In Which Daddy Gets a New Pair of Shoes

It’s a true statement to say that a man will go to great lengths when he wants to impress a young lady he finds attractive.

Generally, it starts with little things, things to get a girl’s attention. A new haircut. A fresh, clean shave on a day he might have otherwise gone unshaven. A spritz of cologne whenever there’s a remote chance that the young lady in question might be near. In some more advanced cases, the spritz of cologne turns into a few extra spritzes and worrisome questions that “maybe I used too much”. And, as is generally the case with these kinds of things, if you have to ask the question, you probably did.

In more extreme cases, a man might set about remaking himself entirely, just to make himself more attractive to her. He might join the gym and lose 30 pounds. He might throw out all his old, frumpy clothes and buy an entirely new wardrobe of slightly more stylish clothing. He might buy a new house or a new car in order to upgrade his life. He might even go back to school in order to improve his job prospects, just so he’ll have more to offer.

Of course, those are extreme cases and I don’t know that I’d ever go so far myself.

Not again, at any rate.

But I did once buy a new pair of shoes to impress a Cute Girl. The year was 2003 and there was this fancy function to attend and I knew the Cute Girl was going to be there. I had a small crush on the Cute Girl and was hoping to impress her enough to at least score a date. Doing what guys do, I went out and bought a new shirt, a new pair of pants, a new wallet, a new belt and a new pair of shoes. Not a whole wardrobe, mind you. Just a new…outfit…for lack of a better word.

Aside: I do not like to use the word “outfit”. The word is not meant for guys. Guys don’t wear outfits. We wear…clothes. Sometimes those clothes match. Having our clothes match doesn’t make those clothes an outfit. Outfits are for girls or for children.

Second aside: More often than not, our clothes do not match. Usually it is because we picked them out ourselves, without appropriate female supervision. When our clothes do not match, it’s okay to refer to them collectively as a “getup” as in, “take a look at that guy’s getup.” But it still isn’t an outfit.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, I bought this new…set of clothes…in order to impress Cute Girl. And I went to the highfalutin’ affair in my new clothes, on which I’d spent a decent amount of money and, as luck would have it, she wasn’t even there. Typical.

Kindof aside: I did eventually manage to set up one date with Cute Girl. We planned it right before I went out of town for an extended vacation. I call it vacation but it was really just a long, paid leave-of-absence from work so I could go to a family reunion down in Mississippi. My parents wanted me to drive down from North Carolina with them because they were nervous about making the long drive themselves, they being old or something. So I take use my vacation time to go to Mississippi for a family reunion for 10 whole days.

Aside from the aside
: I don’t know if your parents are like this but my parents love some Cracker Barrel. I swear, over two days of driving for that trip, we had Cracker Barrel for seven meals. I kid you not. It was all I could do to get them past an exit with a Cracker Barrel. Mom got “Uncle Herschel’s” for every single meal.

Another aside: And don’t get me started on how often we had to stop for pee breaks. OMG. We broke the trip up into 30 mile segments. We went from Cracker Barrel to Rest Stop to Cracker Barrel in rapid succession.

Anyway, when I get back, Cute Girl is dating some other guy, the guy to whom she is now married. I think they have like two kids or something. I dunno. Utterly freaking typical. And my parents want to know why I haven’t given them any grandchildren yet. Two words for you, Ma and Pa. Family. Reunion.

End Asides.

Anyway, the whole point is that trying to impress a girl by buying stuff was and is a total waste of time and money.

Except that I still have the shoes from that particular purchase. As you might imagine, they’ve seen better days. They are scratched and scuffed and haven’t been my dressy black shoes in many years. After six years, they’re getting to the point where I really shouldn’t be wearing them at all. As comfy as they are, I feel poorly put together when I wear them.

Like I did yesterday when I wore them to work. I felt so poorly put together that I decided then and there to buy a new pair of shoes. I went to Zappos and I ordered a new pair of Giorgio Brutini’s.

The experience was so positive that I had to blog about it. As per usual, I got an email stating that my order had been received and was being processed. An hour later, I got an email stating that my already-free shipping was upgraded to “expedited” shipping at no charge to me, by way of saying “thank you”.

