Old Shoes and Stew

Greetings,

I hope your day is like a perfectly seasoned stew.

Speaking of stew, life is good here at the CowChows. We do our best to keep the heat at a gentle simmer; we occasionally add a new ingredient; we stir frequently, and season and taste often; and when it threatens to boil over we make adjustments as quickly as possible. The recipe may not suit everybody, but we love it.

I find myself in a bit of a quandary and I’m hoping you can help. I have these shoes and I can’t decide what to do with them. I dearly love these shoes. They are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and they have served me well for years. A while back, I took them in to have another half-sole put on. When I went to pick them up my shoe guy told me this was the last time. He said he had done all he could, that they had out-lived their usefulness and not to bring them back again.

Always before, as soon as I got into the car I changed from whatever I was wearing into these shoes. But, not this time. I sat them on the passenger seat and looked at them. My faithful old shoes were at the beginning of their last life. I couldn’t decide what to do.

On one hand, I could wear them and take pleasure in the comfort of them as I always have. In which case, they will be completely worn out in a matter of months and that will be the end of them. On the other hand, I could set them aside and only wear them occasionally while I try to break-in another pair of shoes. But, that seems hardly fair considering the years of service they’ve given me. I know they’re just shoes but they do have soles, or at least half-soles. Don’t they deserve some consideration?

So, you see my dilemma. Do I use them up in the design and purpose for which they were made, and then move on? Or, do I place them on a shelf where they will last forever, but serve no purpose? Any advice would be appreciated. My feet are getting cold.

Happy birthday to Brothers George Washington and Paul Wilkerson, Jr.

Until next time, may the Light of your being guide others safely through the storm.

Fraternally yours,

Tim Couch

What was I thinking?

Don’t you just hate it when you’ve been doing something a certain way almost your whole life, and then find out you’ve been doing it all wrong? Me too!

But I have to say, now that my eyes have been opened and I’m seeing the logic of doing things differently I wonder how I never saw it before. When I think of all those years, decades even, that I spent carefully and cautiously doing everything I could to spend less money than I made. When I think of all the time I wasted balancing checkbooks and tracking expenses and worrying about repaying my debts. It just makes me want to whack myself on the back of the head. All that stuff is so unnecessary. Why did I put myself through all that?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame myself, of course. I blame my parents and my high school math teacher. How dare my parents instill in me a sense of responsibility? Who needs that? And this sense of fairness, what am I supposed to do with that? And this “Golden Rule” thing? That’s got no place in my new reality. And then there’s my math teacher who taught me to budget my expenses within my income. He even tried to teach us that it was important to balance our accounts, every month. Can you imagine? For thirty-five years I’ve been doing all this stuff and then, just this morning, it hit me. I’m doing it all wrong. There is such an easier way. So, here’s the deal.

First, I’m going to need you to send me a couple of bucks. And then, because I know times are tough I’m going to send you back a quarter. Then, I’m going to take most of what’s left and spend it on stuff that I think you would like. Unfortunately, this will require a lot of effort on my part and there will be expenses but I don’t want you to worry about that. If I need more money I’ll just borrow it from someone else and we’ll worry about it later. And of course, I want this to be fair for everyone so if you have more money than your neighbor then I’ll need you to give him a couple of bucks so he can send in his fair share, too. We certainly don’t want anyone to feel shortchanged.

For your convenience we can set up a direct annual withdrawal from your bank account. How about April 15? And for simplicity sake you might want to make that an account that will be a part of your estate. Thanks in advance and have a nice day.

Facetiously yours,

Tim Couch

Tuck and Roll

Cute, furry, fearless
Cute, furry, fearless

Greetings,

My wish for you today is that you experience a moment of wonder.

