Yesterday was Karen’s birthday. She is 55, but tells me her bones feel 65.

She looks 35. I’m a lucky man.

We went to the mall before dinner to check out Dillard’s 30% off of 50% sale where they price things really high then make you do complex math in your head to figure out the real price. After a while, I realize that I don’t need a pair of stylish Dior socks originally $20 but now $7 so I sit on a recliner in the middle of the mall and read 126 Happy Birthday wishes on Karen’s Facebook feed. This is obvious, but she has way more friends than me. Here is one of my favorites:

Happiest of birthdays to one of the best friends in my life. We may not see each other often, but when we do, we are just as goofy as we were in high school. Love you, Karen Mason Taylor!

Kim, you are spot on! She is goofy. Cute, but goofy.

We ate dinner at Laffa, described on the menu as Mediterranean & Middle Eastern. I asked our waitress what was different about the Israeli Cappuccino. She said, “It has a little whipped cream on top.” I replied, “OK, give me the Hot Green Lemon Ginger Honey Tea,” because whipped cream sounded Bavarian and I wanted something more Jewish and with a longer name.

We love the laffa which is a kind of bread. The menu says that laffa is named after the conical oven that is used to make it and that bread is thought of as a gift from God and only the hands should be used to break it because cutting it with a knife would be like raising a sword to God!  If some bread should fall to the ground, it is picked up and symbolically pressed to the lips & forehead as a sign of respect.

We tore Laffa bread with our bare hands and dipped it into West African Hummus-spicy, sweet potato & peanut hummus with a touch of coconut served with curried tehina, balsamic glaze & feta and Muhammara-roasted red pepper spread made with eggplant, walnuts, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic & spices.

There is even advice on the menu from a Jewish grandma which was apparently stolen by my grandma since my people are not as old as the Jewish peoples…(we are Upper Corner White Bread Okies…paternal grandparents northeastern Oklahoma and maternal grandparents northwestern Oklahoma panhandle):

“EAT! You’re skin and bones!”
– Every Jewish grandma’s catchphrase (Along with “take a sweater!”)

We dined with my brother Greg and his wife Jill. I always enjoy our conversations with Greg and Jill. They understand us. We talked about our children who are college age to 28 years old.

Karen is lower right if you need help

Isn’t it interesting how children believe their parents to be fools when they are of “a certain age” and then they pass through vintage moment(s), return to us, and want to hang out, ask for advice, laugh at our jokes (or at least not roll their eyes quite as dramatically)…and yet they are still our children, only smarter than us, better looking, and somehow poised and eloquent and we think it strangely odd?

Except for some moments when they revert to childhood bath hairdos. 

Before dinner, we parked near the Tulsa Performing Arts Center so after the 8:00 showing of the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, we would have a short walk in the downtown cold and darkness. I brought a stocking cap for the walk from the restaurant to the PAC which any Jewish grandmother would have admired. I told Karen my hat gives me such warmth that I would be happy to sleep outside tonight if I had to. She said that I could still snuggle with her if I wanted which made me glad I married her.

You can never be too careful or plan too well. This is how you get when celebrating birthdays on the downslope of 100 years…as if it matters at this point.

Birthdays change along with us, marking our lives like pencil marks on a door jamb. Some have fat candles, others pin tails on donkeys. This one was fine wine in a vintage oak cask. It was good to stroll along a city street with my girl during the calm of a winter’s evening, basking in the warm glow of family and conversation and a lovely table of food.

Happy birthday my love!


30 days to change

Studies show that if you repeat something often enough, say 30 days in a row, it becomes part of you. A habit if you will. That’s not really science, I made it up, but it seems true.

I’ve decided to practice this to see if it works. I’ll  give you a report after thirty days. I have many 30 day regimens already planned, but I will begin simply.

My first thought is to change something in my diet, to change my stance from vile hatred to, dare I say, affection. So I’m going to eat something I hate for 30 consecutive days.

Cucumbers…I despise cucumbers.


For 30 days, I dine on one whole raw cucumber daily. I can’t wait…



Breaking Bread with my Daughter

I am eating a King Kong Maple Bacon Cronut in my daughters honor as she is graduating next week with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Different Stuff. Jenna is a constant source of wisdom about food and life and has taught me some amazing things, not the least of which is how to smile with my eyes while eating with my mouth without slobbering…well, I’m getting better anyway.

