Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Winter is here

We have had about three weeks of cold weather and are just now starting to get an accumulation of snow. I have had to “fire up” the snow blower the last two nights and blow away five inches each night. More snow is expected over the next four or five days.

When we first moved into the neighborhood we used the same snowplow guy that our neighbors used but he never pushed the snow where I wanted it – he would just clear the drive and leave. I talked with him a couple of times and he would say that next time he would do it the way I wanted it done – but then when it snowed again he would go back to the way HE wanted to do it.

So I fired him and bought a snow blower. I love the power of being able to move snow without breaking my back with a shovel. The snow blower allows me to clean the place up and do the sidewalk in front of our house and most of our immediate neighbors homes as well.

And I enjoy being outside with the snow falling all around. One of the many things I am looking forward to in Vermont is the winter snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

It is interesting to me that most of my family dislikes the winter weather and I find it so appealing.

Monday, January 29, 2007


We have finished cleaning the bedroom closets and are about to tackle the attic.

We have too much stuff. Too much junk, clothes, makers, books, papers, things that don’t work, things that work but we don’t use, household items, garage items, yard items, and furniture. It’s just too much.

So we are cleaning out and giving away stuff.

In the past we bought into the idea that some THING could make our lives, happier, easier or better - but not any more. There is no THING that can do that. I wish I’d learned that lesson earlier in life.

Most things only accumulate (dust) and the more things you have - the more you have to protect them. And with most physical things the longer you keep them the more they depreciate – the less they are worth.

Pretty soon you are taking steps to insure that your things are protected from other people who don’t have the things you have. It is an existence that feeds on itself.

People are different. Relationship is different.

People and relationships enrich us. They improve our character and press us to be better people. They are appreciating assets. Their value increases the longer they go on. Friendships forged in the experiences of life and re-forged again in the fires of crisis only strengthen us.

So out with useless THINGS that never deliver what they promise in the slick ads and commercials!

And in with relationship and people!

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Green Mountain Dream

This year we are going to try and build a new place in Vermont.

We have owned a piece of property in Vermont now for a number of years. On the wooded lot there is a sixty year old hunting cabin. We have used the cabin each summer and sometimes into the fall but there is no central heart, just a wood stove.

The cabin sits next to a 100 acre "pond" which is the second highest elevated lake in the state. It offers a wealth of opportunity to observe nature at her finest.

A couple of years back we installed a septic system. Last year we drilled a well. This year we are working with an architect to develop some plans.

We will remove our belongings from the old place and start building a new place this summer.

Eventually, we would like to move there. “Why?” you ask?

Vermont offers a slower pace of life. It offers release from the hustle and bustle of an already crowded world. The biggest traffic jam I have ever experienced in Vermont was when Mike Michaud was moving his cows across the road from one pasture to another. It lasted all of 3 minutes before Mike smiled and wave me on. The rhythms of life are just slower and because of that the opportunities to enjoy life are more apparent.

Vermont offers good food. Good food can be found everywhere but Vermont is a real “foodie” state. In particular there is a strong effort in VT to eat locally produced products in season. I am a firm believer in eating what is available and not relying on trucking in food from around the world and country. Trucking food uses tremendous amounts of energy, is expensive and spreads disease. Eating what has been grown locally supports local farmers just like they were supported and appreciated 75 years ago in this country.

For us, Vermont offers friendship. We have a number of good friends in New England and being closer to them and sharing our lives with them is important to us.

Vermont offers beauty. The entire state is lovely but the region that we have chosen (the Northeast Kingdom) has vistas everywhere. Rugged mountains and quiet farming valleys frame a countryside that is as natural and rural as any in the country.

It’s a dream, a vision of the future. And it is important to dream dreams and have visions to motivate us in this life.

Langston Hughes wrote: “Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In the Interest of Full Disclosure

Hi, I’m Jeff and I am a gamer.

A few years back my wife gave me an Xbox for Christmas. I have since graduated to an Xbox 360 on a 55” Hi Def Sony Grand Wega and 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. It’s big, it’s bad, and it’s loud.

I enjoy playing multiplayer games. In multiplayer games, players from across the world network together and either all compete against each other, or team up to achieve a common goal such as defeating an enemy that can consist of either computer or human players.

A multiplayer tactical shooter game focuses on team cooperation to achieve objectives, rather than simply eliminating the enemy. There is a tactical emphasis on accomplishing joint goals and assisting team members, rather than on just shooting bad guys.

