Thursday, January 31


The debate for the Republican party's presidential nomination aired on Wednesday evening from California. I didn't watch it. There's only so much constant hot air and bickering that my weary psychic can tolerate in any given period of time. Besides, the newsprint and airwaves will be filled to the brim with inexhaustive analysis of each nuance of what was said, not said, meant and not meant. I have decided to give my concerns about the ultimate outcome of this most tiring and uninspiring process permission to take a break...choosing to focus instead on those things that without fail provide me with reassurance and, family and friends.

Wednesday evening's is fellowship night at the First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg, my home church for the past eighteen years, where over this time my once dark brown hair has slowly converted to silver, my waist line has expanded with the increase in membership, and where my family has cultivated dozens of acquaintances and very special dear friends. Wednesday night supper in the fellowship hall is the mid-week meal that our membership most looks forward to, as the meals are as good if not better than one could consume with relish at your better resturants, and the casual fellowship around the table is always lively and entertainningly enjoyable. Once the evening meal is consumed it's time for choir practice, in which I sing tenor with much gusto and determination if not much talent. The hour and a half is devoted to a lot of singing and an equal amount of cutting up. The atmostphere of fun is lead by our worship minister, who most certainly is profoundly gifted in his music abilities, but a laid-back sense of jockularity that makes the time pass far too quickly. I always leave church Wednesday evenings with an overriding sense of contentment and satisifaction.

At each choir practice we are presented with a front and back newletter that informs we choir members of the music we will rehearsh that evening, up-coming events, ministry concerns, and always a few humorous asides. Last evening's edition included an anouncement for a ficticious "No Excuse Sunday." It read as follows...

"In order to make it possible for everyone to attend church next week , a special emphasis is being placed on eliminating any and all excuses for missing church..."

* Cots will be placed in the vestibule for those who claim, "Sunday is my only day to sleep in."

* Eye drops will be readily available for those whose eyes are tired from watching TV too late on Saturday evening and asprin for those who stayed out too late the previous night partying.

* We will have steel helmets for those souls who still believe that the roof will cave in on them if they show up for church.

* Blankets will be furnished for those patrons who complain that the church is too cold and for those who believe it to be too warm, hand fans.

* Hearing aids are readily available for those folks who protest that the "Preacher doesn't talk loudly enough.'" Conversely, cotton balls will be distributed to those who protest that he "Talks too loud."

* Score cards will be distributed to those who wish to count the hypocrites among us. Take as many of the cards as you'd like.

* We will have a special bus to pick up family relatives so that visting those loved ones on Sunday will not be necessary.

*There will be hot TV dinners available for those who protest that they "Can't possibly attend church services and cook a noon time meal too!"

* One section of our scantuary will be adorned with real grass and trees for those individuals who claim that they best see and experience "God in nature," especially on the golf course.

* Overall the sanctuary will be decorated with Christmas poinsettias and Easter lilies to create a familiar environment for those who have never seen the church without them.

Shakesphere penned, "There's much truth in jest." We each pick and choose those things in life that we wish to devote our time, money and talents to. I and my family derive a great deal of personal satisfaction, joy and fulfillment persuing and experiencing all three through our church in order to worship and serve God by serving others. I become a little peeved with folks who would waste their time and mine trying to justify why they "Don't need church," while infering that I am. Don't offer a critque of a book until you have read it completely. If a person chooses not to invest any part of their lives to a religious practice, so be it, but justify your own decision without criticizing mine. I can't speak for all "Chrisitans," but as I understand and try to practice my Christianity, I do so by believing in and loving God with all of my being and treating and respecting others as I myself would wish to be so treated. Some Christians are better at it than others, granted. But tell me as a personal mission statement, isn't that at least among the better ways to live one's life? Works for me...

Wednesday, January 30

"And The Choices Become Fewer..."

Unless one has their permanent residence under an outcropping of rock, one knows that the much ballyhooed and equally anticipated Florida primary was conducted yesterday. I, my Judi and daughter Megan all performed our civic duty and voted our the best of our abilities, given the limited choice of candidates that appeared on each of the party ballots.

Florida has a "closed primary." That is, if one is a registered Republican or Democrat, one cannot "cross over" and vote in the opposite party's primary. Independents are just out of luck and continue to be left out in the cold until the general election rolls around and they get to vote for whomever won their respective party's nomination. In other word (more so in this election cycle than perhaps ever before) the "left overs." I am a registered Democrat...representing three generations of like affiliation. However, let me make it perfectly clear that were the choice afforded me I would have without hesitation voted for "None Of The Above" on my Democratic disgruntled and disgusted am I with the Democratic candidates that are vying for our nation's presidency. Nor am I overly enamored with the slate of candidates that the Republicans are currently embracing, none of whom being capable of doing anything remotely different than their Democratic counterparts or beneficial in advancing their own candidacy without sniping derogatively at their opposition. It's "politics as usual" and that translates into a mixture of trepidation and apathy among the electorate.

And now it's down to the front running four...with Rudy and Edwards withdrawing their Presidential aspirations today. The upcoming Super Tuesday will most likely narrow this field to the ultimate nominees for both parties. What I envision is not a clear cut candidate that rightfully deserves to take on the mantle of the most power man (woman) in the world, but the lesser of two evils. It is sad state of affairs when most of the electorate cast their votes not for a candidate of their liking, but as a protest vote against the other candidate. As far as choices go, this is among the worst reasons to make one's selection. is, unfortunately, what it is.

