Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowbound in New England

Now that the Christmas holiday has passed and most travelers have returned home, the attention turns to New Years.  However, New England is notorious for its fierce winter weather, and the prospect for an honest to goodness nor'easter is heading up the coast.  The weather reports started to predict the path of a major winter storm, and it now upon us.  Like most weather stories today, there has been lots of "hype" about the storm, but only time will tell whether this storm turns out to be the blockbuster that has been predicted.

As I sit listening to the wind howl out my window, I am reminded of John Greenleaf Whittier's famous poem, "Snowbound" that was written in 1866.  It must have been dramatically different for our ancestors to have endured the wrath of Mother Nature without the advanced warnings that we receive today.  They relied solely on their common sense and their good fortunes to ride out the storms in those days.  Of course, there were no 24 hour stores or superstores to supplement their cache of provisions, and they survived, although it must have been tougher.

What will tomorrow bring?  Who knows, but I am sure that the storm will have disrupted all sorts of things from work to post holiday shopping to the travel plans for some.  However, for me, I prefer to think of a simpler time when we would just settle in for a long winter's nap.  When the Sun rises, I'll deal with the consequences.  In the meantime, I am snowbound right here in the same town where John Greenleaf Whittier made his home and that seems fitting enough and with that, to all a good night!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The meaning of Christmas

As we embark on the celebration of Christmas, the spirit of the season is filled with prayerful reflection, music, but most of all, it is full of hope.  Of all the gifts that we could exchange this Christmas, my wish is that we give each other the gift of peace, and if we all do that, we can then live in a world that will be full of peace.  I hope for everlasting peace this Christmas, and that's what the true meaning of Christmas is to me.  Peace on Earth and good will to all men and women!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Eve of the Eve

Year after year, the time between Thanksgiving to Christmas has become increasingly more frenetic.  Although many people look to Christmas Eve or Christmas day as the more celebrated days, I would just like to cast my vote for the eve of the 24th as one of my favorites.  Naturally, the significance of Christmas for Christians is unquestioned, but with the commercialism that has overwhelmed the holiday, sometimes the meaning of this holy night looses its focus.  For this reason, I have always enjoyed the 23rd, nearly as much as the 24th or Christmas day itself.

In anticipation of Christmas, I wish for peace, happiness, and the joy of the season to be carried throughout the year.  On this eve of the eve, I can comfortably say, "I believe".  Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A chip off the old block

According to the dictionary, the idiom, chip off the old block means:  A child whose appearance or character closely resembles that of one or the other parent.  Certainly, any parent whose child is reported to be a chip off the old block would take that as a compliment and be very proud.  Well, I know one "little guy" who is every bit a chip, but he is very much a chip from both blocks, his parents.

JB or "Bones" as he is referred to is the youngest member of his family, just like his dad, and in fact, is his dad's namesake.  He loves to play baseball, soccer, and tends the nets, as the "Gumper", for his local hockey team.  However, in addition to his athletic talents, he is a very good student which is what makes his parents most proud.

Although Bones has several siblings, his kindred spirit is without question his cousin Chachi.  When these 2 boys get together, the words "boys will be boys" comes to mind because they just keep each other busy with their creative imaginations.  By the end of a day together, they fall into bed, only scheming for the next day's activities.  And when they have to say good bye, well that's about the only time there is any moping at all.

As my nephew prepares to celebrate his 8th birthday, I believe that he has the necessary "building blocks" to achieve most anything that he sets his mind to.  After all,  he most definitely is a chip off his old "blocks", and that should serve as a firm foundation for the future.  Happy Birthday "Bones"!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Solstice gets Eclipsed

The shortest day of the year typically arrives with a minimum of fanfare; but for those of us who make a habit of watching the daily weather and skies, it is a welcome event, as it marks the jump off point for the return to another summer.  Nonetheless, we still  must endure the cold and snow of winter, those raw days of spring, before the summer solstice warms our spirits, yet again.

This solstice is going to be different though, as it will be accompanied by a lunar eclipse.  The last time a winter solstice was coupled with a lunar eclipse was in 1678.  Few of us were around for that celestial phenomenon, and likely, this will be the only time any of us will ever witness such a rare happening as well.

Hopefully, the star gazers out there will actually be able to view the eclipse, but if you can't, don't despair.  There will be another one in say, 3oo years.  How do you live long enough to "eclipse" that?  Enjoy!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Memories of my first "White Christmas"

Ever since Irving Berlin's song "White Christmas" was immortalized by Bing Crosby, it just doesn't seem like the holiday season until I hear that familiar voice for the first time during this time of year.  Naturally, having a white Christmas just puts everyone in a festive mood for the season, but if it was actually snowing on Christmas eve, well that would be something from a Currier and Ives lithograph.  Of course,  it certainly makes it easier for the jolly old elf himself, Santa, to navigate the globe too.  However, when you have several sentimental older sisters who just love the old movies, a "man" and his brothers had no choice but to watch the holiday classic.

Long before the era of videos and DVDs, if you didn't catch the television broadcast of a movie or special, that would have been the last opportunity to see it again for some time, maybe next year.  In the time leading up to Christmas consequently, my sisters were frequently checking the TV listings to see when the specials were airing, in particular "White Christmas".  Frankly, I couldn't quite understand why they thought this movie was so wonderful, when we could have been watching Charlie Brown's Christmas, Rudolf, the Grinch, or maybe just cartoons or the Three Stooges.  However, my brothers and I evidently must have just gone along with their wishes, probably because they were older, and well, they made us.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate some of their passion for watching those holiday classics.  "It's a Wonderful Life" is perhaps my all time favorite movie, and I scarcely remember that one being on their short list when we were kids.  However, these behaviors served to be very valuable in that they created traditions, and that's what we all carry forward from the past and share with our own children today.  In this case, I guess I owe a lot to my sisters, and in the words of Irving Berlin, "there were never such devoted sisters".  Merry Christmas, and may all your Christmas' be white!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reflections off the snow

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to see at night after a snow storm or even when the snow is still falling?  Of course, those moonlight rays are reflected beautifully from that blanket of white, almost as if someone had turned on the lights.  Even if the clouds haven't cleared from the skies, there is plenty of background light to maneuver about after the Sun has gone down.  During a recent snow storm, I was reminded of a few snowy adventures from the past, and now that it's snowing again, I thought it was time to share those memories.

Growing up in New England almost guaranteed that a few winter storms would come our way every year, and if they became real nor'easters, well then, you could anticipate a whole pile of the white stuff.  I remember this one huge snow storm, just around Christmas of 1964, that "dumped" about 18-20 inches on us.  In those days, everyone in the family was expected to pick up a shovel and start clearing the driveway, and age was not an exclusion either.  So after bundling up, we'd all head out to start the process of clearing the snow.  On this particular occasion, after getting the some of the driveway cleared, my older sister moved the old blue Fairlane station wagon, but failed to keep it on the driveway.  We spent the next hour digging it out of the snow banks we had created.  Of course, just about the time we'd be finishing, the city plows would come by and push all of that heavy, compacted snow back into the end of the driveway again.  Ugh!

One New Year's eve, my younger brother and I made a night of exploring the back woods during a major storm.  We spent hours out trekking around on foot, using nothing but the reflective moon light to see our way.  We imagined ourselves as rangers out on a recognisance mission with the snow plows as the enemy tank brigade.  In spite of the elements, our imaginations didn't permit us the time to feel tired or cold.  As I recall, that was another monster storm, however, we "weathered" it safely and still managed to get the shoveling done before our parents got home.

Yes, a good snow storm can be very exciting what with the prospects of a snow day from school or even a slower day at work.  After a freshly fallen snow, we'd make snow angels or igloos out of the piles of snow from all that plowing.   However, what I have always found soothing is how quiet everything becomes and just how easy it is to see, even as the darkness falls.  So, the next time there's a snow storm, don't despair.  Just get out there and enjoy it for all it's worth.  "Snow Bound", written by John Greenleaf Whittier, revealed the merits of being stopped in time by the falling snow.  Time does seem to stand still, although as you can see, none of us did!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fudge Factor

A fudge factor is a quantity introduced into a calculation in order to "fudge" the results: that is, to make them match better what happens in the real world.  In other words, if the results can not be absolutely explained or calculated, then you have to account for the differences through some variable or fudge factor.  As part of this holiday season of gift giving, people frequently prepare homemade cookies and candies, with fudge being one of the favorites, and boy do I have a story about fudge.

My older brother was the Graham Kerr amongst the boys.  He made lasagna, beef stroganoff, and a mean pecan pie, but he was the one who taught me how to make the "never fail fudge".  I recall my mother using candy thermometers and double boilers, which really intimidated me, but he said, "you don't need any of that; just use the recipe on the back of the Kraft marshmallow creme jar".  Certainly, I could read the directions; but there was a trick to it, and he was going to share that with me.  Boy, was I excited.  We mixed several of the ingredients together and brought all of that to a boil.  Without using the thermometer, we just cooked it at a rolling boil for 5 minutes, and then added the remaining elements.  After letting it set overnight, we had perfect fudge the next day.  Easy as "pie", I said to myself.  Anyone can do that.

However, the next time I decided to take my new found skill to the kitchen, I didn't quite end up with the "never" fail fudge, but ended up with a hideous, granular mixture of the ingredients that, well, failed at becoming fudge.  So, back to the master for another lesson I went.  This time, I took careful mental notes of his technique and was determined to never fail again.

