Delicious Lamb Stew

Ingredients:
Lamb stew meat – cubed
Floury potatoes (I used baking potatoes) – thickly sliced
Carrots – thickly sliced
Onion – thickly sliced
Fresh thyme
Parsely – fresh if you can afford it after buying the thyme, otherwise dried
Salt
Pepper
Wife – irritated and incredulous
Lamb stock cubes
Flour

Prep time: 18 hours
Cooking time: 7 hours

In a large casserole dish, create layers of lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onion, with a final layer of potatoes on top. On top of each layer added fresh thyme, parsley, salt and pepper. Just before you are about to put it into the oven, wife will ring and insist the stew meat will not cook sufficiently in two hours and will not be fit for the dog to eat and besides, since you did not flour the meat it will not yield a stew gravy. She will tell you to put it in the fridge and she will cook something else when she gets home. She will also suggest the meat will probably go off because it has been out of the freezer for two days. Enjoy chicken fajitas.

The next morning, empty the casserole dish into the slow cooker, but pick out the pieces of lamb and roll them in flour before returning them to the cooker. Add the 450 ml of lamb stock that you were just about to make before you got the phone call the day before explaining that you are an idiot. Set the slow cooker to high out of fear that setting it to low will not kill all the food poisoning from the meat being out of the freezer for too long. After two hours set it to medium, because you are not wearing your reading glasses and for some inexplicable reason the settings on your slow cooker knob go clockwise in the following order: high, low, medium. After another two hours, set it to low.

After six hours, you will discover that simply rolling the meat in flour does not magically create stewy gravy. In a measuring jug, add a small amount of boiling water to a stock cube, then add flour and wisk very fast. Really fast. Then add more flour until it is nice and thick. Continue wisking and slowly add water to 450 ml. Wisk again. Pour into the stew and stir it around so it looks like it was always stewy looking.

After seven hours the lamb will be falling apart and the vegetable will be very soft without being mushy. The gravy will both look and taste stewy. Serves two with plenty of leftovers because without tasting it the kids don’t like lamb stew and insist on bean burritos. Their loss.

Walking Home

Being back in my hometown for Christmas, I got my hair cut at the barbershop where I often had it cut as a child. My dad had dropped me off there and told me to ring him with the mobile phone that my mother has never used. I decided to walk back to my parents’ house instead.

I grew up in a small town, so it wasn’t that far to walk. I crossed the main street through town to the parking lot of the Dairy Queen, where I first remember having a hamburger. If I remember right, the Jiffy Burger was 19¢ – it was a thin patty with a red sauce and a couple of slices of dill pickle. I remember always looking forward to the day when I could have a Beltbuster, which despite its name, was not that large of a burger, except to a seven-year-old.

Just down from the Dairy Queen is the Presbyterian Church. As a little boy, I didn’t know what to think of Presbyterians, because we were Baptist and it wasn’t clear to me if anyone other than the Baptists were saved. That was until we became Charismatics and all sort of people started coming over to our house for prayer meetings, including the new Presbyterian pastor. One of the few times I was ill as a child, he brought over the Chronicles of Narnia for me to read. I’d never heard of C.S. Lewis. I’ve been a fan ever since.

After the Presbyterian Church, there is a bridge over the only bayou in town. Looking up stream, I could just about see where I took up smoking for a few weeks in the summer after the third grade. I had a friend whose house was at the end of my street and on the bayou and he used to steal his parents cigarettes. They used to buy several cartons at a time, so they never seemed to miss a pack. But like Bill Clinton, I never inhaled – I couldn’t get the hang of it – so this was a quickly passing phase. We also smoked grapevine. I suppose you can smoke a lot of things if you set your mind to it, but I never smoked any of those either.

Just past that was one of the yards I used to cut. It was owned by a lady in our church who had once had massive prescription drug dependencies and an extremely depressed outlook. After a lot of prayer, counselling, and what is called deliverance in the charismatic vernacular, she stopped taking all the pills and was a generally happier person. But like everyone does, she got old and now has Alzheimer’s and lives in a nursing home.

