Wednesday, December 26, 2012


It seems one of the common conversation topics I get into around the holidays is "How far ya' goin' this year?"  It may seem I'm keeping an unofficial tally of those who have to hit the most houses in the 48 hours of Christmas... kinda like running the Le Mans or something.  So far, that couple duck hunting around Kirksville this week gets my vote for the most turkey dinners this year.  You know who you are.  Wear that badge with pride.

Our family does T-Day in St. Louis and C-Day in Moberly.  Christmas Eve is always at the Hlavacs and The Day Of is at my mom's.  Four minutes of travel time for us.  Trust me... I've done the 7 hours from Chicago in blowing snow.  I'm perfectly fine with this commute.

So, the events are over and it was nice to hang out with the Schrader clan (Suzi's sister).  Over there is the annual family shot on the couch that Jan started many moons ago.  I keep that torch burning.  A bunch of the Taylors showed up at my mom's for the week... we're missing a few, but it's been awhile since we've seen Stuart & Laura, so it's cool to have them up north.

And... on to presents, I suppose, for a lack of other topics at 2AM. Speaking of Stuart & Laura... I got a little box all wrapped up with a bow.  Gotta say thanks for my first box of hollow-points!  And Hornaday at that!  Cooper's big gift this year will be another post... suffice it to say, "It might get loud..."  This partial family shot below is compliments of Ray... Bags of Texjoy seasonings, a south Texas tradition since 1921!

There are a lot more pictures over here... So, Merry Christmas to all... and to all a Good Night!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Speed Lights, Softboxes & Stuffed Up Models

I'm playing with a new softbox and speedlight set-up. 

It's hard to get models to stand still for long periods.

Lucky for me, I've got plenty of stand-ins laying about.

Meet Cooper the Chef, Arnie, & Scout.

Super (Stuffed) Models.

Monday, November 12, 2012

SUZI: Window Seat on a Whale

We have a picture of a fountain in Rome right by the kitchen counter where we sit a lot.  It’s a great photo that Scott took while we were there several years ago, and we had it blown up and printed on canvas.  I’ve told Cooper about it for a long time, and I frequently tell him that one day he and I can go to Rome together.  And I usually add with a smile, “Do you think we should ask Dad to come with us too?”  To which, of course, he gives an emphatic yes.

A few weeks ago when we were traveling to Appleton, Wisconsin, for a conference, I was telling him the name of the city and state so it would be familiar to him.  Except he kept announcing that we were going to Rome.  He also loves to pretend that he’s going on trips.  He takes his little Spiderman “suitcase” (a metal lunchbox), fills it with odds and ends and proceeds to march to the living room while announcing that he’s going to Rome.

So it wasn’t too surprising today when I was changing his diaper that he demanded that we go to Rome…right now.  I explained that it would take a long time to get there and that we would have to take an airplane.  His forehead scrunched a bit.  He wasn’t sure about that.  Not because he doesn’t like to fly (because he does), but because he didn’t realize it would take so long.  You could see great delight when his next idea came along…”I know!  Let’s walk."

He was thrilled that he had come up with a better way.  Hmmmm… “Yeah, but that would take even longer.  And we’d have to swim across the ocean too.”  Cooper’s biggest concern about that?  He didn’t know where his swimsuit was.

Gotta love the reasoning of a two year old.

In the end, he decided we’d ride a whale across the ocean.

That would definitely cut down on the travel time, don’t you think?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Li'l Drummer Boy

Cooper's been asking for a set of Blue Drums for some time now.  He's got a drum that he plays around with and he likes to beat on my congas (which are pretty much his now).  Actually, now that I think about it, it was the McClintocks who gave him that first drum... thanks guys!  He's really gotten a lot of use out of it.  In fact, when he's watching concerts, he'll get a booster seat and set up his own kit.  I've let him work out on the church kit after hours a couple of time.  He's got quite a punch.

So, this weekend we were in Wisconsin (a whole 'nother story) and I noticed a Guitar Center near our hotel.  What better way to bond with your 2 y-o than go gear hunting?  And we did.

