Thursday, July 29, 2010

Memories of Grandma

We're on our way to Fowler for Grandma's memorial service on Saturday.  We decided to not wear ourselves and our dog out by making the trip in one day, so we drove halfway this evening, checked into a motel, and will finish the trek tomorrow morning.

My mom asked me if I'd like to read Grandma's obituary during the service.  I'm assuming it will be less of an obituary and more of a review of the timeline of her life (birth, marriage, kids, jobs, etc.).  I gladly accepted the offer.

I'm not sure it will have much room for anecdotes and odd memories, so I figured I'd list some of them that have been floating through my mind the past couple of days.

  • Grandma was (and probably will always be) the best cook I've ever known.  I was spoiled as a child by being able to eat her home cooking every Sunday.  After church the family would head to her house for a wonderful meal.  Some of my favorites include chicken and noodles (the noodles were handmade), meatloaf, braised ribs, and fried chicken (especially the drum sticks.  Major battles were had over who got the last one).  And her homemade blueberry pie will never be topped.  Also, a couple times a month she'd make me a bowl of "California Blend" which was steamed carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli (I'd later learn it was simply a frozen bag of the veggies from the Schwan's van that she'd microwaved, but to this day I've never been able to replicate how great her's always tasted.)  She always had a bottle of vinegar that I'd use to cover the veggies.  Odd, but I loved it.
  •  Grandma always had the best hand canned fruits and veggies.  Green beans never tasted as good as those that she canned.  I think it was the pieces of bacon that she put in them.  Yeah, it was definitely the bacon.  The woman was a genius with a mason jar and a pressure cooker.
  • I will always remember how her voice sounded when she'd answer the phone.
  • My first job was mowing her lawn.  She'd pay me $5 and give me a soda when I was finished.  I spent an entire summer mowing her lawn and used the money to buy my first stereo system.
  • I loved running through the clothes that she'd have hanging on her clothes line, especially her sheets.  They had such a distinct smell.
  • Grandma was always so tall.  I don't remember when I out grew her, but I know even then that I still looked up to her.
  • I remember as a youngster, the only place I was allowed to eat a bowl of dry Fruit Loops while watching TV was at Grandma's house.  I also remember watching Nick at Night at their house.  I would sit on their bed for what felt like ages watching Get Smart (for the longest time Grandma and Grandpa were the only people I knew who had a television in their bedroom).
  • I remember once Mom, Grandma, and I were playing Scrabble at our house.  It was Grandma's turn and she turned beet-red.  Finally she apologized numerous times because "sex" was the only word she could play.  It was hilarious.
  • One Christmas, my mom, my sisters, my wife, and Grandma all put temporary tattoos on their arms.  Grandma's skinny arm looked so funny with a heart tattoo on it, but she was so proud of it.
  • Grandma was always so embarrassed whenever we'd give her gifts for Christmas or her birthday.  Even the simplest gifts like a book or a sweater would make her get choked up and teary-eyed.  She was such a sweet woman.  
Those are the ones that stand out, and I know there are countless others that will come to mind, especially when the family gets together to reminisce this weekend.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grandma Eva

I got a call this morning from my dad.  When I saw that he was calling from his cell phone, I was pretty sure it wasn't good news.  He told me that my Grandma Eva (his mother) had passed away.  He said that the nursing home had called him at work to let him know that she wasn't doing so well, so he was able to be with her during her final moments. 

Over the past year, her health had been rapidly declining.  I'm ashamed to admit it, but when we were in Fowler earlier this month, I couldn't get up the nerve to go visit her in the nursing home.  I couldn't bear to see her in such a fragile and frail state. I know it was selfish, but I didn't want my last memory of her to be a sad one, and I know that it would have been sad.

When we were home for Christmas, she was living with mom and dad.  I am certain that most of the time we were there, she didn't know who I was.  At that point she still had all of her long term memories.  She spent much of our time together telling stories (often times they were the same stories she'd told me just an hour earlier).  She told me about her childhood.  She told me about growing up in Fowler. 

It was bittersweet listening to her talk.  I would see her fade in and out, from past to present.  One moment she was smiling at me, telling me about her childhood.  The next moment I could see an emptiness in her eyes.  It was devastating seeing a once spry and energetic woman living in a shell of herself.  I don't know if they ever officially diagnosed her with Alzheimer's disease or if it was a different form of dementia, but whatever was destroying her once vigorous mind, it was ruthless. 

