If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.

~Margaret Atwood


Meeting Dad

The following words were read at Dad’s funeral service in February, 2022.

I met Dad several times. As a child, a teenager, a young adult and into the middle age years there were moments I could clearly see the man he was and what he stood for.  At each of these phases of life my perspective was different. 

Life changes and distracts us as we grow and age, so every time we shared special moments it was like meeting Dad all over again. I was different but Dad was Dad. In the day before and the days after his death many memories have opened a clearer understanding of him. Two things stand our to me: at every turn I see Dad striving to be the best Christian that he could be and a man striving to be the best father that he could be. 

The first time I remember meeting Dad I was maybe eight years old.  Muffin, our sweet family dog, was there with me.  We were sitting at the end of the driveway.  From that spot Muff and I watched the vehicles traveling up and down Route 7; but we were more interested in the vehicles travelling south because one of them would soon be Dad returning home from work.  It was the time of day Dad came home from dayshift at Ormet, the aluminum factory where he worked for over thirty years.  Muffin and I always looked forward those afternoons.

I can see and hear that little red Datsun pickup truck turning off of Route 7, its wheels making a soft grisly noise as they transitioned from pavement to the loose gravel at the bottom of our Maple Drive.  Then the sound of Dad gearing down to ascend Maple Drive.  Then Muffin perking up, her tail wagging.  Dad was home!

I would pick up Muffin and move to the side, making way for Dad in his Datsun.  I can see his warm, smiling face under that Detroit Tigers ball cap, his hand in the air, acknowledging our little welcome committee.  As soon as he parked at the top of the driveway I would let Muffin down. She would beat me to him, waddling her way to the driver’s side of the truck, tail still wagging.  

When it was my turn to greet Dad I remember him giving me a sort of one-armed hug as he bent slightly down to greet me.  He could not offer a two-armed hug because he usually had a coffee thermos and a book in one hand. Not content to spend all of his downtime at the factory idly, Dad took books with him to work. Good books. Books that stretched and grew his mind, that buttressed his faith in Christ, that revealed his desire to be a better person.  The one I most recall is Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.  (I have that same book on my shelf.) It is worn and ragged, its pages many times perused, marked, and highlighted.  Placed inside the book are two folded pieces of office paper: scheduling slips from the Potroom Service department Dad worked in at Ormet.  The otherwise blank backsides of the slips are filled with quotes from notable authors, all pertaining to personal growth and betterment through knowledge, all scribbled in Dad’s handwriting.  The book I can see on our shelf I first saw in Dad’s hand, getting out of that little red Datsun truck.

And that was the first time I met Dad, a man who maintained aluminum production and also perused wisdom and happiness, all in a day’s work.  He left the aluminum making and whatever work challenges that certainly went along with it behind him at the plant.  He brought home his bettered intellectual and spiritual self to his family.  Because that’s what a man devoted to being the best father he could be would do. 

Another early impression I have is Dad caring for a friend from Ormet who was retired and in declining health.  Dad would tend to his yard, help with household chores and, of course, offer comfort through visiting. His name was John Slack. John lived alone in north New Martinsville, rolled his own cigarettes on his circular kitchen table with that old-fashion cigarette roller that looks like an old credit card machine that impresses carbon paper (notwithstanding Dad’s gentle protests), and wore bib overalls. Why do I have clear memories of Mr. Slack?  Because even though I was a child who could offer little help to Dad he took me on his many trips to care for John Slack. He was setting a good example and it was important to him that I see firsthand charity and importance of caring for others.

“Doesn’t it feel good to help people?” I recall him saying many times through the years. 

Going to church was a given and Dad loved when we were with him there, especially in the autumn of his life. But going to church was only part of Dad’s loving witness to me as a child. At bedtime he read Bible Stories for Children to me, a blue book with illustrations I still remember.  Muffin was in attendance at the foot of my bed. I still remember the sound of his voice and the squeaking of his bedside chair when he moved the slightest bit.  And I certainly remember his good night kisses after closing the book and before wishing me good night. The feeling of his fatherly love was as real as the feeling of his whiskers on my forehead.

Then there were all those years coaching youth baseball and basketball, showing me how to use tools of all sorts for yard work and around the house, how to change oil in the vehicles, how to politely engage people in conversation, how to be a good and respectful neighbor, are just a few of the practical and thoughtful guideposts Dad shared.

