Order For This Week: Lighten Up, Francis.

This week will be a tough one for the sensitive snowflakes out there. Thankfully, I’m anything but sensitive. I have already put in my supply of popcorn and fizzy water. The DVR stands ready to record the hilarity that will be the next seven days.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, I’m not a fan of the current administration. It pretty much peaked last week when Joe “But I didn’t mean to copy his stump speech and lie about my college education” Biden got a participation trophy in the form of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (with Distinction.)

While I cannot say that every person who ever got the award deserved it, Joe Biden is pretty much at the bottom of the list. I’d quote the Vice President, but it would offend my audience. Yes, Joe, it is a big ****** deal to get that medal. You, sir, are not really what President Kennedy had in mind when it was initiated. John Franklin Enders you ain’t.

So, on we go to the next four years. I just wonder if the press will question/slander the critics of Donald Trump as being racists if they aren’t 70 year old white guys from New York. Because that, sadly, has become the criteria for defaming your opponents: the race card.

I’d like to make a suggestion here: give the guy enough rope to hang himself before you build the scaffold. Strange, if I said that eight years ago I’d be a racist because of the tragic history of lynching in the deep south (and Duluth.) But, I digress.

I know that some have genuine concerns in their minds about what Donald Trump and his government hold in store for their group. I’ve talked to a few of you about it, privately, and I listened. Now, I beg you, listen to me for just a few minutes on my view of this impending change in our culture.

Sometimes the only way to get someone to quit shouting foul things at you is to shout back much louder than the other person. That is what the voters did last November 8th: the people who had been shouted at for being racist, misogynist, homophobic, and isolationist had hit the end of the tether. They are not, for the most part, any of the above. But they saw their core values being blown away for almost a decade, and much longer if you were to take popular culture into the account. Consequently they selected an imperfect man (which is true of all of us) to represent them for the next four years in the White House.

Trump, if you actually listen to him, is none of the above. He is, however, an example of a guy with a big pile of money and a low tolerance for nonsense – unless it’s his own. Is he/has he been a pig with some women? I’d say the odds are good as it’s currently defined by society. Then again, most men (not all) that I know have failed to meet the bar for every moment of their lives. Me included.

The other thing that is out of control is the “Trump did ….” Uh, nope. He didn’t do whatever it was. Did some loudmouth, drunken imbecile invoke his name in furtherance of their own quest for stupidity? Yes. Most of the incidents I’ve heard of about Trump’s supporters being evil/hateful are actually people who were evil/hateful before Trump was famous. Some go back centuries: the stupid among us who will use anything as their excuse for bad behavior. If you ignored them when their fathers invoked Ronald Reagan, and their grandfathers invoked Jack Kennedy, you can probably just figure they’re young/ignorant/drunk/jealous in some fashion of what others have. Again, usually related to being stupid.

Before you post it to your Twitter feed, or slam it up on your Facebook wall, do a little thinking. Wait an hour. See if reality sets in. If you’re honest with yourself, most of what you see that involves exclamation points and shouting is nonsense in the final analysis.

Here’s my final thought: Give him a chance to do the right things. So far, it seems that all the hate is based on supposition. I promise I’ll be yelling loudly if he breaks any laws. Probably more loudly than I did the last eight years, because I’m done being intimidated by the race card.

Yes, the race card. For eight years I’ve been too polite to go there, because it was a hair-trigger for some people. Instead of it going away with benign neglect, it became a weapon unlike any other I’ve seen in my time.

Most people in the United States, no matter the hue of their skin, are not haters. Troubled, afraid, nervous, but not likely to purposely hurt someone else based on race. I may be naive, but that’s what almost six decades have told me. Until eight years ago, you might have had a point about race being the core issue for some voters. Then a bunch of white people elected a black president.

A few months ago, a bunch of white people, and a substantial number of black people, who elected the first black president elected the next white president. If I continue to frame this based on race, I’ll be as obsessive and stupid as most of the press.

