Spaghetti That Tastes Like a Foot in the Mouth

Several years ago, Lisa asked me to drive through one of our many fast food restaurants in our hometown and pick up supper.  It was the normal routine in those days with both of us working full time and her trying to maintain a scrapbook store on the side.  We ate fast food back then more often than we care to admit.  We once joked that when we told our kids it was time to eat – they went to the car.

On this particular evening, Lisa had a specific restaurant in mind and I agreed to take care of supper. Taking care of supper in those days never meant a home cooked meal. In fact – we would have been better served selling our stove and turning our kitchen into storage. It was the most wasted space in our house. Like the good husband I am, (uh-hum) I obliged her by driving south into the main shopping and dining area of Owensboro and waited in line at the unmentioned burger joint to order. What happened next was…, well, let me try to capture the conversation I had with the teenage workers on the other end of the speaker.

“Welcome to —–! May I take your order?”

“Yes! I will have a blah, blah blah with blah, a blah and a blah” (No need to mention the meal – you get the idea. Besides, the word “blah” describes the food perfectly).

I wait – no response. I start to get frustrated. Finally, I say:

“Did you get that?”

A voice finally responds, “Sir, we are sorry! Can you repeat that order?”

I repeated my order a second time. I think, maybe it’s a bad connection. No problem. Again they respond that they did not get it.

I breathe deep. “Steve (I tell myself), try to relax”.  I repeat my order again only this time slowly with exaggerated diction.

“I – want – a – blah, – blah – blah – with – blah, – a blah – and – a – blah.”

Long pause. No one is responding. They had to have heard that. I even removed as much of my southern drawl as possible. Nothing!

“HELLO!!!!”

Finally another voice responds. This is a completely different person. Something has happened. Maybe that first person just got fired. I don’t know. I just want food.

“Sir we are sorry! Will you repeat that order?”

Somewhere in my cerebral cortex a plug blew. Any ability I once had to maintain calm, understanding and patience was suddenly erased from my brain. In other words – I lost it.

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME? FOR THE FOURTH F’ ING TIME I WANT A F’ING BLAH, BLAH BLAH WITH F’ING BLAH A BLAH AND A F’ING BLAH! DID YOU F’ING GET THAT?”

“Yes sir! Please drive around.”

My blood pressure had the bald spot on the back of my head charred and I was unsure if I would not stroke out before pulling up to the window where I was thinking of crawling inside to see for myself what idiocy looks like.

What happened next haunts me to this day.  A young man is leaning out of the window as I pull next to him.

“Well hello, Mr. McFarland! Sorry for the trouble. We have a new person working and they got confused.  We apologize. Here is your order. Have a nice day!”

It was a former student. He knew me. He remembered my name. I was practically speechless.  I had sent a litany of “f-bombs” across the speaker system and into the ears of not only everyone sitting in the restaurant but also a young man who I once tried to teach leadership skills and citizenship principles and mold into a person the world would be proud to know. I wanted a hole to fall into. Perhaps I should have been proud of him. After all, he was displaying the type of citizenship and character I had preached for twenty years at the middle school. It should have been a moment of great pride. Instead, I wished I were dead and could, somehow melt into my seat cushion.

What a learning moment that was for me. One I will not forget. And I was reminded of that experience this past week.

Lisa and I traveled to visit her brother and his family in Alabama a few days ago. It was a chance to get away for a couple of days as Lisa awaits surgery. Traveling back home we decided to stop in Nashville at one of our favorite  places to eat and take home some of our favorite spaghetti. ( I will not mention the business name – perhaps in a future blog). Downtown Nashville is a hopping place and we were forced to pay ten dollars to park. We agreed the price for parking was worth every penny – even if we would only be parked for a few minutes as we carried out the delicious meal. We parked, paid and then walked the half block to the restaurant.

Sign on door: “Closed from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm daily.”

We could not believe it. Lisa called a number on the door and the man on the other end confirmed their kitchen was closed until five o’clock. It was 2:15.

As we defeatedly walked back to our parked car – I searched for the business website and found a place to send complaints. My fingers were blazing with fire as I told them how ridiculous it was to be closed during that time of day. I said we would never be back and that the ten bucks we spent on parking made their food taste much worse than before. I will say – I did not drop any ‘f-bombs’.

Lisa and I were convinced we would never hear from them again.  After all, big businesses don’t have time for petty complaints like ours. Just had to accept the fact we were out ten bucks and still hungry.

Then, about an hour past Nashville – a phone call.

Me: “Hello!”

Caller (a man): ” Is this Steve McFarland?”

