Category Archives: Politics

Lent, Thomas More, and Kevin McCarthy

We kicked of Lent last week with a fun and busy cross-section of activities that included politics, a fish fry, and plenty of time outside enjoying some spring-like weather.

IMG_20200225_195808969IMG_20200225_203804576

On (Fat) Tuesday night, I got dressed up to attend the Thomas More Society dinner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish Center, courtesy of the Saint Paul VI Institute, which bought a whole table for me and my co-workers. I knew almost nothing about the Thomas More Society beforehand, and I got hear from founder Tom Brejcha talk about their legal work defending pro-lifers — particularly their right to protest.

The keynote speaker for the evening was David Bereit, founder of the 40 Days for Life campaign. He actually had a surprising connection to the Saint Paul VI Institute — his wife was actually treated for infertility by Dr. Hilgers many years ago and had two grown children now thanks to him. That was certainly surprising news to everyone at our table.

It was a lovely evening, and I even got to take home a tiny Mardis Gras mask for Hannah’s doll in honor of Fat Tuesday.

IMG_8776IMG_8790

Ash Wednesday kicked off that Lenten season, and that means it’s time for fish fries! Our friends the Simpsons invited us along with them to St. Charles Borromeo for their annual fish fry. It was the first time our kids have had the “full line experience,” but they got to run outside a bit and then played a keep-away game with mommy as we shuffled our way through the line waiting to dish up.

The fish itself was probably the best of all the fish fries I’ve attended — fried fresh, crispy and golden — and even Hannah wound up stuffing herself with a filet or two. (Gabriel helped himself to his mom’s mac and cheese.)

IMG_8814IMG_8875

Vivian and I had a night out planned on Saturday, so we made a point of getting the kids outside to enjoy some of the lovely 60-degree weather. We had a picnic lunch in the shelter together and then burned off the PB&J on slides, the teeter-totter, and rolling aimlessly down the hill. Hannah also brought along her doll “Suki” to chase Aaron around the playground in-between rounds of play-fighting.

IMG_9074IMG_9169

Then that evening, Grammy watched the kids as Vivian and I dressed up and headed off to the Elephant Remembers dinner downtown. It’s the second time we’d been invited to this annual gala fundraiser, which meant we got to rub elbows with some of the typical Republican friends I bump into at town halls or parades (looking at you, Stephen). Scott Voorhees played emcee, and introduced a chain of speakers, such as Mayor Jean, Mike Foley, Ben Sasse, and Don Bacon. The keynote speaker was House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who gave an stump speech about entering politics as a young man and his optimism about Republicans taking back the house in November. McCarthy received a few gifts before he left the stage — a bottle of whiskey from local distiller Soldier Valley, and an plaque naming him Admiral of the Nebraska Navy (an apparently annual joke I have yet to understand).

The honorees of the evening were Lee and Robyn Terry, and there was a nice table of Terry campaign memorabilia set up in the lobby for everyone to see as they came in. Bacon’s wing-man James Wright introduced Lee and Robyn, who both said a few words before being awarded a Nebraska baking pan by DCRP chair Theresa Thibodeau. There was one more award to Young Republican Spencer Head and a few words from Bacon’s second-in-command Kyle Clark to wrap things up. Naturally, plenty of folks stuck around to meet-and-greet a few of the speakers (and get photos), and I got to briefly shake McCarthy’s hand and told him I looked forward to him being the next Speaker. I also wound up taking a group photo of the Terry Team on my way out the door — always happy to lend a hand with my lens whenever possible.

IMG_9223IMG_9239

We had a nice and quiet Sunday, unexpectedly bumping into our friends the Lenarts at church over donuts. Then that evening we took the kids by First Presbyterian to play outside (and let Hannah try out her scooter) in the gorgeous weather before enjoying another one of their movie nights. This time it was 101 Dalmatians, a Disney classic I’d actually never seen, which we watched while eating Hot Dogs, sloppy joes, and Scooby Snacks of all things. They had some fun crafts afterward that included Dalmatian head bands, and Hannah made her own Dalmatian out of Play-Doh before we called it a night.

The Week before Caucus Night

The Iowa Caucuses are finally being held today, so it might be worth a quick look back at a busy, busy week in Presidential politics if you happened to be living within a stone’s throw of Council Bluffs, where we had a candidate visiting pretty much every day of the week (some of whom I missed, such as Amy Klobuchar on Tuesday and Joe Biden on Wednesday).

