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Archive for October, 2008

Oct 25 2008

Shuffling the Deck

Posted by Mugs @ 8:30 pm in Family

As a parent, there is an endless list of things I feel obligated to teach my children: toilet training, getting dressed, making a bed, reading, counting, shoveling, good manners, how to shake hands, riding a bike, etc.  Often there arrive days when I suddenly become aware that I have failed to teach them a critical skill.  This happened a few days ago when I realized that none of my children could shuffle a deck of cards.  Card games were an ongoing activity while I was growing up in the Meloch home.  Cribbage was played the most and Eucre was most loved.  We played cards with each other, with relatives, with neighbors, and with friends.  When I left home and joined the Army, there was always a game of Spades going on somewhere in the Barracks.  Dale and I played endless games of Cribbage, taught everyone Eucre, mostly played Spades, and one summer learned Pinochle.  At our church at West Point, we played Dutch Blitz at a constant pace.  We have played newer card games with the kids like RataTatCat and Loot, but it has been awhile since we played older games like Rummy, Old Maid, Uno, and Skip-Bo.  Last night, we played Skip-Bo and I made them all practice shuffling.  Tonight, I decided to start teaching them games you play with a regular deck of cards.  We all sat down to play Hearts.  Zeke didn’t like the concept that losing was winning.  Abby almost gave up after getting alot of hearts and the Queen of Spades on two hands in a row.  Dale had no heart and played ruthlessly against all his children, even Zeke.  Gabe won in the end with a negative score.  Josiah lost, but started the game like a Meloch.  He sat down to play with a pile of pistachios.  I told him that he was being a good Meloch by sitting down to cards with a pile of nuts.  Dale quickly piped in that if you were playing cards with the Meloches, you were always sitting down with a bunch of nuts.

Oct 22 2008

Adjusting to Pentagon Life

Posted by Dale @ 8:39 am in Pentagon,Work

About two weeks ago, I attended a 1-day Staff Officer Orientation for personnel recently assigned to the Pentagon. The briefers included many senior officers and civilians from the Department of the Army, including Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and Chief of Staff of the Army General George Casey. One of the first speakers, LTG David Huntoon, the Director of the Army Staff, talked about adjusting to life at the Pentagon. He remarked that most of us in the audience were coming from assignments with a lot of responsibilities to new jobs where we are only responsible for our little computer cubicle. He cautioned that we may have a difficult time adjusting to this change and lamenting about our fate in life. His sage advice was “Get over it”. Honestly, this transition has been much more difficult than I anticipated. My attitude wasn’t helped by the state of the cubicle I inherited (thanks, Espo).

I should have known what to expect. I replaced a very good friend, Espo. One of his online monikers is TrashMan. He is a hoarder. For some reason, though, I wasn’t mentally prepared for the piles of files, documents and folders on the desk. I have spent countless hours going through each document to identify what needs to be saved and what can be trashed. He promised he would organize everything before he left, and in his own way, he did. The morning after Espo moved to his new assignment (also in the DC area), I arrived to find the piles shifted around and labeled with yellow post-it notes saying:

  1. Look at 1st (But keep together… I will take some of it)
  2. Misc Classified Read Browse 2nd (or as time permits)
  3. Read when time
  4. Misc Stuff Peruse at Leisure
  5. Was Mostly Here
  6. Mostly Old, But I did Put some Here
  7. Real Old

After six weeks of work, I have almost finished the purge. Because I work in a secure facility, to discard any document, I have to review each page, tear it into small pieces and place the pieces in a burn bag for disposal. The burn bags are basically brown paper grocery bags for collecting classified materials for destruction. To date, I have filled twenty (20) burn bags! Espo has stopped by a couple of times in the midst of the purge. Although he hasn’t said anything, I can tell he is emotionally troubled by the amount of things I’ve sent away in burn bags. Oh well. As LTG Huntoon would say, he just needs to “Get over it”!

Oct 14 2008

Apple Butter

Posted by Mugs @ 11:16 pm in Family

This last weekend, we participated in the Apple Butter making extravaganza at my Pastor’s house.  My Pastor’s father drove to Pennsylvania to pick up 18 bushels of Northern Spy Apples.  On Friday night, a group of hardy volunteers including my Pastor’s eight children, peeled, cored, and chopped all the apples.  Saturday morning at 0700, they started two fires on the front lawn under two giant copper kettles.  The kettles bubbled all day with butter, apples, and cinnamon.  We Manrys arrived at 1445 just after the sugar was added to the mix.  Throughout the entire day, family members and volunteers stoked the fires and used long wooden paddles to stir the Apple Butter.  Each Apple Butter stirrer was encouraged to sing the Apple Butter Song.

“Twice around the sides and once through the middle.  Twice around the sides and once through the middle.  Twice around the sides and once through the middle.  That’s the way we stir the Apple Butter.  Apple Butter.  Apple Butter.  That’s the way we stir the Apple Butter.  Twice around the sides and once through the middle.  That’s the way we stir the Apple Butter.”

Mr. Rupert Stirs the Apple Butter

Mr. Rupert Stirs the Apple Butter

This song was enthusiastically sung over and over and over with harmony and good humor.  I loved it.  Each member of the Manry family took a turn at stirring and Gabe and Zeke are still singing the Apple Butter Song.  Once the Apple Butter was declared ready, a giant assembly line formed up.  Pots of Apple Butter were run over to the table, funneled into jars, sprinkled with cinnamon and lidded.  Gabe and Zeke worked the cinnamon sprinkling and Josiah and Abby turned the jar lids in place.  The sheer amount of Apple Butter was ten times the scale of canning strawberry jam with my Mom.  The amount of jars filled was tremendous.  Once the jars were filled, everyone grabbed a potato roll and scraped it across the sides and bottom of the copper kettle for a snack of warm Apple Butter.

This entire event took place in the front yard and garage of a suburban home, yet the sense of community transported me back to a small Northern Minnesota town.  We didn’t make Apple Butter, but jam or pasties or buns or popcorn balls or cookies or watermelon boats.  Everyone came together to chop, cook, and eat and in the process, a community forms.  New Life COMMUNITY Church…I’m glad I’m a part of it.