Germany Rhine Castle Breakfast
One of my most memorable breakfasts enjoyed from the top ramparts of a castle looking over the Rhine River valley in Germany

In his book, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Dickens captures how I feel when I eat kale for lunch and New York Super Fudge Chunk ice cream for dinner…one is everything before us and one is nothing before us, one is heaven and the other is not.

I’m not saying which is which, but for now, I’m headed directly to…well, Nashville, to see my daughter Jenna who is graduating from David Lipscomb University with a Master’s Degree in Exercise and Nutrition Science which is just an expensive piece of paper that allows her to condemn my indulgent visit to the 12 South neighborhood in Nashville where this can be found: a King Kong Maple Bacon Cronut at Five Daughters Bakery followed by a sweet walk around the corner to get a dip of Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle ice cream.

Cafe 324 near Bricktown in Oklahoma City…another great place to get a cronut (vanilla infused with a tiny little flower to provide some penance and loveliness amongst the carnage of sugar)
Jenna Brent Birthday Food Jenna
One of Jenna’s birthday celebrations that included large volumes of fruits and roots

I’m a recovering food junkie who grew up watching Captain Kangaroo when the Captain was only 25 but looked 65, as I munched Lucky Charms & Captain Crunch cereal and drank the milk tossing aside the spoon after the cereal was gone. I tossed back the sweet colored milk with the gusto of a nomad drinking oasis water.

Now I’m grown up…sort of. My Captain Crunch residual milk is fancier now and I fool myself into believing it’s good for me. How do I rationalize my indulgent food excursions for cronuts and ice cream? As my wife is fond of saying, “It must be worth it.” And I would add to that, “It must be memorable.”

What makes food worth it and memorable?

Buckwheat cakes and pure Wisconsin Maple syrup with farm fresh sausage enhanced with a bouquet of edible florals and greens prepared by our hostess at an AirBnB in Pepin, Wisconsin recently

Jenna, you may already know this but your Mom grew up poor. By that I mean, she never saw the inside of a restaurant until she went on a date in high school. I’m exaggerating a bit, but the Mason’s were hard-working blue-collar in a good way, the way that makes you a better person, a more grateful person, one who knows what the initials T.G.I.F. stand for. They stand for payday. Thank the Lord, it’s payday. The thrill of payday was the smell of groceries and fresh deli cold cuts and pickles and cheese on italian rolls. 

There is a great tradition of simple food and simple hardship in your family. Your Great grandfather Taylor once was tossed into jail near Wichita, Kansas while working on a wheat harvesting crew in a pre-Miranda round-up of nomadic workers. Your Pop-pop made concrete blocks, Mom-mom worked an assembly line for Johnson & Johnson, but they all in their own time and place lived with vigor and passion preferring a brown bag of plums and a lunch pail with a ham sandwich to French pastries and Filet Mignon.

Simple food sometimes brings the most joy. Pop-pop and Mom-mom kept a clandestine prune juice jar filled with cold ice tea in the fridge to keep away the thirsty children. It was their secret drink kept safe by a prune label. And on Sunday nights at the drive-in movies, it was buck night for a car load, and your Mom would walk past the concession stand and smell popcorn and hot pretzels knowing it was unattainably expensive and return to the car and a brown paper bag filled with plums and carrot sticks. You probably remember the Red Top and Green Top roadside vegetable stands, but the Garden State was not all garden. We ate hoagies from the Wawa and the Ocean City boardwalk featured Kohr’s ice cream, Johnson’s caramel popcorn, and Shriver’s salt water taffy and fudge.

When we travelled, we often indulged in gas station carnival food, which originated from my youth, in a nutritional wasteland of highways and interstates as five road weary kids walked into a gas station and my Dad paid a whopping dime a bottle for the sweet elixir which we drew from, if we were lucky, the cold dark metal case with the lettering RC Cola. RC cola owned Nehi which meant grape Nehi and a purple tongue for me.  

Nehi Leg Logo

We drank not only from the well of soda pop, but also from the well of pop art, as the name Nehi, pronounced knee-high, was embellished in the world of advertising by a picture of a woman in a skirt high enough to show the leg up to the knee, to illustrate the correct pronunciation of the company name, Nehi.

