Monday, August 3, 2015

good women.

Up until lately I've been busy building my new blog,  It's been a lot of fun, diving into new subject matter and thought processes...thinking of material that I would actually read about and enjoy.  You know, barbecue, cold drinks, fishing, fantastic music, outdoor action, beautiful pop art and culture, and people who do damn interesting things.  Can't wait to get it more streamlined and branded, and branch out to more people and learn new things.

But for the past month or more, I've been MIA, and I miss my exploring and writing.

There's a reason behind my lagging.  If you by chance read my Blogazine entry entitled "up the poudre." about my camping/fishing trip in the Poudre Canyon with Cliff-dog, then you know that I took a slight spill in the high, run-off waters while trying to navigate the waist-deep currents with a 120lb retriever lashed to my belt.  I self-medicated the remainder of that evening by way of drinking feverishly.  It helped, but unfortunately not for the long term.

The fall wasn't severe at all--just a bruised hip, a scraped palm, and loud, angry words that frightened birds and squirrels from miles around.  I've actually had much worse spills on the same river that could have been incredibly severe if it weren't for some divine intervention (ie: God stopped that motherf&*%# boulder from falling on me!).  Anyway, this latest slip has caused by spine to go awry more so than normal, prompting two surgeries (for now).

Needless to say, I've had other things on my mind.  This is where this blog comes into play.

In this blog, I can write whatever the hell I want to write.  I don't restrict myself to stay within a certain mind frame or brand or style or whatnot.  It's my journal, and sometimes I let everyone read it.

Today has not been particularly pleasant, pain-wise, and I get to get my spine sliced open again for the second time this week on Wednesday.  Hopefully that's the end of the unpleasantries.  Boo-hoo.  But if you've read this blog, then you probably know where my mind might go.  It goes to mushy shit like wanting to hold my daughter, but I can't because I'm not supposed to lift over 15lbs and she's in the 94th percentile in weight.  Height too, so she's proportionate.  My mind goes to extra-deep shit like being nervous about not waking up from the anesthesia.  If I don't, then what?  That's the deep stuff.  Stuff that maybe most people might think about, but try to push it to the backs of their minds.  That's probably what I'll do.

I'm new to surgeries.  I don't care for them, especially when they are in my spinal cord.  And maybe I'm different, or maybe I just admit to thinking about it and expose my sissy-ness, but being in the middle of this process has made me appreciate so many things so much more.  I'm not trying to make this routine surgery seem like more than it is.  It's a two-hour outpatient deal.  I'll be celebrating with a cold beer by noon on Wednesday.  But still, in a way I'm glad it's made me re-realize what's important.

My three most favorite women in the universe are currently living with me, putting up with me, taking care of me, and it's humbling.

My daughter, Ruby, who just turned one, is keeping me grounded, happy, appreciative, laughing, awestruck, proud, and other words that describe feelings that I cannot think of.  Feelings that make me smile every minute that she's in the room, or singing from her crib upstairs, or chasing Cliff, or saying "Kay Kay", which is a multi-use word that means Cliff, Cat in the Hat, and Aunt Katie, who happens to be my forth most favorite woman in the universe.  And up until last week, Ruby was keeping me exhausted.  In my poor, sad, decrepit, weak, woe-is-me condition, I cannot take care of a "healthy sized" baby properly without crippling myself even more...and then subsequently writing to you all about how horrible I feel in hopes of sympathy, but not coming right out and asking for it.  That would be tacky.

Last week is when reinforcements came.  Reinforcements means that I texted my mother from the doctor's office the day I found out I had to have surgery, asking, "Do you have plans for the next month or so?  We might need you.", and a day later she had driven 784 miles from Springfield, Missouri to Broomfield, Colorado without a hint of hesitation.  Mina Beth Todd is a saint.  That's funny to say, because it was on an Anchor Man movie and Vince Vaughan said it, but with "Dorothy Mantooth" being the subject instead of "Mina Beth Todd"...but by God it's true.  Also to be noted, my family and I were planning a road trip to Springfield just a couple days after my doctor's visit.  Festivities were planned such as pool swimming, boating around the lake, a magnificent game of wiffleball, days of meat grilling, and so many other wonderful activities planned that you would crap your pants.  My mom dropped all plans immediately, packed a suitcase, and drove her Mini Cooper Clubman (Jack Clubman...) to my house to take care of my daughter while I writhe in pain and my wife works a full time job to pay for our lives.

