Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I May Not Like Politics, But I Like Voting

It was Election Day here in the United States, and election days are always a big deal. The period leading up to Election Day is a time when candidates for office and political parties spend enormous heaps of money to “get their name out there”.

Apparently, getting a candidate’s name out there means saying many bad things about the other candidate in the election. This year one of the candidates accused his opponent of thinking our senior citizens didn’t need teeth; another person accused his challenger of not wanting people to work and earn a living wage.

In spite of the spate of negative advertisements, this year’s election was “only” a mid-term election. This means we weren’t voting for who was going to be president, which, apparently, means many people didn’t think it was an important election and consequently, didn’t get out to vote.

Allow me to point out that no election is unimportant. That is like saying that lunch isn’t important since it is neither breakfast nor dinner. Lunch is very important-especially to me. I like sandwiches, and lunch is the one time each day when I can eat a sandwich without people condemning me.

In fact, mid-term elections are also like a sandwich. If you take the middle of a sandwich away, you are only left with a couple slices of bread and mustard, which is not a sandwich; it is simply boring.

Mid-term elections are also like those other mid-terms -- mid-term exams in school. No industrious and serious student, would say, “I am not going to take my mid-term exams this semester. They aren’t important. Now, final exams, they are important; I will take those.

And so I voted on Tuesday. I voted because I am industrious, serious, and not boring. I also voted to discharge my civic duty. To sweeten the deal after I voted, the nice people at the polling place gave me a sticker that proclaimed “I voted”. I wore that sticker with pride, until I went to work that evening. I work in a home for individuals who score lower on some tests of intelligence; lower than you or I might score. One of the residents, a dear friend I have worked with for over a decade, saw my sticker. His eyes got big and round. “A sticker!” he exclaimed, “I want it.” Since it was the day after his birthday, I let him take the sticker.

It was later that I noticed that it seemed to be the “thing” for people to post pictures of their polling place or their ballot on social media (Odd, I know, but some people really shared those pictures). Many, many, people posted pictures of their little sticker, proclaiming that they had voted.

Swept up in the passion for the democratic process, I grabbed my phone to take a picture of my sticker and share with the world that I had exercised my democratic right and responsibility to vote.

Then I realized I had given my sticker away. So, I took a picture of my shirt, where the sticker once hung, and I posted that on social media. 

At first I felt flaky for posting a picture of my shirt without the sticker, but then I realized it wasn’t a big deal. After all it was just a mid-term election.

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Many Languages do You Know?

I have mentioned before that each of my daughters speaks another language besides their native tongue, English. Let me clarify, Eldest speaks Spanish; Middlest speaks Latin (and is learning Spanish); and Littlest speaks French.

I must clarify further. Because these are young people, heading quickly into young adulthood, they are also quite fluent in the modern dialect of Mumble. For those not familiar with that dialect, let me explain. Young people are accustomed to speed: On every corner there is opportunity for fast food; access to the internet is at speeds of over 10 Mbps (I remember my brother demonstrating his first modem at a whopping 300 bps, that could barely keep up with what he typed.); and it is normal for high school students to take a number of Advanced Placement classes, so that when they graduate from high school, they already have college credit. (Eldest started her college career with a year’s worth of college credit.)

In order to keep up with this frenetic pace, young people have developed the dialect of Mumble, or as it is scientifically known, Speedglish, as opposed to my native tongue, which is apparently Sloenglish. The basic structure of Mumble is to truncate as many words as possible and to string them together into one fast paced word. An example might be, “Nahbraugodidalwrngudunderstan.” In regular English or Sloenglish that short burst of noise would be, “No brother, you have it all wrong; you do not understand.”

Do you understand? I hope so, because the concept evades me.

Having daughters fluent in Mumble was handy a couple of summers ago when we were flying from one coast of the United States to the other coast. As I was passing through the TSA check point, I found out quickly that TSA does not stand for “Totally Stinking Awesome”. A TSA agent issued a direction to me in Mumble. I responded politely, “Excuse me?” One of my daughters, seeing the awkward social situation I was in, translated for me, “Dad, he wants you to take your glasses off the top of your head and put them on right.”

