New Year…New Resolve

Warning: The following is decidedly political, which is not my norm for this site. But then, it’s my site–so, there…Besides, the opinions written here are not just opinions, but actually pretty well researched and linked. Read the links, I ask you, even more closely than you do my writing–for in them you will see the point…

The end of 2006 presents numerous opportunities for reflection, as does the end of any year. On a personal level, another year has passed and for me, as for all of us, there have been profound changes. My daughter’s growth into a fine 5-year old kindergartner is the most important in my life–but there are so many other things as well. Sue and I bought a new house and moved in over the summer. It has, in many ways, become our dream-home which is something we never really considered before this. The very fact that we have been able to do this is a kind of blessing–not on par with raising a daughter, but then again, the house purchase would never have come to pass without her.

On a world scale, I am left with hope and discouragement. I’m discouraged at the direction of Western civilization and its seeming inability to call an enemy the enemy. I fear the American public’s fecklessness has led to more of a disaster in Iraq than any planning or lack of planning done by the President and his administration. I’m discouraged by the willingness to adopt a “Vietnam–quagmire” mentality instead of saying–we’re in a war, there have been mistakes and we need to learn from them. We also need to win. I heard secondhand that Tammy Bruce sat in for Laura Ingraham and made an interesting comparison about a new front in the war. She said that the Al-Qaeda types were run out of Somalia by the Ethiopians because the Ethiopians didn’t stop to consider what it would look like to kill the enemy. They went in–and did it. If a country is going to war–then it should go to war–not stop to consider what those who disagree with the war might think…Ethiopia succeeded where we are not. They beat the pants off their enemy. We’re not doing that because we’re afraid of what some people might think.

When Ethiopia invaded Somalia last week, it was because Somalia had been over-run by Islamists–the Islamic Courts to be precise. Ethiopia reasoned pretty quickly that they didn’t need Al-Qaeda as a neighbor and so they attacked. There were no journalists–no media present and if there had been, the Ethiopian military would not have allowed their “unbiased reportage.” Instead, Ethiopia went in and kicked some major ass. By the time the Ethiopians got to Mogadishu, the Islamists had fled. FLED! They were afraid of Ethiopia’s military, but they are not afraid of the US. Why? Because the US elected Democrats and Democrats since 2001 have basically said that 9/11 is the fault of the US. That’s discouraging. It’s even more discouraging when I realize that there are people who really, honestly believe that America is the problem.

But I have hope. I have hope because there are wise people who write things we really should pay attention to. Mark Steyn’s wonderful book, America Alone, is a must read. I warn you, though–it radically changed what I believe. I now agree with Salman Rushdie: Islam is the problem. There are too many ways to see this. I fell for the old historian’s line here as well: You know, the one where you are told that historically, Islam has been a very tolerant religion? Well, not so much. In fact their tolerance comes from a tax called the jizya which Muslims of a milennia ago excised from “Dhimmies,” or non-Muslims. That tax, it turns out, was how Islam grew. For Islam itself really didn’t do much in the world, never earned money or produced its own empire. Its empire grew because of the jizya, which paid for everything. In fact, for a while–smart Muslims disallowed conversion to Islam, because once you converted, you no longer had to pay the tax. The Islamists could not have that, they needed revenue. So–no conversions, please.

I could go on, but the point is there–and real for anyone wanting to learn it. Ambrose Bierce wrote of war in his Devil’s Dictionary, “let us have a little less of this hands-across-the-sea…” or something like that. I quite agree.

Give peace a chance? Well–yeah, OK. As long as that peace comes from a tolerant, powerful, western civilization that, in the end, believes its ideas, while perhaps flawed as they are human, provide the very best example of how to live–free and powerful.

So, the hope for 2007 is just that, then. The need is for us to see that, as we saw in WWII, the enemy is the problem. The dependence on Saudi Arabia, for our time, is the problem. My hope is we will learn that lesson, produce children who learn that lesson and who learn that tolerance is not a synonym for appeasement and enemies can be real–and must be stopped.

