Sunday, April 25, 2010

Procrastination Foiled

I love my Saturday mornings.

The radio was on – playing the standard collections of old folk and classic rock – softly in the corner of the garage. My faithful black lab Suzy and I sat with a cup of coffee and smoke – struggling to wake up.

I had nothing planned. The girls baseball practice over at the Turtle Club was my only scheduled agenda item for the day. Then a bit of listening to Pat 'The Book on Sports' Caputo on the radio.

A great day's game plan indeed.

That's when the knock came at the door.

It was our next door neighbors.

He had his roto-tillar. She had a rake, gardening gloves, and a shovel.

It would appear that my lovely wife Darlene had made plans, but I wasn't consulted.

Suzy groaned.

I did a big sigh as Darlene explained that our wonderful neighbors had offered to help us get our front yard ready.

Yup, this morning. Shot to hell.

I looked around the garage. Stacks of peat moss and sheep manure piled against my workbench. The work table was covered with various annuals of purples and reds and yellows and blues.

"When somebody offers to help you, you don't sit in the garage reading and listening to the radio", Darlene chastised.

I hate it when she's right.

I traded in my slippers for my sneakers and headed out front. The three were comparing ideas on what should be done to the gardens and to the lawn. The conclusion was drastic. Complete annihilation of my gardens and a deep and thorough thatching of my front lawn.

I pasted my smile on my face as I dragged out the peat moss and manure as the good neighbor plowed them up with his tiller. I poured the peat moss and manure in to each bed as Darlene and the good neighbor started spreading it around.

The result looked like freshly raked hazard on a local golf course – but rich reddish brown after the good neighbor tilled the peat moss and manure into the beds.

The ladies had already unearthed the existing plants that they decided to keep. As they examined their inventory with a fresh cup of coffee in hand, The good neighbor started thatching my lawn with his tiller.

The pile of dead grass left behind was huge.

By this time it was time to get my girls over to the ball diamonds for practice. I hurried them to get ready, pouring a coffee for myself to take with me.

For the next hour and a half I sat in the stands watching the practice and reading my emails – sipping my coffee – talking with the coaches – and hoping the work would be done when I returned.

When practice was over, we headed back home. The beers were out. The folks were sitting on the porch.

"Your timing is perfect", said the good neighbor.

Of course it is, I thought to myself – I am a master procrastinator you know.

But then I noticed the front yard was piled up about six inches deep with dead dethatched grass.

And there was nobody offering me a beer. Instead I was offered a rake – and a stack of paper yard waste bags.

I must be slipping.

I raked and bagged and raked and bagged and then raked some more then bagged some more – until the thatched grass was nicely packed in eight bulging yard waste bags.

"Now let's get this grass cut", suggested my lovely wife. But it was not a suggestion.

And the inspiration hit me. I took off to the back yard to get the lawn mower out from under the deck garden shed.

"Okay, I said – I just have to get the mower ready – you know – change the plugs, clean the blade, and change the oil, shouldn't take long."

"Nah, just use my new one", said the good neighbor.

"No, really, thanks – I just have to …"

The good neighbor rolled his mower around the corner.

"All set to go", he said. "Why work harder than you have to?", he smiled winked, and tipped his beer to me.

Do you know who you're talking to? I thought.

I think he did. I think they all did.

"Uhh .. okay, that'd be grand, thanks so much."

A gentle tug on the pull chord and the mower was going. It was brand spanking new. And it had the feature that when you compress a lever on the handle, the mower pulls itself.

I quickly cut the yard, as fast as I ever had, simply walking behind this new mower, while the good neighbors cheered me on – each sporting another nice cold beer.

Afterwards I went into my garage and got a bag of seed. I filled my spreader and walked it around the same path I had just cut.

Meanwhile the plants still sat in the garage. The new beds empty – save a couple of items replanted. The party moved to the back deck where the barbecue was just finished cooking a batch of hot dogs and hamburgers.

Beaten at my own game.

Set up to be beaten at my own game none the less.

Dirty buggers.