Just a couple of houses down from there is where my parents first met just a week shy of 48 years ago. It was my mother’s aunt and uncle’s house then and during my early childhood. About the time I started junior high they sold it and moved to another subdivision. It was bought by some Norwegians who started a travel agency and had a very attractive daughter in my grade, upon who I had a crush and about whom I would eventually write my first song on the guitar. I’m not entirely sure she ever truly acknowledged my existence and I’m very sure she never heard the song.  It was a pretty bad song anyway. She’s a friend of a friend on Facebook, so I’ve seen her profile picture. She is still very attractive and married to a captain in the US Navy. She still doesn’t know I exist. The difference is that now I don’t care so much. The Norwegians moved to the next town and the house has been two or three restaurants since.

I turned there, down the short side of one block (blocks in my hometown are decidedly rectangular, with the east/west running side about half as long as the side running north/south) to my street. I probably spent more time playing on this block than anywhere else in my childhood. On the next corner lived the only friend I knew with a trampoline.  I was mostly scared of it, but that’s not surprising, because I was mostly scared of everything. I never once did a flip of any kind. I know we did other things besides jump on the trampoline, but that stands out most in my mind.

Across and up my street one house was the Baptist parsonage. When I was in the first and second grade, as best as I can recall, I considered the son of the pastor my best friend. The summer I was in the second grade, he moved back to East Texas, as did his father, so the church called another pastor who only had daughters. One of them was several years older than me, but the other was a school year younger. I never considered her my best friend – but then I don’t know that I considered anyone my best friend at that point – but we spent an awful lot of time together. I saw her in Walmart a couple of days ago, because she was down to see her parents for the holidays, and she even remembered things I didn’t. I guess we stopped playing together sometime before junior high (though we hunted deer on the same lease during high school), but much of those middle elementary years was spent at her house, my house, or the block and a half between them.

It would have mostly been one of the houses, because in between was the hospital where I was born. In those days it was half the size it is now and took up an over-sized block, so the street zig-zagged and ran straight up into our driveway. The front of the hospital faced that displaced street with a semi-circle driveway that was the site of my only ever physical daring do, when I tried to go around it too fast on my bicycle, leaned over too far, and took the skin off my entire knee. Now the hospital takes up both blocks and the street is gone altogether, so I had to walk around the entrance to the emergency room, in front of the spaces for ambulances and the reserved doctor parking to cross the street to the house where I grew up.

So most of my life happened within a few blocks. I know you must be thinking (if you can still think after all this – I’m just glad that you are still reading) what about school and church? The elementary schools I attended were two blocks one way and the junior high was two blocks the other. When my dad’s first church moved out of our house, it moved one block away to a storefront on that main thoroughfare through town. For a couple of years it was ten blocks away, but before I left home, it was about four blocks away.

I’ve lived a lot of places since I left home, but the biggest single chunk of my life was spent in this small town on the Texas coast, within a three or four block radius of where I sit now to write this.

Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog

Our puppies are now six weeks old. They have been interesting to watch over the last few weeks, as they have found their feet and cut their teeth. Without any sort of instruction or training, they began to fight each other. They will spar until one yields, usually in some sort of pain. They other thing is that they like meat. Again, no one had to tell them to like dead flesh. They will eat other things, but they like meat.

Dogs are predators. They like to kill things. That’s the way they are made. I marvel at the so-called animal rights activists and supporters who do not support the right of dogs to kill. In this country they have ineffectually banned fox hunting and hare coursing. (The hunts continued despite protestors causing criminal damage and sending videos to the police. The police have openly stated they will not enforce the ban of foxhunting, though they still chase hare coursers occasionally.) In the case of fox hunting, fox can be killed after being chased by hounds, but they must be killed by humans. Likewise it is legal to shoot a hare; you just can’t send a dog after it.

This is because there are people who enjoy watching the dogs do what dogs do. It is not the prey that is banned – only the predator. We are supposed to feel that there is something wrong with watching the natural course of predator vs. prey – unless we are watching wild animals on a David Attenborough documentary, of course. So it’s okay to watch an alligator kill a kangaroo or an orca chomp down on a seal, but not a hound chase down a fox.

