Friday, September 29, 2023

Travel notes and pics

Our recent trip to Croatia and Italy is about two weeks behind us now, and my internal clock has adjusted back to the time zone in which I live. 

The flight back always seems easier, but recovery seems longer. For several days I woke in the middle of the night and had trouble going back to sleep, which is uncharacteristic of me, as I am blessed to be a good sleeper. 

It was another great journey, and as usual, I give kudos to Wife for planning it all. We were in Croatia for ten days with our friends R and P. We rented a car in Dubrovnik, our first destination, and from there visited Korcula, Split, Plitvice Lakes National Park and Motovun, all in Croatia, before driving into Italy and dropping R and P in Venice. 

Wife and I had been to Venice in 2019, and when we caught a glimpse of the Grand Canal, we could not resist a quick return visit to one of our favorite cities. We bummed a ride on R and P's water taxi to their hotel and enjoyed seeing some of the landmark sites we so enjoyed on our previous trip. 

From there, Wife and I were on our own. We spent one night in Bologna, where we went on a walking food tour the next morning, before driving to our final destination, a charming bed and breakfast in little Tuscan Village, that was literally at the end of a dirt road. From there we took day trips to Sienna, Assisi and other places, and one day we went to an Italian cooking class, which was great fun. 

Croatia was an incredibly interesting country. About two-thirds of the time, we were in coastal locations, and the hilltop/ocean vistas were breathtaking. Traveling inland to Plitvice National Park provided a contrast to that, and the gorgeous hilltop village of Motovun had a distinct Italian/Tuscan influence. 

And speaking of Italy, Wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our time there. I also give kudos to Wife, and our friend R, for driving in both countries. In Italy, the speed limit "laws" are more like suggestions. For me, it was plenty stressful just being a passenger. I had no intention of getting behind the wheel.  

I am happy to share more details for those interested. (I don't delude myself into thinking you want a blow-by-blow, but if anyone is thinking of traveling to these places, I will be happy to share information. Send an email.) 

A few pictures below: 

The Adriatic from our hotel room in Dubrovnik

Walking Dubrovnik's city walls

Dubrovnik at night

Seafood in Croatia was scrumptuous

Beautiful Adriatic waters

Plitvice Lakes National Park

Breathtaking dinner spot in Motovun

Sunrise in Tuscany
View from our window at our Tuscan Bed and Breakfast

We made bread at our Italian cooking school. Heavenly.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Back home

Coastline in Dubrovnik, Croatia

On August 31st, Wife and I boarded a plane in Nashville bound for Toronto. In Toronto we boarded a plane bound for Paris. And in Paris, we boarded a third plane, this one bound for Dubrovnik, Croatia.

In January of this year, Croatia was a country I had scarcely heard of. A few weeks later, Wife suggested we go there. We talked with another couple, with whom we traveled in England and France last year, and they were in. 

Wife and the lady from the couple met multiple times over the months and began to plan an itinerary. The four of us would spend about ten days in Croatia, after which we would travel together to Venice, at which point we would part company. Our friends would spend some time in Venice, where we visited in 2019, while Wife and I would spend a few days in Tuscany. 

We returned from this wonderful trip this past Saturday, September 16th. Fortunately, we made the return trip in only two legs -- Rome to Montreal, and Montreal to Nashville. That third leg on the trip over was a real killer. 

I will not bore you with a play-by-play but will post more pictures soon with a few more details. 

For now, suffice it to say it was a great trip. I'm still a bit jet-lagged but overall, no worse for the wear. 

More to come. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

When it rains

 A couple of posts ago I told you about our upstairs AC going out. That saga has been nothing short of a nightmare. 

Just about anyone who knows me will tell you I am not an angry person by nature. I am also extremely loyal, especially when I am treated well. If you provide a service to me, and you do it well, and you treat me well, I'm likely to be your customer for life. 

Unfortunately, that has not been the case with the provider of our HVAC services. They have lost a good customer, and the proprietor does not seem to care. 

Because I have become uncharacteristically angry, Wife has taken over communicating with this guy. 

I will leave it at that, because that's not what this post is supposed to be about. 

Rather, I am going to tell you about another mishap, this one being an act of nature. 

Wife and I were sitting in our game room late Saturday afternoon, watching a Braves game, when it started raining. We heard a few distant claps of thunder. Then, we heard a huge pop, and saw lightning out the window. 

