Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Fashionable Hotdog

Cliff wrote a post titled, ? which got me thinking about hotdogs. I live close to a community known for being vegetarian. While I consider turkey a meat, evidently some vegetarians do not. Personally, I don’t care what people eat as long as they enjoy it – that is what meals are about. This story has been told to me several times.

Several years ago, Cliff and Marilyn stopped by. As always, it was great to see them. I had to go to meeting so my wife decided to cook them a light dinner. She decided on hotdogs. She asked Cliff and Marilyn how many they wanted. I don’t know what Marilyn requested but Cliff wanted a couple. My wife prepared and set them before Cliff. Evidently, Cliff took one bite and got this strange look on his face. I also imagine he added a great deal more mustard and ketchup. Finally, he got up the courage to ask what type of hotdogs they were. My wife replied - turkey dogs. Yep, made with ground up turkey. As the story goes, Cliff could only gag one of them down. To this day, I don’t blame him.

Back then, turkey hotdogs were really, really cheap. That’s why we ate them. Today they are ‘fashionable’ along with turkey sausage, turkey bacon, and turkey Italian sausage. We can’t afford them now so it’s safe to visit again Cliff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Setting at the Kitchen Table

For the second morning in a row, I woke up at 4:30, walked into the kitchen only to realize I had nothing to do. I didn't need to cook meals for Vic. Setting at the kitchen table I suddenly found myself smiling. I really like kitchen tables. Not just mine but every kitchen table I have sat at.

I remember eating great meals around them. I remember Vic devouring (yes, devouring) Colorado peaches. I remember all the great people over the years who have spent time at our kitchen table and all the laughter. I remember Cliff setting there after cooking breakfast showing me how to put pictures on my blog. I also remember Cliff's kitchen table. They have a living room, but I can see that kitchen table where we have spent hours and hours eating great meals and telling stories.

I remembered other friend's kitchen tables where stories have been told, pictures have been shown, memories have been made, and trips have been planned. What a great piece of furniture for building, creating, and maintaining friendships. As well as building great memories.

But, they are hard to sleep on - I am going back to bed.
Posted by Hello

Monday, March 21, 2005

The First Day

Today is Vic’s first day in Heaven. My father in law passed away this morning, March 21, 2005.

As with any trip, I imagine the first day is filled with a little uncertainty. Will I get there all right, what will it be like, what arrangements have been made? Here is how I envision Vic’s first day in Heaven.

Immediately upon his arrival, he is greeted by a multitude of family and friends. Standing at the front of the line is Tenny, his wife of forty-nine years. She had gone ahead of him and is certainly glad to see him now. She is surrounded by a host of others also waiting to greet him.

While Vic is glad to see everyone, he is a little concerned. He can’t find his walker and his oxygen tube; they had been his constant companions for years down on earth. Finally, someone tells he won’t need them in Heaven and a broad grin crosses his face. He takes a deep breath and a few brisk steps, smiling all that much more. Yes, things are definitely better in Heaven.

Tenny and a few close friends take him around to get him familiar with Heaven. Vic always liked being familiar with his surrounding. Along the way, he meets a lot of people and has a lot questions answered. Then although they had met years ago, Vic has his first face-to-face conversation with God. It is a pleasant conversation, it a private conversation, but it is one that left him knowing while his life on earth was not perfect he had done good things and had made some good decisions. Vic leaves his meeting with God smiling all that much more.

He is now led to the banquet table that has been prepared especially for him. It’s a long table with a vast variety of food. He is told that can eat what ever he wants. Don’t worry about the salt content – you left those trouble on earth. Sugar is okay too after all there is no such thing as diabetes in Heaven. Heading down the banquet line Vic takes a small cup of soup, he could take a bowl but soup is one of those foods where, “a little goes a long way”. Next comes the vegetable portion of the banquet. Vic’s eyes them carefully and continues filling up his plate, passing on the broccoli and brussel sprouts - you know some things don’t change, even in heaven

With a full plate, he heads towards the table that has been reserved for him. His place is in the center. It a long table full of family and friends all who have made this trip before him. They stand and applaud as he takes his place; after all, today he is the guest of honor. God stops by and placing a loving hand on Vic’s shoulder tells him to enjoy today as well as eternity.

So, there is Vic at a huge table, surrounded with family and friend. The food he loves filling his plate. His smile is wider than it was his last few years here on earth, his laugher a little stronger and more sincere. He is sitting there surrounded by love ones with a dish of jello in one hand and a saltshaker in the other.

