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Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous

Steeplejack

In my short lifetime, I have never once received an invite to any political struggle. Nor have I been radicalized nor have I become a slave to any “liberation” group or philosophy. I think I am too domestic for all of that. I have lived long enough to know that I should put more faith in God than any political movement or revolution. But, I still bumble when it comes to faith.

For the better part of my life, I have bumbled. Bumbling a little here; bumbling a little there. My bumbling has been for the most part harmless, requiring some do-overs and mild forgiveness from loved ones. Painstakingly, I tried to just keep to bumbling and adhere to more temperate habits and minor peccadillos. However, I have teared up a pea patch or two along the way.

There have been more than a few times during my life when I’ve done much more than just bumbling. During those times, my problem-solving skills have been akin to Godzilla descending on Tokyo (the first Godzilla movie). And it’s when looking over the aftermath of my destruction that I have frequently found help from the Matthew 11:28-30, a scripture Christ delivered when he was out preaching to the cities in the area of Galilee:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

And even though like most bumblers I am slow to penetrate life’s deeper mysteries, I’ve learned that the Lord takes a long-term view to problem-solving. These principles of divine problem-solving require one to hone in on the virtues of patience, kindness, long-suffering, gratitude, and thinking about consequences (what I like to think of as third-level thinking). Pretty much the opposite of every first instinct I have had in life.

Godzilla teaches orphans in Tokyo to read and write

This scripture has taught me, more than once, that I don’t have to destroy a Tokyo in order to solve my problems, deal with adversity, or find some peace.

The Journey of the Ordinary Hero

“It is true it is grievous to part with our friends. We are creatures of passion, of sympathy, of love, and it is painful for us to part with our friends. But would keep them in the mortal house, though they should suffer pain…. we should rather rejoice at the departure of those whose lives have been devoted to doing good…

…we should rejoice in their passing from a state of sorrow, grief, mourning, woe, misery, pain, anguish and disappointment into a state of existence, where they can enjoy life to the fullest extent as far as that can be done without a body…

At death, our spirit is set free, and we thirst no more, we want to sleep no more, we hunger no more, we tire no more, we run, we walk, we labor, we go, we come, we do this, we do that, whatever is required, there is nothing like pain or weariness, we are full of life, full of vigor, and we enjoy the presence of our heavenly Father, by the power of his Spirit…”—Brigham Young

The Passing of My Father In-Law

I won’t go into it too much, but this week my father in-law passed away. It was a surprise to us all. Because it went very quickly, I think everyone is still in shock.

HennyPenny

Although I have only known my father-in for little over a decade, I can tell you my father in-law was one of the good guys. He was a soft-spoken person who got along with everyone and was somebody you could always count on to help out and was extremely handy. He had many friends and family who will miss him.

Born in a North Dakota in one of the smallest towns in America about 40 minutes from the Canadian border, he grew up during part of the Great Depression and World War II and as a result was wise with his money and didn’t like to waste anything—everything could be re-purposed. After his father died when he was young, his family eventually ended up in Southern California like so many others from the Midwest during that time. There he lived until the early seventies, when he got tired of the crime, traffic and pollution in LA and moved his family to Carson City, Nevada where he lived the rest of his life.

Family Photo 2Despite losing his own father at an early age, my father in-law ended up being a good husband, a good father, a good provider, pretty much all you could ask a man to be during his life on earth. He made the most of his life and that I think takes away some of the sting from his death. He will be missed, but we know he has gone on to the next stage of life, reunited with family and friends waiting for him there.

 

Squab Pot-Pie

This is great meal when the weather outside is miserable and the kids have run out of things to do. Usually I start off cutting and dicing about 3 ounces salt pork and then divide the squabs into pieces, removing the skin. Next cut up the potatoes into small squares, and lastly roll 12 small balls of dough.

In a deep baking dish spoon in the pork, potatoes and squabs, and then the balls of dough, season with salt, white pepper, mace or nutmeg; add hot water enough to cover the ingredients, cover with a “short” pie-crust and bake at medium in the oven for about 45 minutes.