Whew! Small resolutions, eh? It’s been on my mind is all. I’ve been reminded lately of how important it is to believe in one’s self and one’s country. We’ve spent so many years in America extolling the virtues of everyone else’s culture, we stopped lauding our own. By raising our children with our values, we must again make them our values. We do have them, I know–but we’re forgetting them and losing them to make room for everyone else’s. The problem is that if we make room for the values of Islam, soon Islam will kill ours. Make no mistake, there is no more tolerance there–and it’s not because we’re in Saudi Arabia–or Araby at all–that we were attacked. We were attacked because we’re not Muslim–and we’re strong.

Let’s not get weaker.

Finding Hope

The back is mending, albeit not mended. I drove down to Burbank Bob Hope Airport today to pick up the big brother and that might not have been the wisest choice. However, I felt I could do it. Walking is a little easier, but I am still mega-sore..and if I walk in the wrong way, take a certain step or turn just the wrong way, the muscles let me know not to go there. Actually, they rip each other apart and force me back into position by applying the equivalent of a red-hot poker into my spine.

So, I decided to take a page from big brother Doug’s book…he’s something of a fitness fanatic, at least in fits and starts, and so I sort of alternated ice and a heat pad and I stretched out my legs–did some leg pulls and rolled around on the floor a bit. Anyway, the dog was amused by it. It was enough, however, to get me up and out the door. It took me about 8 minutes to put shoes and socks on and there was much grunting involved with it. My daughter kept staring at me like I was the strangest being alive. Anyway, hitched up Scoop the wonderdog and away we went for about a mile of flatland walking. No exertion, no hard climbs like we normally enjoy. For Scoop, it was quite the treat. He stopped and sniffed and peed and sniffed some more. For me, it felt therapeutic, but returning home felt like I was returning from battle–bruised and beaten.

So now—Sue caught Peanut’s cold and though they are both on the mend, I put them both to bed tonight around 8:00. With the recent change in routine, Peanut likes to have one of us lie down with her while she goes to sleep. Generally, this takes 10 minutes–and then we’re up and out to our own bed. Tonight, Sue put in a soft green quilt and pillow and she looked like she might just be setting up camp in there. She’s tired–and doesn’t want to have to get up. It’s rather cute, actually.

So–the weekend arrives yet again and it’s welcome. In a rare very personal confession, I document here that this particular Christmas was not my favorite. Peanut’s having such a bad fever and flu on Christmas eve and day, the post vacation inability to get her back on a solid routine, the back going out….it’s a little “feel sorry for myself-ish” I know. But this year lacked any kind of real traditional quality. I really believe in tradition, quite apart from there being any justification for it, I want my family to have those traditions and in the past, we’ve had a few. But this year, it was hard to do any of that. Christmas eve service, Peanut was still feverish, so church was right out–and that’s an important part of our tradition. This year, I went by myself because I was lay reader Christmas eve, but the family wasn’t with me.

Well–there is next year. And still, the Christmas spirit pervades.

Backing out…

The event of climbing on to the bed should have presented no obstacle, really. There should not have been any reason to think about the act, come to think of it. I am man. I want remote. I go and get remote. This is what men do–it is a time honored tradition. Before remotes, it was the man that got up to change the channel. Of course, this made men thinner as they actually had to do exercise beyond thumb sprints, but nevermind. The remote is here–the remote is good.

So, last night, I crawled onto our spacious California King to retrieve said remote and it was there that I felt a small, minute twinge. It wasn’t much–but when I stood up, I was aware of something more. The back–she was thrown out. Out! Now, I’ve been through this before and generally, it’s a day or a night–maybe two–of pain. Sometimes the pain can be extreme, but with care, it slowly subsides.

Well….

I finished watching a little tube–and went to bed. As I went to mount the stairs, though–the twinge was far worse and it took me more than a minute to get to the top. “Something’s wrong…” I said with uncanny detection. But, bedtime is bedtime–off I went. But it didn’t last. Eventually, I found myself awakened by the extraordinary ripping of electric pain through my lower back right down through my hips when I went to roll over. When I found I had to get up to…well, you know—I found it nearly impossible. I got nauseated from the pain….

Today? Well, I took a flexeril this morning and slept literally all morning–well into the afternoon. I did some small stretches and alternated heat and cold packs.

