Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas at the Lake

Christmas has come and gone, zipping past in a blur that seems to get faster each year. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea that it already happened, but over all, Christmas this year was a wonderful time.

Last year was Norah’s first Christmas. She was 5 months old and understood nothing of what was going on. This year, we made it just about halfway to the enthusiasm that I’m so looking forward to as a parent. She recognizes Santa and points to him with vigor. She knows reindeer and can pick Rudolph out of a group. She is excited by images of snowmen and understands that they have carrot noses. And she knows just what to do with a wrapped present. All that’s missing is the ability to understand stories and anticipate events and we’ll have entered that all too short period of time in which Christmas is truly magical.

I can’t wait.

We opted to travel to the Lake to spend one last Christmas at MoMa’s with Jet and his girlfriend, M. In anticipation of Norah’s better understanding of the season next year, we have made it clear that Christmas Eve will from hence forth find Little Lutine snug in her own bed. Grandparents and aunts and uncles are welcome…but Christmas is now being past down to the next generation and we all get to work around her holiday

I would be lying if I said this holiday was relaxing. Enjoyable? Absolutely. But see…MoMa has a cozy little house that is packed with knick-knacks. The Christmas decorations truly put you into the spirit of the holiday, but time spent there with a toddler boils down to basically running around constantly moving things and redirecting Norah’s attention to safer toys. There was no deep sigh of holiday relaxation until the wee girl was asleep…and even this was stressful since she doesn’t like falling asleep anywhere but in her own room. She shrieked and wailed. Her kicks and flailings could be heard over the baby monitor, but we stayed strong and waited her out. However, even once the monitor went silent, there was no promise of sleep. We listened to more screams from 2 to 4 am in the middle of the 23rd to 24th night. She in her Pack-n-Play and Moonshot and I beside her in bed…she saw no reason that we should not be holding her. But holding her only enraged her more. So, she went back and forth from bed to Pack-n-Play, from Pack-n-Play to bed. This delightful routine led directly to a grumpy daughter the next day whose tolerance for being led away from various decorative items was markedly reduced. And also to grumpy parents whose tolerance for their daughter’s fits was greatly reduced as well.

I should say that in all, Norah did very well. It’s a lot to ask a 17-month old to deal with, so I’ll not judge her too harshly. And I’ll also say that by the time we packed up to leave, she had learned which items in her Grandma’s house were toys and which weren’t. And she slept soundly on Christmas Eve…so we were all in good spirits for the actual event.

CoolSanta brought Norah her first trike this year. She can’t work the pedals, but she loves to sit on it and scoot about. We had planned to get a cheap plastic Big-Wheel type thing…but thanks to Costco we were able to swing a cool Schwinn retro thing. She rounded the corner from the bedroom, scanned the room and ran straight for that tricycle. She climbed right into the seat and started making “vroom” noises. Ah, parental bliss.

She got lots of art supplies this year. Magna-Doodles and water markers…perfectly times for her new love of scribbling. And also lots of mimicry toys. Small pots and pans, an assortment of truly impressive fake food, and a little vacuum that apparently actually works. We’re introducing the new toys into her world one at a time so that she gets a chance to really look at each one beyond the sensory overload of Christmas morning.

As for me, I came away with a spiffy new bicycle from Moonshot and her family so that I can resume my dream of biking the Katy Trail, an assortment of cool new clothes, tickets to see Wicked at the Fabulous Fox Theater with my wife and few other cool odds and ends.

This weekend will find us in Iowa with Moonshot’s family. Even though I already got the bike they got me, I suppose I’ll still go up there to see them and give them some gifts ;)

And finally, since I haven’t processed any of the Christmas pictures just yet, I’ll leave you all with the shots we sent out with our Christmas cards this year. They may be repeats for many of you, but I think you can never stare at Norah’s cuteness too much…

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Our Beautiful, Snowy Prison

Things have been a bit busy around the Grenstead lately. Between road trips, work schedules, various bouts with viral attacks, Rock Band at the O'Fallon crew's, and this little thing called Christmas hovering over's been a bit of a whirlwind.

But rest assured...we're still alive (and as of this moment, all healthy) even though you haven't heard from us in a while.

St. Louis was blanketed in our first snow of the season this weekend. It's timing was particularly unfortunate since it meant our extended family Christmas with MoMa’s side of the family was canceled. However, that didn’t me from marveling as I always do at the beauty of new fallen snow.

I skipped the cozy, snow-covered house shot since you all remember what that looks like and instead went for the subtler joys of the season.

Photo by Moonshot

Moonshot, unimpressed by my photo-journalism

I suppose I could put down the camera and help shovel...

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Nothing can ruin a Christmas surprise quite like a gren

There exists in my marriage an unfortunate combination of traits that makes the statement above unfailingly true. In me there is the constant vigilance for puzzles and clues. In my wife there is the complete inability to keep a secret. Together, these traits have meant that I have ruined the surprise of my Christmas or birthday gift nearly every single time.

Earlier in the year, just prior to my birthday, Moonshot and our friend Pinky had gone shopping together. Moonshot returned quite proud of her birthday purchase and told me that it was, in fact, such a great gift idea that Pinky had picked up one for her huband, Duke, as a Father’s Day gift.

“Cool,” I responded. “So all I need to do is wait til Father’s Day and see what Duke gets. Then I’ll know what I’m getting.”

She grumbled and walked away.

However, she needn’t have worried. The secret was not even to last that long. A few days later, my brother was over. We were watching Heroes in the living room and chatting through the commercials. Suddenly, Moonshot turned to Jet and said, “Oh, that reminds me, after Hereos, I have something to show you.”

I take a quick look at the screen and see a pocket watch displayed prominetley. Through college, I had carried my Dad’s old pocket watch and had often commented that I’d like to have one again. So, clearly I was getting a pocket watch…and said as much.

My lovely wife stuttered and stammered in search of a lie, but came up with nothing. Instead, she opted to overload the situation with far too much information.

“It’s not a pocket watch…it’s a wrist watch. And…just so you know, I didn’t spend as much on yours as Pinky did.”

I stared…dumbfounded. I certainly didn’t care how much she had spent…but was attempting to sort out why this was something she felt she needed to reveal.

“I just didn’t want you to see Duke’s and think you were getting one that nice,” she continued.

Jet interrupted at this point and mercifully stopped the hole my wife was digging.

Recently, Moonshot has been rather proud of some super secret gift she has tucked away for my Christmas. I have actually been trying not to guess, not to look for clues. I would, both for my enjoyment and my wife’s, actually rather be surprised in a timely fashion.

Last weekend, though, Moonshot’s family came to town for Thanksgiving. On Friday night, we got a babysitter for Norah and we headed down to Old Town St. Charles for dinner and a stroll with Mouse and FreddyJ. As tends to happen, FreddyJ and I ended up walking a few paces ahead of the women folk. We were chatting contently about some geeky thing or another when we realized the wives had stopped. I returned to them and was promptly shooed away. As I walked back out of earshot, I noticed they were standing in front of our local bicycle shop. In what I thought was pure whimsy, a playful tease at the ongoing inability to keep a gift secret, I skipped down the sidewalk singing, “Yea!!! I’m getting a bike. Yea!!!”