Enjoy the meal Vic.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Guest Blogger

We are privileged and honored to have guests staying at our house tonight. Cliff and his wife dropped by. Actually, Cliff drove 1,200 miles to show me how to post photos. It might have been tied into a vacation as well. Here is our guest blogger – Cliff.

Marilyn and I are on the home stretch and have pulled into one of our favorite vacation destinations. Ralph’s …., okay I actually stopped to hug his wife and he was standing behind her and well. . . I hugged him too. His wife doesn’t have the ‘stubble on the face’ like he does. I think a handshake will suffice when we leave later today.
I like stopping in Ralph’s world because of his ability to draw people. I’ve been here and seen him sit down on the porch and before you know it the whole cul-de-sac is here and wanting to visit.
Char is a very artistic and talented decorator. The painting, stenciling, trim, and window treatments are well done. I was however able to find some of Ralph’s influence this time. They have a lovely little half bath on the main floor and on the back of the toilet is one of those infernal ‘Billy Bass’. You know the ones, they alternate between ‘Take me to the River and Don’t worry be happy’.
Well we are about to leave to complete our tour and get back home to reality. Reality, meaning dog grooming and hauling corn.
I am reminded of a few years back when Marilyn and I lie in bed one night. She was in the middle of a very stressful time involving our children’s activities and the kennel. She was grooming and cleaning pens more than full time and we were traveling all over the region to watch baseball games at night. In the quiet of the bedroom, she confided how low, helpless, tired she felt, and that she needed a vacation. I said in my most fatherly voice, “Well, we just need to stop and smell the…” and before I could finish she interrupted, “What, the dog crap”? Marilyn can be very defensive when she first gets in bed.
Thanks Ralph for letting me be a part of your famous blog. Cliff Morrow

Friday, March 18, 2005

Harvesting Corn Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Carrot Cake

Sunday my father in law was over. He spent most the afternoon resting in the recliner. After a pretty good dinner (well, yeah, I cooked it) I thought he was ready to go back to the rehabilitation center. He was tired, his oxygen level was low, and everything indicated he needed to get back. So, I casually asked, “Vic, you ready to go?” To my surprise, he answered no.

Except for the time when he was kicked out, which highly irritated him, Vic has been attending cooking class at the rehabilitation center. I assumed he was kicked out for using too much cinnamon. As it turns out, he forgot to sign up. He is now back in good standing with the cooking class and can attend every week without signing up. Following cooking class, he always gives me the recipe.

He didn’t want to leave Sunday night because he thought we should make carrot cake from the recipe at the rehabilitation center! My wife thought it would be a good time to go for a walk with a neighbor. I’m happy. Actually, I am exhaust but hey, you want to make carrot cake – let’s make carrot cake.

Vic immediately defined the roles. He would read the instructions and I would do what he said (did I happen to mention he is my father in law?). He studied that recipe. He might have memorized it. Soon he started talking, “Grate three cups of carrots and place them in a bowl with . . . .” Hold on. Hold on. I don’t know how fast they work at the rehabilitation center but it takes me a few minutes to peel and grate carrots.

Before long the carrot cake was in the oven, the kitchen could have been declared a disaster area, and I was probably sweating like a pro basketball player who had just played the entire game. I’m ready for a rest. “What about the frosting?” asked Vic. Frosting? Frosting? That cake will take an hour to bake, he’s low on oxygen - I’ll make it later. “I don’t know,” replied Vic, “I think we need to make the frosting, that’s what they did in cooking class.” More bowls were placed on the counter (actually the last of the clean bowls). A few minutes later, we had cream cheese frosting. Vic thought we needed to try it. Come to find out Vic really, really, likes cream cheese frosting. After tasting a spoonful or two, he declared it to be okay. He also made the determination he had better head back to the center. The carrot cake still had about thirty minutes to cook and had to cool before being topped with the award winning frosting.

The following morning at four o’clock what do you think I was doing? Yep, putting the frosting on the carrot cake so he could have it with his lunch.

I had to leave town for a few days, so Charlene took some cake over to him. He shared it with his entire table. It was a hit. Later, when back in town, I stopped by to see him. Everyone was still talking about Vic’s carrot cake.

I just ate a piece of it. It is good.

Saturday, March 12, 2005


It started in 1992. It was one of those milestone birthdays that we are suppose to dread. As it turns out I have since figured out every birthday is a milestone, none of them should be dreaded. Celebrated – absolutely. Dreaded – no.

