Monday, December 22, 2008

Family Christmas cards through the years

Merry Christmas to All ! ! !

Thought I would share this year's Christmas card with everyone,

and post our past cards just for fun.




2006 Family card

2006 birth announcement

2005 card with our wedding picture

As you can tell, we like to get creative with our cards.
Photoshop Rocks!
Plus, .19 cent 4x6 prints from Walgreens are nice on the budget too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ding, Dong, the King is Dead ! ! ! ! !

After 20 years worth of 5 year Super Bowl plans, KC Chiefs general manager/CEO/Grand Poobah/King for Life Carl Peterson has resigned.

That great cheer you heard echoing across the land was from all the KC fans who have suffered under the regime of King Carl.

The prayers of thousands of message board trolls, bloviating bloggers, and talk radio ranters were finally realized the afternoon of Monday, December 15, 2008. The day after a forth-quarter meltdown loss against San Diego, following a year filled with disgraceful games, Carl saw the writing on the wall and finally and thankfully fell on his sword.

To be fair, Peterson did a lot for the Chiefs in the first half of his reign in KC. He took a dismal franchise and made it a winner. Going from half-empty stadiums to season-ticket waiting lists is no easy task. He opened up the parking lots early and started the best tailgating scene in the NFL. The Chiefs, under the coaching leadership of Marty Schottenheimer, had one of the highest winning percentages of the 90's, with several playoff appearances and one trip to the AFC title game.

But Carl peaked around year ten. The second half of his tenure featured desperate free-agent signings, zero playoff wins, and first round draft busts year after year. Dick Vermiel's team set many offensive records, but a laughable defense that could not get off the field. The defense set a dubious record for futility in a playoff game against the Colts in which the Colts punter never took a snap in the game.

Some say Carl's biggest failure was to never develop a franchise quarterback during his time in KC. The bottom line is that he failed to have a coherent draft strategy year after year, and was forced to make desperate moves in the free agency market to bandage over all of his draft shortcomings.

The king's reign is over and now it is up to Lamar Hunt's son Clark to show KC what kind of owner he is going to be. With the stadium renovations due to be complete in 2010, let's hope Clark will make a bold move to make this team a winner again, to go with the new era in Arrowhead!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Repeal of Prohibition - 75 Years Ago

Sippers, tipplers, chuggers, and guzzlers Rejoice! December 05, 1933 marked the repeal of Prohibition. Happy 75th Anniversary!

This date also marked the start of the long rebuilding of Missouri's wine industry, decimated by the 13 year nationwide ban on alcohol.

Before the 1920 start of Prohibition, Missouri was the third biggest wine producing state in the US.

Many of the vineyards destroyed by the "revenuers" have been replanted and are back and better than ever. The caves used to age wine have been rediscovered and put back into service. A new generation of viticulturists and enologists have been perfecting their art and Missouri is back on the map as a producer of great regional wine.

But don't take my word for it ... come and see for yourself what Missouri wine has to offer.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eggnog Haikus

We were working on our grocery (and liquor) list for the coming week. Since the weather had turned cold and Christmas was less than a month away, I decided it was a perfect reason to add another haiku to the blog:

Eggnog oh Eggnog
Sludgy goo that we love so
At least once a year

Eggnog on the blog
Posts need topic to inspire
Cheesy but timely

Eggnog and Brandy
Drink that inspires visions of
Chestnuts and Santa

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Cherry Mash and

Looking for candy gifts this holiday season?
Try my friends at Chase Candy.

Home of Cherry Mash Since 1918

Happy Birthday Cherry Mash!

90 Years young and just as tasty as ever!

I met the fine folks at Chase Candy eight years ago when I was just starting my PC Tech business. The owners had gotten a virus on their home computer. I spent three hours working on it, but finally got rid of the pest. While we waited for the various virus software to scan the computer, we chatted.

I was also getting my feet wet in Web page design at the time. Chase had just gotten Internet access at the factory, and were thinking about starting a web presence for the company. A very nice case of serendipitous timing if I have ever seen one. A long term business relationship was born on that first meeting, but also the start of a friendship that continues today.

