Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lucy the Valiant

This past Monday, I buried my lab Lucy.

Lucy was very sick for about 5 days. We knew something was wrong when she didn't want to eat one morning, and after I'd gone to work Krys notice she was having a lot of trouble getting around and was concerned that she was losing her sight (bumping into things). We took her to the vet, who felt like she'd developed a brain tumor. On further observation & recalling her behavior for the past 8 months, Krys and I thought that she might have instead had a couple of strokes.

We took Lu home with some various pain medications to see how she might improve. This was heading into a weekend, so I was able to spend a lot of time with her. I was up with her most of 4 nights as she became more and more restless and tried to get comfortable. She continued to decline over the weekend.

Hours of sitting with Lucy, loving on her and talking to her, I recalled a lot of things about her that I wanted to record. Mimi is old enough (4) to have good memories of Lucy, but Jack (almost 2) is not. Someday they can look at this and know more about her. I spoke to Lu of many of these things, though with her senses diminished I'm not sure she could hear me.

When I got Lucy, she was 6 weeks old. That was January of 2000. I had just bought my first house in West Homewood. My niece, Kathryn Barrett, was born about 3 weeks after Lucy. My sister and I commiserated during those months while sleeplessly caring for our "infants" in the middle of the night. Lucy quickly decided that she would very much enjoy living indoors, eating leftover scraps, and generally lounging around.

I had roommates from time to time, but for a long time Lucy was a constant. It dawned on me Monday night that I'd had Lucy for 1/4 of my life. She was born when I was 31 and died when I was 42. And those 11 years have been the best years of my life. Early in that time Krys and I started dating & were married. Together we moved from Homewood to Avondale to and adventure of living in the city. We had our 2 children. We helped start Red Mountain Church. I started a new business just a few blocks from our house. I started eating broccoli.  Well, just once. When Lucy died, she was a part of a full family. She was the extrovert that I was not - knowing somehow that everyone who came to our house surely came to visit her.

Lu was very well travelled. I'm not sure if she ever left the Jefferson/Shelby County area, but her dog fur showed up in Washington State, Harlem, Edisto Island, Cairo, Jerusalem, and most anywhere that either Krys or I have ever been. Or, to be accurate, any locale that a guest who has ever visited our home might have gone to and unknowingly transmitted a strand of hair to. Krys and I will forever be finding her hair in our house, car and yard.

Lucy made a life-changing decision last winter. During the week btwn Christmas & New Years, she decided to become an outside dog. VERY strange for a dog who had always insisted on being where ever I was. If I was inside, she wanted to be inside. If I was in the front yard, she barked until I let her come with me. We weren't sure why she decided to move out - maybe she'd had enough of two whiney kids. After the events of last week we are thinking that she might have had a mild stroke then, causing the change in behavior.

This year we have experienced loss in several ways. In May, our greyhound Murphy died suddenly. He was the same age as Lucy, and became her "brother" when Krys and I merged families in the spring of 2005. A few days after Murphy passed, our former pastor, who married us, and long time friend (and of course friend of Lucy), Steve, died of cancer. There has been a lot of grieving in our house this year, and a lot of conversation about these things. And I could not be more thankful for Krys in all of this. We often talk about how glad we are to go through these things together.

When we knew by Monday morning that we were going to have to put Lucy to sleep. I asked Krys if I'd be crazy to want to bury her in the back yard. I thought she would think I was nuts. My friend Whitney once commented when we bought our 100-year-old house in Avondale that I would want to be buried in the back yard - as a way of stating "you'll never want to move from there, will you." So when I suggested this, Krys said, "sure - what about the little spot out between the garage and the turnaround?" It was a perfect spot - shady, and approximately where we'd talked about planting a tree in the next couple of years. Mimi, the budding flower gardener, would be able to place some of her zinnias there if she wanted to. From that vantage point, Lucy would still be near the house and able to hear me crank the lawn mower (she was a great helper with yardwork) and crank the old air-cooled Porsche (she would always hide under the deck until I drove away).

So we left the vet's office (we have the most wonderful vet clinic on earth by the way) and brought Lu back home. Jack had returned from a wonderful trip to the park with Melanie Grant while we were at the doctors. Mimi was off at kindergarden. When we got home, Krys and I dug a grave, and Jack - not at all aware of what was going on - helped move dirt around with his little plastic rake. Once he walked over to where Lucy was lying down and patted her paws, saying "hhhah, hhhah" - trying to make the sound Lucy made when panting. He hasn't tried to say "dog!" or "bark!" yet - just "hhhah!" Jack wandered off to play with his sister's scooter, and we moved Lu to her new "spot".

I think I knew way back in 2000 that my time with Lucy would be limited. Dogs' lives just aren't that long. I knew I'd grow very fond of her. I knew she'd be a loyal, brave and valiant dog - that's why I gave her the name Lucy Pevensie. She was loyal - dealing with anything that came with being "Brian's dog". She was so brave to the very end. I knew those years ago that one day I would bury my sweet dog.

