Friday, December 31, 2010

OK, here's a Top 10 for best soccer goals of 2010

I decided to check out Top 10 lists of best soccer goals of 2010, and came across this piece about those nominated for Best Goal of 2010. I can't say I agree with every shot included, but most are jaw-droppers and well worth a look.


A stunning goal in soccer

On a night when sleep eludes me, I came across this amazing goal during a soccer match earlier this year. Even if you don't care much about "football" - and many Americans don't - you have to marvel at this shot.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Brightman and Bocelli

I'm an unabashed fan of Sarah Brightman, and I've been known to sing along with Andrea Bocelli (much to the chagrin of my neighbors). This song will let you know why. It sends chills every time I hear it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The magic of lights on a Christmas tree

I'm not sure why, but I've always loved a brightly lit Christmas tree.

Maybe it's because the creation symbolizes joy - the joy of the Christ child's birth, or the joy that comes when the presents under the tree are opened, or the joy of loved ones gathering for the holiday the tree helps symbolize.

Maybe it's the variety of colors that the lights typically offer, standing out particularly vividly in a darkened room.

Or maybe my special affection has its roots in my childhood, when I came to love seeing a lit-up Christmas tree in a darkened room after coming in from an active - often cold - day at school or outside. It was so peaceful, so calming, so...regal, almost.

I thought that even though our trees were never ostentatious or 'over the top', so to speak - at least compared to many trees I've seen since then. It's entirely possible to do "too much" to a tree, to where it's a garish avalanche of images assaulting the eyes.

The best Christmas trees to me, in fact, have an air of simplicity about them: a nice mix of lights, ornaments and icicles, plus those touches that personalize the tree for the family using it: memento photos or ornaments, heirloom tree-toppers, perhaps.

However you decorate your tree, make it a delight for the eyes - and the memories.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Sunday morning in Hawaii

Those old enough to remember anything about that first Sunday
in December in 1941 are well into their 70s now. The number of men and women who survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is dwindling rapidly, their eyesight and hearing - and, I fear, our collective memory - fading.

I was captivated by these images - some from captured Japanese military - of that surprise attack that thrust America into World War II. They are from the Boston Globe, and you can see the entire slideshow by clicking on the link below.

Glimpses from a day of infamy

I've interviewed numerous Pearl Harbor survivors, and their eyes tell stories they can never form into words. When the movie "Pearl Harbor" (starring Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck, among others) came out several years ago, I helped organize a viewing for local survivors of the attack.

They wanted to see how faithful the movie would be to history. I wanted to hear what they had to say. I was disappointed in the movie, which seemed to take a monumental event in our nation's history and make it the subplot to a soapy romance.

They were surprisingly gracious, I thought. Sure, they had little use for the love story, but they still appreciated the movie.

Maybe, they said, it will inspire young people to go back and take a closer look at what happened on that peaceful Sunday morning in the Pacific. Maybe, they said, it will help them appreciate the sacrifices that have been made to preserve freedom for the generations that have followed.

I hope they're right.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A salute to the Fightin' Fingers

Veterans Day is pretty personal in the Finger family.

Our father, Marvin, saw action in the Battle of the Bulge, was spun around by machine gun fire while storming the Seigfried Line, took part in missions behind enemy lines, suffered a life-altering back injury in Germany and marked V-E Day in a French hospital recovering from pneumonia he always blamed on the poison gas he inhaled while clearing out a building in Bamberg.

By my count, he should have been killed at least a half-dozen times. He made it home to Kansas by the grace of God, he would tell anyone who asked. He went on to have eight children with Helen, the sweetheart he began courting only a few months before he left for basic training.

One of them - the one named after him - join the Army after a brief stint in college. Why? Because his father had been in the military. Ironically, he would serve in Germany, guarding the border between West Germany and Czechoslovakia in the early 1970s. It was the height of the Cold War. Though neither the U.S. nor the Soviet Union would ever admit to it officially, the American and Soviet forces would shoot at each other - if for no other reason than to let their foes know they were around.

It was no stroll in the forest, though back home we were grateful he hadn't been shipped off to the jungles of Vietnam. Deep down, we feared that was a possibility right up until the time his enlistment ended and he came home. I still rank the Christmas that followed to be the happiest of my childhood, so thrilled was Mom that her boy had returned home safe.

Merf, as we called him to differentiate him from Dad, would join the National Guard upon his return to the states, serving in Kansas, Colorado and Oregon. I've never told him this, but one of the reasons my coverage of Pope John Paul II's visit to Denver in 1993 is one of my favorite all-time assignments is because he happened to be assisting in the medical tents set up to care for anyone who fell ill at the papal Mass at Cherry Creek State Park.

There we were, two Finger boys, up to our elbows in a genuine piece of history: me describing to readers what the closing Mass of World Youth Day '93 was like, with hundreds of thousands of people jammed into the park; and Merf, scrambling to help treat thousands of young adults overcome by dehydration because they didn't take in enough fluids during the long, hot hike from downtown Denver to the park the day before, or at the park the day of the Mass.

So many people were being brought to the medical tents, he told me later, "it was like we were in a war zone."

My twin brother, Steve, has told me that if he had still been single when the war with Iraq broke out he would have joined the military. And I was flattered when the head of recruiting for the U.S. Army wanted to sign me up for officer training school after I'd finished interviewing him several years ago.

When I learned one of my nephews, Joshua Stacey, had joined the Marines, I couldn't help but smile. Another generation of Fingers was serving our country.

Long may it be so.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Magnificent Seventh

I just got word that the book I co-authored, "Into the Deep," with Robert Rogers, is into its 7th printing. That's more than 35,000 books, I'm told --- a strong showing in this publishing and economic climate.

No, I won't be able to retire on the royalties, but it's still gratifying to see this unfold. Long may it continue!

Monday, November 1, 2010


"November comes

And November goes,

With the last red berries

And the first white snows.

With night coming early,

And dawn coming late,

And ice in the bucket

And frost by the gate.

The fires burn

And the kettles sing,

And earth sinks to rest

Until next spring."

- Elizabeth Coatsworth

Jon Stewart's closing speech at the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear"

Regardless of your political perspective, Stewart offers some food for thought - along with pointed observations about the media's role and keeping things in perspective.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am not familiar with this group.......

.........but I'm impressed with this song. Powerful lyrics, catchy tune....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dustin' off the ol' fedora

Mark it down.

October 27.

The first day of fall that I wore a fedora.

I think that's the latest I've ever gone in a calendar year before I donned the dapper dome decoration. I guess that speaks volumes about how warm it's been in Wichita and much of Kansas this fall.

I've become known for my hats...not because they're outlandish, but that I wear them at all. If I'm not wearing a hat, folks around Wichita ask me "Where's your hat?"

I never meant for it to become my signature (or, at least, one of them). I simply wanted to keep my head warm (and dry) with something that had a little style.

