Monthly Archives: December 2011

Best Christmas since BC…

Tim and his bride - and mommy-in-training - Ellen.

As Christmas holidays go, this was the best since BC.  BC as in “Before Charlotte.”

The presents, holiday tree and good food aside, what it did do was remind me that the bests gifts of all are small, are in the developmental stage and come attached with a title: little girl.


December 19, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Well, by now you’ll have everything you were going to get from me, so I hope that it is satisfactory.  Both of you, and Tim, too, are increasingly hard to buy for so I devolve to the usual outdoor stuff.  Nothing wrong with socks and jackets although one of these years I’ll break the mold and really surprise you.  This just won’t be the year.

It dawned on me over the weekend, as it has many recent weekends, what a year of wild, wild swings of the pendulum that this has been.  We’ve gone from no job to a job, sudden illness and fast surgery to the sadness of Grandma’s situation and ultimately to the joy of your pregnancy, Ellen.  That really tipped the scales upward.  Reid, 2011 seems relatively uneventful for you but that isn’t altogether a bad thing by any means.  All things considered, I’d give 2011 a 7 on the scale of 1 to 10.  What say you guys?  A few weeks or months ago no way I would’ve assigned it that high but we’ve done a pretty fair job persevering and rolling with the punches.  That 2011 score is up a couple of points from 2010, a year of lows.  My attitude is much more positive this year than it was the last couple of years.

Reid, you need to carve out a weekend in January for a visitor or two.  A psychiatrist may question why the heck anyone would want to visit Chicago in January (or February, even) but I’m anxious to see your new home and work digs.  That’s long overdue.  I promise not to overly embarrass you.  I’ve mentally penciled in your visit to CLT for Christmas ’12, so keep that in mind.  It would be wonderful to host you for the holidays.  If that sounds like a plan, I’ll try to book us something closer to the ocean.  Maybe a little fishing would be in order.  The paper keeps running photos of what people catch over toward the seaside, and that seems like a pretty good gig.  If by some slim chance we could land anything worth keeping, perhaps we could overnight to you some of the haul in dry ice.  There are plenty of good fish recipes out there.  Two or three minutes a side in hot butter and herbs sounds pretty good to me.  Of course, that assumes we get a nibble.  Can’t cook ‘em if we don’t catch ‘em.  If nothing else we can drink beer.

So, Ellen, a little girl.  That is just incredible.  You’d better get cracking on that extra bathroom because a baby consumes at least 10 times its body mass in available space.  You wouldn’t think a little one would hog nearly every inch of any given house, but that’s just the fact of parental life.  It sounds as if you’ve gotten off to a really healthy start to your pregnancy.  Good for you.  You exercise and eat right which is a lesson both Reid and I should pay attention to.  (I haven’t had ice cream in four days, so the withdrawal has begun.)  I would like to trundle up to St. Paul before the blessed event if you guys will allow it.  Just to see how “Momma Pommer” is faring.  I’ve told several people here and a couple of them have asked if I’m ready to be a Grandpa (or whatever title you want to assign to me) and I’m not sure what the honest answer is.  I guess I am.  It’s not like your mom or I have besieged you guys with questions about when this would happen, but it is occurring and I’m happy and I’m ready.  This is at the right stage for you both.

To get back to Christmas, the punky little tree is growing on me.  The lights are always on, and even though no packages are below it, it is festive enough in its own way.  I got Felicia a couple of things even more lame than the lame stuff you guys got.  Say hello to everyone in Des Moines.  Staying here is fine with me.  We’ll cook turkey on Christmas day, will probably walk after stuffing ourselves and maybe hit a movie.  We could do worse.  Happy Holidays!


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Maybe I should run a contest…

I don’t look at or subscribe to many other blogs.  Because when I do (which is weekly) it just deflates me.