Dogs are not people - I get that. But you care for something like that and a bond is made. Lucy taught me a lot about myself - how anxious I can be, impatient, irresponsible. I'm better for having known her. But the cloud of death and sorrow hangs around, just out of sight.

And that's not how it was supposed to be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Daddy caves

Well, I did it. Took Mimi (23 months) to the Magic Kingdom even though I was pretty committed to not taking children to WDW until they were teenagers (my first trip was at 15 yrs old). So glad that I didn't hold on to that silly commitment.

Best part: while standing by the stroller with Scott, waiting for Krys & Cassia to get our "Adventures of Pooh" fastpass, I realized out of peripheral vision that Mimi was diving out of the stroller head first... then jumping up and down and screaming "PoooohTigg! PoooohTigg!" in a wildly crazed fit. She had spotted - 200 feet away through the crowd - Pooh & Tigger greeting kids. We wondered if it would be worth it to stand in line for 30 minutes so she & Waits could meet them, but as Cassia said, "that's why we came to the Magic Kingdom".

But later in the day, Walt's gig was up. After a 45 minute wait in the hot, hot sun to ride "Dumbo", both Mimi & Waits burst into tears when the ride ended after only 1.75 mintues. They were like, "whatthahell???" Hope that Mimi learns to hope for things that are certain - and not grow weary when paper-thin things disappoint.

I hope I can learn that too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Firing Order: 1-4-3-2

Ah, the quest for a smooth-running, efficient boxer engine.

Ever since I rebuilt the top end of my engine in 2005, I have been trying to understand how the magic of electrical sparks, fuel/air mixtures, valve adjustments and timing all come together to create this mythical purity in a four stroke engine.

Dealing with these engines are so much fun for me.  There is an engineering component that I have absolutely no training on save for internet board conversations & factory manuals - although I love physics and wish I had studied it more.  But there is a design component that I love because of the artful consistency between this motor and the car that it propells - all very purely related to the science of movement and beauty of well-crafted metals and glass.

The VW engine shares heritage with my 616 4-cylinder Porsche engine - namely the same engineer developed both.  It was fun to run across a whole series of these factory training films - they are both a good overview of the issues and a reminder of what an elementary science class was like in the late 1970s. there I'll be, in that dark, spider-filled garage working by headlamp:  adjusting idle jets, accelerator pumps and distributor timing - checking it all twice - then going around Lakeview on test runs.  On Saturday afternoon it was nearly there - and coming over the 35th street bridge it all started to harmonize around 65 mph...

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It's that time of year again - we're getting the garden ready and this time it will be 2x the size of last year's garden.  Krys has done most of the work... I tilled but she has mulched, planted and prepared the drip hose network (multi-valve drip line system comes next year).

The prep from 2008 appears to have paid off.  We combined two concepts:  sunflowers and organic weed suffocation.  The sunflowers helped provide soil structure while layers of newspaper and straw over the tiled soil helped to wipe out the pesky weeds.  When I tilled that section this year the soil looked perfect.  By mulching with more newspaper & straw this summer we will not be tilling that section again for several years - just planting cover crop in the fall then removing that in the spring for next year's garden.  As a bonus, the Lesley family who live here for 60 years before us had a large garden in this location for some time.  Not your average Avondale clay anymore.

This morning Mimi helped us sow the rem
aining seeds (okra, corn, beans, sunflowers, and 4 types of winter squash).  She likes to wal
k on top of the rows in her green yard boots.  Hopefully we will all be enjoying some succotash in a couple of months... maybe even a version of Hot+Hot's tomato salad.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Loo Loo Looooo, Loo Loo Loo Loo Loo...

So, I'm a proud papa.  

Background:  I've broken our "no TV" rule for Miriam on three occasions.  First occasion was the NCAA Tournament last year.  Second occasion was to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade 2 weeks ago (not that she was interested).  Third was tonight:  ABC's season airing of "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown".  

This is the ONLY Christmas "special" I watch.  I suspect I'm not the only person who has drawn the line here.  Not that animated clay Yeti aren't classy, but there's something great about a 40-year-old cartoon that makes fun of commercialized Christmas.

We stopped EVERYTHING at 7pm tonight and plopped down in front of the rabbit ears.  Mimi was mildly interested at first - she thought that crazy dog was funny, and she debuted a new dance to Guaraldi's classic jazzy tunes (some kind of a right-footed stomp she invented just for this occasion).  But during the show she bounced back and forth from brushing her teeth, playing with the camera tripod, playing with waded up post-it-notes, and occasionally sitting in my lap to watch the show.  But when Charlie Brown had his melt down, threw up his hands and said, "Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?", Mimi walked over and sat in my lap and listened as Linus recited Luke 2.  She didn't move a muscle as Linus spoke.  Then, when he was done, she climbed up and popped over to her little barn, picked up a plastic chicken and went "cluck cluck!"  I teared up.

We'll probably let her watch TV again the when they announce the brackets in March.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Final Thoughts on the Election

Well, election time is upon us, and I have never thought as much about the candidates for President as I have this year.  A year ago I would have thought a McCain/Obama election matchup would have brought us excellent debate on issues from two thoughtful candidates.  What we've endured instead has been a media-frenzied and highly partisan election season.

