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Hey, I loved my .38, does that count?

Yesterday was my 48th birthday. Sandy and I had planned to go to a fancy-schmancy wine bar, but independently of one another came up with the idea of skipping the dinner and sending the money we saved to a Katrina relief effort. So I bought steaks on sale, pulled a 2001 Napa Valley Martin Ray cab sauv from the “wine cellar” (actually a large box in the back of our garage with all of four–make that, three–bottles in it), and best of all, made tater tots, which I can still taste today, my 48-year-old stomach not appreciating saturated fat the way it used to. I left a lot of steak on the plate, since it was a chop the size of my head (why are steaks so big?), but I ate all my tater tots. Nubbins of shredded potatoes saturated in fat and salt and baked til crispy–what’s not to like?

For our charity, we picked the Hope Shall Bloom charity from the United Church of Christ, and I recommend this charity if you want to be sure your donation goes to good works. We are also planning to go to Biloxi in January and lend our hand to the Back Bay Mission.

After dinner, Sandy handed me a grocery bag filled with silly things like socks with duck-shaped pompons, but held back one gift to the end. It turned out to be Love My Rifle More Than You, a memoir by former Army sergeant and Iraq war veteran Kayla Williams. Class reading lists notwithstanding, I had planned to buy this book this week, but couldn’t squeeze in a trip to the bookstore. I keep stealing peeks at Williams’ book, even though I’m officially rereading Brodkey for this week’s class discussion as well as plowing through a pile of homework.

As I expected, Williams is brash, funny, and true. I don’t write from her perspective, or anywhere near her style, but everything she says resonates with my military experience. If Jarhead seems to try too hard to make you hope your children never grow up to be Marines, Love My Rifle makes you wish that if your kids join the Army they don’t tell you what they really did, and the difference makes for a wonderful read.

Discovering that Sandy and I had the same idea about staying home and spending our money on Katrina was still the best present of all. We always say grace over dinner, but last night, we had much to thank for: not just food and shelter, but the blessing of our shared values.

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