My mom is a damn angel.

Then there's the love of my life.  April Reins-Todd, who dedicates her every moment to taking care of her family in every way possible.  She's like a smart, beautiful, scary lioness who will kill you without thinking twice if you mess with her loved ones.  She works very hard at her job, is very good at her job, and makes it possible for us to live in a nice house, have nice cars, and eat Chinese delivery from time to time.  It's none of your business, but shortly after Ruby was born, we rearranged our financial situations to allow me to be a stay-home-dad instead shipping Ruby off to daycare every morning.  It hasn't been particularly easy, but neither of us would have it any other way.  So you can now appreciate April's hard work even well as her impeccable damage control skills when her stay-at-home nanny/dashing man of her dreams falters.

Although April is from the school of "Rub some dirt on it--suck it up.", she makes it her life's mission to ensure that Ruby and I are taken care of when shit happens.  That's exactly how it should be, friends.

Keep rooting for these three.  They've got their work cut out for them the next week or two.  I'm not an easy patient and I tend to become grumpy from time to time when I don't feel all that great.  And when I get hungry.  I love and appreciate them more than anyone can imagine.

Man, I've got amazing broads in my life.


Thursday, June 11, 2015

new project.

As I've mentioned before, I dearly need at least one creative outlet to keep my mind functioning properly.  Writing is one of them.

I don't write as much as I'd like to, mainly because the content that floats around in my brain is either too personal for me to post on this blog, or it's just stupid.  I could literally fill this blog up with pictures of my daughter and entries trying to explain why the smell of her hair rivals that of bacon & onions frying...not that it smells like bacon & onions, it's just a strangely great bacon & onions is.

See what I mean?

So in order to kind of challenge myself to write about other things--other things I'm interested in, of course--I'm starting a new blog.  It's a little bit different, whereas I'm focussing on people, places, and things that I think are damn swell.  I know a lot of interesting, talented people who do really interesting things.  Craftsmen, artists, cooks, photographers, anglers, and the like.  Folks that really dig what they do, whether it's their profession or a pastime.

Scattered among these stories about cool people, will be entries about places I visit.  Not just your fancy, touristy spots, but real places with real people.  One example is, I'm driving to a small town in Nebraska tomorrow for a friend's wedding.  Nebraska is incredible, in it's own right.  I'm very much looking forward to viewing this small farm town from a different angle than I generally would.  When you're in Nebraska, there's just a different feel.  It's slowed down, it's family, it's farming, it's honest.  I'm hoping I can capture some of that via blog-rambling and far-from-professional photography with my iPhone.

My blog will have reoccurring themes and segments, like weekly toasts or socials.  I'll have ongoing BBQ segments, maybe a fly-tying corner.  We'll figure it out as we go, cool?

At any rate, I hope you dig  It's a fancy new magazine format--be sure to click on the date ribbon-thing when you get there.  It'll start to take life when I get a few more posts on there.  Definitely a work in progress for a while, but should be fun.  Thanks.


Thursday, June 4, 2015


The other day I went to Target.  I rarely go to Target, or any store for that matter.  At least not without April.  But I needed a picture I went to Target and bought one.

As I'm walking back up to the front of the store to pay for my picture frame, I start to walk past a mom and her son.  He's maybe two--isn't talking all that well yet, but the words that he is manufacturing are pretty damn cute.  He's sitting in the shopping cart kid seat thing, jibber-jabbering to his mom about God knows what, when he stops abruptly as I walk by.  He stares me down, turns to his mom, and says, "Mama, that's a man."

I turn back to give him a head nod and a grin, and reply, "You're damn right."

