Saturday, November 22, 2014

In The Dark

In the dark there are mysteries.
From childhood we swim in the emotions of what we can't see.  There is that quickening of your senses when the unknown becomes intertwined with reality. The raised hair on your neck and arms, or legs or whole body. The instant sweats. The rapid breathing and fight or flight feeling that sets into motion the adrenalin that amplifies it all like gas and a match as one second becomes ten.

  As one who doesn't watch horror flicks, I don't like to feed the adrenalin I feel when I'm in the dark. As a lover of the mountains, I try hard to find ways to survive my thoughts each night as I try to fall asleep in a  one man tent alone surrounded by things that can eat me in one bite or a dozen mouths.  With only a 4" knife, a propane stove and sometimes pepper spray for defense the brain can wander.   As the picture above shows an arbitrary camp fire, I can tell you where every photo campfire was taken. The fires light and the sky and the trees are my safety as the temperature drops each night. And during these times you reflect on all that was good that day, and you fill your mind with good thoughts to carry you into the dark and cold of night.  Ok, a good shot of whiskey from an old cowboy flask doesn't hurt before you get in your bed role or bag either.  
The sounds that wake you in the night or during storms will come. And they will scare you, and you will pray and open a knife and hold a can of spray and listen and hear things no mortal should be able to hear at those times.  And usually it will pass, and the wind and branches or the animals will move on if you were smart enough to not leave food or scraps or bottles or wrappers or drippings near your sleeping quarters. This could be a much longer blog of those stories alone today,  but I'll leave those for another night.

The Sounds...

Everyplace in your life where you are confronted with the dark you will remember sounds.  And you may associate everyone of those with smells and temperatures and feelings of the past.   And it will never stop while you're alive. You will just learn to mitigate it like everything else you do as an adult.  And every time it happens again like the first time, you will be scared once more..

And there it was again.   I awoke in the dark. The sounds were strange. Tubes in me everywhere. A tube on my vocal chords searing with a pain like I'd never known. The strange sounds of a respirator slowly breathing for me.  And the adrenaline kicks in.  And everything slows down.  And you begin to listen to what you are up against and how you're going to fight.

  I'm alive. Ok, I begin praying and thanking God for that much. Other than my vocal chords, I'm not feeling much pain so I'm thankful for whatever drugs I'm full of.  I hear random soft voices "we're drawing blood, we're taking samples". I feel nothing so I'm thankful for the drugs again.  I open my eyes for the first time and there is  that film over them and everything is blurry but there is light.  Oh glorious light. 

Like a campfire in the distance of night.  It's a door, my door and I slowly see movement every few minutes of bodies slowly making their rounds in the middle of the night. This time it's not animals to eat me, it's helpers to drug me.  And there is a comfort in the darkness there. A knowing that this darkness is for good not evil.  

Like Ed Harris in the "Abyss" when he wakes up at the bottom of the ocean surrounded by gods and angels without any understanding of how and why. And the music is surreal and the calm confusion is stunning. Yes, that is it. Calm confusion. And in those moments you take stock. And like Harris in this photo, you become humbled and feel unworthy of whatever is happening. 

And now my thoughts roll to veterans and survivors of accidents where others have died. It's that why me overwhelming feeling ? Why do I live and they die.  And there's the sadness mixed with the joy of voices you hear that you love.  A bittersweet knowing that you can't verbalize.
And you close your eyes and think about the places that you remember being alone in the dark and ok.  And I'm at that fire with a billion stars and the temps dropping fast and the visualizing of my next mornings hike up the mountain and supplies and the filling of my brain with good thoughts to take into the dark night and i smile and i drift off like every night, saying those same words, "Ok Lord, I love you, protect my loved ones, protect me too. And if I'm gonna be eaten, may it be in one bite so I can see you soon - Amen".   Yes, that's a mountain prayer, I'll admit I don't pray that in the city and city prayers are much more narcissistic about my problems today and tomorrow and my enemies and roadblocks ahead.  Come to think of it, mountain prayers are probably allot easier for God to listen to and answer. 

But in the dark a prayer is a prayer.  It's that step of faith. That leap into the unknown where you've been a million times before. That double prayer at times. One for the prayer and the other for the faith to believe you're not crazy for saying the prayer.  One thing I know my friends. God is not impressed with our knowledge. He is much happier with honesty and good questions.  If only we could take that from the dark to the light as quickly as we are willing to spread rumors from the back room to the water cooler, or best friend to next best friend or spouse.

I'm hoping that the dark will become less a mystery and more a new set of questions not to be feared.
I'm praying that my few bad memories of the dark will fade before my final curtain here,  and I might be blessed enough to help walk others through some of dark and scary times with a firm hand that says "In these dark times be still and know you are surrounded by good. For God has sent god's and angels to help you find your best and brightest future. Today they may help you with your pain, tomorrow they may only help you endure it. And someday you may only have their memories and words to help you face the darkness.   Be still and know, with faith and hope there is love.... even  when you walk In The Dark. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Building Memories

Today, i waited for a few friends to drop by on the week anniversary of my triple bypass. I fell asleep on my sofa and when i awakened, it was later in the afternoon. The sun was streaming through the front window and pouring across one of my old flags like it was still veterans day, and I had missed it, and my friend the sun was being kind enough to remind me not to forget.  I lay frozen there to the sound of only my breathing and half opened eyes. I looked around that small corner of my life and realized how much this very view meant to me. I put all this there without knowing what I was doing. I was building memories.
There is my favorite oil painting. I never thought I'd own something so beautiful. I remember seeing it in the back corner of a small art shop in Europe. The owner almost crying when I said I wanted to buy it.  My promise to ship it back to the shop owner if he ever wanted to swap it with a purple hued floral by the same artist hanging in the elderly shop owners home. The dim light shining across the brass on the old clock that's been ringing for 27years in our homes.   The painted brass dials with scenes of life in Germany and the Neuschwanstein castle swinging back and forth on the weight dial. Memories of picking each of our children up once a week to open the big clock and wind the giant key to the reverberating sounds of a large mechanical clock work.  Nothing sounds like that. 
And the light on the clock was reflecting the same glow. The same warm glow of light as the day we picked it out in a village in the Black Forrest  on a cold fall morning after eating white knackwΓΌrsts with stone ground mustard and a Pilsner with foamy tops and mist on the ground.  And there on the floor, sit  two of my old guitars.  Like dogs in a kennel, all  cased up where I lay them after my last gig.  Crying out "Hurry up and heal" we want to make music again.   And the photos of our children and family, weddings and  holidays.  And in the middle a black and white photo of my parents. As if they are watching over us and the two 100yr old family bibles on the floor covered in pottery.

