28 December 2012

The Gun

I read the Second Amendment tonite. There's been a lot of talk lately about what it means. Both the extreme right and left seem to know exactly what it says, but it always just confuses me. I can always read it two ways.

I'm not much of a hunter. If my math is right I go about once every 20 years. But I've always been around guns a fair amount. In college my room mate and I used to go shooting quite a bit and I always enjoyed killing a few cans or putting holes in the side of a rusty old junker. Most of my friends and relatives own guns. Back when JCPenney sold guns, and I was a young management trainee, I even sold a few and for a while could talk gun pretty good.

I don't care about the politics of it, but I think every one of my gun owning friends should continue to own guns. But anyone who is tempted to buy their first gun this month due to some new found fear of the government, probably shouldn't. They're too easily riled up, too easily tricked. They'll puff out their chests and brag for a day or two about taking a stand for their second amendment rights, and then put the gun away where it will gather dust for a decade or so. It will never be used for hunting, or self defense, or target practice. 

Power preys on fear.  Fear of guns from the left, fear of not having them on the right. 

Ice Time

Last weekend, just before Christmas, I spotted the first ice house of the season, on the lake behind our house. For some reason it seemed a bit early but when I realized how much of the past weeks had been spent below freezing, it didnt seem so out of place.

Also that day i saw the first ice skaters out. Five or six kids off in the distance, like a Christmas scene from Currier and Ives.

Now, a week later, the ice houses are everywhere. Little villages that pop up during the day. You can't tell by looking whether they are occupied, but I always imagine that they are. That inside each of them is a couple of guys, dropping lines in ice, sharing a drink, telling lies, getting a long-awaited break from the world.

13 December 2012

Aunts and Uncles

A few weeks ago I was asked to share a memory of my Aunt Joyce for her birthday. Below is what I wrote....

The best thing about aunts and uncles is they usually treat you like a grownup long before your parents do. They blaze the trail and send signals to the rest of the family that the kid is growing up.

In 1976 or so, when i was 19, i spent a few days with my Aunt Joyce and her family. She took me to an Amway event and other cool things, showing me a little about what her grownup life was like. I got so caught up in the excitement that i whipped out my pack of salems and had coffee and cigarettes with the Amway folk, just like i was a big kid.

Later that night she and i stayed up til around 1, talking Amway and politics and family history and college adventures, and all sorts of other things. AND! We smokedcigarettes together!!! "your mom would kill me if she knew i was letting you smoke in my house", she said. And so for a few hours it was just me and my aunt, drinkin coffee, smokin, talkin, laughin.

Whenever i think of that day it makes me want to take up cigarettes again. But obviously it is my aunt that i miss, not the habit.

Over the years i have had many wonderful times with my Aunt Joyce, but none so great as the day she walked me down the road to perdition with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

05 December 2012

The man who made me love jazz

Dave Brubeck died today. One thousand years from now, when the last memory of 21st century silliness, like global warming, lady gaga, the tea party, and monster beverages has faded from human consciousness, there will still be a place for "Take Five". Perhaps it will be the tune of the national anthem of whatever country Minnesota is then part of.

How many times have I fallen to sleep listening to it? Dozens I'm sure. Mebbe a hundred.

I came late to jazz, real late, in my forties. In my youth I associated jazz with Dixieland, Louis Armstrong, Al Hirt. Sweaty fat people with trumpets blaring on Bourbon Street. Funny music, party music, not serious, not thoughtful, not warm. It didn't take.

Dave did not turn me on to jazz. Jane Monheit was the one who first piqued my interest about ten years ago, at a club in Minneapolis. But Brubeck put it inside me. That cool soft sound that seem so natural, like something we were all born to love.

There was a movie once, or a TV show, that played Take Five in the opening scene. The tune was soon all in my head and had to go to a store and thumb through all the CDs until I could see a copy of The Essential Dave Brubeck in my hands.

