Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rest in Peace, Aunt Ebbie . . .

Aunt Ebbie and Tinkerbelle

I never knew either of my grandmothers. My Dad's mom died when he was only 7; my Mom's mom died when I was less than 3. That gap, however, was filled by my Dad's two sisters. Aunt Elva and Aunt Ebbie, older than my Dad and his younger brother, were busy helping to raise their two young brothers when they should have "been courting". As a result, neither ever married. They lived together their entire lives except for 2 or 3 years when Elva lived in California while pursuing her PhD in Psychology. (Aside: she dropped out of the program shortly before completion when she realized that everything she was learning was "a bunch of hooey". She's been equally perceptive ever since).

When I was little, I would spend several weeks with my aunts back at the old family home in Southern Illinois. I have a stockpile of fond memories of those summers - bicycling all over town; eating b-b-que from "Bills"; fresh chicken salad from Mittendorf's grocery; trips out into the countryside to see the old family church where my grandparents and countless other relatives are buried.

We ventured there again this week not to visit, but to say good-bye to Aunt Ebbie. After a long illness, she passed away last Sunday at the age of 84. She is survived by one sister, three brothers, a multitude of loving nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews, and a community full of people whose lives she touched for the better.

Her funeral, while clearly a time of mourning and sadness, was truly also a celebration of her life. Despite the short notice (the funeral was on Tuesday morning after she died on Sunday afternoon), family journed to her hometown from Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Central Illinois. My parents were thrilled that all four of their sons and all four daughters-in-law were present.

Events like this cause a wide-ranging flow of emotions and thoughts. First I was filled with remembrances of Ebbie; random odd memories like the really cool Barracuda she drove when I was about 7 or 8, or the many times I visited her at the bank where she worked as a teller for 38 years. During the service, I was seated so that I could see all of the remaining members of that generation sitting in the front row. Aunt Elva (age 86), Uncle Omer (age 89), Dad (turning 80 tomorrow) and Uncle "Fred" (age 78). Clearly my family is blessed with a genetic predisposition toward old age! But you can't sit in that place with those people in view and not realize that this is the first funeral of many more to come. I hated having that feeling, but it is true. Rather than mourning that fact, however, we choose to take advantage of the time we have left. One of the reasons we moved back to Georgia is so that our kids will have as much time as possible to spend with their grandparents. Not just big events (a wedding, an anniversary, a funeral), but random weekday afternoons just sitting on the sofa reading together. Just before Christmas we dropped in at my parents house to visit. My mom had been going through her "hope chest" that day looking for something. Since we were there, she took the opportunity to pull out her wedding gown (58 years old) to show to Belle and Tink. The fact that I have never seen that gown out of it's protective bag suggest how significant that act was. Those are the moments and the memories that I crave for my children and for myself and my wife. (Aside #2: my wife and my parents have one of the closest "in-law" relationships I've ever seen and I am SO greatful for that).

As this event crept closer, all of us were concerned for Aunt Elva. As they've grown older she had grown ever more dependant on Ebbie - how would she fare after Ebbie's death?

In his grace (as always), God had thought of that. During her long illness, Ebbie moved back and forth between the hospital and a residential rehab facility. During the first 2 or 3 months, my parents practically moved to Illinois, partially to keep an eye on Ebbie but equally to help take care of Elva. However, over the last months Elva became increasingly independant. That long illness served to help Elva prove to herself that "she can do this" alone.

For each of you, my hope is that you all have an "Aunt Ebbie" in your life. Maybe your grandmother, maybe your aunt, maybe someone at your church or down the street. Regardless, love her and appreciate her. I know that I'm blessed to still have her sister, and I know I'll do both of those things for as long as I have the priviledge to do so.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes (yet) again . . .

How often do we attempt to do something "good" and end up with a result that is not? The result often ends up backfiring on the intended recipient of the goodness or it backfires on the do-gooder. Why do you think the age-old saying "no good deed goes unpunished" even exists?

Does that suggest that we should give up? I hope not. However, it is always smart to go in with our eyes wide open and ideally with some good data backing up our presumption that this good thing is in fact a good idea.

Take that desire to "do good" and apply it to a governmental agency and the opportunity for unintended consequences magnifies exponentially.

Example: banning drilling for oil in many domestic sources is good (we assume) for the environment. And yet, how many ways will $4.19 per gallon gas and $140 per barrel oil impact our national economy, our trade deficit, our personal budgets, our ability to donate money to charities or save for the future, and yes, ultimately, even our ability to invest in environmental initiatives?

