Christmas Frenzy

An Excerpt from John Cowart’s Journal:

December, 1991


John W. Cowart

Sunday, December 1, 1991, Today is World AIDS Day:

After working the graveyard shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) at the old folks’ home, This morning, we took the girls to breakfast at Cathy's and to browse at Thrift Town where I bought a tie with airplanes on it for Ted.

Home to read the newspaper and drowse poorly.

Gin and I retired to our bedroom while the girls watched videos…

God but I'm tired and discouraged. I feel a fit of depression coming on; I hope to shake it but I feel so hopeless.

Eve has been feeling poorly again recently so this evening Ginny got down our home medical books to look up her symptoms. Of course, Patricia had to get in on the consultation.

After looking up all the facts, Patricia concluded that Eve has suffered a stroke and is a chronic alcoholic!

Monday, December 2, 1991:

Ghastly tired today. Slept for hours and hours with little rest resulting.

Eve stayed home sick.

Patricia planted radish seeds for her science project. She's studying the effect of prayer on plants: one cup of seeds she will pray for, another she will just talk to, a third will be ignored, and the forth will be cursed daily. They will be treated the same in all other respects and the differences, if any, will be tabulated in February.

Gin took our papers by HUD this morning for our housing re-certification and drove to JU to visit Donald. She studied all day for her marketing exam. Classes end for her next week. She registers for next semester on Thursday.

God help me, it looks as though she will be in college another two years! instead of the 12 months we had thought before. Also the state has cut back on the amount of student assistance available to her and Donald. I will have to pay about $450 to keep him in school in January.

With me so tired and my teeth hurting and my eyes fading, and all this family standing on my shoulders, I don't know how much longer I can tread water without going under. I have no strength, no reserves left to call on.

Dear Jesus deliver me, please.

The Arabs released another American hostage today. Get all our people out then bomb the bastards before they capture others.

Apparently something to do with my People... book sold in Germany; I got a statement from IVP today crediting my debt with them for $175 for German rights to something -- the letter does not say what. Anyhow, IV keeps the money and I get this piece of paper. God bless all "Christian" publishers.

Tuesday, December 3, 1991:

Horribly tired tonight.

Last night I wrote about eight pages on the Kepler profile but tonight I'm so weary that I have not written a thing but rather spent the time leafing through the current issue of Newsweek reading here and there about the state of the AIDS epidemic.

Seems that most college students surveyed think the word "monogamy" means having sex with only one person at a time instead of group fucking! The idea of chastity apparently never crosses their mind. And many think that you can not catch the disease from someone you "love" -- whatever that word means to them. The magazine appears to conclude that education is failing as far as AIDS is concerned and that a whole generation of young adults will have to die off before ideas of abstinence and chastity will take hold among people who are now fourth graders.

The same magazine bemoaning the AIDS epidemic carried scads of ads depicting young people in drinking/sexual/unclad situations selling everything from whiskey to tv sets.

I'm not the world's last hypocrite.

The world needs to realize that sex is no fun if you're dead.

Christian faithfulness in marriage is the only thing that makes sense and allows a couple unrestricted enjoyment.

Poor world.

I only slept for about three or four hours today.

Our neighbors are back from jail or wherever. The young men were busy today building a doghouse outside our window. They have two new dogs and I overheard one man say, "Dezel keep them damn cops from coming in ma yard". At the time he was happily beating the poor dogs "to make dez mutherfuckers mean". The other two dogs, bastard chows, have been turned out of the yard to roam the street while the two new ones are being conditioned.

Eve was home sick again today. Gin is preparing for finals. Pat visited Bethany's and came home late.

The United Parcel Service (UPS) driver delivered a box of Christmas goodies that Gin & I ordered with presents for Mike, Jennifer, Donald, Pat and Eve -- $62 worth of junk no one needs but we hope they'll like.

Wednesday, December 4, 1991::

Gin studied late last night and overslept this morning so we drove the girls to school and ate breakfast in the Southern Bell Tower cafeteria. We non-stop talked for an hour and a half. Then she drove to the UNF computer lab and I returned home to work on the clipper ship for her wine bottle; I'm still preparing the hull.

I read a fiction book called Fury which extols new age religion, crystals, "channeling" spirits, fucking around with "soul mates"  and reincarnation -- utter trash. No wonder the world continues to drop straight into hell when heathen ideas of demonism simply change the name and get publicity as the latest break-through in spirituality -- plain old animism with a new dust-jacket.

Ordered fire wood today. The temperature has been in record-breaking 80s the past week or so but is now turning cold again (dropped almost 50 degrees today).

Terry Anderson, a news reporter and the last American hostage in Lebanon, was released today.

Now, we ought to A-bomb the whole mid-east before the bastards snatch another batch of Americans. The Kuwait war taught the Arabs nothing; like the farmer who smacked his mule in the head with the 2X4, we need to say, "he's real smart and obedient, but you have to get his attention first".

We cashed Gin's Student Loan check for $1,400 today; we are already out of money from the book advance. But our bills are caught up and this money ought to last for a while -- so long as we don't get extravagant buying stuff like teeth or glasses, car or home.

Thursday, December 5, 1991:

Sick tired.

Eve cooked supper for herself & Pat; I was too tired to even eat.

Yesterday, police downstate killed a snake which was stalking a little girl on a playground when her grandfather spotted it. The snake measured 15 feet, eight inches long! I think it was a python.

Friday, December 6, 1991:

Gin & I drove out to Calahan for breakfast at Bubba's Bar-B-Que. Then we shopped at the Association of Retarded Citizens thrift store where we bought a handful of stuffed animals and a box full of books -- all for $8! Afterwards, we stood outside the store smoking and talking and decided to make a small contribution to that ministry. The store lady was flabbergasted when I went back inside and gave her $20…

Once home… I held her in my arms and we soothed eachother and drifted off to sleep till the doorbell woke us as the girls got home from school.

