Saturday, June 29, 2013

French Toast With Purpose

Indulge me for a moment. I know I've written recently about serving at the Guest House homeless shelter, but I need to write again. I would prefer to talk about the great fishing outing I had yesterday or the rainy summer we've been having, but I can't stop thinking about today's service at the Guest House. I'm sorry for the repetition, but I have to write what's on my heart.

Recall that my wife is attempting to organize and/or serve one meal a month at this transitional living facility in Milwaukee. She solicits donations, largely using social media, from a Facebook group of donors and others who wish to contribute. This is a fairly daunting task from month to month, depending on what she has chosen to serve. Despite fears and concerns every month that certain foods will not be filled by donors using the online donor site she has set up, somehow we always manage to get everything we need to pull it off. Call it God's provision, people stepping up to the plate, or just dumb luck. Whatever it is, it's pretty amazing.

So this morning was our turn again. We met up with another family at a park and ride and rode down together.

When we arrived, our van was again swarmed by men offering help to carry in the food. After I was in and kind of standing around wondering where to start, a man came up to me and another volunteer and said "I need someone to pray with me." At first I wasn't sure what to think, partly because I'm friggin' deaf and partly because I wasn't sure whether he was serious or not. When he repeated himself I asked him if he wanted me to pray over the food or for him. He said, "Both."

Now, I'm not a pastor, I'm not a deacon, and, as you well know, I'm a self-proclaimed introvert. At the same time, when opportunities like this are put upon me, I take them seriously. I asked the gentleman's name and the three of us bowed our heads and I said what came to me. I'm not sure exactly what I said in the prayer but I do know I covered a lot of ground in 90 seconds. I also know I thanked God for what he was doing in this guy's life and the impact he was having on the other guys, maybe without even being aware of it.

When we were finished the guy thanked me and said I had no idea of what my words meant to him. I would argue that he had no idea of how our little interaction was impacting me. While our goal might be to feed 80+ guys a meal in order to send them into their day of healing, job searching, networking or whatever, this was what I would consider part of the total benefit and compensation package of being a volunteer at this place on this day. Going to bless, coming away blessed myself.

Later as I stood pouring juice, one guy kept catching my eye from across the room for some reason. He ended up coming over to me and introducing himself. Just started out saying "How you doin' t'day?" We ended up talking for a good ten minutes. I heard about his struggles, his family and his wrestling with his faith. I think it was therapeutic for him. Maybe he'd seen me praying with the other guy, maybe not. For some reason though, he sought me out. I finished our conversation by telling him I'd be praying for him and I've been thinking of him and doing that ever since. Again, the benefit and compensation package that I'd never expected when I signed up for this.

I want to reiterate that I don't tell these stories in an attempt to edify myself. I don't volunteer to satisfy my guilt. I do it because I love people. Lately, and it's a post 50 thing, ask my wife, I love hearing people's story.   I think by listening you learn so much more than you do by talking. It means something to people and it meant something to these guys. If I get nothing else of substance done today, I've got that much to take to bed with me.

And for a Saturday that beats the heck out of sleeping in.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

All The Right Moves

My sister in-law sold her house recently, and just this past week, moved into an apartment. I am very happy that she had a very quick sale, especially in this market. She was lucky to be able to get out from under the huge burden that it was becoming. As a working single parent, time spent between the house, the yard and the pool, and raising two daughters just got to be too much. Houses can sometimes be too much when you have two adults working on it. Take one of those out of the picture and I wouldn't blame anyone for downsizing.

That doesn't mean the sale of the house doesn't hurt a bit. I'm sure it hurts her and her family with all of the memories tied up in it, but its kind of sad for me too. Because we stayed there whenever we went to St. Paul for holidays, etc., there are a lot of memories for myself and my family that that house holds.

