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Friday, April 27, 2007



I was looking through my photos of Rocky and this one struck me. It was taken in April of 2005 in Boston. That was the first year I ran the Boston Marathon and Rocky was there to share in the realization of my dream.

This is the day after the marathon. We were sitting in a restaurant on Boylston Street not far from the finish line. In true Rocky fashion, he had already made up his mind about what to order, while mom continued to peruse the menu. He was a meat and potatoes guy; no adventure for Rocky when it came to food.

Rocky in Boston 2005

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, April 26, 2007


A poem for Rocky

Mom and Rocky May 2002

On Tuesday evening my mother lost her husband Rocky to colon cancer. He was her high school sweet heart. They went their separate ways after graduation but were reunited at a 50th high school reunion. They were married and spent 6 wonderful years together.

The world has lost a good man. He was the kind of man that made this country great; hard working, honest, gentle, loyal, and good humored. His favorite author was Louis L'Amour.

I will write more about Rocky later, but for now i want to post a poem from Louis L'Amour and dedicate it to Rocky.
A Handful of Stars

Give me, O night, a blessing
  Of peace, and a handful of stars-
Give me, O dawn, a beginning,
  New life, and a healing of scars;
Give me, O day, a freshening
  Of spirit, and warmth in the sun-
Give me, O earth, of thy bounty,
  Strength for the task I've begun.

Leave me, O night, of your stillness
  A calm for my inward soul-
Leave me a breath of your darkness
  To cool me, and keep me whole;
Leave me the wind in the willows
  The roll of the surf and sea--
Leave me, Beloved, my memories
  Of dreams you have given to me.

-Louis L'Amour, Smoke From This Altar

Here's to Rocky - a good man

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, April 23, 2007


Manresa on the Mississippi

Early will I seek thee. Psalm 63:1

Every year about this time I attend a silent retreat at Manreas on the Mississippi. It is a Jesuit retreat house in Convent, LA. I have been there 9 of the last 10 years.

The landscape is beautiful as this photo suggests. I have several pages of Manresa photos on my picture page (click photo link on the banner above). This year I snapped some nice early morning shots. As the sun was coming up, fog shrouded the ancient grounds.

2007 Photos

Until the next time
John Strai


Thursday, April 19, 2007


The best day of my life

An open letter to my son on his 22nd birthday

Holding John the day he was born
Dear John,
I wanted to tell you about the best day of my life. You might think it would be difficult to choose one day out of 50 years that stands out as the best day. Believe me when I tell you, that it is easy.

I have had a lot of good days. Graduations come to mind, running the Boston Marathon, getting married; and other things I can't tell you about were all good days. The best day of all, hands down is the day you were born.

I was there when you were born. I remember the scene vividly. When the doctor told me I had a son, I stood speechless. I welled up with pride and I had a big lump in my throat. So many feelings were racing around in me and thoughts were flying through my mind.

After that day, I walked taller. I don't quite know what happens, but when a man has a family of his own, it changes him. It changes him for the better. I hope someday you will know what I am talking about through your own experience. I hope you get to be there when your son is born and I hope you feel that same sense of pride, wonder, and awe.

It has been fun watching you grow for the last 22 years. I am proud of you and I am glad God put us together.

So Happy Birthday son. You have been a joy. I just wanted you to know that your father loves you very much.



Tuesday, April 17, 2007


A fine tribute

This video was supposedly created by a 15 year old girl. Kids like her make me believe the future of this country will be OK.

We owe our brave men and women our respect, and our gratitude. Their duty is to place themselves between us and harms way and they do it with honor and the highest degree of professionalism.

Thank you folks from a grateful American.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, April 15, 2007


The Sneetches

Video by John

What can a children's story from the early 1960's teach us today?


In fact, our society is much in need to hear and implement the teachings of Dr. Seuss in this story.

Choose any topic in the area of race, religion, or politics and you will probably find people with raised voices, bulging eyes, and protruding veins on their necks. Folks do a lot more talking these days than they do listening.

There is little discussion and much screaming of talking points. Perhaps they should be called screaming points. Why all the vitriol?

Somewhere along the line Americans decided to stop allowing freedom of speech unless they agree with the speech. When I was growing up, I used to hear this phrase:
I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.
I heard more than one WWII Vet say that and I figure those words were not idle chatter.

Today, things are off tilt. We have adopted the Jerry Springer method of debate. That is when at least two ignorant people talk about something neither one knows anything about. The talk quickly escalates to yelling, finger pointing, name calling, and then finally, fisticuffs or other forms of violence.

We are a society of wimps who cannot handle a contrary opinion or a characterization of which we do not agree. Instead of writing the speech off as something we do not agree with, we now become offended. Like babies we cry for apologies and demand money.

When I was a kid and someone called you a name on the playground the philosophy was, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

Those who ran and told the teacher were scorned as “tattle tales.”

