Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lambert Dodges Bullet, Giraud Bites Dust

I wasn't planning to do an Idol wrap-up today, having just posted about Dancing with the Stars and being fully aware that too much reality show posting does a dull blog make, but I just have to go there.

I had a hunch Adam might be in trouble last night. His "rat pack" performance wasn't quite up to par, and I kept flashing back to what I've since dubbed the Daughtry Debacle. In fact, my sister and I were talking about it Tuesday night and got ourselves worked up to the extent that we actually voted (not once but numerous times) for the incredible Mr. Lambert.

Still, when he ended up in the bottom two with Matt, I couldn't help feeling surprised. True, it hadn't been his best effort, but didn't past excellence count for anything? 

I was sorry about Matt, too, even though I think he "deserved" to be there. Those little snippets of filler video from the so-called mansion, where Matt was often seen at the piano surrounded by his peers, had convinced me weeks ago that he is probably one of the most talented of them all. Unfortunately for him, he is also one of the most nervous. Clearly, stage fright got the best of him on a fairly regular basis. This pet theory of mine was validated in the way he sang last night...once the pressure was off...when he had nothing to lose. He was GREAT!

Truth is, anyone could go at this point. They are all talented, and they are all vulnerable. My personal "least favorite" is Danny, but he seems to have a fairly big following. Not to say that the guy is bulletproof. Hey, Adam has (had?) a big following too...

And he pretty much hung on by the skin of his teeth last night.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dancing with the Stars: So Long, Chuck!

If you had told me last (or any other) year that I would actually be glad to see Julianne and a partner of hers voted off DWTS, I wouldn't have believed you. She has been such a favorite of mine that, notwithstanding my complete distaste for Chuck the not-so-charming, I was shocked to find myself rooting for Tony and Melissa (she of the broken ribs) during the elimination last night. And yet I was rooting for them. Enthusiastically.

I do want to say that I have tried hard to like the country crooner this season. Why? Because I wanted to feel that Julianne had found herself one of the "good guys," a man this formerly unabashed fan could deem worthy of her. Instead, what I saw was a seemingly petulant, frequently pouting, and inexplicably peevish person whose insecurities were only thinly masked by his look-at-me-I-deserve-to-win attitude. Talk about entitlement. Sheesh.

I went into last night feeling slightly better about him after their performance the week before, where his pleasure at having been recognized for dancing well allowed us to see him at his best. But this week his true colors shone through once again. My first recoil came after his "cute" remark about his improved dancing being attributable to Julianne's wearing fewer clothes. Somehow that did not amuse me. Joke or not, it turned me off big-time. Yeccch.

Just as unattractive were his churlish words after being voted off, when he attributed his loss to being "taken down" by the team dance a week earlier (translation: anyone but me must be to blame). The announcer cut him off rather quickly, but it wasn't pretty. And when Mr. Wonderful glibly announced that he would be going back out on tour to do the glorious thing that he really music...all I could say to myself was: So long, Chuck! And don't let the big barn door hit your flimsy facade on the way out.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Secret to Sue's Success

Okay, I'm on a new diet. Actually, I've been on it for two weeks, but I haven't wanted to mention it until I had a chance to see if it was really working for me. I mean, why give free publicity to something that isn't effective, right? 

But the verdict is in. It IS effective...and so far, I've been able to hang with it, even though I confess it is one of the strangest diets I've ever tried. (And yes, it is definitely a diet, not a live-it!) I would never be keeping this up indefinitely. Why? Because it's too unnatural, but my idea is to segue back to Weight Watchers once I've dropped 20 or so big ones (big ones meaning pounds, not endorsements). In fact, this is the only endorsement I'll be dropping anywhere, and it's only a semi-endorsement, because as I said, this diet is strange. Very strange.'s the deal. You eat six cookies every day (translation: glorified biscuits) and one lean-and-green meal at night. The lean-and-green meal should include 10-12 grams of LEAN protein and 5 servings of vegetables. The cookies are made of mostly fiber, and they taste like it. In fact, they become a lump of flavored paste in your mouth...and you must drink a glass of water with each one. (At first I thought this was because the water itself was important, but I now realize that you have to drink a glass of water so this lump doesn't sit, congealed, in your stomach.) (Okay, I actually don't know this to be true, but I have my suspicions...)

