- Radioman Second Class Michael Scanlon and Airman Electricians Mate Second Class Arthur Fertig (ranks were as of 1984). Thank you both for doing your jobs and never allowing me to give up on myself.
- Thank you to all the wives, girlfriends, mothers, and other loved ones who provided cookies and other treats to the entire company. Unless you have been through boot camp, you have no idea how such a gesture made the experience bearable.
- Thank you to everyone who sent letters offering encouragement and love. If you currently have a friend, son, daughter, spouse or other loved one in boot camp, keep the letters and cookies coming in.
- Thanks to my closest ally in boot camp: Illinois resident Mike Nosek. Mike was a newlywed at the time whose daughter was born midway through boot camp. Thank you for everything, Mike.
- Last, but certainly not least, thank you to all who experience boot camp before me and after me. Whether you are on the front line overseas or in a cushy desk job at some skate military installation, our freedoms are protected by your service.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Fatherhood has been very rewarding to me over the years. I have four great kids: a 20 year old son, a 19 year old daughter, a 17 year old daughter, and a 15 year old son. Over the course of my writing, I have easily made reference to any one of these four great kids. After all, parenting is like being on a roller coaster. Sometimes, it’s a great thrill. Sometimes, it gets a bit scary. Every once in a while you may even get nauseous from the experience. But at the end of the day, I can remember it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
For this writing, I am going to focus on my baby girl, 17 year old Brianna. Brianna and I have been through some exciting twists and turns on the metaphorical roller coaster. When she was barely a year old, she had surgery to remove her tonsils and adenoids. She was just getting the hang of walking. I can close my eyes and still envision the event as clear as day. We took Brianna out of her hospital room and spent some time together in the solarium. Her mother would coordinate the IV tubing and pole while Brianna would take a few steps and stumble. She would then giggle and get back up again. After a few of these dry runs, I went across the room and knelt on the floor. Brianna gave me her bright babyish smile. She took very slow, deliberate steps across the room. With every step, her smile got bigger. She never stumbled once. She walked all the way across the room and into my arms.
Over the years since that event, I have seen Brianna go through a variety of changes. I have seen her go from being a mother to more than 20 dolls (that was a VERY lucrative Christmas for her) to a young lady who beams when she speaks about the 5th graders she got to interact with during an internship recently. I have seen her transition from a little girl learning her ABC’s to a high school senior planning toward a career in Elementary Education. One day, I was looking at a little girl singing in her school choir. I blinked my eyes and I heard the angelic voice of a 17 year old girl singing songs around the house. She has gone from a little girl who thought her Daddy hung the moon to a girl who is quick to assert that my essays are “SO dry”.
I spoke to a friend from high school recently and we were discussing the ages of our kids. I told him my “baby” is 15 years old. He told me his youngest is 8 years old and added “I can still swing her around.” Given the ages of my kids, if I tried to swing any of them, it would surely result in injury. I now get to add the experience of watching my daughter walk across a stage and accept her high school diploma. In accepting the diploma, she leaves behind 12 years of being a student. In the fall, she will prepare for more education so that she may become a teacher. She is no longer a little girl. But, she will always be my baby girl. I will always be the proud father who will gladly accept her into my arms.
Brianna, it has been a great roller coaster ride with you thus far. In the future, we will sometimes ride together. I may even want to insist on riding with you from time to time. Other times, you will not only ride without me but I won’t even be in the park with you. The ride will sometimes be scary, bumpy, or may even induce nausea. You’ll have to get off the ride, shake it off, and get back in line. In the end, you will have had an experience that no one can take from you. I love you very much and you make my heart swell with loving pride. Thanks for riding with me.
Friday, June 19, 2009
I have noticed that, as I have gotten older, there seems to be an entity that rears its ugly head more and more every year—the euphemism. By definition, a euphemism is the substitution of a word or phrase for a word or phrase that may otherwise be considered offensive or malicious. Synonyms for euphemism include: rewording, understatement, or code word. Another interesting synonym I ran across was "weasel word". I found this especially amusing because I tend to associate the word euphemism with another word—cowardice.
Euphemisms are put in place to "soften the blow". They are sometimes used out of political correctness. For example, you can look at a parking at a store that is designated as "handicapped" parking. However, the person in the car is referred to as "differently abled" or "physically challenged" or "that dude is about to get a $90 ticket for parking there". Some use euphemisms in a lame attempt to practice diplomacy. I am American by birth and Southern by the grace of God. I know and understand diplomacy. My mother had a Ph. D. in diplomacy. My mother could tell you to go to Hell and you'd pack a suitcase. Be not deceived, however. Telling your wife her jeans "shrunk in the wash" is not diplomacy. It is cowardice. Of course, that's easy for me to say. It's not MY wife.
