Monday, February 27, 2006


Max was over the other day. He was playing in the living room and there was big crash. I looked over and half of his tabletop garage had fallen down.

He said,"These things keep breaking my toys."

I asked him, "What things?"

And he said, "My fingers!", wiggling his digits as if they weren't attached to him.

Later we were walking him home and Kodiak was with us. The dog paused to pee against a tree and Max was watching him, half smiling, and you could see the wheels turning. Finally he says, "I could do that!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

In Search of Ancient Slovenian Ancestors

Later this week our oldest, daughter Ann, and youngest, son Patrick, embark on a journey worthy of “In Search of…” They fly to Venice (Italy, not California) and thence to Slovenia to seek out ancestral villages. You see, Kathy is 100% Slovenian. I didn’t know what that was until I met her. Her grandparents emigrated from Slovenia in 1900 and settled in Minnesota. Ann and Patrick will follow their backtrail, looking for the village of Hrovaca which has something to do with the House of Dragov. Sounds a little like a scary movie. I told them to pack some extra consonants for the trip—or maybe they’ll really need to buy a vowel or two.

Thanks to a relative out in California who keeps track of such things, they have the names of relatives born back in 1782 and 1784 and 1846 (Jacob and Agnes and Anton). They probably won’t run into any of Jacob’s contemporaries, which is just as well, but having their names may help them in their search.

Look for a report on their exploits in Ann’s blog Travels with Grandma.

My brother tracks our family history and knows more about it than I do. I haven’t done any serious exploration yet, but when we get back to Ireland, I’d like to give it a try. When we were there a couple of years ago, I just enjoyed knowing that I was at least in the same country that my ancestors had come from. The people kind of looked like me. That was nice.

I am just too tired now to say much more. It was a busy weekend up at church with an all day retreat on Saturday for all the various ministries, and then a pot luck dinner with the Social Justice group today. The retreat was very enjoyable and relaxing. We just talked about the roots of service and how it works. I’ll have to say more later. The dinner was fun as we kind of rewarded ourselves with some fun and food.

All the while there was a work project that took up all my time this weekend when I wasn’t up at church. Next week is our Spring Career Fair, and that’s the one that I am responsible for. We have 163 companies coming on Friday, and one of the last pieces of the project was laying out the floor of the gym where the Fair will be held. I had to figure out where each company would be located on the floor. There are all sorts of variables to take into account like: the industry they are in, the majors they were looking for, who their competitors are, when they registered, and their relationship to our office. Not that anyone else would care, but if you want to see it, it’s all right here for your viewing pleasure. If you’re in Cleveland on March 3, come on over.

So that’s why I haven’t been blogging these past few days.

Oh—one more thing. Did anyone see that Best of Monty Python on PBS last week? I taped it and watched some of it. Their sports spoofs were terrific, like: the 1500m for people with no sense of direction, the marathon for the incontinent, the 100m for the deaf. I told Ben in our office about the deaf thing—he’s hearing impaired himself—and he told me how in high school when he was in a swim meet, the starter failed to give a hand signal as well as fire the gun, so he didn’t know when to take off. Everyone else dove in and he was still standing there. Finally he dove in and he said he was so mad he only breathed once the whole fifty yards down and fifty yards back and he wound up taking second place! The whole place erupted in a standing ovation. Pretty cool. His brother charged out of the stands and berated the starter, demanding another race, but Ben said no thanks—he was exhausted.

So am I. Good night.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Musings on a Saturday night

It’s ten degrees outside, with below zero wind chill—my favorite. I used to figure that I could do my exercise walks outside up to minus twenty wind chill, and so I used to. Not so much anymore, though the dog still wants to go out.

Unfortunately, he’s now conditioned to go about half a mile before he, um, produces. Tonight we hoofed (pawed?) our way rapidly home after an abbreviated walk in the frigid air. Even Kodiak didn’t mind moving briskly up the block toward home, hardly pausing to sniff or snuffle.