IMG_7164First up was Andrew Yang, who held a rally with around 300 at Abe Lincoln High School on Monday. Our friend Nate had wanted to visit either Yang (or Tulsi — the two sanest Democrats running, IMHO) before the primaries started, so he came along with me to hear what he had to say.Yang was introduced by a few local Democrats and then his wife Evelyn before taking the stage in front of a very friendly crowd, which happened to include Alex Wagner from Showtime’s The Circus. As before, the focus of Yang’s stump speech was on helping workers displaced via AI technology through his “freedom divided,” and I found his keen focus on the economy to be what set him apart from his more socialist-leaning competitors. He took a few questions afterward, including one from a woman whose sister died of an opioid overdose (who Yang also called up front so he could give her a hug). He stuck around afterward for a quick series selfies with everyone who came (including me, of course), and I had the chance to thank him for appearing on the Ben Shapiro show — and that both sides need to listen to one another.

IMG_20200130_143955074Then on Wednesday, the Vice President himself paid Council Bluffs a visit on his way to a rally with President Trump in Des Moines. Nate’s son Jake had expressed interest in meeting President Trump, which I told him was a tall order. A meeting with the Vice President, however, was far more doable. The event was held at the Thunderbowl’s Gathering Room, which was a fairly small venue, so we showed up around two and a half hours early to help ensure we got good seats (in the second row)! The Fox News Channel was among the media there to cover the VP’s visit, along with a handful of local media and even Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, who came with the motorcade. There was an opening invocation and a recitation of the pledge of allegiance before Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds took the stage to introduce the Vice President.

IMG_20200130_144052666I’d seen (and shaken the hand of) Mr. Pence three times before, but this was the first time I’d been allowed to bring my good camera with me, so I happily snapped photos as the VP gave a brief stump speech highlighting Veterans’ issues and the economy. The real excitement happened in the moments afterward, of course, when Jake and I were quickly able to make our way to the front to meet the Veep himself. Jake was easily able to get a handshake and a selfie with Pence. I brought along a copy of A Day in the Life of the Vice President, a book written and illustrated and Pence’s daughter and wife, respectively, which Pence seemed very happy to autograph for me when I asked.

Among the familiar faces in the crowd were the Halliburtons — David, Mason (the Button Boy), and Haley — who had met the Veep multiples times before but this time brought previously-snapped photos of themselves for him to autograph. We stayed just long enough to watch the motorcade make its way out of town before heading home.

IMG_7449The last Presidential candidate to visit Council Bluffs before the Caucus was Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who held a rally in Ballroom-B the Mid-America Center. Since I’d gotten to see the first candidate visit more than a year ago, I thought it was nice to be able to see the last one as well.

He gave a stump emphasizing the need to bring Democrats, Republicans, and moderates together while also stumping unapologetically for abortion and criticizing Christians for being too selfish to sign onto his social welfare programs. I only stayed long enough to snap some pictures and rub elbows with a few other familiar faces before watching the 2020 Caucus draw to a close.

IMG_7593Then on Saturday, I was up bright and early to attend a nine o’clock town hall with Don Bacon. He’s held more than a dozen of these since taking office in 2017, and as always it drew people from both sides of the political aisle. The left-leaning members of the audience asked questions about climate change and the impeachment, the latter of which seemed a sore spot as the Senate had just voted to draw their proceedings to a close. The event was moderated by KFAB’s Scott Voorhees, who kept things moving along even as some members wanted to ask more than their share of questions — some of which got heated as one guy spontaneously started screaming out of turn. Even though things got heated, the Congressman stayed cool. When accused of voting to end Obamacare with no replacement, he pointed out that he had, in fact, voted for the AHCA, and when one audience member accused Trump of soliciting a bribe, Bacon pointed out that bribery should have been included in the articles of impeachment in that case — and it wasn’t.

I mostly enjoyed the back-and-forth, and at the end of the event, Congressman Bacon said, “Agree or disagree… we’re all Americans.” I’m glad we live in a country where the folks in power — whether a candidate, a Congressman, or the Vice President — are so easily within reach of a nobody like me living in Nebraska. I just hope the Iowa Democrats didn’t screw up their Caucus so badly this year that they’ll pick another state to go first in 2024.

Happy New Decade

Hello, 2020 — a New Year, a New Year, and a new season of writing on the wrong year on everything. Seriously, it’s going to take a while for 2020 to sound more like a real-life year and not a TV show.

IMG_6520IMG_20191229_164321985

Somehow, we ended the year in the same way we started it — with a visit from Senator and Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren. I’m honestly surprised she’s still in the race, considering the gaffe claiming Native American ancestry. She’s one of the farther-left candidates on the Democratic ticket, which is a shift from her earlier days when she supported such things as school choice. She’s still one of the front-runners, however, so I joined a couple hundred people at Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear her talk about teachers’ unions, climate change, and other Democrat issues. (Strangely enough, she didn’t once mention Donald Trump or the impeachment, which was something of a surprise.)