Today I saw an article (hat tip to Byron York at The Corner) that exposes yet another example of governmental policies and initiatives whose results are diametrically oposed to the original intent. The article, in, is extraordinarily well researched and well written. I won't try to synopsize it here except to quote these two paragraphs. Read the entire article for yourself and then comment away.

Falling crime rates have been one of the great American success stories of the past 15 years. New York and Los Angeles, once the twin capitals of violent crime, have calmed down significantly, as have most other big cities. Criminologists still debate why: the crack war petered out, new policing tactics worked, the economy improved for a long spell. Whatever the alchemy, crime in New York, for instance, is now so low that local prison guards are worried about unemployment.
Lately, though, a new and unexpected pattern has emerged, taking criminologists by surprise. While crime rates in large cities stayed flat, homicide rates in many midsize cities (with populations of between 500,000 and 1 million) began increasing, sometimes by as much as 20percent a year. In 2006, the Police Executive Research Forum, a national police group surveying cities from coast to coast, concluded in a report called “A Gathering Storm” that this might represent “the front end … of an epidemic of violence not seen for years.” The leaders of the group, which is made up of police chiefs and sheriffs, theorized about what might be spurring the latest crime wave: the spread of gangs, the masses of offenders coming out of prison, methamphetamines. But mostly they puzzled over the bleak new landscape. According to FBI data, America’s most dangerous spots are now places where Martin Scorsese would never think of staging a shoot-out—Florence, South Carolina; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; Reading, Pennsylvania; Orlando, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Things I've learned while in Tucson . . .

1) It really does get hot out here in June. That's the thermometer in my rental car from yesterday.
2) When it's 108 degrees (no, really), don't wear a french-blue dress shirt. Oops.

3) That whole "but it's a dry heat" argument only works up to about 105 degrees. Above that and it's just darned hot.

4) That whole "it's a dry heat" thing DOES have an impact on your skin. I feel like I'm dehydrated all the time. Neutrogena moisturizer (from my hotel room last night) really helps.

If you find yourself in Tucson anytime soon and find yourself with a 2 hour gap between appointments, find the nearest Paradise Bakery and Cafe. Order a "Paradise Cookie Frappe". (caution - in the spectrum of liquid calories, this drink falls just north of a Venti Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha). Pop open the laptop and take advantage of the free wi-fi to check email and get directions to tonights hotel. Blog. Order lunch.

More later. I've got to go order that lunch.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Out of the (blog) office notice. . .

I'm off tomorrow morning at 0-dark: 30 for another trip to Phoenix. My guess is that, since it's the middle of June, it's going to be hot at blue blazes there. Why do I go to Minneapolis in February and Phoenix in June? Oh well, at least it's a "dry heat".

Yes, the internet has made it to Phoenix, so no, there is no excuse for a dearth of blogging this week. After-all, what else is there to do in the evenings from one's hotel room, especially now that "American Idol" is over and "24" won't be on until next January? I'll try to chime in, but I make no promises.

Live from North Georgia, where the weather is beautiful and the children are brilliant and well-behaved.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Oops, I forgot to blog this week . . .

And some people (you know who you are) are getting testy!

First and foremost, Happy Father's Day to all of you Dad's out there (and hopefully you know who you are, too). I hope you were well and truly feted and celebrated, and walked forth on pathways strewn with fragrant rose petals all day. I know I certainly did.

Um, OK, maybe not exactly all of that. Actually I did have a nice day, but it was a bit more hectic than either I or my wife would have picked. But, we didn't get a vote.

It started out nice. She brought me coffee in bed and left me in peace while I watched Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press (rest in peace, Tim Russert, you are already missed). I haven't done that in years!

Shortly after that, a parade of children (are all of these mine?) streamed into the bedroom singing "Happy Father's Day to you. . . ." bearing gifts of swim trunks and "stay-cool" golf shirts. Sweet!

It was pretty much downhill from there. At that point, we had exactly one hour for everyone to bathe, dress, get hair brushed, and into the car to head to my parents for lunch. We left late and had to stop en route to buy some last minute supplies for Vacation Bible School (starting tomorrow). We got to the parental units for a mid-afternoon lunch, but then had to dash the hour back home so that my wife could go help set up for VBS. I helped schlep various and sundry items down to the Chapel and then schlepped the kids back home. Then I got to (as in "was priviledged enough to") vacuum before my in-laws came over for dinner. Oh good, let's eat again!