But now my head feels almost naked without some sort of haberdashery aboard. I've probably funded half of Hatman Jack Kellogg's retirement villa outside Vienna (if he has one).

No wonder he smiles whenever he sees me walk through the door of his shop in Delano. I've filled two hat racks at home, between fedoras, straw hats and lids I wear for hiking or doing chores.

I'm told I take after Grandpa Pechanec in that regard. No wonder Mom gets such a big smile on her face whenever she sees me decked out in a fedora.

Must be in the blood.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A visit to Holtzwihr

The woman approached my father and I as we talked on the front steps of the Catholic church after Mass had concluded. They didn’t hear English very often in Holtzwihr, a tiny village nestled between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains in eastern France, and she was curious why we were there.

He had been here with the U.S. Army during World War II, Dad told her, and he had returned in search of answers – and healing.

The woman, a teacher, reached out and gave Dad a hug.

“Thank you,” she said. “If it weren’t for you, we would be speaking German.”

Surprised, yet touched, Dad quietly said “Thank you.”

Over the next few weeks, in France and Germany alike, others would approach my father to express their gratitude for what he and his fellow American soldiers had done in freeing Europe from Hitler and Nazism. Some of them had lived through it. Many grew up hearing about it from their parents or teachers, grew up in a free country because of what Dad and so many hundreds of thousands of his compatriots had done.

They understood.

In Germany, particularly, professors and postmen and farmers dropped what they were doing to help an American soldier in the twilight of his life try to make peace with a war that had never really ended inside of him.

They understood.

Dad genuinely appreciated the kind words and the help we were given. But a sense of disappointment clouded his eyes as our journey stretched on.

In his mind’s eye, he could still see the shattered cities, the wrecked railways, the roads ravaged by bombs and tanks. In their place, nearly 60 years later, were regions humming with activity and prosperity.

After a few days in Germany, he said “They live about as well as we do.” In other words, their standard of living was comparable to the U.S. One of his company’s final hard fights was in the Nazi stronghold of Nuremberg in the waning days of the war. Dad missed that battle because he was in a hospital back in Nancy, France, battling pneumonia he had contracted after inhaling poison gas that was rigged to be released when American troops reached the basement of a large building in Bamberg.

But he had heard the stories and seen the photos of the destruction of Nuremberg, and after a day of touring the city, he said, “It’s like we were never here at all.”

I tried to tell him Germany’s recovery was necessary for the long-term stability of Europe so we wouldn’t have a repeat of the economic and social upheaval that had created an environment for a movement as poisonous as Nazism to thrive. But I could tell my words didn’t really reach him.

It was as if he had hoped to see rubble – a tangible reminder of what they had done…what they had had to do to end this second of world wars.

And it was nowhere to be found.

Not long after we returned from that trip, Dad mentioned he was going to meet with a local veteran who had recently returned from serving in Iraq to see how he was doing. In other words, check to see if he had any post-traumatic stress issues from combat.

When I asked him about that several months later, he said he wasn’t doing it any more. That surprised me, so I asked why. He had talked with a couple of Gulf War veterans, he said, and they told him what it had been like. When they asked him what it had been like in World War II, “they wouldn’t believe me. ‘It couldn’t have been that bad,’” one of them said. Well, if they don’t want to believe me, I won’t talk to them.”

Dad rarely spoke about his experiences in World War II. His unit, Company B of the 15th Infantry Regiment, Third Division, suffered the loss of at least 500 men during his three months of front-line duty alone.

He had at least a half-dozen close calls, including being spun around by machine gun bullets on the Seigfried Line, being flattened by the concussion of artillery fire and .88 shells, being briefly paralyzed while on a special mission 35 miles behind enemy lines – so he wasn’t about to tolerate mocking, even from a new generation of soldiers.

They didn’t understand what it was like back then.

Not even members of his own family could believe what Dad shared about what he went through. That really hurt him, Mom said. He didn’t lie, because he knew there were repercussions. Your word was your bond.

When officials organizing the official dedication of the World War II memorial learned Dad’s company commander was Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in U.S. military history, they desperately wanted him to be in Washington for the ceremony. They even wanted to make him part of the festivities.

But Dad declined. He didn’t want the spotlight. He didn’t want to deal with the heat or the crowds. He didn’t want accolades he believed should be given to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

And so he didn’t go.

But he wanted to see the memorial one day. It was high on his list of trips to take while his health was still good – along with another trip to Germany to revisit the town where he had been paralyzed behind enemy lines.

He never got to make those trips. He suffered a stroke the day after he returned from a cruise to Alaska with our mother, the love of his life, in September 2006. We lost him a week later.

When I read about the “honor flight” that carried a few dozen World War II veterans from Kansas to the World War II Memorial last month, I couldn’t help but think how much Dad would have enjoyed that.

He would have relished talking to the other veterans, listening to their stories, nodding knowingly. Any of them who fought in Europe wouldn’t have doubted Dad’s account of what he went through. They’d been there, too.

And they would have understood.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A few days in England

Compelling column by a friend of mine about Pope Benedict XVI's visit to England:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The wrath for Khan ---- in many languages

I found myself watching "Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan" this afternoon. It may be the best Star Trek movie of them all ---- and I say that even though I enjoyed the newest one quite a bit.

I chuckled when I saw this on Facebook, and wanted to share it with you:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When the sky puts on a show

The celestial extravaganza began simply enough.

I was already past Hutchinson on the last Saturday of the Kansas State Fair, heading west to the family farm, when I saw the first white, puffy clouds forming in the pristine azure skies. No two were alike, and I marveled at their distinctions.

Countless generations of children have looked up at such clouds and said "That looks like...." But how many adults take a moment from their busy days to do the same thing? Not enough, I dare say.

Off to the left, one cloud shot up higher than the rest, as if it were an eager student in a classroom raising its hand in an attempt to catch the teacher's attention. "Pick me! Pick me!"

Off in the distance, I saw a deep blue shaft stretching from a dark gray cloud to the ground. I recognized it was a rain shaft. Some portion of Stafford County was receiving a welcome, late-summer shower.

To the north, beams of sunlight pushed through breaks in the gathered clouds. I thought of all the stories and paintings that depicted God shining His love and favor on humanity as a ray of light from the heavens. And no wonder: There's something undeniably majestic and moving about it.

A short time later, I looked back south for the rain shaft. Not only had it stopped raining, the clouds had disappeared as well. It was a classic "popcorn thunderstorm" - fire up in the muggy afternoon heat, produce a brief, intense shower, and then collapse.

It had all happened within the span of 90 minutes.

Shakespeare wrote that all the world's a stage.

In Kansas, we're often reminded the sky can be, too.

One of my favorite songs, for 'Longer' than I can remember

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Summer's swan song

If the sharp angle of the afternoon shadows wasn't enough to tell me summer was near its end, the combines in the corn fields clinched it.

