They were my kinfolk, my people - many of whom I'm still friends with today, though we've scattered across the country, spilling out in different directions as fast as we could once we'd tossed our graduation caps in the air.

Aimee Nezhukumatathail - World of Wonders

For quote archives click here

It's In the Past

Three Dave's No Waiting

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Taking 2020 from 1677 and Staying Positive.

 Penultimate is one of my favorite words.  It means second to last.  I use the word so often it drives my family a little crazy.  So, when I woke up this morning on the day before New Years Eve, 2020, penultimate popped into my head pretty quickly.

I turned to the Merriam Webster website for the last word on penultimate. It seems the word was first used in  print all the way back in 1677.  Thanks to the time traveler feature at the MW site, I discovered many words that came into print in 1677 still had special significance in 2020.  To illustrate I will jot a few words about 2020 as it draws nigh and embolden  the words from 1677. I have also put links on each word to their definition as some of these 1677 words were new to me. 

I always like to be veracious so as I look back at the year 2020  I must say that after some introspection I am somewhat glad that this is the penultimate day of a year that was  as oppressive as it was implausible; as riveting as it was slatternly

I don't like to sound huffy, but it upset me when  I found out this March that both my jobs were inessential. I would turn on the television to watch the splutter of unsustainable overpromise. Never-mind the tug-of-war between the ballot box and the electoral college that tried to make  the courtroom function as a middleman

I'm sure that years from now when we unpack a yearbook from a duffel ,2020 will still be considered a difficult year; with some exertion and by being intentional we were able to configure a new normal. I'm sorry I hope you didn't doze off while I went on like someone giving a keynote at a quarterly meeting.



Monday, December 7, 2020

A Lesson From the Box Score

The Year In Sports

Twenty         20

Covid           19

The coach of Twenty was quoted at the press conference.  

"Covid put up quite a fight, but we knew if we worked together as a team we would persevere and prevail in the end."  

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Muzak Lessons: Sometimes You're The Windshield

Muzak Lessons; Sometimes You're the Windshield

The premise of this feature is to take music I overhear on the PA system at my grocery store and  try to dispense some wisdom from it.   At my grocery store they tend to play the same songs over and over on a regular basis.  Some songs are on a heavier rotation than other songs.  There are 2 songs that get played twice seemingly every 8 hours shift.  There are other songs like this one that has a lighter rotation.  I hear it about once every week.  

The Bug - Mary Chapin Carpenter 1992

Now before I try to teach some life lessons from this song, I need to set a couple facts straight.

 1) I am not the first blogger to mention this song and wax poetic about it. Patricia J Finley had this to say about the song back in 2015.

2) While the Mary Chapin Carpenter version is the version they play at my grocery store , and the only version I had heard before starting to work on this article (in fact I didn't hear this song at all until I started working at the grocery store this Spring), her version is just a cover.  The song was written by Mark Knopfler and was originally released by Dire Straits.  You can find the lyric in their entirety here.

The Bug - Dire Straits 1991

I like both versions of the song.  The lyrics are a little easier to understand in the Chapin version. Although I think I do prefer the Dire Straits version a little better. 

The key lyrics to either version are found in the chorus ...

Sometimes you're the windshield
Sometimes you're the bug
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're a fool in love
Sometimes you're the louisville slugger
Sometimes you're the ball
Sometimes it all comes together baby
Sometimes you're going to lose it all

2020 has seemed more like a bug and ball year than a windshield or Louisville Slugger year .  But the truth as usual  is a little more simple and a little more complex than the lyrics of a song. It's true, life has it's mountains and it's valleys.  It's victories and it's defeats.  

Life sometimes seem like a flip of a coin determines the outcome.  I believe that God is in control of this universe.  God brings us out of difficulties that were beyond our  control and also delivers us from the folly that we authored ourselves.  

In Psalm 40 David  wrote a song of deliverance.  He did not know what a windshield or a Louisville Slugger but he certainly had his troubles (like ours many were self inflicted).  To end this post I am sharing Psalm 40 and put highlighted some of the verses that spoke to me.  

40 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.[a]
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance[b]
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!

12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.

You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Keith for 50

Today is my brother Keith's birthday.  He would have turned 50 today. He died in April of 2009 at the age of 38.  Over the years I have written a lot about his life  and death many of those posts can be found by clicking here.

Over the years I have also written about a musician friend of mine Allen Levi.  He also lost a brother and chronicled their story in an excellent memoir called The Last Sweet Mile. I mislaid my copy a few years ago when we moved into our current house.  It is probably in a box in the basement some where.