Things have been kind of slow here at the CowChows lately. Ice storms have a way of slowing things down, it seems. During this past week while everything was iced over we took to putting bird seed out back for our more Liberal feathered friends. It was nice. They got something to eat and we got to enjoy the show. The only problem came when Senator Squirrel discovered the seeds. Then he would run off all the birds and just sit in the middle of the feeder and stuff his jowls full of seeds. We had plenty of seeds to go around, but there was just something about the way he took over the feeder and wouldn’t let anyone eat until he had his fill.

So, when he showed up I would fling the door open and storm out onto the porch doing my Rottweiler imitation and make a big show to scare him off. At first it worked pretty good. He’d take off like a shot, scamper up a tree, and sit there and twitch his tail and chatter at me. But, after a few days he didn’t scare so easily and I found myself chasing him further into the yard. Sometimes he was back before I even got the snow off my shoes.

This morning I looked out and there he was, plopped down in the feeder, jowls bulging, and not a bird in sight. I threw open the door and charged onto the porch. He looked up, fainted right and then dove left. He went to the ground, but then he stopped. He just looked at me as if he knew I was all noise. So I started down the porch steps after him, and I made it as far as the landing. There was still ice on the landing.

My shoe hit the ice and kept right on going. I was immediately in full blown FDD (Falling Down Denial). That’s when you’re obviously going down but haven’t quite accepted it yet. FDD is also sometimes known as the Falling Down Dance. Fortunately, on my way down I remembered to tuck so my wrist and shoulder took the brunt of the fall. Unfortunately, I don’t roll quite so good anymore so it was more of a “tuck and splat.” After determining that everything still wiggled like it was supposed to I peeled myself up off the ice. The squirrel was nowhere to be seen, but I could hear him laughing somewhere up in the tree. I limped back toward the house brushing ice and bird crap off my clothes, and went inside where I belonged.

The thing is, the birds didn’t ask us to feed them. They didn’t ask me to chase away the squirrel. The ice storm came and we decided they needed us to take care of them when they most likely could have taken care of themselves. And the funny thing is, come the next ice storm we’ll do it all over again. Go figure.

Until next time, Brother, when life trips you up, tuck and roll.

Fraternally yours,
Tim Couch

50 Years and still spinning

Greetings,
I hope your day is a day of pie……………just because.

Today I mark a half century of spinning through space on this tiny rock of a planet. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that yet. On one hand I feel grateful to have had fifty years, while on the other I wonder where has it gone? Fifty years sounds like a long time but it doesn’t feel like a long time. I thought I would have more answers by now, but instead I find I have fewer important questions. I thought I would have accomplished more by now, but instead my definition of accomplishment keeps shifting. I thought I would know more with more certainty, but instead I find I am only more certain of myself.

As you may have guessed I’m in a contemplative mood today, and while I realize I don’t know much here are a few things I think I know. They are, like me, in no particular order.

  • It is possible to be the best at something, but only for about five seconds.
  • Always keep your passport current. You never know.
  • Good things may come to those who wait, but only if they’re using the right bait.
  • The food pyramid is wrong. Fiber should be a group unto itself.
  • Some dreams do have a shelf life. Don’t wait too long to act on them.
  • Don’t allow expired dreams to spoil future dreams. Remove them from the shelf.
  • When in doubt, floss.

As it happens, I also have the honor of sharing today with Brother Robert Burns, beloved Scottish poet and Brother Freemason. He would be two hundred and fifty years old today. So, I wondered what words of wisdom I might glean from his writings and I came across this:

Then fill up a bumper and make it o’erflow,
And honours masonic prepare for to throw;
May ev’ry true Brother of the Compass and Square
Have a big-belly’d bottle when harass’d with care.

That works for me. I believe I will. Cheers!

Until next time Brother may your life contain reason and your reason find life.

Fraternally yours,
Tim Couch

Recognizing Miracles

My wish for you today is that you recognize a miracle.

Every now and then something happens that leaves no doubt about the existence of divine intervention. We had a great example of it this past week. An airliner carrying a hundred and fifty-five people is knocked out of the sky by a flock of birds over a city of eight million people, and no one is seriously injured. How can anyone not see the miracle in that?