I was heading to the farm for the 50th anniversary of the church where Mom now attends Mass, and I was surprised to see so much harvesting going on already. Some fields had already been shorn, stalks sprouting from the ground like a few days' worth of beard stubble.

Fields of milo looked ready for the reaper weeks ahead of when they typically are, bright crimson heads leaning slightly under the weight of the imminent harvest.

As my drive continued past the checkerboard of row crops, I remembered an article I read recently about the 2009 grape harvest in the Bordeaux region of France. The piece was an early assessment of the wines produced from last year's harvest, and how the weather leading up to and throughout the growing season affected the quality and flavor of the grapes.

I've always been fascinated by how a vintage can be affected by something as seemingly innocuous as a week of hot weather and cloudless skies, or a shower on just the right - or wrong - day.

Farmers in the wheat belt know all about how significant a timely shower can be for a wheat crop; or how 10 days of hot, dry weather just as the wheat heads are filling out can cripple a yield.

But vinyards are a more vulnerable tapestry, and the wines they produce are time capsules - weather-engraved snapshots of years gone by....

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Was it all just a dream?

I finally got around to watching the movie "Inception" recently, and came away mightily impressed.

It's a compelling movie that I expect to do well come Oscar time next spring. Some might call it a flight of close friend of mine called it a "mind @#$@#"...and I'm sure it would be classified as a fiction film.

But there's more than a germ of authenticity to it.

I have learned through years of massage and cranio-sacral therapy that the body stores memories not just in the brain but in muscles as well, and that with the proper techniques those memories can be revived and released. In fact, that can be a key part of the recovery process.

My brother Marvin, who is a massage therapist, talked of working on a woman who had been in an automobilie accident in her past, and when he began working on a shoulder that had been injured in the crash she began crying --- not in physical pain, she said, but from reliving the vivid memories of the accident itself that suddenly flashed into her mind.

I also recall dreams that were incredibly vibrant and turned out not to be flashbacks, but flash forwards --- snapshots of events that had not yet unfolded. Those are rare, yet I can't be the only person to have had them.

And there was one night when I woke from a dream in which I was having a dream...though I had no idea what that "inner" dream was after I awakened.

All of which serves to remind me that we as humans have barely begun to tap into what our minds and bodies are capable of.

And it also may be why it was not hard for me to follow "Inception" through its muliple layers of story-telling, which had me thinking 3D without the funky glasses.

I won't go into the plot much, so I don't spoil it for those who have yet to see it. But it would be fair to say the plot revolves around a small group that attempts to bore into the recesses of memory to achieve a desired result....and the effort goes awry.

When you walk out, you wonder how much of what you just saw was real, how much was a dream - and how much of it is actually possible.

I suspect the answer to the last piece is...far more than we may realize - or want.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Who was more startled?

It was an innocent stroll to the apartment complex office to put my rent check in the rent drop box. It was already dark, but the area is well-lit.

I was merely planning to make the trek as quickly as possible and get back to my tasks awaiting me back at my apartment. I slipped the check into the slot, turned - and realized I was not alone.

Something moved in the grass.

I did a doubletake - and realized it was a snake, slithering and shimmering in the light from a security post. For a split second, I was frozen...until I recognized it was a small garter snake.

They're harmless, I knew from growing up on a farm ---- and it seemed as surprised to see me as I was to see it.

But that didn't keep me from shaking my head as I walked back to my place. What if the critter had been something genuinely dangerous? How quickly can the routine be transformed into something threatening?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

the whole batch of us together for a photo - more than 40 years ago

This was our version of a family Christmas card in 1969....that's me on the right in the second row, between my Dad and my older brother Ed.

I remember this session pretty well, actually, because that suit was uncomfortable and the camera lights were very bright. The photo was taken in the living room of Grandpa and Grandma Finger's living room in Larned.

The other thing I remember about this photo is how "60's straightlace" it was....ironic, given how garish our photos from the '70s would be.

But I know it was one of my parents' favorite pictures...they were very proud of their brood.

Drive carefully --- or this could be you

I think of my friend Jennifer, paralyzed from the waist down on her first date on her 16th birthday.

I think of that icy night when I started tapping the brakes because the light ahead was red....and my car did not slow down at all. I went through the intersection, somehow being missed by cars coming from both directions. One just missed hitting me on the back, the other on the front.

I think of that night I was heading to a dress rehearsal for a wedding. I pulled onto the exit, only to discover that the semi in front of me had suddenly lurched to a stop. I slammed on the brakes, but the front of my car went beneath the trailer. I instinctively ducked down and lay flat on the front seat, convinced impact was imminent. My car stopped with the edge of the trailer about 2 feet from my windshield. Two woman had stopped on the ramp to pull out a map because they were lost.

I think of my friend Monica, who was killed in a blizzard two days before Christmas as she was driving home to suburban Tulsa. Her car skidded across a median into the path of a semi. It took rescue personnel an hour to cut her out of her car, and she died at the hospital.

I think of my cousin Greg's wife, Jennifer, who was killed as they were driving through a snow storm in Minnesota. They came over a hill in poor visibility, and their car was sheared in half when it struck the edge of a semi trailer that had jacknifed in the storm.

I think of all the stories I have written over the years about people who were killed in auto accidents --- and the devastated loved ones they left behind. Many were as a result of carelessness...but some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Be careful out there. It CAN happen to you....or someone you love.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Leaving our Vanley's

After our family reunion wound down on the second Saturday of July, someone suggested we go to the bar in downtown Larned for a nightcap.

After all, one of "us" was tending bar that night and we might get a break on the drinks!

So little by little the Fingers descended on a place called Vanley's, which turns out to be owned by a guy who (I think) went to school with my oldest sister, Mary. It's in what was a clothing store when I was a kid.

It looks like somebody just turned it into a massive bachelor's basement --- with a big bar in the center of the room. There are pool tables toward the front and the back, and a hodge podge of furniture and somebody set up a living room set or two in a warehouse space, along with a couple of dining table sets with chairs scavenged from garage sales. There are recliners, rockers, office chairs, a nursing chair...the national flags of the U.S., Mexico --- and New Zealand????

Oh, and there is a modest dance floor in the back. And photographs of all sorts hung on the walls. Some famous, some......illicit.

It took me a while to realize folks had written things on the pillars up and down the old Litwin's for structural support. Much of it was predictable....but every once in a while I spotted one that was worthy of a chuckle: "May your beer & women never be flat."

"Not drunk yet....but gettin' there."

After a splash of dancing at a birthday party at an Old Town wine bar the previous week was enough for my body to remind me I am not really ready for that kind of movement in the wake of my whiplash crash in March, I limited things to a two-step and a slow dance.