Dozens of meetings and preliminary designs later, the website was born. The website will be eight-years-old in December. The website is WAY overdue for an upgrade, and we are working on new designs to give it a face lift. Check it out and feel free to send ideas about what you would like to see on the new site.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

VOTE ! ! !

vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote vote
I just had to add to this post.
After a VERY long campaign season, it is time to govern.
My wife, a life-long Republican, and I, a Democrat, have supported Obama, and are happy that he won.

Now it is time to govern!

It's time to make good on campaign promises, it's time to work on the issues our country faces, it's time for change to happen.

It's time we all get together and make it happen.

It's time that we Americans become the United States of America again.

No more red and blue, liberal and conservative, coastal states and flyover states ... pick your favorite cliche, but it is time to come together.

Monday, October 27, 2008

It aint easy being a Chief's fan

After 12 straight losses, our beloved KC Chiefs FINALLY won a game! The hated Donkeys fron Denver were vanquished in front of 70,00 screaming Arrowhead fanatics.

Then the very next week, they put up just over 120 total yards of offense and ZERO points against Carolina. That's the first shutout in over five years.

The next week against the undefeated Titans, Chiefs fans were treated to a brand new and even more painful kick in the gut. Our starting QB Brodie Croyle, who suffered a shoulder injury in the first game of the season, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of his first game since the shoulder boo boo.

When it rains it pours.

And yet we are still Chiefs fans. Aint no fair weather bandwagon fans in this family. We were born Chiefs fans, and we may be Chiefs fans who die without seeing the Chiefs in the Super Bowl again, but we will at least be loyal.

Dad took us boys to Chiefs games in the 70's when we really sucked and had no chance to get better. I remember one Raiders game in particular. It was sooooo cold that we took our sleeping bags, drank hot cocoa, and still froze to death. We lost, but after the game we got autographs from the winning team, the Raiders. We got Madden, Stabler, and some of the other stars. I wish I still had those!

Hope springs eternal in a Chiefs family.

Even with the losses, this team has some promising parts. We had a great draft, and with our record, we look to be a high pick this year again. Another lineman or two and a solid, sturdy quarterback, not made of tinfoil (Croyle), we just make a push for the playoffs next year.

So, like Chiefs fans everywhere, I say, "there is always next year!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fools in the Rain - Ben Folds Concert

It has been quite some time since either of us waited in line for a general admission show. The last one I remember was Jimmy Page's solo tour at Memorial Hall (another blog for another time). We waited in the rain for over 45 minutes to get into KC's historic Uptown Theater to see Ben Folds. Not bad for a couple of fortysomethings with a two-year-old baby (baby did not attend).

The opening band, AKA "music to dry out by", featured Aussie Missy Higgins. Backed by a solid band, Missy rocked out like Fiona Apple with a guitar and an accent.

Missy's band was a good warm-up and dry-out act ... but this crowd was ready for Ben.

Ben Folds is a quirky Billy Joel for the geeky nerds of this generation. Ben can rock a piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, write melodies like Lennon/McCartney, and kick out smart-ass lyrics like Cake and Weezer.

Click here for a You Tube video of "Song for the Dumped."

The crowd was ready to rock after standing in the deluge, and Ben Folds and his band did not disappoint. Ben's playing style is more like attacking the piano than playing it. He stood up for most songs in an almost fencing stance, rocking back and forth, pounding the keys, all the while singing and playing to the crowd.

The show opened with songs from the new album "Way to Normal." Sometimes you go to a concert, and you just can't wait for the band to get though the "new stuff." Not the case here. The man just cannot write a bad song. And as if to prove it, he and the band wrote fake songs based on each of the titles of the new album and released them on the Internet as a joke. But the problem was, they were really good songs, and fans and the band liked some of them as much as the real ones--so they added several to the set list.

Ben told stories about some of the lyrics, joked with the crowd, and generally fed off the good vibe in the room.

The show featured two encores with lots of hits and the whole show lasted over 2-1/2 hours. This was one of the best shows we've been to in quite a while, and will definely catch Ben the next time he is in KC.

Set list compliments of Back to Rockville Blog - KC Star

Way to Normal
This Song Has No Title
You Don’t Know Me (with Missy Higgins)
Dr. Yang (fake)
Dr. Yang
Anne Waits
Frown Song
The Bitch Went Nuts
Kylie from Connecticut
Free Coffee
Free Coffee Town
Zak and Sarah
The Bitch Went Nuts (fake )

Still Fighting It
My Philosophy
Rocking the Suburbs
Frown Song (fake)
Not the Same

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oil Tycoon Turns Green Crusader

"This is one emergency we can't drill our way out of."

