Well, it’s 68 degrees right away this morning. The sun is fully shining, with no expectation of any clouds today. It’ll probably get up into the upper 80s before lunch and hang there all day. Another typical summer morning and day to come here in the Northland. I raised the shades in the bedroom to let the morning sun heat things up there, and lowered them in the living room to keep the sun from burning up and fading our little Norwegian corner cupboard, all painted with a red milk paint more than a 130 years ago.
Hermes, who we call our little cat with a big responsibility, is going through his morning tasks of making sure everyone is awake, even if they don’t want to be. He likes to stand in the stairwell, and offer his best howl so that it echoes on two separate levels. He and Thor, our Siamese, already got their little tastes of cream cheese to start the day, so he will make noise for the next hour, and then find the sun and a soft blanket, and curl in, at least until lunch.
And so we start the last day of my first year of retirement. In some ways, it seems to have flown so fast, and yet, when I break it down, it has been filled with an incredible amount of activities and thoughts and memories. Even this column, which has served as a walkway for me at least, a path in the retirement forest, now contains 948 pages of writing, some of it excellent and insightful, and some of it, I even realize, are more like putting words on a page.
I haven’t really “gone” anywhere this year. No plane flights, only one overnight to Grafton, and otherwise every night was home. That’s a drastic change from previous years, where I would put on 45,000 miles on the car, and be out close to 45 nights in hotel rooms, doing the superintendency. We have driven to Grafton frequently, especially now to see Cheri’s mom, but I haven’t taken a trip to South Dakota since probably April of last year. I used to spend half my time there, straightening out churches and pastors. Instead, the “big trips” were to the grocery store, or perhaps the hardware store, or to fill up a tank of gas every three weeks or so.
Sure – the pandemic had a whole lot to do with the change of activity. I still despise face masks, and am glad we are pretty well past those, at least up here. One thing is that with the quarantine, I haven’t been sick a single day this past year. Not even a sniffle. We’ve gone through the seasons and the celebrations, and I can say that I really have accomplished very little, actually, in terms of changing the world.
You know, we humans go through days and weeks without much reflection, until we come to a day that serves as the chime of the clock of our lives. We take a moment and realize – wow, is it that late already? Have I really spent all those days since the last time it rang? Sometimes, we look at a time past, and make all sorts of resolutions of how this next period of time will be different, and more meaningful and leave more of a mark than just having the dawn every 24 hours. Sometimes, however, the best we can do is to recognize the time has indeed past, and to look forward to another day when it comes.
Do I regret retirement? After all, I did retire when I was 63, and I have many years left, hopefully, to make a difference. My answer to that question is assuredly no. You see, the word “retirement” is always pinned to a past activity. “I retired from this job or this career, or this thing that filled my life in the past.” In that sense, retirement only means that I am no longer doing what I used to do, and so I’m out to pasture, closed that door, shed that work. Retirement in that sense is simply the absence of an “active” life. I used to, but I don’t anymore…
That really is why, when I give myself some time to reflect, I instead call this period of my time on earth my “fourth life.” You can go back and read the very first column written last June 30 for the best explanation, but I consider it more to be, instead of shutting a door, of walking through the doorway to a new vocation, a new set of experiences, a yet-unexplored territory, known as the rest of my life.
I have barely started. Sure, I have deliciously wasted lots of time this past year, taken way more naps than I ever thought, and found holiness in being simply idle sometimes. That’s part of the exploring that I never had time or access to do when I constantly walked around with to-do lists, and unreturned phone calls, and thorny situations. Free of all that, I’ve really tried not to fill that mostly empty cup up with tons of things to get done. After I write this column, I will once again to an on-line crossword puzzle, as I drink another cup of coffee. I’m done with busy-ness, which I wrote about a while back, asking God to save me from both the curse of much speaking and the death of vain busyness. Let me do what is significant, or let me sit and wait until that opportunity comes, and not simply fill my life and days with ballast of things that may indeed not matter. It’s sort of like clearing everything out of a room, and then being very careful about what you decide to put back in. Otherwise, you simply trade one mess for another, which is the least significant thing we can do.
So – fourth life, year number two. No parties, no celebrations. Only a recognition of the future. I’ve mentioned many times before how I loved, and love outer space, and the exploration of humans. Of course, I loved Star Trek, and especially the opening words: Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, whose five year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations – to boldly go where no one has gone before….
Let that be my fourth life. I’m here to explore, but not to race at warp speed to make it happen. May God allow me – and you – to greet the day, to open the window, and to discover what we never knew before, which is only a taste of the glory of God.
In celebration of my new year, I will be away from the computer during this holiday weekend. Enjoy the commemoration of our independence, and I look forward to writing to you again next Monday. Blessings and peace. And watch out for fireworks – it’s pretty dry out there…
Word for the day: predilection. Pronounced preh-dih-LECK-shun. A great word, which is never casual or accidental. It comes from the Latin (of course) predilegere, which means “to prefer before others.” Breaking it down further, prae, means “before” and diligere, “choose, or love.” A predilection is a preference, a special liking for something. A greater word is that it is a “prepossession” – something you are always drawn to, if there is any choice. I have a predilection for spicy foods, for great jokes, for words and for my wife. Think about what your own predilection may be – it’s not a bias or prejudice – it’s simply your first choice, if you have a choice to make.
Growing up in a home with 9, or sometimes 10 people (when Grannie came to stay after Grandad’s death), you can imagine that when we would gather around the (most likely) 21” black and white television screen in the living room, part of the television/stereo record player combo that most homes had – product of RCA Victor – most of us sat on the floor to watch tv. That was also in that historic era when parents had to constantly tell their kids not to sit so close to the television, or they would ruin their eyesight. It was also because when you had five kids sitting three feet away from the TV, no one else could possibly see what was going on…
The idea of actually sitting on an chair of any sorts to watch our favorite program was as familiar as spending supper time speaking Italian. Since all the members of the house were descendants of Anglo-Saxon invaders during the time of William the Conqueror, Italian most likely was never going to happen. So, on the floor we would slide in time to watch Get Smart or the Beverly Hillbillies, or in later years, Star Trek or the Man from U.N.C.L.E.
We sat on the floor, but of course our parents never did. It was just part of the natural order of things. Mom would sit on the couch, often accompanied by Fritz, our 40-pound dachshund, or one of the smaller siblings, who couldn’t see over the older ones “fat heads” (you make a better door than a window!), who also served as our version of the remote control, as Mom or Dad would direct them to turn the channel, which also included fine-tuning the VHF to make the black and white image more viewable.
And Dad sat on “his” chair. The chair pre-dated my existence. It was a nice big chair, with wooden wide arms that each had a little groove cut into the side, courtesy of when Ray and Tim were little, and decided to saw the arm with their little metal saws – they got about ¼ inch in before Mom came running as she heard the sound of furniture construction/destruction happening. The arms were also wide enough to balance a tin of sardines, a salt shaker, and a sleeve of saltine crackers, on those evening when Dad would spend a good half hour shoveling sardine crackers to the bunch of peeping birds gathered all around.
