Monday, December 29, 2008

A Truly Bad Idea

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Life Is What Makes You Old

Do you ever just feel plain old ... old? I am talking about the kind of old that has nothing much to do with years or chronological things. I am talking the kind of old where you suddenly think ... I really HAVE seen it all. There really ISN'T anything new under the sun. I am not certain when that happened to me. I sat today and I made a list ... an actually written list ... of the oddest, most bizarre, least likely to happen things that I have witnessed in my lifetime. And mixed in with it I included the oddest, most bizarre, least likely things that I have had to do in my lifetime. It is quite a list. I wish I could share it with you. I cannot. You might be on it. But here are a few just to make you smile or frown or whatever you feel appropriate.

I've pulled people out of caskets. Not dead people. Live people. People who wanted to crawl into the casket of a dead loved one.

I've tackled a person who was trying to commit suicide by jumping from a high place.

I've confronted people who have had the ability to fire me. More than once. And no, none of them fired me.

I have spoken to 6,000 people at once.

I have spoken to less than 10 people in a talk prepared just a diligently as the talk for 6,000.

I've flown on a plane where I was the only passenger.

I carry in my brain the confessions of people who, if the confession was made public, would be sent to prison.

I held the hand of a person as they prayed to receive Christ as Savior only to watch them lapse into a coma minutes later that they never woke up from.

I've changed a dentists socks. (Don't ask.)

Speaking of dentists I've had all of my wisdom teeth pulled ... twice. (Again. Don't ask.)

I watched one of my former "volunteer youth staff members" drop to a knee and let a girl throw up in his hands because we were in a very nice church sanctuary and there was no place else for her to throw up. (I never shook his hand again.)

I have traveled (by car, van, or bus) the equivalent of around the world at the equator 3 times while on youth trips and mission trips.

I have baptized (by total immersion) a man while he sat in his wheel chair.

I have had my life threatened (by 2 very large men) in the slum of a southern city while helping a dad chase down his run-away daughter.

My final words to my last living parent was an intentional lie to make her not worry, feel better, and go to sleep. My lie accomplished its purpose. She died the next day and I was not there.

I have been "dog bit for Jesus" twice in as many months. The last bite was while I was praying with a woman whose husband lay dying in another room of their home. Their dog bit me while I was talking to the One that made the dog. I did not stop praying. He eventually let go. (The dog. Not God.)

I have patrolled East St. Louis in a State Police Cruiser from 10 PM until 8 AM. I wore a bullet proof vest, knew where the shotgun was and was authorized to use if if necessary.

I have held a baby that had been dead for less than 2 hours.

I have observed part of an embalming.

I have been chased by dogs in a nursing home.

I have prayed over people while anointing them with oil only to watch them fully recover. I have prayed over people while anointing them with oil only to watch them die.

I have stood on the top of a 12,000 foot mountain during a snowstorm accompanied by lightening and thunder.

Martin Luther (the theologian who lived in the 1483 - 1546) once said, "If you young fellows were wise, the devil couldn't do anything to you, but since you aren't wise, you need us who are old." I kind of understand his sentiment. I get his point. He died at the age of 63. That's not really old but I suppose it was in his day. I am that age minus 10. But after compiling my list today ... I've been feeling very old indeed. This probably was not a good way to prepare a merry heart for the celebration of New Years.

When I die I'm instructing my wife to publish my entire list. Tonight I have a headache and, after speaking twice today, I am rather tired. So keep checking back. You never know how quickly the thing might wind up in print. A "tell all" blog. Starring ... You?

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A High Definition Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the hotel
The hallways were empty, the rooms didn't sell
The TVs were flat screen and the pictures were clear
The hot tub was bubbling lending holiday cheer

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But Otis Spunkmeyer cookies from the desk clerk so dear
All warm and quite chewy with chocolate to spare
The odor, quite wondrous, did waft through the air

I locked my door and dead bolted it tight
Shoving the "never disturb" sign on the knob to the right
The lights were turned off and the TV dimmed low
If HE should show up I don't want him to know

That I am awake though I'm missing my tree
My stocking is stored at a friends house for free
The fireplace in the lobby holds a chimney that's fake
And HE can't get down it, HIS neck HE would break

So tomorrow I'll get up and I know what I'll do
I'll unbolt the flat screen, remove every screw
It'll fit in my car with the seats pushed way back
I'll wrap it in pillows, it's screen I won't crack

And Santa will thank me for this saving grace
If HE should pass by us it would be a disgrace
I must take the flat screen, you see it's my duty
And thus I'll make off with this pirated booty

In Jesus name I pray ... Amen

Monday, December 22, 2008

What's With "Non Pariels?"

I'm sitting here munching on some holiday candy provided by one of those school things. You know the type. Some kid guilts you into buying something to support his club and you wind up paying like $15.00 for a 4 ounce bag of chocolate. They are pretty good. All decorated with red, green, and white sprinkles. Decent chocolate too. These are called "Non Pariels." Which makes me wonder. "Non?" What's missing? What did they leave out? Other than the fact that I paid $15 ... did I get ripped off of a special ingredient? Can you buy "Pariels?" You know, Non Pariels wiithout the "non?" Wait. How can you leave out the "non?" Isn't that the same thing as leaving out something that isn't even there? Which would make it "Non Non Pariels."

I must go lay down now.

It Ain't About The Grinch

It ain't about the Grinch. He's in reruns. It ain't about the bearded dude with the sleigh. He's a nice thought though. It ain't about the tree. The plastic ones never go away and the real ones go away all over your carpet way too soon. It ain't about the presents. You will never have enough to satisfy. And God knows it ain't about me. I hear a chorus of "amens" on that count!

And I am so glad.

If it's not about Jesus ... well then, it's not about anything. So I thought I'd just stake my claim right here on the world wide web. I'll have more to say about it later. Probably even today. But for now ...

It's about Jesus. Make a note of it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

59 - 14 ... we win!

I woke up this morning, shook the stupid out of my head (my way of saying "got rid of the cob webs") and logged on to check the weather. I had already glanced out the balcony door and saw what I expected. Clouds. (Somebody at church told me yesterday that they had checked and the last time Cleveland had 7 straight sunny days was 1993. True? Who would lie at church?) The lake was calm. But the WKYC web site told me that the temperature was 59. Then I slid over to the KSDK web site from St. Louis. I always check it in the morning and look at the arch web cam. I like to see the sun gleaming off of it. That's when I noticed that the temperature there was 14 and everybody had a snow day. No school.


59 in Cleveland and 14 in St. Louis? And they had ice? We had mere rain? What's the deal with that?

Did I mention that the last time there was 7 consecutive days of sunshine in Cleveland was 1993? I did? Sorry. It's messing with my head.

Well, it's all begun to balance out. It's now 24 and there's light snow predicted for tomorrow. The lake is going crazy again. Nice. This is how it's suppose to be.

Here's my Top Ten Things About Cloudy Days In Cleveland ...

10 ...nothing
9 ... nothing
8 ... nothing
7 ... nothing
6 ... nothing
5 ... nothing
4 ... nothing
3 ... nothing
2 ... nothing
1 ... My sun glasses don't get dirty.

Stupid Picture Chronicles #29


Okay, I confess. I stole this picture from a friends face book site. She was driving across Florida and came across it. I found it too good to pass up.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stupid Picture Chronicles #28

I'm not entirely sure that this qualifies as a "stupid picture." Maybe it just qualifies as a "stupid slogan?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good News ... Bad News ... A Season of Paradox (Hint: God Wins!)

The economy stinks. It is the Christmas season. "The Big Three" automakers want to get bailed out financially. Santa Clause is coming to town. Soldiers are still in harms way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and who knows where else. The night ... it is silent. Somebody just got their throat slashed on one network. Billy Graham is speaking to me from the past on another reminding me about what is important. I have paid $4.29 per gallon and $1.49 per gallon for gas all in this calendar year. I just read about a guy who walked on water. The governor of the state I grew up in has been accused of trying to sell a senate seat. On some Sunday's empty seats are rather hard to find in my church. The police think they just found the tragic remains of a little girl who has been missing for a while. I sometimes feel lost but God promises me He's got His eye on me.

Our world has never been a place of greater paradox than it is right now. It seems as though everybody wants to be happy but we are afraid to be. Surely "the other shoe" is about to drop. And with it all of our hopes, dreams, aspirations, and yes, our joy, will be snuffed out with it. You feel it in your bones, don't you.

Can I just say one thing about that?


I cannot say it emphatically enough. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Yes, the world is in a mess. Does that really surprise anybody? No, we do not know what tomorrow's headlines will bring. But have we ever known?

No, we have not.

There is but one thing to rest on. Tie yourself off to. Invest yourself 100% in.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." I didn't say it. God did. And because He said it, because He acted on it, you and I can live with joy, confidence and well founded hope. IF ... and this is a very big "if" ... if you "know Him." If you trust Jesus with your life and your eternity.

