31 December, 2013

Feast Of Too Many Fishes

I recently wrote about the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a traditional Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. It is a feast that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes. It originates, however, from Southern Italy where it is known as La Vigilia (The Vigil). There are lots of theories about why the number seven is important; it's hard to be certain. My own most recent Christmas Eve was a Feast of Only One Fish. Alas.

That got me thinking about a dinner many years ago. I was in Italy in 1989 on business and representing the college as Vice-President and Dean. So I was a VIP (ha), and as such, I was to be treated to a special dinner. The region I was in was not far from Pescara, a resort area on the Adriatic but also a seaport. It was also a fishing center, and with easy access to fresh fish, that special dinner was often focused on seafood.

And so it was on my special evening. I don't recall them all. Some subset of scallops, crab, anchovies, whiting, lobster, sardines, dried salt cod, smelts, eels, squid, octopus, shrimp, mussels, clams, and maybe some others. If it grew in the sea, I'm pretty sure it was served - one by one in stately sequence.

Here's the problem I don't care for seafood. I'm not allergic to it; I just don't care for it. And yes, I have tried - at least clams, lobster, crab, scallop, a whatever is in a fish stick, and probably some others. If the truth be told, I think that fish stick is where the problem began when I was a child.

Anyway, this was not a situation where I could announce I didn't like fish. So course after course I would eat as little as I could and then try to make my plate look like I loved it. Needless to say, I've never been happier than I was when they finally served the salad at the end of the meal.

Oh my, a Feast of Too Many Fishes.

30 December, 2013

{this moment} 100

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.

29 December, 2013

Just A Second

A young man once asked God how long a million years was to him. God replied, "A million years to me is just like a single second to you."

The young man then asked God what a million dollars was to him. God replied, "A million dollars to me is just like a single penny to you."

Then with his courage up, the young man asked, "God, could I have one of your pennies?" God smiled and replied, "Certainly, my son, just a second ..."
Author Unknown   

28 December, 2013


Not my usual Saturday selection. Almost every day I photograph this tree near my office window, and I've used a winter image and a bit of magic from Adobe Photoshop® for this greeting.

Copyright © 2011 Thomas G. Brown

27 December, 2013

Feast Of Only One Fish

Just in case you were wondering about this year's Christmas Eve dinner, the one I mentioned in Family Of The Bride. Here it is - at least as much as I remember and not necessarily in this order. ... And nowhere near being the traditional Feast of the Seven Fishes. It was actually quite modest this year.

Sausage Roll
Rice Balls with Marinara Dipping Sauce
Brie with Honey and Pecans
Shrimp Cocktail
Christmas Salad (pictured)
      (oranges slices, pomegranate seeds, fennel, romaine, almond slices)

Eggplant Parmesan
Beef with Mozzarella and Broccoli
Chicken Romana (with artichokes)
Pasta Aioli
Shrimp Scampi

Homemade bread
Homemade Zeppole

Assorted Homemade Cookies
Homemade Chocolate Bar

Assorted sodas, beers, wines, and harder stuffs
American Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino, Chai Tea Latte

And best of all, you don't have to eat again until New Year's Eve.


26 December, 2013

Sir Pesterful

I can be 'difficult,' or so I have been told. My mother tells me I never took 'no' for an answer; I would iterate and reiterate my request until someone gave in. She also tells me that I knew how to do just enough to get a rise out of my older brother. I was an expert at it.

That's important, that 'just enough.' It reminds me of an important distinction between someone who is genuinely difficult and someone like me :) who simply pesters. Pester is a much softer word and, in my mind, conveys at least a modicum of playfulness.

So when told I'm difficult, my first thought is 'no, I'm not - I'm ... I'm ... I'm pesterful.' Yeah, that's it. I know what you're thinking - that's not a word. Well, it is now. It's one of the reasons I so love language (See: Through the Looking Glass and Poetically Syllabic). It's infinite and creative, and it's playful - or can be.

Anyway ... as soon as I thought of 'pesterful,' the game was afoot. If I were proper about it, I am Sir Pesterful. A extended period of pestering - a pesterfest, of course. If I were really good at it, I am the Pestermeister. Perhaps with a pocket full of pester. A wealth of that ability would be known as pesterpower. Too many doing it - a clusterpester. Just the right number - a pesterparty. If you're a favorite target - a pesterpawn. If you like it, you might give me a pestergiggle or think I'm pesterlicious. And then of course, there is the überpester.