I don't write about jazz, don't know how, and never felt the need. Today I do. Thank you Dave.

30 November 2012

Taste of winter

It turned cold here right after Thanksgiving and we got a light dusting of snow. A thin crust of ice covered the smaller lakes and ponds.

27 November 2012

Ahh Winnipeg

Nice to feel the snow crunch underfoot and to take in a breath at zero.

07 November 2012

A terrible day for the Nation

Nothing about this is good. No way to spin it as being of value, in any way, to the nation.

I'm stunned, and its like being let down by a good friend. What a terrible day for the Cardinal Nation. Today the dodgers announced that Mark McGwire, until yesterday the Cardinals hitting coach, has traded red for blue. red to blue, and i'm scratchin my head over that one. Add this to the list of things today that make no sense.

30 October 2012

Airports make you eat stupid

Airports make you eat stupid. This was my thought yesterday as I was walking through Midway airport in Chicago, and later as I sat on a plane drinking coffee and snacking on peanuts. Coffee and peanuts. You would never combine the two in real life. Only on a plane.

But it's the airport that makes people really eat stupid. Maybe we are thinking that because we're flying across time zones that the regular food rules don't apply. In recent weeks I have observed such oddities as,  people eating lunch at 10am or patrons of Manchu Wok devouring spring rolls and cashew chicken for breakfast. Folks standing in front of a Sbarro around 9am, wondering when the place will open. Grown men carrying a bag of gummy worms. It's crazy.

25 October 2012

Charlotte airport, 925pm, gate b14

Four hour layover on a trip home from Houston. Sitting next to a woman reading an article titled "ode to autumn" in Good housekeeping magazine. She may be the only normal person here. Everyone else staring at small glowing rectangles and tapping them,including me

What in the world was i thinking when i picked this flight? After one dish of ice cream, one sudoku, one tasteless barbecue sandwich, and one hour in the famous Charlotte airport rocking chairs i am ready to go home. It snowed today and i missed it.

23 October 2012


Hard to watch last night's game. I might have seen thirty minutes of it total, which was much more than I watched of the presidential debates. I was not a good fan. Had a bad feeling about it. Kept switching back and forth between reality shows and checking the score. Told myself I would tune in once we got ahead. It didnt happen. This morning a cubs fan came by my office to let me know the Cardinals had lost.

It's been worse, but it's been a while. I was at game five in 1996 when the braves beat the Cardinals 13-0 in game five (and then two nights late beat them 15-0 in game seven). Or 2004 when the redsox swept the Cardinals in four. Since then, it's been a sweet decade for Cardinals fans.

We won't talk about this at our house. It's like it didn't happen. Like the death of a loved one or some terrible family scandal, it just won't come up.

Feb 14 - pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

16 October 2012

October at the Lake

This is a pic of the new place in mid October. Leaves gone from most of the trees. Boat docks off the water and on the shore. The evergreens beginning to stand out much more than in the summer. The cars on the road nearby sound louder, now that the sound barrier the leaves create is gone. One last cutting of the grass, and I'll be done with that until Spring. Time to put away lawnmowers and clean the dust off the snow blowers.

13 October 2012

Crazy Stuff

Cards march on the NLCS, and play into the hallowed deep weeks of October.

Best quote from the NLDS. From Game 5....

“I think the last three outs are the hardest in baseball,” Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “I don’t know why it’s so much harder than the other eight innings, but something about it. Crazy stuff happens in the ninth inning.”

08 October 2012

Thinking about the changes to the MLB playoffs

Even though the new system extended the season for my beloved Cardinals, it has not made baseball better, or more exciting, as was claimed. It has hurt the credibility of the playoff process. The team with the fifth best record in the league (the Cardinals) should not be there. The fact that they beat the Braves in the first wild-card playoff doesnt really prove anything. It just means that on that day they scored the most runs. Match the two teams in a series and most of the time the home team with the better record would win (in this case the Braves).

