Category Archives: Politics

Parks and Politics

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Well, we’re getting a taste of summer in the midst of spring, with temps going from 90 to 55 like they just saw a state trooper. As such, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity when the weather’s gorgeous to take the kids out for quality park time, running up the Keystone Trail, swinging on the playground, and getting a semi-serious family selfie like we’re ready to drop an album.

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Then after park time, I dropped by DJ’s Dugout to hang out with some Young Republicans. I’m a bit too old now to be a YR myself, but I was still invited along to hear a few words from Mayor Jean on the state of the city. A few other local Reps were also on hand, such as Congressman Bacon’s communications chief Kyle, to give a few updates.

Mickey Manley (whose party affiliation I’m unsure of) was also there to encourage the youngster to join his Facebook group called “500 Millennials of Omaha,” which seems to be a lively place on social media to say the least.

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On Saturday, we had a fun outing with the kids to Mahoney State Park, which had free admission for the day. We took an obligatory trip to the top of the (perpetually shaking) observation tower to get a good look at the Platte River together and get a few goofy photos). Then we explored the forest near the river down at ground level afterward (and climbed a tree or two), as well as the lodge. We spent more time down at the newly-refurbished playground, trying out the rope bridge, merry-go-round, racing snail, and family swing.

We drove a few miles north to Ashland and had a quiet lunch at Breadeaux Pizza afterward. We walked up and down Silver Street just long enough to look at some meat before stopping by another playground just until some rain clouds came moving in.

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Then that evening, we watched Aquaman and planted a garden the next day. Then on Monday, I dipped into the political waters again to have dinner with the Governor down at the Garden Cafe. Gave a 40-minute talk to a handful of the River City Republicans to talk about on-going relief efforts from the massive flooding we had back in March, which included rebuilding major roadways and bridges. He also talked about taxes, specifically two bills in the legislature that will likely be raising them if they manage to pass.

There was some brief Q&A afterward, and I got to talk a bit with Ricketts about his recently “kicking over the hornets nest” posting support of pro-life bills in Alabama and Georgia. He’d recently been told by some left-wing groups that they were planning to protest him over it, which didn’t seem to phase him in the slightest.

Cinco de Mayo Weekend

It seems like we’re always busiest when we’re having fun, and even though I’ve been plenty busy at work lately, it doesn’t compare to our non-stop activity all throughout the weekend.

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On Friday morning, Aaron had an end-of-year “spring concert” with his little friends at Spring Lake. They sang a handful of songs for us, complete with the motions (and egg shakers) you’d expect with any children’s song. They also had displays for every class showing some of their activities throughout the year, including visits from Grammy and the raptor handlers from Fontenelle Forest. Mommy, Hannah, and Grammy came along as well, and I came just long enough to snap some pictures before heading back to work.

Then that evening Vivian and I finally watched Avengers: Endgame over a big old bowl of popcorn. We are now spoiler-proof!

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Then on Saturday morning, I took Hannah down to 24th and G to watch the Cinco de Mayo parade in South Omaha. We hadn’t been there for a couple years, and we discovered there are now barricades all along the parade route. The parade itself had the standard Mexicans dancers, costumers, horses, and Hydraulic Bouncing Lowriders. There were also numerous Halloween-themed participants, which was even more bizarre than the guy in a kilt. There were a few politicians as well, and I gave Mayor Stothert props for picking up a stray plastic bag that skittered its way across 24th street. Hannah was able to fill a big with so much candy she had trouble carrying with us back to the car.

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I returned home with enough time to catch my breath before heading right back across the river to see Democrat presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. A couple hundred people (and some vendors) showed up to Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear him prattle off platitudes like an old-timey preacher, but what impressed me most was his Q&A, where his first question was from a guy wearing a Gadsden Flag as a cape (and a “Make Taxation Theft Again” hat). That took either guts or complete ignorance. He also answered a question in both English and Spanish, reminding me of how I liked Marco Rubio being able to bring a message home to Spanish-speaking Americans.

Beto stuck around for photos with everyone afterward, but I didn’t get the chance to shake his hand or way hello — I had to stay on schedule!