However, more than any other environment, euphemisms pop up in the workplace like mushrooms after a bad rain. Some of these weasel words (I LOVE that term) are used in order to avoid civil liability. Other times, it is just an excuse for the corporate world to use its own jargon. After all, calling an ongoing process "evergreen" is roughly equivalent to a sailor calling a wall a bulkhead, right? And, of course, there are weasel words in the workplace used simply to avoid confrontation. That's right, cowardice shows up again. A manager giving an evaluation to a subordinate will not tell the subordinate that he (or she) is deficient in a given area, performs poorly, or stinks at his (or her) job. Instead, the manager will tell the subordinate that he (or she) has a "development opportunity". Mind you, if that subordinate fails to address said development opportunity, he (or she) shall be "relieved of his (or her) duties" in order to "better apply his (or her) skills in other areas of the open job market".
Alas, I was even victim to this myself. My job faced some economic cutbacks. This meant I succumbed to a layoff, a reduction in force, a corporate outplacing, a rebalance of the human capital. My services were no longer required. Mind you, my boss did not actually use any of those terms. He was very straightforward. He reluctantly told it like it was, without cowardice. Nonetheless, it was an uneasy experience when my wife walked into the house and said "What are you doing home so early?" My wife was very sympathetic and understanding. She said: "Let's put it this way: you were stressing about your contract ending in six weeks. You don't have to stress about that now". What can I say? My queen isn't a coward either.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
I have mentioned before that my Dad would take us to see minor league baseball games as a relatively inexpensive form of family fun. Due to the fact that I moved a lot as a kid, I saw a few minor league teams with my Dad. I got to see games with the Charlotte Orioles, Savannah Braves, and Columbus Astros (that's Columbus, Georgia). My Dad and I were even planning to attend an exhibition game between the Charlotte Orioles and the Baltimore Orioles in 1980. Sadly, our plans were dashed when the Major League Baseball folks went on strike. Shortly afterward, we moved from Charlotte to Savannah. We saw a few more games together before I graduated from high school.
Life went on for my Dad and me. Over the years that followed, I would join the Navy (and get out). I got married (twice). I also moved 1000 miles away from my home state of Georgia (also twice). I have welcomed four children into my life between 1988 and 1993. I have also bade several loved ones farewell (including my mother in 2006). Like many others in the world, I have tried to create memories with my wife and kids. I have also, like many others, tried to relive the great memories I had as a kid with my own kids.
Dad and I never went to another ball game together after I graduated high school. Stranger still, I spent more than 20 years living in the same city and never took myself or my family to a minor league game. This is in spite of the fact that I went to see the Atlanta Braves twice in 2007 with some extended family. This was just downright shameful. The Rochester Red Wings have some very distinguished alumni: Boog Powell, Cal Ripken (Junior AND Senior), Jim Palmer, and Mike Boddicker. One Red Wings Hall of Famer, Bobby Bonner, went from the Rochester Red Wings to the Baltimore Orioles to Zambia, Africa where he now serves as a missionary.
I looked at my wife one day and said "We should go to a Red Wings game". Next thing you know, my wife and two younger kids are joining me at Frontier Field. It was a nice cool summer evening. We bought programs. My wife bought pompoms (of all things). I couldn't believe they would actually sell pompom at a baseball game. I wasn't about to complain. I had been looking forward to this night for a while. We bought the obligatory soft ice cream in a helmet cup for the kids. We also bought drinks and the even more obligatory peanuts. The peanuts had been under a heat lamp. As I felt the heat from the bag, I felt that I was, at that very point, officially AT the game.
We had great seats 10 rows up from the field, between home plate and first base. I sat between my wife, Renee, and our daughter Brianna. Our son, Caleb, sat on the other side of Renee. The first inning had just started between the Rochester Red Wings and the Gwinnett Braves. Several innings passed and the Red Wings played to an enthusiastic crowd. At one point between innings, some Red Wings t-shirts were thrown into the crowd. I caught one and gave it to Caleb (it was too small to fit my "larger" frame). At another point between innings, The Red Wings Mascots (Spikes and Mittsy) threw foam balls into the crowd. I had my sights set on catching one to give to Brianna. I barely missed it and a gentleman behind me caught it. He graciously gave it to me to give to my daughter. Chivalry is not dead in Frontier Field.
