Friday Follies: Confusingly Named

The thought for today began with the question, “What’s the story behind your nickname?” I initially thought, “Can I tell that story succinctly and interestingly enough to avoid readers moving on or falling asleep?” Oh, well! Perhaps you need a nap or a bedtime story.

I was born shortly after the end of World War II. There is a high probability I was conceived about thirty minutes after my father arrived home from the war. Dad was not a patient man, and after reading some of the letters he wrote to Mom from North Africa, only one thing was on his mind.

Whatever the time frame of my conception, the nickname thing started before I was born. Mom named me after Stephen Foster and Erich von Stroheim. My folks lived with my grandfather at the time, and he had problems with both men but agreed to Stephen Eric Jackson. Then, since he did not like Stephen, he started calling me Stevie, which drove my mother nearly crazy.

Mom was just a country girl with an eighth-grade education. However, she wasn’t a dummy. She started using nicknames after giving up trying her best to get her father-in-law to use my full first name. Over the years, I was called by numerous nicknames. I cannot remember the earliest ones, but I’m certain Butchie or something like it was used.

As I got older, they changed. I was called Buddy, Bubba, Jack, John, and possibly other names I have forgotten. The last name she used was George. The reason she quit using them at that time is funny, but you’ll need to read my memoir to get the scoop on that. Of course, that depends on me getting the thing finished.

So, that is the story of how my nicknames came about. However, the story is boring unless you are into family drama and have a good imagination. Still, as I grew older, the problems with my naming brought about some humorous moments.

Check back next week and see if I’ve had time to write about what happened when Mom changed my name without making it legal.

© – 2023

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Monday Musings: Think First!

Memes, wonderful memes, how we love them! Okay! Maybe we don’t love them all the time, but they can be amusing, informative, and highly questionable at the same time. You gotta love that, right?1

Take the one below, for example. An old friend shared it. This is someone I’ve known since before social media existed. Heck! I’ve known this person since the dark ages. You know, before mobile phones, the Internet, and Mark Zuckerberg. This brings me to the point of this piece.

You may have seen this meme or something similar before. Some add the question I am about to ask, and some don’t. Whether they add the question or not, the problem is the same. This meme can mean different things to different people.

Knowing the person sharing this thought, I believe I know exactly what he means. However, everyone who posts a comment like this may not have the same meaning in mind. Even more concerning is some sharing a post of this nature may be far from well-intentioned.

What do you think the person sharing this challenge meant? You’re likely correct if you think it means some form of Christian prayer. Of course, my old friend may have been bored and trying to stir up some controversy.

I doubt he’s simply being a troublemaker. Still, he may have thought all his friends would see it as he does. If so, he found out otherwise, given the comments I read recently.

My point here is the same one I have made in times past. Think before posting, sharing, etc. You may still decide to post something that could create some controversy, as I did here. Still, you won’t be blindsided if the response is not in line with your expectations.

If you haven’t thought of it already, here’s the problem with the meme above. If you search for “do all religions pray,” you will receive millions of results. Of course, many of those will be only indirectly related to your search, but hundreds may address the issue.

The consensus of those who studied this issue is most, if not all, religions or belief systems pray in some manner to something. Using census data it appears there are at least eight major religions or faith systems, however those are defined, represented in the United States.

Within those major major religions are many, hundreds, if not thousands, of derivatives, with differing beliefs, practices, and prayer beliefs. A few years ago I wrote a piece, Forgive the Confusion, which digs a little deeper into that aspect of religion or belief systems if you’re interested.

The bottom line is this whether the meme, comment, blog or famous quotation is talking about school prayer, pronoun issues, or any number of other controversies, think before you share, comment, or post your own meme. Unless of course, you just like to rock the boat.

© – 2023

Posted in artificial intelligence, Christianity, communication, Family Vaules, Public Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oh! What A Weekend!

As weekends go, the July 4th weekend this year came close to being a bucket list kind of weekend. Oh, it didn’t start off that great. We left Fort Worth, heading for Oklahoma City before noon, and a week later, we arrived. Okay! It wasn’t really a week later, but the three-hour drive turned into a four-hour-plus drive that seemed like a week. The traffic was horrible, and I mean horrible!

Things started to settle down once we arrived, checked in, and caught our breath. We had a great dinner with the friends who invited us up, and then we slept well. The next morning dawned bright and early, and the bucket list activities got started.

We were hanging out with the fabulous Blue Angels. By that, I mean our hosts were the parents of the Executive Officer of the Blue Angel Squadron, and the whole squadron was staying at the hotel with us. We were hanging out with some of the best pilots in the U. S. military and their support unit.

