Stretching Toward Heaven

This is my father-of-the-groom speech from Brendan and Becky’s wedding on December 28, 2019. I finally got to see this video (and actually hear what I said) for the first time yesterday, and this is one of my favorite things I’ve “written.”

A little context for what you are about to hear:

  • I had just taken our youngest daughter, who fell asleep during the wedding and was not feeling well, up to my parents’ room in the hotel. The dance had not yet started, and my dad had already turned in for the night. This was a long day for both of them!
  • There was a blizzard this weekend, so many people didn’t make it to the wedding—especially those from out of state, like Grandma and Grandpa Venjohn.
  • Gabe had given his Best Man speech just before this, in which he had joked that he felt loved by his big brother Brendan, even though none of our kids have the capacity to express love. (Our kids are often ribbed for their lack of expressed affection toward each other and their parents.)
  • I had detailed notes in my pocket, but because I was caught off-guard and was thinking about Lily, I never took them out. I had written something like this the day before, while cooking chili for the rehearsal supper in the church kitchen. We had cooked a massive amount of chili at home, then failed to get it cooled quickly for transportation and were worried about giving the entire wedding party and both families food poisoning, so we remade it in Moorhead.

I’m sure that just after this recording cuts out, I said proposed an actual toast. But the speech is what I want to share today, so my dad and Jodi’s folks can finally hear it.

“Things change…”

Feel the Burn

I had kind of an involved, downer of a post for tonight, about the lengths we’ll go to as a nation to avoid sacrifice or discomfort. There is virtue to be found in a some self-sacrifice, a little pain, and I may yet write that post — but as a light-hearted lead-in perhaps, tonight I share these:

There is a chance tonight (however slight) for frost, and a chance tomorrow (however slight) that I may do some fall cleaning around the yard, deck and shed. So I went out to the pepper pots tonight and plucked countless ripe (pictured) and ripening chiles.

Smoky yellow habaneros, plump green jalapenos, cayennes like lean red flames and serranos like green firecrackers, some turning red. Beautiful aren’t they?

I’ve done a little digging online to find a way, better than freezing and short of canning, to preserve them more or less intact. I’ve seen some interesting ideas involving vinegar and olive oil — but if you have suggestions, do share! (I also have a recipe for jalapeno chili vodka that I may have to try.)

The kids were amazed that the jalapenos are the mildest of the bunch — and that the habs are as much as 60 times hotter, chemically speaking. Why grow ’em? The sweet, smoky taste they impart is critical to a good batch of Old Lamplighter.*

See what I mean? Good things come from a little pain and suffering.

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*Old Lamplighter is my best hot chili recipe. Permission to brag: It actually won a chili contest at my old job: took Best Overall and tied for Best Heat. (Of course, there was some controversy because the contest was my idea — but the ballots were cast secretly and verified independently.) I make thick, mild stuff for the little kids — Good Dog Chili-Dog Chili. Bren and Jodi mix ’em to get the temp just right for them …

Summer Vacation, Day 48: Greenish …

Scrawny chili pepper plants with no buds. Bushy little tomato plants with lots of green, but midget, romas. Bean plants, but no beans. Cucumbers just starting to bud. No sunflowers to speak of. Everything’s struggling a bit this year. The spring was cold, and I started late, but still – hope we get some veggies soon!

Summer Vacation, Day 12: Chilis and Parade

We spent the morning sleeping, eating, and planting tomatoes, cucumbers, and chili peppers (jalapeno, serrano, cayenne and habanero). We caught the Albertville Friendly Days parade in the afternoon. Typical small-town parade, but not especially well-paced, so I brought Slaughterhouse-Five along for the gaps. Nice to be reading a book that fits in your pocket.

Still a stroke of work to do tonight, so I’m gonna hold on the Gatsby observations. I write better in the morning, anyway …