Reflecting While Undecorating

Look closely at this picture.

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It is a vintage miniature replica of a telephone made of glass and metal. It only stands about four inches tall. The metal part screws off, and when it was new the hollow glass bottom was filled with tiny, colorful candies about the size of BB’s. The bottom is dated 1907  and has a sticker on the side that says “Hello Sweetheart”.

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Now consider this; this was a Christmas gift that my Grandfather received when he was a child. But it wasn’t stuffed in a stocking with other goodies. It wasn’t part of a larger gift, nor was it in addition to something else. This was Grandpa’s entire Christmas. It was the only item that Santa left under the tree for him that particular year.

  • Compare that to what you or your family members bought for each other this holiday season.
  • Compare it to what you put under the tree for your children.
  • Compare it to what you bought for yourself while Christmas shopping.

I keep this knickknack on a shelf in our dining room, and I think about its origins every time we decorate for the holidays or clean-up afterwards – and it almost makes me cry.  It helps me keep things in perspective as I pile present after present under our multiple trees – most of which, the recipients don’t even need.

It makes me grateful for the relationship I had with Grandpa and solidifies my desire to be more like him as I grow older and have grandkids of my own.  It’s why when my first granddaughter was born in 2012, I wanted to be called “Pop” – because that’s what I called him.

It also makes me grateful to have my daughter and her growing family close-by, where I can be there for them, just as Pop was there for us.

It’s been over 11 years since he passed away, but I still miss my Pop. Thankfully I can rest assured that because of things like this tiny toy telephone, or rows of tasseling corn, or a hundred other things I could mention, I know he will always be with me – be a part of me – and will continue to influence my life and my relationships for many years to come.

Watching Christmas on TV

I love the Christmas season and many of the things that come along with it, like the music, the decorations, and the movies.

When it comes to the movies though I like the classics; Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, among others.  My wife on the other hand – well, she likes those too but she also can spend countless hours watching those awful, made-for-tv, Lifetime & Hallmark channel holiday movies.  I often watch them with her, half-heartedly, playing on the laptop or Kindle. (I mean, those green pigs aren’t going to knock themselves over, are they?)

We watched one this weekend on GMC called “Christmas Angel” – and while I am certainly not implying that it was “good”, or that a movie starring Teri Polo, Della Reese, & Kevin Sorbo is fine cinema in any way, shape, or form – it did teach a moderately important lesson.

The lesson was that watching absolutely anything other than Lindsay Lohan in “Liz & Dick” was probably a good idea.

(Just kidding… kind of.)

No, the lesson was not so much stated outright as it was implied – and maybe I read too much into it – but it’s something that I strongly believe.  The lesson I took from it was that maybe we should spend less time looking for angels or praying for miracles, and more time BEING angels; HELPING those in need, PUTTING our hands & feet where our mouths are, FEEDING the hungry, CLOTHING the naked… BEING the change we want to see in this world!

Don’t get me wrong – praying for miracles has its place.  But sometimes we need to get off of our rumps and do those things that we can take care of ourselves.  Sometimes we can be the answer to other’s prayers just by putting out the effort.

But that’s just my opinion.

 

Silence is Golden

I personally believe that if you don’t have anything interesting to say, then you probably should just be quiet.

Lately, I haven’t had much to say, so… you know…

For a long time, I felt obligated to post a few blog entries per week.  I talked a lot but said very little.  Now Facebook & Twitter have become my outlets for random rambling nonsense, so without more to say this blog sits dormant quite a bit.  And I’m okay with that.  I hope you are too.

Reading the Gospels in 90 (or 89) Days

The following is an article I wrote for our church’s newsletter, which was distributed this past Sunday.

I don’t normally share these through my blog, but since I kind of issued a challenge with this one (a rarity for me), I thought it might be good to open it up on a larger scale & offer collaboration, commiseration, or a way to hold each other accountable.

You can also click this link to download or print a checklist that can help you keep track of your progress: Read the Gospels in 90 days

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Q&A With the ArachNerd’s Granddaughter

While babysitting the most awesome baby girl on the planet (aka; my first grandchild, who – since this is a public blog – I will refer to as “T”) I decided to test her little brain so that we know what we’re dealing with. Here are the results:

Let’s start off kind of easy, shall we… What is 2 + 3?

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Excellent! The answer is 5. How about the square root of 25?

