Humphrey and The Trade

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When I was a kid I remember watching a short Disney cartoon that made an indelible impression on me. It showed a bear named Humphrey, who desperately wanted some fish. He swiped at the lake over and over, and all that he ended up with was a tiny minnow. As he held it above the water, sad that it was so tiny, a bigger fish jumped up and swallowed it whole.

At that point he had an epiphany.   He could hold the fish over the water and one by one collect the larger fish that jumped up to eat the minnow. Soon his arms were full of large fish. Just as he was about to walk away a fish bigger than all the others floated by. He dropped all of the other fish and pounced. Continue reading “Humphrey and The Trade”

Stealing the Sunrise

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In my first year of college, I pulled a lot of all-nighters—and not the wimpy ones where you go to sleep at 3 AM and then get a good 6 hours sleep before going to class. No, I mean staying up until the sun rose and then going to class without having slept at all. I did this because as a Political Science major I had a lot of reading to do. I have always been a good reader but a bit of a slow one, so that meant spending a lot of late hours reading, and chewing ice to stay awake.

I remember one night I finished my homework around 4:30 AM. My morning class was at 9, and I knew that 3 ½ hours sleep would end up only being worse than if I hadn’t slept at all. So, I made the decision to walk somewhere off campus and watch the sunrise. In my young man’s mind this was a good idea and I don’t know if I’d experienced a sunrise before. Continue reading “Stealing the Sunrise”


Nativity HeaderI come from a long line of talkers. My lineage is filled with teachers and preachers and others known for their speeches. The holiday dinner tables growing up were always a place where the noise never stopped, and if you wanted to get a word in edge-wise you had to jump in at any pause for breath. Of all my relatives, my mom can out talk anyone. I’ve had hour-long phone conversations with her where my only part was “hello…” and she took it from there.

Let’s just say the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. I’m a talker too. I’ve struggled with it my whole life. If they had an anonymous support group, which I suggest calling On-an-on-and-on-annon. I would weekly stand at the front saying, “My name is Ryan, and I’m a talkaholic.”

Continue reading “Joseph”

Aunt Grace


The other day I read an article talking about how the teaching of cursive handwriting is being completely abandoned in school, mostly because computers have made it unimportant.  I disagree, but largely because I was taught cursive, and use it primarily in my handwriting.  I can’t imagine how printing could be anywhere close to as efficient as cursive when you have to use pen and paper.

I have never had beautiful handwriting, and I’ve never particularly enjoyed physical writing compared to typing on a keyboard.  Despite this fact, the story of my learning this skill  is an important one in my childhood.  It is a tale involving a discouraging 1st grade teacher, a converted home schoolhouse, and a really old woman. Continue reading “Aunt Grace”



The other day I was called by a single mom and asked to assemble her son’s shiny new bicycle. It was his birthday gift, and the task of building such a thing was a little beyond her comfort level or ability. Since I have known them both for quite some time, and because I have become somewhat of an expert on handyman-type stuff, I was the guy she called.

The project didn’t take me long at all, with my bag of tools and a glass of iced tea. And as I later stood and looked at the completed bike, I thought back about my own memories of my childhood BMX. Continue reading “Bicycle”

Ruby 5

This is the final installment of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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When I went off to college most of my interaction with Ruby stopped.  I was far away from her.  She loved my mom and was fulfilled in her inner-dog.  I would see her from time to time, and she was always as happy as a dog could be for us to visit.  She was also always eager to prove that she knew all of her old tricks.

She was never one to spend a lot of time outside and never one to wander away from home.  Some dogs are always trying to dig their way under the fence, or jump over it—but not Ruby.  She preferred a warm couch to the great outdoors.  This makes it very strange that she got out of the yard one day while I was away at college. Continue reading “Ruby 5”

Ruby 4

This is part 4 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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Ruby made it through her bout with the disease.  The virus took a lot out of her, but she survived, and she eventually returned to the same pup we’d known before.  There was no doubt that she loved us, in an emotional and committed way.  There was also no doubt that we loved her and would never give her away again.

As her strength returned, I decided that all of her innate talent should not go to waste.  I taught her commands in triplicate, English, German (which I was learning in high school), and hand signals.  She learned all of this effortlessly.  If I told her to stay, or held up my hand fingers up- palm facing her, she would stay for as long as I left her.  Sometimes something would happen and she’d forget, but not usually.  If I got distracted and left her there, sometimes I’d find her hours later asleep in the same spot. Continue reading “Ruby 4”

Ruby 3

This is part 3 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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Weeks later, one of the women called us and told my mom that they just couldn’t keep Ruby anymore.  She said that it was all just too much for them to handle.  I suspect that I’ll never quite know the truth of the matter.  Had my mom called them?  Had Ruby just refused to acclimate and accept them as a substitute family?  Had they just decided that a dog just wasn’t right for them?  In hindsight, I’m sure they were more cat people.  Or could it be that they knew something that they didn’t want to deal with?  I’ll never know. Continue reading “Ruby 3”

Ruby 2

This is part 2 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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Ruby quickly became an indispensable part of the family.  She would crawl on top of my back and fall asleep as I lied on the carpet watching TV each night. She would also wake up shortly before I would and start scratching at my door to get in.  My mom would usually get to her before that and would lift her onto my bed.  Ruby would wake me up by repeatedly licking my face.

When she grew big enough, she would jump onto my bed herself and wake me up in the same manner.  Or, she’d just jump repeatedly at the side of the bed making a whining noise until I noticed her.  This mostly happened when I was lying too close to the edge for her to get up there. Continue reading “Ruby 2”