Sunday, December 31, 2023

Thoughts on reading: 2023

 It is hard to name favorite books of this year because I liked every book I read. 

That really comes as no surprise. At my age, I am not going to waste time with books I don't like. I have a "50-page rule," meaning if after 50 pages, I don't like the book, I stop. 

That rarely happens because I research books before I read them, and I am a pretty good judge of what I will like or not like. Also, I often read books Wife recommends and she's a pretty good judge of that also. Only once this year did I stop a book after 50 pages, and I won't tell you the title just in case it is something you might consider reading. 

Earlier this week Wife asked me to name favorite fiction and non-fiction from the year.

For non-fiction I told her it's a tie: How to Stay Married by Harrison Scott Key and All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore. 

I have become a big fan of Harrison Scott Key, whose previous works, The World's Largest Man and Congratulations, Who Are You Again? are two of the funniest books I have ever read. In my view he rivals David Sedaris for humor writing, and that is high praise. 

In How to Stay Married, Key chronicles the story of his wife's affair. And yes, this is a departure from his previous works, but believe it or not, his trademark humor is still front and center. But along with that is a raw poignancy and some heart-wrenching sadness. 

One of my good friends (and probably my best reading buddy) rang my doorbell a few months ago. When I opened the door, he was standing there holding this book and said, "You have to read this." 

I would say, if you're reading this post and you are a non-fiction reader, you also must read it, but only if you are willing to read with an open, non-judgmental mind. Some will likely not agree with how Key and his wife navigated through a painfully difficult season, and this might be too much for them. But not having walked where they have walked, I can only read what he has written from the point of view of an observer. And I loved this book. 

As for All My Knotted Up Life, I devoured renowned Bible study teacher Beth Moore's lookback at her life, from her growing up in south Arkansas (less than 100 miles from my hometown!) to her eventual move to Texas and unintentionally becoming one of the most well-known Bible teachers in the country. Her outspokenness over the past decade led to a rift with and her eventual departure from her Southern Baptist denomination.

As I said, I liked all the books I read, but other non-fiction of note would include Not In It To Win It, Pastor Andy Stanley's take on evangelical Christians and politics; Unreasonable Hospitality, Will Guidara's reflections on running a New York City restaurant selected as world's best (believe me, I am no foodie, but I found this one fascinating); Leadership: In Turbulent Times by historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, in which she compares and contrasts leadership styles of Abraham Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson, Franklin Roosevelt and Teddy Roosevelt; and Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, founder of Nike. A late entry is Alba Donati's Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop which I picked up in a bookstore in Bologna, Italy in September. Alas, I did not read this until I had been home a few months. Otherwise I would have tried to find what I know is a delightful literary establishment on a hilltop in the Tuscan region of Italy, not far from where I was staying. Oh well, that's a good reason to go back! 

Moving to fiction, I would have to say American Dirt by Jeannine Cummins would top the list. Following the main character's and her young son's path as they flea the Mexican drug lords that killed their husband and father and migrate into the U.S. is disturbing and at times hard to read. But it's a riveting story and worth the effort. 

Anything else from my fiction list is also worth your time. John Grisham's latest (although he has a new one that's a sequel to The Firm which I have not yet read), The Boys from Biloxi, is another lose-yourself-in-it story. Probably the most surprising was The Cartographers, which has elements of fantasy, which is usually not my thing, but I think my interest in maps caused it to keep my interest. Also, if you are not familiar with Charles Martin, I would highly recommend him. Two of his, Chasing Fireflies and Water from my Heart, are on this year's fiction list, and they are excellent. 

I read 30 books this year. As I have previously written, I do not have a goal of how many books I read in a year, nor do I read certain books in certain seasons, e.g. "beach reads." I keep both a physical and mental TBR (To Be Read) list, and I read them as I get to them. This year there were some long ones. In Search of History (non-fiction) was about 600 pages and Never (fiction) weighed in at 800. Both were worth the time it took to get through them. 

The only real "rule" I try to follow is with regard to variety. I try to read different genres, a balance of fiction and non-fiction, and some older as well as more recent books. My wife's book club tends to read more recent ones, which Wife sometimes passes on. I have not been invited to join this all-female monthly gathering, nor even had my offers to be a guest speaker accepted, but through my limited influence on one of its members (my spouse), I try to steer them toward the occasional classic. 

I will be starting 2024 with non-fiction -- How to Know a Person by David Brooks, one of my favorite New York Times columnists. We will see where I go from there. 