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I returned home for a quick bite to eat and then headed right back out again for a free night at the Zoo! It had been a while since we’d all gone as a family. so it felt good to be back among such familiar sights as the giant globe and gorilla statues. Many of the animals seemed to be sleeping, though the bats in the jungle area were wide awake (and pooping on everyone). The aquarium was still open as well, making for as lovely as walk-through as always. We got to see a handful of monkeys, birds, and otters hanging around, and we also went through the butterfly pavilion before wrapping things up. Hannah finished our visit by chasing a peacock around before we headed on out.

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Then on Sunday, we went back to the La Vista Sports Complex to fly a kite with Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle Jonny after church. This has been a family tradition for a couple years now, and we almost missed it thanks to a line of thunderstorms that were nice enough to pass us by. Dad let me assemble the kite and get it airborne this year. The wind was strong enough to make it fairly easy, and we even got to tie Tinkerbell to the center strut to spend some time in the sky. It was just about as perfect an afternoon as you could ask for, and the kids even got to have ice cream before we headed home (courtesy of Uncle Jonny).

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I got some food from Aldi for Cinco de Mayo and then headed home to give the lawn a quick mow before it started raining (for the entire week). We were lucky to have lovely weather almost all weekend long, giving us a chance to enjoy our briefly-blooming tulips and lilac, even Zoey the Cat got to spend some time outside.

Vivian made up some tacos for the kids, which Aaron helped her to make. Then once the kids were in bed, we had some tasty tilapia ceviche together, devouring two pounds of fish between the two of us while watching the Three Amigos together, a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid (and didn’t find as funny as I’d hoped).

It was a busy, busy weekend, but now I have a week back at work to rest up before the next round of fun!

Dave Rubin and Easter Weekend

The trees are blossoming, the daffodils and tulips are coming up, and the Johnson Family is as busy as ever, mostly having fun with warmer weather and celebrating Easter with our family — and according to my calendar, it’s not slowing down anytime soon.

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On Tuesday, I went to the lats Men of God event at Wildewood of the year, which included boneless pork ribs, which I ate entirely too much of (i.e. two). Then on Wednesday, Dave Rubin — a “classical liberal” and host of the Rubin Report — came to UN-O courtesy of Turning Point USA. He was the first major speaker for the newly-created campus group, and at least 100 packed one lecture hall about a mile from where I work to hear his talk.

I’d been listening to Rubin’s “long-format conversation” talk show for a couple years now, so it was exciting to see him in person. He talked for about an hour and then had an hour of Q&A from the audience. I had the opportunity to recommend one of my favorite films to him, Brazil, as an example of the best “libertarian” film out there. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd, which was largely friendly, and most attendees stayed to meet and greet Rubin afterward (including me, of course). Special kudos to Matt Anderson for pulling off his first major event for the TPUSA Omaha chapter.

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The next evening, I went to RiffTrax live to see the awful rubber-suited Octaman. Most of the usual crew couldn’t make it, save for Ben Peet, so it was a fairly quiet event, though I did get to use Richard Burney’s seat for extra space, which was nice. Then at home, I brought out some matzo crackers I’d gotten for Passover, which Vivian and I had with some kosher wine.

Then we kicked off a long Easter Weekend with some friends from the Bellevue Area Christian Homeschoolers (BACH) in a newer “suburb” of north downtown. They had a live sheep on hand (for petting) and a table full of bible-era food for us to eat together (and a campfire for s’mores). Our hostess also gave a long talk about Passover, Good Friday, and scriptures relating to it, but our kids seemed more interested in the play area until the food was ready.

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The Easter fun continued Saturday morning as we drove down to Lincoln for an Easter Egg Hunt and party — at the Governor’s Mansion of all places! We parked right next to the Capitol and joined a couple dozen other families for fun in the Governor’s backyard (literally) — face painting, cookie decorating, live ducks, an Easter Bunny and a little egg hunting, of course. Gov. Ricketts was also on-hand to meet and greet guests, getting pictures with nearly everyone in the process.

It was a fun event, and the weather couldn’t have been better. It was also free, with only a request for canned goods for the local food pantry. I’m not sure how we managed to get an invite, but I’m glad we were able to come, since our usual Easter egg hunting venue (Bellevue Christian Church) was cancelled in lieu of flood relief work.