“Words will never harm me,” is a state of mind. The only words that can harm a person are the words they take on and believe.

These days, words seem to harm a lot of people. Are they really harmed or are they simply jumping at a perceived opportunity to gain politically or financially?

On the other hand, people find it completely appropriate to lie and misrepresent. Rules of logic are ignored and discussion goes nowhere.

Citizens and good neighbors have a responsibility to speak truthfully and with respect. Tolerance grows out of an honest mind.

The press is not a source of news, but a catalyst to inflame any situation. They look for conflict like a starving man searches for food. If they cannot find conflict, they create it where it did not exist.

At times, my voice is raised and perhaps I don’t listen like I should. I will hurl insults with the best of them. I get angry and exhibit the very behaviors I detest in others. This post is an attempt to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness.

At some point we need to stop talking about the problem and work on a solution.

Sylvester McMonkey McBean said, "You can't teach a Sneetch," but the Sneetches proved him wrong. Granted they had to lose all of their money before they learned, but they learned just the same.

I know I am preaching to the choir here, but it is important to stand up and say what is right and what is true. Arguing, misrepresentation, violence, and repression of thought lead to destruction. Folks need to lighten up. We need to separate issues from people.

I can like someone with whom I do not agree on a topic, it just takes a little more effort.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, April 09, 2007


They all axed for you

Here is another presentation of some of the zoo photos. I chose a very familiar song for the background to those of us who live on the bayou. The Meters sing, "They all asked for you." This song gets the most play around Mardi Gras, but it is quite appropriate with these photos as you will see.


Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, April 07, 2007


A day at the Zoo

John and LJ at the zoo in 1990 and in 2007

Sometimes you are aware in the moment; that the time you are having is going to be one of those days you remember and cherish as long as you live. Friday, April 6, 2007 (Good Friday) was one of those days.

Barb, John, and I went to the zoo. These days, we don't do things as a family that much, but Friday we were all together. We all love the zoo and have gone many times. New Orleans has a great zoo. I haven't been since the hurricane.

Barb and LJ at the zoo looking at primates

It is a special treat going to the zoo and a time to reminice. It doesn't seem like that long ago when John was a little tike running around and wide eyed at the wonders of nature. Fortunately all of us are still wide eyed with those same wonders. Some things are best not outgrown.

So come along and see what we saw. Have a look at the photos. There are 3 alblums, so visit each one.

Audubon Zoo Album 1
Audubon Zoo Album 2
Audubon Zoo Album 3


Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, April 04, 2007



I woke up this morning with a fuller beard than usual. I had a strange taste in my mouth. My t-shirt was dirty and had blood stains on it. I couldn't make out the taste in my mouth, but it was foreign to me. I felt strange; almost hung over. When I went out to get the paper, I noticed my front door was off of its hinges. Bear looked at me strangely; almost in fear.

I still didn't think much about all of these strange goings on. A further survey of the yard yielded what looked to be the haunches of a large animal. OK, now things were becoming officially strange. I poured a cup of coffee and flipped on the radio. The announcer was talking about something that had terrorized our local animal reserve last night. A gazelle was killed and mutilated, but the authorities are at a loss to explain just what killed it and how.

When I lifted the cup of coffee to my face, I noticed dark thick hair on my knuckles. Then I remembered the bite. Of course, a full moon too, that explains everything.

I need to back up a bit.

Last week, I was sitting in my office unwrapping a 6" tuna on wheat from Subway, when I heard a louder than normal utterance of my name. "JOHN!" I heard it again, then a third time. I half ignored it, because we have a patient named John. Many times in the past few days, I have responded to my name only to learn the nurse was talking to the patient and not me.

Something about the volume and pitch of the nurse though pried me away from my sandwich to go out and investigate. By the time I took a few steps toward the nurses station, I realized that a patient was behind the desk attacking the nurse.

Fortunately, the attacker was a 65-year-old lady, but she was a tough 65. I ran to the scene and grabbed (I'll call her Florence) from behind and pulled her away from the nurse (I'll call her Sue). Florence and I danced around for a minute or so. I didn't want to hurt her and I didn't want to let her go so she could resume attacking Sue. Other staff was off of the unit with the rest of the patients who were in the cafeteria eating lunch, so I had to keep Florence busy until help arrived.

Florence kept fighting. I was just controlling her and keeping her from hurting anyone. She was after Sue's keys. Her plan was to get the keys and let herself out. In the process of my dance with Florence, she bent over and bit me on the forearm. I saw it coming, but I couldn't get out of the way. Sue saw it too and helped get her teeth free of my arm, but not before the skin was broken. I didn't know it at the time though it was only after we got Florence in the seclusion room and gave her a shot to calm her down that I noticed the blood.