A more provocative, version of the logo—one showing a single, thigh-high disembodied leg without a skirt—was referenced in Jean Shepherd’s story “My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award That Heralded the Birth of Pop Art”, as well as in the film A Christmas Story. Shepherd’s now-famous Leg Lamp was derived from this Nehi logo.

Jenna Kitchen Sink
Jenna can make a huge mess in a kitchen…but it’s always worthwhile

 Sometimes, we play with our food, or we throw it, like the time at Osage Christian Camp when someone yelled, “Food fight,” and peas, carrots, bread, and meatloaf rained down like manna from the rafters onto the unwashed who became even more unwashed. Or, in your case Jenna, we sleep on our food, like the time you fell asleep at Nammy’s table and head-bobbed down into a peaceful slumbering pillow of roast beef, potatoes and gravy.

Memorable food doesn’t always mean good tasting food. For instance, I’ve never been any good at eating organs, hearts, brains, gizzards…but liver is the worst…which is why the Germans call it liverwurst. Only the Germans could engineer a sausage made from an organ that removes toxins like alcohol, to cleverly cloak intoxication. This is why Germans give their dessert names like Streuselkuchen so you’ll never know if they are inebriated or if that is just how they talk…mmmm Streuselkuchen.

Which brings me to a battle over liver, between me and your Nammy when I was six years old. I was not allowed to leave the dinner table until I finished eating my liver and onions. I refused. I sat there for an hour rallying for the liberty of all those refusing to partake in flesh once used to filter toxins.

Americans, as it turns out, haven’t always had King Kong Maple Bacon Cronuts and Brown Butter Almond Brittle in our wheelhouse. We arrived from bitter culinary places of striving. During the Great Depression, most people were economic losers, but from a gastronomic perspective, dietitians were big winners, and with the country in desperate need of nutrition, dietitians had an opportunity to change America’s food. My parents and grandparents experienced the worst hard times but they were nevertheless memorable times and worthwhile times. But, my childhood food was perhaps more sugar-coated because of their struggles, and the Depression was a time in American history when dietitians had an excuse to innovate in the name of nutritional efficiency. This is when they invented chicken nuggets and white bread and cream gravy, one of your first food loves, as American homogenization trumped immigrant cuisine which meant a great deal of milk and white sauce and Wonder bread.

Your great-grandmother Mildred Davis grew up in the panhandle of Oklahoma in the midst of the Dust bowl when nutrition was more about being thankful for whatever you could find to eat. She often belittled my chicken leg-eating inefficiencies at Sunday dinner by grabbing the mostly denuded chicken leg from my plate and gnawing off what I had missed. No gristle, skin, or flesh was safe. She ate it all because she remembered how it was in her moments of want, wondering if the sun would shine again, if her children would eat, and if the wheat would ever take root again in the blowing dust.

Food is the best of times, it is the worst of times…and like the old church hymn, I’ve been redeemed. Redeemed by people like you and your Mother who’ve taught me to enjoy food, but to not abuse food, to embrace the feeling of hands in a garden of dirt on a spring day and the thrill of autumn harvest, bringing that harvest onto our plates where it sustains us and gives us life and health. Soak it up, drink it in, smell the aromas, make memories, and like that old Nehi ad, take a good look at life lived simply and gratefully, and say with Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, “L’chaim.”

Jenna and Andrew  June 24, 2017 Wedding!

Bon appetit to you and Andrew, and L’Chaim! To memories yet to be made, of  roasted corn and sautéed garlic Brussel sprouts with bacon and fresh blackberries with cream, and the dirty dishes of a well-cooked in kitchen, rounded out with the soft conversation of loved ones around a table of food…eat well and live well, it’s the stuff dreams are made of, memories that live forever.

Congratulations Jenna! And Andrew! Go preach the word of nourishment and life.

Prairie Grass and Good Bones

As I showered next to a field of corn in Wisconsin I realized that this is no Hampton Inn.

