We live in Wisconsin and it is the day after the Packers failed to advance in their run for back to back Super Bowl wins. So let's not talk football. Or on the other hand, Let's Talk Football! Football indeed, but not the pro's, oh no. Let's talk about College Football.
As My son continues his Junior year in High School, the search for a college begins. Well, at least that is what you would think, but in his mind, the search is over. He clued me in on his parameters for a school late this past summer: Pretty far from home, warm weather, and a Division I school with great sports teams. I knew where this was headed. He and I have traveled to Oklahoma and Texas for the past five years over spring break to give him an early start on the motocross season.
Of all the places we have visited on those trips. none is more a true home to motocrosss, than Stillwater Oklahoma. Just by chance this is also the location of Oklahoma State University. It is a great school, has excellent programs in his area of study, and yes, it is a Division I school with excellent teams. Football, Basketball and Wrestling top the list. So on a three day weekend fall trip, we did the power drive from Northern Wisconsin to O.S.U. for a little motocross riding, and if my son has his way, his one and only campus visit. He was bent on it before we got there and nothing we experienced changed his mind. To the contrary, the campus is gorgeous, the staff and students excellent hosts and the facilities, well, flat out amazing. T.Boone Pickens, oil billionaire, is an alum of O.S.U. and has dug deep in his pockets to support his alma mater. One of the tour highlights is the football stadium. Seating 60,000 plus, this is exactly what he was looking for; the quintessential college experience. Huge crowds, a winning team, marching band and all.
The trip was a total success, and academically, it works very well, acceptance seems likely and the costs; well let's just say we can get it done. Gulp. At years end we were able to watch the OSU Cowboys win over Stanford in an absolutely crazy overtime game. He didn't just enjoy that game. He climbed right on in; might as well have been there. Just over a year, one last year, then off to college he goes, I'll be sad to see him go, but I am so proud that he is ready.
I was out in the driveway today working on an enclosed trailer we use for hauling dirt bikes. It was time to finally put in those fluorescent lights I have been promising my son for so long. Like most projects, I was getting totally wrapped up in my work. It’s almost a zen state; at one with the task at hand; the clock irrelevant. What’s the next step, ah, there is just the tool I need. The radio is blasting my favorite classic rock station and I am “right in tune” to the strains of The Who singing “teenage wasteland”. The smell of fresh cut grass fills the air, along with that musty dampness that follows a couple of days of uninterrupted rain. The sun peeks out now and then. Then it hits me, what am I now, fifty seven? Hmmmm, what’s the deal? I remember days just like this when I was in my teens; loving my music, engrossed in what I was doing, my mind lost in the combination. I don’t really feel any different now than I did then. Seriously; and yes, I know the bones creak a bit, and I sure get sore more quickly, but at the core of it, I really feel the same. Just as focused, just as into the music. The work, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and most importantly how I feel at the moment… all pretty much the same. So there it is, I’m in tune, right in tune, just like I have been for a very, very long time.
In the sixties, the Beatles sang: “Here Comes the SUN.” I am happy to say that after “a long cold lonely winter,” that the sun has indeed arrived. After months of pining (and yes I have to admit, whining), the SUN has finally arrived. The grass is green, the buds on the trees are beginning to open, and the birds sing endlessly from dawn to dusk. Best of all, the temperatures up here on the frozen tundra of northern Wisconsin have finally risen to the point of opening the doors and windows. Ah, the sweet delight of a home filled with fresh spring air. As much as the winter wears me down more with each passing year, the blossoming of spring can only be truly experienced if you have suffered through that “long cold lonely winter.” The longer and colder the winter; the sweeter the spring that follows. It snowed a few last flakes here, just this past Sunday, but today, ah, today; sun, birds, green grass, and lovely fresh spring air.
There is such a feeling of exhilaration when you step outside on these early spring mornings, the smells, the sounds, and that lovely warmth of the sun, high in the sky. The end of the school year is only a few weeks off, and although it was a bit frosty, we have already enjoyed our first camping trip of the season. Summer trips, hikes in the woods, holiday weekends and barbecues, lie ahead . Our enjoyment is all the sweeter, knowing as we do, that winter follows. We have to grab our warm, wonderful spring and summer and squeeze everything out of it. Up here, we don’t take a lovely day for granted, we bask in it, we cherish it, and we remember it fondly during the following winter.
