A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Boy, oh boy, oh boy

It's Saturday night, Janett's birthday, but no Red Lobster tonight. Janett's still in the ICU.

Tuesday night they performed a scan and were able to identify the source of the bleeding. Wednesday in the morning they tried to stop the bleeding by entering a catheter to her groin and approaching the bleeding spot to insert a coil in the artery. The bleeding spot couldn't be reached, and the bleeding continued. Janett had been receiving transfusions, but was growing weaker, and the doctors were getting nervous. Wednesday afternoon they performed laproscopic surgery, found a bleeding ulcer, and resectioned Janett's colon removing the portion where the ulcer was located; a similar procedure to that which Janett had undergone 18 months ago, but much higher on her colon. The surgeon knew that in leaving a large portion of the colon in place between the two resections he was taking a risk that blood flow to that central portion might have been diminished, and that portion might not be viable.

Sure enough, Janett's white blood cell count rose on Thursday, and Janett was scheduled for surgery again on Friday. Between the anesthesia hangover from Wednesday, the pain medication, and the valium Janett was uncommunicative on Thursday, and not much better on Friday as we waited till 8 PM for her second surgery. At 11 PM the surgeon told us he'd had to remove the large central portion but was able to stretch the upper colon far enough to complete a resection. So that brings us to today.

I slept in Janett's room last night. Kim came over this morning and sent me home, I tried to nap, but not successfuly, talked to Louie on the phone, sent out emails, gathered up some laundry and took it in to be done. I went back to the hospital and Steff and Jason were there with Kim and Janett. Janett had revived somewhat and told me that her nurse had brought her a grape popsycle, which she appreciated immensely. I feel the greatest appreciation for our children who stayed with Janett through this week, caring for her with great sensitivity and sympathy, but also with attention to details and insuring contradictions between all the involved physicians and staff were resolved beneficially to Janett. They sent me home again so here I am.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Saint Alexius

is where I've been spending my time lately. I said Janett was feeling better and she was. Not eating for three days may have had something to do with her feeling better, but she felt enough better that we went to see Jase and Dee Sunday afternoon for a little visit. Sunday evening she began to have a problem with some serious bleeding. A call to her GP's office resulted in a call back from a doctor in his office who said she could stay home until she decided it was getting worse rather than better. Janett woke me at 3:30 Monday morning and said we had better go to the hospital.

So Monday was a long day. After spending the morning in a nice examination room
she was admitted and moved to a temporary room. Kim and Steffy were there most of the day. Jase came for a visit, and the bleeding slowed. She was moved to a "permanent" room at supper time and got to eat a clear liquid dinner. The staff GI doctor thought she might go home this morning, but a staff surgeon wasn't so sure she wouldn't need a colonoscopy, and who knew what else. Since the GI was the attending physician we were kind of optimistic.

She had a lady roommate in her new room, so I couldn't spend the night with her. It would have been difficult for Steff or Kim to stay and Janett said she thought she'd be alright overnight. So we all left her at or soon after 8 PM. Things didn't go as well as we'd hoped. This morning she began to feel stressed and kind of agorophobic, and asked her nurse for help, either some sedative or a less public room, perhaps further from the nursing station. The nurse who was a nice enough person explsined why Janett's proposed solutions were impractical, and not within her authority to implement. Well, when Janett is getting stressed, telling her no solutions are available is the wrong approach. She decided she was leaving the hospital even though she felt weak and still not very well. She called me at 8:15 to tell me to come pick her up.

When I got to the hospital, I risked Janett's ire by suggesting she stay to talk to the doctor since she hadn't entirely stopped bleeding. Kim and Steffo arrived and Janett was given a litle valium and gradually felt cared for enough that she said she would stay to see a doctor. Her surgeon came to see her. He asked why we thought diverticulitis had been causing her symptoms. That kind of shook me. What else would it be, I thought. Colon cancer came to mind. He said that he had neither a cat scan or colonoscopy to insure that diverticulitis was the cause, and would need some tests in the next few days to determine that.

I came home at 3 PM to get my car out of the shop (a flat tire and two bent/broken aluminum rims, thank you very much) and clean up. Steff called to say Mom was doing well and liked the night staff and would be OK, so she wanted me to stay home and get a good night's rest. She put Janett on the phone and I told Janett I had to run to the office tomorrow morning for a few hours, and would be back to the hospital at lunch time. Janett was fine with that, so I made a sandwich and coffee and turned on the news.

