Today In Former Years

Journal Excerpts:

October 31, 1991 to 2002


John W. Cowart

Thursday, October  31, 1991, Halloween:

Up all morning printing out my September and October journal entries; I wonder why I bother recording my life stuff. It's so depressing. Failure after failure.

That's the demon speaking. Maybe.

Gin had mid-term exams today; she feels she did well on them.

Eve was home sick again. I worry about what is the matter with her.

The girls and I fixed up packets of tracts and candy for the kids who stop by the house trick-or-treating.

We gave out close to a hundred little comic book tracts put out by the Chick Publishing company. These little booklets often carry a strong gospel message illustrated with powerful drawings. But, you have to read them carefully before distributing them because the artist sometimes attacks…others in an uncharitable manner and they can be very offensive.

My favorite is one called "One Way". It is designed for people who can not read and it carries the message through pictures. We also gave out "Titanic" about a man who thought he had it made in life when he voyaged aboard the luxury liner, "Room 310" about a man dying of cancer being witnessed to by his also dying roommate, and "Holy Joe" about a soldier who testifies to Christ in battle. We also gave the children tracts about a church mouse and other figures suitable for young children.

I hope these tracts do a little something to testify to Christ in our neighborhood. I think we sent tracts into about 35 different homes.

I wore my flamingo hat, Eve dressed up as a cheerleader and Pat as a farmer. We made plastic-bag ghosts, including one that popped up when the front door opened, and we placed lighted candles around the front of the house. This made for a visible, and I hope hospitable, presence in the neighborhood. The, I think, drug dealers next door took notice of our activities and the main man laughed hardily at my winged hat.

Two police cars stopped at the house on the other side and people milled around but I don't know what the activity was all about.

Saturday, October  10, 1992:

Donald to Stephen training again.

After driving Eve to JU for her SAT tests, I worked transferring the prayer book from four 3-inch discs to a single 3-inch disc. I attempted to learn batch routing but couldn't master it.

I let Gin sleep late…

Afterwards I showed her how I set up the spell-checker this morning to transfer to B as part of the start-of-day system and we talked computer work til time to drive for Eve.

Eve & I stopped at Lutheran Thrift Store where I bought a brass ruler for my desk for only 50¢.

As we drove home, Eve announced that I'm supposed to drive her to a dance tonight! First I've heard of it and I blew up at Eve because I planned to be home...

But Gin assures me that Eve had told her about the dance so I'm the only one surprised at the task.

Anyhow, I'd promised to drive Patricia to the Rag Shop to buy beads and I did. On the way, Gin & I bought gas, our weekly Lotto ticket and several videos (Phil does not have the other videos processed yet).

Then I finally got home about 4 in the afternoon to finally eat breakfast after starting to drive at six a.m.

Drove Eve to church for her Inter-generational dance. While the church danced, I drove over to the hospital to visit Joe. A huge stitch covers his left cheek where it looks as though the surgeons removed a pound of cancer.

Joe tells me they did not get it all but that he is not getting radiation treatments.

I told him the analogy of waiting in the bus station: all the bags are packed; all the good-buys have been said; all the activities of your visit are over; the last meal has been eaten; kisses exchanged -- but still the damn buss won't leave!

Horribly frustrating for the leave-er and the ones seeing him off.

But the bus eventually leaves -- much to the relief of all.

Lingering illness is like that uncomfortable bus station. You are ready to go; they are ready to see you go; but the actual time of departure depends on neither you nor the ones you love and all you can do is linger and endure -- without getting to hate each other!

Joe laughed at the illustration.

I bought a bottle of Christian Brothers Tawny Port -- first wine of that type I've seen in years and I wanted a taste.

While waiting for Eve's dance to be over, I sat in the church parking lot reading Dr. William Knaus' Do It Now, a book on overcoming procrastination. I recognize many of the delaying tactics he mentions and plan to overcome them to get more work done.

Nice chat with Eve as we drove home. I advised her to take dance lessons in college -- this has been a full day for her too.

Saturday, October  30, 1993:

Massive, super-heavy rains all day!

YET, 82,000 drunk crazys gathered at the Gator Bowl for the annual Florida/Georgia Football Game -- which Gin & I watched on tv snug and dry at home. The show resembled a combination of football and water skiing as the players slid here and there across the field throwing up a wake five feet high. Florida won in the last seconds of the game.

Jennifer, who has been talking of moving the rest of her furniture from the apartment she and Mike rented to Thad & Patrick's home for over a week, reached her end-of-the-month deadline today and had to move in the rain. She came and got me and I helped with a few things but she had to hire a moving company to get the bigger pieces. Since the mover could not show up till 6 p.m., I came on back home. Later she told me that she really needed me for emotional support. But I miss-read the whole situation; I saw it as a logistical problem - of how to move this heavy thing from here to there. I did not realize that she saw the problem as an emotional thing and cried over pieces of furniture being displaced and representing the break up of her marriage. Dad misses again.