Brothers and sisters, we have to quit it. Quit seeing skin color as the deciding factor that other people use to make decisions. It’s no longer relevant. Besides, you aren’t a mind reader, and short of a Nazi salute, it’s kind of an iffy argument.

I despise a great number of people on political and ethical points, most of them white. I don’t think I could like Nancy Pelosi any less if she was bright blue and sucked salt out of your body.

Before you invoke the race card, make sure it’s the card you see being played. I disliked the last eight years for political, not racial, reasons. If you know me, you know that’s the truth. I’m with the guy, whom we celebrate today, on judging a man by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

You see, it is entirely possible to be a white, Christian, heterosexual, veteran without giving up your ability to love your fellow man. We all lose sight of that on occasion when looking at “the other.” I don’t assume it because of your skin color, sexual orientation, or nationality. Please accord me, and Donald Trump, the same courtesy.

Now, go about your business. Go to work. Go to church. Go fishing. Get on with your life and quit fretting about what the idiot in the Oval Office is up to this day. Trust me, it’s not productive in the least.

Do your best. Pray. Be blessed. See you next week. The world will still be there, probably none the worse for the events of the coming seven days.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is available here. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

Posted in extraordinarily sage advice and unwanted butting in, political, popular culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Random Ranting & Christmas Leftovers

Let’s do rants first!

You! Yes, the nitwit 10 feet behind the car in front of you at the stoplight. Your selfish, texting little butt is blocking me from being able to get into the turn lane and take a left on the arrow. I know your profundity on the very-special-snowflake-communication-device is something we cannot live without, but pretty much the whole world is wise to the reason you didn’t get up into the proper space for the red light. Consider doing that from the side of the road, not the middle lane, the next time.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

To the businesses and neighbors who haven’t shoveled or salted the sidewalk yet this season: I think I hate you.

Not a totally Christian sentiment, but your lazy behavior has now left 3 inches of solid ice on the sidewalk that fronts your home. Same for the drive-through for your business. You own the real estate that fronts the street when it comes to snow removal. Same goes for your alley. No excuses. Get out and make it safe. I’m part mountain goat and if it makes me nervous, it’s in need of some salt and shovel action.

Pretty much the same goes for those of you on a corner lot. Look up and down your street. You will note that many of your fellow corner dwellers have taken the time to remove the ridge of snow that the plow left next to the curb. I fully realize you are not legally responsible for the street. But wouldn’t it be nice if you followed the lead of those other people and cleared the area less than 6 feet (total) wide where the curb ramps down into the street? Perchance just past the eight-inch tall ridge of crusted ice that’s smoother than oiled marble? Once again, not legally mandated, but a courtesy you might want to extend to the passers by.

Best part of this past Christmas season? The food. I was trying very hard to not eat my way to an early grave this year. Naturally, it was the year when I was gifted with more free Blue Sun Soda (Check out the link for their christening of the new bottling line this weekend – you should go!) and Salty Tart cookies than ever before in my life. I topped the goodie fest with Hmong egg rolls on Christmas eve, compliments of my favorite Saint Paul visit. No pounds gained, but every one of those cookies I nibbled, or sodas swilled, meant I had to give up some broccoli or tofu. Not a huge loss, come to think about it…

Second best part? I sang with an awful lot of children this year. Including my extended family on Christmas Day. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the few songs I can actually do in key.

Speaking of Christmas music, I have a new one to add to the list this year. I do a lot of work at venues that have some sort of musical performance going on at the same time, and it’s run the gamut from Mariachi bands to family singers. This year it was a guy on guitar with a rhythm machine doing Christmas tunes and whatever else came along. Totally made my 4 hours in the chair a joy. He could play that geetar purty like. And, as I try to do, I popped some money in the jar and bought one of his compact discs of Christmas music. (I have to turn the radio off every time they play “Happy Birthday, Jesus” as a matter of principle, and sanity.)

