Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous

Shake Us by Fits

Some time had passed since we gave my stepson his DNA kit. But my wife was adamant that he come over and complete the DNA test. So, we resorted to bribing him with a Mexican dinner and Jell-O cake. He eventually wore down.

When I came from work on the agreed upon day, my wife was already coaching him on how to correctly spittle. It took him awhile, but he persevered and finished. Sealing up his vial of spit and forever binding himself to even his most primitive ancestors.

To memorialize the event, we made good on our promise of a Mexican dinner. The rest of the night was a straightforward proposition: to enjoy ourselves sans drama. A dinner free from the dreary business of business itself and politics. We spent quite a bit of time at the restaurant idly chatting the night away.

After dinner, we returned home to generous portions of Jell-O cake or, as some people call it poke coke. A delicious dessert made with red raspberry Jell-O and some lemon juice-based frosting. Towards the end of the evening when we were coming off our sugar highs and running out of our words, there was a moderate pause in our conversation and that’s when I took the opportunity to softly and slowly sing an old Danish lullaby— Hej nu, graed du ikke…

Once the family figured out I wasn’t joking the evening quickly turned awkward. By the second verse— Baby, lad mig tor dine ojne— family members started to come up with some lame excuses for leaving or going upstairs. I was slightly taken aback but then again I was getting sleepy and it had already been a good evening. And, like my Dad always used to remind us, nothing good ever happens after midnight.


“When neither incompetency, nor intentional wrong, nor real injury to the service is imputed—in such cases it is both cruel and impolitic , to crush the man and make him and his friends permanent enemies…”—Abraham Lincoln

Why You Ramble, Nobody Knows

Rocky escaped again. Proving once again that nature doesn’t care who we are or what we deserve. Megan had called us at our hotel in Knoxville and I could overhear her describing to my wife how Rocky had escaped into our new neighbor’s backyard. It had been a while since Rocky’s last did this, which coincidentally also took place when we were out-of-town.  

I am still slightly befuddled over how he figured out where I had taken down the chicken wire to stain the fence. A few years back in an effort to stymie Rocky’s outbreaks, I had put up little sections of chicken wire over spots in our fence, which sits on hill, that had gaps between the fence and the dirt. Only recently did I take down a few sections to stain the fence. Sure enough, Rocky found those unprotected spots. 

You would think for a dog that was on the cusp of turning 11 years old (at least 70 years old in doggy years) that he’d no longer be interested in going through all that work to escape. But, age does not seem to be a deterrent. Escaping is his jam and always will be. The only saving grace to his running away is that he is not very good at it. Rocky loves people and thinks everyone loves him back equally. So, when he escapes he often ends up in other people’s houses, mostly our neighbors. The other thing is if you are fortunate enough to catch him on the run and you happen to have a half a kielbasa, recently cooked bacon, or duck treats in your hand, your chances of catching him are almost 100%. 

For sure, Rocky does not have a moral compass. It’s hard to know what is right or wrong when you are primarily driven by your instincts and desires. But, I’ve made peace with Rocky’s inclination to escape. I think we both realize it’s hard to find the perfect friend, but having a good friend will do.

The Leash of A Sober Mind

In a nutshell, this year’s Nevada Day was solid one. Part of what made it a good experience was knowing my parade limits. It’s at about float #100. I do my two hours among the throng of bearded men and brave women then I get out.  I try to stay long enough to see the Burning Man floats.


Though I am not a Burning Man fan, I do find their floats to be the most interesting and oftentimes the highlight of the parade. Other parade highlights this year included our beloved governor walking with the police with a Vegas Strong# banner, the Wild Horse supporters, the beard contests and the brothel float (uniquely Nevada). This float is often accompanied by a plain-looking lady with stringy gray hair walking down one side of the parade route with a sign condemning the brothels and warning of troubled times ahead. I’ll let you guess which one is the crowd favorite. However, I’ve got to hand to it the doomsday lady she’s gives it 110%. You can’t fault her for that.

The Dodgers

It was painful to see the Dodgers lose, but I didn’t cry this time. It was a great series and it was difficult to root against the Astros. They have a great offense and plus there was that whole Hurricane Harvey thing going on.

Music Suggestions

1.    Ride the River by J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton
2.    L’amour by Karim Quellet
3.    Police & Thieves by The Clash
4.    Light Flight by Pentangle
5.   The Sons of Katie Elder by 101 String Orchestra


“Failure is an orphan, but success has many fathers.”

