Saturday, December 31, 2011

#115 - 2011: The Roller Coaster Ride That Was

I'm sitting here with Teresa, reading a Christmas letter from some old friends now living in Maine, getting ready to watch Teresa's alma mater, Auburn, play Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, and preparing to ring out 2011. Good riddance, I say.

The first half of the year was uneventful enough. We managed to get out several times in the fifth-wheel, and Christopher successful navigated through his final year of junior high. Then he and Teresa made a trip to see her family in Alabama. When they got back, she got sick.

In July, we got a look at a 2007 Alpenlite Voyager fifth-wheel. We weren't looking to upgrade at that point, but the layout was much closer to what we thought would be ideal for us, and the price is right, so we decided to pull the trigger. We also managed to sell our old fifth-wheel in a week. That was, perhaps, the highlight of 2011 for us.

Then came September. I guess they don't call it fall for nothing. Christopher got off to a successful start in high school. Teresa got laid off from her job, then got un-laid off.

We decided to take the new fifth-wheel out for a four-day trip to Anderson Ranch Reservoir. Bad idea. After it was all said and done, the damage was close to $17,000, and we were out-of-pocket close to $3,000.

October had more in store for us. The following week, Teresa began a new job with St. Luke's Health. Hopefully, it will prove to be a rewarding move for her in the long run.

November brought Christopher's turn on the roller coaster. He developed an abscess on his upper leg. Right before Christmas, he developed another one, and we were told it was MRSA. Heck of a way to end the year. It felt as if we crammed a year's worth of events into the final three months of the year.

Still, it was a pretty good year. Teresa got into a job situation that should be very good for her. We qualified for some support services for Christopher, and we managed to get out a number of times in the fifth-wheel, something we truly enjoy doing.

Despite the adversity of the last three months of the year, we are blessed. We both have jobs, we live in a very scenic part of the country, and we have opportunities to get out and enjoy that scenery. All in all, life is pretty good. I hope life was good to each of you in 2011 and continues to be good to you in 2012. Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

#114 - Christmas Wishes and Gifts (of a sort)

I've been thinking about this post off and on for a few days now, thinking about what I wanted to say and about how I wanted to say it. Before I say any of that, though, let me first wish everyone a Merry Christmas, no matter how you mark, celebrate, or otherwise pass the day.

Now, on to the Christmas wishes and gifts. Hopefully you won't be too offended to make your way to the end of this post.

First, to the members of Congress, I give a collective lump of coal for turning their backs on and shirking their responsibility to the majority of Americans in this country. Echoes of the actions of this Congress can be found in the so-called "Do-Nothing Congress" of the 1940s under President Harry S. Truman.

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans has led on any issue. Instead, both sides have acted like spoiled children who threaten to either hold their breath until they turn blue or take their ball and go home. I've never been an advocate for term limits because I believe there is value in a life spent in public service. This Congress has me reconsidering.

Next, to President Obama, I would give - if it were in my power - a backbone. He took office saying he would look to work with the other side of the aisle, something I took to indicate a willingness to compromise. There is a big difference between compromise and capitulation.

I believe the President has given much more ground to the Republicans in Congress than he has gained on numerous issues. I also don't believe the actions of Obama the President match the views espoused by Obama the candidate.

For practitioners of various faiths, I would give - if I could - greater understanding of one another. I believe it is only through understanding that we can achieve peace, one of the sentiments underlying the season, at least as evidenced in many of the Christmas cards that make their way through the mail this time of year.

Finally, for my friends and family, I wish improved and/or increased prosperity in 2012. I am not really speaking in financial terms, although I would be glad to see that for each of you as well. Instead, what I wish for you is richness of mind and of spirit and of faith, regardless of what it is you believe. My own faith journey has been filled with stops and starts over the years but has finally brought me to a place where I believe to be true what is stated in this ancient Japanese saying:
"There are many paths up the mountain, but the view of the moon from the top is the same."
May each of you have a joyous Christmas, filled with love and laughter and peace.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

#113 - The Worst Day of the Year?

Now that the Thanksgiving feasting is over and tables have been cleared and food put away all over the country, we can allow our thoughts to turn to . . . shopping???

Yes, even before we finish digesting our meals it is time to turn our attention to Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is not even over, and the Christmas advertising has begun in full force.

I've been inundated with e-mails from traditional and online retailers alike over the last several days. It's enough to make me want to say "Enough."

Regardless of where you stand on the religious and spiritual significance of Christmas, it doesn't seem too much to ask for a slight break between Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas shopping season. At the very least, I don't think it is too much to ask that stores wait until the day after Thanksgiving before they launch their sales assaults.

Instead, we have stores opening at 10 p.m. or midnight on Thanksgiving, assuming they closed at all. (Wal-Mart's deals begin at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night. I'll let you reach your own conclusions as to what that says about how they feel about their employees.) We barely have time to reflect on the things we are thankful for before we begin thinking about the deals we hope to snag and be thankful for.

From a time to remember and celebrate the birth of Christ (for those who are Christians) or even a time to remember and celebrate being with family (as was probably more the case in my family growing up), Christmas has become the primary profit-making season for retailers and the time of year when many of us show the worst aspects of what it is to be human.

Greed and selfishness have replaced giving, compassion, and good will as the bywords of Christmas. Christmas shopping itself has become a competition. We fight each other to grab the last doodad or whatchamacallit that next year neither we nor the recipients will recall. I personally don't think any thing is worth that much trouble.

While some will get up at midnight or four a.m. to try and save some money (but at what other cost), assuming they go to bed at all, I will be sleeping snug in my bed (without the visions of sugar plums in my head).

I am content to let others run the retail gauntlet. They are welcome to endure the bumping and bruising from other shoppers. Let them experience the disappointment of finding that the store has sold out of the item they got up early to get. I don't mind missing those deals. After all, there will be others.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

#112 - Giving Thanks

In a blog post on the eve of Thanksgiving, Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations With God series of books (among others), made the unique and I thought inspired suggestion to abolish Thanksgiving as a holiday and instead make it a holy day.