  • Countless "arrival" nights around the kitchen island having a few beers and decompressing after a long, sometimes hairy ride from Waukesha. We solved a lot of world issues and most of our family problems around that island. 
  • Our kids in their giant "mosh pit" in the basement of the house, with their video games, TV, and movie nights. 
  • The sun-porch/room out back was my favorite room of the house. It was light and airy, like being outside and inside at the same time. One of my most vivid memories was eating chips and cheese the day after Thanksgiving while watching a Jerry Springer episode called "Is it a man or a woman?" (Those who know me know this is not my usual programming, but at the time it cracked Rob and I up. It was a stark reminder that there's a populace out there that watches this trash daily.)
  • Many sunny days poolside or goofing off in the pool with the kids.
  • Planning and packing for BWCA trips in the garage and living area.
Selling a house is rarely an easy thing. I know when our house on Portland in St. Paul, the house I grew up in, went up for sale, my brother Rob said to our mom, "I do NOT like that sign out there!" Mom had just gone through a divorce and like my sister in-law, was overwhelmed by the house. Most of the kids were out anyway, so she was looking to downsize. What was she supposed to do? I still remember her reply to him which was "The house is just a building, the memories go with you wherever you go." Rob didn't like the answer, but he also knew she was right.

When you live somewhere for 15 years (which is how long we lived at Portland), you grow kind of attached to it. Double that number and, well, a move would be downright devastating, I imagine. The thing is, for various reasons, I've missed all of the subsequent places Mom has lived since Portland too. I think a little part of your spirit gets left at every place you inhabit. 

I didn't like it when Donna's parents sold their house and moved into an aging-friendlier house across the road. I'd only been there for holidays and occasional vacations, but those times had given it meaning. I didn't want to "break in" a new house. What was wrong with the old house? 

There will come a day when we need to move from this house. With the kids approaching college, that day is coming sooner than later. As much as my wife and I joke about selling it outright to Carroll University so they can do with it what they please (including knocking it down,) there's a huge part of me that will have a hard time letting it go. I suspect the kids will have an even harder time of it, as it's the only address they've known. I'll try the old line mom gave us about it being only a building, but my guess is they won't like it as much as Rob didn't like it.

Overall, I count 9 different addresses I've had since Portland. Nine in 28 years. A little less than one move every three years. And that is not even as bad as some people. We are a transient society. My friend Pat always used to say "Wherever you go, there you are." Circumstances dictate that moving is part of life, and guess I need to get over it.

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Real Boys Of Summer

The heat of summer has settled in this part of the state this past weekend. It is that stifling kind of wet-rag heat that keeps you sweaty even while sitting still. At the moment, my dog lays aspirating in front of the two fans in our living room where it is still bearable without turning on one of our 3 window air conditioners. We tend to wait until it is no longer tolerable before we cave and turn them on, because once they're on, they tend to stay on.

Summer is a bit of a mixed blessing in my mind. It is kind of a time of unrest for me. I want to do everything and nothing at the same time. I realize the weather won't last, so I want to fish, swim, bike, walk, camp and kayak all in the same week. At the same time, the heat saps the ambition to do any of it, willing me to stay indoors and avoid the heat.

One of the ways we used to beat the heat was to pile our family in Mom's Impala and our step-family in my stepfather's Galaxie 500 convertible and drive to Bayport beach. In looking at the photo above which was from the website, I see that it is nothing like I used to remember it. I remember it more like the photo here.
This picture predates my era there (the 70's), but the beach area that I remember is as shown. Notice the highly unsafe double-decker raft in the deep water. It was a raft I never made it to. I was a weak swimmer, terrified of the water and always seen as the family member most likely to die in a drowning accident. I was more like the little guy playing near the slide, while all of my aquatically gifted siblings were diving off the diving board out there "over my head."

We used to love when mom and Jack would say we were going to the beach. It meant swimming, fishing, and hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. After a long nap with my mom on the army blanket, my stepfather would punt and throw the football to my stepbrother. I remember thinking he was such a good punter and why didn't he play professional football. Evidently out-of-shape, forty-something punters are not a hot commodity in the NFL. That didn't preclude him from being a hero in my eyes. 

Because my mom was a working mother of six children, it meant we were left to amuse ourselves everyday in the summer, with my older brothers and sisters left "in charge" of the rest of us. We rode our bikes to the Mississippi river (4 miles) to catch carp, explore and break up the monotony of the weekdays. We climbed the bluffs by "the monument" and fished the current near the boat landing at Hidden Falls. Our backpacks stuffed with PB&J and our canteens filled with grape Kool Aid. 

