Thursday, April 30, 2009

Questions for Thursday

1. How did a year go by so quickly? Addison is almost 1.

2. What is the outer coating of a marshmallow made out of? That powdery smooth stuff. Its genius.

3. Can there be an 8th Harry Potter book, please?

4. Why, oh why, oh why won't Addie take a nap?

5. What am I doing inside on a day like this?

6. If love is so obviously the answer, why do I gift it, like a blessing, and withdraw it, like a curse?

7. What about my theology winces when Christians fail?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dear Herman

Well, its official. Melissa and I have embarked upon a new adventure. We had our first band debut at Ben Welstead's birthday party and we have two more shows this month! This Friday, May 1st, we are playing at a fundraiser for Grace Chapel's summer missions trip to Walthill, Nebraska. And then on Thursday, May 14, we are playing from 7pm-8pm at the Crescent Moon coffee shop in Lincoln. Consider yourself invited.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dear Herman at their finest

Our evenings entertainment...until Crystal finds out her husband posted this and removes it :) Miss Melissa on the nose flute, Crystal on the penny whistle...sort of for both.


Chapter 6

I arrived in Chicago feeling that all the adventure had oozed out of me. Clean left me through the soles of my aching feet. But I had Nancy's forwarding address and the location of a dance studio (that I prayed was on the first floor) in downtown Chicago. I called a taxi.

"This is it, old man," grunted the taxi driver. I repeated the phrase to myself as I handed him the bills and eased out of the cab. Her home was a modest brick structure on the edge of pond, surrounded by a black iron gate. I found the buzzer and rang it. I found my sanity and nearly walked away. A young woman's voice interrupted my flight; it came from a small intercom by the buzzer.
"Mrs. Ashton is out for the day, Sir. She's gone looking for an old friend who used to work at the Tribune. No, I'm afraid she didn't say when she would be back."

I was beginning to get used to this feeling. The one where you can't keep your rib cage from plummeting to your knee caps. I worked for the Tribune. Did she know that? I stayed in the city, hoping to find her the next day. And with a growing incredulity I realized that she was looking for me. I was always one step behind her. Yes, an elegant old woman (I winced whenever I heard that) had been at my old office looking for me. Yes, she had visited my old apartment building. They had sent her to my Sun-Times office. The dawning of this knowledge made me restless in my own skin. What would I do when we . . . gulp. . . found each other?

I found the dance studio. I knew the time of our meeting was inevitable. I needed to know that when I saw Nancy again, I would be able to sweep her off her feet. I asked to be taught to waltz. I asked for their slowest song. I could almost feel Nancy getting nearer with every hour. I knew what I needed to do. I stepped. I turned. I breathed. I lifted my head. I bought a ticket home.

I only had to wait 4 days before she came. I knew she would find my home address. I swallowed 60 years of self-doubt and loneliness in the 9 seconds it took me to get to my door. I pulled it open. She held a little piece of paper with a scribbled address in a tiny hand. I saw mirth glinting behind a pair of glasses. She wore red lipstick. I bowed and took he hand. She laughed,

"You remember me, Ezekial Bender?"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Chapter 5

"Its just, Mr. Bender, I will need to warn you about her, she left the Order last month. She said she wanted to marry again. "

Perhaps it was the look on my face, um, the color of my face, that gave away the nature of my "friendship" with Sister Nancy Ashton. In any case, Sister Carroll had felt compelled to share this information with me, and I was therefore compelled to respond.

"Why, I don't see how I should need to be warned about Sister Ashton . . . I'm sure if she wants to get m-married again, that is her private affair. Can't see why I should be bothered a bit. I shouldn't care a wit about the r-romantic interests of a very old friend . . . " and my voice trailed off to spite me.
"Of course, Mr. Bender," came the hasty reply. "I wouldn't dream of implying. . . "
When I looked up, Sister Carrol was grinning.
"We were given a forwarding address. Would that be of interest to your highly platonic quest?"
"I reckon so." I responded, feeling in my shirt pocket for my pencil and the scrap of paper.
"Where in Hollywood did she say she was going"
"Oh, no, Mr. Bender. Not Hollywood. She left an address in Chicago."

I boarded my return flight nervous and feeling (except for the creaking remnants of my "coot-ness") like I was 18 again. Clammy. Foolish. Unstoppable. Could she be looking for me? Who else would she want to marry in Chicago? But MARRY? Would she be still wearing a habit? I knew I was being irrational. In my mind I kept picturing Nancy as I had last seen her. She was laughing. Her lips were red. She was draped in black. She was blowing me a kiss. What was I thinking?!? I couldn't talk to Nancy! I hadn't cared about a woman in 40 years. I was an old man. And my ears! Oh, my shameful sorry saggy ears. What could she possibly want with me? I had to do something. Fast. I flipped through the magazines in the seat pouch, at men 50 years younger than I. I got the attention of the flight attendant.
"Miss, could you help me?

a) Do any of these magazines sell zoot suits?."

b) Do you know any places in Chicago that could teach an old man to dance?"

c) What is the quickest way from the airport to the train station?"

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Chapter 4

Carmelite Monastery of the Incarnation, Hampton Heritage, Grace Park Rd, Dublin. I read for the 50th time the scribbled address on the paper in my hand. The Carmelite Sisters had been gracious to give me directions from the airport, gracious enough to enthuse over my being their oldest foreign visitor yet. I was deeply touched. I had been promised a warm reception and any help they could give me in finding my friend. As I rang the doorbell at the ivy covered gate I was gripped with a strong inclination to hoist my suspenders and run. Before I could fully comprehend the impossibility of that action, the gate was eased open by a small round nun with sensible glasses. I asked to see Sister Carroll and was escorted through a well-kept garden to a stone building that presumably housed the visitor's center.