While that in and of itself was enough to make me take notice, what I found unique and inspiring was a suggestion he made later in his post with regard to how Thanksgiving is celebrated:
Forget about sitting down to a big meal and offering thanks to God for all the bounty that has been received during the past year. Instead, create a new ritual. Sit down together and thank God for all the goodness that is to come.
He believes we should discuss those things in the coming year for which we are going to be thankful. In other words, looking ahead rather than looking back. As he has stated in Conversations With God:
. . . the message about gratitude is clear. It is the most powerful form of prayer. Gratitude in advance, not gratitude after the fact. This is because to thank God in advance for something is the highest form of faith. It is a statement of supreme confidence. It is the Ultimate Knowing.
Walsch goes so far as to suggest making a list and writing down all that you choose to have happen between Thanksgiving 2011 and Thanksgiving 2012 and then reading it aloud at dinner. He says doing so will give Thanksgiving a new meaning:
It will now be about Sharing and Declaring. It will be about Knowing and Growing. We grow into what we know.
I'm certainly willing to give it a try. So here is my list:
  1. I will be thankful for all of the opportunities I have in the coming year to spend time RVing and reconnecting with nature. Spending five weeks without our truck and still being without our trailer makes me realize just how precious those moments are.
  2. I will be thankful for the love and patience of my wife, Teresa. She has been and continues to be my anchor (a term I use in a good way), helping me to stay grounded and giving me someone to laugh and cry with.
  3. I will be thankful for all of my Facebook friends, people from my past and present, as well as those I have yet to meet. They help to bring to life memories of the places I've been as well as the places I still hope to see.
  4. I will be thankful for new challenges and new opportunities to grow. The last few years have been some of the best of my life in terms of growing and learning to better accept myself. I suspect the coming year will bring more of the same.
  5. I will be thankful (or at least strive to be thankful) for the challenges of dealing with a teenage autistic son. It now looks like we may have a little help with that, which I think will make life less stressful and more enjoyable for all of us.
I'm not sure those are in the format Walsch is suggesting, but hopefully they will be seen as being in the proper spirit.

Walsch concludes his blog post by suggesting that Thanksgiving should be the holiest day of the year
. . . because gratitude is the most sacred tool in the Creator’s Toolbox. With it anything can be produced, anything can be created, anything can be experienced!
I am not a Biblical scholar or a theologian, but I suspect he may be on to something. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Be thankful. I am.

Monday, October 31, 2011

#111 - Thoughts on Halloween

I'll admit it, I'm not much of a fan of Halloween. It's not just the fact that my son begins talking about Halloween in August, although that probably plays a part.

It's not that you see and receive types of candy you wouldn't see or receive any other time of the year, although that also may play a part. I'm sorry, but candy corn and those multi-colored toffee-like chews wrapped in black (usually) waxed paper are not my idea of a tasty treat. (Now if someone had figured out how to put bite-sized cheesecake candy in my bag, they would have been onto something.)

It's also not that I got trick-or-treated out when I was young. Fact is, I remember going out to trick-or-treat twice in my life - once at age 11 and the next and last time at age 12. That second experience turned me off to the entire trick-or-treating thing once and for all.

When I was 12, my mother decided I should make some sort of statement with my costume. (What that statement was meant to be, I have no idea.) Being a family on welfare, however, precluded renting or buying a statement-making costume. So my mother decided she would make my costume.

She (or maybe we, I don't recall) decided I should dress as Cousin Itt from the Addams Family. You might think such a costume would consist of a series of blond wigs somehow stitched together, perhaps some sunglasses, and a bowler or Derby hat. You'd be right about the hat and the glasses.

In those days, we lived in a rental house located in a mostly industrial area. Our nearest neighbors were a gas station and a warehouse. On the opposite of the road from us was a huge drainage ditch in which grew what we called cattails, known in Britain as bulrush and given the scientific/biological name of typha.

My mother came up with the idea of making the bulk of my costume using the plants. (Pay attention to the word bulk; I'll be coming back to it.) Those of you into crafting or with strong imaginations might be thinking "what a novel idea." You didn't have to wear the thing.

I will admit that the finished product did bear some resemblance to the character I was meant to look like. I will also admit I felt somewhat like Cousin Itt, or least I felt like I was carrying Cousin Itt piggyback.

You see, that costume seemed to weigh 30 or 40 pounds. Maybe more. After a few houses, I felt like I was stuck inside a bamboo sauna. The thing was bulky and suffocating. My mother forgot to put sufficient air holes in the costume to allow for ventilation, hydration, or breathing.

I think I lasted four houses before I took the costume off, after which, my treat intake declined and my feeling I had been tricked increased. After that night, I never had the desire to trick-or-treat again. Perhaps that was my mother's goal. She had a twisted sense about her, and since we couldn't afford dental care, perhaps she thought that was the best way to turn me off of candy. Since that night, I've also had no desire to dress up for Halloween, although I did so once as an adult. Sadly, no one understood the costume.

These days, I am content to hand out candy to those for whom trick-or-treating is a more pleasant experience. I especially enjoy handing candy out to the younger children (say seven and under) for whom trick-or-treating is a chance to escape to another world and not simply an easy way to a sugar rush (as it seems to be for the teenagers who come to our door, judging from the lack of thought put into their costumes).

For the youngest of them, trick-or-treating is still a magical event, a chance to discover and marvel at untold treasures of all shapes and flavors. They are the ones for whom Halloween is truly meant. Me, I started too late. Thankfully, they did not. Happy Halloween and safe trick-or-treating everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

#110 - A Month to Forget

October has been a month to forget. My hope is that November will have enough going for it that I can do so.

The month started with me looking forward to two days off. The plan was to take the truck and fifth-wheel up to Anderson Ranch Reservoir, a place I had spent a nice weekend the year before.

This year was going to be a little different. Teresa and Christopher were staying in Idaho this year, so Christopher was going to come with Oliver and me, and Teresa was going to join us after finishing her last day of work with Supervalu on that Friday. That is what was supposed to happen, anyway.

What actually happened was a $16,000 nightmare. I got up to the reservoir mid-morning as planned in order to get a good spot before all the hunters arrived. Unfortunately, I was not able to judge how solid the ground was and managed to get truck and trailer stuck. So far, we're only talking inconvenience and embarrassment.

Then the first towing company arrived. I figured they knew what they were doing; after all, they told me several times they had gotten rigs out of the same predicament in roughly the same area. I suppose I should have begun to be concerned when I saw they had to piece together several smaller chains and cables in order to make something long enough to reach the truck. But, not having a lot of experience with being towed, I thought nothing of it.

A little later, when one of the chains snapped, I began to get a little concerned, but I still didn't think too much about it. Then, their big flatbed tow truck got stuck, but I still wasn't hearing the warning signals.

When they were unable to pull me out from behind (the preferred method since it was a straight shot), they decided to dig some more, set their trucks at a 90-degree angle to the front of my truck, hook up there and try to turn the truck and rig and pull them out that way. At this point, if I had not still been in shock over what had happened to lead to all of this, I might have had enough sense and awareness to just say No. The fact that the lead man had "25 years of experience" led me to trust his judgment.

When he said he was sure they could get the truck and trailer out with "minimal damage," I should have picked up on the use of the word "damage," but I didn't. After the fact, all I can conclude is that the term "minimal damage" has a different meaning in the world of towing than it does in my household.

After six hours of trying and failing to free truck and trailer (not counting the hour spent freeing their own truck), the tow company and I agreed we should stop. That was about two hours or so too late.

The tow company cut me a "break" on the tow bill $925 instead of the $1,860 they said it should have been. That's because the truck and trailer were probably stuck worse than when they started work. Not to mention the damage, most of which I had little clue about until last week.

Christopher, Oliver and I sat in the dark for two and a half more hours until Teresa could come get us and bring us home. Two days later, Teresa and I rented a truck and went back up to claim some belongings out of the trailer. Several hundred more dollars spent on the weekend that never was.

