I Wish I Had

Donny

Today is July 18th.

This morning Cameron and I were sitting on the deck making fart noises through our walkie talkies and laughing hysterically.

When you are seven and sixty-one it is okay to make fart noises.  Though I will admit this is the first time I have ever made fart noises through a walkie talkie.  If you were monitoring channel 21 earlier today I apologize.

From my journal, I read this from July 16,  2015:

This is the text message I got from Kim today:

“Thirteen years ago today was the last time I saw Donny”

When Kim took the kids to the airport that morning of July 16, 2002 to put them on a plane to Las Vegas to see their father who they hadn’t seen in a while, she was scared.  She hated to fly, and the decision to let Donny and Savannah make this trip in the first place was a difficult one.  Now she was at the security gate about to send them through to the area only ticketed passengers were allowed to go.

Security was tight, after all it had been less than a year since 9/11.  When Kim encountered the security agent checking tickets she begged and pleaded and told the man about her kids and that it was their first time flying, the situation in general,  and most of all her anxiety.  Would he just let her go through and wait with them at the gate?

This nice man, at the risk of his job probably, let her go through.

In the gate area they ate food at Friday’s and at some point Donny said she could leave, that they would be fine.  Though she walked away, Kim didn’t leave the area and she watched them until they boarded the airplane, they were unaware.

Coincidentally, on July 16th 2002, President George W. Bush announced his plan for strengthening homeland security in the wake of the September 11, 2001(911) terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. He created the Department of Homeland Security and the color-coded warning system that different levels of threat.

Thanks to the pre Homeland Security airport employee who took a big risk, Kim had the small consolation of a moment and a memory.

Tomorrow it will be 15 years since Donny’s accident and it is still difficult.  We have never yielded to the advice to “get over it” or to “move on”.  And though we were told that God wouldn’t give us more than we could handle, there are many times when we can’t handle it.  Time doesn’t heal, it just changes the pain.

 

I never made fart noises with Donny.  He was a little older and I was a little younger and we were way too cool for that.

But you know what?

I wish I had.

I wish I had done a lot of things.

So if Cameron wants to make fart noises through our walkie talkies, I’m going to be right there with him.

I never want to “wish I had” again.

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The Kid, The Donald, and Two Guys Named Benny from Jersey

Kid Rock

Last week I read on the internet that Kid Rock had died.  He was killed in a fire that officials thought was caused by a meth lab.  Kid Rock killed in a fire making methamphetamine.

“Kim,” I yelled, Kid Rock died, he was killed making methamphetamine.  And we just saw him on the CMA awards.”

Unbelievable.

Last night I was sitting in bed on the internet again and I read that Kid Rock was running for the Senate in the state of Michigan.

How about that?  Last week he was killed in a fire and this week he is running for the Senate.  Not only that but he was planning a tour to promote his candidacy.

Unbelievable.

I read last year that Donald Trump was running for president.

Then I read that he won!

It’s amazing what happens in this land of ours!

 

The biggest thing in the news today is how the Russians influenced my vote.

It had to have been subliminal forces at work:

“Vote Da for the Myshka…”

“Vote Da for the Myshka…”

 

I don’t know, it’s too complicated for someone of my aptitude.

 

And they say Trump Jr. had something to do with this diabolical plot.

 

Agent: “Mr. Trump Jr. please sit down in this chair.”

Trump Jr.: “No, no not the lights…!”

Agent:  “Yes the lights.  Mr. Trump Jr. you met with a Russian attorney in your office?”

Trump Jr.:  “Maybe”

Agent:  “Was there anyone else at that meeting?”

Trump Jr.: “Yes, a Russian operative”

Agent:  “So now you are saying that you met with more than one Russian in your office?”

Trump Jr.: “Well, yes, substantially”

Agent: “How many Mr. Trump Jr.?”

Trump Jr.:  “Ten maybe..?”

Agent:  “Ten Mr. Trump? Seriously why not 15?”

Trump Jr.:  “Because the North Koreans were taking up too much room.”

Agent: “North Koreans?”

Trump Jr.:  “Yeah there weren’t many chairs left.”

Agent:  “Now you are admitting there were North Koreans at the meeting, was there anyone else at the meeting?”

Trump Jr.: “Yes”

Agent: “Who?”

Trump Jr: “Two guys from Jersey.”

Agent: “Two guys from Jersey…where are these two guys from Jersey I want to talk to them?”

(Confronts the two guys from Jersey)

Agent:  “Are you guys from Jersey?”

Guys: “Da”

Agent: “What part of Jersey?”

Guy:“Is Hoboken.”

Agent: “You really want me to believe that you guys are from Hoboken, New Jersey?”