They came in with excellent progress reports -- although Patricia was quite upset and in tears over her math grade. I'm sure she can bring it up.

No one felt like cooking so we drove to China Inn for a great buffet supper and gorged ourselves on boneless chicken, triple crown and won tong soup, fired rice, foo young, sweet & sour pork and a host of other goodies.

We had planned to rent videos but talked it over and decided to just read, talk and relax at home. Accordingly, we all gathered in my den and worked on various projects: writing letters, reading, addressing Christmas cards, catching up homework, cleaning my desk, shelving books, listening to carols on the radio, chatting about this and that: school, friends, Christmas desires, family... What a happy evening. So peaceful as we each did our own thing alone yet very aware of being among the others we love, no intrusive elements, a hum of busy activity, few words spoken, lots and lots of deep family love and purposeful activity in harmony with what the others were doing. Gin studied, Eve read a romance , Pat decorated Christmas cards, I filed letters from my desktop (some dated back to June!)

Sometimes I think I live the kind of life that everyone else in the world wishes they could have.

Saturday, December 7, 1991: The 50th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor.

Gin needed access to the computer lab at UNF so she drove Eve to Upward Bound and was gone all day leaving Patricia and Me to ourselves in the house -- Goodie!

Pat & I got out the mechanical Santa Bank which I ordered for Ginny's Christmas and we played with it... er, that is we made sure it works properly: as you put more and more coins in the bank, Santa's belly swells larger and larger until his pants fall down -- another triumph of modern technology. We had a blast!

Then we raked leaves, vacuumed the house and cleaned off the back porch because the firewood man was scheduled to deliver today. We worked in harmony and Pat didn't complain a bit about the work. We'd dropped a dime or two under my desk while we were checking out the bank (and I salted the claim with a quarter or two) and with the family rule that the person who sweeps the floor gets to keep any cash found , when Pat swept my office for me, she recovered $1.76 as a reward.

For lunch, we broke a glass pot and had to throw out the first batch of soup but made another one and I introduced her to the fine art of making potted meat with pickle sandwiches.

The woodman arrived and stacked a cord on our back porch so we're ready for the first heavy onslaught of winter. I feel so good about having this wood! Back when Jennifer and Donald were little and I could not afford fuel oil, I spent $100 on a wood-burning Franklin stove. The cast-iron doors open out to simulate a fireplace. For ages, when we did not have a car, I walked up and down the streets and railroad tracks picking up lengths of wood and carrying loads of it home on my back. Then I'd saw it up and burn it at night to keep the kids warm. I did this for years (of course, when we got a car, I'd load up the trunk whenever I'd see wood anywhere). Shortly before we moved to the upstairs apartment at 9th Street, where they had gas heat, my Mother gave me a chainsaw for Christmas. I hardly ever got to use it until we moved here with the fireplace.. But cutting and splitting wood is such massive labor that last year, when we had a few dollars about Christmas time, for the first time in my life, I bought firewood. And the quality of wood was so good and the labor involved so massive, that I'm a confirmed believer in bought wood now. Thank you Jesus that we can afford some this winter!

Incidentally, the old Franklin Stove sits outside by the fence. A number of people have wanted it but to me it represents solid security and I do not plan to ever get rid of it. Who knows when I'll have to go back to toting wood in on my back?

Anyhow, When Gin and Eve arrived back home, I drove Eve to the Library and Pat to Walgreens for her Christmas shopping while I shopped for groceries. Then we drove to the video store and rented National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming, two delightful comedies. Then we relaxed with pizza and chips in front of the tv; although, we did stop for prayer over an MAF newsletter about riots and looting in Zaire and a girl attacked by a jaguar in Equator. We enjoyed a happy time together laughing over the foolish movies and playing with Sheba and her ball. She must now weigh 150 pounds and thinks she's a lap dog!

Sunday, December 8, 1991:

Gin & Eve remain in the throes of final exams and term papers, so pat & I went to church without them. We stopped for sausage biscuits at Hardy's and enjoyed reading the Sunday comics together before going on to worship. The sermon was something about John the Baptist. An acolyte fainted during the Prayers of the People.

Afterwards, we visited Joe Caldwell in the nursing home. We found him in about the same shape as far as affliction goes but looking healthier and more alert overall. Poor fellow. He still can't communicate and is now fully bedridden; they don't even try to get him up. I reminisced about the Times-Union, about a desk He and I retrieved out of the trash, about the history of Bay Street and the alligator shop that used to be there. He appeared to enjoy my talking at him and responded with smiles and laughs -- as well as grimaces of pain when he tried to move on his own.

Drove by RPH to pick up a mirror I'm buying ($2) as a gift for Mike & Jennifer's home.

Home, to find the scholars still hard at it. Ate lunch then crashed in my own little bed -- where I suffered nightmares....

The car is running ragged again and I fear something bad wrong with it -- just at the time we're running low on money to fix it, naturally. I even dreamed about it.

I have no idea what I'm going to do.

Monday, December 9, 1991:

Another wasted day in a wasted life.

Severe depression.


Spent the morning at the garage getting the car scotchtaped together again. The mechanic says two cylinders are weak and that it's just a matter of time before compression fails altogether.

Gin studied for her exams.

Pat came home from school early because she was sick.

Mailed copies of People... to Fred & John, sons from my first marriage who live in Maryland. I had sent the same package back last February but they did not pick up the package from the post office and it was returned.