But the lawn looks amazing.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The Masters … Tiger’s First Shot At Redemption

Augusta National
It's Masters week again.

This is truly my favorite sporting event of the year.

Augusta National Golf Course is my favorite sporting venue.

Bobby Jones, the amateur golfer of the early 20th century who won the grand slam and never earned a dime in the process as a golfer; the founder of Augusta National and the originator of the Masters tournament - is to me, the most inspirational sporting figure the world has to offer.

And Tiger Woods is back. No longer an inspiration.

Let me state this clearly. Let me make this plain and inconveniently clear.

"I am a Tiger Woods fan".

I was before this debacle, and I am today as he readies to play round one of the Masters tomorrow afternoon.

He is clearly the most talented golfer on the planet. As clear as when Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. As clear as Wayne Gretzky was the greatest hockey player or Pelé the most brilliant footballer (soccer player) of all time.

My advice to anyone who will listen is that when someone is the best at anything – and they exhibit that skill in a venue for you to watch them do it – please watch them do it.

Do I condone the behavior that led to Tiger Woods fall from grace.

Goodness no.

But I am not qualified to judge other peoples personal behaviors.

Chairman Billy Payne
But when Augusta National's Chairman Billy Payne spoke in his annual address to the media today as part of the Masters Tournament tradition – he spoke the words I wish I could say to Tiger - if it were my place to do so.

"It is simply not the degree of his conduct that is so egregious here, it is the fact that he disappointed all of us, and more importantly, our kids and our grandkids. Our hero did not live up to the expectations of the role model we saw for our children."

Payne went on …

"Is there a way forward? I hope yes. I think yes," but certainly, his future will never again be measured only by his performance against par; but measured by the sincerity of his efforts to change."

"I hope he now realizes that every kid he passes on the course wants his swing, but would settle for his smile."

I have a friend at work who told me the story of travelling over to the Buick Open last fall with a young nephew. As he tells the story, they got to the course – Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc, Michigan very early. Tiger Woods was practicing his putting on the practice green.

My friend approached Woods to ask if he would sign an autograph or have a picture taken with the young boy. No one else was around. Tiger looked past my friend, and simply said:

"I'm not doing that today".

End of story.

You might be justified in saying my friend intruded on Tigers private practice time. But really, how inconvenienced was he. Would it have been a great sacrifice to pause for a second to accommodate a fan and a young boy who idolized him as a hero.

As I see it – from very far away – but after great consideration – I believe that Tiger Woods went through a transformation. He went from a little boy who wanted to be great – to a human corporation founded on the basis of greatness.

And corporations have to succeed.

The person Tiger Woods became was the same selfish executive leaders we have seen recently exposed for their greed - like ENRON CEO Kenneth May. Only Tiger's greed was realized as lust.

There's not one of us alive that wouldn't want a second chance to prove themselves.

Not on the golf course … but as a person.

And while it's easy to want to see the great ones fall to Earth after being held up so high, think that you can be the better person for once ...

... better than Tiger Woods …

... and a allow Tiger his second chance to prove to you that he is indeed once again a human being, and no longer the tyrannical self-absorbed womanizing sexual deviant he was exposed to be over the last five months.

Imagine that, if it was you, your worst demons and most embarrassing intimacies published and fodder for gossip, convicted without a word in your own defence (not that he has a defence) – would you deal with it nearly with nearly the poise he has shown?

At least when he was visible to be seen ...
So this week, as this grand tournament unfolds on the most beautiful golf course in the world, the tournament most revered by players of this most beautiful game – and the camera cuts to Tiger Woods on the tee box, or fairway, or on the green leaning over a putt for birdie … I ask only that you consider Mr. Payne's closing words :

"We at Augusta hope and pray that our great champion will begin his new life here tomorrow in a positive, hopeful and constructive manner, but this time, with a significant difference from the past. This year, it will not be just for him, but for all of us who believe in second chances."

I hope Tiger wins the damn thing.

But first I hope Tiger revists the legend of Bobby Jones. And remembers what the Masters really means.

