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Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Feeding My Son

Neither one of us were good at it. I was trying to feed my son and he was trying to be fed. I held him in one arm. His head rested in the palm of my hand. The bottle looked huge up next to his tiny head. We learned together and he grew.

The next milestone was cereal and the use of a spoon. Again, we started out sloppy. He wore more cereal than he ever digested, but today, he can down a box in a couple of days. We still need to work some on cleaning up the dishes.

From cereal to baby food was an easier transition. He was getting the hang of eating with a spoon and I was getting better wielding one. He continued to grow.

The pace quickened. John was eating more and more foods. He began to feed himself. First with the hands grinding it into his face and eventually with cutlery, including salad forks.

He feeds himself today. I don't have to cut his meat, peal his orange, or open his canned drink. He can read the directions for easy opening. He does not need me to feed him any more OR does he?

There are many kinds of food. I have been talking about food for the body, but there is also food for the mind, food for the soul, and food for thought. A parent is charged with preparing their child for the world. I also see the role of the parent in shaping the child to be an ethical, hard working, member of society.

The funny thing about these other foods is they do not always nourish our children the way we would like. Our servings of prejudice and vitriolic tirades may cause the moral equivalent of high cholesterol or obesity. Our narrow mind, bitter gossip, and vindictive judgments are poisons to love, tolerance, and acceptance. These foods are easily produced and prepared and children who consistently eat at this serving line often become angry and bitter. Life has no shine, no hope, and a young soul slowly withers leaving but an empty shell.

We may think they do not listen to us, but they do. Our words and actions are closely scrutinized. I have delivered many a sermon to my son only to find out he paid more attention to my phone conversation with one of my buddies or a comment I made during the news. This is where consistency comes in. Our words are important, but must be backed by our actions.

Maybe Dorothy Law Nolte said it best in the following poem:

If A Child Lives With . . .
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns that it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to trust in himself and others .
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live.
-Dorothy Law Nolte

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 29, 2004


What I Did On My Summer Vacation

One of the best feelings I can recall from childhood is having the entire summer ahead of me. Three months of doing whatever i wanted to do. I could play baseball, go swimming, sleep late, and just have fun. Kansas is hot in the summer and I sometimes had problems getting to sleep due to the heat. We eventually got window fans, then air conditioning, but before then I laid on top of the covers flipping the pillow over to feel the cool side many a night. Sleeping with the windows open was almost like camping out. The crickets and locusts serenaded me to sleep. In the morning I would wake up with a frog in my throat from the damp air.

As summer wore on, I tended to sleep later and later. In the AM, I usually watched game shows, Password, Concentration, Jeopardy, Truth or Consequences, Let's Make a Deal or replays of the Beverly Hillbillies and Andy Griffith. The game shows in the afternoon were the Newlywed Game and the Match Game. I couldn't handle the soaps except for Dark Shadows.

If I wasn't watching TV, I was hanging with my friends, Doug, Scott, Frank, and the three Killingsworth boys. We played all kinds of sports. Baseball was the major pastime in the summer. At night, we played hide and seek and a hybrid we invented we called spotlight. Summer nights were nice. Eventually, our parents would yell for us to come in for the night. Bath time washed off the day's layers of dirt and grime. The nightly treat was a bowl of vanilla ice cream with Hershey's chocolate syrup. Yummm!

Sometimes, my friends and I would sleep out. We would take our sleeping bags out in the backyard and camp. That was always fun and we did it a lot. Our town had a nice municipal swimming pool and many an afternoon was spent at the Shawnee Pool. Mom usually gave me a dime for a treat at the pool. I usually saved the dime to buy one of the revolutionary new refreshments sold at 7-11 an Icee. Can you say brain freeze. Speaking of brain freezes, how can something hurt so much and not cause any permanent damage?

My dad came home for lunch from his mail route. I enjoyed having lunch with him and talking about baseball or whatever was on my mind. Sometimes I would walk with him on the route in the afternoon.

Walking to the store was another summer activity. Nothing like a nice cold coke from a soft drink machine. We walked the streets looking for bottles we could exchange for cash. When we found a few bottles we took them to the grocery store for our reward. Our drug store had a soda fountain too and we sometimes went there for a chocolate soda complete with whipped cream and a cherry.

Comic books were summer fun. I read Archie, Sad Sack, and Beetle Bailey. I also read Mad Magazine, I bet you're shocked about that.

There is much more. Running for the Popsicle man when hearing the bell, riding bikes, playing in the hose, having water balloon fights, and family vacations. These are a few of my favorite things.

Somehow, the summer days would slip away. I would see Back To School Sales and get that sick feeling that it is all coming to a close. Then I would get the school supplies for the new year and some new clothes and I would be looking forward to the inevitable. Those were the days. Today, kids have to be structured. They attend camps and just laying around is frowned upon. Who knows?

So that's what I used to do on my summer vacation.
John Strain


Monday, June 28, 2004


Morning Run

Come along with me on my morning run.

It is 5:45 am, I step out of the air conditioned house into a warm, humid world. Dawn is breaking and the sounds of night are giving way to the daytime. I hear both the crickets and the song birds. I can identify cardinals, mocking birds, blue jays, and crows. Even an owl announces his presence with his haunting call. It is so peaceful as I begin my slow jog to the park a half mile away. This is to warm up and get my body ready for a more intense workout. Up a small hill and across a busy street, I travel in a straight line to the park nestled in a residential neighborhood. Stopping to walk the last few yards, I turn toward the shelter to begin my stretching routine. I use a picnic table to lean on and balance myself for the various stretches. A crepe myrtle limb brushes my face as I near the shelter and a cool splash of water is a slight shock as it drips down my neck. I am surrounded by the bird songs. Some are near and in the quiet of morning, I can hear others blocks away. It is lighter now as I go through my stretches, still a bit tired, but gearing up for the required exertion just ahead.

Stretching is done and I walk back to the street. I avoid the crepe myrtle this time ducking under its wet branches. As I near the starting line, I begin a slow jog, when I cross the line I start my watch and pick up the pace. The rhythm of my running shoes hitting the street becomes a metronome guiding me through the run. Today's run is four miles. My coach wants me to run the last two miles faster than the first two miles so I cannot begin too fast or the last two miles will be quite uncomfortable. The course I run has the quarter miles marked. This is wonderful because I can make corrections and adjustments along the way. Here comes the first quarter, 1:58 - that's just about right, a little under an 8 minute pace.

Now satisfied with my pace, I maintain it and concentrate on efficiency. I want to smooth my stride and minimize any non essential motions. It helps to imagine yourself being pulled from the center as if a rope were around your waste pulling you. I pass a guy walking his dog. I say good morning and he acknowledges my greeting with a nod.

Coming up on one mile now, I am passing a line of 74 posts which separate the trail from 15th Street. I know there are 74 because I often count them. I am a bit OCD in that sense - I count things. Sitting in an auditorium or classroom, I will count rows of chairs, lights, and even bricks on the wall. It's just something I do if nothing else is going on. Today though no counting. The first mile time is 7:43, man, I must have picked up the pace. I am feeling good so I increase my speed a bit still focusing on running smooth and effortless. My breathing is at rhythm with my arms and legs and the metronome of my running shoes continues its hypnotic beat and taking its place among the bird songs and other morning sounds.

This continues through mile two 7:29 and mile three 7:25. My last mile is ahead and I am running back past the posts. I avoid counting them again. I am still feeling good. Dropping some of the weight is paying off now. The last mile always seems shorter, maybe because I know I get to stop, but it just seems shorter. I stop looking at my watch and just go all out. I strike a pace I figure I can maintain to the end. Too fast and I have to slow down, too slow and I don't beat my mile three time. A quarter mile to go, my stride stretches out and quickens, I conjure the images of finishing a race in my mind. The race announcer is calling out times and smatterings of applause are drifting from the finish line. I make a turn and continue running hard. The finish line is straight ahead. Run through the tape, run, faster, don't slow down, breathing hard, heart pounding, sweat dripping, legs pounding, run, faster, faster, finish. Phew, slow down, slower, walk, check your watch. The last mile was 7:09, not bad. It was a good run. I catch my breath and start a slow jog back to my house. Two women are running toward me and I say good morning, they wave. I see them most mornings. My shirt is drenched with sweat. It is warm and humid, but nothing like it is going to be in a few hours.

I turn into my drive, bend down and scoop up the newspaper. Pulling it out of the plastic bag I check the headlines. More killing and crooked politicians - some things never change. I hope my morning run is one of those things.