There are some really good, really attractive blogs out there.  Mine isn’t one of them.  Blogs with good photography, great layouts and more readers than I can ever hope to capture.  It is a sign that while I enjoy the creative part, that creative part falls well short.  So does the promotion part.  I just don’t draw much traffic.  The blog folks warn that the entire process “is a slow build.”  At least I’ve got the slow part down pat.

Some of it is no doubt topical.   Maybe there’s A) just not a lot of gizz in letters, B) considerable fault that could be laid at the feet of the creative source, or C) all of the above.  If I had a vote, I’d go with C with a tilt toward B.

The nuances of a high-end blog are all Greek to me.  It’s like it is written in code – hey, it is written in code.  But that’s hardly an excuse.   It’s kind of like an all-around baseball player.  It’s not enough to be good at one thing.  To be recognized, you have to do it all – hit for average and power, drive in tons of RBIs, and play Gold Glove defense.  My blog continues to sit on the bench.

This is my 225th post.  You’d think I would know

I was at the mall last night, and saw the latest effort by Santa to milk every dollar out of the holidays.

better.  Maybe I should run a contest: best ideas to improve this blog.  I already won the other contest in a landslide: lamest blog of 2011.  Perhaps 2012 will be my year.


December 12, 2011

Ellen/Reid: You guys have absorbed my best shot when it comes to Christmas presents.  It is more proof that gift giving is not necessarily my bag.  Nothing just jumps out in terms of what to send you, so I pick something and send it.  You’ll have to forgive the lack of imagination.   The bottom line is something is better than nothing.  To reiterate, beyond a CD that you can create with a mix of music, there is nothing I need nor want.  By the time you get this, UPS has assured me that your boxes will have been delivered.  If they don’t arrive, holler.

Good for you all to convene in Des Moines.  That should be a lot of fun.  Say hi to the crew, and give Nonnie a peck on the cheek for me.  The hip is going to be problematic for some time to come.  Hopefully she’ll spring back in good form.  I guess if you’re going to be laid up, the colder winter months aren’t a bad time to do it.  Things will be pretty quiet down here.  I can’t even remember going anywhere for Christmas (once at your grandparents?, maybe) since I’ve been down here.  It does no good to dwell on where one wants to be, you just roll with the punches.  Since the weather has a reasonable chance of being good, I might even hit the golf course if the temps are above 50F.  That’s close enough for me.  Scuttlebutt has it that Felicia and I may put a turkey in the oven on Christmas but that’s about the extent of our plans.  She was also on the receiving end of some utterly lame, totally predictable gifts.  Gift-challenged, I guess.  Since your uncle has put a moratorium on a gift exchange between me and him, I’m not getting much gift-purchasing practice.

This year I’ll kind of double dip on the Thanksgiving approach.  Once for the lives of your grandparents, your good tidings Ellen, your liking of Chicago and career, Reid, and of course, the health issues (which have stayed below the surface for the moment).  I’m able to look out my 3rd floor home office window every day and see the birds and occasional deer, plus the sun and Carolina blue sky.  Ellen, your postcard was just adorable.  You two have a creative side when it comes to that sort of thing.  It proudly sits on the mantel along with all the other cards you’ve sent.  All of those are worth another word of thanks.  The only thing I don’t want to look at is the bathroom scale because there’s nothing to thank it for other than persistent “misreadings.”

I wrote the other day to Norm, my old editor at the A.P. to check in on how he’s doing.  I’d like to grease the skids for a get together up in New York since he was such a good guy to work with.  He’s been away from the A.P. Style Book side of the business for a few years now and I hope he’s holding up well.  He was also the main man on our ill-fated A.P. House of the Week feature in newspapers.  I wish that business had taken off.  Haven’t seen home plans in newspapers for a long time now.  I mention Norm because he gave me a shot and was ultra-good to write for.  For better or worse, and I think it was for the better, he was a big influence on my writing style.  I miss newspaper beat writing.