But the rest of the horde --- and we were a horde by then, at least 30 strong --- often took over the dance floor entirely. Usually for line dances or what I call "circle dances," where we form a circle and then folks take turns going into the middle for some distinctive moves. Distinctive only in that they're different than what the rest of the circle is doing, trust me.   :-)

Midnight arrived in no time, and with an early morning baby shower awaiting most of those at the bar, we began filtering out. But not before signing a pillar.

We had to. It may be the only time that many of us grace the place at the same time. After considerable thought, my siblings decided to go with "You've Been Fingered!" --- which has become the catch phrase of a regional radio syndicate that likes to read my goofy crime stories on the air.

Our "mark" isn't on this pillar; I took this photo because it's a portrait of the owner's grandfather, for whom the bar is named. He was a World War II vet, just like my father. I thought it was a nice touch.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Like sands through the hourglass...

The Finger family had a reunion for the first time in many years on the second Saturday of July.

"Not counting funerals," as one cousin put it. "We keep gathering for funerals."

It was bittersweet, since it is the first one since we lost Dad in 2006. It still seems "wrong" that he's not with us, but I'm sure other members of the broader family would feel that way about Aunt Dorothy and Aunt Mildred. All three of them were towering personalities in their own right....perhaps the most take-charge types of all the eight children that Francis and Clara Finger had.

Irony? Almost certainly.

But it was still good to see everyone who came...and, boy, did they come: more than 110 of us, spanning four generations. The youngest was only two weeks old. The oldest? That would be Leonard, Dad's older brother, who is 87 now.

The names and connections are a blur, frankly, even with name tags designed to help us connect folks to which branch of the tree they blossomed from.

We took tons of pictures, and looked at tons of pictures --- and those old ones were the ones I kept going back to. Some I've seen before, others I laid eyes on for the first time ever. They are cherished keepsakes to me, capturing moments from days gone by, fleeting glimpses of loved ones no longer with us -- reminders of how fleeting life truly is.

This is Dad in high school, in the early 1940s. In fact, it may well be his high school graduation photo from 1942. I'm guessing that's his mother, our Grandma Clara, tucked into the edge of the frame. They were very close, though no one would ever accuse him of being a "Mama's boy."

This next photo was taken after he had been drafted in 1944 and sent to Camp Robinson outside of Little Rock for basic training. He would hit the front lines in France in late January during the Battle of the Bulge and stay on or near the front until he was sent back to a hospital in late April. He was there on V-E Day, and remained overseas for occupation duty until being discharged in 1946. 

He came home to central Kansas to the Finger farm - and his girl, Helen, whom he married in 1948. They would raise eight children on a farm in western Pawnee County, and that family has only grown as the years have passed. We filled the camera lens at the reunion, and it wasn't even everybody.

I think Dad would be proud.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The long road home

I hit the road for central Kansas with the sun already well into its descent on Friday night. A long-overdue family reunion on my father's side is this weekend.

I could have cranked up the XM radio, but chose to pray a rosary for a friend's wife, who is battling cancer, and then just observe and reflect as my journey continued.

One of the first things I noticed was how vibrant the vegetation was. It had been a rainy spring and early summer, it showed. Crops, trees, flowers - even weeds - looked robust and vivid in their greens, yellows and reds.

Puddles filled low spots in undulating fields, telling me the most recent rain had been a hearty one. Cattle and horses speckled pastures alongside U.S. 50, grazing on grass that rose well above their hooves.

U.S. 50 between Hutchinson and Stafford resembles something of a time machine for me, because I can almost sense the prairie as it was when Kansas was untamed tallgrass, with vast herds of buffalo roaming the plains.

The sporadic trees that thrust toward the sky still seem like recent interlopers, and I wonder if a wagon train will appear on the horizon. I can't help but reflect on how challenging life had to have been for settlers even after Kansas became a state, struggling to carve a life out of fertile soil and fickle seasons.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rumbles and reflections

The skies rumbled as I walked into the mall, and I had a feeling the clouds would be weeping by the time my tasks were completed.

I was right. It was a warm, steady rain, and if it weren't for the frequent claps of thunder - which meant lightning wasn't far off - it would have been tempting to just stroll among the rain drops.

A summer shower is an amazing thing, if you slow down enough to pay attention to it. A summer rain shower engages all five senses in a marvelous way.

You have the sound of the thunder as the storm approaches, the sight of lightning flashes if it's a thunderstorm, the smell of the coming rain, air so humid you can reach out and touch it.

A summer shower is an orchestra of sounds. Pick up the distinction between rain drops hitting tree leaves, or bark, or bare ground or cement There's a ping, a pock, a thud, a slap. Steady rain on hard surfaces sounds like applause, as if the crops and lawns and landscaping are thrilled to be receiving moisture.

A rain is nature's way of washing the landscape's face, leaving behind a freshness - almost a newness. Plants are invigorated, colors revived, spirits never gets old.

When I hear the elderly talk about things they miss when they've been in nursing homes a while, a summer shower is often on their list.

A couple of times in the past few weeks I've spotted people sitting on their covered porches during summer showers --- just watching and listening.

How I envied them.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence.....and its price

One of the great ironies.......and tragedies, in a sense.......about Independence Day celebrations in our country is that those who most likely appreciate it the most - those who have put their lives on the line to defend and protect it - are all too often the least likely to enjoy the holiday itself.

Why? Because they're somwhere on duty ---- or the cacophany of explosions so closely resembles combat that they can't bring themselves to come to the fireworks displays.

Dad was like that. We could not set off firecrackers near him...or, at the least, we had to let him know we were doing it so he wouldn't be caught off guard. Older brothers talked about popping firecrackers without telling Dad, and he would hit the ground to take cover - his combat instincts still deeply ingrained many years after World War II ended. More than once that reaction reinjured his back, which he initially hurt behind enemy lines in Germany.

He rarely went to fireworks displays, and as I learned more about what he went through during the war, I must say I couldn't blame him.

Americans take their freedom too much for granted. They take the prosperity and abundance this nation has for granted, too. I've said for years that every American should go overseas at least once in their life, and they would grasp just how fortunate they are in so many ways.

Perhaps it would help us to stop complaining so much about meaningless minutia and focus on real problems that prevent this nation from being what our forefathers imagined when they forged a fledgling union from a rebellious bunch of colonies.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

It's our fault

I went to a wedding today that's all my fault.

Well, actually, blame it on both Teresa and me. I invited Teresa to come to a weekly rosary group that I'm part of, and she liked it so much she invited her buddy Mike, who.......well, he quickly took a liking to Danielle, whose house has most often served as the setting for our weekly rosary sessions.

Mike and Danielle were married today, in the same church she grew up in (and, in fact, where she had my sister Trish as her 2nd grade teacher...but I digress).

Teresa and I went to the wedding. That's us, in red. After's our fault.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Just read this post about the oil spill in the Gulf on a meteorologist's blog. It steamed my glasses, and that's not a political commentary at all:

Monday, June 28, 2010

"Hurry up, Dad!!!!"

I had a flashback to childhood Sunday morning.