Our electricity went out for a split second. 

The pop was loud enough to startle each of us. Wife got up and looked out the window. She called me over. 

Apparently, the pop we heard was the big oak tree in our yard being hit by lightning. When we were able to get out and look more closely, we saw bark that had flown all around, in the yard and into the street. 

Will we lose the tree? That remains to be seen. I am told we should wait and see what happens. My yard guy, not an arborist, says I'll know by next spring. He also said if I want more immediate information, I can retain an arborist. 

I think for now I can wait. 

Pretty crazy, don't you think? 

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Coast to coast baseball

With grandson Hank at loanDepot Park in Miami

As regular visitors here know, I go on (at least) an annual baseball trip with my sons and son-in-law, working toward visiting every MLB park, a goal set by my son Daniel when he was eight (he's now 37). 

Months ago, we decided on Los Angeles and Dodger Stadium this year. We would leave early the morning of Friday, August 11, see games Friday and Saturday nights, and return Sunday. 

With that trip planned, during a visit home earlier this summer, son David proposed a "bonus" trip to Miami to see the Marlins play at home. He had some flight credit that was "burning a hole in his pocket" and he and I could knock off another park (Daniel had already visited this one). 

I initially resisted, but I glanced at my Southwest Airlines points and saw I had enough for a free flight, so I thought, why not? 

So, two weeks prior to L.A., I flew to Miami. Daniel brought his five-year-old son, Hank, who is OBSESSED with baseball. So, this trip consisted of Daniel, David, Hank and me. I flew down Friday night, saw games Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and flew home Sunday night. Didn't even take a day off work.

I will probably write more about this on my Substack with more detail. I am lucky to have had a coast-to-coast baseball summer. Needless to say, a good time was had by all. 

With my best guys at Dodger Stadium

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Hot air

 Wife and I have rather met each other coming and going lately. 

With her being retired, she's always up for an invitation to take short trips with friends or go visit the grands. 

I, on the other hand, tend to keep the home fires burning and welcome her back home. 

Last week she was gone from Tuesday to Saturday. While she was gone, I made a quick trip to Memphis, about three hours away, for a family funeral. I drove over Friday and attended the funeral and a gathering of family members afterwards. (As an aside, there were the typical comments about how we should not limit our visits to these types of occasions, knowing that is what we will continue to do.)

I arrived back home Saturday morning. Wife was due home Saturday afternoon, and we had a wedding to attend that night. 

I had a few things to do when I got home, and did not go upstairs, where all our bedrooms are located, until early afternoon. When I did so, I noticed it was a bit warmer there than downstairs. 

I then realized the upstairs air conditioning was not working. 

I performed the usual tasks of turning it off, then turning it back on, checking the air filter (which I had just changed a few days prior) and walking out to inspect the unit outside. 

With all of that done and finding nothing I could interpret as the problem, I sent a text message to the guy who installed this upstairs unit in May, 2022. That's right, this unit that had stopped working is only 15 months old. 

"Is it froze up?" he asked in his return message. 

I patiently asked how in the world I would know that, and he sent me out to the unit to take a picture. 

Nope, it wasn't "froze up." 

I won't go into all the other things he told me to do and pictures he had me take. He essentially instructed me to turn everything off and let it rest. 

Because we had had an unseasonable mild spell a few days last week, it was not terrible Saturday night. Wife and I were able to open windows and turn on fans and sleep comfortably. 

Sunday, with still no upstairs air, I texted the AC guy again, the guy who answered the number posted on my unit that says "24-hour emergency number," which I hoped meant he would get himself over here. 

He said he would be here on Monday. 

He arrived Monday morning and went up into the attic to inspect things. Less than an hour later, he informed me he would have to get a part -- a "blower brain" that had shorted out. "Give me a couple of hours and let me see if I can get it," he said. 

Two hours later I received this text message from him: "They have to order the motor. It could be up to five days."

At that point I called him and said that was certainly not good news. He agreed, but said he had checked all his distributors, and this was the best he could do. He assured me it was under warranty (uh, yeah). 

I asked if he had any suggestions for temporary relief. 

"Get a window unit," he said. 

I then proceeded to tell him, as soon as he got that part, he should get over here forthwith, no matter the time, no matter the day. 

