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Thursday, December 30, 2004


Losing Things

I teach people how to deal with stress. One of the things I tell them is to accept reality, because freaking out will not change things. I stress thinking over feeling and I give all kinds of good advice. For the most part I practice what I preach, but when it comes to losing things, all bets are off.

I hate to lose something. I hate it when I cannot find what I need when I need it. This is the second Christmas in a row; my magnifying glass has gone missing. It probably got thrown out with the mountain of paper and boxes. I went all over the house looking for it. The longer I looked, the madder I got. I was forced to utter profanities worthy of any self-respecting sailor. Only such language seems to soothe my pain at the moment. Barbara has grown accustomed to this behavior and it no longer fazes her. She knows not to interrupt my strings of potty mouth, because they are the balm, which is healing my pain.

Another time this seems to occur, is when I am working on something. I may need a 3/8 inch wrench and cannot locate one. My original task of fixing something is now secondary until I locate the blankety blank wrench.

I suppose I could organize things to reduce such situations, but naaaa. The other things I tend to lose are phone numbers scribbled on envelopes, bills, and sundry mail items. This seems to occur more after Barbara has "straightened up" the house.

I think you can guess how I react when the remote is misplaced. God forbid I have to push the buttons on the actual television. Some traumas are too difficult to write about.

Today at work, one of my colleagues was demonstrating a device she had on her key ring. It emitted a series of beeps if a loud noise were to occur. This was a device to help locate the keys if lost. It worked like the "clapper." That made me think about looking for the cordless phone. My son was notorious for leaving the cordless phone laying anywhere but the charging cradle. Fortunately you could push a button on the base station, and it would make the handset beep. The trouble was, the phone only beeped a few times. If the phone was at the other end of the house, I had to push the button and run to the general area and try to get a fix on where the beep was coming from. I have good hearing like you would expect from a blind guy, but it was hard for me to hone in on where the sound was coming from. Therefore, I would have to push the button and run several times. I did not utter the string of curse words in this setting, because I had to be quiet in order to fix on the sound.

So that's it. When I lose things, I tend to lose my temper. Fortunately, my sense of humor closely follows. Humor is one thing I don't think I will ever lose.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, December 29, 2004



Motivation is a funny thing. If you have it, the sky is the limit. Without motivation, one is doomed to failure. The sniffles may be the reason someone calls in sick to work, but the same person would brave the bubonic plague to do something they deemed fun.

One of my coworkers is convinced she cannot understand math. If I attempt to explain how to figure a percentage for instance, her eyes glaze over. I tell her she "can" learn, but lacks the motivation. Thus far, she still lacks the motivation.

Eyes glazing over is a definite sign there is no motivation present. I have gotten better at detecting this condition and stop talking when I spot it. I especially realize this phenomenon whenever I try to explain something mechanical to a woman. I like to know how things work, therefore, I can figure out what is wrong when they don't work. My mistake is assuming others also want to understand. In my experience, many do not wnat to know - they just want the damn thing fixed.

In reality, I think we are all motivated, just in different ways. Our interests are not the same and neither are our motivations. The psychiatric patients I work with are highly motivated around the third of the month. They clear up remarkably and become quite involved in their discharge planning. That check is wonderful motivation. Cigarettes motivate them as well. These people become very creative, resourceful, and persuasive if there is a smoke in it for them. Now if I could find a way to motivate them to take their medication, keep MD appointments, and say no to drugs, I would be on to something.

The New Year is a great time to renew one motivation or another. Do you plan to set a resolution? Choose something you are already motivated about. Set a goal that is both specific and attainable.

What motivates you?

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, December 28, 2004


The Passing of Time

Occasionally there are moments in my life where my awareness seems to grasp the big picture. Instead of chasing the minutiae of the day, things seem to crystallize and I see them clearly. For me the Christmas season stirs my memories. I reminisce about Christmas' past.

I am usually the last to bed at our house. On my way to bed, I turn off the lights, lock the doors, and check the thermostat. This one evening as I went through my evening ritual, all of the lights had been turned off except the Christmas tree. Just the glow of the colored lights and shine from the ornaments stirred fond memories from my childhood in Kansas. I can remember 40 years ago when I was a kid. I can remember 15 years ago when I was a young father. I was aware of the passing of time. I did not feel fear, anxiety, or sadness. It would be easy to do so. One could focus on what is over and never to return. One could focus on how short time is getting and any number of dreaded fears. That night though, I marveled at how I could experience something as a child for the first time. Then I could experience it through my child as a parent. Someday, if I am lucky, I will get to experience the Christmas season through the eyes of my grandchild.