If you've never been in a GC, imagine all the gear from a massive road show crammed floor to ceiling in one maze of a space.  Amp racks, heads, drums, lighting, pro audio, and wall-to-wall guitars.  I normally stop just inside the door just to smell it.  Any gearhead will tell you there's something wonderful about the wafting of new gear in the morning.

This time I paused as my son stopped dead in his tracks and went, "Whoooooa..."

That's my boy. 

 We lingered a bit with a few guys who were testing stomp boxes and then turned the corner into percussion.  My son lost all interest in anything else.  We pulled some sticks and went on the test ride of his life.  Interestingly enough, I couldn't get him into the electronic sets.  He's an acoustic man through & through.  

So, without further ado, here's Cooper's first run at a retail test kit.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Blood draw gone wrong

My insurance provider performs wellness checks every year. Included is a blood test. My stick was uneventful... But as the day went on, my arm continued to be sore. Bruising started Tuesday evening. By Wednesday night I was taking pictures! The next shot is Saturday... Still sore and spreading!


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Historical Hand-Me-Downs

 I love history.  I love the stuff of history.  It's one thing to read about an event, but having a little something authentic from the event makes it all the more tasty.  This works quite well in my position at the College... I'm surrounded by the flotsam & jetsam of the past 85 years... yearbooks, letter jackets, the odd medal or trophy.  It's wonderful.  I also think it's terribly cool to incorporate the historical into a modern setting which, a paragraph later, brings me to my point today...

Years ago, when I was old enough to think these things through, I decided I wanted the giant spray-booth lights out of my Grandfather's shop.  These things were massive, 300 watt, blast-proof fixtures that were supposedly scavenged from an shut-down Alco Valve factory in St. Louis.  I didn't know what I'd do with them, but they'd be cool wherever they showed up.

A couple of years ago the family did a massive clean out of Grandpa's shop in St. Louis.  We all got bits and pieces of things that held significance to us... and there were the lights.  In the back of my truck.  On the way to a storage unit (because, at the time, we didn't have a house... we were out getting our passports stamped in exotic locales).
Once we moved into the Lee St. house, I knew exactly where the lights would go... although I think it was pretty confusing for Grandpa.  "Son, that's 600 watts of light there.  Why would you put them in your kitchen?"

Well, Grandpa, first, I replaced the 300w bulb with a 7w CFL.  

And second, they're just so totally cool.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SUZI: A li'l sweetness never hurt any...

We try not to eat too much candy around here, but we certainly have some in the house.  I don’t think it pays off to not let kids have any candy.  I believe that only makes them want it more.  We’ve always kept our candy in a cabinet just over our kitchen counter. 

(This is all basic foreshadowing.  I’m talking about candy and kids.  Any idea what happens next?)

Cooper is doing a lot better about playing on his own for a little while, so every day at some point, I let him stay downstairs for a short while and I go upstairs to check my email or something.  It gives him a little freedom and it gives me a mini break.  After one such break, I ran downstairs and noticed the candy cabinet was open.  Hmmmm….I didn’t remember leaving it open, but I naively still didn’t suspect anything at that point.  Until I came into the living room and saw Cooper wandering around with a half eaten sucker in his hand.  And a bunch of chocolate wrappers on the floor. 

“Hey, Cooper…can you show Mommy where you got that candy?”  

He led me straight to the cabinet and pointed right to it.  

He was so proud.  

His eyes were absolutely sparkling. 

Secretly I was really proud of him for thinking through all of that, climbing up there and getting his sweet treat.  I didn’t want to make it a big deal, so I just told him that while it was neat that he was big enough to get the candy himself that he needed to ask us before getting into the cabinet.

Nothing happened until about three weeks later when I came downstairs only to find him sitting on the counter, chocolate wrappers strewn about, with a piece of candy in each hand.  And, people, he looked darling.  I told him to stay right where he was as I reached for the camera and snapped a shot.  (Scott later questioned me about this and wondered if maybe that was just reinforcing Cooper.  My response?  “Of course it was reinforcing him!  Of course it was the wrong thing, but he looked so cute I had to take his picture first!”)  So we had another little chat about the candy, and so far he’s left it alone.

