Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Young Catcher who Lived near Rye

J. D. Salinger recently passed away at the age of 91 in his home in Cornish, NH. At one time, he was thought to be the most important American writer of the post WWII era. Perhaps he was best known for his novel, Catcher in the Rye, from 1951. Originally published for adults, it became popular with adolescent readers for its themes of alienation and rebellion. If I recall, it became required reading for us in freshman English class. Little did I know that his title work would provide an inspiration for this writer.

When I was 8, I remember taking rides to do errands with my parents and siblings. An errand could have been anything from going to pick up milk or to go on a house call with my father. If we were headed for the local department store for provisions, it would not have been uncommon for my Dad to collect my brothers and me and head for the sporting goods section. He loved baseball, so naturally, if we were looking for a new bat or glove, we knew Dad would be an easy mark. Once, I spied this blue chest protector at the Mammoth Mart, and that's when I decided it was time I become a catcher. After all, if I was going to catch, I needed the proper protective gear. Dad couldn't resist my "demand", since it made some semblance of sense to him too. Well, that chest protector served me well. I played catcher throughout Little League and right on through my days as an American Legion ballplayer. Although the chest protector may be gone, the memories surrounding our days practicing and playing baseball are forever etched in my mind.

Not all the errands were about "business", however. Some of those rides were just that, rides. Rides to see the scenery along the coast, particularly into NH. We enjoyed the sights of Hampton Beach, the Fuller Rose Gardens, and onward to Rye and Portsmouth. A stop for an ice cream would almost always complete the trip too.

As we say farewell to J. D. Salinger, I will be eternally grateful for the inspiration he provided, not only in his writings, but for the theme of this reflection into the past. As you can see, I was, unknowingly, perhaps a "character" in an unpublished sequel, "the catcher who lived near Rye"!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The only thing we have to fear is...

If somebody asked you who was responsible for the phrase, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.", I am sure that most people would be able to come up with the correct answer. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and that would be right. How about this one, "December 7th, 1941, a date that will live in infamy.". Who immortalized these words on that fateful day? If you said FDR, you would be right again. The first words were spoken at FDR's inaugural address and of course, FDR delivered those now famous words to a country in shock after the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor.

Respecting the historical significance of each of these addresses, the first trying to energize a nation during the Great Depression and the second marking the sadness of Pearl Harbor, I would like to use a little poetic license and suggest that these comments could very well have been applied to another historic occasion. A date that will live in infamy could apply to January 30th. This is the birthday of 2 great Americans, one who delivered the now famous speech line and the other, our very own Iron Dave. When FDR referred to fear in that inaugural address, he didn't have Iron Dave in mind, but I assure you, when Iron Dave was in his prime, he put fear in the minds of his competitors. The only thing they had to fear was Iron Dave and his competitive spirit.

Those of us who know Iron Dave, recognize that he shares, not only FDR's birthday, but also his fiery enthusiasm for politics and fairness. We all wish him well as he prepares to enter his eighty first year. He has certainly made his mark on us, but his love of family, his commitment to his school, and his passion for life are epic indeed. For our Mathematician friend, as he passes his "prime number" age of 79, we all hope that there are yet a "number" of prime years ahead. Happy birthday Iron Dave!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aging just a little less each day

There are plenty of theories written on aging, so one may think it would be foolish for me to even consider yet another. However, it has occurred to me that some people just seem to age "better" than others. Why, you might ask. I am not sure I have the answer to this without proper research; but what I do know is that people who exercise generally live with fewer health problems and often times, live longer lives as well. Naturally, accidents do occur and luck may play a role, but for the most part, if you take care of yourself, good things are more apt to happen.

Let me expound on this aging thought for just for a minute. By the time we reach the second day of our lives, we have aged twice as much as compared to that very first day. This is the most dramatic change in our aging process that we will ever experience. From that day forward, aging slows down. As you can see, with each passing day, each passing week, each passing month, and each passing year, percentage wise, we actually are aging a little less with each changing increment.