We biked to Como Zoo (3 miles). We skirted the "bad neighborhood" by weaving our way west around the trouble spots, hoping there were no perpetrators looking to harass a bunch of kids on bikes looking to kill their boredom. Como zoo was always free, so we'd lock our bikes, walk the zoo and finish up with a game of mini-golf. Sometimes we'd make a fishing day of it and fish in Como Lake, a man made lake that usually got pretty green by summers end. On occasion we'd drift into the golf course area and look for wayward golf balls. None of us golfed, but we hoped to sell them back to golfers at the clubhouse.

Summers were a time for back yard carnivals too. We usually spent three days planning it, two days hyping it in the neighborhood, and it was over in three hours, usually to the profit of about ten bucks, split 3 or 4 ways. Never mind that we probably used twelve dollars of mom's food and paper supplies. That never hit the bottom line. 

The same went for lemonade/Kool Aid sales on the front walk. We were on an "off" street, so foot traffic was mostly neighbors. When we'd tell mom of our $3.00 profit, she'd remind us that the sugar used in it wasn't really accounted for in our business model. It was a good lesson in economics at a young age.

Most of all, summers were just a time to dream up what to do on any given day. Spontaneous sandlot baseball games at St. Luke's playground were a popular pastime. Usually it meant no one could hit to right field, and sometimes center field because there were not enough players, but that didn't stop us. It was all fun until someone slipped on the asphalt and skinned their knee or ankle. I can remember picking little bits of gravel out of my knee more than once.

Summers were drive-in movies, swimming in the neighbors pool, basketball, "summer activities" at St. Luke's,  camping and cabins, sprinkler jumping and wicked bike jump ramps. Along with it came the obligations weeding the garden, painting the garage, cutting the grass and doing the dishes. 

Kids today have some of the freedoms we had, but they live in a different more dangerous world. They still manage to get bored, but if they knew what the future held, they'd probably spend their time a lot more judiciously.

Blogging off...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Favorites Past and Present

I responded to a writing prompt I got as an email notice the other day. The prompt was "Your Favorite Song." It asked for feelings, emotions, etc., that hearing your favorite song might trigger. You were supposed to use them inside a poem and send it in for consideration, so I did. Within a day or two I heard back that it was accepted and was just the kind of thing they were looking for.

It made me think though, what makes a favorite song? Lyrics? Music? Emotional reaction? Danceability? All of these?

When I thought about what I considered my "favorite song," I had to think about it a bit. I am a music lover, and I have what I consider many favorite songs. They vary by genre, artist and even era. Somehow though whenever I'm asked what my favorite would be it always comes back to the same song. The song is Under the Milky Way by The Church. It dates back to 1988 when I had just moved to Wisconsin, from Minnesota. I was a Church groupie, so bought it the minute it came out.

Over the course of the next couple of years, I started a long distance writing relationship with Donna who was going to school in New York state. I turned her on to this group and somehow Starfish, the album the song was on, became "our album" and UTMW became "our song."

Because of that connection, I've always considered it my favorite song, even if it's not anymore. No doubt, I still love the song, but because of my initial association with all it stood for, I kind of played it out of myself. Like any top 40 station will do, I ruined it for myself by overplaying, it. As I said, I still like it a lot and it will always have special meaning for me, but it may not be my "deserted island song" anymore.

Music has such a timelessness to it. I can still recall many of my favorites from childhood growing up in the 60's and 70's. Some of my earliest include:

  • My baby does the hanky panky - The words, the sneer
  • Light my fire - Mesmerizing instrumental solo
  • I'm a believer - Simple words with a kicking beat
  • I am the god of hell fire - More great organ solo, and besides who can resist the intro? 
  • Inagodadavida - Stereo headphones, enough said.
  • Help!/I wanna hold your hand/Any other Beatles song - How could you not like them?
For me music is therapy. Almost every song brings back some sort of memory, a time, a place, an emotional state, a person, even a dwelling. To have one favorite is not really fair or possible. 

If pressed into saying I must have one though, it would have to be Under the Milky Way (tonight). 

Blogging off...