He's bigger than the stock market. More dependable than a government bail-out. Longer lasting than any nuclear threat. You can count on Him.

I strongly suggest that you do!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tis The Season

This mini-essay is a "thank you" to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Jim and Alisha. They were the brain children (though Alisha would emphasis that it was totally Jim) for the center piece of our Christmas decor this year.

It didn't seem wise to buy a Christmas tree, ornaments, lights, and such when we have all of those things in storage. We won't need two of everything next year. It also didn't seem appropriate (to me) not to have any visible way to acknowledge Christmas in our home. I do believe that my bride was just fine simply knowing that it is the Christmas season. I need something to look at.

So, while walking through our local Wal-Mart recently I made a spur of the moment decision. What I really mean is that I participated in the age old ritual of "impulse buying." No tree. No ornaments. No lights. None of those really help in celebrating the birth of Jesus anyway. And neither will my purchase. But it does make me smile. Thanks for the idea, Jim!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Only because Jen is a new friend and I don't want to hurt her feelings ... yet ...

Okay, I hate this kind of stuff. But I made a new blogger friend and she asked me to. So here goes. I've got nothing else to blog about today anyway. She's MAKING ME tell you 4 things about myself that nobody knows. Problem is, I've been around too long and I don't hide much. So it's a challenge ...


Okay, I want to have a submarine. No, I don't just want to ride in a submarine. I want my own. And it has to be a really good one because I don't swim. But I think cruising the ocean, sneaking up on entire countries, would be an incredibly cool way to spend a year or so.

And, uh. Well. I hate stop lights with a blazing passion. I mean my tolerance level is zero. Z-E-R-O. I'll do nearly anything to eek through even on the slimmest margin of yellow. Oddly enough I have never once been stopped for this much less ticketed. Oh, I'll gladly cut through parking lots to avoid them too. But only when my wife isn't in the car.

I'm only on three? Sheesh. Let's see. I hate morning so badly that I have this black sort of mesh Nike t-shirt that I keep beside my bed. If I manage to wake up before the sun rises I throw it over my eyes so as to fool my brain into thinking that it's still dark after the day light. Yes, really. And it works. Don't you judge me...

And finally. I count things. Anything. For no reason. I don't know why. I just do. People. Cars. Days on the calender. I can't help it. Things need to be counted. Somebody has to keep track of things and so I just do it. But sixty seconds after counting something I couldn't tell you what the total was. Because the total doesn't matter. It only matters that they were counted.

Four. So there. Feel very honored, Jen.

Oh, drat. I've got a number 5. I cannot STAND the thought that I might have hurt some persons feelings. (That's why I'm dong this list thing in the first place ...) I have to find them and fix it NOW. Even if I'm innocent. Because, in my mind, I'm guilty until proven innocent!

This confession thing might get addicting...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Guest Blogger ... My Niece Tanya

My niece wrote today in honor of my father. He would have been 89 years old today. I miss him more than I can say. But Tanya says it pretty well ...

I am thinking about my Grandpa today. I think about him allot, he is on my mind at the oddest times. When I am watching Foxnews and I wonder if I could have convinced him to watch it with me, probably not. He was a die hard democrat as far as I remember. I think of him when I see a large American flag and I remember how he loved to fly his flag in his front yard and he never let it get torn or worn out.
He loved the flag because it stood for what he was willing to die for. He was a true American hero. I wonder what he would have thought about 9-11? He probably would have had a few choice words to say.
He believed in God, family and our country. He loved to play with us grand kids. I remember playing chinese checkers with him when we would visit his house for the holidays. I loved going to my grandparents home while my parents went on youth trips, for 2 weeks during the summer. I remember Grandpa taking us fishing on his boat and the time he made me believe that I was steering it straight into the shore. He was laughing in the back of boat as he steered it from the engine. I remember singing "She'll be coming around the Mountain" in the front of his ole red truck while grandpa pulled the boat around the hills to the lake. I will never forget his smell, although most times it is a smell I hate....cigarettes. But now when I get around someone who smokes that same brand I take in a deep breath and think of him, my Grandpa.

Each time I see a simple wooden swing hanging from a tree, I think of the one he built for us in his back yard in Tinley Garden.

You see, he was a simple man and maybe a little rough around the edges. When us granddaughters (the first two grandbabies) came around he was a instant "softy." This tall slender man who fought in WWII and refused to discuss it became a warm lap for us to crawl into. He loved us and there was not any doubt. I wish he had lived longer.
He would have loved to watch his 5 great-grandaughters grow. They too would have crawled up into his lap and been loved without any conditions. I miss him today and each day. He may have lived to be a old man but he still left too early.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I've Been Stolen

I woke this morning and walked through our concrete apartment, climbed into a hot shower, and heard my wife banging on the door. She was shouting something about hockey purchases and the Internet. It takes a lot to pry me from a hot shower but that worked. Seems she was on the phone with the company that holds our sole credit card. They wanted to know if we really were in the UK buying hockey tickets and hockey equipment. And for some reason she felt it necessary to ask me in the shower if I had been in the UK overnight doing those deeds.


I assured her that I had been by her side all night long. And thus ... our security ... our personal credit card number ... had been hacked. Compromised. Stolen. Whatever you want to call it. Nice, huh? Like the good company they are the people down at Chase canceled our card, promised to have a new one in our hands by Monday, and agreed to not charge us for any fraudulent purchases. Cool. I can finish showering now.

I"ve heard of "identity theft" before. But who would want to be me? If I were going to steal someone's identity ... it wouldn't be MINE. I'm a lowly pastor! I live in a rented concrete apartment! My 401(K) isn't even a 201(K) anymore! I cheer for teams that habitually lose!

I mean, come on. Would you want to be me? As I sit here in my "fuzzy buddy" (formerly known as "The Date Chair") I'm wearing mesh shorts and a Toledo Mud Hens t-shirt. Does that sound stylish to you? I think not. The only flat-screen I own is on my back door. Oops. Wait. I sold my house. I don't even own that flat screen anymore! I'm drinking Coke out of a can because I'm too lazy to pour it into a glass which would just require washing anyway.

I repeat. Would YOU want to be ME?

Somebody in the UK really needs to get a life. And I hope the seats I bought them are behind a steel beam in the nose bleed section.

Monday, December 01, 2008


I have smudges on my laptop screen. Little smudges. Couldn't figure out where they came from. I got to work this morning and almost wiped them off because, I mean, they are just .... there.

Then I remembered.

"The Amazing Elle" (aka: the worlds most awesome granddaughter) was sitting on my lap on Thanksgiving and she wanted to see pictures. I asked her which pictures she had in mind. She told me "mountain pictures." She was talking about the pictures that I took at Christopher and Laura's wedding in Beaver Creek, Colorado back in October.

No problem. Elle wants to look at pictures with grandpa? Elle will certainly get to look at pictures with grandpa! I pulled them up and we reminisced. Well, we reminisced as much as a 53 year old can with a 2 year old. Hey, it worked for us.

When Elle looks at pictures she points. She touches. Usually, nobody touches my laptop screen and walks away without twisted fingers. "Tess" the laptop is under a direct "order of protection" issued by yours truly. But Elle? She can touch. Not a problem.

And touch she did. Over and over. Evidence indicates that she touched about a dozen times. And now that I'm sitting here 600 miles away from her ... well ... those smudges are more precious than they were when she put them there. They are her. It's her fingerprints. Her DNA. And for a grandfather they are warmth and love and hugs. They are joy and laughter and giggles.

And they aren't going anywhere.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanks, God

Yesterday Debbie and I drove 610 miles without a problem. Everything worked great. The sun was shining for most of the trip. We were warm alone together. When we finished driving I stepped out of our way too big SUV and said, "Thanks, God."

I woke up this morning in a dark room and wondered for about 6 seconds where I was. Then I walked upstairs and sat with my granddaughter, The Amazing Elle, as we ate warm cinnamon rolls that her mother, my daughter, had prepared. We smiled at each other. She giggled. She wiped her hands on my shirt sleeve. Only she and I saw it and I laughed. As she walked away to play my gaze followed her and I said, "Thanks, God."

I talked with my lovely daughter and her husband, a man who loves His Lord and loves his wife. I watched the two of them look at each other with the eyes of two who have shared life for years and find themselves more deeply in love than they were on the day they married and more deeply in respect than they ever thought possible. I watched them "do life" for a few minutes when they didn't really know I was paying attention. And I realized how they were both in the very middle of realizing their greatest dreams. I closed my eyes and silently mouthed, "Thanks, God."

I sat with family and some friends that I have probably not seen in a year. We ate the traditional thanksgiving meal. Some of us ate too much of it. I was in that group. I turned down desert and then realized how dumb that was and I accepted an amazing gift of sugary delight. And it was very good. As I sampled each delicious bite I thought about our unseen guest and I said, "Thanks, God."

I met my sons and their wives in two separate places, enjoyed two separate conversations, drank a Coke and took a drive with one, then ate an evening meal and laughed about life with the other. As I watched them go their ways I had to marvel at them men and the couples that they are and with great joy I said, "thanks, God."

