Why Me? Why Write? Why Now? Why Not?

The Me is Doug Curran…Douglas M Curran…Douglas Metcalf Curran. Douglas is Celtic for “dweller by the dark stream”. Curran in Gaelic means “little spear”. And Metcalf? Scottish for “I met a calf”? Hey I don’t know! I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to get the questions right. At least I seem to be a spear fisher by some dirty water. Or maybe I'm a Druid. And that Curran thing may not even be as Irish as my Irish American wife, Colleen Fitzsimmons, hoped it was when she married me. Ok, I might be a Viking. It's like this. I was reading this book, The Lion Of Ireland, see, and the author, Morgan Llewellyn, recounts a last battle between Brian Boru and the Viking invader king, to regain Irish dominance again throughout the island and kick the fureners out. The Viking king's name? Olaf Cuaran? Cuaran? Curran? I'm a Viking now, so I am? And a descendent of one of those marauding and murderous pillagers and plunderers? I've never pillaged a thing in my life...well, maybe a book or two from somebody. I'm really just a gentle giant who loves books and music. Ok, I bought a sword recently, but only as a wall decoration to enhance my Irish family history coat of arms! Honest! Viking, Schmiking, so rest my Irish soul! Or my wife will have my old bald Irish head!

September 22, 2010

Sunday Morning Epiphanies and "Inception"...

It was in that quick transition from dream state to waking up last Sunday morning, that I somehow felt a kind of realization and release. Release from guilt that I have from buying and enjoying so many books! It felt like a moment of vindication, perhaps elicited by some disdain I felt from my wife the other day, asking to see a little stack of books I had on the fold-out table beside the chair in the family room. When I showed them to her, she said nothing upon looking at their titles. Just stony, baffled silence.

But to me, they are what keeps my mind alive and active, giving me hope of discovering new ideas and insights. . I've often talked about having a life of the mind. I am constantly defining myself by my books and the important ideas their authors share. Since I never really had a successful career or job identity, and so much of what I did was an eclectic hodgepodge of this and that, it helps me to keep looking for a life identity perhaps, something I can hang my searchings on, my sometimes desperate desire to know who I am and still do something significant with my life with an ongoing project of fitting life puzzle pieces together.

Lately, I've been reading Lou Marinoff and his philosophical counseling movement expressed in books like "Plato Not Prozac" and "The Middle Way". Here's something I could get into and do if I could get certified. . I have a minor in philosophy. I love philosophical questions, though they don't always engender answers I can always agree with. I'm guess I'm just more of an LDS/Christian/Thinker I think, seeking ideas and connections with scripture, history and the present, with the good, the true and the beautiful...kind of like Mulder's "The truth is out there" but with no conspiratorial focus. I'm nowhere near the level of a Hugh Nibley or Truman Madsen, but they are some of my religious and philosophy heroes, as are some of the General Authorities of my church like Neal Maxwell, Jeff Holland, scholars, teachers and men of God..

I have also gotten some books by renowned scholar Joseph Campbell recently too, because he has explored cultural history through myth and the meanings of our collective unconscious and symbols. I like to read his writings without sacrificing scripture or anything which affirms the marvelous life and atonement of Christ the Savior. I'm just seeking meaning and purpose and fulfillment and self-actualization, that's all. And I'd like to make some money while I'm at it! It's been such a curse for me to have to make money at one thing, while always wishing I was doing something else. Now Colleen takes up that slack for as long as she can, an inspirational teacher to the disabled and mentally impaired at Riverton High School.

That "something else" I refer to for me though was probably teaching, while I had the chance at BYU-Hawaii...in English. But I was always so distractible, so interested in so many things, filled with creativity to try different things, filled with ideas to try out in different ways - just couldn't settle on teaching, especially when I got flattered out of the classroom by our VP who told me I was a great writer and could really make use of that as University Relations Director, working directly under the President. And the money was better too. But the job security wasn't. It was a hot seat and I didn't last that long, as some of my management and administrative flaws were exposed, though my creativity flourished for four years.

So I surround myself with good books, shelf friends with great ideas and conversations going on inside them, since they seem to be the only ones who want to engage me and me them in discussion and idea exchange that makes me want to keep living. No one else in my life is very interested in what I'm thinking or studying it seems. I can't live in the mundane very long. And I really do feel as one philosopher said, "The unexamined life is not worth living". So to keep living, I have to keep examining...and writing about things that don't mean much to anyone else, but which in some way help me sift and sort and try to make sense of my my world....does that make sense?

And oh yes, I saw the movie "Inception", previewed it the other night before taking Colleen. Don't know if she would like it though, as convoluted and confusing as it was. But it was, after all the hoopla and special effects, about the power of ideas and how to get a great or important idea into the mind of someone through getting into their dreams. And so I come back to dreams, as I said. I may have been at the end of a dream, when I woke up Sunday morning. But it felt empowering to feel that my love of good books, having them around to pick up and scan for an interesting idea, using them for resource and research, expanding my fields of knowledge while trying to make more connections and at the same time know who I am better... was somehow ok to me, as much as others don't understand it and may even think I'm crazy for it.

August 27, 2010

Surf's Up...But I Was Never Up for The Surf!

Yeah, while channel surfing the other night, I happened upon some extreme surfing movie. It's fun to watch but I could never actually get into it. I even had my chance when I lived in Hawaii for ten years. There I was, living on Oahu's famous North Shore, a few minutes drive from Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay - and the BANZAI PIPELINE!!! Can you believe it, we could go up the road a few miles and catch some of the biggest waves in the world.

As if!! Can you say "undertow"??? What do you think Banzai means in Spanish anyway? Suicide, that's what!! We would go there sometimes just to watch the waves crash over the road and see helicopters trying to rescue stranded surfer wannabes out there in those giant undulating walls and towers of treacherous salty brine. But actually try to surf out there myself?

Come on, really, not with this white-skinned, flabby, haole body! First, I wanted to live. And B, there was no time. I had a lot of responsibilities at BYU-Hawaii where I taught and administered programs, many of which were on the weekend. And three, I was also the father of a growing hoard of kids which sometimes needed me - we brought four kids to Hawaii and had four more at Kahuku hospital - but not all at once. Colleen was good at delivering babies, but not THAT good!

Sure, we'd take them to the beach for a little scratchy sand and sunburn fun, but it was not cool to get squashed and crumpled and mutilated by a monster wave right in front of my little kids while pretending to be a beach bum surfer dude with a big ego. And what's more, I didn't even own a surfboard. Ok, I bought a beat up one once just to see if I could stay on it - but it wound up being a play thing for the kids, me giving them rides on it in shallow water, while I watched for blue bubbles and manta rays and hoped I didn't die from the stinging sickness like that "krikes" Aussie guy from "down under" - not under the surf, under the equator - whatever.

Hawaii has a great surfing tradition of course, including that famous surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku, who could put all those other guys to shame if he were still alive - even if he weren't alive too I think. I'm just glad I can pronounce his name...Ka-ha-na-mo-ku! But this dumb haole didn't need to get any dumber by attempting stupid heroic deeds on a surfboard for traditions' sake. Not that I couldn't have hung ten - my toes were as long as some people's fingers. I had plenty of toe length. But that's where my qualifications ended.

I also had this big yellow streak down my back that caused me to lean over too much and not maintain proper surfboard balance. Even body surfing and using boogie boards didn't work for me. I would have had to go out too far to catch any decent waves - like 10 feet at least. Luckily my wife didn't require me to be a showoff for her and attempt any macho nonsense. She also had that same local haole disease, bigwaveophobia.

Even snorkeling was a trial for me. One time we were with some friends at our local beach and the men wanted to snorkel out to the reef. I had my trusty mask and snorkel, but no fins. They didn't make them for my size feet though some would say my feet WERE fins! And without fins would make all the difference. But I thought I'd be one of the guys and follow them out there anyway, at least attempt a small feat of daring for my kids.

Pretty soon, I was sucking down salt water and choking and gasping half way to the reef - and decided to swallow my pride instead of any more water and turn back, barely making it to the beach without calling for my wife to give me mouth to mouth. As if!!! Naaah, jes' kidding, deah. Anyway, nothing for my kids to be proud of, but at least I'm still around to write about it.

Surfing? Obviously an addiction for some guys and gals around those waves. And I admire their feats of skill and ability in the water, those amazing and thrilling rides through those giant water tunnels. Yes, some get wiped out and crash, some hit their heads on boards, some don't make it up from under the water and go to surfer heaven. I haven't found a sport or adventure that I was willing to risk my life for, just for the thrill - especially surfing those famous, killer waves of Hawaii.

So it's been some 25 years since we've been gone from those magical beaches. I still prefer my Utah snow-capped mountain scapes and clear lakes though, that high, dry air and those cool nights. And I've yet to do that surfing thing even on a snowboard. Call me crazy, call me nuts, but now that I'm in my late sixties, I'll stick to no-risk channel surfing and a little action on the Net - that's about my speed, no broken bones, and I'm not too proud to admit it...right, kids? As if!!!

August 22, 2010

Advice To Shannon On Taking A Hike!

No really, my fatherly advice wasn't that strong - just answering her email regarding her excitement about hiking the "Y", and something for all you BYU fans out there too.

"Good luck! Last time I did that was in the early 60s when I was young and gaunt and game. It's quite a climb - be prepared to stop and gasp for air a lot and bring lots of water. The earlier or later in the day the better but not without some light. Take a flashlight in case night falls on top of you or you encounter an unexpected solar eclipse. And watch out for ankle sprains too. Wear good shoes of course, so no blisters and foot problems happen when you're not looking. Better bring a crutch in case. And a first aid kit with an ankle brace. I think there are tarantulas and rattlesnakes up there too, so bring a gun, a knife and a bow and arrow - in case of Cougars, you know, BYU and other kinds - and wild indians too, Utes mostly. Shoot them on sight, no questions asked. Our football team climbs it sometime soon this Summer as a big test of endurance in their current Camp, so don't get run over in the stampede..