Her husband Bruce Mann was also in the crowd, which seemed a mix of older folks, families, and young people. Sen. Warren also seemed to make a point of making time for “selfies” after her Q&A session, which at least half the crowd of around 300 stuck around for. It was interesting to see how many people were getting selfies before the event started. Unlike most folks in the crowd, however, I wanted to get a question on video rather than a selfie. Her staff didn’t seem sure hat to make of that (and seemed a bit suspicious of me), and they insisted on holding my phone for me when I got up to meet Sen. Warren. Was going to ask if she’d appear on the show of her former student, Ben Shapiro, but I decided to ask a softball supplied by my daughter Hannah and asked about Warren’s kids instead. You can see a video of that here.

It’s always a bit of a thrill to meet the Presidential candidates I hear about on my daily podcasts, even if I’m not planning on voting for them. In about a month, they’ll all be gone!

IMG_6618IMG_6695

Then on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the only way we know how — with lots and lots of food! We made some homemade corn dogs with a corn dog maker unearthed from our basement, along with some frozen fruit smoothies using a smoothie maker Hannah got for her birthday. My folks (and Uncle Jonny) came by a little later and got to meet Harold the Guinea Pig. They brought along a fondue set and some sirloin steak to cook in boiling canola oil, which was quite tasty. We also sampled some unique cheeses I’d gotten from Aldi, which included an “ash” brie and Borgonzola.

After my folks left, Hannah played Trouble with Mommy and Grammy while waiting for midnight. Jack and Donna joined in and stayed later for a cheese fondue that Vivian cooked up for us. Hannah stayed up late as well, having fun dipping things in the cheese fondue and serving them to us rather than eating them. We had the TV tuned to the ball drop in New York City and then toasted the New Year when they replayed it for the Central Time Zone, ringing in a new year and a new decade.

IMG_6718IMG_6762

We slept in on New Year’s Day and then had a mostly quiet day cleaning up and then playing at the park with the kids. It was warm enough for them to have an hour or two to run around the Sandy Park before Jack and Donna came over to our house for dinner. Jack brought a black-eyed pea soup made with leftover Christmas ham (specifically the bone), which we had with a table full of hors d’oeuvres (hooray for meat roll-ups).

Now that the holidays are officially over, we’re going to have to start taking down our decorations and thinking about all the things we can expect in 2020 — fun and otherwise. Happy New Year, everybody!

Birthdays and Guinea Pigs

It’s been a busy, busy week, with multiple church programs, birthdays for both my parents, a new candidate running for office, and a new family member for the Johnson family.

IMG_5167IMG_5196

On Friday night, I got to attend the campaign kick-off for Robert Anthony, who’s running for the State Board of Education in the Second District. Because Board of Education districts are different from both congressional and school districts (and since it overlaps with other counties), I had to do a bit of research first to make sure I could vote for him. We had some barbecue from Big Bubba’s Que and talked a bit about educational issues before he gave his stump speech. He’s a strong conservative and actually home-schools his own kids, so he’s tuned in to the sorts of needs homeschooling families likes family would have, and that was encouraging. It’s safe to say he has my vote.

Because I wound up being the one guy with a “Real Camera” for the evening, I wound up snapping a few photos of other guests with Robert before calling it a night. The kids were both asleep when I returned home, and Vivian made up some ahi tuna and scallops for dinner before we watched A Christmas Carol.

IMG_20191207_112249879IMG_20191207_155409157

On Saturday, we celebrated my dad’s birthday with the gift of “face time” — i.e. going through a trunk of memorabilia in the basement, looking at some groovy old photos in a few photo albums, and watching a couple old home movies. I was surprised to find a few unique treasures among the family photos and college art projects, including an autographed picture of Mr. Rogers, original campaign posters for Barry Goldwater, and some original artwork from Tribune editorial cartoonist Wayne Stayskal. My dad was friends with Staysakal and apparently gave him ideas for multiple cartoons. When this happened, Stayskal would often send my dad the original artwork, which he kept. (The funniest cartoon, of course, came in the form of a homemade birthday card from Nathan, circa 2002.)

I spent nearly the whole day at my folks’ house, taking a brief break for Arby’s at lunchtime and then heading home as the sun went down.

IMG_5297IMG_5307

On Sunday evening, we had a Christmas program at Wildewood Christian Church (titled “A Country Christmas” for some reason). It was very brief, with just 15 minutes of setting up and decorating a tree interspersed with kids singing a few Christmas songs (with obligatory Christian Hand Motions™). All four grandparents were able to come and see the program, and even Aaron was able to sit still for all 15 minutes of it.

