May 29, 2011

2010 Grandma's Marathon - 1, Man Dots

training buddies, Pigtails calls male nips "man dots"
* Click Here for Part 2 *

My hairy sticks have been pounding pavement with the Serious Coin Running Club (SCRC) since the first of the year.  From the frozen-balls Idiots of Winter Marathon back in January to a stupifying 25 miler yesterday, we continue cutting fat and prepping to deliver a beatdown at Grandma's Marthon in Duluth, Minnesota in three weeks. 

I've been training with Greg, Martin and Ryan for five months now.  They are fast dudes, together we blow quads and blisters, paying the dues necessary to hopefully stop the marathon clock at 2:37 next month.  Our goal is six minutes per mile for 26.2.  Ouchie.   

yes, that's a wild cherry juice box
I ran Grandma's Marathon last year with friends Kip and Jenny.  Below are the gory details of that race.
Once you learn to accept pain, molding it into a paddle to propel you forward rather than a wall that holds you back, you’ll become stronger.  Both as an athlete and in life in general. - Beard

Stink bomb
My brain fights to unscramble mixed signals from eyes and nose as an attractive blonde emerges from the coed throne at the tired dorms of UW-Superior.  A pretty face in pajamas steps out with a slight smile.  A pause, then the essence of “food digested but not absorbed by intestines” follows her.  It burns my nostrils, an odor so concentrated and repugnant (it had a tangy sulfur-garlic finish to it) that I feared my clothes and hair would record the stench, then replay it for Kip back in the room.  I moved to grab the industrial-sized lilac air freshener and blast the raunchy cloud to kingdom come, but retreated in defeat when I realized that would be like trying to quench a grease fire with a bucket of water. 

Carb loading tip for comely blonde runner that smells:  next year, try pasta and buttery breadsticks, not chili dogs and funnel cakes.

Later that evening in the same bathroom, a pale dude is standing by the mirror, mouth foaming, brushing his teeth shirtless in his tighty whities while women walk in. 

Social skills recommendation for underpants man:  be aware of your surroundings and try wearing shorts next time.

Kip's MC Hammer pants in foreground, destruction in background

Let’s race
Our eager bus surprises and leads us to the half marathon course, lost and full of 60 squirming marathoners.  The driver either forgot his glasses, was giving us the scenic tour or we were expected to jog to the start 13.1 miles north for a wholesome warm-up.  He eventually got her squared away and to the start on time.  

Relaxing a little, a sharp western wind flaps Kip's MC Hammer pants a half hour before the gun.  Overcast, 62 degrees and 80% humidity.  The strong breeze would help us if it cooled crosswise out of the west, a hindrance if it turned south and resisted for 26 miles.

Line up with the panicked pissers wetting the woods, then join Kip and Jenny at the line in front of the 3:10 pace group.  Kip looks happy, he chats, then moves back to the 3:20 group.  Jenny is quiet and nervous. I give her a pat and tell her to not go out too fast, have fun and GET IT DONE. 

A diesel passenger train drops off a load of runners to the start, then clacks south back to Duluth.  The Black Eyed Peas mark the final minutes.  A pair of F-35’s scream above as the Star Spangled Banner fades. 

a little heavy on the coffee
The helicopter from hell emerges above the trees, blades THWACK- THWACKING chop at our heads, flying sideways crab-style, barely 50 feet above to allow the videographer a good shot.  The pilot missed his Ritalin that morning, he was hyperactive.  Did he think he was in Afghanistan, finger on the stringer trigger, waiting to fire rockets at insurgents runners?  He buzzed us overhead over and over again the opening miles.  After the race, Jenny told us she pictured the crazy 'copter snagging a power line and crumpling to the blacktop.  She decided she’d continue running if it crashed behind her, but would stop if it crashed in front.   Smart advice, and a topic marathon training books fail to mention.

A limp air horn releases the hounds. 

Why is great aunt Matilda starting in front of me in her Hush Puppies, just behind the elites?  And why are there so many high BMI, walker-physiqued participants ahead, headphones ringing and fuel belts sagging with fluid? 

A watch but no GPS, I start out with what I hope is a 6:20 mile.  First mile clocks at 6:24.  The cadence would quicken from this point on.

By the second mile, I notice most runners ahead are wearing racing shoes, legs stuffed with slow-twitch muscle tissue and lots of ribs showing. 

That's more like it, let's go. 

The key on this snaking course is to hook with another runner or two, as it can be a lonely fight, running a mile or two in quiet sections without seeing any other runners or sidelined crowds.  Plus the whipping wind wouldn't be all that fun to shove alone. 

I caught up to random stranger Aaron.  His goal was the same as mine:  2:45.  And he looked tough.  We notched down from 6:20, warming up our quads, easing in and locking the pace down to 6:15. 

