Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Reflections 2015

We took a few days off this Christmas season to visit with my wife's family in the next state.  It's always fun to pack a bunch of people into a house and watch the kids play together while the grown-ups enjoy grown-up conversation and WAY TOO MUCH COFFEE.

We sang Christmas carols and lit candles in church. We ate ham and lots of cookies and drank egg nog.

Gifts at home this year mostly consisted of whatever we could stuff into their stockings, with a few little odds and ends for each person. You see, our budget took several significant hits this year such as an unplanned car purchase and one enormous hospital bill.

I am continually amazed by the love and understanding of our kids.  They LOVE opening their stockings so much they couldn't care less about other gifts.

Christmas is good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Sky At Night

Sometimes the sky here is very clear, I mean so clear that you can see the stars between the stars. At least that's what the tell me.  I used to be able to see all the stars, but sadly I can now only see the very brightest ones.

"Look at that! Is that Pleiades?"

"I don't know, but I do know that's the dipper."


Eyesight is a very nice thing when you have it, and a rather nasty thing when you lose it.

And even worse when you know what you used to be able to see. But can't.

That is all.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Man Is A Hero.

Last week we took our annual family trip to Knoebel’s Amusement Resort, a wonderful amusement park filled with family friendly rides as well as plenty of water rides, thrill rides, and kiddie rides to make the entire family happy.

Oh, yeah, and did I mention the food? The Food Network rated Knoebel’s food “The Best Amusement Park Food in America.”  

So, we arrived, ate lunch, rode the rides, and had a great time!

There was, however, one kid who didn’t have such a great day, and I have a feeling he didn’t have such a great ride home, either.

Here’s why … 

We put a few of the kids on a ride called “Roto Jets,” which is basically a bunch of rockets that spin in a circle while also moving up and down. 

Anyway, three of our kids, along with their cousin, were just starting the ride when a kid stood up in the rocket behind my son. The ride operator yelled for the kid to sit down, but he wouldn’t sit. The man then stopped the ride, gently and safely, making sure that all the rockets slowed down and descended from way up there.

But before the rockets could descend or stop completely, the boy jumped from his rocket to the inside of the ride, where the spinning arms that operated the rockets missed his head by a fraction of an inch, while the ride continued to move, slowly coming to a stop.

The operator stood, pointed and yelled at the boy to freeze and not move a muscle.

The ride stopped, the operator, surrounded by several park officials, picked the boy up and he ran to his parents, who walked away with him.

I’m writing this down for several reasons.

First, I want the park to know from an actual witness the events as they happened, as they seemingly took no names or statements at the time, and did not detain the boy or his family to take a statement.

Secondly, I want the park to know that in my opinion the ride operator acted superbly in a frightful situation. He remained calm but stern, only yelling to keep the child from being killed. I’m not sure I would have been as calm as he. Excellent job!

Finally, I want to reiterate to my children, just as I did when it happened, that rules exist for a reason, even on park rides.
  • Yes, you have to fasten the seat belt.
  • Yes, you have to be tall enough to ride.
  •  No, you may not stand up while the ride is moving.

The man who was operating the Roto Jets averted a disaster. He is a hero.

That is all.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jelly Beans, Anyone?

Jelly beans. You either love 'em or hate 'em. I happen to love them, even though they are considered first degree contraband in our house.

There are many ways to eat jelly beans .

  • take a handful, line them up by color, then eat the color with the most beans first, then the next largest, etc.
  • dump out a pile of them, and eat random beans, one at a time.
  • pick through the bag, eating all except you favorite flavor, saving the best for last.
  • arrange them by flavor combinations, ie: lemon-lime, strawberry-pineapple, etc.
Or there is my favorite way to eat them ...

Just shove a handful of them into your mouth and chew. Yes, it's random and disturbing, but every time I eat them the flavor combination is slightly different, especially when they are "gourmet" jelly beans.

Well, there you have it.   Aren't you glad I told you?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Lettuce Is Greener On The Other Side??

It's really quite simple. Chopped iceberg lettuce, sliced onions, sliced black olives, shredded mozzarella, and good Italian dressing (not the sweet bargain brand). It's my favorite salad.

“Iceberg lettuce?? EWWWWWW!!!!” That's what most of my friends would say.

“I don't like iceberg.”
“I will only buy the organic dark greens.”
“Iceberg doesn't have any flavor.”
“We only use baby spinach and Romaine.”

Yeah, yeah (blah, blah, blah) …. Well, guess what? For every person who says they are absolutely disgusted by the mere suggestion that their salad might contain traces of this obviously poisonous vegetable, there are probably fifteen heads sold.

So … if no one I know likes it or would dare inflict it upon their delicate constitutions, then who is buying it?? Why are there so many heads in the produce aisle? Why do I see people walking around with 2 or 3 of them in their shopping carts?