IMG_5350IMG_20191208_211450731

After the Christmas program, we dropped by the Mills house to meet the newest member of our family — a new baby guinea pig! The Mills had adopted their own guinea pig (named “Ginny”), who unbeknownst to them was already pregnant! She popped out a little baby boy who’s now been weaned and ready for a new home. I’d gotten a cage with bedding and food recently and we were able to set it all up and take our new little pup home that evening. We’re still settling on a name, but Hannah is leaning toward “Scratcher” at the moment.

In the meantime, our poor cat Zoey doesn’t know what to make of this strange creature, who could just as easily be food as a friend.

IMG_20191210_193557613IMG_20191210_195534458

And because one birthday visit wasn’t enough, we dropped by my folks’ house again on Tuesday. I made my dad some barley bread, which he’d said a while ago he wanted to try. His father (my grandfather) had mentioned having to eat it during World War I because of food rationing and never liking the taste. Since barley bread is hard to come by, my dad had wanted to try it, so I managed to find some barley flour at Natural Grocers and made him a loaf. It was all right, similar to brown bread or corn bread but much more crumbly (with no gluten holding it together).

We stayed long enough my my folks to open some presents and had a hand-drawn birthday card from Hannah before calling it a night.

IMG_5382IMG_5394

Then on Wednesday night, Hannah and the rest of her friends from MPact had a mid-year awards ceremony in the basement chapel. It was a shorter ceremony than in years past, as the groups didn’t all perform skits or sing songs to show what they’ve been learning so far this year. Everyone on stage got a certificate, and then we stayed just long enough for some punch an cookies before heading home.

Hannah’s been a part of this group since she was a Rainbow, and it’s so nice to see her growing up with all her little friends together!

Thanksgiving, Christmas Kick-Off, and Corn Pops

The Johnson Family got to enjoy a fun four-day weekend here in Omaha doing all our traditional favorite Thanksgiving things — eating too much food with family, seeing Santa at Union Station, and decorating for Christmas. I also got to meet Joe and Jill Biden right before he went viral for nibbling her finger.

IMG_4682IMG_4696

We kicked things off on Turkey Day watching the Macy’s Day parade before breaking out the hors d’oeuvres — and for the first time, Hannah and Aaron were both interested in watching. I also kept the kids distracted by introducing them to Minecraft on my Raspberry Pi. They immediately fell in love getting me to build underground “houses” for both of them with tunnels and paths connecting everything together.

Jack and Donna came over to help get Thanksgiving Dinner ready in the meantime, and my parents and brothers joined us after that to dig in later that afternoon. We had all the traditional foods, from Taber Salad to Pumpkin and Pumpkin Pecan pies for dessert. Other than loads of dishes to do afterward, it was a nice, quiet holiday — something I’m quite thankful for.

IMG_4722IMG_4820

It was cold and rainy on Friday, so we stayed inside drawing and doing laundry for the most part. Then that evening we made our annual pilgrimage to Union Station to see Santa. Grammy and her confectionery crew were decorating cookies again, and Vivian and I got to take the kids on an extensive tour of the trains and activities downstairs. A traveling exhibit had some political memorabilia that include Joy Villa’s famous Trump Dress, and while they kids liked the model trains and old trains and trolleys on display, they gravitated toward a magnet board and set of toy trains for a good portion of our visit.

Then upstairs, the massive crowd pressed in for some caroling with Camille Metoyer Moten following by a tree-lighting with Mayor Stothert. We saw a few other familiar faces during our visit, including the other Johnson Family and the Mathis Family. I’d hoped for another nice Christmas picture with the tree but had to settle of a quick selfie instead as one of our kids was too tired to stay much longer.

IMG_4966IMG_5018

Then on Saturday, Joe Biden came to Council Bluffs to kick off his “No Malarkey” bus tour — getting some viral coverage for a painfully outdated slogan and nibbling his wife’s finger, among other things. It was a remarkably small crowd for a former VP and front-runner, with only around 100 people in attendance (in my vague estimation). A few regulars showed up as well, including Tom Becka, Fake Security Guy, and AP photographer Nati Harnik. After a few words of introduction, Dr. Jill Biden took the stage with her husband Joe to introduce him.

Then Joe stood up to give a very brief, ten-minute stump speech before working the crowd for around half an hour more. As with his last visit, he stayed to meet and greet just about everyone who wanted to say hello. Several people wanted autographs, and I brought along a box of Corn Pops hoping he’d sign it (if you don’t get it, watch this). Unfortunately, his staff took the box away and though he wound up not signing the box, I did get the cereal back.

