Sunday, December 25, 2011

He Came Soft as a Whisper

Good morning Lord. This past week has been full of pressures and it has been hard to feel you at all.  If you are in it – I missed it. So here I sit this morning. The lights of the Christmas tree shining bright speaking of holiday, rejoicing and happiness; but I am weary.

Is this how it has always been? Is this what you expected and wanted? I know the questions I asked are stupid. But, what has happened? To shift my thoughts toward you I find it hard and uncomfortable, even scary. To even talk to you is uncomfortable and I feel afraid to come up close. Is it because of my smallness next to your vastness or your infiniteness and my finiteness? Or my unavoidable death and your forever? Or is it you being all powerful and I being fragile and weak? There is also your complete and unlimited knowledge and then my lack of understanding and the questions that haunt me. And of course, there is always your holiness lighting up my sinfulness and I want to hide.

I would have expected you to come in thunder or lightening or maybe even riding an asteroid, for after all you are God, the all powerful one. But no, you came softly in less than a whisper, as a baby, small, helpless, weak, fragile, in an obscure stable of all places.  Did you come in this manner so I would not be frightened and not run and hide? I wonder…..

I am trying to not hide, and I am thankful for the story, so sweet and I begin to inch close to you. But to read on, later the story turns sad, horrible, and I want to hide again. I read of your grief, your suffering, the tears you shed, the loneliness you felt, the rejection by those close to you, and then of course comes the real horror, a cross.

 If that was the end, the story would have no meaning. But, then the story changes and lifts the sadness and the power of death is torn down by your resurrection. If I continue to hide and miss the story, it does not change its power does it? If I hide and ignore the story, it does not change the fact you came.  And that whisper if I am not quiet or careful I will miss it and the story will have no effect.

Now that the rush is over, now that the presents have been place under the tree, help me be quiet, help me not miss hearing your whisper….

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grayquill going VEGAN?

The windshield wipers beat steady. The HOV lane was open, and we took right to it, staying at speed limit. The progress was fantastic for driving on a rainy Seattle night at rush hour.  Something new was in store for Grayquill. It was to be Vegan Pizza at Pizza PI.

On the outset vegan pizza sounded horrible to me but what do you do when your nephew and his bride to be buy a vegan pizza joint? You support it and them, that's what you do!

They say location is everything and the location for this business seemed perfect. It is located on University Way NE, five blocks north of the University of Washington where all those weird liberal granola young people congregated.  What would they love more than vegan pizza? I can’t think of a thing.

I dropped mom and dad off at the door and rolled through the rain looking for a parking spot. With the car parked in a back in only spot, I took the two block walk up University Avenue. I had my hat so it was all good.

Upon entering the restaurant I spotted them at the far end right across from the cash register. A fifty eight year old accompanied by two eighty eight year olds must have been quite a site in such an establishment. I would say, maybe we looked odd and out of place, but then I took a look around; have you seen the way young people dress these days? Upon perusing the crowd I felt quite normal. As for the patrons, there was certainly more than one odd duck in the room. Young people these days do not know how to dress – it is just plain odd. My own nephew wore pants that reminded me of Huck Finn with his jeans torn raggedly off at mid calf.  I checked to see if he was wearing leather shoes. He wasn’t, he was being consistent to his vegan life choice. I love a man of principle! My kids have upon occasion called me both quirky and goofy; I can only imagine what words the children of this group will use to describe their parents some day.  

The menus were passed out and it wasn’t long before we had a 100% vegan pizza pie right there on our table, freshly cooked in a 615 degree oven. I could have the degrees off a bit – I only half listen sometimes. Upon taking my first bite with some fear and trepidation, my taste buds started dancing. THIS WAS GOOD! I was shocked! The medium pizza fed the three of us and I even had two pieces to take home. Yahoo!

Do you remember being a little grubber and not liking anything if a grown up told you it was good for you? I can remember a couple of those moments. Well I had a childhood flash back when it was suggested that desert be Vegan Pumpkin Pie. That just seemed like an oxymoron. I didn’t want to be rude so I accepted the large piece of pie with a big forced smile. A friend once said, “if you have to swallow a frog, don’t look at it too long.” I decided to take that advice right off. Hmmm…. This was pretty good, the crust was excellent! I would like another piece please…oh, ooops, it wasn’t offered.

With our welcome running into the overdue limit and with paying patrons standing waiting for a table we called it an evening. First of course we had to argue about the bill – them wanting to give us free food and us wanting to pay. We took our leave and I for one will be going back to the Pizza PI. If you are ever in Seattle I suggest you plan on some Vegan Pizza and have a wonderful moment to watch today’s young people. It will all be good I promise.

I give Pizza Pi two thumbs up and the way young people dress two thumbs down.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grayquill Keep Quiet

