Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Nocturnal Prowler Strikes...

... and the tree is toppled. Sometime during the darkness, a mysterious force attacked and triumphed over yesterday's newly erected Christmas tree.

The forensic team can't determine the culprit, but I believe all the evidence points to...

...M&M, aka "Blondie Butt" and "The Princess." Cute - yes. Loveable - without a doubt. But don't let her innocent face deceive you. Her checkered past belies any pretense at innocence, and I supply the following corroboration to this allegation.

She has been caught pilfering food from the forbidden counter...

... as well as stalking and spying on the forbidden bird...

... and climbing the forbidden ladder...

... and trespassing on the forbidden desk, even to the extent of knocking vital paperwork to the floor!

But the most damaging evidence to her protestation of innocence is her prior record of attraction to and attacks upon said Christmas tree, as seen in this evidentiary presentation from last year.

But all has been forgiven, and she promises the dastardly deed will not be repeated!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Eating's over, Decorating begins...

Thanksgiving is over and NOW is my traditional time to decorate for Christmas, not mid- or early October like so many stores. Ellen and I put up the tree, with much help from M&M (the cat) who loves the tree (which is why there are no ornaments or tinsel on the lower 1/3 of the tree)...

... and Ellen decorated the railing overlooking the dining room and entry...

... and the mantle...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Grant Woods hike

Today we met Patti and Dave at Grant Woods, a locale we have biked several times but never walked, and hit the trails for about 4.5 miles of hiking. It was good to see many others out enjoying the 38 degree sunny weather to get rid of some of yesterday's Thanksgiving calories.

Afterward, we headed over to Taco Bell to replace some of those depleted calories and continued the sparkling conversation.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Meal...

... was at Linda and Phil's and she really outdid herself again, preparing a delicious 18 pound Butterball turkey with all the fixins as seen below...

Kasia, Steve, and Mom hung out in the kitchen savoring the smells until they were evicted...

... and Suzi and Charles came later and regaled us with tales about their adventures at school and their "part-time jobs" attending numerous focus groups for market research. Dessert consisted of 2 of Ellen's homemade creations -- pumpkin pie and apple tart, both topped with scratch-made whipped cream.

Poem # 42: Treading Water

Happy Thanksgiving!

Like many others on this day (and often throughout the year) , I attempt to list the multitudinous gifts I've been blessed with over the years. Family, country, opportunities, church, talents, friends, education, career, retirement -- a few that always appear on my list -- and the length of the list serves to remind me how truly fortunate I've been for my 63 years.

But as I treasure the past, I remain cognizant that I have far fewer days ahead than I have behind, and that every day since January 26th, 2005 has been a "bonus" day granted by God, for that is the day my stupidity resulted in a broken neck and a "flight-for-life" helicopter ride (which I have no memory of) to the trauma center. My recovery, which was successful and complete, stretched over 3 months, a relatively short period, but as my neck healed, I grew restless for the outdoors and for resumption of physical activity. The following poem acted as therapy as I waiting.

Treading Water

My life on hold, biding time,
merely treading water and spinning wheels,
sedentary waiting, existing,
but little living,
days measured more than enjoyed,
endured more than anticipated,
perpetual running in place without advancement.

Each day another grain of sand successfully
through the hourglass’ neck,
a day closer to recovery, to normal activity,
to swimming not treading,
but how many more grains must journey the bottleneck
before my neck journeys again?

Impatience muted by gratitude for life
and gratitude for mobility,
when death or paralysis had loomed near.
Impatience tempered by thankfulness
for each bonus sand grain added to my hourglass’ upper bubble.
Impatience moderated by appreciation
for concern shown by family and friends.
Impatience with self for my impatience.

But impatient nonetheless
as life’s sponge sits dry,
stiffening daily, atrophying,
needing to absorb life, to swell large
with activity, adventure, action,
and then be squeezed,
wrung dry
and availed of all it holds.

copyright 2005 by Chuck Morlock

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pleasant Valley Conservation Area...

