They took my ibuprofen away from me. Personally, I wouldn't call myself an addict, but I do admit to driving forty miles to an all-night Super Walmart before just to buy a two dollar bottle of the wonder drug. That little adventure, out in the wee hours of the morning dodging Saturday night drunks, taught me a lesson. From that day forward I always made it a point to have two or three bottles in the cabinet. I still have a couple of bottles. Sure could use a handful of ibuprofen right now, but no. I have something to prove to myself. I am not an ibuprofen addict!
This all started fifteen years ago after spending a summer day painting the trim on the house. I spent the entire night rocking back and forth on the couch, hunched over, tears in my eyes from a pain searing through my shoulders like I'd never experienced before. The next morning I was waiting for the old country doctor when he pulled up in his Ford pickup.
"Well, you're paying for your sins," he teased as he gently gyrated my shoulder in a circular motion, "you're not a young buck anymore. You have discovered the joys of arthritis. Ibuprofen will probably manage it. Run down to the Walmart and buy a bottle."
So began my relationship with the ibuprofen. It worked fairly well for fifteen years, failing me only when a strong cold front came barreling through or when I got a bit too overzealous trying to do my 'manly' chores, like use a screwdriver. But along about last October, something changed. The pills no longer fought off the pain. Nor was the pain just in my shoulders and hands...it began to haunt every joint of my body. Reluctantly, I made a doctor's appointment.
The old country doctor long gone by now, I explained my situation to the doctor who had replaced him. He scribbled a prescription while disinterestedly listening to my whining. Handing me the script, he sternly cautioned me to stop taking the ibuprofen. I became leary of this new medicine when the pharmacist handed me a thirty day supply and charged me a buck fifty. This couldn't work, I thought. Walmart brand ibuprofen costs two dollars a bottle. Two weeks later I stopped taking the prescription and went back to my ibuprofen. Another two weeks and I was back at the doctor's office.
"Those pills you gave me don't work! I still ache all over my body." I spewed, squinting my eyes at him.
"They're not supposed to make you feel better. They stop the damage to your joints. Do you want to feel better? I can give you a steroid called Prednisone. It has very harmful side effects so I will only prescribe one week's supply." he drew his pad from the white coat and scribbled on it, "Here, you can feel better for one week. I'm not doing you any favors! And I will make you an appointment with an arthritis specialist but it may be four months before you can get in to see him."
The following morning I woke up feeling like a twenty-year-old. There was not a single ache in my entire body. I leaped from the bed and threw on my clothes. I hadn't done either in a very long time. Throughout the day my mind began plotting on how I could get my hands on more Prednisone. I desperately needed to find a drug dealer. This stuff was far better than ibuprofen! For the next seven days I did things I hadn't done in months. I could open a bottle of Coke. I could rip open a bag of chips with my bare hands. I could button a shirt...and my blue jeans. Yes, I could even get up off the potty without a single groan. But just as the doctor promised, my seven days of painless bliss was over too soon, and I'd not found a drug dealer who could hook me up with more Prednisone. Woefully, I settled in to wait the four months until my appointment with the specialist.
"You have severe rheumatoid arthritis," he spoke in a foreign accent as his fingers gingerly massaged the knuckles of my hand, "There are many new drugs to treat this, but I am going to prescribe the number one drug for you. It's called METH..."
Well, there was more to the name, but my ears perked up when he said METH. Heck, even I could probably find a drug dealer who could get his hands on meth.
"Methotrexate. It is a cancer drug..."
My eyebrows raised and my eyes bugged out.
"No, it doesn't mean you have cancer, well you may. I don't know. I am an arthritis specialist, not a cancer doctor. But, this drug is often prescribed in low doses for rheumatoid arthritis. It doesn't work immediately. In fact, it may take several weeks. It is very important you do not take ibuprofen with this drug. I will prescribe a painkiller for those bad days...but whatever you do...no ibuprofen!"