I found 2 posts I wrote about Keith that I wanted to share.  One was written on 11/11/11 which was a birthday he has been looking forward to as it resonated firmly in his mathematical mind. The other was written a year earlier than that when he would have turned 40.  I will reprint it here as it is also features the aforementioned Allen Levi.

Big 40 minus the birthday boy

My brother Keith would have turned 40 today. He died 18 months ago so he never quite made the milestone. When My Mom turned 40, my Dad put a banner across our garage that read "Jeanne's 40 today. But don't tell anyone!". We lived across from the local library at the time and man people people became aware of the event. When I turned 40, Amy had a surprise party for me and had one of my favorite musicians, Allen Levi, fly in from Alabama and sing at my party. He performed the following song among others...

 When Amy turned 40, relatives teamed with me so I could give her 40 rolls of quarters. (Amy loves quarters) Keith died 18 months ago, so he never quite made the milestone. Keith was born on Veteran's day and loved that his birthday was celebrated by many people even though they might not be aware they were doing so. Today as you reflect on the men and women who served our country in the military. Reflect also on the men and women boys and girls who left the party before we had a chance to throw them one.

Meanwhile back in 2020

On occasions like this I really want to say something profound about Keith.  Instead I'll just say this...

There really has never been anyone exactly like him.  .  I find it fitting that Keith's 50th birthday falls on the heels of the death of Alex Trebek.  He loved Jeopardy and even auditioned for the show, easily making it to the 2nd part of the process.   Keith excelled in trivia but there wasn't anything trivial about him. Keith was Bi-polar but his mental illness did not define him.  What defined Keith was a world class mind, a kind and gentle spirit, a quirky and quick sense of humor, a simple but abundant faith, and a love for his family and friends.  

Keith visited me when I was living in Russia, teaching English as a Second Language and working as a Baptist Missionary.  One day Keith and I were on a bus on the way to visit a family I knew.  Keith heard someone speaking Spanish and started talking to them in Spanish.  I didn't realize how much Spanish Keith knew.  He studied it  a little in High School but picked it up mostly working at McDonalds.  The Person Keith was speaking to was a  Brazilian missionary who had only been in the Russia  for about 2 weeks.  He spoke very little Russian no English,  ,some Spanish but mostly Portuguese.   Keith invites him to visit this family with us. We get to the families house they have never met Keith or this guy before. The family consisted of a high school girl that I was tutoring in English, her college aged sister and their mother. Their English ranged between somewhat fluent and none at all. This family loved foreigners and were really interested in getting to know Keith and this Brazilian betters.   The guy from Brazil  would speak in Spanish, Keith would translate it into English and I would try to  translate it into Russian.  Then we would reverse the process.  Keith would get off on these crazy tangents and try to explain an idiom or a pun  and I would have no way to translate it with my limited Russian.  

Everybody had a wonderful time.  When I would see that family or that missionary after that they always commented on how much they enjoyed that evening. This is not surprising.  Keith made life an adventure. When I hear Spanish, I sometimes remember the day Keith turned a bus ride into a party.  He may have left the party early but he certainly made a lasting impression. 

Friday, August 28, 2020

Breakfast Serials Chariots of Fire Intro and Day 1

 Breakfast Serials

Chariots of Fire 


Film: Chariots of Fire 1981

... based on the true story of two athletes in the 1924 OlympicsEric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.


Clicking on characters in bold yields their Wikipedia page. (names not in bold or either fictional characters, amalgams, or historical characters without a Wikipedia page) I have included the Wikipedia pages for historic information. There are also sections in those pages that clarify the true biography from the depiction in Chariots of Fire.  One example of this is the character Sybil Gordon. Sybil Gordon was an opera singer of that time and the film portrays Gordon as being the fiance of Harold Abrahams. However, Abrahams was never engaged to Sybil Gordon. He was engaged and then married another opera singing Sybil, Sybil Evers; they did not meet until 10 years after the 1924 Olympics. Talk about a Sybil dispute. 

 Clicking on actor/actress yields their IMDB page.  In the 40 years since Chariots of Fire came out, several of these actors have passed away, which makes sense. Two of these actors have died this Summer,  I have asterisked the 2 who passed this summer and placed links to their obituaries at the end of the cast list.