... was a new hike for us. We met Patti and Dave at the site and ventured into the 28 degree temperatures, though the brilliant sun made it seem warmer. The first mile of the loop was through tall prairie grass meadow, where we saw 8 deer. Actually, we saw the tops of 8 deer, only seeing them as they performed their characterisitic high leaping run away from us. The hunting here last week probably has them skittish of humans. We finally reached the wooded section of the preserve and hiked several hilly areas -- always a nice find in Illinois -- and hiked the entire 4+ miles of trails here, crossing Laughing Creek several times.

Two areas contained stands of evergreen tree, another nice discovery in Illinois. There's nothing as nice as hiking over and smelling pine needles! Below is a shot of Ellen and me in our new Marmot 3-in-1 jackets, which proved to be as warm as promised.

After the hike, lunch at Culver's topped off the morning's activities.

Pleasant Valley Conservation Area is located in Woodstock. Head west on Route 176, and west of Route 47, turn south on Dean and then west on Pleasant Valley Road to the park entrance on the left.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Random facts #17

  1. The world’ highest railroad is the Central Railway in Peru which climbs to 15,694 feet in Galera Tunnel on the way to Machu Picchu.
  2. Snakes are immune to their own poison.
  3. Davis Achison was President of the USA for just one day in 1849, and he spent most of the day sleeping.
  4. Prince Charles and Price William never travel on the same airplane just in case there is a crash.
  5. The Neanderthal Man’s brain was bigger than modern man’s.
  6. 40 people are sent to hospital for dog bites every minute.
  7. The poison-arrow frog has enough poison to kill about 2200 people.
  8. In the last 4000 years, no new animals have been domesticated.
  9. In 4000 BC Egypt, men and women wore glitter eye shadow made from the crushed shells of beetles.
  10. Butterflies taste with their feet.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Poem #41: Fanning the flames

I'm in my eighth year of retirement, following 34 years in front of high school students -- first in inner-city Chicago and then the final 29 years in a large suburban high school. My last 9 years, I also served as chair for the 26 member English Department. I loved teaching, coaching, directing kids in variety show, and (mostly loved) running the English Department, but now I love retirement just as fervently.

Anyway, after 5 years as department chair, this poem materialized in my mind, explaining how I envisioned the personnel aspect of the job.

Fanning the flames

The Department Chair

I am the fire man.
I fan the flames.

I hire new-cut kindling
fresh, green, pliable,
anxious to bonfire and light the world.

I fan that flame
bright and warm with youthful passion
and ablaze with idealism.

I fan that flame
as I feed it the tinder of encouragement and praise,
channeling its searing energy.

I watch its vigorous sparks take wing
infectiously rekindling cooling flames
who glow again with reawakened brilliance.

I fan the flames
and proudly watch our young Tomorrows
drawn to knowledge like moths to fire.

I fan the flames
esteeming their radiating warmth
and reveling in the conflagration of education.

I am the fire man.
I fan the flames.

copyright 1997 by Chuck Morlock

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chicago's Field Museum

After singing at church, we drove to Kasia's and then downtown to the Field Museum. For about 10 years, I took my sophomore class on a cultural field trip at the museum and then to Chinatown, but haven't been there for eight years -- and as I imagined, much is the same and much has changed.

The main hall is impressive as ever, with its 2 huge elephants...

... and "Sue," the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil, which stands 13 feet tall at the hips and 42 feet long and consists of over 200 fossilized bones. Her estimated weight was 7 tons! She is named for Sue Hendrickson who discovered her in South Dakota in 1990. She was purchased by the museum at auction in 1997 at a record cost of 8.2 million dollars.. complete, and best preserved

Much of our 3 hours there involved touring the special exhibit "Nature Unleashed: Inside Natural Disasters" which comprehensively covered hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes. After that, we hit the jade and gem collections, Ancient Americans, North American Indians, Arctic Peoples, and Pacific Islanders.

Then it was time for a late lunch, which we enjoyed at Butterfly Sushi Bar and Thai Cuisine on Grand Avenue...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bombastic Proverbs #1

Over three decades ago, I came upon an activity that I incorporated into the curriculum for my Advanced Reading class for college-bound juniors and seniors. Ten familiar proverbs had been re-written into lengthy sentences utilizing large words. My inclusion of the activity for my students was designed to show them 1) how NOT to write, and 2) as a vocabulary development exercise. A side benefit was teaching inference, for after defining several words in each sentence, they often could infer the entire proverb.