Then there were the vendors. For the most part, the vendors were quite typical. They roved the stadium offering beer, peanuts, popcorn, and cotton candy. One vendor, however, was not so typical. He wore a Conehead cap on his head. If you had any doubt about his name, it was on his name tag and the back of his shirt: Conehead. I saw several patrons order beer to which Conehead enthusiastically served. "You got the Conehead guarantee. You'll NEVER get this beer for free". He then politely thanked his customer and went his way. One girl sitting near us seemed either fascinated or frightened by Conehead. Any time he walked near this little girl, her eyes followed him until he was out of eyeshot.
The Red Wings had some fine batters going up to the plate. We enjoyed cheering on center fielder Jason Pridie, catcher Drew Butera, and left fielder Dustin Martin. Most of all, Brianna and I especially enjoyed watching shortstop Trevor Plouffe. We would say his name and giggle whenever he went up to bat ("PLOOF" hee hee). The Red Wings had earned a lead in the score briefly. Not much later, the Gwinnett Braves got ahead of them. Still, there was hope that the Red Wings could regain their lead.
Then, at the top of the seventh inning, it happened. Gwinnett Brave right fielder Reid Gorecki hit a fly ball. As the ball reached the apex of its arc, the crowd let out an audible "OHHHHHHHH!" Exactly as our collective interjection predicted, the ball landed over the fence. Gorecki had hit his second home run of the night. This created an 8-6 lead from which the Red Wings did not recover. The game ended. Brianna acquired an autograph from Dustin Martin, Spikes, Mittsy, and Trevor Plouffe. Caleb also got his t-short autographed by Mr. Plouffe ("PLOOF" hee hee).
The night was capped off by a phenomenal fireworks display. A beautiful mosaic of colors lit up the sky as our ears were treated to classic top 40 tunes. After it was over we made our way to the minivan. Everyone told me they had a great time. Brianna kissed my cheek and told me it was worth skipping out on a senior night function. I had done it. I had taken one of my magic memories with my Dad and shared it with my family.
In closing, I want to thank my wife and kids for sharing this great night with me. I can't wait to do it again. Thanks to Spikes, Mittsy, Dustin Martin, and Trevor Plouffe for the autographs. Lastly, thanks to the Rochester Red Wings and the Gwinnett Braves for a great game. I look forward to seeing some of you in the majors someday. Y'all might be minor league players but there was nothing minor about that night.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Since the beginning of time, men have been performing feats and uttering phrases to impress women. While it is true that we (er…I mean they) do such things for a variety of reasons: affection, approval, another reason that would make this more alliterative but I can’t think of one; the truth is there is another driving factor. Yes, it is true that we (sorry…again, I mean they) do enjoy a friendly kiss on the cheek, a glowing smile, and a blushing expression of thanks. The truth is that men are looking to elicit a specific response — AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!
This starts very early in development. A little boy will enthusiastically walk into his house and present his mother with flowers. She immediately responds: “AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!” This makes the little boy’s day. It is clear that he did well to go to the old lady’s yard next door and acquire the same old lady’s prize winning flowers.
This develops even more when it is time for the now teenage boy’s first dance. He nervously walks into this date’s house and is greeted by the young lady’s parents. The young lad’s date enters the room looking more beautiful than anything his teenage eyes have ever witnessed. He then presents his lovely date with a corsage that his Dad was kind enough to pick up for him on the way home from work. The young lovely lass (and her mother) both exclaim: “AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!” Then he hears an additional response he has not previously heard: “That’s soooooooooo sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet!!!!” The young man knows he has done very, very well for himself.
The young man then grows into adulthood by the time he finds out that (according to Newton’s Law) there is an equally opposite response— the crash and burn. I’ll give you an example. Shortly after my wife and I first met, she was wearing this lovely floral dress. She had also just had her hair done. Looking at her made my heart flutter. I wanted to tell her how nice she looked. However, due to some apparent faulty wiring in my brain, I said: “I’m impressed”. I heard the sound of a B-1 bomber crashing into the ground. In spite of this, she married me two years later.
Let us now fast forward to our ninth wedding anniversary when I was purchasing some flowers. I explained to the cashier that my wife and I had four kids. Therefore, I was purchasing four bouquets. The plan was simple. As each of our four kids got off the bus from school, they would enter the house and present her with a bouquet and wish her a happy anniversary. Suddenly, a chorus of women throughout the store sang in perfect unison: “AWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!” I have overheard my wife tell that story to other women and get the same response.