A patriotic runner wearing shorts and jersey sporting a pattern of a thousand tiny American flags clipped onto our wake.  His wheezed like a horse, stride was gangly.  He gasped out parts of words, confirming this was his first marathon (no duh), aiming for around three hours.  I said, "you realize you are on the 2:45 train, right?  You may want to back it down a little…or a lot."  He said "huff…fffff…OOO…kay…huff…", somehow held on for another two miles, then dropped off and disappeared.  After the race, Kip mentioned he passed this same clown several miles from the finish.  Flag was walking. 

Grandma’s is the antithesis of the Chicago Marathon.  A forest of trees on the right, Lake Superior on the left, hardly a spectator for 19 miles and excellent aid stations every other mile.  The stations were full service, a couple hundred feet of stocked tables, with a pattern of ice, water, Powerade (beats the lukewarm horse urine they served in prior years) and sponges.  The volunteers were spot on.  Even the smaller kids helping knew what they were doing, correct in the details with holding the cups from the bottom, standing out there and taking a direct sticky splash to the eyes/complete upper torso soak as needed to ensure we were hydrated.  

Aaron and I continued extinguishing other competitors and clicked miles in the 6:10 to 6:18 range, rolling with the mild swells on the course.  We talked only a couple of times.  His dad ran Grandma’s in 1993, this was his first time running in Duluth, he was from northern Minnesota and served in the Marines.  We pretty much ran side-by-side two through 17, picking up and dropping a few runners along the way.  

Worked by a troop of six elite women that looked solid.  Wished they would have clipped to our heels so we could work together through the 20 mph wind.

Pigtails on Ponies

The Brownie Scout season finale carried the girls to the far away land of magical meadows, mares and manure.  Pigtails sums it up better than I can type it, here's her recap:    

I wasn't there to snap pictures, but Pigtails tells me she rode Harley the horse, he was black, and together they looked like this:


May 28, 2011

Kitchen Reboot - 2, Let's Get Digital

Grandpa Clair was 100% Swedish.  Same is true for IKEA.  As elusive as an honest attorney, only a handful of these brawny blue boxes have been spotted in the U.S.  

I heart IKEA's design philosophy of filling small spaces efficiently, offering products of fair quality at unpretentious prices.  The store displays a dozen full-size kitchens, which is the best way to work the product with nary a word.  I was convinced several years ago Kmart IKEA's the right store to source my kitchen.
Their cafeteria meatballs rinsed down with an iced lingonberry justifies the tank of gas to migrate there.  And the names of the products make me smile.  How can you not be impressed with an awkwardly named FARTFULL children's desk or a couch called EKTORP?

Head swimming with ideas after storming the Bloomington store, step two was geeking in front of the computer, using IKEA's free design software to build the puppy from scratch.  Mapped the layout, including windows, doors, outlets, vents and water, sewer and electrical feeds.  Drag and snap on cabinets, counters, appliances and floor like e-Legos.   Tweak colors, walk through in 3D, rotate and zoom to kick the tires and make sure everything is swell.  Then press the Big Wince Button to spit out the parts list and wallet damage.

A full-time kitchen designer pro at IKEA reviewed my digi-layout and buzzed me on the phone to point out where I'm an idiot and missed a couple small details.  Once she picked and scrutinized, I was confident we had a winning plan.

 Next week, destructo strikes.


May 25, 2011

Socks in the Bath

Ran a bath for Pigtails last night.  I checked in on her after 10 minutes to ensure her black toes were turning white again.  She was kicking back with her eyes closed relaxing, looked like a kiddo version of Calgon, take me away!  

Her socks were still on.

I asked, "Honey, why are your socks on in the bath?"

No response.  Her eyes were closed with ears plugged below the waterline.


Slowly, her head emerged out of the water like a National Geographic hippo from a waterhole.


"Socks, you have socks on, why?!"

"Oh, I didn't notice."

She casually peeled them off and ka-splumped them in a wet pile on the tile.  Then sunk back into the tub, closed her eyes and returned to Calgonland.

How can a kid not notice they have socks on in the bath?  What's next, snowpants in the shower?


When Everybody is Watching

I posted this at work recently...

When approached to tap out a post for Ethics Week, my first thought was: that sounds about as safe as unicycling with a boiling crockpot of jalapeno cheese dip cradled on my lap. 

I'll keep this brief, then skedaddle for the hills.

The old line from Ethics 101 is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.  Perhaps it's deploying self control and refraining from that which one shouldn't do.

I think a braver slant on ethics is doing the right thing when everybody is watching, even when doing so may be unpopular, politically unsavvy, embarrassing or inconvenient.  It may require rubbing the cat's fur in the wrong direction and getting dirty. 