Character                           (Actor) 
Eric Liddell                      (Ian Charleson)
Harold Abrahams           (Ben Cross*)
Sam Mussabini                (Ian Holm*)
Lord Andrew Lindsay       (Nigel Havers)
Sybil Gordon                   (Alice Krige)
Jennie Liddell                   (Cheryl Campbell)
Master of Trinity              (John Gielgud)
Sandy McGrath                (Struan Rodger)
Charles Paddock             (Dennis Christopher)      
Jackson Scholz                (Brad Davis)

Nominated for 7 Academy Awards and 10 British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA)

Won 4 Oscars (Best Picture, Best Screen Play, Best Costume Design, & Best Original Score)  & 3 BAFTAs (Best Film, Best Editing and Best Costume Design)

Day 1 

Note : I had to choose how  I wanted to chronicle these  15-minute segments.  There is the wiki approach: a blow by blow  scene by scene reenactment.  I could do that, probably without even watching the film again. I've seen it that many times.  There is what I call the Making of the Making of Titanic* approach.  This is where  I dredge up every anecdote I can find about the characters , the historical authenticity of the film, information about the actors, even the birth weight of anyone who ever watched the movie. Instead, I offer the HSD approach.  I try to give information that whets your appetite for watching or re-watching the film,  I make some, what I hope to be, humorous side comments while not spoiling the movie or majoring in minutia. 
* A reference to a Mad About You Episode. Ellen DeGeneres appeared in that episode as a caterer. When Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser appeared on Ellen's show to promote the reboot of Mad About You, Ellen stated she had forgotten all about being on the show.  Perhaps that was Helen who had forgotten that Ellen had been on the show. Either way, this entry is certainly an example of the making of the making of Titanic approach. 

Segment 1 is approximately 1sixteen minute and 40 seconds  as the ending scene dissolves into the beginning  scene of segment 2 mid narration.

The movie begins at a funeral in 1978. Lord Andrew Lindsay, a composite character, portrayed expertly by Nigel Havers is giving the eulogy and says:

Let us praise famous men and our fathers that begat us. All these men were honoured in their generations and were a glory in their days. We are here today to give thanks for the life of Harold Abrahams. To honour the legend. Now there are just two of us - young Aubrey Montague and myself - who can close our eyes and remember those few young men with hope in our hearts and wings on our heels.

During this speech, we can see into the audience at the funeral and see that "young" Avery Montague is now ancient, as is Lord Lindsay himself.  We are then transported back in time to (June 1924)  and place as we watch one of the most visually, emotionally and musically brilliant opening credit scenes I have ever experienced. Our eyes see the British Olympic track team running on a beach. Their white shirts in stark contrast to the overcast, gloomy yet somehow inspirational panorama. Our ears hear the Academy Awarding winning Vangelis main title theme for the first time.  In order our attention is focussed on  on 4 runners: A young Avery Montague, who looks earnest, dedicated and still somewhat puzzled.  This first impression informs the character of the part-time narrator to a tee. After Montague we get out first glimpse at young Lord Lindsay.  His few seconds of screen time reveal his character accurately as well,  a vibrancy, zeal and seemingly limitless passion for life. The last 2 runners are the stars of this drama,  Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.  

The scene ends and we watch and  listen as Avery Montague composes a letter to his mother a week before e the 1924 Summer Olympic Games.  He writes and  we are transformed back in time once again to 1919 Cambridge, where he is meeting Harold Abrahams for the first time at a railway station as they make their way to campus.  

If this was the kind of post where I mentioned historical inaccuracies, I would mention now that Montague, while on the 1924 Olympic team with Abrahams, did not attend Cambridge with Abrahams. In fact, he did not attend Cambridge at all.  So, several scenes in this movie featuring Abrahams and Montague together did not occur, or at least did not occur with Montague.  Aren't you glad that this isn't that kind of post? 

As Avery and Harold make their way to campus, we learn that they both run, Avery hate's losing and Harold's never lost. Next is   a  scene that reinforces a line in Montague's letter to his mother.

 "Mind you, Harold has hardly changed at all, as intense as ever. Now as then having a go at anyone who gets in his way." 

The first person who gets in his way is the head porter at his lodgings at Cambridge.  Abrahams endures the porters impertinent and condescending manner, but once Harold signed in he rattles off this gem of a line.  

"I ceased being called laddie when I took up the King's commission. Is that clear?". 

As the Porter regains his footing and signs in Montague, we get our first glimpseof the anti-semitism that Harold combats through his running.  The porter says thatwith a name like Abrahams we can be sure he won't be in the church choir.

We then see the vestiges of campus life at the beginning of a new term. A Freshman dinner  a new student fair , a variety of extra curricular acrivities like Gilbert and Sullivan societies (The music of Gilbert and Sullivan acts as a 2nd soundtrack for the Cambridge part of the film), and an old campus tradition, the college dash.  

Instead of chronicling the dash scene, I will say it is one of the first of many exquisitely choreographed and filmed running sequences.   There is a dancelike quality to the running scenes.  