Guy: “Da”

Agent: “Where did you get that accent, you don’t sound like you are from Jersey?”

Guy: “Was once Russian, no more…from Jersey…is Hoboken.”

Agent: “Okay so what’s your name?”

Guy: “Benny”

Agent:  “Benny? That’s original, what’s his name (other guy)?”

Guy:  “Is Benny too”

Agent:  “Okay, so Mr. Trump Jr. you are saying you met in your office with ten Russians, five North Koreans, and two guys named Benny from Jersey…was there anyone else? (Turns up the lights)

Trump Jr:  “Okay, okay I will tell you but just turn off the lights!”

Agent:  “Who Mr. Trump Jr, who?”

Trump Jr.: “Boris and Natasha”

Agent:  “Boris and Natasha?  Seriously, was Rocky and Bullwinkle there too?”

Trump Jr.:  “C’mon now don’t be silly, Rocky and Bullwinkle were not there that’s ridiculous!”

 

Unbelievable stuff right?  And so sinister.

 

But it’s crazy:

Kid Rock dies in a meth fire!

Donald Trump runs for President!

Kid Rock runs for the Senate!

Hillary involved in Pizzagate!

Donald Trump becomes President!

Russians influencing me to vote for Mickey Mouse!

 

I need a break, I think I will go sit down on the couch.

 

Me:  “Alexa, I am so sick of politics…let me hear something from Bruce Springsteen.”

Alexa:  “I thought you said were sick of hearing about politics?”

Me:  “Okay, okay, how about Over the Rainbow?”

Alexa:  “Whatsa matter your arms broke?  What do I look like a Juke Box?  Does my shirt say DJ Jazzie Jeff on it?”

 

Alright I was just messing with you again, you can’t believe everything you read on the internet you know…

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

 

They do I guess, that’s nice…now where was that post that had John Kasich winning…?

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Alexa…When Was Father’s Day?

It’s Monday evening and the beginning of Amazon Prime night.

My wife just told me she bought me an Alexa.

“Why, I asked, “did you buy me an Alexa? I have had an Alexa (oldest daughter) for almost 35 years and she has never done anything I have asked her to do!”

“Why should this Alexa be different?”

If the first time I ask this Alexa to do something, and she squinches up her mouth and lips to one side I know I am in trouble.

Of course, I know, this Alexa doesn’t have a mouth.

I hope.

 

It’s been a while.

I have been busy.

Too busy for things like Father’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, and especially writing.

For a brief stint I had a title again.  “Missions Coordinator,” it was fun and rewarding.

I have never been one who cared much for titles.  I was always a little self-conscious of my titles throughout my career.

The recent trend in the always creative business world with constant innovation is this desire to constantly innovate titles as well.  But I say who really wants to go to their high school reunion and when asked what you are doing now, say they are the Happiness Hero, or the Chief Executive Unicorn, or the Paranoid in Chief, or the Marketing Ninja, or the Director of Fundom?

These are all real titles…I searched.

But the world does change and we have to change with it.  We have to constantly innovate like it or not, in all aspects of our lives

I have this great ID bracelet that was given to me by one of my kids.  But it doesn’t have my name on it, it has another title I tend to go by and that’s “DAD.”

I have to admit I don’t wear it as much as I should. But on a recent weekend that I expected to be a particular tough “Dad” weekend, I busted it out and snapped it on my wrist.

Maybe I needed some super power, like putting on my cape or “to the Bat Poles,” I was now Dad Ninja, Happiness Hero Dad, Director of Fundad.

Although Paranoid in Chief Dad might have been more accurate.

 

Last year on Father’s Day I lamented about how after all these years I was still learning how to be a father.  But maybe I was being too hard on myself.

There are males out there who have fathered children but aren’t dads.

There are males out there who are active fathers but aren’t good role models.

But then there are also men out there, some even who have never fathered children, who fill a father’s role where there otherwise would be none.  And they do it honorably, deserve great respect, and are powerful role models.

I have learned that this year.  And though my report card includes some incompletes, some failures, a satisfactory or two; I might also get an exceeds expectations every now and then, so maybe I am earning a passing grade.

This past Father’s Day my buddy Jim did an awesome job filling in for the pastor at church.  In his message he made the point that fathers leave a lasting legacy and asked the question, “What will your legacy be?”

I don’t know exactly but I am still working on it.

On that same weekend that I thought I needed the dad super powers, one of my kids told me I was her best friend.  At the time the comment was made it was overshadowed by the rest of the conversation and not acknowledged.

But I heard it.

And I have remembered it

Maybe I did do something right.

 

This is my Father’s Day post for 2017 almost 4 weeks late.  I was too busy to finish it at the time.

Too busy.

It happens I guess…we get too busy.  So I guess better late than never applies.

