It's beginning to feel a lot like....Wednesday

This time of year is different for everyone I guess.  How we feel about the the "Holiday Season" is shaped pretty strongly by our past experiences, our childhood memories, and in some cases unfortunately family drama.  My Christmas memories are pretty full of all three to be honest, but it has always been a time of year when I was excited.  I was eager to see if I made the right gift choice for a loved one.  I was anticipating vacation time with the family, even if it just meant more time sitting home playing games or watching TV together.  I couldn't wait for the feast that was Christmas Dinner, and the traditions that came with it like my Mom's ambrosia salad or my Uncle's Strudel. 

This year the holidays are here, and it doesn't feel like I'm two days before Christmas.  We've got the tree up, but at this point we haven't even gotten any presents under it.  Carrie and I have gotten some of what we wanted to get for the kids this year, but have been so busy with critical issues over the last few weeks that shopping has fallen off the radar.   

Christmas dinner, a Fat Boy's holy meal holds no promise this year with a restricted diet eliminating 75% of the food I would be looking forward to on our dinner table.  If I was feeling better for it I probably wouldn't sound so resentful saying that, but after a week the digestive problems restrictions are supposed to be solving aren't improved and even more foods are being eliminated from my diet. 

Old friends and family are still grieving the loss of a close friend from my school days who's decline started around Thanksgiving and whom passed on December 4th.  As I write this my Mother-in-law is asleep in a chair at the hospital bedside of her husband, and I'm getting ready to head back to the hospital to join them while we try to find answers as to why my father-in-law who really has become "Dad" in the 16 years of my marriage had a series of seizures last night after several strokes in the last couple of months.  

With his condition as serious as it is I've spent much of the last two days preparing myself that he might not make it to Christmas.   I've had to hold volunteers together at the pantry we run as a family and church body, weighing keeping volunteers (who have become like family to all of us) informed, against the immediate family's need for SOME privacy and the need to keep things on track so that the more than 200 families that depend on is for food every week aren't adding food to their list of burdens this Christmas week. 

With all of this going on its easy to justify why the "Joy of the Season" seems to be in short supply.  Please keep our family in your thoughts and prayers this week.  I'm heading back to the hospital, you have a Merry Christmas everyone.

Yesterday was an off day around here....

I said goodbye to an old friend yesterday.  In some ways it was exactly what I thought it would be.  Not much has changed in the funeral mass of the Catholic Church since the 2nd Vatican council approved the move to an English mass after all.

Other things  (mostly people), surprised me.  People who I never would have bet against making it were missing for a variety of reasons.  People I don't remember having a kind words for Packy in High School were crying like it was their son and not Tom and Sally's first born that was taken much too young.

I understand no one knows what to say all the time at these things.  I knew his mother just needed a lot of hugs, because she reached for one any time I was within arm's reach.  She also needed to know she wasn't losing all contact with us just because he was gone.  One thing I have come to realize over the years since high school is that there are some relationships that just ARE. I had not seen Sally in more than twenty years when I walked into that church yesterday, but the hug I received and the obvious thankfulness that I had made it there to be with the family didn't need explanation.  

With his Dad, who had lost his firstborn son and with whom I should have been able to empathize, I know I came off sounding like a freshman on one of his intro to journalism classes.  We had a strong student-teacher dynamic in school but it wasn't very deep or personal.  Why is the first thing we ask "How are you doing?" Or "Are you ok?"????  Shouldn't we know the answers to those two questions without opening our mouths and looking like morons?  We say them anyway, especially or maybe because we don't know what else to say when we know Ok is at a minimum weeks away, and there is still a lot of shock and grief for us all to work through before we can really know how we are coping with this loss.

On one side of the gymnasium we had a family clearly grieving.  Sisters, brothers, aunts, and uncles.  Among them were a scattering of good friends that either now or at various times in the past felt like part of the family.  We were standing around sharing stories about Patrick that made us laugh or cry.  Often stories that needed to be protected and remembered but not amplified by the PA system.  From this group came a stream of people to the microphone to share stories with a wider audience  about the amazing and complex person who the world had lost.

On the other side of the room were a lot of Packy's former classmates, probably some friends and associates from work.  Those who felt for whatever reason socially obligated to be there.  They hit the buffet line, and milled around in the corner furthest from the PA so there was less chance anyone would ask them to say a few words. 

We're all supposed to be adults now.  All around forty (some much older) with lives, jobs, and many of us with kids of our own.  Yet to hear half of the conversation my peers had today you would think they were still living in fraternity houses.  The number of people talking about parties I threw in the early '90s shocked me, and some of the best parts were my knowledge that the guy talking was no where near my party that night.  I hate to reduce myself to a variation on a pop culture reference that will be dated before most people read this post, but - Do you even funeral bro??

As things were winding down I was going to get together with some of the guys for some drinks and reality intruded.  My daughter started texting me about power flickering and water dripping from the ceiling. 

I get home and the dogs are barking, and product is waiting in boxes to be reviewed.  I opened the first and it's candy, and in my mood that works great.  It is a sample pack from a local confectionery we have reviewed before, The Candy Basket.  This sampler contains Red Velvet Fudge, Pecan Rolls, and Divinity.  All are done to perfection, and arrived fresh and soft to my door..  I can also confirm that they all pair well with both Teeling Irish Whiskey and Barterhouse 20yo Bourbon from the Orphan Barrel Collection that I also have sitting there needing to review.  I know, I have a hard job sometimes.

