Friday, December 31, 2010

Well, hello there
Old friend;
Long time no see.
I thought I’d lost you,
So many years ago.
Now here you are
In the pocket of that old coat
Stuffed in the back
Of the Hall closet.
Still fit perfectly.
Like an old friend
Picking up our conversation
Like it was yesterday.

magpie 46
brought to you by Livescribe

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Do you ever get tired of listening to Christmas caroles?  Up until the 26th of Dec. 2010 I would have easily said that I never tire of Christmas caroles.  In fact I often tell the story (you've probably hard this more than once) of the time Art, one of the OR nurses I worked with in a previous life, overheard me sing Christmas caroles in the OR in July.  He said, "What are you going to do when December rolls around?"  I said, "sing louder."

I don't know if it's because I have a longer drive to work and listen to the Christmas channel on Sirius /XM radio non stop or what, but driving home last Sunday I had finally had my fill of Christmas music.

Last year about this time I took a travel assignment in Syracuse, NY.  The two hour drive, one way, suggested to me that perhaps an avid reader such as myself could avail myself of this time to listen to audio books.  In the past D. and I had ventured into that genre while traveling and found it a great way to pass the time, especially when driving to Boston.  I picked up the audio book version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" with every intention of listening to it on my weekend commutes back and forth to Syracuse.  On the 27th of this month, 3 days ago, I unwrapped said package and on Monday last, in response to my sentiment of no longer wanting to listen to Christmas music, put disc 1 in my car's cd player and drove the 47 miles, one way to my current place of employment.  Only a year late, but as they say; Better late than; well you know.  Sissy Spacek reads this story and is the absolute  best choice in my estimation.  She and the story that Harper Lee penned have kept me enthralled twice a day every day so far this week.  In fact yesterday I sat for ten minutes listening while parked in the parking lot at work, just to finish that chapter.

And when not driving I'm reading "The Last of the Mohicans" on my Kindle. (I love my Kindle)  Now I can do two books at a time.  I sure I'm slow in coming to this revelation, but it's good to know that this old dog can still learn a few new tricks!



Sitting at the island counter-top in the frat pad, eating, writing, blogging, reading (the Last of the Mohicans), I notice a page of paper, stained and wrinkled; obviously been there for awhile.  It's one of those "adages" that someone found inspiring and printed it off and set on the counter as a reminder to themselves to be diligent in pursuing their goal-s.

I think it's worth pondering:

Nothing in the world will take the place
of perseverance.

Nothing is more common than
 unsuccessful people with talent.

Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

The world is full of educated derelicts.

What say you?

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post Christmas 2010

Here it is 4 days post Christmas, I'm sitting in the frat house, waiting for the phone to ring and hoping it doesn't.  I'm sippin' french roast coffee made in the new 4 cup coffee maker my daughter gave me for the express purpose of using at the frat house.  Just so you know: this 4 cupper makes one mug of coffee, which is really just fine with me.  I like to consider myself a writer but then I read more than I write, so my New Year's resolution is to write at least as much as I read, or at the least, write something everyday!  I don't usually make New Year resolutions, but I'll bend my own rule and see how it goes.

Christmas was extraordinarily ordinary this year.  How can Christmas be ordinary?  There was nothing particularly special to write about, that's what I mean.  There were no fights, no snow storms to plow through; coming or going.  Scrooge only appeared on the TV screen. Nobody sold their hair to purchase a watch fob nor sold their watch to buy hair combs. Everyone had a good time and the company was congenial  and the food was superb.  So this writer's task then is to make something special from a celebration that was merely smooth, routine, bumpless, seamless and full of smiles and , and, and, well just especially fine.

The original plan was for D. and myself to motor to Niagara Falls after I finished work on Friday, Christmas Eve; a 5 1/2 hour drive.  Our expected ETA was around 9 pm.  That was until Thursday when as I was leaving work and said to a co-worked: see ya tomorrow, and he said: we're off tomorrow.  Holy cat fish manfred, the day off?  Golly, we'll be able to leave tomorrow morning when I'm fresh.  And that's just what we did.  Thus, we arrived at 1330 and got to participate in the evening's festivities.