Yes, fudge typically finds its way into those holiday tins, but as we "snarf" down those very sweet morsels, do we ever think of the concentration of pure sugar that we are consuming?  Heck no.  It's the holidays, and we aren't about to admit to anyone just how many pieces of fudge we may just have consumed.  If you find yourself in that position, just remind them about the "fudge factor".  In this case, it's whatever number you want it to be, but remember, just leave a little room for another piece!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Delivery men have their "UPS" and "Browns"

During a holiday party the other day, as you might expect, the conversation included a little discussion about Christmas gift giving.  We commented on the changes from your traditional store shopping to the now popular purchasing of gifts online, and of course, each had its own valued and unique properties.  We all agreed, that if shipping was included, making purchases on line could be a cost, as well as a time saving measure, and if you buy on line, there is one additional benefit that may frequently be overlooked.

How many times have you waited longingly for a letter or package to come, perhaps from a relative or after sending in some coupons.  In the old days, that occurred commonly.  In fact, I remember collecting box tops, and after gathering enough of them, I'd then send them in to be redeemed and then came the challenge of waiting.  Nowadays however, with today's speedy air transport and the expectations of consumers, the faster it arrives, the better.

Not that long ago, the internet was just burgeoning, but now it would be difficult to manage some of our affairs without it.  In fact, the online retail shopping has well, "virtually" exploded.  Online retailers offer deals, just like their storefront counterparts, but many of them include shipping and handling for the same price as in the stores.  Of course, the time, effort, and gas to physically go shopping may make this online stuff a more attractive option.  However, the purists wouldn't care to miss out on the social part of the experience, and recalling some of the family trips to Boston, to view the lights on The Boston Common, Santa's Village on the top floor of Jordan's, lunch at Bailey's, ending with mass at the Arch Street church, there are a few things that online shopping will never replace, nor should it.

However, even with all the changes as a consequence of online shopping, the internet based retailers can't replace the good old fashioned delivery man, and I am not sure they ever will.  How else would those purchases make their way into the hands of the buyers if it wasn't for those hardy foot soldiers from UPS, USPS, Fed Ex, and all the other delivery companies?  Each of us was able to share a story or two of the mailman or the UPS man stopping in for a few friendly words while transacting their business. 

Yes, the internet has changed the way holiday shopping or for that matter, some everyday shopping is carried out.  Now, instead of a person behind the counter, we now talk to an operator handling the orders or simply place an order without the benefit of any personal contact.  However, when those packages arrive at the door, it is your delivery man who becomes the “face” behind all that activity.  So, the next time the delivery man stops by to drop off a package, be sure you say a kind word, because they are people just like you and me.  The delivery men of today are the milk men of yesteryear, and that makes them special!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"A date that will live in infamy"

"A date that will live in infamy", proclaimed FDR as he informed the country of the tragic events of Pearl Harbor and then announced the declaration of war which brought the Allies into the conflict now known as World War II.  In spite of their horrific nature, anniversaries such as this should never be forgotten because we should remember the victims, and too, they serve to remind us of the senseless nature of war and these unnecessary acts of violence.  Hopefully, history does not have to repeat itself for us to learn from it.

May the souls of the men and women lost on that day rest in peace, and let's pray for an end to all violence, hatred, and acts of of terror.  That would be the ultimate tribute honoring their memory and all the lives lost under these circumstances.  Peace on Earth and good will to all men and women!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A night out with the boys, his boys

Certainly many of you have heard the expression, a night out with the boys, but not to be outdone, the women have their night too, the familiar girls night out.  Of course, most people would picture this activity as a group of men getting out for a few frostys and some male bonding time.  However, for a father who loves his sons, a night out with the "boys" carries a somewhat different meaning.  If there was a choice to be with his sons or with his friends, I'll guarantee you that there is little doubt what the choice would be and allow me to explain.

My nephew celebrated his birthday in September, and for his birthday, his father thought that it would be nice to take the boys to a Patriots game.  After a much anticipated wait, the day finally has come, tonight, the Pats versus the Jets on Monday Night Football.  When I called them earlier this evening, they were tailgating in the cold at Gillette Stadium, 3 hours before game time.  The dinner menu consisted of brats and steak tips, but anything would have been perfect under the circumstances.  In spite of the frigid night, the atmosphere was anything but chilly.

As the game has unfolded, the Patriots have delivered with a dominant performance.  Although it is always more enjoyable when the home team is winning, in this case, even if their beloved Pats were losing, I am sure that nothing, except the weather, would have chilled their enthusiasm for this night.  In this case, my brother spent a night out with the boys, his boys; and I am sure, he wouldn't have wanted it any other way, and of course, neither would they!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

One small step for...

When Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon, he proclaimed, "it is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".  Many of us watched in awe back here on planet Earth, but if you were too young and tired like I was, you fell asleep during that historic event.  Those personal recollections may be entirely due to the wonders of archived TV film footage.  However, not all historical first steps have been captured on videotape, and consequently, they remain only imprinted in our mind's eye.  I remember one such event, and those first steps have grown into a "giant" leap for the youngster I call my daughter.

As we enter the holiday season, I am reminded of so many things, but none any more vivid than the memory I have of watching my daughter take her first steps on December 2nd.  When she was just 13 months old, I recall sitting in the living room with the Christmas tree lights on with carols playing in the background.  This was something that she and I did almost every night during the holidays.  On this evening, she was inching along the furniture just like every other night, but like some many other kids, she was ready to take those first memorable steps.  With the enthusiasm of a child, she took that "one small step" which would and has transformed her life forever.

Most of us have fond recollections from holidays past, and this was no exception for me.  Even today, I enjoy sitting in the light of the Christmas tree, listening to carols and simply letting my mind wander to those wonderful memories of an age gone by.  Imagine, if a child never took that first step how different their lives would be.  The world was forever changed when Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World and NASA decided to put a man on the moon.  Each of them had to take that very first step, and although my daughter's first step carries no historical significance, sharing that moment in time with her meant everything to me, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This Stairway to "Heaven" may prevent us from arriving "there" prematurely

Led Zeppelin's, "Stairway to Heaven", was and still remains a classic rock and roll song from the 70's.  In fact, it served as the theme song for many high school proms after its release, including one I happened to attend. However, when they wrote it, I am sure that that the band members weren't thinking of it as an alternative running venue like my friends and I do when the foul weather hits and prevents us from "takin' it to the streets".   Please forgive me, because I really didn't mean to reference the work of another 70's band.

Yesterday, the inclement weather finally reared its ugly head in central Ohio, as rain hadn't been much of an issue over the last few months, at least during our morning workouts.  As a consequence, we were forced indoors for a date with the track, weight room, and the stairwell.  Since we have been trying to develop our a "rhythm" for this GFR concept, running on the track offered a perfect opportunity to work on our cadence counting, 180 steps per minute.  Unfortunately, we haven't quite mastered that syncopated rhythm, but as they say, "we're working on it".

After a few laps around the track, with only one hand on the wheel mind you, we headed to the weight room to pump it up.  Weight training isn't one of our strong suits, but as we have all learned, it is a necessary evil, particularly as the years have rolled on by.  Following our brief but long overdue visit to the weight room, we decided to throw in a few stair sets.  Of course, during our little ascent up those treads, it occurred to me and the others that this was our recipe to help prevent an early "invitation" to the "eternal rec center".  Incidentally, none of us saw the bright light at the top of the stairs either.  I'll take that as a good sign.

As you can imagine, morning workouts are most definitely influenced by a number of factors, not the least of which is the weather.  However, even when the rain is falling hard enough to hear it on the roof, I know a group of guys who are willing brave the elements for a little exercise.  In this case, when the "heavens" opened up, we knew enough to come in from the rain.  Although, the Doobie Brothers may have takin' it to the streets, Mother Nature had other plans for us.  However, I guarantee you that when we were done, we had been heard all over the "stairways", and that may just keep us from taking that other "eternal" stairway anytime soon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cyber Monday, I'm not buying it

Remember the days when your parents would tell you to wait until Christmas, especially when you'd ask them for some special gift.  Maybe it is just my imagination or perhaps I am old school, but waiting doesn't seem to be part of the equation any longer.  We just celebrated Thanksgiving, but there were some who camped out waiting for the early morning bargains at the expense of spending the holiday with family or friends.  I remain puzzled by this phenomenon.

Charlie Brown had a wonderful line in the Peanuts Christmas video, " doesn't anybody know what Christmas is all about"?  Linus, of course, answered by saying, "Sure Charlie Brown.  I'll tell you what Christmas is all about", and he proceeded into a soliloquy about the Nativity scene recounting that famous night.

On this Cyber Monday, remember that the holiday season is about far more than the material gifts we may give or receive.  The retailers have created Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but they actually have no control over whether any one of us "buys" into it or not.  To that, you can just say, "No thanks, I am only looking, but thanks anyway".  Regardless, have a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bad form runners are on pace to be good

When I began running years ago, my running partner friend said, "would you just pick a pace and stick with it".  At that time, I couldn't appreciate what he meant because I was just running along and didn't realize I was changing my tempo at all.  Now that I have been running through parts of 5 decades, I have a greater understanding of pace, however, what has become painfully apparent is that loss of speed.  Oh well, at least my friends and I are enjoying ourselves, and we are still participating and not just talking about those "glory days".

As part of our ongoing efforts to improve, one of our friends, whose brother is a proponent of Good Form Running, enlightened our group on Thanksgiving morning with a brief seminar on GFR.  Anyone can access their website to get additional details about this concept, but essentially it incorporates 4 basic fundamentals, posture, mid-foot strike, cadence, and lean.  Like in so many other sports, there appears to be an optimal technique which actually may make us better runners, and here I thought running was just about repeatedly putting one foot ahead of the other.  For the last couple of days now, we have tried to blend in these elements with our running, and although it makes sense, it isn't an easy task.  After all, we have been practicing "bad form running" for so many years.  Nonetheless, we are all excited about trying this out because with better form, perhaps, we can avoid all those annoying injuries that we "old folks" seem to get.

