3

Holy Carp!

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Asian Carp plays Pomp & Circumstance. Photo by Ted Lawrence, Great Lakes Fishery Commission

Regardless of what college or university claimed you after high school – proof of study was found in the “Freshman 15” pounds of excess ballast packed on during that first year away from Mom’s home cooking. The lure of unlimited helpings, highly salted carbs “on demand” coupled with bottomless mugs of “adult beverages” trump any resolve maintain a healthy diet. I fondly remember how Coney Dogs sloshed around my gut. These boiled hotdogs were smothered in chili, mustard, onions and pickles nestled within a steamy bun – 3 for a buck – and inhaled after frat parties. This was being real adults, “to eat whenever we want”, I’d slur to my friends – who wondered why they had a wicked headache and were a dollar short the next day.

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Super-Sized Lunch for Mizzou Courtesy US Geological Survey

Boaters on the Mississippi River despise invasive, ugly, nasty Asian carp that launch unexpectedly high out of the water and crash on deck in a mess of slime and bloody guts. Carp are disruptive, annoying and in most people’s opinions – tasteless. Asian carp are like college freshman – they are voracious eaters with minimal sense of dining etiquette. Upper classmen avoid them unless they are saturated with “too much too too” at which point they are fair game for things you never write home about.

Like carp, freshmen leave little behind except a messy, undernourished environment. Saturated with copious amounts of booze over time, college students ineptly face the stress of incomplete assignments, the subsequent threat of flunking out and fear having to move back home. These moments of rational thought heighten freshmen’s anxiety and slam their hunger into hyper drive. Stressed students eat a lot of just about anything – including, the newest addition to dining halls at the University of the Show Me State – Asian Carp.

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Geologist or Culinary Staff? Who cares! Soup’s On! Photo US Geo Survey

Show Me students have given two thumbs up to fish entrees disguised beneath international hallmarks of fine eating such as; Pasta Putenesca (“best with vodka” quipped a coed), Mexican Jalepeño fish soup (“okay smothered with tortilla chips – gets rid of that Jose Cuervo after-taste from the night before”), and the top Sunday favorite, carp simmered in gallons of Italian gravy over a pile of pasta (“tastes like meat balls” garbled a sleepy undergrad). “Don’t assume it is fish”, a student advised – “except for the leafy stuff – only Bio majors know what’s in anything on the menu – and they eat here – so chill.”

Feed the Tigers – carp! C’mon guys – eat lots and lots – pay it forward – they’ll fit right into your Freshman 15 and never be missed by Mississippi River Rats. Remind rival SEC athletes that you are what you eat – then show them a picture of lunch. Go Mizzou!

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Distinguished UM (SL) Alum who’s a Triton not a Tiger

6

Swallow the Anchor

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Chicken-not-of-the sea swallowing the anchor. Ex Libris @ Sioux Harbor

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S/v Sandpiper w/ Ralph & Connie Pickering Alton Pool

All too often, the picture-perfect sail on a pristine afternoon in the company of good friends lacks the pizazz of a good story worth telling twice. Daylight fades, sails are furled, and the anchor is set. The rum ration gets split. Tall tales are birthed as fair winds die and distilled spirits pillage common sense. Contentment yields to bravado. Sailors craft and swap exaggerated accounts of harrowing efforts to tame tempestuous winds rather than dwell on the boredom endured as they trimmed flaccid sails.

Close calls make for good stories. When a snake swims astride the stern and … well, what kind of story follows here? A description of the captain donning her life jacket and abandoning ship when the anaconda-like reptile attempted to board? Or, a recount of the exhausted serpent drifting away in the flood current? There’s a time for a yarn, but there are also settings where yarn is just a mess of knots. That’s when the elements of story must be simple and the story not the storyteller matters.

Insurers frown upon drama. For instance, when filling out an insurance claim after a lightening strike fried all of a boat’s electronics, only the facts should count. The damage is done and financial compensation is due if and only if the facts recounted match the protection described in the policy. Otherwise, if the story teller is viewed as more important than the story – the readers makes assumptions not found on any page (expect Mark Twain’s folksy humor vs. Stephen King’s blend of macabre). So then, when a boat insurer checks a claim (i.e., story) against the numerous clauses in the protection plan that unclearly state, “it’s a forgone conclusion that this claim will be denied because there’s not a word of truth here – sailors tell fibs about everything that happens when anchors are weighed*.”

