Monday, April 30, 2007

Heading For Third On A Home Run Trip

We've hit a home run on our trip to Chicago and the midwest.

I caught a monster brown trout on Lake Michigan off Door County in Wisconsin while rounding first base; then while rounding second, we went to church in downtown Chicago's famed Fourth Presbyterian Church, a Gothic marvel, and later saw the fabulous musical Wicked in a downtown Theater courtesy of Kay Lynne's brother Rick, wife Danielle and daughter Kate; we head in a day or so for third base and a visit with the Brooks family (my dear aunt Gloria and uncle Bob and several cousins) all who live in northwest burbs, and then after rounding the base, we will head for home where we'll be greeted by our separation anxiety-prone dog, Buddy.

We're here primarily to celebrate Kay Lynne and Rick's birthdays together, which are on back-to-back days. They haven't celebrated birthdays together since evolving into adulthood (quite a long time ago :-). To say the least, we're having an incredible time.

I got a real nice "boost" while going from first to second when I learned that my son Gregg worked it out so he could join Doug and me for all four baseball games on our planned summer trip. That has given me joy beyond description, and I look forward with great anticipation to the exclusive, extended time with my sons. It'll be a once-in-a-lifetime happening.

O, by-the-way, I've got some incredible photos of the fish and of most of the experiences on this trip. I haven't figured out how to upload the pics remotely to this blog, so I'll post them when I get home in a few days. (This is called a "tease".) Talk to you down the blogging road..

Monday, April 23, 2007

Chancing Upon the Numinous

Until recently, I was relatively unfamiliar with the term “numinous”. I heard it used again in an adult ed class at church, and, interestingly, the context made the word even more convoluted in my mind. (The mind is one of the few places where you can convolute things.)

I have since discovered that German theologian Rudolf Otto first coined the term 90 years ago in his book, Das Heilige.

I am purposely avoiding defining the term for you, because it’s an interesting exercise to check your favorite source and discover for yourself what it means.

I will offer a clue: if you’ve ever been in a situation where you became aware that there might be more going on than what your five senses were perceiving, you may yourself have come into contact with “the numinous”.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Looking Forward To July

When I was a kid – and even now – July was/is a big month for birthdays.

Lutheran Church kid-buddy Dickie Siik’s was July 2. My cousin Jim’s is the 4th; another cousin was on the 7th. Mine (and now my granddaughter Aubrey’s) is on the 9th. Boyhood friend Leonard Mallen’s was July 10 And if I remember correctly, my twin cousins, Phil and Bob, have a birthday on July 11. My mother’s was July 22. And since 1994, my granddaughter Talli celebrates on the 27th.

This year, however, the time around my birthday is going have extraordinary significance. My son Doug has made all of the arrangements for the two of us – perhaps also to include my other son Gregg if he’s able to fit it in among his pastoral duties – to visit four new Major League Baseball Parks in the Midwest on four consecutive nights. Actually, it’s three nights and a day game.

I’m not really sure if the trip has anything directly to do with my birthday, but I’m going to assume there is some kind of a link, as it’s right near that time.

After flying into the Midwest, we’ll rent a car and drive from baseball city to baseball city. We’ll see the Pittsburgh Pirates host the Cubs, the Detroit Tigers host the Red Sox, and the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds each host my favorite team of all, the Giants.

All of the host stadiums, er, now they’re called “parks”, have been built within the last two years, with Cincy and St. Louis playing their first full season this year in their new facilities.

As a kid, I can remember Detroit playing in Briggs Stadium, Pittsburgh playing in Forbes Field, St. Louis playing in Sportsman’s Park, and Cincinnati playing in Crosley Field. Those famous places are long gone, and I believe all have been replaced twice. Now, all the parks have unimaginable amenities and are named for their Corporate sponsors (that's Cincinnati's new Great America Ballpark pictured above).

I’m overwhelmed with joy to have this opportunity, and already I can’t wait for July to get here. Our entire family is nuts about baseball. All of us boys played it at least through high school, Gregg on into college, followed by all of us playing many years of competitive fast and slow–pitch softball. In fact Gregg and Doug may still play organized softball this year.