I was glad for the translation, but baffled as to the reason. I mentioned to the kind TSA agent, “They are simply for reading.” He was insistent that the security of someone was dependent on my wearing my reading glasses while trying to walk through the security checkpoint. So, I lowered the glasses to the tip of my nose, arched my eyebrow and peered over the top of my glasses (everyone hates that) and asked, “Izdizbetterbro?”

He gurgled, “Yah”.

My daughter scolded me, “Dad, stop it, you are not doing it right.”

And I replied in the only real Speedglish I know, “Fuggedaboutit.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

My Scientific Observation of The Blood Red Eclipse

This past week, Wednesday, October 8th, there was an eclipse of the moon here in the United States. This eclipse was called a Blood Red eclipse, due to it being close to dawn and the moon taking on a reddish hue at the height of the eclipse.  I remember as a youngster my parents awakening us one late night to see a lunar eclipse. I was fascinated to watch the moon slowly disappear as a bite shaped piece of shadow kept growing. At that young age, it reminded me of Cookie Monster from Sesame Street slowly devouring the moon like some celestial cookie.

For this most recent event, I was at work. There were a small number of people who were standing outside to watch the eclipse. I stood back from the group and watched both the eclipse, and people’s reactions as they exited the building. I found that there were four distinct categories of reaction.

The first group of people fell into the “Wise-Acre” group. These were mostly men who would say, “Oh, you are looking at the moon? I got another moon I can show you.” To which the only appropriate reply was, “If it is all the same, we would like that moon to remain eclipsed.”

The second category were those people who have an affinity towards agriculture and farming. They would look at the group of watchers, glance at the moon, and immediately begin to sound out, “Moooooooooon.” This was humorous the first time, but soon it became rather ridiculous, prompting me to think, “Holy Cow people, that joke is done, stop milking it.”

The next group of people were those who don’t believe anything, unless they see it on the television or internet. Their reaction to seeing the crowd and never even glancing skyward was, “Oh, are you watching the eclipse? I saw it on the television.”

Really? You saw it on television?

In this same category were those who pulled out their smart phones to open up some star tracking app so they could see the moon. Come on folks! It is the moon! How did Newton ever find the moon without his apple product?

The last group was the Sci-Fi nerd group. These wonderful people walked out the door, saw the moon gazing group, turned towards the moon, reached out with their hands in the air and begin to utter growls and grunts. I must say, I was speechless.

I enjoyed watching the moon as it slipped behind the earth’s shadow, but that enjoyment was eclipsed by my co-workers reactions.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Wanna Buy a Trombone, Kid?

It has been almost a month since I last wrote a post. This happens every year at this time. With the start of school, and thus, for me, working three jobs, I get a little bit overwhelmed and simply hang on, until I get re-acquainted with the swinging of a crazy schedule.

And I think I am there. Therefore, I have booted up the computer, opened the word processing software, put in ear phones, and begun to listen to the music that is most likely to get my creative juices flowing.

For me, that is classical music.

You see, one summer, my uncle offered to sell me his trombone. I mentioned that possible purchase to my mother. Immediately she thought of all the noise, and the disruption, and the noise, and loud wailing of a brash brass instrument being played. She quickly responded, “Tell him you don’t want to play the trombone, you want to play the violin.”

I am sure she thought to herself, “I dodged a bullet there. Now there will be no noisy brass instruments in my house.” Her frame of reference was listening to the local classical music station and hearing the soft melodies from the strings of a world-class symphony as they were played over the radio.

That September, I signed up to play the violin.

My poor mother was in for a rude awakening, because every student, no matter how good they become, starts at the same place; a place full of squeaks, squawks, and scratches.

Over the years, with a little practice, as little as I could get away with, the squeaks, squawks, and scratches became less, and what I played sounded more and more like a reasonable imitation of music. In fact, when I was in college, I was even able to play with the college orchestra. If memory serves me correctly, I think they were quite desperate for string players.

None of my daughters played violin, however each of my three daughters took piano lessons when they were little. Eldest still plays, and plays quite well. In addition, Eldest and Littlest played the clarinet and Middlest played...well, I will keep that surprise for a moment.

As you can imagine, with three little ones who had to practice piano, in addition to the other instruments, our home was full of music most of the day.

Middlest, for her second instrument, decided on playing the French horn. I remembered my mother’s consternation over the noises that came during the early months of violin playing, I decided that I could live with listening to Middlest play the French horn. Besides, of all the brass instruments, I find the sound of the French horn to be most rich and lovely.

