Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas, and New Things

This Christmas marked a lot of firsts. First time in two years I haven't had to get up at 3:00 am and go plow snow at the hospital. First time we've slept in (the kids let us go until 8:00!). First time having a potted tree. He's in the house now because we can't plant him till we get a thaw, but he's going back on the porch shortly so he stays dormant. And I say he because he is Steve the Tree, it's what we name our tree every year and the kids get very attached. It's not so much an environmental consciousness that leads us to a renewable Christmas tree as the fact that the Short People can't stand to see their pal Steve burn every spring. And last but not least the first Christmas that we spent less than $300 on the whole holiday.

Let that soak in...

That's right. No excess. No obnoxious decorations. Sure, it means that The Missus has been knitting, sewing and otherwise crafting gifts since March, but she has a knitting addiction anyway and it helps justify the cost of the yarn this way. A nice side benefit is that my kids spent three quarters of the year thinking about what they could give to people for Christmas instead of what they want to get. They're more keyed up about the next Netflix movie showing up than Old Saint Nick. They went to bed (a little on the early side even) just like every other night of the year.

And because Christmas was such a low key event I actually felt rested this morning and got to work to give my Missus a little additional present for Boxing Day. As soon as I got back from church I brought the lappy in the kitchen to stream Public Radio for Handel's Messiah in its entirety, poured a coffee (and then a Guinness) and scrubbed that room from top to bottom. She woke up from her nap and I came up the back steps just in time to catch the "Wow!" moment.

So that was Christmas for us. A lot more like a Holy Day than a holiday a-la Stuff-Mart this year. It wasn't that hard either. We just decided not to buy in (literally) to all the crap this year. Hope you and yours had a wonderful weekend. See you soon.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

We're Halfway There!

Ahh, Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year has come and gone and all us SAD-ies SAD-ites those of us who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder can heave a tiny sigh of relief knowing that the days are getting incrementally, infinitesimally longer.

I'm not sure how much of that I actually believe. My Dad has had SAD for years and had a special light that he used to sit under. Except that one year he just decided not to get it and didn't. We use special light bulbs at the hospital where I work to improve mood but I'm not sure that beyond relieving eye strain that they do much.

All I know is it's frickin dark! I get up and drive to work in pitch black, and I punch out in the middle of the afternoon and drive home into the setting sun. It's just good to know that living like a coal miner is only a temporary condition and it won't be long now until we're out of the woods.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Dining Room Table

I was remembering family dinners from long ago while I munched with my family today. Both my parents and grandparents had relatively small dining rooms that we all crammed into when more of the family was in town. What was usually a catch-all for our daily junk and paperwork transformed into the groaning board with happy relatives crammed in, elbow to elbow, seat backs nearly touching the walls.

Once you got assigned your seat you were pretty much in for the duration. Only those close to the exits had any options for movement. So you just stayed there, sandwiched in between uncles and cousins while grandma and one or two others kept the table stocked.

When I was small it was like visiting a mountain range after seeing it in a textbook. Faces usually only seen plastered across the door of the fridge suddenly loomed large, familiar yet slightly strange. Uncle Dave in a different shirt, Aunt Sally's hair a little longer, the cousins all a little taller. Somehow the lighting seemed warmer at those times, the furniture nicer. I remember how it would take my little kid perspective and skew it all around into something magical and memorable.


Friday, October 29, 2010

To My Missus

It's hard to say how glad I am that you're at home waiting for me. I couldn't do this if it weren't for you. It's for you I work these hours, that I put myself through the ringer. When you light a candle for me to see when I drag myself up the walk I feel like a sailor coming home to port. I forget that my knees feel like rusty hinges and my shoulders feel like they're hanging on by strings. It's like the people who tear me apart every day did that to someone else.

When I push through the door and you turn and smile at me the weary man drops away and the excited little kid inside of me feels his heart leap. Even if you're exhausted too and your hair is flat your smile has enough light in it to erase all the darkness in my life. You are radiant when you smile. Your eyes are my undoing, and the mending of my hurts.

Almost every day I thank God that we are not like other couples. That our love reaches far beyond the excitement of meeting and dating. That if the thrill is sometimes gone it's been replaced by something so much better. That it extends to dirty dishes and doctor visits, cookies dropped off at work and laughter when our eyes meet over the kids' heads.

I've never had much and I don't expect I ever will. The longer I live the less it seems to matter. When I prayed for a wife I got one that made me richer than most men can dream of. A slice of your bread in my hand. A scolding when I need it. A song from your lips. Laughter in your eyes. These are all my riches and I know it, every day I know it like I know my name.

I'm glad you're mine.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Old Nails

I took a week off from work to put a little addition on my house this week. My Dad took the week too and a couple old friends have stopped by to help. It's been the most fun I've had in ages. I used to build houses with my Dad, for seventeen years before he retired. It's been five since we've swung a hammer together and it's like all we did was take the weekend off. All the jokes and sayings are even still the same.

But that's not why I wanted to write tonight. The thing that got me sitting at the keyboard is the three old nails sitting on my work bench in the shop. I'll get to them in a minute.