That happens a lot when you are a Dad I think.  Fathers often get too busy.  We miss a lot.

But it’s better late than never for that as well, better to be late starting to work on that legacy than to be not at all.  And too late can apply in this case.

My head is on my pillow tonight knowing my girls are happy and they are safe.

 

It’s been about 42 hours since my wife ordered my Alexa.

It just arrived, and I just set it up.

Alexa, can I get a cup of coffee?”

“Whatsa matter your arms broke?  Do I have Barista on my shirt?”

I know, I know this Alexa wouldn’t say that… I was just messing with you…that Alexa lives in Florida.

And besides there is no mouth, I checked.

 

 

Post Script:

Though this new Alexa is really cool, I still love my old one more.

Thankfully my kids are good sports.  That is a little part of the legacy I think.

Super Powers

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Oh My! Who Knew? DNA and Urinals

Meet the tallest urinal I have ever encountered! Who knew in just a few generations it would come to this?

 

Sometimes we are faced with decisions.

Sometimes those decisions can cause us to look at ourselves and wonder why.

Why am I having to make this decision, what is it about me that I can’t change and how did I get that way?

One day while working and calling on physicians offices I found myself in a fairly new office building in Alexandria, VA.

I had to use the restroom.  There in that restroom reality hit me.  I had to make a decision.

Do I go left or do I go right?

 

Coincidentally, at the time I had been reading Angela Duckworth’s book Grit:The Power of Passion and Perseverance which I have referred to a couple of times before in my essays.  I had just finished the chapter called Grit Grows with the question “How much of our grit is in our genes?”

Our genes.

Our DNA.

DNA has become a popular subject in my house lately.  My wife and I are trying to learn more about our family histories and where we came from.

It’s fascinating.

Where did we come from…our families?

And why are we like we are?

It’s in our genes, our DNA.

But is it entirely?

Ms. Duckworth will tell us with “complete conviction that every human trait is influenced by both genes and experience.”

She explains that height is a good example and that the average height of men and women has increased dramatically over just a few generations.

But what in our experiences affected our height?

According to Ms. Duckworth; nutrition, modern medicine, clean air and water. And she points out that children who were provided an abundant amount of healthy food grew up taller than those who were undernourished.

 

My wife and I recently did the Ancestry.com DNA test to learn more about the mysteries of the heritage of each of our families.

My sister had already done this test through Ancestry.com and received her results.  I suppose I could have just looked at hers and pretty much determined from her results what mine would look like.

But then I thought about it…

My sister is so much different than the rest of us.

Maybe she was adopted?  I mean she is the oldest so how would the rest of us have known the difference?

Then I thought about it some more…

It occurred to me that both my brothers and even my sister are taller than me.  What did that mean?

Maybe I was the one who was adopted!

Or, was it my experience?

Maybe my mother was feeding my two brothers and my sister more and better food than she was feeding me.

Maybe that’s why I was getting lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches in my lunch box at school.

 

But then my results came back and accordingly to Ancestry.com, my sister and I are undeniably siblings.  So unless we were both adopted as brother and sister, it had to mean that it was my experience and my mother underfeeding me was probably the only explanation as to why I was the shortest!

 

The results indicated that my sister Patty was 51% Scandinavian and I was 46%.  More specifically it indicated we were western Norwegian.   I always figured I was half Norwegian, both my dad’s parents are from Norway.

But the other results were a surprise.  Patty was 36% Great Britain and I was 34%.  She was 10%  Europe East and I was 10% Europe West.  Patty had trace amounts (3%) Europe East and the Iberian Peninsula and I finished out with 5% Europe East, 4% Iberian Peninsula, and 1% Finnish/North Western Russia.

What does all this mean?

I don’t know yet, but I do know that all the while growing up when I was asked what nationality I was I would say half Norwegian and half German.

Just like when I was growing up and someone would ask:

“Hey man, what’s up with your sister?”

I would say I don’t know I think she was adopted.

 

But now I know all that wasn’t true.  I am not half German and there is only a small percentage that could be German.  And I know, thanks to Ancestry.com that neither my sister nor I am adopted.  And I was just kidding about my sister and those questions from my friends and all that adopted stuff because even if she was I would still love her as much as I do now anyway since we all know adoption is a blessing.

And I don’t really think that my mother was purposely trying to starve me resulting in my comparably short stature.  Besides, I liked lettuce and mayonnaise sandwiches, it was my favorite lunch.  And even if she was trying back then,  she is certainly attempting to make up for it now.

So this DNA stuff is really fascinating.

As for Grit, I do think I got my grit partly inherited and partly from experience just as Ms. Duckworth theorized.