I also think it is hypocritical to spay or neuter a dog. So many of those who support animal rights also support human reproductive rights (both causes being favourites of the Left). It seems unnecessarily cruel to an animal to take away their reproductive organs merely as a human convenience. If you don’t want puppies, keep the bitch away from a dog.

We breed and sell sighthounds. Many people breed them as show dogs. They try to develop certain qualities in them that appeal to the poncy prima donnas at Crufts and other dog shows, with just the right colour, height, and grooming. We don’t breed show dogs. We breed dogs that can do what dogs do best. We only sell them to people who let them use their natural ability and instinct. They see (with a peripheral range of about 270°), they run really fast (up to about 45 mph), and they kill. And they love it. That’s the way God made them.

I’m Back

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged in such a long time. I have started a number of entries, but never bult up the steam to get them done. It’s not like there haven’t been things happening in the news and in my life. In fact, it is probably because there has been so much happening around here that I haven’t given more time to the insightful news commentary you all so desperately crave.

I’ve been job hunting for a situation I would find more appealing. Time consumed on applications and interviews. I only got two interviews and neither was a position I was inclined to take. In the second one, I was the only candidate and I withdrew.

At the same time, work has been quite time consuming.

Then there was getting ready for a visit from my parents. The Woman has been temporarily working full-time outside the home, so it took a lot effort to get is ship-shape and Bristol fashion. Then there was the visit, which was worth all the effort.  We usually only get to see my folks twice a year.

And of course I’ve been working on the book. It may not sound like much by I’ve got two chapters finished and parts of two others written. I’ve been a bit stuck and doing more research to make them historically accurate.  I thought I knew where I was going with a particular storyline that is key to my first act and then got new information which made it unworkable. It is only today that I think I have found a way around it.

I hope I can (and will) blog more regularly in the coming weeks.

The Importance of Family Connections

It’s hard to believe I have gone this long without posting anything. The run up to half-term break has been busy and when I’ve not been busy with work, I have been distracted by other things.

The last few days I have been absorbed with genealogical stuff as I have been revamping my family history website, trying to account for all of the descendants of my paternal great-great-great-great-grandparents who are over 70 or dead. It is the standard practice on genealogical websites to keep anonymous anyone who is living and under 70.

The downside of all this work is my worry that I am the only one of my surname who really cares about these things, so no one my ever access the site. Just because I think it is important for people to know where they come from and to whom they are related doesn’t mean anyone else does. But the information will be out there for the taking. Perhaps somehow an unknown cousin will be trying to uncover the forgotten past that their parents didn’t care about and find what I’ve provided.

There was a time when more people cared about who they were and realised that they were not simply a single identity.

The same attitude is common in the Church today. Christians reading the New Testament often read the words of Jesus or St Paul when they use the word translated “you” and assume that it is in the second person singular. Sadly, this is often re-enforced by preaching. “Me & Jesus” Christianity is not biblical. St Paul tries to get this across in I Corinthians 12, but sadly most people so many people even read that just to find out what spiritual gift(s) they have.

Likewise in our natural family, we need to appreciate, learn from, and be a part of the extended group of people, both past and present, of which God has chosen to make us a part. We often have no problem realising that family is the foundational institution of society. It was created by God. In wedding ceremonies we usually hear the “leave and cleave” passage from Genesis 2:24 and think of the new nuclear family as its own little capsule of love. However, if we look at the examples of family in the Bible, we don’t see that.

In North America and in some of western Europe, we have lost the sense of extended family that is still evident in much of the world. Somehow we think this loss is progress, when in fact it is regress. Just as in many areas, we have left behind the wisdom of centuries.

One of the things that has interested me as I have been doing research over the last few days is how names are important and passed on. My grandfather, my uncle, and my brother all had the same uncommon middle name and I recently found out that it goes back at least four more generations. Even though I use a pseudonym for this blog, there are a lot of real Solomons. The matriarch of our surname is remember in succeeding generations of Sarahs. Generations were connected.