If I were not concerned that he might shoot himself in the foot and the country in a target a little higher up on the anatomy, I would give Ron Paul serious consideration. I admire his determination to speak out on a wide range of issue that the mainstream politicians make a concerted and deliberate declaration to avoid. But I fear his unbridled enthusiasm for isolationistic conservatism fails to fully grasp the dangers of the real world in which those whom we would wish to leave us alone and let us live in peace have no desire and much zealot determination to do just the opposite.

It's a quandary...and "we the people" are left to try and make the best of it. Good luck.

"Well Worth A Look..."

I am reluctant to use the word "good" in describing anything of personal preference...too often expecting everyone else to equally share in my evaluation. The arts & croissant crowd apparently disliked this movie intensely, based on the number of critics from across the country who panned it for a myriad of reasons that, in my opinion, had very little to do with the message of the movie. Bottom line...I liked it very much and unabashedly recommend it to those people who appreciate an exploration of the indomitable human spirit.

Both Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman have been two of my favorite actors for years. I particularly liked Nicholson in Easy Rider, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and As Good As It Gets. As for Mr. Freeman I have yet to discover any character role in which he has not excelled, particularly enjoying Glory, Driving Miss Daisy, and The Shawshank Redemption. His distinctive voice of narration is unequal in its mellow, fatherly and comforting voice that can give credence and authoritative believability to even the most mundane of subjects. Freeman's role as God in Bruce Almighty and its sequel Evan Almighty made those films decidedly more enjoyable as light-hearted fare. Both Nicholson and Freeman thespian abilities easily excel in their latest acting venture, The Bucket List.

Without unintentionally revealing too much of the movie's underlying theme and purpose, the intended memorable lines in the film are uttered by Freeman's character, Carter Chambers, as he relays to Nicholson's character, Edward Cole, the two most important elements of living one's life: to find true joy in ones life and to share that joy with others. Brought together by fate and sharing a mutual realization that they were both terminally ill with cancer, the two forge an unlikely bond and decide that together they would set out to accomplish a list of things they deem of value before each "kicks the bucket." Their journey is not so much about the far-flung destinations in the world they visit, but about what they realize they have left behind.

I was unashamedly emotionally stirred by this much so that I intend to purchase a personal copy when it is released on DVD. Hardly an epic film like To Kill A Mockingbird or Schindler's List, but a moive of significant import that should be viewed by any person who questions the reason and purpose of their earthly existence. It is a 137 minutes of your life that could not otherwise be more wisely spent.

Tuesday, January 29

"Our State Of Disunion..."

It would be interesting to learn what the overall television ratings were for last evening's State of the Union address. I dare say it wasn't anything to write home about. Unless one is a political junkie, as am I, the allure of watching allegedly gown up men and women acting like spoiled children has as about as much appeal as undergoing a root canal. I dutifully tuned in just to witness once again the spectacle of our congenial elected officials embracing each other's differing ideologies with respect and mutual admiration. (Have you by now detected my deeply seated sense of sarcasm?) I don't know which has greater command of my emotions - profound disgust, profound disillusion, or profound sadness. Probably an equal mixture of all.

The American people should justifiably be outraged at the total lack of leadership that is vested in the highest seats of our government. Congress has a public approval rating that is just slightly above moldy bread and the Bush administration has only served to divide this country, delving it into a quagmire of apathetic disgust and distrust. The promised revolution of change promised by the newly emboldened Democratic party has resulted in nothing more significant than Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi instituting the switch over from plastic to paper straws in the Congressional mess hall. The pledge to eliminate earmarks hidden discreetly in committee appropriation bills have proliferated two-fold rather than decrease, the result being that our children's, children's children will be attempting to pay off these selfish examples of government wastefulness. Each political party seems hellbent to win the battle of oneupmanship that results in chocking smoke and heat, but no benefical fire. Stalemate is the state of our union...pure and simple.

One of these days, I pray, the contingent of Americans that actually give a damn about the state of our union, who care more about getting government out of our lives and out of our back pockets, who aren't looking for what government can do for them or owes them, will say "Enough!" If it were up to me I wouldn't pay another dime of income taxes to support any duly appointed government on any level that didn't restrict itself to the promotion of free enterprise without untold regulations and to provide protection to its citizens so that the American people could go about the business of what we do best...providing for ourselves and our families.

Based on the arrogant display I witnessed last night, we have a long way to go. I just pray that eventually we will get there...but I am losing hope that will eventually be the case.

Friday, January 25

"Wishing It Wasn't So..."

I have deliberately shied away from utilizing this blog to present my personal views on controversial social issues knowing that their mere introduction invokes too often heated derision rather than constructive dialogue. Still, the editorial "cartoon" at left touched a cord of remorse deep inside of me that compels me to comment.

On the most personal topic of abortion I hold the opinion that it is somewhat presumptuous of men to weight in on this subject with any degree of presumed authority when in fact the ultimate decision on whether to abstain or undergo this most invasive of procedures lies solely with the female. As much as I personally abhor abortion, I must nevertheless reluctantly concede that under the current law of the land a woman does indeed have a right to choose what she wishes to do with her own body. In my perfect world, I would wholeheartedly prefer that abortion be outlawed, believing that God-breathed life, however one wishes to define it, does begin a conception. But until the will of the people places their majority opinion in that camp, the law permitting abortion remains sadly in effect.