The Harley got a 45,000 mile checkup the other day plus new front and rear tires.  It’s ready for the road again.  The debate is whether or not to suck it up and trade the old girl on a new black Road King Classic.  Before I picked up the bike at the Statesville Harley dealer, I wondered if riding still had the same appeal.  I found on the 55 mile ride home that it does.  I just like to ride.  It’s still fun and exhilarating as it always has been.  Riding in groups doesn’t do anything for me.  Solo or with Felicia is about all I need.  Maybe if and when I retire I can do a Midwestern tour to see you guys.

Well, I gotta go back to work.  Hopefully the boxes will be at your doorsteps (Reid, I’m glad you liked the coat) in short order.  I’ll try to do a better job on gifts next year.  This year is a wrap.

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Friends without Facebook

As it would work out, I sent a letter to my friend Norm – he, the ultimate arbiter of words – and how does he respond?

By email.

At least he has the sensibility to put Friends without Facebook in his subject line.  I don’t perceive Norm as much of a Facebook or social media guy.  All his working life he was a journalist or a behind-the-scenes journalist, so you’d think e-things would be anathema to him.

Norm’s name probably doesn’t ring a bell for you.  But his work influences what you read in print and online every day.  He was, for a long, long time, the man behind the Associated Press Stylebook.  The Stylebook is the bible of the sport for newspapers, magazines, and virtually any other entity that puts words in front of you in any form.  If or how a word entered official use by journalists, bloggers and writers – Quran vs Koran (“Quran: The preferred spelling for the Muslim holy book”), e-commerce, nano, JPEG, etc. – that was Norm’s decision.

And he was my editor when I wrote my national housing columns for the Associated Press.  He gave me not only a chance, but he let me follow stories on my own.  He rarely, if ever, interfered let alone second guessed me.  He had confidence and trusted me and that meant everything to my writing career and style.

I am glad to call Norm my friend.


December 9, 2011

Norm: My New Year resolution to stay in touch with you has come a few days early but I suppose the new Post Office dictum to take first class snail-mail to new levels of slowness means this could still arrive after January 1.  Hopefully not.

Actually, there’s not a hell of a lot new down here in North Carolina besides our even farther right than usual right-wing politics. But it is in the 50s here today so at least the weather validates my move.  Nearing six years as a Southerner, so the next time I visit NYC (which is overdue) let me know if I’ve acquired any of the local intonation.

I think you’re onto something with the retirement thing.  The idea of non-work is beginning to dawn on me and I’m thinking of pulling the plug on work in the next year.  Age 63, or at least the 40-some years before it, seem about the right number of years in the salt mines.  I don’t know how you’ve kept yourself busy but I wouldn’t mind finding out how that works.

My daughter is expecting so any advice you have on the grandpa thing would be more than welcome.  Ellen is in St. Paul, MN and likes it very much, although the single digit temps they’ve had the last couple of days may temper her enthusiasm.

Not doing a hell of a lot with my free time except walking and growing older.  I keep threatening to write a book but the inspiration continues to escape me.  That’s probably just as well for the reading public.  There are enough bad books out there.

So what are you up to?  Still freelancing?  I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing.  And Jeanette?  I don’t keep up with the AP much these days.  I see their ‘contact us’ web page still has e-mail with a hyphen even though they issued some decree earlier this year that email would henceforth be one word.  That’s why they still need you in the shop to at least run the Stylebook.  My son Reid still has your signed copy.

Still living alone although I have a steady girlfriend who has quickly moved up to significant-other status.  There is still the very real threat that we could visit New York and you’d have a chance to meet her and give her the third degree: “Felicia, why are you with this guy…?”

Hopefully, you’ll find out sooner than later.  Really, let me know how and what you’re doing.  I don’t need to know the why.  I hope things are well…

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Christmas past…

Reid and his big sister Ellen back in the day. This is from a 2011 calendar that shows them down through the years. Still the best gift I've ever received.

Please believe me, but I have tried to be creative when it comes to Christmas gifts.  I really have.  Every time I get the itch it goes away just as quickly.  Maybe I am just not cut out for shopping.  The adage that generations of guys have repeated to themselves over and over, ‘women shop and men buy’,  is sort of my guiding light, mantra and rule of engagement all rolled into one.

