Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Which is more, you'll be a Man, my son"

...He is like a tree planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers...
Psalm 1:3

My brother told me a few months before that a few months after I'd be hard pressed to remember what it was like before. He was right. That day changed everything. I'll never be the same...for which I am so very thankful.

I do remember that day clearly though....

I played in a softball game the night before. The process had started, but we didn't tell anyone. (Sometimes the process starts falsely). That morning, I went on to school to teach my summer class. Lisa ran an important errand. After my class & after the errand, she came & picked me up (which will be a rather odd fact in just a minute) and we went to Wendy's to eat.

And then to the hospital, where the process really switched into high gear. Just 2-3 short hours later, it happened. A dream I never imagined being fulfilled was.

I--uncertain & unsettled myself--became the way-too-narrow funnel where legacy met history as James Benton Madaris was born. And I will wonderfully, gloriously, incredibly, blessedly never be the same!

He was a beautiful baby who almost instantly looked like me, bless his heart. (Still does, albeit a much bigger, stronger, smarter, more handsome version of me...) I wasn't able to be in the room when he arrived, but I first saw him immediately after. Whereupon I cashed in decades of man cards by standing there outside the nursery & shedding a million tears of sheer joy. I've done so since then on many occasions. (BTW, if that offends your sense of masculinity, then yours is in incomplete, juvenile masculinity. Just sayin'...)

That day is so clear in my memory that it seems it was just a couple of weeks ago. Then came rocking him to sleep (I had the early morning shift--e.g., he & I watched Charles & Diana's wedding live at like 4:00 a.m....)...and feeding him...and bathing him...and him piddling on my tie as I headed out the door to work...and his deep concern about the feel of the Indiana grass under his feet that next Spring...and walking...and a little sister...and school...and fair projects...the infamous PCS bug collection...driver's license...prom...graduation...dorm move-in...and on it goes, in a dizzying blur of way-too-fast, ever-accelerating time.

(Related aside: Got little ones at your house? Your first priority should be to soak up & revel in time spent holding, singing to, playing with, teaching, & mainly enjoying their young company. Make many memories & cherish them so that you can later chase them as I do so often. For VERY soon, you'll turn around & your nest will be emptying like mine does next month...)

So today my baby boy is 21. 6'2", strong as an ox, very intelligent, disciplined, responsible, funny,...well-liked by his peers. A man of honor, which is sadly in VERY short supply among his generation...and mine. Great strength, yet very gentle & merciful. Pretty consistent in his faith walk. About to start year 2 of a 4-year Doctorate of Pharmacy program at one of the top 5 pharmacy programs in the nation. He'll graduate from undergrad next year (speaking of time racing by!), and will spend the next in Jackson doing a brutal year of clinicals. Then a year of rotations, and he'll be James B. Madaris, Pharm.D. He's a man of consistent character...pretty high-quality character, that is.

Whereas I'm comfy in front of a crowd, he's at his best with one or two or a small group sitting on the porch or around the table. Whereas I'm a business/humanities type, he's a hard-core chemistry/biochemistry/pharmacology type. He tracks with most anything I teach; I can't even spell most of what he takes, let alone understand it. *smile* He has also become quite thoughtful about philosophical sorts of things & political things.

Today, James Madaris turns 21. Some say he is therefore now a man. But I say, he's been a man for a long time. A man who challenges me & inspires me in my own manhood. A man who raises the bar and who keeps the seemingly outdated concept of a high view of manhood alive. I am so proud of who he is and of who he's becoming. The turning of a calendar year is just that. (Example: there are far too many guys who are well past their 21st birthday who are utterly NOT worthy of the titles "man" or "manhood".)

I'm announcing to you today--in case you didn't know--that my son James B. Madaris is a man who is worthy of the highest ideas of the word "man."

James, you are my beloved, treasured you I--one of the more un-worthy dads around--am very well-pleased. Happy Birthday, buddy! I love you more than words can capture.

