Friday, December 26, 2014

Two Christmas Stories-The Liles Extravaganza, and 50 for No. 50


Everyone came to our house this year for Christmas. We had a houseful, and that’s the best part. AJ and Erin even brought their aging dog, Harper, so we had three dogs, one house cat that checked every box, and one cat that darted in every time the door was open to cuddle with Maya. One of our better Christmases. The results were two large leaf bags of trash after the attach on the packages, and being the recycler that I am, enough bows, gift bags, and tissue paper to last me till i die. Caroline’s gifts, at her request,  were donations to St. Jude’s, sponsoring animals at the Clovis Zoo, and a donation to Heifer International, bless her heart. Her husband Neil receive what he wanted-beef jerky and certain candies, and self-repairing targets for practice with a box of bullets. He is easy to buy for. Colten got lots of gift cards and the new XBox. AJ’s gifts were things that worked right in with his hunting-bullets, a meat-grinder/sausage-maker and the bullets and self repairing targets. Erin got gift cards and kitchen utensils as she loves to cook. Maya got her first IPhone, a real surprise, I think, and other things. Ben now has a gaming chair and a remote-controlled helicopter. Bill got two magazine subscriptions and clothes. He is the hardest one to buy for. I am the easiest to buy for; everything is fun for me. I got a new Painted Pony, a beautiful belt, lots of Opium perfume. and a new Kindle Fire HD 7, which was totally unexpected.  But the biggest surprise was the giant horned lizard, horny toad as we like to call them, that Bill snuck in under my nose and took me outside to see after all the wrapped presents were opened. What fun!

We had taken in the new Hobbit movie on Christmas Eve afternoon, and all went to our candlelight Christmas Eve service at our Methodist Church that night before tucking into bed to wait for Santa to come. Christmas day was full of the gifts, too much to eat, and an afternoon of really good visiting and fellowship.

But the other side of Christmas is that not everyone was as blessed as we were. I’m not bragging about all our wonderful gifts; I am trying to make a point of comparison. God graced us with way more than we deserve. I received this Christmas letter in a card for Tara Simons Orsak, a family friend, former student, and fellow Aggie from Edna, Texas,  the town we moved from to Muleshoe. Her letter touched my heart and I felt the need to share it with you. I asked her permission to reprint part of it just as she wrote it, and she graciously agreed. I couldn’t retell it any better than she said it herself. The event happened closer to Thanksgiving, but it serves, I hope,  to make us all realize we have so many blessings that we fail to recognize, and I think it restores faith in human nature and what love can do. I hope you will read it to the end. Here is what Tara wrote after updating us on other things her family had been up to.

“Events of the past few weeks have forced our family to stop and reflect on the bounty of blessing that we have in each other and in you, our friends. I wanted to share this story with you.

On November 25th, three days after a surprising win in a bi-district football playoff game, one of [her son] Cade’s friends, classmate and teammate, Noah Ortiz, lost his life in a house fire along with his four younger brothers and sisters, Nicholas Ortiz, Julian Ortiz, Lilyana Hernandez, and Areyanah Hernandez.This tragic event devastated our small town. Noah was a defensive tackle for the Edna Cowboys, wearing jersey number 50.

Amazingly, the Edna Cowboy football team, with heavy hearts, rallied around the family that suffered such terrible loss, and continued to play football in Noah’s honor for three more weeks, in a most improbable playoff run, becoming state semi-finalists in Texas’ Division 1, Class 3A bracket.

During the regional playoff game, the first game after losing Noah (#50), Cade as the ball holder, was able to take the hike and lay on the ball in order to forego the extra point after a touchdown and make the final score of the game 50-28, in honor of Noah.

Our opponents in each of the playoff games, representing the towns of Ingram, Halletsville and Cameron, made donations of more than $16,000, $19,000, and $36,000 to Noah’s family prior to each game. In addition, more than $60,00 was collected in two online accounts. God shows his love for us through the actions of others and through tear-filled eyes we have seen that there are many loving people in this world.

There continue to be many tears shed for the loss of these precious children. At the same time, our community has been so excited about the success of our team and humbled by the compassion and generosity of people from other places. We feel that we have all been a part of a nightmarish fairy tale. Our boys have grown as teammates and young men while we have all witnessed God’s plan, power, mercy, strength and love. May we celebrate all of these things god has given us. in addition to the best gift of all, Jesus.”