All of which does take me to the mental spot where I do give things a long second thought, and that would be the days of Christmas past.  Right about now I think a lot about the days when Ellen and Reid were peanuts.   Contrary to the letter below, neither of them were jaded about the season of giving nor did they bother to make detailed lists.   Whatever they got, they liked.  I wish one or both of them would be here this season but with their lifestyles, its just not in the cards right now.   To have at least Reid here next year is item #1 on my early wish list for ’12.


December 5, 2011

Ellen/Reid: I have been on snooze-control when it comes to shopping.  But you guys haven’t been of enormous help after I have pled on end for you to tell me what you want.  Yoga classes and a jacket?  That’s the best you can do?  When you were tots you were much more detailed about the stuff you wanted.  A Cabbage Patch doll (Paddy Patch, as you said, Ellen) and Sega, a GI Joe (or, as you said, Reid, ‘Gee-Jii Joe’) and whatever that ultra-spiffy doll was, Ellen (American Girl?).  Those I remember distinctly.  You guys never got up really early, in fact, if memory serves me correctly (which it may not) we had to roust you two out of bed to get things moving more often than not.  But once you were downstairs, it was shred-central.  So much for opening presents in a slow, even-handed manner.  Holy smokes, you were both destroyers of wrapping paper and boxes.  Don’t get me started on what went down every time we went to see Santa; Ellen, you forced your bro’ to break the ice with the old coot instead of playing the proper older sister and leading the way.

Scrawny, fake and short with cheap ornaments, what passes for the 2011 Christmas tree sits in the corner.

My tree hardly made it out of the box this weekend.  It is upright, naked of any trimmings.  The lights and stuff are sitting on the kitchen table.  Maybe I’ll get around to it tonight.  Felicia golfed with me one of the two weekend days and I tried to do a little shopping (see paragraph one) but couldn’t think of anything for either of you.  I just can’t shop.  I want to buy, and until the idea strikes me of what it is you might like, it serves no good purpose just to look.

Reid, yeah, you should bank on coming down for next Christmas.  With any luck we can head over toward the ocean for some R&R and maybe a little fishing.  We’ll take our sticks with us just in case the weather is uber-favorable.  EP, I wouldn’t think you and Tim will be in any situation to travel easily and besides, that’s the best Christmas of all when you want to be home and cozy.  That’s as it should be.  Maybe I can find a way up there for Thanksgiving again.  That was so much fun.

The Post Office has nearly gone bust and it announced a couple of days ago that they may slow first class mail, which means who knows when these letters might arrive.  I’ll keep putting first class stamps on the envelopes and getting second class service.  I’m thinking of upgrading to my own URL.  That could make things simpler.  Reid, you’re a whiz at this stuff.  Do you think it’s worth $100 a year for the privilege?

I saw where the Tea Party is losing some strength, and it’s high time.  They were just too negative and attack-dog like.  Just shows how fickle the populace is when we are communally wish-washy.  We can’t hold a position for more than 10 minutes.  There have to some middle-of-the-road politicians left who aren’t always beholden to special interests.  Maybe I’m in la-la land about that.  Maybe that would be my Christmas wish; for people to be civil again and look for the common good.  The employment news all across the Carolinas just continues to be depressing.  The people are beaten down.  There are a few signs of things picking up, but way too few.  It’s just taking a hell of a lot longer to overcome eight years of abject neglect and politicking.  I was watching some news show were a talking head blamed the current prez for the bailout when in fact it began when the prior administration sent out the big bailout checks.

But enough of that.  Time is a wastin’ so let me know what it is you want aside from Yoga and a jacket.  I can still get things there fast enough, but in a true chicken and the egg scenario, you must first tell me what you want.  Capiche?

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The hammer stays on the shelf…

Reid, Ellen and Tim (Henry is under the table awaiting scraps) moments before Thanksgiving dinner. They're all doing great.