Recently on the slog to work, a car was pulled over with hazards pulsing and a tire deflating.  The driver looked to be a young professional, surely on her commute to the office.  Car after car passed by, offering only a drooling gawk and a blip of the gas pedal.  I did the same. 

It was easy to justify. 

I needed to be at work by 7 a.m. and would be late if I helped her. 
She surely had a cell phone and a wrecker was en route. 
She'd Taser me in the eyeballs/crotch the instant I tapped on her window.

Coasting into the parking ramp at work, my conscious muttered, "Jerk, you should have stopped." 

Yes, pulling over would have been inconvenient, changing her tire would have soiled my khakis and I would’ve been a few minutes late for work.  But pants can be washed and my boss dialed. 

I was guilty of a misdeed by omission.  In plain daylight.  When everybody was watching.

In the business world, changing the flat tire may translate into speaking up and asking that sticky question in a meeting.  Or making a difficult decision based on the right thing to do, not what’s most popular.

Now excuse me, I need to hop on my unicycle and deliver a boiling pot of spicy cheese dip.

May 23, 2011

Kitchen Reboot - 1, In the Beginning was Smurf Blue

Over the mountains and to the kitchen we go.  Time to regurgitate the rebuild that's spewed black slate dust for eight weeks now.

I like to eat.  A lot.  To the point that my cholesterol is 220.  Food is on the Top 5 list of things that make life great.  Although you wouldn't know this looking at Pigtails' 43 pound wire frame and me with the same build as a gangly 11-year-old girl.  I grilled this up tonight, a Jack's frozen pizza chicken breast spitting fire with jalapenos and sharp cheddar.  With a side of fries and garlic butter mushrooms:

I also enjoy the simple satisfaction in making old things new again.  Leaning with elbow grease on something that sags to make it sing.  I've been picking at the house for 12 years now, scraping off the barnacles to coax out the warm character hidden beneath.  I've flicked back the living room carpet like a matador's cape to let the red-oak floor beneath live again.  And planked the basement with laminate and carpet to transform it from a laundry room/spider factory to a cozy cave to collapse in as the plasma spews Redbox.

Mix my cooking crush with a desire to make the old new again, add a shake of my hatred of the horrific Smurf blue walls, and it's high time to sledge the kitchen. 

The project started off a year ago as a few hundred dollar quick-fix.  I'd replace the countertops and sink and call it good.  Once I dragged the new counters and sink into the house, it only took me a couple minutes to realize the 50 year old cabinets would look even more dated squatting beneath newness.  And the 20-year-old fridge would be an antique next to new cabinets.  It snowballed from there.  I put the quick-hit project on hold and did a deep dive to figure out what I wanted.  Here's the list:
  • More counter space, fewer cabinets.
  • Kill all vinyl, plastic and cheapness.  Queue the tile, wood and steel. 
  • Cook with gas.
  • Hide the appliances, build 'em in.  Cooktop slots into the counter, oven and microwave into the wall.  Tuck dishwasher behind cabinet panel, fridge flush with counters.  Move dishwasher over by the sink rather than the random corner it sits in now.
  • Summon the big ass farm sink.  High pressure faucet to fill that mother up fast.  I cook often with cast iron, so hand wash and need lots of room and water.
  • Nuke the ceiling fan, add can lights on dimmer, one large, simple light over the table.
  • Determine why dishwasher rinse aid is $12 for 2 ounces.
  • Figure out how to best use the dinky area for an eat-in table.  Tight 6' by 3' space...were there a bunch of midgets roaming the Earth when these 1950's houses were built?  Very little space to eat.  I'll keep the solution a surprise for now.  Hint:  100 year-old barn.
  • Kill the Smurf blue.
  • Be different than everyone else.
A couple photos below of old blue before the hammers drop.  Next week, we'll poke around in the digital design of the kitchen reboot.

Smurfette would feel at home


May 20, 2011

Mom vote

Circle of Moms site is holding a single parent blog contest.  If you put me in the top 25 for most votes, they'll post up prominent for their six million readers to gaze at.  

A few dozen more votes could put me in the top 25, and you may vote once per day.  Link here or smack the round pink logo to the right and click the yellow thumbs-up button to cast your vote.



old Blankie
Once upon a time, a hairy-eyed toddler named Pigtails snuggled up with a nice clean blanket.  It was soft with a pink band of silk smoothing the edge. A delightful blanket, she never left home without it and would be terminally scarred if anything ever happened to it.

One cold Saturday afternoon, her knucklehead father didn't realize Pigtails stuffed Blankie down her pants to come along for a ride at the mall's indoor playground.  While zinging down the slide, she casually extracted Blankie and chucked the pink wad at her dad's head.  He sat it next to him for safe keeping. 