Me: “Yes it is.”

Caller: “This is —– from the (restaurants name) here in Nashville.”

My first thought was he would make some lame excuse and try to placate us in some way.  Here it comes.

The man said he had received my complaint and began to apologize for being closed during that time of the day. I told him I was shocked that anyone would bother to call – especially this soon.  I was (again) humbled by his apology and felt a little ashamed for making such a big deal over a ten dollar parking fee.  I assumed he was going to offer us a free meal the next time we were in Nashville.  What he offered was even more extraordinary.

The man asked me where Owensboro was located and if their restaurant in Louisville was closer to us than the one in Nashville. I told him yes.

“Well, good!” he replied.  “I just spoke to the manager of our restaurant in Louisville and he is going to bring you supper.”

I was speechless – once again.  The manager of the restaurant in Nashville just told me that the manager in Louisville was going to drive two hours to our house in Owensboro and bring us supper.  Finally, I managed to say that was not necessary but, he insisted and wrote down our address.  He said the man would call me in the next week or so and would be bringing us – to our house – our favorite spaghetti dish.  Unbelievable!

Sometimes really bad things can turn into surprisingly good things.  We are standing on that life principle this week more than ever.  I am still learning to keep my cool and not embarrass myself – one never knows who may be on the receiving end of my wrath.  They may be having just as bad a day as I am. 

And – there really are good people in the world doing really good things in the world.  Lisa and I have experienced that countless times since her breast cancer diagnosis. I’m reminded of an old Andre Crouch song that said, “He looked beyond our faults and saw our need.” God has certainly looked beyond my faults throughout my life and not only saw, but, answered my needs. Many people have done that for Lisa and I these past few weeks. For that we are forever grateful.

Now we wait for our spaghetti dinner. I just hope the man who is bringing it from Louisville is not a former student of mine.

Love, Steve and Lisa.

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Living Between the Lines

“Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come.
—————————————————————-
Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.”

The situation we were facing was serious.  We would find that out over the next few days.  Having just returned from a vacation in Panama City, Florida, Lisa began complaining of leg pain and before long was unable to walk. I remember carrying her into her mom and dad’s house at one point and soon we were in the hospital emergency room. Being several months pregnant with Heather, our second child, the doctor informed us that the blood clot that had formed in her leg was probably the result of sitting for long periods of time in the car while traveling to Florida. He then said something I will never forget. It was also the number one cause of death in pregnant women.

The remaining portion of her pregnancy was a nightmare. She was placed on blood thinners and forced to stop working. She lost weight and would experience sudden fainting spells. The delivery was difficult and her c-section and recovery were complicated by the thin blood and resulted in a late night ambulance trip back to the hospital and more surgery. She remained in the hospital for several weeks and I remember one night in particular that I actually thought I would lose her. It was the scariest episode of our marriage

Lisa would make a complete recovery and Heather was a robust, eating machine that grew into a beautiful young lady. God’s grace saw us through.

Now we face another serious test of our faith as Lisa prepares for breast cancer surgery this Friday (June 26). We have no way of knowing the outcome of things. We are scared. All we have to go on are the things in the rear view mirror of our lives. The past events in which God saw us through by His grace and mercy are all we have. Tomorrow and the events to come are in the hands of a sovereign God who, I believe, controls all things. Based on the past – we can have great hope in the future.  We are living in between the lines of one of the verses of “Amazing Grace”, the most famous hymn ever written.  We know that God has brought us safe this far in our lives and because of that – we have confidence that He will continue.  I heard a quote this week from a famous Christian missionary who said, “Tomorrow is none of our business.”  I agree and accept that only an eternal God has rights to the future. We do not.  All we have is the rear view mirror that tells the story of what God has done “thus far”.  A loving God stands waiting for us in all the tomorrows of our lives.

Lisa and I will be residing this week and the weeks to come in between those two lines. There in the white spaces we find confidence in a God who has never failed – to lead us home.

Thanks for your continued prayers. Love, Steve and Lisa.

A Place to Pray

This past weekend Lisa and I traveled south to Addison, Alabama to spend a couple of days with her younger brother and his family.  It was good to get away for even a brief vacation (of sorts) as Lisa prepares for surgery on June 26th and the radiation treatments to follow as part of her breast cancer treatment. We both are looking forward to the day this nightmare ends and have confidence we will be back on the road soon.