It is important to note that the dash sequence introduces us to 3 important characters.  First there is the 1919 incarnation of Lord Lindsay. He  runs  in the dash along with Abrahams. The sequence also introduces us  to two stodgy college officials who serve as the  Statler and Waldorf (the two old hecklers from the Muppets) chorus of the film.  These characters  demonstrate the systematic anti-Semitism of the era. As the race ends we are transformed from academic England to the Highlands of Scotland where we will begin the next installment of Breakfast Serials.  

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Breakfast Serials - Morning Movies 15 minutes at a time

I'm pretty busy these days. Working hard, spending time with family, doing lots of reading,. blogging, and a little bit of everything else. A number of years ago before I was married. I got into the habit of watching about 15 minutes of a movie each day on videocassette and would finish it up in 6 to 10 days. I still do that sometimes on streaming services. I decided to do this with one of my favorite movies and then write a blog post about each segment. Alas, the posts will take longer to write than the segments will take to watch. I am going to watch Chariots of Fire and will be back next time with part I.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Starting a good book

 I have read some exceptional books during my summer reading program thus far.    I will say this; many of the books I've enjoyed most this summer have been great from the first chapter, sometimes the first page and even the first sentence.  I am only about 10 pages into a new book and I am convinced it will be a wonderful experience.  The book is Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  Let me tell you why after only 10 pages I think it will be very good.

The first few reasons I had even before I started reading. One is I am familiar with the author's work.  I just finished listening to Anne of Green Gables, which I enjoyed immensely.  I have seen many t.v. and film versions of the Anne books and saw the musical version in Prince Edward Island a few years back.  

This leads me to another reason I think I will enjoy Emily of New Moon because I've been to Prince Edward Island where the story takes place.  I found that I have enjoyed the works of LM Montgomery more since my trip to PEI because it is easier for me to picture life on this island because of my experiences there.  

The third reason I thought I'd enjoy this book before I read it, is the reason I ordered the book from my library in the first place. I had read that Lucy Maud Montgomery had based Emily on her own experiences of growing up in Prince Edward Island.  I like fictional books based on authors' actual experiences.

I like how the cover of New Moon is evocative of Green Gables but seems to be setting a different tone for the book.

The first few pages of this book also have given me reasons to think I have happened upon a real masterpiece.  The first sentence drew me in and I related to it immediately. The chapter is entitled the House in the Hollow and begins  ...

The house in the hollow was "a mile from anywhere"- so Maywood people said.  

I really liked  this turn of  phrase; a mile from anywhere. It reminded me of how I used to say that I have lived in several Chicago suburbs that few had ever heard of but they were familiar with our neighbors.  I grew up in Elk Grove Village, and people were more familiar with Des Plaines, Arlington Heights and Schaumburg.  After I married Amy we lived in an apartment in Hickory Hills where I regularly had to tell people we were next to Oak Lawn and Bridgeview.  Our first house was in Carpentersville where Algonquin, East and West Dundee, and Elgin are better known outside of the area.  Now that we have moved to Elgin, I no longer need to give sister cities. So, from the first sentence I connected my experience to that of the novel.

I am a big fan of symmetry and also enjoy foreshadowing when it isn't obtrusive. In the 4th paragraph of the book Montgomery starts one and nails the other quite elegantly: "She remembered that walk very vividly all her life ... - more likely because of what happened after she came back from it." The symmetry comes into completion with a big reveal that's blurted out quite unexpectedly in the final sentence of the chapter. 

One of the things I liked instantly about the titular character of Anne of Green Gables is how she names things. For example calling people who understand her fully, kindred spirits, and changing the names of place names to better place names (ex. the Lake of Shining Waters). Emily does the same thing immediately with something called "the flash." I also like the pacing of the story, "the flash" is alluded to 3 times in the first page and not explained until page 7 but feels just right when it is explained.  In my own writing, I often struggle with the desire to "explain" things too quickly.  

Another enjoyable aspect of the first ten pages (about a chapter and a third) is that the second chapter takes place immediately after the first ends.  In fact chapter one stops with the reveal I mentioned, and chapter 2 begins in the same conversation. That may seem like an abrupt break chronologically, but ending the chapter on the reveal is an excellent choice.

I love quotations. I even have a space on the header of this blog for quotations I really enjoy.  If you are reading this on the computer version of this blog, you can look up and see the following quote (although you don't have to, as it follows the elipses) ... Aunt Nancy had once said to her 'The first time your husband calls you "Mother" the romance of life is over'.

I love this quote for multiple reasons: a) it's an excellent quote.  b) the quote itself is the narrator quoting Emily's father quoting Emily's mother attributing the quote to Emily's Aunt Nancy.  And as clumsily as I described, the quote is as breezily as Montgomery put it. c) the quote is a story of how Emily's father wanted to name her Juliet after Emily's mother.  The fact that he heeded his wife's advice, and they named her Emily, made me think that the romance between them was never over.  d) I related the naming story to my own experience. Before I got married, I had always wanted to name a son David, as this is not only my name but my Father's as well.  Amy, who knew me when I would stay at my parent's house between school years and other situations, saw firsthand what it was like with two Davids in one house and that name was off the table before we even married.  

I know I have mentioned twice already how I connected with the text on a personal level in the first ten pages of the book.  Some might say that's more about me than the author, but I say that good writing is written in a way that the reader can make connections to it.  Making connections to it early helped me feel great about the prospect of reading the rest.

The last thing I want to share about the way this book begins is another example of the delicious way Montgomery turns a phrase. Emily's dad is telling Emily about her mom and utters one of the best sentences I have ever read:

When she fell in love with me, a poor young journalist, with nothing in the world but his pen and his ambition, there was a family earthquake.

I mean that's more of a sentence I expect to hear from John Boy Walton. the boy poet of Virginia!

I can't believe how amazing this book has started! What I really can't believe is that I stopped reading it long enough to write this post.  If you'll excuse me, I'll go remedy that situation.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Keeping up with the Changes.

In the Fall of 2007  my wife started taking our 3 children to a home school cooperative (co-op).    It was a traditional co-op, where each family taught some classes and volunteered in others. The first semester it turned out amazing for the kids.  Charlie, who just graduated from high school, still has his notebook from a very cool International Space Station class he took that year.  It was amazing for the kids, but very difficult for my wife.  Each parent got at least one class period off to fellowship with the other parents. Alas, Lucy was about 1 at the time and as you know when you take a 1-year-old anywhere you never get time off.  Amy wisely decided on taking a semester off and going back when Lucy was a little older.  

Amy planned to return in the Fall of 2008.  However, Amy and I did the Old Switcheroo in the fall of 2008. (She went back to working full time, and I became Home School Dad and took over the teaching at home.) In the Spring semester of 2009, I brought the kids back to co-op and did the teaching, assisting, and running after Lucy. Soon The co-op became amazing for everyone in our family.  

For several years this is how it remained.  Then as our circumstances changed, we would quit the co-op and later, come back to it only to leave again and come back again.  Finally, (or we thought it was finally) in 2015, we stopped homeschooling altogether.  I quit co-op for "the final" time and we moved on with our life.   Our home school adventure had many twists and turns in the road and yet looking back we could see God leading us through each and every one.  

This contiued when all 3 children were in public sct hool at the same time for the first time in their lives. Charlie excelled in his last year of middle school and his first year of high school.  Emma had major adjustments and changes to navigate, going from a 3 person school with a 40 person co-op once a week to a school of 3,000 students and being diagnosed with High Functioning Autism(HFA).  (Her diagnosis was partially due to one of the many extra curricular events we went to because of our co-op. One of the former students in our co-op who has HFA was featured in a documentary that premiered at the Imago Film Festival. The documentary opened our eyes to the possibility that Emma might be on the spectrum, which helped hasten her diagnosis.)   Because of her many  home school credits from her first two years of high school she was able to finish her high school experience a semester early by taking an on-line poetry class at home. The wonder that is Lucy, continued to shine in her last 2 years of eleementary school.  She won speech contests that highlightred her flair for the dramatic, won awards for her artistic achievement, and was honored with the highest award in her 5th grade commencement. As the 2017 school year ended, more changes were in store for the Roller clan as each of our 3 students again changed schools, as we after 16 years in Carpentesville changed suburbs.

Emma was off to the local jr. college.  Charlie started his sophomore year at a new high school and Lucy started being home schooled again.  We had always wanted to home school each of our children through at least  middle school.  We did that with Emma and even got an extra two high school years with her at home.  Charlie was in 8th grad when we stopped home schooling him.  We were delighted when we had the opportunity to bring Lucy back home for her 3 middle school years.  Of course this meant going back to our old homeschool co-op and saying we needed to return if only for us to learn the actual meaning  of the word final.

  Our on-again off again relationship with our co-op taught us many things more than one post will allow, but here are a couple. My years at the co-op prepared me for my now on-again off again job  (Thanks Covid) as a substitute teacher. At the co-op, Lucy was still a force to be reckoned with;  No longer the one man wrecking ball of her toddlerdom,  she continued to blossom as an amazing orator, comedian, actress, and especially a gracious loving daughter, student and friend.   

Earlier this Lucy was accepted into a special  theater arts academy  part of the public high school Charlie just graduated from. She was  so looking forward to finishing her home school and co-op experience and then leaving home and going   to school every day in the Fall.  Then Covid came on the scene.  The co-ops did not end the way we expected and now we found out that her high school will not  start as we expected.  She will start high school as her brother and sister finished it, virtually.  

Educating our children has not always gone the way we have planned it.  However, we have seen God orchestrate all the steps and use them in mighty ways.  As with everyone else on the planet, Covid 19 life has been very challenging for our family but we are still confident that God will continue directing our paths.  In a way much more than the band at the fish in the sea dance at the end of Back to the Future could , God is more than able to keep up with the changes.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Summer Reading plan 2020

Each year I try to read more during the summer. I usually define the summer as the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. I like to add a few days to that so the period is exactly 100 days. This year for whatever reason I didn’t start the reading plan at Memorial Day. June  came and went and I hadn’t read a single book. I decided to start the plan on July 1st and go to October 8th for the full hundred days. Not exactly a regular Summer, but 2020 hasn't been a regular year,

My goal is usually to read at least 10 books during that period. Ideally I’d like to read more but if I read at least 10, I feel pretty  good. Today is July 25th and I am 1/4 through the period. Before I talk about my progress so far let’s talk about my method.

There are so many ways to read a book these days.  There of course is the traditional book in hand method, I still do a lot of that.  You can also listen to a book on cd, casette, play-aways or online.    For more of how I feel about the difference between reading and listening to books, you can see my post Is Listening the New Reading?

What books Ir ead during my Summer campaign isas varied  as how I read them.  I'll read books I've never read before, books I've tried to get through without  success ( Moby Dick and Three Musketeers for example), and I certainly reread books during this time as well.  Most years I'll buy at least one book specifically to read for the chalenge. For the most part, I obtain my books from my personal collection, or from local libraries.  

I read both fiction and non-fiction ,poetry or prose, regular novels or graphic novels.  I often have a list of books or authors I'd like to read in the back of my mind, but I am so glad that the library is open again so I can peruse the shelves and find something outside of my rather eclectic mix.  I also like my list to be organic. If I am reading a book and a subject, or book or person is mentioned, I may put that onto my list.  For example, I just finished a book about Fred Rogers where I read that early in his career,  he had met Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts.   So the last time I was at the library, I picked up a couple Peanuts anthologies.  

I tend not to read one book at a time but sometimes I’m reading 4 to 5 books concurrently. There will  also be times when  I start a book and end up not finishing it right away or not at all. As of today I have finished 4 books and am currently working on 7 (I know I said 4 or 5 but sometimes I go a little crazy.) more, and have put one aside for the time being.  In order to say I'm working on a book I have to read from or listened to it in the past week.  

The 4 I have finished so far are . . 

The Song - Calvin Miller (book that I own) have read previously. 

When Sinners Say I Do - Dave Harvey  (book that I own) had not read previously.

Little House in the Big Woods- Laura Ingalls Wilder - (on line audio book borrowed on Hoopla) Had read and listened to parts of previously, had never completed.  

Kindness and Wonder: Why Mr. Rogers matters now more than ever. - Gavin Edwards  (book - borrowed from library) Had not read previously.  

Books currently reading ...

Anne of Green Gables - Lucy Maud Montgomery (on-line audio book-borrowed on Hoopla) - Have not read previously.

The Runaway Jury - John Grisham - Book borrowed from library - Have read previously. 

Abraham Lincoln - A new birth of Freedom  - By Janet & Geoff Benge - This is a book owned by my family which I purchase when we were homeschooling our kids  - Have previously read book.

Downton Abbey Script Book Season 3 - Julian Fellowes (On-line book borrowed from Hoopla) - Had not read previously have watched the episodes on television. 

Frederick Buechner 101 by Frederick Buechner Choreographed by Ann Lamott- Book borrowed from library. Have not readpreviously.

Complete Peanuts 1971-1972 Charles M Schulz. Book borrowed from library. I own some of these volumes but my children have absconded with them.  

Peanuts Every Sunday  1966-1970 -By Charles M Schulz . Book- borrowed from library.  I have not read this volume of colorized Sunday strips before, but have read most of the strips previously.  

Books I have set aside.

A Crazy Holy Grace - Frederick Buechner I was trying to read this book on Hoopla, but soon discovered that I was having difficulty reading more than 1 book at a time electronically.  That is why I picked uo the book of Buechner essays from the library.  Once I am finished with Downton Abby, I may get back to this book.  

As of today I am on pace to finish 16 books in the 100 days.  If I were to finish just 5 of the 7  I am currently working on in the next 25 days, I would then be on pace for 18.  

 I have enjoyed each book I have finished.  Ideally, I'd love to do a short review of each book I read, but alas I find I lack the temperament for short reviews and the time for more detailed ones. .  Nonetheless, I'll try to include some reviews here in the weeks to come.  I'm going to close the book on this post now and return us all to whatever new normal we are heading towards.  

Thursday, July 23, 2020

I Heart Comics

I have always been a big fan of comic strips.  Anytime I used to travel I would plunk down the change to buy a local newspaper and see what therir comic page looked like.  As you have gathered what newspapers remain in this digital age cost more than change for a dollar.  

Fortunately there are many strips old and new available online. From time to time I will share a few of those here.  Simply click on the name of the comic  to see the strip.  The ones today I found through Go Comics.

The Far Side                                                  Calvin & Hobbes

Peanuts                                                                                              Pearls Before Swine

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Library at Last

March 13, 2020 was a Friday.  It turned out to be a true Friday the 13th in the sense that something scary started occurring.  Friday March 13th was the day that many things in the U.S. started shutting down because of Covid 19.  For me it was a day of lasts.  It was one of the last days I worked at the movie theatre I used to work at.  It was the last day I subbed during the 2020 school year. It was the last day I went to a public indoor event (a college talent show, wher my daughter was reciting her poetry).  

During this time I've switched jobs, (although I still hope I can sub in the Fall.) jumped back into blogging, and navigated the new normal with help from God and my family.  Because of that and that I am a particularly resilient kind of guy  social distancing, face masks and zoom chats have been fairly easy to adapt to.  What's been difficult is LOL. LOL is no laughing matter, it stands for lack of libraries.  

I love libraries.  I have really missed ours (Gail Borden in Elgin, Illinois) being open during the stay at home order.  They have handled it greatly but I still missed them.  The first thing they did after closing was expand the amount of materials you could take out virtually using Hoopla.  In late May or Early June the drive through  opened and you were able to start checking out  mterials.  Today they reopened in person,  

When we went to Wisconsin last month we stopped in an open library and there was a 30 minute time limit and not much to do because we didn;t  have borrowing priviliges.  It felt good to be back at a library even for a half hour, but today felt more like coming home. 

Instead of lasts it was a day of covid-19 era firsts.  First time back at Gail Borden ,first time bugging  reference people, first time checking out books in person. , first time back at my bank  (my credit union is in the same building as the library), first time running into and talking with someone I knew while at the library, and first time using a library computer.  I even started this post while using it.  

Home Sweet Library

Quarantine Chic: Library Style

I must have told 8 employees of  the library how glad I was that they were open.  A kid in a candy store had absolutely nothing at me.  Now if you could borrow candy and then return it when you were finished, that would be similar. A library is an everlasting gobstopper for the soul. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Muzak Lessons: Fathers Day Edition

Muzak Lessons: Fathers Day Edition

I was at work yesterday, and since I was working a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m shift at my local supermarket, yesterday became today rather quickly.  While I was restocking the grocery shelves, a couple of songs played on the sound system that reminded me that the today that yesterday had just become was Father's Day.  

Neither song was being played in particular because it was Father's Day.  Each of the songs is played at least twice a week as I go from aisle to aisle stocking groceries  and straightening them so the customers can easily get what they need.  I don't believe I had ever heard either song until 3 months ago when both my previous jobs were put in a holding pattern because of a certain pandemic playing through on the golf course of life.  

The first,  Something to be Proud Of  by Montgomery Gentry makes me cry every time I hear it.  I think part of that is context because most of the times I hear it when the lyric "When you're doing what you're able and putting food upon the table." I am standing on a milk crate literally and figuratively in the process of putting food upon the table.

I may have  never made a living using the degree I obtained from university.  However my Dad raised me with a work ethic that I still have to this day and even though I've had my share of "nothing" jobs, they have always meant something to me and the people I work for.

"Something To Be Proud Of"

There's a story that my daddy tells religiously
Like clockwork every time he sees an opening
In a conversation about the way things used to be
Well I'd just roll my eyes and make a bee-line for the door
But I'd always end up starry-eyed, cross-legged on the floor
Hanging on to every word
Man, the things I heard

It was harder times and longer days
Five miles to school, uphill both ways
We were cane switch raised, and dirt floor poor
'Course that was back before the war
Yeah, your uncle and I made quite a pair
Flying F-15's through hostile air
He went down but they missed me by a hair
He'd always stop right there and say...

That's something to be proud of
That's a life you can hang your hat on
That's a chin held high as the tears fall down
A gut sucked in, a chest stuck out
Like a small town flag a-flyin'
Or a newborn baby cryin'
In the arms of the woman that you love
That's something to be proud of

Son graduatin' college, that was mama's dream
But I was on my way to anywhere else when I turned 18
Cuz when you gotta fast car you think you've got everything
I learned quick those GTO's don't run on faith
I ended up broken down in some town north of L.A.
Working maximum hours for minimum wage
Well, I fell in love, next thing I know
The babies came, the car got sold
I sure do miss that old hot rod
But you sure save gas in them foreign jobs
Dad, I wonder if I ever let you down
If you're ashamed how I turned out
Well, he lowered his voice, then he raised his brow
Said, lemme tell ya right now

That's something to be proud of
That's a life you can hang your hat on
You don't need to make a million
Just be thankful to be workin'
If you're doing what you're able
And putting food there on the table
And providing for the family that you love
That's something to be proud of

And if all you ever really do is the best you can
Well, you did it man

That's something to be proud of
That's a life you can hang your hat on
That's a chin held high as the tears fall down
A gut sucked in, a chest stuck out
Like a small town flag a-flyin'
Or a newborn baby cryin'
In the arms of the woman that you love
That's something to be proud of
That's something to be proud of
Yeah, that's something to be proud of
That's something to be proud of
Now that's something to be proud of

The second song was Busy Man by Billy Ray Cyrus which warns about the other side of providing for your family and that is losing focus of why you're working in the first place.  I'm more of a Cat's in the Cradle kind of guy, but this has a happier outcome.  

Billy Ray Cyrus Lyrics

Play "Busy Man"
on Amazon Music Unlimited (ad)
"Busy Man"

There's a little boy out in the driveway his basketball in hand
Saying Daddy could we play a little one on one
You pat him on the back and say not now son I'm a busy man

His sister's out on the sidewalk settin' up a lemonade stand
Hey daddy don't you want to buy a glass from me
You say maybe later can't you see I'm a busy man

You got to go got to run hit it hard and get it done
Everyone can see you're going far
You got responsibilities a crazy schedule that you keep
And when you say that time's a wastin'
You don't know how right you are busy man

There's a woman in the bedroom crying sayin' I thought we had plans
You say honey I'm sorry I'll make it up
When the job slows down and I'm not such a busy man

You got to go got to run...

Have you ever seen a headstone with these words
If only I had spent more time at work

There's a call one day from the office they need you down in Birmingham
You say no way the weekend's mine
I got plans with the kids and a date with my wife I'm a busy man

You got to go got to run take a break and have some fun
Those that love you most say you've come far
Got some new priorities in that schedule that you keep
And when you say that time's a wastin'
Now you know how right you are busy man busy man

Well I'm off to work. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

My Son the Graduate

My Son Charlie graduates from high school today.  Charlie was home schooled from birth to fifth grade. He was the 2nd born in our family.  When he was born my wife was already "playing" school with our 2 year old  and Big Dude (one of a multitude of nick names we saddled the poor kid with over the years)  was incorporated into their home school routine right along.  He went to public school in 6th grade, we were fortunate to home school him again for 7th grade and did his last 5 years of school in public school.



Charlie excelled in high school and we are very proud of his accomplishments.  But this is my blog not his, so let's talk about me.

I have had many roles in Charlie's life.  I was the principal of our home school.  I stayed at home when he was in first to fifth grade and was his main teacher.  I helped him learn to read.  I taught him how to ride a bike.  I've been his coach, his youth group leader for 6 years.  We have gone on two mission trips together and he has even been my co-worker at a local movie theatre.  



Cannon Fodder

Our relationship has changed quite a bit over the years.  I've gone from his hero to the embarrassing guy with the bad puns.  This year has been a transition year as he prepares for whatever the next chapter of his life is going to be and I get use to the notion that he will be penning these chapters almost entirely on his own.  I've been trying to step back from a leadership role in his life to an advisory one.  Something I've been getting a little better at lately, mainly because I was doing it so very badly to begin with. 


Before I end this post with some uncaptioned glimpses from over the  years, I will share  a hopeful anecdote. Over the past few years Charlie has taken up walking, running and cycling: 3 activities I've really enjoyed in my life.  Last Sunday, he went cycling with a friend from the youth group and they dropped by the house on a way to a local park to toss a frisbee around.  Frisbee is another thing I really enjoy, I walked out to the front yard to say hi and bye when Charlie invited me to come and play frisbee with them.  I'm crying even now as I recall how overwhelmed I was by the invitation.  I went and I had a great time and I think they did as well.  I hope this is just one of many activities that Charlie and I will enjoy together in the years to come.  Not only as father and son but as adults, and as friends.