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Anchored in St. Thomas, VI – our’s for a day’s charter. JAL

Anchors play a big role on boats – they connect what’s afloat to solid land beneath moving water. An anchor holds a boat to where the captain wants to be – safe and secure. Boat captains are expected to act like anchors – to be stable and strong enough to hold a crew’s confidence. Boating is more fun when there is a person aboard who can be unconditionally relied on as unshakable, competent, and trustworthy. When captains serve as anchors we believe their spoken words are true. That is how order is kept at sea – in hell or high water. We trust captains who speak truthfully. Honesty instills respect and raises hope that neither tide nor current will put us in harm’s way. We can rely on an anchor that does its job without fanfare.

When an anchor fails its duty – consequences run afoul. If an anchor is truly fouled, caught on a log or sunken obstruction, the only course of action is to cut the line and let the boat sail free. It’s an expensive loss. Or as Shakespeare put it, “I shall no more to sea, to sea/ Here I shall die ashore”** -the anchor is swallowed – the captain is returned to the land and sails no more.

I’d be watching the Nightly News instead of writing this blog right now if Brian had acted as an anchor instead of as a sailor lost in the charm of an imaginative tall tale. His last words on the air should have been, “life’s a beach.”

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Rested and ready – anchors aweigh! JAL

*anchors aweigh means to haul up the anchor and get moving

** The Tempest

3

Bombogenesis

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The iconic Casino Towers of Narragansett, RI JAL

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A Bombogenesis is a nasty, depressed Arctic cyclone. Image courtesy NOAA.

Coastal New England was just TKO’d by Juno. Apparently TWC has a crew of misogynists who crowned the storm, Juno – after the Roman Queen of Heaven and God of Air whose chief attendants were Terror and Boldness. Blizzard Juno was a Bombogenesis, a weather bomb that riveted more attention than the hot, sleeveless CNN anchors who monitored the storm’s wrath. An emotional train wreck up in the North Atlantic lit Juno’s fuse when the barometric pressure plummeted so low so fast that the limbo stick scraped icebergs.

One of the best assignments of my career landed me in Cambridge during the Blizzard of ’05. The storm made landfall Saturday at high tide. Boston shut down. My hotel was transformed into a Blizzard Blast as guests and neighborhood staff hunkered down in the bar, fixated on TWC and urged the storm-fueled tide to “bring on the surge”. Dawn broke behind a veil of white gauze that swaddled Bean Town. Cars were entombed in drifts. Corner signs buried by plows wavered in the wind. The snow kept falling, swirling and accumulating.

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Not me digging out a ride across from hotel.

Unlike many business travelers, I heeded the forecast for bad weather and packed a full complement of ski gear. The day held promise for outdoor adventures rather than long naps and channel surfing in the hotel room. Other than the company of Eddie Bauer, I was on my own to explore Harvard Square. On any other day the streets would’ve been clogged with taxis, Rastafarians, cyclists, and pedestrians. Logan was closed. Poor Charlie must’ve finally got off of the MTA as the Mayor had pulled it’s plug the night before. Pathways the width of a shovel were bordered by snow mounds piled up to eye level.

The campus quad was abandoned. Its dorm residents were either too hung over or too smart to build snowmen. The bronze statute of John Harvard was tucked chin high beneath a thick white blanket – its foot made famous by students rubbing for good luck was buried. My quest was to view campus from the top steps of the Widener Library. Home of a Gutenberg Bible, the Widener is one of my favorite places. The library was bequeathed by the Mom of an undergrad who was an extraordinary book collector – before he perished with the Titanic (she survived). Its steps were hidden beneath the deep snow. The effect was an illusion of a Greek temple towering atop a mountain. Climbing was slow. Once topside I took in the view and calculated the odds of breaking my neck if I leaped into the air and slid down the slope. There is no formula for risk. I launched skyward, soared for an instant, and settled broadside in goose down. A slightly metallic frost coasted my lips as I paid homage to the Gods of Snow Days and made an angel.

And so it goes with a Bombogenesis – turn off the weather station and put on the right gear. Go outside and into the snow.  Play – and the cold won’t bother you any way.

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Nemo, RI

2

Stuck in Irons

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Winter on the Narrow River Middlebridge, RI JAL

Janus was the Roman God of beginnings and transitions. During the inaugural month of each year the northern hemisphere leans back, wobbles on its axis in a sodden stupor, and shields itself from lengthily doses of direct sunlight. The New Year is stuck in irons. We’re aboard a year that’s stalled. Our rudder, that thing we use to steer and maneuver about life, is temporarily unresponsive. These are the burned out days of winter when it sometimes seems that we can’t get to where we want to be.

