Thursday, November 26, 2009

A grateful heart 

Many of you will know the song "Give Thanks" from a more modern Christian service, which first instructs us to give thanks with a grateful heart. What does that mean to you this day?

I walk upstairs from my office, and on the couch I see Littlest asleep. Buttercup is on the couch at her feet; Sparkler occupies the dog bed meant for BC. "Littlest" is now a joke, as she's about to be the tallest of the Banaians. When asked what she did yesterday she reported "a good run and a chapter of algebra 2." She considers that a good day. I am grateful for the gift she is, and for the love of my marriage that she represents.

I'm grateful for the career I have. I have great colleagues in my department, a wonderful staff, and a university that has long been supportive of me professionally even when they dislike my politics. I don't think I was so grateful when I started this blog seven years ago as I am now. If that's just aging, it has been worth the tradeoff of now needing to stretch 20 minutes before going to bed just so I can get out of it again. (I'm grateful as well for the advice health professionals gave me to make that so much better.)

I am grateful for the last twelve months of the activities in Washington. Never before in my adult life have people asked such basic questions about how the economy is organized. What I do professionally is more relevant to more people than ever. We have thanks for the harvest, and the economy that brings it. It keeps listeners for my radio programs and students for my classrooms and readers for my writings. I'm both humbled and grateful for the interest.

Dennis Prager tweeted a few moments ago, "Given the great amount of unjust suffering and unhappiness in the world, I am deeply grateful for how much misery I have been spared." This and the promise of the Gospel is, above all else, what we give thanks for today.


Happy Thanksgiving 

We Americans are most fortunate, living in what is still the freest country on the planet.

We have been blessed with a nation whose military fights to protect freedom. Our nation is rich in natural resources, has a system of government that is the best devised yet, provides incredible opportunities to those willing to take risks, and allows for a mindset that lets people dream and hopefully achieve those dreams.

Today, as you visit with family and friends, watch some great football, and have overall good times, please remember to be thankful for all we do have.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Never grew up 

John Christie writes about that uncle who makes Thanksgiving (and other holidays) fun.

There are ways, though, to be graduated to the adults' table ahead of schedule. One of them is to lead your younger cousins at the kids' table in a show of bad manners, including roll-tossing, ginger ale snorting and a burping contest (judged by loudness and length).�

The following Thanksgiving will find you at the big table, the cousins cowed back into good behavior.

At the adults' table, you'll find out what sparkling cider tastes like out of a crystal goblet, that the silverware is actual silver and that you'll get your hand slapped if you hold your knife in your fist.

But, if you are lucky, you will have a bachelor uncle at the table, the colorful sheep in the family of whom his older sisters say, "He's never grown up."

You know the type. He shows up late, smoking a cigar, perhaps with an overdressed date on his arm one year and another year with two buddies from the Elks Club who had no place else to go.

He is to the adults' table as you were to the kids' table. He doesn't mush up dinner rolls and try to "make two" with a hook shot into Aunt Mary's water glass, but he cracks ribald jokes, rags on his brother-in-law's comb-over and challenges you to an eating contest.

"I'm on my third helping, kid, and I ain't even started yet," he declares as you try to force down one more forkful of mashed potatoes.
You have an image of Uncke Buck, but John is actually speaking of Uncle Licky, whose gift of old comics I've written about here before. John and Gary were my two older cousins to whom I looked up. I always thought Gary threw the rolls, but John did inspire some great Thanksgiving burping contests.

And Uncle Licky? Never married, never left home, and only grew up later. When he was given a short prognosis for Lou Gehrig's he decided if he walked five miles a day it wouldn't catch him. And it didn't for several years. A joy of life and a will to live, in equal measure. I remember the overdressed date (referred to simply as "the Queen" by one and all, with Licky rolling his eyes), the stories of taking the bus to the dog tracks (Seabrook, Wonderland, Hinsdale, he hit 'em all), and some guys with Greek-sounding names he saw at the Elk or some greasy spoon on Central Ave. We kids loved the drive to Dover for Nana's food and Uncle Licky's entertainment.

We've finished two days of visiting friends and family this Thanksgiving, and I hope you had a fine holiday too, and that you got to see your favorite bachelor uncle. I'll be on the Patriot tomorrow without Michael; we'll do some different things than our usual fare unless some major stupidity in the recount happens. See you then.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008


My father first put a Wall Street Journal in front of me in 1964 (and Barrons on Sundays, having waited at Pigeon's(?) Market on Somerville and Taylor streets in Manchester after church each Sunday to see if it had come.) Every year since 1961 the Journal has published the same two Thanksgiving essays; the second contains this passage which holds up well to age.