It had been his chair for probably ever – it matched the little oak coffee table that must have been part of the set – we used the coffee table to make forts, or to turn upside down and create a boat. There was also an oak stand that held the lamp, and the pipe ashtray, always at the elbow of Dad who would spend more time fiddling with his pipe, getting new tobacco, tamping it down, lighting it, taking a couple of puffs, and then cleaning it out with his little metal pipe thing, and refilling and going through it all again. As we sat there sucking in pipe tobacco year after year, we just assumed that was part of any family’s ritual.
But the chair had two big cloth cushions, with the back one able to be removed, and turned around to remake the fluffiness of the upright part of the chair. There Dad would sit, sometimes with a bowl of ice cream, or in the summer, a beer, or when he was working on a leather project from Tandy Leather, he would swing the end table around in front of him, and have a workbench, all while the television played in the background.
I never thought of it as his “throne,” but it was certainly Dad’s chair. Some afternoons, while he was still at work, one of us might occupy the thing while reading a good children’s book, but when evening came – it went to the owner, for sure. It has now been passed down to one of my sisters, which makes it most likely nearly 70 years old. Still doing its thing.
So, in 2012 when Cheri was getting ready to take the job in Fargo, we went furniture shopping to fill the townhouse she was going to live in. We found a great white leather sofa that had two of the end seats able to recline, and another single big ol’ leather chair that also reclined. In all the previous years, I never really thought of having my own “dad’s chair,” but it turned out to be perfect to come and be part of our family room décor. From the beginning, the chair had a lot of “puff” to it, even with the leather, and as I would sit in it, it felt like I was in zero gravity – it would just suspend me, with the footrest up, and more often than not, I would miss parts of tv shows we would watch, as the chair would lure me to take a nice nap in the evening. It was really a glorious chair. It sat next to the window in the family room, and so in the winter, the leather would get a bit chilly. That was when we took one of our blankets, with polar bears on it, and drape it over the chair – christening it to become “the polar bear chair,” and one that the cats also loved to curl up on, or sometimes try to crawl under the blanket to make a secret cat hideaway.
It was a great chair, but it was engineered with a spring for the footrest, so when you pushed the button on the side of the chair, it would let loose, and send the footrest up in the air. This was fine, and when it was newer, all you had to do was push down on the footrest to bring things back upright, and be able to simply climb out of the chair. However, the reason you don’t find leather recliners in ancient Roman villas is that chairs with moving parts eventually wear out. By contrast, Dad’s chair only needed new upholstery, and it still going strong. It happened that the locking mechanism for the footrest became more and more, shall we say, finicky, and I would have to do some abdominal crunches to get the thing to lock and allow me to get out of the chair.
Finally, about two weeks ago, I gave the foot rest a good shove with my legs, and instead of locking down, it drifted sideways and left the footrest hanging half closed, unable to shut. Something had broken. Before I could get some time to turn the chair over and see what might be needing to be fixed, calls came from the rest of the family to “just go buy a new chair” and “this one’s shot – just move on…” As though it were an old plow horse that needed to be put down after so many faithful years of service.
I refused. For the last couple of weeks, then, I have had to climb into the chair around the footrest, and be satisfied with the angle, since it seems to be immovable. Of course, each time I get in or out of the chair, my endearing family is quick to call for its demise and to get rid of it. But it’s my chair. There are just some things you sometimes need to take time with, before saying goodbye. I still haven’t looked at the undercarriage to even see if it can be fixed, because as soon as I think to do that, Adam makes his pitch that it can never be repaired and just toss it out and all of that kind of talk.
I’ve come to discover things about myself as I grow older. I like the same coffee cup day after day. When I had to change my pillow after who knows how many years, it was a tough time to trust that a new one will do what the old used to do as it cradled my head. I don’t like changing people who cut my hair, or dentists, or eye doctors, and certainly not other doctors. We have a new grocery store that is really convenient to where we live, but the layout of the store drives me nuts, and is illogical in terms of what is placed where, so it takes twice as long to shop there. I try to buy the same dress shoes when my old ones wear out. The idea, then, of having to go shop for a whole new recliner just makes me fatigued already. It’s not that I don’t like change – it’s that I like some things I can count on, without messing with them.
So, for now, I’ll climb in and out of my chair, until sometime I can see if I can fix it, and restore it to its former glory. Or I might have to buy a new one. Just not yet. Not yet… I’m not ready to let that one go, since it is my chair – my own Dad chair, that deserves more care than getting tossed out somehow.
We live in a disposable world, with the rate of change rapidly changing. To live intentionally, I believe, is to not be in a hurry to dump something that right now doesn’t seem to be working quite right. It happens in relationships, in objects, in jobs, and more. There was a time when the response to something not working right was something other than, “Get rid of it.” It was more, “Let’s see what we can do…” and perhaps give it, or the relationship, or the whatever a second chance, at least to try. I hope that you are able to see your own life as being worth the second chance, a bit more trying, and that as a result you will find the precious value in what is, instead of only focusing on what might be tomorrow. Blessings.
Word for the day: apothegm. Pronounced AP-uh-them. It sounds Greek, doesn’t it, and it is. It comes from apophthegma, meaning “something clearly spoken.” From apo, “from” and phthengesthai, meaning, “to utter.” Basically, we are talking about pithy sayings or instructions – anything that distills an idea into a few short words. Mark Twain was great on creating apothegms – he once wrote,” Comparison and the death of joy.” One that has become popular today, that I abhor is the saying, “It is what it is.” Stupid. Toulouse Lautrec once stated, “A group of people is called a hell.” Find your favorite apothegm, and let it define you a bit to this world.
Cheri just sent me a joke from work: why couldn’t the pepper practice archery? Because he didn’t habanero.
There are times I wish my brain was not wired to absolutely love puns, but I guess that’s who I am. Long before they were called “Dad jokes,” there has always been something deliciously quirky about taking words and creating almost an alternate universe! The key to any pun, of course is that it is always set up with an ambiguous word, as the word itself means to have a double meaning, or even more basically, “to drive around.” There is enough room in how we think of a word sometimes that it can hit us in two different levels, and it either elicits a groan, or a small laugh, and a “pretty good one” as a remark.
The truth is, you either love puns, or you hate them. Some researchers have come to say that if you love puns, then you have a far greater than normal intelligence. Of course, an equal number of them say if you love puns, it might be proof of damage to your frontal lobe… whatever the case, since I get to write this column, I thought we would just enjoy a quiet start to Monday with a few of my favorite puns. Enjoy.
What did the hamburger name it’s baby? Patty.
I found out I’m color blind – the news came completely out of the green.
The past, present and future all walked into the bar at the same time – it was a tense moment.
They built a restaurant on the moon. The food is good, but there’s not atmosphere.
I saw a ball getting bigger and bigger and bigger – and then it hit me.
