Monday, May 29, 2017

Visiting Our Texas Family

I don't know if it has to do with security.  Strike that!  Of course it has to do with security.  It's like when people set a trap for a criminal and announce that they are leaving for the day, week or some undecided amount of time so someone can go violate your property.  So we don't tell people much about our vacations until after the fact.  Maybe I've just heard too many stories about houses being ransacked or parties being held after posting something on Facebook or someone saying there is a party at your address.  Thankfully, we had a house-sitter/dog-sitter while we were gone.  So now I can tell you a little about our getaway to the lonestar state.

I love seeing family.  I also like visiting a state that I haven't been to before.  So, to get both of those in on a trip, I'm already excited.  Sure, it was a little rainy flying into Austin but the weather was beautiful for the rest of the week.  First stop with Aunt Karen and Uncle Sonny was something called Whataburger.  I'd heard of it before and it had been on my mind.  You see, Las Vegas has been slowly getting these big burger chains coming to town after years of neglect.  White Castle, Smash Burger, Steak And Shake, Shake Shack, Bobby's Burger Palace... even Chick-fil-a are joining our desert cityscape.  So, it was very good.  I may have ate more than I should but I knew I wasn't going to get the chance to do it again for a very long time.

Next stop was a small town called Belton.  I would just call it a beautiful country estate.  Lots of trees, flowers, squirrels, cardinals, hawks, doves all enjoying nature.  The cardinals wouldn't stay still to get photographed.  Karen said it best, "The only difference between weeds and flowers is if you like them or not."  It's very true.  Lots of purple flowering "weeds" strewn amongst Indian paint brush/fire wheel flowers.  We brought some seeds back to try and plant the latter here at home.  Fingers crossed.

Added a few books to our collection, drank a little wine while couple painting and learned a game called Mexican Train.  Sure, the name sounds a bit racist but at some point everyone uses the train and gives it something.  I know there is a painfully drawn out analogy in there somewhere but I'm not going there.  What I do know is that I have to add it to my list of games that I'll sit back and watch or play once in a blue moon.  I came to the conclusion that adding up numbers isn't something I do for fun which leaves me out of a few card games as well.  Understanding what relaxes you and what doesn't is a good way to enjoy your vacation.

I couldn't leave out the graciousness of a man named George.  When he heard that we were coming into town, he told our family, "Bring them over to the party barn and we'll show them some Texas hospitality!"  That man held true to his word.  We were ushered into an amazing structure housing a huge bar, restaurant kitchen equipment and a lot of seating.  If there was a dart board set up, I would not have left of my own free will.  Great food, great friends and good times.  Somewhere in back was a huge garden as well as a chicken coop (with a huge rooster protecting his girls.)  It seems a lot of people have chickens out there.  (Here's a picture of Sonny and Karen's collection that gave us fresh eggs every morning.)  The man has a great eye for classic cars as well.

Never let time get the best of you.  I know, we all push things off.  You have a life ahead of you but, like me, I bet you've said, "I'll go visit (insert name) sometime."  Like good friends, family accepts that you have a life to live in your own wacky way and there is a feeling of reconnection that re-establishes itself seemlessly no matter how you spend the time you are together.  So, go find that time.  Life doesn't seem so short to the living but take advantage of it while you can and get together sooner than later.  We are better for it.  Karen, Sonny, Kendall, Adam, Luka and Sheila (all pictured except Adam) you gave us a great present with your time and I can't express how happy we were to spend our vacation with you.  We miss you already.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Team Identity

I always found it interesting when a new coach comes to a team and says, "We are working hard to build our team identity."  I was late coming to my passion for football and phrases like this always had me scratching my head.  Did they not have an identity, know who they were or decide to change their identity?  I can see how teams known for great defenses, especially given names like Purple People Eaters or Orange Crush, can see this as important.  But I also see a lot of similarities here with our political landscape.

As I said, I was late to football.  I became a little bit of a fan at the end of my high school years because I would see my stepfather screaming at the television during games and wanted to understand.  I would later find out that my father was a football fan but never really talked about it (usually putting a bet in on a game here and there.)  Of course, I would find this out after I had become a fan of his rival team.  Usually, those things are passed down though and changing would feel traitorous.  During these early days, a loss hit hard.  I remember being frustrated enough that I'd just want to curl up and sleep the feeling off.  Sure, it didn't help that it was a team that would have over a decade and a half of bad years to come but you stay with your team.  You actually identify yourself as a (insert team) fan and tell friends, "We lost a close one last week.  If only we could have got the ball to (insert playmaker.)"

So, why do I see a tie to politics here.  Well, there are isn't...well, not just one.  Let's start with identity and what team you are on.  Politics has become a team sport and, if you become active in it, you will have to pick a team (or two.)  A lot of those "teams" take a stance or allow another "team" to take a stance which places them on the other side of that issue.  So, your "team" may be for something but against others... kind of like a football team has a great running back but no quarterback to get the receivers the ball.  The defense may have holes here and there too.  Changing "teams" can easily brand you a traitor.  I was on one such "team" until a few years into college.  As a matter of fact, it could be said that I had another football team as a child because of a Vikings jacket that I was given for Christmas one year (and I have no idea who gave it to me) but never watched a game until years later.  Identity is important.  Isn't it funny how both major parties identify themselves with animal mascots like the elephant and the donkey.

I have never personally voted for anyone that won a presidential election.  It could be that I'm on a losing "team" or that I'm not a "team" player.  I believe the last few elections have also been about identity.  In 2008, I was asked in by a union leader what I thought of their choice to back Clinton or Obama.  I said that, at that time, there was a lot of baggage with the former.  That year was a record voter turn out and many said that they identified with the man because of his race and what having a black president would mean about our nation.  Opposing team differences with his policies were viewed as a problem with his being black.  A friend of mine told me that if a woman ever ran for president, she would vote for her.  A lot of women this year identified with Clinton.  It didn't help that her opponent put his foot in his mouth when talking about women or when old footage of him sharpened that view.  Ads pushed that image and were awarded with a few different reactions: fear, indifference, anger or a sense of over-reach.

Did identity politics affect the vote?  It speaks more to the post-election climate than votes.  The counties that flipped in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that previously would have gone to her were struggling economically and are believed to see a continuation of current policies and new regulations on coal as unbearable.  My friend didn't vote for her despite her earlier resolve.  She believed that she wasn't the right person to represent the gender in the office for the first time due to ongoing legal issues.  Sometimes a coach isn't right for a team.  Sometimes changing coaches every year or two isn't the answer either.  You make a decision there based on the personnel you have or you keep your coach and change your personnel (which can take time.)  It is easier viewing this from the outside because, I said, my team has been bad enough not to make it to the big game for a very long time and my "team" isn't a major party.

Maybe these major "teams" need to build or change their identity.  (I wonder what the Green, Independent, Constitutional or Libertarian animal mascots would be.)  But, I guess, there will be plays in the future for the first Islamic president, first Hispanic president, first gender neutral president or first bisexual president as real issues get ignored.  There is despair out there.  Fear inspired by the ads during the election and mixed with a few organizers have brought some unrest on the streets.  Pain and division of those "teams" don't look to heal soon.  I can only hope that we can put something decent on the field.