One game in baseball proves nothing and thereis no time for a wild card series. Why? Because baseball is an outdoors, fair weather, sport. Unlike football, which can be, and is, played under miserable weather conditions, baseball requires good weather. Or so they say. Add a three or five game series for wild card playoffs and before you know it you are playing the World Series entirely in November. Try that out on the fans of northern teams, White Sox, Indians, Red Sox, Brewers, Twins.

In one game anything can happen. Bad teams can clobber good teams. Not so with a five or seven game series, then the better team by definition, always wins. Last year (and every previous year) the winner of the World Series could always claim that no matter whom they faced in the postgame, they were the better team. No more. This years winner will have fans wondering if they really could have made it past the Braves or the Rangers, two good teams that fell short in a one-game death match.

23 September 2012

Star Wars - The Emperor Lives

Forget what you saw in the movies. The emperor lives and is plotting a return to power. Here he is, taking a nap and sitting across from me on a flight from Minneapolis to Atlanta last week.

I guess being an evil dark lord is tiring.

18 September 2012


I was walking through the Minneapolis skyway the other day on my way to work and passed a Subway restaurant that had just pulled out a tray of fresh baked bread. Immediately the smell reminded me of the lunchroom at Myrtle Grove Elementary School in Florida, where the lunch ladies made fresh rolls for the kids every day. Funny how certain smells, good or bad ones, can take you back to another place. Got me to thinking about other great smells,
2. Babies
3. Newly cut grass
4. Sun tan lotion on skin at the beach
5. Cigarettes and coffee, early in the morning
6. Gasoline
7. Old Spice after shave
8. Tomato plants in the South in July
9. A baseball glove

06 September 2012

The power of free

During lunch today I walked by the event shown in this picture and muttered aloud, "people standing in line.... at Arby's?" I should have known. The idea of getting something for free is a powerful motivator. It will make people do the oddest things, like stand in line for a free turkey sandwich. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am a former employee of Arby's and have not eaten there since leaving the company in the mid 1970's.)

Of course while it is free to these people in line, they know it isn't really without cost. The owner is paying the cost of the sandwich, ( the ingredients and labor to assemble and distribute) in hopes of gaining customers who will buy something else on this, or some future, visit.

Lots of other things aren't free. Someone else is paying for them. We know that. But when it comes from the government, as middleman, it's harder to make the connection to those who provide these things. It makes people do the oddest things, like vote for the people in office, as though they had something to do with creating these free things. Free prescription drugs, free school lunches, free flu shots, free digital cable adapters, free money, free armaments. Thank the unborn, and even the unconcieved, if they survive to their delivery date, they may get to pay for this, or like us, hand it off to someone else. 

Got the Lake house

We got the house on the lake that we have wanted for a while. I'm looking forward to seeing how the seasons change on this little acre of ours. We haven't moved in yet, that will come after we sell the current house. For now we'll be spending a lot of weekends here, moving a few things in and doing the yard work. This photo was taken yesterday from behind the house and looking out on the lake, while I was cutting the grass.

04 September 2012

Roan Mountain Shopping list 2012

This is the shopping list for the annual family trek to Roan Mountain, Tennessee. It's not all the groceries, just what my family needs to navigate through the meals supplied by others. While most years I buy from the local "American Owned" Ingles grocery in Newland, NC, this year I went to Walmart in Columbia, SC. Why I had those two to choose from is for another posting.

