Rolling Away the Stone

The post Christmas blues have settled in like a kidney stone. Actually, the kidney stone has set in like the post Christmas blues. Not sure it has passed yet–but the very fact that I’m saying that means it probably hasn’t.

It’s a weekend of pain in the Storer household. Sue had oral surgery today. Well, we paid an oral surgeon to work on her. He gave her a sharp needle to the roof of her mouth, a feeling she likened to….well….having a sharp needle driven into the roof of your mouth….and yanked out a badly infected dead tooth, a root canal gone awry. She’s uncomfortable, but OK. She’s asleep on the couch next to Simon who has curled up at her side, guard-dog like, protecting her. After the fact, yes–but still. He has a job to do and he won’t be ignored. I took a picture, but my wife threatened me with her “look” suggesting that if I publish it, she’ll no longer be my wife. Or rather, I’ll no longer be welcome in the house.

Shannon’s OK, though. She’s over at a friend’s house. The new cell phone for Christmas has provided her a sense of liberty and independence that she has not known before. She texted me earlier letting me know what time I should fetch her. “In that and in all things will we show our duty…”

Ate some frozen pizza for dinner. It’s doing what frozen pizza does–sitting like a rock, so I am fighting back. I ate a pear and then, for desert, Sue’s homemade figgy pudding. Good show, that. Dates, figs, low fat–really tasty–that should help things along, as they say. Poor Sue was relegated to mashed potatoes,  cup of pudding and some water. She’s not going to be eating much solid food for a couple of days. It’s another reason why Simon is lying next to her. He’s mad at me because he got no pizza. So, he’s rebelling and loving on his mama while turning a cold shoulder to his stingy dad.

The end of 2012 and that would be just fine if I thought 2013 was going to be a lot better, but I don’t think it is. At least not on the macro scale–I don’t hold out much hope for the economy and I think both the R’s and the D’s are so hopelessly feckless and bought and paid for at this point that any hope of doing something, you know, useful, is over. On a personal level though, 2013 has some wonderful things in store.

For starters, Shannon will be 12. I cannot believe this and really, I don’t want to. I’ve told her so. She rolls her eyes. I’ll be 48 and that too is hard to believe. If it weren’t for this damn kidney stone thing, I’d say that I don’t feel like I’m going to be 48. Unfortunately, with it, I feel like I’m going to be 58. I just want to go to bed, to be quite frank.


New Year’s weekend is upon us. Another week off from school and a few assignments from the paper. I’ll be house-bound this weekend taking care of Sue, cooking for the fam and walking the dog. I have a great need to do just that. Nothing big. It’s time to do the Holiday hunker down yet again.



The Meaning of the Season

Christmas 2012 was one of the best ever. BEST. EVER. Dad and Joanne were here and Shannon is just still at the age where believing is important, even if inside, one knows that Santa is more spirit than jolly red-suited guy. She hardly slept and it showed as after a sumptuous prime-rib dinner with all the trimmings, figgy pudding, etc.–and a walk down to see the Christmas lights of Gemini Street–we all sunk into couches and watched movies, while slowly falling asleep. Even Simon, who sleeps in Shannon’s room, kept awake by a squirrely little girl, tucked up next to me on the couch and snoozed away.

I continue to “pass” a kidney stone, but I am grateful that so far (knock wood), I have needed no hospital visit to pump me full of drugs. I confess that it doesn’t feel so good, but I’m OK…so far. If you’d like to pray for a quick end to the problem, I’d appreciate your askance.

Got back to a little bit of working today–did some interviews and set up a couple of appointments for tomorrow. It’s not an overly busy schedule, but it’s a good one for this week and as long as I have to battle this stupid stone, it’s probably best that I’m not overly busy anyway.

So, trying not to climb back into fiscal cliffs and higher taxes, government ineptitude, sadness and grief, tragedy and pain. Hard to avoid it, but to be quite frank, Jesus means those things can change-they don’t mean as much as they would without Him. And so…as Tiny Tim observed:

God Bless us, everyone…



Merry Christmas

The grief that has consumed the past two weeks has turned to love and memory. And on this glorious Christmas Eve, God reminds us that His light shines in the world still–and gives comfort to those of us who mourn for those who have gone before.

I am unfortunately suffering from a kidney infection or kidney stone–or perhaps, both. Luckily, my doc had an appt. today, Christmas Eve. I got anti-biotics and remanded to drink fluids. Lots of them. This too shall pass, we hope.