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Patience. Middlebridge JAL

There was a sailing ship January found trapped with its bow facing the wind, its crew going nowhere. Ah, northern winters – the season of elongated murky nights that beget lackluster days and weeks spent tenderly nursing spirits stuck in the doldrums of lethargy. Exhausted by holiday festivities, January begins the year rather solemnly as if the long, bleak cloud covered days are mourning for days gone past. Some find that their lives seem to stall between the crests of enormous waves. Sailors of northern waters shrug off such feelings of discontentment as the essence of winter. Sailors don’t like being in the irons, when the winds roar and the sails get caught in grip of a grand mal seizure. The ruckus rattles the best of nerves.

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Sailing St. Thomas Aboard Jolly Mon. JAL

Try not to stay stuck in the irons too long for the damage can get very serious very quickly. The wind is going to blow whichever way it wants whenever it wants – so in order to get unstuck you’ve got to push the sails until they catch the wind. Sometimes you’ll need help (mechanical wind). Be bold and ask for assistance to get back in the groove – that’s why boats have crews. Pay attention to the wind, heed the feel of the rudder, and force the boat away from the wind’s fist. The clean snap sails as the hull bites into the waves is the payoff – you are free to go.

Winter gradually passes and yields to spring. Not everyone notices whether it’s winter or summer. Count them as happy people who are immune to seasonal affective disorders and wise enough to apply sunblock.  Take advantage of this month to recover and prepare. So what if winter nights are long? Savor them for dreaming. Imagine during the night and work toward those possibilities by day. January is an open door to the rest of the calendar. The future lying on the other side might hold delightful surprises or great suffering. For some, an open door brings cold drafts and unbidden visitors, a bit like a Hobbit opening up to uninvited guests. Yet to close the portal shuts out the likelihood of partaking in adventures beyond the threshold. Fear what’s beyond the door and you’ll find that being stuck behind the gateway is fearsome. You’ll miss out and be missed. All doors are both exits and entrances – it depends on where you are when one opens. Carpe porta!

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Most pathways begin or end at a doorway. Narragansett Beach JAL

1

Watershed Moment

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Our 15′ Montauk, Boston Whaler, Finn anchored @ the mouth of the Narrow River JAL

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Hurricane Sandy ripped the roots from the ground and fed the trees to the Narrow River. JAL

Sheriff Brody hated the water. We never knew why then he took the job as Amity Island’s Sheriff, other than his view that “it’s only an island if you look at it from the water.” Oceans, like rivers, unite and divide the land and people. The two most important rivers in my life, one narrow, the other the mightiest, have many stories to tell, and some speak to my heart. The wisdom gleaned from river stories depends on the point of view that I take to make them meaningful.

The Narrow (aka, Pettaquamscutt) River is a seven-mile long tidal inlet created by a receding glacier 20,000 years ago and that dried out after a couple thousand years. The melting glacier raised the sea levels that in turn sullied the basin’s pristine lakes with brackish waters. The river began to pulsate to the rhythm of tides. This tiny river is fed and abused by its 14 square mile watershed – lands drenched by rain, sewage and springs that drain into the river. During times past, the Narragansett and Niantic Tribes heard and understood the Pettaquamscutt watershed’s voice. Watersheds are untrustworthy confidants – they leak secrets downstream about who you are and how well you care for the land and water. Water sustains all – water destroys as easily as it creates. When life as we know it changes suddenly – for better or for worse – it’s a watershed moment.

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Deb & George shedding their kayaks. JAL

A watershed moment is a critical point that marks a division. It is triggered by an experience or crisis that profoundly alters the future. Just as heavy rains on California’s mountains later flood the valleys below or bury homes in mudslides, watershed moments are epochal. Some life changes are created by a single choice or mistake so powerful that one’s course is diverted from hope to despair. Our sights are abruptly severed from envisioning what might be to a full frontal view of great loss.

Voltaire observed that it is the privilege of a real genius, especially one who opens a new path, to make mistakes with absolute freedom from facing consequences. There are few Einsteins aboard most boats. The things we do and say aren’t always that smart, and like the steady trickle of a tiny stream, little things can create great changes over time that rival the work of cataclysmic deluges.

