Here's Johnny - If it was up to me
Before diving into the meat (or tofu, for Vegetarian Dear Readers) of this week's column, I'd first like to thank the several folks who, sincerely or not, have passed compliments, presents or both my way as this year draws to a close. Terry Smith, thanks for the call about my dog-bites-Johnny column and for letting me know that you'd been nipped a few times by Maggie, too. It's nice to know I'm in good company - that it was, as they say in "The Godfather," nothing personal. P.C.S., thanks for the Christmas presents based on what you said was your favorite edition of Here's Johnny. On Christmas Eve, I presented the beat-up checkerboard (bought at Terry's Five and Dime!) to my brother, renewing a family tradition that dates back four decades or so. I'm not sure what to do with the marbles, but as you suggested, I will keep them around in case I lose mine again. Mr. Baker, thanks for the kudos at the post-council reception. I'm glad you don't have to drive to Florida for your vacation and that you didn't have to drive home after the reception. Having dispensed with that . I started writing a column about New Year's resolutions, then realized that I'd covered the same ground, for some reason, last February. I also realized that I had a scheduled day off. So, without further ado, here's one from the way-back machine that deals with the pitfalls of blaming others for our problems (ahem, I'm trying to quit) and the importance of grabbing the reins ourselves (I'm trying to start). I called it . 'If it was up to me .' Many moons ago, I served as best man to my best friend. (Because he has a right to privacy, and because we're no longer friends, and because he has an extensive gun collection, I will refer to him as "Lewis.") Finishing a pre-ceremony beverage in my car before we walked into the church, I asked Lewis what I thought was a rhetorical question traditionally posed by a best man: "You are absolutely ready to do this, right?" Expected answers included: "Darn tootin'," "Absolutely," and "I've never been more sure of anything in my life." Instead, he said, "Well, if it was up to me, I'd wait a while longer." Hmmm. I don't remember my response, though even then Lewis's answer worried me. A few months later, Lewis told me that his bride was lobbying heavily for a baby - pronto. As I already had concerns about their future, I asked, "Gee, that's pretty fast - do you think maybe you should give this thing some time?" Lewis said, "Well, if it was up to me, I'd wait a while longer." As Dr. Evil said in the Austin Powers movies, "Riiigggghhhhttt." My buddy Dave and I have incorporated Lewis's motto and use it often and with a full dose of irony, which is good for the blood. Drop a few pounds? "Well, if it was up to me, I'd start today." Exercise every day? "Well, if it was up to me, I'd hit the gym before work and twice on weekends." Be nicer to friends, family and strangers? "Well, if it was up to me, they wouldn't get on my nerves so often." You get the drift. A wiser man than I said what matters in life is not what happens to us, but how we deal with it. In other words: It is up to us. We can't stop a bonehead from suddenly sideswiping us in traffic, but we can choose not to pull a two-iron out of the trunk. We may not have the perfect job, but while there, we can, as Vince Lombardi said, chase perfection and catch excellence. We can't keep those we love from dying one day, but we can choose to care for them before and honor their memory afterwards. All these things and more, well, if it was up to me, I'd do them. Oh, wait - it is up to me. Please excuse me, I've got work to do. 'Happy New Year - and thanks Y'all may not realize how much I enjoy writing these 600 to 800-word bits of whimsy, or how much it means to me when Dear Readers tell me they turn to page two first. So: Thank you, and may God bless you. It's an honor to serve as your humble scribe, even on the one or two occasions a year when I present an encore edition. Hey, if it was up to me, I'd write something new every week. Maybe next year .