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When I was a new member to the YMCA, I experimented with different times for my swimming workout. My hope was to track the times when the pool was less crowded. This past weekend my strategy was to discover if early Saturday morning was one of those docile times.

This was an educated guess. Afterall, who gets up early on Saturday morning to exercise? Doesn’t everyone want to sleep in for the first day of the weekend?

Boy, was I wrong. The swimming pool looked more like an oversized washing machine. Not only that it was in the high level agitation cycle.

I slipped into the water. It was cool and refreshing. OK, it was highly chlorinated but at least it was warmer than the 29 degree temperatures outside.

My first push-off the wall sent me gliding into my morning regimen. Each stroke was steady and smooth. Each breath was timed with the rhythm of my digging into the water for propulsion. The wake forming off of my head assured me that I was pacing myself correctly.

After my first lap someone called to me with a heavily accented voice. Looking up an elderly man asked if he could split lanes with me. Of course I confirmed that he was welcome to jump in and share the lane.

We passed each other a couple of times when a new challenge emerged. Another swimmer had jumped into the lane. We were headed for a collision.

We both pulled up and wiped the water from our eyes. He also was heavily accented in his voice. With wild hand gestures he motioned for a counter-clockwise circle swimming. Nodding in agreement I was off to try to finish my routine.

When I turned at the end of the lane I heard a very animated conversation. Our new lane sharer was talking forcefully with the other swimmer and directing him to swim in a circular pattern. There was a bit of an argument that soon died down.

But, every time I passed the 3rd swimmer, his strokes were wild and wide. He hit me almost every time we passed. Twice he kicked me with his unconventional leg pattern.

Yeah, I persevered.  All my laps were completed. I felt unusually invigorated. Not only did I swim for a half mile, I also was able to say that I had done it concurrently with a boxing workout.


I sat at my desk, hung up the phone and reached for my books. That’s when something caught my eye. There on my office window was the silhouette of a creature that I despise.

Throughout my life I have crossed paths with the insidious creatures. They have threatened me many times. Several friends have been victimized by their bullying disposition.

Their diminutive size gives them stealth. But don’t be deceived. They are as ugly as they are fierce.

Usually, these vicious animals are gone for the winter. This one found a warm place to remain active. It was a dastardly wasp.

It was staring right at me with its compound eyes. I stared back and postured myself to be as intimidating as I could. He was going down.

My desk drawer slipped open easily. That’s when I grabbed a handful of rubber bands. Now, the hunt was on.

Silently I stole up on this insect of the most painful variety. Once within range, I loaded my finger with a rubber band and slowly pulled it back to a full draw.

Before I launched my first shot, I made sure that a second shot was ready. These winged stingers are unpredictable. After years of hunting these menaces I was wary.

Carefully, I practiced open-eyed sighting. Instinctively, my sites lined up on the today’s target. Then, the power in the band was released.

The twang of the shot was followed by the snap of a direct hit on the glass window. The wasp disappeared, like it was instantly flicked away from existence. But, I knew better.

Carefully, I lifted the blinds and found the wasp on the window sill. It was clearly mortally wounded. My single shot had found its mark.

My garbage can was perfect for dispatching this horrid critter. I set it back next to my desk and left my office to pick up some lunch.  Back at the office I sat down and sorted out my meal. That’s when an unsuspecting movement on my desk top caught my eye. It was the wasp!

It had crawled out of the can, crawled up on to my desk and tried hiding under my computer. That’s when I grabbed a paper towel and smashed the threat under fist. It was an instinct.

My prey was done-in.  Men are created to be protectors. Courageously we react to dispense with any threat. Relax world, you are safe!

photo credit: google image

Now is the season for Christmas gift shopping. This is a favorite part of the season. We have a list of people that we want to give a token of our appreciation and love.

Yes, love is a big part of the expression of this season. It is a good thing to be able to love others. Jesus wants us to do this. It is not an inappropriate emotion but a righteous expression of our devotion.

The spoken word is not a validation of true love. Some people say the words but there is nothing real about their love. But, devotion, loyalty, commitment, trust, forgiveness and the like is what makes love genuine.

Our list is filled with people that we love. They are people that we have told that we love them. I have even written to these special people that I love them.

