The hirsute look


It’s now been nearly two months since the lockdown order was issued for my home state. Much has happened during that time, including an action that I never took before and expect that I never will again: growing out the hairs on my face.

I have added a picture here for posterity’s sake. With a directive to be clean-shaven at work, and a natural preference for looking that way in the first place, my routine over the course of my adult life has been shaving on Monday, Wednesday, and usually Fridays, and leaving it alone on the other days of the week. Shaving usually takes about three minutes to accomplish, but I can’t say that I enjoy doing it.

When the lockdown started in March, I realized this was a chance to let my facial hair breathe a litle bit. March gave way to April, and then April to May, and now I have a mangy tangle of mostly gray hairs all over my face. The discomfort of what felt like dozens of worms crawling all over my face is now gone, and I don’t mind the look, either.  I’ll never write like Hemingway, but having a beard lets me at least borrow his look a little bit.

With the impending arrival of a long holiday weekend, I should have ample opportunity to lather up and finally take this thing off my face. It could be a difficult process, since  I’m not getting rid of the little stubble that I’m used to dealing with. Its removal will likely serve as a closure of some sort, but nothing lasts forever, and that goes double for my ronabeard.

I’ll post something again once the deed is done, and there’s a small chance that I’ll just let it ride until I go back to work in an office again. But at this point, a clean break (or perhaps a clean shave?) is what I need the most.

“By necessity, we all quote”


Yesterday I wrote a post in this space about the passing of my dog, and I opened with a picture of my dog and a quote about how regrettably short a dog’s life can be. I’ve always been one who enjoys a good quote, something so profound that I wish I had said it myself. And the search for such a quote is always enlightening, in one way or another.

The book shown above dates to 1955, the same year that Little Richard went into a recording studio in New Orleans and changed the world with “Tutti Frutti.” Whoever purchased this book in hardcover that year may have paid four or five dollars for it, but they received centuries worth of insights and wise words, all of them arranged by subject in an appendix that makes finding a topical quotation an easy task. Perhaps not as easy as going to the Google and entering a keyword or two, but in the mid 1950s nobody could expect any better than this.

My daily routine, on the days when I’m working from home to help flatten the curve, is to pick up my Bartlett’s, page around in it for a few minutes, find something to fit whatever suits my mood on that day, and share it with those who keep track of my work hours. It sure beats having to pile into a car, drive 45 minutes on city streets and an interstate highway to get to work, and hope that there’s still space available in the parking lot when I get there. Paging through a book for something I can put into an email feels like a pleasure, compared to all of that.

And on some days,  I’ll even have a few minutes to learn something on the Google about the person who the quote was attributed to, which never fails to intrigue me on some level. With so many fascinating people, and all the thought-provoking things they either said or wrote through the centuries, I feel as though I got my money’s worth (whatever amount I spent on it) for this book a long time ago.

There’s an app for the iPhone that offer’s Bartlett’s for the sum of $3.99. That’s much more than I paid for my physical hard copy of the book, and whenever an app has more 1 star reviews than anything else, it’s a pretty good sign that purchasing the app is probably a waste of money. My advice, for what it’s worth, is that if you ever come upon a copy of Bartlett’s, whether at a used book store or especially at an estate sale (assuming we ever see them again), pick it up and spend whatever the seller is asking for. Few investments will ever pay off as much, if only in an intellectual sense.

NOTE: The tile of this post is taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Letters and Social Aims” (1876). Have I read the whole thing? Of course not. But Bartlett’s makes it so that I don’t have to, either.

Working through the grief


“Dogs’ lives are too short.  Their only fault, really.”  – Agnes Sligh Turnbull

One of the things I’ve been doing during the COVID-19 lockdown is finding interesting quotes from people, about all manner of things. I send an email every morning to sign in for work, and I’ve become very fond of hunting for quotes to share with them, whether in an old copy of Barltlett’s Familiar Quotations, a volume of poetry that may be laying around the house, or even an Internet search for whatever topic strikes my fancy on that day.

