Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Christmas List for the Man Who Has Everything

Lots of famous people make lists of things they think you should give as Christmas presents.  Oprah has one.  Martha has one.  Hef used to publish one.  Mine is different.  Mine is the list of things you should give to men in their late 40s.  They are not things anyone needs.  They are merely things that make life a little more comfortable and a bit more happy.

1. Because even though he is older now he remembers being a boy and boys dress up like their heroes you will want to buy him a deerstalker from CitySport Caps in Belgium.

2. In North America Christmas comes just before the coldest days of the year.  And no matter how well insulated the house is, he will want a nice sweater to wear in the evening.  He probably remembers the comfortable and durable sweater he wore in the field when he was a soldier, or maybe he only saw soldiers on the big screen wear them.  It doesn't matter.  He will get many winter's wear out of this army-inspired Infantry Sweater from Duluth Trading Company.  The company has a well-earned reputation for making long-lasting and comfortable clothing.  He is sure to wear it often.

3.  He probably doesn't smoke (does anyone smoke anymore?) but he will still get lots of joy from a crystal table lighter that will remind him of when he visited his elegant friends in Miami.  Since no one smokes anymore no one makes gorgeous crystal table lighters anymore.  But you can still find brilliant Waterford lighters on eBay.

4.  What is comfort?  A leather wingback club chair.  This is one is one of the best.  It's made with hardwood and top grain leather.  No yellow pine and bonded leather for your man.

5. "Tobacco is an Indian weed.  The Devil's the one who sewed the seed. It yellows your fingers and dirties your clothes and makes a chimney out of your nose."  But that's no reason for him not to have the cigar store indian of his dreams.  The highest quality antique indians go for $50,000, $70,000 or and even more, but isn't he worth it?  And there are deals to be found on eBay.  With a little searching and a little luck you might find the perfect one for your man's favorite room.

6.  It's his favorite lamp from his favorite Christmas movie.  Why not give it to him?  Doesn't he deserve a major award?

7. Seriously, who doesn't want a working miniature canon under the tree on Christmas morning?

8.  He never bought a class ring because he was doing things like paying for diapers and bicycles.  And he would never buy one now because it would be an act of vanity.  But if you bought it for him it would be an act of love.  So go to the Josten's website and order a class ring for him.

9.  You might think it's nuts but he would really like the standing squirrel nut bowl.  He'll set it on his desk and admire it.  Trust me.  He will.

10.  In the age of digital, when everything is lights and screens and plastic, does anything say luxury and civilization like a dictionary lectern?  Just imagine this beautiful piece of furniture supporting the OED or, perhaps, Noah Webster's first dictionary

11.  He's not just a reader who likes to sit in his chair and read old books, he's also an outdoorsman who ties his zebra midges and klinkhammers beside those cold Sierra streams so they match the hatch.  Therefore, get him this beautiful (for it's functionality) fly-tying kit.

12.  Sometimes, usually in the summer, when the bass and crape are biting in the lakes, he'll want to be out on the water, not wading in it.  For those times a wooden canoe is just what is needed.

13.  Sometime or other the power is going to go out.  It might be because of an EMP, the zombie apocalypse, or who knows what.  But when it happens the cell phone map app won't work.  He's going to need a case to cary his paper maps in.  Why not give him the map case that won WWII?

14.  You never know when he might need to shoot somebody, but when he does don't you want him to do do it like an American?  Of course you do.  That's why your going to give him a Taylor.

15.  He loves Christmas movies and even watches them in the middle of July.  Among his favorite is The Santa Clause, so what better gift to give hem than a snow globe?  But not just any snow globe.  The best snow globe in the world!  And Gump's sells them.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Day after Thanksgiving

Fruited Molasses Balls and Cranberry-Walnut Pie
    On the 21st of November was the feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple.  In the West the same feast is called Presentation, which is nice because I made poached pears to celebrate, which means that they were Presentation Poached Pears.  I like alliteration.  It's fun.

     Also, on that day I began a 30 day assignment for San Jose Unified School District.  I'm teaching government, economics, and American History.  It is much fun.  My students haven't had a teacher since school started (lots of substitutes who only stayed one or two days in the classroom) so they are far behind. 

     Yesterday was Thanksgiving.  Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  So I won't dwell on it.  Well, we did get up to SF and back without incident so that is something for which to be thankful.  And Kathleen cooked an amazing acorn squash.  I am thankful for that, too.
Harley with gold flake paint
    Today, everything went right.  Kathleen and I woke up early and went to Savers, a second hand store, to take advantage of the black Friday sale.  She got amazing deals.  I found a bunch of tins to use for Christmas cookies.

