Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Maji's Journal--entry 5


I cannot ever remember being so tired or lonely. The excitement we felt during the early part of our journey has quickly turned into dull routine. Our caravan moves slowly and scenery seldom changes.

I miss home and family. My home life has a comfortable routine. My wife knows the things that please me. My children bring humor into dull, ordinary days. All of that seems so long ago. My traveling companions and I are isolated, moving along a vast wasteland.

Some of our servants, men hired for this journey, have begun to bicker with each other. It is understandable. The heat of the day makes it difficult to sleep. The men are tired and tempers frequently show themselves.

Our caravan is made up of many different types of people. Some of those who work for hire do not share our vision. They are inspired by the high wages we have promised them.

Other workers do understand that this is a special journey. We find these people easier to trust.

Our hired guides do their job well. They travel through the land with almost the same ease as the camels. Each man has his purpose.

We must be careful to cooperate with each other to ensure our survival. The success or failure of our mission may be determined by our ability to work together as a team.
* * * * *

Scripture for meditation: I Corinthians 12:14

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dixie Belle

A little boy, covered in mud, chased her in the storm. The small black ball of fur darted through the rain, enjoying what she thought to be a game of Tag. The eight-year-old was in a serious chase and slid into puddles with each turn. He finally caught the little pup, but she wiggled through his fingers and ran away again. That was the first time I saw the Dixie.

The little puppy grew into what seems to be a Labrador-boxer mix. It appeared that she also grew out of her family. Dixie was relegated to living tied to a tree between our property and the property of our next-door neighbor. The busy mother of three children often forgot to feed and water the dog. I got in the habit of filling her bowl with water and Waggner’s (see previous post) leftover dog food. When it rained, my son or I would sneak over to her chain and let Dixie loose so she could find shelter from the (often icy) storms. I called the humane society more times than I can remember. Nothing happened.

Eventually the neighbors move. Dixie was left behind. I changed her name to Dixie Belle to give her a little more elegance. After all, the last six months that she spent on a chain were very undignified.

Dixie Belle spent the next month or so on my back deck, staring at the house next door. It was as though she couldn’t believe the family she loved so much deserted her. Whenever a potential tenant would check out the house, she rushed to the fence and whimpered for her old family to come and find her.

I watched her and remembered what it was like to be in love with the wrong person. I remembered holding up my end of a relationship, patiently waiting for my needs to be met. Disappointments abounded. Then the relationship was over. I felt alone and abandoned, refusing to believe he would really just let our relationship end. Like Dixie Belle, I wished for the happy ending that never seemed to come.

I eventually moved on. I built a new life and learned to be more selective about the people I let become a part of my life. Dixie Belle eventually accepted Adam and me as her new family, too. It looks like both of us got a second chance for a happy ending.

Thursday, September 25, 2008



There is an old Biblical story where Jesus teaches that the person who is the most grateful is the person who was once was the most needy. I learned joy and gratitude from a throw away dog.

My son, Adam, and I were in formal wear, coming from an event in Memphis when we saw her. A well-lit gas station is where the emaciated, black Labrador Retriever, covered in ticks, was begging. She looked up at me with soulful brown eyes.

After questioning employees at the service station, Adam and I shoved the dog into the back seat of my car. We fed her, watered her, and introduced her to our spotted terrier, Chili Pepper.

Most animals fight baths, but not this dog. I hosed her down and removed the ticks. I am sure the process was painful. Rather than fight, the dog laid her wet head in my lap and gently put a paw on my leg. This animal was grateful for my care.

We all ready had a lap dog and a hedgehog. The last thing I wanted was this massive animal. While I called every "no kill" shelter in the phone directory, this dog was busy making a home in my back yard. She chased away the squirrels and left gifts of dead moles at the back door. This dog was filled with gratitude.

The instant she saw us, the dog wagged her tail with such joy she often knocked objects over. Adam named her Waggner.

After about 2 weeks it was clear that Waggner was ours. I resisted because my life was all ready complicated enough. A young Labrador Retriever is an active, high maintenance animal. I grew to resent being a caregiver to such a big dog.

"God, why do I have to put up with Waggner?" I prayed. "I didn't want to keep her. I was perfectly happy with the pets I all ready have. Am I supposed to learn something while I care for this dog?"

