Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Every coin has two sides

Have you ever stopped and wondered why there's a coin toss at the start of a football game? Historically, most of us would agree that it is to determine who gets the ball first, but nowadays coaches may choose not to receive. Regardless, each team theoretically has an equal opportunity, although the team winning the toss may be at a slightly better initial advantage. There is plenty of gamesmanship to this pregame ritual, so allow me to look at it from both sides.

First, let us look at it from a statistical standpoint. There are two sides to a coin, so there is a 50% chance of getting heads and a 50% chance of getting tails on any given toss. Mathematically, the odds are no different with each toss, and over time then, you can expect heads or tails to come up equally as often.

Well, if you apply this line of thinking to independent conversations as well, then you would recognize that there are two sides to every story. Remember the old TV show, "Dragnet"? Joe Friday would just want "the facts Ma'am, just the facts", and he was quite clear on that. All that minutiae served only to confuse the situation and detract from the real story.

When it comes to life, you can get the facts or you can flip a coin and take your chances. Of course, that's your choice, but regardless, you have to live by those decisions. I prefer having the facts and discussing the various options, provided there is time. I have found that the outcome tends to be far more reasonable and satisfying. But, if you'd like, we can flip a coin; heads I win, tails you loose. How do you like them odds?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fun in the Sun

June 21st marks the summer solstice and the official start of the summer season. It arrived at 7:28am today without so much as a single hello, glad you're back, or greeting from the welcoming committee. However, for those of us who enjoy the "usable" daylight, it is a natural delight which comes but once a year. The Earth is actually farther from the Sun at this time of year, but because of the tilt of its' axis, the Northern hemisphere receives the Sun's rays more directly. This year we have already enjoyed some unseasonably high temperatures, so let's hope that it makes for a nice long hot summer of fun. What's in store usually is quite predictable.

The summer calendar probably has few empty dates by now, so if there are any additions, they'll have to be last minute changes. Vacation plans typically are in the same place each year, and for the majority of us, we likely will be heading to some of our favorite destinations, the "Lakes", the coast, the mountains, or to our National Parks. Wherever that vacation spot may be, I hope that the Sun shines brightly, and don't forget the sunscreen because there is nothing that will "fry" you more than too much time in the Sun, without the SPF. Unfortunately, as the Sun sets on this day, I can't help but get somewhat depressed because the days will be getting shorter. Oh well, I can take "solstice" in knowing that I haven't even been on vacation yet, and that remains the other "bright spot" in all this!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

He's an honest to goodness family man

I am sure that you have heard the expression that he's a good family man. I suspect that it you think of someone who first has a family, but more importantly, makes you think of an individual who is respected, honest, kind, and above all, has sacrificed himself because he loves his family. There aren't too many more important things in life than providing for ones you love anyway. On this Father's Day 2010, I would like to share a story with you about my Dad.

My father and mother enjoyed taking the family to movies when we were kids. We saw "How the West was Won" and "The Brothers Grimm" on the big screen in Boston; "Sound of Music" at the then brand new cinema complex in Lawrence; "Mary Poppins" in Haverhill; but one of the most memorable was "Swiss Family Robinson" at the drive-in in Salisbury. Remember the old drive-ins? You'd pull your car in with as many people as it could hold and pay one price for all. The speakers would hang from the window, and they couldn't hold a candle to today's quality, but what else did we have? On this Saturday night my father and mother loaded us into our green, wood paneled station wagon and off we went. When we picked our spot, my Dad backed in so we could put the tailgate down and watch from the back. We were all in our "jams" because when we'd fell asleep it was easier when we got home. Life was good, Mom and Dad and a passel of siblings, along with a few snacks and soda. The movie began not long after sundown. Dad nestled in among the tribe for the feature length movie, and promptly fell asleep. I just remember thinking that he was missing this great new movie from Walt Disney, and why would he do that? The evening was a success, no one was MIA, no "accidents", but most of all, we all enjoyed ourselves being together.