When I introduced the exercise, the students loved it, and many related how they had completed the assignment around the evening supper table with the entire family joining in and having a ball. And after we ran out of the sentences, the students sent me home with homework -- to create more of them, often using proverbs they suggested -- which I did until we had a bank of 75 proverbs to work with. Decades later, my students no longer seemed to relish the assignments anymore, because (as we determined) their parents were not using the proverbs and hence the students were unfamiliar with them.

Anyway, I came upon the handout recently as I sifted through some of my old teaching materials, and here, in my eighth year of retirement, I offer several to you for (hopefully) your enjoyment.

Sample: Do not utter loud and passionate vocal expressions because of the accidental overturning of a receptacle containing a whitish, opaque, nutritive fluid.

Answer: Don’t cry over spilt milk.

  1. Compounds of Hydrogen and Oxygen, in the proportion of 2 to 1, that are without visible movement, tend to flow with profundity.

  2. One should abstain from unnecessarily postponing to a future juncture that which one can effect immediately.

  3. It is not advantageous to place the sum total of your backyard collection into the same wicker receptacle.

  4. A superfluity of culinary experts has a tendency to disarrange the preparation of the beef extract.

  5. Never calculate the possible number of your juvenile poultry until the usual period of incubation has been fully accomplished.

  6. Each mass of vapory collections suspended in the firmament has an interior decoration of metallic hue.

  7. The flying phenomenon of the ethereal kingdom, of a kindred kind, come into association gregariously.

  8. Deviation from the ordinary humdrum of common routine of existence is that which provides zest to Man’s cycle of existence.

  9. An inhabitant of an aviary recumbent in one’s chiral appendage is equivalent to a duo in the foliage.

  10. 10. A baste administered within the constraints of chronology ofttimes precludes the necessity of mandating ninefold at a future juncture.

Answer key:

  1. Still waters run deep.
  2. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  4. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
  5. Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched.
  6. Every cloud has a silver lining.
  7. Birds of a feather flock together.
  8. Variety is the spice of life.
  9. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  10. A stitch in time saves nine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Driving and hiking

The weatherman charitably referred to the current Arctic cold blast as "January-esque winter conditions," but that doesn't stop our stalwart hiking group. After an hour drive, we met the group to go hiking at Marengo Ridge, only to discover it closed for deer hunting season. So we came up with Plan B and drove a few miles away to Coral Woods Conservation Area. You guessed it -- Closed for deer season. Okay, we're flexible, and we did drive a long way, so on to Plan C -- breakfast at the cute Marengo Cafe...

... and during the tasty meal, we devised Plan D, and subsequently drove to Moraine Hills SP. Guess what! Closed for deer hunting! Well, we're highly educated, self-actualized adults, able to control frustration, able to remain calm and flexible and be open to other solutions, so we caucused and determined a Plan E, and then drove back to Wauconda's Lakewood Forest Preserve. So, after over 2 hours of driving and 80+ miles traveled, we wound up hiking 4+ miles in the forest preserve that is a mere couple miles from my house!

It was a nice hike in the woods, despite temps in the 20s, and the sunny sky added to the enjoyment. And the irony was obvious to us, for we rarely see deer at the places with the hunting season, whereas we saw nearly 2 dozen deer where we were allowed to hike. Maybe deer are pretty smart after all!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Points to Ponder #14...

... from the mouths of kindergarten students:

A Kindergarten teacher was observing her classroom of children while they were drawing. She would occasionally walk around to see each child's' work.

As she got to one little girl who was working diligently, she asked what the drawing was.

The girl replied, "I'm drawing God."

The teacher paused and said, "But no one knows what God looks like."

Without missing a beat or looking up from her drawing, the girl replied, "They will in a minute."

A Sunday school teacher was discussing the Ten Commandments with her five and six year-olds.

After explaining the commandment to "honor" thy Father and thy mother, she asked, "Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"

Without missing a beat, one little boy (the oldest of a family) answered, "Thou shall not kill."