I was, of course, pleased and thought I might return from my Thanksgiving holiday to find a new pair of shoes waiting on my doorstep. Imagine my surprise to find a new pair of shoes waiting for me when I got home from work today, not even 24 hours after placing my order. Free overnight shipping. Zappos rocks.

I was already a fan of Zappos because of their excellent customer service on previous orders. They do not charge for shipping to you and, more importantly, they do not charge you for shipping any returned merchandise to them. My loyalty to Zappos is that much stronger now that they’ve given me a free upgrade to overnight shipping.

If you don’t want to get out and brave the Black Friday crowds after Thanksgiving, you might check out Zappos for shoes, clothing and other fashionables. If you’re a guy, you might even find something to impress the Cute Girl in your life. But, whatever you buy, remember this.

It isn’t an outfit. Ever.

A Thanksgiving Tradition

It is not often that you’ll find me talking about my experiences in the kitchen here on this blog. Well, you might find me talking about my experience in the kitchen but that is just what it is: talk. I do not go into my kitchen very often and, when I do, it is generally for something simple like coffee, milk or cereal.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable in the kitchen, necessarily. It’s mostly a consequence of being a bachelor. Cooking for one is about the most unrewarding task I can imagine. It’s inefficient, given that you can produce a meal for three or four using the same amount of effort and the same number of dishes as you do when cooking for one. Sure, I know some singleton’s that really enjoy themselves in the kitchen and find it to be relaxing and enjoyable. I am just not one of those people.

Thanksgiving is typically the one time of year in which you might find me in the kitchen doing something more complex than scrambling an egg or frying up bacon (two things of which I am mightily capable.) The reason behind this is that there are typically an assortment of pot luck affairs to attend and I find myself shamed into doing something more than bringing some form of frozen desert.

But, also, I really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, really enjoy it. If I can, I will enjoy it many times before and many times after the actual Thanksgiving holiday. In the past week, for example, I made a special trip to Boston Market for a turkey dinner with all the sides and I took advantage of the turkey luncheon at work. It’s like practicing for actual Thanksgiving.

In that vein, I have another practice session to attend tonight. A couple of my very good friends are hosting an early Thanksgiving potluck tonight and I’m preparing the one dish of which I’m capable: sweet potato casserole.

At least, sweet potato casserole is what my mother calls it. The rest of the family refers to the recipe as “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”. The recipe entered Stafford family lore way back when I was in high school. High school was when the Stafford children began to invite various and sundry sweethearts to Thanksgiving dinner at Che Casa Stafford. Being steeped in Southern hospitality, these sweethearts would generally bring a dish to share.

This particular dish was brought to the table by Black Sheep’s high school girlfriend, Pat, using a recipe handed down to her from her mother. (Some of you know Black Sheep as “Frankenberry”. That’s another story for another time.) It was hugely popular and, for a number of years, thrust aside the simpler and more traditional sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Ever since that day, we’ve referred to the dish as “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”.

And, ever since Black Sheep and Pat broke up, mom has been trying to get us all to stop calling it that, especially since Black Sheep’s wife is not named Pat. Mother doesn’t seem to understand that, once the tradition is set, it cannot be changed. That’s why they call it “tradition”.

Anyway, it is my favorite Thanksgiving dish and it’s the only one I learned to make on my very own. It’s like sweet potato crack and I’ve never known it to be unpopular. I’m pretty sure it’s the only reason I have things like measuring cups in the house. I know it’s the only reason I own a potato masher. It’s that good. I make it at least once a year but have been known to make it twice in a season. It’s good for Christmas potlucks too.

From my Mama’s cookbook: (I just noticed that my mother titled her cookbook, “Your Mama’s Cookbook”. It reminds me of endless “Your Mama” jokes. I snicker at my own wit.)

    “Sweet Potato Casserole” (a.k.a. “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”)

    I have served this casserole for several years at Thanksgiving and will likely continue as long as I am able, as no one will allow me to change the menu. Double the recipe for a large group.

    Boil sweet potatoes until they are easily speared with a fork (estimate 1 large potato per cup for recipe).

    Melt 2/3 cup of butter and divide it.

