Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Madness















 Ahhh, the holidays. If one were to watch the many TV shows around Christmas you would be led to believe that the holidays are all about fun family times with people sitting around the Christmas tree drinking egg-nog or singing and dancing out in snow covered streets in some idyllic setting like Whoville or some such place. If, however, you were to watch a TB show, you would find a reality that is possibly closer to your own. I wish there were such a thing as a Silent Night. My house has been a prototype for holiday madness. My daughter Autumn is visiting with her husband and since school is out and my oldest daughter Jen doesn't want to miss anything she's in and out of the house like there was a revolving door out back. God forbid that I should try to keep any heat in the house. It's in the single digits outside with an icy wind howling, but the door is open more than it's closed and then I get to hear the bitching about how cold it is in here. The kitchen resembles Applebee's on a Friday night and coffee is being consumed by the gallon. At any given time there is a movie being watched on TV while music is being played and two or three cell phones are getting a workout on their keyboards. I think I have about thirty coffee cups at the house but when I go to look for one they're all dirty or being used. Fortunately I have two bathrooms, but keeping them stocked with toilet paper is a challenge. Add to all this that Jan's birthday is close to Christmas so there are the usual Christmas cards as well as birthday greetings. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, Autumn has inherited my rather bizarre sense of humor. You can see from the card she got her mother in the top picture what I mean. And now a word about buying American made. ABC news has been promoting buying things made in America. I applaud them for that. As much as possible I would love to buy American made products. That being said, however, there are some products that I wish we couldn't lay claim to. A case in point. I love jelly beans, and probably one of the premium makers of them is the Jelly Belly Company, made right here in the good ol' USA. They really make a great product, but the other day Autumn showed up with a box of Jelly Belly-Bean Boozled jelly beans. Not only are there a variety of tasty delights, but there are equally disgusting counter parts that are indistinguishable from the good ones. For instance, a black one could be licorice or it might be skunk spray. You can't tell until you taste them. Is that red one strawberry jam or centipede? Yellow-buttered popcorn or rotten egg or the brown one chocolate pudding or dog food. They even include a spinner in the box with the different colored beans on it. It adds a bit of excitement not knowing what you're going to get. As they say, it puts a whole new spin on playing with your food. When Autumn showed up with them the other day I knew immediately that we would have to put them in a jar on the counter in the kitchen, right where we open our mail. I was certain that Jen would come by and without fail would start to look through our mail and would spot the jelly beans and help herself. Several years ago I put a package of dog Liv-a-Snaps treats in a crystal bowl on the counter. I knew full well that Jen would see them and help herself. True to her nature, she came in and almost immediately was drawn to the bowl. She had just lifted the dog treat up to her mouth when I couldn't contain myself any more and burst out laughing. She got suspicious and wouldn't eat it. Darn it! This time she came in and was all excited talking to her sister and passed by the bowl at first. Autumn had given her a bag of erasers for her classroom and Jen was in the middle of telling her something when she spotted the candy. Without finishing her sentence she exclaims -"HEEEYYYY! and reached for the bowl. With everything within me I was trying desperately to hold it together, but like a cheap earthen dam trying to hold back the mighty Mississippi, my laughter spilled forth and the jig was up. She caught me again.The bottom picture shows my son-in-law, Arron, after he consumed a centipede flavored jelly belly. You can be darn sure I won't be trying any, not with my luck. In any event, it's Christmas Eve. As much as possible I hope you'll all have a blessed time with your families this holiday season. If for some reason you can't be with your family, I hope you'll try and be a blessing to someone else who might also be alone during this season. God bless you all.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mrs. Christmas


