Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Howling At The Moon


There was a full moon last night for sure.


A lunar eclipse no less, and it was an amazing site to behold. And a great night to howl at the moon.

And my lovely wife Darlene and I did some howling.

I love to play pool. And this year I am the captain of my team in the league. Darlene spares in the league when someone can’t make it.

Last night was our last league play before the holidays, and Dave – a horse man in the area and an executive in the local Legion – put on a nice dinner for the players and the spares. We had been looking very forward to this night, to the point where Darlene’s brother Glenn would come up later and drive us home.

Before play we had a very nice lamb dinner, and a few beers.

And then we got down to the business of play for the night.

I played poorly – winning only one of my four matches. And another league player was unable to get there on time – stuck in traffic on business – so Darlene played in his place.

But the fun didn’t start until league play was done.

The tables were opened up for free play, so many of us stuck around to play.

Darlene and I teamed up to play Dave and Ken – a fair player on my team.

We’ll play for a case of beer”, Dave said to Darlene.

A case of beer? How about a drink?” she replied.

No, a case of beer”.

And play started, and they cleaned a majority of their balls off the table.

That’s a case of beer each you know”, said Dave, as his partner went to shoot the eight ball with most all of our balls still on the table.

I looked over at Darlene and you could see the wheels in her head working to calculate where the eighty dollars would come from to buy these two guys a case of beer each.

But Ken missed the eight ball.

And the balls were nicely set for me to make a nice run – and midway through the run, I hooked myself behind the eight ball and my only shot was to hit the cue ball from near a corner two rails around the table to strike the five ball into the side pocket.

Five in the side”, I called to the group. I could feel their smirks as I lined up the angle.

The cue ball travelled into both rails and hit the five at just the perfect angle to send the five ball in the side pocket.

I let out a southern whoop, and pumped my fist like Tiger Woods sinking a twenty five foot put to take a lead in a major.

Did he call that!?” asked Dave.

He did indeed”, said Ken.

So you know I was kidding about the case of beer right”, Dave was looking at Darlene.

Just for beers from the bar”, replied Darlene.

I like fine imports from Belgium and Ireland, Dave”, I chimed in.

I sank the eight ball, and the beers arrived at our table as the pool table was racked for a two out of three game rematch.

This time Darlene went on the run, and left Dave stuck on a far rail between our two stripped balls. Dave picked up a rake to reach for the shot – and the rake slipped and hit one of the striped balls. He tried again to line up the shot, but his cue stick hung up on the rake and it slipped to slightly touch the cue ball enough to constitute a shot.

Dave threw the rake to the ground, and called it a very bad name.

But that was not enough, as I tapped in a stripe to leave me a close shot at the eight for the game.

Dave went over and picked up the rake he tossed and mumbled loudly some bad words about how bad the cue stick was, snapped it in half over his knee, opened the back door and threw it into the snow with a move one might confuse with an Olympic discus thrower.

The next set of beers arrived at the table.

The pool table was racked up for the next game.

This time Darlene sank the eight in the corner for the third win.

Now – to be sure – we were all having fun. And Dave was not really mad – he was – as my great Irish friend Ray would say – he was just having a good crack – a laugh.

But the others in the league who hung around to keep playing on the other table were a little scared. Dave is a big guy – as nice a guy as you will find – but he is big enough to be intimidating.

So like guys will do when they see a friend of theirs getting wound up, they all chimed in with the verbal jabs to wind him up further.

How ya playing Dave?” said one.

I think Fred’s wife just beat him again”, answered another.

It’s all in good fun” said Darlene in a calming tone.

Fun?” shouted Dave. “Which part of this humiliation do you think is fun”, shot back Dave.

Pretty much all of it”, I replied. “It’s not often that someone invites you out for a nice dinner and then lets you beat them at pool all night for free beer!

You needed your wife to beat me though. What kind of man does that make you?” said Dave – smiling underneath the false scowl.

The finest kind, Dave, the finest kind”, I replied with a smile.

Photo by Bettina Lair,  Copyright 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Finally Finding My Lost Christmas Spirit

It’s Christmas time again.

The house is decorated.

The snow keeps on falling.

And all the houses on the street are brightly lit with beautiful lights and decorations.

Norman Rockwell couldn’t have painted a prettier Christmas landscape then our little southern Ontario neighborhood on the Canadian side of the Detroit River.

Our house is all done up inside – the Christmas tree and the holly – the nativity scene set up above the foyer – and the Santa Claus and Rudolph looking out through a window high above the front door – as though they had forgotten where they parked the sled outside underneath the blanket of new fallen snow.

Ya know, Rudolph doesn’t usually actually come in the house with Santa”, I casually observed as my lovely wife Darlene pointed out her newest masterpiece to me.

Bugger, off”, replied my lovely wife. “I like it”.

I like it too.

I think I finally have the spirit.

Oh sure, there is the common yelling and screaming in our house – as there is in any Christmas house with two little girls all wound up in the excitement of Santa’s pending visit.

But no more so than any other house.

At least that’s what I tell myself as one of the girls comes to tattle on what the other has just done to them.

Christmas letters have been written and mailed out to Santa.

Presents have been bought and hidden throughout the house – or the Grandma’s house across town.

Secrets have been told in whispers and shared with others who need to know.

Mistletoe has been hung in strategic locations to encourage random kisses.

And now as Christmas approaches and the kids are out of school, and I am off work until midway through the first week of January, I am finally in the mood to actually embrace Christmas.

The Christmas dinners with colleagues at work and farewells with season greetings as co-workers disappear for the holidays have all taken place.

And now we ready ourselves – steady ourselves - for the final countdown to the craziness of the final days before Santa arrives.

The left over presents that still need to be bought.

The cookies and treats that still need to be baked to be added to the stockpile already placed neatly in decorative seasonal tins across the counters and tables in the Kitchen.

The wrapping and wrapping and more wrapping of presents in pretty papers left in the downstairs closet used only at this time of year.

Crazy.

And then there are the trips to the shopping malls.

I hate shopping malls.

I really hate shopping malls at Christmas time.

Waiting for distant parking spots in the most remote corners of the lot.

Walking through the crowded malls weaving through the traffic while wearing coats and sweaters and sweating profusely while wading through tiny isles to get a better look at gift ideas that don’t transpire into gift purchases.

The pressure. The frenzy. The riled and frayed nerves.

It’s all part of Christmas.

Our capitalistic view of spending that makes our western free-market society continue to work. Thank God for Christmas.

And through all of this – we do forget what this is really all about.

We forget the tidings of good cheer part of Christmas.

We forget the little baby born in a manger in Bethlehem part of Christmas.

We forget about the joy of being together part of Christmas – sometimes because we have spent so much time together through the year that we just drive each other nuts even more as the frenzy of the hype of Christmas hits full swing.

We forget about those important parts. Because the other stuff seems like so much more fun.

Pa rump a bum bum.

I can’t wait.

I can’t wait for all the family to arrive early Chsitmas afternoon, passing out the beers to the men folk and fancy drinks for the ladies. Gathering down by the fireplace with Christmas music playing and a couple games of pool or darts to put some friendly competition in the air.

I can’t wait.

It’s almost here. It just took me a while to catch the spirit.

So on behalf of myself and my family – we would like to extend all of our best holiday wishes to all of you and all of your families during this wondrous holiday season.

Christmas comes but once a year.

Pa rump a bum bum.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Being Remembered

There is nothing like a funeral to put you in mind of dying.

Especially the funeral you find yourself at when you do not know the person who died.

As you sit in the memorial service, packed with people you don’t know, talking about the accomplishments and good qualities of the man who died, you start to think.

Self-centered thinking.

Thinking about – when your time comes – who will be sitting in the audience at your memorial service. Who will speak on your behalf to express a lifetime worth of thanks to those you have known, respected, revered and loved throughout your life.

And how many people would there be?

Would the room be overflowing with people who respected, revered and loved you?

As I sat in the funeral parlor’s memorial service room listening to all the great things being said about our neighbor Ed, I felt bad that I did not ever make the effort to meet this man. I didn’t know anything about Ed until he passed.

And I felt very guilty.

I can do better than that.

Another person I could have learned from slipped right by me.

Another missed opportunity.

And now it’s too late.

