Friday, October 30, 2009

Wisdom of Older Women

After 40 years of being married, one day I was looking at my wife at supper and said, "You know, 40 years ago I had a cheap apartment, a crappy car, watched a ten inch black and white TV while eating hamburger helper after I got home from work, and slept on a sofa bed...but I got to sleep with a hot 25 year old girl every night."

"Now I have a two million dollar house, a BMW sport car, a chef's kitchen, a plasma screen TV and a Duxiana bed...but now I'm sleeping with a 65 year old woman. I don't think you're holding up your end of the bargain."

My wife is a very reasonable woman. She said, "I'll tell you what, you go find yourself a hot 25 year old girl and I'll make sure you live in a cheap apartment, drive a crappy car, eat hamburger helper and watch a ten inch TV again."

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Father is My Brother

I drove to northern Arizona and picked up my parents yesterday afternoon to bring them down to Phoenix for my Father's heart procedure today.

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while know something about my Dad from things I wrote in previous posts.

My Dad is an "old school man". When he says anything about anything that most modern emo people would consider worthy of hours of pithy discussion over a venti frappucino carmel latte you have to listen carefully then read between the lines and then fill in the blanks. As we drove down the mountain roads he made small talk about football, basketball, hockey, the weather. Interspersed between his running commentary on the mundane he talked about his surgery.

"I really don't want to have this done but I figure I should at least find out what's going on" means: "I know this might be it."

At one point I told him Fr. Damian (our priest who he met at my ordination to the subdiaconate, and the first time he has been in a Church in probably 65 years or more) said he would be willing to come to the hospital and say some prayers before he went in for surgery... if he wanted him to. Dad said, "I'd really like that, thank you." Translation: "I know I could die on the table. I'm scared **itless."

We went to the hospital this morning and they took Dad in to prep him. Fr. Damian came and talked with my Mom (who raised us kids Roman Catholic alone) for a few minutes then we all went in together for the short visiting time they allow before the surgery. After a few minutes I said, "We'll go to the waiting room for a while and leave you guys alone for a bit." We left Fr. Damian and Dad alone in the room and waited. About twenty minutes later Fr. Damian came out and said, "Steven, your dad wants to be baptized and he wants you to be there."

I went into the pre-op room and assisted Fr. Damian with the baptism of my Father who 40 years before made fun of me mercilessly about my faith. When we finished the baptism my Dad looked at me and said, "I love you." I said, "I love you too, Dad...I've been praying for this for a long time." He had tears in his eyes. He said, "I know."

We brought my wife and daughter and Mom into his room. Fr. Damian, the Wifie, daughter and I sang "As Many as Have Been Baptized into Christ" for him.

The procedure went well. As they wheeled my Dad to post-op he said, "It looks good." and I said, " you'll have to make good on all those deals you made with God." He grinned. I'll drive them home tomorrow morning. In about 3 weeks I'll bring them down to Phoenix again when our Bishop visits. My Dad and Mom will be chrismated together then.

Thanks to all for your prayers. They have been answered beyond measure.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Best DUI Arrest in History

New Dessert and Bread Recipe

I love to cook, but I don't use recipes because I find they are generally kind of wimpy on the spices, probably to appeal to the broadest spectrum of tastebuds. And I just like to experiment.

We had friends over for supper last night and I made some dessert pears that were simple and turned out, well, REALLY good. The pears were still a little green and hard, so cooking time might be less if the pears are riper. (The ingredients are approximate, I never measure either.)

Cut 5 pears in half lengthwise and using a paring knife "dish out" the core leaving a decent crater that would hold liquid.

Lay them out in a shallow baking dish, cut side up and sprinkle with brown sugar (don't cover them entirely but don't be too skimpy either).

Mix a stick and a half of softened butter with about 4 ounces of spiced rum (I used "Black Strap Rum", it was really cheap and has a great taste for this kind of stuff.)

Put about a good heaping teaspoon of the rum-butter mix to fill the crater.

Cover with foil and bake until the pears are very soft (I cooked mine on 250 for about 3 hours while I was cooking everything else...probably 350 for an hour or more depending on the ripeness of the pears). Serve with vanilla ice cream on the side.

And here's a really quick and tasty home made bread that you can bake and serve right out of the oven when you have guests (or just want fresh bread). This makes two good sized loaves and takes about ten minutes to prepare.

Half of a 5 lb. bag of all purpose flour in a bowl add two heaping tablespoons of coarse salt (not table salt). (If you keep your flour in the freezer let it come to room temp. I've found frozen flour tends to kill the yeast or at least really slows it down.)

