Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

Category: Family Page 1 of 3

It Still Burns

This candle and it’s holder was purchased by newlyweds in July of 1978.

Finding it in a small shop tucked away off the main street in Gatlinburg, Tennessee they paid $4.25 to light it in their honeymoon suite.

Over the past 40 years, it has traveled through several states roughly tucked in a dresser drawer. It has stood as a sentinel, at times taken for granted and at other times greatly enjoyed. It has met struggle and been placed under stress it was never meant to endure.

But here it is. Forty years later. And it still burns.

By the kindness of God, it still burns.

Cribbage Love

My wife and I’ve been married 40 years and there are still mysteries to be solved. Like this: a few months ago she went to the store to buy Monopoly so that we could play it with our grandson over Easter. She came home with Monopoly and a cribbage board.


“Why cribbage?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It looked fun,” she said.

“What a great idea!” I should have said.

Barb read my puzzlement and began to take it personally. But the grandkids were coming and after the grandkids my sabbatical (highlighted by a Mediterranean cruise) was starting, and so we turned our attention elsewhere.

Until the first night of the cruise.

We were somewhere off the coast of Italy. Dinner was over. We returned to our room wondering what this routine away from the church, from family, from home would look like. We had, of course, brought the cribbage set with us still unopened. I figured I had earned some good husband points just tossing it in the suitcase. But I had also lugged along with me my skeptical resistance, thereby negating all such positives. Nevertheless I managed to say, “So, do you want to learn to play cribbage?”

“Sure,” was her not surprising answer.

Cribbage, as some of you may know, is a card game whose points are scored by placing pegs in a board with 121 holes for each player. So we opened our board, shuffled the cards, and laid out the instructions. It was quite a bonding moment for Barb and I to realize that given that these were written by a non-native English speaker and printed in 6-point type, we were in no way going to learn to play cribbage.

Finally, something about cribbage on which we agreed. We put it away and read books.

The next morning over breakfast while the ship was making its way into the Adriatic Sea we noticed among the day’s listed activities a scheduled gathering for those wanting to play cribbage. It was kind of an ‘of all the gin joints’ moment. We decided to slip in and watch people play. Maybe we could figure this out. My skepticism was giving way to the challenge.

In a small room on deck one, far from the maddening crowd, we found a small group gathered at two tables playing this so-far mysterious game. We walked up to one table where two older men were playing and asked if we could watch.

Turns out we were meant to learn this game. The men we asked, a father and a son both named George, had been teaching people to play cribbage for decades. Originally from Chicago where the older George had been the dean of a university they now live in Portland, Oregon. That is the thing about cribbage. It allows for conversation, even among strangers. As we watched, they explained what was happening and why. Then they started a game and let us look over their shoulders and tell them what to do. Finally they started a game and handed the cards to us to finish it. And they left us to play. And we did. Every night.

We played in some places public, as, we found, did others. Between Croatia and Montenegro I spotted a woman and a man playing cribbage near the pizza restaurant where we were eating. I spoke to them about their game, the woman protested that the man, her husband, “is kicking my ass!” We laughed, and in that moment became friends. We ran into them a couple of times after that and asked them for rules clarification which they were delighted to give. We were finding that cribbage aficionados love to evangelize their favorite game.

A couple of days later, we sat down in a tender ready to ride into Santorini. This woman and her husband boarded the same tender and mentioned that if we liked, we could play cribbage with them some day. We exchanged room numbers and the next day, somewhere between Santorini and Naples we met up. For over two hours we talked and played. She was Canadian and he Serbian. They had met and married years before through a dating service and never looked back. One thing they loved to do together was play cribbage. It was delightful.

We are no longer anywhere exotic. Our house sits in an Orlando suburb and sails nowhere, but we’ve continued to play most nights. Cribbage has just the right amount of challenge to make us think, but not so much that we have to focus weary minds on it. And to my wife’s delight, she can beat me.

George, our first teacher, told us that one did not need a cribbage board but that paper, pen, and a deck of cards would be sufficient for a game. When Barb was hospitalized recently, we found that to be true. Pen, paper, a deck of cards, and a hospital bed became a cribbage venue.

When a Twitter friend (there are such things) tweeted, “Hubby and I are looking for ways to laugh and connect at the end of a long day that don’t involve digital entertainment or both reading on our own” I had the answer for her.

Like I said: cribbage aficionados love to evangelize their favorite game.

The Glob, Part II

For those who are wondering how in the world one would get a glob from making yogurt….

The process of making yogurt produces a product that is comprised of both curds and whey after the milk (with a starter of some form) has incubated for several hours at 100 degrees F. The longer the incubation time, the more sour the yogurt becomes. Greek yogurts tend to be on the more sour side of the spectrum. Our yogurt incubates for 10 hours, a little longer that what would be needed for whole milk as we are using 1% milk. Regular yogurt is rather soft (depending upon the amount of fat in the milk, the more fat content the thicker the yogurt). Often, yogurt purchased from the store has had a thickener of  some sort added to bring it to the consistency that we normally associate with yogurt.

The last couple of years has seen an explosion of Greek style yogurts hitting the market place. They’ve always been around, but recently they have become one of the most favored forms of yogurt. So what’s the difference between regular and Greek style yogurt? There are several differences, but the most significant factor in relationship to the glob is that Greek yogurts tend to be thicker (without additional thickeners) which creates a higher protein content due to the milk proteins being more concentrated. This is accomplished by removing some of the whey from the curds.

