Today In Former Years

This section of my website traces a day, or related set of days, from my diary over a span of years. Each change to a different year is marked by a yellow highlight. -- jwc

Excerpts From John Cowart’s Journals:

January 1st, 1982 to 2003


John W. Cowart

Friday, January 1, 1982:

              About 4:30 or 5:00 this morning a huge slab of plaster fell out of the ceiling and crashed onto my head as I lay sleeping. The hole it left in the ceiling looks to be the shape -- and darn near the size – of Africa.

Ginny got a little plaster dust in her hair but fortunately I slept with my head burrowed beneath the covers because of the cold so there was no injury but I hope this is not a portent of how this year will go.

              We slept late anyhow.

              Randy came over for a brief visit.

              Donald and I went over to a lot on Main Street where the state is widening the road and cut firewood from trees bulldozed down. We used the new chainsaw Mama gave me for Christmas – such a blessing after having cut all our wood by hand for three years now.

              During family devotions after supper we had a family conference when I wrote down things the kids want to do in the coming year. We also used my last year’s journal to recount what our family has been through. It was disastrous financially: we had to skimp on meals, our lights and water were cut off for nonpayment for long stretches, at times we had to skip church for lack of shoes to wear, hardly any of my articles sold, etc. etc. During my presentation I mentioned that last year we were very poor and Jennifer exclaimed in profound amazement – “We’re Poor???” May the kids always live in joy and love we have and never realize the emotional destitution that often accompanies material poverty. I know of no happier family than ours.

              Watched the orange Bowl Game on tv.

              Cuddled Ginny and sang “Virginia”, the song I wrote about her back when we were first courting, I love her even more now.

January 2, 1982:

              Worked 8 hours at the newspaper ( *Florida Times-Union/Jacksonville Journal. For ten years besides freelance writing I worked as a minimum-wage, part-time editorial assistant – that’s a sort of mail-clerk who can be blamed for a lot of things that go wrong at a newspaper. About 80% of the time on duty I was the only person in the building): an exciting day. A kidnap victim who had been mistakenly shot by police when they rescued him, called from the hospital saying someone was trying to break into his room & that he was in immediate jeopardy. I think he has a mental problem. – A little girl paralyzed by muscular dystrophy had her pet dog, Trixie, stolen and I helped get an article about her dilemma in the paper.

              This evening Patricia and Donald were roughhousing on top of his bunk bed and she punched him in the eye with a sharp pencil. When I ran in blood was gushing from his eye and streaming down his face as he shrieked like a banshee. But when we cleaned his face up we discovered that he had blinked in time and only the eyelid was punctured not the eye itself. Scared us to death.

              HUD check for $14 came today.


January 1, 1983:

              This year started better than last. Gin & I went to bed early last night but could not sleep so we got up & with Jennifer watched various new year’s festivities on tv.

              I worked 9 hours at the Times-Union but nothing newsworthy happened except the usual murder and mayhem. The tv listing about a football game was wrong; that generated lots and lots of phone traffic from irate football fans. Many drunk.

              In the midst of those calls I answered one who greeted me with a hardy “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” – I thought it was another drunk and eight other lines were ringing and a photographer was on the radio asking for an address and directions . So I was rather abrupt with the caller – Then he identified himself as Jack,  my Father-In-Law! Since we do not have a phone at home, Ginny had not gotten around to calling her parents over the holidays to let them know we received their Christmas check and packages or to tell them the result of her thyroid test so he’d called me at work.

              I felt like an ass.

              I insisted she go down to the 7/11 and call this evening and explain things to her parents.


January 2, 1983:

              Another 9 hours at the T-U.

              Gin took the kids to church.

              In Patricia’s Sunday School class room they have a bouncy horse on springs for the kindergartners to ride. Some other kid was on the horse. Patricia wanted to ride. She attacked. She bit the kid’s knee, grabbed his hair, and pulled him off the horse. The teacher spanked her and reported the incident to Ginny who told me.

              I saw a tragic sight today: Mr. Clark, who has been Editor-in-Chief of both the T-U and Journal, has been let go by the new owner. He came in to clean out the last of his personal things from his executive office today while no one would be in the building. This elegant, gracious man, who looks and acts like what the word noble brings to mind, loaded his stuff into the battered blue wagon – a child’s wagon the Journal copy boys use to hand papers from office to office -- and moved his books and papers out to his car. Think of it! A Prince, a distinguished, gray-haired executive who inspired the reverence, respect and diffidence of my bosses’ bosses’ boss, he who was the power over hundreds of reporters, editors and production people, he who decided what 400,000 readers would see in their morning papers, pulling a child’s wobbly wagon to oblivion. Sic transit Gloria mundi. Such things ought not to be.

