Wednesday, December 24, 2008

So much time and so little to do...scratch that..reverse it

They say that the summer solstice is the longest day of the year (June 21). I would like to argue that December 24th is actually the longest day (if you under 10 years old). Today we will spend the day trying to rein in Bug and Sunshine. Entertain. We will spend the day watching Christmas specials on TV and checking the Santa radar on the computer.

Christmas is an emotional time of the year. I think more so than any other. Memories (happy or sad) of Christmas's past come rampaging through. We have had several deaths in our community during the last few weeks. The families affected will be spending their first Christmas without their beloved wife, mother, grandmother, father, son, etc. That makes an impression. I have a link to the Fat Cyclist on my side bar. This will probably be his last Christmas with his wife. How can you cope with that?

Of course their are happy memories too. Those happy times as a child. The Christmas I proposed to my beloved Bride. Each of the kids first Christmas. The family dinners. Times when everything seemed so right in the world.

My heart goes out to those that will have a tough time this year. I'm not talking about not getting that ipod you wanted. I'm talking about grief, depression, loneliness. I offer a word of encouragement. "This too shall pass" It will get better. The sun will shine again. I pray that God will give you peace, comfort, mercy.

To those of you who are having a great Christmas, take a look around. Surely there is someone you could reach out too. Send a card. Take a plate of cookies.

Reach out and put your arm around someone today.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rain..Rain.. Go Away....

So technically it didn't rain today. But it has rained a lot in the last month (see yesterday's post). The ground is still saturated.

Right here is where I was going to insert a picture of my mountain bike with gobs of red clay stuck all over it.......but I can't find it. That will be a post on it's own.

Anyway, I thought since this was "supposed" to be a blog with a bicycle angle and I had yet to write anything about riding, this would be my first. So use your imagination.

The area in which I live has a high content of clay in the soil. This makes the mud extremely slick and sticky. Is that a contradiction? I can remember as a kid walking through this sticky concoction. With each step, your shoe size grows. Pretty soon, they look like snow shoes (like I'd know what they look like). Now imagine that happening to a bike tire. Pretty quick your bike looks like this.

So what have we learned today.

1. There has to be a better way to organize photos where they can be found.
2. If it's wet stay at home. It's better on your bike and the trail.
3. We learned that Cornbread only has two points.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Once upon a time.........

Once upon a time, there was magical place where it never rained.....the end. That's a line from the Disney movie holes. One thing for certain, it wasn't written about Mississippi. At least for the last month. I think we had 7" in one weekend.

But the sun came out today.

The sun has always had a prominent place in human history. Many cultures worshiped the sun. They didn't know much about it, but new it was something powerful. The sun makes things grow, warms the earth, and displaces the darkness.

I know some people who are going through some dark times in their lives. Maybe you're one of them. Just remember the one day the sun is going to come out. It's not going to rain forever.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

One of the things I'll miss the most......Part1

There are a lot of things I'll miss as the kids grow up. Somethings have already passed and other are sure to follow. Baby talk, toddling steps, onesies are all a things of the past. There are a few things that I can still hold on to.

One of things that I'll miss the most is holding hands. My heart soars each time one of my kids reaches up to grab my hand. It may just be instinct, a reaction, that we've ingrained in them. All ways hold hands crossing the street, for example. When we are in a crowd, we hold hands to keeep them near. I like to think of it, not as instinct or routine, but as them seeking protection, guidance. I hope they think, if they are holding daddy's hand then they are safe and out of harms way. If they are holding daddy's hand, no one can get them, they can't get lost.

Our current night time ritual, is that my wife rocks sunshine, while I lay down with Bug in his bed, until he goes to sleep. Last night as he was settling in, with his head laid on my shoulder, he reached across and grabbed my hand. He squeezed, I squeezed. My hand enveloping his.

One day, he'll be to big for daddy to lay down with him. He'll be to big to play army with daddy. He'll be to big to hold my hand to cross the street. I don't know how many days I have left, but I'm trying to make the most of every opportunity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm So Festive.......

I've told you about our Christmas trees. Let me show you one of our other holiday decorations.

There....Do you see it?

How about now? Still nothing? One more try....

Oh, I see the problem. It's not there. You want to know why it's not there. That's because it is here................

.........Laying half way down the roof.

I'm a professional engineer. I know about such things as "center of gravity" and "wind loads". I built this sign. The outline of the arrow lights up green. The text is lit with red lights and the "Free" blinks. It's heavy and most of the weight is at the bottom. It straddles the peak of the roof with two foot long leg on each side. But every time the wind blows, it flops down the roof. Always to this side (that must say something about the weather patterns of this area (makes me wonder about the large maple tree on the other side of the house too (how many parentheses can I use in one sentence))). As a time saver, I just leave the ladder out to ease the burden. I have to re-enact that scene from the Grinch (the part where he tries to keep the sled from going over the edge, start at 6:30 here)at least a half dozen times, during the Christmas season.

Sometimes when it does a half gainer, it will flip over and break out some of the bulbs. Now I have to sit on the peak (usually in the cold and dark) and pry those tiny bulbs out of their sockets. Last year I had a short and had to wire in a new socket, using only my swiss army knife and a roll of electrical tape.

I hate that sign, but it is a labor of love. The kids love it, so I predict it will be around until Santa Clause fades from our household.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Somebody please wake up SnowWhite! of sprawling jaggaged peaks....a snow capped wonderland. Home to brandy bearing Saint Benards and lederhosen.

Of course you know better. of spawling farmlands........a pine forest wonderland. Home to mosquitos and Morgan Freeman.

Mark Twain said, "I believe that in Mississippi (I took the liberty of a small edit, Twain was refering to India) "cold weather" is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door-knob and weather which will only make it mushy."

I can remember many a Christmas that has been spent in shorts. More so than the number of snow days I experience through college. You can imagine the stir at the mention of a possible (even infinitesimal chance) of snow. Today we were supposed to receive 1-3" of snow. Yes, that is all caps, bold and in italics. Your just lucky that I don't have underlining. Yes, I know it's going to be sunny and 50 degrees tomorrow. Yes, I realize that it was going to be gone by breakfast. That doesn't squash the allure of seeing those enchanted flakes of solid water falling from the sky. We will go to great lengths to see snow.

Early in the year, we had a "winter" storm sweep in from the north. Bug and Sunshine have never had the opportunity to play in snow (Bug is almost 6). The closest we have had is a few hours of a dusting, that you couldn't even scrape up a snowball. To make sure that we could participate in said snow storm. I took off early and we drove 3 1/2 hours north. We got a hotel room next to Chuck E Cheese and enjoyed the snow. By lunch the next day, it was gone.

Hotel room $79
Tank of gas $60
2 hours in Chuck E Cheese $30
few hours in the snow......priceless

And here's a snowball for you....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis the season

Yep, it's that time of year. You know deck the halls and all that. Except my wife decks the halls, every wall, and doorway. Then she moves outside. It's all good, except the back breaking labor. It's complete upheaval. I feel like I'm in one of those home remodeling shows, where they completed change a house while the owner is playing a round of golf.

We have 5 Christmas trees. Count'em, uno, dos, tres, quatro, and cinco. Sunshine and Bug each have a small 3 footer, his green, her's pink. Two 7 footers, one in the living room (with homemade ornaments), one in the sewing room (clear glass and crocheted ornaments). Then there is the big daddy, 10 footer in the back porch. It's covered with various ornaments. We try to get an ornament from all the places we go.

Here's Bug and Sunshine last year.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I know the solution!!!!!

I just read an artical on the US's most healthy and unhealthy states. Mississippi ranked 49. You can see the details here. Obesity rate 50%...How tragic.... Not the rate, but that I'm one of them.

A few years ago (okay, 4 years ago), I did a triathlon. I did duathlons. I road a metric century (62 miles). I was hard core. Maybe not so hard, more like moon pie hard. But I was in pretty good shape (I was slow as molasses). But by the standards we are judged by, I was still obese.

Now fast forward a few years. I have road (on or off road) my bike in a couple months. I was averaging a ride every 4 or 5 weeks. I have blossomed. That's a term we use in the deep south to describe a lady with child. I am still setting personal records, but now I'm not bragging on them.

I know what the problem is though. Sweet tea. Lewis Grizzard said never drink sweet tea in a state that doesn't have an SEC team in it. Mississippi has two teams. Tea so sweet that if you stir it with a spoon, the spoon will stand up by itself.

Sure Napa Valley is probably ground zero for sommeliers. You can find tea experts (read snobs) here. Nobody makes tea better than ___________(insert, mother, grandmother, etc.) Apon attending a family reunion my wife and her parents won't drink anybody's tea except Granny's.

Have I convinced you yet? Let's look at the other SEC schools and where their state ranks.

Alabama 40
Arkansas 43
Georgia 41
Tennessee 47
Florida 45
Kentucky 37
South Carolina 48
Louisiana 50

Maybe I'm wrong....Maybe the problem is states that have strong college football teams. The stronger the football traditions the worse health they have. That would explain Kentucky ranking the highest of all the SEC states.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Veritable Cornucopia

Ahh it's that time of year again. The most special season. Of course, I'm talking about that time of year when they run 24 hours of "A Christmas Story". One of my favorite holiday shows. Who can forget "you'll shoot your eye out". The quotes are so awesome. Surely everybody can relate to the life and times of Ralphie. Who didn't want something for Christmas that their mother thought was too dangerous? Who hasn't had to contend with bullys (well, maybe those that were bullies)? Who hasn't been mesmerized by "the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window"? Okay maybe not that last one.

For those who have been living under a rock for the last several decades. "A Christmas Story" is a movie about a young boy (Ralphie), who is trying to convince his parents that he needs a Red-Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle (with compass in the stock). Narated by an adult Ralphie. It is hilariously funny, but I have noticed that men usually find it a lot funnier than women. As Ralphie, narates the thoughts of a 10 year old, you can't help but think, I've been there!

"Some men were Prodestant, some Catholic, my dad was an Osmobile man." Now that's funny.

If your a die hard fan, you can have your very own "Major Award", just be carefull because it's French.....Fragile....(pronounced Fra gee lay)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Coward of the County

I'm a coward. There I said it. Some people are born chance-takers. They are not afraid of change and embrace the "what could be". I, on the other hand, am one who likes a rut. I prepare a path then execute it to the best of my ability. I don't like to change the path out of fear of "what might be".

I graduated high school in 1991. I had chosen my major years before. I entered college and didn't deviate from it (most people change major's at least once). I did contemplate a change in my junior year, but I figured I had come that far that I would finish. I started to work and been there for 15 years now. I dated my wife exclusively since I was 16 (she was 14). We married when I graduated college. We live in the same town that we were raised in.

People are just wired different. I have friends that have been through several different majors. Hold multiple degrees in various subjects. Have held a half dozen jobs in the last 15 years. Maybe they haven't found that perfect job. Something they love to do. Maybe they're just looking to move up in the world and each job is a step up the change. I have friends that have lived all across this great nation of ours. One in particular spent her summer's on Alabama's emerald coast and winters in Aspen, Colorado.

I'll just tell you that I'm envious. I would love to move here or there. Just to experience a different area, or culture. Have a new base camp to explore the world. Actively seek a new job. One with more prestige, a better position, with new things to learn and do.

I have given my heart the things it desires the most. Stability...predictability....a steady course. I expand my boundaries in things my soul can tolerate. Challenge myself with new hobbies (golf, bike, wood work), with new challenges (triathlon, running, teaching, blogging).

I give mad props to those who never give up on their dreams. Finish that degree in the field you wanted to a long time ago. Get that perfect job you've been dreaming about. Make that move to the place you've always dreamt of living.

Don't feel sorry for me, cause I'm living out my dreams too. A good job that I love. A great wife that I cherish. Awesome kids that I adore. And enough challenges to remind me that I'm alive and kicking.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Black Death of My Century

The Black Death (Black Plague) was one of the deadliest pandemics of all time. It killed about 75 million people through out central Asia and Europe from 1340 to 1400.

By contrast cancer has killed almost 8 million in 2007. It is the leading cause of death worldwide. I don't know anybody that hasn't had their life touched by cancer. Everybody knows someone or is related to someone that has battled some form of this wretched disease.

My introduction came in the form of one of my buddies (Don) at the age of 14 (around then, it has been awhile). He started with stomach pains. After the diagnosis, he began all manners of treatments available. He went to specialist. He fought valiantly, with the treatment being as bad (or worse) than the disease. He lost his battle right around his 16th birthday.

Memories are a peculiar thing. For me the dates are fuzzy, but some details could have happened today and they wouldn't be any clearer. I can still hear my mother's voice the morning she woke me up to tell me that Don had died. I can remember the songs at the funeral. Our class sent a spray of roses. I can see that rose just as clearly as I can see this keyboard.

A short time later, I lost my grandfather. I remember his battle as well. His cancer spread eventually to the brain. The last time I visited him in the hospital, I made a joke about the cafeteria feeding him okra (he didn't like it, at all). He smiled as I walked out the door.

Now I'm faced with loosing another friend. A lady (former co-worker, her husband is one of my bosses) full of faith and furry. Saying she is spunky is an understatement. Her fight began with colon cancer. She vowed to give it everything she had.......and cancer took it and more. Our whole department called her a few weeks ago and sang "Happy Birthday" over the speaker phone. It instantly changed her, lifted her up. But they have done all they can do and have resorted to making her comfortable.

There are good stories as well. Cancer beaten, people in remission. But it takes something away from you. One of my friends (another co-worker), his wife took on breast cancer and won. But she lives in fear of every checkup. Just last year, something didn't look right. It was down right devastating (It was all good in the end).

So what are we to do. You can see the link to the Fat Cyclist on the left. Elden Nelson originally started his blog to embarrass himself into loosing weight. It morphed into a comedic blog about cycling. Now Elden is living my worst nightmare. His wife originally had breast cancer that metastasized, eventually landing in her bones, lungs, and brain. They've fought and come to the end. Now they manage the symptoms and hope for some good days. Elden is organizing the largest LiveStrong team ever. Check out his blog (it'll rip your heart out) and check out Live Strong as well. It's time for a cure.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Worm

I always loved reading when I was growing up. I can actually remember being so miserable in the first grade, then that feeling went away. My mother says that it coincided with us learning to read. Books are and have always been an outlet to another world. One that wasn't confined to the laws of nature of this world. I'm not just talking about books of pure fantasy.

One of my favorite series of books was the Mad Scientist Club. The collection of stories that I read was originally written in the late 60's. I read them in the late 80's and was captivated. The stories center around 7 boys, that I envisioned to be the same age as me. They built cool thing (like a submarine), had a cool hang out, and solved crimes and problems. I probably read each of those stories at least 100 times. I still have those books 20 some odd years later.

Looking back, those stories probably fed my desire to become an engineer. Lead me to tear stuff apart to see how it worked (and rebuild it, if I could, into something different). It prompted me to build tree houses, and forts, and go on fanciful adventures if only in my mind.

You know I've never had a TV show inspire me like that (except maybe "This Old House" or a miscellaneous cooking show). Those books still inspire me today. Returning from our vacation we stopped at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. They had a display of military equipment that included at small submarine. I told my wife that I had to take some pictures.....just for when I build mine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

IMBA fantastic!!!!!

I spent the day with the Subaru IMBA trail building team of Collins and Kelley Bishop. It was a great day. We had about 20 or so in our class. Lookout southeast, Mississippi is serious about making great trail. I'll post up about it later.

Tomorrow, we are leaving for a short vacation. Posting should resume Wednesday.

See ya!

Friday, November 21, 2008


When I was about 16, we went on a youth trip. One of the girls saw a sign, and said, "What is a smo...smor...smorgaaasssboard?" Our youth director told her it was a diving board with food on it.

There is nothing more quintessentially southern than an all-you-can eat restaurant. It's not a reasonably price selection of various foods. It's an challenge to your manhood and waistline. It's not an all-you-want or all-you-need. It's ALL-YOU-CAN.

It's a triathlon of eating.

First event, the salad bar. Hey it's healthy.........Well, lettuce is healthy. Tomatoes are healthy. The rest I'm not so sure. Since when did pork rinds become a salad topping? The bar is twelve feet long. They had to fill it up with something.

Second event, the main meal. Think of your meals at home or any other normal restaurant. One meat, a selection of sides or vegetables. Now before you lies 12 different deep fried entrees. Potatoes three ways and to balance out, one vegetable, battered and deep fried corn on the cob. My platter (they don't use normal sized plates) is a mounted of unidentifiable deep fried objects and the all taste the same dipped in ranch dressing.

Just as in a normal triathlon, by the time you get to the third event your body is beat down, crying "No mas! No mas!" (my body cries out in Spanish, No more! No more!) But alas you are a long way from the finish and there is but one way to get there........the dessert bar. Cake, pie, cobbler, ice cream......why choose? You've already consumed 12,000 calories and enough fat to feed Yogi bear through winter. What's another 2-3000? You must push to the limit.......

And the finish!!!!!! If you properly complete the Triathlon de Gluttony, then you should be nauseous and unable to drive home without loosening your belt and unbuttoning your pants. If not, you were under trained and not properly prepared. Eat a sackful of Krystals and prepare yourself for next time young grasshopper.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SueShe.....Or........ Wasabi's happening?

I am a somewhat adventurous eater. Well, if you saw me, you'd probably realize that I don't pass on much. I live in a small town that currently doesn't have a restaurant at all. The extent of our culinary fair ends at the 24 hour gas station that makes pizzas and fried chicken. I was in college before the next town over got a Chinese or Mexican place. That said, rural Mississippi is not the center of cultural culinary exchange. Most of my exposure to regional and multi-cultural cuisine came after I started to work. I have traveled to many different parts of the country and had the privilege to dine at a lot of really nice places. (Thanks Mr. Employer!)

One of the things I had always wanted to try (but lack the courage to order on my own) was sushi. I finally had my emancipation thanks to Coach, who invited us out for dinner and theater. We went to a Japanese hibachi restaurant (or "the place where they cook on the table" according to Bug). Turns out Coach was a sushi aficionado.

I lost my sushi virginity with a spicy tuna, crunchy shrimp, and an eel roll.


The next step is to talk Woody's (the local gas station) to add sushi next to the fried chicken livers and gizzards. So that's not going to happen, so what's a guy to do?

Make his own.

I used catfish and brim from the Pearl river.....Naaaaa. Given the lack of a local fish monger, we made a spicy California roll (with crab) and a crunchy shrimp roll. Here's the final one before rolling. Using up the left overs this one was half and half.

And a plate of the final product.....

Coach gave it his seal of approval.

Hey check out Sushi Day. It's a great website that covers all the basics and has a bunch of recipes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Day late and a dollar short

I know...I know...Halloween was so last month. But since I didn't start blogging last month, let's have a Halloween refresher. Pumpkin carving is one of our Halloween traditions. We make a pilgrimage to the "Pumpkin patch", pick out our victims and head home to carve them up. We pick up pumpkins too (don't tell the FBI, where the bodies are).

I'm really stoked over my pumpkin this year. Usually, the carving are more mundane as dictated by our young children. Of course, Sunshine had a Dora silhouette and Bug chose the bat signal.

Here's theirs.....
Here's mine.....

Don't you just love the sheer look of terror on the little one's face......

I know it's awesome isn't it? Mad props to Tom Nardone for the inspiration. Check him out and order a book while you're there for next year.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The only thing certain is death and taxes.......

You learn a lot from kids. I have two, so that means I learn twice as much...or twice as fast as people without kids. It's an eye opening experience to raise a child. You get to see everything again for the first time. Look daddy! It's a pretty cloud (tree, bird, rock, piece of chewed gum). All the things we have become desensitized to. The amazing things we don't pay attention to anymore. You get to relive all those first childhood experiences. Swinging at the playground, going to your first movie, learning how to ride a bike. Think of everything (you've done, seen, smelled, tasted, etc) in your life, and at one time or another it was your first time.

This not only including the fun stuff, but errrr....strange first times as well. Take for instance, going to the funeral home. Now all cultures have different last rites for the dearly departed. Here in the deep south, once someone has "passed", the norm is for a visitation time (with our dearly departed on prominent display), followed by a grave side service the next day.

We had a death in our extended family. As we prepared to go, Sunshine (our 3 yr. old daughter) couldn't grasp the concept of death. My son, Bug (5 yr. old) tried to explain that our uncle was dead like Granddaddy. Sunshine gleefully replied,"Yeah! we're going to the funeral home to see uncle and Granddaddy! I love old people!" So I took my shot, trying to explain that it was like they were asleep, but never going to wake up. It was just his body laying there, that he was really gone. She looked at me with a puzzled look and said, "He's not going to have on clothes?" I reassured that he would.

After waiting to pay our respects, we finally moved by the coffin. I could see the wheels turning. Sunshine leaned over and whispered, "See I told you he'd have clothes on." Much to the bewilderment of the deceased daughter-in-law who was standing near by.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Welcome to Mississippi

Ahhh....Mississippi.....A word full of imagery. Muddy waters, delta blues, stately mansions, and a friendly wave from everyone you meet. Unless you live outside the southeast, then your visions are of racial tensions, poor folks living in shacks, and illiteracy.

Don't confuse the low rate of college graduates with ignorance. Somethings you just don't learn in books. Take just the other day, one of my co-workers got a lesson from a shop guy that he won't ever forget. Apparently the best coon' dogs have flat heads and large b***holes. Hey, now that's something you can't learn at one of them there "ivy" league schools.

I bet that tidbit of information just confirmed every misconception you've ever had about Mississippi. But don't take it the wrong way. The guy giving the class on coon' dog shopping fits every redneck stereotype you can think of. But he's smart, real smart. His knows all manners of mechanical things, but not just knowing but understanding. There's difference between being able to do something and fully understanding how it works.

He knows animals: horses, cows, dogs, etc. He can grow and garden and pretty much support his family with out a grocery store. How long would you last without an Albertson's?

Maybe I haven't convinced you yet. Sure he knows a lot of menial things by the world's standards. I believe if he would have been born into a family of baccalaureates, he could have been a doctor. Yep, he's probably smarter than you.

Now your thinking, how sad that he was deprived of his true potential. He was raised by parents that taught him a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. In reality, that is what makes our nation run. People that do their job and do it well. I can dream and invent all day long, but eventually it's down to the people who make it happen.

Take a look around you, surly there is someone who appears bright, who does their job well, who goes the extra mile. Someone who didn't get the opportunity to go to college. Someone you can see the potential in. Don't feel bad for them. Keep an eye out, because successful people find ways to succeed.

So to end today's lesson, be respectful to those beneath you. Just because you graduated magna cum laude doesn't make you better or smarter. Beside's that hard working, greasy, shop guy's coon dog will run circles around the one you pick out.