Thursday, October 24, 2013

Little me.

I haven’t been on a good rant in a while. Prepare yourselves.

Randy and I stopped going to an organized denominational church 15 years ago. No need to go into it here, except to say that we Baptists (and I can say we, because I was one before I was born) like to eat our own. It is like unto a badge of honor to some in the church: “I told THEM what was what, and they haven’t darkened our doors since.”

Yep. You told us.

That doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned my faith, although it’s probably not the same faith as many who will read this. I have felt the presence of God many times in my life, and in many places. I pray – frequently - and I have seen answered prayer.

I am a free-thinking, liberal-leaning, Jesus believer. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe in the scientific record that supports evolution. I believe that God created the Heavens and the Earth. I believe that it took Him longer than seven 24 hour days to do this, and I believe that creation is still happening. I believe that God is bigger than time. I believe that there are many paths to Heaven, and that when I get there, I’ll see God-believers from all of our earthly faiths. I believe that love is love, and I believe that Love Wins.

I am not so presumptuous to believe that I have all the answers, and I really believe that you don’t have all the answers, either.

I have started following a blogger/speaker/really cool person named Jen Hatmaker. Look her up, if you don’t know her. She’s a hoot and a truth-teller, and if you want to know what it looks like to walk your talk? Look at her.

Today on Facebook, she posted a quick little blurb about being in the Atlanta airport and being delighted at having her traveling outfit complimented by a young, gay man. Now, Jen’s a smart, social media savvy woman, so she knew – she KNEW – what would ensue. And sure enough, here it came: “did you witness to him?...tell him his LIFESTYLE CHOICE is an abomination to God?...hate the sin, love the sinner...”

And the reason for this rant: “If you think that’s okay, I’m disappointed in you. MY God does not approve.”

And here’s what I think about that: If you think YOUR GOD doesn’t approve, you’ve put an unfair limitation on just what God is all about. Just the act of saying “MY” God is the abomination. Honey, the God you want to put in your judgmental little box is bigger than any person, any encounter, any words or actions. Bigger than you, bigger than me. Bigger than Jen Hatmaker and the man she met in the airport. He belongs to us ALL. Not just to one person, or one church. And DEFINITELY not just to your small, Pharisaical self.

When I was in college, Frank Wells, my childhood pastor and the wisest man I’ve ever known besides my father, told me that he believed that the prayer God loves most is a simple, desperate plea: oh, my God. Not in the “OMG” sense, but a prayer of quiet acknowledgement: I can’t do this alone.

Little me. Big God. I believe He most definitely DOES approve.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Empty Chairs and Puppets

You know how on the local news, from time to time a reporter will get all serious about an issue and do sort of a video editorial? It'll usually be at the end of the broadcast, and it'll have the reporter's signature at the bottom of the screen to indicate that it's separate from the reporter's usually non-opinionated reporting. In the Dallas area, Dale Hansen does this frequently during the NFL season when he wants to rant about Jerry Jones or the Cowboys. He calls it Dale Hansen: Unplugged.

That's what this is going to be. Completely political. Completely my own opinion. As close to channeling Aaron Sorkin as my feeble abilities will allow. Read it or don't read it, but do me a favor and accept that it's okay for me to have an opinion. I'll allow you yours, if you'll allow me mine, okay? Thanks.

The picture at the top is one that I took this morning as Sammie and I walked. Took me a second, but I finally figured out that it's an attempt at humor - Clint Eastwood's empty chair. Clever.

On my Facebook News Feed these days are tons of comments from my right-of-center friends proclaiming how SO very tired they are of hearing about Big Bird. "Why do liberals keep bringing up Big Bird? Don't they realize there are bigger problems than that stupid bird?" Oddly enough, there are probably at least 47% of us who are equally tired of hearing about the empty chair.

What's that you say? The empty chair is simply a symbol of what's wrong with the United States in 2012? know what?

So is Big Bird.

We have Big Problems in our country today; problems that did not just pop up in the last three and a half years, and that will not be solved in the next four, or eight, or a hundred and eight years, unless we can manage to find some honest-to-God grown-ups who are willing to work TOGETHER to find to find non-partisan solutions that will address and benefit ALL of the people they govern.