I am a proponent that personal rights are to be cherished and protected, permitting an individual to do whatever he or she wishes as long as it does not adversely affect the personal rights of others. Smoking, for instance. I smoke cigars. I enjoy smoking cigars. It is my right to smoke cigars, and if I choose to ignore the personal health risks, then I and I alone must suffer the consequence of exercising my free will that may or may not be the result. However, my right to smoke my cigars does not extend into the personal breathing space of other individuals who find smoking repulsive. The right thing for me to do is to understand and honor their right to be free of my cigar smoke by not subjecting them to the by-products of my habit. It is the right thing to do. It is common courtesy.

This may come as a shock to the more puritanical readers of this blog, but there are right this very minute people engaged in the act of sexual relations. More power to them. I would personally prefer that these so engaged couples are doing so within the bonds of matrimony, but I am not so naive to believe that is consistently and exclusively the case. Far too many couples couple outside of this state of bonding, as is evidenced by the recently reported increases in non-married co-habitation, teenage pregnancy, and the resulting increase in abortion. Solution? We pass a strict law that prohibits all non-married people from having sex. Right...that's going to happen...nor should it. What I am strongly urging, strongly wishing, hoping and praying for is that any female who engages in consentable sexual relations...who is exercising her personal right "to do with her body as she chooses," that she thinks first about whether her exercise in personal rights might inadvertently result in an unintended and unwanted pregnancy. My God, how much forethought does it take to assure that the pending act of passion will be free of the unwanted consequence of becoming pregnant? You don't want to have a baby? Do whatever it takes to prevent that occurrence. That's the right thing to do!

Moral issues aside, being a reasonable adult requires rational decisions. It's your body and you have a brain...use it! Unprotected sex is not only callously irresponsible and's stupid!!

Thursday, January 24


The pending storm I was anticipating with daughter Megan has blow its best and is now departed. There is peace and understanding once again in our family. New mutually agreed up ground rules and expectations of all parties have been established and faithfully committed to. I am sincerely pleased, but not gloating. This was never about "I win and you lose." It was always about how do we as a family to re-establish trust and understanding so that we all become winners. We did that. For that I am pleased.

I am extremely proud of the manner by which Megan stood her ground and explained her rationale for why she choose to spend a small portion of her refunded tuition fees on a trip to New York and her desires to utilize the balance of this windfall for constructive purposes. Her mother and I concur. She has become the young woman I always envisioned that she would. She is not immune from making future bad decisions...but as "a chip off the old block," who myself have made more than my fair share, she, like me, will survive and learn from what I pray will be only a few missteps. This is the mark of true maturity. That is all any parent can realistically hope and pray for in their children. Megan has learned and is learning well. I am very proud of her.

Enough said...

Monday, January 21

"I'm Counting To Ten...Slowly!"

This is not a rehashed version of "When I was her age I had to walk twenty miles to school in the snow...up hill...both ways!" But I tell you, my daughter Megan tries my patience to the point of total exasperation at times. This was one of those weekends.

Megan is now seriously dating a very nice young man, Greg, whom she met in college. Judi and I like him a very much. He appears to have a great deal on the ball and from all indications is conducting his life in a manner that centers around making sound decisions that productively affect his life both now and in the future. It appears that both are equally matched in drive and intelligence. We don't know where this relationship will eventually wind up, but daughter Megan could do far worse. At the moment they are infatuated with one another and spend unlimited time in each others company. This is certainly understandable and acceptable.

Greg's home is in Pennsylvania and this past weekend he flew to New York City to meet his family for the purpose of celebrating his up-coming birthday. He is also to interview for the possibility of accepting an appointment to the New York City Fire Department...a prospect that doesn't exactly meet with Megan's hopes for their current relationship. Megan was to remain behind, or so I thought, being unable financially to purchase the cost of a round-trip plane ticket. I learned later, from her Mother, that Megan had received a refund on this semester's college tuition. She used that windfall to purchase said ticket and off together she and Greg flew to New York. So what's the big deal?

Megan was to bring the car she is driving back to St. Petersburg so that we could get the oil changed...a task that hasn't been attended to since Megan began driving it this past summer. Instead, she parks it in the airport's long term parking lot with instructions that we were to drive from St. Petersburg to the airport and pick it up. Not a major inconvenience, but still time consuming, not to mention to expense of the gas we had to use going to and from the airport. Problem. Megan took her set of keys, but failed to mention that sometime in the past she had also taken the only other set of keys that we thought we kept at our home in case of emergency. Fortunately that set of keys she left in her home here in St. Pete, which meant Judi had to take extra time to go locate those keys. So late Saturday evening we trudge over to the airport, finally locate the car, pay the parking fee, and return home. And that's the rub... Her decision to spend her refunded tuition fee on a trip to New York is costing her Mother and me money that she should be personally responsible.

When Ms. Megan returns home tomorrow evening she and I are going to have one my infamous "Father & Daughter" discussions on where I do all of the discussing and she does all of the listening. Whatever monies she has left from her refund will be turned over to us, from which the parking lot fees and the cost to service the car will be extracted. Secondly, we will inform her that she is to remain in her St. Pete home that we purchased for her (and her best friend from high school) this past spring until such time as we can locate a new tenant to assume the monthly rent payments. Meg wishes to return to Tampa to rent a condo, because "the cost of gas is too high" to travel back and forth to Tampa each day, and has expressed to her Mother that she could just tell the previous owner that we've decided "not to keep the house." Doesn't seem to matter to her that we have a binding contract to make monthly mortgage payments...after all, "it's only money."