I bumped into the Purcell family after Mass at St. Joseph's and said hello to the patriarch, sharing with him my taste of celebrity experience from the night before. I told him because I knew his son, who had become a minor celebrity after miraculously surviving being shot in the femoral artery while on duty as a police officer, would be able to relate to what happened to me.

Our conversation kept going...and going...and going.....and soon enough his wife joined in and our conversation somehow shifted to the Summer of Mercy abortion protests in 1991.

Before we knew it, no one else was left standing in front of the church - well, except for their young children. Who had the same tortured look my siblings and I so often did as we waited....and waited....and waited......for Dad to stop talking to folks after church at Holy Rosary in Burdett.

Dad talked forever after church. At least, it seemed like that to us little ones, who were more than eager to get home and get out of our "church clothes." It didn't dawn on me for years that the reason Dad liked to talk after church was because life on the farm can be very isolating, with limited opportunities for conversation outside the family.

I used to joke that Dad could talk to a tree for three hours....but after a few weeks on the farm with no one to, I couldn't blame him if he did want to talk to a tree for three hours. 

If I ever take the step of becoming a freelance writer/novelist working from home, I'll face similar challenges. Though, presuming I'm in a city, it won't be quite as difficult to find conversation.

Still, I had to chuckle when I heard the audible sighs of the Purcell kids on Sunday. I know that sound well.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

There must be some mistake

I went to a wine bar in downtown Wichita last night for a birthday celebration of a couple of fairly recent acquaintances.

It was a good time - and the first time I danced since the whiplash collision in March. That's another story, though.....

This post is about something else that happened, which I totally didn't expect. I knew Jennifer and Elizabeth and no one else from their birthday crowd...but I had a sneaking suspicion I'd chatted with someone there via Twitter. So I went over to introduce myself - and she screamed my name in delight. Then she turned to her friends and said, "It's Stan Finger!"

They began shouting with joy, too - as if they'd just met a celebrity.

It felt surreal.  I found myself wondering what I'd done to prompt such a reaction.

Then the woman I initially approached explained: she and her sister and friends had been reading my stories for years, taking particular pleasure from the weird crime stories I have done that have gained national and international attention. It had become a family tradition to call each other to discuss "Stan Finger stories."

"I'm going to have to tell her I met you!" she said, as if that were a noteworthy event.

Intellectually, I realize that my job has a higher profile than many...but it can still be startling to experience it first-hand sometimes. Perhaps the most bizarre example came a year or so ago when I arrived at the scene of a murder - the poor victim was still lying in the middle of the street in broad daylight - and a passerby asked my name. When I told him, he was thunderstruck and immediately went in search of a camera so he could have his picture taken with me.

Turns out he was a regular listener of a radio program that relishes reading my offbeat stories on the air.

I must have had my photo taken with party-goers a handful of times last night. It made me wish I'd worn a nicer shirt. ;-)

Monday, June 14, 2010


If "Seinfeld" was a show about nothing, the World Cup is a show about nothing-nothing.

Obligatory soccer jab aside, I have to admit that I will be paying attention to what goes on in South Africa over the next month.

Not that I'll be able to hear much of it pleasantly, not with those vuvuzelas blaring. Americans hate soccer because there's little scoring, build-up play can have a glacial pace, and 90 minutes can feel like 90 hours.

But, like with any sport, when it's played well it's a beautiful thing to watch. My interest in soccer blossomed after I met a few Englishmen who came to the Midwest for a tornado chasing tour, and it was a frequent topic of conversation via email once they returned to the UK. Fox Soccer Channel became part of my cable package, and I started watching matches more out of a curiosity to see how the sportscasters described the game than anything else.

It's been background noise for many a Saturday morning since then. Along the way, I began picking up the nuances of the game and learned to appreciate well-played soccer. Or football, as it's more properly called. And I've learned enough about it that my commentary is welcomed by English soccer correspondents. I rather enjoy that.

My picks for this World Cup? Spain, England, Brazil.....perhaps Holland in the semifinals as well. Germany could surprise, with its bevy of young talent and history of always doing well. Italy, the defending champions, strike me as being too old.

The U.S.? It will need to play well to get out of the group stages, but if the Americans meet Germany in the first round of the knock-out phase, I don't like their chances. The defense has been too wobbly, and I'm not seeing enough threat from their strikers - though Altidore does show the occasional flash of brilliance that has tempted European clubs for a while now.

With the World Cup, however, the pagentry and spectacle are every bit as much of the show as the match itself - not unlike the Super Bowl.

And I was looking forward to it enough to finally break down and get a DVR. No more "taping" shows for me.

In one way, at least, I guess it took the world's game to drag me kicking and screaming into the 21st Century.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Will Tebow be a big T-bust?

Sobering words to read for this Broncos fan, as a scout discusses 1st-round draft pick Tim Tebow:

What did you see from Tim Tebow on tape and were you surprised the Broncos made the bold move to get back into the first round to snag him?

"On film, there is very little in Tebow's game that projects well at this point to the NFL. I could never draft a quarterback in the first round who does not show on tape the skill set and physical attributes that are demanded in the NFL.

"Number one, he has questionable and limited arm strength with a slow and ponderous delivery. Number two, in college he did not throw with timing or anticipation because the offense that he was in did not require it. In the NFL, there are certain throws in certain situations that necessitate that the ball is delivered before his receiver makes his break. He wasn't asked to do that at Florida. Thirdly, pocket movement in the NFL is far more important than running. Pocket movement is the ability to move within the confines of an area about the size of a boxing ring while at the same time maintaining your downfield focus so you can deliver the football. Tebow did not exhibit that trait in college, probably because he was a runner. Nobody is a great NFL quarterback because of the way that they run."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Longest Day

I'm sure it's because my father fought in World War II, but June 6 has first and foremost meant one thing to me: D-Day, the date Allied forces landed on the beaches of northern France, creating a second front that ultimately spelled the end for Nazi Germany.

Its importance can never be overstated. The courage shown by the soldiers of every nation that took part in the invasion force can only be fathomed by those who have faced the same kind of danger.

Of all the movies produced about war, my father said only one - "Saving Private Ryan" - captured the essence of combat, with its opening sequence about the beach landings at Normandy. Dad did not go ashore on D-Day; he landed at Marseille in January of '45.

But he saw enough combat in 3 months to have no illusions of grandeur about what it was like.

As he told me more than once over the years, once you've served your nation in battle, you never look at the Stars and Stripes the same way again.

You never listen to "The Star-Spangled Banner" in the same way again.

And you never sing "God Bless America" with anything but heart-felt conviction again.

To all those who stormed ashore on June 6 - especially those who never came home - I salute you.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A sad commentary on relationships....and

Big shout out to all the women with 3 baby daddys and your man right now is the father of none of them

A posting on Twitter, the social media web site that allows folks to offer insight, wisdom, humor, inanity, or whatever else they wish to share in 140-character bites.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm back

It's been more than two months since I last blogged. The day after my last post appeared, I was rear-ended on my way to City Hall for a police briefing.