In so many areas of life, fads seem to come and go and in sports, they are equally as common.  However, until there is more experience, widespread acceptance, and proven benefit to these alternatives, fads will remain just that, fads.  In the case of GFR, I believe this will become the standard, and for an aging group of runners, it is time for us to run to the beat of a "different drummer".  In fact, if we stand tall, hit the road with our "mid-feet", "run" to the beat, and lean into it, I believe we can become good form runners too!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thanksgiving Wish

Thanksgiving is, perhaps, my favorite holiday because it remains the quintessential day.  Generally, it is about gatherings of family, friends, or maybe even both, but it is, nonetheless, about getting together with the people you love.  The turkey, typically, gets put in the oven early to avoid an unplanned late dinner.  This might be followed by a little exercise,  maybe a walk or a run, maybe even a game of touch football, followed by any additional food preparation and perhaps then, watching a game of football with your feet up.  Then, most of us will sit down to a delightful meal and hopefully, enjoy some stimulating dinner conversation.  This day is about relaxing and enjoying the company of  "family", whomever they may be today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and may the spirit of this day be ever present each and every day throughout the year!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beauty and the Beast or First Song on Belle, they are the same in my mind

Most people are familiar with Disney's version of "Beauty and the Beast".  Of course, it is a wonderful love story with the classic fairy tale ending you'd expect.  The Disney channel aired it this evening as part of their holiday scheduling; but what I am reminded most about Beauty and the Beast is not the story but the memories of watching it with a very special young girl, my daughter and let me share the story.

Naturally, like so many parents, I watched a number of Disney movies with my daughter when she was a preschooler, some more than others.  However, Beauty and the Beast became our favorite because of its introductory song.  Even though we may not have had time to watch the entire movie each time, we frequently would watch it through Belle's opening song.  Then, it might have been off for a bath , a bedtime story, and a rendition of "star of the day" from the old Community Opticians before tucking her in for the night.  As a result of only watching that first song on those occasions, "Beauty and the Beast" became known to us as "The First Song on Belle".

Holidays are frequently about traditions, and watching "Beauty and the Beast" reminded me of a tradition that my daughter and I developed many years ago.  Although we no longer practice this particular one, it was quite easily resurrected in my mind with nothing more than this visual cue, and all those same wonderful memories resurfaced almost immediately.  Even though "Beauty and the Beast" is one of Disney's all time classics, it will always be known to me as "First Song on Belle", a real life fairy tale for me, no matter how I look at it!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Race day at the Ironman, nothing but a picnic on wheels

Several years ago, I received an unexpected phone call from one of my longtime friends, and he shared with me that the organizers of the Ironman were going to hold their first mainland IM event in Lake Placid and suggested that we ought to apply for entry.  Before my brain could shift out of first gear, I responded with an emphatic, "OK", and that's precisely when I realized that this was no small commitment.  Fortunately, I had already been committed to a healthy lifestyle filled with regular exercise, so I didn't have to start from scratch.  My exercise group was engaged in a weekly routine of swimming, running, and biking, so at that point, it was simply a matter of "ramping" up the workouts over the coming months in preparation for the August 15th race day.

There were several critical issues I faced as part of the training leading up to the Ironman.  First, I was particularly concerned with how much of each discipline should I incorporate into my training each week.  In my research of other IM finishers, it seemed that on average about 18-21 hours of training were necessary each week in order to accomplish the desired goal of finishing with a modicum of respectability.  Naturally, that was divided between the 3 sports, but it was also quite important to have at least one full day of rest built into the schedule.  Therefore, I had to achieve a minimum average of 3 hours a day to accomplish this goal.  Next, having run several marathons, I recognized that I would have to run about 35 miles per week to comfortably finish the marathon portion of the race.  From here, I worked backwards and determined that I needed 3-5 miles of swimming and approximately 180 miles of biking per week of each to see this through.  Initially, all I planned to do was supplement the base with those additional miles.  That strategy worked quite well, but as the weeks and months "rolled" by, I kept getting this uncomfortable feeling that I hadn't done enough training.  Fortunately, my friend and I stayed in frequent contact to provide emotional support and too, we shared trade secrets about our training which helped immensely.

Additionally, during all this time, I was experimenting with my diet.  I tried various supplements, sports drinks, but what I kept coming back to was the good old fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  In the meantime, my friend came up with a homemade calzone that seemed to work for him.  In the end, the PB and J, coupled with a few Starbucks coffee flavored cappuccinos worked remarkably well as my race day diet.

After months of training and when it was all over, I realized that completing an Ironman triathlon was indeed quite an accomplishment.  At the time, I had read that, globally, there have been only 100,000 people worldwide who had ever achieved this feat, so I felt an ever greater sense of personal satisfaction.  As I reflect back on that day, I now wonder, how did we ever do that?  Then I say to myself, it was nothing but a little swim and a run with a picnic on wheels in between!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

One of a kind , a "Classic" indeed

Most of us are familiar with the classic book by Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird".  When it was written 50 years ago, it became in instant classic, but for the author, this was the one and only piece of literature she ever published.  In spite of its significant impact, Lee has commented very little on it since then, and therefore, its meaning has perhaps become a far more personal reflection than simply a story.  One of the book's main characters was "Scout", and although Lee's depiction is as unique as her book, I have a niece, nicknamed Scout, who is equally as unique, in her own way.

Just 6 weeks before she was born, her mother and I enjoyed being showered with gifts, as we were both on the verge of becoming first time parents.  Her cousin was born on October 30th, and she followed just over 3 weeks later.  Her arrival came shortly after the doctors told my sister and her husband that "Scout" had stopped growing, however, by all accounts, that was last time they were ever told this.  Naturally, she was going too get that much needed stimulation from her parents, but her environment in Yellowstone and with the vast number of relatives, there was little doubt that this child would not be "left behind", and she certainly hasn't been.

Her neighborhood school just down the street served as her academic home for those early years.  What an environment for a young child, Elk roaming through her yard, Big Horn sheep watching her play out on the school playground, and a whole host of other wild creatures just down the road in Lamar Valley or at Tower.  Who needed a field trip when you are living, quite literally, in the fields and valleys of Yellowstone?

Because of the obvious appeal and attraction to Yellowstone, many family members visited over the years, both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and of course, the cousins.  When she was just 8, her grandparents from Massachusetts came to visit.  During dinner, her grandfather got up to use the restroom, and when Scout recognized that he hadn't come back in a timely manner, she queried, "where is grandpa"?  This observation turned out to be lifesaving, as her grandfather had had a stroke while he was away from the table and couldn't alert anyone because his speech had been affected.  Thanks to his granddaughter, the 2 of them have been able to enjoy many more years together, and for that matter and so have all of us.

Now that high school is over, and she off to college, there is little that my niece hasn't experienced compared to other kids her age.  She has raised rabbits, hamsters, and Julio the steer as part of her 4H projects.  She has had dogs, Hazard and now Ruby.  She has helped kids stricken by cancer at Camp Sunshine in Maine.  She even left the gas nozzle in my car last summer as we drove off  to Wilson Pond for some water skiing with the relatives.  She has tried to her hand at snow skiing and for the first time last summer, she swam in the ocean.  Yes, the list could go on, but for my niece who celebrates her 19th birthday today, I believe this is just the start of a long list of contributions, experiences, and accomplishments she will have in her lifetime.  Scout, you are most definitely a classic just like your "namesake", but more importantly, you are kind, the kind of young lady I am proud to call my niece.  Happy Birthday EG.  We love you!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Biking under IBR

If you are familiar with flying, you understand that there are rules for flying with instruments or without.  If the visibility is sufficient, the pilot flies under VFR or visual flight rules, while if the visibility isn't adequate, the pilot will fly under IFR or instrument flight rules.  Unlike the captains of the "friendly skies", my friends and I biked this morning using IBR, instinctual bike rules, well, because we encountered some low lying "clouds".

This morning was no different than any other Saturday has been for the last 10 years; my friends and I had plans to meet for some sort of morning exercise.  The predicted temperatures were favorable for a morning bike ride.  We have agreed that a wind chill temperature of 18 degrees is "survivable" with the proper clothing adjustments, like foot and hand warmers.  However, even  in the cold, there is nothing like a refreshing morning ride with friends and the anticipation of a hot cup of coffee when it's over.

Today was slightly different than most days though, in that we all wanted to attend a walk through of the city's new community center.  Consequently, we had to map out a route that we could finish easily enough and still get our cup o' joe and head to the site.  However, in addition to the usual weather elements, we encountered some rather heavy fog.  This wasn't the first time we rode in the fog, but the visibility this time was a mere 50-100 yards.  Of course, we still went through with our plan and rode for an hour or so.  What was so eerie though was this feeling that we weren't going anywhere, even though we knew we cruising along at 15 miles an hour.  Although the Sun was peeking through from above, at this time of year, it couldn't quite heat things up enough to clear the air.  Nonetheless, we finished up on time, enjoyed ourselves, and most importantly, there was no one "MIA".