I didn’t pay much mind to Biden’s speech itself, but I enjoyed seeing him interacting with attendees, even taking a phone call with someone’s grandmother who wasn’t able to attend. I’m not sure why the crowd was so small — folks could have been turned away by the cold and cloudy (and somewhat rainy) weather or busy with Thanksgiving weekend, but the vibe I got was that Joe was past his prime and folks were looking for someone younger and fresher for the nomination this time around — someone who doesn’t use words like “malarkey.”

IMG_5067IMG_5071

I also spent some time putting up our Christmas decorations during the sunnier moments on Saturday. Then on Sunday Vivian and I put together the tree and our house a bit more ready for Christmas. That included setting up the tree and breaking out Santasaurus and a few of his friends. Even Hannah got into the act with her Calico Critters decorating their own house.

We have a very short season this year, but putting anything up before Thanksgiving still felt wrong, so we had to get the house a bit more festive before the weekend was over.

Let’s get this holiday started!


Christmas at Union Station

Marianne & Pete and Hannah turns Eight

Our little girl turned eight over the weekend, so we celebrated for a couple days with friends and family on Friday and Saturday.

IMG_4371IMG_4423

First on Friday, Vivian and I blew up some balloons to greet Hannah when she woke up, per tradition. Then, I made Hannah a special “8” pancake in the morning before she headed off to her home school co-op. Then that evening, we had all four grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to share in some of Hannah’s favorite foods for dinner — shrimp, oranges, strawberries, black olives, and potato chips. She got to open up some presents as well, including some calico critters, a baby doll, a musical puppy, and a “Little Live OMG Pet” from Uncle Jonny.

After blowing out a candle on her cupcake, we headed on our to Skate City afterward for some evening rollerskating with friends (and some hot dogs). Hannah and Mommy strapped on some skates and took a few laps around the rink, and even daddy took a turn rolling around trying desperately not to fall over (Aaron was preoccupied with some classic arcade games). Our friends the Mills came by to skate as well with us, but they unfortunately weren’t able to stay long. Miss Lexi took a tumble and somehow fractured her fibula, which is going to require surgery to fix. Vivian’s already planning a meal train to help her out while she’s recovering from that.

IMG_4494IMG_4471

Then on Saturday, we invited a handful of Hannah’s friends over to celebrate her birthday together. Donna brought a cake modeled after the girls’ equestrian Netflix show “Spirit” with a giant “8” on the top. Hannah got a few new presents from her friends as well as Uncle Nathan, who stopped by just long enough not to have any cake. Hannah’s friends mostly played with one another as the moms talked, and then Hannah and Sammy put together horses out of foam tiles as a craft before calling it a night.

IMG_1931IMG_1993

And because we’re still in a perpetual Presidential campaign season, we had a few more candidates some around. Last Sunday, it was Marianne Williamson, a kind of new-age spiritualist who actually spent three days in the Omaha area making appearances. She visited Unite Omaha on north 90th on Monday night and spoke to a few hundred people in something that felt more like a church service than a campaign rally. There was even a legit choir singing hymns about Ferguson and “hands up don’t shoot.” Marianne gave an hour-long stump speech touching on standard Democrat topics such as climate change, reparations, and the evils of “trickle-down” economics. This was followed by a Q&A with audience members, some of whom seemed even more colorful that the candidate — one being an anti-vaxxer and another being a member of the “UFO community.”

She stayed afterward to meet and greet guests and sign autographs. I got to meet her briefly and commented that a quote she cited that was often attributed to Voltaire (“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize”) actually came from a Neo-Nazi. This upset her enough that she had to run back stage to delete a tweet she shared recently that included the quote. While I wasn’t that impressed by her political idea, I did appreciate her understanding that political animosity is not all coming from one side. One man had asked what he could do to get family member to see Trump “for what he really is.” Marianne responded that his family members feel the same way about Democrats. “We’ve got to stop projecting onto others that their values are inferior,” she said.

IMG_4628IMG_4574

Then one week later, Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana came to town. He’s currently the front-runner and spoke to a gymnasium of around 2,100 people at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. I was a little late to the event (having a toilet emergency at home that needed overseeing), so I didn’t get close enough to ask Mayor Pete to go on the Ben Shapiro program. I did get a nice spot on the balcony to snap pictures of the stage below, which was a good enough spot for a guy from the New York Times to stake out as well.

Mayor Pete seemed to be a very polished, articulate candidate who knew how to work a crowd, but I found a lot of his talk about “uniting” the country to be terribly disingenuous. He went almost immediately from talking about “values that unite us all” to praising abortion and the impeachment proceedings, which brought easy cheers from a left-wing crowd but were unlikely to get the “other half” of the country on board. I also couldn’t help but notice the crowd was almost entirely white. This isn’t something I normally care about, but it highlighted the difficulty Mayor Pete has had connecting to black voters. I guess using stock photos of Kenyans didn’t help bring anyone on board.