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Of course, we also had to walk across the street for a quick look at the Capitol afterward. I showed the kids the statue of Abraham Lincoln and showed Hannah where our State Senator works. We spent most of our time up in the rotunda, though, taking in the view from the highest point in the city. We grabbed a little lunch on our way out of town, which included spring rolls and beef pho from Pho Nguyen.

That evening, after cleaning house a bit for Easter, the kids got to color and decorate some eggs together at our kitchen table before calling it a night.

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Then came Easter Sunday! We all dressed up for church (including Hannah’s dolls) and stopped on the way by grandma and grandpa’s house to hide some licorice jelly beans from the “Easter Bunny” (which they found afterward). Then back home, we let the kids hunt for eggs in the front and back yards as Grammy and Pop-Pop came over to watch. We had a few Easter cards appear in our mailbox in the process, as well as some special additions to our yard.

We had some hors d’oeuvres inside afterward, and then Vivian made a glazed ham with her dad for Easter Dinner, among several other things. My mom and dad dropped by later with Uncles Nathan and Jonathan, and the kids set the table for us to eat shortly after four. There was plenty of food, and I managed to stuff myself without even going back to seconds of anything. Of course, there was also dessert — fudge and shortbread cookies (which the kids helped make) as well as frozen pies from Village Inn and Marie Callender.

It was a long, fun weekend, but now that spring is underway and summer is almost here, we’ll have lots more going on before we can take a breath!

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Happy Easter, everyone!

Crossing Bridges and Remembering Elephants

Well the flood waters are receding, and despite the promise of more winter coming tomorrow, it feels like spring may be here at least. Now if only, it would stay put.

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On Tuesday last week, we took the kids out to enjoy some of the weather down at the now not-flooded River’s Edge Park. There were still some wet spots, along with plenty of dirt and debris to be found — a piece of which looks like the remnant of some poor person’s home or furniture. Fortunately, it sounds like Loessfest will simply be delayed until Labor Day rather than cancelled, so we’ll get to enjoy one concert sometime this year (no word yet on the one at Memorial Park).

The near sunset we walked across the river with a couple hundred others for Autism Awareness Day. The mayors of Omaha and Council Bluffs met at the halfway point to say a few words, and there were a handful of mascots on hand to meet and greet everyone. People were also dressed in blue for the occasion, though we had to head on home before the bridge was actually lit up in blue for the evening. Hannah and Aaron seemed to have more fun running around in the rock garden below pretending to be chased.

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On Thursday night, Vivian and I attended the Elephant Remembers dinner with the Douglas County Republican Party. It was apparently a sold-out event with the Omaha Hilton filled to capacity with guests. We saw many familiar faces in the crowd, including a handful of friends mingling among the politicians. Scott Voorhees was emcee and featured speakers included Mayor Stothert, Congressman Bacon, Gov. Ricketts, and both Nebraska Senators (Sasse and Fischer).

We ate dinner as the event continued, and Vivian cut up the giant Wheatfield’s cake for our table (not waiting for anyone else to tell us to do so). The Senator Sasse introduced Tim Scott, Senator from South Carolina, who was the keynote speaker of the evening. According to Sasse, they almost didn’t make it, as Chuck Schumer had been holding up a nominee in the Senate. This kept Sasse and Scott on the floor until the vote was held, missing their flight and having to charter a plane instead. Sen. Scott then said a few words on his upbringing and religious faith before being awarded the title “Admiral” of “the Great Navy of the State of Nebraska” by Gov. Ricketts.

As usual, it felt good to be able to rub elbows with once again with many of the people I get to vote for. I got to personally thank Sasse for his recent “Born Alive” bill in the Senate, which he lamented 44 senators voted against. I also told Ricketts we were keeping him in our prayers as we’re all still dealing with the disastrous flooding last month. I told him that times like these might pull some people apart, but Nebraskans pull together instead.

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In other news, I got to enjoy eating out a couple times, once at Arby’s with Vivian and Aaron and then against with my dad for breakfast in thanks for his chauffeuring me to work these past few weeks (as I’m waiting on a new car).