Pester - it's a great word, and if you're not yet pesterfried, I should point out it's probably related to pastor. There's a French word (impestrer) that means 'constrain' and comes from the Latin 'impastoriare.' Ultimately we get to 'pastoria' meaning a 'hobble' which is a way of controlling a group of animals. Or people. So it can also mean 'herdsman' - pastorius.

Who knew? Pester and pastor - we could have fun with that connection.

25 December, 2013

The Man Who Flew Too Much

Thanks for the cookies.
Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen.

24 December, 2013

Family Of The Bride

In a few hours the family will gather.

I'm betting, however, you probably don't quite understand. The FAMILY will gather - as in alla famiglia. You see, almost 35 years ago I married Italian, and with that marriage came a very large extended family. In fact, with the exception of one uncle, until recently I was the only non-Italian. Yet somehow I am the only one who is actually likely to say Buon Natale.

My wife's father was born in Italy and immigrated to the US as a young teenager. My mother-in-law was born here, but both of her parents were Italian immigrants. For most of the 20th century, what is known as East Utica - where my wife was born and raised - was essentially a Little Italy. It's still heavily Italian but now also has lots of Bosnians, Vietnamese, and other ethnic groups. Utica's history has always been a story of immigration - currently mostly refugees.

But back to Italy. My wife's mother had four sisters and a brother. All married and then begat six cousins, one brother and one sister for my wife. All of those also married. The next generation numbers at 21 plus spouses, and to date they have had 15 children (and a few spouses). There are at least six (I'm starting to lose track) in the youngest generation, but surely others are on the way.

Big family. Big traditions. At the time I attended my first Christmas Eve gathering, there would have been about 50 for dinner. It wasn't the Feast of Seven Fishes, but there were a couple of varieties of seafood plus meats and soup and a couple of pastas and salad and red wine and bread and fruit and nuts and sufficient cookies, if laid side by side, to reach all the way back to Italy. And coffee, of course - black (meaning espresso) or the other kind.

After dinner most of the males would get involved in poker or some other activity. At about the same time the gift exchange would begin, a very systematic gift exchange - not in terms of who gave to whom but in terms of the order of opening. The youngest child would open whatever was given first. Then the next youngest would have a turn. Males would be dragged in for their turn. This would continue to unfold until it was the turn of the eldest member of the family, my mother-in-law.

Today things have changed. All of that first generation are gone. In the second generation, three have died, some have moved to Florida, and the feast has migrated to our home. Nevertheless, dinner will unfold for almost 30 on Christmas Eve from four generations. Ora sono anche la mia famiglia.

The meal itself will be similar; only the cooks have changed. Males and females are now fully integrated in terms of cooking, seating, clean-up, gifts, and games - probably a generational thing. Presents will be opened - beginning with the youngest. There will probably be poker and perhaps some television. The torch has been successfully passed, and the traditions live on.

Questa sera la famiglia si riunirà. Tonight the family will gather, and among all of the delicious foods and the many gifts, mostly you will find love.

And on Christmas Eve of 2012, this will be my gift to me - to wish you similar peace and hope and love. Happy Christmas. Buon Natale.

23 December, 2013

Yes, Virginia

Another Guest Post, of sorts ...

"We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:"

Dear Editor—
       I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon                           

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Francis P. Church  
The New York Sun   

22 December, 2013

A Miracle?

Father O'Malley was driving down to Boston on Christmas Eve when got stopped for speeding in Medford.

The highway patrol officer smelled alcohol on the priest's breath and then saw an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car. He said, "Father, have you been drinking?"

"Only water," replied Father O'Malley.

The policeman asked, "Then how come I can smell wine?"

The priest looked at the bottle and said, "Good Lord! He's done it again."
Author Unknown   

21 December, 2013


Almost every day I photograph this tree my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

20 December, 2013

Mighty Finn - Update #22

Hey, guys. The frost has been on the pumpkin for a while,
and it's time to start bundling up a bit when I go to the park.

This could be one of my last visits before snow.

I'm ready though. I've got some heavier stuff when I need it.

Then there's the really heavy duty snow suit. My real fear
is that I'll fall down like Ralphie's brother Randy and
not be able to get back up. Well ... at least I won't shoot my eye out.

So cool. Mommy bought me some Wellies to match hers.

Back at my grandpa's, I get a chance for some
quality time with Maddox. Good talk, buddy.