Middlest worked hard at playing and I enjoyed the sound of her practicing. Except for that one day, when everything she played sounded flat and blah. There was an odd feeling that crept over me as I listened to her practice. I decided to check to see if she was feeling ill. When I entered the room where she was practicing, I immediately saw why her sound was so flat, she decided to do her practicing while lying on the floor.

I took pictures on my phone of her practice method, but somehow they all got deleted. I discovered they were deleted after she used my phone to make a call.

Well, now that I have spent all of this time discussing the musical leanings of me and my family, I still have to write a blog post, unless you have already tuned me out.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

School Supplies, Therein Lies a Great Angst.

Last week I wrote about the end of summer. When I was younger, the year was divided into two separate, but unequal parts, Summer and School. Now that I drive one of those yellow buses part time, the year is again divided into those two parts.

Summer is fading quickly and School is approaching like a freight train, loaded with pencils and paper, that is late for a delivery to Walmart. School supplies, therein lies a great angst. 

When my children were in grade school, it made sense to get five, one-inch binders, in the five different colors that the teacher specified, because when the teacher wanted to teach the science lesson of the day, he, or she, simply would say, “Students, we are going to start our science unit for the day. Please clear off your desks and get out your purple binder, three sheets of paper and a pencil.” Simple and easy; no difficult directions. Each student took out his or her 2 and 3/8 inch, purple folder and was ready to study science. No student accidentally pulled out an English folder, or math folder, or last week's tuna sandwich.

I suspected that as the children progressed from elementary school, through middle school, and into high school, the lists of school supplies from teachers would become less and less specific.

I was wrong.

Littlest is a Junior and Middlest is a Senior at our local high school. This means that they each have over a decade of experience in a formal learning environment. They have figured out how they learn the best, they know what systems of note taking and keeping work well with their learning styles. Additionally, they are female--females with highly developed senses of personal style.

Yet, there are still teachers who want to dictate what size and color binders they should use and how many pens and pencils they should have on their desk at all times. Sometimes I think that some of these high school teachers are secretly “wanna be” elementary school teachers, but were unable to teach well enough to be entrusted with our most impressionable, malleable, and, eager to learn students.

In the past, the school would send home schedules a week or two before school started. This would allow time to correct errors in the schedule and then to figure out what items the teachers would require the students to have, and then to go shopping for them. At this late stage, most of the items in the department store were picked over and more often than not, Beloved and I would have to go to an office supply store and pay top dollar for some purple 2 and 3/8 inch binder.

This year, our local high school has developed a new schedule and rather than sending it home, in an effort to “go green”, they were simply going to hand out the schedules on the first day of school.

This  schedule is quite complicated and never-before been done by our high school. It is something like an eight day, six block, rotating schedule; honestly, I am not sure exactly what they call it. The best way I can describe it is to imagine watching the Olympic diving competition on television. The diver prepares to dive, the crowd hushes, and the television announcer’s voice quietly and intensely narrates, “Now the high school schedule is up to dive. This should be an eight day, 6 block, rotation, with a double gainer, and a half-pike.” The diver leaps off the board, executes a blur of twists, turns, and somersaults, before straightening out, just in time to plunge head first into the water. Finally, the exultant diver emerges from the pool, all wet.

As for myself, I am partial to that age-old standard dive, the belly flop.

Many students and teachers believe this schedule will be a flop, the administrators of the school believe the schedule will be graceful and score high marks.

My daughters believe that it’s all wet.

Either way, I foresee more shopping.

Oh bother.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer is Quickly Coming to a Shopping Halt

For my family, this is the end; of summer that is. There were such high hopes for this summer. Early in the summer, I spotted a tweet from a twitter friend, Rachel @girl_onthego, referring to her grandfather’s brain museum. More correctly, it is “The Museum of Neuroanatomy,” and it is located in Buffalo, NY, which is a scant hour drive from my home. It sounded off-beat enough to pique the interest of my daughters and me. I thought it would be a good thing to do.

Although it was on our list, it didn’t get marked off as done; we have decided to keep it on the list.

We did have a busy and wonderful summer. Littlest, Middlest, and I went with a group of teens out to Greenville, Illinois for a week of Bible Quizzing competition. As a family, we spent a day at the fair and an evening at a ball game (I wrote about that adventure last week). This past week, Beloved and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary. The details of that celebration will be kept under-cover.