God’s plan is hard to understand at times, but his grace and his Son are our gifts.



Video news story link:

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Billy Ray Cyrus is an Icon? Really?

I came across a note I had made to myself a while back about an MSN home page bit about what had happened to some musical pop culture icons from a few years back. Okay, so I should have addressed the issue then, but I didn’t for some reason. But I have to do it now because I have to have closure on this because I was shocked by the people chosen for that list. I didn’t write down the whole list, but most of the ones that made the list were not worthy as far as I was concerned. Billy Ray Cyrus, Randy Travis, Shania Twain, Dixie Chicks, were the names I had major issues with.

I mean, come on. To begin with, the first definition in the dictionary , which is always the one that is the most relevant, says that an icon is a religious symbol, and those symbols have been around a lot longer than pop culture. Symbol is the key word in any definition for icon, along with emblem and idol given as synonyms. And of course, in these days of computers, we use icons as representative symbols of functions on our computer screens.

It is the last definition, however, that has to do with modern pop culture icons, which defines an icon as an object of uncritical devotion. And there it is. You’d have to be uncritically devoted to Billy Ray Cyrus to consider him an icon. He may have had a hit song, but let’s face it, the only things he will be remembered for is that tacky mullet hair-do and that he is the father of Miley Cyrus, who, unfortunately, has some  uncritical devotees of her own. Randy Travis, Shania Twain, and the Dixie Chicks all had their 15 minutes of fame and earned a niche in musical history I guess, but icons? What did they contribute to their genre? What have they left to the world of lasting value?

Maybe I place too much value on the word icon, because to me the status of icon should be reserved for those who actually made a contribution, created something new, or were so good, so talented in their career that they carved out a special place in history for themselves. The world legendary comes to mind, even though I couldn’t find legend and icon linked semantically in my dictionary or thesaurus. Chuck Berry, Ray Charles, Buddy Holly, Elvis, the Beatles, Barbra Streisand, BB King, Elton John-these would be people I would call icons, legends in their fields, people whose creativity and talents had an impact, changed the world of music, whose names will stand the test of time. Legendary performers who deserve icon status.

You can add your favorites, your objects of uncritical devotion, to the list, but for goodness sake, make it someone worthy of the title. Otherwise it won’t mean a thing to be called an icon.

And we have way too many unworthy icons floating around already.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Trip to the Christmas Tree Farm

Thanksgiving at Kyle was no stress this year; Erin and AJ did all the planning and cooking. All we had to do was eat and watch football. What a deal! We also took in the newest Hunger Games installment, Mockingjay, Part 1. Friday, however, was a big day for one of this family’s Christmas traditions, a trip to the Christmas Tree farm in Elgin to pick out and cut a fresh tree. I tagged along, not having experienced this particular rite of the holidays myself. Let me tell you, these tree people have it down to a science. And it is a popular family outing worth the time and money.

Elgin is about an hour from Kyle and not a bad drive on the toll road. it was fun counting the vehicles we met that were already loaded with their treasure and on their way home.I think we quit counting around 17.


When we arrived, the parking lot was full and families were milling around getting reading to pick their tree. Before getting into the actual tree selection, we admired the animals on display. It seemed like a random selection, but they were all happy as could be in the same pen: a duck, pot-bellied pig, goats,a  llama, a donkey, and a chicken. In another area we found three pretty white rabbits. The tree farm also had two mazes and playground equipment for the kids to enjoy as well. A store and a couple of booths also gave Mom a place to do some shopping as well.


AJ was given a tag to put on the chosen tree, and then the wagon and trailer rolled around to take us into the field of the trees.

Rows and rows of neatly manicured trees.

We pulled around to the back of the field, and the search was on for just the right tree. Which didn’t take long to find.

Customers are given a saw when they disembark from the wagon so they can fell their own tree, which AJ did after the final selection was made.












Then the tree is loaded onto the trailer and taken back to headquarters. The tree is placed on a vibrating table surface for maybe 30 seconds for all the dead needles to shake loose and fall off the tree.

The tree gets wrapped, measured, has a hole drilled in the trunk for better water absorption, paid for, and happily taken home,

where it patiently waited for its lights and ornaments and presents underneath to come.

Alas, I did not think to take a picture after all the lights and ornaments went on, but you can see that it will be a lovely tree for the family to enjoy during the whole holiday season.

Merry Christmas and God bless us everyone!