Thankfully, mama laughed.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

uncle bob.

My Uncle Bob passed away last night.  It was unexpected.

When an 80 year old man passes away unexpectedly, it means he was living well.  When friends and family are shocked that complications removing cancerous tumors took his life, that means the man is viewed as bullet-proof.  This is a good thing.  This means the man lived young.

If you have ever met Bob Blevins, then you know, one: He was virtually bullet-proof.  And, two: 80??  Yes, 80 years old.  I know.

I don't want this to come off the wrong way to my relatives, but I viewed Uncle Bob as my Godfather-in-law.  I actually had to ask my mom if he had inherited me as a Godson...wasn't sure how that worked.  My actual Godfather is Jerry Russell, my Aunt Joan's (mom's sister) first husband.  He died of cancer shortly after I was born.  Several years later Aunt Joan married Uncle Bob.  Joan and Jerry had two kids, Kathy and Robert--both of whom I feel I am very close to, at least at some point in our lives.  Joan and Bob then had two kiddos of their own, Michael and Carrie--same thing, very close.  Those are my four Russell-Blevins cousins, and I love them all to death.  Uncle Jerry and I were never able to spend much time together, at least in my memory--so Uncle Bob is really the only uncle I've ever known from that side of the family.

So there's your background.  There's your view of our tree.

This ramble isn't to receive "Sorry for your loss" or "You and your family are in our prayers" comments on the Facebook or texts or what have you.  That's nice, but that's not why I'm writing this.  I am writing this because my Uncle Bob was incredible.

As an "old" dad myself, I've recently viewed Bob as a bit of role model.  There was never a time when he wouldn't take us out in the yard and knock fly balls to us.  Tirelessly, he would entertain me, Robert, Mike, and whatever friends happened to be by.  Fly ball after fly ball.  Tired of shagging baseballs?  Let's play some horseshoes.  Touch football...tackle football!  Let's get in the pool.  Hey, the Cardinals are on!  Let's watch the game.

Uncommon Bob's.  Yes, yes.  That is what we call my uncle's special marinade that he used when grilling.  Pork butt, pork shoulder, ribs, brisket.  If anyone reading this was lucky enough to attend mine and April's rehearsal dinner in Lyons, Colorado, then you sampled some of Uncle Bob's grilled meats.  He was manning the Weber Texas Ranch Kettle stacked with pork and beef.  I'm cooking some tomorrow.  I suppose it will be in his memory, but I was going to anyway.  That's how good it is.  Him and I will chat tomorrow while the smoke is rolling.

Uncle Bob was fun.  I rarely saw him in a sour mood.  That means he appreciated things.  His kids.  His grandkids.  His wife.  But what you need to know about my Uncle Bob, whether you knew him, or this is just some ramble about a guy you've never heard of, is that he was the most selfless man I knew.  My uncle would drive thousands of miles to help you...and he did.  You were in a jam?  A bind?  Hard times?  Don't think twice, Bob will do what he can to help.  Bob didn't have a ton of money.  Didn't matter, he'd do what he could to help out a friend or a loved one...and he did.  As far as being a good human being goes, it doesn't get much better than my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bob.

This just isn't hearsay, it's the damn truth.  I'm not just saying that Bob seemed like a good guy, so he would probably do this sort of thing.  He did.  He helped more people than you know or I know.  And he did it all under the radar.  No accolades, no drama, no pats on the back.  Just pure, honest selflessness.  That, friends, is a legacy.

So it's onward and upward.  I don't care if you are a religious sort or not, Bob Blevins is in Heaven.  Doesn't matter if you're Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, or some other belief.  I even question my beliefs at times.  But I don't question that Uncle Bob is in Heaven.  This is a man that God is already considering giving a promotion.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Acquisitions and Soap Box.

First off, I got some new stuff.

While Ruby and I were checking out a local flea market, I ran across a stack of old iron-ons from the 70s.  You remember, the kind you would get at K-Mart and your mom would iron them on (hence the name) a crisp, new white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt for you.  They generally had pictures of cars, super-heroes, warlocks and/or wizards, or some other cool 70s image.