Music Suggestions

1. Families Can Be Together Forever by Clive Romney
2. Deep in the Heart of Texas by Moe Bandy
3. Waltz of the Angels by George Jones
4. I Will Follow You by Percy Faith
5. River Jordan by Vusi Mahlasela

Humor

Four men are walking in the desert.

The Germans says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have a beer.”
The Italian says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have wine.”
The Mexican says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have tequila.”
The Jew says, “I’m tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes”

Spiritual Whirlwinds: When All Things Are In Commotion

Horsefeathers

Here in Mortality

“…here in mortality, we cannot always tell who is carrying what burdens; limited intelligence, chemical depression, compulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, dysfunctional or abusive family background, poor health, physical or psychological handicaps—no one chooses these things.”— Stephen E. Robinson

Applied to myself: You don’t know jack! You probably to some degree suffer from all the burdens listed above. More than likely you have been one of those burdens that others suffer from. A little less talking, and a little more patience, a little more mercy, a little more forgiveness, and a little more long-suffering might make you less of a burden to others.

4-1-17 Burdens

My Tiny Thoughts: This is not a declaration of permissiveness or a free pass to tolerate evil, but I think it underscores the importance of developing patience, mercy, long-suffering, and forgiveness in our judgement of others. The Lord has never told us to not judge because being our own moral agent is key to becoming like him. Thinking and acting is key to the His Plan of Happiness. To think and to act requires judgement. But our understanding of each other is severely limited. Our judgements of our fellow imperfect human beings will be in of itself imperfect and can never be final or eternal.

We may be able to discover planets in distant galaxies, process complex algorithms in a matter of minutes, and communicate instantaneously with our loved ones thousands of miles of away, but this knowledge does not make us experts in the matters of the heart. It doesn’t mean we understand each other any better, no matter how much we force the issue, or meddle in other people’s private lives.

Fortunately, you don’t need a Phd to become more patient, merciful and forgiving and achieve a better understanding of others. Development of these qualities is no less demanding but requires a different discipline and a lot of divine help.

Music I liked this Week

1. Yellow Rose of Texas by Mitch Miller
2. Solfeggieto by Shir Nash
3. Crazy for You by Michael Franti and Spearhead
4. The Foggy Dew by Young Dubliners
5. The Hungry Wolf by X

4-1-17 Old West Point Nebraska Pic 2

Family Stories from the Quiet Past

My wife’s sister recently shared some family history with us. She found a profile of Manoch (Mano) Frey (1854-1923)—my wife’s 3rd Great Uncle on her mother’s side—in the Compendium of History, Reminiscence and Biography of Nebraska. Mano’s father, Edward Frey (1819-1887) moved his family from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania to Omaha, Nebraska where they filed on a homestead in 1868. Once granted he moved his wife, Susanna Reinhard (1818-1880), and his family to West Point, Nebraska.

At this point in time, the area of West Point had been settled for almost a decade and Nebraska had gone from a territory to becoming the 37th State of this blessed Union. The Elkhorn Valley where West Point sits was a Pawnee and Omaha tribe hunting ground, and in 1859 these tribes were surprised and upset when they discovered during their hunting expedition that homesteaders had begun to settle on the land. To drive out the settlers, the tribes burnt several of the homes down. This skirmish lead to what was is referred to as the “so-called Pawnee War”, but this “war” had very few casualties on either side and lasted a little less than year after it started.

4-1-17 Mano Frey

 

Despite the peace between the homesteaders and the Pawnee, Ponca and Omaha tribes, the Frey family nevertheless experienced many hardships at the hands of Mother Nature during their first several years on their homestead. In March of 1869, less than a year after settling in West Point, they experienced one of the worst blizzards Nebraska had ever known, the family having “to bring the chickens in the house and to put the pigs in the cellar to save them.” In the blizzard of 1873, a great number of their cattle perished. The Frey family also experienced the grasshopper raids in 1873, 1874, and 1875 and lost all of their crops during each grasshopper raid.

In West Point, Mano’s father opened up a store. In order to keep the store stocked with goods, the Frey family on a regular basis had to haul items from Omaha to West Point, a distance of 70 miles. Hauling these items by wagon was not always easy, especially when the trail’s prairie pot holes turned into mudholes during the Spring rains. As Mano relates “at many of the mudholes the loads in the wagons were carried piece by piece on the heads of the men then the empty wagons were drawn over by long chains.”