If (Rudyard Kipling)

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,

And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;

If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breath a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,

And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Monday, July 20, 2009

In Praise of a Mentor

In my observation, one of the huge, gaping needs in our time is men to mentor other men. Seems to me that once upon a time this was such an integral part of our society that it wasn't even necessary to discuss the need for it. But then, a number of factors kicked in and the mentors went away...

Paul said it this way in the last letter he wrote to his young apprentice:

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
2 Timothy 2:2

One of the most electrifying experiences of my entire 50 years was sitting in a dorm room at a university in Poland some years back & sharing a bit of my journey with a small group of young guys. As I asked them to share their journey with me, it became apparent that there was one guy who had mentored a second guy, who had discipled a third guy, who was in the process of discipling a fourth guy. It struck me at the time that 2 Timothy 2:2 had been fulfilled right there in the room. A holy moment for me...I almost felt compelled to take off my shoes, for truly I was standing on holy ground.

All of that was said to say this:
I am delighted to report that mentoring is not completely dead yet!

There's this one guy--among several who have poured their lives into mine--who is on my mind today. You see, today (Monday, 7/20) is his 60th birthday. A young 60, mind you...

He's a country boy from the wilds of Smith County, MS, complete with a deeply country-boy-Smith county accent. A very handsome gent, who married over his head like so many of us. Father of three kids, all grown & all parents themselves now. A veterinarian...let me repeat that: a veterinarian who has poured himself into so many of us over the years and discipled us. I love my pastor now--& the others through the years--but this layman is the one who really built into me.

He is a man of passion. About his Lord, his lady, his kids & their kids, the church he & I attend, the Sunday School class he teaches, sports...But mostly, he's passionate about mentoring/discipling younger men and about taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard it before. He's travelled to Russia doing mission work shortly after that country opened up to the rest of the world. He has sent family members to Honduras. And his disciples have scattered all over the country and the world.

I still remember that summer Sunday evening nearly 20 years ago. We were fairly new members of the church, and were totally grooving on some deep Bible teaching. We had two young children, which made me keenly aware of the very brief time I had to build into them. We had just begun teaching in the youth ministry, and I had quickly realized that I needed...well, a clue.

I'm walking out of church this particular Sunday night, & he put that famous tight bear hug on me & said "me & Sandi are starting a Masterlife group in a couple of weeks, and y'all are gonna be in it." There wasn't actually a question asked. *smile* Well, we did participate. And that time still pays dividends today--quite literally. He & his wife poured the better part of a year into us, meeting with us at least once a week (along with a few other couples) and showing us the indepth basics of what the Christian life looks like in so-called "real life." I haven't been the same since, and I am so grateful...well beyond what I can capture here in these words.

This guy taught me how to pray--really pray. He taught me how to study the Bible. And how to minister to others. And how to teach a Bible lesson. And what church is all about--really all about. He even taught me a few things about how to properly love my wife & respect my marriage vows. Still now, 20 years later, he'll stop me in the hall at church & ask "when's the last time you & your wife had a date?" He'll wait for an answer, and will NOT accept lame, typical male excuses. He'll say something like "I'm gonna ask you again next week, & you better give me a different answer." I've heard him ask many guys that very question.

He taught me--for the first time in my life--that I, a college professor then and now, have a ministry. I can take you to the spot in the church parking lot where this occurred. I was considering a job change at the time & sought his counsel. He looked at me & said "how will it affect your ministry?" A simple question, but one that drilled past all of the nonsense & got to the core of who...and whose...I am. I remember saying weakly, "what ministry?" He said, "the ministry you have over there @ the university." Blew me away. I fairly shortly thereafter shut down that particular job change possibility.