I had expected at least a small chuckle from my wife, but was met instead with dead silence when my little song was done. I turned back toward her to see what I can only describe as an evil glare. I quickly assumed that she was angry because I was guessing rather expensive gifts that would make her actual gift seem small by comparision (like Duke’s fancy watch, for instance). However, before I could voice such a theory, Moonshot blurted, “You always do this, you always guess!!” By the time I reached her there were the buddings of tears in the corner of her eyes that made me feel grinchlike in my consistent ability to smash my wife’s Christmas plans.

I declined her invitation to see the specific bike she purchased. At least I can be surprised at the color.

Goin’ Mobile!

After months with no laptop…I am pleased to announce that I’m mobile once again. This will make no noticeable difference for you, my readers. But I thought you might like to share a moment of joy for my joy at scoring a free laptop. See, Trixalot picked up a sweet Black Friday deal on a new laptop, which meant his old company one could flow downstream to me. It’s worn and probably on its last leg…but by god, for these fleeting days before it craps out…I have a laptop.

“Now all I need is a flash drive,” I said idly to Trixie, “and I can be totally free to roam.”

Trixie reached into his bag o’ goodies and handed me one. “I got a 4 Gigger when I got the laptop…I don’t need this old 250M anymore.”


As is my norm, I called my Mom on the way home from work. I told her about the laptop and the flash drive. As I spoke, I thought perhaps I should define what I was talking about.

“Do you know what a flash drive is?”

There was a small pause followed by a somewhat tense, “Yeah.”

I knew even then what that pause meant. I knew exactly how my mother had learned what a flash drive was.

After a moment of silence, MoMa sighed, “I’m just going to tell you….there’s a flash drive for you wrapped under my tree right now.”

My brother had overheard me wishing for a small flash drive, passed the info on to MoMa who had gone right out and let a salesman talk her into the biggest, baddest flash drive the market currently offers…a flash drive embarrassingly huge for my meager requirements.

So, as I drove, I discussed my plans for my little flash drive. I told MoMa how I really didn’t think I’d have anything on there other than the stories I am working on and various notes and such. A 250M will do me just fine.

She unwrapped the gift and plans to return it today.

Another gift ruined by the gren.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Who Wants A Hedgehog Thingy for Their Night Stand?

Mouse Asked the Gren: What is your favorite book and/or author?

Easy one, Mouse. When I was a junior in high school, my good friend Oaf (he’s since made his name public here in the comments, but I still like calling him Oaf) gave me a book and said it was amazing. I took one look at the god-awful, cheesy sci-fi cover and said something non-committal like, “Um…yeah, I’ll see if I can find some time to take a look.” After about a month, I returned the book to him unread. I tried to explain that this sort of Piers Anthony stuff just wasn’t my cup o’ tea.

“Is it the cover?” he exclaimed. “Yeah, the cover’s bad but, dude, the book is great.”

I was unconvinced, “I don’t know, man…that’s a pretty bad cover.”

At which point he ripped the cover off his paperback and handed it to me once again. What could I do? I had to read it then. He had sacrificed his book in order to ensure that I would give it a chance…I kinda owed him.

I will continue to maintain that the cover of this particular book ranks up there with some of the worst. Curse as it is with a rainbow of pastel colors and a hedgehog looking creature that looks nothing like the character I assume the artist was trying to depict, the cover still makes me cringe. However, Oaf was right…the story itself is absolutely magical. I reread it every few years…and with the speed at which I crawl through books, this is a huge complement. But I always find the time for Hyperion by Dan Simmons.

Simmons himself is an amazing writer. He’s written sci-fi, horror, mystery noir, historical fiction, and just about every other genre you could think of. And he brings an artistry to each of them that so many genres often lack. What makes Hyperion his best by far is that he tells seven different stories, each in a different genre and with a different style. All the stories are woven together by their voyaging storytellers (ala Canterbury Tales) and work toward an overarching plot. It’s a book only a genre-hopping author like Simmons could write and it’s filled with countless amazing scenes that continue to stun me no matter how many times I read it. It’s the first part of a four-part series, and while it is undoubtedly the best of the four…the whole saga is still some of the best fiction I’ve ever read.

Sound like something you’d like to read? Well, you’re in luck. About a year ago, I purchased Hyperion in hardcover so that it could take a more prominent position on our bookshelf (and also so that I wouldn’t have to look at the hideous cover art.) This left me with a spare and well-worn paperback copy. Then, as if by divine intervention, along comes a conversation with Simon in which he says a) he has never read Hyperion but would like to and b) he detests creased spines on paperback. I, being who I am, took this opportunity to a) do something generous for a friend and b) annoy him at the same time. I took my beat up Hyperion, inked an inscription in it, wrapped it loosely in brown paper, and entrusted it to the USPS with the understanding that they would in turn hand it over to Canada Post who would deliver it to the unsuspecting Simian. With any luck, they’d add a bit more “character” to the book by the time it arrived so poorly packaged, thus adding to my secondary goal.

Simon read and loved the book. Then, since Mark had also expressed an interest in Hyperion, the book was again inscribed, packaged, and shipped…this time bound for Texas.

Mark read and loved the book. Then, since Alvis had expressed an interest in Hyperion, the book again inscribed and was hand delivered to him since he’s also in the Dallas area.

Alvis read and loved the book and that brings us to the current state of things. We have a well-worn copy of one of science fiction’s finest literary achievements available for shipping. It’s no stranger to travel and is looking for a nightstand on which to crash for a little while. Our goal is to keep this little guy jumping nomadically from reader to reader until the pages can no longer be taped back together.

If anyone reads this and would like to join in the growing list of people who have loved this little paperback, just say so in the comments and email me your address and we’ll have it to you as soon as possible. By accepting this book, you agree to the following:
1) You will read it in a reasonable period of time
2) When finished you will write an inscription and mail it to the next person on the list

So, anyone out there want to spend some time with a hedgehog type thing?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ozark Oddities: Part II

Oddity #2: Still Hangin' In There

In modern day society, we are obsessed with safety. From air bags to antibacterial soap. From warning labels to child choke hazards. We scurry about removing or labeling anything that could possibly harm us in any way. It is therefore rather jarring when I stumble across a little something that breaks this rule. And, I must admit, it’s oddly comforting. Part of my love for St. Louis’s City Museum is the fact that folks are encouraged to climb with wild abandon on rusty metal, hovering several stories above the ground. Hell…they’ll even serve you beer while you do it. And so, while the UFO was a pleasant side-trip, the actual destination was something a bit more anachronistic. File it under: They don’t build ‘em like that anymore. Cuz as cool as the UFO is, no one calls that long gravel road that connects County Road A to the distant Highway 42 “UFO Road”. No…they call it “Swinging Bridges Road.” Because while the scenery along this path is truly stunning, you will eventually be forced to take your life into your own hands and cross one of the most marvelous and menacing structures I’ve ever seen.