Bath Soap
BB Cards
Cheese - Wisconsin
Corn Chips
Crystal Light
Dr Enuf and other sodas
Esquire, etc. 
Hamburger for 8 
Lighter Fluid
Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies
Lunch Meat
Mt Olive Bread and Butter Pickles
Paper Plates
Paper Towels
Peanuts in Shell
Pinto Beans
Pork Roast 
Potted Meat
Salt and Pepper
Sugar, SweetLo, etc
Vienna Sausage
Wasp Spray
Wood Chips
The things scratched out will remain on the list for next year, we didnt need them this time, but you never know when we might. As usual we had too many condiments, too much charcoal, not enough margarine, just enough cigars. In addition to buying this stuff, there were numerous trips to Jacks grocery for more ice, more tomatoes, more onions. The mysteries surrounding the closing of the Davis Girls Peach shed in Roan Mountain and the unusually hard peaches at the Hump Mountain Produce Stand will remain unsolved until another year.

It was another weekend well spent. Included a nice drive with Mom from Columbia, SC to the mountain. A trip to my grandparents gravesite. A minor league game between the Elizabethton Twins and the Burlington Royals. Rain delayed the game but we got to walk around the park and get some souvenirs. A drive with cousins Becky and Barbara to Fred's General Store in Beech Mountain. Lunch at Bob's Dairyland for bbq sandwiches. The best steak dinner of the year. Hiking around Carver's Gap and the torturous jog up to the Miller homestead. Sunday morning sermon at the campground, a bit rambling but heart-felt and full of truth. Kevin's story of Inez and Aunt Bill at Harry's wake, which seems to get funnier and weirder each time I hear it. Numerous games of dominoes. NT's passion for Moose Tracks ice cream. And no gathering is complete without a few heated family arguments about things important and things trivial. A good time.

29 August 2012

As we head to the mountains one more time

“The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.”

― Madeleine L'Engle


01 August 2012

Don't believe this

But I do, I was there, I saw it happen.

246pm, grabbed a cab in downtown San Francisco on a Tuesday afternoon. Around the 500 block of Market Street.

315pm, same day 29 minutes later, I'm sitting in a plane bound for Phoenix.

31 July 2012


Cousins are interesting relations. When you're growing up they are a measuring stick for how your life is faring versus that of others in your extended family. Your parents and their parents were siblings so you sense that the parenting should be the same. Would be nice if you could pick what you like best from the attributes of each. You would think that at a minimum the rules would be similar, as in, "mom, why do we have to go to church today? Aunt Trudy lets her kids skip..."

You feel that you should also in some way be on equal ground with them when it comes to the material things of this world. "Dad, can we get a motorcycle like Uncle Ted?" Somewhere along the way the comparing ends as lives just get too complicated and too different. Deaths, births, college, work, illnesses, family crises affect us all in different ways.

If you're blessed, as my family is, you finally get to the place where you simply enjoy that shared experience of having a same set of grandparents. It is something special to to share, and I do so with thirteen other people. One of these is my cousin Barbara.

Barbara and her daughter, my cousin Becky, came to visit us last week. Barbara was, to her family, what my daughter Rachel was to ours, the first grandchild. Supposedly the chosen one, as they might both think. The one lavished with attention for something they had nothing to do with, landing on earth ahead of the hoard to follow. 

When we were growing up the age difference between us seemed massive, so I have few childhood memories of Barbara. She was the grownup cousin who was so old she hung out with my aunts, and at places only teenagers could understand, with mysterious names like "The Blue Circle". She was in the background as I did things with younger cousins. Now the difference is not so big, as I am catching up on her in age. And it is good that after all these years we have that family bond and a long list of similar experiences to draw us together. She and Becky serve as the best reminder to all of us, that after the parenting is over with, parents and children can be very good friends. They enjoy being together and it shows.

Becky and I have the unique shared experience of once having ordered blistering hot coffee in an outdoor restaurant overlooking DC in the middle of the hottest night of summer. It was an atmosphere so sweltering it could have been the waiting room of hell in some old movie. It was about the stupidest thing to order but it seemed like the thing to do. Because that's what our family does when family gets together. We drink coffee and then we drink some more coffee. This may not seem unique but we really had no control over the situation. It was something our people do.