Overall Megan is a very responsible person, very dedicated to her studies and intern position duties with the University of South Florida's Athletic Department. But there are those times when she gives into her whims and flights of fancy without thinking through the consequences that others have to shoulder in her wake. She is not going to like to hear "Dear 'ol Dad" reading her the riot act. But it is time...past time...that she learns that Mommy & Daddy aren't going to just give in and continue to underwrite her desires to conduct her life in a carefree manner. It's time for her to suck it up and shoulder more of the at times painful responsibilities of being an adult.

There...I feel better already.

Thursday, January 17

"They've Got To Be Around Here Somewhere..."

Johnny Carson would on frequent occasions have as one of his guests an individual who would demonstrate his amazing ability to remember the names of people he had met but for a few brief seconds just prior to the show going on air. This gentleman would introduce himself to a minimum of two dozen or so members of the audience and, when called upon to do so, would not only remember their names, but where they were from and perhaps some other trivial information about each individual. I was impressed at his uncanny ability, as I have difficulty in remembering people's names and, more troubling, where I left my glasses, after having laid them down some place only five minutes ago. You?

Seems this individual, and others with the same ability, are not so much gifted as they have trained themselves to "kick their brains into gear" to master the task of remembering the mundane matters of everyday life. Here's supposedly how it works... Let's say you find yourself regularly forgetting where you place your car keys. The trick is to be deliberately conscious at the time you lay down your keys to make a mental associative image that would connect and help you recall where exactly the keys have been placed. The example given in the text that I read used as an illustration a flower pot. (Don't ask me why a flowerpot was used. I find it strange that any sane person would ever consider tossing anything in a flower pot other than seeds...but I digress). Not only are you to place an image of the flower pot in your brain, but you are to further visualize a flower growing out of it. So, when you again need to retrieve your keys the image of the flower growing out of the flower pot will trigger the memory of, "Aha! That's where I left my keys." I'm skeptical... You?

I'm thinking (which is a stretch for me in the first place) that if this technique has a shred of validity, why not select a location that invokes pleasurable images, like on top of the television, or inside the refrigerator, or firmly tucked warmly between my wife's breasts? Seems to me that by doing so I could kill two birds with one stone (pardon the intended pun) - turn on or off the TV, retrieve a refreshing snack, or...well, just never you mind!

When it comes to keeping up with my vehicle keys, I've pretty much got that mastered. When not operating the vehicle my keys are in only one of two places - in my pocket or on the shelf next to the back door. It's my glasses that I can't keep up with, and I must have them to not only drive, but to focus on anything that it more than five feet away. I don't require the glasses when I read or performing any task up close. So invariably I am constantly setting them aside in various locations around the house...then find myself frustratingly wandering from room to room trying to remember where. Maybe I should purchase a whole bunch of flowerpots or, better yet, talk Judi into keeping them in that personal place I mentioned earlier. Looking for them would be one thing...finding them quite another. If she would agree to that as a solution I might begin to misplace all kinds of things. My baseball cap for instance or my favorite flashlight.

I guess I should take heart in the fact that "temporary memory loss" isn't really the early stages of some far worse mental malady. It's really just a matter of concentration. To make us all feel better know that the phrase, "It's on the tip of my tongue" is a familiar saying in over 40 languages. That being said, I still need to fine my glasses.

Tuesday, January 15

"Skillet Fodder..."

For generations Cadillac has been the flagship brand of the General Motors Corporation, and for just cause. It is doubtful that anyone can argue that Cadillac has not proudly represented the very best luxury automobile produced by an American automotive manufacturer. To bolster that claim Motor Trend named the CTS their "Car of the Year" for 2008. That having been said and acknowledged, I nevertheless take umbrage with GM's current offering of television commercials that tout this fine automobile, finding them to be arrogantly snobbish.

You've probable viewed a few of them that have been airing of late. One has the tag line, "When you turn on your automobile, does it turn you on?" This particular commercial is the less offensive to me, as I too appreciate a well crafted piece of machinery that excites me to own and operate. If one is going to spend one's hard earned paycheck on a mode of dependable and stylish transportation, one would expect that one would experience at least a mild sense of titillation in tooling it around the neighborhood. That is until at least the new car smell wears off or that first parking lot skirmish is experienced.

What catches my attention is the commercial wherein a lady of some obvious financial wherewith all is motoring down the freeway disparaging the past gifts she has less than appreciatively received from her significant other, one of which was a set of golf clubs. Apparently her sugar daddy finally wised up and presented her with her very own Cadillac sedan that is more appropriately suited to her highly inflated estimation of her personal grandeur. Smug, to say the least. Arrogant, to say a whole lot more.

Admittedly, presenting my bride with a brand new car of any description or manufacturer would most assuredly rank far higher in her eyes than her dismantling the gift wrapping from a set of monogrammed handkerchiefs or an easy bake oven. But I'm not made out of money and neither are most of the people that I personally am acquainted...and I hob knob with some pretty weighty gobber-smoochers. The idea that it is a common occurrence, as portrayed by the annual Lexus Christmas commercials, that the little woman of the house would be surprised come Christmas morning with a red ribbon adorned SUV is far more fantasy than fact.