And, with regards to my height… it’s okay Ma, I know it’s not your fault I couldn’t reach that urinal on the right.

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Pop’s Lady

Pop’s Lady

The waterman typically woke up about 3:30 AM.  There was no need to set an alarm, no need to set a time on clock radio or West Bend portable because the “alarm clock” was already up and making coffee out in the kitchen.

The first mate was always the first up as well.

 

That coffee had to be brewed, thermoses filled, and breakfast made.  It would be a while until lunch.

In the early days, before the law was changed that allowed crabbing only after the sun came up, they hit the water in complete darkness.  High powered flashlights had to be used to spot the buoys indicating where the trotlines started and ended and on the dark mornings, up and down the river it looked like  premier night at the movies.  Those mornings when the fog moved in it was a leap of faith.

They worked three lines.  The shortest was 1800 feet long, the longest just short of a half mile. About every five feet the 3/16 nylon rope was twisted and a salted bull’s lip was inserted in the space and twisted back.

Bull’s lips were used as the bait.  The bait had to be tough.  It had to last as long as possible.

Once the lines were dropped to the river floor and the buoys placed to mark the location, the waterman would maneuver the boat back along the route of one of the submerged lines and an outrigger would slowly elevate the baited line to the surface, five feet and one bull’s lip at a time.  When a crab was spotted with its claws clinging to the bait it would be scooped into the boat with a crab net.  Once the crabs were in the boat, the mate would sort the crabs into the different baskets that at the end of the work day would be taken to the wholesaler and sold for that day’s wages. The sooks or females in one bucket, the jimmies or males in another. And of those, the restaurant sizes, the ones or twos, had to be separated out as well. The peelers in yet another bucket, they would fetch fifty cents apiece.

The name on the boat was Pop’s Lady.

Pop, my dad, was the Captain; Lady, my mom, was the First Mate.

I don’t remember exactly when my mother got the nickname Lady, but it was a long time ago.

When my parents retired and moved from New Jersey to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and settled down on the Little Choptank River they became commercial crabbers.  Together, they did this for about 15 years.

The first time I introduced my wife Kim to my parents, my mother was sitting under a big tree with a large bucket of bull’s lips by her side and their trotlines, inspecting and re-baiting the crab lines as was necessary.  Pulling out the worn out bull’s lip and inserting the new one, five feet at a time.

I don’t remember whether they shook hands.

My mother…aka Lady, Florence, Flo, Flozzie, Ma, Mom…whatever you called her was and still is as tough as those bull’s lips.

Before her stint as a waterman (or waterwoman), she managed a high school cafeteria for many years.  And before that as a young mother and wife she wielded a hammer, laid brick, and maneuvered a wheelbarrow alongside my dad, his dad, his brother, and his friends as they built our new house in Oceanport New Jersey.

She volunteered with the Oceanport Hook and Ladder Fire Company’s Ladies Auxiliary; she was a wonderful aunt in the extended family that made up the little village we had in our little corner of Oceanport.

And she raised four kids.

My sister Pat was born in 1952, while my dad was in the Army during the Korean conflict. My mom wrote my dad a letter every day that he was gone.

My brother Carl was born in 1954 and me in 1956.  My brother Gary was born not too long after that new house was finished on May 14, 1961, fifty six years ago today on a Mother’s Day.  My dad told me recently he would tell everyone Gary was Flo’s Mother’s Day present from him.

On a recent visit to see my parents, Kim had learned of a website that would tell you the most popular song at the time you were born.  One evening we had some fun with that.  I was born on June 27, 1956.  The most popular song at the time was “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant.  My dad remembered it well.

This same site would also take it a step further and tell you the most popular song at the time you were conceived as well.

For me it was “The Yellow Rose of Texas” by Mitch Miller from the movie Giant, “a 1956 American epic Western drama film.”

Wait…my dad is a huge fan of western movies.

Yuck, way too much information.

C’mon Pop!  I always thought we had ice cream when we watched movies?

I haven’t watched a James Dean movie since.

 

But hey, thanks Pop, you did alright with your Lady and we are all blessed to have this one as our mother.

My mom is still riding shotgun with my dad; still fiercely loyal to her family; still managing that cafeteria only now it’s just her kitchen; still the carpenter’s helper; still tends to my boo boos ; takes care of her neighbors; and is still taking good care of us.

So Ma…Happy Mother’s Day!

In my first essay on Musings…Three Score and Counting  I twice referred to her as my lifeline.  She may not need to be my lifeline anymore, but it’s nice to know she is there.

And I still really appreciate those pork roll, egg, and cheese on the hard roll sandwiches so keep the cafeteria open!

And Happy Mother’s Day to all the mom’s out there.  It’s not always easy but we need you!

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Home Alone, I Can Do Whatever I Want!