Nine days after getting stuck, a second company went up to try their luck. they had plenty to say about the first company's efforts, none of it good. But they did manage to get truck and trailer out after about three hours (digging and winching combined). Then both were off to repair facilities.

The estimate on the truck came in first: rear bumper - bent and needs replacing, left fender - needs replacing, running board along driver's side - bent and needs replacing, passenger side of truck sidewall - bent but repairable, fifth-wheel hitch and rails - bent and need replacing, various scratches - need sanding and repainting. Total cost with labor: $7,300. Earliest estimated date of completion: November 9. Early indications from the repair facility are that the insurance company may pay for the repairs.

Details on the trailer are a bit more sketchy. The estimated damage comes to $9,100. The door to the battery compartment was damaged and needs to be replaced, and there is a dent on the left front corner of the trailer. I also imagine there was some damage done underneath, although I do not have specifics.

Complicating things is the fact the Western Recreational Vehicles, Inc., manufacturer of our fifth-wheel, closed its doors in April, 2008. As a result, replacement parts have to be fabricated since they are no longer available. That also means repainting the entire rig, I gather, since they cannot repair, replicate, or replace the original decals and finish on the trailer.

That claim was submitted to the insurance company this week, so I don't know yet where we stand. Suffice to say, I have felt for most of this month as if I were standing waist-deep in mud, able to wave my arms frantically, yell and scream and cry, but not able to move or do anything about this predicament.

In a sense, I guess Halloween came early for me, but instead of a treat I got one hell of a trick played on me. If the claims are paid and we get the truck and trailer back in usable condition in November, I'll have something to be thankful for. Here's hoping.

Friday, September 30, 2011

#109 - A Look Back

Now that September has drawn to a close, I have a moment to step back and take a breath. This has been a busy month in a lot of ways.

On the plus side, we managed to get out twice with our trailer in September, once over Labor Day weekend and once more a couple of weekends later. For most people, Labor Day brings an end to the camping/RV season, but I think we still have a lot of outings to squeeze in between now and the end of the year. We have one outing planned and have talked about at least two more, so I think we'll be getting out some more as long as our schedules and work allow.

Speaking of work, September was very busy and also brought a few surprises. I had a lot of changes to make, which I got in thanks to an 11-day stretch after returning from my holiday weekend. Then, of course, there were changes to the changes, a number of them last minute.

Teresa, though, was responsible for the biggest change of all. For some time, she's been concerned about the future of her position, but she's been prepared to ride it out to the end. But then a co-worker told her that one of the local hospitals might be looking for someone with her experience.

She talked to them, they rewrote the position a bit to better fit her skills, and the job was hers. Okay, maybe it wasn't as easy as that. The money is a little less, and there may be occasional challenges in caring for our son in the afternoons (her current position offers some flexibility to work from home), but we're convinced we can make it work.

In addition, the new position offers Teresa some new challenges and opportunities for growth that she's looking forward to. Plus, we've gotten some new leads on some resources for helping us take care of our son.

All in all, this has been one of the more eventful months we've had. For the most part, those events have been positive, even the one where our dog got out of the back yard (he actually came back when called - we weren't sure he would). October has a tough act to follow.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#108 - Livin' La Vida Bueno

(Apologies to Ricky Marin, Ricky Martin fans, and those who can't stand Ricky Martin. I think that covers just about everyone.)

Life has been pretty good of late. Sure, it's had its stress - Teresa's job situation being in doubt, then resolved, then who knows? I've also been working plenty of overtime (including weekends) this summer while also trying to help get Christopher to do the required work for his online photography class.

I caught the sun just right
Yet, in the midst of that, I have had some good moments. Going out with Christopher to take architectural photos. Here's one of my favorites, featuring a Methodist church (or part of it) in downtown Boise:

I think we had a good time together, at least I did. In fact, since I bought my new camera about six weeks ago (a Pentax K-r DSLR from Costco), I've probably taken more pictures than I took in the several years Teresa and I shared our Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot (a very nice camera that Teresa still uses).

Our new home on wheels
It has been an eventful summer. Right before Teresa got word that her job was being sent offshore (a decision rescinded a couple of weeks later with the immortal phrase "oh, we made a mistake"), we decided the time was right to upgrade our fifth-wheel. We found a 2007 Alpenlite Voyager with a much more family-friendly layout for a relatively low price. While we weren't really looking to trade up, we decided the price was too good to pass up, and we pulled the trigger. We were able to sell our old fifth-wheel within a couple of weeks. So far, we've only taken it out twice, but we look forward to years of enjoyment.

Today also marks four weeks exactly since I decided to end ongoing sessions with my therapist. At the time, I decided to end the sessions for primarily economic reasons. With Teresa's job status up in the air at the time, it seemed the right thing to do.

Later, when Teresa's job situation seemed a bit more secure, it still seemed like the right thing to do but for a different reason. I felt we had kind of plateaued in our session and felt I needed to undertake the next part of my journey on my own. I don't know if I will complete my journey of self-awareness before I finish my journey on this earth, but to paraphrase the old Virginia Slims cigarette commercial, I've come a long way, baby.

Here in Idaho, school is back in session, and the Labor Day weekend is almost upon, both of which mean a winding down of summer. For many, that means an end to camping and RVing experiences until the next year, but for us it may be only the beginning. Christopher has asked about taking the trailer somewhere for Christmas, and we're also hoping to make several outing between now and then.

So, if the phone rings and no one answers, look for us somewhere on the road living la vida bueno. I'll be the one with the smile on my face.

Monday, July 25, 2011

#107 - An Ending and Perhaps a Beginning

"We'll always have Paris." - Humphrey Bogart to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca
"Louis, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship." - Humphrey Bogart to Claude Rains in Casablanca

I was reminded of these two lines this weekend with the news that a co-worker and friend is leaving at the end of the week and moving to Pennsylvania. I'm not sure, but I may have been one of the last to hear the news. Apparently, I swing on the wrong grapevine.

Shannon is a friend in the Facebook sense, although not in the more traditional sense. We don't hang out together. She's never been to our house or vice versa. Still, I consider her a friend and one whose presence around the workplace I will miss a great deal.

One of the things I will miss most about Shannon is her smile. She has one of the warmest, brightest, and most genuine smiles I have been privileged to share. Suffice to say, if you were in a dark space in need of light, you could ask Shannon to smile and you would have all the light you need. There is also a sort of Cheshire cat quality about her smile, almost as if she knows something you don't and is debating whether to let you in on the secret.

I imagine that for a few weeks after Shannon's departure, the workplace will be a colder place. In thinking about this post, I had a flashback to the descriptions in the Harry Potter movies of how people felt after the dementors had come through, as if the joy had been sucked out of the world. A little over the top, but I  know that for a little while, laughter will seem a little more hollow around the workplace.

It is an undeniable truth that in life things change. Things change all the time, and nowhere is this more true than in Corporate America. Fortunately, Shannon's departure is not because of a decision to downsize but is due to a desire to reunite her family all in one location.