Saturday, June 15, 2013

114 Reasons Why I Love Fatherhood

While rummaging through the basement the other day I came across the list below in my "keeper" box of things my kids made for me when they were young. This was one of Sarah's school assignments and is titled  114 reasons why my dad is "souper" (sic). I thought it appropriate for Father's Day and is a great expression of why I LOVE being a father. (Note: Spelling errors are all original. My comments are in parentheses.)

  1. He reads to me.
  2. He lets me have desset. (As long as I get some too.)
  3. Me makes good stuff. (This can't mean cooking)
  4. He loves me.
  5. He pushes me on the swings. (Precious times)
  6. He nice.
  7. He tuched me in. (After Goodnight Moon, every night)
  8. He aways there for me. (Slay me)
  9. He makes map for us. 
  10. He tells me jokes. 
  11. He takes me to the park. (Miss those days.)
  12. He plays games with me
  13. He eats breakfast with me.
  14. He takes me to spesial plases. (OMG this is killing me.)
  15. He draws pichers with me.
  16. He tells me how to write word. (Singular words only, evidently)
  17. He gives me ideas. 
  18. He lets me do things I want to do.
  19. He takes me to the zoo.
  20. He makes me hot cocolate in the winter. (Hot chocolate and cocoa combined!)
  21. He helps me plant things. (And then neglects them until they wither and die.)
  22. He takes me to the movies.
  23. He takes me on the plane.
  24. He starts snowball fights.
  25. He lets me stay up. 
  26. He take me out to eat. (There's that cooking thing again)
  27. He's a speisal dad. (OMG, does it get any better?)
  28. He likes me. (One would go as far to say that I even love her.)
  29. He lets me talk on the phone.
  30. He rides bikes with me
  31. He hug me when he gets home. 
  32. He lets me have snacks. (Cooking? Nope.)
  33. He helps me with projets. 
  34. He plays Jinga with me. 
  35. He runs with me.
  36. He watches movies with me.
  37. He counts with me
  38. He takes me to church.
  39. He goes shopping with me. (Only against my will)
  40. He dances with me. (It's true. I did!)
  41. He walk around the block with me.
  42. He makes forts for me. (When I first read this I thought it said farts. LOL!)
  43. He buys me toy. (Lets keep it to one.)
  44. He makes me cookies. (I do? This one is one of those lost memories.)
  45. He buys me candy. (One for her, one for me.)
  46. He jogs with me. 
  47. He takes care of me. (Wow. Straight to the heart.)
  48. He's funny. (It's true.)
  49. He reads adult books. (I told her never to tell anyone about that!)
  50. He's happy. (Funny what your kids pick up.)
  51. He's silly. (Also true)
  52. He takes me on long trips.
  53. He make  book by writeing. (Someday...)
  54. He likes home. (It beats work.)
  55. He likes football. (The only sport that matters.)
  56. I like my dad's cloathes.
  57. I like my dad. (Whew!)
  58. I like the way dad dresses.
  59. I like his handwriting. (That makes one.)
  60. He likes to do work. 
  61. He is good at his job. (Enough said!)
  62. His job is to make maps. 
  63. I like his dinner. (Okay, she's starting to get delusional)
  64. My dad sings in the sower. (Now, this is news to me. Again, it's funny what kids pick up.)
  65. My dad knows math. (Oh yeah, I've figured out this 2nd grade math thing.)
  66. My dad colets golf clubs. (Got a couple wooden shaft Bobby Jones'!)
  67. We play hide-and-seek.
  68. We play tag.
  69. My dad fixed our tolit. (Mathematician, plumber, yep, that's me.)
  70. He put in a new door.
  71. My dad is good at scaring me. (Now they scare me. Sweet justice.)
  72. My dad knows long words. (It's true.)
  73. My dad watches TV with me.
  74. My dad likes hokky. (The only other sport that matters.)
  75. My dad likes TV. (We just dropped cable a month ago and haven't bought an antenna yet. I think I don't like TV.)
  76. He loves chicken.
  77. My dad likes my mom. (I would go so far as to say really, really likes.)
  78. My dad ripped down the garage. (It was a shed, attached to the garage, but it's true.)
  79. My dad is good at getting cuts. (Okay.)
  80. My dad has a friend named Chris.
  81. My dad likes to play outside. (Just ask my mom)
  82. Sometimes my dad eat grill cheese.
  83. My dad likes dragons. (Oh, oh, the secrets out!)
  84. My dad watches to much TV. (Must've been written on a Fall Sunday Afternoon.)
  85. My dad loves flower. (Did I mention he loves football, guns and spitting too?)
  86. My dad is maired. (To a horse, evidently)
  87. My dad likes our house. (And everyone in it.)
  88. My dad plays soccer with me.
  89. My dad likes cat. (Tastes like chicken)
  90. My dad has lots of friends. (So there.)
  91. My dad likes dogs. 
  92. My dad eats meats. (But only cats.)
  93. My dad plays ball. 
  94. My dad bilds things. (I do?)
  95. My dad likes working on the computer. 
  96. My dad likes julry. (And football, and spitting, and...)
  97. My dad likes the flag. (Add patriot to mathematician and plumber.)
  98. My dad plays baseball.
  99. My dad likes Texas. (But he hates the Cowboys.)
  100. My dad likes Lions. (But he hates Detroit)
  101. I like looking at my dad. (OMG, someone get me a tissue.)
  102. My dad likes tapers. (Brazillian tapers at the zoo are a cool animal!)
  103. My dad likes teddy bears. 
  104. My dad likes bears. (That's more like it.)
  105. My dad likes befeers. (I think this is beavers, and, yes I do!)
  106. Dad like worms. (When they're in a fish's mouth, yes.)
  107. Sometimes I call him daddy. (Um, tissue please.)
  108. Dad calls me sar.
  109. Dad like toilits. (They come in handy)
  110. Dad like the number 7. (Only at the craps table)
  111. Dad has stinky socks. (Who doesn't?)
  112. Dad feet smell. (Hey, alright, that's enough of that.)
  113. Dad likes shells.
  114. Dad writes with pen. (It's true)
So there you have it, 114 reasons I am blessed to be Sarah and Ben's father. As a father of teens, I realize how quickly time has passed. There were long days when they were little kids that I thought I'd never see them become independent. Now, all I wish for is a little more dependence. 