     Then we went shopping for a motorcycle.  I think we found one.  I think she likes it more than I do.  I'd prefer gold flake paint but she likes this one with the maroon paint more.   Also, it has the features we require:  plastic frame leather saddle bags big enough to carry laptop computers, papers, and books, a passenger seat, a sissy bar with mini-luggage rack, and an engine guard because all motorcycles wind up horizontal on the pavement at least once.
Kathleen and I on a Harley

We didn't buy it.  We'll probably wait a couple of weeks.  But the mini-van I've been driving isn't going to last long (It has billions and billions of miles on it.) and it only gets 17 mpg, so we'll have to purchase soon.

After shopping for a motorcycle and getting the salesman all excited we gave him our contact information and left to got get my sons, Anselm and Basil.

When we got home it was time to make fruited molasses balls and cranberry walnut pies to give away.  That is my favorite thing.  I love cooking and baking for other people.  And being able to cook and bake with my sons is even better. I'm not able to eat any of it, or the four fruitcakes that are aging downstairs, or the Christmas cookies I'll make tomorrow, but I do love making all of it and giving it away.

     Oh, I should mention that I still haven't had any alcohol since 7:35 a.m. on August 24 and have lost 70 pounds.  Kathleen emailed my doctor about me (I didn't know until today) and the doctor wants me to go in for lots more tests.  It seems I am, a medical curiosity; most people who quit alcohol after drinking as much as I was drinking have heart attacks and stuff.  Well, when I have time I'll go see her.  But right now I have no symptoms of diabetes and my weigh is still going down a little but each day so I'm happy.

     While the first batch of yum was in the oven the boys went out to the garden and planted another bed of celery, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.   Then we played cards; Kings Corners, a game my mother used to play with me when I was a boy, while pies baked.

It is evening.  The boys are at their mother's house now, and I am grading papers from last week.  I am very thankful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

An Autumn Reading List

Some of the radio stations to which I listen, and some of the magazines I read often suggest summer reading lists.  The books they recommend are always new books, often light fare masquerading as deep literary fiction.   The authors are typically named Sheldon, Collins, King, and Higgins Clark; all renowned for writing page turners that can be picked up while sunning at the beach and put down again to play in the waves with children. But to the best of my knowledge, no one ever suggests reading lists for the Autumn.  Maybe, this is because autumn is a serious time of year; a time when the crops are brought in, and one has to face the fact that winter is just around the corner and if there isn't enough food in the barn by now winter is going to gnaw.   Autumn doesn't lend itself to fun reading.  It is a time for more serious words that require lengthy digestian.  So, here is the list of books I recommend for autumn.

1.  Graham Green's The Quiet American reveals the naiveté of America at the beginning of the Vietnam War.

2.  Reynolds Price's Blue Calhoun, a story of a discontent middle-aged man and a too young woman bears the distinction of being the only book I ever bought because of a review in the Wall Street Journal.  

3.  Marcus Porcius Cato's Di Agri Cultura is the oldest existing work of Latin prose. (There are really good English translations.)  I first encountered it when I was working on an M.A. in ancient history and was researching the wine trade.  I fell in love with the books practical advice and smile evoking insights, such as when Cato tells his reader to visit a farm more than once before buying it, "and while you visit and inspect", because sellers will pressure you to buy right now, "leave yourself a way out." 

4. The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley gets it's name from the aromatic lawn at the house where all the main characters are gathered decades after they were all together the last time, on the eve of WWII.  It has been observed that people who lived through that war divide time by saying, "...but that was before the war", "...but that was during the war". and "... but after the war we...".   This book is another literary example of that phenomenon, and a very good one.

5. A.S. Byatt (Her real name is Dame Antonia Susan Duffy (She is a DBE and so is her sister.), wrote a very good book.  No. That is not correct.  Possession is a marvelous book.  It is two, no, three stories as two historians working without knowledge of each other research two Victorian poets.  I know, it sounds boring but it is a love story and mystery and a guide to the world of academic research, and all of this is given to the reader in various types of literature; poetry, narrative, epistolary, and more.  It is worth every penny you will pay for it.  It will keep you awake at night.

6. In some ways, Earnest Hemingway is a summer writer; his stories are often set in Phaethonic (Yes, I invented that word.  Not even Shakespeare tried to adjective-ize that pagan god's name.) climes that stir up a longing for extended holidays in Spain or the Caribbean.  But unlike the fiction usually recommended for summer, Hemingway's short stories compel reflection.  I mean, a man dying alone in a bull ring, or just trying to get through a hot night without crawling inside a bottle is not the light airy entertainment of, say, a Cussler.  Hemingway is the man who in six words wrote the saddest story ever I've ever read:  "For sale.  Baby shoes.  Never worn."  I am not recommending any of his novels, rather his short stories, and in particular, the Finca Vigia edition.  Reviewers didn't like this collection (it wasn't orderly enough for them) but I do.  I have no idea how the editor made his (or her?) decisions but some of them were truly genius.  For example, one of the short stories is broken up and the different pieces are placed between other stories.  It recreates the feeling of a serial, like the Lone Ranger serial that used to be screened at Saturday matinees.