So says legendary oil man T. Boone Pickens, about the current energy costs that are well on their way to turn into this generation's energy crisis.

With the emerging economies in China and India, oil is just going to keep getting more expensive and more scarce. Drilling is not the answer. It is time to start in earnest the shift to alternative energy sources.

We import 70 percent of our oil at the cost of over 700 billion a year. In 1970 the number was only 20 percent. This percentage is increasing every year. As Pickens says, "Projected over the next 10 years the cost will be $10 trillion — it will be the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind."

There is no silver bullet to fix our energy woes, but Picken's Plan is a nice piece of hardware to start building an arsenal to do it. His plan is to build windmills to generate electricity, and to shift the natural gas they replace to power cars.

Natural gas is our second most plentiful homegrown energy resource. Wind is the most plentiful alternative energy source in Picken's home state of Texas. Experts say that the US could generate as much as 20 percent of our electricity with wind power in less than 10 years. Plus, as the manufacture of hybrid and electric cars starts to ramp up, that wind power means cleaner energy and less foreign oil on the highways of America.

Pickens then proposes to start converting cars to natural gas power. Every car that is converted to homegrown natural gas means a drop in the amount oil we need to import. Natural gas is much cheaper and cleaner than gasoline, and the conversion costs much less than a hybrid or electric conversion.

T. Boone Pickens has heard the call, and has put his money where his mouth is. TV ads are not cheap. Sure, he stands to make a lot of money with the windmills he is financing, but that is not the point. It is time for private industry and the government to get together and solve this crisis and break our addiction to foreign oil.

Look folks, this is one of those clarion calls that we all must answer. As if gas prices, global climate change, and war in the Middle East is not enough, how about the future viability of the American way of life.

Take a look at Picken's Plan:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Strange Bedfellows: Carville and Matalin

My alma mater, MWSU, hosted its 15th annual Convocation on Critical Issues yesterday featuring the political odd couple James Carville and Mary Matalin.

My dad and I attended the presentation. We have gone to several of these events together. Past speakers have included: Gen. Colin Powell, journalists Bob Woodward and Sam Donaldson, historians David McCullough and Arthur Schlesinger Jr., politicians Bill Bradley, Patricia Schroeder, and J.C. Watts and political commentator David Gergen.

I'm not really sure when we discovered the mutual interest in politics, but it is a subject we both enjoy cussing and discussing. We are both Sunday morning political talk show junkies, much to our wives dismay. I think it's the soap opera aspect of it all; politics is often more theater than substance. I suppose it helps that we both share the same party affiliation, even though that does not stop my wife and I from discussing current events regularly. We have diffent views on some issues, but we usually meet in the middle on many issues.

Carville and Matalin met during the Bill Clinton/George H W Bush election; Carville worked for Clinton--Matalin worked for Bush. They married after the election. Talk about politics making strange bedfellows!

If these two polar opposites can make a marriage work, then it is possible for Democrats and Republicans to come together to solve issues that need to be addressed.

The main theme they talked about was that people need to get involved.

Just sitting on the sidelines is not enough this year. They both urged people, especially young people, to vote. But that is not enough; everyone needs to learn about the issues, to contact they representatives at the state and national level, and to make their voice heard on the direction they want us to go as a people.

I hope that everyone out there is engaged in this year's election. It really matters. We all have different views, and we need to discuss them. You may not change someone's mind, but you might just get them to see your side of an issue. You might be liberal or conservative by choice or by birth, but neither party has all the answers and no one can agree on everything. The important thing is to come together to find real solutions that work for us all.

This cycle in politics has been historic in so many ways. I think even folks who had no interest are paying attention this time around. There are big issues and big consequences for our country and our world in this election. I just hope the interest level carries on after Nov. 4th and people stay involved and hold our politicians accountable.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Wasps of Wrath

Mother nature again showed who's boss in the vineyard.