And I couldn't bring myself to see the results first hand.  So I chose to sit this one out.  I decided to let the stronger members of my family deal with the situation.  And they dealt with it head on.  I have no idea how my parents, my cousins, my great aunts and uncles, and my extended friends and family were able to do it.  But I am so happy that they did.  Even if Grandma wasn't cognisant of their presence, I know that she was surrounded by love.

A while back, Grandma's pastor posted an encounter he had with her onto his blog.  Reading it again is tougher this time then when he first posted it.  Yet I am so grateful for his kind words.  I hope he won't mind, but I'd like to post it in its entirety.

Eva's Song

Last Tuesday, I went into Pueblo to visit a member of our church. The member's name is Eva, and she was suffering with a bout of pneumonia. Eva has had a rough go of it lately. When I arrived here about two years ago, she was recovering from an injury that would not allow her to walk as much as she needed to. This frustrated her, but she rarely complained, and if she did complain it was to blame herself for not being able to heal fast enough or work hard enough.

Around October, Eva had another visit to the hospital. It was decided at that point that she would stay with her son Roger and his family. Eva would hold the babies during the day care her daughter-in-law ran. She eventually got sick, and her illness quickly turned from a cold into pneumonia. She was taken to the hospital.

When I visited Eva Tuesday, I spent a little time visiting with her, and a lot of time visiting with her son Roger. Roger and I talked vacation and golf, and about life in general. It was a good chat. When it came time for me to leave, I asked Eva if I could pray for her. Her poor hearing led her to believe that I was requesting that she pray for all of us. She told us to bow our heads, so we did. She told us to close our eyes, and we did that too. Then Eva began to pray.

Some people might be grieved by Eva's prayer. As she prays, it becomes clear that her mind is not as clear as it was months, or even weeks ago. She got stuck in a loop of prayers. For many this loop would be sad, for others a dark comedy. It has elements of both these things. But most of all, the prayer was beautiful.

It was beautiful because when Eva could not think of anything else, and she did not have the intellectual capacity to pray in the way you know she could in earlier years, she kept repeating the same word. That word was "thank you".

"Thank you Lord for this day....thank you....thank you Lord for our friends and family...thank you...thank you for providing us the food we ate....thank you....most of all Lord we thank you for Jesus, who loved us enough to make a way for us to spend eternity with you....thank you..."

She kept saying her thank you's over and over again. She would note God's work in creation. She would note God's love for us. She would thank God for Jesus. Not just once, or twice, but over and over again. I left the hospital after I finished by praying for her. On the drive home I found myself fighting back tears. And I was not fighting back tears because she is dying. I was fighting back tears because of her testimony. When her mind could not think through a paragraph, her heart kept saying "Thank you Lord, thank you, thank you!"

In one of my internships in seminary I visited a Alzheimer's clinic with a mentor/pastor named Charles. As we wandered through the clinic, we sat with a member of Charles' church in the cafeteria. Around us people screamed outoud, "Lord, why? Lord, why?" and "Please God just let me die." as the top of their lungs.

To be honest, I can't blame them. I hurt for the people in the Alzheimer's clinic that day. That is why I was so moved when Eva said, "Thank you!"

Through the week, I wondered if this was simply an anomaly. On Thursday, Eva's sons Richard and Roger moved Eva to the Fowler Nursing Home. I went to visit her. It took a while for her to understand who I was and why I was there. We chatted a little bit. Then she started singing

"Allleluia, Alleluia. God is so good. Alleluia," Eva sang.

Eva kept singing "alleluiah's" until she sang herself to sleep. I said good bye to the sons chatting at the door. I walked out to my car. Eva could hardly recognize me. We could hardly have a conversation. But as I walked to my car it was my turn to mumble to myself, "thank you, Lord, thank you for Eva."

It kills me that her health deteriorated so quickly.  It kills me that I could not have been stronger and gone and visited her.  But I am so thankful that I got to spend so much time with such a wonderful, strong, and Godly woman.  I was spoiled by her love.  My mind is packed full of memories of her. 

I love you Grandma and you will be greatly missed. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Additions

My wife gave me an early birthday present and let me go wild at Check Out My Cards and I left that website 43 cards richer.  I've also had a nice streak of wins at eBay.  I spent all of last night scanning the cards and adding thumbnail pictures to my card collecting spreadsheet.  I have over 100 cards, but recently found out that there have been 600+ Hochevar cards produced, so I am still a little far from completing my set.  In any event, here are some of my favorites cards that I've recently received.

