

The back yard however was another story. It consisted mostly of pea gravel… little stones worn smooth by years of tumbling in streams or rivers, and it comprised the bulk of our backyard landscaping. Not a huge problem to a child who was not fond of shoes though, but still not as easy on the toes as grass.

The back yard wasn’t completely devoid of grass though, as up through all that pea gravel grew little tufts of the stuff here and there in just enough places to make it look unkempt and a little disheveled and splotchy. Well, we couldn’t have this, could we? My father would take the lawnmower from tuft to tuft and would spend about 3 seconds of hard labor mowing each little patch down. The hard part was pushing the mower around on all that gravel… kinda like trying to push a chain.

Then one day my father, being an educated man, had a better idea. He drove off in his car after announcing that he was tired of dragging that lawnmower across the gravel and that he would be back in a few hours. We gave this ominous warning its due consideration by going on with our normal activities and not giving it another thought until we heard him honking the horn from down the street, and we all gathered on the well manicured front lawn to see. He came slowly down the street with what appeared to be, and we couldn’t believe our eyes that it actually could be but it certainly looked as if it was and as he pulled into the driveway it most assuredly looked more and more as if it might be and when he stopped and opened the car door and we got a closer look it definitely turned out to be, yes it was… a small but full grown mostly white Mexican pygmy goat, about 20 inches tall, complete with horns atop the head and a hungry look on his little goat face. Dad could have come home with Elvis, and we wouldn’t have been as dumbfounded.

So it was then and there that we first met Billy (obviously not his real name, his identity has been changed to protect the innocent). This was my father’s answer to the back yard grass / pea gravel problem. Makes sense, right? Goats eat grass after all, don’t they? Sure they do.

Well Billy did his job very well. He ate the grass… he ate the bark off the trees… he ate our toys… he ate the barn… he might have eaten our hunting dogs but they were in kennels. The only thing he couldn’t eat was the chain link fence that kept him separated from the rest of the neighborhood, (and probably kept our family out of court at the same time). And of course he turned the backyard into a mess.

Now those of you who may be eating in front of your computer right now while reading this will notice how delicately I’m covering this area… let’s just say that one might think that there would be quite a bit of new grass growth from all of that new fertilizer in the back yard. There wasn’t. It was just a mess.

Our only refuge from Billy was the tree house. My dad and I built it, which is to say he built it while I watched with very little interest in the building process. My job was to hand him a hammer, or a drink of water, or something of equal importance. It was about 10 yards from the back door, very close to the roofline of our house (which presented its own set of problems), and about 10 feet off the ground. I’m not sure of the square footage of this new dwelling, but somewhere around 25 sq. feet might be close…. 5 by 5-ish. There was a railing all the way around except where the entrance into the abode was, and the steps leading up to said entrance were carefully designed and crafted by nailing 2 ft. sections of two by fours to the tree trunk. In other words… it was perfect, the bestest tree house in the history of tree houses.

I loved the tree house. I would take my sister Linda (yes, that’s her real name), up there and we would have a fine lunch of PB&J sammiches and chips and cookies and milk, while safely out of reach of the all-eating Billy.

Now, Billy was another pet to me and he and I became fast friends. We respected each other. I respected his ability to eat anything and everything that I was careless enough to leave within his reach, and he gained a respect for me that only comes from torment and bullying. I was as mean to that goat as I was to my sister… well, maybe not quite because we were friends after all, but pretty close. It was all with love though… as much love as an eight year old could muster anyway.

Linda, on the other hand, was terrified of the horns. I’m not really sure how she felt about Billy himself, but the horns sent her into a frenzied panic anytime she saw them. So when Linda wanted to go up into the tree house for an afternoon tea party with her vast collection of dolls or some such other lunacy, she would begin the journey from the back door to the tree by asking her older and most loving brother, “Lynn, will you hold the horns???” This was akin to scraping fingernail across a chalkboard because my name always came out sounding like “Leeeeee-uuhhnnn”. It makes me cringe even to this day, some forty years later.

