Thursday, November 29, 2012

Somehow My Plan Is Askew - What Would Bill Murray Do?

It’s so easy to take everyday things for granted: family and friends, cars, refrigeration, grocery stores, indoor plumbing.
Remember Bill Murray in Groundhog Day? He has this remarkable experience where he awakes to the same day, day after day. It makes him miserable and he goes through a seemingly endless repetition of gloomy days, a one-day season of doom. Eventually, he comes up with a plan to improve himself – he learns piano, for example – and to help people in the small town. And, of course, to woo Andie MacDowell (lucky boy).
It isn't until he realizes that he is only happy serving others, living for others, that he is able to break through the mundane routine of his day-to-day existence. The value of his life becomes obvious to him only after he recognizes the value in life around him.
While John Lennon may have been right singing that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” life is too valuable and too short to not have a plan.
As Bill Murray eventually discovered, a good plan includes goals for making money and for giving it away. A good plan includes time for family and for fun. A good plan includes good health habits, diet and exercise, and mental stimulation. A good plan includes other people.
As Andie MacDowell says to Murray, “You couldn’t have planned a day like this,” remember his response, “Well, you can. But it takes an awful lot of work.”
I need to work on my plan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Have No Accordion, Thanks To My Dad

You would think that one way to have peace in your home is to not have an accordion, but it didn’t work out that way for us. My grandmother, my dad’s mom, loved her accordion, and like most things she did, she played with gusto. This was a woman who, following a divorce, could not find work, so she dressed herself as a man and worked for more than a year as a lumberjack before her gender was discovered.
Before she died, my grandmother gave her beautiful, old accordion to my dad. Her desire was that one of his sons would learn to play.

A few years later, my dad, to raise money for church, donated a number of things from our house, including his mother’s accordion. It was one of his only mementoes of her life, and it sold for a small portion of its value. I remember my mom being angry about it, but I was impressed by his choice.
I don’t suppose there is a way to measure the loss in anyone’s life from not being able to play the accordion. Neither do I suppose there is a way to measure the blessing of having a good father, a man who keeps his word, and shows that doing what is right takes more than words.
Thanks, dad.
Check out the accordion photo here.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Walmart: The True Meaning Behind Thanksgiving

We didn’t shop on Thanksgiving, not wanting to be responsible for anyone having to work who would rather be home with family.

Nor did we shop on Black Friday, or Moron Day, as I like to call it, not wanting to be out with the crazy people, like those who stood in line with more than 500 other, um, shoppers, waiting to get into Toys R Us.


But we did shop for groceries on Wednesday, thick in the swarm of last-minute  food buyers looking for that last treat or two to top off their Turkey Day celebration. For us, grocery shopping almost always means Walmart. Here are some thoughts on my time in the store.

Those handful of people complaining so loudly that Walmart was out of big turkeys by 3 pm on Wednesday really don’t have anything to gripe about. It’s not like they didn’t know Thanksgiving was coming up.
You can buy turkey seasoning that comes with a hypodermic needle and syringe that lets you inject the stuff (ha ha) right into the bird. Doesn’t that seem wrong, somehow?

All of the frozen desert bins were hit hard, with lots of empty shelf space and very few of the really good pies left. Across the aisle, the so-called healthy frozen dinners-Smart Ones, Healthy Choice-had not been touched. Throughout the frozen entre section, most still looked fully stocked, except for the turkey dinners, which were mostly gone, too.
I made the assumption that anyone eating a frozen TV turkey dinner was likely alone for Thanksgiving. Is that a fair conclusion? It made me sad that so many people had nowhere better to go for the holiday than to the freezer for a Stouffer’s dinner.
Even turkey pot pies were nearly sold out, not just the Marie Callender’s, which are pretty good, but also the 88-cent Banquet pies. That really made me sad and kinda lonely as I pictured some elderly woman all on her own, again, or some college freshman, far from home and all by himself for the first time.
Then I realized that I was wrong. They may have been alone, but at least they had something. Even a cheap pot pie alone is better than nothing. It wasn’t that many years ago, alone in an empty duplex in some strange town, that all I had for Thanksgiving was generic grape jelly and a long, long weekend.
I’m thankful that has changed, and wish everyone had it as good as I do.

Images swiped from here, here, here, and here.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Great Book Idea, Yours For The Taking


I have this great idea for a book. You know how some books are about houses that are built over ancient grave yards, and the spirits rise to haunt the poor people who live there now? You know how some houses, like ours, are built on property that belonged to an orphanage that burned down 100 years ago and three children died, and they sometimes wander the attic and stairs at night?

Those kind of books seem to do well, especially when they are made into movies, and the author gets a check for half a million dollars. So here’s an idea you can take, straight to the bank.

A young couple moves into an old house that was built on an ancient golf course. Yeah, a golf course. And the house is haunted by two bad golfers who don’t get along and a caddy who died there long ago.

I would write the book, but I just don’t know enough about golf. I mean, I thought a Mulligan was when you put whiskey in your coffee, for Pete’s sake.
But if you know golf, maybe you’re the one to tell the story. Let me know how it turns out.
Photo swiped from here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Wiper Blades Ain’t The Half Of It, Apparently

Someone spent quite some time this weekend trying to persuade me that I was pretty much inept at everything, not just minor auto repairs. As hard as it was to hear, trying to produce enough evidence to prove otherwise was harder still.