If you've been following along, you know all about our little grape patch. 90 vines, 6 different varieties, and all of God's creation out to get them. Deer, birds, rabbits, bugs, fungus, mold, not to mention early frost, lack of rain, and even hail have tried to lay waste to our little babies.

So this spring we employed a little defense in the form of grow tubes. Basically a 30" tall plastic cylinder, grow tubes keep critters at bay while the vines reach up to the first wire on the trellis system. This is a big step for the grapes, because the new vines that grow next year off of these main trunks will produce grapes!

Fall means it's time to take off the grow tubes so the vines can "harden off" or get ready to for freezing weather.

So I go to take off the first tube and out flies an angry swarm of wasps that had made it home this summer. Did I mention that some of God's creation is also out to get the grape growers. Poison ivy has been our main nemesis, but skeeters and chiggers have done their fare share of damage too. But this was the first wasp attack.

After the welt from the wasp sting went down, I made another trip to the vineyard armed with bug spray and got all the tubes off.

After all the tubes were off, we pruned the vines down to the best trunks and tied them to the trellis. Now we have to wait all winter to see who survives the next round of carnage that Ma Nature slings our way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Powell Gardens

In the latest stop in the continuing series of family "staycations," mommy, daddy, Baby Girl, and both sets of grandparents took a day trip to Powell Gardens.

Powell Gardens is an amazing oasis of nature just 30 minutes east of Kansas City in Kingsville, MO. Nestled among over 900 acres of lush rolling hills, this beautiful collection of native and exotic plants, flowers, and trees; fountains, streams, and water features; shaded walking trails; wildflower meadows; and inspired architecture, offer a welcome reprieve from the strip malls and traffic of everyday life.

Sorry for the "flowery" language, but this collection of gardens really leaves a lasting impression.

At the end of the afternoon, rounding the last corners of the trail, we were all amazed that we had spent over 4 hours strolling through the gardens. Even if you are not "into" gardening, this place really draws you in: butterflies drifting from flower to flower--cool breezes blowing across the lake--shaded benches to stop and rest and enjoy--each hour draws you closer to the natural roots that stir in each of us.

This year, through October, the Gardens are also featuring "Chapungu: Nature, Man & Myth." These 54 hand-carved stone sculptures from Zimbabwe, all along the walking paths, reflected their natural setting and only added to the overall effect.

Baby Girl really enjoyed herself too. She usually gets antsy in her stroller, but she just kicked back and enjoyed the ride all afternoon. She had lots of flowers and butterflies and waterfalls to keep her occupied. I think the serene settings of Powell Gardens even succeeded in calming the rambunctious nature of a nearly-two toddler.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Shark says Arf

Dogs, cats, bears, pigs, fish, and elephants--all creatures great and small say Arf!

So says Baby Girl.

Our little 22 month old is in full-on language experimentation mode. A new word every day; new noises, sounds, and syllables; numbers, letters and more.

Did you know that our counting system starts at five? and then goes to nine??? Five, nine, five nine, nine, nine, nine! She has started saying one and two with prompting, but goes straight to five and nine after that.

This past weekend, she woke mommy up with a reading of the LED display on her alarm clock. All fives and nines of course.

She has started to pick up several words from her Dr. Seuss ABC book: bee, baby, bubble, ear, mice, straw, and tree.

She is getting a good start on body parts: eyes, mouth, ear, hair, and nose with the ever popular finger inserted while saying it. One of her first recognized body parts was the belly button, bay-bow, she's still working on the pronunciation.

Her parents, daddy and me me have been named, as have her grandparents; dapaw and mamaw, pa pa and gee gee.

This is most definitely the good part! Next thing you know she will be saying, "daddy, can I borrow the car keys?"

Friday, August 8, 2008

Apple Picking Baby Girl

Well, they were really tomatoes, but Baby Girl called them "appo's." Everything is apples right now: roundish fruits and vegetables, roundish objects like her red Weebles--not balls though, they are balls--many red or green objects are apples, and even the dried fruit in the snack mix are apples (pineapple, mango, papaya, etc).

After firing up the grill and having dinner on the patio, we went out to the tomato patch for some picking. A family that picks together, sticks together!