Tuesday, December 10, 1991:

Gin to college early for her final exams in Accounting, Marketing & Economics. Thursday will be her last exams.

Mike & Jennifer called this afternoon to tell me about their buying a new car -- one smaller than the one they owned before!

Pat went to Bethany's to help the MacMillians decorate their Christmas tree.

Eve says that today in school they studied Kepler's three laws of planetary motion. That's right where I am in writing the biographical sketch of Kepler! Odd. I'd never heard of Kepler before I started writing about him.

More nightmares again today.

This evening between the time I shaved for work and the time I arrived here, a blood vessel broke in my forehead. I look like a Russian dictator -- only they have teeth.

God, what an ugly wreck.

No wonder I expect Ginny to finish her education, begin work in an office, meet a nice guy with money, teeth…, and leave me as quick as she can. Happens all the time. Usually it's the woman who supports her husband through college only to have him escape as soon as he can. How many times do you hear that story about nurses who marry medical students?

Oh, well, Ginny does deserve better than she's got now. That's for damn sure. She's stuck through food stamps, HUD housing, no medical care, ratty old cars, fat-uggly-toothless-dickless-grouchy husband, no money to buy the kids' school pictures, picking up aluminum cans to sell, no electricity, no gas, no phone, living in Springfield and here--- She's endured that crap for 24 years. Who will blame her for leaving when she does?

I certainly can't.

I wish I were attractive enough to .... Shit, I don't know what I wish. I wish I were not such a failure.

As they constantly say at the Business Journal: If you are not the lead dog on the sled, the view never changes.

Wednesday, December 11, 1991:

Still depressed but since I recognize that that's what's happening it's a little easier to carry. Bless your name Sweet Jesus that you being who you are should care about me being who I am -- anyhow….

We played with Sheba for a while afterwards, throwing her ball under the chairs and laughing at her antics in trying to recover it. She grunts and groans and moans, making unbelievable sounds of frustration or ecstasy as she carries the ball around in her mouth. She is such a joy and a comfort -- and, we believe, a protection. When someone comes to the door, she runs to investigate and stands up on her hind legs to peer through the screen to see who it is. I think she would love 'em to death, but she looks so intimidating that it would be a brave burglar indeed to come into our house if he sees her first. She weights about 150 pounds now, is sleek black and sports a fully toothed head the size of a football and claws 3-inches long.

Mike and Jennifer came over about 4:30 p.m. (after having said they'd be here at 2 and me being up to go since then) and we drove out to cut a Christmas tree. Mike has installed new, wider, larger tires on his Pathfinder and he was anxious to try it out so he drove around in the sand dunes, cutting circles and bouncing over ditches -- God, how young they are -- so that by the time we stopped, it was altogether dark. But anyhow, I managed to cut down two bushes -- cedar, I think, I'll have to wait till daylight to see them -- which I think can be tied together to make a respectable Christmas tree. M&J plan to come over Saturday when we plan to have a tree-triming party for a few friends.

Donald returns home from college Saturday and he called tonight to say that he's bringing a young lady home for the party. We have meet Jan briefly when we've picked Donald up now and then at school; seems like a nice young lady. She is a Christian. She is studying to teach German -- or something of the sort. She is tall but gives the impression of being tiny -- has good taste in men too.

I am ghastly tired and sick from lack of sleep. After Gin's finals tomorrow, we plan to take Friday off…. The important thing is that we have a few hours alone together without the pressure of family or business intruding on our time.

I'm making plans to handle things a little more efficiently next semester to keep from dying before she's finished her course of studies.

The news of the week involves the Kennedy-Smith rape trial. The trial is being televised live and drawing top ratings. I have not seen any of it.

Smith, nephew of Senator Ted Kennedy, screwed some woman on the lawn of his  Miami home. She claims it was rape; he claims she was willing and eager until in the midst of fucking, he mistakenly called her by his girlfriend's names -- which upset her and made her decide she was being raped after two previous fucks on the beach. The media is going apeshit because of the Kennedy name and because the senator was on the scene. In fact he drove Smith to the bar where they picked up the woman -- who apparently frequents that bar often.

What a can of worms!

Probably neither one can remember who did what to whom because they were both drunk.

Many women are rallying to the support of the rape victim; other people say that no charges would have been made except for the fact that the Kennedy millions are involved and the woman wants to cash in on both cash and notoriety. Others say he raped her and his family name and money will get him off.

The woman did drive from the bar to his house in the wee small hours of the morning and took off her own pantyhnose in the car, that implies consent; on the other hand, police photos show that she had bruises and abrasions the next morning, that implies rape.

In my opinion, the State could execute both Smith and the woman and no one would be the looser. She's a bimbo; he's slease; both drunks.

Thursday, December 12, 1991:

The jury found Smith not guilty yesterday.

Ginny finished her exams and returned home about 1 p.m. She feels that she is likely to be on the A-B Honor Roll for this semester. It's been a rough drag and I'm proud of all her hard work.

We went out for lunch then drove to the Dunn Avenue Library where we paid about $27 in fines for both Gin's text books and some of the Kepler material that I've had to hold overtime. We spent a few companionable hours just browsing in the library for good fun reading. No pressure; just pleasure. Together and aware of eachother's presence, but each of us doing our own thing separately, hardly speaking.

Then we drove to the video store and picked up a couple of adult films for tomorrow's day together.

Back home, we put the Christmas tree into the stand and wired extra branches on it to shape it up better.

Unfortunately, while we were enjoying this happy chore, Patricia called with the news that she'd stayed late at the school dance and missed her bus. I had specifically warned her about that; we drove to pick her up but she will face punishment for not coming home when she said she would.