Memories. That's what they are, that's what we build and try to maintain in our own special ways.
And I wondered if everyone has these non-secret / secret places. Places that without explanation would mean nothing,  but with understanding could explain whole portions of ones life.  I guess the photo walls in our homes growing up were part of that memory building for our parents as they lined our hallways and stairways with  black and white and yellowed pictures we were all to happy to get rid of like bad sweaters. For our parents, or mothers at least,  they were living murals of life and all they treasured and smiled at each day. Taking the silent 100 trips down the hall or up an down those stairs with laundry or soup, realizing that in time they pass those photos now only with the reality that those times will not return.  Memories can help us remember and that's it.  For our loves burn bright and fade slowly into our pasts like the embers of a good fire.  No two are ever the same or comparable.  Our children are each the best and most unique and special. We wish they didn't have our weaknesses and we  celebrate our gifts woven into their successes. We ache when our children leave us, and our families and our loved ones and we rejoice when we can celebrate together on occasion. 

You know I'm guessing that memories are gone when we are gone, and that the beauty of them is for the now and the moment and the mortal.  And I'm guessing that that should make them all the more special for us to cherish.
Well in less than a blink of an eye, the printed photograph has really come and gone like a comet in the night, and entire memories of lives are now stored on a chip of a  breakable throw away every 18month phone.
The scanner and fax machine and 8tracks, 9mm, Dats, cassettes, Cd's and dvd's, floppys, mega, gigga, Terra... That's the speed of where our memories are going.  Will the pencil disappear soon? I'm guessing so. It seems to only take one generation of biased teaching to sway minds now.  Whatever politician can invest enough money and leverage into the future of the next "pencil" will win that one. 

So where is the future of memories for our children and their children's children? How do we conserve and preserve it for them till they actually care about such things as history, legacy, family?

For those without children I'm at a loss. An unexplained sadness of a fork in the road some day coming when the aloneness of being alone set's in while one watches a neighbor surrounded with grand and great grand children experiencing and giving memories to new generations.  (Like your grandma licking her thumb in slow motion to wipe something off your cheek, and you know it will smell worse than your worst nightmare for 5min. and yet, you will stand and take it, and say thank you grandma,  because that look in her eyes made the memory all worth it.)

Pop culture will figure that out for each generation I guess.  The wild stories will always remain of the crazy uncle, the normal 99 percent of people will be generally be forgotten in a few years,  and any way to make someone think more of themselves will make a buck faster than all the good ideas for "others" ever combined. Wait... unless the book that says doing for yourself is actually doing for others and it's better than if you did it for them,  hasn't been written. That will sell the most.

Where are your memories stored? Go find one of those places today and be still and listen for the voices of the past that you loved and cherished. Listen for the wisdom you missed in words that seemed of no value at the time.  Behind it all, if it was good, if it was noble,  you will hear the words "it's love" echoed in the sights, sounds, tastes and touches of it all. And all that... is for you, for me, for right now. And like everything, it is a gift. A gift from a Father to a child.  Write them down how ever you can to memory.  Share them with those you love. 

And anything less, anything given to you in hate and with and for a selfish destruction of others, for personal gain and your destruction...? Is not God.  So today,  get rid of that hard drive, unplug it, throw it away, it's your choice. These are your memories.  Start a new camera today with new photos and new memories that celebrate all the goodness that you are.. 

Well the sun has fallen on this little corner of my living room.  That setting sun has turned to a fires glow and the smell of crackling pine and dim lights and candles.  And the sounds of the clock remind me that we don't get these moments back.   I look and stare, and try to remember this again.  And I stare in silence at the 10inch zipper on my chest and the surgeon saying see you in a few, and the waking up and the nurses, and helpers. It's like a sped up movie of it all, and my precious wife trying to do everything perfect, and the cards and notes and voicemails and photos and.... feelings of unworthiness and helplessness and pain and anger and tears and laughter and the building of ....  memories.

Monday, October 27, 2014

STELLA!! (Food Review)

There are places you remember. There are sounds and smells associated with those memories as well.
Can you close your eyes and remember restaurants sights, sounds, smells and tastes?
A year ago we dined at a cool little place with 2 floors and rooftop dining in the uptown area of Mpls.
I remember two things mainly. The best steamed lobster I can remember and a very busy and noisy place of 30 to 50 somethings. The oysters were sub par for me so I didn't order any on my 2nd trip.  But, since just about every table had a dozen, I'm guessing mine just sat on the line to long before being served so I'd try them again at a future time.

The servers? Both great. Casual dress and good people skills. They buss each others tables and clean as a team as well. 

It was our 33rd Anniversary so my precious bride pre-orderd the Lobster bake for us to share.
So here we go..

Lobster Bake is a fix-prix for two and worth every dime. (I'd suggest finding their special on groupon).
Bottle of house wine comes with it but you can upgrade to any bottle and get a 18. credit off it. (worth doing :):)  Problem is, it's one of the smallest wine lists I've seen for a nice restaurant, so there's not a cellar to choose from. I voiced that to the server and she smiled and said "yup" hear that all the time.  There was  descent Sav. Blanc I'd had before with less grapefruit and more pear in it so that worked in the 30 range.