Well, today is one of those bad days. Those painkillers sit in the cabinet right next to my ibuprofen. I have read the warning label. It is an opioid. The warning says a single dose could cause death if taken incorrectly. Probably when mixed with ibuprofen, I figure. My eyes dart from the bottle of ibuprofen to the painkillers and back again. I settle back in front of my laptop and Google, 'Black Market Prednisone.'
Canada! Yes! They have Viagra, too. Gotta go, I've found a whole new adventure here...
It slipped up on me, really. I retired just as 2017 wound down, right in the dead middle of winter. From my experience, that may be the absolute worst time of the year to make such a drastic life change. While I have enjoyed sleeping as late as I wish and being able to toss any form of structure into the wind, truthfully I spent most of my time buried beneath a blanket. I detest cold. In fact, when winter rolls around next year, I may back a bag and head south to Costa Rica. I don't really like lizards but probably could get used to sleeping with one as long as it is warm wherever I am at. But for the past few afternoons, I have relished the warmer temperatures that have lured me and Stinky out to the patio to bask in the warm sun, a brisk breeze blowing through my hair at forty miles an hour. Typical for this time of year, we who have been banished to West Texas know that when the winds make their appearance, spring is one step behind. Even with daylight lingering around until seven or so in the evenings, I just hadn't given it much thought until my daughter mentioned it just the other night. Spring Break! Yes! I've been waiting on that.
Heck no, I'm not going on spring break. All spring break means to me at this age is that spring will show up a week later. Trust me, the week of spring break here in west Texas will be overcast, chilly, and it may even snow, but take it from an old timer, when the following week rolls around and the kiddos head back to school, the weather will be absolutely perfect! And that's all I'm waiting on. Besides I am way too old to be indulging in binge drinking, acute alcohol poisoning, experimenting with all the latest synthetic drugs, and wild sex orgies beyond your wildest dreams. Nope, I'll leave all that to my daughter. As she meticulously packs her ten suitcases with everything she could possibly need to get her through a week of spring break on South Padre Island, my eyes tear up a bit as I realize how proud I am of her.
Let me explain. As thousands or perhaps even tens of thousands of college students invade the most popular spring break destination of the southwest, if not the nation, busloads of their peers set out right behind them. Their mission? To save these kids from themselves. My daughter, who is very dedicated to her role in the Baptist Student Ministries on her campus, along with a number of her classmates will spend their spring break ministering to those who need it most, wayward, intoxicated, and misguided young adults searching for something that they don't know they need. Other Baptist Student Ministries from colleges throughout the state of Texas will join them, and as one army of God will embark on perhaps the most important mission of their entire lives.
'Beach Reach' was started in 1980 and has grown into an enormous annual endeavor. The kids involved in the Beach Reach project will be offering transportation to college students too intoxicated to drive. They scoop college students who have passed out from the beach and take them to safety. They will find a way home for those who ran out of money half-way through the week. They will find clothing for those who can't remember where they left theirs. In short, they will take on the roles of guardian angels for a week. And, as well as nourishing the masses with all the pancakes they can consume into the wee hours of the night, they will nourish their souls as well, spreading the Word to all who will listen.
The college kids who have volunteered their spring break for this will pay a portion of their own expenses, a substantial amount for a college student. Yet, hundreds eagerly will head toward the Texas coast with high hopes and prayers leading them into the unknown.
The Baptist Student Ministries provide ongoing services and ministry to students on college campuses throughout the year, such as fifty cent lunches served with a side of the gospel. I've been fortunate to observe one of these lunches, and trust me, they are a hit with broke college students. The ministry offers Bible classes, activities, and fellowship to these kids who find themselves in a whole new world so far from home. If ever I've seen an effort worthy of financial donations, this is it. The Baptist Student Ministry is all some of these college kids have to get them through.