This shopping for these dearly loved people is one of the few times when I enjoy the activity of shopping. For me shopping is like a project. I set out with a determination to accomplish the goal. It is an objective to conquer! Ahoogah!

My list was completed with one stop. That was a total of seven gifts. On top of that we kept the project under budget! Success was sweet.

But, my wife had her list. It wasn’t as long as mine. Many stores and several days later, I am smiling broadly as I watch her go through the process of her shopping.

Women do not shop to conquer an objective. They are into the experience of enjoying the search. It is not even a search but a stroll, a time to relate to many products.

Even something as functional and utilitarian as an electric spinning toothbrush has to be contemplated, considered, and compared. Men just look, grab the cheapest one and leave the store. Women pick up each variation, examine it, put it back, pick up the next one, turn it over, put it back, pick up another one and compare it by holding it up to the last one, cock their head for a different perspective and on and on while we men stand as a patient sentinel guarding this moment of shopping by the female species.

But, the sights and sounds of the season made the extended shopping festive. It was fun. Now, we’re both done! Hallelujah!

photo credit: Google image

Christmas this year was going to be simple. The thought of NOT putting up any Christmas lights was even fleetingly entertained. But, decorations are too special.

A beautiful poinsettia was given to us as a gift. It decks our coffee table. The deep red star shape leaves shout out Christmas.

So we added our little 3 foot Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It is shining brightly with lights, garland and ornaments. I even planned the colors! Ha, I’m almost as good as an interior decorator, eh?

But, we needed something more. We wandered around the local discount store. Ideas popped into my head.

There was an “aha!” moment. Season banners caught our eye. We discussed various designs. That’s when we settled on our favorite word of the season: JOY!

All of our neighbors can catch a glimpse of our word to them for this spectacular season. It is a simple word that naturally calls for an exclamation point. Whether this grammatical punctuation is added or not it is an instantaneous emotion.

Tonight we added a few more seasonal decorations. We stopped by our storage room. It only took a few moments to search for our Christmas items. Yay! I did store them in an easy to reach section!

Now, our huge picture window of our apartment is part of our Christmas display. It now broadcasts greetings to our neighborhood. It adds to our festive mood.

At the center of our window dressing is an angel playing a brass horn announcing the birth of Jesus. She is surrounded by two gorgeous candles declaring that the baby is also the light of the world. Candles have a lasting single flame gives off both warmth and light.

Two Christmas trees light up our display on the borders. They remind us that Jesus is here to give us life.

And the final piece is a candy cane. That sweet piece illustrates a shepherd’s staff. For Jesus is also the Good Shepherd.

Each one of our window lights is color coordinated. These special decorations have been with me for years. Now, they have followed me to our new home. It’s a temporary home but the lights of this special season remind me that what we have in our faith has stayed with us.

We miss our last house. It was tough to leave it. But, what’s really important is with us this Christmas season. These sparkling lights remind us that we still have what we will always have and never lose.

photo credit: brucefong photography

Our storage room is packed to the gills.  There is space to walk the perimeter of our stack of stuff.  But, getting anything from the middle of the pile will have to wait until we move to our next permanent home.

That makes retrieving seasonal stuff like Christmas decorations a bit of a challenge.  My eyes caught on to a brown box with a Christmas picture on the side.  It was a small Christmas tree.  The box was still sealed.  Some time in our past we picked up this tree and never opened the box. 

Don’t ask me what variety of tree it is because I really don’t know.  Possibly it is a blue spruce.  Then again it might be a yellow pine.  Of course it just may be a grand fir.  But, I do know that it is an evergreen and it won’t shed its leaves.

 All of the technicalities aside I am tickled that it will fit our cozy apartment just fine.  Furthermore, I can trim it out with very few decorations.  And it won’t take up much floor space.  It is a winner all the way around.

Once I opened the box and pulled out the tree, I was smirked since there wasn’t much to it.  I held the one piece tree in one hand and the three pieces to the stand in the other.  Sliding the stand pieces into the bottom of the tree was easy.  I set the completed tree on an end table.  It was really small!

I stepped back to get a better look at it.  Sure enough it was tiny!  We had received a Poinsettia as a gift.  The plant was as big as the tree.

Then, I sat in my recliner to analyze the situation.  The description on the box was accurate.  It did not lie.  But, I had to do something for my sad miniature Charlie Brown Christmas tree. 

