Thursday, July 17, 2014

Simon Welcomes His Aunts

One of the things we human beings learn at a very early age is to live vicariously.  It’s what keeps a child on the edge of her seat when the trapeze artist leaves the safety of her own swing and spins into the arms of the barrel-chested guy hanging on the swing across the way.  When she is a teenager watching the young actor remove his t-shirt her heart races and her palms sweat as she imagines being the ingénue.  The vicarious experience motivates readers to turn pages.  Years after our bodies atrophy, it gets us to spend hard earned money to watch some juiced up athlete make tens of thousands of dollars for every swing of the bat.
Simon is the center of attention for Aunts Heather & Courtney
and Mommy Beth on their left--your right in the photo.
So, when my younger daughters decided to fly to Milwaukee to see their older sister and their new nephew, naturally my heart went with them.  While their mother and I had the privilege of seeing Simon in the flesh first, the amount of change in size and disposition that took place over the course of the past six weeks renders the child they get to hold and love a different individual than the one we met.  For Simon the opportunity to be cuddled by these adoring aunts is nothing less than the attention he feels he deserves.  After all, he knows his big smiles will melt their hearts no matter how many times he fills his diapers.  He also knows that while his mother’s sisters may have the same curves she and his father’s sister have, only Mom has the breasts to sustain him through this portion of his life. 
Simon learns to share the limelight with a Wisconsin favorite
--a Green Bay Packer helmet hood ornament.
Being the father of three beautiful and talented daughters, the next best thing to spending time with them is seeing them take time to spend with each other.  While Simon cannot appreciate how difficult it is for his mother and her sisters to leave their professions even for a short visit, as one fortunate to have completed his time as an employee of a worthy profession his grandfather knows full well the stress and shares this, too, vicariously.
Setting all tensions aside, Grandma Debbie and I are thrilled to be living in a time when we can share some aspects of their visit through social media.  We have looked forward to regular postings on both Facebook and Instagram.
Simon loves all his aunts.
A little more than a year ago, we visited our great-nephews in Florida for the first time. Then, we were lucky enough to see the younger one, Isaac, when he came to Wisconsin with his parents at the same time we visited last October.  Spending time with Isaac, Jennifer and Nelson in my estimation influenced his great-aunts, my sisters-in-law, Kathy and Candee, to visit Simon, their great-nephew when their nieces were in town.  They made the hundred-mile journey from Appleton to Milwaukee last Saturday.
While the vicarious experience is better than no experience at all, it pales in comparison to being there.  As I write this post we have no specific plans to see Simon.  No doubt, this is a shortcoming of being an absentee grandparent. We will have to work on this situation and inform you of its resolution.  

Thursday, July 10, 2014

And the Home of the Braves

My star-spangled breakfast.
Growing up in Milwaukee in the late 1950s and early 1960s profoundly influenced my perceptions of what it means to be a patriot.  While people complained the President spent too much time on the golf course and didn’t know what was going on in the world with Khrushchev in Russia, the Koreans and the Middle East—we’re talking about the general in charge of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, similar to the way people complain today the President spends too much time on the golf course and doesn’t know what is going on in the world with Putin in Russia, the Koreans and the Middle East—we’re talking about the guy who gave the order over some dissenting generals’ advice to invade Pakistan to take out Osama ben Laden, those of us who grew up in Milwaukee stood up proudly and sang the national anthem dedicated to our major league team.  Since then I have heard the amusing tale of how some recent immigrants from Mexico thought the opening line of the anthem asked, “Jose, can you see?” but at the time my friends and I thought the final line was, “and the home of the Braves.” By 1967, when the Braves moved to Atlanta, most of us figured out the national anthem was not celebrating the team whose feathered mascot remains locked in a controversial discussion of whether it honors or derides a segment of the earliest inhabitants of this great land.
Yorba Linda requires a patriotic walkway.
What I did know for certain was come the Fourth of July there would be a parade with kids riding bicycles and tricycles with red, white and blue crape paper wrapped around the frame and baseball cards clipped to their spokes with a clothes pin to make a simulated motorcycle sound.  Little blonde, red-haired, and brunette—who today would no doubt have hair sprayed blue to complement those with already patriotic hair—wore flouncy skirts and helped their mothers push baby buggies draped with the aforementioned red, white and blue crape paper.  Everyone assembled in a nearby park to receive little flags, ribbons for the best decorated and a rousing speech of how fortunate we Americans are delivered by the mayor, who must have travelled a couple hundred miles that day to get to the dozens of parks throughout the city—fortunately gas was plentiful and 25 cents a gallon.
We risked fire hazards due to our drought
conditions to watch All-American fireworks.
While the fervor of patriotism has been tainted by the intrusion of less glamorous wars than the World Wars, attacks in Oklahoma, on September 11, and at the Boston Marathon have solidified red states and blue states, white skinned and black skinned, Democrats and Republicans, young people and old people, natives and immigrants to stand together and affirm their commitment to the ideals of this great nation.   So, when I woke up on the day our country declared its independence, though I no longer went looking for my bicycle, or even those of my children who have flown the nest during the past decade, I chose to decorate my morning bowl of cereal with those glorious colors. Then, I made sure the walkway to my home is outlined with the flags the real estate agent used to leave in years gone by. Finally, as I did when I was a child, I went to the local park and watched the skies light up with fireworks and saluted those who sacrificed so much so that I could declare myself proud to live in the land of the free, “and the home of the brave(s).”   

