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Two Beautiful NFL Events

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“Because I have been able to build a reputation as a talented player, I have been able to build futures.   Because I am able to play, I am able to make a difference. Because I have been blessed with a talent, I also have been given a responsibility.”

Warrick Dunn

When less than admirable football stars stay in the news week after week, perhaps we need to spend some extra time  recognizing stellar NFL players like Warrick Dunn and Deshaun Watson. No doubt there are many others, but these two deserve to share the spotlight today. And we who watch from the sidelines need to understand that the media revels in bad news and mostly ignores the good stories.

Warrick Dunn used his talents on the football field for Catholic High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to earn a scholarship to Florida State University. At FSU, he not only played well, he took care of his five younger siblings after their mother, a single parent, was killed in the line of duty as a police officer and a part-time security guard. She had been working extra hours to buy a house for her family.

Graduation brought the opportunity to play professional football with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later,  the Atlanta Falcons. He used his opportunity with above average income during those years to help others and to establish a charitable foundation. A more complete story of his life is available as an autobiography, Running for My Life.

One of those whom he helped, was Deshaun Watson, a star football player at Gainesville High School in Georgia. Dunn found out that Deshaun’s mother was helping build houses with Habitat for Humanity, hoping to earn one for herself and her four children in 2006. Warrick Dunn stepped in to buy a four bedroom house, fully furnished for the Watsons.  It was so fully furnished that even the refrigerator was well stocked with food on the day they moved in.

Deshaun finished his education at Gainesville High and then at Clemson University, where he led his team to a national championship.  This week he walked out on to the field to play his first game with the Houston Texans.

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Deshaun and two of the women he helped.

Instead of depositing his first game check for $27,000, Deshaun divided it into thirds and gave $9,000 each to three of the team’s cafeteria workers who lost everything  when Hurricane Harvey flooded their homes.

After all, he had received a lot more than a mere house from his benefactor, Warrick Dunn. He received both inspiration and a good example.

One Beautiful Car, Many Beautiful People

 

 

 

First Lt. Jonathan Rozier loved his wife, Jessica, his baby son, Justin, and his new  convertible, a 1999 Toyota Celicia GT, but he left them all behind to serve his country in Iraq. Sadly he never returned.

Jessica ended up selling his car when times got tough for the young widow trying to make ends meet. Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and make hard decisions.

That was in 2003.

In 2017, the baby son begin driving, and she started to daydream about finding his father’s old convertible and buying it for him. Somehow she traced its whereabouts to Pleasant Grove, Utah and posted a picture of the car and its first owner on the town’s FaceBook page along with the car’s history.

Pleasant Grove’s leader of the patriotic group, Follow The Flag, saw the posting and began reporting the story among his wide circle of acquaintances. Sure enough, one of Kyle Fox’s friends happened to see the car, the one day it was parked on the neighborhood street instead of in the owner’s garage.

The fairly new owner of the Celicia GT, Jorge Cruz, had dreamed about owning that very model since he was a teenager himself. But when he heard about Justin, he readily agreed to sell.

“I believe nothing happens for just chance. Something has a purpose in life, and if you can make somebody happy, do it,” Cruz said. “It’s bittersweet for me, but that’s a good feeling somebody is going to be happy out of this.”

Seeing the Facebook post about buying his father’s car for Justin convinced Cruz to sell it.

Meanwhile, Kyle Fox began a Go Fund Me page to fix up the car before returning it to Justin and his mother in Texas. He said that it was his way of saying “thanks” to Lt. Jonathon Rozier for his sacrifice for our freedom.

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Lt. Jonathan Rozier with his son, Justin, before deployment to Iraq.

Beautiful Food, II

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A conversation with another state university lecturer first alerted me to the heart cry of many, if not most, college students. Her casual mention of preparing the evening meal for her husband and children that day created a storm of envy from the class. Some insisted they couldn’t remember a parent cooking any meal for the family during the week, others said a parent usually picked up take-out food and brought it home for family members to consume whenever they arrived, and still others considered their favorite family times had been sharing fast-food “happy meals” before heading to the next stop.

Thus, these families had missed out on the centuries-old practice of “team building” through shared meals and shared conversations. If they had ever seen Babbette’s Feast, they didn’t take its message to heart – that good food and good conversation heal many wounds. And these 18 and 19 year-olds were angrily aware of their loss.