So here I sit, watching “Hustle” on AMC. Have you seen it? They’ve really got some neat stories and cool characters. I switched over to that after catching the end of “Roger Rabbit.” I had forgotten how much fun “Roger” was.

There’s a stack of DVD’s in the drawer that I never watch, but feel I must have. Son in law Peter let me raid their stash before they left for Ireland, so I did. Got some great ones like “Saving Private Ryan”, “Gladiator”, “Black Hawk Down”. Just need time to watch them all. Again. Did you know that you can get DVD’s by sending in coupons from Cracklin’ Oat Bran cereal? I already have five or six of the ones they offer. The perfect boomer marketing ploy. Remember sending in coupons from cereal boxes for toys when you were little? (“Six to eight years to arrive”?) So here you get to eat cereal that’s good for your aging self while reliving your carefree youth. What a deal.

You wanna know what freaks me out? Short track speed skating. Any kind of speed skating, really, but short track is just insane. If you blow the start you lose. No way to recover. Zooming around curves on long blades and your gloved fingertips. Hey this is too much. I just changed the channel to NBC and short track is on!. This is way cool. Let’s watch…..Oh yeah-a disqualification, a crash, an amazing inside move—that’s what it’s all about. Apollo advances to the final. He’s spent the last year training in Colorado for these Olympics, so I hope it pays off for him. He seems to be less of a madman than four years ago, but he’s still fun to watch.

So I think I’ll watch some more. After all, I already saw the “Hustle” episode that’s running now.

Darn Koreans won again.

Friday, February 10, 2006

OK, now I’m depressed

My brother in law retired on Friday. He is the same age as I am—56. How did this happen?

I first met Greg during my freshman year in college. He lived on the same floor section as I did, a few doors down on the other side of the hall. He had long, shoulder length hair as was the fashion then. I learned later that he loved all things Beatle which explained his hirsute style.

One day I walked into the dorm bathroom and there he was, towel wrapped around his waist, hair plastered all over, mopping up a lot of water. He looked at me and said, “I did a bad thing.” He looked a little scary, so I just edged out of the room. At this point, I didn’t know he was my brother in law, of course. At the time he was dating a townie, but soon he was seen with a girl with long blonde hair that we all called “the hippie chick.”

Greg and two of our friends moved into a house out in the country during sophomore year. It was in that house that I met Kathy, thus putting into motion a series of events that eventually resulted in the brother in law thing. The “hippie chick” was Kathy’s sister, after all.

He was in the College of Fine Arts, a painting major. We still have one of his works from that time. By virtue of the fact that we were dating sisters, we spent some time together over the next few years. Kathy and I were married in April 1971. Greg and Lois were married four months later, albeit secretly. Why it had to be secret I can’t remember, but maybe they didn’t want to strain her parents’ finances as they had just married off a daughter a few months earlier, but it stayed a secret (till now, I guess) and Kathy’s parents never knew. They are both gone now, so it doesn’t matter. About a year after their clandestine union, they had a nice church wedding and no one was the wiser.

As we stumbled through our twenties, my career moves took us to Illinois and New Jersey, while he stayed here in Ohio. He had several jobs, but art wasn’t a big seller, so he interviewed for a position in a cabinet maker union apprenticeship program. He won a spot by answering the question “Why do you want this job?” in a surprisingly unique way. After hours of hearing tired clichés like “I really wanna work with my hands” from carpenter wannabes, the interviewers were pleased with Greg’s response: “I want a job with a future.” A simple but elegant wish.

Later he described his job in a display building company as “thirty years of spray painting plywood.” Occasionally he got to drive the truck.

So here he was, the only college educated guy in the place, but he stuck it out. You need to log at least 54,000 hours in order to retire, and so he did, hour after dreary hour. All during those years he chipped away at his art, illustrating comic books for a bummed out nutball named Harvey Pekar. Eventually those books lent their name to the movie “American Splendor.”

