Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Taking the Leap

Today is February 29th, the day that only comes along 'once in four' (or, if you want to be really anal about it, 97 times in 400; but, you know, who wants to be that much of an, uh, anus?).  It is also (by their own delightful planning and forethought) the 20th wedding anniversary of my blog-friend Suldog and HIS WIFE.  Well, to be perfectly anal precise, it's only their 5th anniversary, but they're celebrating 20 years of connubial bliss. . . you get the idea.  So Happy Anniversary to the blissful couple, and many happy returns of the day! (But, alas, only a quarter of the returns that the rest of us will have of our days. . .) (And the two of you can just be glad that 2000 was that rarest of calendric occurrences, a Leap-Century, or you'd only be celebrating your 4th anniversary. . .)

In my young life, I've had a bit of my own fun with Leap Day, starting from the very beginnings of my life on this earth (Well, OK, starting from roughly nine months after the absolute beginnings of my life on this earth, but our culture marks birthdays, not conception days, which is probably just as well for the hormonally-addled psyches of teenaged boys, and all. . .).  You see, I was born on March 3, in 1956.  And 1956 was a Leap Year, so there was a February 29th that year, and I was born only three scant days later (to be brutally candid, I don't know anything at all about the 'scantiness' of the days, only that they elapsed between February 29th and the day of my actual, you know, birth; but it sounds all high-brow and everything to say 'three scant days', so there you have it. . .)

I often wished, in the days of my youth, that I had made my entry three days earlier, so that February 29th would have been my birthday.  You know, it would have marked me as sort of 'unique' - at least four times more unique than the folks with other 'cool' birthdays, like December 25th, and stuff like that.  (Although, now that I think about it, my dad's birthday was June 17th, and roughly every seven years, on average, his birthday was Father's Day, which is very cool if you're, you know, an actual father and all) (and I don't know how often, on average, any given day between March 22 and April 27 might actually be Easter, but that's got to be even more 'unique' than Leap Day, too, I'm sure; sheesh, this is getting way complicated).

Jen and I always used to say that we wanted to have red-haired, left-handed twins, born on February 29th  (I suppose, if we were really serious about it, we would've abstained from conjugal relations for all except a couple weeks in late May and early June, but we weren't really that committed).  So when she was pregnant for the third time, with a due date in early March of 1988, we got excited.  And in late February, when her belly was suitably round, and delivery was suitably imminent, and she started having 'false labor' contractions, we got even more excited.  February 29th came, and we were on pins and needles all day, hoping against hope that real labor would arrive sufficiently early in the day that delivery could still occur before midnight.  We joked about going for a drive on some back-country gravel roads.  When it got to be late afternoon and still no labor, we briefly considered going out on a bike ride on some back-country gravel roads (OK, it wasn't SERIOUS consideration; but it did come up in conversation) (JOKINGLY!  we were JOKING!).

So then we thought it might be cool for our baby to be born on my birthday, and we could have tandem father-child birthday-observances as a 'Cool Family Tradition'.  But that didn't happen, either.  3M was born two scant days (see above ^ as re 'scantiness') after my birthday, though, so joint celebrations of our birthdays have been fairly common after all, over the years (no, I'm NOT talking about 'celebrating with joints' (much as the young man might wish I were); I mean, we join each other in celebrating our mutual respective two-days-apart birthdays) (in case anyone was inclined to, you know, distort my meaning).  So Happy Birthday, five days hence, to my beloved first-born son (who is really the third-born of my children, but the first son, because he has two older sisters) (Man, everything just requires so much explanation. . .)

In college, I knew a girl who was three days older than me, and she received the appropriate teasing for celebrating her 5th birthday in '76, and all that.  In '77, I think, a group of us gathered at her dorm room door, and at 11:59 on February 28th, commenced with the singing of 'Happy Birthday', being careful to sing enough verses (all of the 'How O-old Are You?' and 'You Live In a Zoo' and 'May the Dear Lord Bless You' ones) that we finished after midnight on March 1st.  So, we figured her birthday came and went in there somewhere. . .

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Back to the Drawing Board, I Guess. . .

Recently I was having a (*sarcasm alert!*) calm, rational discussion with one of my teenagers about his/her frustrations at some 'outrage' or other that Jen had perpetrated on her/his life, when the teen in question said, in an exasperated tone,

"You have no idea what it's like to live with her!"

Well, dang. . .  And here I thought that, in 31+ years of marriage, I had gotten to know her, just a little. . .

A friend of mine likes to say, "Grandchildren are your reward for not killing your teenagers."  I used to think that was funnier than I do now. . .

I never cease to be flabbergasted by the capacity of teens (some of them, anyway; perhaps mine, disproportionately) to recapitulate their behavior as newborns.  In some ways, they act like giant balls of 'I Want', whose conceptual universe ends at their own skin. . .