So, the next time you go out for a bike ride with your friends, be sure that at least one person in the group has their autopilot set to "IBR", instinctual bike rules, because if the weather isn't cooperating, then you can still enjoy a ride and return to base camp safely.  In our case, we knew that we would be welcomed home and the coffee would be a lot warmer than we would be!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Always putting his best foot forward

Undoubtedly, you have heard of the expression, "put your best foot forward".  According to one source, the meaning is:  1. to do something as well as you can   2. to start to walk more quickly.  When I think of one of my good friends, this is the phrase that epitomizes his approach to all aspects of his life, and let me explain.

Several years ago, when I was walking through the lobby of the local  hospital, my friend approached me and  asked whether I was still swimming in the morning.  I said, of course we were, and he then wanted to know what our schedule was.  Naturally, I shared all of this with him, but was curious as to why he wanted to know.   He told me he had a degenerative joint in his foot, and consequently, was forced to give up his running.  However, being as athletic as he had been over the years, simply necessitated a change in sports; it was time to become a swimmer, and he has.  Not only has he become a swimmer, but he has become a very good swimmer.  His kids chuckled at his "unorthodox" swim strokes, but now that we have been swimming together for 12-13 years and they were to see him swim today, I suspect that they might have a slightly different opinion about it.

During that time, he also started to join us on our Saturday morning bike rides.  Even after a surgical fusion of his ankle, swimming and biking seemed quite doable, but his real exercise passion was running.  With all the physical therapy we prescribed, his foot pain began to diminish, and this allowed him play golf more comfortably, but also allowed him to join us in his first passion, running.

Ever since our first discussion in the hospital lobby, GLK has been a titan regarding his regular participation in our training program.  However, not only is he a regular with us, he and wife have been tireless supporters of  local civic groups and can regularly be seen at local athletic events to watch their kids during their participation in school sports.  Yes, as my friend celebrates his birthday, I would just like to wish him Happy Birthday from all of us.  Through your determination and dedication, you have shown us and everyone else that you have defied the odds.  That comes as no surprise to us because you have always put your best foot forward, and because of your hard work, you have 2 best feet!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another round of "brainstorming" for the table, please

Have you ever been part of an organizing committee for some event  or to tackle some community wide issue?  Undoubtedly, if you have, you are familiar with the term "brainstorming".  It was first introduced in 1953 to describe a group of individuals who got together to discuss and develop ideas, and ultimately, see those plans come to fruition.  Of course, the end result of a successful "campaign" gives its member a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction.

Merriam Webster describes brainstorming as:  a group problem-solving technique that involves the spontaneous contribution of ideas from all members of the group; also : the mulling over of ideas by one or more individuals in an attempt to devise or find a solution to a problem

For a very dear friend of mine, we have made "brainstorming" a nearly weekly ritual for several years.

In 1995, Delaware, Ohio became the new family address; when I was introduced to the neighbors down the street, an instant bond was formed, and we have been kindred spirits ever since.  What was particularly intriguing then and is still apparent today is the "thrifty" attitude that my new friend and his wife possessed.  Coming from New England, the maxim, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" couldn't have been a more appropriate description for them, and although they weren't from New England, they understood this very important concept.

Over the years, we have been to woodworking shows together, tackled wood working projects together, painted houses together while listening to Garrison Keeler, formed our personal "tool library" for tool exchange, but perhaps the most meaningful sessions have been the times when we have "broken bread" together where we discussed anything and everything.  We have had ideas that have ranged from the floating eye glass strap to pieces of kitchen "furniture".  The origins of the "blogntweeter"came from one of these "brainstorming" chats, and it has become an invaluable presence in my life, just like our friendship.

So, to my good friend TC, Happy Birthday.  I have cherished the time we have shared together "retooling" a friendship that is sure to last at least as long as that barn you recently restored.  Our "brainstorming" has paid dividends far greater than any fine the "tool library" would ever levy against you, and I ought to know because I am its head librarian.  Are you hungry?  Why don't we order up a couple of frozen Margaritas and discuss a few ideas I had over dinner?  What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Veterans Day is an annual United States holiday honoring military veterans. A federal holiday, it is observed on November 11. It is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice).

To all those who have served or are still serving in our military, thank you for your honor and courage in protecting and defending our freedom.  Our gratitude to these men and women should be as great as our desire is to live peacefully throughout the world.  WWI was supposed to be the war to end all wars.  Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case.

As "we the people" of this country and the world move forward, let's hope and pray that we can put our differences aside, settle our disputes civilly and peacefully, but most importantly, recognize that "all men are created equal".  Thomas Jefferson wrote this so eloquently when our great country was founded.  Let's all be veterans to promote peace, not just today but every day.  Let our actions and words ring out the value of freedom and justice for all, so that we can have lasting peace on Earth!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The prototype for the GPS

With the advent of the microchip, computers have become steadily smaller and yet, more powerful.  There are "apps" for just about anything you can imagine, and many of them are right there at your finger tips.  The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based global satellite navigation system that provides reliable location and time information in all weather and at all times and anywhere on or near the Earth when and where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. It is maintained by the United States government and is freely accessible by anyone with a GPS receiver.  If you own a Garmin or Tom Tom, you are familiar with the utility of these devices.  However, long before these became available, most men felt that they already had an internal compass which was equivalent to the modern day GPS.

How many times have you been witness to a man driving around the block, looking for a destination that he knows he can find?  I remember many times passing a pedestrian who could have assisted me with directions, but either my pride or my "guyness" got in the way.  Certainly, if you are driving alone, who is to know that you are "lost"?  If you are with a group of "guy" friends, then you can imagine that asking for directions would be a remote option at best, under those circumstances.  However, if the passenger is female, it seems more likely that, if the car isn't taking the proper route to its destination, there might be a suggestion to get the accurate directions before mutual frustration sets in.  Does this sound familiar?  That's when it occurred to me that GPS doesn't stand for Global Positioning System; it stands for "Guy Positioning System".

So, if there was any question as to the origins of GPS, I believe this discussion should put those arguments to rest.  However, few doubt that these newer devices are more accurate and reliable than their biological prototypes; and if you follow the directions properly, you shouldn't get lost and thus avoid driving in those circles ever again.  Would you like to bet on that?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Milk, it's what we had with breakfast, lunch, and dinner

The National Milk Mustache "got milk?" Campaign is one of the most recognized and respected advertising campaigns, having earned a place in advertising history. As the "umbrella" campaign for print, radio and TV advertising, as well as public relations, promotions and other initiatives, the "got milk?" message is one that's on everyone's lips across the U.S. Since its inception over 10 years ago, this fun and compelling message has helped boost awareness of the nutritional aspects of milk, and was the impetus to expand the availability of milk to more consumers than ever before. If the folks who drafted this ad only had spoken with my parents 50 years ago, they would have come up with it long before that.

Like so many people in the 50's and 60's, we had our very own milk man; his name was Roy Brown, Mr. Brown to us kids.  He'd show up early 2-3 days a week and bring us enough of that white "mucous" to get us through until his next delivery day.  The glass bottles would rattle in his carrying tray both to and from the house.  He generally would go right on into the house and place the bottles neatly on the shelf in the fridge.  My mother had the rinsed empties perched right there on the stoop ready to be taken back for "refueling", and he'd wave good bye as he drove off while standing upright in his milk truck.  Of course, there were few major advancements in his industry until he arrived one day with the "box" of milk.  It was about a 2 or 3 gallon bag of milk with a spout for pouring.  That worked beautifully for about a week and then one of us failed to close it completely, and the flood of milk ended that "experiment".

When the corner gas stations gave way to "quick marts", the era of the milkman came to an end, so we waved goodbye to Mr. Brown for the last time.  If my mother didn't pick up the customary 3 gallons of milk when she was at the grocery store, my father would run over to the hospital and pick up a few of those "personal" sized cartons, so we could at least  have a bowl of cereal before school.  The milk ritual developed into a trip to Richdale's every other day for those 3 gallons of the white stuff.  My parents even had an extra refrigerator, just to keep a "cache" on hand.  It may have been more economical to have had a cow, who knows?  No matter how you look at it, if there wasn't enough for supper and the morning cereal, you can imagine someone would have had a "cow" anyway.

Yes, the milk was always flowing at our house when we were kids, and that trend has continued for some of my brothers and sisters families even today.  With all the options that we are confronted with today, doesn't a nice, tall glass of ice cold milk sound great?  It sure does to me, especially if you enjoy it with a stack of cookies!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Barefoot running? Either way, runners have both "soles" covered

With the New York City Marathon approaching, the CBS evening news presented a segment the other night that really caught my attention.  They had profiled a group of runners who had, quite literally, given up their "soles", but they most definitely haven't  stopped running.  Evidently, there is a movement "afoot" to shed that footwear because, according to a select few, it seems to be contributing to some running related injuries.  Naturally, for a group of runners, this provided us with an excellent topic for our morning run and discussion at coffee.

Ever since the running craze took off in the 70's, the shoe industry has introduced concepts which have lured runners and recreational athletes alike to try on their latest wares.  Oregon's legendary, Bill Bowerman introduced the famous Nike "waffle trainer", and if you had ever seen the movie, "Prefontaine", you can appreciate how it derived its name.  Perhaps you remember those muscular calves adorning the cover of Jim Fixx's, The Complete Book of Running which was considered one of running's early epistles.  However, in all my years of running, which formally began in 1973, if you thought of running, it was all about "lacing" up the shoes, not shedding them.  Having said that, Abebe Bikila, in the 1960 Olympic Marathon, ran barefoot to a gold medal, no surprise that someone could do this given this latest trend.