Prosperity and technology has brought mobility and families have geographically grown further and further apart. I am probably the most extreme example in my own family. Fortunately in these most recent days it has brought advances in communications so that the world can be a smaller place. It has also allowed access to data that would not be so easily shared.

In this regard, I hope I am expended efforts on things that will matter.

Many Years

Today is my mother’s 75th birthday.

May God grant her many years!

Memory Eternal

Today is the 5th anniversary of my brother’s repose.

May his memory be eternal.

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Seven

It was seven years ago right now that I was in the operating suite of the local county hospital. After 52 hours of labour and an emergency c-section, I was holding my first-born and showing him to my exhausted wife.

When he was first extracted from the womb, he wasn’t looking to good and the paediatrician had to be called up to work on him. Those were nervous minutes as I paced back and forth between the operating table and the table where they were encouraging him to breathe. Soon enough all was well and I carried him in swaddling clothes to meet his mother. While they continued to sew her up, I took him downstairs to the nursery and put his first proper clothes on him and took the first pictures.

He seems all grown up now. He’s into Star Wars and Doctor Who and Bakugan. He’s already getting books as presents that are for him to read, not to be read to him.  He has more growing to do, and may God grant him many years.

Errors

I have been marking exams and writing Year 11 report comments almost non-stop, but I saw something in the news that I thought would be helpful to those of you looking forward to healthcare in the Obamanation.

The Liberal Democrats, our third largest political party, have published data showing that patient deaths due to errors by medical staff have increased by 60% over the last two years. There are two ways of seeing everything of course. As you might imagine, Government experts see it that other way. They say the higher figures are due to better reporting rather than worsening care.

No one outside the governing Labour Party is actually buying that argument, but even Labour’s excuse is frightening. It means either more people are dying, or the National Health Service has heretofore been hiding the true cause of a huge number of deaths under the rug. Given that they have shoved more up there than we ever want to know, it would not be surprising.

And speaking of shoving things, after my dad had surgery for asymptomatic Stage 3 colon cancer, the doctors at MD Anderson suggested that especially since I already had the kind of polyps removed that were benign but could turn cancerous nearly three years ago, I should let my doctor know so I could have another colonoscopy ahead of my scheduled scoping in 2011 (only scheduled because I had the polyps, because the NHS does not allow for any preventative colonoscopies at any age). My GP contacted my specialist with my concerns and I was flatly turned down. I hope I don’t turn out to be another “error”.

Back to Work

The last moments of freedom are slipping away. The Spring term begins in 18 hours.

On the other hand, the freedom of term break is very limited. I have been marking exams for the last couple of days. I would have started marking them as soon as we got home from Texas, but I couldn’t find them. The problems is that they were exactly where I’d left them. Unfortunately, The Woman had been clean out the car before we left, so I put a big plastic bag of rarely used school resources on top of them.

The bag draped over the sides of the box with the exams and it appeared that the bag was the only thing there. Then the terrier decided this bag full of papers and notebooks was her new bed, as she will sleep on anything however uncomfortable just to be off the floor. It is only because she got up yesterday afternoon and moved the bag slightly in the process that I saw the box of exams underneath.

Now I am furiously marking. The first set doesn’t need to be done for a couple of days, but I’ve got others to follow on that. I will hit the ground running on Monday.  I am starting new units with every year group at the beginning of the term.

I’m trying to do this while I am installing software on my Christmas present. I haven’t had a computer to call my own for quite a while. The second time I spilt tea on the computer I got during my teacher training year, it gave up the ghost. I have otherwise used by school laptop. With my first laptop in this job, it wasn’t such a problem. It was one of the better machines in the school. I installed some extra RAM and it did well. Until this screen died.

The cost of replacing the screen exceeded the value of the laptop, so I was issued an older laptop that had been used by a retiring member of staff. I’m sure it was a great machine in its day. I upgraded the RAM as best I could, but between that an the processor speed, it could not handle having a lot of browser tabs open, especially if they were running scripts like the Daily Telegraph or memory hogs like YouTube. If I was doing lots of online research, it would have trouble running Word at the same time.

I shopped online for several days and picked the machine that seemed to suit me best. A fast processor with lots of RAM and hard drive space. As it ended up, I got almost the same machine my dad bought my mother for Christmas (and that I set up over the holidays), but with twice the RAM.