None of us knows how long we'll live, and the fountain of youth seems more imaginary than real. However, if you want to slow down your aging, then I suggest you start exercising. I don't mean that you have to become the "marathon man" or an "Ironman", I simply suggest you get moving. Get that old heart pumping, so that you can live life to the end, because living longer is only worth it if you are living more fully; and that my friends is what I believe is "age-less"!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Create Your Very Own 2 Hour Delay

Have you ever awakened and felt the need to simply fall back into bed and sleep just a little more? Maybe you stayed up too late, slept poorly, or simply allowed life's stresses to catch up with you. Whatever the case may be, wouldn't it be nice if you could call in and put yourself on a 2 hour delay? Then, there might be just enough time to catch 40 winks, still get a shower and breakfast, all before heading out the door for work, and more importantly, feeling rested.

Unfortunately, this is not an option for most of us, although it would be welcomed. What if you could just press that "easy button" and have it automatically put you on a 2 hour delay, wouldn't life be great? Come to think about it, there is a way to do it. All you'd have to do is set your alarm to go off 2 hours before your usual waking time. When you realized that the alarm had gone off too soon, you'd reset it. Because you will be so tired, you won't even remember that, and in your mind's eye, you'll now be on that 2 hour delay. What a perfect "strategery". You know what? Maybe you should just turn in early tonight instead!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two Loops "Le Trek"

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was a famous painter from the post-Impressionist period. How do I know this you ask? I had to do my homework for this one, since I really knew of him by name only. However, the artist usually has long since "retired" when the true value of their art or contributions becomes realized. Let me tell you, "Le Trek" lives.

My friends and I meet regularly most mornings to exercise. The routine varies from day to day, so it may involve running, biking, or swimming or some variation thereof. There are even days now when we make it to the weight room to "pump it up". So on those running days, the question usually becomes, "How long and where should we go?". Our route depends on several factors including, the wind direction and how much time any of us have. On those colder days, we'd opt for something shorter.

Just the other day, one of my friends, who has all our usual "routes" programmed into his PDA, suggested we take the in town course because of the conditions. There had been some overnight snow, so the footing was a tad treacherous. Naturally, since we are the safety conscious dudes we are, staying in town seemed to be less risky. In keeping with the inspiration of H. Toulouse-Lautrec and being a true Renaissance man himself, he recommended our run route for this snowy morning should be, the incomparable, "2 loops le trek"; a bit "icy" but worth the investment!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January 23, a Date to Remember

There are a number of dates in history that are connected to famous events. We just celebrated Martin Luther King's birthday, the President's days are coming, the Ides of March, and one of the most famous, the night the Titanic went down, April 15th, 1912. There have been several movies made about this historic occurrence, one entitled, "A Night to Remember". For me, January 23rd became one of those personal dates that I'll always remember, and now let me tell you why.

The bond that most grandchildren have with their grandparents is, undeniably, one of those relationships that can be very special. Although I never knew one of my grandparents, the other three were just, oh so wonderful in their own way. My grandmother, probably because she had more of those mothering instincts, topped the list. Her warm personality, gentle kindness, and diminutive size made her just right. She and my grandfather would come to our house for dinner almost every Sunday. If they couldn't come, the family would go to their home in the big city, Boston. Sometimes, several of us would be intentionally left behind to stay with Grammy for a few days. It is those times that I remember most vividly.

She had this dining room table set that we sat under for hours playing a game called "airplane". We pretended we were in the cockpit readying ourselves for takeoffs and landings; we even imitated all those familiar sounds. She had this old treadle sewing machine that served as our indoor see saw, after we moved on from the dining room. Then there was the front room where we could set up our little cities with cars and people, simply because there was enough room in there for this. And, of course, the winding stair well that provided her entry way. It was perfect for anything else we needed. Grandma's indoor playground had it all.

Naturally, she would have to have fed us at some point too. She had Ovaltine to make the chocolate milk. And if it was "mashed potato day" at Bristol Road, you'd have been in heaven, because hers were the best; lumpy as I recall. The rest of the menu didn't matter much. We all nestled into this nook in the kitchen where the dinner conversation took center stage. After the main course, we undoubtedly had a sweet treat from her infamous bakery down the street.

Yes, Grandma's on Bristol Road was an early learning center for my siblings and me. It was replete with whatever a kid could need and an endless supply of love. So, whenever January 23rd comes around, I think of the grandmother of grandmothers, the only grandmother I ever knew. By that final day of her life, she had accomplished the work of 2 grandmothers, an achievement that she, I'm certain, could be proud of for an eternity!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Was it Magic or Just Good Old Fashioned Fun?