How does Moses make coffee? Hebrews it.
What did the buffalo say to his kid as he left? Bison.
The first French fries were actually cooked in Greece.
What’s the difference between a rabbit and a plum? They are both purple, except for the rabbit.
What is red, and bad for your teeth? A brick.
I gave my vacuum away – all it was doing was collecting dust.
They reported a kidnapping at school – then he woke up.
What do you call a man with no arms or legs in a pool? Bob.
Well, it’s also true that there can be too much of a good thing – like eating a quart of ice cream. It starts out well, with great expectations, but somewhere along the way, it just becomes a real belly ache. With that, I will close out the puns for Monday, and hope you have a great, and joyful day. Take time to laugh over silly things – and do your best to help others laugh as well. There is way too much that is deadly serious in our world not to flush it all out sometime with a good chuckle.
Word for the day: plenipotent. Pronounced plen-IH-poe-tent. It’s a great word, and even the pronunciation is fun to speak. It comes from two Latin words, plenus, which means “full” and potens, (from which we get potent, or potential) meaning, “power.” The adjective plenipotent, then, means, “possessing full power!” The word in most cases describes someone who has full authority to make a decision or a treaty of some sort, but in a broader sense, it is someone who has the strength to do a particular task without assistance. Think of where you might be plenipotent in your own life…
When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to do basic household chores, one that rises to the top of the list of purely adult tasks – more than mowing a lawn, or vacuuming or even doing laundry – is changing the furnace filter.
You see, it’s something we just don’t think about, sort of like making sure the tires on your car are filled. The filter is just there, gathering dust, literally, and hopefully making the entire house cleaner and all that kind of stuff. All the years we lived in parsonages, they had old furnaces, as though there was a great sale on parsonage furnaces back in the early 60s, and every church at least in our region bought one. Every furnace had a filter, of course, which was an inch thick, and expected to be changed out every three months.
Three months? Are you kidding? Who remembers to do that? So, usually, the filter just sat there, getting dirtier and dirtier, making the furnace less and less efficient (I guess – at least that’s what “they” told me…). There was never a warning light, or a little chirping sound, or anything to warn me that the ol’ filter was filling up, and I needed to go down to the hardware store, or to Target, and by a new one to put in… and what size was that again? 14 x 20, or 16 x 24, or … so when I finally did change the thing, it was usually more embarrassing than anything else, and I would make a resolution to mark the calendar and make sure I didn’t miss the next three months. No one ever tells you when you are a little kid that this is going to be one of your jobs when you get to be an adult. It’s like a secret hidden away in your childhood, that is only exposed when you think you are old enough to rule the world. At that moment, the universe opens up, and a voice whispers in your ear, “Ok, big shot – now you are in charge of changing your furnace filter from now until you die…” There is nothing fun, exciting, or entertaining about it – just a little burden that sits on your shoulders… “Don’t forget now!”
So, also in the course of human events, it happens when we bought our own house. that we started that fine hobby of replacing the entire house, piece by piece, over the years. In 6 years, we have replaced the oven, stovetop, garage door openers, back patio, three large egress window constructions, the back flower garden, every light bulb, it seems, the plumbing for two bathrooms, and the kitchen, including the garbage disposal and a few more items. Oh, and the sump pumps and all three toilets. Oh, and also the entire guts for the gas fireplace. Then, two years ago, as we were doing the yearly furnace check, the furnace guy reminded us that the furnace was installed new with the house in 1996. It was the kind of furnace that was pretty efficient, but they no longer made replacement parts for. He then gently informed us that the furnace, without warning, decided to go to furnace heaven, and would not be functional the next winter.
God provides. We had been able to save up a nice sum of money, thinking that it was almost time to do some fun redecorating, or even carpet replacement. Instead, we were able to direct the money toward purchasing a new furnace and air conditioner and thermostat that promised to make our world somehow brighter and rosier, and our cats more talented. We plopped down the mass of funds, and over the course of a day, our big ol’ furnace was replaced by a little thing that must be nuclear powered, because it promised to heat and cool and I think provide a French supper every month, or something like that.
There was one catch. Instead of a one-inch furnace filter that was to be changed every three months, we now were in charge of changing a 4-inch filter every six months! Of course, it was triple the cost, but who’s counting at this point. So, in the past, my method for trying to stay up with the filter changes was to write the date I put the new filter in on the filter itself. Of course, that meant when I would think about whether it was time to change the thing, I had to go down to the furnace, open it up, pull the filter out, and read the date. Looking back, it probably could have been more efficient to just go ahead three months on the calendar and write, “Change filter.” Life is a learning process, isn’t it?
So, the pandemic last year kind of screwed up everyone’s sense of the normal passing of time. Here in June, I began to have the itchy feeling that perhaps I had missed the furnace filter six month anniversary, and with a new furnace, I really didn’t want to mess stuff up, because I knew if it had to be fixed, it would be way more expensive than the old model. We come to know that somehow – new things always cost more to maintain. My first level of thinking about it was just that – I thought about it. I even mentioned to Cheri that I thought that maybe the filter was overdue to be changed. Again, even to hear that just fills me with great boredom.
My second level was to be pretty convinced that it probably was time to change it. Cheri, as always, had the perfect plan: Go downstairs, pull the filter out, and read the date when you put it in and wrote on the filter, like you have for the past 40 years with every single filter you have changed. After a couple of days, I went ahead and checked the thing. I pulled it out, and I swear I looked on every side, every edge, and there was no date written. Maybe it was changed by the furnace guy when he came? Nope – they always put in the cheapest things, and I like a more comprehensive filter, since we have three cats in the house.
I looked at the thing, and then actually did notice that it was kind of dirty, so we made the trip to the hardware store, bought the new filter, and I brought it home to change things out. I was on a roll at this point. I went to the furnace, pulled out the old filter, and put in the new one, having written in three different places the date, and then planned to also log it onto my computer calendar. No missing this again. As I was carrying up the old filter to throw away, I looked once again, and there, somehow, in some mysterious way, the date of the installation appeared before my eyes. I was only three months early. I blame it all on CoVid, just as most every store and delivery company also blames everything on the disease for making things late or backordered.
So, now we have a new furnace filter, and all is right with the world, and at least I don’t have to think about the dumb task that adults have to do – at least for another six months. I have it marked in the calendar, by the way…
There are many layers of living intentionally. Unfortunately, the farther apart the interval between taking care of something intentionally, offers the greater opportunity to miss it completely, or to undershoot the time. I guess the most important thing is to try. Try to take care of your life, and try to be self-aware. The greater disaster comes, of course, when we stop doing that, and live accidentally, only reacting to things that come our way, and often doing so chaotically or missing over and over the important things that we can and should do. Check your furnace filter date, and check the other things in your life that need your attention – not because it’s necessarily dangerous or lethal if you don’t, but simply because it’s better if you do. I’ll try as well – at least I have it on my calendar now.