During the discussion, we also analyzed our respective gaits, and to no surprise, we all ran somewhat differently.  Some of us are heel strikers while others are mid to fore foot.  I had long subscribed to the notion that heel striking was the most logical, but more recently for me, the mid foot strike seems the most relaxed.  We also reviewed the merits of the popular "Chi" style of running, as well as "Good Form Running" which incorporate several common themes.  In "Chariots of Fire", Sam Masambini said, " overstriding, death to the sprinter", so maybe there is something to this new idea.  It is always fascinating to think about the evolution of man since some of  those first Hominids were unearthed at Olduvai Gorge by Louis Leakey.  What's even more remarkable is that, for a bunch of "running geeks", we are discussing Early Man.  Running and exercise, in general, sure can cultivate the mind and body.

I certainly am no expert and still need to weigh the evidence regarding this "barefoot" running phenomenon, but one thing is for sure, our society has to move in order to avoid this obesity epidemic.  We are faced with a "huge" public health problem, and if we don't "defeet" it soon, it won't matter what is worn on those feet because there won't be much walking or running anywhere.  As for my friends and me, running has given us the opportunity to grow our friendships, and it is absolutely clear that each of us has benefited from that.  If you consider all the arguments, and additionally, exercise with a group of friends who truly enjoy it, there just might be something to this.  Regardless of how this all plays out, one thing has already been well proven ; exercising regularly with your friends may wear down your soles, but we all agree, exercise is pure health food for the soul!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Decision 2010

As Americans, we have the freedom to vote and choose the men and women who we think will best represent us in Washington and in our state and local governments.  It is a privilege that, unfortunately, not all eligible Americans take seriously.  On the eve of this election day, I urge all registered voters to get out and cast your ballot.  There have been an unprecedented number of negative campaign ads; however, let's leave all that negativism behind and move our great country forward.  When it comes to making your decision, be confident, be positive, and remember, we are free to make our own choices.  I have made mine; I am at peace with my decision, and now it's time to move on.  Take a stand, AND vote!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween vs. trick-or-treat, "witch" is it?

Halloween, generally observed on October 31, has evolved over the years, but today is associated with dressing up in disguise, trick-or-treating, and displaying jack-o'-lanterns during the evening.  Americans are expected to spend more than 5.8 billion dollars on Halloween this year on such things as candy, costumes, and outdoor decorations.  It doesn't seem that long ago, but when we went trick-or-treating, most of us pulled some old clothes out of the dress up bureau, or we made our costumes from a whatever we could scavenge from around the house.

One year, my older brother spent several  days prior to Halloween making a square box that he used as his head for a Frankenstein look alike.  His influence was significant in that years later my friend and I put together a costume with two heads that we had made out of papier mache' that we fashioned around some very large balloons.  We then painted them with whatever leftover paint we could find, and our costumes were good enough to win us a prize at the town's Halloween costume "ball".  My younger brother was a tube of Colgate toothpaste in college and was rewarded a case of toothpaste from the parent company.  However, the one we never created was the "human bean", a person dressed up as a green bean.  I thought that was particularly clever.  There were lots of others too, pirates, hobos, sailors, princesses, witches, cowboys, Indians, to name a few.  However, what made it so fun to me then was that we used our imagination when we created those costumes; and after the "haul", we would sit on the living room floor and organize our booty to start trading for those must have candy bars.

Halloween was and still is about being a kid, pretending, dressing up in disguise, gathering a few sugary treats, and having fun; however, when it is all over, and the costumes come off, the question becomes, "which witch was the real one"?  Let me think about that one for a minute while I sink my teeth into this Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, Mm Mm ghoul!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

"More times"

Have you ever had something taste so good that you just couldn't wait for a second or third bite? Perhaps, it was so good that you wanted seconds. However, at some point in time you would find yourself full enough that, regardless of the gastronomic delight, if you took another bite your eyes would pop out. Sound familiar? Well, there is a law in Economics which captures this concept called the Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, and although it applies under most circumstances, just like most rules, you can always find an exception; allow me to explain.

The day my daughter was born the East coast was being hammered by hurricane Grace and "The Perfect Storm". She barely let out an utterance, even though her arrival was almost as stormy as the weather outside. However, her demeanor then and now has remained far more calm than the seas on that October day. She progressed through the newborn stages like any other healthy child and eventually got her sea legs and began to walk. Right about that time, The Simpson's had become popular, and we adopted Bart's "cowabunga", as our "flight" song. She would stand on the stairs and shout out, "cowabunga" and then jump into my arms, and just when I thought she was finished, she'd say, "more times". If I hadn't run out of energy, she would have done this until the "cows" came home, and there were none in sight.

Coincidentally, this was about the same time I realized that, if I was going to keep up with this little bundle of energy, I better get myself into shape; so thanks to my daughter because she provided the impetus for a lifelong commitment to good health through exercise.

As she prepares to celebrate her 19th birthday, I find myself wondering, where has all the time gone since those days of absolute innocence and boundless energy? Although it seems like just yesterday for me, it has been a lifetime for her, and to that I say, "cowabunga". Here's wishing you a Happy Birthday, and may you celebrate them "more times" and many "more times" to come. I love you with all my heart, and this is something I will never get tired of saying!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The first 1000 just get you warmed up

Experts often refer to the first 1000 days of a president, and in fact, there is a book written about JFK's first 1000 days. This could be a lifetime to some, but in reality, it is but a blink of an eye.

This morning my friends and I decided to consolidate our swim workout into a straight 1000 yards, because we lacked enough time to do anything more. We did start the day off in the weight room for a few quick "reps", but our efforts were concentrated on our swim workout. However, rather than do our usual warm-up, we went right to it. We agreed on 1000 yards and divided it up with a little breast stroke and back stroke to make the counting easier. Before we knew it, our workout was complete; it was over in the "flashiest of flashes".

The take home lesson here is that, no matter what the workout, it is better to have done something than to have done nothing at all. Although we didn't have enough time to really "challenge" ourselves, we did what the time allowed. If you apply this thinking to politics, I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised that our elected officials don't quite get everything done that they promise they will; after all, in those first 1000 days, they must be just warming up too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Get me to the church on time

My Fair Lady is a musical based upon George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe. The story concerns Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl who takes speech lessons from professor Henry Higgins, a phoneticist, so she can pass as a proper lady. Of course, there have been several productions, but my favorite rendition starred the incomparable Julie Andrews. Well, for a bunch of guys, getting to the church on time is just as important on weekdays, as it is on Sunday morning.

Typically, my friends and I meet 6 days a week, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our ritual has us running. A number of years ago, before our group expanded, we'd arrange to meet at each other's house. That worked just fine until we couldn't remember where we had planned to meet, and that really caused chaos. As a remedy, one of our compulsive comrades determined that one of the local churches was the geographic center between our respective homes, and it has been our meeting place ever since.

Now that we centralized our gathering spot, the issue is not where we are meeting or even at what time, we start at 6am, but can you get there on time? We do have a "grace" period, much like you'd have given your professors back in the day, but if you aren't there soon thereafter, you generally pay for your sins by running alone.
It is remarkable, but for more than 10 years, we have probably been the most consistent group of church goers in our community, and trust me, that's no lie!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pfeiffer's final days give way to "The Meek"

Ohio Wesleyan University, located in Delaware, Ohio, is a small Liberal Arts University and home of the Battling Bishops. For many Ohioans, there is The Ohio State, and then, there are all the rest. Well, for the students who call OWU their school and for the residents of Delaware, the school is far more than that. The University offers opportunities for both the students and community, alike, however, like anything in life, one has to be a willing participant. As competition for quality students has risen, the schools have had to up the ante of available amenities, beyond providing an excellent educational experience. Because of the generosity of several benefactors, OWU will soon be proud of "The Meek", and allow me to explain.

My friends and I have been fortunate to have called the Pfeiffer Natatorium at OWU "our" home pool for the last 15+ years. The University has been a gracious host, not only to us, but to many other members of the community, including serving as home to the Delaware Hayes HS swim team. A number of those graduates have then gone on to swim at OWU, but perhaps more importantly, they have graduated and gone on to become Battling Bishops themselves. During the last 2 decades, there been a number of accomplished individuals who have taken the plunge at Pfeiffer: a Master's world record holder; 2, Ironman finishers (one an age 2nd place finisher in Hawaii); students who have challenged the crossing of the English Channel while promoting Peace; community leaders, distinguished faculty, and a whole host of others, too numerous to identify here. The waters of Pfeiffer have certainly been rejuvenating, been filled with students of all levels, and have offered a well spring for anyone willing to submerge themselves. I ought to know because our group has been one of the most consistent visitors to its decks.

Now that the University is on the verge of opening its new Meek Aquatics and Recreation Center, I would just like to say a sincere thanks to the University for having opened its doors to all of us over the years. Louis Pasteur once said, "opportunity awaits the prepared mind"; when I think about the much anticipated opening of this new facility, this expression comes to mind but with a slight modification. As the waters recede on Pfeiffer Natatorium, I say, "opportunity awaits you at "The Meek", provided you are prepared to get your feet wet". Good luck with the new digs, and although it is "The Meek", from what I have seen, it is everything but!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Track workouts always have you rounding the corners

Several years ago, after moving to Ohio, I joined up with a group of guys with whom I have been exercising with ever since. That, in and of itself, is the subject of another story, but when someone who I had recently met said, "Aren't you a runner and who are you running with?" I responded somewhat timidly, but "Yes, I love to run, and I have been running with these 2 other guys, Dave and Tom". The next words out of his mouth, "Oh! You are a serious runner then", and we both chuckled. So, since I have been labeled a serious runner, let me share with you a recent story.