In all my years of writing blogs, I've never done this, but if you feel a tug in your heart to support the efforts of this wonderful organization and the students who so freely give of their own money and time, follow the link below and give something to help...anything would be greatly appreciated. As for me, I'm going to the patio and dream of Costa Rica...and yes, I made my donation!
Baptist Student Ministry Donations https://goo.gl/ARoiFr
The South Plains College BSM exists to share the Gospel and disciple students at SPC. We want them to Believe in Jesus, Belong to a community of His followers, and Become the person God made them to be.
We couldn’t do what we do without your help. We rely on the generosity of Texas Baptist churches and donors like you to keep our doors open. Your gift impacts the spiritual growth of students affects generations to come and reaches into eternity. Thank you for partnering with us!
It was a couple of months ago or so, I suppose. I lay in my bed, near midnight and close to crossing over to Dreamland. As I do every night out of fear that I've missed something that couldn't wait until morning, I picked up my iPhone and disinterestedly began scrolling through my Facebook timeline. Not really paying attention, my finger continued flipping the page upward when suddenly I heard a woman's voice. I dropped the phone beside me on the bed and sat up, my ears perking up like a Doberman contemplating an attack. I listened intently to the silence, pondering my next move. Should I reach for my twelve gauge shotgun loaded with double ought buckshot? No, I thought, perhaps the woman that voice belonged to was nothing more than lonely...as lonely as me on any given night. With no further sounds to be heard, I settled back down and resumed my thoughtless stroll through Facebook. Suddenly the sound of a raging bull elephant once again jerked me upright. There are no elephants in west Texas, I told myself and glancing down at my phone I observed a video of, yes, a charging elephant.
For years I have had my Facebook settings set to 'Do Not Auto-play Stupid Videos' and for years, my phone had obeyed. That night something had changed...well, namely Facebook. Not only did videos take on a life of their own, but there were thousands of them and nestled inside nearly every video were ads. Unlike Youtube, Facebook gave me no option to 'Skip Ad.' I had to endure them. I knew then that Facebook was up to something.
Soon afterward, Facebook made an announcement that they 'were returning to their roots.' Facebook's valued customers would now see posts from their friends and family, rather than countless corporations, news outlets, and celebrity gossip mongers. Yes, Facebook was kicking all those folks to the curb. And you know what? For the two weeks following that announcement, I actually began seeing posts from friends I had forgotten I had. Honestly, I've never met many of my Facebook friends, but it was refreshing to see something other than cat videos and 'people expressing their political beliefs' videos.
So, how is it going six weeks later? I'm going to saunter over to my Facebook page and see which of my friends have posted something...be right back.
Okay, here are some folks who have posted in the last few minutes: AARP, Southern Living, Sports Illustrated, Governor Greg Abbott, NBC News, Silver Singles, Yahoo, Netflix...none of these people are really my friends. So, what happened? Money...buddy!
All of these entities pay Facebook money to show their posts. Apparently, the video ads just aren't pulling their weight. To hell with your friends and family! If they want you to see their posts, they will have to pony up the money because Facebook is greedy, greedy, greedy! How much money is enough? Well, in July of last year, Facebook hit the 500 billion dollar mark, so apparently, that's not enough. No sir, they are going to force us to watch thousands of videos with advertising inserted inside them and shoot for 1,000 billion dollars. Is that a trillion? I don't know. I still have a jar of pennies on my dresser.
So here's my beef. I have three Facebook pages where I promote my books, websites, etc. Somewhere along the way throughout the years, folks have stumbled across these pages and 'liked' them, indicating that they wish to see content from these pages on their timeline. Facebook has continually put the squeeze on Facebook pages such as mine, choosing to only allow around 5 - 7% of the people who apparently wish to see this content to actually see it. After this recent change, it has dropped to around 1 - 3%, that is, unless we pay their ransom money. Now, in all fairness, it's Facebook's social media site, not mine and if they wish to charge me and millions of others money, it's their prerogative. But the fact is...it just doesn't work. Here's the other side that most of you don't see:
Facebook: Boost Your Post for $10
Your post "This week's story..." is performing better than 95% of posts on that Page. Boost it for $10 to reach up to 3,900 more people.