    Mix together the following:

    3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup evaporated milk (like Carnation or Pet)
    1 tbs.vanilla
    1/3 cup melted butter

    Pour this mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish and then mix the following:

    1/3 cup butter
    1 cup shredded coconut (I use the frozen kind)
    1 cup pecans
    1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
    1/3 cup flour

    Spread this mixture over the first and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

Greetings from the Great Northwest

Greetings, all, from the great and friendly Pacific Northwest! I’m currently propping up a counter at the Top Pot Doughnuts on the corner of Galer and 4th atop Queen Anne Hill in the great city of Seattle and thought that, since I don’t have a camera with me, I’d paint you all a picture of my experiences in Seattle thus far.

Why am I in Seattle, you ask? Good question and there’s a good but convoluted answer.

I’m here in Seattle at the invitation of my brother, Bigwig. He’s out here for some kind of training class and he had a weekend to kill. He’s a huge fan of beer, especially if it’s beer he’s never had before. In theory, Seattle offers a whole new world of beers and bars and breweries for him to experience and explore. But there’s one problem. My brother hates to drink alone.

It’s more than that, though. I actually believe him to be incapable of drinking alone. It’s like a physical law of some kind. When forced into an environment in which he is to be drinking alone, my brother can, will and must do everything in his power to befriend those around him, just so he won’t have to drink alone. More often than not, the environment is a bar and, more often than not, the people around him are inveterate drunks. This can lead to interesting and entertaining encounters but, more often than not, it leads to conflict. More on this in a minute.

In this particular instance, my brother decided that the best way to keep from drinking alone was to invite all his buddies to join him in Seattle for the weekend he had free. Together, we’d all explore Seattle and try lots of new beers and have a grand old time. As luck would have it, I was the only one who could make it. Everyone else begged off due to the expense or the time or whatever.

So that’s why I’m in Seattle. I am designated drinking buddy.

If you’ve been following the logic thus far, you’d likely conclude that this would prevent my brother from having to make friends with those around him in the bar. You would, however, have come to that conclusion erroneously. Tragically, I just got in last night and he’s been here by himself for two days. He’s explored every establishment within a two-mile radius around the hotel. And he’s already made friends in at least one location, the one location we hit upon my arrival last evening.

I don’t recall the name of the place but it’s maybe half-a-mile from our hotel. Apparently my brother visited this same location the night prior to my arrival and made friends with the bartender. The bartender gave him complimentary Japanese Whiskey and a permanent bond was established.

My brother also apparently befriended some guy named Tom who spends 318 days of the year on a fishing boat somewhere in the Pacific. Tom, apparently, on the days he isn’t out fishing, spends his time in this particular bar pickling himself with Bud Light. Well, it just so happens that Tom wasn’t fishing last night and my brother, being the social critter that he is, invited Tom to join us whilst we sampled beers and sang a little karaoke.

My first impression of Tom was that he was awfully quiet and possibly shy. My second impression of Tom was that Tom couldn’t speak because he was stone drunk. Guess which impression was the more accurate?

Tom did eventually speak to me. After three or four minutes of sitting with us at table, Tom looked at me and said “Do you arm-wrestle?”

Now, I don’t know about you but, in my experience, people don’t generally open polite conversation with that question. I don’t think anyone has ever posed that question to me, certainly not since I left high school. Maybe this is what they do on fishing boats. I assume when you’re out on a boat for weeks at a time, you get a little bored and do silly man things. Like get monstrously drunk and arm-wrestle one another.

Regaining my composure, I replied that I did not, in fact, arm-wrestle on any kind of regular basis.

“I could beat anybody in here at arm-wrestling. Do you thumb-wrestle?”

WTF? Seriously?

“Um, not professionally, no.”

“I could beat you at thumb-wrestling.”

This is when I let myself get sucked in by the whole affair. He began both to try upon my patience and practice upon my competitive nature. I decided that, not only was this guy a drunk but he was also a jack-ass. So I decide that, fine, I’ll arm-wrestle. And thumb-wrestle too.

So we throw elbows on the table and some thoughtful, experienced soul wanders over and removes our beers from the table top. I’m thinking to myself, “This happens here often. I’m going to lose.”