The good news is that everyone can participate in the remedy! And frankly, it’s time for each person to bravely step up to the plate of beautiful mealtimes. (Pun intended.)

If you recall, Babbette’s guests started the meal she had prepared with fear and trepidation. They were actually afraid of enjoying it or each other. Yet, overcome by the gentle persuasion of course after course of gourmet foods beautifully presented, by the end they were happily sharing stories, ideas, and compassion.

Today’s overloaded families or apartment-mates don’t need an in-house, world class chef to improve the ambiance of the evening meal they share. When anyone goes to the trouble to make any occasion more beautiful, the entire group improves, perhaps slowly, but all good habits eventually create excellence.

The composition or ages of the group who lives together does not matter in the least. The first step is always to just decide to change.

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Here are a few examples of innovations to consider. I welcome other suggestions, even anonymous ones, in the comments section.

     1. Fix simple meals with the highest quality ingredients available. This will usually save time, money, and energy. No need to copy Babbette’s elaborate menu, but do follow her precedent by carefully selecting the best examples of each food item needed for the meal.

     2. Take turns or share the chores involved. Shopping, setting the table, cooking, and clean-up are part of every meal. Teenagers and adults can take turns with any of these aspects of a beautiful occasion, while smaller children can learn to set the table, fold the napkins, and clear the table one plate at a time. Soon they can even load the dishwasher and prepare simple recipes.

     3. Whoever cooks should strive to present the dish attractively. Neatness is the most important factor, but with practice one does develop expertise in arranging the platter or bowl.

     4. Wait until everyone arrives before beginning the meal. Children learn their own value to others by insisting that they are part of the group and the group needs their participation.

     5. Table time is for eating, talking, and learning from each other. No electronics are allowed! No television. No radio. No phones in the room. If a phone rings, the call can be returned after the meal. This rule applies to both home and restaurant meals.

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Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Beautiful Food

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Choosing to walk in beauty involves every dimension of living: your posture, your attire, your decor, your attitude, and your manner of living. But none of these important areas depend upon a great expenditure of money or time; they merely require the mindfulness that evolves into good habits.  Today I want to concentrate on food.

If you’ve read Isak Dinesen’s short story, Babbette’s Feast, or seen the movie based upon it, you already understand something about the importance of good food, well prepared, and artfully presented. If you haven’t, watch a download of the movie  at home this weekend.

Pay attention to every detail, for this is a story of people changing their attitudes, not a fast moving thriller. Only by noticing the details or clues and putting them together, does one catch the full impact of the story.

In fact, every detail is so important that many viewers could see it two or three times before understanding the insights Dinesen offers.  Most Americans probably first approach it as a quaint, Victorian story about a peculiar village of overly pious people. Yet, there is a bad habit that both the fictional Danes and today’s Americans share. — Each group misses the importance of beautiful food that is chosen and prepared with care, then presented attractively in a setting that encourages conversation.

The Danish villagers feared that giving too much attention to physical pleasure would draw them away from God’s love. They saw God as a stern taskmaster and viewed holiness as paying very strict attention to the tasks He assigned, not the virtues He espoused. Without emphasizing those virtues, through the years the believers began quarreling over petty matters until every meeting was marred by merciless accusations that were never forgiven.

While Americans readily  succumb to the very sensual pleasures their fictional counterparts most detested, they sacrifice good family meals and pleasant conversations on the altar of efficiency and convenience.  Too many meals every week come from the drive through track at a nearby fast food place and are consumed in the car. Or if at home, gathered around the table, parents and children alike play with their smart phones instead of communicating with each other. Often the television is on to further distract family members from actually glimpsing the problems that each other faces.  Consequently, they begin quarreling over petty matters until every day is marred by merciless accusations that are never forgiven.

The villagers learned love and forgiveness at one glorious banquet the likes of which they had never imagined even existed. The bad habits of American families will take longer to change, but at much less cost.

Stay tuned for easy suggestions to add more love and beauty to your evening meal.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather

Redux #1: Beauty of True Riches

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The only things that can never be taken

from you are your memories.

Create beautiful memories; they are your true riches.

Dr. Marvin E. Patterson

Shortly after posting the above quote last week, two friends responded by reminding me that our memories can be taken away from us too. This is Part One of my response. 