Let’s see… it’s now less than three months till we leave. What’ll make an incredible trip even better is if Gregg can figure a way to join Doug and me for at least a game or two. Do I have remarkable sons, or what?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Incredible Granddaughters

I don’t have the complete information as yet, but suffice it to say that we have incredible granddaughters. Today was just an indicator.

Talli, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, was a three-time winner this afternoon at her (away) track meet in Dayton, Oregon.

First, she took the 800-meter event. An hour later she hit the tape first in the 1,500 meter run (that’s about a mile, folks). And then she capped the day a while later by running a winning leg of the 400-yard relay.

And, oh, by the way, her school history (I think) project took second in the STATE, after being in the top two at her local school. WAY TO GO, TALLI!

Hayley, a 10-year-old fourth-grader, tested off the charts in some kind of a writing exam of which I am as yet not too clear. But she scored REALLY well. WAY TO GO HAYLEY!

Of course all the while bouncy four-year-old Aubrey keeps everyone with a smile, as her infectious, happy personality shines a light on all around her. WAY TO GO AUBS!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our son Gregg, who is the father of these great kids. Their mom Elaine is likely the one providing most of the track genes, as she was a college distance runner. And both of them were outstanding students in their younger days, so you can see why the kids do so well.

We are blessed. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Reflections on the Last Few Days

My wife and I, along with our lifelong friends (several with whom we visited in California last week), are living in an increasingly problematic time in our lives.

Among the things we are encountering as many of us creep up on the beginning of our eighth decade, are aging-related physical problems, chronic illnesses, adjusting to retirement schedule and income implications, and changing accessibilities to family. Any and all of them can be quite stressful.

So it was really nice to be able to spend meaningful time last week with these great people. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’ve met them all at one time or another – the Petersens of Grass Valley, the Walls of Almaden/San Jose, the Silkwoods of Morgan Hill, and the Higginses and Klassens of Discovery Bay (pictured respectively in order).

Each of them has touched our lives in a very special way, and we treasure each relationship.

We have all raised kids together. We’ve traveled together. We’ve shared our faith journeys. We’ve shared joys. And sorrows. We’ve moved away. We’ve come back. And we’ve moved away again. But we still get to be together once every so often.

We all continue to change in a myriad of ways as the years click by, but one thing remains constant – our friendship. No matter what is in store for any of us in our remaining years, we know we can count on these time-tested alliances.

We’re thankful for and blessed by each one. Thanks be to God.

(Sorry for the "goofy" layout; it's the best I could do within blog site limitations.)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Man Helps Nature Create A Big Fishing Hole

On our trip to northern California earlier this week we drove north on Vasco Road out of Livermore. Just after you crest the hill that drops you down into Contra Costa County, a short drive west off of the highway, on a nicely paved road, leads you to Los Vaqueros reservoir, pictured above.

Note the flag at left that is starched in the horizontal from the strong winds that were blowing. Click on the photo to see a larger image.

Less than 10 years ago there was nothing there but a creek trickling down the brown/green, sparcely-treed hillsides. Then an earthen dam was built at the northern end of Kellogg creek.

Winter rainwater accumulated for about five years, and voila! – you have what you see above, a major body of water.

The original purpose was to provide much needed additional drinking water for the exploding number of new CC County residents. It’s done that plus a whole lot more.

Fish have been planted, buildings were erected, trails were established, and the area now provides an incredible recreation opportunity for all who visit, especially those who live nearby.

The fishing, especially, is incredible. Trout have been caught larger than 10 pounds. Catfish over 20 pounds are not unusual. Largemouth bass push the 10-pound mark.

The surprise, however, has been a 25-lb striped bass caught there by a water district employee. Stripers were never planted there.

Click here to check out the web site describing the beauty that man has wrought, with the help of mother nature, of course.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Back Home From Quick California Trip

After my last post, I snapped this photo near Livermore, California yesterday to demonstrate that it does, in fact, get green in the Golden State for a time each year.

This hilarious group of cows had my wife and me in stitches as they all stared at me taking their picture. I can only imagine their conversation:

“Hey gals, check out this guy leaning up against the car. You’d think he’d have something better to do than gawk at us through that little oblong box with only one eye. Maybe we oughta start charging admission.”

