19 November 2014

Merry Christmas to me

I tell this story not to show what a great guy I am, but to remind me that at least this one time, I did the right thing. Barely.

today I went to lunch at a Chinese place by my office. As I walked I passed a young woman with a baby, sitting near the entrance. That was not unusual. This time of year there are plenty of babies and moms on the Minneapolis skyway. Christmas shopping, pictures with Santa, etc.

What caught my attention was the sadness on her face. Like something out of a painting. One of those expressions that we have when we are out of options. Deep sadness mixed with gloom, agony, despair. 

I went inside and ate. I ate quickly as I do when something is bugging me. I kept thinking about her. wondering why she was so sad. Feeling guilty that I didn't stop and ask her. But of course my guilt was not so great that I would go look for her. Of course not, I had lunch to eat. If I left I'd lose my place in line! No, I just waded through with the sort of bad feeling that you let linger. Just long enough until there is nothing you can do about it.

I finished my meal. I walked back to where she was sitting, and of course she was gone. I looked around. I strolled through the skyway and headed toward the direction of Macy's and Target, thinking that if I were her I might be going that way.

Whatever she had been doing and whatever I was doing fell into synch. There she was again, this time pushing the baby in a stroller and on her phone.

Unlike when I first saw her there were now a lot of people around. So I wasn't going to actually talk to her, that would have looked weird.

She was talking to a friend asking for money to buy her baby a coat and hat. Something about being robbed last week. No help came from that friend I could tell. As I passed her she was quickly dialing another friend, and I stayed close enough to hear her plead,  "do you have 30 or 40 dollars that I can borrow until payday?" She retold the story again of her situation.

I felt the wad of bills in my pocket, and I knew it was about what she needed.

I turned around and looked at her. She could have been twenty or so, but had the care-worn face of someone much older. I handed her the bills and said, "this is for you. Merry Christmas". she had a stunned look on her face. And in the middle of Macy's, a week before Thanksgiving, I got this wonderful Christmas-style bear hug. She said " thank you so much". I mumbled a reply. 

I walked off to hear her, still on the phone with her friend, "you wont believe what just happened..."

I will buy a lot of things this Christmas and spend a lot of money on people I love. Some on sale, some not. But the best bargain of the Christmas season will be that forty dollar hug.

There are so many needs around us. So easy to just keep walking.

09 November 2014


We are getting ready for the first snow storm since last winter. The house is ready. The summer tools are all put away. Rakes, shovels, hoe, wheelbarrow and lawnmower are sound asleep in the shed. They'll hibernate until some day in April, perhaps March, they are called to duty again.

Only the smoker is still on duty, our iron sentry in the backyard, awaiting a Thanksgiving rendezvous with a turkey. 

Our first snow is usually a light one, an inch or two. They say this one will be several multiples of that. We'll see.

It has been a good fall. One of the best of our twelve years in Minnesota.

It is 45 days until Christmas.

15 August 2014


Delayed in stlouis. Handel's Messiah has a way of making the wait bearable, with the haunting lyrics, ..... All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way.

13 August 2014

Prayer for Lilly

I met you for the first time a few days ago. These are my prayers and thoughts for you....

  • That you some day stand where I do, perhaps in the 2060's, and push back a tear over grey hair and hold your own grandchild.
  • That you will some day kneel in prayer and thank God for your mom and your dad.
  • May you soon feel the cool dirt in your fingers and plant something
  • May you believe all your Church teaches about who you are, why you are, and who sent you. 
  • May your laughs be long and hearty
  • May you make your Mom and Dad better people, as they did their parents

02 July 2014

A fortune cookie I do not understand

think about this for a while. It'll get your head spinning....

"All things in moderation - even moderation"

from a Chinese American restaurant in Minneapolis

12 June 2014

Augusta National 2014

I had the privilege this year of attending one of the practice rounds of the Masters Tournament at Augusta National. I went with my brother and his two best friends.

I am not a golfer but I wanted to see this famous place in person, and with someone who cherishes it.

I cannot appreciate the course as a golfer would. I can only see it through the eyes of one who loves grass that feels good between the toes, well groomed shrubs, sugar white sand, pine straw. There is a perfect combination of these things here in Georgia.

It has been my honor to travel to a few places where people took special pride in appearance, an almost fanatical attention to detail. So perfect you want to test them, to see if they are still paying attention right.... now. I wanted to drop trash on the ground, though I didn't, just to see how long it would take for someone to pick it up.

I do not recall every hearing about the Masters as a child. We were not a sports family and one would never hear anyone call out "the game is on!" at our house. That would come in later years when the boys grew up and inserted sports fan-ness into the vacuum. The Masters finally got my attention when I watched Jack Nicklaus win it in 1986. Why I happened to watch it that year I do not know, but my memory of the old lion charging across the course is etched in my head, somewhere.

The first time I heard about Augusta National was when a friend of a friend was invited to play there in the mid 1980's. He spoke as though I would know how special a course it is, and I acted through the conversation with the appropriate nods and chuckles.

On this day in 2014 just about everything was perfect. Members greeted you warmly as you entered the gates, green jackets with a fit that made their tailors proud. Coffee was hot, but not too so. My cigars seemed to know where they were and the Onyx Churchills burned smoothly and evenly throughout the day.