Like an Incan RuinBuilt by Joe Dice (who coupled his poor eyesight and fourth grade education to build over 40 bridges throughout the Missouri area), the old cable and wood suspension bridge that crosses the Auglaize Creek is one of my favorite pieces of history from my hometown. The rusted metal cabling is the same that was strung across the creek with mules in 1930. The wood planks are replaced occasionally, but not often enough to keep boards from rotting away to leave massive gaps in the bridge deck. And the motion, oh the wonderfully terrifying motion of this thing. Just walking on it sends the whole structure undulating. And that says nothing about the full out waves that push along in front and behind each car that dares trust its weight to the ancient span.

Weight Limit 5 TonsThe first sight you see as you coast down the road is the bridge’s western edge juttin from the overgrowth like some sort of lost Incan ruin. The sign claims a weight limit of a mere 5 tons…but I find even that a bit optimistic.

OvergrowthYou can’t see the other end of the single-lane bridge. There is really only one way to know it there is oncoming traffic. You roll your window down and listen for the telltale “CLACK CLACK CLACK” of the floorboards bouncing under the weight of an oncoming truck. If all is quiet, you should be able to make it safely to the other side in about the time to takes to say the Lord’s Prayer.

I grew up just a few miles up the road from this piece of history. We used to hunt for crawdads in the creek below. I just took it for granted as we drove back and forth across it regularly. Today, however, I’m just astounded that it’s still here and being used on a daily basis. In the twenty minutes or so we spent there, about 5 vehicles crossed the bridge, so it’s not exactly an untraveled path. One of those five vehicles had a 20-something couple in it. They smiled as they clacked over the creek, but the girl’s smile faded after they parked and walked back across the bridge to get a closer look. In fact, she looked downright hostile toward her boyfriend who had driven them across the deathtrap.

How many snapped cables can you count?I know that at some point the old bridge will have to be replaced or reinforced. A shorter suspension bridge just around the corner was retrofitted with steel flooring and new cabling several years ago. The two bridges are still collectively called the Swinging Bridges even though only one of them still swings. It will be a great day for safety…but a sad day for me when they finally bring the old swinging bridge kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Rusted and frayed loop supportsGaps

The Auglaize Swinging Bridge

MoMa RetreatsNote: All photos can be clicked to view a massive version...the details of age make the download time worth it in my opinion.

Another Note: There are no pictures of the second, smaller bridge because MoMa would not let us drive over this one. At first she said she’d just sit in the back seat and close her eyes. But as soon as the tire touched the wood, she started flailing about and insisted we turn around. She didn’t even like standing on it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ozark Oddities: Part I

People, particularly children, are poor judges of just how abnormal their normal environment is. Which is to say, we all assume until proven otherwise that the details of our daily existence are perfectly normal. I bring this up because I’ve been thinking a lot about the little corner of the world that I called home through my childhood lately. The series of stories I’m currently working on more or less takes place there, so I’ve been mentally wandering around the old locales of my childhood, looking for great locations for action, looking for colorful details to throw into the background. And what I’ve realized is that there is a great deal of oddity tucked away in the thick Ozark greenery.

Last weekend, the Gren clan ventured down to the Lake of the Ozarks to visit with MoMa. While there I cajoled the family into taking a little drive down the winding gravel roads that lead to the very rural property that I called home until 2nd grade. The old homestead itself didn’t hold much of use for my story, but there were two destinations for the drive…objects hiding down that old dusty road that I have come to realize, after being removed for so many years, are true rarities. I wanted to see them again to remind myself of their details. I’m not sure if I’ll use them or not, but nostalgia coupled with the prodding of a gren lurking in my imagination sent me directly to them.

Plus, it was a beautiful day for a drive.

Oddity #1: Imitation is the Highest Form of Flattery

There is a quiet clearing a few miles down the road from my family’s old farmhouse. I can’t recall the man’s name that owned it, but I do recall that my Dad was on friendly terms with him. Friendly enough at any rate for the eccentric gentleman to tell my father the story of what he had built in that quiet clearing.

It seems one night, many years ago, this unnamed Missourian looked up into the sky and saw a cluster of five UFOs flying low enough that he could see the basic design of the ships. He waved his arms and tried to make contact…but to no avail. He therefore decided to take measures to ensure that if these alien vessels ever returned, they would stop. So, he proceeded to construct an intricately detailed replica of one of the ships he had seen. He reasoned that if the aliens saw his replica ship in the clearing they would assume one of two things: a) that one of their ships had landed and they would follow to assist or b) that a human was making a clear attempt at communication. Either way, he figured they’d probably land there on his property.

The UFO in the clearing has been ravaged by time…weather and drunkards have done entropy’s work. But in its prime, the little concrete ship was a wonder. It was gleaming silver with a glass windshield, a leather seat and mock controls in the cockpit, and a thick metal door in the rear. These days, the silver has been all but worn away, replaced by graffiti and etchings. The door has been hauled away, the glass has been smashed, and the cockpit is nothing but a concrete cavity filled with litter. However, the surreal effect of hiking over a small hill to encounter a life-sized UFO parked in the forest is still as glorious as it was when my family used to visit this clearing for picnics.

We didn’t dally long…it was the first weekend of deer season. be concluded in Ozark Oddities: Part II

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Perfect Cookie

While falling asleep the other night.

Moonshot – I’m thinking about making cookie baskets for some of our friends and family. Maybe six different kinds of cookies. I’ll put a card in each basket and people can vote on their favorite cookie. Then, I’ll swap out the three lowest vote getters next year for new cookies. I keep that up year after year until I have the perfect basket of cookies.

Moksha – The perfect basket of cookies? For that, you know, we’ll have to travel around the world to find the perfect flour.

Moonshot – Absolutely, and then the perfect heat source.

Moksha – It certainly will be exciting and fast

Moonshot – And exciting and thrilling

Moksha – And exciting and funny.

A moment of silence.

Moonshot – You know, there is this small group of parents in the world who would understand exactly what we were talking about…and then there’s the other 98% of the population.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Holey Man

Simon asked the Gren: What's up with the nose piercing? Why'd you get it in the first place and decide to do away with it? You probably wouldn't be married to Moonshot if you hadn't lost it before meeting her, so do you believe in fateful timing, or was that just blind coincidence?

I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have told you what a pain ritual was when I was in 9th grade. In fact, I’m fairly certain I didn’t stumble across the term until some time in college. But when I did finally have it described to me, it clicked in a way that said, “Of course! That’s exactly what I’ve been feeling all these years.”

The basic concept is the marking of a life event, achievement, or milestone with a “ceremony” that a) is painful and b) leaves a mark. Painful because it shouldn’t be easy. Whatever it is that you’re commemorating took hard work and sacrifice, the symbolic version should be no different. And there should be a mark because that mark will remain as the reminder of the life event.