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My sunfish, Solstice – oblivious to watershed moments ahead. JAL

We are watersheds fed by pure springs and rain, while also somewhat tainted by our own piss and vinegar that drains into relationships flowing through the lives of those we love. Regardless of our age, income, gender and education, chances are there is at least one watershed moment ahead. This moment will divide us from some things and unite us with others – like a river does to land. Somewhere down the channel is a milestone that is going to have profound effects later on. It might be a situation where doing the right thing is the most painful moment of your life.

We tend to recognize watershed moments after we’ve sailed pass them rather when they lie ahead. Find a quiet space and listen to the memories of stories whispered by ripples and waves. If you listen long enough the stories will merge into one great understanding. If you look hard enough at a river you’ll see things you never knew existed and possibilities never imagined. Be aware of and protect your own watershed and river. It’s an optimal way to invest in a healthy, vibrant life.

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Kathy’s day lilies survived Hurricane Sandy and bloom every summer. JAL

3

Frozen Balls on a Brass Monkey

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Photo courtesy NOAA

Friends in Thunder Bay report that it’s 40ºF below. It’s not a good day to stick one’s tongue on a flagpole. It is worse to be at sea during days like today. Sub-zero temperatures can freeze the balls off a brass monkey! The cold doesn’t hurt the monkey but wrecks havoc on a frigate’s deck and crew who get in the way of random balls.  According to maritime lore, tall ships used to carry a hundred or more cannons. The cannon balls took up a lot of space in cramped quarters. Ship shape meant stacking the heavy lead cannonballs like pyramids on brass platforms called monkeys. When temperatures grew very cold, the balls would shrink (“like a frightened turtle”) and the pyramid fell to disarray. The cannonballs tumbled off the brass monkey and rolled willy nilly around the deck. Sailor do not play dodge ball with cannon balls. Unknown-2

As Mercury falls it is really hard leave the warmth of a cozy bed and move about the day. We are prisoners of science. Heat moves from warm things to cold things. Body heat dissipates as soon as our feet hit the chilly floor. Take away heat and things move slower. Remove heat and things that are fluid go solid. That’s probably why things said in the heat of a moment can leave us cold with a rock-hard resolve not to make the first move towards an apology. Our emotions seize up like old engines on frosty mornings.

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USS Glacier (1956) Courtesy rossea.inf

Sailing in frigid weather is nastier than the mammary glands of Holden Caulfield’s witch. Brass monkeys makes me think about the Coast Guard crews patrolling Boston Harbor on this frigid day. Though sheathed in neoprene and thick protective jackets their service is another painful repercussion from a loose canon that rained hellfire on Marathon runners.

Tis the season to chill – but we simply aren’t built to hibernate. Go ahead, spend the evening sitting by a warm hearth with a hot toddy. You might even lose weight by just warming up since adding heat to a cold thing makes its molecules move faster. Program that into your Fitbit!

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Sioux Harbor

4

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Lagan

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Box o’ Flotsam. Camden, Maine Photo by JAL

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Knot a good way to start the year. Photo by JAL

Americans celebrate New Years Day with a variety of customs. Some young children are perplexed that their parents who ushered in the New Year with frothy toasts and fireworks a scant half dozen hours earlier spend the day tired, cranky and apathetic about the potential for a wonder-filled year. Some observe New Years Day as a time set aside for televised football marathons and quiet reflection. The most common secular tradition in the western world is to begin the year with a resolution – a promise to do better and become a better person. It’s a banner moment for fitness centers, weight loss programs, AA, educational programs, shrinks, and travel sites.

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Photo Robert De Jong, Flotsam on a Beach at Terschelling, Wadden Sea. Permission granted for use via Wikimedia Commons.

New Years Day is when many long to eliminate flotsam and jetsam from their lives. These are parts of the shipwrecks we captain, crew or come upon during any given year. Flotsam is floating wreckage – stuff aboard during a crisis that was washed into the sea and goes adrift. It can do great harm to other boats that accidently ram it. Flotsam is often toxic and does serious damage to the water and shore. It’s nasty stuff to encounter.

Jetsam is a form of prayer in action. Sailors shuck it. Beachcombers seek it. Jetsam consists of parts of a ship or its cargo that we purposely throw overboard (regardless of its monetary or sentimental value) in a last ditch attempt to lighten the load and Save Our Ship. Eventually it’s washed ashore and depending on what it is becomes either a hazard or a treasure.

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Courtesy RMS Titanic

Jetsam and flotsam are surface things. Not everything flung overboard floats. Some of the lost goods and boat parts sink to the bottom. Among the wreckage is Lagan. These are things once lost that can be recovered and saved. A certain degree of foresight and knowing where you are during the crisis are key to savaging parts of the wreck. Whether it’s marked by a GPS positioning from a May Day distress call or by a buoy what’s important is that Lagan can come up from the deep to the surface and be reclaimed. Lagan keeps its worth and meaning.