To all the fathers out there, young and old, take time out every day to talk to your kids. Tell them you love them. Tell them 114 reasons you think they're "souper." If you do, maybe one day they'll remember that your feet smell.

Happy Father's Day!

Blogging off.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

DC End To End

My son Benjamin has been in Washington, DC with a group from his Middle School since Monday morning. This was a two-school coordinated trip for 8th graders. They flew out Monday and return home tomorrow evening. The trip is organized by Bright Spark Travel and is run like a military training exercise. They have an itinerary that would make most peoples' head spin. Here's a sampling of what they're covering:

  • Monday: Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History, Crime and Punishment Museum, Air Force Memorial.
  • Tuesday: White House, Supreme Court, Library of Congress, National Archives, the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, Jefferson, FDR, and MLK Jr. Memorials. 
  • Wednesday: Arlington National Cemetery, Kennedy grave, Challenger Memorial, Pentagon, Iwo Jima Memorial, Ford Theater and Kennedy Center.
  • Thursday: Mount Vernon, Washington Memorial, WWII Memorial. 
It is just dizzying to think about herding that many kids (40) through all of that for one day, let alone four. I have the utmost respect for the chaperons (and the bus driver, for that matter.) Tonight they were finishing at the Kennedy Center to see a play. It's my guess there may be some that fall asleep during it. I hope not, but that's a guess.

I miss him. I miss him a lot. I miss his awkward teen body, his new-found deep voice, his dirty dishes in strange places, and his shouting at the XBox. I miss his camping out in front of the laptop with his white headphones on, laughing at stupid, zany YouTube videos. When I ask him what he's laughing at, sometimes he feels compelled to show me, and usually I crack up as much as he was. I miss that too. 

Our house is not the same without him. It is too orderly. Too still. Too clean. I want him back around so my dog has someone else to play "googly shake" with. The neighbors miss his lawn mowing technique that, while is usually thorough, requires my keen oversight to catch the "underlap" strips of tall grass that he missed trying to cut his swaths too wide.

It's no fun not telling him to "wrap it up soon" at 10:15 every night. Seems like an odd thing to miss, but it's as much a part of my routine as brushing my teeth is. He's taken to looking at me and going "Yep, I know dad...wrap it up, I know."