Lord, have mercy. . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian penitential season of Lent. In honor of which, I'll re-post my traditional Lenten meditation. . .


During Lent, I am struck again and again with the conviction that the Christian life is a lot more serious than I generally treat it as being. It is so easy to play at Christianity – to talk the jargon, do the theology, know the Scriptures, even – to get real good at the outward appearances, but miss the inner transformation, the knowledge of God.


“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us” (from The Weight of Glory, by CS Lewis)

Alas; and I am the most half-hearted of all. I cannot escape the conviction that God is in deadly earnest about a way of life that I’m content to dabble in at my leisure. But –

“When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” (from The Cost of Discipleship, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

I just want to drop the pretenses. I know who I am before God; I’m certainly not fooling God.

“Before Him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:13)


O Lord, have mercy. I may fool myself, but I don’t fool you. You “discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12); “you know my inmost being” (ref. Psalm 139:13-16).

Alas, alas. "Woe is me, for I am undone!" (Isaiah 6:5). Not a pretty picture, is it? And yet you won’t let go of me; you won’t leave me to my own devices, no matter how half-hearted I am. O Lord, I only want to know you. And yet I find that the biggest obstacle to my knowing you is. . . myself. I ought to pray, but I am irresolute. Too often, I go through the motions, “warmed from without, but not aflame within” (Imitation of Christ 3:2).

And yet, O Lord, you call me on, for reasons I can’t discern, except that your love and mercy are unfathomable. . .

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

This Thing Called Love

I have never been a big fan of Valentines' Day, and the whole forced, over-romanticized, Hallmark-y-ness of it.  And, fortunately for me, neither is Jen (although we have had a little fun with it, from time to time). . .

This year, though, I came across a delightful quote (actually, 1F sent it to me; I think she got it from 4M, along with a note to the effect that, "We're all doomed"), from one of my favorite authors, that somehow resonates with my experience of the wonderfulness of the love I've shared with my beloved wife for lo, these many years. . .


We are all a little weird and life's a little weird,
and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours,
we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness
and call it Love.
           -- Theodore Seuss Geisel

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Winter Miles

Yesterday, it was in the mid-40s (F) here, warm and sunny, the nicest day of a whole week of nice days, which, taken together, served to rid the ground here (and, what is more to the point for my purposes in this post, the roads) of the six inches or so of snow that we got a week-and-a-half ago.  So (you knew I was gonna get around to this, didn't you?), I got to go out on my bike.  14 miles.  In February.  Which I haven't done in many, many years.  Woo-hoo!

Together with the 39 miles I got out on the road in January, I now have 53 miles for 2012, which is fairly typical for my total by the end of March.  Add that to the 56 miles I got to ride in December, and I've done over 100 miles in the three winter months, during which any miles at all are pure gravy.  So, 100 miles of gravy; and there's still three more weekends left in February.  I checked my records, and the last time I actually got out on the road in each of December, January and February was '91-'92.  Just to time-scale it for you, Jen was newly pregnant with the fifth of our eight children at the time.  So, you know, it's been a while. . .

I've got a decent stationary bike that I typically use in the winter months.  It's not so bad, to spin the pedals while I watch a football or basketball game, with snow blanketing the ground.  But it's nothing like actually getting out on the road.  The first few miles, my legs, and even more, my lungs, are getting used to the idea of working quite that hard again.  But once they get 'dialed back in', it's just pure joy to be out in the fresh air and sunshine.

The cynical part of me wonders how many feet of snow we'll get in March and April, to take back the miles that the mild winter has given.  But, you know, tomorrow's troubles are enough for tomorrow.  Or something like that. . .


And, since today is Super Bowl Sunday (and whoop-de-freakin'-doo, eh?), I'll re-post, at no extra charge, my recipe for Jalapeño Cheese Dip, which has become a traditional staple of SBs at our house:

1 24oz container cottage cheese
1 16oz container sour cream
     (just recently, we've taken to substituting plain Greek yogurt)
2 cups shredded cheese – Monterrey Jack or mozzarella
     (Pepper Jack is also good)
3-5 chopped green onions or scallions
3-5 garlic toes, pressed or minced
1-3 jalapeño peppers, chopped
     (mix in a habañero pepper for a hotter bite)

(This is the basic recipe; we have also occasionally added other ingredients, like salsa, chili powder, or cayenne powder, as variations; feel free to be as creative as you feel like)

Combine ingredients at least 24 hours before serving, and refrigerate; serve with tortilla chips (we like blue corn best, but we’re not dogmatic about it), and DON’T rub your eyes (or any other 'sensitive tissues') without first washing your hands, preferably a few times. . .