While in Alabama we traveled to Hanceville, Alabama and visited the “Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament”. This 400 acre Catholic Monastery and religious center is located nine miles from Cullman, Alabama and features ornate sanctuaries, a near life sized nativity, a prayer “grotto” and the adjacent “Monastery of Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration”. These cloistered nuns spend their lives in prayer and worship with no contact with the outside world.  The “Shrine” is also affiliated with the EWT television network and its foundress, Mother Mary Angelica of the Anuniciation, would be a familiar face if you ever watched that Catholic television network.

On the day we arrived it was pushing one hundred degrees and the humidity coupled with the heat coming from the massive brick portico made it almost unbearable.  We entered the welcome center and I was told that the shorts I was wearing were not allowed and was given a pair of rather large sweat pants to borrow.  As I slipped them over the top of my pants, I noticed a box on a desk that invited prayer requests be written down and submitted for the nuns to pray over.  I grabbed a pencil and piece of paper and wrote Lisa’s name and her upcoming breast cancer surgery and treatment.  Might as well get these nuns praying for us – we need all the prayer we can get. We were then invited to walk in and through the various buildings, shrines and sanctuaries.  The ornate gold gilding of each room was quite impressive and the quiet, peaceful atmosphere created one of the most reverential moments in my life.  I understood how the place would attract those needing a restful retreat.

We moved through to the large sanctuary and sat in awe of the statues and golden shimmer of the spires that backdropped the altar. People were scattered around the pews sitting in meditation or in prayer. I paused and prayed for Lisa and her upcoming surgery. 

One of our stops was in a small building that housed a near life sized nativity scene.  On each wall one could wash in “holy water” and at the front light a candle for someone in need of prayer. A twenty-five cent donation was requested and I dug through my sweatpants to find a quarter and light a candle for Lisa.

Our tour took about an hour and after a stop off at the gift shop, I returned my borrowed sweat pants, walked back across the huge, paved portico and we drove away.

I appreciate much about the Catholic faith. I love the traditions and the reverence of their worship. I am also intrigued with the saints of the church and the whole-life sacrifices of the men and women called into the ministry as nuns or priests.  And this had to be the most amazing religious place I had ever seen.  Even more amazing is that it is located in rural Alabama.

One of the most interesting experiences for me was regarding prayer. I found myself so distracted by the ornate setting that prayer in that moment was almost impossible. Perhaps on my second or third visit I would find praying at “The Shrine” easier, if not amazing.  But, this first experience was overly distracting.  It was almost too quiet and too majestic for me to shut out of my mind. The place overwhelmed me.

I know a lot of people are praying for Lisa and knowing there are now a group of cloistered nuns in Alabama praying around the clock is remarkable.  But, as for me, I probably pray better on my front porch swing than in a golden sanctuary.  Growing up a baptist, I am not accustomed to praying at an altar or before a crucifix. Perhaps I am missing out on something very special that my brethren of the Catholic faith experience on a regular basis. I have said that the altar of most protestant churches is the most unwelcoming place in the building. “Going forward” for prayer in a baptist church is so unusual it can result in rumor and innuendo spreading about what could possibly be wrong.  “What is wrong with McFarland? He just went down front to pray.” 

So, for now, I will continue praying in the way I am most comfortable. I can tell you there won’t be other people around and nothing golden will be involved – not that there is anything wrong with that.

Love, Steve and Lisa

The Atlanta 285 Death Race

We need a little humor these days and as Lisa and I head south to visit her brother and his family for a couple of days – I thought I would repost our experiences driving in Atlanta. Have a good laugh with us. Peace!

trippinwithsteveandlisa

Lisa and I are on the road this week traveling to Atlanta Georgia for some required training Lisa is needing and we are looking forward to stopping at home in Kentucky on the way.  Going to Atlanta is not our favorite trip and this post, originally published Jan. 9, 2014, will explain why.  Here is a funny look back at our Atlanta driving experience. 

People ask Lisa and I to contrast the various places we have traveled with her job in the past year and a half.  Their questions are typically, “What was your favorite place?” or “Where did you have the most fun?”  And our typical answer is that everywhere we have been has been great for different reasons.  But it occurred to me this morning while driving Lisa to her job in Riverdale, Georgia that the greatest contrast in locations can be explained in terms of driving to and from…

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Barging Into Heaven: A tribute to John Worth

In honor of the one year anniversary of John Worth’s passing, I am reposting the blog I tribute his life with called, “Barging Into Heaven”. Blessings to Judy and his family today.

trippinwithsteveandlisa

Update 6/19/2014:  It is a reflection of how many people John Worth influenced that nearly 1500 people have read my tribute to John.  Thanks for reading and honoring John in such a special way.  Blessings!