Friday, December 13, 1991:

Today Ginny and I enjoyed … eachother all day long. We watched a couple of rather ho-hum to sleazy videos, mostly ignoring them …. We had a ball. Laughing, hugging, feeling, kissing, playing, talking, rolling around on floor and couch, holding eachother, talking a little bit, loving a whole lot. Oddly enough, we neither one dressed up special for today's session, we just relaxed together, taking eachother as it came and enjoying without pressure.

We broke for a sandwich lunch at Blue Boy's and then resumed afresh, deliberately putting off any talk of family Christmas plans or school or business until some other day; this one was for us.

When the girls came home, we were dressed and ready to greet them. I napped in front of the tv while Gin and Pat drove to out on some errands and returned with family comedy videos and Chinese food -- the best I've ever tasted! Foo Young & Triple Crown.

Saturday, December 14, 1991:

Picked up Donald -- or rather, Donald's things -- from college. He and his friend, Jan, went off to browse at Chamblain's Book Mine Store (what a happy, promising date).

Gin went grocery shopping while the girls and I cleaned house for our Christmas party. In keeping with an ancient Cowart Christmas tradition, the bathroom stopped up and had to be unclogged; for that to happen when we expect company is a universal law.

As punishment for not coming home when she said she would the other day, Patricia received the chore of digging a hole in the back yard and burying all dog shit she could find in the yard. She will continue this until school is out. When I have to deal with crap, you have to deal with crap -- that's my rule.

Donald and Jan arrived first. but she had to leave early. Then Barbara White came, then Mike and Jennifer, and finally Randy, Lisa, Rachel & Karen.

Ginny prepared a feast of vegetable soup, relish trays and sandwiches. Mike & Jennifer brought fried chicken; Lisa brought gingerbread houses she had made-- not real gingerbread, you understand, but graham crackers -- good enough for Cowarts, she said. Randy had decorated one of the houses to be a replica of our house -- with vultures sitting on the roof!

What a happy time we had!

Ginny turned on all her collection of musical Santas which flashed lights, marched in erratic patterns, and all played different loud songs at the same time -- as always, it was a hoot.

We all pitched in to decorate the Christmas tree while dear Lisa played Christmas carols and beautiful hymns on the piano -- and of course, a few verses of "Grandmother, got run over by a reindeer".

At one point, Gin lay on the floor fixing the tree stand and under the pretext of helping her up, I "fell" full length on her -- and she spread arms and legs wide to welcome me with laughs and smiles while our kids and friends clapped, whistled and cheered us.

We sang and decorated, and feasted, and laughed and told jokes, and prayed, and talked about the Glory of Christ and the problems of his church, our own hopes, problems and dreams, funny stories and frustrating incidents.

Donald presented me with my Christmas gift. He couldn't wait to show it off. Weeks ago he'd taken a cannon from one of my model ships. Using the giant metal lathe at JU, he reproduced it and the gun carriage in a model with a six-inch barrel. Everyone admired it and I'm delighted!

Randy folded paper into the shape of birds and good luck charms as ornaments for our tree. Children ran about the house screaming, chasing and laughing and playing. Mike and Jennifer showed off their new car and told about the gambling cruise they went on this weekend. Donald told about college. The group discussed religious retreats, especially Cruceo. Gin & I stole away into the den where she sat on my lap and we hugged and kissed as the party swirled around us. Eve showed special grace, responsibility and maturity in the way she joined the conversations as well as watched the little children. The men gathered to discuss -- or rather hear me discuss -- Kepler's three laws of planetary motion. Everyone wandered about doing exactly as they pleased -- all full of love, fellowship and enjoyment….

Randy and Lisa broke into song -- like in a Broadway musical -- on occasion. Eve and Donald played the piano as the Spirit moved them...

Poor Barbara had to leave early to drive her son to an AA meeting; she called latter to say he had not shown up. Mike & Jennifer took Eve home with them. Randy and Lisa left altogether too soon. The kids drifted off to bed.

Gin & I cleaned up a bit and admired the tree. Then we cuddled in bed loving and touching and nuzzling and petting eachother for an hour or so before we drifted off to sleep….

We were just being as close as possible. I brushed her hair; she smoothed her tits against me. I started crying because I felt so happy, and she kissed away my tears till I fell asleep.

Sunday, December 15, 1991:

The weather turned cold during the night, so when I woke Ginny this morning I removed the covers then dressed her in bed using my warm red flannel shirt and a pair of slacks. She laughed and laughed at my awkwardness in dressing her; I told her any man would be happy to undress her lovely body but only a true lover would dress her. Of course, I neglected to put on her bra, so all day long, I have slipped my hand beneath her shirt now and then to feel her soft undercurves -- much to her amusement.

While she did laundry and such, I plugged in the computer and worked on writing the section about Kepler's three laws of planetary motion -- which Donald, Eve and Randy knew all about but I'd never heard of before. Donald read over the material and says I explain it clearly.

We all snacked on party left-overs all day long.

In our bedroom, Gin & I pulled out all the Christmas presents we've bought for the kids and planned what else we want to buy…. We had a happy time playing.

Then I settled in to sleep before coming to work tonight... I awoke to see Gin standing beside the bed putting on her bra. She had been moving quietly trying not to wake me. I asked what she was doing and she said she was dressing for company.

"Who," I asked.

"I'm not sure. but they are on the way here" she said.

It seems that someone from InterVarsity had called Donald asking if his family could take in a student for the holidays, an 18-year-old English major who was supposed to go to his grandmother's but she died yesterday and his parents will not allow him in their house so he had no place to stay between semesters. That's all we know about him. But Donald and Ginny naturally said, "Yes, bring him on over".

See what happens when a Christian guy goes to sleep.

