Jenni

Anniversaries are a great thing, even though they’re frequently overlooked. They help celebrate occasions worth remembering and celebrating, especially as time goes on and that original event begins to fade into history.

Around here, we’ve been celebrating a couple of them: One year ago today (October 20th), we got Etta and Gus, our fun pair of tuxedoed cats. And 19 years ago, on October 15th, I married the love of my life and began this journey together.

We recently refound the video of the wedding ceremony–all 20 minutes or so of it–and I had intended on digitizing it and putting it up here for all of you to relive (me without a beard for almost the last day, f’r instance), but time just wasn’t cooperative in allowing me to get that done. Maybe this week…Sometime soon, anyway. I promise.

Etta and Gus are an interesting story, too…We, apparently, are a family given over completely to our feline companions. After Pippin died at the ripe old age of 21, the lack of cats in the house could only be tolerated for about a month. We went out to the Humane Society (where I’d actually picked out Pippin all those years ago), and fell in love with Etta and Gus. Etta pulled me in with her loud purr, and Gus, while initially timid, has turned out to be quite forceful in his desire to get attention. But keep in mind that the last time we’d had a kitten was before Patrick was born–Felix came into our lives just months before Patrick did. So none of the kids had experienced kittens…at all.

We’ve made it through the kitten years, and have moved on to the moody teen-cat years. But I think we’ve all settled into a good life with them…Or is it them settling into a good life with us? No, that doesn’t seem right.

Okay, so short post tonight…I’ll try to do a better job later this week.

See you tomorrow.

It’s all part of the whole exercise thing. I knew that when we signed up at the Y: you’re spending money to use their facilities so that you’ll get in shape. And hopefully keep going. The fact that you’re paying for it hopefully is part of the motivation.

But then there’s extra motivation: health insurance pays you back if you go to the gym twelve times a month.

So there’s the goal. Well…Besides getting in shape and being healthier.

It is with great pride that I can say that Jenni and I hit our goal for our first full month as members of the Y: we went to the gym on twelve days, which was a lot harder than it actually sounds. Between normal family life, being tired and sore from yesterday’s workout, or, well, being lazy, it’s a lot easier to miss the 18 days than it is to make it to 12 of them. But we did it. We’ll get some money back, and hopefully the more healthy bodies we’re seeking.

I can report that while the scale hasn’t dialed back as I’d like yet, I do feel better: less backache when I wake up, a little more energetic, a little tighter muscles in my arms and abs…So it must be doing something.

Wish us luck in keeping this up. I’ve got an ultimate goal that’s a long ways away and I’ll need to stick with things to get there. But for now, we can be proud.

See you tomorrow.

Have you ever found yourself somewhere, or doing something, and the thought suddenly hits you making you wonder just how you got to that exact place and activity, and probably even how you weren’t sure how it all came to that moment?

Yep. I had me one of them…

So here’s the story, with identities shrouded in mystery for the sake of making this potentially funnier than it already is.

We had a busy weekend: a Saturday spent with family for a movie and dinner and conversation and games; in other words, a fine afternoon and evening letting the kids play and adults enjoy each others’ company.

Then Sunday: church, a press to get some laundry in , then another social engagement, all offered under the guise of helping a friend with their political plans. And that’s how it leads to this: eating Texas-style blueberry cobbler and ice cream on the deck of a house in suburban Minneapolis with a political candidate, a local actor and singer, someone who works in the same building that I do, my wife, another set of friends, the candidate’s wife, and in the distance, two dear and a possum.

You see, Jenni was asked to help do some design work for a friend of ours, who is also a parent of a kid that our daughters have gone to school with since…well, since they started going to school. See, this friend is running for a city council position in his community–one of the fine suburbs here in the metro area–and he needs to get started on actually forming up his campaign and a big part of that is getting signage, literature, and the like. Right up Jenni’s artistic talent alley.

Since the kids are all friends, and, apparently, it just made sense to invite me along to drive or something, we all made our way over for a discussion of plans, designs, some dinner, and more of that adult conversation I’d mentioned earlier.

