Sunday, May 4, 2014

How Not to Climb Fuji: #2

So we've already covered How Not to Climb Mt. Fuji #1, Wait Until the Last Minute

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now it is time for #2

2.  Do No Physical Conditioning

Part of the reason climbing Fuji is so popular is because it is totally doable even for a beginner.

But that doesn't mean it is just a walk in the park.

It is a very long way up and a very long way down.

At high elevation.

We meant to prepare.  We intended to do some shorter mountain hikes near home in the weeks preceeding our climb.  We meant to be working out daily leading up to the climb.

But it was a busy time (see post #1) and blah, blah, blah.

The truth is, I was the only member of the family who was regularly working out at the time.  Oldest Girl was frequently walking home the 2 miles from school and the Professor walked a lot in the normal course of his work but... the other two were essentially couch potatoes.

"We'll do a lot of hiking during our vacation in Guam," we said.  "There are lovely mountains in Guam."

It is true there are lovely mountains in Guam.  But the reality of tropical heat and humidity hit us harder than we expected and the lure of the lovely beaches and snorkeling was strong--too strong for us to resist.

We started up that mountain about 6 am full of energy and enthusiasm.  We were hiking with several other boy scout families and we were a chipper bunch.  Many of the scouts and siblings had participated in our Vacation Bible School so we even sang some VBS songs as we climbed.

We had perfect weather, warm but not hot, sunny clear skies.  Most horror stories about Fuji involve rain, fog and cold temperatures.  Not us.  It was beautiful.

I hadn't really thought much about the experience of hiking Fuji.  It was more of an item to be checked off a too do list.  But I must say I really enjoyed the hike up.  Honestly,  I throughly enjoyed the hike up.  Way, way more than I expected to.

Unfortunately, what goes up must come down.  But more on that later.


Friday, May 2, 2014

How NOT to climb Fuji

There is a saying among westerners stationed in Japan that if you don't climb Mt. Fuji while you are there you will end up stationed there again.

Image courtesy of Aduldej / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fuji climbing mishap stories abound as well.  It is a lot like birth horror stories.  When you are pregnant everyone seems to delight in telling you about how bad things went for them (or their cousin's cousin twice removed).

As soon as people hear you are planning to climb Fuji, the stories will come out.

Here's our story, or as I like to think of it, a tutorial in all the things NOT to do when planning to or actually climbing Fujisan.

I'm going to split it into parts and call it my "Top 10* Things Not to Do When Climbing Fuji"

Top 10 Things NOT to Do When Climbing Fuji

Number 1:  Wait Until the Last Minute

Very early on in our time in Japan we (that is the Professor and I) decided we wanted to climb Fuji.   But we wanted to do it with the kids so we decided to wait for them to get a bit bigger so they would be able to make the climb.

Our last summer in Japan was approaching and it was a very full one.  The window for climbing Fuji is small.  You can only go in July and August.  It was hard to see how we would fit this in.  Then the boy scouts announced a family trip to Fuji and it just happened to be at the only possible time for us to make the climb.  How could we pass this up?

The first week of July I was crazy busy preparing for the major event of my job, running a Vacation Bible School with over 250 kids and 100 volunteers.

The second week of July**, we went on a family vacation to Guam.  Great fun and very relaxing.

The third week of July was non stop motion preparing for VBS and asking myself what I was thinking taking a vacation the week before.

Then the crazy week of VBS itself.  All 5 of us were heavily involved including the Professor who helped out each day and then went to work and put in another full day.

VBS ended on Friday.

Sunday morning we went to the 8:00 am service and then drove the 12 hours down to Camp Fuji to meet up with the boy scouts.

Monday morning at 5 am we headed out to the mountain.

Tuesday afternoon the Professor took the train back home and the kids and I drove in to Tokyo so we could meet up with my brother and his family who were flying in for a visit.

So, tight schedule like I said.

'Cause when you're planning to climb a 3776 meters mountain it obviously makes sense to start out already exhausted right?
_______________________
*Or however many things I end up coming up with.  Obsessive pre-planning is obviously not my problem or I wouldn't have this story to tell.

**Only time the Professor could go

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Don't know, can't reach

Children should do chores, right?

Image courtesy of franky242 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It is important for them to know they contribute to the family plus it teaches important life skills.

And of course, I get awfully tired of doing it all myself.

We don't do any kind of chore charts these days.  I tend to just nab any child who isn't actively doing homework when a job needs doing.  Not surprisingly this system leads to a lot of suddenly remembered homework.  Which is great because if said child was just goofing off prior to being nabbed there is obviously plenty of time for him (or her) to do the chore and then start on the homework that I am now aware needs doing.

Yesterday, Imagination Boy unloaded the dishwasher.  I was sitting at the table reading the newspaper (one of my important daily chores).  I glanced up and saw an amazing sight.

The dishwasher was empty and IB had the final dish in his hands and was opening all the cupboards looking for the proper place to put it.

I nearly had to choke back a sob.

My baby is growing up.

For years, IB would declare himself finished with the job of unloading the dishwasher and I would find it still half full of dishes.

"Those are the ones I don't know where they go or I can't reach to put them away" he would say.

Over the years, the phrase got shortened.

"Have you finished unloading the dishwasher," I would say.

"All but don't know, can't reach," he would reply.

The most annoying part of this is that usually Music Girl would be tasked with loading after IB had unloaded.  Rather than put away the clean dishes left behind or even alerting me to the situation, she usually just added dirty dishes to the clean.

But yesterday, yesterday my little boy not only was tall enough to reach any dish location in the kitchen, but he even took initiative to look for the proper place to put a dish he wasn't sure about.

I'm so proud.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Noodles in Xi'an: Memorable Meal Monday

Over the years and during our travels, we have had many memorable meals, some good, some bad, but on the whole more good than bad.  I thought Mondays might be a good time to remember some of those meals.

One such meal was a dish of noodles in Xi'an, an old city in China.

Xi'an is most famous for the Terra Cotta Warriors and that is what brought us there.


But when we headed just a wee bit off of the beaten tourist path, we began to wonder if maybe we were the greatest attraction in Xi'an.

In Bejing our pasty white family of five was constantly being stopped and asked to pose for pictures by Chinese tourists.  "Three children!" they would say to me or the Professor, "So lucky! So lucky!"

