Happy Birthday, Dad

My dad hits one of those milestone birthdays today (the Beatles one, for those of you playing along at home). After the excitement earlier this year, it’s especially good to be able to wish him many happy returns.

Of course, today is also the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing—serendipitously enough, given my dad’s thirty-something year history as a NASA employee. That (unfortunately pop-up laden) page on Space.com, in which the moon mission is discussed in the context of a return to space, carries a little of how I feel today. The significance of a birthday or anniversary like today isn’t what went before, but in what is still to come. In both cases for today, I’m feeling pretty good about what’s coming next.

Many happy returns, Dad.

No catfish, just blueberries

Doc Searls: And the living is easy. Doc writes about his childhood summers in Brick Township, New Jersey, just a few stoplights away from the part of Lakewood in which I spent my Independence Day weekend this year. I was probably even in the parking lot that now sits over where the Searls family played hide and seek fifty-plus years ago. When Lisa visits the beach with her parents this month, she’ll go to Mantoloking (mentioned in Doc’s post from last year about summers at the Shore).

For what it’s worth, Doc, I’m with you on the fresh blueberries. Only my version was late July/early August harvest in southeastern Virginia. For many summers we’d visit a berry farm in Gloucester, across the mouth of the York River from Yorktown, and fill a 16″ by 30″ by 24″ Igloo cooler half full of blackberries and a smaller one full of blueberries. The tradition (started as a birthday gift for my dad, later moved to my Mom’s birthday because the blueberries were riper) lasted from about the time I was 10 or 12 in the early to mid 80s until just before I went to grad school in 2000. That fall my parents sold the house in which I grew up in Newport News, Virginia, and moved to my dad’s family farm outside Asheville, NC. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t found a pick-your-own place there yet. But I still keep my eyes out for the first blueberries every summer, and am still quite capable of devouring several quarts of them without blinking or losing stride.

(Fellow Jarretts, I can’t remember the name of the farm we patronized; feel free to jump in on the comments.)

Preaching to the choir

Esta has been too busy to post for most of this semester, but wrote late Sunday night/Monday morning about her debut as a preacher. She had quite a baptism by fire, though I have to say that even compared to preaching a sermon at a retirement home and co-leading morning chapel, the most difficult of the three experiences for me would have to be helping to lead worship at the church in which we grew up.

I can say that from experience. In high school I gave a sermon in that church one Youth Sunday. If I recall correctly, I was quite the judgmental little snot, too. Of the two of us, I’m really glad that Esta was the one that got this particular Call. Her gifts are so much more suited for God’s word.

In-laws in-town

Lisa’s folks arrived last night from New Jersey, somewhat stiff but otherwise no worse the wear for their six hour flight. The dogs had not forgotten them from Christmas and were in such a transport of ecstasy to see them again that it was very hard to get them to go to bed.

It’s quiet this morning, but I know that won’t last. I don’t know what Lisa has planned for her folks today, but it probably has something to do with gardening…

In other family news, my father appears to be making a good recovery, and my aunt has successfully made it through her second knee replacement surgery. I think I still have a sister in seminary, but as she hasn’t blogged in over a month it’s hard to tell. sideways smiley

Learning to pray again

I wrote earlier that I joined a church choir after years in semipro vocal groups because I wanted to explore my faith more. I didn’t realize that I would get an opportunity from a completely different direction.

My dad had a minor heart attack (now there’s an oxymoron) last Sunday. He spent the past few days in the hospital while they first verified that it was, in fact, a heart attack and not a stomach condition; then tried unsuccessfully to clear the build-up in the minor arteries where the attack took place. He’s home now and relatively comfortable, thank God, but I think we were all pretty scared for a few days.

And I’ve been seriously praying again. Not bargaining, as I prayed when I was younger (you know: “God, if you’ll only get me through this test I promise I’ll be good”). Not raging, as I might have done in my angry teens and early 20s. Just talking to God about how I’m feeling, my hopes and fears for my dad and my mom, and asking for strength.

The blogosphere has helped too, between AKMA and Real Live Preacher. But the biggest help has been being with other people every day who don’t shy away from talking about faith and about their challenges and fears and joys and dreams. Hey, who says Presbyterians are the frozen chosen?

Christmas wrap-up

We’re leaving Lakewood in a few hours and driving back to JFK to start our long flight home (fortunately, it’s direct to Seattle. I don’t think I could handle connections with the dogs). My parents and Esta left yesterday for Pennsylvania.