Oh, I almost forgot ... my auntie bought a house.
Here I am checking out the special shelving that organizes her closet.

And there's this Finn-sized wood bin beside her fireplace.

Back to grandpa's again, and there's
lots of decorating going on. I think this is a hippopotamus

I know this is a giraffe, my nonna's favorite.
Those are some of her Santas in the background.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes when I don't get what I want,
I throw myself on the floor and start crying.
It doesn't work as well today as it did at first.
Now they just laugh at me.

Are you ready for some football?!

Winter is in full swing. What's a guy to do?
Bundle as best you can, and dream of warmer times.
See you after Christmas - that means next year.

19 December, 2013

It's A Wonderful Bike

Sure, I know lots of adults don't, and if the truth be told, lots of children don't either. Nevertheless, I do - always have and always will. Please don't try to make something of it.

And it's not that people haven't tried to dissuade me from believing - even my parents, by the way.

Consider Christmas of 1960. We had moved into our new home in Virginia Beach in October of 1958, and this was our third Christmas in that home. I was 12 and was asking Santa for a new bicycle. Full size for this soon to be teen. Blue. Schwinn. Black Panther model.

My nearest neighbor - a year or two younger than I – had that bike, and I wanted one too. My friend's father, however, was a local TV celebrity - which is to say they had more money than we did and could easily afford to spend a little more. Santa brought a Schwinn Jaguar III model, the next “class” down.

I don’t really recall if I had been told to expect that model or not. I don't remember any discussion of the Black Panther vs. Jaguar III issue at all, but since I wasn't disappointed with the Jaguar III, I’m assuming I already knew. That can mean only that I had previously agreed with my parents on what I should ask Santa for.

Anyway, I was already in bed on Christmas Eve, but around 11:00 my parents called me to come downstairs. It seems they had begun to a uncrate the bike Santa had brought so that my father could assemble it. Unfortunately it was not blue, but red - not the kind of mistake Santa typically makes. They didn’t want me to be disappointed in the morning, and at the same time, showing me now might encourage me to begin to accept there was no Santa.

This had never really been discussed in our home, and although I knew my parents were skeptical, I never pushed it. So at the age of 12, I received my first suggestion of what most my age already believed, but I wasn't buying it. For me, Santa existed then and still does.

That bike is in my garage right now; I just went out and looked at it. It will be 53 years old in a few weeks and has a little rust, but I saw one just like it (without rust) for sale online at $2900. It doesn't matter; I'm keeping mine. It has come to symbolize far too much. For example, knowing that Santa sometimes makes mistakes has made it a lot easier to forgive myself when I do. That's a useful skill I recommend regardless of how you come by it.

And those Christmas bells. They "still ring for me, as they do for all who truly believe." I feel sad for you if you don't know that reference, but it's not too late. Go watch or, better yet, read The Polar Express. It might just turn you back into a believer, and how wonderful it would be to hear those bells again. BELIEVE. And just as important - tell a child you believe. It won't hurt you a bit, and in fact, watching that child's reaction might just begin to convince you it is so. Happy Christmas.

18 December, 2013

Ms. Santa Claus

Gentle Readers. I am aware that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone without my participation; my shopping is complete, nonetheless. The season is well upon us, though, whether we have shopped or not.

Today I offer you a different perspective and give you a guest post of sorts. I offer the following opinion piece by Ms. Anonymous - in the spirit, so to speak, of Christmas Future.

I think Santa Claus is a woman. I hate to be the one to defy sacred myth, but I believe he's a she. Think about it. Christmas is a big, organized, warm, fuzzy, nurturing social deal, and I have a tough time believing a guy could possibly pull it all off. Santa has to be a woman because a man couldn't meet the demands of the job.

For starters, the vast majority of men don't even think about selecting gifts until Christmas Eve. It's as if they are all frozen in some kind of Ebenezerian Time Warp until 3 p.m. on December 24th when they - with amazing calm - call other errant men and plan for a last-minute shopping spree.

Once at the mall, they always seem surprised to find only Ronco products, socket wrench sets, and mood rings left on the shelves. You might think this would send them into a fit of panic and guilt, but my husband tells me it's an enormous relief because it lessens the 11th hour decision-making burden.

On this count alone, I'm convinced Santa is a woman. Surely if he were a man, everyone in the universe would wake up Christmas morning to find a rotating musical Chia Pet under the tree, still in the bag.