The man who hit me never touched his brakes. I was fortunate to end up with only a nasty case of whiplash to my neck, back and pelvis. No broken bones, no organ damage. It could so easily have been much worse.

My car was totaled, however, so while I was recovering at home I spent a lot of time perusing the Internet for research on cars.

I hate car shopping. A nagging fear chews on me that no matter what I get or how much I pay, I could have gotten a better car for less -- somewhere, somehow.

It took me  about 6 weeks to settle on a car - a used Honda Accord - and I'm pretty happy with I guess the process was worthwhile.

I'm still doing rehab on my back and neck, and I'm still (as one friend put it this week) on "the dancing DL" -- that's baseball parlance for 'disabled list.'

But I'm making good progress, and, again, I feel most fortunate that it wasn't more serious.

I stayed away from blogging just to give my back a break from the keyboard, but I hope to resume regular posts now.

To all my friends who offered prayers and hands-on support, I am most grateful.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

What will happen if newspapers cease to exist?

It will be devastating for a variety of social groups:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Do you love me or hate me?"

I got my husband opening day tickets for his birthday. He said I don't know if that means you love or hate me.

- Words written by the wife of a Cleveland Indians fan earlier this year

As a fellow Tribe fan, I completely understand his reaction. That the Indians will be bad this year is a given. When you trade Cy Young Award winners in back-to-back seasons, when the "ace" of your pitching staff hasn't thrown a major league pitch in 18 months and half of the projected rotation features a collection of "junk" in its pitch arsenal that would make Fred Sanford ache with envy, "bad" is a foregone conclusion.

The only real question I and several of my fellow Tribe fans have is whether they'll lose more than 100 games. For those who don't follow baseball, 100 losses in a 162-game season is the benchmark for "epically bad."

Edsel bad. "Ishtar" bad. "Cannonball Run 3" bad. Detroit Lions bad.

Anyway, you get the point.

A couple of friends want to go see the Indians play this season - be it in Kansas City or even Cleveland. I find myself wondering if it's wise to spend real money to watch such bad baseball (the Royals could be even worse than Cleveland this year - just as they have been for the past several years).

Talk to me in a few months, and I may well change my mind.

But that husband's reaction to opening-day tickets? I get it. I really do.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A fresh reminder that anyone can be elected to the U.S. Senate

Senator Barbara Boxer of California, who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, offered this evidence as proof that global warming was reaching dangerous levels: it had been over 100 degrees for three straight Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Um, Barbara? Brazil is in the southern hemisphere, and February is their version of our August. Rio routinely tops 100 in February.

Now, that gaffe isn't likely to earn Boxer a spot in Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" list on his MSNBC show --- but I wouldn't be shocked if Bill O'Reilly crowned her a "pinhead" for that doozy.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Perspective, folks, perspective

I took a chunk out of my Sunday afternoon to watch a History Channel documentary called "Black Blizzard," recounting the origins and impact of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s.

It didn't take long for my brow to furrow as deeply as the parched soil yielded to a plow's blade. They had "experts" pontificating that the Dust Bowl was the earth's protest against "abuse" perpetrated by farmers, who should not have plowed up the tallgrass that kept the soil in place when the prairie winds blew.

Apparently, they didn't realize that the Homestead Act required farmers to plow up the soil to meet the terms of the agreement that gave them the 160 acres of land. Technological improvements (better tractors and plows and harvesters) and soaring grain prices brought about by the outbreak of World War I combined to create a period of prosperity farmers had rarely seen.

It gave them the opportunity to significantly improve their quality of life, to indulge in such luxuries as...real homes built of wood or stone....and an automobile to transport the family. In other words, property residents on the coasts took for granted.

Think about that: it took several years of virtually unmatched prosperity for most farmers to reach something near middle class. Yet they were portrayed as greedy. Who wouldn't want to make most of that opportunity, especially after you'd been desperately poor your entire life?

Mind you, not everyone profited to the same extreme: Dad was born in an earthen dugout in the middle of Kansas in 1924, six years after World War I ended. His father had a strong business acumen, which showed itself for decades afterward, but the Roaring '20s weren't a blast for everyone.

Millions of farmers didn't have electricity reach their homes until the Rural Electrification Administration was created during the Great Depression.

There's no question that farming practices contributed significantly to the Dust Bowl, and measures such as shelter belts and no- and low-till crop management had to be adopted to salvage top soil and prevent the choking dust storms that defined the period.

But I was amazed at how much I heard on the show that reflected a striking lack of knowledge and perspective. It reminded me of the kind of chatter that comes from urban think tanks calling for large portions of the western Great Plains to be transformed into prairie preserves allowing buffalo and other wildlife to roam freely under the adoring view of throngs of tourists. Small farms and the rural way of life are dying, so the thinking goes, so let's do something useful with all that land.

Never mind that studies have shown such a measure would result in less revenue than what is currently generated by the farmers, ranchers and townspeople that currently inhabit the targeted land.

Ironic that I never hear anyone calling for small retailers to be shut down and moved out in cities all over the country because Wal-Mart and other large competitors are, we all know, going to drive them out of business anyway. Or do we really know what we think we know?

Too often in that show, folks showed what they didn't know.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The value of boredom

I came across a compelling blogpost this week about how important boredom is to intellectual stimulation.

You read that right: boredom is important to intellectual stimulation. I completely agree with that stance.

How is that possible? Well, boredom is so often the gateway to pondering issues and questions, whether they be about one's self, people in that person's life, or what's going on in the world around them. Curiosity can bloom, creativity can blossom, new understandings can take root.

The blogger voiced concern that a modern society hooked on perpetual stimulation in the form of social media or iPods or the latest technofad will not develop the ability to delve deeply - whether it's within or in the surrounding environment.

It's too easy to run from internal issues or societal problems by distracting yourself with the waves of stimulation pounding us as incessantly as the ocean's people don't grow, issues aren't resolved, problems aren't corrected.

And a society lurches from fad to fad, which is not the same as progress. As healing. As enriching humanity.

I wonder how much of the "noise" distracting us today is intellectual junk food for a populace that needs a far more "nutritious" menu.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some vegetable stew on a snowy day

Idle thoughts as a blanket of snow covers the heartland......

Kansas meets Kansas State at Manhattan tonight in perhaps the biggest game in the heated rivalry since the Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats in the NCAA tournament on their way to the national championship in 1988.

Bramlage Coliseum has even been dubbed "The Octagon of Doom,'' for the size and noisiness of its crowds. It's one of the best home-court advantages in the country, writers (and some coaches) are saying.

Sorry, I don't buy it. Frankly, until this year (and a couple seasons ago, when K-State rode Michael Beasley and Bill Walker to its first NCAA tournament in many years), Bramlage was the Octagon of Gloom. About the only guaranteed sell-out was the KU game, thanks to Jayhawk fans who would venture the 40 miles from Lawrence.