There are some usual sources that can always be turned to in a pinch. Not surprisingly, Lincoln is always good for a timely or an interesting quote. The same goes for Emerson, Thoreau, and even Carl Sandburg. But sometimes I have found really deep pearls of wisdom from sources I never though possible, or even from someone I have never heard of before. Such is the case with the writer quoted above. She wrote something for publication in seven different decades, from the 1920s all the way up to the 1980s, when she was in her 90s. So there’s no doubt that she could string a few words together in a compelling fashion. And her words about dogs are very comforting to me right now.

My dog Dooney left us just over two weeks ago, and I’m still struggling with this loss. Many people are suffering from losses these days,  and their losses are compounded by the reality that grieving—at least in a traditional sense—is not permitted right now. So on one level I feel selfish for trying to put a dog on the same level as anyone’s father, brother, friend, or neighbor.

But in a larger sense, as Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, writing is one form of grief that doesn’t run afoul of social distancing guidelines. I can express my grief, and throw these thoughts out to the whole wide world, and perhaps someone will read the words and understand. A treasured companion of mine for over ten years is gone, and a container of his ashes is all that I have left of him. I can’t change that, so I’ll just have to do what I can to get along without him.

Even losses that have nothing at all to do with COVID-19 are being treated the same way in these times. “Death doesn’t discriminate” as a line from the musical Hamilton goes. (See, I really can’t help it with quotations sometimes.) That has to be beyond frustrating for someone like my friend George, who recently lost his mother. We’ve all been to funerals before, and we know that wakes and funeral processions and words of condolence uttered at the graveside can be a powerful reminder of how much the now-departed person was loved and appreciated. And few, if any, such services are carried out for a dog or a cat or any other type of companion animal. I know the limitations of what I’m trying to say here. But there are many, many people who would show up and offer support, if only they were allowed to do so. And that, too, is a feeling of sadness for untold numbers of people.

The coronavirus has cut a vicious swath through our world, whether we have loved ones who were taken away by the virus or not. I’m very sorry for their losses, and I hope that they can somehow find a way to work through them.

Going back to Lincoln, at least in some sense, here is a poem that he committed to memory, and recited for his friends on several occasions. It’s called “Mortality” by William Knox, a Scottish poet who, ironically enough, died at the very young age of 36.

The Irony of Abraham Lincoln's Favorite Poem – The Log Cabin Sage

These words comforted Lincoln—who knew something about personal loss—and my hope is that they can provide comfort for others, too. Whatever it takes is exactly what all of us need right now.

American Hash


I’ve never written about this before, but I was in a fraternity when I was in college. Drinking and hazing and general stupidity have given fraternities (I don’t like using the term “frats”) a bad name, and I wouldn’t disagree with much of the criticism of them. But one element of the fraternity life seems relevant in these times, and that’s the experience of fraternity rush.

Rush in my time, back in the 1980s, was soaked in alcohol. There was talk of moving to “dry” rush, and that might be a better way to do it, because nobody’s really at their best when they’re drunk. I’m certainly no exception to that, either. But the reason rush exists is to find new members, to keep your house growing for the future. It’s recruiting under a different name, really. And it needs to be done, for the long-term survival of the House.

But just showing up at a party wasn’t enough to gain acceptance. A prospective member needed to show that he could offer something to the existing members, to the point where a bid, or an invitation to join, would be offered. The members of the house would meet people, take their measure in whatever social setting was going on, and decide what to do about offering a bid. That’s where the hash came in.

After a rush party was over, the existing members (you can use the term “brothers” if you want, but I never cared for the term too much) met to discuss the various people who came to the festivities. We called it “hash” because we hashed out our differences about particular people. Some prospective members were generally liked, some people were not, and most fell somewhere in between.  Speeches were made in support of some prospective members, and in the end votes were taken.