I doubt anyone will read all of these books in one autumn, but I hope some of my readers open at least one of these books.  Happy reading.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Good Little Monkeys

Another cartoon I've liked ever since the first time I saw it is Good Little Monkeys, also dating from the 1930s.  My mother had a little ceramic statue of the Goodie Goodie Monkeys that I always liked. (You can find them for sale on eBay.)   Gosh, I don't think I've seen it since I was 7 or 8 years old.

Anyway, when I was a kid I used to walk around singing to myself "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil, No. We're the goodie goodie monkeys everywhere we go."

The concept comes from the teachings of Confucious which when translated into Japanese is 
"Mizaru, kikazaru, iwazaru" ("don't see, don't hear, don't say").  And since "-zaru" sounds like "saru" (Eng. monkey) the Japanese made these little statues and called them The Three Wise Monkeys.

I don't know how the monkeys became popular in the United States.  Perhaps, they were brought over the ocean by immigrants. 

Of course, all three of the monkey behaviors are presaged in the Bible:

See no evil -  "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes"  Psalm 101:3

Hear no evil - "A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue." Proverbs 17:4

Speak no evil - "Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth..." Ephesians 4:29

One of the things I really like about this cartoon is the role played by books.  The books step in to rescue the monkeys from the Devil.  There is a lesson there.

Happy Harmony*** Good Little Monkeys (1935... by andythebeagle

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Health improvements

Back in February I weighed weighed 339 (or 336, I don't remember) pounds, was wearing size 5X shirts, could barely walk, was experiencing frightening breathing problems, was drinking a couple of gallons or more of hard liquor a week, and was experience diabetes symptoms.

Now I weigh 299, am wearing a 2X shirt, am able to walk, am breathing fine, and haven't tasted alcohol since August 24.  Best of all is having no diabetes symptoms.    My goal weight is 190.

I made it through withdrawal without to much suffering and only two hallucinations.  The only problem I seem to have from doing that is cloudy thinking.  For example, addition and subtraction is difficult right now.  But I read that that will improve over time.  I hope so.  It's a little bit embarrassing.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Planning for Christmas

Kathleen and I have been planning for Christmas.  We talked, briefly, about traveling to New York for Christmas but decided against it.  I've completed most of my Christmas shopping.  I am not a big fan of buying lots of Christmas presents so it's not very difficult for me to do.  I prefer Church and food and good stories and singing to presents, though it is pleasant to see them all under the tree.

The biggest thing accomplished so far is planning the menus.  It looks like a lot but it is spread out over two months, and we hope to have guests over for most of these meals.  And we might be going to my sister's house on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, so we might be making an Astro Weenie Christmas Tree to take over there with us.

Below are the menus we have decided on.  You might notice several appearances of mashed potatoes.  They are Kathleen's daughter's favorite food.  And because both of Kathleen's children were born on Theophany I am going to bake two birthday cakes for them.  Anyway, here are the menus.  I think it will be much fun.

First day of Nativity Fast (November 15)
Cracked crab (November 15 is the first day of crab season in California)
Steamed artichokes

St. Nicholas Day (December 6)
St. Nicholas buns (for breakfast)
St. Nicholas Shells
Green Salad
Bishop’s bread

St. Hermans Day (December 13th)
Salmon steaks
Broccoli orzo

Christmas Dinner (evening of December 25th)
Roasted boar’s head (We will be singing the song) Roasted turkey
Cranberry walnut pie
Spicy orange salad Mashed potatoes GravyGreen beans with walnuts Cranberry sauce
5th Day of Christmas (Dec 29)
Good Old Meat Pie
Mashed potatoes GravyPineapple Upside Down Cake (pineapple slices standing in for the 5 golden rings)

New Year’s Day/Saint Basil’s Day (January 1)
Prime Rib (I've never made this and am a bit worried.)
Cranberry salad
Mashed potatoes
Brussel’s sprouts
Pecan chocolate chip pie
12th Night (January 5) (just before we run out the door to church)
Theophany (January 6)
Crown Pork Roast
Mashed potatoes
Fruited Molasses Balls
Birthday cakes (French Vanilla Cake & Carrot)

Saturday, September 02, 2017


Even when I was a little kid  i noticed the difference between cartoons made in the 1930s through the 1940s and the cartoons being made when I was a kid in the 1970s.  It seems that cartoons made in that earlier time were made for adults, or a least for kids who aren't utter dullards and are able to get a joke.   One of the reasons I like this cartoon so much is that it has references to stuff I saw in my house or in my grandmothers house.  It changed forever how I would think of a bottle of Witch Hazel.

Sunday, August 27, 2017


I was very agitated last night.  I couldn't sleep.  My head hurt.  On the up-side no more hallucinations.  Below are the stages of alcohol withdrawal.  I am glad I don't have all the symptoms.  I feel sorry for those who do.  I have two symptoms not on this list (which I found at American Addiction Centers):  itchy crawly skin, and pain in my elbows and knees.  Oh, there is also the headache.  I'll be glad when that goes away.