After thinking about the one child policy and the fact that our three are quite close in age and have strawberry blond hair, perhaps this attention wasn't surprising.

But in Xi'an the attention rose to a whole 'nother level.

When we walked down the street, we pretty much stopped traffic.

People at road side cafes stopped with food held halfway to their mouths.  Couples stopped their conversations to stare open mouthed at us as we walked by.  Small children followed us down the road.

It was an interesting experience.

So, getting to the meal.  It was dinnertime and we were hungry after a day full of sightseeing.

Choosing a place to eat while traveling is often not one of our finer moments.  The Professor and I are both cheap frugal so while we enjoy good food we don't want to waste money on a bad experience.

In our European travels, the question usually was, "Do you think this will be a good place to eat?"*

In our Asian travels, the question became, "Do you think this IS a place to eat?"

So, there we were, hungry in Xi'an, searching for a place to eat.  We had already rejected one option because they had no pictures on the menu (expecting English would have been way too much to ask for but we can make do with pictures).

We found a little place with people inside eating at small tables.  There was a picture menu (all writing in Chinese of course) so we decided to give it a try.

We stepped in the door and a woman rushed over to us and began chatting away.  Rather than seating us at one of the empty tables she motioned for us to follow her as she lead us through the dining area to some stairs.  We followed her up the stairs going past another floor which also had people sitting at tables eating (with plenty of empty tables) and up to the third floor where they was yet another room full of tables but this one had no other people in in.

After flipping through the menu perusing the pictures while the waitress stood by waiting, we pointed at a bowl of noodles and hoped for the best.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When the food arrived it looked absolutely nothing like the picture we thought we had ordered. Perhaps the staff determined that what we had ordered was unlikely to appeal to Western tastebubs.  Perhaps we had ordered wrong.  Perhaps all the dishes looked nothing like the photos.

In any case we picked up our chopsticks and dug in.

Now, let me just state for the record that we had been living in Asia for three years at this point.  We were all accomplished with chopsticks.

But not with this dish.  These were the widest, slipperyist noodles I have ever encountered.  You would lean forward and think you had one captured on your chopsticks.  You'd lift it cautiously up to your mouth, open wide and at the last moment it would slip through the chopsticks to fall back in the bowl with a splash.

We were all eating out of the same bowl, so soon all of our heads were practically touching in the center of the table as we positioned ourselves so as to minimize the distance the noodles had to travel from bowl to mouth and maximize the chances of getting the delicious noodles into our mouths.

Because, make no mistake, these noodles were absolutely delicious.  The best noodles I have ever had or ever expect to have in my entire life.

And all five members of the family loved the noodles.  Do you know how often in all of our travels all five of us have enjoyed the same dish?

NEVER.**

It didn't take long before we realized that we had an audience.  After the waitress set our food down, she backed away and stood against the wall of the room and watched us eat.  She was quickly joined by a few other waitresses who also stood watching us.  They were soon joined by the kitchen staff.

It wasn't long before at least a dozen people in restaurant uniforms stood silently around the perimeter of the room and watched us eat our noodles.

Which might have been intimidating but in truth, the noodles were so tasty, and actually getting them into our mouths so challenging and the whole situation so absurd, that we were all just a giggly joyful mess.  And may I point out that laughing does not enhance ones chopstick handling abilities.

We finished the bowl and ordered another one and then another until we were satisfied.  It was one of the best and also one of the cheapest meals we ever ate overseas.

It was also the most entertaining.

For us and for the restaurant staff.



__________________
*Translation:  "Will it be affordable, tasty and have food the picky children will eat?"  I ate the most expensive albeit also the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich of my life in Paris after Imagination Boy rejected what I figured was a sure fired child pleaser.

**Unless you count Gelato, which I don't since it is desert and even there we all had to have our own flavors.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Diet Bet: Friday Favorites

4 years ago I lost 60 lbs.  Maybe someday I'll write about that journey.  It was both hard work and very easy.

I have also beat the statistics by keeping the weight off.

Mostly.

It's that mostly part that bothers me sometimes.

The truth is that in the last 4 years I have never gotten anywhere near putting all the weight back on.  I have found it easy to keep at least 40 lbs down from my top weight.

It's those last 20 lbs that have a tendency to creep back on when I'm under stress.  And then I have to get all disciplined with myself and work them back off again.

The thing is, it was easier to stay motivated to lose weight the first time when the results were dramatic and everyone around me was encouraging me.

No one notices when I am struggling to take off those final 20 lbs, again.

But I found a great tool to keep me encouraged and on track


I have now completed 2 month long diet bets and have doubled my money.  Basically the way it works is you put up a certain amount of money to enter a bet.  You then have four weeks to lose 4% of your body weight.  Everyone's money goes into a pool, the diet bet people take their cut and at the end of 4 weeks the pot is split between everyone who managed to lose at least 4% of their body weight.

I knew that losing 4% was very doable for me but that I would have to work on it.  I knew myself and knew that if I put money up, there was no way I was going to let myself fail.  

For me diet bet was the perfect way to keep myself accountable and on track.  The last day before my last weigh in I was at a March Madness party and I know I would have overeaten if it wasn't for the bet.

I'm not getting paid by dietbet or anything, I just thought it was a cool concept that worked for me and some of you might want to know about it.

You can get a group together and do a bet or you can just join in one.  You can do up to 3 at a time.  I just joined a public one.   

I put up $60 originally for 2 different $30 games that ran at the same time.  I then plowed some of my winnings back into another 2 games the following month.   When I won those games also, I decided I was too close to goal weight to want to do more bets so I cashed out at $131.  

Not bad.  

Want to know what exciting things I did with the winnings?  Paid for Oldest Girl's SAT test. *

Yup, I live on the edge.

______________________
*Mostly just because the winnings are paid out via paypal and when I went to pay for the SAT I saw the paypal option and thought, why not.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Don't Sing Mom

"No sing," came the emphatic voice from the carseat in the back, "No sing."
Image courtesy of photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It might have have been Oldest Girl's first sentence.*

It actually started before she had words.  We went to a "Mom and Me" class at the library once a week. All the babies sat on their mom's laps and we sang such classics as "The Wheels on the Bus" and "The Itsy Bitsy Spider".

Some of the babies grinned and giggled in pleasure waving their arms.  Some sat there bemused as their mothers manipulated their hands to do the motions.

Not my baby.