They start you with 4 nicely steamed and soft square buns with an awesome garlic butter. 

This follows with a cup of Lobster Bisque. Bisque was nice and golden with three nice chunks of lobster (thumbnail size). Creamy and not gritty (nice). It didn't have the beautiful "port/cognac" flavor that I love, but it also was devoid of the thick rue type that is so often passed off to you as Bisque.. I give that a 6.5

Next was a nice salad. Different from the one we had a year earlier (that was more Waldorf with mixed greens.) This was romaine tossed in an oil citrus that was a bit much so it softened the romaine to much. The berry's were fresh, pears were as well.  The nuts tasted like the canned sugared variety but they were fresh so I give them .5 for the crunch factor instead of squish:)
The blue cheese was the medium grade so it wasn't overpowering. (nice)  Over all, I'd have liked it better with mixed greens but the cost of goods is always an issue.... i give the salad a 5.5

Now the Lobster Bake... This is a very unique pot.
I'm guessing it's a 2.5 lb lobster. The base is tomato's, Italian sausage, potato's,shrimp (25ct?) Black Mussels, Spinach and spices. Over that lays the broken up lobster. Steamed perfectly both times I've had it. You know it's right when it's still (almost) med. rare in the middle.  You get about a 1/4 lb of drawn butter in a dish to share and the cracking utensils. (not needed cause the shells are split and the legs/claws break nicely with your hands. 
Every bit of this is an experience. you eat all your lobster and then you have this nice unique stew to eat and drink up the broth in the end. 
I actually poured it into a big cup and gave it to my bride to eat out of that instead of digging a giant spoon into the big pot for every bite... (ask for another cup or two, it makes it easier to eat in the end). Oh yeah, the corn..  that was eaten in about 10 sec. after the pot arrived. It just says "eat me first".
Well, allot of things in life say that to me, so sue me. Lobster bake I give 9.5 . Half point off because, well, I wanted a couple scallops in it:)
To finish things off you have a few choices for your dessert and I usually go chocolate if they have good coffee (up charge; however they didn't charge us for it).  
Whipped cream was a bit thick (more butterier) cake was really nice and berries and finished reduction was nice. Coffee was very fresh and two refills came without a question.  Dessert... 5..5 
Nothing special about it, just... good.

I've dined on the 2nd floor (noisy) and this time on the main floor (noisy). Sat in a wood booth along the wall and it was lit well. Not romantic at all but you work with what you got :)  

Parking can be found on the street if your lucky. They have valet and do not validate, but we paid 8. for an enclosed ramp across the street, (which is nice in the winter months).

All in all I give it an 8 as a dining experience. It's the only place I know like that where you can dress up or be totally casual and feel good.   We got out of there with our groupon under $150 with 20% on the total bill, not the groupon. Bill was $180 with the extra wine.

If you eat early, it's always nice to walk around the blocks there near the lake and see the shops. There are 4 outdoors clothing shops on one street and Android and Apple stores. There is live music within walking and the community there is pretty safe.

I can take this place once a year just for the lobster bake alone and now with a sushi bar and oyster bar there, I'll be back to just try that in the summer when you can sit on the roof top and dig the vibe.

Reservations welcome and (i think) needed.  Tennessee Williams and Richard Burton could come here and feel very welcome yelling Stella.... more lobster..  As for my bride and I, we like to dress up and dine. 
We give it two smiles and thank you for the plastic lobster bibs. We got home without a spot of butter.
Bathrooms were clean as well... which is nice.

Stella's Fish Cafe & Prestige Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Jesus I'm Confused Sometimes.

REALLY ? Can brothers be this far off from each other?  

  Dr. Zuhdi Jasser and Imam Muhamma Siddeeq are both educated Muslims.  I heard them talk last night. Both are passionate and articulate and god seekers and followers/teachers of Islam.

A main point Dr. Jasser basically made, was that Muslims better take back their religion by stopping those who teach the wrongful use and meanings of the Koran that bring about radical terrorism around the world. It's growing and no one is stopping these radical teachings with horrible results.
Of course for this he's had many Fatwas issued against him. (remember fear is the weapon of our enemies.)

And Imam Siddeeq from Boston said that none of these people who are killers or radicals are followers of Islam. They can say all they want who they are and who they follow, but they are not Islam nor represent Islam. Allah and Islam doesn't promote this kind of behavior.   Now others on the panel laughed because it sounds ridiculous at face value. On the other hand as I listened I thought "what if" he's serious and not "spinning". What if truly those we are at war with are not really Muslims or followers of Islam, but just radical people who are using this as their vehicle of choice.?

 (Similar to how we in the Christian faith felt about the KKK and Christian White Power or Christian Black power  or Crazy preachers who were willing to be violent to innocent people to prove some radical point).
 Were those people really Christians, followers of Christ? Born again, Baptised, Word and Love/Grace based followers of Jesus?  What would you say.....  Maybe? Would you say perhaps they are,  but only God can judge in the end,  and for now on this earth we will recognize each other by our fruit..?  How bout the Crusades and those who in the name of Christ did such terrible things at times?  We're they Christians or just men following a supposed Christ teacher, or a Govt telling them they are Christians if they say yes to doing the following acts in His name?  Hmmm.  Were they just angry  lost men and boys  protecting their families faiths and lands and hoping they would retain some eternal reward for their obedience to the king or papal?

Parsing words is an art, and important in good and understood dialogue.  I'm not very good at it, I don't study it or teach it, but I am listening, and to often what I say is not what you hear and vs/vs i'm sure.

If as  Imam Siddeeq from Boston says,  all these various radical groups from various countries, who are radicalized in mosques by Imams and teachers, are not Muslims or followers of Islam, then what the heck are they? 
And if all those recruited (via social media, the web, prisons, schools, religious schools and on street corners) to convert to Islam and come fight for the destruction of all evil infidels who will not bow to Allah, Sharia or live under a Caliphate to bring a holy nation,  are really "not" following Allah and His teachings. And really are not a part of Islam as Imam Siddeeq suggested, then what do we call them?