As we tore into the project we've been going over it with a carpenter's eye. It's an automatic thing, you go over the work, get into the guys heads that did it. We pulled off some of the vinyl siding that went on in the early Nineties when I was in junior high. Worked around the replacement windows that went in after the fire in '77 when I was but a wee lad of one. Next came the clapboard siding underneath that we placed earlier than the kitchen addition that went on in the early Fifties but not original to the house. We're away from the section that went on in the Teens or Twenties but we think that's the vintage.

The real treat to a couple of carpenters was seeing the bones of the oldest part of the house. The sheathing predates even the tongue and groove that they used before plywood came along. The original house was post and beam construction and the rough hewn sheathing was sixteen inches wide! (shiver)

I was at the top of a ladder at one point, pulling off a piece of trim right at the peak and as I pulled out the nails I noticed that they were cut nails, square. They were likely made in a stamping machine and not by a blacksmith, they're too skinny. I pulled three of them and stuck them in my pocket. And that's what I've been thinking of all day.

There's a map of my town that dates to the 1860's and my house is on it. That makes the old section at least 150 years old and likely a decade or so more than that. These three nails were driven into that rake board two lifetimes ago. The Civil War hadn't been fought yet. The tree that lumber was milled from was a sapling when the ink was still wet on the Constitution and buccaneers still sailed the seas.

All this and more speaks to me from a humble piece of trim that has perched on the peak of my house, out of sight and out of mind. Cool.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Feel Like A Genius

I read about this open source wireless router software, DD-WRT, and decided to give it a try. I bought a $12 router on eBay, flashed it and started messing around. There's something quirky about the way I have out home network that's stopping me from using it to repeat signal to the back yard. Last night at a gig though I had a few minutes and finally it it going.

I stuck it in a window and got it connected to the neighbor's open network and suddenly, voilà! I had my own secure network right there in the bar. I got my laptop and iPod connected and was running iTunes remotely during set breaks. I even got the wireless mouse app to work so I could run the recording software and browse the web without reaching in front of the lighting guy

Anyway, it felt hella good to be tinkering again.


Monday, May 31, 2010

The Green

Well, I just gave the lawn mower a tune up, which in my case means a quick coat of WD-40 and a gentle torque of the cutting adjustment screws. That's right, even without a picture you guessed that I'm mowing with an old fashioned reel mower.

This, however, is not your grandad's push mower. While that old hunk you may have pushed around as a kid was made of cast iron and maple, the new breed is exceedingly light and when sharp does one heck of a job on your lawn. I find that I can mow my whole lawn faster than with a self propelled gas model because I'm not limited to one speed, and it also seems easier to push and has the added benefit of being nearly silent. (With a not-so-quiet roll of the eyeballs toward all my neighbors that seem to want to rev their tiny engines during naptime on the weekends.)

My current method takes four days to cut the grass, but less than an hour each day. I divided the lawn into four sections. Each one takes about half an hour to mow and another half hour to rake. The clippings go in the chicken pens or on the garden. And while it may seem dreadfully archaic to rake one's lawn in the age of mulching mowers, don't forget that for my efforts I also remove nearly all sharp objects like nut shells and such from the path of tiny feet.

The real benefit though is that I'm getting a full body cardio workout four days a week. And it spreads out an odious chore so that I don't wind up huffing and puffing after a long slog behind the Toro feeling like I just wasted two and a half hours of my life. AND... in addition to whipping myself back into shape, I'm saving about $25 per mow (that would be $20 to hire a neighborhood kid and $5 in fuel) by doing it myself the old fashioned way. That's about $400 over the course of the summer.

For people with small yards it's almost a no-brainer to get one of these things. Picture ditching that roaring monster and all the gas, oil, smog and repair bills that go along with it. Greens tenders will tell you that a reel mower is better for your lawn too, it actually cuts the blades as opposed to just basically bashing the tops off. Anyway, that's enough plugging for the Crunchy Granola life style. Just felt like puttin that out there.

I have received no compensation from the reel mower industry for my writing.

I would also like to point out that unlike internal combustion powered mowers, my manual model starts on the first pull (er... push) every time.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Save Water - Save Money

I was reading on some trendy gadget/DIY website the other day and came across a little known (in the US) technology called Dual Flush that can save a lot of water in the bathroom. Widely used in areas where water is limited, environmentally conscious (or stingy) folks are starting to pick up on it. The article said that retrofit kits cost less than $40 so it wasn't long before I was at the hardware store looking to pick one up.

The first one I purchased was for our old fashioned toilet that still uses about 4.5 gallons per flush. With enthusiastic potty trainers and drastically rising water prices I was glad to see that one get a tune up. Our other toilet was already a 1.6 GPF model, but same scenario, happy to save a few bucks/gallons a day. Here's the breakdown.

Upstairs on the old water hog I bought a One2Flush kit for $34. It promises to save 20 to 30 gallons per day for an average family which it estimates to be about $15 a month with water at $2.50 a gallon. Installation took about half an hour, mostly because it involved removing the tank. Depending on the age of one's commode this can be annoying but I had mine off with minimum difficulty despite thirty years of faithful service. The new flush valve threads in and the tank goes back on. Once filled and checked for leaks you snap in the new flush handle and make a few adjustments. There are separate floats for liquid and solid flushes, I adjusted mine so it uses just enough to clear the bowl for liquids and set the other float for max. The new lever is plastic and not super easy to read so I used the label maker to make it easier on the kids and house guests to figure out. The lever works easily and the short people declared it a major hit.

