Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sunday After Thanksgiving

This morning a long-time member of our church passed away. 

At church.

She suffered for many years from a long list of physical ailments.  Cancer, diabetes, various amputations as a result of infection.  How many times did I hear her requesting prayer on my dad's voice mail?  Most recently, she had broken her foot and there was an issue with pooling blood around the wound.  I'm not going to go into long detail, but one of the men in the church and I were asked to help her to a waiting vehicle as service was wrapping up.  She'd been sick in the bathroom for a good part of the service, feeling nauseous, she said.

As we walked alongside her, supporting her as she leaned on her walker, it was obvious she was in terrible pain and quickly she began to sink.  We called for a chair as we reached the front doors, but she was already gone.  I held her head and looked into her eyes as the life we know flowed from her body.  I called 911 and a nurse and former EMT in the church started CPR.  The ambulance arrived, but there was little to be done.  Her husband watched as they worked on her, laying halfway out the front doors of the church.

One of the last services Catherine Claggett was in, she testified about meeting a perfect stranger in a gas station in Oklahoma and praying for that person's need.  She had a crackling voice that would slowly turn to an echoing boom as she would exhort and call our church to gratefulness or greater service.  Her life was one of constant pain and seemingly unlimited suffering on this earth, yet she never lost sight of her eternal goal.

Tonight, she doesn't need the walker or giant, orthopedic shoes any longer.  I'm grateful for her... and not a little humbled to have been by the side of a saint passing from this world to the next.  I have to admit there weren't a million things running through my mind.  I did manage to keep from taking pictures (purely tacky) and I learned a valuable lesson about calling 911 from a county address (always stay on the line even if they say they're on the way... a physical address, detailed driving instructions & a cell number don't always guarantee delivery of emergency services).  As the pastor mentioned later, I was proud of the health-care professionals we have at our church who were able to assess and give assistance.  When the police arrived first, they simply looked over the situation and said, "Keep going."

I was also struck by the thought of the spouse.  What do you as a husband of 42 years say at that moment in time?  What do you think?  How does it feel?  One of the guys in the church rode with him as he drove to the hospital.  Some of us and his family came to the ER.  But then he went home.  Alone.  I went home to Suzi to tell her I loved her again.  And again. 

May God extend His Amazing Grace to each of us when that time comes.  

We'll need it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Bought a Gun

A few years ago, I started whining about my 2nd Amendment rights and how I wasn't upholding my end of the Constitutional bargain.  I was a little taken aback when Suzi agreed with me.  Now, don't go all NRA-Crazy on us.  I'm not some "check yer weapons at tha' door" type.  I do believe that gun ownership is an option that we as Americans have built into the accessory list that comes with our citizenship.  You know, floor mats, alloy wheels, pursuits of happiness and such.  When Suzi's dad immigrated to America just as the Iron Curtain came crashing down, one of his early purchases was a small revolver.  Why?  Because it was something his previous government prohibited.  In this era of "enhanced pat-downs," we, as Americans, take for granted the freedoms we hold in comparison to the rest of the world.
OK, so now I'll reach under my soapbox and pull out my gun 'cause I know some of ya'll out there wanna  see it.  I had always expected to buy something tactical, with a laser and a Surefire light-up-your-world cannon attached.  Something black and spec-ops.  I figured on a 9mm for ease of access and relatively inexpensive ammo.  But when my "buyer" called one Saturday morning and said he'd found something I might like, I had no idea I'd fall for a Cold War relic.
Relic.  That's a strong term.  "It's got wood grips!" was my first thought.  This is NOT what I had in mind.  But after I hefted its all-steel frame and felt the satisfying whump of its decently balanced recoil, I was sold.
Just like that, at 36 years old, after a late night transaction in a remote, dimly lit, Taco Bell parking lot, my first gun was Hungarian Hi-Power clone: the FEG PJK-9HP.  The seller even threw in a couple of boxes of ammo.  And that, I think, has been the most interesting part of this whole exercise.  I was amazed at how cheap and how easy it is to pick up a gun.  I simply put the word out that I was interested and scoped a few shops.  When dealing with individuals, there's no government intervention.  It's like shopping for an extra Snoopy sippy cup at a garage sale.  If it looks clean, take it home.
Since then, I've picked up a few extra mags off Gunbroker and a paddle holster from Target Masters.  I've read a year's worth of Guns & Ammo and gone out a few times to a range near us to blown stuff up.  All that's made me the same guy I was pre-gun; I now just know some range etiquette and the difference between a .22LR and a .22Magnum.
There are folks on both coasts and quite a few through the middle of this great country who shake their heads and think, "What pitiful stuff... a waste."  But I'm not carrying the piece to the Mall or keeping it hidden 'neath my pillow in case some black-hat traipses through the door with nefarious deeds in mind.  It is what it is: an intricate example of mechanics, an interesting sidelight on a Saturday afternoon, another piece of gear... That makes a very loud boom and pretty little groups at 25 yards.
Anybody wanna throw some lead downrange this weekend?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

