Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter Sunday Reflections

When I was a kid I always looked forward to Easter. Easter to me meant an Easter Basket which usually would contain my favorite seasonal candies and at least one small to medium toy that I had been wanting. It was like a very early Christmas stocking in many ways. Easter also meant getting dressed up in nice clothes and going to church and Sunday school after which I would come back home and the family would all gather for an Easter Egg hunt. I was never very good at finding the eggs, but I always enjoyed it anyway. The eggs would contain candies, small toys, or sometimes money. Of course by money I mean a few pennies, a nickel, a dime, or maybe a quarter. I don’t recall the eggs ever having anything larger than a quarter. A dollar bill in those days would have been like a kid today finding a fifty or a hundred. A dollar would buy a comic, a slurpee, and a candy bar. That was a full meal for a kid.

I looked forward to Easter Sunday just like I looked forward to Christmas. I know a lot of kids might have frowned on getting dressed up and going to church, but I enjoyed that part as well. I was in awe of our church’s minister, Rev. John Shadburn. Rev. Shadburn made all the kids feel special and when he smiled at you and spoke to you, he perfectly encapsulated what God’s love meant to a kid. I was so thrilled with Rev. Shadburn and the church at the time that many people assumed I would likely grow up to be a minister as well. Of course the Methodist church doesn’t like to leave a minister in the same church for very long and Rev. Shadburn soon departed St. Paul’s, replaced by Rev. Arnold Belcher. Rev. Belcher was a fine preacher, but he was not the boisterous, larger than life personality that Rev. Shadburn was in my eyes. And where I was favored by Rev. Shadburn, other children were favored slightly by Rev. Belcher. I wasn’t ignored, or shunned, or treated badly. I just wasn’t made to feel as special as Rev. Shadburn made me feel.

I began to lose interest in the church and soon Mom and I quit attending on a weekly basis. Years later after I had graduated and moved away, Mom started going back to St. Paul’s on a regular basis. She had always kept in contact with the church and remained a member of their women’s group. With me gone and living away, she had more time and became a more active member of the church once again. The church had been through a few different preachers since I left, and they had one that Mom truly enjoyed. Rev. Frank Shomo had breathed new life into the church. He had a special children’s sermon each week as well as the sermon geared for the adults. He welcomed everyone and he understood what Rev. Shadburn had known. You have to make the children love coming to church in order for them to hear the message of the church. He also seemed to understand that the young adults and teens were important as well. Where the church let me slip away as a teenager, Rev. Shomo kept his teens and young adults engaged. He understood that these were the people who were starting out in to the world or in the case of the older ones, starting their own families. If you lost them, you also lost the next generation. But Rev. Shomo didn’t forget about the older members either. He respected the elders of the church and celebrated every day that they were still with the church. He was an amazing minister, and he even managed to lure me back into the church to the delight of my mom.

But, as they say, all good things must end. Rev. Shomo was moved to a different church by the Methodist leadership. I also moved to a city 30 miles away from St. Paul’s. I could have used the help of my church family in moving, but no one stepped up and volunteered. My mother fell and broke her hip. She was unable to attend church or the meetings of the women’s group. The church responded by essentially forgetting about my mom except to remind her that her yearly tithed offering was not up to date. No one visited her, and only a couple of the women even called her. The new minister didn’t step up either.

I tried a new church in the town I moved to and was greatly disappointed. There was no children’s program, no youth program, no young adult program. There was nothing to make me look forward to being with these people every Sunday morning, and even less reason for my young children to want to be there. St’ Paul’s never called or wrote to ask me how I was doing either. The last contact I had with St. Paul’s was when I stopped there one Saturday morning for a rummage sale. I bought a few items and my wife and I noticed another item we were going to purchase, but we didn’t have the cash on us. I asked if they would take a check. They very firmly told me no. I am still on the books as a member of the church, but apparently membership does not have its privileges.

I have heard several news reports lately about how the church is losing members left and right. How young people don’t relate to the church and the church’s teaching on homosexuality and other issues. I hear the church complaining about how it is portrayed in the media and blaming that on the declining numbers, and I can’t help but think that they’ve got it all wrong. The people didn’t just give up on the church. The church forgot about taking care of their people.

Advertisements

Don’t Forget To Remember What You Don’t Want To Forget

I remember a lot of what it was like when I was growing up. Oh sure I’ve forgotten a lot of it as well, but there are plenty of things that were just as basic as remembering to breathe. If I needed a quick bit of change, I would scour the neighborhood for discarded pop bottles. Each bottle would get you a dime which was enough money to make a phone call. Two bottles would pay for a comic book. I think Slurpees were fifty cents each, so five bottles would send you rocketing toward brain freeze if you so desired.