Our Big Problems need Big Solutions that aren't ten-second sound bites or Internet memes, a Big Bird political ad or an empty chair in somebody's front yard. We need serious adults with a serious desire to make a difference.

For everyone. Not just their friends. Not just the people who think like they do. Not just the people who gave them money. Not just the people who voted for them.

For everyone. WE. The people.

Do we have those serious adults in front of us today? I do not know; I wish I did. But what I do know is this:

We cannot thrive, as a nation, when our only choices are Us vs Them. You vs Me. My Way or the Highway. The 47% vs the 53%. Until we get those serious people with serious, bi-partisan ideas, we're destined to be right back in this very same spot again every four years, ad infinitum, ad nauseaum.

Talking about empty chairs and puppets instead of solutions that will make a difference.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Paris News Strikes Again!

Denise and I went to see "Julie and Julia" a week or so ago, and during the part where Julie is setting up her blog for the first time, Denise turned to me and said: "so, are you still blogging?" to which I replied, "not so's you'd notice, huh?!?" Between life - and Facebook - the blogging has gone by the wayside. So, here's proof that I DO still blog. I know I haven't in a long while - its just that we spent a busy, busy summer doing tons of new and different things. Someday, I'll blog about them.

Now - on to The Paris News. Six years ago, after the whole Nazi flag flap (has it really been six years??), I wrote what I still consider to be the finest piece I have ever written about the whole hoo-hah and submitted it to The Paris News for publication. A couple of weeks went by, and the paper printed tons of letters - both from locals and outsiders - and mine never made it to print. One evening, well after the hubbub had died down, I got a call from Philip Hamilton, who was the editor at the time. He apologized profusely, and said that my letter had gotten lost on his desk. "I know it's sort of water under the bridge," he said, "but it's really a good piece, and I'd still like to print it if you want me to." I told him that I thought it was too late, it was the paper's loss, but thanks anyway.

Fast forward to this week: one of the paper's regular guest columnists - one of our home-grown finest - had a column about the flap over the audacity of a sitting president wanting to speak to school children about the importance of education. Here's a direct quote from the guy: "We have far more concerns in the United States for the President to be involved in than the education system." Holy CRAP. If the education of our future leaders isn't the most important thing on the president's agenda, it ought to move right up to the top. TODAY.

So I wrote another letter on Tuesday. I emailed it to the current editor of the newspaper, Mary Madewell. Days went by, and....{insert sounds of crickets chirping here} nothing. Other letters about the issue showed up in the paper, so yesterday, I sent another email asking, in a nice way: what the heck?!? I got an email from Mary this morning saying that apparently, my email got lost in her inbox, and she's so sorry, and she doesn't know how this happened, and could she print it this coming Monday?

I said no. Too late, and besides, if I had anything to say in the newspaper now, it would be about the crass, embarrassing, low-class, school-yard-bully-wannabe behavior of the supposedly esteemed Congressman from South Carolina.

So anyway, I think I'll give up on trying to get anything into The Paris News. Maybe I should have put some typos in it - they seem to like printing typos.

However, not wanting a decent piece of writing to go totally to waste, I am posting here, for all five of my regular readers to see, my response to Charles Melton's column of September 7th:

To the Editor:

Every time you walk through that classroom door, make it your mission to get a good education. Don't do it just because your parents, or even the President, tells you. Do it for yourselves. Do it for your future. And while you're at it, help a little brother or sister to learn, or maybe even Mom or Dad. Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter -- and I'm serious about this one -- write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address.”

Words from a president to schoolchildren across America, meant to inspire learning, meant to encourage children to stay in school and complete their education. But if I understood Charles Melton correctly, certainly not words that any president should ever utter at any time.

The interesting thing about the above quote? It is from a speech given on October 1, 1991, by then-president George H.W. Bush to students at Alice Deal Junior High School in the District of Columbia, and broadcast live to schools across the nation by CNN, PBS, and the NBC Radio Network.

Or, what about this? “we're entering one of the most exciting times in history, a time of unlimited possibilities, bounded only by the size of your imagination, the depth of your heart, and the character of your courage. More than two centuries of American history -- the contributions of the millions of people who have come before us have been given to us as our birthright. All we can do to earn what we've received is to dream large dreams, to live lives of kindness, and to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America.