The funniest thing was that later I was looking for something behind the couch.  As I leaned down, I noticed little silvery Hershey’s Kiss wrappers littering the space between the wall and the couch.  Apparently, when I had caught Cooper up on that counter, he had been going back for seconds and had already enjoyed a helping of chocolate in his little hiding place behind the couch!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Influenza and Colds

I usually don't forward stuff on and I myself rarely read random forwards ("Don't DELETE!  Obama OUTLAWED Kissing on BUSES!).  This, however, is newsworthy and timely... and my insurance company copied it from WebMD and put it in a newsletter,  so, you know, I trust it... somewhat.

I know, I know, it's all common sense stuff, but it's a good reminder as we head into The Season...

So, get your tissues, wash your hands, and be germ-free.
Source: WebMD
With no known cure for colds and flu it is important to take steps toward prevention. Colds can weaken your immune system and allow other, more serious germs to take hold in your body. And if you've ever suffered through the flu, you definitely want to take steps to avoid it. While we can't promise you'll never get sick, we can share some proven strategies to increase your odds of staying well. So read on and live healthy this cold and flu season.

Keep Germs Away
Washing your hands frequently is the number one way to reduce illness. A study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center showed that recruits who were ordered to wash their hands five times a day cut their incidence of respiratory illnesses by 45 percent.

Focus on Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Flu season usually begins in October and can last through May. It's best to get vaccinated before flu season starts, however, it's beneficial anytime during the flu season. While the vaccine is safe for most adults, please check with your healthcare provider to determine if it is right for you.

Survival Tips
If you do end up getting sick there are ways you can minimize your symptoms and prevent the spread of infection. Sneeze or cough into a tissue and then dispose of it. Coughing into your hands makes it easier to pass the germs on. Also, ask your doctor about taking zinc lozenges and cook up a pot of hot chicken soup. Both may reduce the time you suffer from a cold. Don't pressure your physician for antibiotics. Colds and flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics, designed to kill bacteria, won't do a thing. In fact, they can kill off friendly bacteria that are part of our immune defenses. If you get the flu your physician might prescribe an antiviral drug, which is different from an antibiotic. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious complications.

What is the Difference Between Colds and Flu?
Because flu symptoms are quite similar to cold symptoms, it's often hard to tell the difference. However, there is one clue about flu that helps you identify it. When you have the flu, you feel flu-like symptoms sooner than you would cold symptoms, and they come on with much greater intensity. With the flu, you may feel very weak and fatigued for up to two or three weeks. You'll have muscle aches and periods of chills and sweats as fever comes and goes. You may also have a stuffy or runny nose, headache, and sore throat.

Comparing Flu and Cold Symptoms
The following chart compares flu symptoms with cold symptoms. Use it to learn the differences and similarities between these two illnesses. If you have flu symptoms, call your doctor and ask about an antiviral drug.

SUZI: Still Teaching

I had a wonderful father-in-law; I learned so many things from him.  He taught me a Bible study when I didn’t know anything about the Lord.  He helped me learn to pray.  I watched his commitment to his church.  He taught me about loving your community and looking outside of yourself.  I learned about painting, remodeling, refinishing, cooking and a list that would be too long to name.  I learned a lot about life from him.  But more importantly, I learned how to die from him.

It’s taken me a year to write this.  It’s taken my mind a long time to deal with the fact that my dad is gone and now my father-in-law is gone.  But I think my brain has processed enough of it to wrap my head around some of my thoughts.  Vernon was so calm and steady to the very end.  I have heard of people in their last moments who give a pulled-together public image but behind the scenes are freaking out and questioning God.  Not Vernon.  He was just simply, well,… Vernon.  Smooth and steady.