I lay on my daughters floor with Elle and we put puzzles together. I messed up on purpose and she fixed my mistakes. Then she put a stethoscope in her ears and talked into the piece you put over your heart. We played a game we had played last night. She said, "Everybody say YABBI!" And I shouted "YABBI!" We did it for five minutes and it wasn't long enough. Her eyes twinkled and I breathlessly fell into them as I inwardly shouted, "thanks, God."

And now the day ends. And it is quiet. Elle is asleep. Kelli is surfing her Facebook account. Debbie is watching David Letterman's mom on TV. Joe had to run out and do a quick "video shoot" for this Sunday's church service. And I sit here. And I realize how rich I am. And I can't wait for tomorrow. And I have to say it one more time.

Thanks, God.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Squeaky Blog Gets The Sun

You mean all I had to do was complain?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Shunned By(e) The Sun

The sun is missing in action. No, seriously. It's gone. I have not seen it in 25 days ... and that was in St. Louis. I don't know how long it was absent here in Cleveland before that mini-trip. It is safe to say that it was days at a bare minimum. Perhaps weeks. It had been long enough that I remember flying above the clouds just as we began descending into Cleveland. I actually looked at the blue sky and whispered a subdued, "Goodbye." I knew it was going to be a while. Which means that it had been a while. My logic is good so don't question me!

Let's just go back to our original presupposition. The sun is missing in action.

And that makes me a cruel man. "How cruel does it make you" you ask? Glad you asked. I'll explain. Try to keep up.

I have bookmarked in my favorite places, web cams from around the country. A serious boatload of places. I am addicted to webcams. Call me nosy, curious, or anything you want but I do love me some web cams. Here is a partial list of my favorites ...

-Niagara Falls
-Seattle's "Space Needle"
-Sears Tower
-Wrigley Field
-The shipping port on Lake Superior in Duluth, Mn.
-The "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem
-The Great Pyramids in Egypt
-The 3 mile marker on I-270 (why? why not?)
-The Alamo (Remember? The alamo?)
-Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas (where JFK was assassinated)
-Times Square
-Mt. St. Helens
-The U.S. Capital
-The Eisenhower Tunnel under the Continental Divide in Colorado

I think you get the idea. We are talking web cam mania here.

And lately I have been using my web cam addiction to make myself feel better. You know, about the missing sun. I click on a web cam and silently pray ... this is hard to admit ... I silently pray ... (sigh) give me a second to compose myself here ...

Okay, I silently pray that IT IS CLOUDY EVERYWHERE!

I feel so much better now that I got it out. Thank you for listening.

You see, I don't want to be sun deprived all by myself. If I am miserable then the rest of the world should be miserable too. If I am pasty white then you should be pasty white.

Isn't that awful? And yet, to paraphrase an old song ... "If de-sunning you is wrong I don't wanna be right!"

God, forgive me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Allergic To Night Time

This makes absolutely no sense at whatsoever.

All day long I feel fine. Healthy. Whole.

Nighttime comes. The sun sets. It starts.

Drip. Drip. Sneeze. Drip.

What's with that? I blow my nose. My head aches.

Drip. Drip. Sneeze. Drip.

It's been this way for a couple of weeks now. Nothing in our apartment changes from daytime till night. Actually, we don't even have the heat running. Seriously. We don't pay the bill. It's included in our rent. But the huge building we are in has us all sandwiched between apartments up, down, right, left. I guess everybody around us keeps us toasty warm. It's in the 20's outside. But it isn't the heating system. NOTHING changes.

Except for my head.

Drip. Drip. Sneeze. Drip.

I do believe I am allergic to night time.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Snain and Slipper Socks

I'm not ready. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Christmas is just over the horizon. People are already turning on multi-colored lights and I actually saw a Christmas tree in a picture window this week. And I'm simply not ready for it all.

Wal-Mart is ready. They have been ready since August. They are drooling and salivating, sharpening their tearing-teeth and shoring up their grinders. They know I have to come in the door.

I think I refuse.

I'm not scrooge. I don't "bah, humbug" well. But after months of CNN and Fox News telling me that the financial world is coming to an end I just go nuts when I think about the bulls-eyes being painted on my head. The first news story is that the "great collapse" is upon us. The second news story is delayed so that they can squeeze in a "Visa" commercial. Ya can't have it both ways, people.

Okay, so that's how I feel about it. My Christmas tree ... the plastic one ... is in storage again this year. The ornaments are in a box someplace. Again. But I look at it this way. I live on the third floor. There are three parts to The Trinity. So it's a godly thing. My apartment number is 310. Again, three parts in the Trinity, one God, zero people living at the north pole ... if you know what I mean. So it's a godly thing too. I also believe that there is a secret message in my cars license plate but I'd have to go out on the balcony and strain visually into the darkness to see for sure. The wind is a nice steady 40 mph and it's "snaining." That's snow-mixed-with-rain. Snain. And I don't really want to know badly enough to get snained on. So you will have to trust me on that one. Debbie is watching "TLC" on the tube right now. T = Trinity. L = Lord. C = Christmas. I translate that to mean that Christmas is about the Lord ... all three parts. The Trinity. So for the time being I'm just going to drink another can of Vernor's and wait. Wal-Mart will be open twenty-four hours a day soon so why should I rush?

Besides, by then they'll have all of their slipper socks on clearance. I'll buy a case. Bingo-bango. I'm done.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Stupid Picture Chronicles #27

This road was brought to you courtesy of Ontario, Canada.

Whatever you do ... do NOT back up ...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ahhhh. This is why I love her...

If you read my daughters blog you may have already seen this. If not ... it seems that Elle missed her nap yesterday. This was the result at suppertime.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stupid Picture Chronicles #26

I don't know what it means but it can't be good.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trained professionals only ... do NOT try this at home ...

Lessons from 39,000 feet

According to the Southwest Airlines web site I have flown 18 times in the last year. I was surprised to hear that. My time in the air approaches 1.5 days. I would rather have spent that time on some beach or perhaps on a mountain top but it didn't work out that way. Nope. It's 36 hours in the clouds for me.

I have learned some things in those 1.5 days. "What have you learned?" you ask? Well. Let me reveal my #1 lesson.

I have learned that sometimes airplanes don't hold together as well as you might expect. Care for an example? I thought you'd never ask. In September I was sitting in the very back seat of a jet flying from somewhere to somewhere. I was in the window seat. And then the window was in my seat. Seriously. The inside window of the 737 fell off and landed in my lap. This was rather unexpected. I held it up, looked it over and decided it might make a good souvenir. I was eyeing my backpack when the flight attendant happened by. She asked me why I was holding the window. How do you reply to that? I told her that it fell into my lap. She failed to see the humor in the situation and told me to put it back. I could see my opportunity for extra peanuts on this flight rapidly deteriorating and so I put the window back up to the fuselage opening and slammed it with a closed fist. It popped back into place. I am pretty certain I saved the entire crew and all of the passengers from certain death. Depressurization is an ugly thing. And yet I didn't even get a "thank you." Just a scowl. The peanuts never did come by.

Well. That's how I spent part of my time in the air. Remind me someday and I'll tell you about the time I was the only passenger on the plane. Stellar.

I'm annoyed!

One of the Cleveland news broadcasts did a bit today on what Oxford University has called "the most annoying phrases" in the English language. They are ...

1. At the end of the day

2. Fairly unique

3. I personally

4. At this moment in time

5. With all due respect

6. Absolutely

7. It's a nightmare

8. Shouldn't of

9. 24/7

10. It's not rocket science

While those are good, I think I can do better. Here's what drives me up a tree ...

1. Here's what drives me up a tree (I had a friend who drove up a tree once. It didn't work so well. He's dead now.)

2. That's what she said (Only because I didn't say it more quickly than the person who said it)

3. Whattya gonna do? (Smack you if you say that again.)


5. La La Land (I live there. I like it there. Stop belittling it.)

6. Later! (Later what?)

7. Hush hush (I wish people would be quiet about hushing up.)

8. In a funk (See note on # 5)

9. To hot to handle (Then get out of the way and let me deal with it)

10 On the same wavelength (Get off my wavelength. It's mine. Get your own.)

Special Bonus Saying ...

11 I'm just sayin ... (I've used this one and I repent. I use it when I'm actually not sure what I just said. I use it a lot.)

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Stupid Picture Chronicles #25

Debbie noticed this from the expressway in New York state. I looped back for the picture. We didn't have field trips like this when I was a kid...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Stupid Picture Chronicles #24

Please boys and girls! In case you don't know, there is great danger in getting out of your car, climbing the railing, and jumping over Niagara Falls!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Laughter from the throne

I can almost hear it. Can't you?