Bring a can of whitewash to throw on the "Y" for good luck, or again on any unlucky Utes you might find up there - and might as well pack a four course brunch too with a table and chairs so you can picnic as long as you're up there. It's a nice view, so bring plenty of heavy cameras and tripods to take pictures with. Get a foto of our house while you're at it, ok? Hmmm, can't think of anything else. Maybe a beach towel for sunning - and wiping off all that sweat. Shane has hiked it most recently I think and could give you some tips. Maybe take a few flares in case you get lost and we have to come looking for you. They make good fireworks too. Make sure your cell phone is charged too. Yeah, that about covers it. And a compass. Dad"

No Money Singing...Or Drinking For That Matter!

Ok, finally figured out why I never made any real money signing...I mean singing. I was sitting in the bathroom see...no it was the doctor's office...ok it was the bathroom...no it was the dentist's office...ok, ok...and the newspaper on the floor was advertising the next big SCERA concert down the street, a big lovely outdoor theatre in the neighborhood. It was John Michael Richard or Richard Michael Bob or John Billy Bob Michael or some such country singer. And there he was smiling with his guitar and a whole list of his hit songs next to him to entice me to the concert, most of which...no, all of which I'd never heard of... ever. But we're going to have to hear him anyway just from living a few blocks away. The sound carries quite well on these cool Summer nights.

And I started thinking, no wonder I never made any money singing! If I had ever had a hit record, I'd have had to go around the country to as many places as I could to get people to spend their money to listen to me sing my songs over and over and over and over and over and over...and over...and...hey wait a minute, that's what I did when I had a hit record in 1969 with The Lettermen. And I was done by the third traveling show! Done, I tell you, D-U-N, done!!! I was a freaking robot after that, on remote control or auto pilot or whatever being a smiling singing zombie is! I don't know if making money that way is worth it. I really don't. Unless I just write them and someone else sings them over and over and over...

Colleen and I used to sing for our supper, yes, in dinner theatres, lounges, military bases, wherever we could make a buck in our younger struggling married years. She had come from doing a folk duo with Dave Webber out of Omaha, loved the crowd and singing those same songs over and over and over. I think the fact that she was a drinker in those days and could handle the monotony with a little light inebriation sure helped. Whereas I, a non-drinker, hated singing the same songs and stopping one after another so much that I started putting our soft rock repertoire into medleys we could sing without stopping for 15-30 minutes sometimes. She had also became a teetotaler like me too. But it was just another way for me to avoid the stop and go, the over and over, and sing ourselves into yawning la-la land until the night was mercifully over.

To me, singing a song is a possibly one-time experience, not something to be sung over and over and over and...unless it's like some scriptural truth you want to repeat over and over and over to really drill it in there. Now those songs might bear repeating a few times. Even Christmas carols, for example, which are like heavenly revelations to me. But some sloshy, gooey love song? Now I'm so glad I've only written Christmas songs so I only have to sing them once a year, questionable as they are, unless most of you forget and give me a reprieve and then maybe I skip a year or so and get by with only doing one of them. Unless it's at a 40th anniversary show and someone actually wants to sing one of them for old time's sake.

Do you know that the word "sake" and the Japanese alcoholic beverage "sake" look like the same word? So the Japanese say "For old time's sake" and have a big old toast I guess? And if you put an "h" in it, it's "shake" which I happen to be drinking one of right now. And no, there's no sake in it to cause these inane ramblings. Just writing things down - like I asked my kids to do sometime, ok? Even if if sucks, right it down. I mean "write" it down. See how spell check doesn't work on words that are homonymish to some degree? I'm on this new med to help take nerve pain out of my face and it makes me drowsy and stupid at the same time. Singing off - check that, signing off.

August 21, 2010

Bikes And Back Pulls...

We bought our oldest grandsons used bikes this summer from DI and a neighbor, thinking we would give them a little more mobility and more inclusiveness with their friends. Kalin's bike was almost stolen at his school. He managed to catch the perp in the act and retrieve it. But then he broke a pedal and hasn't used it since. Our neighbor Dave Rader who sold it to us, keeps telling me to bring it back so he can fix it. He has a bike fix-ation...get it? Fix-ation???

Moving on, Kai has used his more this Summer, with minor wear and tear. But Megan got a call from Joanie over at the bike shop, who she also happens to Visit Teach, reminding her that we paid for a new tire for Kai's bike and it was now in. So I put it in the car with some minor back strain and took it over for the replacement. As I watched the kid put it on and add some new rubber handles that had come off, I was taken with the sheer bikeness of it all - and how I have no talent or inclination to learn how to fix bikes or know much about them for that matter. And they are so much more complicated now, with all the wires regulating the brakes and gears. How can anyone keep up? Especially if you could never fix them in the first place?

The last time I rode a bike I think was back when my brother Dick and I had paper routes and would fly around the neighborhood throwing the papers as near to the front porches as we could without breaking a window or glass door. But once in a while, we had a lot of daring for two pre-teens and would ride these bikes all the way from Silver Spring down through Rock Creek Park to the Washington DC Zoo. What an adventure, taking our cameras for some cool animal shots, crossing fords that ran over some of the roads on the way back.

My bike daze have been long over, although my wife wants us to get bikes - but only secure and uncomplicated ones like we used to ride as kids. She forgets we've gained many more pounds since then than these bikes would hold. She actually wants an adult trike - yikes! - so she doesn't fall over and break some more brittle bones. Maybe she can pull me along behind her.

And oh yeah, I got a nice back pull I'm nursing right now, just putting Kai's bike in the car. Bikes can be real banes sometimes...

Movies For Schmucks...

I am often constrained to believe what the movie critics say...too much. Some of the ones they have panned lately, my wife and I have liked. But do you think I can think of one right now? Maybe later.

But I do get very peeved when one is given a fairly high rating, and is promoted high and low, on talk shows, on national radio, in the newspapers - and it turns out to be a bomb...for me at least. One such lately was "Dinner For Schmucks". I had enjoyed Steve Carrel in "Evan Almighty" and "Dan In Real Life". "Date Night" was going pretty well until he deteriorated into inane sexual humor at the end, as if looking desperately for an ending. What I saw of "The 40-Year Old Virgin" was also disgusting in its appeal to the lowest common denominator - raunchy sex references throughout, while trying to make us feel sorry for him that he had retained his virginity.

But when we out to see "Dinner For Schmucks" recently, we went with some high hopes of a repeat of Carell's better not his seamier side, having read a review that gave it a B. As we watched, and I waited for something funny I could at least muster up a chuckle for,  having told my wife that the review I read said it would be a little slow going until the funny dinner part.  I was sorely disappointed.

The dinner was a disaster, a total reduction into silliness and blatant sexual references that were just not funny. And as I thought about how the movie got there, it seemed to me to an utter self-indulgence on Steve's part, a poor attempt to try to make us laugh just because it was him. And he must think he's so funny now that any little sad story line or facial expression is going to get us to laugh and find him appealing.  Big mistake.

And I thought then about the promos I had seen him do on Lettermen and other shows, actually trying to make us believe that he was trying to make this a believable character, someone worthy of our compassion and pathos, as well as our laughter. What a joke! The joke is really on him in this one, sorry, but I found nothing redeemable about this mousey little guy who collects dead mice to stuff them into little characters we're also supposed to find adorable or tragic or something totally unemotional. And then he ruins the other guy's life as if he's not really trying to but is too cogent to be unaccountable.

I felt like a schmuck for going to it and sitting all the way through, waiting patiently for something real I could say was enjoyable and worth my time and money. Don't waste yours!

August 2, 2010

Hiatus Over...Let's Talk Opera!

Yeah, yeah, I know, I've been missed...not! No one reads this but me anyway, so what if I took a few months off? Who cares - nobody! But I did have a memory I'd like to write down.

I was channel surfing the other night and caught that part of "Moonstruck" when Cher and Nicolas Cage go to the opera - not just any opera, but "La Boheme", The Bohemian. That's me, a Bohemian of sorts too, I guess, with my dysfunctional mind that jumps on all kinds of ideas, that revels in new things, tries to create music and writing, and is always looking for some new truth or connection - and oh yeah, there's that beard thing.

But it also took me back to my college daze at BYU when after taking some voice lessons, I thought I'd try to do an opera. Crazy me! I had been gravitating toward more classical music lately, getting more power and confidence in my singing voice, which had only been focused on a pop orientation thus far. I was a crooner, ballad singer, loved jazz and bossa nova standards. But I was trying to stretch.

So in the Winter of 1965, I auditioned and got a minor lead, the baritone Shaunard in La Boheme, coincidently. My good friend and Brazilian Mormon Mission singing buddy, Jim Smith, was double cast in the same role, only he was on the first string of all voice majors, and I was on the second team of wannabees, doing alternate nights. I was lucky to even be there, because I wasn't that good, and my acting was atrocious, for an English major too.

But I did fall in love with the music, so majestic, sweeping and romantic, poignant and tragic too, with the death of Mimi overshadowing the whole drama. In fact, after it was over, I continued to sing all the music in my mind, even through that summer of traveling in the Far East with a BYU USO-type show for the DOD and the men in uniform. Yes, I was a versatile song and dance man, jumping at the chance to travel free ala the US Military - and jumping at every yelled command of our hyper but super talented leader, Janie Thompson.

We had lots of long bus rides and plane junkets to various outposts, during which I would often bring out my guitar and sing my Brazilian bossa nova and other jazz favorites to take up the time and do some quiet entertaining for our own 12-man troupe. But on some long trips too, my mind would go back to the music of Puccini and his glorious opera "La Boheme" and I would sing it again in my head!

Yes, I was 'moonstruck' by that music, as were Cher and Cage's characters - another memory from the past as I grow older and reflect, reminisce and record a few thoughts for a posterity that I'm afraid isn't too interested in my past right now. But I still am I guess, what I can remember of it...

April 30, 2010

Eye health, mini-strokes and other updates!