Now it's 8:30 and I'm ready for bed. Mark just called and told me that Janett is still bleeding and the staff GI is concerned and acted a little distressed that he hadn't been told. Mark says that doctor said that he wanted a transfusion started, some procedures performed immediately (which procedures wasn't clear from our conversation) and wanted Janett moved to intensive care. Mark said he and Steffy, having the boys to care for, were leaving but that Kim was going to spend the night. So I guess I'll run back over there.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

25 Things

Kim tagged me. I'm not crazy about these kind of lists. Partly because Kim's lists are so interesting, and I feel not very interesting.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a Note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. I've drunk coffee (au latte) in St Marks Square on a rainy day, and there was white linen on the little table.

2. My favorite author is John LaCarre, and I miss George Smiley.

3. I was born on the first anniversary on my mother's sister's death, and that made me very special to her, though she never mentioned it to me.

4. My yearning to be truthful is more intellectual than moral.

5. I visited the Brontes' thatch roofed home, but it wasn't my idea.

6. I went to a Bob Dylan concert in 1964. Jefferson Airplane in '66. Wore sports jackets to both. Saw jerry Lee Lewis and The Isely Brothers at ND. That was about it for me and concerts.

7. My father bought me a uniform for my eighth grade basketball team because the coach told him I could be on the team but there weren't enough uniforms.

8. My father took me to Taylor Street to buy me a sailors uniform when I joined the Sea Scouts.

9. I am the fouth child of nine and lived in my own little world. I read the Burgess animal stories and Nancy Drew mysteries.

10. I've never held the same job for more than three years.

11. My wife Janett has more dignity in a little finger than I will ever posess.

12.I scored in the 99th percentile on the english portion GSBAT anrd the 77th percentile for math even though I failed algebra 2 out of 3 semesters I took it.
The business school interviewer thought I was an anomaly.

13. I passed the CPA exam on my first try with 4 75's. I never met anyone else who did that.

14. I don't drink at home, but usually get drunk when I go to a bar.

15. I love history, but don't read books since I discovered the internet. Useed to read things like Kenneth Roberts and Thomas Costain.

16. I'm a student of foreign affairs and have a strong antipathy for the state of Israel.

17. I think there was a generational shift between my sister Betsy and myself though she's only two years older than me.

18. My brother Tim has a double colic and should have been a Cardinal. Irish folk lore.

19 My sister Dean is a very dear person, and I made her cry a few times. I've never been very good with girls, but they like me.

20. I was a history major in college and had to type papers before they made PC's or word processing software.

21. I identify in my imagination with the IRA man of the 20's, gun in one pocket, rosary in he other.

22. My mother welcomed Hungarian, Cuban, and Nigerian refugees into our home when I was young, and they all loved her.

23. My father liked G K Chesterton, and as a young man collected stamps.

24. My sons and daughters sre completely unique from me but are at the same time part of me.

25. I could have been lost so many ways except for the lovely people who held on to me.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Or maybe I'll buy calls on this one

"TCF did not engage in the activities that have created so many problems in the financial industry,” said William A. Cooper, Chairman and CEO.

“TCF has not made subprime, broker purchased, Option ARM, teaser rate, out of market, low doc or other risky mortgage loans. TCF kept on its balance sheet all the loans it originated. TCF has no auto or credit card portfolios or asset backed commercial paper. We have never owned Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac preferreds, trust preferred securities or bank owned life insurance (BOLI). TCF does not have any derivative contracts. Higher charge-offs at TCF have been primarily due to the imprudent behavior of our competitors and an ill-advised monetary policy that created the unprecedented rise and fall of the housing markets. TCF remains profitable, solidly capitalized and ready to take advantage of prudent growth opportunities. TCF declared a $0.25 quarterly dividend payable to stockholders on February 27, 2009. We expect to continue our dividend in future periods subject to maintaining solid profits and strong capital.

"In accordance with our compensation programs, TCF Executive Management received no bonuses for 2008. As Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, I receive neither a salary nor a bonus."

Clear blue sky this morning,

which at this time of year generally means it's cold out.

Janet's feeling a little better, thanks for asking.