And how do we from the outside help "true peace loving" Muslims define their ideology to the peaceful world,  to retain the peace filled religion they say it truly is, while helping "them" separate and eliminate those who's only desire is to kill all of us, by fulfilling what they believe is a mandate from Allah, to purify, as they live out (from what they've been taught by Muslim teachers) their ideas and mandates of what they call the pure teachings of Islam?

It's easy to say "It's their problem" and just live our 9 to 5's and worry about our own 401k's. The problem is that silence doesn't work in the long run. If we care for the future of our children we better be part of a solution we all can "live" with. 

The answer doesn't end with "ism but with ion. it isn't Capitalism or Socialism or Communisim, it's Education.
As just one soul..., I say it's education. 
You can't kill ideology. You cant burn all the books. Hitler tried. Our only hope is to stop the teachers and infectors of this ideology from teaching and infecting new generations.  And many sadly believe that radical terrorists will only be stopped by bullets, bombs and everyone turning against them because they are wrong (and not just because you are afraid they might overthrow your mid-eastern lifestyle and power).

Some would say, these terrorists are poor and caged in Palestine and living around the world in squall and suffering in poverty stricken cities everywhere.  I'd say, nope, how can you account for those growing numbers from Euro,US and around the prosperous world who have everything?

 Do you believe that people look for a team to play on and be a part of?   A certain percentage of people will always join a gang and do terrible things to feel like they belong..  Have we ever stopped that? Are our gangs in America gone?  Are those people in the gangs any less Americans? Has the world always had gangs and gang mentalities?  How have we ever stopped that? 

We have not.. We have failed..  They just resurface as another gang name with another set of issues. 

Ok, Anchorman gang was just used for the brevity here, sry.  

Now for all the bad that the Internet may bring, I think unrestricted knowledge and  "education" will be it's greatest world changer.   Well, that's long term and short term. China on one hand will not be able to stop the knowledge and power of the free world from it's captured peoples, and their systems will fall to a better one sooner than later... that's good.  I hope we can naturally seize on the powerful possibility of educating new generations of "lost" youth looking for a "cause" to "not" choose radical extremism but choose a better path that we've all laid out in social media for them to consider that they did not hear about at home.
  God, that's sounds like Utopian pipe dreams on a hash pipe, but I'm still saying it.  Come on, give me a better idea. You take the the time to develop questions and discussion out of your free time let me comment, I'm all in.  I'm sure my neighbors would rather be raking leaves with me and having a beer with college football on AM radio in the garage :)

So if  Imam Siddeeq from Boston were correct, and they, (the terrorists) are not who they say they are, who are they, and what can we do?
Is there any peaceful solution for crazy people (religious death gangs)?

 Do we have to use extreme measures to kill those (and sadly in the process those they hide around as cowards) and then hope that the Muslim world (with the help of other faiths and no faiths)  can newly re-educate from homes and mosques a standardized set of beliefs that incorporate from the Koran (peace, tolerance, choice, freewill, grace, forgiveness, diversity, equal rights and love) instead of live under, obey, change or die teachings?
You see, we all don't have to believe the same way

 to believe in the same things.  (how did you parse that one? ;)

As a Christ follower, my God is big enough to know who's calling His name. He's big enough to judge in the end the intentions and actions of each soul.  And Jesus?   He came and gave all, without error, to reconcile the world back to God, and allow God's very Spirit to come ignite, indwell and empower us,  as we choose to follow His-story and His teachings.  These truths as Christians of the "Cross" we share in love (sadly to often in finger pointing and judgement), and can only pray that what we hold to be truth, will be born out in our lives and actions. And that in that, it would call others to hear that same voice, turn and follow this same rocky path we walk imperfectly together in our own divisions and schisms.

Other faiths (name your own) would scribe what I've said above differently but just as sincerely. And if said in love and peace, their actions and lives should bear out the fruit of their beliefs, and inspire others to do the same. And again, my God is the judge not me, and if He is created "ALL", then He is big enough to sort that out beyond my intellectual and mortal abilities of finger waving, book thumping and turn or burn or convert or die ideology.

Think about it this week.  What can you do to:
 help change a life,        an Ideology,       or a bullet coming your way?

Be a better you,      speak out of love,    pray for your enemies and  be well armed!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

2nd Street Bistro (review)

As we prepare to make our way to the farmers market this morning in the rain, I'm reminded of past restaurants that pride themselves on local sourcing only.  Our dinner last night at Brasserie Zentral was 17 tasting courses between us and 11 wines. I'm still taking notes this morning on this amazing Euro Southern Germany driven joint that is better than any high end joint in Germany I ever dined in when living there. And that includes the 4star ParkHotel on 21 WiesenhuttenPlatz where I entertained.  Sry for getting side tracked already. You know the deal, you remember a food, you salivate and then you rabbit trail:)

I left Minneapolis for a fundraiser on a private ranch in Aug.  I had timed it so that I could drive all night and day and land in Livingston at dinner time to spend the night alone at a table near the kitchen. If you're like me, you love watching chef's work. Being self taught at everything in life, I learn by watching and asking questions. And now a days, google, YouTube and siri are the state of the art universities for the mind for in inquisitive. 
Owner Chef Brian is a tornado of food passion. He walked me through the kitchen at closing and showed me his hand printed (ridiculous handwriting) work sheets for his staff for the next day. At least 3 pages of perfect notes for what he had assembled for the next evenings menus based upon his gut. A twinkle and a smile in his eyes as he proudly said "14 years on the line" and I still love this every day.

Ok, he's as bad as us songwriters and artists. We can hate it at the end of the day sometimes but we always come back.