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Nicely done, Sweet T. I think you’ve got a handle on math. Let’s move on to science. What is the atomic number of the element ‘Boron’?

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Whoa! You’re good, kid. So if the planets in our solar system were numbered 1-8, beginning with the closest to the sun, what number would Jupiter be?

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That’s right. (And we won’t even begin to get into the Pluto discussion right now – not until you’re at least 9 months old.) Let’s try a different subject. Which constitutional amendment protects against abuse of government authority in a legal procedure?

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The Fifth Amendment is correct, Baby T. Very good! How about popular culture? Of the six Star Wars movies, which one is the best?

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That’s right – Episode 5, the Empire Strikes Back! (I know technically that’s kind of a subjective question, but you knew what answer your grandpa wanted to hear, didn’t you? Smart!) Ok, out of her 15 Grammy Nominations, how many has Lady Gaga actually won (undeservedly)?

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Dang Little T, that was a tough one, but you got it! Last question, baby girl; when Matt Holliday was traded from the Rockies to the Cardinals in 2009, he had to change his number to 15, and then change it again to 7 the following year. What number did he wear for the majority of his career before coming to St. Louis?

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8 for 8! I’m impressed!

High-Five!

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For the Love of BBQ – KC Edition

The planning stages of our trip began innocently enough. My wife suggested that we go somewhere besides St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play baseball this summer. One glance at the schedule and we noticed that they were playing a weekend series in Kansas City; which, obviously led to the desire to expand our barbecue travels westward.

So I did a little research. I knew that KC had a signature style, which had a highly regarded reputation, but I honestly knew very little about it. I knew that it was sauce based – but, like many uniformed idiots, thought that it would at least be similar to its namesake, KC Masterpiece… It wasn’t.

We were going to be there three days, so I chose three places; two supposedly “original” KC style joints and one slightly newer restaurant. I also made sure that I could order (for the most part) the same meats at each place so that I was comparing apples to apples; or in my case, Pork Ribs & Beef Burnt Ends to Pork Ribs & Beef Burnt Ends.

We started at Arthur Bryant’s – a BBQ joint with direct connections to Henry Perry, who is commonly referred to as the “father of Kansas City barbecue.” The ribs didn’t have nearly the amount of sauce I was expecting – which was fine with me – but they also lacked that good smoky flavor I’ve come to expect from Memphis style. The burnt ends were good; cut into good size chunks with plenty of bark. My only problem with them was that they were covered in the sauce, which detracted from the flavor of the meat.

On day two we went to another place whose roots can be traced back to Henry Perry; Gates Bar-B-Q. Again, the ribs were pretty good – a bit saucier than Arthur Bryant’s – but not bad. The burnt ends on the other hand had a good flavor, but were chopped so fine and swimming in sauce that it was more like eating barbecued hash. I didn’t care for them at all.

On day three, we waited for 45 minutes to get a table at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbecue. The restaurant itself felt more like a sit-down, chain restaurant than a classic BBQ joint, but the food was really good. It almost pains me to say it, but I think I preferred the meat here to the other two “KC Original” places. It was smoky, not over-sauced, and cooked just right.

 

A few random thoughts:

  • What’s with all the french fries? KC’s menus were not easy to decipher, and for some reason, if you didn’t ask for (and pay extra for) a different side dish, you got fries. I personally don’t care for fries, but at least it gave me a delivery system to try their different sauces.
  • Pickles. That’s right; pickles. Everywhere we went served pickles with their barbecue. I’m not complaining – I just thought it was kind of weird. I suppose it could be Kansas City’s answer to Memphis’ slaw – but I don’t know.
  • Seriously, the menus are terrible. Even our ten-year-old niece noticed. Everything was very vague, and everything I asked for, I was promptly told that I couldn’t do. It was confusing, and the ladies behind the counter were little or no help.
  • Something else I wasn’t expecting; I liked the sauce. It’s a thick, tomato & molasses based sauce that’s as spicy as it is sweet. And I do love spicy-sweet foods!
  • Oddly enough, the best thing I ate in KC was a brioche bread pudding from the Bloom Baking Co. at the City Market. Amazing little bakery. Don’t miss it it if you happen to find yourself in the City of Fountains.

So, in conclusion, Kansas City barbecue wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. Luckily it was a bit better than I expected. But for me, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the honest-to-goodness, dry-rubbed, slow-smoked Memphis-style ‘cue that I know & love.