I tried to help her do the motions.  She pulled her hands away.

So I did the motions myself.  She turned around in my arms and swatted my arms down.

At least I can sing, I thought, singing out a little louder.

Nope.  She turned around again and put her hand over my mouth.

Okay.

It was years before Oldest Girl let me sing without protest.

Now I'm no concert vocalist but my singing voice isn't that bad.  They let me sing in the church choir and I haven't noticed anyone wincing at my voice.  Babies are supposed to delight in their mother's voice right?

I blame it all on sleep training.

I got pregnant with Music Girl (who has never complained about my singing voice thank you very much) with all the morning sickness and exhaustion that entails while Oldest Girl was still a wee little thing who wasn't sleeping through the night.  I decided that for all our sakes this situation had to change.

I read all the many conflicting books on how to get your child to sleep from the "let them scream it out forever and lie in their own vomit if necessary" to the "just let them sleep with you and nurse constantly and learn to love it or you will damage them permanently" points of view.  Then I did what I always did in the end with conflicting parenting advice, whatever worked for me that I could live with.

So first I night weaned.  When Oldest Girl woke up in the night I would walk with her and sing until she fell back asleep.  Then I moved to singing without picking her up.  Eventually she was sleeping through the night.

Which. Was. Wonderful.

Except, it apparently lost me the right to sing to her.

The irony of it all is that my current job involves singing to small children.  I teach Creative Movement and my day is filled with me singing, often acapella to preschoolers.  And, if I may be so bold, I am good at my job and the kids love me and my singing.

Take that Oldest Girl.


__________________
*I can't be sure because I'm not the kind of mom who carefully wrote these things down in a baby book.  Instead I'm writing them down now, haphazardly, as I think of them.  This has the disadvantage that I don't remember everything perfectly but the advantage is that I can remember it the way I want too.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Grandma 'Rene

It was Grandparent's Day recently at the preschool where I work.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The program was cute with the kids singing for the grandparents and then joining them at tables for snacks and playtime.

And I found myself fighting back tears.

I'm not really that much of a crier but my tears are much closer to the surface again these days.  I feel like I'm back in those earlier days after my dad's death when each day I wondered if it was safe to put on eye makeup because it was just so unpredictable what might set me off.

I tried to figure out where these particular tears were coming from.  Was it my children's loss of their grandfathers, one before they were ever born and one more recently.  Or was it the many grandparent events my kids missed out on because we lived too far away from their remaining grandparents.

Then I remembered that when my kids were the age of the preschoolers I work with not only did they have more living grandparents (and even great grandparents) but they also had a bonus grandma who lived only two blocks away.

Grandma 'Rene.

Grandma 'Rene was my great aunt.  My mother's mother (who died when my mom was in high school) was the oldest of a large family.  Her youngest brother, in what was probably the wisest decision of a wise life, married Irene.  Unfortunately I never got to know him as he passed away before I moved to the area.

So technically Grandma 'Rene wasn't even a blood relation.

But she was one special lady.

When I think of hospitality I think of her.  She opened her doors and took us in when we needed a place to stay even though she had never meet us.  The Professor, Oldest Girl and I moved in with her when Oldest Girl was only six months old.

Oldest Girl is now a delightful young lady who I am always happy to spend time with.  As a baby however, let's just say she didn't break me in to motherhood easily.  As a young mom I felt like I was surrounded by advice, mostly contradictory, on how to handle this baby.  Most people, well meaning as they were, made me question my ability to parent this child properly.

Grandma 'Rene didn't see a difficult baby.  She saw a delightful baby with her own personality.  And she genuinely enjoyed interacting with my child.  As a result she set me free to delight in my daughter for who she was.

When Music Girl and Imagination Boy came along, Grandma 'Rene delighted in them too.

When we walked Oldest Girl to school for the first day of kindergarten passing near her house, Grandma 'Rene was standing at the corner to give her a hug and wish her well.  When we walked home that day we stopped at her house to tell her all about the first day.

Whenever it was time to leave Grandma 'Rene's house she would encourage the kids to visit the cookie drawer, a large drawer at perfect child height that was always filled with delicious cookies.  "Take a cookie for the road," she would say.

When Oldest Girl was in first grade and Music Girl in kindergarten, Grandma 'Rene visited their school for Grandparents Day.

When we learned we would be going overseas one of the hardest people to tell was Grandma 'Rene. There were many people we knew we would miss, including all the grandparents but we knew Grandma 'Rene's age meant she might not be alive when we moved back.

She wasn't.

We were able to visit Grandma 'Rene several times during our trips back to the states but by the time we moved back she was gone.

Oldest Girl remembers Grandma 'Rene fondly.  Imagination Boy remembers her vaguely.  But I will never forget the gift she gave me that was so much greater than the cookie for the road.  She gave me the gift of freeing me to delight in my children.




Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Why the Professor Should Come Home for Dinner

They say that girls have a tendency to marry someone like their father.  In a lot of ways I did just that.  But apparently I also married my mother.

Image courtesy of Stoonn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When I was growing up money was tight so my mom was always looking to pinch pennies.  One of her strategies was to buy the cheap peanut butter, the kind that had a rock hard mass of peanut sludge on the bottom of the container and a thick coating of oil on the top.  To be even remotely edible this product required a good half hour of stirring before it could be spread on bread.

Nowadays people call this organic and pay extra for it.  They may even argue that the stirring is good because it give you a good arm workout thus counterbalancing the calories and striking a blow against childhood obesity.

Recently the Professor came home with this kind of peanut butter.  He was quite pleased that he found peanut butter without any palm oil.  "It might need a little stirring though," he warned.

Tonight at dinnertime the jar got opened for the first time.  Imagination boy looked at it in dismay.  He stirred for awhile.  Then I took over to give his arm a break.  I didn't last long either but not because my arm got tired.  I had an idea.  Why use muscle power when there is a kitchen full of gadgets to hand? Am I not my father's daughter?

"I have a great idea!" I said.

This made the children nervous.  I can't imagine why.

I pulled out my handy dandy stick blender.  "Here, plug this in behind you" I said to Imagination Boy as I started to put the blender in the jar in the middle of the table.

"No," three voices chorused.

"You'll make a big mess." (Like they would be the ones cleaning up any potential mess)

"At least do it on the counter where it won't splatter all over us."  (Okay, they may have a point there.)