After that great success I purchased a HydroRight kit for our 1.6 GPF toilet downstairs. It was $25 on sale and promises to save $100 a year (that's $8.33 a month to compare to the other) Thinking I'd get a jump on things I spent a sweaty twenty minutes detaching the tank only to open the instructions and find out that it's not necessary with this model. After bolting the tank back on and restarting the clock I found the installation to take the promised ten minutes. (and no tools needed if you follow the instructions!) Similar to the other unit there were two floats to adjust for min and max flushes and after half a dozen tries I had it set. The flush mechanism is a push button rig which is a little more difficult for tiny fingers (although my three-year-old managed all right after a couple tries) but more easily readable. The smaller button on top has one drop, the larger button on the bottom has two. Unless I hear that visitors are confused I'll skip the extra labeling on this one.

So now all that remains is to wait out the remaining two months on the billing cycle and see how things add up. I know I hear fill valves running a lot less which is a good indicator. Another small fix I'm going to try is to throttle down the bathroom sinks. Both our bathrooms have short throw fixtures which make it easy to run them wide open. With little ones washing and brushing that can add up to a lot of water going down the drain. The simple fix is to open each tap in turn, wide open, and reach under the sink and slowly turn the shutoff valve until a satisfactory flow is reached.

Well, I know I'm not exactly Consumer Reports but I hope the information is helpful and that you won't be afraid to take the flush, er... plunge and start to save some water (and a little green) with some simple DIY around the house.


Monday, May 3, 2010

So Long Old Puss

Our old cat Jake has gone on to the great hunting ground in the sky. Once fat and sassy, well not sassy, he was so laid back he wouldn't even meow properly he just sort of grunted, he got sick and thin and today was the day to take him to the vet. The Missus wrote about it as well.

The poor doc got sad right away and kept talking about putting $1000 into the animal and still not having much hope. Without doing a lot of testing we'll never know but it was likely feline lukemia and pretty advanced. So he got a little injection, closed his eyes and went to his rest a few beats of his little heart later.

It was a perfect day. Just balmy, with the sweet smell of growing things in the gentle breeze as we laid him to rest under an apple tree where he liked to hang out. J-Man helped wrap him in a towel so he'd be cozy and then helped me with his little shovel.

There were tears of course, and a lot to be said about missing and wanting and fairness. Miss O, who is easily hurt had a pretty good outlook. We've been reading All Creatures Great And Small so she seems to understand about what happens when there's nothing you can do for an animal.

So here's one last goodbye for my old Jake Bear. I don't know if animals go to Heaven but if they do I'll rest easy knowing that there won't be any mice or rabbits getting the tomatoes up there. And some saint will find a nice companion in my fat cat who would never sit on your lap but snuggle up to your knee instead and just purr away. Go easy old son.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We've Been Reduced To Eating Cat Food

It's not as bad as it sounds. We have a sick kitty and after a dose of antibiotics the vet suggested we boil some hamburger and rice to feed him to help bulk up again. I was in charge of the operation and made a large portion so I wouldn't have to make more later. At the time I thought with a smirk that it would be funny to feed some to the baby or if the whole family wound up eating it.

The very next night we were strapped for dinner ideas so out the stuff came and we had at it. Here's the recipe:

- Saute one chopped onion in olive oil
- Add a quart of canned tomatoes, juice and all
- Add appropriate amount of burger/brown rice (cat food)
- Cook a while, season to taste and enjoy.

I used some sea salt, white pepper and a pinch of oregano. As cat food goes I'd have to say I highly prefer my version to some of the dry cat food I ate on various dares in college. The kids ate it with a minimum of complaining and that's an item in its favor as well.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just Call Me "Crash"

So there I was. Driving home from a gig about an hour away and starving because I'd been up since 4:00 am with nothing of any substance to eat yet. I spied a McDonalds on the other side of a four lane street and found a spot to turn in just past it. I got through the traffic without getting clipped and looked to my left to see if I needed to get back out in to traffic or if I could just thread my way down through the parking lot.

Then this happened:

I heard Cruuuuuuuuuuuuunch! and thought, "Crap, I hit a shopping cart" but then realized I wasn't moving and turned to find a telephone pole had worked its way right up close to my dash board. I limped the truck back off it and into a parking spot and got out to check things out. I took a couple pictures and sent one off to Effbook because hey, own it, I say.

Here's the layout of this particular patch of parking lot:
The pole must have been in the A-post blind spot as I turned left into the lot because I blithely aimed my truck where one would usually pilot a vehicle in a parking lot. Between the rows of stripes. I was looking off to my left where I was heading. Except in this particular parking lot there happens to be a large pole right in the middle of the lane. One with a good deal of electricity supported on its upper reaches and not a bollard anywhere around it nor a drop of marker paint. You can tell it gets clipped all the time, my ding wasn't the only one.

Fortunately I was going less than ten miles an hour so the air bags didn't go off. The seat belt didn't even lock up. Unfortunately I had a trailer packed solid with sound gear behind me that approximately doubles the mass of the vehicle. Sans trailer I would have likely just needed a new bumper. With the extra momentum, I'm screwed. It may be a total loss.