I am home alone.

Home…alone…

Home…

All by myself.

 

I should be happy right?

I should be doing the limbo…

 

One of the good things about being home alone is that I can start multiple projects and I don’t have to finish them (well, at least not until just before my wife gets home).  Yup, if I get bored with one I can drop that one and move on and start another.

Yup, I did that yesterday and today.

Because I don’t have to finish one before I start another!  I am home alone!

And I can do whatever I want!

Right now I have about six going.

One of them is cleaning out my clothes closet.

 

Another cool thing is that I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want.

Yesterday I made this massive bowl of chicken salad.  Then I went to Panera and bought a huge baguette.  Over the course of the afternoon yesterday I ate that whole bowl of chicken salad and that entire baguette myself.

Yup, all by myself.

Because I could.

 

Then I got the mail.

And in the mail was my wife’s Redbook Magazine.

Now I don’t get the chance to read the Redbook Magazine every day.

But I did this week.

Because I could.

One article I read was called 6 Stories That’ll Move You.  Three of those stories were about books helping you to “Get More Happily in Ever After.”

One author’s point was “that a perfect marriage is a myth, but yours can still be good.”

I can agree that marriages may not be perfect, but why settle for just good?

In another book that was discussed, the author was said to have “traveled the world seeking insight for a strong marriage.”

My insight for her would be instead of traveling the world, looking across the table or maybe on the other side of the bed would be a better place to start.

The third one said “her portrait of marriage…is a testament to how time can change but also heal you.”

I liked that one.

 

And, since I was so tired from starting all those projects, I decided I was going to go to bed early last night.

But I couldn’t sleep, because I never sleep well when my wife is not home.

When I finally did fall asleep after watching some silly show on TV at 10 o’clock that my wife never wanted to watch before…because I could…I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible indigestion from that last piece of baguette and chicken salad I ate at seven o’clock, just before going to bed early.

 

So let me think about this again.

I am home alone.

All by myself.

 

I am starting multiple projects without finishing them.

And one of those projects is cleaning out my clothes closet!

I am eating mass quantities of chicken salad and consuming entire baguettes whenever I want to including just before going to bed.

I am going to bed early and not sleeping, and watching bad TV shows.

And…

I am reading articles from the Redbook Magazine!

And worse than that…

I am writing about them!

 

Kim…

If you are reading this…

Can you please come home…?

“PLEASE?”
“I can’t sleep…and I have some indigestion…and I never want to eat chicken salad again…and I promise to put Round-Up on the dandelions…and what does that lady know about myths and perfect marriages anyway?…she’s writes books!”

What can I say?

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Good Friday, Easter Sunday…What Did Jesus Do on Saturday?

On Good Friday Jesus was crucified.

On Easter Sunday he was resurrected.

So what did Jesus do on Saturday?

That question was posed at my house as we celebrated on Easter Sunday.

 

I heard a story recently about a local physician who every year on Good Friday, instead of the typical white lab coat look he normally wears, will put on a dark suit instead.  His patients, used to him looking medical like, would ask why he was wearing a suit, are you going to a wedding or going to a funeral?

“A funeral” he would answer.

“Well who died?”

“Jesus.”

This was his way of reminding people.

Kim and I went to church on Good Friday.  The service is always moving and somber.  It is, well, like a funeral.

 

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey I didn’t go to church on Good Friday, only on Easter Sunday. After church, my parents would pack us all into the Corvair and we would make the drive north through Little Silver and Red Bank to the McDonald’s in Middletown.  This was one of the few times we would go out to eat at any restaurant so it was a real event.  Our Easter dinner would be hamburgers or cheeseburgers, French fries, and milk shakes because that is all they served back then.  You just drove up, parked, walked up to the window and got your food and ate it in the car.  No indoor playrooms or sitting at a table.  It was great.

Easter was also, other than maybe Christmas or the start of the new school year, one of the few times we got new clothes.  My sister would get a frilly dress and the rest of us little suits and maybe a hat.

In our new clothes, we would visit with the extended family and that was about it,  but it was always a nice day.

Easter traditions change.  The suits and hats are now replaced by Hawaiian shirts and khakis.  There is nothing really special about McDonald’s anymore so thankfully home cooking is a better option.  And they don’t make Corvairs anymore, maybe we should be thankful for that too.

 

I got up this past Saturday morning and did the usual; I paid a couple of bills and ran some errands.  Like other holidays, now that the kids are older, they have their own obligations so I was expecting to see them and feed them more in shifts this year and had to plan accordingly.

In the afternoon we did what we have always done this time of the year for the last almost 15 years, we took our dirt and our tools and some potted flowers and went up to the cemetery to plant new at Donny’s grave site.  Cameron helped this year getting the water and unloading the truck.