The more historically accurate and realistic the game is the better. World War II games are very popular and so are the Tom Clancy Special Forces games. I enjoy both.

I have made friends with people all over the world. Some of us have been playing online together now for five years and you develop a sense of community even though you only “see” each other in a virtual world.

My name in the virtual world is Stonebridge. It’s the English translation of Pierpont. Most of my mates call me “Stoney.”

Monday, January 22, 2007

I Love My Present Job

I love helping people and managers with issues that range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

But what most of them end up needing is an ear. They need someone to hear them out, someone to reassure them that they are doing the right thing - that they are within the guidelines, that they are seeing the situation objectively or that they have not lost their mind.

C.S. Lewis said that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.’”

We all need that. We all need reassurance that others have traveled this road before and that we are doing the right thing…

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart and the pleasantness of one's friend springs from his earnest counsel.” - Psalm 27:9

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jobs I've Had

Lawn Mower – Had my own lawn care business
Paper Boy – Great tips at the holidays!
Cafeteria Dishwasher - I love hot water
Warehouse Personnel - Loading construction trucks
College Recruiter - Ohio Valley University
Full Time Minister – Lynchburg, OH; Natick, MA; Mt Pleasant, DE; Danbury, CT
Dean of Students – Northeastern Christian Junior College
Police Chaplain – Danbury, CT
Program Administrator – Boston University
Factory Welder – Welding clamps for F15 fighter jets
Baker – baking all natural breads, muffins and cookies
Manager of Retail Bread Store – Managing all natural people
Benefits Representative – National City
HR Business Analyst – National City
Performance and Change Management Trainer – National City
Employee Relations Consultant – National City

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Bread of Life

Did you know that 11 years ago I was professionally trained as a bread baker? I spent an entire year baking French boules and baguettes, sauerkraut sourdough rye and three seed whole wheat. The aroma of fresh bread sticks with me until this day.

When was the last time you got a whiff of fresh-baked bread?

Did it make you salivate?

Did it make you sense a hunger that had not been in your consciousness until the aroma triggered it?

Nothing smells quite as good…as warm, fresh bread…just from the oven.

Jesus once said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty" (John 6:35).

And people caught the aroma. They noticed something about Jesus that was different from the teachers they were accustomed to hearing.

Men and women came to him and were filled to complete satisfaction. Just as Jesus had promised: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled" (Matt. 5:6).

Like the smell of freshly baked bread.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Flowers of Summer

In Italy this past summer I took some botanical shots. In the doldrums of winter they have been a pleasant reminder that spring is not far away.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The National Dreamer Speaks Tonight

Tonight the President is going to recommend sending 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. This is a mistake.

First – there is little or no support for it in America. The President apparently did not hear the mandate given to him by the American people last November. I am hoping that newly elected democrats did.

Second - we have no business being in the middle of an Iraqi civil war between the Sunnis and the Shia.

We need to pull back, assist with air support and supplement the Iraqi security forces when needed, and then within the year - pull out altogether.

The President will announce tonight that he wants to spend an additional $1 billion in economic development in Iraq.

I am wondering what would be the impact of spending $1 billion in economic development in the City of Cleveland or the kinds of improvements we would see if the poorest school system in the country was infused with $1 billion.

The cost of the Iraq War is set to reach $378 billion on March 31, 2007, halfway through fiscal year 2007.

$378 BILLION!!!!

At just $378 billion dollars taxpayers in Ohio will pay $13.3 billion for the cost of war in Iraq. For the same amount of money, we could have been provided:

4,444,110 - Uninsured People with Health Care

225,290 - Additional Elementary School Teachers

2,047,188 - Head Start Places for Children

1,640,474 - College Students with Scholarships

318,040 - Additional Police Officers

Check out the website in the link above for additional information.
Well, I am under 16 minutes a mile. Last night my time was 15.59 down to the park and 15:39 coming back. It’s funny how competitive I have become with myself.

The first time that I did it last week I didn’t even stretch before I walked. This week I am taking my time and stretching as I walk down the driveway…I have the I-pod ready to go with some Al Green or James Brown to get me off to a good start. I am working on a couple of play lists of some great walking music to keep me going.