Sure enough, I did. We start to throw down and he does something with his wrist, twisting it inward somewhat. This totally destroys my leverage and the match is done before it’s begun. Fine. Whatever. I do my best to earn my revenge in thumb-wrestling but to no avail. I have always sucked at thumb-wrestling. I don’t have the thumb length for it or something. I dunno. It’s not important.

Tom goes on to arm-wrestle my brother, carrying the match even faster. Salving some of the Stafford pride, Brother actually wins the thumb-wrestling follow up and the two retire to the out-of-doors to share a victory cigarette.

Eventually, the two come back and things have obviously turned sour. Brother, in addition to finding it impossible to drink alone, also has a difficult time shutting up about things about which he does not know. After some while, this almost always leads to his new-found friend threatening him with some kind of beating.

In this case, he has taken what little knowledge he has about commercial fishing in the Pacific Northwest and expounded upon it at great length, extolling the virtues of the crab-fishers on “The Deadliest Catch”. You’d think that would be safe enough ground but, no. Apparently drunk fishermen who spend 318 days of every year in a cramped boat greatly resent the crab-fishermen of “Deadliest Catch” as self-serving glory hounds that hog all the media attention.

Oh, and Brother also suggested that some of the fishing activities in which Tom and his mates engaged were probably illegal.

I start rolling up my sleeves, convinced I’m going to have to save my brother from having his teeth fed to him. He’s no fighter, that’s for sure. I was the one that grew up doing all the fighting. It’s what happens when you have two older brothers.

I should know better. It never ends in fisticuffs. It always ends peacefully. He always manages to talk himself out of every richly deserved ass-kicking. I don’t know how he does it but he does. He talks himself into being friends with even the most lost souls at the bar. He talks himself into their good and then their bad graces. And then he talks himself through it and back into at least some kind of peaceful resolution, swallowing every shred of pride he might have had in the process.

How does he do it? I’m sure I don’t know. My own nature is such that I would never engage the damn drunk in the first place. And I would never go out of my way to earn their good will. And I would certainly never swallow my pride just to keep the peace. I’m sure it’s a great failing of mine. God has been talking to me about my pride lately. I’m doing my best to listen and learn but…well, I’m not there yet. I guess I’ll just keep trying to see everyone through His eyes rather than my own.

Anyway, I’m shutting down and moving on. There’s a coffee shop across the street that was particularly recommended to me, Cafe Fiore. I need a refill on my latte and it sounds like the place for me. There’s also Umi Sushi to hit up for lunch. I can’t wait to try it out.

Unlike my brother, I’m perfectly capable of doing these things alone. Maybe when I learn to conquer my own pride, I won’t have to any more. Certainly wishing some of you were here to share the trip.

Why Southerners Are Fat

Why are Southerners so fat?

I came across this article on Time.com today and thought I would share with all of you. The article covers a topic I’ve pondered once or twice, typically coincident with the Stafford family reunions in Mississippi. If you came to the Stafford family reunion, you might understand why the topic crossed my mind.

The Stafford family, while not uniformly obese, has quite a few specimens that tip the scale somewhere between 250 and 350 pounds. I have aunts and uncles that come in all shapes and sizes, as long as those shapes and sizes include squat and round. I have one cousin that had a heart attack and bypass surgery at 35 and one cousin that I thought was a garden shed when we were first introduced.

The other thing you notice when you’re in Mississippi for the family reunion is the fact that people in the deepest parts of the South will literally flour and fry anything. Fish, chicken, shrimp, tomatoes, okra, pickles…you name it. If you can eat it, chances are someone in Mississippi has tried it fried. I’m convinced people down there would fry the sweet tea if they could only figure out how. The state is awash in grease.

And there’s only one serving size for all that fried food. It’s called “all-you-can-eat”. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single restaurant I entered in Mississippi was a buffet. I cannot think of a single restaurant we patronized that was not a buffet. Not one. I once tried to count the number of buffet restaurants that we passed as we drove. You may as well try to count the grains of sand on a beach. It cannot be done.