I still hurt–and I have not left the house yet again today. I’m on the heating pad right now–a little ibuprofen….and I’m ready for bed. We’ll see what tomorrow brings…

Quietly…

I never left the house today. I drank no wine, I did have a beer, but I cleaned the house and watched Peanut and her friends as they played and I made them lunch. I watched T.V., surfed the net, petted the dog, cleaned out the mini-van and generally did little of anything serious. And I loved it.

So, nothing much to write tonight. I took a picture with my cell phone, which should simply not be a camera because it sucks as one, but you can get the jist of what’s here. It’s Aunt Laurie, Peanut, Scoop and Lucy–the latter two being the family mutts. Well, Lucy belongs to Aunt Laurie, but it’s all one. Anyway–film review tomorrow….Casino Royale.

On the day after Christmas, my true love gave to me…

Well, Peanut got pretty sick and by Christmas morning she had a 102 degree temperature. She was pretty miserable and it explains why she wasn’t up chomping at the proverbial bit on Christmas morning. I ended up waking her up. Oy.

It’s been a great holiday with my brother showing up on Christmas eve around 10:30 at night and then spending all Christmas day with us. Really very close-to-home, nice and warm. Had Peanut been well, it would have been perfect.

Today, Peanut and I utilized her new toys and she beat the pants off me at air hockey. Never seen anything like it. I actually sat through the second time, attempting to beat her–I worked at it. And didn’t do it. She’s good. She’s really good–and as a dad, I don’t care who you are or whether you have a man-child or girl-child, air hockey prowess is a source of pride.

Then we gave into the girl-child genes and fired up the easy bake oven, opting for the cookie mix rather than cake. Good times. Sugar cookies nice and gooey when they came out of the oven, and we made them into heart shapes with the plastic cookie thingy and then saved some for mom.

One more round of air hockey (I lost again…) and, humiliated, wiser–I went for a nap. Today was actually a little better than yesterday, at least for her—Christmas day she was pretty sick. Fever was way down today and she feels better, if not quite 100% yet.

I have little else to add, though there is much happening. I must refer you to articles that, I sheepishly admit, are not happy. But they are important and rather than waste your time with the silliness of Al Gore and his eco-worrier in chief mode (the fact that anyone gives that man credibility gives me the shivers), there are some things to be concerned about. CO2 levels are not among them.

Light Posting

Christmas eve and all is….not quite well. 5:00 A.M. wake-up call from a barfing child. Something didn’t sit right, or she has a virus or something. A little puking, a little headache, a lot of tired….she’ll be home from church this morning and hopefully by this evening, be well enough to attend the evening services.

Since it is Christmas eve–I phlog the following family photos:


Peanut and her cousins at grandma’s house with her new playdough.


Yep…that’s city hall at Disneyland on Dec. 5th during the Christmas parade.

Sunday, December 24, 2006
The Nativity of Our Lord: Christmas Eve

Isaiah 9:2–7

Originally, this poem was written to celebrate either the birth or the coronation of a new Davidic king. After the fall of Jerusalem, this poem came to be viewed as an expression of the hope that eventually God would raise up a new ruler who would possess the qualities described in the text.

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.
3 You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
4 For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Like I said, light posting. Merry, Merry Christmas one and all…

Home again….

Home in time for dinner from vacation. Let me say this unwaveringly–Southwest Airlines is truly a great company and they have my business. Yes, it’s true–we were an hour late in arriving to Phoenix—things happen and flying isn’t always a lot of fun. But as I have said previously, these guys know that–and they don’t pretend…

In any event, on Dec. 22nd–a Friday before Christmas, one of the busier travel days of the year, we got to the car rental facility at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport just before 1:00 P.M. We were on the shuttle bus and at the terminal less than 10 minutes later. Checked our baggage in about 5 minutes or less and went upstairs to the concourse for lunch. There’s a Chili’s right there so, we sat down, ate food and drank margaritas….well, Sue and I did. Then, through security–which was thorough and a long line that lasted about 20 minutes. No big deal. I rather like that they’re thorough. Down to the gate and sat for maybe another 10 minutes. I barely had time to turn on the laptop and fire off an e-mail to my brother before they called for us to board. Our plane had arrived on-time from Chicago and we boarded on-time at 3:00 P.M. Out the gate about 5 minutes late (we had a long pre-boarding process) and up into the air. Bumpy over California, but not bad–and on the ground at Burbank airport and at the gate less than an hour and 15 minutes later. Woo Hoo!