  This fine gal is my friend Ladonna Dybdahl, or as I usually call her, Ladonna Momma. Fortunately she has a good sense of humor- either that or she is exceptionally patient with  me realizing that I'm just an overgrown kid myself and therefore not as responsible as most adults. As you can see by her attire, she really gets into the holiday season. Notice the ornament earrings. I've thought more than once about getting my ears pierced so I could adorn my head with some of the colorful accessories that so many ladies gravitate to. I've often thought that with just a few modifications most earrings would make wonderful fishing lures. As you can see by this picture, I caught Ladonna totally unawares- that's why she has this look of surprise and perhaps confusion and is possibly saying "What in the HECK are you doing Tom?" I have to admit that its not really fair to catch people by surprise, but otherwise you might end up with  no picture at all. For over twenty years Ladonna has been an integral part of the school. Frankly I don't know how the high school could run without her. She's seen ten principles come and go and during that same twenty years there were four years with no principle at all. She's had quite an adventurous life, having spent her early years growing up on Lemesurier Island, located near the mouth of Glacier Bay in Icy Strait. For years she didn't realize there were cities until her dad, Captain Don Gallagher started taking her with him on his mail boat, the Forrester. He used to deliver the mail and some groceries to various small communities in Southeast Alaska- Hoonah, Pelican, Elfin Cove and even Idaho Inlet, even though there was no town per se, just a few homesteads. She said her father treated her like a son, letting her swear like a sailor and even let her share in his beloved cigars in the wheelhouse of the boat. When she was old enough for school her family moved to Juneau and lived on a house boat, the Veteran.  When she was eleven or twelve she spent her summers in Elfin Cove where her parents ran the store there- Swanson's. When all the other kids were learning to drive cars, Ladonna was running around in a speed boat. As she was growing into young adulthood, her parents sometimes worried  that perhaps the Cove, with so many transient fishermen could be a problem. As Juneau began to grow and the two lane road became four, her mom and dad  relocated once again, this time to Hoonah, where they spent the remainder of their years.  Her folks were well entrenched in the town when I came on the scene. Captain Don was a regular visitor at the L. Kane store, where he stopped on his daily rounds of the town, never without a cigar in his mouth. Her mother, Fay, was a little slip of a woman but feisty and I felt like she could hold her own in dealing with the captain. She used to peddle around town on a three wheeled adult tri-cycle. Every Christmas she would drop by the store with a loaf of war cake, a molasses cake with an abundance of raisins and walnuts. When her mother passed away, Ladonna picked up the torch and has continued the tradition. The captain kept log books from his travels around Southeast for a number of years which were stored in their home. After her parents passing, Ladonna acquired the home. Unfortunately the house caught fire years ago, I think as a result of kids smoking, and the the logbooks were destroyed. It's a shame to lose such a volume of written local history. When I spoke to her last time, I asked how much longer she would be working at the school and she replied four years. When the time comes to retire, she will be sorely missed. Her value was expressed in the last graduation ceremony, where so many of the students on stage praised her for her help and guidance. It's quite the testimony that when it's time to go your employers are left wondering how they're going to replace you. Way to go Ladonna.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Been Thinking About


 Like so many other people across the globe I'm shocked and saddened by the events of these past few days, first in Oregon at the shopping mall and yesterday in Connecticut at an elementary school where twenty six people were murdered; twenty of whom were innocent children. Perhaps I have no right to comment on this incident. Lord knows I'm certain I don't have all the facts, but I do have an opinion based on what I've seen so far and so I will take this time to express it. I'm struggling to put to words my feelings. First I'm distraught and then I'm angry. I'm confused and trying to make sense of what has become an all too common  headline in American life.  I'd like to sit down with God face to face and ask why this has happened. I guess I'll have that chance some day, and it will make sense and I will see that, while it wasn't His will to have this happen, He will nonetheless take this incident and make something good come from it. While that doesn't seem even remotely possible at this time, I believe that what the enemy of mankind has meant for evil, God will turn into something good. Many people have asked, why did God let this happen? As Mike Huckabee mentioned yesterday- we've asked God to stay out of our schools, out of our government, and for many out of our lives. At the expense of sounding harsh, perhaps He is honoring our request. Suppose you were a farmer. One day you go out to your field and sew corn. At  harvest time you hook up the tractor expecting to find a field full of corn, but when you get there you see that in one row there is broccoli, in the next row turnips, after that pineapples, and then squash. You planted corn seeds, how then did you grow all these other crops?  Thank God it doesn't work that way in nature. In the same way, it doesn't work that way in spiritual matters. Scripture says that whatsoever a man sews, that shall he also reap. I know that those innocent little children are in no way responsible for what  happened yesterday, but as a nation, I think that collectively we are. We have been on a moral decline for quite some time. It's evident in our language, what we see on TV, what we accept from our political leaders and in many of the laws that now govern our land. We've been very much like the frog in the water, slowly being  killed by the eroding away of our morals. I think we can still turn this around.Scripture says- if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven and heal the land. For the sake of this country I hope I will take to heart His promise and I hope you will join me in praying for the healing of these families and for the healing of this land. May God almighty be with us all.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Six Stages of a Project


