The children had all been photographed, and the teacher was trying to persuade them each to buy a copy of the group picture.

"Just think how nice it will be to look at it when you are all grown up and say, 'There's Jennifer, she's a lawyer now,' or 'That's Michael, and he's a doctor now.'"

A small voice at the back of the room rang out, adding, "And there's the teacher, she's dead now!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

More trail work...

... today, and as I was about to leave for the forest preserve, I noticed my cat staring out the bathroom window, as is her wont when bird watching. So I took a look and the bird that was the current object of her affections was the Coopers Hawk from my post a few days ago...

... but today it was circling about 50 feet up, and as I watched, it dove into the dead reeds in the wetlands hunting for breakfast. Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the dive, but I then noticed 3 Sand Hill Cranes combing through the final remains of the dried up lake bed for their meal...

Wow! Two of my favorite local bird sightings at the same time. Then with a joyous heart, I headed out to the trail project, and after some wrong turns, managed to locate the trail corridor, mark it with flagging, and lop back the encroaching vegetation, making the path usable once again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Trail work

I've participated in 20 volunteer trail projects for the National Park Service and U. S. Forest Service over the last 15 years, as a payback for the joy I receive from being in the woods. After I moved to my new place a few years ago, I began exploring and bushwacking through the dense woods abutting our complex and came across some deer trails and a couple of old roadbeds the farmer made to get his tractor to his farthest fields. This gave me the idea to cobble together these old tracks into a loop hiking trail, about 1.5 miles in length, which I proceeded to design and connect through the encroaching underbrush. Upon finishing, I contacted the forest preserve district and informed them of the trail. They sent 2 supervisors and an employee over to tour the area with me because (they relayed to me) “a recreational trail in this preserve is a priority of ours for further developing this area.”

The hour tour went well and they said they really liked the areas the trail traversed, but after conferring, they determined that the district had no “guidelines” for hiking trails and they would have to develop a set of guidelines before proceeding. I read between the lines, and 2 years later, I still haven’t heard back from them.

So even though it isn’t an “official” trail, I still hike it a few times a year -- for pleasure and so the corridor remains viable in case they ever do get back to me. The problem is Mother Nature, for she quickly reclaims what is hers, and during the long growing season when I’m not on my trail, trees fall or drop branches and bushes and vines encroach onto the trail corridor, necessitating lopping and removal. And since I head south for 3 months each winter, my hiking window has shrunk even more.

When we recently ventured onto the trail, after 7 months of disuse and growing season, there were sections I couldn’t even find and we were forced to bushwack again. I managed to find some flagging tape at Lowes a few days ago, and today I worked on reestablishing the trail corridor, cutting back encroaching vegetation (mainly thorny wild rose and buckthorn which are real hassles) and strategically placing flagging to easily follow the corridor in the future. (Ellen is at a 3 day cooking class which she’ll tell you about in her blog later this week.)

I succeeded in re-opening about half the trail loop today, and here's a short section of overgrown trail that I managed to clear...

On the way back to the car, I noticed a recently purchased addition to the preserve now had a rough road cut through it. Following it, I came to the lake that was part of the new purchase. The picture below shows the lovely lake and the homestead (now forest preserve district property) which is still occupied by the seller per agreement with the preserve district.

Unfortunately, I've only seen deer back here twice because the area had been used as a "licensed hunting preserve" for many years before sale to the forest preserve. I've even seen deer blinds attached to trees and shotgun shell casings in the woods while on hikes. If you are curious about what trail entails, here's a photo primer I put together showing the process.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stearns Woods/Veteran's Acres Hike

We met Dave and Pattie, Len and Marlene, and Carol at Stearns Woods in Crystal Lake, and hiked about 5 miles there and in the abutting Veteran's Acres Park.

Obvious from our attire is the below normal, 34 degree temperature and 19 wind chill -- too cold for us to bike but fine for hiking the wooded trails. The only green remaining is the few evergreen trees and on some of the shorter trees and shrubs, which of course allows for better sight lines into the woods. Alas, the only deer we saw was under a motorist's car on a nearby street, although a number of birds were still around.