He taught me how to share my faith with another person. How to live it & teach it, to be sure, which is a vital and way under-taught part of the Christian life. But what I speak of here is how to share my faith evangelistically with someone. The first time I ever shared my spiritual journey and the gospel with anyone was under his mentoring. I know the exact spot in the church where this conversation happened too. "What're you doing rt. now?" (my reply) "I'm hanging out with you" (him) "Good! You & me are going to see _____(guy's name) to share the gospel with him." All of my well-worn excuses for not doing this faded away quickly before his intense gaze. Pathetically, I was 30 years old & had been a Christian for 20+ years--about half of which time it had meant something to me--and had never shared my faith directly with anyone. I've since had the eternally-great pleasure of sharing with others as opportunities have arisen, but that was the 1st time. BTW, the guy we visited has been a member of our church for nearly 20 years now, having received Christ in the Veterinary Clinic the following week. (aside: he's just one of many who have received Christ in that particular Vet Clinic...) Also btw, the guy was a friend & colleague of mine at the time we visited.

My mentor is a shepherd of men. He builds up the ones in his orbit, and is always looking for those who are lost on the cliffs & crags and are longing for home. He & I are so very different, but we share some common passions. He remains one of the great encouragers in my life, even now. Just earlier tonight (Monday) at a deacons' meeting, I got one of those patented hugs.

Everybody needs someone like him in their life. Especially us guys. (You ladies are much better at this sort of thing...we guys are pretty much terrible at it, which goes back to the beginning of this entry.) I am just one of dozens who have lived in his great shadow for a season of badly-needed mentoring.

His office name is "Dr. Mayfield." To me, he'll always be Johnny. My treasured friend, co-laborer, mentor, and partner in the Gospel. I am a very, very cheap imitation of him. But how deeply I treasure that year spent under his shepherding & teaching & mentoring & discipling, and the many years of friendship & partnership & encouraging since. I am a better follower of Christ, a better churchman, a better deacon (and I'm not a very good one of those!), a better husband, a better Dad, a better Sunday School teacher, a better student of Scripture, a better evangelist, a better man, and even a better worker at my job because of his impact on me. (I'm not so great at any of those, I'll grant you...which means you should be afraid of how/where I'd be apart from Doc's pouring himself into my life!)

Thanks, Johnny. You have made a gigantic difference in my life and walk with Christ and in my marriage and in my family. Thank you for showing me that I had already had wings & then teaching me how to fly. I love you, brother. Happy Birthday!

Profoundly grateful,

p.s. - May his tribe of male mentors & disciplers increase! A quote from long ago: "We have all of eternity to celebrate the victories...but only a few short hours to win them..." OK, I'm off to pray some more...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." --Sam Keen

And that respectable laziness, ladies & gents, is exactly what my young bride & I have in mind for the next few days, as we head to Orange Beach for a too-long-delayed anniversary trip.

We are moving into what Jimmy Buffett calls “Island Time”…meaning, well, our schedule will be dictated by the wills of the moment. Hungry? Must be time to eat. Waves up? Must be time to go swimming. Hot? Time to fall into the pool. Still hunry? Must be time to eat again. Tired? Time for a nap. (etc.)

We do plan to set an alarm clock...for about 5:00 p.m. Sunday to remind us that it’s time to head back home…*grin*

Other than that, there are books to be read, beaches to be sat on & jogged on & walked on, sunsets to watch, Bibles to be read (the beach is a SUPERB place for Bible study!)…plus, several hundred shrimp are going down at various seafood eateries there…All you amateur tourist shrimp eaters, step, the professional shrimp eater is coming to town...

And over & against it all, is a wonderful time celebrating 25 years of marriage to my beloved bride!

She still looks pretty much as she did on June 2, 1984…I, on the other hand, have fairly well fallen apart, but she loves me anyway…I really look forward to just sitting on the deck with her & watching the waves & the sun (or rain, as it may well be…) & walking along the beach & conversing about whatever comes to mind & listening to jazz & rock & worship & whatever strikes our fancy (Thank you, Apple, for the IPOD…one of the great inventions of my lifetime! *smile*)

So, if you need me these next few days, well, tough! *smile*

I’m having some quality “time on the water” to quote Buffett again. Recharging the batteries & enjoying the beach w/ my sweetie. I’d say “I’ll miss all of y’all” but…the truth is, I won’t. Sorry. I do most of the time, but not this weekend. *huge smile*

E-see you all Sunday night when we get back!