So that happened.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Minus Two

I was commenting to The Missus the other day about overhearing some people complaining about their children. Somebody was whining about having to go and do several stressful things with, brace yourselves, both children! Not that I'm wanting to toot our own horns for surviving four children. Lots of people do lots more and live to tell the tale.

But it got me to thinking that if I had to go to say... three retail locations, the library and drop something off at a friend's house with two children I'd feel like I was on vacation! The Missus said she'd feel up for almost anything at that point. "Hey, let's go bra shopping!" she said. I think it's not necessarily the total number of children you have to tote around though. I think the critical number is negative two.

Example: Bill and Mary have seven brats darling children and manage to ditch have two of them spend the afternoon with friends while they take the rest shopping for school clothes. The entire time this happy, hypothetical couple feels as though a tremendous weight has been lifted off their shoulders and that anything is possible. I'd be willing to bet that even the Duggers* would experience some detectable change if they off-loaded a pair of offspring on the grandparents for an afternoon. It might take precisely calibrated scientific equipment, but I'll bet my lab coat it would be there.

*The Duggers are a family from Utah who have 27 x 10 ³ children.

This has been my 200th post at The Mister. Thanks for stopping by.


Monday, March 22, 2010

All Things Bright and Beautiful

A few nights ago I finished up reading a book to Miss O and started in on All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot. It was just another dusty old tome left over from The Missus' childhood. Some similar books that we have cracked together have been greats like "All The Mowgli Stories" by Rudyard Kipling (Where the Jungle Book came from), others have been duds due to her age and interest, "Treasure Island" was a strike out.

At any rate, tales of a Yorkshire vet in the 1940s have a certain resonance for me. Growing up I worked a couple summers on one of the few remaining homestead farms in the area. The last of a dying breed of farmers who supported their families with forty Holsteins and a few hilly acres. There's something truly timeless about working a farm like that, nestled in the hills. If there's not a jet going over and you happen to be looking where there aren't any power lines it's quite easy to forget when you are.

Sure, some days you're in the cab of a giant diesel tractor, with a kick baler and wagon in tow. Some days, however, you're leading the girls back into a barn that was built before the advent of electricity. Some days you find yourself mending fences with a sledge hammer that may have been used to build that barn. Everything is settled in. It's easy to forget the world at large and be covered over by the smell of sweat, old wood and sweet Timothy hay.

I've also seen the new face of farming. I've not only seen but had a hand in building some of the new factory farms. While the work on a small farm is repetitious and never ending, there's a certain futility that comes from screwing down two acres of aluminum roofing so 800 head of cattle can stay out of the elements. Sure there are lots of advances in technology and method that let fewer people milk more cows and keep the animals happy and healthy, but there's something distasteful about the whole thing.

Only the strong survive, and if we're all to have milk on our tables it takes these huge farms. It's just kind of sad that it's become like any other industry. Computers read ear tags and feed out based on production. Automated barns and milkers mean thousands of cows can live day to day and hardly ever see a human being. Gone are the days when a man and his family knew every animal by name.

I'm glad I got a chance to see a society where the people who put food on our tables lived all around us. Not retired executives who run hobby farms. Leather faced men who lived in their fields and stumped in and out of town with shit up to their belt buckles. Men who ran tight little operations, tidy family farms with nothing but their wits and an old International. Dusty old guys in green Deere and DeKalb hats that consulted with the younger guys about the weather and crops and animals.

I may be idealizing it just a bit but I think you see what I'm getting at. All that is being replaced in the modern world. Internet research and GPS guided tractors, genetic alterations and growth hormones, mega-barns and turn-table milkers, it's just another business. It seems as though all the soul has gone out of it.

Fortunately I can still see a glimmer of hope. The more people become disgusted at what they're eating the more they'll be looking for organic stuff. And at the moment that only comes from small farms. It's just a glimmer mind you, but somewhere out there in the future it could all come full circle again.

Here's hopin'.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Takeoff Roll

So I'm up solo this morning getting mah boys ready for Sunday school cause The Missus was up all night with the babe. We had a pleasant piece of toast together, combed some unruly mops and then just in time we grabbed coats and shoes to head out the door.

Coats and...

Yeah, there in lies the rub.

My Missus has done a spectacular job making sure the Short People have the appropriate footwear for any occasion. They've each got:
  • Flip flops
  • Crocs (mmmmyeah)
  • Water shoes
  • Sneakers
  • Sturdy shoes
  • Work boots
  • Puddle boots
  • Snow boots
as well as some of them having ballet slippers, fuzzy slippers, Buzz Lightyear boots and a few other assorted items.

I've even gone so far as to build each of them a locker by the door, one pair of which has a large bin underneath for shoes. It's four feet wide, two feet deep and a foot high. Shoes generally spill out of it and sometimes completely impede the five foot archway that leads into the living room.

This morning, like many others I found myself scaling Mount Footware in a desperate search for a second shoe of pretty much any kind to put on little H-Bomb. He's the worst of em. Last year he lost so many shoes that The Missus bought him a one dollar pair of flip flops and that was all he was allowed to have. (He still has them, one of them at least as of this morning.)

