Monday, May 15, 2006

Ten Things I Think I Think

1) If you missed Lee Ann Patrick's tribute to her mother, Lois Herwick, yesterday at Shawnee UMC, you really missed some fine work. The obvious love and admiration that the two women have for one another is palpable, and the way that was presented by Lee Ann was very touching. A great "Mother's Day" Service, all around, and a special kudos to Lee Ann for a tribute to a mother that will be remembered and treasured by that family forever.

2) Had a nice day yesterday. We made the trek to Toledo to see Aimee's grandmother, Henrietta Little, who I think is turning 90 this year, and members of her clan from far and wide. Particularly enjoyed catching up with Aimee's cousin, CJ, who is a video guru, preparing to get married this fall in the great city of Chicago.

CJ has always been, well, "creative", and I mean that in a good way. He made a short video of a trip he made to London years ago that is still a favorite of our boys. He organized a music festival in the backyard of his parent's house to celebrate his mother taking beginning drum lessons later in life (she made her debut to great fanfare). He was the mastermind behind one of the flying machine's entered in Chicago's "Flugtag" four years ago, and he recently proposed to his fiance in a monkey suit. The guy has creativity coming out of his pores. Needless to say, I am excited at the prospect of what will happen at his wedding and/or reception. Truly an event not to be missed this September in the greater Chicago area (although, as of now, I'll have to miss it, due to my doctoral program.... curses!). Could be the very first wedding featuring a bear costume, pyrotechnics, and a bicycle made of cheese.

3) Also received the opportunity to spend time with my own family, as my brother and his wife joined us at my parents for Mom's Day. Dad insisted on cooking out on the grill, as per Bucher Family Tradition (which is treated with a mix of sacredness and sarcasm) even though it was 40 degrees and raining. My boys, having spent the day riding in the van to and from Toledo (where they played with CJ's dog "Dingo", to the point that the dog who never gets tired, looked beat), were in rare form last night. The highlight of the evening was a conversation where we re-hashed my Dad's idea for a novel he had a number of years ago involving two baseball players, a showdown in Yankee Stadium, Arab terrorists (which, he points out, was an idea he had years before 9-11), and these two baseball players coming together in the end for world peace. I guess if someone else writes the book, I just cost dad his million-dollar idea, but I've a sense it will still be waiting for him upon retirement, as the sports/political thriller genre is still largely underdeveloped and untapped. Anyhow, Mom and Grandma Great were surrounded by people they loved who were laughing, so you can't ask for a better Mom's Day celebration.

4) Watched the first and last episodes of "The West Wing" last night with Grandma Great. A very classy way of showing that the show, while its writing may have dropped off a few years ago (although this season, in my opinion, was every bit as good as any other), the quality of acting never waned.

I'm feeling, however, a palpable sadness, and yet am very grateful, this day. My love for this show coincided with my arriving at Goshen First UMC, and the start of my relationship with my former boss, Dick Lyndon. Originally, the show aired on Wednesdays, which just happened to be "church night" in Goshen. Because the youth ministry at First met that evening, I wouldn't complete my work until after 9pm (when I'd kick about 20 kids playing basketball out of The Life Center). Dick would tape the episode of The West Wing so we could watch it together. I used to let myself into their house, give his wife a kiss on the cheek, and make a bologna sandwich before we'd settle in to watch whatever would befall President Bartlett and the rest of the gang. I enjoyed this, immensely, because Dick would use it as a learning tool on issues of leadership, and, often, it would help us get a handle on some of the issues we faced as pastors in our church.

Mostly, I just liked spending the time with him.

After his death, I found it hard to watch the show.... until we moved home and Grandma Great and I made this our weekly date. And, much like Dick, she would tape the show, so that if I showed up late, we could watch it together. Now, we'll probably watch "The Family Guy", and whatever show we can both agree isn't awful (we gave "Desperate Housewives" a shot, but that show is just unwatchable), for which I am grateful.

Thus, the passing of the show reminds me of the passing of my friend, and the passing of time I now enjoy with someone who is a treasure in our family. Let's call it a bittersweet experience that has made my life all the richer.

5) As our departure for Wilmore approaches, I must admit that the stress this is putting on our home is growing. While the two oldest boys are excited about our "Kentucky Adventure" (Xavier, in particular, has built up the experience to heights not experienced before), the reality of making another move (our third in three summers) is starting to hit hard. Thankfully, this time we don't need to move all our furniture, but that's because Aimee and the boys aren't staying with me. For ten months, she'll essentially be a single mother, and it's this, above and beyond all other things, that's got us both spooked.