Crystal Lake is fortunate to have these two wonderful hiking/mountain biking venues right in the middle of their town, and I especially appreciate the sentiments on this sign which hung by the observation deck overlooking the lagoon...

After the 1.5 hour hike, we lunched at Colonial Cafe, and then Ellen and I ventured over to Woodman's Market --- our first time at this immense grocery (and misc.) store. We were looking for Blackwing Ostrich meat which we sampled yesterday at the food expo and which is sold here. We found it, bought some, along with more food items we needed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Palatine Band Concert

Following our hike at Nippersink FP, we headed over to the Great American Cooking Expo at Harper College where we walked all the exhibits and indulged in many of the samples, including ostrich, bison, Chateau Briand with garlic mashed potatoes, Sweet Baby Rays pulled pork sandwiches, lemon cookies, chocolate cupcakes, various cheeses and breads, cole slaw, meat balls, candies, and many more. They also had dozens of wines and beers to sample. For pictures and more info on this, see Ellen's blog.

Then we met Scott and Sarah at Baker's Square for supper and conversation before the concert. Unfortunately, I was stuffed from all the tasting so I could only do justice to a cup of soup and half a sandwich (though I confess to a full piece of their wonderful lemon meringue pie!) after which I waddled over to the concert.

Among the pieces performed by the Palatine Concert Band were a medley from a musical, "Flower Drum Song," and two based on books, "The Saga of Godzilla" by one of the band's own members, and "The Lord of the Rings" which traced characters and incidents from that epic story (composed well before the recent series of movies.) And of course, after the final selection, the director, Ron, gave his usual "We have one more" and a rousing Sousa piece concluded the evening.

Nippersink Forest Preserve hike

Nippersink was acquired in various stages beginning in 2002. The most recent acquisition, formerly the Country Lakes Resort for camping and recreational vehicles, was acquired in 2004. The preserve’s two lakes were man-made in 1965 and total 13 acres. This 309-acre preserve has been transformed from a former seasonal retreat for camping and recreational vehicles to a year-round haven for people and wildlife. Visitors can enjoy trails, picnicking, bird watching and nature observation. Century-old oak trees that rise above two scenic lakes, and woodlands, wetlands and marshes offer plentiful habitat for wildlife. Fishermen will appreciate the extensive shoreline restoration efforts and improved fish habitats that make Nippersink a great place to fish. Anglers can fish from shore or from two handicapped-accessible fishing piers. The lakes and streams are open only for catch-and-release fishing.

About 2 miles of trail take hikers and bikers around the perimeter, alongside the lakes, and through the forested areas. No evidence of the previous campground remains to mar the outdoors experience. Other amenities include a boardwalk, a scenic overlook, drinking fountains, comfort stations and parking areas.

Portions of Nippersink are listed on the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory, which identifies rare communities, rare species and high quality natural areas statewide that are in need of protection. Several threatened and endangered species have been identified here.

The site contains extensive Advanced Identification (ADID) wetlands that create emergent marsh areas. The wetlands, marsh vegetation and open water ponds, combined with the uplands and oak-hickory woodlands, offer an excellent blend of landscapes ideal for increasing and protecting the site’s bird population. A portion of Squaw Creek flows through the property.

So if you want a short hike and some beautiful scenery, get over to Nippersink, just east of Fairfield Road on Route 120 (Belvidere Road.) And thanks, Lake County Forest Preserve District for using our referendum money wisely and giving us another wonderful preserve to use!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Terry Fator Concert

Tonight we attended the Terry Fator concert in Waukegan's 80-year old-historic Genesee Theatre. For those who don't recognize the name, Terry Fator was the 2007 winner of the reality television show "America's Got Talent." In addition to winning the million dollar first prize, Terry received a contract to appear at the Hilton in Las Vegas, which proved so successful that he opens at the Mirage in February with a reported $100 million/5 year contract. For more info, see this Wikipedia entry.