Next stop: Thanksgiving, and the kick-off of the Christmas season!

Tale of two Senators

We’ve been taking advantage of some lovely fall weather over the past week or two, taking in as much autumn fun as we can before winter hits. I also got to hang out with Bernie Sanders on Friday and then Ben Sasse on Saturday, so I guess that makes me bipartisan.

DSCN9915IMG_20191103_151016037

We had a quiet weekend last week, taking the kids for a long walk through Fontenelle Forest to get some fresh air and take in as some of the remaining fall colors before all the leaves were gone. The relatively bare trees gave us a nice view of the river in some spots and even a glimpse of downtown Omaha. The kids got to play on the playground for a bit as well before we were done.

Then on Sunday, we went to my parents’ house to let the kids watch the Wizard of Oz for the very first time. I’d seen the classic MGM film multiple times growing up, but seeing it through the eyes of my kids for the first time was a fun experience for everybody. (And having subtitles let me understand some of the lyrics and dialog for the first time as well.)

IMG_4052IMG_4000

On Friday, Bernie Sanders paid another visit to Council Bluffs for a rally, bringing with him fellow socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). The crowd of young, white, and rainbow-haired leftists seemed to be more eager to see her than the man running for President. Three musical acts preceded the politics — a lady playing a ukulele (while singing about “my body my choice”),  “Democratic Socialist Songsmith” Neal Francis and his funky band from Chicago (who were surprisingly good), and an eccentric banjo player named Adrian.

A few local politicians spoke before bringing out AOC, who seemed to be able to work the crowd up to a frenzy as she alternated between sitting and walking about the stage to introduce Sen. Sanders. The two politicians are half a century apart in age, but that gave them an interesting chemistry as they took turns exulting the values of socialism to a very friendly crowd. There were apparently over 2,000 people in attendance, but I managed to get a spot at the front to shake hands with both Bernie and AOC when they wrapped up and walked the rope line. I even asked them both if they would appear on the Ben Shapiro program. (Neither of them responded with much enthusiasm.)

IMG_20191109_094203383IMG_4209

The next morning, Hannah and I both got to walk in a Veterans’ Day Parade with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse. Vivian and Aaron were at a friend’s birthday party at the time, but Grammy was able to give us a ride to Olde Town Bellevue so we would meet up with the rest of the Sasse team. Don Bacon’s crew was also on hand (sans Bacon), and we walked between them and (Democrat) Carol Blood along Mission Avenue. Hannah got to ride in our little wagon and toss candy to some of the kids lining the streets.

The whole route was only around one kilometer in length, so it was over fairly quickly. Sasse stuck around for just long enough for a photo or two before vanishing like a ninja. Then Hannah and I walked on back along the route back to where Grammy was stationed outside the Dairy Queen, watching the rest of the parade pass by along the way. Once it was over, we got some ice cream together before heading home.

IMG_4247IMG_4310

The weather was lovely for the rest of the day, so we got the kids outdoors for some fun diving into a pile of leaves. Hannah also decided to build a makeshift shelter in the backyard where she could hang out with our neighbor friends on the other side of the fence. (And went it got too cold to be outside, she made a hammock in our basement.)

Then that evening, we brought some hot dogs over to my parents’ house and cooked them over their fire pit as the sun went down. My dad and I brought along enough makeshift firewood from fallen tree branches and debris to keep the fire going for an hour or two after the sun went down. There’s nothing quite like a fire to bring people together.


My brief encounter with Bernie & AOC

Halloween Countdown

Halloween’s almost here, and that means we’re close to the time of perpetual darkness — AKA the end of daylight saving time — with winter not far behind. In the meantime, there’s more non-stop autumnal fun to be had, at least until the snow starts falling (which could be this afternoon).

IMG_3183IMG_3228

I had a busy Friday night, starting with a party to kick off Don Bacon’s 2020 re-election campaign. The event was held at the Regency Marriott, and it seems like just yesterday I was in the same ballroom for a victory party back in 2018 (or his previous kickoff party earlier that year). Don arrived moments after I did and spoke a few minutes to members of the media. Local musician Kaylyn Sahs played to music to start things off, followed by the National Anthem. Then Don had a long list of endorsements from Mike Foley, La Vista Mayor Douglas Kindig, Gretna Mayor Jim Timmerman, Bob Evnen, Aimee Melton and Brinker Harding from the Omaha City Council, and a few others. Then Don took the stage to give a stump speech touching on taxes, the deficit, abortion, and the current impeachment situation, among other things. His wife Angie and two sons were there as well, as he invited them on stage for a moment before meeting and greeting the couple hundred people in attendance.