Any long-time reader of my blog knows that I dislike shopping and the end of summer means more shopping: school shopping. I am not sure which I dislike more: school or shopping. Be assured, gentle reader, that I went to school. I even have a bachelors of arts degree in something or another. Notice that even though I was confirmed a bachelor, I still married, and being married is way better than school. Even if my wife works at an educational institution and drags me shopping.

Going shopping with women folk is an experience. Once in a while I will be asked whether I like one piece of clothing over another. The interrogator will hold each piece up over her appropriate body part and look at me expectantly.

I rub my bearded chin softly and make fluffy noises to my self with my brow furrowed. Then I reach out and touch the fabric of each item; I examine the quality of the stitching. Then I pronounce judgment on which one I like the best.

I always end up choosing the least expensive item, for, you see, while caressing the fabric and examining the stitching, I always look at the price tag.

While on one of these recent school shopping escapades, I was thinking to myself, “Self, it will be so nice when school starts and the shopping will be done.”

Beloved, as if reading my mind, hugged my arm and with a warm giggle said, “As soon as everyone gets back to school, we can go Christmas shopping.”

Oh bother.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Did I Celebrate My Birthday?

It was my birthday this week and I took some time to review my life, especially in relation to birthdays. At least this is what I told my wife, when she asked why I hadn’t loaded the dishwasher yet.

A few years ago I received a book of quotes from Mr. Rogers, the children’s television personality from here in the United States. One of my favorite quotes is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I have never been good at birthdays, so I keep trying.

When I was 12, I was out riding my bike on my birthday. Like most 12 year old boys, I wanted to be a cowboy, and so I pretended my bicycle was a horse. And like most cowboys, I held a long piece of grass in my mouth. I am not sure where I saw a cowboy engaging in this blade of grass chewing behavior, but it was probably on television.

It was a wonderful warm summer day, and the breeze felt good as I rode my bike at a full-out gallop. I rounded a corner and the hooves of my horse slipped on loose gravel. I was elated that I had not suffered too badly and escaped with only a few minor scrapes.

Unfortunately, that entire day I had a scratchy throat. Nothing seemed to help. Not drinking water, not drinking a carbonated sugar-filled beverage, not even the homemade ice-cream roll my mother made for my celebration.

At the end of the night, mom asked me if everything was alright. I finally told her about my scratchy throat and explained that it felt like I had a sliver in my throat. She rolled her eyes, grabbed a flashlight and looked in my mouth, all the while muttering about my odd way of describing things.

Then she stopped. She stepped back and looked at me, and then looked down my throat again. In absolute amazement she called my father; “Come look at this, he has a sliver stuck in his throat.”

That sentence was repeated a few more times at the hospital emergency room to nurses and doctors and then they repeated it again once they looked at my throat. It seems that when I fell off my bike, that long piece of grass had slid down my throat and a small piece had impaled itself into my flesh.

 I am not so good at birthdays.

A few years later, as a college student, I was working at a camp. I stopped into the office early in the morning to pick up something I needed and the office manager stopped me and handed me some mail. It was a letter from my mother. I put it in my pocket and promptly forgot about it until lunch time. Then, when I had the chance, I sat down and read the letter. Mom started out the letter by saying, “If I timed this right, you should be getting this letter on your birthday.” I stopped short, realizing that, indeed, it was my birthday. I had squandered half of the day in ignorance, not realizing it was my birthday.

I am not so good at birthdays.

Therefore, I decided some time ago, to keep working at my birthday, specifically my 26th birthday. All year long, when people ask how old I am, I say I am 25. Then when my birthday comes, if it is a success, I will move on. So far, they haven’t been a success.

This year was no exception. It started out wonderful, with a trip back home to the county fair, with my wife, daughters, and a couple of their friends. I visited with my mom, and my sister, and her granddaughter, who developed quite an attachment to Eldest. (Even though my sister is the youngest in the family, she is older than I). It was a wonderful day. We ate funnel cake, since birthdays and cake go together. We bought some maple syrup to pour over homemade waffles (I love breakfast, and real maple syrup is amazing).

Things were looking quite successful.