I can only infer a couple possible answers.
  1. Most of my friends are pretentious snobs.
  2. Most of my friends are full of baloney.
Or maybe it's none of the above. Maybe I'm the only person on earth who buys the stuff.

Yeah. That must be it.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Brisket In Every Pot

There's a brisket on the stove, slowly coming to a boil.  It's going to simmer for three hours. Then it will sit for twenty minutes in the water before I remove it to cool. After it cools it will take a wild ride (one chunk at a time) in the food processor, then get spooned (okay, dumped) out onto several pieces of waxed paper, which are then rolled into tubes and frozen.

Why do I go through all this trouble?  Why not just buy a can or two of corned beef from the local grocery store? 

Two reasons:

1. Price - Have you seen the price of canned corned beef??  Mama Mia!!  The cost of one can is usually somewhere around $4.99 and in most cases it isn't even a full pound. When it's on sale brisket is a full buck cheaper and I can usually get the equivalent of six cans out of one large hunk of meat. (Nana would be proud.)

2. Flavor - The canned stuff tastes a little bit like dog food smells. Yeah, I know that was an awkward sentence. Nevertheless, it does, and while corned beef is an acquired taste to begin with (especially the boiled stuff), I think I can do better. 

You might ask if we will be having the "traditional" corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. Um ... probably not.  First of all, they don't really eat corned beef and cabbage in Ireland. It's an American thing.  We'll probably have Guinness Stew and colcannon, both of which are traditional Irish dishes. 

So, why the brisket?  Well, because it was on sale, we like it, and I'm cheap.  Why else?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

BANG! BANG! ... Then The Cops Showed Up.


What was that??!?!! 

I'm not sure ...


It was a fun filled day of presentations and meetings; the kind of day that makes teachers all over the country roll their eyes and moan and groan to each other about the lack of alone-time in their classrooms to catch up on "real" work. I have to admit that overall it was an interesting and inspiring day in spite of everyone's reluctance to participate.

But it was what happened during the "active shooter" portion of our day that took the most interesting turn. I was helping a colleague with an emergency and was not in the room where the presentation was taking place when we heard what sounded like a book hitting the floor. Very hard. Then another. And another and another. Then a few more at a distance. By the time the second shot was fired (right outside the door) we realized the sound was not dropping books, but bullets being fired from a pistol. We knew about the active shooter training, but didn't know what form it would take, and in that moment weren't sure what to do.

We (I) turned off the light like that wouldn't tip off a shooter and we stood against the smartboard and made ourselves "skinny" so that we couldn't be seen from the door (and if you knew the current size of my stomach you would definitely see the irony).

It turned out to be a local police officer shooting blanks in the corridors to demonstrate the actual sound of a live shooter In the building.

In the moments when I heard the gunshots a dichotomy of thoughts occurred within me. On one side was the set of protocols that I'm required to follow (lock the door, hide the students, etc.) while on the other side was the curious little boy who wanted to peek out the door to see what was happening in the corridor. Also circling in my mind were a few questions:

1. There are three doors in this room. Which one will we run for if this jerk comes in here?
2. How much stuff can I grab to hurl at the guy?
3. Where will I hide my students?

I did, in fact, peak out the door to get a look at the person outside the door, and in that split second I realized how easy and innocently a student could die at the hands of a shooter. I realized that in the event of an actual event, all bets are off.

It was a very interesting day. Indeed. 

I have a whole new perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

50 ... And Beyond

I turned 50. 

Saying it out loud brings a simultaneous sense of triumphant arrival and inward reflection. 

On one level I feel young and invincible like I was in my college years.  On another I feel the weight of tiny complaints of the back, kidney, eyesight, ashen hair, forgetfulness and hypertension my doctor warned me about so many years ago. 
Funny thing is, it doesn’t seem like so many years ago, but rather yesterday 
… fishing with Papap at Lake Irene … 
... walking to Emily’s store all by myself … 
... sledding down Mill Hill (waking up in the hospital) … 
... getting a haircut at “Honest Frank’s” barber shop … 
... riding my bike to Uncle Harold’s house (Aunt Fern always had cookies) ... 
... skateboarding down the hill to my grandmother’s house ... 
... joining boy scouts … 
... attending the first day of junior high (felt so grown up) … 
... taking a date to the “Queen of Hearts” dance … 
... becoming a mime … 
... getting my driver’s license …
... feeling a broken heart up close … 
... going to college … 
... auditioning for my first real show ...
... graduating ...
... working with Dad … 
... working with Mom … 
... meeting the love of my life … 
... proposing on Christmas Eve … 
... becoming a husband … 
... becoming a father … 
... losing a house … 
... losing a father … 
... losing a mother … 
... becoming 50.

I’ve been thinking about what is next. What do I want the rest of my life to look like? What do I want to do as I grow up? The reality is that I have lived far more years than I have yet to live on this earth.  What is my vision for the remainder? 

I’ll have to get back to you on that.  Right now I have a life to live.