So I was just sitting down to a little mid-afternoon news catch-up after some chores on Monday April 19 and this grayish black shade dropped down in my right eye to a straight line in the middle. I tried to blink it away, but when that didn't work, I hurried in to our office, got online and started looking up various eye phenomena - but found nothing just like this. By this time, it started dissipating until it was just a little grayish quarter circle in the corner of my eye, then gone all in about 15 minutes. I got right on the phone with my Ophthalmologist's office and got an appt for the next day.

Not having seen Dr Nelson in a while, it was good to get an exam for all the possible causes - diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, detached retina - and get an all clear on those. He also said my Glaucoma levels were normal and my very minimal cataracts were also still very minimal. I wasn't even aware I had those. So what then? Ever heard of a TIA? Transient Ischemic Attack? That means mini-stroke, a prelude to a bigger stroke, if that's what it even was. Usually it has other more glaring symptoms, but eyes can also be indicators. I felt nothing with this episode however, only saw that little shading for awhile.

Nevertheless, he suggested and ordered an echocardiogram and a carotid artery scan, both ultrosonic, which I did in the next few days, and since have shown nothing out of the ordinary, a little irregularity here, a little abnormality there, a little plaque in the right carotid - but nothing momentous or cause for extreme measures. This prompted me to have my kidneys and prostrate checked - all ok - and get my blood sugar and pressure checked - all ok, even better than ok, because my A1C was down from 7.0 to 6.6 and my bp was 106/60 at IHC. Just need to get that colonoscopy done still, after Colleen's out of school for the Summer so she can drive me home during the wooziness after.

I also saw a neurologist, and he said an MRI of the upper carotid under my jaw might be an option, but that the ultrasound showed good blood flow to the brain, so it appears that there is no real blockages going on. I'm always conscious of clots in my legs from sitting too long, since losing two good friends around here to blood clots from recent traveling without walking enough. I've also been having some facial nerve pain called trigeminal neuralgia, and an MRI might show neuromas, but he didn't really think there would be any - and the other has been minimal since my blessing from Stephen O'Bryant and Steve Hansen back a few weeks ago at Wendy's baby blessing.

So where does all this leave me? I'm still pretty healthy for a big old heavy balding bearded guy, am losing weight at about 4-5 pounds a week on Isagenix, and those weekly cleanses may be helping my sugars and pressures. My urologist said that initial kidney tightness was from adjusting to the extra protein and water consumption - and after a few weeks, I am having less bladder urgency but still need to drink more water to overcome the occasional backup, if you get my crass "TMI". More roughage, you say, more roughage?

I need to exercise more of course to see more results on Isagenix, which is really a whole body cleanse program with weight loss as a side effect. But I'm feeling better mentally and physically, have more hope and confidence, more creativity in eating the right foods, with only a minor relapse now and then. Now if the world would stop falling apart with volcano eruptions and oil spills and earthquakes, I could sleep a little easier, though I am actually sleeping better lately anyway. I may even be nodding off right now, in fact, and not even know it...Oh yeah, and today marks the 55th anniversary of my baptism, of no small import in my life of course, but almost glossed over in all this other health hullabaloo.

April 19, 2010

Shane Family Birthdays And Other Weighty Matters...

Had a big Saturday party of birthdays, all in the Shane Curran family at his condo in Pleasant Grove. His youngest Aidan Douglas turned 4 on the 11th, a funnier and more precocious pixie boy I've never met! He's got a face like Thumper and a mop of black hair that curls all over the place - and can he make screwed up faces! His dad Shane, our third child, is no child at 36 on the 18th and his teeny little bride Sharon turns ? on the 20th. She wouldn't tell me. A big week for all of them though. Colleen and grandson Kai made nearly 100 deviled egg halves Saturday morning for the party, and the rest of the fare was barbecue/Cranberry chicken on buns, with mac salad and veggies. Birthday cake was strawberry short!

It was tough meal to eat after doing Isagenix for almost two weeks, mostly two shakes a day and a meal of lots of salad and fish. Tough because I could have eaten a lot more. I've had to be a little flaky at times to adjust my blood sugar to the fructose in the shakes and may have to go to more protein added. I did lose 12 pounds the first week, but was drinking so much water, and flushing it out, it was probably a water loss mostly, not sure. Finished a second all day cleanse today, eating only some celery and almond butter at midday, but had to eat again after all four cleanse doses, because of blood sugar worries - some low-fat cottage cheese and kalamata olives. I will probably gain some weight back this past week but again, blame it on the blood sugar ups and downs I think. I will be happy with ten pounds a month loss, though it could go quicker if I can control things better. How heavy the weightless thoughts of man, eh?

April 11, 2010

Ye Gods And Little Fishes! And Isagenix! Say What?

Yes, that first line is what my mom used to say to express her preposterousness at something. And her mother before her...and who knows how far back that colorful but antiquated phrase goes. So that's what I have to say as I watched a little of the PGA Master's Tournament today and watch how far this idolatry goes. Honestly folks, why do we let ourselves be fooled into thinking these guys are gods because they can wield a few iron sticks with skill and concentration to get a very little ball into a very little hole? And people actually go and watch this stuff with reverent awe, applaud with adoring emotion and grovel at the feet of their feet! It's a self-perpetuating media and money driven exercise in modern day idol worship.

It's the same with so many athletic contests and the well-developed bodies and amazing physical prowess displayed, often again having to do with mastery of some kind of ball. But as we've seen, a lot of those who do it are no models of morality or lives well-lived in service and kindness and love. The entertainment industry is the same, providing us with larger than life, big screen idols to worship and adore and try to emulate and hang on their every word about beauty and fashion and polititics, though many of their lives are skewed and flawed and over indulgent. Ah the hubris!

We saw little Michael Buble on stage a week or so ago, and I emphasize little, because although I like his voice ok and do appreciate that he's revived a lot of the good old vocal standards, I honestly gagged at the ear-crushing din of screaming and applause at his diminutive appearance. He had a big stage of musicians and special effects to back up his tiny body, otherwise he would have had little impact. And yet, we accept all these amplifications in sound and visuals as real, because we love spectacle, love things that are loud and flashy and big!

I was there once, singing with The Letterment in 1969-70, enjoying but more being baffled at the adulation I received for merely walking out on a stage and singing some already recorded top 40 hits, as a stand-in who could fake the real guy for awhile while he recuperated from a psychosomatic voice loss. Yes, I was idolized by screaming and mindless fans, but never felt comfortable with it, got bored with it after the first weeks of show, and found I could live without it when it was over in a year or so. Not that I didn't enjoy it of course - but I wasn't obsessed by it.

And then there's the real God, one of a trinity of Gods, the man whose victory over physical and spiritual death on the cross, in the garden, gave us eternal gifts, supernal gifts, love and forgiveness, a real model of life and courage and patience and compassion and charity. I tried to quietly celebrate His life last weekend, Easter weekend, with contemplations and supplications and rededications to keep His commandments, so I can live a full life here and with Him someday in the kingdom of His Father.

To me, more and more, that's what my live should be about, especially when every day's a countdown in my late 60s. Sure I love to watch a good athletic contest and attend a great concert. But deify the participants and honor them above the Savior of the world? I don't think so, in case that's what going on by what I see in these fawning and ingratiating celebrations of man-made celebrities who we too often substitute for the real thing.

And by the way, I'm on the seventh day of trying Isagenix, doing my deep cleanse today, trying to shed the burden of weight I've accumulated by lackadaisical living and forgetfulness and non-attention to my body and health. I have obviously used food as a comfort and neglected healthy activity, gradually growing larger and larger till I have come to my breaking point and need to change. So by replacing two meals a day with two nutritious and good tasting shakes, I am taking the guesswork out of choosing those meals everyday, am saving money I spend on them, and am not allowing myself to choose otherwise whatever suits my fancy in a fit of hunger pang. I hope it works and will report my progress as I go.

April 4, 2010

Easter Rise and Shine!

Wow, three whole weeks without a blog...I'm getting rusty. Easter coincided with my church's General Conference again this year, so it's two exciting days of great spiritual messages from Apostles and other Church leaders. But as for me, here's my little Easter piece I email everyone each year, but haven't blogged it yet, so...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what do we really mean when we say “Happy Easter”? I mean, it’s not like saying “Merry Christmas” is it? We don’t give presents, although I know people who get new clothes and give each other strange unrelated gifts – any excuse for using that plastic. It is a major Christian holiday like Christmas, but do we really have Christian sentiments behind that greeting? Or do we really just mean things like Happy Spring Cleaning? Or Happy Daylight Savings Time? How about Happy Egg Boiling? Bunny Hopping? Bonnet Buying? Parade Chasing? Cadbury Chocolate Gorging? Or Diabetes Recovering? Flower Fertilizing? Ham Basting? Spring Breaking?

"And when will we really ever get past that Easter bunny/egg-laying paradox and all its candy spin-offs? For most people today, it’s a celebration of Spring, flowery dresses and weird women’s hats, and planting seeds, and yeah I get the egg-fertility-rabbit connection. But I still think it’s a very forced and mixed metaphor we continually push upon our kids without ever resolving the psychological ramifications that are very confusing and totally unrelated to the Christian reality of it all - and no, rabbits don’t lay eggs – well, maybe there’s some distant convoluted connection. But isn’t that how we get traditions anyway, from so long ago that people forget why we do them today?

"Aren’t we really supposed to be celebrating something that may be just too difficult to wish someone? Do we even believe it? Do we really believe that Jesus died and came back to life? The Resurrection? One man said that that was the biggest question of life - “If a man die, shall he live again?” And that because of Jesus, we will all live again too? I say “Amen” to that! But are we even thinking about that at all when we way “Happy Easter?” Maybe we should be coming up with something more creative and definitely related to the real meaning of this international Christian holiday more than just a sometimes predictable “Happy Easter”. How about something like, “Good Resurrection!” “Rise and Shine Forever! “ “Happy Undead Day!” Now that does it for me.