"So pleased to meet you, Mr. Bender." Sister Carroll extended her hand to me as soon as I entered her office. "You will excuse my appearance, we have had such a racket today with Sister Tabitha. I'm afraid she insists that every one of our patients be promenaded around the grounds before Divine Office and I've only just finished escorting Sr Eloise. How may I assist you, Sir?"
I was pleased with her warmth, with the simplicity of her appraisal of me, with the strength of her handshake.
"Sister Carroll, I believe I spoke with you on the telephone about a Sister Ashton? Would you be able to help me find her?" The words came out more quickly than I wanted them to, I feared I sounded too eager. "She is an old friend of mine." I added.
"Sister Ashton? Yes, I remember the conversation. I'm afraid we don't have anyone here by that name. Of course, you couldn't be looking for THE Nancy Ashton could you?"
I gulped. My head began to sweat. "ur, actually . . . I am." I studied my shoes earnestly.
There was a pause, during which I assume she was deliberating.
"Well, Mr. Bender, I'm afraid the only person I can think of is Sister Rebekah. She arrived here in a great deal of distress, calling herself Ashton. Its just, Mr. Bender, I will need to warn you about her,

a) She has claimed to be THE Nancy Ashton for years. She doesn't cause any trouble, she's just, well, loony that's all.

b) Sister Rebekah is very very ill.

c.) She left the Order last month. She said she wanted to marry again.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A, although the D options were stellar!

Chapter 3

I never saw her again. Not in person, anyway. Her name was written on every movie billboard in the city. She was apparently famous. I was embarrassed. A "secretary"? I was devastated that she had lied to me, embarrassed that I hadn't recognized her, angry at myself for thinking we had a chance. It is still the driving regret of my life that I didn't see her. I never married. Did I mention I had big ears? Oh, I don't know, maybe I always knew that no one else could take her place. I once mustered the courage to watch one of her movies. Sat through the first 15 minutes with my heart pounding. I knew she must have been making fun of me when the train scene started. There she was! On a train! With the same bright lipstick. I had to leave. That was the year I turned 35.

But I am now a coot. Freshly inspired at the tender age of 79 and I was going to find her. I started at the library in the warm afternoon. Looked up every article I could find on Nancy Ashton. And there she was, taking shape before me on the dusty newspaper clippings. Posing for an award, waving to reporters, gripping the arm of the man she would later marry. The trail ended in 1980. The last times I found her name in print were in that year. Two articles mentioned her name in a list of benefactors recognized at an art show in Sydney. One was an obituary, for her husband Roland, buried in Chicago. The last was a recipe for minced pie by a Sister Nancy Ashton, printed that year from a convent in Dublin. I had to start somewhere. I bought a ticket for

a) Sydney
b) Chicago
c) Dublin
d) Hogwarts

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Chapter 2

I decided to find Nancy Ashton. Nancy Ashton. Its strange to be writing her name now. Strange that after nearly 60 years of her name on the edge of my thoughts I would be finally putting it on paper. Nancy. She will always be 25 to me, like the summer we met on the train to Chicago. We had two days together. And two days was just enough to know that I had met the woman I could hold forever. Nancy knew how to laugh. I first caught her eye mid-laugh. She was blowing a kiss to her mother out the window of the cab car. She was dramatic and breathtaking; she laughed at her own nerve and saw me watching. She blushed. She blew me a kiss. I was gone.

Turned out we were both headed to Chicago to find jobs. I was fresh out of grad school in journalism, she had finished a typing course and wanted to be a secretary. We talked books and authors, dreams and silliness. I have always been a shy man, even in my youth, and while age has certainly contributed to the ungainly proportions of my face, I was big-eared even then. Nancy didn't seem to mind. I can remember so clearly her gentle questions, my surprise when I made her laugh, the deep amusement of her eyes. We promised to look each other up in Chicago. We exchanged addresses. I never saw her again.

a) Not in person, anyway. Her name was written on every movie billboard in the city. She was apparently famous. I was embarrassed.

b) When I called on her two days later, the care-taker didn't know anyone with that name. Nancy Ashton didn't live there. I looked all over the city and never found her.

c) There was a fire in the building where she lived just days after we got to Chicago. I asked after her for months. I never found her.

d.) you come up with something.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Time Has Come

Most Esteemed Readers,
It is time for the next installment of "Choose Your Own Adventure"!!! I hardly need remind you that your timely voting will significantly change the outcome of this humble story, yes, and even the world.

Chapter 1

It all began last spring when I overheard a collection of old bats on lawn chairs refer to me as a "coot." A coot. I mulled over that word for days. A coot! And me only 79. I deeply resented the reference both to my age and my general appearance. And it got me thinking. I had a moment not unlike the one 25 years ago when I bought that ridiculous boat. What if this is what my life will always look like? Except now, I can count with my toes the years of my future independence. I shudder even now, at the recollection. That was a terrifying 10 minutes. I had the urge to escort each and every one of those self-satisfied, spectacled "school girls" to the front porch of THEIR decrepitude and encourage fresh introspection. And a made a decision. I determined a course of action, an "I'll show them" plan that dusted off decade old ambition. I decided to

a.) buy Wall Street
b.) find Nancy Ashton
c.) run Spain