January 3, 1983

              This was a day to rest and recuperate from the past nine or ten days of strain and work at the T-U. I read a bit but did little else.

              Ginny, Patricia and I walked around to Freddy D’s Sandwich Shop in the VA Building two blocks away for breakfast – brunch.

              While there, I asked Patricia about church. She babbled about “Candles, Blah Blah "aÂÃx… Cross, Blah Blah "aÂÃx… Pray, Blah Blah "aÂÃx… Sing Song, Blah Blah "aÂÃx…”

              “But what about the little kid on the horse,” I asked?

              “O that,” she said, dismissing the incident with a wave of her hand!


Wednesday, January 1, 1992:

Ghastly tired.

Gin called around searching for an open auto parts store to get the distributor we can't drive without.

The kids painted a plaster of paris manger set which they cast last night from the rubber molds Jack & Alva sent us last year. Each year the kids make a set; they will keep this up till each child has a family-made set of his or her own. Donald got last year's set; Eve gets this one.


Friday, January  1, 1993:

Yesterday, Gin planned our giving to charities for the coming year: She mailed January's donation of $10 to the American Lung Association. And she plans for $35 to go the Jacksonville Zoo.

February should bring $35 to Circle of Love; March, Episcopal World Mission; April, Mission Aviation Fellowship and Good Shepherd; May, Radio Bible Class and the Jacksonville Maritime Museum; June, Saint Jude's Children's Hospital; July, Appalachian Trail Association; August, the Cousteau Society and Good Shepherd; September, Environmental Defense Fund; October, Florida Audubon Society and Florida Wildlife; November, Nature Conservancy; and December, National Geographic Society -- Lord, help us to keep these intentions. In the past we often haven’t.

We try to divide our giving between strictly Christian mission enterprises, and those which physically help  people, and then among those which help protect God's world and creatures.

In cleaning up journal entries yesterday, I discovered this fragment from an uncertain date, I think it's part of the prayer book manuscript:

Today I prayed a lot about forgiving the people and organizations who have "despitefully used" me. I harbor so much bitterness about the people who have exploited my poverty and ignorance that I had quite a list to take before God. I still feel great hostility toward these folks, especially "Christian" publishers (a term as strange as "Christian whore") and editors who treat writers as near slave labor but forgiving someone else does not depend on feeling nice about them.

Forgiving is an action not a feeling.

I feel as though these people ought to roast in the pit of Hell for ever and ever, yet I pray that they will be forgiven and prosper and not be taken advantage of as they have done to me. This praying is an act of will; I feel the same about them after I've prayed as before, but the difference is that, as I've prayed, several instances have come to mind where indeed I have treated others -- especially men who worked for me when I drove the truck and hired loaders -- in as shabby a manner as I have been treated. Since I am in the midst of forgiving, I can with assurance ask for forgiveness. Until I began to forgive the "Christian" publishers and editors, I had conveniently forgotten the occasions when I have been the one to be unjust.

Do I feel warm and cozy about forgiving others?

Not at all.

My prayers today caused me to remember a lot of slights, indignities and outright cheating I have been victim of from Christian publishers. It would be dishonest to pretend that these self-righteous bastards are not religious scum. My forgiving them does not change the fact that they are puke. It does not change the fact of my outrage in having to deal with them in the future. Praying for a skunk does not make you want to cuddle one. But, nevertheless, they really are forgiven, this is a spiritual transaction.

The best thing to come of the day's prayers is my keener awareness of my own sins against others -- God, I must have been a prick to work for!

Well, Lord, suffer not the wages of the laborer to be kept back by fraud (or by shrewd business practices) and bless the efforts of sober and honest industry, and, on the other hand, bless the religious publishing industry too.

 Today, Gin, Eve, Donald & I attended Carol Temple's … birthday party. I talked with Eddie, her elderly father, about his breathing machines and his love of western novels. Afterwards, Gin & I went for a walk on the beach in beautiful weather.

Today also, I started devotional readings in Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest.


Saturday, January  1, 1994:

Generally, I make entries in this journal at the start of each day recording the previous day's events as a springboard to my writing. It is easier to write about things I know about so a journal entry makes a good start on each day. However, I have done virtually no work recently so I have let my journal entries lag and I am writing this day and subsequent catch-up entries on January 18th using the notes on my calendar for accuracy. -- jwc

I started the year off with a bath, a long soaking bath in hot water in the tub while all the family slept. I even trimmed my toenails and shaved and cut and washed my hair, something I had intended to do five weeks ago.

Then, clean, I lay around and watched football and parades all day.

Called Carolyn Temple to wish her a happy birthday but she was too sick with flu and too worried about putting her father in a nursing home to be very happy. Poor thing.


Monday, January 1, 1996:

8 hours with Sam White.

Worked with packing boxes at home.