Now he will have all the time in the world to pursue his art. Looks like he’s living every baby boomer’s dream. Well, at least this boomer’s fantasy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


OK, nothing original in this post, just some jokes from a Medical Blooper desk calendar that I bought for Kathy. Here ya go:
“In our radiology department, the sonographers use condoms as probe covers, and usually carry ‘extras’ in their pockets. Once ultrasound technologist stopped at the store on her way home, and as she pulled her money from her pocket, a string of condoms fell out. She paid for her purchase, reached to pick the condoms up and noticed everyone in the checkout line staring at her. “It’s OK,” she said, “they’re for work.” Realizing this explanation hadn’t exactly helped, she picked up her package and ran from the store.”

“A friend of mine with quadruplets brought one of them in to see the pediatrician. After the examination, the doctor asked, “So, how are the other children?” She replied, “They’ve all got the same cough. I just brought you a sample.”

“As a psychiatrist, I diagnosed a woman with Tourette Syndrome. She wanted to start a therapy group and sought to meet other sufferers. She placed an ad in the local paper reading: “Do you bark like a dog? Swear uncontrollably? Sniff, snort or grunt? If so, call Sheri at 555-1234.” The calls she received were quite interesting.

“A mother of two toddlers and a new infant had the habit of reading to the older children while nursing the infant. The younger toddler would often ask, “Is it breast-reading time yet?”


“The new intern laboriously took down all the patient’s information, the chief complaint, present illness, past history, and finally game to the review of systems. When he began the genitourinary questions, he inquired, “Mrs. Jones, does your urine burn?” “I don’t know doctor, I’ve never tried lighting it.”

Saturday, February 04, 2006

What you are is where you were when

What about you?

How old are you? Not what the calendar says, I mean how old are you really? Are you middle aged? What is that?

In another month I’ll be 56. It must be how old I am because I was born in 1950. It’s easy to figure out. When I was ten I would run a little math problem for my self, trying to see if I would live till the year 2000. My mathematically challenged brain calculated that I would have to be 50 years old to do it. That seemed attainable, though I could not conceive of what it would like to be 50.

Sometimes I think I’ve never gone much past 19. Or maybe 22. Those ideals held, dreams dreamt, things unknown. Feelings felt, thoughts thought, people loved. Stuff learned, attitudes hardened, naiveté in place.

I wonder if I’ve ever learned anything else since. Of course in the intervening years I’ve collected two masters degrees and twenty years experience in career counseling so I must have picked up something, right? But not anything that really matters. Everything worth learning had to happen by 22. Or so it seems.

There is a set of things I learned through work experience and life experience, but my ability to cram those things into my brain and make them part of who I am seems to have been determined a long time ago. Examples:

1) There were never better baseball teams than the New York Yankees in the 1950’s.
2) There were never better home run hitters than Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (but I always rooted more for Mantle, as I recall).
3) The best kisser in the world is my Kathy. I discovered this at age 19.
4) The prettiest girl in the world is my daughter Ann. I discovered this at age 22.
5) The most romantic movie ever made was Franco Zefferili’s treatment of “Romeo and Juliet” How old was I? 18.
6) The best math teacher I would ever meet was Mr. Wallace. I knew this at 15.
7) The woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with was Kathy. I was 19.

Hey—you have your own list, I’m sure. You may disagree with mine, but you can’t have Kathy.

Oh sure I suppose I’ve learned some other things along the way, but such ideas as the items on my list are bound like opioids to neural receptors in my brain. They are locked in and seem to affect my capacity to take in new concepts. Anything new has to be compatible with what I already “know” to be true.

For instance, rock music, blues and even country are good things. I discovered this at 14. Therefore, any means that brings that music to me is fine. Hence, iPods are wonderful inventions. I won’t insist that vinyl is the only way to go.

Here is another: All people deserve to be treated respectfully until they show themselves as unworthy of that regard and even then, you can graciously disengage with them. I started learning that at about age 5. I’m always willing to give someone another chance. And another. Like my father told me when I was 17, “The old wheel goes ‘round—you never know who you’ll meet again.” I was burning with adolescent outrage, but his wisdom has soothed me since.

Now if only my knees would go along with the idea that I’m still 22.