Ed was a musician. That much I knew. As part of the therapy to recover from a stroke he had over the summer, Ed frequently played the bongos. You could hear them over the fence as we sat in the summer time heat in our back yard on the deck by the pool.

And Ed was very good. We would actually turn the radio off and just listen to Ed.

And that is all I knew of Ed.

I rarely saw Ed, only the odd time to see his head poking above the fence when he cut the lawn in the summers before his stroke.

But Ed made me do some big thinking today.

Ed died of a massive coronary heart attack last week. We awoke one cold rainy morning to the red and white and blue lights of ambulances and fire trucks and police cars shining through the sliding glass door that leads to our back yard.

Ed left this world early.

And when you see people leave this world early, you can’t help but reflect on the state of your own lifestyle.

I smoke.

I am over weight.

I have the odd drink.

I cannot run up the stairs. But I have been taking the stairs more often at work, all three flights – to go out and have a smoke.

Now as I sit a year and a handful of months from reaching the age of fifty, I take this thought seriously.

I have two little girls, and a lovely wife, and wonderful home.

And what would my faithful black lab Suzy ever do without me.

Does age quicken its pace to catch up to us? Or do we simply slow down to let age catch up?

And what have I really done to inspire people to take time out of their day – spend an otherwise luxurious Saturday morning off work – to come to a memorial service for my passing?

I remember when my Dad passed away in September of 1990. He and my Mom had moved to Pensacola for nicer weather after Dad fell ill in 1983. No family lived in Pensacola, and his sickness did not lend itself to a social lifestyle. So when Dad passed, a man of significant status in his professional life, a man who many have told me inspired them with his leadership – there was no memorial service. Just a brief visitation of the shell of my Dad lying on a gurney as my Uncle Fred, Aunt Sheila, my brother Paul and his family, and my Mom and I stepped in for a few final moments alone with him, before he was to be cremated.

When my Uncle Fred passed two decades later, the small country church in Ilderton, Ontario was overflowing with people. And wonderful words were said. The same happened when my Aunt Sheila passed only a few short years later.

But that being said, the most memorable experience of my life came the summer following my Dad’s passing. On my Mom’s first visit back to Canada since Dad passed, she brought Dad’s ashes with her.

My Uncle Fred and Aunt Sheila, my Mom and I hopped in Fred’s big white Crown Victoria and we took a drive with ashes. We went to the beautiful little town of Goderich on Lake Huron. There was a long point there with a lighthouse on the end of it.

Dad used to love to sit and look at this sight as the sun set.

So we marched out there in the mid-evening and we spread Dad’s ashes around the point by light house.

It was a beautiful summer night. The kind Dad loved.

And as we pulled out of the parking lot of the old fashioned little town with freshly cut grass and trimmed hedges, we passed a sign pasted to a wooden telephone pole.

Steak and Lobster Dinner

A local church was having a steak and lobster dinner.

Steak and Lobster was Dad’s favorite meal.

So we pulled in. And we ate the most perfectly barbecued steaks, and savored the most sumptuous lobster tails drenched in butter that one could ever hope to find in any restaurant. And we sat and talked about how Dad would have found this to be a perfect end to a perfect day of sailing.

It were as though Dad had held that dinner just for us.

So in the end, I only hope that those who might take the time to remember me have such fortune as we did that beautiful summer’s night in Goderich remembering my father.

Who could ask for more than that?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Five Tips For A Positive Mindset

Keeping yourself in a positive frame of mind is hard … if you let it be.
 
I wrestle with it every day.

I want to be in a positive mindset, but sometimes – the path of least resistance leads me to be negative.

Skeptical.

Cynical.

It’s easy to be cynical. The world is full of so many frustrations.

But when I am fortunate enough to catch myself red-handed at being negative, I do have a couple of tricks that help me turn my disposition around.

Everyone benefits when you’re in positive state of mind. But no one benefits more than you yourself.

The real trick is to put yourself in a mood conducive to positive thinking. A good mood. These five tips will help you through this process:


1. Smile

Yup, that’s it. Simply force yourself to smile. In the same way you force yourself to get out of bed in those wee early mornings of winter where all you want to do is continue sleeping in the warm comfortable bed rather than put your feet on that cold floor and start your morning preparations so that you can meet whatever obligations face you for that day.

Smile. Like stretching. Hold it for a minute – square on your face. As your mother always told you when you were little about making scary faces at people “your face will freeze that way”.

I promise you that after a minute of forcing a smile, you will actually feel like smiling.

Don’t ask me why. Why isn’t important. Just do it.


2. Laugh

In the same way you forced yourself to smile, just break out in a forced laugh. It works the exact same way. And it’s good for you to. Nothing to laugh about? Laugh anyways. Just do it.

Granted – you do have to be careful about where – you can’t really just break into a laugh if you’re in a meeting and being told information you don’t like. But once you have a moment alone – break out into a good hard laugh.

A word of warning though - you should never do it in the washroom stall in a public bathroom either.

Once you have gotten past points 1 and 2, step three actually comes more easily.


3. Listen to yourself

Absolutely. Hear your own words (or thoughts in your head) and ask yourself “If I were someone else – would I want to be around me right now?”.

This usually is enough for me to shake myself out of the negative mindset. But if not, I move on to step 4.


4. Go find somebody else and tell them a joke

Anyone who works with me has probably experienced this. Suddenly I will simply appear at a colleague’s desk or office … and I will tell them a joke. They often look at me strangely and I walk away … because usually I am the only one who enjoys my jokes.

Did you hear about the pirate filing his health benefit claims?

After being on the high seas for several years, he arrives home and heads to his insurance company to pay his medical bills.


“I see you have a hook for a hand, how did that happen?” asks the adjudicator.


“Arrgggh … I was in a sword fight, and the bugger cut it off”, answered the Pirate.


“I see you have a peg for a leg?”


“I had to walk the plank and a shark bit it off”, replied the Pirate.


“hmmm, I see…. And the patch on your eye?”.


“Seagull poop”, explained the pirate.


“Seagull poop? I didn’t know it was dangerous enough to cause you to lose an eye?”


“Argggh … it’s not”, explained the Pirate. “It was the first day with me new hook!”


5. Turn obstacles into challenges

This is the tough one. This is the one that requires the most practice. This deserves to be the topic of a whole book. I’m certain many volumes have been written on this topic. But in short, the times that cause us the most frustration are those times where we feel we are not in control of meeting our obligations. You can identify these situations because you find yourself using the term “they”.

When you find the cause of your problems appear to be “they”, then it is time to empower yourself. You need to use instead terms like “I” or “we” to regain control.

Once you catch yourself saying something like “They really messed this up”, you need to answer that sentiment by, “here is what Iwe are going to do to resolve this problem”. Then list your options as to what you can do to remedy the situation.

Don’t let “they” put obstacles in front you. Instead accept that obstacle as a challenge that you will address.

It is amazing how assuming control of a situation injects a positive confidence into your mindset.

In short, the first four are easy. And they do work. They can be applied at the drop of a hat. But the fifth tip is really more of philosophy that I am simply sharing with you. Should you choose to attempt to turn obstacles into challenges, understand that it is an effort you will likely not achieve perfectly the first time you attempt it. But with practice … you will find … over time … your thinking start to change.

Negative people blame others for their woes.

Rightly or wrongly. It doesn’t matter.

But a person successful in maintaining a positive mindset is one that accepts the cards they are dealt, and takes control of how the hand will be played.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Pint Of Discussion

It’s funny how rumors start.


Last week I got to take a ride in an ambulance.

A lower intestinal infection had rendered me pasty white and my blood pressure very low. My emergency room nurse and lovely wife Darlene unfastened the cuff around my arm and called the ambulance.

Two pretty girls in EMS uniforms showed up minutes later.

I had spent the night playing darts in the local Legion, and playing pool afterwards.

When I came home, my lovely wife and I had a quick meal of what I like to call kill me dead food – a bowl of macaroni and cheese and a beef and cheese burrito.

The next thing I knew I was laying on our bed and the two pretty EMS girls were explaining my options.

You can lay here and die, I guess – if that’s what you really want to do … or you can let us take you for a ride into the hospital”, explained the very professional blonde.

So I got up and walked out to the ambulance.

I climbed up and into the big square bus and laid down on the gurney.

