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Archive for December, 2008

The Poem

I write. It’s a requisite in my career – but poetry writing, notsomuch.  I penned a Haiku back in 2005. That’s been the extent of my poetic efforts until recently. And the problem with suddenly sitting down and writing a poem – even a free-verse kinda poem – is that no matter how attentive you are to your writing, you have no idea if your resulting effort is garbage or glorious or somewhere in between.  What you do know, though, is that it’s yours and it very likely has meaning to one person on the planet. A for-one-person poem may be the most important kind of all. So, let’s hope I won’t wait another four years to wax poetic.

The Party

What’s the right recipe for a great holiday gathering? Friends (new and old) and food.  At least in the Midwest, food is the focal point of all memorable events – including Christmas holiday parties. While an abundance of people and free-flowing alcohol-based beverages can help a party along, we all need sustenance. Give me a shout out if I’m right, people. Chicken is cheap. Meatballs are perfect on the end of toothpicks. Even tofurkey kabobs can be festive and simple – and your guests will depart filled with more than just holiday spirit.

Paint

Tom at Hirshfield’s had all the right answers on Saturday. Unfortunately, he didn’t quite dial in the mix on the Carrington Beige color (the very one used at the infamous Fallon mansion) just right. A small gaffe. We recovered and the remainder of the weekend spent with spackle, brush and roller cruised along uneventfully (are we done yet?).  By the way, Hirshfield’s is a Minnesota-based company that still makes its paints locally.

Patience

I’ve written on patience previously on the blog. It’s a re-occuring thought, though, so here’s some added color on the subject.

As we age, adults tend to draw on more and more patience from within. It’s a maturity thing, I’m convinced. While the oldster driving 20 in a 35-mile-per-hour speed zone used to cause you to curse and lay on the horn, today it creates a slight smile for you know that one day you’ll be old and happy to drive s-l-0-w-l-y to get to the grocery store.  Everything is slower in old age as people operate in the mode of “the slower I go the further I prolong life and postpone death.”  Consider, especially during the last 10 days before Christmas, slowing down, drawing from all your patience and making someone else’s day matter more than your own.

Peace

There’s a phrase during Catholic mass churchgoers use to greet each other: Peace be with you. Maybe it’s used in other churches, too.  Since leaving the church three years ago, I’ve not spoken those words. And yet, suddenly, that very simple statement bounced into my head.  In all the flurry of news depicting muggings of innocent people who are going about their nomal lives, and shoes thrown at Presidents who visit foreign countries that U.S. troops are trying to liberate, and political scandals that inflict pain on an entire state, perhaps now more than ever it’s time to dust off the old “peace” phrase and say it with frequency. What harm could it do? Moreover, what good might it bring others if said at just the right moment – a moment when the mere concept of peace is the last thread of sanity left to hold on to in a world nearly void of any real meaning?

Peace be with you all.

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To Sawyer

You gave us a lot of smiles, Lickey. You will be missed.

sawyer3

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The good governor of Illinois found himself arrested on Tuesday, charged with corruption. His effort to support the working class apparently side tracked by power and money. As his swagger grew, he challenged authorities to investigate him. He challenged the Chicago Tribune’s investigative staff to find wrong doing in his administration. Find it they did.

Does it surprise any of us that corruption exists in politics in Illinois – in Chicago, where during 1930s every man in elected office was bought and paid for by the mob? We shouldn’t be surprised, but yesterday’s news doesn’t help us feel better for thinking politics as usual was a thing of the past.

Politics is politics and politicians will…well, they will not always do what’s necessarily in the best interest of the people. They only will choose to walk the thin gray line when it’s convenient for them to do so. Fortunately, when they veer into the weeds of corruption, they are caught, arrested and skewered publicly – more so than ever before.  The working class that is America likes nothing more than to see a powerful, money-grubber brought to his or her knees.

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To Good Health

We fail to appreciate good physical health until it’s no longer our shadow.  Or, until we quit a habit like smoking and discover what a deep and true breath of fresh Minnesota air really tastes like. And yeah, it’s unbelievably fresh, with a hint of pine.

For the past several days, my take-it-for-granted good health found itself forced to the back burner of the stove top.  Somewhere, somehow, I picked up a cold germ. Then, promptly, stuck a finger in my eye or nose or mouth and made sure the blackened biohazard of a germ entered my bloodstream. The result: A standard head cold complete with stuffed sinuses one moment, followed by a water-spigot flow of nasal drainage, proceeded by deep chest coughing fits.  Repeat several times daily.

So with an octave-lower voice often filled with scratch and gravel, I do what others do when colds inflict their systems. Sleep. Dose on vitamin C. Drink fluids. Ingest soups for momentary clearings of the sinuses. And Advil. Blessed Advil. In a few days  I’ll be fine. In the meantime, Kleenex and a red nose are my life. By that description, I define a man only a mother could love.

Funny thing about head colds – they weaken both the body and the mind. My work day starts strong, but by 2 p.m. I’m mentally done and barely recall what I accomplished earlier in the day.  My idle time fills with pessimistic thoughts about the economy, my own skills, about relationships. Vivid Sudafed-induced dreams cause me to talk in my sleep. I know this because when a dream’s ending startles me awake, the cat is staring at me quizzically.

In sickness and in health we only get one body to carry us through to the end. And while it may be “just a cold,” a temporary inconvenience to blur a week of life, it’s a powerful reminder to be cognizant of the good days we receive and not take any of them for granted.

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It’s painful to watch. And sadly, if you drive, you’ve likely found yourself in a similar sitch. The video reminds us, when we’re behind the wheel of a two-ton automobile and freezing rain or snow come between the car and the road, we have no control.

Here in Minneapolis, the first real snow of the season brings out the crazy in residents. The Twin Cities received its first stay-for-the-season kind of snow fall on Friday. Three people died in weather-related car accidents that very evening after only an inch or so of snow covered the roads.

But as cooler temps worked their magic chilling the ground since mid-November, the snow no longer melts on contact. The tires pack it down, make it slippery and leave us all to our own creation…and demise, sadly.

It’s now Sunday morning and snowing again. Driving in snowy conditions requires expertise and attention.  Weather.com offers some suggestions for safe driving when it snows. Here are a few driving tips as a refresher:

  • Put away distractions. Cell phones, books, Big Macs and Big Gulps should not occupy your attention when driving in poor weather conditions.
  • Slow down. You’re driving a ton or two of metal making you the detonator of a gas-powered missile.
  • Triple the usual distance between you and the car in front of you. It could be driven by a 16-year-old numb skull with no winter weather driving expertise.
  • Don’t park along the street (note video above).
  • If the car you’re driving skids, steer into the skid. If the back of your car is skidding to the left, for example, turn the steering wheel to the left.
  • Apply brakes lightly when stopping. Don’t pump the brake and avoid pressing them until the wheels lock up.
  • Keep the headlights on, keep snow and ice off side view mirrors and refill windshield wiper fluid frequently.
  • Wear the seat belt.
  • Keep tires inflated to the recommended level.
  • Check tires for wear and tear. Replace tires before the snowy season, if needed.
  • Don’t assume the vehicle can handle any road conditions. A 4X4 on ice or hard-packed snow has no better traction than a tricycle.

Of course, the best advice of all: If you don’t have to drive…don’t. Why give the Grim Reaper your address and phone number?

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Seven Imitable Skills

In all my glorious insomnia-filled thinking, I’ve IDed a passel of skills needed in order to co-exist in the world of relationships. Some more important than others, clearly, but the following appear relevant and necessary if one hopes to find and maintain a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

  1. Confidence. (I repeat, confidence, not cockiness. Big difference.) It doesn’t have to ooze from every pore, but if you lack confidence you will find yourself keeping the bartender company. Women smell its antithesis from across the room – maybe from across the street.
  2. Smarts. Sports trivia and alcohol percentages of various beverages may roll off your tongue, but they’re just one leg of the three-legged stool of intelligence. To survive on the planet as a couple, not a single, make a legit attempt to read the headlines (at least) in Sections A, B, C, and E of the New York Times.
  3. Self-deprecation. Look it up in Webster’s. Find the ability from within to poke fun at yourself and laugh at your gaffes (because you will have your share). If the serious mask never comes off, you’ll sink like a brick of Velveeta on Late Night’s “Will It Float?”.
  4. Grooming. Toenails yellow? Elbows sloughing skin? Does your blackened front tooth, loosened during a pickup ball game last spring, remain your badge of honor? Fix yourself up, man! Try deoderant then work yourself toward, say, flossing. Seriously, groom EVERYWHERE, not just the obvious…ahem…locations.
  5. Rhythm. This might be a tough one for some. But take note, if you’re dating you will be required to dance at least once. It won’t be optional. Learn to keep to the beat. Do NOT feign a torn ACL mid-way through an R. Kelly song.
  6. Conversant. You can’t risk that the girl you’re with will be the talker. There will be times when you’re required to start and carry the conversation – or at least articulate your thoughts and insights. (Helpful Hint: Keep three or four timely “talking points” in your head to fall back on if the convo lulls awkwardly.)
  7. Aware. If your world centers squarely on you all the time, you may have stumbled on the root cause of all your short-term relationships. Take off the “me” blinders and pay attention to the words coming from her lips. Then graduate to discovering, through osmosis and the telepathy, the things she never says but really means.

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