Another problem for a he-Santa would be getting there. First of all, there would be no reindeer because they would all be dead, gutted, and strapped on to the rear bumper of the sleigh amid wide-eyed, desperate claims that buck season had been extended. Blitzen's rack would already be on the way to the taxidermist.

Even if the male Santa DID have reindeer, he'd still have transportation problems because he would inevitably get lost up there in the snow and clouds and then refuse to stop and ask for directions.

Add to this the fact that there would be unavoidable delays in the chimney where the Mike "Make It Right" Holmes-like Santa would stop to inspect and repoint bricks in the flue. He would also need to check for carbon monoxide fumes in every gas fireplace and get under every Christmas tree that is crooked to straighten it to a perfectly upright 90-degree angle.

Other reasons why Santa can't possibly be a man:
- Men can't pack a bag.
- Men would rather be dead than caught wearing red velvet.
- Men would feel their masculinity is threatened by being seen with all 

        those elves.
- Men don't answer their mail.
- Men would refuse to allow their physique to be described - even in 

        jest - as anything remotely resembling a "bowlful of jelly."
- Men aren't interested in stockings unless somebody's wearing them.
- Having to do the "Ho Ho Ho" thing would seriously inhibit their 

        ability to pick up women.
- Finally, being responsible for Christmas would require a commitment.

I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men. Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous. Definite guy. Cupid flies around carrying weapons. Uncle Sam is a politician who likes to point fingers. Any one of these individuals could pass the testosterone screening test.

But not St. Nick. Not a chance. As long as we have each other, good will, peace on earth, faith, and Nat King Cole's version of The Christmas Song, it probably makes little difference what gender Santa is.

I just wish she'd quit dressing like a guy.

17 December, 2013

{poetically plagiarized} 23: Silverstein

Bear In There

There's a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire--
He likes it 'cause it's cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He's nibbling the noodles,
He's munching the rice,
He's slurping the soda,
He's licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he's in there--
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

by Shel Silverstein   

16 December, 2013

The Aches Of Wrap

It will soon be my day to wrap presents. I
look for a day when I've been left alone - like when my wife and younger daughter go out
for some unneeded additional shopping. Or,
I could wait until they go to pick up our older daughter at the airport. She will be home for a week, and our home will be full of Browns for Christmas. Yay! That's pretty close to the big Day though, and I'm not sure I want to wait that long.

Wrapping is a challenge for me since I have to do it one handedly. Some of you may have gathered from diverse posts that I have a left arm and hand disability. I've not always been this way, but I certainly am now. That challenge makes certain things essential for quality wrapping time, most of which cost a little more but always pay off in reduced frustration.

Tape dispenser. Essential. Not the little plastic thingies that come with some rolls of tape. Those require two hands - one to hold it and one to operate it. Nope - only the heavy duty industrial/office quality dispensers will do. The kind that could easily remain steady in a gale force wind. Now we're talking. With one of those beauties, I can pluck a snippet of tape with the best
of them.

And speaking of the tape. This is no place to cut corners either; they are not all alike. I prefer Scotch brand. There are others that can sometimes elicit a minimum of fuss, but Scotch is old reliable for me. Just the right stickiness and static resistance. You betcha.

Quality paper is another sine qua non. The cheap bargain bin stuff tears far too easily for my klutziness. Plus, a little thicker paper makes for nice crisp edges on those packages. I really like the ones that have a grid on the back making it very easy to cut straight lines.

Oh, cutting straight lines is a whole lot easier with a good pair of scissors. I wouldn't even consider beginning wrapping without a sharp pair of scissors. None of those gadgets you see advertised on television will substitute. Forget about it. Devices intended to make a job easier for you almost always make it worse for folks like me.

Ribbon? I don't care about the ribbon. Cheap, expensive, recycled. Makes no difference - because I'm not going anywhere near it. I agree it's pretty, but for me what might have taken five or ten minutes for a quality job is now a thirty minute ordeal. I gave up on ribbon a few years ago; I'm handicapped, not crazy. You might find a one-armed wallpaper hanger, but there is no such thing as a one-handed ribbon tier.

Attach a tag and we're done. And so am I. I still need to place them under the tree, but they are all wrapped. It only took me about three hours. Imagine what it might have been like without a few reasonable accommodations. Well ... I remember those days and don't want to go back. Wrapping day for me used to be very much a Chevy Chase "where's the Tylenol" kind of moment. No thanks. I'll spend a little extra.