"But could we actually say that and be politically correct? “Have a nice resurrection!” Doesn’t that say way too much about death and dying for us to feel comfortable? Even though we are talking about the ultimate solution to dying - the ultimate reason to not be afraid of it? The ultimate miracle of life is the afterlife! Isn’t it a bit presumptuous and maybe too premature to be wishing someone something that will directly relate to their having to die first? And if we wish them a happy resurrection, shouldn’t we first wish them a joyful death, or a painless passing or a quick demise - that maybe they’ll get hit by a car rather than having to suffer with agonizing toenail cancer? And THEN wish them a nice resurrection? No really, I want to finally get this out on the table so we can get past these sometimes inane wishes we make at Easter without knowing what we actually mean, and come up with something that works!

"Shouldn’t we really focus on the changes in our bodies that our resurrection is going to bring? Forget all that plastic surgery and liposuction and tummy tucking and face lifting and Collegin and Botox injections! Yes, forget about it because you are going to get a brand new body anyway, right? A heavenly makeover to the max! So why spend your kid’s college money and your life’s savings on stuff that you’re going to get later anyway? And continually pad the pockets of those surgeons who should be out there transplanting livers and hearts and eyeballs!. It’s ridiculous! Unless of course you don’t believe in it, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not going happen, right? Doesn’t Paul or someone like him say something like " …if we believe in this life only, then we are all of men most miserable"? That would sure sink my boat.

"So maybe when we wish people a happy resurrection, we should also throw in something like – “…and a tight bottom too!” Or “…and a head full of great hair!” Or “…and an amazing new schnozz! Or “…and a 38 DDD!” Maybe we won’t even recognize each other, we’ll look so young in the hereafter – that is if we have only known each other as older people; because I know in my case that people don’t recognize me from my 40-year-old fotos. “Hey, who’s that stud with your wife?” Yeah, I get that a lot. And I also hear that a good resurrection will take us back to our 25-year-old body, unless of course we have already corrupted it at that age with booze and tobacco and Skittles and Big Macs. I heard that people who lose their children while they are young will get to raise them still, because they will resurrect as children. I just hope there are lots of little kids around.

"So I think we need to get past the colored eggs, the yellow peeps and the burnt honey-baked ham and get to the other meaty stuff – like what kind of resurrection are we going to have anyway? Yes, it’s not all just one big happy reunion of body and spirit, even though it is a free gift from Jesus – and He did pay an awful price so we could have it. But because of Him, we also get to choose our own personal resurrection! Say what? Paul says in I Corinthians 15 that we won’t all resurrect alike. He says we will have different resurrections, comparing it to the difference between the sun, the moon, and the stars, as we perceive their differences from earth, I assume. He calls one Terrestrial, like the moon, and one Telestial, like the brightness of the stars.

" I know from some modern sources that the sun is called Celestial, and that they all represent a degree of glory that God will provide to all of his children, depending on how they’ve lived on earth. Yes folks, there is still some earning to do here. But the highest degree is a Celestial resurrection and those who inherit it will come forth in the morning of the first resurrection and live with Him right here on this celestialized earth. So will there also be an afternoon and evening resurrection? I’m a late morning kind of guy myself and not too anxious to just burst out of my coffin for an early breakfast. But I’ll do early if that’s what it takes.

"And will it be all that easy getting out of those boxes anyway? No one wants to be conscious and still in the coffin. We don’t want any fingernail scratches messing up the inside of the lid, right? We’ll get some help digging through that dirt, right? I have a problem just getting off the bed each morning. And I keep seeing images of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and hoping that at least I’ll have time to clean up before I go see anyone. I don’t think I’ll be doing any dancing right away. Of course, the first person I’ll look for is my wife, to see if she’s still that good looking babe I married, just to see if this resurrection stuff really works. Hey, what am I saying? She still looks good to me right now! I know she’ll be hoping that I am back to that coiffed hair and that flat six-pack stomach and marathon-runner physique I never had before.

"And what will we do while we’re waiting to resurrect? There has to be a waiting place, a place for our spirits to keep busy too. I hear it’s called spirit prison for those who didn’t know Jesus or lived badly by His light and who are still receiving His word through His servants, who just might be some of us when we get over there. You remember when Jesus told Mary Magdalene not to touch Him because He hadn’t ascended to His Father yet? Was that because she was only seeing His spirit body – not his resurrected body yet? Or maybe He was resurrected but too glorified to touch. In Ephesians, it says that after Jesus died, He went and preached to the spirits in prison while in the spirit, to people who had died but hadn’t known or believed in Him yet. He gave them a chance to accept His Gospel there too. Remember on the cross he told one of the thieves that he would be with Him in Paradise?

"Well, I think Paradise is the waiting place for those who believe in Jesus and who don’t have to wait to be taught about Him. Since baptism is an earthly and necessary ordinance as Jesus said, “Except ye be born of the water and the spirit, ye cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven…” – people who accept the gospel in this spirit world after they die can still have baptism done for them by proxy on earth as mentioned in I Corinthians 15 again, when people were asking Paul about the resurrection. They said in passing, “Why are they then baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?", as Paul was trying to convince them of the reality of the Resurrection. Baptism for the dead is being practiced today all over the world in special Temples – and no, it doesn’t mean exhuming dead bodies and baptizing them. Remember that word, proxy, ok? Go look it up! It’s doing for others today what they might not have been able to do for themselves in a time when baptism and the Holy Ghost weren’t available or not bestowed by legitimate authority.

"Yes, so come on resurrection! Can’t come too soon for me – unless I have to die first, of course, in which case I can hold off for a little while, no big hurry. Actually, I’m hoping for that “change in the twinkling of an eye” kind of rapture they talk about, no pain, just levitation without hesitation. I want to put in my order for that right now. Yes, that’s Curran with a C not a K, then U – two R’s, A not E, and a big N-ding. Yeah, it will be nice to see my folks again and visit with other relatives I never knew except by their pictures. Can’t remember my two grandfathers, I was so young when they died. And one grandmother was killed in a car accident while I was a nursing baby. I only knew my father’s mother, who helped us get into a home and who lived with us till she passed away. And so many of their parents and grandparents I’ve come to know through doing family history – nobody likes that G-word much…Genealogy. But it’s still fun.

"I’m sure they’ve been very busy on the other side though, with time to cheer my family on here and hang around to help us, their progeny, and get through this life so we can all get on the next stage in our progress – together! Angels? Could it be that this mystery is so simple? They’ve been our ancestors all along? I’ve been trying to do their saving ordinances like baptism too, so when I do see them, I don’t have to go skulk about guilty and hide in some cloud because of shame for not doing that work for them .They did so much for me in just coming down here first and laying a great foundation of freedom and peace through their blood, sweat and tears.

"And I’d really like to meet Abe Lincoln, a childhood favorite of mine. Oh I guess there are a lot of other people I’d like to meet – James Stephens, a tiny Irish poet, the subject of my masters thesis. And William Wordsworth, the sublime English Romantic poet I love to read. C.S Lewis of course – but he’ll have such a crowd around him I bet. Maybe I’ll see some of the people I served in Brazil as a missionary, like Ignacio Morais. Now there’s a guy with a story. His dad was a river boat captain on the Amazon, who jumped in the water to save a passenger who had fallen, and they both got eaten by piranha fish! Yikes. I’m sure he is thankful for the resurrection! And his son barely lived to tell me the tale, because he showed me an arrow wound in his shoulder from those crazy Yanomamos using him for target practice. I got to teach Ignacio the Gospel and baptize him and his wife, so I hope to hear some more of his tales someday. Their daughter Iolanda called from Brazil some years back - what a treat!

"So how about that eternal life – God’s life! And eternal progression! Now that’s what Easter’s all about to me anyway - and celebrating the life of the only pure and sacrificial Lamb who could make it possible through an infinite atonement, paying a price we couldn’t for our sins that we might be clean enough to enter God’s holy presence. Christ only asks for our sincere repentance, that broken heart and contrite spirit – and then He makes up the difference. It’s about freedom from not only the first death, the death which Adam and Eve brought providentially into the world so we might have a probation – but also freedom from the second death, that separation from God that comes through sin and rejection of His plan of happiness. Salvation from the physical death is free to all men – all will be resurrected. But salvation from the death of the spirit, we have to earn, for it is “by grace are we saved, after all we do.”

"And one other thing before I tie this all up into a nice little Easter basket. I am baffled by those who say God is a spirit and God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are all one person. The New Testament is replete with evidences of their separateness. “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3, for instance, when Jesus is so painfully praying for release from His Father in Gethsemane. How does Jesus give us the free gift of the Resurrection, claiming His body first – and then disclaim that body and become a spirit if, as some believe, He is the Father as well as the Son? Doesn’t work for me. And we have glorified bodies but He doesn’t? The Holy Ghost, a spirit, yes - but Jesus and His Father? Two people, two bodies. For me, that makes it a Happy Easter. And an egg with a little salt and pepper."

March 18, 2010

Getting My Irish Up ...

Spent the evening watching PBS and it's fund raiser all about Ireland, hosted by Patty Duke and Nick Clooney. So much nostalgia with American Irish heritage in song and dance and historical highlights of former Irish/American actors and their music. The show was written by Malachy McCourt, brother of Frank McCourt, now deceased, who wrote that powerful and poignant book, "Angela's Ashes", a tribute to his Irish mother and her enduring spirit with their poverty. I couldn't finish it, it was so haunting and tragic, about his growing up in Ireland's terrible impoverishment, so gritty and gosh awful. But Colleen and I enjoyed the PBS show anyway, talking about our Irishness and how we've tried to integrate it all into the fabric of our marriage and family. So here goes another related reminiscence, while the potato soup is still hot...