Do you ever do something with good intentions and then realize well that wasn’t very respectful? I had one of those moments this morning. A little background might be needed….
It was late. The weather man just mentioned we would have near freezing temps tonight. As usual my mind bumped from faucets to pipes to cars….oh yeah my truck!!!
I forgot to add antifreeze to my truck.  I meant to do that. I just keep forgetting. Well, the news guy did say ‘near’ freezing. I can wait. I think I will go to bed now.
A few days passed with rainy, temps in the forties. Do you think I bought the antifreeze? Why would I? It’s not freezing yet.
It was again late and the weather man just mentioned we would have near freezing temps tonight. As usual my mind bumped from faucets to pipes to cars….oh yeah my truck!!!
I forgot to add antifreeze to my truck.  I meant to do that. I just keep forgetting. Well, the news guy did say ‘near’ freezing. I can wait. I think I will go to bed now. Tomorrow I will go to the auto parts store at lunch and pickup the antifreeze.
Tomorrow came, lunch came and I had forgotten all about the antifreeze. The sun was out and there is no prettier place than the northwest when the crisp clear fall air allows the sun to shine on snow cover mountain peaks, highlighting the bright green evergreens contrasted by the reds and golds from the changing oak trees. It was a great lunch, but no antifreeze was purchased.
Heading home the guy on the radio said we would again have near freezing temps. That reminded me. Perfect, I would stop and pick up that antifreeze now, and I did. Now, with the antifreeze in my trunk I headed home with full intentions of taking care of the antifreeze truck problem as soon as I got home.  It was less than a minute or two and that thought was long gone, My mind now traveled down roads of who knows where.
Yip you guessed it. It was late and the news guy just said, we would have near freezing temps tonight. As usual my mind bumped from faucets to pipes to cars….oh yeah my truck!!!
I forgot to add the antifreeze to my truck.  I meant to do that. I just keep forgetting. Well, the news guy did say ‘near’ freezing. I can wait. I think I will go to bed now.
I have this personal problem. Some would call it procrastination but I would rather say, I hold off until the need is directly in front of me. It saves so much planning.
By some miracle the next evening when I arrived home from work the antifreeze was added to my old trucks radiator. The process sparked a memory. I remembered my son telling me he had had a water leak also. He is a bit better than I am! He fixed his leak by putting in a new radiator. Now that’s a fresh idea.  Regardless, if it would have been me, I would probably have forgotten to buy the antifreeze when I bought the radiator. That would have resulted in a new radiator filled with straight water. I would have reasoned I can pick up the antifreeze later.  So, naturally I thought my son probably did not have antifreeze in his radiator. What do you think I did with that thought?  If he was still a teenager the question would probably have been okay, but still maybe a little insulting but at age 25? GEEZZZEE! What’s wrong with me?
I think my son is more gracious than I am, but he did ask me why I was asking such a question.
I need your help. How should I answer?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A 40th HS Reunion

WOW! He Once had Hair
Three large cookie trays were spread out on the counter. All were now greased and my daughter was beginning to flatten the stiff dough into the first tray. It looked like hard work. A slight smile was on her face as she methodically worked the dough.
This year it was just my wife and youngest daughter, for the traditional pre-holiday baking. Usually a few others show up for the occasion. Russian tea cakes, camel haystacks, chocolate covered almond bar things??? – I am not sure what they are called, and this year there was a new surprise truffle of some sort.
On these occasions I do my best to stay on the observer side of the kitchen counter.  All that activity looks way to much like work for my liking. And, staying out of the fray seems prudent, besides how many cooks does one kitchen really need? I thought two were plenty. 
My wife made the mistake of asking me to store the baking results in the freezer. Now, I know that is a lot of work, two trips to the garage, and a lot of responsibility, but she should know better. After all she’s had 38 years to learn my tactics. That said that smaller container strategically placed on the top shelf where short people cannot see, it could be empty before the holidays get here.
A woman’s ability to multitask has often left me with the feeling that we males are actually the weaker sex and that kind of rankles me. Like all God given gifts a person can become over confident in using such a gift and therein lies the opportunity. Sitting across from the ladies watching them do their cooking, I figured if I could distract, the possibility of a miss measure might occur. Yip, presto baloogal, one batch of goodies did not meet the quality control standard for the freezer. There is a nice batch of caramel hay stacks (my personal favorite) that do not hold together properly waiting on the counter for me. YES! I love it when a plan comes together.

It was a small group, strangers, really. Yet there was a familiarity in the air. A laugh across the room rolled her way, her memory banks stretched, that was a laugh she knew. The face it came from confused her. There was nothing to connect that laugh with the face. Wait, there was something, there in the eyes, something tugged deep pulling it out of the archives of hardened brain matter. She glanced down at his name tag, “Is that you Grayquill?”
Last weekend was my fortieth high school reunion. Thinking about how long a forty year time span was made me just plain cranky but after a bit I decided I would embrace the whole affair with exuberance. Now, I gotta tell ya, my exuberance quotient falls a bit below what others might consider high-spirited, but I went forward determined to enjoy the time with old childhood friends. Having had kids of my own and now that they have passed their high school days, I understand the maturity I felt at 17 was nothing more than a feeling and I was still a child at that time. Knowing I was not unique, I went into this affair with the appreciation that my old class mates were also just children the last time I had seen them. Throughout the evening I found myself looking for the children hidden inside my classmates that were housed by almost old bodies. Bumps and bruises of life’s pot holes were either inferred or spoken of openly by the more humble classmates. Successes both professional and relationally were varied from person to person and in the wrinkle department the forty year span had been a great deal kinder to the ladies then us men.
The evening ended, the only disappointment as normal, a highly charged emotional time kept my taste buds from taking in the wood cooked salmon prepared by an accomplished chef. There was profoundness in seeing people who were a part of shaping my personality and values. Seeing them again was better than great. To all my classmates of 1971, I appreciate each and every one of you!

Update on Grayquill Musings the book. Nine reviews have been posted on Amazon. Okay….most of them are from good friends and family but there are a couple that are mysteries to me. Thank you! The support is appreciated.  

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bow and Arrow Adventure

I was 13 years old. My neighbor and I had both acquired bows and arrows. We built a sod house on the edge of a 12-foot embankment. It was exactly like the sod houses that were built on the prairies back in early frontier days – exactly! Ours was not an actual house because it only had walls. We never did figure out how to build roofs. Soon after building this fine sod hideaway, we poked a look-out hole through the side of one wall.

One day, we decided it would be a really great idea for one of us to shoot arrows at the lookout hole, while the other looked through the hole.
It was a game filled with excitement and danger. The sod walls were about eight inches thick, so there was no real risk of the arrow blasting its way through the sod and impaling us. Also, we were not that great of shots, so the likelihood of the arrow actually entering the lookout hole seemed highly unlikely. At this point in time, no one had explained the law of averages to me. Well regardless, we reasoned that in the unlikely event that the arrow did fly into the hole, the person looking through the hole would simply move his head to the side, allowing the arrow to fly harmlessly by.
I wonder what age God actually turns the key to engage the brain of a teenage boy. Something to think about.
This game seemed logical, yet still thick with daring competition. Who could scare the other person the most? This question added a fine flavor of intrigue to the challenge. I was sure I would outdo my neighbor by sending him leaping sideways to the ground to protect himself from my arrows.
Sure enough, one of my arrows flew as true and pretty as a swallow catching a gnat out of mid-air. The arrow sailed straight toward the lookout hole, and my neighbor did the logical thing--he moved his head aside as my arrow flew harmlessly by inches away. What an adrenalin rush! This kept the arrows flying for some time.
There came a time in the shooting, I was looking through the hole. Suddenly, my neighbor let his arrow fly and as sure as a shot that could be made the arrow came straight for the hole. I saw it coming right for the hole and I swear that arrow hypnotized me. I did not and could not move. That arrow smacked me right in the middle of the forehead knocking me down.  

