Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Road Trip With Middlest is a Trip

This past week, Middlest and I went on a four and a half hour road trip to visit a college she is interested in attending. I am not sure what all of her criteria for choosing a college are, but I think one of the criteria for visiting this college was that it was far enough away from home so Mom and Dad wouldn’t be “all up in” her business, yet close enough so Mom and Dad could drive to get her for breaks on a regular basis.

The drive was long but enjoyable. Middlest shared her music with me, and we were able to jam out as the miles passed. I wish I could tell you that we engaged in deep personal conversation, but we are both content to simply sit and be together. In fact, Middlest has never been one of those touchy-feely emotional people. When I would pick her up from pre-school, all the other children would run up and give their mothers or fathers a long hug. Middlest, on the other hand, would zero in on me from across the room, paw her foot on the ground a couple times, and with a wild gleam in her eye, she would charge full speed across the room, and slam her head into my stomach. Yes, while other parents were the recipients of loving and tender hugs, I would get a head butt to the gut.

Middlest has also developed a sarcastic and somewhat irreverent outlook on life. This, in fact, makes time with her even more enjoyable. When we left the house at five in the morning, it was dark and there was not much to see. As we travelled on, the sun began to rise, as it does every morning, and we could see the country side around us. Every time we saw something noteworthy I would say to Middlest, “Quick, take a picture.” This is quite easy to say, but very difficult to carry out when travelling down the highway at 65 mph. Consequently, we missed taking pictures of the fog wisping its way across the fields dotted with bales of hay, we missed capturing the pair of six point bucks munching on dew covered grass by the edge of the road, and we missed multiple chances to take a picture of the lovely sunrise.

That is until we reached one of our favorite rest stops along the highway. The actual rest stop sits in the median, and travelers heading either direction park their cars and walk on an enclosed bridge to the facilities and restaurants in the building in the middle of the lanes of traffic. As we were heading back to our car, I stopped and was finally able to snap a picture of the sun as it hovered above the highway. As Middlest and I enjoyed the scene, a truck driver ambled by and commented, “That’s not something you see every day.”  Middlest and I just looked at each other, fighting the desire to make snarky comments like, “If the sun didn’t come up every day, we would all be DEAD!” or, “Where are you from that the sun doesn’t come up every day?” But, we politely restrained ourselves. The driver, as it turns out, was talking about the bridges across the road and not the sun rise at all. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Tornadoes, Earthquakes, Six Flags, and the Governor

While reading the news on the internet this week, I found quite a few articles regarding a proposal to split California into six states. New York, the state I live in, is on the opposite side of the country from California, so at first I paid little attention to the stories.

After all, to listen to New York’s esteemed governor, Andrew Cuomo, New York is totally awesome and everyone should want to live and work here. A short time ago a tornado touched down in New York State, right in the middle of the state. Governor Cuomo was incensed and outraged.  “We don’t get tornadoes in New York. Anyone will tell you that.” Cuomo said, “ is a challenge for government, it’s a challenge for first responders and it’s a challenge for every citizen of this state.”

I think, most of all, it is a challenge for the governor on two fronts. First, it tarnishes the image of New York. He wants to present a safe, business-friendly, wonderful place to live. Secondly, it presents a challenge in the area of reality contact. Since tornadoes do strike New York, in fact, according to the National Weather Service, New York is visited by a dozen or so tornadoes every year. You can see the article here

So, I looked at California and this plan of splitting it into six separate states. It makes sense. Take all of the huge problems and split them into little ones. Then you no longer have huge problems, you simply have a bunch of little ones. This is a problem-solving skill that is taught by educators everywhere. Take the big problem, and break it down into bite-sized chunks.

Then, I examined the map closer, and I discovered something truly unique. Two of the states have a border along the San Andreas Fault on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. This is amazing! For many years scientists have said that at sometime, everything west of the San Andreas fault will fall into the Pacific ocean.

In fact, I remember my sixth grade teacher talking about the possibility of California falling into the sea. He made it sound as if this disaster could occur at any moment. I think he was a republican.

Now someone has planned ahead for that eventuality. Rather than one state, California, losing a huge portion of its tax base and population, simply split that portion of the state off, so when it falls into the ocean, it has no negative impact on everyone else.

Not only is this part of California that is destined to fall into the ocean separated from the rest, it is split into two parts, just in case it doesn’t all fall in at once. This is the kind of planning that makes every disaster official proud.

The biggest hurdle seems to be what to call the six different states. One person noted, with amusment, “We should call the whole thing, ‘Six Flags California’.”

If splitting California into six separate states doesn’t work, perhaps New York’s esteemed Governor Cuomo will move to California and say, “We don’t get earthquakes in California, anyone will tell you that.” Then everything will be all right.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

On An Adventure I Went

The last Saturday of June, I went on an adventure. I, along with one other adult, packed seven young people, and all of our luggage, into a van and began a two day half-way-across the country trek. Our final destination was Greenville, Illinois: home to Greenville College.

The young people, who ranged in age from 11 to 18 years old, were a part of our church’s Bible Quiz team. Rather than bore you with the details of what Bible Quizzing is about, let me point you to this excellent description. 

The trip went safely, despite that incident in the parking lot of a Chick-fil-A in Pennsylvania. On of our younger travelers exited the van carrying his electronic game. Using peripheral vision, he followed the group as we headed in to eat lunch. He was doing fine, until he reached a particularly challenging moment in his electronic universe. At which point he lost all contact with the reality around him and stopped walking-- in the middle of the parking lot. Consequently causing a line of cars to form through the parking lot and halfway up the highway.

It took multiple people calling out the youngsters name before he finally realized the dire predicament he was in. He stepped out of the line of traffic and immediately refocused on his game. This led the adults to give some serious directions to the entire group on what was expected when walking through parking lots.

I have worked with teenagers for decades. In all that time, I have learned one important thing when giving directions, repeat everything, repeatedly. This is important, especially when dealing with teenagers. This age group seems especially prone to either an excess buildup of earwax, an overactive ability to tune out the adult voice, or they are easily prone to distractions. So, when directions are given, it is important to repeat, and after repeating, ask the teen to repeat the directions back. Then, when the teen realizes they have no clue, repeat the process again, until they seem to have a clue.

This direction giving, along with the confiscation of all hand held electronic games, prevented any further parking lot mishaps and ensured the health and safety of the younger members of the group, along with preventing stress headaches and panic attacks amongst the adults.

It was enjoyable to laugh with each of the teens. I have known one of the graduating seniors, whom I will call Joe, since that is his name, since he was in seventh grade. He holds the dubious distinction of being the only person I have had to reprimand for playing tug-o-war with a chair in the middle of a Sunday School class.

Joe has matured into a fine young man, with an amazing sense of humor. He took this picture of me when I felt safe on the trip.

During the quizzing competition, a competing team introduced one of their team mates and mentioned that the young lady had the nickname “Pumpkin”. The young lady did not look thrilled about the name, so I mentioned, “It appears as if you want to squash your new nick name.”

She nodded yes, vigorously.

Joe, who, as I mentioned before, is now a mature young man, leaned back in his chair, stroked his bearded chin (I told you he was mature) lightly and said, “I wonder where that nickname stems from?” (I told you he was funny).