In my house, at least, the strongest gesture in support of a prospective member was “jumping the couch,” and if someone I respected in the house jumped the couch for someone else, that was enough to get me to vote in their favor. People who warranted a couch jumping generally received a bid.

At the other end of this spectrum was a “blackball” which I now realize has loaded racial meanings, but the effect of a blackball was that a member would put their opposition to someone in the strongest terms possible. Blackballed persons didn’t get bids, because doing so would be disrespectful to whoever offered it.

The people known as “Dreamers” are essentially prospective members of the American fraternity. They didn’t come to our rush party by themselves, but were brought here by their parents as children. They aren’t “illegal immigrants” as the blackballers among us prefer to call them. They grew up here, and think of the United States as their home. 700,000 of them, give or take whatever the actual number is, are now waiting for our national hash to play itself out.

Extending a bid to these Dreamers will shape the future, without a doubt.  Sending all these people away—or worse, forcing them to live in fear of deportation in the land they call home, as most of them would surely do before leaving on their own terms—would be an act that goes against what America is all about. They’re here now, waiting for the chance to raise their families in the only land they know.

With that in mind, I’m ready to jump the couch on their behalf. Let’s ensure America’s continued survival by giving the Dreamers a path to citizenship, and welcoming them to the American fraternity. It’s the smart and compassionate thing to do, so let’s do it.

An indefensible act

The Grand CanyonFullSizeRender (1)

By removing the United States from the Paris Agreement–which every other nation in the world save for Syria and Nicaragua has signed onto–Donald Trump has declared war on the planet that all of us inhabit. He clearly doesn’t care about my children, shown above on the rim of the Grand Canyon and in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. They don’t matter to him, nor do millions of other children around the world, who rightly consider this world of ours as their birthright.

This planet is my home, and I won’t keep silent as Trump attempts to ruin it by his actions. Laughing at Trump–which once seemed like it would have been enough–isn’t the answer. Scoffing at Trump hasn’t worked either, not as long as he has a sycophantic army of supporters who seem oblivious to the harm he is doing. But we all must speak out, to raise our voices in protest of this diabolical act.

Always in my heart


On the occasion of my daughter’s 18th birthday, I have boxes of pictures and just as many stories to share about her. My life hasn’t been what it was before she was born on April 4, 1999, and I don’t mind that one little bit.

Being a parent once scared me to death. Nothing quite compares to holding a little one in your hands, figuratively and literally. I put it off for all of my twenties, and by the time I hit 30 it couldn’t be deferred much longer.

I’m sharing one picture here, and one story as well. The picture was taken when she was in kindergarten, and it shows the happy but shy girl that she was in those days. Looking at it reminds me of how kindergarten once seemed far away, and yet one day it arrived. And now she’ll be going away to college in a few months. I’ve always made a point of enjoying it while it lasted, because it sure didn’t last for very long.

My favorite story about the lovely girl who forever changed my life took place a few days before she was born. My wife and I had tickets to see a musical at the Oriental Theater in Chicago. During one rousing musical number–I think it was in the second act–my wife grabbed by hand and pressed it against her side. I was amazed to feel my unborn daughter kicking along with the music. She’s always been a theater kid, and studying musical theater in high school is as natural for her as a fish swimming in water. But I truly believe it started for her on that night.

She’s grown so much in the 18 years she’s been with us, and it’s been such a joy to watch it all happen. The law says she’s an adult now, and she can do many more things today than she could yesterday. I’ve lost whatever legal rights and responsibilities I ever had for her, but my job as a parent isn’t done, nor is it ever likely to be. So we’ll keep on travelling down that path toward whatever she’s going  to be in life.

This is an important day in her life and in mine, and I’m writing this to recognize how far the two of us have come together. It’s been quite a ride so far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

A day with my mom


I’m getting to a place in life where many of the people I know have lost one or both of their parents. I have to admit to an embarrassment of riches on this front, because both of my parents are still with us, and still physically and mentally vibrant. I don’t usually think in terms of blessings, but it’s impossible to see this as being anything else.