Our game ended as the sound of arrow hitting skull brought my neighbor dashing over to see the blood rolling down my face into my eyes. I was lucky that the light target arrow had not the momentum, speed, or weight to penetrate the bone.

It’s memories like this that give me a strong inclination to believe in natural selection, but the theory falls completely apart because here I am still writing.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Grayquill Musings Chapter One

I have Only so Many Stories

Often my children chide me for retelling my stories. I always have the same response. And frankly, it is a pretty good one. “Now kids, a man has only so many stories. Some are worth only telling once, but there are those others that are worth telling over and over, so just be quiet and listen.”
My kids were shaking their heads as I retold them the story of how their mother put the hustle on me before we were even dating. They rolled their eyes – there dad goes again. Does he not remember telling us this story a million times before?
“You see, I was a catch. I mean, it has to be true, or why would she put the moves on me? That is just plain logic.” My son blurted out, “Dad! We know the story, and we are not going to believe it this time either. There is no way MOM put any moves on YOU. Look at mom, and look at you--does that make any sense at all?”
My oldest daughter pipes in, “Yeah dad, you just said be logical. Oh my goodness! And, besides mom would never do that.” Perception is reality.
Do you remember the days when your kids believed you? When they ran to meet you at the door, screaming “daddy, daddy” hugging your neck? You could tell them anything, and they would believe it. Oh yes, those were the days.
Continuing on with my story, “Excuse me? You just ask your mother. She will agree with me completely. So, do you mind if I continue?” She shook her head like I was crazy and began laughing. My son had put his head down ignoring me and began to work on his grilled cheese sandwich. My oldest daughter and son often think alike. But my sweet, wonderful youngest daughter was smiling…But her smile was different, kind of dreamy like. “Dad, tell the story! I love it!” See how sweet she is?
If truth be told, I believe all my children love hearing this story. What child does not want to hear the love story of their parents? Of course they do!
Well, I bet you are all dying to hear this story too. But the key word in “short stories” is “short.” So I just don’t have the space this time. Maybe next time; stay tuned.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Grayquill Scaring Little Childern

I read Frank Baron’s blog about turning sixty and it scared me. That number will be looking me right in the eye in just a few short years. Convicting me to get some exercise, my day started out as a banner day. I rode my bicycle to work. It is 12 miles and it takes me about an hour. It is a good work out. All was going, so well, until my front tire got caught in a crack between the pavement and the cement sidewalk. I took a sideways landing lifting more sand out of the area with my face than a street sweeper. I can attest there is a reason God allows youngsters to take those bicycle spills instead of us almost 60 year old fellas. I have a black eye, like no fight ever gave me. You would think if I needed to get a black eye, it could at least have a good story attached to it. Instead I have to say I fell off of my bicycle (how embarrassing). A lady stopped to see if I was okay, with blood dripping down my face I said only what a real man would say, “Of course I am all right would you go away now and leave me alone with my shame but thank you!.”
I have told a few brave folks who asked me what happened and I see that look in their eye that says, ‘Why is that old guy riding a bicycle in the first place?’ Ho Hmmm..... Well, I got my full fill of sympathy from all the female types at work. The male co-workers just laughed and I could swear I heard them call me an idiot under their breath. I came home that night and upon heading to bed hoped for dreams that had me doing something hero-ish (is that a word?). Sadly, that did not happen.
A full week has now passed and my eye has improved greatly. I find now, that only small children shy away in horror; whereas the first few days after my fall, even adults would avoid eye contact. During those first few days I found a great game. I would walk past a group of people being very careful to NOT look directly at them. I would either look straight ahead or away from the group, then at the last minute I would really fast look directly at them. The shame of being caught staring was priceless.  I know, I know, that was kind of mean of me, but heck, how often does this kind of opportunity come along?
A lot has happened since my last post. My son is now engaged to be married – I guess that’s the biggest and the bestest news (I know not a word but I like it).  My book sales made it into the double digits a few days ago.  My wife fell down our stairs and bruised herself real good and I am not being a very good nurse. Behind my house in the green belt area someone has set five brush fires over the past two weeks and Grayquill is out to catch an arsonist. I went fishing and caught only one very small, too embarrassing, to really talk about fish – Yes, I released the poor little fella. And lastly, I have a new office at work – Yahoo!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Goals and You

I have heard it said that the actual attaining of a goal is not the big thrill. But, the big thrill comes from the individual steps taken along the way.

Today I get to say, ‘I wrote a book and it’s in print.’ Now granted, I admit that feels pretty gosh darn good. I can also say the steps of completing each story had its own yahoo moments. There were those times I would later read one of my short stories and I would have this conversation with myself, “You wrote that? Really?  Really?” and I would be surprised. There were also more times than I can count where you my fellow blog buddies commented that one of my stories touched you or made you laugh or struck a memory or even motivated you to change something about your life – WOW! Those were grandslam type comments to read. There were times after reading one of your comments I would be like a little kid, grabbing up my lap top and rushing over to my wife, “Look, read this” and, she would comply and read one of your comments. She would smile and say, “well isn’t that nice.”

Fred Smith says, “If you cannot write it you don’t really know it.” That quote doesn’t exactly line up with my writing these stories but it has some close cousins that walked along beside that idea in the writing of these stories. During the writing of some of the stories I found deep feelings come up that made it hard to type because of the tears that flowed blurring my vision. Some of the stories touched my funny bone and I know I laughed the hardest at my foolish humanness. All in all it was more fun than I thought it would ever be and it never felt like work. But, then came the editing – that process just sucks and it for sure is a hateful process.

The book is now complete. It is a compilation of 81 stories all taken from this blog. The regular feedback supplied by your comments was always the encouragement that I needed to keep writing the next story. I guess it would be fair to say that you all were the fuel that kept the engine going and for that I thank you!