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I’m Not Allowed to Say…

Peach is both a popular color for weddings
and birthdays in the East Room.
The gentleman standing to the left of the
bouquet thought he had to wear peach
for Debbie's birthday.
We are a year and 9 days short of thirty years of marriage.  Under the rules of the Geneva, Hallmark or some such convention, there are several issues a married man is never allowed to discuss with anyone but his wife.  The first, of course, is the quality of sex in their bedroom or in any other room of the house should he be allowed to participate. Second, and this follows closely from the first, is any thoughts, considerations or fantasies regarding sex with any member of the opposite sex outside the boundaries of marriage are strictly forbidden. No mention of hair color, chafed skin, irritable bowel, bunions, halitosis, underarm stains, wrinkles, chin hairs, flatulence, vaginal irritation or tooth discoloration is permissible under any circumstances. Finally, no hint whatsoever regarding her age will be tolerated, even if this means direct confrontation with the oldest child about how old his or her mother was when she gave birth to him or her.
What I can tell you was my beautiful wife Debbie celebrated the anniversary of her birth last Sunday.  In her honor, or perhaps by coincidence, the Nixon Foundation, which runs the library and birthplace of the 37th President, chose to invite us to a champagne and cake reception—for those considering having a wedding at a nearby venue (we have two daughters in their twenties, which certainly is enough qualification) and our neighbors decided to have our second annual block party on that date.
A number of attendees in the East Room were thrilled to wish
Debbie a happy birthday once they had their fill of hors d' oeuvres.
Since Debbie is still recovering from the ankle fracture she suffered six weeks ago, she was forced to attend both events held in her honor in her wheel chair.  This in no way slowed her from extinguishing her thirst with the complimentary champagne, nor tasting the fair of the various catering services, whether it meant suffering through some crab or shrimp hors d’oeuvres or miniature chocolate éclair or cupcake to alleviate her hunger. A number of attendees at the festivities at the Nixon Library failed to congratulate or acknowledge her on this special day, but she assumed it had something to do with our not being registered Republicans.
If you found the East Room too congested
you could come outside to the rose garden
to wish Debbie a happy birthday.
After we left the East Room and the rose garden, where one of the event coordinators explained various options were we to decide to return for one of our daughter’s weddings, we drove back to our humble home a couple of miles away.  Not long after our return, some of our neighbors erected canvas canopies to shelter us from the glaring sun, and started filling folding tables with various dishes. It was wonderful to see all our neighbors gather to celebrate this day. Then, without regard to what occurred at the Nixon Library, one of our neighbors produced a large yellow cupcake, although it might have been one of those shrunken yellow frosted cakes, placed a candle on top, lit it and led us in a rousing version of Happy Birthday. 
Although I failed to get a photograph of the aforementioned cake, somehow I managed to make it through the day without falling into the trap of violating one of those rules of a successful marriage I mentioned at the top of this post. As a result, I am looking forward to starting our thirtieth year of marriage in ten days. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Since You Asked, Mr. President

Yesterday I received this letter from the President. That’s right, I’m not talking about some letter from some president of some organization. I’m talking about the POTUS, the number one honcho of these here United States of America, none other than Mr. Barack Hussein Obama, himself. I know it was him because it bore his signature—all right, so it wasn’t his left-handed scrawl but rather a typed first and last name, but it was his signature nonetheless.
Like all good friends Barack smiles when asking for money.
So, here’s what Mr. President had to say.
Mark (he prefers my given name to Hioh or Hi) -- Here’s the simple math (he knows most Americans aren’t well versed in Algebra and Calculus):

Republican outside groups (these are the ones with the 503 numbers that the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court protects from having to release who is giving and how much, so the prez and Dems are making a guestimate—that’s part guess part estimate) are outspending us 3-to-1 in key races. If we allow that to continue, they could have their strongest majority (unless they suddenly get enough votes to override your presidential veto I don’t see how it can get any stronger than it is right now) yet for the last two years of my presidency.