This first card is a 2007 Just Minors Triple Signature Black.  The three signatures are of Alex Gordon, Luke Hochevar, and Billy Butler, and it is serial numbered 2/3.  I usually prefer to get a card from an auction, but I made an exception for this card because I liked it so much.  I bought it via eBay "Buy It Now" and probably gave too much for it, yet I am super happy to have it in my collection.  It is nicely designed card and the autographs are very crisp.

The next card is a 2008 Topps Finest Gold X-Fractor rookie card.  It is serial numbered 13/25.  I like this card a lot.  I made the seller an offer that I felt was more fair than the price he was asking and thankfully he accepted.  As far as I know, this is the toughest find in this series, so I'm glad I found it when I did.

This card is a 2010 Topps Series 2 Platinum card and is serial numbered 1/1.  When we were in Colorado earlier this month, I was attempting to win this card via eBay auction but someone kept outbidding me.  As I got to my bid ceiling, my mom and wife could see how frustrated I was that I was losing this card.  After I'd left the house to go golfing, they conspired to win the card for me.  So mom made a monster bid and won the card for me.  She's the best.

The final card that I'll show off today is a 2010 Topps Series 2 Silk card.  It is serial numbered 34/50.  If you look closely at the picture below, you can see that the card is a mini card and is printed on a piece of silk.  The mini silk card is housed in a clear window inside of a red and black frame. 

So, as you can see, I've made some nice additions to my collection.  I'm fairly close to completing a couple of "card rainbows" which is when I have all the differently colored cards of a set.  Once I complete my first rainbow, I'll post a picture.


SONG:  "Sunglasses at Night" by Corey Hart  ---  I spent this past weekend in Denver for my cousin's wedding.  On Saturday night I went to dinner with three of my cousin's and two of their significant others.  We met up at a Mexican restaurant.  The dinner was great, but it paled in comparison to the conversations that pitcher after pitcher of beer encouraged.  Stories were told.  Jokes were told.  Lies were told.  It was great.  At one point, near dusk, two of the participants decided to continue wearing their sunglasses even though the street lights and patio lights were on for the night.  Classic.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cardboard Couture

I've been spending some time perusing the interwebs reacquainting myself with the card collecting universe. 

One of the big topics in the card blogs is the recent release of the 2010 TOPPS Allen & Ginter cards.  The A&G cards are one of the handful of throwback "tobacco" cards that have become popular with today's collector. 

The original A&G cards were issued in the late 1800s in cigarette packs.  Today's A&G cards remain true to the original in their card design, with the front being a simple picture of the player in front of a pastel colored background, like this:

And the backs of the cards have an old timey feel to them, like so:
This series is facinating to me because it seems to meet the wants and needs of the many different types of card collectors.  The way I see it, there are a few basic styles of collectors who remain in the market for cards:
  • The Set Collector:  This person is a throwback whose main goal in card collecting is putting together an entire set of base cards from a company.  With 400 "base" cards to collect, along with a variety of parallel sets to go after, A&G meets this person's needs.
  • The Chaser:  This person's main goal is to chase the short-printed, rare cards.  Whether they prefer relic cards with game used materials or they prefer autographs, A&G is chock full of these cards.
  • The Flipper:  This person buys cases of cards with the hope of hitting a rare card and then flipping it on eBay.
  • Player or Team Collectors:  This is the category I would fall.  If your favorite player is an all-star, rookie, or well-known veteran, you'll have a great time collecting the dozen or so different cards of your player in this set (base, mini, auto, relic, wood, printing plates, etc.)  Unfortunately for me, my player is not featured as prominently this year as he was in years past. 
The Allen & Ginter series also contains some oddities in the set.  The base set contains non-baseball players (this year's set included the likes of Tony Hawk, a frisbee-disk catching dog, magician David Blaine, just to name a few), mini cards, and non-baseball player parallel sets (this year included "Lords of Olympus", "National Animals", "World's Greatest Word Smiths", etc.).

Oddest of all, this year's set included "DNA Relics" which were cards that contained a piece of hair from some historically famous people -- Beethoven, Lincoln, JFK, Dickens, etc.  Weird, but kinda cool.