Terry is an amazing ventriloquist (into which he incorporates his astonishing ability to mimic celebrity singers as well as comedic talent) and tonight, using nearly a dozen different puppets (he has 16, each with a distinct voice and persona) or as a soloist himself, he impersonated over 2 dozen voices (from his repertoire of over 100 famous singers) including Etta James, Kermit the Frog, Louis Armstrong, Brooks & Dunn, Garth Brooks, Sonny and Cher, Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees, Narles Barkley, Roy Orbison, Patsy Cline, the Platters, Styx, Guns 'n Roses, James Taylor, John Denver, Michael Buble, Aaron Neville, and of course Elvis -- and the voices were dead on accurate. And all without moving his lips! Here's a YouTube video of Kermit

When Terry first appeared on the America's Got Talent auditions, judge David Hasselhof said, "Oh no, another ventriloquist!" Terry was a bit shaken but began his act with his puppet, Emma Taylor singing Etta James's "At Last." Unbelievable how Hasselhof, the other judges, and the entire audience were enrapt starting from the opening notes. Check it out yourself here...(The clip was deleted by YouTube, so here is Fator on Letterman's show)

... and here's a link to dozens more of Terry's impersonations on YouTube.

Humor was interspersed throughout the performance along with his superb renditions, and several times, the puppets not currently in use by him, would speak to him from the table behind him, adding more comedy. He included his latest song, written by himself and based on a true story related by a fan after one of his concerts, about a 6 year old dying of cancer and hoping there would be "Horses in Heaven." The song will be available soon on a CD by the same name, and his autobiography will soon be released entitled Who's the Dummy Now? If you get a chance to see this wonderful, clean, family show -- do so!

Sightings from My Deck

My place backs up to Singing Hills Forest Preserve. The actual "forest" of this preserve is a half mile away and a bit to the north, but the view from my deck extends over a mile to the west overlooking the rolling hills of the preserve. Below are a few sightings I've had from the deck. The first photo shows one of the numerous hot air balloon flights I've seen...

... and today Ellen spotted this Cooper's Hawk perched atop my bird feeders. (Notice that all the other birds have temporarily left the feeders!)

He patiently posed to allow me an opportunity to get my camera and attach the 300mm zoom lens, and then after I had snapped a few pictures, he took off after some breakfast he spotted in the tall reeds of the wetlands...

... and last summer I watched a momma bird feed her young on my railing, flying off, getting another morsel, and returning to many open mouths, into one of which she placed the meal...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Visiting Mom at Asbury

Today we went to REI to get a tent repaired and purchase a repair kit for an air mattress, and then went to Asbury to visit Mom.

Mom never gets Mexican food in her dining room, so she had a hankerin' for some and suggested El Sombrero restaurant not far from her place. I've been there several times and always liked their food, so we drove over and discovered Friday was one of 2 days when they offer a buffet lunch with 8 or 9 choices. Since I tend to get a combination plate at any Mexican restaurant, it suited me just fine, and as it turned out, all 3 of us partook of the buffet. Yummy!

Then it was back to Asbury where we spent some time checking out their aviary cases, one of which is pictured here...

... and another behind us here...

Then we visited for over an hour in Mom's unit where I got this photo of Ellen and Mom outside her door which prominently displays one of the wreaths Ellen made this summer out of sage and oregano from her garden and wildflowers from along the backroads of Arkansas where we biked.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Poem #40: Elinor Knobloch

As I've been rehearsing for next month's Christmas concerts with both my church choir and my community chorus, I've been recalling how I got into this choir business years ago, something I posted about earlier this year -- and I've been fondly recalling my first choir director, Elinor Knobloch, who now directs an angel chorus above. Below is a poem I presented to her at her retirement celebration, and a photo from a visit to Tennessee after she had moved.

(l to r: standing - husband Lowell, Elinor, and son Bruce; seated: Chuck and daughter-in-law Diana)

Elinor Knobloch

As mere notes on a page it began,
this four decade love affair with music and a family.
The new lady choir director arrived, recruited,
and patiently, lovingly taught
a dozen adolescents to sing
in the church’s neophyte choir.
Cacophony resolved into melody
and then became harmony,
not overnight, but with hard work,
producing glorious praise.