Did you enjoy the exercise? Now get in the shower and get ready for work. You have a day to tackle and this run will energize you for the task.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 26, 2004


The Puppy Has A Name

His name shall be Mac

May 30 I invited folks to name a puppy. The people at Other World Computing were sponsoring a puppy for Working Class Dogs and were having a contest to name the little guy. Well, the cute pup now has a name. Mac. I voted for Yoda, but Mac is a good name. If you want to see how your choice fared in the voting, go to the puppy poll and see.


Introducing the Weekend Replay

Today I am kicking off what I intend to be a weekly feature. I will audio blog my favorite posts. I am guessing folks have not gone to the archives and read everything already. I want to encourage you to embrace audio blogging in some way. I like to put a voice with the blog.

If you have problems getting the audio to work, here is the link to this week's replay: I See Castles

Have a nice weekend
John Strain
this is an audio post - click to play


Friday, June 25, 2004


Cajun Joke

this is an audio post - click to play


Thursday, June 24, 2004


Driving Blind: Part II

My original Driving Blind Post appeared 9/25/03. I discussed parking cars at Red Lobster without a license and driving a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Driving Blind: Part II is about my motorcycle days. You read it right, I said motorcycle. Who says blind guys can't ride motorcycles? A disclaimer: Tim, Dick, and Dorothy will probably bust out laughing at me calling a Honda XL 250 a motorcycle, but I also drove a Gold Wing once - maybe that counts.

I always liked bicycles. We rode all the time. A bike in my neighborhood was like a horse to a cowboy. From bicycles, I graduated to riding lawn mowers. They were like slow go-carts. Most of the fun was working on them and souping them up. I would take off the muffler and experiment with different pipes to change the sound of the engine. It was really fun watching flame shoot out the back of the mower. As we drove the mower around, we would reach back on the engine and over ride the governor by pushing the throttle on the carburetor. It would sound like an Indy car, but only be traveling 5 miles an hour.

About age 13 the neighborhood kids began getting mini bikes. I finally got a 4 HP Rupp knock off sold by K-Mart. It was pretty fast and I wore out the grass in the back yard driving around in circles. I sold it and bought a Honda 50. The Honda was actually slower, but it had gears and some neat bells and whistles.

One summer, I took the Honda to my grandparent's house in Missouri and drove it all around on the dirt roads there. My friend Mike in Missouri had a Honda Trail 90 and we went all over the Ozarks on that thing. It was so much fun, I could not get enough. I looked at catalogs and magazines. I saved money and schemed to get a bigger motorcycle and finally, I purchased a Honda 100. A bigger frame and quite a bit more power, I rode a lot off road and on the dirt roads. This motorcycle stayed in Missouri. I only rode it when I got down there for the holidays and summers.

Jennifer getting a ride on the motorcycleI even gave my niece, Becky's daughter Jennifer, rides on the motorcycle. I was off for the summer and Becky was working. My mom and step dad along with my grandparents watched Jennifer. One thing led to another and one afternoon, my grandpa was strapping the child to me and the motorcycle. I was very careful and only went up and down the road slowly. Jennifer seemed to love the rides and it was something you didn't see everyday.

My Honda XL 250Finally, I purchased the Honda XL 250. That baby could go from 0 to 40 really fast off the road. It was geared real low for power. I eventually changed the sprocket to raise the gear ratio and add a few miles of speed to the top end. I got it up to 65 once going down a big hill wide open.

My mom points to a patch of gray hair on her head and claims I put them there with the motorcycle episode. I did not have a license, but drove on the street. I never had a wreck or got stopped by the police. I had two close calls with accidents and they woke me up a bit. I finally sold the motorcycle when I moved to New Orleans. I needed the money and I figured I had tempted the fates enough.

You may wonder how a legally blind person can do such a thing. I can make up for a lack of sight with familiarity. Knowing the roads and where the signs are prevents missing a curve or running through a stop sign. I rode when conditions were good for me to see and I was careful. My biggest vulnerability was if something would just run out in front of me.

Looking back, I cannot believe I did all of that. Maybe we really do get smarter with age. I know my limitations better and accept them now. I do not want to kill myself. I would like to ride a motorcycle again though. it is a feeling of freedom. One can feel the temperature changes as the road moves from valley to ridge. The feel of the sun and the smell of the grass and earth are noticeable unlike riding in a car.

So that's it, the motorcycle chapter of my life. Now, I will have to tell you about the time I got run over by a SeaDoo, but not today.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 23, 2004


Hobo Responds to Cheeky Squirrel

this is an audio post - click to play


Next Time I'll Use A Script

this is an audio post - click to play


Dogs and Projection

HoboProjection is a term used in psychology referring to how people project their attitudes, ideas, and beliefs onto others as though it originated with them. An individual may not be able to face their own laziness, but easily see laziness in others. Usually, projection refers to unacceptable or undesirable behavior. A woman may not want to admit she has sexual feelings for a coworker so she accuses him of being a flirt and a wolf.

Accusations often tell more of the accuser than the accused. Have you ever been accused of something that you never even knew existed? You may be a victim of someone else's projection. At work, you may do something conscientious but be accused of trying to gain favors with the boss. The accuser may have tipped their hand about the real reason beneath their actions.

A form of projection occurs among dog owners and animal owners in general. We project our thoughts and opinions onto our animals. I even talk for my dog and have a special voice I use when I am in character. If dogs really can understand what we say, it must be frustrating not being able to respond. Then again, maybe they do. I have noticed Hobo depositing more turds on the rug lately.

Surely I learned this from my mother. She always had voices for the dog and cat. One of my friend's mother had several animals for which she spoke. He was amazed at how she could carry on a detailed conversation between two dogs and two cats, each with a unique voice and personality.

I often project onto Hobo for a laugh, but even if I am alone, I may speak for him. It just seems natural. Often I am working on something and Hobo is laying there staring at me. I assume he notices each mistake. Not liking to be under such scrutiny, especially by a four legged critic, I talk back. "What are you looking at?" I may say, "I suppose you could do it better." He just stares back. Sometimes he can be so passive aggressive.

Maybe that is why dogs and pets are so hard to part with. I have been putting words in Hobo's mouth for 13 years. When it comes to voting, his paw pulls the same lever I do. When it comes to sports he cheers for the same teams I do. He can keep a secret and he has a way of sending a wave of comfort over me with a simple look from his big brown eyes.

Hobo is so much like me, he sometimes uses foul language and cops a smart ass attitude. Barbara may say, "Oh, Hobo, you're out of food and water." I respond using Hobo's voice, "Yeah, get off your ass and feed me or I'm calling the Humane Society." I think Barbara knows it is really me talking though, because she still feeds the poor dog.

I wonder what he's really thinking.

Do you talk to for the animals?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 22, 2004


Subtle Department

I thought of another pet peeve of mine. I am referring to the descriptors the media uses when talking about certain criminals, enemies of mankind, and general all around scum. My peeve is, I feel the media often legitimizes what are otherwise illegitimate individuals and gives more credit where no credit is due.

Words are powerful tools. They shape our thoughts and opinions. In the news, we depend on words to describe something we did not experience. The media has a responsibility to make us aware of the facts and either eliminate bias as much as possible or be up front about the bias(s) they have. I am making a distinction between simply relating the facts of an event and commentary. We must first know who?, what?, when?, where?, and how?, before we can intelligently discern a why? If the facts are slanted, the opinions we will draw will be slanted as well.

Here are a few examples of which I speak. Terrorists, thieves, and others who commit crimes are often referred to as having superior intelligence. Read this next sentence in a "talking head" voice. "Bin Sheet'fer Brains, masterminded the car bombing which killed 18 school children." This animal / monster is credited with intelligence instead of being savage, murderous, and brutal. Giving them credit for intelligence is like saying a guy who knocks someone out with a sucker punch is a good boxer. Defenders of the mastermind position usually say something like, "we cannot set ourselves as judge. This man is a revolutionary and a freedom fighter for his people."

Another example of media giving more credit than is due is by crediting criminals and terrorists with superior organization and administration skills. Talking head voice: "A top aid for Abu - yerself, said 'God will destroy the infidels because they are godless snakes who deserve his wrath.'" In this case, "top aid" was probably the guy who answered the phone or came to the door when the reporter knocked on it. I guess I could go out and kill a few people then hide. If my friends commented to the media about me, they would probably be referred as one of my aids. As if.