Well dog my cats if I could find even a close match for that guy. There he stands, pants on, hair combed, jacket zipped, rejoicing at each new find only to have to wait a little longer to see if I can find the other one. He finally went out the door in one olive green imitation croc of his own and one blue one belonging to his older brother. His was a right and the other was a left and they were, of course, on the wrong foot.

Somewhere along the line he has come to a deep and profound understanding of left vs. right that is at odds with what we've taught the rest of the children and will not deviate from it for love or money. He is firmly convinced that his left foot is his right and vice versa, the kicker is that he also knows which shoe is the left and right (a correct understanding). So every time he grabs a pair, he carefully reverses them to make sure they're on the "correct" foot.

So finally, with two minutes to spare, I zipped the wee bairn into his fuzzy traveling togs and out the door we went with my blood pressure sky high and my pulse zinging in my ears. I don't know why this is such a big deal for me today but for some reason it is. At some point today there is going to be a grand reckoning of the footware. I'm going to cull the herd as it were and bring them safely home to roost in the comfy confines of the shoe bin.

So help me.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Say It Again

This. Does. Not. Suck.

Every once in a while I take a look around and think about all the possibilities of life. It's not good to spend a whole lot of time thinking about the might-have-beens and the could-have-dones but it's worth the occasional mull. Job choices, career moves, all of that stuff.

Thing is though, for most of my life it has been my top priority to get married and raise a family in my home town. It took a long time for that to float to the forefront of consciousness, but it finally got there and I've pretty much got it covered now. (See wife and four kids growing up in the house my grandparents used to own which is just up the street from where I grew up. I win.)

I deleted this paragraph four times trying to get it right, so here it is, short form:

I slave away to earn every dime we spend, The Missus slaves away to make every morsel we eat and my kids think things like home schooling and raising chickens on a town lot are normal. I can wear a kilt to work and get away with it. Rock stars and high rollers ain't got nothin' on me.

I. Win.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Brief

Things are going great at work but I don't make enough money to live on.

eg. Deposit four figure paycheck on Friday. Have zero dollars on Tuesday. It's an equation that works out to the cube root of suck. Factor in that we're pretty much doing every single thing we can think of to be cheap miserly stingy thrifty already, there's really not much for it unless the music scene decides it wants to recover and keep me busy every weekend again. Mmmmmmyeaaahhh. Not holding my breath.

So I'm asking for a raise and doing a phone interview just in case.

But God... things are just starting to go right at work!

Sit tight kid, I know what I'm doin!


In other news the two cats that I sort of like are starting to look extremely scruffy and one is barfing regularly. Here's another equation. Sick cats + no money to fix sick cats = two down, one to go until we're obligated to buy the kids a dog.

A brief pause while I go look for bourbon.

And lastly, somebody made a movie about Lemmy. Can. I. Get. A. HELL! YEAH! Finally a rock biopic that I actually want to see. Dave Grohl gushing in the teaser was enough to make me want to go shave my beard into mutton chops.

And that's enough for one day. I'm off to scrounge spare change in the couch cushions while blasting Overkill. Good night and good luck. In Motörhead we trust!

P.S. The following video is not suitable for work. Or if you have small children around. And be careful, the song has three endings, this is not for the faint of heart.


Monday, March 8, 2010

In The Details

Scroll down one post if you clicked over here from The Dayton Time religion post.

I was just thinking about how social media come and go. Time was when to really be a hipster in the cyber-community you had to be on AOL. (shudder) I'll leave the reminiscences of the dark ages (IRC) for another time. Fast forward through ICQ, Yahoo, MySpace and so on and now it seems if you ain''t on Effbook and Twitter you're out in the cold.

But that's not what got me thinking. There's all these forums for digital photos now too. I'm not the shutterbug in the family so I have almost nothing to do with them. Apart from the few hundred snaps in my phone I don't have much to do with the photo documentation of our life. But it's a huge thing for me.

Looking back at the photo albums my parents have from when I was growing up you can easily see how a year-in-the-life translated almost exactly to one roll . An average of two frames per month of Kodak Gold 200 is all the imagery I have to look back on. Having a wife with a good camera who knows how to use it is such a blessing. She's the type of person who will take 2000 pictures throughout the kids' soccer season and cull the herd down to thirty really amazing shots.

The big fun for me is sifting through all the dregs though. Looking back at shots of my family growing up everyone else glances at a group of relatives in the kitchen around a birthday cake and remembers when Junior turned four. I look at the same picture and say, "Huh, I remember that blender..." And my eyes continue to hunt and peck around the periphery, taking in a snippet of wall paper and a dash of cabinet door handles along with a healthy dose of Grandma's horn rims and I'm solidly, vividly back in my childhood days. So a huge folder packed with failed shots are a treasure trove to me.

My mother's photo albums consist almost entirely of posed shots of everyone available arranged in ranks in front of whatever significant scenery was available. Pictures of backyard birthday parties don't look much different than trips to France. Catching the good bits is kind of tough. How much better to look back in twenty years and see all the odd angles of daily living and catch a glimpse of an annoyed toddler next to a stack of long gone books with a few branches from the dearly departed Maple tree peeking in the window!