Word for the day: pervicacious. Pronounced per-vi-KAY-shus. Not one of our more used words, but still holds some pretty strong power with it. Of course, from the Latin root, pervinco, or further taken apart, vincere, which means “to win or conquer,” plus per, which often means “thoroughly.” If I thoroughly win, then there is a real sense of the attempt to dominate and subdue. Pervicacious means, “stubborn, or willful or obstinate.” Two year olds moving into toilet training time are the best example, as are teenagers who have their new driver’s licenses, or actually anyone who is just being stubborn about something – your best response to them at that time – even the two year old, is “Will you please stop being so pervicacious?” And wait for them to ask what it means…
Dear Mom and Dad,
So, what was it like on that Sunday afternoon in 1949, when the two of you offered your pledges to take each other as husband and wife? I don’t know if it was muggy or sunny in Omaha that day, but whatever, I’m sure Dad was sweating up a storm, like always!
I think you were teaching elementary school, at that time, Mom, and Dad, I’m pretty sure you were going to college at the University of Omaha, since right after high school, you joined the Navy so you would officially be a veteran of World War 2. But from your stories, you fell in love with each other in high school itself – one of the stories being that you, Mom, tripped over Dad’s big feet stuck out in the aisle of the classroom – and that you fell for him over and over again. Kind of kooky and sweet, to be sure.
So Dad was in ROTC in college, and after graduating, was brought into the Air Force, at that time a pretty new branch of the military, and took your navigator training. Ray was born in 1953 in Omaha, and then Tim was born at Mather AFB near Sacramento in 1955. The babies, it seemed, reflected the places you were assigned to… But how many babies should a Cross couple have? Apparently, even though you were Methodist, it seemed a large family was your destiny! Back to Omaha, I came along in 1957 (certainly your greatest joy!) while Dad was actually on the other side of the world, assigned to Japan for the better part of a year.
I think perhaps it was around that time that you bought your first station wagon – a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air, big enough to haul around three boys, and make the trip to Newport News, Virginia, where Dad had to leave the family to go on assignment to Turkey. It was there that Robin was born in 1958. Finally, we ended up for a while in South Carolina, as Dad was part of the navigator training staff for the new RF-4cs, photo-reconnaissance fighters that were fresh to the Air Force. It was in South Carolina in 1960 and 1961 that Lisa and Julie were born. Did I mention you wanted a large family? That brought things up to six children, three boys born first, and then three girls. It was quite the household, having six children 8 years and under! And living in a three-bedroom home with one bathroom.
Your married life became a bit subsumed to the family life, although my memories include those terribly embarrassing times when we kids would walk into the kitchen and see you both smooching. Oh, the mortification! But yet, we loved it, because you loved each other.
1962 saw a huge adventure, as Dad was assigned to an exchange with the Royal Australian Air Force at Amberly Field in Queensland, and the eight of us went to live there for two years. It sure felt like a happy time, where we carried the notoriety of being the only Americans on base. And six children made it even a louder presence. I can remember the parties you all would hold at the house, with music and laughter and great memories being made.
Back to South Carolina in 1964, as Dad continued his work, and Mom ran the home. In 1965, just as an exclamation point, Amy was born, bringing us to a final total of 9 in the house. We spent five years there – the longest time I ever spent in one place until I was 32. At one point, you all decided to start building a house, with the possibility of Dad retiring there in South Carolina. Was it your dream home? I just remember spending a lot of time in the woods on site, not knowing the future…
But the future came in a difficult way. The Vietnam War was on, and Dad felt his duty and opportunity to make his place there. So, in 1969, you both moved us to Omaha, back to the family home, and bought a house, and then Dad went off to the other side of the world again, but this time, a far more dangerous spot. First Vietnam, and then a transfer to Thailand, while Mom did her best to “hold down the fort” as it were with kids from 4 years old through high school. I remember it being such a lonely time.
When Dad came home, the Omaha World-Herald ran a entire page article! The pictures showed all of us kids on the tarmac, surrounding the scene of Dad giving Mom a huge kiss, just like the end of World War 2. Before Vietnam, Dad would call Mom “Kid” – but after that time, it was pretty pronounced that he only called her “Lady.”
Then it was on our way to Grand Forks, North Dakota. Not Dad’s best assignment, especially due to the cold and the amount of darkness that seemed to pervade everything. After 4 years there, Dad arranged for a new assignment – in Texas – Fort Worth, from where he retired after nearly 33 years, and they made their home as children spun off and found their adult lives as well. I never lived with you in Texas for any length of time, since I was in college then, and seminary, and then moved back to the Dakotas where I could start my own family with my dream girl. In part, I have been able to love Cheri the way I do because I witnessed your life together, not only as parents, but as husband and wife.
You had 44 years together on earth before Dad died in 1993. Mom spent 26 more years without Dad, until 2019 brought your eternal reunion. I don’t know theologically if after death people still understand marriage and being together, but if heaven is indeed heaven, in my heart, I have to believe that God provides that wonderful gift.
So, today would be your 72nd anniversary. I do hope you both are enjoying it wonderfully in the arms of the One who made it possible in the first place. We of course miss you all terribly, but this is your time to never have to move again, never have to say goodbye again, and always can even sneak a heavenly kiss, I imagine. Enjoy the day – as we think of you.
Saying for the day: If life were easy, where would all the adventures be? And indeed, a significant, intentional life will always be filled with the stuff of adventures, so long as we keep our hearts, and eyes open.
When I was around 9 years old, I had a little bit of money burning a hole in my pocket, so I made my way to Browns 5 &10 store, just on the other side of the highway next to the Piggly Wiggly. Browns had more stuff per square inch than any other store I had ever been in, including Searstown in Columbia. It truly was the incarnation of the old general store, but it also included an aisle for toys.
That was where I headed. Now, one of the important things about having your own money, is that you never want to waste it. This of course is different from those rare occasions when Mom or Dad might actually foot the bill for something – then most anything was worth getting. This time, however, I perused the little shelves carefully, knowing my financial limit, and wanting the most bang for the buck. I don’t know why it caught my eye, but there it was, all silver and red – a completely mechanical pedometer. It was made of tin, I think, and it would count your steps as you wore it proudly on your belt. This would be the buy of a lifetime. I wore it everywhere I went, being sure to regularly take it off so I could witness the step total increasing with every activity. I didn’t know I was “doing” fitness long before it became popular. The pedometer is still in one of my little boxes inside a bin somewhere downstairs. By now, it’s a collectible, for sure, being 55 years old.
When I worked at the Dakotas Conference as director of leadership development, one season I was on a task force to help our clergy find ways to become healthier, and in doing so, cut down on the medical insurance costs for everyone. In the course of our discussions, I finally offered, “We should just buy everyone a pedometer, and tell them to start walking!” That idea grew and grew, and pedometers were purchased, with the help of our general board of pension and health for the denomination. We became a guinea pig test conference dealing with walking as healthy activity. Later on, the board expanded what we did into a clergy-wide activity known as Virgin Pulse, where electronic pedometers are still being distributed today across the United Methodist Church, inviting pastor to “start walking.” Although it’s not widely credited, I like to think I had at least one good idea to improve our clergy’s life.