Now, my very best post ever was one I paid Facebook twenty dollars to 'boost' on their promise that I could reach up to 13,000 more people. A whopping 493 people were reached through paid advertising. And the results were heartbreaking. I made not a single penny, but Facebook made twenty bucks off of me.
So, how does this affect you? We let the privacy issues slide a decade ago. We overlook Facebook's facial recognition technology. Not only can they put a name to your face, they know where you work, where you live, how many kids you have. They know your friends and family. They know whether you swing right or left, or gay, for that matter. They know if you attend church and where, and yes, they know whether you are happily married or not, and if not, they likely know who you're sleeping with on the side. Yes, they know everything about you, all two billion of you. That's not the worst of Facebook, though.
Former President Obama even touched on it in a conversation with David Letterman on his Netflix talk show 'My Next Guest.' He mentioned that social media decides what America sees and hears, which is obviously whatever they want us to. With all of that information Facebook gleans from our pages and profiles, they determine what they want us to see, or not see. Think of such a powerful sword they swing! And with that sword, they swing the American people whichever way they wish. Welcome to the America that Facebook created.
I am a small town boy. Not really a boy anymore, but that's how we Texans describe ourselves, you know, like 'good ol' boy.' Small towns are full of good ol' boys...laid back and easy going. Small town boys gather at the local coffee shop and drink their coffee black, unlike city folks who hang out at a Starbucks. We put in a hard day's work. We attend our kids' ball games. We wear our blue jeans to church every Sunday. We tend to stand firm in our beliefs and cling to our values and our hunting rifles. All in all, not much riles us up. The outside world is somewhere on another planet. Nobody gets murdered here and there's not too many break-ins because everybody knows we have those hunting rifles and we aren't afraid to use them. Yes, laid back and easy going and that's not always a good thing. Take last week, for example.
My daughter had come home from college for the weekend. She unloaded her car with ten suitcases of clothes which would hopefully get her through Saturday and Sunday, and when she shut the car door, the lock fell off. Just fell in the dirt. I fiddled with it for an hour or so and well, it's a Ford and don't get me started on that. I decided I'd have to take it to the Ford House on Monday which presented two problems. My daughter had to be back at college on Monday and it was highly likely that I'd have to walk home from the Ford House since it typically takes them ten days to fix anything. Luckily we have a spare car that she could drive and we drove the Ford to the shop on Sunday afternoon. I'd just go down on Monday morning and tell the mechanic to fix the lock. It still presented me with the problem of getting the car back home, but I decided I'd cross that bridge when I came to it.
I walked into the Ford house bright and early Monday morning with the defective lock in hand. The man at the service counter nodded and told me they tend to do that, just fall off in the dirt...and they'd get 'er fixed sooner or later. As I walked out to my pickup, my phone rang. It was the realtor.
My dear old mama passed away last June and lucky me, had been cursed with the job of executor of the estate and that's another story I'll tell some other time. I had been trying to sell her house for months. I had an eager buyer since November. They had cash money. And it's February...that's where that laid back and easy going small town way of life comes into play. I would venture to guess that not more than a dozen houses are sold in our podunk little town on a yearly basis, yet three months after the buyer and seller shook hands on an agreement, the house still stood vacant. The realtor had originally set the closing date on December 31st, but it seems the two people working at the only title company in town were out of pocket, one with a surgery and the other having a baby. Reluctantly, the buyer and myself agreed to postpone the closing date to January 31st.
On January 30th, I called the realtor concerning the closing, expressing my fears that the buyer might back out if we didn't close the next day.
"Well, you know they're dealing with some health issues down there. I don't know if we will close tomorrow or not. You know that one woman had a baby..."