The book will be available at Amazon in a week or so. It is presently available at
Here is a 25% discount code - 5GJTYCN9
Kindest Regards, Grayquill

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Those Damn Church People

You know a church is one of those places where the folks will gossip about you, stab you in the back and for sure hurt you. Yes, it has a plethora of hypocrites and bad people. Gee - that sounds like a horrible place to be – it sure is! Think about it, you bring a whole bunch of sinners together and what do you get? Trouble. 

It’s been a while since I have been to church. Surprisingly, I am kind of missing it. I don’t really miss the preaching all that much even though sometimes it can be quite good, and I certainly don’t miss all that fake rock music they all seem to attempt to play these days. But, I do miss the people, the relationships, and folks who will accept me warts and all.

You see there is that other side of all those sinners. That’s the side, where people at church for the most part want to be better than they are. Sure they screw up. Hey, I know a secret – you do too. Sorry, it has to do with this thing called being part of the human race. Guess what – once people start going to church they do not shed off their humanness. I won’t argue that most church folk pretend to be better than they are, I know I do. But I know another secret you do that also, every time you are in the presence of another human you try to be better than you are, unless of course you’re a psychopath.

That other side of church goers that I have experienced has been pretty gosh darn good! When my house burned down and we had to go to a hotel with nothing, not even our tooth brushes. It was the church people who took my daughters shopping for new clothes the very next day on their dime. It was a church friend when I had come back to the hotel the day after the fire still wearing my dirty ash stained clothes, to my surprise had dropped off a six pack of new t-shirts and underwear just my size…who thinks of those kinds of things? Church people do! BTW- I did need some fresh undies.
It was a man from church who normally charged 200 plus dollars per hour for consulting, who met with me once a week for several months to give me advice on life and running a business and did not want a single dollar for the time he spent with me.  I guess now they call those folks life coaches. I called him my friend and life mentor.
When our children were born it was the church folk who brought us meals for several weeks, so my wife would not have to endure my cooking – now that’s considerate.
When a terrible tragedy hit my family, it was for course family, but it was also good church folk who were there to help bandage up the emotional hurts and not leave us alone, giving of their selves, time, prayers, and love. Maybe that is the big thing that makes church folks great. In spite of the back stabbing, the gossip, the hurts they will inflict…they also love. I suppose their love is far from perfect but when you’re hurting, imperfect love seems perfect.
Hmm…tomorrow’s Sunday, I think this back stabbing, gossiper, insensitive brute might put on my mask and head to church. Please don’t tell them how bad I am, you see I am afraid if they know who and what I am, they won’t love me.
Oh… yeah I almost forgot the secret….they are all just like me.
Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:17 (New International Version)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Grayquill Musings COMING SOON

Two Christmases ago I put a bunch of my blog posts together and printed a few books. These became Christmas presents for my kids. After that small printing I have been encouraged by some of you, family, and my friend Holly to clean it up and have it published. Holly is a super lady who has worked harder than I could ever have hope for and she has cleaned up my mess.
The last step was to send the book to some friends and have them do a read through to catch any typos. I have been correcting these proof copies over the last couple of weeks. I am getting real close to my goal of the last part of this month to send it to press. I now only need to fix a few formatting issues, then I am ready to send it off.
It has been interesting what bridges I personally have had to cross to get this project to this point. The biggest one is to believe my writing is good enough to put into a book. That critical voice jumped off the bench and gave am several tongue lashings for being so prideful in thinking I am a good enough writer to write anything worthy of going into a book. When critical self was pushed aside with that argument, he came at me from a new angle. ‘You are doing all this work for what? Self publishers never sell any books. No one is going to read your book. This is a poor use of your time.’ I reminded Mr. Critical that I was only watching TV and somehow this effort had to be an improvement.’ That conversation only happened though after a heartfelt talk with my friend Mike who reprimanded me and flooded me with encouragement – Thanks Mike!
I wanted also to give all of you a big thank you in advance for the kind words left to me on this blog. You have been my main source of encouragement. Over and over your kind comments have made my day and added a fun component to my writing - you are the best!
Those negative voices are still present and keep trying to dissuade me, so I would once again appreciate only positive comments on this post. – Thanks in advance.
BTW I am still in a quandary as to what cover would be best. Please give me you feed back. Which one would make you want to open up the cover and see what’s inside? Thanks!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Is it Good or Bad?

It was an evening of grunting, pushing, and pulling. I am getting too old for such nonsense… have I got your curiosity up yet? Well it was really nothing very exciting at all. I was helping my wife move her classroom…I am pretty sure that some union socialist should be pretty mad at me about now. Think of the all the pay I deprived him/her of. All that rule breaking didn’t come without a cost though. Aches and pains have been punishing me for several days.
On a brighter note or maybe a sadder note, depending how you look at it, this could be good or bad. I bought a new old car and I have been holding my head up high like a proud peacock driving around town and that has been good; no that’s bad because it was only because my pride wouldn’t let me drive my old beat up truck anymore; somehow thinking a 57 year old guy should have something better to drive was just plain prideful and that’s bad; no that’s good because in spite of the pride the old truck needed a rest and you have allowed it to live a few more months or years and that’s good; no that’s bad because now I have to pay insurance on something that is almost dead and that I will rarely drive and that’s bad, no that’s good because not driving the old truck will give you a sense of being green making the old truck last longer and that’s good; no that’s bad because your yard is looking like a used car lot with an old beat up truck sitting off in a corner and that’s bad; no that’s good because now there is another place that doesn’t need mowing and that’s good; no that’s bad because the grass will probably die there and that’s bad; no that’s good because it was mostly just weeds there any way and if the weeds die that will be good; no that’s bad because some day you will move the truck to go fishing or to the dump and there will be nothing but a bare muddy place in the yard where you might slip and break your leg and that will be bad; no that’s good because if I break my leg I won’t have to go to the dump and that’s good; no that’s bad because old trucks need to be useful now and then just to keep their feelings intact and not driving it might break the old girls heart and that will be bad, no that’s good because by not driving the old girl you won’t come to realize how old, saggy and sad your old truck really is and then you will want to buy a new perky truck and that will cost a lot of money and be very very bad….oh!