 (photo credit Reuters)
(Billy Payne Excerpts taken from article "Tiger Gets A Scolding")

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Why We Have Bunnies And Colored Eggs At Easter

It Easter morning at our house.

It's so great to be able to sit on the back deck again, with my faithful black lab Suzy lying comfortably beside me, on such a beautiful Easter morning.

If you and your family celebrate Easter, then my most sincere Happy Easter to you.

If you don't celebrate Easter, then may you and your family have a wonderful beautiful day today.

I hope you have a better day than Suzy.

Suzy ate all of my eldest daughter Alannah's brightly colored and decorated Easter eggs last night – just before the girls were going to bed.

They had put them by the fireplace down in the family room – each in their own brightly colored Easter baskets. To entice the Easter Bunny to leave them lots of candy.

Poor Alannah was upset. She worked so hard on those eggs. They were really beautiful.

Poor Suzy. Not only did she get a good yelling at - she also got sick as a dog (literally!).

I never really understood our traditions of Easter.

It really makes very little sense.

Easter is supposed to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But instead, it seems to celebrate the sudden appearance of chocolates and candies, shaped like bunnies and eggs – in brightly colored baskets – delivered by the Easter Bunny.

How in the world did this tradition arise?

So, as with all deep and profound questions like this that I wrestle with … I Googled it.

Google will tell me the answer. The wise and resourceful Google can find me answers to any question I ask.

So I posed the question in the Google search box – "Why do we have Easter Bunnies?"

The result was some twenty million links.

Good grief.

So I started going through the first couple pages.

The first twenty or so were simply responses of others like me confused as to how this transition from the sacrifice's of Jesus to the little furry bunny delivering colored eggs in a basket could happen?

But then I stumbled on an answer. And as read more, the answer remained consistent.

No I am no theologian – not by any stretch of the imagination. I am simply a layman – and not in search of any controversy.

But this answer seems to make the most sense.

There were pagan festivals before Christianity grew to be a dominant ideology in the world.

There was one at the fall equinox – which we now know as Halloween.

Another at the winter solstice – which we now know as Christmas.

And yet another at the spring equinox – which is now Easter.

The spring solstice celebrated the rebirth of the earth – the fertility of the world.

And there is nothing more fertile than bunnies.

The hare was - at that point in time - the symbol of fertility.

The eggs of chickens were decorated and given to children. An affordable gift given the economic circumstances of the time.

The trade routes of the world had not yet brought chocolate to Europe – so the hollowed out bunnies were something tacked on to the tradition later – replacing other sweet treats that the children of those days were given.

Probably by a guy named Cadbury or Hershey.

Those pagan cultures of old Europe maintained these cherished festivals – and translated Christmas and Easter to fit them as their belief's transitioned to follow those of the new Christian churches.

Most of that day could not read.

Fewer of them had access to a Bible.

The early Christians of Europe were as dependent on their priests as they were when the Pagan sects were prominent.

The priests of that day were as powerful as the politicians.

As the Roman civilization spread its influence throughout Europe, it brought with it the Roman variation of the Christian church.

But the population was not willing to give up their cherished Winter and Spring festivals – so they were "Christianized" – changing the meanings to suit the needs of the new church.

And so now for Easter, the dual traditions carry forward.

Brightly colored and decorated eggs are left for the children to enjoy – celebrating the rebirth of Jesus – resurrected from his tomb after being crucified on the cross – to atone for all of mankinds sins before God.

This now makes sense.

I don't know how appropriate it seems – but it seem to fit – as the cultures of the world for the most part follow the path of least resistance when a new path or direction is offered.

What priest of those early days would go to his people – after directing them through a period of fasting to represent sacrifice – only to tell them the SpringSolstice festivities are cancelled because they are pagan practices of sinners?

"Spring Solstice was fun. You want us to give up our fun?"

It's much easier to redefine the purpose of the festivities – now to celebrate Christ's rebirth – his ascension to sit at the right hand of Our Father.

"And yes, you can keep the bunnies and the brightly colored eggs".