Monday, November 12, 2012

When Did I Become So Inept?

I used to be able to look at something and pretty much figure out how it worked or how to put it together, at least by following the instructions. I used to write instruction manuals, for Pete’s sake.
But I was nearly defeated this morning by the windshield wiper on Kelly’s car.
It says “Easy To Install” right on the package. It says “From package to windshield in minutes.” I guess that’s true, literally, but instead of taking one or two minutes as is implied, it took nearly 20 minutes.
The parts are black on black, the interlocking pieces are small, and the print is tiny, but that shouldn’t have been a deal breaker. What’s worse, I nearly didn’t make it that far. The hard plastic package took far longer to open than I care to admit.

I guess my easy FLIP and SLIDE days are over....
At last, the blade is installed, but Kelly is taking her chances. I only guarantee my wiper work in sunny weather.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Presidential Issue 5: Don’t Tell Us Who Won Before The Polls Close


I just read, again, how the media uses exit polls and computer models and divining rods and palm lines and tea leafs and previous results to project election winners long before everyone gets a chance to cast their ballot. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

It’s too late this time, but I say let’s elect a president who will make a difference, who will stop it. Let them gather their voodoo numbers but make them keep it to themselves until after the last person votes. Except, of course, for people in Hawaii. I mean, who wants to wait that long. And California, like it’s any surprise what they will do there.

Now, I’m off to cancel my wife’s vote….

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Amy G: Sorry We Missed You In The Bass Pro Marathon

One of my best students, one of Ms. Anthony’s favorite students, ran by our house today in the Bass Pro Shops Marathon. We missed seeing her, probably because she was a front runner, and by the time we made it out to the sidewalk to cheer everyone on, they had been passing by for a while.

Neighbors clapped and cheered with each passing runner, which was fun. Many of the runners seemed to appreciate the applause, with a quick nod or wave, but just as many could only breathe heavily. We are just short of the 16-mile marker, so we felt sorry for them, knowing they still had 10 miles to go.
"Getting up early to make this sign was hard, too."
That made me laugh, but I'm not sure what the runners thought.
A surprising number of the runners were not, um, fit, shall we say. But there they were, running, so you have to admire and respect that. It made me think that I could do it, too, you know, start slowly, running a bit today, a bit farther tomorrow, a bit more the day after that. Then, by next November, there I’d be, flying by the house, waving at everyone, my first marathon.
So, I went in right away, and ate chocolate pie until the feeling passed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Say Trick Or Treat, Say Thank You

The first time I took a child out trick or treating on Halloween, Thriller was the top album,  ET was the big movie, and Commodore 64 was the hot, new computer. John Belushi and Grace Kelly were both alive, and the Cardinals had just won the World Series. I’ve done it and loved it every year since, rain or shine, warm or cold, one kid or seven.
I thought I would miss it last night, not going out with a costumed kiddie, but we had too much fun to notice. I missed the kids, yes, a lot, and I miss the grandkids, but I didn’t miss carrying the toddlers and wheeling them in the stroller and worrying about traffic and standing on the sidewalk and reminding them to say “trick or treat” and “thank you.” I enjoyed all that, and am grateful for all those years of fun, and I miss the kids – did I mention that? - but I didn’t miss it. I watched the parents as they came to our door, and I have to say it is fun from the front, too.

Kelly and I were thrilled watching the wide-eyed little ones walk up, the pirates and soldiers and princesses and witches and super heroes, that one kid dressed up like a police call box, so happy, so excited, so filled with wonder at what was happening.
We live in a neighborhood that dresses up for Halloween. People come from all over town, even from nearby towns, to see it all, to be part of it. We usually have around 1,200 goblins come to our door. That may seem like a typo, but it’s not. From 4:30 to 9:30 last night, we gave away 44 pounds of candy. It is common to have 20 or more children lined up on our sidewalk, hour after hour, and the fun doesn’t stop.
Kelly always puts out a nice spread for the friends who come over before the door-to-door action.

She always decorates inside the house, subtle touches of holiday made personal for and to our family. I like that about her.

It doesn't look like much, 44 pounds of candy, but it sure was popular. Some people in the neighborhood give out full-sized Snickers bars. We aren't one of those families. But we have tableclothes for every holiday, every occassion. I like that.

I decorate the outside of the house, based on a photo Kelly found in one of her many holiday magazines.

The calm before the stampede: the Purple English Teacher waiting to pass out the goodies. She said "great costume" and "happy Halloween" so much last night that she woke up hoarse.


Part of the queue. It is like this at every house, up and down the street. Fun, fun, fun. 

One of the parents said that she got married in our house, 26 years ago. We invited her in, with part of her her large family, and she seemed very pleased. We took pictures of her behind our stair rail, just as she stood back in 1986. That was cool.

Our windows always get a lot of attention, and a lot of favorable comments, another idea from one of Kelly's holiday magazines. One woman said she has a photo of our house on her Facebook opening page. That seems weird.

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