Even this season there have been open seats at many games....and it's not like Bramlage seats 25,000. It's just a bit bigger than Wichita State's Koch Arena, if I remember correctly.

Don't get me wrong: I'm certain the atmosphere tonight will be electric, and the fans will do everything they can to help a strong K-State team knock off a KU team that will climb back to #1 in the polls if they leave Manhattan with a victory.

But I'm not going to buy into the "Octagon of Doom" moniker for another season or two. Such titles aren't earned in a game or three. Like good wine, they need to stand the test of time to wear that label.

* * *

I couldn't help but smile when I was watching an episode of "NCIS: Los Angeles" last night.

Was it just a coincidence that two longtime cast members of the now defunct series "The Unit" were in the same episode? I doubt it.

Audrey Marie Anderson, who played "Kim Brown," and Michael Irby, who played Charles Grey, a member of "The Unit," were both in the episode of "NCIS: LA" that saw Chris O'Donnell's character, Callen, reprise a deep-under-cover personna from years before. Irby's role was a distinct departure from his stint as a counter-terrorism soldier on "The Unit."

I was always a fan of Anderson, and I hope to see her back on television regularly.

* * *

About 6 inches of snow fell in Wichita Thursday night and Friday, and it almost seemed strange. Not that it snowed. But that it snowed so......calmly.

It's not much of an exaggeration to say that snow falls sideways in Kansas. Look no further back than Christmas Eve for the heaviest snow of the season to date that brought with it blizzard-force winds.

This latest snow was a powdery affair, with the flurries casually drifting down and coating the landscape almost aimlessly. It was remarkable to watch, when I had a few moments over the course of a very long and very busy day at work.

Here's to more snowfalls like that.

* * *

No surprise why national media's getting such a bum rap from so many folks I talk to these days.

National Public Radio sent a reporter to town to cover at least a portion of the trial for Scott Roeder, who shot and killed abortion provider George Tiller last May. Yet when they reported on Roeder's conviction on Friday, they repeatedly said the trial was in Kansas City.

Really, NPR?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why'd she have to mention hail???

Last July, an old friend returned to Wichita for a visit with family. She goes by Sr. Sophia Grace now, but we knew her then as Kim Huschka.

She worked for WeatherData as a meteorologist before entering a convent in Ohio, where she is working her way through the novitiate process. She loves it there, and I'm convinced she has a legitimate calling to the religious life.

But while we were at a cookout one evening, she mentioned she missed Kansas thunderstorms - particularly hail. They just don't have storms like that in Ohio, she said.

Within a half-hour, thunderstorms fired up and massive hail struck downtown Wichita and neighborhoods just west of downtown.

Including mine. My car was totalled.

I joked with Sr. Sophia that God must love her very much to put on a show like that for her.

I spotted this photo of her with the young children of friends we used to hang out with not that long ago....and thus this little story.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Me and Bob Feller

I watched an interview of legendary Cleveland Indians pitcher Bob Feller on the MLB Network the other night. Feller is in the Hall of Fame, won nearly 250 games during a career that went from the mid-'30s to the mid-'50s, and would have had even more impressive statistics had he not lost four years to World War II, when he served on a battleship in the Navy.

He's over 90 now, still remarkably sharp, and talked about how he grew to love baseball as a kid in a small Iowa farm town. He read The Sporting News every week, listened to ball games on the radio, and read whatever newspapers he could get his hands on.
And it hit me: Bob Feller and I had a remarkably similar way of following baseball as a child, even though we grew up a half-century apart.

The papers we received at the Finger farm had few or no box scores, so I subscribed to The Sporting News. That magazine was a "luxury" I gave myself with money I earned from the humble wages we earned working on the farm. Along with the magazine, I would buy the baseball guides and player registers from The Sporting News. I absorbed those box scores as if there was going to be a test on them some day, reading accounts of games that might as well have been played on Mars.

Sure, we had a television, but games were on the air once a week - on Saturday afternoons. That was the same as not being on the TV at all. Saturday afternoons were always filled with work somewhere on the farm, no matter what time of year it was. The radio was my primary source for "live" baseball: The Royals on KVGB out of Great Bend, the Twins on KSTP in the Twin Cities on clear summer nights, or the Rangers in Texas on WBAP in Fort Worth.

Mind you, I was a fan of the Indians even then (blame Sudden Sam McDowell, not Bob Feller), so as I tuned in whatever game I could get on a scratchy AM radio, I had one ear listening for the Tribe score. Most of the time, they seemed to lose. But it's funny how the next day you'd find yourself hoping they'd nab a win somehow. Youth is remarkably resilient that way...and if you're lucky, you never lose that.

It would have been great to see Rapid Robert Feller pitch in his heyday. His fastball was clocked at nearly 108 in the 1940s. That's faster than Nolan Ryan, widely considered the hardest thrower of his era. I dare say it's faster than any pitcher in history.

I guess I'll have to ask my friends on the online Indians fan chat group who have seen a few more summers than I have what it was like to see Feller pitch. It'll be fun to hear their stories.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some vegetable stew....

Saw an English teacher tweet "Wendsday" for the day of the week. And I don't think she was joking. Sigh.


This may be Wichita State's most athletic basketball team in 30 years....since I was in school there. Jeez, I feel old. But the Shockers this year have the kind of athleticism that reminds me of Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston, Aubrey Sherrod and Xavier McDaniel.


KU has the players to win another national title. It's only a question of whether they will play cohesively enough consistently enough to cut down the nets.


This looks like the best Kansas State team since the Hartman era. A strong NCAA run appears likely. Texas looked like a team upon which the crown of "best team in the country" rested most uncomfortably.


What a startling start to 2010 for natural disasters and severe weather. A national cold snap not seen in at least 3 decades. A 7.0 earthquake that devastates Haiti's capitol, followed up 8 days later by a 6.1. Hard for me to call a tremblor that strong a mere "aftershock." Tornadoes that rake the Los Angeles metropolitan area. And we're barely past the midway point of JANUARY.


A Republican wins a Senate seat in Massachusetts? That hadn't happened in nearly 50 years. If the Democrats don't recognize that as a shot across the bow from voters - an early referendum on Obama's first year in office - the mid-term elections will be painful for them.

But both parties need to wake up. All the squabbling in D.C. sounds like children brawling on the playground...or firefighters arguing about the best way to use the water hoses while the orphanage is burning, with the children still inside.


The earthquake in Haiti, the tornadoes in SoCal and now (today) in northern Texas, the traffic pile-up that killed a 3-year-old near Kansas City --- all reminders of how suddenly tragedy can redefine our lives.

It seems so often we get caught up in what we don't have, when we should be focusing on what we DO have - so we can appreciate it more fully. Granted, that's a flaw of human nature, but it's something we should all try to be better at.