Back at the ranch that night, Pigtails, barely at the age of speaking, asked, "Daddy, where's Bankie?" 

Good question. 

Blankie, back when it was a pillowcase
We checked high and low.  Hamper and playroom.  Underpants drawer and snow pants closet.  No luck.  Looked in the washer and dryer, the latter scarfs socks, you know.  We dug through the garage, in the car, under the car, the Turdley (that's what I call the cheapo off-brand Burley) and the stroller.  

Pigtails was bawling by this time, hot and red in the face.  

I ransacked the kitchen, bathroom (even the toilet), every closet and my pockets.  

Pigtails sobbed, "Oh no, Bankie got dead!"

Uh oh, I think we left Blankie at the mall.

Called the mall, they were closed.  But the mall cop said he'd issue a code 72.  Which either translates to report silky pink Blankie missing or I'm going to destroy a box of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes once I step off my Segway at break time.  Interrogated lost and found the next morning, no Blankie.

Time to break the bad news to Pigtails.  I told her Blankie had passed away and gone to heaven.

The conversation didn't go very well.

Her mom had just poofed for good, and Pigtails' one comfort that soothed had, for all we knew, gone home with mall cop Paul Blart.  

When I told her, she screamed B-L-A-N-K-I-E, NOOO!!  

I instinctively peeled the Hello Kitty case off her pillow and told her to snuggle that instead.  It was to be Pillowcase Blankie.  For some reason that made sense to a 2-year-old, Pigtails called it Suitcase Blankie.  The plan was for Suitcase Blankie to be a temporary fix until I could pick her up another, but she quickly bonded and it stuck.

Blankie is now 7 years old, or 84 in blanket years.   And disgusting.  She (Pigtails confirmed Blankie is female) is filthier than a urinal backplash in a men's restroom for the blind.  

Blankie has undergone reconstructive plastic surgery to repair a rip.  Then we knotted her in half (Blankie, not Pigtails) after the sewing repair shredded. 

what a disaster
Washing Blankie only slightly reduces the stench to nuclear gag level 8 and seems to stir up the bacteria to spawn even more aggressively. 

Pigtails will be 9 soon and shows no sign of cold shouldering the snot rag.  Don't tell her I told you that, she probably realizes she's getting a tad past prime for the thing.  And her feelings would be hurt if she knew I called her blanket a snot rag.  I'm scared to touch it, the abomination is a biohazard and likely burns on contact. 

Tell me, what does your little one bond with?  Stuffed animal, blanket, serrated knives or something else?


May 18, 2011

Vote a post (update) - blankie wins

Looks like the blankie votes fended off Cari's plea for unicorn poetry.  A ballad titled A Unicorn Named Michael will have to wait for another day.

I'll cook up some words and pics to bring you Pigtails' blanket, should be ready tomorrow or so.

Enjoy this perfect spring weather!


May 17, 2011

Follower Freebie - friendship bracelet by Pigtails, it's a draw

Time to draw for Pigtails' friendship bracelet.  Thank you to the 400 4 that signed up!

Draw the names.

Draw a name.

Drum roll.....

Congrats, Brent, on the girly bracelet win!


May 16, 2011

The Assault on Bomber Mountain - Table of Contents

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 15, onward, forward, homeward bound!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I hear Fish’s JetBoil hissing steam into 20-degree frost at 6:00 am.  I pack my junk and yell for Fish to room service the hot cocoa. 
He obliges, rings the tent doorbell and drops a topped mug and breakfast bar at my doorstep.  

We dismembered camp efficiently, ready to hightail it down the trail and motivated by homesickness.  

The return hike would be a touch over seven miles, hopefully the Pontiac rental would still be waiting for us at West Tensleep Lake.  We passed modest Lake Marion and the strikingly pretty Lake Helen.  

A quiet brook gurgled like percolating coffee.

Video of the waning hike:

Three hours in, sun scattered off West Tensleep Lake.  “We made it, boys.  Nice job!”  I
said with a grin. 

The greaseballs before tucking into the car.  Look Ma, no rabies or bloody stumps!

I called shotgun and relegated Sherpa to the backseat.  Hey, I rode back there for 921 miles on the way up, my giraffe legs twisted like yoga and knees up by my nose.   

Fish is an expert driver, he instructs students at track school in his Bimmer.  He must’ve thought he was in Germany on the Autobahn, once we hit Highway 16, we descended at a dribble-your-pants clip.  The roadsigns warned “Notice, 9% Grade” and “Slow for Curve” and "Say Your Prayers".  He treated the speed limits like low-balled suggestions.  Curves that read 40, he mowed down at 70, the wimpy tires squealing in protest.  "Yeah, we had plenty left in the bunkers on that one.   Let’s give 75 a shot on the next one,” he said in a voice of iced craziness.  I was holding on, pinching pee and enjoying it.  Sherpa was fast asleep, his head rolled to the side at each curve like a crash test dummy.