As usual, I hope there are some titles on my lists that pique your interest, and I hope you will pass on some of your recommendations to me. Because I know this: when I die, I will not have read all the books I wanted to read. 

Happy New Year to all of you, and happy reading! 

Friday, December 29, 2023

2023 fiction

Here are the fiction books I read in 2023. Back soon to give commentary on my favorites and/or least favorites. 

1.    The Boys from Biloxi by John Grisham

2.    The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman 

3.    The Year of Jubilee by Cindy Morgan

4.    American Dirt by Jeannie Cummins

5.    Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. 

6.    Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin

7.    When Ghosts Come Home by Wiley Cash

8.    The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

9.    The Dog Stars by Peter Heller 

10.    Go as a River by Shelley Read

11.    The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

12.    Water from My Heart by Charles Martin

13.    Never by Ken Follett

14.    Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

15.    Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Sunday, December 24, 2023

2023 non-fiction

With a few minutes to spare on this Christmas Eve morning, I will list the non-fiction books I read this year.  This is for all of you, but especially blog friend Ed, who only reads non-fiction! :-)  

1.    Not In it to Win it by Andy Stanley

2.    The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson (This one is a historical novel, based on true events, but with some liberties taken with the dialogue. I'm calling it non-fiction.)

3.    The Sea Between Us by Yoseley Perera and Billy Ivey

4.    Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

5.    Spare by Prince Harry. 

6.    All My Knotted Up Life by Beth Moore

7.    Pops by Craig Melvin

8.    In Search of History by Theodore H. White

9.    How to Stay Married by Harrison Scott Key

10.    From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks

11.    Never Settle by Marty Smith

12.    Laundry Love by Patric Richardson

13.    Leadership: in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin

14.    Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

15.    Diary of a Tuscan Bookshop by Alba Donati

I'll post fiction reading from this year in a few days, and I'll make some comments and tell you my favorites after that. There are some really good ones here! 

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Season's greetings

Season's greetings to all. 

I'm definitely rethinking this blog. My Substack "newsletter," a continuation of the column I wrote for a local publican for 11 years, is my priority right now, so this space does not get as much attention as I might like. 

But since this is the place where I met a handful of friends I like to stay connected with, I want to keep it going. Postings here, for now, will simply be less frequent. 

I hope next week to post about books I read this year -- fiction and non-fiction. I have the list ready, so it should not be difficult to share here. 

I'll also share some pictures from our annual international Christmas. This year's country is Korea, chosen in part due to a comment from a reader here last year who cautioned us against lumping all Asian countries together as we did one year. 

Point well taken, and this year we are focusing on Korean food and decor. Wife and I visited a local Korean restaurant a few weeks ago and we will get most of our food from them, which will certainly make it much easier for preparation. 

So I hope to close out the year strong here. 

Now it's time to get ready for Christmas. Wife and I will go to Daughter's house in Huntsville Christmas Eve. We'll go to church with them and have dinner and will come home Christmas morning after we see what Santa brought our three grands there. 

Younger Son and his wife will join us here late Christmas Day, then everyone else will arrive the 26th. We'll pretend that is Christmas Eve and have our Korean dinner that night, then have our family Christmas on the 27th. 

There are 13 of us, with a new one due in April --Younger Son's first, a boy, and our sixth grand. 

I hope however, wherever and with whomever you are celebrating, it's most enjoyable. Merry Christmas and hope to see you back here soon! 

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Fraud is everywhere

I have a friend who has a part-time job in a retail establishment. She recently shared that, per company policy, if she sees someone shoplifting, she is not supposed to say anything to the person or yell for a manager. 

Front-of-the store personnel who might see a customer walking out without paying for something are not supposed to follow the wrongdoers out the door. 

This is apparently for the safety of the employees. Who knows what a person who would steal in broad daylight might be packing under a jacket or sweatshirt? 

This does not mean store security and law enforcement are not all over this, trying their best to keep theft losses as low as possible. But the store is not going to put their customer-facing employees at risk. 

Theft definitely affects bottom line. In the retail business it is called "shrinkage."

Theft, however, is not exclusive to retail. Anyone with a credit or debit card has likely had their card compromised, meaning a bad actor has either stolen your card or has somehow obtained your card number, and made purchases. 

Because of banking regulations, your card issuer is almost always responsible for reimbursing those losses. But it's a big hassle going through the claims process. And like the shrinkage that affects stores, these fraud losses have a huge impact on banks' profits. 