SUZI: Shopping with a Tired Baby

I bought a shirt not long ago...nothing fancy but one I needed to work as a layer.  Cooper was with me when I bought it.  He was pretty much done with all things pertaining to shopping by the time I was trying it on, so I somehow didn't notice that the hem along the back wasn't straight across.  Once I was home I discovered that it curved across the bottom in a half-moon shape.  It's not like this was some accident; the shirt was designed that way.  This perhaps wouldn't be a big deal, but for some reason it really bothered me.  It was an odd length because of the curve. 

I had already worn the shirt a couple of time, telling myself the whole time that I really wasn't bothered by the hem.  But I was.  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and fix it so it would go straight across like I had imagined my layering shirt to be.  This should have been a quick fix.  I'm not a master seamstress, but I certainly have sewn enough things that this little project would be a no-brainer.  Right.  I have found that anytime I think no-brainer about a project, I should be prepared for some sort of impending doom. 

I cut the shirt straight across (no problem yet) and proceeded to sew (no problem yet).  Once I put the shirt on to eye my successful fix, I realized that the material was all stretched out in a weird way where I had just sewn it.  It was all fluttery across the bottom (problems begin).  And the seam where the new stitches were kind of flipped out.  The material was all wompy-jawed.  Clearly it was not meant to be cut and re-hemmed.   

Hmmmm...not at all what I had in mind.  And I had used Cooper's nap time to "fix" the shirt, so now I was running out of time.  I decided the only thing to do was to take my stitches out and see what I could do with it.  Upon doing so, I ripped a hole in the shirt.  Yeah.  Then I proceeded to cut just above my seam line to get rid of the wompy jawed part with the hole.  I figured I could at least wear the shirt to sleep in if nothing else.  

Except now, as I sit here wearing the shirt, the seamless bottom edge is rolling up on its own accord making the shirt shorter than I want, and it is driving me crazy.

Moral of the story?  Don't go shopping with a tired baby.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Two Things Thursday

I suppose it's still Thursday in Hawaii... so here we go...

Firstly:

A couple of blogs we keep track of are doing some amazing stuff.  When she's not snarkily sharing the latest crisis in her family of six, Kristen over at RageAgainsttheMinivan hosts a regular series called What I Want You to Know.  It's a forum for her readers to share things in their lives that others may not know, care to ask about or understand.  Topics have ranged from autism to homeschooling to the death of a child.  I highly recommend Kristen's blog anyway, but this just adds a whole 'nother wonderful layer to it.
I'm also dropping in on RoJo's Story Year.  Robert's an amazing talent in all things visual and an MK to boot.  Somehow we're connected through a ton of folks, but have only briefly met once.  Writing nearly every day in 2010, he's challenging, brutally honest and transparent in a way that leaves me a bit slack-jawed...

Secondarily:
Cooper hit the 7th month mark this week... He's crawling like nuts, pulling himself up on anything that'll stand still (and some things that won't) and is desperate to chew on every cord in the county.  What is it with babies and electrical cords?  He can't get enough of them and it doesn't matter how many times we redirect or distract him, given a bit of downtime, he'll make a quick turn and head off like lightning!  Some of you aren't on Facebook (stay strong!) and so I've posted some clips to our website to keep you entertained on those long winter nights that are sure to be right around the corner.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bullets & Waffles

This is not a commentary on mass consumerism... it's a simple portrait of what one encounters checking out at (*cough*) Wal-Mart.  Shoe inserts, ammo, a food processor and what seems to be THREE cartons of Edy's.  Seems the list was a bit eclectic this evening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

This just can't end well #104


You are now free to move around the tarmac... as long as you're followed by a contingent of firefighting apparatus.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Weekend

Good times over the weekend... Saturday we went to Flipz Gym in Columbia for Maddy's birthday party.  Liam hosted his party there this year as well and for obvious reasons!  Who wouldn't want to go free-wheelin' nuts in gymnastics heaven?  They've got a good thing going at Flipz... You get an hour of floor play and 30 minutes of party time in balcony.  It's bring-your-own-cake & punch, but who has all this stuff in their backyard?  After two shots at this place, I don't know what's more fun, playing tag with fleet-footed 10-year olds or hurling myself off the climbing wall into a pool of foam blocks.  There's even a climbing rope for those who just didn't get enough in junior high PE.