That’s from a speech given by Ronald Reagan on November 14, 1988, to a group of schoolchildren in the White House, also broadcast live to schools across the country on C-SPAN and the Instructional Television Network.

Apparently, as does President Obama, our previous presidents have seen the value in speaking directly to students. After all, what better way to promote the value of education, of patriotism, of setting high expectations for oneself and one’s community, than by speaking directly to the part of our citizenry who will be responsible for our country in years to come? Students who are at risk of dropping out of school, of not taking their education seriously, or simply need some sort of encouragement might well be inspired by the words of a president, whether those words come from Reagan, Bush, or Obama.

Indeed, a terribly sad, defeatist philosophy was expressed by Mr. Melton in his opinion column on Monday: “the children who do not stay in school and earn the free education offered by local districts do so because that is their choice. Most of the drop outs have been raised through the welfare system and feel that the government is going to provide for them anyway, regardless of education.” Wow.

Thankfully, here in Lamar County and across the whole span of our nation, parents, teachers, community leaders – and even the President of the United States – refuse to give in to such a defeatist attitude. Hopeful, caring, committed people believe that ALL children are capable of learning, that ALL children are capable of rising above their circumstances, that ALL children – regardless of their socio-economic status, their race, or their religion – need to be encouraged by adults who have their very best interests at heart.

This isn’t just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you’re learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

That’s a quote from Barack Obama’s speech of September 8, 2009. And I think that’s a message that even Fox News ought to be able to get behind.

Frances Reed

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Hybrid Clothes Dryer

My sweet husband indulges me in many ways. One of the things that I most appreciate is that he doesn't make fun of my feeble attempts to green our lifestyle. He puts the crap he skims from the goldfish pond into the compost bin. He puts the newspapers in the recycle basket, and asks about plastic and cardboard before he puts it in the trash.

He hasn't raised an eyebrow about my shower timer. And although I haven't noticed him using it, he does give me props when I use it. Four minutes for a shower.

I gotta be honest. I try, but ding dang, y'all. Four minutes is a SHORT shower. I notice when the timer is empty.

And, for my birthday this year, you know what he did? He installed a hybrid clothes dryer for me!! Yep, a combination solar- and wind-powered clothes dryer that will help us reduce our carbon footprint and eliminate the need for those petroleum-based dryer sheets! He is so sweet to do that for me. Thank you, Sweetheart. It was a VERY happy birthday!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Days of the Free Lunch

Back in early 1991, when Randy and I were doing everything we knew to do to get our Grandy's to actually become a viable, money-making business, we sent a certificate for a FREE MEAL to every member of the Lamar County Chamber of Commerce.

Every. Single. Member.

A free meal. No other purchase required. Just come in to our restaurant, let us give you your choice of one of four different dinners with a beverage of your choice, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same.

It worked. Seriously worked. That year, we turned the corner on a business that had been on the verge of closing up and going away, and made it so successful that it led to building new Grandy's and buying others in several other cities around east Texas and Louisiana.

There were a couple of hiccups involved. We actually had one guy just go off on us, because he had his one certificate, brought his wife in to eat lunch, and expected that we would give him not the one, but TWO free meals. Really. I was at the register, I took their orders, he handed me the certificate, which I deducted from the total, then asked him for the...oh, I dunno...five bucks for the second meal and drink, and he said,

"It's supposed to be free."

Yes, sir, I said, I took the price of your higher-priced meal off, and the cost for the second meal and drink is $x.xx. And he said, quite a bit louder this time:


At first, I kinda thought he was just kind of joking with me, but as it became more apparent that he wasn't, I looked to Randy for help.

You know, generally speaking, we've always tried to take the advantage:guest attitude, but this guy was so jerky about not getting enough free food that we dug in our heels and they actually left the restaurant without eating anything. I hope they enjoyed whatever it was they ended up having to eat that day. Bet not, though. Some folks, you can just tell.

But I digress.

The point I'm trying to make here is that we chose to take the BIG chance of giving away food, when we were supposed to be in the business of selling food, in order to try to make a difference farther down the road. And it paid off. A risky move, to be sure, and we sweated over it, let me tell you. But drastic times called for drastic measures.

This past Monday, Quiznos announced a Million Subs Giveaway. All you had to do was to go to the website, register, and you'd get a coupon for a free small sub. Take it to your local Quiznos, and we will so amaze you with the quality of our food, and blow you away with the fabulous-ness of our service, that you will eagerly come back again and again and purchase more of the same. Sound familiar?!?

