Category Archives: Friends

Our long-lost visitor

We had a long-lost visitor at our house the past four days: As an early birthday gift to my wife, I flew her best friend to town for an extended weekend. We hadn’t seen Reidun since our wedding five-plus years ago. We had lost contact with each other and then reconnected through Facebook.

A lot has change since we last saw Reidun. She got to meet (and dance with and be harassed by) our crazy goldendoodle Molly; she met and charmed the heck out of our son Oliver; and she received lots of adoring looks from our youngest son, Owen.

Some things haven’t changed between the two ladies. You should have seen them … giggling like 13-year-olds, watching a movie that came out when they were 13, and visiting the hot-spots they went to when they were 13. But in all seriousness, they did do a lot of other stuff, such as taking the boys to the St. Louis Zoo and shopping/dining on Main Street in St. Charles.

All of us – husband, wife, kids and dog – miss Reidun already. Let’s hope another five years doesn’t pass before we see her again.


Taking the little rascals to the Rascals game

Last night, we went to the River City Rascals baseball game with our friends the Hattons. Jen, Mike and little Drew met us outside the ballpark in O’Fallon, Mo. (you may know Jen from her blog, Life with Drew). It was a blast, though everything was “tiny,” at least in comparison to a St. Louis Cardinals game. By that, I mean the car show outside the stadium featured just five cars, there were only a handful of seating sections, only two concession stands were open, etc.

However, it was a really intimate affair. We were close to the field. Our son loved seeing all the mascots, and he also loved running along the open concourse and using the slide at the playground area. It’s well worth checking out if you have young kids. Highly recommend.

We had fun catching up with Mike and Jen, who we hadn’t seen in ages. And the two boys, Oliver and Drew, seemed to enjoy touching each other and making loud grunt noises. Pretty cute stuff. Anyway, we took just a handful of pictures but they didn’t turn out great. Below are a few, featuring the boys, everybody but me in our seats and the Hattons. Enjoy.




Some friends in town from Paupau, Indonesia

This is my buddy and his family at their home:

No, they don’t live in the St. Louis ghetto. They live in the nicest house in a remote village in Papua, Indonesia. T (can’t use his name here due to the nature of what they’re doing), who I’ve known since we were college freshmen in 1994, is a Christian missionary. I believe his family has been overseas for most of the past six years. Anyway, he’s back in the United States for the next six months.

I organized a picnic this past Saturday in which a bunch of us Fontbonne and Deaconess grads, and our families, got together. T’s stories are nothing short of amazing. He told us about their decision to eat the family cat (and others in the community enjoying the head), women breastfeeding their children and their pigs, men trying to take T’s son, T’s wife’s recent medical care adventures, and a man who swears he was shot in the ribs by Satan’s arrow when he really just pulled a muscle carving out a canoe and needed some Tylenol. Really fascinating stuff.

T and I both participated in a brief missionary trip to the jungles of Brazil the week after we graduated, 11 years ago this month. I was never cut out for religious stuff in general, and I didn’t have the medical background that T possesses (he’s a trained nurse, among other academic accomplishments), so most of my time in Brazil was spent playing soccer with all the kids. Overall, it was fun. But I never would choose to make a life out of it. But T and his family have done just that. And I admire him for it.

To learn more about what they’re doing and to see some other pretty cool pictures, visit the family blog at


Yes, Mike, I can cook

With a lot of time off the past few weeks, I had the chance to hang out with my friend Mike a couple times. Like me, he has a baby at home. And like me, he finds it a rarity to get a home-cooked meal with much frequency.

However, unlike Mike, I’ve been taking the situation into my own hands. I think he finds it funny that I cook things other than easy stuff (Hamburger Helper anyone?). As proof, below are pictures of the Penne Saporite “Il Frantoio” I made a few days ago. It’s a fresh, homemade sauce with penne pasta. I added chicken to the recipe I was following, and topped our servings with some spices and mozzarella cheese. The first picture below shows it in progress, with the finished product at the bottom of the page.




Lots to celebrate – and your feedback requested

There has been a lot to celebrate the past few days. My birthday (33 years old – yeesh!) was Tuesday and, of course, New Years was yesterday. And today? Today marks the one-year anniversary of the start of this blog. There has been a lot to write about this past year, and I anticipate 2009 will be filled with additional memories to share.