I really was very weak, and still very pasty in complexion, and the pillow on the gurney looked very inviting.

At the hospital, the pretty EMS attendants lowered me out of the back of the ambulance in the gurney and wheeled me into the emergency room. We passed by the waiting room and into the back corridors where we found there were no beds available.

Somebody out there knew you”, the brunette EMS attendant said to me. “They were asking me if you were okay”.

Who was it?” I asked, turning to look to see.

Some dude”, said the blonde as she was working on lifting the back of my gurney to a sitting position.

Some dude?

What did you say?” I asked.

Nothing, patient confidentiality you know”, she smiled. “I ignored him”.

Am I okay?

We’ll find out shortly”.

Eight hours later, an elderly doctor came in to explain the results of my CT scan. I have a chronic condition that if controlled would be fine – but first this infection had to be dealt with.

And then we went home.

I had pills to take, and my doctor had told me not to eat any food until the infection cleared. I would know when the severe abdominal pain stopped.

But the rumors that sprang up about me were … well, alarming.

Some said I had a heart attack.

Others said I had a stroke.

And yet others claimed my lovely wife’s attempts to poison me had finally succeeded.

All I had was a flare up of an intestinal condition. Worrisome to me for sure … but many people suffer from much worse than what I did.

I did, over the summer, take pride in how much exercise I was getting. Darlene and I would walk for a couple of miles at a very quick pace.

That lasted for about a month.

Then summer was over.

And the golf clubs put away.

And the pool closed due to onslaught of falling leaves.

And life in the fall for our small family gets very busy.

I am still active though. Playing darts and playing pool in a league at the Legion.

I tend to lean towards “sports” to which you can consume beer while competing at the highest level. If you can’t have a beer while you’re doing it … it likely isn’t worth doing.

But getting old just plain stinks.

And I am now only a year or so away from turning fifty. My body no longer looks out for itself despite my vices.

Now my body depends on me to know better. And I have been letting myself down.

And so I found myself in an ambulance at two o’clock in the morning with two pretty EMS attendants playing loud dance music.

I don’t really have a taste for loud dance music.

I probably didn’t need the ambulance. I could have simply drove into the hospital and sat in the waiting room. I probably should have, in retrospect. It sounds like I would have had a friend there to talk to, and to explain to that I wasn’t having a heart attack.

I still don’t know who that was in that waiting room that recognized me.

But this explaining to everyone of my intestinal infection has been – well … tiresome.

At first I was flattered that people thought enough of me to care about my condition. You know … to show concern for my well being.

That’s nice of them. And I do sincerely appreciate it.

But then it dawned on me, it was likely more a case of having another discussion point for the Legion table full of patrons and members who were looking for something to talk about.

I had been reduced to a mere discussion point.

A topic that would keep people entertained around a table for yet another pint of beer.

I did not have a heart attack.

I did not have a stroke.

And my lovely wife has certainly not succeeded in poisoning me ... yet.

But thanks for thinking of me.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Al Is Always Right

In an average sized town lived an average man named Al.


Al worked for an average sized company doing average work as a web designer.

All the changes made to the average sized company’s web site was done by Al.

If someone in sales wanted prices changed – they sent the information to Al and Al did it.

If someone in product development wanted a new product posted, they sent the information to Al and Al got it done.

Al also took care of the little page that was only shown inside the company. This page would show job postings in the company, new policies for employees to follow, news from the president and such.

Al worked with the other programmers in the company in a tiny room in the basement of the building of the company. They wrote programs that allowed the company to process sales, manage inventory and managed the company’s payroll and accounting systems.

When programmers put something new in, they were praised for how great the systems worked.

When something in their systems went wrong, the programmers were praised for fixing the problems so work could continue.

But Al’s websites were very simple – with static text he simply added to the page and pictures he simply placed where he was told by the marketing department. Nothing was posted on the website unless the marketing department approved it.

The programmers didn’t respect the work that Al did.

When the website looked great, the Marketing department took all the credit. But when something didn’t look right, Al got blamed.

The marketers didn’t really respect Al’s opinion.

Al had no real friends in the company. He simply showed up each morning, did what he was told, and went home at night to his tiny little apartment and his fat cat Larry, who never really paid any attention to Al – except to demand food for his bowl and that his litter be cleaned.

Nobody said hi to Al in the morning when he came to work.

Nobody said goodnight to Al when he left in the evening.

Al was very lonely. And Al had pretty much accepted the state of his life to be his lot. It was just the way it was

At lunchtime, Al would simply eat a baloney sandwich he packed in lunch bag and drank a bottle of generic soda. He would sit at his desk while eating his sandwich and read his favorite web site that talked about web design – all the tools that were out there to automate sites to do amazing things like stream video and handle sales online.

Every once in a while Al would see something that he thought the company would be interested in to make the average sized company’s web site more useful. And Al would approach the Manager of Marketing to tell her about his idea, but Al was always told no.

One spring day, the little company was busy developing a brand new product that they were all very excited about. The girls in marketing were very busy setting up the copy for advertising the new product, and in the course of this exercise, they decided a change to their logo was needed to convey how modern the average sized company was so that their logo could better represent this exciting new product.

They sent Al the new logo artwork to post on the little web page shown only inside the company. Al did so, and the whole company would then look at the logo, and send their opinions back to the Marketing department.

Al didn’t really like the new logo very much. It was loud. It was gaudy. But the President of the company really liked the logo. He would mention the new logo to those he bumped into in the hallway or in the lunch room or in the parking lot, saying “our new logo, looks great, don’t you think?

Nobody wanted to tell the boss they didn’t like the new logo, so everyone pretty much agreed. The opinions sent back to marketing all said the new logo looked great – ensuring they attached their name to the opinion, in case the President were to see their comments.

One day in the hallway, Al overheard the President asking the Manager of Human Resources “our new logo, looks great, don’t you think?”.

Oh, I just love it. It will make us look so … cutting edge!”, said the Human Resources Manager – smiling at the President.

It’s too gaudy”, said Al as he passed by.

But the President took no notice although he heard Al’s comment.

When Al returned to his desk, he opened up the logo image in his image editor. The back ground of the logo was a very dark blue. Al set the color of his text tool to be one slight hue of blue lighter, and typed into the image

This image is too gaudy”.

He looked at the image on his monitor to make sure he couldn’t see the text he wrote.

Later that afternoon, he received a new version of the logo from one of the girls in the Marketing department.

I thought everyone loved the logo?” Al said to the young stuck up girl from marketing.

The girl explained that the president came down to the marketing department and said

This image is to gaudy”.

Al smiled and looked the new logo. It was subtler and much better. Even Al liked this image. So while the girl from Marketing sat beside him, he replaced the gaudy image with the new one.

Al went home that night, thinking about what had transpired. Did the President change his mind because of his comment in the hallway? Or did he change of his mind because of Al’s hidden text in the logo?

The next day, Al passed the President in the hallway on his way to his desk.

I really like the new logo”, said Al.

Ughhh .. g’morning”, said the President.

Al sat down at his desk and looked at that new logo. He opened it up in the image editor and wrote in the same blue background setting his text to the same color of blue he used before, and he typed

Al is a great guy!

Around eleven o’clock, Al made his way through the hallway to the washroom. Along the way, one of the managers in Research and Design smiled at Al in an enthusiastic voice,

Hey Al! How’s it going?

Al looked at the fellow, his name he couldn’t even remember, and said “uh… good”.

On his way back to his desk he passed one of the ladies in Accounting, who looked at Al, and she smiled.

Nobody ever before even acknowledged Al existed before.

At lunch time, one of the programmers stopped by Al’s desk and asked

What’re you doing for lunch Al?

Al looked up at the smiling programmer – not knowing what to say – and replied

I have to work through lunch today, thanks”, and he turned back to looking at his monitor.

Later that day, Al was taking some copy text back to the Marketing department. When he walked into the room, all the girls turned to see Al standing there and greeted him with

Hi Al!

Al’s face went red and he looked down at the ground and smiled.

On his way out of the building he passed the President in the hallway. Al looked at the President who said to Al

Hi Al! Are you heading home? I’ll walk out with you …

And as they headed to the averaged sized parking lot, the President told Al that he was interested to hear what could be done to make the averaged sized company’s web site do more to help launch the exciting new product.