Were you aware that driving carefully and courteously was “really an art form,” and that, “A clean car inside and out drives better.” I bet the next time you take a trip in a newly-cleaned car you will notice the difference in the quality of the ride—and you will think of Dad and smile.

Always and in every context Dad wanted to share what he knew, he wanted to impart knowledge to help me in life. 

In college my mailbox would regularly have letters from Dad looking at me when I opened it.  He would keep me up to date on matters on the farm and share encouraging quotes from his readings and write send entire Bible verses written by hand.  On Christmas break my freshmen year I gave Dad a book from that past semester’s history class.  It was about Saint Francis of Assisi.  He read and reread it, consumed it, really.  Guess what quotes were in his letters the following semester? Saint Francis of Assisi, of course. I was growing up and our relationship was changing so he strove and developed with it, always encouraging me.  Because that is what a good father would do.  So I got to meet Dad again reading his letters in my college dorm room, separated by distance but growing closer.

On one summer break I remember being the first person in the house to wake up. I was making coffee when he came down the steps. He greeted me but it was evident he was out of sorts and a little put off. The next morning when I walked down the steps I was greeted first by the smell of coffee he had already brewed. I was then greeted by his voice: “Good morning, son” he offered as he peered over his reading glasses, open Bible in hand.  He made it a point to be the first one up that day and every day thereafter.  At the time I thought it was about ego or he didn’t like his morning routine broken. Or maybe I just made a bad pot of coffee. But now I see that it was important for him to continue setting a good example for his son, and that that example was the first thing I saw in those mornings. 

I used to think it was odd that Dad was so enthralled with eastern bluebirds. I recall asking him why he was so excited about them, feeding them, watching them. Undeterred by my quizzical tone, he explained how beautiful they are, how their beauty reminds him of God’s glory in creation, and that he enjoys introducing that joy to others. Flash forward over twenty years and I now excitedly watch for, feed, and provide housing for eastern bluebirds.  Because of his courage to be a good example our family now enjoys this small blue part of God’s creation. And I think of Dad when I see and hear those beautiful little birds; I cannot listen to their rolling warble without thinking of him. 

As I entered married life Dad could not have been more supportive and encouraging. He loved and admired Suzanne and never hesitated to express his feelings about her. He knew how happy I was and even made it a point, early in our relationship, to politely corner Suzanne to tell her how happy he was for us and how glad he was that God brought us together.  He loved telling people the story of how Suzanne and I met. I recall one phone conversation when Dad called me specifically to make sure he had those details correct. When I confirmed that the point in the story that he enjoyed most was correct he let out that distinctive Jones chuckle that reminded me so much of listening to his brothers and sisters.

Once, in my early thirties, I let it slip over the phone that I was behind schedule, over budget, and stressed about the small addition I was building onto our rental property.  Later that day Dad called back to let me know that he and Mom were going to drive the 300 miles to Hershey to help, and they would not take no for an answer.  They did just that and both were an invaluable help.  Dad was in his early seventies.  We crawled around in a cramped crawl space, set the main stack sewage line, painted, and pulled electrical wire.  He was dealing with a sciatic nerve in his hip.  He never complained about it. The only reason I was reminded of the pain he was dealing with was because I saw him limping down an aisle at Lowe’s when he was unaware I could see him. Working around the property he kept it hid. I recall watching him there at Lowe’s, walking purposely and painfully for my benefit, and being moved that I had the privilege to call this kind man, Dad. 

The day Suzanne and I shared with everyone that we had entered the process for adoption Dad could not have been more delighted. From that moment on he, along with the entire family, was overjoyed for us. The process of adoption was unfamiliar to him but that did not hinder his loving support through the long process, always ready to encourage and tactfully ask questions.  On the day Vivian was born I called home to tell Mom and Dad that we were flying to Florida and would return home a family.  They were both more elated than I could describe.  And when we landed in Harrisburg ten days later, there was Dad, Mom, and the family waiting in the Harrisburg airport with balloons and signs, ready to love and adore their new granddaughter. 