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Blog in Town

There’s a new blog in town. Check it out. "Vegans in Love"
In spite of their veganism it is full of fun energy. Luna and Darcy are unique, creative, fun, and dear to old Grayquill’s heart. 
Give them a shout out of welcome and encouragement.
Thanks in advance!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Taming of the Shrew

Oh bother...I have to take a break from my morning coffee..... I have a live shrew in my living room –UGH! Wait a minute this can't be all bad. My cat can finally be useful. I grabbed the cat put his focus on the small intruder and set myself down to watch his handy work. That pathetic cat only wanted to watch it scurry from corner to corner and gingerly bat at it to make it scurry here and there. Lucky for me little shrews can't see too well and he didn't head for the under part of my couch like a mouse would have. Realizing quickly my cat was useless; I hoped I could at least leave the cat in charge long enough to fetch my favorite mouse/shrew killer, my long handled wire brush. Upon my return trip from the garage the cat had let the shrew escape – I  gotta get a real cat someday! The cat was at least useful in letting me know where the four legged, pointy nosed critter was hiding. The little guy had taken refuge under a throw pillow that was sitting squarely on my white carpet and leaning up against my couch - Yikes! - Not a good place to use my mouse killer. In my best shrew pillow lift a flick with the smooth wood part of my brush sent the cute little guy sliding sideways for a tumbling ride onto the hardwood floor. The drama had now left the living room and was cleanly into the open of my dining room floor. The shrew must have known the one act show was coming to an end because when he took his bow my wire brush impaled him square on the head. No blood - just instant death. With the show over my needle nose pliers gave him a ride back from whence he came, into the brush beyond the flower beds. Gee, all that excitement before 7:30. What will this day entail? I am so excited with anticipation!

Monday, May 16, 2011

This Could Be Very Very Bad...

There is a character in the news lately, maybe you have heard about him. He is predicting that without a shadow of doubt Jesus is coming back on May 21st, at 6:00 pm and all Jesus's true followers will be taken.
This gentleman has a radio program in my area and I can listen to him on my drive home from work. This fellow is no youngster, in fact he has lived a good long time, 89 years. I confess my motivation for listening to him does not come from a pure place. He is an enigma, an oddity, a curiosity… Having spent most of my life in or around the Christian community I have either heard or read about people like this but I have never actually heard one speak myself. The program is not all that much different than listening to one of my right wing radio commentators except this poor fellow has trouble getting excited. It is impressive that at age 89 he can do a radio program at all, let alone a live call in program. I will say, he sure does have it over Air America and those progressives, if you want boring and unoriginal, listen to 1090 AM (Seattle only). I would think those progressive smarty pants talk show hosts would listen to the right wing hosts now and then just for a lesson or two on how to entertain.  
Back to our dooms day radio host - Someone said, maybe he just decided that May 21st would be his retirement date. I liked that idea mainly because I didn’t want to think the old guy had lost his marbles. After listening to him, I believe he really does believe his own words. The real tragedy is he seems to have a following and maybe he hasn’t lost his marble but those who are doing the following I have questions about.
The one bright spot of this story is the Atheists have started a service, if you are a May 21st person, for a mere $125.00 an Atheist will come to your house on May 22nd and pickup and provide a home for your pet – Pretty smart. I wish I had thought of that.
I feel a bit sorry for the old guy – when the 22nd rolls around and he is still here, will he have a stroke or heart attack? This build up has been the man’s life work. Imagine the shock to his system when he realizes his life work was for naught – that is sadder than sad and at 89 years old who knows if his system will be able to handle it.
The fact that people believe this guy should not surprise me. I remember the Y2K hysteria, presently we have the global warming hysteria, and in the past we had the nuclear war hysteria. In all cases there were many who looked forward to these predicted tragedies and had a measure of disappointment when they did not happen. Heck I am not excluded from the masses. I remember an assignment in middle school where we were to come up with a plan on how we would survive after a nuclear holocaust. I was into it, part of me wanted it to happen just so I could have the adventure. Since then I have learned real adventure is best experienced from a book sitting in an easy chair.
BTW - Just in case our radio friend is right, could you tell a cheap atheist to call me – I have a cat but there is no way I am paying $125.00.
606 words for this post – Whew…when I first looked at it I thought it said 666.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Taking an Older Brother Fishing

Every life experience either teaches us something or gives us a clearer view of ourselves. Self judgments often rise up and fall into the haze of these experiences. Who is to say what the value of each experience really is, but as time marches on we compile a complex assortment of experiences that make us who we are and what we are. Now and then an experience catches me off guard and my reaction will surprise me.
For five years I have ask my GLB (Great Liberal Brother) to come along on a nine day fishing trip I take each April. I have been criticized by many for my timing of this trip because the fishing is tough, the weather is unpredictable, the water is cold and even a month later all conditions improve drastically. As an example, on these trips we may experience snow, sleet, soft rain, hard sideways rain, pelting rain, wind without rain, below freezing cold, and wonderfully now and then that wonderful weather – sunshine with no wind.  So, why April you ask, it is simple, few people are there. The regular fishing season that brings the throngs of folks from far and near that suffocates the area starts the last weekend of April and I do my best to avoid the spectacle.
When my brother told me he was coming this year, a pressure began to build in my subconscious. He would be traveling over 2,500 miles at a significant cost and time. As you all know I have a tendency to embellish a story now and then.  I wouldn’t admit to outright exaggerating or straight out lying but you all know most of our stories are really not that interesting unless certain parts are given a floral sparkle. So as you read on about my neurosis and begin to think I am crazy, my defense will be, it’s floral sparkle.
As I prepared for this trip along with my GLB’s attendance, my mind rushed back trying to exhume past renditions of these trips that I had told my GLB. That is the trouble with stories in the past, they are so hard to remember, let alone the floral sparkle. I guess the real question is, what was my GLB’s expectation? Expectations as you know can be fatal and at a minimum lead to real disappointment.
Naturally I ask myself, what would Michael Scott from the “Office” do in such a situation? I could not come up for certainty his exact response so I pulled from past Grayquill efforts to get out of a fix and that was equally useless. Granted I did not know if I was in a fix but one can never be too careful – right? Lowering expectations for sure seemed prudent. That thought resulted in a phone call to GLB. Which I did with much flagrant exaggeration about frost bite, drowning, and wild animal attacks.  If I do say so myself I did a pretty good job of causing my brother to have second thoughts about coming but I figured he had already bought the plane ticket and was pretty much locked in.  Next, I blasted off an email to him with a list of clothing and how to keep from freezing to death, which he thanked me for several times!