I guess I’ve always been a sucker for devices that make what we do more interesting. A few years ago, I dove into the world of Fitbits – small electronic wrist monitors that were fancy pedometers, and also measured other things like heart rate and such. I graduated to a larger Fitbit, which also told me how I slept the night before, and what time I spent in what stage, as well as heartbeats and how many stairs I have climbed and other very important trivia. I discovered, however, that the little monitors tend to have a short life expectancy, since I have worn out two of them already.
It was during the slow death of my second monitor that my son Adam introduced me to his own fancy-schmanzy health monitor – the Apple Watch. The watch actually has a clock application to tell you what time it is, but it also has, in that small case that sits on your wrist, more computer strength than what was available to the Apollo astronauts as they went to the moon. Heartbeat, breathing, ecg readout, weather reports, sleep, calendar, all sorts of alarms, and it lets me know when in the course of an hour, I need to stop typing and stand up and walk around, and much more.
Actually, it is one of those things you get, like a new computer, that is way more advanced than you are. It can do things that I really can’t figure out yet – or maybe ever. Oh, it will also display any incoming phone calls for my “smart phone,” as well as any texts that might be sent. The danger in all of this, of course, is that as I am trying to go through the different programs, if I swish or wipe things the wrong way, it will delete before I even know I’ve done so. Twice already I have deleted the current weather conditions for Fargo, just by accidentally hitting a red “x” on the screen. Oh, and just to ensure it is like Dick Tracy’s 2-way wrist TV (first introduced in the comics in 1946!), I can turn the Apple watch into a walkie-talkie with anyone else who has an Apple watch. Amazing…
It does have to be charged every day, so I do get an hour and a half when I am back to non-electronic, non-computerized, non-space -infinity activity, and just have a bare wrist. I do like the thing, but there is one glaring issue that 90% of the world would probably just ignore – it is woefully right-handed. The knobs and buttons that you have to push are on the right side of the watch, which means it is meant to be worn on the left wrist, so your right fingers can easily operate it. However, if you are left-handed, as I am, the tendency is to put the watch on your right wrist, which means, just like when I learned to write, I have to reach across the watch pushing buttons on the wrong side – for me – and not really being able to see the screen, since my hand pretty much covers the screen without my bending and trying all sorts of gyrations to both push the button and read the display at the same time. But who’s complaining? Certainly not the right-handers out there…
I don’t know where our technology will ultimately take us. I’m already feeling as though it’s difficult to hang on to the rope of the future – it keeps slipping through my fingers, and I just hope there is a knot on the end that I can grab on, and hopefully learn how to climb back up. I find myself at times nodding my head when I watch the commercial that shows an older couple – grandparents – watching with excitement as their grandchildren come to visit. They hug the kids and then reach around, and hand over a huge pile of electronic gadgets, and say, “Here – these don’t work – please fix them…” Not quite there, but closer than I care to be.
And it all started with a little metal pedometer. No matter what, it’s still important to find what is essential in our lives, and to live intentionally. Haphazardly, accidentally going in all sorts of directions only leads to a mess of a life. We may not all become computer scientists, but we can find the level of living in our modern world that is both comfortable and reliable. Just be sure to do two things: stand up now and then, and breathe. Both of which, by the way, the Apple watch can teach you to do.
Word for the day: assiduous. Pronounced uh-SID-jou-us. It’s another one of those Latin based words that has gone through transformation from its original meaning. Assiduous means, “attending, constant. The verb assidere, means “to sit by,” from ad “to” and sidere “to sit.” So the word really first meant to remain beside, or to be ready to serve someone. Nowadays, however, the word as an adjective really describes someone who is diligent in what they are doing, or attentive, and best, someone who is persistent, and never gives up the work assigned, or that they have chosen to do. Kind of like putting a crossword puzzle together – it requires an assiduous spirit, or else after you find the outside frame pieces, you end up just dumping it back in the box, because it’s too hard…
When Aaron was a very little guy, he had incredible imagination. Part of that probably came from the fact that he taught himself how to read at age 2, but he was always caught up in some very important role play, or finding a costume to wear for most of the day. At age 4, he was always setting up little cars or creating some kind of scenario. Of course, while he had imagination, he didn’t always have the best motor skills for fine, small work.
Enter Christmas 1990 or 1991. Prior to the day, of course, we made our way through the toy section at Target, where the most reasonable toys might be discovered. There, in the midst of the Lego display, Aaron found the thing you only dream of as a 4 year old: Forbidden Island. It was a Lego set of a pirate’s island, complete, of course with one-eyed pirates, plastic little rope ladders to make your pirate climb up to the top of the set, a little shark that was always present, and even a trap door that you could trip and drop your Lego person down into a prison cage. It was near perfect.
Christmas Day came, and sure enough, Forbidden Island was under the tree. Now, for any parents or grandparents out there, it’s probably important to go back over the fine motor skill ability of 4 year olds. The set came in the box of 185 pieces, and a small instruction booklet. By 8am Christmas morning, ol’ Dad was sitting at the card table with 189 pieces in front of him, starting the work of construction of Forbidden Island. Fortunately, Mrs. Cross kept a nice continuous supply of black coffee.
One of the things about Lego sets, if you aren’t familiar, is that there are no words in the instructions. What you get are diagrams, with each step highlighting the part or parts you need to attach to the set, and it’s up to you to be sharp-eyed enough to make sure you see all the parts needing to be worked on or built. It’s very possible, if you aren’t quite attentive enough, that after about five steps, you get to dissemble the parts you have put together, in order to include that one little part that is critical for, say, dropping the trap door. All the while that I worked on the major facility construction, Aaron spent time having the little shark eat the unsuspecting pirates. A true gentle Christmas morning experience. Not to be excluded, little brother Adam sat on the other end of the card table with his new set of Matchbox cars, watching them at eye level. Two of the cars were police and firefighter vehicles, that if you pushed down on top of them, they would squeal out little Matchbox sirens – over and over and over and.. For many reasons, it was good that I wasn’t asked to do brain surgery on Christmas morning…
With the final construction completed, placing the Jolly Roger plastic flag on its pole and attaching it to the top of the island, off Aaron went to explore the insides and outsides and dramatic story of Forbidden Island. It’s still in a box, 31 years later in our basement storage.
One important fact about the male mind is that we all go through different phases in life. One necessary part is that we males will tend to cycle from adulthood back to “second childhood” at some point. We begin to recall those great toys when we were young and our minds uncluttered by the stuff of maturity. Especially coming when retired, some of us manage to find all sorts of “neat” things to fill and fascinate us – most are pretty harmless, like finding and collecting stuff, or finally being able to indulge in areas we either didn’t have time or resources or even extra energy to explore. I own way more fossils now that I ever did as a boy. I have filled my office, as I described before, with all sorts of cool things – I can almost have the imagination of a 4-year-old, if I let myself go.