It has been a long season of news releases, debates, breathless reporters trying to keep pace with sprinting politicians. And commentators. Don't forget the commentators. They all write as though they have the scoop of the century. He was a war hero. She was a soccer mom. He was raised on the south side of Chicago. He is the consummate politician. He is a conservative. He is a socialist. She looks great in a bikini. He ... you get the drift.

It is all so new that it's old. It's enough to make you miss Lyndon Johnson. (Yes, I remember him, but barely.)

I cheer for the underdog. Hey, I'm a Cub fan. It's in my blood. But I also like a patriotic war hero. Soccer mom's keep the families planet spinning. Not sure what to say about that other guy. I'm so unexcited about this election that I actually feel guilty. I honestly doubt that either of the potential presidents will save or destroy The Union.

Of course I could be wrong.

My personal problem is that I have listened to so many talking heads that I start assuming that they know what they are talking about. Truth is, they know little more than I do. My 401K is in the toilet just like yours is. I'm glad gas prices have crashed and I don't really feel terribly sorry for the companies that have stopped raping me.

But I do hear it. Most people do not. I hope you do. Truly. It is the best sound one can possibly hear in this bent, distorted world. You see, The Savior has already come. He didn't sit in an oval office or wear a blue suit. There wasn't one commercial touting his qualifications. He didn't care to debate ... He just told the truth. And the arguments posed against Him were left in rubble. They thought they killed Him but the truth is that He lay His life down intentionally. And in so doing He made all other moments of life not only endurable ... but potential bastions of victory.

Tonight He loves red states and He loves blue states. He loves every continent and every person on either side of every border. If you vote for the guy I'm not going to vote for He loves you. So do I. If you vote for the guy I'm going to vote for He loves you. So do I. Personally, I don't think He plans on voting at all. And I don't think He is worried in the least. I don't think He is angry and I don't think He is "tsk, tsk, tsking" his way through the election day.

He's bigger than that. And He really would like us to remember it. So if you are sweating the outcome and having trouble picturing what our world will look like if "the good guy" loses ... well ... my best piece of advice is to listen closely and see if you can hear it too. It's coming from The Throne. The one He sits on.

It's laughter. It's not the laughter of sarcasm or the laughter of "I'm about to smack you so you better get in line or duck." You see, He is in charge of human history. It's the laughter of a Father who is watching His children who really believe that if they don't build the house it will never get built. He's The Carpenter, remember? He's building us a house not made with human hands. Trust Him and you get to live there. Forever. The house we are building here will not last. Ain't going to happen. We need to remember that and get over it.

Yes, of course we should take the election seriously. Yes, we should take the high road and we should combat evil in high places. But don't get so busy pointing to a man that you forget who sits on The Throne. And don't get so busy listening to the talking heads that you miss the laughter. It's the laughter of a Father who loves His children and delights in taking care of them. And I suppose it is the laughter of the one who IS in charge as He watches the ones who think THEY are in charge.

If you need me tomorrow night I'll be looking for His Lap. I think it will be far more enjoyable than sitting in front of talking heads.

Just thought I'd remind you.

(PS ... Yes, I believe in family values, the sanctity of life, etc. And I don't mean to minimize any of that. Please do not misrepresent what I am saying. What am I saying? I'm saying that we need to do our best through our vote and through legislation and then we need to remember that our world is very fallen, very broken, and we will never be able to fix it. God alone wins the battle. So do your best, pray your heart out, and don't be surprised or devastated when "we" lose one. The Throne is occupied. His Lap is available. There is room for you.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Awww. Do we HAAAAAVE to? (And a great contest idea!)

Awwww. Do we HAAAAAVE to? Do we HAAAAAVE to have another election day? I know, I know. It's what we do. We are a democracy. This is the United States of America and I am, indeed, a proud American.

But election days are just so .... so .... brutal.

No, it's not the politicians. Their brutality has finally ended. We've watched them and listened to them and most of us have made our decisions. They aren't the problem.

It's the press.

My stomach balls up into a knot just thinking about it. Don't misunderstand. I care who wins. I care very much. I just don't want to go through the endless telling and retelling of who is going to win this state and that state and by how much ... when people are still voting. A newspaper in New Mexico has already proclaimed a winner. And it's not even Tuesday yet! I don't know about you but that ticks me off just a little bit.

Nothing I can do about it though. And besides, I happen to believe that God is in charge of human history. The bible teaches that God places people in positions of authority. Look it up. It's there. So why should I worry? Why should I subject myself to listening to eeennndddllleeesss predictions and prognostications if my God is the one that's keeping the world spinning anyway?

He is. And I shouldn't.

So here are my thoughts on how to spend Tuesday evening AFTER I have voted. Remember, these are just my thoughts. Feel free to do it your way!

- A movie? With popcorn? With extra butter? (Just in case I am wrong and the world IS ending on the day after election day I might as well enjoy my last bowl of "da corn.")

- Dance with my wife? In the quiet of our own apartment? (If I buy her some steel toed shoes she should be safe.)

- Go outside and sit on the lake? Well, not ON the lake. BY the lake. I can stare across. A guy in the Coast Guard told me this week that it's only 19 miles from my apartment to Canadian waters. (If the election goes REALLY badly I can ... nah...)

- Watch the "Hallmark" channel. (Not in this lifetime. Ha! I made a joke! That's a channel I'm not going to watch either!)

- Drive to Ashtabula. I don't know why. I guess just to see if it's really there.

- Go and buy that 42 inch flat screen. (You know. The one that ends in my divorce ...)

There has to be more ideas. Feel free to leave your plans as comments. I have a free evening next Tuesday night. OH! Here's a thought! Whoever leaves the comment with the idea that I really do ... will win a remarkable prize! It will come in the mail! Seriously! It's now a contest!!!!!

This could be cool ...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Welcome to my backyard!

Open your mouth and you can taste the perch in the wind ...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Me and Ralphie

Today I invited a cricket to join me for supper. I named him Ralphie. We met on the balcony. How do crickets get on to third floor balconies? I do not know. But they do. So I carried him in for a meal. We enjoyed wings and ribs from Buffalo Wild Wings. He did not talk much. That is alright. I was not in a talking mood. The little fella really put away the barbeque though. I think he liked the wings best.

He’s asleep now. I didn’t know that crickets sleep on their backs. With their legs straight up in the air. It must be one of those “cricket things.”

Okay, the phone woke me up and so I thought I’d blog while waiting to get sleepy again. It isn’t working so I’m going to go try a movie. I have an old “Petticoat Junction” DVD around here someplace. That should work.

Hope I don’t wake Ralphie.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

God. Would you type through my fingers? Please, sir? I have thought about it and I really do not know how to say the things that are rambling around in my brain like loose marbles on the floor of a lurching subway car. There are so many marbles ... each representing a topic ... a thought process ... a list of things to figure out ... a person who needs help ... a question ... an ache. You know the list well.

I have a friend who is very ill. Life-threatening ill. She is mad at you and so she will not talk to me. To her I represent you. Therefore we both get her silence. She believes ... she sincerely believes ... that you have turned on her. Failed her. Maybe even cursed her. And so she is angry right back at you. My heart cries for her, wanting to tell her that it isn't true, this rush to judgement she has made. Still, if I were in her shoes ... or her hospital bed ... I would most likely feel the same way.

How can I help her?

And then there are these ... situations. You know very well the ones that I mean. They come rushing at me like the wind off of Lake Erie did a few minutes ago when I dared to open my window that held it back. That wind was cold. A reminder of the winter that is most assuredly on the way. I breathed it in for a moment and then closed the window again, knowing that no pane of glass can prevent the storms that will come howling in from Canada very soon. Same thing. These situations must be recognized. Must be addressed. They are puzzles to be solved. Combinations to be dialed. Some are people that hurt and look to me for answers. Some are problems that require action when I know fully well that no action taken by one man will be sufficient. Why do you put your children into situations where they must fix the unfixable, solve the unsolvable, answer the unanswerable? That really is not fair, you know.

How can I fix things?

So I need you to type through my fingers. I have typed the questions. Won't you type the answers?

Just this once?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Facts That I've Noticed Lately

- I sleep less than 200 feet from death. It's not that I'm so brave. (Though I am EXTREMELY brave.) It's that Lake Erie's murky depths encroach on the shoreline of America right outside my bedroom. And I don't swim. At all. Therefore I sleep near death each and every night.

- I left town for 8 days and the top of my mustang (a convertible) started growing mold. MOLD! I swear the elements are against me!

- Debbie made a dinner tonight that would have made the chef at "Hell's Kitchen" weep with gratitude. And i was the recipient of this gift. I married good.

- Our little one bedroom apartment never gets dusty. Why, you ask? I don't know. Perhaps there is no dust in Ohio. Perhaps it was the kids all along that created dust and injected it into our world. I have lived here for 50 weeks and I have never dusted. Not once. Of course I can't find any of my stuff under that gray powdery stuff ... (joke) Seriously. No dust.

- I am two weeks from my first anniversary in Cleveland. And I am SO "high fiveing" myself ...