May I add one more thing to the mix adding to the pressure? This might actually be the crux of the neurosis, my GLB is seven years older than me. All past experiences with him for the most part have been times when he has been in charge. He was now coming on MY fishing trip! Do you get it? I was not sure I knew how to be in charge when my older brother was in attendance. Afraid, you ask? Yeah, I guess that emotion covers it. There is a great comfort when someone else is in charge. Are you relating yet? Well catch up with me. When someone else is in charge, YOU OR I are not responsible, the one in charge is.  THAT’S BIG!!  You see on this trip I was going to be responsible for so many decisions, first where we are going, the weather (that hardly seems fair – who can control the weather), the quality of fishing (that hardly seems fair – I can’t make fish bite – Oh yes I can, I forgot), what we eat (that hardly seems fair – I don’t really know what he likes to eat), and on and on it built right along with my neurosis.

All that you have read so far was not wisdom that flashed before me the instant I knew he was coming. It took some stewing, some fermenting before it formed into actual cognitive worries. The whole lowering expectation thing did not really come into clear focus until about three weeks before our trip when panic was beginning to set in. Up to that point my subconscious was running me up and down rabbit trails skirting the real issue. I knew I needed to tie up some more flies – after all I had promised fly fishing – and I had been busy. Weeks earlier I started looking though my boxes of flies, none of them looked good enough to offer an older brother. I decided I needed to tie all new flies for my brother and myself. They must be pristine, top quality because who wants an older brother telling others, he traveled all the way out west for a nine day fly fishing trip just to be given crappy flies to fish with. Certainly not me!

I know this all sounds a little or a lot neurotic but get over it, it’s me, Grayquill.  So, tying flies was a nightly occurrence for six weeks. By and by I finally had over 300 new flies tied but not all were pristine – sigh. The trip came and went – the lowering expectation thing was hugely successful. My brother caught fish and he didn’t freeze to death; he even said he has the trip on his schedule for next year.

I have heard that it is emotionally healthy to not worry about what others think about you. As a parent I spent considerable breath trying to convince my children to not let others opinions rule their behavior. I also use to tell them if I am not a good example be sure I am a good bad example. As I sit here looking up the road toward sixty I suppose I am not going to get much better than I am right now. So, for now it seems this neurosis thing is something I can use to push me to tie more flies and that’s gotta be good – right?

I apologize for making this piece all about me but I suppose you understand how it couldn’t have been any other way.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

An Airplane Ride

It is a first… I watched three episodes of the TV show House on part of a six hour plane ride. That left three hours for one nap, a trip to the bathroom, consume one bag of chips and now some time to write.
So far I would have to say this trip has been pretty crappy. Crappy you say? Yes! When riding an airplane is almost exactly like sitting at home, that is crappy. Airplane rides are supposed to be exciting and a bit scary. TV does that, distract from real life. TV access should not be allowed on airplanes or in homes for that matter. People on an airplane are suppose to be interesting and maybe even weird, but here I sit writing this and I realize I could not tell you what the guy on my right even looks like. I don’t know if he is tall, short fat or skinny. Does he wear glasses? I DON’T KNOW! See how bad TV is – at least for me?
I might add no distraction could keep me from noticing the lady on my left. She is exceedingly attractive and equally charming. This part of the airplane ride would be the opposite of crappy. I can describe her easily from the top of her head down to the bottoms of her feet and BTW that is not a very long distance, she is only five feet nothing. Of course I am married to this lady and it is appropriate I would know such things.
Here she sits her arm slipped around mine, her head on my shoulder. I sense her slow breathing more than I hear it. The cadence brings along with it a familiar feeling of softness and warmth. I don’t have to look at her to know the expression on her face or what she looks like, I have it memorized. The number of times this scenario has taken place – I wonder. Trying to be still is an effort, not wanting to wake her peaceful rest.
Over the years this lady has been on a long walk with the writer. She has put up with wonderful fun times, countless regular and mundane times, then of course those hard excruciating times – we won’t talk about those. My first girl friend she was. Back in the eighth grade we would sit together in awkward silence eating our lunches. Later in the tenth grade I would stay after school and be in the library where she worked, just so I could be near her. Those two years had transformed her into a lovely creature which was far beyond my plainness. But at least now we were friends and the awkwardness was gone. She now had a different boy friend but I would still spend time talking to her as often and whenever I could. She was for sure the prettiest girl in our small school, while I was still the smallest boy in my class and my big ears and buck teeth exaggerated the differences between us. Friendship was the best I could hope for.
Not feeling any different about myself, two years later, a fateful ride in my 1963 Ford Falcon, took my life in a new direction that has now included this lady in one way or another every day since.
She is still the prettiest girl I know and having her head on my shoulder is a real nice feeling, reminding me of a sweet ride years ago, in a baby blue 1963 Falcon. This is one sweet airplane ride.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