Now, going backwards, I'm writing this months after my dinner. So I roll into Livingston and get my little table next to the kitchen. Chef smiles and says hello.  #1. Owners or even more, owner/chefs that take a moment to acknowledge you during the evening are making their food that much better in your mind..

So I start with a CA Chardonnay with cold beet soup that used red beets and then golden beets in the center with (what i remember) a swirl of creme fraiche infused with some hard spice. Amazing. The red beets had that big bold clean crisp bite and the golden beets in the middle had a silky, creaminess that was sublime with the drizzle.  The homemade bread from their bakery with EVOO and balsamic made it even better.
I'm guessing the restaurant only seats 60 to 75 with a small Euro bar in one end making all kinds of cool elixirs so getting seated during the power rush can mean waiting with a cocktail or two. 
Chef is also a Sommelier, so it's nice to see his view of wines as paired to the menus he creates. I think as well that the business from June to Oct. is pretty tourist driven so I'd expect more CA, WA wines that he'd probably desire.
Next I had to try the Crab Cake Salad with a Sav. Blanc. Nicely dressed and the cakes were rolled and done perfectly. Crisp outside and firm and moist (not) mushy on the inside. Candied walnuts and mixed greens were nice with it,  instead of the two crab cakes on a plate with a creme fraiche squirt
I am a fish freak and was planning on having the halibut for entre',  but then out of nowhere a plate of seared rare Duck breast on mash with crackling arrives and the server says " chef would like you to try this".   
Ok, screw the halibut, I'm in, just bring me your best glass of Pinot or Burgundy by the glass.

Now the mashed were plain and I might have wanted cream or chives, or rosemary garlic under that duck but I'll admit, having them just be "mash" , made me focus on every crunch and soft center of that breast with the Burgundy. Yup I'm smiling, thinking about it again.  Duck can be messed up and greasy and, and, and, but doing it great and pan spooning the skin to crisp it worth the time.  So then how do you finish up a nice experience like this?  A big cup of French Roast,  a cordial of Pernod and Creme Brulee'.  Nice vanilla bean seeds, fresh berries, good thick custard consistency and you just close your eyes and alternate bites with either coffee, or a hint of Pernod.

Looking around that night, it was a lot of couples and traveling foursomes. As an entertainer, i so wanted Chanson' in the corner. Love songs being sung and played from a piano. Giving up 6 to 8 seats (10%)  is probably out of the question but I'll still lobby that it would take it over the edge there.

Now when out west, you can hit the Ted Turner buffalo houses (I've done it many times) and you can hit some cook Asian  or TexMex kinda vibes, but you don't see a place like 2nd street to often, prepared with the passion of one guy.  Certainly, if he goes "IT" goes, but as the owner/chef, I'm guessing when he's done he'll just sell it to the Hotel (my fav.) Murray next store and start something new.

And if this is not enough for you for one food post, I"ll tell you that my favorite breakfast place in Montana is the NovaCafe' in Bozeman. Their logo is two sunny side eggs with bacon x'd across it like a pirate flag. Perfect! It's on my MacbookPro case.. With that said, i've now spent more mornings in Livingston having breakfast at Gil's Goods, around the corner from 2SB and attached to Murray Bar and the world famous "Dan Baily's Fly Shop" where I dream of going as a youngster.

I leave you with my fav. breakfast from Gills... It's self service, all local, all fresh baked. (the creamy grits are stupid good) and the coffee? well I order the Tiffany Americano.  She runs all this for the chef and she is a goddess married to Adonis and a new little one coming out of the oven soon.  

If driving from coast to coast or doing the Yellowstone trip or BigSky Bridger ski deals, take 30min from the airport in Bozeman and spend a night at 2SB. You can always walk around the corner after dinner and ho-down in the bar with some alternative folk/rock/country/bluegrass and a local MT beer:)

Bona Freekin Petit

2nd Street Bistro on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 2, 2014

There's A Little Black Band On My Wrist Today"

Today's blog is going to take some twists and turns. Bear with me. 
The picture above says one thing. "HOPE". How could that  moment, that photo happen in communities and villiages that teach them to hate and kill?
I don't comment on my personal faith thoughts to much .  But I had a discussion after a racquetball match yesterday with two other long time men of deep faith. Both are from different denominations. The conversation was about grace, hyper grace and who is embracing it, and how they are spinning it or using it for their own needs.  Grace or Law.  To be sure, different faiths embrace it differently with different outcomes.

One friend took time to forward me an article of one writers thoughts on the J.Prince Christian ministry and his books on grace.  With pages of opinions based upon his view of scripture, he sliced and diced "gracefully" ;) upon what he saw as the errors of J. Prince’s movement and a book by this teacher.

In the end he ended his long dissertation with  : Last line:  If radical grace is taught in the context of the message of the kingdom of God to give it balance, it can be a great teaching that lifts up Jesus and transforms individual lives who can transform nations.

OK, I'm laughing. Why didn’t he write just that and  have saved us all a half hour of reading and most likely hours for him to write it ?

In the end, it affirmed one thing in my little brain.  All the denominations and factions of Christianity remind me of how intelligence “can” divide more than unite. 
If you presuppose an ending and then backtrack through the entire scriptures to find any and all scripture that might fit into your ending, and hence forth build a case for "whatever" to defend your new position, you are in danger of just plain being "out of balance". From that place many things can happen; that although not incorrect, create divisions and more divisions.  Start with M. Luther and go forward to the formation of all the modern religions under the banner of Christianity.   Smart “MEN",  just plain thinking they know something others don’t, begin to believe they know better and must enlighten and divide by those mere thoughts and teaching.. And they will teach their minions "who" is correct and who is in "error".  Thankfully within the faith of Christianity we don't kill each other for not aligning with a specific view of our faith.
Thankfully because of the Cross, because of free will, we have choice.  Yes there is much blood in the Old Testament and reasons why under that age and time things played out that way.  But the Bible, as a combination of Old AND New testaments together, create a beautiful living, breathing, complex Last Will and Testament for us to read and live by. Thankfully it does not speak of killing those who would not convert. And that makes me think then of other teachings and religions as the world spirals into more local sectarianism's within religions.   And here the blog takes the next turn today.  
I love taking and  posting photos with my blogs. Today from here on out. No photos. Just my thoughts as I type.   