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what does it mean to wish someone a Happy St Patrick’s Day? Have some luck of the Irish? Cheat your fate, defy your destiny, win the lottery anyway? How about find a four-leaf clover? Where did that get all its power, if the three-leaf one is supposed to represent the Holy Trinity? What’s that fourth clover leaf all about? Who’s that supposed to be? St Patty himself? Would make a great story - The Fourth Clover Leaf. Or now there’s that salacious innuendo, to get lucky? Hey, get married, then get lucky! So many unwitting people wear that t-shirt without even knowing it's intended naughty reference. So clean up your act, citizens!

"I didn’t really get into the Irish celebrations or even realize my surname Curran was Irish until I met herself, Colleen Fitzsimmons. I was singing with The Lettermen in 1969, and she was singing as Dave and Colleen in Amarillo, TX. (Dave Webber is a sportscaster at WOW-TV in Omaha). I came through town while doing some shows in the area, and stayed at the Holiday Inn where she was singing. Some of the road crew invited her over to our lounge table to hit on her, but she only had eyes for me – and my sautéed mushrooms. Who would eat that stuff? The grill was closed and that’s all they had, ok?

"And because she was a good Catholic girl and I a returned Mormon missionary, we sat and talked religion all night. And 40 years and 8 kids later, the rest is history. But much of her identity was all wrapped up with her being raised a Midwestern Irish Catholic Democrat, with the Irish being at least as dominant as the others. And when she reminded me that I was Irish, I began my love affair with the auld sod - had even written a masters thesis on James Stephens, a Celtic Renaissance poet/writer from Dublin who was only 4’8” and extolled little things – an unwitting prelude I think to meeting my Irish Colleen.

"So within weeks after that first encounter and courting long distance, Colleen and I were sharing children’s names, since we were already talking about families and the “M” word - yeah, I know, pretty cheesy, but I was 27 and she 25, a Mormon and a Catholic with big family ideas. But interestingly, one of my favorite girl names had always been “Colleen” which means literally "Irish girl" - and she didn’t mind “Doug” that much either. But we really had a lot of kid’s names in common and with Quinn being one of our favorites, we chose it for our first child when he was born a year after were married, which was six weeks after we met. Huh?

"We ultimately wound up with Irish/Celtic names for all our kids including Megan, Shane, Erin, Shannon, Caitilin, Sean and Conn (named for an old Irish king, Conn of the Hundred Battles) And little did we know that Quinn and Conn were actually root cognates, or derived from the same name – as were Shane and Sean. It was fate then? And all our girls I wanted to have "Colleen" as their middle names, much to my wife's chagrin - but I couldn't pass up the symbolism.

"And marrying Colleen meant we would thenceforth and forever celebrate St Patrick’s Day as a day of veneration of our Irish ancestors and roots, though there was a secret German and Scotsman in there somewhere we don’t mention much. And we would henceforth also be known as those Irish weirdos down the street, always flaunting their green stuff – no not that green stuff – just anything green we could stick up or hang or display to show our pride. But as Kermit said once, “It’s not that easy being green”. Not everyone was as into it as we were, but we nevertheless abandoned all pretenses and humbly showed our Irish pride, a true Celtic contradiction in terms.

"St Pat’s Day usually began with Colleen demonstrating how the Leprecauns must have been in the house, because as she stirred the morning oatmeal, that little drop of green food coloring she put in the bottom of the pan made the porridge magically turn a shamrock color and thus began the fantasy. “Lucky Charms” was a favorite cereal too. Later in the day, our little brass bowl we bought from Pier I that said “Made in India” became our pot of gold, filled with gold-wrapped chocolate coins, and was hidden in the yard or in the house for the kids to find and fight over. We even called the weatherman and asked for a rainbow to hide it under – which is another reason we have no faith in those guys.

"And what would March 17 be like without a little Riverdance (my Michael Flatley imitation sucks), and watch 'Darby O’Gill and the Little People' for the kids, and then maybe watch 'Angela’s Ashes' or 'The Field' for some good old adult Irish angst. Of course, we loved the funny 'Waking Ned Devine', the tear-jerker 'Evelyn' and the joyful 'Dancing At Lughnasa' - and so many others being made in Ireland, including a new one, 'The War of the Buttons'. All of this would follow one of Colleen’s wonderful potato soups in green bread bowls, even corned beef and cabbage, with a few “arsh” potatoes. She visits her brother Tom in Ireland now and again in the summers, who married a former nun, Catherine McKenna, when he was 36 and she 38 – they retired to Ireland to raise their four amazing kids, but have since returned to the new sod and are at present enduring big bad winters in Bismarck ND.

"Our son Quinn was also an LDS missionary in Ireland for two years, which has galled this good Catholic uncle Tom who says he baptized Quinn Catholic as a baby, unbeknownst to us or him – and then there Quinn was in Ireland, preaching to his own. Oh the tangled web we weave! On his first day in Dublin, Quinn took the phone book and found pages and pages of Currans and Fitzsimmons, and decided he was in the right place. There was even a market chain there called Super Quinn, and he felt honored for the namesake. On slow days, he even invented a game with Guinness Stout beer lids he'd find on the street, little cork mini frizbee's he'd manipulate between his fingers called Guinno-Friz. He and his comp even created major tournaments with this pasttime. Missionary work must have been really slow.

"So we are obviously a very sick family and have had to have hours of counseling just to address this Irish obsession – until we realized it was everyone else who was missing out and were just jealous because we were Irish and they weren’t! Nah na na nah nah! But the only little hitch we have found in all this Irishness is that maybe we aren’t as Irish as we thought! First of all, the name Curran seems pretty legitimate, going back to that Conn of the Hundred Battles I mentioned. But Fitzsimmons? I’ve got to whisper here because there’s a lot of sensitivity on my wife’s part, and she can really get her Irish up. You see, Fitzsimmons is likely a Norman name that came up from northern France as Fils Simons, or illegitimate son of Simon. Yeah, so we don’t really talk about it.

"But then I also have to admit something about the name Curran. I was reading a book called The Lion of Ireland, by Morgan Llewellyn, about how a great king of one of Ireland’s divided provinces, Brian Boru, helped unite the other kings against the Viking invasion of the 10th Century, when they made Dublin their Viking capitol. Those marauders were quite a violent group of gents, probably all bi-polar and not taking their meds, who plundered and pillaged and raped and sacked and got brain damage from eating too many rotten potatoes. No wonder there was a famine! But Brian died fighting the Viking king in the last battle that finally drove them out – well at least down the street. And what was that Viking king’s name? Olaf Cuaran. What? Cuaran? Curran? I’m a Viking, am I now? See Colleen, you got me back!

"No, the Vikings did not leave Ireland entirely and for sure their DNA was all over the map. And no, red hair is not Irish, it’s Viking too. My 6-ft tall sister-in-law, Kathleen, is a flaming gorgeous redheaded proof! My wife’s other brothers and sisters are tall strawberry blondes. She’s the only dark-haired one. I have three daughters who are 6 ft tall and one 5’10” – and sons all 6-2 to 6’6” – alas no redheads however, except maybe a hint from Conn and some red highlights in Quinn as a toddler. The original Irish were darker and smaller, probably more the size of guys like Mickey Rooney and Gene Kelly.

"Oh yeah, I found out that Gene’s middle name was Curran and wrote him a letter to probe a family connection. His terse post-carded reply just said “Thanks for the note. Up the Irish!” So much for the Curran connection. I think he was fed up with the IRA conflicts between north and south at the time. Well, there’s always more I could say – but I’ll let it be for now, unless my wife comes along while I’m typing this, then you’ll never hear the end of her blarney! Yeah, I’ll have to get over there someday just so I can kiss that blarney stone and learn to keep up with her jabber…uh, gab… from her gob. Colleen, you know I'm kidding, right? Right? Put down that frying pan and kiss me, I'm Irish! Colleen? Colleen? She can really get her Irish up."

March 13, 2010

Pizza Consciousness and Family Tradition..

Last Friday night was another in a long line of Curran pizza nights, nothing special, just one of thousands we've had for about 30 years or so. We always get two, for ourselves and whoever might drop by anymore, though we can count on the kids who still live with us off and on. It all started in Hawaii, when we tried to have a family night each Friday consisting of pizza and a video. Pizza was pretty outrageous for our family of eight kids and Hawaii living was so expensive anyway; but that's where our tradition started. And each Friday night since, we've been having pizza, with a very few exceptions. But what kind of pizza is the question.

After we moved to Utah, and not having much money most of the time we've been here, we've tried all kinds of pizza, depending on how much money we had. And videos? Well, forget that after a while because as the kids grew, it became increasingly hard to find one video everyone liked, let alone find one that was decent enough to show in a family setting at home. So videos went out the window. We turned to tv watching of any sort we could all agree on while eating whatever pizza we could decide upon too. You had to have something to watch while eating pizza, eh? And usually it was all gone before much watching took place. And of course, we've kept the soda pop industry alive with all the drink we've washed it all down with.

For many years, we had to do the frozen kind from Smiths or Albertsons. Usually it was Totinos, little teeny pizzas we could buy cheap and in bulk so each person could actually have his own. When that got old fast, it might have been Red Baron or some such cardboard crusty kind to try to make up for the real deal. We even discovered we could almost make our own brand, something close to real, using toasted French bread with spaghetti sauces first, then pepperoni and mozzarella cheese we cut ourselves, until cheese started coming out in bags already shaved. We burned too many of those kind under the broiler though before we finally got the timing of ingredients and heat in balance. So many smoky memories.

We eventually discovered a mom and pop pizza shop in south Provo which made its own pizzas with fantastic dough which came ready to cook. We would on special occasion drive all the way down from Orem and buy a few and treasure them all the way back. That became an obsolete option however, once we discovered that Papa Murphy's new chain did the same thing and was only a few blocks away. And when we tired of that, we could order from a new Papa John's that took over from the Taco Time that went our of business right down our street. And they had litle green chilis and garlic butter with theirs! Of course, I've always preferred Pizza Hut's crust over the years, and have even tried a Dominoes of two, once they finally got their act together and made something worth eating.