I soon thereafter became a stay-at-home Dad. Dad went out of his way to tell me that being a stay-at-home Dad was foreign to men of his generation. “Unheard of,” I recall him saying. That is just something men did not do when he was my age.  He then seamlessly went on to say how proud he was of me, that he thought it took courage to do so, that it was a joy for him to see me raising Vivian, and that God blessed all three of us through each other.  I recall that moment and conversation clearly—it was yet another time in my life when I got to meet this man doing his best to be a great father. 

And did Dad ever love and adore Vivian! After he had open heart surgery he was being carted out of ICU and was in the hallway awaiting another room.  We approached him, Vivian’s head being level with his, and she said, “Hi Pappy!” He opened his eyes, looked at then-four-year-old Vivian a few inches from his face and, through all that pain smiled and said, “You are cute!”   Vivian’s middle name is Kate, in honor of Dad’s mother, who he always spoke so lovingly about. He always smiled when he said her full name. 

In the last few years of Dad’s life, as his health declined and he could not do the things he loved to do, he became even more expressive of his feelings, his praise and his gratitude. Effusive, even.  He would say deeply kind and encouraging things to me about being his son, being a father to Vivian, being a husband to Suzanne, and being a friend to those around me.  I usually responded with, “Well, Dad, all that is largely your fault.”  The first time I responded that way he was silent for a moment, smiled, closed his eyes, and said, “Thank you, son.”  Without fail he poured out love, praise, and affection; doing so became a regular sign-off for him on the phone and when we parted from visits. He left no loving sentiment unsaid. 

Within the last ten months Dad twice said goodbye to me.  He knew he did not have much time left on this side of eternity.  But through his physical weakness and pain he had the strength and courage to say goodbye.  Of course, he spared no kind and loving words in those painfully tender moments.  And he finished those goodbyes with a loving admonition: “Carry on, son. Go carry on.”

The day before Dad died I was able to be with him. It was my turn to say goodbye.  When I leaned in and said, “Good morning, Dad,” he slowly opened his eyes just enough to see, slowly turned his head, and we looked at each other. He made the slightest smile. I leaned in again and said a prayer with Dad, thanking God for being so blessed to be his son, for blessing Dad with an abiding faith in Christ, and for his life that blessed so many people.  I told him that I was proud to be his son. He closed his eyes, lightly squeezed my hand, and was able to say, “Thank you.”  He tried to say more. I was unable to understand what he said but I knew exactly what he said.  Dad was, even then, at the threshold of death, with his final strength, saying all those loving and caring things a great Dad would say.  Right to the las he was being the best Dad he could be. And he was telling me, telling all of us, to to carry on.

Dad was being Dad, to the last.  

So there, in sorrow at his bedside, I got to meet Dad again.  But, as Dad reminded me a few months ago, we will meet again.  

Thanks you, Dad. I love you.

So A Psychologist Asked How I’m Doing


“Hello, this is Dr. _________.”

“Hi, Dr.____________. This is Adam Jones. We spoke about eighteen months ago, in your old office. Does that ring a bell?”


“Ah, yes.   How are you, Adam?”

A longer pause.

With a light chuckle, I replied, “Well, not a 100%, which is why we are talking now.”

Chuckling back, the doctor replied, “Yea, I always feel weird the moment that question comes out of my mouth. Don’t know why I keep doing that.”

Well now, I thought, the psychologist is the uncomfortable one in this conversation. This is kind of fun!

“That’s okay, doctor. That’s the point, after all. And it gets the restorative process going.”

The good doctor laughed. And I smiled, knowing we would soon get together and spend lots of time discussing the question, “How are you?”


Since hitting forty I’ve taken measures to insure my bodily safety and physical health. I take no unnecessary physical risks; if involved in handyman work and when using power tools I proceed slowly and I wear safety glasses and ear protection; I drive defensively and cautiously; I go the gym; I (mostly) eat well; I also take vitamins, drink enough clean water, and see an acupuncturist to maintain good sleep patterns.

I do these things primarily to make sure I’m physically around for Vivian and Suzanne for a long, healthy time.

This safety and health awareness is all necessary and good to be here for them, but it is insufficient.

A difficult question recently entered my mind that I could not answer: What good am I if I’m physically in the same room with Vivian but not actually there because my mind is heavy and distracted? If I cannot mentally function and engage and grow with Vivian, what good is a fit frame? I’m concerned about physically being there for Vivian and Suzanne, but if I’m checked out mentally aren’t they really without their Daddy and husband on occasion?