It took two years for Waggner to outgrow her destructive puppy nature. She settled down to become a loyal, faithful, loving pet. Waggner spent time in the wild and now she had a home. It didn't matter whether we left doors or gates opened, Waggner knew what the world had to offer. She had no desire to stray.

I knew I would always be welcomed home. Waggner followed me throughout the house, content to lay at my feet when I worked on the computer. She was afraid of thunder but long suffering with Chili Pepper's temper tantrums.

Waggner was about 8 years old when she died of liver failure. Later we heard news reports about tainted dog food and liver failure. The warning came too late for Waggner.

Throughout the illness that Labrador wagged her tail whenever we checked on her. Waggner truly taught me about joy and gratitude. I will always be thankful that I found her.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chili Pepper

Does Not Play Well With Others

Not long after I moved into my first home, a friend had to get rid of her black and white spotted terrier mix, named Pepper. A Latino friend suggested that we name her Chili Pepper. That name stuck. Chili Pepper was my son, Adam's, pet. My students thought she looked a lot like the popular PBS terrier, Wishbone.

Chili Pepper was a lovable, well-mannered lap dog. As the only dog, she was the center of attention. She didn't dare tangle with the hedgehog and took great pains to avoid the prickly little animal.

After a year, Adam and I stumbled upon an emaciated black Labrador Retriever. Chili Pepper was startled when the stray ate her dog food. That was when we first discovered that Chili Pepper possessed a white hot temper. As years passed, her temper grew.

Chili Pepper was a great dog, but was also much like some of the students I taught in school. When evaluation time came around, I often checked a box on the report card that read: does not play well with others

Chili Pepper was prone to jealous fits of rage. She would often become so angry at the
Labrador that she would first bark, then yap more forcefully, and finally try to attack the big dog. The laid-back Labrador learned how to intervene. She would place a paw on Chili Pepper's little head and force it to the ground. Then she licked the dog's face until Chili Pepper stopped barking.

Still, Chili Pepper and Adam adored each other. The dog even died at Adam's feet. My son was so overwhelmed that I went ahead and buried the pup in the back yard by the flower garden. For days, the mournful
Labrador sat guard over the grave site.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Magi's Journal--entry 4

Glory of the Star

The new star appeared low in the evening sky. This is a traveling star, shining with such radiance that the other stars seem to fade in its glory.

Before our journey began all the Wise Men met and commissioned the ones selected for the trip. They promised to fast and pray. The quiet of the night sky and the purity of the light stirred our souls.

Our entourage left the safety of the city gates. We quickly learned the difficulty of traveling in the brutal cold of the desert nights. The monotony of the landscape, the blackness of the night, the gentle rocking of the beasts we rode, all made it difficult to remain awake. The early morning hours were the most difficult.

As the sun rose we stopped our travel and set up camp. Then we slept through the day and broke camp at sunset. We packed our caravan and waited for the star to guide us.

That star, whose light was so pure, seemed to cut through the darkness. Never was there an obstacle that could prevent us from seeing it. Even when it was cloudy, the star shone brightly.

Though the trip soon became drudgery, we were daily rejuvenated by the knowledge that there was purpose to our journey. The king we sought would be no ordinary man. He would be wiser and more powerful than any other ruler. In the silence of the night, these thoughts were always on my mind.

* * * * *
Scripture for Meditation: Daniel 13:3

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Our Hedgehog, Sonic

Original name, huh? When my son took his Christmas money to the mall, Adam insisted on buying Sonic. The animal, covered with quills, was surprisingly cuddly.

I was foolish enough to believe that the employees at the mall actually knew how to care for the animals they sold. When I asked about a hedgehog's basic care, I was seriously misinformed. At another pet store I found a book on hedgehogs and was just beginning to learn about Internet search engines. We began to correct some of our mistakes.

Hedgehogs love mill worms. About once a week I brought that special treat home for Sonic. He instantly scooted out from under his box and sucked them down like spaghetti. He could be a very noisy little eater.

All parents know that a child's enthusiasm with a new pet lasts about a week. If the parent doesn't become the primary caregiver, the animal is a goner.

Since Sonic couldn't climb, I sometimes let him run about the linoleum kitchen floor at night. Despite what the pet store employee said, you can't train a hedgehog to stop being nocturnal.