- If there were a "Daniel Dingeldien Fan Club" I would join it in a heartbeat. Danny ... if you read this ... thanks for being my friend. (Geez, I hope I spelled his name right...)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Colorado Re-Visited Pt. 1

I've put off writing about the big wedding in Colorado last week because, well, I wanted to see what everybody else said first. And honestly, there isn't much to say that they have not already said. So if you have read their blogs (see the tool bar on the right if you haven't but want to) you pretty much know the story.

Still ... here are a few memories that I made that they didn't mention or didn't share in ...

- It was cool to watch Elle react to so much of her family at one time.

- It was not cool to hear Elle fall out of bed at about 3AM. Twice.

- Realizing that Kelli has turned into ... me.

- Watching my macho sons, son-in-law, and brother-in-law descend a mountain in record time because they found what appeared to be an elk skeleton whose bones had been scattered by something bigger than it was.

- Darting through the "dancing fountain" in Beaver Creek Village. Oh yeah, and getting soaked.

- Buying Timberland sweats for $14.99. Sweet.

- Driving the Vail/Leadville/Copper Mountain loop with my bride. S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G! (And so were the mountains!)

- Grown-up conversation with Bob, Cindy, Doug, Karen, and Debbie. They let me sit in and listen.

- Biscuits and Gravy at the Arapahoe Cafe

- Watching Toph walk down the aisle with the biggest grin I've ever seen on the face of a human being.

- The "High 5" Toph and Bella shared right after the "You may kiss your bride" moment. Priceless!

- God rearranging our seating on the flight from Denver to St. Louis, placing me next to a hurting mom who needed a pastor to talk to.

- Amanda's new boots and how they actually DID match her jacket! (shock!)

- Spending an hour in a Catholic/Spanish cemetery reading tombstones and trying to figure out why Mother Mary was in a bath tub.

- Receiving a text message from Scott as he arrived back in Chicago that simply said, "Landing at Midway always requires a change of pants."

- Watching Alisha fake eating a donut.

- Arm wrestling the female teenage desk clerk in Castle Rock for the bill on the room. (She won. Strong kid.)

- Rosie's awesome condo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What I Learned At The Cemetery Today

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Open Letter To My Son Christopher

This is where I want to say the things to you that you'd punch me for saying if we were face to face. (See ... you forced me to go public. It's all your fault.)

Topher, thanks. I suppose I've taught you a few things in your life. Relatively simple things that you would have learned on your own sooner or later. Things like tying your shoes. Zipping your coat. Not running with scissors. Throwing the smoke bomb before the fuse actually reached the little colored ball at the bottom. The usual things that help to get a kid to turn into an adult with the least possible difficulty. You, however, have taught me so much more.

You taught me how to laugh when I really wanted to scream. The "challenges" you presented as the ever growing toddler turned child turned adolescent turned young adult turned almost married man were things that never failed to remind me that life is to short to get bent out of shape by the trivial. I could not tell you this at the time, but almost always when I was having to correct your for one of your famous "Christopher-isms" I was dying laughing on the inside at your insane creativity. You were never the kind of kid to get busted for breaking the law or violating God's moral code in any major way. No, you were the kid who told his teacher to "put a sock in it" when she gave you a direction that you didn't like. And that is exactly what I would have done had I been you. As you know, I still had to ground your sorry self but that's because, being the dad, I couldn't let you get away with it. You were the kid that got himself Duck Taped to a stop sign to find out what drivers would do when the passed by. I'm sure you should have expected that first car to be a police car. But you didn't. True, he simply cut you loose and you were on your way. It probably never occurred to you that he might not have seen the humor in it. There was the infamous "Cat Incident." I won't go into detail here. Just picture the obligatory scowl you saw on my face when I had to call Officer Lindsey and know that behind it I was actually thinking, "Wow. This kid has potential. That was incredibly creative." How did you manage to always land on your feet? Most anybody else would have a long rap sheet by now but somehow, to this very day, when I see one of your old teachers or particular police officers they smile and ask how you are doing. And I know that deep inside each one of them knew, even when they were doing their duty, that you were not only going to "make it" but that you were going to shine.

And that is what you are doing. Today you take your bride. She is an amazing woman. She had better be. She has an amazing future ahead of her. I was there when you were born. I was there for every day of your growing up years. I am here today as you slide a ring onto her finger. I'll be around tomorrow and everyday until Jesus gives me permission to "come on home." I might live a few hundred miles away but all you would ever have to do is call and I would be on the road as soon as I can slip my shoes on and gas up the SUV. I know that you cannot imagine ever needing or wanting to do that. But somehow it's important to me that you know that. And now "Bella" is getting a ring-side seat to the life of Christopher. She already knows what she's in for. She's been around long enough to have figured it out. I do believe she is up to the task she is signing on for.

Indulge me one more second while I tell you, Christopher, that I love you. I won't go into detail. Just try to imagine how much you will love the little child that Bella lays in your arms someday. A product of your love for her and hers for you. Imagine how deep that love goes. Imagine how you would lay everything down for that child ... whether he is two hours old or two decades old. Try to understand how time will never change that love except to deepen it. And then you will have some idea of what you mean to this guy who feels so honored when you call him "dad."

Oh, and just another "last" thing. You know how sometimes when you are driving home from work you grab your cell phone and punch in my number and we talk while you drive? We talk about everything or nothing. And then as you pull in the parking lot you tell me you are there and you have to go. And then you say the simple words, "I love you, dad." Did you know that those moments ... those words ... are worth more than jewels to me? I cannot repay you for the thrills and joys you have brought me.

It is simply enough that you know.

Congratulations son. You chose a very worthy bride. I am proud of you. I love you. Always have. Always will.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cleveland to Chicago to St. Louis to Denver ... and worth every mile

Today was a long and awesome day. It began with our friend, Brandy, taking us to the airport in Cleveland. That's where we found out that we were going to Chicago. I really need to start reading my flight itineraries when I'm going someplace. So we went from Cleveland to Chicago to St. Louis (where we changed planes and caught up with Christopher and Laura) to Denver. Denver is where we greeted Scott and Amanda, as well as grandpa and grandma Sandy. It is also where I decided that I only brought 2 checked bags on the trip instead of three. Yea, me. I totally forgot our "hanging bag" which holds all of our wedding clothes. And I didn't realize it until we checked into the hotel in Castle Rock. Way to go, Ron! After about an hours worth of phone calling I got someone at Southwest Airlines (they were INCREDIBLY helpful) who actually got the bag and put it in the office. Tomorrow the rest of our family flies in and will grab our bag and drag it up to the mountains for us. I love having people willing to bail me out! May their tribe increase!

It was just an awesome day. The fight attendants on the St. Louis to Denver leg of the trip "somehow" found out that Christopher and Laura were getting married. And so they demanded that everybody applaud them as they were presented with a special gift. "Official SWA House Slippers" for Laura. Made out of ... Maxi-Pads. This is too much for the male mind to comprehend so I'll just post a picture and leave it at that.

But by far the best part of the day was just hanging out with my amazing family. I love just listening to my grown kids (including my kids "in-law" which I insist on the right to just call them "my kids,") interact. It is food for my soul. Each one of them is insane is his or her own way. I laughed harder today than I have in a year.

After arm wrestling the teenager girl desk clerk for the hotel bill (I lost) my sons and I ended the day by spending about an hour in the hotel whirlpool just talking. Catching up. Honestly, it may turn out to be the best hour of the trip. If so, it was worth every dime. And tonight it occurs to me ... we closed on our house back in Illinois yesterday, and Saturday we "close" on our last child by gratefully watching as he commits himself with a full heart and without reservation to the woman of his dreams.

Does it get any better than this?

No way.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I hate baseball

See that picture? I saw it live on television as a 13 year old kid. I remember it. It is not the Cardinals. I don't care about them. It isn't the Mets. They don't matter. It isn't the individual Cub players. They are pawns in something bigger. I just do not know what that "something bigger" is. It is like God is mad at the Cubs. Too many quality guys have come and gone only to fold in October. To many weird things (hello, Steve Bartman) has happened. It's cosmic. I really believe it is cosmic.

At this moment, after watching total CARNAGE unfold on my television for several days, I cannot conceive of ever caring about baseball again. If the players do not care then why should I? I am perfectly capable of holding a bat on my shoulder while baseballs go whizzing by just like they did. (Hint: No "swingy swingy/no hitty hitty.) And you wouldn't even have to pay me millions of dollars for the privilege. Just buy me dinner. I'm a cheap date.

I have a personal rule. Being a pastor, and with Sunday being the most intense day of the week, I have made a covenant with myself to never make a major decision on a Monday. This rule has served me well.

This, being the day after the total implosion of "my" Cubs, is not a day for making decisions about my future as a baseball fan. If it were ...

Well, never mind. It just is not the day.