It is obvious to me that the ad agency for Cadillac wishes to leave the indelible impression that if one owns a Cadillac one has surely arrived in the rarefied world of prestige and status. The other message that is subliminally planted in one's conscience is that if you can't possess one of these fine Cadillac automobiles "you ain't crap!" Apparently "going green" is only for the "little people." If one has copious amounts of money one need not be bothered by purchasing an automobile that gets more than ten miles to the gallon. Here's where I wish to unsheathe my avenging cast iron skillet, drag that rich broad out of the front seat, and bonk her soundly across her well coiffured skull. Better yet...let me use the nine iron out of her rejected set of golf clubs and twist it around her skinny, diamond studded neck.

Be assured, I take no issue with wealth. It is what some people do with it or are changed by it that gripes my tail. Spend your money on anything you desire, but don't look down your nose because you are fortunate to have a few dollars. I despise arrogance. And I despise the Cadillac commercials that seem content on propagating that far less than flattering or appealing behavior. At a price tag approaching $39,000 Cadillac provides a lot of car...a car of significant value in more measureable ways than just it's initial cost. Enjoy your new Cadillac, but don't think for a minute that your crap don't have an annoying odor just like everyone else.

Monday, January 14

"That'll Teach You!!"

This is one sign you won't find in Florida. Yes, we have untold dozens of evacuation signs that direct vehicular traffic away from low lying coastal areas when an approaching hurricane is by best estimates predicted to strike land fall. However, packing up the family to head inland is no guarantee that Mother Nature's pent up fury will not follow you up the interstate like a well trained hunting dog. This was proved in the summer of 2005 when Florida was deluged with a series of weekend after following weekend hurricanes that came a shore on our lower west coast and didn't have the courtesy to linger there, but destructively crossed the interior of the state with a vengeance. Coastal residents who thought they had safely removed themselves from harm's way found to their startled dismay once again squarely in the cross hairs of the storm. At its widest point the Florida peninsula is a mere 160 miles across. That leaves virtually no locations that aren't in reach of the fiercest hurricane's wind bands. Moral? To quote the poet Robert Burns, "Sometimes the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry."

Which brings me to my original destination for this dissertation. Seems there is a man in Chicago who had labored for well over an hour to remove the snow from a parking space in front of his apartment building. It was his intention to bring his automobile that he had been forced to park several blocks away at the height of the previous snow storm to this newly cleared space. Upon returning he found that a woman was exiting her car that now was parked in the space. He jumped out of the car and demanded of her that she vacate the parking spot immediately. She refused. ("Finders keepers" applies here). Ever the diplomat the man retrieved a revolver from his glove compartment and shot her. Moral? I would suggest that Mr. Burn's adage applies in this incident as well. Better yet...move to Florida. When you have to evacuate due to an approaching hurricane you can rest assured that your car will never get stuck in the snow.

"A Little Home Improvement..."

In 1984 Judi and I purchased our present home here in St. Petersburg. It wasn't all we had hoped for, but it was all we could afford: a two bedroom, two-bath Florida-type bungalow originally constructed in 1923. It had charm, but needed a lot of work. It has been one of my fondest passions to "work" on our home since the day we moved in.

I initially was attached to the house because it had a stand-alone, one car garage...just the prefect size to construct what I hoped would be my model train empire. A month into our new home Judi announced that she was pregnant with future daughter Megan. Since I had more than just a hand in this turn of events, my model train empire would have to wait. What we urgently needed then was a nursery. Almost 23 years later my dreams of a model railroad still remained unrequited. Honestly, I'm not all that disappointed.

It has indeed been for me a labor of love all these intervening years to convert this turn-of-the century relic into a more up-to-date home. Not all of my modernization ideas have been met with equal enthusiasm by Judi. The sad fact is that a number of my home improvement projects have been points of heated disagreements between my idea to completely gut the main bathroom...a project that took me two years to complete, my being only able to devote any concentrated construction time to that project on weekends and holidays. That was a difficult two years...especially with a teenage daughter thrown into the mix. But when it was finally completed, both Judi and Megan have always, since the ribbon cutting, been proud to show this piece of handiwork to anyone who were/are guest in our home.

There remains only two rooms that are in need of my additional attention. Our master bedroom and the incorporation of a portion of the enclosed front porch into an enlarged living room. As I turn 60 years of age this coming April, I am beginning to more seriously question whether or not my time consuming devotion to perfection will ever allow me to complete these two projects. My flights of fancy are turning more toward extended vacations and leisurely Saturday's on the golf course rather than hammer, nails and power tools. Still, I continue to take pencil to paper and devise my next home improvement project. It's who I am.

In that vein I was glad to have the end of year holidays behind me. I spent this past weekend building a new trellis of my design next to our back porch...looking forward to warmer days and the planting of new new landscape materials I wish to install come this approaching spring. I wanted to get this non-essential project completed before Judi returned from her weekend conference in Orlando. Task accomplished. She likes it.

Next Saturday I plan to hang new gutters on the garage, then rebuild the deck outside of my workshop, then replace the siding on the south side of the garage, then the new addition on the back of the house to contain a much needed walk-in closet, then... Guess my dreams of extended vacations and Saturday golf outings will have to wait. Honestly...I'm not all that disappointed.

Friday, January 11

"Beats Me...Really!"