The funny thing about cousins is that you know tons about each other as it relates to family travails and experiences, but often know little about their real lives. And that's why at this stage in life it is so good to spend time with them. To compare notes on experiences shared and unshared.

I am glad they are both my cousins and I am especially glad that in the year 2012 I enjoy their company more than at any time in the past.

20 July 2012

Monday at Carver's Gap

This is where I spent last Monday, hiking around Carver's Gap, along the Tennessee/NC border. I had a meeting in Knoxville on Tuesday and decided to go a day early and roam some old haunts in Carter County. I flew in to Johnson City on Sunday, spent the night there and spent Monday night at Beech Mountain.

All in, it was a wonderful day. I spent about two hours here, up and down hills, an hour out and back. Some of it I walked and some I ran. Odd to be there by myself, as I'm always here with family. The day included a drive through Roan Mountain State Park, the villages of Roan Mountain, Banner Elk and Beech Mountain. Breakfast in Elizabethton and a drive down Main Street. Lunch at Bob's Dairyland in Roan Mountain, a treat I waited too many years to enjoy.

It was election day in Elizabethton and for an hour or so the tea party was out in full force at the Monument, protesting the latest proposed tax increase. Benny was on the porch, but I didn't stop to chat. I should have.

At Beech I stayed in a non-descript little motel called Archer's Mountain Inn. Nice views, nice rocking chairs on the porch, and good neighbors in the other rooms.

14 July 2012

Walmart-Maplewood Missouri-10:16 pm

Last weekend we spent a day in St. Louis. No Cardinals, just family. Had a wonderful day at the lake house of my daughter-in-law's family and got to know her mom and dad and aunt and uncle a little bit better. It's a strong family and it makes me feel good about the way life is unfolding for my son.

We went to Walmart on Friday night. Nothing special happened. Just the normal stuff of life. At these visits even the mundane seems special, because you're with those you love and don't see often.

So for about 48 hours tiny little things like getting gas, and donuts, and petting dogs, and discussing the health of tomato plants seemed bigger and more full of life than they otherwise would. It's great being around family for holidays, but in some ways being together on the ordinary days is even better.

24 June 2012

All 50 states - finally

After several years of traveling around the US, on both business and family vacations, I finally made it to all 50 states. The last one was Oregon, around 2pm this afternoon. This is a picture of the welcome center in Umatilla, Oregon. I stayed in the state for about 20 minutes, about the same amount of time I spent in Idaho a couple of years ago.

I don't remember the order I went to all the others, but the last five took a while to round up and were in this order: North Dakota 2006, South Dakota 2007, Wyoming and Idaho 2009, Oregon June 24 2012.

Nice to be done with it. I was hoping for a scenic drive, but Spokane Washington to Umatilla, OR  is more like the West than the Pacific Northwest. Hills, prairie, tumbleweeds. Beautiful in its own way I suppose.

By the time I got out of HS, I had been to TN, IL, WI, IN, KY, GA, NC, VA, AL, MS, FL, LA, TX, NY.

College travels only added a few more: MO, AR, KS, IA, SC.

The 80's and early family vacations added OK, MD, PA, DE. Business travels took me to AZ, CA, NJ, and all the New England states.

The 90's added business and family travel to CO, NM, MI, WV, OH, WA

The 2000's brought family vacations to AK and HI and the move to Minnesota opened travel doors to the west. NV, UT, NE, MN, MT, and then the last five mentioned above.

20 June 2012

I want a lake

I am in the midst of a multi-year search for a home on a lake.

Our home in the suburbs of the Twin Cities is too big. It is great at Christmas and holidays when its all decked out for a special event, or when company is coming. But the rest of the time its a lot of space to keep clean and maintain, not because we want to but because we have to. Because its there and we own it.