Part One: Questions linger.  

What does the gospel say that can inform our choice?  How does the gospel speak to the issues that have been driving the debate this year?  Heath care.  The war in Iraq.  A growing gap between rich and poor.  Energy independence.  The economy.  It is very frustrating to hear voices (often on the radio) stating that Christians should only vote for Republicans as if it were possible for a political party to contain all that the gospel speaks to (to the exclusivity of another party).  

The gospel condemns our greed, our selfishness, our lack of humility.  It condemns our contempt for those who are not like us.  It condemns even our religiosity.

Summary criticisms of Republican candidate this year are:
  • The war in Iraq (arguably unjust)
  • Horrible track record on the environment (I prefer to say Republicans suck at conservation- ironic for a party claiming to be conservative).
  • Economic policies have benefited the wealth and hurt the poor.
  • Candidate associations with President Bush.
  • Will grow the government with new programs.
  • Too much experience.
  • Voted for the "Wall Street Bailout" (otherwise known as printing lots of monopoly money).
  • Lack of a detailed plan.

Summary criticisms of Democrat candidate this year are:
  • Socialism: spreading the wealth to benefit the have-nots (arguably rewarding lazy citizens with something-for-nothing).
  • Supporting liberal lifestyle choices.
  • Candidate associations with questionable individuals (ex-terrorists, racist preachers).
  • Lack of experience.
  • Will grow the government with expansive new programs.
  • Voted for the "Wall Street Bailout" (otherwise known as printing lots of monopoly money).
  • Lack of a detailed plan.
Lesser of two evils anyone?

Part Two.

The theme of the proposals this year are an even further extension of the role of government than we have ever seen before.  What is driving this?  We are not governing ourselves well.  I think that we have basically become a democracy devoid of virtue.

I wrote last week about the issue of abortion and how a candidate's policy on that issue weighs into my decision about how to vote.  I recognize that it is only one issue.  A friend (whose father is a former state representative in Alabama) agreed with my concern of the issue but noted that much of the effect of policy on this issue is impacted at the state level - much like education - and not so much at the federal level.  Yet is the role of the Supreme Court out of balance in regards to state autonomy on such issues?  The next President will select as many as two new Justices.

We have seen what trickle-down economics does.  In theory it works (creating jobs) but it thrives on consumerism and debt and spreads the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom.  If anything will help our country at this point in history, it will be from the bottom-up, and it will take a long time.  Here's what I mean. We must govern ourselves well.  Democracy cannot work if its citizens live apart from virtue.  I'll quote here from Patrick Deneen's blog:  
Montesquieu belived that democracy was a viable regime, but only, and above all, if its central feature was virture.  The inculcation of virture, he argued, was only likely in a small state, one in which self-government was a practical possibility, and in which prospects for material aboundance and luxury were limited.  Large nations, of great wealth and power, were more inclined, and ultimately tempted, to become empires.  Looking at the historical example - Rome being prominent among them - Montesquieu argued that the greatest threat to democracy was always internal, and particularly the imperial temptation.  Without virtue of moderation, thrift, and self-governance, democracy was an ideal whose reality was always in question.
Virtue is hard to find these days.  It isn't in Washington, it isn't on Wall Street, it isn't in our schools and it isn't present in our homes.  It is essential that we work hard, live fairly, put others ahead of ourselves.  If we hoard our money - if we live immorally - if we are lazy - if we do not care for the poor - if we do not take steps to educate ourselves - if we do not raise our children well - then the argument for government intervention will be loudly raised and we won't be able to stop it.  When we rely on the government to do these things for us, we forfeit our freedoms.  And if we don't reel-in our appetites, we certainly can't expect our government to.

I don't believe that our government has grown because of an error of the Presidency (past or future) but in response to who we have become as a nation.  And who we are now unfortunately demands that we have a big government.


Friday, October 17, 2008

The Unscalable Wall

The other night I was talking with a couple of friends regarding our feeling that abortion rights was "the issue" that created the biggest obstacle for our votes going to democratic candidates particularly for executive offices. We wondered aloud how many moderate voters (who aren't party affiliates) would likely shift toward democratic candidates who were pro-life en masse - perhaps more than the numbers of pro-choice voters who would shift away from such candidates for the same reason. I find my self in agreement with the positions of many candidates (most often my own Congressman Artur Davis  who has potential to win many of these moderate voters in a run at the Alabama governor's office in the next term), but in reading positions, their positions on abortion policy give me pause.

That same night we also discussed the party line contradictions that exist and within which abortion rights is an element.  One party is pro-life when it comes to abortion, but will never consider elimination of the death penalty.  The other is pro-choice on abortion rights but against allowing choice in primary/secondary education.  These are to me examples of why I may never be able to die on the hill of any particular party (aside from the fact that any party may be in agreement with something clearly taught in scripture while at the same time be opposed to another teaching).

In light of our our current election dillema, consider this article by a Princeton law professor who writes in an attempt to shed light on the scope of Senator Obama's record and positions. Well worth reading...