I also knew how to add, multiply, subtract, and divide. I could spell most of the words I could speak. School actually taught us these things along with history, state capitals, and other boring facts that we didn’t want to learn but did anyway. I loved books and movies, so I also learned who wrote what books and who directed which films. We didn’t have the Internet and the IMDB, so if I wanted to make a checklist of all of the Godzilla films, I had to know which books to look up the information and then memorize them. Same for the kids that lived on sports scores or music or what ever their field of interest was.

There were always certain films that I would read about and want to see. It started with Disney films, then monster movies, then Woody Allen films, then Oscar winners, and then various films important to the history of cinema like Battleship Potemkin or Citizen Kane. There doesn’t seem to be any interest in any of this with my son’s generation. Comic books have been replaced by video games. Spelling has been replaced by spell check or just ignored completely. Math was no longer important to them once pocket calculators became cheap and of course now the calculators are antiques replaced by computers and smart phones.

Sometimes I wonder what has replaced all of the information that we used to have to remember. People don’t have to memorize phone numbers, their phones memorize the numbers for them. People don’t have to know where to go look something up because a search engine will do that for them. With all of the free memory space available to today’s generation what do they choose to remember? Video game button combinations. Somewhere my remaining aging brain cells are crying.

I Ain’t No Spring Chicken

Last week I had an experience that if I had any doubts left solidified the fact that I’m getting older. I had my first heart catheterization. It started with me being short of breath on Saturday. I called work to let them know I wouldn’t be in. It’s hard to perform the work they expect when you can’t breathe. I puttered around the house and woke up Sunday morning feeling even worse. Still couldn’t breathe and it felt like someone had pulled a weight belt across my chest and was tightening it while concrete was poured into my lungs. This prompted another call to work.

My wife hooked up the nebulizer so I could take a breathing treatment before bed time. When I got up Monday morning I felt better, so off to work I went. Only one problem; the more I moved around the harder it got for me to breathe. By two hours into my shift the tightness was back in my chest. By four hours in, it was accompanied with chest pain on the right side and in the center. I had doubts I was going to be able to finish the shift. Six hours in I was valiantly trying to wait until everything was in and processed before I told them I was going to have to leave. I’m stubborn like that. I hate to leave a job unfinished.

Finally seven and a half hours in that job was done. I found my supervisor to tell him I was going to leave, but he didn’t understand why I couldn’t wait another thirty minutes until my shift was over, so I started helping with some manual processing. Within fifteen minutes he had changed his mind. I don’t know if he saw how hard it was for me to breathe, realized the pain I was in, or envisioned the liability that he and the plant might be in should I die on the work floor after requesting to leave, but he finally told me to go on home. I left before someone changed their mind and headed home to get the wife and probably head for the ER.

When I got home the wife was asleep. I woke her up and told her what was going on. We ended up deciding to wait until morning and see if I could get in to see my doctor. We went to sleep and the next morning she got me an appointment for 10:30 AM. The doctor took me back and after a very brief examination sent me directly to the emergency room. The ER team ran a few tests and a few hours later I was told I was being admitted to the hospital and they would be performing a heart cath on me on Wednesday. Several hours later, they finally got me in a room and told me my procedure would be at 8:30 AM.

The next morning I was whisked down to the heart cath lab and after numerous delays was finally taken back to the operating room. To make a long story short, they did find some blockages, but nothing serious enough to prompt surgery or even stints… yet. The general feeling is that the chest pain I was experiencing was a combination of my asthma, COPD, and damage caused by my diabetes and neuropathy. I was out of commission for a few more days and returned to work on Sunday.

With me out of commission, my son borrowed my car and put his in the garage to have some repair work performed. As payback for letting him use my car, he and my daughter loaded up all the rest of my toy collection from the old house and brought it over to the new house. If my breathing doesn’t get any better, he and the other kids will all need to finish doing the rest of the moving as well. There was a time when I could have done it all myself, but that time has long passed. As I have heard so many people tell me through the years when I was younger and more active, I ain’t no spring chicken anymore.

We Didn’t Have Warning Labels

I was looking through a box of junk with my wife the other day. The box was about the size of a shoe box and it was filled with old bubble gum machine, Cracker Jack, and cereal box prizes. When I was a kid everything seemed to have a free prize. There were drinking glasses given away inside of boxes of laundry detergent, your Esso fill up got you a spiffy puzzle featuring a scene from America’s history, and your breakfast cereal came with a toy (or a record album that you clipped off the back of the cereal box).