But the reason I think Southerners are fat goes beyond both of those items. The reason I think Southerners are fat is the same reason I think my father is fat. It’s not that he’s lazy and doesn’t exercise. The man ran 1000 miles in his 40th year. He’s walked many times that distance since, much of it with bad hips and knees. At 75, he still tries to exercise with barbells.

The reason I think my father is fat, (or was for most of his life) is because he has a love affair with the food experience. For him, the food experience goes beyond just food. It is an infinitely social thing, a finding of joy in the breaking of bread with his family and friends.

The food experience for him is finding joy in an abundance that he did not know as a poor kid growing up in the poor South. It is a recreation of Granny Holloway’s Sunday dinner, the maybe once-a-week meal in which he found plenty as a child, the one meal a week from which he did not walk away wanting more. It is a purely emotional response to food, a happiness found in satiety.

The food experience is something Dad always wanted to share, too. As a friend of mine growing up, you could not come to my house without being offered a meal of some sort. “You boys want sammich?” still rings in my mind as the question most often asked of me and my buddies. My father has Parkinson’s and cannot drive but will still, to this day, ask us if we want him to get us a chicken biscuit from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. In his retirement, his favorite way to pass the time is to enjoy a meal with one of his good buddies. The food experience is in his bones.

Couple that with the larger sense of Southern hospitality, a tradition that almost always involves sharing food with family, friends and neighbors, and I think you go a long way towards explaining the prevalence of obesity in the South. Southerners love food and they love the food experience. They love socializing over a meal and love the feeling of plenty when times are often lean. This keeps them coming back to the trough again and again and again, whatever the consequences to their appearance and their health.

Baseball and Birthdays

Sorry I’ve been away so long. I have been meaning to update this blog for a week or more now and just haven’t found the proper combination of motivation and time. It always seems that I have the motivation when the time is not available and the time when the motivation has subsided. Today being a holiday from work, I have a little extra time and at least enough motivation to tap out a few words.

Which brings me to the third component of a good blog: having something to say. I was pretty sure I had something to say when I started this but, when I start typing, the words available to me aren’t always the ones I planned on. I’ll just ramble on until something worthwhile comes to me, shall I?

Let’s see. What does life hold for me right now? Well, it’s been a busy week. At least it’s been full for the last seven or eight days. Thursday last, a few buddies and I took in a Braves-Yankees game at Turner Field. As with every other game I’ve seen in Turner field, the Braves gave up double-digit runs and ended up losing badly. The average score in games to which I’ve been witness is something like 14 runs against and 2 runs for. I’m happy to accept money from any Braves fan that would like me to stay away from games in the future.

The best part of the game is how lucky it made me feel. There were 50,000 fans in the stands and I was lucky enough to sit right in front of “that guy”. You know that guy. He’s the one that is just the right combination of loud, obnoxious, ignorant and drunk.

Being surrounded by Yankees fans, he took it upon himself to support the honor of The South, making the game into a little continuation of the Civil War. He didn’t so much pull for the Braves as much as scream “Yankees Suck!” in continuous repetition for the first three innings of the game. He would pause for breath only long enough to hurl obscenities at any Yankees fan unwise enough to call him out. He let fly with such gems as “Why don’t you go back home where you belong!” and “The South will rise again!” That one was particularly cliched and cringe-worthy.

Along about the third inning, finding the Braves behind 6-1 and without much hope for the win, he switched over to screaming “Let’s Go Red Sox!” As I said, he wasn’t so much pulling for the Braves as much as he was doing his damnedest to get under everyone’s skin.

At some point in the night, he decided he needed more beer and left for wetter pastures. From then on, we watched the game in relative peace and quiet, eventually losing 11-7. I swear, one day I will watch the Braves win a game in Turner Field. I will.

Anyway, Friday was birthday day and I had a bunch of pals take me to Pozole for dinner. Pozole is a Mexican Restaurant over in the Highlands that serves these awesome jalapeno margaritas. They are just the right combination of spice and sour. I dig ’em in the extreme and haven’t been able to drink a regular margarita since I tried them for the first time.

