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The Samurai's Heart by Walt Mussell

The Samurai's Heart

by Walt Mussell

Giveaway ends October 20, 2017.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Football

My wife has put up with me watching football for years.

I've tended to be a college football follower so it's been a good year for me as my beloved Auburn Tigers are this year's SEC Champions and playing for the National Championship. However, good or bad, my wife has put up with me.

However, this post has nothing to do with college football.

It's Monday night, December 27, and I'm watching the Falcons play the Saints.

The most amazing thing is that my wife is watching the game, too. She's even cheering them on.
In 15+ years of marriage, I've never seen her like this

It's not to say my wife has become a total football fan. She could pretty much still care less about the NFL in general. But after a season of watching our son play football, living and dying with our 8-year old's season, she's picked up on football as well.

And she's become a Falcons fan.

Granted, our 8-year old takes it a little more seriously. He can name many of the players just by their numbers. My wife is a long way from that.

But my wife now wants to watch football, at least occasionally.

It's a start.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Littlest Actor

Every family has a story that keeps on giving, one that will be retold for the rest of their days. This is ours. And while I have run it on previous Christmases, I hope you won't mind if I run it again. It occurred a few years ago, when we lived in Oregon. May you Christmas worship time be memorable to you.

Every Christmas Eve, my wife and I take our sons to the children’s service at our church. The service includes a kids’ pageant and our boys seem to pay closer attention than they do during the typical church service. Also, we feel that attending Mass on Christmas Eve provides a wonderful way to begin the holiday. After the service is over, we go out to dinner to the one place open on Christmas Eve, a Chinese restaurant. While my wife and I believe every family Christmas is special, we cannot conceive that any will be more memorable than this one.

It was to be a big night as our older son, Andrew, was finally old enough to participate in the Christmas pageant. He enjoyed two rehearsals and getting into costume, admirably playing the role of a shepherd. Because church seating at Christmas is limited and we wanted to take pictures, we arrived almost an hour early to get a seat up front.

We knew it would be difficult to keep our pre-school age son, Christopher, seated for the long service and the time before it. Therefore, my wife saved our seats while I played with Christopher and kept him entertained. When it was close to time, I corralled him and took him to our seats; he sat on my wife’s lap and anxiously looked for his older brother and the start of the show.

Just before the beginning of the pageant, the stuffy air in the crowded church became a little more unbearable than usual. As there were several babies in the immediate vicinity, my wife and I both thought one of them must have needed changing. Catching the odor, Christopher said aloud, “What’s that smell?” He turned around, looked at his Mom, and said, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!”

We did our best to quiet him down, while the people around us were suppressing their laughter. He continued on, repeating the words, “That’s disgusting! Mommy, you stink! Mommy, go to the bathroom!” Eventually, Christopher quieted down and the pageant began.

After Mass ended, we walked to the car, buckled the kids in, and drove away. On the way to the Chinese restaurant, my wife and I discussed the incident. She realized that the words Christopher used in church were the same ones she had used with him during his potty training. Also, we were convinced one of the babies close to us during the service must have had a poopy diaper or probably just passed gas. We chuckled about it.

However, our little guy provided the last laugh. Overhearing the discussion, Christopher, with the smile that only a young child can produce, piped up with one more comment, “Oh, in church? That was me.”

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Daddy's Little Teacher

“Daddy, can I have miso soup and rice for lunch?”

It was Sunday morning and we were nearly home after attending Sunday school. We would get an hour or so to relax before heading back to church for services. My eight-year old, starving, requested his favorite meal.

“We’ll see,” I said.

I laughed inwardly at his request. It’s not that the request is funny. All kids have a favorite dish of some kind. My kids are no different. However, as my wife is Japanese, she has cooked Japanese food for our kids since they were babies. Their favorite dishes are a slew of items that none of their friends have ever heard of. My 8-year old once invited one of the neighbor kids for miso and rice. (For some reason, the little boy declined.)

My son loves miso soup so much that he follows his Mom around the kitchen whenever she makes it. However, with me doing the honors this Sunday morning, he decided I needed a little help.

We started the rice, tossing a couple of cupfuls in the rice cooker, prepping it, and getting it going. Then it was time for the soup.

“Ok, Daddy. Here’s the pot. Boil some water. Once it boils, we need to put in the fish stock and the miso.” He then retrieved both items from the fridge. “We need a spoonful of this” he added pointing to the stock. “And three spoonfuls of miso.”

“Alright,” I said, letting him take the lead.

As the water came to a boil, my son searched the room. “Dad, we need tofu.”

I checked the fridge and pulled some out. I prepared to cut it when my son stopped me. “Dad, Mom always lets me do it.”

“OK. What should we do?”

“We put it on a small cut-thingy—“

“You mean a cutting board?”

Yes, a cutting board.”

I grabbed a cutting board from a drawer under the stove and handed it to him whereby he dumped the tofu onto the board. “Now, Dad, we do it this way so we can scrape it off the board into the soup with a knife after we cut it.”

I nodded and let him demonstrate. He sliced the tofu into chunks and then checked the pot. “OK, water’s boiling.” He added the fish stock and stirred, making sure it was mixed, then added the tofu. “We let it cook a little, then we add the miso.”

I’d been an observer most of the time. I saw no reason to change. Two huge spoonfuls of miso later, he made an announcement. “Dad, we need to taste it.”

We each had a spoonful. “Good job,” I said.

“Da-a-ad, it’s too salty.”

My wife entered the kitchen at that moment and tasted it herself, and concurred with Julian Child, adding more water to it and suggesting we cook it longer. Finally, he pronounced it ready.