Who figures out the descriptors anyway? Manuel Noriega of Panama was "Panamanian strong man Manuel Noriega." I wonder how much he could bench? Then we all remember the "Elite Republican Guard." If these guys are elite, I would hate to see their third string. Often, the media pulls one item from a life and uses it to describe that individual from then on. David Duke of Louisiana was always referred to as "Former KKK leader David Duke." This is a true statement, but the same could be said of Robert Byrd of West Virginia, but it is not said. Who made that decision? Who decides that some people will receive a negative handle while others get the positive handle?

The talking heads use superlatives and exaggeration to get our attention. They filter the facts. We end up with form over substance. The package looks nice, but there is nothing inside. We discuss controversial issues in 30 second, fast paced sound bites.

The problem with subtlety is it is not obvious. We can be brain washed and / or tricked unless we pay attention, question, and think. Don't let some reporter tell you who you should or should not respect. Figure it out for yourself.

What subtle bias have you noticed in the media?

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, June 20, 2004



Storm door

This is our storm door. If you look closely, you will notice the bottom of the door is cardboard instead of glass. During mowing or weedeating, the door took a rock and shattered. Not wanting heat, bugs and, small varmints to have easy access to my domicile, I fashioned a piece of cardboard to perfectly fit into the grooves where the window frame used to be until I can get it fixed. I further sealed out the elements with tape. One would think on father's day such a quick fixit job would draw high praise, lauds and plaudits. Instead, my son said it looked ghetto and my wife agreed. So I used a piece of cardboard which served as a stand for the time I spray painted some vents, it's only for a few days. I chose function over form.

Hobo likes to lay on the rug and look out the window. He can't now, poor dog. He looked at it like, "What the hell is this? How am I supposed to watch squirrels and guard the house?" This is the ripple affect in action.

Just another day in paradise.

Until the next time,
John Strain


Happy Father's Day

Just wanted to wish all you fathers a happy father's day. I am enjoying mine. I ran, went to church, went to lunch with my son, did the yard work with him, broke out a window in our storm door with the weedeater, and now I am getting ready to clean up, have a beer, then later grill burgers. It don't get much better than that. Wow, how was that for a run on sentence?
John Strain


Saturday, June 19, 2004


Saturday Exploits

Running / Fitness Update: My coach has my mileage slowly climbing. I began at 14 miles per week and next week I will run 21 miles. My long run is up to 6 miles. I have felt great and my pace has improved. Today I ran 4 miles at a 7:27 pace 29:49. This is quick improvement, but more in line with how I feel I should be running. The weight loss has certainly helped. I am down to 187. I wrote a post 9/20/03 outlining my low point regarding fitness. I weighed 214.6 and my body fat, according to my scale, was 24.8. Today, I weighed 187 and my body fat was 18.0. I ain't done yet. My eyes are fixed on the prize - to qualify for the Boston Marathon. So far so good.

The Big Easy: We are making two trips to New Orleans today. The first in just a little while to have the radio / CD player replaced in our car. It is one of those Bose systems. The CD player quit. The cheapest route was to have the unit sent to the factory for repair. We did and now it is back. I hate not having my tunes. Providing that does not take long, we will come home, then go back this evening with friends to eat at our favorite BBQ place. Zea's Brewery and Rotisserie. For me it is the dry ribs, roasted corn grits, and dirty rice. Words fall short to describe what that stuff does to your taste buds.

Yard work Reprieve: I told my son all I wanted for father's day was for him to cut the grass. I hope I get it. I will probably still do the reediting and blowing, but that will seem like nothing. I cannot tell you how good it makes me feel to watch that boy push a lawnmower. I guess because it happens so rarely, like Halley's Comet.

Coming Attractions: Post ideas are incubating in my skull. Here are some of my ideas, "Dogs and Projection," "Adjectives and the News," and "9/11 Commission: Going Beneath the Politics." I can't wait to see what I am going to say.

Have a fun Saturday and Geaux LSU at the College World Series

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, June 18, 2004


A Guy Walks Into A Bar . . .

John at the bar
I am partial to "A guy walks into a bar. . . " jokes. Here are a few good ones.

A guy walks into a bar and sits down. When he hears someone say "nice shirt" he asks the bartender, "Who said that?" The bartender replied, "The peanuts. They're complimentary."

A grasshopper walks into a bar and the bartender says, "Hey, I've got a drink named after you." After a few seconds the grasshopper replies, "You have a drink named Steve?"

A guy walks into a bar with jumper cables. The bartender says, "You can come in, but don't start anything!"

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender sets the beer down and says, "For you, no charge!"

A pig goes into a bar and orders ten drinks. He finishes them up and the bartender says, "Don't you need to know where the bathroom is?" The pig says, "No, I go wee wee all the way home."

A dog with his leg wrapped in bandages hobbles into a saloon. He sidles up to the bar and announces: "I'm lookin' fer the man that shot my paw."

A horse walks into a bar. The bartender says, "So, why the long face?"

Shakespeare walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a beer. "I can't serve you." says the bartender. "You're Bard!"

A guy walks into a bar and there is a horse behind the bar serving drinks. The guy is just staring at the horse, when the horse says, "What are you staring at? Haven't you ever seen a horse serving drinks before?" The guy says, "No, I never thought the parrot would sell the place."

A little guy walks into a bar and slips on some vomit. Minutes later a tough guy walks into the bar and slips on the vomit as well. The little guy says, "I just did that." The big guy then beats the little guy up.

A man walks into a bar and sees, standing next to the bartender, this giant gorilla. So the man, he sits at the bar, orders a drink, and says, "What's with the gorilla?" The bartender says, "Watch." Then he begins to start, like, hitting the gorilla. And the gorilla, he bends over and gives the bartender a blow job! When they're finished the bartender turns to the man and says, "Wanna try?"
"Sure!" says the man, "Just don't hit me so hard!".

A man walks into a bar and orders a beer. He sips it and sets it down a monkey swings across the bar and urinates in the pint. The man asks the barman who owns the monkey. The barman replies the piano player. The man walks over to the piano player and says "Do you know your monkey just urinated in my beer?"
The pianist replies "No, but if you hum a few bars, I'll play it.

I love this genre of joke. If you want to know why they are funny, follow this link.

Have a great weekend!
John Strain


Thursday, June 17, 2004


A Parable About Relationships

April 14, 1982 I was 25 and a seminary student in New Orleans. By that time, I had known the pain of a broken heart and the joy of feeling known and loved. This piece is a result of my pondering the subject of reward vs. risk as it applies to relationships.

Relationships: A Parable
Once there was a man who lived in a quaint house in the country. He never ventured out because of his terrible fear of being caught in the rain. Even when it was sunny and clear he opted to remain inside, “A shower can come suddenly and the results would be disastrous,” he reasoned to himself. He was not satisfied with his indoor life either. His small dirty windows could not begin to let in the warm, spring, sunlight. The cheerful songs of birds were hardly noticeable from behind his thick walls of protection. There were flowers to smell and cool, grassy, fields to run, jump, and play in, but these joys were confined to his imagination, “for to be caught in the rain would be devastating,” he thought. His life was mediocre, but safe.

He lived this way for a time, until he could no longer endure his dingy, boring, existence. One day he walked over to the door very slowly. He looked at it for a moment, and then he grabbed the door handle and thrust the door open. At first, the bright sunlight hurt his eyes, but they adjusted quickly and he stepped out into a wonderful world. He was being bombarded with new sensations from every direction. He drew in a fresh measure of clean air and his lungs called for more. He heard children playing and birds singing. He was so caught up with these new sensations that he did not realize he was a fair distance from the protection of his home, but he did not care for by now he was running and jumping in a beautiful grassy, field. When he was out of breath he laid down in the cool grass and looked up at the mammoth, cotton like, fluffy, clouds as they sailed across the deep, blue sky. One of the clouds looked like a sheep and another resembled a castle. The one that looked like the sheep began to take on the shape of a big white rabbit. When it had hopped across the spring sky, the man sat up and noticed a yellow butterfly zigzagging and fluttering about the tall, luscious, grass that waved back and forth as the gentle breeze dictated. Then he thought to himself, “How wonderful is the world.”

By now he felt so calm and relaxed that he fell asleep happier than he had ever been. In the west, storm clouds were forming and he did not notice the happy sky evolve into a dark, scary one. When he awoke, he sensed something different, but he was not sure what was wrong. As the sleep slowly cleared from his eyes, a knife blade of fear raced through his insides and he began to panic. The big, yellow butterfly was no longer fluttering around the grass which was now laid almost flat because of the breeze which was no longer gentle. There were no sounds of children playing or birds singing. With all the strength he could muster, he ran for his house of protection. He was still tired and groggy and this caused him to trip over a tree root sending his sprawling headlong on to the ground. He got up and continued running, but it was too late. By now the rain began to fall like water being poured from a bucket and the big drops stung his face. It was much worse than he had ever imagined it would be. When he finally made it inside his house he just stood there sobbing. He was cold, wet, and devastated. He was sorry he had ever gone outside.