I blame my parents for this type of thinking. You see, I had wanted to get my ear pierced when I was in school. They wanted to give me enough freedom to express myself, but also wanted to make sure I wasn’t rushing into such things on a whim. Thus, I was told that I could have my ear pierced when I was 15. Reasonable, but my friend Brock, two years younger than me, already had his ear pierced and was more than willing to remind me of it. It was an agonizing wait.

Luckily, Mom was willing to round my age up a bit and shave about a month off the wait. On the last day of school of my freshman year, my final day as a junior high student, we journeyed into Osage Beach and got my left ear pierced at some place where the “ceremony” involved a pink plastic gun in the hands of a gum-chewing fellow teenager. It was, at the time, the only option I knew of and I walked out with the desired stud in my ear. So I was thrilled.

Perhaps it was due to the piercing coinciding with the completion of an academic level or perhaps I would have made this connection on my own, but I instantly began viewing my earring as a symbol of my completion of junior high, my entrance into high school. I equated that single stud with transition. The concept of a pain ritual had entered my psyche even though the term itself was still years away.

By the time I turned 16, I had moved on to a small 16-gauge hoop and returned to the needle to commemorate my driver’s license, giving me two holes through my left ear. High school graduation was marked by a hoop through my right lobe and then I took a break for a while as I went away to college and learned to over-analyze these things and use terms like shamanistic pain ritual. I vividly remember watching a documentary in which a suited gentleman with a bone through his nose said (and I’m paraphrasing):

“Pain rituals are not done solely for decoration, it's part of an initiation, a rite of passage. It's part of transformation.”

On the pain itself he said:

“If, while walking, I accidentally walk into a thorn or a needle and pierce my skin, there is a sensation of pain. It is a message sent by my brain to alert me to the danger to which I was previously unaware. On the contrary, if I pick up that same needle and consciously decide to pierce my skin with it, contemplate the act and deliberately do so, there is an intense sensation…but it is not exactly pain. The skin sends the same message, the same endorphins are released, but the brain, in knowing exactly what is going on, processes the information differently.”

To which I said, “Rock on!!” I would later learn that that suited-gentleman was Fakir Musafar, the godfather of the “modern primitive” movement, but at the time he was just a cool looking dude saying things that made a lot of sense to me.

In the following years, I relished my newfound ability to intellectualize what was a fairly common tribal marking of my generation. However, when my next life event unfolded, I was ready to contemplate that needle with deliberation once again.

A few weeks after my Dad died in the fall of ’97, I jumped in the car with two college friends and headed down to St. Louis to find a reputable piercer. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted yet, nose or nipple, but I knew that I was no longer going to trust it to a pink, plastic gun. I found the look of the nose piercing more appealing, but the nipple was more painful, and that suited my mindset at the time. So, I settled on my right nipple.

It was strange. The pain (or sensation of whatever) was fully bearable…intense, but bearable. What I was truly not prepared for was the endorphin rush. I had to step outside. I paced the balcony overlooking the St. Louis Loop as I took in the cold November air and tried not to throw up.

It was exhilarating.

A year later, I was living in Breckenridge, CO, but had come back to Missouri to be with my family on the first anniversary of Dad’s death. On my way out of town I swung into the piercer. I’m not exactly sure what I was commemorating. It was sort of a combination one-year-without-Dad and moving-out-on-my-own deal. But really, I think I just wanted to get a nose-ring and was looking for a reason.

I don’t think anyone really liked my nose ring. My family hated it, my friends found it silly…but I loved it. I worked as an electrician up in Breck and just loved the interactions it would inspire. I remember one very well in which a little old lady who had called for service work answered her door. An uncomfortable/terrified look flashed across her face. She tried hard not to stare at my nose and then tried harder to avoid me completely. Eventually, she mustered the courage to ask the standard opening question, “Did that hurt?” After a few minutes of discussion, we were chatting comfortably. Her granddaughter had a pierced eyebrow and she was relishing my willingness to explain why someone would want to do such a thing.

She made me chocolate chip cookies.

A few months later I was living in Ft Lauderdale and took a job installing home theaters and such. The company frowned on the nose ring and I agreed to take it out during work hours. I figured I could maintain the hole that way for the six months or so that I planned to be in the south Florida area. Sadly, (or perhaps fortunately) the hole closed up during my first 8 hours shift and I said a sad goodbye to my facial piercing. I hated losing it but it was, as mentioned, the only piercing with no specific ties to a life event. I missed the ring itself, but didn't feel that I had lost something truly significant.

And so, it was a relatively normal-looking Moksha that met Moonshot in 2002. And that’s a good thing since I have no illusions that she would have taken an interest in me had I been sporting a metallic nostril. She barely tolerates the four 12-gauge rings I currently wear. However, to address the original question, I’m not one to believe in fate on this level. On the list of cosmic coincidences that made Moonshot and I perfect for each other, the lack of nasal jewelry was but a small factor. So no, I don’t personally believe the universe had a plan for my nose.

Things have been quiet on the body modification front for several years now. Between Moonshot and an office job…there’s not much room for more stainless steel. However, I am currently looking forward to some inkwork. Lack of funds prevented me from commemorating Norah’s birth in this way, but as soon as resources allow, I plan to make the Chinese wu-fu a permanent part of skin. It may take a while to save up the funds since a) it will be an expensive piece of art and b) Moonshot has made it clear that if I get to spend such money on a tattoo…she gets jewelry of equal value, thereby doubling the cost of my wu-fu ;) And I figure that’s fair. It will be, like the piercings before it, my own personal ritual commemorating the events of my life. If she wants to join in the celebration but skip the pain part of it…I don’t think many would blame her.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween (In Costume)

Norah was supposed to be Arlo for Halloween...but she kept wiping the face paint and wouldn't leave her ears on. So everyone thought she was a kitty. By the fourth house...I just started agreeing.

I was worried she'd be afraid of this mask...but she just giggled and focused on her very first lollipop. When I took the mask off later that evening, she kept trying to put it back on me.

Happy Halloween (Mostly Wordless)

Arlo, our very own church grim


"I got my costume ready...let's go get some candy!!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Norah's Boyfriend

Note: For those of you following along with Piper and the Gren, Part 3 has been posted. The link on the left-hand side menu will keep you up to date on the story posting.

I know someday she’ll be old enough to read this. And at that point, young Norah will most likely be horrified at my choice of the word “boyfriend.” But in the meantime, I get to write this unfettered by my daughter’s impending realization that boys have cooties. So, boyfriend it is.

Norah and David go way back. For over a third of Norah’s life, she’s been joyously pushing David down and steeling his toys. He doesn’t seem to mind, so I guess it works out for everyone. They met at the Little Gym where they were a perfectly matched little pair. Same size, same hair, roughly the same development level although David had a few words and was a bit more stable on his feet (when he wasn’t being pushed.) Based on the kids’ budding relationship and the fact that his folk’s seemed like cool people, Moonshot and I made an effort to chat with David’s parents. A weak effort, mind you, since we’re horridly introverted and small talk is painfully awkward. But, they seemed nice, so we kept up the unnatural at of…meeting…new…people, and eventually got comfortable conversing with them.

