Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Mistletoe: a great Christmas tradition

Among all the traditions people follow at Christmas time, one of my favorites has got to be the traditions of kissing under the mistletoe. I've actually liked this one for a very long time. Even in my youth, I once went out an bought some "Moose-eltoe" (a gag gift that looked like moose droppings with a plant attached to it) and hung it in my car, hoping to snag a kiss or two from my date.

When all else fails, tape it to the ceiling.

These days, it's easy to just find some fake mistletoe (real works just fine too) and hang it in a likely spot. Then, all that needs to be done is to wait for the opportunity of your loved one walking beneath it and use that opportunity for a bit of smooching. Of course, you can't always predict what will happen next.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Dave Koz is some great smooth jazz

Here's a great tune for the day. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Leftists, liars, and losers

Leftists are losers. Take one look at any society that has embraced leftism for a long time and you will find the most decrepit, unworkable, poverty-stricken, oppressed, and just plain bad societies on the planet. Leftists are often liars too, with those who are in power claiming great things will come if we only follow their despotic program of ruin and despair.

To a leftist, the ends (having the people wholly dependent upon the state) justifies the means (anything they want to say or do to get us there). They spread a gospel of feelings. How one feels about something is more important than the actual results of doing something. For example, if you feel good that the government is taking money out of your pocket and giving handouts to millions of poor people in America, all in the guise of helping them out of poverty, well, that's good enough. Never mind that programs that urge perennial dependence on welfare have not worked to reduce poverty rates. The actual results do not matter to a leftist. What matters is that it feels good to do it.

Perhaps one might say that those to the right of the political spectrum offer the same dream of unfulfilled hopes and tragedy. You might even be able to provide a few examples of extreme right oppression. Countries in which Islamic fundamentalism rules should be chief among these examples. We cannot discount the effect that extremism has upon its adherents.

Yet leftism has just as many detrimental outcomes as Islamic fundamentalism does. One need only to look at the purges of Mao Tse Tung's China, Stalin's Russia, or the horrific conditions of North Korea and Venezuela to see the evidence mount up that any ideology that doesn't include principles of morality, liberty. and free markets doesn't add up to any place worth living. Corruption and extravagance among the elite is what needs to be purged, not those who have differing religious or political views.

Committed leftists, like Obama, are often misconstrued as weak. Obama isn't weak. He's very strong in his leftism. And if you like the false ideals and solutions promulgated by the left, he is your champion. But everyone must take responsibility for that which they espouse. If and when those who are fighting the left fail to change the course America is now on, then those who are promoting such a course are in fact, guilty of the ruin and despair that will result. If your goal is to turn America into a smoking ruin, then you must reap the results of an America-less world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Super glue equals super fix

I have tried all kinds of treatments for the cracked hands and fingers I get from working in the outdoors during the winter. I get splits averaging about 1/2 inch long in my fingers near the knuckles often, and splits beneath my fingernails as well. They are painful. Though I've tried everything from Norwegian Formula Hand Cream to Bag Balm and nearly else that anyone has recommended, my hands still split and hurt. Sometimes Super Glue is the only answer. That's right...Super Glue. Just a drop or two on the split will  help it heal up fast.

Now, I've got to figure out what to do about the awful itchiness I'm feeling on the backs of both hands. I've tried lotion, coconut oil, and several other things and my hands still itch like crazy. I can't see anything like hives or redness--I just feel the itch.

I think it's time I took a trip to the Uintas to see if I can leave this kind of stuff behind. It's not likely, but it would be fun to just get away from the busy-ness of work and into the woods. For this mailman, the day after Christmas cannot come fast enough. On the plus side, I've been able to stay cheerful for the most part even when stressed out of my mind, so that's good.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Christmas Lists and Wish Lists

I keep an Amazon wish list, mainly for reminding me of things I think I need or want. It's rather extensive and I'm adding stuff to it all the time. You may check it out here: Press "Now" to continue.
I don't really expect anyone to purchase anything on this list for me, although I make it available to those who really feel the need to buy me something for Christmas, my birthday, etc. So now, if anyone asks me what I would like for my birthday, I can direct them to this link instead of trying to think of something. It works well because I never really remember things for which I have a need until I'm actually, well, needing them. Wants are a bit different, but there too, I can't remember the titles of cds I've run across in music books and said that I would like to have those cds. The same with books. I'm thinking this is the best way I've come up with yet for remembering. And then again, if I can't remember, maybe it isn't all that important.  Unless you want to spring for the Taylor guitar. I am so much kidding it's not even funny...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Family Christmas party a great success