Home Again

The journey home was much less eventful than the outbound leg. I realise even more just how bad Heathrow Terminal 5 is.

At Houston, the Fast Bag Drop was actually a fast bag drop. There were about five parties in front of us, but it took us seven minutes to get served rather than ninety. The actual process at the counter was much faster and more efficient. Security was faster, even though they had a drill and shut everything down in the middle of our x-ray experience. Boarding the plane was simple and straightforward. We even left slightly ahead of schedule.

The food was marginally better this time, thanks to the lack of turkey and stuffing and mushy vegetables. I’m not saying it was great or anywhere near the standard we used to expect from British Airways, but better than the westbound flight.

The only bad thing was the woman sitting in front of The Woman. She insisted on reclining her seat back the whole time, even when she was actually sitting up, away from the back of the chair. This put her seat and The Woman’s knees in constant contact. The Woman did kick her hard enough to get her to sit up during the meal, but before the lights were off for the overnight flight,  she had fully relined again back into The Woman’s lap, and as she had a bulkhead seat, she stretched out with her feet halfway up the wall. First-class leisure at cattle class prices. She intended to stay that way for breakfast in the morning, until the flight attendant made her sit up so The Woman could eat without her tray table pressing against her spine.

Terminal 5 is much better for arrivals than departures, though not necessarily for the distance to be covered before it’s all over. After a long walk on various different levels, it is then necessary to take a train to another part of the building, then walk long distances on various levels to get to passport control. The actual immigration process was quite quick and the bags were already on the conveyer belt by the time we got there.

Now comes the jetlag recovery.

British Airways – The World’s Second-Rate Carrier

Despite the best efforts of British Airways, we made it to Texas for Christmas.

When Heathrow Terminal 5 opened in March as BA’s new home for long-haul departures and arrivals, it was a fiasco. Despite all of the hoopla about the high-tech, state-of-the-art facility, nothing worked. We gave them nine months to work out all the kinks, but when we arrived at Terminal 5 this week, it was a fiasco.

We got in the queue for the “Fast Bag Drop” behind about six other parties. That took 90 minutes. I had checked in online at home to save time. Gave all the passport details, printed off our boarding passes and everything.  The Fast Bag Drop guy still had to run the passports through the machine and who knows what else before he would tag our bags and send them on the conveyor belt into the abyss.

We then proceeded to security, as we were instructed. We were promptly turned away because our passports hadn’t been cleared by the guy at Fast Bag Drop. So we had to go to another Passport and Visa Clearance desk. The woman there did the same thing as the Fast Bag Drop guy and sent us back to security, who finally let us through to the queue for the scanners. Since we weren’t flying first class like Olympic runner Colin Jackson, we weren’t in the same queue. But really it didn’t take as long to process the cattle class as we had feared.

Since we were 2½ hours early to the airport, we told the kids they could have breakfast there before we got on the plane. We didn’t know that BA would take so unbelievably long or that the boarding time on our boarding passes was incorrect. By the time we got through security, the instruction was to go to the gate. The Woman had to quickly find some sandwiches and we had to hustle to the gate. Actually that should be “gate”, since what it was in name and what it was in reality were two different things.  It was a bus stop.

Yes, at high-tech, state-of-the-art Terminal 5, we had to board one of a series of buses and be driven nearly to Berkshire to board the plane out in the middle of the tarmac. Thenwe had to climb up the stairs into the 747. most of you have seen a 747 and realise that it is not a small plane with doors near the ground. I had to climb into a 737 in Bristol and that was no big deal. There are lots of steps for a handicapped man with carry-on luggage to climb to get into a 747. I honestly have no idea how the several wheelchair users got on that plane.

The food on the plane was the most awful I have ever had from an airline. British Airways had always done well in the past. I suppose economic cutbacks being what they are, they couldn’t help the awful turkey dinner with overcooked sprouts and carrots.