When the Little Gym class ended, we set up a play date for the kids and have since got together with David and his family twice for social functions.

I don’t have nicknames picked out for David’s mom and dad yet. Partially because I don’t know them quite well enough to label them the McCheeses (after we learned together that no matter how much you beg, a gas grill will not melt fat-free cheese…it’ll just make cheese-flavored rocks atop your pizza) and partially because my wife refuses to join me in my thought experiment.

Me: What’s the opposite of a kangaroo?

Moonshot: Nothing, that’s stupid.

Me: It’s…I’m trying to think of a good nickname for David’s folks so I can mention them on the blog.

Moonshot: You are such a dork.

Me: True, but what’s the opposite of a kangaroo?

Moonshot, sighing a she realizes I will not go away until she plays: Fine. Um, I don’t know. Some animals have opposites. Like if you said dog, I’d say cat, but….oh, my God, I can’t do this. It’s too stupid. I’m going upstairs to read.

So, for now I’ll just call them David’s mom and dad.

Anyway, before I sidetracked myself, I was meandering this post toward our recent trip to the pumpkin patch. The 90-degree weather made it slightly difficult to get into the pumpkin selection mood, but we did our level best to make it festive. And since the kids had no pumpkin related expectations anyway…fun was had by all.

Don’t they make a cute couple? (Sorry, future Norah!)

Look, Goats!!!

Shaing Sandbox Toys

David, are you hogging the camera?

SO many pumpkins to choose from

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

An Introduction to a Gren

Saying that I’ve been working on a story for almost 10 months makes it sound like a pretty impressive story, yes? As if for these past 10 months, I’ve been hunkered over my keyboard, tweaking sentences in an artistic quest for just the right word to make my audience burst into spontaneous applause there in their distant cubicles and home offices. The truth is somewhat less thrilling. The story whiled away most of its ten-month life sitting unloved and untouched. Oh…I spent a great deal of time thinking about it in my car or as I drifted off to sleep. But actual work has been pretty sparse. Unlike previous stories I’ve attempted, however, I never lost my love for the characters or the story premise. See…some one had asked me, early in my life as a blogger named Moksha Gren, what in the world “gren” meant. After mulling over the best way to answer that, I fell in love with the idea of simply introducing everyone to the twisted, little creature called a gren. So, after a few months of neglect, I would always slink back to my computer and peck a few extra words here and there before drifting away again. Then, I made a deal with myself. Since the events told in the story take place in October, I figured October would be a good time to post it. And since I came to this conclusion in July or so…it fit nicely into my natural inclination toward procrastination.

And suddenly it was late September and I hadn’t opened the story in months. Panicked, I began rushing around, squeezing in writing time wherever I could, forcing my poor wife to edit at a frantic pace. My cousin Tony out in Reno had agreed to draw some sketches to accompany the story. But my lack of time management now means the story will be posted sans artwork since Tony hasn’t even seen the story yet.

But……the story will be posted.

And that in itself is an amazing thing for me right now. It’s the first story I’ve completed since I was in college. And though I tried valiantly to follow my usually routine…I did not let this one slip silently into the forgotten recesses of my brain without ever seeing the light of day. I’m proud of that. True, it’s got some cumbersome sections. The linguistic artistry is not what I had hoped and I don’t think I was able to capture everything I had wanted. But, I still love the story and my wife tells me that it’s “better than she expected.” I’m taking it as a complement.

So, I’ve set up a new blog called From Erebus to house this and any future fictional writings I do. It’s just an empty shell as I type this, but on October 11th I’ll lift the curtain on the first section of my first story, Piper and the Gren.

I’m a bit nervous.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Gren, an Evil Genius?

Simon has so labeled me...and who am I to disagree? To me, however, it just seemed painfully obvious what needed to be done.

A little while back, as you may recall from my initial telling, I conducted the wedding of my dear friends Taltap and Elsa. However, what I was careful not to mention in my original reporting was a particular coincidence that occurred there. During the rehersal, I was chatting with the various members of the wedding party, many of whom I had never met. That's Laegren on the far rightThe bridesmaid was a delightful, red-headed girl who mentioned that she lived in Edmonton, Alberta (that’s in Canada, eh?) Now, there are many possible responses to this bit of trivia, but I, being the sort of person who is constantly looking for a way to talk about the friends I’ve made out here in web-land, immediately told the bridesmaid (who I will henceforth refer to as Laegren for reasons I will explain later) all about Simon. Plus, I was well versed in odd little details about her city, having conversed with my ice-bound friend many times about his environment, and so was interested to get her take on the same city.

Over the course of the weekend, it occurred to me that I was sitting on a golden opportunity. I had just met a person who apparently lived only five minutes away from a friend of mine who lives over 1500 miles away from me. Plus, her kids go to some sort of play group even closer to Simon's house. The odds were staggering and made me want to break out into a few rounds of “It’s a small world.” But more than made me want to mess with Simon’s head.

I quickly scribbled a message on a piece of notebook paper and gave it to Laegren, asking her if she would be willing to post it to Simon’s door. She seemed excited by the prospect of a practical joke...then she saw the letter. She seemed a bit concerned since it was vaguely threatening and didn’t have my real name on it. I would have been worried as well…were I her. “Is this going to get me into trouble?” she asked. My wife quickly vouched for me, trying to explain that Simon would, indeed find this amusing. Laegren seemed convinced and all was settled.

Upon returning to St. Louis, I quickly wrote the tale of my weekend, carefully avoiding any reference to Edmonton so as not to give Simon any clues to work with when the note was posted. However, I had overlooked one detail. I had forgotten to tell the groom, Taltap, about the impending prank. This hadn’t seemed such a large oversight since he rarely posts here, but as soon as the story hit the web, Taltap swooped down and mentioned to Simon that one of the guests had been from his neck of the woods.


I ignored it. Refused to enter the conversation. Hoped it would die down.

Laegren, meanwhile, was waiting for me to send her Simon’s physical address and could not deliver the letter until I did. I figured this was my one chance to salvage the game since I had some control over the timing. I’d just wait. Give Simon some time to forget this seemingly minor detail.

A month went by. Some would politely call it delayed gratification. I would call it torture. Finally, about a week ago, I sent the address to Laegren (Long Arm of an Evil Gren) and waited.

For the completion of this story, visit Simon or his wife, Amy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Amazing Disappearing / Reappearing Gren

Currently, I’m sitting in my new, slightly smaller office, looking out the odd little window that opens into our much smaller warehouse and crunching on a baby carrot. “But wait,” you say. “Where have I been for the last two weeks? You can’t just dissapear like that and pop back in talking about windows.”

Well...I’ve been getting here. I’ve been fighting and struggling and gnashing my teeth so that I could sit here in relative relaxation and tell you that I have an odd little window in my office.