The rustic wood shower provides moderate screening from the house and barns south and west, but the view is entirely uninhibited north and east where dry corn stalks curve along the hill, the rustling ghosts of summer refusing to make way for autumn, and chipmunks scurry past me indifferent to the water falling on my head from a spout hung from a gnarled cedar branch

Shower in the corn Al Fresco
Front porch of Cynthia’s home

I’m at Cynthia’s farmhouse, built on a lovely ridge near Pepin, Wisconsin, circa 1900, which reminds me of Grandma Beck’s Oklahoma panhandle farmhouse built in the same era. This home has great bones, full 2″ oak studs which according to Cybthia reacted to her reciprocating saw like forged steel as she remodeled the bath and discovered the skeletons of animals from past winters refuge, squirrels, chipmunks, and cats.

the outhouse, #2 only, scatter with wood chips

Cynthia is an ecologist and has spent time in the Florida Everglades, the Canadian Rockies, and she was born into this way of living more peacefully with the earth, on a farm, not far from her present home.

foggy valley to the east of the farm

Karen and I walked west toward the bluff, past a Macintosh tree, and I plucked a jewel red apple and noticed blemishes. These are truly organic, and I bit into the delicious snow white meat of a farm fresh apple.

Cynthia’s prairie has been restored to its natural state, eye level bluestem and native grasses and flowers between stands of oak, hickory, and cottonwood. We sang tunes from the Seventies as we walked, noticing berry bushes along the trail, our songs alerting black bears of our presence.

native prairie on the ridge west of Cynthia’s studio

Upon our return, Jason, told us of a 600 pound black bear seen on the 80 acre farm. Jason is a WOOOFer (an organic farm worker living for room and board and to learn the life of sustainable food growing)  Erin, a modern dance instructor at a nearby college also lives and works on the farm.

Erin, working in a cluster of Jerusalem Artichoke

This is bucket list weekend, not so much the al fresco shower beside a standing ovation of rustling corn, but the Ryder Cup in Chaska, Minnesota and a tour of Wisconsin’s  pastoral beauty and culinary wonders including Noel’s Dairy cheese curds, Maiden Rock apple cider, and Nelson’s Creamery ice cream, all located on highway 35, Great River Road alongside the Mississippi River Wisconsin side.

view from shower to blue tin barn

one of many steeples in the midst of corn, often Lutheran, but some United Church of Christ and a few Catholic

Saturday afternoon we drove up a lane to an overlook and skirted past a wedding ceremony on the bluff and stood with bikers clad in black leather, who asked us to take their picture. The girl who handed Karen her camera grew up in Minnesota on a dairy farm and she gave us ideas of farms to visit. Standing on the bluff with those bikers looking at the Mississippi I was one of the few untattooed, but I wanted to ride with bikers, to sing the deep throated song of the highway with the wind in my face and Harley on my sleeve, or perhaps get a convertible and sing “Old Man River,” while driving highway 35.

I heard the pastor on the bluff next to us overlooking Lake Pepin, (the widest expanse of the Mississippi River formed by the intersecting delta silt of the Chippewa River flowing into the Mississippi, and the site of the invention of water skiing), say, “By the power vested in me by the state of Minnesota…which you can see from here…”, and the ceremony was complete and we were somehow in the receiving line, so we excused ourselves along with the bikers and walked back to the car.

The sons and daughters of France and Sweden and Norway still inhabit this section of Wisconsin, herding and milking Guernsey and Holstein cattle. And Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in Pepin, Wisconsin, a place she writes of in her book, The Little House in the Big Woods.


fresh vegetable garden west of the shower

Cynthia cooked breakfast Saturday morning and we tasted a bit of organic Wisconsin. While she cooked we talked about our son the meteorologist,  global warming, and soil conservation, and how often commercially produced apples are sprayed.

Buckwheat pancakes with walnuts, butter, and warm Wisconsin maple syrup, along with eggs and vegetables from the garden garnished with an edible day lily, and beer soak local sausage skillet browned

Cynthia is building a studio at the prairies edge and she invited me inside and she asked me questions about framing and insulation. She’s done much of the work herself along with her brother the electrician.

She restored the prairie grasses after noticing the silt run off after heavy rain. I mentioned my maternal grandfather who farmed in the panhandle of Oklahoma where the Soil Conservation Corp was virtually invented during the dust bowl.