One problem, Baby Girl liked to pick the green ones! Appo! Appo! Appo! That girl was a pickin fool. I tried picking some ripe ones and letting her put them in the sack. That worked for a few seconds. She went back to the green ones. So after we hurried and got all the ripe ones, we went inside. But Baby Girl was not ready to quit. She cried all the way up the stairs until mommy could stick a sippy in her pie-hole.

I am sure all you gardening parents have been through this too. And we were warned about the prodigious picking abilities of toddlers. So we planted eight Roma and eight Big Boy plants. That should be plenty for us, plenty for the squirrels and bunnies, and plenty of appo's for the Baby Girl.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Viticulture Field Day

This past week, we dipped a few more toes into the frigid waters of our plans to start a vineyard and winery business.

I've been making homemade wine for several years, and we have a small test plot of about 90 grapevines that we are currently training onto trellises.

We attended a viticultural field day hosted by the MU Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology (ICCVE). It was a big vineyard geekfest attended by around 150 like-minded folks. We learned about trellis design, canopy management, grape varieties in Missouri, and grow tubes. It was also an opportunity to meet people at all stages of the vineyard business. From those that managed full-time vineyards to people like us that were just getting started with a few vines and had a lot to learn.

The morning session was hosted by Fahrmeier Farms near Lexington, MO.

This is one busy family farm here in Missouri. In addition to their newly established vineyards, they also maintain greenhouses, vegetable production, a variety of livestock including cattle, goats and hogs, and a winery is also in the works. Anytime you feel like your schedule is full, just think about how many projects these guys are juggling. Contact info: 9374 Mitchell Trail - - 816-289-2496. Visit their Tomato Days blog at:

After a delicious lunch featuring pasta and salad with locally grown tomatoes, and fresh raspberries and ice cream for dessert, we went to the vineyards of Baltimore Bend Vineyard near Waverly, MO.

Each session was hosted by university professors who were specialists in a given field of viticulture. They took us out into the vineyards for hands-on demonstrations of each of the topics. It's one thing to read about trellis design, but to see the different options in person and see how they need to be built really helps understand the importance of this part of the vineyard.

The question and answer sessions that followed each presentation were really helpful also. We strayed off topic, and got some good hints about disease and pest control, and organic growing options.

We finished the day with a wine tasting at Baltimore Bend. Their first vines went into the ground in 1997. They are making some really great wines! They feature several oak barrel aged wines using Cynthiana, Chambourcin, and Chardonel grapes that are well suited for aging in the cellar and several blends of red and white grapes. We picked up two bottles and shared them with family and friends this weekend (unopened wine does not last long in this house).

After a day in the hot vineyard, the tasting session lasted for quite some time. Big surprise ... vineyard growers like to drink wine! We talked with several people at the same stage as ourselves, and we met the MU extension contact for our county. He has started having small informal meetings of people in our area who are in the process of starting or expanding their vineyards.

We heard a good vineyard joke that kind of sums up the decision we are working towards. How do you make a small fortune in the vineyard business? Start with a large fortune and start a vineyard.

This field day was another step on the long road to starting a vineyard of our own. It will be hard work, cost a lot of money, it will take many years before it is established, and many more years before we can even think about any black ink on the ledger sheet. But it is a very rewarding project that we love doing and with all the negatives, the positives make it a goal we continue to pursue.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dark Knight = Dark Nightmares

Baby Girl had a slumber party with grammy and dapaw--mommy and daddy had a date with the Dark Knight!

What a great movie ... and what a theater full of questionable judgement. There were half a dozen or more kids who looked to be under 13. Good luck with the nightmares, folks.

Perhaps the questionable judgement belongs to the Motion Picture Association (MPA).

The movie is rated PG-13, but is really riding the edge of the guidelines for violence. Here's what the MPA has to say about violence in a PG-13 movie: "There may be depictions of violence in a PG-13 movie, but generally not both realistic and extreme or persistent violence."

Realistic, Extreme, and Persistent Violence describes the very essence of many scenes.Heath Ledger's Joker is a masterful piece of villainous acting. The Joker is a sadistic creature whose sustenance is violence and mayhem. The many closeups of his face are like a window into the soul of realistic and extreme violence. The grippingly persistent violence that holds you as he leisurely brushes his knife-edge across the faces of his terrified victims are certainly crossing that imaginary line.