About two weeks ago, the president of the company I work for let me know that we’d be moving our corporate office. This I had already known. There was a loose contract on our building, but he wasn’t too concerned about the timing…so I wasn’t too concerned. I figured everything was under control. Then he mentioned casually on Wednesday, August 29th, that the new owners would be taking possession of the building we occupied on September 14th. Two weeks. Prep work done at that point…none. New location to move to…hadn’t even started looking. Panic level…stratospheric.

There’s a part of me that would love to go into excruciating detail on all the hurdles of the move, but two things prevent me. First, while we are now nestled into our new digs…the move isn’t really over. Folks want their voice mail and their printers to work. The warehouse evokes a 300 lb man squeezed into sweatpants designed for a man half his size…it demands some compressing and Tetrisizing. And there’s all that pesky work I was ignoring while focusing exclusively on the move…it didn’t magically disappear as I had hoped it would. Secondly, if my wife’s glossed-over eyes were any indication…the minute details of my battles with telecom, my attic crawls, my shelving assembly, and all the other skirmishes that made this such an ordeal are slightly less interesting in the retelling. I’ll spare you the nitty-gritty.

Besides, all that minutia were only tangentially related to the more important aspects. The new office itself tells nothing of my wife and daughter, left home to await the return of some semblance of normalcy. There were days in which I saw Norah for less than 20 minutes total. There were days when Moonshot nearly lost her mind from boredom and loneliness; unable to leave the house due to an illness Norah was fighting.

So, instead of telling all the details, I’d rather take these precious moments of remaining lunch break to thank a few people who really made a difference in all this.

Thanks to MoMa for coming up on short notice to keep my family company in my absence. Thanks to Panache for meeting Moonshot and Norah in Hannibal last week just to get them out of the house. Thanks to Jet, for shouldering the burden of our store with absolutely no help from his suddenly absent business partner. And a huge thanks to my wife who worked every single long hour I did…with no co-workers to keep her company.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #19

Click the image to crank up the air

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Choosing Sides: A Scientific Poll

Moonshot and I have noticed a peculiar trend. We have no scientific basis for believing that it is a trend, but Emilie’s hilarious current post brought it to mind and I wanted to throw out the “scientific” poll on the side bar menu.

UPDATE: Emilie brings up a good point. I'm defining left and right from the perspective of someone lying face-up in the bed. Apparently designers define this differently. Sorry for the confusion. Feel free to change your vote if needed.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #18

Click image for a Big Mack

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Monday, August 20, 2007

And Be There When I Feed The Tree

Mark asked the Gren, “Tell us about the first time you smoked a joint. Or, smoked part of a joint.”

I knew I was opening myself up to this sort of situation. In an open forum where readership includes high school and college friends as well as parents, grandparents, and in-laws; where members of my in-law’s church regularly swing by and where Norah herself may eventually read what I write here, I have been asked, straight out of the gate for my new “Ask the Gren” feature, to discuss my first experience with marijuana. What a fun little minefield to tiptoe through.

I’ll admit my first instinct for this was to just ignore it. Maybe meekly write back to Mark and explain my understandable reluctance to tackle this topic in such a public way. There’s a good chance he asked this just to watch me squirm. And besides, if I play along, won’t he just ask more and more challenging questions until he makes me crack? Cutting this sort of thing off at the start is certainly tempting. However, what fun is asking questions if the only ones that get answered are the ones I’m totally comfortable tackling?

In other words...fine, Mark, I’ll march into the minefield so that you can prop your feet up down there in Dallas and enjoy the tale.

And Be There When I Feed The Tree

The Lake of the Ozarks was a pretty weed-friendly place to grow up. Most of my friends were reveling in their love of nature’s psychedelic bounty by the time I was in eighth grade or so. If it weren’t for the huge stubborn streak that I still claim as my own, I’d have probably started down my road to herbal decadence at about the same time. But, I had little inclination to follow the crowd and staked my claim to a strange middle ground in the social dynamics of high school. I dressed in tie-dye shirts and rope sandals; I listened to my dad’s old stoner music from the 60s and 70s; and I studied all things hemp. I was fascinated by the counter culture revolution: Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury, etc. But I never partook of the drugs so openly endorsed by the era of my fascination and so freely available in the circle of friends I ran with. I’d sit in the circle and join in the insane philosophical discussions…but I’d simply and merrily pass the joint around.

There were several reasons for this I suppose. First, I had this idea that I was going to become a big time hemp activist once I got to college. I reasoned that my opinion would be taken more seriously if folks couldn’t quickly discount me as just another stoner. Secondly, while lots of my friends seemed to be having quite a bit of fun with their pot, several were smoking more and more and developing a habit that I just wasn’t too thrilled with. So, I sat on the side of the metaphoric pool and continued to size things up before jumping in.

As the high school years went by and graduation loomed, however, I began to give up on the dream of major legalization activism. I became more comfortable with the idea of smoking in moderation and came to feel that I’d rather smoke for the first time with my long-time friends instead of the mysterious and undefined friends I would make in college. So, on April 8, 1994, my friend Laska and I set off after dark, hiking up to the Elder Tree’s clearing on the hillside facing my mom’s house.

The town of Linn Creek is nestled in a valley, surrounded on all sides by the rolling Ozark Hills. Across the street from my Mom’s is a house. Behind that house is another house. Behind that second house is a large field that hosts a construction company of some sort, littered with dump trucks and piles of gravel. Beyond the gravel field, is the creek that gives the little town her name. And beyond the water raises the green slope that houses the bald patch. Over the years since, the mysterious patch has lost its geometric shape, but in 1994, it was a perfectly square patch of grass on a hillside that was otherwise uniform with trees. At the top and center of this patch was a massive evergreen, bigger than any other tree on the hill. The Elder Tree we called it as if this tree spirit had lay claim to this small parcel of land and none of the younger trees dared encroach. We felt it important to visit the Elder Tree on this auspicious occasion.

After finding the driest place to cross the creek, we meandered back and forth across the face of the hillside, tracking imaginary switchbacks through the thick Ozark underbrush to minimize the slope of our moonlit climb. We chatted about song ideas that Laska was working on and story ideas I was working on as we made our way through the shadows toward the general area we thought we’d find the clearing.

The moon was nothing but a sliver, but the sudden opening of the trees made the clearing seen fully lit after our time under the tree canopy. The expansion of our vision made the space feel as holy up close as it had looked from a distance. The Elder Tree towered over us to our left and the ground fell away to the tiny lights of the tiny town to our right. Above us, the stars spread in every direction through the clear sky. The ground was rocky and not nearly as plush as it had appeared from our yard, but we wiggled around a bit until we found relatively comfortable spots to recline.

We absorbed our surroundings for a while before Laska produced his metal pipe and for the first time…I didn’t just pass it. We lay there, passing the pipe back and forth, talking about college. I had been accepted to what was then called Northeast Missouri State in Kirksville and he would be heading to Culver Stockton, a small school on the Mississippi River. With only about an hour and half separating the two schools, we discussed how great it would be to be able to zip over and see each other as often as possible…a simple plan that was only enacted once for some reason.