"Well then, I'm in!", chanted the new followers of this new religious faith.

As well, as today, there were many who profited from these festivals. Most likely people of power that the Church needed to align with.

Churches cost money you know.

People are people. Then like today.

But for all this new understanding I have come to this morning, there is still one burning question I have not been able to answer, asked by my seven year old daughter Ashley-Rae:

"Daddy, how does the Easter Bunny get in the house? Does he come in like Santa, down the chimney? And why doesn't Suzy bark at him while he's here?"

"I don't know, darling. I just don't know".

Good grief.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Roughing It Easter Weekend

My lovely wife Darlene has plans for this long holiday weekend.

An organization she belongs to has a big meeting and eventful gatherings out of town this long Easter weekend.

Lousy timing eh? Who holds events like this on Easter weekend?

But she never gets a chance to go away to things like this. She needs a break from us. She needs to get out of the house.

So it's me and my two daughters roughing it this Easter holiday.

Roughing it, I guess, if that's what you call enjoying an absolutely beautiful four day weekend out on the deck and working around the yard.

Roughing it – if that's how you describe a bar fridge full of beer and pool table begging for players.

Roughing it - if you consider sitting out in the warm sun and cool breezes under the patio umbrella listening to Tigers baseball to be an inconvenience.

Then we will be roughing it.

Oh sure, we'll miss Mommy.

But it does leave me with all the housework to be done this weekend.

But loading a dishwasher isn't that tough.

I think Alannah and Ashley-Rae are about to learn how to push a vacuum cleaner, how to use a feather duster, and how to separate their laundry into colors and whites.

They will earn their keep this weekend.

We're not going to let this Easter without my lovely wife Darlene here get us down.

But there's a lot to do first thing tomorrow.

That back deck has to be unpacked and set up for proper sitting for when the ball game comes on.

And that barbecue has to get taken apart – scrubbed down – and put back together for barbecue hamburgers Saturday night.

And then there is the Jeep that needs a good wash and wax, and a shampoo and wipe-down of the interior.

And my golf clubs won't get cleaned up by themselves.

Then there's the fertilizer (the good stuff) that has to go on the lawn Saturday evening before the Sunday showers come so it can wash down into the soil.

And those damned flower beds and gardens need a good raking out to get the winter stones and leaves out.

And that lawn mower needs a once over too.

And there's the banking and grocery shopping to be done. And the screen door needs to go on the front, and the storm glass door stashed away in the garage.

There're also Easter eggs that need painting too.

My faithful black lab Suzy needs a bath, she stinks right now. And she needs a good brushing too.

Hmm, there's quite a bit to do.

I hope I have enough beer – I'll have to celebrate the successful completion of these tasks somehow.

But wait, I can't be drinking beer all day while I'm home with my girls. That's not a good idea. Perhaps I'll only have a beer after I achieve the really big jobs.

But who will tell me to get off my butt and get started on all this work?

I am a master procrastinator, you know, a skill that usually serves me very well.

But all great procrastinators need a great nagger to stand behind them and remind them of that fine line between procrastination, and lazy beer drinking bum.

And my great nagger will be nowhere to be found.

Darlene will have her cell phone though.

She has me on speed dial of course. And it costs her nothing to call my cell phone. Maybe she can call me every forty five minutes to "encourage me".

What the hell am I saying?

You know, it's not really that important that the deck be all set up, come to think of it.

The Jeep isn't really that dirty, if I park it in the shade.

And fertilizing the front lawn would be nice to get done, but it is only April first. There's plenty of time to do that before I put the new seed down.

And I won't be cutting the grass for a couple more weeks … I hope.

And I think I might just cover the garden beds down with stone or woodchips this year.

And Suzy doesn't stink that bad … really.

But I do need that backyard deck patio furniture set up. Where else would I sit and listen to the ball game?

So that leaves the vacuuming, the dusting, the laundry and the dishes. And those girls better not try to talk their way out of it.

They never even clean their rooms.

They can be so damned lazy sometimes.

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