Years later now, I have been able to reflect on that event and find myself realizing how hard it is to be a parent, let alone one whose demands of work had him up many nights. Yes, when the day job ends, the "job" of being a parent awaits you, 24/7, 365 days a year, forever. Sure my father fell asleep, he was exhausted I'm sure, but what mattered most was that he was there with us, he and my Mom both. In spite of his profession, he has always been there and taken the time for his family. Certainly, he has been the example for me, as I became a father too. Over the years few people, if any, ever were upset with him knowing that he was taking time off to be with his family. Every day has been Father's Day when you have a Dad like mine. That's what I remember about my father on this Father's Day, and I thank God that I have been part of it!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

I haven't had a "pea" in years

For some unknown reason, peas have been at the epicenter of the vegetable controversy for years. Dating back to my earliest memories of food, I remember my parents making sure that I had eaten all of my vegetables, especially if there was going to be dessert. In fact, most parents have a story or two of how they had difficulty getting their kids to finish their vegetables, without getting into some sort of verbal exchange. Perhaps it's the texture or the color, but for whatever reason, the little emerald orb is a titan amongst its "veggie pals". However, for every rule there probably is an exception, and I just happen to recall one I'd like to share.

When I was younger, I remember that peas were not the enemy, but a welcome sight on my plate, especially with mashed potatoes and plenty of butter. However, that wasn't the only way that I remember that they could be enjoyed. I once tried them frozen, right out of the freezer, and discovered that they were a delightful treat. Consequently, I might "help" myself to a handful before putting them into the boiling water. Several years ago, my daughter and I were preparing dinner, and we decided to have peas with the meal. As I poured the peas into the steamer, I couldn't resist the temptation to pop a handful of those tasty morsels into my mouth. To my surprise, my daughter quipped that she delighted in eating her peas frozen too, so we helped ourselves several times over. She said, "you never know when we'll have the chance to do this again", and afterward we chuckled because neither of us realized that we both liked them frozen, as well as cooked.

Yes, peas are an enigma. It appears that you either like them or you hate them, but for those of us who like them, eating them frozen has added a new dimension to the delicacy. It has been awhile since we shared a handful of those frozen, sweet peas together, and simply writing this reminds me that I haven't had a "pea" like that in years. Just thinking about this makes me bust a gut laughing or is that just the call of nature? Please excuse me for a minute while I laugh my way to the restroom!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keep those "nasty" comments to yourself

Generally, when someone says, "keep it to yourself", they haven't got anything nice to say. In fact, I dare say that the expression is only used under those circumstances. Well, when you want to express praise for another individual or feelings of respect, admiration, or affection, I contend that keeping it to yourself is the last thing that either person involved is likely to do or want. The person extending his/her praises can hardly contain themselves with those powerful emotions of excitement, while the person on the receiving end of those remarks probably is bubbling over with an internal sense of well being after hearing or reading them. If we can't show our emotions, what kind of insensitive individuals are we? Emotion is a normal response to all of life's dealings, good or bad, and if we can't display true emotion, then we lack the passion for living life the way it was meant to be lived.

Yes, there are times when each of us should "keep our comments to ourselves", but hopefully we display the proper self control and discipline to know the difference between the two. When I'm happy, then my smile speaks volumes to those who see me without so much as saying a word, and I suppose that's what people mean when they say, "I can tell by the smile on your face". Actions oftentimes get reactions, so smile and be kindhearted when you speak or say nothing, otherwise I just might have to say something too!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


An anagram is a word, phrase, or sentence formed from another by rearranging its letters: for example “Angel” is an anagram of “glean.” If you have ever played Scrabble or done the Jumble from the newspaper, you'd apply some of the same concepts; however, you might not always be able to make more than one word with the letters. That's what makes an anagram unique, or in the case of a niece whose nickname is Annagrams, being unique just confirms that she is one of a kind.

Born the second of three children, all girls, she grew up in the shadow of her big sister, but that never seemed to be an issue. She has blazed her own trail and what a path that has been. During the 1996 trip to Yellowstone, her father made the comment to me that Ms. Annagrams was an early riser, and that she was the only person he knew who could make relaxing, look even more relaxing. I would have to agree with him on that one.

Now that she has made it through her years at BC, where she was a prolific Scrabble player, and is presently taking the nation's capital by storm, I wish you Happy Birthday Ms.Annagrams. Just remember, I hired you to be the CEO of my company, "Made from Scrap", and you ought to keep that in mind as you advance in your career. I realize that I have always called you Annagrams, but that was just your nickname. After all, I couldn't call you "Acronym" now, could I? Your name is Annie and that's perfect because it's an acronym for an "awfully nice niece in every" way!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I do

Not everybody can say "I do" with conviction. It applies to a number of different things, but what remains constant in many of the circumstances is that the person saying it agrees wholeheartedly with or to something. In the case of wedding vows, when both the bride and groom agree to the various "vows" set forth in their nuptials, they are proclaiming to each other and their witnesses that, to the best of their ability, they will carry out those responsibilities. Sometimes the expectation is something impossible, and it wouldn't be reasonable to expect anyone to consciously agree to that, but reasonable expectations are fair.