Having a card or card number stolen has caused some bank customers to stop using them. For them, however, the alternative is to carry cash which, obviously, can't be replaced if lost; or to write checks, which some establishments will no longer even accept. I have not written a check in a grocery store in years, and that used to be the norm for me. 

If you go to a big sporting event or an arena concert, it is likely the concession stands will only accept plastic --a debit or credit card. 

On the other hand, some smaller merchants have stopped taking plastic because of the charges they have to pay to the issuers and card networks. At my local farmers market, most of the vendors will accept plastic, but they will give you a discount if you pay cash. 

What's a shrewd consumer to do? For me, I still use a debit card for everyday purchases, and assume the risk of compromise. It has happened to me a couple of times and it has been a hassle to deal with, but I was reimbursed. 

I also have a credit card, but I mostly use it for larger purchases. I know a lot of people who use their credit card almost exclusively and pay off the balance each month. If the card is lost or stolen and there is an unauthorized purchase, the claims process is similar to that of a debit card, but because it is a credit account and your card is not tied to your checking account, you don't put your operating funds at risk. 

And I still carry a small amount of cash, which I use at places like the farmers market that either do not take cash or charge extra for using plastic. 

Most important, I try to keep my eye on all of it to prevent fraud and theft. But it's not easy. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Medical staff

I joke sometimes that I have a staff of physicians. 

In addition to my primary care physician, who we once called a general practitioner or GP, I have a dermatologist; a urologist; two ear-nose-throat (ENT) docs; and a podiatrist. 

Soon I am likely to have a cardiologist, as I have never been to one and think, at my age, I should probably add one to the group. And I will soon be going to see an orthopedic surgeon for him to take a look at my knees. I have two ENTs because I go a couple times a year to one who cleans my ears of wax with this super advanced equipment, and another who has been able to help me with some chronic sinus stuff that plagued me for years. 

There are many advances in modern medicine that work great for me. For instance, my primary care doctor, whose office is affiliated with Vanderbilt University, has an online patient portal where I can see all my records and lab results. I can also make appointments there and, best of all, I can send an email to the office and have it answered by either the doc herself or a nurse on her staff. In almost all cases, I'll get a response in 24 hours, or 48 at most. 

It is not like I send them emails often, but it is a quick and easy way to ask a question about medication or a follow-up question from an appointment. It seems to work efficiently for my doctor as well and is probably easier than trying to field telephone calls and messages.

One negative about my primary care doc's office is they generally don't want me to come if I am sick. Let's say I have cold symptoms or something that seems like the flu, and I call for an appointment. They will refer me to a walk-in clinic in their system. They will say my doc, or any other in the office, only has appointments weeks out and obviously I need immediate attention. 

I guess this doesn't bother me a lot, and I have to accept that the former family-doctor model, at least for the medical system I am a part, is no more. My primary doc is for yearly physicals and "maintenance" (for example, I am going for some follow-up blood work in late November), but I need to see the walk-in folks if I am sick. 

My other docs also have an online presence, but some are not as efficient as that of my primary care doctor. As a matter of fact, the one my podiatrist uses is less than satisfactory, to the point I am considering changing providers in that area. I liked the care I received, but the follow-up communication has been poor.

One positive I have seen in recent years is with appointments. I would say, for most of my doctor appointments, I wait less than 15 minutes on average -- often much less. I understand things happen sometimes. At one of my ENT's offices, I arrived at an appointment a couple years ago, only to be told he had been delayed with an emergency and was running several hours behind. They were apologetic and offered to reschedule me the next day. 

While that was an inconvenience, I appreciated the attitude shown, and that they were quick to get me rescheduled. And with this office, nothing like this has ever happened. So, I gave them grace, and I am still a patient. 

I have learned I must be my own advocate when it comes to healthcare. Each of my doctors sees numerous patients, so I have to remind him/her of my medical history, talk through medications, etc.  Also, I have to keep a close eye on lab results. At my recent physical exam, my primary care doctor was supposed to include PSA in my blood work so I could report that to my urologist, and not have to have it done twice. 

When I reviewed the lab results online, I saw there were no PSA results. I sent an email and learned it had not, in fact, been done. 

I wish I did not have to have such a collection of doctors. They're all nice enough people but going to see them is not how I would choose to spend my time. 

But how fortunate am I to have this group of doctors? I am in relatively good health, and with these fine folks giving me the occasional once-over and providing guidance, I hope to keep it that way.  