Sounds pretty crazy, right? All you eat for breakfast, lunch, and in between is cookies, cookies, cookies (biscuits, biscuits, biscuits). They come in oatmeal raisin, blueberry, and chocolate chip. I know; that makes them sound like cookies, but don't be fooled. Hardtack biscuits can have flavors, too. 

The good news is that these lumps of nutrition (organic, by the way) actually fill me up. Yes, you heard me. They fill me up and keep me from getting hungry. It's a miracle! And another miracle is that I, the queen of malfunctioning menopausal metabolism, am losing weight. And it's pretty painless. So far, anyway.

It's called Smart for Life, and I bought it online from Costco. You can also buy it (online) from Smart for Life, but you'll pay more. Personally, I don't like paying more. 

Will you think these fibrous orbs of goodness are tasty? Not a chance. But I bet you don't hate them either. And after a while, you almost come to...(wait for it)...LIKE them. Amazing what the urge for survival can do to our taste buds. If a dry biscuit is all you offer your body, it can and will adapt to and even thrive on the less-than-optimal taste.

Anyway, there it tip for the day. One of my good friends told me about Smart for Life, and for some reason (desperation, no doubt), I decided to give it a try. And I am not a bit sorry. In fact, I just placed my second order.

Because I'm smart. Maybe for 2 1/2 more months. But definitely not for life.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Song of the Heart Is Best When Shared

Today was one of "those" sacrament meetings, the ones that fill up the empty spaces in your heart and make you whole again, even when you didn't realize a few pieces had gone missing. Often, it is sitting in sacrament or other church meetings that I come to understand where I am wounded and how to be healed.

Most of us are wounded, in one way or another, and music is one of the best medicines available. We all know that, but what I perhaps didn't know was how much other people's personal feelings and experiences with music could affect my own. Today, I found out. 

Our sacrament meeting (after covenants were renewed), consisted entirely of people coming up out of the congregation, announcing the page number of their favorite hymn, and inviting us to sing that hymn together as a ward family. Those members who rose to request a song were asked to include a brief explanation of that song's meaning to them and why they had chosen it.

It sounded like a good idea and a fun one, so I was on board immediately. What I didn't expect was that I would be in tears by the middle of the first hymn and would continue in that vein until the meeting ended, far too soon. I have never had 40 minutes pass by so quickly. It truly felt like 15 or 20, at most.

Music has always been intensely personal to me; I feel it in my bones, and I can't imagine life without it. I love the hymns of our church, which bring back powerful memories of my childhood branch, where I first caught the vision of belonging not only to a religious organization but to a community of people who would (with my parents) teach and support and raise me. I felt their love and internalized the strengthening truth that we are all "one body" and that "the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now [we] are the body of Christ, and members in particular" (1 Cor. 12:25-27). 

This scripture best explains how I felt as many of my ward members stood at the podium and shared their deepest feelings and experiences in expressing their love for a certain hymn. How uniquely intimate and spiritual this meeting was, and how generously they spoke of things that we, as ward family members, could be trusted to hear...and hold dear.

Words fail me, but I loved it from start to finish. My only complaint is that I was too choked up to sing some of the lyrics, which were (at times) a bit too tender to utter...especially in light of newfound insight and understanding, gained by means of a dear brother or sister's sacred experience.

Unlike the meeting itself, the closing song was not congregational. Rather, a lovely group of Primary girls stood in a semi-circle, united in singing "A Child's Prayer." "Heavenly Father, are you really there?" they queried lyrically. The answer I received was a resounding yes! And not only was He there, but He heard us.

"For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads" (D&C 25:12).

Today, my ward received such a blessing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

And Now We Have Conquered the Clouds!

Funny how changing the caption can alter your entire perspective and interpretation of a photograph. I think you'll agree that this pic is very cool.

So choose a caption. Or coin your own...