Sunday, March 7, 2010

God And Stuff

The Missus is fielding questions about faith on her last post and linked to mine. While neither of us tend to go on at length on the subject it's worth bringing it up once in a while. So fire away in the comment section. I'll lay it down a little to get things started.

Yes, I'm sure there's a God.

Yes, I know there are thousands of examples of people doing heinous things in the name of religion and my best guess is that they are all getting what they deserve.

I likely don't know a single answer to any questions about communion or saints or anything else much in the way of true theological thought. My faith tells me to love my God and my neighbor so I've just been working on that.

In fact, there's not much that's overtly Christian about me. I'm "churchy" enough to make guys at work a little nervous and worldly enough to make people at church nervous. The thing is that I'm the same guy every day of the week and that's all there is to it. My goal is just to live my life in a manner that God would find pleasing and not crow about it too much. If somebody figures out what it is about me that's different and asks about it, then it's time for a conversation.

Quite often the answer goes like this, "You know me. Do you think I would do this if it sucked? Do you think I would take on this label if it wasn't worth it?"


Friday, March 5, 2010

Frame Of Reference

Even before my oldest was born I found myself looking around at other people's children. Mostly other people's daughters because while I have a basic knowledge of what it's like to be a boy, other than chasing them on the playground I really don't know much about girls.

It's turned into kind of a fun game. Whenever I run across some exceptional young lass I make kind of a silent prayer that my girl turns out as smart, or outgoing, or independent as the kid I'm seeing. From what I've seen of school age girls in the local theater scene I'm confident that my high hopes are not in danger of being dashed.

But now I'm finding that the game is no longer a necessity. Not being terribly self-aware in my formative years I was unaware of the following fact:

Kids are blissfully themselves until they go to school, then they spend a decade or two trying to be just like everybody else for the most part.

Which is not to say that my daughter came home from kindergarten all cookie cutter and stuff. But suddenly I was noticing speech patterns that weren't her, and her taste in music became decidedly main stream. She's still all the things that make her our special little kid, but there's a definite element of The Herd in her manner now.

So now instead of playing the game as a casual observer I'm playing for keeps. If there's one thing I could do over in my life it would be to have relaxed about being myself when I was in grade school instead of after college. So now, if there's one thing I accomplish as a parent I hope it will be to enable my kids to be as comfortable in their own skin as possible.

It's not easy growing up a smarty-pants oddball. I can't imagine it's going to be any easier growing up the progeny of a pair of such oddballs. The move that wins the game will be showing how being different from the heard has its own distinct advantages.

Game on!


Sunday, February 28, 2010

My Cat Is The New VISA

Sully... he's everywhere you want to be. The little kitten we got for my daughter is now a hulking beast of a feline. And it's not so much that he's into mischief, he doesn't trash the place, it's that he's a thoroughbred bastard of a stalker.

I go to check on a sleeping child, he's there under the bed. A furry black paw lashes out and lands on my sock, claws ever so slightly extended as if to say, "I coulda, but I didn't". I flip up the skirt on the couch to look for the remote, out comes the paw. Pick up a basket of laundry, there he is, under the last two items deposited in it.

He's in the dryer. He's on the piano. He's behind the toilet. I opened a little used cabinet where we keep the computer paper last night and there his fat ass was, perched right on top of it. I tried to just get a few sheets and not disturb him but he was after me with both paws like a furry little ninja!

And to top it all off this cat sometimes craves affection and will absolutely not be stopped until all eighteen pounds of him is perched on somebody's chest. Aside from difficulty breathing the only other problem is that after about four good pats he stops purring and goes straight back into ninja mode, usually with teeth!

So it looks like it's time for me to reassert myself as the Alpha Male among the animal kingdom contingent at my house. Fear the boot, furry ones! Resistance is FUTILE!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

BlogHer Dream

So the other night I had a dream that I was at BlogHer, in a bar with my Out-of-town Wife, Jen from Steenky Bee and my real wife The Missus from Dayton Time. Did I mention we were in a bar? Yah, OK. So the whole goal of the evening seemed to be just to get back to the hotel for Lord Sakes. I don't know why but we were trying very hard to get there.

The problem was that everywhere we went there was this guy in a suit telling us we needed to be at a meeting. The guy looked just like the gangsters in Buggs Bunny cartoons. Tall, wedge shaped, in a brown suit with a fedora pulled down over his eyes and a stubby cigar clamped in the corner of his mouth. In fact, now that I think on it he was actually a cartoon in the dream.

So no matter what bar we went to, there was this guy urging us to get to that meeting when all we wanted to do was get. back. to. the. hotel. for Lordsakes. I must have still been on that kick the next day because I actually started snooping around to find out if I could go along to BlogHer.

But then I found out The Missus was rooming with three other girls, one of whom was Steenky and the bite marks still aren't totally healed from that whole State Trooper Incident last summer so I decided it wasn't worth the hassle. Sorry to get anybody's hopes up but The Mister will not be attending BlogHer this year. Too much estrogen anyway.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Oh, The Things We Do

Tonight was supposed to be date night for The Missus and Miss O. The choir from her college was performing at a church in the city (Buffalo) and I was going to stay home with mah boys so they could go and revel. By the time I got home it had become a full fledged family affair as nobody wanted to be left home.