That little animal could hold his own around creatures much bigger. My brother's cat wasn't fast enough to swat him. Sonic rolled into a ball and set his quills up quicker than the cat could pounce. One hiss from Sonic caused both our dogs to turn and run.

Sonic lived about 7 years, longer than the average hedgehog in captivity. It was a very hectic time in my life. Caring for Sonic made me slow down for a few moments each day. He made me smile, too. I enjoyed watching him run. I liked cradling him in my palms and he even learned to respond to my voice.

I walked Sonic in my flower beds, allowing him to dig up yummy insects and slugs. For him it was a breakfast outing. For me it was a way to conclude the day. These walks caused me to pause and wind down, to enjoy just sitting in the grass and watching the setting sun.

When I look back at that busy, busy time where I was overworked and under appreciated by a tyrant employer, I'm sure I accomplished much for the company. Now, it is all a blur. One thing I can remember clearly, however, is sitting in the grass and enjoying the sunsets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Missing Pets

Rusty, Sampson & Lost Sheep

There is a Biblical story called The Parable of the Lost Sheep. In the story, a shepherd cares for 100 sheep. One sheep wanders away. The shepherd is so concerned for this sheep that he leaves the 99 sheep to search for the lost one.

When I was about 8 years old, my dad was stationed by the Marine Corp. to a military base in San Diego. Mom and dad loaded up 4 children, 2 dogs, and a cat into 1 car and 1 truck. Across the country we went.

Somewhere around New Mexico, the orange tiger stripe cat, Rusty, escaped the hotel room and ran away. We spent the day in a strange town, searching for our lost cat. My brothers and I cried all the way to the border when we were forced to leave the lost pet behind. As insane as it was, we even convinced my mother to go back later to search for Rusty again. Rusty was gone forever.

In 1992, I lived in Murfreesboro, TN where I found Sampson. He was a pound puppy who had less than 24 hours before he would be put down. I made him mine. Sampson was a Shepherd/Lab. mix with a heart of gold.

I moved across the state and Sampson had to stay in my mother's backyard until I found a new home. The boy who mowed the lawn was careless and left my mother's back gate ajar. Sampson escaped. My mother called and visited all the animal shelters. I checked roads and back roads but never found him.

My heart was broken. My son's heart was broken. Though we searched and searched, Sampson was never found.

Over the years I've rescued and found homes for several animals. Each time I remember Sampson and Rusty. I hope someone found and cared for them, too.

I don't know much about shepherds or sheep. Still, when I remember the search for Rusty or Sampson, I get the gist of the parable.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another Pet Story

Boo Boo

Boo Boo was the only purebred dog I have ever owned. He was a chestnut toy Pekingese pup--all attitude.

When I was a newlywed, we moved to a tiny house outside of Houston. Totally broke, I busied myself by growing houseplants. African Violets were my favorites.

One day I scolded Boo Boo for some minor offense. He stared at me with his round bulging eyes and loudly sniffed through his pug nose. I knew he was furious with me. Boo Boo strolled over to one of my prized plants and bit off a leaf. He carefully carried the leaf in his mouth, then spat it at my feet. What a gutsy little dog!

Boo Boo was always like that. It just seems that a purebred Pekingese is an animal with an attitude.

I have heard stories that the Pekingese was the emperor's breed and commoners weren't allowed to own them. The Pekingese wasn't even allowed outside China's Forbidden City. If that story is true, perhaps all that royal living accounts for the Pekingese's attitude.

I've met some people who could learn a thing or two from Boo Boo. Life is often unfair. There are times when you have to stand up for yourself. Sometimes asking for respect isn't enough. You have to insist that your boss, co-worker, or even family show you proper respect.

Unfortunately, if you tolerate poor treatment, there are people who will threat you poorly--again and again. Bullies will wear you down and weaken your spirit. You may even have to leave the person or situation all together, just so you can be happy again. It is worth it, though.

Boo Boo died in 1992. He kept his demanding attitude right till the end. I just couldn't help but respect that little dog.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Magi Journal: Entry 3

Preparing for the Trip

Our caravan paused so we may water and rest the beasts of burden. This gives me time to add to my journal. Let me start by recording the way this trip began.

Often we heard rumors of "signs" here or there. An unexplained event called for our investigation. Examining the signs always proved disappointing.