Of, course, most of the running faithful recognize that, in order to become faster, you have to train some on the track; isn't that right? The weight room workout, however, can't hold a candle to the dreaded track workout. We avoid both like the plague, but the track, need I say more? Well, yesterday, was our usual day for running, and we generally meet at the local middle school oval. After some stretching and palaver, we began the seemingly, never ending event; today we ran 2, 200's; 4, 400's; 2, 800's, and ended with another 2, 200's. Each "pickup" is followed by the obligatory rest lap of equal distance, and by the time it was all over, we had run our 5 miles, not bad for a bunch of "half fast" middle, aged men. The reward for surviving this ordeal, a stop for coffee at the local Tim Horton's and conducting the day's briefing.

Yes, few of us enjoy a day at the track, but the benefits have certainly been proven. For a group of friends, it is more about "rounding the corners" together, and that too, is worth far more than the price of a cup of coffee!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paying attention can be a force of "habits"

How many times have you been at a gathering of people and then heard some loud, booming voice say, "may I have your attention please"? In Colonial times, the town crier would have had this role, but the call would have been the quite familiar, "hear ye, hear ye". Whichever the case, the very shrill of the person's voice or a whistle, each gets the crowd to settle down so some pronouncement can be made. At least for an instant, everyone "focuses" the attention on the speaker delivering the message. Sometimes, the distractions are so intense that none of these efforts break that "trance" we call day dreaming, unless of course, it was Sister Yvonne.

Sister Yvonne was my 5th grade school teacher at St. Joseph's. She had the reputation of being very strict with the boys, but the girls just loved her. Since she had at least 2 of my older sisters and my older brother, I wasn't quite sure what my prospects were when I entered her classroom in my youth. My brother, however, was an exceptional student, so he was received more like those angelic women. As I recall, she would write our homework assignments on the chalkboard, and if we were lucky, you could complete all the homework before you even left for home. This was particularly important in the Fall, when the "usable" after school daylight was a premium and my friends and I needed to "stretch" our legs playing football.

During class one day, I remember finding myself looking out those huge, double hung windows in our classroom "studying" the birds and wondering, "How do they fly"? I marveled at this mystery, and wished that I too, could fly, just to get a "birds eye" view of things. Suddenly, from that trance like state, I heard this voice asking me a question to which I had no response. Fortunately, when Sister asked what I had been doing I quickly pondered my options; do I admit my guilt or do I make up some "white lie" and say that I didn't hear the question. Remember now, this was Sister Yvonne whose reputation was legendary, so I fessed up and admitted that I wasn't paying attention. She seemed surprised by my honesty, but I have contended ever since that this admission of guilt went a long way to helping smooth over an "old habit".

I owe an awful lot to Sister Yvonne and the others, for over the years, I have reflected on this event and have even used it to illustrate to others that "day dreaming" may not be pathological. In fact, I believe that it is only an issue, if it occupies a disproportionate percent of one's time and thus interferes with working productively. Otherwise, it may simply serve as a distraction that ultimately keeps us "grounded", unlike those feathery friends!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

IM the son of an "Ironman"

A person's genetic code provides the blueprint for such individual characteristics as hair and eye color, and it also influences the presence of particular medical conditions or behavioral tendencies. While we all know that the genetic code is virtually infinite in its expression, many features are more likely than others to be expressed, the ever familiar dominant trait. Additionally, some features have nothing to do with the gene pool at all, but perhaps more likely, are related to environmental factors. Certainly, the ultimate manifestation is multi-factorial, but if you are familiar with Newtonian physics, you'll understand that "the apple, generally, doesn't fall far from the tree", and allow me to explain.

My mother was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1918, shortly after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. Until recently, she had lived her life without ever having seen them win another, but that finally all changed again in 2004. Her parents lived across the street from her home parish of St.Clement's on Bristol Road. My grandmother stressed education, and my mother listened, as she graduated at the top of her class and went on to Regis College in Weston. Long before women were fully accepted for their academic prowess, she defied "gravity" again, by graduating second in her college class with a degree in Chemistry. Her drive for success was contagious, as her brothers equally achieved academically.

During her years in high school and college, my mother frequently was found walking or riding her bicycle wherever she went. I remember that old maroon and yellow stripped, single speed bike, which of course, was her "set of wheels", but I surely couldn't visualize my mother ever having ridden it. After all, those first recollections, she was already "old", so how could she have done that? She once told us that she biked all the way from Boston to Hampton Beach, NH, some 45-50 miles, which she probably did in "her" day.

During the summers of our childhood, my mother would bring us to the lake, Sandy Beach, and let us cool down. She was always preaching the "buddy system", so while we were swimming, we watched out for each other. Although she watched us from the beach, she was always counting heads to insure our safety. I sometimes wondered whether she could have actually swam out to save us, but then again, she probably could have because well, she would have.

Literally, there are hundreds of stories that I could share which would illustrate her perseverance and desire to succeed. Although I have completed a real Ironman, I look at my mother's accomplishments and how they compare. That's when I realize that being an Ironman goes well beyond those 3 events; it's about having a dream, training hard, and living every day with a purpose to make it all happen. She had the dream, she has never stopped training, and continues to make it all happen. As my mother celebrates her 92nd birthday, I thank God that I am the son of an "Ironman". Happy Birthday Mom, we love you, and you can have whatever you want for your special day. However, instead of cake, would you care for an apple? After all, you have 8 to choose from!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Blood doping, everyone should do it, naturally

The most recent blood doping scandal centers around Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador. Did he really dine on a piece of "tainted" beef", unbeknown to him? If so, maybe the Tour riders should opt for the safer vegetarian diet. Additionally, the entire Floyd Landis story has also fueled the speculation surrounding his former teammate, Lance Armstrong, as well. The Tour seems to be wrought with alleged users, but more importantly, it is a behavior that has become pervasive among professional athletes and has "infiltrated" almost to every level. In light of these recent developments, I thought it was time to come "clean" regarding my own personal experience with "doping".

As many of you are aware, residents of Mexico can get prescription medications quite easily, simply by going into the "farmacia" and requesting them. Now, this may not apply to all medications, but for many, certainly, this is quite common. Well, I am now ready to assume full responsibility for my actions because while I was studying in Guadalajara, this was when my doping experience began.

The pressures of professional school were challenging enough; however, shortly after settling into a routine of studying for those long hours, I realized that getting regular exercise actually made me a better student. So, rather than sitting for long, uninterrupted hours at my desk, I arranged my study schedule to accommodate for some kind of daily workout. My friends and I played softball, a little golf, football, but what really refreshed me most was running. In spite of the poor air quality and narrow streets, I returned to what set off my endorphins most, taking it to the streets for a study break. I generally ran late in the afternoon or evening, and the course I enjoyed most was a limited access roadway that took me into the country and over a series of hills. Whenever I finished one of these "training" runs, it gave me that much needed boost. What I failed to appreciate was that it also was giving me a physiologic transfusion, because the elevation of Guadalajara is just over a mile high, high altitude training, blood doping, naturally.

As part of the pre-nuptial activities at my sister's wedding, several of us went out for an early morning run. That's when the "doping" paid off because I cruised over our hometown loop with the "big kahuna" with ease. The benefits of my high altitude training were plainly apparent to all, especially me, and to date, my blood tests are still negative.

With all the publicity and potential for ruining a career through blood doping, it amazes me that these "professionals" don't just come clean, and certainly, if they are caught, simply take ownership of their poor judgment. I recognize that it has taken me nearly 25 years to acknowledge my involvement with "doping", but now that my conscience has been cleared, I may just go out for a run and get a little natural dose of those endorphins!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Perfect 10

Most of us are familiar with the rating scale, 1 to 10, of course, 1 being the lowest and 10 being the absolute maximum of whatever we are rating. In fact, there was an old movie, "10", staring Bo Derek, that epitomized this very point. As you might undoubtedly then realize, something that is a "10" is on the extreme end of the scale, and therefore, occurs less frequently. For the meek at math, "it's way out there on the right end of the Bell curve".

For those of us who were alive or were born last Sunday, we were fortunate enough to have experienced the perfect "10". October 10, 2010 was a day that will never be again and will take another 1000 years before the calendar will reflect 10/10/10, which, presumably, will be written the same.

Life sure has its ups and downs, and in a time of fiscal uncertainty and global turmoil, for one day at least, we all got to experience the perfect "10"!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Life's on a flash drive

In this age of computers, the amount of memory and the speed appear to be ever changing. I remember my first desk top computer, a Macitosh, which had a "massive" amount of memory, 40mb. I expanded it to the unheard of amount of 80mb, before I moved on to something "bigger" and "faster". Of course, those of us who have evolved with these desk tops, are now the dinosaurs in our society, a pleasant bit of symbolism, wouldn't you agree? Regardless, with each passing phase of the technology boom, newer features are being added and their size forever getting smaller. The flash drive comes to mind when I consider these microchips. My newest flash drive has more memory on it than my very first computer and fits in my pocket. Wow, I say! Well, as I embark on another year of my life, I think of it, too, as a flash drive.

Several times over the years, my father recounted the day that I was born. To this day, I am amazed at his ability to recollect such events, since there were so many of us. The story has never changed though, so I am quite sure that it is accurate. He'd take my older sisters and brother out for a ride and end up at the hospital. Somehow, he'd let the nurses know that they were all out in the parking lot, so my mother would come to the window and wave hello. In those days, no one was permitted in to visit, especially children, so this was the next best thing.

When I was just a week old, I have been told that my sister tripped over an open oven door and tossed me across the kitchen floor. Everyone has always said that life is full of its ups and downs, but I simply managed to get my baptism by fire far earlier than most newborns. Naturally, I have no recollection of this, but I do remember my father being concerned that I hadn't given up the bottle by age 3-4. I couldn't figure out why everyone was so worried about it, after all, if you threw it or dropped it, nothing ever spilled. Consequently, it seemed quite logical to me that this avoided the risk of accidentally spilling that precious "nectar".