But… being the wiser, stronger, and loving older brother, I was always happy to assist my weaker younger sister in anything she required. I would spend a few moments calculating the odds, which means I was wondering where Mom was, and I knew it was about time for her afternoon movie, so she wouldn’t know what was happening in the back yard for quite some time. If the truth were known, she would probably be grateful that we weren’t in the house so she could watch this movie.

Oh, you know the type of movie… one of those 4 hour movies that they’ll show one after another these days on The Lifetime Network. One of those dreadful problem movies that mostly women like. One of those movies where the hero, usually a woman, not always but about 98% of the time, a woman, this beautiful and talented and smart and good and kind and happy or so it seems woman, is the star, but she has some problem that she cannot talk about because she was brought up in an atmosphere of lies… and it can be any sort of problem… she can be a kleptomaniac, she could be a workaholic, she could have an eating disorder, she could be obsessed with trees, she may be just not getting enough sleep, or fiber in her diet, or maybe she caught leprosy on a vacation trip and doctors cured it with a vaccine but now she’s still afraid that her employers and her family will find out about it and she does not know how to cope with it… and so this problem eats at this woman all through act two of the movie, and her life gradually comes unraveled and she alienates all of her friends and her family… and there’s the scene in which someone who loves her is standing in the doorway of her darkened bedroom, where she’s lying face down on the bed and the loved one is saying “What’s WRONG??? Why can’t you tell us???” and she says “Nothing is wrong… why can’t you just leave me alone???”… but she’s suffering from this terrible, terrible, terrible problem and one day down to her last few dollars, filthy, disheveled, she goes into a bakery to buy a raspberry Danish for herself, and as she’s walking into the bakery, a man with an armload of fresh bread is on his way out, and she makes way for him and as she does, she brushes against the bulletin board that is there in the entry and a slip of paper falls to the floor, and she bends down to pick it up it’s the notice of a therapy group devoted to this very problem that she is suffering from, and they meet once a week and tonight is the night they meet in the lobby of an abandoned theater, and it’s only 3 blocks away, so she goes over to the abandoned theater, where the meeting has just started, and there’s only one seat left and it’s right in front, so she comes in and sits down, and one person after another stands up and talks about this very problem that she has suffered from her whole life and never could bring herself to talk about… this tree obsessed, eating disordered, kleptomanic, workaholic, sleep and fiber deficient recovering leprosy problem that she thought nobody else had but her… and they’re talking openly and frankly about their problem, and tracing it back to it’s roots, which is an emotionally distant father… all of our problems go back to emotionally distant fathers… they’re the cause of all of it… and she’s weeping… and everybody’s crying… so she stands up, this beautiful heroine, and she tells about her problem and talks about her father who was SO distant, who was SO ungiving… and as she talks, she sees a young man sitting in the back row, and tears are running down his cheeks… for HE suffers from this same tree obsessed, eating disordered, kleptomanic, workaholic, sleep and fiber deficient recovering leprosy problem as well, and she sees the hurt in his eyes, and this is the man who she will love, and she will marry, and they’ll be happy together… and the night before they marry, they walk along the beach holding hands, and they say “whatever happens, we’ll always tell the truth, we’ll always love each other, for who can truly love and understand us except the people who have gone through the same things and suffer from the same problem… that we… suffer… from.” Ending credits and sappy music commences.

And that (or one just like it), was probably the movie Mom was watching in the front room of the house. Who wouldn’t feel safe?

So after careful analysis of the situation, which took all of 2 seconds, I coaxed the goat to me, planted my feet, and dutifully grabbed onto those horns like a bicycle’s handlebars to allow my sister access to the tree house. Linda would ease out of the safety of the house, and walk towards the tree, one cautious step at a time, carefully… carefully… never taking her eyes off those horns. I strained with all my might and held on for all I was worth. Sweat began to pour out of my body, my muscles ached, my hands cramped… the whole world became a blur and still I held on. But this was no ordinary goat. This goat, our own little Billy, was surprisingly proficient in mathematics, for he knew exactly the halfway point between the back door and the tree, and he was patient. Oh, he put on a good show of trying to escape, but it wasn’t until Linda reached that half-way point in her journey that Billy would see his opportunity, wrench his head violently from side to side causing me to lose my vice-like grip on the horns, break free from my grasp, and then brother... the chase was on. I really did do my best to hold onto him, you know. I softly muttered “oops” to no one in particular, acted all surprised at the events unfolding before my eyes, and ran up the ladder and into the tree house to have a better view of the forthcoming action.