Already battling island time even though I'm not @ the beach yet,

p.s. - if a total hammerhead like me can get married & stay so for 25 years, there's hope for all of you good people...Really, there is! I'm not much of a catch now, but I REALLY wasn't much of a catch in 1984. (well, except for my uber-hotness, of course...) So press on, my friends! It's worth the effort!

Sunday, July 12, 2009 memory of Jason

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

I'm not a poet. But I definitely agree w/ John Piper who said (paraphrase) "there are some emotions so deep in the soul that they can only be captured with poetry." As best I can recall, this is one of two poems I've ever written. (the other one was a couple of years back when another friend died). If you've been reading this blog for over year, you've seen this before. Started it last year from a room at M.D. Anderson's ICU when I heard that the time of Jason's departure was at hand; finished it the next day when I heard he had gone on the glory.

Stephanie had her Dad read this at Jason's funeral. I'll likely never receive a higher honor this side of glory. (We did make it back for his funeral, btw)

A year after his homegoing, I agree all the more with these sentiments captured last year when I heard of Jason's passing. Don't read for quality of the literary value of the poem, for you'll surely be disappointed. Rather, read for the depth of the emotions I'm trying to capture. This comes close, but doesn't fully capture what I felt this time last year. And this year at this time...

As was the case last year, I do not focus on how he died. I choose to focus instead on how he lived.

Please pray for Jason's beloved Stephanie and for his treasured children Anna Lea, Jon Brent, and Ally.

Mike Madaris, 7/12/08, on the coronation of my buddy Jason Weathers

Giants still walk the land occasionally.
I know this, because I knew one.
Physically strong and imposing
But that’s not the topic here,
For, he was not fearsome
Unless you lined up opposite him
On a football field
Or tried to throw him into a pool against his will.
Those aside, He got along with everybody.
Literally, everybody, as far as I knew.
Calm of demeanor, yet loved to laugh.
Quiet in personality, yet loved hard rock.
Intelligent, but not desiring to flaunt that.
Private, yet the son of a very public man
And later, married into another very public family.
In the midst of all, he was a giant.

The courtship. She was the only one.
They met when her Dad took a job at the giant’s church.
And his Dad’s. And his Granddad’s.
The realizing came quickly to most.
These two were a match.
They realized it too.
The courtship lasted until they finished college.
And he remained a giant.
Always loving, yet always honoring.
Serving. Cherishing. As it was intended to be.
Both of them Role models. Giants.
Who else marries a giant, but another giant after all?

10 years of marriage. A move to FL.
3 children deeply treasured.
One looks like her mother, yet like Dad in temperament.
One looks like his Dad, yet tempered like his mother.
And one too young to answer these questions
Though she surely looks like her Dad.
Each nurtured. Treasured. Celebrated.
Giants are like that about their offspring.

A servant’s heart.
Toward his lady. Toward his children.
Toward his friends. Toward his Lord.
Church service involved the out of the way
The behind the scenes
The un-glamorous
The invisible.
Sometimes giants stay in the background.
Perhaps that is why so few of us believe in them any more.

The servant heart spilled over into career choice.
Especially poignant to me this week
As I have been greatly served and blessed by multiple nurses
As a patient, the best in that field are wired as servants.
Others-centered. Paycheck almost incidental.
Towering over the rest of us.

The dreadful disease with the nasty prognosis
The treatment nearly as nasty
Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear.
In this case, for others more than self
Beloved wife and treasured children.
Parents. Parents-in-law. Brother. Brother-in-law.
Not wanting to burden others with the battle he fought so well.
The larger men among us worry about us like that.