And you know what that means -- they’ll make it harder than ever to do the things we need to do (a quick reminder of what we are doing rather than the nebulous “things” might be more helpful) to move this country forward.
He sent me this picture to let me know
he means business.
As you may have guessed by now my good friend, Mr. President, wanted me to donate to the congressional campaign of the Democratic party.  No, he’s not running again—the constitution only allows a maximum of two terms as president, and unless he were to die or be impeached (and just because half the country thinks he is doing a poor job does not qualify as an impeachable offense) he will serve for two and a half more years. Of course, if he did get his way and the Republicans lost control of the House and the Democrats retained control of the Senate he would have nobody to blame for dismantling his programs
Now, he's angry because he heard
Speaker Boehner is going to sue him
for some of the executive orders he gave. 
Instead of trying to outspend the billionaires behind the Tea Party revolution and the outside groups with their smear campaigns, I want my good friend to use his influence to curb the horrendous waste of money spent on election campaigning. While my friend, Barack, may feel good about raising over a billion dollars to run his campaign, the young senator from Illinois who originally claimed he would use public campaign dollars to finance his way to the White House garnered more of my admiration.  Stop asking those of us who have given three to five dollar donations to double and quadruple our next contribution.  We know the rubber chicken dinners, which cost tens of thousands of dollars to attend pay for most of the television ads we are disgusted with after first viewing and completely alienated by the time they conclude months later. If you want to leave a real legacy everyone can get behind, find a way to curb spending by both government and by those seeking public office in the government.     

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Salute to Fathers Everywhere

I’ve heard people say Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, Secretary’s Day, Boss’s Day, and so many others, was invented by the greeting card industry.  If accurate their creation marks a triumph for capitalism and the entrepreneurial spirit.  Even as we shift formats from print to digital greetings, the chance to celebrate proves a conduit for expressing our enthusiasm for our special relationships.
With my arm around my middle daughter.
The oldest is missing from the picture.
When we are children there is little difficulty locating our mother or father. They’re usually in the next room unless we are part of those dysfunctional families that are strewn throughout contemporary literature, television and motion pictures.  However, after reaching adulthood the struggle to find a parent home, even on their designated day, becomes increasingly difficult.  Some people have speculated—I believe the same ones who credit the greeting card industry with inventing Father’s Day—this is the reason cell phones came into existence.
With everyone including my son-in-law
 on the sofa in the living room.
(One of the dog's last photos.)
Since my oldest child decided to present me (or maybe it was her husband) with my Father’s Day gift a month early—my first grandchild (see previous posts)—I celebrated with her at her home two thousand miles away several weeks ago.  My youngest daughter, who lives a mere four hundred fifty miles away, was already planning to come home this weekend for her best friend’s wedding shower, so I didn’t get to see her in the flesh this past Sunday. However, I did phone calls from both of them, leaving those speculators to say, “told you so.”  There had been talk about Skype—a mythical version of in the flesh—but due to baby’s naptime and travel to Phoenix from Tucson for a farewell party for a friend moving to Michigan, we settled for the old-fashioned auditory phone conversation.
My three lovely daughters at the oldest's wedding.
It's what makes being a father special.
Naturally, the piece de resistance was my wife with her broken ankle taking me to brunch at the Alta Vista Country Club in nearby Placentia.  Not only did they have a wonderful selection of bagels, blintzes and chili relleno, but the chef made a mean omelet and the carrot cake was scrumptious.  Besides the splendid food the wait staff kept the orange juice and champagne coming throughout the meal.  As far as we know this is not only the only venue to have a brunch priced under twenty dollars, but the only place not to raise their price on Father’s Day.  But far beyond any father’s reasonable expectation my middle daughter, the young lawyer who chose to come back from law school in New York to practice in Southern California, and who along with her boyfriend who was to have surgery for a torn ACL the next day had taken me to dinner earlier in the week, left her recovering significant other to join her mother and me on my special day.  Now, I ask you, does it really matter if a greeting card company invented the event?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Finding the Right Balance

Have you ever experienced waking from a dream with the sensation of pulling out of a fall?  Not quite fully awake the feeling of falling abates replaced by an equilibrium. Even though your body lies atop a supportive mattress with a safe distance to the edge where a short, but real, fall could actually occur, breathing stabilizes and you feel relief because you found the right balance. If only life were so simple.
Our pool now sparkles with clear water.
I remember as a boy discovering a sign with a formula for achieving such balance. It read: sleep 8 hours, work 8 hours, fun and recreation 8 hours.  The sign was posted in some business establishments. Then, someone who thought he knew better than the person responsible for the original draft added, “but not the same 8 hours.”  Apparently, this person didn’t believe in multitasking.
World renowned counselor and soothsayer,
Senor Opus--created by Berke Breathed
When I was 8 years old I broke my leg. It was a corkscrew fracture that didn’t involve the shin or any surgery.  The young intern who worked with the specialist who put my leg in a cast was so impressive I decided I wanted to become a doctor. My mother was pleased. Not having all the information necessary to make a life changing decision of this magnitude my career path remained in tact until I reached high school and realized a quality grasp of chemistry was required to attend medical school, which unfortunately is a precursor to becoming a doctor. It made little sense to me since no chemicals were involved in the setting of my leg. Not only did I not make it through chemistry in either high school or college, but I struggled in biology, another requirement for those medical schools. Again, I contend there were no plants or animals involved in the doctoring of my injury. My plan was thrown asunder.  A more determined personality might have charged on in pursuit of a career in medicine recognizing the imbalance between the instructional design and the actual practice. Many people I know consider “bedside manner” an important trait in a physician. I am certain I could have weighed heavily on the attributes needed to project a congenial bedside manner as a means of countering my limited proficiency in chemical and biological applications to bring the right balance to my career.  Unfortunately, especially for my mother, I lacked such vision.