… you think about it tonight Al, and come see me at ten o’clock tomorrow morning, ok?

Sure”, replied Al, and he smiled at the President.

You fish, Al?

No, sir

Too bad”, said the President. “Too bad indeed”.

Al met with the president the next morning at ten o’clock. He drew a picture on the whiteboard of what Al’s vision of the web site could be – showing areas where video of the exciting new product in use could be shown, and where the people could request more information about the exciting new product and how people could purchase the exciting new product online.

And the President was impressed.

I never really realized what a great guy you are Al”, said the President as they ended their meeting.

And over the course of the next few weeks – Al was put in charge of putting his ideas into place. He worked with the marketing department to design the videos that would demonstrate how the exciting new product worked.

The Marketing department could put nothing on the website without Al’s approval.

And the girls in Marketing respected Al and his opinion.

And over the course of the next few months – Al led the development project to create means to allow people to purchase the exciting new products from the web site.

And the programmers respected Al for the work he was doing.

That was ten years ago.

The averaged sized company is now a large corporation.

And the exciting new product was a huge success.

And most of those sales of the exciting new product are made from Al’s huge website.

Al always had great ideas. But nobody ever took the time to listen.

As time went on, you see, Al actually did become a great guy.

In fact, Al even took up fishing. And golf.

Al is now the Vice President of Corporate Media relations.

And Al married one of those stuck up girls in the Marketing department. And they live a very happy and socially active life in a nice neighborhood.

And the large corporation’s logo now has the words hidden in a slightly lighter shade of blue on the slightly darker blue background

Al is always right

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Ago Today


Nine years ago today.

Is it really nine years already?

It seems so recent. So fresh. So current still today.

And I remember it so vividly.

I remember how my mother – just recently dubbed to be a Grandma, was up visiting from Pensacola, Florida. She was scheduled to fly home from our little house in Amherstburg back to Pensacola.

But she was delayed for a little more than a week before she could fly home..

My eldest daughter Alannah was only seven months old. Not even yet walking. Just at that mode where you sat her on the floor in the living room with her toys around and she would entertain herself while you watched television.

And my Lovely wife Darlene had taken a second job after her maternity leave working part time in the Emergency Room at a Grosse Pointe Michigan hospital – and working with an oxygen supply company in Amherstburg – making house calls to senior patients who needed oxygen as part of their medical treatments.

And I was just eight months into my new career working in downtown Windsor – getting to know the new systems I was responsible for and the new colleagues I was working with.

And on that bright Tuesday morning, I was driving into the office for work – due to begin my day at 9:00 AM. Driving in my little blue Mercury Mystique with a Tim Horton's coffee in the cup holder and listening to AM 760 out of Detroit – Paul W. Smith on the morning show talking about the day's news.

And then a weird report came into the station.

It seems that a small aircraft had gotten lost in New York and had crashed into one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

It seemed like a fluky type of story and hopes were that the pilot would be okay.

I pulled into the overflow parking lot about two blocks from our office when my future best friend at work – Pat – pulled up beside me. As we walked into the office, I told him about the odd news I had just heard.

And we joked all the way to the office about the poor bugger in the little Cessna plane who must have realized just a second before bumping into the tallest buildings in the City of New York must have been thinking.

We thought very little of this event.

Until we got to the office.

Until we got to our desks in our department.

Until the people all around us were panicking.

Until those trying to find out more information couldn't because the biggest news sites of the day like CNN.com and Google were so overwhelmed that their servers could not support the incredible infux of traffic.

And then the second tower was hit.

And then the panic turned into frenzy.

There was no work getting done. People were all huddled trying to get news.

I called home; my mother – the Grandma – was sitting on the couch in our living room watching the events unfold on television. Alannah playing on the floor in front of her feet. The Grandma was scared.

Shortly after that my lovely wife Darlene returned home. She was making her rounds and was on her way out to the southernmost tip of Ontario – wondering why she couldn't get any music on the radio – it was all news. Her cell phone rang and her boss informed her that something had happened and that Darlene should be getting back home to be with the Grandma and her seven month old daughter.

So she went home.

That morning and that afternoon, all of North America was in a panic. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon. And yet another plane – supposedly in flight to the White House was brought down by the passengers – after a heroic conflict with the terrorist hijackers on board.

Nobody knew the scope of what was unfolding.

Nobody knew what the reason for these attacks on America seemed to be about.

Not yet.

The border crossings at the bridge and Tunnel from Windsor to Detroit were closed.

And people from our downtown office kept running outside to see if the GM tower on the Detroit waterfront of the Detroit River – towering high above Windsor and named the Renaissance Center – had been hit.

You see the old saying used to be that "As GM goes, so goes America" – so for the terrorists to knock down such a symbolic building seemed to be an obvious target to all of us.

But that event – thankfully – never occurred – the symbolic reference apparently unknown to the terrorist hijackers in the sky.

All planes in the air were grounded.

All media focused solely on the events unfolding.

In our office lunch room, a TV used for playing instructional videos was rolled in and a makeshift antennae hooked up to pick up the fuzzy images from Detroit television stations .

And as the day passed to night – more and more information became available.

Who the terrorists were.

Where the President of the United States was at the time of the attack.

Rudy Giuliani – the Mayor of New York was dubbed a hero for his handling of the situation.
It seems so recent.

It still resonates as one of the darkest days of my lifetime.

More so than when John F. Kennedy was shot. Or his brother Bobby some five years later.

More so than when Martin Luther King Junior was gunned down outside a motel in Memphis.

Some three thousand people lost their lives when the Twin Towers were knocked down.

People of all races.

People of all religions.

People of all nationalities.

An incredible tragedy.

Now nine years to the morning, as I sit and remember this day, listening to the radio, I am overwhelmed by how little remembrance of this event is being broadcast. Only my favorite sports announcer in Detroit – Pat Caputo – is remembering this day offering it as a topic of discussion for the morning show – has even touched on it. And even then the callers to the show are more interested in the afternoon football game between Michigan and Notre Dame.

Thanks for trying Pat.

Next year will mark the ten year anniversary.

Next year the media will be full of remembrance of the event. It's a milestone you see. It will be a story then.

But on this ninth anniversary of 9/11, nobody wants to be bothered – so it seems.

The world has changed since the events of 9/11.

Airline travel is almost unbearable with all the security changes.

Crossing the border to neighboring Detroit to simply attend a Tigers baseball game is a nervous experience now requiring passports.

Homeland security is now used as a term to strike fear into the hearts of Americans to get them to buy into the next right wing political move made by those struggling to regain control of the White House.

Windsor has withered away to a small shadow of what it once was – the free flowing traffic from Detroit practically stopped – and impeding automotive manufacturing to the point where most significant plants have shut right down.

Not to mention the tremendous grief endured by the loved ones of those who lost their lives that day.

This needs to be remembered.

This needs to be understood.

This needs to become a significant experience for all of us to learn from.

We need to learn not to hold a whole religion responsible for the actions of its radical followers. Otherwise let us hold Christians accountable for the assassination of abortion clinic doctors

We need to learn not to hold a whole race of people under suspicion for the radical actions of a few – otherwise all white young men should be held accountable for the bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City.

We need to understand each other better.

We need to not hate if we want others to not hate us.

But those lessons seem to be so poorly learned.

Talked about frequently … but not truly taken to heart.

We didn't learn a damned thing,

Instead today we have news media like Fox News that only portrays events in a way to support its political perspectives.

Instead today we have terms like patriotism and tea party evangelical ideologies pushing the envelope of trust even closer to breaking points.

At least that's how I see it. You most certainly have the right to disagree.

But in a world where Israel and Iran have massive nuclear repositories pointed at each other waiting to pull the trigger, where Osama Bin Laden is still able to evade capture, where the eastern European and Arabian nations still harbor great resentment against the United States and all western society – where North America has spent so much money in the name of avenging 9/11 – borrowed from China – that its banks are failing and manufacturing industry is but a shadow of its former self …

In such a world – it seems like the terrorists won.

And that point alone – we should not forget.

And the lesson we should learn is to never let terrorists win … ever again.

Not by hate anyway.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Beware The Ostrich And The Bear


You all know about the Ostrich.

When the Ostrich perceives danger he sticks his head in the sand – to hide – believing that nobody else can see him.