Eve returned from Jennifer's with a bag full of treasures from shopping at the area's largest mall. She's tickled to death with her buys.

I napped an hour more and left for work. Meanwhile, somebody called to say our visitor will not arrive till tomorrow.

Little sentiment is involved in Christian service. It's not how we feel about people but how we act towards them that shows what God's love is.

Christ always calls upon us at the most inconvenient times. He pays no attention to our plans; he's got his own agenda. Fitting into his agenda is being Christian. But He's worth the trouble --


Most of the time, actually.

Monday, December 16, 1991:

Hosanna in the Highest!

Thank You, Jesus!

Today I finally finished the first draft of the Kepler chapter; I didn't think I would ever get this far.

Ginny and Donald both read it and found it both funny and informative. Also, well written, I might add.

It was a joy to be able to work at my own desk for the final few hours with my books and pipes at hand. (When I write at RPH (the old folk’s home) at night, I have to transport books back and forth -- usually missing an essential one! And to smoke, I have to file my work and walk outside to stand at the door.

I finally got to sleep about 3 p.m. and as I slept our guest arrived. His name is Mitch. He's 18, a new Christian, and an English major at JU.

I staggered out in my ratty robe to meet him and have supper with the family.

Gin, Donald & I talked it over and we feel ok about having him in the house. We still have no idea why his own family will not have him.

This could have happened at a better time.

The Christmas season is packed full of activity, visits with Mike & Jennifer, the girl's birthdays, seeing Aunt Hazle, parties for everyone, charitable stuff, soup kitchen, seeing Joe, dinner with Barbara, Randy & Lisa, Football, the boat parade, normal work, kids out of school -- Hazel says my brother and his wife called her to say they will be visiting us on the 20th and here I'd bought no present for them --, calls from out-of-town family, plays and concerts which Gin & I say every year that we want to attend but never get a chance to, etc., etc., etc...

The way Gin & I want to spend our holiday is by cuddling in an easy chair and listening to Christmas music while watching the fire burn down to embers, then attending midnight services at Church on Christmas Eve, then sleeping in eachother’s arms beneath the tree on the floor till Santa comes.

Instead, we usually manage to wave at eachother in passing as we drive kids to this and that and run here and there doing errands we don't want to do.

Thank God that Barbara, Randy & Lisa are good enough friends that we don't exchange gifts out of duty; we only buy something for each other if we really see something we want to give or something that truly fits the other person. And if one of us gives something, the others do not feel they need to retaliate with a duty gift.

This year Gin & I have agreed to buy nothing that we have not already bought for eachother: I have three Santas for her collection, she has two things for me. In years past I've tried to buy everything on her list.

Oh yes, I also hope to finish the ship in the bottle, but that's not so much for her as it is for my own pleasure in building it.

For years we've wanted to go to a Messiah sing-along, but we've never made it. Always the pressure of getting things done for obligatory extended family has pushed our desires aside.

Maybe someday.

Tuesday, December 17, 1991:

Today we planned to go Christmas shopping at the thrift stores... But Patricia called home saying she was sick just as we were getting ready to leave. Gin, Donald & Mitch drove down to pick her up. Then I stayed home with her while they went out.

Gin bought radio/tape players for the girls and a wooden hand to hold costume jewelry for Pat. UPS delivered the music case for Donald. And the Orkin man sprayed the house for bugs.

Then Hazel called changing all our plans about when to get together with her, David & May -- so I had to change our other plans about seeing Mike & Jennifer for her birthday. Then Mitch told us he needs a ride to Fernandina Beach to pick up some money he's expecting and his car.

Now, back around Thanksgiving, Gin & I sat down with a calendar and penciled in the various events involving each family member allowing time to try to relax to enjoy some time together over the holiday, and all these changes caused by other people not planning disrupt our lives and add to the pressure of an already pressed time.

Then, tonight when I arrived at work, Rick asked me to work overtime beginning tomorrow night....

Somehow, I need to get control. I feel my life is careening down the mountain and carrying me where I don't want to go.

Life is what happens while you are making other plans.

Just say no to Christmas!

I'm spending money I don't have to buy gifts which they don't need for people I don't like -- Celebrating a Typical American Christmas.

God, I'd like to spend some time just with my own wife and my own children -- maybe playing a board game in front of the fire, smelling cookies baking in our oven, listening to favorite carols, maybe even singing a few ourselves around the piano... It would sure beat this kind of Christmas at the Indy 500.

Wednesday, December 18, 1991:

Today Ginny & I enjoyed a wonderful time browsing through thrift stores to buy Christmas presents. We shopped at four: Hubbard House, a place that takes care of abused women; The Sharing Place, of Lutheran Social Services; The Humane Society Thrift Store, cares for animals; and the Salvation Army. Three of these places were packed with shoppers -- a sure sign that the economy is in bad shape. Even the people with jobs are having to watch their spending. From the demeanor and conversations of the people, I suspect that many were new to thrift store shopping.

I changed a flat tire; we'd picked up a nail.

Mitch worried over getting a ride to Fernandina Beach tomorrow; we could do nothing for him in that regard so he made other arrangements.

I am unbelievably tired: didn't get to nap till about 5 p.m. today and then phone and doorbell (some guy came to the door to give me $100 to care for Mitch, but he said he wanted any money we did not use for Mitch paid back to InterVarsity's local chapter fund????) woke me but spending the day with Ginny buying gifts for people we love was worth the expended energy.

But I'm paying the price tonight.

Thursday, December 19, 1991: Jennifer's birthday!

