Wednesday, December 25, 2013


"He became what we are, that we might become what He is."

           - St. Athanasius (4th cent.)


"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with us in our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sin."

          - The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15

"Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect."

          - The Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 5, verse 48

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


We had an ice storm in these parts over the past weekend.  It left, as ice storms will, a coating of ice (about 1/4-inch thick) on everything that wasn't sheltered from the falling freezing droplets.  Most especially the trees, which produces a starkly beautiful effect once the storm has passed, and the sun returns, its rays creating a delightful aura of refracted light from the icy coating on the branches.  Simply beautiful.

But of course, that icy coating is not weightless, and the subsidiary effect of coating tree branches in ice is that a non-trivial number of those branches will break under the stress of the excess weight.  And some of those branches will take power/phone lines with them as they fall.  The local news reports say that 30,000 residents of the metro area (which comprises about a quarter-million souls altogether) were without power as of Sunday afternoon.

We, thankfully, did not lose power, but several of our friends, and even neighbors within just a couple blocks of us, did (and I suppose I don't really need to say that the last few days before Christmas is a particularly nasty time to be losing power; to say nothing of the cold snap that blew in after the ice had done its business).  And so it came to pass that, yesterday afternoon, Jen's mom and her husband came knocking on our door, along with an armload of cell phones and iPads needing to be charged.  Of course, we were happy to have them visit us, and use our intact power to re-establish their ability to communicate with the outside world.  And just to thaw out for a few hours, since the loss of power also rendered their furnace non-functional, and the indoor temperature of their house had dropped to around 50F.

After their phones and devices were all duly recharged, they bid us adieu and returned home, and within minutes, our phone rang again.  This time, it was our close friends, the husband of whom was my Best Man, that large fractional century in the past.  They were wondering if they could come and hang with us for a few hours, recharge their own devices, and possibly warm their own toes to a more comfortable thermal level.  When they offered to bring beer. . . well, how could we refuse?  They came, and we enjoyed an evening of unplanned, relaxed fellowship (over beer, wine, and gin-and-tonics by the time the night was done).  The whole day turned into one of hidden blessings in the wake of physical hardship, and we were blessed to be able to provide a bit of comfort to our friends in their time of trial, and it was a blessing for us, just to spend some time with them, enjoying their company, that we hadn't remotely planned on.


It reminds me of a time, maybe 15 years or so ago, that we lost power for a day-and-a-half, back in our previous house, when a heavy, wet snow fell just before Halloween, before many of the leaves had fallen from the trees.  The first night without power was a cool adventure, as we scurried around looking for candles (and wishing that we'd bought those camping lanterns that we'd considered), and being thankful that we hadn't tossed our old cord-style phone when we bought the cordless.  The water heater worked, even if the furnace didn't, and so we could cycle everyone through the shower every few hours (and Jen and I even got to enjoy the old hippie adage about showering with a friend) (or, you know, in our case, your spouse).  Pulling fun out of difficulty, making lemonade out of our lemons, and all that.

When we got to the second night, the sheen of fun was starting to wear thin, and we were most definitely ready for our adventure to be over.  Even so, we went to bed still without power (and I freely admit that Jen and I had it better than the kids did, though we wouldn't have minded a bit if they had wanted to bunk in together to share body heat).  Sometime around midnight, the lights, whose switches we had forgotten to turn off, came abruptly, and we heard the clunky sound of our furnace coming back to life.  After a brief round of rejoicing, we went through the house, turning off lights and blowing out candles, and went back to bed, happy to return to the warm and comfortable status quo.

But that was late October; and it was only 36 hours.  The inside temperature of our house may have fallen below 60F, but it was comparatively short-lived.  Some of our friends and neighbors are going into their fourth night of darkness and cold, and the weather forecast is colder, with overnight lows around 10-12F.  People are talking about putting antifreeze in toilets and drains, and faucets are dripping all over town, to keep pipes from freezing.  This is hardship of a deeper order than we ever faced.  And humbling, to realize that the Universe has the last word, no matter how our technology manages to buffer us from its harsher edges. . . most of the time. . .

Monday, December 9, 2013


Four months ago today was Jen's-and-my 33rd wedding anniversary.

Which means that, today, we've been married for a third of a century.

Time flies when you're having fun, eh?

(And, for those who are wondering - you know who you are - a second third would take us both past our 90th birthdays; but we can talk about that once we make the half. . .)


Sunday, December 8, 2013


I'm sorry to inflict yet another sports post on you all (or at least, on those of you who drop in for reasons other than checking in on my rooting interests), but this has been an autumn of exceeding wonderfulness for my favorite sports teams.  First, my Tigers advanced to within a game or two of the World Series, and now my Spartans are Big Ten football champions, having defeated the Buckeyes of Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game last night (and just for the sake of wondering, the fact that the Big Ten conference has twelve teams in it is passing curious, no?  And even more fun, the Big Twelve conference has ten teams in it; yes, these numerically-challenged conferences are composed of universities charged with educating young adults to take their place as future world leaders; should we be worried?)

It has been a good year for the football Spartans, mainly owing to a superior defense which, at its best, could just suck the life out of opposing offenses.  OSU was definitely the best team we had faced all season, and their offense tested our defense in ways that no-one else had.  Even so, the Spartans charged out to an early 17-0 lead, and things were looking good in Spartan-land halfway through the second quarter.  Of course, the Buckeyes didn't arrive at last night's game undefeated without knowing how to throw a counter-punch (figuratively speaking), and by the middle of the third quarter, they had taken a 24-17 lead.  But at that point, my Spartans managed to blunt the Buckeye momentum and threw a few (figurative) counter-punches of their own, and when it was all said and done, we had a 34-24 victory and the 2013 Big Ten football championship, which comes with a free trip to Pasadena on New Year's Day, to play the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl.

GO GREEN!  all over again.

It has been a stunning year for my Spartans.  Last year's team finished with a record of 7-6, having lost five games by a total of 13 points, largely due to an especially, uh, challenged offense.  And most of the best players from last year's offense graduated, so we weren't necessarily expecting this year to be leaps and bounds better than last year.  And in fact, for the early, non-conference portion of the schedule, our offense continued to struggle mightily, even while our defense took up where last year's suffocating defense left off (after the first three games, the defense had actually scored more points than the offense had, leading some of the more cynical Spartans among us to suggest that we should take to punting on first down, since that would give us more opportunities to score).

But gradually, as the season wore on, the offense slowly came together to where it was more of an asset than a liability, and the defense just stonewalled everything in sight.  We completed the conference schedule undefeated (our only loss all season was a non-conference game against some Catholic school from just across the Indiana state line; we'd love to get another crack at that game, but whatcha gonna do?), and earned a spot in the conference championship game for the second time in the last three years.

And this time, we won.  We're 12-1 heading into the Rose Bowl, a school record for wins, and the third time in four years that we've won 11 games or more.  It's only the third time in my lifetime that we're in the Rose Bowl; the last time was 26 years ago, back when Jen and I only had two kids (and 3M was 'in the oven'). Much as I said about my Tigers earlier in the fall, we haven't been accustomed to quite such lofty and sustained success.  But we are sure as heck enjoying the ride. . .