Vivian and Suzanne lost me one day last week. We were physically together in the house, before and after school, before and after work. I was here in body. But I was not here. My mind was heavy and burdened, incapable of being in or enjoying one moment with my Loves.

Why would I not talk to someone when there is so much to lose, so many future moments to miss?

So the next day I drove to the psychologist’s office, parked the car, picked up the phone, and called. I paused before hitting the call button.  But I hit it. (I don’t know why but it is difficult to take that step with mental health.) We set up a time to meet and I committed to being there. And the moment we hung up I felt better, knowing the first step in the right direction was taken.

I wrestled with the decision to share this experience. I’m doing so because I suspect there is someone on the other side of this screen who feels the need to pursue better mental health.  If there is someone there who knows they need to reach out to someone, I hope this bit of scribbling encourages them to touch that call button.

I hope it helps you.

Oh, and feel free to use my line if the person on the other end of the phone asks, ”How are you?” Go ahead, have fun with it.

And, seriously, how are you?



Middle Age Leftovers

I’ve noticed leftovers of slowly cooked pastas, stews, and braises taste better and are more enjoyable than the day they were made. (I just enjoyed leftover beef pot roast braised in a red wine and butter reduction.) The spices and latent natural goodness that come together in the cooking process need time to marinate and come out vividly and richly, apparently.

I’m hoping the middle-age years and beyond are similar, like delicious and savory leftovers of early adulthood.

A Happy Groundhog Day

Would it be a curse or a blessing if you endlessly relived the same day?

Phil Connors, portrayed by Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day, had that opportunity. He woke every day in the same place on the same day surrounded by the same people. “What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today!” He could not escape to tomorrow—it was eternally today.

Initially Phil was shocked. He confided in his colleague, Rita. He went to a doctor (played by the late Harold Ramis, director of the movie). The doctor sent Phil to a psychologist. But he still woke with  yesterday, today, and tomorrow the same day.

Phil then consulted two intoxicated locals at a bowling alley:

“What if there is no tomorrow?” he asked his bar-side therapists.

“No tomorrow?!” one responded, “That would mean there would be no consequences…We could do whatever we wanted!”

Phil took the idea to heart. He started a consequence-free life. “I’m not going to live by the rules anymore!” No longer filled with anxiety about his perpetual Groundhog day, he embraced his situation. He lept into satisfying carnal desires. Gluttony? What’s a table full of every pastry washed down with a pot of coffee while enjoying a cigarette when there are no consequences? “I don’t worry about anything anymore,” he quipped to Rita who gazed in disgust. Sexual conquests? He leveraged knowledge gained in his Groundhog Days to con a woman into bed. Greed? He learned the exact moment he could steal a bag of cash from a bank truck, and took it.  His ill-gained cash we can confidently assume was used to pursue an array of carnal gratifications.

Phil eventually set his desires on Rita. It seemed she was the last thing to conquer in his eternal day.

“If you had one day to live, what would you do with it?” he asked Rita. Phil pried his way into her mind and world to learn what she liked and valued, what her view of a good man and a good life was.  By doing so Phil inadvertently exposed himself to good things. He had to woo her according to what she valued so he learned French and studied poetry. He began doing and learning good things in order to achieve a bad goal.

But it was a futile effort. Phil’s conquest of Rita failed. And with his failure Phil was depleted. There was nothing left. The knowledge he accumulated was now worthless and offered no solace for his carnal mind. He knew every answer for Jeopardy, but there was no joy in the knowledge itself.  He experienced the emptiness of a self-centered life with no pleasures left to fulfill.  His descent was complete.

So he killed himself. Many times. And he kept waking up to Groundhog Day.

He then confided in Rita for a second time. After proving to her his condition, she pointed Phil to what must have been his first new thought in thousands of days: “Maybe it’s not a curse. It depends on how you look at it.”

There was nothing left to do but be happy.

That day spent with Rita marked Phil’s turning point. Across the table from her at the diner—“You’re a sucker for French poetry and You’re very generous.  You’re kind to strangers and children.”—and that night while she dozed to sleep—“I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anyone whose nicer than you. ..I don’t deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you the rest of my life.”—he saw a connection between her goodness and her happiness.  He still desired Rita, this time for who she was.