The first part of the morning was pretty normal. Grab a bit of breakfast, hang out, and meet different members of the team, that sort of thing. Then it got interesting. We headed for the airbase in a full-blown, high-speed motorcycle-escorted procession! Since we were the family and friends crowd, we were escorted into the facility and parked near the aircraft. It was VIP time! Okay, maybe we just felt like VIPs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the air show and waiting for the Angels to do their thing. It was hot, sunny, noisy, and glorious. We and hundreds of others were within a stone’s throw of the runway, and better seats could not be had. Unless, of course, you wanted to be closer to the beer tent.

Here are a few pictures and one video of a WWII aircraft showing off.

Overall, it was a great weekend, the Friday nightmare aside. Now, I just need to see if I can make Pensacola one of those days when the Angels are returning from an airshow. They do some showoff runs over the beach that I’d like to see in person.

© – 2023

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Memorably Speaking: Vacations?

The challenge inspiring this piece was to describe my most memorable vacation. At first, I bypassed the thought as I had many other prompts to spur me and hundreds of other bloggers to publish something. I’ve had so many great vacations, trips, excursions, etc., how could I pick one?

For example, one vacation was also the second part of our honeymoon. We spent it in Hawaii and had a wonderful time. However, we went to Hawaii again years later and had an even better time. How could I choose? Then there was the trip to Mexico with my daughters—just the three of us in Puerto Vallarta.

We took excursions, parasailed, and had dinner in a beautiful mountainside restaurant overlooking the city and the Bahia de Banderas. How could that not be one of my most memorable travel experiences?

I could go on about the wonderful places I’ve been for golf trips, family vacations, and business trips, including vacation time after business activities. It’s hard to beat free travel with pay and vacation time tacked on to the trip at no cost.

Then my brain did its thing. It slapped me upside the head, metaphorically speaking, and said, “Train Rides!” Technically, my train rides may not have been vacation time. After all, the most memorable and frequent were in my early years.

Also, I could argue they were not vacations, as most think of them. These were obligatory trips to see grandparents and other relatives. In most cases, staying home and doing nothing would have been more fun than pretending to be thrilled to be in Indianapolis. However, those were the days of obligatory family visits, at least in our part of the world.

So, what makes these trips memorable in a good way? The simple answer is the train ride. I loved the trains. I loved everything about them. They had great seats, and the dining car served the best BLTs available in those days. Most trains had an observation deck where you could watch the countryside flow by. And you weren’t crammed into the backseat with your kid brother for hours on end.

Yes, those trips were memorable, and can you imagine how disappointed I was in the 1980s when I took the Amtrak from San Antonio to Fort Worth to ride a train again? It was the pits. There were very few passengers. It took three tries to find a seat that wasn’t broken. The train stopped every thirty minutes to let a freight train pass. And the food available was not as good as the prepackaged sandwiches you could buy at a hole-in-the-wall convenience store.

© – 2023

Posted in Daily Life, family, Humor, Travel, Uncategorized, Vacation | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Friday Follies: A Question of Fear

Today, I am responding to the question, “What fears have you overcome and how?” To be clear, I debated almost a week before starting this post. And to be perfectly honest, you could accuse me of being afraid to respond to the question.

If it was fear, I overcame it. Also, if it was fear, my anxiety was about possibly sounding braggadocious or being seen as a first-class a-hole. However, let’s jump to the second part of the question. I am not certain I ever overcame a fear. Instead, life helped me control the perceptions, feelings, or concerns considered the basis of fear.

Life taught me that being afraid was often a waste of time. Life also taught me allowing fear to control or greatly influence you could prove disastrous, if not fatal. That does not mean I did not have instances of anxiety, especially in my childhood years. If I remember correctly, I was fourteen when I had one of the most frightening experiences in my younger days.

I was sound asleep. Suddenly my bed was shaking, and someone yelled at the top of their lungs, “Wake up, wake up, the ship’s sinking!” I clearly remember sitting straight up in bed and screaming, “The ship’s sinking?” My heart was racing, and I was looking around, expecting to see water pouring in from the windows.

As I became fully conscious, I saw my father standing at the end of the bed, laughing like a hyena. He’d been working late, had a few beers, and wanted some company eating the donuts he picked up on the way home. The fact he’d almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest didn’t bother him a bit.

I learned a lot about controlling fear from that and several incidents over the years. Some were what you might call near-death experiences. That is what points out the problem with the question above. Overcoming fear is the wrong way to look at the situation.

Fear is an important aspect of human consciousness or understanding. I’ve seen the results of people overcoming fear, or worse, not realizing they should be afraid. The outcomes were often disastrous. I’ve also seen the results of people letting their fear control them. They often learned sobering lessons as well.

Fear is normal and can be helpful unless your fear rises to the level of psychosis. The key is not to overcome the fear. The key is to learn to control the fear until the threat or perceived threat is neutralized. Then you can let the fear come out.