Today I hate baseball.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The best things about non-home-ownership

Today is the day that a new family was SUPPOSE to close on the house I've had on the market for a year. They are involved in some type of program that had the title companies so backed up that the realtor emailed me paperwork last night to sign and fax back allowing them to postpone the closing until Thursday. Since I didn't really have a choice I complied. So I still own my own home for 48 more hours. Then somebody will be mailing me a check that I'll be keeping far away from Wall Street.

Anyway, I've been thinking this thing over and, much to my surprise, there are many reasons one should be happy (did I say happy?) about not owning their own home. Here's the best reasonings I can come up with...

10 - Lawn mower? What's that?
9 - Wow! That was a whale of a storm that just passed through. Look at all of those branches on the ground. Somebody really should clean that up!
8 - When I pay rent, darn it, it goes for a place to live! Not a DIME goes to interest!
7 - Hey, look at that busted pipe. Bet that's going to make a mess.
6 - Whoa! The shower leaks! NOT MY PROBLEM!
5 - Check out the view of the lake out that back window. Ya can't find that in a subdivision.
4 - Hmm, what did we use to call those old things a few years ago? Uhhhh. Snow shovels? Yeah, snow shovels.
3 - Renters insurance VS. home owners insurance. No contest.
2 - Show me a house with an elevator and I'll show you a house I can't afford to live in!
1 - The banks foreclosing on this place? No problem. Let's move down the block!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Lessons from a dumpster

Today is for later. I am aware that makes little sense. But it is true. Stick with me.

I just spent the last 60 hours packing up a house that my family lived in for 15 years. This is the last time I am going to write about it. The experience has taught me some things that I have to put into print lest I forget them. This seems like the logical place. If they are helpful to you in anyway, you are welcome to them. If not, well, try

I filled a dumpster (8 ft X 6ft X 5ft) with the debris collected over 15 years of living in a house raising kids. I cannot believe the things that I threw away. I cannot believe how totally ruthless I became in deciding what was to stay and what was to go. In the end we still filled the largest truck U-Haul rents out. Today it is all in the basement of some of our best friends on the planet. They are saving me thousands of dollars in storage because that stuff will not fit into the one bedroom apartment in Ohio. Well, it would fit ... but we wouldn't.

I sat in front of open drawers and tried to sift through the little objects we all save thinking that we cannot live without them. It is the "stuff of our lives." Well, guess what. We can live without them. They are keepsakes. Tokens of memories. They tug at our hearts reminding us of how good things were. The precious nature of shared events. The profound meaning of a moment in time that we so want to freeze ... and cannot.

Here is what I learned this week.

I love my family. I loved each of them the moment I met them. And since those moments the love has, in each instance, deepened. Without my family I am not certain that there would be anything left of me. Oh, I would still have a body and a brain and obligations. But the essence of "me" is tied up in "them." If you do not have family ... what do you have?

I love my friends. So many came to our aid this week. They packed and they hauled and they fed us and they prayed over us. Our friends carried us this week. They did not have to. They chose to. It's a love thing. If you do not have friends ... what do you have?

I love my God. He has been pretty silent this week. But He has not missed a moment. He paid for it all. He kept reminding me that "stuff" is simply that. Stuff. Perishable things. He places bandages on my past wounds and keeps pointing to a future where there are no moving trucks or boxes or expendable stuff or even Duck Tape. If you do not know God ... what do you have?

I really don't know what else to say. I am so sleepy that I could doze off at this keyboard. My knees creak and groan from the weight they have borne. I suppose I am trying to understand the twists and turns that life has taken. And I have nearly reached the conclusion that I never will understand them. How do you come to understand life? Life is not meant to be understood it is meant to be lived. Navigated. Conquered.

When I was in my late teens I went to a movie on a gloomy Saturday afternoon. It was a "war" movie. Lots of tanks and bombs and soldiers. I walked from a dark and depressing afternoon into the a movie theatre that left you wanting to cheer for the good guy but with the certain impression that victory against evil would never fully be achieved. As I left the theatre I stepped out the same doors I had come in through. The early evening that I found stood in stark contrast with the afternoon I had left behind. The clouds had given way to bright sunshine and a brilliantly blue sky. The air was fresh and clean from recent rains. I felt fresh and clean too, very glad to put away both the gloomy day and the chilling movie.

Life brings pain. The two are synonymous. You will not get through it without feeling its sting. And I guess every life is littered with dumpsters. That is just the way it works. Some are physical dumpsters that sit in a driveway and collect the refuse of years of living. Some are emotional dumpsters that plant themselves as deeply into our minds and hearts as we will let them, collecting feelings and thoughts that you just cannot carry any longer. But there is good news. We are not "home" yet. My faith in Jesus Christ reminds me that someday I will walk out from under the gloom that the days on this planet can bring and into the brilliant sunlight of ... my Father's House. And we will take up residence there with Him. LIfe at Home with Dad. We will not need drawers for token memories because all will be a glorious "now." There will be no more jet planes taking me away from those I love. There will be no more craving for one more hug from precious little arms. There will be no more broken or bruised relationships.

And there will not be one dumpster. Ever.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stepping on a crack = Bad news for mom

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Special Blog Edition: "EMUS CATULI!"

Due to the celebratory nature of this day ... the day when the Cubs once again secured their place in post season play ... the editor (that would be me) has removed the title banner (I Wasted Time and Now Doth Time Waste Me) of this blog from the picture posted above. Why? Because time is not being wasted. True, the Rockwell painting shows sad Cubs fans but that is simply to remind ourselves that the team consists of mere mortals. They only play like supermen. Are they going to win it all? Of course they are. But let us restrain ourselves. Let us remember from whence we came. Let us not count unhatched eggs. Let us remember ... Steve Bartman. The black cat of 1969. You get the idea.

And yet ...

100 years. EMUS CATULI!

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm so glad that I paid attention to the stock market this week. It was not at all dissimilar to riding the latest "Puke 'em Up" roller coaster at the amusement park of your choice. Down 500 points. Up 400 points. Down ... up ... up ... down ... you get the point. I only paid attention because the media has to have a way of keeping your attention so that they will get paid. That means they have to get hysterical over, well, anything. If they are hysterical they know I'll watch. Kind of like when the reporter on some cable news network got blown over and rolled through a bush while filming in the midst of hurricane Ike. He was a real brainiac. But I did watch so I suppose he got the job done. The bottom line is that in spite of all the hysterics the stock market is up 40 points in the last month, 18% over the last 5 years and 44% over the last 10 years. And for this I'm suppose to be hysterical?

I say all that just to say this.

In heaven ... nothing has changed. I just asked. God quietly assured me that He is still in control. He's in control on the days when I'm down and He's in control on the days when I'm up. He's in control no matter what the latest politicians stump speech may indicate. Hurricanes wreak their havoc on the coast. Tornado's tear through the heartland. Earth quakes bounce people all over the west coast. Lots of stuff goes wrong. Lots of stuff goes right.

And every time, every moment, no matter what I feel like ... God is still my God. He never wavers, trembles, breaks a sweat, or gets surprised. He is ... well ... God.

So go to bed tonight. Turn ALL of the lights off. There is nothing hiding under your bed that He doesn't know about. He is in charge. And He loves you.

I just thought maybe you needed to be reminded. I know I did.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Every Four Years ...

Eight years ago my father passed away. I really loved him. He was strong and self-confident and all of those things that men are suppose to be. And then he was no more. Sometime after the last eulogy was read, the last song was sung, and the casket was lowered into the ground I went to his house and cleaned it out. It was an act of total stupidity. I rejected the offer of my wife and a close friend and I did it myself. That isn't exactly true. I sorted through their stuff and filled two dumpsters with family memories. And then I hired teenagers from McDonald's to help me load the rented truck and bring the furniture to my mom's new apartment one half of a mile from my house.

Cleaning out their home was brutal. I paid an enormous emotional price.

Four years ago today I buried my mom. We placed her earthly remains next to dad's in the Arkansas cemetery. And it was time to clean out another dwelling. My amazing wife did most of the work this time. She grabbed a few friends and did the sorting and tossing out of memories. I only had to deal with the major furniture. That was hard enough. I really loved my mom just like I did my dad. I still miss them both more than I can say. Last week I was back in the town we all lived in when my mom died. I drove past her old apartment and just parked the car for a minute. Remembering.

And last week my house sold. And so next week I will be going back one more time and cleaning out a place of memories. Blessedly, nobody had to die this time. But this is the place where we raised our children into the awesome adults that they are today. Every room has an abundance of memories. And the garage? The garage is filled full to overflowing with their stuff. Souvenirs ranging from preschool to college. Pictures of wonderful times. Items that hung on my refrigerator door for years.

I have learned sometimes that it is best to simply turn your brain off. Put it in neutral. Let it run out of gas. Do anything but allow it to roam freely. Sometimes it is best to refuse to look backward and simply focus on the task at hand. Or dream about joys coming up in future days. Onward and upward.