The days and weeks went by and in time the pain passed too, but it was a long slow process. He would reflect and think of the joy he had once experienced – he longed for the happiness of the grassy field.

One day he walked over to the door very slowly. He looked at it for a moment then he grabbed the door handle. . .

How does the story end? The ending is written by you. Will you open the door or will you stay inside?

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 16, 2004


It Just Pisses Me Off

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits -Anonymous

I am as easy going as they come. I am a social worker and teach people how to deal with their anger. Anger comes more from how we think about things than the things themselves. I know all of this, but some things just piss me off.

I hate to go through a drive through, get home, then find out they shorted me an order of fries or worse a hamburger. I have short patience when I am looking for something. If I happen to stub my toe or bump my head in the process, I really get chapped. Chances are the neighbors will be stopping their lawnmowers to wonder what all the screaming is about. I don't like being late, waiting in line, sitting in doctor's offices, going to funerals, having root canals, or getting prostate exams. I could name things all night.

Some things are universal. We hate taxes, the government, and don't abide stupid people. A stupid person is someone you don't know that well or someone not in your immediate vicinity. They are the "they" and the "them" we always refer to. "They" say so and so. . .

Here are a few things that piss me off. See if you can relate.

EXHIBIT ONE: Toothpaste cap off, toothpaste all over the tube, tube squeezed from the middle.

Toothpaste tube without cap

It seems like I am always cleaning dried toothpaste off of the cap. I don't want to brush my teeth with stale, dried toothpaste. I also hate squeezing from the bottom only to have it fill in the middle where the last guy incorrectly squeezed. Divorces and child abuse have resulted from this sort of thing. The "pump" held promise at one time, but just never caught on. I must admit, the plastic tubes don't get kinked like the old metal one used to. Once a metal tube was kinked, that toothpaste was lost forever.

EXHIBIT TWO: Toilet paper roll not replaced and /or oriented incorrectly.

Empty toilet paper roll

This scene has caused me to mutter, curse, and yell. I have gone on campaigns to change the behavior, threatened bodily harm, financial ruin, and finally resigned myself to the role of designated toilet paper changer. This is actually my son's bathroom and this is a common sight.

Toilet paper roll oriented incorrectly

Even if a miracle happens and John changes the toilet paper roll, he often orients it incorrectly. This illustrates an incorrectly oriented roll of toilet paper. The paper is coming out underneath. One might as well put fake nails on a chalk board or drag a metal chair across a marble floor. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECCCCCCCHHHHHHHHHHHH. Oh, I hate that.

Correctly oriented toilet paper roll

This is a correctly oriented toilet paper roll. Notice the paper comes over the top, something to which I am accustomed.

Passive aggressive toilet paper orientation

At times, family members have resorted to passive aggressive displays of over the top. I wonder where John got his smart assness from?

EXHIBIT THREE: The tupperware drawer.
Tupperware Drawer
I should invent something to organize a tupperware drawer. You know the problems don't you? The drawer never opens easily. I have to stick my hand in there to push down lids and containers to open the drawer. If I get in a hurry and just force it open, I usually manage to push some lids behind the drawer. Now the drawer does not close. DAMNIT. I have to remove the drawer and recover the offending lid or container. Even if I get the drawer open, I have a better chance of winning the lottery than finding a lid for the container I chose. How can there be so many lids and none of them work? I am starting to have sock drawer flashbacks. The final insult is closing the drawer. It usually closes as easily as it opened. Most of the time, it sticks out an inch or two.

EXHIBIT FOUR: The junk drawer.

Continuing the drawer theme, I must mention our junk drawer. First notice there are three flashlights, none of which work. This always comes in handy when we have a hurricane. At least there are plenty of candles in there. Now where are the matches? Also notice that there are two pair of scissors. No big deal, but two pair of scissors here means the pair that should be in my computer desk ISN'T THERE. I see Hobo's flea medicine is on top in plain sight. The trouble is, when I NEED to find it, it won't be there. I can only find things like that when I don't need them.

EXHIBIT FIVE: Deceptive packaging.
Potpourri almost looks like chips
This last one may be petty, but I have my reasons. This may look like a harmless bowl of potpourri, but to a blind guy like myself, it is easily viewed as a bowl of chips. Have you ever bitten into tree bark expecting the taste of a potato chip? Well, it isn't very fun. The ADA needs to expand their rules to protect me from this in the future.

I have a lot of problems, huh? What about you, do you have any pet peeves?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 15, 2004


Blind Date

"Whenever I went on a date it was always a blind date."

A woman can crush a man with mere words. The tone of her voice can separate flesh from bone and rend one's heart. Certain looks can be lethal, but the greatest pain is caused by her indifference. I wonder if women know this?

As I grew, I settled into a way of life that seemed normal to me. Looking back now I am sure of it. I had my friends, my interests, and I had my problems and challenges. Girls presented a challenge of will and overcoming self-consciousness. It was not until my junior year in high school I was fitted for contact lenses. The contacts gave me a major confidence boost because I did not stand out like a sore thumb any more. My eyes still wiggled, but that could be almost unnoticed.

In the days of BC, before contacts, my thick glasses were like an impenetrable barrier between me and girls. I saw them just fine. I admired them anonymously. I remember Stephanie in 7th grade. She had long brown hair and I was in love. I sat right behind her and just stared at her beautiful hair. I even bought her a Valentine card, but signed it "Secret Admirer." She was out of my league, I thought. I was afraid of rejection and the unknown.

I was at the bottom of the food chain as far as most girls were concerned. Anyone who would "go with" me would be set up for ridicule. I went through junior high and most of high school with out much luck with the ladies.

I can remember the school dances in junior high. It would take the entire party to work up enough nerve to ask a girl to dance. I did dance with Stephanie once. After our dance I asked her if she wanted a coke. She said no thank you and that was it. Why didn't I ask her for her sign? I know, I could have said, "if I told you that you had a great body would you hold it against me?" I just didn't know those sure fire lines in those days.

I got a little older and more brave. When I was 15, I was working at the Red Lobster. I liked Mary Ann the cashier. I was a bus boy at first, then moved up to dishwasher, then to cook. I was moving up the food chain literally. Mary Ann laughed at my jokes and I thought she was pretty. I confided in one of my friends and of course he blabbed it all over the restaurant. Now that the cat was out of the bag, waitresses were encouraging me to ask her out. Being a blind guy, I did not drive so I would have to ask her to drive. Mary Ann was 16, an older woman.

One night at work, business was slow because it was snowing outside. Terri, one of the waitresses, kept badgering me to ask Mary Ann out. She said Mary Ann would go out with me if I asked her. I was as nervous as a guy with Parkinson's disease defusing a bomb. I rehearsed my lines and they kept coming out sounding stupid. My heart was pounding and I finally decided that even if she told me to drop dead it would ease the level of anxiety I was experiencing at the moment. With my courage at an all time high, I walked around to the front cashier stand. Mary Ann was doing her paperwork. There were chits and rolls of cash register receipts laying all over the place. I have no idea what I said, but I finally popped the question and she accepted my invitation.

We dated for about two months. She was the first girl I kissed. We steamed up the windows in her Ford Maverick several times. She is also the first girl to break my heart. From ecstasy to pining away in two short months was quite an education. I experienced pleasure and pain, expanding then being crushed.

Mary Ann did wonders for my confidence. I knew I had possibilities where women were concerned. I had a few more dates in high school, but Mary Ann was the highlight.

In college and later in seminary, I had no problem asking a girl out and asking her if she would mind driving. I was never turned down that I can remember. My nervousness and fears of junior high and high school were my own self-imposed limits. In the end, so what if someone declines an invitation - their loss.

I almost always used the "blind date" line when I went out. Laughter would set people at ease better than anything

I asked for Strength.......and God gave me Difficulties to make me strong.

I asked for Wisdom.........and God gave me Problems to solve.

I asked for Prosperity.....and God gave me Brain and Brawn to work.

I asked for Courage........and God gave me Danger to overcome.

I asked for Love....... ..and God gave me Troubled people to help.

I asked for Favors.........and God gave me Opportunities.

I received nothing I wanted.........I received everything I needed.
From The Struggle of a Butterfly, Author Unknown

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, June 14, 2004


I'm Different

Graphic describing
When you laugh, be sure to laugh at what people do and not at what people are.
-Author Unknown

Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.
-Elsa Maxwell, September 28, 1958

Events and circumstances in life shape us. Our values, interests, and personalities are born of fate -things we have no control over. Another factor in my case was having two parents who nurtured me with love and a good measure of common sense.