The next morning Phil woke renewed. After he peered at Groundhog Day through the window he glanced back at the bed where he realized so much talking with Rita, then glanced at the door  On the other side  another Groundhog Day waited. And out the door he went, with purpose.

He discarded his self-centered attitude. He began to live outside himself. The biting, caustic, miserable cur we watched from the beginning became caring, thoughtful, and empathetic. He looked for ways to serve others and their needs. He cared for the vagrant he used to shun. He took an interest in his colleague’s lives, the same people he used to barely tolerate. He studied the arts and pursued knowledge for its own sake, not to lure Rita into bed. (Bill Murray’s face of contentment over a stack of books, in solitude, while listening to music in the café is fantastic.) He took piano lessons. He recited poetry to strangers. He relished the opportunity to live among, serve, and learn from the locals, a complete reversal of his earlier aversion to spending one unnecessary moment with those “hicks.”  Phil savored and reflected the beautiful in life.

And he experienced happiness.

In the waning hours of what would be his final Groundhog Day, he whispered to Rita: “No matter what happens tomorrow, or for the rest of my life, I’m happy now.”

Now. This moment. It is what humans are tragically wired to consider last, if at all, after obsessing about the past and unduly worrying about the future. In his now, his Groundhog Day, Phil experienced happiness.

So. Have a good day.













His smile was buried most of the year but, when bloomed, was deeply beautiful, rooted in a sadness known by few, like perennials on an old battlefield.

I Just Wanted That New Boston Creme Croissant?

I did not plan on playing interpreter between an irritable elderly customer in a Walmart scooter and a kind Dunkin’ Donuts employee from India whose patience appeared to be thinning. But there I stood, head swinging to and fro, enjoying my unexpected duties.

I immediately noticed the kerfuffle when I walked into Dunkin Donuts. In addition to the lady’s elevated voice, the eyes of the customers at the tables indicated things were heating up at the cash register. They were glancing at the drama, averting their eyes, then peeking back. High calorie processed donuts were not their only guilty pleasure that morning.

The elderly lady bawled, as she pointed her finger at a picture on the wall, “BAGEL! I said, BAGEL!” Her finger jabbed in rhythm with the syllables of BA-GEL!

In sharp contrast, the employee responded calmly, robotically almost, his respectful tone most likely a professionally and culturally-obligated one at this point: “Yes, bacon.  We have bacon, ma’am.  Plenty of bacon if you wish.”  It was evident this was not their first exchange.

Ah, a simple miscommunication, I thought. Bacon. Bagel. Lost in translation. I got this. And so I went in to assist, uninvited.

The entire transaction, I’m happy to report, was cleared up inside a minute. I was their new best friend, uninvited as I was. Some direct eye contact, a few hand gestures, and a smiling face was all that was needed to dissipate the mounting stress and confusion. We soon got on with her order and, consequently, I got closer to that new Boston crème croissant—the reason, so I thought,  I stepped into Dunkin Donuts and between these two unintentional antagonists.

After my interpretive task was fulfilled I silently took sides with the DD employee. She continued to grouse at the fellow after he began preparing her bagelShe even complained about the four cents she had to claw around for.

“$4.04?! Where’d you get the four cents?!” she huffed.

She then jerked another dollar out of her purse and threw it on the counter in what could only be taken as a rude gesture. All that irascibility was not enough for her, though—she then grumbled about the spare change she would get back. There is an endearing way to be cranky, I thought, and you are certainly not nailing it.

He won the day when he gave back the dollar she threw on the counter: “My gift for you, ma’am. Don’t worry about the four cents.” His gesture made her grunt something under her breath and look away. His measured response was like burning coals upon her head. Killing her with kindness.  Well-played, sir!

When I finally got to sit down and savor the new Boston crème croissant within earshot of Crankiness-On-Wheels (who was still complaining, by the way, this time while eating her BA-GEL!), I glanced at the man behind the counter. I wondered why I didn’t idly stand in line and let them muddle through it all. I’m incurably curious about things, too many things, probably, so I tried to identify how and why I did something nice for these strangers.  Was it enlightened self-interest? I wanted that new Boston crème croissant and the boggled transaction was holding up the line. Do a good deed, wait less time for a yummy pastry.  Motivation rooted in sheer, visceral sustenance is understandable: Food, there.  Belly, here. Remove all barriers between.