New Years Day is a good time to express gratitude for surviving the past year’s storms. It is a day when hope springs for prosperity, health, and serenity across the days ahead. Springs support life. We know them by what we see not from where they came. Springs are bodies of fresh water come from deep underground, far below the surface. Springs and lagans are not tainted by the flotsam and jetsam of old wrecks. Springs are clean. Fresh water is essential for life. Lagans can be re-used in good ways. Lagans remind us that all is not always lost – sometimes it just seems that way from the surface. Seize this day and greet 2015 with a fresh water toast– a token to the belief that hope for safe passage and salvaging lagans springs eternal.

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Round Spring, Missouri Ozarks Riverways near Eminence. Photo by JAL

3

Run Aground

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M/V Kent Reliant grounded on a reef. Photo courtesy of response.restoration.noaa.gov. File from Public Domain.

A third of all commercial ship accidents are caused by running aground. That means the vessels connected to the bottom of shallow water. They get stuck. That’s when bad goes to worse – changing tides and currents batter the boat. If there was damage done to the hull by whatever was on the bottom – while the boat can’t really sink, after all it is on the bottom – it is in danger of becoming ship wrecked. Running aground is an accident – whether it was caused by tide, poor visibility, or waves, at a given moment the water isn’t deep enough to float the boat. The ship and crew are in trouble. It’s rarely an option to get out and push the boat into deeper water or swim to shore. Without help or divine providence the potential for loss is great.

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Photo courtesy Amazon.com

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Most recreational boats that run aground cause little or no damage to the crew. The number one killer of boaters is excessive alcohol use. Booze trumps bad weather, hazardous waters, and not paying attention to where the boat is or who’s on board. Drinking at the helm of a boat is not an accident – but what happens next is the result of purposeful behavior – and is too often a preventable tragedy.

Festivities during winter holidays have a perilous downside with the power to sink relationships and drown feelings of comfort and joy. The stream of a tear contains the same salt that makes up vast seas. The last stretch of the calendar is the most hazardous of shipping and sipping lanes. If you’ve hit bottom you can’t sink further – you must get yourself up to the surface. Whether you are sailing solo or huddled in the grand salon of a cruise ship – its safer to act as if the helm is in your hands. Don’t just stand and stare at the water expecting it to take you someplace. It will not reward your anxiety nor gift you with contentment. Don’t expect the sea to rest because you are restless. Exercise moderation and you will become strong enough to navigate though these final days of the year. Pay attention to the currents, sky and shoreline so that you don’t get caught in the shallows.

UnknownThe difference between a holiday ordeal and a holiday adventure is attitude. Just as a compass needle seeks the north – position your feelings to find and move toward good tidings. Be and behave. To seek is not the same as to find – but it’s a start – as bright blue fish Dory said, “When life gets you down do you wanna know what you’ve gotta do?”

JUST KEEP SWIMMING

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A bright blue fish. Foam construction paper fish made with Elle when she was two by JAL.

Quotation from the Movie, Finding Nemo

10

Watching Time

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Watch me, Now.

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It’s later if you think.

The endless loop of classic and current holiday carols keeps reminding us that it’s the most wonderful, hap hap happiest time of the year. That depends. Adults bemoan feeling that the year went by much too fast and there isn’t enough time to get ready for the holidays. Kids find these days dragging on way too long before it’s time to unwrap presents. As the good Dr. Suess noted, “How did it get so late so soon?”

My grand daughter is learning to tell time. She finds decoding clocks and watches to be very exciting. She also can’t wait for Christmas and can’t understand why it’s time to go to bed when she isn’t tired – just cranky – not tired. Only Peter Pan beat the clock – at the tender age of two he did not understand that children grow up. So he never grew up. Watching Elle telling time makes me feel like Wendy’s mother who cried, “Why can’t you remain like this forever!” Rather than feel sad, I’m passing on to her some things to learn about time.

images-3#1: You can’t turn back time. We can hold fast to memories of finestkind moments but to live is to leave the past behind what’s now and what will be. So let go of hurts, misgivings and anger because to be alive is to be where we are right now. We don’t need to share now with then.

#2: Spend time doing things that will have a hearty return on investment. Our favorite things don’t cost money – they take our time. Like, learning to read,  playing just for the fun of it,  messing with boars, loving others and ourselves.