Then in the evening, the family and I went to a baseball game. My alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College, was holding an alumni picnic before the game; it was great to see friends. My youngest and middle daughter spent a little time with the college mascot, Reggie, and there was food.

Things were looking quite successful.

It was a chilly night, with temperatures in the mid 50’s (F). This was not a bad thing, since I sat between Beloved and Eldest, and they snuggled close to keep warm. I like snuggling with family almost as much as I like breakfast. But, about halfway through the game, it began to rain. A light rain, just enough to make us all damp and to make it feel even colder.

Not only that, but the hometown team was losing, by quite a significant margin.

I am not so good at birthdays.

So again, my birthday wasn’t a success, but I will “try, try again.” It’s tough being twenty-five again, but I will persevere.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Think I Caught a Virus

I have a virus. I was at work this past weekend, minding my own business, passing medications out to the residents, when one of them coughed on me. The person in question was sick, and this was not a little clear-your-throat cough, it was a full blown hack-cough.

Consequently, I have a virus.

After twenty-five years of working with people who score a little lower than you or I on some silly test and being a father to my three daughters, I have endured much. I have had pink-eye twice, a broken foot, Bell’s Palsy (due to trauma), strep throat, countless stomach viruses, and numerous upper respiratory infections. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that I have been infected, yet again, with some malicious virus, causing me to sneeze, wheeze, wipe my eyes, and generally moan.

I have a cold.

I want to call down curses upon the head of the gentleman who gave me this illness. I want to stamp my foot and look him in the eye and say, “How could you be such an insensitive cad?” Then I remember, he once had the same symptoms that I now have, and so I scowl to myself and ponder how long I will be ill and what kind of revenge I can exact. 

Honestly, I probably won’t exact any revenge, but I find comfort in making up evil plans.

After all, I have a virus.

Due to my self-imposed isolation, I have been catching up on reading, since I have a few books that need finishing. I have also been reading the news from a variety of news sites and now I feel guilty. There are people in Africa, stricken with the Ebola virus, who are more likely to die, than to live. That is heart wrenching and I pray earnestly for those dear people. I almost feel guilty whining about my cold when I consider their lot.

Then I sneeze and cough and groan as my throat feels like its being torn to shreds. And my family wishes I would die or at least move to Africa, so they could have some peace and quiet.

You see, I have a virus.

I would write more, but my computer screen says that McAfee has finished a scan and is going to shut my computer down.  

Apparently, I have a virus and it doesn’t want it.

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).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Are You Ready for Some FĂștbol?

“Are you ready for some football?” is a line shouted out by Hank Williams Jr. in the opening moments of ABC’s Monday Night Football. This is not the football of the entire rest of the world; it is American Football. This line came to mind as I watched a bit of the World Cup soccer tournament being broadcast from Brazil.

American Football is a strange thing. First, it has little to do with feet. There are eleven men per team on the field at each time. They crash into each other and try to tackle whomever is holding the ball, and by ball, I mean an eggy shaped thing with pointy ends. It looks nothing like a ball at all. In fact it seems like it would be better to call American Football, Clash of the Titans, or Battle of the Brutes, or at least Pointy Eggy Ball.

Soccer and American football have the same number of players on the field at the same time and that is where all similarities cease. Soccer players are quick and nimble as they move the ball, which has a classic ball shape—round-down the field. Their rapid footwork has the grace and elegance of a ballet dancer. Despite commentators descriptions of American Football’s running backs quickness and nimbleness, they are nothing in comparison to the average soccer player.

I have watched many live games of soccer. I must confess that most of my time spectating has been of little people on a small field. And by little people I mean those of the 5 to 7 year old flavor. These are the games that are most awesome to watch.

You can always tell where the ball is by the gaggle of youngsters chasing it down the field. As it approaches the goal, you can hear the coaches of both teams, the parents and grandparents on both sides of the field yelling...yelling to the goalie, who has found the most delightful specimen of dandelion growing behind the goal and is examining the flower with every ounce of energy.

The goalie refocuses on the game: the gaggle of ball chasing youngsters close in on the goal, and then someone kicks the ball hard.

It doesn’t matter where the ball is kicked. The reactions are the same, one group of parents sigh and moan disappointedly, the other group cheers excitedly. Amongst the best of parents, these reactions last for a brief moment, until both sets of parents shout words of encouragement and the good coaches announce the score of “Fun to Fun”.