Although it took us nearly an hour to drive up the mountain, I believe we hit the bottom in precisely 4 minutes, 12 seconds. 
We made a pass through the Sports Lure in Buffalo to grab souvenirs.  I waited outside the bathroom as Sherpa took care of business.  I good hear him in there hustling around like he was wrestling Guinea pigs.  After ten minutes, I hollered “Sherpa, watchya doing in there, taking a full sponge bath in the sink?”  He turned off the faucet.  Emerged with a sneer, smelling and looking slightly better. 

I locked the door and proceeded to take a full sponge bath in the sink.  I hope the owners of the Sports Lure threw the sink away after I finished.

We headed over to Pizza Hut with armpit fumes you could taste.  Lunch buffet was $6.00, I piled my plate four times.  Pretty sure I folded at least a large pizza into my face, $12 worth.  The Hut lost money this day.

Fatigue hit me like a ton of ramen noodles the second we left Buffalo.  I yearned to nap for a couple hours or days to replenish the batteries.  Fish would have none of that.  As soon as I’d start dozing, he’d yap his hole.  After fifteen minutes of the doze, hole yap, doze cycle, I finally fired daggers at his four eyes and quipped:

“You’re not gonna let me sleep, are you?”

“Hey, I need some help staying awake,” he said, which was a reasonable request.  

“Just give me an hour" I begged, then Sherpa jumped in and said that he’d keep Fish entertained while I napped.   

There was dead silence for an hour.  

I'm pretty sure both Sherpa and I fell asleep.  For all I know, Fish was also fast asleep, steering wheel neatly centered and the car cruise controlled at 80 miles per hour.  It was probably like the movie
“European Vacation” with Chevy Chase, where the camera pans to the kids sleeping in the back of the car.  Then it shows mom up front sawing logs.  Then the camera slides over and shows driver dad drooling.   

Our plan was two days to return home.  We'd eat most of the miles today and finish her up tomorrow.  

Made a quick pass through Wall Drug for ice water and jackalope mounting.

Exiting Drug, I could hear the hamster up in Fish’s head squeaking full speed on the little wheel.  He finally asked:  “What do you guys think about pushing through and returning home tonight?  That will put us home around 3:00 am."  "Sounds good, let’s do it.”  And so it was.

The sun painted clouds as we motored through South Dakota.  Slung the Panasonic out the window for the final photo of the trip.  Fish and Sherpa were certain I'd spill it on the tarmac of Highway 90, spoiling the 375 pictures bottled inside.  Nah, I hung on tight. 

We geeked in the car for a thousand miles.  Perpetual motion, computers, engineering questions and answers, lithium battery technology, juice generation from the sun, wind and water, the merits of gas/electric hybrids vs. diesels.  And the surprising amount of damage that can be inflicted by a strategic blow to the back of the head with pita wheat bread.

We pulled into town at 3:00 am, dropping Sherpa off first, then me.  I came home to an empty
house.  Fish decided to surprise his wife and break in unannounced.  I told him what a terrible idea, he’d scare the stuffing out of her and very possibly get clubbed in the crotch by a Precious Moment. 

So there you have it, a quick recap of our hike.  Hope you are still awake.  We'll return to Bomber Mountain this summer, five years since our last trip.  We'll find the plane this time.


P.S.  I sorta miss that wretched straw hat now for some reason.

May 15, 2011

Vote a post - no hanging chads

Post ideas are swirling in the bird brain, but I'm unable to decide which one to go with this week.  So you pick for me.  

Leave a comment with your choice of one of the topics below.  I'll tally the votes this Wednesday and rat-a-tap the top pick.

A)  Pigtails' despicable blankie.  This 30 square inch wad of purpled pink bestows both security and a bacterial count higher than a black-lighted toilet at a Red Roof Inn.

B)  Interview with Pigtails.  We'll run the brat through the wringer with another set of reader-submitted questions.

C)  Beard writes a poem about unicorns.  Haiku, ballad or mirrored refrain, bring it.

Polls are open.


May 13, 2011

Twitter's a go, take cover

Launched a Twitter account tonight.  There's a good chance I'll hurt myself or others with it, I have no idea what I'm doing.  But she's free and all the other kids are doing it, so we'll give her a shot.  Added a couple buttons over on the right side of the blog if you'd like to chirp along or share posts via Twitter.

Bawk, splat.

Blogger barfed

The dog daughter spilled pickle juice barfed over the last 48 hours and randomly deleted blog posts and comments.  Maybe Friday the 13th has something to do with it.  Or Blogger is trying to help me by auto-purging contentious posts. 