Another interesting feature of the A&G series is the "Crack the Code" contest.  Each year, A&G hides a code within the set and whoever cracks it first receives a set of 1/1 CodeCracker autographed cards and their own A&G trading card in the next years set (both prizes are insanely awesome).  News broke this week that last year's winner also was the first to crack this year's code.  (GO HERE for an explanation on how he cracked the 2010 code).

The Allen & Ginter set elicits nostalgia with it's simple design and pastel color wheel.  It's as if the Barnum & Bailey Circus or the HBO series Carnival has been condensed and put onto cardboard.  The old style of cards and collecting has become fashionable and, with a few twists and innovation, has become modern.  These cards are cardboard couture.

So, with all this crazy card collecting goodness happening within the Allen and Ginter brand, why have I not bought a pack or two?  Because my primary focus within the hobby is to complete my Hochevar set, and diverting money away from that goal is not fiscally prudent.  Once I have all my Hochevar cards on my display case, I imagine the creative and innovative Allen & Ginter cards will be the first ones I buy.


COMEDY:  Tommy Johnagin has been killing it on Last Comic Standing.  If you haven't been watching, I highly recommend you start.  The format of this year's competition is much better then in years past (contestants don't live together in a house, for starters.  I will be so happy when that "plot device" works it's way into the trash heap of reality show bad ideas).  I've heard Tommy numerous times on the Bob and Tom show, so when I saw he'd be on LCS, I was pumped.  I was even more pumped to learn that he'd be showcased at the Omaha Funny Bone in August.  I can't wait to see him live.  Here he is on the Bob&Tom show.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Arrivals

After the wife and I got home from our vacation in South Dakota and Colorado, I had a pile of card packages waiting for me.  I was like a kid opening presents on Christmas morning. 

My Luke Hochevar card collection more than doubled after all was said and done.  I had won two "lots" of base cards (one with 13 cards and the other with 9 cards).  I also added a handful of autograph cards and serial numbered cards to my collection.  Here are some highlights from my haul.

These first two cards are some nice autographs that I bought.

The top card is a 2008 TriStar SignaCuts Autograph card serial numbered 3/5.  I was mildly disappointed that this one was a "sticker" autograph and not a "cut" autograph like the name of the card might suggest.  (The difference?  The "sticker" kind is an autograph on a clear sticker that is attached to the card.  The "cut" variety is an autograph on a piece of paper that is "cut" and placed inside the card.  Not a big difference, but a difference none the less, especially considering that there is no picture on the card.)

The bottom card is a 2008 Upper Deck Premier Signature serial numbered 37/45.  A sharp looking card in my opinion.

These next four cards are also quite nice.

The top left card is a 2008 Topps "Rookie Stars of 2008" Chrome card serial numbered 166/1959.  It is super shiny and is one of the few cards that lists his hometown as Fowler, Colorado (rather than Denver, CO).

The top right card is a 2006 Bowman Sterling "Prospect" Refractor Autograph card serial numbered 15/199.

The bottom left card is a 2008 Upper Deck Baseball Heroes Grey Autograph card serial numbered 21/50.  This card is fun because I have four other "parallel" cards from this set, each one with a different background color -- Green, Brown, Black, and Yellow.  They look great together as a set.  And looking around eBay, I see that there are one or two more that I need to complete the series.

The bottom right card is another 1/1 card that I've added to my collection.  It is a 2010 Topps Series 2 "Yellow Printing Plate" which was used in the printing of the base set (which would explain the lack of color).  The "card" is basically a sheet of aluminum metal.  I'm in the process of adding all of the cards in the series for which this printing plate would have been used.  I have the basic base card.  I also have another 1/1 Platinum card coming that my wonderful Mother bought for me (and I'll be sure to post a picture of the card once it arrives).  Some people might wonder why I'd want such an unattractive card.  That's easy.  Because I'm the ONLY person with that ugly card.

 Once my collection started taking shape, I decided that I needed a way to display the cards because keeping them in a pile on the kitchen table just wasn't cutting it.  I looked around on eBay for display cases, but they were all either too expensive or too bulky.  I decided to build my own display and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.  Here is a picture of the finished product in action holding my current cards.

On the top row is a ticket stub from one of the many KC Royals games I've attended.

The middle eight rows are my Hochevar cards.  (Notice the colorful series of cards I was talking about above in the third row.)