There is much we did not understand about Beltheshazzar’s prophecies, or about the faith of the Hebrews, but we were faithful to the prophet’s words about a messiah and signs of the coming Hebrew king. Whenever we thought we had found the sign, we compared the clues with what Beltheshazzar taught us.

Many of the magi lived and died in frustration and disappointment. They waited their whole lives for a miracle they were destined to miss.

Others looked at each changing season as a potential message from the Creator. These people woke, each day with the expectation of wonder. Every act of nature, every star in the sky was a mystery, a potential revelation from the Creator, waiting to be discovered by humankind.

Time passed. Those who did not believe in Beltheshazzar, or the coming of the king, found our hope a source of humor. Despite their mocking, we persisted in our belief. We prepared for our journey.

Then one day, about a year ago, a thought came to my mind. I felt a strange revelation, that I should prepare my family for a future without me. I realized that I should be most vigilant. Each morning I awoke with great expectation. I made sure that my sons were aware of every aspect of our family’s businesses so they could continue to work without me.

“Why must we discuss business now,” Meshack, my oldest son, rejected my instructions. “You have been waiting all your life to go on some grand journey, but you have never even left the walls of this city.”

“I can’t explain why, buy I feel that my life is about to change,” I tried to explain. Though I owed them no explanation, I still wanted them to understand. “It is similar to the way I felt just before each of you was born. I knew that the day was coming soon. I felt a sense of excitement and knew that my life would never be the same again. That is how I feel now.”

“Will this trip change your life so greatly?” Meshack seemed in awe.

"This will be far more than a simple trip,” I replied, observing my son’s expression. In a lighter tone I added, “If nothing else, when I return, my boys will all be men.”

* * * * *
Scripture Meditation
Daniel 2:20-23

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Texas Spirit

I do have a little of Texas in my blood. I've lived there twice. My son is a Texan. When I heard about Hurricane Ike, my mind returned to thoughts of Hurricane Alicia, a category 3 storm in the early '80s. It devastated Galveston and then hit Houston.

We lived in Harris County and our neighborhood was hit hard. We were flooded for days and the radio, our only contact with the outside world, warned us that the county was under a snake alert. We were without drinking water for 5 days and electricity for 7 days. --But we were Texan, independent.

Electricity was restored to the business area first, so people could return to work. Those who lost cars in the floods found other ways to work. People didn't smell very fresh until the water service was restored. Texans are tough, though. They are an independent breed.

Hurricane Ike is a powerful storm and there is a whole generation that doesn't even know about Hurricane Alicia. Still, I am confident you will all pull through the storm as an example to others. The nation is watching the Lone Star State. You are in our hopes. You are in our prayers.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Things feel strange, with Aunt Linda's funeral arrangements and all. Our yearly family reunion was set for next week. Now, who knows what will happen?

It got me to thinking about my own sisters. Now, I have two brothers that I love, but relationships with sisters is very different. Women are complicated creatures.

Just like my mother's family, there are 3 sisters in my family. We are all three very different people. There are seven years between Diane and me. There are seven more years between Diane and Denise.

When I was little, I watched Captain Kangaroo. Diane got a steady dose of Sid and Marty Croft kids shows. Denise had Sesame Street--the before Elmo era. We were destine to be different, right from the start.

In my imagination I assume that I will be the first to pass on, since I do enjoy being the center of attention. Because I'm the oldest, I was always the first at everything. It was a burden. The normal things kids do is shocking to new parents. By the third child they have become numb.

Linda was the youngest sister in that generation. It made me think, I might not be the first to go. That thought really scared me.

Diane, Denise, and I have gone our separate ways, but holidays, vacations, birthdays, reunions bring us together. I can't, I won't imagine what it might be like if I couldn't see them, pass them an e-mail, or call them.

I need to give Diane an extra hug when I see her at the funeral. I need to pick out a nice card for Denise.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Better Place

I just received some sad news. The youngest of my aunts, Linda Tippitt, died. It was all quite sudden, unexpected. I was supposed to meet her in a couple of weeks, at a family reunion. I didn't even know she had gotten the flue.

I was closer, in age, to my aunt than to my own sisters.
Naturally I am reminiscing and memories are flooding my mind. Much of my family lived in the hills in middle TN. My grandmother's property was 45 minutes away from any town. Camden was on one end of the highway and Holladay was on the other. The countryside is beautiful there, with two state parks. I try to visit the area at least once a year.