I have done a lot of that this month. Again and again I have felt nor quite on target in situation after situation. As though I were almost doing the right thing, but missing it by a little bit.

In this case, I thought Jennifer had settled the breakup in her own mind and I accepted the things she said at face value. I'm too dense for subtlety.

Patricia spent the day making up Halloween packets. Yesterday we walked up the hill to Soutel Avenue to the Gospel World Book Store where we bought a number of comic book tracts to include with our Trick or Treat gifts to neighborhood children as we do each year. (Here's a hint of how humble and what a seeker of truth I am: At the book store a lady came in and asked the salesman for a book on prayer. Boy did my ears perk up and I almost interrupted them to suggest she buy my book. But the salesman suggested another book to her. Then, I asked where they kept recent IVP books. My intention was to see if the store carried copies of my own great book. I did not see it on the shelf. So I asked another salesperson if they had a copy. She told me no but she could order one for me if I wanted it. I told her no but that if they did carry it I would suggest to people to come there to buy it. She grudgingly wrote down the title but did not even ask for the author's name and she never asked for my name either. I felt so put upon. I really wanted to tell her and the other salespersons that they actually had a living author in their store... but I didn't. Not because I'm modest and humble but because they obviously didn't give a damn. If I thought they would have made a fuss over me being in their little backwater bookstore, I'm sure that I would have told them; but I'm sure they would have said, Ho hum. How many copies are you buying?" And since I had no money to buy any copies at all, I kept quiet.

Anyhow, today Pat and Gin fixed treats of candy and comics in plastic bags so we could use the holiday as an opportunity to witness for Christ.

Patricia carved the two pumpkins we lugged home yesterday into fine jack-o-lanterns. They turned out beautiful! Never have I seen a richer, warmer orange than these bright pumpkins glowed with in our fireplace!

This evening, Pat went to a Rainbow Club dance with Bethanie.

Sunday, October  31, 1993:

I spent the day fooling around the den. I refurbished some empty wooden boxes which Mr. Barlow had given me and re-nailed them together as extra book shelves.

Mike came over for a visit. He feels he did well on his firefighter/engineer exam. He was feeling me out about how Jennifer is doing but I really don't know or understand what is going on between them. Gin & I plan to take him out for lunch at Blue Boy's -- where they have a fireman pinball machine -- next Tuesday.

Gin & I watched the Dallas/Eagles game while Patricia and Bethany went out trick or treating.

An Arctic cold front dipped down from Yankeeland and the temperature drops to below freezing tonight. For the first time in ages, I showed Ginny that I love her by taking her cold feet between my fat thighs to warm her in bed….with many giggles from both of us.

Saturday, October 31, 1998:

A Wonderful Halloween!

Ginny & I rode our bikes up to the Library and left them there while we caught a bus out to a Christian bookstore. We saw two interesting cases of Christian action on the bus:

These busses only run once every 45 minutes or so on Saturday's. A blind man needed to get off at the busy intersection of Cassett and Normandy. A young woman saw that he was having great trouble crossing the heavy traffic so she asked the bus driver to wait for her while she got off and escorted him across the street. Had the driver been hard-nosed about it he could have left her to wait for the next bus, but a stir of sympathy welled through the bus passengers and the driver chose to wait while the young woman made it across and back. She had risked hours of her life to do this good thing. I was impressed.

About that same time, a woman boarded the bus and traveled up and down the aisle giving each person a xeroxed tract of her own composing which she had cut out in the shape of hearts. As she handed these out, she testified to all these strangers about what Jesus means to her. She even wore a short apron she had colored with marking pens drawing a heart and the words JESUS LOVES YOU. I could not determine whether she was crazy or bold but either way she let people know about Christ as best she was able.

When we got to the book store we rushed across Normandy so we could catch the same bus on its return trip. We bought three more packs of tracts then made it back to the bus in time to return to the library.

We checked out several books on Savannah to examine to chose a hotel or B&B for our vacation next month. We looked at two yard sales as we biked home but did not buy anything. After an afternoon nap we packed up 50 more bags of candy, tracts and treats.

We decorated the old traffic cone to make a goblin and put out our ceramic Jack O' Lantern and a batch of candles. We set out our lawn chairs and a table and our radio and we stayed outside handing out candy for three hours.