Tomorrow morning it will have been 48 hours since the guy left here asking me to give him two hours. 

Wife and I have each taken a downstairs sofa for sleeping. With my office being upstairs, I am working in the dining room. 

We go upstairs in the evenings and early mornings to take care of necessities such as showering. 

First world pains, I get that. But it's hot, folks.  We're talking mid to high 90s. It's supposed to hit 100 by the end of the week. 

Hoping for relief soon. I'll be texting and calling "the guy" on Day 5 if I've not heard from him. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Can't make it up

I don't post much about politics here anymore. I'll occasionally touch on political matters on my Substack site, and for the most part, I make observations rather than state opinions. 

I can still make people mad, though, and I've lost a couple of subscribers over there because of what they perceive my opinion to be. 

This blog has become more about friendships, and my posts here tend to be fairly benign. 

But sometimes I feel the need to dip my toe into the political stuff with my friends here. The few of you who read my posts here know I have no harmful intent, and I respect whatever your opinion may be as much as you do mine. 

So, today is one of those days. 

It is nothing short of astounding the way the 2024 presidential race is unfolding. 

The incumbent, Joe Biden, is 80 years old. If elected to a second term, he will be 82 at the start of it, and 86 at the end of it. 

For the most part, I don't have a problem with that. In spite of what some may think, there appears to be no indication Biden does not have all his mental faculties and is not capable of fulfilling his duties. Now, why he would want to have one of the most stressful jobs in the world in his golden years is beyond my comprehension, but can he do it? Well, it appears he can. For now, anyway. 

Some folks think he did not intend to run for a second term. There are theories that when it became evident one Donald J. Trump was not going away, and would, in fact, emerge as the frontrunner in the GOP field, Democratic operatives encouraged Biden to run. In short, they were afraid nobody else could beat Trump. Biden did it once, so he can do it again, according to this theory. 

And if you subscribe to this line of thinking, yes, he's old, but anything is better than Trump being president again. 

And what of Trump? Well, he's got legal troubles out the wazoo. Lawsuits and indictments everywhere he looks. And yet, if you believe the polling, he is still the choice of most Republican voters. 

Biden has his own problems. Son Hunter has not exactly done him proud with his escapades. The Republicans badly want to make hay over the Biden Justice Department cutting Hunter a deal and Hunter getting off way too lightly because of his last name and his father's current occupation. 

And right now, it appears these two -- a former president who is facing criminal prosecution and an 80-year-old whose son who is causing no small amount of angst -- will again be facing off. 

I tend to think, somewhere along the way, Trump, with all this legal stuff, will have to bow out. He will need to cut deals to avoid any number of criminal trials (that could result in prison time). And part of that will be not seeking the presidency again (if this occurs as I am proposing). 

If that happens, he will undoubtedly portray himself as a victim and blame everyone he can think of. 

And should that happen, will Biden stay in the race? I think he will, as I don't think the Dems will have time to groom anyone else. 

But what do I know? I was once of the opinion this country would never elect Trump. I don't come into this with any kind of successful track record. 

All we can do is watch, if we dare. On the bright side, it's pretty good theater. 

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Family time

With an immediate family that now numbers 13, spread among four different cities, times with all of us together are few and far between. 

Wife and I are fortunate, in that we travel to see the individual families, and they come to see us. The siblings, in-laws and cousins also visit each other. 

But getting all of us in place at one time only happens two or three times per year. Christmas is a given -- somewhere around that time, we will all get together. Some years everyone comes for Thanksgiving, but not always. 

Any other scheduled time together takes advance planning. 

Accordingly, Wife suggested we all gather in the mountains of western North Carolina this summer. It is an easy drive for everyone, and we all love that area. This gathering would also be an early birthday celebration for Wife. Her birthday is in August, but late June was the best fit for the various schedules and calendars. 

We were able to make it happen a few weeks ago in Highlands, a beautiful and quaint mountain town that lies within the Nantahala National Forest. Because of its mountain perch, it's always a bit cooler in summer than the temperatures to which we are accustomed at this time of year -- a big plus! 

We rented a beautiful house high on a hill just off the downtown area, but which felt secluded. A huge, screened porch ran across one side, overlooking the valley below. 