If it was raining when you were a kid, what would you have done? Well, if you had several brothers and sisters like me, there rarely was a problem coming up with some indoor activity. We'd either drag out the board games or a deck of cards, convince Mom to make cookies, play dress-up, watch TV, or on this particular occasion, we decided to have a magic show.

My mother had this old sewing cabinet that made the perfect prop for our production because it had a back door and a top that came apart. Consequently, you could climb in and out of this piece of furniture both through the back and through the top. However, in order to disguise the activity through each of these portholes, we hung a curtain alongside the cabinet to block this. Of course, this provided hours of fun filled distraction. But what would be the purpose of all this, if the show hadn't gone on?

So, after practicing all afternoon, my parents and the older siblings were enlisted to make up the audience. Likely, the production would have lasted just a short time, but the fun we had in preparing for it, provided hours of playful distraction and creativity. Doesn't this all sound familiar?

On occasion I find myself asking, "Why would this innocent afternoon of indoor fun remain imprinted on my mind?". I am really not sure that I have the answer to that one, but what I do know, however, is this. The show, complete with our trap door and false top cabinet, the shenanigans, and all the antics, I am guessing "nearly" brought down the house!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chuck Taylor Goes Green

Having grown up near Boston, the Boston Celtics in the 60's were the team to beat in the NBA. What with the likes of Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, John Havlicek, and company, how could they loose? Year in and year out, they captured NBA titles, and they became known as a true sports dynasty. As altar boys we'd go into "The Garden" to watch their games, which were rarely sold out as compared to today. In those days the "Celts" wore the black high top sneakers which became one of their trademarks, the old Chuck Taylor's. Nowadays, kids can get them in nearly any color they choose, but here is what I remember about those Converse All Stars

When I was in high school, the "Chucks" only came in white or black, and white was the most popular, in spite of the team down the road. However, those "green" roots did have an influence on some of us. My younger brother one day decided he'd had enough of the old and was going to bring in the new. Instead of the off the shelf sneaker colors, he was going to create his own and go green. Since green wasn't available, he exercised his creativity and painted his with some green shoe polish. I thought it was rather ingenious myself, so I followed suit. Here we were with the only green sneakers this side of anywhere. We were the envy of anyone who saw them.

As I see the multitude of options that these young people have when choosing their "Chucks" today, I think of my brother and his clever solution for going green. Now, if I happen to see one of these kids wearing a pair of sneakers bearing that classic logo, I ask, "Who is Chuck Taylor?", and most are unable to tell me. However, on occasion in a "random" moment, some at least can tell me that he is the guy whose name appears on the side of their sneakers. Little do they know however, that my brother and I were in on the ground floor, or better yet, we got in on "the hardwood" floor for this fashion trend!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Special Deliveries

Remember the old TV show with Art Linkletter, "Kids Say the Darndest Things."? It was a classic program that became a favorite among kids and parents alike. I have no doubts that each of us has a recollection of something we said or did that would have compared with the televised antics that entertained us long ago. I have always chuckled when I recall the image I had of my father when he was out late delivering babies.

My father, who is now a retired Family Physician, was your stereotypical, small town physician. He made house calls, did some minor surgery, acted as a Radiologist or Anesthesiologist depending on the need, and delivered babies, just like any Obstetrician of today. I am sure there were times when his patients may have even considered him a darn good Psychiatrist or a member of the clergy. I know for sure he never took the bar exam, so practicing law would have been a stretch. As I think about it, he was the consummate, General Practitioner.

All too long ago, I remember awakening to the sound of my parent's voices whispering in the morning, no doubt in an attempt to keep the "wee folk" from stirring. Likely, my father was at the sink shaving, sharing the plans for his day, while my mother would have been rallying her energy to prepare breakfast and all the lunches. If there had been calls during the night or if he actually got called out, he may have given my mother a brief rundown. I do remember, at least on one occasion, he informed my Mom that he had been out in the middle of the night delivering babies. When I overheard this, I envisioned my father with the back seat of his car lined up with rows of bassinets filled with newborns. Naturally, he would have gone to the hospital to pick them up and then personally "deliver" them, just like a milkman would have. Anyway, that seemed far more logical to me than a stork dropping off that precious cargo.