7 months of desperate fighting.
Interspersed with time spent with family and with lesser mortals.
Like me. At Starbucks. Still dreaming of an earthly future that would never be.
Then the end; rather, the beginning.
What, after all, is a last, horrendous week against 30+ years of a towering-above life?
Faith became sight.
Death & disease forever vanquished.
Ultimate Healing. No more illness, no more treatment, no more pain.
“Well Done, good and faithful servant.” The stuff of dreams.
Thankfully, not of legends.
Hopes and dreams realized.
Sin not only defeated, but now utterly removed.
As has been sung, "I can only imagine." He need not imagine any more.
This makes me smile through tears.
Victory won. Decisively. Forever.
It is well…it is well with his soul.
In that land, there are only giants. Now one more.
And this land seems all the more empty.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

To An Absent Friend

...the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.
1 Samuel 18:1

I don't know that I've ever known anyone quite like him. I never met anyone...anyone...who didn't like him, and I knew him for more than half of his life.

He was extraordinarily even-keeled & under control. Whether playing football, lifting weights, goofing around @ the beach, battling with technology that wasn't working right...or dealing with friends who weren't living right...or raising kids while in a very challenging graduate program...or even while battling a dreadful disease, the mere name of which causes people to go weak at the knees. Always calm & peaceful. Even smiling most of the time.

He possessed amazing physical strength. His weightlifting prowess was amazing. I asked him once about his bench press max...and was stunned at the answer. Then I realized that he had been dealing with a slight injury, and was much more stunned. I once saw several guys try to throw him into a pool; they all wound up wet...he didn't.

He had that great gift of being everyone's friend without sinking to their level of bad behavior. What a great ministerial have that kind of faith that is completely secure in its object such that others' behavior has no impact save godly sorrow. He was totally able to connect with others such that they felt completely confident & loved around him even while doing things they knew he didn't approve of...

I watched him fall in love in 11th grade. Deeply in love. Very deeply in love. He had that smile when he spoke of her, even early in their romance. A light in his eyes. Every woman wishes her man lit up like that just at the mention of her name...or at her entrance in a room. She was his treasure, and his sacrificial, selfless love for her challenged all of us who knew him.

I will always remember when he pulled me aside just after a Christmas Eve service at our church & told me he was about to propose to her in the next few minutes. He was about to pop with excitement. And maybe even with a bit of nerves. I consider him telling me this ahead of time to be one of the higher honors I'll ever have in this life.

He discussed several major life decisions with me, but confiding in me for that particular one was awesome in the sense of what awesome meant before we applied it to such trivialities as pizza. I was absolutely stuck with awe...

He loved on & encouraged my children in his quiet, funny way. They, too, remember him fondly. "Supermodel Anne Madaris" he called my daughter. And he always asked about James' football practices & games, and later about how the pharmacy school was coming along. To see him talk about his beloved children as they Daddy ever was more proud of his kids. Somehow, he seemed to treasure his wife more when she became a mother; I wouldn't have thought it possible for him to treasure her more...

We shared a love of good hard rock & heavy metal. Among others, he turned me on the the music of Queensryche, which I still enjoy and which always will remind me of him.

I work in the tech booth at our church's worship services because of him. I started hanging out in the booth some years back. Greatly-treasured conversation. (um...yeah...we did, in fact, converse in the booth during worship services now & then...) He taught me...and began recruiting me. I think of him every single worship service as I'm helping in the booth.

And then the evil disease arrived. I remember how I found out, but that's not important here. What I remember most is that even this, with all of its nasty treatments did not appear to disturb his equilibrium. In between treatments, he & I would visit Starbucks & drink coffee & compare medical procedures. (I was early in my cancer treatment then) We would laugh and cut up. Those are some of the sweetest, most cherished memories I have.