I remember when Linda was in high school, getting ready for the senior banquet. My Grandmother designed and sewed a beautiful lacy formal gown for her. She looked like a queen when she left for the event.

Linda attended Holladay High School and was one of about a dozen in her graduating class. She eventually went on to nursing school. Linda never left her little community, though she did move into Camden to be near the hospital.

Over the years Camden has grown. Once life centered around the town square. Then the town got a Super Wal-Mart. Whenever Linda asked about my writing she would ask, "When are you going to get a book into Wal-Mart?" Now, if it should happen, that accomplishment will be bitter-sweet.

I am at that age where I know about as many people on the other side of life as on this side. I like to think that my beloved grandmother is a little happier in Heaven as each of her children join her there. Others might argue that point on some sort of theological grounds. One thing I do know is this, there is a part of Aunt Linda that is in a better place, better even than the beautiful hills of Tennesssee.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Magi's Journal-entry 2

A History of Waiting

We watched, waiting for it for generations. As a child, my father taught me to watch for a sign, just as his father taught him. My father said that, upon his death, it was my duty to take his place in our order of the Magis.

Ours is a cruel world, filled with inequality and inhumanity. People kill without fear of reprisal. The strong and powerful show no mercy toward the weak. There is a great longing in this world for change.

The Magis have devoted their lives to looking for the spiritual. We have devoted our lives to watching for the sign that would indicate the arrival of the one who would come to the world and bring justice.

What we know about this king was taught to us by a great prophet, who was himself a prisoner of war. This man, Beltheshazzar, known by his own people as Daniel, was a seer. He prophesied and feared only one God, the God of the Hebrews.

For all these generations we remained faithful to the task of watching the signs around us, including signs in the sky. Preparations were made for the journey to greet and worship the new king, wherever he is born.

I know how memories can fade and have chosen to chronicle this trip—our search for a new king. I hope to prove myself worthy to travel alongside my noble companions. This journal will help bring back to my family, and my people, a true and accurate account of our trip. This is my duty.

The sun is setting and though it is only dusk, we see it in the sky--the brightest of stars. We have slept very little, but the sign in the sky rejuvenates everyone in our caravan. Thus our journey begins.

* * * * *

Scripture for meditation: Jeremiah 17:7-8

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Classic Movies

Last night I went to a renovated theater, built in the 1920s. During the summer, this theater plays classic movies on Friday nights. The massive movie house was packed with people waiting to see a movie they had viewed dozens of times before. Even the balcony was filled. It made me wonder, what is it about certain movies that causes people to pay to watch them time and time again?

I watched people mouth the words to Casablanca along with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid. People laughed as the same bits. They cheered with every twist and turn of the story, though nothing was a surprise.

I would like to be snooty and say that a have to be seen movie needs to be well made, clever, and well written, but that’s not always true. What’s completely lame to one person might strike a chord with another. That special movie does have to speak to basic human nature. It makes them want to relive the struggle and joy the movie brings. Each viewing is another adventure.

I usually love movies with more story and suspense than special effects. I want a flawless plot line and I like witty lead characters, too. Sometimes the older movies are the best.

It’s amazing, really. You can say certain phrases and people will instantly know the movie. Here are a few I thought of right off the top of my head.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

We’ll always have Paris.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

As you wish.

As God is my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.

Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

Shaken, not stirred.

If you build it, they will come.

Toga, toga.

Go ahead, make my day.

--And for the geeks at heart—

Klaatu barada nikto

Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape.

Luke, I am your father!

I’ll be back.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Smokey & Dusty

The next pets to shaped my life were Smokey and Dusty. Smokey was first. As a pup she was gray. Her fur later turned brown, but we couldn't change her name. My mother all ready had an Aunt Brownie.

Smokey was a small dog so, at first she didn't suffer from the leash laws as Suzie had. She was a member of our family for three years before my father, a U. S. Marine, was stationed in California.

In California, soldiers cared for an abandoned pup that made his rounds begging for food. Then the M.P.s (Military Police) heard about the stray. Dad and the other soldiers chased the dog into the field while the M.P. s tried to track him down. Later dad brought the brown dog, Dusty, home to live with us.

We couldn't give Dusty or Smokey an ideal life, because homes on military bases or most rental properties didn't have fenced-in yards in those days. Often people weren't allowed to install fences on rental properties, either. The dogs spent much of their lives tethered on a chain.

