Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

IMG_1682

In its 1971 hit “Signs,” Canadian rock band Five Man Electrical Band sang, “Sign, sign, everywhere a sign; blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind.”

It’s political season in Kendall County and the lyric applies. You know people are running, but it’s hard to tell for what and against whom.

Between the start of every even-numbered year (no savvy politician obscures Christmas decor with a political sign) and the primary election on the first Tuesday in March, it’s a mad dash for Republican candidates to get their messages out.

This year is especially frantic with a thirty-year Congressional incumbent, Lamar Smith (R – San Antonio), not seeking re-election. Twenty-two candidates have filed for his seat including eighteen Republicans.

Smith’s District 21 includes swaths of San Antonio and Austin, and the entireties of Kendall, Blanco, Gillespie, Kerr, Bandera, and Real Counties.

“It’s stressful,” four-term Texas state representative Jason Isaac (R – Dripping Springs) said about the time crunch and geographic expanse. He was in Kendall County over the weekend for a youth livestock show and door knocking.

Isaac’s “Make America Like Texas” slogan surfs atop both Lone Star pride and President Donald Trump’s winning 2016 message.

Boerne resident Matt McCall has tossed his name into the ring for a third time. McCall was first runner-up to Smith in 2016 garnering nearly thirty-four thousand votes.

McCall hopes to bring America to financial solvency and “slash” the size and role of the federal government, among other strict constructionist hot points.

Kendall County’s state legislators have drawn primary opponents. Hays County attorney Shannon McClendon is challenging State Senator Donna Campbell (R – San Antonio).

State Rep. Kyle Biederman (R – Fredericksburg) will face off against Dave Campbell, also of Fredericksburg, though not the high school football guru. Campbell owns a machine parts manufacturer and has chaired the Fredericksburg chamber of commerce and school board.

The status quo could shift in the newly created 451st District Court which serves Kendall County exclusively. In 2015, the Texas Legislature carved the court out of a larger district court which included Kerr and Gillespie Counties.

In 2016, Governor Greg Abbott appointed long-time county court-at-law judge, Bill Palmer, and assistant county attorney, Nicole Bishop, as judge and district attorney, respectively. Both appointees’ terms expire later this year. Both are running to keep their seats.

And both engaged in a round of he-said, she-said last year over a burgeoning court docket. Bishop claimed Palmer didn’t offer enough criminal court dates. Palmer claimed Bishop didn’t use all the dates offered.

Palmer faces eight-year Boerne city attorney Kirsten Cohoon. Cohoon hopes to get to cases faster.

“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Cohoon said.

Bishop, a Boerne native and Ole Miss law grad, has drawn Dave Parent, a former police officer and homebuilder, and Nick Socias, a former Harris County felony prosecutor.

Incumbents are running unopposed for district clerk (Susan Jackson), county judge (Darrel Lux), county clerk (Darlene Herrin), county treasurer (Sheryl D’Spain) and county surveyor (Wes Rexrode).

Kendall County Commissioner Richard Elkins (Precinct 2 – southeast Kendall County) faces a challenge from Boerne City Councilman Ron Cisneros. Precinct 3 (northeast Kendall County) Peace Justice Debby Hudson will try to ward off Jon Tipton.

Options are a good thing in a constitutional republic. We have plenty in Kendall County at this point.

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

Advertisements

Dinner helps The Dienger turn a corner

En route to a concert in San Antonio, my wife and I noticed lights on at the fully decorated Dienger Trading Company next to Boerne’s Main Plaza.

“The Dienger,” as it’s known by locals, has served breakfast and lunch since opening in 2015. I recalled it recently started serving dinner on Fridays and Saturdays. So, we “went local” and gave it a shot.

We were escorted to the dining room that pays tribute to The Dienger’s days as a public library. Bookshelves stock a variety of titles for sale or perusing.

For a time we had the room to ourselves, save for a graceful harpist strumming Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas” and other seasonal pieces.

Chef Joseph Moreno has built an “accessible” dinner menu that bridges nicely from the bistro’s daytime options. It’s full of comfort foods with a fresher, lighter, more gourmet feel.

The dinner bread melted in our mouths alongside a reliable tomato basil soup. The cornmeal crusted salmon had just enough curry to pique interest but not enough to smell up the room.

Crabmeat interwove the mac & cheese for a differentiated approach to a classic carb. Flavorful brussel sprouts rounded our meal. Everything we tried was as good as anything we’ve had down Interstate 10.

A pork chop, a shepherd’s pie, and an herb crusted chicken breast filled the entree menu. Black eyed peas, honey carrots and roasted vegetables were among other sides offered.