In addition to the usual folks, there was a handful of little ones running about, including Phil with his son Gabe, so it really was an event for the whole family. I got to speak to Don for a few minutes about the Democrats’ “impeachment inquiry” being held behind closed doors in the capitol basement. Don said he actually walked in on Matt Gaetz’ attempt to walk in on the proceedings, but he only saw it from the back and had no idea what was going on. He said he’s only been able to get about 25% of the transcripts from the proceedings himself, so his view of what’s going on isn’t much better than anyone else’s.

IMG_3297IMG_3335

I returned home long enough to help tuck the kids into bed and then changed clothes for the Jitterbugs’ Halloween Party. I decided to go as “Pierre Delecto,” AKA Mitt Romney’s Twitter alter ego, which was outed only a few days earlier. Vivian donned a mask and cape and came as Super Mom. There was a fairly good crowd, though I’m no longer a regular at JNO, so I only saw a few familiar faces throughout the night — Eric, Mike and Merinda, Lacey, the Hamiltons, and Takashi (who led us in Thriller, of course), among a few others. We had a costume parade and a contest, and the winners being Napoleon Dynamite, Rey and Kylo Ren, and Star Lord and Gamora (though they were ALL winners in my book).

In addition to all the dancing, Billy managed to score a bunch of leftover food from another party that somehow didn’t need it, so Vivian and I both got some Lindy Fuel that kept us going past midnight, once the dance was done. Special thanks to Donna for letting us stay out that late!

IMG_3428IMG_3447

We started off Saturday with nothing on our agenda, but the weather was too darn nice to stay inside, so we headed off to Gifford Farm to enjoy some fresh air, see some fall colors, explore a few hideouts, and do some trick-or-treating. The staff had stations all around the farm set up for kids to collect candy, play games of ring toss (or ball toss), and many remaining animals to see, from chickens we could pet (or chase), to a horse, a donkey, sheep, pigs, and a bunny. We got a ride around on the hay rack and let the kids zip down the slides inside the straw barn for a little while.

A reporter from KETV stopped by to get some footage of Hannah that may or may not have been in their evening broadcast, which we never saw due to a football game delay. We finished off our visit by decorating some cookies with the River City Confectioners Association, which has always been a tradition, thanks to Vivian’s mom.

IMG_3584IMG_3591

And as if all that weren’t enough, we had a quick lunch at McDonald’s and then went all the way down to Union Orchard to get some pumpkins from their pumpkin patch. Vivian had lamented us not finding any “on the vine” this year or in years’ past, but they fortunately had plenty of pumpkins — large and small, orange, green, and white — all waiting for us to pick. They were quite a deal, too — just $1 each for the big ones, and three for a dollar for the little ones (which Hannah got for her dolls). We also got some acorn and butternut squashes for a dollar each as well as some apple donuts for the ride home.

It was a fun, busy weekend, with more fun this coming week in-between Halloween and potential snow. Hopefully it’ll stay warm enough for the kids to get an obscene amount of candy once again.

Bacon, Steak & Wine

IMG_1702 IMG_1747

Bright and early Saturday morning, Don Bacon held another feisty town hall, this time down at Liberty Middle School in Papillion. There were about 250 people in the cafeteria to hear Don talk, split around 50/50 Republicans and Democrats (and a few troublemakers), if my estimation of cheers and boos is correct. Many of the left-wing agitators who couldn’t get into his last town hall seemed to be there, jumping to their feet and yelling at Don before he was even done with his opening remarks. Things calmed down a bit once L. James told these guys they’d have to pipe down or be asked to leave, but they still made their grievances known throughout Don’s hour-long Q&A session.

A lot of the discussion was about impeachment and how Don wouldn’t put “country over party” by simply siding with the Democrats to overturn the 2016 election, but he still got in a few good words on the economy, health care, and other issues people in his district are actually concerned about — particularly “finding common ground.”

IMG_1806 IMG_1862

Then on Sunday afternoon, I took Vivian down to James Arthur Vineyards to enjoy one of her birthday presents from the week before — a steak luncheon and a hayrack ride with some of our friends. The guys at JAV grilled up rib-eyes over a swinging grate above a campfire for everyone, and we ate and sipped a little wine as local musician/storyteller Chris Sayre played music (on strings and a saw) and told a ghost story or two. (There’s apparently an apparition named Chris who haunts the winery by leaving the lights on.)