Then on Saturday, my dad smoked some ribs and had the whole family over for dinner, including uncles Nathan and Jonny. The weather was nice enough to eat outside in the yard (and climb a tree), and my dad also went through another one of his trunks with us in the basement (so we’d know what all this stuff was should be ever pass on unexpectedly).

We finished off the evening with dessert and charades inside before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, Vivian went to a “sharing day” with the Omaha cake club, learning how to make a mermaid tail (which she brought home).

Then that evening, we took the kids down for an evening at the Children’s Museum. They got to engage in their favorite activities, including cooking pretend food, painting on windows, being on TV, applying make-up, playing with balls, riding dinosaurs, making music, and trying out some sports (among other things). What made tonight different, aside from being free, is that a lot of the usual noisemakers were turned off specifically for autistic kids, who were invited to come. That made for a very slightly less noisy and chaotic visit than usual.

Next stop: fish frying and The Mads (again).

Bernie Sanders and a Snow Day

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So Bernie Sanders came to down the other day, in a Presidential Campaign that hardly seemed to take a breath since the last one. Sanders is currently the Democrat front-runner despite not being a member of the party, and that seems to be appealing for the populist crowd he spoke to at the Mid-America Center. The usual campaign characters were there, including PowerLine blogger Dave Begley, Mark McKinnon filming for Showtime, vendors with potty-mouthed merch, and even congressional candidate Kara Eastman, who was on stage with the Bernie backdrop brigade.

There was a bit of music for the crowd as we waited for the show to start, and then two women spoke before introducing Sen. Sanders, who arrived only a few minutes late (a welcome change from the last time he visited, in which I gave up after waiting for two or three hours). Then Sanders gave a stump speech with an ironically religious fervor, the atheist candidate addressing the crowd more than once as “brothers and sisters.” He spoke about ideas no longer radical in the Democrat party: free health care, free college, and a $15 minimum wage, all paid for by the “top 1%” and “corporations” (which the crowd seemed to think paid no taxes at all).

In many ways, he’s very similar to Donald Trump: a populist “upstart” with an anti-establishment appeal at odds with his own party. I don’t think I agreed with hardly anything he said, but I can clearly see why the crowd likes him.

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In other news, we had yet another four or five inches of snow last week that cancelled school and spurred me to take a day off from work to do some shoveling and spend some quality time warm inside with Vivian and the kids.

The weather seems to have warmed up quite a bit since then, so on Saturday we decided to make the most of the snow while it lasted. We had a brief snowball fight with the kids in our front yard, and then we took them down to the Sandy Park to do a bit of sledding. The snow was still several inches deep, which made swinging nearly impossible and walking through the deep snow a bit difficult (especially for wee folks with short legs). We still had a good time, and I’m sure the snow will be gone before we know it (“and good riddance,” says most of Omaha).

Snow End in Sight

The news of the day is snow, snow, and more snow. We had three legit snow emergencies in a week, the third of which caused a couple hundred miles of I-80 to be shut down as semi trucks and vehicles when sliding around in the worst vehicle pile-ups some state troopers had ever seen.

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Our first snow event came crashing down Saturday night, cancelling the early service at church and even the chili cook-off planned for that evening. We had another downfall a few days later that shut down schools (again) and inspired me to have an impromptu science project with the kids: placing an ice cube tray of juice outside to turn into tiny, fruity, popsiclettes. It wasn’t cold enough to freeze them quite as thoroughly as I’d hoped, but the kids still enjoyed them.

After the second snowfall, I also did a bit of extra shoveling at my in-laws’ house — namely taking a snow rake to the roof and scraping off an extra foot of the white stuff. I’m definitely getting a workout every time I have to shovel this stuff, and it helps when I can’t get to the Kroc Center.

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During a brief window between blizzards, I dropped by Barley’s “back room” in Council Bluffs to meet Democrat Congresswoman (HI-6) and Presidential candidate, Tulsi Gabbard. She’s been tracking near the bottom of the polls I’ve been able to see, but she impressed me as a candidate. She’s a woman from a multicultural and multi-religious household, but she also served in the Iraq War in the National Guard, making her fairly unique as a Democrat candidate. Her brief stump speech seemed to focus on ending “regime change wars” overseas and she also said we were at the greatest risk of nuclear war in the world’s history (which I found a bit questionable).

