Monthly Archives: December 2014

What My Friends Think of My Mom

For New Year’s Eve I’m continuing with memories of mom, this time from one of my high school friends.  Three more of my friends’ memories will come in the following weeks. Years or decades go by between my seeing of these guys who I used to spend time with nearly every day.  So my New Year’s encouragement this year would be to reconnect with old friends, and appreciate the loved ones you get to spend time with now.  Happy New Year!

For mom’s birthday:

I don’t have one particular story that I can share, I just remember Elaine as “mom”, possibly a second mom. I always felt at home in the Sears house, whether it was playing Dungeons and Dragons, computer games, or watching movies with youth group, she was just “mom” to me, and I think everyone else. Speaking of movies though, I’ve wondered in later years what she was thinking by letting the church youth group watch Children of the Corn down in the basement, but we managed to turn out OK in spite of that.

I also remember her at most, if not all, of our cross country meets, standing with my mom, cheering us on. They spent a lot of time in cold and wind just to watch us run for a few minutes. Actually just to catch a few glimpses of us during those few minutes.

My memory of mom is that she was *always* positive, always upbeat, and always welcomed everyone with open arms. Most recently this last December, I was visiting my parents in Abilene and ran into mom. She smiled, as she always does, and gave me a big hug. We lost our youngest daughter to cancer last summer, and mom didn’t try to find elaborate words to express her sorrow, she just hugged me, and said “we’ve been thinking so much about you.”

Love ya mom! A very happy birthday to you from Arizona.

-Brett

 

Coolidge

Coolidge

This is of course a campaign button for Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States. He was elected in 1924, but took office before that when Harding died. What’s weird to me is that my grandpa Sears could have voted for this man. It always blew my mind that grandpa had been born in the 1800’s. That was like cowboy times for heaven sake. I know I’m old, but to have only one generation separating me from people born in cowboy times. One of my grandmothers, I can never remember which, had Native Americans knock on her door to trade. My dad can remember the gypsies coming through and everyone checking to make sure their kids were accounted for.

Anyway, grandpa Sears. I wish I’d got to know him better, but we were never that close. We were Sears’s after all. I know he got on the train to fight in World War I, and by the time the train stopped the war was over. I know he was a banker during the Great Depression, and he never foreclosed on anyone. And I know he did magic shows around town. He showed me some of my first tricks, one of which I still do for the kids and on the street. I’m glad I have a lot of his old tricks and props. And I know he was born before Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and five other states were states; before the massacre of Wounded Knee; before Pat Garret, Buffalo Bill, and Wyatt Earp were dead; and before the Lincoln penny, Rose Bowl, World Series, Ford Motor Company, the Boy Scouts, and the Wright Brother’s famous flight. For heaven’s sake!

Cherokee Beads

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This amazing beaded piece came to me from an actual Native American princess from the Cherokee tribe. It’s a holder for a ballpoint pen.  Princess was one of my favorites.  School really wasn’t her priority, so many of our discussions involved me checking up on her grades and encouraging her get her school work done.  But I also had time to have her teach me and the rest of the study hall some of the Cherokee language (I retained none of it, but I could count to five there for a while), and to talk to us about Cherokee stuff.  She didn’t talk about her personal life much.  She was one of those kids who had a lot of crap in her life that a kid shouldn’t have to deal with. Sometimes a teacher just wants to give parents a good shake. But she almost always had a positive attitude, and her smile was contagious.  She pops up on facebook occasionally, still smiling.  Last I knew she was back in Oklahoma with the love of her life.  I hope she’s doing well.

It’s been a pretty easy 40 days

From Lent a couple years ago.  Wow, nothing like throwing up all my own frustrations all over the congregation.

 

It is the third Sunday of lent, and my intention was to deliver a nice little homily on lent and what we get out of our forty days in the desert.  Then the week happened.  And I didn’t really realize it was happening until I started thinking out this message.

First, yet another observation while watching Glee.  For one of the gayest shows on TV – Glee regularly shows Christians as concerned, thoughtful caring people.  What happened on the show this week was a student tried to kill himself because of who he is – gay – and the grief that he receives from other students because of it.  And then the small Christian community on the show rallies around him.  Of course this kind of thing makes me think of some of my students, past and present, and the crap they have to take for who they are–gay, poor, outsiders.

Also this week there’s been all the the Kony stuff on Facebook that resulted in a brief discussion in one of my classes about Kony, who if you don’t know, is apparently responsible for the enslavement of tens of thousands of African children.  “Why don’t we go after him?” one of my students asked.  “Because,” I proposed, “his victims are black, African, and children. Not a big voting block in this country. ”

Earlier this week I listened to an interview with a man who works in an organization called Love 146.  They work to make dents in the global sex slave industry, the annual revenues of which come in at between 12 and 32-billion dollars a year.   It didn’t take much of listening to his experience to make me want to throw up, and then hurt a lot of people, really hurt them.  And this guy has adopted several kids, and would like to adopt more. I don’t know a lot about this guy, but it seems clear according to Matthew that Jesus would call him brother.