It’s been simultaneously a relaxing and exhausting vacation. Relaxing because it was nice to get away from everything, out of the rain, and to spend time with family and with the dogs. Exhausting primarily because of the dogs. After this week we are finally ready to declare Stage 1 of Jefferson’s housebreaking complete (Stage 2 is getting him to go on command). Unfortunately, we weren’t at Stage 1 at the beginning of the week…

I managed during a Monday trip to Princeton to find time to get to the Princeton bookstore, where in 1990 as an early action admittee I bought a Princeton sweatshirt—and a T-shirt from Moscow University. This time my findings were more modest: remaindered books from Joseph Brodsky and Jerome McGann, and a British Library book about great books of the past 500 years. About which, more in time.

Christmas itself was unexpectedly generous: Esta gifted me with a hardbound Charles Addams collection and the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, both freebies from a professor of hers, as well as the Three Colors trilogy on DVD and a copy of “Have You Fed the Fish?” And my long-suffering wife replaced my broken 1st generation iPod with a brand new slim 10GB model.

And Jim Heaney came down from Mahwah for an afternoon yesterday, with pictures and the long awaited explanation of his Appalachian Trail nickname, “Mothman.” Apparently a week or so into the hike, he was holding a small flashlight in his mouth and washing dishes when a moth flew up his nose. There you have it.

The best present, of course, was the company. It’ll be hard to get back to real life.

New additions to our family

joy and jefferson

I alluded on Friday to something keeping me from blogging. The wraps can now be removed. In the last month, we’ve added two new members to the family: two Bichon Frise puppies.

In early November, we welcomed Joy, who was the runt of her litter at about two pounds when we brought her home at 8 weeks old. We worked through toilet training (she can now go on command and ring a bell when she needs to go outside), bite training, “sit” and “lay down” (well, we’re still working on those), and basic leash behavior.

At the end of all that, we felt we were at a point where we needed something or someone else to keep her occupied. We had always wanted two small dogs—they keep each other from getting bored if we can’t be around them, and that way there’s one for each lap. So we were simultaneously saddened and intrigued when our favorite boy dog from the litter, a pup named Madison, was returned to the breeder on Thanksgiving Day. (The previous owner claimed he made her “allergic”—see what the Bichon club FAQ has to say on that point.) After some soul searching, we finally bit the bullet and brought Madison—whom we promoted one president and who is starting to answer to his new name, Jefferson—home on Thursday.

The two dogs are great together, and like their parents have very distinct personalities. Joy is high energy, mischievous, slightly goofy, and a very restless sleeper, while Jefferson is sweet, calm, loves to sleep, and is frequently found snoring. Draw your own conclusions.

My sleep is starting to return to normal, so we decided it was time for full disclosure about our newest family members. More photos to be added soon, but those in this slide show should give you an idea of how much fun we’ve had.

Happy Birthday, Tim

I’m using my long-neglected status as contributing editor at JHN to jump in and wish my brother an unmitigatedly happy birthday. All the best, Tim; you deserve it. In the words of Ogden Nash:

Year swallows year and licks its lips,
Then down the gullet of next year slips.

Blog less, email more?

I’ve been a little quiet here lately—but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I had a backlog of email from people with questions about my genealogical research: lots of interest in the Brenneman family, for whatever reason, plus an assortment of Freeman and Jarrett questions.

I should probably instrument the genealogy pages to see how many people find my site through them. I’m afraid I’d find that they draw many more readers than my blog does, though. 🙂

Slow week, for some

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I think getting caught up after BloggerCon has meant that I’ve run out of blog material for a while. Esta has the opposite problem: she’s been crazy busy and learning a ton at school, but her blog host is down. Hey, sis, want to guest blog here for a while?

Happy birthday Lisa

Today is my beautiful wife’s birthday; please spare a minute to wish her a happy day. Our big celebration will actually be a few weeks from now, coinciding with our anniversary, when we return to Boston for a little visit and mini-vacation.

Esta is alive, and living double rainbows

Esta found a minute to update her blog amid the hectic joy of starting classes at seminary (finally having Internet connectivity at her apartment might have something to do with it). She reports that she’s making friends, even if they do tend to be considerably younger than she is; that Julia Child’s recipe for baked cucumbers is as good as Julie Powell reports; and that updates on classes are forthcoming, including Hebrew I (I always wanted to be able to read Biblical Hebrew; now she’ll be living the dream! Sniff.). Hope she can keep posting.

And hey, Esta, if you haven’t discovered them yet, you might want to download NetNewsWire Lite and Manila Envelope. The former will make it MUCH easier to keep up with your weblog reading; the latter just might make it easier to post.