Well, I bought one.  It wasn't cheap at $10, but too damn cool to pass up.  I'm pretty confident I got the coolest one.  A couple days later I bought a cheap t-shirt at Target, and presto--coolest shirt on earth.

If it were only a mesh half-shirt...

Then, a couple days ago while the fam and I were walking around the block, we ran into some random crap in someone's yard with a "free" sign on it all.  A little BBQ smoker caught my eye.  But man, I've already got three grills.

We returned home and April encouraged me to go pick it up if it was still there.  I jumped in the truck and went back to the yard of junk.  Everything was still sitting in their yard, so I grabbed the smoker.  Damn thing had to weigh 60lbs.  There was a little metal table too, all rusted out crunchy--but kinda cool--so I grabbed that too.

I spent an hour or so that evening cleaning them up, putting a fresh coat of paint on them, and giving them some new life.

The 'after' pic.

A little rickety and rusty.

A crescent wrench makeover, new high-heat paint job, and a little varnish.
My fire pit shot craps, so a perfect night for a test drive.  Next up: meat.

*Now, not to be dramatic, but I'm angry about something and I'm going to use profanity to express my frustrations.  If you are worried that this outburst might change your saintly image of me, then you might want to skip this part.*

Apparently there is a fashion company called Dolce & Gabbana.  My wife thinks I'm an imbecile for not knowing of them.  In truth, I'm kind of proud of myself for not knowing.  This is not why I'm angry, though.

The owners of this company made public comments saying that in vitro fertilization create "children of chemistry" and the children are "synthetic".

I don't care about who these people are.  What bothers me is that people actually feel this way.  And I'm assuming the majority of folks who feel this way do not or have not had any trouble conceiving children.  When I hear comments like this made, it feels like a direct insult to me, my wife, and my beautiful, innocent 8 month-old daughter--who was conceived via IVF.

I guess Elton John got mad and retorted in some manner.  Good.  But I still really don't care about that either.  What I care about is people with an ancient, archaic way of thinking, expressing their unjustified opinions.  I understand that you have the right to have an opinion, just like me.  But think about all the people you are directly insulting with your beliefs.  You're attacking good people who believe in family.  Not to mention the innocent, happy children you are belittling. 

I don't care if you have religious beliefs that you think justify your opinions.  If you do, I feel sorry for you.  I don't want to be a part of any god that shuns life and love.

There is nothing synthetic about my baby.  There is nothing chemical about my baby.  The only thing you need to know about my baby is that she is happy, healthy, and fucking amazing.  I'm pretty sure that God (or whomever) likes her, too.

Stop caring about this shit.  Stop it with your anti-IVF, your anti-gay, your anti-non-traditional family, your anti-black, your anti-Jew.  Just fucking stop.  No god that I know is with you on any of this, so why care about it?  It's just people, love, life, and family.  There's nothing bad about it.  So shut up.

Thank you April.  I love you.

Picture of a synthetic, chemical baby that should not have been brought into this world.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Have a Swell Life.

Whilst completing my fatherly duties this morning, consisting of laundry, vacuuming, dishes, painting a table, making breakfast, and keeping my daughter alive, I found myself appreciative of my swell life.  And that lead to this:

Earl's tips for living a swell life.

This is not preachy, nor pretentious.  It's just a handful of things I've learned during my tenure in this life.  They aren't the usual "dance like no one is watching you" or some other Ellen-type shit.  Just things I've learned.  Take 'em or leave 'em.

In no particular order...

Number One:  Keep Trying.  (As with all of these "things", I'll certainly elaborate when necessary).  Keep trying basically means that you're not going to succeed with everything you do.  And if, by chance, you do, I'm doubting that you got it right on the first try.  This might sound pretty Sesame Street, so let me offer an example...