Over the years, I have experienced and endured: broken bones, multiple lacerations, school, earning several degrees, camping across country, marathons, including Boston, triathlons, especially an Ironman, open heart surgery, hiking mountains, swimming across lakes, the thrill of sailing, rock climbing, and yes, the list seems endless. However, all of this pales in comparison to being a father, a friend, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, and a son, because without any one of you, my life would not have been even remotely fulfilled. I sometimes reflect on one of my favorite movies, "It's a Wonderful Life", and get this sense that it is just hurdling by in such a "flash", that there won't be enough time to complete it all. However, I realize that I have had a wonderful life, and with any luck, it's only the intermission, because I've got a lengthy bucket list. To you, my family and friends, thanks for the memories that we have made together, and here's hoping that the flash drive has plenty of unused memory!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Armchair quarterbacks are everywhere

The college and professional football seasons are well underway. That's when everyone becomes a quarterback, and at best, most of us are nothing more than first string armchair quarterbacks.

An armchair quarterback according to Webster is:
1. a viewer who criticizes conduct of games: somebody who is certain that he or she can make better calls than the coaches or players while watching a competitive sport on television
2. a giver of unwanted advice: somebody who offers unwanted advice about how to do something or tries to supervise an activity without being asked

If it isn't obvious, armchair quarterbacks are guaranteed perfection because they have 20/20 vision, retrospectively. However, there is almost always an exception to the rule, and it's time you heard about this one.

However, when I was in my youth, my father discouraged me from playing because I was "undersized". He told me many times, that if the coach would permit me to be the kicker, then he would allow me to play. His advice seemed sage enough, but the coach viewed it differently, so, I ran X-country instead.

When I was in my postgraduate training, the school put together an intramural tackle football league. It was made up from the other various academic schools and the School of Medicine. I had never played tackle football before, and having put on a few "lbs", I thought that it was time to kick off my football career and join the team. We held a few practice sessions, without contact, and I volunteered to be the punter. It was all going according to plan until my roommate drafted me to fill in as the backup QB. Having studied for all those years watching "game films", I agreed to "act" as a substitute, if it became absolutely necessary. So, I memorized the playbook, and even came up with my own version of the flea flicker, the iso-flip pass.

We opened with a road game, I believe in Zacatecas. The team traveled over the night before, and they put us up for the night all around the city. We didn't play until later on, so they showed the sights of town beforehand. We felt like we were playing in the "super bowl" the way treated us. Unfortunately, when it came to the game, well they were slightly over matched. I just remember after going up 28-0, the "coach" thought I should take a few "snaps". We started on our own 3 yard line, not much breathing room for this rookie QB. However, after a couple of plays, we found ourselves near the 30 yard line, and I thought, "time for the bomb". So, I called for this pass play that seemed to have some success in practice, not really knowing what I was doing, except that I had probably done it a million times on the practice fields. After the center snap, I dropped back, stepped up, and threw a perfect spiral. My teammates wondered where the "hell" I was throwing it, but when the receiver and the ball were united downfield and I had completed this 70 yard touchdown pass, they asked, "Where did you learn that"? Calmly and confidently I said, "What's so hard about this game"? That was just the beginning of our "perfect" season. We went undefeated, the only season of football I ever played.

Although I was the QB at the end, the starting quarterback went back home before the season ended, my friends had dubbed me, "Armchair". As you can see, that year I truly became a veteran of the game. There aren't many people who can claim that they took a team from "nothing" and made it to the top in one season. My friends later awarded me the "Heis-hombre" trophy recognizing that some "armchair" quarterbacks actually let their actions speak louder than their words; ready, on two, break!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Whose anniversary is it anyway?

The calendar is marked by days, weeks, and months, and each year we celebrate the holidays and make room for all those other special days. Some are not celebrated every year, such as baptisms and graduations, but of course, there are those that are, like birthdays and anniversaries. When you come from a large family, there are plenty of important dates, but who can remember them all?

Because the Fall is such a great time of year, October became the month for big events, therefore there are several anniversaries to celebrate. My sister and her husband were married on the 2nd. They had a lovely reception at Abenaqui CC, an area country club on the coast. My youngest brother and his wife enjoyed their wedding on the 12th which was another terrific Fall day. This time the parties gathered at Vesper CC which is where my sister had been a member for a number of years. My older brother and his wife had a slightly overcast day and a brisk breeze. The reception was held just outside of Albany. It was a grand day, except that the Mets came back to beat the Red Sox in that memorable game 6 of the '86 World Series. My Uncle and Aunt were married on the 28th in Salem and held their reception at the glorious Spray Cliff Inn in Marblehead. I remember carrying a bottle of Ginger Ale around just so that I could pretend to be drinking that bubbly stuff.

Yes, October has been a month of memorable dates and anniversaries. Not to be upstaged, my Mom has a birthday in October too, so there isn't any lack of opportunity to hold a family gathering to celebrate. As I sit here, I have this gnawing feeling that I have forgotten one. Oh well, it will probably come to me on another day or in my dreams. C'est la vie!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A cut above the rest

There is an age old expression, "a cut above the rest", which typically refers to something being just a little bit better than its comparison. The derivation is unclear, but if I had to guess, I'd say that the origin may lie somewhere behind the counter of a butcher's shop. As you can see then, one would prefer to be a cut above the rest, except perhaps, in the case of the story I am about to tell you.

Have you ever had a package delivered to your door, and you just couldn't wait to open it up to see what was inside? Maybe it was something you ordered or perhaps, just a surprise. In either case, I am sure that you can imagine the excitement of opening up the package for that initial glimpse.

Well, before starting my "formal" education, I had a few years at home with my younger brothers, in our own "playgroup" with Mom as our fearless leader. One morning, while she was on the phone, I remember the postman delivering one of those brown paper packages with the twine wrapped around it, and I just couldn't wait to see what was inside. Naturally, I was able to convince my brothers that we shouldn't disturb Mom while she was on the phone, but too, we should go ahead and open the box. However, instead of grabbing a more conventional means of cutting the twine, like a pair of scissors, I opted for the sharpest thing in the drawer, a carving knife. It seemed like a reasonable option, at least for a 4 year old, but rather than cutting through the twine in a downward fashion, I slipped the knife below the twine, and started "sawing" on it while pulling up. Bad idea. Before I knew it, I had cut through the twine and continued right on up into my forehead. I can only imagine the look on my mother's face when she saw me hold a knife and blood pouring from my forehead. My mother, of course, didn't panic and grabbed a dish towel and applied pressure, until she could coordinate with my father to arrange for proper treatment. This wasn't the first, nor was it the last time my father had to exercise his surgical skills on me.

To this day, I have no idea what was in the box, but I still enjoy the suspense of opening one up when it arrives at the door. I did learn several lessons though, as a result of this little mishap. "Brown paper packages tied up with string" are still a few of my favorite things, carving knives probably ought to used only on the Thanksgiving turkey, and to have dealt with these sorts of things, my parents clearly were and still are, a cut above the rest!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One plus one equals three?

Mathematics makes up one of the three foundational skills that students are expected to "master" as part of their formal education. The three Rs (as in the letter R) of education were considered: Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. Does this seem vaguely familiar? Although I am not gifted when it comes to math, even I know that 1+1 equals 2. However, there are rules and there are exceptions to those rules, and I know of an exception to this rule, so permit me to explain.

My older brother and his wife were living in Bangor, Maine, after their wedding on a brisk Fall day in October of 1986, the same fateful day the Red Sox went down in game 6 of the World Series that year. Following the nuptials, my sister-in-law joined my brother in Bangor. It didn't quite provide the atmosphere of Boston where they had initially started dating, but it had the Paul Bunyan statue, the greatest number of pizza "joints" per capita in the state, and home to novelist, Steven King. In the final year of my brother's training, they announced that they would be expecting their first child, likely an October birth.

The parents welcomed their "little" bundle of joy on October 3rd, 1988, and her parents have been trying to keep up with her ever since. Early in her academic career, it was evident that she had a gift for numbers, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing them. When she was in high school, she challenged the local college students with her skills too. There was a time I think her father thought she ought to make a career in the military and head for the Naval Academy, but that plan never came to fruition. Instead, she opted for a smaller school and is on the brink of becoming a college graduate, in Mathematics and Education.

In addition to her math prowess, she also has a royal background having been selected to the homecoming court. She once was asked what would define her perfect vacation and she responded by saying that's easy, because she takes it with her family and relatives in Rangeley every year. This spring she spent the semester abroad in Ireland and probably did more for international diplomacy than most politicians. Just to round out her resume, she plays a little rugby for her college and cuts hair on the side.

Yes, this is a young lady who has accomplished much in her brief life but certainly has all the necessary ingredients to expand that growing list of achievements. Happy Birthday Maude, as you celebrate your 22nd. You are one in a million, and if I do the math correctly, I'd say that's awfully rare, just like you!

Friday, October 1, 2010

The local's guide to dining

With the advent of the internet and long before "fast food", guide books referencing the dining "hot spots" were aplenty. AAA had their tour guide books, and of course, Fodor's has had their reference manuals to assist their readership with selecting fine dining establishments. These were particularly useful when traveling, at least until you had a chance to ask some of the locals for their opinion. However, today many of us just access the internet, and voila, the information is right there at your finger tips. Well, when we were younger, there was a cadre of options, but because of our large family, eating out or for that matter, getting take out, was a real treat indeed. However, over the years, even we had our favorites, and with a little arm twisting, my parents would treat us so Mom could have a much deserved reprieve from the kitchen.