Friday, January 1, 1999:

A lazy, relaxed happy day with Ginny. We slept late then breakfasted on cinnamon rolls. We watched the Rose Parade on tv. Then we rode out on our bikes just for the pure pleasure of it.

Apparently many people in the neighborhood spent the day on New Year's clean up, piling mounds of interesting garage trash at the curb. I found a hardly-used pair of leather work boots and an expensive pair of tennis shoes, British Knights. They fit me fine….

Last year proved to be our best financial period in ages. We actually start 1999 with over $300 in the Credit Union, $198 in our bank account, and close to $80 cash in our pockets.

Our mortgage was due the 28th but we will pay it in full on next Friday's payday.

Thank God for these material blessings.


Saturday, January 1, 2000:

I have made no journal entries since September 13th, 1999. No spirit to do so.

Today Ginny and I took down Christmas decorations and watched the Rose Bowl Parade on Tv and some college football -- a great way to start a new century.

Apparently, many people celebrated to excess but to Gin and me, it was just another night. The potential for all the computers in the world crashing because of a chip which could only read 1900 dates, never happened. Some people touted this potential trouble as "the end of civilization as we know it". They predicted that airplanes would fall from the sky, all banking records would be wiped out, nuclear missiles would fire by themselves. all elevators would stop between floors, etc. etc... Another worry which never happened -- like most worries.

We have new neighbors, a very young couple….. They are renting Dave, Beth and Ray's home. Dave & Beth moved to a new home a few months ago hoping to sell their house next door to ours immediately. But hardly anybody has even been by to look at it; so they decided to rent it out for a year then put it on the market again.


Monday, January 1, 2001:

Gin & I awoke early but… went back to sleep...

A pounding on the door awoke us. Carrie, somehow related to Jennifer's Pat, needed to see us. She claimed that a burglar broke into her house last night and stole her WIC coupons so she could not buy her baby milk. She wanted $10, which Ginny gave her.

Dennis came over bringing deserts which we'd missed last night.

Rex is painting his house and I helped him move some metal things away from the wall. He said my pool pump made a funny noise last night so I cleaned the filter to check it out. Ice had formed in the intake basket.

Finally, I settled down in front of the tv to watch football about 3 p.m. and fell into a deep, deep sleep until 6 a.m. Tuesday. All it took was for me to get warm and still for a few minutes and I crashed. Gin said she checked on several occasions to see if I had died because I did not move a muscle the entire time I slept.


Tuesday,  January 1,  2002

I have no idea of what I did this day;  Donald gave us this new computer for Christmas and I have spent two weeks trying to get it set up and started. Therefore, I have made no journal entries until now (January 11th). I kept a few pencil notes on a wall calendar but several days remain blank and I have to rely on memory to fill in what happened.

I know that   Gin & I watched TV a little last night but we do not specially observe New Year’s. I think that today we mainly put away Christmas decorations and  watched a little football.

One thing I do remember is that we visited Office Depot to shop for Amstrad printer ribbons and for a computer desk and for a scanner. To transfer all my Amstrad files onto this new system is impossible unless I either re-type every word, or print out hard copy files and scan them into this computer.

We  could not find the right kind of ribbons or scanner or even continuous feed paper. But we did buy a nice computer desk for Ginny’s machine and we spent the afternoon bolting it together. She is very pleased with it.

Spiritually, I have been attempting to exercise myself in looking for God’s will in little things wherein my own will has been thwarted. This showed up today in my not pressing on to get a scanner at all costs – my usual practice of wanting what I want when I want it. Now I’m trying to relinquish control and let God act in His good time.

Another area coming to the forefront in my spiritual life is that of judging people and saying harsh, critical things without knowing much about the incident in question. The news programs get a rise out of me almost nightly. For instance when they recently announced that our government is transporting  captive Taliban fighters to a base in Cuba, I felt incensed. Why move them closer to the U.S.? Why not blind them and leave them in the hills of Afghanistan? Why not kill them outright? Why bring them to a place which has proven to give easy access to the United States, especially my state.

I rage about such things without considering that God is in control, that He may move men and governments in order to expose these warriors to a chance to learn of Christ which they may not have had in their own country. Perhaps He will indeed use these men to destroy our nation. In His plan, how vital is this country? Can the Kingdom of God possibly get along without us?

Anyhow, I am trying to shut up my criticisms of news announcements – and, more importantly, of the people whose lives cross mine everyday.

That’s harder than dealing with the Taliban.

Wednesday, January 1, 2003

While Gin watched the Rose Bowl Parade and Eve read, I worked preparing a copy of my Jacksonville Fire Department History for Captain Morrell at Station 10 as I promised him back in November.

This evening Gin and I watched a video of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, a great movie, one of the best I’ve ever seen.

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