My mom came to Chicago this weekend, to see both of my daughters perform onstage. The weather was abnormally spring-like for late February, and I was glad because it allowed us to get out and enjoy the city. The planet’s still in trouble from all the things we’ve been doing to it, but at least it gave me the chance to enjoy a day with my mom. Everything’s relative, isn’t it? And yes, I did intend that pun to get through.

My mom has given me and my siblings everything she had, and feels bad that she couldn’t do more. I feel that way about my own kids, and every parent has the same feelings, I suspect. But if we’re really lucky, we’ll get the chance to spend a day with them and tell them how much it is appreciated. That’s what love is made of.


Thoughts at a fire

Yesterday morning I wrote a post in this space bemoaning the lack of good news stories this year. I had a realization later in the evening, though, as I was watching the fire in my fireplace burn. And it’s worth sharing it here, before it crawls back into the recesses of my mind. This is why I started this blog, after all.

If I start a fire in my fireplace and it burns all night and it goes out, there’s nothing “newsworthy” in that. But if my house were to somehow catch fire, then not only would the fire trucks come, but the news vans, as well. And the bigger the fire, the bigger the story would be.

So I realized, as my fire burned without incident in my fireplace, that “the news” wasn’t good for a reason. As Don Hendley once sang, it’s interesting when people die. And apparently, that’s the only time.

So I’m not waiting for the news to be good anymore. There’s good things all around us every day, and there’s nobody looking to tell us what it is. That’s apparently our job to determine what it is.

And my fire went out, and it was a happy time, indeed. I’m glad that nobody else got to hear anything about it.


A bleachers retrospective

Hearing that the Cubs started tearing down the Wrigley Field bleachers today felt like the end of something for me. From the first time I sat in the bleachers back in 1987, to the last time I did so back in 2005, they were always a place where I felt good. Granted, a fair amount of this was alcohol-induced, but not all of it was. It was the place to be, if you wanted to have the full-on Wrigley experience. And I certainly did that, for the better part of my adult life.

I went there in the 1980s with the college girl who later became my wife. I celebrated opening day there at least a couple of times, and saw both Ryne Sandberg and Andre Dawson receive their Wrigley sendoffs there. I went there with my brother, and friends of all varieties, and even went by myself on a few occasions. I took my two young daughters the last time I was there, even though it never was a very kid-friendly place. Simply put, it was my home away from home, and the place I wanted to be whenever I had the chance to go. And now it’s gone.

Whatever comes along to take its place, it can’t be what it once was to me. And that’s probably all for the best, since everything changes and evolves over time.

Here are a few pictures of or from the bleachers:





Wrigley Football

Springsteen's Wrigley shows were amazing. Hope he comes back soon






Thanks for the memories!

It’s the thought that counts


My next door neighbors are good people. I think of them every time I hear some people on TV railing about “illegal immigration.” It seem like a bigoted, racist term directed at people that the speaker doesn’t know the first thing about. “If they speak Spanish and have brown skin, get them outta here.” It’s antithetical to what America is, at least in my mind.

One day earlier this summer, as I was grilling up some dinner, my neighbor offered me a beer. I’ve drank more Corona in my life than I want to know about, but gave it up three years ago. But still, it was a thoughtful gesture, and one I didn’t refuse.

I took the cap off and made a pretend show of drinking the beer. I knew that taking a sip was a bad idea, because I’ve harmed my body in ways I’ll never realize by drinking so much through the years. But still, I wanted my neighbor to know I appreciated his offer. I wanted him to see that not every Anglo-speaking person wants him and his family to leave the country. And I wanted him to see that sharing a beer–as old of an American tradition as there is–is something that neighbors do with each other. In many ways, it was the best beer I never had.