Today marks the anniversary of my sister and her husband's wedding day. She was the first to be married in the family at the tender age of 24, too young to be dealing with such responsibilities in my mind. However, they were committed, and I guess that's all that mattered. Now that they have celebrated 35 years of marital bliss, one would have to say that they apparently understood what "I do" has meant to them.

So, to my sister and brother-in-law, Happy Anniversary. The years have gone by far too quickly, and unfortunately, that's what "I do" realize!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hospitals can be for the "hip" too

Hospitals are rarely thought of as places that people really want to go, unless of course you are ill enough to need those kinds of services; and if you are that sick, then you ordinarily just don't have the sense to even worry about it. I remember being that sick once that I didn't care what they did to me, so long as the doctors, nurses, and other staff just took care of me. That can be very frightening, but you have to trust the people who are providing your care. Consequently, you probably wouldn't think of a hospital as a "hip" joint, would you? However, for one of my sisters, it turned out that the hospital was the only way to keep her "hip", and let me tell you how.

When my sister, affectionately known as "Tootie Pie", was about 6 or 7 she developed a limp. Initially, it was thought that she had injured herself in some fashion, maybe falling off the swing set in the back yard. She and another of my sisters would routinely climb around the swing set, using it as a balance beam or some other piece of gymnastic equipment, so who knows what they could have done? It was not uncommon to see them performing these "acts" even in their petticoats right after Sunday morning church services too. Since her limp didn't seem to resolve over the usual time frame, my Father began to get a little more suspicious that something serious was to blame for the impaired gait. After some investigation, it was determined that she was suffering from Legg Calve Perthe disease which compromises the normal growth of the hip joint, and its treatment was a prescription of strict bed rest. Well, how could you expect an energetic young child to follow a routine of strict non-weight bearing? Impossible, particularly if you had 7 other energetic siblings at the ready. The solution was to place her in a convalescent hospital, and the only one around was not nearby at all; so off to Lake Ville she went.

Visits were mostly on the weekends; my parents, my Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, and the siblings in various combinations would make the 3 hour trip to see her. I just remember asking myself, "Why does she have to stay at this hospital so far away?" The distant confinement obviously was successful because she has had no long term complications from this childhood malady.

Yes, hospitals are generally not cool places to be, but they do serve a purpose. If my sister hadn't been confined in this manner, I suspect that her hip joint would have disintegrated long since, and that may have changed her life in ways unknown to all of us. Happy Birthday sister, and I just want to wish you continued good health for this year and for many more years to come. Just remember, if you hadn't followed the doctor's advice, you may not have those 2 good legs to stand on today, and that wouldn't be "2" hip now, would it?

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Life's Untitled and Unfinished Story

Life begins and ends the same way for every one of us. Your Mother and I, as your parents, have given you life and have celebrated that life through your birthdays and special occasions, but it will be the generations of family and friends to come who will honor you at its' end. What lies in between, is the story of your life, and you are the author of that story; so with every page and every chapter, only you can decide how you want that story to unfold. Your parents, your grandparents, your other family and friends are a part of that story, but as the author, you choose the title, you determine the story line, and only you know how it's going to end.

You were born on the night of the "Perfect Storm" in 1991 at 11:42PM. In spite of the weather, I remember just how "calm" you were even though you suffered your first injury, a laceration to the face. Your beautiful smiling face has never been affected, even for a moment, in spite of that birthday mishap. You learned to roll over, just like all the other kids your age, and on December 2, 1992 you took your first steps, and you have been on the go ever since.

Your formal education started at the "Building Block School" in Exeter, New Hampshire, even though you weren't yet potty trained. Like so many things, you picked that up, once you put your mind to it. However, your life in New Hampshire came to an end when your parents moved to Ohio, and that's when you attended Methesco and the ECC, with Sue P... and Mary Lou as your teachers, but your daytime buddies were Megan, Michelle and Abby K. You loved your life there, except of course when you got lice. You had an early exposure to "college" life too with your year at OWU in Delaware. From there, you went on to Smith School and kindergarten with Mrs. D.... After finishing the 1st grade with Mrs. C... at Smith School, your educational life moved to the now very familiar campus of CSG.