Whenever possible, we let Dusty and Smokey into our house, garage, or fenced-in patio. They were well trained animals and both dogs lived long lives. Dusty, the stray that once outran M.P.s, lived about 10 years and died while exploring a cotton field in TN.

Smokey, the smaller dog, survived a fire that destroyed my mother's home. She ran through the flames and singed off most of her fur, but received only minor burns. When her fur grew back, it was again gray and people said that her name was truly prophetic.

To the best of my memory, Smokey lived 16 years. As a lone dog, she spent those last years indoors. For her, chains were history.

One thing I learned from these dogs is that life in suburbia is much more satisfying and far less complicated when you have a fenced-in yard. Both children and pets have their own safe space. What could be nicer than lounging in a deck chair with a good book while your child tries to teach the dog to catch a Frisbee?

Over the years my biggest regret was often that my fences weren't taller or even more private. Some of you in suburbia know just what I mean.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Pets have always been a part of my life and each pet has changed me. I was reminded of this after a recent conversation with my mother. She reminded me of an incident in TX that still causes me great shame.

To bring the story into proper context, this was a time when leash laws were first written--and tested. Dogs that had once known complete freedom were now fenced in or tied to trees. Just as old west cowboys hated fences that injured their herd, the TX children on our block hated the fence law that kept their dogs from freedom.

As I talked about those days, my mother mentioned how hateful my friends and I were to the Latino family on our street.

"What Latino family," I asked, confused. "I think you're mistaken. I don't remember a Latino family on our block."

--But my mother insisted. "You remember them. They lived right across the street."

For the first time in years I thought about that family. There was a constant feud between all the children on the block and those three children, but it wasn't what mom thought. "I do remember them, all right! You jumped to conclusions if you thought our vendetta was a race thing."

"Then why did you chase them back across the street day after day?"

"Don't you remember what their dad did for a living?" I asked.

She didn't.

"He drove that horrible gray Rabies Control truck. He was a dog catcher," I explained. For a brief moment I was again an angry third grader. "It was probably the same truck that carted Suzie away!"

Suzie was a collie mix, my first dog. In the time when Lassie was still on TV, Suzie was a prize. She used to follow us along the sidewalk and was a part of our play time.

Then the laws changed!

Yes, the adult I am today knows the importance of responsible pet ownership. The child I was believed that there were people who could legally kidnap pet. One of those people lived across the street and taunted us with the gray prison on wheels in his driveway. That man broke up families by taking away helpless animals. All the children on the block agreed that this man had the most evil of jobs.

Fortunately, my dad rescued Suzie from dogie jail. Still, we all knew what happened when people couldn't afford to rescue their dog.

"That poor man was simply trying to provide for his family. He was doing an honest job. That truck might have been his only means of transportation to and from work," my mother thought aloud.

"--And we made them all feel ashamed." I said in agreement. What we perceived as righteous indignation was nothing more than cruelty. Our loyalty to beloved pets caused us to become insensitive to human needs. Righteous indignation is such a deceptive trap.

Suzie was a great pet. Her presence brightened a part of my world. If I were more like that collie, three children might have suffered a little less heartache.

My apologies.

Monday, September 1, 2008


I hope this blog doesn't become too confusing to follow. The Magi's Journal will appear weekly. My own entries will be scattered between these.

In the U. S., Labor Day is considered the unofficial end of summer. Young readers will not remember this, but before the mid. 1980s, public school started right after Labor Day. That meant that family vacation time was over.

As a child, I always looked at autumn as a time of new beginnings. It was a fresh start with new teachers and classmates. It also meant new clothes, supplies, and a book bag. Though I am much older, when the leaves begin to fall and the days shorten, that sense of anticipation always returns.

I am trying to look at the U. S. Presidential election with the same sense of hope. I hope the Presidential candidates are good men with the best interest of all the people in mind.

Today there is hope in the gulf coast. Safety procedures in New Orleans are greatly improved from what was in place three years ago. Hurricane Gustov lost intensity and was downgraded to category 2. That is still a lot of wind, I know. I have ridden out a few hurricanes, myself. It seems that--in general terms--the worst might be over. Hopefully people throughout the gulf coast will return home and find that property loss will be less than expected.