This birthday was my 39th and it got me thinking about my 40th. I thought about the things I wanted to do in the short year between now and then. I decided I needed to set some goals. One goal I set is to complete a half-marathon before I turn 40. I don’t know that I’ve run more than 8 miles in one go before so running 13.1 in a race seems like a lofty enough goal, especially given my current lack of conditioning. Three miles is a chore for me right now. I have to lose 10 pounds before I can add 10 more miles, I think.

I have recruited some friends to run with me and we’re set on running the Silver Comet half-marathon on Halloween day in Mableton, Georgia. The Silver Comet has two primary attractions to me. It is far enough in the future for me to make some strides in getting fit and the Silver Comet trail is notoriously flat. Not a lot of hills. Looking forward to that, especially since my training ground is hilly in the extreme. I may attempt the new 13.1 Atlanta half-marathon on October 4th but that’s up in the air at this point.

Obviously there’s more to write but I’m out of time. I have half-an-hour to get dressed and get up to my buddy’s place. We’re headed out to Lake Allatoona to do some wake-boarding. The lake seems like an appropriate way to celebrate the holiday. Maybe I can squeeze more writing in later.

Until then, happy 4th of July to everyone. Stay safe and don’t get burned!

And Sew It Goes

I decided today that I was going to buy a sewing machine and take up sewing.

I know many of you may think this unmanly and a bit extreme but hear me out. I wear a lot of t-shirts. I wear a t-shirt almost every day of the week. On week days, I wear an undershirt. On weekends, I wear casual t-shirts. Most of my t-shirts wear out fairly rapidly. They shrink or the seams come loose or they get holes or they get stained…the life of my t-shirts is a tough one.

The trouble is that new t-shirts are not all that cheap, especially the ones that I tend to like. They don’t have a lot of decoration or ornamentation but are comfy and soft. I guess they tend to be about $20 dollars each unless I can find them on sale somewhere.

I was pondering my need for new t-shirts today when it came to me. I bet I could make my own t-shirts. I’m sure that fabric can’t be too expensive. Construction is pretty basic as well. I bet I could reverse engineer a few of my t-shirts and make my own. All I need is a sewing machine.

So I think I’m going to buy a sewing machine. I have one picked out on Overstock.com that I think would serve my purposes. My only hesitation is that I know myself. It would be just like me to spend $125 bucks on a sewing machine and never use it. Or use it once and never touch it again. It would be just like that Nikon camera I bought for $900 dollars. That made a nice Christmas gift to my sister after sitting around for some while, untouched. Or the Wii I gave to my niece and nephew after three months. Or the bike that is sitting on my porch.

In my head, though, I make awesome t-shirts. They are so good, in fact, that everyone wants one. Soon, I am selling custom fitting t-shirts to all my friends and turning a profit on my new sewing machine. It’s not long before I learn to screen print designs onto my awesome t-shirts and, the next thing I know, I’m competing with threadless tees. I use my new-found wealth to start other enterprises, like making beer. It isn’t long before I am bathing in cash and making the lives of all my friends and family much more comfortable and fulfilling.

That’s what happens in my head. In reality, I am somewhat suspect of my own ability to manufacture clothing. I am absolutely useless with a pair of scissors. I neither measure nor cut with precision. I fear that, if I’m disappointed with the early results, I’ll never touch the thing again. One more dream into the rubbish bin of life.

I’ll probably talk myself out of the purchase. I can’t really see myself with time to make my own clothes and I certainly don’t think it’s a talent of mine. But, if I do get it, I suspect I know what my sister will be getting for Christmas this year.

That’s right. A new car. Courtesy of my new t-shirt empire.

Anniversary Gifts

Somewhere along the line, I picked up a copy of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”. I don’t know exactly where I got it but it has occupied a space on my bookshelf for several years now. I suspect I pulled it out of a box of books someone was throwing away at my previous residence. However it came into my possession, I have yet to read it and most of the time I don’t even remember that it sits there unread.

Yesterday, scrounging around for a book to occupy a few quiet moments, I came across it again and decided to give it a read.  I got through a few pages and then dropped it on the floor for later consumption.

I came back to it today and decided to do away with the burdensome dust cover.  As I opened it to continue reading, I was struck by a dedication that had been hidden by the dust jacket.