 

We cooked dinner on grill and then sat outside on the patio.   When it got a little later we put Cameron to bed.  Kim always says prayers with Cameron before bed and on this evening he thanked God for the nice day and for planting flowers for Uncle Donny.

He made a comment to Kim that Uncle Donny was “as tall as the world” or “taller than the world” and when she asked him to explain he just said that Uncle Donny “was in Heaven with Jesus.”

“Cameron how do you know that?” she asked.

“I just know” he said.

 

Church on Sunday was awesome.  To our surprise we had the whole local family with us at church and we filled a pew.  The preacher’s sermon was great.

Who will roll away the stone?  The question asked by Mary and Mary in Mark 16 verse 3 on their way to the tomb early on that Sunday morning.

The stone.

The stone of great weight blocking their way to Jesus in the tomb.

In our sermon the preacher explained that the stone represented all those hard times in our lives.  Those times of tragedy, divorce, loss of a job, an unexpected diagnosis.  All things tough.

It spoke to all of those sitting in my pew.

Just as I am sure it spoke to all of those in the pews surrounding me.

We all have had those stones.  Some have been heavier and harder to move than others. Many we still feel the weight of.

Sometimes we even plant flowers around them.

 

What did Jesus do on Saturday?

Maybe it was meant to be that way, to have that day in between.

Maybe Jesus, like us, needed a day of contemplation.

A day of reflection.

Maybe he was focusing on the weight of that stone and what was to be.

Maybe he was even starting to move that stone, as the world and life beyond it became clearer.

I think so.

How do I know?

“I just know.”

 

One of our heavier stones on the Saturday before Easter

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Who is Smarter? Me or My Samsung S3 Classic Smart Watch?

My new Samsung Gear S3 Classic Smart Watch

Sunset in Herndon, Virginia…7:23 pm.

Daylight Savings Time, time to start working out again.

After a gluttonous six days of traveling we returned from our trip to Florida on Sunday.  Our excursion included an unexpected drive and a night in Richmond as a result of the one inch snowmageddon that cancelled our Tuesday Southwest Airlines flight out of Baltimore  causing us to be unable to reschedule a flight out of a DC area airport until Friday at the earliest.

Now back, with the extra daylight, extra few degrees, and the some extra pounds, I parked my truck and headed out at my favorite mile marker on the W & OD trail and began my second run of the week.

 

“Warm up for five minutes” a woman’s voice said.

(Wait, who is talking to me?  Wait…it’s my watch?)

 

“Three minutes left until the main exercise starts”

(Main exercise? I am dying here, this isn’t the main exercise?)

 

“Walk briskly during the warm up”

(But I am running, I can’t get any more warmed up!)

 

“You’ve reached the next stage, speed up”

(Next stage? What next stage? Should I fire up the booster rockets?)

 

“Slow down, you’re going too fast”

(So I slow down)

 

“Looking good”

(Hey…Looking good!)

 

“Great pace”

(Great Pace?)

 

“Slow down you are going to fast”

(So I slow down more but I am walking now, and I don’t want to walk, so I start running again)

 

“Speed up for 4.0 miles per hour”

(Wait, I am at my fast pace and I am only doing 15 minute miles?)

 

“Slow down a little”

(My wife bought me one of those Samsung S3 Smart Watches…)

 

“Speed up for 3.8 miles per hour”

(This is the first time I am wearing it on one of my runs…)

 

“You are running too fast”

(Can you make up your mind?)

 

“Try a little harder”

(Okay that’s it! I am walking out the rest…she’ll probably call me a wimp next)

 

“You have reached your target”

(No, actually I think I may have found my target, and I will hit it as soon as I find my hammer!)

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Samsung S3 Classic Smart watch.  When I was growing up, the only person who had a watch that you could talk through was Dick Tracy, so this is the stuff of comic books and imagination.  And, when someone sends you a text message, it provides you with really short to the point responses so you don’t have to fuss over it.

Kim text message:  Can you pick up the dry cleaning.

Me and my watch responding with canned response: Roger that

And it’s done.

 

But can you imagine it’s a Saturday in July and you have a laundry list of things to do, and the watch on your wrist keeps reminding you:

“Hey that garage isn’t going to get any cleaner with you sitting here on the deck.”

Or…

“Move faster, we still need to cut the grass.”

Or…

“Slow down, take it easy, you are hot, maybe have a cold beer.” (Well, that might be okay)

But seriously, who wants to be prompted and reminded of what you are doing or not doing in real time, especially while zoning out on a nice run?

 

So I have a great idea.