Warm about a cup of water on the stove or in a microwave (not too hot, so you can still hold your finger in it comfortably). Add about a heaping tablespoon of rosemary leaves into the water. Add one level teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoons (or 4 packets) of yeast. Stir and let the mixture set for about 10 minutes. (When the yeast is activated it will develop foam on the top of the water. If you don't see that, your yeast is no good.)

Add a cup of water to the yeast mix and then pour it in the flour. Start mixing and adding water until the dough is thick enough to barely stand up (not too thin, not too stiff) so if you let it sit for a minute, it will slowly flatten out. I use my hands and just kind of squeeze it between my fingers and scrape the bowl to be sure there's no loose flour at the bottom. It will be very sticky. Don't try to get it absolutely lump free. If you've mixed for more than 3-4 minutes you're trying too hard to get the dough smooth.

Grease 2 bread pans liberally with olive oil, (I use shallow round 9" dishes or my 10" cast iron skillet, not the high sided bread pans so it comes out as a round "artisan loaf"). I haven't had great luck with baking stones, the dough is too soft to hold its own shape and flattens out too much for my liking.) Split the dough between the two pans, I just kind of lump it in and don't worry about the shape too much, it will flatten out and take on its own shape as it rises anyway. Sprinkle a little flour on top and put them in a cold oven and let rise for about an hour (keep an eye on it, it rises fast and will overflow the edges of the pan.) At this point you can take it out of the oven, run your finger around the edges and kind of fold the edges of the dough back in on itself so it forms another mound in the center (don't be too aggressive, just enough to move the dough away from the edge of the dish) and let it rise again, or you can skip this step and just turn the oven on.

If you let it rise twice wait until the dough is slightly above the top of the dish, then turn the oven on to 375. It will keep rising during the baking process. Bake until the top is browned. (About 45 minutes). Remove from oven, let cool for about 15 minutes and pop it out of the pan.

Really yummy on its own, buttered, or with pesto or balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip.
(If you try the recipe, let me know how it works for you...I'm still playing with the formula.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

No More Dogs Dog, Part Deux

When we lost our kids' childhood dogs to old age and illness, and our four cats finally died my Wife said, "No more pets..." A couple months later we ended up at the dog pound and she fell for not one, but two "No more dogs dogs ".

Life with the two "no more dogs dogs" went well for a while. Then she found a stray on the way to the dog park. She fell in love with him and named him Peanut. He immediately turned into Destructo-Dog. He chewed and tore up everything inside and outside the house from the couches, shoes, laundry, and the fish pond. He was "her dog", but in the end he ate too much of "her stuff" and she weepily gave him up to a shelter.

My favorite dog, Duke, even after a couple years of TLC was so damaged we ended up having to put him to sleep a few months ago. The Wifie said, "One dog. That's it. I can't do this again." So Maggie has been the solo dog. She's mellow, big and lazy, as low maintenance as a dog can be.

And it was good.

(Then she found Moo the Turtle at the dog park and it got better.)

Last Monday night my daughter was out with friends on fall break. I was in bed asleep. About midnight I get jostled awake... "Come outside, you have to see this!" I pulled on my yellow smiley face PJ's and my "Closed for Rehab" T-shirt and went out to the driveway. She and her 4 friends and the Wifie have a dog. A BIG brown dog. "Look what we found!" No collar, no tags. "He's sooo cool! He jumped in the car with us...can we keep him?"

"We can keep him until we find out who he belongs to. Tomorrow you need to put up signs in the neighborhood." That was the plan. Well, spring break stuff, a camping trip and other things came and went and the signs didn't go up until yesterday, a week later. In the meantime he made himself right at home. He's friendly, great with kids and other dogs including Maggie, obedient (though we've discovered he's a chow hound and eats anything lower than 4 feet off the floor.) The Wifie kept saying stuff like, "You know, he's really a cool dog...someone is probably really missing him, I bet." And he was cool. The Wifie said wistfully as we printed out flyers, "He's the coolest dog I've ever met." He was that cool. She doesn't hand out dog compliments.

This afternoon she just had to find out. She took him to the vet to get the free scan for a "chip". "A dog that cool HAS to belong to someone who took good care of him", she reasoned. Sure enough. She came home with a defeated look on her face, "He has a chip. They found the owner and they're going to call him and give him our information." "Crap", I thought, "...but maybe he won't call..."

An hour later he called and said they've missed him and would pick him up in a couple hours. So we fed him his last meal with us and sighed a lot. I almost told the Wifie I'd offer to buy him from the owner, but we can't even make our car payments. At supper I half-heartedly said, "Maybe he'll give him to us...yeah, right."

About ten minutes before the owner was supposed to arrive the phone rings. It is the owner. He says, "I'm losing my house and I really can't keep the dog...would you like to keep him?...Can I bring the kids over to say goodbye?" We were elated for us and sad for him and his kids. He arrived a few minutes later and he and the kiddos say goodbye (the kids were too young to really get it, thank God, I remember losing my dogs in grade school). The owner was really glad he had landed in a good home. So are we.