And as a side bar, a special thank you to all of you who have taken time to tell me you read this blog over the years. Outside of friends and family, i do appreciate the comments and notes of thanks. 

And that makes me think of the current state of Islam. There are so many people under one global faith who have latched onto or jumped onto a specific teaching within their faith to the detriment of being balanced and or effective for a God of love.
  If you believe in the 4 levels of Islam that are taught, then you have to ask yourself some serious questions. I'm trying, and I'm in the middle of that conundrum. 

If I relate it to my faith (which we all do)  then I say, I want to be more like Jesus. The more I can be like Him the holier and more effective my life will be. The more of the Word I read and apply, the holier and more effective my life will be. For I love the Word because it was at the foundations of it all, long before it became written and preached.

So I apply that thought to the Koran and a few billion people who read it and follow it in many different sects and manners.   And I see that there are very radical statements in the Koran that if followed, will create no choice, no free will and will create a world for me that is absolutely NOT the GOD I know. 
Perhaps I love living in America because of the Bibles influence on our democracy of free will and choice and liberty as opposed to Dictatorships, Caliphates and those who would eliminate choice and freedoms to uphold whatever they deem “acceptable, righteous behavior” worthy of life, or death if you disagree.

Where do you go with that? Even dialing back from the highest level of a righteous Muslim, where a caliphate or mandatory strict sharia has to be for all, what is acceptable for everyone to live with who does not believe this, but wants everyone to have the rights to seek and follow God. 

When push comes to shove, if a moderate Muslim wants to be a better and better Muslim, do they have to embrace Sharia and fight for it? And in America, in a democracy, is a Sharia acceptable?, Should religions be allowed to try to grow and force another way of life on the rest of the nation? France, England, and yes Michigan have areas and neighborhoods that have purchased land, homes businesses and decided they should be Sharia, and are, and will be defended as such.

Should this be acceptable in America or under any democracy?

Now if you say yes Sharia should be allowed in America, then I’m lost. How can religion be allowed to take over Govt. and secular services under a holy law, in a system that was built to allow freedom for all.  They just don’t and cant coexist in my brain. Tell me how this can happen,  unless the whole point is to subvert and change the entire system like communism has said they would like to do to democracies for ever.  

For me, I desire all peoples to have the choice to believe what they want to believe. But not to the detriment of all others if they don’t believe. I truly believe this is the heartbeat of America and Americans.  Israel has been fighting this problem “forever”. Leave them alone in their little sliver of land mass. But radical Islam just can not. They want them dead and gone as much as they want the end to America and anyone who chooses Freedom of choice.

What is the “free” world gonna do. What can we do to join together to say no to Any one group who are hijacked in a belief system that they believe tells them its’  “believe our way, live under our rules or die”? 

We have to, as the worlds people, say NO.  This is not acceptable. We will not let you subjugate the world under your knives and guns. To try to fear the world into submission with threats of your death by whatever means is the worst. 

America has become a very selfish and narcissistic nation of people looking out for themselves.  Nothing has made the nation unite to fight for our rights. We take them for granted and expect our sons and daughters to stand with arms to protect those rights and keep us safe so we can focus on ourselves and our castles and retirements. 

This will change if we do nothing.

I can tell you that I love all peoples. I want to live in peace as a Christian with all faiths and those with no faith.  Most people of “faith” or even atheists believe in freedom of choice. When you take choice away you take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness unless it’s under your laws or death.

Not gonna happen. Free people will fight against dictators (if given tools), or even without by laying in front of tanks or firing squads.  How far does radical peoples in the name of God have to go before the world stands up and says, enough? 

In Christianity I would say it lays at the feet of teachers, preachers and pastors. 
If they teach radical thoughts with sectarianism's that end with, “believe in Christ as we do, or die”. These teachers must be somehow stopped from teaching creeds and beliefs that promote subjugation or death. How can we in a civil society do this where we say we want free choice and free will?

And then there is Taqiyyah. Where it was ok’d centuries ago for any Muslim to be able to lie about anything in order to continue to wage war against the infidels, or anyone who appears to not be willing to bow to God as their Allah as they believe they should. So you could convert Christ, any social system, any anything in order to infiltrate the enemy so in the end you could overtake your enemies and create your domination over the world.  Really… ?   
How do you feel about that if you’re an average person trying to get along with everyone?

Fear? Yup. That’s the tool.  If you’re afraid of me and what I’ll do to you, then you’ll obey me. 
But i have to gain enough power over time to be able to make you fear me. Until then I’ll just subversively gain power in your systems as a pacifist or whatever to gain it.

Again I ask, can and does Sharia belong in a democratic society? If not, the world better begin to make that clear “REALLY” fast, because it is being implemented all over the world in smaller communities everywhere.  And in that it begins to administer holy laws that are fear or pain or beatings or mutilations or death based.  These “holy leaders” may say “well if you do not obey the laws you must be punished”. And then the above sentences are laid out and fear is used to subjugate all peoples into obeying god as they see it.

How far are you willing to go in a free world with freedom of choice to protect that right. 
Are you willing to wait until your house is surrounded and you are personally affected?

I’m sure everyone would either say, “it’s not close enough to me, or don’t tread on me”.
But how do we unite and let our nations know that we stand together against such crazy monsters?  Do we take Israel’s stance? Do we just amass our borders and only fire and fight when fired upon?  Do we just have secret police looking for these enemies of our free nations and quietly taking them out without out knowledge?  Do we set a bar that says, you’re with us or you’re leaving, and how does that even work with Taqiyyah available?

Friends, I’m asking questions.  A lot of them, and I hope you are to. 