He didn’t really want to leave his grandchildren and family behind, but he was just so committed to the will of the Lord in his life, that the disappointment of that was easily overshadowed with trusting the Lord.  No kicking.  No screaming.  No shaking his fist at the sky.  Just Vernon reminding all of us that what He wants is best.  That He’s in control, and we just need to let Him be.  Our actions reveal who we really are and what we really believe.  It was Vernon’s actions, not his words, that were so powerful that last weekend.  They were the proof of his unwavering belief.  Of his steadfast life.  Of his powerful trust with one of the most precious passions he had…his life.

So, thank you, Vernon, for all of those life lessons.  I think the last lesson you left us summed it all up the best.  It was the one that spoke the loudest because it exemplified all that you believed for those short 64 years you were here.  Thank you for teaching us until the very end.  One of these days when it is our time, my wish is to leave this world with as much grace, dignity and trust as you did.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fall is Here!

On the way to Columbia tonight I was amazed at the colors that slowly appeared over the past week.

I love fall... much more than spring. Mainly, I think, because there's a chance for warmth in fall, but spring is always blustery and chilly.

It kids around with you, handing out sun in April and a brisk breeze that sends you scampering inside for an extra layer.

Spring: Faker.

Fall: Happy. Warmth.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

LA for the Weekend

So, we hopped a plane to LA for the weekend... like we were fancy or something... or because Suzi's cousin said, "Why don't you come out and stay with us?"

And so we did... and it was nice.  They live in an gentrifying area called Echo Park, which seems to be 20 minutes to just about everywhere in LA.  I think we Mid-westerners (and the rest of the world fed by satellite TV, for that matter) seem to think that LA is all red carpets and glamor and gang-bangers and Lindsey Lohah running into things all the time.

But it's not (well, not all the time)... it's quite like any other urban area where people are working very hard to scrape together a living.  Of course, some of them are producing products that millions of folks will line up to watch/ eat/ smell, but at the end of the day, it's a job.  And we all know what that means... a job is work.  And work is what you do when you're not at home with your family, on the back porch enjoying amazing weather.

Near the ocean.

Which is what separates SoCal from the landlocked bunch of us... ocean... nice breezes.  Mountains in the morning.  Surf in the afternoon.  And that's just what we did.

Well, we didn't surf.  We kinda stood near the edge of the waves and let Cooper get wet in the salty stuff for the first time.  Which he thought was pretty cool... and totally cold.

There was no way I was getting in that water.

We drove up to Mt. Wilson Observatory... and it became clear why the fires a few years ago would have been so devastating to this national scientific treasure.  Cooper got to plod around in high elevation and his parents kicked themselves for leaving the stroller in the car...

(Carrying an extra 30 lbs of tired li'l boy on a mountain trail = "Here you take him for a bit." )

It's always nice to hang out with locals when you go to a new city... they take you to their fave haunts and off-the-book eateries.  And let you scab off their internet and crash in their space.  It was a plus that Cooper was so unbelievably comfy... it was just quite a relaxing weekend.

All the pictures are over here...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Artifacts of Matrimony exhibit

One of the first things my boss suggested when I signed on was an alumni wedding exhibit.  It's taken a bit, but we pulled it together in a joint show called the Artifacts of Matrimony.  

It started last year when I approached the College's art gallery director about hosting an exhibit of alumni wedding dresses and accessories... a kind of "fashion through the decades" kind of thing.  She countered with a question on the educational content (seeing as we don't have a fashion degree) and we settled on putting a call out for a national artist to "wrap" the alumni show with a fine art exhibit.  The call went out for artistic proposals and we started polling alums for dresses.  

First, it's easy to find dresses... everyone knows someone who has a dress.  But they're not alumni of MACC!  I heard great stories about borrowing a godmother's dress or the dress that was donated to Goodwill, only to be found again with great joy and then lost.  Or the vacation trip spoiled by a call from home regarding flooded storage rooms.  By the time we started setting up last week, we had 14 brides who contributed dresses and accessories from 1944 to 2010.