And so I think about all these kids–the outsiders at Adrian high school, and at all the other high schools across the country; the children in Africa who have watched their parents murdered and have been forced into military service; and the hundreds of thousands of children suffering sexual exploitation in the world. 

And I want to talk about my lent?  About my forty days?  I’ve given up drink and taken on reading a bit of Matthew in the mornings.  Rough, huh?

I don’t know what I’m going to do with all this stuff that’s come at me this week.  I don’t know how or if it will change me.  I sort of wish it would.  I sort of hope it doesn’t.  I wonder what the disciples thought about after watching or hearing about Jesus being crucified? Did they get that he was showing them how to love completely.  Not by making occasional small symbolic sacrifices, but by giving up everything, by forgiving his killers and praying for his enemies, and showing the way for everyone, not just the chosen, the fortunate, the powerful?

So I will continue to observe Lent in my small way in order to remind myself daily what Jesus means to me.  But this morning as we remember his life and death and resurrection, let’s encourage one another to follow Jesus.  And I don’t mean following all our little rules.  I mean to walk in his steps, to go where he went, to die to ourselves, and to love who he loved, to love how he loved, every day, the best we can.

Amen.

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

Goodreads says I read 19 books this year.  Somehow they missed one, so make that 20.  Here’s the list. 

This is my most recent read.

how to cheat

I bought this book (with a bag of books at a library sale thank god) because Penn Jillette was on the cover and it was about poker.  I should have paid attention to the first several pages which warn the reader that if you bought the book for the reasons I did and don’t really want to learn how to cheat, or don’t really want to read about the adventures of a narcissistic a-hole, then this isn’t the book for you.  I don’t even want to donate this book to the goodwill as I would hate to subject someone else to this rambling, long winded, douche.  It’s like listening to the guy who wants to tell you about the amazing things he’s said and done because he’s so amazing, but he doesn’t realize that everyone in the room is rolling their eyes at this bore.  I finished it.  I’m working out some self loathing I guess.  So in summary, I guess I wouldn’t recommend it.

 

 

Railroad Tycoon

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My daughter was laid up with a bad ankle a couple weekends ago.  She wasn’t able to put any weight on it, so she spent most of her time immobile, board, and willing to try a new long board game with me. Railroad Tycoon was new to her, but not to me.  I got this gigantic came a few years ago from my pop.  It’s one I like a lot.  Each player takes on the role of an old-timey railroad magnate expanding his or her empire across the continent.  Well half-way across anyway.  If this board, which stretches from the the east coast to Kansas City, was any bigger, most folks wouldn’t have the table space for it.

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That’s one of the fun thing about this game. The pieces are big and cool and giant and awesome.  Game play is pretty simple, although you have a lot of choices.  But basically players take turns doing something until everyone has done three things.  The things you can do include building routes between cities, delivering goods on these routes, and upgrading you trains so you can make longer deliveries.  After everyone has done their three things, income is collected, debts are paid, some cards are flipped over, and you start again.  As goods are delivered, cities lose the little wooden goods cubes.  When enough cities dry up this way, the game is over.

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It took my daughter and I a couple hours to finish our game.  I beat her, but not by much.  She spent a lot of her time chasing big bonuses for connecting various cities while I built up my empire around Chicago.  And just like those old-timey magnates, in Railroad Tycoon everyone is going get obscenely wealthy, but it’s important to get more obscenely wealthy (in the form of victory points) than everyone else.  So it’s fun just building your empire, but it’s more fun to make your empire bigger than everyone else’s.  I’m up for this one about any time.  I’m glad I got my girl to play with me.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone.  I hope you are making some amazing family memories.

Merry Christmas

The Sears family Christmas story happened the year we spent Christmas with my grandparents in Texas. They used to winter down there in a mobile home park with a bunch of other oldies. We may have Christmased down there a couple times, so my memories of the place are all mushed together. My favorite memories are some of the most swirly and twisty, and that’s of our visits to Mexico. The worst is of a Mexican Kmart or something like it.  Just like an American Kmart or Walmart, but more of everything that’s unpleasant and about those places, especially to a a kid–people I couldn’t understand, being their forever while the adults looked for whatever it was they needed, impatient and tired parents and grandparents, like a nightmare. The best is also very dreamlike, but pleasant. It was some kind of big indoor/outdoor shopping center, in the evening I think. I remember the smells of street food and leather, incense and aftershave, dad’s cigarettes and mom’s vanilla. And all the leather crafts and carved stone animals, bandito marionettes and swinging bamboo snakes, and the pottery–plates and cups and smiling suns. And the smiling Mexicans in the shops and my folks bargaining with them, and no you can’t get a bullwhip, and keeping and eye on us, afraid we’ll wander off and then be snatched away, so stand right there and pick out a carved donkey, and one of the shopkeepers switching out the little donkey I’d picked out and wrapping up a broken one in newspaper instead. And the sounds of piped in music in the shops and real music in the street, and Spanish Spanish Spanish bring spoken everywhere. And despite the discomfort at all the foreignness my folks may have been feeling, I was with them and I felt safe.