But change sometimes hurts. In my case, it will ache for a little while. I have been fortunate to have known a handful of wonderful women in my life. One, I have been married to for nearly 18 years, and she has the patience of Job where I am concerned. Another is the person whose job I took but who then became one of my closest friends. Shannon is among that group.

Come Friday, Shannon will be gone but not forgotten. As she said to me in an e-mail Sunday, "we will always have Facebook." It isn't Paris, but it is, I hope, the start of a beautiful friendship.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

#106 - Ghosts of My Father

First off, Happy Father's Day to all of the dads out there.

This Father's Day found me somewhat reflective. First of all, I had to work much of the day. Teresa has been sick for a week, so I've also tried to juggle doing what I can around the house and seeing to her needs. Needless to say, our original plans for the day were definitely subjected to change.

For some reason, this year I also spent some time thinking about my own father who was, in a sense, the father I never knew.

I saw my father for the last time in the spring of 1962, the spring after I turned five. I left to go to kindergarten, and when I got home he was no longer there, at least not physically. But for years, he was always with me.

Perhaps I should say that the idea of my father was always with me since, being five at the time he left, my memories of our time together are not all that plentiful.

At the time, the explanation from my mother was that my father decided he could not handle having a family. So he left. The truth, it turns out, was apparently something much different.

Suffice to say that it appears criminal acts were involved, leading to a stretch in prison. Details, though, are a bit hard to come by fifty years after the fact. What is a fact is that for years I blamed myself for my father's departure because I had no other story to fall back on.

Beyond that, however, I think that I never really learned how to be a son. In some ways, I think I tried to grow up at age five, when I wasn't really ready to be grown up.

The flip side of that is that is that I never really learned how to apply the lessons and experiences that come from a father-son relationship when I became a father. As a child without a father to bond with, I withdrew and became somewhat distant as a means of protecting myself.

The result is that I sometimes have trouble getting close to my own son. Some of that is that I don't really know how to relate to him sometimes because of his autism. Most of it is my own difficulties in getting close to others.

Now to cut myself a little slack. I think I am a better father to my son than my father was to me. The main reason is that I am still around, so there is always a chance to get it right. We occasionally argue, we sometimes laugh, we each sometimes dig in our heels. But through it all, we are still together in a way my father and I never were - as father and son.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

#105 - Bachelor for a Week

It's a bit quiet around the house the past few days. On Friday, I took Teresa and Christopher to the airport for an eight day stay with family in Alabama. While they're away, it's just me and Oliver.

In a way, it's kind of like being a bachelor all over again. I can go to bed when I want, get up when I want (at least this weekend), and eat what I want when I want. Those are the up side.

On the other hand, there's no one around to have an adult conversation with or to talk about the day with. Because it's only me when it usually is the three of us, it's almost as if there's an echo or a hollowness around the house.

I planned to take the trailer out for three days while the family is in Alabama, but I don't think that's going to happen. For one thing, we have a delivery scheduled during those three days that I ought to be home to receive. For another, the weather isn't quite as nice during those three days as it has been this weekend.

Part of life and marriage is adapting and compromise. This week, I'm adapting to their absence. Saturday, I'll be compromising my sleep to pick them up at the airport after their late arrival home. And I'll be ready.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#104 - Road Trip

Recently, we packed everyone (except the dog) into the more fuel-efficient of our two vehicles and took a little road trip. We traveled about an hour south of Boise to an area known as Swan Falls.

One sample of the promotional
material on display.
Swan Falls is the site of one of Idaho Power's many dams along the Snake River. The original dam was built in 1901 and is the oldest dam on the river. In 1994, a new power plant was built alongside the old plant, which was converted into a museum, open just a few times a month for tours.

The museum features much of the original equipment used in the first power plant, along with some samples of promotional materials used by Idaho Power during the first half of the twentieth century.

The day we visited there was an open house being conducted by Idaho Power, so we took the opportunity to get a closer look and take some pictures and video. This short video combines both still shots and motion to try to give a sense of the facility from both inside and out.

The dam is located in the heart of the Birds of Prey National Conservation Area. There are places upstream and downstream from the dam that are suitable for primitive camping if you have a tent, camper, or small trailer, although we did see a motorhome as well. Trees are nowhere to be found, making shade almost non-existent. As a result, summertime is not the best time to visit if you have issues with the heat.

One thing I discover the longer I live in Idaho is that much of what is worth seeing is found a little off the beaten path. Swan Falls certainly falls (pardon the pun) into that category.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

#103 - Another Year Older

"Another day older and deeper in debt. St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store." - Tennessee Ernie Ford, "Sixteen Tons"

I'm not deeper in debt, not yet, although I have yet to see the latest repair bill on our truck. And while I am another day older, I'm actually thinking about another member of our family.

Our son's cake - red velvet with chocolate
chips, sprinkles, and Peepsters on it.
Our son celebrated his 15th birthday Friday. Or, as I like to sometimes put it, he's 15, going on five, going on 40.

As an example: Friday, we went out to dinner to celebrate our son's birthday. Then we went to Toys 'R Us to let him use a gift card he had received. He gravitated immediately to the Pokemon section. While older kids may play with Pokemon, all of the children pictured on the packages looked to be seven or eight, which made me think perhaps our son had outgrown them. (He ended up buying something else.) This could be considered to be part of the five-year old phase (give or take a couple of years).

A few days ago, our son was sitting in our family room, looking at a catalog. He was gazing intently at a page filled with women in bathing suits. A week or two earlier, he was apparently doing a Google search on nudist camps. (By the way, there is one within an hour's drive of Boise we can take him to if he's serious.) I would term these behaviors as relatively typical teenage actions in the age of the internet.

On other occasions, he's asked serious questions of us, such as whether we think he'll ever get married. It's a prospect that both scares me and gives me hope for his future. I haven't always handled being a husband that well, so I have no idea how someone who is autistic will do. But I am certainly not one to predict.

This wide range of behaviors and actions is, I think, fairly typical of someone considered to be a high-functioning autistic. One minute, our son is talking about becoming a film director one day; the next, he's making yet another creature out of a piece of paper.

We don't know what his future holds. We recently completely our estate planning process, so we have hopefully put things in place to help care for him when we are no longer around to do so. Perhaps before then we'll have a better idea of what he will be able to do for himself.

There are days when I think our son will fully be able to live independently. There are other days when I think he will need someone to do everything for him. Our son can be unpredictable at times. That unpredictability has taught us that, where he is concerned, anything is possible and perhaps probable.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

#102 - Wine for the Active Lifestyle?

Single-serve alcoholic beverages have been around for some time, but you always needed a glass to pour them into. Until now.

Three of the six available varieties, it also comes in
Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling.
Copa Di Vino, a company based in Oregon, has come out with a line of single-serve wines bottled and served in their own recyclable plastic glass. 

The wines have a patented foil seal that, according to the website, keep the wines fresh for up to one year. The container is capped off with a plastic lid that snaps of tightly to keep any leftover wine from spilling whilst you are on the move.