I bristled and replied, "That baby is crawling by now."
Apparently, the lawyer overseeing the probate of my mom's estate owns the title company. With the realtor now cracking her whip, he took on the chore of preparing the paperwork, with the assurance that the house would close by the end of the day. But there was another problem...
Keep in mind the original closing date was December 31st. The weatherman forecasted temperatures dropping down to five degrees for several nights during the first week of January. I had kept the utilities on at the house for the six months since my mom's passing. However, it had slipped my attention that during those six months, I had not received a gas bill. On the first week of January, I got a notice in the mail that due to not paying the bill for six months, the gas had been shut off. At five degrees, I knew every water line in the house would burst. I frantically called the city water department and told them to turn off the water.
The girl on the other end of the phone tartly responded, "I can't disconnect the water unless the person whose name is on the bill calls."
"She's dead! I'm the executor of the estate! I need the water turned off!"
"Well, you will have to bring us something official that shows you are the executor of the estate!"
Later that afternoon, having appeased that wench down at the water department, I pulled up at the house. A city water employee was getting into his truck.
"We got it shut off for ya!" he shouted in his good ol' boy accent and drove away.
I went into the house to drain the water out of the pipes. For thirty minutes I drained the water, but it kept coming...a stream about the thickness of a pencil. The water wasn't completely off. I called the wench back.
"The water isn't completely off! It's supposed to get down to five degrees tonight. I need it off!"
"No. It shows the water has been disconnected. It's off."
I held the phone to the faucet so she could hear the water running.
"Well. it's four-thirty. We're all winding down for the day..."
And as one would expect, a pipe in the bathroom burst that night, flooding the entire house.
The good ol' boy from the water department came out the following day.
"Must be a defective water meter. I'll just pull it off and that will stop the water. I know you'll need water when the plumber comes to fix that leak. Just give me a call and I'll put another one on for ya."
Fast forward to last Friday:
The attorney called to inform me they had the paperwork ready but wouldn't close on the house until the leak was fixed. I called the wench at the water department and explained the situation.
"Well, we can't put a meter on until the buyer comes down here and puts up a deposit."
"But we can't close on the house until a plumber fixes a leak and he can't find the leak without water."
"I will have to have a deposit from the new owners, that's final."
Well, it wasn't final. I called the realtor and at exactly 11:40 that morning, the good ol' boy from the water department pulled up to the curb.
"Yeah, just let me grab some lunch and I'll be back at one. Go ahead and call the plumber."
"Okay, but whatever you do, don't turn the water on. You'll flood the house."
I met the plumber at the house at exactly 1:15 pm. We walked into the house, which was flooded because the good ol' boy from the water department had turned the water on. The plumber lumbered out to his truck and came back into the bathroom with of all things, a hammer. He watched me mop the floor for a moment and with one powerful swing, destroyed the wall.
"Let's see if we can find where that leak is." he said in his good ol' boy tone of voice.
An hour later the leak, which he discovered was in the attic after tearing up the bathroom wall, was repaired. I stared at the gaping hole in the wall as the plumber handed me the bill.
"You know of anyone who does sheetrock work?" I asked, thinking surely of all people, a plumber with a hammer might.
"Naw," he drawled in his good ol' boy tone.
Standing in three inches of water, I called the attorney.
"The leak is fixed."
"Just bring me a copy of the plumber's bill. Oh, and you'll have to fix that wall before we can close on the house."
My eyes darted around the tiny bathroom, searching for a hidden camera.
I walked into the attorney's office last Thursday. He was leaned back in a leather chair in typical good ol' boy fashion, his hands behind his head. Sitting upright, he reached toward his desk and handed me a check.
"That's what you've been waiting on." he said in his good ol' boy tone of voice.
"Yeah, for three months," I replied, forcing a smile.
"I'm sorry it took so long. That's just the way things go around here."