We had our Roe family Christmas party this afternoon and it was great seeing everyone. Our gift exchange this year was supposed to be homemade gifts and after one of my friends suggested it, I set about making a wreath. First I viewed a video on youtube on how to make one, then I gathered the materials and started in. I admit that I'm not crafty, and barely artistic and so much needed input from my wife, Ann (who is highly artistic), helped to put things in the right place on this thing. She also took some pictures of the initial stages of the creating, with me in them, but that camera has since been lost, before I could get those pics downloaded. Anyway, here's the finished project that my daughter-in-law, Marie, ended up with:

Yes, I hung it from my guitar rack to get a good pic. I think it turned out okay for mostly being done by a rank beginner. I will admit though that it was Ann's idea where to place the little seed heads beneath the bow and she tied the bow and wired it on.  I like the way it turned out and I'm glad someone will be using it. There were many great and imaginative gifts at our party. I won't be making a lot of wreaths or other crafts in the near future, but I learned something and wouldn't have thought of it on my own.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas cooking is just plain awesome

We have a family Christmas party tomorrow. Tonight, after going out for dinner, I made some chili verde and some artichoke/spinach dip. It's cooling now, not quite ready to put in the fridge. In fact, I just burned the roof of my mouth sampling the chili verde. I'll be staying up late tonight so that it can cool down a bit before cooling it down a lot. Of course, I could probably just put it outside. The high tomorrow is only supposed to be forty.
One thing I always have trouble with is when I'm trying to make two recipes at once. For a while there, I was thinking I was going to be making chili verde artichoke dip. Luckily, I managed to avoid cross-recipe tragedies that I've been unable to avoid in the past. Like the time I was trying to make a coffee cake and some cheddar broccoli soup at the same time...
Now that I've got the cooking out of the way for the party tomorrow, I only have two or three more events for which to cook something. There's the family party a week from Sunday for Ann and I and our children and grandchildren, but prior to that, I have a work party that I'll need to bring something to--I haven't decided what. Right now I'm thinking beans, but that could prove to be too much for my limited time this year. Maybe I'll sign up for the chips...
For the family party on the Sunday before Christmas, I'm on the line for shrimp cocktail sauce and guacamole. Nothing real difficult.
I need to start looking for some sales on steaks for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. I'm hoping for a snow storm that night. There's nothing like barbecuing on a snowy Christmas Eve to make one feel good and homey.
Somewhere in there I'm going to begin making treats for the neighbors. I'm not sure what I'll make this year. Maybe some fudge as that goes a long way, and maybe some things to go with it. I'll have help of course.
Now, I need to get to the store, maybe tomorrow, and pick up some eggnog. Southern Comfort is my favorite brand. What's yours? Christmas is a busy time for all of us who celebrate it. But let's do just that--celebrate with happy hearts and warm welcomes to our loved ones. I personally can't think of a better way to spread love.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Remember: the most important things in life aren't things

I had some visitors tonight. I like visitors, for the most part, and these guys are my friends. I appreciate it whenever friends stop by, even if I'm about to leave, though if I'm about to leave I feel bad that I can't visit long enough. See, the way I look at it is people are the most important things to spend time with on any given day.
And, though I spent a lot of time today getting various tasks done (it was my day off), I did some things I felt I personally needed to do. I went to the gym early in the morning for the first time this week. I was able to do my treadmill run for cardio, but I ran out of gas when I tried to do my strength training exercises. This month has taken its toll on my physically, but then I knew it would and that's part of the reason I keep working out to be prepared for times like this.
I also took my 4runner over to the shop for a tune-up and oil change, then walked home. That was exercise. Then later on, I walked back to get it--more exercise. The place is only .4 miles away, so no big deal.
Early in the morning I was looking up wind chomes, I mean chimes, for a possible Christmas present. I found some that might work, but they are supposed to remind one of a meadowlark and I'm not quite sure they do. Here's the link: you can judge for yourself.
I went to an antique store and browsed around searching for that one gift that would be well thought out, to no avail. I ordered flowers for Ann's birthday which is this Saturday, I shopped at a candy store. I cleaned out a slow drain, made dinner and filled the dishwasher. Yet the most important thing I did all day was when I spent time with people. Spend time with those you love. They can leave unexpectedly. The things we wish we would have said to them, sometimes have to go forever unsaid. Don't make the mistake of waiting too long to say them.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