I know the tough part will be walking the time down to consistently under 15 minutes a mile - but I will keep on trucking. Each night is easier.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Better Sister Story

My sister recently read my blog archives and mentioned that she comes off as an animal killer and that I should write something nice about her. So here is something nice…

When we were living on the farm we each raised a yearling calf starting in the spring and then we would sell them in the fall. Every evening the calves would come up to the barn and we would feed them grain to supplement the grass they were getting in the pasture.

One evening we went out to the barn and Diane’s calf was the only one there. We hung around a while and my calf never showed up. The next morning my dad and I went out looking in the pasture, down through the woods, and over to the county road that bordered one side of our farm.

We found the calf dead in the pasture about 25 yards from the road. Someone had shot him for sport. Had it been someone jacking deer or needing food for their table they would have taken him. He was not far from the road and it would have been an easy drag. But they did not take him – they just left him. It was a waste.

My sister, Diana, felt sorry for me and at the urging of my parents she split the proceeds of her steer with me that fall. It was a sweet thing to do.

I used my portion to buy a black Shetland pony which she enjoyed riding as much as I did.

I walked again last night - two miles as soon as I got home. No time to rethink the wisdom of it or get relaxed. Just go home and put on my sweats and walking shoes, stretch in the drive way and start walking.

At first it’s hard to get started but then as I get going I try to beat my time from the previous walk. It is one mile to Lakewood park and one mile back. My best mile out of four miles this week is a whopping 16 minute and 15 second mile.

My goal is to consistently cover a mile in less than 15 minutes, (14 minutes, 42 seconds), by April 1. Right now I am walking every other day to give my out of shape body a chance to catch up.

It helps that I listen to music and sing at the top of my lungs as I walk… now, there’s a pretty picture!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"Ham, man!"

I love a good ham. There are so many bad ham examples out there, (You know what I am talking about…those honey baked, spiral sliced, grey looking “hams” that are sold everywhere for every occasion), we have almost reached the point where we have forgotten what good ham tastes like.

I love a good cured and smoked Virginia ham. The flavor of a country (salty) ham is strong and robust. I am fortunate that there is a market here on the west side of Cleveland that carries slices of Virginia ham and I can enjoy it for breakfast on the occasional Saturday morning.

For the holidays I like to fix my own city (sweet) ham. There is one that I like in particular. It’s the Triple M ‘Budaball’ Whole Ham. Triple M is a brand of Kayem Foods based in Chelsea, MA. If you have a BJ’s Wholesale Club near you they will order you one. They are about $2.99lb but worth every penny.

I saw the recipe 10 years ago in a cooking magazine and made it my own. I cook the FRESH ham uncovered in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes per pound, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F on a meat thermometer - and during the last hour I glaze it three times with a mixture of:

1 jar Dijon mustard
1 jar of orange marmalade
1 cup of dark brown sugar

Stir those three ingredients together well and in the last hour cover the ham with the glaze at least twice to develop a crunchy, chewy, sweet coating. Let the ham sit for about 30 minutes after you take it from the oven and then carve away. Yum!

I am still trying to recover from the holidays. I lost some sleep somewhere and I have not been able to find it.

Limited television I am watching these days: NBC: Heroes and My Name Is Earl. Discovery: Dirty Jobs and Mythbusters. HBO: ROME season two starts January 14th and I am really looking forward to it. SCI FI: Battlestar Gallactica

On my iPod this morning on the bus: Al Green, The Temptations and Parliament Funkadelic.

Movies I still want to see at the theater: The Good Shepherd, Night at the Museum and We are Marshall.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Day 2

“New Year's Day is every man's birthday.” - Charles Lamb

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” - Oscar Wilde

The New Year offers such hope.

I am never more optimistic than I am on the dawn of a New Year.

2007 - Day 2:

Today I resolve to start exercising gradually via walks to the park and back (two miles total) when the weather permits and walks on the tread mill when it does not.

Today I resolve to drink more water.

Today I resolve to listen more for understanding and talk less to get my point across.

Today I resolve to demonstrate that I care in ways that make a real difference.

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective. Unless a man starts on the strange assumption that he has never existed before, it is quite certain that he will never exist afterwards. Unless a man be born again, he shall by no means enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” - G. K. Chesterton

Waxing Gibbous – Tonight is the last night of the Waxing Gibbous. It is sometimes mistaken for a full moon and it was lovely Sunday and Monday nights. I really like saying, “Waxing Gibbous.”