Alright, so my description sounds too good to be true, but, at least with little tyke soccer if one player bites another, it can truly be said, “they are just children”.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Loony Linguistics of Teenspeak

Out of the five people in our household, I am the lone male. We once had a guinea pig that was a male and that helped, but he no longer lives with us. Honestly, he no longer lives at all. That leaves me as the only male in my house.

This has some decided benefits. Firstly, I am spoiled, by my wife and each of my daughters. They can cook and I can eat. This makes for a wonderful dynamic at home. Secondly, although I have taught my daughters how to use tools, and they are not afraid to use them, they don’t normally use them. This is a mixed blessing. That six-sided 1/2 inch socket that I need is right where I left it. Unfortunately, it is right where I left it, which is not where it should be. I have no idea where it is, and I have no one to blame, but myself.

My three daughters are on the cusp of adulthood, which means they range from mid to late teens. Next month, eldest will turn 20, and that is an encouragement to me, since it is common knowledge that once a person turns 20, they immediately become a mature adult.

One of the interesting things I have noticed about teenagers is their desire to invent new things. This is nowhere more evident than in their language. My daughters have mastered the art of taking texting short hand and speaking it out loud, at break neck speed, so that the end result is incomprehensible and goes something like this when I try to figure out what my daughter said. “Did you say ‘Hottentots are falling from the sky?” “No Dad, I asked if you wanted me to blot that dry.”

Teenagers also redefine words. My daughters love using the word ‘feel’ to describe an actual fact. For instance, they might say, “I feel like the sum of the squares of each leg of a right triangle is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.” I reply, “That is not a matter of emotion, it is a statement of fact, you just defined the Pythagorean Theorem.” The response from them would be, “Dad, I feel like you are mocking me.”

I feel an eye roll coming on.

Teens have also redefined the word ‘literally’. To them it now means figuratively, which is just the opposite of literally. Middlest recently announced, “I literally just died!”

I raised my hands in the air and imitated a television preacher, “Hallelujah, we have witnessed a miracle. This girl was dead...but now she is ALIVE!”

I feel like she literally rolled her eyes at me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Do You Have a Pioneer Spirit?

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I didn’t write a blog post last week. It was a bad week. The lawnmower broke, the clothes dryer broke, and I worked extra shifts driving bus.

While driving the bus, I overheard a conversation between a driver and the head mechanic. The driver called the garage and said, “Hey, I am driving this spare bus and I think a horse drawn carriage would drive better than this bus. Will my regular bus be ready soon?”

The garage mechanic replied that the regular bus would be done and if it was not done, he would make sure to “upgrade the spare bus to a horse drawn carriage”.

This gave me hope. After all, our ancestors survived when things were much tougher. There were no buses, no lawnmowers, and clothes only dried if you hung them on a line and let them air dry.

But if they didn’t have lawnmowers, how did they keep their yards from turning into hayfields? I believe I have the answer and decided to propose it to my wife.

Over evening coffee, Beloved was trying to plan out the next week’s meals, along with scheduling trips to take our dirty clothes to her parents to wash and dry. By the way, my in-laws are awesomesauce, and I am not just saying that because I have clean clothes. I am saying that because they are.

Waiting for just the right moment, which was when my wife took a breath, I sprung my idea on her. “What if we didn’t replace the lawnmower and simply bought sheep instead. They would keep the grass down.”

She replied, “The town won’t let us have sheep and our neighbors probably wouldn’t like the noise and the smell.”

“We could shear the sheep and you could knit fine wool hats that we could give to our neighbors. Then they would be happy and have warm ears.”

“I don’t know how to knit hats. We are not getting sheep. Now let me figure out dinner for next week.”

She diligently worked out a fine menu for the next week’s meals. Until I interrupted again. “What about goats?”“

“Goats? Seriously?”

“Yes goats. We could make cheese from the milk and that would help with dinner. You do know how to milk a goat, right?”

“No, I do not know how to milk a goat. We are not getting goats. The town won’t let us have them anyway.”

The flame of the pioneer spirit that once burned bright and hot within my soul was quickly being snuffed out and had been reduced to a smoldering ember. Undeterred, I gave it one last try and suggested, “Why don’t we just dry our clothes outside on the clothes line?”