So to this day, whenever I hear someone talking about a delivery, it drums up that image I have of my father out on his delivery route with his back seat lined neatly with those clear bassinets. He'd make his stops and place each baby safely on the porch for some eagerly awaiting mother or father to find in the morning. Because of his genuine concern and compassion, he was their special "delivery man"; I am absolutely certain that this is why his patients trusted him as their "Man who Delivered"!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have a Dream Today II

Today we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Martin Luther King, Jr. Because of the holiday, many people were out of work or working, perhaps, a reduced schedule. Most importantly however, let us reflect on the true meaning of MLK day, a day to recognize a truly great visionary. He was a man with high ideals, high moral standards, and a passion for trying to achieve equality for all people. Let's make it our goal, as a worldwide community, to make his dream come true!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Basics of Sailing with Brother Chuck

A very dear friend of mine has written a comprehensive guide book for sailing entitled, "Sailboat Racing with Greg Fisher". Without a doubt, this has been a passion since his days in the Sea Scouts back in Missouri. While reading his book, it became painfully obvious to me that my brother and I should have read, at the very least, a limited guide to sail boating when we ventured out for the first time.

According to my recollection, I think our maiden voyage took place in August, the winds were light, but present. My brother had purchased a small sail boat; it looked like an Optimist, only for adults. He referred to it as an Ipswich sailer. Naturally, he was eager to test his skills, and it didn't take much convincing for me to join him in this new arena of "fun". So, we loaded up the boat and headed over to the local lake. The rigging "seemed" to go together easily, but remember, we were merely honing our sailing skills. We had seen a number of people do this before us, so what could be so difficult? Once we set the sails, I was sure that we'd only be moments away from becoming "Master and Commander" of this fine vessel. We hadn't even checked for the wind direction. Was that even important?

We "drifted" away from the shore while organizing our "lines". We weren't the least bit worried about our speed at this point; our focus was just having fun. After our first tack, we readied ourselves to come about, and we did so effortlessly. How difficult could this be? We were sailing, and nothing about it seemed overwhelming. However, that was the end of our short lived success. We simply couldn't seem to do much right from that point forward. After floundering around in the shallows along the shore, a woman, who evidently saw this hopeless skipper and first mate, came out from her home, and yelled to us, "Do you need some help?". We didn't want to acknowledge the painfully obvious, but we couldn't deny our ineptitude. She waded out into the lake, probably about waist deep, to personally review the "basics" of sailing. Immediately, she recognized a fundamental oversight, and said, "I see one of the problems. You haven't put down the centerboard.". There was no escaping this one. If she had been the ship's commander, I think she'd have had us walking the plank for insubordination. However, she delightfully gave us our "first" lesson in sailing and left us to our own devices thereafter.

My brother and I had a memorable experience that day; one, I am sure neither of us soon forgot. However, now that I have been mentored by a real sailor, I look back on that escapade as a reference point. When people are good at something, they certainly appear to make it look easy, so, experience does have its' benefits. But if you are a willing disciple, there are plenty of "captains" out there who would be enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge with you, and thanks to my sailing mentor, I have found that to be true. Ready about? Heartily, as in the case of two plebeian, yet adventuresome brothers, and more obviously, we "hard a-lee" had the skills of you seasoned sailors!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

No Caspar Milquetoasts in this Crowd

Most parents are presented with ample opportunities to help educate their children during the developmental years. It, hopefully, starts early and never ends. It may simply take on a slightly different complexion, as we all age. My parents were no exception when it came to this learning forum.

Caspar Milquetoast was a comic strip character created by H.T. Webster in 1924. His persona left him spineless, unassertive, and easily intimidated. This was not what my mother had in mind for her children. She repeatedly exercised her parental obligation to provide us with the foundational tools my siblings and I have used to become successful adults. Caspar Milquetoast frequently surfaced as an example of the kind of individual my mother didn't want us to become. Her intentions were to instill self confidence, self reliance, and self respect, unlike the wimpy dude in the comics she so often referenced. I can hear the echoes in my head right now, "I don't want any of you kids to become Caspar Milquetoasts." Naturally, until we knew him "personally", we'd ask her, "Who is Caspar Milquetoast?" We initially had him confused with Casper but of the ghost variety from cartoons.