As mere notes on a page it began,
but interspersed among the notes
were life lessons, lasting lessons,
not so much taught as demonstrated.
Lessons of love -- love of music, God, worship, others, self --
love lessons taught at rehearsals and away,
at game nights, parties, picnics,
around campfire and kitchen table,
amidst softball, volleyball, croquet,
in concerts, coffee houses, plays.

As mere notes on a page it began,
but then director turned into friend and adjunct mother,
her husband became another father
and her children beloved cousins.
Her home and heart opened wide,
welcoming with sincere smile and unfeigned fervor,
ever an exemplary role model to emulate,
noble educator, extraordinary minister of music,
devout Christian, steadfast friend, enthusiastic listener,
ever accessible, ever saintly, ever involved.

As mere notes on a page it began,
but the grand symphony of Do Unto Others
scrupulously composed and flawlessly directed
by this master musician of godly life
will forever reverberate within the
hearts and minds and souls
of the countless fortunate
who have basked in her grace and talent.
Hallelujah, dear God,
and thank you, dear Elinor!

copyright 1997 by Chuck Morlock

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Why I Like Retirement

Question: How many days in a week?
Answer: 6 Saturdays, 1 Sunday

Question: When is a retiree's bedtime?
Answer: Three hours after he falls asleep on the couch.

Question: How many retirees to change a light bulb?
Answer: Only one, but it might take all day.

Question: What's the biggest gripe of retirees?
Answer: There is not enough time to get everything done.

Question: Why don't retirees mind being called Seniors?
Answer: The term comes with a 10% percent discount.

Question: Among retirees what is considered formal attire?
Answer: Tied shoes.

Question: Why do retirees count pennies?
Answer: They are the only ones who have the time.

Question: What is the common term for someone who enjoys work and refuses to retire?
Answer: NUTS!

Question: Why are retirees so slow to clean out the basement, attic or garage?
Answer: They know that as soon as they do, one of their adult kids will want to store stuff there.

Question: What do retirees call a long lunch?
Answer: Normal

Question: What is the best way to describe retirement?
Answer: The never ending Coffee Break.

Question: What's the biggest advantage of going back to school as a retiree?
Answer: If you cut classes, no one calls your parents.

Question: Why does a retiree often say he doesn't miss work, but misses the people he used to work with?
Answer: He is too polite to tell the whole truth.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A-maze-ing Volo Bog

We met Patti and Dave at Volo Bog and hiked 6 miles on the trails on both sides of the road. Despite the cool temps in the 30s, the warm sun and the exercise kept us comfy even against the breeze. The meadow areas were like large mazes with stalks taller than us...

... and the bog area had water, so the floating bridge was rocking and rolling as we crossed...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Poem #39: In Memorium

Seventeen years ago we adopted 2 cats, Mork and Mindy. When Scott got his own place years back, he took Mindy along for company, so Scott was her master for her entire time with us. Mork passed away years ago, and this weekend, Mindy succumbed to her illness. Below are a recent photo of Mindy taken at Scott and Sarah's house, and following that, a poem I wrote years ago after seeing Mindy in one of her favorite sleeping positions -- on her back with her belly exposed to the world -- something few animals feel safe enough to do.

Mindy the Cat

Furry wrestler self-pinned on the carpet,
chalky bulbous belly aimed ceilingward,
legs splayed to the four winds,
eyes and expression wistful of a hand's petting.
Pure innocence, all trusting, nonchalant,
the ultimate vulnerability with
vital organs laid bare for caress,
or attack.

How few adults would dare
thus expose self to

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Asking Questions...

Lawyers have a rule: Never ask a question if they don't already know the answer. Trouble can occur when they ignore this rule.

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?”

She responded, “Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy, and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You think you’re a big shot when you haven’t the brains to realize you’ll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.”

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”

She replied, “Why yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can’t build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.”

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge immediately asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, “If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I’ll send you both to the electric chair.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lakewood FP hike

No more biking for a while. The weather has turned cold and windy with snow flurries threatened, so we met Dave and Patti and hiked for nearly 2 hours through Lakewood Forest Preserve, sharing the woods with several equestrians and over 20 deer, including 3 bucks -- a very unusual sight -- but since they are looking for the females, they are our and about.