Saturday evening we ate walleye and salmon at the Harbor View Diner and afterward sat around a firepit with Cynthia, Erin, and Jason.  Life is slower here, more like what my grandparents must have known, living by the rhythms of the sun and moon. The Harvest moon was two weeks earlier and the moon has since waned, not unlike this way of being. The conversations are gentle and measured, cell phones, texts, tv, take a back seat to eye contact and the warmth of human relationships.

I looked up from the fire and saw a billion stars through the dark Wisconsin sky, and realized that this is my home too, the same stars I see from my backyard. The same stars my great grandparents saw, from the porch of a home not much different than this one.

I build homes for people who often want homes not like their parents home, but more like their grandparents, with front porches and features that look quaint and weathered. Perhaps because these homes seem more eternal and hopeful and rooted in pain and work and birth and death, family connected not just to one another but to the earth and the sky and the eternal.

If only the walls of this home could tell its stories, across a century, it’s why we came here really, to Wisconsin, for cheese and cider and pork, and to hear another story from another place, that reminds us of home.


The Cruise of the Rolling Junk

I was ready to say, “One Provolone With”, which means give me one Pat’s cheesesteak with provolone cheese and fried onions. But I choked.

Since the lines at Pat’s King of Steak often stretch out onto Passyunk Avenue, you have to order quickly or risk the disdain of the cashier, not to mention the withering stares of South Philly cheese steak veterans who order with the swagger of Peyton Manning calling an audible while shouting “Omaha.”


“I guess I’ll have a…umm…a cheese steak. Oh, and provolone cheese with it also. And I forgot the onions, can you do those fried? I like them fried. I really hate cheese whiz, glad you have the provolone. Ya know, I’m from Oklahoma. We have license plates on the front of our vehicles that say, “Eat more beef…it’s what’s for dinner…or something like that, I can’t quite remember how that goes, but it’s really catchy and steak-like…”

pats-cheesesteaks pic

And then I noticed a guy who looked like Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather (Abe Vigoda of Barney Miller fame). He was staring at me with a steak spatula leveled in his right hand as cheese and beef painted his white apron in Philadelphia earth tones. I threw a twenty-dollar bill on the counter and slid down the sidewalk outside the order window. “Keep the change,” I mumbled, which was a 100% tip, but you are more grateful when you have felt the death stare of the steak man and lived to tell the story.

Karen and I love to eat when we travel and our rule is simple. If we can get it back home, we are not eating there. I went to the doctor recently and my cholesterol was 208 and I’m sure it was from the cheese steak I had in Philly. That’s why we only travel occasionally because the cheese steaks, lobster rolls, and cannoli kill me faster than going for a drive in the New York countryside with Rocco and Clemenza (Clemenza stops to take a leak and Paulie gets three bullets to the back of the head and all Clemenza can think of is the cannoli…”leave the gun, take the cannoli”).

Eating makes me happy, which also makes eating dangerous. If it really tastes good, I make soft but audible yummy noises, while Karen likes to sing and dance, which makes me sometimes uncomfortable in fancy restaurants. We are all different, and just like we have geographical linguistic differences, we have geographical food differences.

While a student in the foothills of the Ozarks at Harding University, Karen tried to order cream of wheat and the lady in the hairnet corrected her. “Honey, dem is grits.” Grits are well named. They are terrible unless smothered with cream and butter and gravy (and perhaps a little Cheese Whiz).

I was reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” recently and a passage reminded me of regional food differences when Fitzgerald writes of his wife singing about biscuits.

F Scott Fitzgerald the cruise of the rolling junk

“Zelda was up. This was obvious, for in a moment she came into my room singing aloud. Now when Zelda sings soft I like to listen, but when she sings loud I sing loud too in self-protection. So we began to sing a song about biscuits. The song related how down in Alabama all the good people ate biscuits for breakfast, which made them very beautiful and pleasant and happy, while up in Connecticut all the people ate bacon and eggs and toast, which made them very cross and bored and miserable–especially if they happened to have been brought up on biscuits.”    F. Scott Fitzgerald   The Cruise of the Rolling Junk

Zelda was from Alabama and Scott from the North. I’m an Okie and Karen was raised in New Jersey. Although Karen and I are thirty years happily married, we are not soul mates. At least not in the usual way of knowing what the other is thinking and finishing sentences for each other. But there are moments when we are the same spiritual soul.