You really had to be there to truly appreciate the moment. This was better than any roadrunner cartoon. Linda screaming, the goat bleating that goat noise, and me laughing so hard from my perch up in the tree house that I became fearful of losing consciousness. Billy could run, and I mean run fast… that dude could easily outrun even me. Me ! ! ! I knew that my little sister whom I loved so much was never in any real danger though. Even though Linda with her short little stubby 5 year old legs was no match for him, he just seemed perfectly content to stay right behind her and only chase her around and around and around the yard, chomping and gnashing his teeth mere inches from her rear-end... for dramatic effect, I suppose.

I was safely and securely positioned in the best place to watch this harmless bit of fun take place before my very eyes, contemplating the marketing possibilities of selling tickets to the other neighborhood kids, and all the while feeling calm and at ease with the world, due to the knowledge that Mom’s movie probably hadn’t even gotten to the raspberry Danish part yet.

So… you can imagine my surprise when I heard the back screen door swing open and then slam shut, and I looked down to see my mother with her apron on and her hands covered with flour looking up at me with a look on her face that made me really believe that my life would soon be over. This comedy I had created in my own back yard had just taken a hard turn toward a Greek tragedy. All I could dare to hope for was a quick and relatively painless death at the hands of my mother. Not likely though.

She began by screaming at Linda to run toward the sound of her voice, holding the door open with one hand while brandishing a rolling pin or some other instrument of self defense against goats in the other. I saw an opportunity to redeem myself so I climbed down to rescue my sister whom I loved so much. Wouldn't you know it though, they had just passed under the treehouse by the time I reached ground level (timing is everything). After they made that last lap around the yard, I jumped between them, wrestled Billy down to the ground, and saved the day once again. Once Linda was safely within the confines of the house, Mom demanded that I get my “soon to be extinct butt inside the house this very instant ! ! !” This was, of course, laced with the sort of language we have learned to censor from our vocabulary in this age of politically correct enlightenment. I'm still not sure what she was so upset about... I had just saved the day, hadn't I?

But, being the ever obedient child, I responded to her request by placing myself inside the house as “quickly” as I could manage. She informed me (somewhat incoherently, I might add) through clenched teeth, and barely contained urges to fling that rolling pin at my head, that I would be spending the rest of my natural life locked in my room, and followed that up with the one thing this eight year old boy never, ever wanted to hear, “…and you will wait there until your father gets home.” Oh no ! ! ! Not that. If Mom wasn’t gonna kill me, then Dad surely would.

I went to my room and laid down on my bed. I suppose that if I were to write out my will during the few short hours I had left on this earth and left everything to Linda, they might go easier on me. Upon surveying the contents of my room, however, I concluded that there were not enough items of real intrinsic value or worth to make such a difference. My only other option was to hope for leniency. I wisely spent my time in front of the mirror practicing looks of pathetic and pitiful remorse. I got good at it too. Even managed to whip up a few tears on command.

The very look on my face said it all with clear precision.

Oh Mother and Father, and most of all, my sweet cherished sister whom I love more than life itself… I am so sorry the goat slipped through my grasp and caused you such anguish and humiliation. I regret that I am so weak and cowardly that I ran up a tree and out of harm’s way instead of attempting to save the very being that brings so much joy and happiness to my life. Oh, if I only had it to do all over again, I would gladly throw myself between my helpless sibling and the ferocious man-eating goat. Oh Mother and Father and most of all, my sweet cherished sister whom I love more than life itself… can’t you feel the pain and suffering in my soul for having created this time of unpleasantness in our family… can’t you understand that I am lower than the dust under your feet for allowing myself to be weak and unworthy of your love… can there not be even the smallest of the remotest of possibilities that I might live another day to enjoy my place in this, the best family in the history of families?”