Do you have the free cell solitaire game on your computer? I think it's possible to win this game every time you play. Well. I like winning so I play it often, and I've noticed some days I do better than others, which I''ve begun to think of as an indicator of my mental state on the various days. Am I insightful, imaginative and resourceful, or unfocused, plodding and stupid? This morning I resigned 4 consecutive games within 10 moves of starting. Not a good sign.

This has implications for other interests, but today I'm thinking about the market, and particularly gold stocks. Tim Knight listed about ten stocks he considers to be candidates for put buying (bearish). I think I've explained before when you buy a put, you buy the option of selling the stock to the person who sold the put at a specified price at some designated point in the future. Seven of those bearish candidates are gold mining companies.

When I first started posting I think gold was around 400 and I said I thought it would go to 1000, which it did, then fell back to 750 and is now moving up again, currently near 900. I am a gold bug, my thinking being that gold has always been store of value. The supply is fairly constant and limited. When governments devalue their currencies, the price of gold in those currencies rises.

By increasing money supplies far in excess of the increase in real gowth in the economies, governments have seriously devalued their currencies. Through political and financial shenanigans, the governments (particularly the US in the previous 20 years) had supressed the proportionate rise in the price of gold. Some remediation has occurred in recent years, but gold is still underpriced relative to the deterioraion of the value (purchasing power) of the currencies.

In the face of a serious recession, and probable depression governments are spending money they don't have to try to maintain economic activity. Some money they borrow, some they just print up, implying further monetary devaluation, and the likelihood investors will switch holdings from financial instruments including cash into gold to preserve their wealth, and drive the gold price up to 2,000 or 3,000 dollars per ounce.

The recent 20% price rise from $750 to $900 has caused gold mining company share prices to double in the last four months. Now, Tim K doesn't provide economic analysis or much commentary, just the charts, whch appear to him to show excessive upward movement. Given uncertainty about other equities, now trading midway between their lows of November and a 23% retracement level, uncertainty as to whether they'll rally then fall, or fall then rally, the relatively high flying gold stock appear tempting to him.

I have some questions as to how directly a rise in the price of gold translates to profits for the mining companies, but I have more serious questions about how gold fares in a deflationary cycle, when prices for commodities are falling. Tim was right about the oil companies and he was right about the agrichemical businesses (potash). Maybe he's right about the gold mining companies too.

I'll go play free cell again, and if I win a couple, I'll decide what to do about gold stocks. Maybe I'll just buy puts on Darden, The Red Lobster-Olive Garden business.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Janett's not feeling well.

In fact she's feeling very bad. Diverticulitis symptoms again. She's going to go on a fast so I stopped on the way home and bought ginger ale and popcycles, orange pop and strawberry jello, apple juice and cream of wheat, and mozzarella stuffed pretzels for when she can no longer take not having something to bite and chew.

She's afraid to call her very nice doctor for antibiotics because she just had an episode with this condition 3 weeks ago and he may pressure her to undergo surgery to remove another section of her intestines.

Poor little angel.

Is dementia setting in?

I've started saving my McDonalds coffee cups. Janett buys a kind of dixie cup with a lid for my coffee in the car, but they're kind of papery. The McDonalds cups are sturdier, and have better insulating qualities. That occurred to me when I got a cup at the McDonalds near work and wasn't able to take a real gulp until I was near home 45 minutes later.
I've brought four cups home, rinsed them out and left them on the drain board. They clean up nicely and easily. I suspect Janett will throw them away. I don't know how to explain to her that they're of value. I'm thinking of tucking them away in the extra closet where we stash overflow from the kitchen.
Am I losing it?

I haven't done anything in the market lately. I've been busy with other stuff, and this kind of churning market can lose you money, down 400 one day, up 370 the next.
Some day traders (one of which I am not)are probably doing OK, some are probably getting chewed up.
I was going to do something Tuesday night, buy Dryship puts. I made money when it went from 4 to 10, and got out. It dropped a little then climbed up to where I was thinking of selling at around 17. I couldn't get my chart program to boot, so I put off doing anything, now it's back down just over 10. Could still drop back to 5, but if I get Incredible Charts working I'll look around a little bit.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

As if you didn't already have enough to worry about,

let me share some thoughts I had yesterday. Thinking about how Obama could use the good will, faith, and hope of the American people to help us out of this economic down turn, I really couldn't think of much.