As judged by the comments of some co-workers, these 187ml or 6.3 ounce containers would be perfect for picnics, a trip to the park, perhaps an outdoor concert or other performance.

But what about the wines themselves? I'm not a oenophile or any kind of wine expert, but to my uneducated palate, these wines are okay, but not great. While drinking the merlot, I kept getting hints of a smell that seemed slightly chemical in nature, perhaps to do with the foil seal.

I'm not a big fan of chardonnay to begin with, and the Copa Di Vino chardonnay did nothing to change that, although I did find that the wine took on more of a citrusy note as it warmed a bit. The white zinfandel was sweet, as you would expect, and perhaps a slight cut above Sutter Home and the like.

Part of the presentation of these wines on the company's website touts the idea of bottling premium wines right in the glass, in this case, a recyclable one. But is that enough to recommend any of these wines as more than a convenient novelty?

The answer may depend on the price point. If these are priced at $1.99 or perhaps even less, I could see these becoming quite popular with people who lead active lifestyles - hikers, bikers, and such. Imagine hiking to the top of a hill and once there enjoying a glass of wine while also enjoying a panoramic view or perhaps a beautiful sunset.

I can also see these as a popular choice when the urge hits to have a picnic in the park. As long as people remember that they are buying lifestyle and convenience and not great wine, these have the potential to do very well indeed.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

#101 - Some Stuff About Stuff

"I want an iPod. What's an iPod?"

Those words were uttered recently by our son. Yes, we were proud. While humorous, these words also point out what is one of the problems with the mass consumerism mentality some have warned about for years.

We are bombarded by commercials for the latest and greatest this and the new and improved that. The commercials sometimes convince us to buy things because they sound really great and not because we need them. I would not be at all surprised to find that some people buy things not having a clue as to what to do with them.

This 2004 article from National Geographic suggests that consumerism may actually be doing more harm than good in terms of the overall health of our planet. I can't speak globally, but I don't think it does all that much good from an individual perspective.

Jocelyn K. Glei asks "Is Consumerism Killing Our Creativity?" It's an interesting hypothesis that, whether true or not, should make us stop shopping online for a moment to think. I certainly think an argument can be made that stuff is not good for our physical or mental well-being.

Think about it, You buy a house. You buy a car, maybe two cars. Then you buy a bunch of stuff to put in the house. Pretty soon, you've got a lifestyle to maintain, one that might be pretty expensive. So you work. Long hours. Maybe a second job. All to maintain this lifestyle you've "stuffed" yourself into. Long hours lead to increased stress. Perhaps an ulcer. Or worse. Now, you have medical "stuff" to take care of in addition to the stuff you bought.

I'm not saying stuff is inherently bad. I have stuff, lots of stuff. However, I seldom aspire to the latest and greatest stuff, and I almost never aspire to the most expensive stuff. Case in point: I recently bought a new laptop. Did I buy the most expensive one I could find? No, I bought perhaps the cheapest one I could find that would do what I wanted and felt right when I used it. The other thing I seldom do is get caught up in the stuff that other people have.

When I was younger, I tried to fill the many holes in my life with stuff. I never went for expensive clothes or fancy cars or anything like that. Instead, I bought lots of books and records (later, CDs and DVDs). I had plenty of great music and movies, but the holes in my life were still there.

These days, we are working to rid ourselves of some of the stuff we've accumulated over the years. We are finding it is easier to get rid of stuff if you don't have it to begin with. We may be worrying more about what we have than what we don't have.

There is an old saying that money can't buy happiness. It can buy lots of stuff, but stuff will not make you happy. Unless, of course, you approach it with the right attitude.

What is that attitude? If I were defining it, I think it would go something like this: enjoy the stuff you have, don't worry about the stuff you don't have, define your stuff but don't be defined by your stuff. When the stuff gets to be too much, sell it, donate it or, if necessary, throw it away. Think of it as freeing yourself from another chain.

Monday, April 11, 2011

#100 - Working vs. Living

"I'm taking what they're giving 'cause I'm working for a livin'." - Huey Lewis and the News
"Work, work, work. Work, work, work." Mel Brooks as Gov. William J. Le Petomane in Blazing Saddles

Some time over the last month or so, I seem to have crossed the line from someone with a job to someone bordering on being a workaholic. And I'm not all that happy about it.

Last week, I worked a little over 60 hours. Three of the previous four work weeks were over 50 hours, and the remaining week was almost 50 hours.

There are those who say that in this economy I should be thankful to have a job. However, I suspect many employers count on people having exactly that mentality and keeping quiet as more work is piled on them. I know I've kept quiet. Employers rely on our distorted sense of responsibility with the end result that many of us put our employers ahead of our families or our own well-being.

My developing theory about this is that workload is the individual equivalent of the theory regarding highway expansion. That theory basically states that as highway capacity increases (additional lanes, new roads, etc.) the level of traffic or traffic load will increase to fill the additional new capacity.

In terms of the workplace, the way this plays out is that, as you increase the number of hours you work (presumably in order to catch up or even get ahead), the workload increases to fill that additional capacity. As a result, I end up no further along than when I was working 40 hours a week.

That's why I cringe whenever I hear the latest report on productivity in this country. Yes, we all are doing more with our hours at work, but at what cost? In an age where workers are disposable parts, we all try to make ourselves seem more valuable by putting in 60, 70, 80 hours a week, thereby hastening the pace at which we, too, must be disposed of because we've burned out like a light bulb.

There are those who tell me "think of the paycheck you'll get" which contains a tacit assumption that money is the most important thing in life. It's not. It can't buy you love; it can only rent you lust. It can't buy you happiness; it can only buy you stuff to fill the empty spaces and create the illusion of happiness. I know, I've tried that approach.

A former colleague once uttered what remains one of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever picked up. As he was leaving, he told me "I work to live. I don't live to work." I've always thought of those as words to live by. Lately, it seems the balance has shifted in the opposite direction, It's time for me to reverse course and soon.

On a side note: This is my 100th post on this blog. I never thought I'd get this far. At some point, I thought I would become more focused in my posts in terms of topics, but this blog has remained somewhat random, thereby living up to its name. It has in turns been therapy, rant, attempt at humor, heartfelt, but hopefully not boring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#99 - Where There's a Will, There's a Way - Into Madness

". . . nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes." - Benjamin Franklin
"And when I die, and when I'm gone / There'll be one child born in this world to carry on, to carry on." - Laura Nyro (sung by Blood, Sweat and Tears)

For several years now we've talked about writing our wills and getting our estate in order so as to provide for our son when we're gone. For most of that time, talk is all it's been. Until recently, that is.

A little over a month ago, we finally met with a lawyer to get the ball rolling on getting a will in place along with powers of attorney, living wills, and so on. We completed the first phase of that process and have draft documents in hand. Now the real fun begins,

The draft documents we have have several areas where more specific information is needed. Burial or cremation? Open or closed casket? Where should your obituary be published? It's a slow death just getting the paperwork ready so that you are prepared when you actually do die.