What is the Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline?

Alcohol withdrawal can be broken down into three stages:

  • Stage 1: Anxiety, insomnia, nausea, and abdominal pain characterize this stage, which begins 8 hours after the last drink.  (I'm past the nausea and stomach pains.  I still feel anxious and am having trouble sleeping.)
  • Stage 2: High blood pressure, increased body temperature, unusual heart rate, and confusion come with this stage, which begins 24-72 hours after the last drink. (I've noticed the confusion but that might or might not be from withdrawal.  I have noticed my heart speeding up and slowing down, and sometimes beating so hard it feels like pounding in my chest. This is the only symptom that worries me.  I haven't felt hot since Saturday morning.)
  • Stage 3: Hallucinations, fever, seizures, and agitation come with this stage, which tends to begin 72+ hours after the last drink.  (So far, I've only experienced only one hallucination and it wasn't scary.  No seizures.  No fever.  Anxiety since hour 4 or 5.)
All symptoms tend to decrease within 5-7 days.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Principal and My Health

I had the meeting with Basil's school's principal.  It went not at all like I was expecting.  When I told him what I went to tell him he said, "Good.  Someone needs to teach Alex a lesson."  He also said that he would instruct the staff to respond slowly to any fight involving Alex and my son, Basil.   

Regarding my health:  I am down to 313 pounds now.  Also, without going to detox and rehab (because those seem scary to me) I totally quit drinking.  My last drop of alcohol was at 7:35 a.m. on Thursday the 24th of August.  It is painful in my knees and elbows for some reason, and I am irritable so I am avoiding people, trying to sleep a lot. Aspirin helps the pain.   And I am drinking a lot of iced tea; also, water with lime juice.   The shaking is pretty bad but I think I'm past the chest pains; none since last night.  The first day I had trouble holding a pen or a fork.  It frightened Kathleen and she tried to talk me into having a drink.  I said no.  I almost gave up at 4 this morning but I knew the man sitting at the kitchen table offering to pour me a drink wasn't really there.  So I just had a glass of water with lime  juice and went back to bed.  I had to just quit drinking because of the diabetes, a fairly recent diagnoses.  Every drink caused burning in my hands and feet.  I am terrified of losing my legs like my aunt Vergie or going blind like my Mom.   I'd rather suffer alcohol withdrawal than experience the complications of diabetes.  About all I eat now are skinless chicken breasts and steamed broccoli, cauliflower and other cultivars of the brassica oleracea plant.  I am not going to die, lose my legs, or go blind!

Monday, August 07, 2017

A Bully

Last school year my youngest son, who at 11 years is taller than me, almost as heavy and as strong I am, was bullied by another boy in his school.  Last year I told him to walk away and report the bullying to school staff.   But the bullying continued.  The staff failed to teach the bully to not be a bully.  I believe that contributed to my son being put in mental hospitals last school year.

This summer I taught my son how to fight: First punch to the nose, next punch to the trachea, when the enemy is down kick until he stops moving.  Do not posture.  Do not try to look cool.  The only goal is victory.   The only goal is the defeat of the enemy.   I told Basil Wenceslas that he is no longer permitted to walk away.  He must defeat his enemy.   Today, when I had Basil Wenceslas punch my hands he almost broke them.  His follow through is merciless.

Tomorrow I am meeting with the Principal of the school to warn him.  Keep that bully away from my son or something terrible is going to happen.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Camping, a Rifle, and Saying No

Basil Wenceslas, Kathleen, her kids and I went to San Jose Family Camp for six nights.  (This is Monday. We got back on Friday.) Basil and I had a tent cabin on the summit of a hill so we could look over a giant valley filled with redwoods, ponderosa pine, and oak trees.  It was remarkable, as I've never seen those three species growing together before.   Our tent cabin had a balcony/deck built out over the hill.  That's where we slept because of the heat.  I saw at least one shooting star every night.  Two of them were totally amazing.  The one on the second night zoomed across the sky, then there was a flash of light followed, a few seconds later, by a muffled boom.  Then, on the forth night was the other unusual shooting star.  It had a long tail, it drew its white streak though a quarter of the sky.  I had never seen it's like before.
Kathleen and her kids had a tent cabin closer to the river.  I liked my location more.  If you ever go to San Jose Family Camp I recommend tentcabin #605.

During the day we played board games, fished (didn't catch anything), swam in the river.  Basil went over Rainbow Falls (19 feet from top to bottom) several times.  It inspired me to do it, too.  Boy that was a dumb decision.  I barely made it to the top of the falls then I had to wait 15 minutes to catch my breath.  Then, when I went over I was almost too weak to make it to the surface.  But when I finally got my head out of the water and gasped for breath there were two score people clapping for me. Kathleen climbed to the top of the rock beside the falls and jumped into the pool below.  I tried to climb the rock but was too weak.  At night there was a campfire where we all sang silly camp songs and the kids roasted marshmallows.  The last two days we were at camp there was a lot of smoke from a forest fire about 20 miles away.  In fact, the last morning, Basil and I woke up covered in ash that had fallen like snow.  The fire is still burning.