There were staggered arrivals and departures Wednesday through Monday, with everyone there Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  

Highlights included a surprise birthday video for Wife, with friends and relatives from various parts of her life wishing her well; a catered dinner Saturday night at the house where we stayed; and a family photo shoot Sunday morning. (My standard dad joke for such events: we can't get through it without fighting and crying, and then there are the children to deal with . . . )

There were also family hikes to waterfalls and creeks; a night of open-air Bluegrass music; a couple of brewery visits; and lots of talking and laughter on the aforementioned porch. 

With five little ones, it was at times chaotic, but they were great, and their presence only enhanced the fun and laughs. I wish I could think of a more original way to say it, but I cant: a good (and fun) time was had by all! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


I have never been a big boycotter. 

I find the current boycotts of Bud Light and Target rather humorous. But apparently they are having an impact, and the marketing departments at those companies are relooking at some things. 

While I will not get into whether I agree or disagree with the reasons for these recent boycotts, I respect the rights of folks to spend their money as they see fit, and if they wish to refrain from spending at places they believe don't align with their values, that is certainly their right to do so. 

As for me, I usually don't get too worked up over such things. I'll certainly do my best not to patronize a business or company that is known to be oppressive or is knowingly discriminatory or violative of human rights. 

I am also careful about organizations to which I am asked to make contributions. There is information available online about various charitable groups and how their funds are distributed. You might be surprised to see what percentage of a dollar you give goes toward the work a particular group or organization is supposed to be doing. 

But as far as basic products go, and where I might shop, again, I don't worry too much about it unless I am aware of something that is particularly offensive to me. And even then, it would have to be pretty egregious for me to boycott. 

I don't drink Bud Light, but there are a few bottles in my beer fridge, on hand for the occasional guest who might prefer it. I would (and probably will) buy it again if I have the need to replenish the supply. 

I am not much of a shopper, and my shopping or not shopping at an establishment is not going to affect anyone's bottom line. For certain items like any kind of storage containers, you can't beat Target. I would have to be really offended to not enter one again. 

Companies have long been giving in to the pressure of political correctness. While that might make me roll my eyes, so far it is not causing me to boycott anyone. 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Mixed reality

If you happen to read this blog AND my Substack newsletter (which could mean you are a glutton for punishment), you might well see this subject addressed again on Substack, but it will probably be more detailed. 

I read a few days ago about a new Apple product called Vision Pro. It's a headset. Per the news piece I read, "it features exterior cameras, allowing users to interact with digital content in mixed reality."

Best I can tell, you can be wearing it and talking on the phone, watching a movie or sending an email all at the same time, all in your own little virtual space. But apparently you can also conduct business and communicate with folks right in front of you, mixing the artificial and real to your liking. 

In addition, according to Apple CEO Tim Cook, you can "relive your most important memories in an entirely new way." I don't know what that is supposed to mean, but I'm not too keen on a machine going back in time for me. I am old enough to still own photo albums. 

As I understand it, it won't come out until next year. I suppose Apple is hoping to whet folks' appetite in the meantime. I wonder if there will be buyers standing in line when it makes its debut. 

Although I never say never (as I once said about owning an iPhone; I'm on approximately my fifth one now), I can't see this being an accessory I'll own anytime soon. 

In addition to being, well, just too much in a general sense, it will have a cool price tag of $3,499. That for sure takes me out. 

Until further notice, I'll be keeping my realities separate. 

Friday, May 26, 2023

Step right up

 Our house was built in the mid-80s. Consequently, there is always some sort of repair or update that needs to be made. 

One of those updates/repairs we have deferred for many years would be the front porch steps. They have been gradually, but steadily, sinking for the 22 years we have lived here. A dozen or so years ago, when we had some foundation repair done, the company that did the work theoretically raised the steps about an inch. 

That made little to no difference, and I'm not sure they raised them at all. A few months ago, I measured length from the top step onto the porch landing -- one foot. It had gotten to the point we had guests come in our back door. It was no longer acceptable. 

Because I have challenges with anything concerning construction, I asked around of some friends who know about these things. The consensus was I need a "concrete guy." 

Wife graciously agreed to take on the job of finding someone. What she quickly learned was it's difficult to find someone in the concrete business to do a small job like this. They are more interested in the big jobs like pouring driveways and such. 