Beloved shot me a look. You know that look. The look I wrote about a couple weeks ago. She very firmly responded, “Absolutely not.”

“But why?” I asked.

“Stop being silly. It is obvious that if we hung the clothes outside, the goats would pull them all off the line and eat them.”

Needless to say, we bought a new lawnmower and have scheduled a repairman to look at the dryer. Even if I think it is a baad idea.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Do You Know the Look?

Last week I wrote about some training a Registered Dietitian presented at my full-time job. For those of you who have followed this blog for a while, you know that I work more than one job. In fact I work three. When referring to each job, I try to avoid saying, “My second job.” This is because I do not prioritize any job as more important than another by assigning it an arbitrary number.

Let me share with you about my job as a school bus driver. I am not just a school bus driver, but a substitute school bus driver. Consider that fact for a moment. Remember back to your days in school. Remember two important facts. First, the class always took advantage of the substitute teacher. Second, students were always livelier on the bus than they were in the class room.

Now consider the fact again: I am a substitute bus driver.

Thankfully, most of the students I have encountered are very well mannered. However, I have had to speak to the students on occasion.

Allow me to also interject that if you combine all the years my daughters have graced this planet, I have well over 50 years of parenting experience, and that is notable for a 25 year old guy like me.

Consequently, I have mastered the look and growl of a father. It is a skill passed to me from my father, who received it from his father, and so on.

When students are misbehaving, I will pull the bus over and park safely. Then I will unbuckle my seat belt, get out of my seat, stand and turn to face the students. I give them the look, and then growl softly, “Ladies and Gentleman” and a quiet hush spreads across the entire bus.

Normally, I don’t need to get that drastic. In fact, normally, the students are quite helpful. I once had a route that had changed since the directions and a young lady assured me she would help me through the changes. I told her she had to be up to the task, because I didn’t want to get lost. She gave me her assurance that she would be with me every step of the way, and then she told me to turn right; I did. Another student said, “This is my stop,” so I let that student off at a corner.

As I pulled away from the stop, the entire bus called out my recently appointed navigator’s name. She looked up from her phone, startled, and stammered, “oh, you were supposed to turn back there.”

I started to give her the look, but the look on her face stopped me. She looked at me with a mixture of horror over making a mistake and that nervous laughter that comes along with it. It is a look I have seen my daughters use quite often, and it always makes me laugh. Apparently, it is not only Father’s who pass down looks to their sons, but Mother’s pass down looks to their daughters too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Did You Have Squash for Dinner?

Beloved works hard to make sure we have a plan for meals in our house. I am so thankful for all her hard work and creativity in that regard. Unfortunately, five nights a week I am at work, in a home for ten individuals who score a little lower on an IQ test than you or I do. Since we are so regulated, the wonderful State of New York insists that we have a Registered Dietitian (RD), who plans out the meals in this house, and that is a good thing, most of the time.

She makes sure peoples diets are well-balanced with the right amount of nutrients. She makes sure everyone is getting the right amount of calories, for some people need to lose weight, and some need to gain. She also adjusts the recipes so that we can cook tasty hot meals that can feed 20 people.

Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to having a well regulated menu and a Registered Dietitian to enforce it. The RD at work comes along once a month to observe a meal. She wants to make sure that the food is prepared right, cut in the right size pieces - for those who have trouble chewing and the right quantities are served.

And that is where the problems begin: at those meal observations.

She is a very precise woman and once scolded a staff person for serving too much spaghetti. “A serving of spaghetti is 23 strings, 23 pieces of spaghetti; I think there are too many on that plate.”

I not only like to eat, but I am of Italian descent. I do not count strings of spaghetti, I mound it on the plate until it looks like enough. Therefore, I was thankful I was not the person who served too much pasta, and I was not asked to count out 23 strings. Additionally, If I had counted them, once I got past ten strings, I would have had to take off my shoes and socks. I am sure that really would have riled our dear RD.

She was once doing a training at a staff meeting on the proper size to cut food, as well as the proper consistencies, to reduce choking hazards. Not only did she talk, but we had to demonstrate that we understood what she was saying.

When it was my turn, she placed a few large cubes of cooked sweet potatoes on the cutting board in front of me. You know the oh-so-soft, melt-in-your-mouth, exploding with sweet-goodness orange potatoes? Well, that is what she gave me to cube into the proper size. I looked at her like she was nuts. She looked at me like she really expected me to cube these things into 1/4 inch pieces.