At any rate, the Blogger software is behaving again and I've restored said contentious post.  Any comments left since Wednesday are swimming with the fishes.  Sorry, talk to Google.  New comments from this point on will work.

Holler if anyone wants to hammer an 18 mile training run with me in the morning.  Enjoy the weekend!


Till unhappiness do us part

The following is my opinion, ignore it if you'd like.  Or feel free to firebomb the snot out of this post with heated comments of disagreeance.  Doesn't matter much to me, attack.

An article on CNN today dives into baby boomer divorce statistics, a conversation triggered by the separation of the Terminator and Shriver.  The article steamed me a bit, especially these words:

"Women initiated two-thirds of the divorces in Montenegro's study. Baby boomer women realize how different they are from their mothers and how much longer they are going to live and that they can support themselves. They felt more free to look after their own happiness."


Marriage is obviously difficult.  Mine failed.  

I've noticed a disturbing shift from commitment being the rock that binds couples together to personal happiness being the fickle glue that lightly holds.

Pastors would be wise to tell couples in premarital counseling:  "Years of unhappiness may be part of the package.  Are you willing to endure that?"

Commitment is staying true despite being unhappy.  This is a difficult thing to do.  And the unhappiness may be the result of very real and serious problems pouring from the other person.   

He or she has an addiction to pornography, gambling, shopping or drugs.  
He's a perpetual liar, she hides secrets.
He insults and doesn't appreciate all that you do.   
She refuses to attend church, he won't pull his weight with house chores.  
He's jerk and doesn't listen.  
The list continues.  

In my marriage, I did the heavy lifting on cooking, cleaning, mowing, shoveling, bills, groceries and more.  It made me very unhappy.  Yet I at no point considered wanting out and filing for divorce.  I did not associate my level of happiness with the strength of the bond of marriage.  I was married and committed to that, regardless of how I felt.  When she was unfaithful, it was her choice to move out, implode the marriage and file for divorce. 

There are obviously situations where a spouse must leave to protect the safety and integrity of the family.  But I fear far too many couples chuck the towel after several years of sniffing the choking fumes of dullness or strife.  It is often a marriage until unhappiness do us part.  Some decide their own personal happiness is more important than keeping the family knitted together, and they'll do what it takes to restore their joy.  

If divorce deflates stress and makes a person happy, then it must be right.  Right?  That seems to be a common theme, but likely not what God intended.

Dr. James Dobson ran a study on divorced couples to see if there was a pattern to the breakups.  The interesting twist was the interviews were with the cheating spouses.  The study wanted to dig into why they were unfaithful.  Of all the reasons you commonly hear for divorce, including financial battles, addictions, limp bedroom calisthenics and not scraping underpants off the floor, most of these were not at the root of the split.    

Care to guess what the top pick was?  The reason is the same for both men and women.

The answer: listening, attention and compliments from a friend.  Nearly every affair begins by a friend listening as the other confides.  And simple compliments and attention piled on top are often enough to get things blooming.  Pretty benign.  So subtle, in fact, that many aren't aware when a fatal bond has started to take root.

I believe every couple should put up a hedge of protection around their marriage.  Be friendly, but also careful not to confide closely with a friend on the other side of the gender fence.  There are many conversations that should only be shared with a spouse. 

Sadly, I'm burned to the point where marriage frightens me.  I pray that I'll somehow push through, but after 7 years of separation and 3 years of divorce, my heart is still stone.  

The beam of hope is marriage between a bride and groom mirrors the relationship between the Church and Christ.  That is significant, and tells me what great potential it has.


May 10, 2011

Fridge Feud

Over the weekend, I slapped cash for a fridge from a company that rhymes with American.  High time to swap the double decade white dino' with some s-steel.  

Fisher & Paykel (NZ) is the only brand that fits the bill of being both counter depth and slim enough to fold in cozy next to the dishwasher.  I'll take a smaller fridge that tucks stealth-like than a behemoth that juts and chews space.  Part of the point of the kitchen rebuild is to increase counter acreage and open things up a bit.  Smaller cabinets, appliances and table will do the trick.  

Bigger is not always better. 

Salesman Troy quotes me a price on the icebox and says the store has a deal going on where I'll mail in a copy of the receipt and receive a $200 rebate by snail.  I'm happy, sling him 30% to shut him up and get the special order triggered.  Life is good. 

Next day, phone rings.  It's Troy.  Ruh roh. 

"Hi Beard, yeah, the manager tells me the $200 rebate doesn't apply to your refrigerator.  That brand is price locked so we can't negotiate.  It was my mistake, I am sorry."

I inhale deeply as if preparing to birth a couple babies.  I say, "I understand it was a mistake, but let's try and make this right.  I like the fridge, how about you eat the $200 and we call it a day."