Long may it wave


I saw a clip online today that made me angry. On the eve of celebrating the birth of this great country, there was Laura Ingraham and Bill O’Reilly, chattering on about illegal immigration. Terms like “anchor baby” were used, and the right wing fantasy that people can–and should–leave the country en masse reared its ugly and ignorant head.

America is predicated upon people coming here from all parts of the world. They think they can better their lives here, and usually they are correct. To turn our backs on this is to deny American history, and sell this great nation short. It’s nothing less than unAmerican to do that. You might just as well take down the flag and cut it into pretty ribbons, because it won’t be the same flag that once attracted our ancestors to these shores.

Let’s all honor our country–and our immigrant ancestors, wherever they may be–by remembering what this country is, and by slapping down those who would make it into anything less. Happy 4th of July to everyone.

Rock and roll band



Last night, on a soggy beach in Chicago, I saw Boston play live for the first time in my life. I’ve written about Boston many times in this space, and hearing their music in the company of thousands more who also appreciate their unique sound meant a lot to me.

I was once a dissatisfied teenager living in Springfield, Illinois, and Boston’s music spoke to me. It offered visions of going someplace else, about–as they called it–chasing a dream. I wanted that so much when I was in high school, and now I’ve accomplished it. I don’t live there anymore, and I’m more than happy to visit it on occasion, but Chicago’s my home now.

I initially had some reservations about hearing the band play without Brad Delp, the singer on their studio albums. But last night I realized that the songs were written by Boston’s guitarist, Tom Scholtz, and music that can bring so much joy to people–myself included–deserves to be heard, by whoever wants to sing it. The crowd always sings along, anyway, so whoever is onstage with the microphone already has all the help they need. Last night I finally realized that, and it made a great night even better. Those changes can open your eyes.

The gamechanger


On the day that my older daughter was born, life changed for me. Irretrievably, permanently, and completely changed. When another person depends on you for everything, you can’t possibly be what you were before that happened.

I like the person I am today so much better than I liked the person I was before she came along. Fatherhood has brought out things in me that I had only hoped were there before. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in life, and the best I ever will do, either.

People thank their own fathers on this day, and they should. But I’m recognizing my daughters for admitting me into the realm of fatherhood, which is a noble place for a man to be.

Happy day to all fathers and, just as importantly, to the children who made it all possible. We’re doing what we can for all of you, because you deserve nothing less.

Images of Chicago on the city’s birthday

The city of Chicago has its birthday listed as March 4, 1837. It says so right on its city seal, so that there’s no ambiguity about it. That being the case, it’s a day for celebrating the city that I’ve called home for almost a quarter century now. Here’s some Chicago images from my archives. Enjoy!

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I’m just moving along


My teenager enjoys posting TBT (Throwback Thursday) pictures on Twitter. The idea that a fourteen year-old is nostalgic for the past amuses me, actually. And because my blog is drenched in nostalgia for the past, at least sometimes, I decided to go along. I posted this picture to Facebook today, and it will hit Twitter and the other social media platforms I’m on once this post is put together.

This picture was taken in the summer of 1986, after I had graduated from high school and turned 18. The guy sitting in this car wanted to do only two things. One of them wasn’t yet legal for me to do, but that rarely stopped me. And the other was to get out of Springfield, Illinois as quickly as I could. I had to wait for the fall for that to happen, so I was stuck in one final holding pattern.

If the guy sitting in the car above had to pick just one album (I didn’t yet know what a CD was) to listen to, it would probably have been Boston’s debut album. And the best track on it, in my mind, was the last song on side one, Foreplay/Long Time. I had even quoted from it in my farewell to the rest of the students in my school newspaper: “It’s been such a long time, I think I should be going.” And it wasn’t only the four years I had spent in high school, either. It was my entire life to that point.

I couldn’t wait to leave, but I still had to wait for one final summer. It was a paradox, and one that hearing that song on the radio–as I did a few minutes ago–always brings to my mind. My teenager probably feels the same way that I once did. The circle of life keeps on spinning.