Imagine my surprise a few days later when I was driving to a Santa event and I find myself singing along to an instrumental track of “There’s A Kind Of Hush.” I hit rewind, listened again and tried to figure out the link to Christmas. Was it a secret Christian anthem? Had I misunderstood Herman’s Hermits for all of these years? Nope. He just ran out of tracks to put on the thing and threw this in to fill out the disc.

I approve. With that, I leave you with the video for Herman’s Hermits, “There’s A Kind Of Hush.” A pretty nice tune even after all these years have gone by.

See you all soon. Thanks for taking the time to read my rants and rambles.

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Assault on Saint Agnes is now available. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

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Cheese Sandwiches, Chili, Blankets, And Love.

Everyone has their own rituals/traditions for holidays that they celebrate. I mark some events with dinner at a restaurant my wife loves. Others are spent with family (Hi Bob & Pat & Pam) who have taken good care of my wife when I was shift working. Still others are spent at church, contemplating the arrival of the new year.

But my favorite tradition is the one we have on the last Saturday of December: sponsoring the Good Neighbor Meal (Don’t think too hard about the link, or what it’s called – cookie cutter website that works just fine for us. And, no: the lovely shirts on the landing page are leftovers from the original template and not for sale.)

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

For several years I have been involved in either sponsoring the meal, cooking the meal, serving the meal, providing holiday gift packages, or some other aspect of it. It kind of depended on whether or not I had to work that day. This year, at long last, I was finally able to say that I am no longer a shift worker. Consequently I got to do all aspects of the meal, including scrubbing the grill and rinsing out the coffee pots (Marvin, my fabulous helper, did all the burned wreckage from the chili pots. I salute him, Brenda, Stacey, Ron, Greg, Dianne, Sandy, Tracy, and all the rest who worked so hard in the kitchen to keep it all upright and shiny! Cleanup isn’t glamorous, but it’s what makes it all go.)

Chili (prior to scorching the bottom for Marvin!)

Grilled cheese by the dozens.

The serving line

Nice vittles, eh? How do you do it for 150 guests? Well, it’s simple:

Order the blankets a month ahead of time.

Shop for the groceries on Wednesday and drop them off at the kitchen.

Friday, you go in to do the prep cooking (browning all the burger for the chili and soaking the beans) and find that your lovely friend Pamela McFadden has done all the work for you before you even arrive. Take Pam to eat Chinese at Golden Chowmein to celebrate.

Saturday you show up at the kitchen at 0715 and start the show. Ron, Dianne and Sandy show up minutes later and start busting a move. Seriously, those three worked like crazy. Everything from filling the coffee pots (Ron’s a lot stronger and younger than I am and those things are huge) to dicing the onions to put in the chili.

Beans on the boil, you do all the other stuff like getting the steam table to heat up, get the cole slaw in individual dishes, put the cupcakes on trays (Thank you, P.J. Murphy’s Bakery for the wonderful donation!), butter 300 slices of bread so you can stuff three pieces of cheese on each sandwich and brown them, heat the grill top, scrub all the pots as you go, etc.

Over the next three hours more volunteers roll in – all carefully staged. Yes, I work very hard to have different groups show up at different times. Each wave has a different task. All of those tasks are vital.

A total of 40+ volunteers showed up on Saturday. What a blessing. That many hands at work means that:

The guests are all personally welcomed and given a cup of coffee and shown to a table.

The clothing that was donated, all needed to be sorted by item type and put on the stage for people to ramble through. Not a one was left at the end of the meal! Not an insubstantial task: we had hundreds of hats, mittens, pants, coats, backpacks, and rolling carry-ons donated!

We also had 53 hand-made blankets from the third-grade classes of Forest View Elementary. They made blankets for the dinner out of a polar-fleece material. Colorful, full of love, and warm. My friend Christine Wielenski-Davis brought them all in and displayed them for our guests. (The blankets, not the third graders.) They were a huge hit. My only regret is that I didn’t score one for myself.