The artistic selection was no less exciting... while we received a number of entries, nothing really clicked.  On the last day of submissions, an entry from an art professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania appeared.  It was perfect.  Her work is a colorful, bold, neo-expressionistic depiction of family and matrimonial experiences.  She drove down on a Wednesday, dropped off a gallery full of paintings, used the bathroom and headed back on the road to be home for faculty workshop on Friday.

The result is, honestly, fantastic. The creams and whites of the dresses contrast perfectly with the strong colors of the artist.  We enlarged the brides' wedding pictures and hung them behind each dress.  Our gallery is intimate with a soaring ceiling that allowed us to dramatically fly two of the dresses from the center space.   On Friday, we hosted an opening reception with wedding cake, a chocolate fountain and punch... all the culinary accoutrements of a wedding!  It was well attended. For my first exhibit, I couldn't be more proud.

Read the press release for more detail and see more pictures.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

SUZI: Cooper’s Imagination

We are loving watching Cooper’s vocabulary and language skills blossom right before our eyes.  We love having full-blown conversations with him!  After so long of him not being able to tell us with words what he wants and needs (and wouldn’t that be the most frustrating thing!), it is so nice when he can use words and tell us what he’s thinking.  

It’s amazing to us what he sees and remembers and what he finds important or funny.  Right now, Cooper loves a certain Leap Frog DVD called Numbers Ahoy.  It helps kids learn their numbers and one of the main characters is a pirate called Captain Pythagoras (right, like the theorem).  Cooper can say it, so he runs around in a really deep voice saying, “Pirate Pythagoras…arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrggggg!”  He’s singing songs and quoting parts of memory verses.  It seems he wakes up in the morning or after a nap and he knows more words.  Along with his vocabulary, his imagination is coming out more and more.

A few nights ago, the weather was just perfect for playing outside, so Cooper and I went out after dinner.  We ran and ran and ran all over our yard and suddenly Cooper handed me a long stick and picked one up for himself.  He turned to me and said, “Get the dragons!”  So this time we ran and ran and ran with frequent breaks to stop and whack dragons all over the yard.  Let me tell you, we got a lot of them.  I don’t think there are any more dragons hanging out in the back yard.  After a lot of whacking of dragons, our sticks suddenly turned to fishing poles, and we were catching some doozies.  We were comparing our catches for the day, and Cooper, of course, had the biggest fish.

It’s just amazing to me.

We’re getting ready to have lots of fun around here!

(The picture above is Cooper standing on top of his blocks box next to the bathroom light switch... which gives him great pleasure to flick off & on when you're inside!)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Selling Higher Ed

I have a very cool position at Moberly Area Community College.  As the Director of Institutional Development and Alumni Services (that's a mouthful when answering the phone), I play dual roles of evangelist and money guy.  The nice thing is that I'm pushing a great product... As open enrollment institutions, Community Colleges are the gateway to education for a swath of folks who might not otherwise take the plunge into higher ed.  And for those who are top-drawer smarties, but also budget conscience, you can't beat the value over a typical 4-year school.

It just so happens that I'm pretty close with the Director of Marketing at the College (said without a hint of irony).  A lot of what I do is marketing related so I spend a lot of time with Jaime and Chase, our amazing graphic designer.  Over a year ago, Jaime and Chase started working on the next marketing campaign for the College.  It's focus is alumni story-telling... examining their motivation to choose MACC, their experiences on campus and thereafter.  Since it's all about alums, I got swept into the mix.

One of the key components is the introduction of video to our campaign.  The College hasn't employed video as a marketing tool to this degree... hence the other reason I got in on this project.  I suppose you could say I've done a bit of shooting/editing in the past (heavy irony here).

The campaign is called Release.  As in "Release a Trusted Physician" or "Release The Great Outdoors."  It's our job as educators to help students release the doctor or park ranger or engineer locked away inside.  After several months of photo shoots, on location filming and lots of editing, we kicked off the campaign at the Fall Faculty workshops just before the semester started.