Intoxication of any sort is difficult to describe. A sensation in your toe can be quickly categorized, but sensation in the organ you use to analyze sensation can be much more difficult. You don’t even notice it’s happening until you catch your mind in a thought process that just wouldn’t happen otherwise. It’s like falling asleep. A dream-like pattern slips into an otherwise normal thought and you’re suddenly aware that you are drifting away. In addition, it affects each person differently and can change depending on your mood. I would spend the next several years of my life trying to come up with metaphors and descriptors to properly capture the feeling of being stoned…but after all these years, I’m still not really able. But generally, I would describe the feeling as a falling away. As if my conscious and subconscious had temporarily switched places. I was a step removed from my senses, shrunken away into the recesses of my mind just a little. Wrapped up with processes that normally go undetected, noticing little details that normally go unnoticed, dreaming while awake.

We laughed.

Eventually, Laska announced that he was hungry, but I didn’t want to move because scenery was too perfect. I couldn’t absorb the stars fast enough or stare long enough. “Can’t we just stay here?”

“Don’t you want to eat something?”

“Sure, but to get that, I’d have to give up these stars.”

“Well, that’s life. I mean…you never know, the walk down could be even better than this.”

This struck me as infinitely deep…a perfect allegory for my fears of departing for college. We pushed ourselves up, said a polite “thank you” to the Elder Tree and headed back into the darkened canopy.

Whatever care we had shown while making our ascent was abandoned for the trek down. Switchbacks be damned, we strolled straight down toward the creek. I’ll admit the trip is mostly a blur to me, but I have snippets of leaning against trees and sliding on loose leaves, aware but unconcerned that my behavior would rightly be called “reckless.” I recall resting against the truck of a thick tree and being unsure whether or not I was imagining the slimy feeling against my hands. I pushed away to get a better view and my mind reeled, unable to make sense of the pulsing vision I was seeing. The bark was covered with slugs. No, not some drug-induced vision, but real, ooze-on-my-hands slugs. We stood for a moment or two as we attempted to invent a reason so many slugs would cluster on one tree, but eventually abandoned the questioning to continue our mission to find food.

At the bottom, we splashed our way through the creek, no longer concerned about staying dry.

We laughed.

Mom was away that night, out on the town with her friend, Pam. We put on Belly’s new Star album and made some snacks before returning to the living room to watch MTV. They were showing some sort of documentary on Curt Cobain, but we were having a horrible time making sense of what they were talking about. We just sat in silence, off in our own little worlds, staring at the screen and eating our Pop-Tarts.

“Wait,” I said. “Did they just say he died?”

“No, he’s probably just on tour or something,” replied Laska.

We sat quietly for another stretch.

“I…I’m pretty sure they put up one of those…those…date range things. Like he died.”

“No, they….” Laska froze. Kurt Loder was there on the screen, telling us to call a depression hotline if the news was too upsetting.

I think I may have said something akin to, “Oh, man.” Words may well have failed me even under the best of circumstances…but they were especially unforthcoming in my current state.

We turned off Belly and swapped the cd for In Utero.

So we sat there, Laska and I, eating Pop-Tarts, and then popcorn, and drinking Mountain Dew; discussing Cobain while the speakers crooned about Pennyroyal Tea.

The term surreal gets tossed around a lot. Quite often on this very site, as a matter of fact. But it really is the only word I know to describe that night. The only word I know to encompass both the stunning beauty and the bewildering news. The brightness of the stars and the darkness of the loss of "the spokeman of our generation."

I long ago packed up my bong and now opt to keep my subconscious mind right where it is. But, I wouldn’t trade that experience or the countless experiences that would follow for anything. Someday, when Norah is old enough to ask, I’ll have to decide how best to deal with such stories.

Compared to that…in-laws and church groups seem a breeze.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The One and Only Norah Lu

When Moonshot and I agreed on the name Norah for our daughter, one of the things we liked about it was that it was not common…but not strange. It harkens back to two grandmothers named Norma (one on my side and one on Moonshot’s) and also to my Great Aunt Eleanor. It seemed perfect.

For a middle name, Moonshot liked Louise for no reason other than it sounded nice and would allow her to call the little one Norah Lou. I suggested a small change to Norah Lucille since that was my grandmother’s name and Moonshot agreed. It was perfect. My Grandma went by Lu, so shortening the name to Norah Lu in common speech was actually even more of a tribute. Later it became even better because Lu could also stand for Lutine…my webby nickname for my daughter that worked perfectly with the Gren aspect of my own nickname. Simply glorious all around.

But I discovered something last week. It turns out we accidentally stumbled upon a rather unique name. Seems it’s surprisingly rare to shorten a middle name to “Lu.” Everyone wants “Lou.” Do a quick Google search for Norah Lu and you’ll find nothing but references to this site in the top hits. Eventually you’ll find someone with the last name of Lu…but that’s different.

I had no idea. But neither do I regret it. Perhaps my Grandma was odd in her choice of diminutives, but it always seemed perfectly normal to me. And if it’s true that we’ve granted a one-of-a-kind name for our daughter…perhaps that’s a fitting gift from Grandma Lu since Norah Lu, like her namesake, is a one-of-a-kind girl.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Reverend Moksha Gren

I couldn’t help giggling internally just a bit when I said, “by the power vested in me by the State of Iowa…” Such a lofty phrase…such an implication of authority. Somehow, I think the blurry jpeg print-out of an ordination certificate that rested in the back of my three-ring binder was slightly less awe-inspiring than the State of Iowa had in mind when they contemplated vesting power in the hands of ministers. They most likely would have been even less impressed had they known that I was outrageously tired due to a late night/early morning bachelor party that a “minister” had no business attending. And they may well have done their best to revoked this mysterious “power” had they known how badly I wanted to read the line as “And so…by the power of Greyskull…”

And when, exactly was this power vested to me? After I clicked “submit,” entering my name into the database at the Universal Life Church? Or was it transferred unto me only once my printer had finished producing my certificate? Whichever it was, the end result was the same, apparently. Power had been vested in me and I was wielding it with impunity over the weekend.

Now, don’t get me wrong…the powered I wielded was put to an absolutely beautiful purpose. But I still felt odd referencing this power as if the piece of paper really made me special in any way. To me…the real authority granted in this instance came when Taltap and Elsa asked me to officiate their wedding. It was their day and they invited me into it. That was the special moment. That was when I became empowered to perform wondrous magic.

Leave it to a bureaucracy to miss the fragile beauty of the scene while it focuses on the paperwork.

Not entirely coincidently, this concept of subtle moments was the theme of my sermon. And make no mistake…it was a sermon. When my college roommate/ Moonshot’s brother-in-law performed our wedding, he approached the speech with casual grace. He told the story of how we lovebirds had met and what role he had in the events. It was funny and personal and all around perfect for our day. I, on the other hand, found that I have some deep and poorly understood desire to stand before a crowd and wax philosophically about the deep truths of life. I suppose this should shock no one who knows me or who has ever seen me turn a simple question like “which remote do I use to turn on your tv?” into a 20 minute lecture on signal amplification and hub-based audio networking.