Full disclosure: I've always dreamt of starting my own business and working for myself.  And if you know me, then you know that I have a ton of outstanding ideas, but am challenged when it comes to implementing these ideas...putting them in motion.  But I keep trying.  I take what I believe to be the proper steps in achieving this plan.  I reevaluate things when I run into a roadblock.  I study, I step back, I plan, and I continue to dream.  And during this entire process, which I will succeed in doing--at least in some capacity, I have pride in knowing that I keep trying.

Number Two:  Be Appreciative.  Grateful, thankful, humble, don't take things for granted...however you want to spin it.  When nice things happen, acknowledge them and be appreciative.  Some folks don't have a lot of good things happen for them, for whatever reason, so those of us that do have good fortune need to be grateful.  I don't care who or what you're grateful to--that's a whole other conversation--just be grateful.

Number Three:  Balance.  If you're going to drink, smoke, and/or eat like shit, try exercising and eating a salad or two to at least balance things out a bit.  If you love to travel, make sure you balance out your time away with some quality 'at home' time.  Work your ass off, make serious work decisions, say important work catch-phrases like "moving forward", "see what sticks", and "senergy"...but then balance that out with some fishing or a game of catch with your kid.

The examples are literally endless.  Balance is the key to the universe.

Number Four:  Embrace Your Inner Child.  That sounds creepy.  You know what I mean, though.
I might take to another level, but at least I embrace it.  I grew up loving baseball, comic books, and Star Wars, and it makes me happy to include those things in my life today.  I don't give a crap if people think I'm immature or nerdy.  Maybe I am.

Fact of the matter is, it's going to help me grow old gracefully, keep an 'old dad' younger, and continue to remind me of what a great childhood I had.  Don't be so serious.

Number Five:  Listen To Stupid Music.  That's right, stupid music is fun.  But first, acknowledge that the music is stupid, and please don't listen to the music all the time because you will then become stupid as a result.

I like good music.  I appreciate great musicians and artful song writers.  But I like Whitesnake, too.  And my wife likes awful pop-country.  But that's okay, as long as you can distinguish between the two and ration your intake.  Sing the stupid music at the top of your lungs while you're driving, or in the shower, or four Scotches deep on a Tuesday night while in the basement with headphones on.  That's what it's there for.

I suppose that was kind of Ellen-ish.

Number Six:  Get Into a Hobby...or Two.  If you go to work, then come home and watch TV, day after day after day after day, then you probably suck.

Turn the damn TV off, and scrapbook, or cook, or bake, or garden, or brew beer, or build something out of wood or metal, or paint, or draw, or fish, or go to the batting cages, or workout, or invent a new game with your kids, or reupholster furniture, or build a website, or landscape your yard, or learn photography, or play the guitar, or work on your car, or go boating, or take a hike, or smoke a pork shoulder, or make a film, or take piano lessons, or go for a run with your dog, or collect comics.

Things that do NOT count as hobbies: Watching TV, going to the bar, shopping.  Sorry.

Number Seven:  Go Outdoors.  Sun is good.  Rain is good.  Trees are good.  Put down the video game and sit outside.  Appreciate the sounds of the birds chirping and the leaves rustling.  Smell the rain, and the freshly mowed grass.

Take it up a notch and go for a hike.  Find a trail, away from roads and houses, and walk on it.  Look at the different kinds of trees, rock formations, critters, and appreciate them.

I know it's super hard-core, but how about a bike ride?  How about a lake or river for some fishing?

When weather permits, cook a meal and eat it outside.  Don't have a patio?  Go to a park.

Just go outside.  It's good for you.

Number Eight:  Be Content With Not Knowing.  This one might offend.  Although it is a fairly broad thought, it also has to do with the two things that ruffle feathers and get people bent out of shape more than anything: Politics and religion.

I actually just deleted several paragraphs to this section.  I don't want to get into it, because that does not lead to a swell life.  Me being content with not knowing all the answers and keeping an open mind, while continuing to have faith in good things, is what matters here.

Number Nine:  Just Be Good.  This one is near and dear to my heart.