1. Babel Rises
"...Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven." Genesis 11:4

2. And now, we have conquered the clouds!

3. For lease only. Penthouse suites. View.

4. Building Better Beanstalks

5. photo by I. C. Clearly, Skyscape Architect; all rights reserved

6. The work of man may pierce the clouds, but only God's, the heavens

7. ...And we're climbing the high rise to heaven

8. Peak-ing through the clouds

10. How Far Is Heaven? (Click to hear Los Lonely Boys)

11. Rise above the world.

12. © 2009 SCC - Stratus, Cumulus & Cirrus, Unlimited

Friday, April 24, 2009

As Bleakness Bows to Bounty: On Hope

Oh tree, whose barren limb no comfort gives,
whose nakedness no calming color brings,
cover in blossoms every soul that lives––
and nest, in every heart, a bird that sings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Moms Are Marvelous

Look at my cute mom, otherwise known as the "birthday girl." Hope you're having a great one so far, Mom! 

My mother (Darlene) is 82 years young today. She will probably be annoyed with me for posting her age when she reads this, but the truth is that I am just plain proud of how lovely she looks. Of course, she has always been lovely; in fact, she was a model in her youth, yet beauty was not her only asset. She also won a scholarship to Stanford, where she had planned to study medicine until meeting my very persuasive dad and agreeing to marry him.

As a mother, she used her considerable intelligence and talent to teach her children. We learned, at her hand, about everything: from playing the violin to understanding human physiology, from writing a poem to balancing a check book, from singing in three-part harmony to giving a good talk at church. Basically, she taught us all she knew, and she knew a lot. 

In fact, Mom was a natural teacher, and she only had two failures in imparting her knowledge to me. The first? Sewing. And the second? Baking bread. I'm afraid my lack of not only aptitude but interest in these areas proved too much for even her skills. Which is not to say that she didn't try. She even bought me my own sewing machine! 

We all love our moms, but here are some of the reasons I love mine:

1. her interest in anything and everything that happens to me (then caring about the various things even more than I do)

2. her beautiful violin music, the soundtrack of my childhood (even more beautiful - her fortitude when arthritis stilled her fingers and quieted her bow)

3. her devotion, made manifest in the creation of beautiful clothes for yours truly (who was not always cheerful about standing still while she measured the hem with a yardstick, mouth replete with straight pins)

4. her culinary abilities...amazing food, cooked with love (oh the oatmeal bread, the parkerhouse rolls, the pumpkin pie, the flapjacks, swedish pancakes and flaky pie-crust cookies)

5. her reverence for pregnancy and motherhood (both her own and mine)

6. her love of words, shared with me in the form of reading and writing (and rhythm and rhyming)

7. her love of learning (insatiable curiosity about the world)

8. her taste in books, music, and decor (similar to mine)

9. her selfless generosity as a mother and grandparent (including time and resources)

10. her easy acceptance of all those who marry into our family (if you love her kids/grandkids, she loves you)

11. her not-so-modestly expressed pride in all of us (frequently undeserved, but always appreciated)

12. her position as my on-call prayer (that is, mom is second only to the temple on my "go-to" list.)

One last thing. When my children were young, Mom lived five minutes away. I wonder if I've thanked her enough for the constant support she lent me, every time I asked for it...without fail...and often at the drop of a hat. My youngest boys had really severe asthma, and I was often stuck in the house for weeks at a time. Without my mom, the only time I would have gotten out was to make the more-than-occasional visit to the emergency room for treatment. Never once did she fail to accommodate her schedule to mine, and when they were really sick, she was the only person besides me that the kids would even go to (and willingness was a big issue, because crying made their asthma even worse). I seriously don't know what I would have done without her. And she didn't make me feel beholden, or like she was doing me a favor. She just loved my kids, happy or sad, well or ill, charming or cranky. (Thanks, Mom.) My friends were always flat-out jealous!

The truth is, she has been a wonderful mother to me in more ways than I can even begin to list here. (Though I made another pretty good attempt in this previous post.) And she is one heck of a grandma, too! 

You're a great lady, Mom, and WE ALL LOVE YOU!


PS. See you in May!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blue Boy, Revisited





Little boy blue, come throw your egg.
Your mom's in the kitchen; just aim for her leg.
Where's the little boy with the mischievous grin?
Why, he's hatching a plan for his egg. Are you in?
Will you stop him? No, not I.
I'd rather see him let 'er fly!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dancing with the Stars: Modest Male Designers?!