Anyway…I sermonized. A transcript of the speech can be found here, if you are so inclined. But the real wonder of the day was that when it was all over…Taltap and Elsa were husband and wife.

It was a very small ceremony…twenty people or so. And six of those people were under the arbor as part of the wedding. The day was hot enough to joke about and wish for lighter clothes than tuxedos, but not unbearable. The kind of hot that makes for good stories in later years. The ceremony itself was strategically short, designed to get folks back into the AC as quickly as possible. But, it was worth being outside...for the setting was astounding. Taltap’s parents hosted the event in their backyard, and "elaborately designed" does not even begin to describe this yard. And mind you, this is not some normal yard all dolled up just for the wedding. This yard is their hobby. Rivers and bridges and waterfalls in every direction. A little house rested in the back corner for Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and a manufactured cave sat beside it for the dwarves to mine. I jokingly told Taltap’s dad all that was missing from the yard was a garden train. At which point he showed me where the train was going to be installed next year. Later that evening, during the reception, children ran joyously over the bridge to reach Snow White’s house. They delighted in turning the faux fireplace on and off and sitting at the miniature table. It was a truly stunning locale.

In the end, everything went smoothly on this, my first public appearance as the Reverend Moksha Gren. People kept telling me how wonderful it all was, as if I had really done much in the scheme of things. There was love before, there was love after...I just got up there and gabbed about it. But, the only two people whose opinion on my performance really matter seemed quite pleased with how it went down. And though I’ll still shake my head every time I think about the baffling “power” that was vested in me through the Internet, I continue to be honored to have played a role in the marriage of two of my closest friends.

UPDATE: For those of you "in the know" about the "The Gren Was Here" prank as discussed on both Simon and Amy's site. The letter-posting culprit is the wonderful lady on the far right in the second picture. I owe her a big thanks.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #17

Click any image to make these gardens grow.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #16

Click image for monetary inflation

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Monday, August 06, 2007

A Resounding PLOP (and other assorted snippets)

St. Louis is Melting

We don’t get to play outside much these days. You see…it’s hot. It’s so hot they had to shut down at least one local road to fix buckling asphalt. It’s so hot cooling stations have been set up throughout the city to help folks without access to air conditioning. Basically, it’s too hot to do anything other than look out the window and marvel at how hot it is on the other side of the glass. During the winter months, I think of my Canadian readership with something akin to pity. Today…I would gladly teleport myself northward. Or perhaps I’d teleport them here so I could watch them stagger under the oppressive humidity. Both have their perks.

At the Sound of the Grunt…Run Away!!

I am thankful that my daughter grunts when she poos. This may seem an odd thing to offer thanks for…but I truly do cherish this trait. For one, it offers endless amusement to my wife and I. But more significantly, it kept us from having to rebathe Little Lutine last night.

Norah manically scooted about in the tub, chasing her bobbing toys while splashing great sprays of water onto both her watching parents. She giggles. She screams. And then grows very serious. She hunkers down. She grunts. I spring to action and hoist her from the water as quickly as I can. My reward is a resounding “PLOP” a mere instant after her little feet cleared the water line. Success!! Moonshot howled with laughter and Little Miss, for her part, looked about with confusion, unsure what all the fuss was about. Sure…we had to clean the tub and the toys, but we didn’t have to do it with super speed while distracting a naked baby so that we could resanitize our child.

Thanks for the warning, Norah.

Up, Up and Away

It seems Norah is to become a climber. It was probably inevitable with her father being somewhat of an irrational monkey who looks at the world as his own personal jungle gym. So, while it comes as no shock to find Norah pulling and clawing her way unaided onto the couch…it still fills us with dread. Her reach just keeps gaining height and we have to keep getting more and more clever to keep things out of her reach. But material destruction aside…I’m more than a bit concerned that we’re talking about a child who has yet to learn that head first is not the proper way to exit her parent’s bed. Onto this fearless child has now been bestowed the ability to climb.

I’m considering taking up praying.

So Many Pictures

As good as her word, Stephanie delivered a cd full of pictures from Norah’s birthday party. They are wonderful and beautiful…and overwhelming in their sheer volume. I will try to have them up soon…but between these and the shots Moonshot’s folks left with us…I’ve got some wading to do.

I did manage to post the July pictures up to but not including the party and I’m noticing a trend. She’s getting harder to photograph. She just doesn’t hold still anymore. Once upon a time, you should make a funny noise and capture a cherubic face. Today she runs from one toy to the next and makes it increasingly difficult to capture the cuteness we see on a daily basis. If I’m able to master this…I may have a career waiting for me in sports photography.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #15

Click the image...and it's almost like you're there.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

One Already?!

Somehow, as if by magic…my daughter has turned a year old. As I type this, it seems impossible that the astounding moment when I first held her was a year ago. It seems too vivid in my mind to have been so long ago. Ask me again in five minutes and I’ll tell you that it seems impossible that our home was childless a mere 12 months ago. I am amazed at the lightning speed of time and simultaneously at the seemingly contradictory infinity that has somehow fit itself in these recent 365.

And this, I am learning, is a consistent theme in parenting. The ability to make peace with contradiction. I have spent a good deal of time this last year wishing I could get away for some personal time while simultaneously not wanting to miss a thing she does. My excitement to see her master new skills is almost equally matched by my desire for her to slow down so I can absorb as much as I can of each moment. She is infuriating and inexpressibly lovable. She is disgusting and overwhelming cute. She saps your energy and refuels you in the same instant.

I do not pretend to understand it.

We realized recently that although we are still just getting our feet wet with this whole parenting thing, was are, as of her first birthday, 5.56% of the way finished raising her to independence. Sure, it’s still a small percentage…but much larger than seems possible. Eighteen years seemed so huge when I was eighteen. Now, although it’s still a bit of a stretch, I can measure that time…and it’s alarming.

Anyway, family and friends piled into the Grenstead over the weekend to celebrate the Little Lutine’s astounding achievement of surviving under my and Moonshot’s care for a full year. Norah had a blast and seemed to handle the sensory overload of the event better than I would have expected. I plan on writing a more full description of the event soon, once I’ve dug through the photos that should accompany the story. I didn’t take many pictures, myself…mired as I was in vital hostly duties like spinning in place trying to decide where I needed to be. I snapped a few prior to the party and a few after…but the bulk of the get-together was lost in a haze of photo forgetfulness. Luckily, fellow blogger Stephanie from over at Breakfast at Stephanie’s was there to point her trusty Nikon at all the things I was missing. She tells me she took a minimum of 200 pictures and I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of said files. And though I would never wish poor Stephanie to regret serving as the party photographer…a few friendly comments posted over at her site might just get some photos up at the Impish Gren a bit faster ;)

Thanks to everyone who came, everyone who sent cards and gifts, and everyone who sent birthday wishes in some electronic format or another. Norah’s pretty self-centered right now and is therefore unlikely to say thank you for it all. But know that her Daddy was deeply moved by all the fuss being made over his darling, one-year-old (!) girl.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Wordless Wednesday #14

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