Like Zelda and Scott, we travel for biscuits and cheese steaks, but also to hear music. Music takes us places. And if it’s Saturday, we time travel using Sirius satellite radio with an assist from Casey Kasem and replays of his American Top 40. Now, you can Google the top-selling song in the land, but in the Seventies, a gradual building of anticipation developed in living rooms, cars, and bowling alleys, from 40 down to 1. And if you had an FM radio, you had cutting-edge technology, although I preferred the AM crackle which seemed more urgent and authentic to me like Walter Cronkite was more believable than Dan Rather.

Now Karen and I try to eat well, by leaving the gun and the cannoli behind. We shop for groceries together, Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, local farmer’s markets, and try to make up for all that cheese steak, tiramisu, and fettucine alfredo from the Seventies. It seems like the food is getting better these days, healthier, less added stuff, but the music, ah the music. The music from our formative days will always be our music. Springsteen, Eagles, JT, Three Dog Night, Stevie Wonder, Boston, Billie Joel, and yes Karen, even Barry Manilow.

That music was heavy, like our food, full of saturated fat and sugar, sentiment by the glow of the dashboard radio. I’m glad I only have to listen to Casey Kasem while traveling on Saturdays, and that we only eat cheesesteaks when we are in NJ or Philly. Otherwise, it would be too much, like eating dessert for breakfast and pancakes for dinner.

But it’s good for the soul to stroll up to a Pat’s King of Steak every now and then and say, “One provolone with,” and know that you ordered well and that the spatula wasn’t pointed at you and you can glance back at your linemates and nod in acknowledgement that you did your job well. Because after ordering well, all that’s left is to sit down and sink your mouth into the wonder. To eat in another world across cultural differences, like the time we enjoyed Indie food in Wittenberg, Germany, or Johnson’s Caramel Popcorn on the boardwalk in Ocean City, or Bar-B-Que at Fat Belly’s in White Springs, Florida.Ralph Fat Bellys

We travel a lot like Zelda and F. Scott. We are the Cruise of the Rolling Junk. And we travel backwards on Saturday with Casey Kasem. We travel back to days when our hearts were full and our arteries were clear and the number one song could only be found on the radio. It makes me hungry thinking about it, our next road trip. Think we’ll head out on a Saturday. Until then, we’ll be happy with keeping our feet on the ground, and reaching for the health food stars.

All the Laughs on Your Side

“Do you have time to come home and help Dad? He fell and broke his leg.” Well, yes Mom, since you put it that way, I think I can find the time. And thanks for phrasing it in a non-urgent way so as not to alarm me and also give me an out in case I had an important meeting.

“I’m on my way,” I told her. Mom has a way of not wanting to impose and so even emergencies are cloaked in the soft composure of her Midwestern tendency to not make a big scene when her husband snaps his tibia like a hard pretzel.

I walked into the bedroom of my parents house and found my Dad on the floor at the foot of the bed, clothed only in white briefs and a small plate of breakfast goodies, holding a glass of grape juice and reclining on his side like the lord of beige carpet. He had been woozy before falling and went to sit on the edge of the bed. He was eating to remedy the blood sugar level that perhaps caused his fall.

“Are you hurting?” I asked. “No, not really,” said my Dad as he dangled the leg for me to see. I texted my brother, the physician from New York after we got to the hospital and sent him a picture of the leg with the caption, “His foot is floppin’ like a mackerel on a hot deck.”

“Isn’t it too early to make light of the injury?”, my brother texted back.  I replied, “Yes…maybe, but the image just got into my head, sorry.” Laughing through side-reclining pain on the carpet reminds me of a Soren Kierkegaard story about his dream of getting to heaven and having one wish to spend.