Okay, just when I am getting cynical as all get-out, something happens to surprise and encourage me. Last week I couldn't have been more down on Dancing with the Stars, but last night my view (and I'm speaking literally here) of the show picked up a bit. At first, I thought it was just because the dancing had improved across the board, which it did, especially Julianne and Chuck's number. But it wasn't long until I realized that the biggest and best improvement was the bigger (and again, I'm speaking quite literally here) and better costuming. Most of the women actually had some clothes on! And even more interesting, it was the men who had designed their outfits!!

Now, THAT captured my imagination. How many years did I hear my dad tell me that men liked it best when women left a little to the imagination? Today's culture tells me otherwise (and I've been pretty much assuming that the male population at large was heavily in favor of immodest dress), but last night, the costuming on DWTS made a powerful argument on the side of my dad. For the most part,  the female dancers wore bona fide dresses rather than sparkly scraps of strategically placed material. Of course, Edyta got tangled up in hers and almost took a dive, but hey...What's a little collateral damage in the cause of modesty? (I was amused when the host deadpanned something to the effect that we now realize the reason Edyta always dresses so scantily: for her own protection.)

To tell the truth, I'd forgotten that the men were supposed to design the costumes this week until Tom Bergeron reminded the audience at one point. It was then that I took a mental bow in my dad's direction. Apparently, he knew whereof he spake. Perhaps not for the majority of men in the world, but at least for the majority of men on Dancing with the Stars, more is more. That's right. More is more. More clothing is more classy. More coverage is more compelling. More apparel is more appealing.

And the whole less is more thing refers only to such things as make-up. 

And food, more's the pity.

Monday, April 20, 2009

My Younger than Springtime Sis

Okay, I lied. The sister I'm celebrating here really isn't younger than springtime. She is, however, younger than I six years, to be exact. With that in mind, I think we can all agree that she is (at the very least) younger than summer. And today is her birthday

If my memory can be trusted (highly debatable at this menopausal point), the first poem I ever wrote was about Nikki. Surprisingly, I won an award for it. Most thrilling, of course, was its subsequent appearance in the local paper. My premiere publication credit! And all courtesy of cute little Nik! Even then, she inspired me.

I have a little sister.
She has a funny smile.
She'd like to go to school with me,
but she'll have to wait a while.

For she is only two years old,
and what would teacher do
if I brought her to school with me?
I wouldn't know, would you?

Not bad, eh? And it's pretty crazy that I still remember it. Well, maybe not that crazy. I'm beyond fond of the person I wrote it about. And that would definitely be an understatement.

Truth is, I would have delighted in taking my little sister to school with me...or anywhere else, for that matter. Why? Because I was proud of her. I still am. Back then, she happened to be the cutest baby ever, and all mine. (At least, that was my six-year-old-big-sister feeling when they brought her home from the hospital.) Today she is an outstanding mother, daughter, sister and aunt, who both chairs the English department at her school and is a uniquely gifted and quite frankly, beloved teacher there. (I know, because I took care of her when she was out for two surgeries and was lucky enough to read the innumerable touching letters from her students.) She is also a loyal and committed friend to the women, young and old, who have the good fortune to call her such. Nikki's influence extends to teaching a gospel doctrine class for the teenagers in our church, writing and directing road shows for the youth over 12 (also at church), and (somewhat to her dismay as it keeps upping the effort ante) winning her school's Shakespeare festival nearly every year. What's more, she manages to do all these things while her husband, who is a production designer in the movie industry, travels on location for months at a time. Being a brand new empty-nester doesn't make this any easier, but she always manages to weather the storms in her life. (She's had some fairly good experience at that.)

Of course, while there is much to admire about the things she does, what I love most about Nikki is the person she is.

1. a wise and warm counselor 
2. an insightful and perceptive listener
3. an intelligent and creative collaborator
4. a loyal and supportive friend
5. an objective arbitrator, able to see both sides
6. an intuitive and witty observer
7. a sensitive, caring ally
8. a talented and generous teacher
9. a loving and devoted mother
10. a brain-twinner of a sister

Relative to #10, we sound alike to the point where our children can't always tell our voices apart. They can't tell our advice apart either, and often tell us that something one or the other of us said is "exactly what their mother would say" in a similar circumstance. Of course, we are already aware of this phenomenon, because we frequently speak the same words in response to a situation or event...or later find out that we were thinking the exact same thing. Though we are different in many ways, something about the way our brains work is identical, which makes for a great deal of mutual understanding. And being understood is a very good thing.