But I question why we made some pizza compromises with these new chains. Take Papa John's for instance. When it first came out, I envisioned Papa John as some wizened old Italian pizza master finally bringing his recipe from the old country so we Americans could appreciate real authentic pizza. I never questioned why his name was John and not Giovanni. His real name is John Schnatter or something very un-Italian and he's about 30 years old. He doesn't deserve the title "Papa" at his age, let alone try to convince us he's Italian and could know anything about pizza making!

And what about Papa Murphy's? When was the last time you saw an Irishman making pizza? I mean hey, I'm Irish myself, but when did the Irish come up with pizza? Maybe if it had corned beef and cabbage on it, yes, but no, I'm sorry, pizza and Paddy don't mix in my book. Yet I got suckered in by it because it offered oven-ready pizza I could bake myself and it also had a great taste. And Pizza Hut? Huts are for jungles or tropical islands, aren't they, but not pizza! And a karaoke bar called Pizza Doc's? Take two pizzas and call me in the morning? I don't think so. But now there are big dine-in pizza places, exorbitant and pricey, just because someone brings it to you. Does that make it better? Without the box?

I remember when I made up a name for a pizza place called "Eatsa Pizza", just for the rhyme of it, envisioning my own place someday. And then to my amazement, saw a place open up in Orem a few years ago with the same name, a cheap pizza buffet with salad and fast food pizza, and I could care less whether it was Italian or not - but just cheap! But it went out of business after only a year or two. Probably lost too much money and people just didn't support it for some reason. I don't know, I'm feeling a little ambivalent about pizza, though I keep ordering it from these aforementioned chains, without thinking anymore, just by tradition.

My mind goes back to one of my first pizza memories in Falls Church, Virginia where we were living with our youngest two, Quinn and Megan. We took them out to eat once at a place that advertised Sicilian pizza. We didn't know what that was, but were intrigued, hoping it wasn't a cover for some Mafia business. We found out it was a deep dish pan pizza, smothered with tons of mozzarella, no pepperoni or anything else, just cheese! It was delicious! They brought us six huge squares of pizza, of which I ate two, Colleen ate two, and the kids ate one each. We were stuffed. As the waiter came over to the table, we thanked him and told him how great it was. He only said, "Are you ready for the other half?" What??? Now that was pizza heaven to the maximus and we took it home, thanking the pizza gods all the way for an unforgettable feast of leftovers!

February 22, 2010

Winter Games in Vancouver and SLC Oly Redux...

I don't know...as I watch all the thrills and chills of the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and how global warming only seemed to hit there and not in the snowbound East, I still can't dismiss my feelings about how much we idolize the athletes and their feet feats! How much we make celebs out of people who can snowboard and ice skate and fly down ski slopes and sled tracks at breakleg speeds, who brave death and have great muscles and skills - and who are awarded with prestige and international adulation and medals galore.

But they're not gods, people, no matter how much the media wants us to adore them, how much teeth and giggles they show on Oprah and other shows and breakfast cereal boxes. Sports are elevated to such heights, yes Olympian heights. I for one just love the snow and wish I could go play in it. But I hate the interviewers who ask the same questions of the winners, hoping for different answers - or maybe just to get the same answers all the time and hear the word "awesome' a thousand more times! Yes, congrats to all the players and I hope the rewards are worth it for the years of preparation and toil. But as high as they fly, I hope they keep their feet on the ground - and I for one won't be worshiping any of them.

Now, having the Olympics in Canada meant we got to hear things in two languages, English and French. As I reminisce about the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, I bring to mind that we almost had them in two languages there too - English and Utahna. Forgive my little jibe at a state I've come to love for 23 years, being born and raised myself in the East. I just have a few problems with the linguistic regionalisms of the locals here, per a little essay I sent out to all the papers at the time but updated here for later publicaton ...

Winter Olympics 2002 Was The Rill Dill (My Utah-Speak Daze) – By Doug Curran

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have more questions than answers. Like why do I love Utah so much when they talk so crazy? I'm a Maryland boy myself with a midwest non-accent. With the 2002 Winter Olympics distant history and the 2004 Summer Games already past, it's nice to know that my concerns with its political success have been basically unfounded. If there really were any terrorist jihadists around, I hope they mistakenly wound up in some ice cave in the high Colorados, trying to bomb the 'Avalanche Venue.' The fear of traffic problems in Salt Lake City turned downtown into a ghost town, we became the porta-potty capital of the world if just for two weeks, and our arsenal of green jello is still intact to share with the a starving world out there. And I think we can safely say that we have impressed the world with how many times we can use the word "venue"(can a porta-potty be a venue too?).

"No, what I was really worried about was an even greater threat to the Games and to world peace than those visiting protesters against rodeos, abortion, the Mormons, global warming, the Mormons, valley pollution, and the Mormons. I was more concerned with the potential for significant international misunderstanding every time a local folk might open his mouth in well-intentioned gushes of good will, not knowing he might be some poor visitor's only English manual. Did it happen? And I’m not talking about the Utah-speak of years ago, still pleasantly alive in some of our older generation's more memorable lines like 'Let’s go horness the harses down on the form in American Fark befar we read the Book of Marmon at the wahrd house.' And what about all those more youthful generational 'Dangs' and 'Oh my hecks' and 'My words' and 'Fer neats'!

"No, no, this is something far more recent and insidious and makes the Great Vowel Shift(or is that Movement?) pale in significance to another linguistic anomaly. What I’m talking about friends is what nobody has yet protested and I want to do it before the world gives us the powder. I call it the 'Demise of the Diphthong!' What’s a diphthong, you ask? Well it doesn’t take a diphstick to know what a diphthong is. It’s one of those things in language that…well, it’s when you’re talking and you…ok, it’s like this, see.

"Let’s take the word “real", for example. There are two vowels together in that mono-syllabic…uh, single syllable wonder - 'e' and 'a. In more midwest English, they are each given a separate sound value akin to something like 'ree-uhl'. That is how most people say it - except in Utah. In Utah, it is pronounced 'rill'. No kidding! Rilly!! Have you listened to your local radio commercials lately? Or to your neighbors kids? Or to yourself? Ever?? Hey, this is serious stuff!

"And what about the two vowels together in the word 'mail', 'a' and 'i', or its homonym 'male'? The word in every English class I’ve ever been in (MA English , ESL certified, but seriously considering changing careers to becoming a curling sweeper) sounds like 'may-uhl'. There are supposed to be two sounds there - two together. It's a diphthong, people! We can actually pronounce those two sounds separately!

"But what I'm hearing is something like 'I’m going to the Post Office to pick up the mell.' No, that’s exactly what I’m hearing. Mell! Mell? Like ‘through rain, snow, sleet and hell(not hail) the mell will get through?' And I used to deliver the stuff as a sub postal carrier in the East to earn money for an LDS mission in Brazil.) And it seems to be only those specific diphthongs used with 'L'-sounding endings. So what the 'L' is that all about? Help me out, here! And I know some wiser-than-thou linguist out there will! Are we just getting too lazy to use those poor little vowels?

"But what if someone visiting from another country had gotten sick on fry sauce, let's say. It could happen! Would the attending medical person have said something like 'How do you fill(feel)? You look pretty pell(pale). What was in your last mill(meal)? If I can’t hill(heal) you, maybe I can get you a good dill(deal) on a coffin.' Or what about the tourist who was shopping Utah for some souvenirs? Did some retell (retail) store say something like 'Hi folks, come on in, we’re having a sell (sale) on fishing rills(reels) and shingle nells(nails).' Nice target marketing. Doesn't anyone else see some serious international implications here? Is it just me?

"And finally, how did we do helping all those brave Olympians who had a rill ordill on the ice and slopes, hoping they'd prevell over their competition, not well in anguish if they lost, or who had to go to jell for felling the dope test? Did we just smile and say 'Happy trells, pardner! The devil's in the detells!' And I’m not trying to be pompous or coy here - much. I've just gotten so used to those little 'ea's and the 'ai's, that I don't want to see them disappear. And they ARE disappearing! And I didn’t want our guests to leave Utah filling confused and felling to see us as we rilly are, out standing in our filled. Ooops.

"Hey, don’t get me wrong, I love Utah! It’s been home for 18 years as a transplant from the East Coast via Hawaii. So I'm really not affected by local regionalisms so much. But I do love selling on Deer Creek and riding the rells on the Heber Creeper. I just hope that when President Bush was in town, nobody sang 'Hell to the Chief!' But hey, those Winter Games were the rill dill, weren’t they? How did you fill about them, rilly? Nobody went to jell. Will never know if the terrorists were here because if they felled in their plans, or didn’t still any money, then they didn’t sill the dill. Yes, happy trells, partner, as I sell into the sunset...oh boy, gimme that midwest linguistic makeover already."

February 15, 2010

Can you say "Happy.....'"?

It all started Friday night with a mesmerizing opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, with amazing winter images and Canadian ethnic welcoming celebrations - so I guess I should have said "Happy Winter Olympics!" But I was alone because Colleen felt too tired and was coming down with a cold. My young grandson Kai joined me for a few minutes, while I tried to make it a significant event for him for as long as I could keep his attention. But he was involved with his uncle Sean and brother Kalin, doing some recording in the next room, way more interesting for all of them than watching Olympic history. But then the NBA All-Star festivities and multiple shooting contests started that night too, going through Saturday and Sunday night, with a totally dazzling idol-worship intro of these players, making them gods to whomever was watching - so maybe I should have said "Happy All-Star Weekend!" But there was more Olympics to compete with and of course it was pizza night and nobody cared.

And then along came Valentine's Day on Sunday, with Colleen and I scampering around the day before to find some kind of chocolate goodies for our single grownups and grandkids too, while trying to find a good celebratory dinner and movie we could enjoy for our "sweetheartness" instead of indulging it on Sunday. We both got up late Saturday though because she was still nursing a cold and I've been having attacks of facial nerve pain from as yet undetermined sources. When we finally left the house late Saturday afternoon, we thought we had outsmarted the other local folk and got to the restaurants early - but as we drove by our first dinner alternative, Olive Garden, it was packed with people standing outside. We had gotten ourselves up for some Italian - but as we turned ourselves towards Provo and another possible lasagna option, we drove by TGI Fridays and decided to check it out. It was virtually deserted, so we prided ourselves at finding a place no one else had thought of yet, got a table and ordered some great vittles with hardly any competition.