It Happened #19

Well it happened! And, it happened Tuesday! Not last Tuesday but it was a Tuesday.
It is really quite sad, as I had such high hopes that I had moved beyond such nonsense. I guess it was not to be.
Did you notice that last sentence with its trace of denial? The words, “I guess….?” Nope there is no guessing, it is now in the record book and there is no taking it back.
It was later than normal when I stepped outside to start my drive home. To my delight and surprise the darkness had hidden the snow storm. Snow was falling steadily and already the area was blanketed with over an inch. Even at night I don’t think there are many prettier things than a hemlock draped with fresh snow. An hour ago there had only been the promise of the weather man but now the white magic had appeared and was reflecting a sweet illusion that the world had become pure, clean, and for a time the promise of peace would surround us mortals.
The sound of my tires rolling across unblemished snow toward the street was pure delight. I love the snow and I love driving in it. When the snow is fresh, the road noise is almost none existent. It brought back feelings of a past time when as a young teen I took a long walk one night in fresh snow. It was just me and my German Sheppard, Cyrano. We walked with no goal in mind but we walked for hours and nature was balm to my soul that night. Exactly where we walked I cannot remember but that night has left in me a wonderful memory of a peaceful respite from the teenager insecurities I carried.
Driving across town toward the freeway, the snow continued its recital with large heavy flakes peppering my windshield. The temperature was just a mite below freezing and as normal, I was feeling an exhilarated peace. Exhilaration and peace from the outset would seem to be in conflict with each other but both are delightful. Intentionally, I had left the radio off not wanting to miss a moment of my night time drive.
As I merged on to Interstate 5 I picked up speed matching the traffic. Even though I still love this part, tension began to build. I had not really figured out where the sweet spot was for driving in these conditions. Over passes lurk with ice and can put one into a spin quickly. I began to feel comfortable cruising along at 45 miles an hour. Occasionally I had to move out of the slow lane to pass those who thought 35 or 40 was the right speed. Of course I couldn’t stay there because there were those folks who felt comfortable at 50 plus miles an hour and want by.
The miles were ticking by at a comfortable pace. I had eased away from the pack and was now in a comfort zone with no other vehicles close. Up ahead was another bunch of cars and the pack behind pushed me on, closing the gap. The thought crossed my mind, ‘why were there were so many cars on the road at this time of night, in one of Seattle’s somewhat rare snow storms? No answer jumped to the surface. Snow doesn’t change peoples thinking, they still believe they have people to see and place to go. After all I had just seen my people and was now heading home.
I was about half way home when several hundred yards ahead I saw a car spin out, I eased off the gas. My speed slowed to around 35 miles an hour as I approached. He had stopped far off to the left but was perpendicular to oncoming traffic. As I grew closer my stomach tightened when he began to move, heading directly across the freeway, crossing the 4 lanes hidden by the snow. He was coming directly into my line. Stopping was out of the question, so I eased over to the right hoping to make it around him before he reached my line of travel. I had almost made it when his front bumper hit the rear of my truck sending my back end swinging to the right. I quickly turned to the right, compensating. My truck began straightening out. Now my rear end began heading left and picking up speed, cranking the wheel back hard to the other direction was too little too late. My truck ended up going backwards with my headlights facing oncoming traffic. I hit the brakes and eased to a safe stop on the right shoulder.
This is the part I hate, late at night, exchanging information with another person, who is also hating every minute of this. No one was injured, only my truck was damaged, calling the police would have been a waste of cell phone minutes. It would have been hours before someone would have come, if at all. I knew they had real problems to attend to. The whole episode was a bit of an adrenalin rush but mostly just an inconvenience. The other driver felt the same as I about the whole situation. So, within 10 minutes, information had been exchanged and I was turned around heading home. All in all the drive was all what I had hoped for except for the interruption and another dent.
With accident number nineteen behind me and my allocation card punched, I can drive stress free knowing number twenty is a few years off.
One thing nice about driving a 28 year old truck; what’s another dent? Who really cares? Not me.
That night I went to bed with the softness of snow lightly falling and wishing I had a dog to take on a long walk. The next morning I awoke, the quiet was gone and in its place was the banter of rain assuring me the Pacific Northwest was back to normal. Our peaceful interlude had been way to short but I was glad it came, if only for one evening.
Here is the good news. The insurance company paid me $146.00 more than I paid for the old truck 4 years ago, and I get to still drive it. How good of a deal is that?
Number twenty, where are you?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Celebrating Failure

Talking with a friend this week a memory came to the surface that he thought was worthy of a blog post. At the risk of being self serving, I share it here.

Years ago, I came across a principle. It is not a particularly profound principle in fact it is quite basic. Even though it is simple that does not diminish its power. The principle is: A person will never give a manager, coach, teacher, parent or any other leader their full potential when the fear of failure is present and especially if they feel that failure is fatal.

It was a year where I was one of the assistant coaches and I hated it. You see I like being in charge, so being an assistant hacked away at my pride and my creativity. My son was age 13. This team and league were new to both of us. The head coach was not a tyrant but mistakes were certainly not celebrated and it was common for a player to be pulled immediately from the game for a small infraction. The team’s win loss record was less than great, with only an occasional win.

Late in the season the head coach came to me, unable to make the next game, he asked me if I would be the acting head coach for the upcoming game. I agreed with some exuberance. He warned me that the team we were playing had previously beaten us soundly and he was sorry for leaving me with such a dismal outlook. Maybe it was because I didn’t respect him that caused him to not respect me but either way he was clear in his communication that he expected little, and a loss.

Being the rebellious person I am, and watching all year in silence, his coaching style. Maybe I was more excited about this opportunity than I should have been. I knew after this game, I would not be asked to fill in again, so I immediately decided to ignore his long list of instructions and the lineup sheet he gave me. One thing for sure, I was not going to start his son! Brian would take the starting spot in the lineup. Brian was a far better player and because he played the same position as the coach’s son, he was yet to start a game – I hated that! BTW-small bonus, a couple of years latter Brian told me I was the best coach he ever had – and why wouldn’t he?

I also, decided to make another change. The team had stretched out and it was time for the pre-game meeting. I had the team follow me and we jogged out into right field, right up next to the fence. All the other adults were far out of ear shot which is exactly what I wanted.

“What are we doing way out here coach?”

“Good question, we are going to have a talk. Today were going to do something different, there is going to be a new rule. It will probably only be for this game but this rule is just for you. The new rule is this, everyone is allowed three mistakes during this game.” I looked around, it was a miracle, the whole team was intently listening. I paused a long time, taking in the phenomena. Getting over my shock I continued, “When you make a mistake you will not be pulled out of the game, you will not be criticized, you will not be yelled out. You can strike out three times, you can make three fielding errors, you can get thrown out trying to steal, it doesn’t matter. Each of you get three mistakes. And, who knows some of you might even get four.”

They looked at me dumfounded. Brian threw up a hand. “Yeah, Brian?”

“You mean I can miss the ball totally and you’re not going to yell at me?”

"That’s right, any more questions?”