The whey is strained from the curds using a fine meshed material letting the force of gravity do the work. After sitting for 2-3 hours the yogurt has become the consistency of what is known as Greek yogurt. But a glob, it is not. So how does it become a glob? Well, when one gets a batch started incubating at noon it is not fully ready for straining until 10pm. Waiting until midnight or 1am for it to become the correct consistency is not a welcome thought. Instead, into the refrigerator it goes to continue straining until the next morning. And, what do you have the next morning? A round glob of Greek yogurt that looks like and is the consistency of a cheese ball. The whey by that point is mostly in the collecting dish located below the strainer. To get the yogurt back to the desired thickness, just mix whey back into the glob.

Thus, the story behind the story, of the glob.

My Wife’s Blog

As my wife and I were talking this morning, she opened the refrigerator to grab something, and with her head in the fridge she said, “Have you looked at my blog?”

I’ve been married to this woman for almost 36 years. I think I know her pretty well. And what I know is that she is not the kind of person who likes to write (though she writes very well) and certainly not the kind of person who would write for all the world to see. I at least like to think that if she indeed DID start a blog, she would have alerted me to the fact before now.

But all that aside, there she was, with her head in the fridge, asking me, “Have you looked at my blog?”

“What?” I replied.

She turns around with a delighted grin holding a bowl. Barb is a woman who is a scientist at heart. She loves experimenting, and that love of experiment, and love of yogurt, has lead her to begin making her own yogurt. With the pride of a creator of a great work of art, she turned from the fridge with a bowl in hand, pops the lid, and repeated herself: “Have you looked at my glob?”

I must admit, it was a fine looking glob.


Last week my wife left my 12 year old son, my 21 year old daughter, and me at home to fend for ourselves while she went to be with my oldest daughter who had just given birth to our newest grandchild. What follows are actual quotes from actual conversations held thereafter.

This first was a phone conversation with my 21 year old daughter on Friday, four days into her absence:

Daughter: You’re mowing the lawn?

Dad: Yes.

Daughter: You know how to do that?

Then, five days out, as my son and I were packing the car to join my wife, this:

Son: We actually made it all week without Mom.

Dad: Yup.

Son: Miracles still happen.

Draw whatever conclusions you like.

A Good ‘Find’

My wife spent $300 the other day.

Spending such sums is not something we do easily. And when we do, we will often spend many days second guessing our decision.

But there she went and spent $300. Actually, that’s my guess. I did not actually ask how much she spent. It may have been more. But that’s the thing. We normally discuss the details of such purchases. But not this time.

I was telling a friend this when I began to laugh. I realized what a wonderfully unique woman I married.

You see, she does not spend $300 on clothes – she’d feel so guilty doing that. Spending $300 on jewelry would only make her feel ostentatious. She does not spend $300 on decorations or accessories or, ordinarily, kitchen appliances.

No, my wife went out and spent $300 on a leaf blower. (I’d show you a picture of her wearing it, but our couch is not THAT comfortable.)

One of her greatest joys is mowing and caring for our lawn. So, she was as pleased with this as she was years ago when I gave her a mower for Mother’s Day. (Guys, KNOW your wives well before trying THAT stunt.)

Her virtues go way beyond this, I know. But this is a part of who she is, and it makes me smile. King Lemuel asks, “An excellent wife, who can find?” (Proverbs 31:10) I can’t answer how to find one, but I can say that I have graciously been given one. And I’m grateful.

Happy birthday, Mrs. Greenwald.

They Love Us?!

My brother and his wife from Ohio just called. They are coming to visit.


It’s because they love us, right? Sure. But one can’t discount this:

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There are huge milestones in life, of which we are all aware. Perhaps I have missed a few, but these come to mind:

At age 35, one may become president of the United States, not before.
At 25, one may rent a car.
At 21, of course, one may buy an alcoholic beverage.
At 18, all kinds of major (!) transitions occur: voting and enlisting come to mind.
And at 16 one may drive without accompaniment.

But it wasn’t until last night when I was getting some medicine for my sick newly minted 12 year-old that I realized all the changes that happen at 12.

At 12, one gets adult dosages, pays adult movie ticket prices, loses access to the child’s menu, and graduates to the front seat.

Huge day for a special boy in our family!

Family Surprise

I have three siblings, two brothers and a sister. The oldest brother lives in Ohio, as does my sister. The second oldest lives fifteen minutes from me now, which has given us a chance to reconnect. I am the ‘baby’ by a substantial margin (my brothers are 14 and 15 years older than I).

On Friday morning of last week, my Ohio brother considered the snow that was about to fall, and decided that right then would be a good time for him and his wife to take a Florida trip. He would, they decided, visit their Orlando brothers. They also decided that one of the brothers would be informed, and the other kept in the dark. In addition to getting up early and working with wood, surprises are a deep part of the Greenwald male DNA.

My brother’s intention was to sneak into the worship service of Covenant Presbyterian Church without the preacher, me, knowing about it. He was determined to savor the moment in the middle of my sermon when I suddenly saw him sitting there. And he almost pulled it off.

A minute before the start of worship Sunday, my daughter came to my wife and asked, “Isn’t that Uncle Jerry and Aunt Mary over there?” My wife then came to me and said, “Your brother’s here.”
So the surprise was blown, but the joy only began. That evening I had the rare, very rare, pleasure of sitting with my brothers and wives eating pizza, talking about kids, and being family. Family that has had its share of disruptions and brokenness over the years. But family nonetheless.

I consider myself richly blessed.

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How Pleasant

Though our whole family could NOT be together for Thanksgiving, I know that they would have LIKED to have been. And so one of the things I’m thankful for is that I have children who like being with one another. My wife and I have six children, three children-in-law, and three grandsons. And they all love to be together.

And that is one of the greatest happinesses in my life.

Yes, they irritate each other. They know and tolerate each other’s foibles. They sometimes have to put up with one another. But all in all they like each other and have a great time when they are together.

That is a good thing, and it brings happiness to my heart.

And that makes me wonder: when God’s people dwell in unity, whose heart is made happy?

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)

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