15 December, 2013

Getting Into Heaven

A teacher was testing the children in her Sunday school class to see if they understood the concept of getting to heaven.

She asked them, "If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, and gave all my money to the church, would that get me into Heaven?" "NO!" the children answered.

"If I cleaned the church every day, mowed the yard, and kept everything neat and tidy, would that get me into Heaven?" Again, the answer was, "NO!"

Now she was smiling. Hey, they're getting it, she thought! "Well, then, if I was kind to animals and gave candy to all the children, and loved my husband, would that get me into Heaven?" she asked. Again, they all answered, "NO!"

She was just bursting with pride for them. "Well," she continued, "then how can I get into Heaven? A five-year-old boy shouted out, "YOU GOTTA BE DEAD."
Author Unknown   

14 December, 2013


Almost every day I photograph this tree my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

13 December, 2013

12 December, 2013

{this memory} 99

This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

Ah - triple the memories. You get three for the price of one.

I guess there isn't much of a story to tell here. It really is about the image(s) and what they bring to mind. My two daughters, of course, are shown in visits to the photo booth at Sears. How else do you document their changes? Well - lots, but this was one way.

They're both bigger today - not quite three decades later. Intelligent, beautiful, talented women. My heart was and remains filled with unbounded love and pride.

I am a fortunate man. Life's been good to me so far.

11 December, 2013

Santa's Choice

Santa Claus is coming to town!

Okay! Great news, but here's the problem. He's always making lists, and then he's checking them. Twice! I guess he's going to find out who's naughty and nice. Yeah, that's the ticket. The one thing that is absolutely certain is that Santa Claus IS coming to town, and we should all be getting increasingly excited.

You've all heard that song, but what's it all about?! Why do we feel the need to threaten children? Shouldn't we just let children be children?

I guess not. Look at what we tell them. "He sees you when you're sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good ... " My word! I don't care what color your state is, that qualifies as stalking, and if the thought of it scares me in my 60s, what on earth does it do to children!?

Not much, I fear. It certainly never had much of an impact on me as a child. Given some of my stunts, I amazed he ever stopped at my house at all - even to drop off some coal. Much of my pre-school years were spent in a nice but modest neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia - small homes with single car garages on a pretty street lined on both sides with Crape Myrtle trees. Let me mention just a few escapades.

There was the time my parents couldn't find me. I was in the neighbor's garage. Evidently I had decided to paint it - the inside of it. Somehow I opened a can of paint, took a brush, and began to upgrade their garage. I should note, by the way, that their car was in the garage with me. What everyone was thankful for was that I never turned around and started painting the car.
Just how a four-year-old got that can of paint open is still a mystery.

Then there was the time I watched the neighbors on our other side go out their front door. As they walked out, I walked in. Harmless enough, right? Well, it might have been if I hadn't locked the door. Now I can't get out, and they can't get in. Everyone is trying not to get me excited or make me cry, but at the same time they are talking through the door and windows to me, trying to encourage me or tell me how to unlock the door. Just before folks were about ready to give up and break in, I somehow managed to unlock it - genius that I am.

Long before I grew up to be a housepainter and locksmith, I must have wanted to be an electrician. That's why I stuck the hairpin in the wall outlet and burned my chubby little fingers. Mom says when I subsequently crawled through that room, I would stay as far away from that outlet as one could. On the other hand, I did do it again - which may explain a lot.

Of course, I had a brother, older by four and a half years, whom I loved to torment. I'll save the details for another post, but let's just say I was very good at it. Call me the RingMaster. As Broadway Joe used to say, "If you're not going to go all the way, why go at all?" By the way, this is the only one of these of which I have any memory, but I've heard the stories. I was ... well ... let's call me a busy child.

My favorite caper was the time I decided I wanted to be a newspaper delivery boy. Doesn't everyone? I took my little wagon - red Radio-Flyer - filled it with all of the old newspapers that were in our garage. I guess I rolled them up too, and then I began delivering them around the neighborhood. Hey! I was green before green was cool. Recycle that newsprint, Thomas-magamus-magooch - as my mother sometimes called me.
I'm just saying, "Santa always came. Anyway." Maybe he gives us a little leeway. Maybe he has a choice - sort of like sentencing guidelines. Maybe I wasn't naughty enough to result in sanctions. I don't know, but I just don't see why we continue to threaten the children. After all, I turned out okay.