There were a couple more questions similar to Brian’s. As I answered them and explained that when one played with worry it was like a lead weight hanging around his neck and it was impossible for anyone to play to their full ability. I talked to them how I believed in them and thought they all had abilities we had never seen. It wasn’t long before the light began coming on. Some were still suspicious but moods began to change. Fearful stressed faces began to relax and smiles began to replace scowls. You could begin to see they thought this might be fun!

The game started and true to my word – with great exuberance I celebrated effort regardless of the outcome. Weaker batters I would say, when you go up there, no soft swings, swing at that ball hard! Let it know who it came in contact with! Kids that normally looked for a walk got hits and hard hits. Players who had God given speed but were normally timid on the bases took risks and stole bases. Yes, some struck out and some were thrown out, but all in all, very few mistakes were made. Skill levels we had not seen before came to the field that day. Even the conversation between the players was lighter and encouraging. I don’t remember the score but we won that game by a large margin and it reinforced in me, the principle, that fear of failure in and of its self is fatal.

The coach did show up during the second to the last inning and was dumbfounded. I told him about our three mistake rule, which he was very unimpressed with. But, I was right about one thing, I never was asked to fill in again.

I hope you do what you can to remove the fear of failure from you own life and also from those you lead. It might surprise you what is lying there waiting to come out.

Good luck – take a risk.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Good News

Yesterday I was to meet my wife for dinner at a local diner. She had earlier shared some great news with me and I thought I would shock her by actually bring her flowers for once when I wasn’t in trouble. As it happened, I arrived 15 minutes early and set the flowers on the table. From the glances I received walking in, it was hard to tell if the flowers in this particular restaurant was an oddity or just rare for an old guy to be carrying in flowers. Real flowers I knew were not normal because of all the plastic ones splashed around here and there where the dust had collected.
There was one particular old guy who watched me walk in, and if one saw him carrying flowers into a restaurant, every patron would know immediately he was in trouble with his wife. He could not stop looking at me sitting there by myself with those flowers lying on the table. I could see it was killing him. The curiosity finally overtook the poor soul and as him and his wife got up to leave he said, “Pretty flowers.”
“Yes, they are - every now and then I buy them for myself,” My answer did little to satisfy the poor creature. His brow furrowed, his lips went tight, and his eyes squinted down oh so slightly. I wanted to say, ‘you look confused, what’s the problem, don’t you buy yourself flowers?’ In this day and age, in our anything goes society, I could see he was at a loss as the many possible scenarios that flashed through his cranium. At best this was one of those awkward moments and I could see him scrambling for a response. I did have to admire the speed, his mind was not working. After sufficient discomfort had been allowed I added, “It is possible my wife might get them when she arrives.”
His face relaxed and I could see, once again all was right in his world. His wife then felt free to also admire the flowers.
The waitress who often waits on us came by to say, I shouldn’t have brought her flowers. She is cute enough I would probably have laughed at any attempt of humor on her part.
After my wife’s salad and my hamburger were consumed and we were preparing to leave and since our body language and conversation did not indicate I was there to make amends for some horrible very bad deed. The three waitresses had concluded that we must be out for our anniversary and said so. My wife told them her good news and all were appropriately impressed.
I would tell you the good news but at the moment I am not in trouble and I want to keep it that way. I will say the good news is NOT that we are going to have a baby but most of you already knew that.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Choose Wisely

The first clue that made me think my decision might not have been the best, was when I had to use my fingers to pull my lower lip out of my mouth. By feel, I lined up my lower lip with my upper lip. It felt right, but I was not certain my effort was successful. Walking down the hall I could hear voices. I was doubtful if I could talk. That dull ache in my jaw was already annoying me.

Two hours ago I had been given the choice, do both sides today or reschedule and come back later for the other side. Hmmm….at the time it seemed logical. I will do most anything to avoid a second trip to the dentist. What could be so bad about having ones complete lower jaw numb? I ran through the possible scenarios. Biting my tongue in half seemed like the worse possibility. It didn’t occur to me that talking would be so difficult and this drooling in public thing, did it really have to be part of the deal?

The nurses parting words were, “if you drink something hot it will help the numbness to go away quicker.” Was that a smirk I just saw cross that fully functioning face of hers? The way I felt, I knew drinking something hot was a bad idea, it probably would just end up in my lap. “You can also try exercising, getting the blood flowing will help dissipate the anesthesia.” If I could have raised an eye brow at her I would of, I wanted to say, “yeah, I will get right on that.” I really don’t think they should allow the emotionally disturbed, serial teasers to wear those blue jump suits.

With my chin drooling and drooping I wondered if this is what it felt like to have a stroke. I decided going back to work was a no good, horrible, very bad idea. I headed home. The drive home was uneventful and I was careful not to bite my tongue. I was pretty sure I was successful but I could not be entirely certain since I had no feeling in my tongue. Arriving home I went straight to the mirror to see if my tongue was intact and if my lips were still together. The tongue still had that scar but no new injuries.

I noticed I had no feeling in my right ear, was that suppose to happen? I wondered if the doc went a little over kill on the drug, did my eyebrows really need to be numb? Both seemed to be a long ways from my lower jaw.

On the positive side this might be an excellent opportunity to pluck all those nasty ear and nose hairs, pain free. Where are those tweezers? Ah, heck with it, maybe a nap is what I need. I wiped the drool off my chin and headed for the easy chair.

Two hours later: hmmm….everything still seems numb and I am getting hungry. Maybe I will try the exercise advice. Layered up and laced tight were the new pair of hiking boots I wanted to break in. I headed out for a 30 minute brisk walk. I got the heart pumping with the help of some short jogs and was back home feeling better.

The numbness was actually dissipating; I only have one small place on the right side of my chin that is still numb. I guess that exercise thing works. But, what is that smell? An odor that rises with heat…. Oh, it’s me. I would say somebody’s deodorant isn’t working but I am the only one in the room and besides I am not wearing any. The smell is not really that bad, let’s just call it a manly smell and forget about it for now.

All and all, sitting here with the numbness mostly gone, my conclusion is I made the right decision. No dentist for another year. YES!

I guess it’s time for some dinner and then maybe a shower.

I know your thinking, ‘did I really read the whole thing? Why? Why?’