Now that I’ve achieved whatever it is that the 18 year-old me once wanted, it’s funny to me in some way. I wanted to go out and live, but the anticipation of doing so kept me from appreciating the life that I had.

Chasing dreams–even if they aren’t yet well-defined–is essential, but it can also get in the way of looking around and enjoying what’s in front of you already. As Boston sang in the song, it’s just outside of your front door.

A part of my youth


I spent some time this morning playing an Atari game that I picked up at a second hand store. It was a way of connecting to the kid that I once was.

Video games were once a huge part of my life. I once spent hours upon hours playing Missile Command and Yars Revenge and a host of other games that cost me $30 and up. A good chunk of my paper route earnings went into Atari cartridges, at least until an even bigger chunk of it was shoveled into arcade games like Donkey Kong and Defender.

I once had shoeboxes filled with the games I had bought for myself over the years. And then one day, they were obsolete. The games had become a lot more sophisticated than my Atari could handle, and I was going to have to either buy a new game system (I think ColecoVision was the next big thing back then) or go without. So I opted out, instead. And I stayed out until I purchased a Wii for my family a number of years ago. I like the Wii, too, but I rarely play it anymore. Video games in the home are something that probably mean more to adolescent boys than anybody else. And that’s as it should be, I guess.

But a few moments of recaptured youth, in the form of the Atari games and its signature joystick, felt pretty good on a Sunday morning. The games themselves haven’t changed, and there’s something reassuring about that.

The early teenager that I was when Atari held its sway over me is long gone, but I was pleased to get some help from him in my living room today. That Yar can really be a handful sometimes.

Rebel, Rebel

Illinois Welcome Sign

I recently went on a long drive out west to see my in-laws at Christmas. A few pictures and stories from the trip were shared in this space, but the vast majority of it will live in brain’s memory, rather than in my computer’s memory. And that’s as it should be, I suppose.

But one moment from the long drive home stands out. We spent a night in Wichita, Kansas, and had to get back to Chicago the next day. After a drive through Kansas and into Missouri, and then across a long stretch of Iowa, we made it into Illinois. But even then, we still had to get from one end of the state to the other along Interstate 88, which has been named the Reagan expressway because it runs through Ronald Reagan’s birthplace of Dixon. But this story begins before we even made it that far.

We pulled off the highway to fill up, and I then went inside to use the restroom. My younger daughter came along too, and as I was waiting for her to come out I started to peruse the store. The first thing I noticed was one of the Calvin-type little boy stickers peeing on the word Obama. A disrespectful sticker to be selling in the president’s home state, certainly, but not terribly surprising because once you get more than five or ten miles away from Chicago, Illinois is not much different from Iowa or Missouri or even Kentucky, culturally speaking at least.

But just because I don’t like the message that a sticker sends, that doesn’t mean others can’t buy or sell it as they want to. This is America, after all, and the freedom to disrespect those in power, whoever they are, comes with the territory. I have no problems there.

But another sticker that I saw in the store had a much different effect on me. It carried the words “Kiss my rebel ass” wrapped around a confederate flag. That’s where where my tolerance ends, because the Confederacy killed off more Americans than the British, the Nazis, the Soviets, and Al-Queda ever will.

Why would anyone buy a symbol of disunion, sedition, and human bondage to attach to a car? Especially in Illinois, which never was a part of the Confederacy to begin with and–even more importantly–was home to the man who put the Confederacy out of business. Anyone who traffics in the Confederate flag in Illinois–even the western edges of it–only reveals their ignorance of the past.