But he is still in plain sight. In open view. Visible to all around him – save his head buried beneath the ground.

He thinks he is invisible.

He thinks he is safe.

He is in his "happy place".

Often when we think of the future … we only envision our happy place. Where all is well. Where no problems can be seen.

But often when we think about the present … we think about all the obstacles facing us at the moment.

We think about the insurmountable debts we owe.

We think about the people around us who seem to be causing us problems of one type or another.

We think about our jobs and the frustrations that our daily work prevails on us.

We think about the things around the house that need repairs. And convince ourselves that our home is falling apart.

And we come to the conclusion that life – at this moment – stinks.

Very seldom do we look at the current status of our lives with the same optimism we hold for our future.

Very seldom do we take into account all the good things about the here and now.

We dwell on the bad. We swim in the pool of negativity. We embrace it and we wallow in our own self-perceived misery.

And we feel sorry for ourselves. We seem to actually enjoy feeling sorry for ourselves.

Because nobody else could possibly have it as bad as we do right now.

The grass is always greener in everyone else's yard.

We convince ourselves that times are … bad.

There is an old story told by theologian Emmet Fox . I tell this story every chance I get to anyone who I see who has convinced themselves that everything is just plain horrible at that moment.

I tell it to people who only dwell in the negative moments.

And quite often I tell it to myself.

Because I am as prone to dwelling in the negative as much as anyone else.

There once was a Bear that was foraging through the woods when he happened to stumble upon a hunter's camp.

No one was at the camp – the men were all out hunting.

But the Bear smelled something good coming from a big black kettle cooking over an open fire. The Bear grabbed that kettle in his big old bear arms to get a better smell … and perhaps to eat the stew inside … simmering in the kettle.

But the kettle was very hot, and it burned the arms of the Bear.The Bear knew only one line of defense and squeezed the pot even tighter. And the tighter he squeezed the more the kettle burned.

Until finally the Bear could stand it no more and passed out from the excruciating pain.

You are probably asking yourself "So what does this story have to do with dwelling in negative thoughts?"

Well, consider yourself to be the Bear.

And consider that burning hot black kettle to be negative thoughts in your mind.

Had the Bear simply let go of the kettle, he wouldn't have gotten so badly burned.

When we dwell on the negative – our immediate response is to think about such things harder … and harder .. and harder … until it simply burns you, scars you, possibly even destroying you.

You have to let that kettle go.

This is not to say you become the ostrich , who sticks his head in the sand to hide from his problems.

Because then you are prone to let the problems destroy you as well.

You have to change how you approach your problems.

You have to change your approach from that of how bad everything is .. to an approach of "how can I make it better?".

For example – you can make a list of all your options you can think of to make the negative to be a positive.

You have to figure out how to make lemonade from the lemons.Yes, I know – I hate that cliché too.

But the funny thing about the clichés we hate is that a cliché becomes a cliché only because it's so true.

When bad things happen, you cannot afford to be the Bear who hugs the kettle – it will burn you too badly.

But you cannot afford to be the Ostrich with his head in the sand – or the problems you are hiding from will prevail.

Instead you have to sit down and figure out a plan of attack.

A business plan if you will.

So you can open up a lemonade stand.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Just Another Statistic


Some time ago, I offered my wife Darlene the opportunity to write a series of guest posts – at varying intervals – to show our life together from her perspective.


After reading my post from last weekend – "Realizing I Am Wrong" – Darlene asked if she could respond. The following is Darlene's response – which is not enjoyable for me to read.


And for the record, I agree with every word that she has written.


*** JUST ANOTHER STATISTIC***


Am I glad you see some partial error in your ways?

Yes.

Do I like the fact that after the past two months you are FINALLY starting to 'get it' ?

Yes.

Do I know that part of the blame is mine thru the last 10 years of growing apart with being busy with the kids, going thru 4 back surgeries, and the loss of my beloved job and personal and professional identity?

Again, Yes.

Do we both need therapy together and separately?

Yes, Yes, Yes and YES.

It takes TWO to Tango, my dear.  Should 'I" and only "I"  been the one you spent your waking moments talking with, spending time with, striving for goals with, living, laughing, loving and raising two kids with?...I think u know the answer. Probably better now than you ever did. Finally, should I also be the

ONLY one you call 'luv' or 'darlin' ?

MOST emphatically...... Y E S.

I thank you for the blog.

You paint a very apologetic picture. But you cut a few corners with half-truths and omissions. And you certainly cannot put a picture in a frame to hang it on a wall without those corners.

You see, my dear readers, part of the BIGGEST problem of this whole thing is two little things called TRUST and HISTORY. And, if you are fool enough to have the first after the second??? well, u know what they say.

Now, 'history' is predominantly a good thing when you are in an ER setting trying to save a patient, or learning about past races and cultures, or even looking at stats for your favorite baseball team. But, it is NOT a good thing when you have been previously caught on the internet and lied to. We both made promises 4 years ago to never let it happen again; lest there be severe consequences.

After all, if a man hasn't got his word, what has he truly got?

Pan to Present Day

Now, I'm not saying that he deliberately went out to make alliances on TWITTER. Well, not at first. Not like that. Or did he? -- You decide my dear readers, when all is said and done.  And I do agree with him that a set of circumstances (combined of course with the printed black and white)--unfolded into a deeper, dangerous, emotional internet fascination and/or '''friendship'''.  My husband could not see it.  STILL is having trouble seeing it. Did I mention that my husband has one of those highly addictive personalities?

Upon looking into, REALLY looking into the 100's of 'TWEETS' between his 'friend' (we will call her "Miss Laurie" for all intents and purposes from here on in) both the public and the non-deleted private tweets and the reason I say this is there are timeline blocks that have been deleted, and also the little comments/replies back to her like, ''stop that'' or the fifty some odd :-) faces standing alone. The comments (TWEETS) about how he would LOVE for her to be his personal assistant, and the one he quoted of himself that he didn't get verbatim "I really can't afford to have pictures of "Miss Lauries" F*** Me Boots in my head while I have 12 screaming girls at a birthday party" L8R. Do we need examples of other such TWEETS of FMP's, especially "Miss Lauries" repetitive pink stilettos worn so that our beloved Tigers could win...and 'Could she please lace them tighter'?, and the bubblewrap plastic, and, I don't even WANT to know about the beetroots. That's all the detail you will get from me here.

And all the while I worked to try and make our house a HOME these past few months for our pending barrage of visitors, my husband was spending every waking moment with his ''friend''/friends online. NOT to better himself as a writer, or to acquire a possy of followers for Headstuffing, or followers on TWITTER, or a wide-known name for himself and ultimately be PAID for what he did but instead became a slave to TWITTER becoming closer all the while to an on-line siren; fracturing my trust and our marriage.
I mean, my husband would wake up, grab a coffee, his laptop, be on from 630-8am (and to be fair he would also look at box scores, his blog traffic first), then at work at lunch via iPhone,on breaks, even TEXTING whilst driving once he TWEETED. Then after work, come home, grab a vodka and lemonade, his laptop and be at it again....till dinner....(sometimes he'd cut the grass or swim with the girls) then after dinner till bedtime always ensuring he gave Miss Laurie 'a proper goodnight" as he once TWEETED

He even forgot to pick up his daughter at a birthday party after work one time as he TWEETED, "I can't wait to get home and read "Miss Laurie's" latest blog."

Fred, you truly, truly don't realize how far gone and fixated on her and TWITTER you truly were.  I can only hope with help you will see it.

....and it was more than just a 'few' emails.

How can you say you did NOTHING WRONG?!

Cheating is cheating. Whether you are actually ''doing the nasty'' or not. It is STILL an emotional betrayal.

You became a shell of a husband, father and person.  You were just GONE...--far gone. You even admitted it and said as much in one of your recent past blogs. (See Disconnect to Reconnect)

Sugar coat it all you want, but it is not hard to read in between the lines.

And when it all came to a head at your own daughter's birthday party? Well.

Yes.

You did come to me with your iPhone and shove it in my face to 'prove' you had nothing incriminating on there---2HRS LATER!!!!