If you read this thing, then you might know that growing up, my grandparents were very important to me.  We fished and camped and watched baseball together...all five of us.  And you've probably read a thing or two about my Granny, who was the last of the four to go.

Well, the last time I saw my Granny was the day before she died.  She had become pretty sick and was laying on her bed.  Although she was starting to fade, and speaking was difficult for her, she still had her wits about her and everything she did say was either clever or ornery, or somehow a combination of the two.  Well, I was kneeled beside her bed holding her hand and chatting with her, and the last thing she said to me was this:  "Just be good."

So you can understand the importance of this simple understatement.  But it makes so much sense.  "Just be good."  That's what the Bible should say.  One page, three words, the end.  Granny should have been on Nike's marketing team.

Classic words to live by, and they're always on the forefront of my brain.  But I don't go out of my way to be overly-bubbly, or fake-good.  That's not me, and it wasn't Granny.

There you have it.  Nine tips for living a swell life.  Why not ten?  Ten is just too planned out and fake.  Nine is just right, and swell.


Friday, February 20, 2015

now and then.

In thinking about the things that I love, meaning interests or hobby-type things, nothing has changed for me in over 35 years.

I'm basically the same person that I was when I was five.  I'm a little grayer now, and obviously a bit wiser, but the foundation was properly set at an early age and there's no reason to fix it.

At five years-old, I could be found traipsing the banks of Montauk or Roaring River searching for trout.  Arriving at the river before dawn with my grandparents and staying out 'til dusk, figuring out ways to net as many rainbows as possible.  I believe by age 11 or 12, I had a personal best of 36 in one day--just ten short of my personal White Castle intake record.

To this day, my favorite activity on earth is exploring a river or lake, catching fish all day long.  Always will be.

When I was five, like most kids at that time, I liked superheroes and therefore "collected" comic books.  "Collected" is definitely a loose term.  I looked at the pictures, cut them up for homemade art projects, spilled Black Cherry Kool-Aid on them, and lost them in a ditch in front of my buddy's house.  Not necessarily in that order.

I donned my Superman cape that mom sewed me and jumped off of our well house on a weekly basis.  I flew for about 1.5 seconds.  I ripped up my pajama bottoms to look like the Hulk's, and busted through the screen door.  Turned out not to be a great idea.  I would put on my Spider-Man Underoos and scale the door frame between the kitchen and living room.

I don't do any cosplay these days, but I'm still a giant superhero nerd.  My comic book collection is impressive, if I do say so myself.  I love the colors, the art, the pop culture history, and the feeling of being a 5 year-old with a vibrant imagination.  Some folks think I'm incredibly immature because I geek out on these books the way I do.  That's okay, I actually like it.  It reminds me that things don't have to be so serious all the time.  It keeps me young, imaginative, and creative.  And although I am a 41 year-old comic book collector and you're not, I'm still cooler than you are.

I mention this quite a bit, and it's been a topic of my ramblings lately.  Mainly because the first Spring Training game happens in exactly two weeks.  Yes, Cardinals Baseball.

I don't need to explain again how deep Cardinals Baseball runs in my family.  Just know that it does, and it will continue to for decades.  Now go trade for Hamels, ya dinguses.

Me and my Granny, circa 1979 at Montauk State Park.  Trout fishing, Spider-Man shirt-wearing, and Cards Baseball on the radio.  Only difference now...Granny's there in spirit and I drink Scotch. 

Sure, I've expanded my horizons over the past 35 years or so.  I enjoy trying new things, going new places, and the like.  My minor interests tend to fluctuate a bit, just like anyone's.  But I'm happy that I've gotten to enjoy so many constants in my life that I have.  

I hope my daughter, Ruby, is able to find things she loves early in life.  Be it swimming, drawing, singing, or whatnot.  Right now her main hobby is shitting herself.  She gets that from me.

My lovely wife accepts my obsession.  The obsession of the Cardinals and crooked aviators.
Rick taught me how to fly fish.  I am now better than he is.

Nerd family Halloween, 2014.  As close to cosplay as I've gotten since 1979.

If it ain't broke...