(I need to add here that Nikki is an "understander" par excellence. She is that teacher who turns the previously unsuccessful or even labeled "undesirable" students into high achieving, happy ones...not so much because of her techniques, though these are top notch, but because of her ability to totally "get" them. Nikki is able to feel her students out and give them what they need. Better still, she gives them what they need in exactly the way they need it. Naturally, her family members have benefited from this spiritual gift as well.)

But back to what I like to call the "twinner" stuff. I'd say that Nik and I are beginning to look alike too, as we mature, but that would be an injustice to Nikki, who has always been pretty much of a knockout. I, on the other hand, have happily found my place somewhere in the "cute" category. Of course, at this point, such distinctions tend to blend and flow into the rounding currents of middle age. (In other words, the older and moldier we get, the more we look the same!) Aren't euphemisms more lovely, though? I think we'll go with blending and flowing into the rounder currents...

(We are, if nothing else, round.)


Nikki is a small person physically, but she plays a giant role in my life and the other lives she touches. One of her favorite scriptures is found in the Book of Mormon: "By small and simple things are great things come to pass." (Alma 37:6). How fitting, because great things have always come from my little sister. In fact, you can read one of them right here. She doesn't post often on her blog, but I think you will agree this is one of the most beautiful posts you have ever read. 

Just as Nikki is on of the most beautiful people I have ever known. 

And I am lucky, lucky, lucky to be her sister.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

On Being A Leader

"Leadership involves finding a parade and getting in front of it.-John Naisbitt

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mostly Happenchance

How would you like a hot tip? A sure thing?? A ticket to ride???

Mostly Happenchance is all three of these...a hot, sure, one-way ticket on an inside track featuring fun, fancy, friendship, and maybe even (somebody else's) fame. That's right, fame...and hopefully, fortune. Here's the deal:

My brilliant and astonishingly talented niece, Kristin (well, not so astonishing, in light of her combined gene pool), graduated in advertising a few years ago and signed on with an ad agency in New York. After distinguishing herself with awards and accolades usually reserved for long-time veterans of the business, she moved to Utah, home of her husband's family, where she now resides. Ever looking for new and creatively fulfilling challenges, she and her design twinner, Amy (who also graduated from BYU and hired on with the same ad agency), are launching a new venture, a line of stationery called "Junky Heirloom."

The sure-to-be-anything-but-junky and bound-to-be-everything-that's-hip line will be unveiled at the National Stationery Show in New York, from May 17-20th, and the new blog will provide a day-to-day update of their crazy countdown to the finish line of the finished line. So to speak.

I guarantee you'll be entertained along the way, and you will also be delighted with the cool, classy designs that are Kristin and Amy's stock in trade. But what I'm looking forward to most is the vicarious thrill involved in eavesdropping (by invitation!) as two talented young women take giant leaps toward fulfilling their artistic dreams. I just love a success story, and whether fame and fortune comes their way or not (my money's on them), success is defined in the doing. And oh boy, these two are doing it up big.

So here's a shout-out to Kristin (the niece), Amy (the friend), Happenstance (the blog), and Junky Heirloom (the stationery). 

Climb high, climb far
Your goal, the sky
Your aim, the star

Friday, April 17, 2009

Celebrating a Simply Spectacular Son


Today is the DOB of our second son, aka child #3, depicted here in his starring role as Uncle Ryan.(Hi,Ryan!)In our family, April 17th means dinner at the Fish Market, Ry's annual restaurant of choice for celebrating his nativity. I mention this fascinating fact because it highlights the birthday boy's complexities. Despite being the most adventurous eater we know (the more ethnic and/or unorthodox the better), his b-day bash meal is forever the same. Fish, fish, and more fish. Why? Tradition. This guy loves tradition like no other. And therein lies the somewhat contradictory essence of our son, Ryan. A conforming non-conformist.  An adventurous, restless soul (born under a wandering star) who also happens to be a loyal and traditional lover of all things home and family. In short, this dude is a catch

When Ryan was born, his dad took one look at the nose (smashed all over his face by a rough delivery) and said, "Who does that kid belong to?" I could have taken this question personally, especially after more hours than I care to mention of natural childbirth, but I am (or used to be) far too, magnanimous...for that. Instead, I laughed fondly and thought to myself with considerable concern: Wow, this kid has a serious nose on him! Happily, the nose repaired itself almost overnight and became a moot (though still slightly prominent) point. 