It’s no wonder that during a Christmas like this Santa might not realize that he dropped a G.I. Joe white tiger action set on the porch roof back in Abilene, only to be discovered by two amazed kids upon our return.

Brother’s Memories of Mom

In continuing the sharing of the memories of my mother, who at this writing is still with us (no need to wait for someone to pass before saying nice things about them), here is what my brother wrote four years ago.

 

Of course I have lots of memories of stories of you, and it seems foolhardy to try and just pick out a few because I am sure that I will leave out some important ones.

While I don’t really remember you coming to school dressed as a bunny, I do remember that it seemed like you were always the room mother and we always had good parties.  I seem to remember one time – I don’t remember if it was a holiday party or just for my birthday – that you had a big box of note pads (with birds on them) and magic erase boards that you got at Alco on clearance or at the sidewalk sale.  You handed those out and everyone thought it was the greatest.  (Seems like we had a box of those bird note pads for years.)  It was fun to have a mom that everyone thought was cool.

Of course I remember all the support and attendance at the basketball games and cross country and track meets.  The whole team could count on you being there, being loud, being opinionated (the officials at Sacred Heart “SHOULD BE ASHAMED” of themselves), and being supportive.  Everyone on the team thought it was great and really appreciated it – me especially.

It was nice to live at the place where kids wanted to go.  I remember jamming the basement full of kids on a snow day to watch movies, you teaching us how to “cruise Buckeye”, having guys over to play grey wolf and kick the can, and having sleepovers to celebrate the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon.  You were always friendly and welcoming and looking back on that I can only hope that I am as loving to my kids’ friends as you were (and still are) to mine.

Even things that I didn’t think were so great at the time are good memories now.  I specifically remember the tone in your voice when you called down the basement to me after you had discovered that I had received an F for nine weeks of accounting.  I was just ready to start watching a movie, and you yelled down the basement for me to come up.  I didn’t know at that moment what I had done, but I knew that I was in trouble, and that I could forget watching the movie!  I also remember when you and dad came to Kansas City to visit and I rear ended someone on Metcalf – you guys left your car while mine was in the shop and took the bus home.  Not the most fun, but something I hope I remember when my kids need help that will be a hassle to me.

As I grew the stories did not stop.  I remember the first time you and dad met Liz – when you had brought up the buffet and we were drilling holes in it (while you drank beer and watched) to provide ventilation for my stereo.  I also remember the introduction of Liz to the Slocombe side of the family – complete with a Grandma giveaway of a handful of spoons.  I appreciate the way you have treated my wife.  Of course as the grand kids arrived new stories were created – including the report that Grandma served M&Ms for breakfast and “liked being naked.” (I think that is the phrase that was used.)

I think I will end now because I am trying to keep this to one page.  Certainly there are many more stories to tell, and I could go on for pages.  Thank you for being a wonder mother in so many ways – by loving me, by showing a good example of how to love others, by teaching me how to work hard and play hard, by teaching me to not take things too seriously and to laugh, by disciplining me, and by always being there for me whether it was attending a game or mowing my yards while I was at basketball camp.  You are awesome and I love you.

-Mike

Ozark Music Festival

Ozark Music Festival

Another festival. This one for Ozark music. What is Ozark music? Bluegrass? Country? Andy Williams? I think it was my 5th and 6th grade years that mom and dad owned, with my uncle, a camper. It wasn’t huge, but it was big. And we took it some places. Mostly I remember Branson. This was back in the day. Branson had maybe four theaters. The one we went to, because it was the one my grandpa liked (it was probably the only on he’d ever been to), was the Foggy River Boys. As I remember, which honestly isn’t too much, they did an old fashiony harmony gospely kind of thing with white leisure suits and wide collars. I don’t remember the show, but I remember standing in line and getting an album signed by each of them afterwards.

I think that’s also the trip that I raced grandpa. Just across the parking lot of some place. If I do my math right, he wasn’t that old. In his 60s. Of course people in their 60s were older back then than people in their 60s are now. It wasn’t long after that he had his heart attack. He told me he thought he felt something happen when we had that race. He didn’t say the race caused the heart attack, but it let him know that something wasn’t right. He recovered pretty well. But he was never as strong after that. And he certainly didn’t do any more racing.