We had a great time talking with parents and kids and neighbors. The guys across the street put up a lavish display with life-size figures, fog-generating dry ice, graves and tombstones in the yard, huge net spider webs, spooky music and themselves dressed as giants on stilts. Their display is so elaborate that people from all over drive by to see it. And scads of these people came across to talk with us and get treats. One man who came to trick-or-treat us told me he was 72 years old. They all got tracts, they all got greetings, we all had fun in the moonlight of a gorgeous, gorgeous late summer night. I think altogether we have distributed about 130 tracts. Lord, Thou knowest if this ministry has any lasting effect or is just more vanity; Thank You for the fun. Er, You do know that the money we put into this counts as our tithe this week, don't You?

I tried to call Patricia several times this week but her line is always busy or there is no answer.

Today was my mother's birthday. Poor thing was so embarrassed about being born on Halloween that for all of her life she told all of us that she was born on November 1st. It was not till after her death that I saw her birth certificate and realized what she had done. I don't think I bothered to tell her sisters. Mother would have benefited from seeing a counselor.

Me too.

I tried to talk Ginny into sex but she was too tired to fool with it and I got pushed out of shape by her refusal... What the hell do I expect of the woman???

Monday, October 30, 2000:

Gin needed some lab tests done today so she took the day off. While she was in the lab, I sat by the river smoking my pipe and praying over the city skyline visible across the St. Johns. I saw a manatee or something huge swirling the water nearby.

When she got out, we walked to Five Points and ate breakfast at the Derby House. There we met and chatted with (a local pastor). He has no plans to attend the Billy Graham Crusade next week.

We continued walking on to church where we packed a few books and considered what furniture we want to move into our house. Too much stuff!

After the postman delivered our mail we walked all through our neighborhood placing crusade invitations at every house from Ernest Street to College and from Myra to Willow Branch. We have distributed over 200 posters and flyers for the crusade. During our walk we met a young couple, Joe and ???, who have a home workshop for refinishing wood furniture which they comb the streets to find in the trash. He was working on a beautiful cherry table and doing a fine job of it. They are trying to raise money enough to get married. We enjoyed a wonderful talk about the crusade, woodworking and where to find the best trash.

Later, we met a lady who asked if we knew anyone who could do some wood work for her; we gave her Joe's number. Then when we finally got home I remembered seeing some old wooden baby cribs on a trash heap near Five Points this morning so I called Joe and told him. Later I saw that he had picked them up to refurbish.

All evening as we watched football, Gin & I prepared Halloween decorations (a happy ghost and a funny witch) and trick-or-treat packets for tomorrow night. Back when Peterson's Dime Store went out of business we bought a large box of whistles shaped like trains or snakes, and at a yard sale a few months ago I bought a box of plastic pumpkins and other trinkets. So we made up packets of toys, one large candy bar, five or six bits of small candy, a couple of comic book tracts, and an invitation to the crusade Kid's Gig on Saturday morning.

Exhausting work all.

Tuesday, October 31, 2000:

Walked Gin to the bus. Packed some stuff at church. Reviewed some files in my office to make room for the stuff from the church office and threw out half a file drawer of materials to clear a little floor space. I only have one file drawer here at the house, but 16 drawers of old articles and notes at church; it looks as though I can keep only eight drawers total, maybe not even that many. So I am really having to focus.

It's sort of like fortune telling to decide what notes I am likely to need in the future and what is past and no longer useful. Famous writers donate their papers to a museum or university to get a tax break. Those of us less famous donate our papers to the recycle man.

Lunch with Barbara.

When Gin got home, we ate a quick supper then put the final touches on our Halloween display (spotlights, candles, flaming tiki-torches). We gave it the full treatment to attract as many kids as possible to receive the tracts, crusade invitations and treats. At the end of the evening, we had given out 67 packets!

And we were plumb give out too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2001:

Lunch with Barbara. No change there.

For ages Ginny has occasionally mentioned that she needed a new appliance cord for her ancient Singer Sewing Machine. To get one we'd have to go to a Singer dealer on the other side of town and we never got around to it. Consequently she has not done any sewing for at least six years! But she has been reluctant to get rid of her sewing machine, always intending to sew something again someday.

The topic came up again last night.

Therefore  I devoted much of today catching up on various minor electrical jobs. I repaired a lamp, put a new bulb in her fish tank, and I revamped the sewing machine cord, a complex job requiring about three hours. Tiny tinny wires are not my forte so I spent an hour of that time on the floor hunting for little pieces that I kept dropping.

She is pleased with the result….

I am so blessed to be married to this woman! -- And she likes me too!!!!!

Wednesday, October 31, 2001:

Walked this morning. The mugging has taught me that you can't be too paranoid.

Spent the morning setting out chairs and tables and tiki lamps  for our Halloween giveaway; Lord, please get the tracts into the hands of just the right people.