What impressed me most was her apparent bipartisanship, writing a bill that was co-sponsored by Rand Paul and wanting to support issues regardless of the “R” and “D” after them. This was a refreshing change from other platforms that seem to begin and end with “Orange Man Bad.” I don’t agree with her on many issues, but I did stick around to tell her I appreciated her willingness to reach across the aisle. We need more of that.

(You can watch the event here and maybe get a glimpse of me!) 

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The biggest blizzard came on Saturday night, dumping around nine inches of the white stuff this time. I brought in a giant icicle from our porch, which had been growing hilariously over the past week. We mostly had some quality time indoors and away from the treacherous streets. (The UNO dome wasn’t so lucky, crashing from the wind and snow in the meantime.)

The next day, however, the sun came out and I spent a good while shoveling both our driveway and my in-laws’. I got a bit of help from our neighbor Mike, who was kind enough to walk by with his snowblower and help clear our driveway completely unsolicited. Our kids stayed inside playing “restaurant” together in the meantime. We had actually been planning to have a sushi birthday with the Mills family that afternoon, but three of their kids were sick and they unfortunately had to cancel (which meant sushi for us for lunch).

In lieu of a party, we decided to take the kids down to the Kroc Center for the afternoon, braving some still-slippery streets to have an afternoon in their warm, indoor water park. It was a nice, warm end to a long, and snowy week — though the cold is still persisting even as we head on in to March.

Come on, spring!

Embracing Life, Celebrating Sushi

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We’re still adjusting to the return to normalcy in the midst of arctic temperatures as January wraps up. That includes MPact starting again, and our little Prim and Rainbow got to have a brief mid-year show-and-tell with their groups at BCC. Mostly, it meant watching several volunteers struggle to keep a few little ones from wandering off stage and listening to the older ones recite scripture and sing a few songs for the grown-ups in the audience.

We’re still quite proud of our little ones, of course, and very happy they get to spend their Wednesday nights learning about the Bible with so many of their little friends (and the three different pledges of allegiance they apparently have).

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Then on Friday night, I got to attend the 45th Annual Celebration of Life dinner with several of my teammates form the Pope Paul VI Institute. My boss, Dr. Hilgers, was actually being honored in absentia with a lifetime achievement award, which was accepted by his wife Sue. Naturally, I was on-the-job getting pictures and live-streaming some video (thanks to his daughter Dr. Teresa for holding the camera). Several of our elected leaders were also there, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley (who played emcee), the Governor, and a Congressman or two.

I got to learn a bit more about the world of the newly-renamed Nebraska Embracing Life before hearing from the keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen. Gianna was the victim of a chemical abortion forty years ago and supposed to have been aborted, but she miraculously survived and lived to tell us a bit about her life (and be the inspiration for the film October Baby). She has some physical disabilities from the abortion procedure, including cerebral palsy, so she was a bit unsteady standing at the wheeled podium at the front of the room. She actually called on our Governor to literally stand by her side and give her physical support as she gave her talk, which he did like a true gentleman.

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The next day, Vivian and I celebrated our sushi anniversary, marking twelve years since we made things official in 2007. We left the kids with mom and dad and went off to Hunan Fusion in West Omaha, getting our fill of sushi, including Shrimp Tempura rolls, Spicy Crab Rolls, Hawaii Rolls and Black Widow Rolls.

We walked off our lunch afterward and headed down to the Indian grocery store afterward and picked up a few things to make chicken tikka masala later in the week.

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Of course, one sushi date isn’t enough, so a few days later, we swung by the Jade Palace for some drive-thru sushi in an impromptu lunch date. For fast-food sushi, it was surprisingly good (and made to order).

In the meantime, we’re enjoying an arctic snap that brought temperatures below zero (for the high) and enjoyed spending a little more quality time indoors, eating pork chops with Grammy and Pop-Pop and spending 1500 of Vivian’s Wii points before the Wii Store closed forever, letting the kids play such classic games as Mario 64 for the first time. Fortunately, things will warm up by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. This year, Hannah’s picked the Rams to win, so we’ll see if her four-pick winning streak holds up! (Aaron’s picked the Patriots.)