The quote is from a very dear friend of mine, the late Dr. Marvin Patterson. It was the framework he used to help me struggle through some daunting legal and personal problems that I faced through no fault of my own. As a naive optimist, I had been totally unprepared for the calumny, rejection, and betrayal that had created these life changing economic, social, and logistical predicaments. For at least three years, I often muttered under my breath, “Of course I’m depressed. I would have to be crazy to not be depressed.”

But bit by bit he helped me face reality, accept my losses, and start facing the future with equanimity and forgiveness. There were times that only through my daydreams about creating beautiful memories for my family, could I muster the courage to put one foot in front of the other. Planning spur-of-the-moment picnics, decorating the house for holidays, cooking special meals for impromptu celebrations, or planning occasional trips together kept me going until life seemed to be worthwhile again. Creating beautiful memories became my raison d’être.

There is no way that I could have ever repaid him for his kindness. But, I know that if they do give big, solid gold stars in heaven for doing good work, he earned a thousand or so for helping me.

Also, I am quite aware that drugs, alcohol, and old age can affect one’s mind so badly that people tend to think the person is no longer “there” or is crazy. I go through a new realization of that every time I call my own mother. First, I have to explain that I am her daughter, Kaye, even though I was the only daughter she had. Then I have to make all of the conversation, keeping everything simple. We can no longer discuss ideas or current events because apparently they are now beyond her understanding. And frequently she forgets within an hour that it was I who called her.

So her beautiful memory is not about facts and pictures in her mind anymore, but about good feelings. It makes her feel good when anyone calls her, even for five minutes, because it reminds her that she is loved. And that is a beautiful memory whether she remembers it was I or not.

As always, the person who does the mitzvah, is rewarded double what the other person receives. So I have an especially beautiful memory of repaying her for her early mitzvahs to me. Beautiful memories are true riches, indeed.

Copyright by Kaye Fairweather, 2017

Once There Was Beauty

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Once upon a time beauty bloomed inside Effie’s mind as she planned the best design for the edging that would trim the sheets and pillowcases needed to complete her dowry. She often hurried to finish the farm chores to allow time to complete a few extra inches of lace before bedtime.  After each harvest, she eagerly counted out her coins, hoping on the next trip to town to buy more linen to make hand towels and napkins to monogram during the winter.

All was finished and packed away in a separate wooden trunk by the time she climbed into the family’s wagon to be driven to Simmons College for her teaching degree. When things got tough at school, she comforted herself with daydreams about using the beautiful things carefully folded and waiting in her hope chest. After graduation, she moved to the territory of New Mexico to start her new life as a single woman teaching school in what became Lea County. Every month, she bought a few pieces of  delicate, hand painted fine china to add to her dowry. And she kept it all under lock and key for safety’s sake.

After she married, they decided to build only a very small frame house to live in temporarily because they were living as simply as possible while getting the sheep ranch and small farm started. All of these precious linens and good china would be used in the new house – the real house they would build after proving the claim and after they had more money.  But right now, they were just getting by.

Especially with growing children though, every year the nice house seemed to be further and further down the road. Occasionally Effie would open the trunk to look again at the lovely things they would use some day and show them to her three girls, provided they washed their hands before touching any of the treasures. Their big eyes drank in the glory of delicate hand painted tea cups and they begged to use them right now – today.

But cautious Effie always said,  “No, not until we build the new house; these things are just too nice to use here. But then, we’ll use them every day and especially when we have company come over for dinner.”

But one Sunday, when the oldest girl was eight and the youngest a toddler, before the new house was built,  they returned home after church to a smoldering  pile of ashes. No one knows how the fire started or even when. They were grateful that the wind had not spread it to the corrals, so none of the livestock was lost. The windmill was still pumping water from under the ground, but no one had been there to use it to put out the fire.

Of course none of them had ever gotten to use the beautiful things that had been made with such generosity and such anticipation of the delight of sharing beauty with the people you love most of all.

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Share whatever beautiful things you have with everyone you love while both are still with you. Each of us needs all the beauty we can get from mundane tools neatly arranged to a marvelous view of our own back yard to a table set neatly in a quiet house to encourage conversation during the shared meal. Thus we build real memories instead of trying to live in air castles.

Copyright 2017 by Kaye Fairweather