One such "life shaping event" was my attendance at the Kansas State School for the Blind from K-5. My mother, over at Essentially Esther, chronicled my first day of kindergarten at that school. Reading her post stirred my thoughts and memories. Now that I have had a few days to mull them over, I will post them here.

I am the youngest of three children. I was always last in the "rites of passage" line. When it came time for me to go to school, I was elated. I was finally getting to be a big boy. I was only 5 years old, so my worldly experience was limited. My mother kept me on a short leash. Going to the "blind school" as we called it was no big deal. To me school was school, but as I grew, I became well aware of the differences - others were all to eager to point them out.

The Kansas State School for the Blind housed students from all over the state of Kansas. I was lucky because I was a day student. There were only a few day students, so even at the blind school, I was not "normal." The students at the blind school were either partially sighted or totally blind. Some had other problems including deafness, mental retardation, and assorted physical handicaps. There is a saying, "The man with one eye is king in the land of the blind." That described me. I was one of the less handicapped. The beauty of this was I learned to be thankful and appreciative for having some sight and not having problems like the ones I witnessed on a daily basis. The teachers counted on me and other students with partial sight to be leaders and helpers with the blind children or kids in wheelchairs.

I led a dual life. I had my life at the blind school and my life 15 miles away in the suburbs with my family and neighborhood friends. At the blind school I was fortunate and a leader, at home I was the kid with the coke bottle glasses, the kid who couldn't see. I had my circle of friends who were used to me, but I was always coming into contact with people who stared at me, laughed at me, or teased me. Fortunately for me, my parents helped me with the teasing. They taught me that we are all different and all have problems. My problem was just more visible. Those who made fun of me were narrow minded. They taught me how to respond to the teasing and I developed a sense of humor that could disarm the teaser and usually turn the crowd against them. It hurt sometimes and I hated that I could not see as well as other kids, but I had to accept it.

I know going to the blind school was the right decision. I received the individual attention I needed to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic. Still, I was embarrassed to tell people I went to the blind school. I did not want to be different, I just wanted to be a normal kid.

The worst of it would be noticing a stranger staring at me or doing a double take. Sometimes I would hear them, "Gaahhh, look at him, look at those glasses." Then they would laugh. Sometimes they would do things playing to my lack of sight to belittle me or for their amusement. "How many fingers am I holding up?" Other times, they would get my glasses somehow, put them on, then act goofy drawing laughter from the bystanders. Not only were my glasses thick, but my eyes wiggled. This condition was a result of early nerve damage. The thick glasses accentuated the condition by magnifying my eyes and the eye movement. Kids can be mean. We all get teased, this is how I was teased.

Two photos of John with his thick glasses
My thick glasses

I stayed at the blind school through grade 5. Finally, I was granted permission to attend public school. I was well prepared by my parents for the hurdles I would have to overcome. I would not have the individual attention or people looking out for me like I did at the blind school. I would be responsible to figure things out myself. I would have to put up with even more teasing. Long story short, it all worked out.

I have had to learn how to adapt. Even when I sit in the front row, I cannot read the board. Therefore, I listen harder and write things down. I borrow notes from other students or the teachers. Some tests were written on the board so I had to leave my seat and get close enough to read it. Over time, I would talk to the teacher and let them know what I needed and they were usually quite accommodating. I really did not require that much special attention.

One time in the sixth grade we had a substitute teacher and he administered a test. He called me and another student to his desk after grading the papers. He suspected one of us had cheated. It was a pretty easy case to solve, because I cannot see well enough to cheat. I began to realize that partial sight has its advantages.

I resisted the large print books they tried to get me to use. I am sure someone went to a lot of trouble obtaining them and I repaid them by not using them. Well, I did use them at home though. My aspiration was not to be different, not to stick out, just to be a normal kid.

The bottom line is I like who I am now and being legally blind is part of the package. It does limit me in some ways and I wish I could see better, but people in hell want ice water. I was blessed with parents who taught me to "go for it" instead of becoming a victim.

I found an article about teasing and how parents can help their children deal with it. My folks must have read it or maybe they wrote it. So that's how my life was shaped by attending the Kansas School for the Blind.

Later in life I wrote a piece that covers this subject matter.

I Can See Wheelchairs
From birth his eyes were dim. His mother cried for she could not change it. He grew as others did, yet missing the detail of a far off airplane or mountain and missing the pop fly to center field. Because he was different the children laughed. The adults were glad their children's eyes were bright. He was hurt and jealous, but as he grew, the teachers showed him that life was more than light eyes. For some, whose eyes were light, had minds drenched in darkness.

As he grew, he kept missing pop flies in center field. Those who saw still laughed. Many others were thankful that they never missed a pop fly. They couldn't imagine a life so empty. When they asked him how he could stand such an existence, he replied, "I can see wheelchairs."
-April 30, 1984

Easing the Teasing: How Parents can Help Their Children

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, June 13, 2004



I recently came across a running term I had not seen before. A "clydesdale" is runner weighing 200 lbs. or more. A female runner 145 lbs. or more is referred to as an "Athena." The reason this distinction is made is because it requires more effort to propel a large body than it does a small body. There is a reason marathons are won by guys around 150 lbs. and there is a reason no runner of 190 lbs. has ever run a 2:15 marathon. The reason is body weight and the limits of human potential.

Look at this comparison:

To run one mile in ten minutes:

a 120-pound athlete burns ~78 Calories
a 160-pound athlete burns ~105 Calories
a 200-pound athlete burns ~131 Calories
a 240-pound athlete burns ~157 Calories

So, the 240-pound athlete that has "ONLY" just passed the halfway point when the 120-pound athlete crosses the finish line has actually worked harder in that athletic achievement!

This makes a lot of sense to me. When I ran the Napa Valley Marathon in March, it was my worst performance and it was the most I had ever weighed to compete in a marathon. I told my running coach my goal was 185. He told me 185 is his out of shape pudgy weight. We are the same height and build, so I guess I will have to rethink my goal. I may go down to 170 lbs. At any rate, I can certainly correlate improved performance with weight loss. This morning I weighed in at 188.6.

I have kept eating the cottage cheese and peaches for breakfast and lunch. I am eating good, nutritious foods, but have cut down on portions. The next thing is to throw in weight lifting and other forms of cross training.

I am going to crush this goal. Is that the theme from Rocky I hear in the background?

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 12, 2004


Sago Palm

Before I get to my Saturday yard work, let me tell you about my sego palm.

Earlier this year, my friend Marty gave me a sago palm. He told me it was in a wheelbarrow in his yard so just pick it up when I wanted it. The next day, Sunday, we took my son's truck to fetch the palm. After the previous night's rain, the wheelbarrow containing the palm was full of water. Even after dumping the water I could, it still weighed a ton. John and I lifted the wheelbarrow and all into his truck and I rode in the back with the palm to keep the wheelbarrow steady. I was riding behind the wheelbarrow throwing my weight around to offset the shifting load of the palm sitting in a muddy mixture of roots and thorns. The wind was whipping the palm leaves around and I felt like I was in a Tarzan movie running from wild natives. The two mile drive home seemed more like two-hundred miles, but we made it and unloaded the free palm tree.

I had just the spot picked out in our front yard. The problem was, there was already a bush there. I made short work of the unwanted bush with my pickax, muahahaha. I dug the hole in short order. Everything was going smooth, until I went to put the palm in the hole. I could not lift it out of the wheelbarrow. Our dirt / mud here is what we call gumbo. It is heavy in clay and this soil consistency was creating a suction adhering to the wheelbarrow like a crack head holding onto his pipe. My reluctance in dumping it in the hole was two fold: (1) Is the hole depth correct?; and (2) Is the plant oriented correctly? After some measuring and thinking and head scratching, I decided to go for it. John's friend Ben was helping me and he was dumping the wheelbarrow as I tried to guide it to the right spot in the hole. With one big flooooomp, the plant slid into the hole perfectly oriented, but too deep. Rats. We had to go around the plant prying it up with a shovel while the other guy put dirt underneath it, in an effort to jack it up. In the end, I was a muddy mess with a few palm needle pricks decorating my upper extremities, but the palm was in the ground and looking good.

I knew nothing about taking care of this kind of plant, so I just left it alone and observed it. We have gotten steady rain, so I have never watered it and it has done fine. I look at it when I mow the grass or water other plants just to make sure it is OK.