We drove an hour. We sat in the pews. The Missus and the Boys missed the first (amazing) selection in the bathroom. Then the Boys fidgeted so much that I felt like I had to take them out. I may have been quick on the trigger but I got up at four the last two days for work and I'm a little twitchy.

We went outside and I set them loose on the church playground. Five minutes later The Missus called my cell to find out where we were because Miss O had burst into tears and wanted to go home. Pile in car, buy chips and drinks, drive another hour, home again - home again - jiggity jog. (As my father used to say)

It was heartbreaking. I didn't want to go in the first place and then after I heard the first few notes I didn't want to leave. At most I heard three measures without interruption. Not even long enough for me to close my eyes and savor (Savour? it sounds more rolling around on the tongue-ish.) the most lovely sound that has caressed my eardrums in years.

On the drive home I couldn't even remember what they had sung. So I made their angelic voices sing Methodist hymns in my head instead. What a kick in the pants. Ahh well, I'll soon be up to my nernies in snow and raking in the overtime clearing it away at the hospital. This will shortly be just another "remember that time when...."


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Drum Circle

Me and the boys gettin' our Saturday morning drum on!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's That Time Again

Ahhhh, the Olympics are here! I'm about to turn into a sports junky. It only happens for twenty days at a time every two years so The Missus is very forgiving. NASCAR and football and all those other sports the participants of which used to beat me up in high school can go whistle.

I grew up in the North. Wide World of Sports carried winter sports every Saturday growing up. My ancestry is partially from France and Scotland so I've got a bit in common with Canadians. (Did anybody else get goosebumps when the stage filled with fiddlers and steppers in tartan during the opening ceremony?)

This is my time. My time to watch athletes without sponsorships compete the way I used to. With friends. For the joy of it. To match themselves against the best and see how they measure up. This is my chance to use the magic box (TV) to teach my children about competition and fair play. Time to watch their eyes grow big seeing how people from other countries live, how they are so different yet so alike.

It's time to see if the curling finals turn into another nail-biting, jump up and shout style event. Time to watch they joyous straining of people doing their best. Time to get all choked up when deserving athletes take the podium. This is a sweet time.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010


A wise man once said to me, "Sometimes ya just gotta throw yer hands back and say, 'Fuck It!'"


I get a lot of comments about my sense of humor at work. I always explain it as a game I play called Laughing To Keep From Crying. The hospital people don't get it. The construction workers do.

In this life there's so much to be miserable about. I figure you ought to at least be mockingly happy about it when possible.

I thought about my marriage vows today and how they include better and worse, richer and poorer. It applies to everything. While my soul is wedded to this mortal body I think the two of them owe it to each other to at least ride it out with every possible chuckle in between the good times.

Keep your chin up.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spam Calamity

So I pulled out my iPod today and the mail notification said I had 300 messages waiting. Great... spam. Oh but wait, it get's better. They were all notifications of comments on my blogs. Either this has been going on for quite some time now and I just missed the notifications, or I got hit hard last night.

So let's see... at least six comments (in Chinese) on every post, times close to 500 posts, equals:

Close to 3000 bogus comments to delete. It's relaxing though. Something about repetitively obliterating those comments is quite soothing in fact. And now a brief message to my new admirer.

堵塞在阴茎您一个害病的妓女的愚笨儿子。 我祝愿您在一个桶的秋天被传染的少女。 并且愿您的政治信仰起因在阵雨发现由您的政府,投掷在监狱和一再强奸的您由大人。


Monday, February 1, 2010

Daddy Daycare

I found myself at home with the baby today on an unexpected day off. The Missus took the ambulatory short people on a field trip so I was left to my own devices. Since I know what's good for me that involves a good deal of cleaning before they return.

After loading the dishwasher and getting some laundry going I turned to some more difficult tasks that are generally impossible with a house full of people. We've got a flat top electric stove which was supposed to be the very pinnacle of modern cleanliness in the kitchen. What that really means is that any minuscule amount of spillage immediately bakes on hard as diamonds and resists all attempts to clean it.

The only method to safely remove this gunk is with a manufacturer approved scrubby pad and polishing compound. Well, the scrubby has long since disappeared and the little bottle is empty. Hence the stove top having a good deal more baked on gunk than ultra-modern sleekness showing. Not to be deterred I put the mind of a highly trained maintenance mechanic on the case (mine, smartass).

Well, it didn't take long for something to pop up. I grabbed a swatch of Scotchbrite from the truck which is almost, but not quite, identical to the manufacture approved scrubby pad. The warranty is done with anyway, what could possibly go wrong I ask you. Now for the polishing compound. Toothpaste folks. It works wonders. In ten minutes I had that stove looking the very picture of minty freshness (and likely with a greatly reduced probability of cavities as well!).

And the angelic chorus did sing, and a heavenly light did bathe the cook top. And The Missus shall smile upon her heroic knight upon her return to a somewhat more sparkley castle.


Sunday, January 24, 2010


I'm experiencing a feeling that I haven't had in quite a while. A feeling of holding steady that oddly feels like progress. When the sky is black and the flying monkeys are out in full force my tendency is to just keep my head down and push through. Due to the mellowing influence of The Missus I even manage to keep the dramatic outbursts to a minimum. But it wears on a guy after a while.