Like Israel, we are not against Islam and peace loving people or any other faith or non faith.
We just want to live free and have choice. If you want to take that away, and that means at any cost, then you leave us “the world” no choice but to begin to take other measures to stop you. 
Put down your words of convert or die. See them in your teachings as ancient and not relevant. Look for love not law in your teachings. Look for grace and mercy in your teachings not hate and judgement, for if God is who we think He is, He doesn’t need our help to judge us all on this earth…

Me, I’ve found a little black band on the Internet.  One I can wear that calls for solidarity of the world to peacefully stand against any radicals who say  ‘believe like us or die’. I  look forward to 10’s of millions of people of all faiths and not faith, standing globally with arms raised with these bands of peace on their wrists saying, “Enough, "we stand united”, not on our earth.

If you follow Islam and are a peace loving Muslim, you should love the freedoms democracies have allowed you and I,  and you should stand up with the rest of the world  and fight against the teachers and monsters who are subverting generation upon generation of young people to religious death machines. God is choice, and He and He alone will judge us on our choices. And if you don't believe in God then choice is what you believe in, and you should fight harder than the rest of us while you're breathing.

More to come. Pray for peace. God is good, Life is great.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nobody Likes Spanking

This is not a picture of me with my only daughter in the early 80's.
However it could have been because the old wooden spoon was the impersonal giver of consequences, and she always did that with her hands before she received as many swats as her age at the time.
 And if she covered her butt with her hands I'd calmly add one swat each time.
I think she always received one more swat before moving her hands in defiance.

I never spanked my children at moments of disobedience. Always 3 chances and a look and a warning  followed by those great words " Ok, that's it, up to your room (or go to the bathroom) or tonight when we get home you'll get "x". We'll deal with it then. And if you do it again now, we'll just add more on. Sorry, I love you but you had all the other options first."

I hated spanking my kids. Each one had their own levels of "testing you for power and control".
Certainly our daughter was the most obstinate, cunning and willing to fight for control.  She's now my hero/super mom of 4, and I pray she never has to spank her kids for disobedience. She'd honestly tell you - she deserved it, learned from it and certainly has respect not disdain for authority. 
Spanking should be the last resort, but IMHO it should be a measured resort for some (not all).
And if you were abused as a child, you should seek therapy and NEVER spank your kids.
Like alcoholics who quit and never drink again. So it should be for the abused.  Get help and take away your chances to repeat the cycle.
The above pic and list shows other good options.   

 Ok, side bar...  right now as I type i see the heads of cut off children in the middle east stuck on metal fence poles as their punishment for not obeying or converting to radical monsters, and the world turns an eye away from that....  

All right I'm back on topic now.  Personally I never delivered consequences of a spanking at the moment of disobedience and never with "personal anger" in my words or voice or delivery. 
There was always a discussion of what they did wrong, how many chances they got. Then it was, let's get this over, hug, tell you I love you,  and the words I'm sorry you chose to not obey. I hope I don't have to do this again.." followed by a prayer and long hug again.

This was never "hitting", "beating", "slapping" "Pinching"  or all the things much worse than that.  I've discussed in counseling broken adults over the years many stories  of their childhoods where they were treated beyond human in abuse, and I'm sure the abuser parents were abused and it doesn't make it right... ever.
 I can't repeat any of those brutal stories and they were usually tied to sexual abusers as part of the punishments. We're talking SICK people here.Yet today why is it that the word punishment is almost becoming a crime. Like saying the word "sin" or "commandment" or "holiness", they are words that no one wants to really discuss or owe up to anymore.
Now if you know me, you know I AM the "grace" guy not the law and punishment guy.  I am NOT the guy who ever quoted scriptures for punishment like "spare the rod spoil the child".  You certainly don't need a bible to teach you about respect honor and obeying authority.  With that said, I do believe in consequences and spanking is one of them.  When do you cross that line from spanking to child abuse? That is a very very big brother, gun control, abortion, equal rights, racism, political type of question with very passionate answers.   

I do remember being 14 in 9th grade gym class, playing my harmonica at my locker and being pulled into Mr. Riddles office to get the old jock strap bend over wooden paddle with holes in it smack.  I remember tears, and suck it up, and that i hated that guy from that day forward and still do.  Punishment has to be measured and fair. That was just wrong and cruel, even if I sucked at harmonica (which i didn't). 

Police abusing their authority is another example of whats wrong with power in the wrong hands. I'm also guessing every cop who abuses authority was abused as a kid. It's so sad and we need honest solutions to discover peoples histories before we give them (at least) public authority .
I began the thought this morning of even blogging on spanking.  Part of me said, "ooh don't do that, people might think you believe in child abuse".   CNN this morning had a debate on it over the A.P./Vikings story from this last weekend, and they couched it as "hitting" not "spanking". Over and over it was "hitting your child is legal, the only person you can legally hit is your child".  CNN headline: "Spanking is Child Abuse".  Never did they say "spanking" as anything humanly acceptable. Never did they mention punishment for behavioural change, other than to say "hitting doesn't work it's abuse". Agreed, hitting is bad. Really bad.

Well, every child is different. Every person and their history is different. Family histories are different. Abusers are abusers.
God, I wish there were a test that could identify the behavior of (an abused person) so the world could find a way to help them and get them help to stop it before it continues to another generation.  But measured spanking for behavioural modification based differently on each child's personality is not "hitting" or "abuse" . Not until it's twisted into something it's not,  by someone who most likely is re-peating a sick cycle of past personal abuse.

 Why is it that words have to be twisted to conform to an ideology.  Define beating for me.   Spanking, Rodney King,  Reginald. Denny?

I was beat up twice as a kid. Once by a group of guys. I hate that word, it has bad memories for me and I'm guessing I'm not alone.  Is it not a vile word. Yes It Is.  Now add it to a child, and it's incomprehensible. 