The veggies remain purposely vague. Their contents is dependent on what the fresh produce farmer brings in his bushel that week.

Moreno sources as much as he can locally. Many of The Dienger’s meats come from Klein’s Smokehouse across Main Street.

Moreno has been in the hill country for four years and at The Dienger for one. The El Paso native was trained at Le Cordon Bleu culinary college in Austin. Once a food truck owner, he particularly enjoys cooking outdoors, but not necessarily Texas barbecue.

“I love the open flame,” he clarified.

Dienger owner Raymond Lunsford is pleased with Moreno’s progress.

“Every month is better than a year ago,” Lunsford said. “The bistro makes up sixty per cent of our revenues.”

He hopes to soon land at a 50/50 split with the boutique before long.

“You’ll find things in the boutique that you won’t at the mall,” Lunsford pointed out. “We’re not a Magnolia, but maybe we’re a mini-Magnolia.”

Lunsford gives credit to chief buyer Michelle Ernst for sourcing inventory from unique brands. My globetrotting sister-in-law attests that what she see at The Dienger is usually reserved for shops in LA, New York, London.

“We got lucky,” Boerne Chamber President Joe Granados noted about Lunsford’s efforts with the 133-year-old landmark. “It could have been office space.”

An Oklahoma-based oil & gas company actually purchased the building from the City of Boerne in 2012 but never occupied it. Together with his wife, Lisa, Lunsford acquired the property in 2014.

Ironically, Lunsford is an oil man himself. The Olney, Texas, native still has interests in west Texas.

“The oil business helped fund what we’ve done here, but the Good Lord put it together,” said Lunsford like he meant it. “I’m not smart enough to do all this.”

Follow Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

 

Leave distracted driving in 2017

IMG_1141

I had to see it for myself. A roadside warning sign in a new development in Boerne, Texas, USA. When my son first sent me an image of it, I thought it was a Photoshop special, an Internet hoax. Surely, it was a farce.

The sign read – not “Slow / Children At Play” – but “Caution / Children Texting.” A walking stick figure with its head down toward an apparent electronic device accompanied the written message.

Welcome to 2018, home of ubiquitous screen staring.

Somewhere in the madness, at least one of us has this resolution: Stop texting and driving.

“It can wait, Dad,” my kids remind me, borrowing a line from AT&T. “Stay alert, stay alive,” a highway department sign reads. “TALK TEXT CRASH,” states another public service message in shaky, haunted house lettering.

To help someone form the habit of buckling his mobile device in the backseat of his car, I offer my top seven reasons to quit driving distracted in the New Year.

Numbers 6 and 7 are self-evident and should be sufficient, but never underestimate a human’s ability to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.

#7. You could hurt yourself. A plea to self-interest seems to be an effective approach in this age. Some cars are self-driving, yes. Others still roll down embankments. Some still land in ravines.

#6. You could hurt someone else. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has plenty of research at https://www.distraction.gov that shows distracted driving is as bad as drunk driving. The only thing worse than injuring yourself would be to injure others and have to live with yourself.

#5. You might misspell your text message. Auto-correct is problem enough when trying to get your point across. Don’t add the distraction of seventy miles per hour. You might accidentally tell a client you hate her, or, worse, you love her.

#4. You might miss a beautiful sunset, a big buck or a billboard advertising your favorite cosmetic surgery.

#3. It’s hard to get a good selfie when you’re texting. There seems to be no limit to our culture’s self-absorption. Remember, remote friends once waited weeks for a mailed response. They can wait again. None of us is that important.

#2. It’s the law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, forty-seven states including Texas have banned texting while driving. Fourteen states not including Texas have banned all handheld devices while driving. The City of Boerne instituted such a ban for its limits in 2015.

#1. And the number one reason not to text and drive? Drumroll, please…because everyone else does.

Here’s to a Happy (and safe) New Year! As I tell my sixth grade basketball team on a fast break, “Eyes up!”

Read more from Kevin Thompson at www.kwt.info.

Christmas from the other side

“God loves you!” the smiley face stickers say, and He does, but it doesn’t always feel like it. There is still longing, questioning, wondering about how this or that of life will pan out.

“God loves you!” is a good message, but it is incomplete. To interpret life’s challenges, “Satan hates you!” must be part of the equation. It’s a backdrop that makes “God loves you!” significant and meaningful.

If all we have is smiley faces and religious cliches, we end up attributing the dark stuff of life to ourselves: the failures, the brokenness, the despair. We don’t see the enemy at work or the battle at hand.

“There’s something wrong with me,” we’re convinced.

By now we know the story of the manger, that earthy account where greatest becomes least.