The big day started off at 0430 when 14 month old Sophia decided that it was time for everyone to get up.  It took her mother an hour to figure out that all she wanted was something to eat and once mom gave the girl a banana to stuff in her mouth, everything calmed down and the Christmas festivities were adjourned 'til 0800.   At 0900 Sophias other grandparents and Uncle DJ arrived and her dad whipped up a super breakfast of eggs-to-order, toast, bacon, sausage, home fries, and mimosas.  Coffee and Grandma Di.'s homemade cinnamon buns rounded out the meal and then it was on to the first round of gift opening.

For a 14 month old, Sophie was quite mature in in her gift opening.  Carefully unwrapping each of her gifts.  If the gift was clothing it was tossed aside with nary a second look, but it it was a toy or book of some discription it was duly examined with care and given appropriate attention to what it did and how it worked.  One of said toys was a musical and animated cow given to her by my sister.  The cow moved its head and opened and closed it's mouth while "Old McDonald's Farm" played.  A little tentative at first because of the movement and such, soon gave way to a desire to replay the tune ceaselessly and to which she and grandpa moi danced and danced and danced!

After the lunch hour our daughter and her husband arrived for a second round of gifting.  Then it was on to the feast prepared by Jacob, Sophia's dad, consisting of a stuffed pork roast simmered in the crock pot for 8 hours.  He wishes that he'd only cooked it for 6 hours but everyone found it succulently delicious.  Mashed sweet potatoes on the side together with a fresh tossed salad of greens, pecans, fresh pear and balsamic vinaigrette finished off our repast.  There were plenty and varied libations of the alcoholic sort of which I sampled egg-nogg with Jamaican rum, a brandy slush that didn't actually slush up 'til the next day, and the usual assortment of wines.

In between times, for munching sake, there was available a buschel of Christmas cookies, biscottii, and  deux tourtière.
Early next morning we left  to avoid any possible encounter with the nor-easter pelting the east coast.  We filled ourselves with hugs and smiles from Kristy, Jacob, Michelle and Josh and a special topping of good cheer from the irrepressible, talented and intelligent personage of Sophia Aubrey LaRock.

And so, as I said, nothing special except the exceptional good will of ordinary people enjoying each other's company.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Thoughts on Christmas

And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed, everyone into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem (because he was of the house and lineage of David) to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was that while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them; and they were sore afraid.

The sun, rising in the east, will soon be pushing our “sleigh, westward down the 90 to Niagara Falls, where we will spend the weekend with our newest granddaughter, Sophia, and her parents.   The weather forecast is for clear skies, coming and going; how fortuitous! 
We've been sending and recieving Christmas cards for over 40 years and every year I'm amazed that I rarely, if ever, see the same card twice.  Not only do we not see a card repeated in a given year, but they are all different from year to year.  Curious don't you think?

One of the many traditions within our house at Christmas is that dad (that would be me) waits 'til Christmas Eve to wrap gifts.With the change of venue that tradition was smashed when he wrapped them last night.  What's this world coming to?

I texted J., Sophia's dad and asked him if they had any Christmas music.  He assured me that they did, in fact, have plenty and that he had his surround sound set up so as to enable us to play our ipods should we so desire.  Technology, changing how we celebrate Christmas.  Gone is the Victrola, the reel-to-reel, the the 8 track and the tape deck.  Now it's all digital: ipods, Cd's and utubes.  I'm going to bring a few of my dozens of Cd's just in case.  "Give it up dad!"

It'll be a full house on Ward road come Christmas morning if not tonight as well, so I'm going to leave now so I can get a good seat.

Remember friends to revel in the festivities, sing some carols, and remember that Jesus Christ's birthday is today,  so give up a toast to him in the form of a prayer.....And then see whatSanta brought overnight.
Merry Christmas and Peace fill you up!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ten miles to school, barefoot, in the snow, uphill, both ways

We of the status of elder, from time to time, consider today's youth pampered and might probably could benefit from some of the hardships we endured in our growing up years.