Perhaps I am looking too closely through the refocused lens of a new parent (which is a whole blog topic in itself), but this movie seemed to be too much for the average 13 year old. But, as a co-worker said, every kid is different; one parent's 10 year old might be capable of handling the violent content, while another's 14 year old may not be.

With the movie ratings and review resources available on the Internet, I think there is no excuse for blind parenting in the movie theatre.

By the way ... this is really a great movie. By far, the best Batman so far on celluloid. Ledger has almost certainly earned a posthumous Oscar nod. And Christian Bale is quickly scaling the ladder of sought after leading men in Hollywood.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cocktail Haikus

Musings over post-baby-bedtime drinks.

tasty beverage
concoction that soothes the brain
hear the ice cubes clink

one part triple-sec
one part Absolute vodka
twist of lime and stir

magic elixir
a shot, a squirt, and a splash
soothes tired parents

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Last of the Longhairs

My brother has had hair half-way down his back since the early '80's, and this past weekend he had his head shaved to the skin ... for charity!

His church, Wyatt Park Christian Church, held a fundraising event for St Baldrick's Foundation. This charity asks volunteers to shave their heads as a way to identify with children undergoing chemotherapy. The volunteers then ask friends and family for donations for the foundation in exchange for seeing them given the clipper treatment.

Needless to say, with a headbangin hairdoo like his, the donations poured in. My brother raised over 1,500 dollars for cancer research.

As if the contributions were not enough, those rockin locks of hair are on their way to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair to many forms of illness and disease.

Did I mention how awesome my brother is?

That long mane of hair has been part of his identity for a very long time. The fact that he let it go for the benefit of children shows a much bigger side of his identity and speaks volumes about the type of person he is.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Garden Fruition

After months of digging, raking, pruning, brush clearing, planting, mulching, and sweating, our garden is starting to take shape!

I should say gardens. Mucho plural.

In the front of the house, there is a large rock garden with numerous groups of flowers, grasses, plants, and ground cover; a small sedum-only garden next to the porch; and a short bank next to the neighbor's drive with a peony's and English ivy.

The backyard features a 60' boomerang-shaped color riot of wildflowers backed with slowly emerging hollyhocks; an island of small, medium, and large sunflowers to camouflage the neighbors workshop; Roma and Big Boy tomatoes, green, red, and yellow, serrano and jalapeno peppers, and and a creeping monster pumpkin patch; and a fence corner rose garden surrounded by creeping thyme.

I failed to mention the most numerous plant ... WEEDS! Those little bastards are everywhere. If you have a bare patch of dirt, it takes weeks or months for purchased plants and seeds to get established, but give a weed five minutes of sun and a thimble-full of water and it's Jack-in-the-Beanstalk time!

Ahem ... excuse me ... back to the fruition part. Last night after a tasty Papa Murphy's Mediterranean pizza, we fired up the mosquito lanterns and the fire pit and enjoyed a nice glass of wine, or two, with some fresh-baked cookies (the oven was already hot after all).

Conditions were perfect: lower 70's, low humidity, little wind, and a cloudless starry sky with a 3/4-full moon peeking above the trees.

Before dusk, our baby girl amused herself with her favorite backyard activity, picking wildflowers. After it turned totally dark, she sat with mommy and daddy watching the fire and playing keep away from the dogs with her cookie. But all good things must come to an end, especially for those with small children. After our old knees gave up the bouncy-bouncy game, baby girl decided it was time to go inside.

More projects are in the works including a patio area in the crook of the boomerang, and a mulch-covered romping ground with a slide, climbing wall, and swingset to give the wildflowers a chance to recuperate from time to time.

Work is the operative word here. It is a lot of work, but we enjoy it, and times like last night make it all worth the effort.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

"Thursdays with Bill"

“Thursdays with Bill” I called them. Apologies to Mitch Albom, but that is what they became.

I met Bill in the early 90's while working a part-time job with a PC company that could not have spelled customer service with both Merriam and Webster at the chalkboard. I was putting myself through college, and this place inspired me to start my own business. “Surely I can do better than this.”

Bill was one of my first customers.

My wife and I attended a memorial service for Bill this past weekend.

Nearly every Thursday, I had spent an hour or three in Bill’s apartment helping him with his computer. In his seventies, his doctor told him to quit watching TV and reading and get something more interactive to keep his mind active. His family got a computer for him from the aforementioned company. We started with Solitaire to get used to the mouse, then moved on to the Internet and email.