He also describes one winter where he (Mano) and his brother hauled 88 cords of wood from the Missouri River, a distance of 35 miles from their farm. Mano notes oftentimes their feet were frozen to their boots and that they frequently slept in open barns. But Mano notes that “mother always had coffee and warm food waiting for them not matter what hour of the night they might return.”

History again proves, how awesome Moms are.

3-30-17 Absurd

Recipes

Cheese and Pepper Sandwiches

1 cup of cottage cheese
1 onion, minced fine
2 peppers, chopped fine
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika

Place in a bowl and beat to mix. Butter the bread and cut in thin slices. Place a layer of cheese mixture and then cover and cut in half.

The Burden of Expectations

It was harvest season again when the apples had turned red and yellow, round and juicy and sweet and mellow. And it had been a busy and exhausting Fall day. When I finally got to my room. I knelt down and said a quick prayer, asked for a little grace, asked for some deliverance from evil, and then I flopped onto my bed, clothes and all, and quickly fell into a deep sleep.

It was in the wee hours of the morning when I heard the sound of a piano being played from the other side of my bedroom wall. I was easily able to pick out the tune penetrating through my walls as a determined and forthright version of Scott Joplin’s ragtime great The Entertainer.

I’ll admit there are worse ways to be woken up to in the morning. The piano playing was coming along just fine until about two-thirds of the way through when the aspiring pianist stumbled. He (I assumed it was he because of the manly way he handled that piano) promptly returned to the beginning and started to methodically play the song all over again. Fair enough, you make a mistake once, maybe even twice, and you want start all over. I get that. But when the piano player did this a third time, a fourth time and so forth, I began to feel like my sleep was being abused. What had started out as a pleasant night’s sleep was now turning into a nightmare. Just play the dad gum song all the way through!

3-24-17 Cute-Kitten-Playing-Piano

Now, I don’t remember how long my Dad took piano lessons but I don’t ever remember hearing him making it to the end of Joplin’s The Entertainer even though he was a dedicated student of the piano. Despite his limitations, you could always count on Dad giving it 100%. Legend has it that my Mom once heard my Dad play it all the way through, but I think that’s was just fake news so that we would move on to something less painful.

The piano wasn’t the only instrument my Dad tried playing, he noodled a bit on the guitar and the mandolin. But like the piano, I never heard him finish a song on either one of those instruments. He’d always tease us with a few chords but never give us a song. This habit even applied to his whistling. I don’t remember a day going by when my Dad didn’t whistle. I remember how he’d come home from work, deep in abstract thought—deep in Plato’s cave, whistling the same unrecognizable rambling tune in no hurry to have it become an actual song.

Now my Dad wasn’t the only one who tried his hand at music in our family. My parents made a conscious and concerted effort to get us to tap in our own musical talents. My sister tried by played the snare drum in Middle School, a la Karen Carpenter, although I think she was more into Cher back then. Later on, I witnessed her efforts to play the Star Wars theme song by ear on the piano, but beyond that I am not sure where her musical talents took her. But her talents lied elsewhere and I think my parents just accepted the fact that her journey in life would always be preternatural.

My older brother had more success. He was a regular Ian Anderson during Middle School. He even soloed a few times at Church, including a stirring rendition of What Child is This?  Man, could he toot that flute back in the day. But then basketball took over his life and his desire to be the next “Downtown” Freddie Brown took precedence over being the next great jazz flutist.

3-27-17 Fred Brown

I too briefly flirted with aspirations of being a musician. At a young age, I dreamed about composing a double horn concerto like Rosetti.  Then there were other times when my dreams were more subdued and I desired to compose something a little more simple like a short sacred vocal composition. When I wasn’t killing it on the piano, I was playing the alto saxophone. Through zero effort, zero discipline and tiny bit of talent, I got what I deserved and often ended up being last chair during my first two years in band. However, in the eighth grade I did finally make first chair in the Jazz Band. I can’t really explain the sudden success after struggling for so long, other than the fact that a lot of my bandmates had just started the sixth grade.