Now I can’t say it was BA’s fault that it took well over an hour to get our bags once we arrived in Houston, or that a sniffer dog found the leftover half of a Boots ham and cheese sandwich so that we had to have all our bags x-rayed by US Customs. They weren’t responsible for my unfounded fear when we walked into the Customs x-ray room and the first person we saw was pulling on a latex glove.

The rest of it, I put firmly on their shoulders. I hope the journey back is better.

Endless Research

I’ve been a bit scarce of late, but it’s not because I haven’t been writing. The creative juices have really started to flow with my novel and I have been spending every available moment doing research. I even have the tentative first couple pages drafted.

Do you know how difficult is it to find out the price of a train ticket from Nashville to Algood, Tennessee in 1912?

And what about the statutory interpretation of a 1881 Jim Crow law that railroad companies were “required to furnish separate cars for colored passengers who pay first-class rates”. If a white person and a black person were to both buy second-class tickets, could they then ride in the same car? And before you think that there wouldn’t be provision for black people to go first-class, the law was amended in 1882 so that railroads were “required to supply first-class passenger cars to all persons paying first-class rates.” It’s not the sort of thing a lot of people need to know.

And what was travel like in a day car? Photo archives that I’ve seen only show the inside of first-class carriages. I have a fight to stage and I need to know what I’m working with here.

Sacrificing Education to be a Good School

In English primary schools, children sit Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in May of Year 2 and Year 6. Children in those years (the age equivalent of 1st and 5th grade in the US) spend much of the year preparing for them. This is not because they benefit the child in any way. The tests are one of the Government’s way of judging whether a school is doing well.

Academic accomplishment these days is assessed with the use of imaginary levels. This is not just in primary school, but through most of secondary school as well. In each subject, the Government tells us what skills are required for attaining which levels. The SATs assess these levels in English, Maths and Science. The expected level for 7-year-olds is Level 2.

At a recent parents’ evening we discussed the Older Child’s upcoming SATs. The school wants him to do well… but not too well. This is because schools at all are judges very heavily on what’s called “value added”. They have to demonstrate how much better pupils are performing from one test to the next. As long as Older Child gets a Level 2, he can get a Level 4 at age 11 and the school will still look good. If he were to get a Level 3, a Level 5 at age 11 is only average progress. If he only gets a Level 2 now, a Level 5 at age 11 will look that much better.

Government policy fails to take into account that children develop mentally at different times. It can only deal with uniformity. Everyone must progress at an accepted pace. The Government needs to create league tables, ranking schools from good to bad. Ofsted inspectors need data, especially since the new inspection regime is based much more on paperwork and spreadsheets than ever before.

If Little Johnny (or Older Child) is not the right number of pedagogically indefensible socialist all-must-have-prizes imaginary levels above the last assessment than the school has failed. Is it any wonder that schools and teachers are pressured to get children perform in such as way that benefits the school over the education?

Death Comes to All Fish

For those who follow these things, I am sad to report that Mr Mustachio has passed away.

He was looking very poorly this morning, swimming involuntarily on his side. The Unnamed Woman noted that this was apparently something to do with a disorder of his swimming bladder. A frozen pea was apparently the appropriate veterinary treatment.

We bought a bag of frozen peas later in the day and one was placed in the fish tank. It would seem this did not have the desired effect.

Before they went to bed, the kids knew that Mr Mustachio’s life expectancy wasn’t very good. They have been prepared for his passing. They might even fight over who gets to flush him.

Not As Easy As It Looks

At our house we’ve already started ballet, karate and Scouts. The next logical step is musical instruments.

The Older Child has been on about learning to play the guitar for some time. He was even looking into taking lessons at school. While the former seemed plausible, the latter is ridiculous, given that the Older Child’s father has been playing guitar for almost 29 years and has taught guitar for almost as long, including teaching children not much older than the Older Child.

Because my acoustic guitar is way too big for the Child to use, we considered repairing a 3/4 size guitar belonging to the Unnamed Woman. It ony needed a bridge, nut, strings, and perhaps a few other bits and bobs, plus I’m not sure the tuning mechanism even holds. And it’s still a bit big for his hands. Or we could buy a new one. We took the Woman’s guitar to a repair shop to get an estimate for bringing it into working order. It was only £15 more to get a new half-size guitar.