My prayers are with you all, with my friends who celebrate–and who grieve–this night. The light of Christ’s hope is in us all–we just have to allow it to burn bright.




Eventually, we will want them to be angels. For now, they are ghosts. The past week is a tragedy. It could be no worse if it were written of in songs of old, about wars and massacres, about evil and fulfilling destinies of hatred and putrid ill-will.

It was a list that reads like the holy manuscript of some sacred time. Michael gone. Then Portland, Oregon happened. Then the massacre of innocents in Connecticut and then Eddie.

We have known Eddie since we joined New Hope Lutheran Church in 1993. Afflicted with cerebral palsy, Eddie was confined to a wheel chair. An affable man, an agile and quick mind–all trapped in a broken body with no ability to communicate effectively or efficiently, Eddie relied on the kindness of others to come to church–and he relied on friends at the cerebral palsy home where he lived. He died early this morning–as our Pastor said, he finally made it home. Eddie said that he knew what he wanted–to run again. He wanted to run on the fields of heaven and now, he is. His is the only death this week that I can vaguely understand.

I am haunted by evil this week–and by senselessness. My faith is shaken. My hope is dimmed and my head is haunted. Connecticut is the one I’ll never get around. It’s the one that makes place names before it like Paducah, Jonesboro and Columbine, sound again with the jangled and discordant bells of memory of those lost, victims of such unspeakable evil that all of us are diminished by it–all of us are left impotent, weakened and removed from ourselves.

We want angels, then. Quickly. We want comfort and solace, sense and organization. We want to call into question a policy, an idea or a person and we think that by doing so, we’ll prevent it from happening again. We console ourselves with the thought that maybe if the smart ones, the intelligent ones simply pass enough laws, forbid a few things, control a few behaviors, we’ll somehow be safer and make the world better for our children. We are victims of our own ghosts, of repeating our past as it comes back to haunt us whenever we’ve forgotten how to be creative.

But it is all hubris. It is all vanity and an illusion that, as Arthur Miller wrote, “will not blind God, nor keep my children out of the wind.”

We want angels. We need heavenly creatures who will surround our mourners with love and comfort. We want grief to be fragile and passing-and we want strength and solidarity to become our mantra. We need to hear that somewhere, somehow, there is something we can do to stop the pain and tell the new angels that they may go, seek the favor of God and learn His everlasting peace.

Instead, we are left with the haunting of a senseless tragedy, of the blood of innocents. There isn’t even a person left to blame–he’s gone, dead by his own hand.

I lost friends this week. The world lost beautiful people this week, angels who made the world a better place by their very presence in our lives.

One day, they will be angels again and show us the meaning of grace. For now, though-they are just ghosts.

And I am haunted.

Michael Lavenant

I took an immediate liking to Michael Lavenant when first I met him some years ago. Our children, his two daughters and young son and our daughter go to the same school and Sue and Michael’s wife Dana served together in the PTO. The kids have done gymnastics together and we’ve been to the Lavenant’s Fourth of July party among other things.

In the past few years as my journalism career has taken off, Michael has been a source on any number of stories. A local attorney, he served on the board for the local Chamber of Commerce and on the Camarillo Ranch House board and volunteered for everyone with a cause. Active with his kids in A.Y.S.O, present at kids’ performances and a champion of any number of charities and causes, Michael simply is one of those indispensable men in a community. He was also a friend.

Yesterday, December 12, Michael went to a boot camp workout that he’d been doing here in town. Apparently, he complained that he was exhausted while he was working out. When he got home, he told Dana that he needed to rest and she went off to play tennis while he went to lie down. By the time Dana got home, Michael had passed away. He was 42 years old.

The coroner’s office said he died of a heart attack. I suppose there’s more to it than that, but it’s hardly the point. Michael was a man I admired. The community, indeed the world, is a poorer place without him and I will miss seeing that great smile of his and talking to him.

Rest in peace, Michael. We love you.


OK, so I blogged about wine…

Just back from a lovely trip north to San Simeon. We went with friends Randy and Janel and spent the weekend in a kind of wine and food hedonism. Just adults–took a break from parenting duties and stayed at the Morgan there on the beach a stone’s throw from William Randolph Hearst’s monument to himself.