I learned this lesson relatively early in my law enforcement career. Before that, like many guys, I shrugged off the fear and convinced myself I was too tough to let fear control me. Then there was the night I came within a heartbeat of dying or suffering disabling injuries.

The details of the incident would be more appropriately shared over a beer some night at a pub. Here, it is sufficient to say I came within a nano-second of having a likely fatal automobile accident while responding to an emergency. Thankfully, I avoided the accident, handled the crisis, and made an arrest.

After transporting my prisoner to the jail and locking him up, I completed my paperwork at a counter in the booking area. Suddenly, my legs went weak, and I had to grab the counter to avoid falling to the floor. I broke out in a sweat and started gasping for air. Thankfully, the incident was over quickly, and no one was there to see me go through the delayed effect of the incident.

I did not faint, fall, puke, or do anything embarrassing. What I did do was realize I had been running on adrenaline and staying focused on the situation and the need to handle it, not the possibility of becoming a statistic. Being the analytical type, I spent a good deal of time running the scenario through my mind.

What I realized is that fear is an essential survival tool. People who overcome their fear and go charging into situations feeling invincible or telling themselves they will not let fear control them are making mistakes. You don’t overcome fear; you own it, do your job and deal with the fear when the dust settles.

© – 2023

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Monday Musings: Beep This

The wonderful world of Baby Boomers can be a surprise, a minute or so boring; some pray to be called to the place prepared for them. John 14:2 I’m not part of the second group. I’ll go when it’s my time, but I’m happy I wake up on Earth every morning. On the other hand, I get frustrated with the surprises. Take last week, for example.

Wednesday, I went to have my new heart device checked and adjusted. During the session, the nurse and a technician from the manufacturer briefed me on the changes and the reasons for the changes. They also let me know the device notified me of a problem that might need attention.

Yes, my new implant would beep rather loudly if there was a problem with the device or my heart. Should that occur, I was to immediately call my cardiologist. While that was both comforting and frightening, I appreciated the heads-up. However, I was not quite as happy with the idea a day later.

Yes, Thursday night choir rehearsal got tense when I suddenly heard a loud beeping noise. I was frozen for a moment, not certain what I should do. I could not determine the source of the beep, but it was close. Then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a choir member digging in her purse.

I let out the breath I’d been holding and bit my tongue to keep from saying something tacky about her failure to silence her phone. However, she was embarrassed enough and did not need me to add to her guilt trip.

So, why am I writing about this today? As medical science and other sciences continue to advance, there will likely be more serious opportunities for conflicts than a phone beeping in a fashion similar to a heart device.

My first lesson in device compatibility was my original pacemaker. Keeping your mobile phone close to your pacemaker is a bad idea. I did not learn that the hard way. I got the notice, did some research, and made certain the phone was close enough to record the activity of my pacemaker but far enough away not to trigger a problem.

Which brings me back to the beeps. We need to be aware that our medical devices are not yet made in a way that is compatible with all other electronic devices, and many of those devices are not visible. So, if you’re in an area where you’re asked not to use your cellular phone or to silence it, compliance may help keep people like me from freaking out or worse.

© – 2023

Posted in aging, Civility, Daily Life, Manners, Medicine, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Friday Follies: Speaking of Names

My web muse hit me and a bunch of other folks with a new question recently: “If you had to change your name, what would your new name be?”

I don’t know about the other folks, but I had no problem finding an answer. There is a reason for my feelings.

The biggest reason for my nonchalance about my name is my upbringing. As a baby, I was the focus of a weird battle between my mother and one of my grandfathers. Mom wanted to call me by my first name, Stephen.

My grandfather did not like Stephen and decided to call me Stevie, which Mom hated. So, she changed my name from Stephen Eric Jackson to Eric Stephen Jackson, but my grandad did not like the name Eric because it was of Germanic origin.

Grandpa Jackson served in World War I, and my dad was severely injured in World War II. Charley did not want anything remotely German sounding in his house, where we lived. So, Mom produced a plan. She started using nicknames. I have no idea which was the first nickname she used, but Butch or Butchie was one of the earlier ones. Then there was everything you can imagine. I remember being called Jack, Sam, Buddy, Bud, and George.

Of course, these names were used in highly informal settings. If I played in the backyard or the back of the house, I might hear, “Hey, Buddy, get up here, ” or “Sam, I need you for something.” On the other hand, my brother was always David because he was named after our great-grandfather, and he did not approve of nicknames.

So, what name would I choose if forced to do so? I would go with George because that is the last nickname or pseudonym my mother ever used for me. There’s a funny story behind that choice, but I’ll save it for another Friday Follies post.