The news media keeps calling it a “story of luck and heroism.” Certainly, the flight crew are all heroes, but luck? Luck is drawing to a straight flush. Luck is not skirting skyscrapers and threading crowded airspace with a flying brick and then landing it in heavily trafficked waters without hitting anything. That is miraculous.

But then, if the Great Architect were going to intervene why didn’t he simply move the birds out of the way? He could’ve done that, but if he had it would’ve been just another uneventful flight. It would’ve still been a miracle, but we would not have noticed. Miracles happen every day all around us. We just don’t recognize them.

Every time we climb behind the wheel and hurl ourselves down the highway at high speeds but somehow arrive safely at our destination, it’s a miracle. Consider all the people on the road at the same time who have to do the right thing at the right instant in order for nothing to happen. Every time we cross a street, go for a walk, cross a room, turn over a rock, a miracle might have happened. We just don’t recognize it.

Miracles are happening all around us. Perhaps they are the courtesies of angels, and like most courtesies they are more readily given when they are appreciated. So keep an eye out for your miracles because I assure you they are there. Appreciate them. Be grateful. And, recognize that in a world of possibilities angels are doing miraculous things in your behalf.

Best Regards,

Tim Couch

Take a breather

I hope your day is as sweet as honey on a fresh warm biscuit.

Just in case you’ve been in another dimension these past several weeks I thought you should know that these are stressful times. If you’re anything like me you’ve been overdosing on “News” recently just trying to figure out what’s going to happen next and how you can prepare for it. Well, I’m sorry to say I don’t have any answers either but I do have a little bit of advice.

I’ve gotten in the habit lately of having the “News” on almost all the time. When I’m working I put one side of a set of earphones on and the Talking Heads are constantly yammering in my ear. When I’m driving I have Talk Radio on. When I’m not working or driving I’m on the Internet reading “News” stories or blogs. I really hadn’t realized until yesterday afternoon how tense I was getting by listening to all the noise.

I was in my office with the computer screen in front of me and the earphones cocked over my head when my wife called. “What are you doing?” she asked.
For some reason instead of telling her I replied, “Nothing. What would you like to be doing?”
“Let’s go look at some rocks,” she said.

A few minutes later we hopped in the pick-truck and drove a few miles to a place we know where the road is dirt, the traffic is light, and the only noise is the birds and the breeze in the trees. We parked near a spot where the road was cut through a rock outcropping and the runoff from the rains had piled up a considerable amount of gravel. We milled about for a while, poking and digging, but eventually we just sat down in the middle of a rock pile. We probably picked up every rock within arms reach and studied the colors and the shapes and the fossilized critter patterns, and we just talked.

At some point while I sat there like a kid in a sandbox I noticed how tired I was, and how relaxed I was getting, and how at peace I felt. It was like I could feel the earth pulling the tension right out through my butt. Eventually, we noticed the Sun had dropped behind the hill and dusk was coming on, so we helped each other to our feet and started for home.

So, here’s my advice. Stay informed, stay involved, stay plugged in, but every so often pull the plug and reconnect with just being at peace. It doesn’t have to take much time and it doesn’t need to cost any money. Just take a breather.

Cordially,

Tim Couch

May today be a day of tiny regrets

A good friend recently confided that they had behaved in such a way as to hurt someone’s feelings. My friend told me how ashamed they were of their actions, and how ashamed they still are. The thing is, this happened over fifty years ago. My friend has been carrying this shame and guilt around ever since. Naturally, this got me to thinking of my own regrets.

We’ve all got them, those thoughtless things we said or did in our youth that somehow caused pain to someone else. When I was in high school the cafeteria food was not what you’d call delicious. So, someone came up with the bright idea of boycotting lunch. The idea caught on and word quickly spread throughout the school. My problem was that my Grandma worked in the cafeteria and faced with a choice of risking embarrassment among my peers or insulting my Grandma, I made the wrong choice. Of course, as Grandmas do she forgave me but I’ve never completely forgiven myself. However, I have learned to accept my regret for what it is.