Life is always new. Though we experience the same thing each year, we are not the same. I marvel at this. We have an idea of what to expect, but because we are different and the circumstances are fluid, we experience new feelings. All Christmas' are not the same, because we are not the same. Our roles change and our responsibilities evolve. What our parents did is passed on to us. The torch of time goes from generation to generation. We experience first hand what we have been told about or have observed. We get one chance, and then we move on to the next thing.

Therefore, life provides continual challenge - thank goodness. Things would get boring quickly if we could master them easily. Just when we get good at a task, we must move on to the next one.

As I gaze at our Christmas lights and feel the feelings of nostalgia, I will offer a prayer of thanks to God for this ride we call life. A lot of water under the bridge, they say, I hope there will be a lot more to follow.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, December 26, 2004


Christmas 2004

St Joseph Abbey
St Joseph Abbey in North of Covington, LAView from the back of the churchView from the altarCandles in the abbeyChristmas Eve at the abbey
click to enlarge photos

Christmas Eve was a cold gray day. After my AM run, Barb, LJ, and I went to the gym to burn off a few calories. With some serious eating and drinking ahead, we needed to take some preventive action. I was home most of the day alone. John was working from 11 to 6 at Circuit City and Barbara was shopping. I enjoyed doing nothing.

At 5:00 PM, Marty picked Barbara and I up and we drove to the St Joseph Abbey north of town. The St Benedictine monks have been on this site since the late 1800's. Today it is a seminary - college and home to a beautiful Catholic church.

Strings of white Christmas lights hung in the trees. It was nearly dark and the large stone and brick buildings were in silhouette against the faint light of dusk. Inside the church, the lights were dim and we walked to the third pew from the front. The festive peal of the church bells had been playing since we arrived. Sitting in the dimly lit church listening to the bells was a surreal experience. When the monks arrived, they stayed at the back of the church. Candles were lit and other monks were dispatched around the church to light candles in each window and on some of the large pillars. Once the candle lighting was complete, a procession of the monks and priests began and they filed to the front of the church, taking their places for the worship, which was to come.

The music and singing was beautiful. It was a peaceful service known as vespers. It lasted for about 40 minutes and ended as it began, with a procession. Soon we were standing in the church alone and all was quiet. It was a beautiful experience.

That evening, we went to Marty and Cindy's house for a small gathering. The usual fare of eating, drinking, and conversing was its usual fun time. We went to bed about 2 AM. We were pressing our luck, but fortunately, Santa had not been to our house yet. We all went to sleep trying to dream of dancing sugarplums.

John hoists his new iPodChristmas morning, I got up about 8:15 AM. This is a new record for me. I am usually up at the usual 5:00 AM, but having gotten to bed at 2:00 AM, I needed the rest. I made a pot of coffee and got everyone else up for the unwrapping of the presents. John was happy to get the new iPod as you can see in the photo.

Hobo's last Christmas Hobo was right in the middle of things as he has been the last 13 years. He got a stocking with his favorite treats in it. He has gotten used to this once a year ritual and piles of paper and boxes faze him very little. This will probably turn out to be his last Christmas - enough said about that.

John makes a snowballIt's snowingFinally, we had a little surprise for Christmas - SNOW. All week, the weather people had been talking about long shot scenarios bringing snow to Louisiana. I always doubt them. In the morning, it began to sleet. It came down pretty good and the sound of the sleet hitting the trees was much louder than rain. Later on, we were treated to a few snowflakes. In the photo where John is just standing on the driveway, you can see little white specks. Those specks are snow. It snowed even more in New Orleans. Even in the Gulf, rig workers made a snowman with the snow that fell on their platform. Today, the temps are supposed to be in the 60's. Things are getting back to normal.

The rest of the day was devoted to eating, drinking, and watching sports on TV. Another Christmas is in the books. It was a good one.

I hope yours was a happy one too. Now it's on to New Years.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, December 24, 2004


Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Eve folks! It's a party down here on the bayou. The crawfish come alive and the bigger ones bring presents. Even the alligators help with the cooking. Today was the last day of darkness before the Light came into the world. I hope you are celebrating where you are. If you didn't get a chance to do so, click on the Cajun Christmas in my sidebar and listen to Justin Wilson read this modern classic.