I bought Anselm Samuel a rifle the other day.  It's a Marlin 60.  I took him to the range Saturday and he shot a couple of hundred bullets at paper targets.  He's a pretty good shot.  There was another guy at the rage with the same rifle but with a scope.  Just using iron sights Anselm shot better than the guy with the scope.  I was proud of him.

Yesterday, Sunday, Kathleen and I went to church.  (Basil was sick, Anselm left early in the morning for a Boy Scout camp out, and Kathleen's kids were with their father.) Father John Takahashi was subbing for Father Basil, who is in Scotland right now.  It was good to see him again.  He used to be my pastor when I attended Holy Trinity in San Francisco.

Today I have reached a new record.  It is now 11:30 p.m.  My last drink was at 1 p.m.  That's 10 1/2 hours without a drink.  It has not been easy.  I started feeling jittery about 4 p.m.  The stomach cramps started up about 6 p.m. and for the last couple of hours I've been feeling pretty bad chest pains and my skin feels like it needs to be scratched off.  My doctors wont let me go to detox until I've lost 20 pounds. (Allegedly my heart can't handle detox.)  When they said that I weighed 336.  Now I weigh 321.  But I've been stuck there for a week.  Most of my calories come from alcohol so I have to cut that out to lose the weight to get into detox.  Its going to be hard but I know I can do it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Of Rifles and Creeks

Yesterday I picked up Anselm (formerly known as the little boy) and we went to the DMV to get my handicap placard.  Yes, I am officially lame, according to my doctors and the state of California.   At least I'll always have a place to park my car now.  After the DMV we went to Bass Pro and I bought Anselm a Marlin 60.  He wanted a larger calibre rifle but after I told him to compare the price of a box .22lr cartridges to the price of a box of .375 H&H cartridges he agreed that the Marlin 60 was the right rifle.

Today I took Basil and his friend to Los Gatos Creek.  The official trail does not go by the part of the creek we were in.  It was overgrown with trees and other vegetation; about as wild as one can get in the city.  We identified lots of edible things: fennel, pepper, blackberries, elderberries, figs, and onions.  A flock of geese splashed down right next to me.  A family of ducks swam past.  The boys found a deep place and jumped off rocks into the water.  It was fun to watch.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Christmas in June.

Today is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner.  And how can anyone keep this day without thinking of Saint John's cousin, the Son who left glory to be born a man, who endured every temptation but without sinning, who died for us, and in his resurrection defeated death itself?  So, it is six months early,  but I am thinking about Christmas.


How soon it starts,
The endless moan:
‘Just ten more weeks, 
How time has flown!
The shopping’s such
An awful bore;
Things cost so much – 
(And more, and more) –
I wonder if this colour suits her
- Let’s give the children a computer!’
Unchanging times remain, it’s true:
The card that means
‘I think of you’
Is there a hopeful little sock
Hung by the fire, beneath the clock:
Name stuck on a with a safety pin,
For Santa’s bounty to go in;
An apple and an orange too,
A coin pushed down into the toe,
And loving parcels set below
For Christmas morn?
The perfect way to celebrate
That long ago a child was born.

by Jay
Title: Christmas
Source: New Shetlander, 1985

Friday, June 16, 2017

Garden update

I went out to water this morning and was happy to see that the corn and sunflowers have sprouted.  Also, the water melon vine has flowers.  While I was watering the garden Kathleen planted another planter box with bell pepper seeds.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Vacation and Other Stuff.

Kathleen took me to Sanctuary, a resort on Monterey Bay for a few days.   No kids.  Just me.  Just her.  I don't think I've ever done a vacation like that.  (Kids have been my life for 30 years.) Fires on the beach.  Daiquiris on the patio while watching whales.  Hot tub and swimming pool.  Nothing to do.  We talked about going to the Steinbeck museum (because we are Californians) but decided against it because it was too much work.  It was marvelous.  I think traveling without kids has to become my new hobby.

The garden is still doing well.  I was worried it would die while I was away but it is doing fine.  The flowers we planted for butterflies and humming birds are the first seeds to sprout.

Oh!  It has been a long time since I've posted a Cocktail of the Day so I feel I should rectify that.  This dink is like a daiquiri but it is different.   It is called The Spanish Town Bummer and is named after a small city in Jamaica.

Fill a pilsner glass with ice.
Add two sugar cubes.
Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the glass.
Pour two ounces of Jamaican rum over the sugar cubes. (This drink doesn't work with lighter rums.)
Fill glass with water.