He returned, "No, we can't do that.  But we can give you free delivery."

I take a few more big puffs and inflate cheeks as if initiating the launch sequence of a massive toilet chili bomb. 

"Free delivery is a joke, I was already planning to handle that.  It's your mistake, not mine, therefore I shouldn't be the one sucking $200.  If I presented this scenario to ten people, they'd all agree with me.  So would the Better Business Bureau."

He became quiet.

After a heavy pause, "Well, you can talk to my manager, but he'll probably not be able to budge on the price.  He'll call you back soon."

After he hung up, I thought I was pretty much toast.  Didn't actually have anything in writing about the $200 rebate since I'd ordered it over the phone (dumb mistake on my part).  Caveat emptor.

Phone toned..."This is Troy.  We normally don't do this, but we are going to take off $200.  Sorry about that."

I grinned.  Sometimes it pays to be firm and keep your finger on the rocket launcher.

<-- Oh yeah, here's a snippet of the kitchen, we are getting there.  Leaning heavily on child labor, so it takes longer.  You'll have to wait for the full rebuild blog breakdown coming in a few weeks to see the rest. 


May 8, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 14, Moses and the serpent

12 points if you weed out Fish
No tarrying at the base of Bomber Mountain.  Quads were jelly and we were anxious to kick back at Mistymoon Lake and lance blisters on our pickled feet.  

A half-mile down the trail, heads bobbed above the horizon.  It was the first glimpse of intelligent life in three days.  Two young men, let's call them Moses and Larry.  They had an interesting array of mountain garb.  While the three of us were layered in synthetic threads that slough UV rays, water, and marmot scat, these two Mennonitish gentlemen were wearing Wranglers and Fruit-of-the-Loom white cotton tees.  Moses had a thick Carhartt winter jacket wrapping the Wranglers, Larry was sloshing a one-gallon milk jug of water.  His drink was on fumes, maybe 20 ounces of water left.  Moses was saddled with a twelve-pound flannel cotton sleeping sack and a small pack we hoped housed a tent and maybe a special button that summoned rescue dogs.

Fish asked where they were headed.  

“Cloud Peak."

“Uh, Cloud Peak is thatta way a few miles, you can’t see it from here,” Fish pointed in the opposite direction they were hiking.  

“Well, how far is Lake Florence,” Moses asked?  

“A half mile behind us, but Florence is at the base of Bomber, not Cloud.  You should have wound your way around Mistymoon Lake and headed northwest to meet up with Cloud,” Fish clarified.  

We learned these Mennonite/cowboy/serial killer/random human beings started at West Tensleep Lake, putting their odometer at 10 miles and counting.  It was already 2:00 pm, experts recommend summiting no later than noon to avoid storms.  

They were obviously lost.  

They intended to summit Cloud Peak, then return back to West Tensleep Lake the same day, a round trip of 24 miles.  Although we were initially discouraged about our missteps on Bomber, we suddenly felt like professional mountaineers after crossing these two fellows.  

One more thing...Moses was wielding a Moses-style shepherd’s staff, you know, the same one used to part the Red Sea when the Israelites fled Pharaoh and his hoofing iron-chariot Egyptian army.  Not sure what that was all about, as a shepherd’s staff was surprisingly not in any of the backpacker magazine buyer’s guides I'd studied before the trip.  I really wanted to snap a picture of Larry and Moses for this story, but wasn’t able to discreetly.  
We hiked home to Mistymoon Lake, crossing the tape at 2:40 pm.  Eight miles in seven hours.  My two friends collapsed in their tent.  Before Fish retired, he mumbled:  “Let’s call the assault on Bomber Mountain a draw.  Our climb today was probably at least as bad as giving birth.  It hurts like hell, but in the end, it’s worth it.”  

I was wound up from the hike, so walked over to the Moon and pumped three gallons of green water.  

Napped for an hour, then chatted with Fish.  He saw Larry and Moses heading around Mistymoon Lake and back towards Lake Helen.  We assumed they gave up on Cloud Peak and were returning to West Tensleep Lake.  Hope they made it okay.

As dusk spun the sun orange, we dug into the deeper topics of life.  The Christian, Agnostic and Hindu debated the theory of evolution, creation and the order of the universe, especially our solar system.  I tried my best to convince them our solar system is so orderly and controlled that there must be a higher being, God, that architected it.  There's too much going on there to chalk it up as happenstance.  

We asked about how old we believe the earth is.  Facts about planets, stars and moons.  The puzzle that Pluto has been reclassified as a minor planet.  How the Earth’s magnetic force-field is generated and without it, we’d fry like jalapeno poppers from the sun’s radiation.  Politics, separation of church and state, abortion and capital punishment.  You name it, we covered it.  Nothing was off limits.  It was an interesting, animated conversation.  Nobody got punched.  