Unseasonable

The year 2019 is well underway, and we’re enjoying some major unseasonably warm weather. Among other unseasonable events, the 2020 Presidential Campaign seems to have kicked off way, way early, bleeding into the mid-terms in what feels like a never-ending political season.

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As such, Elizabeth Warren decided to drop by the Thunderbowl banquet hall in Council Bluffs to start her campaign. The venue held only 150 people and was clearly incapable of hosting the 300+ people who showed up. The Massachusetts Senator certainly had name recognition among the crowd, though most people who dropped by seemed more curious than committed to a candidate. Some left early after seeing that they wouldn’t be able to get inside, while those of us who stayed got a surprise when Warren herself dropped by half an hour early to greet the overflow crowd. She said a few words and then was immediately mobbed by spectators wanting selfies on her way inside (I almost got one myself). She gave a brief stump speech and held a brief Q&A, with questions selected via names from a hat. She then stuck around for more selfies afterward.

It seems like yesterday I was hobnobbing with candidates like this, mingling with the merch vendors hawking buttons and standing in lines of people waiting to see candidates. I enjoyed hearing what Warren had to say, though she’s farther to the left than most any candidate I’ve heard before and stands opposite of me on nearly every issue. It’ll be interesting to see which candidate throws his (or her) hat into the rig next.

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The gorgeous weather continued into Saturday, and to celebrate the twelfth day of Christmas, the city of Omaha set off the fireworks it had intended to set off on New Year’s Eve (but postponed due to high winds). We walked through the Gene Leahy Mall with the kids, which was lovely still with its Christmas lights lit. We met up with Kate and her girls and let the kids play a bit on the slides. Then we took a brief walk on the (still) frozen ice as we waited for the fireworks to start.

The show was supposed to happen at 14th and Farnam, but the fireworks were actually set off from behind the buildings in Heartland of America Park, obscuring our view from the east end of the mall (as if the organizers pulled the world’s biggest “psyche!”) Once the show started, we had to rush with a thousand other people just to see them. Fortunately, we got a fairly good view from tenth street. We let the traffic clear itself out as the kids played together, and then Vivian and I headed home to enjoy some jalapeño poppers (courtesy of Vivian) after putting the kids to bed.

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On Sunday night, we took the kids to play at the playground of First Presbyterian Church in advance of their Family Movie Night. They got a good dose of playing outdoors despite the weather turning a bit more seasonable, but it made our dinner of chili hot dogs even more welcoming once we were done outside. Then Hannah and Aaron got to join several of their little friends on the floor and watch Ferdinand before calling it a night.

Then on Monday, Alabama got to lose spectacularly to Clemson in the college football national championship. I watched the game with my dad and Jonathan, taking advantage of a free trial with Sling to watch on ESPN via my dad’s laptop (connected to the TV via HDMI, which worked great). It’s one of the two football games I usually watch each year, though Hannah doesn’t pick a winner for this one. We’ll see if Alabama and Clemson meet again next year for yet another re-match.

Civil discourse and the Bush Train

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A few weeks ago, America said goodbye to the 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. It was a relatively long goodbye, as even when the funeral was over the former President’s funeral train, the Union Pacific 4141, came to Omaha to be on display for a couple days. I was one of the many who stopped by to pay our respects last Wednesday up until the moment the whistle blew and pulled away. I was impressed with how many people came to pay their respects — people of all stripes, including one black man with an Obama hat (who got his photo taken in front of the train). It made me feel just a little better about a country that too often seems so divided.

Not long before his passing, I uncovered an old video my dad took when President Bush when he came to campaign at the Riverchase Galleria in Birmingham, Alabama. I was only 14 at the time but still vividly remember that day — particularly the long security lines and the rain that drenched everyone before the President spoke. Lee Greenwood himself was there to play music beforehand, and First Lady Barbara Bush was on stage as well. I even got a glimpse of Mrs. Bush through the window of the motorcade as it came by afterward. What I didn’t remember until I found this video, however, was that my dad had recorded highlights of the whole day, which you can see on YouTube.

