Photo I Like

Found Winter Photo: Snowman Contest

It’s warming up! I figured that I’d better get the last few found winter photos up–or hold my peace until next year. We’ll have a series from the Indiana Gazette’s recent Snow Creature Contest for the next few days, then end up with a few sundry others.

A girl i don't know, in a photo from a snowman making contest published at
A girl i don’t know, in a photo from a snowman making contest published at
Funny and/or Strange Journal Uncategorized

I Ate This: My Kid Tweeted It

I’m ashamed of my meal, but proud of my daughter. She took artistic license–probably because she didn’t want to reference her dad on twitter–but this was my sandwich–at 3″ x 3″ inches of dry, chewy tastelessness of it.


It was like this: we were in a hurry and didn’t want to take the time to go to a real restaurant, so we went to Wendy’s, but we don’t generally eat this stuff and the menu confused me–all the sandwiches have nicknames that aren’t all that illuminating, and a bunch of the sandwiches cost five or six bucks but then there are options for “meals” so I panicked and asked the clerk: I just want a plain old burger with some ketchup and onions.

Note: I said onions. Plural. It’s funny how they missed on that, but seized on the word “old.” Serves me right, though. I’m the one who pulled into Wendy’s. I’m the one who bowed to the pressure of that big bright board of choices, and the line forming behind me. I got what I deserved. I guess.


Back From “States”

Hey,  I was gone again. You missed me. I missed you, too,  just as I missed writing for you and reading your stuff for the past 3 days while I was out of town and busy watching my kids and their team-mates participate in the 2015 PIAA High School Swimming Championships.  It’s kind of a big deal for the kids, obviously, getting to compete against some of their most accomplished peers on a pretty impressive stage: The Kinney Natatorium at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA, with television cameras and reporters on site.

Don't they look cool?  I don't generally let my private life bleed into the Junk Chuck persona in terms of names and images, but this photo was pinched from the local paper, so it' already out there--and I'll delete it after a little while.
Don’t they look cool? I don’t generally let my private life bleed into the Junk Chuck persona in terms of names and images, but this photo was pinched from the local paper, so it’ already out there–and I’ll delete it after a little while.

A lot of swimmers carry a chip on their shoulders, largely ignored by the media (our local paper is getting better, and we appreciate the love) as well as the students, the and local community at large,  the pride and validation that comes from the Championships is rewarding.  As my kid complained after a pep rally in which a member of the basketball team mentioned that they’d “won our section two years in a row, and that’s a big deal,” our swimming team has won the section something like 11 of the past 12 years.

As for us parents, we’re proud of the kids (ask us and we’ll tell you just how proud), and happy that they get to have this experience, but we also enjoy the camaraderie of  hanging out with each other just as much as the kids have fun with each other.  They’re a great bunch of kids, and it’s taken a great group of parents to get them that way.

And that’s part of it, too.  Every year, States is the last swim for a few of the kids–we lose 4 of the 13 who qualified this year, and while we all talk about how we’ll still see each other we’re all conscious enough of reality to know that it won’t be the same: long hours of shared joy, apprehension, misery, boredom, heartbreak and exaltation create a pretty intense bond.  Basketball games last an hour.  Some swim meets go on for days, during which we often share moral support as well as meals–and in many ways it becomes an almost group parenting situation.  We all look out for everyone’s kids, share in the victories as well as their disappointments.

Of course, we’re lucky to have a very good program.  We have more kids coming up–several came very close this year and will almost certainly make the trip next year (save those personal days, Ken)–and a new group of parents will join us at the all-you-can-eat grilled cheese bar at Bucknell, the between sessions coffee at Barnes & Noble, and the nights of long tables and laughter at a seemingly endless parade of mediocre strip mall dinner joints (Fridays, Applebees, Damon’s…where would you be without us?)  It will be that way long after we say our farewells next year, and that’s a good thing.

As for the results–we’re a proud, successful public school program.  We build our athletes, unlike the dominant private schools (Villa, Shadyside…) who buy theirs, and this year wasn’t the best. Our best swimmer battled injury all year, and two others were in bed with the flu as late as two days before the meet.  Our finishes were in the top twenty, for the most part, which is a disappointment given our high expectations–but no small accomplishment.  Just having 13 swimmers as a public school at States is a feat.

But here’s something about these kids: less than an hour after moving up two spots to claim 15th place in an honorable mention all-state finish, the returning members were already plotting their summer workouts and what sort of self-inflicted tortures they could embrace in order to step up next year.