As an MACC staffer & alum, I couldn't be more proud of what we produced, both in our work and in the students that have gone on to become successful in their fields.  The College is creating great stuff every semester and it shows!

I've linked one of the videos below... Hop over to our profile page to check out the other bios and clips of our first set... enjoy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

It's over SIGG, I'm going Kleen...

Back in '04, Suzi & I were living in Prague.  I was window shopping at one of the ubiquitous outdoor sports stores in the city (Czechs love playing outside, camping, skiing, etc.) when I came across my next obsession: aluminum SIGG Bottles. The fact they were Swiss made them all the more desirable.  Over the years, I collected a variety of sizes & shapes, although usually always red or black.  And over the years, SIGG made changes.  They dealt, poorly, with the BPA issue and re-engineered the bottle's interior coating, going through a couple of iterations to get to the current version.  I stuck with SIGG through all of this. 

Suzi carried one of the original 10 oz, solid color bottles.  Then they quit making them for adults.  All you could get were Hello Kitty or Matchbox cars.   When her's starting tasting weird, we sent it back and received a new one... with a different coating... and then she went shopping for something new.

Enter Kleen Kanteen.   It had a wider mouth.  It was food grade stainless steel instead of aluminum, thus no coatings.  But it wasn't as sleek as the SIGG.  And it wasn't Swiss. I wasn't switching, I said... grumbling to myself every time Suz took it out of her purse.  Once I pick a brand, (cars, cameras, etc.) I stick with it.  And I want all products under my influence to match.

Then my latest (white) SIGG started shedding it's lining.  One day I washed Suzi's Kleen Kanteen and was shocked at how easy it was.  The wide mouth and stainless steel interior became very appealing.  The kicker was when I went looking for an insulated bottle this summer.  SIGG just didn't have one.

I looked at elegant bottles (like S'well, OMW... simply gorgeous bottles) but couldn't find anything with the wide mouth of the Kanteen.  Last week, after trying to scrub out my 64oz SIGG, I quit.  I ordered three Kanteens to start over.  Two insulated and one non-insulated... plus a sweet bamboo/stainless cap for Suz.

The first week, I'm loving it.  Kanteen's running a sale that gets you a cafe lid & loop lid together.  My black insulated bottle works like a charm... no condensation, still cold hours later, the whole nine yards.

So, that's consumerism for ya'... SIGG brought me into the reusable bottle camp and then didn't meet my needs.  So, I went shopping...

Fickle, perhaps, but I'm a happy boy again!

EDIT: As I was writing this, I googled insulated bottles and came up with Hydroflask.  They also have a wider mouth and then have food flasks to boot... very cool.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We Eat Skeet 'round These Parts

I've been the beneficiary of a couple of firearms over the past few years... mostly older stuff to be sure.  I've spent some time on the range, but I've not taken much time for the scatter gun side of things.  Lucky for me, my Pastor hooked me into a skeet-shootin' gun club romp last Saturday outside of Booneville. 

Might I say, it was the best time I've had in the woods in a very long while.

River Hills Sporting Clays is a short hike west of Columbia and features a wide variety of... 

Well,  I don't know... gun stuff.

I don't know a smidgen about the sport, short of what I watched on YouTube the night before.  Go to the their site and plod around a bit... that's where we went.  Basically, I was told to buy a box of shells, get my guns and go.

And I did.

My take away is that skeet shooting is a lot like golf.  You've got a cart, a course and a number of clays to hit at each shooting site.  And a firearm. What's not to like?

There were seven of us... I brought Jan's Remington 1100 20 gauge from the early 70s and my grandfather's Sears & Roebuck break-action, single shot, also a 20 ga.  Both kicked ridiculously for their size and I was left clutching my shoulder and scanning Midway's site for recoil pads at the end of the day.  It was a great day of gun smoke and Buckingham's BBQ with a chaser of Black Rifle to see what CMMG had to offer.

I'll be back at the traps soon, I'd reckon...