--and U were right. There wasn't anything on it but what I have already found (save those timeline deletions)

YES.......you did email "Miss Laurie"--and ask her not to email you at your work email....which, she wouldn't have had if you had not been on a week's vacation, had no iPhone, no computer, no contact with her (see Disconnect to Reconnect blog) for a whole week; but BAM! first thing at 830 am YOU EMAILED HER! using an email I could not have access to. Hmmmmm...What a coincidence.

You are right about another thing darling. You should indeed NOT have to ask my permission as to who your ""FRIENDS"" are at 48 years old......because if this is the example of the type of 'friendships' you want then be my guest.

But you'll do it alone.

And there's another way of looking at it….

There are people out there who get their kicks out of purposely wrecking relationships, marriages, and families.  I only hope that "Miss Laurie" isn't one of those. Was she worth it Fred? Really?

And if I should ever meet her I would ask her just that. Did she not realize WHO she would ultimately be hurting? (Maybe she did?!) MY KIDS>

So Thank You So Very Much "Miss Laurie" for all the grief you have caused.  And I know that you didn't hang that picture by yourself.

Would I even get an apology? Probably not.......

Because she ALSO probably thinks she did nothing wrong.

In closing, I say this:

If there are any families, spouses,housewreckers,older children or young people just starting out in a relationship, I hope this blog and HEADSTUFFINGS, 'Realizing I am Wrong' can help you. They are from both The husband and wife's point of view.

And I hope the therapist can help us.

You see, I really do love my husband.

And I don't want to be Just Another Statistic.

Mrs. Headstuffing
aka. the Lovely Wife Darlene

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Realizing I Am Wrong


How do you convince somebody that you didn't do something?

That you really honestly and truly did not do?

There is no evidence to suggest that you didn't do something.

But there is circumstantial evidence that might lead one's imagination to conjure up the worst action.

And when circumstances are explained – the open ear and open mind can understand.

You can list the facts.

Describe the scenarios.

Show how the path of events led to the current misunderstanding.

But when the ear and mind are closed to the explanation, you come to a standstill.

A stalemate.

A standoff.

And nobody wins .

And then pride comes into play.

And hurt feelings.

And anger.

When an apology is demanded for something you did not do, then what do you do?

In some cases it may be wise to apologize anyway.

"I'm sorry dear, I must have stuck the cat in the freezer and put the loaf of bread on the back stoop. I don't know what I was thinking".

Probably good advice for the small insignificant issues.

But for the bigger issues. The important ones.

The ones that can alter not only your life but the lives of all those that you love and hold dear to you.

Then what do you do?

You can't simply apologize to get it behind you – not if the accusation borders on a heinous offense of cardinal proportions. Doing so means you are saying to that person that you did something you did not.
That you cannot be trusted.

And trust is the foundation of everything.

And should you be stupid enough to actually lie about one of the items of circumstantial evidence – because you know that one action simply does not look good – well, then you lose all that persons trust to never believe another thing you could say.

Then you just blew it.

And then you apologize.

And then it's worth nothing.

And you are tried and condemned for the cardinal offense you did not do.

Oh my.

So here goes my truth.

The complete truth for the world to see. I have nothing to hide, save perhaps my pride.

My honor and my integrity - which is all I ever tried to represent with headstuffing.

On Easter of this year, my wife Darlene went away for the holiday to participate in a competition at the provincial level. It meant a lot to her. And she did very well.

But I was upset that Darlene would sacrifice an Easter holiday with our little girls – when not many more are ahead where Easter holds the mystery of Easter baskets and coloring eggs.

So on Twitter – in my frustration – I posted something to the effect of how sad it was that when you finally find Mrs. Right that you could be so wrong.

A horrible thing to tweet. To Say. To broadcast to the world.

And I did say that.

On Father's day of this summer – again via Twitter – Ian Aspin re-tweeted the link to the first post by a lady who recounted missing her father and remembering sweet moments with him. I read that first blog post and I re-tweeted the link as well – stating that if that was her first post ever – I will be back to read more.

The author – whose twitter picture was that of a beautiful young woman – wrote me back and thanked me for the kind words.

And we began following each other on Twitter.

At first it was merely to re-tweet each other's posts.

And we exchanged a few emails – discussing blogging and writing. How you define the boundaries of what you should and shouldn't write about. On the topic of religion we had a very good conversation as to the different ways the subject could be approached.

But there was nothing romantic in the conversation. We were both however very happy to have made such good friends.

We talked about how big a part passion plays in good writing. I truly believe that if you are passionate about something – the words just flow. And your best stuff comes out. And in the end you have that tremendous satisfaction that you accomplished something really good.

So what we established was a mutual respect as bloggers.

God I hate that term 'blogger'.

But as time went along, and she following people I followed and I following people she followed – we starting participating in each other's twitter conversations with each other's friends, And her friends started becoming my friends.

And since we are both witty, our conversations on twitter were very fun.

And since we are both adults some of our tweets could be considered to be flirtatious.

Now, to be clear – we never breached that line of platonic mutual respect. But some very light risqué topics came up – such as stiletto shoes – between my friend and her girl friends in Twitter. And I … well I jumped in the conversation with my usual smart –aleck remarks.

Let's also be clear that there is nothing private in Twitter. Even direct messages to another person can be viewed by the public. One time I tweeted on this fact stating:

"Twitter is like to people standing on cliffs on opposite sides of a huge village screaming to each other for the world to hear"

Because it was.

And I honestly sincerely never thought I was doing anything wrong – although I honestly admit that I realized some of my tweets – if seen by Darlene – might be a bit hard to explain.

But again – there was never anything romantic in those tweets - perhaps only the fact that two people thought a lot of each other as friends.

And at the age of forty eight – I shouldn't have to ask permission as to who my friends are, should I?

Then came a fateful day in July. My youngest daughter's eighth birthday party. A conversation about stiletto shoes was going on in Twitter between my friends girl friends. And a picture was posted of a pair.

And I tweeted "The last thing I need before my daughter's birthday party is to have the image of your stilettos stuck in my head".

Well, in hindsight – that was probably a very dumb thing to tweet.

And I left Twitter to help Darlene and my mother get ready for Ashley-Rae's party.

And in the middle of that party – I started feeling nauseous from too much sun as the girls were splashing and jumping in and out of the pool on our back yard deck.

As the pizza was served in the kitchen – I took a picture of twelve crazed screaming girls hamming it up for the camera. And I posted it on twitter with the short comment "Please – kill me now".

After the last child left – I went into the bedroom to lie down. As I did, I wondered what the response to my picture was – so I rolled over and picked up the iPhone to see the responses.

They were all laughing at my misery – most of them with daughters of their own knew how rambunctious a gaggle of eight year old girls can be – and sympathy was expressed.

And as I rolled over to put my phone down – Darlene came in to see how I was feeling – and she asked :
"who are you talking to?".

I really was not feeling good, and responded "nobody".

She picked up my iPhone and read the list of tweets to me from women with cheeky Twitter names and pictures of faces or images that women use on their twitter profile.

I grabbed the phone away from her. I really wasn't feeling well, and I thought it was a bit rude. And I changed the pass code to access the apps on the phone. And then I deleted the Twitter app from my phone.

And I laid back down.

But that one single set of actions was interpreted as something to hide. As I look back on it now – I would have to say I probably was trying to hide it – but only to avoid a confrontation when I was not feeling well enough to respond to the questions I knew would be coming.

Darlene tried to get in to read more but she didn't know the access code.

As I felt better later in the afternoon and my head clearer – I changed the access code back to what it was before. And I put the Twitter application back on my iPhone.

And I left it there for her to read – every tweet still in the system. I expected to have to do some explaining – but I sincerely did not think I did anything wrong.

As time went on – I did send one or two emails to my Twitter friend. The first to explain that my activity on Twitter was probably inappropriate – and that I was sorry that I would have to drop off all together.

I then wrote a second email to tell her how great I thought one of her latest posts were. And I deleted that email as soon as I sent it.

But the email was in my trash folder.

And on one morning as I showed Darlene my email to prove to her I was no longer communicating with my friend – she found it in my trash folder.

She caught me in a lie.

And now – everything else that I had been accused of for the two weeks prior – which was not true – now all my answers were lies.

And all that would be accepted would be a complete and total confession to the extreme conclusions she had come to.

But those accusations were not true.

I really did stop using Twitter. And I never again emailed my friend. And I even separated myself from my friend completely.

It seemed like a small price to pay to restore my wife's faith in me.