Blanket makers from Heaven

While all of that is going on, the men and women of my church, former coworkers, current coworkers, people I’ve met through Healing Haiti, other authors (fabulous, award-winning, writers like Brenda and Tamara!) and readers of my book, Assault on Saint Agnes, all got the serving line set up and ready to go.

A brief prayer, a briefing on how to make it all happen, and away we went.

The result? 100 people served a hot meal. Everyone got their fill. Nobody went away hungry. What’s really cool is that several of my volunteers have now asked to sponsor meals. Man, when you have a project like Good Neighbor, it’s a huge relief to get people to do that meal. Our founder, and his staff, struggle to provide every two weeks. If all the people who said they want to do a meal join in, we’ll be able to cover two whole months – only ten to go!

And, at the end of the meal, we handed out thermal blankets to each guest as our way of saying “Happy New Year!” I wondered when I chose that as our gift this year if it would match up to last year’s gift card to McDonald’s and goodie pack.

I need not have wondered. A beloved coworker told me Monday morning that he’d overheard one of our guests as he was leaving. The man had come early and gotten a blanket ahead of time. He was outside, wrapped in the blanket against the cold of the day.

I am told that he said, “This is awesome. Not the cheap stuff other people hand out. This is like you get in a hospital. This is soft and really warm!”

That was the goal: to let those guests know that we want them warm. And it comes from the soft part of our hearts where we hold them the rest of the year.

The best way I can think of to end 2016: being the hands and feet of Jesus.
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Assault on Saint Agnes is now available. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

Posted in Assault on Saint Agnes, good neighbor meal, Love, mission to Haiti, Sincere Stuff, Uncategorized, volunteers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Merry Christmas, Vito. It’s Going Pretty Well Down Here.

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, The Christ.

One of my greatest gifts this year is the story of Vito. I think it’s some of Jesus’ finest work.

Vito Skaro

Vito Skaro

I first met Vito a couple of years ago at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. His family was valiantly fighting for his life in the face of a growing tumor in his small skull.

I had first heard of them through Facebook, when their story was discussed among the Hope Kids group. Stuck at the hospital, trapped by the needs of medical care and geography, they hadn’t had much of a Christmas Season.

Being a bit of a butt-insky, I contacted Hope Kids and asked if they would like a visit from Santa. My thought was mainly that the other kids in the family hadn’t had a chance to get away and do the annual picture pilgrimage.

They agreed, and so the visit was set for Christmas morning, after my usual rounds.

In preparation my wife and I gathered some small tokens to lighten the day. A bit of candy and such goes a long way toward breaking the spell of hospital life, and I hoped we could brighten their day.

Christmas morning I arrived at the hospital, and after the sheepdogs at the gate let me into the pasture, I went to see Vito and his family.

Mom was in the room with him, and I think perhaps, one of the other children. Dad was off with the rest of the crew, having a late morning at the residence where they were staying while Vito was being taken care of by the angelic staff. Yes, ANGELIC with all capitals. I have nothing but the highest praise for the people in those hospitals who take such good care of the children and families.

While we waited for the rest of the family to come, I took some time to pray. Not ashamed to say I got on my knees and prayed for Vito and his family. Felt good. Felt like there was a connection to God at that moment.

Soon all the rest showed up and we took the pictures, chatted about the usual things, and I was off to a shower and a nap – I’d worked the night before.

I thought of Vito over the next few months, and prayed when he came to mind. But if I’ve learned nothing else about pediatric cancer, it’s that it’s a vicious thing that defies odds and takes some before their time.

The next I heard of Vito was that he had passed away. I cried. No, I wept. There is a difference. These little people get into my heart and hold a place there forever.

I was overjoyed, and teared up again, when the video below came to my attention. If you click the link, you’ll find out why. I have nothing but nice things to say about the people at Tradition Companies. I won’t embarass them, but they do a lot of good work behind the scenes, and this is just one of their more public moments. The sponsorship, and kindness, are not one-time affairs: this is their way of life.