We treasure the silent night because it tells us that no matter where we go, the divine has gone before. He is not far off. He is very near. God with us. Emmanuel.

I know these things in my head. I don’t always feel them in my heart, and I’m not sure why.

When it’s hard to grasp what child is this, it is helpful to see Christmas from heaven’s perspective.

You can find the account not in Matthew but in Revelation, Chapter 12. It is quite graphic.

“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that he might devour her child the moment it was born.” (verse 4)

Upon delivery, the baby is snatched up to God, while the dragon is hurled down to earth.

The dragon, we are told, is Satan “who leads the whole world astray.” Enraged at the woman, he goes off to make war against the rest of the woman’s offspring. (verse 9)

Tell me: What kind of beast would steal a newborn from a birth canal???

Exactly. One who hates your guts.

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy,” John 10 says, even while angels sing, “Joy to the World.” Now, that’s low. And that’s who we’re dealing with here.

None of us lies outside the devil’s purview. We are all targets of his anger.

“Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.” (verse 12)

Thankfully, we are also targets of the one who came upon a midnight clear. He defends us from accusation.

“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of Christ. For the accuser of our brothers who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down.” (verse 10)

The first Christmas turns out to be less silent of a night than we first thought. It was actually a night of great war.

The battle’s victor entered the womb humbly and lived his life courageously. His enemy prowls in pride looking for souls to devour – but only for a time.

That’s the full story. Satan wreaks havoc on the earth, but God sends a rescue. Come, let us adore him.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

There’s more abundance than you think

Most mental health professionals agree: It is difficult for a psychopathology – or any negative emotion – to coexist with gratitude.

Want to be happy? Be thankful. It’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible.

We are not born thankful. We are born self-centered and appropriately so given that a child is completely vulnerable.

But as we age, we begin to understand what it takes to move us from completely vulnerable to warm, safe and well-fed. Triggers of thankfulness then prick our consciences.

“I didn’t do much to put these shoes on my feet or to put my bottom in this school chair,” the epiphany might go. “I should recognize the people who did.”

This is a generous serving of pumpkin-pie-in-the-sky. Children, much less teenagers, aren’t predisposed toward gratefulness.

At some point, though, most of realize we stand on the shoulders of others. We sit under the shade of trees we did not plant. We may bring home the bacon, but a butcher likely slaughtered it.

Life is too complex and lives are too interconnected to think we do anything alone. Thinking so turns isolation into loneliness. Loneliness turns to sadness and the other negative emotions: anger, fear, guilt, shame.

All of which can be helped by gratitude.

Show me a person who writes down three things each morning she is thankful for, and I’ll show you a person who weathers well the storms of life.

Her list may include:

A purple cloud

A fully stocked grocery

A check engine light that is not on

A friend’s smile

A healthy child

A faithful spouse

A door of opportunity

Indoor plumbing

Outdoor adventures

Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler are likely thankful people. Several years ago they wrote a book called “Abundance: The future is better than you think.” Its premise: media and information networks capitalize on gloom and doom news as a way to keep our attention and sell advertising.

According to the authors, the world is actually improving at a much faster rate than we realize. Artificial intelligence, robotics, technology networks, biotechnology and synthetic biology are driving advances that lift standards of living including among the world’s poorest people, the “bottom billion.”

Through the World Wide Web the poorest person in America today has access to more information than the President of the United States had just three decades ago. This access is driving a democratization of tools, Diamandis and Kotler assert.

An “explosion of connectedness” will have an Internet-enabled device in the hands of five billion people by 2020. A DIY (“do it yourself”) ethic is spreading. Exponential technologies have created a “techno-philanthropic” class that is attempting to outlive itself.

These factors work together to improve access to energy, water, nutrition, education and health.

Like pilgrims before us, we are living in an age of abundance – if we have eyes to see it. And the gratitude to appreciate it.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Read more at www.kwt.info.

 

New dog breathes life and death

“She’s an ‘alpha female,’” the shelter director told us.

I had never heard the term before. I assumed it was similar to “queen bee” or “prima donna.”

Our kids, particularly a six-year-old boy, had hounded me for months for a new dog, pun definitely intended. He was too young to remember when we adopted Hank, our five-year-old lab mutt.

He was also too young to remember the thousands of dollars of property damage Hank inflicted upon my estate.

Okay, it may have been in the hundreds, but it was certainly more costly than any damage Pumpkin the cat has perpetrated.

So, naturally, the term “alpha female” sent chills up my spine. Just when Hank finally quit gnawing on furniture, toys and shoes, here comes a bitch.

“We got a new puppy,” I told a friend a few days after she arrived.