Work is just insane. I couldn't possibly relate the insanity so it's not even worth trying except to say that if you ever are interested in loosing your mind go get hired as an electrician and then volunteer to be the guy who polices the efforts of 120 workmen to renovate a high rise while keeping the parts with patients Martha Stuart clean. Meh, enough of that, it's the weekend.

So I've already had a week this year when I put nearly a hundred hours on the clock. And had a stretch of three weeks without a break. And the whole rest of my family has been sick. And my truck got robbed. But then overnight something shifted...

I had a bar gig last night. The band wasn't terrible. Ran into half a dozen people I haven't seen in years. Found out I have a fan club. Ate free wings. Got paid. I hit the sack at 5 am and when The Missus woke me up to go to church everything just felt better somehow. I drank my coffee, I soaked up church. The kids are slightly less nutty, the baby is eating and sleeping normally again, and The Missus is back to dishing out snappy answers again.

I went from feeling like there was only so much more of this that I could endure to feeling like I could manage indefinitely if this feeling will just persist. Likely it has a lot to do with disconnecting from work in less time than it takes to punch the time clock. (Swwwwwwwipe! Ahhhhhhhh! Job? What job?)

So while I go about my business today, making ready for my daughter's seventh birthday, I plan on stopping frequently. I'm going to memorize this feeling. I'm filling a mental notebook with snapshots and scribbling furiously in the margins so I can pull it out on Wednesday morning. (Jokes about alcoholism are only good for about two days of "making it through".)

Right now, God is in His heaven, and the world turns a little more slowly here on Church Street for a change.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Laundry

This isn't a post about the drudgery of housework. This morning when I was folding a bit of washing I began to ponder the mathematical implications that the clothing of infants entails. While a grown person has perhaps twenty or twenty-five items in a load of wash, maybe a few more if there are a lot of socks and under-things in there, it doesn't take that long to fold a load. Five minutes and you've got a nice pile, ready to head for the bureau.

Babies on the other hand, being of much smaller stature, can go through several thousand items before the laundry basket is full. Out of a typical load of roughly a million items you can expect to find nearly five hundred thousand to be onsies, all inside out. The rest of the load is comprised mostly of various "cute" items that are also inside out but relatively easy to fold and classify into piles. These account for roughly another one hundred thousand items.

The balance of the load is roughly four hundred thousand socks, all somehow big enough to cover the foot and thigh of a chubby baby but not big enough to easily admit the thumb and forefinger of the adult trying to turn them right side out. And of course in a batch of four hundred thousand baby socks, there are two hundred thousand pairs... all different. (Makes me slightly ashamed of my own selection of just two kinds of Hanes.) One could write a doctoral thesis for a masters in statistics on the problems encountered in trying to pair up baby socks.

Anyway, not complaining, just marveling at the every day science of raising little ones.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Meh of Modern Life

So my truck got broken in to and a bunch of stuff that I use all the time got taken. And some really expensive stuff that belonged to other people. My fault, I left it unlocked. But the butterflies and the lump in the throat that develop after the anger subsides are nothing compared to the horror that is trying to get things back on track after something like this happens.

It took three hours to get my bank account back in order and I'm told that this is because they designed the new procedure to be more painless. Then there's the bumbling mumbling police officers, the constant trolling on Ebay and Craigslist for my stuff, and don't even get me started on the insurance companies. There's three involved and it looks like the best case scenario will involve me hocking some more equipment that I can't afford to loose to cover deductibles.

I didn't write this to be all woe-is-me. Whatever, God's bigger. I'm just sort of disgusted with humanity. In all honesty drugs are probably the reason that thugs were checking car doors in my neighborhood (my nice, quiet, rural neighborhood) and that just sucks. What a blight. And we throw money hand over fist at insurance companies, but when we actually need our coverage, because of all the fraud they sick the don't-pay-out-under-any-circumstances crew on you. Again, bleh.

Whatever, perspective... it could be way worse. In all likelihood people who are desperate enough to roam around stealing are also living under an extremely elevated risk of getting shot, or shanked, or any number of unpleasant things. And that's on top of the dreck that is the daily existence of a drug user. So I'm really not that mad at the perpetrators. They've been getting theirs for a long time already and will continue to get it every day of their miserable lives. As for myself, my truck is a little lighter tonight, but I've got a warm house full of golden children. I've got food to eat and water to drink (we can still afford it this month anyway), and all and all life is still pretty sweet.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Local Holiday Celebrateur Makes Good

I was paging through the People of Wal-Mart and about fifteen pages in came across a gentleman from my own home town. Here's the link. He generally has several thousand holiday items on top of his truck, a three foot tall piece of head wear with several hundred more items on it, and quite often dyes his beard to match the colors of the current holiday. At Christmastime he goes the extra mile and adds a trailer to the rig to get in all the extra accouterments.

I run into him at Wal-Mart (of course), the bank, the gas station, and even at the hospital where I work. Not sure if he's coming in for routine testing or just showing up to spread the holiday cheer. Always... this isn't just a Christmas thing. He's in full regalia the whole year round.

Not quite sure what I think about it, but I usually smile when I see him so I guess it's mission accomplished for The Holiday Guy.