May 31, 1977

Bill —

With all my

Love Always-

Ann–

Obviously, the first thing that struck me was the date. Today being May 31st, the inscription was written on this day 32 years ago. Given that this book has been on my shelf for a number of years, I find it an added coincidence to pick it up at just this time. I always remove dust jackets when I read a book too so it’s interesting that I left it on for the first days reading.

This all set me to wondering what occasion might’ve been celebrated 32 years ago.  I guess it must’ve been some kind of anniversary or birthday gift.  Which makes the cosmic coincidence all the more interesting. Had I not gotten divorced, today would have been my 12th anniversary.

As it stands, today marks the 10th anniversary of what was essentially my last day as a married man. My divorce was not official until 2000 but, ten years ago today, my then-wife and I celebrated our second anniversary together. We had a nice dinner and exchanged gifts and she left for an internship in Atlanta the very next day.  I didn’t know it then but it was the last day we’d have together as a married couple. One year later, nine years ago tomorrow, our separation became a divorce.

Naturally, I’ve been thinking of all the things that this day has meant to me over the years.

Five years ago, in 2004, Tiger was getting married. We had a tortured relationship from 2000 to 2002 but had managed to become friends by the time she tied the knot. All things considered, that one definitely turned out for the best. (You know I love you, T. Happy Anniversary weekend.)

Four years ago, C spent this day moving to Atlanta. I spent the time hiking around the Yucatan Peninsula trying not to think about it. I’m sure I was unsuccessful.

Three years ago, I watched my good friend Cathy marry. I read 1st Corinthians 13 at her wedding.  I am sure someone read the same passage at my wedding. A few months later, I would find myself following C’s footsteps to Atlanta, having learned the truth of the passage. “…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Two years ago, I was in Hilton Head celebrating Memorial Day. That was the weekend C and I rekindled our relationship for the umpteenth time. This day kicked off a great Summer, one of my favorites so far.

One year ago, I was in Destin, Florida, celebrating Memorial Day again, pondering the end of my relationship with C and the sparks that might’ve marked the beginning of another.

Today, I spent the better part of my day looking back at the last ten years with a mixture of sadness and regret. I have come a long way in ten years and I’m so much more happy and content with who I am now than who I was then. It took divorce to make me examine who I really was and what was really important to me. It took divorce to make me realize how selfish and uncommunicative I really was. Without divorce as a catalyst, I would not have been forced to address my own shortcomings, something which I hope I have done and something which I still strive to do.

But it’s been hard. Life hasn’t exactly worked out the way I wanted.  I never thought I’d still be single. I always planned on marrying again and still hold out hope for it some day. Though I’m a better person, relationships have not proven to be any simpler since my divorce.

I also assumed I’ve have kids by now.  I have a lot of great nieces and nephews though. I love those guys. They let me get my kid fix when I need it. They also serve to help me realize that maybe I don’t want kids just yet. They can be a handful, that’s for sure.

The bottom line is that,  life may not be what I planned or hoped for over the last ten years but I am a better person that I ever imagined myself to be. I’m stronger by far.  I’m more confident and sure of myself and I’m more at peace than I’ve ever been. Life isn’t without it’s abundant recompense.

My mind returns to a passage of scripture that has served as an inspiration to me many times over the last six years. Following the string of coincidences, it happens to be the passage of the day in one of my iGoogle widgets. The passage is Romans 5: 1-5 and it’s been a gift to me. It’s also the gift with which I’ll leave you. Goodnight, all, and happy anniversary.

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;

4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.

5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Happy Mother’s Day from the Baby Birds

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m here to fulfill the one request my mother made of me today: write something for the blog. Happy Mother’s Day, Ma.  This one is just for you.

My intention for the Mother’s Day blog was to honor my mother by typing up one of her recipes in this space. Given that it’s two hours later than I’d hoped to get this done, that may have to wait until a time in which I’m not utterly exhausted.  I may be able to find a suitably short recipe if you’ll give me a moment.

Okay, the following is not short but it is a good story and mentions my great-grandmother, Granny Holloway. She is the woman responsible for raising my father and it seems appropriate to honor her and my mother on this Mother’s Day occasion. I hope you enjoy it.