Family Recipes: Green Corn Griddle Cakes

When I can’t sleep at night from too much excitement, I will make some Green Corn Griddle Cakes from an old family recipe:

1.     1 pint of milk
2.    2 cups grated green corn
3.    a little salt
4.    2 eggs
5.    1 teaspoonful of baking powder
6.    Flour sufficient to make a batter to fry on the griddle.

Lower Down Your Long Boats

Doctors at the clinic are calling it a modern miracle. The doctors, and even the nurses, simply could not believe the mobility Tammy now had in her good sewing shoulder, considering it was a complete rotator cuff tear. The examining physician, a strict man of science, had to go back and check the MRI twice, having difficulty accepting what he could not explain.

The clinic’s medical staff weren’t the only people dumbfounded by her progress. Upon hearing the happy news about the rotator cuff, I couldn’t believe it either because I had witnessed the carnage on that unforgettable day. She was in a bad way that first night and the days that followed.

It was a day like any other day, except for it being my birthday. I was watching TV, trying hard to be patient as I waited for my birthday dinner. When all the sudden I heard a loud crash and a thunderous boom. Startled by the unexpected sounds, I shouted, “What in the name of creation was that?!” Slippping out of the security and comfort of the recliner and I found Tammy lying at the bottom of the stairs. In one hand, she was still holding on, white knuckled, to her 2-in-1 laptop while using her other hand to rub out the bump on her precious dome.

Full of compassion and good works, I gave 110% as I helped Tammy up off the floor and ever so gently walked her over to her favorite spot on the couch by her Sudoku books. Grimacing with intense pain, she could barely lift her arm. Ceaselessly vigilant, I went to the freezer and grabbed an ice pack and found the bottle of expired Naproxen I had left over from that time I threw out my back. I focused all my energies on comforting Tammy, holding out a small sliver of hope that she’d still make something for my birthday dinner. Nothing special, maybe a quesadilla or two.  

As things calmed down, Tammy recounted to me how she fell down the stairs. It began with some lotioning of her feet with Jergens original scent, followed with putting on a comfortable pair of no-show liner socks. When she decided to come down stairs our feral cat was sitting on the intermediate landing meowing (not in a charming way). Being no stranger to multi-tasking, Tammy reached down and grabbed Ziggy with her free hand. With a laptop in one hand and a wildcat in the other, she short-stepped the next step after the landing and before she could say Jack Robinson she was at the bottom of the stairs writhing in pain. 

I am not going to lie my faith was challenged when Tammy fell and I found myself asking some hard questions. For example, was the fall a result of some flaw in Tammy’s moral character? This I investigated. I watched her face intently as she watched TV, I read her recent journal entries, and I followed her to Hobby Lobby several times (I finally had to stop, I couldn’t keep up). I even called up some of the more gender-neutral names in her phone. And it turned out that Pat, Phil and Blake are not guys. She was clean and I felt ashamed for even entertaining the possibility that she had any serious moral defects.

To ask this question in the first place was just a plain dumb. Of course, she was above suspicion. Furthermore, I don’t believe God, as a matter of course, curses any individual, group, or sports teams. God doesn’t have to curse us. We do a first-rate job at that for ourselves. 

It was childish for me to be asking silly existential questions over something so minor as Tammy’s fall. Neither her moral flaws, nor mine were the cause of her fall. Even if morality and misfortune are somehow entwined, my mortal eyes would never be able to pick out where one ends and the other one starts. Plus, my job is not to make those judgements.

The existential exercise, however, was not all in vain. The questioning did make it crystal clear to everyone and their mother’s brother that the cat was 100% to blame for Tammy’s fall as I had suspected from the beginning. But, I have been told to let this because after all I should be over the moon about her progress so far. It could have been worse, so much worse.


That’s What Family Means to Me

Red Clover, Goldenrod and Prairie Mimosa

Man, George could never catch a break. The morning of October 28th, 1855 started out like any other day. George Elisha King, a young 27-year-old father, who had already seen a lot of heartache in his short life, was enjoying a peaceful autumn morning surveying his new homestead along the White River, south of present-day Seattle.

In a short span of time, the star-crossed George had been married twice, divorced once, buried two children and three younger siblings while trekking the Oregon-California Trail to Utah twice. His final trek had begun in Iowa mid-May 1854. George, Mary Susan Kinsley King and their little family arrived in Utah sometime in 1855. But soon after, the restless George bid farewell to his parents and headed off for Fort Hall in hopes of settling down in the northwestern coastal region of Washington Territory. George and Mary arrived in July and quickly purchased land. It appeared things were calming down in George’s life.