One area of the world that has always fascinated me has been, strangely enough, not of this world: Space. Although I was too young, and we lived in Australia, to go through the Mercury space program, I did watch with awe every time the Gemini program had a launch, and of course, Apollo and all its glory. Today on my shelf, I have some wonderfully complicated Lego models of the Saturn V rocket, the lunar lander, and the international space station. For my high school senior term paper, I wrote a detailed narrative of the development and advantages of the yet-to-be developed space shuttle. The idea of a reusable space vehicle that you could land of a runway was the stuff of science fiction, but wonderful to think about.
Back to second childhood: a week or two ago, among the various Father’s Day presents sitting on the living room coffee table, was a large--- very large package. I unwrapped it, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a Lego Expert kit for building the Discovery Space Shuttle, and the Hubble space telescope (launched in space by Discovery in 1990). The actual Discovery, by the way, launched for the first time in 1984 – two years before Aaron was born. Of course, all the shuttles have been retired, but the concept and development was simply fantastic.
Now, when you get a kit like this one, you don’t just rush into start building. That would be like eating an entire Whitman’s Sampler at one sitting. No – such a thing is to be deliciously tasted and time taken so that it’s built just right. Also, where Forbidden Island had a whopping 185 pieces, Discovery has 2,354 pieces, including the small model of the Hubble.
Yesterday, I finally opened the box, not to build anything, but to pull out the instruction booklet, and see what was in store. I think Forbidden Island’s instructions were 12 pages long – daunting at that time. Discovery’s book has 314 pages in it. Yes, you read that right. However, for those of you who might have missed it before – I am retired. Outside of a few necessary things, I don’t have to do anything, really. Cheri has the week off, so I decided I would not start the construction of the shuttle until she goes back to work on Monday.
I decided to use as my assembly setting the kitchen table. The parts, fortunately, come in numbered bags that correspond with the picture instructions. At least that way, when I get to the end of the building step, I should have a better than even chance of having used all the pieces, hopefully so that I won’t have missed the trap door – or the solar panel connections. I don’t know how long it will take me – but it really doesn’t matter. It’s supposed to be fun, and a chance to focus my brain.
I hope to remain attentive to the task, and that it gives me the opportunity to be truly intentional on this project. Yes, I know it’s really just a big boy’s toy, but the process is really neat, and the end product should be also as neat. Did you know that model is 22” long and 14” wide, and actually allows for the bay doors to open and close. Like I said – neato. It begins next Monday.
I hope you have things that you look forward to in your life. I hope you have things that require your attention, focus and drive. Living attentively, as I have said all along, brings a sharpness to what we see and do, and it enlivens all the other things in our lives as a result. Blessings on you. By the way, I am looking ahead to someday also building the Lego model of the Colosseum. It has 9036 pieces…
Word for the day: nonsuch, or nonesuch. Pronounced simply NUN-sutch. It’s an English mash-up word, none + such, which was meant to portray something that is unmatched or certainly unequalled, either a person and his/her accomplishments or a thing itself. Nonsuch was a title given to a number of British naval vessels, or a class of ships. One “Nonsuch” was sold by the British navy, and was used in 1688 to be the first commercial ship to enter Hudson’s Bay in Canada. Out of that exploration was established the Hudson Bay Company, a major long-time trading and retailing company in Canada, which for that country was a true nonsuch enterprise.
Well, it’s a Wednesday in late June, with the temps planning again to reach into the mid-90s. It’s been a truly ridiculous year weather wise, but nothing dangerous or dramatic, at least up here in the northland. We are just moseying through summer, it seems, and so I thought today might be another great opportunity to share with you some knowledge about things you may not even care about, but still, I’m sure you will find them fascinating, and wish you could remember them to be able to drop into conversation from time to time. So here goes:
The full medical description of a black eye is “bilateral periorbital haematoma.” Imagine being in a fight, and telling someone you are going to give them THAT… by the way, the word, “shiner” connected with a black eye most likely came from the fact that with the surrounding skin discolored, it almost makes the eye look like it is shining…
Pearls melt in vinegar. I wouldn’t recommend trying that with Mom’s cherished jewelry.
After you see a flash of lightning, the sound of thunder travels a mile every five seconds. Therefore, when you see lightning, and there is an immediate crash of thunder – take cover…
The top speed of a Zamboni ice cleaner is nine miles per hour.
The first walkie-talkie was created in 1934. It was known officially as a “portable super-regenerative receiver and transmitter.” Only later, when they realized they could walk and talk with it without having it connected by a cord, it became known by its pretty silly name today.
The first drinking straw was developed by Egyptian brewers so they could taste the beer without stripping off the fermentation that floated on top of the container.
After you get a sunburn, the skin that peels off is called “blype.” That sounds pretty made up, don’t you think? It’s actually a Scottish word, which is probably why we just call it “peeling skin.”
If you ever find yourself in quicksand, try to lie on your back, and slowly raise your legs. Unless of course, you are the kind of person who can’t float in a pool of water, probably because your bones are too dense, in which case you will just sink to the bottom.
We blink more than ten million times per year. (You right now are finding yourself needing to blink, aren’t you?)
The planet Venus rotates clockwise. All others, including Earth, rotate counter-clockwise. They must have put the batteries in backwards with Venus…
Cats can make more than one hundred vocal sounds. A dog can really make only ten.
Mosquitoes are attracted more to the color blue than any other color.
Crocodiles can’t stick their tongues out.
In the Caribbean, there are oysters that can climb trees.
An orca, or killer whale, kills a shark by torpedoing into the shark’s stomach from underneath, causing the shark to explode.
Isn’t life full of amazing and un-thought-of information? Any one of those above is sure to stop conversation, and cause somebody in the group to ask, “How do you even know this stuff?” Your answer, of course, can be, “Well, Randy told me…”
What I find even more fascinating is that somebody, somewhere, somehow actually either thought to ask the questions these fact answer, or were observant enough to, for instance, watch an oyster climb a tree, or count someone blinking (you are blinking again, aren’t you?). Most of us are not that attentive, or intentional in our observational lives – or we just don’t fill our minds up with lots of trivia. I like to think of trivia as the screen saver for the brain. It gives it something to do while the brain is trying to figure out much more complicated and important things in our lives.
However you approach it, enjoy your life. Enjoy gathering information, and learning, even if it’s only to learn. I can honestly say that 7th grade biology class dissections only taught me that we know how to make a mess out of a frog’s body, especially when you put it in the hands of a 7th grader. Still, I am sure that perhaps someday I will come to appreciate cutting open a frog, for some reason…
Whatever the case, give your effort to find and understand something new today. Your brain will thank you, and there is always someone out there who needs to receive your trivia…
Word for the day: estivate. Pronounced ESS-tuh-vate. It’s a great gathering of forms of a Latin word, aestivatus, or aestivare, which means “reside in the summer.” The core Latin word is aestas, meaning “summer,” or “the hot season.” To estivate means to spend the summer at a specific place or doing a specific thing, like “We are estivating at the lake this season.” Even deeper, it means to really just slow down when it gets too hot. Enjoy the patio or the pool, and just get to the point where you find yourself not even talking, but perhaps only sighing with the sound of contentedness in living just a very nice day.