And the need for specific information goes on. Who should be your trustee should your original choice resign, die, or otherwise not be able to carry out the duties assigned? What music do you want played at any service? (For the record, I want Elvis Costello's "The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes" to begin things, and I want to close with Barber's "Adagio for Strings".) Who do you want as your pallbearers? I don't know; who wants to carry an urn.

If there are specific bequests I want to make aside from the disposal of my estate (at least I sound well-to-do), I need to list them. If there are specific things I want to buried with, I must list those as well.

You get the idea. It's an important task, but it seems like minutiae on top of minutiae. No wonder we put it off for so long. I no longer feel guilty about that, if I ever did. It's important, but it's painful in much the same way having bamboo shoots placed under your fingernails is painful. Perhaps wills and such documents are the revenge of lawyers for having to go to school for so long.

But I suppose we can't turn back now. After all, we have a special needs child to plan for, which I guess makes it all worthwhile. So, this weekend, I guess I'll be doing a little heavy lifting and some less than light reading. As they say, no pain, no gain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#98 - Vacation and It's Aftermath

"Vacation, all I ever wanted." - The Go-Gos
"Is that all there is" - Peggy Lee

I'm now through two days in my first week back at work since vacation, a glorious eight-day getaway from it all along the banks of Brownlee Reservoir near Hells Canyon.

It was a wonderful, do-nothing affair, the weather saw to that. It was cold, wet, and windy, and it was great. We read, drank wine, ate well, and listened to music in the comfort of our fifth-wheel trailer.

In other words, we sat on our butts. The couch and recliner became like human battery chargers that we plugged ourselves into in hopes that eight days away from work would rejuvenate us enough to power us through the dozens of workdays ahead.

And it worked, at least for the first Monday back. But after eleven hours at work yesterday, ten and a half more today, and the prospective of many more long days over the next two months, I have to say eight days was simply not enough.

Not that I'm complaining. Okay, maybe I am a little. I came back to work to find myself already behind and ready to get away again as soon as humanly possible. If I can dig out from everything on my desk at work.

The eight days away were not without their own difficulties; the power supply on my wife's laptop died, which led to the purchase of a new machine. Today, her portable hard drive apparently decided to join her old laptop's power supply in technology heaven.

Then, of course, there are all the little day to day things that don't go away just because you've gone on vacation: laundry, housework, dishes, etc. It's kind of like that unpaid balance on your credit card, it just continues to grow and becomes harder to deal with. At some point, the creditors want their money.

That's where we are now. We had our fun away, and now it's time to pay the check. Was it worth price of built-up housework and laundry and falling behind at work? In the immortal words of Sarah Palin, you betcha!

Friday, March 18, 2011

#97 - All Things Christopher

Today, Teresa and I met with teachers and support staff to discuss Christopher's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for next year and his transition from junior high to high school. I think we were both a bit apprehensive going in because we were afraid there would be an attempt to lock him into a path that would eliminate any possibility of pursuing a career in something he might be interested in.

For the first few minutes of the meeting, I felt my fears were going to be realized. There was a good deal of talk about socialization skills and the like, things the junior high program has worked with Christopher on for several years with little success. There has been little attempt, from our perspective, to see what he is capable of academically, and we were both afraid his entire life was going to be mapped out for him in this meeting. The roadmap we were envisioning eliminated any possibility of college and career.

Thankfully, the meeting went better than I initially though it would. I felt we were listened to and heard and that we were all in agreement that getting Christopher where he needs to go - socially and academically - will require some thinking outside the box. I thought some of the same things last year only to be a bit disappointed in the way things worked out, so the jury is still out.

However, I was encouraged to hear that Christopher has made some academic strides this year. The news on that front sounded much more positive this year. And when I mentioned that I still had hopes Christopher might one day be able to go to college, the idea was not dismissed or even downplayed. it was left out there as one of many possibilities for him.

What that tells me is that there is growing recognition and awareness on the part of all parties that no one yet knows what Christopher is or will be truly capable of. Personally, I still think deep down that the sky's the limit for him - as long as we don't place so many limits on him now that he can't even see the sky let alone reach for it. I came away from today's meeting with a sliver of hope that won't happen, and I'm going to hang onto it for all it's worth.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

#96 - The Darnedest Things

This morning, Teresa was in her office, working away to solve some crisis developing out of the latest systems conversion at work. Christopher and I were left to have breakfast on our own.

While we were enjoying a bowl of oatmeal, we happened to look out through our sliding glass door into the back yard, where we saw a cat in the neighbor's tree. While we watched, the cat gingerly made its way down through the branches to the top of the tree trunk. As it was looking around for a way out of the tree or perhaps looking for a place to jump, Christopher says to me, "Cats are such drama queens." Darnedest thing #1.

A few minutes later, I hear the following question: "Dad, do you know about sperm?" I suddenly got a little nervous thinking the time has come for "The Talk," the one I never got growing up, the one my single year as a Boy Scout left me unprepared to give. Darnedest thing #2.

I answered, "Yes," and was about to try to formulate an explanation, when he told me what he knew. "There's the sperm whale." "Yes." I said. He quickly added, "Then, there's the other sperm. They're like little balls with tails." Oddly enough, the fact that he already knew that much made it a little easier to try and explain their function to him.

Then he asked me if Oliver, our beagle, had sperm. I told him no, and he asked me why. I told Christopher that Oliver had been neutered so that he would not father lots of puppies because there were already so many dogs in the world that no one wanted.

At this point, I might have expected to have to explain to Christopher what it means to be neutered. However, he astounded me by asking if Oliver's reproductive organs had been removed so he wouldn't get even crazier around other dogs. (Our beagle does not play well with other dogs, the ad on Craigslist not withstanding.) Darnedest thing #3.

After that, there was no more talk of sperm or cats or drama queens. We finished our breakfast, Christopher cleared the table, and then he went off to do some drawing or reading.

Christopher never saw the television show because it was on the air long before he was born, but Art Linkletter had it right when he stated that kids say the darnedest things. At least Christopher sure does.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

#95 - Just a Lazy Day

 I sit here at my desk looking out at overcast skies that threaten rain but have yet to deliver much, and I think of how unmotivated I am today. Some who know me might ask how today is any different, but that is something for a future post, perhaps. If I can make myself write it.

Today, the weather is uninspiring, which fits in with how I feel - uninspired. I started out to clean up my office, a job which remains undone, as it has since we put in closet organizers several weeks ago and even before that.

I've succeeded in charging up a pair of wireless headphones only to find they don't work. I got an old inkjet printer working on my Linux-powered laptop, only to find it needs ink. And I moved a few piles of stuff around only to realize I still don't know what to with them. Not exactly legendary in the annuls of productivity.

The highlight of the day so far has been delivery of our Girl Scout cookie order by our neighbor's daughter. After I took delivery and closed the door, I immediately started to feel old. I remembered her as a five or six-year old when her family moved in across the street probably six years ago. The time suddenly felt as if it had flown by in a flash.