That should do it. That’s the look I was able to achieve after hours of face time in the mirror. I could relax now. That look along with a few well timed tears would certainly spare my life.

But then Dad got home and everything went out the window. I could hear the sobs of my sister through the walls. This was an obvious ploy for sympathy, for just mere moments before she had been playing cheerfully in her room next to mine with her dolls. I could feel the heat coming off my mom’s face as she described in her own exaggerated and inaccurate way the events of the day. I could sense the three of them coming through the living room, down the hall, and gathering at my bedroom door with glazed looks in their eyes the way a family will gather around a table with that same glassy-eyed stare at a plump Thanksgiving turkey. Oh man, I was doomed for certain.

They barged in and I feebly attempted the look of pathetic and pitiful remorse that I was so good at a few short minutes before. The look failed me miserably… I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to cry now or at the end… was my head up or were my eyes cast to the floor… did my eyebrows raise or lower during my rehearsals… and what about my bottom lip? How far out was it supposed to be? I couldn’t remember what I’m supposed to do ! ! !

I was forced to mumble some kind of apology to my sister, and then she was excused. My dad commenced to lecture me about loving my sister and how she could have been injured and wouldn’t I miss her if something happened to her and blah… blah… blah… Mom clenched her teeth and her fists while I cowered from her death stare and tried to focus on the lessons at hand, and then she explained to my father that she would be leaving me to his mercies and that she hoped she could set one less place at the dinner table from now on. She gave me one more look that said to me, “I told you… you either deal with me or you deal with your father. He’s going to kill you now and I’m not going to stop him this time.” And then excused herself from my presence for what I thought was the last time. She didn’t even kiss me good bye.


After she left, Dad looked at me for what seemed like an eternity, surely to remember what I looked like after I was gone. He sat down on the bed and motioned for me to sit next to him. I meekly took my place by his side and waited. What would it be? The belt? A shotgun blast? The guillotine? Would he just take me out in the woods and return to my mother with my heart in a bag as proof that he’d taken care of “the problem”? I waited.

And finally it came.

He leaned over to me, put his arm around me, looked down at me, and said in a soft but scolding tone, “Son, why can’t you ever do that when I’m at home? Why do I always have to miss it???” I looked up at him and he wasn’t smiling, but neither was there any real anger in his face.

Hope! There was hope that I might actually survive. I’m not going to die this day.

He then gave me a gentle reminder about goat safety and trying not to send my sister to the hospital with multiple lacerations and contusions, then he told me to stay put for a while and keep practicing that look I was obviously going for, and he would call me for dinner if he could get my mom settled down a bit. If not, he would slip a little something under the door to me when she wasn’t paying attention.

It was over. Man, was I ever relieved beyond description. I could once again look forward to a fulfilling, rewarding, and productive life of happiness and success. All was right with the world once more. My sister probably would eventually forgive me, (still waiting for that to happen) my mom eventually started feeding me again, and after a few days locked in my room for this trumped up charge of supposed transgression and lapse of good judgment, I was allowed outdoors again to resume my childhood.

Like I said earlier... I don’t know how anyone in their right mind could ever find fault with my actions. Was it not my father who encouraged such behavior by not killing me when he had the chance? Does my sister not share in the responsibility of the day’s events by putting me in such a no-win situation?

In hindsight, maybe I could have handled things a little differently, but in any case, I learned my lesson. I was after all, an intelligent boy with a decent IQ. I was eight so I was eventually able to discern right from wrong. I loved my sister and I cherished her place in our family, so I took it upon myself to be her protector and guardian… until, that is, when a week or so later, I heard “Leeeeee-uuhhnnn… will you hold the horns???”

See? Not my fault.

Until next time…

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