I'm not so sure; every age has it's own hardships and you just live the times your in.  They aren't better or worse, harder or easier; they just are.
Different for sure and I like to think back on some of those differences nostalgically.
Back in the day, it seems to me we had more snow in the winter than we do today.  I don't mean the the snow banks that towered over the two year old standing in the driveway.  No, even in my teen and early adult years there seemed to be more snow and it seems to me that we had colder winters then.  I did walk to school in those days (1 mile each way)  and some days the temperatures were minus 20 to 30 degrees below zero.  In fact the only day I ever remember our school closing for weather conditions was the day the water pipes in the high school froze from the thirty below night and the building had no heat because if it.
Those were also the days of  one car families and the cars were 2 wheel, rear drives,  There were no snow tires, nor studded tires in those days.  Chains were needed to drive around safely because only the main boulevards got sanded. No, there wasn't any salt in the mix in those days either.  The side streets were left to accumulate snow which turned to ice with day time thawing and then refroze at night.  So, the street in front of our house in the middle of winter served us well as a sledding course and even as a hockey rink, to say nothing of hooking cars (also called, today, hooky bobbing).  Sometimes the thickness of the compacted snow/ice mix could be 3 - 4 inches in depth.

We've received a bountiful amount of snow so far this winter.  Nothing to compare to Minnesota and Iowa and other parts of the Midwest but enough to make one reminisce about winters of our youth.

Because I live 47 miles from my place of work, and since I'm required to take call for the OR a third of each month and since the hospital has no call room accommodation I've had to find a place to rest my head when not actively involved with easing someone,s pain, fear, and anxiety.  Together with a co-worker who is in similar circumstances we've rented an apartment in a quiet residential area just a few minutes drive from the hospital.  My wife came over to spend a couple of nights with me this call weekend so as to be able to attend a couple of holiday get-to-gethers.  She has dubbed the place "The Frat House."
All that aside; I've noticed that this village has hearkened back 50 years to the extent that they don't sand the side streets.

 the frat house
 And so the buildup of snow reminded me of my growing up years and the streets of my childhood that provided so much enjoyable exercise.  Exercise you ask?

the street in front of the Frat house
Well in addition to walking one mile uphill each way to school,  in winter,  spring and fall.  I didn't have a TV in our home 'til I was 12 and so I was forced to find something of my own choosing to entertain myself by.  If I dared to complain that there was nothing to do my mother never failed to have a list of chores just waiting for me should such an occasion arise.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010


A few days before Chrismas day a twelve year old, or there abouts, boy was examining the presents under the tree with overt excitement, looking for one or more with his name written on it.

The visitor, a friend of the family and, in fact, the boy's Confirmation sponsor said, "you think your getting presents this year?  Nope, only your brother and sister are getting presents this year."

He was joking, I suspect, although he never said as much. Heartbroken, is the only word to describe how terrible the boy felt.  He never got over it, sad to say.  That feeling is as vivid today as it was that snowy winter's evening in front of the Christmas tree in the bungalow on Oak street.

There were plenty of gifts with his name on them the next morning, but the wound carrys the scar left by that careless comment so many, many years ago.

Why it was almost as devastating as the news imparted to him just a few years before that, by smartalec friends, that there was no Santa Claus.

Christmas, to this descendant of Irish- French-Canadian immigrants raised in the Roman Catholic church, is a big deal.  But the emphasis and manor of celebrating the festival of the Messiah has changed with the years.
Jesus and his family got top billing over Santa in those early formative years of 9 0'clock masses with Aunt Nellie and in later years, midnight mass with mom and dad and singing in the choir.  Puberty raised its head and it was midnight mass with the girl friend and walks on Currier and Ives snowy winter nights holding hands and kissing and full of the future.  Funny how a Christmas without snow just doesn't seem like Christmas, unless of course you're from Texas, or Florida, or Bethlehem.

With marriage and children this reformed catholic migrated to the Methodist church so as to raise his children with the guidance of christian principles without the concomitant guilt of the catholic dogma.  Then came the Christmas pageants and midnight services.  And Jesus once again had top billing.  But Santa was in a dead heat for first place in the festival.