But after a while my interest in music waned. I remember I had just finished playing Hot Cross Buns and I was sitting there all alone in the basement on the piano bench, snacking on a ball of wheat bread I had recently rolled up. And I turned the page and looked up at notes and lyrics to The Song of the Volga Boatmen, and asked myself Is this all there is? It was in that very moment I had lost my appetite to be a musician. I could no longer see a prosperous future in music. It was time to follow my other dreams. And I had, oh, so many other dreams back then.

When I gave up on music the last hope for a musical prodigy in our family fell on the little shoulders of my kid brother. In the beginning, his prospects didn’t look so good. He practiced even less than I did. At least I would sit at the piano for twenty minutes and try to please my parents. He would sit at the piano for like ten minutes and then disappear for an extended bathroom break, which always seemed to end up with him in his room playing with Star Wars figures. Nobody seemed to notice or care. If I had done the same thing, my parents would have been on me like stink on skunk. My little brother had it good back then and he didn’t even know it.

After a while though he stopped taking piano lessons, but then something strange happened. Around twelve or thirteen, he started to play music on the piano by ear. He started by playing movie theme songs just like my sister had, but then expanded to classic rock.  Apparently, the guy had legitimate musical talent. And then I went away on a mission to Mexico and I kept hearing from people back in the “801” about this band called the Roy Hawkins Religious Revival and their lead folk guitarist. People were comparing him to a young Jim Croce. My brother it seemed had become overnight a regular guitar virtuoso while I was out preaching the good news to the good gente of Mazatlan.

3-24-17 Ilia_Efimovich_Repin_(1844-1930)_-_Volga_Boatmen_(1870-1873)

After all the dashed hopes and dreams, the money my parents spent on instruments and music lessons had at last paid off. The return on their investments was my little brother finally tapping into his God-given guitar playing talent. To this day my brother is still playing, in fact if you are ever in a small coffee house in Twin Falls, Idaho you might come across him. And isn’t that all any parent ever wants is to have at least one of their children discover their talents and potential. It goes a long way in overcoming the sad spectacle of the unfulfilled potential in their other children. Meanwhile I keep stringing my parents along with the promise of potential. They are very patient people. They are saints, dad-gummit.

1-21-17-meme-change-better-different-1867718-print

Take A Long Holiday: When the Rains Wouldn’t Quit

Unable to sleep any longer, I was surprised to find my wife awake too. Normally, she has no trouble sleeping in on Saturday mornings. But not this time, she had been thinking about the upcoming storm and the need for sand bags most of the early morning. At first, I was a little annoyed because I wasn’t ready to think about emergency preparedness so early on a Saturday morning. I needed time, precious time, to wake up and process the information, challenging both my character and my competence.

But out of respect to Tammy, I decided to at least read the dire storm warnings from the local emergency management agencies. And sure enough, they were predicting all kinds of environmental mayhem and speaking of strange things like an atmospheric river and other climate aberrations. I now had motivation when previously I had none. At this point I resolved to take my wife’s visions of sand bags seriously.

1-16-17-reno-flooding-pic-7

Happy with myself, I put on a confident smile and stood up straight and made my way outside to start shoveling the snow in the driveway and the walkway in the backyard. We have my wife’s daughter and her grandchildren temporarily living with us as she finds as place to live. And her two boys eagerly volunteered as well. The boys, my wife, and I were able to quickly clear those two areas, even though the boys with their short attention spans to a distance sliding contest when they found an area of smooth ice resistant to our best shoveling efforts.

Once we finished shoveling the snow, we were ready to sand bags. We jumped in the car and made to the nearest fire station. Quickly an assembly line was organized with our labor divided into bag holders, shovelers, and loaders. We worked like the dickens until we noticed our car was getting lower and lower, so we had to cut short our spectacular sandbagging efforts, even though nobody in our group had an ounce quit in them.

In our newly converted low rider, we rushed home self-satisfied with our antlike work ethic. Still riding our emergency preparedness high, we likewise unloaded our sand bags with incredible efficiency and strategically laid them in front of our garage area.

1-16-17-reno-flooding-pic-3

As a Mormon, you live for frightful weather like this. It’s like a test of all your previous food storage and emergency preparedness training. Candles. Check. Hand-cranked radio. Check. Water supplies. Check. Freeze dried mac n’ cheese. Check. Prodigious amounts of instant chocolate pudding. Check! Check!