  We all have people in our lives who we know casually; maybe the neighbor down the street who works at the school or the gal at the coffee shop who always smiles when you come in. We might have a conversation in passing and while we might not consider them friends per se, we like them. We may not know them well enough to invite for dinner, and most likely we wouldn't engage them in a conversation about politics or family matters, but seeing them on a regular basis is kind of comforting. Whenever I go to Juneau I like to drop in to Donna's Restaurant for breakfast. Frequently I'm waited on by a gal who by now must be close to retirement.She's been there at least twenty years, and though I only travel to town a few times a year, I always look forward to seeing her. She keeps my coffee cup full and we engage in small talk and even though I'm not a regular she remembers me and smiles. Until recently I didn't know her name. I thought maybe she was Donna- who the restaurant was named after. Last time I was there though she had a name tag that said Cheri. Of course I'll forget her name before I get into Juneau again, but hopefully she'll be wearing that name tag again and I'll address her properly. However, this post isn't about Donna's or the waitress, but about a fellow named Ken. He worked for the Forest Service and since I have a contract with them, I would occasionally run into him. He was quiet and soft spoken. He lived on a small boat down in the harbor for a number of years - I guess it was much cheaper than renting a house. Nothing wrong with being thrifty. I'm not real certain, but I think he was of the natural foods type of persuasion- you know, eating honey instead of sugar, drinking rice milk and storing products in the company fridge with sayings like "No Preservatives and All Natural in bold lettering across the front. We were pretty much on different ends of the spectrum when it came to that stuff. It really didn't matter to me, except that last time I cleaned out the corporate refrigerator I had to dump two containers of rice milk that had a date that had expired seven months before. Being a bachelor he didn't stay on top of that stuff. Anyway, Ken retired last week. A few weeks before he was going through all his file cabinets, sorting through years of documents, most of which went in the trash. We spoke for a minute while he sorted through calendars and papers and notes and we both thought it odd that people hang on to so much useless stuff and that when it's time to retire, all the years of work can be summed up in the contents of a small cubicle. He's gone but promised to leave a forwarding address so I can at least send him a Christmas card. I doubt that I'll ever hear from him again though. Usually correspondence is a one way ticket with guys like Ken, but that's OK. He left behind some real treasures on his shelf; things he picked up along the way. Not one, but two hard hats, a couple sets of antlers that some deer dropped after the rut, a number of old paint cans that used to be used to mark boundary lines in the woods. I guess the common practice was to shove them into a root wad in the ground when they were empty years ago. Now when they're discovered  the employees bring them in. All of the cans on the shelf have been punctured multiple times by bears. For some reason they like the smell or taste of the paint. I've heard they used to puncture the plastic jugs that the loggers kept their chain saw oil in too. How odd is that? There are a few bear breads and unusual rocks and shells on the shelf as well. Though we really weren't friends, I'll miss our small conversations. For whatever reason I sat at his desk last weekend. I'd never seen it so clean. That's when I noticed a paper on the wall under the shelf. It's titled The Six Stages of a Project and I laughed for quite a while after I read it.  Here it is.

 The Six Stages of a Project

1. Enthusiasm
2. Disillusionment
3. Panic
4.Search for the guilty
5.Punishment of the innocent
6. Praise and honors for the non-participants

Thanks Ken. Though you were a man of few words I see that you could certainly understand the reality of working with other people.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Gus's Marine Storage















  How often have you seen some new product on the shelf or an idea that someone has come up with and you think- that's pretty neat, I could have done that. In fact my friend Buffalo Bob sent me a book titled- Damn, why didn't I think of that? Well, as I was working on this post, I was thinking the same thing about this marine storage facility. Who would have thought that it would have been such a popular thing to utilize? Obviously, the owner, Gus Skaflestad did. That's why it's called Gus's instead of Tom's. Blast! Another golden opportunity has passed me by. Oh well.
 The whole idea of storage facilities is kind of hard for me to fathom. It would seem that if you have so much stuff that you can't store it at your house, you may have too much. I like to watch the show Storage Wars on A&E.  That's the show where people bid on storage lockers that have gone to auction because the folks haven't paid the fee. It's amazing what people leave in their lockers. On one show the guy with the winning bid scored a whole bunch of silver coins. It runs in my mind that the coins were worth thousands of dollars. It's not just coins that are valuable. Some lockers have all kinds of furniture, antiques, paintings, jewelry and assorted do-dads that have real value. If this is what is stored in a locker, what treasures are in their homes? Of course there are lots of musty clothes and old mattresses and junk in some of the lockers, but there is also the unique and even bizarre. One locker had spy equipment in it and another had parts of a human skeleton that was used for medical study. One of the regulars on the show scored big when he bought a locker that contained clothes that had been custom tailored for rap artist Suge Knight. Fortunately Suge wasn't wearing them at the time. Another wasn't so lucky when he tried to unload an Ouija board at at several mediums places of business. They didn't want anything to do with it.What do you do with an Ouija board that no one wants? I guess you could wrap it in colorful paper and pawn it off at the office Christmas party- just don't put your name on it. I wouldn't recommend taking it to the church party though, it would probably be frowned upon.
  I would venture to say that the chances of finding anything of great worth are somewhat slim here at Gus's. Most of what is stored out in the yard are boats.  Mainly skiffs, although I see the poles and masts of several trollers and one or two sailboats. I know that some of these boats have been  here for at least ten years. There's moss growing on the decks and bulwarks and the tarps that were draped over them years ago have been reduced to tattered, plastic threads flapping in the wind. Why hang on to something like that? I wonder if they are still making payments on the space or if they've long since been delinquent. If that's the case, then poor old Gus is stuck with all these useless boats. Maybe that's why they're still stored in the yard- he has no place else to put them.
  There is a name for those folks who can't bear to part with any of their earthly goods- hoarders. There's even a television show about them. Most have homes so crowded with junk that there isn't even room to sleep in the bed or eat a meal in the kitchen. One lady's home was in such a terrible state that the folks who were sent in to help her found the mummified remains of her long lost cat under piles of rubbish. "Well there you are Tinkerbell. I'm glad to see you didn't run away from home."
  With each passing year we seem to have more and more stuff ourselves. Soon I'm going to have to have the foundation checked to see if it can hold up to the extra weight. This Friday we're going to have a little Christmas party at the house. Maybe I can wrap up a few old magazines and a cassette tape or two in gift wrap and pass out to all the guests as they depart. It's cheaper than renting a storage locker.