Some of the chemicals used to achieve the right balance.
This week I did however find a way to find the right balance to rid myself of a problem that so many of us encounter lurking in our backyard.  Yes, I’m talking about algae in the pool.  While striving to find a balance between the amount of time I spend writing, sleeping and recreating, I noticed the little yellow creatures that cling to the plaster at the bottom of our pool were not being sucked up by our robot.  My lovely wife, Debbie, who is dying to get in the pool and exercise her broken ankle, told me I could call upon Paul, our former employee who prior to our retirement came by weekly to clean our pool.  Possibly influenced by watching the first few episodes of Breaking Bad I determined to take the challenge of ridding our environ of the invaders and restoring the right balance to the water.  After a short lesson on chlorine and phosphorous at our local pool store and consulting my aura counselor—Senor Opus,  I proceeded to brush the sides of the pool, run the pump through a backwash procedure, recharge my filter with DE and add copious amounts of chemicals to the cloudy water.  Amazingly, it worked. Order has been restored and I have achieved the right balance. Now, if I can just do the same for the rest of my life the direction I am headed may appear as clear as the water in the pool.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

An End to Liberalism

When I was in college during the Vietnam War era, those protesting the conservative tradition of fighting for your country whether it is right or wrong were labeled liberals.  As I grew older and looked at definitions both in and outside the dictionary, it became apparent liberal also meant a broad or generous application of some commodity or resource.  Conservatives proclaimed those with a liberal agenda wanted to “tax and spend” copious amounts of other people’s money.
It's just yellow laces.
Maybe, it will start a new tradition.
Recently, the need to end liberalism came into sharp focus when my old college roommate, himself a college liberal, noted I was a conservative but just wasn’t willing to admit it, yet. Looking around and assessing my lifestyle I concluded he was absolutely right. Outside of yellow laces in my black gym shoes and a pair of brown and gray saddle shoes my wardrobe is very mundane.  To be honest, I wore a tie nearly every day of my teaching career, a tradition that died out a long time ago.
Really, they're just wingtips
with suede.
Although I enjoy traveling and eating out, we spend most nights preparing our own meals and clearing off our own table. I drive one of two cars the newest of which is 13 years old. No matter how open-minded I attempt to be I do not partake in anything where copious amounts of something are consumed.
I guess I am conservative.  That’s why I’m so concerned about the liberalism showing up in what had previously been deemed conservative individuals.  Probably, nowhere is it more evident than in the political process itself.  For years good solid conservative citizens have fought against the liberal practice of forming special interest groups to raise millions of dollars to buy elections and influence legislative agendas. They claimed unions and other communist infested organizations perpetuated this practice, which was antithetical to democracy. Yet, it is these same conservative citizens who fought to get the Citizens United policy of money as free speech that led to these well-intentioned conservatives spending liberal amounts of money to purchase elections.
For most of our country’s history these conservative individuals have fought to keep federal money and policy out of education, demanding local autonomy. Today, some of these same conservatives want funds at all levels to support a voucher system that would allow the free flow of liberal amounts of money to flow to private and parochial schools.

How liberal can you be with $18 in your pocket?
Finally, the one item that concerns me the most about the move of conservatives to more liberalism is their desire to move from a platform of law and order to one supporting the proliferation of weapons.  Not only have more states broadened their policy toward concealed weapons, but also the number of places where a person can wear his gun on his hip has risen to a point that exceeds the gunslinger days of the Wild West.  My college roommate explained to me that when everyone has a gun there is less chance anyone will attempt to use it.  Knowing how well everyone drives, supposedly after having to learn how to operate a vehicle and passing a stringent test, I’m not sure I would want to be inside a store, restaurant or bank when somebody purposefully stepped forward to rob the place and a bunch of well-intentioned citizens drew their weapons and attempted to apprehend the perpetrator.  My sense is the liberal amount of gunfire would probably result in a liberal amount of injuries.  It’s time to put an end to liberalism.