With the start of this new year, let me know what you think about Blog Full of Letters? What stories and photos would you like to see/read? What would you like to see more or less of in the future?

Just say ‘no’ (to your lame, slick-sounding financial adviser)

We’re all friends here, right? So as friends, why do we always turn each other’s phone numbers over to our financial advisers?

The other day, I received a call from probably the seventh financial adviser in the past four years. All were referred to me by friends (some friends, right?). Usually they call several times and never leave a message. I don’t typically answer calls if I don’t recognize the number. However, after seeing the same number on my caller ID five or six times, I get PO’d and pick up. Sure enough, it’s often a slick-sounded financial adviser. The conversation almost always goes something like this:

“Hello. Is this Justin?”


“How are you doing? Pretty nice out today, isn’t it?”

“Ummm … who is this?”

“Oh yeah, hi. This is Annoying Guy. I got your name from your good friend Bunghole.”


“Bunghole told me that you might be interested in talking to me. I’m a financial adviser and I’d like to schedule a time when we can get together to talk …”

“You can stop there. I already have a financial adviser.”

“Oh. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to just look things over. Maybe we could just grab a cup of coffee. What do you say?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Well, may I put you into my database to call you back every six months or so just to check in?”

“No, and please do not call me again.”


So there you have it. As your friend, I am going to give it to you straight here: I have a financial adviser and I do not want to talk to yours. Do not give your adviser my name and phone number. I can already tell you that I won’t be interested, I will hate the guy no matter what because I hate all salesmen (generally speaking) and I will resent you for giving out my personal information.

If your financial guy pressures you to turn over some names and phone numbers, maybe you should be looking for a new person to oversee your finances. Who really wants to entrust their money to somebody who’s less interested in your well-being than he is about making his next sales call? And while you’re at it, tell him the “let’s grab coffee” ploy is extremely lame. At least offer to meet over a few beers.

Visit by Aunt Carrie, a baby girl for Jason and Jamie

First, I would like to congratulate one of my best friends, Jason, and his wife, Jamie. They had a beautiful baby girl on Saturday afternoon. She looks just like her daddy, who I’ve known since the summer prior to third grade (for the math whizzes out there, that’s more than 20 years ago).

At our household, Saturday brought a visit by Oliver’s Aunt Carrie and her boyfriend, Eli. They stopped by for a couple days after moving from Florida on their way to Springfield, Mo., where they are staying before starting their next roving medical gig in Seattle in a couple weeks.

Carrie hadn’t seen Oliver since the day after he was born, so much had changed. She seemed really surprised by how big he is (well, he HAS more than doubled in three months, so what’d she expect?), and she was a really caring aunt. When they left on Monday morning, they left a nice little gift for Oliver: An Elmo doll they had pooled their tickets for during an outing at a Dave & Busters. I’m sure Oliver will love it as much as I loved my Grover back in the late 1970s.

We had a great time, and I thought I’d just share a few of the pictures we took over the past couple days. Enjoy.

Carrie gave Oliver a bath (I’d give her an A for effort and a B for quality!):

Oliver was nice and clean, and happy, when finished:

He was all smiles this weekend, as seen here:

Carrie was a sweet Aunt, and gave us a nice break by holding him (often!):

Where has Justin been lately?

I haven’t written a blog post in several days. And I don’t even feel like doing this now. However, I’m caving to the pressure of loyal readers such as Jennifer Hatton’s mom (just kidding; I’m really happy to have you here!).

So where have I been? I’ve been super busy of late. I’ve had about four or five blog ideas in the past week, and I’ve had pictures as well. I just haven’t had time to write anything.

A few days ago, for example, we had Oliver’s great-grandpa Gil’s 90th birthday party. We had a blast, just talking and hanging out. We even played Wii together. Gil loves to play bowling, and he’s pretty good at it.