Where did those educational moments get us? I suppose you'd have to poll my siblings to get their impressions, but one thing is for sure, I will never forget the infamous, Caspar Milquetoast. His personal inadequacies inspired a whole cast of characters whose achievements continue to be "published", even today. With that, I'll see you in the funny papers!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What's in the Bag?

When we were kids, my parents took us camping across country on several occasions, the first in 1967, again in 1969, and finally in 1973. Each trip was filled with excitement and adventure, but each had its' own uniqueness too.

The first trip was special though, probably because it was the first. We had our baptism by fire on the very first day, with a flat tire just 10 miles from home and then came the torrential rains of Herkimer, NY. If it hadn't been for the strong constitution of 2 loving parents, we may have simply been heading home after 24 hours. Greyhound was the recommendation, as I recall. But we dried out along the banks of the Niagara river, and pushed West, like Horace Greeley, for 6 weeks thereafter; a trip never to be forgotten. We had stops in Detroit, right after the riots, and of course, to the family homestead in Iowa. From there, we made our way West, following the trail of Lewis and Clark and over the Bear Tooth pass to Yellowstone. What a sight it was indeed. We turned South, heading for the Grand Canyon, with stops at the Grand Tetons, Bryce, and Zion National Parks, beforehand.

With each day on the road, we became more and more proficient at the camping stuff. Each of us had his or her own task during set up and equally, when we broke camp. We had become a well coordinated chain gang. Even the bathroom activities became duly ritualized. We all had our own "ditty bag" in which to carry our personal belongings for the restroom, toothpaste, toothbrush, floss, soap, and a face cloth. But whatever we didn't have, we could always find it in Mom's, fondly known as the "augmented ditty bag". She had it all in there and then some.

Over the years we streamlined our packing procedures and shortened the list of essential clothing, but the "augmented ditty bag" remained a fundamental necessity for the trips. Anything that was missing would find its' way into this, the "Grand Canyon" of personal hygiene bags. If it hadn't been for the "ADB", who knows just where we'd be today!

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'll have Vanilla on a plain cone please!

Here it is, one of the coldest months of the year, and what do I find myself thinking about? You guessed it, ice cream. Why ice cream? I believe that it truly is its' own food group, and even on a cold winter's night, there is nothing quite like the refreshing taste of ice cream, no matter the flavor. Ordinarily however, ice cream is thought of as a summer treat, one where you'd sit out and bask in the warmth of the late afternoon sun while savoring every last bite of a double scoop cone. I'd like to recount just a few of those summertime, ice cream memories.

While growing up, I remember 2 ice cream stands that my family would frequent on those hot summer nights, Delaney's and Wassmaco's. They were virtually next to each other, so we usually would end up at the one that was least busy. I preferred Wassmaco's because, if you dropped your cone, they'd replace it, free of charge. For a bunch of "busy" kids, that wasn't an uncommon occurrence. They were known for their plain cones too, so that made it even better for me, since I preferred plain over the dreaded sugar cone. My sisters always ordered chocolate walnut fudge. Although mint chocolate chip has become my favorite, at that time, it was either orange sherbet or vanilla with jimmies on top. My father would always bring along a wash cloth and basin to deal with the aftermath. There were lots of sticky fingers.

Years ago Wassmaco's closed and Delaney's has since changed hands several times, but the ritual of stopping for ice cream has remained constant, certainly in my family. Now it's Hodgie's, White Farms, Gifford's, Pine Tree Frosty, and Hodgman's that conger up those same familiar, mouth watering, anticipatory responses you get just thinking about it. Just like baseball, we mark the family calendar signaling opening day. On that day, make mine a double with a glass of water on the side please!

It's a Guy Thing

Women and men are frequently being compared, at times for their physical differences and alternately for their intellect. Regardless, one must recognize that there are just some things that can only be explained by the very presence of that "Y" chromosome. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this would be to use several examples, so, here we go.