OK, so where was the downside? Sleeping. Peanut once again refused bed. She was so beyond tired, and her schedule so completely out of whack, she simply could not manage. Finally, after nearly 2 hours of “fighting” with her to get her to go to bed….I simply picked her help, held her and stayed in her room with her while she fell asleep. It took all of about 5 minutes for that to happpen. She slept 9 hours. Poor thing–she really is a creature of habit, comes by it honestly, and when the routine is upset–she simply doesn’t know what to do…

She is a work in progress, after all.

Christmas eve-eve as we used to call it. We have a small dinner party this evening that we are hosting and our guests will be here in two hours. This means that my sitting here writing this is getting exponentially less popular as the minutes tick by. So….

The Web of Family

Sigh…
Vacation ending. A sad time, really–but also a time to reflect on a few days of fun and frivolity–marked most importantly tonight again by….silence. Peanut invited herself back over to her grandma’s house and grandma has a full house tonight with Peanut and her two cousins, all staying the night…She likes it there better than the hotel and this is partly because she basically sleeps in grandma’s bed with grandma….what better, safer, more comfortable place could she find? She knows we won’t let her sleep in the same bed with us. This is simply a rule we’ve put in place from the time she got out of infancy and we have not deviated, so we’re not going to start now. However, grandma is another story….

A real family gathering including food that we shared when my brother Jerry and I were little. Back then, my grandma used to make pot pie. Now, this isn’t what most of you are thinking. This is the Amish version (I was born in Ohio and on my mom’s side, there’s a lot of Dutch floating around. Grandma used to yell at us in Dutch, even). It’s essentially all the basic ingredients, carrots, potatoes, pork, broth–but instead of being in a crust, the carb portion of the dish is essentially a kind of noodle. It’s dough that is boiled in the broth and the consistency is like that of single ravioli’s. My but the very dish itself brings back memories.

Well…

Tonight, sitting at grandma’s house, we sat and talked, drank New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and ate pot pie. It was a real treat and Peanut, not prone to being a solid eater, cleaned her bowl. She loved it. I felt such a powerful connection to family and traditions–and that is, after all, what Christmas is all about.

Earlier in the day, we took my brother’s wife, April and my nephews Eric and Gabriel along with Sue, Peanut and me to see Charlotte’s Web. What a wonderful film and the kids thought it amazing the way the pig and the other animals could talk. It was pretty faithful to the old animated one from the 70’s, but there were some deviations. There was no young Gosling (Geoffrey) for Wilbur to play with–and there was almost a kind of 21st century feel to the story. It wasn’t quite set in the “way back when” of the animated version. Still, I think it was closer to the book than was that one and once again little Dakota Fanning–who seems to stay perpetually young—stole the show. She’s really quite a good little actress.

Then, it was off to the Zoolights at the Phoenix Zoo which was….well, it wasn’t a waste–but it was sort of O.K. We walked around the zoo and they put lights on pretty well everything that didn’t move–and some things that did. The best part was a row of trees lit from trunk to top with varied and sundry colors and decor and they sort of flashed and danced to the music which was, of course, of the Christmas variety. All that for $7.00 a person and the fact is, it was more crowded than Disneyland on a busy day. The revenue must have been astounding.

Anyway, an interesting and fun week. Tomorrow, it’s off like sheep to Sky Harbor International to catch our Southwest 737 back to Burbank. Southwest has a pretty good on-time record, but we were an hour late in getting here and tomorrow being the busiest travel day of the Christmas season…well, let’s just say we’re not counting our chickens.

So, gentles–off home the next post being from home. For now, thanks for reading this week and so long from the desert southwest.

Scottsdale, AZ

Shhh…..we’re being quiet because we’re neurotic parents waiting for the phone to ring. Peanut went off to sleep at grandma’s house! No, we cannot believe it either but there it is. She’s there and we’re here and we’re simply enjoying the time together on vacation. Profoundly, of course–determinedly–we simply don’t want the phone to ring. And, it may well not. Peanut is sleeping on the floor, on a bed of beautiful old quilts that are soft and delightful–next to grandma’s bed. She’s not alone, which she likes, and she likes grandma’s house a good deal.

So–you’re expecting me to write? Yeah….right.