In 1998, I accepted a position on a the conference staff of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry. I knew before I took the job that the position, which largely consisted of my doing a lot of church consulting and attending a lot of meetings, would require a lot of travel. What I didn't understand was how traveling a lot as a non-parent was different than traveling as a parent (as Max, our oldest, wasn't born until after I'd been on the job about a month). The experience of not seeing my family for days at a time was so difficult, that, eventually, although I loved the job (and was pretty good at it), I left it after only 8 months for something that enabled me to be home virtually every evening. It's a decision I've never regretted. Not once!

Now, we're staring down the reality of being apart, not days, but weeks at a time, and I can't say that the prospect of being gone is any more palatable in 2006 that it was in 1998. I don't know if this is true, but it seems like the older my boys get, the more they seem to need me. While I know kids are resilient and cope well with change, and I know what a great opportunity this is for me professionally, I wonder what kind of price we'll all pay this year for my absence?

6) Ben Wallace, Center for the Detroit Pistons, has guaranteed that tonight's game at the Q in Cleveland, will be the last of the Cavs season. Guaranteeing a win, Wallace stated to the journalist that they could print his prediction on whatever page of the paper they wanted, because in every other instance he's made a guarantee like this one, the Pistons have always come through. I've stated, again and again, that this year's playoffs will go down as the year that LeBron had his "coming out party", much like the years that Jordan led those early Bulls teams to defeats despite scoring 60+ points a game. So, don't be surprised if Wallace, and the Pistons, get more than they bargained for tonight.

There will be one more game at the Q after tonight. Just wait and see.

7) Hillary Clinton has fallen into some hot water after making comments related to the lack of a work-ethic among those in Generation X and Y (see this article: Apparently, Senator Clinton forgot she had a daughter making a six-figure income after completing an undergraduate degree from Stanford and a Masters from Oxford, and upon being reminded of this, apologized for her remarks.

I'll tell you that as long as I've lived I've listened to people who decry the state of the next generation. In particular, I've had to listen to baby-boomer pastors who deride the skills, intelligence, creativity, leadership ability, and grittiness of people my age. Phrases like "they've had everything handed to them on a silver platter" are continually thrown around by older people, who, in my opinion, are looking to stand up on the beaten down shoulders of those coming after them for reasons more associated to ego than reality. Having worked with some of the best that Gen X and Y have to offer, I can tell you that I don't harbor the same kind of concern for the future. I think some pretty sharp people are going to take the wheel, and steer this country into a direction that will be good for all.

My belief in young people was renewed again with the news that at Shawnee High School this weekend, the students crowned a Machal Hoops, a Senior with Downs Syndrome, as their 2006 Prom Queen. I'm fairly certain that in my, or my parent's high school, such a thing would have been unthinkable. That in the world that there will be highly intelligent people who will actually make the plight of those who are disadvantaged a priority gives me a sense of optimism that was lost for people like Senator Clinton when they became adults. No matter your age, I beg you, don't follow her example. Our future is in good hands.

8) A big "thumbs up" to the Allen Country Commissioners who have, at least for the moment, cut off negotiations with the Eastern Shawnee. While Mayor Berger continues to push this form of "economic development", the Tribe is now looking for privately held land which they'll have to purchase (as opposed to "given", which is what they wanted from the county) for whatever it is they ultimately hope to construct in this community. I say this because in the Lima News this weekend, we are being led to believe that the city is looking at, not just a casino, but a "championship-level 18-hole golf course", an "indoor waterpark", a "first-rate" convention center, a "five-star" hotel, numerous restaurants, and a shopping complex on par with the Easton Mall in Columbus that would provide "2000-2500" jobs all paying more than $25,000 a year.

Of course, the Eastern Shawnee have never built a facility like this before. They currently employ 400 people at a casino in Oklahoma, where they can, quite frankly, build whatever they want. Considering that another Oklahoma tribe was cited in the paper's article for having already done this kind of development, one would think that nothing would have precluded the Eastern Shawnee from having done this themselves. But, apparently the idea hadn't occurred to them until they tried to entice us with endless possibilities in exchange for a sweet land deal.

And, of course, nothing concrete about this proposal is being released to the public. All of the possible development listed above, is suggested, but never promised, which is an act that is getting old. Maybe if the Tribe, it's lawyers (who are making a killing right now), and local political officials treated us like adults by giving some particulars about this proposal, we could have some meaningful dialogue on the issue. Until then, the mistrust only grows...

9) Have completed five chapters of "The Secret Message of Jesus". No great revelations yet, but stay tuned.

10) And, finally, on Saturday we had the pleasure of attending a system-wide art show where a piece of pottery made by Max was on display. We were, and are, very proud of his work and look forward to bringing his work, and his award home for display on the family mantel. Many kudos to the art teachers and administrators who put on this great event for students and their families.

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