This week, I got a surprise. I whole new plant was growing up from the center. Actually, after reading up on sego palms, what I am referring to is the normal spring leaves. Sometimes they bloom and produce seeds or pups, (new plants on the base of the plant). The male plants send up a pine cone looking thing, while the female palms have a bloom that opens up for pollination. There are good photos illustrating this here.

Sego Palm
It looks like a badminton birdie. This new growth is typical and will eventually spread out.
Sego Palm, new growth
Top view of the new growth. The new is very soft compared to the old which is sharp. The center of the plant has sharp 3" thorns.

Plants are amazing. Really, they are just one amazing thing about our universe. When I think of all of the things I don't know, it is a bit overwhelming. On the other hand, it is satisfying to know I will never run out of things to learn and be fascinated over. Today, the normal cycles of a sego palm, tomorrow, who knows?

Until the next time
John Strain

Now, where's that lawnmower?


Friday, June 11, 2004


My Dad

My dad was born in Cabool, Missouri on January 31, 1925. He is 79 and lives in Kansas City. He was an only child, played high school basketball, and was in the Army Air Corp. during WWII. He worked for the post office before "going postal" was a description of temporary insanity. A family man and a scout master, my dad was around a lot. He played catch with me and pitched me balls underhand so I could hit them. He built a second place pinewood derby car for which I got to take credit. If I had an interest, he helped me pursue it.

Some of my earliest memories of my dad are from kindergarten. Dad had Wednesdays off, so on that day, he and my mother often picked me up at school. I was only going half days then. I remember looking out the glass of our classroom into the hallway and seeing my dad wearing his camel colored overcoat and hat. My heart would speed up and the remaining minutes I had to wait before being released from school seemed like miniature eternities. He called me "bud," and "boy." To this day he calls me "Johnny" much of the time. I was proud of my dad.

During the summers, when I was old enough, I walked the mail route with him. I walked proudly with him as he strode from door to door delivering mail. He seemed to know everyone and he was always joking and laughing. People seemed to like dad. Back at the post office, I got some special attention from the other mailmen. Dad would tell them about my latest interests and activities.

When I was in Boy Scouts, dad was the scout master. He already had one hitch under his belt from when my older brother was in scouts. Dad pulled another shift to get me through. Campouts and hikes were especially nice having him there.

I learned from him that if you want to be respected, you must be worthy of respect and you must show respect to others. He taught me to be easy going, honest, and to laugh a lot. He was a good model for me. As I am a father today, I draw from what I experienced myself. It seems to have worked thus far.

With my dad, I knew I had support. I knew someone was in my corner cheering. He encouraged me to try harder and not to give up, he taught me my first lessons about being a man.

Grand Canyon
1967 or so at the Grand Canyon
Dad with my son John 1985
Dad with my son John in 1985
Kansas City 2002
Kansas City 2002, from left to right, Me, Dad, John, my brother George
John's HS graduation May 2003
May 2003 at John's high school graduation.

The longer I am a father, the more familiar I become with what my dad had to do to raise us and provide for the family. He did OT during the holidays, then would come in and have time for the family. I am sure he would have rather taken a nap or had some time to himself. He took pride in his yard and his house. I learned a lot from him about home repairs and how to use tools.

Dad was not the best at expressing intimacy and he passed that trait on to me as well, ha. He may not say "I love you" in so many words, but I know he does. I may not say it to him, but he knows that I do. It's a guy thing I guess.

Here's to the dads out there. Have a great father's day.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 10, 2004


It is a Matter of Perspective

EyeAnytime I can point to one thing which effects the many, I have stumbled onto something important. Perspective or how we look at things is one of those things.

Here are some examples of how perspective makes a difference.

My favorite Psalm, 139 reveals a perspective David had about God.
(13) For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.
(14) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

If you believe God made you then you will probably reason that God made everyone else. You may further reason He loves them as much as He does you. Keeping this perspective in mind, might have one treat fellow humans more like a brother and less like an enemy.

In United States politics we have the Democrats and Republicans jockeying for power. Virtually everything has become political game. Even the death of Ronald Reagan is being shamelessly politicized by both sides. Why? Because someone in a party sees two kinds of Americans, those who are right and those who are wrong. If we see only Americans, the divisiveness shrinks.

Open up your mind if you are feeling angry and hateful. These feelings are results of minimizing things. By expanding your view, anger and hatred will melt away. A rabid partisan can love someone in the opposite party if he sees him/her as an American or a fellow man. However, if that same person is viewed as a barrier to a narrow political reality, hate can flourish.

If your job is getting to you, you may need to adjust your perspective. It is easy to feel trapped and abused at a workplace. However, if you realize you are making a choice, the conditions you are experiencing may not seem as incarcerating. From time time my jobs have been extremely dissatisfying due to everything from work load to coworkers to management. I made it through by telling myself things like, "this job is not my life, it is only part of my life." I realized I could quit, but chose to work there, because at the moment, I had no better alternative. These are subtle perspectives which give me a sense of control.

When someone talks about "thinking outside the box" they are saying, "hey, we need to look at this problem differently, maybe we are missing something." Blogging is a wonderful way to gain other perspectives. I am a 47 year old white guy who lives in Louisiana. My friends are coincidentally in my demographic. I do not often get the point of view around here of an Australian, Canadian, or European. I do get those perspectives on this blog. Like the three blind men trying to describe an elephant, one feeling the trunk, one feeling the tail, and the last one feeling the elephant's side - they reported vastly different descriptions. Bloggers do that. We all talk about events from our perspective. Each of us takes these points of view into consideration and hopefully a new perspective emerges. I believe this is referred to as "learning."

I have nurtured a switch of sorts in my own mind. As I know many people do, I talk to the television during the news. I sometimes yell and curse at the television as though I were a part of the discussion. At other times, I may be talking to Barbara and even ranting about one topic or another. Eventually, I realize how extreme I am getting and I laugh at myself. At the moment I realize my extremeness and laugh, my perspective changed.

Changing perspective melts away anger, bitterness, fear, stress, and anxiety. The funny thing is a change of perspective can create these same things. Change your perspective from narrow to wide if you want to include people. Don't take things so seriously if you want to relax a bit. Realize life is short the next time you are making a big deal out of the "issue of the day." Do you want to expend so much energy on something that won't even be in the next news cycle?

Standing under the night sky it is easy to feel small. The vast universe makes even our galaxy seem insignificant. Then looking into a microscope we see microscopic worlds and become aware of how large we are in comparison. A wise old man may intimidate us or have us marvel at the collection of wisdom while holding a newborn baby elicits feelings of nurture and love born of our own knowledge and wisdom.

How many times have you heard astronauts speak from their perspective in space? They say things like, "seeing the earth from here makes problems seem insignificant." One man said, "I was sad because I had no shoes, but then I saw a man who had no feet." Chicago Cubs fans know the perspective setting phrase, "wait until next year." These phrases are all around us. They are tools to help us cope, but if used too much, become instruments of denial.

Think about it. Do you need to change your perspective about anything? What is bugging you? What keeps you awake at night? These things may need a shift of perspective. You will be amazed at the difference it can make.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 09, 2004



I have accomplished a lot in my life. I have a masters degree and almost finished a doctorate. I have been married 21 years. I am a father. I have run marathons. Once I danced with Mary Wells (she pulled me up on stage at a casino in Mississippi). I have seen things, done things, but the accomplishment of which I am most proud is . . .

. . . standing on my head in four states at once.

Standing on my head at Four Corners

I accomplished this amazing feat at age 10 while on a family vacation. We visited Four Corners and the rest is history. Since then, it has been pretty much down hill. Nothing I have done since begins to approach such an achievement.

What obscure, strange, whacky, off beat, and otherwise unique achievement have you accomplished?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 08, 2004


Emergency Help Is Available

I am offering free counseling services for any Calgary fan who feels they need them today. My most sincere condolences are offered. I know all too well the depression caused by your favorite team losing a big game. Hang in there friends and I truly am sorry for your loss. Feel free to emote here.
John Strain



My first job was a paper route. I received a bundle of papers every day. I rolled them and delivered them on my bike. Each month I collected the money. Later I moved up to the main paper in Kansas City, The Kansas City Star. My first route was to deliver about 180 papers to an apartment complex. I was 14 and waking up at 2:30 am for the large sum of 13 dollars per week.