What cracked us up was the fact that they eyed every move we made and just stared motionlessly at us while chewing their cuds. They appeared to be very aware of what was going on.

As for the quick trip, we saw five different couples in three days plus a breakfast meeting with an old racquetball buddy from the 70’s. To say the least, we had a fabulous time.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll post the photo of a brand new fishing lake (reservoir) a little north of Livermore which has been created just in the last few years. It’s an amazing and quite beautiful accomplishment.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Enjoying the Golden State While It’s Still Green

California is called the “Golden State” because of its dearth of rain during late Spring, Summer and, often, early Fall, that causes virtually all vegetation to turn brown - er, golden.

But right now it’s a ripe Spring green.

We’re enjoying some California “green” for a few days this week (while it’s there), all in the SF Bay Area. We’re actually making stops in Grass Valley (in the lower elevations of the Sierras above Sacramento), in the Santa Clara Valley to the south, and in Discovery Bay (on the Sacramento River Delta).

My wife and I try to make this pony express run a couple of times a year, as these locations are where our life-long friends live. It's a rapid three or four stops during the short time, touching base with four or five families whose company we have enjoyed for four decades or more.

The picture shows an old farmhouse, accented by spring greenery and budding trees, near the Russian river in the northern California countryside. It’s one I snapped about four years ago at this time of the year, when we still lived in Fairfield.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Penn Penned it Well

On this Good Friday I felt it was appropriate to reflect on these insightful words, "penned" by our country's famous historical Quaker, William Penn:

No pain, no palm;
No thorns, no throne;
No gall, no glory;
No cross, no crown.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Mariners 4; Athletics 0

For the few who read this blog, just wanted you to know that we saw a win today in the Mariners home opener.

Young Felix Hernandez, only 20, pitched a gem. Not only did he toss a shut-out, but he also struck out 12 A’s. Sports wags are saying no younger opening game starter has done that since the Cardinals’ fire-balling Bob Gibson did it back in the 1960s.

Throwing consistently in the mid-to-upper-nineties, he’d then use his change-up curve or 85 mph slider to get hitters out throughout the game.

The game was a gem to watch. All of the M’s runs were unearned due to a Bobby Crosby error in the 6th inning, and slugger Richie Sexson (pictured) got his first dinger of the year, a 3-run shot to deep center field.

Oh yeah, I got one of those great new "swoosh" M's caps today.

Now, it's only 161 to go.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

We’re Going to the Opener at Safeco

It’s sad when you’re so old that you can’t remember if you’ve ever been to an “opening day” Major League baseball game. But try as I may, I can’t recall any.

So it’s likely a “first” for me, and my wife, when we take in the Seattle Mariners’ season opener tomorrow against the Oakland A’s at beautiful Safeco Field. My son Doug and his wife Jamie will join us for as much of the game as their busy schedules will allow.

I always enjoy going to a Major League game, but this one will have special significance. I’ve been to playoff games and World Series games, but I guess I’ve never been to a game on opening day.

Of course there will be a lot of “ceremonies” before the first pitch is thrown. One of the key observances will be the bestowing of his Golden Glove award upon Ichiro, the Mariners current center-fielder who actually played right field last year for which he earned the honor.

That's the M's left-fielder, the hard hitting Raul Ibanez, pictured. The whole day should be a great experience, and we’re looking forward to it.

Management is high on the prospects for this year’s team, although the M’s finished last in their division in 2006 for the third straight year. The fans have yet to be convinced, which may be why we were able to get upper box seats just a couple of days ago.

A win tomorrow might help ownership put a few more fans in the seats down the road, but it’s not going to be easy. The M’s lost every game to the A’s last year, save one.

One good omen: the M’s have their brilliant young pitching phenom, Felix Hernandez, starting tomorrow’s contest. It’s time to turn the tide.

Our dog Buddy is already showing signs of wanting to go along with us to the game, but until they come up with ballpark pet-sitting, he’ll have to stay home. However, we’ll leave the TV on for him, tuned to the game.