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If you’ve been nice – a wake up call is good. If naughty – it’s not.

#3: If you’re really happy when you’re wasting time – you’re not wasting time. The opposite is also true – if you’re miserable wasting time – you are wasting time – and none of us are given an unlimited amount of time to begin with – time doesn’t recycle and you can’t reuse it. Use it or lose it –  lost time is a shame.

#4: Wearing a watch doesn’t mean you’ll be on time. I should know – I collect watches and am chronically late. Sometimes it’s not better to be late than never.

#5: Jingle bell time is a swell time. Go ahead – rock around the clock – seize the day – it’s time. Take time to make time.

Check the time? Peter Pan was right, it’s like a ticking crocodile isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us. I guess this means – we are all ahead of our time.

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3

Drifting and Dreaming

images-4 Tis the season for Endurance

The basic recipe for making sugarplums takes 13 hours and 45 minutes. That pretty much knocks out any visions of sugarplums dancing in this sailor’s head. We are planning on a Green Christmas beachside in southern California with most but not all of our kids. Travel plans have severely impeded any motivation to swim against the current of Christmas shoppers. Tubs of Christmas decorations are nestled all snug in the basement storage room. I’ve settled into a Sunday afternoon winter stupor just drifting and dreaming December away.

IMGP0437 A quarter of a century after the bread bowl incident, brother Barrett sends his first born down the same hill – with a helmet, knee pads and his doctors’ bag close by.
IMGP0427 On that same day, survivor sister stands a protective guard to make sure her niece lands safely – interesting that she became a lawyer isn’t it?

The Ghost of Christmas Past is amusing me with memories of some of our family’s finestkind holidays. I remember Amberley as a toddler in her bright pink snow suit sledding down our backyard hill with her two big brothers. The gales of laughter and thuds of snowballs pitched at my post near the kitchen window were suddenly punctuated by high-pitched screams. Seems the boys had procured my 10 quart bread making stainless steel bowl, carried their baby sister up to the summit, plopped her in it, provided a quick shove and propelled the vessel down the hill. Bread bowls are very fast. She landed terrified but basically unharmed and like Moses was found submerged in snow, hidden beneath a shrub called a burning bush.

IMGP2611 Pop should’ve posted this in his front lawn – but he didn’t. But we still play in places like this every year.

The Ghost reminded me of other family ventures into snow sailing. We had driven the family, including the dog, all the way from St. Louis to my parents’ log cabin home in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. My recently retired (56 year old) father built my mother a log home in the middle of the mountains. The homestead appeared as idyllic as a Currier and Ives print. It was as far away from anywhere as Shakelton’s Endurance was from Tahiti. George took Amberley out into the thigh high powdery snow for a sledding expedition upon a bright pink flying saucer. Being a good Dad, he went first thinking he’s blaze a trail and show her his best Clark Griswold moves.

IMG_2790 Even the old basket ball hoop couldn’t withstand the weight of this snow. It cracked like George’s ribs.

He learned three things that snowy Christmas afternoon. First, flying saucer snow disks do not steer well. Second, ash trees do not flex when hit directly by flying saucers carrying a 250 pound payload. And third, driving to an ER when mountain roads are not plowed is simply not an option. He later learned that broken ribs heal very slowly.

Then there was the year the dog knocked down the Christmas tree while George and I were at my grandmother’s funeral and the kids were staying next door. Grandma died in balmy Florida, but being creatures of habit, the family buried her beneath a think bed of snow about 30 miles from my parents’ log home on the 23 rd of December. We returned home early on Christmas eve to find that exactly where our six foot fresh pine Christmas tree had been, stood a puny foot-high fake tree with a couple of busted ornaments. The little train set we had left under the big tree now looked huge on a circle of track around the tree. All I could whisper was, “Honey, They Shrunk the Tree.” Not really. When our neighbor and a friend had come to check on the house, they saw that the dog must’ve been very thirsty and tried the minty water of the tree stand. The tree was sprawled it on its side, it’s dish empty, and sappy pine needles covered the carpet. They graciously watered the dog and pitched the tree out the back door. It was a great Christmas as the train still went ‘round the Christmas tree.

Go with the flow. Drift away. Dream on. The holly daze is not complete without a bit of drama, a touch of humor and warmth that comes from simply believing.

IMGP1778 Randy also opted for a law career – but is okay with pink sleds and his girls flying down the Bread Bowl hill. We of course carry extra liability insurance.