Here are the jobs I have done in my life:

• Paper boy
• Bus boy at Red Lobster (later I worked as a dish washer, then finally cooking)
• Cook in another locally owned restaurant
• Laborer for a brick and block mason
• Ground crew: All kinds of lawn work, eventually I primarily worked on the lawn equipment, I can fix a small engine.
• Summer missionary trying to start a new church
• Summer youth minister
• Caregiver for an elderly man one summer
• Church planter apprentice, trying to start a mission church
• House and yard keeper for an MD in New Orleans
• Cleaned houses between seminary and first ministerial job
• Security guard - not armed
• Psychiatric aid
• Psychiatric hospital work, many titles and positions both clinical and administrative.
• Counseling private practice
• Currently working as a clinical social worker with acute psychiatric patients.

From $13 a week delivering papers to $1.60 per hour as a bus boy, those early jobs taught me a lot. All work has dignity. I may complain about my job from time to time, but I am thankful to be working.

What are some of the interesting jobs you have held?

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, June 07, 2004


Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan
When Ronald Reagan, then a private citizen, addressed the Republican Convention in 1992 he was 81 years old. The following excerpt is from that speech. I include it here because he addresses his own legacy and how he hopes history will remember him:

And whatever else history may say about me when I'm gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty's lamp guiding your steps and opportunity's arm steadying your way.

My fondest hope for each one of you -- and especially for the young people here -- is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism. May each of you have the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute works that will make the world a little better for your having been here.

May all of you as Americans never forget your heroic origins, never fail to seek divine guidance, and never lose your natural, God-given optimism.

And finally, my fellow Americans, may every dawn be a great new beginning for America and every evening bring us closer to that shining city upon a hill.

Before I go, I would like to ask the person who has made my life's journey so meaningful, someone I have been so proud of through the years, to join me. Nancy…

My fellow Americans, on behalf of both of us, goodbye, and God bless each and every one of you, and God bless this country we love.
1992 Republican Convention Speech

All politicians make speeches and say things, but when Ronald Reagan spoke, it seemed genuine. Regardless of one's politics, Ronald Reagan encouraged us. He appealed to our values and efforts. He often spoke to our spirit. Like a coach or a father, his speeches were like a gentle hand on the shoulder. You could believe the person talking really cared about you and wanted you to succeed.

I have been watching tributes to Ronald Reagan all weekend. Person after person speaks of how much Ronald Reagan loved the country. They spoke of his values, his humor, and his relationship with Nancy.

One of the things Ronald Reagan could do is disagree with someone and they not hate him. He was not divisive himself. His enemies wanted to hate him, but they could not. Even today, reaction in the former Soviet Union is positive.

Ronald Reagan was more than a great Republican. He was more than a great American. Ronald Reagan was a great man.

Rest in peace Ronald Reagan, you earned it.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, June 06, 2004


Cottage Cheese and Peaches Diet Results

I will give you the raw data about the diet first, then share my fitness philosophy with you.

Weight loss chart

Diet beginning weight: 198
Diet ending weight: 191.0
Difference: -7.0
Time on diet: 6 days
Weight 2 days later: 192.8 (+1.8) I have not eaten a lot of food, so I figure the weight gain has something to do with salt and fluid retention.

Next step for me: I am going to continue eating cottage cheese and peaches for breakfast and lunch. For dinner I am going to eat salads, vegetables, beans, and small portions of meat. I will have a couple of alcoholic beverages on the weekend, say about 4 drinks total. If I get hungry between meals, I will eat cottage cheese or peaches.

I really started cutting back on May 26th which gave me a four day head start going into the diet. In addition, I was food poisoned on the Friday evening before the diet began on Saturday. I lost three pounds then and did not eat a thing Saturday until about 5:00 PM.

Only eating cottage cheese and peaches was not a hardship. It satisfied my hunger. Breakfast and lunch are not problems for me anyway. I am hurrying to get out of the house in the AM and I eat lunch at my desk. Dinner time is where I was over eating. I was coming home and snacking on chips, maybe having a beer or two, then eating two helpings of supper, topped off with something later in the evening.

This diet cut out all of the bad habits. My toughest time was right after work. My stomach was programmed to go home and wolf down some snack food. What I did during the diet was immediately go in and eat my cottage cheese with pepper and some peaches. Once my hunger was satisfied, I went on to other things. The scales were showing immediate results so it was easy to keep doing it. I did not cheat all week. I was surprised at how satisfying the peaches were. They are very sweet and hit the spot taking the place of other rich desserts.

I am convinced this diet can be useful in your weight loss / fitness plan. It is one facet of what is needed. For me, it was like pushing the reset button on my bad habits. Everyone is different, but I tend to do better going cold turkey to break a bad habit than I do attempting to scale back. Now that I have gone a week without the drinking, eating snack food, and eating large portions, I am not inclined to rush back into those behaviors.

My Fitness Philosophy
(1) What do you want? Answering this question is the most important thing one has to do, because it determines your cost. If you were looking for an automobile you would have to answer this question. If your answer was Mercedes or BMW then you would need more money (commitment) than if you answered Chevrolet or Ford. In the area of fitness there are various levels and answers to the question "what do you want?"

Do you want a hard body like a Bay Watch actor?
Do you want to look good in your clothes?
Do you want to look good out of your clothes?
Do you want to run up a couple of flights of stairs without having a heart attack?
Do you just want to lose enough weight to go from a size 40 waist to a size 38?

If you want the hard body, you will have to reduce calories, eat protein to build muscle, and lift weights. You will have to think about it and spend a lot of your free time to get into this kind of shape.

If you just want to lose a few winter pounds, you could probably change some bad eating habits and remedy the situation in a month or two without doing major exercise.

So determine just what you want as fitness is related and that determines the price you must pay.

Individual Variables We are all different. I know how to lose weight and how to get into shape. I know how it unravels for me. I bet you know the same for yourself. Therefore, you must factor in your individual variables for any plan. No matter how hard I work, no matter how much I starve myself, my body has a certain potential. I have a certain body type and it will not change. Make your expectations realistic. You may never completely lose the hips, the stomach, or the thighs. If you have to go to the gym two hours a day and think about every bite you put in your mouth to look the way you do, then you probably will not maintain it for long. Your plan must become second nature. You must learn how to eat and do it wherever you are. If you overeat, then you make up for it the next day. Exercise should be something you enjoy and do without too much effort or it will be too much of a burden. All of these factors must be customized to you. Make modifications as needed.

The Basic Formula Move around more eat less. That is the secret to fitness and getting to your ideal weight. One pound is 3500 calories. If you cut out or burn up 3500 calories in one day or one week, it is reflected on your scale.

Those who only cut back on calories lose some weight initially, but the metabolism is efficient and slows down. Once the metabolism slows, the body ceases to lose weight at the lower caloric intake but maintain the weight. This is where exercise is so important. Exercise keeps the metabolism churning.

To me, exercise is essential, but the amount of exercise required is not that great. A brisk walk is painless and enjoyable. Most people can find room in their schedule for 3 to 4 30 minute walks per week. Then cut back on the cokes, alcohol, sweets, anything high in calories. You need to know what you bring in and what you burn up. The difference in calories is the weight you lose.

If you do not exercise at all now, 2 hours of walking per week would burn around 800 calories. At that rate, you would lose one pound per month if you did not even change your calorie intake.

Check here for a calorie burning calculator

You will see results if you make some changes that (1) cut down on the calories you eat and (2) increase the amount of calories you burn. You can play around with (1) and (2) to suit your lifestyle and goals.

Personally, I like to eat so I increase the exercise quite a bit. At this point, though, I have to give close attention to number (1) and (2) if I am to achieve my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

Good luck to you whatever your goal

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, June 05, 2004


College Living in Baton Rouge

John and Roy are going to be living large in Baton Rouge. We found an apartment complex which caters to college students. They will share a two bedroom apartment. This baby comes with washer, dryer, microwave, dishwasher, fully furnished, cable, HBO, and high speed internet. A bus comes by the apartment every ten minutes going back and forth to the LSU campus. It is more like a place we would stay on vacation, but these dudes will be enjoying it at college. I guess times change.

I think about my dorm experiences. The moving in and moving out, putting up with noise, hearing Free Bird and Sweet Home Alabama played non stop, the practical jokes. I really miss those days, not.

Here is a photo I took yesterday of the two sophomores.

John and Roy in Baton Rouge June 2004

Tomorrow, I will post the results of the cottage cheese and peaches diet.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, June 04, 2004


John & Roy

John and Roy have been friends for 12 years. They met at age seven on their first organized basketball team. Since then, a lot of water has gone under the bridge. The two were good players together. One write-up in the local paper referred to them as the "double trouble" combination. Since then, their nickname has been "double trouble." The boys liked sports, the outdoors, and all things boy. They spent as much time together as they could. During the summers, the two spent the night together almost every night. They were like brothers.