In 1992, I signed up for a week long, 500-mile bicycle ride. To my surprise, I got in. That was a good thing excepted for a few items like I didn’t have a bike and I hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 15 years old. But, those were minor obstacles that could be overcome.

Since 1992, I have gone on at least one, week long, long distance bike ride a year, with the exception of one year. These rides are filled with miles and miles of great bike rides and meeting some wonderful people. However, it all comes at cost. A few years back I discovered the stages you must go through. The duration of each stage may vary but you have to go through all them. Here is the abbreviated version.

Stage One: Apply for the ride. Some you need to raise vast amounts of money for, others you have to be selected, some you can just pay to get in. For 2005, I applied for one where you have to be selected. I was selected.

Stage Two: Excitement. This last somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. You’re pretty darn happy. You might even talk a little smack with others bike riders you know. It’s a good time.

Stage Three: Where did I leave the bike? Having completed the ride last year you get back and well, you might go for short ride here or there but there is no purpose, there is no reason. You quit riding. You hang up the bike until next year. In this stage you start wondering things like are the tires still good, where in the %^#%^ is my helmet, do the shoes still fit?

Stage Four: Wonder. My thighs feel a little mushy, look at that stomach, I wonder if it was like that last year?

Stage Five: Fear. What did I get myself into? There is no way I can do this? What am I trying to prove? Too whom do I need to prove it? Why? Why? Why?

Stage Six: Let’s go. Time to start training. You tell yourself it’s only a 500-mile bike ride any body can do it, as you acknowledge you are almost completely around the block; you’ll stop and catch your breath then.

Stage Seven: Priority. Training becomes a priority. You know if it doesn’t you will die on the bike ride. You can hear them talking at your funeral, “He was doing something he loved.” Yeah, what? Sweating my butt off trying to get to the top of a stupid mountain while gasping for air?

Stage Eight: Confidence. You have racked up several hundred training miles and you feel strong. Muscle in your legs are coming back. Your confidence level is starting to increase. You start to believe you can make it.

Stage Nine: Anxiety. What did I get myself into? What makes me think this is going to be fun? What else could I have done with that money? All head games you play with yourself. This is a tough stage to get through.

Stage Ten: The ride. You are there for the week riding between 60 and 100 miles a days. You are doing it and having a great time. You are really feeling sorry for anybody who is not you – it is that much fun.

Stage Eleven: Hanging up the bike. You are done. You have completed the ride. You tell yourself you are going to keep riding but it takes a lot time to get dressed and then a lot of time to do the ride itself. You have to get caught up with other items. Really, you convince yourself you don’t have time to ride.

Stage Twelve: The search. Geez, what ride should I do next year? I need to do something. What would be a challenge?

Right now, I am about halfway through stage two. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Daily Special

Do not, I repeat, do not read and eat at the same time. At least if your spouse gives you a book by a well-known chef.

It is 9:00 PM on a Monday night and once again, I am in a hotel. It’s a hotel I stay at frequently. I would rather be home but the travel goes with the territory. Another day of meetings, another day full of urgent items, has ended.

Walking into the restaurant at the hotel, I know the menu by heart but decided to look at it nonetheless. Nothing looks good so I glanced at the daily special. It was grilled salmon on a Caesar salad with a vinaigrette dressing. I’ll try it with a large ice tea.

When it arrived, it looked okay. It tasted, well okay, not good, not bad, but okay. At least until chapter five of the book when the chef warns never eats fish on Monday. He then went on to explain why you NEVER, NEVER, EVER eat a salad with fish on Monday that has its true flavor hidden by a vingarette or a bunch of dressing.

Laying the fork down in mid-bite, I asked for the check, saltine crackers, and a Budweiser. I am still not sure why I wanted the crackers.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Crime Spree

It’s over now so I can write about it. My life of crime was short lived but a terrifying, mind numbing experience. I am rehabilitated now - thanks to Costco (a.k.a. Sam’s Club).

It started out simple enough, an extra ketchup packet here, a relish packet there. Always taking one or two more than needed because “I might use them”. You can rationalize anything you want. It progressed to utensils. Not the standard run of the mill plastic knifes, forks, and spoons; no these were the good ones - individually wrapped. Again, always taking an extra one or so, just in case they break. There’s that rationalization thing again.