He's not one to practice his guitar as much as I would like, but I miss the little bit of plucking that he usually does every week. 

It's weird not having someone around to drink grape juice with his lasagna dinner. I mean, how normal is that? Follow it up with a man-sized belch that knocks the petals off the floral arrangement and, well, what's not to miss about that?

He's a great kid. 
He's my only son. 
And I miss him.

Hurry home Ben. I Love You!

Blogging off...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Retreat Recap

I spent this weekend among the AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop community at their annual writing retreat. It is held at Techny Towers in Illinois, near Northbrook. I always come away from this retreat exhausted, but satisfied. While there are some lectures and workshops, much of the retreat is spent on just personal writing time. I felt like I got  a great deal done. Could I have written more? Probably, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

I learned a few things over the course of the weekend.

  • Just because it's a writing retreat doesn't mean your work has to be all new material. I am unsure where I got the mindset that only new material is worthy of my time at a retreat, but I need to shake it. Rewrite is as important as the original material. I'm reminded that rewriting is "new material" in that your changing something into something new.
  • If you're given a boring prompt, just run with it. Today's exercise involved using a fortune from a fortune cookie as the first line of a story. Mine was "You always bring out the best in people." I thought this was a crappy line to start with. For 3/4 of my story I thought the story was going nowhere. I thought I'd get to the end of the time limit and have a winding story that went nowhere and had a lousy ending. Along the way something came to me and I ended up with a pretty decent story after all. It was a case of write as far as your headlights and eventually it will come to you.
  • Everyone is at a different level, but EVERYONE has something to say. The group had beginning, experienced, published and non-published writers. It was interesting to see some of the beginners get praised for really good stuff at the same time some of the experienced people took some lumps. (Including me, though I don't consider myself very experienced as yet).  No one takes the critiquing personally, so it's all good. We're all there to help. It's a workshop, not a lynch mob.
  • Everyone has a different writing niche. It was a fascinating study in social interaction from a writing environment perspective. Some people wrote in public areas, some wrote in their room with the door open, some in their room with the door closed (me), and some wrote outdoors. Again, no one took offense at the others' style or preference, because we all have different needs. I happen to need complete seclusion (if possible) while some need to be around others.
  • Yesterday's block was yesterday.  While I never had complete and total "writer's block," there were days where things just felt forced. If you write, you know all about these days. On Saturday, after two days of floundering, I went outside and wrote. I suddenly hit a zone and it all came naturally. I love those days, but I also realize sometimes it takes a Thursday and Friday of struggling to make a Saturday of ease.
  • Words are the hidden value of a retreat. One of the things I love about this conference is that it is such an encouraging group. People may beat you up a bit during your critique, but it's only because they care. I had at least four people come up to me over the weekend and say how much they enjoyed my writing. You cannot put a price on that. Writers need to hear this, love to hear this. It is a huge part of why we work at it like we do.
  • When you think your book or story has the perfect ending, think again. So I thought I had the perfect epilogue to my BWCA book submitted for critiquing this weekend, and after my peers assessed it, what came out were three things. 1. It's not done. It needed more emotion among several other tweaks. 2. It's not the epilogue. After much discussion we determined that it should be the last chapter, not an epilogue. 3. The ending is not the ending. Even if I move this to the chapter, it is still not done. I need to finish this story and then make it the last chapter.
  • Crossing genres is a good way to keep it fresh. The writing prompt is my new friend. Flash fiction writing exercises are a great way to get a story started. They are also a great way for me to stretch myself stylistically. You only get better at what you don't know by "going there." I plan to go there more.
  • There's no place for regrets. I tend to dwell on the fact that I wasn't writing 20 years ago. I've always enjoyed writing and was always pretty good at it, but only started taking it seriously in the past 5 years. I need to let those years go and be happy I'm writing now. Writing today.
  • Don't write to a market. Rather than looking for what people are looking for, maybe we should just write and worry about finding a place for it later. Our work will be better and we won't feel shoved into the confines of a market box.
These are just a few of the many things I learned this weekend. I'm always amazed at what I take away from this event. I can't wait for the next one. Write on.