On the way out of the seclusion room I noticed a drop of blood on my arm. I washed up good and noticed two places where Florence's choppers broke my skin. The worst part of the whole thing was I had to go to the Redi Med to be seen by an MD. I felt like a wuss because I routinely hurt myself 10 times worse than this on any given weekend and I just shake it off.

But protocol is protocol. So, long story short, I go to the doc and they give me a tetanus shot and draw my blood to make sure I don't have Hep C or HIV. The doc said the person biting is more at risk than the bitee. I joked about that very thing earlier. Folks were concerned about me, but I deflected the concern by saying, “You better keep checking her vision; she may go blind after biting me.”

I thought that was the end of the story, but last night was a full moon and apparently, I turned into a werewolf, tore the front door off of its hinges, ran to the Global Wildlife Animal Reserve and took down a gazelle.

I guess from now on, I am going to have to plan my life around the moon phases. Oh well, that's life.

I guess I better Google "werewolves" and see if there is anything I can do short of a silver bullet.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, April 02, 2007


Is it worth it?

I was a Cub Scout and a Boy Scout. My brother was too. My sister was a Blue Bird and a Campfire Girl. My dad was a scout master and my mother was a den mother for Cub Scouts and a leader for Blue Birds and Campfire Girls.

As a kid, I breezed through my scouting adventures oblivious to the hard work and sacrifice my father made. I am sure my brother and sister would say the same thing. Our parents were involved and it cost them time and effort.

With my family at the Grand Canyon
At the Grand Canyon wearing a Boy Scout T-shirt

If you have read Sally's writings about her Girl Scout leader adventures, you get a pretty good idea of what is involved. There are lots of meetings and trainings to attend, there are difficult people to work with, and there are issues that come up with your own child to workout. One does not always know "the answer" and there are loads of challenges, costs, and insecurities to handle.

From time to time, such leaders must ask themselves, "Is it worth it?"

Is it worth giving up weekday evenings and various weekends to be exposed to people you would rather avoid than do volunteer work with?

Is it worth being the "heavy" because it is the right thing to do and having all of the kids hate you?

Is it worth the certain occasional issues that come up trying to balance being a parent to your child and treating them like an equal in the group? You will be accused of playing favorites by some kids and their parents, and you will field protests from your own child that you aren't being fair to them.

I suppose each leader has to answer these questions. These are the things that don't appear in the leadership recruitment brochures.

When adults volunteer to help their children in a group, whether it is scouts or sports, they have a vision in their mind. They have an idealized, Norman Rockwell scene playing in their mind's eye. Then the reality of the setting slaps them awake, but by then it is too late to retreat.

I love the scene in the movie Parenthood. Steve Martin was a baseball coach and he encouraged / made his son of about 8 or 9 play second base. Suddenly, the batter popped up a pitch and it was headed for his son. As the ball flew through the air awaiting the catch, the viewer was given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. It was in the future and his son was receiving a college degree. The son was making a speech and he said, “I want to thank my Dad, for making me play second base.”

Back to reality, the ball came down in his son’s glove, but he couldn’t hold it. They lost the game and his son was the goat. Again, we were given a glimpse inside Steve Martin’s head. This time, it was an emergency scene. One heard gunshots and people were taking cover. “He’s in the tower,” someone said. Then the camera panned over and you heard someone “obviously the son” shouting from the tower, “You made me play second base.”

We imagine one thing but get another.

I can relate myself. I coached baseball and basketball. There were times I really did not want to go to the field or the gym on a Friday night or a Saturday morning or afternoon. It seemed such a sacrifice. My grass needed to be cut. My shed needed to be cleaned out. I had to pay my bills.

I always told myself, "Someday, you will want to see John play basketball and you won't be able to. This is temporary." I was right. John is 22 now. I don't have to go to anymore games. But you know what? My grass still needs to be cut, my shed still needs to be cleaned, and I still have bills to pay.

I know my parents both grew from their experience as leaders. To this day, they both spout words of wisdom taken straight from the leadership seminars or scout manuals. My mother would tell all of us at times things like, "Always finish what you begin." I think that is some sort of Blue Bird motto.

Scouting drilled good values into my head. We recited the scout pledge and the scout laws at each meeting. We took off our hats, placed our hand over our heart and said the pledge of allegiance at every meeting. We learned respect and patriotism.

It meant a lot to have my parents involved as leaders. I was proud of them and they provided another level of security that I enjoyed.

Now that I have grown up and had my shot at enjoying the sacrifice others made for me and making the sacrifice myself, I have no regrets. I think it was because my parents led by example that I felt a certain obligation to step up when it was my turn.

The value of volunteering is immeasurable. It pays dividends from now until the end of your days. I profited as a child experiencing scouts and enjoying the sacrifice my parents made. As an adult, my leadership ability was enhanced by my earlier experiences and I persevered because I had a good example from which to learn.

So is it all worth it? It was for me.

Until the next time
John Strain