© – 2023

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Monday Musings: Blood in the Water

As I watch the political news today, I am reminded of the phrase used in the title above. I grew up learning the phrase was related to shark-feeding frenzies, which could be triggered by the smell of blood in the water. Apparently, there is some disagreement over that claim, as experts say sharks do not smell blood.

Whatever the truth of the matter, one thing is clear a feeding frenzy is not where you want to be. Once the sharks are triggered, regardless of what triggers them, even they are not safe. The prey is savaged, and the sharks even attack each other. One source said there are reports of dying sharks still attacking and swallowing pieces of other fish when their stomachs have been ripped out of their bodies.

Okay, sharks may not be able to smell blood in the water. Still, the phrase is a good analogy for the way politics work. Politicians can smell blood in the water, metaphorically speaking. When they do, the frenzy begins. This brings us to the 2024 presidential election.

It is clear some Republicans are smelling blood in the water. They are circling around former President Trump like a herd of sharks. How that will play out for them in the elections is yet to be seen. However, there is a distinct possibility so much political blood will be shed the GOP nominee could be dead in the water, politically speaking, by the general election.

Whether you think that is good or bad depends on your politics and biases. I just wonder how many of those in the GOP frenzy will not realize they disemboweled themselves until it is too late.

© – 2023

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Friday Follies: Possessions

Okay! The question of the day that was supposed to pique my interest and inspire me to write was:

What personal belongings do you hold most dear?

My first thoughts on this were, to a degree, unprintable in a polite blog like mine. Then I realized it was not the muse’s prompt that bothered me. It was my view of life that made me react that way.

I was raised in a world where everything was temporary, even family. Yes, in my childhood, my brother and I learned early on that here today, gone tomorrow was more than a saying, regardless of the thing in question.

The first loss I remember was our family dog when I was five or six. A neighbor poisoned her because she kept escaping from our yard and invading his space. That was the first time I remember being told, “Big boys, don’t cry.”

The big boys don’t cry mantra was something I learned well by the time I was a teenager. Every pet we had disappeared for one reason or another over the years. Sometimes we heard some fairy tale about our pet needing a better home or someone needing a pet more than we did. Whatever the truth, if pets were that disposable in our lives, how precious could material things be?

Over the years, a few things meant something special and more than others. My first real gun, for example, was special. We were into quick-draw competitions at one time, and I was given a 22-caliber Colt single-action six-shooter so I could compete. I had it for years, but it was just a tool. Eventually, I sold it to buy something I wanted more.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand why life was like that for my family. That has not helped much in the area of possessions or personal belongings. I have a few possessions I care about, but none I hold dear, as I understand the term.

What I have are memories. Some I hold dear, and some I really wish I could forget. However, the memories I wish I could forget are the ones that helped me remember what not to do as a father, husband, and friend.

© – 2023

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More Than a Name

The original version of this was posted in May 2020.

David Charles Marshall Jackson was his name. The poor kid was named after his great-grandfather, grandfather, and father. That’s the price one pays to be the second son whose older brother was not stuck with ancestral names. You get them all, at least in the Ballard-Jackson clan in 1947. Yet, regardless of the reason for our names, we are each more than a name.  

In David’s case, he did his best to stand out as something other than the vessel carrying the memories of others. And he was lucky in a way. By the time he was born, we’d already been through the saga of nicknames or diminutive names with my given name. If that little battle had not been fought before his arrival, he’d have been known as little Davy or little Charley for the rest of his life. Thanks to our great-grandfather’s no-nonsense demeanor, David was David from birth. 

Names matter in ways beyond simple identification and differentiation. Yet, the primary purpose of a name in society is identification. Think of a first-grade teacher riding herd on a dozen or so students. Without names, the teacher would call out something like, “Hey! You, the little boy in the red shirt in the back left corner of the room.” Instead, the teacher can say, “David, can you read the first line on the board?”

Yet, we are much more than a name. For example, at this moment, if someone googled my first and last name, they might find a former professional basketball player. They could find some academic types, as my given name and surname seem to have pushed many people into research, teaching, and writing, myself included. However, each person found would be different in many ways, bringing me to this piece’s point.

According to the latest figures I could find, David is one of 58,318 Vietnam casualties whose names are on the Wall. Of course, there are thousands upon thousands more names in cemeteries, on other monuments, and in government records listing those who died in the service of our country. Wherever the name is found, remember that it is more than letters engraved on a wall, a headstone, or another marker.

Each of those names represents a human being. They were a child, brother, sister, husband, father, wife, mother, or some combination of those identities. Their sacrifice left a hole in someone’s heart. A hole that may never heal.

More Than a Name on a Wall*

*Click to see and hear a musical tribute to those listed on the Wall. An ad may pop up first, but you can skip it after a few seconds.

© – 2023

Posted in National Defense, Uncategorized, Veterans, Vietnam | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments