Monday, November 30, 2009

Fire in the Mountains

OK--this isn't my usual Monday musings--but I saw something again tonight that I just had to write about.

Fire in the mountains!

Yup--the sunset behind the Rockies illuminated the evening sky and made it appear as if the mountains were on fire. It was a sight to behold--and one that although I've seen before--I never grow tired of seeing.

Probably accentuated by the fact that I live in Maryland where there are no mountains of Rocky Mountain proportions.

The sky was a cyan and as the last rays faded--the mountains were silhouetted in splendor with orange and red colors behind them.


It seems I always forget to bring one since I'm not on a tourist trip--but a business trip.

But I can see them in my mind--from my hotel room window looking across the plains to the foothills just north of Denver.

Is this what they call a Rocky Mountain high?

Chicago Morning

I just looked out the window of my Boeing 757 as we broke out of the clouds somewhere over Lake Michigan. And there she was. A jewel on the shore illuminated by the morning light. Chicago.

The lake was calm and blue. The skyscrapers were gathered together on the shore, like so many people headed down to the water's edge they seemed from 38,000 feet.

It was pretty. They looked small like a Lego city. Yet I know they tower to a thousand feet or more above the ground.

I almost never sit in window seats, but today the plane is full and I didn't have a choice. I guess I miss a lot of sights when I travel on the aisle of life.

I can see the cloud bank off in the west waiting to obscure the ground from my view again. But for a brief minute I could see how a city gathers together on the shore of a magnificent lake.

And the clouds have returned with their light "chop" as the pilots call it when it feels like the jet is hitting potholes in the road. It is like riding a bus--or not.

I love looking at America and being reminded that the world is so much bigger than my backyard.

Bob Doan
Elkridge, MD
Sent from My Blackberry

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And the Holiday Engines are Revving







Snow village set-up

Do you know what all of these have in common?

These are all activities I participated in today.

The day began with a racquetball match--at 8AM, which I actually played early from my league since I will be in Denver this week.

Then I hurried home to say good-bye to my parents who departed for upstate NY--after enjoying Thanksgiving here with us.

And then, it was Snow Village set-up time, which was postponed form last week because we didn't know where we wanted to set it up. And we still didn't as the day began. So we have two villages in operation for the Christmas season.

And then there was pizza from last night for lunch AND Thanksgiving day 3 for dinner.

Not to be forgotten--we did have to go shopping for more Christmas related stuff for the house today. But--even though it was right in the middle of setting up the Snow Village--it worked out.

In a few minutes we will be heading out to spend an evening with our friends and enjoy some wine and dessert---yay! Mostly about the wine.

Ah, the holiday season is upon us--Ho Ho Ho and all that stuff.

But--keep our wits about us and we'll probably survive.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Day After--The Feast before

Why do they call it Black Friday?

The sun came up, right?

The tryptophan induced slumber ended with a fully rested person ready to confront the crowds, right?

Ah, yes--it is a retailing term when the retailers make money and push their books into the "black" for the year. Really?

No matter, it really isn't black though--it is a pleasant color--pick one, like orange, because:

This holiday we have survived a car accident--no injuries, my future daughter-in-law slid into the car in front of her on the rain drenched streets of Columbia.

I survived being shot with by a space ray gun in the possession of my 20 month old grandson, Jax, the miracle baby, and

Playing whack-a-mole with Ethan.

I Watched most of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade only to miss Santa's arrival.

There was more food to choose from to eat than the grand buffet.

I enjoyed watching Star Trek with my Dad!

I suffered through watching the hapless Detroit Lions lose to the Packers and the crazy Dallas Cowboys figure out how to score points again. And then I found out I forgot to play Miles Austin in Fantasy Football believing for some reason earlier in the week that Chad Ochocinco is going to do better? Ugh! At least Aaron Rogers and Donald Driver of the Packers gave me 52 points.

I felt good about having people enjoy the wines I selected for dinner! I highly recommend Willamette Valley, Oregon, Pinot Noir wines for complex meals--like Thanksgiving. We enjoyed the Cardwell Hill this year along with a Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc and a Chardonnay.

And so I am sitting here--looking out the window at the clearing skies preparing to take life and limb into my own hands and sally forth to Home Depot for ceiling paint and sale priced Christmas Trees.

The coffee pot has already been emptied once--and I need to make more because Dad hasn't stirred from his slumber yet! Which is fine, because I can always drink more coffee.

At least my turkey statue is still in place next to the fireplace and we are not "all Christmas all the time," yet.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Football, Turkey and Mince Pie

Well it is here.

The day dreams are made of and waistlines are wasted.

The annual tribute to gluttony and the NFL and mince pies.
A day of Thanks to our Creator for His blessings.
And to families, and to giving thanks for all we have.
And for the blessings of life.
And for those who have gone before us to preserve our freedoms.
And for pausing to remember.
A question our family asks each other on Thanksgiving is "What do you have to be thankful for this year?" It is an important question to ask because it helps us appreciate what we have instead of focusing on what we want.
I know too many people who are unhappy because they do not have something they want and yet should be happy with all that they have. We are a blessed to overwhelming people. There are places in the world where people cannot even imagine all that we have--electronics, food, clean water, a home of our own, a lawn to mow, two cars (or three), education, and freedoms unimagined.
I know I am thankful for my wife, my family (with the broadest interpretation you can use as to who qualifies). Our family is an inclusive family--if you're here, you are family. And to my friends, because God has blessed us with some really awesome friends, who really aren't friends, but are family.
I am thankful for my job--it keeps me busy and happy and gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
And I'm thankful for racquetball which makes me get out and move even when I'd rather be a slug on the sofa.
And I'm thankful for my dog--if someone had asked me last year if I wanted a puppy I would have said no--emphatically! That would have been a mistake. So I'm thankful no one listened.
And I am thankful that I can help people less fortunate than me. That i can make a difference in this world by starting right here in our community.
And I am thankful that I am happy. I am content in where I am--I would rather be diving, but that is a pipe dream.
And I am thankful
I am happy I am not a turkey!
I am happy that I can see a future. that I can plan. That I have a realistic chance to see my planning come to fruition.
And finally--I am thankful for all the things I don't even realize I'm thankful for--like my 4th and 5th grade teacher teaching me to stand in front of a bunch of people and speak without fear.
And so, I've droned on and on, but I'm reminded of the Thanksgiving Hymn
We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing. . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Leader of the Pack

I read an interesting Op-Ed piece in the New York Times yesterday about how people are taking the advice from the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and using it to improve their home life with their children. I extracted a portion below for your enjoyment:

Becoming the Alpha Dog in Your Own Home

“When we started watching his shows, we had intended to apply his advice toward our dogs,” said Amy Twomey, a blogger on parenthood for The Dallas Morning News who is raising three children under 10 with her husband, Matt. “But we realized a lot of ideas can be used on our kids.”

Indeed, Mr. Millan’s advice has replaced a shelf full of books on how to tame an unruly child. “It’s all the same simple concept: how to be the pack leader in your own house,” she said.

Certainly, an army, or at least a few divisions, of credentialed experts on human parenthood long ago stumbled on Mr. Millan’s philosophical holy trinity — exercise, discipline and affection equals happiness. And Mr. Millan does not hold himself up as a new Dr. Spock; he has never opined on how one should raise a creature with two legs in his show on the National Geographic Channel, or in his four books.

So, kids and dogs are similar?

Until a year ago, when I received Makayla as Christmas gift and have had the pleasure of growing up with a puppy again, I would have disagreed. But--now I believe they are indeed similar. Not that kids are dogs, but that I (as dad, grandad, or dog owner) need to be ready to take charge and be the leader.

I believe that children, like dogs, are looking for someone to be in charge and to look out for their best interest. Unlike children, dogs are equipped to fill this role by nature; but children need adults to watch over them until they are--well probably into their 20's or so.

So reread the piece above and note the discussion of Millan's trinity: exercise, discipline, and affection.

Dogs require it--to be happy and allow their owners to be happy.

Children require these three things, too--and from talking to Chris about many of the children in her school--kids today are not getting enough of any of the three.

Note something here--all three require the active participation of the parent (or dog owner). These times become relationship builders. Be they exercise, or discipline (think of it as boundary setting and enforcing), and affection. Parents can't just show up occasionally--toss some gifts at the kids and think they are showing affection.

There is a time cost to having a dog.
There is a larger time cost (read: investment) in raising children.

I know that Chris and I are extremely conscious of being out in the evening and not spending time with Makayla after she has been in her kennel all day--we experience the consequences of lack of affection, exercise, and discipline. A poor night sleep because we have a restless dog.

And parents--who consistently fail to provide these three things for their children wonder why they have problems with their kids

Maybe Cesar has something here. Kids are definitely not dogs, but from the adult/parent standpoint; the personal interaction that is required to have a good dog is even more required to have great kids.

AND, by the way--Chris and I are blessed to have three great kids, 2 and 3/4 grandkids, and three great spouses (or almost spouses) for our three great kids. Blame it all on Chris, she actually spent the TIME to do the exercise, discipline, and affection.

All without a dog trainer to tell her what to do.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Time is it?

I heard an interesting sermon in church on Sunday--it was about the most asked question in American society today: "What Time is it?"

It seems that we are all asking this one question more than any other question. We all want to know what time it is. And it got me thinking.

I do wonder about the time a lot. Whether it is because I need to attend a meeting at work, or go somewhere, or am wondering how much longer until I can go home.

But it seems I am always wondering about the time because there is something I need to do that needs to be synchronized with someone else. And we are all precise!
- Do NOT be late to a meeting!
- Do NOT miss an appointment at the doctor's office or they will charge you.
- Don't forget to have dinner ready!

I remember when I was a kid--I measured time differently. How many months, then days, then hours until Christmas! Or how many months, then days, and then hours until summer vacation. There were bells in the school to tell me when to change classes--so I didn't need to worry about the time, just the next bell.

My understanding of time was larger and the accuracy was less precise.

The pace of life was different--I didn't need to ask so many times per day what time it was, because all I needed to know was that it was daylight or dark and that pretty well defined the level of accuracy I needed.

I long for those days.

Kind of like vacation--I get up when I wake up, not when the alarm goes off (unless of course I need to meet the dive boat at 6:30am).

When I'm on vacation, I leave to do something--when I'm ready and not because I have to be at work on time.

On vacation, the structure of my life changes--for the better. I get more rest. I am happier.

And you know what--when I ask "what time it is" it is because I don't want what I'm doing to end, rather than needing to get prepared to race to another appointment.

And so, I've thought about the question a bit, and do you know "What time it is?"

Time for change!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Musings - November 23, 2009

1. The weather in this part of the country is becoming downright awful. Rain, gloom and talk of snow. It is hard to get everything ready for the winter. On the other hand, it is one of the most mild November's I can remember. We have had only one freeze. I'm confused as to which is worse, mild and wet or cold and bright.

2. Football weekend for the family was a loser--with three of the four teams coming up short in the final score--the only team that won didn't play well enough to win. Adding the scores together--all three teams lost by a combined six points. With the winner winning by one measly point. That, as they say it is why they play the game.

3. One riding lawn mower and two grandsons equals priceless memories.

4. Being up on the roof putting up Christmas decorations is not for everyone. The scary part is helping those down the ladder who came up so easily. Some people go up a lot better than they go down.

5. Why do we name things--like the talking GPS in the car and the Thanksgiving turkey?

6. A couple friends at work have elected to retire this year--one this week. Wow--that is one of those transitions I have always thought was coming sometime in the future but never really considered in the present. I guess, it is creeping up on me, too. I'll think about planning for it next year! I still have time.

7. Hey--the most wonderful holiday of the year is upon us--Thanksgiving. And we have so much to be thankful for--like for everything. Stop and take a moment to reflect on the blessings in your life.

8. New windows--check. New lights--check. New paint--check. OK, the projects for 2009 are getting completed, time to start planning the projects for 2010.

9. Have you heard anyone call next year "oh-ten?" Technically, its not wrong 'cause next year is 2010. But we know what they meant, right?

10. If you are traveling this week or next (as I am)--may your travel be pleasant and safe. And may you arrive at your destination and return to your home without incident.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New Moon - Twilight Movie Review

Opening day--there I was standing in line to see this movie because I'm married to a Twilight series lover.

I looked around the theater as we sat down--as a male, I was in a definite minority. There was a definite lack of testosterone in the theater. I was in a den of women (some are calling the older ones cougars) to see a movie about vampires. I wondered if I was safe.

Let's talk about the movie.

It is a love story of epic proportions. And a love triangle. There are some action scenes, but it is mostly dialogue. There are personal interactions. This movie has almost no character development--that was all assumed form the first movie or the books. So, if you do not know the back story--you must read the books or see the first movie to enjoy this stiry. There are many references which assume full understanding of what has happened before.

So--first timers (probably guys) are going to hate this movie because they do not understand it.

Series followers are going to love it because it is generally faithful to the books.

New Moon is the second installment in the Twilight series and I found the movie plodding, punctuated by moments of action. It is a depressing story where no one seems to be happy and there is little joy. The action is short and always goes back to more depressing dialogue. As you might expect from a movie about vampires--it is a dark movie. The skies are always overcast, or it is raining. The dialogue is cumbersome and ofter gets in the way of the story.

Recommendation: Unless you are a Twilight series addict, you will probably not like the movie. The only reason to see the movie is to understand what all the fuss is about. No sex, no foul language, but there are some violent scenes.

Saturday before the Holidays

OK--shoppers start your engines.

Get started--it is the last Saturday before the frenzy of the holiday season grabs us and drags us along until well into January.

From here on--the pace of life is doubled until that frantic week of Christmas and New Years is upon us.

Parties, shopping, eating, and did I say parties? Drinking wine? Oh, yes.

What do I like most about the holidays? Watching Santa arrive in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Despite all of the Christmas Season preparations which are already out in the stores, for me--Santa's arrival in the parade marks that one spot where I begin the month-long transition into the Holiday Spirit(s).

What is the point where it all begins for you? Let me know by commenting.

At least during the season it is easy to decide what to do with any available spare time! Shop, party, eat or decorate! (SPED)


I think the acronym says it all--SPED and that is what we do through the Holidays because I know that in January we will look back and remark how the Holiday season just SPED by. Of course we will be driving at that point to the club to lose a few of those pounds that crawled on our bodies during the season of over-eating!

Hey--take a few minutes and draw a deep breath--someone said it's the most wonderful time of the year. AND, it is!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Window--Electric Success

Well to follow up on the other day--the window installation was a success as was the electrical work of installing the new lights.

It all went smoothly--at one point during the day I had four specialists all working in the same room ant the same time and keeping everything deconflicted.

So--the windows that were not doing their jobs have been replaced with really nice triple-pane windows and should begin really insulating the house and keeping the warm or cool (as desired) in; and the kitchen really looks nice without the huge florescent unit hanging in the middle of it.

I am still amazed that I was able to schedule two different specialities to arrive on the same day and stay out of each other's way! Yay.

And the workmanship was great. So we are enjoying newly lit spaces and are looking forward to quieter and more comfortable spaces.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Getting New Windows

How tough can it be?

We ordered them and had a day scheduled--but it rained. Then we had to reschedule. But of course even with the rain pummeling the earth and the forecast for it not to let up, they didn't call until after their scheduled arrival time.

They were supposed to call me to reschedule. But they didn't.

I had to track them down.

But, they are coming on my schedule--today--or so they say.

And in addition we have an electrician coming to install a bunch of recessed lights and remove the late 80's looking florescent light unit from the kitchen.

Do you know what that means? Two things:

1. I'll be doing drywall work again to patch the holes

2. Chris will find another project that needs to be "done before the holidays!"

Well, with the holidays upon us it is time to begin transforming the house into a Christmas castle of light or something like that. Maybe I'll put up the Christmas lights while the electrician is doing his thing.

Sleigh bells ring--can you stand it?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Being Sick is a Downer: Follow-up

Feeling much better when I awoke and not running a fever--I did actually go into work as I had planned.

Being Sick is a Real Downer

I left work early yesterday because I was feeling rotten.

I slept for over two hours when after I got home. It was nice to crawl my weary body into the cave and bed down accompanied by my faithful companion - Makayla.

I've been sniffling and sneezing all afternoon. Running a low grade fever and coughing.


I got laryngitis over the weekend and almost couldn't sing at the memorial service for a friend. I knew something was going on--but the first cold of the season is a hard reminder of the stuff still to come. I wish it had passed me by--I have so much to do at work.

We have electricians coming on Wednesday and I hope to get the windows installed as well.

I have racquetball tonight--I hate to cancel because it is so hard to reschedule.

Life just doesn't take a time out for being sick! There is, however, a whole Facebook group devoted to "I Hate Being Sick."

I'm just too busy to be sick and out of work--but I have to think of my coworkers--they do not need to get the crud--so I need to be responsible and not act like the invincible man or something equally as arcane.

So am I going in, or not?

Stay tuned!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Musings - November 16, 2009

1. After a week of gloom, the return of the sun cheers the soul and mood.

2. Having a head cold really is a downer--it hurts to even think about doing anything.

3. Yesterday, the dogs were quiet in the morning and we slept in till about 8am. That never happens. Wow!

4. Whenever a doorbell rings on TV, Makayla barks and runs for the door. It makes me laugh.

5. Memorial services celebrating the uncommon life of a special person can be very uplifting. And when a lot of friends get together to celebrate and sing--it is even better.

6. Makayla looks great when I take the time to brush and comb her--but really, it takes a lot of work because she has a lot of coat. I should brush her weekly--but I don't.

7. 70 degrees, sunny sky, November 15th--what could be better?

8. We are getting some new lights in the kitchen and family room--should really upgrade the look. Seems we are doing a lot of home upgrade projects right now--ew windows, lights, and painting room and redecorating. I guess it is one way to combat the darkness of winter--work in the interior while it is not worth the effort to work outside.

9. Glory days. Remembering old times, friends and events from a time long, long ago are the memories that lives are made of. It is good to remember the past--but we live in the present and need to bring the memories forward to the now.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Sun Cheers the Gloomy Soul

When I looked outside this morning I was treated to a sight I had not seen in about a week!

A bright, shiny orb filling the world with life giving light.

Yes, the sun was shining in the Baltimore area after what seemed like an eternity in the grip of tropical depression Ida--which also became a nor'easter and provided lots of rain and gloomy skies to the region.

Along with the overcast skies for a week, it also contributed to gloomy moods among the people that I know. The boss at work even inquired about the mood in the workplace--which I believe was directly related to the weather and the time change which has us arriving in the dark and also for some of us departing after dark. The only light we get during a day are from the softly humming florescents of the workplace.

Ugh! I do not like this time of year! It is so dark.

So I stood on the deck this morning, with my face turned toward the sun, feeling its warmth as I recharged my batteries--which are a bit drained from the head cold I'm suffering with.

Oh yeah--and I've lost my voice, too. So I cannot even utter a primeval scream of approval.

But despite how I feel--with the sun shining, it's all good!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Silent Patriotism

Walking into work yesterday, a different thing happened.

For apparently no reason at all, the man walking next to me stopped, took his hat off, came to attention and put his hand over his heart.

He stood there silent for a few moments looking at the huge American Flag which flys in front of the building. It was waving in the breeze.

I wondered why he stopped and stood there--and I never asked.

But I sensed it was a personal reminder to himself of why we all should be going into the building I work in every morning--from our oath of office is says it simplest: "I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter so help me God."

We do not work for ourselves--but for the people of the United States.

As I reread the oath, I was struck by the words--"well and faithfully" which are a powerful charge. We can be asked to do no more than well and faithfully. We are asked to make many decisions, but if we are faithful in our decisions and make them to our best capability--that is what we are asked to to.

The flag waving in the breeze caught my eye, too. I look at it every morning on my way in and on my way out. I always causes me to smile and to remember there is such a thing as a greater good and a country of brave people who are willing, when called, to defend freedom around the planet. I am often reminded of the feeling I get when I am in a foreign land--and I come upon the Stars and Stripes waving proudly in the breeze. It makes me proud to be American.

I will think of the flag differently each morning now as I walk across the parking lot. I will remember my solemn duty and continue to strive to achieve "well and faithfully" in every thing I do.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Line of Sight Shopping

I had an interesting experience this past weekend. I got tangled-up in "Line of Sight Shopping!"

There we were--walking into Costco, for food.

But as we know, Costco is full of other distractions--clothing, books, CD, auto supplies.

So there we were in this target rich shopping environment--needing some meat and veggies.

And where did we go first?--to look at books for Jackson. Really? And then coats.

Line of sight shopping. if it is there, whether it is on the list or not, we need to shop it. Not necessarily buy it, but shop it. The object goes from not being on the list to suddenly becoming a decision point as to which book should we buy. Why?

Because, like the mountain in front of the mountain climber, it is there.

While it is a great way to support the economic recovery--it doesn't do much for the family budget.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Can You Go Back?

Sometimes I dream of going back.

Back to the way things were--the way relationships were.

In my mind I want to recapture the good things about the past and the people I was with.

There are places now, that sometimes I wish I could return to--but I know I cannot. I have changed and the people there have changed, too.

I think about summers growing up in Upstate New York. Running through the fields and riding my bike along the two-lane road that passed in front of my house. If only I knew then what I know now. I would hold fast to those hot, summer days and not wish I were anywhere else other than right there with the smells of the fields and the summer grasses and fruits and pines on the air.

While I wish it could be better than it was, I am sure it would be a catastrophe.

Last night, I was able to go back, briefly, as the member of a choir gathering to practice for a memorial service for a departed friend and the former Choir Director of the church I used to attend. It was good to see all of the other people who had left the church as well as those who still remain. I was nervous at the thought of returning because of the unresolved issues and broken relationships that contributed to my departure. But despite my concerns, the gathering was blessed, I could tell. There was a joyousness entwined within the sadness and grief of loss. We caught up with each others lives, and we smiled and we joked and we made music as a choir again all in memory of our friend. If only it could be now how it used to be . . .

And that really is the fallacy of trying to go back.

Nothing is ever the same--as much as we would like it to be perfect in our minds, it never really was perfect at that time and it is less so now that we know more.

So there is no going back! We move forward or not at all. But I am blessed with a warm memory rekindled by a reunion of sorts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Do you get the day off today for Veteran's Day?

Did you even know today was a holiday--a very special celebration? Or has Veteran's Day become another of the forgotten remembrances of our past with no place in our entitled future?

This is a day remembered around the Western World. The remembrance of the armistice which ended WWI--although the formal treaty would not be signed until later. A day to remember the sacrifices of the men and women of our armed forces to secure and protect the freedoms we enjoy and often take for granted.

We are losing touch with our heritage and our history. As we become a people of the moment--we lose depth and a sense of purpose and history. We lose sight of the mission of America in the world. A noble calling for which many of our Veteran's have served and sacrificed.

I am a Cold War warrior. A real threat and a capable adversary. Fortunately, we did not actually employ many of the terrible weapons that were developed during that period--but, it was a war nonetheless. Two strong, determined adversaries staring at each other over a long stretch of Europe. Ready at a moments notice to obliterate mankind from the planet.

We won the Cold War.

Veterans of the U.S. helped win WWI and WWII, and served in many other conflicts (Korea, Vietnam, Haiti, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq 2X)--some remembered and others which have slipped into the fog of a hazy past.

Veteran's are our instruments of peace in this world. Of the four elements of national power (political, economic, psychological, and military)--it is the military which rides upon the dedication of the citizen soldiers of our nation to go to the front lines and be that force upon which all of us depend.

Remember the Veteran's today and God bless the USA!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Another Missing Holiday - Thanksgiving

I went into a Hallmark store over the weekend to try and find some Thanksgiving related decorations.

I have a fondness for animated seasonal toys--and I realized that I have many for Christmas and Halloween, and Valentines Day. But none, for what is one of my favorite holidays--Thanksgiving.

I was thinking of animated turkey which sings "Turkey in the Straw" or some equally folksy theme.

Do you know what I found?


The store was Christmas-heavy with only one small shelf unit adorned with some very weak Thanksgiving items.

We have allowed the retailers to take control. We are losing contact with our past and with a holiday which should unite all Americans--from a purely American perspective devoid of religion--although the holiday was based upon religious precepts. Thanksgiving provides a time where we can gather to give thanks for what we have and what has been provided to us as a result of those who have gone on before.

But, as a society, I worry we have lost our sense of history--and our recognition of the struggles and victories of our forefathers, their hard earned victories are now seen as our entitlements--something we no longer really think about. We don't give thanks because we do not recognize how we became such an entitled people.

It has already happened to other holidays--Columbus Day and Veteran's Day to name two. Days when even the schools--which are government institutions fail to take time to teach the students, who are our future, to remember our past (good and bad) and the sacrifices of those deserving to be remembered. It is our past which brings us to where we are today and serves as the springboard for the future.

Happy Thanksgiving! It is coming. And while you are at it, don't forget Veteran's Day--it is tomorrow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Musings - November 9, 2009

1. The headlines (newspaper and electronic) this week were really downers. Tragedy everywhere, it seemed. Why can't we behave as adults in our world and help others out? Here is a sample from Friday:

- U.S. unemployment rate hits 10.2 percent in October, the highest rate since April, 1983. Job losses total 190,000.
- 12 die in Army rampage (now 13)
- Waiting to learn who pays Dixon's legal bills. (Baltimore City Mayor)
- Health battle nears fever pitch (we know what happened here!)
- At least eight people have been shot in an Orlando, Florida, high-rise office building, CNN affiliates report.

2. Another football weekend is over--I did pretty bad--again. All of my teams were in the losing column: Maryland, Syracuse, and the Baltimore Ravens. Remind me why I watch football again? Oh yeah--because baseball season is over.

3. God provided a stunning weekend weather-wise. I am glad that I could enjoy it and be outside in the sun. It was great--the sun was so bright that I could not read the Sunday paper while sitting outdoors. So, at Chris' suggestion, I took off my shirt and just sat there enjoying the warm rays. Was it really November?

4. What is the primary rule of computers? Back-up, back-up, back-up.

5. There are about 27 million people around the world living as slaves! If you are interested in learning more--follow the link to the International Justice Mission. I was shocked to learn this. We think we live in a kinder gentler world--but reality is anything but kind and gentle.

6. Sunny Sunday autumn mornings, crisp and clear bring cheer to dreary, weather challenged souls.

7. Looking forward to the week ahead, I have strategically positioned a day off on Thursday to have new windows installed at the house. It does two important things--improves the house while qualifying for a tax credit AND gives me essentially a mid-week weekend since I have Wednesday off to celebrate Veteran's Day.

8. So the first stew of the season is history--yes--it is the time of the year for heavy, hot, stews. Chris made a fabulous one for Sunday, only, fortunately, the weather did not cooperate and it was warm and nice--definitely not stew weather. Can you spell leftovers???

9. We drove Kitty to church Sunday. It was good to have her out on the road for a bit. I've started calling her the "old lady" and Chris rankles at that. Maybe she want me to call her "my old lady?" Probably not.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I received this news alert from CNN--

"U.S. unemployment rate hits 10.2 percent in October, the highest rate since April, 1983. Job losses total 190,000."

I thought the government just said that we saved over 265,000 jobs?

Don't the 190,000 people who lost their jobs know that their jobs were really saved? If we save 265,000 but lose 190,000 jobs does that mean we really saved 75,000 jobs--or does it mean we really lost 455,000 jobs?

I'm so confused!

Does Congress have any idea that we are talking about real people and families here and not monthly numbers on a spreadsheet report?

Each job has a face--and possibly many faces attached to it.

The Congress is talking about a health care reform package which we cannot afford while the people who need it the most are losing their jobs and won't be able to get health care in any form.

2010 is an election year!

Right now my vote is for anyone but the incumbent! We need to restore accountability to Congress.


And who is the Congress accountable to? "We, the People . . ."

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Anakena Carmenere 2008 Rapel Valley - Review

I looked forward to uncorking and tasting this usually great, moderately priced wine. Previous vintages have been a favorite to serve to friends and family.

I was disappointed. This is a very young wine and it failed to meet my expectations.

The bouquet was bland --it did not provide the enticing odors to get the palatte ready for the wine.

The wine was very peppery with hints of tobacco, lacking the usual deep fruitiness of the South American varietals of this wine. There were dark berry hints in the flavor, but the peppery spicy flavors over powered them. And I like peppery, spicy wine--but this just didn't come together for me.

The color, however, was magnificient. Deep purple and enticing.

Recommendation: Even at less than $10 per bottle, I have to give an AVOID to this wine. There are better examples of carmenere out there--Concha Y Toro being one.

Friday, November 6, 2009

People You Pass Along the Way

Sadly, I learned the other day that I may have been blocked on Facebook by former friend--with whom I have never actually been a friend with on Facebook.

It hurt a bit to think that we can be so small minded.

I thought it was a social interaction site anyway. Kinda hard to interact when you're blocked and it wasn't like I was spamming. We never even had contact on Facebook--so it was a preemptive strike.

Sure, there were unresolved issues--but, hey--I'm available to discuss them and get over them. Have been for a while now. My previous attempts to rebuild the burned bridges were rebuffed.

I don't know why I care that I've been blocked. It isn't like we have had any contact. I guess it is just the idea that the communication pathways have been torn down. I've been declared PNG before--but I really earned it. And it was mutual. But this was different. I always hoped that cooler heads would prevail--after time healed a few wounds--and I am healing. This episode however reminded me that I am not healed. I still hurt.

Hey--it's a jungle out here--we need to take better care of our relationships.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

World Serious Thoughts

And so it was decided Wednesday night.

The Yankees resume their presumed throne atop Major League Baseball as the champions of the world by winning the World Series in six games. Or at least champions of North America, well except for maybe Cuba.

They just seem to be a lot of highly paid mercenaries, who don't play the game for the "Love of the game" but for the fame and fortune it brings.

I guess I'm just being difficult because the distance between the 28th best team in baseball, the Orioles, and the best team, the Yankees, seems so great a chasm.

I love baseball, but I just could not bring myself to watch the game after it became apparent when the score inched up to 5-1 that the Yankees were going to win. I reached a decision point: go to bed or stay up and watch the Yankees consume the Phillies. Go to bed won.

Don't get me wrong--the Yankees have some great players. Some that should have been Orioles! But in my mind they represent the worst that baseball has to offer--except of course for winning a championship.

And so now, I am without baseball--another summertime friend has packed it in for the winter. I get to watch the Orioles as they struggle for respectability during the off-season--and maybe next year even sport a winning record--82-80 would be a huge improvement.

Sigh. Baseball, when there are no games being played is statistics and dreams. I have lots of dreams but lack the statistics to bring them to reality. But--February is coming. And when catchers and pitchers report--it is a sure sign that no matter what the groundhog says--Spring is here and summer is not far behind.

So for the next year--we will have to suffer through the words--"and now the World Series Champion New York Yankees"--attached to everything baseball. But the winds of change are moving in the American League East--and the dreamer in me says--watch out Yankees--there are a bunch of Orioles from Baltimore that are looking to replace you!

November Frost

The frost kissed pumpkins on the lawn confirmed it.
Yeah--winter really is closer than I want to believe

We had moved the plants inside in anticipation of the frost
They, like me, don't like the cold either
Hibiscus and Palm trees--
Imagine warm weather plants
trying to survive in the frosty northlands
Probably not going to happen without intervention

The heat kicked on in the house
as we dipped below the 62 degree bottom threshold we set.
So it was warm when I got out of bed
But the thought of sending more money to the BGE made my head spin
They charge too much for electricity

The trees are losing their majestically colored robes
which now lay strewn in ever growing piles on the ground
waiting for me to move them off the grass that I enjoy mowing
a reminder of the summer past
when they were green still on the trees and doing their job
of providing shade for parties and play

The truck started without problem
I remember olden times when I had a car which would not start in the cold
Kinda like me--I have trouble getting going in the cold, too
I would spend the whole charge on a battery trying to get that 1970 Ford to start
Only to need a jump from a friend or relative
I'll probably need a jump start soon, too

So there it was in plain sight
No doubts at all
The frost on the windshield, the house tops, the trees
The hint of snow flurries by the weather forecaster
And the cold reality that I probably should have worn a coat

According to the calendar
November is wholly part of the Autumn season
But that is only a cruel joke
November is really is the foot soldier of Winter
The harbinger of the snow and ice and months of darkness
We need to light warm fires in the fireplaces of our hearts
To remind us that April is only five months away!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

2008 Norton - Wine Review

The 2008 Norton from Keswick Vineyards is a pleasure to drink. I especially enjoy the strong tannins of this young wine--but truly wish I had bought more so I could enjoy it as it ages. This is a Virginia wine and if you thought only really good wines come from places other than Virginia (as I did once) then you need to spend some time visiting wineries in Virginia. These winemakers know how to make wines which are spectacular for the region.

I opened a bottle the other night and remembered why I bought this wine.

It has magnificent color--a rich, dark, full purple which makes the mouth water even before bringing the glass to the nose to enjoy the fragrant bouquet. Understand--this is not a light wine--but a full body wine for people who like a wine that can stand on its own.

The bouquet is inviting especially with the eucalyptus which draws you deeper into the wine. The taste has hints of raspberry and coffee and spices--but the wines youth, right now, is really in the tannins which will really improve the wines complexity as it ages.

I am going to take one of the other bottles I bought and put a note on it--do not uncork until 2014! I loved it the other evening--I can only imagine what it will be in a few years.

Recommendation: Buy this wine, cellar it and enjoy now and enjoy it more in a few years. At $21 per bottle it has the makings of a great wine for the future!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Makayla the Wonder Pup Turns One

Unbelievable. My hot dog.

It is happy birthday to Makayla! She turned one this morning and it truly is an amazing feat.

From the tiny furry pup that was barking for me under last year's Christmas Tree, to today she has brought a complete change in life for Chris and I while reminding us how much we love dogs.

Can I just say that next to the bicycle I got when I was a kid--she is probably the best Christmas present ever!

Not just a gift--but a companion and friend who truly loves to be with us.

She jumps up on the couch (shhh!, don't tell Chris) and plays with me while I am watching TV. She wants to go places with me--no matter where. And she is just around.

She also forces me to get out for long-ish walks to enjoy the outdoors--even though it is along a street.

She is also probably the reason we didn't go bike riding this year--because we couldn't take her along--but I think we may try to get her to run alongside the bikes next year.

Oh yeah--she it too smart for her own good.

And some in the family think she is too high octane--her secret nickname is "animal" from the Muppet's!

She is becoming a first class watchdog--anything that moves withing a hundred yards of the house is alerted on! And that is not a bad thing.

Thanks to all who participated in the let's get Dad a dog for Christmas secret pact. And thanks for letting me choose the gender--even though I had no idea at the time that I was doing that.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Musings - November 2, 2009

1. November already. Where did the year go already. It seems as if we were just celebrating New Years, only yesterday!

2. The World Series has devolved into a Yankee love-fest! Ugh! Since I cheer for a team which occupies the cellar in the American League East--I get more than enough Yankee-love every season. Let's hope the Phillies can get the horses running and turn the series around!

3. I hurt my back on Columbus Day-- and I can't seem to get over it. I rested yesterday and it seems a bit better--but in reading on line today--they say that continued activity and stretching is the best thing for strengthening and overcoming lower back pain. So no pain, no gain is a reality I guess!

4. Football weekends are much sweeter when the teams you are cheering for win! (or don't play)

5. Halloween, at least among small children, seems to bring out a lot of fun. Too bad the day is also associated with so much negative activity.

6. I continue to be amazed by people who believe that creating more laws and regulations will make life better. I remember the person who won a huge lawsuit for being burned on McDonald's coffee. I kind of like the way the Australians do stuff. If someone does something stupid and gets hurt or killed and then a law suit is filed for damages--they take the approach: don't do stupid things. people need to be responsible for their actions and the consequences thereof. Case dismissed. It certainly helps keeps costs down. We are all still paying for the damages awarded in that lawsuit.

7. My dog was a hotdog for Halloween. Makes me smile! Next year she is going to be Superdog!

8. It was a rainy autumn weekend this past weekend. Yet, we found lots to keep us busy. Putting energy into improving the quality of our living area keeps us in a state of constant urban renewal, but also keeps our interest in updating our lives.

9. We were advised of an upcoming celebration of life for an old friend this past week that we have been invited to attend. He was a member of the church we left almost two years ago and I have been thinking a lot about him and I am hopeful that the memorial service may heal some of the rifts that have developed in some of my relationships over our decision to leave that church. I have been reminded of many unresolved issues over that decision. They just kind of hang there like the "elephant in the room" waiting for resolution.
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