It has to do with our being a service economy. Aside from car manufacturing and home building we don't really manufacture much, and we've come to accept that both those industries rely on consumer credit being avalable. Credit is not available, and I don't think recent experience indicates that the government can make credit available through the banking system.

I think the banks are still in serious trouble. After the mortgage melt down, I've suggesed there would be a consumer credit melt down; credit cards, auto loans, student loans all would be going into default. This is apparently happening. And, just as the banks quit making mortgage loans last year, now they'e trying not to make consumer loans, scaling back credit limits and requiring higher payments on open balances.

I've said the last shoe to drop will be commercial credit: corporate borrowing. Well, thats going to be occurring soon. Retailers will be closing down quickly now, and the money borrowed to buld all those malls won't be being paid back. Retail staffs will join the building trades and auto manufacturers and suppliers in the unemployment lines, and restaurant personnell won't be far behind. Demand for consumer goods will continue to shrink, and people won't have money to require much by way of financial services.

Traditionally, declines in the cost of labor and materials during a recession led to lower prices which gradually led to an increase in demand, and a resumption of economic activity. Without credit availability I don't see how demand can be generated, and even a small resurgence in the demand for consumer products will benefit marginally the low cost producers abroad and not the American economy.

Oooops, the pizza's here. Time to eat. Suggestions welcome on the economy thing.

PS After dinner note. I didn't mention state and local governments defaulting on debts and filing bankruptcies. Some of that will happen and be another blow to financial institutions, especially pension funds and insurance companies. Presumably the federal government will step in to enable local governments to continue to provide services (and jobs) during the bad times to come.

At dinner, Janett and I discussed the possibility of New Deal type programs, like a federal loan agency, by-passing or at least threatening to by-pass, the recalcitrant banks. When last week Bank of America and Citibank got back in the dole line, people began to realize that bail out's are an ongoing process not a one time thing. Perhaps there will be popular support for stopping the bail outs, allowing the banks to fold and finding an alternative credit mechanism. The republican minority would try to portray such a gambit as another indication of Obama's socialist tendencies - the first being his anticipated efforts at health care reform. It'll probably have to get much worse before he's ready initiate such a plan. But, hey, it's much worse already. Folks just don't know it yet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

We really didn't miss much

Stocks came off that 23.6 resistance line, but we're still trading in the same range we've been in for 6 weeks. Maybe we could have made some money, given our bearish instincts but it's not as though we missed something really important.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Is it Wednesday or Thursday?

You'd think I'd know that. I fear that it's Wednesday.

I didn't stay home from work yesterday. I left home for work, sat pretty much still in traffic for 45 minutes and returned home. We spent a little time at the accounting office doing an amended return for one of Jose's clients and planning some work on our first bookkeeping client. Confidentiality of professional relationships prevents me from explaining much, but small business persons are not uncommonly very careless about their accounting practices. They get a little nervous at tax preparation time, but get over it on April 16th.
Janett and I ran out for a fun shopping trip to Meijers; she got earphones, I got long johns. It was s little cold, but walking from the house to the car and the car to the store, then back again, I kind of thought the weather people on TV were exaggerating the impact of this cold snap. If we'd have had a flat tire, I suppose I would think differently.

Then, this morning I enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour "drive" to work. I'm getting really tired of this. People at the office asked me if I'd checked my email because the big Jamoke sent out a message to employees neither confirming nor denying the content of a Wall Street Journal article about the company planning a bankruptcy filing and reorganization. Janett and I muse about the inexplicable way bad fortune strikes every business for whom I work. They ought to make me wear a black gown and carry a sickle. You can imagine my thoughts, "that's what they get for keeping me here so long. Should have laid me off weeks ago when they still had a chance."

Noah's visit this past weekend was pleasant. Turns out, one reason he came was to give me a monitor he wasn't using. So, I'm back to my computer - and I can play Risk again. He tinkered with his new notebook computer Friday night while we talked and ate pizza. He didn't sleep well Friday night on the living room fold-out, partly because he routinely works night and sleeps during the day. So Saturday morning I sent him back to bed in my room where with the drapes drawn, it stays pretty dark. Noonish, we went to his sister Steffie's house, ate McDonalds, and played with the little ones. Noah took it on himself to shovel walks and drive, and after a while Malachy went outside too, and helped. (See picture below). Saturday night he went to a party at Chad's, but not before replacing my windshield wipers. From the party he drove straight home to Champaign and was happily into his own bed at 4 AM.