I wasn't in town that last horrendous week of his life. I was in intensive care at M.D. Anderson for a cycle of cancer treatment. Thus, I did not get to visit him there near the end nor to hug his wife nor play with his children. The blessing of not being there then is that my memories of him are of him laughing, smiling, & telling me he loved me. And of that last word from him via a text message I got from his wife..."tell Mike I'm praying for him & that I love him"

So today, one year after he left us, I celebrate the life, legacy, & friendship of my buddy Jon Jason Weathers. Jason was what the best men among us endeavor to be. He claimed that I taught & mentored him...the truth is, he taught me much about life, love, & faith in his 33 short years on earth. His crowns in glory are many. I am honored that he considered me a friend. I still miss him very hard.

This world is less joyful, less serious, less funny, less godly, and just feels less like home since Jason left us.

I'll never forget, bro. See you later. Can't wait!

With great love & a heavy heart that rejoices always at your memory,

All alone now
Except for the memories
Of what we had and what we knew
Everytime I try to leave it behind me
I see something that reminds me of you...
Queensryche, "Eyes of a Stranger"

And Jonathan, Saul's son, rose and went to David at Horesh, and strengthened his hand in God.
1 Samuel 23:16


In fact, I'd greatly appreciate it if you would put them on your "forever" prayer list. They're doing well, all things considered, but they've had a tough year, as you might imagine...

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A stroll down memory lane...

A brief mini-vacation of sorts back home to Ft. Walton Beach, FL last week. Regrettably, the trigger was a gathering of HS classmates in memory of a couple of us who passed away recently. Still, it was a good trip for me.

A few Jimmy Buffett lines, followed by some pics with brief (I promise!!) commentary on each.

Still I sit in contemplation, and I just don't understand
This mysterious attraction of this salty piece of land
Still I search the constellations and the tiny grains of sand
Where the song of the ocean meets the salty piece of land

Whoa, lookin' back at my background tryin' to figure out how I ever got here
Some things are still a mystery to me while others are much too clear

I know I don't get there often enough
But God knows I surely try
It's a magic kind of medicine
That no doctor could prescribe
But there's this one particular harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I see the days as they fade away
Finally disappear
But there's this one particular harbor
Sheltered from the wind
Where the children play on the shore each day
And all are safe within
A most mysterious calling harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I can see the day when my hair's full gray
And I finally disappear

I wanna be there
wanna go back down and lie beside the sea there...
Yeah now, the sun goes slidin' 'cross the water
Sailboats they go searchin' for the breeze
Salt air it ain't thin
It can stick right to your skin and make you feel fine
Makes you feel fine ...