Photography came next. Bill was already an avid photographer and traveler, and he came home with many megabytes of photos. I helped organize the growing collection in folders, and made backups on CD. He emailed his favorites to his kids. We hooked up his laptop to the big screen in the assisted care public meeting area for travelogues for his fellow residents, and often, several staff members.

Every Christmas, he designed his own card. We would go through the past year’s travel pics and put his faves on the card. U.S. Open, European river cruise, Russia, family get-togethers at various corners of the US where his children lived, each card offered a retrospective of the previous year. On the back of the card, he put: his name and all rights unreserved. There was also a graphic he used that was a PC mouse colored with a Christmas holly pattern; along the cord scrolled the words "not a creature was stirring."

Another project was to document his experiences in WWII. Bill was a captain in the Army Air Force and flew cargo planes across "the Burma hump" from India to China over the Himalayan Mountains. We recorded over 40 minutes worth of stories that he later shared with his family. His daughter later transcribed and added them to a scrapbook along with many of his favorite pictures.

As the Thursdays and the years added up, our working relationship turned into a friendship. We watched tennis matches during Wimbledon and the French, US, and Australian Opens. Bill was an avid player in his younger days. I had never watched tennis before, and to this day it is one of my favorite sports (Go Rafa, Go). Some days he was just not up to working on the computer, and we would just visit. He told me about his kids, and about his wife Molly, and about his life. I learned a lot about Bill and his family, and I learned a lot about myself.

As the years passed, Bill's health started to slip. PC tasks he had mastered years before had begun to get lost. I spoke to one of the resident assistants that I had gotten to know and she and some of the other staff had noticed. His family had started to notice.

Bill moved to the northwest to be closer to several of his children and their families. I met my wife-to-be around this time, and we married a short time after. Our baby girl was born a year and two weeks later. I sent pictures to Bill of our wedding, and later of our baby. I wrote him a letter to let him know how much our time together meant to me. I was a confirmed bachelor well into my thirties, but Bill's life and his glowing descriptions of his wife and family opened my eyes to what I was missing.

Like Mitch Albom in "Tuesdays with Morrie," my life was enriched during my Thursday computer sessions with Bill. For every PC tip he learned, I learned a dozen life lessons, and I gained a true friend.

At Bill's memorial service, I finally met in person the five children that I had gotten to know through Bill’s descriptions and vacation photos. The look in their eyes when I said, "I'm Bill's computer guy," made me feel like I was a part of their family. Several of them said that our computer sessions added years to his life, and I told them how much he had meant to me. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to say the things that I have wrote in this post. The time was much too brief. My wife and I had planned for two weeks before to spend the whole weekend remodeling the still-vacant house we had lived in when we first married.

I composed most of this post in the sleepless early morning hours after Bill’s service. As the day and night passed after the service, I thought more and more about Bill and our Thursdays and his family. I really beat myself up over not taking advantage of not going to the wake afterwards and talking more with Bill’s kids, and telling them in person what Bill meant to me. Oh, we had our reasons, we had remodeling to do and we knew we would have not gotten much done that day, we are both a little on the introvert side, we would have used a valuable "grandparents watching the baby” day, but as I pulled plaster off the walls, I thought about the opportunity I had wasted in not talking to them.

As the week has passed, I have added to this post, and I have realized that I made the choice that was best for my family. We got the last of the old plaster off the walls, and got it hauled off to the dumpster. I like to think that it might have been the decision that Bill might have made. His family meant everything to him, and I feel the same.

Thank you Bill for teaching me so much and thank you for being my friend.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Waiter Haiku

After the meal, we amuse ourselves with Haiku.

Oh little waiter,
Why did the check take so long?
No tip for rookie.

Of course we gave him a tip, but could you put in a little effort to master the craft? We all had some crappy job during college, but at least we tried ... at least I think we did.

Blog Post 1

After dozens of emailed baby anecdotes from my wife every bit as funny as the mommy blog posts she had been reading and forwarding to me, I encouraged her to start her own blog. That was just two months ago, and now the bastard blog bug has turned around and bitten me back like some kind of bacteriophage on steroids. God help us all.