Then on Saturday we went on a massive, and long overdue, shopping trip. On Sunday, we took Oliver to Grant’s Farm for my work picnic. It was a little chilly and made for a long day, though we had fun. When I got home, I needed to grade papers for the courses I’m teaching in my spare (“spare”? How funny is that?) time. However, our thermostat wasn’t kicking on and it was getting cold in the house. As Sarah prepared for the thought of taking Oliver to spend the night at her mom’s house, I went downstairs and worked on the unit. Thankfully, I know how to read the HVAC Morse code-like blinking light. Turned out it was just a burnt fuse that needed to be replaced, so I took the thing apart, found the culprit and head to Home Depot. Of course, HD didn’t have the damn thing, so I had to head across town to AutoZone. Got the part, came home and the unit worked fine. I then graded papers until bed time.

Yesterday was a complete blur. To give you a better understanding of how my day went, I thought I’d break it down by time. Here you go:

6:30 a.m. – Wake up for work
7:20 a.m. – Leave for the office
8 a.m. – Arrive at the office (BTW, this long commute that I’ve been doing over the past three years is ABSOLUTELY KILLING ME – it’s taken years off my life and I wish we could afford to live in certain areas of St. Louis County that are, quite frankly, out of our price range at this point in life)
Noon – Eat lunch
12:30 p.m. – Back to work
5 p.m. – Leave work
5:45 p.m. – Arrive home (again, the long commute was a blast)
5:50 p.m. – Help calm Oliver, help with dinner, clean up the kitchen
6:45 p.m. – Eat dinner and clean up afterward
7:15 p.m. – Head upstairs to grade papers
10 p.m. – After finishing grading, head downstairs and am given Oliver and told by the wife, “I’m going to bed. I’ve had him all day and I’m tired.” I’m like, “I have also had a long day.” The wife shrugs it off.
11:30 p.m. – Awake from awkward and light sleep, startled and ready for bed. Let the dog out and head upstairs, where Oliver wakes up and starts feeding. Of course, the lights are on the entire time, and he’s grunting and snorting. This is causing our dog, Molly, to bark from her crate downstairs.
12:30 a.m. – Oliver finally goes to sleep. I’m wide awake due to the commotion that took place over the past hour. Plus, the darn lights. I don’t know how I could have physically gone back to sleep. Google the words “sleep,” “light” and “melatonin” and see what that cocktail of items does to your sleep cycle. Do it now. This page isn’t going anywhere. We can wait for you to come back.
1:30 a.m. – Oliver is awake again, snorting and ready to eat (again! just an hour later!!!)
2 a.m. – Fed up with laying there and thinking about my alarm going off in a few hours, I head to the guest room. I lay there for an hour, listening to Oliver cry and snort, and getting angry at our dog, who is now barking rhythmically every 1 minute or so
2:45 a.m. – Finally fall asleep for good.
6:20 a.m. – Wake up for work.
7 a.m. – Start this blog post
7:20 a.m. – Head out to my car to start the whole cycle over again.

What a day, and what a frickin’ week. Hopefully things will slow down soon, though I have 25 more papers to edit this week, plus there are about 80 more due this coming Saturday. Sorry to rant so much in this post, but it makes me feel better. Plus, I know that there are a lot of new moms who read this blog, so maybe (just maybe) a lucky husband out there might catch a break by someone who finds some sympathy for me.

First of many babies due tomorrow

My two best and longest friends are now, like me, married with pregnant wives. I’ve known Jason since the summer before third grade, and I met Mike within the same year. It’s amazing that we’re still as close as we are. I’m also amazed that we’re all 32 and on the brink of becoming first-time dads. How cool is that?

Mike’s wife is due tomorrow. The wait is getting tense. Out for beers last night, Mike had to keep his cell phone in the clear, just in case that magical call came in from his wife. At one point, his phone buzzed and lit up. Also lighting up was his face. However, it was a false alarm: just his dad calling to check in. The wait for them continues …

I wish Mike and his wife nothing but the best. They’re going to be great parents. I simply cannot wait until I get that call from Mike, telling me that they’ve delivered a health baby (and then I’ll finally find out the sex of this darn kid, too!). It’s going to be awesome.

Sarah and I are the next couple due for parenthood. Jason and his wife will join us a few months later. It all should add up to an awesome 2008 for all of us. I’ve known those guys for more than 20 years. Who knows what the next 20 will bring, but it’s exciting that we’re all in the same situation. The countdown begins for the year 2028.