Christmas on the Bayou

Enjoy it, celebrate it, we have built up to this moment, now is the time to let everything go that did not get done and immerse yourself in the here and now.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Bullet Dodged: Male Ego Intact

This is a story of me making a big decision and almost being wrong. I've been wrong before, but this time would have been bad, because my wife would have had, "I told you so rights" for years to come.

The day before Thanksgiving we got into a wreck. To make a long story short, our car was totaled. The circumstnaces set in motion by an automobile accident are a hassle at best and tortureous by most people's experience. Right after that awful sound of crumpling metal, little realizations began seaping into my awareness, such as:
     My insurance sucked - No rental car coverage, poor communication, and slooooow action.

     When you tell people about the accident, they always say, "The important thing is everyone is OK."

     Wrecks are not financially friendly.

One thing I learned during this process was, my 19 year old son is growing up. We took his Nissan truck and made him go truckless at LSU for two weeks. He did not complain a bit, because he understood the situation. He also probably knew to resist would have been futile. At least he was spared a lecture by going along with our wishes.

From November 24 until December 19 we went with out a vehicle. I had looked for a car in the paper and online at Auto Trader.com. The car that was totaled was a 96 Infiniti I30. We purchased it used with 90K miles. It went to the Happy Hunting Ground with 140K miles. My quest was to get another I30 only newer. I found a 2000 model that was close by last week so we took a look at it and liked what we saw. We purchased the car last Sunday.

Barbara is usually freaked out about miles. This 2000 had 75K miles on it. Our conversations usually went like this:

Me: Here's one. A 2000 I30 with 75K miles for 11,995.
Her: That's a lot of miles.
Me: Not for an Infiniti, those suckers run forever. Everyone says they should get at least 200K miles easy.
Her: I need a reliable car. I don't want something that will break down and strand me.
Me: This will be fine. Our last one had 90K on it and would still be running if it weren't smashed right now.
Her: OK. (It is the kind of "OK" that tails off which really means - OK smartass, we'll see.)

So I am out on a limb with the decision. I figured the car was a good value and I had a million reasons why we should buy it. Barbara went along, because she knew she could always say, "I told you so," if the situation blew up.

We drove the car home on Sunday and showed it to our friends. The concensus was overwhelming that the car was a good deal and the decision to buy it was an example of my sound judgment. Then today at 4:27 PM I get a cell phone call from Barbara:
Her: I am stranded in the middle of HWY 21. The car won't do anything.
Me: What do you mean?
Her: It won't crank or anything.
Me: Hmmmm.
Her: Let me call you back the police are here.

2 minutes later:
Her: OK they got it going. They jumped it off.
Me: Good

We hang up, then in about 2 minutes later she calls again:
Her: Can you and Marty come with the jumper cables? I am stranded again. I knew we should have gotten a new car.
Me: Did you try turning the wheel and jiggling the shifter? (I ignored the vote of no-confidence)
Her: (Turning and jiggling) It still does not start.
Me: OK Marty and I are on our way.

Marty and I arrived and once the jumper cables were hooked up, the car came to life. Our diagnosis was a bad battery. No big deal, I can change that out in no time. Marty took off and as we tried to go, the car died and we coasted just off the road. We traveled about 40 feet. Barbara was frustrated and I was trying to figure out what was going on.

I could tell Barbara was on the verge of telling me I made a bad deal reminicent of Jack and the magic beans, but she was holding it in. I was desperately trying to stay in denial not wanting to think I had bought a lemon. I quickly phoned Marty to come back. In the mean time, I popped the hood again and took another look. When I grabbed the negative battery cable, it moved. The cable was loose. Ah ha! The mystery was solved and the problem was minor. I knew I made the right decision all along.

A little tightening of the cable to the battery terminal and everything was wonderful again. Phew! I would have never lived it down. Sure the car will need repairs someday, but not for 6 to 9 months or I will have to hear those dreaded words, "I told you so."