Maybe I liked the idea of tackling an unexpected challenge, on the spot? Hey, look at this! I dabble in south-central Pennsylvania Dutchified English.  I’ve also chatted with that nice man. This’ll be fun. Game on! I do enjoy overcoming small, spur-of-the-moment challenges.

It was most likely an urge to be useful through fulfilling the needs of others. People seem to find satisfaction through identifying the needs of others and seeing their efforts help fulfill those needs, so they seek pleasure through fulfilling the needs of others. I am not trying to portray the act of facilitating a cheesy ham croissant to an irascible old crank and relieving a kind man of his professionally-obligated stress of delivering said cheesy ham croissant as some laudable act of charity. On the contrary.   It was not altruistic—it was a self-serving act of fulfilling a need to be useful.   I could not find altruism—an act of complete selflessness—anywhere in my the occurrence.

They needed something.  I needed some things.  I helped.  Everyone ended up (relatively) happy, so the deed was “good”.  It was all good.

Like that decadent Boston creme croissant.  Or a cheesy ham BA-GEL!
















Fluffy Pumpkin Pancakes

Your favorite pancake mix (I like Aunt Jemima original) plus

> 12 teaspoon cinnamon

> 12 teaspoon ginger

> 12 teaspoon nutmeg

> 12 teaspoon salt

> 1 pinch clove

> 1 cup  low-fat milk

> 1 egg

> 6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree

>1/8 cup water

>Maple syrup and whipped cream, of course

Mix dry ingredients, milk, egg, and water well.  While frying on medium-low heat, check fluffiness by inserting a toothpick into center of thickest part of pancake. When nothing sticks to the toothpick the batter is thoroughly cooked and fluffy.

Piling pancakes on top of each other and applying butter, syrup, and whipped cream to the top pancake only separates all the  flavors and puts the sweet and savory on the outside.  Don’t do that.  Layer all that deliciousness. Apply butter and syrup to each pancake. Repeat and make a stack. Put whipped cream on top pancake then drizzle syrup over cream.


Getting Out Of The Way Of Good Meatballs

In my mind, somewhere in that lofty realm of perfection we call, “ideas,” there were succulent lamb meatballs. Lebanese style. They were just waiting to exist, waiting to be. I could see them, taste them, smell them.

Meanwhile, way down here in this particular corner of reality known as our kitchen, there was a collection of grocery bags, spices, a square wooden spoon, a kitchen knife, a can opener, and a cast iron pot heating on a gas stove.

And there I was, in the middle, lodged between some Platonic ideal of lamb-y deliciousness and a counter top spattered with items, willy-nilly style.  I realized I had to keep an ideal in view while miring my hands in delicious details. I could make these meatballs happen—I could make them be. I had to try hard and do something! Or, more likely, some things.  Lots of things.

It is natural to conflate the concept of Try hard with Do more! Lebanese lamb meatballs? I should use a lot of spices, peruse several online recipes, and really labor over this meal. More equals better results, right?

Not every time. In spite of myself I did the minimum and limited my intervention in matters. I was careful to do not a jot more. Cinnamon, allspice, kosher salt, and pepper. No more spices! I arranged the meeting of a few ingredients that brought out the natural goodness of things. Fresh mint and parsley. Stop! I worked with it, not against it. Blend san marzano tomatoes for the braise. That’s all the acidity needed.

I got out of the way and good things happened—Lebanese lamb meatballs came to be.  It was good to try hard by doing less. With every bite I could taste what I did and, more importantly, what I did not do.


Braised Lebanese Lamb Meatballs (Oct. 2016)

Prep time: 15 minutes Braise time: 3 hours

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped parsely
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomoatoes

Combine and mix lamb, egg, bread crumbs, parsley, mint, allspice, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Form into four to six large meatballs.

Heat pot (black iron if possible) to medium-high. Place meatballs in dry pot (no oil). Let fry until brown and caramelized. Roll the meatballs to new side and repeat until most of the meatballs have that nice brown, caramelized exterior.

Remove meatballs. Use spatula or square wooden spoon to scrape and loosen what is stuck to the pot. Put in wine. Let heat reduce the wine for about two minutes.

Put in chopped onion.

Reduce heat to lowest setting. Place meatballs in pot.

Blend san marzano tomatoes and pour over meatballs.