We spent time on hole 16, Redbud. Any boy, golfer or not, would love to watch the players try and skip balls across the water hazard like skipping stone on a pond. This part of the game I understood, the clowning around, putting on a show for the folks behind the ropes.

I followed Phil Mickelson and Jason Dufner for a while, chatting about who knows what, like they were just two guys getting away from the wives and kids for a few hours. They would both miss the cut and would soon be back home cleaning gutters and bathing the dog.

The Eisenhower Tree was gone this year, which made it even better for me, because I don't like pine trees. While it is etched in the Augusta memories of all golfers, there will soon come a day when it will only be known by the stories. No one playing the course will have actually seen it. I am ahead of them, for I have no memory of it at all. But then why should I, I am not a golfer.

The day ended almost as good as it started. There was a mind numbing wait for one of our group to check out every item in the gift shop, and a long walk back to our parking lot, but those are stories for another time. This day was about two brothers who made it to an important milestone in time. We welcomed a spring together that just months ago we were not sure we would see. Husbands and wives might have better days in their own ways, but not brothers.

11 May 2014

Spring finally

I don't know why it has taken so long for me to post to this blog. Try to put something here at least monthly.

It has been a good spring, though wetter than we would like. I suppose there is always something about the climate to love or hate and this year it is all the water. Our drought that began last summer is over. The lower part of the lot is under water, about a foot of it. That means that the dock and lift are still waiting to be pushed off the shore and the boat is still in the driveway. There are ducks and geese swimming where I normally cut grass.

As an amateur gardener, it has been a busy spring. Time will tell whether it is productive. In addition to a small vegetable garden the weekends have been spent clearing brush and planting a number of small shrubs, for both their flowers and fruit. We have planted cranberries, lilacs, gooseberries, blueberries, currants. A straw bale garden is also underway.
We have taken down six trees that were either in danger of falling over, or had outgrown their space. Now the challenge is to get grass and shrubs to grow where the trees once stood.
I am sitting on my deck looking out over woods full of songbirds and you can almost see the leaves growing by the hour. Royals and Seattle on the radio.
It is mothers day and I am so thankful for the mother of my children, for my mother and the soon to be mother of my first grandchild. It's a good day.

24 February 2014

On the deck

This winter seems to be longer than normal, with more snow and cold. Don't know whether that's true, but seems that way. Perhaps as we age the more difficult weather days seem longer than they actually are.

They weekend was spent gazing at my Weber Grill. While shoveling snow off the deck I wished that it was warm enough to cook something. While that's always possible in theory, the reality is no one wants to stand over a grill when it's 14 degrees.

However, there was something about cleaning off the snow, and digging out the tires from an ice pack, that made it feel a little warmer. I took the lid off and smelled the dead coals from the last cookout of 2013. Stale old used charcoal. And yet, it did have this tiny aroma that gave a hint of better weather to come.

Today I look out on snowdrifts 3 and 4 feet high. Piles of plowed snow 6 ft high. In just a month, most of it will be gone, replaced by water on the lake, a few puddles perhaps here and there on top of the huge ice cover.

28 January 2014

Pitchers, Catchers and the smell of barbecue

On this coldest date of the year, two observations.

1) I stepped off the bus this morning in -17 temps. Was hit by the smell of barbecue coming from who knows where and immediately felt 100 degrees warmer.
2) Pitchers and catchers report in a couple of weeks. Kudos to the Arizona Diamondbacks for reporting the earliest of all, Feb 6th, followed by the Dodgers on the 8th and the Cardinals on the 12th. Everyone else in the National League is still sleeping in on those days and show up sometime around the 14th. It will still be cold here, but somewhere there is the whizz of a pitch, the smack to the glove and the crack of a bat that all sound like spring around here.  

27 January 2014

Sub zero dreams

"It's a little chilly out there", is a much-heard phrase in the winter. Minnesotans have a way of not admitting its really cold. But when it slips to double-digits below zero, we finally throw in the towel and confess that just like the rest of the country, we're cold. It may have taken us longer to get there, but we are shivering. School is closed today, and we are secretly a bit ashamed.

I stand in my living room and look out the window. My smoker has snow piled around it from earlier days spent shoveling snow on the patio. I have since given up on keeping it clear. My trusty Weber grille has a nice round mound of snow on the cover. A container of lighter fluid is nestled in the snow nearby, a silent sentry in the barbecue army.

Looking toward the woods there is not a single sign of life. No birds. No squirrels. No red tailed fox hunting mice under the snow. As I drink a cup of coffee I am the only thing moving as far as I can see. 

My deck gives a loud pop, as it does when we get below zero. Like I need a reminder of how cold it is out there. Looking across the lake it is hard to imagine that in a few months there will be boats and water skis and canoes. First will come a hardy canoe or two. Soon after the docks will begin to appear, mysterious fingers coming up from the soil and stretching out into the water.

But for now, on days of minus this or minus that, we simply look out the window, taking a little solace from the fact that the sun is now out at 5pm and that wondrous rotation of the earth is turning toward summer. Mr. Winter is at his strongest this week. But he is getting old. Soon he'll glance to the north and take a tiny step in retreat.

01 January 2014