And now it was time, to wait for that river in the sky to drop its rain. And wait we did. But it never came as the weatherpersons predicted. Their predictions kept getting pushed out later and later in the day. The rains did not arrive until later that night.

When the rains came, they were a steady, heavy rains that brought more water than our feeble desert soils can normally absorb. So as a consequence, our rivers rose and our streets flooded. And we were stuck inside most of the day, driving each other bat crazy.

Luckily, my wife and I both had an out…for a while. We had both volunteered to help the Red Cross at the chapel since it has been designated as Carson City’s main emergency shelter for the storm.

1-16-17-reno-flooding-pic

My shift was later in the afternoon. When I got there, the head Red Cross volunteer assigned me as the food liaison (I think my appearance gave her the impression I really like all things food). My duties were to help serve meals prepared by the Salvation Army and count meals served and report to the Red Cross the number of meals served since the Salvation Army was not willing to share that information with the Red Cross. I do not know why they weren’t sharing.

Only two people showed up and no meals were needed at the time (lucky for them I am sure I would have botched somehow). Much of my time volunteering, was spent talking to the other volunteers and saying the word “culvert” a lot while we checked our phones for alerts telling us which roads were flooded and closed off.

After many days, the rains and snow ceased. And me and my house survived, as did most houses. Of course, it’s still not over the weather people are predicting another atmospheric river next week, but I think the worst has a passed.

Wandering East of Eden

bryce-canyon-770840-printOne of the great processes you go through in life is to discover yourself, to find those gifts and capacities God has given you. He has given you great talents, the smallest part of which you have just begun to utilize. Trust the Lord to assist you in unlocking the door to those gifts. Some of us have created imaginary limits in our minds. There is literally a genius locked up inside each of us. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise”-Gene R. Cook

All I’ve Got to Do is Live and Die: Andrew Gets His Driver’s License

Andrew finally did it. He got his driver’s license just in time to enlist in the U.S. Army (but that’s another story). He apparently forgot to smile when they took his picture. Not only that he posed like he was trying out for a wise guy role in the Sopranos. Heaven help Andrew if he ever gets pulled over. Even if he’s not guilty of anything, his driver’s license picture says its more than likely he did whatever they pulled him over for. And if I was cop I would check the trunk for a body while I was at it.

When Andrew told me he got his driver’s license, a voice in my head told me that we’d have to let him drive on our Christmas trip to see my parents. So the night before, we quietly discussed as a team of equal partners the idea of him driving during some part of our eight-hour journey to St. George. After much discussion and hushing, it was finally agreed that he would drive the Tonopah to Beatty leg. And on the way down he did okay considering he had to drive through some fog near Goldfield. And I did pretty good as well, I kind of felt like a Father Duck teaching his little duckling how to swim.

1-4-17-beatty-drive

But on the way back from St. George it was noticeably different.  At first,  Andrew and I had a mini-battle of wills as he wanted to go rogue on me and drive 80 mph because pretty much everyone else on US 95 was driving over eighty and he was being frequently passed, but I wasn’t comfortable with that and told him he that the max he could drive was 75 mph. Also as part of the deal he had to drive with two hands on the wheel at all times, which he violated several times when he was casually telling us stories about high school.

I couldn’t tell if there was a crosswind or not as we drove from Beatty, but the ride for some reason wasn’t very smooth and was even less smooth when he was taking one hand of the wheel to express himself. Finally though, we made it to Tonopah, but not before discovering that Tammy was laying in a fetal position with an acute case of motion sickness.

1-4-17-gold-field-tomb-paste

As we passed the clown motel and pulled into the Chevron, Tammy announced that she would drive the next leg. Normally, I run a pretty tight ship as far as making driving assignments, but I wasn’t about to tangle with a nauseous Mama Bear. Sometimes, you have to know when to give way.

The rest of the trip went off without a hitch. We sang songs, played the alphabet game, and discussed the St. Petersburg’s paradox. It was good to get home. We survived and Andrew got to participate a little more in the human ant colony as he exercised his new power to drive. One more step toward his independence.

 

 

 

 

 

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