“You mean YOU got a new puppy,” he corrected as my head dropped under reality’s weight.

While the kids have struggled to take responsibility for her care and feeding, they did take ownership of her name. She’s “Lucy,” and, given the feistiness of Lucille Ball, that’s about right.

She’s only a foot high and two and a half feet long, but she can leap vertically to where her nose hits the knob of our back porch door. She can’t yet turn it, but give her a few months. She’s still only a puppy.

She actually shouldn’t get much bigger – her body, anyway. Her ears are another story.

She was sold to us as a red heeler, but we’re seeing more and more chihuahua in her, especially in her ears. They’re starting to pick up TV stations in Austin.

What they’re not picking up are my instructions to stop biting legs, jumping on houseguests, barking before dawn and urinating on freshly-cleaned carpets.

While I have wanted to return her multiple times, my wife sees redeeming qualities in hard-to-love mammals, yours truly included.

Whereas you can’t take Hank on a walk that includes the crossing of a bridge of any size (he must have been abused under a bridge before we adopted him), Lucy is a decent walking companion. I can see how heelers really do heel.

I can also see how Lucy could drag me into an oncoming Ford F350. Thank God for the parachute ears to slow her down.
Lucy has breathed life into Hank, the old eunuch. She nips on his neck and slips under his hind legs. He climbs on her back and wrestles her in the yard.

She eats his food. He doesn’t mind.

On the other paw, Lucy has breathed death into Pumpkin. She traps him under cars and runs him up trees. He sleeps on the front porch now.

As I’ve written in this space before, city ordinance says pets must be licensed. Hank and Pumpkin both have their $4 tags of approval. Lucy is unsanctioned.

I wonder what Pumpkin had on his mind when I saw him in front of animal services the other day. That tattle tail.

I have no idea who put him up to it. I love Lucy.

Subscribe to regular posts from Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

A Halloween Treat-giving Guide

Holiday gift guides have started hitting mailboxes. Sausages, cheeses, pies, steaks. Technology gadgets, leather goods, popcorn. There’s no shortage of treat ideas for people you know.

But what about treat ideas for kids you don’t know?

Before you get carried away with Thanksgiving pie ordering and Christmas gift buying, let’s get Halloween right.

Greeting card companies have driven the prominence of conjured holidays. Similarly, candy companies have driven the modern Halloween custom of throwing handfuls of high fructose corn syrup at any kid that comes on your property.

Starting tonight – no, this afternoon – kids of all ages will begin filling pillowcases with candy. Throw a stick over their shoulders, tie on the bags and the teenagers will look like bona fide carpetbaggers.

The candy thing has gone off the insulin charts. We need to get back to a saner trick-or-treating time because there’s nothing more normal than knocking on strange doors seeking handouts.

Given the extreme swing our culture has taken toward sugar consumption, I recommend a new tack for trick-or-treat participation. Consider the following items in lieu of the customary diabetes-inducing fare:

1. Raisins – You have options here, but all will be good for post-Halloween digestion. You can purchase individual one-inch raisin boxes or you can buy in bulk and create your own Ziploc baggie-fulls.

Best yet, you can give a single raisin to each child who darkens your doorway. Any of the above will freak out your visitors which is the point, correct?

2. Pennies – Most kids these days have never seen a penny unless they’ve participated in the “share a penny” program at your neighborhood quick mart. Throw a few pennies in your visitors’ buckets to create a mysterious jingle effect. The bell tolls…

Feel free to add a story about the pennies’ origin: decomposed eyelids at the city cemetery.

3. Work – Here’s your chance to reform the lackluster work ethic of a generation of kids. Order ten yards of cedar mulch and have it dumped in your front yard.

When kids knock, hand them a shovel and tell them to start spreading. When they ask for payment, reinforce that the work is the gift.

4. Apples – It’s ridiculous that people stopped giving out whole fruit because of a few bad apples. The chances of finding a razor blade in your Halloween apples back in the day were actually, well, razor-thin.

A Fuji apple is sweet enough to satisfy any sweet tooth. Plus, apples are like a virtual teeth brushing after stops at homes of unreformed treat-givers.

5. Toothbrushes – This handout is the trick-or-treat equivalent of tough love. Kids may see it as party-pooping, but years from now they’ll remember you as the one with perspective.

Throw in a travel size tube of toothpaste and your wisdom will become legendary. You may even get some eggs out of it.

***

I admit this list may be too much too soon. If so, and if you haven’t made a candy aisle run, consider your junk drawer as a source of giveaways: pencils, stickers, trinkets, coupons.

Just stay away from the razor blades.

 
Kevin Thompson can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 739 other followers

Archives


%d bloggers like this: