Sunday, September 25, 2011


And now for something completely different. . .

I have been chosen by my good friend Suldog to participate in a nifty little exercise of vanity called a Re-Blog Something-or-Other (and honestly? I'm flattered, and honored, and all that, to be chosen by as talented a blogger as Suldog as someone he regards as worthy of your attention) (But - Suldog?  Really?  The same guy who responds to awards proferred upon him by reaching up the awarder's a**hole and disemboweling them from the inside?  Okay; if you say so).  Which means I'm supposed to give you all links to seven of my old posts that meet certain, uh, Standards of Excellence.  As determined by me, so you can take those standards with the appropriate Grain of Salt.  (So, okay, re-posting old stuff isn't exactly 'unusual' around these parts; and heck, in recent months, a large proportion of my posts come, if not as a result of a direct request from Suldog, at least as provoked from something I read at his blog, so that's not so unusual, either; but work with me here. . .)

Anyway, the challenge (and, honestly, it's not exactly all that 'challenging', either, but that's what they're calling it) is to come up with seven posts that fit into the following categories:

1) My Most Beautiful Post
2) My Most Popular Post
3) My Most Controversial Post
4) My Most Helpful Post
5) A Post Whose Success Surprised Me
6) A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved
7) The Post of Which I'm Most Proud

So then, I'm supposed to provide you links to the erstwhile posts-of-excellence, and then impose upon five of you to do likewise (although, I'm not sure I even have five regular readers anymore; especially if I'm not supposed to nominate Suldog, or any of my fellow-Suldog-nominees).  Anyway, between this current incarnation of my blog, and the previous one (when I was blogging under the pseudonym Desmond Jones - you know, the fellow who had the barrow in the marketplace, wife Molly, and 'a couple of kids running in the yard' in the Beatles' song, Ob-la-di Ob-la-da), I've written something like 250-300 posts over the past five-plus years (and I know that some of you do that many in a year), through which I'll now sift with a fine-tooth comb, for your edification and enjoyment (cue the whiny teenager-voice, directed at Suldog - "You always make me WORK!!")

Anyway, without further ado. . .


My Most Beautiful Post

I'm not often accused of being 'beautiful', but I can think of a couple posts that could qualify.  Here is a post I wrote to honor my father, which, in light of his recent passing, is all the more poignant for me. . .

The Best Man I've Ever Known

Now, those of you who have known me for a while know that I often find it difficult to be ruthless in trimming these lists down to the specified number of items (for example, I once compiled a list of 15 favorite books that ended up being something closer to 50, spread over two posts).  But this next one is pretty darned beautiful, too, if I may say so myself (and it has its own relevance to recent events in my life) . . .

In Dying We Are Born to Eternal Life

My Most Popular Post

I'm not real sure how to 'quantify' the popularity of my posts.  I'm inclined to just count the number of comments they've received, although sometimes that just means that one commenter and I have gone back-and-forth on some tangent for a few turns.  I could count views, but (shameful confession of bloggerly ineptitude) I don't know how to do that.  Anyway, I went through my list and checked which posts generated the most comments, with a minimum of tangents, and a loose pattern emerged.  Several of the posts of mine that have generated the most comments have been 'retrospectives', of the sort that 50-something guys like me often enjoy, such as

Where Were You. . . ?

I could also note that, in my old blog, there were a few posts of a more, um, risque nature that were quite, uh, popular, but I took 'em down (possibly at my wife's urging), and they're not coming back.  Sorry. . .

My Most Controversial Post

I am not typically much of a controversialist in my blog.  I'm not much into politics at all (I have some definite political opinions, to be sure, but I also believe that politics is vastly over-rated as to what it can actually accomplish, and at any rate, the portion of our life that is more-or-less directly affected by politics is, mercifully, pretty small) (wait - is that a controversial statement?).  But I am passionate about a few things that might be counted 'controversial'; and a couple of them have made their way into my blog, like

It's Personal

my take on abortion, which, I think, is a little bit different than a lot of what gets put out for general public consumption; definitely colored by my own status as an adoptee, and thus a one-time 'unwanted pregnancy' my own self.

And again, since I'm so numerically-challenged on things like this, I'll give you one that comes out of the fact that my wife and I are the parents of eight children, which can be controversial in some eyes, all by itself -

Methinks Some Folks Doth Protest Too Much. . .

My Most Helpful Post

Again, 'helpful' isn't really a direction that I take very often with my blog.  I mostly fancy myself as a story-teller, with stories drawn from my life (and I'll leave aside the question of how vain a person must be to think that his life is so freakin' interesting that he'll post it on the Internet, because, you know, it's just that good).  But the rules say I have to give you something in the category of 'Helpful'.  And, in the sprit of self-help testimonials, a few of my life experiences have provided me/us with wisdom that might actually prove helpful to someone else (and yeah, I'm just that freakin' wise. . .)


A Post Whose Success Surprised Me

Again taking the measure of 'Success' as roughly equivalent to 'popularity', as measured by the number of comments, I think the post whose popularity most surprised me was

All My Grandchildren

Which was also a high comment-generator and, depending on who you are, and what tugs at your own personal heart-strings, might also be counted as Beautiful. . .

A Post I Feel Didn't Get the Attention It Deserved

You mean, besides the sports-related ones?

Of course, this could easily become the sort-of grumpy, effete, 'we-artists-are-so-misunderstood' category.  But honestly, the posts which come to mind here mostly suffered from bad timing - being posted when my readers were otherwise occupied; holidays, or summer vacation.  I once posted a Christmas poem that I think is really excellent, and then re-posted it a few years later, and it never generated much commentary either time; apparently, not many folks are blogging on Christmas morning (or it may be that not many of you are much into poetry; but thank you, Lime - I can always count on you) (and, by not actually separating it out and citing its title, the Christmas poem thus doesn't actually count against my tally) (as if it matters). . .

I thought my Mother's Day post earlier this year was pretty good, but evidently my readers were all out to the Sunday Brunch Buffet with their mothers (or their kids)

Random Thoughts On Mother's Day

And I wrote a post about growing up on the Great Lakes that I thought was pretty good, but seemed to coincide with all my readers' summer vacations -

Big Water

The Post of Which I'm Most Proud

This could also be the 'abortion' post I mentioned above, but since I already mentioned that, and have other candidates, let's not cheat the system by trying to double-dip, shall we?  A couple years back, I wrote a piece on my experiences with black folks, inspired by Suldog's and Michelle Hickman's tandem posts on their own growing-up experiences.

Ebony and Ivory

I also wrote a post on the Theology of the Body that I'm kinda proud of (which, again, depending on who you are, might even be counted as Helpful) (or, you know, not) -

With My Body, I Thee Worship


OK, so I gave you eleven posts for the price of seven (somewhere in there, there's a 'crap' joke waiting to be made); no extra charge.  I hope you enjoyed the tour.

I'm supposed to pick five of you to carry on the Tradition (tags are the chain-letters of blog-space; but one doesn't want to be a jerk about it); but Suldog has done it already (and besides, the rules stipulate 'no tag-backs', or something like that), and he picked Lime; if my seconding his nomination will provide extra impetus toward her actually doing it, then well and good.

Michelle Hickman's The Surly Writer is a worthy blog; I'm a little surprised she didn't score one of Suldog's nominations instead of me.  Michelle, if this strikes your fancy, go for it.

I'd nominate Bijoux, but she just announced that she's going on hiatus.  And I'd nominate FADKOG, too, if she wants to; but her blogger-momentum isn't what it once was (neither is mine, for what it's worth).

Anyway, thanks, Suldog.  If I was as clever as you, I'd call down some really creative curses on you.  But I'm not; so, just thanks. . .   ;)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Here, Girl!

OK, this was the post that I originally had up a few weeks ago, then took down when my medical drama, and then my father's death, intervened.  Things have finally returned to normal (or at least, normal enough), so we can now return to our regularly-scheduled programming (and Bijoux can have her comment back). . .

I was having a conversation with another blogger recently, and this story, which I originally posted almost five years ago, came to mind.  So I decided to re-post it for your edification and enjoyment. . .


All new parents go through a kind of 'break-in' period, during which they slowly figure out the real ways in which being parents is different from how they were before. For Jen and me, this lasted quite a while - even past 1F's first birthday, we were still discovering unanticipated ways in which our lives would never be the same.

Once, the three of us went out to dinner at a restaurant which the childless Jen and me would have counted very 'family friendly', and in fairness, it probably was, as long as none of the children were younger than five or so. 1F was about a year old on the evening in question, though, and by the time we finished our dinner, there was a circle about five feet in diameter, centered on 1F's high chair, littered with an assortment of food fragments, torn napkins, pieces of silverware, and other miscellaneous items. I left a very large tip, and we realized that taking 1F to a 'nice' restaurant with us was not going to be a live option for a while.

I've always been a bit of a gadget buff, but I really like gadgets that have a certain simplicity about them, and Kid-world is rife with elegantly simple, practical gadgets. When 1F was a baby, the little seats that you can sort of hang off the edge of the table were new, and we got one of those right away. Suddenly, we could eat at friends' houses, or church potlucks, or at a picnic table in a park, without having to pack a full-blown high chair with us. A very cool, simple contraption.

Around the same time, we met a couple who were visiting from Germany, whose daughter was just a bit older than 1F. They had a little leather harness that they put on their daughter when they took her to a crowded public place; they would clip a short tether to the harness, and they could keep the child close to them, without all the bad posture that goes along with holding her hand, to say nothing of the struggles that invariably occur when the child in question decides that she doesn't want to have her hand held anymore.

I loved it - so elegant, so simple, so practical. And all the moreso, because the child actually had a lot more freedom of movement - a lot more freedom to go where she wanted to, within a much larger radius, than she would if her hand were being held. We were so taken by this little item that we asked our German friends to send us one, since they hadn't appeared in the US market yet.

A few weeks later, we received a package in the mail from a German address. We opened it eagerly, and put it to use at our first opportunity. It worked really well, and we were pleased - 1F could roam about more freely, engage her curiosity more freely, and we hardly had to exert any effort to keep track of her. In fact, we were so taken with it that we decided to make a modest improvement - in place of the short tether, we used a 25-foot retractable leash, so 1F could have even more freedom of movement.

The Fourth of July was coming up soon, and the harness setup seemed perfect for such an occasion - a large crowd in an open public place. 1F could wander to her heart's content within a 25-foot radius, and, as long as we kept hold of the leash, Jen and I didn't need to worry about where she was.

Our first inkling that this would work out just a bit less than perfectly came as we walked into the park. We were walking alongside another young family like us, with the toddler being carried on his father's shoulders. They were looking intently at the harness/leash setup we had 1F in. I smiled, knowing that they were appreciating the ingenuity, the elegance, the simplicity, the practicality of it, and preparing to tell them how we had friends in Germany, and this was all the rage among European parents, and how they could get one for themselves. Instead, the dad sort of sneered and said, "Kind of a sick joke, man."

What?!? Sick joke? What the heck does he mean by that? Ah, well; obviously a philistine who doesn't appreciate ingenious gadgets when he sees them. We found a spot suitable to our liking at which to settle, and we spread our blanket. Jen and I sat down on the blanket, while 1F wandered around on the end of the leash. When she reached the limit, she would just turn around, and poke around in a different direction, checking for bugs in the grass, or whatever else captured her eye. We were enjoying ourselves immensely, just watching her exploring her expansive little piece of turf.

While we were sitting there, a woman approached us to talk. I smiled in friendly greeting, but 'friendly' wasn't her own personal orientation at that particular moment.  Rather, she immediately ripped into us. "How could you?!" she shrieked.

What the hell?  I looked at her in utter bewilderment.

"Treating your child like an animal!"

No, wait, you don't understand - see, she's so much more free to roam about. . .

But the woman would have none of it. See, this was a leash, and leashes are for dogs, and that was that. At the very best, in her mind, this was an inappropriate transfer of technology; at worst, it was slam-dunk evidence of depraved child abuse. And nothing I could say would dissuade her.

Before the night was over, and all the fireworks had flashed, two or three other folks wandered by to very helpfully yell at us and call us colorful names.

We were more circumspect about taking the harness out in public after that, and we eventually decided that the elegance, simplicity, and practicality didn't quite outweigh the grief we had to endure from well-meaning idiots fellow-citizens.

So you see, a thing can be wonderfully practical, elegantly designed, and a vast improvement on the existing technology. But, if you don't take account of public reaction, you can still wind up with a marketplace failure. . .


Back here in the present (OK, the near-past), I rode my bike 35 miles yesterday, in glorious fall weather - around 60 degress, with brilliant blue skies and a few puffy white clouds; it's just a bit too early for the fall colors, or it would've been perfect.  Yesterday's miles make a total of 1053 for the year, my 5th consecutive year over 1000 miles.  I've got two months or so left in the season, so I'm on pace for around 1300-1400.  Life is good. . .

And, hey, while I'm thinking of it, my Tigers are American League Central Division champions!  Playoff bound!  (Maybe even against Suldog's Red Sawx!)  I'm sure I'll have some manner of elegiac post at the end of the season, but for now, you'll all share my joy, won't you?


I just put up a sidebar link to 2F's blog; if you want to get an independent, inside perspective on what life in our family is REALLY like. . . (not like anyone's inheritance is riding on the outcome, or anything. . .)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day of Unfathomable Evil

Today is the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. . .


I think it was a Tuesday morning; for whatever reason, I was running late that morning, and didn't get in to my office until after 9:30.  As I arrived, and began getting my work-station set up for the day - unlocking file cabinets, turning on my computer - one of the three co-workers who shared my four-person cubicle was all aghast, asking me if I'd heard the news.

Oddly, I hadn't.  I usually spent a good portion of my commute with my radio tuned to a sports-talk station, but on that day, I'd left my radio turned off, so I arrived at my office completely unaware of what was happening 600 miles to the east.

She went on to explain that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and at first it had seemed like an accident. but when another plane crashed into the other tower, and a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, it was clear that this was no accident.

I linked to one of the News websites, and for the rest of that morning, there wasn't much work done in our office, as we all watched the drama play out on our computer screens.  What I remember is the confusion - four planes had 'fallen off the screen', but only three had crashed into what were obviously targets of choice (although whose choice, and to what end, were as yet unknown); where the fourth plane might be, or what its designated target was, weren't yet known.  Then there were rumors of a plane crash in Pennsylvania, and while all that was still churning, the WTC towers fell, first one, and then the other.

And that absolutely stunned me.  I am an engineer by profession, and by now, I understand what happened, but at the time, I was utterly stunned and flabbergasted that a plane crash could lead to the collapse of an entire building, especially one the size of the World Trade Center towers.

A group of folks wandered down to the cafeteria, where there were TVs tuned to CNN.  For a while, we were just glued to the screens, as the images played over and over of planes crashing into the WTC towers.  The second plane was essentially caught live, as the cameras were trained on the smoke billowing from the first crash.  And then, as the towers continued to burn, we watched them collapse live.

After a while, I couldn't watch any more, as it began to sink in that I wasn't just seeing a plane crashing into a building, or a building burning and collapsing, but I was seeing thousands of human lives ending before my eyes - each spectacular fireball of a jet crashing into a building was the instant extinguishment of hundreds of human lives, and the slow, agonizing collapse of each tower was the end of perhaps a thousand more.  As the obscenity of it all finally began to sink in, I couldn't watch anymore; I had to turn away.

I struggled to make any kind of sense of it.  The pure evil of it was unfathomable - the unprovoked murder of thousands of innocent people whose only 'crime' was going to work that morning, was - and still is - incomprehensible.  I had a deep sense of the profound corruption of human nature, and in the back of my head, the thought was lurking that I didn't want to live in a world where people who were supposed to be made in God's image and likeness could do such things.

A couple days later, my comapny gave all of its employees time to participate in the national Time of Mourning.  I went with a couple guys to a nearby church; it wasn't my church, since I worked (as I still do) over an hour from home; it wasn't even a Catholic church.  It was just relatively nearby.  I joined in the mourning, and I was simply overcome by the sadness of thousands of widows and orphans made bereft of their fathers and/or their mothers, and thousands of lives snuffed out, in an hour's time three days earlier, at the hands of an unfathomable, demonic evil.  For a long time, I could only sit there and weep.  The tragedy hadn't really touched me personally - as far as I know, I didn't personally know any of the victims, but you know, the dead were all my countrymen, and my neighbors, and I was clear enough that the perpetrators of the evil regarded my life, and those of my family and friends, with the same degree of contempt they did those who had been on the planes, or in their offices, that morning.

I still cannot begin to understand the depth of evil, the viciousness of hatred, the bloodlust, that animated the events of that day.  And honestly, I hope I never do. . .


A couple other random memories from those days. . .

Of course, as soon as the nature of the attack was understood, all planes in US airspace were immediately grounded indefinitely.  For a few days afterward, there were no planes in the air over the entire United States.  I remember how odd, even spooky, it was, as I drove to work on subsequent days, to see no planes in the air, no contrails snaking across the sky.  And I remember thinking how odd it was that such mundane things as a lack of contrails would register so large in my awareness.