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Granny’s Recipe For Feeding Baby Birds

My Harris grandparents loved parakeets and they had more than one pair during the years I best remember them. One pair they had in the 1950’s were named Ike and Dick after President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon. (My grandparents were ardent Republicans during the years when most Alabama citizens were rabid Democrats.) My grandfather doted on them. He taught them to say “I like Ike” and “Dickie Bird” and they flew around the house freely or rode on his shoulders.

Granny Holloway loved birds as well. According to Sidney, she always kept a red bird (cardinal) in a cage and had an uncanny way of finding young birds that had “fallen from the nest.” Perhaps Granny helped some of them fall but, however she found them, she successfully raised them to adulthood and kept them for her pleasure.

When our children were small, we raised baby birds as well – once two blue jays we named Jack and Jill, and once several starlings. Sidney remembered Granny’s recipe for feeding baby birds and they did well. We kept them in a cardboard box until they began to perch on its sides and then we moved them to the back porch.

When they learned to fly, they enjoyed perching in the trees in the back yard but would come back to the porch to be fed. Later they perched on the telephone wires in front and flew down the street to greet Sidney as he walked home from the college. Unfortunately, they began to fly down to greet others who did not understand their friendly intentions. Our mailman and our neighbor were terrified when the birds began darting down from the sky and landing on their head and shoulders.

Unfortunately, Jack drowned one day, apparently while admiring his image in a tub of water. But Jill and the starlings lived to fly off into the trees and become independent. We suppose they did, that is. They came less and less often to be fed and eventually they didn’t come back at all. We hope they adapted themselves to the wild and lived long and happy lives.

Granny Holloway was half Indian (her mother was either full-blooded Creek or Choctaw) and she must have learned Indian ways. (Sidney was fascinated that, while she was working outdoors or in her garden, Granny would often pee while standing straight up and without removing any underwear. I have read that this was an Indian practice. Apparently she was wearing no underwear that required removal.) It may be that her joy in raising birds was one of her Indian ways. Her recipe for feeding them was simple:

Boil one small potato in its skin and cut it up fine. Hard boil one (or more) egg and mash it up very fine. Mix the egg with the potato. Feed the mixture to the birds with a pair of tweezers as often as they clamor for food (just stick it down their throats). Occasionally give them a drop or two of water from a clean eye dropper.

Keep the birds in a cardboard box with newspaper lining the bottom. Add small strips of newspaper to serve as nesting material. Change the papers often. When the birds become active and seem ready to leave the box, move the box outdoors but away from cats. Continue feeding them as needed until they fly away.

By the way, we don’t recommend caging wild birds.

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Thanks, Ma, for the story and the recipe and for raising all of us and the baby birds. I know we’ve all flown away but it’s nice to know we can all fly back again when we need to be bed.

I love you and hope you’ve had a lovely Mother’s Day.

Doing Poorly, Doing Well

I’m not a big stock market guy but, ever since the market (largely) bottomed out at the end of last year, I’ve been doing some trading to encourage my savings to grow a little faster. Through February, I was just about break even. Since March, I’ve been doing pretty well.

Yesterday, I moved into two new positions. I took a stake in both Borders (BGP) and Bank of America (BAC). Today was both my best and worst single day since I opened my brokerage account.  Borders gained me something like 22% today before triggering a limit order to sell. Bank of America, however, lost me close to 9%.

Guess which stock had the bulk of my money?

I sure hope Bank of America rebounds tomorrow.

My Brush With Fame

Had dinner with a few friend’s at Tin Lizzy’s tonight. It was a great night to sit out on the patio and consume a few jalapeno margaritas. We got there a little early and it was a good thing we did. The wait to get a table outside was rather lengthy for a Monday night.

Turns out that, unbeknownst to me, Ashton Kutcher was at the next table and all the young ladies were trying to find a good angle to take his photograph. Because he was literally right behind me, I’m sure in a good number of photos with him. I guess that makes me famous.

For the record, he seemed like a normal enough guy. I wouldn’t have marked him out at all without the tittering of the girls at our table. All in all, my impression of him is markedly improved.

Too bad Demi wasn’t with him.