Dinner was spectacular (fresh salmon, tomato & mozzarella salad, etc). Then we left for a quick ride on the in-laws pontoon boat. It was a beautiful evening for a boat-ride, but almost ended up as a train-wreck (pardon me while I mix metaphors with abandon) at the dock as said in-laws really don't work well together when it comes to docking boats.

As a result of all that, it was 9:30 before the kids got to bed (did I mention they have to be at VBS tomorrow morning at 8:30?). The kitchen is still a disaster, and we're all exhausted.

But all of that aside, it was still a great day. I have a wife who loves me even when I manage to be pretty unlovable. I have three AMAZING kids who are a joy to be around and so much darned fun too! We live in a spectacular place in the greatest country on earth and are loved by a God whose grace knows no bounds.

Yep, life really is great. So, Happy Father's Day to Tim, Arby, Big Doofus, and all you other Dads out there. I think you all know exactly how blessed you are.


Oh, by the way, Belle went to golf camp last week. Make sure I tell you about the two of us playing in the "end of camp" tournament Friday morning. It was awesome!

Monday, June 9, 2008

It's 5:59. . .

So here I sit, reclined on the chaise lounge on the deck- watching storm clouds roll overhead, listening to the church bell in the valley toll 6:00 o'clock. The grill is heating, but the beer is cold. The kids are playing nicely.

And to think, I could be sitting in rush-hour traffic.

Life is good. No, life is awesome!


Bloggy things. . .

A few notes on updates to the blog layout and content:

1) see the new "Who's Here from Where" section in the right column. I've seen this on other blogs and thought it was cool. It's always interesting to see where readers are from.

2) I realized that one of my regularly checked blogs was not listed in the "Blogs Worth Reading" section, so I've justed added it. Toast Floats is always a great read. The author, Karen, and her husband Dr. C are boat-schooling their three girls while they sail the Pacific coast for the next year or so on their Catamaran. How cool is that!? You can go back and read some of their history as they prepared for this epic event; you'll start to figure out that Karen et al are pretty cool too.

Back to work!


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Blasting past 2,000 . . .

Back on March 8th, I noted the upcoming significant milestone of having 1,000 hits on my blog. I just checked today and realized that, in the three months since, I've already passed 2,100 hits. Can you feel the excitement? The acceleration? It's clearly a juggernaut!!!

That's it. Not other news. Well, that's not true, but I'm tired and not going to talk about it right now. Come back maybe tomorrow and see if I've gotten around to it. (gotta keep 'em wanting more, right?).


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Random entries from the road. . .

So I'm traveling in Arizona this week. Arrived Monday and spent the night in Phoenix - drove to Tucson on Tues - back to Phoenix today - home tomorrow. Eating really crappy food on Monday en route resulted in two full days of an "upset tummy" (yes, we have young children!) and no sleep. Said tummy is feeling much better this evening, so I'm hoping that a good nights rest is soon to follow.

In the meantime, a potpourri of thoughts and catching up.

1) many thanks to Tim and Arby for not only great comments to my "open question" post, but for linking to it on their blogs and driving their multitude of faithful readers to my humble site. Perhaps they'll return. Tim and Arby both said awfully nice things about me in their posts, provoking an immense "aw shucks" from me. Really, I'm truly touched.

2) said posts, and large amounts of "lying awake in the middle of the night" have generated thoughts about this whole concept of building "virtual friendships". I've never met Tim, but through our respective posts we've figured out we have a frightening amount in common, to the point that we refer to each other as our "doppelganger". Likewise with Arby, whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for as he is a stay-at-home dad and homeschooler while his wife is preparing to deploy to Iraq as a civilian contractor. Anyway, this whole concept of building friendships with people you've never may (and likely never will, in person) is really odd. What does it say about our society that I know more about a guy in the central valley of California whom I've never met than some of the dads on my son's soccer team?

3) on a much lighter note, the new appliances arrive tomorrow. I'll be sure to post pictures of the finished result. I know you're waiting anxiously.

Good night!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

testing. . .

So it's 2:00 in the morning (eastern) and I can't sleep. I'm actually in Phoenix tonight (on pacific time) so it isn't as bad as it sounds. But still, I'd rather be sleeping.

What should I do? I know! I'll see if I can post to my blog from my blackberry.

It will be interesting to see how this looks (if it exists) tomorrow.

Good night.