Phoenix Residence: My sister is now on the Board of Directors!

My younger sister lives in a group home operated by Phoenix Residences. The staff do an awesome job in a challenging financial situation. My older sister** was recently elected to the Phoenix Board of Directors. I think her analytic and communication skills, along with her compassion, will be a great addition. Congrats Sis!

** Special Note: she is indeed my older sister as she is the older of my two sisters. She is, however, definitely younger than me. And hates this joke.

Phoenix Residence, Inc. is committed to developing person-centered, quality living experiences for individuals with disabilities.

The Christmas Model Train

The Christmas tree train went up today. Like every year.

I remember having a model train when I was a kid. The old 3-rail O scale. It had a diesel engine and some really cool cars. Ok, John, stop with the description and search the internet for it…bingo — found it on my first search FTW. Here it is. You can see each of the cars in the first 30 seconds. Note the starting image of the video isn’t the train I had.

I played with that train for hours. The submarine was driven by a submarine and could actually go in the bath tub. The helicopter could not fly. Firing the missiles was fun, but not reliable. And nothing, you know, exploded when the missiles hit so that was anticlimactic.

As I got older, I picked up some HO scale track and trains. The track was touchier as we didn’t build a permanent setup. I enjoyed changing things each time I put it up. The HO train never felt like a Christmas train — that needed to be something bigger.

The Christmas train started with my first father-in-law. He had been a model train guy since he was a child and always had a train under the tree. On their first birthday, each of my kids got a O scale Lionel set from Grandma and Grandpa. The sets are still on the garage, eventually to make it to their houses when the time is right.

Each Christmas, we would rotate through the kid’s train sets, trying to give them equal time. A few years ago, my son worked at the seasonal Lionel Train store at a local mall. He gifted us a new train set and that is what you see in the first photo.

A model train is a long way from the spiritual meaning of Christmas. Nevertheless, it is a part of my Christmas tree decorating.


Today is Thanksgiving, a time to be thankful. 

I am very thankful for my health. Knock on wood, I have dodged severe health issues. 

I am very thankful for my family. The household I grew up in had love and books, both of which, through zero effort on my part, set me on a good path in life. My kids and stepkids are awesome adults. My grandgoobers make me smile. 

I am very thankful for my job. My particular career interests have aligned with what society is willing to pay for. My coworkers care about their jobs, work hard, and have fun.

I am very thankful for my wife. We found each other when we were both lost and struggling. She is my anchor and support which allows me to take chances in the world and always have a safe place to come home to.  

I am extremely fortunate to be where I am in life. Much of it is not of my doing. Every day is a day to be thankful — that is something I’ll have to work on.

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Rainier: Remembering a great dog

In 1999, our family moved back from Seattle, WA to St. Paul, MN. Shortly after arriving, we got a dog. A black lab/springer spaniel mix that we named Rainier. In 2012, Rainier passed away. He was a great dog. I wrote a short piece when he died.

A quick note about the photo. The original photo had lots of people standing around Rainier. I wanted a good photo to remember him but I have zero Photoshop skills. Fortunately, my nephew, Spencer, does. I sent him the file with no guidance. He came up with the sky background idea and did the work. It turned out awesome and has been my avatar ever since.

A Very Good Friday

It was a Good Friday. Both literally and figuratively. I was sure about the literal part as we were heading up North for Easter, and it was Friday, so, you know, Good Friday. The figurative part was going to depend on whether I could pull it off.

Joyce and I had been dating for a year. From the beginning, it was clear that there was a strong connection. We both had messed up our first marriages so we had some experience with not so good connections.

I had realized that this was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. A heart the size of an ocean, competent in everything she tries, and, well, lets just say that other things were awesome also.

Continue reading “A Very Good Friday”

Laugh lines by age 40

Saw an ad on TV the other day for wrinkle removal. They called them crow’s feet or laugh lines.

I’m not going to get into the larger women, appearance, society conversation as there are better posts by smarter people covering that topic.

What I want to do is write in defense of laugh lines.

First, the name “laugh lines” actually indicate a significant cause: laughing. I think this is a good thing. Someone who laughs more is going to have laugh lines. Someone with laugh lines probably has spent a lot of their life smiling. Yes, they can be caused by squinting, but unless you are Clint Eastwood or never got the glasses you should have had, chances are they are caused by smiling and laughing. I also rule out psychopaths like the Joker for obvious reasons.

I have kids and that brings me to my second point. How do I know if I have been a good parent? Obviously, there is no test, no true/false checklist to answer that question. Realizing that there are lots of valid definitions of good parenting and lots of opinions, I humbly submit that someone having laugh lines by age 40 is part of my definition. A person that has smiled enough to earn them, is a person that has a decent chance of being in a good place.

My kids are not 40 yet but they seem on their way to earning laugh lines.

I hope when they get them, they don’t view them as a defect or something to fix. I hope they view them as a signal to the world that smiling and laughing is a regular part of who they are.