This morning, while Mitch was gone to pick up his car, Donald, Gin & I wrapped birthday and Christmas gifts. Then Gin and Donald went grocery shopping while I slept till Mitch came home to pack for a trip to see his girlfriend in Orlando. I helped him get ready and, because his car does not have a jack and the tires are old, I used $20 of the money that guy brought last night to buy him a jack.

Mike and Jennifer brought Aunt Hazel over for supper, to exchange presents and to celebrate Jennifer's birthday. We enjoyed a relaxed happy time around the table then various ones settled here and there all over the house for pleasant conversation.

Mike took the Fire Department's test for lieutenant today -- along with 400 other firemen.

Donald's college grades came in today -- Honor Roll! Three As & 3 Bs! -- a 3.69 grade point average! Fine work.

I've hardly slept again today but I really enjoyed Jennifer's birthday party. Ginny is a wonder at feeding multitudes on practically no budget and throwing a party at a moment's notice. What a versatile woman.

Today's news says that in the midst of the usual seasonal flu epidemic, many thousands of people have been vaccinated against this year's strand. The trouble is that these people now test positive for the HIV-AIDS virus. Apparently the flu vaccine is made from human cells and when the original donor carried AIDS, that virus survived the process of being made into a vaccine and those taking it will now died of AIDS -- or, the AIDS test does not work! Neither thing is good news for anybody.

Friday, December 20, 1991:

Today when I got home from work and while kids still slept, Ginny & I stole an hour together for joyous sex together; who knows when we'll get a chance again?

Later, we took Donald to lunch at Woody's Bar-B-Q. Then spent the rest of the day rushing about doing stuff to get ready for Christmas in the usual hectic fashion. But in the evening, she cuddled in my lap and we watched the fire burn down and kissed while listening to Christmas music -- a wonderful half hour or so, the best hour of the season for me.

But then, I drove Eve across town with the car spitting and sputtering to a Christmas party at youth minister, D.C. Veale's home. I had given Barbara White a copy of his teen news letter from church and she used it in her column this morning -- much to his pleasant surprise, He did not realize that Barbara even knows me. Then I drove back over again, risking my life with this malicious car, to pick Eve up again.

We got word that Eric's father died and the funeral was this morning. I drove Donald over to spend the night with him.

Saturday, December 21, 1991:

I took the girls Christmas shopping then picked up Eric and Donald. Eric will spend a few days with us.

Then -- Gin called me at Eric's to say Mitch had broken down near the St. John's county line. I delivered the girls then took the boys to his rescue with our car in not much better shape than his. We found him in the ditch but managed to get him going again and nursed both cars home.

After supper, David, my brother and his wife, May, came over for a visit. I gave David a duplicate of my disreputable hat and he howled with delight. Yes, there are two of them in the world!

We left Gin & May at the kitchen table talking computers and David & I settled in the den and talked till 2 a.m. It was the best visit, best time, I've ever had with David. We reminisced about Mama and Dad, talked fishing, jokes, Lotto, Life and garage sales.

I really like him in this setting.

Sunday, December 22, 1991:

Eve's birthday!

She's 16 today!

I cooked her traditional birthday meal of veal cutlets and ice cream, and Gin & I served her breakfast in bed. She ate it up -- the service and pampering, I mean.

All 7 of us piled in the car and spit and sputtered our way to church.

Afterwards, we all walked around to the hospital and visited Joe Caldwell for about 10 minutes. We sang a few happy carols at his bedside and Eve kissed him -- Sweet 16 and her first kiss (that her Dad knows about, that is). Joe is very sick and had been throwing up; he looks terrible. Please Lord, deliver him soon into thy kingdom.

Stalling out only a few times, the car made it home.

For Eve's party gift, Gin & I gave her a jig-saw puzzle (she loves them) that we had special ordered by sending in a photograph of Eve for the company to enlarge and cut into jigsaw pieces. It appeared to surprise and delight her.

It is so hard to make the girl's birthdays special because they try to get lost in Christmas activity. But I think we made it this year.

John & Fred called me from Maryland -- the first time I've heard from them in ages. We had a pleasant chat. Nothing new on that front.

Monday, December 23, 1991:

Trouble in the camp.

When I got home, Ginny told me that last night, Mitch and Eve had been cuddling together on the sofa and she had to separate them

And here this good Christian boy has just come back from an overnight visit with the girl he says he's going to marry in Orlando.

We have warned Eve off and plan to monitor them closely. Any other activity of this sort and I will put him out of my house immediately.

Christian charity for him influenced me to take in this stranger; Christian charity for Eve will influence me to chop his nuts off if he makes another advance at this vulnerable sweetheart.

Took Mitch with his car and our car to Floyds at 8 a.m.. Ours needs a new distributor for about $75; heroic treatment for a terminal car. They will do the work Friday.

The mechanic told Mitch that he needs a new motor. We nursed his car back to our house.

While we were at the garage, Mitch informed me that he has not registered at college  for next semester. He wants to MOVE IN WITH US!!!!! and look for a job -- maybe in a hamburger joint.

NO how. No way. NO.

Every year for a long time now, I have given Ginny a musical Santa Clause of one design or another. It's getting hard to find new models.


I visited five stores this morning and bought a kazoo and a Santa Suit. I plan to dress in it at work tomorrow night and arrive home playing my kazoo as I march with the other Santas for her.

The things I do for love!

Slept a few hours then came to work early for an 11 hour shift.

Tuesday, December 24, 1991:

Getting ready for Christmas.

I was so tired that I skipped the precious Christmas Eve service and tried to sleep; of course, the alarm went off early, Mitch's mother called as she does several times a day, Uncle Richard called for the first time in two or three years, and a wrong number called -- but I managed to nap a bit anyhow.

Went in to work about 9 p.m. so I could relieve Beverly early to let her spend time with her family.