For instance, men might drink from the milk jug or juice carton while standing at the fridge, and then put it back. Why not use a glass? Equally, after making a PB&J, men likely would lick the knife, and then reuse it for another sandwich. These behaviors are considered quite normal to some and socially unacceptable to others. How about the simple act of asking for directions? Some men might consider this a failure of their manhood to stop and ask for directions. I assure you that most men feel quite comfortable being "lost". There are literally hundreds of situations that may leave women asking, "why?" and men saying, "why not?"

I am quite certain there are dozens of these personal habits that, when exhibited in mixed company, may be viewed as "undesirable". Evidently, it is up to each of us to individually determine which behaviors are acceptable and which ones need to be, shall we say, "refashioned". However, the next time I am faced with this dilemma, rather than saying it's a guy thing, I will blame it on the DNA. In some circles, it's known as the "Y" phenomenon. Now that doesn't sound like a guy thing at all. That sounds much more sophisticated, perhaps like what a respected, cultured, gentlemen would say!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We're Having Waffles

"We're having waffles", is a familiar line from the movie "Shrek" for those who have seen it. Donkey is engaged in conversation with Shrek, and he announces they are having waffles for breakfast, in spite of Shrek's disapproval of donkey even being with him. It's a classic, movie moment, if I do say so myself. So, what is the significance behind these carbohydrate rich, tasty, contoured delights? Let me tell you with a story.

When I was about 12 or 13, I remember asking my mother if we could have waffles one Saturday morning. The ready to use mixes of today weren't as frequently available to us growing up, so we usually made the waffle batter from scratch. Naturally, this would take some planning and disruption to the kitchen, so a last minute option on Saturday morning usually meant, no waffles. Since my mother was a chemist, mixing up this concoction the night before didn't pose a major obstacle. She and I would get out the ingredients and the mixers and have at it. The first few times she'd make sure I was doing things right, but like any good, cooking mentor, she eventually handed over the "spatula". We typically would find ourselves short of something, so she'd improvise. Who was I to question "The Great Santini" of the kitchen, also known as Mom. After completing the initial phase of the experiment, we'd cover it and put it away until morning. Mom generally offered to do the clean up, because well, she was Mom.

On Saturday morning my siblings and I would awaken knowing we were going to have this gastronomic delight. We'd get the waffle iron out that my Uncle had given to us and proceed to heat up the maple syrup on the stove, no microwaves back then. The aroma filled the kitchen. The batter would ooze out the side onto the counter top because we had overfilled it. Other times, we'd be impatient and want to lift the lid up too soon, making some interesting creations. Just the right amount of butter to compliment the maple syrup and you had yourself a real palate pleaser. No need to go away hungry from this table.

All in all, however, our homemade waffle breakfasts were just that, homemade. As I learned from all of this, the blend of ingredients is oh, so important: one willing student, several willing "guinea pigs" on whom you can test your product, and an endless supply of energy and TLC from your mentor. So far, I haven't found a more perfect recipe!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Remember this, Marbles is all about those you keep

How many times have you heard someone say that they were losing their marbles? It may be frightening to say the least, but for most of us, it only comes as an expression of momentary frustration There may come a time when this could be more of a concern, but let's hope that remains a "distant" worry.

However, when I was in grade school, we played marbles as a means of passing the time before school and at recess. We had bags to carry our glass wares to and from school; some, I recall, had the local bank's logo on it. We'd start by digging the hole using the heel of our shoes and rotate until we had it perfect. Then we'd set up a line about 10 feet away from which we would pitch our marbles. You'd flick them towards the hole with your knuckle down or play "bootsie shoves" with your foot, kicking those little spheres closer to their destination. Games would go until the bell would ring signaling the time to "line up" for our parade into school. Countless games were played at various sites around the school yard or at home along the driveway. The last marble in would determine the winner and with it, a "hole" full of marbles, cat's eyes, poppers and others. Each of us had favorites too, that made winning paramount. Some you'd win, some you'd lose, and that was about how we viewed it. Tomorrow would be another day to replay for that favorite, lost marble.