I blame such thoughts on the weather. It's been gloomy enough lately to remind Teresa of her time living in Syracuse, an experience, to hear her tell it, akin to having teeth pulled without anesthetic. I think she internally translates the phrase "when Hell freezes over" as "when I go to Syracuse." Apparently, it was gray there nearly half the year. The weather here is almost never like that, but winter grabbed on hard this year and is still fighting not to let go.

Oliver came in to cheer me up. His arrival reminds me that winter will soon let go of its hold and give way to spring. I just wish it would hurry up already!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

#94 - The Communal Side of Food

It's late Saturday evening, and Teresa has just gone to bed. A few hours earlier, the last of the dinner guests left after several hours of catching up, laughter, and yes, good food if I do say so myself.

It was great to catch up with people I once worked with and hung out with, people I haven't seen in several months. The conversation flowed freely, the laughter perhaps even more freely.

That, to me, is one of the great aspects of food. It always seems to taste better when it is shared with friends. I don't know if that is because, as a cook, you try a little harder and the extra effort comes through in the food. Perhaps it is because cooking for friends adds an extra element of enjoyment to the act itself. I think it may be some combination of the two.

After everyone left, Teresa and I watched Julie & Julia, about author Julie Powell's year-long journey through Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Interspersed with that story is Julia Child's years long struggle to finish the cookbook and find someone to publish it. At the heart of the movie though, at least to me, is the food and our relationship with it.

In the film, food is the means by which Julie Powell is finally able to start and complete something, in the case cooking all 500-plus recipes from Julia Child's cookbook over the course of a single year. Food is also the means by which Julia Child finds purpose and meaning in life, perhaps even finds life itself.

When I have the chance to cook for friends, I don't know that I find purpose and meaning, but I do find myself feeling a little more alive, a little more connected with others. Cooking becomes my gift to them, my way of showing them how glad I am that they are a part of my life.

Cooking is mere ritual and eating merely a necessity of living when you have no one to share it with. Cooking during the week often feels the same way, coming home after a full day of work, faced with the prospect of what to cook or, as it is sometimes put, what to throw together for dinner.

Cooking for friends, though, becomes more of an act of love, a special occasion. I may be wrong, but I suspect many of the world's disagreements and misunderstandings could be cleared up or overcome if we could just cook for one another and break bread together. Who'll serve up the first course?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

#93 - The Facebook Effect

Today, I took what was for me the unpleasant and somewhat painful task of removing one of my Facebook friends, someone I had worked with for several years during my past life as a television news producer.

A recent political discussion begun by said former friend on Facebook had turned a little too ugly for my tastes, ugly to the point where it was suggested I hate America and told I should leave. So I did leave - the friendship, that is. Not the country.

The exchange is, I think, indicative of something I'll call the Facebook Effect. While we become what Facebook calls friends, we are often nothing more than connections.

There is little true intimacy and often little in the way of civility. The way many of us were taught to talk to and to treat others goes out the window on Facebook. We each sit behind our computer keyboards and talk at each other rather to each other, assuming from a few words written here or there that we know all there is to know about the other person. That false familiarity and the safety of hiding behind our keyboards gives us the license we seek to speak to one another in ways we likely would not if face to face.

Of course, not all interactions on Facebook are as I describe here. But there are enough such interactions to make me wonder sometimes whether I am really cut out for "social networking."

The aforementioned exchange left me with a sour taste and a feeling similar to the one which led me to get out of television news. I could feel myself beginning to sink to the level of those who were spewing their hatred at me. So I got out.

Since he has 4,800-plus other friends, I doubt I'll be missed by my former Facebook friend. It's sad in a way, though. Facebook has the potential to bring people from various places and various viewpoints together for meaningful discussion. I've seen it happen.

However, that potential is a double-edged sword as it also allows people of similar views to insulate themselves from different people or different views. In such an insular environment, progress can never occur, understanding is doomed, and cooperation is prevented.

I've experienced too much of that side of the Facebook effect lately. Now I'm ready to rediscover some of the best of what the Facebook effect has to offer.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#92 - Rainy Day Reflections

"Rainy days and Mondays always get me down." - The Carpenters

I sit here on a Sunday afternoon, looking out at an overcast and gloomy sky. It snowed a little last night, and a few flakes continue to fall here and there.

Teresa is busy working on another of the myriad of household projects that always seem to need doing; I have a load of laundry working; and Christopher is busy making a clay monster instead of beginning to review for a test he has Wednesdays.

When I was younger - in my teens - I actually used to like drizzly, overcast days. Living in Seattle, such days were frequent visitors, and I would go for walks in the light drizzle. The drizzle no doubt suited my emotional state in those days. I often felt lonely and misunderstood, a common state for many teens I would imagine.

In my case, that was compounded somewhat by my difficulty in making many friends or in getting close to people. I lived in a single-parent family that subsisted on welfare. That combination cemented a feeling that I didn't fit in and wasn't like other kids. The fact that our closest neighbors were a gas station, a warehouse, and an abandoned field didn't help much. So rainy days seemed perfect, and I enjoyed them like one enjoys a visit from an old friend.

These days, I'm not so much into rainy days. I look forward to longer and sunnier days so we can get the trailer our and go somewhere. Of course, nicer weather will bring with it another list of projects that need doing.

Teresa is a list person. I suspect that somewhere she even has a spreadsheet listing the various lists she has. From my limited perspective, it seems to me that so many lists might make it harder to ever relax or even enjoy life. On the other hand, I can't deny that she keeps us organized and makes it possible for us to do a number of the things we like to do when we have the time.

I guess you could say that I am like a river, meandering here and there, flowing sometimes haphazardly but getting there in the end. Teresa is more like a road going from Point A to Point B. Each approach has something to recommend it. Together, the combination makes for a scenic drive along the way - as long as we remember to enjoy the view once in a while.

Monday, February 14, 2011

#91 - Conversation With My Son

I was sitting at the computer this morning, reading a few news headlines while I waited for my son, Christopher, to get ready for school.

While I was sitting there, he came in to talk to me. Here is the entire conversation:

Christopher: "Dad, can I ask you a question?"
Me: "Sure."
Christopher: "Will I ever find love."
Me: "Anything's possible."

My half-smart aleck, half serious answer seemed to be enough, as he then proceeded to get ready for school with nothing more said on the subject. Afterward, though, I got to thinking more about the subject.

First thought: This was an entirely appropriate question for Christopher to ask given that today is Valentine's Day, and as he put it, the day is about love, although he first indicated that by making kissing noises.

Second thought: Christopher's question has no easy answer, especially where he is concerned, given his autism. While he is capable of displaying emotion, I don't know whether he is capable of developing deep feeling for another person. It is a question I have occasionally asked even of myself.

There are times that I have great belief in Christopher's ability to lead and live a "normal" life, one that includes things like college, career, and even love, marriage, and family. At other times, I wonder to what extent he will be capable of such a life and to what degree he might be allowed to have such a life.