The sampler from The Candy Basket includes from left to right Divinity, Pecan Rolls, and Red Velvet Fudge  

The sampler from The Candy Basket includes from left to right Divinity, Pecan Rolls, and Red Velvet Fudge  

I know it looks like a problem, but the flasks in this picture are water bottles from FRED Flask.  Look for a full review of them soon. 

I know it looks like a problem, but the flasks in this picture are water bottles from FRED Flask.  Look for a full review of them soon. 

The Teeling you've probably seen reviewed here before.  It is by far my favorite everyday Irish Whiskey and for good reason.  The sweetness it gains from its time in Caribbean rum casks truly set it apart.

Barterhouse is an extremely limited edition, bottled by hand from "Orphaned Barrels" 

Barterhouse is an extremely limited edition, bottled by hand from "Orphaned Barrels" 

The Barterhouse Orphan Barrel release is something that you don't find every day, and I am telling you right now, you better start looking.  Several barrels were found in the back corner of an old rickhouse outside of Tullahoma, KY after sitting forgotten for almost twenty years.  What begins on the nose as honey and biscuits along side faint hints of buttercream opens up into bold roasted grain, mellow toasted tobacco and marshmallow to compliment the subtle smoke from the barrel and finishes with hints of nutmeg and brown sugar.  Never have I tasted a bourbon that was at once as complex and as smooth, especially after twenty some years in the barrel.  I'm going to have to hunt some more down, because I don't want ever reach for this and find the bottle empty.

So, that was another day in Fat Boy Heaven.  Sorry if it started a little bit too personal and uncomfortable.  I've decided that the only way I can write is to actually engage my mind, that means sometimes the truth as I know it might hit your screen. 

My love, prayers, condolences, and thanks go out to the Eichsteadt/Mitcheltree clan.  We all shared in the joy and happiness Patrick brought into our lives, thank you again for allowing us to join you in saying goodbye.

Ve con Dios old friend. 

Ve con Dios old friend. 

Remember last month when I said it was a big year?

I'm lying awake tonight, and as tired as I am after a full day working at The Pantry unloading trucks, stocking shelves, and then doing the other hundred things my father-in-law Alden and Mother-in-law Linda do there while they spent the bulk of their day at the hospital I'm not sure as we near two if sleep is possible tonight.

In about five hours my Father-in-law will enter a surgical OR for a valve and aortic replacement.  The surgeon will literally be replacing nearly a quarter of his heart!  This is major surgery, especially for a 75yo with long history of heart problems.   Ever since the aneurysm that necessitates this procedure was found six weeks ago as both a church body and a family we have been praying that God's will be done to heal him. All along we have felt reminded by the Spirit that sometimes God uses the hands of skilled surgeons in that healing. 

So here we are: In three hours the rest of the family will get Alden checked in while I am home praying and getting ready to go back into the Pantry to make sure that things continue to run smoothly there while waiting for news from that hospital 12 miles away. 

I spoke to Dad tonight for the last time before surgery and he fealt at peace with the surgery moving forward.  The entire family is concerned, obviously at different levels.

My feelings are hard to describe as I lay here writing this.   You see, a little over 13 years ago my father went in for open heart surgery.  30 days later we had lost him.  Part of me really wants to be at that hospital to support my wife and her family, but a big part of me feels guilty that I'm glad I don't have to face that tortuous wait again, because I know I'll spend most of it thinking of my Dad.

I know this is all in Gods hands.  I know the only practical solution is for me to rest and be ready to fill Alden's shoes at the pantry for the next few weeks while he recovers, especially tomorrow while everyone is adjusting to his absence.  Now if I could get my body to cooperate. 

If it comes to mind between 7:00am and 12:00pm PDT your prayers and positive thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

My thoughts on "A Letter To Christians In Indiana, From Jesus"

This is a great take on the way Christianity has become politically and radically motivated in recent years, posed as a letter from Christ to his church.  As we begin what the Christian Church calls "Holy Week" I thought this would be a great article to share with you along with my thoughts, especially given recent court rulings and laws passed in Indiana and proposed in Arkansas and Massachusetts regarding religious beliefs and civil law.

Regardless of your faith, the mixture of religion and politics is dangerous to our system of government.  We can't make laws based on Christian values and then yell about communities imposing elements of Shariah law. Separation of Church and State is an all or nothing proposition, and our constitution clearly calls for total separation.

Those of you that know me well are very aware of how my faith influences my life, my family, and our view of the world.  While that also influences my political views and how I vote on various issues, I have never been one to try and force my beliefs on anyone.  To me it is something personal, a relationship as important to me as my marriage to Carrie, and one I work just as hard to maintain.  

Just like my marriage, if people come to me asking how my relationship with Jesus is still so alive and vital I have no problem talking about it.  I talk about my Dad's theory of "Personal Theology" that helped me shape my faith and find peace and comfort in churches of all denominations.  I talk about being asked to leave the first bible college I attended and how theological differences caused that conflict.  Above everything else though I talk about the peace and joy I feel in those quiet moments with Jesus....from worship on Sunday morning at church, to quiet talks with him at 2am when I just don't know how to deal with my teenage daughter, and from laying in a quiet forest staring up at the tree tops to receiving communion.

Our faith was intended to be something intensely personal, yet so transformative that those around us couldn't help but ask about it.  It shouldn't ever be something we feel a need to force on anyone.  If it is, we are doing it wrong.