Recently I shared, “I got the fever.” Now the tables are turned. The fever has been replaced by a big chill, a chill that has shaken me to the core. Let me explain. There are five of us in our family: Me, my wife Deb, Our Daughters Anika and Alyssa, and our son Erik. Just a couple weeks ago, we celebrated our 25th anniversary and on that occasion I took time to reflect on the past quarter-century.
I realized quickly that we are very near the end of the road of raising kids, at least in the traditional sense. I know that you never really retire from being “Mom” or “Dad.” I get that, I really do. However, our oldest, Anika, is almost done with college and has a great career already in the works. She is done in one month. Alyssa, second born has been back at home for a while, but has plans to move soon. Last but not least, Erik our youngest and “trailer child” is sixteen. He is working two part time jobs and as a sophomore, will be done with high school in two short years. They drive, they work, they have relationships; in short, their lives are busy and full. As for Deb and I, the empty nest is imminent, lurking around the corner like a cold dark storm, ready to sweep in and chill us to the bone.
There is such satisfaction in seeing our chldren move through life, sharing their hurt and pain, reveling in their successes. It’s been that way for the past twenty five years, but not for much longer. This impending change is a big one. I long for those years when the kids were younger, and I was less gray. So here I am, feeling a bit cold and lonely. As with all change, the future will bring us wonderful things: trips to visit our children, and someday, grandchildren. “Good night honey.” “Goodnight daddy, I love you.” “I love you too honey, I love you too.”
As a child of the sixties, I was, as were most, sucked into the counter-culture. I didn’t fall irrevocably into that endless pit of quicksand, but for a time, I “checked out” of mainstream America. A major part of the “movement” was to disregard all that our elders had to teach us.
Our government, our parents, tried and true institutions that were the foundation of our society were ignored and in some quarters, reviled. They had been defined as “the system,” the enemy. We, trapped within the confines of our tiny inexperienced and undeveloped minds, were sure that we had all the answers; how wrong, how sad. What a waste of a generation.
I have finally reached that point in life where I get it. It being why one should respect their elders; the truth in the concept is evident in virtually all tribal cultures to this day, and was until the sixties, practiced in western society. As I talk with my two now adult daughters and my teenage son, I am amazed at how few questions they ask fall out of the scope of my knowledge and experience. The tables are turned, I am now a member of that “older” generation; one of those that historically earned the respect of those younger.
The dictionary definition of WISDOM is: 1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. 2. Common sense; good judgment. 3a. The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge. b. Wise teachings of the ancient sages.
I think they dig a little too deep on that one. My definition of wisdom is simple and to the point:
“Wisdom is knowledge gained through observation and experience.”
A lot of the wisdom I have gained can be expressed in a few short phrases:
“Screw me once, shame on you, screw me twice, shame on me.”
“Assume nothing, trust no one, not even yourself.”
“That which does not kill you makes you stronger.” Nietzsche (very old, but very true)
“I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I experience and I understand.” Confucius
“Life is what you make it.” Art Erickson (my father in law)
“You are above average, you can achieve whatever you want.” My dad, and most dads
The part I really didn’t get about respecting your elders when I was young, is that a lot of that knowledge gained comes at a price: Grief, pain, loss and at times, suffering.
Part two of the price is aging; that slow process of decline in vision, hearing, strength and health. I am still young enough that I am in pretty good shape, but the word “arthritis” has become part of my daily vocabulary.
So in the long and the short of it here is the message: My generation squandered the opportunity to learn from the wisdom of others, we forged ahead, often recklessly, without the benefit of the experienced guiding hands of those who had lived before us. What fools we were. It took a long time to unlearn those lessons of the sixties and come to this simple undying truth:
“Respect your elders; they have for you a wealth of knowledge, respect and love. Through you they achieve immortality as they impart those precious bits of themselves to you.”
So sorry for the long delay dad, but I get it now. I finally get it.
Yes it’s that time of the year. Turkey Day, Thanksgiving, That one day of the year that we gorge ourselves on the traditional feast. Front and Center: The Bird!! The American tradition is of course, Turkey dinner with all the trimmings. The list, to be complete, must include: Turkey, Dressing, Mashed Pototatoes and Cranberries. Now from that basic list things get interesting depending on where in this great land you live and of course your own family traditions.
In the South for example, cornbread dressing, greens and more. In our neck of the woods, the upper Midwest, the dressing is a traditional stuffing seasoned with saqe, and we all seem to also add some form of yams or sweet potatoes as well. Our family also holds to a pretty common tradition of the classic green bean casserole: French cut canned green beans mixed with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and topped with Durkee’s fried onions.