In Lubbock, it worked like a charm. Certainly being a college town helped - because the college kids put the word out on Facebook and Twitter, by text message and phone call - so that by 5 p.m. on the first day we had taken about 50 of the coupons between the four restaurants. And that total has increased as the week has gone on. Our own kids ate well in Tuscaloosa, and I heard that Rachel enjoyed her sub in San Angelo also ;-). Overall, it's been a great event for us.

Unfortunately, not all of our fellow franchisees embraced the idea. All week long, I've gotten Google Alerts to different blogs and message boards, where people are complaining that they have tried at their local outlets and either been refused altogether, or required to make another purchase in order to receive their "free" sub.

And so now, in many folks' minds, we have ALL been painted with the same broad brush: "Worst...promotion...ever," read one. "Fake, fake, fake," said another. "What a scam," from another. "I will NEVER go to another Quiznos" from still another.

And it goes on and on - given the ease and speed with which unhappy customers can make their voices heard, we ALL now have a stigma attached to us. No matter that, in our stores, we have happily redeemed the coupons and done our best to exceed our guests' some people, all Quiznos everywhere are now suspect.

And, not to sound like a child or anything, but: THAT'S NOT FAIR.

LOOK. I know it's a risk. I know it's hard to imagine that giving away food can be a good thing. But, I'm here to testify that it can be a good thing. And in dire circumstances - like determining whether your business will thrive or fold - a very good thing. In these uncertain, and very frightening economic times, we're all looking for something to count on, something to be sure of.

Here's one thing I'm absolutely sure of: in Lubbock, in Hot Springs, Bossier City, San Angelo, Tuscaloosa, and in hundreds of other communities across the country - most of us franchisees of Quiznos Sub EXPECT to succeed. Not succeeding? Not an option.

And that's the thing that those other franchisees don't get at all. And it's why, long after those other folks have closed or sold or been kicked out of their businesses, we'll still be here...amazing you with our food, and blowing you away with our service.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Kids and Dogs

If you are even a casual reader of this blog, you have surely discerned by now that I'm a sucker for dogs. Mostly my own, but generally anyone else's dogs.

I've never been a huge Tiger Woods fan - not much of a golf fan in the first place, but I always thought Tiger was kind of a...cold person. Then I saw this picture:

I've always felt that you can tell a lot about a man by how he is with his kids and his dogs. So now? Consider me firmly in Tiger's corner.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Trophy Sofa

At the beginning of the living room/dining room remodel, we donated the old "Cinnamon Sofa" to the Salvation Army. We always called it that because that's the sofa that Cinnamon used to sleep on, and as a result nobody ever wanted to sit on it because of all the dog hair. We never spent much time in the living room anyway, so it really didn't matter. As the guys were taking it out to the truck, I had the Shop Vac going and I was still vacuuming dog hair out of the bottom as they moved it. It was awful.

So we needed a sofa to go in the living room now that we've finished the new floor. We were looking for something small, inexpensive and simple. Straight, contemporary lines. Absolutely no poofy arms. We went to every furniture store in Paris (okay, so that's not very many, but still.) and couldn't find one we liked. Well, there was something at Reep's that would have worked, but the days of Walt selling us furniture at his cost are over, now that he's our Financial Advisor and not our furniture store-owner friend.

Every sofa for sale in the city of Paris has poofy arms. And if you're a lover of poofy-armed-sofas (as opposed to a sofa lover with poofy arms), no offense. But that's not what we want.

So we saw a picture in the paper of a sofa at Rooms to Go in Plano that we thought we might like, and I drove down to take a look.

Liked it.

Wanted to buy it.

Trouble ensued.

And...long story short (for a change): after three, 180 mile round trips within a week, a long, unhappy email to Rooms to Go Customer Service, a couple of phone calls between the RTG manager and me, and many, many Facebook profile updates...


I feel kind of silly to go to so much hassle for this one piece of furniture. It's a $400 sofa, for crying out loud, not a vintage Eames chair or anything. But it's ours, and it's coming home to Paris in 10 days. Here's a picture so you can see what all the fuss is about (I plan to lose the pillows):