So... this is Carlos, the No More Dogs Dog III (and Maggie) and the Wifie.
Maggie now has company keeping vigil at the supper table for scraps.Everyone is smiling. And it is good.

Mortality Looms

A few months ago I decided I needed to spend more time attending to family stuff, mainly spending more time with my parents, especially my dad. We've been fishing a few times and a few times when I've had days off I just drove up and visited with them for a couple hours. I popped up there last Monday and surprised them. They said they were going to call me that evening to tell me my dad was going to have another heart procedure. My dad had an EKG a couple weeks ago and his heart doctor said it didn't look good. He wants to do an angiogram. My dad had his first triple bypass when he was 51 (about 30 years ago). He had his second triple bypass about 4 years ago. The doctor told him at that time there was one artery that was inoperable and basically it was a ticking bomb. This doctor told him, basically no matter what they find they won't do another bypass at his age. One of the problems is the last time he had an angiogram the procedure itself set off a heart attack on the table and they were forced to "crack him open" and do the bypass.

My mom called me yesterday while my dad was in the yard working on the garden. She said he's really worried. That's "Mom-speak". When she says "he's worried" it means she's really scared.

This Thursday I'll be driving to Northern Arizona to pick up my parents to bring them down to Phoenix for a heart procedure on my dad on Friday morning. If you all remember, offer up a short prayer for us this week for Jesse and Nell (and us kids and grandkids). Thanks.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day Trip to Sedona

Sedona is a world destination because of the incredible beauty of its rock formations. It is a New Age haven, an artsy fartsy community, a guru-proclaimed "vortex" of cosmic spiritual harmonic convergences, an aging rich hippie hangout and a tourist trap. One of the "events" that people come for from all over the world is the changing of the leaves in Oak Creek Canyon. I know changing leaves aren't a big deal for you who live back east. Cacti don't do much in the way of arboretal dramatics in the winter here. But its not just the leaves, its the setting they are in too.

Anyway, the wifey is on fall break and we decided to take a day trip and look at the leaves. They didn't disappoint (though we were maybe a week early for the real show.) Here's some pictures from the day. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them to full screen).

The hike goes along a creek that runs between two cliffs that are hundreds of feet high.

This is part of the creek and one wall of the cliffs on either side that has been eroded away.

The wifey is standing under the overhang for a perspective on the dimensions of the rock formations. You can see the opposite cliff walls from here and the direction we were hiking. You can follow the creek back about 4 miles between the canyon walls.

This is a view looking back on where we came from on the hike.
And just for grins, a picture of Sedona's "Red Rocks" that I took last year and posted before...but it was a once in a lifetime lighting condition, I pulled off the side of the road and I only had my point and shoot digital camera with me. But, this is why people come here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Depress Me, Whydontcha?

This is the new marketing ploy from "MyLife" a "reunion" website. Their teaser is an email that tells you "A 57 year old female in Phoenix is looking for you." (OK, if you've lived in Phoenix since you've been 15 and you're 57 that's a tease, if you're 23 its a problem.) Or, "You have 103 people looking for you!" (OK, do any of them have "Esq." behind their name or "Detective" in front of it?") Well, for 6 bucks a month they will tell you who is looking for you and let you contact them through their website. And for 6 bucks a month they will give you a graph that tells you how popular you are.

They have 75 million people who have access to their information. They tell me I have 53 people who have looked for me. So I tried to do the math (I can't do 4th grade math, ask my daughter...) That means ummmm... less than one one millionth of their clients are interested in me. If I cared and could do math, that could be depressing.

The question burning in my brain right now is if I gave them 6 bucks, what would they do with their graph? Is .000000085% "POPULAR"? For 6 bucks will they bump me somewhere between "POPULAR" to "VERY POPULAR"? Of course they will. No one is going to pay 6 bucks a month to have someone spam them every day to remind them they are "LESS POPULAR". But I'm thinking that unless I pay the 6 bucks to find out who the female is that is looking for me (of course feeding on some high school fantasy relationship), I probably won't find out the marketing plan they have for a mere 12 bucks a month to move me to the "VERY POPULAR" end of the graph. (I can already see a lawsuit coming: Website tells someone they are unpopular. Person cancels subscription and uses the money to buy overdose of over the counter drug.)

I heard a talk show a few weeks ago about a company that you can BUY "Friends" for your Facebook so you'll look you have a lot of friends. Of course the initial reaction is outrage... But when you really think about it, that's not any different from what goes on in "real life" and the ways human beings have "bought friends" and conspicuous relationships to impress people they don't know or care about.