I really do love my wife. With all my heart and soul. And when I use the term "my lovely wife Darlene" in my posts – it is not with any attempt to belittle her. It really is how I think of her.

She is my lovely wife Darlene.

So to answer the question "When an apology is demanded for something you did not do, then what do you do?" – I think I know the answer now.

I just had to write all this out to come to the conclusion.

The answer – in my case anyway – is to finally realize that I did do something wrong. I willingly let a set of circumstances unfold that would hurt the most important person in my life deeply.

And I really did try to cover it up – I realize that now as I put all this matter to type.

And I really do have to convey to my wife – who is also the best friend – the greatest friend I have ever had – and probably the greatest friend I ever took for granted as the result of ten years of knowing each other so well – I have to convey to my lovely wife that I really am sorry.

Truly and deeply sorry that I ever allowed these events to ever unfold in the way that they did.

And as I reflect on it further – I understand what it is that drew me to my Twitter friend. She is an awful lot like my very best friend Darlene. The same humor. The same likes. The same tastes.

And I didn't need Twitter to find the very best friend I ever had.

So Darlene, please accept the above to be my most complete and detailed confession. And know that I am really very sorry for how much these events have hurt you.

I understand it now. I just had to write it all out to see it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Simple Summer Sunday Morning


It's a beautiful sunny Sunday morning here on the back deck.

The cast of characters that comprise our home are all in their proper places.

All of our company has either gone home or off to visit other places – leaving our house unfamiliarly quiet for the coming week.

Empty.

Suzy is on the deck floor sitting between myself and my lovely wife Darlene, who is frantically typing an email to our Irish friends Ray and Shell on her iPhone.

The two grammas have dispersed – one back to her house on the other side of town, the other having survived a turbulent flight home to Pensacola – after circling for twenty minutes then being rerouted to nearby Ft. Walton for a cab ride back to Pensacola - and then another to her home.

Not an easy trek for even the healthiest of soon-to-be octogenarians.

The Irish are away up north in Midland enjoying time with our friends Dave and Michelle – taking jazz band boat rides and losing money in the casinos of the area.

They are having a ball.

We knew they would.

We wish we were there too.

It's very easy to be sucked into the leisurely lifestyle of vacation.

Vacation days that start by waking up to good cups of coffee and conversation on the deck with visiting friends and family. Then the dispersal of all to go their ways to get cleaned up and ready for days activities and travels – with the discussions of who will travel with whom in which car to go whatever destination is planned for that day.

Then all reconvening back on the deck later in the evening for drinks and dinner.

And more conversation.

And more drinks.

But it is a nice day today for us to simply remember what it is to be a simple family of four in a quiet Canadian subdivision.

Roars and cheers can be heard over the trees to the north, coming from the ball fields of the Turtle Club. It's the weekend of the big baseball, softball and t-ball teams from all over Canada and the States.

We really should take a walk over to see the commotion.

But we don't have to go far for commotion – my girls in the house provide a constant stream of it.

Home grown commotion if you will.

Still it is quiet.

Not even a lawn mower – just the occasional cheers for a well hit line drive off in the distance.

There are no real pressing or urgent chores to be done at home. The laundry is done. The kitchen is clean. The grass is cut and trim and the gardens freshly weeded. The pool has been vacuumed.

Perhaps I could wash the cars.

Perhaps.

I will take in this quiet today and savor it.

It's the end of my week's vacation. And there will be a pile of items demanding attention tomorrow morning at the office.

Emails of questions, system change requests, confirmations of requirements a week old, and problems that require resolution. Phone messages and little piles of paper with yellow sticky notes attached.

But that is tomorrow's concern.

Tomorrow.

The girls have just taken off to go bike riding with the neighborhood kids.

Now the house is barren except for my lovely wife Darlene and I.

Perhaps we will just go for a walk.

Happily, Ray and Shell are returning to our place at the end of the week.

And we do have a golf tournament to play in next weekend.

And my lovely wife and I are planning a nice overnight trip in the coming days to simply have a change of scenery – and to remember who each other are.

So the summer's vacation time is not over by any means.

We are just having a little reprieve.

A reminder of how live was before the holidays – in the normal flow of life. The day by day experience.

Relaxing.

Did I mention it was quiet?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Holidays With The Irish


Good God I am tired.

As I look around the morning faces on the patio deck, I see that I am not alone.

We are all sleep-deprived.

Baggy-eyed.

With only coffee and tea to recuperate for this morning's nourishment.

It's a holiday week for me. And the world is staying at our house.

I love it.

Our friends Ray and Shell from Dublin Ireland have the starring billing on the marquee. And my Mum is up from Pensacola Florida as well. My lovely wife Darlene's parents provide frequent drop over visits. And the neighbors seem to be frequently dropping in.

Family from up north has come down to see. More friends are due to arrive as the week rolls on by, from Midland and Collingwood up north.

And the neighborhood is enthralled with the Irish as well. The Irish have adopted a new local pub around the corner down at the end of the street as their own. And the regulars there quickly are adopting our paddy friends as their own.

And the two Grammas are here as well, sitting at the kitchen table playing card games with names like Kings In the Corner, Patience, and Pepper. And of course Hearts.

The two Grammas have been enjoying each other's company greatly – almost as boisterous inside the house as the gaggle of friends out at the patio.

And Ray still owns my pool table – running off all takers with the smoothness and grace of a Minnesota Fats – hitting angles that any physicist will tell you do not exist – leaving the cue ball set perfectly for the next shot.

The kids have pretty much beaten the water in the pool to death – splashing and jumping and horsing around – the first ones in and the last ones out … until the light of day is eclipsed by the western horizon.

As well my girls have had sleepovers here, and at friend's homes – with trips to the Rodeo and late nights of girl talks in sleeping bags.

It's a great holiday for sure. The kind of days that make the highlight reels of one's deathbed – as one lays there and reviews the happenings of their lives in the momentary replay of important events. These days will be important scenes on that reel of memories.

As well, in the midst of all this hedonist decadence, my lovely wife Darlene has come to the conclusion that we both need to better our health – and so we have started each morning with very long hard walks from the house down to the river where we look across to Fighting Island and Grassy Island – historic landmarks of the War of 1812.

On our very first long walk down to the river – we passed the pub adopted by the Irish as their new local. And the Irish of course were inside – holding court with the regulars – enthralling them all with their charm and their wit.

Ray and Shell make friends so seemingly easy.

Some are friends they knew from trips over in the past. Old local friends with names like Earl and Mitt and Scoop. And new faces that have not yet had the names placed on them. And each offering the Irish new adventures like fishing trips on Lake Erie and Sunday dinners with their families.

Quite incredible indeed for this social wallflower to witness. And quite a learning experience as well. I am taking notes such as "be very nice to everyone you meet" and "greet all you encounter with a smile and twinkle of the eye".

Skills that come naturally to the Irish.

Perhaps it will rub off on me somehow.

The best part is that these fantastic days of holiday are only beginning. There is a whole week left to come of my vacation days.

… a birthday party for one of the Grammas …

… a game of golf with Ray and the neighbors – to be followed the next week with our foursome in a golf tournament …

… and more walks – and more barbeques - and more swimming.

And more pool.

Perhaps even a Tigers baseball game at Comerica Park.

And, of course, no doubt each of those days will again evolve into more boisterous nights around the patio table.

Should the neighbors call the authorities to complain of the noise - I can see the scene now. Two young officers sauntering into the back yard by the side arbor gate.

"We've had some complaints …" would say the young rookie.

"Ahh good to see yer lads … what'll ya have…" will say Ray.

"Oh nothing thanks … you see we had a complaint …" would insist the senior officer.

"Well who would complain?" I would ask from the corner?

"Oh my …", would say one of the neighbors now sitting at the table enjoying the fellowship, "I'm afraid that was me. But that was some time ago, before I knew …"

Ray would appear then with a pair of cold drinks for the Good Constables, and hand one to each with a smile and a wink.

"So where are you folks from anyway?" would ask the young rookie.

And around four in the morning, the little radio on the one constable's radio pinned to his chest would blurt out the command "please report your status!"

"err … Roger that, we are just leaving the scene of a reported disturbance .. a false alarm" …

"So are we on for fishing on Friday then Ray?"