Yesterday was indeed a red-letter day at the Crosses. We started the whole pandemic thing in March of 2020, like everyone else. We cancelled all sorts of things in our lives, from concerts to eating out to simply shopping in stores – just like the rest of you. We lived life pretty safely, because we simply didn’t know what might be lurking around the corner, ready to grab us and make us sick in a way we had never experienced before. Sure, Cheri continued to go to work, but has worn a mask every day as she sees to patients. However, the coming home and spending time meant we had to do things differently than just running out to the mall or shopping for clothes, or getting other things.
Enter on-line ordering. Like millions of others, we turned to what we might need. Christmas, birthdays, even Valentine’s Day turned out to be ordered merchandise, much to the on-line retailers’ joy, I’m sure. Add to that the dozens of jigsaw puzzles ordered and put together and taken apart, and you end up with a lot of “stuff,” to be sure. And all that “stuff” came to our front door step in a handy cardboard box, of all different shapes and sizes. Just recently, Adam ordered a new office chair for his basement office/bedroom while he still works from home. The box was massive, and sat for a few days in the living room, as we thought the cats might like to play in it. Fact was, it was too big for them to hide in, so we finally broke it down, and took it over to the cardboard recycle dumpsters that the city provides.
Hence came the light bulb of an idea from Cheri. She is off work this week, which means she can hardly sit still and just enjoy some relaxing time – it’s sort of like the toy I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. It was a big plastic orange snake with wheels on the bottom. When you would turn it on, with new batteries, it would slither at top speed around the kitchen, looking terribly lifelike, and just never stop moving. Now, Cheri is in no way a snake, but she is in perpetual motion. The idea? Don’t you think it’s time we go down into the basement storage and break down all those boxes we have put down there after ordering something this past year or so, and then take them as well over to recycling? Wouldn’t that be fun? Then, of course, we would have room down there, for some reason.
Cheri is the true love of my life, but she is relentless. I put her off over Father’s weekend, just because I could, but yesterday morning, she woke with visions of broken down boxes dancing in her head. I woke up needing a nice big cup of coffee, but of course, she had been up a good two hours before I was. So, after a reasonable time at the dining room table, downstairs we went with knife and scissors in hand to dissemble all the boxes lying in wait under the stairs.
There were a lot of boxes. There were dozens of boxes. Some of them were massive sized monsters, with lots of other little boxes hiding inside. Of course, every one of them had two separate address stickers on them. We make a habit of not leaving those on the boxes when we toss them for some reason, and so beyond breaking the cardboard down, we also had to hunt down and remove the stickers before the box could go on the pile of to-be-dumped cardboard.
I’m sure that NASA and the US military could make great use of the adhesive found on the back of those address stickers. I imagine you could assemble an entire automobile using only that glue, and it would hold together for a cross-country trip. Now and then, we would find a sticker that actually came off in one piece, that you could get a corner loose and just peel off – that was like finding a unicorn. More often, as you went to peel off the sticker, you managed to tear off a good quarter inch square piece, leaving the rest to sit there on the box, giggling and snickering at you. We’d pull and pull and rip and tear and sometimes the best we could do was to just get most of the address off, and call it good. Of course, many of the boxes also for some reason had a secondary address sticker, hidden on another panel. Stinkers. Sometimes the best I could do was to take my knife, and slash the cardboard underneath the sticker and tear off a chunk, hopefully with all the address attached to it.
Well, after an hour or more, or two, we finally came to the end of the pile, still saving the huge boxes that supposedly we were to keep to put the large screen TVs in when the time came to move… someday. What I couldn’t figure out was trying to count the big boxes and match that number up against the TVs currently in the house. It just seemed there were way more boxes that televisions, although that’s all another example of how sometimes it feels like I am just a visitor in our home, and have no real concept of what is in all the different rooms and bedrooms and offices and such. Plus, at least one of our sons never met a new electronic device he didn’t like… or “need,” and each one comes in another box to be saved, like the Ark of the Covenant.
Well, all that remained, of course, was to transport the flattened boxes up the stairs, through the living room, and across the entry way, out the front door (making sure the cats didn’t follow…) and out to the back of the car for a nice little trip over to the recycle spot. I don’t know why I believe that “normal” families will have a box or two to carry, and make that task pretty easy. It’s not that the cardboard is particularly heavy, but it seems that when you take the stickers off and break the box down, it becomes slipperier than a ball of mercury on your palm. Little boxes sneak in between the big ones, and then slide out, usually on the stairs, and ride down to the bottom again, like an amusement park ride. Just when you think you have it all stacked just right, and begin the walk to the car, gravity takes over, and they start to slip, and then you make the mistake of thinking that if you just change your grip, it’ll be fine. There are times when the entire stack falls to pieces, and you are forced to start over again, right at the top of the stairs, where others are coming right behind with their own loads of boxes. It’s not a heartbreak, but it’s close.
We finally got the stuff in the car, and drove over to the recycle spot. I hadn’t realized a change in the dumpsters since we had been there before. They used to be long flat massive steel boxes with plastic lids that you would throw back and then toss the cardboard in. For some reason, the city has purchased some new dumpsters, which are upright. That’s fine, except as you walk over to the dumpster with both arms full of boxes, you quickly realize that you can’t fold the lid back – instead, you have raise and hold the lid up while you thrown stuff in. This means using one arm, and that means all the boxes you were holding have to hit the pavement while you piece-by-piece put one box at a time into the dumpster. The best word to describe that activity is “Arrgh.”
So, after a good morning’s work, boxes are gone, and we indeed have room in the storage room for… something else sometime. The task was complete, and I tried to convince my dear one that perhaps that was enough activity for the day. But no – there was still the mountain of jigsaw puzzles to be sorted and determined which ones are keepers and which ones are give-a-ways. If you need any puzzles, please let us know…
Life seems to be divided into times of collecting, and times of getting rid of. It’s sort of like Ecclesiastes 3, where we read times to keep and times to throw away. It’s part of the cycle of life. I know there are some folks who have that strange ability to live very simply, and probably never even possess a box, but they are the unusual ones. I remember at one church bible study, I asked the question, “If you only had 30 days to live, what would you do?” Some folks talked about traveling, or spending more time with family, or writing their life’s history. One elderly woman said simply, “I’d clean out my basement.” I couldn’t believe that, and I asked her why she would spend her last days on earth cleaning. She replied, “Well the basement is a total mess, and I’m not leaving it to my children to clean out!”