Thus, the past year and a half we have been working on a dream of swapping bedrooms and an extra story for lakefront. It's a big undertaking and one that is easy to do around here, but difficult to do exactly right. While we have hundreds of lakes to choose from, finding one that is the right size and suitable for year round activities with houses in our price range is tougher. Combine that with the normal problem of finding a house that you actually like, and it gets pretty tough. In the last week we've gone back and forth between the expensive, ready to move in type to the fix-it-up yourself project that you wonder if it can be made livable. All of them are farther away from the city, which is both a positive and a negative.

We are looking for land (but not too much), privacy (but with neighbors close by), in the country (but near the city), flat lot (but not too flat), and finally a Goldilocks lake that is just the right, not too small or too big, not too deep or too shallow, not too popular or too deserted. Piece of cake. 

31 May 2012

Running dreams

I dreamed last night that my feet had begun to change shape from years of running. They were very flat and flexible, and you could bend them so that the toes touched the shin, like with a newborn. The toes had the thickness similar to a pancake and curled upward at the end. They were very bruised and bluish. I showed them to my wife, though neither of us were overly concerned.

What is odd about this, is that after over 14 years of not missing a day of running, I hardly ever run in my dreams. My dreams are about other things that have nothing to do with my real life. Weird stuff. Like the one I had about giving golf advice to Phil Mickleson at our house in St. Louis while babysitting a kid with no body.

30 May 2012

In the dog days of Spring

It finally got into the 80's here a couple of weeks ago, warm by Minnesota standards. Despite the fact that the AC was broken, we had a great weekend with the whole family together and Uncle Kevin. What made the weekend great was that we didn't overdo it on activities. Mainly just hung out with one another

 We went to the drive-in one night, and out to dinner another. But a lot of it was just being at home, watching the rare Cardinals game on TV in Twins territory, the girls doing some sort of craft, board games and card games, Sunday morning at church, and the like.
No single thing stood out, just a series of very nice moments together.

When I was a young parent and wondered what it would be like when the kids were grown and visit, I think it is a weekend just like this that I would have had in mind. 

15 May 2012

Fish On

There is something about fishing that puts all the other cares of life to rest. A day of fishing is a bit like an afternoon at the ballpark. No matter what you have going on, it is easy to get lost in the moment and focus solely on now. That's the way it was last Thursday morning in Heber Springs, Arkansas.

Caroline and I did not catch any huge trout, but we caught a lot of them. On Arkansas' Little Red River at the Red River Trout Dock . We fished from around 730 to 1130, with our guide, Roy. She caught 22, I got 11. She was 2-1 on me all day and cast a line as she was born to do. Like riding a bike, once you learn how to cast you never really forget it.

This was a good ending of a week long trip of visiting family and wrapping up a first year of college. A great way to kick off the summer. An even better way for a father and daughter, who rarely get to do things together, to spend a day forgetting about everthing else that is swirling around them. For a few hours there were no texts, no emails, no clocks, no phone calls from parents or clients, no posting to facebook, no deadlines. Just a couple of rods, a boat and a cool slow river inching its way across the belly of a beautiful piece of ground.

30 April 2012

The weekend I did almost nothing

Got rid of a futon by giving it away on craiglist. Went to see "Hunger Games". Grilled steaks on Sunday night. Cut the grass for the first time this year. Loaded salt into the water softener. Went to church. Went to Costco. Got a haircut. Ran about six miles each day. Played scrabble. Watched a Cardinals game on tv. Scotch guarded the new outdoor furniture cushions. Planted flowers in various outside containers. Restocked my supply of charcoal and hickory chunks. Pulled weeds. Finished watching "24, The Complete Series", for the third time, all while running on the treadmill. Watched game 6 of the 2011 World Series, also while running. So baisically, running, watching tv, yardwork.

24 March 2012


Road trip through the sand hills of North Carolina with my brother Kevin.