I suppose the holidays are no time to hammer away at the kids for who does what, and when, and how.  ‘Tis the season for Letters-Lite.  So that’s the what kids got and will get.  I mean, I don’t know what else you would write a few days removed from when we were together; ‘Ellen, your guest room needs spiffing up’ (which it didn’t), or ‘Reid, lose the beard’ (which he shouldn’t).

Indeed, the hammer stays on the shelf.  It isn’t needed.  Both are in good spirits, good health, and good frames of mind.  It’s always fun to be a dad but no more so than when you’re at their digs and you see them going about their business.  That’s when it becomes  crystal clear that they are not only on their way, they’re gone.  They’re making it work all the way around.  My role is relegated to consultative.  I like that.


November 28, 2011

Ellen/Reid: I wish the anticipation of a trip like last week would be as much fun as the trip itself was.  It was beyond great.  Ellen, your house is so cool with the renovated kitchen and there is sooo much potential upstairs.  Just think how much you’ve already done to your little spread so far; designer kitchen, woodwork and floors, décor, garden, yard, some windows, etc.  You’ve done a ton of spiffing up to it.  Bless Tim’s heart, he gets a Gold Star for really getting after it when it comes to working around the place (his fishing aside).  I knew a mechanical engineer would be good for something.  He lit it up all day Saturday.  I got tired just watching him.

Sorry about the bread.  Worst I have ever kneaded let alone baked.  It just went snafu from start to finish.  A total kaplooey.  Reid, if you ever bake like that, do not hesitate to throw it out.  I didn’t raise you to bake that badly.  Food-wise, that was the only downfall for the week.  Your Thanksgiving meal came out fabulously, and Tim’s omelets were to die for.  I still don’t think we ate and ate and ate to the point of gluttony.  By holiday standards, we ate moderately and not quite continuously.  So that was good.  The movie gets a 6 from me on the one to 10 scale.  The Hunger Games gets an 8.  Bought volume 2 at the airport and am already halfway through it.  The guy in the seat next to me on the plane ride home napped so there was no pressure to invite or continue a conversation so I could read in relative peace.  Those books just scream “movie!”

Reid, Liz was an incredible sport to go along with three other strangers plus you on a Friday night.  She was very nice to put up with our poor jokes and whatever else we were doing, especially the boy’s pouting at Anthropology.  She passed the test with ease.  Too bad you guys couldn’t ride home together but the airlines are going to demand their pound of flesh when it comes to change fees.  It’s incredible, too, that she lives not quite a stone’s throw from Ellen and Tim.  She does have a serious side and that’s okay.  The paper this morning reported on a poll that said 20-somethings (they have a term for your age group: “Millenniums”) have something less than a serious work ethic and I think the two of you buck that trend.  Nice to have someone by your side.

As you would guess, the weather here was sparkling – until I got home.  Now it’s raining and about 20 degrees cooler.  Makes it all the more inviting to work inside when things look particularly awful.  But as the locals continue to note, unlike you guys we don’t shovel most of our bad weather.  I’ll have to keep that in mind.  It stifles my walking, and Lord knows I’ll need to walk thousands of miles to remove the tire that is inflating around my waist.  Very depressing…as I reach for yet another ice cream bar.

Will haul out the Christmas tree here in pretty short order.  It’s just one of those small fake ones with the fake branches, and the cheapie ornaments are far from collectibles.  But at least it will be something.  Felicia and I will put it up this weekend, Friday night most likely.  Now, as for me present-wise, the only thing I want for Christmas, aside from an iPhone (I can take care of that), are some of those oldies rock tunes on your iPods that you can send me as CDs.  That’s all I want.  Reid, you and Tim know what I’m talking about.  There just isn’t anything else that’s needed.  I totally missed the boat on Cyber-Monday which would have been a good time to fill your stockings.  I’ll think of something.

So, enough yammering for today.  Back to the salt mines.  There’s work to be done.  Wish there was an app for that.

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