I am happy to report my male ego remains fully intact.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, December 20, 2004


The Cajun Night Before Christmas

Click on the image in my sidebar to hear Justin Wilson read the Cajun Night Before Christmas. This book is a modern classic here in Louisiana and sure to give you a taste of something different. So gather the kiddies around the computer with some hot chocolate and enjoy the story.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Limits of Procrastination

I have been standing on the train tracks of procrastination, watching the oncoming locomotive of Christmas with its many cars of buy presents, decorate the house, send Christmas cards, honey do, and you'd better do. Today, I need to dive off of those tracks like Harrison Ford did in the motion picture, The Fugitive, to save my life.

I think I have reached the limits of my procrastination. To go any further would require another descriptive word, like stupid or suicidal.

I better post this and get those boxes out of the living room and up into the attic before Barbara catches me at the computer, hehehehe.

Until the next time, if there is a next time
John Strain


Friday, December 17, 2004


Friday Night

In about 30 minutes, I will be headed to a very low key, but promising to be lots of fun work Christmas party. It is so low key; I am wearing jeans and a bright red shirt. The music is blaring; I am sipping a Jack Daniels and Diet Coke, and I am wondering what the poor people are doing right now. I suppose they are getting ready to go to a low-key work Christmas party . . .

So anyway, as I was getting ready for the party, I was reminded of Christmas parties past. When money flowed more easily, the hospital usually rented a hotel ballroom and hired a band. We enjoyed open bars, lots of food, and the usual gossip. In those days, Barbara and I had to hire a babysitter to be with John. I mentioned that memory to Barbara and we did our usual marveling about how freaking fast the time has gone by.

Then as I free-associated in my brain, I recalled an incident that occurred when I was 5 or 6 years old. This is a vivid memory of which I can still see in my mind like a rerun. If I was 5 or 6, then my brother was 11 or 12. We were standing in our dining room. We had a babysitter for some reason and it was at night. It seems like she just got there. My brother was trying to impress her. Even then, I could tell when someone was full of it. What a sight it was, my brother, my sister, and myself, standing around in our pajamas. I was the tag along and out of the loop, so I usually wandered around oblivious to any conversation. It was without that conversation to hold my attention, I would think about other things to do. For some reason, I got the bright idea to pull George's pants down. So I did. I am laughing right now, just remembering the scene. He was just talking away when I came up from behind and pulled his pajamas down around his ankles. There was about a second with him just standing there in his underwear while it sunk into his mind that his little brother just exposed him to the same babysitter he had been trying to impress.

George quickly pulled his britches back up and shrugged off the incident. The babysitter took it in stride as well. I can't remember being beaten to death by my brother or even getting in trouble with my parents when they returned. They probably wrote it off as me being young and not knowing any better, hehehe.

It’s just one funny memory from more than 40 years ago.

Here's to a good weekend and next week at this time, Santa will be on his way.

Until the next time
John Strain


A Friday Smile

Catching Snowflakes

I am at the same time everyone in this cartoon, hehehehe.

Until the next time and keep laughing
John Strain


Thursday, December 16, 2004


Urban Legends

One of the funnier stories making the email circuit was about gerbiling or felching. If you do not know what I am talking about, consider yourself lucky and stop reading now. If you want to be enlightened about things sordid, then read on pilgram.

The following text was a supposed news story from 1998:
"In retrospect, lighting the match was my big mistake. But I was only trying to save the gerbil," Eric Tomaszewski told the bemused doctors in the Severe Burns Unit of Salt Lake City Hospital. Tomaszewski and his homosexual partner, Andrew "Kiki" Farnum, had been admitted for emergency treatment after a felching session had gone seriously wrong.

"I pushed a cardboard toilet paper tube up his rectum and slipped Ragout, our gerbil, in," he explained. "As usual, Kiki shouted out 'Armageddon,' my cue that he'd had reached nirvana, so to speak. I tried to retrieve Raggot but he simply would not come out, so I peered into the tube and struck a match, thinking the light might attract him."

At a hushed press conference, a hospital spokesman desribed what happened next.

"The match ignited a pocket of intestinal methane gas in Kiki's colon. Flames shot out the tube, ignited Mr. Tomaszewski's hair and severely burning his face. It also set fire to the gerbil's fur and whiskers, causing it to scurry further up Kiki's colon, which in turn ignited a larger pocket of gas further up the intestine, propelling the rodent out of the cardboard tube like a cannonball."

Tomaszewski suffered second degree burns and a broken nose from the impact of the gerbil, while Farnum suffered first and second degree burns to his anus and lower intestinal tract.