Gin spent most of the day on the phone setting up appointments with providers for one of her bosses; all to no avail; at the end of the day, he came to her with his new appointment calendar which negates the old one necessitating her rescheduling many of the appointments all over again tomorrow. Poor Ginny.

After supper, we broke out our treat boxes and sat at the end of our driveway distributing goodies to the handful of kids who showed up, about 30 kids. This was about a third the number we served last year. The decline in numbers may be because of the anthrax scare sweeping the nation, because B's family is upset over the formation of the Neighborhood Watch, because it was a school night and misting rain, or for who knows what reason.

Anyhow, Gin and I enjoyed sitting talking together and watching the moon rise. A policeman who stopped by (soothing a dispute among other neighbors) told us that this was the first full moon to fall on Halloween since the 1950s. We gave the cop four treat packets to take home to his daughters.

Since so few kids came by, we closed down our display about a quarter til nine and came inside to watch West Wing and read.

Thursday, October 31,  2002

I’ll swear, that woman gets better and better!

Even after this hectic day and evening spent in contact with outsiders, Ginny… said that I am the best thing that ever happened to her. What a thrill!

The rest of the day was less than thrilling.

At work, Gin uncovered a mistake that would have cost the agency over $14,000. She’s so smart. Her acuity really impressed her boss. They also are lucky to have her. She saved them a world of hassle and cash money today.

My day began at 3:30 a.m. with catch up chores still working on my Monday 2do2da list. Only three items remain.

After walking Gin to her bus, I met Miriam, at whose house we’ll hold Saturday’s picnic lunch (a neighborhood tree-planting event) and made various arrangements.

Next I took Warren to breakfast then we drove downtown to City Hall to meet John Shellhorn, director of Clean It Up-Green It Up. We collected a dozen traffic cones, ten can-grabbers, trash bags, 50 orange vests, two banners, a camera and a box of other equipment for the planting. While Warren conferred with Mr. Shellhorn about computer stuff. I talked at length with three secretaries in the office about city jobs and the proposed 3% pay raise (they don’t get it). They were all extremely helpful.

Warren and I drove to the planting site, unloaded the equipment, stole three traffic barricades from Dellwood Street, tied the banners to the fence, Xeroxed some government forms and did all else we could to further the project.

Leaving Warren at his house, I fielded a number of phone calls regarding the planting. Then I took 50+ copies of the second flyer and again walked to every house in the neighborhood delivering them. Along the way I talked with the man to whose house I’d called the police last week when I saw those boys climb his fence and try to get in his side window, to Sherry, to Peaches (who was hammering apart a sofa), to Rick, to Brian, to Kim, to Ozzie, to Bubba, to Richard, some others whose names I’ve already forgotten, and to the attorney whose office is on Willow Branch.

I talked with the attorney at length regarding the possibility of using his conference for Watch meetings, bathroom facilities for workers Saturday, bums sleeping in the bushes,  mowing the grass strip, etc. etc.

Brian and Bubba asked my help clearing weeds and debris from the circle on Myra Street so I got my tools and went down to chop weeds and prune trees in the circle. The special trash truck I’d made arrangements for showed up as we worked (entirely by accident) and poor Bubba was impressed by my efficiency in getting things done for the neighborhood; he again began talking about my running for City Council!

 The trash truck’s arrival at that time was a complete fluke but Bubba thinks I’m magic using my influence with the city to get things done. He’s had bad luck in dealing with the city before.

I got home and fielded more phone calls regarding gas lines at the digging site, renting an auger, picnic supplies, the Lee High School football team … and finally, picking up our car from the garage.

I walked to meet Ginny and we were picked up by a homosexual friend as we walked back and he unloaded on us concerning the frustrations of his love-life with his partner. Homosexual couples face great strains from their lifestyle in additions to the strains heterosexual couples face.

Gin and I quickly grabbed leftovers for a quick supper but before we finished eating, already trick-or-treaters knocked on the door. (One little girl said in amazement, “You the nice man that bought the candles from my school” – she’d forgotten this house). We gulped the rest of our food and set up our table in the driveway to greet trick-or-treaters. While handing out the packets of candy and tracts, we talked with Mike, Rex and Chris, Dennis and Dennis and Dennis, Bubba’s daughter, batches of kids and other strangers…. And fielded phone calls from Pat and Jennifer about picking up our car from the garage tomorrow…

A Rescue Squad ambulance and fire truck appeared at the end of the street near Bubba’s house, but I was too tired to get involved so I didn’t even walk down to see who they picked up.

Then after this romantic day and intimate evening together, we turned out all lights so no more trick-or-treaters would come by, and hid in the tv room…

Thus ends October. Thanks be to God.


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