How to Christmas shop for kids, from one who's bad at it

I'm not really a good gift giver, and it doesn't really matter to me if I receive any gifts. I like to be around my family and friends at Christmas time--that's my kind of gift. Gifts are one of my lowest things on my list of the Five Love Languages. I often find myself at a loss when it comes to choosing gifts for my grandkids. I'm ashamed to admit that I like to just find something and get it done. I've found though that the simple power of observation helps a lot. Here's an example. We have noticed that our grandkids when they're in a certain age range, always seem to love to find the flashlight in the house and play with it in a dark room. I was out at Harbor Freight last year and I saw on the shelf on sale some headlamps. This would be perfect for my grandkids, I thought, and I snapped up two of them, thinking of the two boys, Taggart and John, who are the same age and would love to play with them. I should've picked up more as the other kids would love them too. I probably will before I give any of them away. Noticing what they seem to have fun with, even if it's not necessarily a toy, can lead to ideas of what they might like.
Another thing that you can do is go to Amazon and type in the search box: toys for three year old girls, toys for five year old boys, toys for ten year olds, or any other combination you might need. This will give you a list of suggestions. I've found this to be quite useful.
You can type in the same kind of word combinations into Google and find websites like this: clicky-clicky
A time tested way of finding out possible gifts for kids is to ask their parents what they think their child might be interested in. We asked our son Ben and his wife Marie what kinds of things their kids might want and they gave us some direction--they said some kind of toys or activities that will help their kids to learn. This was very helpful.
All that being said, I've found that making sure you know the interests of the kids you are buying for goes a long way toward finding a gift those kids will love.

And now, here's a great song by the Oak Ridge Boys: Thank God for Kids

Staying fit when you're busy

This month is December, and being the typical mailman, I'm getting a lot of overtime. We have over the past months been doing 30 percent of Amazon's volume, but recently that has climbed to 70 percent. The overtime is great on the wallet, but with time, it gets to the point where it wears one out. Then add to that my personal circumstances of working out after work are now trashed, due to family responsibilities at home, and you can see that my regimen has been trashed.
I've given a lot of thought as to what I might do to counteract this annual trashing of the routine. My first thought is, to not worry about it. The body needs some time to recover from hard workouts and maybe I just need to decide that December is that time. I can begin again with renewed vigor in January.
Then again the gym rat in me says "no". There's got to be another way. I thought about basketball players in the NBA. In the off-season, the dedicated ones do a lot of strength training to build themselves up for the season. Then, during the season, they can't work out as much as they'd like, but they are doing other things to keep in shape. In their case it's playing basketball. So, I ask, how can I emulate that while delivering mail, mostly from a truck?
One way is to decide that the trips up to people's houses with packages is my workout for the day. I can run, to increase the intensity of my workout, or I can walk, to keep from tripping or for an easier workout. With hundreds of packages each day, this kind of working out can add up. I may not get the intense focus on various areas of the body to strengthen, but my general fitness can remain high. And I can tone it down in a limited way by walking instead of running.
So, think of your own personal circumstances and do the best with what you have.
Another to consider is diet. This time of year it's easy to grab treats that your loving friends and neighbors have dropped by. It's much easier to grab a cookie than to make a sandwich, for example. But this is the time to keep on top of your eating habits and limit yourself. I like to choose certain days to overindulge--my family's Christmas party is one of them--and then limit myself the rest of the time. Don't keep totally away from Aunt Mildred's fudge, but limit yourself to one small piece. That way, you keep a certain amount of control. Eating habits are even more important than exercise in the way we feel and in maintaining a healthy weight.
And then, when you set your goals for the New Year, you will have already created within yourself the discipline you need to advance those goals past the first month and throughout the rest of the year.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The stupendous importance of dreams and goals