Friday, June 09, 2017

A Garden

Today Kathleen and my son Anselm Samuel and I put in a garden.  We have three planter boxes, each holds a yard of soil.  So, first we ordered the soil.  It was delivered by a dump truck.  We shoveled it into the boxes.

In the east box we planted sunflowers, lettuce, spinach, and sweet basil.  We left about half the box for pumpkins.

In the middle box we planted sweet corn, cucumbers, purple and green bell peppers, artichokes, and watermelon.

In the west box we planted three varieties of tomatoes and some carrots.

We have for more smaller boxes.  I think they'll each about 1/2 a yard.  Once we get the soil for them we'll plant a variety of squashes and pumpkins.

Update, June 15:  In one of the small boxes we planted summer squash.  Three boxes have flowers for humming birds and butterflies.  Some of these are already pushing through the soil.  We have one more small box left but haven't planted it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

What Moses Saw

On Memorial Day we watched Glory.  There is a scene in the film that shows a group of soldiers clapping, singing, and taking turns giving motivational mini-sermons.  

Basil Wenceslas said, "How come we don't do church like that?"  I was surprised by the question but I was able to answer it because the Bible answers it.  I told him we follow the pattern of worship that happens in Heaven, that everything we do is as close to the Heavenly original as we can make it.   I told him what St. Stephen said (reported in Acts 7:44), "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen" and explained that everyone who saw Heaven and told us what it was like described something that looks like the the services of the Orthodox Church.

A few minutes ago I came across this essay that goes into much more detail than my short answer to my son.  So, I'll print it out and give it to him tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was over about an hour ago.  It was not a bad day.  I have had a horrible headache for the past 4 days but it subsided this afternoon.  At about 5 p.m. my two youngest sons came to my house where I live with Kathleen, and we cooked hamburgers and chicken outside over charcoal.  It was on the same little sportsman's grill I've owned for many years.  I bought it from the Williams-Sonoma catalogue in 1993 or 1994.  I've used it to cook for all of my children.  We watched the movie Glory. (It was Civil War widows and orphans who began the practice of decorating graves of fallen soldiers.) For our fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guards, and airmen we prayed the Orthodox Prayer for the Departed and Memory Eternal.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Agape Vespers

     I do not know what it is like at other parishes, but at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga after Agape Vespers we all retire to the hall and eat and drink enough to make up for all the lenten fasting.  There was champagne and tri-tip (because we are Californians) and whisky and lamb and beer and ham and cider and sausages and wine and cheeses and vodka in ice blocks (Every year people ask me how to make this.  It's super easy.  Here are instructions.) and meat laden soups from Greece, Russia, and Egypt, and much more besides.
     This year a young woman I had never seen sat down at the table with me and my fiancee and my son , Anselm Samuel.  It took all of 30 seconds to figure out that she was emotionally troubled.  It was her first time at an Orthodox church.  Any one with any life experience could tell she had been used by many men.  She kept going on and on about how she never knew church could be like this.         The whole parish showed her love.  Lisa brought her a plate of food.  Sami gave her a shot of whiskey and a big fatherly hug.  Kathleen was her instant friend.  Anselm poured her a shot of vodka from the ice block.   I made sure she had some paskha and kulich.  Someone else brought her strawberries.  Everyone greeted her with "Christ is risen".  I taught her to say "He is risen indeed".
    She kept referring to her past and I said, "We don't need to know about that but if you need to confess the priest is right there."
    She said with amazement, "He'll here my confession?!  Will he give me Hail Mary's to say or something?"
    I said, "No. But he will do what you need."
    She said, "Really?  I can become orthodox right now? "
    I  said, "You need to talk to Fr. Basil."
   She asked, "What do I say?"
   I showed her how to ask for a priest's blessing and said, "then you just talk".
   She got up and walked across the parish hall to the priest, asked for his blessing, and the next thing you know, they are both walking into the church.
   A little while later she came back to the table where we had moved on to amaretto (thank you Katrina) and I noticed tears on her cheeks.  I asked her, "Did he hear your confession?"
   "Yes, and he didn't make me do anything.  No Hail Marys or anything.  He just put that cloth on me and prayed over me.  I can't belive it.  I'm such a bad girl and he forgave me."
   I said, "Not any more.  You are no longer a bad girl."  And she started crying again.
   So, if anyone criticizes the Orthodox for our exuberant feasting, let them be ashamed.  The feasting at the Lord's table rescues the fallen, finds the lost, ransoms the captive, breaks every fetter, and calls sinners to repentance.  Christ is Risen!  Indeed he is Risen!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annunciation and other things