Marbles, like so many of the games from our youth, served us well. We learned rules and hopefully, followed them; we developed physical and mental skills that could be applied later in life; but more importantly, we had fun. And as I reflect back, I feel that it wasn't so much about the marbles I lost, but most about those I didn't lose. I sure hope I have enough of those to keep playing for a long, long time!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Shuffling off like we were in Buffalo

Running can be a particularly difficult task in the dead of winter, but when there is snow on the ground, it's a whole new ballgame. Although my friends and I are extremely committed, perhaps should even be committed, we run throughout the year; rain and ice are the only weather advisories of concern. So, whether the calendar says January or July, it is up at 6:00 am to meet the guys for the early morning run. The only difference is the time it takes to get ready, since the winter weather dictates several wardrobe adjustments. We believe in "layering" it on, first for the run and then during the round table discussion that follows.

So far, the winter has been unkind to us, snow without the benefit of thawing temperatures. That has forced us to "reshuffle" the scheduled days for running to avoid the snow covered thoroughfares. However, even with all the sophisticated weather monitoring that is available today, we still encounter mornings where we are "forced" to run in the snow. What a tragedy it is, running in these wintry conditions when the noise is muffled, and the scenes are right out of a Robert Frost poem. Too bad for us!

However, we do have to make some modifications to accommodate to these conditions. The stride length shortens and the core muscles tighten to prevent falling, but the most obvious change is the gait change which resembles more of a shuffle than anything else. Ooh! Ooh! I have this sudden urge for wings, because if that frozen stuff keeps falling, I guess we all will just shuffle off like it was Buffalo. And from what I have seen, we might as well be there!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pearls from the Heart-land

How could we celebrate the 4th of July without fireworks? For that matter, how could any major event be complete without the anticipation of a heavenly gaze to view the splash of color we call fireworks. It is simply too hard to imagine. Except for a select few, this extravaganza is a time honored tradition to behold and hopefully enjoyed by all.

As I recall, many of our summer trips to Iowa seemed to coincide with the July Fourth celebration. Older cousins would thrill us with their handling of firecrackers while sparklers were just right for the youngsters in the crowd, like me. Once I remember my brother just did toss his firecracker in time enough not to do significant bodily harm, thank God. That was the end of that risky behavior. But what I remember most were the "Atom Pearls". These little, multicolored balls, filled with some sort of "explosive", were designed to pop after throwing them firmly to the ground. We'd walk downtown to Wesell's store and pick up packs of these mighty orbs. If grandpa was with us, he'd throw in some balsa wood airplanes to insure that a good time was had by all. The scene back at the house was like a summer camp. Kids launching planes while others were throwing their pearls, either one at a time or in multiples, giving a sequential barrage of "pops". What could be better than this? Fireworks, of course? So after dinner, we'd head over to the neighboring town to view the display. I am sure that this epitomized small town America, and here we were in its' breadbasket.

Fireworks mean many things to many people, and everyone has a personal favorite to tell. For me, while anticipating the show, I oftentimes find myself daydreaming about those days back in Iowa with my Grandpa, not so much about the fireworks, but about the whole constellation of events. The time on the farm, the walks to the cemetery, the trips to the dump, the train coming through town, sitting on the porch, and of course, the "Atom Pearls" all touch off memories of a time gone by. So the next time I crane my head and look to the heavens, I'll be reminded of the fun in Iowa and pray there is an encore performance to the grand finale!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Going green sure made "cents" for US

Remember when bottles could be returned for 2 pennies apiece? If it hadn't been for this little cash cow, I wouldn't have survived childhood. Let me give you my 2 cents worth in recounting this childhood, entrepreneurial endeavor.

Many times, while either my brothers and I or my friends and I were out playing, we found ourselves getting thirsty or hungry. Mind you, we probably had been out playing from sun up to well into the afternoon before we were remotely aware of our famished state. So, what did we do? In those days, none of us had an allowance, so we turned to the next best thing, scrounging for bottles. There always seemed to be a stash at either the ball parks or the local football stadium, especially following a Saturday game. Naturally, we had no reservations about "rummaging" around, provided we could come away with the necessary booty. Generally, we'd collect a half dozen or so bottles each and turn them in to "Ted's", "Liberty Market", or "Belanger's", all local mom and pop stores in the "hood". After we'd redeem our cache of bottles for cash, we'd tediously make our selections spending exactly the amount of our windfall. Simple economics really. Oh then, how we would savor the fruits of our labor, while sitting on the stone wall or leaning on the store front. Bulls eye's, jaw breakers, atomic fire balls, pixie stix, maybe a pop, and the delicious "brownie bar" would grace our palates. I can almost taste them right now.