The rice cooker beeped and we sat down for lunch. My little chef, impressed with himself, ate heartily.

“And that’s how you make miso soup,” he said.

I thanked him, recalling days long ago when he was much younger. Maybe one day I’ll actually tell him that I used to make miso soup for him on days when my wife was due home late from the office.

Nah, I’ll leave it like this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Spritz of Lemon

For the second time in two weeks, I started drinking water with a spritz of lemon in the morning.

I started it the day after Thanksgiving, when I got up, still stuffed from the previous day, and immediately glommed onto that headline on msn.com about to ensure that the Thanksgiving meal isn’t a permanent fixture to your body.

The first recommendation was water with lemon. Apparently, it helps detoxify your body and clean it out. I’d never heard of that before but was willing to try anything.

However, no matter what you’re willing to try, you still have to step on the scale. It took me nearly six days before I finally willed my body back onto that digital time bomb that always sounds like it’s on its last circuit. When I looked down at it, I was pleasantly surprised. I was back to where I’d started the week before Thanksgiving.

Then came this past weekend.

My wife and younger son went to a Santa Claus Christmas party at my younger sister’s. It’s an annual event. Each year, however, it’s always missing a few dads, the fathers whose alma mater is playing in the SEC Championship.

It’s not that the dads go to the game. However, it’s impossible to watch a football game with a lot of young children running around. I had a couple of friends over. My wife fixed a spread for us.

And by the next day I was drinking the lemon water again.

I know there are various events throughout the Christmas season. And I’ll have a few more days to pig out. There will also be the Christmas day feast as well as various wonderful gatherings with plates of food everywhere and me wondering if I’m going to have pull the fat jeans off the shelf in my closet.

It’s unavoidable. I’ve yet to possess the willpower to push myself away from the table. I would try to exercise more, but with the temperature dropping, my outside activity will grow more limited. At my annual physical last January, my doctor looked at me and asked. “Are you getting enough exercise? Have you tried walking more?”

“Doc,” I said, “it’s ten degrees outside. How much walking are you doing?”

She conceded the point.

So, readers, what are you doing? How are you fighting the holiday pounds now that joyous Christmas season is upon us?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

One More Game

I'm late posting today. I'm just dead tired.

Three down. One to go.

In defeating South Carolina in what was the most lopsided game in SEC Championship history, we finished off our “third” championship in three straight games. The victory over Georgia made us SEC Western Division champions. The victory over Alabama gave us the mythical championship within the state of Alabama (as well as undefeated regular season which no pundit predicted would happen this year). Our second win over USC gave us the SEC Championship.

And now one game remains.

For so many years, things have gone wrong to deny us a shot at the national title. Pat Dye got close four times, but never got over the hump. The two years that stand out the most are ’83 and ’87. In ’83, Auburn faced what is probably the most difficult schedule in its history and went 11-1 with a Sugar Bowl victory over Michigan. However, Miami, a team who’d faced a far weaker schedule than Auburn and was ranked below Auburn, got a shot at that year’s giant, Nebraska. They played them in what was a home game in the Orange Bowl, beat them 31-30, and leapt over Auburn into the championship slot.

In ’87, we lost at LSU 7-6 in the earthquake game. We’d been in the RZ twice in the first half, but could only muster field goals. Late in the 4th quarter, it came back to bite us. And there have been others, I don’t have to recite them. We all know them.

Now we have our shot.

I am putting the cart before the proverbial horse. The announcement hasn’t been made. That will occur tonight. But with four straight national champions coming out of the SEC, only the most monumental of lobbying and turnarounds could keep Auburn out of Glendale this year.

And there are those who still say we should be disqualified. They cite the Cam Newton scandal as an aberration that will taint things if Auburn wins. The Big 10 and the Big 12 have been lobbying hard against Auburn. Let’s recognize that for what it is. In the Big 10’s case, it’s the realization that if Auburn is taken out of the equation, then a 1-loss Big 10 team might prevail over an undefeated TCU team. For the Big 12, it’s about trying to stay relevant when your conference is falling apart.

As for this game, I admit I was a little nervous. South Carolina has exorcised a lot of demons this season. They wanted to exorcise one more. They were playing well. (I felt less nervous when Lee Corso and Lou Holtz picked the Gamecocks, but that’s to be expected.)

When Auburn started looking to do a repeat of Alabama’s performance in the Iron Bowl, dropping sure TD passes and having plays called back, I got nervous when the score got close at 21-14.

And then Newton and Auburn delivered a 1st half Hail Mary that will live forever in Auburn lore. Such was the dagger in the heart of USC’s momentum. When they missed a FG to open the 2nd half, the game could have been called then.

We will head into the next 37 days with no wanting Auburn to me. The Reggie Bush scandal still fresh with everyone, pundits have hoped for Auburn to get beat somewhere. The pundits celebrated with Georgia’s and Alabama’s early game leads. “No one wants a repeat of Southern Cal,” so they condemn Auburn.

Yes, supposedly the incident about Cecil Newton should have vacated Auburn’s wins. Yet, how do you square it with Auburn having done nothing wrong yet getting punished.

It looks like the NCAA chose absolution over an absolute.

Nobody wants Auburn to beat Oregon except Auburn fans. That’s okay. It’s been that way for many of Auburn’s games this year.

Does it matter?When Southern Cal was stripped of the title this year, the same pundits screaming for Auburn’s head on a plate this year are the ones who said that awarding the 2004 title to Auburn shouldn’t be done. They say that Southern Cal was still the best team and Auburn wouldn’t have beaten them anyway.

Win the game, Auburn. Win the game in Glendale. Beat the Ducks.

And nothing else will matter.