But maybe that’s where the rebel part of this comes in. The bravado of the “kiss my ass” part of the sticker is designed to mask–or perhaps even to amplify–the ignorance of someone who would buy and display such a sticker. The Confederacy may have been able to run a weak president to the ground, but Abraham Lincoln proved to be their downfall. He kept the nation together, somehow, through the Civil War. And Reagan expressway or no Reagan expressway, and sitting president from Illinois or not, this is–and always will be–known as the Land of Lincoln. And hailing from such a place makes me exceedingly proud.

I wanted those stickers to be hidden from view somehow, so I turned them around and put them back in place on the rack. It was a small protest against an idea and a cause that was as un-American as anything ever has been. I’m sure it has been recognized by the gas station by now, and the stickers have since been put back into the proper position for some fool to consider buying one. But the rebel flag will always be an anathema to me, here in the state that did more than any other to shut the Confederacy down.

Long live the First Amendment and freedom of expression, but even longer may the memory of the terrible things that the Confederacy stood for be remembered.

Half a loaf


It was like Black Friday without any TVs involved. I waited in lines for three hours over the weekend, hoping to get my little one enrolled in two gymnastics classes. The things we do for those we love.

One class filled up, but the other was available. The wisdom of the old saying about how it’s better to get half a loaf than nothing at all came clear to me.

And the old lady with the stun gun was nowhere to be found, so it turned out better than Black Friday did.

Here’s to the nines


WordPress is of the opinion that this is my 1,000th post on this blog. I’ve been keeping track of the posts with a spreadsheet I created–for whatever reason–and think this is post number 998 instead. WordPress is probably right, but I’ll split the difference and call this post number 999. That’s three nines.

Nine is a special number, as I have a nine year-old daughter now, and I had another nine year-old a few years back. That nine year-old is now fourteen, and about to begin high school in the fall. Nine is a special age, filled with love and wonder and a sense that life is coming up to greet you, whether you want it to or not.

When you’re a kid, you want to be Ten a whole lot more than you want to be Nine. I think I started telling people I was nine-and-a-half on the day after my ninth birthday. But from a parent’s perspective, the reverse is true. I wish that Nine could last for several more years, and that all of the beginnings of separation could just hold themselves off for a little while longer.

My kids want to get on with their life, just as I did when I was their age. The world and all of its flaws and shortcomings and disappointments are coming for them, and I’ll do what I can to help get them ready for what lies ahead. But they’ll one day have to go out on their own, just as I once did. Nine is halfway to Eighteen, after all.

So I love Nine, even if Ten is less than two weeks away. I won’t ever see Nine again, at least not with my own children. I have to say that Nine has been fun times for me, and I hope for them as well. And ready or not, we’ll all have to face that brave new number–Ten– together.

All that you eat


I missed out on some things growing up. Perhaps the thing I most notice–the one gap I’ve been able to correct most completely–is the taste of fresh pineapple. It sounds crazy, but I can explain.

When I was growing up, pineapple came in a can. Pineapple rings, pineapple chunks, crushed pineapple, it was all the same thing. I might have been able to point out what a fresh pineapple looked like, based on some artwork on the can’s label, but the taste of it was something I had never considered.

That all changed when I was on my honeymoon in the Caribbean. One day the cruise ship we were travelling on set out a plate of fresh pineapple, and I instantly realized what I had been missing out on for all those years of canned pineapple. Now, I’m that guy who, whenever there’s a fruit assortment available, grabs as many pineapple chunks as possible, leaving everything else for whoever comes next.

An offshoot of this fondness for pineapple–and likely the reason why I never ate it growing up–is that it’s a pain to cut one up. The first step is to hack off the pointed crown at the top (as shown above) and then to get inside with a pineapple corer. So tonight, as I lopped off the top of a fresh pineapple, I realized that my children will have it much better than I did at their age, since they now appreciate fresh pineapple as much as I do. It’s not the most important thing I’ll ever do for them, but it’s a start.