Some states still have the bottle return policy, but the art of this ancient ritual is fading and known only to those of us who practiced it faithfully during our childhood. We really didn't think of it as helping to save the environment. We were "foot soldiers" looking for a way to fuel our cause. We were on a mission; and once the returns were in, I think you'll agree, we became "food soldiers"!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Re-prioritize, now that's "Bloggable"

Since starting my blog, I have found that there seems to be an abundance of "stuff" to get down on "paper". Some of the topics are from memories of the past and others are simply observations put to print.

While thinking of my schedule for the week to come, I realized the obvious. There still is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Sleep, work, exercise, and eating all seem to be essential elements of any given day. Then there is that list of extras that should be accomplished, but who knows when that will happen? And that list seems to be a target on the move.

So, I find myself asking the question, "What do I really need to do right now"? Certainly I have my list of priorities, but that second tier of tasks or extras to be done is always in a state of flux and may have to be "re-prioritized". Well, I am going to finish up with this, so I can move on to the next item on my list. Oh no, it's time for bed, and that is a priority!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

01022010, backwards and forwards

Numbers play such a critical role in our daily lives, it would be hard not to notice them. Most days start and end by looking at a clock full of numbers. While driving to work, we notice the speedometer, the speed limits, all while listening to the radio whose name is associated with a number. Numbers are all around indeed, and sometimes they mean so much more.

When I was a youngster, my brothers and sisters would visit my grandparents who lived in Boston. It was a real treat to spend a weekend or at least an overnight with them. One of my fondest memories from those days was heading on up the street to the local bakery, Lyndell's. Grandma generally would call ahead with her order which included round bread, a chocolate mousse cake, and my favorite, their apple pie. Upon entering the bakery, we'd walk over to the ticket dispenser to take a number. One by one, customers were waited on by the staff. I couldn't wait for our number to come up and be announced and simultaneously show up on the "now serving" sign. The anticipation was palpable. After collecting the order, my siblings and I usually got to pick something special for ourselves, like a cookie or an eclair. Our mouths would be watering for the taste. By the time we walked home, we had worked up an appetite enough to guarantee we'd get one of those tasty morsels. Grandma was always easy to convince too!

As I notice the palindromic appearance of today's date, I am reminded of those happy times at my grandparents. Not because of the date itself, but more because it has given me a chance to reflect "back" on those days. And as I look "forward" to the future, I realize how lucky I've been, how fortunate I am, and how bright the future should be because of that heritage. So take a number, because 01022010 is now being served!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Slice of Pi for the New Year

The entire universe is made up of various geometric shapes and sizes. Some are regular, like squares and rectangles. Others are odd and uneven, thus making it more mathematically difficult to measure them. Fortunately, there are mathematicians who can figure out the equations in order to understand all of this. So, as we embark on a new year, I thought this might be a good time to view this coming year as a "hole".

So let's slice up the year like we would cutting a pie into 12 equal pieces. January is notoriously the coldest, but that shouldn't deter anyone from pounding the pavement with their New Year's resolutions. February is all about the past, past Presidents to be exact. March brings us the Ides of March, but if you have a friend named Brutus, watch out. April is all about taxes, and I think it does that, taxes most of us. May brings us Mother's Day, and where would we be without our mothers? June brings us Father's Day, and where would be without them? July we celebrate the 4th, and we owe so much to those founding fathers. August is all about the heat and humidity. September ushers in the Fall, and relief for parents when the kids return to school. October reminds us of the changing foliage and Halloween. November, we give thanks for what has been given to us. And then there is December, a month to remember with all the celebration.

Where does this all get us? You guessed it, right back where we started. So, if we think of the year as a trip around the "hole", that makes it the circumference. And without Pi, we'd be lost. You couldn't figure out where you'd been, where you are, or where you're going. And that is a recipe for disaster no matter how you slice it. Oh, by the way, I'll have another piece please!