Many families, ours included, like to add some of their own special dishes. My wife’s family is Swedish, so we always have Swedish potato sausage (if you’ve never had it, it is very good) and the classic Swedish protein, Swedish meatballs. Too many cooks? Not with a menu as large as ours, not at all. We have always followed the American tradition of Pot-Luck style. Now for Thanksgiving, pot luck is a bit of a misnomer; for most families, as with ours, this is a regimented attack on the menu as planned. All duties are doled out, such that the complete meal comes from far and wide with MANY cooks, and no duplicated dishes. One special item on our menu, a perennial favorite is corn pudding. Corn pudding? What the heck is that? Well, I had never heard of it let alone tried it until my first Thanksgiving with my wife’s family 25 years ago. Think cream corn; pudding style. Rich, warm, silky smooth and very, very tasty. Aunt Ollie was the designated cook for corn pudding for decades before I joined the clan, and she continued her duties perfectly, well into her eighties. After her passing, the corn pudding faltered a bit. A few took a stab at it, and at times the no duplicate dishes rule was violated. After a time, our niece Jenny took over and mastered this unique dish. Firm yet smooth and creamy, with the top browned just so. Perfection in every bite. For all the plenty of this traditional day; food, family and football, it is that first mouthful of corn pudding that defines the day; the holidays are here at last. Yummmmm.
It has often been said that America has a "love affair" with the automobile. I would put to you that once we get behind the wheel and in traffice, love is the farthest thing from our collective minds. The relationship between people and their cars is a lot like people and their pets. We tend to personify them and make them extensions of ourselves. Up until about a year ago I drove a full sized pick up truck full time. Then I got a job with a serious commute and it made sense to buy a nice small fuel efficient car. I picked a Honda Fit. Not only is it small, it's design makes it look even smaller. I was unprepared for the change in my social place on the highway as I drove my shiny new car off the dealer lot. The first thing I noticed is that there was a sudden increase in tailgating. I mean like every car behind me. If I was in the left lane moving with prevailing traffic, I would still have someone right on my bumper. Not only that, the bigger the vehicle behind me, the more aggressive the tailgating. I didn't get it right away, you know, the thought that driving behavior changes not only based on what someone is driving, but also how they relate on the road to vehicles of different types. I have also found that I am the target for being cut-off if leave a space between me and the car ahead more than a foot longer than the offending vehicle. I have learned to follow rather closely in rush hour traffic so as to not be passed ten times per mile. I drive that way I always have, even in my small car, and when cut-off, I tend to return the favor. This is very interesting in that the size and value of the vehicle that has done me wrong has a great deal to do with their response to my returning the favor. Suffice it to say, when I take my little car and swing in front of the semi that just nearly ran me over and "'hit the hooks" the driver's response is to threaten to run me over with his bumper on mine, horn and bright lights flashing. In the words of Mr. Spock, "fascinating". It seems that we equate behavior on the road with the vehicle and not the person. On the highway, size does matter. Part two of this equation is "value" as in cost of the car. How dare you drive in front of my: Lexus, Accura, Infinity, Cadillac, Beemer or Mercedes with your tiny little S__t Box!!! The arrogance and disregard for others on the highway is almost uniform with this crowd. As though their ability to "afford" their luxury car sets them above us all, above things like using a turn signal, ever... These behaviours seem to know no racial, ethnic or gender bounds. A trucker drives like a trucker, and little cars are driven, well, like little cars. Beemer drivers are as arrogant on the road as they tend to be walking down the street. The behavior on the road is just an exagerated version of who we are. I like to guess type of vehicle a person drives. It isn't hard to get right. I'm getting pretty good at it. Timid on the street, timid on the highway, likely driving a sub-compact. Worn blue jeans, flannels and a John Deere baseball cap, semi or pick up. . The alarming thing is that on the street or in the grocery store, we all tend to behave a lot more the same. Get out on the road and our rolling cubicles separate us from those around us. Inside those walls of anonymity we become a caricature of ourselves. The timid, are even more so. The most aggressive? Let's just say it ain't pretty.
My son, our youngest is taking his driver’s test in a couple of weeks. How can this be? Wasn’t the summer after sixth grade just a few months ago? “Let’s do the Time Warp Again…” Where did those years go, when he could walk under the overhang on the kitchen island without bumping his head? That wasn’t so long ago was it? “Let’s do the Time Warp Again…”
For me, as a dad, the drivers license is the defining moment; the end of dependence. Each time it’s been a bittersweet event. Pride that my child, my son has conquered this milestone, moved one large step closer to manhood, and away from childhood. That’s all good right? Yes, all good, I won’t have to drop what I’m doing at inconvenient times to drop him off, or pick him up, or run him on errands, or a thousand other things.