I'm sitting here dreaming of winter and the inevitable snow, wondering if it will come, and if I'm going to make it through these next two and a half weeks until Christmas--and knowing that it will and I will. Part of making it through challenging times is having dreams and plans for the future. I like to have plans for the near future and distant future. Both of these provide beacons up ahead for us to strive to reach.
My near-future dream, and I'll call them goals from here on out, because they are definitely concrete and achievable and not pie in the sky wishes--include some fine Utah skiing after the first of the year, some snow shoeing, some travel and sight-seeing, even if only locally. I have a strong desire to go out into the wintry world of whiteness once we get some snow, and to see some horses standing out in the snow. Maybe near an old ranch house with a wood post fence. I like thinking of things like that, horses outside, a nice warm fire glowing in a nearby house, the smell of good, home-cooked food, kind and warm people within. I'm kind of homey and maybe a bit old-fashioned and that's what appeals to me.
Further on, my goals take me into the spring and summer months and once again enjoying the high country. I'm planning a backpacking trip in July and hoping a few of my good friends can accompany me. It's so much more enjoyable to go with a few good friends. My summer of mountain exploration will lead naturally back into the fall, and I hope to get out deer hunting again this year. It has been a few years now since I last went.
Looking at my future for years out, I also like to have plans and things to look forward to. One of those is my eventual retirement from the U.S. Postal Service. That's about ten years away. Not that I plan on sitting around once that time comes, but it will be nice to move on and follow my interests and that will be about the time I can do it. Someone once said that the key to happiness is to have many passions in life. The reason being is because if something happens and you can't pursue one of them, you have others that can keep you occupied. I am a man of many passions. If I go blind and cannot see the beautiful scenery of my mountains, I can devote more time to music listening and playing. There is always something more to do. That keeps me going.
I hope to enjoy a long life and much happiness throughout and goals with plans to get there are part of the process. Those goals, in the distant future, help us live through challenging present circumstances. So that's what I would encourage you, my readers to do--have a plan, make goals, and strive to reach them. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." I do.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

A fabulous sunset tonight.

It was another amazing sunset here in Salt Lake county. Here are some pics.

Looking southwest over our house.

Killing two birds with one stone, a fabulous sunset, and  my Dr. Seuss Christmas lights.

I hope the sunset was just as nice wherever you may be.

No Shave November...was shave time for me

November is No Shave month. It's a great cause, to help raise awareness of cancer patients who often lose their hair. However, I shaved off my goatee the second week of November. It was an either/or proposition. My wife, who has Sjogren's Disease and thus very dry skin, including her lips, didn't like poking from my facial hair on her cracked lips when we kissed. I was either going to only get a peck or two, or I was going to have to shave. For me, it was a no-brainer. I am now hairless on my face.
For you guys out there who don't have this issue with your wives, etc., grow some hair in support of those cancer victims. As for me, I will lose the hair in support of my wife who also has a couple of very debilitating conditions.
It may be a very long time before I have facial hair again, but that's okay. I can wait.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Music: one of my favorite things

I am a maker and keeper of lists. One thing I make lists of is music. I have several music lists on Spotify, for example. For the uninitiated--and I'm sure those are few and far between these days--Spotify lets you find songs and/or artists you like and create lists that you can play back. I've found Spotify to be really nice when I'm not having connection issues. I think sometimes that Comcast is throttling the band width in our household because we have so many people on devices at once. That can lead to dropping off in the middle of a song on Spotify.
That being said I have more than twenty-five lists of songs on Spotify. I have six different Christmas song lists alone.
I also like to use Pandora for music listening, and, although I cannot create my own lists with this website, what Pandora does is help me to find new artists  via the Music Genome. I click the thumbs up on songs I like and Pandora tries to find more songs for me with similar attributes. Conversely, when I clicke the thumbs down symbol, Pandora will drop that song from the list of songs it will play on any of my different Pandora "stations".
For an interesting comparison between Pandora and Spotify, go here: clickety-click
I also have a large collection of cds and MP3s of my own. I rarely use the cds any more. I have ripped nearly all my cds into MP3s, so for now, I just keep the cds handy and collect them. I will pull them out sometime in the future when I have some upgraded listening equipment and the time to just lay back with headphones and listen.
That's another thing. I think that with all the background noise, one cannot hear the flaws inherent in MP3 technology, or the FM radio kind of technology that web-based music listening sites use for their free versions. I understand some of them are upgraded if you use their premium level, which requires spending money. That isn't really worth it to me.
One thing anyone living with me can attest--I listen to music a lot. Maybe not every day. But on the days I listen, I usually listen for a long time. Most of the time I'm discouraged from listening by those who wish to watch tv. So, the bottom line is, if you want to hang out with me, be prepared to listen to some good music.

That being said, here's a great song by the amazing, Nat King Cole:

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Life's lessons as taught by Moonlight Graham

Do you ever wonder about people you used to talk to frequently, but no longer do for whatever reason? Sometimes it's not just as easy as picking up the phone. There could be many reasons why someone who's in your heart and thoughts may be unable to communicate. I think about that sometimes. Sometimes, I want to talk to people who have died. Other times, I have a painful yearning to talk to those who are living, but with whom I no longer talk like I once did. Often as I see something I think, I wish so and so was here to see this, or I wish she or he was here sharing this with me.