Haven't been to church in quite sometime now, except for weddings and funerals, not even at Christmas.  Don't talk to Jesus anymore, but I do talk with his mother and father most everyday.  We have two creche displays set up in our home; one is a set of santons that we found in a brocante in the south of France, the other is a large collection of Fontanini pieces.  Yes, there is a tree and other baubles of the season and even a few outside lights.  And candles; cinnamon smelling candles; let's not forget them.  Christmas card aplenty are in evidence too.

So now I listen to Bing, and Nat, and Gene Autry.  I listen to the Mormon Tabernacle choir and I try to find the Christ in Christmas.  I try not to think about the wars and poverty and hunger here and throughout the world, because if we all believed in Christmas we would see those travesties disappear.  I buy toys for my grand children and wonder why they think that Christmas is about Santa.

I smile and say Merry Christmas to everyone I meet.  At home I eat ginger bread boys and drink hot chocolate and watch the snow cover the ground outside the kitchen window and I hope.

I hope that Grandpa Walton's Christmas wish , (listen)will fill everyone's heart and that the world will be a better place; if only for one day every year.

Merry Christmas one and all: God bless us, everyone.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Charles, my future brother-in-law, was 16 the first time I met him.  In an unheated garage attached to the house, he was elbow deep in the guts of his Bombardier Ski-doo; tinkering, puttering, tuning up and just fiddling with the engine to get it to function the way he wanted it to.

Like his dad, Charles was good with machines.  I admired him that, but I didn't envy him.  No, the desire to fix and or repair is not part of my genetic makeup.  It's not that I can't do it, it's just that I don't want to.  Tools?  Yes, of course, I have tools.  I even have some power tools, but given my druthers, I prefer hand tools to those with the inherent ability to maim quickly and severely.
Friends and I cut our own wood for a few years and I discovered that I couldn't sharpen my chain saw evenly, so  it always cut in a curve until I took it to a professional to right it.  I couldn't keep a lawn mower running smoothly for more than 3 years without an expensive repair bill or just replacing it.  My rototiller gave out after a few years.  I was never able to master the string outlet of my multiple weed whackers.  I say multiple because whenever the one I was using ran out of string, I'd just go buy a new machine.  Machines are great time savers but I find them to be unreliable.  So in time two things evolved in my approach to tasks around the manse:  I was well enough off to be able to hire someone to do upkeep tasks and alternatively I could do some tasks myself with hand tools.  It takes much longer to spade a garden by hand, but the spade doesn't break down, I get a good physical work-out and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction for a job well done.

Some years back, my youngest inquires: "dad, you make more money than most of my friend's dads, and I was wondering how come they all have things like snow-mobiles, 4 wheelers, motor bikes, and motor boats and all like that there, and we don't."

"There are a number of reasons for that Jay, but honestly the main reason is simply that I won't waste my money on something that is guaranteed to break down and I don't know how to fix."

I do have a car.
I do have a laptop computer
I do have a cell phone
And now I have a blasted Snow blower.

No, I don't have a clue as to how to fix any of them should they malfunction (and you and I both know that they will indeed malfunction.)

Sometimes you compromise your principles; it's part of being human.

I think perhaps I'll Christen my kayak Rosebud!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Jack Frost arrives

A life long shoveler, well at least since I was 10 or 12 let's say, gives in after 50+ years and purchases a mechanical  motorized device with which to remove snow.  I don't like motorized devices such as this; to include lawn mowers, rototillers, weed whackers and such.  Mainly because I don't like to fix them, well that is to say I don't know how to fix them and have zero desire to learn.  But with the population of eligible teens willing to earn some spending money, shoveling snow this year, seemingly non-existent, and the fact that it takes me an hour or more, depending on the height of the snow fall, to shovel my 30" X 30" drive and I have an hours drive to work it seemed imperative that I procure a machine to remove snow quickly and efficiently; Voila: rel's first trial run with the new machine.

Already I have to dismantle the directional chute and reinstall it since it won't turn to the right. 
It's always the little niggling things that piss you off, isn't it?


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I was wondering if and/or how any war affected your life?

It seems, if one can believe history, and I have no reason to doubt, that mankind and war are inseparable.

Too bad!


Monday, December 06, 2010