Whatever is your own motivation about your activities and tasks, do so intentionally, and don’t forget to throw in a bit of grace at the same time. Our work should always be flavored with rest, and outside of an urgent emergency, even the most important things can be done over time. Be kind to yourself, and especially kind to others. Let’s not destroy life while trying to make things neater in appearance. Have a great day.
Word for the day: miasma. Pronounced me-AHS-ma. We’ve heard the word before, although its not used in its original form. It comes from the Greek, miainein (lots of “i”s) meaning, “to pollute” The miasma in olden times was believed to be a noxious vapor that would arise out of bad water or swamp or such that would bring an outpouring of a disease-causing cloud.
Today, however, it’s more often used to describe a state of community emotion. There is an overall sense of feeling demoralized, that leads to sadness and depression, sometimes for an entire company or town or other group of persons. We can legitimately use “miasma” to describe the feeling across the world during the pandemic, when it was hard to find most anything that brought joy or energy. Miasma sucks the life out of us – and fills us with illnesses of all sorts. It’s not a happy word, but appropriate to use, sometimes.
Greetings on this Summer Solstice day! I missed the column yesterday for very good reasons – especially that it was Father’s Day, and I spent the day being pampered and showered with presents, and eating some great food. I think we will be on track now for the given future as all those celebration days for early summer are not over…
Since we were scheduled to have a glorious rain all yesterday – over an inch, which just makes everything outside sing and smile this morning – we ran an audible on grilling steaks, since no matter how great that tastes, when you stand out in the rain, what you really experience is simply wet. Instead, I found a great prime rib roast at our local meat market. Now, I have to say that as of late, the beef especially even up here in the Dakotas has been wanting. It’s been as if the cows were on a special diet whose purpose was to create steaks and roasts that were completely devoid of taste. However, I rolled the dice and picked up the rib roast, in hopes that my cooking method would somehow save Father’s Day.
Yes – even though the day was intended to wait on and serve me, when it comes to cooking, I really can’t stay away. So, I pulled out my recipe for the very best prime rib roast. I think perhaps I have shared it with you all before, but if not, or no one remembers, you take a 4-6 pound roast (I like 6 pounds), and you coat it in olive oil, sprinkle it with garlic powder and some pepper, and then cover the entire thing in kosher salt. I mean cover it – turn the roast white, and make sure it sits on a bed of salt in the roaster. Turn the oven on to a blistering 210 degrees…yes, you read that right… put the roaster in the over, shut the door, and then go on your merry way for a few hours. The recipe says 4-5 hours, but for some reason, our oven moved things along quicker than that, and so after about 3 ½ hours, the inner temp was at 145, and so I pulled it out, covered it with foil, and let it sit while the rest of the meal was prepared.
Now begins the tragedy of the day. I was in charge of the meat – Cheri was in charge of the potatoes. Since the roast took over the oven, Cheri decided to pull out our big toaster oven that we used for the better part of a summer a couple of years ago while we waited for our new oven to show up. Her plan was simple: rub the potatoes in olive oil (lots of olive oil yesterday), and sprinkle all over with salt (salt as well), and then bake the baking potatoes for 50 minutes in a nice hot oven until hot and soft and ready for butter and sour cream. That was the plan. I paid no attention to her work, since she could handle it on her own. I thought, at least.
On her first attempt, she supposedly was to preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Since the roast was already done, this needed to happen sooner than later. After the little bell went off, I heard Cheri in the kitchen say, “What the heck?” The oven was stone cold. It was then she discovered that you really need to plug in the oven to an electrical source of some kind in order for it to heat up. Try again…
The oven finally rang the little bell, which once again told her that the heat was on and ready to go. She dropped the potatoes into the oven, and off it went. It went, that is, until she checked on it 20 minutes later, and I heard, “What the heck?” Apparently, there is a timer setting to make the heat, and a simple, turn-on-the-oven-switch that keeps the oven hot until you are done with it. Cheri chose the first option, and so when the oven dinged 20 minutes before, it indeed was hot, but at that point, it had finished its work, and the heat was NOT on – it was off, and so the potatoes made it to kind of warm on the outside skin, but cold and raw inside.
By this time, the rib roast had been sitting on the counter, wrapped in foil for nearly an hour post-cooking time. The potatoes were not going to be ready for another hour. The plan then changed. We quickly cooked the corn – which you MUST have, if you are having rib roast – and then each of us waved to the potatoes in the little oven as we carved the slabs of prime rib, and dished up the corn, and pledge to have potatoes on Monday, and not on Father’s day after all.
The prime rib – was as close to perfect as I have ever made. It was GOOOD, with a little dab of horseradish sauce, and tender and tasty, and a wonderful meal, even if I had cooked it myself. In fact, I ate so much of the prime rib, that I doubt I would even have had enough room for a potato. We polished off the corn, and then even after four of us went to town on the roast, we ended the feast with probably 3 pounds still uneaten, and ready to be unleashed the next day. Say – I have an idea! Lets have prime rib tonight as well – and we can even heat up some pre-cooked baked potatoes as well! Sounds like a great dinner plan…
Cheri is a great cook, and most often, her recipes and meals turn out wonderfully. I guess technology just broke her a little bit on Father’s Day. It was actually a great opportunity for her sons to tease her unmercifully, so that helped make the day as well.
What lesson do we take away from all of this? I guess it is to take nothing for granted. Cheri was totally intentional about baking the potatoes – but the accident came when she assumed all was well – twice. My dad (as a nod to Father’s day) would often lecture us about opening our eyes, focusing, and paying attention to what we were doing at that moment. Don’t “be” somewhere else, or assume that everything will work out without attending to it. For example, if I had merely assumed that in following the recipe, the roast would not have been done for another two hours, what I am sure we would have had would have been a nice 6 pound piece of shoe leather, instead of a 3 ½ pounds of delicious prime.
The potatoes weren’t lost, and actually, I’m sure they are going to be delicious tonight. I wonder, however, how many things in our lives are either lost, or less than they could be, as we assume the oven is on, or the instructions have been followed, or we get distracted from the task at hand… the best gift I can offer each day is to be present in that day, and to create and grow always attending to what is happening at the present. I wish for you a wonderful day of the Solstice – enjoy the longest day, and in doing whatever you need or want to do. Just be there.
Word for the day: solstice (why not?) Pronounced simply SOUL-stiss. We have two of them, summer and winter, but it comes from the same Latin word: solstitium, which simply means “point at which the sun seems to stand still.” Breaking the words down to sol, which is simply the Sun, and sister, which means, “to stand still, or place or set.” In Old English, it was called the sunstead. It is the day of the year, in summer, when the sun seems to just stay where it is, casting in the northern hemisphere the most northerly beams of sunshine, and the more north you get, the longer the day. Here in Fargo, the sun “rose” at 5:32am, although sunlight preceded it, and it will stay up until 9:25 tonight, with sunlight lasting until after 10pm. Long day to put little kids to bed with 3 hours of sunshine still left in the day. Don’t worry however, because when the winter solstice hits, the sun most likely won’t be rising until nearly 8am, and will set before 5pm…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.