Our movie option fell through however, as it turned out our newspaper had wrong info and the show "Extreme Measures" wasn't actually playing at the Provo Mall after all, or anywhere else for that matter. Every other movie option and time just didn't appeal to us. So there we were at the mall with nary a thing to do but walk and window shop, something we don't find that appealing anymore with our bad knees and legs and lack of money. So we got those aforementioned goodies, headed home to see if we could find a movie on Comcast OnDemand. I just paid the past due bill today so we should have had selection options, but a message kept coming up that we couldn't order any pay-per-view movies - and their offices were closed to try to find out why. (Found out later they're supposed to be open 24/7 so there was a hiccup in the works somewhere) The Free Movie selections sucked, so we watched news and pooped out before we could find any visual entertainment to mark the day as a pre-Valentine's success.

So here it is, the twilight zone between two holidays, and I watched news all day, neither of us attending church for health reasons. It was interesting to hear all these news interviews on Fox, with each one ending in "Happy Valentine's Day" wishes from commentators to interviewees. What does it all mean anyway? What are we really wishing to each other? For sweethearts, yes, another way of saying "I love you". But for news makers and other tv personalities? "I love you"? "Have a nice loving day with your families"? "Eat a lot of sweets and don't get too much diabetes today"? Are we just so needy to wish people something good that a holiday of sorts like this one is just another excuse? Not that that's bad, but is it really meaningful or necessary in any way? How about today now? I know it's early and I'm having another insomnia attack. But what should I say to anyone today? Happy President's Day? Why? What would I be really wishing anyone? It's really just another big shopping day, a day of celebrating our rampant consumerism and materialism, of finding good sales as a reason to spend money. Would all our past presidents be all over that? Is this the best way to honor our Presidents? How about dinner and a movie? Honest, Abe, I'd like to know!

PS - Oh yes, and we can't forget saying "Happy Chinese New Year!" to all our many Chinese friends of whom we actually have none that we know of. But "Happy Chow Fun" anyway just to be sure. And to all my Brazilians and other N. O. Saints who will be celebrating Carnaval and Mardi Gras, Happy ...Happy...Happy what? Happy Ash Wednesday? Isn't that when it starts? I just hope those festive folks don't make ashes of themselves! I was in Brazil in 1962 for my first Carnaval as a young LDS missionary, walking the streets trying not to feel the incessant pulsations of drums and dance, trying not to react to being squirted with all kinds of perfumed intoxicants, trying not to notice the scantily and non-clad - but instead keep my hands on the "iron rod" and keep from being crushed by the tumultuous, heaving crowds as we tried to get from one end of a block to another without falling down and getting stomped to death. Finally we gave up and stayed in our apartments for three days till it was safe to hit the streets again to do the Lord's work and pick up the pieces left by the Adversary. But I still loved that infectious samba beat.

PPS - Ok, and I guess I should wish everyone a Happy Westminster Dog Show in NYC this week too. Best In Show, right-o, eh what?

February 7, 2010

Saints be praised - and birthdays too!

Yes, who else but us Currans could combine a Super Bowl party to watch the N.O Saints upset the Indy Colts tonight, 31-17! And then celebrate three birthdays at the same time, Erin 34 today, James 40 on Wed and Mom Curran, 66 on the 16th! We squeezed it all in somehow, at Megan's tonight with her salad and rolls, Italian Zitti ala June Briggs, the constant din of 8 kids under 10, a few teenagers, football commentary by James, June, Conn, Sean, non-football commentary by Shannon and Ryan, Shane and Sharon, with Colleen leading the charge with commentary on anything and everything - while I sat silent, ate and observed, per my assigned role as stoic family patriarch, and tried to enjoy the ads, mostly drowned out by all the other cheering and chatter!

And a mostly good time was had by all, by the time the Saints spoiled the Colts' hopes for a repeat, but put themselves in a storied category, giving new hope to a city still struggling from Katrina's aftermath, and to a team which had never been to the Super Bowl! Drew Brees and company and their rookie coach did what they had to do, overcame much adversity and jitters, made enough big plays, and stole the show! I was kind of rooting for the Colts only because they had a BYU grad, rookie wide receiver Austin Collie and a former BYU defensive standout from Hawaii, Aaron Francisco. But I vowed to root for the underdog in the game, that is, whoever got behind, I was mentally cheering, while retaining my patriarchal composure. Yeah, when it comes to that, I'm a real saint!

February 2, 2010

Punxutawny Phil has his day...

Hey, I'm all for Phil's shadow and six more weeks of Winter, I don't care what anyone says. If it were my decision, I'd have snow right up till the 4th of July, take a week off, and then bring it on again! I still have my Christmas lights on outside tonight, in honor of Candlemas, the real reason Feb 2 is important. At least all over northern Europe, they celebrate Candlemas with mid-winter lights and candles, more of a Christian light remembrance of Christ and Him being the Light of the World. Look it up on Google! There's a lot about it. We got stuck with the agrarian part of the celebration, looking forward to planting season and celebrating that with a creature of the earth to symbolize it. I think I wrote about it in a previous blog.

So I guess I'll turn off the lights outside now, make my wife happy and less embarrassed, and admit that we have to put Christmas away finally. I've been taking it down still, slowly, laboriously, a little here, a little there, with more boxes and organization this year, so I can find it all easier next year, assuming I'm still here, here in this house, here on earth, just here. I love the cold and the snow anyway, though I find that with most of the kids gone from the house, the fire in the fireplace doesn't mean as much when there's no one to share it with except my wife - which is fine, but just enjoy knowing we can provide a warm house for a lot of people. And now, it's just Erin and Conn, who have moved back for economic reasons and we're happy to provide that temporary place - if they'd just stop acting like kids and leaving their food and stuff around, and not doing the dishes or cleaning up much. Young adults!!! Will they ever grow up? You've gotta love 'em though!

January 18, 2010

In honor of MLK and Haiti...

It's not a day that you say 'Happy Martin Day' or anything! How do we actually celebrate such a day? Not a day for well wishing necessarily, unless you are one whose civil rights have been made better because of MLK and then you have great cause to praise him and rejoice because of your freedoms, rights which are supposed to have been inalienable by virtue of our Constitution - but long denied by the actual dominant populace until the tragic martyrdom of this great civil rights leader.

I for one could wish someone well if that were politically correct I guess. I am ashamed every day for the racism that existed then and still does in my country among some of its citizens. I decry it, deny it, pray it will cease and that all men will be judged for the intent of their hearts and the intelligence of their minds and not their skin color, creed, gender or belief. The 60's were a decade of horrible assassinations, MLK being one of the most tragic because of race and a fight for the rights we all enjoy.

So. while Haiti languishes today after a week of cruel earthquake aftermath, and the American people have been polled 42-58 for sending donations while so many brave Americans and other internationals have gone there to offer medical and humanitarian assistance, I sit in my warm house on a cold wintry day and count my blessings of comfort and food and relative peace for now, knowing a big earthquake is talked about as imminent in Utah. I watch the tragedy of Haiti on tv, cry inside for the victims, donate what I can, hope and pray for some solution that will end this misery and save the children and rebuild such an already impoverished country - and remember Martin Luther King too.

January 8, 2010

Happy Hooter's Anniversary too!

Everyone's got a new calendar for the new year, even that crazy organization of owl lovers called "Hooters". I haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it has a great collection of fine feathered "birds". So in honor of their 20th or 25th anniversary(I've seen it both ways on Google), either in October or January (I'm so confused), I give you my own aviary tribute...

"Now that I’m older and 'wiser', I have a lot more questions than answers. Like what impact will a Hooters anniversary have on American life? I think I heard it was celebrated on January 20. Well first of all, I didn’t know owls celebrated anniversaries. The anniversary of what? Becoming a full-fledged owl? A fine-feathered friend? I for one just think we already have a lot more respect for owls than we used to. I know I do, whether it be for the Barn Owl, the Screech Owl, the Great Horned Owl, or that great Grey Spotted Owl of the American Northwest, so protected a species that even big tough loggers who need big tough wood to build big tough houses cower at the idea very of fowling up an owl habitat and getting their big tough logging licenses revoked by the EPA and reviled by Green Peace.

"Of course I would respect that Grey Spotted Owl more if I could only find it, since I haven’t 'spotted' it yet. But I know it’s out there winging it somewhere. It could be that decoy on top of our church in Utah to scare all the seagulls away so they don't poop on the roof. Now there’s a tussle I’d like to see – an owl and a seagull! What about the owl and the pussycat? Edward Lear was a little deranged when he thought up that one, because I’ve never seen an owl and a cat even get close to getting married. A whimsical fairy tale? If the owl was the father and the mother the pussycat, and the pig was the ring-bearer, it’s no wonder the Brits lost the war to us. Why are kid’s stories so childish?

"But how can you dispute the owl’s penchant for asking one of life’s greatest questions? Constantly! Repeatedly! Perpetually! Who!!! Because, come on let’s face it, don’t all things eventually boil down to that one critical question anyway? Who??? The great Who of life? Who is it? Who dunnit? Who wants to know? Who knows the answer? Who, did you say? Who cares? See, you just can’t ask those questions with a what or why or where or how. How cares? Where dunnit? What wants to know? It just doesn’t work. So that old hooter is wiser than we give him credit for. I think it is pretty obvious then that we owe a debt of gratitude to a bird that only says 'who'!