Sadly, Ragout the gerbil did not survive the incident.
If you thought that was funny, listen to the poor guy who tried to read the story on a radio newscast: (requires Real Player)

That is some funny stuff. I hope it made you smile.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, December 15, 2004



I got an email yesterday with this message. The surreal is becoming a little more real the closer I get to actually doing the Boston Marathon. I have my plane tickets and my hotel. Everything is in place.

This is neat. The Boston Marathon entry list is searchable. Click the link, and then put in Louisiana. My name is listed with the other entrants from Louisiana. Maybe someone is running the Boston Marathon from your hometown. Give it a look.

Speaking of sports, I am going to the New Orleans Hornets vs. Golden State Warriors game tonight at the New Orleans Arena. The poor Hornets have only won one game this year.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, December 14, 2004


The Big Chill

It is the first freeze of the year. Tonight it is supposed to get down to 30 degrees. Tomorrow maybe even 28 degrees. I can hear hearts breaking all over Canada and other points north for our chilly weather. I used to laugh at folks here too. I grew up in Kansas City and worked as a paperboy. My arse has been frozen off more than once.

The thing is, if it gets cold and stays cold, a guy can get used to it. Here in the south, it gets cold, then it gets warm, then it gets hot, then it gets cold. One never gets a chance to acclimate to the temperature.

Tomorrow, when I walk out the door in my shorts, it will be a bit of a shock, but once I have run about a half mile, the old blood gets to circulating and all is well.

As Mark Twain has said, "Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about it."

7:00 AM update: It is 36 degrees, not so bad, now where's that sun screen?

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, December 12, 2004


Press On

Determination Quote by Calvin Coolidge
I must press on if I am to conquer the leaves. I must press on if I am to complete my gift shopping and other tasks. I have a six mile run to do after which I will go to the gym to start weight training my legs again. This week off has made me lazy. I have to push myself a bit to get out the door, but I will press on.

Yesterday I signed up for the Boston Marathon. I will not get a confirmation for a few weeks. That future glory will have to wait for some more leaf raking and other menial tasks. Life is much more menial than glorious. When you can enjoy the menial things in life you have found happiness.

Enjoy your Sunday folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, December 11, 2004


Battle Stations

With Christmas two weeks away, I need to get busy. Unfortunately, I did not take my own advice this year and start things early. Tisk, Tisk. The good news is the weather is nice, so I can get out in the yard and hit a couple of licks at the ever growing pile of oak leaves. They will some day be the death of me, but I have won every battle thus far. I attack them with rake, blower, lawnmower fitted with bagger, garbage can, and big black plastic bag. Their only weapons are number, wind, and rain. They allie themselves with the rain to become more difficult to pickup, but the wind betrays them. The wind is a double agent. It helps the leaves by blowing my piles about, but it helps me by drying the little devils out so they are easier to collect, muahahahaha. They will soon be mulching someone's shrubs. By the end of the day, I will have rows of bags lined up on the street. As if by magic, the bags disappear as passers by take them for mulch. I rarely see anyone in the act. Too bad the leaf takers don't rake and bag them their damn self. Now I know how the "Little Red Hen" felt.

As far as running goes, I have had a week of rest. After the marathon I was treated to three off days, one three miler, another off day, another three miler, today is off again. Next week I will run 20 miles total. My coach is starting me out low and building up again. I wind up running 40 to 50 miles per week at the most. It is still hard to believe I am going to run in the Boston Marathon. I haven't signed up yet, but I am only days away from it.

We have to buy a new car. The day before Thanksgiving, Barbara ran into the back of another vehicle. No one was injured. We were on our way to work. Anyway, our car was totaled and we are getting $4,700.00 from the insurance company. I hate car shopping especially when I need to come up with more money. Insert string of expletives here, __________________.

My dog Hobo is still hanging in there, but he is getting weaker and weaker. He is 13.5 and finds it quite difficult to stand and walk. In the morning, I have to help him stand up then walk with my hands under his ribs to keep him up until he gets his sea legs. He has no control of his bowels, but bladder control is pretty good. He is still happy and has a good appetite, so we are trying to make his golden days as comfortable as we can.

I'd better get myself in gear; I'm wasting good daylight.