For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere -- in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.
I don't know when I first read them, but I know I'd feel a loss if the newspaper stopped publishing them. (Mr. Murdoch, do you hear me?)

Mrs. S sings and plays with a group at another church group, a more modern Christian music band than the bluegrass-y and country-ish group we sing and play together with. They chose a Thanksgiving morning service rather than the usual T'day Eve, and in the middle of the service they reflected on how difficult it would be to give thanks in a difficult year as this one has been. And, having read that passage the day before, I thought of this picture from a couple weeks ago:How many other places in the world do you get this?

While we may rue over this long weekend our 101k's, or being one of the 47% whose presidential candidate didn't win, or having lost a loved one to death or divorce, or that terrorism continues to bring pain and suffering into our broken world, there is gratitude for the land we live in, the family and friends around us. And financial troubles do not destroy our dreams in America; they just lead to harder work, more thrift and the knowledge that we live in a place where those those virtues are rewarded. I had almost nothing to do with how the place we live in got to be that way -- in fact, I don't think it's the result of any human plan. For this I give thanks, and to all our readers I wish a Happy Thanksgiving.


Happy Thanksgiving 

To Our Readers,

The United States celebrates Thanksgiving today - a day set aside to be grateful for all our blessings. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and multiple other presidents recognized that giving thanks for everything, regardless of conditions, was part of being an American.

We take so much for granted: our freedom to practice any religion or no religion without government intervention; the freedom to criticize - taken so far that we have forgotten this freedom also includes the freedom to support; freedom to write what we think and believe without being thrown in jail; freedom to protect ourselves from tyrants; freedom to travel anywhere; freedom to choose a life career and then change our mind; freedom from ancestry, race, religious dictate, tribe, restricting cultures.

What have so many done with these freedoms? We have become so critical of ourselves, our nation, our leaders, people with whom we disagree that far too many now believe they have the right to tear down anything, anywhere, any time and make excuses for destructive behavior. They personally attack those with whom they disagree. If we continue along this line, supported by a media that ignores the negatives of their favorites, we will all lose. One-sided coverage and trashing of religion will be the death of the US. While some of you may welcome that, before going whole hog on destruction, it would be wise to study real history and see just how massively destructive people without our foundation of freedom have been and can be again.

Today, please, refuse to be thankless for what you don't have and be thankful for what you do have.


Monday, August 25, 2008

It's my lucky day 

What are the two first words you say to your new class of students the first day?

"Thank you."

I was at a party earlier tonight as my sister-in-law and her husband send a son off to college. Another guest is a music professor at another school nearby. SCSU's semester starts today (Monday), a week earlier than in the past due to consolidation of the MnSCU schedules. It really feels wrong: The State Fair is supposed to bring the curtain down on summer, not open the fall. Labor Day is always the barbecue that says goodbye to your kids' summer vacations. It's a little more poignant for us this year as Littlest enters high school (she starts today as well.) You just don't want all these transitions quite so soon.

So this is the conversation with the other professor, and in the middle of this we sort of stop and catch ourselves. "I get no sympathy from my wife about this," he says. And he's right. We get three glorious months to self-indulge, or teach a summer class to make that tuition check for the school in fall, or travel, or what have you. In the fall he gets new studio students to work with. He looks forward to it. And so do I. Does anyone else get to do this? We like to call athletes lucky to play a child's game for money, but my luck is as good as theirs even if the money isn't.

I ran into a former student of mine, one of my first students here from more than 20 years ago, who now teaches at a school in the Cities on Saturday. He's just helped one of my graduate students find some teaching at his school; he sends some of his students up to St. Cloud to become my students. I ran into the grad student later to retrieve some books I had lent him. He is now being helped by my older student. I gave a couple prayers of thanks driving home and thought maybe August isn't so bad.

Putting a monkey wrench into this mistiming is that I'm also on jury duty the next two weeks. I already put this off once when it threatened the conference in Waikiki, so I felt I couldn't ask again. You probably won't notice, as I'll be forward-dating posts. But I'm not so concerned about missing the blog, or the Fair or the RNC next week (where I will be on the air a couple of nights -- details as we finalize them). I hate missing that first time to see students, and thank them for being there, for signing up to have me as their teacher, for wanting to learn economics ("I only took it because it was required for my major" is a challenge I accept; "I didn't think I was going to like this course but I did" is the prize), for coming to SCSU, for allowing a 50-something to feel a little younger (and a little older) every September.

Or August, as it now turns out. I'll get used to it. My lucky day just comes a bit earlier now.

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