Blogging off...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Leap Years

Tonight my son graduated from 8th Grade. Now I know 8th grade graduation doesn't really have a formality to it, but it's still kind of a cool thing. As much as anything, it is really a rite of passage for kids. I guess in the paleolithic days they would send a boy out into the wilderness for 2 days, or make them tough it out in a sweat lodge for 12 hours to make them a man.

We have 8th grade graduation.

I'm not belittling it, I'm just saying that for me personally, I can point to a couple of things that scream "growing up" for Ben. The first was a few weeks back when we were trout fishing with his cousins. There was a picture taken of him and his cousins in their waders. (See Post). He just looked grown up. He wasn't Benjamin, he was BenTheMan. It hit me hard to see the picture of him and his cousins standing tall, handsome and grown up.

The other was tonight's graduation. Watching him among his peers, also all grown up, acting mature (most of the time) and talking in that deep voice that continues to shake me every time I hear it.

Dude, who stole my son?

I remember my 8th grade ceremony pretty well. It was at St. Luke's and was held in the convent chapel, a place no one much got to go. We always went to the "big church", and the convent was where the nuns lived, so students didn't get to go there much. When we were putting together the program one of the sisters asked the students to submit suggestions for the cover of the program. I remembered a quote I heard so I submitted it. It went:

"I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday..."

As it turns out, they chose it for the cover. I guess you could say my first publishing was a plagiarism. It also happens that I missed the rest of the quote that goes:

"...and I love today."

Plagiarism aside, it really is a good/fitting quote for any young person making a transition in their life. For that matter, it's good advice for old people as well. If we can't bear tomorrow, all we need to do is look back. There's probably been worse things that have happened than will happen tomorrow and you lived to tell about it. So, suck it up and move ahead.

A year from now I'll revisit these emotions again when my daughter graduates from High School. That one will really suck the life out of me, not only because she's growing up, but because she'll be going away to college. That can't possibly be happening, can it?

Dude, who stole my daughter?

Yet, it's all part of the parenting deal, evidently. That doesn't mean I have to like it, (I don't). I always turn to the words from Khalil Gibran when I get wispy about my kids growing up or heading into unknown territory.  He puts it in great perspective in his poem On Children. 

Blogging off...

On Children
 Kahlil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Tumbling Twice

The battle between me and my cursed  (a term of endearment) Maytag dryer continues to rage. It stopped turning on Thursday of last week and I decided to beat it into submission as a weekend project. I had a new belt at-the-ready and was set to resuscitate it back from death one more time. I knew the belt that was on it was cracked and worn based on how it looked when I last had the thing in pieces to fix the heating element.

So I crack the thing open on Saturday morning looking to get it running in 90 minutes or less. It takes a total of 12 screws to get the drum off and release the belt. After taking a picture of the pulleys to make sure I restring the thing correctly I release the idler pulley which allowed me to get the belt off. I put the new belt on restring the thing and put the whole mess back together. I plug it in for the moment of truth. I turn it on and...drum roll...lots of buzzing, but no tumbling.


Disassemble the whole unit again and realize that the idler pulley wheel is not moving. I give it a squirt of Liquid Wrench and it starts to spin freely again. I'm thinking Now that must be what's causing the issue. I screw the whole thing back together, turn it on again and...drum tumbles.

In fact it tumbles for almost a whole load before it stops again.

Argh. (The pirate in me is starting to get peeved.)

After further futzing, tweaking, turning and a few colorful metaphors, I conclude that the idler arm must be the problem. It's also a $30 assembly and above my area of expertise. Actually the whole project kind of is, but I was able to eke a couple of extra years out of the stupid thing. As a Maytage EMT, I've done all that I can do. It appears that it is no longer on life support, but has passed on to appliance heaven, or given its history on earth, appliance hell.

And so I think we're very soon going to be in the market for a new dryer. Luckily it is summer and we can use clotheslines for the short term.

Later that day, I notice there's a nail in the tire of our Santa Fe. Oy. What the heck? There's some bad karma flying around these parts lately. Why do these things always happen in waves?  The good news is the tire seems to be holding air okay. The bad news is, well, isn't a nail in the tire bad enough?

I know we'll fix the tire and eventually buy a dryer, but if anyone out there knows a reputable tire place and a Maytag repairman looking for a side job, well, lets talk.

Blogging off...