So I tilted my head and took a mental picture.  Next I stopped at a local variety store and shopped for lights, garland, ornaments and a tree-top.  Once back at home I hung all of the decorations.  

I plugged in the lights, dimmed the rest of the living room lights and shazzam!  Shining out in the dark of our little abode, this little tree shed some huge amounts of cheery lights.  This was a beautiful tree and exactly what we need for our first Christmas in our new home.

photo credit: Google image

In our recent move and dramatic downsizing I made one of many mental notes. We had to sort out what to move from our wonderful house to a cozy apartment. Storage at our new home is very limited.

A generous friend made an extra room available for our storage. That was a gift from heaven! While we gave away, discarded and donated over half of our earthly possessions, there were still plenty of priceless items to store in her designated space.

Our Christmas decorations were on the list to be reduced down to a minimum. But, one of the items was set aside to be saved. It was the key of my wife’s classroom Christmas decore: a tree. I put that item in an easy to reach location.

Yesterday it was time to help with the Season’s decorations. Smiling to myself I retrieved the tree that was wrapped up in large plastic bags. For a while I relished my careful plan for this special time of the year.

I brought the tree to the front of the classroom. 15 wide-eyed second grade children watched my every move as I unwrapped the tree. The first part was to reattach the stand to the base of the tree. After that was completed I was puzzled.

The base was holding the tree trunk. But, the top of the tree was missing. That’s when I realized that the beauty of the tree was nowhere to be found.

Besides my shock the confused look on the children’s face was unforgettable. Artificial trees are convenient, easy to assemble, break down quickly for compact storage but they look awful if key parts are missing, especially when all we had was a tree trunk. Who knows where the top is?

Somewhere at a thrift store someone has a deal on a “little” tree. Maybe it is buried in a landfill somewhere. Or sadly, it may well be at the bottom of our pile of storage boxes yelping for help and crying for discovery.

It is too late for any rescue. The children needed a tree. I went off to a local discount store and bought a new artificial tree. It was of course ON SALE.

I set up the tree. Then, I turned on the lights to the children’s “ooh’s” and “ah’s”. This tree is no longer topless. It is whole and beautifully lit up for this wonderful time of the year.

photo credit: Google image

Shopping centers don’t have a lot for a man who is interested in outdoor sports. Most of what I do in such places is to let the comical antics of people entertain me. There’s no shortage of humorous observations in the cosmetic departments.

I sat in one of those tall make-over chairs and quietly kept to myself but let my entertainment antennae roam freely. The department was spotless. Nothing was messy in this wonderfully fragrant arena of perfume, bath products, powders and cologne.

A pair of young preteen girls stumbled by my perch. The girl who was leading looked concerned yet confident. She spoke with assurances to her friend.

Her friend was struggling. Both young girls appeared to be sporting a truck load of make-up. There was some skill reflected in the application of it all, albeit in commercial quantities.

This very young girl had a bit of a problem. Her right eye had a false eyelash that had slip out of place. It had fallen over her right eye.

My knowledge of such things is next to nothing. But, it appeared to me that one end of the eyelash had adhered to the bottom of her eye. Now, her eye was held shut by the wayward caterpillar.

She was on the verge of social panic. A squeal here and a moan there, she was telling her friend that she needed to get her make-up fixed. Both were making awkward progress in their elevator shoes.  All I could do was chuckle.

While I was on my elevated platform, I made several general observations about the cosmetic department. First, there is no shortage of sales personnel. There are plenty of well-made-up sales women seeking potential transactions that wander into their radar range.

Most customers that entered was always be open to buying.  Free samples and gifts flow generously for those who buy something. When customers ask for a gift, sales personnel are quick to provide something.

These ladies pushing blush, mascara, lipstick and the like are good at what they do. It’s fun for them. Their female customers come in and get pampered. They all have fun!

Add to that the sparkle and you’ve got a winner that literally is raking in the dough. Sparkle? You bet! Every piece of chrome that makes up so much of the displays glistens with the bright shiny lights. There is more chrome and shine in the Cosmetic Department that will make any Harley-Davidson Dealer look dull.

Thanks for the show, ladies! I was very entertained.

photo credit: Google image