Oh, and the title goes to a story one of our party told about a newbie who, when told she was about to go shoot skeet, asked whether they were any good.  An elderly gentleman replied with a straight face,

"Sure, we eat skeet 'round these parts."

Monday, August 13, 2012

American Medalists Pay Taxes on THEIR MEDAL!

Someone approached me about this issue tonight and I scoffed... 

"Surely not in America," I thought.  

Land of the Free and and the Red, White, & Blue... ticker tape parades and the eternal right to sue.

Et cetera, Et cetera.

So, I went searching and sure enough, they are.  According to an article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, a gold medal is worth about $675, a silver clocks in at $382 and a bronze medal (due to the fact it's, well, mostly copper) runs about $5.  Then there's the $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000 honorarium awarded by the U.S. Olympic Committee for the three top slots.  All of that is taxed when April comes around.

Basically, according to the Washington Post, win the Olympics and you fall into the same pot as someone who rocks Jeopardy and takes home the cash.  Both get taxed the same way.

Now, to be fair, the WP is quoting the Americans for Tax Reform blog that is proudly a bit right of center when it comes to supporting gov't taxation.  And the folks who call foul on the ATR and Sen. Marco Rubio's upcoming legislation to nix the tax, make a good point... If we let Olympic athletes off the hook for taxes, then we have to let all "winners" off the hook.  That means whoever won the top prize for PowerBall could claim tax exemption.  I can understand the "where does it stop?" point of view.

But, I still can't believe taxing the MEDAL.  It's the Olympics for cryin' out loud.

Now, if the Ladies Water Polo team get all kinds of payola from some capitalist hawking swimwear or water-proof toenail polish, then, sure, they should pay taxes.  That's the way it works.  In fact, most of these athletes should have a decent tax adviser that's going to clear off any workout/travel expenses for them, so they wouldn't pay anything anyway...

But don't tax the Olympic medal.  That's absurd.

"Make us proud out there, son..."

"Oh, yes sir! I want to do my best so I can help balance the National budget.  One medal at a time, sir!"

"That's right, just like a good American!  You'll get our country of the red in no time!"

Sunday, August 12, 2012

SUZI: A Flour Connection

My dad used to make his own bread.  He would make two loaves every week that would last them until he made the next batch.  He experimented with several different kinds and had a variety of flours in his stash.  My mom recently passed along some half-used bags of various flours that had been a part of his weekly ritual.  There was some whole grain rye that I wanted to work in to my normal recipe, but I have to admit that it took me a while to actually open the bag.  It sat in my pantry for several weeks, but one day I decided it was time to start using it.

I opened the bag, and with measuring cup in hand, I plunged into the rye flour.  As I did, my fingers felt the course texture of the flour, and I realized I was touching the very flour that my dad’s hand had touched almost three years before.  It suddenly felt as if I had put my hand right into my dad’s.  I stood frozen at that counter with my hand half covered with flour, not able to move from my spot.  And, I couldn’t see anything through the tears streaming from my eyes.

Almost three years later, I still think about him every day.  Some days it is still hard for me to comprehend that my dad is gone.  My heart aches that Cooper won’t know him and that he never even got a glimpse of our sweet little boy.

These are the gut-wrenching difficult things of life.  The things that nothing but the sweet presence of the Lord can make better.  It just stinks, people.  It just stinks.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Leftovers Are Not Your Future

Tonight I made some fries for dinner.  It was spur of the moment to go with some fridge cleaning we were doing for supper.  For the record, I also had a grilled cheese sandwich with chicken & smoked Gouda on Suzi's homemade bread.

Quite Delicious.

So, here's my story... You know those fries at the bottom of the box... the ones that are dinky and overly crunchy?  That's what was left on my plate at the end of the meal.  I was absentmindedly reaching for one when I realized there were more, fatter, satisfying fries still in the kitchen... warm and waiting for me to finish them off.

I didn't need to settle for the piddly stuff.  The good stuff was waiting for me to stand up and get it.

Now, it's not often you hear someone wax philosophical about french fries, but I've hooked you so far...  so here goes:

How many times do you settle for the junk at the bottom when you could have had the best... or at least much better?

Did you think you didn't deserve it?  Or worse, were too tired or apathetic to make the effort to reach a little farther?  I don't have to settle for the edges of life.  You don't either.  You can live in the richness of it.  Whether that means cheering from the stands or lunging victoriously across the field depends on your preferred position... but no matter where you are, don't be satisfied with the dregs of the experience.

Suzi's the coffee drinker in our Pack of 3.  She's got Cooper convinced the black stuff is tasty so she can have a drinking buddy.  She'd drink the hard stuff when we were overseas.  The kind with the grounds in the bottom of the cup.  You couldn't swig that stuff down or you'd end up with a mouthful of gunk.  If you wanted more, you'd have to waggle the cup and your host would fill it back up.

Whether you're on a spiritual journey or dealing with the harsh light of physical reality, this week you should drink deeply and then stop. And ask for another cup... don't think for a moment that the grounds are the end of your road.  There's better out there... and more of it to keep you satisfied.

Who knew French fries could be... soul satisfying.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

SUZI: Hockey Teeth

I’m not really into sports.  I have a faint idea when certain sports start during the year.  I can name off a few teams.  Individual players?  Not so much.  I like going to live sporting events, but I pretty much go for the snacks and the company.  I cheer when everyone else is cheering, but I’m not always sure why.  I have a couple exceptions to my non-sporty self.  I used to play tennis in high school, and I do  enjoy watching tennis matches.  I also really like hockey. 

I really like live hockey. 

A lot.

When I was growing up, my dad regularly watched hockey games and we even got to go to several Blues games, which was just a really cool experience as a kid.  I knew a lot of the teams and players and I understood most of the rules.  Rules like the fact that you can fight and keep fighting until you fall down.  Because let’s face it, what’s a good hockey game without some really good fights. 


(And, yes, I realize that I am a very non-violent person and I hate fighting and think that trying to solve anything by pummeling someone isn’t going to accomplish much, except somehow hockey and fights just seem to go together in my book.  Maybe I blindly think no one is actually getting hurt with all the padding in the uniform...) 

But between the flying pucks, waving hockey sticks and punches, a lot of hockey players are missing a few teeth.  I’m not so crazy about that part.

I never realized that my now two year-old son would start his hockey career so early.  When we were in Prague at the beginning of 2011, Cooper loved to look into our really tall bathtub and watch the water.  He bumped his mouth and just slightly chipped one of his teeth.  It wasn’t a huge thing, but I decided to have it checked out when we returned.  So, at the ripe old age of one, Cooper had his first dentist visit. 

Fast forward a few months…

Cooper is standing on a work platform in the kitchen (remember that there was constant construction going on in our house and Cooper had stood on this platform a hundred times with no problem).  Except that morning, he slipped and whacked his mouth on the counter. 

And cracked his front tooth in half. 

There was blood.  There was crying.  There were some parents with shaky hands and a Saturday call to the dentist.  No exposed nerves.  No apparent major damage.  There’s some sort of putty they can use to fill in the space, but there’s nothing we can do at this point until he can sit with his mouth open for 2 minutes straight.  That’s not happening anytime soon.

Fast forward a few more months…

Cooper, running like a maniac, tries to take a turn at full speed, but doesn’t quite make it and falls, head first, into our night stand.  More slightly chipped teeth. And a ripped frenulum labii superioris... yes, that little piece of skin that attaches your upper lip to your upper gum.  Feeling a little squirmy right now?  Imagine how much blood that entailed.  More parents with shaky hands. More dentist visits.  (This time with relief after the Dentist reports it was probably for the best since Cooper's little skin thingy was too long and would have needed fixing anyway!)

All told, we think he has five (maybe six) chipped or broken teeth! Cooper is amazingly steady on his feet, so it is unbelievable that he has done this multiple times.

Since he is so set on starting his hockey career this early, I’m seeing a mouth guard in his future!