That makes sense, but that's not what we needed. With some research and persistence, she found three different folks who would come and take a look and give us a bid. 

One never showed up, although he called a couple of times and said he would. (He called again after the work was done. Too late.) 

Two guys came, both of whom I liked, but the second one seemed much more professional. While the first one wrote his bid on the back of his business card and sent an email because I asked him to (which had little additional detail other than his bid), the second one emailed a bid with much detail, with a description of what his crew would do. He was also easier to communicate with. 

Unfortunately, his bid was a good bit higher than the first guy. But with her sharp negotiating skills, Wife was able to talk him down some. We accepted his bid. 

His folks did a great job. They jackhammered the steps, as well as the pad of aggregate at the bottom of the steps, and replaced both. It took a couple days and it was loud and messy, but the finished product is more than satisfactory. Where there once were two steps, there now are three, and ascending them is now easy. 

A few weeks prior to that, we had our back deck stained. This is where Wife and I spend a good bit of time these spring evenings before it gets intolerably hot, so in addition to the stain, we have spruced things up a bit and we're enjoying our time out there. 

So, front and back have gotten a bit of a makeover. Results below. 

Front steps

Back deck

Deck, different view

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

It's over?

As I understand it, both the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have declared we are no longer in a state of emergency due to COVID-19. 

I am not fact-checking this, and I know I am paraphrasing, so anyone is free to correct me. But that's my understanding. 

I am not totally sure what this means, but I think it has something to do with free vaccines, free testing kits, etc. 

I went to get the most recent and updated booster about a month ago. I am pro-vaccine and figure, at my age, I'll follow my doc's recommendation and get what I can. 

I realize there are those who disagree with me. Reasonable minds differ, as I learned in law school. 

COVID has not gone away, but we know much more about it now, and I suppose the two aforementioned organizations believe we have enough resources to deal with it now, not as a pandemic, but as another virus that's out there like so many others. 

I read an interesting piece in The New York Times on Dr. Anthony Fauci recently. He became the face and voice of the pandemic. Early on, then-President Trump seemed to rely on his expertise.

He is finally retiring after serving under seven presidents as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  Although many of us came to know of him because of COVID, he was obviously around a long time before that. I am, unapologetically, a big fan. 

He said in the Times article that he acknowledges some mistakes and missteps in the height of the COVID pandemic, but pointed out how, in the beginning, how very little we knew about it. He is human like anyone else. Medicine is not an exact science, even as much as we would like it to be. 

COVID became a political issue, fueled by Donald Trump. He was all in until he wasn't and, typically, he turned on Dr. Fauci. 

The lockdowns, closings and masks are history now. Even with the politics, I hope we learned something from it. 

Friday, May 12, 2023

Actor and author

 I was lucky enough last night to attend an event in which Tom Hanks spoke about his new book, The Making of Another Motion Picture Masterpiece. 

Although it has been a while, I have written here in the past about the Nashville bookstore Parnassus, whose part owner, Ann Patchett, is a Nashville resident. It is a splendid independent bookstore that has defied the trend of such establishments essentially surrendering to online retailers such as Amazon.

And while the bookselling business thrives, the Parnassus folks also sponsor events such as the one I attended last night, in which well-known authors speak. Over the years I have heard and seen John Grisham, Jon Meacham, David Baldacci, Mitch Albom, Philip Gulley, Louise Penny and others. 

Sometimes the setting is small, inside the store or at the Nashville library, with a capacity of maybe 100. (Some are free and for some there is a cost, which usually includes a copy of the book and often benefits a charitable organization.)

Others, like last night's event with Hanks, take place at larger venues around town. This one was in the gymnasium on the campus of a Nashville private school. There were probably over 1,0000 people there. 

Patchett appeared with Hanks. The two of them sat in chairs and she interviewed him. While the main topic was the book (which is a fictitious account of making a movie, with Hanks drawing on his years of movie-making experience), they also talked about the differences in being an actor and an author. 

While Patchett is only one of those things, Hanks is both. This is his second book. His first, Uncommon Type, is a book of short stories, with the title deriving from his fascination with and love of typewriters. 

Patchett contended that an author's life is largely one of solitude while the book is being written, while the acting gig involves scores of folks involved in the process. 

While Hanks agreed, he contended that it still comes down to a creative person telling a story. 