"He doesn’t get all cluttered up with a bunch of other extraneous questions, and who has kept us in the battle against ignorance by reminding us just who’s on first! And who is your neighbor? And who is your greatest listener too? Yes, you, that’s who! You who, anybody listening? No it’s not 'Yoo Hoo'. That’s a bunch of 'Whoey'. No, that shouldn’t be 'Hooey' either. 'Yoo Hoo' must have started out as 'You, who is listening…' – yes, like 'Hey, you! Who is there? You, who is there? You who…! Hello!' But they still haven’t mastered the 'whom' word yet and that’s a shame because of it’s ultimate effect on the English language. And whom cares anyway.

"And as for why we have made the owl a symbol for wisdom – like the wise old owl figure in our folklore? Well, I’d like to know who is going to prove that one. Is there someone out there who has measured the IQ of an owl and come up with some real scientific data? Has an owl’s intelligence been tested and compared with an Orangutan for example? Has the owl family got one up on the apes lately? I don’t see too many owls taking screen tests. No I think it’s because they sit there and say nothing but that one little word – and we call them wise because they don’t open their mouths and put their talons in it like men do with their feet. The less said the better and silence is golden and a 'percher' is worth a thousand words. So if an owl starts talking like a parrot, then I think it will lose it’s reputation for being wise and will become just like any other talking bird – caged and stupid for imitating humans.

"But you’ve got to hand it to these little hooters for the way they have become such an integral part of our culture today. They fly in and out of our ghost stories, their big wings flapping in the moonlight as their giant yellow eyes search the ground for tiny helpless wood mice to munch on and help deplete the surplus rodent population. Shades of Scrooge! They haunt the hillsides and forage the forests of our primeval collective consciousness and then land on some branch in the middle of nowhere and just give us that proverbial wink! Can you believe that? What a bird! And yet it is a fearsome enough predator to be the mascot for Temple University. I know it sure puts the fear in me – both school and bird. I don’t want to be hooted to death.

"And regarding owls on tv, I never quite understood why Al Bundy found hooters so fascinating either. He was always talking about them but I never saw one owl on his show. And I always wished we could change that last line of Clark Gable’s in “Gone With The Wind” to “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a hoot.” I think that would have gotten us talking about owls a lot sooner instead of dams, although I guess they both have a common ecological connection. I just don’t know what that is yet. I do know that out here in Utah, if you make someone laugh a lot, they say, “You’re a hoot!” Not a hooter, just a hoot. I’m not sure if they are calling you an owl in some off-handed but well-meaning way, or just saying that you make them hoot like one. So can they be called hooters then? And would I be the hootee if I make them hoot?

"Oh yeah, and there’s that restaurant chain called Hooters (or should that be Whooters?) that must be dedicated to raising owl consciousness, because it is really growing in notoriety and giving owls a new image. I’ve never seen their menu, but I don’t think they have owls in any form on it - like owl burgers, or country fried owl or owl under glass - so that helps with important owl preservation, I guess. Do they call the waitresses chicks? Do they hoot out their orders to the cooks? Do the customers have to hoot their orders to the waitresses? I know they’re not bunnies. Are baby owls called chicks? Or owlets? So many owl questions. Well, happy anniversary to all you owls and owl watchers out there this winter, and may you continue to give us all a good hoot… which should really be spelled “Whoot”, I think."

January 6, 2010

Happy Epiphany Y'all!

Epiphing we will go, Epiphing we will go, Hi Ho the Merry-i-o, Epiphing we will go! To Epiph or not to Epiph, that is the question! Yes, it's Epiphany once again, January 6, that day in Christendom that nobody really knows about or observes except for a few of us who are looking for anything to celebrate after Christmas and New Year's, anything to keep the flailing festive spirit alive - and keep up those Christmas lights.

It's supposedly the 12th day of Christmas too, if you count Christmas as the first day, not the last, not the culmination, but just the beginning of the fun and frolic! We had friends in Hawaii who had a party and epiphed all night long, with an epiphany here and an epiphany there, here an Epiph, there an Epiph, everywhere an Epiph, piph.

And of course, the meaning of the word itself is to have an earthshaking realization, a momentous revelation, an "ah-hah" moment or other important and unexpected happening - like Paul had on his way to Damascus when an angel scared him half to death by telling him to stop persecuting Christians and join the club. So you could go scare someone into being good! It's kind of like that head slap you see in the commercials - "Should have had a V8!"

But then you know it is an ancient remembrance of the day the Magi visited Jesus, right? Why it's in all our Christmas creche scenes! I'm surprised you didn't remember it, really! And what do you on this date? Well, you could break out the gold, frankencense and myrrh - but that might also break the bank! You would wish everyone peace, love and health, supposedly three ancient friendly wishes from those three lovely wise guys!

You could also have three Burger King-like guys knock at the door, sing "We Three Kings" and present fun gift cards to the family! You could just feast yourselves silly and have a lot of symbols of threes among the food - three cakes, three fish, three little pigs, three blind mice - threes are big on Epiphany! Like Hip Hip Hooray, repeated three times! So go for it and Epiph my friends, Epiph! At least three times!

January 1, 2010

The New Year and Christmas Lights...

No, it's not what you're thinking. I am not going right into that old trite and cliched "resolution" talk. I used to have lots of resolve and willingness to change, but got tired of trying to psyche myself into new habits when I really hadn't worked on breaking the old and worn out ones during the year. Change just doesn't happen overnight or from New Year's Eve to the next day, no matter how loud we yell or get wild or toast the most or smooch the pooch - no, it might take an all-nighter like Scrooge had to really affect the repentance we all need. Just takes a lot of work, slow and steady, enduring to the end. So I'm not giving up or giving out! But let's get to the real priority of the New Year - the Christmas lights! And so I give you "Christmas Lights, Fights and Rights"!

"Now that I’m older and “wiser”, I have a lot more questions than answers. Like, when is it ok to take down the Christmas lights? I am not happy about it every New Year, because I want to start out the year right - but it is always a bone of contention, whatever that means, among the family and neighbors as to when it’s ok. Well, let’s go back to the beginning to get some needed perspective on this annual dilemma -the hanging of the lights in the first place! They go up the day after Thanksgiving and they stay up as long as I want them to – or so I thought.

"Actually, we weren’t always the first on our block to get them up. One year, we got beat out by a young couple across the street with little twin girls. All of a sudden, I look out the window and there this guy is, on the roof, of all the nerve, with his wife holding the ladder – and the twins dancing around the yard, getting their glee in before us. Right then, I told everyone to drop the turkey leftovers and head for the front of the house, that the lights were going up, ready or not!

"But, to our humiliation, as we pulled out last years lights, half of them didn’t work. Shannon is usually the one who is on top of this, but who could blame her - we did! But we got over it and we started with the tall stuff on the front eaves first to soothe our guilt, and make it look like it had just slipped by us. Soon Sean, number seven child and all 6’ 6’ of him, was standing on a ladder that was shorter than he was, stretching those shot-blocking arms in pain while Shannon held on to the ladder and his shoes, and while I took my esteemed directorial place in my lawn chair out front to make sure that the lights were going up evenly and politically correct across the front of the house and wouldn’t embarrass us throughout the coming season.

"So, after Sean got those red and white dangling icicles up across the top of the eaves, from the highest rafters and beams, we decided not to light the carport – too much junk accumulation that did not need any more illumination. Next I found a strand of white lights and delicately wove them in and out among the shrubs which grace the front walkway. I also bought some of them there net lights in red, a new touch from last year, and laid them carefully across the other thicker bushes to the right of the front door. Are you getting all this? Can you see it? Ain’t it purty? Will anyone really care?

"Ok, so while Shannon and Sean were highlighting the front window ledge with fake Poinsettia in the planter boxes, and placing the green garlands aesthetically about the top of the front door, I ran out to Rite-Aid and got two red hanging “peace” and “joy” banners to put on the wood panels on each side of the front door. Wow, things were shaping up! And when night came, it was magic! Just never had any real snow yet to make it look more authentic! Shannon did the tree the next day all by herself - sorry, we’re into fake trees too after many years of trying to keep real ones alive from Thanksgiving to Christmas! More pine needles on the floor than on the tree! But back to the New Year issue at hand.

"So my first challenge of the New Year is not resolutions! It’s fighting for my rights to keep up the lights? My lights rights are inalienable – or unalienable – or alienating – or maybe alien-attracting. I want them up – the first ones up and the last ones down! But once we’ve shown our invincibility at keeping them up the longest, then why not just leave them up till…Valentines? They’ve got hearts and candy in the stores already.. And our lights are red and white! Why not? Ok, Epiphany! January 6! The last of the 12 days of Christmas? Yes? No? My January 14 birthday. Can we negotiate? Or maybe till Candlemas?

"Now there’s an idea that you who lament with me can grab onto. Candlemas is a Northern European celebration of lights, halfway through Winter, to recognize an old Hebrew tradition of Mary having to wait to be clean from birth before entering the temple – and to look forward to Spring – but I like the one that celebrates Jesus as the light of the world, and extends the Christmas celebrations till then. And when is it? Febrruary 2! But that’s Groundhog Day, you say! Yes, we bumpkins over here in America adopted that one mid-winter tradition that became what is now Punxatawny Phil seeing his shadow or not. This tradition also originated with some northern Celts, only I think theirs was a rat.

"But if you really want to resolve the lights issue, I say leave them up till Candlemas, light some candles on February 2, enjoy the dark and chill of January a lot more by leaving up the decorations and letting Christmas slowly fade out instead of that abrupt day after New Year’s demolition derby most people do, while the kids cry and the parents try to overcome their guilt by getting sloshed. Not necessary! Just let it ride a few more weeks till February 2, burn those scented candles a little more, and sit down and watch Bill Murray’s classic 'Groundhog Day' movie – and forget about any neighbors who storm your house clamoring for your head because your Christmas lights are keeping them up at night. Just tell them you’re observing that ancient religious holiday of your forefathers called Candlemas, and you’ll call the ACLU on them for defamation and bigotry and discrimination if they keep up their persecution. Then be nice later and take them a candle and blow it out in their face."