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On Saturday morning, I got up early to attend an event hosted by the Free Speech Society down at the Omaha Bakery. There I got to watch a talk with William King, Kara Eastman, and Scott Voorhees on the Obama Legacy, along with a packed room of thirty or so other people. Eastman and Voorhees were predictably left-wing and conservative of course, while King seemed to straddle the line as a centrist, having supported Obama but just recently emceed Pete Ricketts’ election night victory party. The crowd as well had a healthy mix of left-wing people and staunch conservatives in the crowd talking about everything from Obamacare to climate change, to Supreme Court nominations.

While the discussion was lively, everyone was civil and nobody made any personal attacks, which was a refreshing change from online discussions. The best part, of course, came from a back-and-forth with Scott Voorhees and Tom Becka, with Scott remarking “I miss this” in the midst of it. I think what made the biggest difference was that everyone was required to listen to others as they waited their turn to speak, and that’s something that’s missing from our current conversation.

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That evening, Grammy watched the kids as we headed up to Jenny and Kody’s annual Christmas house party at their place up in Bennington. About a dozen of our mutual friends joined us there (and briefly the Simpson familyas we shared  Vivian’s vegetable medley and had some of Kody’s smoked ribs and chicken (and a dessert platter).

I wound up being a long night, as we played a round of Christmas trivia (which I won!) and then some 90s trivia followed by a round of two or What’s Yours Like. Kody also had a “sexometer,” some old gag gift from the 60s, which we all passed around and tried out. Of course, we didn’t leave without someone sneaking off and rearranging some of Jenny and Kody’s clothes to make interesting surprises in random spots around the house. I know this only because photographic evidence wound up on my camera. Ahem.

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It’s also been a lovely and warm couple of December days, which meant extra playtime with the kids outdoors. I took them for a trip to the park on Saturday, and I got some exercise pushing them on swings and on an X-Wave teeter-totter together.

Then on Sunday, the kids rode a tricycle in our driveway and Hannah made an x-marks-the-spot treasure hunt for Aaron and me to go on. We even took a walk to grandma and grandpa’s house in the wagon so Aaron could play with trains as we introduced Hannah once again to Mr. Bean (who played with a Nativity Set).

Next stop: First Date Anniversary and Christmas!

Merry Murder Mystery

It now feels like the Christmas season is truly upon us, specifically because we now have a blanket of the “white stuff” all over everything. But first, other news.

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On Wednesday last week, the University of Nebraska-Omaha chapter of Turning Point USA brought their first speaker to campus — Anna Paulina, Director of Hispanic Engagement. She was joined by L. James Wright, deputy director for Congressman Don Bacon, to talk about how Republicans and conservatives can reach out to the Black and Hispanic communities.

It was a fairly modest turnout, but a good discussion overall. In the audience was Dr. Jonathan C. Benjamin-Alvarado, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UN-O, and he seemed to give TPUSA a much warmer welcome that they received at that other University down the street, which was encouraging.

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Over the weekend, we got some more Christmas festivities underway, specifically finishing our decorations putting up the tree and getting it decorated with the kids. It was nice to bask in its soft, warm glow once again, and both kids seemed to be a bit more eager to help decorate the tree this year rather than take down and play with all the ornaments within reach.

We also brought out Santasaurus after a year in the garage to join in the festivities. Zoey the cat, on the other hand, seemed somewhat sad to lose her perch in front of the window.

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Then on Sunday, we got a fair bit of snow that turned Omaha into a white-frosted wonderland. It was a heavy, wet snow, which was thick enough to break my shovel as I tried digging Grammy out of her house.

The roads seemed clear enough, though, for us to continue to host the Christmas-themed murder mystery we’d planned with a handful of our friends. Because of the weather, several guests dropped out, but we still had enough left to put on our show, which was fun. We had people playing reindeer, elves, and Santa Claus all mixed up together with food and wine (and donuts) to go around. We also handed out prizes for the best costume, the best actor, the best sleuth, and the guest who took the most bribes (which was apparently part of the game).

It was lots of fun overall, but I feel terrible for our mutual friend Kate, whose car was hit that same evening by a truck that crossed the median on Highway 370. Everyone walked out of the accident fine, but her car may be totaled in the process, so please keep her in your prayers. (Thankfully, the driver who hit her has insurance.)