We went with the latter option. He had money from his grandfather and at least he was putting some of it into something of more value than most of the toys he buys.

The Older Child was under the same impression about guitar playing that I was about snow skiing when I was 5. You just put on the skis and away you go, right? As soon as he got the guitar, he did the musical equivalent of standing still in the snow. He wanted to play a song and the Woman wanted me to buy him a guitar book.

After explaining how the strings and frets are numbered for reference, he tried his first chord. E minor. I always start with E minor because it is the simplest. The finger positioning wasn’t a problem for the Child. Pressing down with his fingertips and not touching anywhere else on the neck of the guitar was another matter. He had no idea that guitar playing involves pain.

His enthusiasm began to wain a bit. He finally began to understand that he will not be playing “Johnny B. Goode” like Michael J Fox in Back to the Future any time soon.

This morning he was strumming on his guitar again, playng a muted E minor. I hope he has the interest to follow through, even with the pain in the fingers. He is starting 10 years earlier than I did. I hope one day he is better than me.

Leftovers

Reading about Elizabeth’s tooth reminded me of information I got from the Unnamed Woman over dinner yesterday.

She took the Older Child to the dentist because a filling had fallen out, whereupon it was discovered that he had a (fortunately painless) abscess under the tooth. The dentist is always quite snooty to the Unnamed Woman and always feels she has to remind the Woman what sort of foods are dentally appropriate for our children. The Unnamed Woman, being rather intelligent and healthy food conscious, never fails to take a bit of offence at this condescension.

Remarkably, the Ms Dentist was subdued. It turns out that the abscess was due to the dentist leaving something behind in Older Child’s mouth at the last appointment. The Unnamed Woman was a little pleased to see to the dentist bumped down a peg.

Prayer Warriors

Older Child: I’m doing “Our Father”.

Younger Child: It was your turn last night. I’m doing “Our Father”.

Me to Older Child: Younger Child is doing “Our Father”. It’s your turn to do “Most Holy Trinity. . .”

Older Child: Younger Child can do “Most Holy Trinity. . .”

Younger Child: I’m not doing “Most Holy Trinty. . .”!

Older Child: But I want to do “Our Father”.

Eventually everyone took their proper turn.

It’s not always easy being Orthodox.

Diverted

The eye of Hurricane Ike is not longer headed for my home town. It has taken an unexpected turn over the last day and now looks to go ashore about 120 miles up the coast.

Hurricane force winds extend 120 miles from the center, so it is still going to be rather breezy. Flood water from the storm surge shouldn’t reach my parents’ house, but the wind could still do some damage to the woodwork, the roof, the trees, and the fence.  By mid-day Saturday it will have passed over and moved away.

The Older Unnamed Child is all excited about the hurricane in Texas. He was upset that I wouldn’t promise to wake him up throughout the night when a new map is issued about the National Hurricane Center. I promised to record the CBS Evening News, so he can see any report on it.

In the Path of the Storm

Hurricane Ike is gaining strength and it is headed for my hometown. The projected path from the National Hurricane Center might as well have a bull’s-eye on the house where I grew up and spent nearly three weeks this summer. My parents are heading for the hills.

Fortunately my father is not feeling any side effects from chemotherapy, because he has to drive five hours to escape coming storm.

I always feel bad about praying that the storm will go somewhere else. That just means it will make a direct hit on someone else. Barring the dissipation of the storm itself, it is going to slam into the Texas coast somewhere. I just pray that if it hits my hometown, most things are preserved. Whatever survives the storm is my children’s inheritance.

Experiencing Death

There was more wailing than at a Arab funeral. The Unnamed Children lost their first pet. Then they lost another. Then another. And another. All in one day.

It all started when the Unnamed Woman decided that Bubbles the goldfish needed friends. Bubbles belongs to the Older Child, who had become a bit selfish with him/her (Bubble’s gender is unknown). He didn’t even like the Younger Child participating in feeding Bubbles. Bubbles was moved downstairs and the Woman and Children bought another goldfish, Mr Mustachio, and some minnows and danios. Mr Mustachio was originally going to be call Monsieur Poisson, but that never caught on. His little black mustache was just too distinctive.