     Friday night was the vigil for Annunciation.  I took the boys with me.  (They are both taller than I am now.  Maybe I should stop calling them boys.)  There are 5 parts of that long service I absolutely love.
     The first is the Polyeleos, when we tell God how amazing he is.  The list of what He has done to save his people is truly awesome.
     Second is when the lights are extinguished and a lone reader with one candle chants the Six Psalms, prophecies of Jesus' thoughts when he was on the Cross. (Some say that just before Jesus returns an angel will appear in the sky chanting these Psalms in all the tongues of men, announcing by what judgement we shall be judged.)
     Third is the Gospel reading.  This is when the heart of the feast is revealed.  It is the epitome of the service.
     Fourth is when the priest or bishop stands at the west end of the building and invokes the prayers of dozens of the saints.  "...St Ambrose of Milan, the protomartyr and equal to the apostles St. Thekla, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Peter the Aleut martyr of San Francisco, St. Vladimir equal to the Apostles, St. Mary of Paris, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Patrick of Armagh the enlightener of Ireland, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ss Gregory, Clement, and Leo Popes of Rome, St. Panteleimon the unmercenary physician, St. John Chrysostom..."  As their names are called out their lives and deeds fill my mind and I am reminded of what kind of man I am supposed to be.
     The fifth is when, near the end of the service, we line up to venerate the icon of the feast (I am not able to prostrate anymore.  If I try it I lose my breath.), receive the blessing of oil on our heads, exchange the festal greeting with the priest, and then get some of that yummy bread dipped it wine.  (I really have no idea what this is about.  It's not communion but what is it?  I'll have to ask the priest sometime.)
     My contract with the school district was not renewed.  I was expecting that.  I am not a credentialed Special Education teacher and the district is under scrutiny  from the state for Special Education irregularities.  They really need someone who knows better than me how to teach these kids.  I'm great for lectures and essays, but when a student has auditory and visual processing problems I don't know how to reach him.  But I am not worried.  The school year is over May 25 but I chose the 12 month pay schedule so I'll still have an income through the end of July.  Also, I'll teach summer school.  After that?  Return to being a substitute until I have completed the requirements for the Social Science teaching credential. (It looks like that will be in December.)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ski week and a diagnosis

The boys and I went up to Strawberry last Tuesday morning.  We stayed two nights.  It was amazing good time even though I was very sick.  On the  way to Strawberry we stopped at Sonora (THere was some flooding) for lunch.  We ate at a place called the Diamondback Grill.  The food was very high quality but the portions were enormous.  Their smallest hamburger was 1/2 pound of beef.  After lunch we made it as far as Twain Harte before the CHP required chains.  Anselm Samuel did a great job putting them on.  From then on we made very slow progress.  Roads were covered with ice and snow.  We arrived at the Strawberry Inn about 5 pm.  We had dinner, played several games of pool in the bar, and then went to our room.   The boys discovered the old teevee show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  They were laughing out loud though several episodes.

The next morning after breakfast (the view from the dining room over looked the frozen Stanislaus River.  It was gorgeous.) I sent Basil out to scrape the windows on the van.  I was distressed when he came back and told me he broke the key off in the van's door.  Thankfully, it was the wrong key so I could still drive the van.  The problem:  The van only has one key hole in one door and it was jammed with part of a broken key.    So, we played pool in the bar and waited two hours for a locksmith to come open the van for us.  It cost $100.  

After that we drove to where the gate is closed to Sonora Pass and looked out over hundreds of miles of snow covered wilderness.  The boys played in the snow there for a while but I wanted to head over to Pine Crest so we left after about 1/2.  On the road to Pine Crest I saw another road with a sign indicating a USFS station and thought I'd pull in there to get a map of the forest for the boys.  I saw that the snow was a little deeper on this road but I had chains on so I thought it would be no problem.  I was totally wrong.  We got stuck.  The boys were great.  they chopped limbs off of trees to use for traction.  They poured water over the engine so it would melt the snow under the van.  They dug and dug and dug.  And after 40 minutes we were free and on the way to Pine Crest.  But then I saw another road and another sign. The sign said Leland Snow Play.  So we drove over that way (it had some thin ice on it but very little snow) for a couple of miles and found a super fun inner tube slopes.  I bought lift tickets and goggles for the boys and watched them zooming down the slopes the rest of the afternoon.  When the sun was low we left and drove back to the inn.  (I want to mention that there were hardly any cars on the roads; just snow plows or Forest Service pick-up trucks once in a while.  It was very peaceful to drive through the forest with snow falling and no other cars.)  I was too sick to eat supper but the boys ate in the inn's dining room while I had a gin and tonic at the bar.  (I had two drinks the whole trip.  It was uncomfortable but I didn't want my sons to see me drinking a lot.)  After they ate we played some more pool then went to bed.  We were tired.

The next morning we packed up, checked out and drove to Pine Crest.  My dad used to take me fishing there 40 years ago so it is kind of nostalgic for me.  It was almost totally deserted.  I talked to the guy who owns the general store, and he said winter is the off season, that fewer than 400 guests were there, but in the summer 10,000 isn't unusual.  I was surprised by that.  After stoping at the general store we drove to the lake.  It was good to see it full of water and snow.  Last winter it was totally dry.  After 5 years of extreme drought this has been a good wet winter for California.  After Pine Crest we drove home, with a brief stop in Jamestown.