But now, he’ll just do all that on his own; without us, without me. It’s all a natural progression towards adulthood and complete independence. Right?
“What I’d really like Dad is to borrow the car keys. See ya later can I have them please… and the Cat’s in the Cradle….”
His life will be fuller, his independence will grow, and well, we will spend less time together. I’ll miss that. I know I will. I hope he will too.
ENOUGH ALREADY!! We all just listened to an entire year of political commercials..... And now it just moves to Facebook? I can TiVo the commercials away... What do you do here? Suggestions? And by the way... If you check elections for the past half a century, this country is about fifty-fifty. You’re not gonna change any minds posting the party line right or left here. Anyone wanna talk football?
A good number of folks that regularly appear on my wall have been posting all sorts of political commentary. What I find interesting in this is that their postings are usually an exact or nearly exact regurgitation of one TV or Radio personality or another. Often, they will thank some such for “revealing the Truth” about one point or another. Invariably, if you do a little REAL homework, you will find that little of what you hear anywhere from anyone is grounded in the TRUTH.
Now this isn’t a matter of taking sides or professing a particular party affiliation. No, this is simply a matter of reading, researching on government websites that by law must post the facts as they are and accepting that simple truth.
This parroting of stories without any Real knowledge has become rampant.
It was Ben Franklin who said: “Believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.”
There are no truer words for the times if you include the reading of “articles, blogs and commentaries” as that which you hear, and of course television as part of what you see.
These rigid stances based on beliefs in party line are so far from what most of us believe. If we talk, one on one, issue by issue, you will find that we agree on about eighty percent of things; eighty percent of things about which we know the hard truth.
We have become so inundated with sound bites and talking points, that we rarely look any deeper, and just take what we are fed at apparent face value. We glom onto our favorite: Columnist, blogger, anchor, commentator, or talk show host, and assume that all we see, read and hear is the truth.
Market share and ratings are what drive our “information train” these days. “The Colbert Report and the Daly Show” have become the primary news source for many of us… REALLY? You think I am kidding? Just ask around. What was once news, is about income, profitability and I repeat, ratings.
A relentless trend in all of this, is the never ending election cycle. Years ago, there was a “Campaign Season.” These seasons were one half, or even one third of what they are today. It now is literally never ending. Last week, ON ELECTION NIGHT, the jousting began. Who is presidential timber? Who will they choose for running mates? If the election (2012) were held today who would win such and such race??
For me, this says it all:
“There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief…”
Every four years, we here in America, suffer the onslaught of information that accompanies the impending fall election. Now it seems, we are getting the same major onslaught of political ads and partisan rhetoric for this mid-term election. Now realize that this is an election for Representatives and Senators at the national level as well as local and state races. No presidential or vice-presidential candidates. That said, the commentary and commercials have been flying not only at the state and local level, but at the national level. I will borrow a phrase from Dickens here: Bah HUMBUG!!! I have come to realize that what we see on TV, hear on the Radio and read in our papers (the few of us that still subscribe) regarding politics is ALL so laden with slant and spin, that you just have to turn it all off. Turn it off NOW!!! Enter Tivo. This is the coolest thing since sliced bread (whatever that means) or at least since Color TV. Here is what I suggest. Fast forward every political commercial, and use that downtime during your favorite show to do a little research on the folks who would have us hire them to run our country. Don't forget that not-so-small fact. These would be "leaders" of the free world, work for us. So let's act like bosses. Would you hire someone to babysit your kids without checking them out thoroughly, or at least getting awesome references form a trusted friend? Of course not. You and I exercise due diligence in our private and business lives, but when faced with the most important duty of any citizen of this great nation, we defer to Madison Avenue blather. So, if you don't have Tivo, get it. Then you have no excuse for voting without good information. We are so quick to say "I just don't have time for that." "I trust so-and-so the news anchor..."" REALLY? Would you trust them to pick your babysitter? I thought not. Lots is at stake in any election. Don't just show up and vote based on the mutual mud slinging and misdirection, rather, inform yourself. Find out how these people vote on issues important to you. This info is available on all sorts of site, like the congressional record. A side benefit to Tivo... NO MORE GEICO COMMERICALS!!!