The naive nincompoops (kidding) agreed to disagree with me on nearly every topic.  

Fish stared at the mountain topo map with disgust.  “Hey, they shortchanged us.  The maps marks Bomber with a max elevation of 12,400 feet.  But if you count the altitude indicators, it’s actually 12,800 feet where we stood.”  This bothered him a bunch, he rambled on for 20 minutes.  To me, it was just a number; we made it to the top whether it was 12,400 or 12,800.  But Fish made a valid point, the map was marked incorrectly.
Our night banquet served rice and noodles for Sherpa, freeze-dried lasagna for Fish and me, with a side of insta' tates.  The lasagna package was labeled in large letters "WITH MEAT!".  What in world does that mean?  With those quote marks, I was  curious what type of meat it really was.  Perhaps skunk tail, frog legs or goat tongue?  Maybe platypus liver?
Our final pow-wow in Fish's tent was bittersweet.  Bitter since this would be out last camp on the mountain, sweet that we'd soon be heading home.  Also bitter for Sherpa due to the two rubber snakes waiting for him in his sleeping bag.

While discussing tomorrow's return hike to the car at West Tensleep Lake, Sherpa fidgeted, then extracted the snake.  

“What the…?!”  

Fish and I snickered.  He smiled and tried to figure out which one of us was was guilty.  We asked him why he didn't jump, he explained "I took my son Rohan to the zoo before the trip.  Saw a python there, and conditioned myself to look at it without being frightened.”  

Fish and I guffawed.  

Had a mental picture of Sherpa at the zoo with his family, having a staring contest with the serpent's black beady eyes.  It must’ve worked, as he's mostly cured of his snakeophobia.  
Our favorite conversation that final night revolved around food.  Real food, you know, absolutely anything but ramen, Nutter Butters and Crystal Light toilet water.  We agreed that pounds of pizza would be folded and forced down our pie holes the next day.  I could smell it already.  

May 5, 2011


The runts at Pigtails' school became dogs for a day in a play titled:  ARF!  A Canine Musical of Kindness, Courage and Calamity. 

The script casts Chi Chi Chihuahua to the smallest kid in class, so Pigtails donned sombrero and brown to bark out lines in front of the lights. 

I like to keep things simple (translation: I'm lazy), so decided no paint except for a black nose dot.  She bawled when she saw the sniffer,  "I look like one of those spotted fire dogs instead of a chicky-wa!!"

I postulated dalmatians are coated with 12,746,023 spots, not just one their nose.  She grinned and was happy again.

I fidget like I've got a central nervous system problem when there's more than two people in a room, let alone recite lines red faced in front of 400 stares.   Luckily, the twitchy public speaking DNA bypassed Pigtails, she doesn't blink before throngs (whoops, almost typoed the word as "thongs") of crowds.  Wish I was as brave as an eight year old girl.  

The play delivered a good message:  some dogs are little, bite ankles and poop in your yard.  Others are big Bernards that rescue, let old ladies ride on their backs and make sandwiches for you.  In the end, the breed is not important.  What counts is appreciating the gifts we each have and watering talent so we can share with others.  

Although I'd probably prefer a St. Bernard pulling me out of the snow over a 6.5 pound Chihuahua.

front, right of center
One minute clip:



May 2, 2011

Colossal kitchen catastrophe and a delicate dress of pearls

My blog pen will be slightly dry in the coming weeks, getting spanked by the typical single dad duties. Playing the role of mom and dad with a big side of projects on the plate.

Hurl Pigtails to bed at 8:00 pm, then lean on the kitchen till midnight.  A skilled carpenter is doing most of the work, but I'm painting, assembling cabinets and doing other piddly tasks.  Alarm klaxons at 5:40 am, work all day, scoop her from school, help with homework, figure out how to eat with no working kitchen, kick soccer practice, read and sling her to bed at 8:00.  Then bang on the kitchen until midnight as crickets scratch their legs.  Repeat.

By the way, check out the before/after on the reboot below.  It has a rugged, natural feel to it.  Do you like it?


Pigtails' First Communion was this weekend, a celebration she's been preparing for at home and school for months.  It's a time to more fully come into union with the Catholic Church. 

Layers of white lace and pearls with eyes twinkling, she joined her second grade class for a fetching spring afternoon.  My goal was to see how many things we could do in a white dress that you are not supposed to do in a white dress.  Like getting rowdy by the rhododendrons.  Drinking a drippy stain-spewin' strawberry slushie.  Rolling down a grassed berm.  Swinging from trees like a dress wearing chimp.

We like to have fun, I bet she'll never forget her special day.  The photos below tell the rest of the story.