Oh, the diagnosis.  It seems I have stage 2 COPD.  Doctors have been wrong about me before.  Let's hope they are wrong this time, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Evening Prayers, Alcoholism, and Ski Week

"Alcohol Kills"
I've had breathing problems for a while now.  I've been to see the doctor about them a few times but they aren't able to cure me.  In fact, every time I see the doctor I am given a different diagnosis.  Most recently (since December) I have been coughing and lose my breath if I have to walk more than 30 yards.  I mention all that for this reason.  Last night my son Anselm Samuel (who used to be known as The Little Boy on this blog) had to say the evening prayers because my voice is gone from coughing so much.  Yes, teaching is difficult in this condition.

I've had to accept the fat that in the three years since my divorce I have become an alcoholic.  It got really bad when I was living in my truck and drinking to unconsciousness every night.  I tried to quit cold turkey a while ago but it was very painful.  Cramps and shaking started on the second day and  I had to have a drink.  What I've been trying to do since then is drink a little less each week.  I am down to 4 hard liquor drinks or a bottle of wine each day.  It is not easy.  I told my doctor about it on my last visit and I wish I hadn't.  I want this cough cured and all she wants to talk about is rehab.

Today is Saturday.  On Tuesday my boys and I are going to Strawberry for two nights.  It is the week called Ski Week, when all the schools in San jose close.  We are planning on sledding, snow shoe
Strawberry Lodge
hiking through the forest, and ice skating.  The reports are 10 feet of snow on the ground and more snow is forecasted to fall the whole time we'll be there.   We've been up there before.  I think two winters ago was the last time, but it was a drought year and snow was scarce.  This year is different.  It has been one of the wettest winters in California history.  Today I am going to teach the boys how to "chain up" for driving in snow.

Monday, January 30, 2017

for my grandchildren

Several times since I have known her, Athanasia has gotten rid of my books or the boys' books.  Thankfully, she called me Friday (today is early Monday morning) and told me that if I wanted to keep any books I should come get them.  Saturday morning I saved all the Christmas books I read to my sons each year.  I kept Aesop's Fables, the children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Boxcar Car Children books, and the Sugar Creek Gang books, and many others.  I was especially happy to find the two astronomy books I used when I was homeschooling Anselm for kindergarten. She asked, "Why are you keeping them?"  I said, "For our grandchildren."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Catching up

It has been a busy and difficult month.   I became very sick right after Christmas.  I was in bed for the last four days before the start of the spring semester and missed three days during the first week of the semester.  I lost me hearing and have been referred to a surgeon but I haven't gone.  I really do not want surgery on my head.  So, I've been waiting, and guess what?  The hearing has come back in my right ear!!!  I'm still stone deaf in the left but one ear is better than no ears.  So, I am thankful.

I got tired of picking up my kids for church on Sunday mornings and them looking like bums.  I pay their mother 1/3 of my income for child support but she doesn't buy them clothes.  So, I took Anselm Samuel to Men's Wearhouse when they were having a sale on suits and got him a slate blue suite, an extra pair of trousers in gray, three dress shirts, and then we went to Macy's where he got his first pair of Florsheim shoes.  He chose blue cap-toed Oxfords.  I want him to take care of these shoes (he is so hard on shoes!) so I made him chip in $50 of his own money (earned from working for Kathleen) to help pay for them.  The funny thing about the suit; when he wears it he combs his hair.

I would have bought Basil Wenceslas a suit, too, but he is only eleven and still growing fast.  Kathleen had an excellent idea, though.  She took him to Savers and found two sports coats for him.  One in brown herringbone, the other in blue gabardine.  I was surprised at how happy he was.

I had my formal evaluation at work.  I got a perfect evaluation, except that my principal said I try to pack too much information into one lesson.  I'm okay with doing less.

I've finished one third of my M.Ed. program.  It is difficult because, unlike, other classes I've taken, I'm expected to drink the leftist Kool-Aid.  So far, I've been able to stay under the radar.  But, man it is hard to read and regurgitate the work of Soviet psychiatrists in the papers I write.  I have no hope the the California public schools.

Kathleen had her first Orthodox house blessing last week.  Archpriest Basil is such a good pastor.  All the neighborhood kids followed him from room to room as he splashed holy water on everything and he and I sang the troparion of Theophany.

Sadly, both of my sons decided to drop out of Boy Scouts.  It makes sense for Basil, he has health problems that keep him from camping, but Anselm, well, I just don't know.  It makes me sad.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very good thing that happened.  Back in 1970s Time-Life Books published a series of books called The Old West.  I used to see the teevee advertisements for them and just ache because I wanted them so powerfully.  Well, guess what!  I found the whole series for sale for twenty-five dollars and bought it.  I've already finished one volume and have started on the second!