So I shrugged, took the large French chef knife, you know the one they always use in horror movies, and with the flat of the blade, squashed the potatoes flat.

Now it was her turn to look at me like I was nuts, “I’ve never seen it done quite like that.” I don’t think she appreciated that I turned her sweet potatoes into squash.

I think I must have passed the training, since they still let me cook and handle sharp knives.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Cure for All Educational Woes

As I have been reading other people’s blogs, I have noticed that inviting a guest author to appear on another blog, to quote my daughters, is a thing. Not wanting to be left without a guest author on my blog, I have searched for one, and finally found someone willing to do a guest post.

Middlest, also known as Hannah, just finished her Advanced Placement Test for English Composition and her instructor assigned her to write a satirical essay. When she finished, she had Eldest, Kaleigh, who is an English Major, proof read it; which she did. Then she read it out loud to the entire family. In between belly-aching laughs and wiping tears from our eyes, I knew I had found my guest author. Even better, she couldn’t say ‘no’. Well, she could have, but I am her father.

Here is what she wrote:

Countless people have tried, and tried again, to find the solution to all education woes. I mean, let’s face it, you can walk into any high school around the country, and you’ll see the same problems and the same bleary-eyed, sleep-deprived, over-stressed, slightly-depressed teenagers. All high schools are, in essence, exactly the same, and in every one of these high schools, lurks every Education Administrator’s worst nightmare: students who are failing. These nightmares tarnish the reputation of Education Administrators around the world, and so they work feverishly, night and day, in their offices, far removed from an actual school environment, in an attempt to make sure that these nightmares cease to exist.

And they think they’ve found the solution. They’ve proposed a new schedule, in which classes will be longer, and everyday certain periods will rotate out, so that each student can take more classes. The new schedule even has a solution for all the students who are going to be stressed out over their increased course load: every student is required to have a lunch. It’s mandatory free time. It’s actually quite brilliant when you think about it. In fact, when asked if they approved of the new schedule, 100% of those asked agreed. It should be noted that students, teachers, and parents were not included in this survey; they were not even consulted, but those Education Administrators, with all of their doctorates and superior knowledge, would know better than the lowly students, many of whom are failing anyway, and as such, their ability to form logical and coherent opinions is in question. So, it’s good they did not consult students and teachers who have to use the schedule every day, as they may not be well learned in the workings of student’s minds and learning patterns.

The only way to make sure that the under-educated children, who are falling behind in classes catch up, is to give them more time in class per day and give them more classes per day. This way, they can spend even more time learning in an environment that’s moving far too quickly. If you didn’t understand 45 minutes worth of trigonometry, then you are definitely going to understand 60 minutes worth of it. It’s brilliant. Give them more class time, so that when they don’t understand something, the teacher can continue teaching; the class rotates out tomorrow anyway, so students don’t even have class. By the time they come back in two days, they will have forgotten all about whatever it was that was confusing them. You can’t beat that logic.

However, if classes are longer, and there are more classes, but the school day is not getting any longer, then where is all of this extra time coming from? Well, there are going to be 11 less days of class instruction than there were with the previous schedule, and I can’t think of anything more beneficial to the students. Students will now be forced to learn this material in the comfort of their own home, at their own pace. Students can move through it as slowly, or as quickly, as they like.  Some may choose to not move through it at all. They won’t know it for the final, and they may even fail the final, but they’ll be fine, because at least they all got to have a lunch period every day.  Also, having fewer class days will eliminate stress, because students have less material to cover in class. Instead, they will be learning about it at home, without a teacher’s help, and they will learn it mere days before a final exam, so it will still be fresh in their minds when they sit for the test. Really, we should just get rid of all teachers and their distracting explanations, and just cram the entire year into one night of studying before an exam.

This new schedule will vastly improve the quality of our nation’s nightmares. Children will have an increased workload and more class time per day, but less class time overall, so they don’t get too stressed out about their new workload. This new schedule, although it may sound confusing, will actually eliminate the number of students who are confused by giving them more time to think through the problems by themselves on days when they do not have class. It will also ensure that students have less instruction time, so that they can work at their own pace, at home, free from the distractions of teachers.  But most importantly of all, every child will have a lunch period.