Since I love to run and I love the relaxation that running brings to me;

And,

I love my new watch, that bought for me by wife, who I also love;

I think I am just going to be old fashioned and keep my new watch for communicating like Dick Tracy did, and use my Fitbit for running!

 

Looking good?

 

Roger That!

“I picked up the dry cleaning honey”

 

 

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March Comes in Like a Meatball and Out Like a Clam

It was Cancun in January but that didn’t matter, it was still blazing hot. Kim and I were staying at one of those “all inclusive” joints.

We met another couple from New Jersey.  The woman claimed to be a mafia princess, the daughter of someone connected. I don’t remember their last name but their first names I couldn’t forget because they were straight out of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, Gina and Tommy.  And Tommy even worked on the docks.

One particular “all inclusive” evening I got into a debate with Gina, that at one point was as heated as the mid-afternoon Cancun sand.

I couldn’t convince her that mine were better.  But why did I want to?  Why take that chance?

Be careful, I thought, it’s not worth it.

So what if she uses cubes of Italian bread and I use Italian bread crumbs.

Who cares!

There was no need to settle this score.

They were just meatballs.

I know this week the world recognized International Women’s Day, but I must admit I hadn’t kept current on the events of the day or this movement.  Even my radical, activist, middle daughter Hayley hadn’t filled me in on the agenda.  With all due respect for the efforts of women around the world and in my family, ever since the weekend I had been focused on only one national event.   Last Saturday I went to the grocery store and while scanning the weekly circular I saw this reminder:

March 9th is National Meatball Day!

Meatballs.

Next to French Bread, meatballs may be my second favorite food.

And you put the meatballs on the French Bread and…

Marone…

It doesn’t get any better than that!

But what does one do on National Meatball Day?  What is the agenda?

I suppose we could share meatball stories…

Okay I did that already with the best one I could come up with.

And what else?

Make meatballs right? So I did.

 

Intrigued by the thought of a National Meatball Day, I did some research and found out March 9th is also National Crab Meat Day, and National Get Over It Day.

And, already this month we missed:

National Dadgum That’s Good Day on March 1.

National Banana Cream Pie Day on March 2.

March 3 was National Tartar Sauce Day.

And National Cheese Doodle Day was on March 5.

And, according to my research:

March 15th celebrates Everything You Think Is Wrong Day, a day where decision making should be avoided, as your thoughts are wrong.

March 16th is just the opposite as it is National Everything You Do is Right Day.  You get to feel good about everything that you do (I probably associate more with the day before).

March 18 is National Awkward Moments Day (I am familiar with this one too).

March 21 is National French Bread Day  (I might have to make meatballs again!)

March 30 National I am in Control Day.

And last but not least, March 31 is National Clams on the Half Shell Day!

 

International Women’s Day posed the question what would life be like without a women?

A Day without a woman?

I can’t imagine my life without my four women in it… life without my wife.  So I will let Bon Jovi and Gina and Tommy take it home…

we’ve got to hold on to what we’ve got
‘Cause it doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not
We’ve got each other and that’s a lot for love
We’ll give it a shot  (Bon Jovi- Livin’ On A Prayer)

Meatballs!

Okay, now it’s getting late.

And I’m tired…and this meatball has got to go to bed.

And besides, tomorrow I have to get up early, its National Pack Your Lunch Day.

 

 

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A New National Obsession

A young American Pharoah

February 2, 2012 was the birthday of American Pharoah, thoroughbred horse racing’s last Triple Crown winner. American Pharaoh, in 2015, was the first Triple Crown winner (i.e., winner of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes) since Affirmed in 1978.  There have only been twelve Triple Crown winners since Sir Barton did it in 1919 and so, for a brief moment in time, the eyes of our country were once again watching a horse in a sport longing for the days when it truly did capture the attention of a nation.

In Laura Hillenbrand’s book Seabiscuit, An American Legend, Seabiscuit was described as “a runty little thing” whose favorite pastime was sleeping and was “inclined toward portliness.”

Yet Seabiscuit had already started fifty races, many more than horses now a days will run in a lifetime, before it is said, that he finally figured it out.

It was the mid to late 1930’s, a time when a country needed a good diversion.  Still in the grips of the Great Depression, Americans found something else to capture their attention.  It was funny looking Cinderella of a horse named Seabiscuit who became…a national obsession.

 

In the early 1960’s, with the ever looming threat of a nuclear bomb attack during the Cold War that was way beyond our ability to comprehend at such a young age, an entire elementary school of kids and their teachers made the trek from the thought to be not safe environment of our school building to the massive Monmouth Park Race course facility.  The large track building would provide us a better bomb shelter in the nuclear bomb attack we were practicing to survive.  At the end of the drill the fire department would use their fire trucks to help transport some of the kids back to the school.  I got my picture in the newspaper that day, as I was returned to Wolf Hill School on the back of a fire truck.