“A strange thing happened to me in my dream…I was granted the favor to have one wish…”Do you wish for youth, or for beauty, or power? Choose, but only one thing!” For a moment I was at a loss. Then I addressed the gods in this wise: “Most honorable contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughs on my side.” Not one god made answer, but all began to laugh. From this I concluded that my wish had been granted and thought that the gods knew how to express themselves with good taste: for it would surely have been inappropriate to answer gravely: your wish has been granted.”
Søren Kierkegaard

Many people have asked me, “How’s your Dad doing?” I usually give the upbeat pc answer, but occasionally I tell the truth, “Terrible, he’s not doing well,” and the inquiring person looks surprised, like that wasn’t what they expected to hear. Dad is 80, his bones are brittle, his heart is weak, and diabetes is relentless. And now he’s working through physical therapy for six weeks doing exertions he couldn’t do even before he broke the leg. So, yes, Dad is not doing well. But God still loves him, along with his family and friends, and he still has the wish of Kierkegaard, “…may I still have all the laughs on my side.”

Dad is irreverent with his caregivers, but calls them by name and is considerate in his own ironic way, always looking for someone to laugh at his jokes, even though he’s hurting. The nurse in charge of diet told him that he was 25 carb grams short of his daily goal and Dad told her that she could keep bringing it but that didn’t mean he was going to eat it.

I remember what Dad did when he woke up from heart surgery fifteen years ago and found himself alive in the recovery room draped in devices and tubes…he sang, “Oh Lord My God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made…”, and when he left the hospital, we had instructions to go next door to the Olive Garden where we bought $200.00 worth of bread sticks and pasta and brought it back to the medical staff at St. John’s. It was Dad’s way of having the last laugh, of understanding that all the laughs were on his side.

Kierkegaard was not a cheery fellow. He said things like, “What if everything in the world were a misunderstanding, what if laughter were really tears?” Dad isn’t Kierkegaard, he comes from the hills of Oklahoma near Bluejacket, where a yes is a yes and a handshake is a contract and pie suppers are don’t miss social events…and where laughter rings out even in the darkest night.

Dad chooses to live as if laughter is reality, and the hospital nurse takes him in the wheelchair to the table for dinner as he sings Willie Nelson, “On the road again, I just can’t wait to get on the road again.”

Dad knows all the laughs are on his side.



Living Your Life in the Cloud

Part of my Saturday mornings are intentionally aimless…and saturated with too much coffee. I become so driven by task during the week that I need to unhitch my mind and let it drift away with Noah’s last dove carrying a to-do list and an olive branch.

This post is for my son Brandon, who’s doing a little soaring himself while traveling Europe and learning the German language, while studying Meteorology at the University of Hamburg Germany. It’s also for lovers of weather…and lovers of the power of aimless imagination. You can stop reading if you don’t fit into these categories.

Since Brandon left January 3rd, I think of him often, and so when I see a topic that is compelling and that touches his world, I read about it or watch it or listen to it. This one’s about clouds, and I thought it fascinating.

Cloud Anchorage

I also liked it because it’s about aimlessness. I know, we’ve all been taught to be goal-oriented task accomplishing achievers. But when do we ever plan nothingness, aimless wanderings, when do we ever turn off our minds from the constant search for efficiency and accomplishment? Why isn’t this intentional rather than an occasional random epiphany?

When we were young masters of daydreaming, we allowed ourselves the indulgence of drifting along in the breeze of nothingness, and to-do lists were for jaded high-strung adults.

We don’t live beneath the sky, we live in it. I was reminded of this one Sunday morning sitting on the peak of a mountain within the Boston range in Arkansas, with cousin Brooks Davis and his two sons Jace and Trey, along with my son, Brandon. As we prepared for a Sunday worship in this pinnacled cathedral a storm blew in from the north. It was the first recognition I had of living within the cauldron of developing weather. Most weather is observed by looking up, but this…was wondrous in that we were literally mingled in the stew of weather, and a bit frightening as lightning crackled charging the atmosphere.
I think about that moment from time to time and remember how fortunate we were to see that and how remarkable clouds can be, especially when you are the center of the storms majestic swirling vortex.

Wouldn’t it be great if lying on our backs and aimlessly staring at the heavens was a valued pastime? In eternally busy lives, recognizing the exotic in the everyday?

And you don’t have to rush off to Timbuktu, just step outside your door, slow down, be present and do some cloud spotting. It’s good for your soul, for your creativity, for your mind.

Here’s where my wandering took me this morning, to TED radio and a talk by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. What a wonderful idea…keep looking up, see the ephemeral beauty of the atmosphere, and keep living with your head in the clouds.