There was much more, and it was an outstanding evening. Hanks displayed his trademark wit, and except for sitting among all those other people, it was not unlike listening to an old friend. For her part, Ann Patchett was equally enjoyable and did an excellent job interviewing, interjecting just enough of herself into the discussion.  

My ticket included a copy of the book, which will go near the top of my TBR. I have never gotten around to reading Uncommon Type, so that one will go on it too. 

Friday, April 14, 2023

Making no sense

Blog friend Jeff made a comment on my post about the recent school shooting here, making reference to the Tennessee legislature expelling "members who protested." 

He is correct, but some context is in order. 

After the tragic shooting at Covenant School, the typical pleas for reasonable gun legislation began. I joined in, as I don't see how in the world laws that attempt to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them ("red flag laws") and enhanced background checks do anything to infringe upon the rights of responsible gunowners. 

But there has been very little room for debate here in Tennessee and, in fact, we seem to have gone in the opposite direction. The most recent gun laws allow for "permitless carry." 

But with this shooting happening right under our collective nose, the tide might be shifting a bit. 

Our governor, a staunch conservative Republican, signed an executive order that beefs up background checks, and he has issued a plea to legislators to pass red flag laws. This is shocking, to say the least, as he knows the opposition he is going to receive (and it has already started). 

But back to the legislators who were expelled. 

Three Democratic state representatives staged a protest on the floor of the House of Representatives about their colleagues' unwillingness to consider gun legislation. One of them used a bullhorn. They locked arms and chanted. 

This was in clear violation of House rules. There is no question they were out of line. Caught up in the emotion of the moment, however, and with support from protesters surrounding the Capitol building, they decided rules be damned. 

Their GOP brethren were quick to act. Rather than censuring them, which would have made sense, they moved to expel them. And they did, in fact, expel two of the three. The circus-like proceedings were much more of a spectacle than the protest had been. 

Have you ever heard the term "bite off your nose to spite your face?"

That is exactly what happened. Within one week, local government bodies (one in Memphis and one in Nashville) responsible for appointing replacements for vacant house seats reappointed the very members who were expelled! They have already been re-sworn in! 

So, what the GOP legislators accomplished was giving these two expelled lawmakers a platform to advertise their perceived mistreatment. There has been nationwide news coverage. 

It happened that the two members who were expelled are Black, and the one who was up for expulsion, but was not voted out, is white. So, of course, the optics are terrible. 

As I said, the three who conducted the protest on the House floor were out of line. Rules are in place for a reason, and they should have to follow those rules. There should have been consequences, but expulsion? Are you kidding me? 

And, of course, we're back at square one, with nobody listening to each other. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Too close to home

The latest school shooting, at a private Christian school in Nashville, took place about ten miles from my home. My older son got married at the church that the school is part of. 

I have always felt the sting of these horrid events, but this one? This one has shaken me to my core.

To my knowledge I don't know anyone with a child who goes to the school, nor do I know any faculty or staff members. I know a few folks who go to the church. 

But it's here in the community where I live, in an area I often visit. I just can't believe it. 

The home where the shooter lived is in an older area of town, an area that has become very popular and where home prices have risen like crazy in the last few years. Apparently, the shooter had once attended the school she decided to terrorize.

None of that matters, but it's part of what we have heard from our local newscasters and what has been conveyed by the police chief.  

Within a matter of about 14 minutes from getting the 911 call, our local police responded, engaged with the shooter and took her out. By all accounts, they prevented the loss of more lives. 

But three children and three adults are dead, and we are in a state of shock around here. 

It's way too close to home this time. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Recent reading

I have very much been on the non-fiction train since the beginning of the year. 

In fact, if I consider The Marriage Bureau, which is a true story with dialogue and narrative filled in by the author, non-fiction, then that is what makes up 100 percent of books I have finished in 2023. 

As an aside, Kelly (who recommended The Marriage Bureau) and I had a texting discussion this morning about how this excellent book would be categorized. It is a true story, but the author takes liberties as I just described. We agreed it would be similar to In Cold Blood in which Truman Capote chronicled the story of the heinous murders that took place in Holcomb, Kansas in 1959, but inserted imagined dialogue and settings among various parties. 