You look at this photo and it makes you very angry. It certainly does to me. I see the faces of to many foster children from my childhood. It evokes beating and child abuse. Anyone hurting a child out of their own pain and inability to cope needs to be stopped and get help.
Yet IMHO of being raised in a family that raised 100 foster children and then growing up to raise our own 3 kids,  spanking is not synonymous with abuse or beating. 

 Lets say you hate being poked and a friend keeps poking you in the ribs. You finally say "dont' do that" and they continue. You finally choose to try to stop it. You think it out, and you warn them. You don't want hurt them, so you measure out something (you think about it not just react to it). Let's say they finally poke you and push them hard away and yell, "don't do that again".  That is a measured response and you hope they will understand. No one was injured. That would be the response of someone most likely who was never hit or had been abused. Those abused, would most likely just start a fight. 
Tragically, there are so many generations of adults that were hit and beaten by parents who were beaten even harder, and the cycle continues. 

  Beating of any kind is totally vile. There is some kind of disconnect between measured discipline for a purpose to help a child "stop or change" their behavior,  and or the losing control by lashing out of ones personal anger and history onto a child as it was most likely done to them. 

Time Outs...     are great. Who doesn't use them. 
Take Aways...  Yes,  taking away things is great.
Pinching...  Never was pinched, but if someone pinched me under the arm I'm sure id strike back no matter how old or how big they were. 
Verbal shaming and humiliating.... Never Never Never acceptable and possibly as damaging as hitting. (yup hitting).
Hitting... Not acceptable. ever.... ever... If you hit your kids, (punch, slap, pinch) you need help- so go get it today, it's mean and cruel.   

 Personally,  I probably could have used alot more spankings, time outs, take aways, and more, and it might have saved me from a lot of early poor choices.  But I didn't get, and I can't go back.  However, I certainly spanked our three children up to the ages of 5 or so whenever they reached the end of the other options. . Each child had a final spanking at some point around 5 or 6  where they finally said. Ok, enough, I'll obey, dad loves me and i need to listen and respect his words.  All of a sudden, for each child,  a light bulb went on and like potty training,  they never did it again..  Amazing...   Now my daughter who's in her 30's and a super mom of 4 received "twice" as many spankings as either of our boys put together. That was her personality. Super Strong and defiant.  Go figure. I don't know if she spanks her kids? I've never seen it, but I somehow believe if those kids cross the lines to far, she or her psychologist husband would have no problem laying down the law of love for their benefit and protection..    I have friends who never spanked their kids, their kids grew u just fine, and that was their way.  I certainly wouldn't say their kids turned out better.. that would be a totally subjective  statement from either side and not fair. 

A kid steals cigars, pushes and disrespects store owner as he steals and leaves, walks down the middle of the street with contraband, disrespects a policeman who tells him to walk on the sidewalk, assaults a police officer and taunts him about shooting him.   This poor boy never learned to respect authority and lost his life as a result.  So sad. Had he learned to respect authority (his parent or parents) would he have done any of that? Don't think so... Learning respect changes you however it happens.

 Now with that said, there are twists to this. Mental twists.  I listened to stories of parents that had to literally whip their kids on the butt till their teen years. Others who put on boxing gloves with their boys once they became teens and spanking wouldn't work in helping them respect authority. Many of those kids had other mental health issues to deal with and medications in many cases to weed through.  Sadly  it just took forever for those kids to give up the "control" to a parent and obey.  They would not obey, no matter what the price. My dads brother was that way. He got beaten horribly by my grandfather and never cried no matter what happened to him. He became the toughest kid in the neighborhood and hated bullies. My father on the other hand obeyed much more and didn't have to get punished.  I always felt bad for both the kids and the parents who were trying to keep their kids from hurting themselves. 

Hurting people hurt people.  They use hands, drugs, words, knives, guns or anything they can to lash out or reciprocate when hurting.  And add religion to your anger and abuse and it's an even worse cocktail.  I sadly think that most of them do not seek professional help, hide their pasts and then become repeat offenders on their own children.  

Adrian Peterson is a sports legend. I'm a fan. I'm so sorry for his own childhood and the punishment he received. I hope he finds a better way and that his son realizes his dad loves him in spite of himself.

It seems it takes Super Stars set upon  pedestals to fall off and be found mortal and broken and shamed for us to deal with so many of life's shadow issues.  I pray the abused, wherever they are,  will seek help today to stop the repeating cycles.  It's so tragic. No child EVER deserves to be hit, shamed or beaten.  It's permanent, and lasting with scars.  But again... I'm not talkin bout a spanking here. I'm talking about terrible abuse.

Those who live lives of Faith would say  "Spare the Rod Spoil the Child." Please don't say that. Although it's scripture, it's been used by so many as an excuse for abuse.  Then there is  "God can heal your past".  Well, yes He can, and yes He want to, but scars will remain and when scratched they will still hurt, bleed and invoke a quick, and in many times unwanted response that leaves you saying,... geesh, I only poked you, I was kidding, lighten up..   Attention folks... kidding too often, is not funny at all either.  Kidding is poking, and you might not like the response you think you will get from someone who's weak spot is poking.

So what do we do for our kids and their kids and our friends and neighbors and the people in the sphere of our influence about all of this today?  

I think we should talk openly and honestly.  We should forgive each other first, then give up our pasts,  and then talk openly to professionals,  and then talk to our kids about our scars, bad choices and abuses. Make some good movies about balanced parenting not just the extreme positions on both sides....  Unconditional love is the answer to stop the cycle of violence. It's super natural. In my life, it started at the cross and it's available only in a super natural manner. And yet with that, we accept that love and are afraid to be real because the rest of the world lives conditional love and we are all afraid of being judged before healed.

And everyone said AMEN, you start first.

What do you think..

PS.  And by they way, speaking of abuse?

There have been 29 Million babies aborted world wide as of Sept. 15th this year. 
Yes I did say THIS YEAR. 

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