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A job loss visits

More than 575,000 jobs lost in the United States in January 2009.

More than 3.6 million jobs lost in this country in the last 13 months. The numbers are becoming so big that we often forget that there are real people and real families behind each of those statistics.

I had a high school friend drop by my office this week. He is such a good guy and so pleasant to be around. We caught up about old friends and what they were doing. We talked about our families and the fun stuff you like to share with old friends that you haven’t seen them in a while.

Then as almost a side note he mentioned that he had lost his job and he was passing through on his way to an interview. John (not his real name) has had the same job for almost 20 years. He hunts, fishes, cooks, does woodworking, electrical and plumbing. He is the best dancer I know, always has a smile on his face, and never met a stranger.

And yet, through no fault of his own he was facing the real possibility of some significant changes in his life. At the age of 54, he was thinking of downsizing, of keeping his children in college, and of maintaining his family’s health insurance.

He was excited about the possibility of doing some things he had only dreamed about and yet he was scared of the unknown. John didn’t do anything wrong, but I was scared for him and at the same time, just a bit scared for myself.

That could have just as easily been me facing the uncertainty of becoming unemployed in my 50s. It brought home the reality that our nation has a lot of people hurting and scared, just like John. It isn’t always just a matter of working a bit harder and things will be all right. It is about changing your life, facing your insecurities, keeping your family secure and keeping the faith in yourself. In the face of all these uncertainties, John’s comment to me is that he knows God is looking after him, loves him and will give him peace.

John will do just fine. More than almost anyone I know he is equipped with work and life skills that make it likely he will be successful in the future. We should all remember it could have just as easily been you or me.

Love of tulips

On a related note, the tulips are coming up in all their brilliant colors. Grant and Kyle Faulk brought something more into my life than an eventual son-in-law. They brought their love of tulips, which now grace the lawns at my office and home.

I always thought tulips were too difficult to grow here in the Deep South. It is true that a lot of things have to work just right for the flowers to be perfect. However, it is worth it to see the many people drive by each day watching them pop open and display the different bright colors for just a few weeks.

For me, the tulips mean that spring is almost here. We will soon be complaining about the pollen, the gnats and the hot weather, but for now we live in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

From the wild flowers and dogwoods, to the daylilies, roses and camellias, spring shows its many colors in this part of the world. It lifts our hearts and brings smiles to our faces.

The tulips are telling us that time is almost here.

My favorite color for tulips is red. They are often a deep rich red that contrasts with all the green around it.

ML and I wanted four red-headed boys when we first got married. We thought we had a pretty good chance since my grandfather and great-grandmother both had red hair. Thankfully, we had two daughters and neither of them had a bit of red hair. It seems that all went to my cousins, Martha and Robert.

Redheads represent about 1 to 2 percent of the population. It is caused by a recessive gene that allows it to skip generations manifesting itself again.

Red hair is most common on the fringes of Western Europe. Almost 13 percent of the people of Scotland are redheads with almost 40 percent of the population carrying the recessive gene.

Redheads have been said to have a quick temper and a sharp tongue. I’ll make no comment if that is true of my cousins.

A big change

I installed a new computer this week for my mother and then showed her how to download iTunes and better use of her iPod. Even though she already used an iPod when she walked, she didn’t really know how to get the computer to do most of the work in keeping her music and interests current.

When I was old enough to get my first record player, we didn’t have enough money to get a new one. My mother got an old one from my uncle, and painted it orange and blue for Auburn. It would play 33s and 45s and was about the size of a small TV. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Today, my iPod updates my music, newscasts and podcasts and organizes them by interests. It updates the latest pictures of my grandson so if someone asks I can literally show them hundreds of photos.

I don’t know of any gift I ever received that so radically changed the way I did something as the iPod changed the way I listen to music. It will be interesting to see how technology will continue to change my life by the time I am my mother’s age.