I was pleased to see that the jar was just wide enough for the blender.  What it wasn't, was deep enough to hold all the peanut butter and the submerged blender.



The kids shouted in horror as the peanut butter overflowed.

"This is why Dad needs to make it home in time for dinner," Oldest Girl said.

In my defense the peanut butter was nicely mixed when I finished (apart from the chunky bits I scooped up from the outside of the jar and stuffed back in) and Imagination Boy did make and eat his sandwich.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surprise Party #4

This is the last one, honest, but I just thought of another good surprise party story.

This was a party for the Professor's 16th birthday.  I wasn't actually involved in this party since I didn't know him yet at the time, but I've heard the story many times and think it is worth sharing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Professor's parents decided to throw a surprise birthday party for the Professor when he turned 16.

The challenge for most would be surprise party throwers is how to get the birthday person out of the house while you set up and everyone arrives and then get them back in for the surprise.

The Professor's parents didn't bother.

They sent out the invitations for a party beginning at dinner time telling the guests to come on in without ringing the doorbell.

When all the guests had arrived, the Professor's mom called up the stairs to her son that it was time to come down for dinner.  He came down and was utterly shocked to find the house decorated and full of all his friends.

My favorite part of this story is the fact that his parents had great confidence this plan would work. They were so secure in their knowledge that their son would be hanging out in his room doing homework or whatever else it was that he did in there for hours and hours on end that they didn't even bother to get him out of the house.  They knew there was next to no chance that he would glance out of his bedroom window and see his friends coming up the walk.  They knew it was extremely unlikely that he would wander downstairs before dinner and notice the balloons and birthday cake.

And they were right.

So, here is the 4th and final tip.

Successful Surprise Party Tip #4:  Throw the party for someone who gets so absorbed in his own project he won't notice what the world around him is doing.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Surprise Party Part 3

And I have one more surprise party story...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Around about my 24th birthday I informed the Professor that I wanted him to throw me a surprise party for my 25th birthday.  I figured giving him a year's lead time gave me time to "forget" and him plenty of time to prepare.  As my 25th birthday drew closer, I of course remembered but assumed that he forgot.  Birthdays and other such events are not usually the Professor's strong suit.

I figured that on the extremely small chance he had remembered what I'd said a year ago, I'd know because he would have to clean the house if we were having a party.  I purposely left the house messy that week so I'd be sure to notice.

It never occurred to me that you could throw a surprise party in another location.

About a week before my birthday, he asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my birthday.  That settled it as far as I was concerned.  No surprise party for me.  In retrospect that should have been a tip off.  The fact that the Professor was aware of and talking about my birthday a full week in advance was a dead give away that something was up.

He suggested that he take me out to dinner that night.  I agreed, a little disappointed but not surprised. After all we were both poor grad students in those days and a dinner out was a big treat.

Then a couple days before my birthday a couple of friends stopped me in the hall at school.  "We want to have you and the Professor over to play cards sometime.  Does Monday work for you?"

Monday was my birthday but I figured the Professor and I could do dinner another night and I knew he was free that night so I said sure.

He was a bit peeved when I told him we were going to play cards with friends on my birthday.  "I wanted to take you out to dinner for your birthday.  Did you even tell them that that was your birthday? Why didn't you suggest a different day to them?"  After a bit more complaining and discussion he reluctantly agreed that it was my birthday and if I wanted to go play cards with friends without even telling them that it was my birthday and go do birthday dinner another day then that was O.K.

This should have been another huge red flag for me.  I am the one who gets bent out of shape about celebrating big days on the actual day and the Professor has never ever understood or appreciated this.

We got to our friends house and as we started to walk up to the door the Professor said, "Wait, I forgot something," and rushed back to the car and grabbed a camera.

"You are bringing a camera to play cards?" I asked incredulously.*

"I don't think we have any pictures of them so I thought it would be nice to get one."

"That is so weird.  They will think we are strange.  Please put the camera back in the car."

He wouldn't listen.

To recap:  I told my husband that I wanted a surprise party.  It was the actual day of my birthday.  He was insisting on bringing a camera to a totally camera inappropriate situation.  And no,  I still had no suspicion whatsoever.

We rang the doorbell, they opened the door and all my friends yelled surprise while the Professor took a picture.  I was totally surprised.

Successful Surprise Party Tip #3:  Cultivate low expectations vis a vis birthdays for many years and/or marry a clueless spouse.


_____________________
*Remember people, dark days before smart phones when taking pictures of anything and everything just wasn't normal.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Throw a Surprise Party Part 2

So we can all agree that it is easier to surprise a baby than an adult but...

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We also threw a surprise party for my mom when she turned 50 a few years later.  We did completely surprise her but this isn't quite as impressive since we threw it exactly 1 month early.  My parents lived on the west coast at the time but they were back near family for my college and my brother's seminary graduation.

We held the party at our apartment where my parents were staying.  Dad's job was to get Mom out of the house for a couple hours so we could set up and the guests could arrive.

"No problem," he said, "I have a long list of romantic memories spots in this town that I can bring her to."  The car pulled out and a frenzy of cleaning, cooking and arranging began.

15 minutes later they were back.  Mom had thought of something very important she had to tell us about my disabled sister that we were babysitting.*  Luckily we lived up a long flight of stairs and the Professor spotted the car pulling in.  Veggie trays were thrust under beds, balloons popped into closets, a just baked tray of goodies thrust under the bed.

"Smells like baking in here, what are you making?"
"Oh, you're moving furniture around. Why?"
"Are you sure you are okay babysitting?  I think we should just stay here Bob"

Finally he got her back out the door.  When they came back 2 hours later the apartment was full of old friends, cousins, aunts and uncles.  She was totally surprised despite all the earlier clues.

Successful Surprise Party Rule # 2:  Do it a month early.

________________
*The dark days before cell phones.  I'm telling you people, it's hard to remember how we survived.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Rise of the Time Lords Friday Favorites

I write this blog for me because I enjoy writing, it keeps me sane, writing helps me know what I'm thinking in a way that just thinking doesn't do.

I write this blog for my children (and future grandkids, thus the blog title) because my Dad's death drove home the fact that someday I won't be here or able to tell them these things and I want them to know me.

I write this blog for you, whoever happens to be reading it, because I like the thought of others reading my words even if I don't know them.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


So in the spirit of this blog as a place to share with myself, my family and the wider world at large,  I thought I'd try using Fridays (since I love aliteration) to share some of the things I have come across in this life that I really, really like.  If you have any favorites you want to share in the comments please do so.