And for a little added coolness factor... Suzi's cousin, Jan, was in town and dropped by to add his vibe to the party.  We couldn't convince him to get out on the springboards or trampolines, but it was great to see him.  While he was in Moberly, he and Cooper got to eye each other from across the room... and then both took the plunge for some contact...

Friday, November 12, 2010

SUZI: Short-term Single Parenting

Scott and I are used to being apart.  Several months after we got married, we relocated to Chicago.  Because I was finishing my Master's classwork, I stayed in Columbia and Scott went ahead to settle our new home.  We saw each other every other weekend or so; this lasted for six months.  Scott also traveled quite a bit for the various positions he had at USCC.  It was common for him to be gone for a couple weeks at a time.  He's even traveled overseas without me.  I always miss him, but I survive and hold down the fort when he's gone.

Scott's recent trip to Jordan was a little different for me.  I missed him...like crazy.  The days seemed to drag by.  It felt like he was gone for months instead of just two weeks.  I felt the responsibility of being Cooper's sole parent here.  My mom helped me with Cooper as she could, but at the end of the day, it was up to me to make sure he had what he needed.  Scott just couldn't get home fast enough.

For those two weeks I kept thinking about people who are single parents because of divorce, death of a spouse or military service.  I've always figured it was hard to be a single parent, but I have never given enough credit to people who have had to do it.  If you are a single parent (or ever have been), my hat's off to you.  You deserve a big hug.  And a quiet evening to yourself.  And some chocolate.

I am blessed...Scott returned safe and sound, and Cooper's tired face turned into a huge grin when he saw his daddy.  I was a bit misty-eyed, and immediately warned Scott that I might be a bit clingy.  It's funny what adding another human being into the mix does to you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Suzi counts down to Item Uno for T3:

As adults we learn fairly early that filters are important for social activities.  We learn what to discuss in certain settings and what to leave off the table.  The fact that these filters are firmly in place for much of American culture makes it rather jarring when someone overseas congratulates you for gaining weight (that's a sign of prosperity for them) or pries noticeably into your financial status.

Of course, all bets are off when we encounter an infant under the age of three.  Thankfully, their little psychological make-up or comprehension isn't in place yet!  So, for your Thursday enjoyment, Cooper's Top Ten Body Commentary:

1. Your feet look like Incredible Hulk!
2. You weigh how much?
3. What a chunky monkey!
4. Look at those thighs!
5. Where are your shoes?
6. Where are your socks?
7. Did you just make that sound?
8. How is it possible for that little body to produce that (smell or, uh, deposit)?
9. "Smell him... I think he stinks."
10. "Whoa...you do stink." 

Scott shoots for Two:

When we left for Jordan in 2008, we either sold off or stored up everything we own.  We've got a storage unit, and crates in basements at both sets of inlaws.  When we're in the States, we bounce between our parent's houses.  This time around, we're at Sasha's house (Suzi's mom).  When I sit down to work, I need a minimum space of 3'x3'... and a comfy chair.  Out come the hard drives, mice, books... I'm not kidding, I spread out.  
Before I left for Jordan last time, I'd been camped out in my parent's basement.  All my gear is stored there in nice, neat racks so it's convenient down there...and I love the space.  But, it meant I was here while Suz and Cooper were over there.  It just wasn't working and people kept giving me grief about not being a husband, father, decent human, yada yada yada.
So, when I returned last week, I started digging around Sasha's trying to carve out a space for me to work.  Last night, I finally worked out something on the front porch that's simple & works.  Of course, this morning about 9AM, the sun cleared that white house across the street and blinded me, which lead to even more shuffling about.  I can't describe the deep-seated need I have for someplace to put my stuff.  I never need much, just somewhere my gear can rest between running.  It makes me happy AND productive... which, in turn, makes Suzi pleased as punch.  And that makes us a Pleasant Pack o' 3.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Check Ups = BBQ, kinda...