Kathy, Judy & I went to nursery school, kindergarten, & 2nd - 12th grades together. They both still live down there. (Irony alert: Kathy's a USM grad, as is her Mom the Purvis native...) Judy was the ringleader of making this particular gathering happen.
Ronnie & Patti Ward. Patti & I were in band together from 7th - 12th grade. Great folks! Patti & I were the only two 7th graders who made marching band as 7th graders; in her case because of mine, because I'm Jim's little brother...I'll take it! *smile*
Sunset on the bayou behind Scully's, where the gathering was last Wed. night. Love it!
Erin, Patti, & Tammie. Erin & I were classmates from 2nd through 12th. Tammie is one of the ringleaders of our full class reunions.
Bev, Judy, & Cathy. They were great friends of the lady from our class who passed away recently. Bev works w/ TBS in GA. Small world alert: Cathy's younger sis & sis's hubby were our Sunday School teachers when Lisa & I were newly married.
Vicky & Patti. Vicky is one of 4 (2 pairs of sisters) that Jim & I have known almost all of our lives. Vicky's Mom taught with my Mom & they remain great & close friends. *best Ron White delivery* "We've met..."
Judy & Joe drink a toast to absent classmate Connie. Small world alert: 1) Joe lives not far from here in Franklinton, LA; 2) his daughter plays softball for the USM Golden Eagles!
Some of the gang...
Cathy & Sharon
Sunset almost complete
Roberta, Vicky, Ronnie, Patti
I need to live where one can drive one's boat to the restaurant for dinner...
Vicky again.
Kathy & Cathy. Kathy (left) is a fellow cancer survivor. Brain cancer 3+ years ago...
Patti again, after dark.
We moved it inside. Tammie, Cathy, Judy, Bev. Bev's expecting grandkid #3 this Fall! I told her we were *far* too young for such things... *grin*
Roberta & Allison. (Sorry 'bout those eyes!) Allison directs the chorus program @ one of the local colleges there.
I still miss him hard almost every day, but then we've covered that before in this space. (My brother Jim is "James E., Jr.")
Choctawhatchee High School! Go Big Green! Me & 690 friends graduated from here in 1977. In my day, it was a very good HS. Good academics, decent sports, great arts programs...and a lot of fun! On balance, this was a very good time of life for me, despite some serious heartache (see the previous pic...). I'm thankful for this place & for friends & teachers & lessons learned...
OK, CHS grads...remember any of these?
--Mr. Jones the awesome band director who also had a huge impact on me that continues until now?
--Mr. Sills the great asst. band director?
--Mrs. Almond, the greatest math teacher ever? Our Sr. year was her 44th year of teaching, and she was as sharp as a tack. She had a tremendous impact on me, even after HS days when she was retired & I was being an idiot. Lona Almond is what I instantly picture when anyone uses the phrase "unconditional love"...I drank several gallons of lemonade & ate many plates of cookies while pouring out my stupidity out on her. And not one time did I ever feel the slightest hint of condemnation.
Drove past her house today. At which point, my allergies acted up...or something. What a treasure she was!
--"Mama Jo" Yeager, the greatest speech & drama teacher ever? I have recently re-connected with her on facebook, which is just very cool. Her Oral Comm. class was the 1st time I realized that I was fairly comfortable speaking in front of a group. (Note: I didn't say "good"...I said "comfortable"! *smile*)
--Mrs. Preble's French class?
--Mr. Earle's Algebra II?
--Mr. Beck's chemistry? (I'll be nice & say "I have nothing further to say at this time")
--Mr. Kyzer?
--Mr. Brown the principal?
The pressbox: "Home of the Indians"
The field.
The band usually sat down there toward the fieldhouse. We used to "snake" in single file, with zig-zags, 270-degree spins, etc. Thought it was pretty cool then, & still think so now.
The bandroom was just inside this door on the rt.
The parking lot practice field. Tues & Thurs nights for a couple of hours or more, all summer long, & during the Fall too.
Pretty cool band logo, huh? We were the "Style Marchers" (by durn!) ;-{)}
Big Green Indians, baby!
Front of the School.
Clifford Meigs Jr. High. 7th - 9th grades. It, too, was a pretty good jr. high in my day. (May still be...I have no contact there now) Band. Jazz band. Had to ride the bus (for the only 3 years in my educational career!) & didn't particularly care for it, especially as a tiny 7th grader. It was somewhat better when I was a tiny 9th grader...
Any of you fellow Meigs alums remember these folks?
--Mr. Denton - 2nd best math teacher ever!
--Mr. Varner, the awesome band director...who had a gigantic impact on me that continues now.
--Mr. Lathinghouse's English class? I still remember him walking us through Paul Simon's "I Am A Rock" which, come to think of it, was a significant turning point in my huge appreciation of the power of words.
--Mr. Smith the principal? (another friend of Mom's...and one of Bear Bryant's first quarterbacks @ Bama, I found out later). He gave me the only I ever received. Swung a pretty good paddle, as I recall... (oops! I just confessed to Mom that Mr. Smith had to whip me...perhaps the statue of limitations has run out by now...)
Meigs again.
Learned how to march 8:5 style on this field. (Meigs stadium)
In my day, we were the "Wildcats" not just a "wildcat" *smile*
Poquito Bayou. I spent a *lot* of time here skiing & tubing & such back in the day behind friends' boats. My good friends Doug & Mark both lived near here & both let me hang out w/ them. Mark had an *awesome* ski boat, but even with that and his expert help, I was still just an average skier.
The playground @ Annette P. Edwins Elementary School. Went here in 1st grade. In my day, Annette P. Edwins was still the principal there!
"APE School" as we called it.
On the left is the location of Madaris Office Supplies. (James E. Madaris, Prop.)
Ferry Park Across from Elliott Pt. Elementary School, a short bike ride from home. Played a thousand pickup baseball games there, & quite a number of football games. It's what kids' sports were before the parents all went totally insane about what kids' sports should be. Great times...
Elliott Pt. Elementary School. Went to 2nd thru 6th there, & Mom was the librarian. (The school opened my 2nd grade year, which means Mom was the first-ever librarian). It was a great elementary school (mostly) in my day.
Anyone of my fellow EPE alums remember Ms. Fagan who became Mrs. Sirmans? I was in her first-ever class she taught (4th grade). Mrs. Sullivan? Mrs. Gunter? Mrs. Darner? How about Mrs. Littlefield? Mrs. Pope? Mr. Bowen the principal?
Ferry Park Tennis courts. Played a thousand tennis matches there. Public courts that were/are pretty well-maintained.