My first recollection of the local fare was "Mona's" pizza. The pizza parlor was right next to her husband's barber shop where my brothers and I had our hair cut. If we wanted hamburgers and fries, it was either Skip's or Laubner's. Skip's was known for their curly Q fries, while Laubner's had lobster rolls too. After the Saturday football games, it was off to Reet's for a cheeseburger and fries, but they had good milk shakes too, and of course, the young ladies. Additionally, Martha's was on the beach road, and they had the best lobster rolls and onion rings. The Atomic pizza parlor was right next to the A&P, so it was handy for a quick snack while getting something at the store for Mom. Their pizza was the astronomical price of $0.99, a bargain at those prices for sure. There were other stop offs as well, Auntie Raines' Country Corner, Alecs' soda shop, just to name a few.

If my parents wanted a real sit down dinner with us, we had several haunts. The Howard Johnson's on 95 South had great booths, clam rolls, and of course, its the home of the 28 flavors of ice cream. The 110 house had a lovely lobster pie, but it had the ambiance of an authentic roadside inn, and the "ye Olde Cock and Kettle" should not be forgotten. They had these miniature loaves of bread that were served heated, right out of the oven, and I believe, in fact, that our childhood neighbor actually baked them for them. Certainly, there were more on the list, Yoken's, with their sign, "thar she blows" and good food, Brown's, with their classic lobster in the rough, The Clam Box, home of the perfected fried clam, and of course, The Hungry Traveler, where we gathered for Easter Sunday brunch for many years.

Yes, there were a large number of excellent eating establishments just a short drive from home, and this doesn't even include some of the Boston gems. However, no matter how we sliced it, the most popular 5 star restaurant always served its meals with style, at home and with the family, and when I last checked, they were still open for business!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This triathlete thanks you with all my heart

Damn Yankees is a musical comedy, and is a modern retelling of the Faust legend set during the 1950s in Washington, D.C., during a time when the New York Yankees dominated Major League Baseball. The musical is based on Douglas Wallop's novel, "The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant". The Washington Senators were perennial losers at the hands of the Yankees, consequently, the players made a deal with the devil to assist them in making a pennant run. One of the musical's classic songs has the players singing about the need to have heart, miles and miles of heart in fact. Well, when it came to having heart, the players were talking about their emotional commitment, but when it comes to competing in a triathlon, you better have both, for miles and miles, too.

Months before I was faced with what was a life threatening event, I competed in the Scioto River, Duathlon, in Prospect, Ohio. What I remember most about that particular race were the headwinds. After the race, I recall that they must have been stronger than usual, because my back hurt, and that ordinarily wouldn't have been an issue. It improved quickly, but for the rest of the summer, it would flare up and prevent me from running with any degree of regularity. Consequently, when I was out for my usual runs, I recall that the hills became more and more difficult. I distinctly remember thinking that I previously had been able to run those hills, without significant difficulty. Naturally, I just thought that I was suffering from under training , and not from some more serious affliction. After all, I was getting older.

Because of the ongoing back pain, the relative fatigue, and the inability to prepare properly, I decided, early in the summer, to do the Lobsterman Triathlon in Freeport, Maine, instead of the Survival of Shawangunks (SOS). My parents would be celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary, so it made logical sense to head for NE and enjoy a nice Fall weekend on the Maine coast and celebrate the occasion with the family. The Lobsterman was truly a terrific race, both with respect to the venue, and the race organizers couldn't have ordered up a more perfect day. The conditions were ideal, and of course, the race was only part of a very memorable anniversary celebration.

Little did I know then that the Lobsterman would be my last for awhile. The following week, after a run with my daughter, I developed a chill, one that I will never forget. I thought that I had finally overdone it and was coming down with the flu. I even told several of my patients that they probably had the same "viral" illness, however, no one ever wants to contract the "flu" I had, let me tell you.

Fortunately, I did have the good sense to call my dear friend and colleague who had previously agreed to see me, if I ever got really sick. When I called, I said that I think that I've got the "flu", but it's not like any flu I've ever had. As my color turned grayer with each passing day, the staff and patients alike, became more concerned, but when the lab work, EKG, and chest x-ray were all completed, that's when I got concerned. As my doctor digested the findings, his radar went up and he then solicited the help of the local Cardiologist. That's about the same time they directly admitted me to the hospital, and the chills set in so badly that the bed was shaking beneath me.

This all occurred just so matter of fact, but at times too, seemed almost surreal. Most definitely, and there was no denying it, I was really sick with endocarditis; but because of the miracle of antibiotics, I survived. It turns out that my congenital, bicuspid aortic valve had failed and had become infected. Once the infection was eradicated, I later underwent a successful valve replacement, and today, I enjoy a normal lifestyle, including participating in some triathlons.

Yes, the marvels of modern medicine have produced some miraculous results, and in this case, I am living proof attesting to that. As for all the individuals involved with giving me my life back, I thank you and will be forever grateful. Naturally, I say all of this from the bottom of my heart, and thankfully, I still can!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Toy Story's Real Legacy

Pixar's latest animated movie, Toy Story 3, is the third in a series of very clever movies which depict life through the eyes of Andy's toys. Anyone who has seen them, would fondly recall some of the toys that we all played with when we were kids. The main characters, Woody and Buzz, instantly became household favorites following the release of the first movie. In the latest saga, Andy has grown into a young man and faces the reality of having to make some choices regarding his childhood "friends" as he prepares to head off for college. There are several delightfully entertaining features about this movie which, in my opinion, make it a sentimental classic, but what plucked on my emotional heart strings most was the personal commitment that all the characters had to each other. However, since the movie was focused on toys, I will start with some of my recollections of the toys we had at home.

Having 3 brothers, it always seemed that we had plenty of "boy" toys around. We had Tonka trucks of every variety, and with them, we daily reshaped the landscape below the grove of lilacs along our driveway. But if we weren't digging trenches or constructing roadways, we were readying the balsa wood airplanes for takeoff. Unlike Andy, our generation didn't have the luxury of the radio controlled vehicles, but had they been available, I can assure you that we would have had our own motor pool of cars. When we weren't in the dirt, we were leading a convoy of Marines into combat with our Anzio Invaders, with air coverage from our fleet of airplanes. Our parachute men provided us with hours of entertainment. Once, one of our parachutists was carried off by an updraft, never to be seen again. We had the Radio Flyer, red wagons hauling anything from kids to yard waste. Of course, there were multitudes of round orbs too, either to kick, hit, or heave at the basket. Occasionally, those spheres would end up on the roof, in the trees, or perhaps even through a window. Naturally, that's when the fun would end.

Yes, all of the Toy Story movies have provided a wonderful glimpse into the lives of those storied toys, and the subject matter proved to be very entertaining too. They have served as a wonderful reminder of a more carefree time in our lives, our youth. Additionally, this last one links them all together, but more importantly, it captures the essence of life, it reminds us that we all must grow up. With that, we are faced with those critical decisions, just like Andy, and how we handle those choices may, to some extent, define our future. Likely, you have heard of the term legacy.

The definition of LEGACY:
1. a gift by will especially of money or other personal property : bequest
2. something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past

Toy Story's real legacy lies with how we look at our own lives, as in the material goods we have and will pass on or with the memories that we have created with the ones we love. Both are priceless in their own way, but remember, in the end, the memories are all we can take with us to "infinity and beyond", so pass it along!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trash talkin' is downright fun

In this era of sports fanaticism, I suspect that most people have heard the term, trash talk. It has been associated with comments which are considered disparaging, taunting, or boastful, especially between opponents trying to intimidate each other. Some players utilize this as a means of psychologically rendering their opponents helpless, and unfortunately, performance enhancing drugs or PED have contributed to some this behavior. However, I think that many times it is simply part of that heightened emotional state, and therefore, it is just part of the "game". However, when it comes to one of my nephews, our trash talk has become part of our "male bonding" relationship, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Several years ago, as part of the family summer vacation in Maine, we organized our own triathlon for the younger members of the family. Since many of them had been so supportive of their Uncle, I thought that it was time they accepted my invitation to participate in one for themselves. Because of my nephew's competitive nature, he quickly identified himself as one who really relished the challenge. We'd discuss training strategies, the equipment, and the various transitions, and of course, the "trash talking" was all included as part of the experience. For one reason or another, my nephew and I have yet to compete head to head, although I know who would win anyway. Regardless, we have continued to taunt each other, and I am more committed than ever to have him strut his stuff and put his money where his mouth is next year. Just remember, your Uncle is ready anytime, anywhere; you simply choose the place and time and I'll be there.

Trash talking does seem to have its place in the realm of competitive sports, and heavens, if you listen to the politicians these days, you'd swear that they were trash talking too. A good friend of mine mentioned a book about the art of gamesmanship, and according to the author, the psyche and subsequent performance of an individual may be greatly influenced through this form of verbal jousting. There does appear to be some relationship.

However, trash talk doesn't obfuscate the truth; my nephew is a bright young "man" who also loves to participate in sports, just like his uncle. He is his team's quarterback and a pitcher in his Little League, just like his uncle was, and if you ask me, the competition better watch out, because they are "going down". To my nephew as he celebrates his 12th birthday, Happy Birthday. However, I would just like remind him that he isn't going down this time, but in fact, he most definitely is on the way up, at least with respect to his age. But next year, "you are going down" when we finally compete in the triathlon, and that's the fact Jack!