Our regrets are working tools given to us by the Supreme Architect to help us sculpt our ashlar into that perfect square. Life is full of working tools and we are who we are and who we will become through the use of these tools. I learned a valuable lesson the day I looked into my Grandma’s eyes and saw the hurt that I had caused, and I did my best never to cause her pain again.

Regrets are an unavoidable part of living. So use your regrets. Accept them for the tool that they are and use them to chip away the gallets and polish out the imperfections. Make amends when you can and know that the penitent heart will be forgiven.

Fraternally yours,

Tim Couch

The night I saw Santa

Today, I’ve been conjuring up memories of Christmas past. On Christmas eve when I was little I was so excited about Santa coming that I couldn’t sleep. I would squeeze my eyes shut and try my hardest to go to sleep because Santa couldn’t come while I was awake. As I grew older I wanted to see Santa. It wasn’t enough to see that he had been there on Christmas morning. I needed to see him for myself. So, I would struggle to stay awake until he came. I thought if I lay very still under the covers and listened very closely I would hear him, and then I would jump out of bed and catch him in the act. It only worked one time.

This particular Christmas we all spent at Grandma’s house. And when I say “all” I mean parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Grandma’s house wasn’t very big so it was decided that all twenty or so cousins would sleep on pallets in the living room, where the Christmas tree was. It wasn’t easy finding space for that many kids in a fully furnished room, but somehow our Moms and Dads managed it and we eventually settled down to go to sleep.

I lay there still as a mouse with my cousin Rusty’s stinky feet six inches from my face for what seemed like hours. I may have dosed off but sometime during the night I heard a noise. I didn’t dare move. I opened my eyes just a little, and there he was. Santa was making his way toward the Christmas tree. He was carrying a huge bag and he was stepping over and among and around all those bodies and he never woke any of the others. He was perfectly silent and graceful and magical.

I held my breath for fear he would discover me watching as he quickly went about his business. He emptied his bag under the tree, and then just as gracefully and silently he made his way back through the throng of sleeping kids. As he slipped out the door and into the night I actually heard him say, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Merry Christmas.” And then he was gone.

The wonder, the excitement, the genuine joy that I felt in that moment is my wish for you this Holiday season. Merry Christmas and may God bless you and yours.

Warmest regards,

Tim Couch

Pop J’s Chocolate Covered Cherries

This time of year always brings up memories of Pop J. His name was John W. Allen and he was my maternal grandpa. Pop J loved chocolate covered cherries at Christmas time. It may be just my memory but they are the only store-bought candies I can remember being at Grandma’s house, and somehow that made them special. That, and the fact that even though Pop J loved them he was always willing to share. The house would be filled with homemade cookies and candies and country cooking that Grandma and Mom had no doubt been working on for days, but when Pop J offered me one of his chocolate covered cherries that was the best of the best. He would be sitting in his easy chair watching whatever ballgame was on T.V. and I would standing at his knee. After a while he would reach over and pick up the box of cherries from the side table. He would never just hand me a cherry. He would open the box and present it to me so that I could pick the one I wanted. I would look them over carefully until I found the very best one. And then, I would leave that one for him.

I don’t know why he loved chocolate covered cherries. I never asked him and he never said. I wish I could say I knew him well. My Pop J was, by all accounts, a very interesting man. He was a farmer and a rancher, although the land he farmed and the cattle he ranched generally belonged to someone else. He made wine from whatever grew in excess in the orchard or garden. He was considered among the best when it came to witching water for a well. And, he once turned down a movie producer who considered him the perfect character for his movie. All these things I learned after he was gone. When I was young he was working hard to provide for family, and when I was older I had other interests. Now, I realize how much I missed.

This Christmas when you’re with a loved one don’t just spend time with them. Make an effort to learn something new about them and to allow them to learn something new about you. That is a gift that will stay with you forever. Merry Christmas.

With warm wishes,

Tim Couch