My grandparent’s house sat adjacent to the outer parking areas of the track in a part of Oceanport,  New Jersey called Hillcrest.  As kids we would go out into the parking lots and pick up the discarded racing programs that littered the ground and became absorbed in all the unusual horse names and the odd cryptic pencil markings of the patrons.

In spite of having grown up listening to the race announcer and the bugler from my back yard, the nuclear bomb drill that day was the only time I had ever entered the Monmouth Park Grandstand and Clubhouse facility until I got a job with the racetrack Fire Department at the age of 20.  For the next couple years and three racing seasons, I would ride an ambulance picking up jockeys and patrons track side or from the Firehouse in the stable area, referred to as the “backside.”

The thoroughbred horse racing industry is a world all its own and my brief experience of working at Monmouth Park was all it took, I was hooked.

From the rich and famous to the transient circus like nature of the backside community, the firehouse was the hub of activity for the stable area.  It had frequent visitors, including track owners and owners of the football Jets in Leon Hess and Sonny Werblin; famous trainers like Jimmy Jones of Calumet Farms and 1948 Triple Crown winner Citation fame; low level gangsters; and many, many other colorful characters.  One evening, I walked into the bowling alley located just outside the stable (backside) gate and found a kid I knew from high school on the floor with two bullet holes in his face, a victim of an argument over a game of pool with a member of the stable community, a reminder that in spite of the outward appearance of money and fortune, the racing industry had its dark side too.

I have stood in the paddock of Churchill Downs on Derby Day, cigar in hand; and on the infield rail next to the winners circle and watched Bob Baffert lend a helping lift to Victor Espinoza with “riders up” on American Pharoah just before the skies opened up with a torrential rain and American Pharoah romped to victory in his second leg of the Triple Crown.

I have learned a little about how to pour over figures and attempt to find the winner out of the Racing Form, racing’s past performances newspaper; and I have learned a lot about restraint and moderation after losing my entire paycheck one day while working at Monmouth.  I made twenty five dollars a day at the time and had to borrow money from my brother to pay my auto insurance bill.  That was good lesson and one never forgotten.

I have used Secretariat’s stretch run winning the Belmont by 31 lengths and never looking back to describe my marriage.

Secretariat winning the Belmont

My experience and the story of Sir Sidney, who was my vote for 2014 Horse of the Year, California Chrome, and the 2014 Preakness, still makes me laugh.

So you see for me, the whole industry is fascinating, very entertaining and has served as a good diversion for me in my life.

That is why this time of the year when all two year old horses become three year old horses regardless of their actual birth dates, and the prep races for the Triple Crown begin once again, I get excited.  Could this be the year that we may be watching the 13th Triple Crown winner develop before our eyes and grab the attention of not only the die-hards but the nation’s masses as well?

I understand the allure.  It’s like sitting in that movie theater, having the house lights go down and for the next couple of hours you are transported to another world.  I can recall some really bad days in my life when I found myself standing at the rail at Laurel or Monmouth just to escape.   I understand why in 1937 and 1938 a small, unlikely looking race horse could represent something positive in a time filled with hardship and draw a hundred thousand people to a race course with hundreds of thousands more glued to their radios.

On November 1, 1938 forty thousand people showed up to watch a match race between Seabiscuit and War Admiral.  The official capacity of Pimilico Racecourse at the time was 16,000.  War Admiral had won the Triple Crown the year before and was thought to be the best horse in the world.  Fans hung from the rafters as they watched Seabiscuit and War Admiral neck and neck at the turn coming into the stretch. The race would end with Seabiscuit crossing the finish line four lengths ahead.

Because in 1938 as Hillenbrand explains in the Preface of her book, though the country was still suffering from the effects of the Depression and the struggle for world power was beginning; the year’s number one newsmaker was not FDR, or Hitler, or Mussolini, or Lou Gehrig, or Clark Gable.  It was remarkably this horse, Seabiscuit, who had captured a nation.

Great stuff huh?

This year, as I break out the hawaiian shirt with the race horses on it and begin watching the prep races that will qualify the entrants with enough points to make it to the Kentucky Derby, I am hoping for another Seabiscuit, or another Secretariat, or another American Pharoah, or another War Admiral.

For I think that if there ever was time when we needed a new National Obsession I think now might be that time.  I would love to see a magnificent animal with a colorful cast of characters behind him or her,  capture the attention and imagination of a nation, populating my Facebook feed with dramatic stories of great efforts,  and hope,  and winning.

And having it all be positive and uplifting.

Yup, that is my hope.

“C’mon Seabiscuit!”

Seabiscuit coming  down the Pimlico stretch beating War Admiral

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