Stop snickering.

10 December, 2013

Lean On Me

The post that follows was originally written for February 17, 2010. It was the last of a trilogy of brief essays relating to the first anniversary of spending weeks on life support as I was held in drugged-induced slumber. (See: Amen and Resurrection and 18 Days Later ... - although The Keepers & I and Can I Get A Hug? also relate)

It is, perhaps, not an uplifting way to spend the day, but some of you will find in it a message of love. I hope so. I'm not sure how it will affect you, dear reader, but it will certainly help you understand why I am so fond of Tree. There it stands, well-rooted against all manner of storm, as a symbol of the constancy of life, and its persistent cycle of seasonal variation reminds me of the continuity of life (I'd say "circle," but it's been done).

The Sleeper has awakened.
Literally, certainly, but also figuratively.

About a year ago he was brought back to consciousness by the Keepers after weeks of maintaining his body on life support. Yet there are parts of him that are only today beginning to reawaken as he seeks enlightenment from lessons long left in shadow and as he develops new insights for living a good and honorable life and a life filled with love and laughter.

At about the same time he was placed on life support, the Sleeper’s Wife began the last of many weeks of radiation therapy – a process during which she lay isolated in a dimly lit room, deserted by all, and with her head held immobile by a laser-designed mask that made her both uncomfortable and claustrophobic as it gripped every square inch of her face. Daily she endured this healing torture after traveling nearly fifty miles from where the Sleeper lay and never knowing what she would find when she returned once again to the Sleeper’s side. It was surely a dreadful and lonesome journey.

I am the Sleeper. I was the one not there for her. I was not there as she had always been for me throughout each of several life threatening crises. Any reasonable person would say it was unavoidable – that within the tyranny of such illness the Sleeper had no choice. I too would say it was unavoidable – that within the tyranny of such illness I had no choice. Nevertheless, I was not there for her, and it hurts deeply to recognize that in her moments of greatest need, I was not.

It is a great loss and one that cannot be recovered. I was not there for her. I shall always regret that fact, mourn the loss it represents, and must somehow make certain that such absence when she needs me is never again allowed to happen.

09 December, 2013

{this moment} 99

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{these moments}

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.

08 December, 2013

Golden Phones

A man from Topeka, Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the country. He started by flying to San Francisco and would work east from there.

He went to a very large church and began taking photographs. He spotted a golden telephone on a wall and was intrigued with a sign which reads "$10,000 a minute." Seeking out the pastor he asked about the phone and the sign. The pastor answered that this golden phone was, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and if he paid the price, he could talk directly to God.

He thanked the pastor and continued on his way. As he visited churches in Seattle, Boise, Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York, Atlanta, and on around the United States, he found more phones, all with the same sign and all with the same answer from each pastor.

Finally, he arrived in Texas. Upon entering a church in Dallas, lo and behold, he saw the usual golden telephone, but THIS time the sign read "Calls: 25 cents."

Fascinated, he asked to speak with the pastor. "Reverend, I have been in cities all across the country and in each church I found this golden telephone, and have been told it is a direct line to Heaven and that I could talk to God, but in the other churches the cost was $10,000 a minute. Your sign reads 25 cents a call. Why?"

The pastor, smiling benignly, replied, "Oh, my son, that's very easy to explain. You see, you're now in Texas, and of course, it's a local call from here."
Author Unknown   

07 December, 2013


Almost every day I photograph this tree my office window - always from the same angle and about the same time of day. This is my favorite image from the past week.

Copyright © 2013 Thomas G. Brown

To view a video set to music that contains 135 images taken over 12 months, click here.

For the 2010 collection of images, click here.
For the 2011 collection of images, click here.
For the 2012 collection of images, click here.
For the 2013 collection of images, click here.

06 December, 2013

{poetically plagiarized} 22: Prelutsky

Be Glad Your Nose is on Your Face

     Be glad your nose is on your face,
     not pasted on some other place,
     for if it were where it is not,
     you might dislike your nose a lot.

     Imagine if your precious nose
     were sandwiched in between your toes,
     that clearly would not be a treat,
     for you'd be forced to smell your feet.

     Your nose would be a source of dread
     were it attached atop your head,
     it soon would drive you to despair,
     forever tickled by your hair.

     Within your ear, your nose would be
     an absolute catastrophe,
     for when you were obliged to sneeze,
     your brain would rattle from the breeze.

     Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,
     remains between your eyes and chin,
     not pasted on some other place--
     be glad your nose is on your face!

by Jack Prelutsky   

05 December, 2013

{this memory} 98

This is the story behind last Monday's {this moment}.

This is a little different.

It's a scan of the two sides of a postcard. A reprint request to be more precise and my first ever. Someone was asking for a reprint of my first publication. It was based on an experiment I did during my first year in graduate school.

That felt pretty good - to know that someone else was interested in my work. Actually it could have been a lot of things, but I chose to believe it was interest. So when I look at this I'm reminded of that wonderful feeling. I am also taken back to my first year in graduate school. It may have been the single best year of my 21 years of schooling. I was certainly at my best as a student that year.

Oh, there is one other thing and that's where did this the request come from. It came from someone in the German Democratic Republic (GDR or DDR), generally known by the 'free world' as East Germany. Mail from behind the Iron Curtain! Now that's something to think about and raises all kinds of questions - who, what, why, etc. I guess today I'd have to worry about being placed on an NSA watch list.

Anyway I've kept it for forty years. It's a powerful talisman for me,

I am a fortunate man. Life's been good to me so far.

04 December, 2013

To Pot Or Not

I've been into a rough patch the last week or so - mostly more tired than usual but for all the wrong reasons. That's when it happens. It's a poetic earworm that just nags and nags. I'm not sure where I first heard it, but it has been many years.

      I so tired.
      I so weary.
      Who picks me up and calls me dearie?
      Who puts me in my warm, warm cot?
      Who says I can when I cannot?
      My mommy.

Not too bad. At least it's intended to be comforting and supportive. I guess it's a form of self-medication.

Then, damn it, I got curious. Where did it come from? Author? When? Etc. And thanks to Google those answers ought to pretty easy to find. So I googled the initial words of the poem. Multiple hits, of course, most of which were others with the same queries. Not a lot of answers though.

There were several versions (none like mine) that went something like this.

      I so tired
      I so weary
      Who pick I up and call I dearie?
      Who take me from my warm, warm spot
      And put me on this cold, cold pot?
      My mommy, my mommy, dat's who!

Wow. That's a whole different message. Not so supportive at all - unless your constipated, I guess. I assume the pot is a chamber pot, which I have used, by the way, as a child visiting my grandmother. It's far better than heading to the outhouse in the middle of the night!

Not for nothing but I like my version better. I don't know if I changed it from the original or perhaps just remembered it incorrectly. Doesn't matter. I'm sticking with mine and it's positive message.

03 December, 2013

As It Should Be

It was just as it should be, and as I told you last week, it would be. See:
Looks Great! Little Full, Lotta Sap!!

On Friday - which used to be Tree Day - my wife and daughters with one boyfriend in tow cut down this year's perfect tree. At just over nine feet, it's the first tree in a very long time that doesn't tickle the 11 foot ceiling, but it's lit and decorated. Beautiful.

On Saturday - the new Tree Day - we renewed the tradition at my brother-in-law's home - also fully decorated. We ate and drank.

Hmmm - Pulled pork. Turkey, of course. Baked ham. Two kinds of rolls, if need be, for sandwiches. Those, however, were after the hummus with pita, olives (three kinds), roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, cheese (two kinds), chips and dips.

"Potables?" you ask. Sure - a broad selection of fine ones.

Oops. I forgot the soups - French Onion, cheddar broccoli, corn chowder, and Italian meat ball. Then, if you're still able to move your arms, you could try the chocolate pie, the pumpkin pie, the pecan pie, or the Dutch Fudge Roll. Or all four.

I'm sure I've forgotten something we ate, but finally - after checking to see if the sh*tter was full - we gathered and watched Christmas Vacation.

After a few hugs, we went home - content and warm from the love of family.

As it should be.

02 December, 2013

{this moment} 98

A Monday ritual. A single image - no words - capturing a moment from the past. A simple moment along my life's Journey - but one over which I wish to linger and savor each treasured aspect of the memories it evokes. If you are moved or intrigued by my {this moment}, please leave a comment. On Thursday in a companion ritual called {this memory}, I'll share the story of this moment.

{this moment}

{this moment} is a ritual copied and adapted from cath's wonderful blog ~just my thoughts. She, in turn, borrowed it from Pamanner's Blog. Check out their blogs, and if you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your {this moment} in the comments for each of us to find and see.