Lisa and I are so sorry that we cannot be with our church family today to honor the life of John Worth during his memorial service.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to Judy, the boys and the entire Worth family.  I wanted to honor John the only way I knew how – to write about him.  This is my tribute.

By the time we reached Montgomery, Alabama the line of cars had reached more than a dozen.  Some who had joined our convoy to Panama City, Florida had no idea where our group originated but had pulled in line along the way and remained in formation as we headed south for spring break.  In 1985 one could not travel without the aid of…

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Snow Days in June

It seems like a decade has past since I was working in our local school system. In fact, I have only been retired now three years. But, after traveling around the country these past years and only being home for brief stints – those days at Owensboro Middle School seem like a lifetime ago.  I think about people and students and funny things and good times working in the school system. I miss much of that world I left in 2012. I also miss waking up to learn school had been cancelled due to snow.  And now, after all these years, I have finally figured out why snow days were so great.

As Lisa and I are home for an unexpected extended stay waiting for her breast cancer surgery – we finally have accepted that there is simply nothing else we can do. We can’t make the cancer go away – can’t make the doctors move any faster – can’t make the clock speed up. So, might as well relax and enjoy it. These days remind me of school snow days – only it is June and schools are out for the summer. There is also no snow in the forecast but, the way our luck has been running, I’m keeping my boots and shovel handy – just in case.

Snow days are awesome! On snow days everything stops – or at least slows way down. Routines are disrupted, schedules altered, excuses for being late or absent – accepted.  On snow days you are allowed to sleep late, walk around all day in your pajamas, forget about work and responsibilities. There is just nothing you can do about it and, strangely enough, knowing you have no control over things provides an emotional respite from the drudgery and stress of day to day living.

Lisa’s cancer diagnosis has put us in that position. This snow day was not in the forecast and took all of us by surprise.  Our plans were disrupted.  At first we tried wrestling back control – fighting the circumstances – not believing or accepting what we were hearing. Kingman, Arizona would be cancelled – work and travel would cease – our RV put away. 

Now we find ourselves finally embracing this new reality. The snow is on the ground and all we can do is wait for the sun to return.  Lisa learned yesterday that her surgery will be June 26th – a little longer to wait.  But, things look good as far as her prognosis.  The long term forecast is promising.  Having accepted that there is nothing we can do until then – we are relaxing into this new normal.  And I admit – it feels good being out of control.

And if you stop by our house before noon – we welcome your visit. But, you’ve been warned – we may still be in our pajamas.

Thanks for your prayers! Keep them coming – Love, Steve and Lisa.

Waiting Room

There is nothing quite like a doctors waiting room. No where else in my life could I or would I sit so still and do so little and think so much and squirm so maniacally and doze off so easily and wish so much to be anywhere else.  Lisa and I are checking out a lot of waiting rooms these days as she continues testing while awaiting surgery to remove a cancerous breast lump. Waiting is never easy.  And these waiting rooms are just not easy to wait in. I have some advice.

1. Just get rid of the magazines all together. Nothing is more depressing for a sick person or the loved one of a sick person than to see images of healthy, beautiful, young people frolicking in a green meadow or mountain climbing or bicycling on Martha’s Vineyard or boating in the French Riviera.  Right now we are in no position to frolick, climb, bicycle or boat.  And at this moment in my life I hold in contempt anyone who does those things. I am onto you, Mr. Magazine – these people are photo – shopped fakes that look nothing like real life.  I can show you real people and real life. Bring your cameras to this waiting room and leave the make-up and special lighting in your truck. These people who are battling for their lives should be the ones celebrated.

2. Why fish? Aquariums are nice, I suppose, but, quite honestly, boring. I can watch a fish tank for about eight seconds and I’m done. The fish may be bright and beautiful and some of God’s most fascinating creatures. I especially like them cooked in a garlic sautee. But to stare at live fish longer than a few seconds makes my brain cells die. If they would jump out of the water now and then – maybe. Most of the time they swim about three inches, stop, look for food and then hover in place for the next half hour. They should put puppies in the waiting room. Puppies that bark, and pee in the floor and nip at your ankles. They would at least keep me awake – if not entertained for the two hour wait to see the freakin doctor.

3. Get some “Lazy- Boy” recliners. If I am going to doze off at least let me do it in style and with some comfort. Trying to sleep in standard waiting room furniture can result in chiropractor visits and more waiting rooms with bad furniture and catatonic fish.

4. Don’t make me wait – period.

Lisa and I will be doing the waiting room circuit for the next few weeks and maybe, just maybe, we will get better at this waiting game. But, I would rather be boating in the Riviera with all the other beautiful people.