Monday, October 23, 2023

Cousins, etc.

I have about 20 first cousins, with my dad being one of five siblings and my mother one of six. 

As I was growing up, I saw these cousins infrequently. Some of them I hardly know to this day and on my mother's side, there are a few I have never met. Two of her siblings were half-siblings who were born much later than she and her other siblings, and had their families later. 

Of course, some of the cousins have now died. I am not sure how many I have that are still living, but I am guessing somewhere in the neighborhood of 15. 

I have one from my mother's side who lives in the Nashville area, and we get together maybe twice a year. Every couple of years or so, Wife and I might have dinner with him and his wife. They have one son who lives here. Years ago, I ran into him at a restaurant and tried to explain to him who I was, but I could tell he did not quite understand. 

When my brother was living, when he or any part of his family came to town, we would invite this cousin and his wife to join us for a meal. 

I need not go into the reasons I have never gotten to know most of my cousins very well, other than to say (and this is nothing profound) families are complicated. I know some families in which the cousins are much closer. My children are not particularly close to their first cousins (my brother's children and Wife's sister's children), which I think is partially due to the distance they grew up from each other and partially to how very, very different they are from each other. I think my grandchildren will be closer to each other, and I hope that will be the case. 

As it turns out, over the past year, I have seen every living first cousin from my dad's side. The cousin to whom I am closest lives in Dallas. Even though she is about 15 years older than I, she is definitely the one I know best. When her husband died late last year, I went for the funeral. Also in attendance was another first cousin whom I had not seen in probably 50 years, and as best I can remember, this was the third time I had ever seen her. 

Then, last spring, one of my first cousins who had lived in Memphis passed away. There was a delayed memorial service for her in August, and I went for that. All of my other first cousins on my dad’s side, except for the other aforementioned one in Dallas, were there. 

Last Sunday, the Dallas cousin flew into Atlanta, where Wife and I had been visiting Older Son and family. We collected her at the airport and drove to the mountains of western North Carolina, where we stayed three days. While there, we visited one of the other cousins in that area who lives in Savannah, Georgia, but has bought a small farm in North Carolina and spends part of his time there with his wife. 

Wife and I love this part of North Carolina (it’s where we celebrated Wife’s birthday in June, which I previously posted). It is especially nice in the fall and the leaves were turning, which made it even prettier.

The time being with these two cousins was sweet, and I think we were all three mindful of the connection that binds us together, even though our visits have been relatively few. There were a number of conversations where we could put together our collective memories and come up with things that happened while we were growing up. We also learned from each other about our parents. 

Maybe we will do better about seeing and keeping up with each other. Even if we don't, I will cherish the visit we got to have. A picture of my cousin's farmhouse is below, along with some other shots of the fall foliage. 

Monday, October 9, 2023

Not so fast

Anyone who has visited this blog for any length of time knows I like to travel. In recent years I have been fortunate enough to travel in the U.S., Canada and Europe. 

If our health holds up, Wife and I will continue to travel. And if you have read my accounts of our trips, you know we do it on our own, following loose itineraries Wife plans in advance based on extensive research she does. We have never wanted to join a tour group. 

One place to which she and I have never had much of a desire to go, however, is Israel, or the Holy Land. Over the years we have a had a number of friends who have gone, and they have always returned with stories of how wonderful it is, and how if you are of the Jewish or Christian faith, it really makes that faith come to life. 

Perhaps, we have thought. But we still had no plans to visit there. We'll look at our friends' picture and listen to their stories. 

A couple months ago, one of our pastors, who is also a longtime close friend, going back to our single days in Little Rock, asked us if we would like to consider going with him on a trip he will be leading to Israel in the spring of 2025.

We talked about it, and I went to a meeting of folks who might have an interest in going. Wife and I decided maybe this would be the time to go. We love our friend who will be leading the trip, and we will know many of the people going. And even though we have resisted tour groups as such, to see this part of the world, that's probably the way to do it. 

The deadline for making our deposit to reserve our spot was noon yesterday, about 24 hours after we had heard the news that war has broken out in Israel. I know there is always some type of upheaval there with the continuing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, but this appears worse than what has happened previously. 

We will see how things progress. But deposit or no deposit, I will not be boarding a plane bound for Israel if this is not resolved by the time we are supposed to go. That date is a long way off, but resolution of this particular matter seems as if it could take a long time. 

In all seriousness, it really does seem like a grave situation, and my heart aches for innocent families who woke to witness fighting nearby. 

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?