The practice wall @ Ferry Park. I hit a million tennis balls against this back in the day.
And of course, there's Mom & Leo's place. The live oaks that were so awesome for climbing are now rather large. The one that was the goal line in our front-yard football games now blocks the field out to about the 30 yard line...
Mom & Leo's again. I had a tree fort of sorts in the middle one once upon a time.
The new dock @ the back of Mom & Leo's coming from the seawall into the Bay. Regrettably, my dip in the Bay was lightning'ed out. Oh time...
Mom & Leo's from the back of the lawn by the Bay looking toward the house. The old tennis court has seen better days...
An *amazing* rainbow behind Mom's. (more pics of this below)
There's one pot of gold out in the Bay...
And there are both ends of the 'bow. The right end is on Destin somewhere.
And the beaches themselves. Have mercy! I only cried for a little while this day when I sat out on the beach at sunset...I am absolutely convinced that Heaven will contain white sand beaches with waves & seagulls. I can't wait! But in the mean time, times like this evening's beach time will have to suffice.
Dad & I--very average fishermen that we were--caught a number of king & spanish mackeral from this pier back in the day.
My piggies where they belong...the white sand beaches of NW FL!
Sand in my shoes...which means that I'll have to keep returning to these beaches. I'm beyond OK with that! *smile*
Sunset on the beach...
Good waves this day...I was *sorely* tempted to show those amateurs how to properly catch & ride a wave, but dusk = "feeding time"...a singularly bad time to be out in the Gulf...

My piggies in another place they the Gulf of Mexico!

I also drove past this Bingo parlor that I seem to recall. Victor's it was called back in the day...and it wasn't a Bingo parlor.... Busted many a move there, & first learned how to play backgammon. (And "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind, & Fire is still the best dance song ever...with "Brick House" by the Commodores as a close 2nd...) Then there's this small plot of grass out on the island that stands as an empty reminder of this place where we used to congregate. "Hog's Breath is better than no breath at all"...still one of the great marketing slogans ever. Across the street was the Sand Flea restaurant, which is fairly irrelevant, except for the time I spent in the "Top of the Flea" um, social gathering place. There was this great solo guitar picker/singer who frequented the place. Through him, I grew to really love the music of Jimmy Buffett & Jerry Jeff Walker & the like.

Neither Victor's, the Hog's Breath Saloon, nor the Top of the Flea are still there. Actually, I think Hog's Breath is still around somewhere in the area.

But the house on Bay Drive is still there...and the Bay's still out back...and Mom's still there...and the beaches are still as white as ever just across the bridge. And I have a million memories all over town. I am so very blessed to come from such a place. And from such people.

Truly, the bb