20 March 2012

What's in your wallet

Mine has
1. boarding pass for my wife for a flight to Phoenix
2. health insurance card
3. a bank notice from 1981, closing my checking acct due to overdrafts
4. Delta airlines Diamond Medallion card
5. A yellow post-it with the dimensions of a container I am shopping for
6. bus pass
7. building access card
8. Costco card
9. Chicago CTA transit card
10. One Amex and three Visa cards
11. An Ingles Advantage card
12. AAA membership card
13. Nexus border crossing card
14. Minnesota drivers license
15. Picture of the family
16. $27 US
17. two restaurant receipts
18. Minnesota fishing license
19. One of my old business cards with my childrens height, by year. I copied off the wall in our basement in St. Louis before we moved.
20. My father's obituary
21. Friends of Roan Mountain lifetime membership card
22. Cardinals/cubs ticket stub from May 2, 2004.
23. Business card of Dr. Natalia Kramarevsky

I am running out of things to blog about

I have bloggers block. No more blogs about crazy weather, Christmas services, cigars, or airplane experiences. At least for a while. Politics are too toxic. I'm stumped.

29 February 2012


Yesterday was my first trip here since the Reagan Administration.

Before email, before pagers, when fax machines were the cool way to share info, when "portable" computers weighed around 50 lbs, when I was still on my first of several Dodge minivans, before two of my kids were born, before cell phones, I came here a few times on business.

Back then the Pittsburgh airport was known as the "air mall". It's common now to see the same stores in the airport as you do in your neighborhood. But back in the day, there was only one place like that and it was PIT. Travelers, including myself, would ASK to connect through Pittsburgh even when a one way was available (this was in the day when you called a travel agent to book a ticket). Even guys were caught up in the idea of shopping during a layover.

Today it seems just like any other, but there was a time when this was the most special airport in the country .

28 February 2012

A loved one in winter is always welcome

We had a wonderful visit this week from our niece Kristin. Something about seeing family members in the dead of winter that makes the time memorable. Being the northern most outpost of the clan, visitors come by seldom, and rarely this time of year.

We gave her our usual grand tour of the twin cities. Thanks to a warmer than normal winter we had to skip the ice fishing, snow shoeing, ice skating or any of the other array of activities that would have usually been available. We settled for a few restaurants, a trip to Stillwater, the JJ Hill House, the Catherdral of Saint Paul, and of course Mall of America.

The best times were just talking. She shared with us her life in Delaware. Her work with inner city kids is a wonderful ministry and one she is very passionate about. It is great to hear about all the ways the Lord is using her.

We shared with her some of the deep dark lore of her family history from the period prior to her birth. Nothing really bad, just a few random stories she had not yet heard.

There were also plans discussed for future visits. This seems to be deeply woven in the culture of families. Whenever we are with loved ones the subject always turns to plans for next summer, next Christmas, next fall, or that next amazing road trip. I guess its a way of us all saying that we want to be together again and share more times like these. Which is as it should be.

09 February 2012

I miss my wife, but....

My wife is gone for the week. I have the house all to myself.

I come home, run on the treadmill a while. Then I enjoy a really good cigar, in my living room, with ESPN, and a nice roaring winter fire.

I miss her, but when I have one of these, well, the absence is a bit more tolerable.

She comes back on Monday, late in the day. The trick is figuring out when is the latest I can stop smoking and have the house still smell reasonably nice. I'm thinking Saturday night, but that's cutting it close.

No matter, I earned this.

04 February 2012

Christmas is over, sort of

Today was the day I took down the last of the Christmas decorations. The ones on the outside of the house. This year we decorated the outside with wreaths that were lighted at night. Around Christmas day I realized to my horror that I had all the bows in the wrong place. All around the neighborhood wreaths had bows at the top, mine had them at the bottom. How did I miss this? Note to self for next year....

In the back of our basement hang the wreaths. They will gather dust until some time around October, when I'll start fooling around with them, checking lights, replacing bows. In the summer, when Christmas seems so far off, they hang there in silence ready for service on a moments notice. It's nice to see them there, even if I am not allowed to display them publicly.