I’m not inclined to write much about the wine, as much as I enjoyed it. For whatever reason, I don’t seem to want to blog much about wine in any real informative way anymore. I mean, Chateau Margene made some extraordinary wine-particularly the Grenache, which was heavenly and out of this world. But it was also $56 a bottle. And I understand why they charge that and I even bought a bottle of it. I don’t begrudge them that fee–but I’m also fully aware that it’s way out of my price range–and most people’s price range. Most of us don’t have $56 to spend on one bottle of wine. But frankly, they hand pick the clusters from the vineyard, then hand de-stem them. The grapes are processed in such a way that they go through two sorting tables, stems pulled by hand, crushed gently and then allowed an astonishing 40 months in barrel. That’s not standard for every wine, but it is for some of them. These folks are serious–and the wine is great. It’s phenomenal and they work hard to produce this wine and I will drink the bottle I bought on Christmas day with my family and be proud.

But it’s $56 a bottle. And I can’t buy more than one or two of those a year. If I’m lucky.

The folks there are very nice, too. It’s a beautiful tasting room and I recommend it strongly to anyone who heads to Paso Robles to taste wine. We went there right after we went to Opolo Winery. It was fun to go there as it’s owned and run by my friends Dave Nichols and Rick Quinn. Opolo made a name for themselves with their Mountain Zinfandel, a reasonably priced but luscious, juicy and serious Zin that comes in at 16.1 percent alcohol. Yet for all that booze, it’s balanced, food friendly and not hot. It’s an enjoyable drink. Everything we had at Opolo was good. We bought the Roussanne, a Rhone white which with Opolo does yeoman’s work. Quite simply-it rocks. Along with their blends, their syrah and all the other goodies–we sat on the patio and dined on a sausage platter with four different kinds of sausage as well as oven-fired goat cheese, fig and arugula pizza. Grand, I tell you.

Tablas Creek and their Rhone blends, Eberle’s Cabernet and this morning, a totally unexpected and surprise purchase of wines at Hearst Winery. Yes, that Hearst. Every wine was delicious and we were enamored. That was before we munched on Hearst beef and pastrami sandwiches.

Homeward bound this afternoon and a quick stop at Craig Jaffurs’ winery to pick up our shipment and do a quick taste. Scrumptious as always. Quick stop in at La Superica and all is…well….fat. Need to exercise. Need fruit and veggies.

OK. So I blogged about wine.



Yuletide Has Arrived

The Yuletide merriment is upon and I say, welcome! Welcome indeed. More Christmas, less….well…..everything.

Sue has been laid low with a nasty, nasty cold. It hit her and triggered her asthma and that’s no good. She wound up at the Urgentcare office this morning because, she said, she felt like she had an elephant on her chest. She’s made that statement before and that’s wound her up in the emergency room. No antibiotics. Doc wasn’t convinced it’s bacterial. No fever. So, inhalers–and they have helped.

I too have the cold, but like most of the colds I get, it’s rather on the periphery. It’s there and it’s annoying. It prevents me from sleeping as well as I’d like. But it’s not overwhelming–at least not yet. Hope it stays that way. So far, Peanut has been spared–and I will pray that continues. She seems to have had it already and that may be a good thing.

Graded papers for a couple of hours today, walked the dog. Simon was in his element, too. Gray skies threatened rain, but rather misted more than rained. The walk, only a 2.3-miler, was interrupted three times by people wanting to love on Simon. There was the gentleman up at the top of the hill with whom I talk fairly often. He’s a contractor and the gentlest man I’ve met in a while. He’s truly kind, but it’s the kind of kind that has been through a lot. His past is his own, as it shall remain, but there’s an edge there–that he has worked to smooth and he has been so nice to both Simon and me.

Then there was my pal, Brett. We teach together and I wind up walking by his house a lot. He was out with his kids and they were setting up Christmas decorations. Simon stopped to let himself be petted a bit. Then, onward and back down toward home–my neighbor, Sue (yes-same name as my lovely and gracious wife) was in her garage and we spoke for a bit. Simon likes Sue, so he took advantage of the fact that she was sitting on the floor in the garage. While he was absorbing her attention, our mutual neighbor Kenny showed up and he’s an old Texas hunter who loves bird dogs. This, of course, is what Simon is and so–he allowed Kenny to love on him, too. It’s a good day for Simon, who is now lounging on the couch next to Peanut.

Well, gentles-onward. And Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah to all.