Have a great weekend everyone,

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, December 10, 2004


Motorific Torture Track

Motorific Torture TrackGrowing up in the 60's, I did not get every toy I wanted anytime I wanted it. Today's children get much more. I mention this to state a fact, not to debate the difference. Christmas and my birthday were the two times a year I got something special. I could hope for a "big" toy. Much energy went into perusing the Christmas catalogs. In 1965, Ideal Toy Company introduced the Motorific line of cars and slot car tracks. They represented a "poor man's" slot car set. I knew the fancy electric slot car sets were out of the realm of possibility for me, but the Motorific Torture Track seemed to be priced right. I wanted one of them bad. I stared at the different Motorific sets in the catalog like a convict eyes a photo of his girl friend in stir.

The days before Christmas seemed to drag on forever. I would be so excited, especially when presents began to appear under the tree. We always got a parcel from family in Nebraska, Virginia, and sometimes Milwaukee. I could sing with Julie Andrews, "Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things." I shook, rattled, and squeezed my presents until the paper nearly wore off of them. So good I became at identifying the contents before they were opened, to this day, I do not even want to look at a present for fear of knowing what it is. Now I want to let the excitement linger. If you are wondering why, it is because one year, I found my big present before Christmas and it was then I learned the value of surprise.

Innocently enough, I was playing with a ball one afternoon. I threw it and it went into my parent's bedroom. The ball rolled under their bed and when I bent down to get it, I saw a brand new Motorific Torture Track. I was both excited and scared. Excited because I was getting something I really wanted, but scared I was in trouble for finding my present. The toy was aptly named; because I was tortured knowing it was in the house, but off limits.

During the coming days, I would go into my folk's bedroom to look at the box many times. I did not open it, I only looked at the outside. If I remember correctly, it snowed a lot that year. We were stuck inside and somehow everyone knew I knew about the Motorific Torture Track. I think mom allowed us three kids to open one present and I of course chose the Motorific set. My brother was 15 or 16 and we put the set together that afternoon. We had to slide the beds out of the way to make a big enough clearing for the enormous set. More fun could not have been had that day on our snowy street in Shawnee, Kansas.

When I look back at these days, my overwhelming feeling is gratitude. Thinking of them makes me smile. They live still, and quite vividly in my memory. I wonder what wonderful memories will be made this year? We'll just have to wait and see.

Here's to not looking in closets, car trunks, and under beds one week before Christmas. Be surprised instead.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, December 09, 2004


The Sears Wish Book

1966 Sears Christmas CatalogOnce upon a time before the Internet and cable television, children learned of toys through the Sears Wish Book. This special Christmas catalog came out in late October every year. It signaled the imminent arrival of Christmas. The Wish Book was a window into Santa's workshop and by the time the Jolly Elf made his annual trip, the pages were well worn. Dog-eared pages were markers to guide Santa's helpers to each child's wish for Christmas.

I spent many afternoons studying the Wish Book. I drooled over the toy train sets and slot car tracks. I knew Santa could not afford some things in the catalog. My tastes had to be somewhere around 15 to 20 1966 dollars.

It was always fun actually traveling to Sears. Before the mall was built near our house, a trip to Sears meant loading up in the Chevy station wagon and going to downtown Kansas City. Having studied the catalog, I knew just what to look for in the toy department. It was always so much fun getting to see the toys and then sit on Santa's lap to tell him what to bring me.

Sears Christmas Catalog Pages
click to view larger image

Before we left Sears, we always bought something at the candy counter. I can still smell the fresh peanut clusters and see the heat lamps that kept the roasted nuts warm. The candy was weighed and put in a paper bag. No bag ever lasted the trip back to the suburbs. All of this only raised my excitement level.

In Kansas City, the Country Club Plaza was always beautifully lit and decorated. The frigid air, toys, Santa and candy guaranteed to put one in the Christmas mood.

Tomorrow, I will tell a story about a toy - The Motorific Torture Track.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, December 07, 2004


My New Favorite Christmas Song

I came across a pretty song, which is from the motion picture "The Polar Express." Click the photo below to go to a page where you can hear the song. If the music is any indication, then the movie will be great. If you have seen it, let me know what you thought about it.

Enjoy the song, just click the pic.

The Polar Express

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, December 06, 2004


Thank You

Marathon Photos

It feels very good to achieve what I set out to achieve. I owe many of you a debt of gratitude and thanks for all of your support. I drew upon it as I ran. I thought of your words. One time there was a breeze and I heard Ellen whisper some encouragement just like she promised. Your prayers were needed and appreciated

Few things are ever accomplished in a vacuum. This marathon was successful, in part, due to all of you. There were times during the run, between 19 and 23 miles, I had to struggle with my own will. I wanted to slow down. I did not know if I could keep up the pace. It was then I thought of you all. I did not want to write a blog about coming close and trying hard; I wanted to write about success. I dug down with the help of your words in my memory, and was able to persevere.