After lunch, the gray skies cleared up and we got a tour of the vineyards via hayrack, puttering around the countryside to see the rows and rows of grapevines and apple trees. When this event is held in the evening, it’s a “haunted hayrack,” which apparently has some apparitions that don’t appear in broad daylight.  so we only got to see a few excitable donkeys (and other creatures) on our way back to the lodge, where we hung out for a bit before heading out.

IMG_1917 IMG_1919

Grammy watched the kids in the meantime, and around dinnertime she took them by First Presbyterian for a movie night, where they got to have some hot dogs and nachos before watching the Pixar movie Coco. Vivian and I joined them for most of the movie before it wrapped up with coloring and running around before bedtime.

IMG_1945IMG_1952

Things stayed nice and busy on Monday, as Vivian took the kids down to Pump It Up for another evening of fun and slides for the kids — hopefully burning off more energy before bedtime.

I dropped by to join them for a little bit, and then I headed down to La Vista for a meet-up with a bunch of liberty-minded folks at Pizza West. Stephen Bader put the meetup together with Jon Tucker and spoke about pushing the Republican party in a more libertarian direction. There were a couple dozen guests, including my old state Senator Tommy Garrett, Millard candidate Andrew Sakalosky, Sarpy county commissioner David Klug, and even Matt Tompkins from 1290 AM. I was particularly glad to see how many young people were getting involved — there’s definitely a place for liberty in the next generation of voters.

Rare Breeds

We’ve had a few gorgeous days here and there this week, necessitating a trip or two to a park, but mostly it’s been hot and muggy as summer absolutely refuses to make way for fall. Fortunately, our tomatoes have started kicking into high gear, giving us plenty of tasty treats for bruschetta and such.

IMG_0742IMG_0759

On Wednesday, I spent the evening with Tom Becka and Jeff Koterba in Benson, who were helping to raise a few dollars to renovate the Benson Theater. The theater has been vacant for several decades, but there are some very elaborate plans to bring it back to life, and they’re about half a million dollars shy of meeting their goal.

The event was at the “B Side,” which was once the “PS Collective” connected to the Pizza Shoppe where 88 Improv used to perform (and Tom once “performed” for use amusement years ago). The room was now sealed of from the pizza, but there is now a bar where I got a “figure of speech” to sip as Tom and Jeff introduced themselves and dove headlong into a Facebook argument IRL on stage for us. The title of the event was “Rare Breed,” and asked “are cartoonists and commentators going extinct.” I would certainly say “no,” as the Internet has made it easier for anyone to have a platform to spread their views or cartoons with almost no overhead whatsoever, but it did launch into a long-form discussion on such things as “fake news” and red light cameras, among other things. We also got to try drawing our own editorial cartoons from a list of topics, a la the Kaneko event a few years back, so I tried my hand at a caricature of Ben Sasse.

It was a fun evening, primarily because I always prefer arguing “IRL” as opposed to online, where being snippy and sarcastic often gets you likes when thoughtful discussion gets ignored.

IMG_20190913_185422087IMG_20190913_194649698

Friday brought along some gorgeous weather, so we took the kids to the park for a lunchtime visit. Then that evening, Vivian and I attended a “Tribute to Patriots” event, where we got to hear from Congressman Devin Nunes of California, emceed by KFAB’s Scott Voorhees. He’s been in the headlines recently for his role in investing Russian collusion, but he had a few other interesting stories about his interactions with President Trump. We saw several familiar faces there, including Don Bacon, Lt. Gov. Foley, and the usual band of GOP volunteers. They had a few awards at the end for the “five that drive,” which included several of them.

It was a lovely evening, though I forgot my memory card, so I couldn’t use my “good camera” to get any pictures. We also had a late dinner, so we wound up crashing at our old Village Inn for chicken pot pie and a french dip sandwich together (and pie, of course) before calling it a night.

IMG_0854IMG_0904

Saturday turned out to be the perfect day for just about everything outside — including a bit more house painting in the morning followed by a picnic lunch at Hickory Hill Park with our friends, the Lenarts. We’d been aiming at having another meetup for a while and managed to land on the perfect day for grilling a few burgers outside while letting the kids play on a new playground together.

IMG_0974IMG_0995

Then that evening, we had another trip to the zoo, courtesy of the Autism Society of Nebraska. We dropped by around six and had a look around the mostly too-dark-to-film “kingdom of the night” beneath the desert dome. We saw an alligator or two in the swamp and some snakes before heading upstairs to the drier part of the dome, where we got a peek at a fox, some mongooses, and some rattlesnakes.

The kids spent plenty of time playing on zoo statuary before we headed to the jungle to hang out for the rest of the evening. The bats were out in full force once again as we looked around upstairs and down, and then we dropped by the Wild Kingdom pavilion to cool off with a dance and a ride in a Humvee before calling it a night.