When I started cooking and taking meals to my father in law, Vic, I stepped it up big time. Vic’s meals were never a problem but the condiments like mustard, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce, and ranch dressing were driving me up the wall. I didn’t have any containers to transport them. One day at a fast food restaurant, I spotted a plastic one and half-ounce sauce cup complete with lid. They were setting there, out in the open, free for customers to take and put the appropriate sauce in. I order something off the menu so as not to draw attention to myself when near the sauce cups. Casually, ever so casually, I slipped an extra three into the bag “just to see if they worked”. As I said, you can rationalize anything you want.

That night at home, I tried them and they worked great. I knew I would be on the lamb and running from the law the rest of my life all because of those darn little condiment cups. Little did I know I would soon be overwhelmed with guilt by my recent crime spree. So, I tried another approach. The next day at the fast food restaurant (yeah, same one with the cute little cups) I asked the kid at the counter if I could take any extra five or so. He gave me a funny looked but said, “Yeah, sure.” I took eight. Rationalizing that the extra three cups fell into the “or so” category. I was hardened now, even with permission from a kid who really didn’t care or wasn’t paying for them; I had taken more than I should have.

I knew it wouldn’t be long before I would be ducking into doorways at the sight of a police car and breaking into a cold sweat every time I heard a siren. But, some how, some way, I had to get those condiments to Vic. He can’t eat pork roast without horseradish.

One day, shortly after ordering the standard fifty-nine cent taco and lifting six or seven extra condiment cups my cell phone rang. The sudden shock of hearing the ring almost foiled my getaway; I dropped the extra cups on the counter. Every eye in the place had to be on me. In my heart, I had known it would only be a matter of time before I was busted. I grabbed my taco, threw the cups in the bag and ran outside to answer the cell phone. It was my wife and she was at Costco. She said they had two-ounce condiment cups with lids and asked if she should pick some up. I thought that was a bad choice of words on her part. “Absolutely. Buy some”, I replied, thinking to myself - I can’t keep living like this.

My advice to you is simple, don’t live the life I did, and don’t follow me down the road of crime. If you need two ounce condiment cups call me. I’ll ship them to you. There are 1,200 in the basement.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Freeze Dried

If you are outside with me the first thing you will notice is I always wear a hat. Generally, it is a ball cap. My favorite, at the moment, is from Cabela’s. It started a couple years back and, like most things in my life, at the kitchen table. My wife, Charlene, walked in and announced, “Something is wrong with your head.”

“A lot of people say that, it’s not a new concept,” I replied.

“No, I’m serious,” she went on.

“I think most those other people were too,” I declared.

But suddenly it dawned on me, Charlene was the only one that had moved all four strands of hair and was rubbing my scalp. “You have two hard yellow blisters. You ought to get them looked at.” Trying to act nonchalant, I slowly pulled out a 3x5 index card and jotted, Call Doctor - Cancer.

Early the next morning I called the doctor, which is always a stress-inducing event. Like most men I only call the doctor when it is really, really necessary. The thought of having skin cancer made it really, really necessary. Of course, as fate would have it, the next available appointment was two weeks away. It doesn’t matter if you’re dying or not, you have to wait the two weeks. It’s amazing how many times you can feel the top of your head in two weeks.

Two weeks later setting in the doctors office, they take your blood pressure. The nurse got a little concerned because my blood pressure reading was high. Well hell, I’ve got cancer what does she expect!

Finally, the doctor came in and glances at the top of my head. Heads must be to doctors what mites are to foresters, once you’ve seen it a hundred times you really don’t need to study the damage very long. “Well, it’s a mild form of cancer if left untreated it could get worst. We can treat it now or treat it later.” Alright, I’m going to live! “You’re not going to suck another $10 co-payment out of me, Doc. Let’s do it now.”

As he pulls out an upscale version of an arc welder, I noticed his hands are shaky. So I started asking questions - lots and lots of questions. He explains he is going to freeze the blister so they scab over and fall off. I keep asking questions, he starts playing with the arc welder while explaining the blisters (and that portion of my head) will basically be freeze dried. GREAT! I envisioned myself going around wearing a hat which reads: Freeze Dried, Just Add Water. Finally you are told to lower your head and hold it steady.

As it turned out I had the mildest form of skin cancer and it was in the first stage, sun damaged skin, which blisters. Sun damaged skin is dramatically increasing in Colorado. More cases have been reported this year that ever before. And yes, if left untreated it can, over time, manifest into more severe skin cancer.

So whether your in Colorado or not, whether you have a full head of hair or not, wear a hat.