I'm suspecting that my readership may be down due to fact that my last two blog entries have been obsessing about my trying to eradicate the fruit rat(s) that have taken up residence in my attic. The world is otherwise going to hell in a hand basket and my biggest problem is a rodent? I need to move on...and I think (I hope) that the focus of my attention has done so as well.

Summation: Five traps baited. Five traps still fully armed. Score: Rodent(s) 1 - Traps 0. No further annoying scratching sounds emanating from the walls. Judi happy. Cats now bored.

Conclusion: (A) Rodent(s) playing craftily coy. Will make it's presence known again later. (B) Rodent(s) in the wall unable to climb back up to the attic. Are now dying or have already succumbed in the wall. Great! Just great! (I'm being sarcastic). (C) Rodent(s) found way out of inhospitable house and departed for other locale. Great! (Not being sarcastic...just hopeful). (D) Stray black cat that resides part time beneath the crawl space of the house took care of the problem once and for all. Great? We'd have to ask the cat.

Hopefully I'm through with the rodent saga. Now I can move on with the other problems in my life. Like, how come there are no more cookies in the cookie tin and there isn't enough mayonaise left to make a decent sandwich? And you think you've got problems...

Thursday, January 10

"Snickers? Not So Much..."

Well, it appears, thus far, that my theory that fruit rats cannot pass up the opportunity to nibble on an offered Snickers candy bar is meeting with less than resounding success. Yesterday afternoon I baited five traps with this delectable morsel expecting to hear a resounding SNAP ! within mere minutes. I'm still waiting...

Upon returning form the college basketball game last night, Judi informed me that she had heard no further scratching nosies in the walls. "That's a good sign," I replied reassuringly. Five minutes later she is calling me to come to the bedroom. I entered the room to find three pairs of ears (Judi's and our two cats) cocked to the obvious scratching noises coming from the back of the bed.

"Listen," she said in a hushed voice.

"Yes, I hear it. Why are you whispering?" (That question was greeted with the look that every married man is quite familiar.)

"They're back!!"

"I don't think they ever left." (The look again.) "I'm not sure what we can do about them being in the walls. All of the traps are nine feet above them in the attic. We'll just have to wait them out."

"What do we do in the mean time?"

"Talk to your two cats. See if they have a solution." (Once again the look.)

Wishing to assuage Judi's obvious and understandable concern, I did my best to assure her that the chances of the critters getting out of the walls and into our living space, especially with out two cats on the prowl, would be very slim at best. Sweetpea and Calli remained ever vigilant throughout the night, constantly patrolling beneath the bed and pawing at the walls whenever they detected yet another sound that alerted to them that something was amiss. Judi slept through the night.

I climbed back up into the attic this morning to determine if during the night one or more of the baited traps had been sprung. Nope....still exactly where I placed each, fully cocked and armed for the kill. I'll give it a couple more days. Surely they can't keep passing up Snickers...can they? Perhaps this evening I'll put little signs in front of each trap with an arrow pointing to the candy. "This way boys for a bite-sized snack that is to die for!" I hate being outwitted by a rodent.

Wednesday, January 9

"Unwelcomed Visitors"

"My Judi has an acute sense of hearing. She can hear a pin drop in the next room. I think this is an innate ability possessed by all women that is only heightened and enhanced once they have children. My window rattling snoring, although aggravating to her, won't stir her from a sound sleep once she signs off for the night. But let the slightest unfamiliar noise emanate from somewhere in our home and she's fully conscience and determined to identify the source of the disturbance. This ability came to the fore once again last night.

"Do you hear that?," Judi was frantically repeating as she finally roused me from what had been a very peaceful and obviously unaware sound sleep.

"Hear what?," I asked groggily.

"Shush!! Listen... There's something scratching in the walls. There it is again!"

"My guess is it's either a squirrel or a fruit rat," I volunteered, knowing full well that it was a fruit rat having spied one scurrying along the outer edge of our attic when I had been up there on Sunday putting away Christmas decorations. But, trust me, I wasn't about to reveal that observation, it now being very early in the a.m. on Wednesday morning.

"Go back to sleep. The cats will stand guard and I'll set out traps tomorrow."

"God, I hate those things!," as Judi returned to a prone position and pulled the bed covers over her head.

This wasn't the first time we'd been visited by these vermin. A number of years back, when we still had several orange trees in our yard, we were infested with them one summer. It took me the better part of a month to eradicate them. The scourge of citrus canker eventually wiped out our orange trees and we hadn't any reoccurring issues with fruit rats...until now.

So, before leaving for work this morning I relocated the rat traps I had stored in the garage and put them aside so that I could set them out later today...after I pick up a couple of Snickers candy bars. They love Snickers candy bars. I tried peanut butter, but they turned their noses up at that offering. I tried cheese. Same result. Snicker Candy bars did the trick. I don't look forward to baiting the traps. They are the largest variety. Large enough to stop a Bull Elephant in full charge. When one of those traps is sprung it best not to have a finger, hand, or arm anywhere in the vicinity.

As I left this morning our two house cats were on full alert, earnestly patrolling back and forth in the area where they last heard curious noises. That seemed to give Judi some comfort, as did my promise to set the traps out before leaving for the evening to attend the USF basketball game. I expect that when I return home later in the evening I'll find the Snickers have again done their dastardly duty and I'll get to dispose of the evidence. That's another task that ranks right up there on the list of things I'd prefer to avoid. But it will be worth it if Judi can sleep through the night and, therefore, me too.