In a nearby closet are all the Christmas decorations. Packed away finally. We took the inside ones down a little sooner than normal this year. I'm not sure why, something to do with the boredom of a New Years Day. Once Christmas Day is past my wife starts secretly packing things away, like a Mission Impossible to see how much she can remove without my noticing. One day it's "Hey, where's the big Santa?". The next morning it's "My dearest, what happened to the NOEL candleholders?". A few moments later, "Where are the NUTCRACKERS and who kidnapped baby Jesus !!!!" I know the answer, they are all part of the long parade of decorations back to the Christmas closet.

My one victory this year was leaving the outside lights on much longer than in the past. Usually I turn them off on January 6, which is Epiphany for the western world and Christmas Day for the orthodox Christians. Seems about the right time. But the last few years I noticed that a few of my neighbors kept their lights on long into the winter. This year I joined them and kept mine on until the end of January. We had no snow this year, and the lights added a bit of merriment to an otherwise dull and dark and grey and brown landscape. I set them to turn on/off at dusk/dawn which meant they were on when I came home from work, and still going when I left in the morning.

My wife's stepfather, Onis, was born on Christmas eve. He will be buried in two days. After 101 years and 102 Christmases. Down here we all have boxes of little ornaments and trinkets that we haul out once a year. He is at that place beyond the horizon, where it is always Christmas and always Easter. For him, the real thing is just now beginning.

See you later, Onis

Onis Smith, third grandfather to my children and stepfather to my wife, is finally spending this day in the presence of our Lord. He was so looking forward to this, after spending 101 years and 42 days visiting this planet. Below is a a post I wrote at Thanksgiving 2010....

I am spending thanksgiving morning with a friend who is 99 years old, and a few days away from 100. We watched the Macy's parade and now The Godfather. What goes on in the mind at that age? Here are a few of his comments this morning. Some of these are things said to me, other are prayers uttered as the mind slips back and forth between places and times.

"The birds have gone south, why can't I?

O Father, my heavenly father, I love you, thank you. I'm 107, born in 1910.

I didn't expect to be this old, I'd give anything if my son was here.

I can still hear some, but see very little.

My wife, I'd give anything if she was here. She's my second wife, she'll be my last one.

How I miss walking through the trees, rather have trees than flowers. O God, our Father.

My brother and I never did get along, don't know why. He was always a momma's boy. God only knows where my son is.

O father, take me home. To Harrison. It's not far.

I wish the birds would come back, but I don't think they will, I don't blame them.

My wife, my beautiful flower, why did you take her away from me?"

He sleeps a lot, comments on what he sees outside his window, and prays. His prayers are an ongoing conversation with God. Expressing regrets over past mistakes or failings. He is a good Godly man. I hope that when my mind begins to fail as his is, I will have the Lord and my family continually on my mind, as he has on this 99th year and 335th day of his life.

01 January 2012

Burning the Red Sox Hat 2012

We say goodbye to 2011 and another year of St. Louis Cardinals dominance of major league baseball.

We say hello to 2012 as we've done for several years now, by burning a red sox cap. Why we do this? See this blog entry...  http://midnightdiner.blogspot.com/2008/12/burning-hat-and-other-family-traditions.html

Rachel did the honors this year of tossing the hat in the fireplace, while Caroline documented the event with her photographer's eye.

We began the day with six cheap redsox caps in a trashbag and hanging from a peg in our laundry room. In a way it bugs us that we actually paid for these things, since by doing so we are sending dollars to that team. But they were cheap and on the bottom shelf of a discount rack at the Walmart SuperCenter in Waco, TX. How they got there, who knows? But they were just about $5 a piece and will take us through 2017.

The day also saw my running streak pass the 14 year mark. We ate blackeyed peas and rice for good luck, and played the game of "Life", which I suppose is a metaphor of some type for this day. A good beginning to a good year.