The Columbus School for Girls has been your academic home away from home since the second grade and will soon be your high school alma mater. During your years at CSG, you have been on field trips in Columbus, gone to Lake Erie, Templed Hills, Washington D.C., Ontario, Canada, and Anaheim, California. You have played field hockey and LAX, and have been part of the choir, including the Grace Notes, all in addition to doing those mountains of homework. It is truly remarkable how you have been able to do this and accomplish so much, all the while developing into a young lady.

Now that some of the past history has been written down, it is up to you to continue the story, and ultimately, it is only you who can determine that future. You were a Smith Bear, you are a CSG Unicorn, and soon you will be a SLU Biliken, but through it all, you have always been a S..., a daughter, a granddaughter, a cousin, a friend, and most assuredly, a young lady looking at a very bright future. Look to the future, live in the present, but never forget your past. It is your story, and you are its author. I am extremely proud of you; I will always love you; and congratulations as you graduate from CSG. The next chapter begins now!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

"TOPS" Secret

Every young kid at some time or another has imagined being part of some secret organization. Most of us have heard of such secret societies as the "Knights Templar" or the "Masons", and whose presence came to the forefront from the book "The Da Vinci Code" or in the movie "National Treasure". Not all of those societies were quite so secretive, however, but they could be particularly if you had some imaginative young children around. My Mother was a member of one of those secret societies, "TOPS", and they met weekly, so of course, you know that it was extremely important.

My mother met with her fellow secret societal members, sometimes at a public function hall or in one of the local churches. The meetings were not unusually long, and by holding them at these conspicuous locations, few people suspected the covert operations going on inside. The members would "weigh" in and then exchange information amongst themselves, but you had to be a member to get in on the discussions. It had all the earmarks of a secret group, wouldn't you agree? Occasionally, my brothers and I would be in toe, and this too provided an excellent smoke screen to the casual observer. It served to "reduce" any suspicions that something important was "going down" as some of the community's more prominent citizens were filing in and out of those meetings.

As I got older, I realized that those TOP secret meetings were not about what my imagination had led me to believe, but about something entirely different. In fact, they weren't even covert but more about creating "converts" to changing a lifestyle and helping people feel better about themselves. From my perspective, there is nothing that should remain "TOP Secret" about it. Once one recognizes the formula for true happiness, it sure "takes the weight off" the shoulders, and that's the message that should never be lost!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dads can tell old wives' tales too

An old wives' tale is a type of urban legend, similar to a proverb, which is generally passed down by old wives to younger generations. Such 'tales' usually consist of superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or untrue details. Today, old wives' tales are still common among children in school playgrounds, but there are some that are, shall we say, more home grown.

When we were kids, I remember sitting on my parents' bed, and my Dad telling us bedtime stories. Oftentimes, the story line involved Indian scouts and their encounters with wild animals, such as grizzly bears or mountain lions. He'd set the stage, as if we were sitting around the campfire, and we'd imagine ourselves under the star filled skies. Sometimes, we'd request to hear them again, maybe a day or so later, but if he changed the story in any way, he was destined to be corrected. It was his way of introducing us to stories of the West, which was always one of his passions. We were his "little Indians", and believe me, if we got out of line, he and my Mom would have been on the warpath.

One of his stories was not about Indians or grizzly bears though; it was a personal story of how he was stepped on by a horse when he was young. My father has quite the chest you see with a deep indentation about the size of a man's fist, and for years, he told us that a horse had stepped on him when he was back on the farm in Iowa. That was how he "acquired" his chest deformity; it was deep enough that water could puddle on his chest when we were swimming at the beach. Of course, who were we to question him since there were indeed horses on the farm? Over time, naturally, we figured out the truth about his high stepping horse story, but it was one of those tales that will always remain with us.

After his open heart surgery in 1987, my older brother received the phone call from the hospital signaling that Dad was out of surgery and doing well. Knowing that we were all anxious to hear the news, he said, "they fixed Dad's chest too". That's when we knew he was out of harm's way.

Yes, there are lots of stories from those years growing up at home, but trust me, none could have been any closer to his heart than that one!