One more of the kids’ friends was called over, which of course meant her parents as well, and we had a fine gathering of six plus the gaggle of children running all over. We had pizza and salad out on their deck overlooking their back yard, and eventually, just because we’re all friends, and that’s the way things are done over there, the neighbors came over. He is an actor and singer with a voice (both singing and speaking) that I probably would kill for should I need another line of work. And his wife, as I mentioned, works for the same company as I, and now, as a matter of fact, one floor almost directly below me.

The neighbors brought over the cobbler and icecream, and suddenly it became a two-dessert night, as we’d also had brownies provided by our hosts.

The discussion voyaged into odd territory, as one could expect it to with such a diverse and fun group, as the honey badger, marijuana, and the benefits of various colors in political signs all became active, and frequently intermingled, topics.

And then the deer–likely a young one with it’s mother–crossed a yard in the distance.

For me, the city kid who does occasionally see ducks, geese, an odd fox and, once in a great while, a deer near some heavily wooded area of the city, it started my mind on that trek to ponder a great many things. It seemed, for a while, as though all we needed was a poet and the evening’s clutch could be complete. After all, we practically had the basis for a joke or a Charlie Rose interview: a theologian (almost, in Jenni), a politician, an actor, and the rest of us (Yes, I’m fancying myself part of the rest of the troupe from Gilligan’s Island).

Then the possum went by. And some of us launched into a discussion of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, Marlon Perkins, his poor sidekick Jim, crocodiles, lions, and Encyclopedia Films.

Don’t ask.

It’s at that moment, I firmly believe, that any sane person would come to question just how this entire course of events came to pass. Not in the sense of Lincoln asking where he went wrong going to Ford’s Theatre, or Pee Wee Herman wondering why he just didn’t stay home to watch his dirty movies there instead, but just wondering to oneself how the evening that started merely with the promise of pizza and political strategery could turn to this.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t sleep well last night. Or not. Who knows.

Updates: The great diet of ’13 has hit another plateau, mocking me by holding at a total 12 pound loss for the last week plus. This all in spite of the fact that the pedometer app I’ve installed on my phone has been repeatedly assuring me I’m doing one hell of a lot of walking during the week just in going from my car to my desk. And I’ve cut back my eating to the point where I’m almost constantly hungry…All of this seems to indicate it’s time to move to some new, undiscovered phase of the project.

For those who care about these things, Zoe has launched her own Tumblr blog, which currently is completely unpopulated. So come for the blank screen and stay for the hope of a more colorful future! You can find her new page at http://zoepics.lathropworld.com.

We’re on a short week around here–Jenni, now a full staff member at work, actually gets a couple of paid holidays this week (both Thursday and Friday), so that’s a big deal for someone who hasn’t had those in just about six years. Not sure what we’ll do, but I’m certain it will have a good amount of relaxing.

The great gluten-free baking project is progressing nicely. Sunday I made a basic vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting, and they’ve been well received all the way around. So, with a flour blend that seems to make a very similar crumb to wheat flour, I’ll progress this week to bread or perhaps even pizza dough to see if it can serve as an adequate replacement in some of my favorite recipes.

More to come.

See you tomorrow.

It’s been a busy several days around here, so I’ll use that as the crutch when I place blame for not writing here for the last couple of days.

I was up at the crack of doom on Saturday morning–4:30, to be precise–in order to make sure the rest of the herd was awake, fed, dressed, cleaned up, and ready to leave home at 6:30 to get the kids to the vans for their servant trip out west.

What’s that? I haven’t mentioned that here before? Let me rectify that. All three of our under-18 set have headed out to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming as part of their servant trip with church. All of this would be perfectly okay, of course, had we not been out that way not 10 months earlier, with somewhat disastrous results–read: the Casper Super 8 Hostage Situation. They’ll do some good works out there, have some time with their fellow youth from our church and several others, and come back sometime late in the afternoon on Saturday.

But back to the story: I was up at 4:30 as part of the plan to get everyone out in time to meet the 2 rented vans taking two churches’ worth of youth and their adult supervision out to the hinterlands of Wyoming.

