Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous


Sometime Daily Living

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.

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.


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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.






God Jul


“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. It is one of the hardest to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future.”—Simone Weil

Christmas Pastoral

The snow lies crisp beneath the stars,
On roofs and on the ground;
Late footsteps crunch along the paths,
There is no other sound. 

So cold it is the roadside trees
Snap in the rigid frost,
A dreadful night to think on them,
The homeless and the lost. 

The dead sleep sheltered in the tomb,
The rich drink in the hall;
The Virgin and the Holy Child lie
shivering in a stall.

-Robert Hillyer


Spiced Currants

2 lbs. ripe currants
2 lbs. sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground closes

  1. Wash currants, stem and cook with sugar and vinegar for about an hour;
  2. Add spices and continue cooking for 30 minutes

I Was A Stranger: Refuge from the Storm

There by the Grace of God Go I: Adventures in Kayaking

It wasn’t supposed to turn out this way. It was supposed to be a fun trip. Time to get with friends and to get in some kayaking on Lake Tahoe before the summer ends. It was breezy that day, but Carson City is always windy in the afternoon so I didn’t think too much about it nor did I think too much the effect it would have on the Lake.


The day started off with a lot of promise. The sky was blue, the Sweet Williams were in full bloom, and we had plenty of Vermont cheddar in the fridge. And, it seemed as if I had finally exorcised my kayak-loading demons. For once we were ready before we were supposed to meet up with our friends, Fergus and Eunice O’Connor. Fergus is a wholesale distributor and Eunice works the graveyard shift at the Campbell’s Soup factory, in charge of quality control on the Cream of Potato line.

Driving Out

As good as things seemed, true to form, we couldn’t get out of town without having some problems. One of our back ratchet tie downs had become unhooked from the receiver hitch. So we pulled over into the Taco Bell parking lot a spent about 10 minutes figuring out why one of the kayaks was leaning forward causing the back ratchet tie down to become unhooked. We soon figured it out and indubitably I was to blame. Earlier in the day when we had loaded up the kayaks I had discovered afterwards that I had incorrectly laid down the cam straps on the driver’s side. Instead of bugging Tammy again for more help, I took the initiative and lifted up the ends of the kayak and re-looped the straps through the racks and looped the straps through the wrong part of the rack.

Out on the Lake

Once we fixed the straps, the rest of the drive to the Sand Harbor boat dock went on without any issues. When we got out on the water the waves were unnaturally big for Lake Tahoe, but this was to our advantage going out. It was like riding a little rollercoaster out there on the waves. We were having so much fun that we went further than we had gone before, making it almost to Hidden Beach near Incline Village before deciding to turn back.

As we decided to turn back, I began to notice that I was having a hard time staying balanced in my kayak. It was taking a lot of hip motion to stay balanced and I quickly realized that it was inevitable that my kayak would flip. So I started heading to shore so I wouldn’t have to swim too far if I did plunge into the lake, which I promptly did.

Getting to Shore

I am guessing I was about 300 feet from shore when I started to swim. There was no way I was going to be able to get my big body back into the kayak giving the size and frequency of the waves that day so I started swimming and pushing the kayak in front of me. About half way to the shore, I got the brilliant idea that I should flip the kayak right side over. That was a huge mistake. The waves soon filled up the kayak with water and it started to sink. It now took much more effort to push the kayak in front of me and continue swimming, but eventually I made it to the rocky shore.


Surveying the straight drop form the road to the shore, I knew I was not going to be able to hike back with the kayak. Feeling a little daft and punchy, I decided the only thing I could do was kayak back to Sand Harbor. Resigned to my fate, the next thing I had to do was somehow get my kayak turned over so I could prop it onto a rock and drain it. After some unmanly efforts at lifting the kayak, I was inspired to use the waves to help me flip over the kayak. Lo and behold, once I got the kayak parallel to the waves, after about the third wave, I was able to flip the kayak over and then hoist it onto a rock to drain the kayak of the remaining water.

At about the same time I was draining out the kayak, our friends had made it back to where I was. They had not realized that I had flipped over and asked if I shouted or had made any noise when I plunged into the water. In hindsight that would have been a good idea, probably bordering on a smart, having just recently taught my cub scouts to make noise when they find themselves in trouble out in Mother Nature.

Meanwhile, there was no sighting of my wife. When we had decided to turn around, Tammy had made out like a wildcat, getting out way ahead of us. As I would find out later, she wasn’t doing this to show off or be anti-social, but was doing it out of desperation. She had an acute case of motion sickness from the waves. Eventually, though she realized we were no longer in view behind her and, bless her heart, despite feeling ill she doubled back to find us.

Making it Back

Back in my kayak, the group once again headed out into the waves of Lake Tahoe. My strategy this time around was to kayak near the shore and go in a zig zag so I would hit the waves straight on instead of sideways and fill the stern with water. This strategy worked to a degree but I still managed to get water in the back of my kayak. In hindsight, I am one-hundred percent sure that I had not completely drained my kayak the first time around. Soon again I was starting to feel unbalanced so I heading for a little cove for my inevitable plunge back into Lake Tahoe.

kayak-tahoe-pic-2However, this time I was closer to the shore and I could walk the kayak to the shore. Dripping wet, pushing an upside down kayak I walked toward the little cove and as I got near the rocks, I looked up and realized I had just inadvertently walked into the background of a couple’s wedding pictures. I am sure they will cherish that picture forever.

I finally ditched the idea of trying to kayak using a kayak stroke and switched over to the canoe stroke. That seemed to work a lot better but travel was slow. Getting back to Sand Harbor without any more incidents, I noticed all the color had drained from my wife’s normally sunny face. She immediately dropped face-down onto her towel in an effort to get her world to stop moving up and down, she would later tell me she had thrown up twice waiting for me to get back into my kayak. Oy vey! Did I feel like a major putz when she told me that.

The rest of us were likewise happy to be ashore after being on the water for nearly three hours. In our ecstasy, we decided to eat are well-earned food. No sooner had we pulled out our sandwiches then were we attacked by a hoard of voracious yellow jackets. Unable to eat in peace, we finally threw in the towel and decided to just pack up and go back to the safety of our homes.

Happy to be home, I am thankful for many things after my kayaking fiasco. Simple things, like being thankful the shore wasn’t further away, being thankful that my Dad taught me to swim even if it was when I was older, and being thankful for patient friends and a patient wife. I am also thankful for good days as well as the bad days because the bad days are when we learn the most about our limitations. And lastly I am thankful that freshwater sharks in Lake Tahoe is a myth.

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