Monday, January 7

"Too Late Smart...Too Soon Old..."

There's nothing wrong with growing "old." The sad fact of life is when growing older is accompanied by becoming "feeble." That condition unfortunately describes Judi's Mother, Frances. Mother-In Law has succumbed to being a herself and, whether we like it or Judi and me.

Yesterday afternoon I visited Frances to deliver and program the new phone we had given her as a Christmas present. She was in our home on Christmas when she opened it. Yesterday, she had no recollection of that event. I wasn't surprised. I painstakingly described in the most simplistic language how she was to operate her phone, showing her how to make and receive a call, and wrote out the instructions on how to speed dial the few numbers she calls most frequently. She practiced and I felt she understood. I was wrong.

About 10 p.m. later last evening she calls our home, talks with Judi, and says she "Doesn't understand how to use her new phone." Could she have her old phone back? I'm thinking, "She just called us. What else could she not possibly understand?" Judi told her Mom that she would come over to help her better understand. I wasn't holding out much hope that this additional training session or ten more would make any significant difference, but one does what one must to try and alleviate the difficulty of the moment.

At 11 p.m. Judi calls to say that her Mom was not feeling well and that she would stay with her a little while. At midnight Judi calls again and announces that she has called for an ambulance to take Mother to the hospital. So thoroughly frustrated and agitated did Mother become over trying to master the phone that she dissolved into a mental and physical meltdown, declaring that her head hurt so much that she felt it was "going to explode!" A battery of test were run, and other than her always elevated blood pressure, she checked out "okay." At 3:15 a.m. Judi takes Mother back to her home and arrives at our house at 3:30. Judi reports that Mother is "in fine spirits" and was ready to call it a night. We finally turn out the bedroom lights around 4 after discussing, yet again,"What are we going to do about Mother." All options are again be carefully weighted, but because of financial limitations, none offer an ideal solution. For the time being, the status quo will prevail.

I am writing this entry on the threshold of a mental fog. Mother's continuing deteriorating metal and physical health is a far greater burden on Judi than it is on me. Yet our relationship is nevertheless affected by the greater responsibilities Judi must assume. I honor Judi for her servanthood toward her Mother. But honestly, I resent her Mother for making it so. I realize that Frances cannot help her present condition. Still, her mother's ebbing life is draining Judi's. I'm guilty of not being overly thrilled about that consequence.

Frances sees her life becoming less and less viable, but in her understandable humanness, still denies it to be so. "If I could only drive my car again, I'd be less of a burden on everyone." God forbid!! That temptation was removed from her years ago. In the next breath, "I'm ready to die. I just want the Lord to take me home." Meaning no disrespect, I'm lobbying for God to grant her that wish. She has no life left here anymore. "It's time, Lord, to call her home."

Friday, January 4

"An Unsolicited Testimonial..."

Well...I must say daughter Megan and I were impressed! This year's edition of The Greatest Show On Earth" was indeed spectacular. The two plus hours that the spectacle required flew by and we were, for the most part, thoroughly entertained throughout.

In recent years Megan and I have observed that Mr. Barnum and Mr. Bailey have been making a concerted attempt to mimic admittedly the far more spectacular CIRQUE DU SOLEIL, doing so, thankfully, without sacrificing its roots of still appealing animal acts. A circus is hardly a traditional circus without performing lions, tigers and elephants, and this edition of the show had plenty of each. There was even a spotlighted porcupine...although its role was understandably limited to strolling around the edge of the elevated ring to bump into a soon to be deflated balloon being gingerly held in a clown's outstretched hand. Lets face it...just how many tricks could one teach a pincushion on stumpy legs?

As a continuing concession to our more modern view of the world, there was once again a steel cage globe in which seven...count ' motorbike riders roar around in a blur of color for, in my opinion, five minutes longer than was necessary. The many children, however, who were seated all around us seemed to take gleeful enjoyment in this act. Different strokes for different folks...

And my favorite...those daring, darling and flying artisans of the high trapeze. As anticipated the finale was the expected but the never certain attempt to perform a triple somersault. I don't care how many times this trick is performed, it is still breath-taking to see. You try climbing fifty feet in the air to hurl oneself into space head over feet three times and see how many times you firmly grasp the catcher you hope shows up to meet you with outstretched sweaty hands. I get lightheaded when I have to climb an eight foot ladder every spring to clean out my gutters. They nailed it on the first attempt! Good show guys.

Here's my recommendation. If the circus comes to your town this year, go take it in. And by all means, if you've got children...your little ones or your grandchildren...take them with you. It will be an experience that will thrill them memorably and in turn will delight your heart as well. If indeed apple pie is a slice of Americana, so too is the circus. Enjoy the show.

Thursday, January 3

"The Roar Of The Greasepaint - The Smell Of The Crowd"

With sincerest apologies to Anthony Newly's Broadway show by the same title, that metaphorical image always comes to my mind when "The Greatest Show On Earth!" rolls into town. This evening daughter Megan and I make our annual pilgrimage to Tampa for opening night of the three-ring extravaganza that has been our father and daughter's special date night since she was two years of age twenty years ago.

Megan has in her recent college years had to bear the teasing she has received from her fellow sorority sisters who proclaim that such an outing with their own father's would be so very uncool. Megan has staunchly defended this cherished ritual by declaring unabashedly that she will always be her "Daddy's little girl" when it comes to circus night.