Winter Cedes To Onions

Everyone else has been getting snow days–we’re at what is hopefully the bitter end to an uncharacteristic late winter cold and snow snap.  Temperatures have been up and down for weeks, hitting well below 0 degrees Farenheit zero (-18 C) on multiple occasions and, until the past weekend, ascending above freezing for just two days out the the past month or so.  Unfortunately, it rained like hell both of those days, in between snow storms, accumulating inches of slush that turned to the ice that lay beneath everything that hasn’t been constantly shoveled, scraped, and salted.  My wife is a teacher, and her school has cancelled at least 6 days, with at least that many late openings and early dismissals, combined.


I grew accustomed to my kids are sleeping in morning after morning, classes on what seemd like a perpetual 2-hour delay, due to cold.  I sat at my desk one morning last week and guzzled coffee: outside it was  -4 F, which didn’t even feel that cold.  It was not so long ago I was bundling up in wool sweater, parka, gloves, scarf, and cap to go out to our community’s annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” light-up night back in November.  I remember the gentle winter breeze felt like it was cutting like a dagger.

It was 29 degrees.

If it had been 29 degrees last week I’d have gone outside without a jacket and washed the truck.

No precipitation right now, but it’s supposed to hit 50 degrees–we’ve been above freezing, with highs in the upper 30s and 40s for the past 3 days as well, and not a moment too soon.  If the meteorologists are to be believed (and they aren’t) things look good, and above averages, through the weekend.  Sweet. I’ve got yard work to do.   Apple trees and shrubbery to prune, fallen sticks and branches to pick up, and who knows what else is hidden beneath the foot or so of crystalized mess in the backyard.

Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker--sorry, Eric.
Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker–sorry, Eric.

It will be a treat.  I’ve got this little property maintenance gig, and one of the things I do is clear sidewalks for a local landlord whose student tenants are too lazy and indifferent (as I was when I was a student) to do it for themselves.  It’s always been fun, invigorating, especially since I stopped trying to wrestle a snowblower in and out of the truck and opted to do as much as I could by hand.  It’s good, clean work.  The sound of the shovel scraping concrete pleases me, and despite all those mothers in the world urging us to bundle up I think the cold, fresh air is good for me.  I know getting outside, even under cloudy skies, is a good thing–no seasonal depression disorder for me.  I’m the same level of grumpy as always.

But the level of weather has been bullshit.  I said that the other morning, when I woke to find three new inches when the forecast had called for “a dusting.”

“This is bullshit.” I said.  It didn’t help.

Normally, I expect to shovel 17 times, give or take.  Last year was high with 24 trips around town spread between early December and March. This year there was one day of work in December, nothing even in early January, but I’ve been out 37 times in slightly less than 2 months.  Some of those are two trips on the same day, and some of them were easy–a few inches of powder.  The heavy snow and slush of the past two weeks, on the other hand, has been a mess–impossible to clear without hundreds of pounds of salt, and hell on my arms. I’ve got what I think is tendonitis in my left elbow. Tendonitis!  From shoveling!

On the bright side: I’ve been planting.  My package from Fedco Seeds arrived a few weeks back, and I’ve got my onions growing in flats under lights, and the leeks are germinating and should sprout within the next few days.  We joke around here about “clinging to our guns and religion,” thanks to a certain President’s unfortunate, but astute observations of our regional mores, but at this point it is those little green blades of onion starts that are keeping me sane.

Remind me of this when I’m moaning about the heat.



Tunesday: Jess Klein

If I were rich, I’d hire Jess Klein to sing in my kitchen.  This won’t be her last appearance on this blog, she’s a family favorite. You really want to give her a listen.

My Poetry

Sugar Season Haiku Cycle

Spontaneous, no-revision haiku scrawled in a fit of boredom….

bmlthayerT1067Snow concedes, contracts
Shadows shorten with each dawn
Totems bleed sweetness




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElectric drill whirs
Thirteen miles of plastic hose
Grandpa had a bucket




maplesyrupGood dry wood burns clean
A grey squirrel tail, smoke and steam
Sweet in the hollow.

Funny and/or Strange meme Photo I Like

“Me and The Devil”

Well, not “me” exactly. This is exactly the kind of thing they warned us about in Sunday School.

Credit to this one goes to my friend Teresa, who shared it….



I’ve Got A Couple of Eeyores In My Life.

What about you? Can’t say that I blame them, given the past two months’ weather, but still….


Quote Uncategorized

Extra Words of Wisdom: John Scalzi

John ScalziBecause waiting until next Wednesday would be too late….

“If you’re having trouble understanding the grief over Leonard Nimoy’s passing, here it is: every geek just lost their favorite grandparent.”–John Scalzi


Photo I Like Uncategorized

Found Winter Photo: Canoe

It’s been so cold here that this photo actually makes me feel warm!