The bottom two rows are my favorite basketball cards, including some Micheal Jordan, Shaquille O'Neil, Karl Malone, a 1992 USA Dream Team card (the first cool card I got out of a pack when I was a kid), and a bunch of John Stockton Jersey cards (the very bottom row).  I may need to scan the basketball cards some day.

My wife and I discussed where the best place to hang the display in the house and it was decided that the basement would be ideal.  I think we made a wise choice.

(The display is on the wall behind my drum kit and my electric guitar and amp.)

Because the display turned out so well, I've decided that when we're done with law school and get moved into our next house, I'm going to turn one of the rooms into a "Man Cave" and decorate the walls with numerous displays like this one.  Then I can get my 225 other John Stockton cards out of a binder and out into the open, where every card should grow old.

SONG:  "I and Love and You" by the Avett Brothers -- One of the great things of having a sister who is hip to the music the kids are listening to these days is that she tips me off to great songs by great bands.  Like this one.  Awesome song.

TELEVISION:  Chuck: Season 2.  I'm finally catching up on Chuck.  I enjoyed the first season, but lost track on it.  I've been watching Season 2 on NetFlix and the one thing that has caught my attention is that this show has a great soundtrack, probably as good if not better than Scrubs.  (Although Scrubs focused on Indie music and Chuck has a lot of 1980s Pop Rock.)  Also, it's a fun show.  And, were it not for my friend Andy, I'd have never known that the Chuck theme song is the instrumental part of "Short Skirt Long Jacket" by CAKE (which is a GREAT song, by the by).

LOOKING FORWARD TO:  August.  I'll be attending a wedding of a friend and his lovely fiance.  I will also (hopefully) be playing in the Omaha Metro Golf Championship for a second year.  This year it's being held at the Council Bluffs Country Club, which should be fun.  I also hope to use my "Tee It For Ten" card to play The Player's Club of Omaha and Arbor Links Golf Course in August.  Also, by August, our local farm market should be keeping us well fed with farm fresh produce. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


The wife scored us another set of free sporting event tickets through her school for the dozenth time this summer.  This time, it was for the USA vs. Sweden Women's Soccer game.  The game was played at the Creighton University soccer field and was the first time that Team USA has played soccer in Nebraska.

Since kickoff wasn't until 8:00 pm, we only stayed for the first half of play.  It was our first experience with a soccer game in person and we both left pleased that we'd went, but sure that we never would have gone had the tickets not been free.

Everyone knows soccer is a low-scoring, high-boredom game with sporadic bursts of excitement. 

Not once did I see this:

Nor did this ever occur:

Or this.

So, during the 40 minutes of down time during the 45 minute first half of the game, I decided to be a problem solver and come up with some ways to make soccer more exciting.

Option 1:  "The Duel"

This option is fairly simple:  every game would now be played with TWO soccer balls in play at all times.  We may need to tinker with the number of players on the field (probably add 2-4 players per team), but there should only be one goalie on the field.  That is non-negotiable.

Option 2:  "The Red Rover"

At any time during a game, two teammates can connect hands, yell "Red Rover", and run at an opposing player who may or may not be in possession of the ball at the time.  If the two Red Rovers can knock the opponent to the ground, they take over possession of the ball and get an immediate free kick from the spot the opponent was knocked to the ground.  However, if the opponent can break through the Red Rover attack, that person gets an immediate penalty shot, one-on-one versus the goalie. 

There may need to be a few caveats to add in later, but the gist of this rule change is solid in my opinion.

Option 3:  "The Freezer"

Each team would have a player (who we'll call the Freezer) who is on the field the entire game.  This player will wear a brightly colored jersey to differentiate them from the rest of their team.  The Freezer will wear a special contraption that straps their feet together in a way that forces them to hop around the field.  At any point during the game, if the Freezer touches an opponent, that player is frozen in place until the soccer ball passes through their legs.  (We may need to have the Freezer's hands be covered in chalk or paint or something else that would prove that they touched an opponent).  Also, the goalie could never be frozen.  That would just be crazy.

As you can see, there are many different ways to spice up the game of soccer without compromising its integrity, but these aren't the only changes that can be made.  What kind of changes to the rules of soccer (or any other sport) would you like to see?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The latest "amazing kid musician" video

Everyone knows I loves me some adorable animal internet videos.  Well, I also loves me some adorable kid musician videos.  Here is my latest favorite such video.