According to my research, it was Capote who coined the term "non-fiction novel." So, I am going to refer to The Marriage Bureau as a non-fiction novel and confirm all my reading this year has been non-fiction. (And since I have spent so much time telling you about this book, I'll also take the time to highly recommend it.)

But I digress. 

My main point in this post is to tell you about a couple of the books I have read, both of which are memoirs, but are very different in content. 

The first is Spare, by Prince Harry. And let me just say to the nay-sayers, I agree I could have probably better spent my time. But the royal family, and the U.K. in general, holds great interest for me. On principle, I would never have bought this book, but as soon as it came out, I put my name on the list to get it on my electronic reader through my library. 

The first estimate I was given for the wait time was, as I recall, 24 weeks, as I was something like 80th in line for a handful of volumes available. That was fine with me. I was in no rush. It seems, however, it took less than half that time. So, when it popped up for me, I grabbed it and read it. 

My impressions? Well, I am sympathetic toward Harry in the death of his mother at the hands of the paparazzi who chased her car through the streets of Paris. He had some tough times growing up. 

I'm also sympathetic toward the situation with his wife Meghan and I don't necessarily blame them for fleeing his homeland to seek a better life for their family. If you believe what he writes in the book, she was near suicide, and he was saving her life. 

This book, however, is his clear retaliation toward his family. After Spare, I don't see how the rift with his family, especially Prince William (referred to by Harry as Willy) and King Charles, is ever repaired. If I were them, I don't think I would be very interested in reconciliation after what he wrote. 

It is rather ironic that, while a recurring theme throughout the book is his complaint about never having any privacy, he seems to have no problem airing his family's dirty laundry for the world to read about. 

Also, the more I read, the less I liked Harry. While he took some responsibility for missteps on his part (for example, when he wore a Nazi uniform to a costume party), for the most part, his narrative consists of self-serving finger pointing. I couldn't help but think, in many ways, he did a lot of whining for someone who was (and is) very privileged. 

I will say he expressed great affection for his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. The books ends with the queen's death. 

Am I glad I read it? Yes. I found it very interesting. And if you would like an inside look at the royals, I would recommend it, but would also recommend you read with a critical eye, keeping in mind the ones of which he is so critical would also have a side to this story. 

The other memoir I wanted to tell you about is All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore. Moore, a renowned Bible teacher who has written numerous Bible studies and started a conference series for women called Living Proof, made headlines during the past several years for her outspoken opposition to Donald Trump and her eventual parting from the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination in which she grew up and whose publishing arm (Lifeway) published most of her studies and sponsored her conferences. 

My wife has gone through several of Beth Moore's studies and has enjoyed them immensely. I never really knew much about her until she made news for what I just described. From reading the book I learned we are about the same age and grew up less than 100 miles from each other in south Arkansas until she moved to Houston before her sophomore year of high school. 

The book captured my interest because I enjoy memoirs, and what I had heard about Beth Moore intrigued me. I admired her courage in speaking out about her convictions and holding fast when criticized for doing so. 

And I can say, after reading her book, she is a gifted writer. She is also outrageously funny. She incorporates southern euphemisms and dialect into her narrative, something with which I easily identify. 

What I most admire about her, of course, is her faith. She writes about it without being preachy and presents herself, warts and all, as a humble servant of Christ. 

Even if Christianity is not your thing, if you enjoy memoirs as I do, I think this book might be enjoyable for you. 

So there you have it -- two very different memoirs by two very different people. Let me know if you decide to read either or both. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Play ball!

 Wife and I made a quick trip to Florida over the weekend (and Monday) to go to some spring training baseball games. 

I've been to spring training several times now, and it's always a lot of fun. We stayed in Tampa, arriving Friday night. Saturday we drove to North Point, where the Atlanta Braves have their own spring training venue at Cool Today Park. 

After the game, we drove to a beach near Sarasota and watched the sunset.

On Sunday, we only had to drive a few miles to George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to see the Yankees play the Braves. 

We closed it out Monday with a visit to Bradenton to see the Pirates play the Phillies at the classic LECOM Park, which is 100 years old. While definitely showing its age (the seats were not exactly what one would call comfortable!), it is a splendid little ballpark. 

We were back home last night with memories of a fun three days. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Being a parent; Dry January

Wife and I happened upon a TV show recently, the concept of which I still do not fully understand because we have only seen two partial episodes. 