One of the toys we found in the box was an aircraft carrier. It was really cool. It was two to three inches long and had a rubber band inside that launched the tiny little aircraft off the ship’s deck. Can you imagine anyone putting such an item inside of a cereal box these days? First off the planes were so small they could easily be swallowed. Secondly they could be launched.

Toys with launching rockets were a staple of my childhood. The Shogun Warriors and Micronauts all had rockets, fists, or some other part that would shoot off of the toy and fly through the air before smashing into the bad guy or an obstacle like a wall. Our biggest fear was losing these small parts if they launched and rolled into a crack in the floor or got lost in the grass. All of this changed after one four-year old kid shot a toy missile into his mouth and choked to death. Suddenly toys could no longer contain spring-loaded launching mechanisms. Eventually any toy with a part that might possibly fit inside a child’s mouth had to be given a warning label that it contained a potential choking hazard. But keep in mind this aircraft carrier that I played with wasn’t sold as a toy to begin with. It was packed inside of a plastic bag and placed inside of a box of cereal that was sold for children to eat. If a cereal company attempted this today they would need a warning label the size of a Buick on the box and even then some parent would still end up suing them.

A decade or so back Nestle tried selling a product called a Nestle Magic Ball. It was a hollow plastic ball that split into two halves and contained a Disney toy inside of it. It was like a plastic Easter egg. The difference was that the ball was covered in chocolate, so the child would eat the chocolate and then open the ball and find the toy surprise. The product was quickly removed from the market only to be replaced by the infinitely inferior Nestle Wonder Ball which switched out the toy for some hard candy. Even Cracker Jack doesn’t have decent prizes any longer. All of the prizes are paper based and pretty lame even at that.

The only prize delivery system that still seems to operate with anything resembling what it was back in the good old days appears to be the gumball machine. The prices are significantly higher these days, but the prizes are still something that a child of today can drop inside a shoebox and look back on fondly twenty to thirty years from now. Some of the prizes are actually pretty cool. There is a series of rubbery animal pencil toppers that are cute and collectible. Homies can still be found in some machines. About a year or two ago Freaky Geeks showed up in several machines locally. I’ve also noticed tiny Domo figures. I’m sorry that lawsuits have ended the days of cool food premiums (unless you want to talk Happy Meal prizes), but at least I know my fifty cents can still get a decent gumball prize. Of course when I was a kid those gumball machines were a penny, a nickel, or a quarter, but when it comes to prices, truly nothing ever stays the same.

I Don’t Remember Buying That

Over the last few weeks we have moved over ninety boxes of toys from the old house to the new house. Some of them contain items I remember fondly such as my Mego Planet of the Apes dolls or old Star Wars toys. Some of the boxes contain toys that I recall buying, but that aren’t nearly as special to me. For example I have a couple or six boxes full of Simpsons action figures and a few Simpsons playsets as well. I bought the Android’s Dungeon comic shop playset because it was a comic shop and had the exclusive Comic Book Guy action figure. Of course what good is a playset without a few more figures, so I got Bartman. Then I picked up some other figures and a few more playsets because I wanted a little more diversity in my Springfield. When KB Toys put a bunch of them on sale, I had to buy even more of them. Next thing I knew I had a mini collection of Simpsons toys.

All of those items I remembered buying, but then I ran across the action figures for The Matrix and Austin Powers. Did I actually buy those? I must have because they’re quite clearly in my collection. Maybe they were on sale or clearance and I just couldn’t pass them up. The only problem there is that the price tags don’t seem to indicate this being the case. The Matrix figures appear to have all been purchased for the regular retail price of $9.99.

Finding items like this in my collection is like finding a hidden surprise, but it also hits on another problem. If I don’t remember buying them or having them, how badly would I miss them if I sold them? The Matrix figures all have very nice sculpts, but The Matrix isn’t a touchstone film with me. I enjoyed it, but the only personal milestone I can think of that is tied to it is the fact that it was the first film I saw at the Marquee Cinemas. The theater was having its pre-grand opening and was giving out free admission to celebrate. The wife and I had stopped to purchase tickets for Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace which was scheduled to open that weekend and stumbled into the giveaway promotion. I took the kids to see The Matrix and the wife went to see Shakespeare In Love. It was a fun evening, but nothing that would make me want to hold on to the toys as a reminder of it.

If I would just cut my toy collection down to the toys that actually mean something to me, I could probably make a few bucks selling the other items on eBay. Except when I look for these toys on eBay I run into two situations. Either they aren’t selling at all or they’re selling for so much money that I don’t want to sell them because if I ever decided that I did want them again, I’d never pay the price it takes to get them back. Yes, I have some serious issues with turning loose of things.