Foggy River Boys

E-Man #1

E-Man #1 1978/73 Modern Comics

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In doing a quick search, I see that E-man, born in 1973, was a pretty short lived character that over the next 30 years or so popped up occasionally only to fade away again.  This is a reprint of issue #1.  E-man, the man, not the comic, was created millions of years ago when a star went nova, throwing off all sorts of fire and gas and star stuff, and in this case a piece of sentient packet of energy.  This energy packet floated around the universe for several million years. It gained knowledge of the universe, and, it turns out, knowledge of a lot of things there’s no way it could have encountered floating out in space, but more about that later.  I guess if you have no one but yourself to talk to for millions of years, and you don’t go crazy, you become a pretty wise and all-knowing spirit.

So after floating around for eons, the packet finds and boards through the exhaust pipe, a space cruiser.  The cruiser is commanded by a giant brain and manned by cool uni-wheeled robots.  The ship is headed for Pluto where it will test a weapon of war.  But the packet is confused by the conversation it hears between the brain and the robots (languages are not a problem for this packet)–”Long live the forces of peace!”  The packet thinks, isn’t peace an end to force?  I told you, it has millions of years of contemplation under its belt.  To investigate further it transforms itself from pure energy to matter in the form of one of the robots.  Unfortunately, this extra weight wreaks havoc on the ship’s delicate navigation system and it veers out of control, ultimately crash landing on earth. (Sometimes you need to build a little wiggle room into your technology.)  I love the packet’s response–Oops!  Then . . .

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Cut to the dressing room of exotic dancer Nova Kane after her shift.  She says it’s going to feel good getting into clothes, but for the next two pages, she doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to do so.  Anyway, after the crash, the energy packet apparently got caught on some electrical wires and ended up in the one of Nova’s light bulbs.  It explains all this in perfect English from the bulb, and she frees the energy packet by smashing the bulb.  To say thank you, the packet of energy transforms itself into a hunky man.  Him: “I need a place to stay for the night.” (Sure you do.)  Her: “My jeep is just around the corner.” (Of course it is. (She’s still mostly naked.))  Him: “This is perfect.”  (Yep.)  Her: “Get in.” (Yep, yep.)

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Cue trombone: Waaaaaa Waaaaaaa.

In the morning while the two discuss energy and matter and such there is a knock on the door.  It’s the landlord.  He’s back from vacation up north.  But he doesn’t want the rent; he wants to kill everybody!  He whips out his gun and starts shooting.

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After the landlord is dealt with, Nova and E-man (he’s named himself now), head north because they’ve figured out the crashed spaceship must be releasing some gas that turns people into homicidal maniacs.  Nova drives. E-man travels by phone line.  Pretty cool.

When Nova gets there the residents of the town all try to kill her.  She escapes and meets up with E-man.  They venture out to the crash site, battle some robots, and just before the brain releases the gas bomb that I guess would make the whole planet into crazed killers, E-man uses his energy powers to destroy the brain

The other story in the book, “The Knight,” is a spy story from the files of CHESS –Command for the Hindrance of Espionage, Sabotage, and Subversion. I mean if you stop it outright, you’ve just spied your way out of a job, so they just hinder the three main threats to society. Typical government workers, right?

Anyway, the spy story has a cool premise. The three-man team, a knight (team leader), rook (muscle) and bishop (intel person) are called in to headquarters where the king and queen give them their mission.  (The pawns are the backup team with guns.)  I guess I’m a sucker for gimmicks. Attempts were made to set up relationships between the characters, and I think it would have been fun to see these characters spend more time with each other.

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The story was ok, bit of a twist, kind of fun, reminded me a bit of the old Avengers television show.

Overall, I liked E-man #1, especially the bizarre touches–the townsfolk that go mad and must kill anyone who hasn’t inhaled the leaking gas; the fact that E-man can speak any language he hears, understands the concepts of peace and force, but for the last-panel gag doesn’t know what money is; and of course Nova.  I’m not sure how I don’t remember Nova from my childhood. She’s and ample girl who can’t stand, sit, run or fight any way but sexy.  It’s cute that E-man creates a superhero costume for himself to impress Nova.  But I think the book would be better if it were more alien learning about earth while foiling bad guys type story, rather than trying to be a traditional superhero story.  I know that’s a fine line, and maybe it’s just the suit that makes the difference.  But there are a lot of suits out there, and I didn’t think E-man needed one.

Both the E-man story and the spy story were decent pilot episodes.  I like the characters and in both cases would have been glad for a longer story with more character development.  I understand that that’s what future issues are for, I just don’t think I have any more in my big old cardboard box.