A story to make her smile


My daughter is away for the weekend, and yesterday she called up the house in a funk. Perhaps she was homesick, or tired from the flight, or maybe the trip so far wasn’t as fantastic as she had hoped. I didn’t speak to her, and I’m not sure what I would have said if I did. But my wife offered up a story that seemed to do the trick. Since it brought a smile to her face, it’s worth retelling here, too.

Earlier this year, I was involved in a day-long training seminar at work.The particulars about the seminar aren’t important, but in a general sense it was a worthwhile endeavor. People from different backgrounds came together in a group, and anything that can be done to humanize that group is a good icebreaker.

We were given a sheet of paper, and asked to write down three things that we stuggle with. Introspection, especially in a critical sense, is not easy, but I was game to give it a try. The first thing I wrote down–which came to my mind without even thinking about it–was “Remembering names.” I have a very hard time with this, and there are some people I’ve known for years by sight, but don’t know what there name is. It’s embarrassing, and I’d change it if I could, but the knack that some people have for this has never found its way to me.

The second thing I wrote was “Heavy lifting,” which I meant in a figurative sense. But I’m not one to pump iron in the gym, either, so it could be taken literally, too. I’m always good for a creative idea or a new thing to try. Ideas come easily to me, and they always have. Making something come from these ideas is usually another matter.

Right now, typing out this blog post, and telling this story in a way that someone might care to read it, can be considered as heavy lifting. There will then be proofreading, and adding a picture, and including some tags, and only then it will be ready to go up online. It will take about a half an hour to pull this off, and it’s doable because it’s early in the morning on a holiday weekend. Nobody is asking me to do anything else yet, but that will happen before too long. So I’m taking this time to squeeze out another blog post. My Drafts folder in WordPress is littered with ideas unrealized, or put aside when something else came along and demanded my attention.

The third thing I wrote down was “Follow through.” I looked at for a second, and realized that it was really “heavy lifting” with another name. A drier, more corporatespeak kind of a name, but still one that I realized needed to be tossed. Given the choice between an off-beat and metaphorical name like “heavy lifting” and a safer, more businesslike term like “follow through,” I’ll take the off-beat choice every time. That’s just the type of person I am: unconventional, but hopefully not weird. Weird turns people off and makes them uncomfortable, and that doesn’t help anybody out. But unconventional is not so off-putting, and that’s usually what I aim for.

So “Follow through” was out. I decided that my struggles didn’t all need to be business-related, and that I have things going on beyond the office realm. Even in an overtly business setting, I couldn’t define myself in strictly business terms. So I crossed it out and wrote “Peanut butter cups” instead.

By confessing that I struggled in this way, I wasn’t telling the group members anything that they didn’t already know. I need to lose many pounds, as the result of a bad diet and an aversion to exercise. One look at me is enough to make that clear. But by choosing a particular food–there could have been many others to use instead–I wanted to get a chuckle from people. And I wanted them to know that my struggles aren’t limited to what I do in the office during the week. I did get a chuckle from the group, and hopefully I got at least a few people to think about their struggles in a larger and more personal sense. We all work to live, and not the other way around.

I held onto this sheet of paper when the seminar was over, and it somehow made it into a stack of papers in my house. I had forgotten all about it, until my wife came upon it a few days ago. She asked me if I had really given these answers, meaning did I really say “peanut butter cups” in this work-related setting. I told her I did, and that there wasn’t enough time to get into all of the other types of food that I struggle with. She set the paper aside, but apparently still had it on her mind when my daughter called up yesterday.

After hearing my daughter describing her unhappiness, my wife proceeded to tell her a “You won’t believe what your father did” type of story, and of course the first two answers I gave were dropped, in favor of the “peanut butter cups” line. They both got a chuckle over that, and I was told that it helped to lift my daughters spirits. I was glad to hear that, even if it meant a laugh at my expense. It’s her well-being that matters the most to me, anyway.

I definitely thought outside of the box with my third answer, and–against any sense of realistic expectation–it helped to brighten my daughter’s mood several months later. I’d say that was the best answer I could have possibly given.