I don't know what life will look like four years from now. Given my recent history this concerns me. I have never been the sad type. My life has been more defined by joy and exuberance for living than by gloom. But geez. This cycle has to be broken. Three times in a row is more than enough. I have often noticed an odd symmetry to life but this is ridiculous. And so I am giving my family and friends ample notice. The year 2012 will be joy-filled. Dying will not be tolerated. Those who relocate far away will be scorned. I don't want so much as a fender bender in a car or a pet that has to be put to sleep. I want more grandkids by then and I want them bouncing on my knee and slobbering up my face with their kisses. I want hugs and holding hands and loud laughter bouncing off the rafters. I will be 57 years old. My hair will be even more gray than it is now and I will be celebrating every one that is left on my head. It WILL be a GREAT year.

But for now? One more house. One more dumpster. One more time.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hurricanes are not suppose to come to Ohio

Who knew? We were in church Sunday night when the lights started blinking. We heard the wind. But we are a hardy bunch up here. Wind is not unusual 1 1/2 blocks from Lake Erie. We finished our bible study, had our monthly business meeting, and drove home. Debbie was experiencing some asthma issues and so I walked her up to our apartment and then left to go grab some supper and bring it home.

I stepped outside onto the 3rd floor catwalk.

HOLY STINKEN COW! The wind had more than doubled in the five minutes I was in the building. I'm guessing it was blowing way faster than the speed limit on the local expressways. I had to lean in to it in order to continue forward progress. And weirdest of all? It was barely raining. There was just this like ... driving mist. Totally odd. When I got into the Trail Blazer it was rocking in the wind. I pulled out onto Lake Road and the trees were dancing. The farther inland I got the slower the wind blew. After a tour through the Arby's drive-in I returned to hurricane-ville by the lake. To the east of us and to the west of us the communities lost power. We never did. This was a grace as it would have been a very difficult thing for Debbie to fight asthma through an un-air conditioned night. Blessedly we didn't have to find out just how tough. Some of them are still powerless. And a young boy was killed nearby trying to get home on his bike before the storm hit. A tree fell on him. How totally tragic.

But aren't hurricanes suppose to, you know, be by the ocean? I don't remember them drifting up into the upper midwest before. Must be global warming. Or maybe it's because it's an election year. Could be the economic crises.

Whatever it is I wish it would quit. I don't like Ike.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

It's our year

Sure it was a no-hitter. I mean, Carlos Zambrano beating the Astro's tonight. No hits. But did you also know ...

-This was the first Cubs no-hitter by a pitcher who's last name begins with a "Z?"

-This was the first Cubs no-hitter at a "neutral site" ball park?

-This was the first Cubs no-hitter that W-stinken-GN didn't show outside of Chicago? Thanks so much to whoever made that decision.

- This was the first Cubs no-hitter since I moved to Cleveland, moved to St. Louis, moved to the western suburbs of Chicago, got married, had children, graduated from college, graduated from high school, and started shaving.

- This was the first Cubs no-hitter since a gallon of gas cost TWENTY NINE CENTS PER GALLON.

I'd say it's about time.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Supper With Elle

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

From a grateful Dad and former home owner

I have to make a choice. I can write about two things tonight. Both are very important to me. Four days ago my house sold after a year on the market. Today my daughter turns a lovely 28 years old. I have to write about the one that means the most to me.

She was all pink and slimy. Her eyes were like saucers except that they pierced deeply into my soul. In ninety seconds I went from being a man who never wanted children to a man who would die for one. It took her a heartbeat to win my soul. That was 10,220 days (you may adjust for leap years yourself) ago and absolutely nothing has changed. I have gone through the observation phase of the birth process three times. And three times I have fallen to unfathomable depths of love that I never thought possible.

Kelli was the first and today, from a distance of nearly 600 miles, I have silently celebrated every hour. How do you say "thank you" to God for someone so life improving, so heart changing, so soul inspiring, as any of my three kids? How do you wrap your mind around the truth that God allows us ... mortal human beings ... to participate with Him in the process of creation? God created my kids through love. The love of my wife and I for each other. And now we see the reflection of that love in each of them as they have chosen their mates very well.

And so to my kids on this night I say a grateful thank you. Thanks for being who you are. Thanks for loving your parents. Thanks for the unmitigated joy of watching you grow up. Thanks for making our houses into homes. Tomorrow I will fly back to St. Louis to that newly sold house. I'll fix the minor things that need repairing before inspectors descend upon it. But my mind won't be on wiring or termites. My mind will be on memories. Laughter. Games of "HORSE" in the driveway. Dates making their way through the front door and out again. Some rejected. Some accepted into the family. Christmas mornings. Pizza dinners. An occasional disagreement. Some of them louder than others. But I will remember that it's just a house. Houses all come down eventually. Memories? They last forever when you make them treasures and not anchors.

Kelli. Scott. Chris. Here's to the treasures. And Debbie? Nice job...

Monday, September 08, 2008

10 Reason's Why I'm In A Blogging Slump

10- Uh.
9- Um.
8- Well.
7- (scratching head)
6- (looking around the room)
5- Because ...
4- (sweating)
3- (sigh)

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sleep = Good

What better time to blog than when you've slept 2.5 hours out of the last 36? This mini-essay is an experiment. I want to see how many brain cells I've killed off.

Debbie and I made a dash to Bethalto Sunday afternoon after morning worship service. 575 miles. A decent drive. We slept in our own house on our own air mattress. The place is haunted. No, seriously. It's haunted. About half of the furniture is gone and what remains likes to tell stories. It is impossible to sit on a chair or at a table without recalling the multitude of great times that took place on that spot. Even the garage tells stories. And don't even think about going into the (former) kids rooms!

But I had not checked on the house or the yard since June. I was shocked when I pulled in the drive. It was dark but not so dark as to prohibit seeing the carnage that three months had taken. The shrubs had extended over the sidewalk. The driveway had mega-weeds sprouting through the cracks. And the 4 trees in the backyard had grown to the point where their branches came within one foot of the ground. Seriously, I had trimmed them in June and had walked under them and could not touch those same branches that I now nearly tripped over.

And so a long hard day was spent trimming and dragging, trimming and dragging. You know. Trim the growth and drag it to the street. And it was a lovely 93 degrees. The humidity reached the "ocean" range on the old humidity scale. If I didn't lose a few pounds there is simply no justice.

But there were fun times like last night. We had a great evening at the home of our forever friends, Bob and Cindy Dude. Kelli and Joe were there, The Amazing Elle was in attendance, and Jim and Alisha also showed up. Debbie and i were the last ones out the door and arrived home around midnight. I saw 1AM before finally falling asleep. And I woke up at 3:30AM with the realization that Debbie was moving around. She hadn't fallen asleep. So I did that "husband comfort" thing, telling her that all was well. She fell asleep. I was awake. Somewhere around 4:30AM she woke up and told me that a light had just flashed through the living room window. (We were sleeping in the living room.) Then she fell back asleep. I ... didn't. I checked the yard. Nothing. I went back to the air mattress, listening for foreign noises. You see, nobody has lived in the house since April when Christopher moved to Kelli and Joe's. So the house is a target. That's obvious. At 4:45AM a police car with flashing lights drove down the street. Now I was not only awake but in hyper-mode. At 5:15AM a garbage truck came along with a flashing light on the back on his truck. That had to be checked-out. And at 5:45AM my neighbor across the street started up his truck and flipped on his headlight. He had backed into his drive and my room light up almost violently. At 6:45AM my alarm went off. We drove away at 7:30AM. I think Debbie slept for 3 hours. So she had to do most of the driving on the drive home today. We got back 45 minutes before I had to teach Wednesday evening bible study.

Okay, there it is! Tomorrow morning I'll reread this and if it actually makes sense I'll know that I am a genius that can survive on virtually no sleep after sweating off my entire entire body weight.

This .. is a test ...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I guess we really do get forgiven ...

A blog by my good friend and "birthday buddy" Kristi has got me thinking about Moses. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about him. He's been gone a long time. We didn't exactly cross paths or anything like that. Still, he does take up a lot of bible space and so I am very familiar with his ways and the events of his life. He did some really good things. Screwed-up a few times too. Case in point ...

Moses screwed-up so badly that God banned him from the promise land. He gave him this simple direction. In the presence of the Israelites speak to the rock and command it to bring forth water. Pretty simple, huh? But when the time came and the people were gathered together Moses struck the rock twice with his staff instead of speaking to it. He also to credit for the pouring forth of water by asking "Must we bring you water out of this rock?" referring to himself and his brother, Aaron. In short, he simply disobeyed God. And God takes obedience very seriously.

You didn't know that? Shame on you.

So God told Moses that he was not going to get to enter the promise land. He could see it. He just couldn't enter it. And sure enough Moses died never having gotten to enter that much anticipated country.

Fast forward a couple thousand years. We find ourselves on "The Mount of Transfiguration." Jesus took a trio of his disciples there. Peter, James and John. Suddenly Jesus was "transfigured" and began speaking with two heavenly guests. Who were those guests, you ask? Well, One was Elijah. The other was ... Moses.