Then, sometime before 7:30, we headed out from there to go meet up with some of Jenni’s friends for a breakfast in St. Paul at the New Louisiana Cafe–mostly recommended, though their biscuits and gravy had mild sausage and really peppery gravy.

After that, we headed to Rochester to finally inter my grandparents. See, they both left their bodies to Mayo (the clinic, not the condiment), after which their ashes (though not cremated, rather chemically and otherwise dried and dissolved…or something like that) were returned. As expected, we’ve had my grandmother’s ashes for a while now, but grandpa’s finally came back a couple of months ago. Our first attempt at disposal met with a snag in the form of the huge may snowstorm, which blanketed Rochester in a foot or so of the white stuff, so we regrouped and settled on this date for the last scattering and some celebration.

It was a fine family gathering, as we placed some remains along with mementos in a small crypt at their burial plot, and then proceeded to the pasture, which they had bought ages ago and long since had sold to one of my uncles. Once there, after a nice lunch, we flung the last of the ashes, complete with a toast to what was left:

willie ashes

We got home late Saturday afternoon, by which time, I’d already been awake for 12 hours and had driven probably around 200 miles. I was going to relax and maybe fall asleep in front of the TV, until I discovered that the nearly 2-inch rainfall of that late afternoon had decided to find its way into about half of the basement. Shop Vac time…

We slept in on Sunday, but then headed out to brunch with mom and dad at Hell’s Kitchen, then back home for a bit, then out to Joe’s Crab Shack so Jenni could have a Father’s Day dinner with her dad. Having topped up on crab, we headed home for another round of vacuuming and then some baking. Gluten-free cupcake baking…Good stuff.

Monday was busy at work, and not so busy at home, but I just didn’t feel like writing. So I didn’t.

And that catches you up. So lesson learned: when the kids aren’t here, the quiet just gets tiring. That said, it doesn’t mean we won’t send them all away again.

See you tomorrow.

Sorry that this is appearing on Monday night instead of Sunday night as normal. But last night, I just felt like being lazy after dinner, flipped around on the TiVo between recorded shows and baseball and then settled down to watch Mad Men. By the time that was over, it was 10, and I was done for the night.

To the first order of business: I can proudly report that I dropped 3.4 pounds last week, almost doubling the total so far, so I’m up past the 7 pound mark. And, in a more positive note, that’s almost 5% of my goal. Put that way, it’s almost inspiring.

The weekend was great in our little corner of the world. Patrick geeked out with friends on Saturday while the girls and I went at working on clearing out more of the back yard. And we made a great deal of progress, which helps the motivation levels on continuing. So I’m starting to make my short list of projects to tackle when I have the promised family mob over to help work around the house sometime next month.

On Saturday night, we headed out to a family friendly comedy show in Uptown. None of the kids had ever been to an improv show, but Patrick in particular really loved it, so it looks like we’ll be heading back sometime. If you’re interested, go check out ComedySportz. Fun team-type improv games.

The kids have all headed into the last week of school, which means that in just days, we’ll have a high school senior in our midst, plus a pair of 8th graders…Somewhere, young me is just sobbing uncontrollably. And old me is just groaning.

I’m proud to report that the van–which had been experiencing problems–was fixed to the tune of $8, which certainly makes my budgeting happy. See, the power steering had been making noise, and I’d checked the belt, determined the belt was fine, so reasoned it must be the power steering pump going bad. Googled that to find the ballpark on pricing, and cringed at the thought of paying that much for something so close to the top of the engine. So when we were out during Memorial weekend, the steering finally gave up, and I had to muscle it around corners. But yesterday, while Googling the topic some more to see if it might have been something easy and inexpensive enough for me to do, I discovered a thread that had a surprisingly simple thought: check the fluid level, stupid. One $8 bottle of power steering fluid later, some running of the engine, and an overnight to let things settle in, and we seem to be back in business without the bothersome pump squealing. Next time, I’ll try to ask all of the correct questions to the car problem.