As for Ryan, he became a delightful child, full of life and good feeling. Actually, he was full of feeling, period. One minute he'd be laughing like crazy and the next he'd be crying the same way. Still, he was a sunny child for the most part, and the world was definitely his oyster. People just liked him, and to his dismay, teenage girls were constantly pinching his cheeks and pronouncing him adorable. (I believe that is still an issue.) Yep, the ladies love him.

He was a pretty easy kid because he was so obedient. A famous story in our family is the time I washed the kitchen floor, not realizing Ryan was in the bathroom off the service porch. When I saw him come out and almost step on my wet linoleum, I told him to stay there and not move until I told him it was okay. One of the other kids distracted me, and I completely forgot about Ryan. Some time later, my mom arrived and asked him what he was doing standing there. He said, "My mom told me not to move until she said it was okay." His grandma actually had to call me over to "release" him from that obligation! Crazy, huh? Especially considering he was only 3 at the time. Another example: We were walking across a parking lot, and he stopped dead in his tracks. I pulled at him, but he wouldn't budge. After struggling with him for a few moments, I looked down and asked what his problem was. With a grave look on his face, he pointed to the letters stenciled on the parking lot pavement and read aloud: "STOP." "Those rules are for cars," I explained.  heehee

I should add, in the interest of truth, that his obedience did not remain at this level...especially during his senior year in high school (details withheld to protect the innocent, but let's just say he wasn't above taking the unplanned "holiday" from school here and there). I will say, though, that he was never one I spent much time worrying about. Of course, I didn't know at the time that he had a reputation for speeding. And maybe that was merciful...for him...because he would have been paying for his own car insurance so fast it would have made his head spin!! But I digress. (Spurred by delayed maternal angst, no doubt.)

The thing is, Ryan likes to have fun. And that makes him fun to be with, which is why we all missed him when he went away to the U of Utah (he remains an avid fan of Ute sports) and then to the Philippines on his mission. Having him in a time zone that catapulted him to an entirely different day was not easy for this mama, and the assorted threats of terrorists, volcanoes, and tropical diseases didn't help matters. But he had a great experience, came home, graduated, went to work for a public accounting firm, and got his CPA. Now all he needs is a wife.  oops

Ryan's recent ankle surgery to fix old basketball injuries was covered in an earlier post. Physical therapy is underway, and the boot has been traded for a brace. Not being able to hike, swim, or mix it up on the court (especially with his dad and brothers) has been a tough row to hoe. But soon he will hoe that row no more! Coming soon: mountain hikes, lake swims, and pick-up games.

I'd love to give Ryan a gift that means as much to him as his Christmas gift last year did to me. Not likely, though. He got a wooden box, put a picture of us on the lid, then filled it with trinkets and tokens that would have been touching in and of themselves but were lent added meaning by a poem he wrote, explaining each item's significance. The poem ended, several verses later, with "So on each Christmas always remember/the magical box you received/and cherish the memory in your heart/a gift from the best you conceived."

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RYWhile I can't support your claim to being the "best" I conceived (even on your b-day), I have always conceived "the best" (4 times, to be exact), and that definitely includes you. Being among the top four people ever born? Priceless.

"Good stuff" about Ryan:

1. random humor and, at times, unabashed silliness
2. happy-go-lucky manner that contrasts with his many shades and colors (dude is deep)
3. inexplicable preference for wearing the red wrist band that was part of my circletime presentation 3 years ago (featuring corny imprint in Latin)
4. taste in music (exquisitely similar to mine)
5. big dose of natural charisma (as opposed to what?...the artificial kind?)
6. easy, tease-y way with people
7. highly opinionated nature (a plus only when he agrees with me)
8. appreciation for nature and kids (relative indifference to puppies) 
9. ability to bring fun into any situation, and
10. authenticity...what you see is what you get

And he looks good, too! Even at this advanced age!!

Many happy returns, Ry guy. See ya at the fish place...