"Oh, I know," I responded with a guffaw, "believe me, I know how things go around here."
As I stepped out into the sunlight with a check in hand, my phone rang.
A sultry southern voice on the other end spoke in my ear, "Hi, this is the Ford House. Your car is ready to pick up."
I stared at the check and shrugged it off. I had forgotten about the car.
"Think I'll go down to the Dairy Queen and get a steak finger basket," I spoke out loud to no one in particular in my good ol' boy tone of voice. I let out a sigh of relief as I felt that laid back, easy going good ol' boy feeling sweep over me
I just read an article about a law enforcement officer who was asked to leave an Outback Steakhouse in Cleveland, Tennessee because he was in uniform and carrying his weapon. Outback, as some other national establishments, prohibits their patrons from entering their premises with firearms, apparently including law enforcement officers on duty. Digging deeper into this story, it seems that on this particular occasion, there had been another customer dining at the Outback who became unhinged and feared for her life when the officer walked by her with his holstered weapon because 'police are shooting people.' Even after expelling the officer from their establishment, this customer demanded to be escorted to her vehicle for fear of being shot, by the hungry officer, I presume.
Of course, in the aftermath, Outback has publicly made a confession that perhaps it was a bad judgment call on their end and extended to the officer a peace offering of a gift card to 'make things right.' I'm just guessing he still needs to leave his gun at home before taking them up on their offer.
It is not my intent to bash Outback Steakhouse, but rather to shine a light on what kind of people are out there. The customer who over-reacted at the sight of him obviously is living in a superficial bubble, oblivious to the real world surrounding her. I've mentioned before that I worked inside a prison for twenty-three years. I am not one of those living in a bubble. Cops carry guns for good reason...namely, there are very bad people out there on the street. Most of you who think you're in touch with the real world have no clue how bad some of these people are. Two weeks before my retirement date, I had a man stand before me in the middle of a prison yard and say,
"I should kill you where you stand."
He meant it. He didn't have a gun and neither did I so we both just shrugged it off and went on our way, but had he been in that Outback Steakhouse, he might have said the same thing to that customer who fears police officers who carry guns. There are worse people than that guy out there. They don't tell you they want to kill you...they just do it. From the heights of a hotel in Vegas, or standing at the door of a church in rural Texas, they kill people.
The church I attend is assembling a 'safety team' and sending them to training just in case there ever comes a time these men are needed to thwart some individual who walks in with a gun and starts killing innocent men, women, and children. This is the world we live in and we can't allow our society to get the point where we force those who are willing to lay their lives on the line to protect us to leave whenever some 'bubblehead' gets twisted at the sight of a gun on the hip of a police officer.
There are a lot of dangerous people out there and not all of them want to kill us. If enough of the 'bubbleheads' like that customer at the Outback join together, the safety of our country is in jeopardy. We cannot just 'wish something away.' We cannot spend our lives staring into our smartphones and pretending there is not evil in the world. The rest of us 'normal' people do not have to take on the responsibility of appeasing the 'bubbleheads.' Had I been the manager of that Outback Steakhouse who found himself confronted by a customer who has problems with police officers, my response would have been,
"May I get you a 'to-go' box, ma'am?"
As I mentioned, there are more than a few of what I consider dangerous people walking around amongst us. For example, the chick who flushed a live hampster down the toilet on an airliner because she wasn't allowed to bring it on board. Flushing a live hampster down a toilet is a red flag in itself, but as she claimed, having the need for a hamster as a 'support animal' is a really big red flag for me. If someone cannot get through their day without a hampster clinging to their shirt, they have issues. They definitely belong in the 'bubblehead' category. If I were flying, I'd rather sit next to a cop with a gun than some chick pining away for a hampster she just flushed down the toilet. I wonder which situation the woman from Outback would prefer.