Hmmm. The "Mount of Transfiguration" was located in "the promise land." And Moses was there. In other words ... he made it. He got in. Once Moses died and entered the presence of God the guilt was erased. The penalty was obviously lifted. He got to see what he was not allowed to enter while walking around the planet in his regular old flesh and blood body.

I really am glad to know that. I fail God more often than you know. And I am not going to start giving you a laundry list of my own personal screw-ups now. God knows. I know. That's quite enough, thank you. And Moses is my own personal poster boy for forgiveness. Because of the gift God gives us in allowing us a glimpse of Moses showing up where he was not suppose to be able to show up we can actually buy in to the truth that when Jesus died for us He paid for EVERYTHING. I'm off the hook. I'm free. I'm forgiven. The curse is lifted.

Death is not to be feared. Death is freeing. It is in death that we finally ... at long last ... find ourselves home. Home. Forgiven at home. I don't have a death wish. I have a lot to live for. But a big part of me ... can't wait.

(Note: If I die anytime soon please know that I did not write this as a premonition! I'm driving carefully, looking both ways before I cross the street, and going inside during thunderstorms. Maybe God knows something but He sure hasn't told me! So you can read this at my funeral but as you do ... shake your head sadly at my total cluelessness!)

Monday, August 25, 2008

What good is a lake if it doesn't spit at you every now and then?

I finished my daily tasks and decided to take a lakeside walk this afternoon. The lake was kicking up its heels a little bit. It was really cool to watch it as the breakers slammed into the concrete covered by steel dock at our apartment complex. After a few minutes I grabbed my cell phone and called for Debbie to come down. Well, being the adventurous soul that she is, it wasn't good enough to stand at a safely dry distance and watch. So we lay ourselves down on the wide sidewalk. I grabbed my camera and switched it to video. What you see above is the final result. It's a couple of minutes long but ends very in a very worthwhile manner with my darling wife getting quite wet. Every husband should have a day that ends as happily as mine did!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

My Fuzzy Buddy

It's sad watching an old friend die slowly. (I mean, I don't really want them to die quickly either.) Some are just suppose to last forever. But, alas, I don't think she's going to make it. She's not yet "critical" but she's moving in that direction.

No, no. Debbie is fine. The kids are great. It's ... "The Date Chair."

I'm sitting in (on?) her as I write this. I purchased her years ago from a wholesale place in East Alton, Illinois. I had never been in the store before but found myself walking through it one day and came across her. It was love at first sit. I went and got Debbie, knowing that she would share my love. She didn't. I walked away broken hearted. A week later I went back ... you know ... just to visit. I sat in her again. It was a perfect moment. The angels sang. Then I noticed a flaw in her fuzzy arms. I pointed it out to the salesman. He sighed and knocked another $50 off of the price.


I loaded her into the back of my mini-van, drove to the old "TR's" restaurant and phoned in an order to be delivered to the back parking lot. Kelli was there and she delivered with Tammy Iskarous. I was lounging on my new fuzzy buddy, van hatch open, shoes off. The bagel just made it all the more perfect.

Eventually Debbie forgave me and wanted to sit in her too. I had to share. But she was really mine. Always was. Always will be. She became officially known as "The Date Chair" when the kids started bringing their dates home and discovered that she was big enough and long enough (she's a "chaise lounge") for them to sit next to without dad (that's me) going nuclear. This chair survived Kelli and Joe's dating extravaganza. She saw Scott and Amanda fall in love from close up. Christopher and Laura have camped out on her through many an evening. One of my favorite memories is of Amanda and Laura sitting side by side in her singing the theme song to "The OC." Ahhhh. Those were awesome days. The Date Chair never met Bear but she survived Bailey. I often lay in her (the chair, not the dog) in the nearly fetal position with my head on her thick fuzzy arms while Bailey lay next to me, resting her little Beagle brains on my leg. It was the best moments I ever spent with Bailey. We bonded there.

And now she's not doing so well. She made the trek to Cleveland with me a few months ago. I noticed her creaking as Danny Dingeldein and I moved her upstairs. And now as I sit in her I realize that she isn't so fuzzy anymore. I lay my head on her arms but she no longer caresses my cheek. Perhaps worst of all there are patches ... little areas ... where her fuzz is gone. Completely worn off by the very love she offered.

I don't know how long she'll last. And there is no point in calling the chair doctor. (Is there a chair doctor?) No, her condition is terminal. She isn't going to make it. I believe that 5115 lake Road is going to be her last stand. But I'm not giving up on her. I'm not throwing her out the door early. Like the true lover she is I'll sit with her till the very last moment. She'll be my fuzzy buddy until her little cushions no longer beckon me to rest ... until her cushy arms are nothing but fabric covering 2X4's. Until she is pronounced "deceased" by a stronger heart than mine. And then I don't know what I'll do. Perhaps I'll have friends come and remove her while I'm out pretending that all is well. Tricking myself into believing that it's just another evening. And when I get home and gaze through tear filled eyes at the place where she brought me so much joy ... I'll lift a cold can of Vernor's in her honor ... and toast the days gone by.

Then I'll probably go chair shopping. (Hey. You can only take this grief over a chair thing so far!)

Scott, Elle & Bailey in The Date Chair

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Christmas Story House

We've waited until we really needed something to do before pulling this one out of our hat. Friday's are our designated "Discover Cleveland" day. Last week you may have read that we drove all of the way to Toledo for peaches. Okay, we got that one wrong. So today we made up for it. We went to "The Christmas Story House" in the inner city. If you have any holiday spirit in you at all you've seen "The Christmas Story." It was filmed in 1983 and is the story of Ralphie and his family as they live their lives out around the Christmas holiday. The house where it was filmed is still standing. A couple of years ago it was in a state of total disrepair and for sale on ebay. It sold for $150,000. I think the guy who bought it was from the west coast and was not really terribly happy when he came out and actually set eyes on the place. (Lesson: Never buy a house on ebay.) But he's done okay for himself, rehabbing it and charging $7.50 per person to tour it. I'm sure it takes a lot of tourists to cover the purchase price of the house (20,000 to be exact,) not to mention the rehab tab. But people come by the bus loads. So I'm not too worried about him.

We finished off the evening by heading over to Blockbuster and renting the movie. Had to verify its authenticity, don't ya know.

And in case you are wondering ... no, Debbie would not let me buy a "leg lamp" at the gift shop. Not that I didn't try...

Monday, August 18, 2008

10 Summer Olympic Events I Would Like To See

Hey, we all love the olympics. The sportsmanship. The competition. The medals. But it's all gotten so predictable. We only watch these sports every four years. So I say it's time to revamp the events. Out with the old, in with the new. Let men prove themselves to be men. Let women show once and for all what they are made of. In the spirit of the original games I humbly submit the following "upgraded" events. LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

10 - Asphalt volleyball
9 - Parking lot diving
8 - Beach bob sledding
7 - 100 Meter Reader Dash
6 - Cherry Bomb Badminton
5 - Chain Link Fencing
4 - Waterford Crystal Basketball
3 - Real Horse Gymnastics
2 - Inverted Aquatics
1 - I-Beam Pole Vaulting

Saturday, August 16, 2008

-195 miles

Today I found a fruit stand selling "Red Haven Peaches" five miles from my apartment. I refused to purchase any.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Should have settled for a banana

All we wanted was some peaches. Freshly picked "Red Haven Peaches." 'Tis the season. So this morning Debbie asked somebody she volunteers with at "Meals on Wheels" for advice. The kindly woman wrote up directions to her favorite fruit stand and "nearby" "Lake Erie Fresh Perch And Walleye Restaurant." Peaches and Perch. (Peaches and Perches?) Sounded good to me. But It looked like a rather long trek. And the directions were ... less than stellar. But we decide to scrap our previously agreed upon plans and "go for it." So we dropped the top on "Emma the Mustang" and headed west. We followed the directions meticulously.

We gave up when we got to Toledo. That's near Michigan.

No, I am not kidding. We drove 200 miles (round trip) for peaches and Perch(es). But we would not be defeated. On the way home we actually found the restaurant AND the fruit stand. They were both in the GPS data base. Who would have thunk it?

We purchased 19 peaches. I crunched the numbers. With gas we paid roughly $1.83 per peach. Neither of us have eaten one yet. I think we feel a certain reverence toward them.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Just Wondering

So today I was sitting on the beach gazing out over lovely Lake Erie. I was sitting with my wife, which is a very fine choice of people to sit with. A boat went by. Quickly. And I asked myself ...

"Self? Why don't fish die in propellers?"

If I understand the purpose and function of a propeller (and it is entirely possible that I do not) the propeller spins it's little curved blades. In so doing it pulls water IN from behind the propeller and forces it out the front of the propeller. Right? Seems right to me.

Well, fish live in the water. This part I am certain of. So if fish live in the water and the water is FORCED through the blades of a propeller ... why do you never see hacked up fish floating up all bloody behind a boat?

Anybody? Class? Anybody?