The bouquet incident has inspired an idea. What if they came up with a device where I (again...I mean other guys) could tell if they were going to get the AWWWWWW response BEFORE they purchased an item. I now present to you my proposed infomercial for the AWWW Meter.
[Fade into interior of brightly lit department store. Two young men (late 20’s/early 30’s) are at adjacent checkout lanes. Both of the cashiers are young females.]
[Pan camera to cashier on the left. Customer 1 is wearing a sweater vest with a tie and tan khaki pants. He has brought to the checkout line: four bouquets of flowers, a bottle of wine, and 2 DVD’s}
Cashier 1: Well it looks like someone is setting the night up for romance.
Customer 1: Yeah, I’m a bit embarrassed actually. I am buying last minute stuff for my wedding anniversary. My wife and I have been married for 4 years today. So I got [shows each item to the camera as he lists them] 4 bouquets of flowers, a bottle of white wine, and her two favorite movies: “An Affair to Remember” and “Sleepless in Seattle”.
Both Cashiers [in unison]: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!! THAT’S SO SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!! [Both giving a glowing look at Customer 1]
[Customer1 smiles proudly]
[Pan camera to face Customer 2 and Cashier 2]
Cashier 2: Well, it looks like somebody has a relaxing night planned.
Customer 2: Yup, I have been planning this night for days. It’s my wife’s birthday. So I got [showing each item to camera]: a six pack of beer, a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, and this DVD of “9 ½ Weeks”. [Smiles proudly]
Both Cashiers: [in unison] OH, NOOOOOOOOO YOU DIDN’T!!!!!!!!!! [Both cashiers give a clearly disgusted look to Customer 2].
[Customer 2 quickly loses his smile and looks confused]
[Both Customers and Cashiers stop movement to imply a freeze frame but the characters should obviously fidget and blink ever so slightly].
Narrator: Has THIS ever happened to YOU? You go to make a special purchase for the special lady only to wind up in an ego-deflating crash and burn that puts you on the couch for a week. Well, my friend, that problem is gone FOREVER.
Customer 2: But HOW?
Narrator: I’m glad you asked, my clueless friend. What YOU need is The AWWW Meter.
Customer 2 and Both Cashiers: [in unison] THE AWWW METER??
Narrator: That’s right, The AWWW Meter. It looks just like a ball point pen. But it’s much more than that.
[Zoom to an unidentified hand demonstrating the product]
Simply take the AWWW Meter and point to the bar code of whatever you are looking to buy for your special lady. Click the top like a pen and a laser scans the bar code and performs a lightning quick analysis. The AWWW Meter will then give you the results. The meter can give you a good response.
[Off-screen hand scans a bouquet of flowers with the meter]
[Off-screen voice emanates from the meter]: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!! YOU’RE SO SWEEEEEEET!!!!!
Narrator: …or it can let you know are a bit off with your selection
[Off-screen hand scans an iron with the meter]
[Off-screen voice emanates from the meter]: OH, NOOOOOOOOO YOU DIDN’T!!!!!!!!!!
Narrator: So, with the AWWW Meter. You can get a present for that special lady without winding up in court dividing your assets.
Customer2: That’s great. Where can I get one?
Narrator: The AWWW meter can be purchased at your nearest convenience store, hardware store, or sporting goods outlet or you can dial 1-877-AWM-ETER and pay just $19.95 plus shipping and handling with your major credit card. Operators are standing by.
[Flash phone and price on screen with a blinking notice that operators are standing by].
[Both Customers and Both Cashiers give a bright sugary smile]
Customer 2: Wow, thanks. I’ll never make THIS mistake again.
[Fade to dim lighting]
[Scroll the disclaimer from the bottom of the screen to the top]
Narrator [speaking rapidly]: Never shine the AWWW Meter into someone’s eyes. The AWWW Meter may be confiscated by airport personnel. The AWWW Meter is not liable for loss sustained by the user due to misuse. The losses include: Attorney fees, therapy fees, temporary restraining orders of protection, and emergency room visits. You must be 18 or older to purchase the AWWW Meter. Void where prohibited by law.
[Fade to black]
So there you have my hypothetical creation that could prevent men everywhere from facing the crash and burn. I hope my wife reads this. Her eyes look so beautiful when the monitor shines in her eyes (You just said it didn’t you ladies?)