"That would be grand Stevie…"
And the Good Constables would honk a goodbye as they drove away – flashing the lights on top of the squad car to show off.

Hmmm.

I am so tired this morning.

But times like these are rare and far between. I can sleep when the holiday is over.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Disconnect To Reconnect


Sometimes it pays to take a break.

Sometimes you just have to put all your internet devices aside – and focus on the people who mean the most to you. Those physical bodies that reside in your residence, sleep in your beds, and eat their food with you at the dinner table.

Your family.

I did so this last vacation week. Well, not voluntarily – not at first anyway.

You see, my common habit is to spend my free time in the summer out on the back deck with my two little girls and my lovely wife Darlene…

…. and my laptop.

And as the girls play in the pool and Darlene puttered around the yard, I would sit here my in favorite position of shaded patio deck table by the pool, and be on the internet.

I would be sitting here writing a story for Headstuffing. And I would be sitting here talking with friends on Facebook. And I would be sitting tweeting with friends and other bloggers on Twitter. And I would be sitting here following Tigers baseball games pitch by pitch on MLB.com.

And I thought I was spending good quality time with my family.

I thought I was spending quality family time in the physical presence of my lovely wife Darlene, and my daughters Alannah and Ashley-Rae.

But in reality my body was here, but my mind was far away.

Far away in the words I was writing in Headstuffing.

Far away with my friends I was talking to in Facebook.

Far away with my friends and blogging gang I hang out with on Twitter.

Far away tracking the play by play of the Tigers baseball game.

I was here body with my family. But my mind was in faraway places like Australia, France, England, and the southern states of the U.S.

It's not that my friends on Facebook and Twitter aren't real people – and real friends. But my family really wanted to spend the week with me. Not just the big lump of a body sitting at the table – they wanted ME.

My companionship.

My attention.

Quite often, Alannah and Ashley-Rae would climb out of the pool and come over and ask me to play in the pool with them.

"In a second", I would respond. "I'm almost done".

"Daddy, NOW ….", would pout Ashley-Rae. Alannah would reach for the screen on the laptop and push it down to close it.

Last week my Mother arrived from Pensacola to stay for several weeks. And last weekend we had a birthday party for Ashley-Rae. And most of the morning while everyone was rushing around to prepare for the party – I spent most of the morning on the deck with the laptop.

I wasn't really much help.

And I was told about it.

After the party concluded, my laptop was nowhere to be found. And my iPhone was missing.

"Where is my stuff?!!", I bellowed.

"You don't need it this week", calmly replied my lovely wife Darlene.

"Huh?"

"You are off for a week now – and this week you WILL spend with your family", replied my lovely wife – her face now red – her expression held that "do not question me on this decision" attitude pouring all over it.

So I shut up.

And I spent the week off line.

And I went through some withdrawal symptoms.

I woke up in the mornings that week coming out to the back patio with a cup of coffee for a morning smoke – but no laptop. No morning status updates on Facebook. No morning tweets on Twitter. No morning readings of the news and no commenting on blogs from my favorites like Pat Caputo's Sports "An Open Book" blog.

I fell out of touch with everyone. Everyone not in my house.

But, I fell IN touch with everyone who actually slept under my roof.

I actually spent my morning coffee times listening to what my lovely wife Darlene was saying.

She is actually quite interesting.

And I spent morning coffees talking with my daughters about what they wanted to talk about.

And they are actually very interesting little girls.

And I spent the morning coffees talking with my own Mum, who I hadn't seen in over a year and a half.

And do ya know, she is pretty interesting too.

On Friday our best friends from Dublin, Ireland arrived. We drove over the border to the Detroit airport to pick them up. It was a weird experience as we left the airport with Tornado warnings sprang up on both sides of the border – and a rainbow that stretched from one end of the horizon to the other – a fitting tribute to the landing leprechauns sitting in the back seat.

And when we arrived home, again I noticed how just how incredibly interesting both Ray and Shell are.

And they did fly over from Dublin.

And they were sitting on my very special back deck – from where I speak to the world.

By the end of the week, I had pretty much recovered from my internet addiction.

Because as much as I love using the internet to talk to the world, it seemed like the conversation at my patio table had become ever increasingly more interesting.

In fact, the world seems to be coming to visit me.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Don’t Know Dew Ya


It's such a beautiful summer morning here on the back deck, my faithful black lab Suzy laying in the shade by my feet … always optimistic that I will get up and play.

But I don't – the coffee is just so good.

You can't forget beautiful days like this – temperature in the mid-seventies with a thread of coolness in the air.

And the smell of lilac wafting over the patio from the garden.

It makes you think back to beautiful summer days in the past.

I was nineteen in the late spring of 1981. I was a soccer play for the university, taking classes in a small Georgian village of Milledgeville. As rural a southern town as there was in the day. The buildings were all colonial style – likely there since the burning of Atlanta in the American Civil War.

I was fortunate at that time to be dating a very pretty girl who was a gymnast – and for a few months we kept company together. She was very southern, and I loved to listen to her special lilt in her drawl.

On one such beautiful summer's day Saturday morning, we went for a walk into town to find the local sporting goods store.

I forget now what it is that we were in need of, but it seemed pretty important at the time.

We thought we knew where the sporting goods store was. But as we walked up and down the main street, it became obvious we didn't have a clue where this place was.

A little boy came riding his bike down the street. I would say he was probably seven or eight years old. The bike was a rusted copper color – with a big banana seat and the handle bars and front wheel gave it that "chopper" look.

He was making motorcycle sounds with his mouth and making tire squealing sounds when he turned.

He was having a ball – all by his lonesome.

He noticed us, and as all little boys do when they see a pretty girl, he tried to pop a wheelie - to show off. But he lifted the front wheel too high, and his bike slipped right out from under him.

He landed on his butt. The bike rolled a good twenty feet further on its back wheel – hit the side brick of a storefront, and fell over on its side.

My girlfriend ran up to him, concerned as pretty girls are when little boys fall down. But the little boy would have none of it, and got to his feet and ran to his bike.

After we determined the little boy was alright, I asked him, "do you know where the sporting goods store is?"

No reply. The boy just looked at me.

My girlfriend bent down into that squatting position that pretty girls use when talking to little boys and asked in her sweetest southern drawl:

"Do you know where the sportin' good store is sweetheart", in that sing-song southern belle cadence - smiling at the little boy with her eyes.

The little boy simply looked at her – and then at me – and he said to me:

"don't know, dew ya!".

I shook my head and tried my hardest not to laugh.

The little boy had picked up his bike and straddled it to ride off.

I reached in my pocket and pulled out a dollar bill I had received as change for breakfast.

"What if I gave you a dollar, would you show us where the sporting good store is then?"

The little boy jammed his hand far down into his pocket of his very dirty blue jeans and pulled out his own dollar and held it up high for us both to see.

"I already gots one!" and he smiled at my pretty girlfriend and rode away.

I don't remember if we found that store that day or not. But that doesn't matter.

And the very pretty girl was not my girlfriend for long, as in University you know, you keep company with many people.

And I no longer live in Georgia, of course.

But thirty years later I still remember that little boy, his very country southern drawl, how much fun he was having and how embarrassed he was once his butt hit the cement. And his cute but indignant attitude he displayed afterwards.

I can still hear those two phrases quite clearly in my head.

"Don't know, dew ya!" and "I already gots one!" – as spoken in the country drawl of a little boy.

I wonder what ever happened to that little boy. Did he spend the dollar? What did he get? How many times later in that day did he crash that bike again.

What story did he tell his Ma and Pa when he got home? About the pretty girl who smiled at him, and the big ugly guy she was with?

Or were we completely forgotten once he rode away.

I loved most of the parts about living in the rural areas of Georgia. But as a University student, I didn't really appreciate it while it was there. I have used Google maps to go back and look at the main street of Milledgeville – but it, nor the campus of the University look anything as old and southern as it did back in 1981.

Is 1981 really so long ago?

I can still juggle a soccer ball on my feet – up to my knees – and catch it on the back of my neck. My little girls think it's so great. And they think I must have been the greatest soccer player in the world.

I don't exactly dissuade them from such a wonderful misconception either.

And every time somebody asks me – to this day – if I know where something or some place is – I look at them and smile and I say …

"Don't know, dew ya!"


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