The outpouring of support for Haiti is moving, because it tells me that our reservoir of compassion hasn't run dry. If it ever does, we'll be in real trouble.


Monday, January 18, 2010

Tap, Tap, Tap on the Sidewalk

As I was preparing to turn from Douglas onto Rock Island next to the Wichita Eagle building on the way to work this morning...this gray, chilly, fog-shrouded morning...I saw a man just finish crossing Rock Island and reach the sidewalk, heading west.

He had on dark sunglasses, a battered navy blue hat, what looked like faded overalls and well-worn shoes. And he had a cane with him, which told me the sunglasses were more than just an affectation.

With my radio turned off, and the federal holiday making for sparse traffic downtown, I could hear him making his way down the sidewalk.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

He strode with the purposefulness of someone who long ago grew used to letting his cane lead the way. He did not look down or appear uncertain.

I found myself wondering what he could "see" that those of us with sight miss. His answers, I'm sure, would be profound.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ray and Fay

Thursday was the birthday for the other set of twins in the class of '79 at Pawnee Heights. I found myself wondering (perhaps for the first time, remarkably) what the odds are for a class of 28 students to have two sets of twins in it...and how many other classes of that size had two sets of twins in it.

Ray and Fay were two of the nicest people you could meet anywhere. Yes, they were shy, but (like most shy people) once they felt comfortable with you they opened up.

They both still live out in central Kansas; in fact, I think Ray now lives in the house where he grew up. Fay teaches at our old high school. She admitted to me the summer before she started that job that she feared it would be too strange to teach there after having matriculated there, but she told me late in that school year that it had gone well.

Ironically, their mother and my father dated for a while in high school, and Mom has told me more than once that after she met Dad she was convinced those two would marry and she'd never have a chance to date him. Obviously, things worked out differently.

I've never asked Ray and Fay if they have the uniquely strong connection many twins have. Heck, I'm not sure if Steve and I have it, although we do seem to be able to get more said with fewer words than most people. It's as if we know what the other will say even before they say it, and we just advance the conversation accordingly.

But more on that another time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti's heartache

I don't know how you can look at the images emerging from Haiti and not feel a panoply of emotions.

Shock. Sadness. Almost numbness, when I think about the horrendous loss of life from the earthquake and what the recovery effort will require.

When devastation is that complete, recovery comes in small steps. Shelter. Food. Water. Sanitation. Identifying and burying the dead.

The steps have to be small, or the task becomes overwhelming.

I don't have any patience for the chirping of folks such as Pat Robertson, who says Haiti's being punished for something that happened a couple hundred years ago. Haiti needs healing, not hot air.

The irony is that in the Bible, it was a long-held belief among Jews that when bad things happened to people it was God punishing them for sins - quite possibly the sins of their fathers. But Jesus preached that sometimes bad things just happen, and it's not meant as punishment for the victims.

St. Francis of Assisi is credited with saying "Preach the gospel always. If absolutely necessary, use words."

Haiti doesn't need scoldings. It needs help.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A bookstore closes

Any time a bookstore closes, I feel a sense of sadness. One more outpost for the intellect, one more corner of creativity, slides into the abyss.

Granted, this was a Waldenbooks tucked into a corner of a large shopping mall - not exactly The Little Bookstore Around the Corner swallowed by the massive bookstore chains. Perhaps that's why my sense of disappointment quickly gave way to the bargain hunter in me when I saw the signs announcing that everything in the store was 50% to 70% off.

So after getting a couple of laps in around the interior of the mall as per my physical therapy instructions, I started ruminatin' over what remained on the well-picked-over bookshelves. About 20 minutes later, I walked out with seven selections. Mind you, I fought off the temptation to nab a half-dozen more.

My choices:

Rain Gods, by James Lee Burke

Burke was my creative writing prof at Wichita State University in the spring of 1980, and he's become a world-class novelist. I'll pick up anything he writes, because he writes with such grace and power. Some of his passages are positively lyrical, and reading him seems to encourage me to turn loose of the reins in my own writing, and let the muse gallop.


Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving

I've heard strong reviews for Irving's latest novel. It joins two other Irving books on my shelf: The Cider House Rules and The World According to Garp. Both of those books have garnered wide acclaim, though both rambled endlessly at times and left me feeling disatisfied at the end. Still, I'll give a man considered by many a literary giant of the 20th Century another go - especially at 50% off.


The Given Day,
by Dennis Lehane

I'm not familiar with the author, but the premise of the book - two families grappling with a changing America just after the end of World War I - intrigued me.


by Marilynne Robinson

It won the Pulitzer Prize. I want to see why.


Light from Heaven,
by Jan Karon

The finale of the beloved At Home in Mitford series. I've gotten most, if not all, of those books for Mom, so it was a no-brainer to add this one to her collection. I've been told by some who have read my fiction novel that it compares favorably to Karon's works. Given how well the Mitford series has done, that's high praise.


The Abstinence Teacher, by Tom Perotta

I've read some of Perotta's essays, and I was intrigued by the plot of this book. Again, at 50% off, I thought, "Why not?"


The Scarpetta Factor,
by Patricia Cornwell

I have a couple of Cornwell books in my collection at home, and liked the premise for this book, if for no other reason than I've found myself interviewed by national media types in connection with major breaking stories as well (as the main character apparently is in this book, according to the dust jacket).

And there you have it. Of course, now I need to figure out how to make room for them on my bookshelves, which are overflowing as it is. But that's a task for another day.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Oh Christmas tree.....

......well, I have taken down my Christmas tree for 2009.....earlier than normal (I wait 'til the Feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 6) but I needed to make room for the replacing of my patio screen door, which was shredded by the Great July Hail Storm of 2009.

I have an artificial tree, and it looks pretty nice for a fake fir. Someday, perhaps, when I have a house with a sizable room in it, I'll be tempted to put up a real tree again. This'll do for now, tho.

An empty canvas

It's a new year.......not a new decade, as so many people suggest.....but at the moment 2010 is an empty canvas awaiting the painter's brush.....a field of newfallen snow poised for the first footprints.

What will the portrait of this year look like when the brush is placed back in the easel for the last time 364 days from now? Will it be one we want to hang on the wall, or put in the corner of the garage with other years we'd rather not think about?

That, of course, is a trick of the mind. Our years are not separate entities, but a collage of sights, sounds, experiences and events.

Nevertheless, a sense of curiosity is unavoidable ---- and good, for that matter.

I realize I haven't been blogging as much in recent months. Part of that is I'm so busy with work these days. I'm also trying to get some writing done on the family history.

But primarily it's because when I've had an inspiration for a blogpost I haven't been in a position to write it; or it's something I decide not to do for a variety of reasons.

I'll try to devise methods which allow me to store those ideas and tap into them when time allows.

In the meantime, here's wishing you a wonderful New Year!