We sit, on a nightly basis, and watch TV shows about bad people. They usually shoot a cop or two before the entire force shows up and kills them. But that's just make-belief, it's pretend...fiction, right? Eventually we turn off the TV and pick up our smartphones and head off to bed where we sleep soundly with not a fear in the world because just outside our window we know there are police officers patrolling our street, their guns strapped to their hips, protecting us from all those make-believe 'bad guys' who don't really exist...not in the bubble we live in. You know, that world inside our smartphones? Maybe we're all bubbleheads...
At precisely 1:00 pm on January 31, myself and my short-legged dog loaded up in the pickup and drove down my dirt road the length of a football field to the mailbox. I held my breath as I reached out and opened it. It was at that moment my biggest fear of the past thirty-one days became a stark reality. My very first retirement check ever in the entirety of my sixty years on this earth...was not in that mailbox.
I had awakened every morning throughout January with a gnawing fear that something would go wrong. The prospect of actually achieving retirement seemed surreal. It had been too easy. I had walked into the boss's office and told him I was retiring. Three weeks later I signed my name to a stack of paperwork and walked out a free man. And every day since then I had this feeling of anxiety building to a climax. Had I really retired...or was I just unemployed? As I stared into that empty mailbox, my heart sank to the pit of my stomach. My bowels groaned in distress. But that could have been as a result of eating three-week-old taco meat for lunch that somehow had managed to hide itself in the back of the fridge.
In December I had received a letter from the Employee Retirement System of Texas, the folks who oversee all the state employees who had been turned out to pasture. It was very clear in stating that I would receive my first retirement check on the last business day of January, but it might be direct deposited or mailed. I'd began checking my online banking app the previous evening, and again every hour on the hour that fateful Wednesday. I had resolved myself to the fact that it would be in my mailbox. Yeah, if there is anything I learned from working for the state of Texas for twenty-three years, it's to never expect things to go as they should.
Back at the house, I sat and fretted. I should call the retirement people in Austin, I thought. My head swirled at the idea. The one time I had called them, I received that all too familiar recorded message:
'Hello, all representatives are currently busy. Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line. Anticipated wait time for the next representative is twenty-two hours and eight minutes.'
"Okay," I told myself out loud, "do you really need this money today?"
I shook my head. The fact of the matter is I had decided to retire because I didn't need an eight to five job anymore, nor did I have time for one. But, it was the principle of the thing. They said I'd get my check on the last day of the month and I didn't.
But the anxiety would not pass. I paced the floor. I flipped channels on the TV. Finally, I broke my own cardinal rule. I laid down in the middle of the day and took a nap. I was awakened two hours later by a bad dream. A voice had kept repeating over and over, 'Your call is very important to us. Please remain on the line.'
I wiped the perspiration from my forehead and sat on the side of the bed, staring at the clock. I was literally going to give myself a heart attack worrying about that blasted retirement check. I needed a distraction, I decided, heading toward the bathroom for a shower. As the warm, soothing water hit my face, I decided I'd go up to the church and check out that Bible Study the pastor had mentioned last Sunday.
There was a mere handful of people gathered in the chapel that evening. We sang 'The Old Rugged Cross' with only a guitar accompanying us, me lip syncing right along with the others. Then we opened our Bibles for an hour and a half of just what I needed, a distraction...and what better distraction from my self-imposed distress than studying the Word.
As I drove home that night, I found myself very disappointed in me. Where was my faith? Not my faith in the Employee Retirement System of Texas, but my faith in God? Today I had doubted that God would take care of me. Had He ever failed before? Had I ever missed a meal or slept on a bench in a park? Never.
At precisely 1:00 pm on February 1, myself and my short-legged dog loaded up in the pickup and drove down my dirt road the length of a football field to the mailbox. I hesitated briefly and reached my hand toward the mailbox. Peaking at the bug-eyed canine in my back seat, I withdrew an envelope from the mailbox and exclaimed,
"Buckle up, Stinky! We're heading to the bank!"