As you can see, the trees are nearly denuded and the trail deep with leaves, and with a howling wind, we can feel the coming of winter in the air. We biked over 2400 miles this year on fat tires, but I fear that's the end of our biking season for many months.

After a nice lunch at Culvers, we went to Lifesource and both gave blood. I felt pretty good after they thanked me for what was to be my 42nd donation since they started computerizing the donations, but didn't feel so special after I asked whose photograph was hanging on the wall and was told he was a resident who had donated 300 times and has a standing reservation for every other Friday to give platelets via the Apheresis procedure. Wow! That represents a lot of little holes in the arms!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Election Rules

The election is finally over and I for one am weary of nearly 2 years of campaign rhetoric! If I were King of America, I would impose the following rules immediately and for henceforth.

  1. No campaigning until January 1st of an election year.
  2. The country would be divided into 4 regions, with their respective regional primaries held on the final day of February, March, April, and May.
  3. Campaigning could occur in each region only during the six weeks prior to its regional primary.
  4. No campaigning during June or July.
  5. Political parties would hold their conventions during July.
  6. Campaigning for the general election would begin August 15th and run until the first Monday of November.
  7. Election as usual on the first Tuesday of November.

  8. All campaign signs must be removed by the end of Thursday following the general election.
  9. All candidates will answer in writing numerous questions presented to both candidates regarding the major issues as determined by the people and political pundits and analysts.
  10. Mandatory debates will be held to investigate in depth each candidate’s specific plans to reach their broadly stated goals.
  11. No negative advertising will be allowed. Campaigns can only compare their candidate’s position on the issues with the documented position of the opposition on those issues.
  12. Advertisements will only be allowed by the candidates and their parties -- no “non-profit” groups could use the airways or print media for ads.
  13. Imposed spending limits would be instituted on all campaigns.
  14. Campaign financing: $5000 maximum donation from any one person, organization, corporation, non-profit, Political Action Committee, etc. per election cycle.
  15. Lobbyists will be outlawed, period.
  16. Excess campaign funds not spent or funds collected above the spending limit must be contributed to a recognized charity within 2 months of the election.
  17. Infractions would be punished by public floggings.

And since I would be a benevolent King, your suggestions and additions to this list are welcome via the comments section of this post.

For the doom-and-gloom nay-sayers devastated by the results of the 2008 elections, I advise relaxation and restraint. The new administration isn’t even in office yet and some are declaring the Apocalypse nigh. If in a year or two your concerns have actually materialized, then you have a basis for criticism. But since the administration is not even in power yet, your predictions and recriminations are premature and based purely on speculation, propaganda, prejudice, and bias. Furthermore -- we’ve survived 8 years of the worst administration in over a century, so if you already despise its replacement despite no factual basis to do so yet, remember -- this too shall pass.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail biking

Yup -- yet another Fall color biking photo as we once again availed ourselves of yet another gorgeous 73 degree November day here in Chicagoland and biked 22 miles in still another section of forest preserves.

The trail was relatively well populated despite being a weekday, with many taking advantage of the clement weather to enjoy the outdoors in general and the forest preserves in particular. I hope they all voted first! I predict record voter turnout, mostly because of the election itself, but also aided by the weather which ameliorated scattered long waits people had to endure at some polling places. I was glad I had voted early several weeks ago! (In tomorrow's post I'll have some thoughts on this election cycle and improvements that should be made.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Biking Cook County's Des Plaines River Trail

The last 3 days have been warm and bike-able, so we did, and today is the best of the lot, so we did again! We met Len and Marlene and Dave and Patti in Wheeling and biked 18 miles south, again devouring the magnificent scenery of Fall. The leaves were already obscuring the trail and more floating leaves were pelting us as we biked, so we realize the foliage viewing will end any day now, which heightened our appreciation of the beauty.

Lunch was at Moon Doggies in Glenview, necessitating a mile detour off the trail, and we passed this overly-decorated home...

Here's the group beneath pastel trees and alongside the river...

... and the weather the next 2 days is prognosticated to be just as fine as today's, so we hope the leaves hang on for a few more days before giving in to gravity!