Fast forward to a Christmas party early in December. I knew I recognized the people coming toward my chair at the Hope Kids event, but I couldn’t place them: they hadn’t been at Cookies with Santa, our annual event. But that happens when you see tens of thousands of people over a few years.

The jig was up when they said, “Let’s get Vito in the picture.” From off-camera a hand reached out with a framed picture of my friend Vito. Mom and dad had brought all of their kids to see Santa. I made sure that I got a chance to have my picture taken with Vito. It was a great moment.

Mom and I once again chatted about Vito while the rest of the family was in the other room. I can only say that she was beaming talking about her son. What struck me most strongly was when she said, “Vito came to teach us something. He did an excellent job of that.”

Vito, you are indeed a great teacher. And I can’t wait to hang out with you in The Father’s presence. I suspect you still have things to teach me.

Merry Christmas, everyone. I’ll be back in the New Year. This week I’m taking some time to remember and celebrate the Vitos in my life.

Stolen from Vito's Facebook feed.

Stolen from Vito’s Facebook feed.

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Wind It Up. Last 2016 Friday Christmas Music Video Selection

Week #4.

Every year I try to bulk up the Fridays with some music videos that might have escaped your attention. Some are repeats of previous years (love them) and some are new.

So, turn down the speakers on your desk at work, and get busy wasting corporate bandwidth!

Seriously, I’m glad you’re here. It gives me a chance to thank you for reading this month. I know it’s been sparse, but 36 Santa events in 25 days will do that to a guy’s writing time.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Now, let’s clear out the last of the videos I have hidden in my browser cache.

Keith Richards cranking out Run Rudolph Run. What are we going to do when he dies. Thank God it appears we have decades left to figure it out….

Strap that belt tight: it’s going to rocket all over. Next up, Johnny Cash with I’ll Be Home For Christmas.

Elvis. It isn’t Christmas without the King. Merry Christmas Baby

James Brown calling Santa out to the ghetto. . . Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto

Luther. What can you say about Luther Vandross except Wunderbar! Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Back to The Temptations with Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Now it’s time for Stevie Wonder and Someday At Christmas. He rocked the world!

Otis! My main man. Otis Redding with Merry Christmas Baby.

Juxtaposition time! Waylon Jennings singing Away In The Manger.

Just isn’t Christmas without Ferlin Husky doing Silent Night

Now, lest you despair, the current trend ends soon, but had to include Tom T. Hall with O’ Christmas Tree

Dolly. She’s a Christmas ornament all by herself. Listen to her sing Go Tell It On The Mountain.

Carrie Underwood was partly responsible for me becoming a Christian. Yes, this song, Jesus Take The Wheel, talked to me. Thank you, Carrie.

Michael Buble & Shania Twain rock it with this lovely duet, White Christmas

Finally, my favorite Christmas tune from my favorite Christmas album – the one in the CD player in the sleigh – Twisted Sister with I’ll Be Home For Christmas.

Now go and love each other – for that is the greatest of the commandments.

Please follow me on Twitter, and “Like” the Facebook author page. Don’t forget to subscribe (the box is on the right side of the page) to be eligible for free e-books and other benefits! Oh yeah – grab a copy of Assault on Saint Agnes if you’re of a mind.

********* ********** *********** ***********

 

Assault on Saint Agnes is now available. Just click this link to find all the options! (I recommend the autographed copy. It’s cheaper than from the big stores, I scribble in it, and you get it mailed within 5 days. We all win.

When you finish reading any book (especially mine) please review it at www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and www.goodreads.com. Your review increases the chances of someone looking for a new book greatly. Authors appreciate your review, even if it is just “I thought this was a good read and will give it to my dog to chew. I especially liked the ending, because it made me feel better when he killed all of the main characters. (no spoilers, please)” Those few words (more than 20, fewer than 1,000 is ideal), and a 1-5 rating, make or break how the search engines find us. Thanks in advance.

Posted in Christmas videos, music, popular culture, Santa Stuff, Uncategorized, video | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Wind It Up. Last 2016 Friday Christmas Music Video Selection