Friday, Cooper had his 6 month checkup with Dr. Misra and a quick cocktail poke from Nurse Jaci.  He's running a few ounces over 23 lbs and is 28.25 inches long.  All signs point to a very healthy, active kiddo!  And Cooper did great with his shot!  No prolonged, open-mouthed, silent screaming this time... for which we celebrated at Buckingham's by sitting down, ordering and then taking turns standing and rocking a wiped-out Cooper.  
Once we'd both tasted our food in its warm, natural state, Cooper decided he'd had enough of all things public and started yelling about injustices and unfairness in pediatrics world-wide or maybe the lack of clean diapers in some far-away place... we couldn't tell for sure since his diatribe was mainly in the form of industrial-scale raspberries.  Just before things went south we managed a quick shot (below) after which the socks came off... and we all know what happens then... Bill the Cat would be proud.

Thbbbbfttttt!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Photo Books Reviewed

Christmas is coming and we've got photo books on the brain.  These are great gift items for recent or far off events that need a little more than just a table-top frame.  We've got friends who annually do one of these professionally printed photo albums to chronicle the year.  I think it's ironic that we've come full circle on photo storage and display.  Back in the day you had a small selection of bound, three ring binders and archival quality plastic sheets.  Then came scrap-booking and the myriad of punches and colored paper options at Michael's.  Some of us skipped the scrap book and went straight to online albums... categorizing our lives in little boxes of 10-99 shots with a few "Mobile Uploads" thrown in to spice things up.
Now, we've come all the way back to albums, except they're hard bound with 115lb, lay flat paper and titling across the spine.  We can pick from leather, linen or soft copy.  It's a cornucopia of creativity out there in the digital frontier!  Anyone can whip off their trip to Cancun to the publisher, throw it on the coffee table 5-10 working days later and look like they just waltzed out of Borders!
So where to start?  What site gets your money shots with a wide variety of cover options? Lucy uses Shutterfly.  Jan used Winkflash, I think.  And Jaime uses My Publisher, plus there's a gizmo thru iPhoto that Apple gives you...  I know, I know!  My mind's spinning off its axis at the moment, too, but thankfully I've got Google and Google's got ZDNET and over there they've got a link to a dude named Jason who's done all the heavy lifting for us.  God Bless the boy... this Canadian had a bad bout of booking binding and decided to put out the goods on, count 'em, a dozen different online print houses.  Normally, I just breeze through reviews and am on my merry shopping way, but this one... THIS one... is worth talking about.  And not just  because he mentions Mpix... yes, the MPix of 10 billboards on eastbound I-70 Mpix.  He really did a dozen photo books of his son's birth.  It's well worth the read (he says it's 15,000 words) just for the effort he put in.  Don't want to wade through all that prose?  His summary is perfect.
So, my choice?  The jury's out, but I gotta move quick here... Christmas is coming!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Two Things Thursday

Wow!  How is it time for T3 again!?

OK, Firstly, for those who live in STL or Columbia, Alpine Shop's got a sale going on and I'm always one to shop if it's cheap.  Click the coupon over there to print your own.  I'm such a sucker for clearance racks there.  Anytime I'm rolling through Broadway, it's like a siren call between them, Slackers and El Rancho.  Why not make it a threesome?  A trio of absolute auditory, culinary & geared out bliss.  BTW, my personal fave @ El Rancho is the Chicken Nachos... big enough to take some home.

Oooo... Second, I'm HOME!  Suz, Cooper & Jaime met me at the airport on Monday night to drag my grateful, and seriously beat, body back home.  It was more than 24 hours from door-to-door, but a totally uneventful trip.  I did get to see Ramona & Beezus on the plane and have to admit to tearing up when the family thought they were losing their house.  I am that parent now.
It also seems I have become that parent who can't wait to get back to see his kid.  I've traveled an awful lot in past years by myself, but never have I been so happy to get back home to see Cooper.  He started crawling and broke out his first tooth while I was gone to Jordan!
And in Cooper new... He's getting his food critic groove on... It seems rice cereal has fallen out of favor and carrots are currently overshadowing sweet potatoes by a shutter, gasp and immediate grab for the next spoonful!  Our baby boy is growing up!