No sense in trying to work: I wrapped little gifts for the employees who have to work Christmas (including comic book tracts in order to make some kind of a small Christian witness to them); and I listened to Christmas music; and I read The Mammoth Book of Terror, a collection of horror stories all night.

When the day folks came to work, I gave out about 20 little packets of candy kisses, perfume, Smiley face buttons, candy canes and tracts.

Wednesday, December 25, 1991:

As soon as my relief came in, I slipped into an office and dressed in my Santa costume. I called Ginny and told her to set all her musical Santas to marching when I pulled in the drive.

As soon as I parked the car I pulled out my trombone kazoo and began to play awful carols (but for Ginny I played the song I wrote about her 25 years ago)...

The kids howled with laughter.

Mitch was not up yet, so we all marched into his room and played and sang him awake.

Then we all opened presents. Gin cooked us a big breakfast of hot eggs and bacon.

Later. Mike & Jennifer came over with a car load of gifts including a Far Side coffee mug and calendar for me, Santa slippers for Ginny, a huge airplane for Donald, an aquarium for Patricia, and some cassette tapes for Eve.

We gave Mike a number of fireman items including the little horse-drawn engine I had restored; and Jennifer, the big mirror I'd bought for her and the nurse's bag.

Pat's gifts included a set of shaped building blocks, a stuffed elephant, a boom-box radio, a Dracula game, a paint set, books, etc.

Eve's included a Walkman radio/tapeplayer, a huge stuffed dog, puzzles, clothes, a watch, a velvet paint set, a glass teddy-bear bank, etc.

Donald's stuff included a music briefcase and sheet music, a blanket printed with a million dollar bill, a wooden teradyctal (Can’t spell that flying dinosaur), books, etc.

Eric's gifts included a power-driven screw driver, a glass Snoopy bank, a computer clipboard/clock, a stuffed animal etc.

Mitch's gifts included a red sweater & tie, a glass bank, a stuffed gator, a beautiful smoke & blue chess set, a stalk of sugar cane, books, the jack for his car, some college plaques, etc...

Mitch called someone to pick him up in the afternoon and went to spend the night with his family in Folkston, Ga.??? Why is he here???

In the afternoon, Mike called on his car phone saying he was driving over to pick up Eve and Pat to spend a couple of days at their house. He said he was picking up "bad vibes" about Mitch and wanted the girls out of here. Gin, Donald & I readily agreed.

I napped a bit as best I could and came to work tonight.

Thursday, December 26, 1991:

Home early and crawled into bed with my nice warm cuddly wife … ... and again!

Cleaned up Christmas debris.

Enjoyed lunch out with Donald.

In the afternoon, the three of us had a family conference and decided to ask Mitch to leave. We feel we did the right thing by taking him in; we feel we're doing the right thing by asking him to leave.

He has done no overt wrong. He just does not feel right. We are especially concerned about Eve being attracted to him. We are upset also that he has family right around here when he said he had no one: apparently his mother lives in Fernandina Beach and his sister in Folkston. Besides, he represented himself as a college student just wanting a place to be for vacation time, but he has not registered and wants a place to live  permanently.

Donald called Sandy and other IV people to see if they want him back. They don't. Sandy says he was hitting on her (trying to seduce her) before they brought him over to us. They knew nothing about him having local family or dropping out of college.

Gin, Donald and I decided he was to leave tonight. Time came for me to go to work so I left.

Donald called me after midnight saying Mitch had returned, being brought by his sister and brother-in-law,  and that Donald had told him to pack his car and return with his family to Folkston.

Sandy was in tears when I talked with her about dropping Mitch.

Donald said, "I feel like shit."

This is normal.

When you take in a stranger or try to help the homeless, they often manipulate things so that you end up feeling guilty, rotten and un-Christian.

Mitch, like so many I've helped before, is street-smart. He knows all the right buttons to push on Christians to make us feel responsible for his life and plight.

I think the best way to handle these things is to go into it in the first place knowing that it will cost you money, money that you might as well consider pissed away from the start.

Second, go into it not expecting to change anybody's life. Mitch took 20 or so years to get to my table; the best I can expect to do is see that he has food, clean clothes, a warm place to sleep and a chance to move in a different direction if he wants to.

Three, or maybe this should have been first, go in to it as service to Jesus -- not to the person receiving the aid. Do it for Christ and not for Mitch Whoever; and do it because Christ said to, not because you expect to feel warm fuzzy's.

And Yes, there is real physical danger in this kind of Christian service. True, some have "entertained angels unawares", but some have also entertained absolute kooks.

We do this because Christ said to do it; no other reason is necessary.

I think also that we should admit to ourselves that we do good stuff because we enjoy doing good stuff. I took Mitch in because I wanted to; I put him out because I wanted to. Nothing mystical or sentimental about it.

Anyhow, Mitch is out -- leaving frustration and upset behind him.

I wonder if God allows so many encounters of this sort to end with ragged edges so that we will not feel too satisfied with our Christianity. "I took in this homeless guy, won't Jesus be tickled pink with me?"

What does "entertaining" angels involve?

Maybe it includes taking an occasional pie in the face.

Friday, December 27, 1991:

              Again, we'd planned to take Donald to breakfast but went to bed ourselves instead.

The three of us ate a happy lunch at Famous Amos then drove to the library for pleasure reading.

We returned home, brewed coffee, tuned in soft music, kindled a fire, moved chairs around it -- then we all three read our books, ignoring eachother in happy companionship all evening!

We had a wonderful time!!!

It was just great!

Gin broke off reading to cook a pot of pepper steak and we gorged, then all went back to reading.

I took a hot bath then drifted off to sleep leaving my wife and son reading by the fire.

