Monthly Archives: January 2010

Even lousy weather is newsworthy…


Charlotte is paralyzed today by a skiff of snow atop about 1/2″ of ice.  The town is on its knees.

But storms are the stuff of letters.  About 48 hours from now when Monday’s letter is safely tucked into envelopes with stamps affixed along with address labels furnished by the Amnesty International, Ellen and Reid will have heard about the faux “storm”, my walk to the store only find I’d been beaten to the punch by a stampede on generic chili beans (higher priced brand name beans will have to suffice), kids sledding on a little hillock out back, drivers befuddled by wintry conditions, and sleet pecking away at the windows.  These are precisely the little mental nuggets stowed away during the week to be reprised later on paper.

And those are just the storm related items.  You’ll see the full slate of topical candidates on Monday although the February 1 letter won’t be posted for a week.

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And then there are letters to my parents…


In a typical week I send at least two sets of letters.  Mondays are for the kids; Fridays are for letters to my parents.  This pattern has gone on for the last few years since I moved from the Midwest to Charlotte.

My folks are no different than yours: they want to know what you’re up to, what you’re doing (and why), and how their grand kids are (but not necessarily in that order).  In a nutshell, they get the assurance that things are okay because that’s really what they want from me: the assurance that things are okay.  The Friday notes are a little more emotional because it is my direct tie to them.  Their world is not so much online or texting or electronics.  My perception is that what appears on paper is more real and identifiable for them.  They came from the age of ink on paper.

There’s not too much grandiose about what mom and dad receive.  It’s fairly humdrum.  The content differs markedly  from what the kids see, it’s just that my parents get a ‘large print’ format.  Here are a few paragraphs from today’s letter to Barb and Ralph:

January 29, 2010

Mom and Dad: So much for the alleged nice weather that is supposed to come with Southern climes.  We’re supposed to get dumped on tonight and tomorrow (probably a pittance by your standards), and no doubt in our generalized panic the stores will be barren of the staples of bread, milk and other sundries.  I think I can get by with what is in the pantry.  I’ve got beer, too.  Sorry to see that you guys have been hammered by cold.  If your freezer breaks down you could just leave the perishables outside.  Drat, there will be no golf this weekend.

My Camry is among the hordes of Toyotas slated for this recall thing.  Something about the gas pedal that causes cars to speed uncontrollably.  I’ve not had anything wrong to date, but it gives one pause.  Their reputation is about to get dinged if it hasn’t already.  No word on when I take the beast in for the repairs.  Could be a few months down the road.  In a silver lining, if a trooper pulls me over for speeding I could always blame it on the gas pedal, not the user.

No other real word from the kids.  Ellen is freezing in St. Paul; Reid is staying typically mum in Chicago.  They’re just getting on with their lives, basically.  Ellen is working hard to find a new teaching gig and Reid seems to be getting on pretty well at the ad agency.  He’s really sharp on that stuff (while is old man is as dull as a used kitchen knife).  He bought himself a new digital Nikon and in theory he’s to begin sending me photos of things he shoots.

I would hope that you will get me nothing for my 6_th birthday.  Honestly, there is nothing I want beyond an improved golf swing and ability to focus more on the golf course and there’s not a hell of a lot you two can do about either of those wants.  Your other son is insistent on me coming out there for a joint celebration at his expense, but I’m resisting the overture because I’d just like to stay put for a while.  The last travel experience around the holidays, while not quite as bad as you guys had it last week, is still fresh in my mind.  That would be enough to keep anyone at home.  Especially a couch potato like me.

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Overcoming fuzzy math…


My math was fuzzy on the word count from this week’s letters to the kids.  I forecast 650 or so, when in reality it weighed in at 719.  That’s pretty typical.  I’ve cut-and-pasted a few paragraphs from this week’s letter (January 27).  So before you go off half-cocked about this being all about weighty matters, lots of what they see is fairly mundane and ho-hum.  That is, I think pretty reflective of daily life.  Not that there aren’t the more exciting moments, but hey, our daily grind is made up of the grand and the not-so-grand.

In case you were wondering, I estimate the total letters to Ellen are in the 450+ range (Ellen, feel free to differ).  Reid has seen fewer because he didn’t join this parade until he got to college.  Lucky him.  In case you were wondering II, the reason I don’t know the exact total owes to “technical problems.”  More on that down the road.  But here are snippets from the January 27 letter:

January 27

Ellen/Reid: When I opened the front door at 5:30 this morning to retrieve the paper and get an early check on the weather, the porch was strewn with all the cushions from the settee and chairs.  And the front decking planks were wet for the first time in memory.  I knew we’d had a storm but it wasn’t until I turned on NPR in the car that the facts became known: we’d had a tornado zip through town and that’s what blew everything around.  My usual route to work was blocked by high water so I had to look for an alternate path which was found pretty quickly.  Our storms are nothing by Midwestern standards in terms of winds and ferocity, but when it rains, man, it can come down by the bucketful.  The forecast is for cold and maybe snow by the weekend.

In a sign of how far we are ahead of you weather-wise, the daffodils are up 5-6 inches on the decorative island at the first traffic stop I come to.  Last year the flowers bloomed right around February 1.  Our daily average high is 51F right now and it has nowhere to go but up.  The birds are singing in the morning so that must mean they’re ready to get on with spring, too.  A little too cold to open the windows during breakfast, however.

Your grandparents are coming back from Palm Springs, CA a day early.  They don’t say why that is but it is either trouble with your grandmother or your grandfather’s ailing hip is killing him.  He’s got to have it replaced.  Reid, send them a ‘thank you’ note for the check they sent you (their address).  They’d like to hear from you.  Trust me, they always ask how you guys are doing.  They ask about you before they ask about me.

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Ah, a first entry…


Today is January 27 but this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid was out the door, as usual, on Monday the 25th.  The word count was probably around 650 but I’ll check and report back to you yet this week. The number of words hardly ever varies, and you’d think I’d know by now what the word count is.  (They both get the same letter.  I’m not about to reinvent the wheel every time.)

In the news the kids will see this week: the weather in Charlotte is stinky, but nowhere near what you yahoos have had in the Midwest; your grandparents went to California against my advice; my golf game is perking up but not nearly enough; I’m starting to think about retirement and, in a related note, my birthday is coming up (it has a zero at the end, drat) and my counsel to you two knuckleheads is to not get me anything.

My guess is the whole shebang took about 12 to 14 minutes to write from start to finish.  I sneak a peek at my cheat sheet for content and that makes it all go smooth as silk.  Or at least sort of smooth as silk.

Already, the compilation of next week’s content is underway.

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