In the meantime, I have no more news to report on my big announcement of last week. We’re getting closer, I’m told, but nothing that can be actually announced yet. But I’m pretty sure I can share the news that Jenni was hired as a permanent employee at her job, so a big congrats to her! She’s the happiest I’ve seen her in a job for a long time, so it feels like this long, strange trip we’ve taken over the last few years may have found its purpose.

Finally, I’m trying to do some more work on the back side of the entire website, and trying to sort out a conundrum on Jenni’s site. Nothing on the blog, because I’m actually pretty happy with it for now. But I’m working on making the framework for some of the other parts of this thing that I want to put together. It’s probably a few weeks off yet, but it’s still slow steady progress on my site. The fix for Jenni’s site is proving a little more elusive, but it’s all part of the learning process.

Thanks for sticking around, all.

See you tomorrow.

I’ve debated about even putting up this post, but it’s big and important, and I can’t really talk about it in too many specifics. So with apologies for the vagaries, here’s the deal: it’s all good.

Over the course of just about 24 hours, Jenni and then I received some good news at work. Both are apparently small changes that really mean much more important things, and we’re both thrilled both for ourselves and for each other, because the news has been that good.

Honestly, it’s been a long road to getting back to news that’s this good at work for each of us, so we have reasons to celebrate. For me, it feels great to really feel energized and excited about work again. And I’m pretty sure that Jenni’s excited about her developments too.

But for now, I can’t talk at all about my change because it hasn’t been announced yet. And I’ll let Jenni either publicly announce her news or give me permission to announce it before I’ll put it here. But I’d expect you’ll have the full story here within a few days.

In the meantime, I will accept your hearty, if somewhat confused, praise.

See you tomorrow.

Yes kids, conclusive proof that I’m the talentless hack in the household…

So, for the three of you out there who haven’t seen the videos on Facebook, I’ll bring them to you here, but first the setup, so you know what this was all about.

The kids are heading off to our family’s favorite state–Wyoming–this summer on a servant trip for church. As is normal for these things, we’ve worked in, run, and participated in several fundraisers to help keep our portion of the cost down. And as a parent of three kids going on the trip, I greatly appreciate that.

So, on Saturday, the church held the latest fundraiser: a talent show. The overall talent was from across the whole church, but the proceeds–ticket sales, and tip jars at the tables–went to the trip expenses.

My crew offered up their talents to the show, and I played a behind-the-scenes role, serving as lead geek for the affair (read: running the sound system, videotaping, getting some photos, and the like). So, in chronological order of their performance, I give you the Lathropworld contributions to the show.

Hannah and Zoe performed what perhaps may have been the toughest act of the four you’ll see: Zoe sang, a capella, while Hannah provided the percussion using a plastic cup.

Patrick followed later with some card tricks (don’t worry, you didn’t miss any more than about 5 seconds of the start of his act when the video finally kicks in). Oh, and his first victim…er…volunteer, is our pastor.

Then came one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen anyone in my family do: Patrick and Jenni demonstrate how to give communion. And what may make it even better is that it wasn’t scripted, nor practiced. They worked out a brief framework, but it was all ad lib.

And then, right after that, they came back and did a similar skit about baptism.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of my entire family. They rocked their performances, and, really, all are natural entertainers. Even is some of them don’t think so.

And honestly, I still can’t keep from laughing whenever I watch the communion video.

For those that have seen this already, thanks for playing along. For the rest of you, enjoy.

See you tomorrow.

Eighteen years ago, I put a ring on my wife’s finger and made her my wife. It was the first mistake I’d make as her husband, but certainly not the last. And she’s been there with me for eighteen years since accepting my challenges, loving me, and being my best friend.

 

A mistake, you ask? Well, yes. We’d gotten to the ring part of the wedding ceremony and with the ring in my hand and the words of the pastor swirling in my head, I reached for Jenni’s hand. Her right hand. As in the wrong hand. And she was pulling her right hand back.

 

I think–because after eighteen years, some of the specifics of that day are a little hazy–there was a brief moment when I wondered to myself what she was trying to do here. But then, somehow, probably at her urging, I figured it out and finally grabbed the left hand. The right hand. The correct hand.