And how oddly comforting it was, a few days later, when I saw my first plane in the air after flights were resumed. . .


A few days after September 11, there was the whole 'anthrax scare', in which a few apparently random (or at best, tenuously connected) individuals were infected with anthrax sent to them in the mail.  And for weeks, anthrax added another layer of texture to the overall terror of the times.

One day, I was driving to work, on a rural stretch of freeway that I traveled every day, when, all of a sudden, in the middle of noplace, traffic came to a complete and utter halt.  For over an hour, we just sat on the road, not moving, wondering what in the world was causing the problem.  I called my office to let them know that I was stuck in traffic, and would be in as soon as I could.

Then a small plane appeared, and began crop-dusting the field adjacent to where we sat halted on the road.  A cold chill ran down my spine while the crop-duster made his back-and-forth passes across the field, as I considered the possibility that a trap had been set for all of us on the road that day, and wondering whether one of the passes of the crop-duster might be right along the column of parked cars, 'dusting' us all with anthrax, or some equally-lethal bio-toxin.

I switched my car's ventilation system to 'internal recirculation', and watched intently as the small plane finished dusting his field and flew off.  And then I breathed a sigh of relief. . .

And, in the fullness of time, the accident ahead of us that had blocked the freeway, was cleared, and we continued on our way. . .

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Catholic Signs?

While we were down for my dad's memorial, we were driving along a road that was lined with several fast-food places.  8M, who is 9 years old, seemed particularly interested in one of the establishments, and asked Jen and me, "Are they Catholic?"


"Are they Catholic?" he repeated, pointing to a particular franchise.

Um, why do you ask, son?

"Because it says, 'Pope Yes."

Pope Yes?

And at that point, Jen and I could only burst out laughing, because 'Popeye's' could easily be read as 'Pope Yes', if you're not too careful about where the breaks are. . .


And to make it even more, um, fun (and, you know, keeping it in the family). . .

Another time, we were driving along in a minivan with one of my brothers and his wife, when she pointed to a glass storefront we were driving past.  On one side of the door, the word 'Roman' was painted on the plate-glass window, and 'Tic' was painted on the pane on the other side of the door.

"Now," my SIL mused, "what the heck do you suppose a 'Roman Tic' is?"

"I think," I replied, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, "that it's one of those 'Catholic guilt' things; when a Catholic feels remorse for his sins, he develops a nervous twitch."

"Oh. . . really?  I guess that could make sense.  I don't know, though; why would they paint it on a storefront?"

Finally my brother, who is a singularly reticent man, chimed in.  "Ummm," he began, with a bemused smirk on his face, "I think that's supposed to say 'Romantic'. . ."

The she punched him for pointing it out. . .  'Cuz, you know, she's always tryin' to get him to be more romantic, and all. . .

And, you know, the funny thing is, there's not even any genetic connection between 8M and my brother's wife. . .


Dad's memorial was good, and blessed, and rich.  I got to give one of the eulogies, which I basically took from my recent Father's Day blog post.  My youngest brother also gave a eulogy, and between the two of us, I think we gave a pretty good account of Dad's life.  I was able to say some things about his early life that most of the others might not have known about, and my brother said some things about him from after I'd left home, that I was less intimately acquainted with.  Jen and I and our kids sang a couple of songs ('For All the Saints' is a great funeral/memorial song); I was a little surprised by how many of the folks in attendance hadn't known how musical our family is, or even that I play the guitar. . .

The whole time we were there, it was just great family time, full of reminiscences and fond affection.  I even got invited to one brother's house for the first time in the 15+ years he's lived there. . .

I've shared some about our wacky, yours-mine-and-ours family, and I was appreciating my family on a whole new level this time.  I couldn't help thinking that it was, in lots of ways, a uniquely happy place for an adoptee (at least, this adoptee) to land - our family was formed out of folks coming from so many different, odd directions, that my adopted-ness was really no stranger than anyone else's path into the family.  And, given what I've come to understand in the intervening decades, about the unique challenges of 'blended' families, I cherish all the moreso that our family is still together, and we still love each other.  And it was very gratifying to experience that again this past week, in what could have been a particularly stressful time for us. . .