George came in from the brisk morning air with an armful of wood, as Mary prepared corn bread and cracked some boiled eggs. George, Mary, five-year old George Alma, and their baby Mary Susan sat down to their breakfast with little George praying over the food. No sooner had they begun to eat when they heard shots fired and a whoopin’ and a hollerin’ outside of their little cabin. Surrounded by White River Native Americans (most likely belonging to the Duwamish tribe), the Kings were trapped. What happened next is unclear, but it didn’t end well for the King family. Mrs. King’s body was found cut open with one breast cut off, and Mr. King was found burned to death. Their two children were kidnapped during the raid.

The youngest child, Mary Susan, was never found, but George Alma King was brought to Fort Steilacoom the following Spring. Reportedly, he had been well cared for by an older Indian named “Spoon Bill” — a nickname he never cared much for. Under the guardianship of family, George Alma returned to life on the east coast, but lived a short life, dying single at the young age of 25 on January 1, 1875 in the New Haven area of Connecticut.

Hell on Earth

 “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven, yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell on earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be cured against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reach the age of reason or those who never will: to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” —C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock.

 Three Gates

If you are tempted to reveal
A tale to you someone has told
About another, make it pass,
Before you speak, three gates of gold.
These narrow gates: First, “Is it true?”
Then, “Is it needful?” In your mind
Give truthful answer. And the next
Is last and narrowest, “Is it kind?”
And if to reach your lips at last
It passes through these gateways three,
Then you may tell the tale, nor fear
What the result of speech may be.
—Arabian Saying

All My Ships Are Out At Sea

I’ve learned over time that one of the worst things you can do as a manager is compare supervising your co-workers to raising kids. They go ape over the comparison, even though, truth be told, there are a lot of similarities.


When I made this observation during a recent meeting, Brenda in Accounting was one of those who took offence to the comparison. Not quite understanding where she was coming from, I tried to calm her down by telling her not to worry she’s in good hands because my kids turned out just fine. That seemed to only make the situation worse. After some mediation and a thousand pardons, we did in fact get past the incident and I now know that deep-down inside Brenda’s a good kid.

A Baker’s Dozen

In the year 1655 on December’s last day, a Dutch baker was working late selling New Year’s cookies. As he was about to shut up shop an uncommonly ugly old woman thrust her way in, demanding a dozen of the special cookies bearing an effigy of Saint Nick.

As the baker handed her the bag of cookies, she said crossly: “One more cookie: I said a dozen.” “You have a dozen,” said the baker. “One more cookie said the ugly old woman, “One more than 12 makes a dozen.”

The baker grabbed her by the shoulder and pushed her to the door. “You may go to the Devil for another cookie!” he shouted. “You won’t get it here.”

In the days and months that followed, mysterious bad luck came to the little bakery in Beverwyck. Bread rose to the ceiling or fell flat like a pancake. Cookies and money seem to be snatched up by invisible hands. Even the handsome brick oven collapsed. The stubborn Dutchman began to wonder whether supernatural powers were not at work.

“Holy Saint Nicholas, what shall I do?” As he spoke these words, Saint Nicholas appeared and told the baker that his troubles could be resolved if had the spirit that the holidays demand.  No sooner had the figure of the saint vanished than the uncommonly ugly old woman appeared demanding a dozen cookies. Posthaste, the baker counted 13 cookies, presenting the bag to her with a bow and a “Happy New Year!”

“The spell is broken”, the witch told the baker, “Now swear to me on the likeness of Saint Nicholas that hereafter in Beverwyck and all the patroonship of Van Rensselaer that 13 will make a baker’s dozen. The baker took the oath and from that day on even down to this day when you say a baker’s dozen you mean 13.

Music Picks

  1. Cousin Dupree–Steely Dan
  2. Pines of Rome (Pini Di Romo)—Respighi
  3. If Drinkin’ Don’t Kill Me (Her Memory Will)—George Jones
  4. In the Blood—John Mayer
  5. Forearm Shiver—Sam Spence

Everybody Worships

My wife and I took a quick trip to Santa Cruz this past weekend and got a chance to visit the Beach Boardwalk.  As we were walking back from the pier, we noticed a young man, somewhere between 25-30, with dirty dreadlocks making a sand sculpture that spelled out C-A-L-I-F-O-R-N-I.

We wanted to take a picture but noticed that he had written into the sand sculpture the request that people “ask B4 pic”. The skeptical part of me thought this was a gimmick to get donations.

But we felt like the risk was minimal and so I gave my wife a couple of dollars and she asked if she could take a picture of the sand sculpture and also asked him if he would like to be in picture too.