One thing I have learned as Christopher's dad is that nothing in life is certain and that there are no easy answers. Another thing I learned is that the answer I gave Christopher this morning, while intended somewhat flippantly at the time may, in fact, have been the best answer after all. Because when nothing is certain, anything truly is possible.

Friday, February 11, 2011

#90 - Old Friends

"Photographs and memories / Christmas cards you sent to me / All that I have are these / To remember you"

I've always liked that old Jim Croce song; it speaks to the melancholy side of me and to the thought of all the people I've let slip out of my life for one reason or another.

Lately, though, I've been struck again by the way in which Facebook has allowed me to get some of these people back into my life, albeit in a smaller and virtual way. It has been wonderful to rediscover people I knew and was close to years ago. I don't know if we'll be as close again, but in some ways that doesn't matter. Reconnecting with them has brought the memories of those earlier times alive again.

Through the years, I used writing - primarily song lyrics - to help me work through and deal with my emotions - joy, sorrow, anger - as well as my doubts and fears. In thinking back to the past shared with some of my new Facebook friends, I find myself so inclined again. I don't claim to be another Cole Porter or even Paul McCartney, but I think the message gets across.

Old Friends
Remember when we were as thick as thieves?
One for all, like Musketeers
But time went by, we went our separate ways
And lost touch with the passing years

My vision may not quite be what it was
But you still seem the same to me
I think of you and time just melts away
As I relive each memory

Old friends
Never really disappear
They live on in head and heart -
We're never far apart -
Their memories I hold dear
Old friends
Just a thought or dream away
When I get to feeling down -
Those old friends gather 'round -
To keep the blues at bay

In a quiet hour, I close my eyes
And travel back to yesterday
I think of those who walked into my life
And walked with me along the way

We only get a moment on this earth
And all too soon the moment's passed
But when I take that trip down Memory Lane
I can make the moment last

Old friends
Never really disappear
They live on in head and heart -
We're never far apart -
Their memories I hold dear
Old friends
Just a thought or dream away
When I get to feeling down -
Those old friends gather 'round -
To keep the blues at bay
February 11, 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#89 - To Fob or Not to Fob - What Was the Question?

Saturday morning - I'm preparing to do a load of Christopher's jeans, and I ask him to check his pockets for anything left behind. He says he needs to check his fob, and we get into an energetic discussion of what a fob is. He says a classmate at school told him it was the small pocket above the right front pocket on a pair of jeans.

I always knew a fob had to do with a pocket watch, so I didn't think he could be right, especially since I never see anyone wear a pocket watch with a pair of jeans. I countered by telling Christopher that a fob was something attached to a pocket watch, like a chain or strap.

We go back and forth like this for a few minutes until I go and get a dictionary. While I'm walking to the bookshelf, I hear in the background "I'm not listening to you . . . la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la."

I get the dictionary, look up the word fob and find, lo and behold, Christopher is right. As am I. A fob, it turns out, is a small pocket on the front of a pair of trousers or a vest used primarily for carrying a pocket watch. It is also a small chain or leather strap attached to a pocket watch or something attached to a chain or strap, like a medallion. I guess even an English major can learn something. I'm not as sure about teenagers.

Right below those definitions was another entry for the word fob. This one had to do with cheating other people and also shifting jobs or responsibility onto another, as in "to fob off onto another." I mentioned to Christopher that "fobbing off" was something he was good at.

Christopher has a tendency, when we ask him to do something, to walk off and disappear for a while, until we either forget that we asked him to do something or we get tired of waiting and do it for him. I told him he could put that on a resume'. In fact, I told him that qualified him for a position in management. He didn't understand, but Teresa and I got a good laugh out of it. And isn't that part of what children are for? To make you laugh? After all, laughter is an aspect of joy. Perhaps I'm just easily amused. That's not such a bad place to be.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#88 - The Joy of Cooking . . . Made Easier

I love to cook. In fact, I like cooking so much that for my birthday one year Teresa gave me a cookbook. I've made some wonderful recipes from it, including chicken marsala and pumpkin cheesecake.

As much as I like to cook, though, there are times when I'm tired or just want to do something fast and easy. In our home, that also usually translated into something just this side of bland and boring. I have a feeling that has changed.

A week ago, we bought an electric pressure cooker from Costco, the Cuisinart CPC-600. Tonight, I had my maiden voyage with this new culinary toy and made barbecue beef.

The Cuisinart comes with a recipe booklet that includes a recipe for barbecue pork. Well, we'd had pork the night before, so no problem, I substituted beef.

The substitution worked so well that we nearly sat there until we had eaten three pounds of barbecue, just the three of us. Even Christopher liked it, and he always says he doesn't like barbecue sauce.

We finally succeeded in pushing ourselves away, but it was not easy. The only thing that made it possible was knowing there was still enough for dinner tomorrow night. It's a recipe I'll be making again, with beef or pork. I may also try making it with chicken. I predict this new kitchen toy will be getting some good use. We might even put it through its paces the next time we take the trailer out. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#87 - Yet More Random Thoughts

Why is it that I am more tired when I "wake up early" at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday than I am if I "sleep in" until 7:00 a.m. on a weekday?

Why is it that the amount of stuff I have seems to grow proportionately to the amount of stuff I am trying to get rid of?

Can something other than tinted contacts really make my brown eyes blue? (An allusion to an old Crystal Gayle song for those of you under 40 or not into country.) Can Singing in the Rain lead to Walking on Sunshine? If I Had a Hammer, would it turn out to be Maxwell's Silver Hammer? Or would MC Hammer come along to say You Can't Touch This?

If you can save 20% on a purchase of $75 or more, can't you save 100% by not spending anything? And if operators are standing by, why doesn't someone get them chairs?

Why do Deer Crossing signs look as if the deer is performing ballet and should be wearing a tutu? When I pass a Game Crossing sign, why do I never see a Monopoly box or a deck of cards or maybe an Xbox 360?

Can one ever see the end of the tunnel if it's dark? If something is "the gift that keeps on giving," won't everybody eventually have one?

Finally, if you see a fork in the road, pick it up before someone drives over it and gets a flat tire.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

#86 - A Public Proclamation

Today is my wife Teresa's birthday. The cake is baked and frosted, and the presents are ready. Well, almost ready.

There is still one gift I want to give her: public recognition of just how important she is in my life. Even after 17 years, of marriage, I still have trouble saying what I think or how I feel without stumbling over my words or messing it up somehow. So I'll have to say it here.

For 17 years, Teresa has been my rudder, struggling to give me balance and to help me find direction. She has given me support and advice when I needed it and a swift kick in the rear when I deserved it.

I haven't made things easy for her. The way I grew up led me to close off from people around and taught me to fear feeling. I have struggled to overcome and let go of that past and finally feel I am gaining the upper hand in that battle. I am likely not yet where she would like me to be or where she deserves me to be, but I would not have come this far without her.

To Teresa, I say thank you for being behind me and for standing beside me, for pushing me when I've needed it, and for helping get back up whenever I stumble. Our life together has taken some twists and turns along the way, but I am glad we have shared this journey together. I love you. Happy Birthday!