Today I'll start with a book




Rise of the Time Lords: A Geek's Guide to Christianity by Michael Belote

Here's the quote from the back of the book, "Rise of the Time Lords shares the gospel for geeks: how we can learn about the trinity from a Pringles can, heaven from Dr. Who, grace from air conditioners, and the nature of man from Schrodinger's cat."

It was the title that got me first. Time Lords is of course a reference to the British Doctor Who series of which we are big fans in this house.

But you don't have to be Dr. Who fans to enjoy this book.  He also references Flatland, Star Wars, Star Trek, Calvin and Hobbes, and lots of engineering stuff.  Each chapter takes a science fiction or science principal and then uses it to explain a theological point.

The book is worth the price for the pringles can/Flatland explanation of the Trinity alone.

You don't have to be a total geek to appreciate the book but it will help.

For our family, it was perfect.  We read it for family devotions, reading a bit of a chapter after dinner each night.  It was the best reading material we have ever found for our family for devotions.

Of course we are total geeks.

My dad would have loved this book.

I should warn you that this book is not light reading.  Both the science and the theology take some thought and you won't breeze through it.  But it was very accessible to our family consisting of one extremely intelligent adult who knows a lot about science and mathy things, one somewhat intelligent adult who knows a lot about theology, one high schooler who has taken a lot of math and science although she's not really a math and sciency person, one high schooler who likes math and science and loves geekdom in all its glory, and one middle schooler who lives for math and science.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

How to Throw a Perfect Surprise Party

Today I am going to tell you how to throw the perfect surprise party.  The kind where the person whose birthday it is is totally and completely surprised.

Image courtesy of mrsiraphol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Step 1. Make sure it is a first birthday.

That's it.  There are no more steps.

When Oldest Girl was turning one we were living in a small cheap apartment while we waited for our house in another state to sell.  No one had ever visited us there and I don't think Oldest Girl was aware that such a thing was possible.

The list of people Oldest Girl truly knew and loved at that point in her life was pretty small so when pretty much all of them walked in the door and said surprise, she was stunned.

She sat there in total disbelief and delight.  And then we got on with the party and a great time was had by all.

We threw a surprise party for my dad when he turned 50.

It is hard to throw a surprise party for a pastor and invite the entire church and have it still be a surprise. But we almost pulled it off.

He pretended to be surprised but when we asked if he had guessed he told us the truth. Earlier that day some idiot a caring member of the congregation called him at the church to ask him if the party that night was at the church or at his house.

He was surprised when my oldest brother showed up having flown in from out of town.  So at least we surprised him a little.

Moral of the story:  It is a lot harder to surprise an adult than a baby.



Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trumpet Lamp

Here is another of my what to do with all the junk makeovers.


Way back when Music Girl first started band she played the trumpet. We found a good sounding trumpet at a thrift store while traveling during summer vacation. What a deal we figured.

Then Music Girl went back to school and came home from the first day of band all excited about switching to the French Horn.

So the trumpet sat on top of a wardrobe in her room.
Unused.
Unloved.
Unplayed.

Until the 9.0 Great Tohoku Earthquake of March 2011.

It crashed to the floor and really hasn't been the same since.

But you don't just throw a musical instrument in the recycle bin do you?

One of the many challenges with our new house is lacking of lighting.
Only the kitchen and family room have overhead lighting.  So we needed lamps.

I checked Pinterest and found lots of pictures but no actual plans.  So that trumpet just sat around waiting.

Until I was sorting through boxes of junk that had been in storage and found a fully functional light socket on a brass pole that had apparently been part of a lamp at some point back in the midst of time.  I don't know what happened to that lamp but the Professor saved this bit and occasionally used it as a trouble light.

Since it was the same color as a trumpet, a light bulb went off in my head.*




I used highly technical and complicated skills to zip tie the light to the top of the trumpet and I tied the cord around the bottom.  Then I  stuck on a lamp shade I had been planning to toss.

Viola, a trumpet lamp.

The lamp shade was pretty hideous so I got out some of my scrapbooking paper, cut it to size, folded it in pleats and hot glued it on.  Someday I might remove the paper and modge podge it with hymnal pages like I did for Music Girl's trash can, but for now I'm pretty happy with my lamp.

For now it is sitting on top of the piano.  You know, the one no one ever plays.  The one that was last played on this occasion.


_______________
*Do you like the pun?  I am my father's daughter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

By the way...

Type "most dreaded phrase" into google and you will come up with a plethora of articles written about the phrase "We need to talk".

But for me the most dreaded phrase is "By the way..."

This phrase gets used frequently in my house but somehow it is never followed by anything good.  I have never heard the following:
  • By the way, I got 100% on that test I studied for.
  • By the way, I'm leaving work early tomorrow to come home and take you to lunch.
  • By the way, I loaded the dishwasher for you since I saw you were busy.
Instead the "By the ways..." in our house sound more like this.
  • By the way, I need a check for $200 for band.
  • By the way, I need to go in to work early tomorrow and I probably won't be home for dinner.
  • By the way, all of my underwear is too tight and/or has holes so I've been wearing the same pair for a couple of days.  You should probably buy me some new pairs.
Image courtesy of Iamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
My latest favorite came the other night at 9:00pm when Imagination Boy said to me, "By the way, I need assorted candy."

Me:  Assorted candy?

IB: Yes

Me: By when?

IB:  Tomorrow

Me: Why?

IB: For school.  (Imagination boy is a firm believer in never sharing too much information at once. It's like he thinks he is being charged by the word.)

Me: What kind of candy?

IB: Assorted

Me:  But what does that mean?

IB:  You know, assorted.

Me:  (Deciding to try a different tack) What is the candy for?

IB: School

Me: Yes, we established that already.  But what is it for at school?  Are you bringing it in to share for a class party.  Is it for a project?  What exactly are you planning to do with the assorted candy?

IB:  It's for a project.

Me:  Could you be more specific?

IB:  A science project

Me:  Could you be more specific?

IB: I need to create an edible cell model using assorted candy.

Finally, we were getting somewhere.  I could give you the rest of the conversation but if you have ever had school aged children or been one yourself you know where this is going.  Fill in for yourself the "how long have you known about this project", "what is your plan for solving this problem" and so on.