Cover pot. Adjust heat to get the braise to bubble up, just above no bubble and well below a simmer. Low and slow! You may have to check every few minutes at the beginning to ensure heat is not above a slow braise.

Approximately three hours, or until cooked to preference.

Serve over jasmine or basmati rice. Pour braise over dish to liking. Best served in wide mouth bowl.



Enlightened Self-Interest, Five-Year-Old Style

“Hey, Daddy. I think I figured out what to buy with my money,” Vivian quietly announced.

Gammy Jones recently sent Vivian $5, with instructions to buy whatever Vivian wishes. Making a consumer decision had been weighing heavily on this five-year-old mind.

“Oh? What did you decide?” I inquired.

“I would like to buy food for my family,” she said, softly.

Her response halted me, literally and figuratively. I looked down at her. I could see the tops of her long, dark eyelashes. She was gazing at the five dollars in her little hand. My heart swelling, I knelt to look eye-to-eye with this sweet child. Vivian frequently thinks of others and their welfare, more frequently than most adults, I’d guess, let alone children her age.

We looked at each other. I said nothing, smiling.  She continued: “I would like to buy broccoli, carrots, apples,…”

She paused, slowly swinging her gaze to the ceiling. She pondered, beginning to massage her little chin with the forefinger and thumb of her right hand.  This is getting good, I thought.  The $5 dangled in her other hand dangled toward the floor, in the opposite direction of her gaze.


Something fun or touching is about to occur, sprang to my mind.  I’ve been tangled up in these delicious little moments before.  I’ve also, probably and sadly, missed a few.  I have learned to keep my radar on full alert and, if the slightest BLEEP! ticked on the screen, drop whatever I’m doing,  pull up a chair, and prepare to enjoy the show.  Live in the moment?  You know it!

“…ummmm, annnnd, mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, candy, and toys.”

And there it was.

After another pause her lazy upward gaze snapped into a sidewards stare at me, her face blank but her eyes ablaze. The hand that moments prior was pensively massaging her chin opened up and swung out wide, palm skyward. Did I make the sale? those beautiful, brilliant eyes inquired as they bore into Daddy’s delighted soul.

Daddy’s soul smiled wider, and so did his mouth.

What an adorable combination of thinly-veiled motives, sweetly-innocent economic ignorance, and an intellect that gets nimbler every day—all packaged in the enlightened self-interest of a sweet, intelligent child.


Out Of Square

“I have bad news about your deck, Adam. It is not square to the house.”

This observation came from no casual observer. Brian is an experienced professional, and he was in our back yard preparing to install a paver patio. On paper his new patio and the existing deck attached to our house would meet up beautifully and geometrically.

On dirt, they did not.

His pavers were rectangular and square. The builder’s square he used to set the corners of patios was three feet long on each side. Clearly, the outward side of his patio that was going to meet up against the deck would extend from the house and into the yard at a clean and aesthetically-pleasing 90 degree angle. His patio was going to be just how it should be.

Also clearly, the existing deck did not extend into the yard at 90 degrees. It was not square, not at right angles. Not right, literally.

Brian said your deck, not the deck. Moments prior to his announcement I proudly informed him that I built our three-level deck with three sets of stairs. All by myself. Yep! I took full ownership of the deck’s existence. I did not say so much, but my face probably exuded a look of, Not bad for a guy who is not a real carpenter but occasionally plays one in real life, eh?

Well, as Brian’s professional eye noticed, it was bad.

What is it, by the way, about talking to a person good at their craft that encourages one to seek their approval, maybe impress them a bit? I’d like to think I was trying to make a connection with a person who would be working in our back yard for a few days, maybe learn something in the process. I don’t know.

(In my defense, it is a difficult task to not confuse our imagination with our memories. Add pride to the process and, like the deck in our yard, memories are likely to be out-of-square to reality.)

So there we stood. Brian, with his geometrically irrefutable truth, and I, with a cup of coffee and a freshly-fractured male ego, looking at the out of square deck. My deck. The choice was clear: conjure up and mumble a pathetic excuse or own up, learn something, and move on.

I went a third way. Weasel out of the moment with humor: “Yea, well, Pfft! Doesn’t surprise me. I know the carpenter.”

He smiled.

It would be nice if I always had Brian along, or someone or something, to keep everything I make, think, say, or do square and at right angles. Right, literally and figuratively—just how they should be.