I don't know. Sometimes, even frequently lately, I get thoughtful and wistful. Does that ever happen to you?

What I really like to think is that in the future, all of those conversations that we wish we'd had will take place, some time, some way. And then, some part of me moves into my personal Field of Dreams and I think of the Moonlight Graham quote, "You know, we just don't recognize the most significant moments of our lives while they're happening. Back then I thought, well, there'll be other days. I didn't realize that that was the only day." I'm hoping that I get to "have a catch" with some of those people sometime. But just in case, I'm trying to make the most of each moment with the people I cherish, because those moments could end in an instant.

Huge mule deer near my grandkid's school

On Sunday, after church, I stopped by the local elementary where some of my grandkids attend school. There is a huge vacant lot nearby, owned by Salt Lake County, fenced. This is just adjacent to the parking lot for the school. Of course these guys know they're safe here. Here are the pics.
This monarch was the biggest of the bunch and seemed totally unthreatened/

This guy isn't far behind him. He was taking a great interest in the camera.

Another fine buck in the group.

Christmas in the mall, 1970s

Last night, on the way to visit my mom who lives in Murray, we drove past Fashion Place Mall. As I looked at it, I noticed the immense facelift it has had in recent years. I wondered, with all the outside facing stores, if there was actually an indoor mall there anymore with the long walking areas, lined with stores and food vendors. The last time I was in the mall, all the food establishments were located in one place. Not so in the 1970s.
I grew up right across the street from a field that would one day be replaced by Fashion Place mall. The field was a great place to play as a kid. Then, when I was about 13, construction began on the mall, and the construction site too was a great place to play. There wasn't a lot of security and I remember prowling through the place with my friends when it was still concrete and steel girders.
Soon, the construction stopped, the stores moved in, and it became another place to hangout. Gone was the field that I had enjoyed as a youngster, and now, here was the mall, a different, but still fun place to hang out.
I remember the year the roof collapsed and many of the stores had to steeply discount their wares because of water damage. I remember the smell of the nuts from the nut place, whose name I can't recall. I remember checking out any number of stores, and buying food and watching people.
It was also a great place to get my first "real" job. Okay, I had been a paper boy. That was real work and a real job, but it wasn't the kind of job you could only get after you turned sixteen. The mall opened up vast opportunities for employment. When I turned 16, I applied and got hired at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour Restaurant, and said good-bye to delivering papers.
Farrell's was a great coming of age place to work. Some of fondest memories have to do with Farrell's.
There were races we had around the mall. One time I ran around the mall with a couple of friends and thought I was doing well because I was keeping up with my older friends all the way around the mall. Then, I stopped and they went for another circuit. Sure put me in my place.
Once I started working a the mall, the friends of my youth, though they were still my friends, receded into the background and the ones I spent the most time with were the people I worked with. Farrell's employees spent a lot of time doing things together even when we weren't at work.
I worked there for a couple of years, then moved on. I ended up working at Lafayette Electronics, and later the Cottage Restaurant, both in the mall.
One thing I'll always remember was the hustle and bustle around Christmas time. The mall would fill up with people and the restaurants, including Farrell's, would be packed, even when it wasn't a Friday or Saturday night. Even after I got married in 1980, I used to love to go to the mall during the Christmas season and people watch. I disliked shopping, and would try to be done well before December, but I always liked hanging with the people who were out there trying to find the perfect gift among all those other people trying to do the same thing.
I remember when Farrell's went out of business and Lenscrafter's moved into that slot. I went there to buy some glasses and it was so weird because in my mind I was saying things to myself like, "that's where the kitchen used to be," and "over there was the large room with all the signs," and "there was the player piano," and "right there is where the pay phone used to be that I used to use." Now, even Lenscrafter's is gone from that spot, or so it appeared when I drove past the outside of the mall a few months ago.
I haven't been there in several years. Ann's health pretty much keeps us from doing the mall walking thing, and I haven't gone by myself. I'd like to though. I'd like to take a walk through those immense halls and picture in my mind's eye the things of yesteryear. I'd like to picture what it looked like back then and remember. I recently found this quote from the television series The Wonder Years: "Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose."
And indeed, I want to forever keep some of the memories I have.
Perhaps one day, I will walk those hallowed halls of the mall again and those memories will envelope me like a soft, warm blanket.