In the end, Imagination Boy turned in a brilliant edible cell made of cake and assorted candies.  I'd show you a picture but we forgot to take one.

I'd be even more frustrated with this behavior if I didn't recognize the pattern in myself sometimes. When there is a project I don't want to do, I also have a tendency to ignore it hoping it will just somehow go away.  I can't say that this strategy has ever been a helpful or useful one for me.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Laundry Routines

One of the good and bad things about a move is that it rips away your normal routines of daily life and forces you to figure out new ones.

This is bad because until you lose them you don't realize how comforting routines are.  Until you develop new routines, you feel unsettled and walk around with a vague sense of disequalibrium and also generally take way too long to do simple tasks.

This is good because some of your routines aren't really helpful but you keep doing it that way because that is just the way you do it.

And figuring out those new routines is a process of trial and error to see what works and what doesn't in your new home and location.  I always say it is a major accomplishment in each move when I finally settle into the routine for laundry that works in our new location.

Image courtesy of Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In this house, I think I have now nailed my favorite laundry routine of all time.

For the record it is as follows.  Small hamper in kid's bath and master bedroom.  Emptied almost every day into three large hampers  (darks, mediums, whites) next to washer and dryer.  When one of these hampers is full, throw load in wash.  Put clean clothes in basket, hanging up items that need it on rod dangling from ceiling (thanks, Professor, brilliant idea).  Place basket on table next to dryer.

When tower of baskets on table threatens to tople or someone runs out of underwear grab Oldest Girl to help fold clothes and put away. Oldest Girl is necessary because she is the only member of the family who can tell her clothes apart from Music Girl's.

Music Girl will wear anything placed in her laundry basket as long as it is comfortable. Seasonal appropriateness and/or fashion and/or presence of holes in unfortunate locations will not faze her.

Imagination Boy will wear anything as long as it is black, jeans, an acceptable t-shirt (dark and plain or with some kind of geeky saying), or a black hoodie (since he wears a hoodie year round everywhere he goes I don't know why he cares so much about the t-shirts but he does).

When we lived in Japan and Hirokosan came to clean the house each week including doing the laundry, she had a tendency to assume any black clothes that weren't obviously man sized were Imagination Boy's.  He came out of his room one morning complaining that these pants are a little big. He was wearing my pants.  Whenever the girls couldn't find an item of clothing that was black they learned to look in Imagination Boy's room.

Since she also unloaded the dishwasher, Hirokosan's visits also led to the fun family game of "If you were Hirokosan, where do you think you would put the potato peeler (or whatever)?"

I miss Hirokosan.

But I digress, back to laundry.  A basket of clean folded laundry is deposited in each person's room. They all deal with it in their own way.

Oldest Girl has a detailed and complicated system for where each type (with subcategories) belongs and she puts them there.

Music Girl has a dresser and a closet with a system for where each type of clothing belongs.  However this system was developed by Oldest Girl and is rarely used.  Instead she just pulls her favorites out of the laundry basket until I tell her to put her clothes away because I'm running out of empty laundry baskets in which to pile clean laundry at which point she dumps the clean clothes on the floor and gives me an empty laundry basket.  About once a month or so Oldest heaves a big sigh and goes in to Music's room and puts things away where they "belong".  Music Girl is leaving on a school trip tomorrow so I hope Oldest Girl doesn't have much homework tonight as she will definately need to help pack.

Imagination Boy has the simplest system.  He takes his laundry basket and dumps the entire contents into the large plastic tub in his closet.  Done.

The Professor has a detailed and complicated system like Oldest Girl's but since he isn't interested in actually putting his clothes away himself he makes do with the somewhat more simplified system I'm willing to adhere to.

And I put my clothes away in a system that works for me more or less.  I find myself getting rid of clothes if they don't fit my system.

Since Oldest Girl is currently taking both Sociology and Psychology I figure she could do a term paper about our laundry habits and what it says about us.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Eating Out American Style

Another adjustment to life in America has been eating out.

Image courtesy of KEKO64 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since we moved into a house and almost immediately tore apart the kitchen we did a fair bit of this.

We are still trying to get used to the differences between America and Japan.  These include


  • getting a bill and paying the waiter rather than going up to the counter to pay.

One of the first times we went out Music Girl was horrified when we started to walk out of the restaurant.  "Dad, we can't leave without paying."  She had missed the subtle exchange between her father and the waiter at the table.



  • being able to ask questions.

At a Thai restaurant Oldest Girl was concerned that a certain choice might be too spicy for her.  "You can just ask the waitress how spicy it really is." the Professor suggested.  It hadn't occurred to her that such a thing was possible.



  • kid friendly food everywhere

My picky eaters are still adjusting to the fact that it is nearly impossible for us to choose a restaurant where they can't find something on the menu they like.



And that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Other differences include:


  • quantity versus quality
  • large glasses of water refilled frequently versus one tiny glass that you have to ask to have refilled or do it yourself
  • enormous menus with a wide variety versus a plastic food display with a few choice options
  • waiters who try to take your order when you have barely begun to read that enormous menu versus a button to push when you are ready to order



The kids have really enjoyed all the burger joints that seem to have sprung up in our absence.  It is their goal to try them all, purely for comparison purposes.  So far the winner is Smash Burger which happens to be walking distance from our house.  Unfortunately it isn't as healthy or as cheap as Kappa Sushi which was even closer to our house in Japan, but it is tasty.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Missing Military

I sold our old fridge today.  This is pretty exciting for me since it has been taking up space in my basement since the Professor bought a new one at a Thanksgiving day sale.  I've listed it several times on craigslist and thought I had buyers all lined up but they failed to show.

Apparently the 5th time is the charm.

There was a moment this morning after I finished making arrangements over the phone and realized that I had just told a stranger my address and exactly when I was leaving for and returning from work when I wondered if it was foolish to be planning to let someone who contacted me via craigslist into the house while I was home alone.

But the thought of actually getting rid of the fridge and for CASH seemed to me to outweigh the minuscule risk of rape and/or dismemberment.

I got home from work and the buyer showed up soon afterwards.  He was a nice looking, clean cut guy who brought a 75 year old father in law with him.  I figured no one brings a father in law along for a rape so I was probably safe.