From what I have seen, however, it appears to be a sort of debate among parents who use different styles of raising their children. Helicopter, traditional, negotiator, child-led, strict and new age are some of the labels I remember. There are different scenarios the parents, with their children, are placed in, and all the parent teams watch the footage, then critique each other. It appears there will eventually be some type of vote, and a winner named.

Obviously, as you can see, I have seen only enough to give this cursory description, and I am sure there is more to it than what I have just recounted. 

The last time we watched, the families went to a zoo where the children handled snakes. The point was to help children overcome their fears, and different parents had different ways of doing it. 

There is a zero percent chance I would have ever participated in such an activity. 

Watching has caused me to think back on how we raised our children. I guess we were what you might call traditional. I don't think we were overly strict. It would not have occurred to me to be "child led" and I don't believe adults negotiating with children is feasible. We probably crossed over into being helicopter parents every once in a while, but I tried not to. I wanted my sons and daughter to learn the hard lessons on their own. 

In short, we weren't perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. But by God's grace, we managed to rear humans who today are well adjusted, responsible adults. All three own homes, hold down good jobs (as do their spouses) and are married, and two have children of their own. To be sure, those are not necessarily measurements of success or character, but I hope they are indicators of responsibility. (And I am pleased to say, with all humility, they are in fact possessed of good character.) 

Maybe each generation of parents says this, but I believe it is more difficult to raise children today. With all the electronics, the internet and everything available at one's fingertips, I would think the job of achieving balance is harder than ever. 

I am happy to help with the grands as much as I can and spend time with them whenever possible, but I am grateful not to be solely responsible for them. 


For the past several years, I have engaged in "Dry January" in which I refrain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the first month of the year. This year I started January 2nd, as we had friends over the night of January 1st, and I wanted to toast the new year with them. Certainly, I could have toasted with anything wet, but since I get to make the rules, I chose the second as my start date. 

As it has been each January I have done it, I don't miss the drinks at all. I think it was late February last year before I broke the alcohol fast. 

My drink of choice is beer, with an occasional glass of wine or a rare cocktail. I have what is affectionately called a "beer fridge" in the garage with an assortment of offerings, and there is a craft brewery not far from my home that I enjoy visiting on occasion. 

But no, I don't really miss it. I won't wake up February 1st (or 2nd, since I started a day late) counting the minutes until Happy Hour. In fact, I'm sure I won't even imbibe that day. 

But neither do I have any convictions that I should permanently abstain. My alcohol consumption is in moderation, and a day will come after February 2nd when I decide a cold beer will hit the spot. 

Until that day, it's Cheers with a Diet Coke. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Canadian Christmas (Eve) (sort of)

It was another international Christmas Eve for our family recognizing the 14th country or region since we started this wacky tradition. This year it was Canada. 

With our three adult children married and with our now having five grandchildren, we are flexible with our dates. As we have done for the past couple of years, we pretended Christmas Eve was Dec. 26th and Christmas Day the 27th. 

It was our 15th time to do it, but a few years ago, for our tenth year, we had a "festival of nations" in which we celebrated the nine previous countries. So, this was our 14th country. 

Here is the rundown, going back to our first year, 2008: 

2008 -- Mexico

2009 -- Italy

2010 -- Greece

2011 -- Asian

2012 -- France

2013 -- Caribbean

2014 -- Germany

2015 -- England

2016 -- Brazil

2017 -- Festival of Nations

2018 -- India

2019 -- Cuba

2020 -- Australia

2021 -- Ireland

2022 -- Canada

Canada was great. We started with poutine, which Wife said was the recipe that popped up most often when she searched for native Canada dishes. It's French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy and although I politely refused, I pulled out some of the fries, which we made ourselves, and they were delicious. 

As usual, we started with appetizers and drinks in the entry hall. This included the poutine, Labatt Blue beer and a signature drink Wife prepared. 

For the main meal in the dining room (see below), we had lobster rolls, a mixed vegetable dish called hodgepodge, Canadian baked beans and a pita sandwich for which Wife made an intricate meat mixture. There were a couple of delicious desserts. 

Dress was heavy toward the "Canadian tuxedo," which is denim on bottom and top. And of course, the dining room was decorated in a Canadian theme. 

It was another great time, and we'll soon start thinking about next year. 

Any suggestions?