Mom, on the other hand, has never been a circus fan. She proclaims an aversion to the many confusing smells that proliferate around the arena, declaring, "they give my allergies a royal fit!" She also believes that all of the elephants should be made to wear diapers. Fearing that she might expound this belief at a most inopportune time in the midst of other circus attenders, Megan and I had years ago determined that Mom was best left with her home.

"The Greatest Show On Earth!" hasn't changed very much over the two plus decades we have been in attendance. One might expect the usual performance staples; the clowns, the lions, the elephants, dancing horses, and a variety of trick-performing dog acts. There is usually a mixture of high-wire acts involving perilously perched acrobats on chairs stacked three, sometimes four high. If one is lucky, the entertainment fare will include a "death-defying" trapeze act where "'The Flying Lunatics' will attempt to perform the never before accomplished feat of a triple loop-de-loop with an inverted trapezoid!" A hush falls upon the crowd, the spotlights peers in upon the favorite son of the Lunatic Family as he swings higher and higher above the catch net below, and then he hurls himself head over suspended land squarely in the middle of the tuba section of the circus band! The crowd goes wild!! Now that's entertainment!

No...there's not much chance of that occuring. But, daughter Megan and I shall be thoroughly entertained once again, nevertheless. We always are. We will critique the many acts and compare this year's circus with the many circuses past, and we will hold hands as we depart for the parking lot...looking forward already to our Daddy-Daughter circus night date next year. I wouldn't miss it for all diapered elephants in the world!

Tuesday, January 1

And So It Begins Again...

Rather than trying to be creative with this first of the New Year blogs, I decided to reprint the entry I composed at the beginning to last year. I believe it it carries just as much validity and purpose with the beginning of 2008 as it did on January 4th, 2007. I hope you agree...

"Now that the New Year is officially underway, let me be among those to wish you a prayerful promise of a great 2008.

The St. Peterburg TIMES ran an oldie but goodie PEANUTS in the comic section on New Year's eve. The opening panel finds Snoopy lying in thoughtful repose on the snow covered ground lamenting, "So here I am starting a New Year. But am I any different? Nope! I'm the same ol' dog! Day after day and year after year...never a change." The final panel captures Snoopy atop his snow covered doghouse, thinking smugly, "Sometimes I marvel at my consistency." Personally, I an relate. You?

Tis the season, so I have come to expect, when personal resolutions are declared. They run the gamut form A to Z, all faithfully formulated to make us a better person in some respect than we were the previous year. Some are introspective...we recognize in ourselves an area or areas in our lives that requires adjustment...either by doing some things more or conversely doing some things less. Other resolutions are more or less thrust upon us by people who declare steadfastly that they "only have our best interest at heart." My dear wife, Judi, has thrust one of those types of resolutions my lose the spare tire that has attached itself around my middle. I am bound by my love for her and to equally avoid her ample wrath should I decline to so otherwise. Unlike the old adage, "Getting there is half the fun," I fear that sentiment doesn't hold much validity when it shall be painfully applied to my out of shape and aging body. I'd much rather be like Snoopy and marvel at my heretofore well developed sense of complacent consistency.

So...have you made any resolutions this year? Some wise person once observed, "Confession is good for the soul, but is really bad for the reputation." I'm not asking you to come forward with a list of said resolutions. Your determination to make and keep a personal resolution is strictly your decision. That choice, not unlike life itself, is a paradox. Consider the fact of how truly blessed we are to live in this wonderful country. Compared with any standard of living, we are the most affluent society in the world...where our material welfare is virtually guaranteed, where our enemies are diligently held at bay, and the greatest majority of infectious diseases that threaten life are contained. One would surmise that we would be at our leisure to successfully figure out ways of living and relating to one another that would produce the bountiful by-products of fulfillment, happiness, and contentment. Then why is it that mental health professionals of all stripes continue to maintain burgeoning case loads? Therein lies the paradox. What is it about the human condition that it seems determined to devise self-imposed formidable roadblocks between themselves and the lives they so desperately desire?

Every spring the sock-eyed salmon swim back up the rivers and streams of Alaska to their birth place of origin. The trip is arduous in and of itself, but combine the untold perils of the journey with there being a pack of ravenous bears waiting at the top of many rapids and waterfalls along the way, waiting in anticipation to the devour the unlucky few who have the deadly misfortune of being snatched in mid-leap into their gaping jaws, and one comes to the realization that not every worthy enterprise will have a beneficial outcome. Many salmon make it to their final destination. Many do not. Some of the bears eat their fill. Some go hungry. It is a paradox of unintended consequence. Seems to me that one of the best strategies for living ones life is to understand that we each are limited in that which we can control, and to fore go the illusion and accompanying anguish that we can and must control everything.

Here's my personal resolution... To be thankful to God each and every day that He has granted me yet one more day to embrace all that He has in store for me for that one day....the good and the bad...knowing that He and He alone is "perfectly" in control of everything of consequence...that it is my task and duty to honor Him and my Savior Jesus Christ by living each moment with the peaceful knowledge and assurance that He does not expect me to be "in control of all things." Perfection is God's business. My task is to stir the pot and strive for excellence in all that I am assigned to accomplish.

Have a great first week of 2008. Enjoy each new day granted to thankful for the blessings that have no price tag...and strive for excellence in all that you attempt to do. That may be the best formula for a great New Year.