Image courtesy of taoty / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
We got to chatting and I found out he was Air Force.  And not only that he had been stationed in Japan and had flown his Blackhawk up to our neck of the woods many times.  Now he is at the Pentagon which he is just enduring.  I've yet to met a pilot who was happy to be stationed at the Pentagon.

I can not tell you how much this brightened my day.

Loss looms large for me these days and one of those losses that I didn't expect to be so hard is the loss of the military lifestyle.  I miss it way more than I imagined I would.  It was a major part of my life for six years that now is completely and totally gone.

When I see someone in military uniform I practically have to restrain myself from going up to talk to them.  At work today a Major walked by.  If I hadn't been leading a bunch of three year olds in parachute games at the moment I think I would have followed him just to chat.  ("So, where are you stationed?  Where else have you been?  Oh, me too.  Do you know so and so?")  But trust me, you do not turn your back on a dozen 3 year olds with a parachute so I refrained.

Here's some of what I miss
  • fast friendships (there's no time to take it slow)
  • people who have time to meet for coffee or lunch or girls night out
  • knowing your spouses co-workers and running into them while grocery shopping
  • running into people you know everywhere you go
  • being called Ma'am and having doors held open for me (by men and women)
  • interracial couples and that being common and no big deal
  • people taking pride in their appearance (and not in a pretentious designer clothes sort of way just in a being fit and neat and well groomed way)
  • going out to dinner with visiting VIPs
  • being surrounded by people who I know would die for me and for our country
  • having one grocery store and one department store and if I can't find it there I wait several weeks or I do without

I'm not saying everyone or everything in the military is perfect or that the above applies to everyone, far from it, but there is a lot to admire and I miss it.

So I'm very happy to think of my fridge going to the nice pilot who not only didn't dismember me but also gave me cash and made my day a little brighter.



Thursday, April 3, 2014

Engrish

There are many reasons I miss Japan but one of them is the joy of stumbling upon Engrish.

Engrish is the use of English by the Japanese that somehow misses something in translation and thus is unintentionally funny.

After pulling photos off my old phone I found several examples.  Here are some of my favorites.


This is the sign in front of a toll road rest area restaurant.  Rather a lot to promise don't you think.  Beats the heck out of the Roy Rogers on the Ohio Turnpike.

Or there is this:
English clothing labels are never this entertaining.

And for Father's Day:

I don't know what happens to the dull fathers.

I like the photo they choose to illustrate Fathers.  It made me wonder what would happen if 5 guys showed up together without their families. Would they get the discount?


Nothing like truth in advertising:


Although I admit I was tempted to check out the Swanky Drunky Factory.  Too bad the kids were with us.


On the same theme, here was the drinks menu for a karaoke bar:

Much more fun than "All You Can Drink for one price"

These are just the ones that were left on my phone.  I'm have many others in other places.  If you enjoyed these you might want to check out this site www.engrish.com/

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Maps of the World Shoe Shelf

Here another example of creation I think my Dad would be proud of.

There were 2 problems to solve.

Number One:  Among the oodles of stuff to be dealt with were a huge pile of maps: maps in storage from before we went overseas, maps from our travels around Europe before we had a GPS, and maps of Japan, way too many maps.

But who uses paper maps anymore.  Not a family where everyone carries a smart phone and we have a GPS system for each car.

But the Professor was horrified by the thought of recycling or donating the maps.  Given my certainty that we would never ever use them I was horrified by the thought of keeping them.

Problem number two:  After six years in Japan the absolute necessity of taking off our shoes at the door is ingrained in all of us.  Life any other way is unimaginable.  But unlike our house in Japan which like all good houses should had a separate entryway with space specifically for the removal and storage of shoes upon entry, this house has no such luxury.  There is very little space by the front door.

What to do, what to do.

Here is my solution:


It started with a couple of shoe shelves that we harvested from the neighbors trash.*  There were in rough shape and paint alone wasn't going to cut it.  Plus there were only two of them.  I could buy two more that were almost but not quite the right size.  

"You could just buy two more new ones and put these back out in the trash," one of the children suggested.

"Don't be silly," I responded.  "I just need to cover them with something."

And thus the Maps of the World Shoe Shelf was born.

Here is a work in progress shot



A little Mod Podge, a pair of scissors and an hour or so of work and two birds with one stone.
We get to enjoy our maps everyday and have a place to put our shoes.  

Win win.

Now all I have to do is get the entire family to actually put their shoes on the shelf every time. 
Suggestions anyone?

------------------------------
*Oldest Girl is horrified by what her parents drag home when walking the dog.  The Professor is horrified by what people throw away.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dad's Favorite Places

Yesterday I read a good friend's blog post about a trip to the Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Image courtesy of dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That brought back the memories.

I've been there many times.

Too many times.

You see, when I was growing up, everywhere we lived (and that is several places) my Dad had a favorite spot to bring people who visited us or just the family if he could hoodwink us into it.

In Sacramento that place was the Railroad Museum.

I have nothing against the Railroad Museum.  It is a fine museum.  I probably even enjoyed it the first time.  But as a teenager I was not thrilled with numerous repeat visits.  Dad would drone on and on about the various locomotives.  He was endlessly fascinated with machinery and engineering and how things worked.

The good thing about the Railroad Museum was that it had a gift shop.

This was important because the only way to get Dad out of a place like the Railroad Museum was to tell him that Mom was in the gift shop.

That usually got him moving in a hurry.

In Louisville, Kentucky his place was the the locks on the river.  This was much worse than the Railroad Museum because there was no gift shop.  Dad had the car keys and the only way to leave was to wait for him to be ready to leave.  This always took forever.

When we heard a visit to the locks was in the planning stages, those of us old enough to be left home alone would scatter and hide or suddenly remember vast amounts of homework due very, very soon. Younger siblings would beg to be left in our charge.

None of this seemed to dampen Dad's enthusiasm or his belief that if he just explained it all clearly enough we would all find the locks fascinating and enjoy it as much as him.

Not long after his death I took a ferry boat ride on the river in Tokyo.  As we enjoyed the scenery, I found myself taking lots of photos of locks and river gates.  Until I realized I was taking those photos so I could share them with my dad.

I wish I could go now to the Louisville locks or the Sacramento Railroad Museum with my Dad and listen to him talk.  I'd let him talk as long as he liked.  And I'd even listen this time.





Friday, March 28, 2014

A Punny Kind of Guy

My Dad loved puns.  The more groan inducing the better.

Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

His favorites involved Jonah.

It's a whale of a tale.

Can be a bit hard to stomach.

The whole thing seems a bit fishy to me.

Some theologians have a tough time swallowing it.

What, you don't like these?  It made the whale so sick he barfed on the beach.

________________
Have any more?  Add them in the comments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Latest Creation

Maybe I can't show my dad, but I can show you.

This is my latest creation.

We call it the antique corner.

Lots of challenges faced us when we moved into this house, the fact that it rained in the basement if we used the upstairs showers, chipped and broken asbestos tile in the family room, windows only the Professor could open, just to name a few.*  But even greater than those challenges was the challenge of what to do with all the stuff.

Because home repairs can be accomplished with enough money and/or blood, sweat, and tears. Dealing with stuff can threaten to end 25 year marriages.

A decade ago when we first prepared to move overseas the option of putting stuff into storage until our return saved our marriage.  I wanted to toss everything.  The professor wanted to keep everything.  As time ticked down and the arrival of the packers loomed large, storage was an attractive option.  We stopped debating and just shifted items into the destined for storage pile.

Unfortunately, what goes into storage must come out.  So in the midst of dealing with showers that rained into the basement and crumbling asbestos tile, we also had to deal with boxes and boxes of stuff we hadn't seen for years, much of which I would have been happy to never see again.

The Professor and I are clearly opposites when it comes to what stuff should and should not be kept. They say opposites attract but I've never heard anyone say that opposites make for a strong, stable, conflict free marriage.

Let's just skip ahead in the story and say that the large crawl space in our house has become the new storage and with God's grace and constant help our marriage is good for another 25 years or more.

But some items don't belong in the crawl space.  What to do with the antique typewriter, adding machine, and old rotary telephone?

And thus the antiques corner shelf was born.

The first plan was to buy a couple of shelves at Home Depot and put them up in this convenient corner space.  The only problem was that the exact sizes we needed weren't available.

No problem I thought, this is the land of things delivered right to my door.  I'll order something.  But I couldn't find anything that was both the right size and not expensive.

So I decided to do it myself.

I checked out what random scraps of wood were present in the shed and found two beat up shelves that the Professor had gleaned from the neighbors trash back in the early days when he was gathering any wood he could find to put on the floor of the crawl space to protect stuff from potential water damage.

I very scientifically made my quarter circle shapes with the marker tied to a piece of twine method then cut them out using a jigsaw.  I filled in the old screw holes with spackle and sanded everything down.

I found more wood scraps to serve as brackets and screwed them into the wall.  I primed, attached everything and painted.

I'm pretty pleased with the result.

After looking at the final product, the Professor added the antique I-Pod.  I'm trying to decide if I like it or not.  Should I add a small shelf above the phone to hold the I-Pod, leave the I-Pod on the shelf with the phone or get rid of the I-Pod altogether (and by get rid of I mean put in the crawl space of course). What do you think?

________________
* I could get the windows open if I used a hammer but for some reason that made the Professor nervous.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thank you Dad

Thank you Dad

For loving me.

For loving mom.

For loving life.

For loving God.

For loving the church.

For loving creativity.

For loving the little ones.

For loving the overlooked.

For loving tools and junk and science fiction.

For love.


Two Dads

Last night I pointed out to the Professor that the anniversary of my Dad's death was coming up.

Image courtesy of mikumistock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"I'm sorry" he said.  "I hadn't thought about the exact date."

Before I even had a chance to feel upset about that he added, "It was 20 years ago this year that my dad died."

There's a dose of perspective for you.

My dad didn't live to see me move back to the states.  He didn't live to see me learn how to use power tools.

The Professor's dad didn't live to see him get his doctorate. He didn't live to see him established in his career. He didn't live to see his son become a father. He didn't live to see him follow in his footsteps in so many ways both big and small.

Maybe the wound isn't as fresh but do you ever get over losing a parent?

I had 18 more years with my father than the Professor did.  My Dad saw my graduation with a Masters degree.  He baptized my three children.  He visited me in England. He discussed my job with me in the final days of his life.

I know it isn't a contest.

We both had wonderful fathers.  Imperfect, flawed, colorful characters the two of them.  And both of us lost them way too soon.  Because it is always too soon to lose a parent.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent and Loss

Two years ago tomorrow my father died.

He died in the middle of lent.  On Easter Sunday I said goodbye to my mother and the house he died in and headed back towards home on the other side of the globe.

Image courtesy of bela_kiefer / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Three years and a couple weeks ago was the great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan.  My world had already been rocked a couple months earlier by dad's cancer diagnosis but now the frequent yet unpredictable aftershocks caused my physical environment to match my emotional environment.

One year ago I was preparing to move back to the country of my birth after almost a decade overseas.

This year I often feel like a stranger in a strange land as we all seek to adjust to life back in the states.

Sometimes it feels like the world hasn't stopped rocking.

I miss my dad.  I remember how proud he was of me when I went to seminary and got a masters in youth ministry.  I don't think he ever said those words to me but I knew it.  He was pleased as could be that I was following in his footsteps even though he wished I would have gone all the way and gotten ordained ("When are you going to start preaching?" he would ask).

And now I'm living in a old house and renovating it using as little money and as many reclaimed materials and creative solutions as possible.  I'm doing things I never imagined myself doing like climbing into crawl spaces to identify plumbing problems, snaking out drains, hanging drywall, demolishing and rebuilding, laying flooring, and using power tools.

And I want to call my dad and ask him questions.  I want him to visit and see my handiwork.  I want to discuss options and ideas.  But most of all I want to see how proud he is of me for following in his footsteps.  He wouldn't say it, but I would know.  I would hear it in the tone of his voice and the questions he asked and the way he smiled.

I believe in heaven.  I believe my father is there. But I suspect heaven is nothing like popular conceptions of it. I don't believe my father is sitting up there looking down at his loved ones and smiling as he follows our daily lives.  And frankly even if he was it wouldn't make me feel better.

I miss him here and now.

Maybe that is what lent is about at least for me, for now, for this season.  Lent is about loss and the instability of this world, about sacrifice and denial.  Lent leads to the cross and the cross leads to resurrection: Jesus resurrection, Dad's resurrection, my resurrection.

But before we get to Easter there is a whole lot of lent and the whole betrayal and anguish in the garden and crown of thrones and "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me."