Monday night was scheduled to be my initiation into the Knights of Columbus, but they called the meeting off due to bad weather. I didn't get the word and showed up. Louie got the word late and came to meet me at church. We went to one of our old haunts and saw some friends. "Still sitting on the same stools, I'll bet" Janett suggested. It was steak night so I ordered one. Louie said he'd already eaten but would have a salad and baked potato. I gave him half my steak when we got it (overwhelming his faint vegetarian protestations) and he bought a couple of beers. We saw the Irish basketball team lose to Louisville in overtime. Other than that it was a nice evening. Then on the way home I stopped at the Speedway and bought 4 really fresh just delivered Krispy Kreme doughnuts for Janett. She's a dainty little person with a weakness for fresh doughnuts, and she ate three of them that night.

I haven't had time to look at the markets yet. It was more important to be in touch. I'll let you know what I find out when we talk next.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Mally helping Noah shovel Snow

I've been pretty busy

Too busy to post, but I'm thinking of you all. I haven't had time to look at the markets. It's only 10:30 and I'd like to post about Noah's visit, not getting laid off, our first bookkeeping client, and almost joining the KoC but I'm going to bed, because I'm still a little sick and I have another busy day tomorrow. Love

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Poor me.

I've developed cold symptoms and chest congestion that had me coughing hard last night and short of breath afterwards so I stayed home today, took medicine, rested, and hopefully will be better tomorrow.

I put in an order for a CERN put last night, but the stock opened a dollar lower and I didn't get a fill. The stock dropped another dollar during the day. I'd be up a couple hundred if I hadn't got stopped out when the price popped up over 40 the other day. Looking at the chart, it appears that was a weird price movement, and was probably one or two big orders intended to move he stock over 40 where a lot of stop loss buy orders placed by bearish folks like me would feed a rally in the stock, and run the price up further.

That's the problem with placing stop orders close to the market price, especially at a price where there's likely to be a lot of other stop loss orders. That price can be a target for speculators trying to move the market on a slow day. It doesn't do any good to be annoyed by that kind of market ploy. I just have to be more careful where I place my stop loss orders.

I didn't place any other orders because I felt some manufactured good news might come out today, which it did, in the form of Citibank's agreement to provide some relief to mortgage borrowers. As for tomorrow, the jobs numbers have been anticipated to be so bad, that a small reduction in the number of layoffs before Christmas might be taken as more good news, and keep the market up. Also, I don't underestimate the possibility of optimism related too Obama's inauguration, although Obama himself hasn't sounded too optimistic in recent days.

Yep, parsing the news is too confusing, so I'll just look at the charts.

Oh and one other item. Janett resolved to make some progress today toward her goal of being a tax practicioner this year, and went down to the office and completed eight training modulea and passed the test at he end of the day. Go J girl. Go J girl

Oh and another other item. Tomorrow the area controller is taking the accounting staff out to lunch to thank the staff for hard work during the recent closing. I'm nurturing a secret hope that it's really going to be a thanks and good luck lunch for me.

One more - I got a call from a person at the builders who were general contractor on the plant. It wasn't my usual contact and she explained that person no longer worked there, nor did two others who I've worked with. She explained that they had no ongoing projects and they'd laid off 23 of the 35 employees. This is a respected and successful builder. So it goes.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A nice story

My friend Louie dropped by this evening. We talked a couple times over the holidays but never managed to get together. If you've been reading stuff here for a while you must know a little about Louie, but here's the latest installment. Louie learned about horse racing from his dad. His folks would take him to the track when he was a boy, partly I guess for their own convenience. But Louie liked it and now, 40 some years later he usually owns 3 or 4 thoroughbreds which race at Arlington and Sportsmen Parks.

This spring the trainer, Tommy called him about a horse running in a $10,000 claiming race at Arlington the next day. This horse had been purchased at auction as a colt for $350,000, but in 5 years had never raced. He was apparently training all that time, and Tommy's cousin who is his clocker at the track, saw this horse in daily workouts and reported the horse was apparently healthy and very fast.

Why would the owner's run him in a 10K claiming race, which allows others to claim the horse for that amount if they wish to? Seems that by running him in a low price claimer, they entitle the horse to run in allowance races against other horses who have run in similar low price claiming races. This would enable the horse to clean up against not the best talent as they brought him along this year. It was the first of the season and perhaps they thought nobody would notice, but Tommy did.