He told my wife no, but then the little kibitzer went on to tell her that he didn’t want his soul to travel around the world while he was in California. The young man also pointed out that while he is a human, the sculpture was part of the beach and therefore part of the world. It was okay for the sculpture to be shared with the world, but not his soul.  

I have to admit I am a sap for philosophy and spent most of the day trying to figure out whether what he said was profound or half-baked. I finally came to the conclusion, of my own free will, that what he said for the most part was half-baked, EXCEPT for the idea that there is a need to protect your soul. He was onto something with that tidbit of street insight, and I’ll take wisdom from wherever I can get it. 

Doing the Hard Time

Living among and with differences is what makes our world so beautiful. It’s how God intended it to be—spirit and body, pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, life and death. Living with differences is this life. It’s core to God’s plan in helping us to become who He intends us to become. It’s how we live and learn. And we all know that isn’t always easy to do.”

Family Recipes

My favorite meal during timeout as a kid was Barley Gruel. This is the old family recipe:

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 teaspoons barley flour
  • cold water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix barley flour with cold water to form a thin paste. Add to boiling water, and boil fifteen minutes; then add milk, season, reheat, and strain. Put kid in timeout and serve.

Beyond the Locust Hedge

Last Friday as I was leaving work, I ran into a former colleague, a large and powerful man, who was on the verge of retiring. At first, we chatted about the small stuff like who got voted off The Bachelor. But after we exhausted that subject, we ended up talking about a deeper topic: our families.

As I propped my back against the wall and turned sideways so I could see the Exit sign, we joked about how much easier it was to manage employees than it was raise kids, a feat akin to herding feral cats. That was the sad truth and neither of us could at that point feign otherwise. A truth, that I could tell, pained us equally. Raising kids is and will always remain one of life’s biggest mysteries.

And as long as Hoosier Hill remains the tallest point in Indiana, this is one area that science will never conquer. Even if scientists one day learn how to genetically-edit children in their basements. I, myself, am not so sure I am in favor of a race of 7-foot tall Einsteins who can dunk, but have no souls. How do you genetically engineer a soul that is so unique that there is never another one like among the billions and billions of people who have lived on this earth?

It does seem though that more and more, as we expand our knowledge about genes, that science has come to accept a broader view on the influence of environment in genetics. Scientist are discovering genetics is not a closed system. A fact that any parent from Kalamazoo to Timbuktu could have told them. Once you have kids you can toss out any mechanical views you have about life. Going through the parenting process over time makes you, whether you like or not, more philosophical.

Through parenting you discover that this imperfect world full of imperfect people is a messy one. There is an obvious fallenness to this world. Life no longer is the fantasy world of dragon’s teeth and giant’s bones that you once knew. Life, come to find out, is full of scarcity, conflict and suffering. And none of this can be successfully dealt with without faith, hope, forgiveness, mercy, work and last but not least unconditional love.

When you become a parent, you sign yourself up for a lifetime of caring, pain, and joy, with no guarantees. Congratulations! There is no more hiding in the shadow and there are no limits on how much pain you might have to go through, but again there are no limits on how much joy you might have.

As a parent, you find through sober calculation that virtue is neither old or new, but timeless. Just as your parents told you in the car while they were listening to John Denver and you had your Walkman on listening to the B-52’s. Your parents who in your younger days you thought were clueless now seem like geniuses. Overnight, they have become a regular pair of Stephen Hawkings for having successfully navigated what you are now wallowing in.

There is no sugar-coating it having kids exposes you and makes you vulnerable. Being exposed and vulnerable is not cool. You have now become as cool as Dick Haymes eatin’ a corn dog at the Iowa State Fair.

But the tradeoff for losing your coolness is that by having kids you begin to see life more deeply. Life is so much more complex and richer than what we can ever empirically observe. It’s hard to behold with our natural eyes those beautiful bonds that tie us to others— past, present and future.

By having children, you get wind of the fact that Homo sapiens aren’t an abstract problem to be solved, but a calling for each of us to care for each other. There are no government programs or systems that can make us problem-free. Because of our fallen state the phrase “problem solved” is only a temporary thing. Learning itself is a gradual process. At best, the process is one step backwards for every two steps forward. The fact that we are bad at learning and gaining wisdom; however, should not deter us from trying.

The reality is that on Earth we need humans and we need a lot of them. Without them the richness of life goes away, things lose their meaning and their proper order. In a world without kids, we lose hope. Life becomes just “meh”. The doggone truth is, despite all the times our kids play out in street, stay up late, eat with their hands, talk back, curse, and never answer their phones (even though they just responded to your text), we need our kids as much as they need us to get through this journey we call life.

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male fashion blogger

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