Saturday, December 28, 1991:

More of the same. A restful sleepy day.

While Donald napped, Gin and I snuggled on the sofa before the fire… Much to our mutual joy.

Mike and Jennifer brought the girls home late and we all enjoyed a happy reunion.

Sunday, December 29, 1991:

Even with all the rest and sleep of this weekend, I'm still exhausted. Everyone else went to church this morning. I read and dozed. Ate lunch then slept. The girls and Donald colored, painted and put together Christmas gifts. I think Ginny cleaned out the frig of leftovers for supper and worked at her desk on tax papers.

I slept. But woke tired out to come to work tonight.

Monday, December 30, 1991:

When the kids awoke (Eve was sick again this morning), Gin drove Donald to JU for his mail and they went to UNF and Office Depot where she bought next semester's text books and school supplies.

While they were away, Patricia and I build an enchanted village with her castle blocks. We constructed it around a central green where we build a modern statue and set up the tiny manger scene that she'd given me for Christmas. We had a charming time playing on the floor together.

When Eve awoke feeling better, the three of us cleared the table and played a couple of games of "Revenge of Dracula" -- a board game which requires no skill whatsoever but is lots of fun.

Gin and Donald returned with hamburgers and we all feasted.

I build a fire to knock the chill off the house and then went to sleep while the rest of the family played with Sheba (who stands on the hearth warming herself by inserting her head in the fireplace or chases her ball down the hall with gusto).

It was a happy family day together.

Tuesday, December 31, 1991:

Though tired sick (the most outstanding feature of this year for me) I spent the morning going over my journal to compile a list of the past year's highlights to present the family during devotions.

Here are a few:


              Mike & Jennifer gave us a VCR

              Eve and Donald were confirmed

              The Times-Union newspaper profiled a famous author -- me.

              Operation Desert Storm

              Evelyn, my first wife, died


              Donald to Happening #44

              Donald got piano from church

              Pat won an Invention Convention certificate for her animal sock holders

              Whitney Houston sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl and the record sold 850 million copies in eight days -- a world's record.


              We watched 13 episodes of I, Claudius on our VCR

              Eve appeared before 5 classes as Juliet in Shakespeare Festival

              Gin passed exam with her Good Luck "Owl"

              Car radiator hose broke

              Gin and I weekended (horribly) in St. Augustine

              Slessor chapter appeared in Christian Reader's Digest

              St. Nick in a German magazine

              Mike & Jennifer went to Daytona

              Main Library Florida Room got a copy of my Fire History Book

              Donald lead our family Easter service


              Eve danced on grass at St. Vincent's Hospital

              Pat & I took Joe fishing (a few days later his last stroke felled him)

              Went to Jax Maritime Museum for Maple Leaf exhibit

              M&J moved to the Antlers

              I taught seminar at First Coast Writers' Conference

              River City Kids' Day

              Donald won $12,000 four-year scholarship to JU

              Got Curtis as my agent

              Pat and I danced in the rain


              Jennifer pinned as nurse.

              125,000 people die in Bangladesh typhoon

              Vet show at Riverside park

              Pat to Universal Studio, Orlando

              Gin & I watched adult flick

              Pat graduated from D.A.R.E.

              Donald received 3 scholarships at Stanton awards banquet


              Donald graduates ---- gets car-looses car-wrecks car saga

              Donald museum display for party

              All moved to new bedrooms

              Eve enters Upward Bound

              Pat to Brown Bag Bible School--sings in "Back At The Creek Bank"

              Car radiator hose busted

              Cheap yard sale

              Viking Fish Funeral


              Got Sheba

              Donald wins School Board Award of Excellence for $1,000

              Bought Pat's Robofan

              Donald and I enjoy shrimp dinner (with a picheurere of beeerrr)

              Christmas in July with Gin

              Donald flys to Cedar Key

              Pat travels to Palatka to visit Seriah

              Ludgren's visit us during worst rain in living memory

              Car fan belt breaks

              M&J give us BBQ grill

              Don & Eric build with Habitant for Humanity

              Eve to Orlando where she lasts 30 minutes against the state chess champ

              Gin & I attend grand opening of Arlington Good Will Store

              Mr. Twinkle

              Eric professes Christ

              Gin & I enjoy cold chicken in Boone Park

              Eve wins physics hologram trophy

              I burn my bath robe


              Eve taught Vacation Bible School at Good Shepherd

              My Strangers ms read on national radio -- Masterpiece Theatre Theme

              Uncle David's wedding

              Girls watch metor shower from roof

              Bought 2nd Amstrad

              Car heater hose bursts

              Bad guys try for our battery & Mike loans us a gun

              Dinner at Nero's

              Gin sports swim suits and starts lessons

              I begin scientist book with Dr. Browder


              Car hoses break again

              I paid the old folks home for stolen food and end up on their Roll of Benefactors

              12th Night in Metropolitan Park

              I'll never tell.

              Fort Caroline with Gin


              Car to Floyds for new radiator

              Family to Callahan County Fair

              I-V Chilli Feast

              Conversational prayer

              Eve "dead" at SADD

              Lotto Bird Hat

              Don in Robert MacNair Astronaut program

              Tracts for Halloween


              The hem of Ginny’s skirt appeared on TV

              House passed HUD inspection


              Magic Johnson has AIDS

              Family to St. Augustine Flea Market

              Donald to Miami


              Those who survived Christmas celebrated New Year’s Eve.

              Car was in shop twice in last two weeks and TWO TIMES TODAY!!! It has to go in again next week!!!!

              Of course the best part of this year, and of my whole life, has been time with Ginny.

Lord, thank you for such a happy life.

                                    Love, John


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