Louie got the horse for $10,000 and ran him on the turf at Arlington this summer because Louie likes to see horses run on grass, but more so because of good turf horses in his genealogy. Well, the horse ran a couple of thirds, a second and a fourth, paying his way but not scoring a big payday. When Arlington closed this fall they took the horse to Sportsmans park and tried him on the dirt.

He won three straight races this in November and December against good competition and for purses totalling maybe $50,000. Jockeys get to pick the horses they ride and the tracks winningest jockey chose to ride Hurta (for that is his name) in the last race and she told Louie he was the nicest horse she'd ever ridden. She never touched him with the whip and he won the race by 10 lengths.

So if you go to Arlington Park next summer keep an eye out for Hurta and be happy for Louie. It was going to be hard paying the kids' tuitions this winter, with the slow-down in the building industry this year, and being an electrical contractor, and then along came Tommy, the Trainer and Hurta the wonder horse.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

CERN was down today.

So was CMG (Chipotle) TRAD and DVN were up nicely the last couple days, and here I am, a spectator. That's OK. Confidence builders. Besides Chipotle, there's a couple other restaurant stocks that look precarious including Cracker Barrel and the company that owns Red Lobster/Olive Garden. (some of my favorites) And the gold mining companies could fall after recent rallies. I'm a gold bug and won't sell the mining companies on principle. Cracker Barrel, though, that's a loyalty of a lesser order, since they closed their local facility a couple years ago.

Mom (Mommo, Janett) and Steffie went to Kim's today for a visit, then she and Steffie went out tonight to do some shopping. I think Steffie is suffering a little from child fatigue, and is happy getting out of the house.

I left the office at 5 today. I wouldn't say I'm burned out on this job, but I sure don't feel much of a sense of urgency. I mean month end, year end, closing all the construction in process into assets placed in service and I put in an eight hour day. I really want to get into the tax/bookkeeping thing and right now I'm conserving energy and psyching myself up.

and my son Noah is working nights and that throws off our phone calling, Hello Noah, wherever you are.

Monday, January 05, 2009

I don't want you to think I'm selective about

reporting my trading activity. My only open position got closed today when CERN ventured over $40 per share, so I lost half my $350. I didn't get a fill on my DVN order last week, so I've pretty much been doing nothing, except waiting for CERN to drop.
The chart attached may explain my passivity. The S&P 500 and the DJIA, the leading indexes have been struggling with that 23.6 retracement level I spoke of, just as have many of the stocks I look at. There was some talk of a rally last week, but looking at the chart you can see there wasn't that much happening. Both the indexes traded over ther 50 day moving average, a for sure bullish sign, but it was on low volume during a holiday week. So it's hard to be convinced right now to go long or short.

If anything I'd be tempted to reenter my CERN position (it traded lower later in the day), but I'll look at a few charts and see if anything looks promising. Love to all

PS after a look around I decided not to do anything, but Chipotle was very tempting.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

It has been a wonderful week

I'm feeling very lucky to have such a wonderful wife and beautiful children. And the children are all well married and will be able to face whatever adversity that may come their way.

Whenever I feel so well about life, the dark Irish side of me pops up and asks how I deserve such blessings, and in fact haven't I earned disaster and misery in my careless irresponsible life. I'm sure that I have. Besides God's generosity to me, I must credit the love and faithful support of the women in my life: wife, mother, sisters, and daughters. I think of my father, too, and the kindness he showed me, in spite of my too many to count short comings and failures, always encouraging me to take the next step forward as if the past mis-steps meant nothing at all.

Being the beneficiary of so much love and kindness has protected me from the harsh consequences of my own misbehavior. I've been blessed. Usually, the darkness lingers long enough for me to ask myself, what will God say about how little I've done with all those gifts. Then I remember what a fellow told me years ago about how pitifully inadequate and offensive any of us will be, standing before God, and that's why we must be washed in the blood of the Savior when we come before Him, and that will cover the repellent scars and disfigurations of our souls, and He will see us only as the beloved of his Son and will accept us into His kingdom. Then the peace and joy we know will be measured by how devoted we were to the Lord in our lifetime. I guess that's why the saints and prophets kept praying to God to make them more devoted. I have a long way to go, but sometimes it seems like less of a struggle than at others.