Now I am planning the next challenge. I hope to run the Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans February 27, then the Boston Marathon April 18.

Thanks again for your support through prayer and encouraging words. They really did help.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, December 04, 2004


Boston Here I come!

I did it!
Baton Rouge Beach Marathon Time

Sprinting at the finish, Baton Rouge Marathon 12.04.04

I will write more later and post some photos, but I wanted to let folks know how I did. I finished 18th overall and 4th in my age group. I am now qualified for the Boston Marathon.

Stay tuned for more.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, December 03, 2004



Runner at SunsetIt is the eve of the Baton Rouge Beach Marathon and I am ready to get at it. Training and dress rehearsals are over; it is time for the live performance. I like the pressure. It is an ending and a beginning. The process is draining and at the same time invigorating. During the final miles I will be planning for my next marathon to keep my mind from thoughts of slowing down or stopping. Something else to keep me going is the thought of ALLIGATOR SAUCE PIQUANT waiting for me at the finish line, ummmmm.

I want to thank those of you who have been so supportive throughout this process. It really does help. I can relate to the Beatles song, "I get by with a little help from my friends."

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, December 02, 2004


Will 853 Miles be Enough?

Today I finished my last run before Saturday's marathon. From the beginning of my training, May 23 until now, I have run 853 miles. That's not including an extra mile per run for the half-mile warm-up and cool-down jog for each training run - an additional 125 miles.

Tuesday I ate no carbs to deplete the muscles of the glycogen stores. Wednesday I began the carbo loading and hydrating phase which lasts until race day. All I have to do now is rest and store energy and fluid. All of that energy and fluid will come in handy somewhere around mile 20.

I am also going through the week of paranoia, as I call it. I am afraid I will catch a cold, twist an ankle, or hear about severe weather on race day. A marathon comes down to one day. One works toward that day and if the weather is bad or the physical condition is not just right, that's tough. I know there will be other marathons, but I want to make this one a good one. I want to get that goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon off of my back.

I am nervous. I am worried and I doubt myself, but then I pump myself up and take solace in the hard work I have done. Hitting your goal in a marathon is not a given. Maybe that is why it appeals to me. The marathon is a challenge physically for sure, but it is more a challenge of one's will. I am reminded of Kipling's words:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"
The marathon teaches patience and endurance. You have to pay the price a little bit each day over time. There is no cramming the night before this test. I like it because it pushes me physically, emotionally, and mentally. Even if I fail, I will be stronger. Failure and success are both motivators so whatever happens, I will try harder the next time.

When I am asked, "Why do you run marathons?" I answer like this, "Because it feels so good to stop." Tune in on Saturday afternoon and see if 853 miles was enough.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, December 01, 2004


They're Putting Up Reindeer

It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river
I could skate away on
-Joni Mitchell

Christmas Card

This song is a "beginning of the season song." It is all in front of us. Lots of work? Yes. Lots of fun? You betcha. I look forward to so many things this time of year. I already got up in the attic and brought down my Christmas decorations. My head has a lump from where I bumped into a rafter like I do every year. The tree is up, but I have some outside lights to instal.

I have Christmas cards, like the one above, to address and send; Presents to purchase and wrap; parties to attend; food to eat; light displays to drive through; and lots of fun stuff I don't even know about yet.

If you slow down and let your mind become aware of your senses and feelings, you may feel some of the old feelings from childhood. Don't let your adult stress and responsibility rob you of enjoying the season. Take time to spread some cheer. If we all do our part, then it works.

When I think of Christmas, I am transported back to my old room I shared with my brother. It is night time and I am having a hard time getting to sleep, because Santa is on his way. The furnace hums and clanks warming our home from the frigid December air. Visions of sugar plums really did dance in my head. What a feeling. The magic is still there. I wonder what Santa will bring me this year? I have been a very good boy, but then he already knows that.

Santa comes this month - I can't wait.

Interesting side note: The artist of the Christmas card above and the soldier amputee who is running with President Bush in the sidebar photo are both from Denham Springs, LA.

Until the next time
John Strain