Even though they attended different schools, their friendship stayed strong because of sports and common interests. Five summers in a row, we drove them to the Roy Williams Kansas Basketball Camp at the University of Kansas. For basketball lovers, that trip equated to a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Friday, I am taking off of work and going to Baton Rouge with John, Roy, and Roy's dad, Big Roy. Both boys will be sophomores at LSU in the fall. John is transferring in, Roy was at LSU as a freshman. Children make us aware of the passing of time. The photos below illustrate the point.

1994 Navarre Beach, Florida
John and Roy in 1994 at Navarre Beach Florida

2003 Orange Beach, Florida
2003 at Orange Beach Florida

Basketball Awards 1994
Basketball awards in 1994

2002 University of Kansas Basketball Camp
2002 Allen Field House at the last year of basketball camp, just before their senior year

Lawrence, Kansas 2002
2002 Kansas Basketball Camp

I am looking forward to another historic day with my son . . . the day we find his first place away from home.

Happy Friday Folks

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, June 03, 2004


Misfiring Synapses

I am chronicling the metamorphosis of my brain from neurons, neurotransmitters, and synapses to cottage cheese. As my synapses are now misfiring, not unlike a firecracker stand receiving an errant discarded cigarette, my thoughts are exploding all over the place tonight.

Misfiring thought number one:
I watched the Lord of the Rings series as I posted earlier. Now it seems a fellow by the name of J.R.R. Tolkien has written a book about those movies. I shall have to pick it up and see how close he comes to the real story.

Misfiring thought number two:
Chocks Vitamins
Chocks vitamins. Do you remember Chocks vitamins? When I was a kid, my mom gave us these vitamins. Getting us to take them was no hard sell on her part, because Charlie Chocks the spaceman said we should take them. In the late 60's, spacemen knew their stuff. Sometimes we had One A Day vitamins. These vitamins were red and looked like candy. Once and only once, I bit into one and found out it really tasted like shit poop. I just started taking vitamins again, Centrum, and they really remind me of the old days when I thought vitamins had some magical power to give me strength and energy.

Misfiring thought number three:
Are you in the mood for a few laughs of the visual variety? Go to officeclips.com for some funny short videos. Most involve someone doing something stupid.

Misfiring thought number four:
What about kids and college housing these days? When I went to college, I stayed in the dorm like the commoner I was. I enrolled late, so for the first few weeks, I was number three in a two man room. The room was small, but when one of my roommates started playing with his nun chucks, it seemed even smaller. It was fun watching him beat himself half to death while attempting to master the technique. Anyway, my son is transferring to LSU this fall and the dorms are substandard housing for his liking. This Friday, we are going to Baton Rouge to look for something suitable. Stay tuned.

Misfiring thought number five:
Cops and judges. In New Orleans, a judge released a prisoner who had been caught on tape firing an assault weapon at a car wash which injured two people. Within 48 hours of his release, he is suspected of killing two more people. Antoine Johnson has been arrested several times for serious charges and he keeps getting out. The only thing I can think of that would explain such judicial behavior is the suspect has nude pictures of the judge in compromising positions with a goat.

Misfiring thought number six:
Ummm, uhhh. Shoot, I forgot what I was going to say.

Misfiring thought number seven:
How and why we puke. This is an interesting little article on a website about the human body for kids. Lots of good information for kids and us adults who need simple explanations about the workings of the body.

Misfiring thought number eight related to misfiring thought number seven:
Two guys were sitting around watching television. Thirsty for a beer, Bob stands up and heads to the refrigerator, "Do you want a beer?" he asks his buddy. "Yeah, but whatever you do, don't bring me a Bud Light." The guy returns and hands Bob a Coors. Twenty minutes later, thirsty for another beer, the first guy heads off for another. He asks Bob once again, "Can I get you another one?" Same response from Bob, "Yeah, I'll have one, but absolutely no Bud Light." The guy returns with another Coors. "So Bob, what's the deal with no Bud Light?" Bob said, "Man, the last time I drank Bud Light, I drank so much I wound up blowing chunks." Bob's friend responded, "If you drink too much of any beer you are going to throw up." Bob said, "You don't understand, Chunks is my dog."

Misfiring thought number nine:
A clean joke about peaches. A country pastor was making the rounds visiting his congregation. When he visited the Smith house, they were just cracking open a bottle of fresh homemade peach brandy. The pastor's mouth began to water and throwing caution to the wind, he asked for a glass. Mr. Smith said, "Sure Pastor, but if I give you this, you have to promise to thank me publicly from the pulpit next Sunday." Letting his cravings get the better of him, the pastor agreed to Mr. Smith's terms and enjoyed a nice glass of peach brandy. As Sunday approached, the pastor was having second thoughts about his promise. It would be embarrassing to admit he was drinking with a church member. Nervous or not, Sunday came and the pastor led the service. Mr. Smith was sitting in the congregation waiting for his public thanking. Finally, just before the preacher dismissed the congregation, he said, "Oh, one more thing. I want to thank Brother Smith for the peaches, and the "spirit" in which they came."

Happy Thursday everyone.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Small Favor to Ask

Now that I have a new comment service and it looks like it will be impossible to get my other comments included from Squawkbox, I thought of a solution. Would ya'll mind going back to the beginning of my blog and recommenting on all of my posts? I would appreciate it.



Hello Haloscan

I made the switch from Crockbox to Haloscan. Now, any of you programming wizards out there, I need your help. Is there a way to continue to display my Squawkbox comments? The thing is, I hate to lose all comments on my entire blog. Squawkbox has some way of using RSS to backup comments, but I do not understand it. Any ideas or am I just turning a page and all previous pages are lost?


Lord Of The Rings

It's late and I am running low on fuel. I goofed around with the comment problem part of the evening nearly obliterating my blog template. Now, things are back in harmony.

Speaking of harmony, middle earth is safe thanks to a couple of Hobbits. I finally got around to watching The Lord of the Rings movies. I watched them on consecutive nights beginning Sunday. They were entertaining and I can see why people watch them over and over. The reason being, it is nearly impossible to digest everything on one viewing. I cannot fathom the undertaking the making of these films must have been.

I loved the line at the end of The Return of the King. After the king was crowned, the four Hobbits bowed to him. The king said, "No my friends, you bow to no one." It reminded me of the scripture, the last shall be first. When humility, honor, bravery, and loyalty win, I applaud.

I will have to mull this over and write more later. For now, I am doing good to write anything.

So far so good. I have been on the cottage cheese and peaches diet since Saturday. That is four full days. I am losing weight. I really started cutting back last week. On Wednesday, I weighed 200 lbs. When I weighed on Tuesday AM, I was at 194 lbs. It is an easy diet and I am not starving to death. Most of all, it seems to be working.

That's it, bedtime.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, June 01, 2004



I have been experiencing problems with my comment hosting company Squawkbox.

1. Sometimes I receive email notification of a comment, but it does not appear when the comment window is opened.

2. People have been emailing me wondering why I took down my comment link.

3. Lately, the comment link seems to be available to some viewers but not others.

I am aggravated about this and am weighing my options. I looked around the Squawkbox site and did not see an email link to complain. Maybe I will get rid of Squawkbox and go to Haloscan.

Anyway, please email me if you are experiencing problems. I do love comments, so keep 'em coming.
John Strain


May Farewell

How sweet your fragrances, they linger still. The magnolia, jasmine, and gardenia are your scents. It is during your serene beginnings, the bird songs surround me as I go walking, then running through your hazy, humid breath of morning. They are the first gentle touches of summer. The green foliage and oak canopies hide the spring sky, but the sunlight filters through the leafy green and luminous fingers reach the ground ferns through misty air. Light and shadows dance to an ancient song and those who notice are enchanted by a siren's tune and hypnotic movement. Your colors are green, blue, and yellow, but you masterfully blend the entire spectrum throughout your landscape.

In Mays gone by I have realized goals. Not only have I graduated a time or two myself, but I have lived to see my own son walk down an aisle on a warm May evening. It was not that long ago I was his age and my heart was ready to enter the world. I have fallen victim to time and many Mays have passed since that May morning, but I am perhaps more alive now, than I was then.

During your time we honor our mothers and I wish my own mother a happy birthday. I love the flowers your sister April's showers provides.

Our time for now has ended, but I will hold the memories in my heart and mind. The pungent magnolia perfume will comfort me some day and I will replay the sun and shadow dance in my mind to make myself smile.

Farewell May.

Until the next time
John Strain