 

Eighteen years later, we’ll still laugh about that. I’ll still feel a twinge of embarrassment about it. But that day and that mistake was just the start of a long, wonderful time together as husband and wife.

 

Sure, there have been good times and bad. But probably, when it’s all said and done, I don’t know that I’d change a thing about our life together because without the bad times, we’d never have learned things about life and our relationship. And without the good times, we probably wouldn’t have our kids or each other or the remarkably happy life that we do have together.

 

I said it in my vows and it continues to hold true: Jenni is my best friend, my wife, and my lover. She’s the one I look forward to seeing and talking to every day about the good and bad of my day. She’s the one I enjoy telling my awful jokes to. She’s the one who I love to make smile.

 

And she was the one who brought three other people who I look forward to seeing and talking to every single day. And I love being silly and sharing things with Patrick, Hannah and Zoe just as much as I do with Jenni.

 

I’ve been told a few times by a few different people over the last eighteen-plus years that marriage and relationships are a constantly changing thing. One of those people jokingly told me to always remember those two little words–Yes, Dear–but then he put it into a completely brilliant context: change and keep up with your life together and what kids and money and all other factors bring into it, but always be true to yourself and your role in your marriage.

 

I’m always here for Jenni, sometimes not how she wants–I try to want to fix things too much instead of just listening–and she’s always there for me. And the best part about it is that I think both of us just know that and it makes things that much easier.

 

So to Jenni: Thank you for being a truly amazing, wonderful, loving wife for eighteen years. Thank you for helping me realize that we can accomplish anything we put our minds and efforts to. Thank you for being a great mother to our children. Thank you for going out of your way to show your love for me. And thank you for being the person you are–good and maybe not as good–the person I’ve been in love with this whole time.

 

And thank you for getting me straightened out on that whole hand thing.

 

I love you!

 

To those of you out there reading this today, so many years later, thanks for still being a part of our lives.

 

See you later.

40! My wonderful, amazing, beautiful wife is 40 today!

 

Happy birthday, Jenni!

 

I love you.

My apologies if this gets too far off track. I’m not entirely here this evening.

 

We all got home around 1:15 or so this morning, to bed then sometime shortly before 2 a.m., I think. I wasn’t with it, so I’m not entirely sure.

 

But it was well worth it.

 

Jenni threw herself a 40th birthday party last night, and it lingered into the wee hours of this morning, causing none in the house to wake up before 9 this morning, which is very rare.

 

She’d commented as we were out buying the paper products and adult beverages for the evening that this was our first real adult party–one not thrown for the kids, with an emphasis on the drinking and socializing, and definite lack of emphasis on the food. And she was right.

 

Though that isn’t to say there wasn’t food–candy, brownies, cupcakes, chips, pretzels, and the like were available, but people were encouraged to bring their own bottle to the shindig, and several did. Including some who made the bottle and its contents a gift.

 

As a result, we now have 4 different brands of gin in our bar. A tasting may be required soon.

 

But back to Jenni. She’s not 40 yet. That comes toward the end of the week, and then the two of us will be over forty–a position that I’ve been in for nearly three years now.

 

Her party was a big success. Many hours of fine conversation and celebrating Jenni’s pending birthday. People mingled, lingered, talked, and seemed to truly enjoy the company. And, what’s even better is that the guest of honor had a blast, too. So that makes it totally worthwhile.

 

To those who came, thank you so much. Jenni really appreciated it, and I enjoyed seeing you, even though I was in host mode and trying to make sure that all of the food and drink stations were adequately stocked.

 

To those unable to join us, know that we missed you but appreciate your well wishes.

 

But it’s tiring being a grown up, even after such a joyful party. All day today has seemed to have me moving in slow motion, even though between relaxing, I’ve packed up the leftover food and drink, the extra paper products, done dishes, washed the laundry, and even come to write this. I feel as though I’m in a bit of a fog. But I’m sure that will pass after another good night’s sleep.

 

So I will head off to do just that. Head off to bed.

 

See you tomorrow.

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