In the end, "POPULAR" is the perversion of "COMMUNION". Stats are the delusion of community. "Hit Counters" are the illusion of communication. They put them on Facebook and blogs because intuitively marketers know that what human beings are looking for is validation of their personhood. We're created in a Trinitarian image, we cannot be whole without another. "MyLife" and a zillion other "social networking" sites are the digital 7th Avenue whorehouses of lonely, dieing, withered souls grasping for the comfort of a fantasy straw of communion, a bunch of pixels on a screen with a graph or a stat counter and perhaps some words that tells someone that they are connected to someone else on the planet. But the only touch is their keyboard, and the only face they see is an avatar. And once again human beings sell their soul for an illusion, pay 6 bucks for the lie, and in the dark of the night they weep alone.

This is the work of salvation: to be face to face, to be in communion incarnate. God touches us with flesh in order to save us. Can we do anything less to save those around us and to find our own salvation?

For now we see through pixilated glass, darkly; but then face to face...

Contact Juggling

This kid is really good!

And from an old post, more traditional juggling done well worth a re-run

Friday, October 09, 2009

Renaissance Festival Orthodoxy

Yorgos Bilalis of the Romeiko Ensemble joined with costume designer Fatima Lavor-Peters to recreate the chanters (psalti) vestments worn before the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The vestments were designed from frescoes and manuscript depicting the garments. After the Fall under Ottoman rule the chanters wore only the black riassa worn up to the present day.

Well...since this is the REAL tradition and not the modernist liturgical minimalism we've adopted, I thought about having one made to wear for our Bishop's visit coming up soon. (I like the "paper hat" style rather than the "Coneheads").

(Wouldn't THAT be a hoot? In my old days, if we had such things in my Protestant Church, I'd have done it...though I did do stuff that amounted to the same thing. Its a good thing I didn't become Orthodox in my 30's.)
H/T to Byzantine Texas

Monday, October 05, 2009

Another Cool Card Trick

Australia's magician of the year. I don't know how they do this stuff. It's like...magic!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Daddy's Little Girls

I don't think it matters how many times a man goes through it, there is a joyful, sobering, heartbreaking tragedy when a daughter begins the passage to becoming a woman. I remember nearly a decade ago going to the mall to shop for a homecoming dress with my eldest daughter. She held up various satiny, shimmery evening gowns, with no straps!, and beamed, "What do you think, Daddy?"

Daddy thought of her adoption day, the trip home from Colorado with a tiny premature infant with spidery E.T. fingers who fit in the sock drawer of the motel as a makeshift crib. Daddy thought of her first smile, of her ear infections and colic, of driving her around in the middle of the night in the car to put her to sleep, of changing diapers, of reading "Where the Wild Things Are" with sound effects at bedtime, of building her desk and putting up "Rainbow Bright" and "My Little Pony" wallpaper in her bedroom, of her dozens of stuffed animals, and her books, of her climbing on top of the refrigerator and getting stuck at 6AM, of her first day of school and her fourth grade math I couldn't do... "Daddy, what do you think?"

The reality was, the dress was beautiful and when she tried it on, she was radiant. No Daddy is ready for that. A Daddy has the curse of seeing his daughter both as a Daddy and as the 17 year old he once was.

Tonight my eldest baby daughter is the student body president of her law school and she's in the library preparing briefs for Moot Court competition. Tonight my baby girl is at her Homecoming Dance. We went to the mall last week and as she held up her dress...

Daddies have a vision and image of what they want their children to be. As children grow a Daddy realizes that his child is a person, not a lump of Playdoh. As hard as you push and ply and squeeze, there is an unmalleable and mysterious part that refuses to be conformed to the image. A Daddy soon realizes he has begotten an unrepeatable mystery. But that mystery is bound to his own mystery and that bond in itself is also common yet unrepeatable. Such is the Father-Daughter relationship.

Tonight I let my baby go. Tonight my baby girl, who 16 years ago, giggled hysterically while I cradled her in my arms and danced with her in our living room will dance in a young man's arms across the floor of a High School Gym. Tonight she is a young woman to everyone else, but still to me she is Daddy's little girl. Tonight she will come home to my house, but I know now not far on the horizon another's house will beckon.

But no matter the distance, no matter the age we have become or the number of years that have passed, there is nothing sweeter in a man's ear than to hear his daughter's voice say, "Daddy..."

Anyway...This is the group going out together to Homecoming. All the parents were there to take pictures. One mother said, "Are these our KIDS?" Indeed they are, and always will be.
This is my daughter and her date (of whom we approved...)
This is me and my baby... there is no preparation for this.

Clever Ads

I'm not promoting Norton Antivirus but I'd promote their ad agency.
(Watch Kimbo's pecs on this one... :)

And where did they dig these guys up again?