All seemed well until yesterday, when we bought a loach to clean the tank. Within hours, four of our little fish were dead. Then the loach died. Fortunately, the pet store that sold the little fish has a five-day guarrantee. The loach people weren’t so accommodating, which was especially irritating given that the available circumstantial evidence seems to focus on their fish as someone responsible for the death of the others.

The shock of death seemed to have worn off by this morning. When the Children got up, another little fish (I couldn’t tell you which kind, as I can’t really tell the minnows from the danios) was dead on the gravel. They took it matter of factly and the Younger Child declared, “Everyone dies eventually.”

The Unnamed Woman didn’t get any more little fish for now. Instead, she got another goldfish. The person at the pet shop said it was better to keep goldfish with goldfish. So now we have Goldie Lookin Fish.

Instead of the joys of watching the fish swim around in their tank, it is more like deathwatch. Will the last two little fish survive? Will the goldfish prove stronger than whatever killed the others?  The suspense continues.

Home Again

Welcome to jet lag. It’s almost 3:00 am here in Merry Ol’ and my body thinks that it is 9:00 pm. So you are thinking, well, it’s not too long til bedtime. That would be true, except that I had two big naps since I got back, due, at least in part, to being awake almost all of 28 hours.

So now’s as good a time as any to describe the journey back.

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Ancestral Lands

Since I have been visiting my parents, where much of my personal library is located, I have had a chance to read a book that I got many years ago when it was withdrawn from circulation by the Gonzales Public Library, an establishment that was a regular haunt of mine in my college days.

In what has been one of the more popular posts on this blog, I talked about my Uncle George Littlefield. The book I am reading is George Littlefield: Texan by J. Evetts Haley, published in 1943 by the University of Oklahoma Press. At the time I acquired it, I knew that I was related to Uncle George – and he was always referred to as Uncle George Littlefield by my mother’s family – but I hadn’t made the exact genealogical connection. I just knew that he had put my great-grandmother through college.

Since, as you might expect, the first chapter of the biography covers his family background, it has been very interesting to read about my great-great-great-grandparents (his parents) in a real book (not a self-published genealogy-driven tome) with real footnotes referencing a wide range of primary source materials. The book details both real and personal property they possessed, acquired and sold. Through my genealogical research, I knew where some of this land was.

The personal recollections of former slaves continues to confirm my understanding the positive relationship they shared with my family. Because that is relevant to the novel I am intending to write, this has been particularly helpful.

During the years I lived in Gonzales County, I had thought it would be a nice place to settle. River bottom being the most desirable and fertile real estate, I had always wanted to own the land at the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. I figured if one river made for good land, two must be so much the better.

Having never read that book I bought from the Gonzales Public Library, I had no idea my great-great-great-grandmother thought the same and not only acquired that land, but also moved there from the original plantation where she had settled with my great-great-great-grandfather located about 15 miles up the Guadalupe.

Were I to someday win the lottery or perhaps become a wildly successful writer – though the lottery win is the more likely of the two – I might yet buy that land.

Updated Update

Results have come back from the CT scan of my father’s lungs. One of the spots that appeared the first time has disappeared and the other has shrunk considerably, so there is a positive diagnosis that it is not cancer. It would appear to have been a small infection of some kind. The biopsy has been cancelled.

We will still be going back to Houston next week to set up his chemo plan for the colon.

Thank you for your prayers.

Update on My Father

I have returned from two days at the world’s top cancer hospital, where my father underwent further tests. Some spots on his lungs have yet to be diagnosed and will require a biopsy next week. His colon cancer, which we found out today was stage 3, will require six months on chemotherapy, but that can’t begin until they figure out what, if anything, is on his lungs, and then prioritise between that, the colon, and the prostate.

I have to say I was very impressed by the hospital. I had no idea that such a huge conglomerate of buildings (not to mention the over 17,000 employees) could be dedicated to the treatment of one disease.

My parents, as always, are incredibly upbeat. Your prayers, as always, are appreciated.